Disclaimer: I obviously own nothing, sadly. All characters, situations etc are copyright Lifetime and Tanya Huff blahblahblah…on with the story!
To say the night had been long was to understate the situation completely.
Somehow, Mike had found himself battling ancient creatures, driving a sleepy vampire home in the dusty, orange daylight, witnessing the apparent madness of an innocent young girl and now he was sitting, thinking things through, as the love of his life slumbered peacefully through the morning. He ran his fingers through soft waves of greying, but mostly brown hair, ruffling it slightly to remove the few remaining clumps of ash that had found their way there, as he contemplated the night's extraordinary events.
His head pounded mercilessly as he rested it in his palm, the smell of fire and blackened snow still pungent in the air he breathed, though he knew it was miles away, locked in the recesses of memory forever more. The darkness of Coreen's eyes had filled him with a sadness he had rarely felt, as if the person he once knew had disappeared into the night without a trace – she didn't realise he had seen that, and likely didn't notice anyone else around her as she battled the ancient vampire with cold efficiency. The sense of loss was too painful to bear; he had effectively lost two people during one night, as now the creeping doubts of Vicki's allegiance to Henry, exacerbated by the blood he had given to ensure her survival, flowed through him with sickening fury. He had done what he could, risked his own life and reputation amongst the dark underworld of the city, and what for? He couldn't rescue Vicki in the end, or even Coreen, and he was more the underdog against the undead now than he ever had been before. He had failed, yet again, and the sting of failure lumped heavily in his throat as he repressed his own fury.
After what seemed to be an age of pacing to and fro, ruminating on what exactly had happened and what he could do to make amends for his failure, she stirred, breathing the morning air in deeply as her eyes opened blearily; he sat on his singular chair in front of the couch she lay on and took her hand with loving gentleness, ready to give all the love he had and expecting no reciprocation on her part. It was something he had grown accustomed to, as much as it hurt the very bones of him when he allowed himself time to think about it, but he knew he had to do it. It was for her sake, as well as his.
"Hey Mike," Vicki breathed quietly into the still, brightening air between them. He smiled simply in response, and she absorbed the detail of the skin at the corner of his eyes as if it were the last time she would ever see him, the crinkles of warmth providing much needed comfort. "You okay?"
"I'm fine. I could probably use some sleep, but I'll survive," he said gently, his thumb softly caressing the cold, soft skin of her hand. "How're you feeling?"
"Pissed off, mostly," she sighed. "A little confused but, physically, I'm…well, I'm fine."
"Good," Mike replied briskly, eager to avoid a further conversation on the effects the vampire's blood had on her vitality, lest it hurt his mortal chivalry. "Coffee?"
"Yes," she replied emphatically. "Lots of it, please."
"Stay put. I'll be right back."
Vicki smiled politely as he left the room, broad shoulders disappearing into the greyish shadows just visible beyond the office door. It left her time to exhale, to examine herself and work out what her next move needed to be. She stood quickly, with a fluidity she never really knew she possessed, and covered her eyes with a cool hand as the sun shone brightly into them, the now yellowing light flashing painfully through the back of her head. A slight shiver ran over her hand, lifting the tiny hairs on end, though she felt no real discomfort; instead, she felt more fatigued than she had done in a very long time, to which she attributed the long night she had suffered through.
She wandered to a darker part of the room where the bright morning sunlight had not yet permeated, hands absent mindedly wandering to the back of her head, then to her neck, where her most grievous injuries had been, only to find no trace left of them whatsoever. It was a strangely alien feeling, to have been in such agonising pain, a mere breath away from death, and to now be better than she felt before the saga had begun; it had left her in a sort of dreamlike state, and she half expected a parade of pink elephants to march through the front door, after which she would wake up in that dark, dusty cellar of nightmares, blood running lazily down the side of her neck whilst Christina smirked infuriatingly.
A tumult of emotion shuddered through her as Christina's arrogant, self-satisfied smile hung vaguely before her eyes, and the thought of Coreen under her control simply terrified her. She knew know, of course, what had happened, and couldn't help but feel entirely responsible. This was the second time her young assistant had been used against her and injured in the process, the thought of which pulsed fury, driven by intense guilt, through her entire body. She too had seen Coreen fight to the death, killing the creature without remorse or hesitation; she had risked it all to save Christina, even when her own friend lay dying on the floor just metres away.
There was no time to spare, no time to plan ahead or take precautions – every minute she waited, Coreen was in further danger of death, or worse. She moved as quickly as she could to collect her things, shoving her glasses on unceremoniously as she picked up the baton lying in wait on the lacquered wood of the desk. Her heavy fatigue threatened to choke her, slowing her footsteps and slurring her movements as she went, though she was determined to shake it off, believing that she would eventually outrun it. Her short, black leather jacket was freezing cold in the wintry air as she pulled it on, letting the cold sink in to help wake her.
Mike opened the door quietly, taking particular care to avoid the squeaking of the door hinges in case Vicki was still resting, only to find her roughly tying her soft, brown hair up and out of her way. She spun round, caught in the act, and he cast her a surprisingly sympathetic look.
