Disclaimer: I have serious doubts that anybody could mistake a fanfiction writer for the owner of the rights to Blood Ties. First of all because I doubt a person in possession of those rights would exercise them by writing fanfiction. After all, it would go against the definition of what fanfiction is. But just to clear out any lingering doubts – I do not, in any form or part, possess the ownership of the intellectual property of Blood Ties. There. Liberating statement. Really.
Summary: Maybe sometimes it takes failing sight to see what you have in front of you?
Special thank you goes to my beta, Marlana, for all her suggestions and help with making the story readable.
In Plain Sight
When Vicki went to the academy, she hoped that once she joined the force she would be able to ensure, as much as it was within her abilities, that people could go out after dark without fear.
Her time on the force was a history now and she was discovering, as she returned from a doctor's appointment, that her dream hadn't been realised. She didn't feel safe as she was crossing the park, illuminating her way with a flashlight, even if it wasn't the people but the darkness itself which was the source of her fear. The darkness which was closing around her. That she felt enveloping her even more acutely after hearing once again that her eyesight had worsened since the last visit.
She heard rather than saw the two men that stepped into her path, blocking her way. Directing the stream of light their way revealed two muscled silhouettes in poses presumably intended to be threatening.
"Give us your bag, lady." A voice of one of the men commanded.
"You've gotta be kidding me." She reached for her bag but only to remove her asp, which she held firmly. She hoped neither of the men saw the action.
"Don't make us take it by force."
"I have no intention to. Making you scream for mummy is another matter." Truth be told she said that with a bit more confidence than she felt at the moment given the darkness surrounding her but those two didn't look like much considering all the guys she flattened in her time.
"You really don't want things to get ugly, lady. Just give us your bag and nothing will happen to you."
"Like hell I will." She hissed.
The men lunged at her. Their first few movements she anticipated and blocked. Then she retaliated feeling some satisfaction from hearing a few outcries of pain in the dark. The men became angry. Their attacks were more furious. Keeping up in the shaky light of the flashlight was harder but she stood her ground.
Until one of the thugs hit the flashlight while aiming at her.
The item flew out of her hand and landed on the ground with a crash. The light went out instantly, leaving her in complete darkness with the two angry men. She couldn't even tell where the attacks were coming from.
She was trying to blindly defend herself but wasn't very successful. With blows coming from seemingly all directions she could only grasp her asp desperately until it, too, was forced out of her hand. One of the men tugged at her bag forcefully. She let go and fell to her knees upon feeling a sudden pain in her ankle.
Once the thugs ran off, the rest of her composure failed and she felt herself shaking in helpless sobs.
The darkness around her was impenetrable. She tried to feel around for her flashlight, awaking pain in her ankle with her every movement despite not having risen from her knees yet. Finally her hand found the item only to discover it was broken beyond repair. Or at least beyond any repairs she was capable of while kneeling on the ground in the dark in the middle of a park.
She sighed and tried to find her asp. Without effect.
Vicki spent a moment trying to come to terms with the fact that she would probably need to call for help and admit to her pathetic vulnerability in this situation when one more desperate idea struck.
She reached into her jacket for her cell, thankful that she never put it in the bag, hoping that perhaps she could use the device to light her way enough to somehow get to better lit streets. And promptly groaned when she saw that her battery was already in the red, trying with one last desperate effort to keep the phone on.
Not seeing any other way out she pressed a speed dial button. It took her a moment before she even realised which number she selected. After the second signal he picked up.
"Henry, I need your help." She breathed quickly, almost afraid that if she stalled any, such words would freeze in her throat.
"Vicki? What is it?"
"Please come to High Park, ok? I'm somewhere near Morningside Ave. I have…" There was a beep as the phone signalled the battery's death.
The PI swore and threw the cell away in exasperation, sending it flying in some unspecified direction. As soon as she did, she regretted her action but it was too late to take it back. She tried to stand, sending waves of pain through her body and attempted to feel around for either of her misplaced items. A moment later she collapsed again as her ankle protested and gave out.
Just as she thought she reached the absolute bottom when it came to pathetic positions, Murphy's Law reminded her of its presence in the form of rain which started falling with growing determination. She didn't even attempt to find somewhere to hide.
Henry stared at his cell for a second after the call disconnected. In his mind he was already reviewing all the facts, which didn't bring him any reassurance.
