a Forever Knight fanfiction
by Ell Hase
February 13, 2006
Happy Valentine's Day, everybody. Here's a little story for anybody who likes NN (dark, light and shades in between).
My thanks to Kristen Fife and KC Smith for beta reading and correcting.
This story takes place before my story, "Human Frailty" (available at the fkvoyage and DarkNN sites). No copyright infringement intended to the owners of Nick, Nat and entourage, we just don't want our favorite characters to get dusty sitting in limbo.
Brussels, February 11
The high definition television screen held a still image. To anyone else, it would have been an ordinary, completely unremarkable freeze frame. A woman wearing a lab coat caught in a particularly animated moment as she spoke about the H5N1 virus and the latest low-cost vaccines against it. Hair pulled up in a bun with some stray wisps struggling free, her blue eyes were framed by austere, dark, rectangular spectacles. She looked intelligent, very competent; but plain. No great beauty there.
To Nicholas, she was a vision rivaling a houri. His Natalie. He’d known she was alive, somewhere out there. And now, to see her again . . . He resisted the urge to caress the screen, knowing that it was a futile gesture.
He’d had four years of searching, his agents thoroughly investigating list upon list of people she’d known throughout her life in Toronto. They had sifted through personnel folders, cell phone records and mailing addresses for clues. All fruitless. Natalie Lambert had completely disappeared and was untraceable anywhere in North and South America, even Europe.
It was pure chance that Nick came across the program. He’d been channel surfing. The business program had seemed suitable background noise for his nightly ‘breakfast’. He downed the blood wine in the glass goblet rapidly. Heart beating twice in five minutes, his blood was racing, for a vampire. He took in the scant information available on screen, frowning slightly at the change in her surname. The name of the company she was working for seemed familiar, though. Nick felt a tremor run through him, whether it was excitement or nervousness he couldn’t tell, as he hit the speed dial for his chief investigator.
“Bastien, I have a lead. Drop everything else and get the team to work on this immediately. In Singapore. Ayura Research. The surname is MacGee.” They talked a few moments more about what was to be done, excited at a solid trail after so many false ones. “Bon, I will meet you before I give final approval. À demain,” finished Nick.
He allowed himself a small chuckle at the end of the call, feeling lighthearted for the first time since he’d relocated to Brussels. Trust Nat to do the unexpected - even her best friend, Grace, had not known to tell the investigators that Nat was in Asia. He looked at Nat’s image on the screen again. This time, futile gesture or not, he traced the outline of her beloved face.
“Soon, Nat,” he promised.
Singapore, February 14
Orchard Road and the trendier parts of the city were gearing up for a particularly expensive February 14th. Roses of all shades were selling at ever-upward spiraling prices. The older, well-established restaurants were being overwhelmed with calls from moneyed sweethearts seeking a romantic dinner rendezvous.
Natalie hoped that this evening would turn out all right. Things had become very strained between her and Stuart. Both of them had been spending far too much time at work. It was quite simply an unhealthy stage in their marriage. She decided to be optimistic and take it as a good sign they’d both committed to this evening together. For a moment, she had a mini gloat as she’d had the foresight to secure reservations at the romantic and pricey Les Amis restaurant well in advance of the Valentine’s Day crowd.
Natalie now regarded the evening wear laid out on the bed. The dress was not recent but the style was timeless and best of all, she still fit in it. Black, just about knee length in soft velvet, it was sleeveless and cut rather décolleté. She remembered wearing it exactly once to a Valentine’s Day dinner years ago. Hardly a romantic one but it was a happy evening, at least.
Stepping into the shower, Natalie gave a small, self-mocking laugh as she remembered that she’d had such a good time, her mind had actually blanked out memories of the dinner itself.
She clearly recalled it had been at the ultra-swank Azure, that she’d over-indulged, even her deep embarrassment at the next shift when she’d had to ask Nick just what had transpired over their evening at the restaurant. Nick had smiled impishly before reassuring her they’d had “a great time”. It was one of the few memories of Toronto she could actually think about without getting upset. Perhaps that was why she’d kept the dress as well.
The warm water sluiced soothingly down her back, relaxing her normally wild, curly, chestnut hair into straight, silky strands. Soap, shampoo and crème rinse followed. Mustn’t forget to shave legs. God that feels good, she thought contentedly as waves of relaxation unknotted each and every ache.
She couldn’t believe that she was actually out early today. With satisfaction, Natalie showered off the last traces of what she’d dubbed “Eau de Laboratoire”, that pungent disinfectant the lab routinely misted on everyone departing their testing facility. She lightly hummed an old tune she’d picked up somewhere as she stepped out of the shower smelling like ripe peaches and cinnamon.
The message light on the bedroom phone was blinking furiously.
For several moments Natalie stared at the flickering light, dreading to actually pick it up and having to listen to whatever disappointment that awaited. The lab wants me back. A break-in at the office. There’s been an accident. Her mind spun round after round of possible personal calamity. The actual message was actually anti-climactic.
“Talie, honey, it’s Stu. I’m sorry luv, I know we made plans but I really can’t get away tonight. The gang and I have been cracking our heads on this project and getting nowhere. Our deadline’s tomorrow. I promise I’ll make it up to you, Talie. We’ll go to Batam for the weekend or something. Maybe relax at that spa you like. I’ll see you at home later, okay?”
She hung up the phone with a quiet click, completely ignoring the impulse to fling it against a wall.
