Title: Infatuation with a Vampire
Summary: X-Files/Forever Knight crossover. While investigating cattle mutilations in Montana, Scully is abducted by a mentally unstable person that Mulder suspects of being a vampire.
October 7, 1996 Mulder's Apartment 3:14 a.m.
Mulder jerked awake, not sure of exactly what had disturbed his sleep. Glancing at the television set, he saw a commercial with very attractive women demonstrating how they achieved such great looking thighs with some gadget they squeezed together between their knees. Mulder allowed his mind to wander into fanciful directions for a moment until he realized that the TV wasn't what had awakened him. He sat up and grabbed the gun from beneath his pillow. Cautiously, he moved about the semi-darkened room, seeking anything that looked out of place. While checking to see that the locks were still secure on his front door, he noticed a manila envelope on the floor in front of it. He'd had a visitor.
Poring over the contents of the envelope at his desk, he found a file folder containing the bio of a Canadian police detective and two, seemingly unrelated newspaper articles. The first article was two weeks old and told of the desecration of a woman's grave in Toronto, Canada. The second news story was a week old and described animal mutilations in Montana. What the two cases had in common, Mulder couldn't even hazard a guess. But, obviously, someone felt the two were connected, along with the Canadian cop, and that Spooky Mulder was the perfect choice to bring the matter to light. His curiosity instantly piqued, Mulder turned on his computer and began a new investigation.
Toronto 5 Months Earlier
She had trusted him. It would be the last mistake she would ever make. Her first was ever allowing herself to get involved with him. She had come tonight to declare her love and offer herself to him. She had done so much for him in the six years they had known each other. Besides helping to protect his secret from the rest of the mortal world, she had dedicated her life to finding a cure for his vampirism. Along the way, she had become his conscious, his nursemaid, his shoulder to cry on, and his reason for existing.
Natalie had pleaded with him to try the cure that had worked for Janette, his sister in darkness. All he had to do was make love to her, to take just a few sips of her blood, and he'd be on his way to regaining his mortality. She'd had such faith in his control, in his desire not to hurt her, that she was able to convince him to try. But Nick knew from the very first taste of her love-laced blood, that settling for only a few sips would not be possible. It had been decades since he had last savored human blood direct from the source. He drained her in a matter of moments and only afterwards did he realize the consequences.
"Oh, Nicholas, you have thought this through, haven't you,?" his master's voice broke through the ball of confusion encircling him. LaCroix had come to collect him, to encourage him to leave his life in Toronto behind and start anew elsewhere. If only he'd arrived a few minutes earlier because, no, Nick had not thought any of it through. He simply allowed his emotions to lead him, and now the love of his life was teetering on the verge of death. Now he was faced with the decision to complete the process and bring her across or let her die.
He tried to think clearly, objectively. All he knew for sure was that he didn't want to condemn her to the same kind of existence that he had fought so long and hard against. She had told him if it came down to it, that she was okay with becoming a vampire. But his selfishness had a way of overriding the wishes of others. He thought of his sister Fleur and of Janette, his love for eight centuries. For each of them, he had completely ignored their choices, granting them instead just the opposite of what they had wanted. This occasion would be no different. He would not bring Natalie across as she had asked, a choice of which LaCroix seemed in favor.
But making that decision and living with it was something Nick could not bare. He never had to actually say the words, but LaCroix sensed the devastation his offspring felt. He also knew how irrational he could be at times. When Nick handed him a wooden staff and told him that he was his closest friend, LaCroix instinctively knew what was expected of him. Nick wanted his best friend to put an end to the heartache and pain once and for all.
LaCroix silently accepted the task. There were no final words of farewell as Nick turned away and knelt down next to Natalie's body and held her limp, lifeless hand in his. Seconds later he heard LaCroix curse his name, then felt the searing pain as the narrow end of the staff pierced cleanly through his body. There was little time to scream as he slumped to the floor, his body partially covering Natalie's.
LaCroix broke off the end of the staff he still held, then turned away and tossed it into the fireplace. He closed his eyes in an attempt to suppress his emotions. He wondered how it was that the most cherished of his children could cause him the most unbearable grief. Perhaps this was his punishment for the evil deeds he had cast upon the good and righteous for the past two millennium.
The fact that he possessed super-human hearing was the only reason he picked up the faint whisper of his name. He braced himself for the confrontation, then casually turned back to the crumbled figure at his feet. Using the tip of his shoe, the tall, imposing vampire pushed on Nick's shoulder to flip him onto his side. His child groaned at the pain the movement caused.
"Apparently, my aim was a trifle off," said LaCroix, looking down his keen nose with steel blue eyes and showing no remorse over his lack of accuracy.
"Please," Nick gasped. "Finish it."
"Don't be a fool, Nicholas. I have no intentions of contributing to your demise. You selfish, ungrateful brat! You only appreciate my gift to you when it suits your needs. Otherwise, you claim you want to be mortal again. If there *was* such a thing as a cure for immortality, you've just allowed your only hope to slip from your hands."
LaCroix took a few steps around to the other side and stood over the still body of Natalie Lambert, her long, thick auburn curls framing her pallid, round face. He shook his head regretfully as he knelt down to caress the silken skin of her cheek. The warmth was already leaving her body.
"You had the chance to make her one of us, but now it's much too late. She wanted to be brought across. She wanted to spend all of eternity with you, where she would have had all the time in the world to continue her quest in seeking a cure. If you had *truly* loved her, you would have granted her that request. Or perhaps you would have done the noble thing and simply walked away, leaving her alive and her wholesome goodness intact."
Nick wanted to respond, but besides the pain and weakness impeding his ability to speak, he really didn't know what he could possibly say in his defense. LaCroix stood again, still keeping his gaze on Natalie.
