Fandoms: Forever Knight/dueSouth
Comments to Storm9632@aol.com
notes: Previously published in the zine 'Where The Lightning Strikes'
.........Nick tried to move one more time. A fresh wave of agony lanced
through him. He froze, then, very carefully allowed his body to relax. The
stake was anchoring him firmly to the ground. Only an incredible stroke of
luck had caused it to graze his heart rather than pierce it. He snarled in
frustration. He'd been mentally "calling" to LaCroix for the past hour or
more. But it didn't appear that the other vampire was in the area.Nick admitted to himself that he'd been a fool. He'd been so
convinced that his powers would get him out of the clutches of the "vampire hunters" who'd
been following him for the past few nights. Even now he couldn't think what
he'd done to alert them. But he'd been far too blasé about the whole thing.
This is what you get for underestimating humans, he told himself sourly.
They'd panicked after they'd staked him. The lights of a passing patrol car
had startled them and they'd fled. Once the got their nerve again they might
decide to come back and check their handiwork. And even if they didn't...
Nick looked up at the sky. It was definitely getting lighter. Dawn would
finish him off just as certainly as another stake. There was a sound of
footsteps at the entrance of the alleyway. For a moment, Nick was sure that it was the hunters.
Then he heard boyish voices.
"Come on, we gotta get back before they notice we're missing."
"So? What's the big deal? This'll take maybe five minutes, tops. We just
go down the alleyway to my Uncle Auturo's bakery, grab something to eat, then
be on our way."
"But it's dark down that alley. There could be anything down there. Rats or
"What are you? Chicken?"
"I'm not going down there. I'm going back home!"
Ray was complaining.
Not that there was anything unusual about that, Fraser thought. And then
apologised mentally to his friend for his uncharitable musing. Detective Schanke was looking decidedly unimpressed.
Fraser couldn't tell how much of that was due to Ray and how much to Schanke's absent partner.
"Look," Schanke said in exasperation, "I know that you want to get back to
the States. Nick'll be here soon. Like I told you, he's got this allergy to
"Yeah, I know." Ray did not sound appeased." Like he's some sort of vampire
or something. Look this is probably a great town, you know? But it's not
where I particularly want to be. The Riv needs servicing, Ma's baby-sitting a
wolf, and the hotel you got for us stinks. So I just hope your partner hurries up. Then the two of you can take the great squealer here and Fraser
and I can be on our way."
Their prisoner, due to testify in a Toronto court in a couple of days, muttered a complaint at Ray's
derisive description. Ray sighed, "God, I hate this. I'm just glad we don't have to wait to take
The prisoner glared at Vecchio. "Hey, it ain't exactly been the highlight of my life either, guy."
Ray glared back at him. Then began complaining again about practically everything...
"Now Ray." Fraser felt he had to remonstrate with some of the things Ray had said. "You really
can't blame the weather on Detective Knight...who will be here as soon as he is able, I'm sure.
And I'm certain that he could have nothing to do with the state of our hotel room."
He should have known better. That just started Ray off again.
"And that's another thing. How come the combined financial resources of the American and Canadian governments could only stretch to one lousy twin room. I mean, we're only going to be using it for one night. So we could at least have had a couple of decent rooms......"
And so he went on. Detective Schanke was wearing a vaguely horrified expression. It was, Fraser thought, going to be a long night. And probably an even longer journey back to Chicago. It was no
use mentioning to Ray that they probably wouldn't have got back to Chicago any sooner even if Detective Knight had been waiting for them when they arrived.
Fraser stifled a sigh.
Nick Knight heard the voice before he entered the room. An irritating, whiny voice. The kind that
set his teeth on edge. Worse than Schanke did. He opened the door.
The first thing he saw was the Mountie... ...whose eyes shone with a light as certain and as implacable as sunrise. A paladin,
a child filled with wonder, a warrior who had only ever walked in the sunlight, a man possessed by
the light of Truth. Nick closed his own eyes against that uncompromising light. The eyes were the windows of the soul, they said. If so, this soul must surely be beloved of Heaven. Not an easy
person to live with, this Light Bearer, blazing with Truth. Had his own eyes once blazed like that?
Had he once been so obviously a champion of the Light? For a moment it seemed as if he could
remember each and every thing that had brought him to this Hell-on-Earth existence. Every death,
every petty cruelty, every theft. Each and every stain on his soul.
And for the space of a human heartbeat Nick's tarnished, bloodied and cursed soul cried out with inconsolable loss.
"Nick, buddy, you okay?"
Nick opened his eyes at the concern in Schanke's voice. "I'm fine, Schanke. I've just got a headache," he lied, as he walked further into the room.
He stopped. Schanke had moved, and Nick could now see the man who had been standing
behind him. If the eyes were truly the windows of the soul, what did that make this man? No
paladin, this. No bright shining warrior for the truth. Eyes like stream-washed pebbles. Full of pain,
and fear, and anger. And life, and laughter, and love. A man. With a man's hopes and failings and determination. Nick couldn't remember ever looking into eyes quite so...human.
And without really being aware of what was happening to him, Nick Knight, vampire, dreamer, fallen hero, tormented soul, fell into those eyes.
And was lost.
"I take it this is the 'late' Detective Knight?"
The whiny voice.
Oh, damn, Nick thought with disgust, I'm never going to be able to stand that voice. Not if it takes
me a couple of centuries. And froze. Not if... Where the hell did that thought come from?
