azuremew: (michael)
[personal profile] azuremew
Title: Diamond in the Rough
Word Count: 2248
Pairings: General
Rating: PG
Warnings: None
Summary: Michael is given the opportunity to prove his worth as a mortal and instead shows how he has bloomed as an artist. Unfortunately, it's not perceived as such by the Kindred that hold his life in their hands.
Author's Notes: Introducing a new series on this journal about vampires and an old, favorite fandom: the World of Darkness, “Blood of my Blood”. It somehow managed to become part of my Inception Big Bang piece, so we can also call it a prelude to that.
Declaimer: Michael Luther and quite an number of characters are from White Wolf's “Predator and Prey: Vampire” book by Carl Bowen. This is just me and my twisted mind having a little bit of fun.

Detroit, Michigan
April 2, 1882

There was a look of surprise upon Michael's face when Charles Luther made his request. At first, it was more like shock, like being in trouble without doing anything, accused of something, breaking this or that -- the snuff box! It had to be that, but the shock soon eased to a pleasant, wild surprise as he listened to the instructions. It was only when the shop owner was through that the boy was allowed to speak, and he chose his words carefully. "Sir, does my uncle not handle the deliveries?" He looked up to see that his uncle was sweeping the front of the store. They were behind the main counter with a small box wrapped with paper and tied with ribbon. There was a small tag signed to Calvin Bainbridge.

Charles nodded knowingly and lifted that package from its place upon the counter where it sat for the last few hours. He knew Michael had eyed it from time to time. Anton must have told the boy all kinds of stories, tales of his trips to the manor where Mr. Bainbridge lived and all kinds of gatherings that occurred in brief glimpses, flirtations with the high society. They were all very beautiful, probably mesmerized him into a fairy tale, and now, as he placed it upon Michael's shaky, open hands, he smiled. "Yes, normally, but Anton is needed elsewhere. Now go upstairs, get changed into something proper."

It took him all of thirty minutes to prepare. There was only one suit, folded neatly in the single drawer he called his own. One suit alongside the various, other articles of clothing he was lucky to have. They were packed tightly into the side to keep room for the boxes. Small containers, worn out with corners collapsed inward and lids that barely held their place. Each had a scribble, words misspelled because the boy lacked a proper education and had to trust his ability to memorize and recall the names downstairs. Like counting, it was learned out of respect for his place, and the hope that at some point he might rise to his uncle's standing as shopkeeper. He doubted anything beyond that. Despite the scraps of metals and broken gems, there was no place amongst the artisans for him.

And nothing told more so otherwise than when he returned downstairs. Charles had left for the night, but Anton Fischer continued his routine. He always stayed behind, long after, to clean. The floors needed to be finished, the counters wiped down, and oftentimes Michael and he would take the time to polish the pieces. It was the only time that either of them were allowed to touch the jewelry. He had gained the allowance and trust to hold them years before, and his nephew showed an appreciation that lit up in his face and the delicate hold each time. It seemed to be the only thing he could do other than provide a roof, meal and clothes.

The clothes, though, Anton had to press his lips at the sight. Michael had not worn it since his mother's death, and then it looked worn and too many sizes larger than his small, lithe body could handle. “Michael,” he said in a sad tone, setting aside the broom. He removed a rag from his pocket that was oily from cleaner, doing little to help wipe the grime from his hands. “Come here, son. Let me have a look at you.” Michael did as he was told, as he always did, and Anton reached up adjust the collar. His hands retreated when he realized that his actions would do worse than better, pulling deeper his frown. “Michael, you understand where you are going?”

“Yes, sir. To Mister Bainbridge's home.”

Anton nodded. “There is another one of his parties tonight. Do us a favor and do not look at the others. They will hardly see you, and it is not your place. Mister Bainbridge stands near the window. You will want to go to the room to the left and to the far back. He is the gentleman with gray hair that stands a little shorter than you,wears those round things to help his eyes.” He nodded to the case, at the pairs of spectacles that they sometimes repaired. “When you find him, wait for his talk to end. He will turn his head to you, and you will lower your head and present the box. Tell him, 'Mister Bainbridge, from the shop as you requested.'”

It was a lot to remember, but Michael said quite simply, “Yes, sir,” and watched as his uncle turned to let him through. “I will not let you down,” he added upon reaching the door. With his back turned and the sound of sweeping, he was uncertain if Anton would hear. All he knew was that his uncle had nowhere else to go. “I will earn my keep.”

It was not the outside of Calvin Bainbrdge's home that caught Michael's attention. His uncle's stories told of the lines of parked automobiles with their patient drivers standing at attention for their master's departure. And the wrought iron gate that towered over him. His sight never wavered at the passing of the gardens that flourished along the front lawn, though the scent was like a woman's perfume, elegant and mysterious in a way his young mind could not quite fathom. It was beyond the mahogany door decorated with the emblem he stamped frequently upon missives from the shop. The sight, it was breathtaking, beyond any fairy tale.

At the foyer was a gallery, great works from artists he did not know. Marble statues stood next to portraits, and a vase upon a pedestal at the center. Further was the grand room, a library of sorts with dark shelves that reached the ceiling against burgundy walls. Dancers were captivated by the most lovely music, possessed to dance a waltz. Each step seemed to make the ladies float off the ground, carried by their partner. It was as beautiful, although Michael was a little concerned, for at the other end he could see Mr. Bainbridge, just as Anton told him, and there was no way of getting through without interrupting.

