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Natalie, Nick, Joanie and Wally

Better Late

July 2007
Last modified August 14, 2007

by Amy R.

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



"They're not here yet," Natalie fretted into her cell phone.  She pushed back the lacy yellow curtain and squinted down at her driveway, empty under the summer sun.

"They're not late yet, either," her fiancé laughed through the phone.  "They probably stopped for lunch.  Relax."

"I'm trying!" Natalie started to sit on the twin bed, then shifted to the rocking chair so she could keep an eye on the street.  She picked absently at the yellow pillows.  "Everything is ready.  I think. What am I forgetting, Jason?  Am I supposed to be this nervous?"

The cell phone fell silent for a second.  "I wish I was there for you, Nattie."

"You are here for me," Natalie was firm.  "Miracles of modern technology.  And I knew what I signed on for.  Don't you dare apologize for the Air Command deploying you overseas, Colonel."

"I only had to face bureaucrats and diplomats today, sweetheart.  You have to face an adolescent."

Natalie laughed.  "Oh, Jason, what am I doing?"

"Aside from driving yourself crazier than usual?  The right thing, that's what you're doing.  I am so proud of you, I don't even know how to say it.  Sure, I'm overawed at the thought of coming home to a house full of Lambert women -- talk about a peacekeeping mission!  But seriously, Nattie, everything is going to be all right, I promise."

A familiar turquoise boat of a car turned the corner.  "It's them.  I've got to go.  I love you!"

"And I love you."  Natalie was about to turn off her phone when she heard Jason say, all in a rush, "Hey, if the right moment comes up, tell your Joanie I love her too, okay?"

"You got it.  Thank you, love."  Natalie clicked off the phone, steadied by her fiancé's support.  Yet that warm glow was crimped by the thought that she dared not call on all he offered her and her daughter.

She hated that there were things she should never tell Jason.  She was both giddy and daunted at this opportunity to open a new chapter in her relationship with her daughter.  But from what Nick had said on the phone the past few weeks as they arranged this, Natalie knew she would first have to corner her ex-husband out of their comfortable silence and into the kind of tête-à-tête they both had grown to dread.



Natalie lingered in the master bedroom, absently checking that she had unplugged the iron, watered the plants and packed her toothbrush.  She looked out the window at the rainy Sunday afternoon and pulled on her coat.  Her suitcases were in her car.  She wasn't yet ready to join them.

Eventually, she settled into the armchair facing their green-spread bed.  His bed, now, again, as it had been before they brought it here from his loft -- was it just three years ago?  She could not remember the last time she had sat in this chair; it usually collected clothes dumped on the go.  Now it was clear, like the rest of the room, with Nick's things neatly put away, and her own things stripped away.  She felt disoriented.

"Second thoughts?"  Nick's voice came from the doorway.

She started, looking up.  Nick held his arms crossed, spine straight and chin high.  For a second, his black dress shirt and slacks brought Lacroix to mind.  She blinked.  "I didn't hear you come in."

"You were lost in thought."  He paused.  "I dropped Joanie at her Aunt Sara's after church.  I'll pick her up after . . . after."

"That's probably a good idea," Natalie admitted.  Were they going to fight about this one more time? she wondered.  She was so tired of fighting.  Was he going to plead yet again to change her mind?  Her mind was made up.  "At her age, I hope this can all slip right by her, and she'll never know the difference."

Nick snorted, but held his tongue.

Natalie let it go.  She knew he thought she was ripping out his heart and abandoning their daughter, but he was wrong.  He couldn't see what she could.  He and Joanie would be fine as soon as she was out of their way.  She could do that for them -- just take all the fights and fear away with her.  They could be happy and safe, if she could just walk away.

So why was she sitting?

"Do you remember when we were first married?" Nick asked.  He dropped his arms and looked at their bed.  "When you were still on night shift and I'd just transferred to days?"

