Author's Note: This is the sequel to "A Father's Truth." It might be best to read that story before you read this one, or you might be a little lost. I do give a little background information here and there, though. Anyway, this story picks up exactly where "A Father's Truth" leaves off, and most of the flashbacks are continuations of the flashbacks in that story, as well.
Like the last story, this is a Nick and Lacroix familial story (it focuses on their relationship as father and son), though it does have a healthier dose of Natalie (and Tracy) this time, LOL. Also, like last time, Nick and Lacroix don't have "sex," but if you want to read more into it, by all means, do so.
Also, this story was written in response to the SciFiBigBang Contest on Livejournal, as was "A Father's Truth." I realized a little late in the game they raised the word limit, so I'm short, but hopefully, the quality of the story and the fact that I'm a returning contributor will make allow them to forgive me. In any case, I know the "Forever Knight" fans will be pleased that the fandom was represented in the contest, even if it is my lone little story with Cousinly tendencies.
And, now, without further ado, the saga continues…
A Son's Denial
Natalie unlocked the door to her apartment and stumbled inside, trying to balance her groceries, purse, and briefcase all at the same time. She knew it probably would have been wiser and safer to make more than one trip to carry everything inside, but she had the foresight to know that as soon as she entered her home, she wouldn't want to leave it again for at least the next twelve hours. The day, or should she say the night, had been spent worrying about Nick, and she was exhausted.
Nick. The man could worry her like no other. Forget that he was a vampire and that he had lived for almost 800 years. The knowledge of what he was and how old he was didn't have any sway over how she felt, especially tonight:
Nick was with Lacroix.
In all the time Nat had known Nick, she never expected such an event would be possible. Oh, sure, she knew Lacroix dropped by the loft unannounced and forced his unwanted presence on Nick occasionally, but that wasn't what this was this time. Tonight, they were working together to find and stop a group of hunters who were supposedly in the city. Tonight, they were working as partners. Tonight, Nick wanted him there.
Natalie didn't know how she should feel. On the one hand, she supposed it was comforting to know Nick was fighting with a 2,000 year old vampire by his side. Nick had said himself that Lacroix would do his best not to let anything happen to him. But on the other hand, that was exactly what she was worried about. Natalie wasn't a fool. From everything Nick had told her about his master, Lacroix would be the type to use this situation—his generosity and protection—to his advantage. He would try his best to use Nick's temporary trust to get Nick to drink human blood again and to also abandon his quest for mortality. She didn't have any doubt about it.
And, of course, that's another thing that worried her: Why did she know this and Nick seemingly didn't? Why did Nick trust Lacroix after everything the older vampire had done to him? And, even more importantly, what was going to happen once Lacroix and Nick did catch up with the hunters? She wasn't naïve or stupid. Lacroix intended to kill the hunters. Of that much, she was sure. That left the question of what Nick will do. And, the answer to that question scared her to death, because she honestly didn't know.
For what seemed like the hundredth time that night, she called Nick's loft after dropping her things off on the kitchen table and feeding Sydney. The phone rang three times before the answering machine picked up. She once again left a message: "Hi, Nick, it's me. I'm just calling again to make sure everything went okay with Lacroix. Call me as soon as you get this. Bye."
Sighing, Natalie sat down on her couch as she put the receiver back into its cradle. She dropped her head to her arms which were resting on her knees. If she didn't hear from him soon, she was going to go crazy!
Nick stepped out of the shower, immediately grabbed a towel from the rack next to him, and began to dry himself. He was feeling a little better now that he had scrubbed the evidence of the night's events off. If he closed his eyes and tried, he could almost convince himself that it didn't happen. Almost. As calm and rational as Lacroix's blood made him, he still couldn't banish the memory away.
He wrapped the towel around his waist and wiped the steam off the mirror over Lacroix's sink. As he looked into his own haunted eyes, he sighed and whispered, "I killed a man tonight."
No longer able to endure the sight of himself, Nick turned away from the mirror and walked out of the bathroom into Lacroix's bedroom. There, he was greeted by his father who was holding up a pair of black silk pajamas.
Nicholas never thought one night could change so much. Well, obviously he did, if his current existence had anything to say on the matter, but he still felt overwhelmed and-if he was truthful with himself-a little scared, as well.
Nicholas looked up into his father's sympathetic eyes. Lacroix didn't get that look too often and that only cemented Nick's feelings of insecurity and nervousness. "Is Janette okay," he asked timidly. "I don't feel her presence inside."
Lacroix nodded as he surveyed their current lodgings in front of them and replied, "She's fine, Nicholas."
That didn't give him any comfort as thoughts of the hunters filled his mind. "Where is she?"
To indulge his son, Lacroix closed his eyes briefly as he sought out his daughter's location through their bond. "She's still in town—" Lacroix paused as he noticed his son's startled look—"enjoying another meal."
"We have to go get her," exclaimed Nicholas, stepping closer to his father and wrapping his arms around his neck.
Lacroix stood there, watching his son, as the boy locked the embrace and buried his face against his master's neck.
After a few seconds of standing there, Nicholas pulled back slightly and added, "Let's take to the air. It's the fastest way to get to her."
Lacroix folded his hands behind his back and stepped back.
Nicholas allowed Lacroix to retreat without any rebuttal and dropped his arms to his sides. He recognized his sire's stance immediately. Lacroix was poised to give a lecture or a lesson, and frankly, he didn't want or need either right now. "Why aren't we going," he asked. He rattled his brain for a possible reason. "Wait, do you want me to go to get her by myself?" It was possible, he reasoned with himself. Lacroix had been testing his abilities to do things for himself all night. "You know I haven't been taught how to fly, yet," he argued. "I'd have to go by horse and I might be too late…"
Lacroix held up his hand to silence his child. He finally spoke, "Janette is capable of taking care of herself, Nicholas. She'll be here, shortly."
Nicholas furrowed his brow in worry. "There are hunters in the town, Lacroix. What if they see Janette make her kill? What if someone points out that she associates with us? We just fled the town for safety. She needs to do the same…"
Lacroix interrupted his son. "The only reason we left is because our situation was being compromised. Janette's was not."
"But it could be," countered Nicholas.
Lacroix sighed. "I will not be taking you back to town, Nicholas. Everyone has seen our faces and heard the hunters' accusations. It wouldn't be wise, and I'm not going to take that unnecessary risk when I know Janette is and will be fine. I've taught her well."
Nicholas was becoming desperate. He was really worried something was going to happen. "Lacroix," he beseeched, "she is your daughter. How can you leave her to chance?" He knew he was being a little overdramatic, but it was the best punch he had, so he was going to use it.
And, he expected anger. Even though Nick had only known his master for a short time, he already knew some of the Roman's tendencies. Lacroix usually became very hostile at anyone questioning his parenting capabilities toward his children. Instead, Nick simply received a glare that only hinted at the anger. "And, you are my newborn son," he answered. "Janette is old enough and wise enough to take care of herself. You are worried and scared, and if I take you back, you'd be in danger."
"Then, leave me here," Nicholas cried, interrupting his father's explanation.
Lacroix walked closer and brushed Nicholas' cheek with the back of his hand. "I'm needed here," he whispered. "I feel your exhaustion, your fears, and your doubts. And, most of them do not have anything to do with Janette." He cocked his head to the side as he analyzed his son's face more closely. He suddenly gave a ghost of a smile and continued, "Besides, Janette is on her way, now." He went back to brushing Nicholas' face and eventually allowing his fingers to run through his curling blond hair. "I know what the hunters did and said are troubling you, mon fils. You want time to contemplate it, but I'm going to help you alleviate those fears. That is my only concern tonight."
Nick reached out his hands and took the proffered pajamas. He looked down and seemed to lose himself in contemplation. He had a feeling tonight, like that night over 700 years ago, Lacroix was going to attempt to soothe his fears and guilt. Lacroix would probably even give him the "Let go of your mortal bonds" speech again. His father was becoming a little predictable in those regards.
Lacroix watched as his son eventually and slowly shook his head and walked away from him.
"Is everything all right, Nicholas?" he questioned, even though he had a good idea of what was currently troubling him.
He turned back to his master, finally met his gaze, and replied, "I know you're concerned about me, but I can go back to the loft…"
Lacroix almost flew to his son to reach him quickly. He laid his hand on top of the pajamas in Nick's hand and said, "I want you to spend the day with me. We've been through a lot, and I want to make sure we're both okay before we take on the world again."
Nick smiled softly as he heard his father's explanation. He knew very well that Lacroix considered himself okay and capable of taking on the world, as he put it. He was simply trying to manipulate Nick into staying, while also trying to appease Nick's natural instinct and frequent habit to declare himself capable of taking care of himself. It wasn't so bad when the person who wants to take care of you tells you that he wants to be cared for in return. His father certainly knew how to play the game. As Nick had come to know from years of experience, Lacroix was the best.
"Okay," said Nick, looking into his father's eyes, "you win."
Lacroix smiled and whispered, "I know."
Tracy sighed as she got into and started her car to leave the local hospital. Nick had sent her there, supposedly on a whim, but as usual, his hunches bore fruit. In fact, both errands he sent her on tonight did.
The Astrophs were understandably distraught when they learned of their son's death, but they were able to provide at least a lead. It turned out Cody had gone on vacation to Montreal a few months ago and had come home with a friend—a friend his parents had never heard of or met before. His name was Billy Meyers, and according to the Astrophs, he had been missing the entire time their son had been, as well. Despite the disappointing news, as luck would have it, when Tracy went to the hospital to inquire about any patients suffering from a severe gash on the night of the murders, the ER gave the name "William Meyers." That meant he wasn't one of the victims in the morgue; he was out there somewhere with a story to tell.
