Disclaimer: The author of the following story claims no rights as to the ownership of characters or events connected to Blood Ties.
Special thanks to my beta – Bloodfem76.
Summary: Sometimes the only thing you have left are your memories.
Warning: A depressing piece. Don't read if you want to stay in a good mood.
The night was cool and windy, with nothing detracting from the pulsing array of colours. It was pleasant to walk down the streets in such weather, as the ground slowly gave away to the last touches of warmth bestowed upon it by the sun during the short hours of light.
He passed a few nightclubs with apparent disinterest. He would feed later. Right now he couldn't yet bring himself to enter the places deafening with music and countless pounding hearts.
For a while he enjoyed the velvet of solitude the night brought to the city streets. Then, upon some impulse, he changed direction, finally deciding on a destination for his stroll and a few moments later he was before the brightly lit bookshop. In the shop window he saw one of his graphic novels on display.
He smiled a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.
Vicki Nelson was always a fascinating person, as far as he was concerned. Her strong spirit sometimes seemed to be the only thing fuelling her body. When working on a case that caught her interest, she would forgo such trivial things like food and sleep.
There were a few times however when he managed to catch her in moments of vulnerability. Those, strangely, he treasured most, knowing how few she ever allowed to see that side of her.
And after particularly hard case, or one that managed to strike some cord she would sometimes trust him enough to allow herself to fall apart in front of him.
At times it amazed him how little it could take.
Like the time her client asked her for help finding his dog. Vicki didn't have many cases at the time so she agreed to look into it if only to pay the bills. Her case turned out to be a rather short one with tragic ending, when he managed to catch the scent of dried canine blood coming from an old forgotten well.
Vicki didn't say a word the whole way back. Once they returned to her office she poured herself a glass of brandy and sunk into her chair. She drank a few gulps before she spoke.
"I always wanted to have a dog, you know. I wasn't kidding when I told Emanuel that."
"Then why not get one? You don't leave town that often, you shouldn't have problems affording its care and," he smiled gently, "given some time it would probably even get used to my presence."
He was rewarded by a short choked laugh.
"Looking for a more challenging opponent than Mike in a growling match?" She shot back quickly, almost automatically, before taking another gulp of alcohol. "When I was a kid and said I wanted a dog my mum always said no. Then came college and it was simply impossible then. Same went for the academy. When I started working as a cop I considered it, but with all the time I spent at work... that would be cruel."
"You could take it to work with you now, though. You are your own boss."
"No, now... No." Another gulp of brandy. "No. If I had a dog now people would think... I know I'm going blind but I'll be damned if I give anyone a reason to think I'm helpless."
"You aren't helpless, Vicki. It doesn't matter what others think."
"Not yet I'm not. But soon." She paused for a second and looked down. "Do you have any idea how terrifying it is to be around you?"
Under any other circumstances such statement might have stung. Given the situation, such an abrupt change of topic was simply confusing.
"It's getting worse with every passing week. My vision. And my hearing might soon follow. It's been known to happen." She took another gulp from the glass and looked up. "When I'm around people, I know that my sight is failing but I also know that as long as there is light I can still keep up. With you... the things you can see... you can hear... I constantly catch myself wondering if it's just your enhanced senses picking something up or if mine have completely gone down the drain. You can't possibly know how it feels when you constantly wonder if you should be able to see and hear what the person next to you does."
"Do you want me to tell you if something is beyond human hearing and sight?"
She shook her head.
"That would be worse, I think. Not only would I be constantly reminded why you are doing this, but one day there would be something a normal human should see and I... At least that way I'd be able to fool myself a bit longer." She finished the glass and placed it on her desk. "Fooling myself. Now there is something I'm good at. But I can't do it any other way." She laughed bitterly. "Can you imagine a blind PI still insisting she can manage well enough on her own? If not, wait and see. That's how I'm bound to end up. Only... I wish I wasn't so afraid that moment is so close."
Tears glittered in her eyes like precious diamonds before rolling down her cheeks. He held her close. What else could he do?
That night he went home with their conversation still in mind. The thoughts it brought wouldn't let him go. Neither would the awareness that he had just witnessed Victoria Nelson admitting to the greatest fear overshadowing her life.
On impulse he went to his work area. For the rest of the night he worked at vampire speed creating one picture after another until he had a book outlined. As he lied down just before dawn, he felt tired and uncertain if his idea would do any good.
Then sleep claimed him for the day.
