Author: Evgeniya
Prompt: Fish
Fandom: True Blood
Rating: PG-13
Author's Website: Evgeniya's Page
Author's Note: Takes place after S3E2 - when Russell still thinks Bill can be on his side despite the kidnapping.


Nicolo – the main course for the night – reclined on the beautifully textured gold brocade fabric of an antique chaise longue. The finely aged mahogany was hand-carved and proudly stood on winged claw legs. It was a sculptural masterpiece that would demand attention even if Talbot was not perched on its edge.

The chaise was a gift from Madame Récamier herself. Russell and Talbot spent some time in France and since Juliette married her father and Talbot married his maker, they had plenty in common and often played hostess together.

The chaise was her parting gift to him.

Still a good host, Talbot fed his human by hand. With Nicolo relaxed against the elegant plush seating and Talbot feeding him from a mother of pearl spoon, the display hinted at the sensual softness of the Neoclassical era. It was a scene that seemed to fit perfectly well in their Parthenon-inspired home.

Last night, Russell, Bill and Talbot had enjoyed blood from a human that ate nothing but tangerines for weeks. Citrus fruit made human blood more acidic and slightly sugary. After having something sweet for one meal, Talbot now craved something salty.

Caviar would give Nicolo's blood a briny seaside aroma and a clean finish. It was also high in sulfur, so the blood would have bite. Talbot was once a caviar aficionado. He remembered when it was known as the cake of strength and power. He and many others consumed it for its restorative powers, hoping it would grant them long life. Little did he know at the time, all he had needed was Russell's blood.

And speaking of Russell, Talbot was not oblivious to the vampire king standing in the doorway. However, after nearly three thousand years, Russell was skilled at keeping his emotions in check. Talbot sensed that the eyes that fell upon him were full of intensity, but he could not decipher if that intensity was of admiration or jealousy. But he continued the show nonetheless, spooning succulent portions of caviar into the human's mouth.

Of course, with the look of apprehension on Nicolo's face, it was safe to say that Russell was indeed jealous. Talbot guessed it wouldn't be long before he heard the click of fangs descending.

Good. It was about time somebody else took on the role of the jealous lover.

To urge the jealousy along, Talbot inched closer to Nicolo. It wasn't often he saw the envious side of Russell. He usually didn't care who Talbot paid attention to, but it was a whole other story when a human was involved.

Playing mind games wasn't high on Talbot's list of priorities, but it fit in wonderfully with the task at hand. He did not make it a habit to hand-feed humans himself, but he made a special exception for Nicolo. This human was new and never even tasted a drop of vampire blood. Therefore, his body was not ruled by compulsion and addiction. His blood was pure and the first one to stimulate Talbot's palate in a long time.

It also meant that Nicolo willingly offered himself as a meal to vampires - not in exchange for blood, but out of curiosity. So, this human had to be nurtured like a baby nestling. With a personal touch such as hand-feeding, Talbot knew he could ease the human's mind and reduce his nervousness around vampires. Dinner had to be perfect tonight since he and Russell were entertaining company. Talbot knew the boy would make an extravagant dish. He happily dedicated two weeks with Nicolo so that when dinner finally approached, the human would be easier to drain. If all this special attention worked to fuel Russell's jealousy, then so be it.

"There's my good boy," Talbot encouraged slowly as the human took another bite. He wasn't usually so friendly with humans, but it was a façade he had managed to keep up for two weeks. If dinner was going to be served à la russe, then the main course had to be absolute perfection. And Nicolo's blood was to be served tonight, so those weeks of hard work was about to pay off. The human was already comfortable with him. He would even let Talbot caress his cheek without shying away. Nothing could go wrong.


Russell's fangs had that metallic sound - like a blade hitting against stone until sparks flew. Talbot couldn't blame Nicolo for jumping back. Even he sometimes flinched when Russell bared his fangs unexpectedly. But tonight, Talbot just rolled his eyes. It was so close to dinnertime. If the main course fled, Russell could expect a huge tantrum on his hands.

"What is that?" Russell asked in disgust. He couldn't come right out and say he was opposed to Talbot hand-feeding humans. He wouldn't allow himself to sound so clingy. He would have to begin by criticizing the kibble first.

