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Stone Bench and Fireworks

An Appointment Unkept

December 2005
last modified January 22, 2006

by Amy R.

PG.  Please see the endnote  for disclaimers, credits and all that good stuff.  This fanfiction is a tribute to the television series Forever Knight and Highlander.


New Year's Eve 1999

            The fireworks that had flowered above Paris since sunset slowly trailed off.  In a churchyard, freezing on a backless stone bench, Stephen Trocki still heard an occasional celebratory boom, but no longer saw any lights.  He supposed that the displays must have descended to street level for this final hour of the old year.  It cleared the sky for the expected rain of fire when the clock struck twelve.  Whether that fire would fall from expensive pyrotechnics, Y2K non-compliance, or divine Armageddon -- well, the American liked fireworks, trusted that all the important computers had been fixed, and counted on God's word not to end the world in any day or hour predicted by people.

            Yes, the third millennium would come without any fuss from him.  He awaited something else tonight, something more rare and exciting than any turn of the calendar.  Stephen had seen over a hundred new years, though he trusted only the first fifty or so showed in his white-blond comb-over and crow's feet.  And while he had never experienced the turn of a millennium, neither had he ever met a vampire.

            Vampire!  Even in the silence of his thoughts, even after six years of pondering, he still thrilled to the word.

            Stephen plunged his hands into the pockets of his gray raincoat and surged to his feet.  Ever conscious of the concealed sword he had barely coaxed through customs, he leaned against a leafless oak nearby.  This sort of adventurous curiosity did not promote keeping his head, he reminded himself.  Sticking to his beloved books would be much safer.  Much.

            But a vampire!  Darius had surely known that sheer fascination must bring him here tonight, let alone friendship.  Stephen imagined the priest grinning as he penned that tempting letter, the last in a voluminous correspondence, much missed.  Had Darius known it would be the last?  He must have, somehow, to have asked Stephen to make this rendezvous in his place if something happened to him.  Or perhaps Darius had always made contingency plans for everything.  Stephen had that letter now, tucked in the tweed blazer under his coat.  He laid a gloved hand over it to reassure himself.  The letter proved that this whole improbable leap from his quiet academic life in Illinois to a neglected corner of Paris on the last night of the millennium wasn't someone's stray hallucination.

            "Père Darius?"

            Stephen started.  A beautiful woman stepped out of the night, her arms crossed over a dark leather coat.  Her lush black hair and even more lush red lips seized his helpless primal attention.  His higher brain scrambled to figure out how she had snuck up on him.  That this was holy ground was no excuse.  And something about this woman scraped his senses; as if facing battle, he was suddenly conscious of how much he did want to live -- to get back to his wife, his stepchildren, his students, and his books.

            "No, sorry, I'm not him," Stephen answered in French -- incurably accented, he had been told, but fluent.  He saw that a sparkling blue scarf played up the woman's blue eyes even under the sallow streetlight.  And he saw that she exhaled, through those marvelous lips, no steam into the bitter night.  She must be one of them -- mustn't she?  But not the one for whom he had been asked here.  No question.  "Father Darius sent me to be here for him tonight, to meet someone."  Stephen hesitated, but met the woman's eyes.  "A Nicolas de Brabant."

            "And why could the good father not keep his engagement himself?"  The woman's crossed arms tightened under her breasts, and Stephen wondered if that gesture were defiant or defensive.  "There is always some excuse, to be borne back to the abandoned."

            Stephen bristled briefly to defend his friend.  Then he sighed, stepped slightly away from the tree, and withdrew his hands from his pockets to hold them unthreateningly open.  She did not need to know that he could reach his sword as fast as she could blink.  "Father Darius was murdered over six years ago."

            "Ah."  She let her arms fall to her sides.  "My regrets.  My apologies."  She sat on the bench, her boots touching the ground on the side opposite him, her hands gracefully folded in her lap.  She looked up at him.  "This Darius was your friend?"


            "Do you miss him, still, six years later?"

