Selective Memories-- an AtA & LK Spoiler Story Selective Memories
by Fleurette

Part I

"You couldn't even do that right?" Natalie screamed at Nick. He just stood there looking guilty, just like always. LaCroix stood apart from them, unemotional.

Natalie had been screaming at him ever since she'd learned that it had been LaCroix, not Nick, who had brought her across. Finally she collapsed, sinking to the floor against the piano bench. She wept softly. "I don't understand you, Nick." She said. "You were perfectly willing to bring Tracy across, but not me. Never me. Why? Don't you love me at all, or has LaCroix been right all along?"

"Right about what?" Nick asked, glaring at LaCroix. "What have you been telling her?"

"He once told me that I would only be a means to an end for you. And if we failed, you'd leave me," said Nat. "I have half a mind to believe him." Her voice was cold.

Nick looked away from her in shame. His voice was strained with emotion as he spoke. "It was never like that, Nat. I never intended it to be this way."

"And just how did you intend it to be, Nicholas." LaCroix interjected softly.

"If you must know," Nick snapped, "I had hoped to find a cure. Then I would have been free to marry Natalie and build a life and a family with her. For the last six years I've been envisioning children and family dinners. Nursery schools and graduations. Grandchildren, LaCroix, grandchildren." Nick hung his head. "Is that too much for me to have hoped for?" He whispered.

An uncomfortable silence enveloped the room. Each seemed to be caught up in their own thoughts.

Natalie looked back upon the night. In retrospect, it was worse than she ever could have imagined. First, her best friend, Dr. Laura Hanes, committed suicide. Then innocent Tracy Vetter had been shot, dying later that night in her hospital room.

Tracy. The realization that Nick had been ready to give Tracy immortality shook her. Would that have been what Tracy wanted? And why couldn't Nick have given me that freedom, of my own free will?

How it simple it had seemed to her- Now all she and Nick had left to cling to was each other, and they needed only each other. You just have to love me as much as I love you. Natalie's own words echoed in her ears.

When she'd first awoke and felt the change in herself, Natalie had believed Nick to be her creator. All too soon, however, it became evident that he was not.

Is it possible that he doesn't love me?

Nick silently surveyed the room. He glanced at LaCroix and was overwhelmed by hatred and anger. Why couldn't he have done what I asked? Natalie and I could have died together. I was willing to face an eternity of damnation for her, He thought.

Nick's fingers touched the remote which controlled the blinds. Bitterly he cursed Natalie's presence in the room. Had she not been there, he would have pressed that button, letting the sunlight in to destroy LaCroix forever. Just as Divia had destroyed her own Master. A fitting and just reward for LaCroix-killed by his favorite son. Then after 800 years of misery, I too, would be no more.

But Nat's presence stopped him. He hadn't been able to bring her across because he loved her too much. Now, for the same reason, he would not risk killing her along as well.

Natalie was a vampire now. The deed had been done and could not be undone.

LaCroix studied both of his children. He sighed, remembering Janette. His Raven had been so beautiful. How wonderful it would be to have her here as well. He wondered if Natalie would ever live up to Janette in his heart, as she had been a paradigm for what a good daughter should be like.

He watched Natalie closely. She was still and seemed unsure of what to do. Of course, it doesn't help matters that she thinks she can no longer trust Nicholas, He thought. Nicholas seems equally uncomfortable. He hates me now, but it will pass, given time.

Time would heal all their wounds.

LaCroix spoke, his voice cutting through the silence. "Natalie... Nicholas... I must tell you both something." Nick scowled as he turned to face his Master. Natalie looked at him as well, but did not speak or show emotion. LaCroix took this to mean that they were both willing to listen.

"Nicholas made a promise to you, did he not? What was it, pray tell?"

"He promised not to leave me, no matter how it ended." Natalie's voice sounded distant, as if she could barely recall the words.

LaCroix smiled slowly. "Yes, my young nobleman *would* make such a chivalrous promise. How touching, Nicholas."

"Like you really care about promises, LaCroix." Nick snapped back.

"But Nicholas, I kept your promise. You shall never have to leave her," LaCroix pointed out. "But you see, my children, I could never have done exactly as you asked. Nicholas wanted me to kill him so that he could spend eternity with you, Natalie. Your faith in Nicholas gave him faith. A faith he's never had before." LaCroix paused. "No, that's not quite true. Sat rather that your faith rekindled the faith he'd lost during the Crusades, my dear. When I found Nicholas, he did not care about anyone, anything, or any God. No Eternal Reward could erase the injustices he'd seen and had been a part of. Tonight, by believing in him, you gave all that back to him. Nicholas was willing to walk through all seven layers of dante's Inferno for you, or worse, if there is such a thing."

Natalie looked at Nick. "You were? You would have died and suffered for me?" Nick nodded. "Why did you do it, then?" Nat asked LaCroix.

"Because Nicholas means as much to me as you mean to him. I could not foresee a life with him by my side. Therefore, Natalie, I had to bring you across, so that Nicholas would have a reason to live."

Nicholas always did call me a selfish old man, LaCroix thought as he turned and walked into Nick's bedroom, leaving them alone to digest his words.

Once LaCroix left, Nick crossed the room to sit next to Natalie. He handed her a bottle of blood and a glass. She drank, the blood choking her at first, then enjoying it.

"What do we do now?" She asked Nick, setting the bottle down at last.

"I don't know. Is there anything you'd like in specific?" He put his arm around her and squeezed gently.

"As far as long term plans, I simply don't know where to start... but," her voice became soft and sultry, "we could try to finish what we started tonight." Nat surprised Nick with a kiss that took his breath away. "Make love to me," she whispered.

