Author's Notes: This is my very first piece of fan fiction and its even not in
my native language. So if you stumble over strange sentences or
something like that, just blame it on my German upbringing, ok?

Many many thanks to my beta readers Jan, who alpha-readed the
first nine parts, Emily, who commented the first nine and
Jenieve who beta-readed the whole 17 parts, corrected spelling
and grammar mistakes and suggested changes and additions.
Thank you for you patience with me and for your comments
about the story. It has helped me a lot and I have to admit
that I was nervous as hell.

Disclaimers: Forever Knight and all its character don't belong to me but to
TBTB (although they don't deserve them). Rachel Allyson belong to
me and if you want to play with her, please ask me first.

Warning: This story got completely out of my hands, took some turns I never
thought possible and kept surprising me while writing it. Sometimes it is
really, really silly. I couldn't help it, but now you are warned.

This story takes place somewhere at the beginning of the third season (early
February 1995), but the plane crash never happened. Schanke moved to Calgary,
Cohen is still Captain and Nick is short one emotional trauma.

This story is dedicated to my grandfather, who died at the 15th of October,
1999. He had terminal cancer. Several people in this story carry bits and
pieces of his personality. The dog, Nyko, really exists and belonged to him.
BTW, the pinning incident did really happen (to me !).

I appreciate any and all feedback Flaming_Saphire@Yahoo.de
Just be gentle, its my first attempt of writing fanfic.

ANCIENT CIRCLES by Stargazer
(1/17)

part one Wolf

The surroundings were strange, noisy and he didn't like the smell here.
But he was needed here, he had a purpose in this unfamiliar terrain. It would
hurt him, but he always survived and it would hurt HER, but it was necessary.
A soft breeze caressed his fur as the wolf searched for his goal.

***

He looked down at the man at his feet. He was a good choice, young, strong
and healthy. The man struggled against his bonds but there was no way to
escape, he had made sure of it. Yes, he was a good choice. He smiled. Tonight
his children would have a feast.

***

Natalie was exhausted. The number of her 'regular' customers had skyrocketed
Now it looked like a bunch of wild animals had escaped from the zoo
and were tearing people to shreds. It gave her the creeps. The worst thing
was, it only looked like a bunch of wild animals. None had escaped, that would
have been reported. No animal would dispose the bodies in the way they had been
found. Natalie pinched the bridge of her nose. The killer was simply too clever
to be an animal. It had to be human. She looked at the body on her table and
her stomach lurched. How could a human being do such a thing ? And how was
it done ? She looked again at the pitiful remains of a corpse and her
professionalism kicked in. This body was in better shape than the others, maybe
she could find her answers here.

Three hours later she was on her way to Nick's and hopefully some nice
videos. She really needed that now. She had been right. The body had given
her some answers. Horrible answers. The victim had been tied up before he was
killed, so there was a serial killer out there, but the victim was killed by
animals. She had been able to detect some teeth marks which looked like they
belonged to a carnivore of some sort, but she couldn't say which. She would
need to do some comparison studies. A serial killer who used animals as murder
weapons, how perverted!

She drove, distracted mulling over her findings. She slammed on her breaks, but
saw the dog too late, it never had a chance. There was a sickening sound as the
car collided with the animal. "Oh my God !" Natalie leaped from the car and ran
to the dog. The canine was gray, white and huge. It was lying in the street,
but still alive. It growled when she reached out for it and then it jumped on
it's feet, bit Natalie on her outstretched right hand and disappeared to a
small alley. Natalie was shocked. She looked from the place where the dog had
been lying to the alley and then to her bleeding hand. The bite was deep and
clearly visible on her hand. It looked really ugly. That was when it started
to hurt. And it hurt a lot. Stop the bleeding. Where was her first aid kit ?
Damn, she knew where it was: out of reach. The bleeding was heavy. She knew she
should go to the hospital, but it was far too long to drive with an injured
hand. What should she do ? Cellphone, use your cellphone and call Nick. Sun
isn't up for several hours, he could drive you to the hospital.

Natalie fumbled in her pockets until she could reach her cellphone. She grit
her teeth as she dialed his number. "Knight." "Hi Nick, I need your help."
"Natalie? What happened ?" "I've had a little accident. I need you to take me
to hospital." There was a small pause in the line. "I'm coming." And then the
line went dead.

Natalie wondered how he would find her, he didn't know, where she was and she
didn't had a chance to tell him. A soft whoosh told her, that he had found her.
"Natalie ?" He looked at her bleeding hand and suppressed his needs at once.
His nostrils flared. "You were attacked by a wolf ?" "A wolf ?" Natalie was
stunned. "I thought it was some kind of dog !" He shook his head no. "How do
you know it was a wolf ?" She asked curious. He flashed her a small embarrassed
smile. "I can smell it." Ok, he can smell it. Of cause he can. So it was a
wolf who bit me, but does it really matter ? Dog or wolf or whatever, my hand
would hurt the same way. She clenched her hand unconsciously and then winced
at the pain. He looked at her, at her bleeding hand and decided that he could
fill her in on details later. Now it was important to get Nat to the hospital.
Fast. He took her car keys and locked the doors. Nat squealed in surprise as he
gathered her into his arms and took to the air. The wind rushed through her
hair, but she barely noticed. He was taking her flying ! He had never done
that before ! Maybe the whole accident wasn't half bad. She snuggled closer to
him, buried her face in his chest to hide her smile. Nick looked at her,
watching her smile. He liked it when she was smiling. It made him feel whole.
Far too soon the hospital came into sight. He landed out of sight of the people
in the parking lot and walked with Nat to the entrance.

***

It was done. His body still hurt from the impact, but he was healing already.
He could go home now. Now others would do their deed and once again everything
would be alright. The old mistake would be eradicated.

***

Her hand hurt and Natalie made quite a face as the doctor examined it. It was a
nasty bite wound that would require several stitches. The local anesthesia made
her whole hand feel numb. She answered the doctor's questions, and distantly
watched him place her stitches. After she had received the usual rabies and
tetanus shots and her hand was securely wrapped in ace bandages, she finally
was released form the hospital. It was nearly dawn by now. Nick was forced to
fly at top speed to reach the loft before sunrise.

***

Natalie agreed as Nick suggested to have her car towed to a garage, but she
refused as he asked her to call a cab. She didn't want to go home. The whole
incident had shaken her more than she wanted to admit. She didn't want to be
alone right now, she wanted to snuggle to his chest, wanted him to hold her,
make her feel safe and secure, until she would fall asleep. With a sigh she
curled in his lap and was soon sound asleep. Nick sat absolutely still,
embracing the lovely warm body in his arms. He looked at her and sighed.
She was so beautiful, so breathtaking and he loved her. How often had he
thought about telling her about his love ? So many times. How often had he
stopped himself from doing so ? Way too often. The whole situation was
impossible. He couldn't tell her the truth. It was too dangerous for her.
A vampire couldn't make love to a mortal without killing her or him in the heat
of passion. The only thing he could do now was admire her secretly. His
thoughts were lost in her heartbeat. It's sweet gentle rhythm luring him. He
wanted to drown in the smell of her blood. Oranges, vanilla and cinnamon it
called to him. He wanted to taste it, longed to taste it. Just a drop, a small
sip. He shook his head. His fangs were descending and his eyes had taken on the
vampire's golden hue. NO ! He turned away thankful that Nat hadn't seen his
moment of transgression. He had to move away from her now. Carefully he slipped
out of the embrace and fetched a blanket to cover her. Then he fled to the
relative safety his bedroom and willed himself into sleep.

***

Nat woke with a start. She looked around, noticed that it was only noon by
now. Something had woken her. Something wasn't right. Then she heard it.
The small sound, a whimper really, was coming from Nick's bedroom. Curious
she got up and moved to the staircase. Slowly she tiptoed upstairs and peeked
in. Nick was in bed, curled in a fetal position. Her heart nearly broke as she
listened to the small pitiful noises he made. He looked so lost, so helpless.
And yet she couldn't help but notice the outline of his fangs against his lips.
They had to be fully descended. Quietly she closed the door and went
downstairs. She couldn't help him. Not when his vampire had so obviously
emerged. He had warned her, never to startle a vampire, even if she only tried
to help. The results would be rather deadly in case. So whatever he was facing
in his dreams, he had to face it alone. Sadly she slumped on the couch, drawing
the blanket tight around her, seeking some comfort. It was quite early and she
was exhausted. She closed her eyes and before she even realized, she was fast
asleep.

***

Nick glanced down at Nat and shook his head. She was really out of it. He had
expected her to be awake by the time he got up but she was still sleeping
soundly. "Natalie." No reaction. He bent over her and shook her lightly. "Stop
it, Syd. Mommy is really tired." She mumbled, still asleep. He couldn't
suppress a grin. Great, now she believes that I'm her cat. Automatically
Nat reached out and started to pet what she believed was her cat. He was
too stunned to react. No one has ever done this before but.. Hey, that
actually feels good. He closed his eyes, moved closer to her to allow her
better access and then he started to purr. His purrs were much deeper than
anything Sydney could produce. He knew she might notice, might wake up. But he
couldn't stop himself. It felt so good. And as long as she didn't notice he
might be able to enjoy it.

He couldn't remember when he was this happy or this relaxed. Not only the
human part, but the vampire as well. Especially the vampiric part of him.
Did it really matter ? Suddenly the stroking stopped. Her increased heartbeat
told him, that she was awake. He opened his eyes, meeting her astonished
stare. She was redder than a beet and he knew that if he could blush, his color
would match hers. What had he thought he was doing? Nat opened her mouth and
shut it again. She couldn't believe it. First she awoke, wondering how deep
Sydney's purrs had become, only to find out that it wasn't Sydney she was
petting, wasn't Sydney who was purring, but Nick ! She blushed deeper. Stroking
Nick like he was her cat. Well he had purred like some sort of cat. Obviously
that's another thing vampires could do. a small voice in her head said, but
she didn't pay attention. Purring like a cat didn't make Nick a cat. She was
such an idiot. What would he think of her now ?

"I'm sorry." She was thrown back into reality. "What?" "I shouldn't have done
that." He looked down at his hands. She was confused. "Done what? Purring when
I...when I petted you?" "No, allowing myself to be stroked by you. I didn't
think. I...it just felt so good and I... I'm sorry." She didn't understand. Why
was he sorry when he had enjoyed it? She asked him. He looked at her perplexed.
"Because I've embarrassed you. I..." She couldn't help herself but started to
laugh. He looked at her in disbelieve, totally startled by her reaction. "Sorry
Nick." She hiccuped. "It's just.. just.. I thought how embarrassed you must
feel while you..." And she bursted out laughing again. She lost it, really lost
it. Waves of laughter rolled through her body until she struggled for air.
Tears of laughter rolled down her face.

It took nearly twenty minutes until she was breathing normally except for the
hiccups. "So, you liked it ?" She asked him lightly, when she found, she had
breath enough. He avoided looking at her and a slight flush of color in his
cheeks told her that he was trying hard to blush. "Well, yes. I..I ..nobody has
ever done this to me before but...it felt good, really good." He wanted to tell
her how good it had felt but he couldn't find the appropriate words.

She reached out. "May I ?" He nodded, too stunned to speak. She wanted to do it
again ! He gathered her in his lap and waited. Natalie started to pet him with
deliberate slow strokes and was rewarded with deep rumbling purrs. She was
thrilled. She could feel his chest vibrating with every stroke. This felt so
right, so wonderful. She opened her eyes (when had she closed them?) to meet
his. His wonderful, half closed, golden eyes. Golden? It was like getting hit
with a bucket of ice water. No, don't spoil the moment. Ask him, maybe it is
totally normal. She took a deep breath. "Nick ?" "Hmhmm ?" "Are your eyes
supposed to be golden?" "Sorry," he purred, "I can't help it. My eyes have
changed, because my beast is happy." With relief she noticed that his teeth
were normal but she couldn't help asking "Happy ?" "Hmhmm, relaxed, content and
very very happy." And he purred again as if to prove he was telling the truth.
It was good to see him this happy, feel him relaxing under her ministrations.
And it was definitely good to see him without his incessant guilt. Just happy
and total at ease with himself.

The phone started to ring evoking loud groans from both of them. Reluctantly
Nick answered. Silently Natalie damned the phone and the caller. It had been so
wonderful and now that #%!@^! thing was going to spoil the mood. It wasn't
fair! Nick's face grew serious as he listened to the phone. "I'll come as
soon as I can." He hung up the phone. "Nick ?" "That was Cohen. They have found
*another* one." Natalie shuddered, thinking about the corpse she had autopsied
just 18 hours before. "Our perp is increasing his tempo. The last one died
nearly 27 hours ago." "I know. There is not much time until he loses it
completely." A chill ran down her spine as she thought about the possible
consequences and then cursed her vivid imagination. She didn't want to see one
of the shredded ones again. Absentmindedly she scratched her itching hand. Her
hand. Ooops. She had already forgotten about the incident. I can't work with
this hand, I don't need to face another one of those right now. Natalie took
a deep breath. "I think I better call in sick. I can't perform an autopsy using
my left hand, it would look like a first year med. student had been at it.
People would think there is more than one lunatic involved, and they would be
right. Except the other one could be located at the morgue." She felt herself
blush again and grinned sheepishly. He tried very hard to hide a smile at that
picture, but he failed miserably. "I'll give you a ride home, OK ?" "Mmmm, will
you stop by after your shift ?" "I'll come, tell you what has happened and tuck
you in. Deal ?" She smiled. "Deal." She stood up and gathered her things.

part two Sorrows

The crime scene was crawling with cops when he arrived. He searched the sea of
uniforms for his partner. Curious, he still expected to see Schanke hanging
around. But the Schankes had moved to Calgary two months ago. He spotted her.
She was almost as pale as he was, but with a slight greenish tint. After
spending some time with Nat in the morgue, these past few months, she wasn't
normally that squeamish anymore. This body had to be worse than the others.
"Tracy, you alright ?" She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths.
"Just give me a couple of minutes, OK ?" "OK." He walked over to take a look at
the body. It was worse, in fact it was one of the worst things he had ever
seen in his life. It didn't resemble a human being. Except for the occasional
bone or body part, that could still be identified as such. This was human
debris. Like a gigantic puzzle of blood, bone and tissue, what was left of it
anyway. He searched for the coroner on duty and found him, retching in the
gutter. Then he noticed the vans. Better and better he thought, as he spotted
the TV logos one of the worst possible crime scenes and now we have to look
out for the newsvultures as well, great. Tracy approached him. "Is it just me
or is this the worst crime scene you have ever been too ?" "It isn't just
you. Believe me, it is one of the worst things I've seen in my life" And
that's saying something with what I've seen. Tracy sighed. It didn't make it
any better to know that it wasn't her imagination. No, it only made it worse.
"Come on, let's start the show." She looked at the grim face of her partner.
"And wipe that look off your face. You look like you want to bite someone."
Nick flinched. If only you knew, Tracy. If only you knew. he thought as he
followed her.
***

He watched the crime scene, well hidden, far enough away that the inhuman
one couldn't hear his rapid heartbeat. It had been so easy. He had made his
strike and it went well. Now all he could do was wait for the changes to
happen. Soon, very soon the Empress would emerge from her bonds and be born
anew. She had to be alright. She HAD to be sane. Otherwise he would need the
mortal female. The inhuman one would follow her. He dejected to take advantage
at a mere mortal woman to bait his trap. Only in emergencies. He had to wait.
And he had to be prepared for the inhuman one, he was the key.

***

Natalie sat on her couch, Sydney purring in her lap and munched popcorn. She
stared at the TV-screen, at her favorite movie, but her mind was elsewhere.
In her mind she played the scenes of the last twenty-four hours over and over
again. The body, the bite, flying, falling asleep in his arms, watching him
helplessly caught in a nightmare, waking up to his purrs. She couldn't help but
smiled as she remembered how happy he had been. He was happy, the vampire part
of him was happy. So happy and relaxed that he didn't push her away as his eyes
changed. And it had felt so right. She counted the minutes until he would knock
at her door. Only two hours left. 'Only', Ha, with each second like an eon it
would be two very long hours. And she longed to see him again, longed to melt
in his arms and hear his single one-every-ten-minute-heartbeat. One hour and
fifty-nine minutes. She starred at the TV-screen.

***

His children were hungry again. But tonight he couldn't give them what they
wanted. Tonight they had to be content with some frightened animals. It wasn't
the same, but it had to be enough, for awhile. He couldn't risk exposing
himself, or his children, his beautiful children would die. They couldn't live
without him. They were so wonderful, animalistic and strong. Yet, they had lost
their human sanity. All, but one. And he now understood why. Just as he
understood what must be done. At this moment, all he could do was wait. Wait
for the Empress to made the changes. He heard the wails of his children. Time
to feed.

***

"Knight." He heard the tired tone in the captains voice. "Yes, captain?" "I
want you and your partner to concentrate only on these 'beast-murders'. All the
other cases are backlogged until... " she let the sentence trail off. He
would know what she wanted to say. Until you catch him or the media started to
forget. "Got it, captain." He tried to smile, but he was tired and he couldn't
stop recalling the picture of the body. She noticed that his smile never
reached his eyes. He was the picture of a man exhausted. The last few weeks had
been hard for all of them, but nobody had earned as much overtime as Knight. He
had worked form dusk 'til dawn, every day. She was pretty sure that he would
have stayed through the dayshift as well if there wasn't that mysterious
sun allergy of his. And now these brutal murders and the animal attack on Dr.
Lambert. Any other man would be a wreck just now and even his legendary
concentration had started to crumble. "Go home, Knight. It won't do us any good
if you collapse from sheer work overload." She was right. He knew she was right
and he yearned for sleep, but there was something he had to do first. A promise
he had to keep.

***

His children hadn't fed well this night. They were wailing for more. But he
couldn't give them what they wanted. Soon they would start fighting again. Soon
there would be another corpse for him to bury, another dead child for him to
mourn. They needed help. His children needed help, more help than he could
give them. It was all his fault. His children were dying and it was his own
fault. He sat in the darkness, musing and waiting, alone.

***

There was a soft knock at the door. Natalie sat up, startled. When had she
fallen asleep? She looked at the TV-screen. Blank. Slowly she went to the door.
Her body ached, she had to have been sleeping in the wrong position. She
opened the door. Nick. He looked tired and weary, but he smiled as he saw her.
A tired and sad smile. She let him in, closed the door. "Nick, what's wrong ?"
He sat down on the couch. "It was a very bad night." She sat next to him. "How
bad?" He looked her straight in the eyes. She saw the look of horror and utter
revulsion in his eyes. It had to be bad. "I have seen so many horrible
things in 800 years, Nat." He clasped his hands in his lap, closed his eyes and
took a deep breath. I have done so many horrible things. "So many things..,"
he opened his eyes again, "but this, Nat, this was one of the most horrible
things I have ever seen in my whole life." Oh my God! Natalie stuffed a hand
in her mouth as she realized just how bad the scene must have been. Now she
knew why he was so weary. She pulled him closer to her. Normally he was the
one, who held her, comforted her, after a bad night in the morgue. But she
hadn't seen the body, the scene tonight, but he had. "I don't understand, Nat.
Why do mortals do such things? Why do they have to do it?" Despair tinged his
voice. She had no answer for him, because there was no answer. He longed for a
life as a mortal, to be free from the urge to hunt, to kill, only to see
mortals kill mortals, without reason. Night after night. He couldn't
understand. Raw emotion played in his eyes. Natalie watched him thoughtfully.
Sometimes the ancient vampire seemed to her more innocent, more human, than
humans themselves. Although he would sharply deny any human qualities in
himself. All she could do now was hold him and let him feel that he wasn't
alone. Nick needed to hold her, to be held by her, his rock, his anchor of
trust in an insane world. He needed her, he didn't want to be alone anymore. A
small warm body climbed on his lap and began to purr madly.