            "Yes."  After a moment, Stephen added, "Sometimes.  Not as often as when his letters first stopped coming.  Mostly when I have a specific kind of thought to share or question to ask, that no one will ever understand as well as he did."

            "I still miss Nicolas," the woman said, her words hushed but matter-of-fact.  "Murder, suicide, accident -- it was hard to tell.  But I still miss him, more than three years since.  We'd go a long time apart while he lived, but he was always there, somewhere, when I needed him.  Until three years ago.  Sometimes now I wonder whether the missing will ever stop."

            "He asked you to come to this meeting for him?"

            "Not precisely.  I found the appointment among his papers.  Someone had to go through all his bits and pieces, ensure the Enfo-- that is, someone had to clean up the mess he left, and I was the only one left to do it."  She sighed.  "He was looking forward to this.  For years and years, it seems, he had been clinging to this promised reunion with a man he had apparently met only once, during the liberation."

            "World War II?"

            "Was not your Darius an old man?  Does it surprise you that my Nicolas was, too?  Or, at any rate, he became so during that last year.  I went away, and . . .  But you have not asked me who he was to me; it would not be surprising that my grandfather fought in the Resistance."

            "In Paris, mademoiselle, everyone's grandfather fought in the Resistance, even those grandfathers who fought for Vichy."  She laughed, as he had meant her to.  Though the joke was old and badly worn, it was still a daring remark from an American who usually strove for tact, and he was relieved to hear her laughter shatter the tension.  It made the surreal conversation a little less bizarre.  "I'm Stephen, by the way."

            "Call me Janette."

            "Janette," he bowed slightly, struck anew by her beauty -- and danger -- as she smiled.  Did she know he was an immortal?  Did she know he knew she was a vampire?  Darius had trusted Nicolas de Brabant, and that was sufficient testament for Stephen, but this woman -- this vampire! -- was an unknown quantity.  "I'm at a loss here, conducting this summit without either of the principals.  I came because Darius wanted someone to be here for Monsieur de Brabant, even if something happened to him.  You came because you read your grandfather's papers?"

            She shrugged noncommittally.  "Nicolas would have been here if he could, I know.  And he evidently told Father Darius many things that one usually doesn't share.  Things that it's usually unwise to share.  Except perhaps with a priest, Nicolas would have thought.  He was trusting like that.  Are you a priest?"

            "Me?  No!  I'm just a professor in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago -- philosophy, theology.  Although I am a lector and catechist at home at Queen of Angels; don't tell my colleagues."

            "Why not?"

            "That was another joke.  Sorry.  I guess it doesn't translate."  Stephen shrugged.  A fifty percent humor success rate was not his worst.  "Religious conviction is not always an asset for acceptance among people who study religion, and different faiths go in and out of academic fashion.  What about you?"

            Janette seemed to ignore the question, cocking her head reflectively.  "Do you know what you were to have discussed with Nicolas, had he come tonight?"

            "I think so."  Stephen firmed his stance.  "Do you?"

            "I think so, also.  I think you were to have talked with him about life and death, repentance and forgiveness, all those things that tormented him so these last hundr-- from time to time.  What I still wish to know is, why did the priest send you, instead of another priest?"

            "Darius could have offered your grandfather both absolution and understanding, I believe.  There's no one like Darius, and I gather Nicolas de Brabant was a very special . . . individual.  Another priest could have offered absolution, but I think Darius asked me to take his place because I could offer more understanding, and maybe your grandfather needed the understanding first."  Janette inclined her head, acknowledging if not agreeing.  Stephen cautiously sat beside her, keeping his feet firm on the ground on his side.  "Darius and I first met when he read a small book I self-published, and he wrote to me about it.  We corresponded for years . . . and years.  He sometimes contributed to a quarterly I edit, the Journal of Highly Speculative Theology.  Have you ever heard of it?" Stephen asked hopefully, then smiled.  "No, of course not.  No one has.  We hope to reach our five-hundredth subscriber next year.  It's kind of a satire or hoax publication -- at least, that's how the catalogues list it."

