a Forever Knight song challenge fanfiction
This story is about the consequences of LaCroix seeing Nick and Nat together in "Night in Question." "Be My Valentine" is referred to. The centered quotations are from "Killer Instinct" and "Only the Lonely." As for why Nick is addressing LaCroix in Latin at the end rather than French ... well, it's been five years since I took French, and I'm currently taking Latin.
Thanks to the Fang Gang for reading and commenting. :)=
This is from Sting's album Nothing Like the Sun. Enjoy!
If blood will flow,
And flesh and steel are one,
Drying in the color of the evening sun,
Tomorrow's rain will wash the stains away,
But something in our minds will always stay.
Nick's hands were shaking with fear, something that had not happened to him in decades ... centuries, maybe. The freezing rain outside had dampened his hair, sliding under his collar, but even had he been human, he would not have noticed. His entire being was focused on the woman in his arms. He counted her heartbeats, hearing them grow ever slower.
He had been driving home from work, beating the sunrise by bare minutes, peacefully listening to the rain drum on the flexible roof of the Caddie and not thinking much at all, when a sudden fear seized his senses. Somehow, he had known that Natalie was in danger. And the bond that existed between master and disciple made him understand that the terror Nat was feeling was caused by LaCroix. Then the terror was cut off with an abruptness that drove the breath from him.
He knew, even before he entered the loft, what he would find. Natalie lay sprawled on the floor, pale and silent. One arm was flung away from her body, wrist cut with a surgeon's precision. Nick had no idea how long she had lain there: long enough that her skin was nearly blue with blood loss, not long enough to die. A few feet away, barely visible in the dim light, LaCroix lifted a goblet to his lips, and Nick realized that he was drinking Nat's blood, sipping it calmly rather than draining it in a haze of blood lust. Somehow, his passionless consumption of her life force drove Nick past the breaking point.
"Damn you, LaCroix!" He knelt by her side, pressing his fingers to the pulse in her neck even though he could hear her faltering heartbeats easily. The pool of blood that had escaped LaCroix's thirst lay drying in a rust-red pool at the elder vampire's feet. "She was no part of the war between us!"
LaCroix tilted the goblet, examining its contents. In the clear glass and dim light, it shone like a ruby, full of passionate fire. "How quickly you do forget. There was a bargain between us. A love for a love."
Nick tightened his arms around Natalie, futilely trying to shield her from LaCroix. "And I told you, I do not love this woman."
LaCroix tsked with feigned displeasure. "You know, it's odd, Nicholas. You swear to me time and time again that this woman means nothing to you, that she is a means to an end, that you are merely humoring her infatuation. And yet all I have to do is threaten her, and you panic. Now, I wonder, why is that?" LaCroix paused, sipped. "What was it that Englishman said? 'Methinks thou doth protest too much'?" Suddenly his casual levity disappeared, and he drained the glass, flinging it away. It shattered against the shuttered windows. "What kind of fool do you take me for?" His voice dropped to a menacing hiss. "I saw you together. Do you remember? With your memory gone, your defenses gone, I saw how you looked at her. You love her. Therefore, according to our bargain, she is mine to do with as I please."
Nick buried his face against Nat's curls. What a bitter irony, that he had been the one to put Nat in LaCroix's hands, when he had no idea of his own nature, or of the danger he was exposing her to. "And so you've done," he said fiercely. "Now let her be!"
Perhaps this final act was meant,
To clinch a lifetime's argument:
Nick gathered Nat in his arms, preparing to carry her away, take her to a hospital. Her head lolled back over his arm, utterly limp. If it hadn't been for his ability to hear her heart, he would have thought her already dead. But it was still possible to save her life. All he had to do was get her to doctors. They would stop the bleeding, fill her body with blood again. She would live, to scold him and worry over him, to walk in the sun as she was born to, as he dreamed of someday doing with her ...
LaCroix blocked his attempt to exit. "You have nowhere to go, Nicholas. The sun," with a graceful gesture toward the closed blinds, "has risen. You would die before you could carry her far enough to do her any good. And that is only if I was willing to let you go. Which I am not."
Conceding defeat on that score, Nick carefully lowered Nat to the floor, tenderly cradling her head on his thigh. He wrapped his hand around her wrist, applying firm pressure. If he could not get her to a hospital, he could at least stop the bleeding.
What he didn't know was if she had lost too much blood to survive.