Nick sighed. He wanted to make love to her, but something was stopping him. While he puzzled over what he was feeling, Natalie was busy covering his face with feathery kisses. But when she moved to his neck, attempting a nip, Nick gently pushed her away. "No... don't," he said, shaking his head.

"Don't? Nick... why not? It's perfect this way. You can't hurt me now."

"Not tonight, Nat. I think you need time to adjust." Seeing her look of stunned disappointment, Nick added, "We have lots of time to explore our relationship. I don't want to rush things."

Nat nodded slowly. "I guess I could use some rest."

"Good," Nick smiled. "You can take my spare room. LaCroix will have to be content with the couch." He stood and went to find LaCroix.

Part II

Nick awoke feeling tired. He hadn't slept much that day, but lie awake staring at the only picture of Natalie he owned. He'd seen it one day in a picture album and begged her to let him keep it. The photo showed a younger Natalie Lambert, fresh out of college. The sunlight behind her made Nat's hair and skin glow. When sleep finally did come to him, he dreamed fitful dreams. he wanted the woman in the picture. He desired her sunlight and her warmth. And he didn't know if he could ever accept this creation of LaCroix's. She'll change. Time will change her... for the worst. I can already see it... in the way she was so quick to accept her fate last night. She's not my Natalie anymore.

After dressing, Nick opened the door to find LaCroix about to knock. "Ah, Nicholas, I was hoping you were awake. It's time to leave," said LaCroix.

"I can't leave yet." Nick replied. "There are too many loose ends here, and I have to go to work now."

"I thought we addressed this already. It's time to go."

"Things have changed, LaCroix. There's Natalie to think about now, and I just can't leave without paying my respects to Tracy's family. She *was* my partner, after all. You can leave now, if you like, but I can't just yet."

LaCroix frowned. "Very well, Nicholas. I'll wait one more night and nothing more."

(The precinct)

Nick sat at his desk, trying hard to concentrate on the reports before him. But all he could see was the empty desk where Tracy should be sitting. A shadow fell across his desk and he looked up to find Javier Vachon before him. Shocked, Nick jumped to his feet. I'm seeing ghosts! He thought. "You're supposed to be dead!" He exclaimed.

The younger vampire shook his head, a smile spreading slowly across his face. "I merely went away for a few days. I'm back now." Vachon looked around, aware that Nick's reaction had drawn everyone's attention. In a strained voice he said, "I heard the most awful rumor about Tracy. Tell me it's not true, that she's not really dead."

"I'm afraid so, Vachon. She was shot in the head. There was nothing anyone could have done for her." Nick told him.

"Can we talk privately, Knight. I'd like to here more about what happened."

Nick ushered Vachon into an empty office. The eyes of everyone in the precinct were still on them. Nick closed the door, shutting out unwanted ears.

Vachon spoke. "You, no doubt, want to know how I got here, right?" Nick nodded. "The stake only grazed my heart. It didn't go all the way through. Tracy pulled it out when she buried me. By that time Divia was dead and her power over me faded. I started to heal, and was able to dig my way out of the ground. One of the boys in my band found me and brought me back to the church. I recovered, with the help of the stuff they swiped from LaCroix's private stock. That's stuff's strong, you know that?" He grinned at Nick, who couldn't help but laugh a little.

"So, you healed and came back here. When did you find out about Tracy?" Nick asked.

"Late last night. I went looking for her, to let her know I was ok, but she wasn't at her place. So I went to her parents. I hung out outside the window and overheard Commissioner Vetter trying to comfort his wife. Then I went to the hospital to check it out." He smiled secretively. "I'm leaving, Knight. We all are."

Nick nodded. He knew that with the Raven closed down now, most of Toronto's vampires would be gone. In fact, most all of them *were* gone. Vachon, LaCroix, Natalie and himself were the only ones left... as far as Nick knew. "I know," he said. "There is nothing left for any of us here anymore. I'm leaving, too."

"Natalie?" Vachon asked, unable to believe Nick would just abandon her.

"She is one of us now. LaCroix brought her across last night after I almost killed her. She wanted us to try for my cure the same way Janette found hers, by taking only a little at a time. I took too much." Nick explained, looking guilty.

"I see. Well, I always told you she'd make a good addition to our race. Why don't you come by after work and say good-bye, Knight. We can talk more then." With that, Vachon pulled open the door, letting the noise of the precinct flood the tiny office. With another odd smile, he headed for the door, almost colliding with Commissioner Vetter and the two men who'd come to investigate the shooting.

Seeing them, Nick sighed. He'd already decided that no matter what the outcome of this interview, he was resigning. Schanke's death still haunted him, and losing Tracy last night had pushed Nick over the edge. Quietly he followed the three men into Reese's office.

Part III

(Vachon's church)

"Vachon!" Nick's voice echoed throughout the church. He turned the corner to find Vachon sitting in the middle of an empty room. He was holding his guitar and had a faraway look in his eyes.

When he saw Nick, Vachon set the guitar aside and stood up. "Good to see you again so soon, Knight. We're almost done packing now. I'm waiting on a friend."

Nick's eyes narrowed. "We? A friend? That friend wouldn't happen to be Tracy Vetter, would it? Her body disappeared from the hospital last night. Her father went ballistic when he found out."

"Yes. Tracy's going with me." Vachon saw the frown on Nick's face deepen. "Don't lecture me, Knight. You almost killed Natalie. At least I did it right. Besides, tracy and I love each other and want to be together."

"That's right, Nick. I love Javier, and I'm glad he didn't let me die." Tracy stepped from the shadows in the doorway. She emphasized her speech by kissing Vachon's lips lightly. "I'm all packed. I only took my clothes and a few things, but I'm afraid Mom and Dad will think I've been robbed." She grinned.

