Forever Knight story is my rewritten version of the final episode of
the series, Last Knight. Needless to say, my version ends quite
differently than Mr. Parriott's.
Natalie hadn't been waiting for Nick long. When he walked into
the loft, she surprised herself
with the calmness in her voice. "Tracy Vetter passed away twenty
The vibrations LaCroix constantly received from Nicholas had
grown more and more disturbing
over the last few months. And particularly over the last day. Nick
almost always felt things to
extremes but lately there'd been too many lows, each one deeper and
more desperate than the one
before. LaCroix knew that no being, immortal or not, could survive very
long in the absolute
depths of despair; not when all hope for something better was lost.
And judging by what LaCroix felt from Nicholas right now, he
was in a quick spiral toward the
bottom of the pit.
When would he learn? LaCroix wondered. It was a familiar
pattern. Mortals die, details get
messy. It couldn't be helped, LaCroix had tried to explain so many
times. It was simply a sign
that one needed to move on. But Nicholas' guilt would become too much;
his emotional state
would start to corrode.
And such a shame all this turmoil should arise now, he
thought. His bond with Nicholas had been
fortified in recent months and they'd reached a sort of tentative peace
with one another, the likes
of which they hadn't shared in years. Perhaps that was part of the
pattern, too, another sign that
it's time to move on. After all, the wolf can't play with the sheep and
still run with its pack.
"Faith's a mortal folly, Nat," Nick said.
"LaCroix' words, or yours?" she asked. "Do you really believe
Natalie felt desperate, frustrated. Nick had listed names of those
who'd died before their time: Cohen, Schanke, now Tracy. She'd been
trying to pull Nick out of his guilt, but she felt they were
talking in circles. Nat mourned for these people, too, but he seemed
determined to shoulder the
guilt for the death of everyone he loved.
"I'm not sure," Nick said.
She'd discovered he'd planned to leave without her, without
even saying goodbye. Now, she tried
to convince him that these things were not his fault. And that they
belonged together, no matter
what. She talked about faith.
"I won't accept that the sum of our existence can be measured
in the few short years that we're
alive here. It would make everything that we believe ... meaningless.
It would make our whole
lives here meaningless. I know that's not true and so do you.
"You have faith, Nick. And if it's a mortal folly, then you’re
the most mortal man I've ever
LaCroix' clothes, books and various items were in a large
trunk to be left in the capable hands of
Aristotle, the leader of the vampire community's equivalent of the
witness protection program. Only a few small items remained, and those
he'd long preferred to keep with him. Sentimentality
held little appeal for LaCroix, but these weren't just any offhand
mementos--these were symbols
of his children.
His beautiful, beautiful daughters. The large, ancient cameo
he carried served as symbol of, what? Pain and guilt he'd condemned
himself to eternally feel for what he'd done to Divia--what he
hadn't done? Or a reminder of how he'd loved her once? Both, he thought
bitterly, as he closed
his eyes and willed himself to remember the innocent child he'd
cherished beyond reason. He
smiled slightly, then jerked himself back to the present as Divia's
enraged death-mask transposed
itself over the wide-eyed face of a fair, quiet child.
And Janette. Janette who, despite her protective streak for
Nicholas, had always seen her master's
point of view. She'd never been ashamed of what LaCroix had given her,
until . . . .When she'd
called him to the Raven and told him of her plans to leave, LaCroix
knew with certainty that,
though it may be decades, even centuries, before he'd see his dark
daughter again, he would see
her again. Now, after her brief bout of mortality and her consequent
re-birth, he couldn't be sure. In fact, the 2000-year-old vampire
guessed that neither he, nor Nicholas, would ever hear from
He carried one of the gloves Janette had worn the day she gave
him The Raven. Long,
black mesh, intricate, slinky, he couldn't have found a more perfect
representation of Janette had
he tried. Though he'd thoroughly searched the entire place, he'd never
found the other glove. Just the one smoothed down onto the middle of
Janette's neatly made bed. He'd taken to
wrapping it around the cameo, and now he closed his eyes, thinking how
appropriate a symbol
that had become.
