Disclaimers: Nick and Co. do not belong to me, and I seek only emotional profit from the writing of this tale. I promise to return them all physically unharmed. Emotionally, I make no such promises. (Honest. I will learn to play nice some day.) The character of David Evans is mine.

Spoilers: Be My Valentine

White Rose
by Soulwindow

Act 1

Why can't I just walk away from here? Away from this place. The Raven. Even the name pulls at me as I pace past it's silent front for the fifth time in as many nights. Five nights I've walked past. And five nights I've been unable to open the door and enter its murky depths.
I moved to this town less than a month ago. My mother of course wanted her only son to stay close to home, but home held too many memories, most of them hellish, and even then something about Toronto pulled at me. But seven nights ago as I typed in my tiny rented apartment (not quite a garret but close enough), I tuned the radio to CERK 490, and I heard his voice for the first time. I stopped writing. Hell, I practically stopped breathing. Something in that voice ripped through me. I paced my tiny loft until the creeping dawn stole in through my windows and reminded me that there was a life outside of his voice.
I barely existed through the next day. I couldn't eat. Couldn't sleep, write or think. I told myself that it was just a radio show. That the images of stars and white roses his voice invoked meant nothing. But I was there the next night, in my room, tuned to the radio until another dawn crept into my window.
I called the station. I don't know what I expected. That they would tell me where to find this radio personality? Right! Imagine my shock when that's exactly what they did. They told me that he broadcast from a bar called the Raven.
And so that was where I found myself the next night. And the next. And the next. And so on, until tonight. Every night I walk past, telling myself to just open the door and confront whatever lies inside. And each night I continue on.
Part of my decision stems from a vow I made five years ago, a vow to never drink again. To never enter a bar, tavern, club or bath house. Any place where drink makes people lose themselves and fail to heed warnings of the unintended consequences of foolish actions.
Tonight, however, I will enter. I will discover what it is about this place that yanks my heart and tells me that my life will change the moment I step through that portal.

***


Things were never quiet in Nick's precinct. Sometimes he wished that the criminals would just come together and decided to take one night off. Just one night so that the cops could rest, maybe get caught up on the backlog. But it never happens. And he knows deep down that it never will.
Tracy was already at her desk, working hard.
"Any leads on the Carver case?" Nick asked as he pulled out his chair. He frowned at his computer, hating (electronic) paperwork.
Tracy shuddered. "Not yet, but I wish we could call it by a different name."
Nick chuckled grimly. "Yeah, I'll bet when he was born his parents never realized someone would take his name so seriously."
Tracy frowned. "Stop it, Nick."
Nick's eyes softened. "Sorry, Trace. This one's really getting to you, huh?"
She nodded. "Yeah. You'd think I'd get used to it, but when I saw that crime scene..."
"We never get used to it. When we do is when we need to start worrying."
"Yeah, you're right." She frowned again, this time in remembrance. "Oh, right. I'm supposed to tell you to call Dr. Lambert. It sounded urgent."
"I'm on it now." He picked up the phone and dialed her number. "Nat," he began when she answered. "What's up?"
His spine tingled when he heard the urgent tone in her voice. "Nick. You need to get down here. Now. I've got something you need to see."
"On my way." He hung up the phone and turned to Tracy. "Nat says she's got something important to show me. Tell the captain where I am if he asks, all right?"
"Sure thing. Any idea what it is?"
Nick shook his head. "No, but from the sound of her voice, I'm not going to like it." And with that he rushed to his car.

***

I open the door, feeling as if I am confronting destiny. A destiny that I never knew I had until this moment.
The noise staggers me. Memories of similar places rush through my brain, bringing with them all the feelings from those earlier times, feelings and memories that I've been running and hiding from ever since. I square my shoulders and admonish myself to move in.
Instinctively, I head for the bar, knowing that it will offer some refuge from the predators I feel in this place. They surround me, swaying to the loud music, moving together and then snapping back, like strange cats meeting, but on neutral ground, away from their respective territories.
Some of them smile at me as I pass, and I know without asking that responding is to court Death, to welcome him with open arms. And as bad as my past has been, I'm not yet ready to enter the endless darkness of his bedroom.
One predator, a woman with an unfathomable gleam in her heavy lidded eyes, approaches, grabs me, and kisses me, hard, on the mouth. I pull away, smile slightly and tell her that I'm not interested.
"Another time, maybe?" she asks. I shake my head and move on, not daring to answer, for fear of giving the wrong impression.
Finally, I push past the last swaying body and lean against the bar. A tall, unusually pale man--now that I notice it, a large number of the patrons are unusually pale--approaches, several glasses of red wine in hand. He distributes them to the patrons framing me, and then looks to me.
"What'll it be?" The depth and resonance of his voice surprises me.
"Gin and tonic." Fairly safe, I think, trying to convince myself that I have good reasons for breaking my vow. Funny, right now I can't think of what they are, but I know they must be there.
The bartender brings me my drink. I stare at it, wondering if I'm going to actually guzzle it down when I hear *his* voice.
"Miklos, another house special please."
I turn just as the bartender responds, "Right away, sir."
At that moment, I see my destiny at the other end of the bar. Tall, dressed all in black, white hair in a crew cut, just as pale as the others. And his eyes. I can't describe them; I will never be able to describe them, but I can feel their pull like the Earth to the sun. I can't look away. Fortunately, he doesn't notice my scrutiny and turns to speak to another customer. Miklos hands him a glass of the red stuff and turns back to the bar. I motion him over.
"Who's he?" I manage to gasp out through suddenly parched lips.
He points back over his shoulder. "Him? He's the owner."
He owns the place? No wonder the pull. I force myself to pay attention as the bar tender continues to speak. "Why do you ask?"
I am amazed at the calm voice coming from my mouth. "Oh, it was no big deal. I was just sure I had recognized him from somewhere. The voice was so familiar."
Miklos smiles. "Ah, the voice. The voice of the Nightcrawler has drawn many a parched traveler to this place." He moves on to another customer, and I retire to a secluded table to try to get hold of my thoughts and emotions.

***

Nick hurried to the coroner's office, sped by the urgency in Natalie's voice.
What have you found?" he asked, almost before fully entering the room. Natalie was bent over a body.
"Look at this." She pushed up her goggles and wearily swept her hair out of her face.
Nick came and put an arm around her. "Long night?"
"Like you wouldn't believe. They're practically stacking them in the halls, and then this guy shows up."