"How many times have we visited this little scenario, Nicholas? How many times in the past have you loved an adoring creature such as this and allowed your beast to take her from you? Too numerous to count, I'm sure. Can you recall the times you've attempted to bring one across only to find that her love for you made her blood all the more delectable and irresistible? You can't help but savor that sweet nectar to the very last drop.... And what makes this one any different? No. I stand corrected. This one *was* different, was she not? She has shown courage, determination and faithfulness. She's been a great ally to the vampire community on several occasions. I would have been quite proud to have her as part of our little family, after all, Nicholas. How unfortunate that a pure act of selfishness on your part has brought an end to such a beautiful flower."
"LaCroix, please!" Nick managed to find his voice and rasped out a sobbing plea. The ache in his heart surpassed that of the stake protruding through his lower right ribcage. His eyes were red with blood tinged tears that streaked down the side of his face.
The elder vampire strolled back over to his child and gave him a pitying look. "Poor, poor Nicholas. You try so hard to be everything but what you are. Surely, you knew I would not take your life, not unless it was my own idea. And you lack the courage to walk into the sun on your own. Just as well for you, for if there is a heaven, there's no way your damnable soul would be allowed to follow your beloved Natalie through those pearly white gates." Nodding towards the stake jutting out of Nick's abdomen, LaCroix added, "That's starting to look rather uncomfortable."
He bent over and not too gently yanked the stake free. Nick howled loudly at the removal, then collapsed into a stupor. LaCroix flipped the blood-covered wood over into the fireplace where it flared up instantly. He then pulled Nick's shirt tails from his pants and used the ends to plug the gaping holes left behind by the staff. Tearing away a small portion of flesh from his own wrist, LaCroix offered an oozing vein to Nick.
The man wanted to resist, wanted to just perish and waste away to nothing, but the beast inside felt starved and endangered. It refused to be denied an opportunity to feed and heal itself. Nick was no match for the beast and gave into it once again. Because his son had recently fed, LaCroix saw no need to allow him little more than a pint. It would be just enough to help begin the healing process. LaCroix preferred that Nick remain incapacitated for a while. There was much to be accomplished before sunrise and he didn't need his impetuous progeny causing complications.
"Enough!" LaCroix pushed Nick away and stood, licking his wound to heal it. "You'll get more later. But now, there's work to be done. I'll have to clean up the mess you've made." Glancing about the room, he took a moment to think. "I suppose an automotive mishap is in order. By the time they discover the body, we shall be long gone."
He grabbed Natalie's coat and began to dress her in it. Nick laid quietly, curled up on his left side and stared despairingly at Natalie, hoping to see her display some sign of life. There was none. All color had left her cheeks, and Nick had listened intently to pick up the sound of her heartbeat. There was nothing left to be heard. "LaCroix," he called softly to his master as the elder vampire gathered up other items, including the detective's coat and Natalie's purse.
"We can talk later, Nicholas," said LaCroix as he continued on with his mission to collect the most obvious of personal belongings of his son and his female friend. He removed the keys, wallet, badge and watch Nick kept in his jewelry case on the sofa table. As he removed the shoes from his son's feet, Nick attempted again to speak to him.
"Not now, Nicholas," LaCroix responded firmly.
"Please, I want to forget!" Nick blurted out. "I want to forget it all."
"Forget a lesson learned, Nicholas?"
"I... I can't live with myself, LaCroix," Nick sobbed. "With what I've done. If I am to go with you, I need to forget."
LaCroix gave the matter some thought. Hypnotizing another vampire into forgetting wasn't an easy task. And it appeared that Nick was asking to forget more than just the past few minutes. He wanted to wipe out the entire past six years he had known Natalie. Vampires were the perfect resisters, backed with total recall. However, there had been a time when Nick had lost his memory, back when he had been shot in the head while on duty. There still remained tremendous gaps in his memory which LaCroix noted whenever they held conversations about their history together.
"I can only think of one possibility, Nicholas, but--"
"Do it!" Nick cried, not caring what it took.
LaCroix walked over to the chair where Nick had draped his holstered gun over the back. It had been a long time since he had handled such a weapon, preferring to use his bare hands to settle disputes and such. He took the gun back over to where Nick lay, and without hesitation, aimed at his head and pulled the trigger. When nothing happened, he stared at the gun curiously. Nick saw the problem and reached his hand out for the weapon. LaCroix handed it over to him and watched as Nick made some quick movements, then gave it back to his master.
"Safety was on," Nick said simply, then turned his head away to look longingly once again at his beloved Natalie. "Forgive me, Nat," were his final words as shots rang out. A fire sprang to life in his brain, then darkness eventually consumed him.
October 7 FBI Headquarters 3:40 p.m.
Scully dragged herself into the office, plopped a file folder on top of Mulder's desk, then eased herself wearily onto the chair opposite his. Her partner was standing beside the fax machine with his back to her, thoroughly engrossed in reading something from an opened file folder he was holding. Once the fax he had been waiting for finished printing, Mulder snatched it up and added it to the other documents he carried. Walking back to his desk, he seemed surprised to see his partner present.
"Oh, hey, Scully," he greeted her casually as he took his seat. "When did you sneak in? Boy, you look beat. Rough day?"
"As a matter of fact, I am beat, Mulder. You wanted a complete and thorough autopsy done, you got it."
"So what did you find out?"
"Heart attack. Pure and simple. No drugs, no unexplained irregularities, no funny business. Just your ordinary coronary. Case closed."
"Great. Then you can help me out with this new one," said Mulder with an impish smile. "Someone slipped an envelope under my door early this morning," he stated as he handed her the two newspaper articles to which he had been dedicating his time. "Tell me what you think."
Scully blew out a tired sigh, wondering just where her partner managed to find all the enthusiasm and energy he garnered for each new case he came across. She took her sweet time in reading the articles, knowing how impatient Mulder was getting just waiting for her to finish. As far as the animal mutilations, she was less than enthused. However, when she began reading about the woman's grave being desecrated, a nervous twinge went through her spine.