Natalie looked at the bed, too, and blinked back tears.  She had thought she was done with tears.  "Of course."  They had made a habit, back then, of crawling into bed and hugging when each got home from their staggered shifts, not necessarily for sleep or sex, but just to be as close as they could, when it had felt so wonderful to be able to be close.  They had talked and laughed, rolled up together, until one or the other had to leave for work.

That first year, Nick had broken Schanke's old record for tardiness.

Natalie heard Nick's quick steps as he crossed the room to her.  She steeled herself not to flinch, knowing how it wounded him when she did.  She didn't know why she had begun to recoil whenever he moved without warning.  She never meant to hurt him.  He had achieved his perfect mortal life, but she had achieved only confusion.  The recurrent nightmares had woken her to the fact that she had never fit in the role in which Nick had cast her, and which she had eagerly rushed to play.

Who am I? she asked herself, as she did so often these days.  It was a circular mantra, spinning her dizzily to nowhere.  Nick's wife, Joanie's mother, Richie's sister, Nana's--

Nick knelt at her feet, laid his head in her lap and cried.  Helpless, Natalie stroked his hair.



Natalie did not blame Nick for the lingering echoes of the vampire's secrets.  It had been her choice, too, goodness knows.  She had fought for her right to risk her life and soul.  A decade of therapy had helped her begin to grapple with the family traumas and silences that predated knowing Nick, as well as those assaults and attempts on her life that had little to do with him for all he had been around.  And the bloodsucking creatures of the night stuff?  It was all seamless down there in her subconscious, she now understood.

But today was not supposed to be about the extraordinary things.  Natalie was determined to hold off the extraordinary as long as she could.  For Joanie, today should seem all about her parents making ordinary attempts to repair all too ordinary mistakes.

Natalie took a deep breath and shook back her dye-brown curls.  Smoothing her blouse, she found a smile and headed downstairs.

"Hello!"  Natalie left the front door open behind her as she crossed to the car.  Nick was already unloading the trunk of his vintage Cadillac, a vehicle that had looked a little more ridiculous every year, until hitting a surprising retro dignity.  Natalie had no idea how he was still getting it through emissions testing.  She thought the car was not unlike the cardigan sweaters he had adopted when he realized he wasn't getting any thinner.  That was around the same time he had finished his new anthropology doctorate; Natalie suspected he thought they made him look academic.  Like the caddy, they had become charming in a timelessly outmoded way.  They suited the man he had become.

For Joanie's part, a denim-clad rear stuck out of the back seat while honey-blond curls bent over the dog carrier.

"How were the movers?"

"Slow!"  Joanie bounded out and straightened up.  She had grown yet again; Natalie found Joanie's big blue eyes now only a little below her own hazel ones.  "May I take Wally for a run?"

"Um, sure--"

"Not until you carry at least two of these bags upstairs," Nick said.  "Plus your clarinet case and laptop."

"But Dad, Wally's been pent up since before lunch!"  While Joanie grumbled, she slung a duffel bag over each shoulder, stuffed down a teddy bear that had begun to escape, and headed upstairs.

Natalie felt a certain relief at this glimpse of Geoffrey the bear; some things had not yet changed.  "Remind me why your female dog is named Wally?"

"It's short for Walpurga."  Nick handed her a suitcase for one hand and an iPod docking station for the other.  He hefted a carton of books himself.

"You say that as if it means something."

"Oh, are you in for it," Nick chuckled.  "It's from our daughter's favorite television show.  For harmony in the house, I advise not correcting the historical inaccuracies when you watch it with her."

"Somehow, I doubt that will be as big a problem for me as it is for you."

Joanie pelted past them as they reached the bottom of the stairs.  They barely reached the top before she overtook them again with her clarinet, computer and another duffel, which she dumped on the sunflower-print bedspread.  Nick muttered something about the Olympic track team.

"Only the posters are left.  Now may I go for a run with Wally?"

"Close the trunk as you go by," Nick nodded.

