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12K Illustration, Janette and Nick

And So It Goes
a song-challenge story

for Jo, February 1997
last modified March 21, 1999

by Amy R.

PG-13.   The song quoted is Billy Joel's.  This Forever Knight fanfiction occurs after the episodes "The Human Factor" and "Last Knight."  Please see the endnote for disclaimers, credits and all that good stuff.


        Janette woke with tears in her eyes.

        This was unusual.  Not so much the tears themselves, these days, but the fact that the blood was still fresh and wet, trailing down her cheeks rather than crusting her eyelids shut.  She recognized the dreams that brought these tears -- always back in Toronto, never seeing Nicolas -- but she rarely woke near enough to recall them clearly.  Still more asleep than awake, Janette reached up to wipe away the tears with the back of her hand, burrowing against her stack of pillows to find a position that would allow the dark void of her high-ceilinged apartment to become a timeless oblivion for as many more hours as possible.  Absently licking the red tears from her knuckle, she noted that it was still early afternoon, far too soon for any member of the night shift to be awake, much less her, who had nothing in particular to be awake for.

        The thought came with the blood, and both called for reinforcements as she began to cry again, consciously this time, staining her third pillowcase of the week.  If this behavior had not been so bizarre for her, she supposed that she would have long since given up the delicate shams she preferred.  But it was bizarre, and even the thought that she should subordinate her taste to it made her angry -- a much more familiar and palatable emotion.

        Anger had been enough, at first.  It had opened the familiar path of vengeance, down which she had hurried without having to think.  But when Robert's murderers had lain cold and drained at her feet, she had realized that the anger which had held her up had leeched out of her soul -- soul! -- even as she pulled their blood into her body.  They were dead.  Robert was dead. And the peaceful sense of balance she had found within revenge so often before had abandoned her this time, leaving her more alone than she had ever been.

        Nicolas had been no help.  Janette turned her head on her pillow with that thought, and pulled her knees up to her chin under the covers.  If Lacroix, as her master, had kept her down, he had also held her up, teaching her that in this world there was nothing and no one to fear but him.  She had grown in his power like a plant on a trellis, and then suddenly the presence that had been both chain and crutch over the centuries had been utterly gone.  In its place came Nicolas, with all his turmoil and doubt and guilt.  She could not continue to blame him for what he had done, for in the place between life and death, she had made the only choice she could call "a choice."  Given that, little force adhered to the complaint that he had denied her will, but if she could not blame him, she could blame no one, and that left her feeling most helpless of all.

        The pernicious, futile, precious, fascinating, damned, blessed thing about Nicolas was hope.  He'd had enough to bring her back.  Why was that all he'd had?

        The tears that had come to neither of them then sometimes came to her now, in the long and lonely hours of the golden afternoons she had glimpsed so briefly.  A thousand years of darkness and she had not noticed what she had lost, what she had gained, until she lost it again -- and she hardly knew if she meant vampirism or mortality.  Perhaps both.  She had seen the sun rise over Robert's body: a bitter gift for which she would never have asked.  She had tried to prevent his death in the night, and he had given her a life in the day -- without him.  That alone she could have borne, but along with the sudden emergence of the unexamined griefs of ten centuries?  Pulling the bedspread over her head, blocking out the awareness of light even the heavy curtains could not entirely deny, and hiding away from eyes that could no longer see her, Janette clutched her knees to her chest and cried softly until she could not spare any more blood for tears.

In every heart there is a room
A sanctuary safe and strong
To heal the wounds from lovers past
Until a new one comes along

        Exhausted, Janette rolled onto her back and tried to empty her mind enough for sleep.  In some portion of that mind, she knew something was wrong, terribly wrong, but the thought kept detouring through murky, long-unused parts of her brain, stopping at every stray emotion like a tourist and reinforcing this melancholy lassitude rather than prompting action.  She stretched out her legs and appreciated the weight of the thick, down-filled comforter; a weak smile twitched at the corners of her lips as she wondered if it would help her sleep to count all the birds which must have contributed to her bedding since the end of the straw-tick era.

