The Hunted The Hunted
A Forever Knight Story
by Fleurette

(9 pm Toronto, Canada)

Detective Nicolas Knight sat at his desk, patiently filing reports. The evening was quite boring, if boring could accurately describe it. For this night was too quiet. Usually there was some excitement, but tonight was uneventful. Still, Nick mused, something seemed out of place... No, not out of place.. wrong, just wrong... Nick had felt this wrongness before... a long time ago...


Nick was staring deeply into the eyes of a beautiful woman, dressed in an elegant gown. She seemed to him as a princess from some story in his youth. He barely heard the voice behind him saying, "In the company of these witnesses, I now join you both as lovers, friends, and soul-mates." or LaCroix's joking remark, "kiss her, you young fool." These things faded into the back ground as he gathered his bride into his arms and kissed her tenderly...

Later that evening, Janette, Nick and LaCroix made their way through the gypsy camp. It had been Janette's idea-- going to watch the gypsy's play. They sang, told folk tales and entertained any who would watch. That night had been particularly impressive... there had been a man with a dancing bear, and LaCroix had lost a purse of gold to some kid who cheated at gambling...

Then she came, the old woman who called herself Tierra and claimed to be a seer of great powers. She offered to tell their fortunes but Nick refused. LaCroix had gambled away their gold, so they had nothing to pay her with. She stared at LaCroix for a long time, and then said she would tell her vision for free. Janette begged. That night she had been in a state of child-like glee, and she insisted that this would be the perfect way to end their wedding day. Nick forwent comment but followed the gypsy into her tent. Inside, the four sat before a small fire and held hands. The woman told them to close their eyes, as she began to hum.

She'll probably tell us that we've just been married, and that we'll have a long life together. Nick thought. Which meant she must have overheard us talking... a phony, she has no real power, he concluded as the woman continued to hum. Suddenly, the humming ceased and Tierra spoke in a voice thick with fear. "I see blood and death-- your death, young man and that of your bride... because of him!" She pointed her bony finger at LaCroix... her eyes flamed red... "A man will come for you... a man of strong powers. He will kill you... but first he will torture and kill all those you hold dear. Beware the red-haired man!!!" Then the woman collapsed. Nick knelt before her. She was dead. As he felt for pulse, a strange unease-- a wrongness-- entered his soul. It seemed also to affect LaCroix and Janette who huddled in the corner of the tent. Rattled, Nick stood and pulled them from the tent.

They quickly returned to the home they shared. None had spoken since the woman had died. When they were alone, Nick turned to Janette... "Do you believe her?" he asked, his voice trembling... But Janette did not need to answer- her eyes, wide with fear, said all that she could not say. Staring into those eyes, Nick felt his own terror intensifying.

***end flashback***

A shadow fell across Detective Knight's desk. he looked up and found himself plunging headlong into two pools of ultimate fear. Then Janette Ducharme crumbled to the floor, unconscious.

His paper work forgotten, Nick flew to her side, knocking over his chair. he gathered the limp body into his arms and rushed into Natalie's office. Closing the door behind him, he looked helplessly at Nat. She in return looked shocked, both by Janette's appearance and Nick's odd behavior. Then something occurred to her.. tonight was their anniversary. A part of Nick, she knew, still loved Janette. Seeing her this way must be tearing him apart.

Quietly, Nat went into the outer office to assure everyone that she could handle the problem. The last thing they needed was for someone to burst in on them while they treated a vampiress! Then she returned to Nick's side. "She takes B+," Nick told her as she prepared a quick blood infusion.

"What happened to her?" Nat asked. It was a good question, for Janette not only appeared to be in shock, but had been burned in several places on her arms, legs, and back. Numerous lacerations accompanied the burns. Nick wondered how the wounds sustained themselves for so long. She should have healed.

With the introduction of fresh blood in to her body, Janette's eyes fluttered open and she struggled to sit up. Nick came to her side quickly and held her close to him... She then began to cry.

Nat watched silently. Often in the past she had felt jealous of Janette and the closeness she and Nick shared. They had been through so much together, and he obviously still cared for her. And since her own relationship with Nick was so odd at times, she often wondered what had stopped Nick from going back to Janette. Nat forced herself not to stare at them and returning to her desk, said, "take all the time you need, Nick."

Janette stopped crying and looked at her. "I'm imposing Nicolas. Take me home and I'll be fine...I only need to rest.. and feed."

"You're hurt," said Nick protectively. "You need help and Nat's the best there is. If anyone can help you, it's her."

Janette smiled at him softly. "You are so loyal to her." She looked at Natalie again... He loves her She attempted to stand, but sway back into Nick's arms on trembling legs. Nick searched her eyes... "What's happened to you?" he whispered.

In a low whisper, Janette answered him, "The red-haired man." Nick turned pale.. well, paler than usual.

"Who is the red haired man?" Natalie asked quietly.

"A vampire hunter. He was supposed to kill Janette, lacroix and myself." Nick recounted to Natalie the story the old woman had told... "and then she died." he concluded bluntly. "To this day, I thought it was a hoax... " he look at Janette, sitting barely conscious on Nat's couch. Nat had been forced to administer another infusion while she listened to Nick's tale. Janette was still too weak to drink the blood herself-- she could hardly hold the cup nat had offered her.

Nick glanced at the clock on the wall. "My shift's almost over... can you watch her until then, and I'll take her home? She will be safe there."

"But will she be alright?" Nat asked.. Nick visibly drooped, "We can only hope." Nat came to him and hugged him reassuringly. he held onto her tightly as a drowning man to a life preserver. he wept openly now, and with a voice harsh with emotion, said, "why tonight, Nat... why tonight?" Nat didn't answer. She simply did not know what to say.

Part II

(3am Nick's home)

Nick watched Janette silently as she slept. After he brought her home, she had fed... and had emptied his fridge. Now she slept in relative peace, only waking once so far. But once had been enough to convince Nick that something had to be done about this red-haired man. I should call LaCroix, he thought... He has a right to know about this... Then another thought came to Nick... he hadn't seen his Master in quite a few days. What if the hunter has LaCroix as well. No, that can't be... a vampire and his Master share a special bond. If LaCroix were dying, I would feel something. Nick frowned.. Ok... enough of this worrying. LaCroix can defend himself well enough. Let's concentrate on pleasant things... Natalie, for one... she really came through for me again today... she sure is special...