Because of this lead, Tracy was willing to forgive her partner for sending her on the next-of-kin notification and ditching her while he had checked out the warehouse for clues. "He just better not make a habit out of it," she thought venomously. She realized they had spent the beginning of their partnership doing exactly that—ditching each other—but they had to get in sync. They had to start trusting each other, and there was no time like the present. She didn't have to hide Vachon's presence from him any longer, so it would be a lot simpler.
After several minutes of silent contemplation, Tracy pulled up to the precinct and quickly jumped from her car. She couldn't wait to tell Nick the news. Since he had been stuck inside most of the night typing up reports, she knew it might brighten his mood.
She strolled over to their desks and immediately noticed Nick was missing and his computer was surprisingly off. Just as she was getting an inkling of what was going on, Reese walked up and said, "Where's your partner? He's been missing all night."
Tracy raised her eyebrows and said irately, "Why, that son-of-a-…"
Nick stepped out of Lacroix's bedroom, wearing the pajamas his father had provided. He walked over to the couch in the living room and flopped down. Lacroix was seated in a chair that was closer to the fire and slightly to Nick's left. Nick studied the book in Lacroix's hand and saw he was reading Goethe's Faust.
"Revisiting a classic," inquired Nick, as he gestured toward the book.
Lacroix closed the book and set it on the table beside him. "Yes, but I was merely waiting for you," he replied, turning his head to give Nicholas his undivided attention.
Nick fidgeted under his father's scrutiny.
"Nicholas," Lacroix began. He paused when he noticed his son's apprehensive stare. He sighed and started again. "I know tonight was hard and there were some unfortunate mishaps, but I want you to know I appreciate your help."
Nick watched Lacroix swallow hard after saying this. That took a lot out of the Roman, he knew. Lacroix did not show his emotions often, and Nick knew he was one of the few who even knew Lacroix was capable of feeling. He supposed that was why he always took his master's praises and scorns to heart. He scratched the back of his neck slowly as he lowered his eyes and whispered, "You're welcome, Lacroix."
"And, that is why," Lacroix continued loudly, ignoring Nick's comment because he wasn't stating this to merely give thanks, "I do not want you feeling any remorse or guilt over what has transpired. These hunters would have killed many more vampires, and possibly even humans, if it were not for you and I. Something had to be done. I regret that you believe the encounter has given you something to fret over. It didn't, Nicholas."
Lacroix got up very slowly and went to the couch where Nicholas was sitting. He sat down beside him and brushed his fingers under Nick's chin to get Nick to look up at him. When their eyes met, he persisted, "You did nothing wrong. You did what you had to in order to survive. He was a man who did many wrongs. Do not let his death torment you."
Nick breathed deeply and slowly after Lacroix finished his speech. "I'm trying," he finally admitted. "I just can't shake the feeling that the outcome could have been different if only I had handled the situation a bit better."
"How could you have handled it any better," inquired Lacroix. "They were hunting our kind, Nicholas. They were going to kill that young girl. I'm sure if the girl in question remembered the night's events, she would be very grateful that you interfered."
"I know that. I just feel so…off," replied Nick loudly. "I feel like I'm slowly losing control of everything in my life here."
Lacroix gave a few small nods before stating, "Maybe it's time to move on."
Nick stood up from the couch and walked away from his master. He moved to the fireplace and stretched his arm across the mantelpiece as he leaned against it. "You know my answer to that," he whispered.
In his peripheral vision, he saw Lacroix nod again.
"Nicholas…," started Lacroix.
"Here we go," thought Nick as he recognized the tone that suddenly appeared in his father's voice. He had been waiting for this conversation to swing into one of the old arguments they were always having. He didn't have to wait long. He watched as Lacroix stood up and faced him straight on.
"What you're feeling right now is guilt," stated Lacroix, firmly.
"I know that."
Lacroix shook his head and came to stand directly in front of Nick. When their eyes met, he continued, "I've told you countless times that guilt must be shed away so your true nature can come to the fore. If you do not, you will find yourself in this situation again and again. You will get to the point where it will manifest into something you will not be able to control. You say you feel like you're losing it…maybe it's happening already."
Nick widened his eyes from shock and fear but quickly suppressed the emotions. Even though his biggest fear was that he really was losing control, he wasn't going to let Lacroix get the upper hand. "You don't really believe that, do you?" he asked. "You're just trying to scare me into accepting what has happened."
"The better question is 'What do you believe, Nicholas?' It does not matter what I do or do not believe," he replied. "You have said this throughout the last century. Now, I'm simply asking you to follow that train of thought. You have stated you feel like you're losing control. How so?"
Nick stared at his father disbelievingly for a couple of seconds. His father's response was something new—unexpected. "I…I feel…disoriented. I feel like I no longer know myself. I feel myself succumbing to the call, to the temptation of…," he stopped himself. He couldn't talk to Lacroix about this.
"Blood," finished Lacroix.
Nick squeezed his eyes shut. When he opened them, he noticed Lacroix had schooled his expression in such a way that he couldn't tell what the old vampire was thinking. He had a pretty good guess, anyway. "I didn't say that," he denied.
"And, yet, it is true," Lacroix asserted. "Nicholas, have you ever stopped to wonder how simpler your life would be if you would just accept who you are? Has refraining from what your body needs helped you in any way? I want you to be painfully honest."
"It will help me to regain my soul, my humanity. It has given me peace of mind," he answered with all the conviction he had.
Lacroix raised his eyebrow. "Has it? Has it really," he questioned. "Peace of mind? It seems to me you are in a constant state of worry because you deny yourself that which your body craves. You are constantly fighting your hunger when you're around your precious mortals. You do realize, mon fils, if you gave your body that which it needed, you would not have to fight so hard when you're around them. It wouldn't be such a temptation."
Nick looked down and said, "But…"
Lacroix cut him off. "But your guilt stops you from doing this. Your guilt controls your actions. Your guilt causes you to bury your needs and wants under a thick blanket of denial." Lacroix paused for effect and added, "I believe we're back to the beginning of our discussion, mon fils. You must kill this guilt, this righteousness, or it will consume and destroy you."
For the first time, as Lacroix looked into his son's eyes, he saw Nicholas truly considering his words on the topic. Nick looked so confused, and Lacroix smiled inwardly. "Perhaps you should sleep on it," Lacroix suggested, softly. He lightly touched Nick's arm and turned him toward the hall.
Lacroix walked him to a door across from his bedroom. He opened it and lightly pushed Nick inside. "You know I always have a place reserved for you in all my homes. If there is anything you would like changed, let me know," he said, softly.
Nick didn't seem to hear him. Instead, he simply walked to the bed and settled down.
"Good day, mon fils," said Lacroix as he walked out of the room. He left Nick's door open and he would leave his open, as well…just incase.
Natalie slid the door open and immediately frowned. As badly as she hated to admit it, she had been hoping to find Nick sitting on the floor pining morosely over something that had happened while he was out with Lacroix. After all, if he was here, regretting something that happened, it meant the search was over and he was safe. Instead, she found the loft completely immersed in darkness. It provided no comfort at all.
She turned on the lights to the kitchen and gave the cavernous room a thorough onceover. That Nick hadn't been home in a while and that he didn't know when he would be back was obvious. All the candles were out, no electronics were on, and the answering machine was flashing with eight messages that she knew were from her.
With a dramatic sigh, she flopped onto the couch and dropped her head into her hands.
She knew what she wanted to do.
She wanted to go over to the Raven and demand to know Nick's whereabouts, but she was hesitant to do so, because she didn't know how Nick would feel about her interference, and more importantly, she didn't know how Lacroix would react if the master vampire was there and offended at her trifling through his affairs.
As she weighed her choices, her thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of Nick's telephone. Excitedly, Natalie reached behind her to answer it. She was hoping Nick had tried to call her home and upon receiving no answer figured out she was waiting for him at the loft. After all, she always had a habit of going to the loft when he was handling matters that worried her.
"Nick," she said hurriedly into the receiver.
"So, he isn't there, either," the caller said, angrily.
Nat recognized the voice immediately. It was Tracy, and Nat already knew why the young detective was upset. Nick had told his partner he had paperwork to finish up and that he would be at the precinct all night. Obviously, she had discovered Nick's lie and was calling to give him a piece of her mind. "No, I'm afraid he isn't," she whispered, feeling her anxiety rising. She knew Tracy was going to demand to know what was going on with Nick and she didn't know what to say.
Tracy, on the other hand, had no such problems. "I take it he's bailed on you, too," she spat. "Between you and me, Nat, I like Nick-he's a good guy-but he really needs to work on his people-skills. Do you know he's had me running all over Toronto tonight doing his errands supposedly because the captain had him doing paperwork? I can't believe he lied to me."
Natalie released a large puff of air from her lungs and closed her eyes. "Tracy," she said, shaking her head slowly, "maybe you shouldn't jump to any conclusions just yet."
Tracy paused at Nat's words as she contemplated them. "I'm not," she informed her finally. "I spoke with the captain, Nat. Nick did, in fact, lie to me. The captain didn't even ask him to do any paperwork nor has he been here all night."