"I know you want to go for Coreen, Vic," he began softly, trying to retain his patience which neither of them were known for particularly. "But we have to wait. You'll be weaker out there than normal, it's a bright day – I mean, you do remember…last night? With, uh, Henry?"
"Of course I remember," she replied, her tone a little brusque to mask the awkwardness of the matter. She hadn't expected to be confronted about this so soon, and it wasn't exactly the easiest conversation they'd ever had. "I'm fine. A little tired, but it'll pass. I saw Coreen during the day after what happened to her and I'm nothing like how she was – she couldn't even step into the sunlight without it burning her, but look – " she stepped into the harsh light of the sun to demonstrate her point, furiously repressing the urge to raise her hand to cover her pained eyes. "I'm okay, really."
"Do you think I'm crazy? Is it the beard?" he asked, sarcasm being the only thing he could use to reason with her when she was in such an unreasonable mood, the stern yet mocking tone of his voice fighting with her insistence on bustling around the office, pocketing things that she might need seemingly at random. "You're not going."
"We can talk about the beard later – and believe me, we will talk about it – but I have to do this now. If I can find Christina before sundown she doesn't stand a chance against me, and if we kill her then maybe Coreen will be back to her normal self again. Plus, I've got a secret weapon. You'll remember this, when you see it," she said, a slight note of spite permeating her usually calm tone as she opened the desk drawer and lifted the bottom panel, only to find the space suspiciously empty. "Where the hell is it?" she murmured to herself, feeling the wood in disbelief as though the item she was looking for, the one thing that gave her an undeniable advantage against the vampire, had somehow become invisible. She patted her coat and jeans, the latter of which she had not changed since the previous night, finding only emptiness yet again. "I don't believe this."
"What? What're you looking for?" Mike asked, puzzled by the expression of deep concern lining her tired face.
"The Illuminacion Del Sol," Vicki replied soberly. "It's gone."
"I didn't know you kept it." He moved over to her, laying his hand on her arm to comfort her obvious grief, though her response was minimal. The news was somewhat reassuring, as if it were proof that she did, in fact, listen to him – as though she knew Henry would be trouble one day and was prepared for it. He was almost proud of her, relieved with her return to the logical order of things where vampires weren't friends, or lovers, and instead were to be kept at arms length; he only wondered what sort of turn this attitude she might take now she had shared his blood, now she had been pulled further away from him than he had ever expected. He watched her, hair glinting with light brown hues in the yellowing sunlight, as she searched frantically for the artifact, all the time wondering what would become of her, and what he could do to stop it; for now, though, he'd settle for aiding and abetting. At least she'd know he was there when Henry couldn't be. "Where was the last place you saw it?"
"I had it last night. I used to keep in the drawer, just in case, and when Coreen went back to her apartment in the evening I brought it with me in case Christina showed up. I don't remember having it after that."
"So Christina's got it. Which means – "
"It means," she interrupted impatiently. "I have to find her now, while she's completely helpless."
"Vicki, for god's sake," Mike said abruptly, grabbing her roughly by the shoulders. "You can't do this. For one thing, you have no way of finding her, but even if you did find her, do you really think she won't find some way to put up a fight? She'll kill you!"
Vicki pushed his arm away, angered with his bluntness as he looked away from her furious gaze. "Do you want me to leave Coreen to die then? Is that it?"
"I'm not saying that, but we need to find a way of not getting ourselves killed in the process – "
"We? There's no 'we', Mike. I'll find her and I'll kill her, so get the hell out of my way or we'll have a repeat of that incident in Montreal."
She stormed off towards the door, Mike following persistently behind her as she cursed him to leave her alone; yet, just as she reached the familiar, frosted glass window, a shadow appeared just beyond and an urgent knock sounded into the fray.
Vicki sighed; these obstacles were becoming exponentially more tedious and irritating as they occurred. She swung open the door, half expecting to find some sort of door-to-door salesperson she could vent on, but instead found an immaculately dressed young girl with short, yellow-blonde hair standing confidently in front of her. The girl removed her heavy sunglasses, as if to get a better look at her audience, and gazed straight at Vicki with eyes that shone blue through the greyish shadows of the corridor beyond, sparkling with a certain effervescence despite the tiredness showing in the creases at the corner of each eye.
She spoke urgently, with an accent steeped in French-Canadian roots: "Vicki Nelson, I take it?"
"Now's not a great time," she replied, her voice warm yet slightly impatient. "Let me give you my card, and maybe – " The PI was interrupted as the girl walked straight past her, her face a picture of frustrated urgency. " – you could just walk in, like you do. Do I get the honour of knowing the name of the person who has just invited herself into my office?"
"Amelie," the girl said enigmatically. "I'm here to help – I can help you find her."
The look of shock was difficult for her to hide. "You mean Christina? You know where she is? How?" she demanded, watching the new arrival closely as she perched against a filing cabinet, careful to avoid the bright beams of sunlight spilling the day into the office.