            "On what kind of theology do you speculate highly?" Janette sounded almost playful.

            Stephen blinked.  "Well, if space aliens exist, does Christ's incarnation and sacrifice as a human redeem them?  If fairies exist, are they humans, angels or animals?  If immortals exist, how do they inherit original sin?"  He took a deep breath.  "If vampires exist, do they have souls?"

            "Ah.  I used to know the answer to that one."

            "Used to?"

            "Used to," she repeated.  "So you said that Darius wrote to you a great deal.  Did he write to you about my Nicolas?"

            "Yes.  As a matter of fact, I have that letter here."  He tapped the left side of his chest over his pocket.  "It was the last one he wrote to me.  I'd be glad to read you part of it, if you like.  You'll understand that some of it's private--"

            "Thank you.  And it's the only letter mentioning Nicolas?  The only record Darius left of this planned meeting?"

            "Yes, as far as I know," Stephen answered, puzzled.  Then he remembered something he had read about evidence and vampiric hypnotism.  He tried to leap up.  He was too late.

            Janette's glorious blue eyes had burned to glowing coals, and her sudden grip on his neck -- forcing him to meet her now-sulfurous gaze -- was stronger than any mechanical vise.  "You will give me the letter," she crooned, and he wanted to do just that.  Yes, of course he would give her the letter.  Why hadn't he thought of that before?  "You will give me the letter, and you will forget everything you ever heard or read about Nicolas de Brabant.  You will forget I was here.  You will forget that vampires exist."

            Stephen unbuttoned his raincoat to extract the letter for Janette.

            As soon as he touched the letter, Stephen was able to wrench out of her grip and draw his sword.  With the point of his steel at her neck, he shook his head, blinking his eyes rapidly.  His lungs heaved and his heart raced.  His body had all but gone to sleep on him while she spoke.  Wow!  And -- blast, but he was disoriented!  What had they called this on that X-Files show his family loved?  "So that's what a 'whammy' feels like.  I don't think we'll be doing that again, okay?"

            "If you don't want to do this the easy way," Janette hissed, baring huge canine teeth, "I'll be happy to do it the hard way."  In one motion, she batted his sword aside and launched herself at him over the bench.

            The collision took Stephen down.  He struggled to regain his feet while fending off the vampire.  Though he kept control of his sword, he found it hard to bring into play.  She was everywhere, and nowhere.  This was not a fight like any he had known, with swords, guns, or fists.  He had never fought a vampire.  Perhaps as tellingly, he had never fought a woman.  Before he knew it, she had her teeth in his neck, and the world went red.  The pain went on longer than he expected.  It got worse instead of better.  He thought of his wife, whom he would not have been kissing at midnight this New Year's anyway, more fool he, and of Darius, whose plans never went so awry when he was around to manage them.  Finally, the world fell black.

            Stephen awoke with a jolt, stretched out on cold, damp ground.  It was still night.

            "I believe this is yours."  Janette was seated again, her legs crossed demurely as she toyed with his sword.  Toyed expertly, he noted in the part of his mind that usually did more toward keeping his head attached.  "So you're an immortal?"

            Stephen grunted, regaining his feet.  "Drawing the sword give that away?"

            "Not really.  For -- oh, many centuries, most every man not a slave or serf carried a sword.  No, it's your blood.  Gak.  I might as well drink cow.  There's just something missing in immortal blood, some essential--" she made an effervescent gesture with her free hand.  "Perhaps immortal blood goes flat after a first death."

            "Oh.  Well, good.  Whatever."  Stephen patted his pocket; the letter was gone.  "Are you going to give those back?"

            "The sword?  Eventually.  I have no need for it.  The letter?  I think not.  As an immortal now that the Gathering has begun, you're technically outside the Enforcers' purview, but I don't believe in taking unnecessary chances.  I came for the letter, and I'm leaving with it.  No trails, no tales."