Nick leaned over to see what Natalie was pointing at. The hairs on his neck prickled as he saw the twin fang marks. "We've got a rogue."
Natalie nodded. "That's what I figured."
"Can you cover it up?"
"Do I have any choice?" Natalie snapped. She immediately blushed. "Sorry about that. It's been a bad day."
Nick hugged her briefly. "I understand. I've got a pile on my desk as well. I didn't really need this either." He thought for a moment. "Guess I'll head over to the Raven and see if Lacroix knows anything. Just about every vampire heads over there sometime."
Natalie nodded. "I'll take care of things here. I hope he knows something. I can only cover up so much. If he...or she goes on a killing spree, well, I do have my limits."
Nick planted a quick kiss on her forehead. "I know, Nat." He started to leave but suddenly turned back.
"Nat?"
She had gone back to the body, but she glanced back over her shoulder. "Yeah?"
"Have I told you lately that I really appreciate all you do for me?"
Natalie's smile warmed an ancient heart he'd thought would never thaw, until he met this woman. "No. Thanks. I needed that."
Nick grinned back. "Anytime. I'll call you later if I turn anything up."
"Okay."
Nick ran outside and hopped into the Caddy. Even the fine summer night couldn't distract him from his worries. The last thing the community needed was a rogue. He hoped Lacroix had some information for him.
His concern made him drive too fast, and as he screeched to a halt outside the Raven, he wondered that he'd gotten here without killing anyone.
He entered Toronto's safe haven for vampires, noticing as always the frenetic energy surging through the place. A female vampire, one he hadn't seen before, hissed at him as he passed. He briefly let his eyes glow yellow, and she backed down. Being the second oldest vampire in the city did bring a few perks.
The incident forgotten as quickly as it happened, he moved through the room in search of Lacroix. As usual, he found his master near the bar, this time in conversation with another vampire he didn't recognize. He shook his head, promising himself that he'd stop by more often to keep acquainted with the comings and goings of the underground community.
Lacroix saw his approach and signaled the younger vampire to leave. He did so with a grace and presence beyond his relatively few years.
"Ah, Nicholas." The oldest vampire in Toronto nodded in the direction of the departing one. "Promising, do you not agree?"
Nick shrugged. He so rarely used his vampiric "feel" for others of his kind that he didn't really know. "If you say so, Lacroix."
His master frowned. "You really should use what I gave you more frequently."
Nick shrugged again, not in the mood to continue their endless argument.
Lacroix bowed his head slightly and motioned to Miklos to bring another glass. "So what brings you here this evening? Some urgent *police* matter, no doubt?"
Nick took the proffered glass. "Thanks Mick." He took a sip, hiding his grimace at the unfulfilling taste of cow. Lacroix smiled, as always aware of the feelings his protege tried to hide.
Nick ignored his master's slight smirk and answered, "Actually, yes and no. It's important to both communities."
Lacroix sat back, his expression bored. "And what could possibly be of interest to both? The rising price of glass bottles, perhaps?"
"Cut it out, Lacroix. I'm not in the mood to feint with you." He put down his glass. "Natalie showed me a body just a few minutes ago. He was killed by one of us. Is anyone new in town?"
Lacroix's expression grew more serious, and he motioned for another drink. "A few as always, but they struck me as being better behaved than that. An open kill, I presume you mean."
Nick nodded. "Yeah, according to the report, he was killed on his way home from work; the body left out in plain sight. No attempt at concealment. Whoever did it was completely unconcerned that humans might find it."
"Bad form, indeed," Lacroix remarked dryly as he reached for his drink.
Miklos put his head down to whisper into his employer's ear. "There's a mortal over there. He asked about you earlier, and he's been watching you quite intensely for a while now."
Both Nick and Lacroix looked in the direction Miklos pointed. Nick saw a young man with tousled brown hair dressed simply in jeans and a white T-shirt. He started to dismiss him until he saw the hungry look in the young man's intense brown eyes. He seemed oblivious to the scrutiny, caught up in some private world. Nick pondered a moment longer, revising "private world" to "private hell". He'd seen that look staring out of his mirror many a morning in the last century.
Nick turned to Lacroix. "There is something about him..." As he spoke, he wondered at the odd look on the elder vampire's face. "What's wrong?"
Lacroix spoke absently. "I'm not sure, Nicholas. There is something odd about that young man. Something I can't quite put my finger on." His voice sounded as if it was coming from far away.
Concerned, Nick asked, "Do you want me to go over and ask him what he's doing here?"
Lacroix shook his head. "No. Thank you. I shall deal with this myself." And with that, he stood up and approached the young man. Nick followed, curiously.

***

I don't know how long I sat there, unable to look away from the owner. Fortunately, he didn't seem to notice my scrutiny, though I can't understand how. I made no secret my interest.
After some time of staring and sipping my drink, my gaze catches another man entering the club. Surprised, I realize that he is familiar, though I am sure I've never seen him before. He is about average height with tousled brownish-blond hair. I like his dress, a bit severe, but good on him; black jeans and a black blazer over a nearly blood red shirt. Something tells me he is not the type to dress in bright colors. I watch him approach the Raven's owner. They speak for several minutes. Since I can not understand what pulls me to both of them, strongly to the older, less so to the younger, I wish that I could hear their conversation, but no one could hear anything over the roar of the music.
I turn to the refuge of my drink and take a long pull. When I look up again, I see they are coming my way. I shrink in my chair, hoping they will pass by, but no such luck. They stop in front of my table.
The older one speaks, and I thrill to hear his deep, unbelievably resonant voice.
"The bartender says you have been asking about me."
From somewhere I find my voice. "I was just curious. I thought...I thought I'd seen you before."
"And have you?"
The younger man says nothing; he just stands back and watches, a strangely intense look in his blue eyes.
I shake my head. "No. I guess not, but I've heard you on the radio."
I cannot believe the calm in my voice. My body shakes as if with a fever, but my voice is steady. I want to ask him why I feel drawn to him, but common sense prevails, and I just wait for him to speak again. Anything to hear that voice.
The younger steps forward to speak to the other. "You are attracting attention, Lacroix. If you want to continue this, perhaps another place?"
The white-haired man glances around and nods. "Very well, Nicholas." He turns back to me. "Come."
I instantly get to my feet, all volition gone with that command. We walk to the back of the club and into some private rooms. I am eerily aware of everything, but I can no more control my body than I could stop my heartbeat.
"Sit down," he commands.
I do so. The younger man positions himself near the door. Were I capable of caring in that moment, I would feel nervous at the anxious glances he shoots the other.
"Lacroix. What are you going to do to him?"
The older man turns, and I feel a bit of control come back to my body, but I still feel no fear, and I sense that I will have my answers soon.
"I will *do* nothing to him, Nicholas. I merely wish to ascertain why he is here, and why he is asking about me. When I have my answers, I will send him on his way."
I want to yell out that I do not wish to be "sent on my way." Though I do not understand it, the longer I am with him, the less I want to be anywhere else. The strength of my feelings summons a fear that the command to follow did not.
He turns back to me. "Who are you?"

