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Whence the Truce
last modified January 5, 2008
by Amy R.
G. Please see the endnote for disclaimers, credits, and all that good stuff. This fanfiction is a tribute to the television series Forever Knight.
It had not worked, Lacroix mused. His attempt to reclaim his son through the Weiss woman had failed. Neither Nicholas's raw desire for the novelist nor his sense of responsibility to the vampire community had been enough to force him out of this fantasy of human ethics and back to the real world of immortal power. Uncomprehending, Lacroix shook his head. Worse yet, that tactic had failed even more thoroughly than his attempt to rout Nicholas from this encampment by framing him for that mewling lab assistant's vigilantism. The old, familiar strategies -- maneuvers with which Lacroix had repeatedly broken Nicholas's bids for independence through the centuries -- were suddenly inadequate, and he did not know why. What could have happened in the two years that he had been incapacitated to contravene the experience of eight centuries?
Troubled, the ancient vampire raised the crystal goblet Janette had provided him and stared contemplatively at the thick liquid it contained, as if the answer to his question lurked somewhere in its crimson depths. Of course it contains the answer, he smiled ironically to himself, as it also contains the problem. If only Nicholas would cease his unnatural refusal to savor the hunt, the kill, and hot, human blood; if only he would cease demeaning his body and mind with his inane pretensions to 'recovery' and 'redemption'; if only he would submit . . . he must be made to submit. There was no option. Nicholas was a fool to hope otherwise. For if Nicholas were not wrong, as wrong as one could be, then Lacroix's entire existence. . . .
"Do you need anything, Lacroix?" Janette asked, pushing open the filigree iron gates that separated this parlor and the living quarters beyond it from the public areas of the Raven nightclub, which even now pulsed with the beat of the music and the blood of its mortal patrons. Janette entered the lounge to address him, Lacroix noted, but came no closer than bare etiquette demanded, obviously still uncomfortable in his presence. Lacroix wondered if she, too, had strayed in his absence. Not that it might not be entertaining, waging this battle on two fronts, battering down Janette's always-weaker resistance and then using her against Nicholas -- but somehow that fray lacked the appeal it had once possessed. He sighed.
"Thank you, Janette," Lacroix replied quietly, setting the goblet on the low table in front of him and topping the contents from one of the bottles she'd had Miklos bring him. "But I lack nothing you can provide."
Janette's eyes narrowed slightly, such a tiny change of expression that none but he would have perceived it, and he knew she was unsure whether she had received a simple acknowledgement or a subtle reprimand. Good. Nicholas would have assumed it was an insult, unquestionably, but whether he would have nursed the wound in silence or instigated a brawl over the slight, Lacroix could only guess. His son could not hide his thoughts from him, of course, but thoughts and feelings are only distant relatives, and Lacroix's absence had been such that the emotions now motivating Nicholas were quite beyond him. Far beyond me, Lacroix thought self-mockingly, as demonstrated by my two consecutive failures to coerce Nicholas back into line in the month since my return. Lacroix had believed that if he acted in the old patterns, Nicholas would revert to them as well; he always had before. Even this century-long pouting fit, abstaining entirely from the kill, had had its intermissions. In the past, it had not been nearly this difficult to inspire them.
Why now? What had kept Nicholas here when his facade of a human life should have been torn to shreds around him? It had never been like this before; never had the Crusader stood his ground under such siege, never had the convert defied the master as an equal. What made Nicholas cling so fiercely to this particular piece of earth, this specific span of time? The novelist, the lab technician, the archeologist, the blood bank employee -- repeatedly, Lacroix had attempted to dislodge Nicholas from this Toronto incarnation, and repeatedly he had failed. Once, that failure had come very nearly at the cost of his own immortal life.
Calmly oblivious to the daughter who had been a distinct second in his eyes for nearly eight centuries, Lacroix ignored both Janette's penetrating gaze and her discreet departure. He settled back into the stiff cushions of the antique sofa and began, once again, to turn over in his mind his near-death at his son's hands, spinning it to expose every angle, searching relentlessly for the facet which would be, must be, the weak point from which he could shatter this strange world he had found on his recovery.