"Mulder, this woman's grave... you don't think it was--"
"Donnie Pfaster? No. That was the first thing that came to my mind too, but I checked and he's still safely tucked behind bars."
"No, not that either. The article didn't go into much detail, so I called the newspaper and managed to talk to the writer. She told me that due to the lack of space, her story had been edited down a bit. What was left out was the mention that although the body had not been harmed in any way, it *had* been moved. She said that it looked as though the body had been shoved over to the side some to make room."
"Make room for what?"
"Scully, whoever dug up that grave, did so with his bare hands. And once he got it open, he apparently laid down with the corpse."
Scully frowned at the thought. "A necrophiliac."
"That's sort of what I was thinking until I started digging into the background of the deceased." Mulder handed Scully a fax from the folder. It was a woman's police-issued bio.
"Dr. Natalie Lambert," she began to read snippets of the information aloud. "Coroner with the Toronto Police Department. Died in an automotive accident."
"The car she was in was hers, but the driver was a male friend." Mulder handed her another bio. "This too was in the envelope I received this morning. Detective Nick Knight also with the Toronto Police. I talked to a Captain Reese who was Det. Knight's boss. Apparently, this file on Knight was stolen from the police records room and his computer files have been mysteriously deleted from their system. No one knows exactly how or when."
Scully studied the black and white photo of Det. Knight with a bit more interest. He was a distinctively handsome man with captivating eyes, a light growth of facial hair on his chin, and blonde, curly hair. According to the bio, he was 5'11, 180 pounds, thirty-eight-years-old and single. She also noticed the mention of a sun allergy and a special provision that excluded him from working day shift. Scully managed to tear her attention away from the virile-looking, dreamboat and tune back into what her partner was saying.
"Word around the precinct was that Knight and Dr. Lambert were more than mere friends. At any rate, just hours before the car wreck, each of them had experienced some bad news. Dr. Lambert had lost a friend to suicide, and Knight had lost his partner in a shoot-out at the station."
"Would you happen to be thinking that perhaps they were both suffering from depression and that maybe the accident wasn't necessarily an accident?"
"The thought did cross my mind. I imagine that Det. Knight was doubly depressed because this was the second partner he'd lost in less than a year. His first partner along with their captain was killed in a plane bombing. Capt. Reese said that the detective was obviously upset and had handed in his resignation at that time. But continued bomb threats caused him to stick around and help out. He was credited with discovering a bomb and saving the lives of his entire precinct before it went off.
"Sounds like he was a pretty good cop," said Scully as she glanced back at the detective's bio. "They have him listed here as 'Presumed Dead.' What exactly happened?"
"Going by the evidence left behind, it's assumed that as Knight was driving Dr. Lambert home, he lost control of the car while crossing a bridge. It crashed through the railings and plunged forty feet into the frigid lake below. Knight wasn't wearing his seat belt and was ejected through the windshield of the car. His body was never recovered."
Scully looked at her partner with raised brows. "Let me guess. You think that not only is he still alive, but he's also the one who dug up Dr. Lambert's grave. That's pretty far-fetched, Mulder."
"Well, *you* spend twelve hours digging into this and tell me what you come up with. It all fits, Scully. I think that Knight drove off that bridge on purpose. Whether or not his girlfriend shared his sentiments, I believe that he decided to end it all. Only somehow he managed to survive, though maybe not completely unscathed. I'm guessing that by the time he made it to shore, he probably didn't even know who he was or what had happened to him. He probably wandered around Toronto for months as a homeless John Doe. Maybe he wandered into the cemetery looking for a quiet place to sleep and came upon the grave site purely by chance."
"So," said Scully picking up on the story, "he recognized the name and dug with his bare hands to see if it was really her."
"Then snuggles up to her for old times sake."
"Well, if that's true, that means he's a very disturbed man and he's in need of professional help. Was there any next of kin?"
Mulder flipped quickly through his paperwork to find the answer. "No. Knight had two people listed as contacts in case of emergency. One was Natalie Lambert and the other was a Janette du Charme. The phone number given has been disconnected. It belonged to a nightclub called The Raven, which was closed down the same night the accident occurred."
"Little more than a coincidence?"
"That'd be my guess."
"Well, besides sounding like something out of the "Twilight Zone", what could this case possibly have to do with mutilated cows in Montana?"
"I thought you'd never ask." Mulder dished out two more sheets of paper from his file. They were photocopies of the two separate crime scenes. "Take a look at these and tell me what you see."
Scully mused over the two photographs; one of a dead cow with its throat slashed and head twisted backwards, the other of the reopened grave site of the late Dr. Lambert. The decaying body was positioned close to the right side of the coffin with its long, wavy hair purposely spread out over a small pillow. The light- colored, satin lining to its left was stained with dirt from head to toe. Similar stains could be seen across the bodice of her dress.
"I don't know, Mulder," Scully said at length. "The only thing I can easily discern these two scenes having in common besides a corpse, is dirt."
"Exactly," said Mulder, delighted that his partner had noted the obvious. "Soft earth, perfect for leaving footprints. I couldn't really make out the details in these reproductions, so I had those pictures and others that were available e-mailed to me. Come take a look."
With a click of the mouse, the flying saucers screen-saver on Mulder's computer was instantly replaced by two enlarged pictures arranged side by side. When Scully came to look over his shoulder, Mulder pointed out the footprints which had been left behind at the scenes. The rugged-style shoe print which had been left near the carcass of the dead cow appeared to match the ones found inside the coffin.
"I see where you're going with this, Mulder, but it's probably just a coincidence. The footprints around the cow could belong to anyone. And there's still no indication that Det. Knight is still alive, much less digging up graves and butchering cattle."