"How about a quick welcome hug first, Joanie?"  Natalie opened her arms.

Joanie crossed her arms and tossed her ponytail.  "It's Joan."


"Joan.  Not Joanie."

"Okay," Natalie looked at Nick, who shrugged uselessly.  "Joan, may I have a hug?"

"Of course."  Her daughter was in her arms in a flash, and for a few seconds all was right with Natalie's world.  Old hurts mended.  Strength flowed.  Everything was possible.  Then the girl was off again, calling ahead so her dog would know she was coming.

Natalie collapsed into the rocking chair.  "What was that?"

"The faster-than-a-speeding-bullet thing?"

"No, she was doing that at Christmas, too.  Joan, not Joanie?"

"Oh, that.  First I've heard of it.  Maybe she's punishing you for the move?  Though I'm the one who went and got a new job in Alberta."  Nick shrugged apologetically, then pushed aside some bags and leaned back on the ruffled bed pillows.  He closed his eyes.  He looked tired, Natalie thought, a deep bone and brain tired, well beyond just staying up all night packing before seeing the movers off this morning.  Natalie wondered how much more worried she should be about those things she could never tell Jason, and wanted never to tell Joanie.

Just how close were Nick's old enemies?  Was it the Enforcers?  One reason of many for not telling Joanie had been to keep her innocent by the Enforcers' code if they ever came for Natalie and Nick.  Silence was safety.

After a while, Nick opened his eyes.  He met her gaze, flashing a smile that washed away fears and stripped away years.  No one smiled like Nick.  "I wouldn't worry about Joanie deciding to be Joan.  It is the name we gave her, after all."



Natalie opened her eyes, and her lips curled up at the sight of Nick beside her bed, cradling their tiny new daughter.  Joan Natasha Lambert Knight: her name was so much bigger than she was! Even Nick's awestruck smile seemed bigger than the bald, blue-eyed baby in his careful hands.

Propped against the hospital pillows, Natalie floated softly in her exhaustion as she watched her husband and daughter.  She had napped, but still felt like she had burned away every muscle in her body.  She congratulated herself on not asking just how long that had taken.  She did not yet want to know whether the pink light slipping past the curtains was sunrise or sunset; she felt pleasantly timeless, safe and tender.  She wondered whether that was the natural oxytocin kicking in -- hormone high -- or just the loose end of a pleasant dream.

Eventually, Nick noticed she was awake.  "Hi, there."  The smile he turned on her could heat half the province for the winter.

"Hi, yourself."  Natalie grinned back.  "How's she doing?"

"Fine, excellent and wonderful," Nick tipped his arm to give her a better view of their drowsy infant.  "The medical cast of thousands kept on running tests, administering vitamins and all that stuff while you slept, but -- as you requested -- I was a tenacious ass of a new father, following everywhere and questioning everything.  After she slept for a bit, too, they eventually gave up and left her here with us."

"Just to get some peace, huh?"

"Or because she really is fine, excellent and wonderful."  Nick frowned, looking from Natalie to Joanie and back.  "I would very much like to kiss you, but I'm almost afraid I'll drop or mash her if I make a move."

"Well, let me take her, and then you can maneuver as needed."  Natalie opened her arms and took her daughter.  Nick kissed her forehead as she stared down at Joanie.  Natalie laughed and tilted up her chin so he could reach her lips.

"Humdrum postscript to such an inspiring kiss," Nick said, "but I'm going to run down to the washroom, if that's all right."

"Go, go," Natalie motioned with her head.  "We'll be fine.  Won't we, Joanie?"  Natalie watched, fascinated, as Joanie turned her head toward her mother's voice.  Natalie felt Nick kiss her forehead again before he stepped out.  On an adult, Joanie's expression would have looked serious and resolute; Natalie knew babies this young couldn't really smile, so that solemn conviction looked adorable, instead.  She stared.  Her wrinkled and still somewhat squished daughter was the most beautiful thing Natalie had ever seen.