Seeing Tracy alive and well (ok... as "alive and well" as a vampire can get) made Nick smile. "Will you really be happy, Trace?" He asked his former partner.

"I think so. For so long now I've been denying my feelings for Javier. I'm glad I don't have to anymore." She smiled at Nick. "He told me about Nat. Does this mean you two will be happy as well?"

Nick's face clouded over. All night he'd been fighting his love for Natalie and his repulsion at her being a vampire. "I hope so." He replied stiffly. Seeing that there was really nothing more to say, Nick started to leave. Turning, he said, "See ya 'round, Trace... and if Vachon doesn't treat you right, I'll rough him up for you." With a brief wave, he was gone.

(The loft)

The loft was empty when Nick arrived. Which was just as well since Nick had hoped to be alone. Seeing Tracy and Vachon in apparent happiness had made Nick feel incredibly lonely. On the drive home, he realized that he *would* never be happy with Natalie as a vampire... especially not LaCroix's vampire. And now Nick knew what he must do. Cut her loose. Leave her to learn and grow. Then maybe... someday they could be together. Nick thought as he packed his clothes. Grabbing the last of the blood from the fridge (five bottles-- three were LaCroix's), Nick headed for the door.

There he paused, looking back at his home of six years. They had been six good years. Not the most productive where his cure had been concerned, but still, they had been good. But LaCroix was right, *this time*, it *was* time to move on. Alone. Sure... LaCroix would find him again eventually. He always did. But probably not until Natalie was secure in her new life. Despite his flaws, LaCroix was a good Master, and would see to Nat's welfare first before chasing after his wayward son.

Then Nick left, closing the door on yet another chapter in his life.

Part IV

After a week of driving Nick was exhausted. He'd just been driving around, aimlessly picking roads and hoping he'd find a town with a good motel. Now he began to worry. His blood supply was getting low and if he didn't find a new Community soon, he could perish.

Nick pulled in at the next gas station. He filled the gas tank and purchased a road map. Returning to the caddy he opened the map and began looking for a nice place to go. The first place that struck his fancy was New York City. He didn't know why, really, but he wanted to go there.

(Back in Toronto, the night of Nick's departure)

Natalie was surprised when Vachon arrived with Tracy on his arm. Jumping up from the couch, she ran to embrace the friend she thought was dead. Neither spoke, both realizing immediately what the other's situation was. They were both fledgling vampires now.

"Where's Nick?" Tracy asked, looking around.

"He isn't here. He never came home from work." Nat replied.

LaCroix looked up, seeming ready to say something, but didn't. Nat glanced at him. He knows something he's not telling me She thought.

"That's strange, considering he resigned from the force tonight. He stopped by the church awfully early this evening. I assumed he'd be here. I needed to talk to him." Tracy continued.

"About what? Maybe I can help you?" Nat asked.

Tracy lowered her eyes. She should have guessed Nat would have known about Nick all along. "Why didn't Nick trust me with his secret? I mean... that he was a vampire. I kept that same secret for Vachon. I had hoped he could have trusted me. Partners are supposed to trust each other."

Natalie was staggered. "The Enforcers, Tracy. Nick felt that knowing about one vampire was permissible, but two... or the whole Community... would be too much danger to put you in."

"You knew about them... *all* of them... didn't you?" Tracy accused.

Vachon interrupted. "Dr. Lambert helped a lot of us when we were in need, Trace. And, from what I hear, the knowledge you desired out of faith was just thrust upon her. She never asked for it."

Natalie smiled weakly at her friend. "No... I never did. I even spent nights praying I'd forget what I knew. But I never did." She hugged Tracy reassuringly. "Nick *did* trust you. He trusted you not to blow Vachon's cover. And he trusted you as his partner. You must believe that."

"Speaking of Nicholas," LaCroix said, breaking into the conversation, "when did you two see him last? And did he say where he was going?"

Vachon shook his head. "Knight didn't tell us a thing. He stopped by hours ago. Are you telling me he jetted?" Vachon looked amazed.

"Apparently so," LaCroix mused.

Part V

Nick passed through customs shortly after sundown. The customs officer questioned him briefly as to his intentions... especially after Nick handed him his I.D.

"Knight? The detective from Toronto? Say... you're a hero! What are you doing out this way?" The nosey officer inquired.

"I've moving to New York." Nick said, his temper growing short. He was tired and hungry, and if this annoying man didn't watch it, he just might be dinner. "Now... may I have my I.D. back?" The officer handed the laminated card back to Nick, stunned at the detective's rude manner. He walked toward the next car, muttering something about the inflated egos of celebrities. Nick drove off, glad to be rid of the unwanted meddler.

Nick glanced at the map again. He was now travelling east on I-90. He would hit I-87 in Albany and that would take him on to New York City. If the traffic stayed as light as it was now, he could be there in a few short hours. He still had no clue as to why he wanted to go there, of all places, but he knew he had to get there quickly. His blood supply was running low and would probably not last another night. Nick thought.

Nick fumbled with the radio, trying to find a station worth listening to. he thought, sifting through the dead air and broken frequencies that seemed to be the only things his antenna would pick up. Finally he found a station that would come in clearly. It was in the middle of a love song. Nick didn't know the name of it, but he wished it would end. Love was the last thing he wanted to think about right now.

The song ended and the deejay announced the next song as "Yesterday" by Boys II Men. Boys to men??? Nick thought, puzzled...What a dumb name for a band. And that song? Didn't someone else sing that song? Curiosity peaked, Nick listened intently to the song.

(song as written it BoyIIMen: II cd cover)

All my troubles seem so far away
Now it seems as though they're here to stay
Oh I believe in yesterday.

Tell me about, thought Nick sadly.