Vicki called him asking for help, which was already very much out of character for her. As she spoke, he could hear her elevated heartbeat in the background – possibly result of fear or running from something. And before he could find out what happened the call abruptly ended in mid-sentence.
Without sparing a moment he sped out of his home, praying that whatever happened, Vicki would be all right.
He got to the park in record time. Over the rhythmic sound of rain he tried to detect the beat of Vicki's heart. For a moment, to his increasing fear, he couldn't find it but then the most blessed sound of her life reached his ears.
Without sparing another thought he ran in that direction.
When he saw her, she was kneeling on the ground, sobbing. Whatever relief he felt at finding her disappeared almost instantly. In a blink of an eye he was at her side.
She was startled by his voice and she never lifted her head to acknowledge him.
"You got here fast." She stated quietly in a blank tone.
"Your call got me a bit worried. What happened, Vicki? Are you hurt?"
"Nothing serious, I think."
"I repeat, what happened? Why are you sitting here in the rain?"
"No point moving. Already got wet and my ankle had enough anyway." It didn't escape his attention that she again refused to answer the other question.
"Victoria, tell me, what's wrong?"
"Other than two idiots running off with my bag?"
"You were attacked?" This came out more like a statement but it didn't matter at the moment.
"It was nothing I couldn't have handled."
He took another look at her and discarded the question he was about to ask deciding not to push further.
"In any case we need to get you out of the rain."
"Uh huh." She nodded almost absently.
Then she did something that suddenly added some clarity to the situation at the same time putting a chill in his heart. She started blindly feeling around until her hand found a broken flashlight.
"Henry?" She spoke again with the same blank tone. "Can you see my asp and my cell somewhere?"
It took him only a moment to locate both items lying not far from them in plain view. Even to human eyes.
"Yes. Give me a second." He collected the two objects and came back to Vicki who apparently had trouble getting up on her own. Without giving it a second thought he picked her up gently.
To his great surprise she didn't protest.
She didn't speak again until they reached his car. While Henry knew they wouldn't be driving far he still set the heater on max after he settled Vicki in the passenger's seat.
"That's not very good for fuel economy, you know." She muttered quietly.
"You need to warm up. As soon as possible."
"I might be a bit cold but it's nothing serious. I can stand it for a while longer."
"Vicki, you feel cold even to me. Trust me, that's not normal."
"I wish I was. And I doubt you'd enjoy pneumonia so maybe just humour me on this one, okay?"
She shrugged and went silent again. After a moment Henry was on the edge of starting another discussion if only to keep her talking but eventually decided not to risk exhausting her further.
The way to his home seemed to take forever.
In the warmth of Henry's car Vicki started drifting off. Her ankle was sending pangs of pain to her suddenly very cotton-wrapped brain and the world around her was dizzying in its darkness.
Her coherent thinking had abruptly taken a leave of absence and everything in her surroundings had a very abstract quality. She was pretty sure she wasn't falling asleep but at the same time felt as if huge chunks of reality were missing and those she did register she couldn't decode.
But it wasn't until the weightless, foamy feeling took over her that she thought she should do something to stop it. Unfortunately it seemed that at that point she was already too far gone to do anything.
When Vicki came back to the reality she wasn't in the Jaguar anymore. As a matter of fact she wasn't in her clothes either. Or any other clothes. Which might have made sort-of sense given that she was currently occupying a bathtub but the realisation of who exactly must have undressed her filled her with a sudden petrifying horror.
The PI moved rapidly hoping to cover herself somehow and felt her head spin. She heard a chuckle.
"Even if I might possibly look the part, Victoria, I'm not a teenager anymore. And at the moment I'm far too worried about your hypothermia to pay attention to anything else."
She looked up to see Henry sitting on the edge of the tub, his eyes thankfully focused on her face.
"You didn't have to stay here in that case."
"If I wanted you dead that badly, I assure you, having you drown wouldn't be my method of choice."
"That must be the most reassuring thing I've heard in my life."
"You haven't heard the statements after Munich Agreement."
"If you are trying to convince me you heard those…"
"Not in person. But they were all over the radio and papers. Ready to come out?"
"Well, I definitely have no intention of staying here any longer than I need to."
Vicki lifted herself up, still not averting his gaze, thankful that he remained enough of a gentleman not to let his eyes wander elsewhere.