Suddenly, Natalie's heart began to race.  Her breath pulled short.  She trembled, and her abdomen twisted.  In seconds, she was dizzily, nauseatedly certain that she was going to drop Joanie.  Joanie was going to fall, and there was nothing she could do about it.  Natalie clutched her tighter, knowing it would not work.  "Nick!" Natalie screamed, with all the air in her starved lungs.

Two strangers in scrubs appeared.  She pressed Joanie into the arms of the faster one.  "Take her, please," Natalie gasped.  The slower one stepped up and began to take Natalie's pulse.

"Nat!"  Nick ran in, with Natalie's own doctor on his heels.  "What's happening?"

"Probably not a heart attack," Natalie struggled for breath.  Her blood pounded in her ears, and her gut twisted as if with a new contraction.  She told herself she was not going to die, no matter what it felt like.  She closed her eyes and told herself again.

"Another panic attack?" her doctor asked.

Nick growled.  "I thought you said those were supposed to stop when she gave birth."

"They usually do," the doctor opened her hands.  "Give it a few days.  If it keeps happening, there are several things we can try."

With her eyes still closed, Natalie silently repeated that she was not going to die today.  She was not going to orphan her daughter on the very first day of her life.



"So just how bad is it, Nick?" Natalie asked reluctantly.  She looked out the window from the rocking chair, watching her daughter and her dog up the street.

"You've redone the room, haven't you?" Nick nodded at the freshly-painted yellow walls.  "Reminds me of the apartment you had when we met."

"That was vermillion; this is canary.  And you're changing the subject."

"Yellow is still her favorite color, and she has no intensity gauge, just like her mother.  All or nothing."  Natalie raised an eyebrow at him.  He grinned.  "She'll love this, though she might not tell you so."

"You know, I want her here with all my heart, now that my head is screwed on a little straighter than it was when she was younger.  I know I can be good for her now up close, all the time -- well, most of the time, like anybody."  Natalie crossed and uncrossed her arms.  "I know I'm not going to turn into my grandmother."

Nick nodded.

Natalie appreciated that he understood, and tried again to let go the resentment that he had never similarly worried that he might turn into Lacroix; now, there was a grudge she had never shared with him.  "But Nick, I expected to negotiate for joint custody or increased visitation.  I did not expect you to let her move in for the rest of secondary school while you ran off to teach at the University of Calgary!  I know you too well to buy that."

"I want you to know that I gave her the choice."  Nick was not smiling now.  "Come with me, or live with you so she could continue school with her friends.  She's been telling me again and again that it was an extremely close call."

Natalie hesitated.  "Does she want you to say that you need her to come with you?"

"I'm sure she does.  But I needed her to choose you."  Standing up, he spared Natalie a grimace as he began looking through zippered pouches on one of the bags.  "I might have wanted that in any case, Nat.  You deserve all the time with her you haven't had.  I'm grateful for every minute, but it was never supposed to be this way."


"No, you're right, Nat.  I've been stalling."  He pulled out a cell phone, pressed several buttons, and tossed it to her.  At least, Natalie thought it was a cell phone.  The silver and black unit she caught was larger than any phone she had seen in years.  He straddled the desk chair at the end of the bed.  "I've programmed two contacts.  Names, numbers, networks, longitude and latitude, passwords, everything.  The first is my financial advisor, who controls my private legacy funds as well as the foundational trust.  If you or Joanie ever need anything that money can buy, he'll get it for you."

"Nick, you don't need to--"

"And don't go saving it for a medical catastrophe or her university tuition," he cut her off.  "There's no need.  If you think she should have a car the day she gets her driver's license, buy it. Personally, I don't think she should have a car until she can pay at least half the cost and prove she can change a tire and jumpstart it and follow a paper map without GPS . . . but if I'm not here, it's your call."

"If you're not--" Natalie sank back against the chair, swallowing hard against images of Joanie going to buy her first car without her father, learning to drive without her father.  It was as bad as Natalie had feared; nothing less could keep Nick away. Natalie picked up the phone.  "I can't open it."