I can do nothing but answer, though the words that fall from my mouth surprise us all.
"Do you not recognize me, Lucien? I am Fleur."


***


Lacroix recoiled. Before Nick could do anything, Lacroix reached out, grabbed the young man by his neck and threw him across the room. He yelled. "That's not possible. Who are you really?"
Nick rushed over and picked up the young man. He hadn't moved, so thoroughly was he under Lacroix's spell. The older vampire glided forward with unnatural speed. Nick turned, interposing his body.
"Lacroix! Calm down!"
Lacroix ignored him and continued. Nick dropped the young man and from somewhere found the strength to throw his master back.
At that moment, Miklos appeared in the doorway. "Anything wrong?"
Lacroix picked himself up off the floor, fangs extended, eyes glowing. Miklos stepped back a pace and said, "Okay. I see everything's fine. I'm out of here." He immediately turned and left.
The pause was just long enough for Lacroix to get somewhat back under control. He glared at his son, hovering protectively over the body of the young man.
"You needn't cower. I won't attack him."
Nick stood up. "I wasn't cowering."
Lacroix nodded and turned away for a second. Nick used the moment to check over the young man. Except for a rising bruise on his forehead, he seemed fine. Nick looked at Lacroix, who was still turned away.
"You had him under control, so he can't have lied. What did he mean, I am Fleur."
They both turned as the young man answered. This time Nick listened closely, trying to remember the speech of his sister from so long ago, searching in this man's voice for some sign he told the truth.
"Lucien, why do you not know me?"
Nick could not listen to that anguish without feeling sympathy. He shot a look as his master, who appeared ready to do murder. Nick waved him back and turned to question the young man.
"Fleur? How are you here?"
The man sat up, shaking his head. All of his mannerisms were hesitant and unsure.
"Nicholas? Is that you?"
Nick nodded. "It is."
"Where is this place? I do not recognize it. Everything seems so strange." He looked around, puzzlement evident on his features.
Lacroix spoke before Nick could answer. "This is ridiculous, Nicholas. This man can not be Fleur. She died more than seven hundred years ago." His voice caught as he finished.
The young man reached down to smooth a dress that wasn't there. Nick smiled briefly, remembering that mannerism his sister had when she was uncertain. "I am not dead." "She" glanced down and seemed to notice "her" attire for the first time and blushed. "But why am I dressed so?"
Lacroix stepped forward, reluctance evident in his every move. "Allow me to test something." Nick felt the tell tale signs of a vampire relinquishing control of a victim. The young man immediately slumped to the floor.

***

I come back to myself slowly, aware that I have been out, but not sure how long. I carefully open my eyes and sit up. The two men are staring intently at me. The older one asks, "Who are you?"
Unsure, I answer truthfully. "I'm David. David Evans."
They glance meaningfully at each other. My brain is still dazed, and without thinking, I blurt out, "Please. Who are you? Why do I feel drawn so strongly to this place and most especially to you?" I point to the older man.
He speaks to the other, ignoring me. "It is as I expected. If he really is Fleur, she can only *come forward* when he is hypnotized."
The other nods. "But there must be some of her bleeding over into the present or he would not be drawn here, to you."
I've never liked being talked about as if I were not present, and my irritation overcomes my confusion, and better sense. "What are you talking about? Who is this ?Fleur? person?"
The younger seems to remember my presence and blushes slightly. I remember that he has always been particularly sensitive to other's feelings.
"I'm sorry," he says. "I didn't mean to ignore you. I am Nick Knight, and this is..."
"Lucien Lacroix." The other finishes.
I nod. At least I have names to put to them. "How did I get back here, and why did you bring me here?"
Lacroix sighs. "I refuse to have anything to do with this farce."
I frown, still having no idea why he's so obviously upset.
Nick motions at me to wait and speaks to Lacroix. "Try one more time. See if you are right."
Lacroix shrugs and says, "Look at me."
I do, without question, and I feel as if he is searching through my soul for something. I start to pass out but at the last moment stay awake enough to be aware of what happens but unable to affect anything.

***

Lacroix nodded as he saw David's eyes glaze over slightly. "Very well, Nicholas. Since this is your idea..."

He stepped away to observe from across the room, not wanting even his protege to see the turmoil welling in him at the moment. It was ridiculous. This pathetic, confused mortal could not possibly be his beloved, and yet, there was something in him that pulled. He shook his head, refusing to give into it.
Meanwhile, Nicholas reached out, turning David to look at him. "Who are you?" he asked softly.
"Why do you keep asking me that? I have told you."
Even Lacroix could not ignore the change in the voice, now pitched slightly higher. It was still a male voice; that could not be changed, but the pitch was definitely feminine without being falsetto.
Nicholas continued to question "her". "How have you come to be here?"
"She" frowned, obviously in thought. "I do not know," "she" finally answered. "I am here. Where else should I be?"
Nicholas' face grew tender. Lacroix frowned, having never seen quite that expression before.
Nick continued. "Fleur. You died more than seven hundred years ago. You should not be here now."
Confusion warred on "her" face. "But that's not possible. I am here. You are here. I am not dead."
Lacroix felt the tug at his heart at the lost tone in "her" voice. He stepped forward, almost without conscious volition. "Fleur. Beloved."
Nick whirled in surprise, but Lacroix continued, not noticing. "He speaks the truth."
"Fleur" ran at him and pounded "her" fists into his chest. Lacroix stood, unresisting. "It was all your fault. You left me." "She" turned to Nick. "And yours as well. You sent me away from him, from the only man I ever loved." And with that, all energy seemed to leave "her", and "she" slumped, Lacroix catching her before she could fall.
He glanced at Nick, who nodded. Lacroix bent his eyes upon "her". "Go now. Let the other return." He continued to hold on until he saw sense return to David's eyes. Then he let go. David swayed slightly but kept his feet.