            "No Nicolas de Brabant anywhere but in your memory?"

            "That's right."  She met his eyes, her own again a rich blue.  The depth of the sorrow there shocked him.  Carefully controlled, it nevertheless went down, and down, and down, perhaps without end.

            The sky exploded.  Stephen dove for the dubious cover of the oak tree.  Even before he reached it, he recognized the sounds and lights and felt sheepish.  The fireworks over the city were nothing to fear, much less the honks, horns and cheers faintly following the booms and blasts.

            "It's midnight."  Janette had the grace not to laugh at him.  But neither did she let go of his sword.

            He joined her on the cold bench and checked his digital watch.  "So it is.  And the world apparently didn't end.  The year two-thousand has successfully arrived.  Happy New Year."

            "A thousand new years come and go, and it's all much the same.  Except for the people."

            "Except for the people," he echoed.  She had said that she came for the letter, but she had it, and was still here.  She had apparently also come to ensure Darius -- and now he, Stephen -- was no threat to the vampires' secret, which was evidently more rigorously guarded than the immortals'.  She'd accomplished that, too, he thought, yet she was still here.  "You said that you used to know the answer to the question of whether vampires have souls, but that you don't anymore.  What happened?"

            She watched the fireworks bloom brilliant blues and golds, stars and suns.  "I loved someone.  He lived.  He died."

            "Want to talk about it?"

            "Yes, please."





  • Disclaimers

    • Mr. Parriot and Mr. Cohen created the fantasy television program Forever Knight, on which this fanfiction is based.  The Sony Corporation owns it.  I intend no infringement.  Please support all their Forever Knight endeavors!  Ditto for Highlander, originally based on the character created by Gregory Widen and currently owned by Davis/Panzer.

    • Characters and situations in this fantasy fan story are entirely fictional.  Any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental.  (Vampires don't exist.  Immortals don't exist.  Fireworks do, though.)

  • Citations

    • Crossover Considerations.  Nick dies in Forever Knight's third-season finale "Last Knight" (1996).  Darius dies in Highlander's first-season finale "The Hunters" (1993).  Janette is a canonical Forever Knight character.  Stephen Trocki is original to this story.  Nick is in Lyon, France during part of WWII ("Outside the Lines").  Darius is in Paris, at least on and off, since at least the aftermath of Waterloo, and possibly since circa 492 AD ("Band of Brothers").  The French Resistance is one of many points of historical fiction overlap between the two series.

    • Spelling.  This story spells Nick's name "Nicolas" to evoke the French pronunciation always used by Janette, and more likely to have been used by Darius.

    • Whammy.  The term "whammy" has been slang for a hex or "the evil eye" for over a century.  However, controversy exists over how "whammy" came into such common fannish use in Forever Knight -- it doesn't occur on screen until "Black Buddha, Part 2," when Vachon says Tracy "won't whammy."  One contention is that FK usage was spurred by a much-quoted line from The X-Files's third-season (1995-1996) episode "Pusher," where the character Dana Scully says, "Please explain to me the scientific nature of the whammy."  This seems too late to have been very influential, but the repetition within that same television season could have heightened the impact.

  • Credits

    • I began this story in December 1999, but did not finish it in time for Y2K, and put it aside.  I picked it up again and finished it at 6:15 pm on New Year's Eve 2005.  I thought posting the piece on the holiday on which it's set would be nice, so Abby generously undertook to critique the draft in record time.  I did my best to follow her advice for snappier sentences and a shorter set-up.  She has my thanks.  Any errors, of course, are my own.  This is the first time I've tried my hand at a crossover.

    • Please do not archive, post or distribute this story.  I posted it to fkfic-l on January 1, 2006, and archived it here on my site on January 2, 2006.  You're welcome to link to it here.

    • Thank you for reading!  Your comments and constructive criticism are welcome.  Please email me or comment on my LiveJournal or Dreamwidth.

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