        Sighing at the knowledge it would not, that her vampiric memory and personal knack for numbers would together produce a computer-like total the moment she tried, Janette absently ran her hands down her torso, smoothing the wrinkles that fighting insomnia had made in her satin camisole.  Tracing her fingers slowly along the hem, across the tops of her thighs, she thought back to the peace she had found in India.  When Nicolas had been neither willing nor able to give her what she, as a fledgling, needed, she had gone to Chitra in Bombay.  The dark vampire woman, ancient and serene, belonged to that part of her life which had occurred out of Nicolas's presence, and which, in his self-absorption, he barely knew existed.  Chitra had given her time and unconditional acceptance -- Lacroix's strength without his domination -- and Janette had thought she had sorted her feelings neatly, filing them for reference and enabling herself to move on.

        When Janette had announced her intention to return to her own city, to Paris, Chitra had been unsurprised.  They had both felt it was time, and Chitra had suggested that despite the delay, it might actually be simpler and more pleasant to Janette's frame of mind to travel by sea than air.  But as the huge passenger liner had left Bombay, Janette's emotions had slowly begun to return to the tumult which had started in Canada.  Robert's death had somehow wrenched loose a thousand years of vampiric repression, and Janette had told herself this was clearly the toll mortal emotions would exact on her immortal body if she did not exorcise them.  That was one of the first lessons Lacroix taught, although, she had admitted to herself, he seemed to fear guilt far more than grief.  She had considered whether the emotions were worth their price.

        It was then that the nightmares had begun.

        She had felt slightly uncomfortable for over a week, a strange dissatisfaction that she knew was connected with the family, with Nicolas -- though whether it was the Nicolas of the present across their link, or the Nicolas of her troubled memories, she had not been able to say.  One Sunday, she had immured herself in her cabin early, and gone immediately to sleep; she had felt so out-of-sorts that it had crossed her mind to wonder if it was possible that she had caught that "fever" of which she had heard rumors.  Such things did always seem to occur on ships.

        She had awakened suddenly that May afternoon, drenched in blood sweat.  Whatever the dream had been -- she seemed to recall Lacroix standing over her with an impossibly long stake in his hands -- it had been the start of this slide, battering at her control until every emotion seemed a stranger to be held at arm's length, lest even the rudiments of life fall by the wayside.  She had been perfectly fine when awake at night; but asleep in the day, her own dreams had seemed to demand something of her, leaving her more tired than a simple glass of blood could cure.  This distress had started on the ship, and haunted her all the way to Paris, all the way to this place that had been meant as a refuge from the concerns of Nicolas and Lacroix.

        Giving up on sleep, Janette slid out of bed and padded across the plush carpeting to the cavernous apartment's open kitchen.  She knew she should be hungry -- even ravenous -- but she was not, and poured herself a glass of blood simply because it was the first thing to be done after getting out of bed.  Feeling that the sun had just dropped below the horizon, Janette wandered over to the window with her glass and opened the curtains.  "Rush hour" was in its fifth hour on the street so many stories below, and despite what had been predicted, the temperature had evidently not been unseasonable enough to turn the autumn rain to snow after all.

        She watched the sky's final, distant, purple glow, filtered by the rain clouds, fade through the gaps between the buildings on which she looked down, and as she finally emptied her glass, she heard the door open behind her.

        "How did you get in?" she demanded without turning around.

        "You didn't change the locks," Nicolas replied, jingling the keys she had given him in 1982, when she first purchased this building and redecorated this loft.

        "Oh.  I forgot," Janette said, walking back to the kitchen and getting out a second glass.  "I have not been thinking as clearly as I would like, these past several months."  Her hand might have shaken as she poured.  It was not his arrival which had so startled her, but his appearance.  He looked haggard, thin, and he had a beard again -- shaving was always the first thing he neglected when he decided that ignoring his body would help save his soul.

        "I'm sorry, Janette.  That may be my fault. Lacroix says . . ."

        "I do not stock cow, Nicolas," she interrupted bluntly, handing him the glass.  "But this is from a hospital's discards, and you do not look in any position to be particular."

        "I don't . . . . From a hospital?  You're sure?"

        "Of course."  This hesitation was not at all like him.  Her Nicolas met each temptation with a "yes" or a "no" -- more often "no" in this century -- and then tormented himself afterward when the consequences proved more than he could handle.  But whether abstaining or indulging, he did it with his whole being.  Pondering, she drifted over to her couch and sat in the corner furthest from Nicolas, flipping on the table lamp and pulling a large, brocade pillow into her lap.  "What were you going to say about Lacroix?"