"Oh, did I mention that Knight was investigated once in connection with a little murder spree and that several wine bottles filled with cow's blood were found in his refrigerator?"
"No, you didn't mention that. Why would he have bottled cow's blood in his refrigerator?"
"Paint thickener for his oils, so he claimed."
"But you don't buy that, do you?" his partner asked knowingly.
"Personally, I believe he just happens to like the taste, which might explain why the three dead cows in Montana were found completely drained of blood."
"Okay, so let me get this straight. We're investigating a suicidal, Canadian, amnesiac, necrophilic, ex-cop who crossed the border into Montana to slash and break the necks of cows so he can sip their blood from wine bottles while dabbling in oils? Is that about it?"
"Yeah, and don't forget that this case was slipped to me under the door, so it's probably a safe bet that Det. Knight is of great interest to someone in our government. We probably need to get to him before they do. So, are you game?"
Scully picked up the bio of Det. Nick Knight again and gazed into a pair of eyes that seemed almost hypnotic. Whatever else he was to the secret government which had learned to use Mulder as its pawn, Knight was a troubled human being in desperate need of help. Unable to consider turning her back on him, she nodded and said, "Yeah, I'm game."
Winnipeg 2 Months Earlier
LaCroix glided silently into the parlor carrying a wine glass in one hand and a bottle of blood in the other. It was well past supper time and Nick still had not fed for the evening. He was once again preoccupied with his favorite pastime. Putting paintbrush to canvass had become his one true pleasure. He was so focused on his current masterpiece that he was completely unaware that he had company. LaCroix stood a few feet away and studied the flow of paint on the canvass. It was an abstract painting, as were most of Nick's fascinations with oil. This one had started out looking somewhat like a sunset with splashes of deep blue and purple. But what had been recently added in brown and red looked very much like a woman with long wavy hair, bleeding profusely from the neck.
"Anyone I would know?" LaCroix asked.
Nick jumped noticeably at the sound of his master's voice, then his head turned slowly, just enough to give him a sideways glance. "How long have you been there?" he asked in a deep, low tone.
"Surely you felt my presence, Nicholas. Or perhaps your attention was elsewhere. Another time, another place?"
Nick turned back to the easel and added another stroke of crimson to the painting. "I keep having these flashes of images. A woman with long curls of brown hair, dressed in white. Sometimes she's smiling, sometimes she's crying, sometimes we kiss, then other times... she's my lunch."
"Speaking of mealtime..." said LaCroix, more to change the subject than anything else. He filled the glass he held with blood and offered it to his protege. "I thought you might like a little refreshment."
Instead of taking the glass of liquid nourishment from LaCroix, Nick simply lowered his head slightly and opened his mouth, indicating that he wanted to be fed. His master arched an eyebrow at the silent request, then slowly lifted the glass to his son's lips. Nick drank messily, causing the red fluid to run out the corner of his mouth and leave him with a blood mustache.
"I realize you've had problems with your memory of late, Nicholas," said LaCroix as he licked an errant drop from his own hand, "but don't tell me you've forgotten how to feed yourself."
Nick licked his lips with his tongue, and grinned devilishly. "You used to like to feed me, old man. You and Janette used to take turns. Remember?"
"I've always been concerned that you maintain a healthy diet, Nicholas."
"Then we should go hunting together, you and I," said Nick as he took the glass from LaCroix and gulped down the remaining contents.
"Hunting?" LaCroix echoed, unable to believe his ears.
"Yes. Remember the good old days when we were free to hunt every night? The women... all those beautiful, delicious women. The art of the seduction, the taste of their fear as they realized too late that they've just made love to the devil."
"You surprise me, Nicholas," LaCroix commented as he refilled Nick's glass, then set the wine bottle down on a nearby table. "I haven't heard you speak this way in quite some time."
"Yes, Nick Knight has been a bit of a wet blanket, hasn't he? I've been trying to break free of him for the longest."
The elder vampire cocked his head in puzzlement. "I beg your pardon? Break free?"
"Free from that pathetic excuse of a vampire and his ridiculous attempts at mortality. Honestly, LaCroix, I don't see how you've put up with him all this time."
LaCroix was still trying to comprehend, trying to find a connection between the words he heard spoken and their speaker. "You keep referring to yourself in the third person," he pointed out.
The younger vampire chuckled lightly. "I'm speaking of Mr. 'I want to be mortal again,' Nick Knight."
"Ah, I see.... And *you* would be?"
"I'm Nicholas de Brabant, of course. Don't you recognize me, mon pere?"
LaCroix gazed into the mischievous, dark eyes of Nicholas de Brabant and indeed recognized something he had not seen for more than a century... a touch of evil.
"Nicholas," LaCroix smiled proudly for only a moment, then took a moment to consider what was happening. "But what's become of Nick Knight?" he asked. "Is he now history?"
Nicholas took a swallow from his glass and shook his head disdainfully. "Unfortunately, no," he grimaced. "He's still present. He's fighting me as we speak. But it's only a matter of time before I'll have him under my full control. Things will be as they once were. You'd like that, wouldn't you, mon pere? You'd like to have your old Nicholas back, wouldn't you?"
LaCroix was in too much shock to respond, especially when his child reached a hand out to his cheek and caressed it almost sensually. As Nicholas lowered his hand, he gave the glass back to his master, shot him a sly wink and said, "I'll be seeing you."
The master vampire watched with utter fascination as the sinister air his son had exuded seconds ago was quickly replaced with a near childlike innocence, laced with confusion. Nick suddenly grunted and squeezed his eyes shut as a fierce pain lanced through his skull. LaCroix helped to steady him as he reeled on the verge of keeling over. The attack was over in a matter of seconds, leaving Nick trembling and slightly disoriented. "What... what's happening to me, LaCroix?" he asked in a shaky, frightened voice.