"Caviar," Talbot snapped, but refused to make eye contact. He kept his focus on the human and whispered "who's my precious baby boy?" softly into his ear.

Russell heard that gentle praise and scowled. He would never talk to the werewolves with such a tender tone. "Must you serve it like that?"

Talbot smiled.

Absolutely. Caviar was a delicacy. The act of serving and consuming it was a ritual – one that Talbot had no intention of abandoning even after he was made vampire. Russell never had the pleasure of popping the supple beads against the roof of his mouth. He was turned centuries before it was popularized and had no idea what he missed out on.

"Honestly," Russell continued when he realized Talbot was intentionally ignoring him. "You're the king's consort. You don't have to spoon feed humans."

"But I do," came the response. It was easier to control the human's portion sizes that way. After 700 years of experience, Talbot learned the right quantity to ensure that briny aftertaste. Hand-feeding humans was a drawn out and tedious task, but also a true investment in fine-quality dining. And Talbot did care that much about entertaining.

"Why caviar?" Russell asked stiffly.

Talbot's accented voice was light and poised. He was pleased with his choice and answered, "It's high in zinc and B12. It will encourage blood flow." The average human had about 6 quartz of blood. Talbot hoped to drain 2. The omega-3 fatty acid would also make the blood creamy and rich. Although, he didn't expect Russell to notice. He rarely complimented any meal he prepared.

Russell sighed. "And how much is it costing me to feed this human?"

"A fortune," he smiled back. Even though Talbot could no longer taste caviar, he still considered himself a connoisseur, which was why he would settle for no less than the Beluga sturgeon. Endangered fish always made the best caviar. He knew Russell would be angry about the amount of money he spent on a human, but it was just a show. Russell loved to flaunt his wealth and he loved Talbot to flaunt it too.

Russell stepped closer. He placed two hands on Talbot's shoulders and slowly massaged. But his hands were not relaxed. They were possessive and tensed as he watched Talbot bring the spoon back up to Nicolo's lips.

"Alright," Russell said tensely as his eyes followed the spoon back into the human's mouth. "I can understand the caviar. But do you have to serve it in such a manner?"

Talbot placed his hand over Russell's and softly laughed. It was such a silly question to ask. "Caviar is a ceremonious event, darling. You shouldn't expect any less from me."

Russell almost exposed a brief sneer, but he composed himself just in time. "He's an insignificant human. He's nothing, yet you feed him with such luxury. He doesn't deserve it. The damn fool wouldn't know the difference…. A plastic spoon would suffice."

"Ha!" Talbot scoffed. As if he would allow any plastic spoons in their home. When he was a prince in Disanthium, everything was served on a silver platter, except for caviar. Silver tarnished the natural flavors of the briny beads, so it was always presented on a mother of pearl serving dish and spoon. Since he was no longer able to touch silver, caviar was the only human food he could still serve with grandeur. In fact, he now served everything, even blood, on a mother of pearl platter because it fit well with the glow of a formal table setting. Naturally, Russell did not like sharing his utensils with humans, but unfortunately for him, Talbot was the one in charge of entertaining. Russell would just have to deal.

"Two weeks of nothing but caviar," Russell huffed. "Aren't you afraid of mercury poisoning?"

Nicolo stiffened in the chaise. That was something he had not considered and caviar had been his sole diet for weeks. Russell instantly noticed his distress and smiled.

"No!" Talbot countered quickly; his eyes finally snapping towards Russell. "In fact, mercury was a cure for everything back in the day."

Russell stepped away from Talbot and laughed. Then he placed a hand on Nicolo's shoulder and stared intently at his eyes. "My dear boy. Mercury was administered with a urethral syringe. Doesn't that sound like fun?"

Talbot pushed Russell aside. "Stop! We're in no mood for your barbaric anecdotes."

However, Russell did not take his eyes off of Nicolo. "Did he tell you that mercury treatments in the fourteenth century led to death?"