        "He reminded me that I have responsibilities to you, and he believes that you are having problems now because . . . ." Nicolas cut himself off, seemingly unhappy with the words at his command.  "He believes that you must be having more than the usual new-convert difficulties with emotions, and that you should go to him for help.  There's so much he never taught either of us."

        "And there is so much that I have learned on my own!" Janette snapped.  "Even if such a thing were true, you know better than anyone what it would cost me to ask Lacroix for his help."  Looking at her reluctant master speculatively, Janette pursed her lips and reassessed that thought.  "Or, at least, you used to know.  What has happened to you, Nicolas?"

I spoke to you in cautious tones
You answered me with no pretense
And still I feel I said too much
My silence is my self-defense

        He suddenly tossed back the entire goblet of wine-laced blood in a single gulp.  His body shuddered.  "Nat's dead," he said tonelessly, and fell silent.

        Janette froze.  Her memory suddenly offered her picture after picture of the bold, copper-haired coroner: expertly removing Celeste's bullets from Janette's hip; embarrassed as she stepped out of Nicolas's elevator to find the two vampires in each other's arms; confronting Nicolas when he had lost all control in a back room of the Raven; interrupting Janette's tattoo session out of concern for Nicolas's welfare; complimenting Nicolas on mesmerizing an annoying detective; drunk in the Raven during the asteroid scare; wounded beyond all telling at the realization that she had not been able to do for Nicolas what she thought Robert had done for Janette.

        "She's not my friend," Janette had told Brianna less than two years ago.  Had that been true?  Did it matter now?  "A vampire's heart must be cold . . ."  Janette set down her glass and wrapped her arms around the pillow.  She had lost her Robert, but she had promised herself that she would be like Nicolas, moving on to live and love, rather than like Lacroix, still mourning his Fleur's death down to the end of days.  It had not seemed that hard.  She had always known what it cost Nicolas, every time he lost one of his mortals -- indeed, he always turned to her then; and here he was again -- but only now did it occur to her how much courage it took him, every time, to let one of them into his heart.  For he knew what would happen, every time.  After his wife Alyssa, drained at his fangs; after Caroline, taken in pieces by old age; after so many friends and would-be lovers lost, he had dared to care again, knowing as the mortals never could that it would always end in pain.  "How did it happen?"

And every time I've held a rose
It seems I only felt the thorns
And so it goes, and so it goes
And so will you soon I suppose

        Nicolas stared down at the empty goblet in his hand, and Janette recognized the remorse creeping over his face.  He looked as if he feared she would leave him too.  She sighed, and gestured at the other end of the couch.  "Sit down, Nicolas."

        He did, setting down his glass as well, and toying absently with the matching pillow.  The silence stretched between them like a Chinese jump-rope, and eventually Janette attempted to reach out across their bond.  Her head jerked up as if she had lost her balance; his feelings were jumbled beyond discerning, and he was projecting them so forcibly that she almost doubted if he would notice physical contact, much less a touch on the more metaphysical threads that bound them.  Holding her pillow like a shield, Janette asked, "Nicolas, have you told anyone what happened?"

        "Lacroix was there."

        She shook her head.  "But did you tell him?  Anyone?  That Schanke person?"

        Nicolas winced, and closed his eyes momentarily.


        "He's dead too, Janette.  I didn't tell you in January.  I . . . we didn't talk about it much, Natalie and I, and no one else knew him.  Myra and Jenny moved.  And then you were mortal, and not, all at once.  There wasn't time."

        Janette cocked her head, leaning the side of her face on her pillow, reflectively.  "If you had told me, there might have been more time."


        "If you had told me, Nicolas, if you had seemed to realize that you had wanted or needed me in any way, if you had been willing to give your convert a master, I might not have left so soon.  But you were silent."  Janette paused, and then turned her tone ever-so-slightly satiric.  "So I left you the portrait: a friendly thing, which would ask nothing of you which you could not give.  A dustcloth, a nail out of the sun . . ."

        "Janette!" The pain in his voice was tangible.

