Disclaimer: I am fairly certain that writing fanfiction implies quite clearly that I am not the rightful owner of the rights to 'Blood Ties'. If however by some miracle it isn't obvious enough, allow me to assure that I have no claim as to said rights. Never have and don't see how that could change in the future.
Special thanks to my beta, Bloodfem76.
A/N: Initial working title – "Understanding"
Summary: In every suspense-filled scene, the solution should be found or help should arrive just in the nick of time. What if in 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' it was a few seconds late?
That Thin Line
Detective Mike Celluci listened in helpless horror as the prisoner relayed his brother's deeds to him. He desperately hoped the man was lying. And wished he hadn't seen enough supernatural occurrences lately so that he could just disbelieve his words.
"He is coming closer and reaches out. Now he starts sliding the blade through her throat..." Mike hid his face in his hands.
The moment Henry entered the former hospital he could feel he was in the right place. And that something was terribly wrong. Following the sound of the two heartbeats he hurried to find their source.
Before he got there however he was hit by a disturbingly familiar scent. Vicki's blood. He all but flew the rest of the way, vaguely noticing ripping doors off hinges as he went.
When he got to the place he saw a man pressing a bloody sickle to Vicki's throat. In one swift movement he threw the assailant away from her and against the wall with enough force to kill him instantly. Then he concentrated on Vicki.
Her sweater was already crimson and the smell of her blood itself was overwhelming, but she, amazingly enough, was somehow still conscious. A quick inspection showed him that her windpipe thankfully wasn't cut. He couldn't say the same about the carotid artery though.
He quickly broke the cuffs on her hands and gathered her in his arms.
"That's irony for you." If it wasn't for his superior hearing, he wouldn't have been able to decipher the words of her whisper "Assaulted by a man only to bleed to death in the arms of a vampire that came to my rescue. Now that's something Hollywood hasn't tried yet."
As she was speaking Henry's thoughts were racing. So far she had lost over a third of her blood. She still had a chance but with her nicked artery she would bleed out before anyone had a chance to help her. On the other hand if he could... vampire saliva had enzymes that made puncture wounds close almost immediately. But would that work on something as serious as this he had no idea. He would just have to take that chance.
"Vicki, do you trust me?" He asked quickly.
"You know I do."
Her whisper was, if possible, even weaker and he knew he couldn't waste any more time. With some hesitation he leaned closer and pressed his lips to her wounded neck. As he felt the familiar taste of her blood, he closed his eyes and prayed for it to work.
After he let go for the longest moment he feared it didn't. Then the wound slowly started closing. It didn't close completely. She still had a nasty cut on her throat but she no longer was at risk of bleeding out. He sighed in relief.
"And there I thought the whole 'kiss it and make it better' thing was rubbish." She managed to mutter.
"You know what they say about a grain of truth. But we really need to get you out of here." He picked her up.
"Listen, Henry, I'm really sorry about the whole drinking your blood, dark magic ritual thing." Her voice was failing and on the top of everything Henry could now smell chloroform which had been concealed by the stronger, familiar scent of blood.
"Apology accepted." At that moment, seeing her like that, he felt he would have forgiven her for anything. He carried her out of the building.
"I just couldn't stand the thought of losing you. Even if I had to sacrifice myself... It's not like Astaroth doesn't have first dibs on me anyway." She obviously could not control the words coming out of her mouth and she wasn't exactly in the best frame of mind but he still held her a bit tighter upon hearing that.
"Where are my glasses?" she asked in sudden realisation.
"I'm sure you have another pair." He smiled at her, trying to give her some comfort and went to the car. There, he gently placed her on the passenger seat. Then he took off his jacket and draped it over her. A moment later he was driving to his apartment.
He carried her into the building, stopping only to send a 'You saw nothing' message to the doorman. A moment later he lowered her to his sofa.
"Stay put. I'll be back in a second." He managed to carry that promise out literally and was back before she could even blink carrying a glass of water and two bars of chocolate. Despite her condition Vicki stared at the latter in disbelief.
"Do I even want to ask?" she managed.
"I keep it around just in case. Luckily it seems." He handed her the glass, not letting go of it however, "You need to drink a lot now." He stated, gently helping her raise the glass to her lips.
Once she drank he handed her one of the chocolate bars, put the glass on the table and left.
For a very brief moment Vicki stared at the spot he had occupied a second ago. Then she started panicking. He left her. With her still somewhat muddled mind she couldn't find a reason for it but if she...
"Vicki!" He was once again next to her. "What is it? It's bad enough that your heartbeat is racing after such blood loss but at the pace it was going a moment ago you nearly gave yourself a heart attack."
"Don't leave me, Henry." She pleaded in a whisper.
"I won't. I'm right here, see?" He stroked her hand. "I just went to get something to take care of your wound."
"Oh." Only now she noticed that he indeed had brought something with him.