LaCroix placed a firm hand on Nick's shoulder to help support him. He had an idea of what was causing the problem, but no clue as to what to do about it. "You're just tired, Nicholas," he finally answered him. "You haven't been feeding enough." He offered him the glass of blood which Nick sniffed at oddly. "Something wrong?" LaCroix asked when he saw the slight frown produced.
"No," Nick responded less than convincingly, then took the smallest sip possible from the glass.
"Drink up, Nicholas," his sire gently ordered. "You need your strength."
Nick started to put the glass to his lips but abruptly changed his mind. "Is this all we can feed on?" he asked.
"It is all we need to feed on. However, if you'd like it fresh from the source, that can be arranged."
"No, that's not what I meant. I mean, is human blood all we can have?"
"It is our main staple. If we had to, we could survive on lesser creatures, but I wouldn't advise it."
"Did I use to drink something other than human blood?"
LaCroix wanted to lie, but knew it would do little good. Obviously, Nick's nose and taste buds remembered even if their owner didn't. "You use to dine on cow's blood," he reminded him.
"To irritate me," LaCroix replied with a deep sigh. "Do you still enjoy irritating me, Nicholas?"
The corners of Nick's mouth turned slightly upwards as he replied, "A little, I guess."
LaCroix smiled and patted Nick's cheek in a fatherly fashion. "Be a good little vampire and finish your dinner."
Nick did as he was told, feeling himself calm and the pain recede with each swallow. "I guess you're right. I feel better already."
The younger vampire quickly drained the glass and accepted another full one. As he began to sip from the second round, Nick turned to face his painting and froze instantly.
"What is it?" LaCroix asked when he saw how Nick was staring at the painting.
"Did I do this?" asked Nick.
"Who is she?"
"I believe you referred to her as... lunch."
"I.... Am I going insane, LaCroix?"
"Don't be ridiculous, Nicholas," his father frowned.
"*Am* I being ridiculous? I do things that I can't remember doing. I wake up in places and can't recall how I got there. I hear voices inside my head saying things to me I don't want to hear. And the headaches.... If I'm not going insane, then what?" "I told you, Nicholas that you haven't been feeding properly. It doesn't help that you were hung up on cow's blood for a number of decades. Now with all the chemicals they pump into today's bovine to make them unnaturally larger and more productive, and the deadly diseases they've been known to contract, your previous food source was undoubtedly contaminated. When you had your accident, you simply didn't heal as you should have. I feel that your current symptoms are a product of that contamination. Now that we have you on a steady diet of human blood, your internal system should recover soon. The loss of memory, the voices and such will soon be a thing of the past. Trust me."
The tension in Nick's face slowly dissolved as he nodded his acceptance of what he had just been told. He then turned his attention back to his painting, saturated a cloth with turpentine and began cleaning away the unwanted image of the bleeding woman from his canvass. LaCroix stood and watched his offspring in silent contemplation. Ever since that night three months ago, things had not been right with his Nicholas. A gunshot wound through any other part of a vampire's body would have produced little more than a tickle. Injury to the brain, however was a bit more serious. That time when Nick was shot in the head while on duty, had been with an exploding bullet known as a cop killer, designed to inflict optimum damage. It had taken several hours for his wound to heal and several days for his mind to recover from the shock.
The bullets in Nick's gun weren't as destructive. LaCroix pumped three shots into his son's head before Nick lost consciousness. When he awoke a full twenty-four hours later, he was disoriented and suffering memory loss. Physically, he seemed well on his way to recovery, but over the past several weeks, LaCroix had begun to notice subtle changes in Nick's emotional status. It appeared that he was warring with himself, the evil side of him wanting to gain dominance. This evening had been the first time that Nick's darker side had broken out and made contact. Perhaps it was for the best if the evil inside of Nick won over, allowing him to forget about the nonsense of regaining his mortality, and concentrate on being a vampire. It would be like old times, when Nicholas enjoyed the perks of being a vampire and relished a good hunt with his family. In time, LaCroix thought, it would soon be that way again.
Oct. 9, 1996 Black Eagle, Montana 1:40 a.m.
The day had been a long one. Luckily, Scully had gotten a few winks of sleep on the plane and an extra hour on the road as Mulder did the driving from the airport in Billings to their current location. After conferring with the local sheriff and talking with a few of the ranchers in the area, Mulder concluded that the Olsen ranch was likely to be the next target of the cattle stalker. That was the name used by the locals, although everyone had their opinion of what was really after their cows. The theories ranged from bears and mountain lions to Big Foot and beings from another planet. Mulder had also spoken to an elderly Native American who put the blame on an evil spirit he described as the dead who lives by night.
After accepting the hospitality of the Olsens, which included farm fresh, home cooking and a chance to change into some more comfortable and warmer clothing, the two agents proceeded to set up for an all night stakeout. Mulder chose the hay-filled loft of the barn which overlooked the large corral that was home to thirty head of cattle. He stationed himself at the window over the barn door, seated with knees bent towards his chest and his back resting against a bale of hay as he peered outside with high- powered, night vision binoculars. His partner was seated next to him in the chilly darkness, bundled up in her heavy, hooded jacket, with her legs covered by a pile of lose hay for added warmth.
"Tell me again, Mulder, why we're hiding out in the loft of a barn in thirty degree weather with night vision binoculars trained on a herd of cows?"
"What's the matter, Scully? I thought you'd jump at the chance to have a roll in the hay with me."
"Dream on. You really think he's going to show up here tonight?"
"The other attacks were three nights apart. This makes the third night since the last attack. Apparently, your average cow only yields a three day supply of blood. And judging by a map of the surrounding area, this ranch is the next in line. If he keeps to the pattern, he'll show."
"But wouldn't he know that in leaving such a recognizable pattern, that someone might be apt to set a trap for him?"
