Disclaimer: As far as the author of the following work is concerned writing fanfiction includes inherent admission that all the rights to the intellectual property of the work the fanfiction is based on belong to parties other then the fanfiction creator. The author therefore has no claim as to the ownership of any recognisable characters, locations or situations that might have been mentioned in the story.

Summary: Usually when your assistant is having heart problems, you worry about people being at each other's throat and you suspect your partner's ex would like to kill you, you don't mean that literally. Unless, of course, your name is Vicki Nelson. Sequel to That Thin Line.

Special thank you goes to my beta Marlana. For all her help and not giving up after facing a story this size.

Heartfelt Friendships

Chapter XIII

"I should hate myself for these irrational ideas,
I should pull myself together,
Cast away my fears."

Mina, 'A Perfect Life',
'Dracula, the musical'
by Frank Wildhorn, Don Black

Kate knocked on Mike's door and waited. She suspected it wasn't very likely for him to be out now so the lack of response was starting to worry her. She knocked again. This time he answered the door. He looked tired.

"Hey, Kate."

"Hey. I wanted to come when they were releasing you but Crowley was on our backs all day and I only now managed to get free."

"Good for you. But trust me, after having nothing to do all day aside from catching reruns of God-knows-what, I'd gladly switch with you any time."

"Not if you had my case, you wouldn't."

"What's the case?"

"Three high teens eviscerated in a cemetery."

"Sounds like a good setup for a horror movie."

"If this is a horror movie, I'm probably playing for the wrong team. A vampire helped me interpret some of the crime scene photos last night." She noticed he stilled at that. "What? They told me you knew. You do know, don't you?"

"About Fitzroy? Yeah. But... you remember about vampires?" He actually looked surprised.

"You know, I can't say such things happen to me often so maybe that's why, but if somebody proves to me that vampires exist, it's not something that just slips my mind by the next day." He kept staring. "What? How did you react? Gone into denial and forgot every time they told you?"

"Not exactly."

"Then what? They wouldn't tell me, even if Vicki mentioned that you didn't take it well."

"And perhaps we should leave it at that."

Suddenly he looked very uncomfortable and she decided that letting the topic go for now might be the best strategy.

"If you say so."

"Thanks. How about I make us some coffee and we sit down and talk?"

"Sure, but should you be drinking coffee now?"

"Didn't hurt me last time so I very much doubt it will do anything now."

Kate blinked. "Last time? What last time?"

"Never mind. You really don't want to know."

"If you tell me there was a last time for that? Yeah, I think I do want to know."

"You may think so but you don't." He avoided her gaze.

"Was that the vampire? Vicki's partner?"

Mike looked... ashamed? That had her confused all of a sudden but she didn't make detective by letting go of things easily. Especially when she felt she had something.

"Why don't you just forget about it, Kate? For the good of everyone?"

"Did he attack you? What happened?"

"Nothing."

"You don't expect me to believe that, do you?"

"Kate, I'm tired and really not in the mood for this discussion."

"Fine. I'll just confront him then, saying that you told me he attacked you and I want to know why he was pretending not to mean any harm."

"No! Don't even think about it!" Mike looked close to panic. "Listen, Kate, what happened did happen and it is between the two of us, alright?"

"I wouldn't say that. If he attacked you..."

"Look, let's just say that he wasn't entirely at blame there, okay?"

For a long moment she just looked at him. He looked ashamed and guilty and didn't seem eager to look her in the eyes.

"What did you do, Mike?"

"As I said, that's something to tell only on need-to-know basis and you not only don't need but also don't want to know. Let's just say I'm not planning to ever do it again."

"C'mon it's not like you assaulted him with a stake for stealing your girlfriend, right?" She looked at him and did a quick assessment of all the emotions playing on his face. "You know what, maybe you're right. I don't think I want to know all that much." She sighed. "Do I get that coffee or not?"

III

Sitting down and talking turned out to be less awkward than could be expected from the way they started out. Kate proved to be refreshingly pleasant company after the day of boredom interspersed with short calls making him sound like a poor helpless creature hardly capable of breathing on his own (Mike once again swore to himself to get even with his sister for calling half of the family to tell them about his 'accident'). Being treated normally for once was a very pleasant change.

Once again he looked at Kate, marvelling just how much Vicki had her vampire wrapped around her finger if despite his previous declarations the female cop not only had an unmodified memory but also knowledge of Fitzroy's true nature.

"Mike, are you listening to me?" He registered an accusatory voice.

"Sorry, I spaced out for a minute. I was just thinking it was good not to have to hide anything from you anymore."

"You know what's funny? All that time I thought that what you were trying to hide most was how much you were helping Vicki, even during the work time."