Talbot narrowed his eyes at his vampire king. If Nicolo was too nervous, he wouldn't be easy to drain and that would be two weeks wasted. "I had plenty of mercury treatments and they never killed me!"

"That's because I was always there to open a vein. You were on the brink more than once."

"It wasn't your blood that healed me," the younger vampire insisted. "It was the mercury."

"Really? Honestly? After 700 years, you still believe that?"

"Mmm hmm."

"Well," Russell sighed dismissively. "I hope you have a backup human on hand."

Talbot was about to spoon another mouthful of caviar into Nicolo's mouth, but he slowly pulled away. "What do you mean?"

"Mr. Compton respectfully declines any humans fed by fish. He simply cannot tolerate the aftertaste."

"William Compton," Talbot repeated absentmindedly. Of course he was going to be a difficult guest. "That name alone brings blisters to my tongue."

"My sweet Talbot," Russell chuckled with admiration. His progeny always spoke his mind. It may not have always been appropriate in front of guests, but now they were alone. "You have the sharp tongue of a gossip journalist."

"I've been planning this dinner for weeks!" Talbot hissed. He felt his fangs threatening to fall. No one ever appreciated his hard work. "I was looking forward to the fresh taste of the ocean!"

"Well, while you say ocean, William says swamplands. I'm hoping that Mr. Compton will be an asset. Let's try and indulge him for awhile, shall we?"

With a huff, Talbot returned his gaze to the human. "What do I do with Nicolo?"

Russell's eyes snapped back to the human. His distaste towards lower life-forms always got the better of him. And the thought of Talbot cozying up to their meal was enough to put him over the edge. "You know his name?"

Talbot hesitated for a moment. He did know Nicolo's name, more or less. It was just a matter of whether or not that was his real name. Talbot couldn't remember if that was just a pet name he had given him because he looked like a Nicolo. It didn't matter now, since Russell lunged forward and knocked the poor boy onto the floor. The human and the chaise flew across the room and Russell pinned Nicolo down with a tight grip around his neck. Crushing his windpipe would certainly make spoon feeding difficult from now on.

Talbot was so taken aback that his fangs fell involuntary. He quickly placed a hand over his mouth to cover his shriek.

"Damn it, Russell!" Talbot screeched. "I refuse to eat a bruised human!"

Russell was ready to kill the fragile human that squirmed beneath his grip, but Talbot's response brought a smile to his face. He remembered when his young consort was a human prince who refused to eat a bruised peach. So Russell released his hold with a laugh and separated himself from Nicolo.

Talbot quickly fled to the human to assess the damage. He knelt down and placed a hand on Nicolo's arm. He could feel the tiny tears in the blood vessels working their way under the skin. Capillaries burst underneath; popping like caviar does on the roof of the mouth. It wouldn't be long before a discolored bruised formed along his arm and around his neck.

"Damn it!" Talbot cursed with a hoarse whispered. "This one's ruined!" He gripped Nicolo by the neck and flung him towards the exit. Further damage wouldn't matter now.

"Go back to the servant quarters!" the Grecian vampire ordered with a hiss. "You can ice and elevate your own wounds!"

Nicolo, or whatever his name was, quickly fled from the scene. He no doubt wanted to distance himself from the two vampires who already had their fangs in place and were prepared to use them. Russell watched happily until his gaze returned to his younger vampire, who still knelt on the floor. Talbot's fangs were exposed as his lips tightened into a snarl. His body shook with constrained anger and his fists were clenched. Talbot could hold in his anger for a long time, but he would always eventually explode. Russell knew that, but could tell that Talbot would not explode tonight. His progeny was desperately trying to collect himself because he was breathing. Actually breathing – a tactic he often tried to use to keep himself composed.

And Russell knew that the longer it took for Talbot to compose himself, the more frustrated he'd become. So Russell retracted his fangs and placed a gentle hand on his lover's shoulder.

But Talbot smacked it away. Last night, he boasted to Bill that he only served cruelty-free blood. Now Russell made him a liar and dinner was ruined.

Russell knelt beside his consort and tried again. He moved slower this time, gently stroking his hand through Talbot's thick curls to see how he responded to the touch. When he did not pull away, Russell placed an arm around Talbot and whispered against his ear. "I'll eat the bruised human, sweetheart. You can scavenge a reject for Mr. Compton."