"Stroke your thumb across there," Nick pointed, miming the gesture.  She imitated him.  On her third try, the screen blipped.  "Good, that sets it!  Now it's keyed to you, Joanie and me.  It has solar recharging, and satellite phone capability.  In that case -- if you're out in the back of beyond, or coverage is down or blocked -- you just need a clear line of sight to the sky, day or night."

"I think I've heard that somewhere."  Natalie pressed the menu button.  "So who's the other contact?"  A name scrolled up.  "Janette?"

"Last resort, Nat."  Nick's voice chilled her.  "I used up all my favors with Janette long ago, but she's promised me this one last.  One only.  If I fail and Lacroix comes for Joanie, run.  While running, call Janette.  If she can't save Joanie's life, she -- she won't let him take her."

"What does that mean, exactly?" Natalie clipped the words.  She slapped the phone on the bed and stood.  "If you fail at what?  Is Lacroix coming?  And are you asking Janette to . . . to bring our daughter across?  Or stake her?  Because I'm really not feeling good about any of those scenarios, Nicholas B. Knight!"

"Do you think I am?  I want Joanie to grow up and grow old and live happily ever after in the sun.  But it's better she go with Janette, if it comes to that.  It's more than my soul is worth to deliver Joanie to Lacroix.  At least she'll have a chance with Janette."

"You think it's better for Janette to preemptively make Joanie a vampire than to hold out to the last?"  Natalie couldn't wrap her mind around that.  "I know we never could synthesize the cure, but I could try again.  I would try again!  And we can run.  And hide.  You survived him, Nick.  So did Janette!"

"Hundreds of others didn't!" He yelled back.  Sixteen years ago, his grip on the chair as he stood would have crushed it to powder.  "Did you think we were the only ones he made in two thousand years?  Nat, what Roger Jamison tried to do to you, what your fiancé saw in Afghanistan -- Lacroix goes through periods where he does things like that every day -- every night! -- to those he claims to love best.  And he would . . . he would love her best."  Nick tried to blink away the shine gathering in his eyes.  "Lord in heaven, Nat, my daughter, Fleur's niece?  He would love her best."

Natalie embraced Nick, pulling his head down on her shoulder and murmuring reassurances while he shook with fear and exhaustion.  He hugged her back as fiercely as he used to, when he thought she was his hope of salvation, and she knew he was the best of all she lived for.



"Onion rings!"  Natalie snatched one and began munching as Nick unpacked the bags of fast food onto the counter of her lab.  Burgers and fries and . . . was that a chocolate milkshake?  "You sure do know how to please a woman, Detective Knight."

He grinned.  "Oh, you're just easy when you haven't been outside this building since dinosaurs roamed the earth."

"There's life outside the morgue?  I mean, besides the madcap administrators who organized this zany staffing opportunity?"  She pulled the entire container of onion rings toward her and tried to remember whether this meal were technically dinner or breakfast.  "Nah.  Can't be.  They would have issued a memo."

"You must have missed it.  We've got personal jetpacks now, cancer is cured, and it never rains on convertibles," Nick joked back, handing Natalie her burger after unwrapping it just half-way for easy holding.  "Also, it's spring, which is why I am at long last again wearing my leather jacket, and the wool overcoat is off to the cleaners."

Natalie accepted her burger.  Suddenly, she was fighting back tears.  The burger was perfect.  Everything else was a bottomless pit of awful, and she could not take it anymore.

"Nat?"  Nick evidently read her expression, because he took back the burger, set it aside and embraced her.  He rocked her gently, smoothed her hair and held her like he would never think of letting go.  That's what she wanted, too.  She swallowed dry sobs, fighting for control.  She had so much work yet to do.

