Author name: foxy11814

Title: A Father's Truth

Fandom: Forever Knight

Rating: PG-13

Summary: Vampire hunters are lose in Toronto. Vampire Homicide Cop Nick Knight is on the case, but is he ready for it? His master, Lucien Lacroix, doesn't think so since Nick is not on a vampire's regular diet, but he's willing to help. How far will Nick allow Lacroix to help him, and how far will Nick go to catch the hunters before they strike again.

Author's Note: Like most people writing Forever Knight fan fiction, I believe the episode "Last Knight" was a dream by Lacroix or Nick, at best, or I simply ignore it ever happened in the first place. Ironically, this is my first real attempt at a Forever Knight piece, although I have written for many other fandoms. Hopefully, this will be to some people's liking.

Here's a fair warning: I am a big fan of the father/son relationship between Nick and Lacroix. I'm also a Nick and Nat 'shipper. This is most definitely a Nick and Lacroix story. Don't worry, no romance will develop between "father" and "son," but if you are the type to read more into it, then you can do so, of course, lol.

A Father's Truth

Sirens were blaring around the warehouse as Nick Knight pulled into the parking lot with his partner, Tracy Vetter. It had been a relatively calm night until dispatch had practically screamed over the lines, "81 Kilo, your assistance is required at Whiteside Warehouse on Broadstein and Ninth." That was all the information they were given over the airwaves.

Nick quickly got out of his caddy and stared off, almost mesmerized, into the masses of red and blue lights enveloping him. He felt Tracy stand close to his side and heard her say, "Now is definitely not the time to drift to La-La Land." She was definitely getting to know him.

He glanced over at his junior partner's grin and tried to give her a brief smile of his own for her attempt at humor. He knew he probably failed miserably. The truth was he was worried. "I've just never seen so many cop cars at a--" he paused to think of the right words "--a routine homicide," he finished.

Despite Tracy's attempt to stop him from zoning out, he found himself remembering the last time he was at a scene as crowded as this: the airplane explosion that took Schanke's life. He shook himself away from the memory and said, "Let's find out what's going on."

It wasn't hard to find out where they needed to go. Large spotlights were beaming down in a row, leading to a place where he could see Natalie bent over a body, but the lights didn't stop there. It was then that he noticed the spotlights continued until it reached the warehouse's entrance. Two more bodies were visible on this path from where he stood.

He walked over to Natalie and asked, "What's going on?"

Nick noticed Nat look from him to Tracy and quickly realized this was something she wanted to discuss with him alone. That meant only one thing: vampires were somehow involved. For now, he would have to wait to get the whole story and just listen to what Natalie thought she could share.

"We have three bodies outside and one inside the warehouse," Nat answered. "TOD is approximately two hours. All have deep puncture wounds in different places throughout their bodies...I don't know what weapon was used. I'll know more once I get them back to the lab."

Nat stared at Nick with her round blue eyes opened wide and tried to convey with them that she didn't believe what she was telling him. She watched as he immediately bent down and checked the victim's neck. He saw what she wanted him to see. There were two jagged puncture wounds in his neck.

"Oh, my God," Tracy said as she leaned over Nick's shoulder to also look at the corpse.

Natalie closed her eyes briefly and hoped Tracy wouldn't put two and two together. Nick's perky partner knew about vampires and now that Vachon was no longer around to help her, she could find herself getting into a load of trouble without meaning to. "Not that Nick would ever let that happen," she thought to herself. Of course, she didn't want to see Nick have too much on his plate. He already dealt with so much…

Nick stood and looked at the crowd gathering around the police tape that was marking off the area. It always amazed Nick that a crowd of spectators would always be around at a murder no matter the location or what time of night it was. "You would think they'd learn to stay inside this time of night," he thought to himself.

He quickly touched Tracy's left arm and said, "Tracy, why don't you go talk to the crowd over there? See if there are any potential witnesses."

Tracy looked at him with her clear blue eyes reflecting her disbelief. "Do you really think anyone who witnessed all this bloodshed would be calmly standing over there, simply watching?"

"Trace," Nick began.

"I know, I know," she said, lifting her hands. "I wasn't saying no. I know they might have heard something that may seem insignificant to them but might be something beneficial to us." She leaned in conspiratorially to Nick. "But the only thing I know for sure is that anyone who was anywhere near this place to hear anything was probably the culprits themselves. Look at this place. This isn't exactly what you would call 'Hangout Central.'"

Nick nodded his agreement and whispered, "Then, go see if you can find us some suspects while I finish talking to Nat about the forensics." He knew this statement would appease Tracy, because it would seem like he was laying out a game plan for this case and letting her take the lead on possible clues.

As Tracy walked off, Nick took Natalie by the arm and led her a little in the opposite direction away from anyone on her team who might overhear them. "Those are vampire bites on the victim's neck," he whispered.

Nat nodded. "That's what I thought," she said softly, "but I wasn't too sure, yet, because of the size and jaggedness of it."

Nick looked back at the body and said, "It looks like whoever bit him didn't get to stay in the position long enough to enjoy anything."

Natalie paused at his word choice but decided to ignore it. "What do you mean," she asked.

He looked into the coroner's eyes and whispered, "He didn't get to finish. It almost looks like he was interrupted from the kill by someone who dragged him away. That's possibly why the wounds are so torn." Nick leaned closer and said, "There's no way all of these people were killed for their blood. If that was the case, these bodies would be a lot cleaner and less blood would be present, if we would have even found the bodies in the first place."

"So, you're saying this might not be a case of vampires quenching their blood thirst?" She watched as Nick shook his head.

"I don't know," he answered, "but it's possible that it's not. I've…" He stopped himself from saying too much. Throughout his existence, he'd happened along scenes where humans and vampires, each knowing the capabilities of the other, had gotten into intense altercations. It wasn't pretty, and he didn't want to scare Nat needlessly. At those times, the vampires' objective was not blood, it was survival. The human corpses would sometimes be so maimed that they would not be recognizable. They would be torn by fangs, fingernails, and whatever else the vampires could use. The jagged wounds in this case could be the result of a vampire trying to rip its opponent's throat out. His thoughts were interrupted by Natalie grabbing his arm.

"Then, maybe you should look at this," she said. She immediately headed for the warehouse.

Inside the warehouse, Nick discovered another body that was worse off than the first he had seen. The neck had been snapped and the head was lying in an awkward, almost backward position. Blood soaked the man's clothing from jagged puncture wounds on the victim's chest and arms. He stopped only briefly at the body when he realized Natalie had walked a little further. When he went to her side, he saw what she was looking at.

Thick gray sand was covering portions of the floor next to the body. Nick knew what it was immediately as he crouched down and got a stronger smell of what was beneath their feet. He looked up into Nat's awaiting face and said, "They were burnt."

Natalie immediately backed away from the ash and gave Nick a worried look. "Do you think any humans survived, then?" she asked softly.

Nick ran his fingers through the ash on the floor and said once again, "I don't know." Silently, he thought, "It might be better to ask if any vampires survived." He was becoming more inclined to believe that this case was not a circumstance of vampires having too much fun with mortals and paying the consequences for it.

At that moment, Nick heard his name being called. He looked behind him to see Tracy waving at him. "The precinct was on the radio," Tracy yelled. "They said your father called and said there was a family emergency. He needs you immediately."

Nick stood and Natalie immediately wrapped her hands around Nick's left elbow. "Nick," she started but was immediately cut off by a kiss on her forehead.

He already knew what Natalie was thinking: Lacroix wanted something and that couldn't be good. As far as Natalie was concerned, it was best if he could find a way to get Lacroix out of his life for good. He smiled calmly at her to try to alleviate some of the anxiety he knew she now felt.

"I have a feeling I'm about to find out what's going on," he whispered. "His calling me at work now cannot be a coincidence. I'll call you when I can."

Before she could get a word in edgewise, he ran towards Tracy and tossed her his keys. "When you're finished here, take the Caddy to the precinct. I'll get one of the officers to take me."

As Tracy watched Nick run out of the warehouse, she noticed Natalie had come to stand beside her. "Take him where? I didn't even know he had family in town," she remarked.

Natalie simply shrugged.

As Nick walked through the crowds of policemen outside, he felt himself getting more and more anxious. He was fairly certain Lacroix wanted to see him about this case, and that definitely didn't bring any comfort to him. Only catastrophic events caught his master's attention if it didn't directly affect him or involve Nick in some way. This was going to be bad.

Before Nick could disappear behind a nearby warehouse to take to the air, he heard Captain Reese calling his name. He turned around in time to see the big burly man jogging to him. "Knight, what are you doing over here?" he questioned.

Nick pulled out his cell phone and said, "I was about to call my father."

Reese shook his head and said, "We told him we would have you call him and he informed us that he needed your presence." He squeezed his best detective's shoulder and said, "Go, Nick, I'll hold down the fort. You take care of this urgent family matter, but also keep in mind that we need you. It's been a long time since we've had a multiple homicide on my streets. I don't like it, and I want you and Tracy on the case."

Nick nodded and said, "Don't worry, Captain. I'll be back, and we'll get who is responsible for this."

Nick, with his travelling plans thwarted, ran towards his Caddy. This time he looked around to make sure no one was watching as ran behind a tall stack of shipping crates. Unseen, he took to the air.

The music blared, the paid dancers were hot, and most of the patrons were seemingly frozen. That was the first thing Nick noticed as he walked into the Raven. He walked hurriedly through the crowd standing, and not dancing, on and around the dance floor as he headed for the bar. As soon as he reached it, Marcus, Lacroix's favorite bartender, handed him a glass of his usual, which was already poured, and said, "He's in the back."

Nick grabbed his drink, not uttering a word, and followed the bar past the recording sound booth to Lacroix's private office. Without knocking, he opened the door and stepped inside to see Lacroix standing with his back to him and his hands folded calmly behind his back. Nick recognized the posture immediately. His master was in deep thought, scrutinizing every aspect of an endeavor he was about to partake. He had watched him do this many times in the past, and usually, it led to something Nick would forever feel guilty about.

"You wanted to see me?" asked Nick.

Lacroix turned around and slowly took in his son's appearance. Despite their current accord, it had been many weeks since he had seen his rebellious son. He raked his eyes over his son's never changing golden hair that reminded him of the sunlight he gave up so long ago and then slowly let his eyes drift to the piercing cobalt eyes that were staring at him questioningly. He walked up to Nicholas as he finally let his eyes travel down further to the wine goblet he carried in his right hand.

Nick let Lacroix take it without any fight and watched as Lacroix held the blood under his nose to sniff.

Once again Lacroix turned his back on his son and retreated to his desk. He set the goblet down on it and finally spoke, "You really shouldn't be drinking bovine at a time like this, Nicholas."

