This story was written in 1996 and posted to the fkfic-l way back then.

This is in response to the "Discovery" challenge and, to a lesser extent, to the "We Can Rebuild Her" challenge from early in the 3rd season (remember that one?) What exactly would it take for Ms. Vetter to realize that Nick's a vampire? I was originally going to use this as a flashback in a massive piece of fanfic that I know I'll never finish. :-)

These characters are not mine. James Parriott will always have my gratitude for having made up "Forever Knight."

The characters probably currently belong to Sony or Columbia/TriStar.

FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE

By LastScorpion

Javier Vachon left the Raven early that night. He wasn't sure why he did, but it turned out to be a Good Thing. No matter what complications it stirred up in his long, complicated life, he was always afterwards sure that it had been a Good Thing.

He cut through the alley behind the bar as he always did. There was somebody feeding in the alley. The Raven's previous owner had never stood for that sort of behavior so close to her club, but the General, for all his vaunted strictness, didn't really seem to mind if you offed a mortal on his block. Maybe he enjoyed the trouble it caused his wayward son, the cop, to have to cover up the blatant vampire kills. Vachon personally agreed with the previous policy -- you had to be nuts to not be discreet with your kills in this day and age. He was internally debating whether he should give this guy a piece of his mind when the feeding vampire lifted his head and Vachon was able to get his first view of the hapless victim. It was Tracy.

His eyes flamed red, and he launched himself at her killer. The guy barely had time to get his fangs out of her neck before Vachon barreled into him. It took only seconds to snap the fool's spine. Vachon was probably four times his age, and madder than he'd ever been before. Leaving the vampire tumbled awkwardly against the trash bins, Vachon returned to the blonde woman's corpse. He knelt and lifted her onto his lap, burying his face in her apricot-scented hair, grieving with all that was in him. Red tears streamed from his red eyes, spiking the silky floss of her hair with sticky moisture. Vachon made a quick decision -- probably the wrong one again, he ruefully told himself. As he ripped his wrist open with one sharp fang, the other vampire began to recover from his injuries. Vachon pressed his wrist to Tracy's slack mouth and silently begged her to swallow. By the time he thought she might make it, her attacker had fled, but not unnoticed. "Don't worry, you bastard," Vachon promised the other. "I will hunt you down."

Gathering the detective in his arms, Javier Vachon took off into the night.

****************************************

It had been a long, lousy shift at the precinct. Tracy had gone off by herself again, "following a lead" she said. The current case was a grisly murder with overtones of Satanism. Nick personally suspected, and Nat's preliminary physical examination seemed to support him on this one, that the purportedly ritual nature of the death-wounds was a cover for an ordinary lover's triangle gone bad. He had left notes for the day shift, but it was getting much too light for him to pursue the notion himself. He just wanted a shower and then his bed. "Too tired to drink -- is that a good sign?" he wondered. Nat was mad at him again about something; Reese couldn't understand why any one would ever do such horrible things to a dead body, and said so repeatedly; the Caddy sounded like it might need a valve job....

There was a loud thud at the window. The blinds were already drawn for the day, but the noise repeated itself, and the sun wasn't up yet. He opened the blinds and Vachon came crashing in, right through the glass. He dumped Tracy Vetter's body on the floor, and gasping out, "I've gotta go after him," he took off again into the lightening sky.

Nick's bellow of "VACHON!!" went unheeded.

****************************************

Tracy found herself on a vast brown plain. There were two doors ahead of her, about a quarter mile away. Two doors, just standing there, not in a wall or anything. A man was standing between them. Tracy went over to investigate.

******************************************

Nick got the blinds closed over the broken window and got his partner onto the couch. The glass on the floor would have to wait. "I'm going to kill Vachon," he muttered as he examined Tracy's body. Nick could smell the Spaniard's blood all over her hair and face, but as he calmed down he could also smell another vampire, and it soon became obvious that Vachon had not inflicted the great wounds to the woman's throat. Clearly somebody else had attacked Tracy; Vachon must have broken up the scene and tried to bring her across. Nick still wanted to blame Vachon for letting Vetter into the dangerous underworld of vampire life, for not protecting her. Unfortunately, he knew in his heart that protecting his partner was not Vachon's responsibility. Reese had entrusted the Commissioner's daughter to Nick Knight. It was Knight's own fault that she lay here dying. Or not dying, of course. Vachon's attempt to turn her might or might not work. All he could do was watch and wait. And clean up the glass.

******************************************

As Tracy got closer she recognized the man who stood guarding the two freestanding doors. She began to run. "Granddad!" she called out.

The figure grabbed her in a big bear hug. Tracy's late grandfather, Sgt. Tom Vetter, had been a big man, tall and stout, with a leathery outdoor face and a bushy gray crewcut. He was wearing the uniform of the Toronto Metropolitan Police Department, the old-fashioned one he had worn when he was alive. "Trace," he growled, just as he used to when she was little. "I love ya, darlin'." He set her gently on the bare dry ground.

"Where am I, Granddad? What's going on?"

"Well, Honey, ya got a choice to make." The image of her grandfather gestured to the doors on either side. One was a warm honey-colored oak, with a bright brass knob and hinges. It was slightly ajar, and Tracy could hear what sounded like drunken singing coming faintly from beyond it. It sounded a little like the family reunion there had been when she was six, the noise that came drifting in her window from the huge backyard in the long summer twilight after she'd been put to bed -- the happy, low-key, rollicking sound of dozens of uncles and cousins, most of them in law enforcement, who hadn't seen each other for months or years, drinking beer and catching up, singing and chatting and reminiscing. The other door was much larger, without a knob or other hardware. It was a forbidding blank light-gray rectangle, marred only by a disturbing charred spot in the lower right quadrant. Tracy couldn't remember where, but she thought she'd seen it somewhere before.