***

I remember all of the conversation they had while I drifted, but I don't understand any of it. I look at Lacroix and notice the utter sadness in his eyes. Then I turn to Nick, a part of me sensing he is the safest one to address. He also seems sad, but more in control of his emotions.
"Who is Fleur?" I ask.
Nick looks at me, surprise in his eyes. "You remember what happened?"
I nod. "Yes, but like it happened to someone else, or like watching a movie. I could see and hear, but I couldn't interfere."
Lacroix still stares into space, a glint of something that might be a tear in the corner of one eye. Suddenly he blinks. "Go. Please. I need to be alone."
Nick nods. "I understand. Come on, David. Let me take you home. I'll explain on the way."
I follow him, glad now that I had taken the bus here. Somehow I had known that driving wasn't a good idea tonight.
We say nothing as we pass back through the frenetic main room. Miklos glances curiously at us, but Nick says nothing, and I decide to follow his lead.
We get to his car, a wonderful old Caddy convertible. I am almost afraid to get in, fearful I might ruin something. Nick, however, climbs in without a pause, and I open the passenger door and follow suit.
The night is fine. The top is down, and we ride in silence for a few minutes before Nick shakes his head and turns to me. "I didn't ask where you live."
I chuckle, realizing that it had not occurred to me either. I give him the address, and he nods, not seeming to need directions. That seems to break the ice between us, and he speaks.
"I suppose I ought to fill you in a bit, although I'm not sure where to start."
"What are you? If you don't mind my asking." I am amazed at my calm at riding with someone I suspect is not human. The phrase "you died more than seven hundred years ago" still runs through my head.
Nick blinks but answers. "I really shouldn't be telling you this, but I can't see that it will do any more harm, and if you really are Fleur, it probably doesn't matter."
I still want to know who this "Fleur" person is, but I am intrigued enough to let that one go for now.
Nick continues. "This is going to sound unbelievable..."
"After my evening?" I interrupt. "I'd believe just about anything."
Nick chuckles. "I guess you would. All right then. The only way to say this is straight out. Lacroix and I are vampires."
This really should surprise me. But I feel as if I knew that all along. That I just hadn't remembered yet that I knew it. I nod.
"It would have to be something like that, I guess."
Nick glances from the road. "You took that awfully well. I was expecting at least a denial."
I shrug. "I think I knew it already. I just needed reminding."
Nick stops at a red light and uses the opportunity to really look at me. "How much do you remember, of Fleur?"
I shake my head. "I'm not sure. Little things. A garden in the starlight. Lacroix walking with me. You angry, but I don't know why." I pause, and the flow of memories slows to something I can handle. I decide not to tell him about the kiss, a kiss that even seven hundred years later sends a thrill through me. Instead I ask, "Who is she? Whose memories do I have? And why?"
The light changes. Nick accelerates but doesn't answer right away. Finally, he speaks. "Why? I do not know. Who, I can answer. Fleur is, or rather was, my sister. She lived and died in the thirteenth century."
I nod. Finally, something concrete. Something I can work with. "Okay. I guess that explains the pull to you, but what about Lacroix? What was she to him?"
Nick pauses before answering. My memories tell me what he is going to say, but I need to hear it from him.
"I'm not sure how to put this, David. Fleur was...well, I think she was the only person Lacroix truly loved. Loved with all his heart."
As I had suspected. But one answer leads to still more questions. "What happened to her? You said she died."
Nick nods as he passes another car. I love the feel of the purring engine. "Yes.."
"And was Lacroix there?"
I get the feeling Nick doesn't really want to answer. "No, but he came soon after." He pauses. I wait, sensing that he needs time to get through this. Finally, he finishes.
"He had wanted to bring her across, make her a vampire. She was my little sister. I couldn't let him do that. So I made him leave her. I tried to make her forget him, but I it didn't worked. Her love was too strong. And I know neither of them ever forgave me."
Something in me knows all these things, just like it knew Nick was a vampire before he told me. I can almost feel the ghost of that lost love reaching toward me over the span of all those years. For just a second, I hate Nick for what he did long ago. Then the feeling passes.
Nick drives in silence for a while. I want to say something, but I don't know him well enough to make small talk, and anyway, I can sense that he doesn't want that. So I sit quietly, enjoying the wind in my face and the rumble of the engine.
We finally pull up to my apartment building. I start to get out but am suddenly at a loss. So much has changed. I sense Nick struggling with the same feeling. He reaches into his wallet and pulls out a card. "Here. Give me a call if you need anything."
Suddenly I have a million questions waiting to burst forth, but I restrain the tide and merely say, "Thanks. It's been an...interesting evening."
Nick chuckles harshly. "Yeah. You could say that. Bye."
He pulls away from the curb and drives away, fast. I can't say I blame him. I'm not sure what I'd do if the reincarnation of my sister showed up either.

***


Nick drove back to the precinct, certain he had handled things badly. Suddenly, he reversed direction and headed for the Coroner's building.
Natalie was there, just finishing with a body.
"Hi Nick. Hold on a sec. Let me just move my patient here."
"I'll help." Nick and Natalie moved the body from the table to a waiting gurney. Natalie rolled him into cold storage and came back out, pulling the scrunchie out of her hair and shaking it out. Nick watched, as always, enjoying the sight.
Natalie noticed the attention and smiled but didn't comment. "Did Lacroix know anything?"
Nick winced. "Um...not really, but we didn't talk about it much. Something came up."