Again, Nat sighed. She didn't know why, but she felt like she should smooth things over with Tracy for Nick. The closer it got to sunrise, the more she was convinced something was seriously wrong. If she could relieve any of the hardships Nick was going to have to face when he did show up—and show up, he would—she would gladly do it. "It's just that Nick has been going through something recently, and I know he wouldn't lie to you unless he found it absolutely necessary…"
Tracy interrupted, "And, you know what that something is." It wasn't a question; it was a statement.
Natalie bit her lip before replying, "It isn't easy for Nick to open up to people, Tracy. He doesn't feel like he has the luxury of telling too many people what is really going on in his life. I know I don't have the right to tell you to not be angry with him, because I know he did lie to you, but at least give him a chance to explain himself when he does show up."
Once again, Tracy paused before she answered, "How can I not when you put it like that?"
Natalie smiled and said, "If you hear from Nick, please call me. If I'm not here, page me, okay?"
"Okay," answered Tracy, "and you do the same."
He thought he knew pain before, but this was unbearable. It started somewhere deep in his chest and shot forward as if oozing through a hot cavern. As a result, his muscles were locking and he couldn't cry out even if he wanted to. He had to do something; he would surely die if he allowed this to continue.
Suddenly, his mind cleared and though the pain was still present, he could feel it subsiding. That's when he realized what he was doing—he was draining the life away from the man in his arms; he was draining his blood.
Nick cried out incoherently, almost choking on the blood as it continued to spurt into his mouth. He didn't know how this happened. He didn't know who this person was, but he knew he had to stop. He couldn't pull away, though; he just couldn't. Nick cried out again, trying to find the will and strength to stop this, but he knew he was failing, failing miserably.
The next thing he knew Lacroix was there, lifting him, pulling him close to his chest. "Nicolas," asked Lacroix hurriedly, using his son's name of old, "quel est le problème?" (Nicholas, what's wrong?)
Nick met his father's gaze, painfully, and pleaded, "Aide-moi, mon père!" (Help me, father!)
Even though his son was now awake, Lacroix knew Nicholas' mind and emotions were still wrapped up in his nightmare. When he had woken earlier to waves of fear flowing through his link with Nicholas, he mistakenly thought his mere presence would bring his child to his senses. Obviously, he needed a little more than that.
Lacroix tightened his hold around Nicholas' shoulders and waist and whispered, "Je suis ici, mon fils. Personne ne te fera de mal." (I am here, my son. No one will hurt you.)
In response, Nick quickly buried his face into Lacroix's chest and breathed deeply. Lacroix had stopped him. Lacroix actually…
Nick paused as he focused on the sensations around him: He wasn't on the floor of some building sucking the life away from some unsuspecting mortal. He opened his eyes to peer down at the bed he and Lacroix were settled on and quickly remembered where he was and why.
Nick pulled away from Lacroix, looked into his eyes for a brief moment, and then looked down to seemingly study the pattern on the spread around them. "It was a nightmare, but it wasn't," he whispered. He knew his nightmare was spawned from the events that happened earlier.
Lacroix nodded but said nothing. He could feel his son's emotions pouring through their link and he knew the boy had something else to say, something important.
"Aidez-moi à le tuer." (Help me kill it.)
Lacroix knew Nicholas was referring to their earlier conversation and he couldn't keep his eyes from widening in shock.
Janette landed on the roof of their current lodgings and smiled knowingly as she watched Lacroix lecture Nicholas.
"Religion of all kinds is pure fantasy. It is the invention of man to ensure others behave and also to calm their own fears about what will happen in the hereafter. We, on the other hand, cannot follow man's rules, nor do we have to worry about our impending deaths. We are beyond such concerns."
Nicholas wanted so much to believe Lacroix—he wanted so much to believe everything he had ever been taught as a little boy were lies…but there was one thing that bothered him: "If God is man's creation, why does the cross propel us?"
The question had been whispered, but Lacroix heard it and sighed. He knew if he did not have a satisfying answer, it would continue to haunt his young crusader, and he had no intention of letting that happen. "Faith is a powerful thing," he answered.
Nicholas was shocked. "Aren't you contradicting yourself," he asked.
Lacroix smiled and explained, "You were a crusader, Nicholas, as I was a general in the Roman army. Do you not agree with your experiences that when enough people believe in or gather around something, that 'something' becomes powerful in its own right?"
"Yes," replied Nicholas immediately, "but what we're talking about is two different things. When people gather around an emblem or the like, it receives power because of what it represents. That emblem will be carried and shown to people who will either try to accept it or deny it, but in either case, its meaning and importance is spread. The cross is such an item, except it's more than that—the cross affects us physically, not just emotionally or spiritually. It hurts us. Can you explain that?"
"I can do more than that," answered Lacroix, "I can show you. That's why we're up here."
Nicholas and Lacroix were standing on the roof of the home they had been staying in since coming into the area. At hearing Lacroix state they were there to teach him a lesson, Nicholas peered around the roof apprehensively. "What does he have to show me up here," he thought to himself as his eyes met Janette's.
Temporarily forgetting his worries, he smiled at Janette, walked to her, and kissed her gently on the lips. When he pulled away, he said, "I was worried about you."
"About me, Nicolas? Whatever for?" she questioned. She wrapped her arms around Nicholas and stared at his lips for mere seconds before deciding to kiss him again.
Lacroix watched his children greet each other with a knowing smile. Janette was just as enthralled with his son as he was. She could hardly keep her hands off of him, and that fact was obvious from every interaction they had. If she wasn't touching him, she was looking at him as if she wanted to. Even now Janette found herself swirling away in the storm Nicholas had created despite the fact that she was significantly older than him. Nicholas was the one ensnaring her; he was the seducer, the hunter, though neither recognized it. Lacroix knew there would be hard times ahead when Janette figured this out, as she wanted no man, begrudgingly besides Lacroix, to have power over her. But for now, it didn't matter.
Besides, Lacroix could hardly blame her for unknowingly losing her dominance, because Nicholas inflamed his passions, as well. Nicholas had only been a vampire for a short time, but his manner of taking his victims—the way he savored their flesh as well as their blood—was something that made Lacroix's skin tingle. Nothing pleased him more than to watch Nicholas drain his victims. And, of course, there was also Nicholas' mind and body. He saw in Nicholas everything he ever wanted in a son: intelligence, beauty, passion, might, elegance, loyalty—the list could go on and on.
Deciding now was the time to interrupt before his children got too carried away with their passion, he laid a hand on each of their shoulders and whispered, "It's time to take flight."
Janette and Nicholas reluctantly broke apart and turned to look at Lacroix. "We're going flying?" asked Nicholas with a smile. A soothing flight in Janette's or Lacroix's arms would be the perfect ending to a night filled with troubles.
"Yes, Nicholas," Lacroix stated, knowing his child did not fully comprehend his intentions, "not only are you going to learn how belief can affect someone physically tonight, I'm also going to help you…with your gravity problem."
"Etes-vous sûr au sujet de cette?" asked Lacroix, knowing from Nicholas' expression he was thinking about a moment from their past and had no way of knowing if the recollection was a positive one. (Are you sure about this?)
Nick raised his head once more to meet Lacroix's gaze. "Yes," he whispered. "You were right. I have to let go of my guilt or it will consume me, but I need help. I can't do it alone."
Feeling overwhelmed at his son's words and the need in his eyes, Lacroix pulled Nicholas back into his embrace and answered, "You shall always have my help, Nicolas."
The sun had finally risen over Toronto, and along with the sun's warming rays also came intense anxiety for one Doctor Lambert.
Natalie had stayed in the loft after her phone call with Tracy in hopes that Nick would arrive home before sunrise. No such luck. She knew with certainty that he wouldn't show up at the loft now, at least not until the sun went down, but she wasn't about to give up the search. She knew where her next stop had to be, and she dreaded going, but she had to find him. She had to make sure he was okay both physically and emotionally. She wasn't about to leave him in the hands of Lacroix, if that was indeed where he was.
It was daylight, and oddly, Lacroix found that he couldn't go to sleep even if he tried. If he was honest with himself, he would admit he was in shock and that his mind was still trying to process everything: It had finally happened. His son had turned away from him completely a hundred years ago, and he was finally back. Lacroix had regained his son, and more importantly, Nicholas was content that it was so. It had been Nicholas' choice—Lacroix hadn't forced it. Oh, sure, he laid down the game plan, but it was ultimately Nicholas who had chosen their reconciliation.
Lacroix couldn't be more pleased.
He looked down at the soft curly blond locks that rested on his shoulder before laying his cheek against the top of his son's head. He breathed in deeply as he closed his eyes and cherished the moment. It had been many, many years since Nicholas allowed him to hold him, much less share his bed. The events of the night and the nightmare really did a number on Nicholas—he wanted guidance and protection now…after so long, after so much denial. If Lacroix didn't have an iron cast will of self-control, he would be downright giddy—he would be running through the house praising the gods with songs of his old empire.
He smiled as Nicholas snuggled closer to him in his sleep, and he tightened his arms around his son in response. Lacroix felt happy, and it was such a shock for Lacroix to admit that. He hadn't been completely and totally happy in years. Nicholas had always been the one to give him these rare moments—just his presence, his mere acceptance of their companionship, had the power to brighten Lacroix's dark world. Lacroix had sired many throughout his life, but this one was his favorite. This one was the only one he called "son." He was determined to *never* lose Nicholas again.
And, it was with that thought that he heard a distant knocking on the club door. With it being daytime, it could only be a mortal, and the most likely mortal who would dare show up at this time would be the very one who would try to take Nicholas from him.