"A reject?" Talbot stopped shaking for a moment. That certainly put an idea into his head.

Russell gripped his lover's chin and kissed him tenderly. It wasn't often he could soothe Talbot with gentle kisses, but it was his preferred method. Now that Talbot finally looked him in the eye, Russell kindly caressed the chin of the vampire he made.

"You are my greatest masterpiece," he praised.

Talbot smiled shyly. He and Russell barely had any alone time together. Although currently, that was to blame on Bill Compton.

And Talbot would not forget that.

# # #

The dinner table was a work of art. Tall birch branches were dusted with golden flakes for a slight shimmer, then paired with black taper candles on golden candlesticks to carry the eye upwards. Talbot wanted to draw Bill's eyes above the table because, last night, he failed to notice the mural Russell and Talbot recently had painted on their ceiling. Talbot had initially commissioned it for a conversational starter, but it did little good hiding fifteen feet above their heads.

The Grecian vampire liked to strike a balance between old and new, so the four-tiered centerpiece was set with strands of jewelry and shells for a vintage touch. Monogrammed napkins finished the traditional look. Then to compliment the gold color scheme, he filled crystal vases with yellow roses and alternated them between votive candles. Talbot usually chose amber and gold tones because he knew Russell liked a hint of sunlight.

Talbot's eyes darted along the stemware, the napkins, the table runner… anything to occupy his mind while Bill and Russell talked vampire politics. Of course that bitch Sophie-Anne was brought up again. And again.

When Sophie-Anne was mentioned for the last time, Talbot excused himself from the table. He had to prepare the next course anyway.

When Talbot returned, he held the blood consommé in his hands. He placed a bowl at each seat. His and Russell's were richly flavored and smooth. Bill's, however, was stringy, watery, and chunky all at once. The human's health was certainly questionable. While it was difficult to assess human blood while it was still within the body, its odor and appearance was obvious after it was drained. Bill was certain of the poisonous blood he was served.

"You mean to poison me?" he accused slowly, leaving gaps between his words.

Russell politely wiped his mouth with his monogrammed napkin. "Excuse me?"

Bill glanced back at his bowl. "I'm not eating blood infected with Hep-D!"

Russell tightened his jaw and stared back at Bill. "You certainly would not insult me by refusing to eat the lovely dinner prepared by my husband, would you?"

Russell drawled out the question slowly to give Bill the opportunity to backtrack. Then he raised his eyebrows expectantly.

Bill clenched his jaw and stared back at his meal. He was not about to eat infected blood, but he did not want to invoke the wrath of a three thousand year old vampire either.

Russell sighed. "Alright, Mr. Compton. If you don't feel like eating, then you are excused."

Bill narrowed his eyes. It couldn't be that easy. But he slowly pushed himself away from the table and nodded his thanks. "Then I shall take my leave."

"Oh, no, no," Russell halted with a laugh. He still resented the allegation, whether or not it was true. "You don't get to leave the dinner table with your dignity intact."

The older vampire quickly threw his head back and shouted for the guards. Two werewolves and a vampire stormed in and grabbed Bill by the shoulders. He narrowed his eyes at Russell and Talbot, but ultimately let himself be dragged back to his room.

Russell rolled his eyes upward as he listened to the footsteps pound down the hallway and back upstairs. When it was silent again, he steepled his fingers and rested his chin on his fingertips as he considered the younger vampire. His eyes were fixed on Talbot with a hard stare.

Talbot had watched Bill be dragged away with a smile. It was so satisfying to see Bill just submit to being manhandled. Perhaps next time, he won't be so picky about his meal. But as soon as Talbot felt Russell's stare, he quickly cleared his throat and took on a more defensive posture. His arms were folded across his chest and on his face was a frown. Wait... It was a pout.

"Just last night," Russell began slowly. "Mr. Compton renounced Sophie-Anne and pledged his allegiance to my kingdom."

Talbot closed his eyes and nodded. "But that was only after you threatened his waitress. I'm sure Bill would be much more accommodating after a sip of Hep-D."