Even though Nick knew there were more important things to discuss than his feeding habits, he couldn't stop his muscles from tensing for battle and his mind racing for a scathing reply for this old and long fought battle.

Before Nick could even utter a syllable, Lacroix poured which was undoubtedly human blood into two unused wineglasses and continued, "I assume you were at the Whiteside Warehouse when I called for your assistance." He, then, turned around and handed Nick a wineglass full of blood before he sat on the edge of his desk and sipped some of his own.

Nick felt his hand shake as he stared at the blood in his glass. He was honestly shocked at Lacroix. He had possibly just been at a crime scene where vampire hunters had killed several of their kind, and instead of focusing their full attention on that, Lacroix was tormenting him with the temptation of human blood. Lacroix knew very well his son's control had considerably weakened since the demon had taken over his body months before. He knew it was becoming harder and harder each day for his son to withstand the siren call of nature's most potent elixir. Lacroix knew Nick had even given in to the urge a few times and now his lapse was tormenting him. How could Lacroix do this to him? How could he try this now?

Nick forcefully tore his gaze away from his glass and walked quickly in front of Lacroix. He flung the glass on the desk and tried to ignore the blood as it spilt and permeated the room even more with its overpowering smell. Nick stared angrily into his master's sharp azure eyes, and spat, "This is an all-time low, even for you."

Lacroix raised his eyebrow considerably before giving an exasperated sigh. He knew he should have expected such a reaction. He wondered why Nicholas could never make things easy for him or himself. He braced himself for the argument that was about to transpire and knew it was one that he could no longer back down from despite his desire to stay on amiable terms with his son. Too much depended on it. The consequences of his losing might be too great to bear.

Lacroix stared coolly at his son for a brief moment before quipping with a smirk, "I surely do not know what you mean, Nicholas. I am only interested in your current hobby, because it seems to have taken a course to decidedly dangerous waters." Even though he knew the ensuing fight over that disgusting bovine swill was inevitable and imminent, he also knew he had to remind Nicholas again of the real reason he was there. After the battle was over and the smoke cleared, he wanted his son to remember they had a more important issue to discuss, so he couldn't run away to sulk for losing once again.

"You know very well my case is not what I'm referring to," snapped Nick, feeling too betrayed by his father's actions to let it slide without a more thorough discussion. "I have been fighting an uphill battle ever since the incident at Vanderwal's, and you are purposely trying to make things harder for me. I thought for once, since I turned completely away from you a hundred years ago, we might actually be able to forget the past and move on. Now, I see that your recent understanding and care was just a ruse, another game to trap me." Nick squeezed his eyes shut, suddenly feeling emotions too overpowering to ignore even though he didn't want Lacroix to see them. He gritted his teeth briefly before softly whispering, "Congratulations, Lacroix. You almost ensnared me in your web of lies once again."

Nick immediately turned his back to Lacroix before opening his eyes and revealing their golden hue. This was not going at all as he had planned, and he didn't know why he was suddenly feeling so miserable. He hadn't broken down or lost control because of something Lacroix had done in a long time…

It was the time of the Restoration, and Nicholas was thoroughly enjoying it. He loved the excitement of the theater, whether he was a spectator or an actor. And, it wasn't because of the whores that hung around the dressing room and the gentlemen's hall, like Janette probably would have suspected. No, during the Renaissance, he had discovered that the imaginary worlds of playwrights had the power to make him forget about his own vices and follies for a while. He was thrilled that plays were once again considered a popular pastime in which he could partake with friends he had recently made in London.

Currently, Nicholas was on stage performing George Etherege's The Man of Mode; or Sir Fopling Flutter. And, because of his extraordinary ability to act, he had landed the role of Sir Fopling himself. Nicholas could not been more thrilled when the parts were given out, because playing a fop was always such a grand departure from the life he truly led.

He smiled at the crowd as he stepped back on stage and asked in his over-the-top French accent, "'Tis a damned windy! Hey, page! Is my periwig right?" (360-361).

The crowd laughed as they took in Nick's appearance. He had a new outfit for every scene. This time his white periwig was at least a foot high, combed back from his forehead, and swept into a braid that was tied with a huge blue bow. His bow matched the rest of his blue and gold waistcoat ensemble, all the way down to his blue tights and clogs.

Nicholas swept further onto the stage almost prancing around in a feminine flutter. As soon as the page informed him that his periwig was a little out of order, he exclaimed, "Pox o'the apartment! It wants an antechamber to adjust oneself in…" (363-364)

Once again, the crowd erupted into laughter as Nicholas tried to adjust his wig, as well many other parts of his apparel. As the scene continued, Nicholas let his eyes drift slowly over the spectators. The play was slowly coming to an end, not only for tonight, but for a while with this current cast.

He had invited Lacroix to watch him on numerous occasions, but the ancient had repeatedly told him he had no desire to watch him make a fool of himself. Nevertheless, Nicholas was hopeful, and when he finally spotted his master in the crowd, he smiled enthusiastically and almost waved, but he caught himself. It was then that he noticed the deep scowl on his father's face.

After the play was over, Nicholas changed his attire to something more befitting his true tastes: a black coat; a stylish black, gray and blue waistcoat; and black breeches. He ran from the dressing room intent on getting Lacroix's thoughts on his performance. He could feel through their bond that Lacroix was still there and wished to see him.

After a short glance around the theater, Nicholas realized his master was outside. As soon as he stepped out the side entrance and into the alley, he witnessed Lacroix holding a young man's face in his hands saying, "Yes, you would make a fine protégé. I wouldn't see you running around on stage like some damned woman making a mockery of the life and power I would bestow upon you."

Nicholas immediately stopped at the scene before him and felt an enormous amount of pain settle on his chest. He couldn't move or speak. He simply stood there while Lacroix bent his neck to bite the man, a man that was evidently going to take his place by his master's side. As soon as Lacroix's teeth scraped the young man's neck, Nicholas let out a cry of betrayal and immediately flew into the sky.

Lacroix pulled back from the young man and whispered, "You have served your purpose. Nicholas and I will be leaving the city directly now and you are lucky I have not the time to…thank you properly." He quickly stepped away from the man, leaving him in a daze, and took to the sky to follow his Nicholas. He found him three blocks away on a rooftop with red tears streaming down his face and neck.

Lacroix smelled Nick's bloodtears as they descended down his cheeks. He felt through their bond that his high-strung child was slowly losing control. He had actually been feeling it for months, ever since Nick had temporarily lost his memory from a gunshot wound to the head, but he had the sneaking suspicion that Nicholas was only now becoming aware of it. Sure, Nicholas had put up a good facade in front of others and even himself. He always had in the past, especially when he immersed himself in whatever role he had selected for that "life," but it was always a matter of time before his father could make his true feelings come out. That time was now upon them again.

He gripped Nicholas by the shoulders and squeezed them gently, trying to silently comfort his child. He could never stand to see Nicholas cry, and truth be told, it wasn't because he thought the act was undignified or unmanly, especially in this day and age. He just wanted his wayward son to be happy. He rested his forehead on the back of Nick's head and whispered, "The affections I have shown you recently and throughout your life have never been a ruse or an attempt to lie to you." He sighed and thought it better to turn this conversation to the real reason he asked him here. "Hunters are in the city, mon fils, and I do not want you in this weakened state. You need human blood to survive any plots they might devise for us. Surely, if you do not heed my words, you will bring us far more trouble than we would care to deal with."

Nick wiped his tears away as he heard Lacroix's words. He turned around slowly and Lacroix's grip on his shoulders loosened, so he could do so. His gaze met Lacroix's and he asked bewilderedly, "Why can't you ever tell me these things outright instead of trying to manipulate me into doing what you want?"

Lacroix sat down next to his son and gave a quick glance to the street below. No mortals were about to look up and see them. He chuckled as he glanced over at Nicholas, who was looking away from him. "Did you really believe," he said in a chiding voice, "I would want to bring across that young whelp back there and claim him as my son?"

Nicholas turned his tearstained cheeks to look at him. "Why would you say so if you didn't?" he replied.

Lacroix shook his head as he stared at the skies above him. "Nicholas, sometimes it takes a crisis or a hard hit of reality to make you realize the error of your ways. Here we are, supreme beings who feast on the weak around us, and you are on stage acting like a buffoon. There are other vampires in the city who have seen you, and there has been talk that I would have liked to have avoided."

"What kind of talk?" asked Nicholas, suddenly feeling very guilty. "Have I embarrassed you?"

Lacroix ignored his questions and continued, "And, worse than that, I have observed tonight that this play is mighty popular. You are now a known face in this city, Nicholas. Considering what we are and what we do, this play was not a smart thing to do."

Nick looked down at his hands. "I have participated in plays before," he countered weakly, trying to give a defense for his actions.

"Yes," Lacroix agreed, "but never one so popular and so...degrading. This character will be remembered for quite a while, I'm afraid."

The two sat in silence for several minutes just feeling one another, waiting for the other to say something. Finally, Nicholas broke down and said, "I guess this means we have to cut our trip short and move on."

Lacroix patted Nicholas on the knee as he smiled triumphantly and said, "Yes, we do. I'll make the arrangements."

Nick shook his head as his memory faded away. He felt himself getting very angry with Lacroix again. How can the infuriating Roman, after all these years, blame him for everything that could and did go wrong in their lives? Did he ever stop to consider his role in all the past mishaps? Has he ever stopped to wonder how their relationship would be different if he would just talk to him instead of dictating and manipulating him?

"This is your fault, damn it," he said aloud. He wrenched himself away from Lacroix and pointed at him stubbornly. "I know you. I wouldn't be surprised if tonight's murders were just a setup to trick me. You have taught me over the years that I cannot trust you and you will take any opportunity that comes your way to bring me back into the fold. You have never been able to accept the fact that I will no longer kill or drink human blood. Just because we have been getting along recently does not mean I will suddenly forget the past! I've made that mistake one too many times."

Nicholas turned around with amber eyes now, full of anger, and quickly fled from the office with Lacroix close on his heels.

"Nicholas," Lacroix roared against the crowd and music. "Nicholas!"

Nick was not going to turn around. He was not going to listen to what Lacroix had to say. He was going to get out of here, continue his investigation as normal, and stay away from the Raven for a long, long time. He was almost to the door when he felt a strong hand on his shoulder. Suddenly, he was thrown against the wall and face to face with a red-eyed Lacroix.

"Listen," snapped Lacroix, "and listen well, my obstinate child. Tonight was not a trick! There are hunters in the city, and they are searching for our kind! Look around if you don't believe me. The young ones are frightened, and they came here looking for guidance from the elders in the community. Whether you like it or not, Nicholas, that includes you, and I'm telling you now that if we suddenly find ourselves in the mist of a war with hunters, you need to be stronger than you are. I'm telling you this for your own good, as well as the community's. You *need* to be drinking human blood again."

