Disclaimer: As of now I'm fairly certain I don't have any rights to intellectual property of „Blood Ties" or any separate part of it. If by some miracle I was to gain any I'll make sure to send a notification with an update.
Special thanks to bloodfem76 for betareading.
Summary: One decision can sometimes have very far reaching effects. And there are many decisions you need to make on your path. But in the end it all comes down to trust. Alternative story starting during the Heart of Fire.
Vicki freed herself from what now was a remains of a chair. She looked at Henry. He struggled against his chains to get to her.
Her first impulse was to try to escape as the panic was overwhelming her. But then a warning signal appeared in her head. It didn't exactly take a genius to realise that Henry was acting on his instincts now. And that would mean her escape would lead to pushing him even further into them. After all wasn't that the general rule of predators that if something was panicking and trying to escape, you pursued?
"Henry, try to control yourself." That didn't really help. But then again she was panicking which was probably sending the vampire quite opposite signals to those she wanted. If there only was a way to force herself to stop panicking... to... stop treating it like a fight for her life...
That brought her an idea. Unpleasant one but one that could possibly work.
She remembered the day when she was first diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. Suddenly all her plans and hopes for life went out of the window. She was sentenced with going blind, becoming helpless. If it wasn't for knowing that she had support from her friends, especially from Mike, she would be seriously considering suicide before it came to that.
But now she knew she couldn't trust Mike anymore, she forced herself to think. Her eyesight was going worse by day and the only person she could count on was before her, tortured, and would probably die of hunger if she left. She concentrated on those feelings until she felt a wave of resigned apathy wash over her. It all seemed to take longest time but in reality she knew it couldn't have taken more than a few seconds.
Once again she looked at Henry and quietly reminded herself that she survived the time he needed to heal after fighting a demon.
She met his eyes. "Henry, control yourself. You can do that."
"I can't," he managed to reply and she forced herself to believe that it was actually a good sign.
She took a deep breath and stepped forward, into his reach, rolling down her turtleneck
"Please, try not to kill me, alright?" She fought the urge to close her eyes but she still failed to see the movement as he leaned towards her neck and sunk his teeth into it.
She felt an explosion of pain, admittedly larger than anticipated, and a surge of her blood as he fed hungrily. He drank fast and before she knew it she felt her hands becoming cold and numb and could see black spots dancing before her eyes. Her head was spinning and all sensations seemed to be coming from afar. Then the world went black.
As her body started falling to the floor the words 'try not to kill me' flashed in Henry's mind making their way through the fog covering his thoughts, helping him to regain control. Stronger after feeding he managed to break the chains on his hands and catch Vicki before she fell completely. Then he lowered her gently to the floor.
"Vicki!" He called her name without much effect. Her heart was still beating, frantically holding onto life, but with the state he was in a moment before he couldn't tell how much of her blood he had drunk. He called her name again. No response. 'Domine exaudi orationem meam... Don't let her die... Sub Tuum praesidium confugimus...' he prayed silently as he kept calling her name with growing despair. Hope nearly abandoned him when she slowly opened her eyes.
"Vicki..." he breathed hardly daring to believe that she has really awoken.
"How are you feeling?" she asked in whisper
"I ought to be the one asking that. You should have escaped when you could. For a moment I thought... Why did you do that?"
"I told you before that I trust you with my life. Didn't you think I meant that?"
"Under the circumstances I wouldn't have trusted myself with your life. You had every reason to escape."
"I still stand by what I said. And you don't exactly add small print to something like that."
"I could have killed you. Do you have any idea how close I came to doing that?"
"And yet I'm still alive. I guess that means my trust was well placed after all," Vicki said flashing a weak smile.
"That was practically a suicide."
"No. Suicide would be standing up to Mendoza when I could do nothing, not even able to hold any weapon properly had I freed myself and letting him push you even closer to the edge." She wasn't about to tell him how she needed to convince herself her choice would be as close to a win-win situation as possible to calm herself properly
"Speaking of which, what happened to your hand?"
"That's something I should probably tell you after we get out of here."
"Or rather if we manage to do that. And from that lead-in I already know it's not a good news. So perhaps you could just tell me instead of bottling it inside?"
"Now is not time for upsetting news."
"Do you have something better to do?"
She sighed "If you are sure. When we were looking for you," she started in a hoarse tone, "we found Mendoza's previous hideout first."