He looked at the man before him, made all the right kind of noises, even ended up shaking the
Mountie's hand.( Benton Fraser absently noted the chill of the flesh, the pale skin, the lack of
scent, save for... blood. Animal blood. Bovine, he decided. And filed all the details away for
future reference. But his eyes kept dragging themselves back to the American detective. Ray
Vecchio. Italian, then. Flash clothes and beautifully manicured nails. Too thin, long nosed, balding,
sarcastic, and all too obviously wishing himself elsewhere. Nick met the man's eyes again and pushed just a little. Ray frowned.
Schanke was busy handing forms to his partner to sign. Nick did so without even looking at them. He could have been signing his soul away for all that he knew.
Except that he had already done so.
Detective Knight formally accepted the prisoner from Detective Vecchio. "Wait here for me," he instructed the American, as he took the prisoner to the cells. He saw the detective frown again. But Vecchio stayed where he was.
When he returned, it was to find Ray Vecchio, face like thunder, holding a phone to his ear. His
"But, Sir..." held tones of resentment and defeat. He slammed the phone down, causing both Nick and Fraser to wince
"We've got to wait until after the trial and then take this clown back to the
States," Ray explained to Fraser in disgust.
Fraser had already worked that out.
"I an sure that we can find any number of things to occupy ourselves with for a few days," he
offered in a mild tone.
"Yes," chimed in Nick "Schanke and I could show you around. In fact, I was thinking of taking a couple of days off before the trial."
He caught Vecchio's gaze and held it. "There's this great place called the 'Raven'. It's owned by a friend of mine. Why don't we stop off there before you go back to your hotel?"
Ray closed his eyes briefly. Then he opened them again. He was finding it very difficult to avoid Knight's compelling gaze.
"Yeah, sure, why not?" he found himself saying. Part of him was aware that Fraser was looking at him with a mild concern. But he really couldn't concentrate on Fraser at the moment. Not when Nick Knight was regarding him with such intensity.
Don Schanke was also staring at his partner. Nick WANTED to take these guys to the 'Raven'? After all, Nick had warned him more than once to stay away from the place. And the way Nick was looking at the skinny American cop was..... disturbing. Schanke thought of his wife waiting at home for him. Then he looked at his partner. Nick's face had lit up at Vecchio's agreement.
Schanke made up his mind. "Count me in, buddy," he said. "I've just got to call Myra to let her know I'll be late. You carry on and I'll catch you up in the car-park."
It was a pretty feeble thing to say. Myra would expect him when she saw him. His wasn't exactly a nine-to-five job. But Nick just grinned and said "Sure, Schank." and led the other two men out of the room. Schanke noticed that he manoeuvred himself between the Mountie and Vecchio, his hand falling on the latter's shoulder. He noticed, too, how the Mountie stiffened as he realised what Nick had done.
Something was wrong here. Don Schanke was not the most sensitive of beings, but he couldn't help feeling uneasy.
He waited until the three men had left the room and then picked up the phone. Quickly, he dialled Natalie Lambert's number.
The 'Raven' was crowded. Janette wasn't exactly overjoyed to see them. And she was rather worried. Nick wasn't behaving in his typical manner. He seemed almost besotted with one of the humans he had brought along. Not the one that attracted Janette, not the beautiful, dark-haired, polite Mountie. Unbelievably, he appeared to have fallen for the 'charms' of the skinny,
Natalie walked into the 'Raven' with a great deal of trepidation. She couldn't quite work out why she had been so disturbed by Schanke's call. Maybe it was simply because Schanke had called her. She saw Janette drifting by. The other woman stopped and raised an eyebrow in mild surprise at Natalie's presence. Natalie looked around for Nick. Just then, she heard him laugh. A delighted, charming laugh. An open laugh. Not at all like Nick. And there he was. His arm slung around the shoulders of a taller, thinner man. Natalie met Schanke's eye. He was looking rather uncomfortable and a little peeved. Natalie moved closer.
"Nat!" Nick had spotted her. "Nat, Come and meet Ray. Ray Vecchio meet Dr. Natalie Lambert. Ray's staying here for a few days. Oh, and this is Constable Benton Fraser. He's a Mountie."
Constable Benton Fraser did not look happy. His face was blank, but there was a certain tension to him that spoke volumes. He turned to her and greeted her politely. Vecchio gave her a brief "Hi" and then went back to staring at Nick. Natalie turned to Schanke, a question in her gaze.
Fraser had watched as the woman had walked into the 'Raven'. She was obviously uncomfortable here. He noticed the glance she shared with Detective Knight's partner and wondered at the unease the two seemed to share.
Just then, there was a commotion at the door. A man and a girl came stumbling in laughing hysterically. They were obviously either drunk or high. Two of the dark and dangerous men at the bar moved menacingly towards them. Then, suddenly, they backed away swiftly. Janette herself approached them but also backed up as they got nearer. Fraser felt Schanke and the Dr. Lambert tense beside him. But Detective Knight and Ray seemed oblivious. The weaving, hysterical couple came nearer. The man knocked into Vecchio, sending him flying. Knight snarled (that was definitely a snarl, Fraser decided in mild disbelief), and grabbed the man. Fraser noted the air of stale garlic and chilli that hung around the man. He also noted how Knight's legs seemed to suddenly give way. He swung around colliding into the girl. A glint of light seemed to shine off the crucifix the girl was wearing. Detective Knight hissed (he hissed, Fraser thought to himself.) and practically jumped away from her.
Detective Schanke had taken hold of the man, who had begun to curse. He was relieved of his burden by a large, sweaty hunk who manhandled both undesirables out of the building. Fraser helped Ray up of the floor. As he rose he was aware of a strange glow in Detective Knight's eyes. The glow faded almost immediately. A lesser man would have believed that he had imagined it. Benton Fraser knew what he had seen. He mildly suggested to Ray that it was about time they got back to the hotel. He made sure he was standing between Ray and Knight as he did so. Ray pouted slightly, but he was obviously tired, not to
mention shook-up by the events of the last few minutes, so he didn't take long to agree.