"And we need to get you something to eat. Other than chocolate. There is an Italian restaurant nearby. I will order you something."
"You don't have to..." her mind was starting to emerge from the fog.
"You need to eat something."
"I don't think I can right now."
"You need to. Believe it or not but I've observed people suffering from blood loss. Quite a few times actually. Refusing food generally proved to be a bad idea in those cases."
"Ha ha." She tried to sit up only to have her head spin.
"Easy. That's not the best idea at the moment either."
"You don't say."
He flashed her a smile and started applying the dressing to the cut on her neck.
"All done. Anything particular you want me to order for you?"
"I'm tempted to throw in a joke about garlic sauce."
"Well, if you feel like joking then at least I can hope you are doing a bit better."
"The room doesn't spin as fast anymore if that's what you mean. But that's not exactly the scale of improvement I wished for."
"Give it some time. And wait until after you've eaten something. Speaking of which, you still haven't said what to get you."
"Whatever is edible."
"By whose standards?"
"As you wish, I'll ask them for whatever is their dish of the day. Give me a moment."
Mike was having a hard time remaining calm. On the one hand he knew the vision was probably a carefully staged act. There was no reason to think otherwise and rationally speaking there was no way this could be possible. But as far as rationality went it still rated as more likely than his ex-partner working with a vampire.
That thought made him drive even faster.
When he entered the town he hesitated for a moment and then dialled the number of his current partner. Right now he needed someone rational with him if he was to check the institute.
"Kate? Yes, I know it's late but I might have something on the case. Can I pick you up in say, ten minutes?"
Vicki closed her eyes. She didn't remember ever feeling so weak in her life. It was almost as if lying down and staying awake took all the energy she had.
"Vicki?" She opened her eyes to see Henry had returned. "I thought you might want to change if you don't mind borrowing one of my shirts."
"Easier said than done." Only now she realised that while Henry had taken off her jacket at some point she was still wearing the rest of her blood-stained clothes. She suddenly felt very dirty but she still attempted to smile. "But I guess I should do something to stop smearing your sofa."
"It's not my furniture I am concerned about at the moment."
"I could use a long bath though."
"You will forgive me if I have certain concerns about you passing out and drowning if you tried to take one now."
"So what do you propose?"
"I can help you freshen up a bit and change. And you can take your bath tomorrow if you feel up to it."
At that point she wanted to shoot back some remark. A touch sarcastic one. She was very well aware of that fact. Which was why she was surprised when all she managed was a short nod of agreement. Accompanied with a pain from the wound on the top of everything.
When they stepped out of the car adjacent to the building, Mike couldn't help thinking that something was wrong. For one thing the place was completely – deadly quiet. A feeling of dread washed over him.
"I guess we should go in." he said finally, pushing the hospital door open. It was Kate however who reached the corner of the corridor first.
She gasped and a moment later when he joined her he could see why – one of the door was literally torn away from the wall. He fought to keep an impassive face.
"Let's go check it out." He said with more confidence than he felt he could.
Together they rounded the corner and paused.
There was the badly damaged body of Kelly Perkins lying near one of the walls. In one hand he held a bloody sickle. Closer to the middle of the corridor stood a single chair with a pool of blood next to it. A little further away Mike could spot cuffs torn into pieces.
"Dear God." He heard Kate breathe next to him.
"Couldn't put it better."
"I guess it's time to call the forensic team."
"Yeah, I..." he broke off as a very familiar item caught his eye. Vicki's glasses.
Suddenly hit full-force by the whole reason for coming there, he reached for his phone and dialled Vicki's number. Not far away he heard the familiar tone of her cell. He swore, getting the attention of Kate, who by then had also noticed the glasses on the floor. A call to Fitzroy would have to wait until it wouldn't draw attention.
Vicki was feeling a bit better after she ate. It wasn't perhaps an 'I'm ready to get up' better but at the moment an 'I don't feel as if I am going to faint at any given moment' better was also welcome.
"I left a message for Coreen stating that you were injured and would not be coming to work." Henry announced quietly. "Do you want me to take you to your apartment and ask her to help you?"
She tried to shake her head which proved not to be a good idea. When the unpleasant sensation faded she answered.
"I'd rather stay if you don't mind. I know it's silly but I feel better having you around."
"That's hardly silly. Everybody is entitled to a moment of vulnerability. But it's only an hour till dawn and I'm afraid I won't be much help to you if you need me afterwards."
"Right now I've been up for the last twenty four hours. More or less. So I need rest first and foremost and I want to feel you are here. In either case the fact that you are dead to the world shouldn't be a great obstacle."
For the longest time the vampire studied her. She didn't know what to make of that and she was afraid that his next words would harshly remind her of what happened the last time he allowed her to stay with him during the day. Those words didn't come though.
"Is that really what you want?" He asked instead. "To stay here with me?"
"Yes." There was no hesitation in her voice.
