A/N: Written for the 2012 FKFicFest, based on a prompt by brightknightie: "Gen. A case-related out-of-town trip; with his partner sticking close on their travels, Nick can't really use his money or vampire powers to smooth his path." Third season/post-series fic.
"I trust no one where you are concerned." A string of deaths throughout Toronto and Montreal lead the 96th Precinct to collaborate with the Quebecois police force. While in Montreal, Nick crosses paths with someone he thought was lost to him forever.
The Ties that Bind
by Melissa Treglia
*1996 AD, Montreal, Quebec*
There was the sweet smell of blood mixed with the tang of gunpowder in the air. Detective Nick Knight ducked under the yellow tape (which shouted "POLICE LINE - DO NOT CROSS - LIGNE DE POLICE - N'ENTREZ PAS") and joined Constables Duprès and Kowalski at the scene. Tracy Vetter followed him into the area, which had specifically been blocked off from public access.
At the epicenter of all this was a body; a male in his mid-twenties, well-built... and shot at least nine times that Nick could see, the chest of this victim perforated like Swiss cheese from the bullet holes. Whoever had committed this murder was clearly not dithering in his or her intentions.
Nick approached the unfortunate soul who'd found himself in his final moments at the business end of a gun barrel. Nick had never been fully prepared for the presence of fresh blood at a crime scene, and the slight, backward stumble he made could easily be mistaken for a bout of queasiness.
This was a normal scene in Nick's current life in Toronto. But this was not a street in Toronto; this was Rue de St. Catherine in Montreal. The Montreal police had had a series of kills that matched the M.O. of a murder he and Tracy had been assigned a few weeks ago in their own jurisdiction and had not yet solved. With the body count quickly rising, Montreal's mayor was frantic and had begged to join forces with the Greater Toronto Area's authorities, before the Mounties could ride in.
So, Detectives Knight and Vetter had been sent in as the Toronto liaison. They had been immediately teamed up with Duprès and Kowalski, who had been handling the Montreal murders. Though there was an initial culture clash, the complications of existing politics between Quebec and English Canada were eventually set aside for the sake of saving lives and meting out justice.
Nick and Tracy had dodged a few reporters on the way into the scene, as the case had become distressingly high-profile. "No comment" was, quite possibly, the most useful phrase in the English language, along with its French equivalent "pas de phrases."
"Same as the others," Nick murmured.
Kowalski nodded in agreement. "Same M.O." He grimaced. "Though, whoever it is has gotten more confident in their style."
"Or angrier," Nick supplied.
Tracy sighed, disgusted. "I can't believe this, how this killer just hopped the provincial border and isn't slowing down."
"We've got to find this one fast," Duprès replied, his Quebecois accent thickened with exhaustion. "And, when we do, there'll be one less bump in the night to worry about."
*1210 AD, Duchy of Brabant*
"Nicholas!" His little sister's high and airy voice was an earnest whisper as she shook him with all the strength her small body had. "Wake up!"
The teenage boy grumbled as he cracked open one eye. He griped to her in their native Dutch dialect, voice thick with grogginess, "Fleur, it's a most ungodly hour. I require rest."
He had been tutored in swordsmanship and archery all day, and the severity of the exercises had drained his energies and left him quite sore. The most unpleasant Lord de la Barre, who had taken Nicholas in for instruction to become a knight, was an unforgiving teacher. Hefting a sword and aiming an arrow were demanding enough for such a lanky and graceless young lad... but when he failed to grasp a lesson, it was quickly reinforced through a sound whipping.
"But I heard something!" the little girl protested. "And I fear it may be some dreadful beast!"
The boy sighed and rose from his bed, ignoring the protest of overtaxed muscles and battered flesh. "Very well," young Nicholas replied. He took her small hand in his much larger one. His manner softened considerably when he felt the trembling of her tiny fingers. "Lead on, little flower, and I'll slay the beast for you."