"I don't think he's worried about being caught. Could be he's even looking forward to it."
"You know, I think you may be right about that."
Mulder grunted. "What was that? Did you say I was right about something?"
"Don't let it go to your head. But yes. I think that Mr. Knight is crying out for help in a way. He wants to be caught. He probably wants to be punished as well because he feels guilty about surviving that car wreck that killed Dr. Lambert."
"I'm not so sure that Dr. Lambert died as a result of that accident."
"What makes you say that?"
"I have a new theory, but I don't think you'd like it."
"You mean I won't believe it."
"Well, tell me anyway."
"I think that Detective Nick Knight is a vampire," Mulder announced in a matter-of-fact tone.
Scully chuckled at the statement and shook her head. "Okay. Can't say that you didn't try to warn me. A vampire, Mulder?"
"Yes, if you'd just consider the facts. We know that he has an aversion to sunlight, he kept bottles of blood in his refrigerator, and he didn't die in an accident that would have killed any normal human being."
"And we still don't know that he didn't, Mulder. The body was never recovered."
"My point exactly. The body was never recovered because it's no longer at the bottom of that lake. Who else do you think dug up Lambert's grave? Who else would have had a reason? And if you don't believe he's still alive, then why are you even here?"
"I didn't want to pass up a roll in the hay with *you*. Still, even if he survived the accident, it doesn't make him a Bela Lugosi."
"Actually, I was thinking more along the line of Louis from 'Interview With the Vampire'."
"Oh, the character Brad Pitt played in the movie."
"There was a movie?"
"With three gorgeous hunks. Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Antonio Banderas." Scully sighed longingly at the mere thought of the trio of handsome actors all in the same movie.
"Hope you took your drool bucket with you," Mulder teased.
Embarrassed at being caught reacting like a star-crossed teenager, Scully sought to quickly change the direction of the conversation. "So how does believing that Knight is a vampire figure into the picture?"
"Well it ties into what you were saying about him feeling guilty about the death of Dr. Lambert. What if he killed her? He'd been surviving on cow's blood which would indicate he didn't like using humans as a food source. But what if, for whatever reason, he attacked her. According to the autopsy report she suffered severe lacerations to the throat area along with a broken neck."
"Yes, but there was nothing in the report to indicate foul play."
"The report could have been falsified. Remember, somebody got to Knight's personnel records. Whose to say that someone or even Knight himself couldn't have gone a little further to cover his tracks?"
"So you're saying he's a vampire and that he killed Natalie Lambert by drinking her blood, then arranged the accident to cover it up."
"And could be he's the one who sent us the info in the first place so that we could track him down and see to it that he's punished for his crimes," Mulder added.
"So, if he *is* a vampire, how do you propose to catch him? Do you have a wooden stake, a wreath of garlic and a big cross in your knapsack?"
"Hey, you peeked. By the way, are you wearing your favorite necklace?"
Mulder put down the binoculars for a moment and rummaged through the carryall bag at his side. He pulled out a seasoning bottle of garlic powder which he proceeded to sprinkle all over Scully's coat before she had ample time to protest.
"I know, I know. Just humor me, okay?"
'You're really serious about this, aren't you? You actually believe he's a vampire?"
Mulder answered her question while applying the garlic powder to himself. "It would explain how and why the cows had broken necks."
Finished with the garlic powder, Mulder resumed his watch as he answered her. "The how: it would take someone with superhuman strength to twist a cow's head with enough force to snap its neck. As for why: I imagine it's to keep the cow from accidentally turning."
"Turning? Turning into what?" Scully asked. When her partner failed to answer right away, she thought for a moment and drew her own conclusion. "Mulder, you couldn't possibly think that the cows would have become some kind of... what, a werecow?"
"Werecow?" Mulder laughed. "I think you're getting your monsters mixed up, Scully. The cows weren't killed by a werewolf, they were killed by a vampire."
"Oh, a vampire cow. Yeah, that makes more sense."
"Hey, I see something."
Mulder zoomed in on a figure dressed in black as it leaped from the top rail over into the corral. The pale face and blond hair stood out like a beacon as the intruder meandered slowly towards the livestock.
"It's him, Scully," said Mulder excitedly. As those words left his lips, Mulder was shocked to see the man stop in his tracks, turn his head and look in his direction. With the night vision binoculars, Mulder could easily make out the iridescence glow of eyes that glared back at him, and lips that were pulled back into a half snarl, half grin to show a flash of sharp, white teeth. "Dammit, he knows we're here."
The vampire nodded at that statement, then waved a ghostly, white hand in a beckoning motion and slowly mouthed the words, "Come and play."
"He wants us to come play." Mulder put down the binoculars and grabbed his bag. He dug into it quickly and brought out an item which he forced into Scully's hand. "Hold on to that," he told her, before hooking the bag on his shoulder and leaping out of the loft window onto the stacked bales of hay ten feet below.
"Mulder!" Scully called after him, but he was already racing off towards the corral. Scully momentarily fingered the six-inch cross he had handed her before his departure, then stuffed it into her coat pocket and prepared to follow.
Upon reaching the corral, Mulder, pulled a small crossbow and wooden arrow from his bag. He knew it probably wasn't enough to kill a vampire, but hopefully it would slow him down some. He readied it for firing, then cautiously opened the gate and went inside.
"Mr. Knight," he spoke in a low voice so as not to startle the sleeping herd of cattle. "I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder with the FBI. We really need to talk, sir." Mulder carefully weaved in and out among the cows. There was enough moonlight for him to see the animals with light colorations with ease and to make out the shapes of the darker ones. He considered using his flashlight to help him avoid the cow patties his shoes tended to find with each step, but he didn't want to draw unwanted attention to himself by using the bright beam of light. When he heard the sound of something heavy hitting the ground, Mulder dashed off in that direction. By the time he reached the far side of the corral, he found the body of a Jersey cow on the ground with its neck broken.