Nick closed his now golden eyes at Lacroix's words as he felt his anger melt away. He knew Lacroix was speaking the truth. He had noticed the difference in the Raven's atmosphere as soon as he walked in earlier. But despite that…

"A part of you is glad hunters have come to Toronto. It's going to force me to do something you haven't been able to do in a long time," he spoke aloud.

Lacroix nodded reluctantly and said, "I will not deny that I want you drinking human blood, but I never like having hunters near, Nicholas. You know as well as I do that the danger they pose is all too real, and I cannot lose…certain acquaintances I have made along the way."

Nick bowed his head because he knew he was one of the "acquaintances" for whatever reason. When he finally raised his head after a brief pause, he stared at the bar and thought of Natalie. Will he heed his father's wishes and start drinking human blood again? What will Natalie think? Will she understand why?

He looked into his father's eyes and said, "Tell me all that you know about the murders and the hunters, and I'll consider going back on human as long as the hunters are in the city. Deal?"

He hoped Lacroix would take this deal because it would prove his father's intentions to him. He knew Lacroix might be hesitant because he wasn't agreeing that he would drink human again, only that he would think about it. But it was the best Nick could offer right now.

He didn't have to wait long to receive a reply. "Agreed," Lacroix stated. "Now, let's go to my apartment, so we may discuss this privately."

Regardless of how Nicholas felt about his master at any given time, he always felt comfortable in his father's home, wherever it happened to be. As soon as he stepped into Lacroix's apartment above the Raven, he sighed and immediately sat on a large gray sofa that was facing a roaring fire. He looked around the room and took in the neutral tones of brown, gray, black, and beige. It was all so…Lacroix.

He turned his head as he watched Lacroix go into the kitchen and pour each of them a glass of what was undoubtedly his best bloodwine.

"I said I would think about it," Nick said, loudly, as Lacroix set the bottle back into the refrigerator.

Lacroix simply stared at his child as he handed him the glass. After a few seconds of an intense standoff, he sighed and said, "Fine. Just hold it until you hear what I have to say. Maybe then, you'll decide to heed my words."

Nick watched as his father turned and sat in an armchair slightly to his right. He turned in his seat to give the vampire his undivided attention.

"Last week, I received news from a prominent figure in our community from Montreal," Lacroix started.

"Who," Nick interrupted, already getting the feeling from this little information that his father had no intention of telling him everything. Honestly, he didn't know if the reason this time was because of the hunters or Lacroix's usual reasons. Lacroix rarely spoke of other vampires that were not his children or outside of his immediate acquaintances. He also didn't like Nicholas to get too involved with them, and when he did, Lacroix would be sure to get involved in some form or fashion. It was one of the things that had estranged their relationship over the years. The old vampire simply did not know how to let Nick live his own life.

"The 'who' is not important," Lacroix replied as Nick had expected. "What is important is what he had to say. He reported that their community was under distress. Fledglings started disappearing at an alarming rate, and in a few instances, their masters had, as well."

"That's hardly indicative of a problem," Nick replied. "It's normal for some fledglings to get themselves killed while trying to adjust to their new lives as vampires. As for the older vampires, maybe they thought they needed a change of scenery and just didn't tell anyone. I know we have done that more often than not."

Lacroix nodded and replied, "When I heard about the fledglings, that's what I thought. I know more than most how difficult and reckless fledglings can be. They hear the word 'immortal' and lose their common sense. They throw themselves into situations they really should think twice about."

Nick had a suspicion that he wasn't talking about fledglings in general but rather him. "Whatever happened to 'You shall never need fear again?'" he questioned.

"Not every fledgling is lucky to have a master who is willing to protect him no matter the situation the foolish child gets himself into," he answered. "Some vampires only teach their young how to feed and leave them to fend for themselves." Lacroix stared intensely into his son's eyes and said, "I, myself, have done this with most of my children. You know very well that I only keep my favorites close."

Nick turned his eyes away from his master's gaze and nodded slightly. It was something he knew all too well, and it wasn't something he wanted to discuss right now. "So, what made you change your mind about the fledglings?"

"Janette, you, and I live on a fine line within the community, Nicholas," he replied. "Yes, I am well-known and know many, but I have never involved myself in their endeavors. You could say I went out of my way to distance myself and you from them. For centuries, I did as I pleased, and I was…I am not comfortable with others being aware of my dealings and life. I only involve myself when it becomes necessary and when it's appropriate for appearance's sake."

Nick couldn't help but laugh. "Are you trying to tell me you are an outcast, just as much as I am?"

Lacroix looked at his child disdainfully. "No, Nicholas, I have not alienated myself from them. I simply choose to live outside their jurisdiction as much as possible. It is something, I might add, that has kept you safe over the years. Your constant breeches of the code would not be tolerated if I was more involved. Your actions would be more obvious."

"And, I here I was thinking they simply feared what would happen if they crossed you," Nick stated half jokingly and half seriously.

"Well, yes," Lacroix said as he took a sip of his bloodwine, "there is always that. In any case, Nicholas, it is not common for master vampires to just up and leave a city without some kind of formal departure. You cannot compare what you and I do to the vampires in Montreal. Yes, they move on, but they do not lose contact with the community. They do not just up and disappear. If they do, it's reason to worry: they are either dead or they are running from something. In either case, it is a threat to the community."

Nick digested this information. He never really contemplated how other vampires lived. He only saw how his family lived, as well as the few vampires Lacroix had introduced to him over the years. He actually felt relieved that Lacroix had decided to live outside their rules as much as he had, even though he had no idea what it all entailed. If Lacroix was avoiding it, that spoke volumes.

Lacroix watched his son's blank expression. He knew Nicholas was contemplating his words. He felt gratitude coming from their link, and he smiled as he took another sip from his glass. "Nicholas," he said aloud and through their link to get his son's attention. "I didn't want to get involved, but I knew it would be wise to show concern. That's when my informant shared his idea of hunters being in the city. Now, I know hunters are a real threat, but hunters being in Montreal are unheard of, Nicholas. Vampires have been there since the city's creation. They are careful not to bring unwanted attention to themselves. For hunters to flood the city, the vampires were either very reckless with their activities or they had help from the inside."

"Help from the inside," Nick repeated, jumping to his feet. "Do you really believe a vampire would be crazy enough to betray his own kind to hunters?"

Lacroix also got to his feet. "You tell me, Nicholas. Could a vampire betray his own kind to this degree?"

The question felt like a slap to Nicholas' face. "Are you suggesting I had something to do with this?"

Lacroix chuckled. "Not at all, I just want to know if you think it's possible. You are very discontent with what you are. Have you ever thought about it? Have you…"

Nick didn't let him finish. "I may have a problem with what I am, Lacroix, but I would never betray my kind in such a way. I would never send them to a slaughter."

"I know, mon fils, but do you think it's possible," he asked again.

Nick shook his head. "You don't need me to answer that. You know as well as I do that anything is possible. A vampire who enjoys carnage and chaos might find this amusing or satisfying. I can only guess. Why are you entertaining this suggestion? What aren't you telling me?"

Lacroix turned his back on his son and walked away. "Aside from the evidence at your warehouse, tonight, you mean?" He turned back to Nick and said, "Two nights ago, a message was left on my answering machine. It was from the same person. He was screaming that it was hunters and to run. That was all that was said before the line went dead."

"Have you heard from him since?"

"I will not hear from him again, mon fils."

Nick knew what that meant. "Do you still have the message? I would like to hear it."

"Absolutely not," Lacroix replied venomously.

"Why not," asked Nick, feeling somewhat baffled by Lacroix's reply and sudden change in attitude. He had been almost pleasant. Now, he was radiating anger so profound that he knew he would not relent.

"I do not want you to hear it. Let's just say I believe he was correct. It was hunters, and now, they're in Toronto. They're out to kill us, mon fils, and that's why I want you at your strongest."

Nick looked back at the glass of bloodwine he had set on the coffee table. He went over and picked it up. He looked at his father and asked, "What are we going to do?"

Lacroix remained quiet, and Nicholas knew what he was waiting on. He took a deep breath and brought to cup to his lips. He closed his eyes involuntarily as he tasted the human blood. Since the demon's invasion, he had, on rare occasions, indulged in a human vintage. He hated himself for it, but each time he did relent, it was like the first time. The blood filled him with warmth and life, regardless of whether the blood was warm or cold. When he reopened his eyes, he saw Lacroix looking at him with intense approval.

"It's simple, my hungry Nicholas," he replied. "We are going to kill them before they kill us."

Nick walked back into the precinct and immediately wondered how he was going to handle this case. He couldn't walk into Reese's office and declare hunters were responsible for the murders. But there was the fact that the culprits were human. They could be handled in the court of law. Could he really go along with Lacroix's plan of killing them before they killed us? If he did, it would break a vow he made to himself long ago, and besides, it was dangerous. There would be causalities.

In any case, he knew he needed to make his decision soon. His father was a general and he was already making a battle plan. Nick knew he could not back out once the war started.

He breathed deeply and walked over to his desk next to Tracy's where she was typing away ferociously on her keyboard. "Hey," he said, close to her ear as he passed by.

Tracy jumped and said, "Nick! I really wish you wouldn't do that. You could give someone a heart attack."

Nick smiled as he settled down in his seat. "So, what did we learn at the warehouse," he asked, ignoring her comment.

"Nothing," she said, clearly frustrated already. "No one heard anything, no one saw anything, and no one has a clue what happened."

"Well, we'll get down to the bottom of it," Nick said, confidently.

"Maybe it was a drug deal that went awry," she suggested, lamely. "After all, why else would someone be there that late?" Tracy didn't really believe the idea, but she felt the need to throw in a normal suggestion. Her mind kept going back to the body Natalie had been standing over when they first arrived. The wounds on the victim's neck could have been caused by a vampire. The only problem with her lead is that she couldn't tell Nick. Her partner would undoubtedly have her committed. Besides, it wasn't like she had anyone to go to, now, with her suspicions. Vachon had moved on. She knew of no other vampires. She sighed as she turned back to the computer. "I have a feeling this murder won't get solved," she muttered.

Nick heard her and replied, "You might be right." Nick was actually very eager to get his partner off the case. If this was indeed hunters, he didn't want Tracy to get hurt. She was already too involved in his world.

Tracy blushed when she realized Nick heard what she said. "I didn't mean that," she stated. She opened up her desk drawer, retrieved Nick's keys, and handed them to him. "I just don't like this one. I hate not having a place to start."

"We have a place to start," he said, carefully. "Natalie will get us something. Maybe she already has it for us. You coming?"

Tracy shook her head. "Nah, you go ahead. I'm still checking the backgrounds of the bystanders outside the warehouse," she answered.

