Disclaimer: For some unfathomable reason I always felt that owning the rights to some intellectual property leaves you with more interesting options than writing fanfiction. Which would mean that we can safely assume that, just like all the works classified as such, the story below is nothing but a harmless, non-profit fun that in no form claims rights to the intellectual property of the original.
Special thanks to my beta, Bloodfem76.
Summary: What if Vicki didn't force the decision on Henry in Wrapped? She already talked him into ending the world once. This shouldn't be much harder, now should it?
After the vision that Pachacamac sent him Henry didn't hesitate even for a moment in his preparations to leave, all of his actions radiating with regained certainty. One look at him told Vicki that she wouldn't be able to betray him, no matter how much she tried to mentally prepare herself for it.
Their mutual trust meant too much to her to discard it even under the direst circumstances. But that didn't mean she could let him leave and get himself killed.
"Henry, wait!" She managed to choke out.
"What is it? We don't have time to lose."
"That's just it. You are going into a trap."
"He underestimates me. I can take him."
"If you ask me, it's the other way round."
"I saw him..."
"...in your dream. Where he showed you exactly what he wanted to. I'm willing to bet that whatever he showed you was just a bluff to lure you to him."
"I'm not willing to take that chance though."
"Henry, you know nothing of his power apart from what he wants you to know. He is an immortal priest of gods of death and, oh yeah, the sun. Somehow I feel that doesn't bode well."
"Everyone can be killed."
"It's the only way, Vicki."
"So you say."
"And I suppose you know otherwise?"
"As a matter of fact," she went to retrieve the book which was already open to the right page, "I do."
"What happened to stopping him no matter what?"
"Not at this cost."
"Shouldn't that be my choice?"
"I won't let you."
"But I'm supposed to let you go and get yourself killed?"
"This is different."
"How? Because this way we both have a chance to actually survive?"
"There are worse things than not surviving."
"I'm willing to take the possible risks. I've considered it."
"Vicki, you don't have any idea what you are talking about. It's dark magic. It's nothing like modern science where you can approximate the results. Anything can happen and your soul will be forever stained with the dark arts."
"If you recall the last time I took part in a magic ritual I was there as a sacrifice. I didn't make this decision lightly."
"You'd be opening yourself to darkness."
"Now that would be something new," she raised her hands to show her markings, "wouldn't it?"
"This makes it even more dangerous. It can very well be the only push needed for something terrible to happen."
"Or it can be the way to stop that thing without any further deaths."
"I'd rather die than see you become an empty shell as your soul is slowly devoured by demons."
That did give Vicki a pause, but not for long.
"And then what? What if you fail? Did you think of that? We would be left with an even greater threat on our hands with him stealing your life and strength. I seriously doubt he would settle for that. And honestly the only way I could hope to stop him then would be to face him while simultaneously opening myself to Astaroth, hoping the process will short out both ways."
At those words Henry stilled and looked into her eyes.
"And what would I have to lose?"
"Everything. Including your soul."
"In exchange for a chance at safety for the rest of the world? Don't tell me you are unfamiliar with such a calculation. If you hadn't run off with Christina your father was well on the way on making you the first in line to the throne of England. That implies some competence in strategy. And it's not like I would have a lot left to live for anyway."
His gaze never left her as she spoke and he was still studying her as she finished. Finally he looked away.
"It's not a good decision."
"I believe it's safe to assume at this point that we actually need to make a choice of the lesser evil."
"This evil, however, is not the lesser one. I can still go after him myself."
"No offence, but this guy had a history of mass murder long before you were even born and by the looks of it he hasn't lost his touch. If he is trying to lure you to him, chances are he knows what he's doing. And then I'd be left to carry on with the plan I mentioned."
"There has to be another way."
"Weren't you the one saying that there wasn't one?"
"I was wrong then."
"Ok, so what's the alternative? Or do we sit here trying to find one while the mummy goes on a killing spree?"
"Vicki..." He paused and looked at her for a moment. "We don't have time to collect everything needed for the ritual anyway."
"I had Coreen take care of that while you were sleeping. Just in case."
He closed his eyes for a few seconds.
When he spoke next, his voice sounded defeated and there was something else the PI wasn't quite able to place. "Please, Vicki, reconsider. You don't have to do this."
He lowered his head. "Prepare the ritual then."
He turned away and Vicki could see him reach for the cross on his chest, his lips moving silently. Wishing she could find the much needed strength in faith like that she went to help Coreen with preparations.
"I can't believe you actually got him to agree. A real magic ritual and I..."
"...will have no part in it." Henry finished Coreen's sentence. "There is no need for you to play with fire as well. The danger is too great as it is."
With a sigh Coreen slumped into the nearest armchair. As she did Henry approached Vicki, who was by then looking a bit paler than she did during their discussion.
"Are you sure you don't want to change your mind?"
"I'm sure. It's the best way."
"There is no telling what the consequences will be."
"Somewhere around the time I found out about my eyesight I learnt that on occasion it's better to focus only on the immediate future."
"Disregarding the consequences is never a good thing."
"Neither is thinking about them all the time, if it stops you from doing what needs to be done." She paused for a moment. "Henry?"
"Just to make sure that we have all bases covered. If something goes wrong and I end up like you said I might... When you sense that it's not me anymore, just finish it, alright? I don't want to think of whatever is left of me destroying everything I cared about."
"Perhaps we should give up this insanity after all."
"No. I'll do this. I just didn't want..." she took a few deep breaths to calm herself "Let's get started with it, shall we?"
"You shouldn't be doing this."
"If everything in the world was always going the way it should we probably wouldn't have wars. Or hunger. Or diseases."
"Well, an awoken mummy shouldn't be running amok either. And if we go on with the ritual we should at least be able to do something about it."
The vampire lowered his head and didn't reply. A moment later, still without a word, he took a dagger and with a smooth move cut his palm. His blood slowly started filling the goblet.
As Vicki looked at the whole scene she could feel a growing dread. Where the ritual once was a potentially dangerous albeit abstract option she was willing to consider, it was quickly becoming more real with every passing second. Too real. But it was already too late to back out on the decision.
"Ready?" Henry's voice was barely audible.
She looked at him. "Just one more thing."
"What is it?"
"In case it's the last chance I have." She whispered as she closed the distance between them and kissed him.
She obviously caught him by surprise but after a second he responded to the kiss. For a moment she couldn't bring herself to let go and face reality again. She forced herself to focus on what she needed to do. Then she broke the kiss and immediately concentrated on the ritual fearing that if she stalled any longer she wouldn't be able to bring herself to continue.
Through a tight throat she read the incantation, raised the goblet and drank from it. She choked and shook her head to get rid of the unfamiliar sensation.
"Vicki?" Judging by the tone of his voice, Henry went from concerned, which he was ever since he reluctantly agreed to the idea, to seriously worried.
"I'm fine." She breathed out. "But I can now honestly tell you that I have absolutely no idea what you see in your diet."
That earned her a rather pale smile from the vampire.
"At least you still seem to be yourself."
"Yeah." She didn't like the fact that her voice carried much more relief than she intended it to. "Well, since we've established that I'm myself, we are still up for the main attraction of the evening. You still have that address?"
Instead of answering Henry handed her the piece of paper which outlined what he saw in his dream.
"Great. I hope the cab driver will know where that is."
"You are not going alone."
"All I ask for is a twenty minute head start. It would be a shame to waste all this effort just because he could sense when you got close."