***

Sydney wanted attention and he wanted it now! His mistress seemed to be too
absorbed to pay attention and he couldn't reach her lap. But the lap of the
male one, well that was a totally different story. His mistresses friend was a
bit cold and he smelled funny, but that was no reason not to curl in his lap,
at least not for him. Yes, he was right. As soon as he had made himself
comfortable in his lap, the friend of his mistress started to pet him. Sydney
purred with pleasure, he petted very well, very skillfully. Maybe Sydney
mused, maybe I should keep him.

***

The weight of the cat was surprisingly comforting, Nick noticed. He felt so
peaceful here. It seemed so absurd. All the peace here, the calm and quiet
happiness against the horror and madness he had witnessed tonight. He didn't
want it to end, but his internal clock told him that it was close to dawn.
He was hungry. "Nat?" She looked up. The blue of his eyes were sprinkled with
small whirling golden dots. "I have to go, Nat." Yes, he had to go. She knew
that. He was tired and hungry and a quick glance at the clock told her that
dawn wasn't far away. If he didn't go now, he would be trapped until dusk. And
she knew how very difficult it was for him to control the vampire around her,
especially when he was hungry and exhausted. Reluctantly she released him from
her arms. He hesitated for a moment, then gave her a quick kiss on her cheek.
"Thank you." "For what?" "For being here, for understanding and for being you."
She felt the rush of warmth as she blushed. My God, I'm blushing from head to
toe! Natalie sat there, speechless and watched him go. He turned at the door
like he wanted to say something, but then he closed the door behind him and was
gone.

***

The minutes ticked by. Nat sat on her couch until the light of dawn hit her.
She blinked in the sudden brightness, then she got up and went to the window.
The warm sunlight seemed to embrace her and she watched the sun rising higher
and higher, until the fiery ball lit the morning sky in a kaleidoscope of
colors. She closed the shades. Automatically she went through the task of
making herself ready for bed. Only after she was lying in bed, securely tucked
in, did she allow herself to weep.

***

His child was dead. Killed by her brothers and sisters. Killed. Torn. Like a
rag doll. How long must he wait ? How many children must he bury until he
could use the vampire to heal them ? How many ? He didn't know. He really
didn't know. And it tore at him. They were HIS. His children and it was HIS
fault. How many ? He didn't want to know.

***

Her scent hung on his clothes. He noticed the sweet fragrance as he poured
himself dinner. Hungry, he was so hungry. Her scent drove him wild, drove him
over the edge. A low growl escaped his throat as he finished the bottle. He was
still hungry. More! He needed more! So much more! He reached for another bottle
and another and another. Only after the fifth bottle did he stop. Finally
the hunger was gone. Empty bottles littered the floor and he noticed several
bloodstains on his shirt and some blood sticking to his hands. He went to
the bathroom. As he washed his hands he automatically glanced in the mirror.
Feral red glowing eyes greeted him. Blood was smeared over his face and his
lips were stretched over his fangs. There was not a single spark of humanity
left in the reflection. The picture was that of an inhuman creature, of
something evil. A torn whimper escaped him. Then he noticed her scent. Her
scent still hung on his clothes. Natalie. What would she think about him if she
could see him now? What would she do? Would she reject him, chase him away like
the animal he was, like he dreamed in his nightmares every day? He couldn't
stand his refection any longer. He curled himself into the darkest corner of
the loft. Trying desperately to hide himself before the truth. But he couldn't
escape her scent. He drifted into oblivion. Her scent heavy in his flaring
nostrils.

part three realizations

Tonight he would go out again. Call his companions to hunt. Satisfy his
children. He wouldn't lose another one tonight. Wouldn't have to bury one
tomorrow.

***

Natalie slid the elevator door open and cautiously peeked into the loft.
Everything was dark and quiet. She didn't like to intrude like this, but she
really had to talk to him. "Nick ?" Nothing. "Nick, are you here ?" No answer.
Maybe he is still asleep. She switched on the lights. As soon as the lights
went on, she noticed several empty green bottles scattered carelessly on the
floor by the refrigerator. He had fed quite heavily, and he hadn't dispose of
the bottles like he normally did. Why ? Usually he would hide the empties
before she could see them. She scanned the loft. Something was different, but
she couldn't put her finger on it. The silence was mocking her, annoying her.
Then...a soft whisper filtered from somewhere. Where ? Again she looked around,
trying to hear even the quietest of sounds. There ! She found it, found the
source of the whispers. A shape in the darkest corner of the loft. Slowly she
approached it. The closer she came the more she realized it looked like Nick.
Nick, curled into a tight ball, muttering in his sleep and crying silently.
Fascinated she watched the blood tears spill down his cheeks. She had never
seen him cry before. Red stains marked the path of his tears. She also noticed
the dried blood around his mouth and the bloody and rumpled clothes. She
stifled a sob of herself. He looked something like an abused and terrified
child, frightened, helpless and lonely. Her own eyes burned with unshed tears
as she watched him. His whispers became clearer. "...don't...please don't
...I need you.. love you...please...please...don't chase me away...please.." he
pleaded. Natalie backed off to watch him. "No, please....don't.." His voice
became louder to the point of shouting. "Natalie, please !" And then he
screamed. A long agonizing animalistic howl of loneliness, which echoed through
the loft. Natalie was heart broken. His nightmare was to be chased away by her!
She rushed to him. Maybe it was dangerous, but who cared? He was awake now,
panting heavily and crying. "Nick ? Nick, it's OK. It's OK. I'm here. Shhh. I'm
here. It's OK." He buried his head in the curve of her neck, she could feel
his hot tears drenching her clothes. His body shuddered with sobs, nearly
convulsing at times. He reached out for her, clung to her in desperate need.
She let him hold her and he nearly crushed her bones with his tight grip.
But she didn't protest. She knew he needed her. Her thoughts whirled. He needed
her ! He loved her ! And his fear of losing her was overwhelming. His scream.
God, she shivered as she remembered the haunting howl. Finally his sobs quieted
and he became aware of his surroundings. "Natalie ?" "Shh, it's OK. I'm here.
Everything is OK." She soothed him.

Nick calmed down. Natalie was here. She was here in his arms. It hadn't been
real. It had been a nightmare. A horrible, vivid nightmare. She hadn't chased
him away, hadn't called him by dreadful names. She was here. He wasn't alone.
New tears welled in his eyes, tears of joy. "Nick ?" "Natalie, you're here."
The relief was clearly audible in his voice. "Yes, I'm here. I'm here." He
took a deep breath, inhaling her delicious fragrance and shuddered. Hunger
overwhelmed him. Although he had fed heavily the previous day, he had lost most
of the blood due to his crying. And her scent, her body next to his, was more
than he could take right now. The vampire begged to be released, begged to take
her, possess her, know her completely. No, please, not now. But his desire
was too strong and her scent too alluring. With a sob he pushed her away. He
couldn't stop his fangs from dropping. Every fiber in his body cried out for
her blood, cried out to take her. NO He used every ounce of self control,
every bit of strength to keep himself from attacking her. His body trembled
as he fought to control himself.

Natalie was taken by surprise when he pushed her away, but then she noticed the
tremor and the tension. His eyes were shut tightly, but she knew the reddish
light, that illuminated his lashes, came from anger or bloodlust. She saw his
hands, clenched in fists, his nails digging in his palms so deeply that they
bled. He was fighting to regain control, not to attack her. And he needed blood
right now. She ran to the refrigerator, opened it and scanned its contents.
There were several bottles of cow's blood left, but she ignored them and went
for his emergency stock of donated human blood. He would need it now. She
rushed back and pressed a blood bag in his hands. Without hesitation he plunged
his fangs in the bag and drained it in a seconds time. He let the empty bag
fall and Nat gave him another one. It was gone as quickly as the first one. And
still there was no sign of him slowing down.

He ravished one pack after another. Finally he stopped. His eyes remained
closed, his tension still evident. The reddish glow had disappeared from his
eyes, but his fangs were still down. He rocked slightly on his heels, still
unable to regain full control of the beast inside him. Slowly, very slowly, the
human blood coursed through his body. Taming the raging hunger, but not for the
overwhelming need to taste her sweet blood. Anyway with the amount of human
blood in his system, she was safe now. Safe enough for a talk. He owed her at
least an explanation for his rather strange behavior of the last two days.
"Nat?"

Her name. So hesitant, so soft. His voice still deep and alluring with the
vampire's edge, but with gentleness that was uniquely his own. She wanted to
reach out for him, but his look stopped her. His look and the fangs. He had to
be really on the edge, when he was unable to retract them. "Please, don't come
any closer Nat. It is so hard to resist already." What was so hard to resist ?
What was he talking about ? Her eyes were full of unspoken questions and he
answered them all. One by one. She deserved to know the truth, the whole truth.

Nick didn't spare a thing. He told her everything. The never-ending hunger, the
temptations, the kills he had made to quench his burning need and about the
way a vampire loved. How he felt love, what he needed to satisfy THIS burning.
Then he told her about his nightmares. How she would find him, cowered over the
body of his still warm kill. How she would shame him, shout at him, leave him
forever. His voice nearly broke at this point. His fangs had retracted and she
wanted so to be near him, she snuggled against him. Then he told her the end of
his dream. "You know, I normally didn't wake up at that point. After you leave
me, I come *home*. But this place means nothing to me anymore. Its dark and
empty and I'm alone. So alone. I go up to the roof and wait for the sun. Its
rising and I start to smoke and then to burn. Its agony. But the pain in my
heart hurts far worse. I want to see it, see the sun one last time, but the
first rays sear my eyes, leave me blind. I am blind, burning and so.. I die."

She sat there, stunned, holding him in a death grip. Stunned with how she could
affect him. He loved her and yet he fought against his own desires, because
they would kill her, he would kill her if he succumbed. He had opened her his
heart, his very soul, trusted in her, shown her all his vulnerabilities. If she
ever wished to crush him, she could do it, because he supplied her with the
ammunition. And he would not hold it against her. But there was more. For the
first time he had revealed everything, all of his secrets, things he had never
told anyone before. She had to admit that there was more to his life as a
vampire than she had ever imagined. More than the legends and stories she had
read, much more than the multitude of Hollywood movies she remembered. For the
first time he had shown her the whole picture and God, it was vast. She tried
to assimilate the pieces of information he had given her, but there were so
many and it was so overwhelming. The blood. It was more than a mere addiction
like she had first believed. It was his food, his substance and the way he
sampled life, emotions, everything. And she had tried to cut him from his
lifeline, had chastised him, when he was backsliding. She had made him feel
guilty about drinking blood, had treated him like an stubborn addict. Yeah, she
could try to give up mortal food with the same effects, she needed it, like he
needed blood. She did a little mental calculating, counting the bags he had
emptied, the bottles of the former day, his tales of killing *every* night to
quench the hunger. She compared it to his normally strict intake of cows blood.
There was only one conclusion. He had been starving. For years. But a vampire
couldn't die from starvation. His body healed itself so rapidly, that there
were no signs of starvation. You couldn't see it, but that didn't mean it
wasn't there. He had been starving for a long long time now and only his
incredible self control had kept him from breaking. But everyone, mortal or
vampire, had their own breaking point and from the look of it, Nick had just
reached his. He simply couldn't go on like this.

She had said nothing, she simply held him tightly, while feeling her own heart
race. Maybe he had told her too much, maybe she was just realizing what he
really was, maybe.. . He didn't know what she was thinking about now, but he
was afraid. Afraid, that she would leave him, afraid that she would urge him
to go on with their relationship, simply afraid. All he could do now was wait
and hope she wouldn't cast him out of her life. He needed her, loved her, he
would even walk into the sun for her if she asked him to. "Nick?" He closed his
eyes, afraid of what she might say. "I'm so sorry, so very sorry." Her warm
hand caressed his face slowly. He leaned into the touch. "What could you
possibly be sorry for ?" "The way I've treated you. I mean I've seen the proof,
I've seen the genetic changes in your DNA and I was still after you to cut down
your blood intake even more. And then I was mad at you for not having control.
God you have been starving for years and I expected you to suppress your
survival instincts." He knew the tone she used. She felt guilty. Guilty,
because she had made mistakes. But didn't she see ? No matter what treatment
she used on him, he would love her no less, because he knew that she cared,
that she was trying to help him. Nat was still rambling over her mistakes, but
he didn't listen. It didn't matter. Only she mattered. He took her warm hand in
his cold ones. "Nat?" She stopped. "Yes?" "Don't be sorry, Nat. You didn't
know, how could you, I never told you. It doesn't matter now. It's OK, I
forgive you."

He was forgiving her. All the stupid, cruel and mean things she had done to
him. He forgave her. How could he forgive her so easily ? "How ?" "How what ?"
"How could you forgive me so easily ?" He gazed at her like he had never seen
her before. "Because I love you Natalie Lambert. I can't live without you. I'll
walk into the sun before I'd let you go." And then he kissed her. Hesitant at
first, but with growing passion, as she responded to his kiss.

She had waited so long for that kiss. It felt so good. And it was better than
she had ever imagined it. Their tongues danced. That was it. He loved her and
it was enough for now. They would find a way to be together. They had to
because she would never let him go.

***

LaCroix cursed silently under his breath as he watched the two lovers through
the skylight. This time his son had won and he didn't even know it. Anger
boiled in him. He had waited so long, nearly 800 years to take revenge for his
beloved Fleur. But now that he knew his son loved this woman, he couldn't rip
her away from him. Nicholas had spoken the truth, he had felt it in their link.
Should there ever come a time when Dr. Lambert stepped from his son's life, he
knew with all certainty that Nicholas would take his own. Losing his son was
unacceptable. He had lost Fleur, he would not lose Nicholas. If he killed this
woman that his son was so hopelessly in love with, Nicholas would die. There
was no way he could reach his goal without sacrificing his son. He lowered his
head in defeat. His son had won this battle. A sly smile played on his lips.
Nicholas may have won this battle, but he was far from winning the war. And as
silently as LaCroix had come, he vanished into the night again.

***

She never wanted it to end, but eventually she broke the kiss to catch some
air. It wasn't fair. He didn't need to breath, he could kiss her as long as he
wanted to, but she had nearly passed out due to the lack of oxygen. "Nat?"
"Hmmmhmmm ?" "I don't want to spoil the mood, but I need a shower and I have to
go to work in two hours." She groaned and released him from her embrace. Well,
he was quite a mess and did need a shower, but work ? No work, Nat decided.
"Don't go. Call in sick." She pleaded. He considered it for several minutes,
then an impish smile lit his face. "Well, Dr Lambert, you are my physician. And
who am I not to follow my doctors orders ?" He said lightly as he reached for
the phone.

part four waiting in the middle of nowhere

Cohen hung up the phone. So, Knight was taking the night off. 'Mental health
day' she assumed. It was time. Hell, it was far past time. Ok, one less to
worry about. Now all she had to do was get Detective Vetter to do the same
thing and catch Toronto's newest serial killer and she could call it a night as
well. She tried to think about a way to convince Tracy Vetter to take the night
off, when she got another call. Vetter was taking the night off. Cohen smiled.
Sometimes life was good.

***

He had returned home to find the Empress. She had shed her old skin and been
reborn. Then she had slashed her own throat. Suicide. She had been like
his other children, insane, but not so demented as to not notice, that she was
insane. And so it had ended. That changed everything. Now he needed the mortal
female, the doctor. It would be risky to take her, but it had to be done. He
needed the vampire. It was his only hope. It was their only hope.

***

They had talked the entire evening. About him, about her, about them. The
difficulties they would face, when they went forward with their relationship.
And they would go forward with it, there was no doubt about that. But dawn was
coming and Nick was tired. Very tired. So she sent him to bed (not that he
complained) and braced herself for the mess one small hungry, angry ball of fur
was sure to have made in her apartment. Poor Sydney, she had forgotten all
about him. Well, now she would face the consequences. She was about to slide
the key in her look, when she heard a voice behind her. "Miss Lambert ?"
"Yes ?" She asked and turned toward the speaker only to face complete darkness.

***

She was his now. His bait. He would lure the vampire into his trap and then his
children could be healed. The vampire would come. Would surrender to his
wishes. Would do what HE demanded of him. Of this he was certain. He loved the
mortal woman too much for his own good.

***

The precinct was buzzing like an angry hornet's nest as he walked through the
door. Something had happened. Nick felt it, emotion so thick you could touch
it. "Knight, Vetter, my office!" bellowed Cohen's voice. Tracy looked at him
but he merely shrugged. He simply had no clue what the captain wanted. Amanda
Cohen didn't waste any time. "Dr Lambert was kidnapped this morning." Tracy
gasped for air while he just stared at her. It had to be a joke. But it wasn't.
His gut tightened. If he were human he was sure he would be sick. "This note
and parcel was sent to the precinct around noon today." Tracy read the note
aloud. "I have your medical examiner. Do what I ask and she will remain
unharmed." "We sent a squad car to Dr. Lambert's apartment. After prying her
door open they found that her apartment had been searched. Then there's the
parcel." Cohen pulled the package from her bottom drawer and handed it to Nick.
"We haven't opened it though Forensics went over it for prints and found
nothing." But Nick didn't hear what she said. He was starring at the package
and the name on it. His name. "Detective!" "Captain?" "I asked, if you know
anyone who would do such a thing? Any personal enemies?" Nick's mind wandered
to LaCroix, but no, this was not his style. "No, captain." Cohen heaved a sigh.
"I suppose that would have been too easy. Well, then. Open it!" He ripped at
the package until it popped open. Inside was a letter, and a blouse. Natalie
had worn this blouse the previous night. He could still smell her scent on it,
and his as well and then he noticed several bloodstains, his bloodstains, where
he had cried on her shoulder. But he wasn't the only one who noticed the
stains. The captain and Tracy saw them as well. "Oh my god! Look at this."
Tracy exclaimed. "Don't worry. They are mine." Nick tried to reassure her.
Stupid Nick, really stupid! He thought as both the women stared at him.
"Well, she spent the night with me and I had a little accident and bled on her
blouse." Cohen only raised an eyebrow, but Tracy's face nearly burst with
curiosity. She would ask him questions until he would consider draining her, he
knew that. But not now, not yet. Now they had to find out what the kidnapper's
demands were. Nick took the envelope. His name again. He tore it open and read
aloud:

Knight

I know who you are and what you are.
Your 'little' friend is in my
custody. If you want her to remain
unharmed, meet me at midnight.
Until then stay at home. I'll
contact you. Bring your female
partner with you but don't use a car.
If I see anyone but the two
of you, you can collect your
'friends' pieces.