Natalie was standing over one of the bodies recovered at the warehouse as Nick walked in. "Well, hello there, stranger," she said. "I thought you would have been back at the crime scene before I left."

"Lacroix and I had a lot of things to discuss," explained Nick.

Natalie pulled off her latex gloves with two quick snaps filling the morgue. "I can only imagine. But first, let me tell you the little I know. Undoubtedly, your story will be a lot longer."

Nick leaned against the counter beside the autopsy table and crossed his arms as he waited for her to continue.

"I have identified positively only one victim." She walked to the table in front of Nick and uncovered the body. It was the same corpse he saw outside the warehouse. "This is Jeremy Shirah," she revealed, "age twenty-eight, single, and no children. His home was in Montreal." Natalie noticed Nick snap to attention when she said "Montreal." His arms were now at his sides and his hands clenched into fists. She continued, "Maybe you or your partner could find out why he was in town."

"I think I might already know," Nick said. "Lacroix has a theory, and it crossed my mind before I even went there."

Natalie raised her eyebrow quizzically. "Well, are you going to share?"

He turned away from her and replied, "I don't know if I should. I don't want to scare you when we're not sure, yet."

"Nick," Nat stated firmly.

"Lacroix thinks hunters are in the city," he finally replied, turning back to see her reaction.

Natalie visibly flinched and her complexion whitened. "Hunters? Nick, what is Lacroix planning to do?"

Nick shook his head. "You don't want to know…but he may require my help."

Natalie immediately walked over to Nick to stand in front of him. "Do you think that's wise…or right?"

Nick reached out and placed his hands on the counter beside him, bending his head down, so she couldn't see his face. "What do you mean, 'right?'"

"I only mean that we don't know what's going on, yet. Who knows why these hunters, if that is what they are, are hunting vampires! Maybe they're only going after ones who are responsible for something that has happened. I just…these victims were brutally killed, Nick."

The night air blew and felt surprisingly warm against Nicholas' skin. He was truly alone for the first time since Lacroix had brought him across, and he honestly did not know how to feel. On the one hand, he reveled in the freedom, but at the same time, he felt a little nervous. He was sure this night, like every other, was some kind of test or lesson…only this time, his master told him what he must do: he must find his own sustenance this night.

Nicholas turned down the deserted streets and listened for any trace of a human heartbeat. He was so hungry. Lacroix and Janette had explained that his hunger would consume him for at least the first year of his new existence. "You're like a newborn—you are a newborn," Janette had explained.

Of course, he didn't like to think of himself as such. He was a grown man; he spent most of his childhood and adult life taking care of his mother and sister. He was a knight, a crusader. There was nothing juvenile about that. And, yet, despite this knowledge, he knew Janette was right. The uneasiness he felt at being alone, at having to fend for himself this night, reminded him of the first time he stayed home alone as a child at Brabant.

He knew part of his anxiousness was because he didn't want to upset Lacroix. When the vampire brought him across, he wasn't entirely sure what to think about his mentor. When he first saw him, his first instinct was to fear him, but he had offered him something so fantastic, so unimaginable, that he could not turn away. After the deed was done and he had his first meal on Lacroix's ancient blood, he knew what Lacroix's intentions were.

His blood told him Lacroix wanted a son. He had been searching for nearly 1200 years for that someone.

Part of Nicholas felt humbled that out of everyone he had met throughout the years he had chose him. That same part also felt the need Lacroix felt. Nicholas' father had died when he was very young, leaving him the head of the household and responsible for his mother and sister. The burden that was—is—left him feeling inadequate and need for someone to guide him. Now, here was someone who wanted to step into that role.

Of course, it was a little late. He was already grown. He already made mistakes surely a father would have helped him stay clear of, possibly this would have been one of them. And, besides, he doubted very much Lacroix would teach him how to take care of his family.

But right now, it didn't matter. What he needed right now was food. His stomach was in knots and he couldn't remember a time he felt so famished. He was half tempted to take a meal of one of the rats running across the street, but something told him Lacroix would be disappointed. Besides, he had a sneaky suspicion the blood wouldn't satisfy him or even taste good.

As Nicholas walked further into town, he sensed activity going on towards the center of town. The area was pulsating with life. Like the wolf, he would creep towards the flock and take his sheep before anyone noticed he was even there. Lacroix would be proud, his test would be over, and his hunger would be sated.

When Nicholas reached the gathering, he stood in the shadows and watched men, women, and children crying as they kissed and hugged. Flashes of his journeys on the crusade entered his mind: the men in this town was either going to war or they were coming back. The situation was almost enough to break his heart. He would have desired nothing more than to turn away, but his hunger was getting more and more intense. It was almost unbearable.

Nicholas stayed hidden as he watched the men pick up an assortment of weapons and bags. "So, they're going off to battle," he thought. It was the perfect opportunity for him to find his feed this night. The town would be easy for the picking. The only question was "Who?" For the first few days after his rebirth, Lacroix had preached at him the art of selecting his prey, but at the end of the day, Lacroix also stated it didn't really matter. Humans die, does it really matter how or when? That was Lacroix's most used phrase. And, Nicholas supposed when it came to getting blood, it shouldn't matter, but strangely enough, it did matter to him. Knowing that the men in this town were leaving gave him the knowledge that children would be left unattended and fearful if he took a mother. With the anxiety he felt now at being alone, he could only imagine it would be a thousand times worse for a child who woke up to discover his mother missing. He refused to take a child. A young maid would be the best choice, even though he knew the disappearance would upset the town, especially with the men gone. But what else could he do? It was either feed or starve.

Lacroix had explained the endless pain for vampires who didn't feed, especially for fledglings who didn't feed regularly. He couldn't imagine the pain getting worse than he was in, now. He was almost doubled over in pain. The only thing that held him up was the wall he was now leaning against.

His decision made, he decided to wait in the shadows until a young maid left alone. No one would know until morning, and he would be long gone.

As soon as the thought left Nicholas' mind, he saw a young blonde retreating from the crowd and heading towards him. He stepped back into the shadows even further and hoped things would go well.

As the girl walked past him, he noticed she took no notice of him. She was wiping her eyes repeatedly as she presumably walked home. Nicholas allowed her to get several feet away from him before he started to follow her. He wanted her to get a safe distance away from the crowd. No need in arousing the crowd's wrath with screams filling the night air.

Now that he had selected his prey, Nicholas felt an intense wave of adrenaline coursing through his body. It seemed as though his whole body was becoming alert. He was now finely attuned to the girl's heartbeat. He was able to block out the extra stimuli of bugs buzzing, whispers of humans yards away, and many other things that had been plaguing him since he was brought across. Now that he was on the pursuit, instincts took over and he knew what he had to do.

When Nicholas thought they were far enough away from the crowd to avoid being overheard, he made his move. It was nowhere near as graceful or erotic as he wanted it to be. By the time his hand touched the girl's shoulder to turn her around, he knew he couldn't wait to taste her blood. She didn't even have the time to scream before Nicholas fangs were buried into her neck. He crushed the girl to him and he sucked fiercely at her neck. He emptied her completely within a matter of seconds.

When he was finished, Nicholas dropped the body unceremoniously down at his feet. His eyes were closed in rapture as his face was turned towards the heavens. The hunt was glorious. All of his food until now had been somewhat freely given. Lacroix had hypnotized some poor girl into willing dying in his arms. Nothing compared to the real hunt and taking of blood. The girl's emotions that were flowing into his brain were like the finest wine. He knew he should be appalled or disgusted with himself, but her fear made the killing all the better. It sweetened her blood and made him feel more alive. It was the intoxication Lacroix had told him about a thousand times. It was so much more pleasurable than he could have imagined. Yes, part of him was horrified, but at that moment, his body was too enraptured to care.

It was then that he felt a familiar presence. He lowered his head and opened his eyes. In front of him was Lacroix giving him an approving smile. "Like I said," he whispered, "the ecstasy of the taking is like no other."

Nicholas nodded as he felt another wave of pleasure course through his body. His body was absorbing the blood at an intense rate. He never felt so alive.

Lacroix walked over to his newborn son and used his index finger to wipe away a small dribble of blood at the corner of his mouth. He tasted it and also closed his eyes. "A very good choice," he stated as he knelt down beside the girl and gestured for Nicholas to do the same.

As Nicholas knelt down, he watched Lacroix take a knife from his belt. He grabbed the girl's hair and pulled it just enough to straighten her neck. "What is rule number one?" he asked.

"Never leave any evidence of our presence," Nicholas replied.

Lacroix nodded and slit the neck of the dead mortal, making sure the blade cut into the bite marks. "It would have been preferable for you to have left a little blood to cover her neck," he said as he smiled at his son, "but I can hardly blame you. I've felt your hunger all night, and she was so delicious." Lacroix, then, raked the knife across his palm and let the blood fall onto the victim's neck.

As the blood poured, Nicholas could hardly control his actions despite his recent feeding. He grabbed Lacroix's hand and brought it to his lips. He licked and sucked until the wound closed. Lacroix chuckled softly and raked his hand through his son's hair before pulling away. "So sensuous, so hungry," he whispered, approvingly.

He stood and pulled Nicholas to his feet. "Will we just leave her here," Nicholas asked.

"No," Lacroix answered, as he picked up the body and carried it to a nearby dung heap. He smiled and said, "It will be a while before the townspeople find the body unless a farmer needs fertilizer tonight, which I doubt. We will be long gone, mon fils. Never hunt too close to home."

Nicholas nodded as they headed back towards the middle of town.

"Perhaps," Lacroix said, "You would like to visit the local inn. You need to be exposed to a mortal environment so you can practice your control. Besides, I'm sure Janette is entertaining her chosen prey tonight. I'm sure you would very much like to watch."

Nicholas nodded and smiled as they reached the crowd in the center of town that was now dispersing. Neither Nicholas nor Lacroix noticed the dark eyes that followed them into the inn.

Nicholas and Lacroix sat at a table as they watched Janette talk with a man at the bar. She was using all her feminine wiles on the fool, and Nicholas knew all too well how tempting his Janette could be. He smiled and followed their departure as the man nodded, took Janette's offered hand, and walked towards the door.

He felt Lacroix's breath at his ear. "Don't worry, mon Nicolas, she will dispense of him soon and she will be all yours once again."

Nicholas' grin widened as he turned to look at Lacroix. He then turned his attention back to the occupants of the inn. When he had first walked in, his thoughts had been solely on Janette. Now that she was off taking her feed, something was bothering him about the crowd.

"What is it?" Lacroix said, as he studied his son and felt his uneasiness through their link.

"They shouldn't be here," he replied.

Lacroix immediately became alarmed and searched the crowd for a familiar face. After he had brought Nicholas across and his condition had improved, they had immediately moved away from anyone Nicholas knew. He no longer wanted his young crusader to interact with the others. Nicholas had to break his mortal bonds, and he couldn't do that with his fellow brethren nearby and asking questions.