LaCroix marveled at his suddenly maudlin state. Surely moving
on would remedy these unsettling
moments of nostalgia. Moving on, and ever-increasing time between
LaCroix and recent
disturbing events. Time does heal wounds, he thought. Most wounds.
Nick looked at her, his face softening. But then he turned
away. "You cannot deny what I am."
Natalie followed Nick as he walked away from her. "You can't
deny what's in your heart."
"What are you saying?"
"I have faith there's a future for us," Natalie said softly.
"Here as we are, or somewhere else. I
believe in *you*." Natalie placed her hand on Nicholas' chest. "I trust
*you*." She stroked
Nick's cool cheek. "Make love to me, Nick. Just take a little at a
LaCroix touched his chest and felt the hard circle of
Nicholas' watch. He'd given it to
Nicholas as a gift, and Nicholas had returned it on a mortal's
'Father's Day'. Though LaCroix had
carried it since, he'd always thought of it as Nicholas' watch. Always
thought someday he'd give it
Always thought, hoped, someday it might be happily received.
Thoughts of Nicholas made
LaCroix even more aware of their bond. He could sense Nicholas's guilt,
overwhelming in their intensity. Despair. And, odd, LaCroix thought,
the first whisper-thin
stirrings of . . . arousal.
Ordinarily LaCroix would mentally feel his way down the length
of their link, drink in Nicholas'
sexual excitement like an elixir. But, strange though it was to come at
such a time, LaCroix tuned
it out as best he could. Anything to interrupt his pain, he thought.
Let him have it fully and
wholly to himself.
"I'm afraid of what might happen." Nick's resolve weakened.
"Don’t be afraid. I'm not afraid of death. Or of an eternity
in darkness as long as I can spend it with you. All I have is faith and
love. All I'm asking is for you to make love to me. I trust
Nick stared into her eyes, then took her hands in his,
lowering his gaze. As he raised his head, his
incisors dropped, and his eyes turned to gold.
"I won't leave you," he promised. "Whatever happens, we'll be
Natalie stared into the golden eyes. "Forever," she whispered.
One last glance to be sure all things were accounted for. They
All but one.
LaCroix smiled to himself as he thought of trying to stuff a
struggling Nicholas into a steamer
trunk. He had voyaged in one before, after all. The smile faded rapidly
when he realized that as
long as Nicholas didn't choose to go, or at least give in a bit,
LaCroix wouldn't want him along
LaCroix closed his eyes and sighed.
Nicholas had always been prone to mortal attachments. But,
though he hated to admit it to
himself, this time was different. Nicholas' doctor friend had an effect
on him that intrigued
LaCroix. She was pretty; Nick had had prettier. She was smart;
Nicholas' nature and resulting
wealth had allowed them to spend time with the intellectual upper-crust
of society whenever they
chose to socialize with mortals.
She had fire; so had many others.
But LaCroix had felt that special *life* in the few occasions
she'd been in his presence. He idly
wondered if it was something that all vampires felt coming from her.
Perhaps it was the combination of a remarkable woman and the
right era. Many remarkable
women had been stifled in ages that kept women dumb and subservient,
after all. He wondered
how different Dr. Lambert would have been had she been a child of the
Roman Empire. She'd
have made a fine mistress in his day. All that fire and will held
inside as dictated by the times -- he
imagined what it would be like to be the one to release that pent up
strength and emotion, to help
her release her inhibitions . . . .
LaCroix blinked and lowered his head, unbelieving. He'd
actually been wondering what it might
be like to touch the stubborn doctor. No, not wondering--imagining,
experiencing. Her lips
beneath his, the warm taste--
That's when he felt it.
Despite LaCroix' decision to block out the sensation coming
from his son, Nicholas was wide
open, more so than he'd ever been. Fear, dread, and arousal was
coursing through him, and
through his connection to LaCroix. If LaCroix relaxed and went with the
feeling, as he unconsciously had moments before, he knew that Nick was
kissing Dr. Lambert, caressing
her, devouring her.