Suddenly, I'm not half the man I used to be
There's a shadow hanging over me
Oh yesterday came suddenly
Why she had to go, I don't know
She wouldn't say, she wouldn't say
I said something wrong now I long for yesterday

If I could only take back all the stupid things I've said... or done for that matter...

Love was such a easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away

Boy! Do I ever! The genius who wrote this song must have known I'd screw up again...

Oh I believe in yesterday
I believe in yesterday
Oh I... had to go I don't
She would not say
I said something wrong
How I long for yesterday

Yesterday... yeah. A chance to start *all* over. This whole mess started when I decided I wanted to be mortal again. If I only had the chance to start over.

Love was such a easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh I believe in yesterday
I believe in yester... day

Was so far away
Oh yesterday was far away
And I know I can't turn back
Cause yesterday is gone

Hmmm? These new guys don't do a bad job with it, although I don't remember it ending this way. Still, there *is* truth to it.

As the song ended, Nick pulled into a rest stop. He was exhausted and hungry. Grabbing his last bottle (one of LaCroix's blends), he took a long, greedy drink. But one swallow was hardly enough to satisfy, and Nick soon emptied the bottle. Then tiredness began to assault him and his eyes drooped shut. As he slept, the song he'd heard played out in his mind, mixing with his painful memories and his guilt.

Part VI

(New York City, hours later)

Janette Ducharme's eyes widened when she saw the all-to-familiar blonde enter her club. If it had been any other vampire, she would not have been surprised to see him. Black Velvet was, after all, the favorite haunt of New York's vampire element. But this was not just any vampire, and his being there, not to mention his appearance, thoroughly shocked her. Nicolas looked like a walking corpse. Leaning, half-slumped, against the bar, he seemed not to be aware of his surroundings.

As Andre tried offering the stranger a drink, Janette approached. From up close, Nick's ragged appearance and dazed expression alarmed her even more. He barely acknowledged Andre's solicitations and kept muttering, "Tired... so tired.." over and over.

"Le meme chose comme moi pour mon ami, Andre." She said to the flustered bartender. (The same thing as I'm having for my friend.) Relieved to have his boss handle the situation, Andre poured Nick a drink and practically had to place the glass in his hand. Nick drank in large gulps, like a man dying of thirst. Then the empty glass simply fell from his hands. Janette signalled for another, eyeing Nick closely. He teetered slightly, almost falling from the barstool.

Janette steadied him with her arm. "Nicolas... what is wrong?" She asked gently. He turned to look at her, and in his eyes she could see the fog of confusion which plagued him.

Slowly his eyes widened... "Janette... "

"Oui, Nicolas. Qu'est-ce qui se passe?" She answered him, not really expecting an answer at this point, but figuring it couldn't hurt to try.

"Tired... so tired...hungry... tired..." He muttered again. Then his hands found the second drink Andre'd poured. Raising the glass to his lips, Nick failed miserably to drink it. Thick, red liquid oozed down the front of his shirt and onto the bar, stool, and floor.

Andre started to pour another drink, but Janette stopped him. "Help me get him out of here," she said. Slowly they walked Nick out the door where they were stopped by the valet.

"Will the gentleman require his car now?" The parking attendant asked.

Janette was shocked. "He drove in this condition!?" She exclaimed. The attendant nodded. "Get me his car, please." Janette ordered. Turning to Andre, she said, "I'll take him home. You see to things inside for tonight." The bartender nodded, unemotional, and re-entered the club.

(The Plaza Hotel, Janette's private suite)

Janette pulled a light blanket over Nick, tucking it in gently at the sides. Leaning down, she gently kissed his forehead, wishing him a pleasant and healing sleep. But she could not take her eyes away from the man lying on her sofa. I've never seen him like this before... not even after deGuerre attacked him, She thought.

As she watched him, she began to remember another time when she'd baby-sat him... in the hospital in Pennsylvania. During those long days when he was restrained to his bed, Janette had sat with him reading letters and talking cheerfully. Although she'd been with Robert at the time, she'd felt old feelings for Nick returning. Now they resurfaced even stronger. Pushing them aside, Janette forced herself from his side and returned to her club.

Part VII

Days went by and Janette could find out very little from Nick about his mysterious reappearance into her life. Whenever they discussed it, he got silent and moody. Finally one day he told her why he reacted so oddly to her questions.

"I'm sorry I haven't been straight with you, Janette. But I really want to forget about Toronto. I can't bear the memories." He said.

"What memories, mon cher?" Janette asked quietly. She expected a sad story: Natalie leaving him for a mortal lover, or him killing her because he took too much. But instead Nick began telling her how Tracy had been shot, because of him. Then he explained how seeing her almost die reminded him of his former partner's death.

"I just couldn't bear to stay there a moment longer, watching my friends die." He said, his eyes tearing.

What? Nothing about his precious Natalie? A bewildered Janette wondered.

Nick continued. "I also realized that I've made a lot of mistakes... mistakes that shouldn't have happened. The first was going after a cure. The second was letting you go."

Janette was stunned by Nick's words. But then... Nick had been acting rather lovesick lately. She'd naturally assumed it had something to do with Natalie Lambert.

"Nicolas... I... I don't know what to say... I..." She began.

"No, Janette. Hear me out. I realize now that I made a great mistake when I let you leave Toronto without telling you how I felt about you. And then, the next thing I know you've found love with that mortal. But I *knew* there was still a chance for us... don't you remember, at the hospital? You can't tell me you didn't feel anything between us."

She lowered her eyes. "I did... but I chose to ignore them, because of my feelings for Robert. And because of how sick you were. I thought you needed me to be strong for you." She looked at him. "Are you trying to tell me that you want us to be together again?"