If he wished to take it by force, of course.
Perhaps he did not.
Troubled by his own ambivalence, Lacroix pondered the unknown something that was so vastly different than it had been at the point his conscious memories ended two years before -- ended, at the point of a flaming stake wielded by his son. Something did not match, he knew, and for the first time, he wondered whether the difference were not in his children, but in himself. Most of the past two years was a mangled blur of physical agony, and, more recently, anguishing humiliation, as his body had sluggishly reconstituted first itself and then his mind from bare ashes and the blood of the vermin a creature such as he had been could catch. The strength of will to bring himself back from the brink -- if it had not been born in a desire for revenge, the emotion he knew best, then whence had it come? Lacroix struggled to remember. He struggled to understand.
* * *
A vampire's vulnerabilities are those of his humanity, Lacroix had long known; whether emotional or physical, weakness and injury revert to the base stock of humankind. And human ashes are no different from the ashes of any other animal, really. A bit more yellow, perhaps, than the ashes that come of burning wood, a bit finer and even stickier, they are, in the end, largely indistinguishable from any other ashes when the flame has burned hot enough and long enough to reduce even bones and teeth to dust.
And so, indistinguishable from the rest of the debris produced by the conflagration at Gateway Lane that autumn night in 1992, the little pile of human ash had been swept away from the elevator door and into the garbage with the other refuse, then pitched indiscriminately into the dumpster out back. It had lain intermixed with dust and dirt and the scorched stump of an easel leg, some flakes touching and some quite far apart, but the physical disposition of what had once been a body went unnoticed by any earthly creature, for the awareness that had so long inhabited that body had then been somewhere else entirely.
Where, exactly, Lacroix was unable to determine, as he woke slowly to the unfamiliar sensations of grass beneath his cheek and afternoon sun gently warming his back. Straining to wrest consciousness from a miasma of flaming pain and the echo of Nicholas's curse -- "Damn you! Burn in Hell! Va au diable!" -- it sunk in that he was lying on a hillside, outdoors . . . in the sun. Deep-drilled habit took over with that realization, and he bolted for the first scant shelter he spotted -- an enormous olive tree at the top of the hill -- even before his mind could differentiate between the flames crackling dangerously in his memory and the daylight harmlessly surrounding him now.
In the moment it took Lacroix to reach the questionable safety of the tree, however, he understood that he did not need safety, though he did not understand why. The sun had not burned him. Stretching out his hands, he inspected his skin, his clothing -- everything intact, exactly as he was most familiar with it, rather than the stained, ripped, pierced, blackened, melted . . . he cut off that line of thought. Nicholas would be dealt with, of course, but for some reason his son did not occupy his thoughts as he usually did. There was something about this place, something familiar, which he could not quite grasp -- familiar? Lacroix smirked disdainfully at himself. Familiar? A place where the sun did not burn? And how had he gotten here?
Concluding that this must be a dream, the product of the shock he was no doubt experiencing from the wound Nicholas had inflicted, Lacroix resigned himself to a brief tour of his own subconscious. Making his way through untrimmed boughs back to the outer rim of the branches, he noted that the ancient tree dominated the hill right up to where a ridge dropped off at a severe angle. The slope itself varied between rock and brush, but rolled quickly into a verdant plain -- a river valley, Lacroix saw, as the sunlight glistened over the distant water, this promontory a foothill to the mountain range encircling the fields. The terrain was strangely familiar, he thought again, but this time as the question formed so did the answer, and he unconsciously ripped a substantial branch from the olive tree in his tense abstraction.
Of course he knew this place.
It was where he, a mere boy in soldier's clothing, had first felt the hand of death, and turned away. And it was where he had returned, a general of the empire, to make that choice explicitly at Divia's fangs. To send him here once more -- what had Nicholas done?