Back at the hotel Ray fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. Not so Fraser. He sat up in bed thinking. Mentally he made a list:
Detective Knight is pale. His skin is cool. He has an aversion to the sun.
(vampires are creatures that are found in books and folklore)
He smelled of blood.
(well really, there were any number of reasons why the detective might have been, say, at a stockyard somewhere).
He reacted badly to the smell of garlic on that man's breath.
(so would anyone, his breath had been dreadful. And vampires are just stories, like ghosts)
He backed away from the crucifix.
(but I've seen a ghost, haven't I?)
(and stories of vampires are found in so many books, in so many cultures)
He hissed. Actually hissed.
(ah, yes, that much was certainly true)
And his eyes glowed.
(is it such a step to take, to believe in vampires, when you already believe in ghosts?)
Ray appeared to be fascinated by him.
(entranced? Ray didn't take to people that quickly...)
(he took to me)
(...not cynical, suspicious Ray)
(but that was different, wasn't it?)
(why was it different?)
(because...well, just because)
(I thought I was discussing vampires?)
(oh? I'm not?)
(I seem to be wandering, here)
(I'm not going to listen to me any more tonight. It's time to sleep)
Fraser slid under the covers of the bed. It wasn't warm in the room but it was airless. He looked at the closed window. Ray had said earlier, with a martyred sigh, that he didn't mind if Fraser opened
the window. Fraser didn't think that would be a good idea.
Nick sat holding the glass of blood. He cradled it in his hands. Normally he got the distasteful process over as soon as possible, often drinking the cold, sluggish stuff straight from the bottle.
But not tonight. Tonight he had to convince himself that this was the life he had chosen for himself. The guardian, not the hunter. The protector not the predator.
Why did I take him to the 'Raven'? he mused. It was as if I needed to display him to the others of my kind; as if I was saying 'He is mine.'
This isn't me. I am not like LaCroix. I am not possessive. Besides, I don't even know this man, why do I feel so strongly about him? Why do I want to carry him off and never let him go?
I want him.
I want him forever. Whining voice, dreadful clothes sense and all the rest.
I wanted him from the moment I saw him.
I want to hold him, keep him close, tell the world he's MINE.
Is this love?
It's nothing like I feel for Nat. There's nothing of tenderness in this.
This is dark, violent, needful. This is a desire so dark and dangerous it frightens me. Is this what LaCroix feels for me? This wanting, this needing to possess? This dark, frightening desire?
If it is then I begin to understand him more than I did.
The Mountie looked at me so strangely. Did I give myself away? He notices so much. Ah, I can't bring myself to care what the Mountie thinks. Ray's with him now. Sharing a room.
I could go over there now. I could.........
Dear God, he thought in pure despair. Dear God, am I going mad?
Nick wandered the neon-lit streets, hands in pockets, head bowed. The Vampire in him was
vaguely aware that he was attracting attention. The cop in him was mildly concerned that he was
drifting along the roughest part of town with his body-language screaming 'victim'. The Human in him, still there despite LaCriox's and Time's best efforts, was certain that he was spiralling into
madness and really didn't give a damn.
Someone was walking by his side. LaCroix. Nick wasn't surprised to see his 'father'. Nor was he at all surprised when he felt the humans who'd been following him in the expectation of easy prey melt back into the shadows. Nobody survived long in this part of town without being able to tell that the likes of LaCroix was a bigger predator than they could ever be. Nick's body language might have fooled them, but LaCroix was fooling no-one. His very being stated 'I am Hunter'.
Nick was almost glad to see his maker. Maybe LaCroix would be able to explain what was wrong with him.
"You are troubled, Nicholas. Come, tell me all about it."
Nick found himself responding to that dark, caressing voice. Maybe tomorrow night he would wake up hating LaCroix once more. But tonight an eight hundred year old vampire wanted to cry on the shoulder of someone older, stronger, and maybe wiser. Someone who might be able to take away some of the confusion, ease some of the pain. If only for a few hours.
Fraser followed Ray unhappily. The trial had been postponed. Nobody actually seemed desperate to have either he or Ray return to Chicago. He had tried phoning the consulate and was told to consider this an unexpected holiday. He'd phoned the police station, too. "Tell Vecchio to relax a little," he was told. He even phoned Mrs. Vecchio. Dief was fine, she assured him. Dief was having a wonderful time, he was such a good wolf. And such an appreciative guest. Fraser had the sinking feeling that he was fighting a losing battle.
They had settled into a routine. Detective Knight had managed to get a few days (nights) off. Every night he would take Ray to a different place. Fraser went with them. And Detective Schanke, who hadn't managed to get any time off, and was still doing his day shifts. He looked like he was going to collapse at any time. And often, Dr Lambert would join them. Once, even the proprietor of that strange bar came with them. THAT had caused Detective Knight to behave with definite petulance for a while. Then he'd grinned and ignored her as Janette had linked her arm with Fraser's as they had walked through a park. She looked at Fraser as if he was good enough to eat. Fraser had been seriously alarmed. Then she had froze. Following her gaze, Fraser had spotted a pale man with a quite ridiculous hairstyle. The man had looked at Janette, then at Fraser. Then his eyes had shifted to Knight and Ray.....and was suddenly gone! The man had gone and Fraser hadn't even seen him move. Janette had disentangled her arm from his and bid them all good night. Fraser had considered offering to escort her home. But for once he decided that discretion was the better part of valour. He didn't think that Janette would have any trouble getting back to the 'Raven'. No trouble at all.