"Do you have any idea what might happen in those twenty minutes? Half of that time would be insane already. By the time I got there you could very well be...
"Fifteen minutes then."
"This is not a bargain." He sighed. "Fine. Fifteen minutes counting from you leaving through that door. And do be careful."
"Under the circumstances? No, I don't think I'd want to take any additional risks, thank you very much. Don't worry, it'll be fine." She stood up and put her jacket on. "And if this doesn't work, he should at least be properly weakened for you to finish him off."
With that she strolled out.
"She cares about you, you know." Henry turned to face Coreen. "I'm pretty sure that while she would risk her life for any of her friends, when it comes to risking her soul she would stick with someone she loves."
He smiled sadly.
"If things only were so simple. Now however isn't really the time to discuss it. I'll be going out soon but we need to take into account a possibility that something can go wrong."
"I'm sure Vicki will be fine."
Henry looked at the young Goth with a forced calm.
"There is a possibility, however small, that the mummy might overpower both of us. If neither of us comes back before sunrise, take everything you may need from the apartment, including the money hidden behind the Rembrandt over there, of which existence you will forget if we come back and go to Mesoamerica. Maybe in the Incan ruins you'll be able to find a clue on how to stop Pachacamac from taking over the world."
"You are serious, aren't you?" She stated after the first shock passed.
"Extremely. Now I have to be going."
Coreen's eyes didn't exactly register him taking his sword and leaving.
When he arrived at the residence he could already feel darkness and the foulest magic at play. Once he entered the house the sensations became hard to bear.
He found Vicki in what seemed to be the living room, kneeling on the floor. Not far away lay the now inanimate mummy.
"Are you alright?" He asked cautiously as he approached her.
"I think so. What happened... it was probably the worst thing I ever felt."
"Hopefully you will never have to repeat the experience. How are you feeling otherwise?"
"Too tired to move and a tad sick. Though the latter might be just from looking at him."
He offered her a hand. "Come on, you can't sit here. The sooner we get out of this place the better."
"Yeah, you're probably right." She accepted his hand and leaned on him for support as he led her to his car. "It's finally over, isn't it? He won't ever be back again?"
"Hopefully." He paused for a moment. "But you will have to learn to live with a stain of darkness within you."
"Then I will. If you are safe, it was worth it."
"What about saving the world?"
"It makes a nice bonus." She managed a weak smile.
"We still don't know what effect it may have on you."
"I'll cope. Just like I have with everything else in my life." Heavy drops of water started falling on the car, creating strange patterns on the windshield. "Figures it would rain. Now my day is complete." She stated resignedly.
By the time they got back to Henry's condo she was already asleep. Without waking her the vampire carried her out of the car and up to his apartment, where he found Coreen pacing back and forth.
"Finally." The girl said as soon as he stepped inside. "I was beginning to worry about... Is Vicki alright?"
"It seemed so a least. She was just tired."
"Oh." The Goth automatically dropped her voice to a whisper. "I'll just be going then."
He nodded. "Thank you for your help, Coreen."
She grinned at him while putting on her coat. "Anytime. I'll leave you two to yourselves now. Goodnight."
She waved at him and slipped though the door. Once she was outside Henry heard the girl sigh in relief.
He concentrated back on the woman he was holding. Gently, he placed her on his sofa. When she was asleep Vicki looked peaceful, untroubled by anything. And vulnerable, something she would never allow herself while awake. But aside from all that he could now feel a touch of darkness within her that wasn't there before.
He could only hope she would always have enough strength to fight against it.
His face relaxed slightly. Fortunately one could always count on Vicki Nelson to fight till the bitter end.
He reached for his phone and dialled Celluci's number, noting with some satisfaction that at that hour the man was more than likely to be woken by his call. He waited patiently for the detective to pick up.
"What do you want, Fitzroy?" Just as he expected the man didn't sound quite awake.
"Is that the way to speak to someone wanting to do you a favour, detective? I was under impression that you wanted updates on the mummy case. If you changed your mind, I'll gladly disconnect so you can go back to whatever constructive undertaking you were busy with."
"You've got something new?" How little it took to fully wake the detective.
"Given that the main suspect in the case is several times my age 'new' isn't quite the word I'd use. I do however have something you may find useful."
"The place where you can find the mummy, reverted to the way it was and, more likely than not, unable to wake again."
"It's done then?"
"It would seem so. I have to warn you though not to stay too long in the house."
"And why is that?"
"If you could read dark energy on Geiger meter, this place would be on par with Chernobyl."
"Just what we need right now."
"Fortunately it evaporates faster then radioactivity."
"The address?" Henry dictated it restraining his amusement upon a muttered comment about how discussing nuclear catastrophes with a vampire in the dead of a night was a sure sign of impending lunacy. The call ended soon afterwards.
He glanced once again at Vicki sleeping on his sofa and went to get his drawing utensils. Then he sat in an armchair facing her to work on a new idea for a book. An angel trading her soul for the lives of others.
After several sketches he decided to add some artistic markings around the angel's eyes. It helped put the urge to draw a pair of glasses in check.
He worked for some time until he saw Vicki stir. A moment later she opened her eyes.
"How are you feeling?" He asked immediately.
"Is this becoming the question of the week or something?" She looked at him and sighed. "Fine. A bit sleepy still but I guess it's just the rain."
"No headaches? Dizzy spells?"
"No. I don't have sudden urges to speak any language I've never heard before either while we're at it."
"What you did was dangerous. I still can't believe I allowed it. We have no idea what consequences it could have."
"Exactly. Since we don't, there is no point in worrying about it now. When something, whatever it may be, happens then we'll deal with it. Weren't you the one who told me something along those lines when I got my markings?"
"Just tell me when something happens."
"I promise. But now I should probably go home, clean up and catch a few more hours of sleep in my bed before I forget what it looks like."
"I'll give you a lift. No point in getting you wet and I still want to visit a nightclub before the night is over."
"You mean you haven't found the time to eat the whole time?"
"In case you haven't noticed it was a busy night."
"True. So about that lift..."
"Just let me get the car keys."
When she awoke the next day it was still raining. She groaned at the discouraging weather, wondering how she could possibly feel so unwilling to get up when she got more sleep last night than she did in the last couple of weeks.
When she finally got to her office, a client was already waiting for her. She took in the fact that it was just an elderly lady who moved to Toronto recently and wanted to find her old school friend, supposedly also living there, as a relief. After last night she felt she could do without any supernatural cases for a week or two.
Or at least for a few days if she was to be realistic.
"...the last picture of her I have is a school photo from when we were seventeen. I have no idea what her name is now, I just heard she married a few times."
"Right. Did she have any interests that may help me find her?" Sometimes you had to be thankful for small favours.
For the rest of the day she sat in front of her computer, making an occasional phone call, trying to narrow down the list of women formerly known as Susan Collins.
Every once in a while she would glance at the door half expecting another 'you are the only person who might believe me' case to emerge out of the blue but it never came. Not even Mike decided to drop by with a follow-up of the mummy case.
Not that she wanted to have any more to do with it than she already had.
By the evening she managed to shorten the list to three women, one of whom was breeding Siamese cats for living, one retired singer and one who won the best roses prize two years before. None of them were born anywhere near the school one of them might have attended.
"How are you doing?" She unglued her eyes from the monitor to see Henry standing a few steps away from her. She could never quite figure out if he managed to sneak up so close every time purely thanks to his vampire skills or if her shrinking field of vision was helping the trick.