He studied her carefully and then suddenly went back to being more casual.
"Well then, if you really want to sleep, I expect you will be much more comfortable in my bed."
"I really hope that's not a line you serve all the girls you bring in here."
He flashed her a smile.
"Careful, when I finally figure out that it was a veiled insult to my creativity I might take offence." He teased before he looked at her more seriously again. "Come on, let me help you get there."
"You still have what, an hour till sunrise?" she asked as she tried to sit up. Black spots swirled before her eyes an she grasped the edge of the sofa to steady herself.
"More or less. A bit on the less side already." Henry appeared next to her before she could blink. "And you should take it easy for now."
"Thanks for a timely warning."
"Let me assist you the rest of the way so no further warnings will be necessary." He gently helped her stand.
It seemed impossible that the short way from the sofa to Henry's bedroom could last that long, Vicki decided when she finally rested under the smooth covers. Some part of her, a part she nearly forgot existed, wanted to cry about being so helpless.
Fortunately that part got distracted when Henry lied down next to her. It was a big bed and there was some considerable space between them but the sensation of having somebody next to her was very real all the same. She sighed.
"Figures that the first time I'm in bed with a man in over two years I'm barely able to sit up by myself."
"If you wish, we can repeat the experience when you feel stronger. And we have more time till dawn." He smiled at her and stroked her hair.
"Henry, I..." she started and then broke off unsure what she actually wanted to say.
"You need to rest."
"Yeah, that too." Exhaustion was already catching up with her which didn't make thinking any easier. "I don't know how I could cope without you." She mumbled and drifted into sleep.
Henry pushed a loose strand of her hair from her face and silently looked at her sleeping form. Then, as the sun began rising outside, the oblivion claimed him.
Mike paced as they waited for the forensic team to arrive, hoping it would prove enough of distraction for Kate who had kept her eyes trained on him ever since she realised who the victim might have been.
Under the circumstances a phone call revealing that instead of alerting an intervention team he sent some civilian here to help, let alone that he knew what was happening soon enough to do that probably wouldn't bode well.
Finally he heard steps on the corridor.
"Oh man, and I thought you only saw something like that in the movies." The first man to enter exclaimed.
Silently Mike couldn't help but agree. Then again the movies were where most people looked for examples of what happened when you infuriated a vampire. And if the blood on the floor belonged to who he feared, he had no doubt that 'fury' would be a mild description of Fitzroy's feelings.
He glanced around as the team set to work. Then he slipped away and exited the building to make the call. He swore as he saw the first rays of dawn on the horizon. Placing the cell back in his pocket he went inside.
"See if the blood matches Victoria Nelson. She was a cop and we should still have her in the database." He heard Kate say.
"At least that should be easier than the mess over there. It just doesn't make sense."
"What doesn't make sense?" Mike joined the conversation not sure if he really wanted to know the answer.
"By the looks of it he crashed into the wall at a speed that a sports car would be hard pressed to match. To gain such velocity there had to be one hell of a machine and I don't see any trace of it here."
"Perhaps someone was helping him and tried to cover up whatever happened afterwards."
"Well, someone must have been here and taken the stuff because the victim sure didn't do that to himself."
Mike nodded distractedly and massaged his temples.
"You know, we can go now. Let the forensics do their job." Kate's voice brought him back to reality. "We need to go to the station and cover the paperwork."
"Of course." He took one last look at the scene before they went to his car.
"You know, you could give up this case and take a day or two off. It does strike close to home for you."
"No way. I need to keep working or I'll go insane." He realised suddenly that it was true, even if he did know not all hope was lost yet.
"If you say so. Just remember that we don't know anything for sure yet. For all we know Vicki was there a few hours earlier, snooping around, and had to leave in a hurry losing a few things on the way."
"We need to wait for the results to come back from the lab. And for now you really look like you could use some coffee." He concentrated on driving.
The next few hours were hard to stand. Try as he might he couldn't concentrate on anything he was doing. Then he finally saw Chris from the lab coming their way. The look on his face wasn't one that Mike liked.
"What have you got?" the question was asked before the man had time to open his mouth.
"A confirmation. The blood on the floor as well as that on the chair and blade of the sickle belongs to Victoria Nelson." Despite already expecting the result, Mike swore upon hearing that said. Chris chose to ignore his reaction and continued. "Now we need to find out what happened to the body."
"The body?" That couldn't possibly be right.
"Two litres rule. When you find the said amount of somebody's blood on the scene..."
"I know the rule. I'm just saying it can't be right."
"Mike, none of the hospitals admitted any woman with excessive blood loss." Kate said gently. "I already checked."
"There aren't any drag marks on the floor to lead us to the body but there wasn't any blood trail either." Chris didn't seem aware just how delicate a matter he was touching on.
"She could have gotten away."
"She was bleeding. If she did, there would have definitely been a blood trail. Frankly the only way the lack of it is possible is if she either bled out completely or was carried away in a plastic bag."