"Who is 'we'?"
"Mike is helping me. No idea if it's because he feels guilty, knows better now, has a score to settle with Mendoza or just doesn't want me emptying a clip into his head, but he does. And Coreen is working with Dr. Sagara on finding a way to get rid of that thing," she vaguely gestured Iluminaciòn del Sol.
"So what happened?"
"We... we found Delphine. She was chained and practically too weak to move. I was trying to get her lucid enough to tell me if she knew where Mendoza could have taken you." Vicki paused having trouble voicing the next part. Finally she forced herself to whisper, "She managed to ask for your forgiveness when the time-trigger on the curtains covering the windows activated and she was bathed in sunlight as they fell to the floor." She drew a shaky breath "There was nothing we could do." Her voice failed her at the end of the sentence.
Henry lowered his head and closed his eyes for a moment. His lips silently moved with the words of Requiem aeternam. Then he looked at her again.
"That man must pay."
"No arguments here but for now we should probably think of getting out of this place."
"I doubt Mendoza would have left us here if it was possible."
"One step at a time. Can you free yourself from the chains left?"
In lieu of reply Henry struggled with the chains until they gave in.
"Well, that's a start. And I doubt Mendoza is giving you enough credit or he wouldn't have left us here alone."
"Unless he plans on keeping us here until I won't be able to control myself again."
"To me he seems like the type that enjoys inflicting pain directly." She tried to rise off the floor but her head started spinning and she almost passed out. Henry caught her to prevent her from hitting the floor with her head. Vicki blinked. "Guess that wasn't the best idea."
"Lie still for now." Henry paused "Somebody's outside."
"Two people. He's probably one of them."
"If it's him, can you take him?"
"I'll do my best to try." His voice carried a barely hidden growl as he bared his fangs.
When Mike Celluci opened the door the sight that met his eyes was basically his worst nightmare come true. He saw Fitzroy, leaning over Vicki's unmoving body. Then the vampire looked in his direction with fangs clearly visible and cold fury written on his face.
It was probably the fact that he felt like nothing could go any more wrong that gave Mike power to move on.
"What did you do to her?" he demanded striding closer
"Leave him, Mike." His heart skipped a beat upon hearing her quiet whisper "We really have more urgent problems now."
Henry seemed to agree with her as he turned to Mike with a calmer, if still inhumane, face "Where is Mendoza?"
"Knocked out outside." Mike hesitated before coming closer to Henry and inserting the key into the Iluminaciòn del Sol. He realized that he was holding the vampire's life in his hands. Fitzroy had obviously hurt Vicki. He heard Coreen's words echoing in his mind. Move it counter clockwise and it destroys the heart. His hand shook slightly as he turned the key clockwise deactivating the device which fell with a clatter to the floor. "That should help," he spoke as neutrally as he could. Silently he wondered if he was going to regret his decision in the future.
The vampire gasped and slowly stood up. He moved his head in a way that could be interpreted as a nod of thank you but didn't necessarily have to be one.
"Watch over Vicki. I'll be right back." He said in a husky voice and slowly went out of the room.
Mike watched him leave and turned to Vicki, who was slowly making another effort to shift into a sitting position.
"What did he do to you, Vic?"
"Mike, I told you already, give it up."
"He could have killed you."
"Technically it's your actions that could have killed both of us."
"Just drop it, alright?" Vicki said with anger rising in her voice
He didn't get a chance to respond as Mendoza's scream sounded throughout the church. Moments later they were joined by a healthier looking Henry Fitzroy.
"He won't harm anyone anymore." The vampire said quietly. He went to where Iluminaciòn del Sol was lying and carefully pocketed it. Then he turned to them again "It's almost dawn."
"I don't know about you but I don't want to spend any more quality time here anyway." The PI smiled weakly at him.
"True." He picked her up effortlessly
"You know, I'm pretty sure that with a bit of support I could manage to walk on my own."
"No sense wasting your strength. You need to rest." He stated with a tone of finality as they made their way outside.
Given the time Mike gave Henry a lift to his apartment first, still making it only a few minutes before sunrise. Then he drove Vicki home. She remained silent the whole way despite a few of his attempts at conversation and continued the silent treatment when she allowed Mike to help her out of the car and into her apartment where she sank heavily onto her sofa.
"Do you want me to get you anything?" Mike asked gently, suddenly very tired of her silence
She tried to shake her head but then apparently thought better of it.