He could feel the hunger coming through the bond, the need,
the unbidden desire. LaCroix
Nicholas was going to take her.
Nick kissed Natalie, no longer worrying about holding back. He
pulled away, kissed her wrist,
and looked at her with the longing she'd always hoped had been there.
He pushed her hair away
from her neck, and after a reassuring, yet hungry look, he sank his
fangs into her neck.
Natalie gasped, caught off guard at the quickness of his
movements. But just as the pain, the pull
began, she started to feel as if she were watching the scene from
outside herself. A fuzziness
crept into her thoughts, panic formed in her chest. Just a little,
Nick, just a little . . . .
Nick tasted how much she loved him. And from the first drop of
her blood he knew he was
doomed. He thought *stop*, he begged himself, willed himself to stop,
but he could not. He felt
her slipping away from him even as he felt his pull strengthen. Glass
shattered above him, then
iron hands grasped his shoulders and pulled him away from Natalie.
LaCroix caught Natalie as she slumped. She opened her eyes and
started when she saw LaCroix'
face instead of Nick's. He looked into her eyes, through the haze, and
willed her to sleep, deep,
dreamless and long. Sleep. She resisted, but her weakened state allowed
the suggestion to take
force. He carried her to the couch.
Nick panted, barely able to stand upright. "LaCroix, Natalie,
oh . . . oh please . . . ."
"She is sleeping. She might be a bit weak for a day or two,
but the good doctor will recover."
Nick covered his face with his hands, his voice shaky with
emotion. "I almost took too much."
"May I ask, Nicholas, what you thought you were doing?" He
suspected he knew. He
hoped he was wrong.
Nick dropped his hands but didn't look at him. "Janette's
cure. We . . . I was trying--"
"You failed." LaCroix regarded the pale doctor, listening to
her slow but steady
heartbeat. His relief at her condition surprised him.. It wasn't as if
he really cared what
happened to her, though he did admire some of the qualities she
possessed: Passion, determination, intelligence, optimism. But she was
a mortal, after all. He was
only concerned with her life because of what the alternative would do
He'd considered killing this woman more than once, and idly
wondered how things would
be now if he had. LaCroix knew he could blame her for Nick's
withdrawals and rebellions
and attempts to shed his nature, but if it hadn't been Dr. Lambert by
Nick's side, it would
have been someone else, perhaps someone less virtuous, just as it had
been often enough
through the centuries. As easy as it was to blame Nick's foolishness on
her, it wasn't her
doing. He knew where the blame lay.
He had to put an end to this little saga once and for all. For
all their sakes.
LaCroix snarled and backhanded Nick, knocking him into the
air. Before Nick had a
chance to stand, LaCroix projected himself across the room and jerked
his son up by the
shoulders, pinning him to the wall, his feet suspended above the floor.
"We've been through this how many times? How many centuries of
this foolish, fruitless
search for mortality? How many disappointments, Nicholas? How much more
of this can
Nick closed his eyes. "I can't be this anymore." LaCroix
watched the muscles in his son's
"You said those exact words once, if I recall. Yet here you
are, being what you are,
centuries later. Doesn't that tell you something?"
Nick's eyes snapped open and he struggled against LaCroix'
immovable grip. LaCroix
snarled and dug his fingers in, sliding him farther up the wall.
"It is not going to happen, Nicholas." LaCroix' face was mere
inches from Nicholas'. "It's
such a simple concept. You will never be anything other than what you
are at this very
moment. You will never be mortal. Never." As he spoke the last word he
Nicholas, snapping his head into the wall. "Never."