Mike didn't answer and covered his face with his hands for a moment.
"Given how clean it was done, the modus operandi points to Kelly Perkins's pedantic views. It's quite possible that he disposed of the body and went back to clean up when, whatever it was that killed him, happened." He heard Kate's conversation with Chris and froze.
That was one more possibility he needed to take into account. Charles Perkins stopped 'broadcasting' the moment he got to his brother slitting Vicki's throat. The thought of that made him shudder. All supernatural aside there wasn't much good that could happen afterwards. It wasn't long between his call and Vicki's supposed death.
If Fitzroy found Perkins cleaning her blood from the floor, he didn't doubt the result would have been something similar to what he saw not too long ago at the Riverview Institute.
"Mike, are you still with us?"
"Yeah, sorry." He looked at his partner, recognising genuine concern on her face, but then his sight shifted to the clock on his computer. 11:57. He couldn't recall ever wishing for a day to end faster.
Waking up with a splitting headache is generally viewed as a bad thing. When you additionally feel pain caused by somebody's attempt at beheading you a day before it's worse. Theoretically adding to that waking not in your bed and on somebody's unmoving chest should push it all the way up to the red zone on the 'bad thing' scale.
And it probably would have, had her life been anywhere close to normal, Vicki thought. As it was she felt a strange comfort having Henry so close. She looked at her watch to see that there were still good two hours before sunset.
Which meant she could probably afford to stay like that for a moment longer, enjoying the comfort his presence provided, before she would have to move to spare both sides unnecessary embarrassment. She closed her eyes only for a second...
When the sun set Henry awoke, feeling an unfamiliar weight on his chest as he drew breath. He opened his eyes to see Vicki, who apparently woke at his movement.
"Do I even want to know?" He asked with sparkles of laughter in his eyes.
"Let's leave it at 'I had a bad dream', shall we?"
"How are you feeling?"
"Like I had a nasty run-in with a chainsaw yesterday."
"Luckily enough it was just a sickle."
"What, you don't save girls from all kinds of tools? Talk about a limited service."
He smiled at her. "Seriously though, how are you?"
"I don't seem to have a headache anymore so I guess that counts for something. Other than that I'll see when I try to move."
Whatever he wanted to say to that was interrupted when his cell rang. He reached for it.
"I assume there is a reason you are calling me this early, Celluci?"
"Like hell there is. How is she? Did you get there in time? Is she even alive?"
"You haven't been home since yesterday night then?"
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"If you checked your messages, you'd know Vicki's alive. I assumed you would return home to sleep at some point."
"I haven't been home since yesterday morning. After I got back to town I went to check the Riverview with my partner. Since you already know what we found there let me just say that most of my day was spent on trying to find Vicki's body. According to forensics there was no way she could have survived. Let me tell you, it's not how I like to spend my days. You should have called me on my cell."
"I understood you were going to be driving back. It's hardly a topic for when you are driving a car at night."
"So it was better to keep me in the dark."
"You could have called Coreen. I left her a message as well."
"I'm not calling for strategy consultations, Fitzroy. How is she?"
"From the looks of it better than she was yesterday. But how much better we have yet to establish." Henry could distinctly hear a sigh of relief on the other side of the line.
"Tell her to get well soon. She needs to show herself here at some point to prove she's alive. That will lower the body count in the case."
"I'll be sure to pass the information." The call ended.
He put the cell away and found Vicki looking at him expectantly.
"So what is the information you promised to pass?"
"That you are apparently presumed dead at the moment."
"Great. Just what I needed." She sat up slowly and tried to stand. As soon as she did she stumbled and her legs gave way. Henry, who a second ago was on the other side of the bedroom, caught her in time to keep her upright.
"I believe it's safe to assume you are still a bit weak."
"I am better though. And I should probably do something about my supposed death before it goes too far."
"I'm sure that now that Celluci knows you're alive he will see to that it doesn't."
"God, I hope they haven't called my mother."
"I'm also pretty sure Celluci avoided any rash decisions waiting until after he knew what happened to you."
"That doesn't mean someone else hasn't done that. Mike would have hard time explaining why he was opposed to the idea."
"We'll have to count on his intelligence and presence of mind then." Henry paused. "You are right. It is something to worry about."
"You just don't give up, do you?"
"Most of the time he's asking for it."
"Just cut him a break. When you two are at each others throats, you have an unfair advantage by definition."
"And the problem with that is?"
Vicki rolled her eyes at him. Then she slowly made her way out of the bedroom making a point of trying to use as little help as possible. That resulted in three more stumbles by the time she sat on the sofa, each ending in Henry catching her in the nick of a time.
"Will you be alright here for some time?" He asked handing her a glass of water and the second chocolate bar from the day before.
"Well, I'm not planning on going anywhere if that's what you're asking."