But as Nick tried to think about Natalie, other thoughts invaded his mind. Thoughts of Janette. Finally, he gave up trying to force these thoughts out of his mind. He realized that his subconscious had been obsessing about her all night, and her showing up had only made the memories come back stronger. He remembered everything so vividly... the night he told LaCroix about his desire to join with her. LaCroix had been both pleased and stern. Pleased because his two children were in love with each other; stern because vampire weddings, or joinings, were few and frowned upon. It was a bond for eternity, and sometimes people got bored with one another too quickly. But once the bond was formed it could not be broken easily except under certain conditions. Nick and Janette had found those conditions. When his murderous lifestyle became unbearable and Nick desired to regain his mortality, he was informed that these were the only grounds one could use to obtain a permanent separation. Thus, they were separated. But for years we still loved each other, and still traveled together... until she became tired of "my silly obsession", she called it... only then, I still loved her.

It had taken years to forget her... yet every time he was sure that he was over her, she re-appeared in his life. Nick's heart throbbed with conflict. He still cared strongly for Janette, but now there was another... there was Natalie... He had loved her from the moment they met, not just because of her promise to help him, but for herself, her sense of humor, her smile, her laugh, and her vast intelligence. They were two different people- Janette and Natalie. A part of Nick wished he could have them both... another part of him knew he would probably have neither. Trying to shake these thoughts and feelings, Nick resolved to take a shower and retire for the day.

While Nick showered, Natalie approached the door. She let herself in with the key Nick had given her a year ago. Janette awoke at the noise, startled but calmed when she saw who it was.

"I hope I didn't disturb you,"said Natalie. "I only wanted to check up on the two of you... and I brought you an anniversary present." She held up two wine bottles which doubtless contained Nick's favorites flavor of cow's blood.

"How thoughtful," Janette smiled. "But you do know that it's been some time since Nicolas and I celebrated an anniversary together. The circumstances of our separation make it difficult for us both."

As she spoke, Nat watched her closely. She seemed better. "Would you mind if I examined your wounds, Janette? I really would like to help." Janette nodded her approval and removed the silk robe she wore so Natalie could get a better look at her wounds.

They've scarred... why? How? thought Natalie. "Do you still feel much pain?" she asked aloud.

"Not so much, now that I've fed and rested," Janette replied as she slipped back into her silky garment.

"Then I did the right thing in bringing the blood?" asked Nat.

"Yes, though Nick needs it more than I do. I doubt that he fed much at all. He seemed quite worried- too worried to drink a bite."

Nat nodded... she knew Nick almost as well as Janette did. "I was afraid of that. Where is he, anyway?" They both listened for a moment and then Janette smiled... "the shower," she told Natalie.

Nat suddenly felt uncomfortable. "As long as you're both ok, I think I'll leave." She started for the door. Janette jumped up and touched her arm, stopping her.

"You don't have to... nothing happened between us, if that's what you were thinking..." she said, having read Natalie's mind.

"All they same, I think..." Nat began, but was cut off.

"Then don't think. Girl, if you don't realize that he cares for you, you must be blind. More than that, Nick loves you. I see it in his eyes when he looks at you. Surely you see it, too."

Natalie bowed her head. She could not bring herself to look at Janette after hearing all this. But she was spared the need to reply when Nick's voice came from behind them. "Still trying to run my love life, Janette?" His voice was cold.

Janette laughed. "From what I can see, mon cher, you haven't one."

"That doesn't give you the right. Natalie did not come here to hear that, especially not from you."

"And when did you plan on declaring you love, Nicolas? On her death-bed?" Janette's voice was cold now, too. In fact, they both generated enough ice to freeze Hell.

As they argued Natalie slipped out the door, leaving it open. Now she was more confused than ever. Janette said Nick loved her, but why had he never said it himself? What was more, the icy hate in his voice scared her- reminding her of the monster he was in reality. How could she ever hope to cure him? And after tonight, how could she face him at work?

Natalie returned home to find a message from Reese on her answering machine. The captain wanted to know about the woman whom she had treated today. Had she been referred to a hospital? Was she ok? And more importantly, could there be a case to be solved? Nat had hoped Reese wouldn't want to get involved, since it would mean involving Nick's partner. This risked Nick's identity being discovered.

Part III

(LaCroix's apartment, three days later)

"But they saw her Nicolas. How could you let them see her?" LaCroix was furious. Nicolas's obsession with the mortals just might prove the downfall of the entire Community. I thought I taught him better...

"I hypnotized them all. Anyone who saw her will find it hard to describe what they saw." Nick replied. He reached for the bottle on the table and refilled his half empty wine glass. LaCroix had taken to spicing his blood with expensive French wine. It reminded Nick of home... an impertinent tavern wench outside Paris... He shook these thoughts from his mind. Since Janette's arrival he had been regressing to the basic vampiric instincts. Especially after the argument they'd had. This was why he hadn't gone back to work since that night. The yearning for human blood was too great. Fighting with Janette always did give me an appetite. he mused.

LaCroix watched him for a moment... then said what had been on his mind these past three days. "Nick... what is going on with you? Why last night, I almost asked you come hunt with me... this all seems so much like the old days. This isn't like you at all."

"I can't explain it. Seeing Janette like that... and then the fight? It seems I still haven't fully gotten over her yet."

"With that lovely doctor of yours? Why, Nick, you really should have no problem replacing Janette..." LaCroix paused... "Wait a minute.. what fight?"

Nick sighed. He hadn't told LaCroix about that yet. "Janette told Natalie something that she didn't need to hear. I told her not to mess with my life anymore, and the next thing I know... we're tearing each other to shreds. Like you said, it's just like the old days." Nick sighed again... "I guess I let my temper get the best of me."

"Hashed it out like you were still married, eh? And did you make up the same as you always did, Nicolas?" LaCroix smiled, an evil, mocking smile.

"No, we did not... she left and I nearly collapsed. I had forgotten how physical arguing can be... " Nick turned to look out the window... the stars played merrily in the sky that night. But Nick could not find pleasure in the sky this night.