Nick looked beyond LaCroix at Natalie, and his defeated
expression made LaCroix want
to slam Nicholas through every wall in the loft. Their relationship had
come so far
recently, with his sharing of his past, and then Divia, and now it was
as if none of it had
happened. Nicholas' wish for mortality had destroyed what they'd been
rebuilding, over the last several months. All that concerned Nicholas
now was the fate of
his mortal friends, and where the fault may lay. As he watched a tear
trickle down his
son's cheek, he felt the zephyr tinge his eyes and twitch his
"Nicholas, she is mortal. Mortals die. Whether she dies now or
fifty years from now,
does it really make a difference?"
"I almost killed her. I should have left. I should have moved
on without saying
"You should have, but you didn't. She will live. And now we
will go." LaCroix said the
words, doubting if his son was capable of doing so. "How long do you
think you could
have stayed here before someone noticed the fact that you don't age?
Another five, ten
Nick looked through LaCroix, his eyes hollow, dull. "She
wanted to go with me when I
"So, if she left with you and you were part of her life until
she died at a ripe, old age, how
much longer would that have been? Fifty years at best? You are eternal.
insignificant is fifty years to a man who has forever?"
"I love her."
"I know. You'll get over it." LaCroix growled as his fangs
ached to descend. "Now or
fifty years from now, you'll survive her death and the deaths of all
your mortal friends." He struggled to maintain his control. "But I have
always been here, Nicholas. I have
always taken care of you, always accepted you for what you are, not
despite it. And I will
always be here. Eternally." He lowered Nicholas to the floor without
letting go and
stepped forward, their bodies nearly touching. "What could she possibly
give you in the
next fifty years that I can't give you with all eternity stretching out
Nick focused on LaCroix' face for an instant.. He whispered,
"She could give me . . . my
Nick nearly fell as LaCroix jerked his hands away and stepped
back, stunned. He stared at
Nicholas, unmoving. "She will live, Nicholas. But if her continued
existence is so important to you, you can make her
life eternal. It's not too late for you to bring her across."
Nick leaned over and kissed Natalie. "I can't condemn her to
LaCroix nodded. "A wise decision."
Nicholas walked toward the window and picked up an ornate
walking stick. "She had faith in me.
In what's beyond. That we could have a life together. That this would
be a beginning, not an end."
Nick knelt beside the couch, looking at Natalie. "I have that
faith, too. I can't go on this way to
be with her. And I can't condemn her to my existence. So whatever comes
*after* . . . . I'll be
there waiting for her."
"Don't be foolish, Nicholas," he said, watching his son stare
at the unconscious doctor. "Life is a
gift. As sweet as the freshest peach. As precious as a gilded jewel. I
have never been able to
understand the logic in willfully surrendering such a treasure.
"What is there to gain? How dark can your existence be, when
compared to an eternal void? Or do you have faith, that there is
"What do you see from where you are? A bright light at the end
of the tunnel? Is it a ray of hope? A glimmer of something better? Or
will it burn you like the morning sun?
Are the sounds you hear, the trumpeting of St. Peter's angels, or the
screams of Memnoch's
"You can't answer that, can you? Because you will never know
the answer, until after the deed is
done. And is your faith really that strong?"
Nick slowly nodded his head, tears filling his eyes.
LaCroix, stunned, spoke his fear: "And so, in your eyes, I'm
Nick stood before LaCroix and shook his head. "No, not the
"You . . . are my closest friend." Nicholas slid the ornate
knobkerrie into LaCroix' hands, one tear
sliding down his cheek. Understanding passed between them like
LaCroix watched, stunned, as Nicholas turned and knelt. He
clasped Natalie's hand in both of his,
and waited. Leaning his head forward, he exposed his back to LaCroix.
The horrible realization sank home. "Damn you, Nicholas."
LaCroix hoisted the weapon into the
air, his mind reeling with his son's words. He held the impromptu stake
high as he struggled to
find one last line of reasoning that could snap Nicholas out of this
...damn him everything tossed away tossed away for
this for mortal guilt this is my punishment for creating him, my
punishment for his lifetimes of regret how can he give up like this you
"Please, LaCroix," came the whispered plea. "Please."
...you really want to die, do you...
Nicholas' sob made LaCroix' decision for him.