"Decisions, decisions," mused Lacroix as he walked across the empty dance floor to the front of the club. Should he kill the mortal on the other side of the door? No, Nicholas was too close and he couldn't have him stumbling upon the scene. He'd surely loose his son again if that happened, so it wasn't an option. He could easily ignore the incessant knocking, but he also knew it would eventually wake Nicholas despite his exhaustion if it hadn't already…
Irritated more than he cared to admit, Lacroix swung the door to the Raven open as he stepped back to avoid the light that rushed into the darkness and glared angrily at the woman before him. "Dr. Lambert," said Lacroix, coolly. "To what do I owe this unpleasant visit this morning?"
Natalie, thoroughly intimidated at Lacroix's appearance—though she didn't know why since she was expecting to find him here—didn't notice his words, much less comprehend them. She simply stared at the old vampire before her, almost as if in a trance.
At her silence, Lacroix sighed and began to swing the door shut.
Natalie finally awoke from her stupor at Lacroix's action, stuck her foot in the door, and said, "No, please, I have to talk to you." She pushed the door open and saw Lacroix already halfway across the dance floor, heading toward the bar. She stepped inside and closed the door.
"Would you be so kind as to relock it?" asked Lacroix, glancing at her as he walked behind the bar.
She did as asked before following Lacroix. She noticed he was pulling a bottle of blood out of a fridge and grabbing two glasses.
"Would you care for something to drink," he asked, solicitously. "A white wine, perhaps?"
Natalie shook her head, feeling uneasy at his kindness.
Lacroix put the second glass back where it belonged, leaned on the back counter containing the drink supplies, and stared at Dr. Lambert.
She knew this was her cue. She cleared her throat and said authoritatively, "I know about the hunters and that Nick and you were searching for them last night." She met his gaze to make sure he wasn't about to explode at her.
Instead, Lacroix was suppressing a smile. He knew the good doctor was frightened—he could hear her heart pounding against her chest as if she were a scared little jackrabbit, but he admired her courage and her ability to show no outward signs of her intimidation. For that, he would allow her to finish saying what she had come here to say before making her leave.
Natalie continued, "I've been calling Nick all night. His partner has been trying to reach him, as well. Do you know where he is?"
Once again, Lacroix pondered his choices. He could tell her to get lost…but an opportunity was presenting itself: Nicholas had returned to him, and of course, Dr. Lambert didn't have a clue. He couldn't help the upturn of his lips as he thought about her reaction. She could very well find out in front of him. He nodded slightly at his mortal guest and replied, "Nicholas is upstairs resting. We had a rather eventful night."
Natalie immediately felt relief in finding Nick's location, but she knew there was much more than just his whereabouts to worry about. "Is he okay?" she asked.
Lacroix actually smiled and said jovially, "He is, but why don't you come upstairs and see for yourself?" He immediately walked around the counter and started heading toward the back of the club.
Natalie immediately followed, still feeling apprehension at Lacroix's cooperation.
Nick swallowed nervously and asked, "You're teaching me to fly tonight?"
Lacroix nodded his head once and said, "Among other things…Nicholas, belief is a very powerful motivator and depressor. It has the power to make things happen or to stop them altogether. There is no greater example than you, yourself."
"Me?" questioned Nicholas. "What do you mean?"
"Flying," answered Lacroix, as if that explained everything. He smiled at his son and stated, "It is something our kind does with the greatest of ease."
At the look of disbelief on Nick's face, Lacroix turned to Janette and nodded at her slightly.
"Yes, Nicolas," Janette agreed as she went to the edge of the roof and stepped into midair. She turned around, floating, and said, "It takes little effort, really." She then rotated herself, looked up at the moon, and flew a little higher. "There is nothing better than flying by your own will. You'll enjoy it so much more, mon amor."
Nicholas still didn't look convinced and the look of apprehension on his face increased when Lacroix motioned for Nicholas to come to him. When he reached him, Lacroix put his arm around Nicholas' shoulder and they headed to the ledge together.
"Fly," commanded Lacroix and waved his left hand to the open space before them.
Nicholas looked down at the ground far below and inquired, "What if I fall?"
"Then, you will get up and try again" was the answer.
Nicholas took a deep breath, stepped to the edge, closed his eyes, and stuck one foot into the open air before him. He paused. For several moments, he stayed in that position, debating if he could really do this.
He felt Lacroix at his side, and he opened his eyes quickly, wondering if the ancient was going to push him off the roof.
Instead, the master vampire smiled indulgently at him.
Nicholas took a deep breath again, and despite his fears, he walked off the roof. Immediately, he fell to the ground and broke his left leg as he tried to brace himself for the ground's impact.
With a shake of their heads, Lacroix and Janette smiled and flew to him.
"I knew it," whined Nicholas as they reached him and he examined the bone that was now painfully protruding beneath his kneecap.
Lacroix kneeled beside him and took his son's left leg into his hands. Before doing anything, he met Nicholas' gaze and said, "That is precisely the point of this lesson. You believe you cannot fly, so you didn't, or rather you believed you would fall, so you did. Belief affects us physically as well as emotionally." At these words, Lacroix straightened Nick's leg and put the bone back into place quickly and painfully.
Nick screamed at the pain, laid on his back, and stared up at the sky. When the pain subsided, he looked over at Lacroix fearfully. He expected a look of disappointment, but Lacroix was merely watching him.
Lacroix continued with his lecture: "Most fledglings learn to fly rather quickly. Their instincts take over and they do what nature tells them to do, in order to survive. Usually vampires feed and fly with very little instruction from their masters."
At these words, Nicholas turned his face away, unable to look at his sire in this moment of failure. Instead, he chose to handle the moment with anger. "I don't believe that," he said firmly, shaking his head. "If instincts take over with fledglings, I would have flown when I stepped off the roof." He paused and then said decisively, finally meeting Lacroix's gaze, "You are the one who failed—you did not give me a bit of instruction. You simply told me to fly. What other outcome could there have possibly been?"
Janette gasped and Lacroix immediately furrowed his brow at Nicholas' words. This was the first time Nicholas had openly and directly questioned Lacroix's words or actions, and it angered the older one. He knew Nicholas was embarrassed for not flying when faced with the notion that fledglings usually do so easily. Regardless, his son's insolence would not stand.
Even though Nicholas' leg was not yet completely healed, Lacroix grabbed his protégé by the arm and dragged him to his feet. Once again, Nicholas yelled out in pain as half of his bodyweight rested on his injured leg. Lacroix let go of him so he could stand without any support and spat, "Do not fall or sit."
Nicholas knew he was in trouble and let out a shaky breath. "Lacroix, I'm sorry," he started but was cut off by a wave of his master's hand.
"So, you don't believe me," questioned Lacroix. He walked around Nicholas and made sure to stay mere inches from his son's body to intimidate him.
Nicholas trembled but wisely kept quiet and still.
"You think I am the reason for your inability to fly. This lesson was to teach you that *you* are the one who is keeping yourself from flying. You think like a mortal; therefore, your actions are mortal." He shook his head and then whispered directly into Nicholas' ear, "I suppose I will now have to show you the error in your beliefs."
Before Nicholas could reply, Lacroix grabbed him by the arm, told Janette to stay, and flew him into the night air at a high rate of speed.
"Lacroix," gasped Nicholas fearfully, not knowing what to expect. Lacroix did not acknowledge Nicholas in any way. His rebellious son had to learn.
Soon, they landed in the town they were in earlier. An irrational fear that Lacroix would give him to the hunters entered his mind. "I'm sorry," cried Nicholas again. "I did not mean it."
Lacroix sent him a mental message to silence and Nicholas immediately complied. "We will see who is right" was all Lacroix said before he grabbed Nicholas tightly by the arm and dragged him down one of the many roads in the town.
After five minutes of walking around, Lacroix paused as he spotted an old drunkard asleep, resting against the door of someone's residence. Whether it was his own, Nicholas did not know nor did he suspect it mattered much, anymore. He watched as Lacroix walked up to the man, grabbed him, covered the drunkard's mouth with his hand, and forced him to stand.
Without uttering a word, Lacroix slipped his fangs into the drunkard's throat and Nicholas watched as the man's struggles died to almost nothing. Eventually, Lacroix let the man fall and looked at Nicholas before biting into his own wrist.
Nicholas widened his eyes and stepped forward as he watched Lacroix brace the man on his knee and give the drunkard his life's essence. His master was bringing the man across! He watched in fascination, realizing this is what happened to him. Within a very few seconds, the man seemed to come back to life—he latched onto Lacroix's wrist and drank deeply. For almost half a minute, Lacroix let the man drink before he forcibly ripped his arm from the man's grasp.
Lacroix, then, threw the drunkard to the ground and came to stand beside Nicholas. "Watch," he demanded angrily as they stared at the fledgling before them.
The new vampire eventually opened his green-hazed eyes and growled. Nicholas looked over at Lacroix who merely smiled at Nicholas for a few seconds before going over to a nearby stable and breaking a piece of wood off of it.
Nicholas widened his eyes and took a step back as Lacroix walked toward the fledgling. "Lacroix," he questioned.
Lacroix ignored Nicholas. Instead, he addressed his new creation. "Run, if you know what's good for you," he hissed.
The fledgling looked at Lacroix, felt the ancient's power, and knew instinctively he was in trouble. Immediately, he hopped into the sky to try to get away from the predator before him. It was over before it ever really began. Before he could clear the housetop, his pursuer grabbed him by the leg and threw him back to the ground.