Brussels, same night, seven hours behind Singapore
The stack of photo printouts accompanying the report had his full attention. The latest of which was taken just hours ago, uploaded then relayed via secure network to his computer.
She was wearing that dress, dining alone in a quiet restaurant not unlike the Azure. Nick couldn’t believe the coincidence. Heart unwilling, his perfect vampire recall nonetheless brought back everything about the Valentine’s night he’d almost killed Nat in front of LaCroix.
He’d thought he could lie convincingly. “I do not love this woman.”
The sneer in his master’s voice taunted Nick more effectively than LaCroix’s words. “Prove it. Bring her over.”
Nick returned some of the arrogance. “And . . . if I refuse?”
“Then I will do with her as I please,” growled LaCroix.
“At least she is someone who will improve our kind’s reputation.” Even as he said those words, Nick felt his heart sink. He couldn’t, wouldn’t bring her across into his damned existence. This was the end for his courageous, fiery Natalie and he would be the instrument of her demise.
Nick inhaled her unique scent as he summoned the cold killer within. The vampire wanted to purr with pleasure at being given free rein. The very human heat of her body was roughly pulled closer as though it could warm his own cold flesh. He tasted the curve of her throat, plundered her mouth.
This was not his beloved, nothing personal, he reminded himself. Her blood is food and feeling, the purest nectar, warm from the source. Her veins throbbed, straining with undiscovered secrets and his fangs lengthened for bloody consummation.
It had been close. Almost too close to stop. If LaCroix had not called a halt, regardless of the intention, she would have been nothing but a drained corpse at his feet. Nick still felt intense shame and despair from his actions that night especially at wiping out her memory of the evening. At that time it seemed the only safe option but it had proved to be the first step toward a greater catastrophe. He’d made too many nearly fatal mistakes with her. Fate, Providence or the Almighty, call it what you will, a benevolent power had saved her. One with a rather dark sense of humor.
A 3R-printout showing Natalie staring off into the distance dragged Nick back into the present. A solitary teardrop winked from the corner of one eye as she sipped from her wineglass. What are you thinking of, Nat? What makes you so sad? He could almost feel her isolation and sorrow, just from that picture. It mirrored his own feelings these last years - surrounded by people yet untouched in his loneliness, bereft of her.
In contrast, the compiled dossier was clinically emotionless in its words. Natalie MacGee, clinical studies manager, Ayura Research, Kent Ridge. Husband Stuart MacGee. Account Director at Viper Advertising. Marriage registered at Singapore Registry of Marriages. No children. Security records indicate subject frequently works late or arrives very early to work.
He let the rest of the words blur. He didn’t care about how much money she made, how much her apartment cost or the make of her car. Those things didn’t matter. He wondered what she thought had happened to him. Did she think he’d left her for dead? That he was dead?
LaCroix had been extremely closemouthed about the disaster at the Toronto loft other than to confirm that she lived. And his father had only said that to prevent a repeat suicide attempt.
Nick had hope now. He wouldn’t end his life as long as she walked the earth. They’d been closer to a cure than they thought. It was one of the few blessings that came from that last night at the loft. He’d been in the sun several times since then, unharmed, thanks to her. The blood bond that they’d formed when he took her blood was poor payment for such a gift. The scales were heavily weighed in his favor. Taking, always taking, never really giving her anything worthwhile in return. Even his love had proved a double-edged sword.
She’s asleep by now. It was almost ten in Brussels, he calculated that would make it about five in the morning in Singapore.
He turned his mind toward her, picturing her snuggled safely in bed. If it had been up to him, she would not have dined alone tonight, looking sad and adrift. Nick pictured himself at her doorstep, dressed in a black suit to match her fine midnight velvet dress. There would be roses. Red for passionate love. He would kiss her hand, her cheek, inhale that bouquet of cinnamon, oranges and chocolate that was Nat. A chaste kiss on the lips that hinted at more passionate rewards later.
Her eyes would sparkle with delight at the evening together. The world receding to mere backdrop as they spoke of everything and nothing. She would dine on rare filet mignon, drink Merlot, rounding off the meal with her favorite chocolate, something Belgian, of course.
He would remind her repeatedly how beautiful she looked and what she meant to him. Words he should have told her long before, now in his mind, naught but silly illusion. But Nick felt warmer, more human for it. I miss you, Nat.
The pieces were almost all in place for his plans. He’d see her soon. With the tidings he brought, he wondered if she’d willingly see him.
Singapore, almost five in the morning
Stuart stifled another yawn as he closed the bathroom door. "Quiet, y’daft ejeet, Talie’s asleep," he admonished himself mentally. Morning was not far away. Stu desperately wanted to grab the last hours of darkness before dawn.
Natalie was chuckling softly in her sleep. She murmured something too soft for his ears. God, she looks happy, he thought.
Pleasant dreams, luv. Hope your Valentine’s Day was not a complete wash. A smile of perfect contentment curved her lips. Stu slipped on his pajamas then slid into the covers next to Natalie.
Les Amis is a real restaurant in Singapore -- it looks a lot like Azure. If you’re ever in Singapore and want to dine in style, check out Les Amis.
We're already celebrating Valentine's Day and just on Sunday we had Chap Goh Mei, which marks the end of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration. Chap Goh Mei is also the local equivalent of Valentine's Day -- singles throw oranges into the sea with a wish to meet the love of their life. ;)
Whatever your celebration, make it a good one!
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