"That depends if you mean it in 'any supernatural trouble' sort of way or in 'spent the whole day looking for an elderly lady and about to howl in frustration' one."
"How about both?"
"No freaky problems or any demons after me to the first one. And as for the second – don't ask."
"That bad then?"
"You may say that. I spent most of the day staring at the screen and going through archive editions of the 'Toronto Sun' to help organising some sad two-people school reunion."
"You almost sound disappointed. Too normal for your taste?"
"It gets better at the point where a vampire helps me check out those three options I shortlisted."
"I knew you'd like that part. We leave the cat lady for last. I want to avoid cats unless it's completely impossible to do that."
"Not that I mind helping you but could you share a few case particulars so I at least know what I'm getting dragged into?"
Half an hour later they were exiting Henry's car in front of the house belonging to the second potential former Miss Collins. So far it was obvious that whoever Vicki's client searched for it wasn't the rose lady whom they checked first.
Unless they had Photoshop back then to remove the quite noticeable birthmark from her cheek. Nevertheless they spent about ten minutes talking to the lady to make sure. The fact that she seemed to be having serious memory problems didn't make the task any easier.
Vicki rang the doorbell and waited for response. It came a few minutes later in the form of the door being opened.
"We are sorry to disturb you without a warning Mrs. Kramer but I couldn't find your number in a phonebook to tell you we were coming. My name is Victoria Nelson and this is Henry Fitzroy. I'm a private investigator."
"Are you? I'm afraid that whatever you are working on, you won't find much interesting to investigate about me. Just a life of an old woman. And I don't have a phone. Never got used to having one of those things. To you kids it may sound strange but I was brought up in times when not every home had a telephone and never got used to the idea."
"Yeah, strange." Vicki sent a glance at Henry only to be replied with an amused smile. Only the older woman's close proximity made the PI withhold any comments concerning Tudors, cell phones and comic books that might have followed.
"Actually, the reason we're here is simply to ask where you went to school." Henry took over.
"Oh, really, well, come in then. It might take a while. I'm from an artistic family, you see, and we travelled a lot. I nearly lost count of the number of schools I attended."
Vicki did her best to stifle a groan.
When they entered the house, they were greeted by a tabby cat that carefully measured them with a look and then turned to Vicki and hissed threateningly. The old lady didn't seem to notice and calmly went into the living room.
As soon as she was out of sight, Henry looked at the feline and responded in kind. In a tabby blur the cat was out of there.
"My hero." Sarcasm in Vicki's voice was almost untraceable. Almost.
"I was just sorry for the poor creature. I recall the last time I tried something like that you threatened me with bodily harm and went for a direct assault. The cat wouldn't stand a chance so I at least gave it a warning and a chance to get out."
She only let out an exasperated sigh and went to the room the house owner disappeared into. Never noticing Henry's concerned glance as he followed her.
They left the house of Susan Kramer an hour later, only one phone call to the client away from being done with the case. When they were once again seated in Henry's car, Vicki gave out a theatrical sigh of relief.
"I was starting to wonder if I should begin planning an escape in case she decided to keep us there till the morning."
"We weren't there that long. And seeing that she recognised herself on the picture and confirmed going to that school we didn't have anywhere to hurry."
"At least you were able to keep up the conversation after it drifted into opera and her former performances. If I didn't have you with me I'd be still sitting there listening to her monologue."
He laughed. "As it was, I found it hard trying to avoid mentioning that I actually remember her performance as Adele in 'Die Fledermaus' back in the fifties."
"You should have mentioned it. It might have shocked her into cutting the conversation short."
"What was so bad about a pleasant talk about opera and operetta, anyway?"
"Call it weird if you like but I prefer it when I can actually follow the conversation."
"Well, maybe I should take you to the opera a few times to avoid the problem in the future." His smile grew slightly flirting.
In an instant Vicki had her defences up.
"Sorry, but I would have to dress for the occasion and I used my limit of dress wearing for this decade when I went to that art show with you."
"Next decade it is then. I'll hold you to that." He responded with mischievous sparkles in his eyes.
"Oh, and look at the bright side – you avoided visiting the cat lady tonight."
"Yeah," she said sarcastically, "what a relief."
"So, now that you are done with the case, what do you plan to do with so pleasantly started evening?"
"And what do you have in mind?"
"I'm willing to go with whatever you think of." He paused for the effect sending her a look. "Within reason."
"Thanks for the unlimited trust."
"Glad to be of service."
"So how about we just go to my apartment so we can waste some time pointlessly and watch some bad horror movies?"
"The way you say that, one might think you actually consider it a good idea."
"Oh, come on, Henry. Don't you think we could use some time relaxing?"
"Let me guess. You have selected the movies already?"
"Don't tell me..."
"Well, given that I slowly came to expect to sooner or later run into whatever I see in the horror movies, it seems like the safest choice, don't you think?"
Henry shook his head in resignation.
"Besides, hearing your sarcastic comments is half the fun."
The rest of the evening was spent pleasantly watching a movie and talking but all too soon Vicki's eyelids started getting heavy until she finally drifted to sleep on the sofa.
After being sure she slept deeply enough not to be woken at a movement Henry lifted her carefully and carried her to her bed, placed her glasses on a nightstand and tucked her in.
Moving quietly he turned off the TV and made sure they room was in passable order. He wrote a short note thanking her for the evening and placed it next to her glasses.
With a one last look at Vicki's blissfully calm face, he left.
Vicki awoke to bright morning sun filling her room. She automatically reached for her glasses. Finding them a bit away from their usual place, she sat up and blinked a few times trying to fend the last strands of sleepiness away.
She put the glasses on and went to read the note she found with them. The last task proved to be a bit harder than she thought as she found her eyes were filling themselves with tears for no apparent reason.
She took off the glasses, rubbed her eyes and tried again. It helped a bit. But she still had a strange throbbing feeling under her eyelids. Resignedly she dragged herself to the bathroom and looked into the mirror.
What greeted her was not a nice sight for, quite literally now, sore eyes.
Her eyes were red and wet from tears that didn't seem to be giving her any choice in the matter about forming of not.
She did a quick evaluation of her last few days and nights. She was up most of the night, browsing the web for some answers when they were trying to find something about the mummy. Then she spent whole day reading dusty old books in artificial light. Then after a half nights sleep she spent the whole day staring at computer screen working on her case. And her choice of relaxation involved staring at TV screen.
If she hasn't been asking for conjunctivitis, she didn't know who had.
She rummaged through the cabinets to find some eye drops. She found them finally, just within the expiration period. She wasn't going to complain though. Beggars can't be choosers and all that. Not that administering them helped much.
She went out of bathroom into the morning sunlight. Narrowing her eyes against the sudden brightness she went to find her old prescribed sunglasses. She noted distantly that they were probably going to earn her a few bad jokes about spending too much time with vampires if Mike was to see her wearing them. She didn't care at the moment though.
Only when she could once again look around with, if not comfort then at least lack of great discomfort, she looked at her watch. And cursed when she realised she had overslept.
She got to her office an hour later than usual, still cursing herself for not hearing the alarm clock. As soon as she entered she was greeted by an overly cheerful Coreen.
"Hey, I was starting wondering what happened to you. What's with the Men in Black look?"
Apparently the Goth took that as her cue to prompt Vicki to answer even more, giving her an expectant look.
"Nothing interesting. Honestly. Just my eyes decided that they weren't causing me enough problems already and decided to make me look like a rabbit."