"What did she tell Natalie, my son? Nat knows all about the Community, so what secret could it be... perhaps, that you love this mortal woman... is that what Janette said to upset you so?"

Why does he have to be right all the time? thought Nick. "I thought I told you before, there is nothing between Natalie and myself. She was just another way for me to become mortal again. And as you can see, it hasn't happened." Nick responded stiffly. He hated it when LaCroix was right.

"Whatever... but I am convinced Nicolas... that if you don't care for this woman now, you will later on. No one can work so closely together and share secrets such as yours and not be drawn to each other." LaCroix set another bottle on the table. "Now.. what shall we do about our hunter?"

"Find him... and destroy him. If anything, I hunger for him... to know that he will die before the prophesy is fulfilled." Nick raised his glass... "Shall we toast to it?"

Part IV

(A hotel room in Toronto)

A man of average height, about 5'9, sat staring out the window into the night. He was slim, but the seemed to be a certain strength about him, as if great power lie just beneath his skin. But his most striking feature was his bright red hair.

He stood and paced the room, then picked up a tiny portrait from the dresser beside the bed. It showed a young woman in her early twenties-- vibrant and full of life. He kissed the image and held it too his breast. "They are out there, my love... and soon I will know where." He paused... then a voice sounded in his mind...

I wish you wouldn't do this thing, Vaughn. I miss you. Come to me now.

"I cannot, my love. I must revenge your death. And I... we are so close. can you not feel it?"

I feel nothing. There is no pain or anger this side of death. Come to me... we could be happy.

"But we've come too far to quit now... the little pigeon I set free led us here. She flew home, like we planned. Soon we will finish her and her murderous friend."

I wish you hadn't hurt her. She has done nothing to us.

"She is His. Don't you see, Jozyne... he hurt us by taking you, so I will hurt him by taking her."

Why do you do it? You have wasted so many years. We could have been together a hundred years ago, instead of still waiting. Rest and come to me.

"I cannot. Didn't I explain this to you before? The authorities of our day failed to do justice. And when, Annetta died, I decided to seek my own justice. And I have not "wasted" these hundred years... I have used them to study and grow in power. You saw the way I tortured and manipulated the vampiress. The wounds I gave her will take time and a miracle to heal fully" He smiled malevolently.

I still wish you were here with me instead. Resignation sounded in the voice. Will it take much longer?

"No, my dearest. Not too long now. They will all pay for taking you from me. And Annetta, too."

They did not take Annetta. She died of the fever.

"True, but she died because you were not there. Because the nurse I hired could not care for her as a mother would have done."

Vaughn deGuerre got no reply... the voice had left.

He wondered why life had to be so unfair. How could a creature as kind and gentle as Jozyne be taken so violently from the earth. It was that vampire that should have died. And he will... and burn in Hell, too. Only... how to find him?

(same night, two hours later)

Vaughn deGuerre walked the streets, in his hand he held a tiny photograph of a sophisticated woman with long, dark hair. He stopped nearly everyone he met, asking if they's seen her-- his wife. His travels led him straight to the Raven and he entered, just as the lovely Tracy Vetter was being escorted to the door by Javier Vachon. He stopped them. Something about this young Hispanic man did not seem normal. He sensed why, but chose not to act. He was only interested in one particular vampire... Lucien LaCroix. He held out the photo and asked, "have you by any chance see this woman? She's my wife, Jozyne."

"She's missing?" asked Tracy.

"She was in a terrible accident and lost her memory. She left our apartment a week ago and hasn't returned. I've looked everywhere for her." deGuerre replied.

The young vampire took the photograph and stared at it for a long while. "No. I haven't seen her. I would have remembered such a treasure."

"All the same, I think I should take a look inside. She might be..." deGuerre started. Vachon cut him off.

"She wasn't in there. Look. I'm the owner's assistant manager and I greet everyone who comes into the place. She wasn't there. Trust me... look somewhere else."

Tracy looked confused. Javier wasn't working at the Raven. She looked at the picture again and said, "I'm a police detective. Why don't you stop by the precinct later and file a missing persons? Maybe we can help you."

DeGuerre smiled... " I just might do that. Thank you, young lady. Your friend here could take some lessons from you in manners." With that, he walked off into the night. Tracy turned to Javier...

"You don't work here... what's going on?"

"I don't know. Something about that guy gave me the creeps. and besides... as of three nights ago, I do work here. The owner is a friend of mine, and he needed to lay low for awhile. So he asked me to watch things for him." Vachon grinned at her... "You do know I would never lie in the presence of a lady."

Tracy shrugged and walked off. Her search had been in vain. Nick hadn't been either at his apartment or the Raven. So far, no one had seen him. Two missing persons.... her partner, and now this man's wife. What next?

Part V

(Captain Reese's office, the following night)

"Yes, I realize I should have called you, but I was too ill. I am sorry, but the doctor I saw was very adamant about complete bed rest." Nick stood before Reese, trying to explain going AWOL. He was not succeeding.

"Nick, look... you know you're the best detective we have, but that doesn't excuse a complete disappearing act. Tracy went by your place and you weren't even there." He sighed. "I've been asked to revue your record tonight and discipline you accordingly. Why don't you tell me what you deserve?"

Nick shook his head... "I don't know. You know my record is pretty much spotless. I was out of town, with a friend when it happened, so I no way of proving I was ill. I'll take any punishment you dish out."

Reese looked grim... "Well, there is a case. There's this man outside looking for his missing wife. He thinks she may have been abducted or killed. You and Tracy can take it."

"Yes, sir. I'll inform her." Nick turned to go.

"Vetter is questioning our grieving husband right now. She can give you the details." Reese called behind him as he left.

Nick frowned when he saw Tracy seated with a red-haired stranger. He walked over to them and smiled. "Whatcha got, Trace?" he asked.

She looked up. "You've been hanging around the Raven too much. You sound like Javier." She handed Nick Janette's picture. "A possible murder, or else just a missing person. We don't know which to call it. The woman can't be found anywhere."

Nick stared at the photograph... It's Janette! This must be our hunter. Let the game begin. He shook his head. "Where did you last see her?" He asked.