Her contemplation of the courteous manners of the vampire was interrupted when pain once again shot up in her ankle. She didn't have time to fall back down as she was suddenly scooped into a warm towel.
As if her body was only now registering the cold, she felt herself shaking ever so slightly. Wrapped in the towel she was carried to Henry's bedroom. That suddenly awoke connotations that almost made her forget about both the pain and chills again.
Her heart must have sped up because she heard another small chuckle.
"Given that you can't stand at the moment you will probably find it easier to dress here. I'll be back in a moment."
After that, before she could reply, Henry laid her on the bed and left the room.
Only after the door closed behind him did she really look around. The lights were all ablaze, for her benefit she had to assume, so seeing her surroundings was relatively easy. On the bed next to her she found her own underwear and one of Henry's shirts.
Deciding not to test just how long Henry understood under the phrase 'a moment' she unwrapped herself from the towel and put on the clothes. Not long after she did the vampire re-entered the room, carrying a blanket and a bag of ice.
"You could try to make up your mind if you want to keep me warm or cold. Both might not work together."
"The ice is for your ankle." He wrapped the blanket around her shoulders. "It should reduce the swelling. Now, in the park you were saying something about your bag being stolen?"
She closed her eyes and swore.
"I need to block my cards and have the locks changed in my apartment."
"And call the police I would assume."
"Not that it would do any good. They will have me make a list of everything I had and shelve the files never to be touched again unless they stumble upon a connection with another case."
"Is that bitter reality or should I be aware of some interdepartmental feud within the police force that is now resurfacing?"
"Let's just say that only homicide and major crimes get any notable public attention so when it comes to demanding quality you should look there first."
"I see." He said slowly. "I guess we still need to make a few calls. Your bank and landlord come to mind."
"That's reasonable. May I use your phone?"
"You don't even have to ask."
After the phone calls were made, Henry once again turned his attention to Vicki.
"You never said what you were doing in the park in the first place."
"There wasn't anything to say. I was just going home."
"In the dark. Through the park."
"Thank you for stating the obvious. That provided a truly unique insight into the situation."
"Couldn't you have taken a cab? All things considered it would have been sensible."
"No, I couldn't." She looked down.
"Some elaboration of this lengthy explanation wouldn't be amiss."
"I couldn't afford it, alright?" Vicki snapped at him. "When it's during the case I can put it down as expenses. But this was a private matter and I can't afford to throw money away like that. I don't earn that much when you take away the bills and Coreen's salary and I need to put away some money for when I won't be able to work anymore. Which may be much sooner than I'd like."
Sensing a problematic topic he decided to postpone it for when she was a bit more collected.
"Couldn't you have called me then if it was already after dark? You know it wouldn't have been a problem."
She shook her head. "It was an appointment with my ophthalmologist. That private matter I mentioned. After those… I know how it's going to sound but I always need to remind myself that I'm still not helpless. And I'm usually not really in the mood for a company then." She laughed bitterly. "Not helpless, huh? Funny how that panned out."
"Whatever might have happened, you are not helpless."
"If I can see. That's what it burns down to, isn't it? I should probably tell Coreen to start looking for a new job. At least she would have a few months head start before I need to close the business."
"Pretending you didn't see just how capable I am after today won't do much good, you know."
"It was dark. In daylight…"
"I would be able to fend for myself for a while longer. Note the 'a while' part."
"What exactly did the doctor say?"
"In summary? That with the current progress of the condition I have three years tops to learn Braille fluently." She started shaking again and this time he doubted it was the cold.
"Have you tried other doctors?"
"I don't need a doctor to see my eyesight is deteriorating, Henry."
"But maybe another doctor would have some different idea of how to slow the process."
"Yeah, I think I would have noticed if any doctor won a Nobel Prize for stopping RP. Personal interest in the topic and such. I'd better spend my time adjusting."
"What do you mean by adjusting?"
"The same thing I did last time. Then I quit the force and if I could help it, didn't work nights. Until you came along that is. Now… I doubt many people need a blind PI so I'll have to close the business and try to find a job that would at least allow me to keep my apartment for as long as possible. And last bits of dignity with it. Not that my cluttered apartment is a good environment for a blind person but perhaps I can do something about that in advance as well. Then I'll probably need to move back with my mother. And hope that I would somehow make enough to at least not be a burden. And try not to think of what happens if she requires help as she gets older or when she dies…"
Tears ran down her cheeks and he embraced her, fully expecting to be pushed away. Instead he found the embrace returned as she buried her face in his chest. Before he could stop himself he found himself speaking.