"Anything you might want or need within next, say, half an hour?"
"Not that I can think of."
"Good. If you don't mind I'll be back in about thirty minutes then." He flashed her one last smile and a second later Vicki could hear the door of his apartment closing.
She allowed herself to relax for a moment. Not that there was much she could do instead. She had to admit though, that spending a day there made her feel better. As had the fact that Henry seemed to act normal, instead of appropriately civil, around her again.
The last one was a great relief, she realised. She never knew how much she missed that until recently but... She halted her thoughts. Henry was acting normal but could that mean he forgave her? Her mind supplied a foggy memory of him saying something to that effect yesterday.
Could it really be? His behaviour would work in favour of that but then again it might be an effect of his concern rather than forgiveness. Come to think about it, wasn't that what she saw in that memory? Dismissal of the matter in the face of a more pressing problem?
After all he said he would never be able to forgive her.
She put the now empty glass on the table. Then she looked around as if seeing the place for the first time.
This was where it happened. Where she decided to trade her life and soul for his. Where she stole and drank his blood. Just like... oh God... There was only one other person capable of something like that.
The names of the two people who had Henry hurt and immobilised, had stolen his blood, paying no mind to his pleas, and drank it to achieve what they wanted. Vicki Nelson. And Javier Mendoza.
Suddenly she felt sick. And worse than she ever had before, including the night before when she was certain she was about to die. She almost wished she had, if it would stop her from coming to that realisation.
And she had expected Henry to forgive her. He had remained civil and had tried to help her and she had been acting as if she expected forgiveness. A sob escaped her.
How could she ever hope for him to forgive her? She knew she couldn't, which was what finally pushed her over the edge. She dissolved into tears.
She was still shaking in silent sobs when Henry came back about forty minutes later. Momentarily he was at her side.
"Vicki? What happened? Are you hurting?" He managed to get her to look at him but the look he received was hardly comforting. "What is it?"
"You didn't mean that, did you?"
"Mean what?" In his head he was reviewing possibilities of her developing a fever as a result of the wound getting infected. He cleaned it yesterday but there was always a chance...
"What you said. About my apology."
"Why would you bring that up now? Are you feeling alright?"
"I don't blame you. I wouldn't have forgiven myself either, you know."
"Vicki, please, try to concentrate. Apart from the topic at hand are you feeling alright?"
She breathed heavily and her heart still hadn't stabilised after her sudden breakdown but when she whispered something akin to a confirmation he decided to take it at face value.
"Good. And now let me assure you that I did, in fact, mean what I said yesterday."
"But you were just trying to reassure me then."
"It was one of the reasons, I have to give you that, but there is more to it than that." He paused and sat next to her looking into her eyes. "Victoria, I need to admit to something as well, something that made me understand your actions enough to forgive you."
He took her hand while she was trying to process what she was hearing.
"Vicki, yesterday, when I held you in my arms I realised that if my plan to help you hadn't worked I wouldn't have been able to stand aside and watch you die."
"You were already trying to save me."
"Yes. But that's not the point. Perhaps I put it wrong. If you would have bled out, I wouldn't have been able to let you go, even if it meant going against your wishes."
"Not let me go as in..."
"If I wasn't able to save you, I would have turned you."
Her breath caught in her throat upon hearing that and she felt a strange wave of cold and heat wash over her. Her mind somehow refused to be wrapped around the concept.
"You would have turned me to save me."
"Without asking for your consent most likely."
"Provided I could still give one. You didn't know my opinion beforehand though, as opposed to me when I did what I did."
"But I did know your opinion. You might not have said it directly but I distinctly remember that you feared turning into a vampire more than losing your soul. As far as I'm concerned, that's enough of a hint."
Her blood ran cold and her head spun. The realisation that she said that then, in front of Henry no less, made her feel even worse. She fought to say something but couldn't find the words.
"You really think I saw it like that?"
"In all the honesty, there isn't much room for an interpretation."
"If by turning I would have been able to save you, I would." She was carefully picking her words. "But the two together..."
"Would be too much to take?" he supplied in a tone of bitter humour.
"Would be something I wouldn't do to you." At his quirked eyebrow she elaborated. "I knew that what I was doing would probably mean you would never want to see me again. I couldn't force you into situation of not having any choice about it. You did tell me before about that bond between the sire and..." her voice failed her as Henry was looking at her in amazement.
"You did put some thought into that." He said after a moment of silence.
"A lot of it actually. But even if I knew the probable outcome it still hurt to lose you."
"You haven't lost me. And I told you already that I have forgiven you. I was too close to acting in the same manner not to understand."
She felt tears once again threatening to appear in her eyes. She decided she needed to wiggle out of the topic quickly.
"Only now you know that I might have accepted that if you did..." she saw him give her a strange but a little twisted smile.
"Is that a statement of fact or a declaration of agreement in case of future accidents?"