"At our apartment. She left to go shopping and never returned." deGuerre said.

"I see,"Nick replied. He read over the report Tracy had filed. "It says here, she was an amnesiac?"

"Yes, that's right. She was in an automobile accident and lost her memory."

"So... you let a woman with no recollection of where or who she was go shopping unaccompanied." He turned to Tracy. "I don't know about you, but this sounds ridiculous. A perfect waste of time."

Tracy stared at him. "Nick! I've never seen you so callous!" She began to stammer apologies to deGuerre.

"No, young lady. It's fine. I understand how stupid I must look. But she said she could find her way back. Your partner is right. I should have gone with her." His explanation was smooth. He soon had Tracy convinced that under her partner's rudeness hid a spark of the truth.

He plays the sympathetic victim well. Nick thought as he pretended to study the report. Then he cleared his throat pointedly. They stopped talking and looked at him. "I think we should start by checking in the local homeless shelters and hospitals. Mr. deGuerre can come along with me. Trace, can ask that informant friend of your to check it out?"

"I will." she smiled. "One thing Nick, it's good to have you back."

He returned the smile. "It's good to be back." They started for the door, when Tracy froze in her tracks suddenly. "What?"

"I just remembered. What about that woman who came in here the other night. The one Nat treated and released. You took her home, didn't you?" Tracy asked. Nick winced internally. He'd been able to make the others forget all about her. Reese even unwittingly destroyed the minutes report for that night. But he couldn't do that with Tracy because she was a Resister.

"What woman? I never saw any woman." He asked innocently.

"You never saw a woman?" Tracy looked confused. "What's going on here?"

"Look... maybe you're dreaming. The last night I worked, it was the most boring night of my life. Not even a lousy mugging to investigate. Are you sure you have the right night?"

"I thought I did." she called over one of the other officers and asked him. He shook his head. Tracy looked even more puzzled. "Maybe I was hallucinating."

Nick smiled... "Maybe, Trace."

Part VI

(The Raven)

LaCroix sat in a secluded corner booth with Janette. Since Javier told them about the search for Janette, both had been too frightened to leave their homes. But the need to feed finally drove them into the outside world. Neither had spoken aloud since they arrived. And since the bar tender had snuck them each two bottles of the "house special," they had no reason to leave the table. Finally, LaCroix spoke. "You should have seen how rattled Nick was when he came to me the other night. Whatever did you do to him?"

"I thought you no longer cared for what happened to him?" Janette's voice was cold.

"I gave that attitude up two hundred years ago. You know I still care about the whelp." LaCroix sounded tired, and cranky.

"Whatever. If you must know. I could have destroyed him that night... if I hadn't been so weak. Why did you ask?"

LaCroix smiled. "The boy acted almost vampire for a moment. He was positively primal. I loved it." His evil smile broadened. Janette laughed. She, too, had been impressed when Nick's natural instincts kicked in. If he had not become exhausted so easily, she may have stuck around to... well, rekindle other old flames with him. But he had nearly collapsed from fatigue, so what did it matter?

"I know how you feel. I was so attracted to him that night. Too bad I haven't seen him since. We could have had something special... more than what he could ever have with that mortal."

LaCroix raised an eye-brow quizzically. "Mortal? The doctor, Natalie?"

"Of course. You didn't know?" she sounded surprised.

"No, I didn't. He's always telling me there is nothing between them. No feelings at all." His face darkened. "Has Nicolas been lying to me, Janette?"

Janette suddenly realized what she had done. She thought quickly, then said, "No... forgive me. I spoke for jealousy. He spends so much time with her, searching for his cure. I guess I just want him all to myself."

"Well, then... maybe you should have stuck around until he came to. I'm sure you could have had him that night." LaCroix sounded unconvinced and Janette knew it. Please forgive me, my beloved... she thought.

The two of them continued to speak in low whispers. They never noticed Javier and Urs approaching their table. Vachon cleared his throat. "Ummm... how's it going? Can I help in any way?" He said.

"Did Nick put you up to this?" LaCroix asked.

Urs spoke up. "No. A hunter affects the entire Community. We talked it over and decided to help out where it was needed. And that means keeping you two out of sight until Nick says otherwise."

Janette looked impressed. "The last time I saw you, little girl, you were too shy to speak to LaCroix that boldly." she grinned. "I like the change in you."

"There's been more news." Vachon continued, ignoring Janette's side comment to Urs. "Marius and Angele arrived last night in Canada. We warned them not to come here right now. Under the circumstances, that was our best course of action."

Janette started... "Angele, here?"

"No," replied Vachon. "Montreal. There is a rumor that Marius will publish a new novel this year."

"In Montreal?" asked LaCroix. "That sounds unlikely. But, then, when did Marius do things the normal way?"

Janette had faded out of the conversation. As she sipped her drink, she thought back to her youth in France...


She's just given birth to her illegitimate child. A girl. The owner of the small brothel had spirited her away before the young mother could see her. The mother wept bitter tears.

In the months that past, Janette had looked for an end to her life's suffering. Then, he came... the man who would change her life forever. She found that immortality suited her better than impoverishment. And she was happy for the first time in her life. Until one day...

Janette and LaCroix were wandering the streets of Paris looking for "fun", when they heard screams of terror coming from an alleyway. Curiosity aroused, they went to investigate. When they rounded the corner, they saw two vampires attacking a young woman. Normally, they would have ignored this. Neither cared if these vampires fed this night upon beauty and youth. But as they turned to leave, a strange sadness filled Janette. She whirled around and confronted the girl's attackers. With LaCroix beside her, they refused to fight her and fled. Then Janette knelt beside the terrified woman. LaCroix's voice sounded in her ear, "She looks like you, my dear... except for that flaming red hair. She's astounding..."

Janette only nodded. She held the young woman tenderly, greatly aware of the fact that she had found her long lost daughter. How she knew it, aside from the physical evidence, was a mystery to her. Yet, it was her daughter. "She's dying... we came too late."

He knelt beside them. "Did we, my love? Is there nothing we can do?" Tactfully LaCroix reminder her that they could bring the young girl across. "I mean... if her death bothers you so... "

"You don't understand... this is my baby. I've found my baby that was taken from me. And she is dying." Janette was crying openly now.