*1996 AD, Montreal, Quebec*
"There is said to be no greater bond than that of family, that blood is thicker than water." The reception was somewhat fuzzier here, but CERK's Nightcrawler could still be heard issuing from the radio of a teal 1962 Caddy. "How the ties that bind us to our family tree strangle and suffocate us.
"The bond between a brother and sister are said to be the framework par excellence that we learn to relate to the opposite sex. An older brother, when his sister is a small helpless child, cherishes and protects her with the ferocity of a wolf mother defending her cub. But, when that bud of girlish beauty blooms into the flower of womanhood, the bond between them tightens, becomes a prison. The brother who has so protected his innocent little sibling becomes the gatekeeper of her affections. Is it that he fears the worst from the men who seek her hand... or is it the realization that he will no longer be first in her heart, that causes him to guard her so jealously?
"Even the bonds of kindred fade in time, and the petals fall from the rose. Those who are protected and sheltered, nonetheless succumb to that greatest enemy of all living things – their mortality."
Nick snapped off the radio, even as the memory of LaCroix's taunts – both from before his sister's grave and now on the air – lingered. "I loved her so much, I offered her the gift of eternity," LaCroix had said back then. "What has your love given her?"
Nick unconsciously began to grind his teeth together, even as he responded to the age-old taunt solely in his own mind, My love for her kept her from turning into a monster, like you. Like me.
Across the city, another man was shot. "I love her, and you've gotta pay for what you did to her," the assassin said, pumping more bullets into the dead man's chest.
In a dive in the bad part of town, just before closing, a young woman walked up to the bar and waited to be noticed by the management. A pretty little blonde in a plain white t-shirt and blue jeans, she seemed unaware of her beauty and had shyly refused the advances of a number of men who'd approached her earlier. They'd had to make an effort to be heard over the Metallica cover band playing; nonetheless, the girl had sat alone and quietly sang along when she remembered the lyrics.
The rendition of "Enter Sandman" had been her favourite of the setlist, and she'd even added a little swaying and toe-tapping to her repertoire of enthusiastic listening. But the music and lack of a cover charge for the ladies on this particular night had not been the reason she'd arrived here.
Blondie was looking for a job, as it turned out. When the owner approached her (a brunette with a Jersey accent to stop a clock and the attitude to match), the quiet beauty asked if any jobs were available for those new in town.
The owner gave her a once-over. "Oh, you're part of the club, huh?" At the blonde's bemused nod, the brunette added, "No problem. I'm happy to help out for my fellow V's. You can call me Stacy." A sympathetic look. "You need a room too, kid? 'Cos I got a few vacancies in the upstairs if you need one; it ain't the Waldorf Astoria, but it's good."
Blondie gave her a demure smile. "That would be most helpful, Stacy. I had to leave my previous lodgings rather suddenly, and I'm not yet settled here." Then she quickly added, "I'm Marie, by the way."
Stacy nodded, and her grin was wide. "All right then, Marie. Welcome to the Ironhouse, and leave your issues at the door."
*1210 AD, Duchy of Brabant*
Because it was an issue for Fleur, Nicholas showed a surprising depth of patience (his patience was considerable where Fleur was concerned). He knew how she loathed the dark, and who knew what could hide in the shadows? He made sure to search her chamber thoroughly – such as behind the curtains and in the wardrobe. Of course, there was nothing to be found. No beast to be seen.
The boy hauled himself up from his prone position on the floor, having found nothing under her bed either. "There, now. Nothing lurking about. All is well."
"You frightened it away," the girl replied astutely. She threw her arms around her brother's waist in gratitude, and he happily returned the sentiment.
She then pounced on her bed, and he tucked her into the covers. "Sleep well, little flower."
"Don't go," she pleaded. "As long as you're here, the beast will stay away."
Nicholas sighed. "I suppose you're right." Awkwardly, – for he wasn't so small anymore – he clambered into bed beside her. As she began to drift off, he murmured, "I'll always keep the monsters from you."
