Author: Tolakasa PM
The last thing Nat needed tonight was to find a vampire on her couch. Season 1, after Feeding the Beast.Rated: Fiction K - English - Words: 2,015 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 2 - Published: 06-07-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6032009
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Written for Amilyn as part of Yuletide 2009.
Takes place shortly after "Feeding the Beast" (Season 1).
The sun wasn't up—yet—when Natalie unlocked her door. Early night, but not an easy one; all she wanted was a hot bath and a hot drink and about twelve hours of sleep, and maybe some quality kitty time. Sydney must have other ideas, since he didn't meet her at the door. Well, he was a cat.
It had been a busy night, but not overwhelming; a few suspicious-looking natural deaths and a fogbound pile-up, but no homicides. Which meant no vampires lurking around her morgue, picking fights with their souvlaki-loving partners that sounded like they were more in need of marriage counseling than a few days off. Most of the time, those two provided a welcome distraction from formaldehyde and corpses, but even the most dedicated pathologist needed a break.
She hung up her coat and stowed her purse where Sydney couldn't get into it—she'd lost another lipstick to the little brat last week—and began rummaging through the fridge, looking for low-effort leftovers. That was usually Sydney's cue to walk up and investigate the fridge with her, but when she kicked the door shut and turned around, she didn't trip over him. "Sydney?" she called, confused.
The answer from the living room was not an insulted or lazy meow, but a woman's voice. "You have the strangest taste in literature, Doctor."
She whirled around with a completely undignified squawk. Someone was sitting on her couch, reading a book. Someone—
"Emily Weiss. Really?" Janette tossed the book aside. "I would have thought you were a classicist. A higher education simply does not mean what it used to."
"People who don't have eternity don't waste time choking down books they don't like," Natalie retorted, her mind racing. Garlic in the kitchen, out of reach; no crosses; damn little wood, for that matter, though at least she'd be able to hit the heart on the first try. Keep it casual. "And sometimes a girl just needs some fluff."
Janette shrugged. "I suppose."
Okay. Enough of that. "What are you doing here?"
Janette's entire demeanor changed in an instant, transforming her from indifferent intruder to predator. "We need to talk." Janette's voice was harsh, tense, not at all like her usual cultured tones.
"About what happened the other night. With Nicolas."
Nee-ko-lah. As usual, the French pronunciation grated against her nerves. Never just Nick, always Nicolas. "He's fine. Look, I'm tired. I'm sure you of all people can appreciate what it's like to spend a night up to your elbows in people's guts." Janette's lips twitched. "If you're worried, we can talk later—"
"Can we?" Janette asked archly, glancing significantly at the window. Outside, the sky had bypassed purple and red and was already turning blue. Sunrise. "Let us just say that I did not time this arbitrarily."
"Of course not." Some day I'm going to find a vampire that doesn't cultivate this know-it-all attitude... "Well, since you seem to be spending the—day, do you mind if I change clothes before we talk? And eat?"
She turned, saw Sydney's empty perch, and nearly choked on her heart. "Where's Sydney?"
"The cat?" Janette gave her a slow, teasing, cruel smile that, for a moment, had Natalie mentally inventorying every sliver of wood in the apartment. "In your room. He took a dislike to me, and I tired of his hissing." She laughed. "I don't eat cats, Doctor. I do have standards."
"Good for you," Natalie muttered, retrieving Sydney's food and water dishes and stomping down the hall. Getting into the bedroom without spilling either and while dodging a frantic, overprotective tabby wasn't the easiest trick in the world, but she managed. "I don't trust her either, Syd," she soothed, giving him a cuddle and a handful of his favorite treats before swapping the monkey suit for something more comfortable. And something she could move in—even if her new self-defense skills would probably be useless against a thousand-year-old vampire.
She contemplated the phone a moment, but decided against calling Nick; the sun was up, so coming over would endanger him. Besides, if Janette really wanted to kill her, would she have sat down on the couch and read an Emily Weiss book until Natalie got home? Wouldn't she have just ambushed her someplace else? Or called her to the Raven?
She settled for scribbling a note to Nick and sticking it in a book she'd borrowed from him, one she was pretty certain he'd want back, since it was a first edition and over a hundred years old. If anything did happen, at least he'd know where to start looking.
And, as one final precaution, she stuffed a hairstick in one pocket—it might not pierce the sternum, but there were other ways to the heart and she knew them all—and slipped on the antique crucifix and chain that had belonged to her grandmother. She'd never had occasion to wear it much before she met Nick, and now of course it would just be rude, but right now, it was perfect. And I'm seriously going to consider hunting down a crucifix for the living room for emergencies.
Janette was idly flipping through the Weiss novel again, and she smirked, a bit, when she saw the crucifix against Nat's sweatshirt. "I'm not here to hurt you, Doctor." She added, a bit tartly, "Nicolas would never forgive me."