"Then, do it. Let her live. Then she will be your daughter once more."

Janette nodded again and slowly bared her fangs...

***End flashback***

That was so long ago... she thought. Then Lacroix's voice cut in to her thoughts completely.
"Janette! Did you hear me?"

"Umm, no. I'm sorry. I was just thinking about Angele. It's been so long since I saw her last." She looked up to find Javier and Urs gone. She blinked. "They left?"

"A while ago. I was just saying that given the danger around here, it might be a good idea to go to visit your daughter in Montreal... don't you think?" Lacroix spoke through the bemused laughter which threatened to destroy his reserve.

"Perhaps I will. But I should wait until I'm healed more. I still feel very weak." Janette stood. "I'm also tired still. I should retire now... could you do me a favor? Do you think you can get what's her name-- Nick's doctor friend to come and check my wounds? I'm not feeling too well, and I think it may help."

Lacroix agreed and signalled to Javier once more.

Part VII

(Nick's loft, after work)

He hadn't said no when Natalie asked to meet him after work. And so she followed him home. Now they say silently in Nick's dimly lit living room. How ironic to call it that, Natalie thought. Nick hadn't said a word. He just sat there looking guilty. Finally, Natalie decided to break the silence, but as she began to speak, Javier Vachon appeared before them.

"You were right about him, he is the hunter." He said, facing Nick. "I followed him back to his apartment. And you know what? That guy gives me the creeps."

Nick smiled weakly. "Me, too. He has power, too. Of some kind. I don't know what it is, but it radiates from him." Vachon nodded in agreement.

"Do you wonder why we don't just sacrifice Lacroix to him. Maybe he'll go away." Vachon said, trying to joke. No one laughed.

It was then that Vachon noticed Natalie. "Umm... Nick... you've got company. I'm sorry. I'll leave now. God, Dr. Lambert, you could have said something... I mean... considering what's happened, I should think you both had a lot to talk about."

"What's happened, Javier?" Natalie sound ticked off. "Nick, does the whole Community know about what happened here the other night?" Correction, thought Nick. not ticked off... outright murderous.

Nick sighed. "A few people know about Janette's attack. I think Tracy mentioned that things were strained between us and this little Spanish genius figured out the rest. Unless he just got brave and asked Janette for sports highlights."

"Sports highlights???"

Vachon laughed. "A good one, Knight. Yeah, from what I hear, Nick and his ex-wife hand it out like two contenders for the heavyweight championship title. And I also hear that she won..." he looked at Nick. "I've been *dying* to know if that part's true." he smiled the smile of a true con man.

"Pretty much," Nick replied, awkwardly. "I got really tired all of a sudden and practically passed out. But then, so would you if you went up against Janette on a nearly empty stomach."

Vachon laughed again. "I would never be as stupid as to pick a fight with Her." He grinned and left.

Nat watched him leave and then said, "so that makes you stupid." it wasn't a question.

Nick resumed his previous silence, so Natalie continued. "I ought to thank Javier. He asked the question I wanted answered. What happened that night?" Still no answer. Nick bowed his head. "Nick? Won't you answer me?"

"What can I say?" he sounded even more miserable than he looked.

"Try the truth..."

"The truth? I'm afraid I hardly know what that is anymore." he sighed and plunged onward. "I guess you left before things got too bad, so you have no way of knowing what it was like. Janette really got to me, telling you all that stuff. I'm tired of her and Lacroix running my life. I flee to the ends of the earth to escape them and they always find me. So I just started yelling. And she yelled back. The next thing I know, we're attacking each other like two animals." he paused... "you don't need to hear the rest."

"Yes, I do." she said bluntly. And about "all that stuff", too, she thought.

Nick sighed again. "Like I told Javier, I was so exhausted that I passed out. Lack of nourishment does it every time. Never fight on an empty stomach... it weakens your staying power. She was gone when I awoke."

"And afterwards?" Natalie asked, when Nick seemed to be holding out on her.

"I finished off the blood you brought over. All of it. And it didn't help. I felt... oh, I really don't know how I felt, except hungry. I had an incurable craving for human blood. I tried to control it, but it just made the yearning stronger. So I went to Lacroix." Nick laughed bitterly. "He took me in and fed me, just like the good father he never was... The truth is, Nat, I was too overcome by the need for human blood. I couldn't help myself. It took three days to get over it enough to come back to work. And, there is still the hunter to deal with."

Natalie was staggered. "I knew you occasionally had relapses, but three days? Are you sure you're ok?"

"Three days are nothing to a vampire. " He bowed his head again, unable to look at her as he said, "and I was also afraid of seeing you..."

All that stuff... Natalie thought...

(The Raven, sometime later that night)

Nick had gone to the Raven shortly after Natalie had left. He couldn't shake the guilt he felt over not telling her for yet another time. For Christ's sake, how hard would it be to say "I love you"? He thought bitterly. He took the glass the bartender offered him and drained it without giving it much thought. The rich human blood surged through his body, leaving behind a pleasant warmth. Nick indicated the need for another glass. As he sipped the second drink, Lacroix approached him.

Smelling the blood, Lacroix smiled. "Ah, Nicolas. So good to see you again so soon. I take it you escorted the Good Doctor."

"Dr. Lambert's here?" Nick asked nervously. He started to put down the wine glass, but then decided against it. He gulped it down and waited for another.

"Dr. Lambert, is it? Oh, dear... have we had a tiff?" Lacroix sneered.

Oh, great, thought Nick. He's in a better mood tonight. Don't you just love it when he's feeling chipper. He bit his tongue on the rude comment that begged to be said. Instead, he said, "Natalie and I are not young lovers. We might be, if... And I don't need your advice on love." His voice nearly shook with anger. As the bar tender began to pour his next drink, he grabbed the bottle and took a long pull from it.

Lacroix raised his eyebrows in amusement. "Maybe we should--" He was cut off as two female voices filled the air.

"Nick!!" Natalie and Janette exclaimed in unison. Janette seemed pleased to see *her* Nicolas enjoying the "house special"; while Natalie was completely horrified. Janette spoke first.

"Qu'est-ce qui se passe, Nicolas?" she asked.