        "No, Nicolas.  I am not blaming you, nor am I asking you to blame yourself.  The past is past.  I am asking you to let me back into your life, because it is only from inside that I can say what must be said.  More happened to me in this year than in any one other.  It sounds as if it has been the same for you.  Lacroix would once have credited the stars; we know better now, do we not?  What happened, Nicolas?"

        "I caught that bomber," he said slowly.  "You might have seen it on the news.  Schanke and Captain Cohen, and a plane full of civilians, died because of it. I should never have . . . ."

        Incident by incident, he related the last year as he had seen it.  The catalogue meant more to her than it might have, because as he voiced each thought, Nicolas solidified his memory and sorted the tangle of emotions screaming for expression over their link, relieving the constant pressure she had not been able to identify before his arrival.  If she really wanted to know what had happened, she could just bite him; the thought gave her a momentary thrill, and it would certainly have been more efficient. But what was important was that he put these things into his own filing order, that he organize them for easy access and move on within his mind.  In fact, it was the same problem she had thought she had faced down in India, which had recurred and grown incapacitating since that terrible day in May.

        ". . . and I repeated 'forever,' and meant it.  But I took too much.  Her blood: she loved me, she accepted me, and it was in her blood.  I wanted it so much, and . . . I couldn't stop." Nicolas was crying now, and Janette reached down the couch to take his hands between her own.  She felt tears forming behind her own eyes, and blinked them quickly away.  In control of himself again, he said, "I asked Lacroix to send me to her.  I asked him to kill me.  I thought, at that moment, nothing could be more painful than her loss, than my failure.  I don't want to die, but nothing since has changed my mind about the pain."  Nicolas took a deep breath, and she could see his surprise at the small peace he found in speaking the words which put his heart in her care once again.

But if my silence made you leave
Then that would be my worst mistake
So I will share this room with you
And you can have this heart to break

        Janette patted his hands gently, and then gathered up the glasses and returned to the kitchen, pouring them both fresh blood.  There was a lot to think about, and now that her lethargy seemed to be subsiding -- thank goodness! -- she knew she would think better if occupied.  Sipping her own drink contemplatively as she handed him his, Janette said, "I do not wish to spend the entire night indoors, half-dressed.  We shall take a walk; there is a place I want to show you."  He nodded, staring down at the full goblet he held with both hands.  Janette tipped her head speculatively; he looked the way she had been feeling.  Turning that thought over carefully, she strolled across the apartment to the bathroom door.  "Will you do me a favor, Nicolas?  While I shower, do strip the bed."

        She shut the door firmly behind her, and stepped out of her shift in one fluid movement.  If Nicolas did as requested, he would know without her telling that she had been crying.  If he did not move from the couch, well, that would be evidence of another sort.

        In the final analysis, she found herself unsurprised by Natalie's death, the manner of it even less than the fact.  Massaging shampoo into her hair, she realized that while her experience with Robert might have been the fuse on the dynamite of Natalie's fragile emotional state, this had been coming since before the asteroid scare.  The mortal had needed what Nicolas had been unable to give her.  Sad -- certainly sad -- but not a surprise.  Now, Divia surprised her.  Unlike Nicolas, she had known the name of Lacroix's master; unlike Nicolas, she had known just enough to believe the demon child dead these many centuries.  Unlike Nicolas . . . would he have fought Lacroix so hard, rejected him so thoroughly, if he had understood that even Lacroix had limits?  Would Lacroix have told him earlier if he had not feared appearing weak?  Janette shook her head slightly as she rinsed away the suds.  Those two never simply said what they meant, when it came to each other.

        Stepping back into the main room with one towel wrapped around her hair and another around her torso, Janette noted that Nicolas had indeed stripped the bed, the sheets in a neat pile at the end.  Smiling slightly, she gestured pointedly from Nicolas to the steamy room she'd just vacated.  "You -- there.  I need privacy to think, and you, at the very least, need to comb your hair and shave."

        "As my lady directs," he replied, his eyes flashing briefly with humor.

        She stared at the door as it closed behind him, that infinitesimal moment of lightheartedness suddenly stabbing to the center of all the dense emotions like a white-hot brand in a snowdrift.  He was not broken, inside, after all.  Whether it took hours or centuries, once the debris wore away, her Nicolas would stand revealed.  Both deeply relieved and strangely angered at this discovery, Janette toweled her hair dry with a good deal more force and speed than was strictly necessary.  It crackled around her face as she worked through it with a wide-toothed comb.