She tried unsuccessfully to make her smile match his. "Only to be used as a last resort. I happen to think I look better with tan."
"Your beauty wouldn't be hindered in any way as you do not lose any bit of it no matter the circumstances." The fact that he actually looked serious saying that made Vicki a tad uneasy. "Thank you for your effort to give me peace of mind."
"You were the one who found me breaking down."
"I shouldn't have left you so carelessly before making sure you would be alright."
"You did try to even if you did seem to be in a bit of a hurry to leave."
Henry smiled lightly and sniffed the air before replying. "The whole place still smells of your blood. I wanted to be able to concentrate."
"Great. Now because of me you can't even concentrate in your own home."
"That's nothing new." Again she got one of his brilliant smiles. "But when it comes to the smell I don't mind it just as long as I'm not hungry."
"Hence the hasty trip to town."
"Right. On my way back I bought something for you as well."
"Have you, now?"
"I imagined you would also be hungry and I know for a fact that you wouldn't find anything in my kitchen."
"Wonder why is that. So what you've got?"
He handed her a carton of Chinese. "Your usual. I didn't want to take any risks here."
She accepted the food gratefully, only now realising how hungry she was.
"Amazing. Most of the times it takes ages to teach people what you like."
"I skipped the part of assuming you would like whatever I did." Judging from the smile he sent her, he had managed to already get out of the mood created by the initial conversation. Either that or he was just an excellent actor.
Vicki looked up from her meal to see that he placed something next to her. More precisely it was a plastic bag with a name she never heard of before.
"Something for you to wear if you wanted to go out. I'm afraid your clothes aren't in any state to be worn."
"So you bought me something to wear?" She asked in amazement.
"I'm not sure if I should go after you for not only choosing but buying me clothes or be amazed that you actually knew my size."
"The latter wasn't as hard as you'd think. After drawing you so many times I know you by heart. And as for the former – would you really prefer it if I broke into your apartment and rummaged through your wardrobe?"
"Point taken." Her mind stubbornly refused to let go of the thoughts awoken by his first declaration. "Where did you get it anyway? I don't recognise the name."
"You get to know a few interesting shops when you are forced to shop by night. Rest assured though that you don't have to fear the clothes."
Curiosity piqued she quickly finished her food and opened the bag, silently hoping that whatever it contained wasn't a dress. Thankfully it seemed Henry had enough common sense not to do that to her. When it came to fabric however...
"Henry, is that cashmere?"
"I thought you may want something comfortable."
She only managed a sigh.
Half an hour later Vicki felt as if she was occupying someone else's body. Her strength hadn't, to her great dismay, returned yet, which gave Henry an excuse to continue treating her as if she was some kind of porcelain doll.
The thought that she was actually allowing it, she discovered, was getting even more irritating than the fact itself but she found herself unwilling to do something about it. Add to that that she was now wearing unfamiliar clothes, ones she wouldn't probably choose for herself under any remotely normal circumstances, which only served to reaffirm the doll position and she couldn't quite convince herself that she was still looking through the eyes of Victoria Nelson.
"I was thinking." She spoke aloud making Henry look up from his sketchbook.
"I guess I'm well enough now to prove beyond any doubt that I am still alive. We should probably go to the station and try to untangle the whole situation so it doesn't hang over my head."
"We don't have to go right now unless you really feel you are well enough. I'm sure it won't get any worse if you give it a bit more time."
"It's just awful to know everybody thinks I'm dead, you know..." She caught herself when she saw a smile playing in his eyes.
"I think I can relate."
"Anyway, what about going to the station?"
"Only if you honestly feel up to it."
"I do, I guess. I hate the perspective of dealing with it but it cannot be helped."
"The sword of Damocles."
"Uh huh." She nodded slightly before snapping back to reality ."So are we going or what? And you will have to tell me all the details on the way so I have something remotely believable to say."
Being a cop you learn to work considerable time on coffee and willpower. If you don't, you either have a breakdown or land behind a desk. Or both. But even those who do that learn that they have their limits. Mike was feeling he was seriously pushing his.
It didn't help that Kate kept sending him worried glances every few minutes. Or that he knew that he was working on solving a case he already had more or less solved and going by facts he knew were wrong.
He reached for yet another cup of coffee. Which exactly he wasn't sure, as he lost count somewhere around half past three in the afternoon.
"Maybe we could go through these files again? We might have missed something." He turned to Kate who by then looked nearly as tired as he was despite actually getting some sleep the night before.
"We can." She moved to his desk holding another stack of papers. "But I'm pretty sure we didn't." She paused. "That won't bring her back, you know. You should rest and we can go back to it tomorrow."
"I'm just saying that... that..." She suddenly got pale as if she saw a ghost and looked at something over Mike's shoulder.
Upon turning cautiously he realised that as far as she was concerned she probably did see a ghost. In the door stood Vicki, supported by none other than Henry Fitzroy. She looked pale and, disturbing as it was, weak but other than that she was most obviously alive.
