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I've been promising unovis and devohoneybee a story with Darius, Lucien, and a chess board for ages. Here it is. Devo suggested 'stars, ocean, comfort' and this is what came out.

Usual disclaimers: Not mine, no money made. Rated PG, although it's likely G. Gen. Written for crossovers100, prompt # 46 - star. 2 down, 98 to go.

Shades of Grey

Paris, France -- 18--

Faint and sweet, the scent of mint drifted past them on a night breeze, accompanied by the rising and falling chatter of people strolling by on the street. The stone wall surrounding Saint-Julien le Pauvre was meant to keep out people, not their noise, and no night in Paris was ever completely quiet.

Darius sipped at his wine, still considering the board, then moved a knight back and left. That done, he looked up. "I'm glad you came tonight."

Lucien paced back across the courtyard to see which piece Darius had moved. "Ah." He settled onto his chair again and contemplated the board, thumb under his chin, forefinger set against cheekbone and the other fingers curved to curl across his mouth. His lips were as pale as the rest of him: white skin, white, short-cropped hair, grey eyes gone colorless in the faint starlight. They had a lantern if they wanted it, but Darius had always had good night vision and Lucien hunted the night as if he owned it.

Darius passed him a glass. "A red from Aquitaine. You'll enjoy it."

"Many thanks." Lucien finally pushed a pawn forward. "Why tonight? Surely there are other worthy players in Paris?"

Darius tilted his head back to study the stars overhead as he mentioned, "If you're going to keep pacing, old friend, I'd recommend you stay away from the north apse."

"I saw that bricked-up door, yes." Lucien looked up. "What lies behind it?"

"A sacred well. I don't think it would suit you." Darius took his time studying the sky before he looked at the courtyard again. The walls drew a fond smile; the garden a soft chuckle. He could barely hear the fountain off to the north. "I'll miss this."

"You're leaving, then?" Lucien sipped at his glass, tongue slipping out to chase and catch a lost drop at the corner of his mouth. "You have been here for a while this time. Where will you go, then?"

"I've been assigned to a church in Bern. I leave next Monday. I was hoping you'd come by, rather than put me to the task of finding a way to get word to you." Darius shifted his queen into place to spike a bishop and pawn pin Lucien had almost managed.

Lucien chuckled and shifted a rook instead. "I should have let you. You'd enjoy the challenge. East, Darius? I had thought you were headed west."

Darius refilled both their glasses, feeling tension seep from his spine into the earth where it more properly belonged. "No. I had my chance at the sea, Lucien. I won't see it."

"Ah, yes. Your duel outside Paris, Lutetia that was.... Do you know, I ran across your former second-in-command in Florence a few years ago? He's become quite well regarded as an assassin."

Darius sighed. "Yes, I suppose he would be. Still vowing vengeance, I assume?"

"Oh, yes." Lucien sipped his own wine. "You'll have to have him killed, you do realize. He fully intends that it be him or you. Do decide which some decade."

"No." Darius shifted his knight forward, taking another pawn. "Grayson will bring his own death one day, but I won't ask anyone to do it. Warn my protégés about him, yes. Ask them to become what Grayson has made of himself? No."

"We are, all of us, killers. Even you, Darius." Lucien watched him across the chessboard, his expression more gentle than his tone had been. "You eat flesh and fish. I drink blood. Both of us kill, both of us move others to their places in the games, whether to hold a line... or breach one. We are what we are, and we are quite, quite skilled at it." He moved a rook forward. "Check."

Darius took the rook with his queen. "I was a killer, yes. And a general. Now... now, old friend, I talk, and heal where I can, and hold the lines open."

"Perhaps." Lucien took the queen with a pawn. "What will you do about the well, now that you're leaving?"

Darius poured more wine for both of them. "The bishop has declared the waters' powers fled and discredited, and the mayor's people have decreed it unfit to drink. The well is walled off, and I've left a letter warning my successor of the problem." Darius smiled slowly, "I may yet return to Paris. And if not... I've told you about it."

"Among others, I'm sure," Lucien agreed. "You wouldn't ask me to protect it, after all. My methods distress you."

Darius only chuckled. "You'd hate its methods of purifying its guardians, Lucien." He took Lucien's pawn with a rook and added, his tone deliberately mild, "Checkmate."

Lucien studied the board, then chuckled and overturned his king. "So it is. Safe trip, Darius." He stood, collecting the coat he'd left on the wall before he faded into the shadows.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Eight months later, a package came to St. Mathieu's, addressed only to "Father Darius, Ecclesia Romae, Bern, Confoederatio Helvetica." It held three tightly sealed ceramic containers, labeled in Lucien's unmistakably legible block print: North Sea; Baltic Sea; Russian snow.

Darius drank the snow melt with dinner that night.

The other two containers traveled with him for the rest of his life.

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