        Hearing the water moving in the pipes, she turned to the third of the four cedar wardrobes standing against the wall with the window.  Considering both the weather and their destination, she tossed a black, vinyl jacket on the bed behind her, and then dug out a ribbed, red top which would tuck imperceptibly into her black jeans.  She hesitated over her shoes; most high heels would be far from appropriate if it turned muddy, but on the other hand, she did not want to be looking up at Nicolas tonight, either.  Shiny, black ankle-boots with thick heels caught her eye from the corner of the rack on the inside of the wardrobe door, and her ensemble fell into place.  There was a certain power in these decisions, she reflected as she finished dressing and smoothed her hair: a petty power, perhaps, but power all the same.

        Nicolas stepped out of the bathroom clean-shaven and combed, looking pints healthier than he had when he had entered her apartment.  She looked at him appreciatively, and was gratified to note he was doing the same to her.  "Are you ready to go, then?" she asked.  When he did not answer immediately, she mockingly moved her hand in front of his face, as if to wake him. "Niii-colaaa," she teased.  "Why are you not listening to me?"

        "I forgot how delectable you look in jeans," he answered, offering her his arm.

        "That . . . is an acceptable excuse," Janette pronounced grandly, checking her jacket pocket for her keys before linking her arm with his.  "If I thought it could attract the appropriate clientele, I might buy a horse ranch just to create the proper environment in which to always look 'delectable.'"

        Both vampires smiled, and were able to keep smiling on the elevator ride.  For some distance down the rain-spattered sidewalk, their habitual camaraderie smoothed over the chasm of the past year.  They talked quietly of the small things they had not gotten to share while they had been apart -- a new ballet she had seen, a new book he had read, the American election, the caddy's engine problems, new attitudes toward smoking, and why he should never, ever use that line of hair-care products again.  In such a way, their conversation slowly sketched out the boundaries of their changed relationship.

        Finally, Nicolas broke the unspoken truce and asked, "Janette, did you cry yourself to sleep this morning, or did you wake up crying this evening?"

        "That is a fine distinction, Nicolas.  I am impressed," she dodged the question.  "While I was in Montreal, how did Lacroix behave?"


        "These past three months have not been the only strange part of this very strange year.  Something has been wrong ever since Lacroix so graciously diverted Schanke from your secrets that evening in his radio station.  This is not an idle question.  When I was in Montreal, falling in love with a mortal, and you were unable to resist Natalie's infatuation, even for her own good, what was Lacroix doing?"

        Nicolas stopped suddenly and stared at her as if he could find her intention in her face.  She took his arm again firmly, and continued walking.  They had passed into a strange, dark part of the city, where the dwellings of one century squatted behind the chain-link fences of another.

        "He was . . . odd, come to think of it," Nicolas told her.  "He remodeled the Raven -- you wouldn't have liked it at all.  The lights were enough to give a mortal a headache, and he had stripping once a week.  He flirted with, um, mortals -- most of those you used to take care of didn't come around after you left -- and didn't much seem to care what I was or wasn't drinking, or why.  He . . . he smiled a lot."  Nicolas shuddered at the memory, and Janette echoed the movement.  Lacroix smirked.  He sneered.  He grinned sardonically.  Lacroix did not smile.

        "Is there anything else?"

        "I never know what Lacroix is doing, you know that.  I think he may have taken up briefly with a convert named Urs, one of Divia's victims.  Well, not 'convert,' I suppose; she was probably into her second century, but she always seemed so young, so human.  Is that important?"

        "Yes.  Yes, I think it is."  Janette stopped in front of a tall, iron gate and pulled an old-fashioned key out of her pocket.  "We are here."

        "Why do you have a key to a graveyard?" Nicolas laughed.  "Have you taken up with a carouche?"  Seeing her glare, he apologized.  "I didn't mean anything, Janette."

        "Of course you 'didn't mean anything.'  You were not thinking, Nicolas."  She let out an exasperated sigh as she hauled open the gate.  "One would think you, of all vampires, would know better than to judge people by what they drink.  But that is a personality flaw for another night, no?  I think we have quite enough in our glass at the moment."