"Rien, de rien..." he replied. He set the bottle down, obviously uncomfortable holding it while Natalie stood watching him.

"You're sure?" Janette pushed further, sounding both concerned and pleased.

Lacroix answered swiftly. "My son was just informing me that he doesn't need my advice on love, ma cherie. However, he doesn't really have much of a love life, does he?"

Janette picked up on the tension between the two vampires. She patted Nick on the shoulder and said, with much sarcasm, "Poor Nicolas. Don't those innocent mortal women want to play with you? Don't they believe you when you say you love them?" She paused and looked from Nick to Natalie. "Oh, that's right. I forgot that you don't tell them you love them."

Nick stood silent through their banter, his anger growing steadily with his shame. "What would you have me say?" he muttered bitterly. He began to walk away, but stopped himself. No, I will not run away from this. he thought.

"You two will lose your clientele with that attitude." was his bristling remark.

Throughout this whole scene, Natalie remained quiet. Now she spoke. Her voice has surprisingly calm. "They ARE right about one thing, Nick. Something has been wrong with you for days now. Even I'd like to know what you're hiding." With that she turned to Janette. "I recommend that you rest a few more days and I'll check in on you again. I really have no explanation for the pain you're still experiencing." She nodded to Lacroix and walked away.


(The police department, a week later)

DeGuerre stood in front of Nick, glaring maliciously. He had just openly accused Nick of throwing away the case. If you only knew, Nick thought wryly. Reese and Tracy had been stunned by the man's reaction when Nick told him they could no longer help him. "I am terribly sorry," Nick stammered. "I've never had to just give up a case before. I wish there was more-" He stopped as Vachon walked into the office. He grabbed Vachon by the arm and pulled him into the interrogation room. Through the sound proof glass, Reese, Tracy and deGuerre watched as Nick spoke to Vachon.

Vachon paced the room at first, but stopped abruptly when Nick spoke again. The Spaniard paled slightly and nodded. Then the two men shook hands. As they opened the door, Nick said, "Thank you Javier, I knew I could count on you."

Vachon laughed. "For Toronto's favorite homicide detective? It would be an honor to help so great a celebrity." He faked a subservient bow and quickly exited.

"What was that all about?" asked Tracy.

"Just thought I'd give this case one last hurrah before it goes to the unsolved file. Javier's going to do some digging for me." Nick frowned as he spoke. Using Javier was too dangerous because the hunter knew what Javier was, but there seemed no other choice.

DeGuerre studied Nick for a moment. This smooth detective was too smooth. From the last week and a half of walking the beat with him, deGuerre learned that Knight had connections to some kind of underground. Some- or perhaps all- were vampires. Yet, for some reason, Knight had eluded him. He could not read his aura, as he could the Spanish vampire or the tiny Tracy Vetter. Something kept blocking his power whenever he concentrated on Knight. What was it?

Nick felt the hunter probing him and stiffened visibly. He knew that the hunter hadn't figured it out yet. And he planned to keep it that way. He remembered what Janette had said about deGuerre's magic. He reads your mind, she'd warned. Try to keep you mind closed. Concentrate on blocking him out, Nicolas, and he won't be able to expose you. So far, she'd been right.

As Nick fell silent, Tracy also studied him. She sensed there was tension between Nick and Natalie, but couldn't tell what. Also, Nick seemed consumed with deGuerre's case. Which made it all the more odd for the case to go unsolved. Usually when Nick put his mind to a case, it got solved. And yet, giving up this case didn't really seem to bother him as much as him said it did.

Hours passed without any news from Javier. DeGuerre had grown restless watching Nick and Tracy doing paper work. Nick went into the captain's office and came out again a few minutes later. He looked at Tracy. "Cap thinks we ought to check missing persons again. Maybe they heard something?" He said.

"I already called upstairs. Nothing." Tracy sounded tired. Nick sighed. Where was Vachon? he thought. Then he leaned down to whisper in her ear. "I have to talk to you in private, " he said. Then he walked off, disappearing around the corner.

After several minutes, Tracy also left the office, carrying a large stack of files to be processed. She found Nick in the lounge. "It's about time," he said.

"Sorry, I just couldn't get away so easily." she replied. "What's going on, Nick?"

"I've been observing our friend, deGuerre. I don't think he's on the level, Trace. And I've convinced Reese that we should start checking him out as well."

"What do you mean?" Tracy asked innocently.

Nick grated his teeth and bit back a harsh comeback. Tracy's innocence was unreal sometimes. "I don't think the woman we're looking for is his wife. In fact, I suspect he's killed or abducted her and this whole thing is a scam to cover up his tracks."

"But why would you think that?"

"I don't know. I just have a feeling. There is something about him that bothers me."

Tracy nodded. None of this made much sense to her, but she had come to trust her partner's instincts. "You'd better get back in there." Nick nodded and left.

(sometime later that night, outside the Raven)

"Vachon said he'd meet us here. Apparently, the owner just hired a new girl." Nick told deGuerre. DeGuerre nodded stiffly.

Presently, the door opened and Vachon slipped out, Urs on his arm. He smiled when he saw Nick and deGuerre. "She's in there," he said. "Fits the description exactly. And not a bad dancer either." he grinned as Urs pulled him away from Nick and down the alley to the parking lot. Once out of sight the two vampires quietly slipped into the Raven's secret entrance and waited for the trouble to begin.

Nick entered first, followed by deGuerre. They both realized what Vachon's parting shot had meant almost immediately. The woman they came to see was the center of attention. All eyes turned toward the stage to watch Janette Ducharm perform a raunchy strip tease. "Is that your wife?" Nick asked quietly.

Part IX (Natalie's apartment)

Nick stared out the window, into the black night. He heard Natalie hang up the phone and turned to her. "I shouldn't have let him take her away," he said.

"It will be alright, Nick. You'll see."

"What did Vachon say?"

"Nothing. Lacroix hasn't returned yet. You're worried, aren't you?"

Nick sighed and sat down. "Do you really have to ask? Yes, I am worried. You saw what he did to her the first time around. He could kill her this time."

"And you don't think Lacroix can rescue her?"

"The trap he's set is for Lacroix. I'm sure he's anticipated my Master's abilities." Nick's frown deepened.

