LaCroix came less often these days, uninvited. It had been a long time since Nick returned home, just beating the dawn, to find LaCroix on his couch, long legs stretched out, crossed at the ankle, propped on his coffee table. Smug. As if to show Nicholas there was no place from which he could shut LaCroix out.
LaCroix had never been particularly unpleasant during any of these forced cohabitations. Sometimes he had merely slept, and Nicholas wondered if he hadn’t come more for himself, so that he didn’t spend the day alone.
Sometimes he attempted conversation that Nick refused to join in on. Sometimes he made conversation that Nick couldn't resist joining in on, for argument's sake. Sometimes he just sat quietly, sipping from a glass held with those pale, elegant fingers.
Sometimes he looked at Nick in that way he had, that tore down every wall Nick had stubbornly built up over the years and crunched it to dust under the weight of his stare. It was a gentle deconstruction, almost a tender one, no movement at all, just a look.
And then one open-mouthed inhale as he stared at Nick, as if the sight of him caused such a breathlessness, and Nick found himself back in an embrace he had alternately loved and hated so many times, he wasn't sure there was a difference.
Could you love something and hate it at the same time? He knew he could. Because that look, the one that so many times had them tangled together for hours, was something he loved and hated in equal measure.
He loved it, because he understood its meaning. It was lust, passion, respect and longing, reverence, need, and sometimes even, he thought, love, or something close enough. No one else, not even Natalie, or Janette, had ever looked at him quite that way.
He hated it, because of how easily it laid him bare.
Nicholas opened the door to his loft and walked in, just as any man would on coming home from work, tossed his keys on the table, always like that, deliberately so. As if he were a human, coming home, using the lift and doors and keys, someone who could not have just dropped through the skylight. Human, by all appearances.
But no human could have sensed LaCroix's presence before he even got inside the building.
"LaCroix," he said.
"Nicholas," came the velvet answer.
Nick turned, knowing he would be faced once again with that look. The look he hated most of all because of how very much he needed it.
LaCroix's lips parted, he sucked in a quick breath, his spine straightened. "You called."
It was not a question.