Pushing his way slowly through the heavy branches to the other side of the hill, Lacroix remembered the minor skirmish that he had fought here more than nineteen centuries past, the first battle in his mortal career. He had been young for his work, even by the standards of the time, but without a prominent patron the only road to power led through the legions, and power was the only apprenticeship Lacroix would accept. It had been as inglorious as possible, that engagement, his squadron sent not against an outside enemy for the expansion of the empire, but instead against an arrogant landowning family that had unwisely decided to spread indelicate rumors about the Emperor and refuse to pay its taxes. Emerging on the other side of the Mediterranean evergreen, Lacroix recalled the stab wound he had received at the very beginning of the fight; even after two millennia of nigh-invulnerability, he still winced at the remembered sensation of the pike ripping through his skin, muscle, tendons and arteries before it scraped against bone, centimeters away from ending his life, permanently, before that life even began. The memory tinted red with pain, Lacroix pictured how he had staggered to the side of a huge boulder at the bottom of this hill, and collapsed. Shielding his eyes against the sun, Lacroix looked down for that boulder, and saw . . . "Fleur!"
"Hello, Lucien," she responded softly from her perch on the rock. The slender Brabantine girl looked exactly as she had the last time he saw her, except that her blond hair shimmered gold in the sun, and her blue garment was a Roman chiton, more suited to this setting than a medieval gown. "I've been waiting for you."
For a moment -- just a moment -- Lacroix found himself speechless. No one but Fleur ever had that affect on him, but she always did, both in the scant three nights he had shared with her, and the innumerable imaginings ever since. But those never-ending dreams made this mirage relatively familiar, and he slid naturally into the conversation as he picked his way down the hill to her. "How long have you been waiting?"
"Since Nicolas killed you," Fleur answered.
"What?" Lacroix asked, startled, as he reached the boulder. This was a new twist: an imaginary Fleur, clearly costumed for a fantasy of his mortal life, commenting on the real world. It suddenly dawned on him that she was speaking modern English, as well, rather than the Flemish dialect of thirteenth-century Brabant, or the Latin which would accord with her surroundings. What was going on?
"When Nicolas stabbed you, I came here," she explained calmly, her enormous blue eyes full of compassion as she looked down at him. "I knew you would come here. I knew this was your doorway, your image of the place between life and death." Her gaze drifted for a moment, focusing on something she saw only in her mind. "Mine is behind stone walls, the air choking with smoke and the stench of sickness. . . . Oh, Lucien," She slid down the boulder into his arms, continuing with stern seriousness, "This is not a dream, you know."
"Dream, reality," he whispered fiercely, holding her close and burying his face in her hair. He loved the smell of her, the feel of her, the sense of her presence pushing though his blood into what was left of his soul. For this illusion, it was almost worth being staked. Almost. "What does it matter? Right now, I have you."
"And I have you," Fleur whispered, just as fiercely, reaching up confidently to caress his face. With no air of the inexperience that had restrained her when she had indeed been the girl she once again appeared, she kissed him passionately.
Kissing back, Lacroix found himself dizzied between the intensity of his physical need to possess her, and that of his emotional need to release her. For eight centuries, he had consecrated his sacrifice of her as the definition of love itself, and every passing year had set the dichotomy more concretely. Logic could not cut through the shrine he had made of his own wretched loneliness. And though passion had come and gone, of course, he had never deigned . . . never dared . . . to reconcile it with love. The vampire's love destroyed, so the vampire did not dare "love" anything -- anyone -- it truly wanted, much less needed. To love was to destroy; so to destroy had become how he loved . . .
Lacroix pulled back, breaking the kiss. This confusion had no place in any of his dreams; this uncertainty was eight-hundred-years buried and gone. This did not fit. No fantasy of his own manufacture questioned him. He would not be made to doubt! Lacroix grasped the base of Fleur's skull and jerked her head up, searching her huge blue eyes and finding more there than he remembered. Much more. Incredulous and almost afraid, he hissed, "What are you?"