Silence. He squirmed uncomfortably in his chair. The letter. Someone knew he
was a vampire and now the captain and his partner would suspect there was
something about him that warranted investigation. Some secrets he kept. Great,
just great. Think fast. He had to give them a reason why somebody would kidnap
Nat and write such a letter. "Detective ? What does he have on you?" He cringed
inwardly at the captains question. Then he got an idea. It would work but it
would made his life much more difficult if he couldn't swear them to secrecy.
It was better than telling them the truth. He should just get it over with. "Do
you know my whole name ?" Cohen's eyebrows met the hairline. "Nicholas B.
Knight. But what has that to do with the letter ?" "Do you know what that B.
stands for ?" Both women shook their heads. He took a deep breath. Well, here
we go "It stands for deBrabant." Tracy's mouth formed a neat little 'o' while
Cohen started to frown. "I think I've heard the name somewhere before." "It is
the foundation, captain." Tracy bubbled. "The DeBrabant foundation. They are
big in charity, incredibly wealthy and no one has ever met the owner." At this
point both looked at Nick, who felt like he could melt into the floor. Damn
Tracy, couldn't you keep quiet just for once? "Nobody except the financial
headmaster knows about it and I prefer it remained that way. I like my life
here just the way it is." Cohen nodded. Wealth could be a burden. And at least
now she understood why he had been so agitated about the bombing of Charles
DuChamps. "We won't make it a matter of public report." Tracy looked a little
bit disappointed, she had wanted to grill her partner for all the gory details.
"Captain, the letter says that I should wait at home until he or she contacts
me." he stated. "That's exactly what I plan to do. I'll take Tracy with me. I
won't take any chances with Natalie's life." Cohen understood his fears and she
promised him that they would play by the perp's rules.

***

Tracy bounced into his loft. She had never been here before and she was
curious. Especially after she had learned that her partner was not just an
enigma but head of the biggest charity foundation of the western hemisphere.
Nick followed her. It would have been funny to watch her peek in every hole of
his loft if.. if the situation weren't so serious. He struggled how to tell
her that her partner was a bloodsucking creature of the night. He sighed. This
morning life had seemed so promising, and now it was a mess. "Calm down, Tracy.
I need to tell you something." She turned towards him and he could see the big
quotation marks gleaming in her eyes. "Something I couldn't tell the captain."
He definitely had her attention now. He gestured for her to take a seat and
for once she didn't protest. She looked at him expectantly and he started to
pace. "I don't know how to tell you this. I've only known you for a little more
than two months, but on the other side you do know we exist." He trailed off.
"What are you talking about, I'm not following?" He decided the shock method
was the best. "Vampires." She was stunned. "You're a vampire?" Tracy couldn't
believe it. She tried, but she just couldn't picture her straight as an arrow,
Mr. do-gooder partner with glowing eyes and fangs. "You must be joking!"

He looked at her with a mixture of dread and resignation. "Look, Tracy!" And
then he began the change letting it sweep him slowly so that Tracy could watch
it all. She watched in fascination as Nick's eyeteeth elongated into sharp
inch-long fangs and the blue of his eyes disappeared to be replaced by glowing
gold. "Do you believe me now?" He asked with the sensual timbre of the vampire.
Tracy sat stunned into silence. He decided that she'd had enough. As slow as he
had changed into his vampire mode he now quickly changed back. Then there was
only the very human weary looking Nicholas Knight, who slumped into the chair
next to her.

Tracy jumped to her feet. "I don't get it! Why didn't you trust me? You knew
that I knew about vampires and you never told me!" Her voice became louder and
louder until she yelled. "Tracy." She nearly didn't hear him, but he stopped
her with that single quiet word. "I am 800 years old Tracy. I've lived through
the Spanish Inquisition and the witch hunt. I've been hunted quite a few times
throughout my life and it wasn't pleasant. Even now, in these modern times
there are people who hunt us. The more people that know what I am, the more my
life is in danger. And the same applies for the people that guard our secrets."

That gave her something to digest for a while. He was eight hundred years old.
Eight hundred! He was older than Vachon or Urs or Screed. And he was her
partner. A vampire homicide cop. God, just how much control did he have to
remain unchanged at a crime scene? She could remember a few times when he acted
a little funny at the bloodier crime scenes and during those times he usually
disappeared pretty fast for a while and... Mentally she slapped herself.
All the time, the pieces of information had been right here, under her nose,
but she never put them together. Somehow it all seemed wrong. Even after she
had seen him change, after he had admitted it himself, she couldn't shake the
feeling that he was just an ordinary human being. He was so normal! And he
was gentle and kind and he really cared about people. It just doesn't fit!

"Tracy? Are you ok?" Here again! He was concerned about her, cared about her
and sounded a bit scared? She was curious and her mind sizzled with questions.
Where to begin? "Are you really eight hundred years old?" He leaned back in his
chair, a little smile playing round his lips. She wanted to play Twenty
Questions. Just like a cop. Well it was better than her screaming at him or
searching for the nearest stake. "Well, I was born on the eleventh of march,
1195, so I'll be eight hundred in a little over a month. But vampires generally
tend to round up decades or even centuries, so a month more or less doesn't
matter. Next question?" Next question, God she had hundreds of questions!
"Where do you come from? What is your real name and how did you become a..
well.." "A vampire?" Nick finished her sentence. "Well that is an awful long
story, Tracy. But to begin with your other questions, my real name is Nicholas
de Brabant. As my name says I'm from Brabant. When I was born it belonged to
France but nowadays most of it is part of Belgium. I was raised to become a
knight and I fought in the sixth Crusade. I was wounded, captured, tortured and
*generously* released after half a year. The church sent me home and on that
journey I visited Paris, a woman offered me immortality, eternal youth and
freedom from king and church. After spending half a year in a Moslem dungeon
that offer was too tempting. She took me to her 'father' and he brought me
across. They didn't tell me about the negative sides of their, of our existence
until I had finished the transformation and by then it was too late to go back.
Does that answer your question?" Boy, did it answer her question! Not only the
one she'd asked but the next half dozen others she'd wanted to ask him next.

Suddenly something else flashed through her mind. "Why did you tell me about
this? I have never suspected a thing. Why? Why now?" "I think the one who has
Nat knows what I am. Look at the letter. How do you think we get to the meeting
place without a car? I don't think this indicates we should come by bus." "You
mean whoever wrote this letter wants you to *fly* there?" He nodded. "But what
about me, I definitely can't fly!" "But I can carry you." He answered dryly.
Tracy opened her mouth to question his sanity but the phone stopped her. Before
she could even blink he was at the phone. A male voice told him the location of
a warehouse on the outskirts of Toronto. Before Tracy knew what was happening
she was wrapped in his arms and moving through the skylight as he took on
speed.

part five What would you do out of love ?

She woke with a throbbing headache. She was cold and it was dark. "Where the
hell am I? And how did I get here?" Light, she needed some light to see where
she was. She wanted to get up, but couldn't. Whoever brought her here had
chained her feet to the bed. Her panic rose as the door opened and her unknown
assailant stepped into the barley lit room. "I see you are awake."

***

Nick burst into the warehouse like an angry whirlwind, dragging a disheveled
Tracy with him. He stopped and listened. The warehouse was empty. No human
heartbeat, no tingling sensation which would indicate the presence of one of
his kind. Nothing. They began their search of the warehouse. In a small room on
the North side they found a cot, table and a parcel. He stared at it. This one
was addressed to Tracy, and it had a bonus. Glued to the package was a large
magnificent crucifix. "Its for you, Tracy." He said with some trepidation.
Tracy ripped the wrapping away. On top was a letter. She picked it up and
started to read.

I'm not here, but the entire
building is under surveillance.
I'm watching you right at this
very moment. Miss Vetter the
contents of the package are
for you to use on your partner.
If he does not comply Natalie
Lambert will die a slow and
painful death. Use the items on
him and then leave. Don't try any
tricks. Remember I'm watching you.

Nick took the package and looked in it. The only items in the bag were a
liquid filled syringe and a set of mean looking handcuffs.

***

"What do you want with me?" "To use you as bait." "Bait ?" Natalie's thoughts
started to race. "For whom ?" She slid her hand through her hair, nervous as
hell. "For your vampire lover." He stated casually. "I need to study the
genetic irregularities and unusual qualities of his vampire and", the man gazed
her like a priced specimen, "he will do anything I want to keep you alive."
After these words he left her alone in the dark room.

***

"Nick, I can't use that stuff on you. He's after you and..." "Tracy, please !
It's the only way to keep Natalie alive." Desperation had filled his voice.
"You love her, do you?" "Yes." "But what if he wants to kill you, Nick? Did you
ever consider that, or would you die for her?" "Yes." His voice was brief and
firm. For a brief moment Tracy was envious of Natalie. To have someone love her
so much, even if he was a vampire. But the envy didn't last very long, as she
remembered they could never have a sexual relationship without him draining
her. She was in the same boat with Vachon. She looked into Nick's pleading eyes
and surrendered. "Ok, ok, I'll do it." She took the syringe and the handcuffs
and followed Nick to the cot. He sat down on the narrow bed and stared to the
ground. Without looking at her he offered her his wrist and she locked the
cuff. He closed his eyes almost violently, clenched his hands into fists and
offered her his other wrist.

***

Her thoughts raced. He knew about vampires, knew about Nick, their relationship
and he wanted to use her to keep Nick submissive. This couldn't be happening!
It had to be a bad dream and she would wake up soon. But somehow she knew that
it was real. And if they couldn't find a way to escape, Nick would be
imprisoned by this man just as she was. The man might be crazy but he was right
about one thing. Nick would do anything to keep her safe.

***

Tracy took his hand and felt his muscles tense. A quick click and it was done.
He opened his eyes staring at the metal bond which kept his wrists together.
Cautiously he tugged at the restrain, but the cuffs wouldn't give. "Titanium",
he murmured. "Titanium and curare. He really knows our weaknesses." "This is
curare?" Tracy looked at the syringe like it was a poisonous viper. "Nick, that
stuff is lethal! It will kill you!" "It won't." His voice was tired. "You can't
kill vampires with curare. But it will paralyze me. I won't be able to move or
even talk for several hours." He tried to roll up his sleeve but he failed
because of the cuffs. "You're serious, aren't you? You really want to go on
with this?" "No, I don't *want* to do this. But for Nat's sake I have too." He
awkwardly pushed up his sleeve and took a deep breath. "Do it!" She felt like a
traitor as she emptied the syringe into his arm. Almost immediately he went
limp. This wasn't right! He sat there on the edge of the cot looking like a
ragdoll. At least she could change that. She struggled to move his body to a
normal position on the bed. Damn, she wished Nat was here. The coroner would
know how to move a body to a prone position. But if Nat were here he wouldn't
be in this situation. She cursed under her breath and walked around the cot.
She became aware that his eyes were tracking her movements. "Nick? Are you
awake?" She asked. He blinked in reply. God, he was awake, and aware of what
was happening around him! But he wasn't able to react. That had to be living
hell for him!

It had been quite some time since his last 'contact' with curare. He had
ingested it unknowingly with a great amount of alcohol. He had been more
intoxicated and lethargic than paralyzed. But this felt different. This time
the curare was injected directly into his bloodstream and he would bet a months
salary that this was stronger and purer than the stuff the bounty hunter had
slipped him in the whiskey. He wasn't able to move his limbs. His brain
delivered the commands, but his muscles weren't listening. The only thing he
had control of were his eyes. He could see what was happening around him. Right
now he was watching three men closing in on Tracy. He tried to warn her but she
didn't understand his furious blinking.

Tracy went out like a light.

If looks could kill the three men would have been dead after the first glance
as he stared at them with golden hued eyes. But they merely smiled as they
blindfolded him and took him away.

***

Tired, he was so tired. They were driving him through the city, changing roads
apparently every second like they had no destination. At least it appeared
that way to him. He was sure they had injected him with another dose of curare.
He was so tired and he wouldn't be able to do anything for the next few hours.
He fought against his fatigue. He had to stay awake or he would never discover
their destination. His eyelids felt so heavy. He was just so very tired.
Perhaps five minutes to rest his eyes. Before he realized it he was asleep.

***

Streetlights shown over the body of Tracy Vetter. As she started to come too.
Every muscle in her body screamed for attention, even a few she hadn't heard
from before. Her brain kicked in, but was begging for one or two quarts of
coffee. Something's wrong. Her mind was groggy but she *knew* something was
wrong. Nick, where's Nick? Suddenly she was wide awake, as adrenaline surged
through her system. She remembered the kidnapping, the letter, Nick helpless on
that cot and then...she touched the back of her throbbing head and discovered
several bumps that didn't belong there. Ohhh God that hurts, she groaned as
that part of her brain responsible for pain suddenly flared to the forefront.
Painkillers and coffee. I'll need large quantities of both to get through the
day. Her partner was missing, kidnapped by some unknown nutcase. It would
also be a safe bet to assume that Nat hadn't shown up either. She had a
terrible headache, wasn't sure of her location and she didn't know what to tell
the Captain. A phone would be nice, right about now. She reached out for her
cell phone. It was gone. So she set out in search of one.

***

How long had he been gone? She was really hungry so she had been left alone for
hours. Not that she would complain but she was still chained to the bed and she
needed to go to the bathroom. The door opened and two new men came in. One
released her from the chains and the other pressed the cold metal of a gun
against her lumbar spine. "May I use the bathroom please?" The men said
nothing, but complied with her request, taking her to small bathroom while they
waited outside. Then they escorted her to a well furnished study and indicated
that she take a seat before exiting the room. She heard the door lock from the
outside.

After some time one of the men returned with a tray of food. He set it on the
table and left. Again the door was bolted. The food smelled delicious and she
was half starved so she didn't wait for an invitation. She started to eat. She
didn't hear the first man slip into the room. He waited until she was finished
before he spoke "We have captured your vampire lover, Miss Lambert." Natalie
started at the sudden voice and flinched as she heard what he was saying. They
had Nick! Because they had used her as bait. How dare they! "If you behave, we
will let you see him. He should be waking soon." Natalie nearly exploded at his
impudence, but she forced herself to stay calm. She really wanted to, no she
needed to see him! The man watched her battle her emotions and as she calmed
down he opened the door and guided her through a corridor. At the end of the
hall he unlocked a heavy metal door and opened it for her. She entered and
gasped. The room was big. Divided evenly into two areas. One side of the room
was a lab the other side.. was a cage! Nick lay spread-eagled on a heavy metal
table on the lab's side of the room. She didn't need any explanations to know
who the cage was for. It was for Nick. The men came forward and pushed her
toward the cage door. She realized that she had been wrong. The cage was for
both of them.

After they had locked her up, the three men set about working on their captive
vampire. Natalie watched with rising fear. "What are you doing to him?" she
cried recognizing the IV tubing at Nick's throat. "We are taking his blood for
analysis." The man stated calmly. "You can't do that! You'll will kill him!"
"I seriously doubt that it will kill him, Dr. Lambert, but even if it should we
shall still proceed. After all, he isn't even human." Without further
discussion he made a few last minute adjustments and Natalie heard the
mechanism hum to life. Her worst fears were realized at the sound of motor. She
didn't have a clear view, but she didn't need one either, she could recognize
the sound of a suction pump when she heard one. Holding on to the bars of
her cell, she slid to her knees. They were going to drain him of every last
drop of blood.

***

Nick awoke from his sleep due to pain. Intense pain! He had tried to move but
couldn't. Maybe the curare was still working but he didn't think so, as he
could scream. Even as he knew they were his own screams that echoed throughout
the room, his mind refused to grasp it. The agony was too great to accept sight
or sound, even those sounds that issued from his own throat. God, it hurt too
much, (he would accept death willingly if only it would stop) God, please make
it stop....let it end And with these thoughts Nick fell into the light.

***

LaCroix woke with a start. Nicholas was being tortured, his son was in agony!
His mental screams were almost more than the ancient could endure. The sun was
up but that wouldn't stop him from going to help him. He concentrated on the
link to find Nicholas' location, his son didn't know where he was, but it
didn't matter, he would follow the pain to its source. Nicholas was becoming
weaker and his pitiful mental pleas for help hurt him even more than he would
ever admit. He had to find him! He raced to the sewer tunnels blindly
following the continuing pain that echoed in their link. Suddenly the link
vanished. He tried to push into the eight century old connection but there was
nothing. An empty void. This could mean only one thing. Nicholas was dead, his
son was dead. LaCroix closed feral red eyes and released his own scream of
agony.

***

Nick's screams had ended long ago. Natalie knelt next to his limp form. Her
face wet with tears. After the three 'scientists' were done with him, they had
tossed him into the cage with her. He was so silent, so still. His wounds
weren't healing and he felt ice cold, even for a vampire. " Nick, I love you.
Please, don't leave me", she sobbed into his unhearing ears.

part six stairways

He stood on a stairway. A stairway so gleaming white that it hurt his eyes.
Several steps ahead was a door made out of warm polished wood. Where was he ?
How did he get here ? Then he remembered. The shock, the pain of being drained
forcefully, his screams and then the light. He was dead. He had to be. What
else did he know about this situation? He was standing on a vast stairway in
front of a door. A door he suddenly had the feeling he should know. Yes, he
knew it, knew what was behind it. Home, his home. He started toward the door,
but doubt stopped him. Was he worthy? Was he forgiven? Could he enter the
afterlife or did he have to stay outside? Slowly he went closer to the door.
The polished surface acted like a mirror. He could see himself very clearly.
The glowing eyes, the fangs, they were still there and quite obvious. He tried
to change back, to hide behind his human facade, but he couldn't. The signs of
his vampirism were permanently embedded on his face. His soul wasn't human, he
wasn't human, even in death. He looked at the door longingly, then turned
around and started back to the stairs. He wasn't human, he didn't belong here.
There was no peace here for creatures like himself.

"Nicholas, my son, where are you going?" Nick stopped at the sound of the
voice, but didn't turn around. He knew the voice. He hadn't heard it in 775
years but he would always recognize it! "Father?" "My son, where are you
going?" He hung his head in shame. How could he tell his own father what he had
become? That there was no place for him here because of what he was? Suddenly
strong, warm arms encircled him and turned him around. A hand placed under his
chin gently tilted his face upwards. Nick wanted to run, he wanted to hide, but
his father's arms wouldn't let him go. The only thing he could do was close his
eyes so he didn't have to see the look of disgust on his father's face, when he
realized what he had become. "Nicholas." The voice was soft and gentle, not the
accusing harsh tone he had expected. "Nicholas, open your eyes." He opened his
eyes and hesitantly looked in the eyes of his father. There was no ire, no
hate, no disgust in his eyes, only love and understanding....and compassion.
"It wasn't suppose to be this way my son," he heard his father say before he
was embraced by him. "But..I..I... don't understand," Nick stammered. He could
remember his father's lessons about unholy creatures quite well. In his
father's eyes he had to be some sort of monster. A monster of his own making.
Why was his father not repulsed by his appearance? "Come, sit down my son. We
have a lot to talk about."

***

She had closed his eyes because she couldn't endure his unseeing stare. Like a
corpse, he had stared into nothing. His skin was pasty white and she hadn't
registered a heartbeat in over thirty minutes. There had been nothing. As a
coroner she knew all the signs of death. But he couldn't be dead. He had to be
alive she had too much to tell him. All the things she had thought there
would be time enough for.... He is a vampire, he is immortal, so she had
thought, but now... She had cried until she had no more tears. Soaked his face
with the salty drops. It had been a long time since her last real prayer but
the words poured effortlessly from her lips. She prayed for him to be alive, to
stay with her. She had never really told him about the depth of her love for
him.

***

He sat down on the stairs next to his father. His father seemed nervous, like
the time when he had questioned him about Adam and Eve. But that was a long
time ago, he had been three or four years old then. Why should his father be
nervous now? "You must know my son, when you were born something happened that
never should have happened." Nick looked at him questionably. "My son, you were
never meant to be... human." He stared at his father in disbelief as the
message hit home. Never meant to be human! How was this possible? Was it
possible? How..? Why..? What did it mean? Maybe this wasn't the passage to
afterlife. Maybe he was in hell already... . "I know it sounds unbelievable for
you, but it is the truth. You should have been a vampire right from the
beginning." "But that's impossible!" His fathers eyes told him different. "Why?
How..?" "What do you remember from before?" "Before I became a vampire?" "No,
before you were born."