"Do you want to?" He asked, the eagerness in his eyes telling her that he desired a positive response.

"Nicolas... I..." Janette stammered. He *was* her master now, and no longer her brother through LaCroix. And she *did* still love him very much. But there was another to think about. Natalie. Where was she? And why hadn't he mentioned her at all? "I need more time to think about this. We've been apart too long for us to just pick up where we left off."

Nick looked devastated. Then he sighed. "I'll wait. I'll wait forever, Janette. Forever." He turned away from her, walking to the door. Looking back, he smiled. "I love you."

And I you, Nicolas... She thought wistfully, watching him leave.

(Two weeks later)

Janette awoke that evening to the sound of singing. Nick singing. Pulling on her silk robe, she opened her bedroom door to find him waltzing around the room. He was elegantly dressed for a night on the town.

"Good evening, my love," He said, sweeping her into his arms.

"Nicolas!" She exclaimed. He danced her around the floor in exaggerated dance steps. "What has gotten into you?" She asked, looking deeply into his shining eyes.

For an answer, Nick touched his lips to hers in a gentle kiss. When she opened her mouth to speak, he claimed it with his own-- kissing deeply and hungrily. She was trembling when the kiss ended.

Taking her by the hand, Nick led her back into her bedroom.

Later... nestled gently in his arms, Janette felt Nick drift into sleep. She sighed deeply, a hint of sadness in her expression. He loves me... she thought. Then, why was she sad? Nicolas had proven his love for her. Their loving-making had been intense, as if they were both on fire. And when they shared blood, she could feel the love he felt washing over her. It overwhelmed her completely. But there was something else... the thing which made her sad. There was something missing from his blood. A memory that should have been there. The memory of Natalie Lambert. Natalie was the one he had loved when last Janette had seen Nick, and now she was gone.

Gone... he doesn't remember her. Not even a warm fuzzy... why? Janette thought wildly. She shifted positions to look upon her lover. His eyes opened when she touched his cheek, gazing at her with questioning eyes.

"Now do believe that I love you, ma cherie?" His voice was husky with emotion.


(Black Velvet)

Janette relaxed in the private room she kept as a sanctuary from the world around her. She'd just received a call from her daughter, Angele. It seemed LaCroix had been in touch with her, and had left a phone number and address where he could be reached. And what was more intriguing... Natalie Lambert was with him. LaCroix had informed Angele that if anyone had news as to Nick's whereabouts, he should be the first to know. So, of course Angele would call her mother.

Janette stared at the phone number for what seemed like forever. Then she realized what she had to do. Dialling, she only hoped LaCroix would be the one to answer the phone, as she had no desire to talk to Natalie Lambert under the current circumstances.

After speaking to LaCroix and explaining the situation with Nick, not to mention her idea, Janette hung up the phone and burst into tears. I'll lose him now, she thought, sobbing quietly.

(Janette's penthouse suite)

Janette had remained silent for most of the evening. She and Nick now sat on the sofa, watching Casablanca. He was quoting lines and butchering most of them in an attempt to make her smile. But nothing worked. Finally he pushed [pause] on the vcr and turned to her with a quizzical look.

"Janette, cherie... what is wrong? You've been so quiet." The genuine feeling in his voice stung her as she remembered her conversation with LaCroix.

"Nicolas... I... I received word of our master this evening." She began slowly.

"Oh? Where is he? I must confess that I left so suddenly that I failed to get in touch with him... and since then so much has happened that it slipped my mind." It was now three months since Nick had come to New York City.

"He is in Paris, mon amour. I... I called him to let him know where you were. He suggested we visit. I'd like to... I-I miss him." Janette lowered her eyes as she spoke her last sentence. She did not want Nick to see the pain in her eyes, even though she knew he could probably sense it.

He studied her a moment in silence. "You still think of him as your master, don't you?" He asked. When she nodded, he sighed reluctantly. "So do I, actually. It's hard for me to envision you as anyone else's daughter... even my own. I guess it's because all the time I've known you, you *were* his."

Their eyes met. "Thank you... Nicolas. Does this mean you will accompany me to France?" Janette asked, her eyes pleading.

"Of course, dearest. When would you like to leave?"

"Tomorrow... if we can. The sooner we get to see him, the sooner we can come home." She smiled at him wickedly, implying that there were things that they could do without LaCroix. Leaning closer to him, she licked *his* lips seductively.

Nick's eyes glowed with desire, but he seemed to be restraining himself. "Janette... about 'home'... I've been thinking, and I think we should find a place of our own... together."

"We have a home, Nicolas. Here. Don't you like it?"

"Yes, darling... I love it. But I miss my own things, and if I were to bring them here... there would be no room of all of it. Besides... this is *your* home, not ours."

Janette sighed. Will he still feel this way after he sees Natalie again? "Of course. I understand what you're saying. But... can it wait until after we return from Paris?"

"As you desire, mon amour," Nick replied, kissing her neck tenderly.

"Oh well... in *that* case..." Janette cooed softly, snuggling into his embrace.

(the following evening in Paris)

Nick checked the address on the paper he clutched in his hand. Yes... it's the right address. It figures it would be a mansion! Approaching the door, he rang the doorbell nervously. A beautiful woman answered the door, her eyes lighting up when she saw him.

"Nick!" She exclaimed, pulling him inside. Then she hugged him fiercely. "Where have you been? You've no idea how much I missed you."

Nick disentangled himself, thoroughly confused. "Where is LaCroix?" He asked.

"Oh... forgive me... you must want to see him about your stuff. Come on!" Natalie led a disillusioned Nick into the salon where LaCroix stood staring into the flames of a roaring fire. "Look who I found wandering around outside!" She announced upon entering the room. LaCroix turned to look at him.