LaCroix slammed the toe of his boot into Nicholas' side,
flipping him onto his back. As Nick
grunted in surprise, his eyes wild with confusion, LaCroix steadied his
grip on the wood and set
...then look me in the eyes...
Understanding flashed across Nicholas' face and his body
tensed in anticipation. As LaCroix
hoisted the Celtic stick high into the air, he spoke, barely a whisper:
"Yes, mon fils. As you wish."
Staring into the wet, blue eyes of his son, LaCroix drove the
Nicholas screamed as the wood penetrated his heart, his hands
instinctively flying up to grip the
intruding object. Agony crackled through their bond. LaCroix stared
into Nicholas' face and
fought to control the raging sense of death and decay that threatened
to swallow him. He held
fast to the object protruding from his son's chest.
As Nicholas' primal scream softened to a wail, LaCroix
composed himself enough to kneel down,
one hand still steadying the wood that was killing his son. Tears ran
down Nicholas' temples,
dampening his hair; sweat covered his forehead and neck.
LaCroix noticed the gray tinge of Nicholas' skin and the
already ashy color of his lips.
...no not supposed to happen this fast...
Nick's mouth opened wider. His agonized wail choked off, he
silently as if he no longer
had the energy to scream. He strained to look at LaCroix, his face
twisting into a mask of pain
LaCroix' every instinct tore at him to alleviate his son's
pain, but he held fast to his decision. And
momentarily hated himself for it. Unflinching, he stared into Nick's
eyes and struggled to speak
slowly and calmly.
"Tell me, Nicholas. How does it feel to die?"
Nicholas tried to scream but could manage only soundless
cries. Every inch of him felt as if it was
being sucked toward a fire in his center, through the hole punched in
his heart and whatever
darker hole might lie beyond. He gripped the wood above his chest, held
fast by LaCroix, only
because there was nothing else he could do. He was being pulled in and
devoured by an agony
that was spreading and burning and tearing and eating him alive.
"Will the pain free you? Will it save you?"
Nicholas looked through his tears into LaCroix' hard, cold
eyes. His master knelt over him, their
faces only several inches apart. Nick tried to tell him, to plead with
him not to do this, oh please
not now, LaCroix, but he couldn't speak.
"So when the good doctor awakes to find only a pile of ash,
how will she feel about your faith,
then? Are you sure this is the way?"
Nick squeezed his eyes shut to block out the condemning
expression, but LaCroix was there, even
in the darkness, and could not be blinked away.
Spinning, falling backward, air buffeted his skin, and
suddenly he was no longer on the floor, but
standing behind a dusty couch, looking at his dying Father. A Father
who'd just agreed to let him
move on, alone, for one last crucial favor.
LaCroix, prone on the couch, regarded the wood protruding from
his chest. His face, ashen,
clearly showed his pain, his fear. "Nicholas. S'il vous plait."
Nicholas walked around the couch, and made an effort not to
bristle at LaCroix' swiftly decaying
appearance. Bracing himself with a foot on LaCroix' shoulder, Nick
jerked the stake free. LaCroix screamed.
Nick's body spun with the effort of pulling the wood from
LaCroix' chest. Colors swirled before
Nick's face, colors of heat and flame and death. As he regained his
balance, realized he was
sitting, leaning up against something smooth and hard. He flinched from
the burning plank of
wood embedded in the wall mere inches from his face. The loft was in
Confused, he squinted against the smoke and fire when he heard
a woman cry out, then gasp. Across the room he could see LaCroix
licking the slim length of her neck . . . Alyce! LaCroix
looked at Nicholas with smug triumph and anticipation before he sank
his teeth into her exposed
Nick jerked the burning plank from the wall and hurled himself
in LaCroix' direction, knowing he
was too late even before he began. As he impaled LaCroix with the
burning wood, pinning him to
the loft door, he spat out the words: "Burn in hell. Va au diable."
LaCroix' blood-coated mouth worked silently as the flames
stretched, and swallowed him.