Of course, going about all night meant that Ray and Fraser slept for much of the day. Fraser felt sorry for Schanke, having to go to work. Dr. Lambert, too, was looking rather frayed. Not that Fraser would have dreamed of mentioning the fact. Both she and Schanke watched Detective Knight. But her observation was much more intense.
She loves him, Fraser noted with mild surprise. And then: she knows what he is. She knows what he is and it doesn't frighten her. She knows what he is and it bothers her. But this bothers her more, the way he's behaving. This isn't normal behaviour for him. THIS frightens her. She thinks she's going to lose him.
No, that wasn't quite it. She thinks he's going to lose himself.
I smelled bovine blood on him, not human. He drinks cow's blood, not human. He's a policeman, a good one according to Detective Schanke. I think that he is trying to be human. But something is stopping him. Just like Dief, Nick Knight had a wildness inside him. And Dief had fallen for Ray Vecchio. But Dief wasn't a vampire.
And Dief didn't get that ugly possessive look in his eyes. Beside him, Fraser heard Schanke sigh. He suppressed the urge to do likewise. If Nick Knight gave in to his wild side, if he decided to make Ray completely his own, then there was not a lot he could do about it.
Benton Fraser had never felt so helpless.
Nick sat on the park bench, for once savouring the night. It seemed to calm all the uncertain feelings that were running rampant through his head. LaCroix sat gracefully beside him, and Nick found himself leaning into the older vampire's embrace. "You said you'd found out what's
happening to me?" He felt rather than heard LaCroix sigh.
"Oh, Nicholas, Nicholas. The impatience of youth. I might have found out the reason for your attraction to that rather....erm...loud American. Nothing is certain. But the symptoms do fit."
"Just tell me. Stop playing your little 'I-know-something-you-don't' game."
"I'm hurt, Nicholas, really hurt. I go around calling in favours in return for information for you. I do all this for you and you just act pissy towards me."
"'Pissy'? That's a new word for you."
LaCroix smiled. "I like it. Someone recently described me in that way. But, personally, I think it rather suits you. Along with 'petulant' and 'impatient' and...now, what is the word I'm looking for? Ah, yes, 'ungrateful'. I went to a lot of trouble for you, my dear boy."
"I'm sorry. I..."
"Please, spare me the false expressions of gratitude for all that I've done for you, Nicholas. You know, I don't think I'd like you half so much if you weren't petulant and ungrateful. But I'll probably feel differently tomorrow, so don't push your luck any further than you already do."
Nick stifled a sigh. He needed to know what LaCroix had found out. "LaCroix, please." he begged.
"All right, since you beg so prettily, Nicholas. From what I've been able to find out, it could be a sort of blood-bond. If, at some time in the past, you drank some of Detective Vecchio's blood and he drank some of yours, then a link was created between you. That's what an absolutely ancient individual I had to suck up to, so to speak, to get this information said."
"But I've never met Ray before!" Nick protested.
LaCroix shrugged elegantly. "He said it was the only thing that fitted the symptoms you're displaying. The irrational need to possess and protect, the urge to display your possession to others of your kind. And the urge to make this man one of us. You do want to bring him across, don't you, Nicholas? That is why you're feeling so guilty about this, isn't it? Oh, pardon me, more guilty than usual."
"Yes, I do. I keep fighting it. I know it would be a huge mistake. I would never want to put anybody else through this after my experience with..." He paused
"With dear Dr. Lambert's brother?" LaCroix jibed.
"Yes. It would destroy Ray. Completely destroy him."
LaCroix nodded. "You are right, of course, my boy. He'd be even worse as one of us as he is
as a mortal. That voice!"
"Don't worry. I only went near enough to see and listen to him. Ugh! Janette thinks you have no taste, Nicholas. She's rather taken with the Mountie."
LaCroix smirked at his idiotic child. "Of course she would! But she won't! Janette has been warned against such foolishness. Constable Fraser would make too good a vampire. We never bring ones like him across. Remember your lessons, my boy. The worst, the most infamous of our kind were the most rigid, righteous of mortals before they were brought across. That one would make a truly terrifying vampire, Nicholas.
But we digress. The only explanation for your feelings towards Detective Vecchio is that somehow you were blood-bonded to him. My...erm, friend, said that a certain degree of amnesia tended to occur with this blood-bonding for both parties. It didn't normally matter, he said, because it used to be done deliberately to bind a mortal and vampire together, and they usually knew each other extremely well. A sort of a marriage, it seems. It sounds all too disgusting if you ask me, and the practice was discontinued a very long time ago. Seemingly, this bond allowed the vampire to feed from the mortal over a long period of time before the urge to bring them across grew too strong. But if you linked with this mortal by accident and then were parted from him, I suppose the pressure would have been building up and building up. Then you met him again and...poof! The bond swamps you. And him, I suppose. He did seem absolutely besotted with you. And you weren't using very much influence, were you, Nicholas?"
"No, not much at all," the younger vampire admitted, "but how can I be sure this is what happened?"
"Does it really matter? Yes, I suppose it does to you. I's dotted and T's crossed, eh? I could try to access your hidden memories, always assuming they exist, of course."
"But? I sense there's a 'but' here, LaCroix."
"I would have to share blood with you."
"Nicholas, Nicholas, don't be so suspicious. Think about it. I'm older than you, I'm stronger. I brought you across and you're already blood-linked with me. If I really wanted your complete submission, my son, don't you think I would have had it by now? This is for you, Nicholas. Despite everything, all I've ever really wanted was for you to be happy."
"Pardon me if I don't believe you."
"Whatever you wish. But I do want to help you. This is tearing you apart. It could destroy you. I don't want that. Let me help."