*1996 AD, Montreal, Quebec*
Nick shook himself back into reality as he swiped the keycard to the hotel room. The door opened with an obliging click. He headed straight for the icebox, peeling off his jacket on the way. He fought a yawn as he opened the vegetable crisping drawer, and brought out a bag of blood – donations that had been rejected.
So distracted and wearied was he, he didn't realize there was someone behind him. "Did you think I was stupid?" He whirled and saw Tracy standing by the door, which stood ajar. "Why didn't you tell me?" She ripped the unopened bag from his hand and deposited it on top of the icebox. "About this?"
Nick sighed. He had known this day would come eventually. "Tracy, you already know about Vachon and Screed. You were seeing vampires under every rock for awhile, there. How do you think you would've reacted, if you found out about me then?"
That gave her pause. She then sighed. "Some detective I am, that I couldn't figure out that my own partner's 'allergies' to sunlight and food were a gross understatement."
"Trace, it's not your fault. You're not supposed to know about us to begin with," Nick pointed out. "And, the fact is that most people don't see the things they don't want to believe. They rationalize the truth away. Even those who already know the truth... or at least, suspect it."
The young detective nodded slowly. Nick had a valid point; maybe she hadn't wanted to see the truth before now. "I guess." Then her lips quirked in the hint of a droll grin. "Then again, Vachon and Screed look like vampires. You don't."
"I'm sorry. I should have told you sooner."
Tracy nodded. "Well, what's done is done. And you already know your secret's safe with me, so..." She trailed off. "Yeah." Then her cellphone rang, cutting off whatever she might have planned to say. "Vetter." A long pause. "Uh-huh. Thanks. Bye."
Nick quirked an eyebrow.
"They found a fresh one," Tracy said, absently running a hand through her straight blonde hair. "Kowalski says the guy was in his home office, no signs of a struggle. The vic didn't even get up from his chair before he was shot." She slowly began to pace. "And, here's the kicker. Our killer is shorter than we first thought."
"According to ballistics, between 165 and 170 centimeters."
Nick frowned. "It can't be a teenager. The execution is too exact. No hesitation."
Tracy's expression matched Nick's. "It might be a woman. A woman who knows how to use a firearm."
"And with an axe to grind." Nick shoved the blood bag back into the icebox and collected his jacket. Tracy hurried out the door behind him.
Duprès and Kowalski were already accounted for at the precinct. Nick walked up to their desks and, without preamble, said, "We need a national list of women who are registered to fire a gun."
Duprès nodded. "I am on it, Knight."
The list was printed out in minutes, but it took hours to narrow down the possibilities, even with four cops taking a crack at it. It was Tracy that found the most promising lead, having compared several names already to current locations. "There's a Melinda Svensen; no records of her being here in Montreal at the time of the Toronto shooting."
"It's circumstancial, but it's enough to bring her in for questioning," was Kowalski's rejoinder.
Melinda Svensen was brought in. She was 25 years old and stood at 5'7" with her high heels on; barefoot, she'd be about 5'4". She had jet-black hair, and wore a sour expression as she was lead into the interrogation room. Nick frowned as he watched her and heard the tremor of her heart, not completely sure whether she was nervous because she was an innocent afraid of getting in trouble, or whether she was the guilty party who was worried about being found out.
Nick and Kowalski were in the room with her, while Tracy and Duprès observed from behind the one-way mirror.
"Miss Svensen, do you live alone?" was Nick's first question.
"I live with my sister." The calm, even tone was belied by her heartrate increasing a notch.
"How old's your sister?" Kowalski's input.
"She'll be thirteen in May." Miss Svensen began fiddling with the silver ankh she wore around her neck.
Nick nodded slightly, trying not to flinch as the ankh glinted in the florescent light. "Did you, with or without your sister, do a little traveling three weeks ago?"
"Yes. I was in Toronto. I've been on a job search; my landlord has been threatening to kick me out for three months now." Melinda grimaced.