"Exactly what you are," she answered, arching her eyebrows, "except that I don't have a body to return to." With that, she wrenched free of his grip and strode away along the base of the hill. She felt insulted, Lacroix realized in wonder. He would have imagined fear, not offense -- or would he? This figment represented Fleur, after all, and nothing had ever frightened Fleur. She put several yards between them, then stopped, sighed, and turned back, placing her hands on her hips. "I told you this wasn't a dream, and you've been here twice before yourself. What proof do you require?"
"I have dreamed it too many times," Lacroix said, bitterly. "Too many Fleurs, too many lives I might have led, too many men I might have been, if she had been with me."
"Oh, Lucien," she smiled sadly. "And which of them are you now? If this were a dream, would you not be one of those other men? Perhaps one who is a leader among his people, rather than a renegade. Perhaps one who knows how to be a father to my brother, rather than an owner." She stepped nearer and stretched out her hand to him. "Perhaps one who understands that he is loved, in spite of everything he has done and been."
Lacroix looked down at her outstretched hand, but did not take it. Wondering what to believe, he looked into her eyes again, and this time recognized the woman she had become without him, rather than the girl he had left behind. Her expression was full of compassion, a deep sympathy tinged with the sense that she knew something he did not. And if she knew something beyond him . . . then she was no dream, no internal fantasy. "Fleur?"
"Yes, Lucien," she affirmed, still holding out her hand.
"I . . . I have missed you." The fervent admission was barely audible, Lacroix knew, but he could not bear to repeat that confession of vulnerability. That wound, his lack of her, was more raw and agonizing than the day he left her behind, for her absence had become tangled in his mind with every other lack, every pain, every torment in his existence. Losing her had taught him never, at any cost, to lose another: never, at any cost, to be alone.
She took his hand, then, pulled him to her, and rested her head against his chest. "You have never been alone," she said slowly. "I have always been with you. When I left my body behind, I also left the bond Nicolas had lain on my memory. My parents, husband, daughters, friends, all went on before me in their times, but when I was invited to step into the light--" she broke off, and was silent for a moment. "My son André, Nicolas, you: with my memories locked away, there were so many things I left unfinished, unprotected, unknown. With them restored, I discovered regrets which could only be burned away on this side of the doorway. I have always been with you, Lucien. Always."
Long moments passed in that attitude, and Lacroix was surprised to discover that he would be content never to leave it. As long as he stayed there, with Fleur in his arms and her words echoing in his ears, he could believe her. As long as he could believe her, nothing else would matter. "If this is Eternity," he murmured, "this time, I will stay."
Fleur pulled back slightly to look into his eyes. "Do you remember the light? You forget some things so deeply, so deliberately; I've often wondered if that were one."
"No." What was she implying? "Certainly, I remember the light." The bright doorway, its strange guardian, its promise of a choice, versus the world he knew and the pull of Divia's summons. "When I have been here before, there has been a . . . being, a guide."
"On the other side of the boulder," Fleur began, and Lacroix immediately disengaged from their embrace to circle the stone. "Lucien!" Fleur shouted, then ran after him. "It has changed! Those things which you never share with others, and rarely with yourself: they have changed it."
Her warning came too late, however. By the time she finished speaking and joined him, Lacroix had stepped into a nightmare.
The doorway stood close by, the same blazing light Lacroix had seen before, though now, with twentieth-century eyes, he saw more of a dimensional portal than an entrance to the pits of Tartarus. Beyond the free-standing gate, though, a giant wooden scaffold sprouted from the plain, and though a corner of Lacroix's mind coldly demanded to know how such a structure could have escaped his notice to this point, the rest recoiled violently, beyond logic or shame, and he dropped to one knee as he suppressed the urge to retch.