"Do I really have any choice?" Nick asked bitterly.
LaCroix reached for his wayward son, pulling him even closer. "No, I rather think that you don't."
................Nick tensed as the footsteps got closer. Was this it, then? Had the vampire-hunters returned to finish him off?
There was the sound of someone being extremely sick, accompanied by the acrid scent of vomit. The voice has been high and scared. Male, but definitely young. Not one of the hunters, then. He watched, a captive audience, as a pair of skinny legs drew near.
"Help me...." It came out weaker than Nick anticipated, but it seemed that he had been heard.
"Oh, Christ! Oh, Jeez, mister, you're alive."
"Barely. You must help me." Nick fought to make his voice stronger. He managed to raise an arm.
"Hey, mister, just keep still. Look, I'll go get some help..."
"No! Don't go!" Nick managed to raise the arm a little higher. The boy fell to his knees, clasping Nick's hand.
"Please, mister, just keep still. I'll go to my Uncle's bakery, get him to phone for an ambulance.
Just hold on in there..."
"No!" Nick grabbed the boy's arm weakly. No, not a boy, he realised. A young man. Barely out of boyhood, it was true, but the eyes that stared down at him in fear and concern were too old,
too knowing to belong to a child, at least in this day and age.
Nick made contact with those incredibly expressive eyes, trying to hold the young man's gaze, enthral him into obeying Nick's commands.
"No ambulances," he gasped, "just pull out the stake."
"No! You'll die!"
Nick knew he had to strengthen the mental hold he had on this mortal.
"What's your name?"
"Ray, Ray Vecchio. Look, I've got to go get some help. Please. You'll die!"
"Not if you do what I say. Pull out the stake, Ray. There are people, bad people, who'll probably be coming back to finish what they started here. They could return at any moment. You must
save me. Pull out the stake, Ray! PULL OUT THE STAKE."
The young mortal's eyes suddenly went glassy. He let go of Nick's hand and began to tug at the stake. Nick smothered a groan as fresh waves of agony lanced through his torn flesh. It seemed to take an eternity, but finally the stake was free, spraying Nick's blood over the mortal's face and clothing. The young man spluttered slightly, then rubbed his face with one hand, the other still grasping the stake. Otherwise he made no move. He was, Nick realised, still under vampiric
influence. With the stake gone, Nick tried to get up, but he could barely move. He had lost so much blood. And sunrise was too close for comfort. If he didn't feed enough to get away from here then he would burn at the first touch of the sun's rays.
Ray. The young man was waiting quietly. Nick closed his eyes as he felt the Hunger rise. It wasn't fair. How could he repay the mortal's help by bringing him death? But the Hunger was too strong. If he had been less injured he might have fought it. But Nick could feel the Beast taking, over demanding healing mortal blood. He reached out and drew the mortal forward, sinking frantic fangs into the young man's neck, drinking the hot, rich, blood...
...only to have his prey suddenly ripped from his grasp. The vampire-hunters had returned. One held Ray, while the other raised a machete to cut off the head of the badly-injured vampire. This is it then, Nick thought for the second time that night, this is the end.
Then, startlingly, Ray moved. All this time he had still been carrying the bloody stake he'd removed from Nick's chest. Still obviously ruled by the hypnotic imperative to save Nick, Ray plunged the stake into the stomach of the man who held him.
The other hunter made the fatal mistake of turning towards his partner. Sheer desperation lent Nick the strength he needed. He grabbed hold of the man, dragging him down and sinking greedy fangs into his neck. He felt the man's lifeblood flow into him, healing ravaged flesh, feeding the Hunger.
Finally, no more blood flowed. Nick hurled away the empty husk of the man who had tried to destroy him and surged to his feet, his body renewed and vibrating with stolen life.
Ray was standing still beside the body of the man he had killed. Crystal tears fell from his eyes,
turning red as they travelled down the bloodstained face. He stood frozen, a study of misery and disbelief.
The Hunger was controllable, now. Nick schooled his face back into it's mortal seeming. Dawn was too near for comfort, but things had to be done before he could find a bolt hole in which to spend the day.
He lifted up the bodies of the two men and threw them into a nearby garbage skip. They might be found in the morning or they might not. Nick didn't have time to think about that at the moment. He'd come back tomorrow night. If the bodies were still there he'd dispose of them. If they had been found... Well, at the moment he couldn't bring himself to care about the consequences. He'd survived. It was enough.
Except that he had an obligation. This mortal had saved his life. Freed from the Hunger for a time, Nick had no desire to harm this one. Just the opposite, in fact. He was aware of a growing urge to protect this young man. "Where do you live?"
The mortal seemed to shake himself out of his trance state.
"Just a few blocks away," he offered.
"Good, let me get you home." They began to move along the alleyway, Nick supporting the now trembling man.
"I'm covered in blood."
"Yes, but most of it isn't yours, so don't think about it."
"My dad.... He'll be mad 'cos I ruined my clothes. He'll hit me."
Nick fought down a sudden urge to tear Vecchio senior, a man he'd never met, to little bloody pieces.
"Is there a way of getting into your house without anyone seeing you?" he asked.
"Then that's the way we'll do it."
"Oh.....good. Cos Ma might get upset if she saw me like this."
"We wouldn't want to upset your mother."
"Then we need to be quiet. Come on, just get through the window."
"Let me get you out of this clothing."
"Sh! Can we get to the bathroom without anybody seeing us?"
"Come on then."
"Ugh! The water's cold."
"It's getting warmer. Ray, Ray! Don't go to sleep on me yet."
"Can't sleep yet. What's your name?"
"Thank you. Now come on. Back to your room. Get into bed. That's it."