"No, I'm good. I just need to rest. I will call Coreen to help me."
"Yeah, just go. Give Coreen your key, will you?"
"I'm tired, Mike. Let yourself out, ok?"
"Alright. Stay well." With that he left her apartment.
In the afternoon Vicki felt well enough to tell Coreen to go home and get some well-deserved rest after everything that happened. When she heard the door close behind the girl she leaned back on the sofa and closed her eyes.
When she awoke, it was already dark. Straining her eyes she managed to see movement in the room.
"Turn the light on, will you?" she mumbled and a moment later she could see Henry standing before her.
"How are you doing?" he asked gently.
"Fine," she tried to stand up but as she did she suddenly felt dizzy and had to grab onto Henry to remain standing.
"You don't seem fine to me." There was a distinct note of worry in his voice.
"Alright, so I am a bit lightheaded and weak in the knees. It will pass." She let him guide her back to the sofa but she didn't let go of him.
"I'm sorry, Vicki."
"It wasn't your fault."
"I did this to you."
"I saw what shape you were in, remember? I'm not completely blind. Not yet."
"If I had more control..."
"Stop right there. And don't go in there again unless you can vouch for my behaviour in case I'm ever an inch of starving to death."
"You could have..."
"I'm going to say it one last time. You're not the one who should be apologizing."
"You think I'd feel better if I saw you die? You are the person I feel closest to..." She was surprised that she had just blurted that out, but judging by the look she received from Henry nowhere as surprised as he was.
"Do you mean that?" He asked quietly looking into her eyes "What about your friends, family..." he hesitated "Mike?"
She suddenly found herself unable to find the right words. With a preparatory breath, she tried to gather her chaotic thoughts into something resembling an explanation.
"My mother is, well, my mother. She only lectures me lately. We never had that much in common and she has become very overprotective ever since I was diagnosed with... Anyway, when it comes to friends, Coreen is a nice girl in a sort of irritating younger sister way..."
"I don't think I can ever trust Mike again." She said with a sight.
"He was trying to protect you."
"That's just it. I'm not even sure about that anymore."
"What do you mean?"
"It's just... I know it may sound strange but he's a cop. We were taught that if someone wants you to cooperate with him then no matter if he says he is from Interpol, FBI, Mossad or Holy Inquisition you check and double-check them. And Mike didn't even run his name through the computer. I used to think I could trust him with anything." A breath caught in her throat "I thought he would be one of those people I'll be able to count on no matter what... even when I finally go blind... And he..."
She finally broke down completely, giving vent to all emotions she bottled inside for the last few days. Henry held her quietly as she cried, stroking her hair gently. Finally she managed to calm down.
"I'd appreciate it if you forgot you ever saw me like that."
"If I saw anything shameful I don't remember it already."
They were silent for a moment.
"Thank you for being there for me." Vicky broke the silence
"I'll always be there for you, I promise."
"Vicki," Henry hesitated "I want you to have something."
"Something as in?" she inquired when no elaboration was forthcoming.
"This," He took out Iluminaciòn del Sol and placed it in her hand "You trusted me with your life. Now I trust you with mine. I believe you will keep it safe."
"Henry, I..." she carefully placed the item on the table " I don't know what to say. I'll try to never betray your trust."
"I know you won't."
She leaned against him and went silent. Some time later her breath evened as she fell asleep. Henry carefully lowered her to the sofa and covered her with a blanket. He looked for a while at her sleeping form. After a moment he took out his sketchbook and started drawing. Once he was finished he left the sketch on the table and, as silently as he arrived, left.
When Vicki awoke it was morning already. For a moment she thought she dreamt Henry's visit. Then her sight rested on the table. There, she saw Iluminaciòn del Sol, exactly as she remembered leaving it, and something else. She sat up and reached for what appeared to be a drawing. She looked at it, recognising the subject to be herself, sleeping, dressed in something she usually associated with fairy tales. Calligraphed underneath were the words 'Sleep well'.
She smiled and made a mental note to buy a frame. Then thinking better of it she decided to settle on putting it safely inside some random book. She placed it back on the table and moving at half her usual speed got ready to go to her office. Just as she was about to leave she went to the table and picked up the Iluminaciòn del Sol.
She pocketed the macabre item wondering if there was any truly safe place to hide it. With one hand she massaged her hurting neck, reminding herself for yet another time that taking painkillers after a massive blood loss probably wasn't the best idea, no matter how tempting it seemed.