It was not the half-skeletal, half-mummified corpse swinging quietly in the breeze that affected him, of course. It was not even that the exposed and executed criminal, condemned and denounced before all by power as well as justice, bore a withered mask of his own face, grinning hideously into his own destruction. No, it was the handbills, plastered for public viewing over every part of the structure, and then plastered over each other, and over again, and again. They rose meters thick on the platform below the body . . . his body . . . his soul . . . wanted posters for every crime he had committed against his fellow man . . . against God . . . against himself.
It was not any one of the infinite, wanton murders which brought him low, and certainly not the general sadistic, deceiving, destructive wave of rapine that had been his existence. A part of his mind still shrieked that all this was permitted by his very nature, his right, his prerogative as a vampire to bathe in mortal flesh and blood. But that part of his mind screamed in all too familiar a voice, a voice that was not his own, and recognition of that voice turned all his familiar sins into exclamation points, punctuating those he had refused to understand. The wanted posters forced his comprehension, spelling out in black and white his copycat crimes; as Divia had enslaved, used and abused him, so he had Nicholas and Janette . . . and worse, with time on his hands, fulfilling all Divia's ambitions. With everything it had cost him to kill her, he had not beaten her. He had become her.
Utterly exposed, he felt Fleur's hands on his shoulders, and the urge to shrink from her. What was he? What manner of creature was he, that he could commit these atrocities and then lock them away from himself, to commit them again? What manner of beast, to gnaw on himself and glory in it? Lacroix had scorned Nicholas for denying his true nature, but this chronicle of Lacroix's own barbarity was beyond nature, beyond sanity. The magnitude of his evil was beyond Divia's, and she had been his very definition of evil. Had he no limits? He wondered if his mind would crack with the weight of it; he wondered if it had not cracked centuries before.
"Lucien? Lucien, look at me," said Fleur gently, stepping between him and the scaffold.
"No," he whispered, less to her than to himself. He shuddered, then threw off her hands and stood in a single motion, shouting to the sky. "No! By what power is this scale imposed? What right? I defy it! It is not of me!"
Inside the doorway, a beam of light separated itself and solidified, until a human figure stepped through onto the grass. "It represents the state of your soul, Lucius, the decay of the vampire's evil incarnate," the form of a Pompeiian girl declared, its voice calm, measured, and somehow disinterested. Its gaze flickered briefly to the dangling corpse, then returned to Lacroix. "The image comes from your mind; the scale from your soul. Both are yours; we do not impose."
"No." The apparition remained expressionless. "But her evil opened the path for yours. She is the source, the motive, of your destruction, and destruction is the state of your soul. I mirror that."
"You have reversed the order." Lacroix crossed his arms, sneering. "She was my daughter, therefore her evil came from me. I was her evil. My 'destruction' is my own." If that were a lie, then so be it, he thought. He refused to think of Qa'Ra, Divia's vampiric maker, or of anything else which distorted or perverted his paternal role. She was his daughter, not his master, not his mother, not . . . anything else.
"Consider, Lucius," began the Divia-figure. "She makes her own choices, as you make yours. Thoughts and deeds are choices. Evil is a choice." The apparition refocused its gaze on Fleur, as if taking in both of them for the first time. "You may come to us, Fleur and Lucius; you may come into the light. Your paths have been open for a very long time."
"What will happen if we do?" Fleur stepped up and took Lacroix's arm.
"You will be judged."
"I knew that." Fleur smiled self-deprecatingly as she turned to face Lacroix. "But I wanted to remind you of it. I am ready, Lucien. I always have been; I have known my sins and my virtues, my struggles and my gifts, and whatever they bring, I accept. But you --"
"I will not accept," he responded coldly. "I do not; I cannot!" He paused for a long moment, musing. When he continued, it was distantly, detachedly, if without rancor. "I am not what I had believed. I destroyed her, Fleur; I destroyed my daughter, and she is destroying me. I have become what I hated most, never suspecting the depth of the transformation."
"Can you reverse it?"