"Talbot, if Mr. Compton is going to work for me, I want him at his full strength. Do you understand?"

Talbot turned his head away resentfully. "You're the one who suggested I feed Bill a reject!"

"I meant blood that wasn't infused with fruit or honey or cocoa. We don't keep humans with Hep-D! How the hell did this happen?"

Hepatitis D was most certainly not the only thing that filthy human contracted. He no doubt had syphilis and typhoid too. But instead of acknowledging that, Talbot slouched further into his dining chair. "Gee, Russell, I don't know. Do you think it's possible that the people you force-fed V are likely to become addicted to other substances? Like heroine?"

Russell angrily shot up from his chair, but kept both hands braced against the table. "Which one?"

Talbot shook his head. It was information that he'd rather keep to himself, but answered nonetheless. "….the Romanian boy."

With agitation, Russell bunched up his napkin and threw it back on the table. "We'll talk later. Right now, I have to have a little chat with that infected blood bag!"

Russell grabbed his own blood consommé and handed it to Talbot. "In the meantime, offer this to Bill with your apologies."

Talbot's mouth dropped with a huff. "Russell, you aren't serious!"

Russell's tone was hard and stern. "Bill will be sheriff of Mississippi Area 2. It's best if we all get along. Once we gain control of Louisiana, you can poison whoever you like."

Talbot narrowed his eyes at the bowl of blood. Bill Compton didn't deserve any apologies. "I wouldn't mean it!"

"Fine!" Russell spat back. "As long as you're convincing enough for Mr. Compton!"

Talbot opened his mouth to protest again, but Russell was gone in an instant. Talbot could already hear the distant screams from the other side of the mansion. It was certainly going to be difficult to find willing blood donors now.

# # #

Talbot gently knocked on the guestroom door. He knew Bill couldn't open it himself because the other side was plated in silver. So he waited for Bill's polite invitation before he let himself inside.

And Bill was surprisingly polite. He may have been tensed and agitated, but he was obviously brought up to be well-mannered. Although, Talbot knew Bill was quite capable of being uncivil. He proved that every time Lorena entered the room.

"Russell thought you might be hungry," Talbot said softly as he set the consommé down on a classic accent table.

"I wasn't expecting exceptional service from such a mediocre prison," Bill said. The sentence was drawn out and sarcastic.

"Mediocre?" Talbot huffed. "Have you any idea how much it costs to ship a sterling silver door from Morocco?"

Bill nodded and said simply, "I stand corrected." His eyes wandered over the blood, making sure it wasn't contaminated. Although, he had no actual plans to eat it. He wasn't going to take that chance.

Talbot studied him for awhile, but there was no reason to draw it out longer than it had to be. "Well… I'll leave you to it."

"Wait," Bill said suddenly, stopping Talbot in his track. The Grecian vampire turned back slowly with eyebrows raised expectantly.

Bill cleared his throat before he continued. "Can I assume that this is a peace offering? Your way of apologizing?"

"Assume whatever you like," Talbot answered with a smile and turned back around.

"I'd rather hear you say it."

Since that sounded a lot like a command, Talbot responded with soft laughter and a shake of his head. Then he spun around, eager to hear more of whatever Bill had to say.

"I deserve an apology for the insults offered to me tonight," Bill explained casually. "It is a request that, as an honorable man, you are bound to give."

Talbot nodded. He was certainly impressed with Bill's show of bravado, but prisoners shouldn't be so daring. "I am wowed by your Southern verbiage, Bill. But I grow tired. Good night."

Talbot turned around for the last time, but Russell stood in the doorway; blocking his path. There was blood along his mouth. He was obviously greedy in his blood-feasting, because Talbot could see where the blood dribbled down his neck and seeped into his shirt. Talbot had picked that dress shirt out for its subtle colors, but now it was soaked with bright red blotches. It had been well-tailored, but now it was just an expensive mess. It would have to be thrown out.

Russell cared little that he was dripping with blood. That sort of thing was irrelevant among vampires. He simply smoothed down his shirt to collect himself.

"Talbot," the king said matter-of-factly. "Give the man your apologies."