He wondered if he should stay, stand there, but that would make him look silly. Perhaps if he stood at one of the paintings, at least then he would have an excuse? These thoughts wrapped around his mind to the point of not noticing someone was speaking to him. It took a second try, and her delicate, bony fingers touching his shoulder. Michael nearly jumped out of his skin in reaction, but quickly, he regained his composure, “My apologies, ma'am, I did not mean, I mean, can I help you?”

A smile appears upon her rich lips, thinning them out even with the lipstick to mask them. “Perhaps,” she spoke, and her hand moved to the spot between his shoulder blades, rising to the back of his neck where hairs stood on edge. “I have not seen you here before. Have we met?”

“No, not before, I do not think,” Michael stutters, knowing what he means is that such a delicate creature would not find herself where the shop stands. Although it said fine jewelry upon the window, it was turning out to be more for trade than actual production. “I work for Charles Luther – his shop is under the finan . . .” he bit his lower lip, trying to remember what Anton told him. “He . . .”

The woman chuckles, opening a fan to wave it as if she was flirting with him. Maybe she was. “Charles Luther, you say? Yes, I remember him.” Fingernails bite at the warm flesh, scratching away at the virgin surface that only rumor had the pleasure of gracing. “Calvin Bainbridge finances a good percent of his store.”

Michael nodded, “Yes, that. That is what I meant.” Something blooms in his chest, his heartbeat racing and breathing a little more difficult. Anticipation. “Might you know how I can reach him?”

“Of course,” she told him. “But first, why not let me give you a tour?” She moved to the side, to guide him towards the stairs, even up them if her pursued.

He did not. “I would like that, ma'am, but this package needs to be delivered, and it would not be my place . . .”

Those lips, they thin in response, but it is not because of a smile. Her hand dropped. “Very well.” Her whole body became cold, losing its brilliance, and Michael took a step back, shivering.

“My apologies, ma'am,” he spoke, his voice shaky. “I am truly sorry.” Turning back to the dancers, he concluded that the only way to complete this task was to simply duck and weave, slide passed the guests, and apologize for his further intrusion. Some were less caring than others. One even stopped to notice him. He inhaled and exhaled deeply, his heart pounding at the pressure that would surely cause arrest if he did not find Mr. Bainbridge soon.

Bainbridge had not moved from the last place Michael saw him. He stood next to another man and spoke with a leveled tone, unconcerned that he stood almost at the shoulders in height. Everything about him did that, stretching him further in a presence that was difficult to ignore. His clothing was threaded with the finest spools and fabrics flown in from Italy, dark grays accented in blue to heighten the deep sapphire in his eyes. They hid behind a pair of silver-rimmed spectacles that upon any other would diminish his composition, but for him, it distinguished him further. Intelligent, it was no wonder why he was the owner behind Luther Fine Jewelry.

And it was impossible to interrupt, so he stood there, just a few feet from his destination, and observed with a well-mannered quiet that often came while sweeping the floors or dusting the counters.

It came after several minutes, the man spoken to taking note first and saying, “Calvin, I believe you have a delivery from one of your shops.”

“Ah, yes, it would seem,” Bainbridge said as the stout man turned to let Michael in. “And you are?”

“Michael Fischer,” Michael announced, although the clarity in his voice was lacking as much as his straight stature. He could barely manage not shaking like a twig. “Nephew of Anton Fischer, whom works for Charles Luther. He sent me in my uncle's stead to deliver this.”

His outstretched hands are wrapped in a cool touch briefly before Bainbridge took it and studied the small note attached from his retainer. He nodded, “Very good. I am delighted to see that Charles' decision to keep you around was not a complete waste of . . .” a pause stopped his sights upon it and back to the boy. “Michael, is there something else you would like to show me?”

“No, nothing,” Michael responded.

Bainbridge moved passed his companion to reach across to Michael, beneath the aged and faded dress coat. It was faster than Michael could react, unexpected and sudden, that before he could think, the silver snuff box was no longer hidden but in the hands of the man that practically gave him a roof, meal, and bed. “Then what,” he asked, studying the piece. “is this?”

“It's . . . um . . .” Michael started. “It is nothing, Sir. I swear. Just pieces of silver that was scrapped, some loose gems that were broken at delivery. Mr. Luther said that they were going to be tossed, so I had them aside. My uncle mentioned before that there was a . . .” he could not think of the word, and swallowed thickly. “An idea? To melt down the pieces and create something new?”

But it would require an artist, not pieces brought in by one to sell or trade, they both knew. “How . . .” Bainbridge murmured, turning the piece. Behind that silver-rimmed mask were eyes distant, detached from the utter babble in front of him to search out the answers.

None came, so he shook his head and said, “Enough of this. Go back, and I will speak with your uncle about this disregard.”

“Dis . . .” Michael blinked, not understanding the word, but he could read the actions plainly, his box, his creation being handed over to the other man whom seemed just as interested as Bainbridge. “Sir, please . . .”

“That is enough, Michael,” Bainbridge breathed. “Get out before I change my mind and have both you and your uncle removed from my charity.” He turned back and added beneath his exhale, “Thieves. The lot of them. I should have them both destroyed for such lack of respect.”

“They are only paupers, beggars that owe more than their worth,” the other man added. “Since Anton's grace, I hardly understand why you keep either of them.”

Bainbridge nodded, but his eyes moved first from him to the box and finally to boy as he made his way awkwardly through the crowd. He licked his lips. “I have my reasons, Marcus.”
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