"Ahhh, Nicholas. So good of you to join us." He looked his son over closely. "You're looking well. Have you been feeding properly?" That caught Nat's attention and she stared at him expectantly.

"I've been feeding fine. But I didn't come here to discuss *that* right now. I came to find out what you did with my belongings... But as long as we're exchanging pleasantries..." Nick threw a sidelong glance at Natalie. "you must introduce me to your lady friend, LaCroix. She seemed to know me, but I don't recall her."

LaCroix's eyes widened in shock, as did Natalie's. Neither had expected Nick to behave like this. Then, in their silence, Nick turned to Natalie, presenting her his hand. "I am Nicholas de Brabant, cherie... and you are?"

"Oh, Nick! How could you!?" Nat exclaimed, her voice a mixture of shock and horror.

Nick's face was a picture of innocent confusion. "Am I to know you?" He turned to LaCroix. " She is, I sense, your daughter. Where did you find her?"

"Toronto, Nicholas." LaCroix replied, quick to mask his shock. Now he seemed merely amused by Nick's odd behavior.

"Toronto?" He looked from one to the other again. "You've been keeping a mistress for these past 6 years and you never told me? I thought you trusted me, LaCroix."

This was the final straw for Natalie, Bursting into tears, she fled from the room-- her sobs echoing down the corridor.

LaCroix followed her with his eyes. Janette had called to tell him of Nick's visit, but she failed to mention any of this. "Really, Nicholas... you certainly do have a way with women." was his only comment.

Part IX

(A park in Paris)

Two elegantly dressed gentleman were walking along, discussing trivial things, when the sound of a woman crying reached them. The young-looking of the two raised an eyebrow... "Want to check it out?" He asked his friend.

The other man, tall with short, dark hair, smiled slightly. "We may as well. We're headed in that direction anyway." As they rounded the next corner, they saw the woman seated on a park bench. her sobs were heart-wrenching. Curiosity peaked, they knelt before her.

"Why do you cry on such a beautiful night, my lady?" The first man asked softly.

Natalie Lambert looked up to finding herself staring at an exact replica of Nick. His blue eyes peered into her soul while the moon illuminated the golden halo about his head. She gasped and jerked away from the hand which reached out to console her.

"Easy, child..." Martin Cross soothed. "Jean Claude, here, meant no harm. Neither of us will hurt you."

"Jean Claude?" Natalie wondered. "Nick's son?"

"You know my father?" Jean Claude asked. "And who might you be, young one?"

"Natalie... " Nat answered.

"Natalie Lambert? The one who worked so hard to find my father a cure? The one he wanted to marry so badly?" Jean Claude wondered aloud. Then he faced her, his eyes narrowed. "I thought you were mortal... but clearly you are not. How is this so?"

"LaCroix... he brought me across after Nick... after Nick..." Nat's voice faltered, her sobs returning.

As they talked, a woman clad in rich, purple velvet and a black traveling cloak, approached them. "Jean Claude, I'm so glad I found you... me must--" She stopped when she recognized Natalie.

All three faced her. "Aunt Janette. I thought we were meeting at LaCroix's?"

Janette shook her head sadly. "The plans have changed. Nicolas has not left LaCroix yet, and I do not wish to upset him with any of this until we have a plan to go by." Turning to Natalie she said, "LaCroix told me what happened, my dear. I am so dreadfully sorry. I hadn't expected him to behave that way."

"What's wrong with Father? Natalie just told us what happened at the mansion and I think we all deserve an explanation." The blond-haired Enforcer spoke sharply.

"I don't really know..." Janette began. then she told them everything she did know. Concluding, she said, "You, Natalie... he does not know at all. I have seen what is in his blood, and there is no trace of you whatsoever. I sent him to the mansion alone so that he could see you. I wanted him to remember you."

"Why?" was Nat's response.

"Because I love Nicolas. And because he loved you. I did not want him to start a life with me, only to wake up one night to find he didn't love me because of you. If Nicolas is to choose me over you, it must not be because you seemingly do not exist. It must be a choice made out of love."

Jean Claude cleared his throat. "I think, ma tante, that we should be leaving now. Let us leave Natalie here with Martin. He can see to her needs." Martin nodded in agreement as Jean Claude left with Janette.

Then he turned to Natalie. "Tell me how it happened, Dr. Lambert... why is it LaCroix chose to bring you into our fold?"

Part X

(A tudor-style manor in a wealthy neighborhood outside NYC)

The movers were leaving... finally! Janette had stood apart from them, laughing as Nick rushed around directing them as they brought his possessions into the house. Aside from his things from the loft in Toronto, Nick had also retrieved some things from a storage facility in Paris-- antiques that he'd acquired thoroughout the centuries. Nick eyed it all like a child at Christmas who couldn't wait to open the boxes and reveal the treasures they held.

Now he slumped down on the sofa, exhausted. Going to the liquor cabinet (which, of course, held blood), Janette poured him a drink. Walking over to sit beside him, she handed Nick the drink. "Nicolas, you should not wear yourself down so. It is not healthy." She said, allowing him to rest against her.

"I've seen you laughing at me tonight. Do I amuse you, ma cherie?" He asked, sipping thoughtfully from his glass.

Janette laughed softly. "At times... " She kissed him gently. "It is late, Nicolas... come to bed. All this work can be done tomorrow night." She indicated to the unpacked boxes and trunks with a disdainful pout.

Draining his glass, Nick sighed. "I'd love to, dear-heart. Nothing would please me more than spending the rest of the day in your arms. But I am afraid that the more you distract me, the longer it will take to unpack everything."

"Very well, Nicolas..." Janette pouted. He kissed her cheek lightly as he hurried off.

