The Halloween Party Disclaimers: Okay, you know the drill. I do not own Nick, Natalie or LaCroix,
or any of the other traditional FK characters. I'm just playing with them.
This story was first posted earlier today on the fkvals mailing list and is
dedicated to them-- my Valentine support group.

Archiving: The fkvals fanfic archive, www.fkfanfic.com and my own web site.
All other people must ask first.

"The Halloween Party"
a Val story
by Fleurette B

Part 1

"So... are you going to go or not?" Natalie Lambert asked the blond detective
standing before her. He had just shown her a black envelope which had come to
him through the mail. It was an invitation to a Halloween party--hosted by the
NightCrawler. "Nick?" she asked again when he still had not answered her.

"I don't know, Nat. I must admit, I *am* curious as to what LaCroix has planned
for the evening, but I don't think I want to go."

"Oh," Natalie sounded disappointed. She'd read the invitation. It clearly said
"bring a date." When she'd seen the words, she automatically hoped Nick would
offer to take her. Why else would he show her the invitaion? Nick wasn't a
guy who came out and said what he meant. He could easily have been inviting
her without wanting to voice it.

Apparently, however... that's not what he'd intended.

******

(Halloween Day)

A package for Natalie with the mail. Opening it, she found herself staring at a
beautiful Elizabethan Era gown. It was a shade of deep purple and made
entirely out of velvet and lace. Unerneath the dress was a golden mask and a
black envelope. Curious, she picked up the envelope and began to read the
silver script:

"I see that Nicholas did not find it in his heart to invite you to our little
party, my dear," the message read in LaCroix's near-perfect handwriting. "I am
certain this is an oversight on his part. Please accept these gifts, along
with my sincerest apologies. If you would, join us this evening as my honored
guest." It was signed "Lucien LaCroix"

Underneath the message were directions to the party's location, a mansion in one
of the oldest, weathiest areas of Toronto.

Natalie stood there, staring at the invitation in shock. LaCroix was inviting
her to the par--... A smile suddenly appeared on her face--a wicked, wonderful
smile accompanied by an equally wicked idea. Nick was obviously going to this
party; otherwise, how would LaCroix know that Nick had not invited her?
Natalie decied then and there to take LaCroix up on the generous offer. She'd
go to that party as *his* guest and surprise Nick.

She was dressing when the telephone rang. It was Nick. He was calling to let
her know that he'd decided not to go out at all. She asked if he wanted her to
drop by with some movies. His answer was made with tell-tale hesitance. No,
he'd informed her. He wanted to be alone tonight. Natalie knew then that he
was lying. Well Nick, she thought when she hung up the phone, I guess you'll
be in for the surprise of you life, won't you?

*******

The mansion was crowded with both humans and vampires, all costumed--faces
hidden from the world. Natalie was thankful for the golden mask hiding her
face, epscially when she recognized Tracy and Vachon dancing amid the sea of
other dancers. Showing her invitation to the man at the door, she took a deep
breath and joined the party-goers.

It didn't take her long to spot Nick. He was dressed all in black, looking very
much like a certain Melancholy Dane. The upper half of his face was covered by
a black mask, but she'd still have recognized him anywhere. He was standing in
a corner of the ballroom, but not alone. A blonde in an elaborate
Antebellum-style gown was with him. They were standing *very* close together
and seemed quite oblivious to the rest of the throng.

Nat's heart caught in her throat. She never really thought she'd come face to
face with Nick's lies... least of all in such a public place. Her emotions
boiled inside of her, struggling between confrontation with Nick and a swift
exit. Both seemed like equally good choices.

While she stood there, frozen, she felt a presence behind her. Unable to take
her eyes off Nick and the blonde, however, she did not look to see who it was.
Nor did she need to, as a voice soon accompanied the cool body which now
slightly touched her own. "I see you came after all, my dear," LaCroix said in
smooth tones. "It really is a wonderful little gathering, although I must
admit, the entertainment is somewhat lacking. Wouldn't you agree?"

She slowly nodded. Then LaCroix's hands were on her elbows and he was guiding
her away from the awful scene.

********

"Why did I even come here?" Natalie asked aloud once LaCroix had ushered her
into a private area of the mansion. It was a spacious den with a fire place
dominating one wall.

"Why did you indeed, my dear, if what you have seen upsets you so? Surely you
knew that this very thing might happen?" As he spoke, LaCroix eased her onto
an over-stuffed leather couch.

Natalie sank into the leather softness, sighing heavily. "I don't know!" she
exclaimed. "I just wanted... I thought I could..."

"That you could what, Natalie?" he asked her, sitting down beside her and
leaning in as if listening intently. His voice was low and sultry. "That you
could make Nicholas see what he is missing when he roams to other women?"

Natalie nodded, tears gathering in her eyes. That had been exactly what she'd
wished to do.

LaCroix reached out with one long-fingered hand, gently wiping the tears from
her eyes. "Do not cry over him; he is hardly worth the effort, wouldn't you
agree?"

"If he's not, then why did you invite me here tonight?" Natalie asked him, her
voice trembling. LaCroix's intimate touch had had thrilled her in ways she had
never thought possible, and yet, she was afraid of him... and that thrill.

"Is the answer so far from your own thoughts, my dearest Natalie," he asked her,
"that you cannot recognize it?"

Natalie found herself suddenly encircled in LaCroix's embrace, and it amazed her
at how good that felt. She looked up, meeting his masterful gaze with her
hesitant one. "Why?" she asked. The only answer she received was his lips
upon her own. As LaCroix kissed her, Natalie's head whirled and her heart
began to race. Nick had never kissed this way before, not even on that
Valentine's Day so long ago, when he declared that he loved her... and he
certainly hadn't done so since then.

"Why?" LaCroix mused in a low, smouldering voice when their lips finally became
unclasped. "Perhaps because you are a beautiful, desirable woman... one whom I
have long admired from afar." He smoothed her cheek with the back of his hand,
caressing her skin gently. "Perhaps because I can longer bear to see Nicholas
mistreat you... taking for granted the love of a good woman." He leaned towards
her again, this time lightly brushing her lips with his own and then retreating
from her. "Or maybe it is simply that I am lonely... as are you. It could be
that we have more in common than it first may seem."

Natalie's head swam as his words entered her soul. LaCroix thought she was
beautiful, even desiring her. He couldn't bear to see Nick hurt her. None of it
made sense, neither his admission nor the way those words and his kisses made
her feel.

"It makes no sense, I know," he said suddenly, as if reading her thoughts. "But
love is rarely ever logical." She nodded, struck speachless by his simple
statement. As if sensing htis, LaCroix said to her, "You need not speak, my
dear, my love. Simply allow me to hold you and kiss your sweet lips and I
shall know how you feel."

Somehow, she trusted him and allowed herself to be gathered into his arms once
again. This new kiss seemed to encompass her entire being, even as his own
being seemed to wrap itself around her as a comfortable blanket. Wanting to be
closer to that comfort, Natalie snuggled deeper in to his embrace.

LaCroix held her close to him even after the kiss ended. After several minutes
of silence, he spoke. "I should... return to my other guests, my dear."
Kissing her forehead, he asked her if she might accompany him. "I should most
put out if you did not dance every dance with me tonight."

Fin