"You certainly are negative tonight." Nat said cheerfully.

Nick didn't reply. He'd gone back to staring out the window. This time, however, it wasn't Janette or Lacroix he was thinking about. He was remembering the way Natalie looked as she stormed out of the Raven last week. She looked so sexy, he thought. Then he cursed himself for another missed opportunity to tell her how he felt about her. Well, why not tell her now? his conscious asked. I could... but how will she react? His frown deepened. Thinking he was worrying over Janette, Natalie placed her hand reassuringly on his shoulder. "It WILL be ok, Nick." she said softly. To hell with it, he decided. Why worry how she reacts?

"Nat... I... I have to tell you something." He said, slowly turning to face her.


"About what Janette told you the other night, about us..."

"No, Nick. Don't." she said, stopping him cold. He blinked in confusion.

"What do you mean, don't?"

"You don't have to make excuses for Janette. You were right, she had no place trying to manipulate your personal life."

"But Natalie... Janette was-"

At that moment, Vachon crashed through Natalie's window. "Sorry, I'll fix it later," he said hurriedly. Then he faced Nick. "Come on, we've got to get over there. Something's very wrong."

Nick gazed sadly back at Nat as he followed Vachon into the night sky. Janette was right. I love you, Natalie.

(a roof top, high above Toronto)

"Where are we going?" Nick asked pensively. Vachon's agitated manner bothered him greatly. Where's LaCroix? he thought.

"We have to get to Lacroix and Janette. I did what you said Nick. Carlos and I followed Lacroix when he went in search of Janette. He went in to the catacombs and didn't return."

"So you came to get me?"

"Yeah. So I came to get you. I also took the opportunity to stop the Raven for more back up, in case we need it."

"How many?" Nick asked.

Vachon grinned. "Three. Do you think five of us will be enough to subdue him?"

"I didn't realize the Community care whether Lacroix or Janette died... let alone myself. I mean, wouldn't they be better off without the three of us around?"

Vachon laughed harder this time. "Nick, first of all, a hunter is dangerous. Second of all, without you around, Nat wouldn't be there to bail us out of difficult situations. The woman's a miracle worker and a saint. The only objection we have is that you don't bring her across. She'd be a welcomed addition.'

Nick smiled faintly. "and what about Lacroix and Janette?"

"Now, what would we do without the Raven? Where would we go? Your master may not be the nicest guy, but he keeps things smooth and natural." He paused and looked at Nick... "Tell me, what did you think of Janette's dancing tonight?"

Nick smiled broadly. "It was... well, she... hmm?" His grin kept getting bigger. "I've never seen anything like it." He said at last. "Now, come on. Enough nonsense. Let's get going."

When the two vampires arrived at the entrance to the catacombs, Vachon's three young friends met them. One stepped forward and said, "Carlos went in there an hour ago, and hasn't come back. It looks like we have to rescue him as well."

Nick groaned. "Are you sure Janette is in there?" he asked.

Javier nodded. "I went with Lacroix. He said he felt her presence here." At this, Nick's constant frown grew darker. The other vampires could feel his rage and were very afraid.

"Well, then," Nick said, stepping in to the darkest tunnel, "let's catch us a hunter and liberate his prey."

Part X

(The catacombs)

As Nick led the way into the darkness, that same, familiar unease enveloped him. DeGuerre was here, alright. And he wasn't alone. As they grew closer he could feel Lacroix's presence-- and pain. The realization that his master was in pain stopped Nick cold. What am I doing here? he thought. I could be rid of him forever if I leave him to the hunter. Then the vision of a tortured and dying Janette came to him and he signaled the four younger vampires to follow him.

Presently, they came to a crossways. Four tunnels. Three would be wrong, only one the path they needed. Nick concentrated on Lacroix. The essence of pain radiated the strongest from the path furthest to the left. Nick indicated to them to gather around him. "Slowly, " he whispered. "Vachon, you're with me. The rest of you... come only if we don't return." Then he and Javier disappeared into the darkest tunnel.

They walked , not flying because using their abilities would give away their location. Unexpectedly, the came to another fork in the path. Nick swore. "You sure they don't want to be found?" Vachon asked nervously. Nick couldn't answer. His eyes seemed tranfixed on a bright blue light before him. Javier's eye's widened as well, and he swore in his ancient Spanish.

Then a voice sounded in their minds. You have come to free the prisoners? It was a woman's voice, sweet and melodic.

"Y-yes." Nick answered. "What... who... are you?"

I am his wife. Jozyne deGuerre. You are familiar. The detective, Knight. Vaughn said you were not a vampire. But you are. "You are perceptive. Yes, I am. I am the third whom he is seeking." Nick replied.

And your friend? the voice asked quietly.

"An innocent party. Here only to help free the others. No doubt you will tell him I am here." was Nick's answer.

No, I came to help you. I am tired of this game. I wish for peace.

"You have none?" Javier asked suddenly.

No, young Spaniard. Vaughn's magic keeps me here, in this world... until he gains his revenge. I would much rather be happy. The voice sounded sad.

"Can we help you?" asked Nick.

The only way is to kill him. Send him to me and we can both rest.

"But how... his power... how do we...?" The voice had left. Nick felt her presence vanish. He turned to Vachon. "We must continue alone. She's given all the advice she can for right now." He resumed walking, this time at a rapid pace. After a few minutes, he paused. "Listen." he hissed to Vachon. Deep within the tunnel they heard voices. Lacroix, angered and in pain. DeGuerre, gloating maliciously. But where was Janette? They crept closer, and peering around the corner, they could see deGuerre with his victims. Lacroix and Carlos were both chained to the wall. Carlos was unconscious, or so it seemed. Janette was strapped to large concrete slab. She looked awful-- she'd been cut and burned again and what was left of her clothes hung in shreds about her body. Javier shrunk away from Nick, afraid of the obvious hatred and anger which burned the otherwise reserved vampire.

Use your police training to calm yourself, Nick, he thought. But the thought came to late as Nick stepped in to the light. He pointed to Carlos. "That spot isn't for Carlos, deGuerre. It's for me."

DeGuerre whirled around to face him. "You! I should have known. How convenient it was that your vampire friend could find my lost pet when no one else could." he sneered. "Well, are you ready to join them?"