The next night his doubts grew as he quietly entered Vicki's office. He was running a risk of her being angry, offended and worst of all – hurt. But all his years of experience told him the best way to tame fears was to familiarise yourself with them. He went to her desk and placed the book next to her. She looked at it in confusion.
"You asked me yesterday if I could imagine a blind PI managing on her own. I tried to give you the answer in the best way I can. I hope you won't mind that I took the liberty to provide her with a guide dog to give her a hand."
She stared at the first page for a moment not opening the book "Diana Victory?"
"After the goddess of the hunt. I thought it appropriate." He didn't elaborate on the surname. She knew who it represented.
He watched her hesitantly open the book and read. She paled a few times. Her hands trembled but after a few pages she finally laughed for the first time.
"That dog seems all too smart and awfully human-like. Or rather vampire-like, I suppose, given that you actually gave him subtitles specifying what he can smell. Not to mention how eager he is to jump to the throat of anyone posing a threat to Diana. And I wonder where exactly did you get the idea for that irritating detective that only slows our protagonist down."
He grinned at her. "Can't an artist draw inspiration from the world around him anymore?"
"Tell you what, you name the dog in the book Prince and I'll let you get away with that."
"For you, Vicki, he can carry any title that was ever either rightfully or not bestowed upon me."
"What are you going to do with that book?" She asked as she finished reading.
"That's up to you. I created it for you."
"Well, I will think about it then. Are you planning to continue Diana's adventures?"
"Only if you help me come up with them."
She laughed. "You've got yourself a deal."
It became sort of routine for them after a while. After a week of work Vicki would spend the night at his apartment as they together created the next books of Diana's adventures. Those were happy times, full of laughter and bickering.
None of the books were ever seen by anyone but them. After being completed the books were safely placed in an ornate chest that had only two keys. He kept one and gave Vicki the other. It was something only they shared – not officially a secret but something not for the eyes of others – hidden just like Vicki's fears of blindness.
Which, he could only hope the books managed to ease a little. No words were ever spoken on the topic but she never seemed to have that haunted look when something reminded her of her eyesight.
There wasn't any help he could offer and this closure was clearly artificial one but it seemed to suffice.
The nights they spent on the books became almost a ritual so the evening when he woke not hearing her heartbeat at the door a hint of worry awoke in his mind. But then again Vicki was known to lose track of time when she stumbled upon an interesting case.
That thought allowed him to stay calm as he dressed. The act of listening to the messages on his voicemail was a routine and he didn't pay it much mind until he heard the voice of Michael Celluci telling him to call him as soon as he woke. The strain in the detective's voice together with lack of Vicki's presence put a fear in his heart.
Dialling the number at a speed that was almost too much for the phone to process, he called. And his world fell to pieces.
She had been walking back to her office after lunch, the detective said. She hadn't even been working on a case. According to an eyewitness two men had tried to take her purse. Vicki, of course, had defended herself. Just like she always did... Just like she had always done.
She should have noticed that one of the men was armed with a knife. A few months earlier she would have. The men escaped leaving her on the street bleeding to death. The help hadn't arrived on time. The most remarkable woman he had ever known left this world lying in pain on a cold sidewalk.
He could barely recall the phone shattering in his hand. He left his apartment and went hunting. Toronto was not big enough for them to hide. Not when they still carried the scent of Vicki's blood.
The last thing they knew was terror and pain. But even as they stared into the ebony orbs of their impending death they didn't know what treasure they robbed the world of.
His rage died together with them and suddenly he found himself at loss of what to do. In daze he returned to his home and wept in a way he never imagined himself capable before. For a few hours he entertained the thought of not moving from the spot where he fell to his knees and waiting for sunrise.
Then his eyes fell on the chest in his work area, prepared, like it had always been when he waited for Vicki to come. He made up his mind. He had things left to do.
He never thought he could be grateful to Celluci for anything, but the man's adamant insistence that the funeral was held after the sunset, won over the opposition from everyone else. That was something he would forever be grateful for.
Even if he suspected, as they stood together in the unfamiliar Anglican cemetery, the detective had done it in part for himself.
Neither of them said a word but standing alone as she was laid to her final rest would be too much. No matter how many deaths either of them had seen in their lives this one would stay with them for as long as they lived.
Victoria Nelson left in the way she never lived – quietly and peacefully.
He entered the shop and quietly took the book from the shelf. His finger dolefully traced her name on the cover. All profits from the book went to The Victoria Nelson Foundation.
This was as close as he could come to having her near.
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