"I just bet you are. Look, I'll take the clothes away with me."
"Ray, I'm going to have to go now."
"No, don' wan' ya to."
"And for some strange reason I don't want to go, either. But I've got to. It's late enough, already. Stay awake for a few more minutes, Ray. That's it. Now look into my eyes."
"I'm glad you like them. Now, Ray, you need to forget me. You need to forget everything that happened tonight."
"Don' wan' forget you."
"I'm sorry. Now, keep looking into my eyes..."
...As night fell, Nick's eyes opened. He got up and looked around him. He seemed to be in a cellar. He had absolutely no idea how he had got there.
The scent of dried blood caused him to glance hurriedly at the floor. There was a bundle of bloody clothing lying there. At least it wasn't a body! But Nick had no idea where the clothes had come from. He used his vampire senses to investigate his surroundings. There were no sounds of habitation, and the air had a stale, musty scent to it. So it appeared that this place was uninhabited by anything other than rats, roaches and a confused vampire. His last memory had been of fleeing along an alleyway pursued by a couple of vampire-hunters. He wondered if the clothing had come from one of them. He just wished he could remember!
Ah, well, it was sheer stupidity to remain here. He'd better find out where
he was. He hoped that he was still in Chicago, at least.
Nick tore himself out of the past. He was in LaCroix's arms, his head resting on the other
vampire's shoulder. A hand came to rest on his head.
He looked up at the man he both loved and hated in equal measure. "I'm all right. Thank you."
"You're very welcome. As I have said before, your welfare is paramount to me."
And Nick, lying in arms that somehow managed to feel warm and safe, almost let himself believe it.
The trial that had brought them to Toronto finally went ahead. Night court, of course. Dr. Lambert gave her report. Detective Knight gave his. Detective Vecchio's prisoner 'squealed like a baby', as Schanke put it. Then it was all over, a guilty verdict that caused Nick to grin and Schanke to forget his concerns for a minute and whoop in delight. Nick suggested that they should all change and go out to celebrate. Which they did, at an expensive-looking restaurant. Ray commented that cops sure must earn more in Canada. Nick just smiled. The food was delicious. Fraser noticed that
Knight merely played with his food. As if aware of his thought, Nick raised his head. For a moment their gazes locked, and Fraser saw misery so great it threatened to overwhelm him in the vampire's eyes. He also saw a kinship that puzzled and disturbed him. Benton Fraser had rarely pitied anyone in his life, but he found himself pitying this tortured soul. I don't need this, he told himself, I don't need to see the man behind the monster.
It doesn't make things any easier that under different circumstances I could like this man very much.
After the meal they went back to the hotel. If its rooms were bad, by Ray's standards, it at least had a decent bar. Or so he said. Ray had been drinking throughout the meal. Now he started
ordering drink after drink. When Fraser tried to remonstrate with him, he just got stared at. For the second time that night Fraser saw someone's soul in their eyes. And he thought: this is how the fly must feel as it sees the spider coming closer; how the moth must feel as it flies towards the flame.
Dr. Lambert was sitting in a corner, nursing her drink. Fraser glanced over at Ray. He and
Schanke were trying to outdo each other by telling "tall" stories about their experiences as
uniformed policemen. Detective Knight did not contribute, Fraser noted. But he was looking
amused. For once he was even paying attention to Schanke, and the other man was responding to it. Both he and Ray were competing for Knight's attention.
Fraser decided that Ray should be safe for a while. He walked over to Dr. Lambert. After asking politely if she minded, he sat down. She really did look dreadful. As bad as Schanke. And Knight hadn't even noticed. He glanced back at the trio by the bar, unable to stop himself watching the way Ray's hands moved in the air, emphasising a point. He brought his attention back to the woman in front of him. Her eyes were wide, and strangely, almost empathetically, filled with
sudden comprehension. She had obviously been watching him watching Ray.
Not a fool, Dr. Natalie Lambert. And not blind, at least not at this moment. He was almost relieved that someone else knew. And she would keep his secret, this woman. After all, it was
something she was obviously good at.
"I've never seen him like this before." It was if the words were forced out of her.
"Nor I Ray," he admitted. "I am afraid. For both of them."
How much does he know? He could see the question in her eyes. He closed his own eyes, briefly. There were too many secrets here, too many feelings, too many fears. "I only want Detective Vecchio safe and sound, back in Chicago." (I only want Detective Vecchio........)
"Is there any reason why you think Detective Vecchio wouldn't be safe and sound here in Toronto?" Natalie probed.
Fraser sighed. He seemed to be doing a lot of that recently.
"Dr. Lambert, please let us not play games. I know what Detective Knight is, but I will not name it so please do not feel that it is necessary to deny it, or to terminate this conversation. This is not normal for him, I can see that from your reactions and those of Detective Schanke. And this worries me. As much as it worries me that Ray is...that is, Ray appears to be quite taken
with Detective Knight."
"You could say that," Natalie commented, bitterly, "and you could say that Nick is quite taken with your Ray, too."
"Not my Ray." He winced as he realised that his voice was also bitter.
Natalie looked at him. "But you'd like him to be?" It was only partly a question.
For a moment his clear blue eyes denied it, denied the possibility that he wanted Ray to be anything other than what he was, anything other than a friend. And then his shoulders slumped with defeat. Only for a second or two. But it was enough. The acknowledgement of a truth he hadn't even known until he'd come to this city. A truth that had been practically rammed down his throat by his reaction to Nick Knight's wooing of Ray.
Such an old-fashioned word for something so potentially deadly.
