Date: Wed, 19 Mar 1997 06:01:16 -0500
Sender: Forever Knight TV show stories <FKFIC-L@PSUVM.PSU.EDU>
From: Bianca Handley <kbyrd@SUNWORKS.COM>
AUTHOR'S NOTES: For the purpose of this story, both "Ashes to Ashes" and "Last Knight" ended differently. Vachon survived Divia's attack and Natalie accepted Nick's leaving gracefully. But then - we all know that what we saw is not what happened, right? ;) Kudos and virtual chocolate to my co-authors, Frank and Izabela, for their wonderful imput. I couldn't have done it without them. Please archive on the web and FTP sites and the Dark Knighties archive.
WARNING: Severe Sappy Alert!!!!!!!
by Bianca Handley, Frank Seward,
and Izabela Popowicz
"Come with me, Nicholas. I have something to show you," came LaCroix's command from the doorway.
Nick looked up from the map he'd been studying, then moved to obey his master's voice. He followed LaCroix down the hallway of the stately residence that had been their home for three years. As they entered the drawing room, LaCroix's extended hand indicated the young lady sitting in a chair.
More accurately, she was bound in position, her hands tied snugly behind her. Large, terrified eyes stared over the gag covering her mouth. Touseled bangs were stuck to her forehead by the fear-induced perspiration. Despite her general disarray, it was obvious she was a lovely woman; stunningly so, in fact.
Nick looked at LaCroix in confusion. "She's beautiful, but I don't understand. Why are you showing her to me?"
"She is yours, Nicholas," LaCroix replied. "A special gift for this night. Enjoy." Again his outstretched hand presented the offering to his child.
Nick's eyes swept over the female with a new appreciation. A predatory sneer spread across his face. "Oh, LaCroix, you've really outdone yourself this time," he breathed.
His hunger surged forward and he felt the pressure of his emerging canines. He paced toward the captive woman and stalked slowly around her, his eyes feasting on every curve, every inch of exposed flesh. Her rapid heartbeat thrummed in his ears. The smell of her blood, mingled with fear, enflamed his desire. He reached out and stroked the smooth, taut skin of her neck. The triphammer pulse beneath his fingers blended with her useless struggle and muted cries to dispel any lingering hesitation. With a lustful snarl, he threw himself on her, ripping savagely into her soft flesh, voraciously devouring the sweet essence. His veins sang in ecstasy as he drained the life from her. He didn't stop until his ravenous body had absorbed the last honeyed drop. Then, sated, he rose and returned to stand before his maker.
"Merci, Father," he stated simply. "She was exquisite."
LaCroix returned his gaze evenly; his hand caressed Nick's cheek with genuine paternal affection. "It was nothing, Nicholas, merely a small token of remembrance. Surely you did not think I would forget your birthday. It was, after all, a thousand years ago tonight that you became my son."
Nick returned to the study, to his previous project. LaCroix's reminder of what he'd been for the last millenium had raised harrowing memories he wished had stayed buried. Yes, it had been a thousand years. Sometimes even Nick himself could not fathom it. All the past centuries, filled with memories, were marked by that one night. The night that brought Nick to LaCroix who, would unbeknownst to Nick, end his life as he knew it and grant him another. An entirely new existence and a future that need never end. As a fledgling, he had taken to this new existance. In the beginning, his master had been so proud of him. He'd often told Nick that he could see in him an instant excellence at being a vampire. Later, it was this same excellence that had caused Nick to continually waiver back and forth between the mortal world and his own vampiric nature. It frightened him and excited him at the same time, so he had run from it. Denying what he was and in the process attempting to right all the wrongs he felt he had caused. In the end, though, he had finally realized that trying to exist in two different worlds was doing himself and those he had grown to love, more harm than good. It had hurt them and it had hurt him. When he finally let go of his mortal ties it had pained him with a fierce intensity but it had allowed himself and those around him to get on with their lives. He shook his head in an attempt to clear his mind, barely able to concentrate as his hand slowly skimmed the map. He and LaCroix had been in one place long enough and it was again time to move on. The question was - where?
Suddenly, a visible tremor shook him as his finger passed over the dot indicating the city of Toronto, Canada. So much had happened during the past two hundred and thirty years -- too much. Nick closed his eyes in pain as the past and present collided and a flood of memories washed over him.
Memories of his precious Natalie, the sweet one who had tried so long and so hard to help him overcome his affliction. He'd been forced to leave her behind, like so many others over the centuries. She had pleaded to come with him, to share a little more time. She had begged to be brought over, to share eternity. He had refused both requests, though it had broken his heart. He'd known she had her own life to live and he could no longer be part of it. He'd thought of her often through the years and wondered what had become of her life. After the last time he saw her, LaCroix had asked him if he wished for him to wipe away Natalie's memories of him and the last six years they had spent together, first as friends, then later as much more. Nick had refused LaCroix's offer. He thought it was best for Natalie and if he could not be with her then it would comfort him somewhat to know she still had those memories of their time together. He'd never heard from her again and knew she was long dead by now. That thought sent a fresh wave of pain through him.