Talbot crossed his arms and bit his cheek. If anything, Bill should be apologizing to him for being such a demanding guest. So he shook his head absently as he debated whether or not it was worth it to disobey his king. Ultimately, there was only one way out of the room. So the Grecian vampire glanced over his shoulder and spat, "I'm sorry, Bill."

Russell said it didn't have to be a sincere apology and Talbot had never apologized for anything in his life and meant it.

"Oh, you know what they say, William," Russell smiled. "If the cook helps to make the gluttony, you help to make the diseases."

Bill was not appeased by that statement, but he mustered up a smile nonetheless.

Russell turned back to his progeny. "Wait for me in the study. Bill and I need to talk."

Talbot hated it when Russell ordered him in front of guests, especially when the guest was technically a prisoner. And more especially when he just had to apologize to that guest. So Talbot lowered his head as he waited for Russell to step away from the door. Once the path was cleared, he slinked by.

It was better that Russell smoothed things over with Bill. Talbot did not have the tolerance for it.

# # #

Talbot was more than a little angry as he entered the study. He knew he would have to open his home to guests as Russell continued his quest for world domination, but Russell did not have to be so appeasing towards Bill. It was beginning to seem that power was worth more than their eternal commitment to one another.

Apparently blinded by fury, Talbot did not notice the bust of Hermes sitting on a pedestal and walked straight into it. He immediately tried to still the statue, but then he thought the better of it. He gripped Hermes by the head and threw it to the floor. The statue was marble and heavy. It fell with a loud clank, but it was too durable to shatter. Hermes' nose simply chipped off and skipped across the floor.

It was not satisfying. In fact, breaking things was only satisfying when it was done in front of an audience. So Talbot leaned against the bureau à gradin that Russell used to display his expensive fountain pens. He then crossed his arms against his chest and waited. It was not a good idea to let his anger simmer.

A fully cleaned Russell walked in a few moments later. He ducked his head just in time as a jar of pens flew at his head. The pens scattered, but it still wasn't gratifying enough. A crystal paperweight was thrown next. It shattered with brilliance and clarity. Now that was satisfying.

"Are you quite finished?" Russell asked with impatience as be brushed off a few crystal shards from his chest. He was a witness to many tantrums and knew this could go on all night.

Talbot eyed the empty desk with disappointment. The obvious answer was no, but he ran out of ammo. "It's Bill's fault! How can he be afraid of a little fishy undertone? He's from Louisiana!"

"We'll address that." Russell walked over to the leather settee and sat down. He then beckoned Talbot over. "Come on."

"No, Russell," Talbot whined, which sounded odd in his old worldly accent. "You haven't spanked me in nearly a century!"

"And is it any wonder you lack any maturity? You're free to fight me on this, but either way you'll end up in the same position."

Talbot did not find Russell's approach soothing. The remark only urged him to look around the room for more expensive items to break. He had the strength to throw the heavier objects, such as a desk, a bookshelf or even a wall, but Russell had the strength and speed to block it.

Russell patiently watched Talbot as his eyes darted around the room. The younger vampire may have been prone to outbursts, but he was rarely ever outright defiant. He usually ceased his insolence with just a single word from his maker.

"Talbot…" Russell admonished when he still saw challenge in his young consort's eyes.

The younger vampire sullenly bit his cheek. He felt a heat on his face that he hadn't felt in a long time. Not warmth, but shame. He could never win any arguments with Russell. In the end, he would always obey his maker. He fell in love with him for his command, distinction and eternal strength. Russell had his respect and Talbot would not disappoint him, no matter how unhappy he was about the present situation.

Talbot reluctantly closed the distance between them. He stood beside Russell and managed to remain composed even when his king took his forearm and easily guided him over his lap. He settled awkwardly over Russell's knees and felt himself cringe inside. He never worried about the sting. He always healed too fast for the pain to make any lasting impressions. It was the instant loss of dignity he felt as he was draped across his maker's knees that had him most ashamed.