"Listen to me, Nicholas." LaCroix's voice was as sharp and exact as the blade he had used to slit Nat's wrist. "You have two choices. You can let her die, or you can bring her across. Either way, your exquisite Dr. Lambert will never see the sun again."
That nothing comes from violence,
And nothing ever could.
* "What am I?" Nicholas whispered. *
* "My protegee." LaCroix's answer was soothing. *
* Nicholas shook his head. "Your slave." *
Nick didn't know how many hours he knelt beside the woman he had dragged into his shadow world. He was hungry, tired, and he wouldn't have moved from her side if a mob of peasants had come rushing into the room armed with stakes and crucifixes. LaCroix said nothing, merely continued to drink, this time from the bottle he had thoughtfully brought along.
Nat's heartbeat stabilized, but did not pick up to the frantically fast rate that was normal for humans. Nick's helplessness infuriated him. There was absolutely nothing he could do. Nat's life or death hung on the strength of her own will, the lion's heart that lived under her wry shell. It was that courage that allowed her to face the monster he had been the night they met, intent on nothing but feeding and his own despair. He knew her so well, knew things she had told no one else in the world. Just as she knew things about him that he had not been able to admit to anyone but her. If she died, she would take that knowledge with her.
He knew there was a way to save her. Drain what little blood remained in her body, and replace it with his. That was the reason LaCroix had not killed her outright. From the first breath Nat drew as a vampire, as his creation, Nick would be inextricable bound back into the world of darkness.
He wondered numbly if that hadn't been her fate from the moment she met him, to either die violently or have her human life ripped from her.
He wondered if he could bear to watch her die.
He wondered if he could bear to face her if he brought her across against her will.
For all those born beneath an angry star:
Lest we forget how fragile we are.
* "Don't." Nick's voice was sharp and cold. Flat. "Don't get too close to me." *
* Nat's eyes remained steady, but he could hear the jump in her heartbeat. She was afraid. She would have been a fool to not be. "You want to hurt me," she said. "Kill me." *
* "No." His reply was whiplash-quick, instinctive, without thought. "But I might anyway." *
"Come, Nicholas, don't be a fool." LaCroix's voice was sharp with impatience. "Is her death really preferable to eternal life? Do you honestly think that she would prefer to die?"
"All I know," Nick said in a low, weary voice, "is that she would be lying asleep and safe in her own bed if she had never known me."
"She's dying, you fool! If you love her, save her!" LaCroix was furious.
Nick smoothed back Nat's hair, kissing her forehead. Saving her life by bringing her across would not preserve her soul. All the little things that she loved in life, chocolate bars and afternoons in the rain, pizza and summers on the beach, the warm camaraderie of her own kind and the innocence of a person who has never raised her hand in anger to another in her life -- all of that would be destroyed with her first taste of blood.
"No," Nick said quietly, with absolute conviction. "Nat will live. As a human."
On and on the rain will fall,
Like tears from a star, like tears from a star.
On and on the rain will say,
How fragile we are, how fragile we are.
Natalie awoke in time to watch the sunset. Exhausted and weak with loss of blood, she was just able to turn her head and smile at Nick, before slipping into a restoring sleep. Nick brushed her cheek lightly with his fingers, feeling the warm glow of her skin. Pulling the blanket over her, carefully tucking the bandaged wrist under it, he turned away.
LaCroix stood on the second level, looking down on the two of them. Nick crossed to the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of blood. He pulled out the cork and drained it in one draft.
The rush of air told him that LaCroix had come to stand behind him. Nick lowered the empty bottle, then let it fall to the floor. "It's over," he said quietly.
"Yes. She will live."
"No. I mean, it's over."
LaCroix sighed. "If you mean to say that I consider my part of the bargain fulfilled, then--"
Without warning, Nick turned and grabbed LaCroix by the collar, flinging him against the table. LaCroix quickly straightened his offended dignity, but did not retaliate. "You seem to be hard of hearing tonight, mea magister," Nick said with bitter sarcasm. "Let me repeat myself. It is over. For hundreds of years I have been your resentful protegee, your slave, longing for freedom but too weak to free myself. Thank you, mea magister, for doing it for me. After this day's work, I owe you no obligation, ever again. You have severed the last threads that bound me to you. You are nothing to me."
Nick turned his back on LaCroix, moving to kneel beside Nat. His entire being seemed focused on tracking the rise and fall of her chest, the murmur of her pulse. Without waking, she whispered his name. LaCroix remained where he was, one hand partially raised as though to call his student back. Then, quietly, he disappeared into the night.
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