"What kind of a choice, Granddad?" she asked. Granddad had always let her make her own choices, she remembered, even when she was little. It had always been such a relief to visit him and Gran, especially when she was a teenager -- their house was like a refuge from the relentless expectations that surrounded her every minute at home.

"Well, Trace, this is a branching in the road, in a way." The old cop gestured at the wooden door. "You've been a good cop, and you've earned a place here, with me, and your Great-Uncle Teddy, and a lot of other fine men and women you've mostly never met before. Or you can reject this afterlife, and give up your place here. That boyfriend of yours, the bloodsucker, he wants you to come back to him, live and hunt in the darkness with him forever."

"Be a vampire, you mean," Tracy interpreted. "Hmm. I don't think I want to be a vampire. But I always hoped I'd be able to do more with my life."

"You would have done a lot more, darlin'. You were going to be the best -- I always knew it. But you've been good, real good. You've helped people, and you've earned your place here with us. I've missed you, Hon. Please stay."

******************************************

The floor was clean. The blood had been carefully wiped away from Tracy's cold still face. It was well after noon. There was nothing Nick could do but keep watch by his partner's body. He was so tired, but he couldn't go to sleep. He couldn't leave her to die without him, the way Schanke had died. He knelt on the floor beside the sofa, Tracy's pale head propped on his forearm, and watched and waited -- watched, and knew that she was slipping away. She wouldn't come over; she was dying, really dying. She'd be just another woman to die in his arms. There had been so many, probably a hundred thousand, maybe even more, dying in his arms over the years and centuries. "I can't bear it," he whispered. "I can't bear one more."

Nick set Tracy's head gently down on the cushion. Shakily he got to his feet and went to the kitchen. He got every single bottle of blood he had out of the refrigerator, brought them back to the bier and lined them up carefully on the floor. Settling himself carefully down again, he extended his fangs and ripped his right wrist open. "C'mon, Trace. Drink."

*********************************************

"I've missed you, too, Granddad. More than I can ever say. Are you sure that I'd be giving up my place here forever if I stayed with Vachon? I mean, even vampires die eventually. They get stuck out in the sun, or stabbed with a stake, or suck on a bad rat...." Tracy's voice trailed off.

"That's true, darlin'. Nobody lives forever, and just being a vampire is no cause for damnation. But choosing to be a vampire is a little bit like choosing to be a psychopath. Ya can hardly help hurting people, even killing them. It's not exactly easy to be a vampire and a good cop, too."

Another voice rang out. "But it can be done."

Tracy wheeled round to face the source of the new voice. A middle-sized, balding, dark-haired man in a brown sports jacket and a loud tie was lounging against the jam of the oaken door. He gave her a quizzical look from under a cocked eyebrow. "It's Tracy, isn't it?"

"I'm Tracy Vetter," she bristled. "Who are you?"

"I'm Don Schanke." The man looked much nicer when he straightened up and smiled. "Pleased to meetcha." He offered his hand and she shook it. "Nick Knight used to be my partner."

"Don't do this, Donny," rumbled Tom Vetter.

The eyebrow went up again as Schanke turned to the old Sergeant. He looked bitter, almost sneering, as he asked, "Doesn't she have a right to know before she makes her choice? Doesn't she have a right to know about her partner?"

*****************************************

It was the hottest, brightest part of the day. Nick had been gashing and re-gashing his wrist, squeezing the reluctant blood into his partner's passive mouth for hours. Most of it seemed to be going down her throat, but he was too tired and dizzy now to even tell if it was having any effect. "Please don't die," he muttered. "Not another one."

****************************************

"I don't understand." Tracy looked from her grandfather to the ghost of Detective Schanke. "What about my partner?"

"Do you want to tell her, or should I?" Schanke challenged the older man.

Sgt. Tom Vetter heaved an enormous sigh. "Tell her," he said.

"Tell me what?" Tracy insisted.

"My partner -- your partner, Nick Knight. Would you say he's a good cop?" Schanke asked.

Tracy nodded.

Schanke addressed Tracy's grandfather. "You'd agree, he's a good cop? He could have a place here?"

"He's a good cop, Donny. He could have a place here, if it wasn't for a lot of other stuff he's done. And you know it," Sgt. Vetter admitted.

Schanke spread his arms. "There ya go then. It can be done. If you're careful enough or lucky enough to avoid the kind of sins that have been eating Nick up inside since waaaay before I knew him, your place here would still be waiting for you." He glared at the other man. "Isn't that right, Sarge?"

Vetter sighed again. "Yes, Donny. Theoretically." He turned to Tracy. "But it'd be awfully hard to do, darlin'. I'm not saying you couldn't do it. But couldn't you just stay here?"

Tracy was starting to get annoyed. "What exactly are you two talking about?"

Don Schanke stared at her. "Nick Knight," he said. "Your partner. He's a good cop, and he's also a...."

Suddenly Tracy remembered where she'd seen that blank scorched door before. Her eyes opened wide in shock.

******************************************

The sun would set in an hour. Nick had given up all the blood he could. Even though he longed to let his head slump down onto the sofa cushion, he couldn't tear his eyes away from that pale cold face. Was she dead or would she come over?

Suddenly Tracy's eyes opened wide, as if in shock. "You're a vampire!" she gasped. "Oh! I'm so thirsty!"

Nick fumbled an opened bottle full of cow's blood into Tracy's hands, and she chugged it down. The first taste was awful, but by the time she finished the bottle she thought it was the best drink she'd ever tasted. As she lowered the empty bottle and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, she thought she heard the echoes of two good cops' voices.

"Tell Knight he was the best partner I ever had."

"And make that boy Javier get a haircut."