Natalie Lambert stared down at her drink. God, she was tired. She looked back up at the Mountie. "Nick wouldn't hurt him." The statement lacked conviction. She didn't think that Nick intended to kill Detective Vecchio. He seemed too possessive. It reminded Natalie of all the things Nick had told her of LaCroix. Natalie halted her train of thought. Oh, my God, she moaned silently.
Just a few days ago she would have bet her life on the certainty that Nick wouldn't even consider making another vampire. Not after Richard.
But this Nick was a stranger. She rested her head on her hands, closed her eyes, and wished that it was suddenly last week. That she'd never heard of Ray Vecchio. She raised her head as Schanke wandered over to them. Now THERE was a man who could slump his shoulders!
Schanke walked across the floor towards Natalie and the Mountie. Who sat up suddenly and stared at Schanke.
Where are Detective Vecchio and Detective Knight?" he demanded.
No politeness now, Schanke noted. He shrugged. "Vecchio's had a couple too many drinks. Nick said he'd take him up to his room." Schanke was exceedingly depressed. But his conscious mind
wouldn't let him examine too closely the reason why. The chair scrapped across the floor as Fraser scrambled to his feet. He set off towards the stairs.
"What's the matter?" Schanke asked, bewildered by the sudden explosion of action around him as Natalie set off after Fraser.
Nobody stopped to explain anything to him, so Schanke followed the two of them, albeit at a much slower pace. He wasn't exactly sure he wanted to know what was going on, anyway.
Nick had almost forgotten the sensation of having a warm, pliant body in his arms. Forgotten the sheer rush it brought to his senses. He removed the other man's jacket and opened his shirt, running his hand over the alluring heat of Ray's chest. He had tried to fight this, tried to keep away from Ray. But the memories had made things more difficult, not less, for him to control. "Close your eyes," he instructed.
Ray, caught in a web of entrancement, complied, his head lolling back, exposing the long line of his throat.
Nick groaned. He felt his face shift into that of the Vampire, gasped as his fangs lengthened and began to ache deliciously. Oh, it had been far to long since he had done this! Far too long since he had denied himself this pleasure. Here and now, caught in the same web as his prey, he could not remember why he had ever given this up. How he had ever given this up. But something was different, he could feel it. He didn't just want to drink this prey's blood, didn't want him to be prey at all. Something darker even than the bloodlust soared through Nick's veins. He wanted to possess Ray Vecchio, to hold him, to keep the other man with him for eternity. He knew it was the unwanted blood-bond making him feel this way. But it felt so good.
Somewhere deep inside, a part of him howled in despair.
He lowered his fangs to the tempting throat in front of him, grazed the skin gently with their sharp points. His excitement increased when the man in his arms began to moan and writhe, pressing his hot, aroused body against Nick's. Ray Vecchio's body remembered the blood-bond even if his conscious mind did not. It knew what it wanted. This should have grown slowly over time. They
should have been lovers for all these years. This moment should have been the pinnacle of their involvement, the triumphant conclusion of a lifelong relationship. But all that had been torn from them. They had been strangers, unknowing of what had happened between them. A wild, savage part of Ray Vecchio rose up to meet its mate. It wanted all those things it had lost. And it wanted them now.
A shudder ran through the vampire. He was so connected to Ray now that he could almost read all that the man was thinking and feeling. If this was what these long-ago blood-bonds were supposed to achieve, no wonder it didn't happen anymore. The mortal was shaping the way he, Nick, was behaving. Nick couldn't imagine LaCroix, or any vampire he knew, submitting
willingl to this. The Beast in Nick raged. He was thinking too much! Stop thinking, his body
screamed, do something. Finish this.
He moved them both to one of the beds in the room. Ripping the already open shirt away from Ray's body, he caressed the beautiful neck once again with his fangs, before biting down hard, sucking the very life's blood from this man who had become his obsession, while his hand reached down, stroking the body he held, squeezing the hot, urgent hardness he found.
He growled deep in his throat as Ray bucked violently into his hand. Mine, he howled mentally, this man is mine!
...And then the door came crashing open and his Rival came storming into the
Nick snarled his defiance at the intruder. He tightened his hold on Ray. Mine, his Beast insisted once more. Mine forever! I'll kill anyone who tries to take him from me.
The intruder moved closer.
Kill! screamed the Beast. Rend! Tear! Protect Ray!
Except Ray would never forgive him if he killed the Mountie.
Sanity struggled to the surface. Even a Ray Vecchio enslaved by a blood-bond into loving him would never forgive Nick. He'd seen how the two men were together. He knew that if it hadn't been for the blood-bond Ray wouldn't have given him a second glance. Ray was as obsessed with his partner as he had been with Nick. And what he felt for Fraser was real, not forced upon him by something he'd never asked for or wanted.
But he's mine! growled the Beast. And for a moment sanity began to surrender to madness.
Then Natalie Lambert walked into the room.
And the Beast shrivelled up under the sheer force of the horror that radiated from her eyes.
And all that remained was a tortured, suffering being who burned with shame.
Nick gently laid the body in his arms to the bed. Ray had quietened now, as if aware that Nick's Beast had receded.
The Vampire with the soul of a man stared at the two people in front of him, trying not to collapse under the weight of their horror and fear.
And then, suddenly, he could take it no more. With an inarticulate howl of rage, of pain, of loss, he rushed for the door, not caring who saw him take the stairs at a speed far beyond that any human could achieve.
As if a spell had been broken, Fraser rushed to his partner's side. Natalie appeared torn between joining him or rushing off after Nick. The doctor in her won out as she moved to examine Ray.
From the stairway Schanke's complaining voice could be heard, calling after his partner,
demanding to know what was going on. Fraser tore himself from Ray's side to appease the man and send him away. But Schanke insisted on coming into the room. Once inside, however, he froze at the sight of Natalie examining a clearly distressed Vecchio.