***

It had been an hour now. A full hour of waiting, praying and hoping against all
odds. There had been no sign that there was still life in his unmoving form.
She had curled up beside him, laying her head on his cold and too silent chest.
Maybe he was really dead, but she couldn't allow herself to think like that. A
fresh crop of tears began. She didn't think she had anymore left. She was
wrong. Not a single heartbeat had resonated through his chest. She knew that,
she had waited for it. Maybe she should wait a little while longer. Maybe with
such a great blood loss it slowed his system down to almost nothing. It was a
single thread of hope, and she clung to it beyond all reason.

***

"Before I was born? But I didn't exist before I was born." "That's not true.
This life is not your first one. You had a very long life before. You just
don't remember." A life before! He tried to understand it, but his imagination
failed him. His father's hand brushed against his forehead. "Maybe its time for
you to remember," he heard his father say before his world exploded.

***

How long had he been floating, caressed by memories? He didn't know. Didn't
care. There had been so much. So many memories pushing at his mind which wanted
to be remembered, so much knowledge that needed to be noticed, which would be
known. Eight hundred years had seemed a long life before. But now.... He
remembered it all. And in remembering knew he couldn't stay here. He glanced to
his father. His father, not in the traditional mortal way of thinking but his
father nonetheless. "What happens now?" he asked. The Father smiled. "At the
moment you go back and right the things that went wrong." "But Father, I'm not
the same as I once was. I'm only eight hundred years old. No one will listen to
me. And even if they do they won't believe me. We have been too influenced by
the stories the world has made of us." The smile never left the face of the
Father as he heard his son's worries. He waited patiently until his son was
finished. "Nicholas, you worry too much," he chided softly. "You will be sent
back to your *new* body but it will be like you've never died. Not the first
time and not the second. You are still the first and you will always be it. And
I'll give you a sign, proof that what you are telling them is true. They will
believe you." He stood up and reached down to help his son up. "Father?" There
was one thing Nick needed to know before he could go back. "Yes, my son?" "Will
I.. will I ever be able to see the sun again?" "You really miss it, don't you?"
the Father asked but he didn't need an answer, the longing look in Nicholas'
eyes was all he needed to see. Nick simply nodded. "Then I'll give it to you
and to your future children." The Father smiled broadly and patted his
shoulder. "Take it as my wedding present." And with these words Nick fell
through the light.

***

Three hours. He had been gone for three hours now. There had been no
improvement in his situation. Slowly she started to lose hope. Even he wasn't
indestructible like she had first believed. Suddenly his body was surrounded
by a faint blue glow. God, NO!. The last time she had seen that particular
glow had been before her brother turned into ashes. She pushed herself away
from him and clenched her eyes shut. A small sob escaped her. She couldn't do
it, couldn't watch his body dissolving into ash.

Silence. It was far too silent. And then she heard a cough. A weak little
cough, but a cough nonetheless. Hesitantly she opened her eyes and met Nicks.
He was alive! He was awake! She rushed to him. "Nick?" "Nat." Weak, he was so
weak, he barely could move his lids at all and he needed blood very badly.
"Nat, I need ..." He didn't finished the sentence. She knew what he needed.
Natalie looked around, but there was no blood for him in the cell. The only
available blood was her own. She made her decision. She had nearly lost him
today and she would never let that happen again! Natalie helped him to a
sitting position and then guided his mouth toward her neck. He noticed what
she was doing. If she had offered this before he had learned everything today
he would have denied himself the much needed substance. But now...now all he
needed was Nat's permission to go on. "Nat, are you sure?" She didn't answer,
she just pressed his face tighter into her neck. And softly, almost like a
caress, he slipped his fangs in her jugular vein.

***

It was much more than she had ever expected, ever imagined. He had told her
about the emotional aspect of drinking blood but she had never thought it would
be like this. His whole life exploded in her mind. What he had done, what he
had felt, everything. His pain and his joy and his feelings for her. It was
wonderful. She could fell his love for her, it was so strong and warm, so
right. Surrounding her like a cocoon. The pictures slowed and then the world
around her went black.

***

Her blood exploded on his tongue, a cornucopia of flavors. So much more than
her blood scent had implied and even that had driven him half mad at times. Her
life opened up before him. Her childhood, her family, her brother, Richard,
she felt responsible for his wrong doings and his death. Her betrayal still
hurt. Then he saw himself so prominent in her memories. From their first
meeting in the morgue to the developing friendship and then their love, her
love. It was washing through him, filling his veins with joy, singing in his
mind. Her love for him made her blood so sweet, so unforgettable he had never
tasted anything like it before. It had made it hard for him to stop, but he
did. Now she was at the brink between life and death. He tore his wrist open
and let his blood drip into her mouth. "Nat, I love you. I need you. Please
come back to me."
***

Natalie blinked at the sudden brightness. The desert. She was standing in the
desert by the lake. Just like Nick had described it. And there was the door.
The door into the light and the guide. She walked towards it. The guide, he
looked like.. "Grandfather, is that really you?" The guide smiled. "It's me and
it's not me. You have to accept the answer. It is the only one I can give you."
For a brief moment she felt like she was three years again and he was
explaining her the multitude of miracles around her. "I have a choice here,
right?" "Not really. Deep in your heart you've already chosen your path. I'm
just here to wish you luck." She could hear Nick's voice calling to her. Her
grandpa was right. She had already made her choice. Out of reflex she hugged
her grandfather one last time. "Thank you, Grandfather," she smiled as she
waved him goodbye and then walked back to the darkness and into her new life.

***

He was a bit worried that she would choose the path into the light instead of
coming back to him. Yes, he had tasted her love for him and there was his
father's cryptic message but he couldn't stop himself from worrying. A gentle
and then a more insistent tugging at his wrist told him that Nat was back and
that she was swallowing his blood into her half starved system. He let her
drink until she reached her limit then he watched her as she fell into a deep
sleep. She would sleep the whole day now, finishing the changes that had
already begun to take place in her. And she would need lots of blood when she
awoke this evening. Lots of blood that he didn't have. A door was opened and he
looked up to see a man entering the room. The man crossed the room and stopped
in front of the cage. Nick waited. "You have brought her across," the man
stated. "Yes. It's not like you left me with much of a choice. It was that or
kill her." Why deny it, his captors had known enough about vampires in general
and him specifically to keep him caged here, he should know the signs of a
newly converted vampire. "How much blood will you both need?" Nick
absentmindedly stroked Nat's hair. "She will need at least ten to twelve pints
to come through first hunger without going mad. I don't need that much. Six to
seven pints should be sufficient for me." The man left without any further
words. A short time later a small door was opened and a cold box was shoved
into the cell. He opened the box and eyed it's contents. The box was filled to
the top with units of whole blood. More then he or Nat would need for today. He
closed the lid of the box. The implied message was clear. His captors didn't
plan on releasing them soon.

part seven The sign of the Father

It was sometime around noon and Nick was so restless that he couldn't even
think about sleeping. First he had checked the cage for a way to escape, but he
didn't find one. This cage was designed specially for vampires. He paced
restlessly inside cell, careful not to disturb Natalie's transition. He felt
strange, like something was wrong but he couldn't put his finger on it. His
pacing grew faster and then suddenly a vibration struck him. It wasn't an
unpleasant sensation. More like a tickling where none should have been. He fell
to his knees as he lost his balance. He heard his shirt ripping and instantly
an intense itching began on his back. And his scalp was crawling too. The
vibrations were very unsettling. It was driving him mad! As suddenly as it had
begun it stopped again, only to be replaced by the feeling of raw energy
pulsing through every fiber of his body. It felt strange, but good, like
something was returning to him, something he hadn't even realized was missing.
Memories, knowledge and links were woven into his mind, layer after layer until
he couldn't stand the emotional onslaught anymore and blacked out.

***

The day had passed and he had sat, contemplating and remembering. He hadn't
slept or fed, he had done nothing since he had felt the death of his son.
Nothing, except remember Nicholas and all their times together. The good and
the bad. He had sired many others over his 2000 years, but he had only
recognized Janette and Nicholas as his true children. Janette was still there
but.. without her stubborn fiery brother it wouldn't be the same anymore.
LaCroix was so consumed by grief that he didn't notice the link reforming
somewhere at the back of his mind.

***

Nick drifted back to consciousness. The sun was still up so he allowed himself
the luxury of keeping his eyes closed. He felt good, strange but good. His
mind felt whole again and he hadn't even known that anything was missing. Then
he noticed that something *was* gone, but he wouldn't miss it at all. His
bloodlust, the gnawing hunger, the urge to kill, had all vanished like they had
never been. The vampire was still there but more centered, focused. His
powers all submitted to his will. No, that wasn't true. After what he had
learned today he knew that the vampire wasn't part of him but he was the
vampire. Pure and simple. Complete with a human facade so not to scare the
humans. He nearly drifted back to sleep, but fought back the fatigue. After
several minutes he opened his eyes but saw nothing. He did see something but
couldn't believe what he was seeing. Hair. A veil of blond hair was blocking
his vision. It had to be his own hair but it had never been this long before.
So that was what the itching feeling on his scalp had been. His hair growing at
an unusual speed. He jumped on his feet. Or tried to but stumbled because his
center of balance had been shifted. Seriously shifted. He fought with his hair
and his lack of balance and finally got to his feet. He had to know what had
happened. If his scalp had been itching because of the rapid hair growth, then
what had happened to his back? The itching there had been longer and more
severe than on his head. He barely noticed the shreds that once had been his
shirt as he craned his head to look his back. Oh, no! Father what have you
done? What could you have been thinking? This was obviously Father's promised
proof. A very obvious proof indeed. He glanced over at Nat. She had them too,
only her sweater thankfully stayed half intact. He sighed. Now their lives
would become really complicated. Next to impossible in fact. How could they
explain *this*? This was far too obvious to hide. How could he tell LaCroix or
Tracy or the Captain? What would become of their lives? He slumped back to the
floor. With sundown about two hours away he had some time to think of some
really good explanations as to why he and Nat suddenly had wings. Come to think
of it, what was he going to tell Nat?

part eight rescue

The sun went down and Natalie woke with a burning hunger. It hurt! It felt like
her gut was on fire! She gasped for air. Something was thrust into her field
of vision. It smelled good, tasty. Hunger! Blindly she grabbed for it and sunk
her teeth into it. Cold liquid burst into her mouth. Good, it was so good. She
swallowed. It soothed the burning ache, but it wasn't enough. The bag was
empty. Too soon! She needed more! The empty bag was replaced by a full one.
Happily she started to drink again. She didn't count how many bags she emptied,
but finally the burning need was sated. She licked her lips savoring the last
drops and recorded fragments of information from another life. Only bits and
pieces of that life registered but it had only been one or two drops after all.
It was the second time she had felt into another's soul, before she had been
too hungry, too greedy to notice. Slowly she drifted back to reality. Nick was
hovering over her smiling *that* smile that always melted her inside. "Welcome
back, Nat." Something was different. Of course something is different, silly
girl, you're a vampire now. You should have expected that some things would
change. She berated herself, but the tiny voice telling her that something was
different that shouldn't *be* wouldn't quiet. Nick moved his head and the
artificial light picked up the headlights of liquid gold in his hair. His hair.
Mentally Nat smacked herself. His hair was so *long*, floating around his hips
and it had been short before... "Nick, how long have I been out?" Please,
don't tell me it had been a year or longer..

"A day, why?" Natalie stared at him. He followed her stare and realized what
she was looking at. "This happened sometime around noon. I've yet to get use to
it myself. And Nat...that's is not the...only thing that's changed." He sounded
so hesitant, it worried her. Ok, think logically. Something physical happened.
Hairgrowth definitely. Did my hair grow? She fingered a strand of her own
hair. It felt so alive and it reached down all her back. Definitely. Ok, but
there is something else.. She eyed him. He looked pretty much the same...
except... Something caught her eye. There was something unusual on his back. It
almost looked like... "Turn around." He gave her an apologetic smile and
turned. If she had still been a mortal, her heart would have skipped a beat, or
two or maybe it would have stopped beating altogether. But now... She stared at
him in shocked silence. Ok, just knowing Nick had opened her eyes to a whole
new world of wonder. Everyday she was forced into believing pretty incredible
things but this was simply too much. He craned his head and gave her that
little boy lost look. She burst into laughter. "What?" He tried to look hurt.
"Mr. I-have-no-soul-and-if-I-had-one-it-would-be-damned, you look like you've
just escaped from some angelic painting. I should paint you white and arrange
you on a little pedestal and you would make a terrific church statue." He
grinned mischievously. "And what about you?" *That* silenced her. Wildly she
jumped to her feet, stumbled like he had the first few times and finally found
her balance. There was something on her back as well but it couldn't be.. she
craned her head to look at her back.... "Oh, my....! This isn't happening. It
can't be!"

***

He began the process as soon as possible. Soon everything would be OK again. He
had watched the vampire bring across the mortal doctor, had recorded it with
hidden cameras, he knew exactly what must be done. The struggling of his insane
child fighting against bonds she couldn't break persisted. Her growls and the
hissing saddened his heart. But she would be sane again. He would bring her to
the brink of death and take her back with the vampire's blood. The blood would
heal the damage in her brain, repairing her mind and changing her forever.
Making her immortal. Then he would repeat the process with his other children.
Everything would be alright again.

***

They had searched the entire day for even the subtlest clues but found nothing.
Cohen had sent Tracy home. She was driving them crazy. Although Cohen could
understand her worry, they didn't need her hyper attitude right now. It didn't
look good. The warehouse had been almost squeaky clean and the area around it
was nearly deserted. Nobody had seen a thing. "Captain?" She returned from her
thoughts. "Yes, Miller?" "There is a man who says that he might possibly have
seen something." A witness! That would help. "Where is he?" "Outside." Miller
pointed towards the bullpen. "And I should w..." Cohen didn't listened to her
anymore. She left her office and...was immediately pinned to the ground by a
huge Bernese Mountain dog slobbering over her face. "..warn you, Captain, he
has this huge playful dog." Miller finished her sentence. "Nyko, come here."
The man said and the dog released her. She stood up, wiped the drool from her
face and tried to regain her dignity. She eyed the man. He was old, with traces
of white hair left, his age made him appear fragile. But although he looked
worn he was quite agile and very talkative. He told them about his wife and how
she had died suddenly four years ago, shortly before their 51st wedding
anniversary. His children bought the dog for him, because they didn't want him
to feel lonely. But he missed her nonetheless and often when he couldn't sleep,
he would go out for a walk with Nyko. Like last night. It had been such a clear
and beautiful night and he wasn't afraid in the dark, Nyko was always with him,
so he had walked through the warehouse area. He had noticed the van and grown
suspicious because it was around midnight. Three men had dumped something in
the back of the van and drove away. "I suddenly became so tired, you know
sometimes these things happen to me but the doctor said I'm eighty-one and
things like that are to be expected. So I went home and barely made it to bed.
When I woke up I called you folks." This was good. The man was a witness that
every policeman dream of. Not only did he give them a description of the men,
but also the license number. He even knew the make, model and year of the van.
"You know your vans", the man had commented dryly, "with nine children we
always had one as our family car." Now they would track them down quickly.
Cohen started to shout orders, trying to ignore the faithful tail-wagging
shadow following her. "He likes you", the old man shrugged when she stared at
it, "He considers you family, he wants to play with you." Well, that had to
wait. Until they would find Dr. Lambert and Detective Knight.

***

After the initial shock passed, they seated themselves comfortably on the floor
and he began to tell her what had transpired this day. He was just telling her
how Father had revealed to him, that he never should have been a mortal. That
he had had a long life as a vampire before he had been killed and was reborn as
a human mortal when a soft tugging in his mind interrupted him. He
concentrated. "NO!" "What happened?" "He's using my blood to bring someone
across. And that person's mind is damaged. She's insane, Nat! I must stop him!"
He started to shake a the bars of their cage in a frenzy but it was useless.
"Nat, I have to stop him." But there was no way out.

***

"Got him!" The plates of the van gave the name and address of Dr. Marcus
Dasken, Doctor of Genetics, who had lost his medical license and was forced to
leave his teaching position at the University of California due to unethical
research methods, four years ago. He lived on the other side of Toronto in a
sparely populated area. Cohen phoned Detective Vetter. Knight was her partner.
If Dasken had him in his custody she had a right to be there when they freed
him.

***

A little red alert light started to blink. The police had accessed his computer
data. Somehow the cops had found him. How? He had been so careful. Nervous he
scratched his balding head. How long before they got here? He needed to gather
his children and the precious blood needed to repair their sanity. He needed
somewhere safe. He reached for the phone.

***

He rested his head against the bars, his eyes feral red, growling in anger.
This man had used his blood to create an insane vampire! And he was helpless.
"Nick?" He nearly snarled at her in anger as he turned around. But this wasn't
Nat's fault, she was just as helpless as he was, he tried to calm down. "Nick,
what can we do?" "Nothing", he growled, "we can do nothing." Her shoulders
slumped. She hated to be forced into waiting as much as he did, but that was
all they could do now. Wait for someone to let them out, so that they could
stop this insanity. And hope that someone would come quickly.

***

The wheels were in motion. They had a search and arrest warrant for Dr.
Dasken. Now they could go and find out if he was the man that had kidnapped
Nick and Natalie.

***

They were on their way here! Too soon! He had to leave now, while there was
still a chance to escape. He looked back as he entered the van. His assistants
had changed the plate numbers. It had to be enough to escape. His emotions were
raw. He was leaving his children behind. He could only take the changing one
with him, his faithful helpers and the blood of the vampire. He could create
new children, but he felt such turmoil in leaving these. The door slammed shut.
He started the motor. He wished he had time to check on the vampires. He had
left them unobserved after delivering their nourishment. His child would need
someone to teach her in their ways but he couldn't risk taking the vampires
when there wasn't even sufficient time to rescue his children. Let it go. He
sighed as they drove away.

***

Tracy gasped as she got out of the car. "God, looks like someone had been
watching 'Frankenstein' one time too often." Cohen agreed. It was a really
disturbing house. They knocked at the door. No answer. "The van isn't here."
Officer Hansen had checked the garage. They forced the door open. As disturbing
as the house was on the outside, it was worse on the inside. "How twisted do
you have to be to live here." Tracy mumbled under her breath. That was before
they found the creatures.
Buried deep within the house they found a room with soundproof walls. And
within the room a cage full of snarling, fighting wailing creatures. They
stared at the horror before them. Was this some genetic experiment of Dasken's?
This belonged in a horror movie. "Oh God, what has he done?" Cohen heard one of
the officers whisper. Something stuck her. What did he want with Knight and
Lambert? She looked at the madness before her and prayed they were ok.

***

Nick was pacing restlessly, emitting low frustrated growls now and then. He
wanted desperately to do something. He concentrated on the new link. The insane
woman was changing too rapidly. Soon she would wake, mad and hungry, somewhere
in the city. Lives would end because of her and in doing so she would endanger
the discovery of their entire community. He stopped. What about him and Nat?
They didn't appear entirely human anymore. Were they breaking the code? Somehow
he doubted it. They may not look completely human anymore but the last thing
someone would assume was that they were vampires. Fathers gift of the sun would
be a bonus as well. Suddenly the door to the lab burst open and Cohen, Tracy
and several police officers poured into the room. He retracted his fangs and
let his eyes turn blue. They had found them. Now they would be freed and could
hunt down this woman before the damage was done.