Mike got up and went to her almost instantly.
"Hey, I just thought I'd drop by and make the fact that I'm still alive official." She said as soon as he got closer
She didn't look well, Mike thought as he gestured her to his desk to have a seat. If he was to believe Fitzroy, she had been even worse the night before. That very thought made him feel uneasy. To cover those feelings he reached for his coffee and dawned it quickly.
"You should cut down on those cups of coffee a bit, detective. The amounts you drink really do a number on your blood pressure." To give him credit Mike managed not to flinch as he heard the vampire speak right next to him. He was about to retort when he realised that with Kate standing so close to them his range of possibilities of doing that would be somewhat limited.
Speaking of Kate, she seemed to have snapped out of the initial shock and now looked ready to get some answers. Make that all the answers. Not that he could blame her for that. He was not about to give her the first shot at asking questions though.
"What happened last night, Vic?"
"Straight to the point, aren't you?"
"I have no choice. According to all the data I have you should be a goner." You never know what a death glare is until you get one from a vampire. "I just want to know how it looked from your side."
"What do you have already?"
Kate shifted uncomfortably. "We shouldn't tell you that until we hear your version to be sure that it won't influence your story in any way."
"Right then." She looked tired as she gathered her thoughts. "As you probably know by now, I went to Riverview Institute to look around a bit. I found Sidney's body in the storage and heard some noise in the corridor. I went to check it out and I found Kelly armed with a sickle. I confronted him, got a confession as well as a feeling that he was mentally instable. Then I tried to leave and he shoved a cloth with chloroform over my mouth. The next part is a bit fuzzy but he cuffed me to a chair and tried to kill me when something distracted him. I used the time to escape. That's about it."
"And you didn't think it wise to contact us?" Kate didn't seem inclined to be satisfied with the story.
"In all the honesty I wasn't really thinking clearly by then. I somehow managed to get to my partner's apartment and as you can see he brought me here right afterwards."
Kate looked at Henry as if only now noticing him being here.
"And it took you the whole day to get to him?"
"I might have passed out somewhere in that time. It's all very foggy for me."
"But you didn't go to a hospital."
"By the time I could go there I was already well enough not to." She paused "I don't suppose you could get me a glass of water?" She even managed not to make it sound like a distraction technique. Which was probably why Kate did in fact go to get one.
As far as Mike was concerned that was his opening.
"Nice excuse, Fitzroy, but taking her to hospital yesterday would have spared all of us a whole lot of trouble."
"It might have spared you the trouble but it would only serve to bring out more hard questions for Vicki."
"What kind of questions?" Unfortunately Kate chose that exact moment to return.
"Ready to go on?" Mike's partner asked as the PI took a few sips of water.
Vicki nodded and winced bringing the detectives' attention to the dressed wound on her neck.
"I guess this answers the question of what your blood was doing there but..." Kate trailed off looking through the files "Do you have any other injuries?"
"Not that I noticed."
"Are you sure?"
"Pretty much. Give or take a few bruises."
"Then how did you make it?"
"I mean, you have a cut on the neck and this," she waived the lab report "says you've lost over two litres of arterial blood. Arterial. On the neck. That means he would have to have cut a major artery. You wouldn't be able to stop that bleeding yourself. Hell, qualified medical personnel would have a hard time doing that if they were on spot and you are saying you managed to stroll out of there?"
The look Henry gave Mike clearly said 'that kind'. Then the vampire turned to Kate.
"Surprising as the whole thing is, you've just remembered you've read an article about something like that being possible before. Until now you had written that down as an error in translation."
Kate blinked. "You know, Vicki, now that I think about it, you probably weren't the first one to pull that off. I just never thought that those stories had something to them. I guess you definitely proved me wrong. Sorry for grilling you on the matter like that."
"That's fine, I understand." She threw a look at Henry. "I suppose I'd be asking those questions as well if I was in your shoes."
"And speaking of clothing, what happened to whatever you were wearing then? I assume those clothes you have on aren't the ones."
"As the matter of fact I may be of assistance here." Henry cut in. "I helped Vicki change but I brought everything with us."
"Have you now?" Mike couldn't help himself.
"Indeed." He produced a tightly sealed plastic bag and handed it to the detective. "Everything she was wearing is here if you need it."
"We'll send that to the lab to complete the evidence." Mike looked into the bag and as soon as he opened it he could smell the blood. He could only imagine how clear the smell was to a vampire. Which helped a lot in interpreting the look he got from the one next to him. "As a matter of fact, I'll take it there now. Kate, I trust you'll manage without me for a few minutes?"
"You know it. Perhaps better than I would with you." She teased before turned once again to Vicki. "So when you said that Kelly got distracted do you have any idea what distracted him? Did you hear any voices or..."