"Damn right he wouldn't." That much she knew. It made it easier to handle having a strange vampire in her living room. "What are you so worried about? I told you, he's fine."
"He may be now. I am—concerned—about what led him there." Natalie sat down in the chair across the room, as far as she could get. "Eight hundred years, and never have I seen such a display. Not from Nicolas. Another one— We live quietly, Doctor, and displays like that endanger us all. Especially in the Raven."
"And what's your point?"
"It is your fault, Doctor. This—this madness is all your doing."
"I didn't serve him your finest O positive," Nat shot back, "and you were the one who called me."
"Because he doesn't listen to me anymore!" Janette's eyes glowed green for a long second, making Nat's heart stop and sending her hand looking for the hairstick. "No, he only comes to me when he wants to know the rumors of the community he should be part of! But your every word, he hangs on like—like—"
"Gospel?" Nat finished sweetly, knowing Janette would never be able to choke the word out.
"Close enough! Don't you understand? Nicolas knows better! To drink so much after doing without for so long—" She struggled for control, and when she spoke again, it was in her usual cultured tones. "Sometimes, when other pleasures fade, we will deny ourselves for a time. Not because we see any virtue in it, but because, when we drink again, it—"
"It's a high."
"Yes. Exactly. A high more potent than any drug could possibly produce."
"Then why did you give him any to begin with?"
"And why would I worry about Nicolas drinking too much?" Janette retorted. "For a hundred years, all he has wanted is to forget what he is, to not drink; he can barely choke down cow!"
"Good point." She sat there, thinking it over. "I've been trying to get him to stop. But completely. Not cold turkey one minute and bingeing the next. He never said—"
"Nicolas does not know half of what he is, and what he doesn't know, he cannot tell you. This—this game you play, of turning him mortal—"
"It's not a game."
"Believe that if you will. But this—this plan," she corrected herself, with a nasty little glare, "of yours, to turn him mortal—you interfere with things neither of you understands. There are no books detailing the idiosyncrasies of vampire physiology."
"You'd think one of you would've made some notes."
"Why, so that one of you could cure us?" Janette asked acidly. "Make us laboratory specimens? Prove that we exist? Do you think we have survived so long by being idiots?"
"It was just a thought." She considered. "This isn't just a way to make me stop?"
Janette sighed, and for a moment looked very much a disgruntled human, rather than a vampire. "It is not you that I must stop, if I want this silliness to end. And I have nursed Nicolas through enough disappointments to know that he will not stop now. No, Doctor, this is—a friendly warning."
Natalie studied the vampire a moment. "You really do care about him, don't you?"
"We were made of the same master. There is no way for you to understand the strength of that bond. No matter how much he tries to ignore it," she added, but in an undertone, as if she didn't exactly mean for Natalie to hear it.
"And you don't—mind?"
"Nicolas has searched for his cure for decades, and will undoubtedly search for many more. It separates him from us and blurs his priorities. Of course I mind."
"But?" Natalie prompted.
"If it makes him happy..." Janette shrugged. "Let him find it. It's not as if every vampire on earth will be clamoring to participate in your so-called cure."
An awkward silence stretched between them; Natalie had nothing she could say to that, and if Janette was anything like Nick, she wasn't the type to bare her soul to virtual strangers. "I'm not supposed to tell Nick about this visit, am I?"
"No." Short, to the point; when Nick said something that way, it meant that prying could be dangerous. And Janette's high dinner standards probably wouldn't prevent her from eating Nick's friends if she thought it justified.
"Okay, then. Mind if I eat? I haven't had anything since lunch and that was somewhere before nine." She gave Janette a speculative look. "And I can't offer you anything."
"I did not expect you would." She stretched out on the couch. "Get your food. We have more to discuss. About Nicolas, and...other things."
If that was supposed to be reassuring, it failed. Then again, Janette probably didn't try to reassure people very often. "You're not leaving?"
"I came prepared to stay the day." Something on Natalie's face must have betrayed her uneasiness. "I told you, Doctor, I did not come here to harm you. I merely wished to ensure that we had our discussion."
"I have to sleep sometime."
"As do I. If you would be so kind as to let me borrow your sofa."
Oh, sure. I love renting out my couch to strange vampires. "Need a blanket? Pillow? Teddy bear?"
Janette gave her a smirk. "No, thank you."
"I'm getting some dinner." She pushed herself out of the chair—stabbing herself in the thigh with her hairstick—and headed for the kitchen. "Just let yourself out whenever. Same way you came in—" Natalie stopped in her tracks. The lock hadn't been broken. None of the windows had been broken, and they were all painted shut. "How did you get in here, anyway?"
Janette smiled, and held out her hand. Metal flashed.
"You pick locks." She should be surprised. Somehow, she wasn't.
"What is it you mortals say? Everyone needs a hobby?" Janette smiled. "I learned from the best."
Natalie couldn't resist. "Who?"
"Strange young man, around the turn of the last century. Called himself Houdini."