"Regrettably, I do not have the time to claim responsibility over you and teach you," stated Lacroix as he brought the stake down into the fledgling's chest. As he did with Nicholas' victim earlier that night, he took the body to a nearby dung heap by the stable and dumped him there.
By this time, Nicholas had backed away from the scene and was leaning against one of the nearby dwellings, clearly shaken. Lacroix walked over to him, grasped the back of his neck to make him meet his eyes, and asked, "Did you see? He flew without any guidance from me."
Nicholas swallowed roughly and nodded.
Lacroix continued, "You are so filled with your mortal beliefs that they impede your instincts as a vampire. Your beliefs are like the cross, Nicholas. Both affect you physically and emotionally, and you are the one giving them that power."
Nicholas nodded again as Lacroix lifted him and they flew back to their dwelling for the day.
Nick woke from his slumber at the sound of the door opening. He opened his eyes to see Lacroix walking into the room.
After everything that had happened, Nick was a little unsure on how to act or what to say to the ancient. He was saved the trouble, because Lacroix immediately started talking. "You have a visitor, mon fils." Lacroix, then, opened the door wider, and Natalie stepped into the room.
"Nick," Natalie said with relief evident in her voice.
"Nat," whispered Nick, as he sat up in bed. He raised his hand into his hair and scratched nervously. "What are you doing here?"
"I've been looking for you," she answered. "I've been worried all night, wondering what happened with the hunters." She paused to study Nick's appearance. He looked tired, and she couldn't really see if anything else was wrong with him because he was buttoned up tight in his pajamas. "Is everything okay? Are you okay?"
Nick looked down at bedspread, started rubbing his fingers over the design, and nodded. "Yes, I'm fine," he whispered.
Lacroix walked farther into the room and sat on the edge of the bed next to Nicholas. He smiled at Natalie and said, "Yes, despite being staked by one of those infuriating mortals, he is quite all right."
Natalie immediately widened her eyes and said, hurriedly, "Oh, my God, Nick! You were staked? Please, let me take a look!" She rushed to Nick's side, despite Lacroix's presence there, and tried to unbutton his shirt.
Nick squirmed and grabbed Natalie by the hands to cease her movements. "I'm fine," he insisted. "There isn't anything to see. The wound is gone—Lacroix took care of me."
Natalie glanced at Lacroix and stepped back from the bed. At hearing Lacroix's name, she was reminded that she was less than a foot away from him. "I'd still like to take a look as your doctor," she stated, keeping her eyes on Lacroix.
"It's unnecessary," insisted Nick.
Still keeping her eyes on the elder, she said, "Let me be the judge of that, and Lacroix, could you please step out and give me a moment with him alone?"
Lacroix looked briefly at Nicholas, who actually looked like he didn't want him to go, and nodded. "Of course, Doctor." He leaned close to Nicholas and whispered, "I'll be right outside if you need me." He then rose from the bed and exited the room.
As soon as the door shut, Natalie sat on the edge of the bed, facing him, and said, "Okay, Nick, what are you doing here? And, tell me what happened."
Nick really didn't want to talk about this right now. He didn't know what to tell himself, much less what to tell Natalie. He kept his gaze on the bedspread and said, "Lacroix and I tracked the hunters to an old building downtown. They had a female inside. For some reason, they thought she was a vampire, and she wasn't." Nick finally looked up and met Natalie's questioning eyes. "When we went into the room they were holding her in, a fight ensued. I tried to tell him the girl wasn't one of us, but he wouldn't listen. He tried to stake her, and in my hurry to stop him, the stake pierced my chest."
Absentmindedly, Nick rubbed where the stake had been and ceased his tale. He didn't know what else he wanted to say to her.
Natalie rubbed Nick's back, comfortingly, and questioned, "Then what happened?"
Nick let out a shaky breath and said honestly, "Nat, I really don't want to talk about this right now."
That's when she knew positively that something awful had happened. She rested both her hands in her lap and responded, "I know something happened, Nick, and I know you need to talk about it. It'll eat you up inside if you don't."
"Who says I haven't already spoken with someone?" he questioned, softly, still trying to get out of the conversation.
Natalie immediately stood and walked away from him. She was alarmed and more than a little annoyed with his obvious reluctance to let her in on what happened. "Who else could you have spoken to," she questioned, "unless you're referring to Lacroix?" She turned back to face Nick. "Please don't tell me you think Lacroix is the most suitable person to talk to about this."
Nick shook his head and looked away. "Look, Natalie, I can't deal with this right now. I have to deal with what happened on my own, and I don't need to worry about other things right now."
"Things?" questioned Natalie. "What other things? And, I can hardly believe you are handling things on your own if you're staying here with Lacroix. Nick, he manipulates you every time you are around him. You can't possibly want to stay here."
"It's daytime," Nick snapped, losing his temper. "I don't have much of a choice with where I want to spend the day, and I just don't need you judging me or telling me what to do right now!"
Nat's mouth gaped open as she listened to Nick. "Where is all this coming from?" she asked. "How am I judging you? When do I ever judge you?"
At that moment, Lacroix came back into the room and said, "I sense that you are upsetting Nicholas. I must ask you to leave."
Once again Natalie's mouth dropped open. "You're asking *me* to leave on the grounds of Nick's welfare," she questioned. "You have got to be kidding me."
Lacroix walked to Nicholas' bed and took his prior seat at his son's side. He addressed him, "Nicholas, I know you don't want to, but don't you think now would be the appropriate time to inform Dr. Lambert of your decision about the future?"
Nick squeezed his eyes shut and prepared himself for the pain he knew was coming. He knew he had to tell her, and maybe it would be easier in the presence of Lacroix. He would at least have some support. He motioned for Lacroix to get up. When the ancient complied, Nick got up as well. He went over to Natalie and grasped her hands in his.
"Nat," he said and then took a calming breath. "I don't want to get in to what happened last night, but let's just say that it's opened my eyes to a lot of things."
"What kind of things?" she asked, fearfully. Nick was scaring her and not because she thought he would hurt her. She was scared because Nick had supposedly made a decision that Lacroix actually wanted to share with her, a mere mortal.
"I realize now that I'm losing control. I'm losing the fight with my beast," he answered. "I don't have the strength or confidence to continue as I was any longer."
Tears immediately pooled into Natalie's eyes. She had an inkling of what he was trying to tell her, but she didn't want to hear it. Not now, not ever. She shook her head, "We'll find a way," she cried. "You…we…can't give up, yet, Nick. Look how far you've come."
Nick gave her a ghost of a smile. "How far have we come, Natalie? I crave blood so much that it nearly drives me insane. When I do deny myself, I grow weaker and the beast grows stronger. I'm afraid I'm going to end up killing someone…again."
Nick nodded sadly as blood tears poured from his eyes. "I starve myself, Natalie. It's not healthy for a vampire. I know that, now." Finally ready, he admitted it: "I killed a man last night, Nat, because I was hurt and hungry, and I couldn't stop myself. Maybe if I had been well-fed on human blood, I would have been able to stop. I wouldn't have had to kill for it." He remembered Lacroix's words and repeated them, "It wouldn't have been such a temptation."
Now that Nick had told her, he closed his eyes and turned away from her.
"Nick, it's not your fault," she whispered. She rested her hands on his back. "Please."
Nick looked back at her and placed both of his hands lightly on her neck and brushed her cheeks with his thumbs. "I have to learn to let go of my guilt. Otherwise, I'll never be able to live as a vampire."
"You don't want to live as a vampire," screamed Natalie.
"If I don't want to lose control, if I want to be around mortals without fighting the temptation to kill them night after night, I have to learn how to live with myself as a vampire," he explained. "There's no other way." He paused, dropped his hands from her face, and added, "It'll save lives, Nat, probably even yours."
"I don't believe that! You don't believe that," she insisted. "You said before that the guilt kept your beast in check. You said…"
"I was wrong," he answered, loudly. "My guilt keeps me from doing what I need to do to live in both the vampire and mortal societies. My guilt stops me from taking care of myself; it stops me from gaining the tools I need to be a part of the mortal world." He turned away from her again and declared, "I'm going back to Lacroix, Nat. I never truly accepted his teachings when he brought me across, but I have to, now."
"No," she whispered.
"Yes," he answered as he turned back around and looked into her eyes.
"Damn you, Nick," she cried.
Nick smiled sadly, looked down, and whispered, "I already am…and I have to learn to accept that."
He looked at Lacroix and said, "Can you escort her to the door, Lacroix? I need to…" he trailed off.
"Yes, my son," said Lacroix, taking Natalie by the elbow and leaving the upstairs apartment. As Lacroix guided her through the empty club, he smiled triumphantly.
At first Natalie was too shocked and depressed to notice, but when they reached the door and she looked at his face, she saw it. "This isn't over," she stated, finally finding a place, or rather someone, to release her emotions on. "I'm not giving up on him."
Lacroix continued to smile as he opened the door and stated, "It doesn't matter, Doctor. I have my son back, and nothing is going to change that." He pushed Natalie through the door, even though the action exposed his hands to the sunlight. "Good day, Doctor Lambert," he said happily as he closed the door and locked it.
"Yes," he thought to himself, "that was most enjoyable."
It hadn't gone nearly as badly as he thought it could have. Nick wiped the blood tears from his face as he sat on the edge of the bed and waited for Lacroix to return.