Nicholas held Alyce's limp body close to him as he looked at
the burning door and the pile of
smoking clothes on the floor. Crying into the dead woman's hair, he
closed his eyes and fell,
spinning downward now without displacing air, smells of dirt and blood
and sweat passing
through his skin until he slammed onto his back on concrete, his head
cracking into the floor. He
felt cold steel slide under his arm, fling it out and away from his
He struggled to open his eyes. Finally, he saw LaCroix looming
over him, a cleaver raised
overhead, fangs dropped, blood dripping off his chin. Before he could
jerk away, his master
Fully vamped, Nick snapped his eyes open and projected himself
upward. LaCroix was hurled
backward, impaled. With a clink, the cleaver dropped from his hand.
Nick gingerly fingered the
blood-wet point of metal protruding from LaCroix' chest, looked at the
slack face, and walked
As he reached the door, he looked back, and felt his feet fly
out from under him as he rose higher
and higher in a blinding circle of light. He spun through water, cloud,
rainbow, then he stood,
looking back just to be sure LaCroix hadn't moved. He hadn't; his
master was still in his chair, his
back to Nicholas.
Nick spun the chair and gasped when he saw the ornate knife
handle jutting from LaCroix' chest. Turning, he reached for the phone
but it melted and wrapped around him, spinning him faster,
faster than before, finally dropping him through what felt like a net
of broken glass. He composed
himself just in time to see LaCroix pick up a barstool and crack off a
"I'm going to help you with your guilt, Nicholas."
LaCroix snarled and advanced on him with preternatural speed.
Nick screamed as the makeshift
stake pierced his heart, the force of the blow sending him backward
through a wall of glass. He
jolted back to the present, spinning, falling, spinning . . . .
As Nick screamed, LaCroix pushed his son's damp hair away from
his face and forehead. It was
"Oh, Nicholas. This is so unnecessary."
Nick's shudders rattled the wood in his hands.
"It's not the pain anymore, is it? It's the knowledge that in
a few moments," LaCroix gestured, as
if tossing something invisible from the tips of his fingers, "poof."
He lowered his face a few inches away from Nicholas and held
his eyes with his own. His
whispers came stressed and separate.
Nick's head shook violently back and forth, his mouth opening
and closing. He was fighting,
fighting the pull of death.
"Are the yellowed, brittle edges curling in on you?"
LaCroix steadied Nicholas' chin with his free hand and
captured his eyes. The uncontrollable
shaking in his son's body jarred LaCroix to his very center.
"Nicholas. Oh, Nicholas," he said, taking on his most
entreating, gentle tone. "Do you really
want to die, here and now?"
Nick's dry, gray lips formed a tiny circle. LaCroix watched
his whole face strain with the effort of
puffing out one soft syllable: " . . . n-nuh . . . ."
No, thought LaCroix. Refusing death isn't good enough. Won't
be good enough for him. You
must embrace life, Nicholas.
"Mon fils, tell me. Do you want to live?"
Nick's eyes closed as sobs racked his body. His chest heaved
as his eyes flew open and LaCroix
felt the icy pull in his own chest, the pull of Nicholas leaving this
As Nick's mouth worked around the word he was trying to form,
his chest heaved again and
LaCroix gasped with the near tearing of their tether. "Please,
Nicholas. Your answer, I must
have it now!"
Nicholas clawed at the wood protruding from his chest and dug
at the floor with his heels. His
legs and arms twitched. LaCroix could feel the strain in Nicholas face.
His son's mouth quivered,
as he struggled to speak between sobs and gasps of pain.
"Yuh-- y-yy-- ahh--"
"Nicholas!" LaCroix jerked Nick's head again to face him
directly, squeezing tightly. An arctic
ball was building in LaCroix' chest--a spreading emptiness left as
Nicholas was pulled away from
Finally, the wail broke free from the dry mouth.
"Y-ye-aaye, yeeeeesssss--" Nicholas cry was choked off but his
mouth remained open. His
shudders slowed, his eyes closed.