When she finally arrived at the door of her office she silently noted that for the first time she could remember she felt completely spent by the way there. She went in to see Coreen engaged in a book of some kind.
"Hi! I wasn't sure you were coming today." The girl greeted her looking up.
"Couldn't stay away. You know how it is."
"Well, since I wasn't sure you were coming, I postponed all your appointments."
"That's fine. I've been wanting to organize a few files for some time now. Today seems like a perfect day to do that." With that she sat heavily at the desk looking around for a place to hide the horrible amulet that all but burnt in her pocket. The task wasn't easy. Every time she nearly decided she changed her mind concluding that whatever place she was considering was either too obvious or too accessible.
Just as she finally made up her mind she sank into her chair again. A knock sounded at her door, followed by entrance of Mike, who leaned casually against the doorframe.
"Hey, Vic. How are you?"
She regarded him for a second.
"Fine." She pointedly looked down and started looking through the files at her desk.
"I thought you'd still stay home today."
"There didn't seem to be any need. So why waste time?"
There was a moment of silence broken only by the sound of shifted papers.
"So how in Henry doing?"
"He seemed fine last time I saw him. It's truly amazing how fast a vampire can heal after nearly being killed."
"Sorry, I'm kind of busy right now."
"We need to talk."
"Nothing personal, Mike. But you know how it is. I have those pentagrams on my forearms, better play it safe or someone will sell me to witch hunters. You can't be too careful these days. And as I said, I'm busy." Not once did she raise her head to look at him.
"I'll leave you to your work then. See you later, Vicki."
She nodded in reply and waited until he left before she let a few tears roll quietly down her cheeks. When she heard Coreen approaching she quickly wiped them away.
"What is it, Coreen?"
"Uh, I just thought you may need to talk it over with somebody. So here I am, just in case."
"Thanks. But I'll cope. Really."
"He is trying to make amends, you know."
"The problem is, this might just be one of those situations when that isn't enough."
"You sure you don't want to talk about it?"
"Very sure. I'm good. I'll just go back to those files now, all right?"
"In case Mike calls... Tell him I'm busy and can't come to the phone."
Surprisingly enough, the paperwork seemed to be a good choice for the moment. It provided just enough distraction to keep her thoughts and feelings in check. The only indication that something was wrong was a barely started, long cold Chinese takeout carton.
At some point she sent Coreen home and kept working alone. Finally the repetitiveness of the task caught up with her and her head started getting heavy.
She was still bound to the chair. Mendoza was just about to push her into Henry's reach. When he looked down at her bound hands, something seemed to have caught his attention. He pulled her hand at an impossible angle as he looked closer.
"I told you nobody was innocent and our Lord graced me with all the proof I needed. A witch and a vampire, no greater corruption could the Hell create. Yet with the mercy of our Lord I have the power to free you."
Vicki could saw a flicker of light reflect off the knife that Mendoza held. She let out a choked scream as he cut deeply into her flesh around the markings. Henry tugged at his chains, his instincts overcoming him as her blood leaked onto the floor forming a red puddle under the chair.
She couldn't move her hands. As the matter of fact she couldn't feel them at all anymore. In front of her Henry, after one last attempt at fighting against the chains fell limply to the floor.
Her heart was beating at least twice as fast as it should. That was the first thing Henry noticed upon entering Vicki's office. The next was the feeling of fear emanating from her.
The PI herself was lying asleep on her desk with various files scattered around her. She kept shivering and twitching in her sleep. He tried calling her name and then shaking her awake with absolutely no success.
"Henry, no!" she suddenly cried out in her sleep and her eyes fluttered open.
"It was a bad dream." She said more to herself than to him "Thank God, it was only a bad dream."
"About me." He stated calmly only now getting her full attention. She studied him for a second as if struggling to understand what he just said.
"Well, if you really must know, you were dying in it too." She suddenly stood up and embraced him.
"Vicki?" he was honestly surprised by her action.
"I needed to make sure you were real. It was horrible." She let him lead her to the couch.
"Do you want to talk about it?" He asked as they sat.
Vicki shook her head, ignoring the pain that immediately awoke in her neck as she did. She still failed to hide a small wince though.
"You are still hurting." It was a statement, not a question. She felt his hand gently touching her neck where he had bitten her before. The sensation was more soothing than anything else.