"So..." Coreen trailed off. "Are you done with that search for Sue Collins? Mrs. Retz called already. I told her you'll call her back as soon as you gather everything."
"Yeah, I've got that. I'd better make that call. I don't suppose you've made some coffee?"
"I'm on it." The girl grinned as Vicki retreated to her desk.
Another day of work before her. And the one day she wouldn't actually mind if it was cloudy outside, it wasn't.
After two cups of coffee and one call to her client Vicki went to cross-referencing phone calls made by the husband of one of her clients with a list of the numbers of their mutual acquaintances. It was shaping up to be a slow day in the office.
Somewhere deep inside some part of her longed for the times when such a realisation didn't ring so ominous.
The next few hours went by quite peacefully without any distractions other than their takeout Chinese. No hell threatened, no disaster occurred and nothing seemed to be looming in the shadows.
Somehow that made her feel shifty rather than relieved.
By three she was on her seventh coffee and she caught herself looking expectantly at the door even though she knew she had no clients for the day, wondering not if but what and when will happen.
She drank a sip from her cup and forced herself to concentrate back on the files.
She felt tired and waited for the caffeine to kick in. She drifted into sleep before it had a chance.
"Sleeping at work? Whatever do you do at night?" She woke up to Henry's clearly amused voice.
"We both know that an honest answer to that one would earn me a visit to a shrink in most circles." She looked around her desk trying to locate her glasses that apparently slipped off. "Besides it just might be that hanging too much around people who sleep all day finally started rubbing off."
"Oh, really?" His voice sounded normal for their playful banter but for a second she could swear he looked at her a bit too seriously. That moment passed soon enough. Especially since she suddenly was hit by the realisation that despite all the lights being on in the office she could look at him without the discomfort of tears.
"Guess the drops finally decided to start working. About time." At his confused look she elaborated. "Conjunctivitis. 'Cause my eyes are just so perfect otherwise."
"Actually, when you don't count problems with your vision, they are."
"Henry." She herself wasn't sure if in the end her tone came out more warning or teasing. "Anyway, I'm glad I can see more or less normal again. I swear, one more day like that and I'd hole myself up in your apartment just to avoid the light."
She finally gave up looking and fished the spare pair of glasses from her bag.
He gave out a short laugh. "I for one wouldn't complain. Even if I would prefer having you there when I'm actually aware of my surroundings."
"I'm sure you would." She stifled a yawn and sighed. "Let me get some coffee to wake myself properly."
She looked at him in disbelief. "Don't you know better than to stand between me and my coffee by now?"
"Victoria, please, you already had too much and clearly it doesn't affect you anyway. Don't." She raised her eyebrow and he sighed. "One more and your heart will start sounding the warning bell. I hate hearing that."
She looked at him for a moment with her mouth open to speak but unable to find any words. Finally she took a deep breath and shook her head as if in silent disbelief.
"Alright, no coffee it is. But you get to endure my temper without it with no complaining as it will be all your fault."
"Deal." He smiled at her. "Thank you."
She was saved from having to respond by the sound of her cell.
"Hey Vic." The familiar voice of her former partner sounded on the other side of the line.
"Mike. Haven't heard from you for the last two days."
"Yeah, I've been busy. Remember that Kresovitch case we worked on?"
"Uh huh. What about it?"
"Well, you know how you had that hunch about that flimsy cousin of the victim? The one we had nothing on?"
"Yeah. So you've found something on him?"
"Completely by accident. When we found his fingerprints at another scene I could hardly believe our luck. It went rather quickly from there. Kate and I had the case wrapped up by this afternoon."
"Good for you then."
"Yeah, that's why I'm calling. We want to go for a drink to celebrate solving the case and since you were right about him all the time we figured that it would only be fair if you celebrated with us."
"It's your case now, Mike. We both know it. Just because I worked on it before doesn't mean you need to do anything now."
"Come on, Vic, don't be like that."
"Like what? It's just the truth. Besides, you are going with Kate. It would get awkward if I went. Forget it."
"It was your case too. You knew who did it from the start. It would feel wrong if you weren't celebrating with us. Look," he seemed to hesitate, "you can bring Fitzroy with you if you like." He paused. "Just make sure he knows he is not invited for a drink."
Hearing a snort next to her Vicki had no doubt the vampire listened to the entire conversation. She looked at him expectantly. He shrugged and nodded.
"Alright, where do you want to meet?"
All in all the evening started out fairly well. Surprisingly so, as far as Vicki was concerned.
When they entered the bar, they saw Mike and Kate already sitting there. Mike nodded at them as they got closer.
"Hey, Vic. We were waiting for you." He said instantly before turning to Henry. "Fitzroy."
"Celluci." The vampire acknowledged before giving Kate one of his trademark charming smiles. "Detective Lam."
Vicki did her best to withhold a scowl, for which she covered by ushering Henry to sit. Mike didn't make such an effort though. The PI took note of that and quickly stepped in.
"By the way, good work you two."
"Not only our work." Kate responded. "You already found the suspect. When we finally got enough on him to get a warrant, the case practically solved itself."
"I still say you did a great job." Vicki paused for a moment bracing herself for what she wanted to say next. "You two make good partners."
"Uh, thanks." The bartender got closer. "So what will the two of you be drinking?"
Henry clearly found the fact that Mike choked on his drink upon hearing the question amusing. He waited for Vicki to order for herself and made a show of all too innocently brushing her hair off her neck. Then he turned to the man behind the bar.
"Just water. I'll be driving later."
The PI shook her head and muttered quietly enough to be heard only by vampire ears.
"Subtle. How about you try not to rile him for once?"
She was replied by a mischievous grin. She rolled her eyes.
Soon enough the tension that might have built up was eased as they engaged in some light work-related anecdotes.
For a moment Vicki was able to fully relax. Having Henry at her side she somehow worried less about any supernatural being that may come their way and laughing at the old stories took her mind off the tension she probably herself created waiting for something to happen.
While in the middle of describing something Mike casually took Kate's hand. And then didn't let go when he finished whatever story he was talking about. Vicki was completely sure she didn't let her feelings show in any way so she had to assume it was her heartbeat that gave her away when she felt Henry's hand touch her own offering silent comfort.
She pushed back her feelings and forced herself to laugh with the others at the next anecdote. She was happy for Mike.
Only when she felt a gentle squeeze of her hand did she really start to mean that.
They left the bar together, Henry offering to give both cops a lift home. Vicki had a distinct feeling that the only reason he did it was so that she could be sure the drinks over the case didn't develop into something more.
After all he never got to know that she's learned her lesson with Pandora's Box. How could he? She could hardly make sense of what happened herself. And she wasn't about to leave any hints about it all for anyone else to figure out.
The thought of the Box suddenly brought the 'calm before storm' feeling full force. Or were that 'memories of Mike being shot' feelings? She was not certain anymore. Which probably meant a bit of both.
They didn't have far to walk to get to Henry's car. Just across the park.
She suddenly realised that she wasn't actually counting the minutes until they reached the car but until she had Henry all to herself again. And without needing to pretend anything. She tried to make sense of those thoughts but for the life of her she couldn't.
Her ponderings were interrupted with a scream.
She looked around half expecting something like a harpy dropping from the sky only to see a girl being mugged by two thugs. She reached for her asp, silently thinking that with the turns her job was taking she really needed to invest more in reality checks. Next to her Kate and Mike already reached for their guns. The girl fell to the ground after being struck by one of the men.