It had begun with, of all horrific things, a school bus accident.  Nine fatalities.  And by foul coincidence, a flash flood of policy directives had simultaneously toppled reporting structures and reassigned support staff throughout the coroner's division.  Nothing was working right.  Natalie could not seem to catch up.  She had been staggering home to bed only when she no longer trusted her eyes, rarely seeing her cat Sidney, much less her -- Nick.

But Nick had surprised her, showing up unannounced to ensure she took a meal break for a change, and then carefully folding the paper around her burger.  That tiny consideration took the numbness away, and everything hurt again.  Those kids . . .

"You're my hero, you know," Nick whispered.  "Brave and determined.  What you do here, the truth you give when truth is the only faint comfort left."

Natalie sniffed, hiccupped a laugh at herself, and pulled back to look in his eyes.  "I thought I was your hero for seeking your cure."

"Yeah, well, what have you done for me lately?"  Nick ate a french fry.

Natalie stared.

He winked, and ate three more.  "See?  No ketchup.  What, did you think I brought all this just for you?"  He unwrapped the second burger, took a bite, chewed and swallowed.

Natalie hit his shoulder lightly on her way to taking his pulse.  Warm skin.  Heartbeat normal.  Pupils.  Teeth.  Tests, she needed to run tests!  Lots and lots of tests.  Goodness, was that sunburn on his ears and cheekbones?  "Oh, Nick!  We did it, and I missed it?  I missed you finally turning human!  How can you ever forgive me?"

"There's nothing to forgive, Nat."  He handed her the chocolate milkshake, and picked up the strawberry one himself.  "You've been very, very busy these past few weeks.  Which is why I think we should take a three-day weekend as soon as we can, forget our cell phones and pagers, and stay at a beach house where I can propose to you by the water at dawn."

Natalie blinked.  "It sounds like you've got it all planned out."

"I've got some ideas."  Nick's cocky grin vanished.  "But it's in your hands.  What do you think you might say?"

Natalie looked at him, this vulnerable, infuriating, magnificent man who had endured and accomplished more than most people ever dreamed.  She loved him more than anyone she had ever known, more than she had believed herself capable of loving.  She wasn't sure she knew how to live without him anymore.  And now he was as human as she was.

The silence stretched.  Finally, she whispered, "You're my hero, too."

"Is that a 'yes'?"

Natalie nodded.  As his smile broke out, so did hers.  She kissed him, onion-ring-breath and all, willing her kisses to show how she adored, wanted, needed him.

Impatiently, Natalie's stomach rumbled.  They both laughed, and Nick raised his milkshake.  "To our future?"

"To our future!"  Natalie met his toast and drained her cup.



When Nick's breathing smoothed, Natalie stepped back.  She managed a wan smile.  "Does Joanie really look so much like your sister?"

"She's going to be taller than Fleur was, but everyone is taller these days."

"You must have been a giant."

"I was pretty tall."

Natalie reached up to pat him on the top of his head, grayer and more closely cropped than once upon a time.  "I think I want some tea.  And I know you have a story to tell me."

Nick nodded.  "I'll meet you downstairs."

Natalie heard water run in the bathroom as she headed to the kitchen and started her kettle boiling.  Joanie knocked on the back door.  Natalie opened it.

"Mom, can Wally come inside?"

"Kitchen, basement, staircase and your room only.  And you have to keep her away from Jason's model airplanes."

"Got it!  Come on, Wally, I'll show you my room."

"I'm making tea.  Do you want any?"

"No, thanks.  May I have some pop?"

"Nope.  You may have milk, juice, water or tea, same as always."

"Dad says you used to drink cola and coffee all the time!"

"That's how I know it's not good for you.  Tea?"

"Maybe later."

Natalie shook her head as her daughter vanished up the stairs.  She recalled this mental whiplash from Nick's days as a vampire, swerving from one kind of conversation with him to another kind entirely with Grace or someone else on her team.  But what it reminded her of most was the asteroid scare.  Her whole world was in danger, and she stood at her post alone.  Natalie sank down at the kitchen table with her back to the stairs and lowered her head.

