"Safe" was a word that few people had ever used in Vachon's presence. Yet it was the one word Tracy had said before giving up the fight to hold onto consciousness. It wasn't that people thought he was dangerous but rather that no one saw him as a protective personality. Heck, he didn't consider himself as protective, but that had all changed at the sight of Tracy's wounds. Now he was taking her back to his church, to watch over her, until she was well enough to watch her own back. She had racked up enough mortal enemies as a cop that he didn't feel comfortable leaving her unattended. Plus, there was the danger that more of his enemies might be lurking around. In her present condition, she wouldn't have a chance of survival.

He had already spoken to her police partner and his fellow vampire, Nick Knight, and told him what appeared to have happened. While Nick's voice hadn't sounded too happy, he had promised to join them after making their Captain aware that Tracy had fallen ill. He also indicated that he would bring his human doctor friend along to assess Tracy's condition. It was a risk, because Tracy might discover Nick's secret, but they would just have to deal with it, if and when that happened.

Holding Tracey securely in his arms, he flew the short distance to his home. He had just finished settling her into his bed when he felt the approach of another of his kind. Mere seconds later the sound of Nick's voice echoed up the stairwell as he helped the doctor manage the rickety stairs. Vachon pulled the covers up to Tracy's chin, bushed a kiss across her forehead, and walked away to meet his visitors. He held out his hand as the reached the top stair.

"Thanks for coming, Knight."

"What the hell happened?" Nick inquired hotly.

Vachon responded in the calmest voice he could manage, "I know no more than I did when I called. It looks like she's been attacked by one of our kind but she hasn't exactly been verbal yet. I expect that'll change when she's feeling better."

Stepping around them, Natalie said, "If you gentleman wouldn't mind, I'd like to see my patient. Her needs are more important than any explanation."

She approached the bed in the far corner of the room and noted Tracy's paleness and the rapid pulse at her neck.

"Nick, you and Tracy's friend stay over there while I examine her."

"Why?" both men asked simultaneously.

"Let's leave the girl some dignity. I don't think she'd be happy if either of you saw her unclothed. I'm going to need to undress her to do a complete exam."

"Oh, okay," was the muttered response from both.

Natalie gently undressed Tracy, noting the extensive bruising, and tried to be extra careful not to jar her unnecessarily. She kept up a steady stream of conversation in case Tracy could hear her.

A half hour later she came to the conclusion that blood loss was Tracey's primary problem with a probable concussion being a secondary concern. Natalie also expected some mental trauma but knew she really wasn't qualified to handle that. Tonight, she'd stick to what she could handle.

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On the other side of the room, Vachon paced while he listened to the murmurings of the doctor. He was certain they were reassuring statements. He didn't really know why she was bothering since Tracy was totally out of it. In fact that very level of vulnerability was disturbing him greatly. Even though he knew Tracey needed he doctor, he'd be much happier when they both left . He wanted to watch over her himself.

From his side of the room, he watched as the equipment for a blood transfusion was set up. Once that was running to the doctor's satisfaction, she waved them both over.

"What's the verdict, doc?", Vachon asked.

"Blood loss seems to be the biggest concern. I also think she might have a concussion. Otherwise, everything else will just need time to heal, including whatever fears may surface from the actual incident."

"What do I need to do for her while she's here?"

"You're planning on keeping her. . . . here. . . . with you?" Nick asked in surprise.

"Yes, Knight. I'm going to keep her here with me. I can handle her. She likes me, and trusts me, and I think she'll feel safe here."

"I'm sure you're right. I'm just surprised that you offered."

Vahon took a few seconds to compose his thoughts before replying, "I'm done running from my responsibilities. I can't imagine that the attack on Tracy was random. Obviously, someone else knows that she knows what I am, and they were banking on me finding her. She was probably supposed to be a message to me but I'm fairly certain they thought she would be an easier target than she was."

Nick looked at him speculatively and Vachon was somewhat offended. He could tell that the detective didn't want to leave his partner here. It was clear Knight didn't really trust him to provide her care. But at the same time, what was the alternative? Nick caring for her?

"Vachon, if anything else happens to her, I'll have your head."

"I understand. She'll be fine."