***

They came farther into the room and stopped short. The sight was too fantastic.
Tracy's jaw nearly hit the ground. "Nick? Nat? That you?" "Tracy, what took you
so long?" Nick forced himself to ask lightly. "We expected you sooner." God,
how could he make jokes about this? Tracy asked herself. She hadn't recovered
from his first surprise, hadn't digested the knowledge that he was a vampire
yet and *boom* he came with another one. And Natalie, too. She eyed her
suspiciously. Was she a vampire, too? She suspected it. Damn, am I surrounded
by mythological creatures? "What happened?" "That's a long story Captain and
we have not much time. He used us to create an insane creature. We must get to
her before he lets her loose in the city." His voice was urgent. Tracy recalled
the sight of the other creatures they had found and shivered. If he could cross
the vampire gene with one of these mad beings, anything could happen.

part nine outsider

It had taken some time to find the releasing mechanism for the cage door,
precious time, while the van that contained the changeling raced deeper and
deeper into the heart of the city. The news about the insane creature, on the
verge of setting loose somewhere in the city had spread fast around the
officers. Some had seen the insane creatures and could imagine what danger
potential was being released if they didn't stop them.

***

Nick almost shot out of the cage. He was half way out of the room when the
Captain called. "Where are you going, Knight?" Reluctantly he stopped. "I've
got to stop her Captain!" "And how will you find her?" Natalie joined Nick's
side. "He's mentally linked to her, Captain." Cohen raised an eyebrow at that,
but didn't say anything. Too many weird things had happened tonight. When this
was over she would take a long and hopefully boring vacation. She followed the
two outside.

***

The icy temperature of early February hit them as they exited the house. For
the first time in many centuries Nick felt the cold. He shivered. Maybe it was
not such a good idea to go out in the cold without a coat or even a shirt.
"Nick, here, before you freeze." Tracy handed him his coat. She had found it
discarded in the lab and was now grateful that she had taken it with her. Her
partner looked chilled to the bone, she wasn't sure if vampires could catch
a cold. "Thanks, Tracy." He took the coat and tried to get it on. But he
couldn't. The wings were stopping him. He couldn't pretend they weren't there.
It dawned on him that he would have lots of trouble and complications because
of them. He forced himself to concentrate. He needed some sort of openings or
slits... With some fast rips he tore two slits into his coat. Finally he was
able to put it on. Much better At least now he was warmer. He could
concentrate on the changeling again. He closed his eyes and listened...demising
darkness and hunger, so much hunger, rattling sounds and sudden movements,
street lamps passing through, casting shadows, hunger...prey,...nearby.....
hunger.. He had found her! She was waking, preparing to feed, to kill, to do
anything to quench the terrible hunger. He had to get to her! Fast!
Thoughtfully he eyed the wings. Could he really fly with these? Well, there was
only one way to find out.
"Nick, where are you going?" "I have to get to her, Nat!" "I'll come with you."
"No. It is too dangerous for you. You're too young. You need to learn so much.
If I take you with me now, you could get caught in the hunt and then...then
I'll lose you." Like your brother. He thought but he didn't say it aloud, she
understood him just the same. Reluctantly she let him go.

***

It was different to actually fly with wings, but he could get used to it. With
his senses stretched to maximum he found the signature of the woman quickly.
But not fast enough. He landed next to the crashed van and opened the backdoor.
She was feeding on the man who had captured him, ripping him to shreds, while
she feasted on the warm spurting blood. Two other men were half slumped in the
front seat of the van, their throats torn out. The woman, no, he corrected
himself as he eyed her, the young female was a mixture of human and leopard,
down to the spots of her fur. She was feeding and the waves of madness she had
emitted earlier where gone, there was only satisfaction that the hunger was
quenched and a growing awareness. With a sudden insight he understood what the
man had done and why he had done it. The child was regaining her sanity and he
hoped that she was strong enough to get through the realization of what she had
become...and what she had done.

He stepped closer to the van and the girl stopped feeding and looked up. Her
eyes were golden hues but they changed back to an emerald shade of green. "What
happened? Where am I and who are you?" She was sane. Sane and scared because
she didn't know what had happened while she had been insane. "Calm down, child.
What's your name?" "Rachel", she murmured, "Rachel Allyson." "Rachel listen to
me, what is the last thing you can remember?" "I..I ran away from home. I had
to. And then I was alone and it was cold and I was hungry. A man came and asked
me if I would like a warm place to stay. I thought he was a priest, he had that
collar you know. He took me with him, gave me something to eat and then he hit
me with a syringe. That's all. What happened? Who are you?" He took a step
closer, stepping into the light of a street lamp. "My name is Nick. Nick
Knight. I'm a police officer." She stared at him. "What are you?" He followed
her stare. "That is a long, long story, Rachel. And I'll tell you in time, but
not at the moment." He closed his eyes. How could he tell her? "Rachel there is
something you should know. The man, who took you with him, he.. used you... in
some kind of experiments..." She stared at him. "What do you mean? How..?"
She gestured with her hands and then she stopped, looking at her hands, arms,
the soft fur growing everywhere. Then she noticed the blood. The blood on her
hands. Rachel looked down at the mutilated corpses at her feet, at the front of
the van, stared back at her hands, at the blood slowly dripping from her claws.
Her eyes were wide in shock. "I've done this." She whispered. "I did this,
didn't I? I killed them!" She cried. "God, I killed them!" She broke down and
sobbed. He took her, holding her against his chest and let her cry. She needed
the release. "Its OK, little one. You couldn't stop it. You didn't know what
was happening to you. Do you hear me?" She simply nodded. "Then listen to me
Rachel, what you experienced is called 'first hunger'. I've lived through that,
too." She looked at him questionably and he answered her silent question with a
nod. "It is hard to explain, Rachel. The treatment the man gave you made you
insane and he needed something to make you sane again. He kidnapped me and my
girlfriend.." That thought made him smile inwardly, what would Nat say if she
knew he was referring to her as his girlfriend? "..and he stole my blood and
used it on you. It turned you into a vampire...just like me." Rachel gasped.
"No, that's not true! It can't be true! You aren't a vampire! There are no such
things. There can't be..." "Rachel.." She looked up into the face of a vampire.
"Believe me Rachel." He managed a smile, an odd smile, interrupted by his
fangs. "It is true. I'm a vampire and so are you." She whimpered. "Rachel...its
ok, it will be ok." "How..?" She wailed. "I look like a monster, you told me
that I'm a monster and I've killed. How can life ever be OK again?" He flinched
slightly at the word monster. He had believed the same thing just several days
before. At least he had the human facade to hide behind. This girl had nothing.
"Little one I don't know how to make it OK again, but I know something else.
You're not a monster, understand? Vampires aren't monsters, just another race."
He rubbed her back soothingly, feeling her nod against his shoulder. "We are a
small race, little one, and humans fear us, they make horror stories about us,
because they don't understand us. They fear what they don't understand, little
one, and they would hunt us down if they knew that we existed. So our existence
is a secret. You can never tell a human that you're a vampire, that we exist,
understood?" Another nod. "Then come with me, Rachel. You've a lot to learn
now. And I want to introduce you to my girlfriend." "You're taking me with you?
Why?" "The man who turned you, used my blood. That makes me your father in the
vampiric way of thinking. And even if I weren't bound to you in that way, I
know what you are going through Rachel, and I won't cast you out." She was
silent but clutched to him like she feared he would vanish into thin air the
next moment. "Ready to go?" Rachel nodded. "Then hold on tight." And he took to
the air again.

***

Natalie was pacing. Nick was gone for only half an hour, but it seemed like
eternity to her. Damn, she wished she could use that link-thing, but she didn't
know how. Distantly she watched forensics covering the scene. Her hand itched.
Absentmindedly she removed the ace bandage. The wound was completely healed and
the now useless stitches were making her itch. She borrowed a scissors and a
pair of tweezers from one of the forensics team. It wasn't a suture removal
set, but it would do in a pinch. She started to remove the stitches. She was so
absorbed in removing them, it took her some time before she noticed the stares.
People were staring at her. She could feel their glares on her. Suddenly she
felt alone. It was ridiculous. She was surrounded by people, people she knew,
worked with, her friends even, but she felt like she didn't belong here, belong
to them. Is this the way Nick feels all the time? A shiver ran down her
spine. They were staring at her and she wanted to hide. She didn't like this
feeling. Tracy approached her. "Nat? You OK?" No, I'm not OK, so why don't you
leave me alone and go bother someone else? Tracy looked at her thoughtfully.
Nat was very pale and she had that look in her eyes. The look she had noticed
sometimes when Nick let his guard down. "Natalie, please, don't shut me out."
"I'm not shutting you out, Tracy. But I've the feeling everyone is shutting
*me* out! Look Tracy, they are all staring at me!" "Of course they are all
staring at you, Nat. For goodness sake, you grew wings! That isn't supposed to
be possible! But it happened and now they are trying to believe in something
unbelievable."
Natalie was dazzled. She hadn't thought of that. "Thank you, Trace." "Hey Nat,
that's what friends are for. To knock some sense in each other." They laughed.
"But", she lowered her voice, "I want to know. I mean.. I know what Nick is.
Are you one, too?" "Yes", Nat's voice was equally quiet, "he brought me across
today. It was the only way. Otherwise he would have died the true death." Tracy
gasped at the indication. "Trace", Natalie closed her eyes at the memories,
"Nick was dead for over three hours this morning." "No!" "Yes, he was. They had
drained his body of every last drop of blood. He.. he died, walked into the
light. But he was sent back. He was so weak and needed blood desperately. I had
only mine to offer him. So I gave him my blood and he brought me across in
exchange. And then, while I was sleeping, this happened." She gestured at her
back. "Must have been a real shock." "Tell me about it." Tracy wanted to
answer something, but a soft whoosh of displaced air told them both that Nick
was back. He approached them, carrying a small figure in his arms. "Nat, Tracy,
this is Rachel."

part ten: So what happens now ?

She rubbed her forehead and sighed. Her head was killing her. Too many
questions tumbling through her mind. Too many and they wouldn't keep quiet.
Couldn't keep quiet until she had her answers. Cohen looked through her office
window. They were still here. A crowd had been gathering around them. There
were others who wanted answers, too. But she couldn't wait. She needed her
answers right now. "Nick, Natalie..." She hesitated first but then... "Can I
talk to you? In private?" They nodded and made their way through the crowd.
Cohen closed the office door behind them, eyed them. They were tired, after
the ordeal of the last days she could expect that. Knight was still carrying
the changed girl. Rachel had refused to let go of him. She had hidden
herself even more when somebody wanted to touch her. Cohen could understand
that. Missing persons had wound up with a match. Rachel Allyson had been
reported missing three years ago. She had been seven and a half years old when
she disappeared. So young, too young. Knight had told them Rachel's last
coherent memories. She couldn't begin to imagine what it felt like to wake up
to find that three years were gone. Simply gone without memories. To find that
her body had changed into something different, something strange and that she
had killed at least three men while she had been insane. No, that was something
she didn't even wanted to imagine. Rachel had been dangerously near the edge.
And then Knight had come to her aid. He hadn't judged her but comforted her,
treated her like a normal person, no she realized, like his own child. He
understand her.
And why not, he had been changed too. She looked at the small form in Knight's
arms. Rachel had curled in a cat like fashion and seemed to be sound asleep but
she knew that wasn't true. Every time somebody tried to take her out of his
arms she woke up wailing and wouldn't stop until she felt safe in his arms
again. He was the only person she trusted. Rachel was afraid, scared about the
strange new situation, but at least she was sane. She was more lucky than the
others. Cohen shivered. Forensics weren't finished with the house yet, but she
had seen enough. Dasken had been a sick mind. The other creatures were changed
children like Rachel, but hopelessly insane. Maybe they would never find out
who they were. But they had been children, normal human children once upon a
time and he had ripped that away from them. That was truly sickening. And the
worst thing had been that he had feed them humans, living humans, had let them
tear them into shreds. They had found a sort of cold room with two more
shredded corpses. The case of the "beast murders" was solved at least. Yes, the
name did fit. Dasken had truly been a beast. Her thoughts returned to the
present.

They were waiting for her to begin. "Sorry my mind was elsewhere. Please take a
seat." It took some awkward moments until they decided to stand during the
conversation. Back-rests, they discovered, didn't go well with wings. "I don't
think I even want to know how this," she indicated their changed forms,
"happened, but I need to know why he had kidnapped you. And what he had wanted
from you."

Natalie glanced at Nick. What can we tell her ? Stay as close at the
truth as you could, Nat. It will help you remembering your story.
Natalie started to tell how she had been kidnapped while opening her apartment
and about the conversation she had with Dasken (well, most of it). Then Nick
told how he had been forced to decide between Nat's life or captivity. He
couldn't say that much about his kidnappers because he had been sedated most of
the time. Natalie chimed in. "Dasken wanted Nick. He told me that he took me
as bait for him." "And why did he want you? I don't think it is connected with
your foundation."

Nick sighed. Cohen was too perspective. Now he had to give her another tiny bit
of truth or she would start digging. He couldn't have her digging right now.
"I...have some.. uh...genetic anomalies. I don't know how he found out, but he
knew about them." "Anomalies ?" "Yes, they spread in my family. My allergies
are genetically based disadvantages." "He wanted you, because you have genetic
disabilities? Why do I have trouble believing this?"
The question made him uncomfortable, but he had to answer her. "We also have
several positive abilities like nightvision, enhanced hearing and a mental
link with other family members." Cohen was surprised as he revealed just an
other secret. How many secrets did that man have? How could she ever trust him
without fearing he would hide something else before her? "There was nothing
about it in your personal file." She objected. "No. It's a family secret. We
never talk about it or admit it. There are too many bad memories. My family is
very old and those anomalies are old, too. We have lost many family members
because of curious or hysteric people in the past. Sadly our anomaly fit in
many legends of the undead, so the people treat us like the undead. Even today
there are too many who would want to dissect us. The events of the last day
have shown that it was right to conceal those anomalies." He turned and looked
out of the office window, unconsciously tightening his grip around Rachel.

Cohen eyed her detective. He had been silent about many things, was carrying so
many secrets. She should be angry with him, more than angry, but she wasn't.
She could understand him. He had kept those things secret because he wanted to
live a normal life. But now his and Natalie's normal lives would be over. The
changes seemed to be permanent and they were very very obvious. "I can't say
that I agree with you but I can understand why you've done it. But I don't
think that you can conceal the changes that happened to you. What will you do
now?" The two looked at each other, like they were communicating mentally and
with a start Cohen realized that this was a true possibility. Didn't Knight
mention that he was mentally linked to his family? And Natalie had said Nick
was mentally linked to Rachel, but Rachel didn't belong to his family. So
Dasken had played with their DNA, obviously even with Natalie's. Her suspicion
grew as they seemed to finish their silent discussion. "Captain, we don't
know what to do now. This all, it took us by surprise and we don't know what
was affected by this change. We need some time for us to figure this out." She
nodded. This was understandable. "How much time do you need?"

Nick's thoughts raced. They would need all the time they could get. He had to
train Natalie and Rachel and they had to work out how to live with the sudden
and permanent changes in their lives. He summed up vacation time and all the
accumulated overtime he could think about. "Uhh.. a month maybe ?" That should
be enough to teach them the very basics and to discover the biggest changes in
their lives.

Cohen nodded. She would have approved even if he had asked for a year. This was
turning their lives upside down and if that wasn't an excuse for some private
time, nothing was. "What about Rachel?" Rachel looked up as soon as she heard
her name. Yes, what about her? "I think it is for the best if she stays with
us." Yes, it would be for the best of the child. Social service would never
find a foster home for her in her state of being and Rachel didn't trust any
adult except Knight. The pressing headache seemed to ease a little as some
things simply fell in place. Cohen promised to send Tracy around with some of
Natalie's stuff. The two of them had decided to stay at Knight's loft and while
she wanted some of her stuff, she didn't want to be seen by one of her
neighbors. Their story would be all over town in half an hour.

"Oh God! Sydney! I've totally forgotten him! He hadn't had food or water for
more than 44 hours! He must be starving! And he will be absolutely mad at me!"
A smile washed over Cohen's face. If Natalie Lambert started to worry over her
cat it seemed to get back to normal after a long weird time. "Actually one of
the patrol officers took him with her. Laurie Travens, I think you know her.
Has three or four cats of her own. Figured that he needed some attention and
brought him with her. Sydney has been here the whole time and my officers have
spent their spare time by spoiling him." By now the smile had turned into a
full fledged grin. It had been an interesting thing to witness. Natalie
released a sigh. She was happy that Sydney was safe and sated but.. she knew
the guys at the precinct. It was a safe bet that they had spoiled him rotten.
And now she would have to deal with the aftermath. Syd would be impossible for
at least a week! Another part of her wondered how she could be so upset about
that little thing but she somehow knew, that she would cope with the big
changes easier than with the project of a spoiled Sydney.

***

The elevator door slid open. The loft was dark and the air was slightly stuffed
from the lack of circulation. Minor problems which could be dealt with easily.
They opened the blinds to an starry clear night and the chilly frozen air of
winter carried away the stuffed smell. Natalie released a slightly miffed
Sydney from the pet carrier to look around at his new accommodation.

Rachel looked around with eyes the size of saucers. That was Nick's home? Wow.
She didn't know what she had expected, but she did know that she hadn't
expected this. This was sooo cool. Nick's home was was so huge and strange and
.... it was sooo different from her home. There were so many unknown things
catching her eye that she didn't know where to look first.

They settled in front of the fireplace. Nick started the fire with a flick of
the remote and then succumbed to Nat's thousands of questions. He told them
about what happened when he was dead and how that would affect them, their
lives and they started to plan their future. The changes they would have to
make. They even started to plan the renovation of the loft. It was obvious to
them that they would stay together. Like a family. Strangely how fast they had
gotten used to each other, like they had been waiting for each other. They
cuddled in front of the fire and a deep feeling of happiness blossomed in them.
They were happy. Simply mind-blowing happy and their happiness didn't stay
undetected.

***

A tidal wave of joy crashed over him. Who's happiness? He wasn't happy and not
in the mood to feel the joy of one of his children. Who was so awfully happy?
The link felt strangely unknown but familiar at the same time. He reached
out through the link and found.... no, no that couldn't be.... he had felt his
agony, had felt him dying, unable to reach him in time. It was impossible that
he should feel his son's happiness right now. It had to be an illusion, an
echo created by his own mind. And the link felt different. Maybe his grieving
mind was playing tricks on him. Another wave of joy washed over him. It felt
too real to be an illusion. Another wave. No, he couldn't stand it any longer.
He had to find out what was happening, who was sending those feelings. And he
would stop that sending, even if he had to stake the sender.

part eleven: The truth is sometimes rather hard to believe

He had followed the feelings to his son's loft. Nicholas. But he was dead. He
had felt it. He couldn't be the one who was projecting those feelings. Or...
could he? Had he been rescued at the last moment? No, he would have felt that.
His senses had never failed him before. Voices were coming from the loft. He
was curious, opened the skylight and entered in his usual fashion.

The loft was in the same conditions like ever, like nothing had changed, but
that was a lie. He knew that. But also the loft wasn't empty. The fire was
crackling in the fireplace, and there were three people cuddling in a
heap before the fireplace. They had covered themselves in big fuzzy blankets
and they were laughing, a lot. They were vampires, he could feel that, but they
didn't feel right. Something was different about them, something rather
strange. And one of them was sending the waves of happiness. He wished they
would disentangle themselves a bit and just at this moment the head of one of
them appeared from under the blankets, gasping for air and trying rather
unsuccessfully not to laugh. It was... "Nicholas ?" The head turned around and
yes, it was his son, it was Nicholas. He was alive, but he had felt his death!
What was happening here?