After a few minutes, she felt Nick's hands on her shoulders.  Solid, reassuring, present: he had always communicated better by touch than with words.

"So all those trips weren't to Calgary, were they?"

"Some were.  It's a good, tenure-track opportunity.  Nice people, great students.  I wouldn't have shipped the piano if I didn't hope-- if I didn't plan to be there for the fall term."

"But the rest?  No more stalling, Nick."

"Paris, to arrange things with Janette; her plane should be landing here just about now.  But mainly Brasilia.  That's where Lacroix is."  Nick squeezed Natalie's shoulders and then seated himself around the corner of the table.  "I've been watching him.  Stalking, really."

"What happened?"  Natalie had not seen the old demon since Nick had become mortal.

"About two months ago, for the first time since -- well, I should tell you that first, shouldn't I?  Shortly after you and I got divorced, Lacroix dropped by to offer his condolences and his, um, comfort.  Thank God Joanie was at her Aunt Sara's that night.  He wanted to bring me back across.  You'd broken my heart, not my head, so of course I turned him down.  But he wouldn't take no for an answer.  We found out with his fangs in my neck that my blood is toxic to him now.  Apparently, you can't re-convert a former vampire."

"You never told me."

Nick shrugged.  "You and I weren't talking much in those days.  And, anyway, he never came back.  I didn't hear a thing from him until the month before last, when he phoned the land line at the house.  Joanie answered.  See, it's not that she looks exactly like my sister, Nat.  Joanie has your cheekbones, and that smile is all her own.  It's that she sounds just like Fleur.  I started noticing it last year, but I thought I was imagining things."

And the Nightcrawler is an audiophile, Natalie recalled.  "So he heard Joanie on the phone, and thought, what?"

"I don't know why he called in the first place, but I picked up the line to an earful on that blasted agreement I made with him in 1229, when I traded some future mortal love's life for my sister's.  I was so sure I would never love a mortal--"

The kettle whistled.

"Let me," Nick said.  He made quick work of the pot, cups and tea bags Natalie had set out, leaving a third cup for Joanie to steep by the sink, and returning to the table with the rest.  "Anyway, I pointed out that I am single at the moment.  Not in love with anyone.  I tried not to talk about Joanie, but he got me to admit she was my daughter.  Somehow, he'd missed that we had her."

"He didn't know?"  Natalie was surprised.  They hadn't hidden it, and she knew Nick had kept in touch with Janette.  "Wait, he can't think Joanie fits that bargain!"

"Oh, he does.  'If I ever truly love a mortal,' he quoted at me.  The vampire's agreement didn't make any distinction between kinds of love.  That night at Azure, I may have convinced him I didn't love you as much as he loved Fleur, but he'll never buy that I don't love Joanie.  In any case, he's been cultivating his twisted obsession with my sister for eight hundred years.  He can't have Fleur; he can't have me; he thinks he can have Joanie.  I didn't have any idea what I was saving my sister from back then, Nat, but today I know just what my daughter's facing."

"I should have staked that supernatural sociopath and sawed off his head sixteen years ago!" Natalie railed.  "But the de Brabant Foundation money -- maybe you could, I don't know, send an assassin after him?"

"I have, actually."  Nick looked down at his steeping tea.  "My moral compass still has a few, uh, blind spots.  Lacroix killed the man -- or, rather, had him killed, I think -- and his family, and his contacts, all the way back to a file clerk at my bank in Luxembourg."


"So tomorrow, I'm going to go kill him myself.  Again."

A gasp from the stairway made Natalie turn her head.  Joanie sat on the landing.

"How long have you been listening?" Nick asked.  Natalie envied his calm; she wanted to scream.  She wanted Jason.  She wanted to keep Joanie safe from all of this, and didn't have the faintest idea how.  Silence had been her shield, and it had just shattered.

"Are you guys crazy?" Joanie asked, as calm as her father.