He knew Natalie had to be hurting now, because he was, as well. His decision sealed their fate in regards to their blossoming relationship which they rarely discussed. He knew Natalie would be unable to accept him as a vampire—she always saw in him his potential of being a good moral man—so the dream, the possibility that they could be together once mortality had been achieved, was over.
"It is better that it happened now instead of later, mon fils."
Nick looked up and saw Lacroix standing in the entrance to the room.
"She is still young and beautiful. She will find a mortal who can love her in ways that you cannot," his father continued.
Nick nodded and whispered, "And, I want that for her, I do. It's just going to be hard to let her go."
Lacroix sat beside him and said, "The hardest part is over. You have told her of your decision; now she will have to accept it and live with it."
"All of us will have to do that," he agreed, looking into his father's eyes.
"And, it will be easier for some than others." He couldn't help but smile at his son. He knew Nicholas knew he was happy about his decision, anyway, so why hide it? Despite his son's morose feelings, Nicholas chuckled at him.
"No doubt," replied Nick.
After a few seconds of silent contemplation—Nick thinking about Natalie and his decision, Lacroix thinking how wonderful things would be now that he had his son back—Nick scooted back farther onto the bed and said, "I suppose I should try to go back to sleep. I do have to go into work, after all."
"You're going to go in, tonight," questioned Lacroix, slightly startled. He expected he would take the night off given the recent events.
"They don't know what's happened," reasoned Nick. "Besides it'll help me keep my mind off of things I don't want to think about."
"Very well, mon fils," responded Lacroix. He watched as Nicholas crawled under the covers and settle down. "Good day."
"Good day, Lacroix."
Nick woke up to sound of liquid being swished inches away from his head and the smell of blood. He opened his eyes and saw Lacroix holding a coffee mug in front of his face. He immediately sat up and Lacroix pulled the cup back to give Nick room. Once Nick was leaning against the bed's headboard, Lacroix handed him the warm cup.
Nick held the blood in his hands and stared at it. It had been a long time since he took the time to heat up his own blood. The heat radiating from the cup gave the blood the illusion of being fresh, and he didn't have any doubt that it was human. He knew the taste would be exquisite —Lacroix only served the best. It was so tempting. He looked up at Lacroix, instinctively ready to give the mug back.
Lacroix knew what his son was about to do and smiled as he watched the realization that he didn't have to give it back appeared on Nicholas' face. He couldn't mimic the expression if he tried: Nicholas looked surprised, relieved, and disgusted all at the same time. He patted Nicholas on the back of the head and said, "You have always allowed your human qualities to guide your instincts. Even now, after making your decision to return to the fold, your first response is to reject the nourishment and power human blood provides us."
"I'm sorry, Lacroix," stated Nick. "It's going to take some time to get out of the habit, I'm afraid."
Lacroix nodded and said, "I know, but you'll get there."
Nick looked back at the blood and brought the cup to his lips. It's not like he hadn't had human blood recently. He drank some before they found the hunters, and he wasn't even going to think about the other time. As anticipated, the blood was one of the best vintages he had ever tasted. It was from a woman who was barely twenty-two. She was giving her blood in the hopes of saving a life. Her mother had died, when she was a preteen, from blood loss because the hospital had not readily had her mother's blood type in supply the night she was brought in from a car accident. So much emotion was in the blood, and she clearly did not intend for her offering to wind up feeding vampires. The thought saddened him, but he continued to drink, anyway.
Lacroix' voice brought him out of his reverie. "I want you to do something for me, tonight."
Nick met his gaze but didn't respond. He waited to hear what his father wanted.
"I want you to drink your fill of human blood, and when you go home tonight, I want you to inform me on how it went. I want you to take note if being around your mortal friends was any easier. Will you do this for me?"
Nick couldn't help but smile. Already his father was trying to compile evidence to prove that his decision to return to the fold was the right one before he even gave an inkling of doubt. But if he was honest with himself, he had already decided to do what was asked of him, anyway. He nodded at his master and said, "I will, but get out of here, so I can get dressed."
Lacroix nodded once and retreated down the hall. Despite his departure, Nick could feel his master's intense approval.
The precinct looked as it always had. Captain Reese was in his office talking on the phone, Schultz was at the water cooler spreading around the latest gossip—hopefully, it wasn't about him this time—to the rookie cops who were too fresh out of the academy to know any better than to listen and laugh because it was so close to the captain's office…the list could go on. He didn't know why he expected the precinct to be any different tonight. He supposed since a huge changed occurred in his life, he felt that the rest of the world should reflect that change, as well.
He walked to his desk and sat down, finally taking notice of Tracy, whose back was previously to him. As he met her gaze, he was shocked to see anger there. Now, that was something different.
"Okay," she said after taking a purposeful dramatic breath, "I'm listening."
"What?" Nick had no clue what she was talking about.
Tracy's gaze shifted to the paperwork that was still sitting on the side of their desks and looked back at him. "I had expected that pile to be greatly diminished when I returned last night, Nicholas B. Knight, and can you imagine my surprise when I discovered it was not?"
"Tracy…" he began, but then he realized he didn't really have a justifiable explanation. The truth would only anger her further.
Tracy widened her eyes and shook her head at him once in a gesture which implied that she was waiting. After the silence grew, she decided she tortured him long enough. "I spoke to Nat." She was surprised to see Nick's neck snap attention at the mention of the coroner's name—he looked nervous.
"When?" he stammered. "About what?
"Last night," she answered, "and about you, of course. I must admit I was so angry with you, but Natalie convinced me something was going on and you didn't feel like you could trust many people…but I'm your partner, Nick. We need to start trusting each other."
Nick opened his mouth to respond, but Tracy kept going.
"Now, I know we spent the beginning of our partnership keeping informants to ourselves and going off on leads on our own, but I don't want to do that, anymore. I'm your partner and you're mine. Captain Reese is right—we need to get on the same page, and the best way to do that is to be friends and develop a strong trust."
"You are my friend, and I do trust you," he answered, truthfully. "It's just that sometimes there are things you can't share."
"But Natalie knows," she rebutted. "I know she knows, and she didn't deny it. She told me to wait to hear you out, so that's what I'm doing. Where were you last night, Nick? Tell me."
Nick knew this could be a deal-breaker in their partnership. He had to tell her something, but he also knew he couldn't do it here. "When we go out, okay?"
Tracy nodded and answered, "Of course."
For the first time since becoming a detective in Toronto, Nick was reluctant to leave the precinct, and he knew Tracy knew what he was doing. Just when he had the feeling Tracy was going to call him on it and drag him to the Caddy, he heard Natalie's heartbeat approaching the squad room. Not feeling ready for a confrontation that he knew was inevitable, he jumped to his feet and said, "Let's go, partner."
"It's about time," she said, as she grabbed her coat.
As Tracy and Nick were leaving, Natalie was coming in. "Nick," called Natalie, as they walked by each other. Nick turned around but kept moving backwards. "Sorry, Nat. We have to go. I'll talk to you later."
Tracy followed her partner's lead and nodded. "Yeah, sorry, Nat."
As soon as they were in the protection of the Caddy, Tracy said, "See, being partners has its benefits. I backed you up even if I have no clue why you're avoiding Nat. You know it's more believable when your partner agrees that we're busy and have to leave."
Nick briefly glanced at Tracy and started the engine.
As he pulled out of the parking lot, Tracy was like a hound on a mission. "Okay, talk."
"He's avoiding me," Nat thought, sadly, as she watched the Caddy pull away. "I wonder what he's thinking." From his reaction, she knew it couldn't be good. And, could she blame him?
For as long as she knew him, Nat knew she had inadvertently taught Nick what he thought she expected out of him. And, she had to admit, she did expect those things: she didn't want him drinking blood at all, even cow's blood. She didn't want him to go out flying, because it was one of the appeals to being a vampire. She didn't want him to use his powers to bring in a suspect…but she thought that's what he wanted, too. She simply thought she needed someone to keep him honest and true to his desires. Now that he revealed he was going back to Lacroix, she didn't know how to feel or what he really wanted. That's why she wanted to talk to him.
Was Nick doing this in reaction to his accidental killing of the hunter, or had he been contemplating it for a while? As much as she didn't want to believe it, the latter was quite possible. Nick had never really given himself one hundred percent to the treatments she prescribed him. He never stopped drinking blood for a lengthy period of time. Well, there was that one time, but he hadn't eaten anything else, either, so she had to give him Schanke's blood.
She shook her head as she contemplated it all. She couldn't have him avoiding her. They had to talk this out, and they had to do it as soon as possible. Determined, she walked back to her car and headed towards the loft. She'd be waiting on him when he arrived home.
This wasn't the first time, nor did he expect it to be the last time, he had to make a decision like this. Would he tell Tracy the truth of his existence? She already knew about vampires. She knew about Vachon and Screed, after all. He knew she would be mad at first that he kept it a secret, but he didn't have any doubt that he could convince her that his silence had been prudent at the time. That is, if he told her anything at all. He knew she was waiting on an answer and she wanted it now.
"I lied yesterday," he finally said.
Tracy nodded. "I know."
When she didn't add anything else, he fidgeted. "Look," he said, finally. He glanced at her and saw that she was staring openly at him. "I'm going to tell you something I have only told a few selected individuals throughout my life. I just want you to hear me out before you say anything."
Nick took a deep breath and began. "It was probably a despicable thing to do, but I purposely sent you on the next-of-kin notification, because it would get you out of the way. The truth is I had something to do, and I didn't want you to get hurt, which would be a real possibility if I took you with me."