"Can I?" He paused, trying to imagine being free of the hatred, and the fear, and the guilt; being free to cast a life in his own image, rather than hers; being free to look clearly ahead and behind without imperiling his sanity. He tried to imagine it, but failed. He had murdered his own daughter. His master. She had made him . . . want . . . . He could see no further; the barriers went back up. "There is no absolution for such as me, Fleur," Lacroix hissed suddenly. "Not even from you!" He shook off her hand and turned sharply away.
"You have killed countless thousands of innocents," Fleur flared, moving back in front of him, "and it is that one act of self-defense that torments you?! Of course it is," she sighed. "The others are reenactment, wallowing in the savagery she lusted after, to prove yourself more despicable than her. Lucien, you are -- you can be -- more than this, so much more!"
Lacroix looked down into her fierce expression, not a little awed. She had devoted so much to him, and he had never known. If only he had known. "Between believing I had lost you, and knowing that I had killed her . . ."
"You did not," the figure at the doorway interjected serenely. "Divia sleeps, deeply, but she is not dead. The evil she has chosen will not release her until she wills it so. She feeds it with her soul."
"Divia lives?" Fleur asked. The guide inclined its head. "See, Lucien," Fleur insisted passionately. "I have always been with you, and you are not responsible for Divia. You do not have to be the one who killed her, the one who left me, any longer. You do not have to be anything."
Lacroix arched one eyebrow. If he had been facing anyone but Fleur, his expression would have been openly mocking. "At the other end of history, that might provide comfort. But I am what I have become. And, apparently, I am also . . . dead."
"You have been dead before, Lucius," the guide reminded him. "Whether you move forward or back from this state is your choice. If you are strong enough. If you have help." The Divia-figure looked from Lacroix to Fleur, taking in both. "You may come to us; you may step into the light."
"Your purpose here is to guard, to guide?" Lacroix asked. "Then tell me: what do you say I should do?"
"Repent," said the guide. "Atone."
"I . . . am not thus inclined." How futile, Lacroix thought. If there were justice in the universe, he would be destroyed, by definition. Mercy was a concept he could barely even conjecture, except in the person of Fleur.
"That is your choice," the guide repeated. "Will you come?"
"No," Lacroix pronounced flatly. "I will not acquiesce to another's judgment. I do not acknowledge the claim," he glanced over at the scaffold, wincing slightly, "even where I am compelled to admit the power. I will not submit to my own destruction!"
"And I," Fleur told the guide, "will wait. With him."
The Divia-figure nodded, and vanished along with the doorway, leaving the couple alone on the empty plain.
"So," Lacroix turned to Fleur. "Do we have a world to return to?"
"You do. And you had better do so soon. The longer one waits, the more difficult it becomes, and it could hardly be more difficult than it already is in your case. Come with me." She took his hand, striding quickly away from the hill.
"What do you mean, 'you do'?" Lacroix followed, but saw nothing in the valley to which she might be heading. "And where are we going?"
"Where you could not go alone," she replied, grasping his hand more tightly. "A vampire yet tied to his body, a part of both worlds, but not a creature of either: your only route out of this limbo is at the hands of a true mortal --"
Suddenly, Lacroix felt as if he were stepping through a veil of cobwebs, and then, a few steps after, another, and another. With each, a wave of sensations washed over him, smells and sounds and sights flashing by like scenery out the window of a high-speed train. A rose garden in summer; a swim in an icy lake; a newborn child in his arms; a book that had tired his eyes; a dark, smoky room, bone-chilling in the medieval European winter.
"-- or a true ghost," Fleur finished, stepping lightly into the night in front of a dumpster behind a seemingly-empty warehouse.
Slowly regaining his equilibrium, Lacroix noted that she did not even seem aware that her clothing had become jeans, a blouse, and a warm jacket, chameleon-like in its adaptation to her surroundings. He gestured at her apparel and raised one eyebrow. "Interesting maneuver."
"I have had a long time to learn," she shrugged. "Appearance is superficial, infinitely mutable. And we are not invisible, Lucien. Not to those who believe."
