The words made Niklaus’s lips curl.
Surely, Bart was aware that these horrid storms were telling of the forbidden union between a valkyrie and either a succubus and an incubus, and Nik’s contacts were mouthy enough to reveal that their lone pair of Zachariel and Daniel had recently been joined by a second; they had two forbiddens in their city walls and Bart was courteously appreciating the weather like all of them needed the reminder that the powers scales that kept their city together had recently been tipped again.
Nik angled his head up, as though to similarly appreciate this dark, foreboding sky--
And when he looked back at Bart, he only quipped, “Indeed”, in his friendly, courteous tone before bowing aside to let the man enter.
His gaze immediately fell to the presents.
He did close the door behind Bart, and he did look over the present with every amazing poise of someone accustomed to not revealing emotion. He was all class and panache. He glanced up, and watched Bart’s features as he prattled this all off.
He noted every arrogant fiber on the man that made their friendship so vapid and fake. Every arrogant bit on him that Nik recognized also on himself. Every arrogant flair on him that made this a beautiful pretense between tycoons that lorded over their own lands. Whilst it was undeniable that Bart was the more powerful of the two, and that Nik’s predilections for violence still placed him beneath the man in atrocities, Nik had always figured being the second best at something meant that you were the least likely person people blamed of superiority.
Second places were reserved for losers. Such was the popular opinion.
Look at this monster looming above--
Who’d expect crime to come to pass in his long shadow stretching vast?
“I thank you for that.” With a practiced, short bow of his head and a smile in place, hinting at a warmth shared between friends, Nik recovered the box, remembering to add, his tone as low as per usual, “You outdo yourself, as per usual. You are your own best enemy. Let me take your jacket.”
He did set the spices down and the jacket, if permitted, would he hung along with Nik’s own, and handled with the same delicate care observed in mothers with their small children, too frail yet to handle standing on the pavement. If not, then not and either way they’d traverse to the dining room, the spices left on the counter of the kitchen that oversaw the long dining table, and Nik pausing, his hands on the wine bottle Bart had grabbed along and his lips parting as though to answer--
He curled them, instead, dignifying the words with another curt bow of his head before saying, “In a minute, my friend, the answer and you require my full attention.”
He grabbed the corkscrew from one of his drawers (his kitchen was all dark mahogany, the home all warm colors), and peeled the etiquette that covered the opening to any wine bottle. It came off, without ado. Down the trash too.
The screw was stood perpendicularly to the cork, and screwed carefully in whilst he balanced the wine easily in his hold. He tipped it, wetting the bottom of the cork to ease the next step, and then righted it and pulled the cork and the screw with one gentle yank out.
Immediately, the air smelled like wine.
“Chateau Malbat,” he chatted, walking slowly to Bart and the table, the latter already lined with plates hidden beneath oval dish covers. All, naturally, were made of material friendly to both their species. Nik couldn’t imagine a more disappointing night than one where the host died.
He stood by Bart’s side, appreciating the cheap wine with look of calm, before corking the wine shut and placing it on the table and into a bucket of ice, letting it chill in the meantime. His tone danced with subtle amusement and warmth.
“You compete in hospitality. Had I know I was facing a contender tonight instead of a friend, I’d have gladly upped the stakes,” he slanted a look at Bart then, a bit of mirth in his dark gaze-- “Aperitif?” he asked, then, rounding the table to make a grab for a thick, crystalline bottle in the middle, described with-- “Bourbon and blood, a most wondrous cocktail. No innocents were hurt in the making of this drink.” He canted a look at Bart then, hinting at a mischief that went well with his stern face. Nik took the bottle, still chilled from its stay in the fridge, and commented further, letting his tone carry the weight of his words, “I also have Crémant d'Alsace, a sparkling French wine made from a blend of wines. My personal suggestion is to be unforgivably gluttonous about everything.
“After all, we live only once.”
At that, Nik placed the cocktail down and took the sparkling wine bottle in his hand, its rest in the ice bucket forced to an end and handled by his hands.
Drops dotted its surface, condensing along the circumference of its dark-green bottom.