"Police. Step away from the girl. Slowly." She could hear Mike call out in the familiar professional no-nonsense tone.
For a second it seemed the two complied. Then they moved suddenly and she could hear shots fired. Almost simultaneously she found herself safely on the ground courtesy of her partner's reflexes.
The thugs started getting away and Kate responded with fire. The night however seemed to give the two men an advantage they needed as they weren't hit. And they kept shooting as well.
Suddenly with a cold clarity Vicki realised she could only hear one of the cops shooting. She looked up to see Mike clutching his arm, his shirt rapidly colouring red.
The recently recalled memories started cutting in interrupting her thought process. Acting on instinct reinforced by the academy training she rolled over to Mike, took the gun he dropped and fired two shots at the thugs.
In a distance she could hear two outcries of pain.
Then what she just did partially registered and she let go of the gun in shock. Only then she noticed that her glasses were still lying on the ground.
"Nice shots. Didn't you leave the force because you couldn't see though?" She heard Kate's voice on her right.
"You should have seen me when I did still see properly." Unwittingly she slipped into her 'calm down, powers beyond your understanding at play here' mode as she spoke to Kate. "You need to go arrest those two. We'll see to Mike."
The detective nodded and went away.
"There isn't much point in that unless she plans to arrest corpses. Heart and leg artery." She heard Henry's voice next to her as she turned to her former partner.
"Let me see that, Mike."
The cop hesitated not wanting to relieve the pressure on the wound. Vicki stepped closer to get a better look, she was beat to it by the vampire though.
She sighed in something akin to defeat and went to make sure the unconscious girl was not in any danger. Then she took out her phone to call 911 while Henry tended to the shot detective. Despite Mike looking ready to protest, he let the vampire examine the wound carefully.
"You were lucky, Celluci. The bullet avoided all of your major organs and arteries." Henry stated applying a makeshift compress to the wound and securing it in place with shreds of Mike's shirt turned a provisory bandage.
"Great. Nothing like an emergency check up with use of vampire powers." The detective managed through gritted teeth.
"Actually, that would be just experience from a few decades worth of wars speaking. As far as my being a vampire goes I can tell the wound isn't infected but it should be cleaned soon to avoid it. And that you're B negative."
Mike started to reply but his retort was lost in a hiss of pain as he tried to shift into a more comfortable position.
Henry looked at him and sighed. "Celluci, look at me." His eyes went dark. "You are able to tune out the pain from the wound. You feel it just enough to remind you not to move your arm."
Mike visibly relaxed and blinked a few times.
"I don't know how you did it, Fitzroy, and I probably don't want to know, but thank you." His sight shifted to Vicki who just finished her call. "By the way, Vic, what the hell was that?"
If he was in a bit better condition he might have noticed her distraught look.
"I guess adrenaline rush, mostly. And some good old fashioned luck."
"You don't take down two guys shooting in the dark just on luck, Vicki. And don't give me any crap about vitamin A working wonders."
She didn't answer and looked down, shaking. Henry went to her and wrapped his arms around her.
A moment later Kate returned shaking her head to signal the fate the two muggers met. She kneeled next to her partner and took his hand. It wasn't much later that they heard the ambulance approaching. It was soon followed by a police car.
Vicki went though the next couple of moments like an automaton but she still managed to collect herself somewhat and give Kate a reassuring smile when the female detective asked if she could go with Mike.
Then she allowed Henry to guide her to his car. Only then she started shaking again. Once again she found herself in Henry's comforting embrace.
"How well can you see now?" He asked her gently after her shaking subsided.
She thought about it.
"More clearly than I have for some time now. If ever. It's ironic in a way. All that time I wished for something to happen to make me able to see properly again and now..."
She broke off and Henry held her quietly for a moment. Then his brow furrowed.
"What spectrum?" She looked at him in confusion. "Shooting two moving targets in the dark you were able to hit the heart and a major artery flawlessly. Was that chance combined with instinct or were you actually able to see that and take aim?"
"I didn't intend to shoot to kill."
"I know. But could you see where you were aiming?"
Suddenly she understood. "Just them. It's nothing like you described before. Purely human vision."
"Purely human vision is what prevented Kate from beating you to what you did. And you got them on first try. Are you sure?"
"Pretty much. I don't see anything I shouldn't. Well, apart from my field of vision going from keyhole to panoramic again."
"And what of your night blindness?"
"Gone as well it seems. But that's that."
Henry looked at her speculatively and reached into his pocket only to retrieve a pencil.
"What colour is it?"
"Dark blue." Vicki responded automatically "Why... Oh God."
"Calm down. So far we just know that you can see a bit better in the night. And I believe we can by now safely assume that any problems you had with light today may have nothing to do with conjunctivitis." Vicki didn't respond. "I'll drive us to my place. No point sitting in the car while discussing this."
That didn't earn him any response either.
Vicki was still distraught when he led her to his sofa. He could tell her state by the simple fact that she let herself be guided there without a word of protest.
After taking a look at her Henry went to get her a glass of water. She took it but didn't move to drink. As the matter of fact she didn't move at all. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity she spoke in a trembling voice.
"So what's the verdict? Am I turning into a vampire?"
He studied her carefully before sitting next to her and stroking her hand in a manner he could only hope would be calming.
"I don't think so."
His uncertainty seemed to have given her an impulse to at least partially snap out of her state.
"What do you mean you don't think so? Who'd know if not you?"
"I can tell you only what I know from my own experience. And one of the first things it tells me is that the process isn't so gradual. And that there isn't really a logical explanation why it would begin. You didn't get more than a sip of my blood and I haven't drunk yours for some time. Additionally you haven't lost any blood in the last few days. So, no, I don't think it's possible that you started turning."
"You aren't sure though." His silence served as enough of a reply. Vicki rummaged through her mind. "What else could be happening then? The book didn't mention any after-effects like that."
Henry shook his head.
"Books of that kind are famed for failing to mention things. It is assumed that if you reach for such desperate measures you agree to take whatever might happen." He paused. "Have your markings been acting up since the ritual?"
From his voice Vicki could tell he was dreading the answer.
"No." She said quickly to ease his concern. "Not a bit. And come to think about it they usually make quite good evil powers slash demon magic detectors. So that should leave us with at least this part covered."
She heard him quietly say something that sounded very much like "Deo gratias."
"That brings us back to the questions what, why and how is happening to me." She slowly slipped to her detective mode as it offered her the illusion that she was to some extent in control of the situation. "If it's not the power of the ritual itself, which would have probably set the tattoos off, it must be some part of the process involved. Out of those, your blood strikes most likely only you say it can't be it. So what gives?"
"I never said my blood had nothing to do with it."
"Now is not the time to play games, Henry."
He looked at her earnestly "You were wondering only if it was possible that you were becoming a vampire. All I did was tell you that I found it unlikely."
"What are the minimum requirements anyway?"
"I don't believe anybody checked. If you decide to turn someone you don't experiment like that. But I'm fairly certain you went nowhere near the borderline."
"How do you know that?"
"Were it so simple, it would have happened before. The book would either contain a warning, no matter how vague, or someone would have heard of people turning as a result of a ritual by now. Even if..." He broke off and closed his eyes.
"What is it? You haven't heard of something like that happening, have you?"
"No. However I just realised there is a factor that might have tipped the scales. Something that probably wouldn't be an issue in any of the previous cases."
"Enough of the lead-ins, Henry. Out with it."