Later that day, a tired Nick found himself unpacking the last few boxes-- those marked "personal--Nick's bedroom". Opening the first box, he pulled out a smoke-colored silk shirt, a present from Natalie, had he known it. A strange, indescribable feeling came over him as he touched the soft material of the shirt. Nick shrugged it off as he hung the shirt in the closet. He glanced at Janette, lying asleep on the bed. I *should* just crawl into bed with her and do this later, He thought. Instead, he continued silently with his unpacking.

But the strange feeling continued to grow, accompanied by the vision of a woman's smiling face. Nick recognized the woman as Natalie, LaCroix's lady friend. Now, why should I be having thoughts about her? Again he shrugged. Then Nick came to the last item to be unpacked... a framed photograph wrapped neatly in tissue paper. Unwrapping it, Nick was confronted by the vision he'd been seeing all this time. The younger Natalie Lambert in the picture smiled back at him, her eyes alight and her skin and hair glowing from the sun. Unnerved, Nick screamed, waking Janette.

"Nicolas! What is wrong?" She asked as she came to his side.

He handed her the photograph. "Who is she, Janette?" His voice shook.

"You know Natalie. You met her when we were in Paris, Nicolas. She is living with our master-- her master." was Janette's reply. She'd agreed with LaCroix and Jean Claude that Nicolas should be allowed to regain his lost memories on his own, without help.

"Then why do I have *this*? What is she to me? And don't you dare say she's my sister. I've been seeing her in my mind all say. I demand the truth, Janette."

Janette began to cry. "I can't, Nicolas, I can't tell you. Please don't ask me."

"I am asking you, and I must know. Who is she? Please tell me." He could see Janette was fighting the natural instinct to obey her master. Her sobs grew unbearable, but she still refused to answer his questions. "Very well then. You don't have to tell me anything, Janette. I'll go to LaCroix tonight. He'll know the truth."

(Later, that night)

When Nick left, Janette flung herself down on the bed, crying uncontrollably. I'll lose him now... she thought, imagining Nick's reunion with Natalie. He'd come in to her open arms and kiss her. Then he'll carry her off to the bedroom to make up for lost time. She could even see them making love. The vision hurt her and she cried even harder.

Nicolas would leave her, she rationalized. He'd realized that she had hid Natalie from him, fully knowing how much he truly loved Natalie, and then he'd despise her.

Looking around her, Janette found that she could not bear the pain of remaining in *their* bedroom. It only reminded her that she had most likely lost her Nicolas forever. No... not forever. He was, after all, her Master. Their relationship would now be worse that Nick's had been with LaCroix. Instead of a child hating his master, it would be a Master who regretted creating his child. Wishing to drown her sorrows, Janette decided that Black Velvet was a better place to grieve.

(LaCroix's mansion... just as the sun is coming up)

In his escape from the sun, Nick pushed roughly past the bewildered maid who answered the door. "Where are they?" He barked. The maid blinked dumbly at him, frightened by his hostility. When she didn't answer, Nick realized that she did not speak English. "Ou est-il, votre patron?" He reiterated, his voice softer.

The girl smiled tentatively. "M. LaCroix est dans sa chambre. Il dort. Mais, je l'appelerai pour vous. Votre nom, s'il vous plait?)"

"Nicolas... M. de Brabant." Nick smiled at the girl. She could not be more than 18. Thin, perhaps too thin. pale blond hair and big blue eyes. The skimpy maid's uniform accentuated certain endowments... Nick's smile broadened as she led him in to the salon.

LaCroix appeared moments later, wrapping his robe around his waist. "You do realize that I disapprove of such untimely visits, Nicholas, don't you?" LaCroix said, greeting him coldly.

"It couldn't be helped. I barely beat the sun."

"Well then, to what do I owe the honor of this disruption?" LaCroix's voice was stern.

"I came here to talk about that woman... Natalie. I need answers."

"Answers to what questions, may I ask?"

"I... I see her in my thoughts. Who is she?" Nick asked, looking LaCroix in the eye.

"Ahhh... I see." LaCroix stared deeply into his son's eyes. Then he said, "These are things best left until the night. I am tired, and quite frankly, your coming is a bit of a nuisance this early in the morning. Babette will show you to a room where you can sleep. Good day, Nicholas." Without further comment, LaCroix left.

(the salon, that evening)

LaCroix and Natalie both looked up when Nick entered the room. He looked upset, his face wet with tears. Still crying, he came to face Natalie.

"I-I re-re-remember..."He stammered through his tears. "Nat, I remember!" He tried to hold her, but she pushed him away.

"You expect me to care, after the way you treated me the last time you were here?" Her voice was bitter.

"Nat, please... I know I deserve your anger, but at least let me explain." Nick's eyes pleaded. She sighed, resigning herself. How could she stay angry with the vampire she loved? Nick began to explain how he hadn't remembered her before. Now that he did, however, the memory of how he treated her haunted and pained him. "How could I have treated you so badly, Nat? I love you so much."

From his chair in the corner of the salon, LaCroix's eyebrow raised slightly-- his only reaction to his son's admissions.

Natalie digested what he said while staring into the fire. Then she turned back to him. He was still crying, and it broke her heart to see him so distraught. Gently, she held him in her arms. "Don't cry, Nick. Now that we're together again, nothing else matters." No sooner, however, did she say the words than Nick stiffened and pulled out of her arms. His expression was unreadable. "Nick? What's the matter? Nick? Why won't you look at me?"

Nick had turned away from her, looking aimlessly around the room. His eyes fell on LaCroix, who smiled knowingly at him. Natalie caught the smile and her mouth popped open in anger.

"You may as well tell her, Nicholas, and save yourself some trouble." LaCroix advised.