Lacroix took in each face individually and didn't recognize anyone. He was surprised at his own feelings of fear that possibly someone from Brabant was in staying at the inn. He didn't want anyone challenging his authority over Nicholas. He didn't want any of his mortal family to sidetrack him from his new family. There were so many things he wanted Nicholas and himself to avoid.

"I don't see anyone out of the ordinary," he answered, cautiously, not willing to give his true feelings away.

Nicholas leaned in closer to Lacroix and whispered, "Before you showed up tonight, those men at the table closest to the door were in the center of town. I thought it was friends and family saying good-bye to men possibly going to war. Those men were among the group. Why are they still here?"

Lacroix looked at the men Nicholas indicated and noticed the men were staring directly at them. His alarm bells were going off. "Perhaps they were not leaving, Nicholas," he stated. "Perhaps, they just arrived in town on a personal crusade of their own."

"What do you mean," his son asked.

"Never mind that," Lacroix said in a hurry, not concerned for himself but for his newborn son. "Let's depart. I am growing tired of these people."

Nicholas knew from the tone of Lacroix's voice that it would be futile to question him further. Lacroix wanted to leave, so they would. It was times like these, he felt more like a slave than a son.

As Lacroix and Nicholas hurriedly made their way to the door, one of the men at the table blocked their exit. He clapped his hands together once and said in a bellowing voice to everyone in the inn, "Well, would you look at this?"

Nicholas and Lacroix immediately stopped, and Lacroix nudged Nicholas to stand slightly behind him. Nicholas was more than a little alarmed. He didn't know what was about to happen or why, but he knew something was seriously wrong.

"We came in to town warning you people of the danger you were in. You said we were deceived fools who needed saving from ourselves. And, yet, here before you are the very people we warned you about. Look at the deathly-looking pallor of their skin. Notice the darkness of their clothes and countenance. And, what more, look at their table. Not a morsel of food or a drop of water. What do you think these two are?"

Another man from the table stood up and walked to his companion. "Vampires," he said loudly. "These two are vampires, and they're here to steal your mothers and daughters. They will slaughter the very heart of this town, and you will allow this to happen because of your ignorance!"

At the word "vampire," Nicholas gave a little jump and inched closer to Lacroix's back. As the second man spoke, he whispered into his master's ear, "Did they see us do the deed? Did they find the body already?"

"No," Lacroix hissed and gave Nicholas a sharp look which told him to calm down and follow his lead. He turned back to the two men in front of him and the others still seated at the table watching them. He laughed heartedly and said, "What's this nonsense about vampires? Everyone knows there are no such creatures in existence."

"And, of course, the devil speaks lies to cover the truth," the first man replied. He looked beyond Lacroix to address the people again. "Behold their true natures!" He quickly produced a wooden cross from behind his back and held it towards Lacroix and Nicholas.

Nicholas nearly doubled over in pain and Lacroix winced as he reached back to push his son tightly to his back to keep him standing. Nicholas was not yet ready to handle crosses in his short life as a vampire.

"Do you see?" both men yelled triumphantly.

Lacroix maintained his composure and said, "Do they see what? So, you are Christians, here, trying to convert our way of life. We do not want crusaders in our town spouting their messages of vampires and a single god who can wash away the problems of the world."

The people in the bar, who Lacroix knew to be pagans, cheered in agreement and started ordering the men to leave. "We've heard enough of your lies earlier," the owner of the bar yelled.

"No, they're vampires," the first man cried. "They cannot stand the sight of the cross."

Their cries were of no use. They were forced out of the bar by the innkeeper as Lacroix and Nicholas went back to their table to sit down. Lacroix didn't want to follow the men outside so soon. They would wait and then find their way home. As they sat down, Lacroix noticed Nicholas' continuous shaking. "Are you okay?" he asked.

"I never felt such pain as when he produced that cross," Nicholas whispered. "It was worse than the hunger." He looked up at Lacroix with pain-stricken eyes. "Does this mean we're of the devil? What else could not stand the sight of God's holy…"

Lacroix immediately hushed his child by placing a finger over his lips. This was what he wanted to avoid. His son was a crusader, raised on Christianity. He knew there would be times when they would have to discuss his upbringing, and he knew it would be difficult for Nicholas to deny everything he had been brought up to know, but he had hoped it wouldn't come up so soon. "There are no such things as gods or devils, Nicholas. We will discuss this later. I think it's safe to go now. We must find Janette and leave this place."

As they stood up to go to the door, they heard a blood curdling scream outside. The people of the inn ran outside, as well as others in surrounding buildings. What they saw appalled even Lacroix. The men that had been forced out of the inn had driven a stake through the heart of the innkeeper, as well as decapitated him.

"He was a vampire," the first man yelled, "helping his vampiric brothers!" He pointed at Nicholas and Lacroix.

Lacroix, feeling in no mood to stick around any longer, pushed Nicholas to the back of the crowd. They quickly turned down an unoccupied street so they could retreat. Lacroix wrapped his arms around Nicholas and quickly took to the air.

When they reached their lodgings and Lacroix set Nicholas on the ground, he turned his child to face him. "That was a lesson I wished would have come much later," he whispered.

"What lesson is that?"

"Vampire hunters, Nicolas, hunters, who are as accomplished in the sport as we are. Their desire to kill is just as intense as ours. They are to be feared because of their ruthlessness. They see vampires everywhere, whether they are right or wrong. They travel the world in groups to kill us whether we have done harm or not. They simply hate our existence. When hunters are on the hunt, there is no stopping them. They will kill anyone or anything that stands in their way, as the good innkeeper just found out. Always be diligent.

"Nick? Nick?" Natalie said loudly, trying to get his attention.

Nick shook the memory, one of many dealing with hunters, away and backed away from the coroner. "Natalie," said Nick, unintentionally rising his voice, "I'm not thinking about this lightly. But there are some things you need to know: Hunters are anything but innocent. They hunt vampires just because they are vampires. So, a few of them were brutally killed tonight. I seem to remember ash being in that warehouse. You of all people should know and understand the cruelty of dying by fire."

Natalie closed her eyes and shook her head. "I'm sorry, Nick," she started. "I only meant…"

Nick brought a finger to Natalie's lips. "I'm sorry, too. I didn't--" he paused, "I didn't mean to snap at you. It's just that I've had my fair share of dealing with hunters. Besides, it seems like they're simply hunting, not trying to find retribution."

"How do you know?"

"There have been numerous vampire deaths and disappearances in Montreal within the last month. It cannot be a coincidence that Montreal is where this hunter is from," he reasoned.

Natalie bit her lip. She noticed he said "hunter" instead of "victim." When she released her bottom lip, she whispered, "I want you to be careful, Nick, and take things slowly. I don't want anything to happen to you."

Nick wrapped his arms around Natalie and said, "I'll be okay."

Nick entered his loft and sighed as he sat on the couch. The day had been trying. He rubbed his eyes and contemplated the day's events and his reactions. He knew everything was finally getting the better of him. He couldn't believe he snapped at Nat. He also couldn't believe he cried in front of Lacroix. He shook his head and took a deep, calming breath.

He just needed to calm down. He had to handle things one at a time. Right now, the hunters were at the top of that list. It would only be a matter of time before the hunters struck again. They were in Toronto to exterminate all the vampires that held residence here. Of that, he was sure, and he knew they wouldn't leave until they believed they accomplished that goal. That meant every night they would be out patrolling. He would be, too.

As for now, the sun was peeking over the horizon so both vampires and hunters were settling down for the day. Neither would kill until the sun went down again. Nick found comfort in the thought as he drifted off to sleep.

Just before the sun rose fully into the sky, Lacroix slipped into the loft using a key Nicholas didn't know he had since the skylight was already covered. He set a box he was carrying on the kitchen table before walking over to the couch where his son sat sleeping. He smiled at him as he picked up the remote laying next to him on the couch and used it to close the remaining shutters to block out the day's rays.

He went back into the kitchen, grabbed the box, and took it to the counter next to his refrigerator. He opened the fridge and frowned at the five bottles he saw undoubtedly filled with bovine. He quickly grabbed the bottles and set them in the sink. He proceeded to open the box he brought and fill the refrigerator with the Raven's finest stock. He knew his son would be mad about it when he awoke, but in the end, he'd be grateful for his interference.

He halfway admitted it when he was talking to Nicholas earlier. Part of him was grateful for an excuse to get Nicholas drinking human blood again. It was something Nicholas never seemed to comprehend. He didn't want him drinking human blood again just for the sake of drinking human blood. It was never about that. His rebel son, perhaps consciously, chose to ignore the fact that he was starving himself. A vampire cannot survive and function properly on mere animal blood. It did not provide the nourishment or the life that they needed. He tried to tell him repeatedly in every way he could think of, short of killing him, that he was setting himself up for disappointment. His diet was slowing his reaction time, slowing his metabolism and healing powers, and slipping him into a deep depression.

He, of course, did have to admit that animal blood alone was not the only cause of this. He would never admit it to Nicholas, but perhaps, he was partly to blame. If only he had been able to find another way to deal with him. If only he hadn't made light of his tightly held beliefs. If only he hadn't viewed it as a challenge, something to be crushed. It was a little too late to worry about that, now. What was done was done.

And, it wasn't as if he and the blood were the only problem. Nicholas had lost much, especially recently. His Nicholas was quite fond of the life he currently held. The devastation he had felt through their link when his son's partner Schanke had died in that airplane crash had been heart wrenching. Nicholas had let him spend the day with him when it happened. Then, of course, there was Janette's constant running.

Lacroix chuckled sadly to himself. How ironic. He had used Janette to lure Nicholas to their world. Nicholas had fallen in love with her with such intensity that Lacroix knew nothing short of annihilation would tear his devotion from her. Janette's response, unfortunately for Nicholas, was to run. Lacroix wasn't surprised. Janette had such a hard life with men before she was brought across that it was difficult for her to accept that anyone had such strong feelings for her. She was used to doing to men what they had done to her: take her pleasure and then leave.

The irony was that as Janette ran from Nicholas, Nicholas ran from Lacroix. He shook his head again at the thought. Nicholas was never meant to be Janette's companion, but he knew the lusty crusader would only be lured by a woman. He wanted companionship for himself. There was a time when Janette was enough, but he always knew something was missing. When he first saw his young crusader, he knew Nicholas was what he was missing and that he was the son he had always wanted. He knew then that he had to have him by his side always. So, he did what was necessary to ensure that. Would he have done that if he had known what was to follow? All the heartache, the chasing, the battles… Who was he kidding? Of course, he would.

Lacroix finished filling the fridge and turned his attention to the bovine blood in the sink. He opened each bottle and quickly poured its contents down the drain.

The noise and the smell woke the sleeping vampire on the couch.