Natalie frowned. "This I gotta hear. More important than rogue vampires?"
Nick shifted. "Well, not exactly more important, but..." He turned away for a moment before continuing. "Are you about done here? I need to talk."
Natalie had just been stepping over to her computer to type in the information from the last "patient". She pivoted to look him over closely. "Yeah. I guess I can take off. Just let me finish entering this stuff. Your place or mine?"
Nick shrugged. "Doesn't matter. Let me call the station and tell them that I won't be back in."
Natalie nodded absently, already busy typing.
Nick had to do some major convincing to get Tracy to cover for him again this evening, so by the time he got off the phone, Natalie had finished and was removing her lab coat. They left the building and by mutual but unspoken consent, drove to Nick's loft. Once there, Natalie plopped down on the couch and looked at him.
"Okay, Nick. What's up?"
Nick grabbed a bottle from the fridge and joined her. He took a long drink and tried to order his thoughts.
"Well, Nat. I know you're going to think this is crazy, and I'm sure you're going to have a logical explanation for everything, but hear me out."
Natalie nodded, and Nick filled her in on David. When he finished, he sat back, unsure what she was going to say.
She thought for a few minutes, digesting his story. Finally, she shook her head. "I don't know, Nick. This one's weird, even for you. I mean, reincarnation? Of Lacroix's long lost love?"
Nick nodded. "I know. It's weird, but there's something about him. I'm almost inclined to believe him, crazy though it sounds. And I've seen reincarnation before."
"I know. Francesca. I'm still not sure about that, but I didn't have any better ideas than, and I still don't now." She paused. "I guess the part that rings the most true is the part about Fleur only showing up when he's hypnotized. Otherwise, I'd be inclined to yell Con!"
"I thought about that one, too. But," he said, shaking his head, "I know Lacroix, and when he puts someone under, they are under. And I think the only people who know about Fleur are Lacroix, me, and you."
Natalie smiled. "And the latter shouldn't know either."
Nick shrugged. "Not my fault the whammy didn't take that night." He squirmed as he remembered the scene when Natalie had finally remembered the night at the Azure. He hadn?t been sure she?d ever speak to him again. "I would have come clean about it eventually, really Nat."
"Uh huh. And when would that have been? But never mind. It's not important now."
Nick stifled a sigh.
Natalie continued. "Well, assuming that he is Fleur come back? What now?"
"Good question. And not mine to answer. That one's in Lacroix's court."

Natalie frowned. "Well, you do have some connection to this. You were her brother."
Nick got up and paced the room. "I know, Nat. But David's drawn to Lacroix, not to me, and I don't know what either of them are going to do about it."

***

Those exact thoughts occupied the musings of another, older vampire standing under the stars, outside the Raven.
Lacroix paced, a glass of blood forgotten in one hand. Over and over, he replayed the earlier scene. He didn't want to believe, and yet... There was something. In the voice perhaps? Or the mannerisms? He couldn't decide, but neither could he dismiss the boy out of hand.
He sighed and took a sip from his glass as he remembered another starlit night. Long ago.


France 1228

Lacroix and Fleur walked arm in arm through the garden. The stars shone down on them, surrounding their emotions with a soft glow. Fleur held his arm tightly, fearful that he was but a dream that would vanish with the rising of the sun.
"In the short time I have known you I have come to realize that I wish to be with no other."
Lacroix put his hand over hers and squeezed gently. "Your desire exactly mirrors mine, beloved, but we must leave tomorrow."
Fleur paused to search his eyes. Lacroix reached out with a gentle hand to brush away a threatening tear. "Why must you go? Nicholas has already been gone so long, and you, I have just met you. I can not let you go so soon."
Lacroix sighed. His heart felt much the same, but he had lived long enough to know the dangers of loving a mortal. To bring her across? Nicholas would have much to say about that. He banished the line of thought, preferring to enjoy the sweet taste of his lover's lips. She returned the kiss with the passion of one in the throes of her first love.
"Ah, my beautiful flower," he said finally. "The night is still young and tomorrow far away. Let us appreciate the now and leave the later to its own time.
She nodded, and they resumed their walk, pausing now and then to revel in each other's company, made all the more sweet by its brevity.

***

Lacroix closed his eyes in remembered sorrow. Their time together had been so brief, and yet so beautiful. While a part of him wanted to believe that this mortal was his beloved returned, another part rebelled at anything that threatened to replace that bittersweet memory.
Several days pass, and I debate about what to do. You know the old high school thing? Do I call him? Do I wait for him to call me? Well I go round and round with that for days. I even debate calling Nick, but somehow that doesn't seem right. I mean, why should he believe me? Why should I believe me?
Finally one night, after I had come up with and subsequently rejected more plans than I could count anymore, I decide to give up, go for a walk and let things happen as they will.

I discovered a beautiful park about two weeks ago, and I stroll along in the beautiful summer night, enjoying the smell of fresh-cut grass, and the mournful singing of the locusts. I am completely lost in my reverie until I suddenly have the feeling someone, or something following me. I whirl, afraid, though I don't know why, and I see another.
A week ago I would have thought the glowing eyes a trick of the streetlamp, but now I know better. A vampire stands behind me, and before I can move, he flows forward in quicksilver movement. He grabs my shoulder and pulls me to his chest in an obscene parody of a lover's embrace. I open my mouth to scream, knowing the futility but refusing to give in.
Just then, something knocks into us both with the force of a rutting bull elephant. I am thrown out of the vampire's arms and hit the ground with enough force to make my head spin. I shake my head, desperate to clear the fog and move out of the way of whatever hit me.
But the shaking is enough to make the world list drunkenly. I am vaguely aware of Lacroix's voice as I pass out.

***

Nick stood in Natalie's lab, staring at yet another throat-punctured victim.
"This is three now, Nick." Natalie stripped off her gloves and threw them away. "I don't know how much longer I can keep a lid on this. Any leads?"
Nick shook his head. "Nothing. Not a thing. Damn, I wish I could involve Tracy. Two sets of eyes looking might turn something up."
"Not unless you want to come clean to her." Natalie chuckled. "But if you do, can I be there?"
Nick managed a weak smile. "What, and watch her rip my head off? She'd never forgive me for holding out on her so long."
"Especially since she already knows about Vachon." Natalie's eyes brighten. "Speaking of Vachon, does he know anything?"
Nick frowned. "Nope. Nothing there either. It's like this rogue's invisible. No one seems to know anything about him, or her."
Nick's phone beeped. "Maybe that's something useful."
Natalie cleaned up while Nick answered his phone. She tried not to listen, but his sudden tone made her turn.
"What! Did you get him?" Nick paused while the other spoke. "Damn. Okay, I'll be right there. Yeah, I'll bring Nat if she'll come."
He hung up.
"Who was that?"
Nick shook his head. "You're not going to believe this, but that was Lacroix."
"Lacroix. What's he up to?"
"Apparently he just had it out with our rogue."
Natalie's eyes widened. "Did he get him?"