"Ai gamisou," Talbot whispered reflexively. Then he rolled his eyes and mentally cursed at himself when he realized what had slipped out. He words weren't actually directed to Russell, but to himself. Nonetheless, he gasped as Russell's first swat landed heavy on his backside.

"Did you forget I speak Greek?" Russell reminded with a sharp swat.

Another pained gasp escaped through Talbot's lips, but he still wasn't fully ready to submit. "I bet you wouldn't treat Bill like this!"

"Mr. Compton is boarded up in his room right now," the king answered with a regretful sigh. "This wasn't exactly the warm welcoming I was aiming for."

"You said my apology didn't have to be genuine!"

"I told you to be convincing. After your caliber performance with Nicolo, I didn't think that would be a problem!"

Talbot jumped as another rush of pain raced to his backside. The sting lingered. It didn't have time to heal before the next swat fell and it became very clear what Russell was intending. He was gradually building up the strength and speed; letting each slap burn into the last. If Bill was locked away, then there was no reason to hurry the spanking along. Russell had the entire night to impart his displeasure on his young consort and he was going to use that time to its full extent.

But Talbot was not willing to spend the rest of the night in that embarrassing position. He braced his palms against the settee and tried to push himself off Russell's lap. His triceps, shoulders and core muscles shook as he desperately tried to move even an inch. But it was useless. With the strength that came with three thousand years, Russell pinned the younger vampire effortlessly. But he made a show of tightening his grip around Talbot's waist nonetheless. Talbot was considerably taller than Russell, so he never felt small. But his king could certainly make him feel helpless.

"Ow!" Talbot grunted as Russell ended his struggling with a harsher swat. "It's Bill! He makes everything so damn difficult!"

"Oh, he certainly does," the king agreed. "But I see an ally in Bill. He gave me his loyalty and I hope to keep it. But that's enough about Mr. Compton…"

Talbot looked over his shoulder to make another plea. Unfortunately, Russell's hand landed before he could open his mouth. He bit back a gasp, but he could not hold it in long. It had been awhile since Russell spanked him and he did not remember it stinging so much. He knew he would heal shortly after the spanking was over, but he could only concentrate on the present and Russell's hand was determined to make a point.

Once Talbot was gasping and yelping for every swat, Russell paused. "Why do you deserve this spanking, Talbot?"

Talbot gritted his teeth. He was feeling more cooperative now, but as the night lived on, his hatred for Bill Compton grew more and more. "Because of my half-assed apology to Mr. Compton."

"No." Russell swatted again. His face wrinkled with heavy creases and the corners of his mouth drew downward. "I take every precaution to keep you safe and what do you do? You bring an infected blood bag into our home!"

Talbot jumped when Russell resumed the spanking. "You're mad about the human?"

Talbot's face nearly lit up. He spent night after night feeling ignored and neglected, and now Russell was expressing concern about his wellbeing? It was almost too perfect. Had his backside not been so sore, he would have smiled.

"Of course I am!" Russell answered. "I have hundreds of guards to watch over you and you're messing around with Hep-D! These guards are here to keep the dangers out of our home and you willingly bring it in!"

Russell could never lose the energy to swat. He continued, hard and consistently. All the while, he carried on his lecture.

"I'm mad that you risked your health while trying to infect a vampire, who is barely two hundred years old!" the king went on. "You can take him out with a single blow!"

Talbot was considerably older than Bill, but he rarely resorted to physical confrontations. He only wanted to insult Bill, which he succeeded. It may have been childish, but at least he got the results he wanted. Well, except for being over Russell's knees.

"But…" Talbot barely choked out between swats. Their house was practically a museum of ancient weaponry. Potential dangers were abounding. "You keep silver in the house!"

"I do," Russell agreed. "Chains and knives for the enemies. On the rare occasion you do handle it, you always wear gloves. What if you got sick for a month? You're my Achilles' heel, Talbot. Rivals are just itching for any sign of weakness! If you got infected, a mere mortal could take you out!"

Talbot even surprised himself when he drew in a quick breath at the next swat. He had no biological reason to breath, but he was willing to try anything to ease the fire on his backside… it didn't work. It also didn't help that Russell was talking about adding more guards; possibly hiring a personal chef. It just added to his embarrassment. He didn't need more guards looking over his shoulders. And he certainly didn't want a chef. Cooking was his favorite pastime.