"It will pass. I would do it again in a heartbeat if it meant that you would be alright." She managed a weak smile.
She noticed Henry didn't smile, watching her carefully instead.
"You know the fact that I can feel it is almost comforting. It serves as a reminder of what happened." She finally spoke.
"I hardly see that as comforting."
"I should probably say 'as opposed to my dream'. In reality we survived."
For a moment she sat in silence, staring at her hands.
"We were still back there," she spoke her voice trembling, "in that church. I was bound like before. Only this time he saw my markings. Decided I was a witch. He... he took a knife and started cutting them out. As deeply as possible to root out all the evil, of course. You struggled against the restrains until you had no strength left. Then you..." she couldn't bring herself to finish the sentence.
"It was just a dream." He reassuringly held her hand "He won't hurt you or anyone else anymore."
"I don't think I'll ever be able to fall asleep again. It was so real..."
"Perhaps you need to clear your head. What would you say to an evening walk?"
She blinked as if only now she came back fully to reality.
"It's that late already? I only ordered my lunch a moment ago." She gestured her desk
"It had to be quite a long moment then. Because I assure you, I would have noticed if it was still a day." That did manage to put a weak smile on her face "So you haven't eaten anything since lunch," he glanced at the box, "or rather breakfast?"
"I wasn't really in the mood for eating."
"Not the smartest thing right now."
"Henry... It's not like that."
"So what is it like?"
"I still haven't really gotten over what happened. Not completely. I came here to concentrate on work and then Mike strolled in. So on the top of everything I was upset with him and..."
"And you decided to punish him by starving to death? While the plan might be effective to some extent, I'm afraid I need to argue with your strategy of choice here."
"I just don't want to see him." Vicki said in a detached voice "That only reminds me of the person I once thought he was."
"It seems to me you could really use clearing your head. Come on, we'll take a short walk and I'll take you to a restaurant. Somebody needs to make sure that you eat." Without even waiting for her response he reached for her jacket and held it for her.
"Henry, you really don't have to."
"I want to though. Not to mention the least I can do after you saved me from starving is to make sure you are not at risk of it yourself." He sent her a small smile and she couldn't quite tell anymore if he spoke the last sentence seriously or not.
Half an hour later, Vicki was sitting in one of those restaurants that you always promise yourself you will visit once you start earning enough, but never quite get to. In other words, she was feeling terribly out of place.
"I'm not sure coming here was a good idea. And I don't just mean the prices."
"Why is that?"
"Well, for one, I'm probably the only person here not dressed for the evening."
"You still look beautiful."
"Besides, you don't strike me as someone who needs to fit in no matter what."
"That doesn't mean that under certain circumstances..." she broke off when the waiter came to collect their order. Without giving it too much thought she selected randomly and smirked when she saw that Henry actually spent more time studying the card than she did, before finally settling for a glass of water "Couldn't make up your mind?"
"Couldn't help but think how few things I remember liking you can still find."
"Do you miss it sometimes? Normal food I mean."
"Not as much as you'd think. Not as something more than a piece of my previous life. I can barely even remember what food tastes like when you are human."
"But despite your unusual diet you could still eat normal food if you wanted, right?"
"It wouldn't poison me if that's what you're asking. But it wouldn't quench my hunger and it doesn't hold any appealing taste anymore."
"Neither does fast food and that doesn't stop some people from actually liking it."
He flashed her a smile and shook his head. The conversation dissolved into a comfortable silence but after a moment a shadow appeared on Vicki's face. She started playing with a napkin, then she sighed heavily.
"What is it?"
"It's just...it keeps haunting me, you know. Everything that happened. I know we already talked about it and I don't want to drag you into that conversation again but it just..."
"Keep reminding yourself that it's over now. And the memories will fade a bit in time."
"Those won't. When I was at the academy, I had a hard time accepting the idea that sometimes, no matter how good you are, you have to simply trust your partner. When I was partnered with Mike, it took me some time to learn to trust him. Somewhere along the way, I don't even know exactly when, he also became my best friend. Then he eventually became more. He was the only one I could trust enough... Even when our relationship didn't work out he still had my absolute trust. And you know I'm not a very trusting person..." she broke off for a moment as the waiter came back with her food. She waited until the man was out of hearing range before she continued "I can't remember how many times I took his word for something, believed that he wanted to do what's right... that he trusted me as well. I shouldn't have trusted him in the first place."