Nick's body lurched as LaCroix tore the knobkerrie from his
chest and hurled it across the room. LaCroix dropped his incisors and
tore at his own wrist, nearly severing his hand from his arm.
He placed the open wound firmly over Nicholas mouth, knowing
this is what he'd hoped for, yet
dreading the knowledge Nicholas would acquire from his blood.
Blood ran in thin streams down each side of Nick's face.
"Nicholas, take what you need. You
must survive." Running his fingers into the hair on the top of Nick's
head, LaCroix tilted his face
back to further open his mouth and throat. "Drink," he whispered, as he
pressed his flayed wrist
again the slack mouth.
LaCroix stretched himself across the brittle filament that was
left of their connection, willing Nick
to stay with him, come to him, willing Nick to drink.
A tongue flicked gently against the wound. Nick's throat
flexed as he swallowed, coughing and
"Yesss, that's it, Nicholas. Drink." LaCroix held Nick's face
and adjusted his wrist atop the
After several small swallows, LaCroix felt the firm pressure
of Nick's lips struggling for purchase
on the almost-healed wound. Without warning, Nick's fangs punctured his
skin and tore his
quickly-healing veins once again. As Nick gulped the offered blood, the
icy cavern in LaCroix'
chest slowly withdrew, a familiar warming growing at the edges as
Nicholas slowly returned.
After drinking from LaCroix and regaining the strength to
speak, Nicholas had asked for bottled
cow's blood from his refrigerator with one rasped word: "Bottle." But
it hadn't satisfied him. He'd been forced to drink human blood to quell
his need -- he had a few bottles hidden away . . .
just in case. Now he sat, only occasionally sipping from the last
bottle, with his back to LaCroix.
He hadn't spoken, or even looked at LaCroix, since that
LaCroix sensed that Natalie would sleep for some time still.
He was willing to wait, as long as
they had time. He knew what forces must be warring within Nicholas now.
He'd known when
he'd decided this course of action. That didn't make him dread the
possibilities any less.
Finally, Nicholas stood a bit uncertainly, and raised watery
eyes to LaCroix.
"I tasted it in your blood, LaCroix."
"You, you made me say it. You . . . ."
"If I hadn't, you were going to . . . .you had every intention
of pulling out the stake -- you knew
you were going to remove it before you staked me."
"I knew you would say it. I knew you wouldn't choose to die."
"No, you couldn't know. You had no intention of letting me
die. Why? Why did you put me
through that?" Nicholas stared.
"You're still weak, Nicholas, or you would already know the
answer to that question."
"JUST ANSWER ME! Why did you make me ask, beg, for my life,
when all along . . . . you had
no intention of letting me die?" Nick's voice cracked with emotion.
"Because, Nicholas, life is a gift. Not something I burdened
you with -- not something forced
upon you unknowingly. I wanted it to be clear to you that when faced
with the alternative, you
chose *life*. Freely. Again."
Nicholas remained motionless for several seconds. His voice
belied his calm exterior. "I'm
moving on. Don't follow me. Don't." Then only air remained where'd he'd
LaCroix had known he'd go as soon as he felt strong enough.
But he also knew he'd easily be
able to follow, and convince Nicholas that he'd made the right
decision. On his own. At least
he'd finally realized the necessity of moving on. Nick would understand
LaCroix' decision in time. The anger, the hurt would fade and he and
Nicholas would settle into an uneasy peace once again.
LaCroix only hoped it wouldn't take as long as it had in times past.
"Forever . . . ." Natalie whispered in her sleep, wrinkled her
brow and gently tossed her head
from side to side.
LaCroix circled in front of the couch and regarded the doctor.
He pitied her, in a way. He knew
the pain she'd feel when she woke to find Nicholas gone. Forever,
He leaned over her, brushed a stray hair from her cheek, and
softy kissed her forehead. Then he
lowered his mouth, and brushing his lips to ear, he whispered.
"He was always mine . . . ."
The air rippled as LaCroix disappeared through the skylight.