Mulder swallowed nervously. Any being that could bring down a one- ton animal that quickly, then disappear was not to be trifled with. It wasn't the first time Mulder had misjudged his prey. Hopefully, it wouldn't be his last. A sudden swooshing sound grabbed his attention and he spun around to find himself face to face with his quarry. The eyes held a slight glow to them, somewhat like a cat's in the night, and there was a low growl that gradually turned into a chuckle when he saw what Mulder held in his hands.
"You know what I am?" he asked.
"I've got a pretty good idea."
"And you think you can kill me with that?"
"No. But I think I can give you a bad case of heartburn with it."
Knight nodded towards the dead cow. "Try it and you'll be joining good old Bossie over there two seconds later."
"What happened to just drinking bottled cow's blood?" Mulder asked.
"Fresh is always better. That holds true for garlic as well. Once it's gone through all that processing with artificial preservatives added, it loses its effectiveness, rendering it merely irritating, rather than lethal."
"Yeah, well... I'll remember that for next time."
"What makes you think there will *be* a next time?"
"Mulder?" Scully's voice called out to him.
In the second it took for Mulder to glance in the direction he'd heard her voice, Knight had vanished from in front of him. A moment later, the sound that reached his ears next was a muffled scream. "Scully?"
He hurriedly worked his way past several cows back to the main gate of the corral and stopped short when he saw his partner entrapped in a deadly embrace. Knight had grabbed her from behind and stood with his arms wrapped securely about her. He pulled her hood back and cupped her chin, tilting her head to one side to expose her neck. There was no indication of struggling on Scully's part. In fact, with her eyes half closed, she seemed strangely content in her present situation. Mulder raised the crossbow and aimed it carefully.
"Let her go, Knight!" he demanded.
The eyes glowed eerily as the response came with a growl, "Make me."
Mulder instantly realized that he needed to rethink his approach. Vampire or not, Knight had proven himself in his police work to be a humanitarian. It wasn't likely he would purposely harm another human being, but if properly provoked, he might just lose that fine thread of knowing right from wrong. Mulder dropped the crossbow to the ground and raised his empty hands to show he was not a threat.
"Look, I'm not going to try anything. Just let my partner go, okay?"
Mulder sensed a sudden change in Knight over the use of the word partner and decided to exploit it. "Yeah, she's my partner. You know what it's like to have a partner, don't you? They look out for you and you look out for them. You do everything possible to protect each other. You know what I mean?"
Mulder paused to let his words take effect, watching anxiously as Knight loosened his grip slightly on Scully, the golden glow fading from his eyes as he stared off somewhere into the distance.
Thinking that he was getting through to him, Mulder stepped a bit closer. "Mr. Knight?"
The eyes snapped fully alert as he replied, "Sorry, but Mr. Knight is no longer present."
"Then who is?" asked Mulder.
"Nicholas de Brabant. Say good-bye, Mulder to your pretty, little partner."
With greater speed than the human eye could follow, Mulder was grabbed by the neck, lifted a foot off the ground, then hurled several yards through the air. Crashing into the lowest bar of the corral railing, he put a split in both the wood and the back of his head. The last thing Mulder saw before losing consciousness was his partner ascending towards the star- filled heavens in the arms of a vampire.
Winnipeg 6 Weeks Earlier
A mere two weeks after his first appearance, Nicholas de Brabant was coming forward more often and remaining in control for hours at a time. He was much more lively and adoring of his master than his counterpoint, Nick Knight. LaCroix found his company thoroughly enjoyable as they spent a good deal of their warm, summer evenings taking in plays, ballets and operas and mingling with high society. It was very much indeed like the good old days. Only two things were missing, and that was Janette and a good hunt. Nicholas had asked about contacting Janette, but LaCroix didn't feel that the time was right. Janette had been highly upset with Nick for bringing her back across when she'd had the chance to die as a mortal. Undoubtedly, she'd forgive him in time, but they should probably allow at least a decade for her to cool down. As far as a good hunt was concerned, LaCroix saw no reason to hold off any longer. He allowed Nicholas to choose the location and the victim.
The location chosen was a seedy side of town known for its lower class elements and prostitutes who strutted up and down the block. Nicholas strolled casually along the street, scoping out the ladies of the evening as though he were checking out the menu at an all you can eat buffet. They came in all sizes, colors and ages, and each one did their best to entice him into picking them. So many heartbeats, so much from which to choose. He continued along until coming to a young black female, who -- despite the heavy makeup and sexy clothing -- looked no older than fourteen or fifteen.
"You're kind of young to be out here, aren't you?" Nicholas asked.
"I'm old enough," came the saucy reply.
"And how old would that be?"
He could tell by the sudden spike in rhythm of her heartbeat that she was lying, but it didn't matter. She was quite beautiful, with light brown skin, almond-shaped eyes and thick, shoulder- length curly hair. She was probably fairly new to the business because she didn't have that drugged or haggard look that some of the others displayed. There was a sense of innocence about her. She even smelled cleaner than the other women.
Nicholas reached his hand out to stroke her cheek and received a shy smile in return. His fingers slid to the back of her left ear, then came forward holding a hundred dollar bill which he folded and tucked into one of the cups of her leather bra. The girl's smile broaden.
"So what'd you have in mind?" she asked.
"I was thinking of a late supper."
"Sure. Why not?"
He took her by the hand and walked her down to the end of the block where they turned the corner leading into a darkened alley. About midway down the alley, they stopped alongside a trash dumpster where Nicholas turned the girl and gently pressed her against the wall. He captured her eyes with his as he locked onto her heartbeat and rubbed the back of his fingers against her cheek.
"Listen to me," he spoke in a soft and soothing tone. "No matter what happens, you will remain silent and you will not struggle or fight me in any way. Understood?"