"No more so than usual.  Do you want your tea?"

Silence made a lousy shield.

"Yes."  Joanie stomped down the stairs to show she was not happy with them.  She found her cup on the counter and added honey from the plastic squeeze-bear.  "You shouldn't hide things from me, you know.  I'm not a little kid."

So build a better shield.

"You're right," Natalie said.  "It's time you knew.  Come sit down."  Natalie met Nick's eyes.

He had not yet explained his plan to kill Lacroix -- Natalie could only hope he actually had a plan -- nor why he seemed to imagine they would sit here like ducks on the water while he carried it out.  But he had suggested Janette was on her way.  There was no going back.  If Natalie had learned anything in the twenty-two years since she first met Nick Knight, it was that there had never been any going back.  Nick nodded, putting it all in her hands.

Suddenly floating on adrenaline, Natalie laughed.  She took a deep breath and turned to her daughter.  "Joan, your dad came across in 1228 . . ."





  • Disclaimers

    • Mr. Parriot and Mr. Cohen created Forever Knight.  The Sony Corporation owns it.  I intend no infringement.  Please support all authorized Forever Knight endeavors!  (Have you bought a back-up DVD set?)

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

  • Citations

    • Nick.  Nick's "agreement" with Lacroix is from "Be My Valentine," as is Nick's sister, Fleur.  Nick's original academic credentials are in "Spin Doctor," and his affection for archaeology and anthropology also shows up in "Dark Knight" and "Faithful Followers."  Luxembourg is where Feliks Twist parked the de Brabant Foundation funds at the end of "Blood Money."  The first time Nick killed Lacroix is in "Dark Knight, the Second Chapter."

    • Natalie.  Natalie's family losses and childhood traumas are from "I Will Repay" and "Dead of Night."  (Her sister-in-law Sara is from "I Will Repay.")  Assaults on Natalie in the present day recur throughout the series, and include such highlights as Roger Jamison attempting to murder her on a date in "Only the Lonely," Laura Neil sabotaging her car in "Spin Doctor," being held hostage in "1966," Spark refusing to take "I changed my mind" for an answer in "A More Permanent Hell," and Lacroix threatening her in "Be My Valentine."  The time Natalie is alone at her post during the asteroid scare is "A More Permanent Hell."

    • Joanie.  Joanie is named for Saint Joan of Arc, naturally, whom Nick met in "For I Have Sinned."  Joanie's middle name, Natasha, is what her great-grandmother called her mother ("Dead of Night").

    • Wally Wally the dog and Joanie's favorite television show are named either for Mary Shelley's novel Valperga, or for St. Walpurga, whose saint's day mixed with pagan celebrations to become Walpurgisnacht, marked variously in different northern European countries, usually with bonfires.  Or perhaps both.  It turned out to be a digression this story couldn't use.

    • 2012.  2012 will be an Olympic year.  Good luck hosting, London!

  • Credits

    • My thanks to Shelley, my invaluable sounding board and beta-reader, without whom no FK story would ever make it from my brain to your computer, and who has been patient with this story, on and off, for nearly five years.  My thanks also to Angela G. and Mary Ch., for Canada-checking my south-of-the-border confusions, and for their astute observations that made me rework bits of the present-day story.  And my thanks to Jo and Shelley, who each read the first version back in 2002, and wisely judged that it really needed something more.  Errors, of course, are all my own.

    • I first drafted this story in 2002; it was from Nick's perspective, and quite different.  My perceptive beta-readers didn't like it.  So I set it aside, and did not seriously pick it up again until spring 2007.  I wrote this version from May into July 2007.  I posted it to fkfic-l on July 30, 2007. Please do not archive, post or distribute this story.  You're welcome to link to it here, on my FK fansite.

    • Thank you for reading!  Your comments and constructive criticism are valued.  (No story is really finished until it's been read.)  Please email me or comment on my LiveJournal or Dreamwidth.  Again, truly, thanks for reading!

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