Nick groaned as he heard the familiar sound and smell. "Natalie," he said, "I told you I can't go cold turkey right now." Nick sighed as he listened to the sound continue. She was so stubborn. It was the most annoying habit she had. Every time she stopped by his apartment, she was taking bottles out of his fridge to get rid or literally pouring them down the sink right in front of him. He usually didn't say anything, but right now, he was running low on bottles and didn't have the time to get a fresh supply, not if he wanted to stop the hunters.

Nick finally sat up on the couch, stretched to wake himself up, and said again, "Natalie!" As he turned to face her, he quickly became aware of his master's presence.

"Oh," he said, before he even got a good look at his master. His master was smirking at him but didn't utter a word.

Instead of the instant fight Lacroix had been expecting, Nick stood up and walked to the refrigerator. He opened the door and grabbed a bottle. He opened it with his teeth and was about to drink straight from the bottle when Lacroix forced a wineglass into his hand.

He smiled amusedly at Lacroix as he poured the bottles contents into the glass. "Would you like some," he offered. At Lacroix's nod, he handed him the glass and got himself another.

While Nick poured himself his glass, Lacroix walked over to the couch and sat down. Nick quickly followed him and sipped from his glass.

Lacroix raised an eyebrow in question, eyeing the glass.

Nick shrugged sheepishly. "I agreed to drink it. How can I be mad when you take me on my word? Besides, I have a feeling you're not here to simply make sure I'm eating."

"I'm not," he agreed. "I never thought I would say this to you again, Nicholas, but I'm here so we can get up early to go hunting together."

It was now Nick's turn to raise his eyebrow.

"I talked to Aristotle earlier," he explained. "Vampires are moving at a rapid pace from the downtown district. This would be a good place to start to search for our hunters. They had to set up shop somewhere."

"And, wherever vampires flee, hunters are sure to be?" Nick questioned.

Lacroix gave a small nod.

Nick thought about this for a couple of seconds. He had a feeling his father was pushing him, trying to remind him of their past, how much they enjoyed to hunt together. It would be a little too nostalgic for him right now, he decided. "As much as I would love to take a trip down memory lane with you, Lacroix," he replied, "I do have to report into work early tonight. I happen to be assigned to this case, so Tracy and I will be searching the streets together."

"Are you actually going to let your mortal partner get involved in this, Nicholas?" He had a feeling his son was being a little less than honest. He knew his son felt no obligation or desire to take his partner where danger might be. He was more protective of this partner because of what had happened to his former.

Nick looked down and said, "I'll keep her away from downtown."

Lacroix didn't know whether to be amused or annoyed. "So, you expect me to go after these hunters alone," he stated. "I am touched at your faith in my capabilities, but I might require some assistance."

Nick sighed and closed his eyes momentarily. He felt anger bubbling to the surface, because he knew his master knew his real reason for turning him down. He sighed again and turned to Lacroix. "Things are just happening too quickly, Lacroix," he admitted.

His master stared at him without saying anything.

Nick continued, "A year ago, I was so sure I was closer than ever to regaining my mortality."

"Nicholas," Lacroix stated, almost impatiently, "how many times must I tell you there is no cure?"

Nick ignored his comment. "Regardless," he stated, "at least I was closer to humanity in my actions and desires. Ever since the demon came into me…"

"Nicholas," Lacroix started to chide.

Nick snapped. "What is it with you, Lacroix? I can't have a simple conversation with you about my thoughts and feelings without you berating me and telling me how wrong I am," he yelled.

Lacroix maintained his composure as he stood up and said, "I merely try to keep you honest with yourself. Do you really think a demon is responsible for your reemergence into the fold?"

Nick shot to his feet and stood face-to-face with his master. "We're not going to fight about this again. It was a demon that came over me. You knew it, then, and your denial of it now is just a sorry attempt to deny that there is a God and that you might be wrong about everything you ever believed!"

Lacroix turned from his son and walked away to put some distance between them. He didn't come here for a fight, not this time, at least. "Whatever it was, Nicholas, demon or not, was not the point of your reemergence. You have never truly left us. Your desire to be one of us, to hunt, to drink human blood, to socialize with our kind has never left you. You cannot lie to me, mon fils."

Nick felt anger roll over him in tides. As Lacroix listed off his supposed desires, he felt his anger strengthen and take over. When Lacroix turned around to face him, Nick knew he couldn't hold back much longer.

As Lacroix turned back to face his son, he knew even though he hadn't come here for a fight, that was exactly what he was going to get. His son's eyes were currently going from gold to red, and his hands were clenched so tightly he thought they were going to snap at any second. He wasn't surprised. He had been expecting it to happen at some point. He knew his son's stress would take some form. Now that the time had arrived, he only hoped they wouldn't destroy too much of Nicholas' belongings while his son blew off some steam.

"I am nothing like you," Nicholas hissed in the guttural sound of the vampire. "I do not desire the hunt any longer, and I certainly don't desire your company."

Lacroix smiled indulgently at him, and even though he knew the comment would set him off, he said it anyway, "Just keep telling yourself that. You might actually start believing it."

Before Nick realized what he was doing, he was rushing at Lacroix, tackling him to the wall. As Lacroix's back slammed against the wall, he tried in one final attempt to verbally get his son back to his senses. "We should save your energy for the hunters," he said.

"Go to hell," Nick yelled, grabbing Lacroix's shirt and throwing him toward the lift. Nick took this brief break to think about his next course of action. He charged after Lacroix who was still doubled over, recovering from his blow, intending on throwing him into the lift to get him out there.

As Nick reached him, Lacroix, who was feigning hurt, stood up straight and gave his son a sharp uppercut. This sent Nick flying back and he landed with a hard thud on his living room table. It broke and caused Nick to hiss in pain as some of the wooden pieces scratched his skin.

Nick quickly scrambled to his feet and charged Lacroix again. This time he grabbed him by his collar and through him into the nearby brick wall. He didn't let go as Lacroix's head and shoulder collided with the unforgiving surface. Instead, Nick pulled him back and repeated the action several times.

Finally, Nick dropped him in disgust and turned his back away. He was still furious but trying to reign his temper in.

He heard Lacroix yell behind him, "Is that all you got?"

"No, it isn't," Nick replied, turning around to give him another round. He was surprised to find that his master wasn't there. He back turned around and yelled, "Where are you?"

Lacroix suddenly flew behind him, tapped him on the shoulder, and said smugly, "Here I am," before grabbing his son and now throwing him onto the kitchen counter, smashing several empty bottles on collision. Lacroix followed him, grabbed him, and said, "Nicholas, listen to me! This is nothing more than your nature trying to come to the fore. You know I'm telling the truth, mon fils, and that makes you angry. I realize that. You have driven yourself to such extremes that your emotions are now getting the best of you. You must let all of it out and allow yourself to be who you truly are. It is for your own good as well as the fight we will possibly have with the hunters."

"What hunters," Nicholas spat, too far angry to care what he was saying now. "I knew it was a trick all along. You were just waiting for this moment to try to tempt me. Well, it's not going to work. Do you hear me, Lacroix? Just stay the hell away from me, and stay out of my life!"

"I will never stay out of your life," Lacroix yelled back. "And, the hunters are very much real, Nicholas. I promise you that."

Nicholas shoved Lacroix away from him with his arms and legs and jumped down from the counter. He wanted this to end once and for all. He was sick and tired of Lacroix again and again coming to him when he was down. He always knew when to strike, when he was at his darkest. He was not going to let him win this time.

He ran into the living room and grabbed a piece of his broken table. The table leg had broken into a sharp point. He held it up threateningly at Lacroix who was marching rapidly up to him.

Lacroix saw the make-do stake, but he didn't care. He grabbed his son's arm that was holding the stake and punched Nick in the face with the other. Nick stumbled back and fell back on the table again.

Nick yelled out as some of the wooden pieces stuck into his skin this time.

Lacroix, smelling his son's blood and knowing how painful even mere splinters could be, stated, "You see, all this pain you bring on yourself for nothing."

Nick didn't reply. He let out a small whimper and Lacroix bent down to help him. Nick smiled triumphantly as Lacroix reached for him. Quickly, Nick brought up the stake and tried to stab him. Lacroix dodged the blow at the last second and merely nicked him on the neck and shoulder.

Lacroix fell on top of Nick and wrestled the stake out of his hands as the blood from his neck trickled down. They struggled for several more minutes with Lacroix putting all of his weight on top of him to keep him under him. At one point, Nick almost pulled himself free and Lacroix had to use his forearms to keep Nick in place since his son had pushed him forward. Even though, Lacroix effectively had Nick's hands now pinned down, Nick still had other weapons, Lacroix had only too proudly given him.

Nick's beast howled in triumph before he slipped his canines painfully into Lacroix's neck.

Nick had every intention of using his teeth to rip Lacroix's throat out, but as soon as he tasted his master's blood, he stopped. There was no anger. Lacroix wasn't fighting him out of anger, for competition, or for dominance. He was concerned for his son and knew his son needed to fight because he was feeling volatile.

It had been a long time since Lacroix did something nice for him. He sighed and decided to simply relax and read what his father would tell him through his blood.

Lacroix was shocked when his son bit into his throat. It had been such a long time. Nicholas no longer allowed such intimacy between him. As soon as this thought occurred to him, he realized Nicholas was probably not going to feed from him but instead try to rip his throat out. He felt his son preparing to jerk his head in a slashing motion. He prepared for the pain, but suddenly his son stopped.

He closed his eyes, because he knew his son was getting something out of his blood that interested him. He tried to send his son the truth of the current situation through his blood. Blood could not lie. Nicholas knew that. He would accept what came from his blood more readily than what came from his mouth.

As he felt Nicholas relax and start to feed from him, he smiled appreciatively and savored the moment. It might be many, many years before Nicholas would do this again. He planned on letting it last as long as possible.

Several minutes passed before Lacroix felt himself growing weak. His son was still drinking his fill slowly. He knew part of this was because of the stress Nicholas had lived with for so long. A master's blood can always make a fledgling feel better and more in control. That's why he allowed his son to overindulge. He only did this, among many other things, for his Nicholas. He certainly didn't let any other feed from his neck, not even Janette. His wrist usually served this purpose. Lacroix forced himself out of retrospection to contemplate the predicament at hand.

Lacroix didn't know how Nicholas would respond, but he needed to do something about his weakening state. He didn't want to lose the intimacy of the moment, so, he decided to do the only thing he could, and that was to return the blood kiss.

As Lacroix bit into his son's neck, he shook all over. It had been far too long. His son's blood was like no other. He had never found anything that surpassed its taste, and he had never found another human to have more feeling in his blood than this vampire. He knew before he had even tasted him for the first time that he would be exquisite, because just his smell had driven him crazy. That hadn't changed over the years, and he knew it never would.