***

Nick, Nat and Rachel had tangled in front of the fire in such a heap, that
neither was sure which limb was which (except for Rachel, hers were the
furry ones.), their wings securely wrapped around them like big warm blankets.
They were having a good time. He had just found out that Natalie, in spite of
her changed nature, was very ticklish. And now she was repaying him in kind.
He had thought himself safe, nobody had succeeded in tickling him for, he even
didn't know how long now, but obviously Nat knew some spots where everyone was
ticklish. Nick was gasping for air. God, if she didn't stop soon, he would have
to beg her for mercy soon. True, he was a vampire, he didn't need to breath,
but laughing was only possible when he did breath. And right now he had quite
some reason to laugh. He captured her merciless hands and raised his head to
gasp for air when.... "Nicholas ?" he heard a confused voice behind him. His
head spun around, LaCroix was standing beyond the skylight, his face
unreadable. What was he doing here? He must have felt what had happened. Of
course he had felt it, we are still linked, you thoughtless idiot, you should
have thought about that earlier. Nick chided himself. He felt it and now he
needed answers. What can I tell him ? Will he believe me if I tell him the
truth? Next to him Natalie's giggles stopped. She felt that something bothered
him and appeared next to him.

***

He drew in a sharp breath. The doctor was with Nicholas. She was vampire now
and she was family. He could feel his son's doing. He had brought her across.
Who would have expected this? After his little performance at Valentine's day
he had been pretty sure that Nicholas would never bring her across. And then
there was this third person, but that wouldn't come out of her (was it a her ?
He listened with his senses. The feeling was very strange, but yes, it was a
her) comfortable nest and she was his son's as well. He had brought two mortals
across in one single day. Just what had happened this day? What had made him
change his mind?

***

He deserved to know the truth, Nick decided and slowly scrambled to his feet.
Natalie felt his decision and got to her feet as well. There was no reason to
hide what she was if he was showing him his changes. "What are you doing ?"
Rachel murmured half asleep, as she felt them disentangle. "It's Ok, Rachel.
Nothing that should concern you." "Ok, then." She heard the sleepy reply as
Rachel went back to sleep.

***

LaCroix watched his son standing up, stretching like a jungle cat and then
straightening his attire. Next to him his no longer mortal love got to her
feet. He saw... but he couldn't believe what he was seeing. Maybe his last
snack had been tainted. Maybe he was suffering the effects of drug laced blood
or maybe, maybe he simply had gone crazy. But he couldn't accept any of the
self offered explanations. Specially the last one made him uncomfortable. His
son seemed to feel his uneasiness and approached him.

***

Never he had felt such a mix of feelings from his father (Father ? Was he still
his father ? Oh stop that now ! It is not the time to get philosophical.), not
at all. But then, he had never made such a radical change before and his quest
for becoming mortal did not count, because he had been unsuccessful. He took a
step toward his father and then another. LaCroix stood like he was cemented to
the floor, watching him get closer and closer.

***

He was standing in front of him now. He could stretch out his hand and touch
him if he wanted, but he wasn't sure. What if it was only a figment of his
imagination? What if this being in front of him turned to mist, to nothing if
he dared to touch it? On the other side, what had he to loose? Only my mind
he thought wryly. And then he touched him. Nicholas felt solid, not like an
ethereal being or an illusion. His son was really here. And these changes? Were
they there or just something his mind had made up? Only one way to find out. He
grabbed and then a sharp tug..."Oww, stop that! It hurts and I don't want to
look like a plucked goose!" It was this moment, when he starred at his son in
disbelieve, his hand full of feathers, exactly this moment when Natalie Lambert
burst into laughter. Both men turned to her.

***

"Nat, what is so funny?" "I..I..," she gasped for air and broke into a new fit
of giggles. "Sorry, I... it's ridiculous but when you said this, I tried to
imagine...." Another burst of laughter. "Yes? You were trying to imagine? Come
on, Nat. Trying to imagine what?" She took several breaths and seemed to calm
down. "You... looking like a goose." Gone was her mock professionally as she
started to laugh at the look on his face. "Thanks, I needed that just now," he
muttered, trying to present the picture of hurt dignity. "Could someone please
tell me what had happened?" They turned back to LaCroix. "I felt your death,
Nicholas. And then.. just a short moment ago I felt your happiness. And this..
What is the meaning of this? What had happened?" He was confused and when he
talked about him feeling Nick's death they could see the pain in his eyes.

***

Natalie stopped laughing. "You felt right. Nick was dead. Killed by some really
perverted human beings. They drained him, his body, with a suction pump, of
every drop of blood. It was horrible." She shivered as she recalled his screams
of pain, his dead body, so cold and silent and her helplessness. "How then..."
"How it comes that I'm alive again? Or my changed nature?" "Both."

Nick drew in a long breath. That would be complicated. How could he tell him
what had happened? It had to be the truth, he decided, but how should he
proceed? Sharing his blood would be the easiest way, but could LaCroix handle
all the details? Even he himself had passed out for hours from the memoric
overload. So he would tell him a rather short version of what had happened.
"Like Natalie said, I was dead. I crossed the threshold into the light and
then.... then I meet someone, THE ONE. He/she looked like my mortal father. And
they cleared some things for me, restored my memories of my former life and
then they sent me back here." He stopped and thought about the things he had
said. "That doesn't make any sense, does it?" "No, it doesn't."

If that was possible, LaCroix looked even more confused than before. Maybe he
should share his blood with him, it would made everything much simpler. Nick
bit in his wrist to offer him the possibility of the bloodunion. It had been
a very long time since he last made this offer, sometime in the 16th century
he recalled and after all the things that had happened the last decades or so,
he never thought he would ever agree to a blood sharing let alone initiating
one. His father had already opened his wrist. Their blood mingled for the first
time in centuries.

***

Disconnected pictures and scenes flashed through LaCroix's mind. So many and so
vivid, he nearly lost control. How could that be? How could that happen to him?
He started to sort through the images, tried to put them into chronological
order but found it impossible. So he let them float through his mind, observing
but not controlling. He figured that he could put them in the right order
later. Some of the images didn't made sense but then.. pain, agony, like he had
felt it the morning before. Death, an end to the pain. The light and then this
being which looked like his son's mortal father. The cryptical conversation.
And then an overwhelming flood of pictures, scenes, emotions. His mind was
sucked into a maelstrom of memories. He couldn't stop the flood, he couldn't
order them, he didn't even know where his own memories ended and his son's
memories began. Never before had he been flooded with such an amount of
information at one time. His mind couldn't cope with the overload and he did a
very unusual thing: he passed out.

***

He caught his father easily, as he sensed him on the verge of passing out.
After what had happened to him this afternoon, he had partly expected this
to happen. He laid him down on the couch. LaCroix would be unconscious for
several hours, depending on how fast he could assimilate and order all the
gained memories and it was a safe bet that he wouldn't simply go home after he
would wake. Nick covered his father with a blanket, then he went to pick up
Rachel. She didn't wake but slept on, the deep, death like sleep of the
vampire. She had been through so much this day and he felt rather tired too.
Natalie was yawning. Time to call it a night and go to bed. He shut off the
fireplace and closed the blinds, then he took his new little family upstairs.

part twelve: sun, peace and babyfood

She was floating in a sea of warmth, walking through a field of wildflowers.
The sun was shining brightly, the scents of the flowers merged into a wild and
beautiful fragrance and the wind that was breezing through her hair seemed to
whisper her name. "Natalie." She turned her face toward the sun, bathed her
face in the golden rays. "Natalie." The voice in wind became louder while the
soft breeze seemed to caress her face. "Natalie." She turned around and opened
her eyes and.... woke up. "Morning sunshine," Nick teased her. "Mmmrph," she
murmured and tried to turn around to get back to that wonderful dream.
"Natalie, please...don't go back to sleep now. The sun will be rising soon. I
have waited for it so long, I want to share this with you." Natalie nearly
cried, tears of joy. He was so happy, she was so happy, who would have guessed
this just two days before?

Nat crawled out of the bed and let him lead her down the stairs to one of the
windows in the corner of the loft. Nick opened the shutter of just that window
and she was beginning to ask herself why, if *she* had been confined into
darkness for centuries, she would have opened all the blinds of all the
windows. Then she remembered LaCroix. He was still sleeping/unconscious on the
couch and she could guess that he wouldn't like the thought of being barbecued
by the first rays of the morning sun.

***

The sky behind the glass was dimly lit with predawn light. Normally this was
*the* danger signal for the vampire but this morning Nick felt no dread, no
fear that would force him to run from the light and hide somewhere out of
reach, but a feeling of peace seemed to settle itself deep into his heart. With
quiet happiness he watched as the sky became brighter and brighter until the
sun cast its first flaming rays upon the sky, lighting the clouds in a myriad
of colors.

***

Nick pressed his hands against the window, his mind overjoyed, as he watched
the beautiful miracle unfold before his eyes. The sunlight didn't burn him, but
warmed his body like no fire could have done before.
"It is so beautiful," he whispered. Words failed him as he wanted to capture
this wonder and so he fell silent.

***

The sun rose higher and higher, the sky changed its color again towards a
brilliant blue, accented by several gray clouds, promising snow for later.

***

Natalie watched him silently while he was captured in the colors and warmth of
the sun. She had never been forced to stay away from the sun and couldn't begin
to imagine how he had felt all this time to be denied this thing that humans
take for granted. Sometimes she had been able to catch a glimpse of his
anguish and longing and she had asked herself how he had remained sane. And
now, he had found a way back to the light. Not in the way they had expected but
neither of them would agonize about that now. In some way they had both gotten
their wishes. She was with him now and he was in the light. What else could
they ask for?

"I'm hungry", murmured a small voice behind them. They turned around, startled.
Rachel was standing behind them in a patch of sunlight and she looked at them
with hungry golden eyes. The sun didn't burn her.
Nick looked at Natalie, Natalie looked at Nick, both looked at Rachel. This was
unexpected. True, father had promised the gift of the sun to all his future
children, but Rachel had been brought across with the blood stolen from him
before father had given him this precious gift. "Nick, how is that possible?"
"I don't know Nat. I have absolutely no idea."

"Something wrong?" Rachel asked. He crouched to her eyelevel. "Something is
different, Rachel, but it is a good thing. It is just unexpected.. I'll tell
you later..." He could feel her confusion, but also her hunger. He went to the
fridge but stopped. He couldn't feed his new child cow's blood. No, he had
made that mistake once, he would never do it again. He opened the freezer. Only
three blood packs left. He must restock rather soon. Better make a call to the
Raven and get a case or two delivered. Yes you idiot, and the one who delivers
the case will tell every vampire what he had seen. Word will be out and all
over the city in an eyeblink. Terrific. He sighed. There must be another way.
"Nick?" He was startled out of his thoughts, as Nat appeared next to him.
"Sorry, got carried away." "What is it?" "Rachel is hungry and she will need
more human blood than I have. A lot more. And you will get hungry yourself,
too." "Oh." "UmmHmmm, in the first time young vampires need to feed very
often and Rachel has changed too fast, she will get even hungrier than normal.
Normally I would make a call to the Raven, but the Raven is closed for the day
and even if it was not, I couldn't get a case delivered now, because..."
"Because word would be out, at least in the vampire community." "Yes." He
murmured several words in a different language and Nat was very sure she knew
at least the general meaning of these words. Curses sound rather identical, no
matter what language was used. "So we need a mortal, who already knew that you
and I and maybe even Rachel are vampires, whom you trust and who could get some
blood for us." "Hmmm." "Well, what about Tracy?" Nick's face brightened.
"You're a genius, Nat." She grinned slightly. "I know," she said, mock serious,
which earned her a raised eyebrow from him. Shaking his head Nick went to the
phone and dialed Tracy's number.

***

The phone was ringing. Tracy groaned and shifted to the other side, burying her
head under her pillow. No chance. The unnerving noise got to her as well. She
stood up, shuddered slightly at the cold floor and went to the phone. The
blinds of her windows were shut tightly and the room was more than semi-dark,
so she moved cautiously. It didn't help because just as she answered the
phone she hit her leg on the coffee table. Hard. She yelped, let go of the
receiver and unleashed a string of very detailed curses. "Somebody better have
died, because I'm going to kill whoever's at the other end!" she muttered as
she grabbed the fallen receiver. "Vetter," she grumbled. There was a soft sigh
at the other end of the line and then the familiar voice of her partner said:
"Would it help you to know that I already died two times and am dead in a way
of thinking?" Tracy blushed. She hadn't meant for anybody to hear her rant.
Damn vampiric hearing! "Sorry Nick. But why are you calling now? Shouldn't you
be dead to the world like any other good little vampire?" He chuckled. She
blushed some more as she noticed what she had said and to whom she had said it.
Maybe her brain hadn't woken up by now, normally she didn't make such stupid
remarks. Nick disrupted her musings. "Tracy, I'm sorry I have woken you, but I
have a situation here and I need your help." He described his current problem
and why his request couldn't wait until dusk. Tracy thought about her
possibilities and promised then to organize some human blood for his new
'children'. Finally she said good bye and hung up. The next thing she did was
start the coffee maker, somehow she simply knew she would need a lot, a hell of
a lot coffee to make it through this day.

***

Nick hung up the phone. "Tracy, someday you'll have to tell me where you
learned those." he muttered. "What's up?" "Uh, nothing really, just thought
aloud." "About?" "About my friendly perky partner, who isn't very friendly and
definitely not perky if somebody wakes her before her normal time. I thought
those curses were only known by sailors." Nat chuckled. "Well, she's always
been good for surprises." "You can say...." He took the three blood bags and
handed them to Rachel. She eyed them curious. "What is that?" "This is what you
need, Rachel." "Is it..." "Is it blood? Yes. Donated human blood." "How do you
get people to donate for you?" He laughed. "No, they don't donate the blood for
me, but they donate it at the blood bank. When the blood bank couldn't use it
due to antibodies or if it's too old, they sort it out and well, throw it
away." "Gross." Rachel started but then the hunger overwhelmed her and she bit
in the first bag and drained it dry.
After she had emptied the third and final blood bag her hunger was gone and her
eyes returned to her normal color. "That was good," she murmured to herself
half surprised. "What was it, that I felt when I drank it ?" "You feel the
thoughts, emotions and memories of the donor. You know the old saying that
blood is life ?" Rachel nodded. "It is true. Blood is life. Every drop of blood
holds the whole life of a person." "Mine too?" "Yours too." "Even the years
that I can't remember?" "Everything you did, everything you felt, even if you
don't remember it." Rachel grew silent, then she took a deep breath. "If I
drink my own blood, will I remember the years that I've forgotten?" "Yes...do
you want to know what happened?" "I'm not sure... I'm afraid.... but on the
other side...I've the feeling that some part of me is missing because I can't
remember." He looked at her thoughtfully. Watched her as she tried to describe
the feeling of loss she felt due to the lost memories. And he knew that she had
to remember her past to go on. "Rachel.... you don't have to decide right now.
Take your time, think about it, and when you come to a conclusion, I'll help
you." She smiled. "Thank you."

***

Two and a half hours later Nick and Natalie watched Rachel sleeping. She had
curled herself in a kitten manner in the patch of sunlight, produced by the one
unshuttered window. The door buzzer hummed to life. He looked at the small
video monitor and like he had guessed it was Tracy. A half frozen,
not-as-perky-as-usual Tracy, but as curious as ever. He buzzed her in.

***

Tracy wasn't in a particularly good mood. She had hit every single location she
could have thought about to *borrow* some *babyfood* for Nick's new children.
She had had some really good coffee for breakfast, but that was a long time and
now her system was practically in withdrawal. "Here," she handed him two
shopping bags, "do you have any idea how difficult it was to..." she stopped
"Well I think you might." "Thank you Tracy. I really appreciate what you did
and yes, I do know how difficult it could be to organize blood under those
circumstances." He waved her further into the loft. "Make yourself at home,
Tracy. I need to feed the kids." "Hey!" Natalie appeared next to him and
punched him in the ribs. "Who are you talking about?" He smirked and rubbed the
area where she had hit him. "Face it Nat, as long as you havn't passed a
hundred, you're a kid. And you haven't passed a hundred while I wasn't looking
.. or?" He teased her, but she could hear the truth in his statement. For the
next sixty or more years she would be looked at as a child. But that doesn't
mean that she had to like it. She blew him a raspberry, took the shopping bags
out of his hands and went to the fridge to restock it. Nick grinned at her
childish gesture, but the smile vanished as he felt her uneasiness through
their link. He approached her and sneaked his arms around her. "Nat? I'm sorry.
I didn't mean to upset you." He snuggled nearer to her and used their link to
let her feel what was in his heart. Natalie leaned closer to him and closed her
eyes as his love washed over her.

***

Tracy cleared her throat. "Guys, I think this is not the right time for....
well.. you know what I mean." Natalie looked down at her feet embarrassed
while Nick, who was very grateful for his inability to blush, turned to Tracy.
"I'm sorry Tracy. I...we..." "It's OK. Tell me, you probably don't have any
coffee here, do you?" "Yes, under the sink." "Under the sink? Gross! Why do
you keep your coffee under the sink?" "Well, it's not like I drink any." "Sure,
but I need some pretty badly. You don't mind if I indulge myself?" "Go ahead."
She nearly pounced on the location of the coffee. For someone who didn't drink
coffee, Nick kept an astonishing good blend. Then she remembered, that it had
been Natalie, who had been the one who drank coffee at Nick's. Well, not any
more. That meant she could really indulge herself. Tracy grinned, maybe this
day wouldn't turn out that bad after all. She brewed herself a healthy portion
of coffee and was just practically inhaling her first cup, when Rachel awoke.

Rachel was hungry again. This time Nick was prepared and when she uncurled
herself, he handed her a mug of warmed plasma. Tracy watched him as he
approached Rachel. "Nick?" "Yes?" "You're standing in the sun! How is that
possible?" "That is an really long story, but one I promised Nat and Rachel to
tell as well." "Ok, let's settle down somewhere comfortably and then you can
tell us the story." Nick shrugged. Then he heard a groan from the couch.
LaCroix was awaking. Nick sighed, now it all would become a slight touch more
complicated.

part thirteen: Storytime: The beginning

He woke up with a mindsplitting headache. Gods, he felt terrible. His head felt
like someone had tried to stuff it with straw, with more straw then possible.
How had he maneuvered himself into this position? He tried to remember, but
thinking seemed to be a rather difficult task right now. Vaguely he remembered
sharing blood with his son, but what had happened next? Scenes of another
one's life flashed through his mind. Nicholas' life, he realized. But there
were scenes, memories, emotions from before Nicholas' time, from before his own
time and then there were some things that really caused him headaches. He would
have to ask Nicholas about this, but first he had to get up without his head
falling from his shoulders. He drew in several deep breaths. While he didn't
need the oxygen, he had always found that simple method being successful for
calming down someone's ragged nerves. The pain started to subside and he could
feel the sun. The sun was up, hadn't even gone half its daily path, so why was
he awake? And where was he? Couch, he was on a couch. Not his own, but
Nicholas' couch. He was in his son's home. The headache only an annoying memory
by now, he started to look around and met the eyes of his son. Nicholas looked
straight at him. The window behind him was unshuttered. The sunlight washed
through the glass, pouring out a spot of brightness in the dark. Nicholas was
standing in that spot of light. He was surrounded by the sun's golden rays, but
he didn't smoke or burn, there wasn't the slightest feeling of discomfort in
their link. "How," his voice was raspy and shaken, "how is this possible?"
Nicholas gave him an apologetic smile. "I just wanted to tell the others the
whole story, won't you come and join us?" LaCroix nodded gravely and Nick
closed the shutter. He knew how difficult it would be for LaCroix to be that
near to the searing deadly sunlight.