"And would such a mistrust do you any good?"
"The trust didn't do much good, that's for sure. You know, I keep asking myself how often did he go behind my back using the fact that I trusted him."
"You've known him for a few years now. If he did that as often as you seem to suspect now you would have found out by now."
"That or I'd have just trusted him not to do such a thing. And the terrible thing is that while I trusted him, he didn't trust me at all. If he did he would have trusted my judgment."
"Detective Celluci saw a vampire close to someone he cared about. His reaction, while disappointing, wasn't exactly a novelty for me. It might have triggered his actions."
"When it comes to trust it isn't that simple, Henry. Yes, he found out you were a vampire. But he also saw us work together. He saw you save my life."
"He probably also saw half a dozen of movies about vampires. I seriously doubt that any of them reassured him."
"That's no ground to believe I can't judge a character by myself. Besides he also saw 'The Silence of Lambs'. Does that mean he suspects every half eloquent man of being..." she paused "Actually, now that I think about it, the few times that I met someone beyond the first date, Mike did let a few details slip. Things he couldn't have known from me." She groaned "Hell, for all I know he does that to everyone that gets closer to me and tries to get those he finds unfitting out of the way. Maybe he is trying to link Coreen to some violent sect or ritual murder as we speak."
"He seemed to have learnt his lesson so Coreen should be safe."
She shook her head.
"I just can't believe he did it. You know what I thought the first time I heard I'm going blind? I was completely terrified, my world went to ruins in the matter of seconds, I imagined myself sitting helpless not even able to tell day and night apart. But then I thought 'At least I'll always be able to count on Mike'. That's how I trusted him. What I haven't realised was that thinking that I was already as blind as I could get."
"You can't blame yourself. He gave you no reason not to trust him before."
"I just wish there was a way to tell from the start if you can trust someone or not."
"Now, that would take all the fun out of the politics, wouldn't it?" With that he actually made her smile.
"Yeah, I guess it would get awfully boring then."
After that the conversation managed to somehow stay on lighter topics and a good hour later Henry walked Vicki to her apartment. Reminding her once again to rest he bid her goodnight and left quietly.
There was one more place he needed to visit. And he hardly looked forward to it.
Mike returned home late. He let his work keep him up even more than usual. Despite knowing better he was trying to convince himself that it had nothing to do with the unresolved situation with Vicki. Locking the door behind him he silently promised himself a strong drink to help him deal with everything.
"Tell me, detective, do you make it a habit to give people to psychopaths?"
Mike spun around to see Henry Fitzroy leaning casually against the wall. Considering the circumstances under which he saw the vampire last, Mike had to struggle to remain impassive.
"Impressive as it is that you are able to recognise me, I asked you a question."
"Listen, Fitzroy, I'm not proud of what I did but I did it for her."
"For her? Or because of her? And for Vicki's sake I hope it's the former after all."
"I wanted to protect her."
"From me? Or was it the whole world?"
"You are a vampire. I'd think it would be rather obvious."
"Yes, I am a vampire. Vicki already knew what I was."
"It's not exactly a secret what vampires eat."
"Yet you act as if you suspected that Vicki somehow had no idea about it."
"You need to feed every day."
"True. You have to eat every day as well and I don't see anyone jumping to conclusions about you."
"I don't kill every time I eat."
"Neither do I."
"I'd think you would have already established how trustworthy he was, detective."
When no answer was forthcoming Henry sighed
"Tell me, Celluci, how is your math?" he paused at the surprised look he got before he continued "You've known a vampire lived in Toronto for three weeks now. Four if you count the time when you knew of me but didn't know what I was. That would make it roughly twenty eight deaths in that time alone. No wonder you had no time to get your facts right being that overworked." He couldn't help slipping into sarcasm "I just hope they paid you overtime."
"All right, you might have a point here. But I still had a body that fit like charm to everything I knew about vampires and not long after I found out there actually was a vampire in town. What did you expect me to think?"
For a long moment Henry said nothing, studying the detective's face. When he finally spoke his voice was deprived of any emotion.
"Truthfully? I expected you to trust the judgment of the person you worked alongside with for years. But I have to admit it was an error on my part. I should have made you forget what I was. Forget that you ever saw me. That would have been the logical thing to do."
"Don't tell me you actually wanted me to know."