Like Nicholas, Lacroix took his time feeding. He was surprised that Nicholas hadn't ripped his neck away from him violently. Perhaps he was enjoying the blood kiss as much as he was.

The truth was Nicholas was enjoying the blood kiss. He hadn't shared blood with another vampire since Janette's first disappearance from Toronto. And, even then, no blood kiss could ever quite compare to a blood kiss between master and fledgling.

The more blood he consumed from Lacroix, the clearer his thoughts became. He also noticed he felt more calm and sure of himself. He wasn't in any hurry to let the moment end. He was afraid as soon as he left the embrace, the troubles of the world would overwhelm him again. But maybe this time, he wouldn't be alone.

He tentatively asked his master this question through their bloodlink. Lacroix answered that he would never leave him. He knew that. Why did he even have to ask? Reluctantly, Nick slipped his teeth out of Lacroix's neck and licked the blood that oozed from his wounds. Soon, the holes closed, and Lacroix finally let loose of Nick's throat and did the same to his wounds.

For several long moments, they just laid there on the broken table, each surprised at the turn of events. Finally, Lacroix shifted off of his son and turned on his side to face him.

Nick looked at him sleepily and said jokingly, "I need to beat the crap out of you more often."

Lacroix smiled and said, "Indeed, you should." He brushed Nick's curling hair away from his forehead and asked, "Do you feel better?"

"Yes," he answered softly. He turned his face away from Lacroix and said, "Thank you."

Lacroix chuckled and said, "The pleasure was all mine." He, then, stood up and picked up his son and carried him upstairs.

Nick was taken quite off guard by his father's actions. "What are you doing," he asked, feeling slightly embarrassed by the moment.

"What does it look like," he answered. "I'm taking you to bed. We have a big night ahead of us. You have to go to work, and I have to hunt down those hunters."

As Lacroix laid Nick on the bed and started tucking him in, Nick said, "I'll find something to keep Tracy busy. Don't confront them without me. I'll find you as soon as I can…then, we'll hunt."

Lacroix smiled at his son and said, "I look forward to it."

Everything felt so surreal to him. As he walked into the precinct, he felt every eye turn to watch him and it made him self-conscious. Even Tracy started staring at him as he sat at his desk.

After ignoring her stares for several minutes, Nick finally looked up at her and asked, "Uh Tracy? Why are you staring at me?"

Tracy jumped at the question and blushed. "Sorry, Nick," she responded, "I didn't realize I was." She looked down at the paperwork in front of her and said, "It's just that there's something different about you tonight."

Nick cocked his head questioningly to the side. Tracy smiled, shook her head, and said slightly high-pitched, "I know it sounds odd and I can't explain it. You just look different somehow, and I can't quite put my finger on it."

Nick shrugged and said, "Maybe it's because I'm in a good mood."

Tracy pointed at him. "That could be it," she bantered, playfully. "We need to see if it's freezing outside."

"What?" Nick asked, slightly confused.

"You know, hell freezing over," Tracy answered.

Nick raised his eyebrows, and Tracy laughed softly and said, "Never mind. Never mind."

As Tracy and Nick continued to look over their night's paperwork, Nick was already contemplating how to get rid of Tracy. She didn't need to be anywhere near the vicinity of his hunt tonight. As Nick immersed himself in his thoughts, Captain Reese came out of his office, walked to the detectives, and stated, "Dr. Lambert called and asked for you two to go to the morgue as soon as possible. I think it deals with the multiple homicides on the Southside."

Tracy had gotten up and had already grabbed her jacket when she realized, Nick was still sitting in his seat staring at his paperwork. "Uh, Nick," she said, waving her hand in front of his face. He looked up at her questioningly. She said, "Come on. We're going to see Nat."

Nick quickly stood and followed Tracy out of the precinct.

Natalie was bent over a microscope as Nick and Tracy walked into the morgue. "Just a second," she said as they came to stand in her peripheral vision. "I just need to see…ah ha! There it is! Another murder solved for Boscow and his partner. Dead on match!"

Nick smiled at Natalie as she turned to face them and quipped, "And, here I was thinking you were our secret partner in crime fighting."

"I am," she said, quickly looking Nick over, as she noted his good mood. She realized he looked better than he had in a long time. "He must be getting out of his funk," she thought.

"I told Captain Reese to ask you to stop by, because I have some new information on the bodies found at the warehouse. I've identified the third body which was found inside. It's one Cody Astroph, age twenty-two. He lived with his parents. They put out a missing persons report a week ago. They live just outside the city. No one has informed them, yet, of their son's murder."

"So, I guess we're left with the dirty work," Tracy said exasperatedly.

"Someone has to do it," Natalie replied sympathetically.

Nick nodded his head and touched Tracy's shoulder. When she looked at him, he said, "It's the biggest lead we've had in this case. Maybe the parents could give us an idea of who their son hung out with. Maybe they can identify the other victim or offer some insight as to who hurt their son." He shrugged and said, "I think you should go talk to them tonight."

Tracy nodded and then caught on to the full meaning of his words. "Hey, wait a minute. Where do you think you're going? Why aren't you coming with me?"

Nick did what he hoped was a believable sigh. "Captain Reese called me before work and told me I absolutely had to finish my paperwork tonight or he was going to make me come in on my days off. I'd really appreciate it if you could handle this while I catch up. Please, Tracy?"

Tracy was surprised. Nick never asked her for anything. And, he usually used incidents such as this to get out of doing paperwork. Reese must have come down pretty hard on him. She slugged her partner on the shoulder and said, "Okay, I'll do it, but you owe me."

Nick nodded and said, "Big time." He then turned and faced Nat. "Thanks for the information, Nat. Call us if you get anything else."

As they started to walk away, Natalie called out, "Nick, can you stay for a few moments. I'd like to talk to you privately."

Nick stopped and glanced at his watch. This was taking longer than he had hoped. He knew how impatient Lacroix could get.

His actions were not lost on Natalie. As Tracy departed and Nick turned back to her, she asked, "Okay, so what's really on?"

Nick sighed and said, "I needed to get Tracy out of the way. Lacroix and I are checking out a few leads on the hunters."

"Lacroix and I," Natalie repeated. "Nick, are you sure you want to do this? Lacroix is not exactly trustworthy. And, frankly, you seem like you're in a great mood today, and I'd hate for Lacroix to ruin that."

Nick merely hugged Nat and kissed her on the forehead. When he looked into her eyes, he said, "Lacroix is trustworthy when it comes to matters of life and death. When fighting hunters, there is no one I would rather have at my back."

At Natalie's shocked expression, he continued, "Despite our hard times, we've protected each other. He would never let anything harm me, if he can help it. This is a good thing this time, Nat."

"If you say so," she answered. "I just know you're going to go home depressed and moody. You always do after seeing him."

Nick could hardly tell her he was the reason for his good mood. She wouldn't understand, and he'd have to go into explanations that he would much rather avoid. So, he merely kissed her forehead again and said, "It's just something I have to risk. Something has to be done about these hunters before they kill again. Just because they kill vampires doesn't make them any less of murderers."

Natalie nodded. "If you need anything, call me."

"I will," he said and then turned around and left the morgue. Instead of getting in his caddy, he took to the air. It would be easier and quicker to get to Lacroix this way. He followed the vibration of their link which lead him back to the warehouse on Broadstein and Ninth.

When Nick landed beside Lacroix, he immediately asked, "What are we doing here?"

Lacroix proceeded to walk towards the warehouse, and Nick quickly followed. "Starting the hunt," he answered. "Like any bloodhound, we must first get the scent. Have you forgotten this, Nicholas?"

Nick sighed and said, "No. I just thought Aristotle gave you enough information to pinpoint their exact location."

"I told you everything he told me. Vampires are fleeing from downtown, and we wouldn't want to kill any of your precious mortals by mistake, now would we?"

"Of course not," Nick said as they searched for any mortal smells aside from the victim's blood that still stained the floor.

After several minutes of searching through the warehouse, Lacroix picked up on a smell down a hall next to a back entrance. "Nicholas," he called.

Nick was quickly at his side and immediately saw what Lacroix had noticed. Small droplets of blood were on the floor, heading towards the backdoor.

"How could forensics have missed that," he questioned.

"Perhaps, they did not come back this far since the crime scene was at the front door," Lacroix suggested.

Lacroix bent down and smelled the blood. "Whoever this was, he was given a pretty deep gash. He must have wrapped it in something as he escaped."

"Maybe we could use hospital records to figure out who he is," Nick suggested, easily slipping into the mortal way of handling things.

Lacroix stared at his son hard. "And, what would be the fun in that," he asked.

"It's not supposed to be fun tracking down hunters," Nick answered. "You told me as much on numerous occasions."

Lacroix ignored this comment and said, "We have the blood scent now. Now, we're going downtown. Undoubtedly, we are not the only hunters out tonight. Perhaps, they will be the victims instead of some unsuspecting vampire."

Nick nodded as he was reminded of the importance of being out on the street tonight instead of hunting down clues at a hospital. Besides, there was a way to get both done. He flipped out his cell phone and dialed Tracy's number as he followed Lacroix outside the warehouse.

"Vetter," Tracy answered.

"Trace, it me, Nick. Look, don't ask me to explain or how I know, but there is some blood on the floor going out the back exit at Whiteside. Can you go to the local hospitals after your visit with Mr. and Mrs. Astroph and ask if anyone came in with deep gashes on the night of our murders?"

There was several seconds of silence, and Nick knew he was in for it. "Nicholas Knight," Tracy exclaimed. "You're at the warehouse, aren't you? You went off without me and stuck me with the next-of-kin notification. No, Nick, I will not go to the hospital for you. You will do it yourself since you seem to like doing things on your own!"

"Tracy," Nick whined and suddenly stopped as Lacroix looked at him with a bemused expression.

"I'm sorry, Nick, but you can't expect me to just go along and do everything that you don't want to do. I'm your partner."

Nick sighed and said, "Tracy, it isn't like you haven't run off without me before. I remember you doing it quite often in the past. Besides, I promise I had no intention of coming to the warehouse. I just had a thought enter my mind and I decided a quick look wouldn't hurt. It bore fruit. Please, Tracy."

Tracy sighed. "I am such a sucker," she thought to herself. "Okay, Nick," she said aloud. "Now, you really do owe me one…a HUGE ONE!"

"Yes," Nick agreed. "Thanks, Trace."

He hung up the phone as Lacroix started clapping sarcastically. "Outstanding performance, Nicholas. Tell me, do you make a habit of begging the women in your life nowadays? I remember in the not so distant past that they were the ones begging you…"

"Not now, Lacroix," Nick said, cutting his master off. "Let's just get this over with. The more time we waste, the more likely they're killing someone in our community or an innocent human."