***

Nick settled down comfortably, waited for the ladies, who were raiding his
meager stocked fridge and then were making themselves comfortable for his
story. He took a deep breath and began. "Well, I don't know how I can tell you
the entire story, it is so unreal. If I didn't know that it is the truth I
wouldn't believe it. I don't even know where to begin." "More unreal than
this?" Tracy gestured at him and Nat. "Try me." "Ok, Tracy. I'll try. When I...
when this man, Dasken, killed me, when I died I had no choice but walk into the
light..." "Wait a minute, was does it mean, walking into the light? Into the
sunlight?" "No Tracy, when a vampire is being brought across, he or she goes
to the place between life and death and must make the choice to come back to
life. We all," he gestured at the other's in the room, "have been there and
have made the choice to return to live as vampires. But this time I had no
choice. I was dead as a vampire, clear and simple and like any other one who
died finally I was taken to the place behind the light. The place of the last
decision. And there I met a being who looked like my mortal father, but wasn't
him. This being told me that I had lived another life, before this one and I
had to remember that life again." "OK, that sounds really weird." He nodded, if
this hadn't happened to him, he wouldn't believe it himself. "Tell us about
this other life." Nick closed his eyes and let the memories surface. "I
remember a time before time itself, no space, no physical bodies, only light
and darkness in an eternal now. I was not really born. I didn't exist at one
moment and then in the next moment I was. And there were others like me,
brothers and sisters. We witnessed the beginning of everything." By now he was
unaware of the presence of the others. "When you add some light, where only
darkness had been before, and bring some darkness to where there had been
light, a chain reaction is started and creation begins. We lived at a place
beyond time and we watched, but we didn't interfere. I don't know how long
everything was so peaceful, there was no time to measure, I only know that one
day it all changed.

*************** Flashback: Beyond time and space ***************

"I don't care what you are thinking, Nathanael, I say that I can do it all
better than Elohim. Elohim is old and weak. I'll fight and victory will be
mine!" "But you can't do this! Elohim is our creator, the one who made us!"
"That doesn't matter, Nathanael. I'll take Elohim's place! I'll be the new
Elohim! You'll see!" "Lucifer, wait! Please don't do this." But his pleas went
unheard as Lucifer disappeared in the distance.

***

Soon after that had happened, Lucifer called out a revolution and started to
gather companions for his fight. A deep split went through Nathanael's
siblings. They all decided to fight. Some at the side of Lucifer and the others
at the side of Elohim. Nathanael felt uncertain. How could he fight against his
own brothers and sisters? How could he kill members of his family? He had
already declined an offer from Lucifer's party but could he fight against him?
He loved his siblings and he loved his creator and he couldn't say whom he
loved more. Finally he made a decision.

***

"Michael." Wearily Nathanael watched his brother and his followers. "Nathanael.
We've heard you have chosen not to fight at the side of our traitorous
brother. Come and fight with us for Elohim." Nathanael sighed. He had awaited
this. "I can't, Michael. I can't fight against my brothers and sisters."
Michael looked at him emotionless. "I see," he stated. "I'm sorry, Michael.
Really, I am." But just like Lucifer hadn't listened to his pleas to stop his
plans, Michael turned at him and he and his followers left him alone. Nathanael
felt another connection break and when he was sure, that he was alone, he
started to cry.

***

Nathanael watched the battle unfold before his eyes. The elementary forces of
the different groups crashed together for the first time. The released energy
shook creation in its deepest core. He could feel fragile stars flickering and
die. Planets changed their orbits and suns exploded. But he didn't really
notice that. Something more important had happened. His first siblings had
died. He memorized their names and mourned for them. It didn't matter for which
side they had fought. He knew that the killed of the losers side would be
forgotten and the winner side would only mourn for their own loss. But they
were all his brothers and sisters and he honored their lives by mourning and
remembering.

***

The battle was the frightening in its unbelievable force. Both sides fought
with every reserve of energy they had and the meanest tricks they knew. But
slowly the followers of Elohim began to gain the upper hand. Lucifer fought
hard, but his fraction was slightly smaller than the group around Michael,
and he wasn't as good at fighting as Michael.

***

He lost. Lucifer cried, a long howling cry of hatred and wrath. And then, to
Nathanael's surprise and horror, Lucifer started to change into something
different. His brightness was swallowed by the darkness of hatred and his mind
lost its beauty. Again he cried and then he fell. His angry cry could be heard
long after he had vanished from their home with all his followers, who had
changed as well. Nathanael felt a slight change taking place in himself. But he
didn't became dark like his brother, but a bit more colorful than before. His
sister Gabriel approached him. "Nathanael. Elohim wants to speak with you." He
felt cold. Would he fall now as well? He hadn't fought, what would happen to
him now? And then Elohim was there.

"Nathanael." "Elohim." Nathanael was afraid. Terribly shaken. And his creator
noticed this. "Why are you afraid?" The voice was soft and encouraging. "I..
I'm so sorry. I have disappointed you. I didn't fight like the others. And I've
noticed that I've changed." "You don't need to be sorry, my son. I am not
disappointed about you. You didn't fight, because you felt it wasn't right to
turn against your siblings. It was the right thing for you to stay out of the
battle when you found that you couldn't kill your brothers and sisters.
Nathanael, you changed, because you have grown up. You are ready to take
responsibility. My other children will have much to learn until they are ready
to take places in the realms of time and space. You'll sent to a planet that is
destined to carry life. Nathanael, you'll be their teacher and guardian
through the times. But you have to change, have to give up your state of being
and become fleshen." "Fleshen? I? Bound to a body?" "Yes. The life of this
planet will be fleshen, so the planets guardian has to be fleshen as well, but
I will still be there. In spirit." Nathanael thought about it for a moment. "I
am afraid, Elohim." "I know. It would be strange and foolish not to be afraid.
Nathanael, calm yourself. Center your being and listen to what I have to teach
you." Nathanael did what he was told. Slowly he calmed down and centered
himself a one point. He listened and learned and unnoticed to himself he
changed into a solid form.

-On the infant planet-

It was dark and cold and he felt strange. Small rocks were digging themselves
into his flesh. Flesh, he was fleshen, he had a body now. This realization made
him blink and he noticed that it had been dark because his eyes had been
closed. Eyes, he had eyes to see. Slowly he looked around. This was his new
home and he should make himself familiar with this new terrain. Everything
looked different, strange through his eyes. He could see only the surface of
things, not behind it like he could have before. Cautiously he stood up. His
legs seemed to carry him well, although he felt a bit wobbly at first. He
looked down at himself. That was he? Two legs, two arms, hand and fingers, feet
and toes, a chest and a back, a head. He wriggled his fingers and then his
toes. It felt a bit funny and he could feel the corners of his mouth tugging up
into his first smile. "I see you're happy in your new life, brother," stated a
voice behind him. He turned around. Behind him was a swirling cloud of darkness
and he shivered as he felt the emanating evil. Lucifer, he realized. Nathanael
wanted to back away, to run to safety, but he knew he couldn't escape him. Not
while bound to flesh. "What do you want with me, Lucifer?" "Lucifer? I don't
use that name anymore," the dark cloud snickered. "I'm here to give you a
*present* for your new life." Now Nathanael backed away, but it was useless. In
the next moment he was surrounded by darkness. The black cloud started to tug
and tear at his body and, when he screamed, it invaded his mouth and rushed
down into his lungs. "No more light for you, little brother. You'll learn to
live in darkness like me," the voice of his brother whispered into his ear. "I
give you weaknesses and the ability to die. And... I give you the desires and
abilities of a predator, because from now until your death your only type of
nourishment will be the life-force of the beings around you, specially the
life-forces of your protégées." Nathanael screamed in horror and protest, as
his new body was forced to change again. And suddenly, he was alone. He looked
down at himself again to see if he had changed, but he couldn't make out any
differences. Except that his eyesight was a lot better than before. And...he
was hungry. It felt like his veins were empty and burning for substance. His
eyes felt warm and his teeth itched. When he rubbed his tongue at his teeth
he discovered that two of them were now twice as long as they had been before.
Accidentally he cut his tongue at the sharp tips of his now elongated teeth and
his own blood rushed down his throat. It was ecstasy. It was so good and it
tasted like himself, but it didn't sate him. In fact he was hungrier than
before. His ears noticed the drum-like sound of another beings heart and
instinctually he attacked. The large birdlike creature released a piercing
scream, when he bit deep into its throat. He hit a vein and the blood of the
creature gushed into his mouth, nearly choking him. Greedily he swallowed. The
blood of this being didn't taste as good as his own, but he was sated now. He
wiped the corners of his mouth. When the first feelings of satisfaction died
down, he realized, that this, that the blood of other innocent beings would be
his only food until he lost this body. Lucifer's *gift*. And there had been
others. He remembered the words of his brother far to well. He felt sick,
violated, but he knew he had to live with this situation. Elohim would be only
with him in spirit and he had already told him that he wouldn't interfere into
Nathanael's life. Resigned he started to seek shelter, when his body told him
that he had to flee before the coming period of light.

*************** End Flashback ***************

part fourteen: Storytime: Interlude

Tracy's coffee became cold, as she listened to the incredible story, Nick told
them. Absentmindedly she took a sip from her mug, then she choked as the cold,
bitter beverage hit her tastebuds. The choking sounds broke the silent spell.
Nick opened his eyes, returned to the present. He looked into the round. The
others were staring at him in shock and disbelief. Somehow he had thought they
would react a bit more violent, but he was happy that they didn't. He could
feel them struggling to digest everything he had told them. The only person
he wasn't linked with was Tracy and her emotions were clearly written on her
face. But before she could say something, LaCroix nearly exploded :" You really
want us to believe this? That is insane, impossible and you know it!" Nick
sighed. It had been too good to be real. Well on the other side he kind of
expected this reaction, specially from LaCroix. "No, I knew you would not
believe me. But nonetheless this is the truth. It is real and it did happen."
"So why don't you feel any different? If this *is* the *truth*, why did our
link remain the same? If you were as old as you are implying, your mental
presence should be almost physically overwhelming!"

Nick was silent. He could answer all these questions, but he was sure that
simple answers wouldn't be sufficient. He opened his mind and there they
were: the countless mental blocks, walls and veils he had placed subconsciously
while he had been changing. His friends were waiting for an answer and he
would give them more than that.

Slowly and silently he began to remove some of the mental barriers, letting
more of himself seep into the links. The three other vampires gasped when
Nick's mental presence began to change, becoming older and stronger by the
minute. Tracy didn't know what was happening, only that Nick didn't feel like
Nick anymore, different, but still the same. It was causing her a major
headache. Still Nick was changing. He became older than every other vampire
any of them had encountered. Suddenly he stopped. "I have removed some of the
mental barriers. Shall I go on?" LaCroix looked at his 'son'. Nicholas felt
like he was ten thousand years old by now. And he had just removed *some* of
the mental blocks? I wonder how it would feel like when he drops all his mental
defenses. "Please Nicholas, go on. Show us all of it." And Nick showed them
all. He let go of every single mental block, every wall and buffer he had
created. There was nothing that could have prepared them for this. His mental
presence nearly had a physical appearance of its own. They were barley able to
breath when his aura started suffocating them. Nick then rebuild his network
of walls and blocks until he felt to them again like being *only* eight hundred
years old. He stood up to get himself something to drink and to give the others
some time to regain their composure. On his way to the refrigerator he switched
on the coffee maker, Tracy surely would appreciate something hot and strong.
Then he returned to sit next to Nat, politely refilling the glasses of blood.
"I think you are more likely to believe me now. And you now know why there had
been no change in the link." Nat simply nodded and LaCroix took his glass,
chugging the blood in one hasty draught.

Tracy looked around, like she had been shaken out of a dream. "Whoa. Wait a
minute, wait a minute. Could anyone please tell me what just happened here?"
She turned to Nick. "You felt so strange. So different. What have you done?"
"I have removed all mental barriers from my mind. I felt strange, different,
because I let you feel all of me. Normally I subconsciously block my mental
presence to a degree." "So the strange feeling I just had, that is how you
really feel to others? That is the real you?" "You could say that. Yes." Tracy
thought about it for a minute, thought about the strange feeling, compared it
to what she had felt from others and came to a conclusion. "You must be really
old." "Yes, I am." "How old?" Tracy inquired. Nick shrugged his shoulders
helpless. The typical gesture seemed alien with the movement of his wings and
the slight rustle of the feathers. "I actually don't know Tracy. First I lived
at a place beyond time and when I started living here on earth there was no
calendar to measure time. Time was a new concept for me and when I figured out
how to measure it, I lost track, stopped counting my years after something
about three thousand years." "Whew." Tracy whistled, when she heard him
casually talking about such an vast amount of time. "It must be something to
live that long." Nick looked her straight in her eyes. "You think so, Tracy?
Immortality has its drawbacks. Imagine a life that never ends. Do you have any
idea how boring such a life could be when you are alone? When there is nobody
to share your life with? When you really have nothing to do? Think about it,
Tracy." His voice wound itself into her brain and she shuddered at the
sincerity of his tone. He spoke like he had known such times and when she
thought about it, the more she became sure that he had lived through such
timeperiods. Natalie snuggled against him. "Nick?" She murmured softly, "please
tell us what happened then."
He remembered where he had stopped in his tale and soon he was back into his
past.

part fifteen: Storytime: Early stations of a life

************** Flashback: The infant planet **************

Nathanael was tired. Hunger gnawed at him, but his hunt had been unsuccessful
the last few days. The lingering heat of the former day didn't help him
either. He couldn't sense a single animal. It made him nervous. Normally there
would be at least some smaller beasts on which he could feed, but tonight there
was nothing. His skin was tingling. Something was wrong, terribly wrong, but
he didn't know what. Then he heard it, a low dangerous humming. The air was
vibrating. A flaming ball crashed from the firmament. The light of the fiery
rock hurt his eyes. Then the crash. The earth groaned under the impact. He
had barely time enough to bury himself in the soil, before the first shockwaves
raced over the area. He was frightened and hungry, but nonetheless he fell into
in a deep dreamless sleep.

When he awoke, he was confused. His inner clock told him that it was well after
sunrise, but he didn't feel the usual dread that warned him before the
dangerous sunlight. Slowly and cautiously he started to dig himself out of the
ground. The sky was dark, darker than normal, even at night. No sun, no moon,
no stars. And silence, like the world was too shocked to utter any noises. His
hunger returned to him, more forcefully than before. He needed to hunt, to
feed. He swung himself into the air, starting to search for prey.

***

It was day. At least his senses told him that it was day. There were no
differences between night and day now. The firmament was hidden beyond layers
of dust. No sun at day, no moon, no stars at night. How long had it been? He
didn't know. He was too cold to think. The temperature had dropped and snow
storms hit the area quite regularly now. The wind was howling, making it more
difficult to locate prey. The times when he went to sleep sated had become
rare. Many races hadn't made it, when the fiery sphere hit the planet and even
more vanished in this never-ending darkness and cold. How he wished the dust
veils would disappear. How he wished he could get warm again. Faint noises
interrupted his useless musings and he concentrated on the situation again.

***

Nathanael had stopped to count the days, months, years a long time ago. So he
didn't know how long the earth was covered in total darkness. One day finally
the sun worked its way through the dust veils. It had taken some time until the
moon and stars were visible on the night sky too, but it had happened. Again
he was confined during the daylight hours but on the other side he was more
than relived that the long period of total darkness was over. He witnessed
Nature starting over again, filling the gasps of the vanished species with new,
different forms of life. But the species, the lifeform he should guide and
teach, still hasn't appeared. When, when would they develop? He felt useless,
he wanted to do something more, something different than watching plants and
animals change and develop, something else than hunting and waiting. He didn't
want to be alone anymore.

***

Empty time. That was it. He was living in empty time. Really nothing to do,
nothing to live for. He was so tired. Like a mindless machine he would stand
up every night, he would hunt, eat and then he would search. Always hoping
that he would find something new, different. But the one thing he was hoping
to find, he never did find. Then where times when he nearly got mad with
loneliness. That were the times when Elohim would speak to him, renewing his
hope, letting him feel that he wasn't alone. And then he would wait again.
Beginning the circle anew.

***

He watched the small group snuggling together to coax some warmth into their
tired bones. Nathanael had followed the evolution of this species with
interest. When they had started to move on two legs instead of four he started
to monitor them more closely. More and more he became sure that this species
was the one he should guide, teach and protect. But it was too soon to
interfere. He had to wait. If and only if they develop the ability to speak,
then he could be sure they were the ones. And then he had to win their trust.
When he had run into them accidentally they had run away in fear. It was time
to leave them alone, for now. He merged with the shadows. It would need time.
And he had that time. In fact he had all the time of the world.

***

Nathanael glanced back at the cave, that had been his home for the last two
years. It had been a good time. After a long time of waiting and checking, he
had discovered that the beings had discovered speech and the usage of simple
tools, when he had monitored them the last time. A short time after that
discovery he had tried to contact these beings. The first contact didn't go
the way he had planned it. The mortal beings didn't run away from him, but they
believed he was a sort of god. No, definitely not like what he had planned. It
had taken him some time and energy to make them understand that he was not a
god, but wanted to teach them new things. It had been a success. He had taught
them several simple things and now he watched them carrying that knowledge on
by teaching it to their children. Now it was time for him to leave this group.
He had to go on and find similar small groups to teach them as well. And then
repeat that pattern again and again. But he would miss the ones he left behind.
Always. He sighed as he went away.

***

Time went on. Nathanael tried not to notice the years moving by so fast. There
was so much for him to do, so many people to teach to. But he did notice the
slow but steady change in the mortal beings he was teaching. They were losing
their fur and their facial profiles changed too. They looked a bit more like
him, but their skin was black while his was nearly as white as fresh fallen
snow. Their hair was black and tousled, his was fair and while their eyes
were a deep shade of brown, his were a brilliant blue. There were so many
differences between them, but he felt accepted by them. The groups grew larger,
split into new small groups, that grew large again. And he was a part of them,
of their stories, of their legends, of their lives.

***

It was by accident, when he had been hungry and had attacked a lonely hunter,
that he made his first child. The blood of the young man was sweet, with a
slight earthy touch and the distinct smell of the woods. It was so much better
than the blood of the animals he normally consumed. Only when he heard the
heart of the man weakening and knew that he was dying, Nathanael stopped.
Scared by what he had done. Maybe he could save him by giving him some blood
back. He started to feed him his blood, pleading to him not to die, but to come
back. And the young man came back to life, but he was changed. He was like him
now. Nathanael could feel a bond forming between them and realized that the man
had somehow become his child. His responsibility. He had to teach him the
meanings of his new life. He would teach him all he knew and together they
would be able to reach more people, would be able to teach more of them at one
time. And when the time was coming to move to the next group, he wouldn't be
alone anymore. Nathanael smiled when he carried the young man into his home.