"I was hers," she replied simply, a sigh escaping thin lips, pale in the darkness. "I followed her everywhere, I devoted myself to her for years. We were happy, or at least I was. I'm linked to her in a way I never thought possible…but things have changed."
"You two were…lovers?" Vicki asked gingerly, looking at Mike with sheer disbelief as he crossed his arms, knowing the situation could only have ended badly. She felt a stab of sympathy for the girl already, as she of all people knew that Christina was incapable of loving anyone other than herself.
"At first. We met in Quebec; it started about four years ago, when I was modeling for her – she's a pho-"
"A photographer, I know – more than I care to know, in fact. What did she do to you?"
"I spent a lot of time with her, like anyone does when they're getting to know someone, you know? We weren't dating or anything, but there was…something between us. Something that kept me coming back to her, a mystery about her that I was dying to unravel. I found out of course – she told me after a while, after we had become, well, intimate I guess."
"Don't feel bad," Vicki said gently, aware of a change in the girl's tone – the earlier confidence had been replaced by young insecurity, something she had seen a thousand times before in many relationships, including her own. "There's no way you could've known."
"I probably should've guessed," she replied, laughing slightly as the words escaped her. "She was impossible to get hold of during the day, we'd be up until sunrise before she'd disappear into her own space – she didn't eat or drink in front of me either."
"Hindsight is always 20:20," Mike offered, drawing an appreciative smile from the girl, who in turn seemed to be becoming increasingly vulnerable as time drew on. "I know several people who'd give testimony to that."
"So what happened in the end?" Vicki asked cautiously, careful to appear gentle in her questioning.
"I asked her to turn me. I know it was stupid," she said pointedly, noticing a slight shift of disapproval in the PI's eyes as she looked away. "I was just caught up in the whirlwind of it all – I couldn't get past the romantic idea of spending an eternity with her, of us being a physical part of each other. And really, who'd turn down the opportunity to be young forever? Plenty of people pay for that privilege."
"You probably got a lucky escape," Mike murmured to himself. Vicki glared back at him.
"But she didn't turn you. What did she do?"
"She pretended as if she were turning me – she, uh, fed from me, then she gave me her blood, but she didn't take enough of me to make me into one of them. I wasn't close enough to death when she gave me her blood, so I just…stayed alive, sort of." Amelie relayed. A bitterness pierced her tone as she recounted the events of the night that had changed her life. "I woke up the next day, on my own, like normal. I opened the curtains, like normal, and felt as if I'd been scalded by the daylight – it was the worst pain, like someone had thrown acid all over me, but there weren't any burn marks or anything. I had no idea what'd happened, but I didn't feel right. Everything was loud, even my own heart, and I was sick from hunger – every time I went near the food in my kitchen it made me want to throw up."
"So Christina only partly turned you, like she did to Coreen," Vicki muttered, exchanging a look of understanding with Mike, who nodded slowly in agreement.
"Pretty much. When the sun goes down, I'm her servant. She fills my head and I can't think about anything, or anyone else; I've done things I'm not proud of, all under her command."
Vicki's concern began to get the better of her, as the suspicion of an unknown person, linked to a vampire she would quite happily admit she hated, started to make itself known in her mind. "How do I know she hasn't sent you here to find me? Forgive me, but after last night I'm a little reluctant to trust anyone at the moment."
"She's asleep during the day, right? So, I figured out that if I really focus on what I want to do, and think about what I want for once, I can break out of her chains. When the sun sets, she'll have me again, but she doesn't know what I do in the day. When the sun rises, I go back to me, and I have time to do what I need to do – hence the protection for daylight hours," she replied, gesturing lazily to the sunglasses perched neatly on the top of her shining hair.
"That means Coreen's not under her control now. You need to tell me where they are," she asked quickly, moving towards Amelie as she shrank closer to the door, sunlight threatening her eyes with pain. "Can you take me there?"
"That's what I'm here for," she said, taking a keen, sharp wooden stake from the inside pocket of her exquisitely lined, long winter coat. "I don't know where she is yet, but she's definitely still in Toronto. The deal's this: you find your friend, I free us both. Leave Christina to me."
"Works for me," Vicki replied quickly, holding the door open for them both. "Mike, I need you to stay here. For your own sake, as well as mine."
"Vicki," he said, his tone beseeching her return. "C'mon! Vicki!"
His shouts turned to mere echoes as the office door slammed shut, spilling glowing particles of dust into the winter sunlight. He sat down, feeling at a complete loose end as Vicki ran off to save everyone, once again. The midday sun hung limply in the cold air as he swigged the now lukewarm coffee, his hands tied as he was, as always, put on the back burner. He wondered how she might be affected by Henry's powerful, ancient blood, heartbroken at the very thought of him having any control over her whatsoever, and vowed to find a way to stop it. He threw the empty paper cup in the bin with repressed rage and walked out into the street below, the door slamming behind him; the sun shone on the freezing ground as he looked up into it's clear, vivid glare, thankful for the one constant in his life. If it was one thing he could rely on, it was the light – the one advantage he held compared to those who preyed on mortals that strayed into the dark. The light was his, and he was going to use it.