Nick nodded. "Can you give us a list of the people you applied to?" He placed a pen and notepad before her, watching as she neatly wrote out the contact information of her prospective employers.
"She's left-handed. The angle of the shots indicated the killer is right-handed," Nick said, disgusted as their only strong lead had blown up in their faces just from their suspect having written a few names.
"It doesn't exonerate her," Kowalski replied, sympathetic.
"But it doesn't help our case, either." Nick frowned. "She was nervous in there."
Kowalski nodded. "Yeah, I got the feeling that 'cool as ice' bit was just an act."
"She's definitely hiding something. But I'm not sure it's murder."
*1229 AD, Duchy of Brabant*
"Does it not concern you that he may be hiding his true intentions?"
Fleur stopped walking down the corridor, turning to regard her brother, who had appeared behind her with a thief's stealth. "He is one of your traveling companions, and yet you do not trust him?"
She was bewildered by the change she had seen in her brother; he had come home from the Crusades pale and gaunt, his expression solemn, his eyes dark with something... other. She remembered keenly how he used to eat quite frequently and in large portions, but all night at the feast, she caught him passing the meat on his dish to the dogs.
He was not as she remembered him anymore. She would find the meaning of this troubling alteration.
"I trust no one where you are concerned, little flower." Nicholas' voice was so quiet, she almost hadn't caught his words. "Have a care for yourself, and keep away from Lucien LaCroix."
*1996 AD, Montreal, Quebec*
Nick wandered into the Ironhouse, as Van Halen's "Jump" blasted through the speakers. It didn't hurt to look around, as it was yet another gathering place for those who shied away from the daylight.
A drink was given to him by the owner. "I hear it's not your usual, but this one's on the house." Before he could ask why or offer gratitude, she walked away from him.
He quietly people-watched, until he caught sight of a head of long, curly blonde hair – a woman passing out drinks among the customers. When she turned so he could see her face, their eyes – hers as blue as his – locked. The realization of who she was hit him like a punch and the breath left his chest.
Marie, the second she caught a glimpse of Nick, ran into the backrooms. Stacy followed her. "Why aren't you out there?"
"My brother's out there," Marie replied.
"I know. I gave him a free drink," Stacy's gaze was severe. "I'm not kicking him out, if that's what you're thinking. Not as long as he keeps sitting there, nice and quiet. And you need to get back out there and work those tables."
"I... I can't." Guilt was clearly written on Marie's face. She had no idea what her brother would say, or what she'd say to him. Their separation had gone for far longer than she'd ever planned.
Her brother's words from long ago echoed in her mind. "If you bring her over, she'll become a killer. Her purity annihilated."
"I'll make this easier for you. Get out there and do your job, or you're not getting paid," Stacy replied. "I don't care if you talk to him or not, but don't hide out like a little girl who got caught with her hand in the cookie jar."
Marie nodded slowly, her stomach knotted with dread. After a slow intake of breath, she stepped back into the bar.
*1247 AD, Duchy of Brabant*
A pale feminine hand shot out of the dirt, and a woman cloaked in funerary garb crawled to the surface.
*1996 AD, Montreal, Quebec*
The assassin magic-markered an X carefully through another dead man's picture. One more to go, and vengeance would be complete.
A cellphone call from Tracy. They finally had a break. All the men who died had been graduates of Laval University. There was one person left alive from their band of fraternity brothers, a Brandon Shane.
Nick left the bar, promising himself that he would return immediately to confirm or deny his vision. There was still a killer to catch, after all. A life needed saving.
"On your knees," the assassin said to the final victim. "Now."
"Who the hell are you?"
"Remember Kaylie? That sweet little girl? She was my sister."
Nick arrived at Brandon Shane's house, a familiar heartbeat inside. He quietly entered through the French doors on the second-story balcony, slipping into the master bedroom. Backup wasn't here yet, but they would be soon. He had to talk her down before then.