        Apologetic, Nicolas took her place at the gate, and closed it behind them.  Janette stood under a tree at the edge of the path, out of the drizzle, and waited for Nicolas to join her.  When he did, instead of taking his arm again, she strode out in front of him and led him toward a bramble-covered corner of the cemetery.  She suppressed a smile when she heard the wet sound of the branch she had just pushed out of her way snapping back in his face, the leaves having come off in his grip.  The cemetery was tiny, and only someone who had been watching for a long, long time would realize that the inconvenient rocks which so cluttered the ground had been monuments in their day.

        Without breaking stride, Janette jumped into the air when she reached a bramble patch that would have stopped even the most adventurous mortal.  Nicolas, close on her heels, snagged his coat before following her example.  He found her in a strange little clearing, where the bushes had somehow been firmly discouraged.  She was sitting on one rock, staring at another.  Nicolas knelt in the damp grass, and placed a hand on her knee.

        "I have not been in here in ninety-six years," she told him quietly.  "And before that, four hundred or so.  I came to replace the stones, then.  I came just for the stones."

        "Whose are they?" Nicolas asked, just as quiet.

        "Do you remember when my arm kept healing wrong after that horse threw me, and Lacroix had to re-break it twice that afternoon?  I was annoyed, and you laughed.  You were what, sixty?  And you joked about women not bearing pain well.  That was the first time I came here since they were buried, so I suppose that makes this the fifth time in ten centuries.  I did not realize I was so sentimental."

        "Who, Janette?" Nicolas kept his voice soft and even.

        "Anna.  And her baby.  She went into labor as Daviau beat her to death."  Janette's tone was flat, but supremely controlled.  "I suppose there was no need for two stones, but Lacroix had given me the money, and I was going to use it.  I never knew what he was thinking, in those days, but I was so angry, and the bodies were still there . . . .  He taught me how to sway mortal minds that night -- it took you months to learn, remember?  And you are still not good at it -- and between the money and the 'magic,' I got them buried in consecrated ground.  There used to be a church over there."  She gestured vaguely to the left, but knew it meant nothing to Nicolas.  She sighed, and stood, looking down now at him, rather than Anna's vanishing marker.

        "I do not know exactly why I did that then.  I would not do it today.  I left Robert's body to his sister without a second thought, and I loved him no less truly than I had loved Anna, no less truly than I love you, Nicolas.  If Lacroix had killed you, I would have killed him.  As I killed Larouche; as I killed Daviau."

        "Janette --" he began.

        "No.  Sit on the rock and be as comfortable as you can, because I have a great deal to say."  She crossed her arms over her chest and began to pace the length of the clearing.  "Nicolas, until last year, this neglected patch of dirt was all that remained of my mortality.  And it was as much as I ever needed.  It hurts to care for mortals; you and I both know how much it hurts.  So I closed my eyes to the emotions which would drag me down, back into mortality, back into pain."

And this is why my eyes are closed
It's just as well for all I've seen
And so it goes, and so it goes
And you're the only one who knows

        "For a score of human lifetimes, the emotions of the vampire were enough for me.  I welcomed that restraint in my vampire self when I first found it!  But you -- you hung on to the emotions of mortality, and they were so powerful that I finally began to want them myself.  Not mortality, mind, but its intensity.  We have been over this before.  Why, though, was I unable to shake that off as I had planned?  Why was I suddenly so vulnerable?  Why were you unable to do the right thing by Natalie, and either bring her across or send her on her way?"

        Nicolas moved to answer, but Janette stopped him with a gesture.  Suddenly, she bent down in front of him and captured his gaze, speaking intensely.  "I dealt with my grief for Robert, my dissatisfaction with you, this spring.  I was fine, Nicolas.  I was ready to move on.  And then, suddenly, no doubt the very moment you asked Lacroix to stake you, it started all over again.  Only it did not, did it?  That was not my grief for Robert, it was your grief for Natalie; that was not my ambivalence toward vampirism, it was yours!  Oh, I had the emotions too, never doubt, but I had moved on.  I was at peace with myself until your turmoil stole that from me.  It is no wonder that all of your converts go stark, raving mad!"