"Would you believe that it was sometimes the other way round?"

"Meaning what? Vicki helping us?"

"Exactly."

"When?"

"Oh, I don't know. Remember that murder we accused Felicia Bannock of?"

"Yeah, what of it?"

"Committed by werejaguar."

"There are werejaguars?"

"Apparently. And the deaths of those well-to-do women murdered in their beds in their husbands' absence?"

"Yeah?"

"A fury. Jealousy demon." He had to hold back a smile at the look she sent him. "Those deaths when the Aztec mummy was stolen?"

"Don't tell me..."

"Yeah. The mummy did it."

"And it was like that all the time?"

"Most of it. But sometimes Vicki gets just normal cases. And I can do my own job while staying sane."

"Just promise me something."

"What is it?"

"The next time we stumble on something like that we're covering for each other.'

"For each other? So you want in?"

"Are you kidding? I'm not letting you work on that all alone. I'm your partner."

"The best partner."

"Thanks. But we both know you hold that spot for Vicki."

"Well, she's not my partner anymore. You are."

Kate's cell rang. She glanced at it.

"Speak of the devil." She turned the phone on speaker. "Hi, Vicki."

"Hey, Kate. Can you talk?"

"That depends. I'm at Mike's and he can hear you too. So if you're calling to give me some dirt on him you may want to wait for a better time."

"Okay, I'll scratch that from the list then and move right to the next point."

"Thanks a lot, Vic." Mike couldn't help himself.

"Anytime, Mike. You both may want to know that we've dealt with the striga."

"What striga?"

"The one you met recently. But if you know of any other one in Toronto let me know."

"So that thing was a striga?"

"Wasn't that what I just said? If you were hoping for a second date though, I'm afraid you need to make other plans. She won't have a head for that sort of thing now. Literally."

"I'm suddenly recalling why you were always the last person anybody asked to pass the bad news to the family."

"Aw, so you miss her already? Kate, do you think you could cheer the poor boy up?"

Mike's partner snorted. "The way he looks now, you are very close to the point of making drowning you in a glass of water the only thing capable of cheering him up."

"So he's in good mood already? Must be your presence."

"Could you please shut the hell up, Vic?"

"Since you ask so nicely. Glad you are back home, by the way."

"Thanks."

"Anytime. Now I think I've interrupted your evening for two enough. Bye, Kate, Mike."

"Bye, Vic." Mike replied resignedly while Kate said something along the same lines and turned off the phone. She looked at him.

"Evening for two, huh? Have you been telling Vicki something about me that I don't know about?"

"Kate, I have absolutely no clue where she got that idea."

"You know what? You almost sounded guilty."

III

"Called Kate and Celluci?" Henry asked as he finished covering trail of their presence at the cemetery.

"No need to. With my impeccable timing I managed to interrupt their date so one call sufficed."

"I see. I would propose we follow their lead and celebrate our victory but I'm afraid we'll need to stop at my apartment first so I can get into more presentable attire." He gestured at the dirty and partially torn clothes.

She looked at him critically. "Not that I haven't seen people wearing worse but I must admit it doesn't suit you. So your place first it is."

"Thank you." He wrapped one arm around her waist as they made their way to his car.

III

Henry's apartment proved to be a deceptively welcoming place compared to the dark, chilly and windy outside world. Vicki sighed settling on the sofa as Henry disappeared into his bedroom, promising not to take long.

She heard water running and resigned herself to the fact that it may be longer than she expected as he apparently decided that a change of clothes wasn't enough. Busying herself with brutally annihilating images that suddenly formed in her head at hearing his shower, she noted, very self consciously, that she didn't really look very presentable either. Or more accurately, her current state made her question how Henry could look her way without a grimace.

The water stopped running and a minute later the vampire emerged from his bathroom, with his hair still glistening with water.

"Is something the matter, Vicki?"

"Nothing. Why do you ask?"

"You don't look very celebratory at the moment."

"It's nothing. Remove all the mirrors from here and don't look my way and everything will be fine."

He chuckled.

"Removal of the mirrors is something I could do, but not looking at you is impossible, I'm afraid."

"Why didn't you tell me how awful I looked after this evening?"

"Because you don't. Your clothes got perhaps a bit dirty in some places but I'm not concentrating on clothes when I'm looking at you anyway."

She looked up and saw a warm look in his eyes that came suspiciously close to making her melt. Then she shifted her sight to the impenetrable darkness outside his window. She was fighting the thought that suddenly appeared in her mind but the momentary distraction of looking back at Henry was enough for the thought to escape from her traitorous lips.

"Tell you what. If you let me use your shower, lend me something to wear and order something to eat for me, we could both have a dinner here and celebrate without going anywhere."