Memories of Janette, his long-time sister/lover turned daughter who had dispised and abandoned him when he'd given her back the immortality she'd so recently left behind. He knew he couldn't have done differently; couldn't have let her die. It had been an action almost completely beyond his control. Though they had strayed and returned to each other many times in the past, he could not let her go. Not permanently; not for ever. Forever was much too long a time for Nick to be without her. Of the few women he'd truly loved over the centuries, Janette had been the only one who constantly held his heart. He had hoped she'd understand, but she had been furious with him. Her rejection of his need of her had cut him to the quick.
Memories of his close friend, Vachon, who had traveled with him and LaCroix for a time after the Spaniard's own family had died violently. Nick had valued Vachon's friendship highly. The man's loyalty and understanding was something Nick had found in few others. Nick had watched Vachon grow and change in many ways since the day they'd first met. Tracy's influence had been a good one and Nick had had great respect for their relationship. After Screed's and Urs' death, when the time came to move on, it had seemed natural for the three of them to band together. So they had lived and traveled as a family - until the new holocaust had broken out. Vachon had been trapped and perished in a fire set by the radicals some twenty-five years ago. Another bitter loss to bear.
Memories of the outbreak of the persecution caused Nick to shudder again. A single vampire had been exposed, proving their existence and shattering the secrecy protecting their community beyond what even the Enforcers could remedy. A wave of mass hysteria had swept the world and now, like the witch-hunts of long ago, everyone was suspect. Executions of both vampires and mortals became common and all clubs had been forced to close. Another unwelcome result of the vampire witch-hunts was a necessity for many members of the community to adapt to the drinking of animal blood for their sustenance. Some vampires still refused to drink anything other than human blood, but a larger number had decided that the dietary change was worth the safety from detection that it provided. So those who chose not to feed on humans had turned to animals. It was then that the new threat had arisen.
Memories of his own involvement in past events crowded Nick's mind. The lab-created virus deadly to his kind had not ended with the one rat that had claimed his friend Screed's life so long ago. Other rats carrying the plague had apparently been set free and the virus had moved up the food chain. Carried by fleas and the rat's natural predators, it had incubated in higher animals then struck viciously, making it too dangerous to take any animal for sustenance. In a twist of bitter irony, the past century had yielded a cure for AIDS, effectivly eliminating a cure for the vampiric plague. The choice had become simple: return to killing humans or starve. Nick still took no pleasure in the act before or after he killed, though his nature forced him to revel in mindless abandon during the moments he fed. He'd simply resigned himself to doing what was necessary to survive.
'Survival,' Nick thought, forcing himself back into the present. After a thousand years, was it even worth it anymore? All those he'd loved were gone. The stress of constantly running, hiding, and killing was beginning to wear on him. The only good thing to come out of all the recent trouble had been a somewhat improved relationship with LaCroix. The master had been pleased with Nick's return to his true nature and had tormented him with much less frequency. On his part, Nick had acknowledged his feelings and need for LaCroix and had become less defiant. But would even their renewed ties be enough? Wouldn't it be easier just to turn himself over to the vampire hunters that were everywhere, or greet the sun and be done with it?
"Well, Nicholas, have you made a choice regarding our next home?" LaCroix cooly inquired.
"I think so. How about here?" Nick pointed on the map without looking up.
"Wherever you chose will be fine," conceded LaCroix. "Meanwhile, I have another surprise for you."
Suddenly Nick's head snapped up as he sensed the presence of a third vampire. He looked at LaCroix, then past him, and his mouth dropped open in disbelief. LaCroix stepped aside to allow an unobstructed view.
Nick took a step, then hesitated. The newcomer smiled and reached out. Nick rushed forward to fling his arms around the person. He held tightly for a moment, then pulled away, his eyes drinking in the face he'd thought he'd never see again. "Janette!! Is it really you? How ...Where?..." He broke off as the torrent of emotions threatened to choke him.
"Oui, Nicola, c'est moi. I'm really here," Janette said, her voice sounding sweeter to Nick than any music he'd ever heard. "It took me decades to forgive you and even longer to find you, but I understand now that you did it out of love. I love you too, cheri. I want us to be together ... if you'll have me."
"If I'll have you?!?! Oh, Janette ..."
"I found her last week by chance," LaCroix said, feeling the need to break in before things got too carried away. "I convinced her to wait until tonight to see you. We both thought it would make this birthday special."
Nick was crying tears of joy as he embraced his master. "It does. You both do. Thank you for bringing her to me. You've given me back my heart."
LaCroix said nothing, but his eyes were alight with a deep inner satisfaction. A simple twist of fate had done what he'd been unable to do. His family was together again and happy and despite the dangers, life would be good.