"I can take care of myself," Tracy interrupted. At Nick's glare, she lifted her hands in defeat and said, "Sorry, I forgot." She brought her hand across her lips to motion that she was zipping them.
Nick continued, "I knew who was responsible for the Whiteside Warehouse killings." He paused and watched Tracy's eyes grow large. He could tell she wanted to say something but was literally biting the inside of her cheek to stop herself, so he hurried to explain himself. "Well, I didn't have any names, but I knew what group as responsible."
Tracy couldn't help but respond. "Group? You mean a gang?"
"Sort of. Tracy, the men at the warehouse who were killed were hunters."
"Hunters," she questioned. "What do you mean?"
"Vampire hunters," he clarified.
Tracy's eyes widened to the size of a two dollar coin.
"Yes, I know vampires are real, and even more pertinent to our case, I know vampire hunters are real, and the killings at the warehouse are not what you think."
"What are they?" she whispered.
"The hunters were in the city to simply kill vampires. It didn't matter who they were or what they had or hadn't done. They were killing indiscriminately. They were the perpetrators, not the victims."
"Okay," said Tracy, absorbing the information, "but you're saying this in the past tense. Have the hunters left?"
"In a way," he replied. He took another deep breath.
"Last night I needed you out of the way, because I was going after the hunters."
"And, what happened?" asked Tracy hurriedly. "I didn't see you bring anyone in. I haven't heard you mention anything to anyone."
"You wouldn't have because I didn't tell anyone and I didn't bring anyone in. Tracy, the hunters are dead."
Tracy gasped. "You killed them?"
"I killed one accidentally." He swallowed roughly. "My master killed the others."
"Your master?" she questioned. Her brows furrowed.
Nick nodded and explained, "I'm a vampire, Tracy."
Tracy widened her eyes and then abruptly laughed. "Oh, you really had me going there for a second, Nick. You're a vampire and you killed a hunter…ha, ha. And, here I was thinking you were finally opening up to me."
Nick pulled the Caddy to the side of the road and put it in park. He turned to Tracy and said, "I'm serious. Think about it like a cop, Tracy. I have a sun allergy, I never go out during the day, and you've never seen me eat. Isn't that odd?"
"Yeah, well, you are odd," she answered.
Nick nodded. "Precisely. Look, I know about Vachon and Screed. I've always known."
Tracy's lip quivered at the news. She didn't know whether she wanted to cry or strike him. "Why didn't you ever tell me, if you knew," she cried.
"It was too dangerous! I know Vachon told you about the Code. The fewer vampires you knew the better. And, I'm already on the Enforcers' watch list, so I didn't want to put you in jeopardy."
Tracy turned in her seat to face him square on. "I suppose I can understand that, so why are you all of a sudden telling me now?"
He sighed and said, "I suppose I need someone to talk to. Someone who isn't Lacroix or Natalie."
"Lacroix? You mean Lucien Lacroix from the Raven?"
"Uh, oh!" Nick thought, "Here comes the explosion."
He dropped the bombshell. "Yes, he's my master."
Tracy shook her head as she looked down at her lap. "We investigated him!" she exclaimed as she realized the ramifications of his disclosure and met his gaze again. "Did you even put any effort into it?"
Nick furrowed his brows and said, "Believe it or not, my father and I, at that time, had not been on the best of terms for many, many years. Yes, and I'm even saying that in vampire terms. He wasn't guilty of the crime, but another vampire was."
Tracy reached her hand across the seat and gave Nick's right hand which was resting on the seat beside him a squeeze. "I'm sorry. This is just a lot to process."
"Believe me, I know," he said, squeezing her hand in return. "Anyway, like I was saying, I need to talk to someone besides Lacroix and Natalie. For a very long time, I have been trying to regain my mortality, and recently, because of what happened with the hunters, I have decided to halt my search."
"Why? Why would you want to become mortal again, and why are you halting the search?"
Nick chuckled. "You almost sounded like Lacroix for a second. I was searching for a cure, because I want to have a normal life. I wanted to find love, have children, and grow old with someone. It's not the same when you're a vampire."
"And, you don't want those things anymore?"
"I do, but I don't think I can ever have them. There might not be a cure, but the point is that I enjoy living my mortal life and sustaining from blood like Natalie wants me to do has only weakened me and made the desire for blood even stronger than it has ever been."
Now Tracy was starting to see the bigger picture. "So, now, you have decided to remain a vampire, and you were avoiding Natalie earlier because…you didn't want to tell her?"
"She knows," he answered. "I suppose I just don't want to face her so soon. You have no idea the tigress she can be when it comes to my 'backsliding.' She literally comes into my loft all the time and starts taking blood out of the fridge so I can't have them. If I say anything, I get a huge lecture. You wouldn't believe how many times I've wanted to…"
He stopped when he heard his partner laugh. He saw her smile and returned it.
"You know, if it was any other vampire, I bet she would have had her fingers bitten off," she giggled.
Nick nodded. "Or, she might have ended up being lunch." He shook his head and said, "Thank you."
"For just listening, making yourself available to hear it, and allowing me to laugh about it. I can't believe how well you're taking the news."
"Well, it isn't too hard when I already knew about vampires. I don't know why I didn't put two and two together. But now that I do know, no more secrets, deal?"
As Nick pulled the Caddy back onto the road, Tracy asked, "So, how old are you anyway?"
When Nick replied, she gasped.
Nick was all smiles when he arrived at the loft after his shift. He was so glad Tracy took the news well, and he spent the better part of the night telling her of his past. She briefly caught him up on what she knew about Cody Astroph and his missing friend, but the night had been Nick's. It was his night to vent, and he had to admit, he needed it.
When he slid the door open to his loft, he immediately stopped. He was so caught up in his thoughts of the night that he had missed the sound of Nat's heartbeat until it was too late.
Before he could even step foot out of the lift, she was walking toward him and had noticed the smile that was covering his face had fallen. "Is my presence that bad?" she asked in a tone that indicated her pain at the possibility.
"No, no," Nick replied quickly. "I just wasn't expecting you to be here."
Nat nodded and waved her hand toward the couch. "I've been waiting for you. I think it's time we had a little chat."
Nick nodded and proceeded to the couch ahead of her. When they both sat down, Nick simply stared at her.
Nat slapped her knees when it became obvious she was going to have to start the discussion. "Okay," she stated. She turned to face him and said, "Nick, I need to know what you really want."
Nick nodded while she continued.
"For so long you have stated that you want to be mortal, and now, you say you want to live as a vampire. Is that what you really want?"
"I don't have a choice," he answered.
"That's not what I asked."
Nick sighed dramatically, stood up, and started pacing the room. "Does it even matter?" he questioned.
"It does to me," she insisted, firmly.
"I don't want to go back to the hunt," he answered after several seconds of hesitation. "And, I'm not going back to it. Lacroix knows that and accepts it. I'm simply unable to deny who and what I am, Nat." He turned his back to her and stopped his pacing. "I tried so hard to be the man you thought I could be."
Nat stood, walked over to him, and placed her hands on his back and arm. "Nick," she whispered, "you never had to try. Vampire or not, you are a good and honest man."
Nick turned back to face her. "A good and honest man," he repeated, shaking his head. "Nat, I'm going back to Lacroix and I'm drinking human blood again. Can you continue to be my friend knowing that? You could never bear the thought of either possibility in the past."
"Because I knew you didn't want either," she answered. "And, I'm still unconvinced that has changed."
Nick squeezed his eyes shut and said, "I'm telling you the truth in the only way I know how. I'm going back to Lacroix because I want to."
She shook her head. "No, I think you're going back to him because you're afraid of killing another human. He's manipulated you, and you don't even see it."
Nick felt his eyes flash red briefly and his gums started tingling where his eyeteeth protrude. "How has he manipulated me?" he growled. "He has only done what I have asked of him and no more. And, yes, I am afraid of killing another human being, and you want to know what I have discovered tonight?"
When Natalie didn't answer, he continued. "I discovered he is right! Before my shift, I drank human blood until I almost gorged myself. I haven't done that in years, a century or more. When I got to work, I saw that the world didn't end, and even more importantly, things were a lot easier." He started to pace again as he continued to talk. "I was able to laugh and joke with Tracy. When she squeezed my hand while we were talking or hugged me when I dropped her off at the precinct, I didn't feel the urge to bite her. Do you have any idea how long it's been since I haven't been tempted by my co-workers? I was walking around in a constant state of hunger and denial…but tonight was like the whole world opened up for me. I saw how relaxed I could have been all this time. I saw how much closer I could be to humans if I had only given my body what it needed and craved."
Natalie walked into the path he was pacing and touched his shoulder to stop him. When their eyes met she whispered, "And, maybe that relaxed state might cause something you don't want."
Nick's eyes turned a bright green and he shook his head angrily. "Why can't you trust me?"
"I do," she insisted. "I just don't want to see you get hurt. Besides, look at you, now. You usually never let me see the vampire."
Nick nodded, "And, that's precisely the problem we have." He grabbed her forearms and backed her against the wall. "You don't know the real me. Hell, I haven't known the real me for a long time."
Natalie opened her mouth to protest, and Nick quickly met her lips with a kiss.
To say Natalie was shocked would be an understatement. The kiss was not of the variety they usually shared. This was full of passion and she could feel herself succumbing to her long denied desires. Their tongues battled and when hers finally slipped into his mouth, she ran it slowly across each of his fangs. As she was doing this, she felt continuous shivers run through Nick's body and heard a long growl.