"Er....Maybe I should go home. Myra will be waiting for me." Schanke's voice held the tones of a man who did not want to know anything about what was going on, who would live and sleep much more happily if he convinced himself that he had never seen his partner rushing from a room that
contained a man who was only half-dressed.
Ray shivered as Natalie covered his shoulders with a blanket. Whatever spell he had been under seemed to have left him. Things were very blurred.
He remembered being in Nick Knight's arms. Remembered the other man's lips on his neck.
He raised a trembling hand, and flinched as his fingers found a sore patch on his neck. He flushed, imagining how it might have got there. Natalie's ministrations had subsided. He felt the bed sag as she sat down beside him.
Where was Fraser?
He looked up. Fraser was standing in the middle of the room, gazing at him with a stony blankness. Ray vaguely remembered Fraser asking Natalie if he was okay. But after she'd answered in the affirmative Ray hadn't heard Fraser speak again. Ray met Fraser's curiously empty eyes. He found himself flushing again. Christ! What must he
think? Ray cleared his throat uncertainly. "Benny... Er, what happened? I was in the bar. I don't remember nothin' after
that. Where's Knight? Why are you and the lady..."
As if his voice had broken Fraser's paralysis, the other man started. He stared wildly at Ray for a moment, his mouth opening and closing with no sound emerging. Then he whirled around and fled the room.
Nick found himself in the street with no clear memory of getting there. He put a hand against a wall to steady himself. A rush of air heralded LaCroix's arrival. Nick sobbed and threw himself into his 'father's' arms.
"He's still alive. In the end I couldn't do it." Later, much later, after he'd sorted out this mess, he'd tell LaCroix everything. But not tonight.
"I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to think about it. Make me forget everything, LaCroix, at least for a little while."
The arms around him tightened their hold, and Nick felt the brush of fangs against his neck.
"Oh, I'll make you forget, my Nicholas. For a time at least, I'll make you forget everything, even your name."
Then Nick felt LaCroix's body stiffen. He raised his head. The Mountie was across the street, looking at them.
"I know what you are. I know your nature. I will not say the word, but understand that I could name you if I wished."
Nick closed his eyes at the foolishness of the mortal in front of him. Had he spared this man's life only to have LaCroix rip it from him? As if aware of his distress, LaCroix raised a hand and stroked his hair.
"Am I to take it that you are threatening my son? Threatening me?"
If he had been mortal, he would have run from the sheer silky menace in LaCroix's voice. But the Mountie's voice remained steady.
"I'm not threatening anyone. I can keep secrets. I'm quite good at it, as a matter of fact. Leave Ray alone and I will leave you alone. Tomorrow we will be gone from here and hopefully neither of us will ever return. I do not believe that Detective Vecchio was ever truly aware of your...special nature. And I will keep your secret."
"I could kill you now, you realise?" LaCroix sounded almost conversational. "Dispose of your bodies so well that no-one will ever find them."
Nick tensed up once again.
"I don't doubt that you could, sir. But what would your...son?...think of that. I don't believe that he would be happy if you harmed Detective Vecchio. Nor do I believe that, despite everything, he would stand by while you slaughtered me."
"So observant, Constable Fraser."
"I'll say it again. Leave us alone and we will never bother you again. And I'll keep your secret, I give you my word."
"And your word is your bond, Constable? Yes, I see that it is. Well, Nicholas?"
Nick opened his eyes and looked at the mortal in front of him.
"If you keep Ray away from me, I give you my word that I will keep away from him. That is all I can promise, so please, keep him away from me."
"I'll endeavour to do so. Good night, gentlemen."
Nick watched in vague disbelief as the Mountie turned and walked back into the hotel.
Then he felt himself being lifted into the air. He wrapped his arms around his 'father', his creator, his lover, his own personal demon who was sometimes his saviour.
Tomorrow night he'd have to start mending fences. With Schanke, with Natalie, probably even with Janette. Most definitely with himself.
But that was tomorrow night.
Tonight, all he wanted was to be loved.
Fraser moved out of the shadows near the hotel door and watched as the two men, the two vampires, rose out of sight. Another myth proved reality. Nothing he had seen up until that point had been unexplainable. The change in eye colour could have been a trick of the light, the aversion to garlic merely a dislike of a displeasing smell. Even the overlarge teeth could have been chalked up to some genetic abnormality. But now he had seen them fly. What was next to believe in? Elves? Trolls? The Sasquatch? Fraser didn't think anything would ever really surprise him again.
Even now he couldn't bring himself to hate Nick Knight. He was willing to believe that whatever it was that had made the vampire act that way had been against his own wishes. And he seemed a man of his word.
And then there was Ray. He wasn't sure how much Ray remembered. He had a suspicion that he would conveniently forget everything and refuse to discuss anything.
Ah, well, it would be nice to have the option of even pretending to forget everything, he thought, ignoring the fact that he had never really been able to pretend anything in his entire life.
Ray will be ten times as skittish after this, he mused, and he'll shy away
from serious relationships like a nervous colt. Not that I would dream of...
No, he realised, I might dream, but I would never...
Perhaps it was for the best, that it had turned out this way. Dr Lambert had assured him that Ray would make a full recovery. Ray would bounce back from this the way he did from every other disaster that had happened in his life.
He was still Ray Vecchio. Fraser's friend, his partner in numerous adventures.Nothing could take that away from them. Fraser wouldn't allow it!
And if he might, every now and again, wish for something more? Well, he could wish, couldn't he?
Nobody except a child believes that wishes ever come true.
And Benton Fraser was no child.
[Sequel - Facing the
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