Nick chuckled. "No, but because he was saving the victim."
Natalie frowned. "Lacroix concerning himself with a mortal?"
Nick nodded. "With this mortal, yes. It was David."
Natalie's mouth dropped. "The rogue was after David?"
"Yeah, I guess. He didn't give me any details. He just said that he chased him off and...was heading to my place. He wants to know if you'll come take a look. Apparently David got in the middle of things, and was knocked out."
Natalie shook her head in disbelief. "Sure. I'll come. I'd like to meet the mortal who has obviously so fascinated your cold-hearted master."
Nick put an arm around her as they left and said cheerfully "Oh, don't get him wrong. He's quite protective of those he cares for."
Natalie humphed. "Yeah. Heaven help David then."


***
They drove quickly to the loft. Lacroix was already there, bowed over the still form of the young man. He seemed oblivious to their presence. Natalie glanced at Nick, who cleared his throat. "Lacroix?"
The older vampire glanced up. Nick tried to hide his shock at the new lines in his master's face. He had not thought a vampire could look old, but apparently he'd been wrong. He kicked himself for getting so caught up in his work that he hadn't talked to Lacroix, or David.
Natalie quickly walked across the room to her patient. She gently pushed Lacroix to one side. For a moment, he looked as if he was not going to let her, but then he relaxed and moved away from the couch. His eyes, however, never left the still form. Nick stepped over and put a hand on his master's shoulder.
"You all right?" he asked quietly. "You look like Hell."
Lacroix shook his head. "Not an inappropriate description."
Nick kept his voice low and gently maneuvered Lacroix a bit farther away from the couch. "Tell me about it."
With obvious reluctance, Lacroix finally looked away from David. "There's not much to tell. I was...following him, as I said before."
Nick was dying to ask "Why?" but he stayed silent.
Lacroix continued. "I saw the rogue a moment before he attacked David. Something came over me, and I flew in to attack. I hit them both hard enough to knock David out. The other fled, and I was torn between staying and following."
"So you stayed?" Nick asked several questions with his tone.
Lacroix nodded. "Yes. I stayed."
Nick waited. His master was not forthcoming with any more information, and finally Nick's curiousity got the better of him. He glanced over at Natalie. She was busy bandaging David's head and didn't seem to be paying any attention.
"Why, Lacroix?" he asked softly. "Do you believe him now?"

Lacroix sighed. Nick wasn't sure he'd ever heard him do that before. "I don't know, Nicholas. I can't explain what I feel, but there is something there. Although," he paused and glanced meaningfully at the couch "his being male could pose a bit of a problem."
Nick chuckled, glad to see the return of his usual wry humor. "I'm sure you'll think of something." He stepped over to the couch. "How is he, Nat?"
Natalie glanced up quickly. "Not too bad. Just a bit banged up. He'll have a headache in the morning, but other than that he'll be fine." She eyed the window thoughtfully. "Dawn's almost here. Do you want him to stay here today? Someone should stay with him until he wakes up."
Lacroix came over. "I'll take him home and stay with him, Dr. Lambert."
Natalie looked up at him, her face unreadable. "All right. Better get going before the sun shows up."
Lacroix picked up David carefully. "Until tomorrow, Nicholas."
Nick nodded. "I'll make sure to drop by the Raven to check in. See you."
Lacroix vanished with barely a rustle of breeze.
Natalie let out a big sigh. "Wow! Is he smitten or what?"
Nick grinned. "I think you may be right. It'll be good for him."

***

I wake up slowly, not yet sure where I am. I remember dreams. Dreams of Lacroix holding my hand and sitting beside me while my head pounded. In the dreams, somehow his presence made the pain bearable.
I open my eyes, not sure if the pounding will start again. It does, but for an entirely different reason. Sometimes dreams do come true. Lacroix is sitting across the room, reading something on the computer.
"This is quite good," he comments. "Your work?"
I nod. Big mistake. Now my head pounds for real. I close my eyes, trying to bring time up to the present. I finally admit defeat. "What happened last night?"
Lacroix gets up from the computer and vanishes into the kitchen, emerging a moment later with some juice. "Dr. Lambert suggested clear liquids at first." He hands me the glass, and I drink greedily. When I finish, I hand the glass back. "Thanks. But you still haven't answered my question."
Lacroix takes the glass back to the kitchen. I wish that I felt up to following and strangling him. Some memories from last night come back to me. They are still vague, but I'm sure that I remember him worrying about me. My heart leaps as I entertain the hope that something will come of my attraction.
He returns.
"Last night?" I prompt.
He sits down on the bed, just far enough away that I can't reach him. My heart sinks a few inches. "Last night you were attacked by a rogue vampire. He has been terrorizing the city since the night you came to the Raven."
My head is fuzzy enough that for a moment I think he is saying I am somehow responsible. Then sense returns. "Why'd he come after me?"
Lacroix shrugs elegantly. "I am not sure. There may have been no reason."
"Lucky random chance, you mean." He shrugs again, his face unreadable. I have just enough wits now to try to change that. So I ask the most important question. "Why were you there?"
Lacroix pauses long enough that I fear he will not answer. Finally, he does. "I was following you."
I frown, not sure how to take that. "Why?"
Yet another shrug. The strong silent type has its place but perhaps someplace else right now would be preferable. "I am not sure I can say, exactly." He gets up. "You seem much improved, and I have a club to run."
Hold everything. Another memory emerges, Lacroix bent over my hand. I can't recall what he was saying, but the remembered expression says enough. I can't figure out what has changed, but I'm not letting him go without some explanation.
"Wait a minute."
He half-turns, and I go on, praying he won't leave before I've had my say.
"You're awfully cool now. I don't remember much from while I was out, but I remember enough. You were worried about me. You followed me and saved me from the other vampire." I glance at the curtains. The angle of light makes me think of sunset. "You sat with me all day. And now you are just going to leave. Like that. Saying nothing..." I pause but decide to just be out with it. "Saying nothing of us."
Lacroix turns the rest of the way. "What is there to be said?"
He is still here. I take that as a good sign. Of course, right now I'd take anything as a good sign. "You can't deny the attraction that you feel. I know you feel it as strongly as I do."
Lacroix inclines his head slowly. "True. What of it?"
I sigh in exasperation. Are all vampires this thick? "Shouldn't we talk? Something? You can't just leave like this."
He stays for a moment. I try to read his expression. Pain. Irritation. And a certain resolve I don't think I like the look of. He finally nods, and I know I'm not going to like what he's going to say.
"Fleur is dead. You may carry her soul, but that is all that remains of her. I've thought long this day, and I say that this attraction can go nowhere. I have nothing more to say."
And he leaves, his words burning in me.
I cry out wordlessly after him.
But he does not return.