"You had Vicki's complete trust and I could see how much she wished to be able to be truthful with you. I convinced myself I could afford to let you remember, for her sake. Clearly it was a mistake as the trust turned out to be disproportionally one-sided."
"I've seen enough things on my job to know what could happen to a woman taking risks and not able to see the danger in time. I was just looking out for her."
"Now, I may be wrong, but given that she was your partner she probably knew all that equally well. She didn't need you to make decisions for her. She is a strong capable woman and she has freedom to do what she wants."
"She also disregards the fact that she is growing less capable every day!" Mike paused for a moment after his outburst.
"I've learnt my lesson to view everyone as they are and not as they may become a long time ago. I advise you to learn that as well, detective. And keep in mind that if I judged everyone by nothing but physical capabilities from my perspective any human, you included, would be laughably insignificant. Don't make the mistake of judging Vicki by those standards." The fact that the vampire's eyes went dark as he spoke was hardly reassuring.
"When did this become a talk about her anyway?"
"It was one from the start. I wouldn't have come otherwise. I've had my share of betrayal in my life. I've long since learnt there is no point looking for reasoning, shifting the blame or asking questions. There is however someone who hasn't. Someone who, for the last two days, has been struggling to understand how the man she trusted unconditionally could do something so unthinkable. Thereby proving that he never trusted her at all."
"Mendoza cheated me. She knows that."
"She also knows that the person she believed you to be shouldn't have been cheated that easily."
"He seemed to be telling the truth. Everything he said fit."
"Do you always rely on what things seem to be on the surface without looking further? Didn't it seem suspicious to you that he conveniently had just the arguments you wanted to hear? That he just happened to appear after you found the body of that girl?"
"He was human. Even without his suggestions it looked like a work of a vampire. Why would I suspect him of that?"
"Professional experience, perhaps?" Henry countered lowering his voice "Physically he might have been a human but he had forlorn humanity long ago. He didn't need to drain the girl from her blood to be the one who killed her."
"You know what happened to her then?"
"I can only guess. He had Delphine at the time. I wouldn't be surprised if you found the girl was bound before she died. The markings wouldn't be too obvious as it's the blood that normally makes them show. She was probably tied to something to immobilise her."
"How do you know that?" Suspicion in Mike's tone started peaking again.
"That's what he did to Vicki." Henry's voice was barely above whisper "That was his idea of breaking the character when torture wasn't effective enough. What better way to prove to you that you are a monster than to push you to become one?"
"Vicki wasn't bound." Mike said after a pause a bit more hesitantly than he intended to.
"I managed to restrain myself long enough for her to get free." There was something deeply emotional in the vampire's tone but the detective couldn't quite pinpoint what it was "And once she freed herself, instead of escaping she let me feed on her. Knowing she was putting her life at stake. Because she trusted me. By disregarding her trust you threw away a great treasure, detective."
It was silent for a while.
"I closed the case of that girl, you know." Mike finally spoke "I wrote that she was killed by a man calling himself Javier Mendoza, possibly a member of some sort of religious group, who believed that drinking blood would help him gain immortality. I failed to mention that the organisation was the Spanish Inquisition and that the blood had to belong to vampires. As far as everybody is concerned I knocked him out after getting a confession and went to free his victims, who insisted on staying anonymous for fear of revenge, and when I went back he wasn't where I left him. That seemed to work nicely and when they find his body it will be much easier to file it away as a punishment from the said mysterious organisation for exposing the cult."
"I figured I could at least do that much. I wanted to tell Vicki but she wouldn't talk to me."
"She mentioned that. You have shattered the trust she had in you that took years to build. You will have to work hard to earn it back."
Mike's head shot up and he looked at the vampire with a surprised disbelief.
"I don't think she will allow me to do that. Or that she'll even forgive me."
"I'm not saying it will be easy. You may never regain her complete trust. But I know that she valued your friendship and that right now she is torn not even knowing what part of it was real. And I hate to see her like that. I don't care what thoughts pushed you to what you did. Try to salvage what you can of the trust she once had in you. Become her friend again. But don't ever dare to treat her as if you were her minder. She is free to decide for herself. What she needs now is a proof she didn't make a wrong choice trusting you or she might never allow herself to trust anyone again."
Henry started walking out but paused in the doorway.
"Do something like that again and you won't live to regret it. Have a good night, detective."
Before Mike could find a reply the vampire was gone.
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