Nick pulled away to stare at her; his eyes were now blazing red. "I would not have been able to do that and have you still standing here before me alive if I had not been well-fed on human blood." He leaned forward one more time and kissed her lips chastely.
He walked away and sat down on the couch, leaving her standing there savoring and remembering the feel of his lips on hers.
When she turned to face him and walk over to the couch, she said, "Well, that was unexpected."
She sat down facing him. She tucked her left leg under her, so her knee was slightly resting on his right thigh. "I'm afraid for you, Nick," she admitted. "I'm afraid that if you go down this path you'll never be able to break free of Lacroix ever again. You told me how hard it was to leave him the first time."
Nick nodded. "Maybe that's because I was never supposed to."
"Oh, I'm sure that's what Lacroix wants you to think…"
"Just let me try, Nat," Nick interrupted.
Nat bit her lip and said, "I don't know if I can. How can I stand by and watch a friend—my best friend—do something that I know is a mistake?"
Nick looked down into his lap. "How can you know it's a mistake, Nat? You're not a vampire. You do not have an inkling how I feel now or how I have felt throughout the centuries. Maybe if I had accepted myself and my choice from the first night, things would be different."
"Yes, you would be a killer," yelled Nat, becoming angry.
"I ALREADY AM," Nick exploded.
"You are not a killer, and I'm sick of you using that as an excuse," Natalie stated, still fuming.
Nick rose from the couch and walked away from her. "You wouldn't say that if you knew everything I have done. I killed people for the pleasure of it, Nat. It wasn't because I was starving. It wasn't because Lacroix made me do it. I killed because I wanted to." He paused and added calmly, "At least most of the time, anyway."
"But that's in that past. That isn't who you are, anymore," she replied adamantly.
Nick walked to his fireplace and stared into the fire where he had burned the virtual reality game that had given him a little relief from his vampiric urges. "I still want to kill," he whispered.
Natalie knew he had said something, but she didn't hear exactly what. "What did you say?"
He turned to her and answered loudly, "I said it isn't in the past. I do want to kill again." He shook his head and said, "Ever since the demon…and sometimes, in certain instances, before then, as well. The urge has never really left. It's part of what I am."
"That's Lacroix talking," she insisted.
Nick clenched his teeth and spat, "Why is it every time I say something you don't like, you think it's something Lacroix has instilled into me?"
Natalie let out a "pssshhhhh." and replied, "Because he's evil and it usually is."
"Lacroix hasn't done anything this time, Nat. He's done nothing but try to help me."
"I'm sure he has," she mumbled, as Nick shook his head in disbelief.
"He's part of my life, Nat," he stated, calmly. "He's my master, my father."
Natalie continued to sit there and watch him until she finally asked, "Do you even want to be friends, Nick? You know Lacroix doesn't like me, and it won't be long before he tries to turn you against me if he hasn't already."
"He hasn't and he won't, but the question is do you still want to be friends given my decision?" he inquired.
"Oh, no, I asked first," she replied.
"I do, but things have got to change." He closed his eyes and knew his words were going to be hard for him to say and hard for her to hear. "You can't come in here and start emptying my fridge just because you don't want me drinking human blood anymore. You have to stop making me feel like…I'm wrong for drinking blood when I do in front of you. You have to stop getting on to me when I use my abilities to help someone. And, you have to stop thinking Lacroix is the devil and blaming him for my decisions. I'm guilty enough of that as it is, and I suppose it's my fault that you feel the way you do about him, but he isn't all bad. He's my closest friend." He shook his head and said, "Lacroix and I have come to an understanding, and now, you and I have to. Can you accept these terms?"
"I suppose I don't have a choice," she answered, "but know this, I'm not giving you up without a fight."
Nick walked over to her and took both of her hands in his. "You haven't lost me, Nat. I'm just switching diets and accepting Lacroix's presence once in a while. How much trouble can that bring?"
"How many times have you asked yourself that in the past and regretted it?" she countered.
He opened his mouth to say "never," but suddenly realized that might be a lie.
Lacroix finished his last monologue of the night and signed off the air. The Nightcrawler's message tonight was of lost loved ones. How fortunate he did not have a sad tale like the ones most of his callers had shared. No, his story had a happy ending as he always knew it would. His son was back.
He went upstairs to wait for his son. He knew Nicholas' shift was over and the boy had promised to inform him of how the night went. When an hour passed, he decided to take matters into his own hands and find out for himself. He went out the skylight and flew to his son's loft.
Before he even set his feet on the floor, he knew the night had been trying for his son. "Such a pity," he thought to himself. He had been so sure Nicholas would realize his folly in denying himself human blood on this very night. Instead, he found him moping on the couch, staring at the blank screen of his television set.
"Bad night?" he asked as he came to stand behind his son.
"Not entirely," Nick replied. He suspected his father would show up since he hadn't contacted him like he promised he would. He wasn't sure if he was grateful or annoyed to find out he was right.
Lacroix stayed where he was and did not move a muscle. He was going to stay there until he discovered whether his son wanted him there or not.
Eventually, Nick leaned his head on the back of the couch and sighed. "Sit down, Lacroix."
The ancient chuckled and took a seat in the chair across from the couch but facing the television. "I know you and the mortals seem to find this box quite appealing, but to tell you the truth, I don't see why you have been staring at it for so long. It's quite dull."
Nick smiled and shook his head. "I was just thinking."
Lacroix stood up, picked the chair up to face Nick, and sat back down.
"You could have just come over and sit by me if you wanted to face me," he complained, not really meaning it.
Lacroix smiled and said, "But this seat is more comfortable. Now, tell me what you were thinking."
Nick smiled and said, "I was contemplating the night's events."
Nick shook his head with a smile at his father's insistence. "You were right. Tonight was easier than it's been in a long time. I was able to spend time with Tracy and Natalie without even once wanting to kill them in bloodlust, even when Natalie made me angry."
Lacroix raised one eyebrow and said, "Oh, the good doctor made you angry. What devilment is she wreaking upon you now, Nicholas?"
"Don't you start, too," snapped Nick, as he glared at him.
Lacroix chuckled and said, "Ah, I see. So, she thinks I am the one wreaking havoc upon you, does she?"
"Something like that," admitted Nick. "She thinks my decision was influenced by you somehow. I don't know. She thinks you're evil incarnate, but I suppose I have myself to thank for that."
"Indeed," answered Lacroix. "Tell me, Nicholas, just what have you told the doctor about me?"
Nick shrugged. "Just different stories throughout the centuries. They were usually memories brought on by a case I was working on."
"And, I suppose they were none too flattering."
Nick looked regretful. "We haven't always had the best of times, Lacroix."
"But nor have we had all bad ones, either. You did not tell her of the good times."
Nick nodded and said, "I will rectify the situation. I told her you were my closest friend. I just know she doesn't believe it, yet. She thinks I'm going to eventually regret trusting you."
"Do you think you will, mon fils?"
Nick went to his father and answered, "No, I think this time—after everything we have been through in this life—we have come to realize our mistakes and how much family means to each other."
Lacroix momentarily thought of Divia and nodded. "Yes," he stated simply, stood, and pulled Nicholas into a firm embrace.
"I am so happy you have returned, Nicholas," whispered Lacroix into his ear. "You have no idea how long I dreamed of this, to have you here, accepting my presence and help. It's all I've ever wanted."
Nick returned the embrace and chose to memorize the Roman's words, because he knew he probably wouldn't hear anything again in a very long time. Suddenly, Nick felt Lacroix run a finger down his neck. He shivered as Lacroix asked, "May I?"
"Yes," he answered, and then both vampires bit each other's necks.
Sometimes there were moments—oh, who was he kidding?—Lacroix had countless moments when he found himself thanking the Gods for the gifts he had received so long ago. The gift he was currently grateful for was the ability to know a person through their blood. It always kept him two steps ahead of the game, and when he was dealing with Nicholas, he knew the head start was a must.
He had read through his son's blood that his partner and he were going to be searching for Billy Myers. It was a name he knew all too well. Normally, he didn't associate with hunters. He preferred to kill them and be done with it, but he hadn't with this one, because he had seen the benefits of having one at his beck-and-call.
Billy was a misfit. He had never fit in and he was always looking for money and a good time. It was one he could easily control, but now, he was proving to be more of a handful than he had anticipated. If Nicholas ever found out he had orchestrated the kills in Toronto, he knew their current accord would be over and there would not be another chance for reconciliation for at least a millennium. No, he couldn't allow that. So, he knew what he had to do. He had to find Billy Myers before Nicholas did and silence him for good.
The only problem was that he had told the hunter he never wanted to see him in Toronto again. If the hunter had listened and left, it wouldn't be a problem, but he also knew it was very probable the miscreant was still here, avoiding him, but trying to find another vampire or hunter who was willing to pay him to fight. He should have known better, but the results had been worth it. He just hoped he wouldn't regret it in the end. No, he wouldn't-he'd make sure of it.
He looked over at his son who was lying on the bed next to him. No, he couldn't lose him again, not now, not ever. For now, his son's denial of his true nature was over, but he knew if Billy Myers was found or if Natalie Lambert had her way, Nicholas would run again. He had to ensure those things would never happen…
TO BE CONTINUED
As you know, this was written for the scifibigbang community on Livejournal, but I hope everyone is enjoying the story. Let me know if you're interested in this story continuing, regardless of whether the bigbang continues or not!