"The ritual requires blood taken from a vampire. When it comes to magic it's generally assumed that anything willingly given is more potent than what is taken by force. I find it hard to imagine any sorcerers that might have tried the ritual before actually getting a vampire to cooperate."
"So coming back to the original question – am I?"
"There are still other elements that don't fit. Chief among them the fact that if you were, you'd have discovered the fact the hard way the first morning afterwards."
"Well, this morning I woke up to have my eyes react violently to sunlight. Who's to say where that will get me in several days." She was aware that she sounded bitter but she found herself unable to do something about it.
"What I'm saying, Victoria, is that the process is much faster."
"Unless, perhaps, someone had, like you said, only a sip of vampire blood and didn't lose any of their own."
"Not even then. Besides why would it be so selective? From what I remember all the changes normally take place simultaneously."
"Ok, so I'm probably not becoming a vampire. What's going on then? I got better because of a healthy lifestyle and lots of exercise and it just coincidently happened the same time I drank vampire blood?"
"Don't forget that there was also magic involved. It might have taken some part in the process even if its level wasn't great enough to disturb your marks and, by extension, get the attention of the residents of Hell."
"That doesn't get us any answers. Supposing the magic played some role, as well as your blood where does that get us?"
"To the point where we can make a few good guesses at what might have happened without any idea what to expect."
She suddenly realised that he was stalling, trying to avoid voicing something.
"Whatever it is it can't be that bad. Spill it."
He sighed. "I think we must consider the possibility that you were subject to the change but only partially." His voice was deadly serious as he said that and she couldn't help but pick up a note of dread in his tone. That confused her.
"How would that be worse than the other options we were considering here?"
He locked his eyes with hers. "It might not be. If fact, I pray it wouldn't be, if the theory is right. But no other option comes so close to..."
"The process is selective. And, judging by your eyesight, can stop half way. What would happen if you lost the ability to absorb food like a human and never gained one enabling you to sustain your life by blood alone? What if your heart slowed down with your body still human enough that..." he didn't finish the thought but he didn't have to.
Masking her own sudden fear at the image provided, she took his hand and pressed it against her heart, knowing the gesture was completely unnecessary in itself but still feeling better doing so.
"Still, beating, see? I know you can hear it. And I made it though the whole day without it stopping, remember? Not even when I fell asleep."
He closed his eyes for a moment, apparently concentrating on the sound, letting himself be engulfed by it. He stayed like that for a while. Then he looked at her again.
Vicki shifted uncomfortably when she saw that his look of confidence had been replaced with worry and uncertainty. That wasn't something she was used to seeing from him. He caressed her cheek with his free hand.
"I wish I could find that calming. But the day before you didn't see any change in your sight either."
She was very well aware that her heart sped up and there was little point in pretending those words didn't have any effect on her but she still tried to focus. Slowly she managed to calm down a bit.
"The weather was so bad then that if you weren't sleeping you could probably risk going out in the middle of the day and would still be safe from any sunlight. I wouldn't know the difference if there was any change then."
A hint of amusement slowly made his way into his features.
"You wouldn't notice that your eyesight suddenly improved?"
"I didn't today either until..." She broke off. "I guess I got used to wearing glasses and struggling with my eyesight so much that it didn't occur to me that they might be interconnected."
Despite the situation at hand Henry couldn't withhold a small smile.
"Just how nearsighted were you anyway?"
"Apparently." He became serious again. "Even supposing it's not progressing, there is no telling how far those changes went."
"Well, we knew there would be consequences." Vicki said slowly after a pause. "At least now that we know more or less what they are, we can see what can be done about dealing with them. And it certainly could be worse than me regaining my vision."
He sighed. "First thing in the morning you need to see a doctor and have a full check up."
She looked at his incredulously.
"And what? Ask the doctor to look for any signs of vampirism? Not the best way of lying low if you ask me."
"We need to know how deep your change goes. That's the fastest way to approximate that. And if the doctor notices any anomalies all he will have to prove them would be his awareness of that fact and your medical records."
"Sounds like a good enough proof."
"You forget that I know a thing or two about altering memories and you seem to have quite a knack for B&E." He smiled at her.
"When you put it that way. Did I mention how I hate going to doctors?"
"If I recall correctly it was your talk about lesser evils that got us into that." He thought for a moment. "It probably wouldn't be a bad idea if you stayed here until dawn. If the sunlight was to affect you any more than it did today, you will at least be able to retreat back here fast."
"Oh lovely. You just had to jinx it like that, didn't you?"
He responded with a smile.
When Henry drifted into vampire sleep at dawn she started getting ready to leave. She rode the elevator down to the lobby, nodded at Greg who seemed to be reading some paper and went to the door. With some apprehension she pushed it open and stepped outside.
She narrowed her eyes in reaction to the bright light but other than that, nothing happened. She examined her hands for any indication of burns and saw none. Letting out a breath she didn't know she held, she went on her way.
After the first two steps she decided that her first destination would have to be some place where she would be able to buy sunglasses with no correction.
After the full physical she was starting to feel a bit guilty. Judging by some of what the doctor she went to muttered, she just managed to singlehandedly ruin the reputation of her previous physician. But being diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa somehow seemed too big to hide in the initial interview and after the cat was out of bag things went downhill. The man of course assumed that she went to him so suddenly demanding a detailed check up because she realised her previous physician had been a fraud.
She was glad when she finally left the doctor's office.
Her next destination was the hospital. While, thanks to Henry, she knew Mike's life wasn't in any danger and she realised that he probably had Kate there to look after him, Vicki felt she couldn't stay away any longer.
To the PI's surprise, when she finally found Mike's room in the maze of hospital corridors, Kate wasn't there. Mike seemed to be sleeping but when she slipped in to the room and sat next to his bed he opened his eyes.
"Hey yourself. How are you?"
"Under the circumstances? Just peachy."
"And your arm?"
"Could be better but I'm not complaining. Whatever Fitzroy did seems to be holding up. To the point that I refused painkillers. From the looks I got I guess I'm building myself quite a reputation as one tough cop."
"I can imagine."
"Kate looked like as if she was trying to decide if she should be impressed or kick my ass for pointlessly playing brave."
"Where is she by the way?"
"Told her to go home, get some rest." He paused. "You know I just realised that I'm waiting for the moment when you pick a fight about her."
"I won't. The two of you seem good for each other."
"Alright, now I'm starting to suspect that they actually did drug me and I'm having hallucinations. Who are you and what have you done with Vicki Nelson?"
"I'm not that bad usually, am I?" He gave her a pointed look and didn't answer. "Right then. In any case if the two of you are happy then I want you to know I'm happy for you."
Mike seemed taken aback and looked ready to change the topic. He glanced at her.
"What's with the glasses? Going for a Matrix look?"
He probably didn't expect her to go in defensive.
"Nah, just thought I needed a little change. And it's really bright outside now that the weather is nice."
"Bright." He looked doubtfully through the window. "This wouldn't happen to have anything to do with last night when I suddenly discovered that a person with night blindness sees in the dark better than I do?"
"What's going on, Vicki?"
"I promise I will tell you once I have some definite answers."
"Not good enough, Vic."
"As soon as I have it figured out myself, Mike. That's the best I can offer."
He looked as if he might argue. Then he sighed in defeat.
"So when are they letting you out?"
"Negotiations are in progress. If it was up to me, I'd be out of here today but for some reason the doctors don't agree."
"Yeah, they have that annoying tendency."
It wasn't until she left the hospital that she realised she still had not informed her assistant of anything that was going on. Deciding it was about time to rectify that she reached for her cell.