        Nicolas's mouth hung open in astonishment, and Janette paced back over to the edge of the tiny clearing, taking a deep breath of the wet, earthy air before turning around.  "I believe that the same thing happened to both of us last winter.  I believe that Divia, after two-thousand years, finally lost her mind -- or finally found it, after millennia of unconsciousness; perhaps she even called the grave robber to her, somehow -- and that Lacroix's bizarre behavior came from her projecting at him.  He found this Urs, unconsciously, to play Divia's role, and the sickness spread from Lacroix to you, with Natalie, and me, with Robert.  And then you brought me across again, replacing Lacroix for me, and I escaped it.  My emotions were my own, and I found peace among them.  Until you killed Natalie.  Have you not noticed it, Nicolas, the incredible weight that has lifted since you told me your story in words and stopped half-consciously projecting your feelings?  It is not that I do not care about your feelings, but I do not care so much that they should physically debilitate me!  Those tears I cried were your tears, battering at me across the miles.  You have absolutely no self-control, do you know that?"


        "I did not mean that," Janette corrected him gently.  "I am talking about a kind of vampiric control that Lacroix never taught you, for reasons beyond my fathoming.  The lack has been exacerbated beyond all norms in this case; perhaps because I am, no doubt, the first person ever brought across by someone who had already spent eight centuries drinking her blood, hmmm?  Nicolas, you have remarkable control of your physical instincts.  I might disagree with the will you subject them to, but I admire your ability to subjugate them.  Nicolas -- there was no way you could have kept from draining Natalie once you bit her; it simply is not possible."

        Janette sat herself on the grass in front of him.  "You could, however, have brought her across," she said tiredly.  "That would be my final point in this little lecture.  You gave me the choice, Nicolas.  Why did you not do the same for her?"

        Nicolas looked down at his hands, and then straight into her eyes.  She saw worlds of pain in his gaze, but for the first time since he brought her across, she also saw the glimmer of hope which meant that even through the black clouds of grief and guilt, his truth -- his soul -- was shining again.  "I . . . didn't think I could die without Nat, Janette.  I don't think I could live without you."

        "And both of those are very important to you, Nicolas, I know."  Janette leaned forward and embraced him, holding him quietly for a long, long time.

        Things were not entirely mended between them, but all the wounds had been identified, and that was a better start than many.  She would teach him what she had learned about convert links -- perhaps she would even introduce him to Chitra -- and she would be careful that as he learned to control himself, he did not learn to control her.  Things were always better between equals, and, if he knew how, Nicolas was as likely to impose on her for what he saw as her own good as Lacroix had been to impose on her in his own interests.  Though, perhaps, in the decision he had not given Natalie, he may have finally learned to respect the decisions of others.  She would see.  "Are you ready to go home, Nicolas?  We will have to fly, if we do not get moving.  The sun will be up soon."

        He met her eyes in some confusion, wiping away his tears with the back of his hand.  "Home, Janette?"  He sounded almost suppliant.  She kissed him on the forehead and stood up, holding out her hand in invitation.

So I would choose to be with you
That's if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break

        They reached the lobby of Janette's building with but seconds to spare, and their laughter as the rainbow-making sun nipped their heels was slightly hysterical from exhaustion.  They had both had a trying night, and neither had begun it in the best shape.  Nicolas flopped down on the couch as soon as they reached her apartment, and volunteered not to move for the next two or three weeks.  Janette slapped his shoulder lightly as she passed him on her way to the bathroom, and informed him that muddy shoes were no more welcome on her couch than in her bed, so he had better rouse himself to that extent at least.  Besides -- she would require his help with the new sheets.

        Later, when they were both in bed, and neither could quite tell if the other was still awake, Nicolas whispered softly, "What was it like to be mortal again?"

        "Perhaps you will find out for yourself some day," she answered sleepily.

        "You had it."

        "I did not want it, Nicolas."

        "I do."

        Janette did not answer until she thought he had drifted off.  "If I could, I would give it to you.  The quest is no less noble for being foolish, mon cavalier."

        "Plus ca change?" he asked, unexpectedly.

        "No.  Oh, no.  Nothing will ever be quite the same, not ever again."

And so it goes, and so it goes
And you're the only one who knows





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