"But I don't want to hurt her." Nick protested.

"And won't she be hurt when you return to New York without her? Really, Nicholas, sometimes you just don't think." LaCroix remarked coolly.

"Tell me what?" She grabbed Nick, spinning him around to face her. "You're *not* coming back to me are you?" Nick shook his head guiltily.

"I'm sorry, Nat. I love you very much, but I also love Janette. Our love runs deep, and well... I'm happy with her now. It's the happiest I've been in quite a while. I don't want to ruin a good thing." Natalie slapped him, hard. "Oww! what was that for?"

"*That* was for lying to me. For wasting six years of my life when you could have been *happy* with Janette all along. *That* was for putting my life in danger by letting your bloodsucking friends involve me in all their problems. The only reason I helped any of them was for you. For *YOU*!!!! I loved you, Nick! And how do you show your love, if that's what it was? By leaving me for your ex!!! And then you have the nerve to come back here and toy with my emotions! Well, I won't have it that way, Nicholas B. Knight! I hate you! I hate you and I never want to see you again!" Natalie screamed at him. Then she turned and fled the room.

Nick started after her, but was stopped by LaCroix. "No, Nicholas. Let her go. She needs to be alone with her grief."

Natalie found herself wandering the streets of Paris. She'd never really left the mansion much, being to involved in learning how to be a vampire from LaCroix. As a result, she was very lost. As she stared at the address in her hand, she walked rather abruptly into a tall figure.

The man laughed, taking her in his arms. "Tell me, my dear Natalie, is it our destiny to find you alone and crying?" He turned to his companion. "And she *is* crying, Jean Claude. That must mean your father is in town."

Natalie slipped out of his grasp and sighed. "Yes, Nick is back." Still crying, albeit silently, Nat told them about Nick's visit.

Fingering the piece of paper she still clutched in her hand, Martin casually remarked, "And so you decided to come look us up... for comfort? I, for one, am flattered." He smiled warmly at her. Jean Claude merely looked uncomfortable.

"Maybe she came looking for you, Cross... but Natalie Lambert did not come here to find me. No doubt I only serve to remind her of what a cad my father is." Jean Claude retorted.

"Why *is* he like that?" Nat asked suddenly, as the three resumed walking.

Jean Claude looked thoughtful for a moment, obviously debating what he should say. "I have no doubt in my mind that Father loves you, Natalie. He told me so. But as far as Janette is concerned... there is something between them that can never be explained. The love they feel for each other is deep and strong. But, Natalie, I do know this... before she left Toronto the first time, Aunt Janette begged Father to come back to her, and he refused her for you. I can't say how long he and Janette will last together. But if you are willing to wait, I don't doubt he will come back to you someday."

"And did you ever stop to think that Natalie may not wish to wait for de Brabant? What is it with you de Brabant men and your hopeless infatuations anyway?" Martin interjected.

Jean Claude looked at Natalie. His words, meant in all honesty to console her, had merely depressed her further. "Maybe Natalie is tiring of de Brabants this night? I will take my leave now, before my foot lands in my mouth. See ya round, cuz." He waved to Martin as he left.

"Cousin? You're his cousin? How is that possible?" Nat asked, bewildered.

"My lady, it is tale best left to the privacy of one's own home. If, that is... you would care to join me?" He offered her his arm.

Once they attained privacy, Martin said, "You must promise never to repeat any of this. Not even LaCroix, as he would not understand." Not wishing to offend the Enforcer, Natalie nodded. Martin smiled, handing her a drink. "Good girl. LaCroix taught you well. Or perhaps, six years of dodge our kind taught you respect?" Again she nodded. "Well, you have nothing to fear from me, Natalie. As I was saying... I was Fleur's eldest son, a fact known only to my superiors and Jean Claude. My mother was never happy with the man she was forced to marry. We... Mother and I... had a better relationship than most mothers and sons. When I grew older she told me about her love for LaCroix. Then, when she was dying, I promised to find him, and tell him that she still loved him."

"But you just said he doesn't know.." Nat interrupted.

"Yes, I know. You see... during my travels to find him, it was inevitable that I meet other vampires. I met woman... she was beautiful, and we grew very close. I told her of my quest for LaCroix. She, in turn, helped me by giving me the gift LaCroix could not share with my mother. But, still, it was centuries before my path crossed his. By that time I was an Enforcer. I was given the unevieable task of keeping watch over the de Brabants, both Nick and his son. Someday, I may tell them. Until then, it must remain a secret."

Nat looked puzzled, an expression usually seen on Nick's face. "Jean Claude knows. Why him?"

Martin smiled, "You're smart, you know that? When I first went in search of LaCroix, I went to my mother's old home. Jean Claude refused to tell me where his father was..." Martin became silent. It had been years since he'd thought of his mother. Out of nowhere, he said, "I chose the name Cross to remind me of my promise to my mother. Someday, I will keep it." Then he broke from his reverie to smile at her... taking her hand in his he said, "Lovely one, would you care to join me for an evening on the town? Paris at night is too magnificent to waste indoors."

Natalie hesitated before accepting. It seemed too soon to start another relationship, but Martin had been too nice to her to refuse.

(the library in Nick and Janette's home, a week later)

Janette set down the book she was reading. She couldn't concentrate on it anyway. Nicolas had been gone a week. It was time to face the fact that he had truly left her for Natalie. She began to cry.

"Why do you weep, lovely lady?" a voice asked from behind her.

Janette spun around to find Nick standing in the doorway. "Nicolas... " She breathed, unable to believe what her eyes told her. Nick came to her, pulling her into his arms for a deep kiss.

"Je t'aime, Janette. Je t'aime toujours." He whispered as he carried her off to their bedroom.

With Love,