Instinctively, Lacroix knew that Nicholas was one who believed. With a surge of jealousy, he wondered if Nicholas had ever communicated with Fleur over the centuries, but asked, instead, "Where are we?" Uncannily, though, he already knew.
"Your remains are there." Fleur pointed to the metal garbage bin and smiled sympathetically. "By the end of the world, this would have been as good a coffin as any, but returning now . . ."
"You are not coming with me." Lacroix finally admitted the obvious to himself.
"I have always been with you, Lucien. I always will."
"But now, like this," he pulled her into his arms, "we are the same. We are together. Why should I go back without you?"
Fleur stretched her arms around his back, laid her head on his chest, and held him as close as she could. "Please don't tempt me," she asked, closing her eyes. He rested his cheek on her hair, trying to store up the embrace for the separation he could feel stalking them, ready to pounce. He could not fend it off if she invited it, and somehow he knew she would. Eight centuries apart, and they would part again; he could all but feel his heart crumbling further around its already-jagged edges.
"I don't have much heart left," he whispered at her ear. "You should take more care with it."
"Lucien, this waiting state is hardly real," Fleur said slowly, "and you can yet have reality. You must have reality; you must learn who you are, so you can face the light." When he did not respond, she added, "I will not step into the light without you."
"I would step in now if you asked me, my flower, to the very gates of Hades. But I am a vampire. Nature itself demands I exist as I have; it is part of the order of things. I will not be other than that. I cannot change."
"Cannot?" Fleur craned back her neck, looking up with a deeply serious expression. "You can cease killing for mere sport. And you can be other to Nicolas and Janette than Divia was to you."
Lacroix recoiled as if slapped. His children -- yes: that was the reason to return. He would be Divia's creation no longer. He would re-create himself, and his relationship with them. Divia would have no legacy through him!
And as long as he believed -- and how could he doubt this memory? -- at least he would know Fleur was with him in spirit. Perhaps that would be enough to hold him to the change. Looking down into her bottomless eyes, Lacroix admitted, "I have seen you in your brother. Often."
"I know you have. And so does he." She kissed him, and stepped away. "I love you."
Lacroix peered down into the dumpster and spotted the pile of ash, dismayed at how little substance it had. "How . . . ?"
"A vampire's spirit and body can always be reunited on this side of the light, given, first, a mortal to bring them together, and second, all the vampire's strength willing that it be so. I have brought you back, Lucien. Now, it is up to you."
Instinctively then, Lacroix looked down at the dust that was what remained of his physical form, and felt himself flowing inside. Sheer force of will drew the pile of ashes together, exhausting all the reserves of his mind and spirit to create a mere scavenging creature, lower than the lowest carouche, a creature that took two years to struggle slowly back up the food chain, into a body, into a man, into the one who had named himself "Lacroix."
* * *
"Lacroix? It is almost dawn," Janette's voice broke into his preoccupied reverie, hopelessly scattering the scant memories he had managed to reassemble. It had taken him all night to sketch in even a few of the larger events of the past two years; the specifics continued to slide past him like a sharp autumn mist -- uncountable, individual pins pricking his mind for a flash, then gone as if they never were. He simply could not recall anything between being staked in Nicholas's loft two years ago and awakening in an abandoned basement two months ago. He had lost something infinitely valuable, he knew, something that was the key to his struggle with his son and his own unaccustomed ambivalence. But what?
"Lacroix?" Janette repeated. "I will be going to sleep. The club is closed and the sun will rise soon." She pulled the gates shut behind her and strode quickly across the chamber, as if anxious to be out of his presence; even so, she turned back at the threshold of the hallway and lingered questioningly. He knew she would never ask where he had been for the past two years, never admit that she had believed him dead at Nicholas's hand. And because she would never ask, he would never tell her.
"What is it, Janette?" he finally allowed.
"Are you planning to stay here . . . long?" she inquired carefully.