"Release Carlos. and Janette. You need them not. It's Lacroix and me you want." Nick said. Suddenly the image of Janette being attacked by deGuerre... raped, and then tortured into unconsciousness invaded his mind. He turned to see Lacroix nodding at him. He raped Janette in front of Lacroix, like a whore in the street... he thought sickly. Lacroix nodded again.

Rage. Blind, unthinking rage overwhelmed Nick. He flew up deGuerre, tearing into his flesh with nails and teeth. At the first sign of action, Vachon propelled himself into the culvert. He paused when he saw Janette and Carlos. "Untie me." Lacroix shouted at him. Javier ripped the chains from Lacroix and turned to Carlos. "Don't bother. He's dead." Lacroix said bluntly.

They both looked to where Nick struggled with deGuerre. It seemed as if Nick was winning. Until deGuerre pulled out a tiny golden cross. He touched it to Nick's skin.

Nick howled in pain, catapulting himself away from deGuerre. The hunter began mumbling incantations and advanced again. This time, he merely held the cross out before him and golden energy spouted from it. Nick crumbled to the ground, animal noises of pain growling from his throat.

Seeing his son being beaten did not please Lacroix. He hurled himself upon deGuerre, knocking the cross from his grasp. Grabbing deGuerre by the hair, Lacroix jerked his head back and sank his fangs into the exposed neck. Vachon watched. He ignored the sick sound of deGuerre's neck breaking as he knelt beside Nicolas. Nick was hurt, seriously. "Janette... " he whispered weakly as his eyes rolled shut.

Javier stood up. "I'm getting the police," he said. "Stay here." Lacroix had finished deGuerre and now knelt beside Nick. He nodded.

"You know I don't like the idea of involving that partner of his... but I think you're right. However, my injuries are less severe. I should make myself scarce before the authorities arrive."

Vachon agreed and left quickly. When he was gone, Lacroix opened his wrist and held it to Nick's lips. Nick didn't respond. The boy's practically lifeless... Lacroix thought, astounded. He looked to where Carlos lie dead. He'd fallen stunned and the life had just drained from him within seconds. Please, forgive me, Nicolas... Lacroix thought as he turned to Janette.

When Natalie and Tracy arrived with an ambulance, Lacroix was still there. Natalie looked at Lacroix and said, "You had better leave before Tracy gets here with the medics."

"I was going to. Dr. Lambert, you must save my son... he's dying." The words choked from Lacroix's throat. Natalie looked from Nick to Lacroix. Could the old demon actually have a heart?

"Janette?" she asked, trying to sound professional.

"She drank for me. She'll be fine. I, of course, will resume my position on the hospital staff as soon as you bring them in." he smiled as he turned to leave. "We made a good team the last time we worked together, doctor. I almost look forward to it." Then he was gone.

Part XI

(Nick's hospital room)

Natalie sat beside him on the bed. Lacroix had not been there since Janette was released. She knew they had gone to find Javier Vachon and collaborate on a good story to tell the police. No sense in letting the rest of the world know about the vampire hunter. As she lost herself in thought, Lacroix and Janette appeared behind her. They watched for several long minutes before coming to the bed beside Natalie.

"Is he...?" Janette asked, unable to finish her sentence. Natalie shook her head.

"He's in a coma. They don't know when he'll recover." she looked at Janette. "I hear you're the lucky one. The other guy died."

Janette nodded faintly, unable to take her eyes from Nick. "He looks so weak and helpless... is there nothing we can do?"

"I've been sneaking him blood these last few days. But he hasn't responded in any way. Even Lacroix won't be able to do much more until he wakes up."

"And if he doesn't?" Janette asked.

Lacroix answered. "If Nicolas does not recover, he will die."

Natalie nodded. "That's about right. If he doesn't wake up, there is nothing either of us can do to save him. He will die." She turned to Lacroix. "Tell me one thing. How was this possible?"

Lacroix shuddered as he remembered watching deGuerre attack Janette. And tears came to his eyes as he remembered the cross, and seeing Nick go down. "He was very powerful, Natalie. He knew his art well, and used it to fashion a cross of gold laden with powers beyond imagination. Powers which could subdue and overwhelm the strongest vampire. He used this cross to capture and chain me to the wall. Then he forced me to watch as he tortured Janette and Carlos. Then Nick came."

"He didn't torture you, too?" Natalie asked.

"The prophesy. He wanted me to see my loved ones die painfully before I died myself."

"I see. And was what Javier told me pretty much the truth? About what happened to Nick, I mean?"

"Yes. Nick managed to keep the hunter busy while Javier freed me. When deGuerre brought out that cross to use on Nicolas... I attacked him." Lacroix looked at Nick. "But I was too late to save Nick... will he die, doctor?"

Something in Lacroix's voice brought Natalie to tears. Could it be that he actually loved Nick, after all these centuries? The three turned to look at the silent figure on the bed. Nick shifted slightly in the bed, but then returned to his original position. He'd spoken earlier in his sleep. Natalie wished to hide this from Lacroix and Janette. It hadn't meant much anyway... fragmented French phrases that signified nothing. Still, the fever had abated. Nat turned to them. "He had a fever earlier. It's gone now. As a doctor, I'd say he has a good chance of pulling through this ok. As his friend, I worry about him as much as you do, I think."

Lacroix covered Nick's hand with his own. "I know not whether you can hear me, my son, but I will tell you this anyway. Janette and I must go away for a while, but I will return soon to check on you. I trust you will be better by then." He stepped away from the bed and turned to Janette. "We leave him in good hands. Come."

"Wait." Natalie said. "Where are you going? What will I tell him when he wakes up and wants to know?"

Janette smiled sadly. "This experience has been to much for me. I have been greatly weakened. So, I've decided to leave town, perhaps permanently. My daughter is in Montreal, and I will begin by visiting with her. Lucien has gracious offered to escort me that far. I won't be coming back with him, Natalie." She handed Natalie a sealed envelop. It read: Mon cher, Nicolas. "Please give this to him when he is well. It will explain everything." Janette came to Nick's side and gently kissed his cheek. "Je t'aime, mon cher."

Then she and Lacroix were gone.

With Love,