They took to the air and used their vampiric abilities to watch and listen to what was happening below them. Far too soon, Lacroix was making his descent and said, "I thought I heard someone screaming. Did you?"

"I thought I heard something," he agreed. They listened carefully, and they heard a scream again. Lacroix and Nicholas took off towards a nearby building. Nick grabbed Lacroix's shoulder and said, "I'll go around back. You…"

"Yes, yes, Nicholas," Lacroix interrupted with a smile. "I am quite familiar with how we used to play our little game." Nick couldn't help but return the smile. He could feel Lacroix's excitement coursing through their link. The link had been made stronger from the blood kiss they shared earlier. He hadn't even been trying to gage his master's feelings and he knew. It actually might come in handy tonight, if either of them ran into trouble.

As Nick went to the back of the building, he couldn't stop the sudden excitement that coursed his veins. He had been right earlier. This was reminding him of the many nights he had given into his predatory desires in the past. And, what made it even more intriguing and appealing than any other night when he was hunting someone for a case was that Lacroix was with him. He knew Lacroix had no intention of letting these hunters live. He was torn about that, but he had come to realize there was nothing the court system could do if he arrested them. The hunters had not killed their partners at the warehouse. Vampires had done that. And, as for them killing vampires, well, there was no body for him to haul in and show as evidence. So, when it came down to hunters, they were dealt with according to the vampire law. That's the way vampires wanted it. That was the way the hunters wanted it, as well. They didn't seem to try to out the existence of vampires to the world to possibly get them in their domain.

As Nick reached the backdoor, he twisted the door handle so hard that the lock immediately snapped. Nick opened the door and slipped inside. Very slowly, Nick allowed his senses to reach out and discern where humans were located in the building. He crept down the hall and was careful to not make a noise.

Once again, he felt the familiar adrenaline rush that came with the hunt. He knew it would all be over soon. He descended the stairs towards the basement of the building where he knew the humans to be. As soon as he reached the door, he was greeted by Lacroix who was smiling in anticipation. There were muffles going on inside the basement. He was sure someone was crying, but other than that, he couldn't tell what was going on.

"There are four people in the room," Lacroix whispered. "I'm unsure how many are hunters. No vampires are in the vicinity, and obviously, someone was yelling for a reason. Perhaps, someone is about to pay the price for being out too late."

"Well, what are we waiting for," asked Nick.

"For the perfect moment," he answered. "Remember, Nicholas, we allow the anticipation to build. It will make the chase, the winning, all the better."

Nick closed his eyes and breathed deeply. Lacroix's words and the hunt were affecting him far more than he wanted them to. When he opened his eyes, Lacroix smiled at him, knowing what his son was thinking.

"Any second now," Lacroix whispered.

Suddenly, the yelling started again. A young woman was screaming and a loud male voice yelled, "You're going to tell us where the rest of the bloodsuckers are hiding."

"Now," Lacroix said quickly to Nicholas. He opened the door, and he and Nicholas rushed into the room, teeth and eyes blazing at the men.

"What the…" they started.

Nick couldn't help but grin at the men's stunned faces. "Here we are," he said, flashing his canines at the hunters. "You wanted vampires. Now, you got them. Let the girl go. She is not one of us."

"Liar," the man in front of him yelled. He pointed to the girl who was tied to a chair and blindfolded. "Is she your lover? Is that why you're here, exposing yourself, to save her?"

The man quickly raised a stake to the girl's heart, and Nick and Lacroix quickly rushed on the three hunters. Nick attacked the man holding the stake while Lacroix went after the other two.

Momentarily forgetting about the girl, the man swung his stake at Nicholas. Nick hissed at him and said, "I do not want to kill you. If you let the girl go and leave Toronto, we'll let you live."

"Never," the man replied. "You and your kind have no right to live. You're demons inhabiting the Earth, destroying everything and anything good and just in humanity and the world."

Nick stepped closer and said, "There was a time I would have believed you, but vampires are just as capable of right and wrong as humans. I have seen this in others, besides myself, recently." Nick stopped as he realized the truth in his words. Urs and Vachon, they weren't evil. Far from it. And, even Lacroix seemed to be mending his ways.

He gave a quick glance to his master who was fighting two hunters at the same time. At that precise moment, Lacroix pulled at the one behind him and sent him sailing across the room and through the opened door. That was when Lacroix turned his full attention to the one remaining.

Nick looked back at the man in front of him. His lack of diligence allowed the hunter enough time to get back to the girl. He was already swinging the stake at the girl's heart.

"No!" Nicholas yelled.

Lacroix had just finished draining his victim and turned around to see what was happening. "Nicholas, no," he cried.

Nick reached the man before he could pierce the girl's chest. The force and quickness of Nick's speed caused both men to fall to the floor and unfortunately for Nick, he landed on top of the hunter and his stake.

The stake pierced through Nick's chest and he yelled out in pain. It was at that moment that instinct took over. Nick was losing blood profusely, so he sought out the closest supply, which was the hunter below him. Before his mind even comprehended what he was doing, he bit into the human's neck and started drinking his blood.

The beast inside Nicholas was howling in delight. Not only had he recently fed from his master, but now he was feeding from a fresh, warm-blooded human. Nick was still so consumed with pain from the stake and pleasure from the feeding that he didn't even realize Lacroix was lifting him. It wasn't until Lacroix ripped the stake from his chest did Nicholas realize what he was doing.

"Oh, my God," he stated, looking into Lacroix's eyes. "What have I done?"

Nick was still ravenous from the lack of blood his wound caused, but he could not bear to take more from the human below him. He had broken a vow tonight. He swore he would never kill again, especially in a feeding frenzy.

Lacroix pulled his son to him and wrapped him securely in his arms as they both sat on the floor. Nick was crying profusely. "It is not your fault, mon fils," he soothed. "He was going to kill the young lady and he tried to kill you. You were only defending her and yourself. Even your mortal justice system would not fault you in this."

Lacroix started rocking them back and forth repeating similar words. He knew he had to convince Nick he did nothing wrong or he would lose him forever.

Finally, after a long while, Nicholas looked up into Lacroix's eyes and said, "Take me home, Lacroix."

Lacroix quickly got up, leaving Nick on the floor, and untied the girl. Once the blindfold was removed, Lacroix caught the sound of her heartbeat and said, "You will go home and forget this incident ever happened."

"Forget," the girl repeated.

Quickly, Lacroix walked back to Nicholas as the girl left. He knelt down and said, "Before we go, let me take a look at your chest."

"I'm fine," Nick said weakly.

"Just humor me," Lacroix said. "He ripped the middle of Nicholas' shirt to reveal his chest. There was still a wound on Nicholas' chest, but it was healing. Chest wounds always were the hardest to bounce back from. Lacroix bit into his wrist, reclined Nicholas back, and poured his blood into and over the wound.

At Nick's questioning gaze, he said, "To hurry it along."

Lacroix quickly picked Nicholas up and said, "You're coming to the Raven tonight. I don't want you to be alone."

As Lacroix took to the air, Nick held onto Lacroix and buried his face into his master's neck. He still couldn't get over what had happened. His mind kept repeating, "I killed someone tonight."

When they reached the Raven, Lacroix and Nick took the back entrance inside and immediately went upstairs to Lacroix's apartment. Lacroix led Nick to the couch and then went into the kitchen to get them both something to drink.

When he returned, he found his child shaking all over. He frowned and sat beside him as he set the wineglasses on the table in front of them. "Nicholas," he said softly, "please don't torture yourself." He pulled Nick back into his arms. "It isn't something you should dwell on."

"But I killed again," Nick sobbed, as he once again broke down and buried his face into Lacroix's neck.

"Yes, you did," Lacroix acknowledged, "but you did so to save lives. You saved that young woman's life, as well as your own. You are not to blame, mon fils."

"Then, why do I feel like it's my fault," he cried.

Lacroix kissed Nick's brow and said, "Because you care…perhaps too much. Nicholas, it's one of the things I most love and hate about you. You carry the world on your shoulders, my son, but no one should carry that burden. Today, you had to make a choice. In a perfect world, you could have had both: Save the girl and allow her would-be killer to live. We don't live in that world, Nicholas. You chose to save the girl and yourself. At the time, killing the hunter was the only option. You didn't rush at him intending to feed from him."

Nick sniffled and wiped his eyes. "No, I didn't," he agreed. He breathed deeply and let out the air slowly trying to calm himself, but he was still shaking.

"Here," Lacroix said, bringing his son's face back to his neck, "let me help you."

Nick immediately understood Lacroix's offer and slipped his fangs as gently as possible into his father's neck. Immediately, Nick felt his father's love for him and his hope for him not to feel at fault.

His master's blood had the desired effect: Nick started to calm down, his shaking ceased, and he was able to think clearly.

When he pulled away, he smiled weakly at Lacroix and said, "Thank you."

Lacroix nodded and said, "You're welcome." He then took in his son's appearance and said, "We're both a mess. Why don't you head upstairs and take a shower while I find something suitable for you to change into for the night?"

Nick looked down at his ripped shirt and his skin covered in blood. "Okay," he said, getting up slowly. Nick started to head for the hall leading towards the back bedrooms and bathroom when he suddenly stopped. He turned back and stared at Lacroix who was staring back expectantly.

"Thank you, Lacroix," he whispered. He couldn't say the words aloud for multiple reasons. Besides, he knew his father could hear him. "I really like having you here to lean on. I hope our accord lasts this time."

"I do, too," Lacroix said aloud.

Nick smiled at his father before turning to go to the bathroom. As Nick entered and turned on the shower, his father's blood continued to calm him and clear his mind.

When he stepped into the water after removing his ruined clothes, he started thinking about the evening. Something just wasn't sitting right with him. "Lacroix seemed awfully sure of himself tonight," he thought. "We found the hunters relatively easy. How did he know we didn't need back-up, though. Usually, Lacroix is over-prepared when dealing with them." Nick started to get angry, but then he laughed at himself. "No, I'm still stressed and upset. I'm not thinking straight…"

Once the bathroom door shut, Lacroix picked up the phone and called downstairs. "Send him up," he said.

When a light knock came to the door, Lacroix opened it and handed the man on the other side of the door a briefcase. "Everything you asked for is in the briefcase. I appreciate your help. I got what I wanted and now you have what you wanted. I expect to never see you in Toronto again."

"You won't, Mr. Lacroix. It was a pleasure to do business with you." As the man started to walk away, he stopped, looked back, and said, "By the way, that was a hell of a throw you gave me back there."

Lacroix closed the door without responding. He didn't care if he had hurt the hunter. All that mattered was he had his son back completely. His child was under his roof and genuinely grateful for father's presence and comfort. The truth was that's all he ever wanted, and he'd do anything for it. Anything in the world.

THE END!!!!!

Hope you enjoyed it! I know I did!