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By Expectation Beguiled
Last modified July 29, 2006
by Amy R.
G. Set in second season. Please see the endnote for disclaimers, credits, and all that good stuff. This fanfiction is a tribute to the television series Forever Knight.
If someone had been there with her, circumspection would have ruled. Janette would not have lingered, checking every line, when she pulled her favorite red velvet gown from the dry-cleaner's wrap. She would certainly not have posed first tassels, then hoops, then tassels again, just where her jaw joined her neck. And as for humming while she tucked the comforter around her pillows, arranged unburned candles on a credenza, and replaced all the towels in her bathroom -- yes, the humming would have been right out.
But no one was there. Janette caught herself beaming in the mirror above her fireplace. She allowed a second's appreciation of the anticipatory glow, then curbed her expression and strode up the hall from her private rooms to her club's main floor.
"Good evening, Alma," she greeted the bottle-blonde decorator making her weekly inspection of the chain ornaments for snags, kinks and broken welds.
"Hey, Janette," Alma answered without looking up from the links in her hands. "Someone ripped down four strands of the back curtain, and bent one of the poles on the gate again. I'm going to tie it back for now and put in a work order with the vendor, okay?"
"Perfect. Thank you." Janette drifted over to help Brianna take the last of the chairs off the tables after the housekeeping staff had departed. "Where's Lydia?"
"We switched shifts. Didn't she call?"
The Pacific Islander vampire froze, an upside-down chair in her hands. "No? Oh, no. Janette, I'm sorry." The Raven's owner took her schedules seriously, ensuring both human and vampire employees on each shift for every contingency. Lydia was human, and Brianna had made this mistake before. "I'm really sorry. I never would have asked if I knew she wouldn't -- and I know I should have called, myself -- I only wanted to get tomorrow off, Friday is --"
"Never mind, cherie," Janette shrugged away the omission. "I'll just have a talk with her tomorrow night, hm?"
From behind the bar, Miklos caught Janette's eye and motioned her over. "The old dishwasher overflowed again today. I fixed it, but we have only half the glassware clean."
"Do we have enough to open?"
"Then we'll go ahead. I assume another load is started?"
"Thank you, Miklos." Janette pressed his hand, then went to the safe to count down the till while her team completed the rest of the nightfall routine. At the last moment before the music switched on and the doors officially opened, when some of those who lived on site had just begun to wander in, she called everyone together -- bartenders, wait staff, bouncers and janitors. The club was trendy again for the moment, and the crew expanded accordingly. "Thank you all for the swift set-up this evening. Now, after what happened last night, I want to remind everyone that the 'out of order' and 'caution: wet floor' signs are in the closet with the cleaning supplies. You're all authorized to put those out; you don't need my permission! Does everyone understand? Any questions?" No one spoke up. "Excellent! So let's have a wonderful night, yes?"
The Raven staff dispersed to their assignments. Janette loitered at the bar to give it a populated air as the first customers arrived through the front door. She bestowed a few pleasant smiles, waited until all were occupied, then strolled to her office, emerging minutes later with one stack of manila folders, two matching goblets and two unmarked bottles.
"You're in a good mood tonight," Miklos observed as she passed.
"Am I?" Janette laughed up at him, and carried her choices to a comfortable booth with an excellent view of the entrance, though the entrance had no similar angle into her booth. She set one glass and bottle across the table, served herself from the other, and opened her top file. At first, she looked up each time the door opened. But she soon shook her head and settled down to her paperwork. Every so often, between files, she rose and circulated through her club, monitoring patrons and employees, defusing confrontations, reinforcing connections. This was one of the nights when she felt how very good she was at what she did, and how much it was worth the doing. Orchestrating the community fed her, as much as any blood. She overflowed with confidence and purpose, and could hardly wait to share them.
As Janette completed one of her circuits, Alma cornered her with a clipboard. "I need your signature on these repair forms, and the buff-and-wax contract renewal for the dance floor."
"Of course. Have a seat." Janette began reviewing and signing the forms. Alma slipped into the booth opposite her and reached for the unopened bottle. "Leave that," Janette ordered without looking up.
"It's past time for my meal break," Alma pouted, crossing her arms.
"Is it really?" Janette twisted her bangle bracelet to reveal the concealed watch-face. "Oh! Has Brianna spelled Miklos yet?"
"How would I know? You're the one who's all energetic tonight. Ask them."
Janette glared, handed Alma the clipboard with the signed forms, and wove her way through the press of bodies to the bar. She found Miklos flirting lightly with a shy human customer. He must have fed, she realized; careful, considerate Miklos would not risk this game otherwise. She leaned back on the bar and enjoyed the banter second-hand. His measured eastern-European consonants and serene repartee made Miklos sound strong, unhurried and altogether charming.