She had a strange feeling that she paled when she realised her thought was voiced. She could see she caught Henry by surprise and opened her mouth to take it back, somehow. Her mind was blank and she was rapidly approaching panic, unable to find a way out of the situation.

She noticed Henry smiled. She was trying to figure out if she should take that as a good sign.

"Of course, if you wish. You can go straight to the bathroom, I'll leave you something to wear on my bed. And I seem to recall you never used that long bath you were once promised, so you don't have to limit yourself to the shower."

She blinked.

"Yeah. It does seem a bit like déjà vu, doesn't it?"

"Perhaps it does." He suddenly grinned at her. "Only you are feeling better and we have much more time till dawn."

"Haven't you heard of the no innuendoes until the girl has eaten something rule?"

"No, to be honest. When did you make that up?"

She sent him a dirty look.

III

Ever since she could remember, a shower was a great way of forgetting for a moment all the stress that piled up during the day. Now that she added to that being surrounded by scents so typical for Henry, she felt almost as if she was melting each time the hot water touched her skin.

Finally she decided she had enough and locking yourself for hours in somebody else's bathroom wasn't right even by her not overly sophisticated standards. Wrapped in a towel she quickly went to get the clothes Henry left for her.

When she entered his living room again she was assaulted by the smell of food. The coffee table next to the sofa was now occupied by a white plate, a glass of what she could only assume to be wine, a couple of plates of food and, oddly enough considering the full illumination of the room, a lit candle.

"Went all out, did you?"

He grinned. "I cannot imagine what you mean, my lady."

"I'm sure you don't." She sat on the sofa. "Italian?"

"Since you felt nostalgic already."

"Uh huh. Looks good though."

"I'm glad."

She took a fork and did a double take when it turned out to be much heavier than expected. Not really ready to blame her sudden weakness on spending too much time in a hot shower she looked at the vampire questioningly. He smiled in reply.

"I have no use for every day cutlery, Vicki, you must realise that. And even when I did I wouldn't go below this standard."

Wondering what he meant she glared briefly at the fork before the dots connected. Suddenly she looked at the item with newfound respect.

"How come I never noticed before?" She wondered only after a second realising that she spoke aloud.

"I would blame your insistence on ordering Chinese that came with chopsticks."

"It wouldn't be Chinese if it didn't." She took a bite of one of the dishes. "This is good."

"Only the best for you, Victoria." He smiled and she rolled her eyes.

III

Once she ate, Vicki really couldn't find it in herself to move. She was content where she was with Henry sitting next to her.

Giving in to an impulse she rested her head on his arm.

"I have promised you a dinner." She stated conversationally.

"You did. But if you don't want to..."

"Who said I didn't? But if you want to feed you'd better do that before I fall asleep. How strong was that wine you gave me anyway?"

"I'd say it was standard for a French wine. Maybe you are simply tired?"

"I'm not..." She did her best to stifle a yawn.

"So I see. Maybe if you took a short nap you'd feel better?"

"That wasn't the plan."

"But it's our plan so we are entitled to change it. Why don't you lie down for a moment and I'll use the time to clear the table?"

Hearing in reply something that wasn't much more than an organised form of muttering he lifted her up, carried her to his bedroom and gently placed her on his bed.

"Just rest for a moment, Victoria."

Change of surroundings, as well as suddenly finding herself in Henry's bedroom worked to bring Vicki back to full consciousness.

"I don't really need rest. And I still owe you a dinner."

"That's the second time you brought that up."

"Apparently I don't want you to go hungry. And after that dinner you served me it would only be fair to return the favour." She sent him a smile and received his in response.

"If I feed from you, will you promise you'll consider resting?"

"I'll consider it."

Henry smiled at her again, with eyes shining as he looked at her. Vicki felt her still moist hair swept from her neck as he held her closer. A moment later she felt as if she was floating, surrounded by peculiar waves of their emotions intertwined.

Suddenly nothing in the world mattered more than staying like that forever. Staying close to him.

When, all too soon, he stopped drinking and tried to move away, she held him close and kissed him, pulling him with her as she sank onto the bed.

III

He returned her kiss and the passion, but after a while made a move to separate himself from her. She made an indecipherable sound of protest.

"Vicki..." He started, finding her reaching for him again.

"Henry, please..."

"Victoria, try to understand how close you are, we are to going beyond the point of no return. I'd rather be sure you've made that decision consciously and not just gotten carried away by the moment."

He saw her hands trembled slightly. She frowned and Henry mentally counted the minutes before she retreated as fast as she could without looking back.

"Are you telling me I'd be sorry later if we continue?" She teased and he was torn away from his thoughts for a moment.