***

I sit on my bed, stunned by Lacroix's sudden departure. After a moment, I pick myself up and try to remember that life goes on.

I get out of bed to search for something to relieve the pounding in my head. I notice a note on the table in the dining room and investigate. It is from someone named Natalie. I presume this is the "Dr. Lambert" Lacroix had alluded to. I read it.

Lacroix said he'd stay with you and make sure you are all right, but feel free to call if you need anything.
Natalie

Her number is at the bottom. I presume that she is a friend of Lacroix's and so possibly a vampire, but right now I'd talk with the devil himself if he offered a shoulder. Unfortunately, I also feel a strong need to work through this on my own. I take the pills, and try, unsuccessfully, to convince my stomach of a need for food. Finally I give up. I shut off all the lights and open the curtains to let in the night. The moon has risen, and I pause a moment to ponder it before going inside to think.
Every day I remember more of Fleur. I don't know how that can be, but I've learned to accept it. I remember the day he, Nicholas and a female vampire whose name I do not know came to our lands. I remember seeing Lacroix for the first time as Fleur. I remember the shock that went through me. I knew when I touched his wounded cheek that my heart was lost to him forever.
And now is no different. I long to be with him. I smile at the irony of Fleur's reincarnation into the body of a gay man. Lacroix probably thinks anything physical is out of the question. Little does he know that is the least of my difficulties. Far more troubling for me is the fear of giving my heart to another.
As I lie there, letting the night wash over me, my memories flow back unerringly to college, when I fell in love for the first time. It's never easy being a young man, helpless to the flow of hormones, but being young and gay makes it doubly hard. Of course there are those who learn to prey on them, and I ran afoul of one.
It was the usual story. I was in a bar, drunk, as I often was in those days. Drunk I seemed to mind my pain less. He came in and homed right in on me. We went to his place, and, as they say, the rest was history. The only twist in my tale was his AIDs. Oh, I know, nothing unusual about having a lover with AIDs. The difference with him was that he knew it, and he demonstrated his power over me by telling me and making me do anything he asked anyway.
I still suffer from the shame of my helplessness to resist him. It took a lot of urging from friends to make me leave him. I should also be infected, but some god was looking out for a foolish young man, and I escaped with harm only to my emotions, not to my body.
But after that I swore to never give my heart to another. And so what happens? I fall in love with a vampire. What other creature is more perfectly designed to control another. And, like last time, I don't care. I will gladly go back for more. Who will save me this time, assuming I want to be saved?
And so, I lie on my bed, trying to figure out how to snare a reluctant vampire.

***

Lacroix wandered the night aimlessly, trying as well to sort out his feelings. He too felt the pull, but like David he feared to give over his heart to another. The last time had ended in more pain than he had thought it possible to bear.
Last night and today, as David lay so still, he thought he knew his own heart. He had sat with him, waiting for him to wake, wanting to speak of his feelings. Of...finally admitting it to himself...of his love.
But when the sun went down, and the vampire in him grew strong, he knew that his kind could not afford mortal love, and so he left. But he left a part of his heart behind.
Restlessly, he took to the air, eventually finding himself near David's apartment. He hovered, resisting the overwhelming urge to go inside. He marveled at the strength of his desire to find solace in those arms, arms which, though quite different, evoked many of the same longings as those long ago woman's.
His thoughts drifted back to those long ago nights. He remembered walking with Fleur. Admiring the stars with her. Talking about shared books, philosophy, and yes, even love. His heart ached with the memory of hearing her say his name, "Lucien," with such passion. He remembered the same passion in David's voice at the Raven. He shook his head. And yet, he recalled sitting by the bed, waiting for him to open his eyes, hoping to see the same love mirrored there.
He became aware of movement on a balcony below. David emerged, walked to the railing and looked up. Lacroix stayed motionless, knowing from long experience that the mortal could not see him.
The boy spoke. "Lucien."
Lacroix's heart pounded faster. He closed his eyes in misery.
"Lucien," David repeated. "I know you are out there. I can feel you." He paused, eyes searching the sky. "Come to me."
Without volition, hypnotized by that voice as he had so enthralled many a mortal, he flew down to the balcony and enclosed the young man in his arms. For the first time in nearly 800 years, Lucien Lacroix felt at home.

***

I awake at well after sundown, hoping but not really expecting him to be there. I had sensed near dawn that Lacroix needed some time to come to terms with his feelings. As for myself, I lie there for a moment, savoring the memories from last night. After the other, I had never expected to enjoy the feeling of another man's body against mine. Now I hope that I can give my heart to another and not be hurt.
I rise, singing on my way to the shower, singing every foolish love song I can remember.
After grabbing a bite to eat, I drive to the Raven. On the way over, I wonder if he is ready to see me again, but I finally decide that I need to take an active role in this relationship. I am touched to see that in 2000 years, Lacroix has not really learned how to deal with such feelings.
I park a few blocks away, wanting a few minutes of fresh air to pull myself together. I am close enough to see the club when I become aware of a presence behind me. I whirl.
The rogue vampire stands behind me, eyes glowing yellow, fangs extended.
I feel an unmistakable chill crawl down my back.
He speaks. "I do not like having my prey stolen from me."
Knowing it is foolish, but unable to help myself, I become angry at this impudent immortal. "I am no one's prey."
The other laughs. "That, mortal, is where you are wrong." He rushes me.
I back away, knowing that I can not escape his speed, but refusing to go down without a fight. In my terror, I feel something open inside me, a conduit to another. I scream, both out loud and down that channel. Just before the vampire grabs me, again pulling me to his chest, I feel Lucien respond. But it is too late. As the rogue's fangs pierce my neck, I send as strongly as I can. "Lucien! I love you."
And then all goes black.