"Vicki Nelson Investigations."
"Vicki! Where are you? Have you overslept again? You... you aren't pregnant or something, are you?"
For a second the PI was rendered completely speechless by the sheer preposterousness of the suggestion.
"No. Definitely not pregnant. Since you are such a big girl, I would assume that someone would cover that with you by now but here is the thing – you have to sleep with someone first for that."
"Sorry. It just wasn't like you to oversleep a few days in a row."
"I didn't oversleep. As the matter of fact I didn't go to sleep in the first place. And I've been just visiting Mike in hospital. Calling you just slipped my mind, sorry."
"Wait, Mike is in hospital? What happened?"
"He got shot last night. He seems to be doing fine now though. But I'm sure he won't mind if you drop by later to see for yourself, provided he doesn't manage to slip out by then."
"I will. Do you think flowers coloured black are bad taste to bring to a patient?"
"I think you can get away with it as long as you're a Goth. Do we have anything scheduled for today?"
"Nope. Not for the next three days as the matter of fact."
"Great. Then we are closing for three days. I need some time to sort out a thing or two and there is no point to keep you in the office for the sake of it."
"Ok." The girl sounded hesitant. "Are you sure you're alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just a bit too much piled up lately. A day or two off should be enough to bring me up to speed. Enjoy yourself for those three days."
"Thanks." The young Goth still seemed unconvinced but apparently decided to go with whatever caused her to suddenly have a short vacation. "You too. Bye."
Vicki shook her head after the call ended.
Between waiting to get some of her results, eating something and dropping by once again to check on Mike she didn't manage to get back to Henry's condo before the sunset. That meant of course that the vampire was already waiting for her when she came in.
"I assume the sunlight doesn't bother you any more than it did before." He said instead of greeting.
"Yeah, lucky that. I'm still at loss how to break this whole thing to Mike though."
"You haven't already?"
"Nope. And I have no idea how to even begin."
"How is he doing anyway?"
"Not bad all things considered. And it seems he owes you for enabling him to play macho even more than usual. That's the first time I actually started seeing the disadvantage of me being immune to your mind tricks."
He smiled at her before speaking again.
"Did you see a doctor?"
"Yeah. I have my results right here." She waved a folder she was holding "Not all of them though. I'll have to wait for some."
"Understandable. So shall we go through them now?"
"Unless you want to head out and get your drink first. I can wait."
"I'm not that hungry. I can wait an hour or two until we know something before I go."
"Good. So let's get started with that, shall we?"
"Aside from your eyes being a bit oversensitive to light all I can find so far is that your stated pulse is a bit lower than what I'm used to hearing."
"Didn't get my morning coffee. I was almost narcoleptic during the whole examination."
"I should have known. How much coffee do you drink anyway?"
"Do you really want to know?"
He shook his head to hide his amusement.
"You have a point. Though you have me a bit worried about the 'narcoleptic' description. Even you should take lack of caffeine better."
"Not when approaching thirtieth hour on my feet."
"Perhaps you are right. Have you managed to get any sleep today?"
"Then you can take a nap here while I go to feed. You could probably use it."
"Actually, I don't feel that tired anymore." At the incredulous look she got from the vampire she analyzed the situation again. "Oh."
In an instant he was by her side with a worried look on his face.
"You know, it wasn't any worse than yesterday." She finally tried. "And after a few cups of coffee I seemed to be able to function normally."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, pretty much."
"And there wasn't any change in comparison with yesterday?"
"Not that I recall." She smiled at him. "You know, this could be all only due to my biological clock shifting because of our working together."
He looked thoughtful.
"I don't know about the proposed reason but given how the change was only partial in the aspect of your vision it's possible that that's exactly what happened."
She groaned "Great. If I keep oversleeping because of that I shudder to think what theories Coreen is going to concoct next."
After she got the rest of her results, as well as some well-deserved sleep, the next day she found herself pacing in Henry's condo in anticipation of sunset. Finally she heard the vampire wake. A few seconds later he joined her.
"Unless you plan to scold the sun for not setting sooner I'm afraid this argument is going to turn rather futile."
"Still I might feel better." She sighed. "You may need to wipe the doctor's memory after all." She skipped any prefaces.
"And why would I do that?"
"I finally have all the results. Let's just say I didn't like the way the doctor looked at some of that." She saw Henry arch his eyebrow. "He seemed to already be planning a few years worth research with me as a guinea pig, complete with lectures at the best academies of medical science."
"And what would happen to trigger such a reaction?"
She handed him the stack of papers she was holding. "Apparently my melanocytes went crazy, whatever it means."
"And more concretely?"
"I'll tell you as soon as I figure out what does it mean that UV radiation seems to be halting melanogenesis."
Henry read the results carefully before he looked back at her.
"It seems that instead of causing an increase in melanin production sunrays will cause it to shut down altogether."
"Gee, thanks, that helped a lot. And you managed to say that without any big words too." She shot back sarcastically. "Can you tell me what it means in a bit less vague terms?"
"In translation: I really wouldn't recommend trying to get tan."
"Tell me you didn't just say I'm going to burn in the sun."
Henry chuckled. "Not in the way I would, no. But you would get sunburns very fast."
"I guess that rules out vacation on tropical island."
"Unless you like tropical islands by night."
"Seems like I'm going to have to depend on your experience when it comes to choosing holiday resorts from now on."
"In any case it will make a choice much easier if you wish to go somewhere together." Henry took note of her peaking nervousness at his comment. He chose not to push. "So where can we find that doctor of yours?"
They didn't return home immediately. Vicki seemed to have found a new thrill in staying out at night now that she could see what was around her and Henry was not about to deny her that.
They walked a bit, studiously avoiding entering any parks. Finally Vicki allowed him to drive them back to his condo, where she settled on the balcony, looking at the stars.
"I missed them, you know."
"I know. You said you used to love looking at them."
"And I guess I will again. As soon as we become reacquainted." She tore her eyes from the night sky to look at him "You do have a good memory."
"When it comes to you – always. I keep and treasure every moment we spent together." He saw her shifting uncomfortably and his first impulse was to withdraw like he seemed to be always doing where she was concerned. He managed to overcome that reaction and locked his eyes with hers. He had to know. "Among the recent memories I recall a few declarations from you, though. And not only declarations."
"Henry, please. Do we have to talk about it now?"
"We would need to talk about it eventually. Now seems as good time as any."
She stilled and he could feel her rising panic. Experimentally he took two steps closing the distance between them and put his hand on her arm. She stiffened but didn't shake it off.
"Victoria, if you can in good conscience say that you didn't mean any of the things you said or did I promise you I will never bring the topic up again. But look into my eyes when you tell me that."
"I..." she locked her eyes with his and suddenly trembled, "please, Henry, not right now."
"Am I to understand then that you just want to delay saying that, feeding me false hope?"
"No." When tears appeared in her eyes he suddenly became afraid that he pushed her too hard, that he crossed some invisible line and destroyed what he so desperately wanted to preserve. It took some time for her to speak again and every second of waiting tore at his heart. "I did mean what I said when we talked just before dawn in your bedroom. I do care about you. And I did mean that kiss later. I couldn't stand a thought that I might go without you knowing what I felt. It's just..."
Acting on an instinct he drew closer and let her rest her head against his chest.
"After you defeated the mummy you became afraid?" He half-asked half-stated completing her broken sentence.
She opened her mouth presumably to protest but said nothing.