"You could always stay with me."
Fear. Rarely did he ever have a chance to sense this emotion in such a pure form as the one that was radiating from her. She was looking at him now silently, her expression frozen in panic.
"You might want to calm down a bit." He tried to employ a lighter tone. "Right now your level of panic is sending a message of 'I just realised I'm alone with a vampire and no help is coming'. I usually find it a bit discouraging in a conversation."
"If my constant company is really such an appalling perspective you should keep in mind that I wouldn't bother you during the day anyway. Plus, I won't grow old, eliminating at least one of your previous concerns."
"Why would you even want me in your life?" He could only hope her whispered question was a good sign.
"How could I not want you in it? Since the time you've rather spectacularly forced yourself into it I haven't been even able to recall how I could function without you around."
"That would sound better if it was remotely believable, you know. Sudden amnesia after nearly five hundred years isn't."
"Still that doesn't change the fact that I want you in my life. That I want you with me."
"If, and note the 'if' part, I was to agree I'd turn your whole life upside down."
"You mean you haven't already? Vicki, why don't you let me worry about my side of the deal? Because I insist that if you agree I'll have the better end of it."
"You don't need me in your life."
"I happen to disagree."
"It would ruin what is between us."
"How? I won't ask you to change anything in our relationship if you aren't ready to. If you were at any point willing to take things further, you know I'd be all for it but if you decide to never move outside our friendship, we won't. Living arrangements have nothing to do with it."
"This is more than living arrangements."
"I agree. After all, you wouldn't need to worry about struggling with your rent and being a burden to your mother and I would have someone around whom I can be myself for a change, with whom I can always talk without fearing the lack of understanding."
"I'd be a burden to you. That's hardly better."
"You could never be a burden to me."
"I wouldn't be even able to pay my share…"
"Don't insult me, Victoria."
"I won't live on charity."
"I won't take money from someone I offered a home. And I certainly won't lower myself by dealing with you like some greedy merchant. It goes against my status, my honour and everything I've ever been taught."
"I won't be living on somebody's pity."
"That's laudable but irrelevant to the discussion."
"Don't pretend not to know what I meant."
"Are you really so materialistic that you believe that money is the only value in the world? To me, your company would be more than adequate payment."
She opened her mouth to say something but the words never left her mouth. Then she shook her head.
"I can't, Henry."
"Why? What is stopping you, Vicki? Give me one valid argument and I'll let go of this topic."
"It would change everything. Our relationship. There wouldn't be any equal ground anymore."
"Vicki, you were aware, for almost as long as we knew each other, that I'm not a human. You know my birth position and my titles. You know my physical abilities surpass those of a mortal. Yet none of this ever disturbed your perception of equal ground. Wherever did you get the idea that this would?"
"You'd change your mind eventually."
"I don't go back on my word."
"Then you'd end up regretting this decision."
"I honestly doubt it. By the way, you forgot to add the possibilities of a meteor striking the Earth tomorrow and the world ending."
"What? It's not a joking matter, Henry. Why are you so stubborn about it anyway?"
"Do you see me laughing? And perhaps I realise it is worth fighting for."
"But why would you want me?"
"That, Victoria, is a question I'd be perfectly willing to spend the rest of your life answering if you'd only let me."
"There wouldn't be anywhere for me to stay anyway?"
"Was that a question? And half of this floor belongs to me. I have a couple of rooms just to store my paintings and certain memorabilia. I'm sure we could adapt one or a few of them into something passable."
She hid her face in his shirt and cried again, confusing him even further.
When it seemed that she ran out of tears she calmed herself a bit. Thoughts of what will be and what could be were plaguing her imagination, driving her to the brink of insanity. She looked at Henry again, catching a gentle look in his eyes that strangely enough practically made the decision for her.
"You have no idea what you are getting yourself into."
"Is that a yes?"
"It's a yes. But only if you really promise you won't regret this decision."
"How could I regret it? And I promise you, I will make sure you won't regret yours either."
As usual, reviews will be very much appreciated.