Her voice faded in the distance as Mike went in the direction of labs.
By the time she saw Mike coming back Vicki was already tired of ditching the questions and generally exhausted. The only thing she managed to more or less firmly establish was that since Kelly was dead and was already proved to be a serial murderer there was no point in him being posthumously charged with an attempted murder. But she would still have to be ready to act as a witness in a full trial were the person who was helping Kelly ever to be found.
Vicki was eternally grateful that Kate could not see the amused look Henry sent her upon hearing that. That Mike chose that exact moment to return and had caught a glimpse of it wasn't helping though.
Finally the female detective ostentatiously closed the files.
"That should be all. Thanks for coming to give the statement and all that. I won't hold you here any longer as you seem to need some rest after everything you've been through."
"Well, if I were still on the force, last night would have probably earned me a day of two off." She admitted jokingly.
"Vicki?" Kate stopped in mid-movement.
"I know how cheesy it may sound and how I complained about Mike letting you in on our cases too much but I'm honestly glad you're alive."
"Thanks, Kate. I hope you will still think that next time I barge in here looking for clues for one case or another."
Mike actually snorted on that one. "Don't push your luck, Vic."
"Good to know I have you on my side, Mike. Kate's right though. I probably could use some rest." She stood up and Henry immediately offered her his arm as a support.
"Yeah. You probably deserve it." Mike looked at her and Henry and then slowly shifted his sight to his desk, where Kate still sat on the additional chair she pulled to it, looking through the files. He let his sight stay on the scene for a moment longer before returning to the pair. He sighed and turned to the vampire. "Take care of her, Fitzroy."
"Don't worry detective, I have no intention of doing otherwise."
"Good." He sat at his desk. "See you around, I guess."
"Naturally." They started walking out. Before they left completely Mike however managed to catch a quiet 'And do watch out with the coffee.' coming from the vampire. That could have just been his imagination though.
An hour later found Vicki in Henry's condo, looking at him giving the final touches to the pictures for his new book.
"And do you think the readers will really get the drama of fighting the Bolshevik army from the background you gave here?"
"They have never been disappointed before. And graphic novels, being much more visual medium than traditional books, make it easier to absorb."
"Many of your readers probably won't even have an idea what you are talking about."
"The assumption that the twenty years between the world wars were peaceful is common not only among those who read my books. There is a chance though that at least in some cases they will find interest in the topic strong enough to look further." He smiled at her. "I can't exactly give a series of lectures describing my experiences in those years."
"You know, if you did I bet it would be a hit. I wouldn't advise you to tell everybody you know all that from experience though." She looked closer at the picture she was holding. "I wish the photos in my college books were this good. I really love the details of the officer's uniform."
"I had a good chance to get a look at those. One of my friends was wearing one."
"Yes. He died in the war. Actually," he fished out one of the pictures and showed it to Vicki "I based Peter in the story on him. You can see him right here."
"Were you close friends?"
"Close enough. He was one of the closer friends I had. Wouldn't believe I was a vampire though."
"As far as he was concerned you couldn't be a vampire and a catholic at the same time and he already knew I was a catholic."
"And didn't the whole 'sleeps all day, has fangs, drinks blood' thing give him a hint?"
"He was doing his best to ignore it. At some point I gave up trying to convince him. I still wonder if he was so deeply in denial or if he just thought I went to such impossible lengths to play a joke on him." Henry chuckled.
"You never managed to convince him then?"
"No. And I lost all hope of ever doing that when he somehow swiftly ignored the fact that I healed myself before his eyes after I've been shot in the arm that one time."
"I'd go with denial then."
"Yes, after that it did seem the more probable theory."
"Do you think of him often?"
"There aren't many people I've allowed close to me in my life. Sometimes they were friends, sometimes lovers, sometimes our relationship was definitely too tangled and confusing to try to define..." He sent her a wistful look. "But I never forget. In the end the best I can offer is to keep them in my memories forever."
They went silent for a while.
"Honestly, are we good? After everything that happened?"
"Yes, we are good." He looked at her seriously. "But I have to admit that I shouldn't try to compare our relationship with any other from my past."
"You don't want to remember that then?"
"It's not that. In all that time, it was the others that changed around me. You managed to give me an impulse to change myself, if only a bit. Understand more about myself. About us. You are special, Vicki. More than you can imagine."
"Yes. You said you feared you had lost me. Even if I might have tried to separate myself from you I now understand it would be impossible. You mean too much to me to ever let you go."
She didn't answer at first.
"'Ever' sounds like an awfully long time. Especially when it's coming from you."
"I mean it though."
"I was never good in long time declarations. And there still is that thing about me being mortal."
"I already told you once that we could beat the odds. But we can start with present moment and go from there. See what the future brings."
"I think I'd like that."
He put the pages of drawings away and kissed her hand gently.
"I promise I'll try not to disappoint you."
Reviews will be appreciated.