"Vicki, tell me one thing. You are taking chances on daily basis. And more often then not in situations that have worse odds than this. Why don't you want to give us a chance?"
"How? Vicki, you were willing to die for me. Don't think I will ever forget that. And I think you know by now that I would give my life for you if there was a need. Is trusting me with your feelings really such a big step from there?"
"And how do you see that? You will sooner or later move on and I will be nothing but someone marking a short period in your life. Someone who grew old and died like everyone else."
"Is this what you are afraid of?" He looked deeply into her eyes. "Victoria, my life may be longer then that of humans but trust me when I tell you that it only makes me realise how precious and unique all the moments I spend with you are. And don't be fooled by life expectancy. Only a few days ago you yourself pointed out that my life can end just as easily as any other. We were both an inch of dying that night. Neither of us can predict the future so we need to make our choices by what we have now and not by what we expect it may bring."
"Henry I..." She paused and seemed to be fighting an inner battle over her words. "I guess I really am afraid. Of us. Of what will happen with me and this" She gestured around her eyes. "Nothing seems to make sense or be certain anymore."
"I can't offer you the answers that you want, Vicki. I don't think anyone can. And I would be lying if I told you that I have any idea where the future might take us. But if you let me, I will be by your side and we will face whatever fate has in store for us together."
"What if it doesn't work?"
"And what if it does? Do you really want to let fear of the unknown stand in your way?"
She sighed. "From where I'm standing it seems I'm pretty much facing unknown no matter what I decide."
"Is that a yes?"
She looked at him seriously. "Last time it was because I was afraid I may never have another chance. I have one now though. And it seems so far I've been doing a wonderful job wasting it. But if things go awry I don't think I'll be able to handle the mess my life has become alone."
"You won't have to. That I swear to you."
She looked into his eyes and hesitated for a brief moment. Then she met his lips in a kiss.
She's been struggling with telling Mike for a few days but she knew it couldn't be avoided. And she knew that when she called him, Mike could sense from her tone that she didn't really want to just chat over lunch when she said she wanted to meet him.
When she entered the cafe where they agreed to meet, he was already waiting for her. If it wasn't for him having his hand in a sling, she would never have been able to tell he was injured recently.
"Hey, Vic. You sounded pretty serious on the phone."
"Yeah, about that. I promised I will come clean with you when I'm ready. I guess I am as much as I can be now."
"All right, let's grab a table and we can talk." He gestured to one of the tables. Vicki winced.
"Would you mind the one a bit further from the windows?"
He arched his eyebrow but went to the other table without a word. They sat down. There was a moment of silence. Mike ordered coffee for both of them and after taking a sip each sat without a word a bit longer.
"How do we do that? Do we play the game of twenty questions or are you going to tell me what's going on?"
She took a preparatory breath fully aware that she had no clear idea of what to actually say.
"Where do I start?"
"The beginning would be nice. Or perhaps you could just say what was so wrong about the table near a window."
"Too bright there." She took off her sunglasses. "I figured it was a talk better said eye to eye not eye to shades."
"Too bright. Right."
"You aren't exactly making it easier, Mike."
"Well, you are not making it any easier for me either, Vicki. And you have me a bit confused here. May I remind you that not so long ago I discovered that you somehow miraculously started seeing in the dark. Then you avoided any answers and now you are ditching my questions. What exactly am I to make of that?"
"Bear with me for a moment, alright?" She took another deep breath. "You know how you sometimes have to make hard choices when trying to get things right? Well this is probably the right category for what happened."
"I hate to break it to you, but you're not making any sense."
"Do you remember the mummy case?"
"You mean the recent 'killer Incan sorcerer' case that will probably give me nightmares for years to come? The one that made me discard my job ethics to cover for the magical stuff? Yeah, you might say I do have some vague memory of it."
"Well, pacifying the mummy was harder than you may think. It came to life or death choices for us. And in the end it called for some quite extreme measures."
"I still don't see how that has anything to do with your vision."
"Not only my vision if you want to be precise."
"Would you care to be a bit more vague? If you keep it up, you may actually say something that makes sense by accident."
"One simple question. How can an Incan mummy have anything to do with correcting your vision? It doesn't make sense."
"It does when the extreme measures I mentioned ended up involving me drinking vampire blood."
Mike choked on his coffee and continued coughing for a moment longer.
"Mike? Are you alright?"
"Are you insane? You're not seriously trying to tell me that you..."
The detective's expression finally settled somewhere between disbelief and horrified shock. He didn't speak for a while, looking at Vicki as if she was from another planet.
"If it makes you feel any better, we really didn't have any other choice." She offered.
"So, are you..." It took Mike a moment to collect himself enough to speak. "Are you becoming like him now?"
"I said that I drank some of his blood. Not that he turned me."
"There is a difference?"
"It's the middle of the day, Mike, and I'm sitting here talking with you. Take a guess."
"So what does that mean then?" It might have been just Vicki's imagination but Mike seemed to have calmed down a bit.
"See, that's where it gets a bit tricky."
Mike groaned. "Tricky."
"Yeah. As far as we know, I got better night vision and worse sun resistance."
"As far as you know?"
"Uh huh. That was the tricky part. We can't be hundred percent sure. But it seems that's about that."
"So you won't suddenly start supplementing your diet with blood from time to time?"
She snorted. "I had enough for the rest of my life this last time, thank you very much."
Suddenly Mike started laughing.
"Is that all you wanted to tell me?"
"Well, yeah, pretty much."
"Are you sure? No need to spare me. If you started keeping a pet dragon in your apartment or secretly struck a deal with goblins to help you fight some demons, go on and tell me right now."
Now she, too started cracking up.
"Nah, goblin demonology is not that advanced. I hear dragons are quite cute when they are little though, so now that you mention it..."
"As long as you don't plan on dropping it off with me when you need to leave the city to work on a case."
"Not even if it's toilet trained?"
"Keep it non-arson trained and we might talk." He slowly contained his grin. "Honestly, when did I wind up as an honour citizen of Never-Neverland?"
"Hey, don't try to pull 'a man who knew too much' on me." She teased and suddenly became more serious as she felt someone watching her.
She looked discretely around to see two boys in their early teens nudging each other and stealing glances at her. She sighed and looked directly at them. They seemed taken aback for a moment but then they came closer to her table. They shared a look and one of them stepped forward, apparently being silently selected a speaker for the duo.
"You are Luminica, aren't you?"
She looked at them in amused confusion. "Excuse me?"
The boy turned to his friend. "I told you it couldn't be her."
"But she looks exactly like her."
"She doesn't have marks on her face."
"Big deal. She can hide the wings so why not the marks?"
Vicki had enough. "Wings? Marks?"
"See, she would know if it was her."
"Like she would admit it when speaking with mortals."
"Hold it you two. You have ten seconds to start making sense."
One of the boys looked at the other.
"See, she even sounds like her. I told you she was Luminica." He took off his backpack and started rummaging through it. Finally he fished out what seemed to be a comic book. It still looked new and some part of her mind dutifully reminded her that it was Thursday and the book was probably just a day old.
Then she took a look at the cover. On which she immediately recognised herself, plus wings, minus anything that might pass as decent clothing. She groaned and put her face in her hands. That, combined with Mike's look, gave the boys cue to leave.
After a moment she dared to look up and quickly put the sunglasses back on.
"I swear, one of those days I'm going to stake him."
Mike smirked at that and she found herself smiling.
Things were coming back to normal. Whatever the normal was.
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