"Did you drain the human yourself?" the king asked.

Talbot groaned and buried his face in the crook of his elbow. He mumbled regretfully, "…yes."

The swats hurt - that was obvious, but they were lighter than expected. Russell had the strength of several millennia, yet he was cautious enough to keep it controlled. Talbot was aware of that, but his backside was still sore from the repetitive swats. He pushed his face further into his arms and twisted on top of his maker's knees. He wanted to keep himself composed, but knew he couldn't for much longer. It was hard not to break under Russell's words; hearing how immature and irresponsible he acted. Hearing how Russell valued him above all else and couldn't stand the thought of losing him. Talbot was a few swats away from surrendering into distraught sobs.

"Please, Russell," Talbot begged softly. His eyes blurred into a bloody haze as they swelled with fresh tears. He wiggled involuntary to get away from the sting and to keep his tears from falling onto the leather cushions. "I understand…" Then softer, "…please don't make me ruin the upholstery…"

In one smooth motion, perfected by centuries of practice, Russell laid against the settee with Talbot in his arms. Talbot took up more room, but he easily settled himself on top of his king. He still had that insistent sting on his backside, but Russell would soothe him with hushed praises until he fully healed.

Talbot regretted keeping a Hep-D infected human as long as he did. The human was originally stored as a wedding gift for Sophie-Anne, but Russell did not need to know that now. While he wasn't pleased with the throb in his backside, he was delighted that Russell still cared enough about him to act so strict and attentive, instead of just ignoring him as usual. Plus, Bill was locked away, so the rest of the night was theirs. But for now, Talbot needed Russell's praises. He was happy to be held because it had been awhile since either of them had time to just simply hold each other.

Talbot clung to Russell. He had noticed that he changed from the blood-soaked clothing that he wore so nonchalantly in Bill's room. He scrubbed himself off and presently donned a smoking jacket. Now that the blood had been cleaned away from his face, he looked decidedly debonair instead of like a blood-thirsty killer. He was also calm and elegant – not like the overprotective vampire who had just punished his backside.

Talbot cuddled closer to his king, feeling loved and cared for. He let his tears fall onto Russell's smoking jacket, since it was easier to replace than to reupholster the furniture. And despite having control over Talbot, Russell knew the younger vampire could make his existence miserable if anything happened to the leather settee. Russell would discipline his progeny when necessary, but he would never be so cruel as to tamper with the décor.

Meanwhile, Russell ran his fingers through Talbot's wild hair. He brushed it away from his face then smoothed it down. Then his fingertips gently brushed over his cheeks, then his lips and watched as his progeny healed. He had the beauty of a baroque oil painting. Even streaks of red tears couldn't diminish that.

In turn, Talbot ran a finger down Russell's throat. The skin was rough and aged, but nearly indestructible. Nearly. Talbot remembered the blood that dribbled there earlier. Now it was his turn to be overprotective. "You didn't eat the Romanian boy, did you?"

"The Hep-D infected rat?" Russell nearly jumped. "Goodness no. Why would you think that?"

"You were covered in blood. You ruined the Italian silk." Talbot pouted again just thinking about it. But instead of complaining, he nuzzled closer to Russell's chin.

"Oh, that... Well, I missed dinner and was a bit short-tempered." The king offered a shrug. "Nicolo was an unfortunate casualty…"

Poor Nicolo. But in the greater scheme of things, "How did he taste?"

The king raised his eyebrows with surprised pleasure. "Briny and delicious!"

"So, no fishy aftertaste?"

"It was absolute perfection," the king drawled slowly.

"Huh," Talbot grunted proudly and settled back against Russell. There was still some time before sunrise, but neither wanted to move. Russell simply indulged his progeny by whispering Greek praises into his ears. Talbot soaked up the flattery, his scent, his presence… He was content to be with Russell. Content that they were alone. It was nice just to lay in silence and to absorb each others' company with no interruption.

In a mansion, protected by guards, vampires and werewolves - Russell's arms were the safest place to be.


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