***

Lacroix was in the Raven, brooding over a glass of house special and suffering from a bad case of "next morning syndrome." While many of the memories from the night before were certainly pleasant, reservations of having a relationship with a mortal abounded. The vampire in him wanted to bring David across, to love him safely, but he suspected that Nicholas would object, and he wanted to consider David's feelings.
Miklos was just bringing him a second glass when Lacroix felt the tentative stirrings of a bond between him and David. The opening of that bond made him smile. Miklos wondered at that smile, far gentler than any he had ever seen on his boss' face.
But the gentle smile quickly changed to horror as he felt David's danger. He flew to the door, heedless of any mortals who might see him. He wrenched the door off its hinges in his hurry, but just as he threw it down, he felt a last message over the link.
"Lucien! I love you."
Lacroix roared his pain to the heavens as he felt his Fleur die yet again.
He rushed the rogue, who was just dropping David's body. This time Lacroix had no decision to make. He grabbed the much younger vampire and twisted his neck around, ripping it from his body in his savage rage. The headless body fell, lifeless, blood gushing from the neck.
Lacroix roared again, smelling the scent of his beloved in the blood leaking into the ground. He tenderly picked up David's body and took off, again not caring if any mortal witnessed his flight.

***
Nick felt his master's anguish, and his knees buckled, knocking him into one of Natalie's gurneys.
"Nick! What's wrong?" Natalie came to him and supported him until he could stand alone.
Nick shook his head, trying to sort through the confused feelings pulsing down the link to his master. "I'm not sure. Something's happened to Lacroix."
Natalie felt a sudden chill. "What about David?"
"I don't know." He furrowed his brow, trying to determine what was wrong.
At that moment, Lacroix flew into the room, a limp David in his arms.
"Nicholas?"
Nick immediately went to his master, all of his usual rebellion vanishing at the pain in Lacroix's voice. Natalie followed closely, reflexively checking David for a pulse. She noticed the puncture marks on his neck. "What did you do?"
Nick recoiled slightly as Lacroix shook his head. "Nothing. It was...the other."
Nick nodded and put his hands on Lacroix's shoulder, holding him as closely as Lacroix held David. Natalie shook her head. "I'm sorry. There's nothing I can do."

Lacroix nodded, tears running freely down his face, something Nick had never seen before. "I know." His voice broke, and he had to pause before he could continue. "He drained too much. I couldn't bring him across."
Natalie glanced up as Grace started to poke her head in through the door. Natalie madly waved her off and sighed in relief when Grace vanished, knowing her able assistant would keep away all the curious.
Meanwhile, Nick gently tried to take David away from Lacroix. "You've got to let go. You can't keep him."
Lacroix resisted, rocking slowly back and forth, clutching his beloved. Finally, however, he relented. Nick gently laid David out on one of the examining tables. Natalie draped the body with a sheet.
"What happened?" Nick asked, putting an arm around Lacroix. The older vampire leaned against him, obviously grateful for the support.
"It was the rogue. Just outside the Raven. It..." Lacroix's voice broke again, and fresh tears rolled down his cheeks. Natalie came over and held him on the other side. "It happened too fast. There was nothing I could do."
Nick stroked his master's back, offering what comfort he could. "The rogue?"
"Dead." For the first time a familiar note of authority crept into his voice. "I hope Miklos will take care of the body. I'm afraid I did not stay to properly clean up."
Nick chuckled softly. "Miklos has been around for a while. He'll know what to do." He glanced at Natalie over Lacroix's shoulder and mouthed something. Natalie nodded.
"Come on, Lacroix," Nick said. "Let's bury him."
Lacroix shook his head. "No. Burn him. I want...I want to set his soul free, perhaps to return again."
Nick nodded. "As you wish." He picked up the body, and they left. Natalie wished she too could go to say her last, but she settled for sending up a quiet prayer.

***

Nick and Lacroix flew to an old junkyard and laid David out on top of a ruined car. Lacroix felt a chill run down his back, almost a feeling of deja vu, but sort of a deja vu that hadn't yet happened. He shook his head and returned his attention to the present.
Lacroix set fire to the body, and they stood and watched quietly for a few minutes. Finally Lacroix decided to tell his son something he had been holding inside for years. At that moment he needed to get it out, share an old pain along with the new.
"Nicholas?"
"Yes, Lacroix?"
"I have something to tell you, something that happened long ago."
Nick turned to him, curious what thought was so pressing to intrude on his master's grief at this moment.
"I was in Italy during the Renaissance. You and Janette were off alone, enjoying each other's company. I was listening to an orchestral recital when I suddenly became aware of a young woman nearby. She was watching me, paying no attention to the music. I motioned to her, and we left to walk.
"She fascinated me, though I did not know why. She was pretty enough, but there was something more about her, something I could almost but not quite grasp. I did not kill her that night, nor the next, nor the next.
"We met every night for a week. We walked, listened to music, did I suppose all the things that lovers do, though we never were lovers. I thrilled to her company but never did understand why.
"Finally, however, I decided that no mortal should have that strong a hold on me, so I took her. As I drank from her, I saw a flash of the past, of her past, though not of her past, and I realized why I had been so attracted to her."
Nick spoke. "She had Fleur's soul."
Lacroix nodded. "Yes. I looked long after that, hoping that what occurred once could happen again, but eventually I decided that fate had judged my actions in Italy harshly and had decreed I would never meet her again."
He paused, lost in thought. "Until now."
Nick reached out to him. "Fate can be cruel, Lacroix."
Lacroix turned away from the pyre and his son, unable to watch his love disappear again. He walked away. Nicholas remained behind, wanting to stay with his sister until the end. He thought he heard the wind carry his master's faint voice back to him.
"Yes, Nicholas. Especially to those of our kind."

The End