"I'd do my best to ensure you wouldn't be, you know that. But..."

"Then do so." She whispered and captured his lips in a kiss again. As far as he was concerned this was conscious enough for a decision.

III

It was official. Vicki had lost her mind. Or at least she could see no other explanation for why suddenly not only her words and her body were doing the almost exact opposite of what she knew they should be doing but her thoughts weren't helping either, muting the desperate cries of her rational mind.

She knew she shouldn't be doing this. At least she was pretty sure she knew. And she was equally certain that she would be sorry later. It was a pity, really, that her body didn't take time to read the memo.

Her thoughts were in disarray, making the process of thinking increasingly harder. Henry's presence and touch seemed to be everywhere and her head was swirling. She felt another kiss and her rational mind took a leave of absence muttering darkly about being ignored anyway.

She shuddered as Henry's shirt suddenly was no longer giving her warmth and heard words whispered into her ear.

"When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
And she me caught in her arms long and small,
And therewith all sweetly did me kiss
And softly said, 'Dear heart, how like you this?'
"

She had a distinct notion he was quoting, even if with Henry one could never be completely sure. Still, she thought she might recognise the words... or some similar words at least. But her thoughts were in no state to ponder this.

Then, with a sudden swirl all her thoughts blended together and suddenly there was nothing but passion.

III

She laid her head on his chest, still feeling detached from reality, listening to the unbelievably slow heartbeat. The sarcastic part of her mind that suddenly decided to valiantly prove it still existed, offered a completely abstract thought that at least one thing was for sure when it came to finding things wanting in this perfect romance – there was no way their hearts could ever beat in the same rhythm.

Then the thought died, fearful of the deeper meaning it carried. And somehow Vicki could not stop herself from viewing the conclusion that came to her, as something between epiphany and realising that the piece of the puzzle she had been looking for, she had been holding in her hands all along.

"Henry?" She mumbled sleepily trying to force her eyes, mind over matter, not to close.

"Yes?"

"I love you, you know." She wanted to add something more but she was suddenly too tired to continue.

After all it wasn't like she couldn't continue the conversation later...

III

She woke up with a feeling that she had been sleeping for hours. She located her watch and with the press of a button made the time appear, glowing in the dark. It was almost sunset. Which meant that it wouldn't be long until Henry...

Henry.

She sat up, as the events of last night suddenly assaulted her when her memory caught up with her. Her eyes grew wider.

"Oh, God." She moaned desperately trying not to do something stupid. Like hyperventilating or going to shoot herself. Her throat tightened and she forced herself to swallow. "What have I..."

'Done' never left her lips as the sun must have sunk over the horizon and she heard the vampire wake next to her.

III

She sat in the bed and stared at her hands.

"I've always hated the story of Beauty and the Beast, you know." She said quietly.

"Have you?" He carefully made his tone impassive and schooled his face so it would not betray his emotions.

"Yeah. It just always seemed so unfair for the girl."

There it was, Henry thought, his heart tightening painfully. It took her a while but she finally came to her senses and saw a relationship with a vampire the only way a human possessing a modicum of instinct could. He had been foolish to let himself believe this could end differently. The only question that remained was if he should show her he got the message or let his desperate hope hold him until she told him outright.

"Still, the beauty made a conscious choice." He voiced not knowing himself why he bothered to fight a battle he could not win and continued on the topic.

"But that's just it. She was cheated out of it." She still didn't look at him. "She learnt to love him for who he was and the moment she told him, it stopped mattering anyway and he reverted to the prince he was before he was cursed. And sure, maybe he even cared for her for a while afterwards. But then he was bound to grow bored and fall back to his old habits, take lovers, mistresses, whatever. And she was left with the knowledge that the man she fell in love with was no more." She sighed. "That's when I first decided I would never tell a man I loved him. Not when I really mean it. I was five, my father just left and I heard the story. And I was abiding by the decision. Until yesterday."

She couldn't be saying... Suddenly Henry felt his head spin as he went from convinced that she was backing out of their relationship to awareness of the true meaning of her declaration. Slowly, as if he was afraid to scare her away, he moved closer and embraced her.

"Don't worry." He whispered. "I'm not changing back to the prince I was. And even if I wanted to, I'm fairly sure it's impossible, so I'm afraid that whether you like it or not, you are stuck with the beast."

He felt her stiffen for a second before she leaned into his embrace.

"You promise?"

"I think I can safely give you my word on that." He smiled lightly at her.

"Good. I wouldn't want it any other way." She turned to face him. "And Henry... By the way. I love you." She whispered the words but there wasn't any hesitation in them. Neither was there any in the kiss she initiated afterwards.

THE END

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