"Melinda?" he asked, appearing to one side of her. She held a gun in her right hand. Ambidextrous.
"Melinda, it's all right," Nick said, his hands splayed in a gesture of peace when she briefly aimed the gun at the vampire. "Tell me about your sister."
"I've been waiting for this," Melinda said, training the gun back on Brandon. "He needs to pay. They all need to pay." The gun trembled slightly, as she was fighting back tears. "They hurt her. They hurt Kaylie."
"What happened?" Nick asked.
"We were at a party. He and his buddies were there," Melinda said, her voice filled with pain. "I took Kaylie to the party because I thought she'd be safer with me. I turned away for just a minute...
"I've spent the past year being woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of her screams. She remembers what they did to her. And I remember. I wasn't there for her when she needed me. I... I failed her. You can't possibly know what that feels like!" She cocked the weapon, her hand steady once again. "I'll never fail her again."
"Melinda, you haven't failed her. You did what you thought was best, and your sister knows that. But killing these men won't take away your sister's pain. It won't take away your pain." Nick offered a hand, palm up to receive the gun. "The pain won't end till you let it go. You need to let go, Melinda. It's time."
Melinda's face crumpled, a sob catching in her throat. She placed the gun in his hand. Nick's voice was sympathetic as he placed the cuffs around her wrists. "You're under arrest for the murders of Kevin Lytle, Andrew Wilkins, Matthew Park, Barry Eckherdt, and the attempted murder of Brandon Shane."
Nick returned to the Ironhouse shortly before closing, to find his sister. "Fleur?"
Marie's eyes were on the floor as she approached her brother, and her eyes finally met his when he spoke the moniker he'd bequeathed to her centuries ago. "Nicholas. I'm... I'm sorry. I didn't mean for our separation to last this long."
He nodded. "I know." Then he opened his arms to her. She entered his embrace gratefully. Forgiven.
There was a quiet displacement of the air around them. Nick sighed, his tone became sardonic. "LaCroix. How did I know you'd follow me?"
LaCroix glared at Nick but, when his eyes met Marie's, the expression faded into something softer. Marie gently removed herself from her brother's grasp, and moved to where LaCroix stood.
Then she slapped him. Hard. The sound echoing in the empty bar. "How could you?" she whispered. "All those centuries... you think I don't know what you did to my own flesh and blood? He's my brother. We're made of the same stuff, Lucien. The same blood flows through our veins. Whenever you have struck him, I too have felt the pain!"
LaCroix was completely thrown. To have his beloved back in his life, only to tell him...
"I have loved you, Lucien. But there are things stronger than the affection between a man and woman." Her eyes did not stray from his. "Family is everything."
"Fleur..." For once, the master who could command an audience with words wielded as weapons remained speechless.
"Goodbye, LaCroix," she said, even as it broke her heart.
The Roman General, unused to having the disadvantage, retreated as quickly as he'd arrived.
"Do you plan to stay here?" Nick asked his little sister.
"No," Marie replied. "I don't know what I want... but I think I should remain close to my family. We've been apart for far too long."
"We have all the time in the world to make up for that."
She smiled and then, with a light tug on his jacket, giggled and ran down the hall on light feet. As he always had, he followed after her, then swept her up and began to spin with her in his arms.
For a moment, they were children again and all was right with the world.
A/N: Well... that wasn't precisely what I'd planned, but the execution is more of a "happy accident." I hope everyone else enjoyed this, as much as I did writing it.
"I loved her so much, I offered her the gift of eternity. What has your love given her?" is a line spoken by LaCroix in the third-season episode Fallen Idol. Fleur does not actually appear in that episode, but her son does.
"If you bring her over, she'll become a killer. Her purity annihilated." is a (slightly-paraphrased) line spoken by Nick in the second-season episode Be My Valentine. Fleur actually does appear in that one.
The rest is from my fertile imagination. And Fleur being a moniker (with her real name being Marie) is my own personal head-canon.