***

His child's name was Zwer and he had been a loner before. He had no group he
could go to and he had waited for his death in the woods. Instead he was given
eternal life and someone who cared for him. At first he was confused,
overwhelmed by all the new things, abilities he had to master, but he was a
quick pupil and a good companion. For over three hundred years he helped
Nathanael to teach and to guide the mortals. But then Zwer wanted to start his
own family and Nathanael let him go. He was kind of sad to release Zwer to his
own fate, but he knew that he would not entirely lose him until death, because
of the bond they shared. The bond he would share with all of his children and
their children, and their children's children. He would be linked to them all.

***

Twenty years after Zwer had left him he took his next child and shared some
time with it. And so time went on. He would create children, teach them
everything they needed to know and when they finally wanted to start their own
families, he would let them go. Over the years his family grew larger and
larger. Sometimes his children came back to him after short periods of
separation, some for a short visit to introduce him to their new family and
others to stay with him again.

***

The time went on and the mortal beings changed more and more. Their skin- and
eyecolors changed slowly, influenced by their surroundings and different types
developed, fitting in their environment. And their environment changed as well.
New species of animals and plants appeared, some to die again soon, some to be
integrated and developed further on. The temperature dropped, only to rise
again. The continents drifted apart trapping some of the mortals and of his
children behind oceans and only his link connected him with them.

The mortals started to settle down, developing different cultures. Nathanael
was happy and contend. And then the rebellion started. He was not prepared for
the forces that branded against him. The younger members of his family didn't
want to live with their restrictions. They wanted to be something better than
mortals, they wanted to be gods. Nathanael and his older children were against
the tendencies of the younger ones, but the younger ones started to make more
and more children, turning them into an army and lead them against their own
family. They told their troops to show no mercy against their elders. Except
for their forefather. He should be spared. But that did nothing to smother
Nathanael's pain. His links were vibrating with pain, hate and death. All over
the world the troops of the young ones attacked their elders. Some of them
escaped by closing off their links and going into hibernation, a deathlike
state his species used to sleep through times of trouble. But Nathanael stayed
awake. These were his children's children, who tried to eliminate their past to
build a new, a wrong future. He watched the battles, he fought in the battles.
He removed several mental barriers to bring the young ones to their knees with
the sheer presence of his age, but they were too many. They couldn't get him
personally because of his emanating mental presence, but they used mortal
servants, who didn't feel the mental vibes and paralyzed him with several
stakes. This immobilized they made him watch slaughtering mortal villages until
he agreed to reveal his age, so that they could get close to him, draining him
of his life elixir, to learn the secrets of the Elder. But whoever drank of his
blood forcefully would pass out from the pain and the mourning he would pour in
his blood and they would be forever changed.

The young ones forced the mortals to build temples for them and praise them as
their gods. They fed without remorse from everyone they want and they thought
of themselves as the rulers of the world. It didn't last long.

*************** End Flashback ***************

part sixteen: Aftermath

The sun went down and Nick stopped. "I think that is enough for now." He
refused to tell any more this evening, even when Nat and Tracy teamed up to
persuade him otherwise. It was sooo interesting, sooo unbelievable and yet he
had seen it all, had done it all. And he had a really good way of telling
stories. "Come on, I've talked nearly the whole day. I am worn out. At least
for now. We can continue later, ok?" Reluctantly they accepted his offer to
continue later. But he was right. They had lots of other things to do and it
wouldn't do them any good if they neglected them.

Tracy was the first who had to go, vowing to herself to do some research on all
the things she had learned about her partner (after she had bugged Cohen into
giving her some short time leave, but that was quiet easy after the incidents
of the last time). Then LaCroix took his leave as well, promising to discretely
deliver some cases of the Raven's stock.

***

Finally they were alone. The silence was deafening. "It is eerie quiet."
Natalie observed. "It seems so." Nick looked at her with silent happiness. It
was then, that the reality sunk into Nat. In one moment she understood the
meanings of all the things that had happened the last days. Suddenly she felt
rather small, young and helpless and she started to shake. "Nat...Natalie."
Strong arms embraced her and she felt safe, wanted to hide and never again face
the outside world. But a small voice deep inside her told her, that she had no
choice, but to learn to live with the new situation. "I'll help you, Nat. You
and Rachel. Everything will be alright then. We will make it alright." Her
tense muscles relaxed and the panic quieted down. "I feel so silly," she said.
"No, you feel overwhelmed. Your whole life has changed and there is no way, but
going forward. It happens to all of us. Everyone had these moments when they
want to go back, to unmake their choices....., but that is not possible." "No?
There is no way back?" He sighed. "There is one way, but...I'm afraid not for
me and, as long as you are with me, not for you." "There is a cure then?"
"Yes." "Tell me about it." "When a female vampire falls in love with a mortal
man and is loved by him equally strong, they can make love without the vampire
killing the mortal. And the female vampire will become pregnant." "Pregnant?
But I thought...," Natalie blurted in excitement. "You thought vampires were
infertile?" At her hesitant nod he continued, "You are not alone with that
believe. Most vampires believe it also. It has not happened in the last four
thousand years. There are legends, but they are very inconclusive." He stopped
for a moment, remembering his unhappy daughter Serena, who had taken one of
those legends too literally and had failed in achieving a baby...and mortality.
"Anyway, when a female vampire becomes pregnant, she will slowly become mortal
again. She'll change with her child, which will be completely mortal either."
"And male vampires?" "We are not infertile either.. But when a male vampire
impregnates a mortal female, she will slowly change until the vampire has to
cross her over after delivery. Their child will be appearing human, but when it
grows up, it will develop more and more qualities of the vampire until it will
become completely vampire sometime during its twentieth year of birth." She
thought about it for a moment. "And..," she hesitated for a moment and then
continued, "..what about a vampire/vampire couple?" "I have never heard or seen
about a resulting pregnancy. But it should be possible. Why? Are you planning
ahead?" She grinned sheepishly. "I always wanted a big family." Her eyes
glanced over. "I wanted to be the mom that my mother could never be." A silent
red tear slid down her cheek as she recalled the fateful evening when her
parents went out to never come back again. He knew what she was recalling. The
pain about the loss of her parents had been strong in her blood. Afterwards
there had been the abuse by her grandmother and she had felt so lonely, only
Richard had been there. She had been something like a surrogate mother for her
brother, but nobody had been there for her. She had buried herself in her work.
And then he had woken up on her slab and her life had changed. All this he
recalled in a short moment, then he drew Nat closer to him and let her feel
comfortable enough in his arms that she could cry. It was something that she
needed to do, like he had needed it few days ago.

***

Tracy shut down her computer. Whew she thought. Doing research on her partner
had been more interesting then she had thought. She had started with the name
he had given her and the Captain when Natalie had been kidnapped and had
learned that he was a dual citizen, Canadian and Belgian. Her interest piqued
and she had started to hack around, a skill she had perfected over the years.
And then she had hit paydirt and nearly had to pick up her jaw from the
ground. "Oh my.... !" She murmured when she scrolled down the screen. That was
incredible! Impossible! Or was it? Maybe he didn't knew the last developments
in this area. Something told her that this was the most possible explanation.
She had copied the data and had made a printout. To show it to Nick when she
would go back to hear the rest of his story. Poor Nick... first he's forced to
open up parts of his secret, then he and Nat are changed in a very unusual
fashion and now that... "Oh God," she sighed, "..you sure have a weird sense
of humor."

***

The music was blearing loud and the dance floor was full with mortal patrons,
dancing to the seductive beat of the music. So far nothing out of order. But
the immortal patrons were milling around nervous. Something had happened. They
all had felt it, the short decloaking of a *very* old vampire. Someone was in
town who was older then the eldest known elders and that made them jumpy. And
that somebody knew how to cloak there presence. He or she could be anybody,
anywhere. Nobody knew who it was. Nobody...except one. LaCroix stood at his
usual place, brooding. He didn't know what to do, what to make out of the
situation and this insecurity made him more vicious than he normally was.
Everyone was avoiding him after he had snapped at one of the waitresses, nearly
tearing her to shreds verbally. He had told Miklos to bring two cases of uncut
and one case of cut blood to Nicholas' loft, leave them in front of his
doorstep, buzz and then come back to the Raven. Miklos had been a bit puzzled,
but he had a very good survival instinct and that instinct told him to better
leave it alone now or he would never live to get an answer to his questions.

***

The door buzzer was humming, startling them. Nick went to the security monitor
to see who was buzzing, but there was no one, just three cases with the Raven
logo. "Who is it?" "Dinner." "Dinner?" "Yep, someone from the Raven was here
and left a delivery at the door." Natalie threw a pillow at him. "Hey! What
is that for?" "For making me think that.." "..that I'm going to snack on the
someone who was buzzing?" He finished her sentence. She nodded, trying
unsuccessfully to hide a grin at his mock hurt features. He threw the pillow
back at her and before she could start a serious pillow fight he vanished via
the lift to get the cases of bloodwine. "Party Popper," she murmured and gave
the pillow a sharp kick. "I heard that, you know," said his voice behind her.
She turned around to see him entering via the skylight, carrying the three
cases with him. "You...!" she shouted, "...don't do that! You nearly gave me a
heart attack! I thought you wouldn't be able to do that anymore!" He grinned at
her and landed in the kitchen, putting the cases on the table. The next moment
he was under attack. "Let me see...," murmured a merciless Natalie, "..where
was that extra ticklish spot of yours?....Ah yes.. I think I just found it,"
she smiled with satisfaction when he doubled over with laughter.

***

"Vachon?" Tracy braced herself for the moment when he would appear. Normally he
would sneak up at her and startle the crap out of her. She knew this but,
she couldn't help herself to be surprised every time. Not today. He was moving
around in his refuge like a caged tiger. "Hello Tracy." "What is wrong,
Vachon? You're nervous." "NO, I'm NOT!" He snapped at her. She merely lifted an
eyebrow at his display of nervousness. "Ok, ok. So I am nervous. Satisfied?"
"No. Why are you nervous?" He sighed. Tracy wouldn't give up until she knew why
he was so jumpy. He knew her all to well. "Something has happened in the
community." "Oh...." Tracy thought she knew what has happened, but better safe
than sorry, "...what has happened in the community?" He gave up. Damn, he
wished she wasn't a resistor... "Someone is in town....someone *very* old.
Whoever it is, can cloak his or her presence, so nobody knows who it is." He
started to pace again. Yep, he's talking about Nick. "But when this someone
can cloak his presence, how do you know he is here?" "During the day, I bet,
every vampire in Toronto was woken due to the sudden uncloaking of this
presence...." he seemed lost in thought. "Wait a moment," he turned towards
her, "..*his* presence? *He* is here?" Uh oh. Tracy thought me and my big
mouth. Open wide, insert foot. Maybe then I would stop at the right moment.
"You know something, Tracy." She squirmed under his look. Damn, damn, double
damn! I shouldn't have come here. "Come on, Tracy... tell me." Oh no! He is
using *that* look again. Damn him! He knows I can't resist the puppy look. She
sighed. "Ok, yes. I know something." She released a deep breath. "I know who it
is, and where he is and what he is." "And?" "And what?" "Who is he? And where
is he? And what is he?" Again! He's doing the look again! Tracy knew when she
was defeated. She knew his tactic. He would ask her again and again, using the
look that made her mushy inside to mellow her defenses until she would give up.
She knew that, but she hadn't found a good counter she could use now. She
released another deep sigh and surrendered. "He is the father of all vampires
on this earth." Her thoughts raced. His name. I can't tell Vachon that Nick is
the one he had felt. Then she remembered the other name. "His name is
Nathanael and....," Time to drop the bomb, "...and he is staying at Nick's
loft." Vachon choked. "WHAT?! Oh my GOD! He's going to kill him!" "Who?" Tracy
played the dumb. "Knight! He's going to kill Knight!" "Why?" She asked
innocently "Why!? Because he....he..." "..because he is a vampire who had
broken the rules?" Tracy finished his sentence. "Yes! Exactly! He.. Hey.. wait
a minute! ..You know..." "That my oh so mortal partner isn't as mortal as he
appears to be? Yes. I know." "How..? Wait! You can tell me later. First we have
to warn Knight about this Nathanael character! Come on!" Oh Vachon.., Tracy
thought amused, you are in for a *big* surprise!

part seventeen: One step a time

They had drunken as much blood as they could. And now Nick was teaching them
how to use their link. How to use it to become one. It was a rather simple, but
sadly a nearly forgotten skill and he was determined to change that fact. He
felt good, when he bathed in the depth of Nat's feelings. And for one tiny
moment his cloaking flickered. One tiny moment, but it was enough.

***

"Dios! He is in there! The old one!" Vachon was shouting, but Tracy barely
heard him. She concentrated purely on hanging onto him. This was the second
time in one week that a vampire was taking her flying. It could be nice, if he
slowed down a little. Nick will kill me for this, she thought, well, if
Vachon didn't kill me first, that's it. "Ooo NOOO! VACHON! NOT...," CRASH!!
"...through the CLOSED skylight!!!" Tracy finished the sentence. The three
people who had sat on the couch jumped up when Vachon crashed through the
skylight. "Knight! Get the hell out of here! There is this really old dude...
I felt him here just one second before!..." Vachon stopped. He took a look. And
then a second look. "One moment... what the hell has happened with you?" Nick
cast a stern look at Tracy and raised one eyebrow. "I'm sorry, Nick. I slipped
and he nailed me." He rolled his eyes. "Oh well, it is done. Would you please
tell him the rest before he explodes?" "Hey, what the hell is going on here?"
Vachon looked from Tracy to Nick and back to Tracy. "Vachon..," Tracy gestured
in Nick's direction, "..meet Nathanael."

***

Cohen stared at the printout in disbelieve. Sure, she had known that he had
hidden several parts of his life, but she had never expected something like
this. She had never thought he would run away from his responsibilities. That
changed everything. What to do now? The question was rhetorical, she realized.
She would let him have the time off, he would need it to cope with the changes
and then... then she would turn him over to the Belgian government. It was her
duty, her responsibility. But first, she stacked her printouts and fished for
her keys, first she would have a long serious talk with Knight, or whoever he
was.

***

"WHAT?!? Say that again, Tracy." She rolled her eyes. "I said that he..." "I
heard what you have said, but that is not possible! You must be mistaken. HE
can NEVER be the scary old dude I've felt.." Nick shook his head and Natalie
tried to stifle her giggles. Rachel watched them interested, her head turning
like she was watching a tennis match. "Actually Vachon, Tracy is telling the
truth. I AM Nathanael." "But.. but how is that possible.. you are older than
me, that I admit, but you're not the oldest. You can't be..." "Vachon..,"
Nick's voice was quiet and soft, "..don't be scared." And he opened the mental
cloak. ".....!" Actually, I'm a lot older than you think I am. Vachon
heard Nick's amused voice in his head. How did you do that? I am linked
to all my children and my children's children and so on. My head hurts.
"Sorry..," Nick murmured and then the mental presence, that had felt like it
was pressing him through the floor of the loft with the force of an falling
anvil, was gone. Vachon stared at him in shock. The door buzzer hummed. But
nobody noticed it.

***

She parked her car in front of the warehouse, pressing the buzzer, but nobody
answered. He was here. She knew it. All the lights were on and where else
should he go to? He was here, and she had to talk to him. Now. She reached in
her purse. He had had a key for emergencies in his deskdrawer and somehow she
had known that she would need it. The door opened with a slight squeak. She
shuddered involuntary and then chided herself. What did you expect behind the
door, Frankenstein's monster? Return to reality, Amanda. She switched on the
light and then climbed the stairs upwards.

***

"I don't understand it... You are Nathanael.. You are the oldest vampire around
and yet you let everybody believe that you are the eight hundred year old son
of the general.." "It is not that simple Vachon. Yes, I am Nathanael, but at
the same time I am Nicholas de Brabant, a mortal turned vampire crusader and
LaCroix' son. I am both." "That doesn't make sense. You can be only one person,
not two at the same time." Nick shook his head. "I can and I am two people.
But why, that is a very very long and complicated story." Vachon sat down with
a tortured look on his face. "Ah, Nick before you try to explain it all to
Vachon, could you please take a look at this?" Tracy interrupted them by
handing him her printout. "What is that, Tracy?" She looked a bit embarrassed.
"Well, I was curious ah... and I did a bit research on you." He grinned. "Can't
stop being a cop, Tracy?" He opened the file and scanned the sheets.

***

"But that is impossible!" Cohen heard Knight call out when she opened the door
to his apartment. "I was with them just half a year ago. They were fine. They
can't be gone..." Nobody had noticed her so far. Knight was standing next to
his fire place with an unmarked file in his hands. "Nick, it is obviously true.
They are gone, all gone and you are the last one." "I can't believe this."
Cohen nodded to herself. So he had obviously not known the new circumstances.
Somehow that made her feel better. He hadn't tried to run away from his
responsibility, he had simply not known about it. Cohen cleared her throat.
Five heads spun around, five pair of eyes looked at her and one pair of them
was glowing. Or was it? The glowing golden hue flickered and vanished, leaving
behind an emerald pair of surprised looking eyes. She decided to ignore it,
because she wasn't sure if she had really seen what she thought she had seen.
"Captain?" "I'm sorry that I came in on you that way, but it seemed to me that
nobody heard the buzzer." Knight seemed to be a bit embarrassed. "Uh... yes,
Captain. We had quite a discussion here." "And this discussion is far from
being over," interrupted a man with long brown hair. "Vachon..," murmured
Detective Vetter and elbowed him in his ribs, but he didn't seemed to notice.
"Come on, Trace. You didn't want him to explain why he's two people at the same
time?" Cohen cocked an eyebrow at this statement and Tracy stomped at Vachon's
foot. Hard. That he did notice and when he saw the murderous look in her eyes,
he decided wisely to stop talking. But what he had said made sense, at least to
Cohen. She met Knight's eyes. "He is telling the truth, isn't he? You are
virtually two people, are living two lives at the same time." He simply nodded.
"Why?" "If you had known who I am, would you have let me work for you?" She
thought about it. No, no she wouldn't. She would have judged after his name and
state and would have decided that policework was too dangerous for him. And she
would have lost one of her best detectives. But now that doesn't matter
anymore. She sighed. "You are right, but that doesn't matter anymore. The
Belgian government is searching for you desperately." "What will you do now,
Captain?" "I will give you the month you have asked me for, I am sure you'll
need it and then..., then I will turn you over to the Belgian government." He
nodded. "I think I can live with that. Thank you, Captain." Cohen felt a bit
awkward and left soon after she had said goodbye. They released a collective
breath when she went away. One step further into the loft and she would have
noticed all the broken glass and the destroyed skylight.

They cleared the glass away. Then Nick asked Tracy and Vachon to please leave
them alone, maybe Tracy could tell Vachon all the things she had learned about
him in the mean time. And the two left.

***

Natalie closed the file. "New twist in your life, eh?" He sighed and snuggled
closer to her. "No... a new twist in our life...that means if you and Rachel..
if you want to... I mean if you.... Nat, could you imagine.. to stay with me..
forever? Natalie...., would you... marry me?" She whooped "YES! Of course!" She
started to cry. "Nat.. why are you crying? Is something wrong...did I.." She
shook her head. "I am just so happy, so very very happy. You have made me so
happy." No more words were needed.

***

Later, when reality started to set in, she asked him, what he would do now,
with this new situation and all. He smiled and pulled her closer to him. "We
will take it like we get it. One step a time. One step in the right direction."

***

Far away, deep in the untouched woods, a wolf's ear twitched in his sleep and
the wolf smiled.

~Fin~

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I needed six month to write this story, I started October 1999 and finished
March 2000. The time between then and now was filled with beta-reading and
simple cowardice.