When the customer drifted to the dance floor, Miklos loomed behind Janette. "Are you ready for a second bottle of your variety yet?"
"That would be very nice. Merci," she thanked him. "This night has just flown by, hasn't it?" Only back at her table did Janette realize that he should have asked her about a third bottle, not a second, if she had managed the entire discretion she had hoped. But Miklos missed little. She smiled again.
As dawn approached, Janette accomplished less with her paperwork. If someone had been there to observe, she might still have made an opportunity to refresh her cosmetics and brush her teeth. She would not, however, have gone to the back with her wild dark hair constrained in a flawless sleek twist, only to return with it brushed out and rolled up again almost, though not quite, the same way. And she would never have stared at the door as if she could will it to open on a different face.
But no one was there, and her laughter with the last departing customers became frequent and forced. Her movements slowed, her conversation dwindled, and she consciously stopped looking at the door.
Janette left the initial clean-up in progress as she calculated the night's proceeds, estimated the next change order, and ran them over to the bank's after-hours deposit slot. Returning, she checked her team's work and thanked them. Then she saw off those who did not live on site, and sent the others downstairs.
Miklos lingered by the door, though she knew his apartment was far enough to put him into a race against dawn. "You've lost that good mood."
She tilted her head, amused. "Did you happen to see where I last set it down?"
Miklos lifted one hand as if to touch her cheek. Janette read his understanding in his eyes, and longed for the kindness there -- was parched for it. But she did not want to need his kindness, did not want anyone to know that she needed kindness. She lifted her chin.
He dropped his hand, the touch unshared. "I'll see you early tonight. Friday is always eventful."
"Thank you." She locked the door behind him.
Janette wandered across the empty floor, moving roundabout to the booth where she had based her operations that night. The housekeeping crew would let themselves in this afternoon, and the whole cycle would begin again. Everything was in order, except the papers on which she'd been working, and the still untouched bottle opposite her seat. She took them back to her rooms, setting them on the small writing desk that supported the answering machine.
The red light blinked slowly, proclaiming only old messages, not new ones. Janette closed her eyes for a moment. Then she pressed the playback button.
*beep* "Tuesday, 2:07 AM," the machine intoned unevenly.
*beep* "Janette, this is Nick. We've wrapped the Mossberg case!" The familiar voice was elated. "Schanke rescued the kid, I collared the perp, the Crown has an airtight indictment, and we could not have done it without your information. You saved lives here, Janette. I can't thank you enough. Well," the voice paused and deepened and promised, "maybe I can. I have Thursday night off. I'll swing by."
If someone had been there, there would have been nothing to see. But because no one was there, because he was not there, Janette grabbed the pristine bottle of cow blood and smashed it against the back of her door.
No one was there to see whether tears rolled down her cheeks as the cow blood rolled down the wood. No one was there to distinguish her disappointment in him from her fury at herself, that she could still be vulnerable to him when she should know better -- when she did know so much better. And no one else ever saw or smelled the stain, promptly and discreetly cleaned away while no one else was there.
Upstairs and outside, Friday morning's newspaper thumped against the door.
Mr. Parriot and Mr. Cohen created Forever Knight. The Sony Corporation owns it. I intend no infringement. Please support all authorized Forever Knight endeavors! (Are you ready to buy the season-three DVDs?)
Characters and situations in this fantasy fan story are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental. (Vampires don't exist. Answering machines do, though.)
Miklos and Brianna are recurring second-season characters, of course (see "A Fate Worse Than Death" and "A More Permanent Hell," among others). Alma is native to first season (see "For I Have Sinned" and "Love You to Death"). I dubbed the bald, human, Raven employee "Lydia" here (she's "Raven Waitress" in the credits of "Bad Blood," the only episode in which she has dialogue, but she recurs throughout second season).
The title comes from "On the Receipt of My Mother's Picture out of Norfolk" by William Cowper, 1798. "What ardently I wished I long believed, / And, disappointed still, was still deceived. / By expectation every day beguiled."
My sincere thanks to Abby for critiquing the draft! I greatly appreciate her taking that time and making that effort for me. The piece is better for her involvement. Any errors, of course, are my own.
I wrote this piece in June 2006, posted it to fkfic-l on July 28, 2006, and archived it on my FK fansite on July 29, 2006. Please do not archive, post or otherwise 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 welcome. Please email me or comment on my LiveJournal or Dreamwidth. Again, truly, thanks for reading!
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