"In your club?" he asked rhetorically. They both knew she meant something much larger. "No, Janette. I have made other arrangements, and will be elsewhere from tomorrow night on." She nodded, unsatisfied, and withdrew.
In fact, Lacroix thought as he stared after her, the answer was, "Yes." Yes, he was planning to stay here, in Toronto, as long as Nicholas and Janette did. Janette, as always, was tractable and obedient -- to all appearances, in any case. But Nicholas . . . When Lacroix had pushed, his son had pushed back, and that aroused his curiosity. Nicholas had said he wanted no second chance but the one he had given himself; and that struck a powerful chord in Lacroix, though his memory refused to identify the constituent notes. The ancient vampire suddenly realized that he very much wanted to see this "second chance" Nicholas evidently held so dear, and to do so he was willing to allow the pup the territory he had claimed.
He wanted his son back, as always. Perhaps this was the means to that end.
Suddenly determining to implement the radical new course of action that had been nagging at the edges of his mind ever since his recovery, Lacroix strode down the hallway and exited the Raven through the underground, residential passage. The sun was not yet up, and as he reached the surface and leapt into flight, he judged that he had more than enough time to reach his son's home.
He would proffer Nicholas an arrangement, Lacroix decided, a pledge not to interfere in the life the knight had made here, in return for permission to observe that life. He would promise to maintain the fictions of Nicholas's mortal charade, to not approach his son's human playmates, to restrain himself from breaking the Crusader's precious moral laws . . . much . . . in public.
Landing on the roof of Nicholas's building, Lacroix was pleased to find a convenient door in the skylight. At least his son was still enough of a vampire to outfit his dwelling for air travel, even if he continued to insist on employing that ridiculous automobile. Lacroix had passed over him on the road on the way here, and knew he would arrive at any moment. Descending into the main room, the one-time Roman general quickly mapped out his surroundings, entrances and exits and ambushes, noting the ubiquitous sun symbolism with distaste and seeking the most opportune spot in which to stage this confrontation . . . but he found himself caught, instead, by the dark stain marring the steel door of the elevator. He paced slowly across the room, as if reeled in by the black smear that very nearly was his epitaph. He raised his hand to touch the mark, but found himself grasping empty air, instead, as the door suddenly slid aside, leaving him face to face with his golden-haired, blue-eyed knight.
"What are you doing here, Lacroix?" the detective demanded abruptly, almost visibly tensed to fight or flee. "What do you want?"
"I have an . . . agreement . . . to propose." The ancient vampire lowered his hand and raised an eyebrow. "After eight centuries of war, Nicholas, I thought perhaps it was time to try . . . peace."
Sequel: "That Ain't Love"
James Parriot and Barney Cohen created the fantasy television program Forever Knight. The Sony Corporation owns it. It sometimes airs on the SciFi Channel in the USA and the SPACE Channel in Canada. I intend no infringement. Please support Sony, SciFi and SPACE in all their Forever Knight endeavors!
All characters and situations in this fantasy fanfiction are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.
Nick and Lacroix in "Be My Valentine:"
"What feeble excuse can you have for backing down on our agreement?"
"I have not 'backed down' on our agreement."
"You gave your word, Lacroix, never to invade my life with your mindless killing!"
Fleur belongs to the episode "Be My Valentine," Divia to "A More Permanent Hell" and "Ashes to Ashes," and the guardian of the doorway of light to "Near Death." Ghosts enter Forever Knight through "Last Act," "Dead of Night" and "Francesca."
"Nicholas" is English, as Lacroix pronounces it. "Nicolas" is French, as Fleur pronounces it.
"Whence the Truce" originally appeared in the 1999 charity fanzine Tojours Lacroix, edited and published by Lisa P. I wrote "Whence the Truce" in the summer of 1998, and, with Lisa's permission, added it to my website in March 2003.
Please do not archive, post or distribute this piece. Please feel free to link to it on my fansite instead.
Thank you for reading! I always appreciate comments and constructive criticism. Please email me or comment on my LiveJournal or Dreamwidth.
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