"I won't fight you," came the dazed but desired response.
"Good." He gave her a tiny peck on the lips, then embraced her tightly. "Relax," he told her. "We're going for a little ride. Nothing to be afraid of."
Taking a cautious glance all about him first to make sure there were no witnesses, Nicholas rose quickly off the ground with the girl securely in his grasp. A block away, they came to rest on top of the roof of a deserted factory building.
"LaCroix?" Nicholas called out excitedly. "LaCroix, look what I've got!" When the master vampire stepped forward from out of the shadows, Nicholas proudly showed off his catch. Holding her by one hand, he spun her in a circle as though they were dancing. "Look. What do you think? Beautiful, isn't she?"
"Yes. Quite beautiful," LaCroix replied with a slight nod. "However, she appears a bit young. Little more than a child."
"She says she's nineteen."
"Ah, well, if you can't trust a female to state her true age...."
"So what if she *is* young?" Nicholas questioned. "What does it matter? We've both tasted the blood of children before. Besides, she's just a whore. I'm doing my civic duty by cleaning the streets of unwanted trash like her. Don't you agree?"
"Yes, of course," LaCroix lied. Perhaps it was the fact that the teenage girl was about the age of his Divia at the time of her mortal death, that gave him second thoughts. Or perhaps it was knowing that the Nicholas he had grown accustomed to would never take the life of someone he felt was an innocent, an unfortunate victim of society. In fact, the only time Nicholas had taken the life of one so young was during the era of the Black Death when the bubonic plague had stricken so many, and a quick merciful death was deemed an act of charity. For those reasons, LaCroix found it hard to watch his son with this young girl; to watch his pale hands and lips roam lustfully over the dark skin of her still developing body and his hips press inward against her rear.
Knowing that he was being watched as well, the elder vampire forced himself not to look away. The last thing he wanted was to appear weak or softhearted in front of his son. He should have been dancing with joy to see his offspring behaving true to his nature. After all, it was what he had hoped and strived for all these years. Instead, the victory felt hollow because he knew that there was a part of Nicholas that was screaming out against such actions and that he was completely unable to control himself. It reminded LaCroix of the time Nicholas had become possessed by the devil, or at least what he perceived to be the devil. He behaved in a manner suitable for a vampire, but his soul -- and Nicholas *did* have one -- had become polluted. He had begged LaCroix to take him to an exorcist in order to rid himself of the unnatural demon within him. There was a definite parallel between the possessed Nicholas and this one, though this time, it would take far more than a man of God and a few holy words to deal with the problem.
After a moment more of groping and kissing, Nicholas was ready to consummate his new relationship. His eyes glowed golden as his fangs grew long and deadly. He tilted the girl's head to one side to expose her long, graceful neck and prepared to sink in his teeth. A split second before he was able to make contact with her jugular, Nick suddenly forced his mouth away from the girl and cried out, "Stop me, LaCroix! Don't let me do this. Please, *stop* me!"
Stunned at first by the plea, LaCroix hesitated only a second before taking action. In an instant he snatched the girl from Nicholas' embrace and pushed him forcefully away. Nick squeezed his eyes shut in obvious pain, then took in a few deep breaths, willing himself out of vampire mode and to take control over his own body. When he had calmed down enough, his eyes searched anxiously for the girl and saw that LaCroix stood protectively in front of her, with a firm hand on her wrist.
"Is she all right?" asked Nick.
"She is unharmed."
"You were going to let me.... No, you were going to let *him* kill her."
"Him?" LaCroix asked, feigning ignorance.
"You know who I'm talking about!" Nick shouted angrily. "I know about Nicholas de Brabant. He revealed himself to me tonight and taunted me all evening. He was going to kill that child, and you were going to just stand by and allow it to happen!"
"It is your nature to kill, Nicholas, and I was prepared to let nature run its course," LaCroix responded casually.
"You knew it was not me. You know I don't condone this sort of thing. Lie and tell me you didn't know."
"Nicholas, I do wish you would pick a personality and stick with it," LaCroix sounded off sardonically. "One instant, you're Nick Knight, all around do-gooder, and an eye blink later, out comes Nicholas de Brabant, the ultimate lady-killer. I admit it was rather intriguing in the beginning, but now it's all starting to wear rather thin."
"You'd like for him to take over fully, wouldn't you?"
"Nicholas, he and you are one in the same."
"No! He's not me, but you want him to be. You're doing everything you can to encourage him. But know this, LaCroix, I am *not* just going to sit back and let him steal my life from me! I am going to fight him every step of the way. And if you are still my friend... if you still *care* for me, then you'll help me to win the battle against him."
LaCroix was at a momentary loss for words. It was a highly unusual situation and he was unsure of what actions to take. For now, he thought it best to simply appease the personality he was dealing with at the moment.
"All right, Nicholas," he spoke with sincerity to his voice, "I shall assist you in any manner you deem necessary."
"Do you swear?"
"Believe it or not, I have only your best interests in mind."
"Do... you... *swear*?" Nick reiterated insistently.
"Nicholas, either you place your trust in me or you don't. It doesn't appear that you have much of a choice."
He was right, of course. Nick had absolutely no one else to turn to for help. He reeled in his anger and softened his voice. "You're right," he grimaced glumly, "my choices indeed are limited. I really don't understand what's happening to me, LaCroix. You probably think it's just the real me finally coming to the surface. But you knew right from day one that I was never truly comfortable with this *gift* of yours. You kept telling me that I would grow used to all the killing. But you failed to mention how many centuries it would take...." Nick cast his eyes downward and shrugged hopelessly. "Sometimes I wish I could be what you want me to be. I'd like for you to be proud of me for a change instead of...." Feeling embarrassment over the last couple of sentences spoken, he suddenly lost the need to continue the thought.
"I would imagine that if Freud were still alive, he might make something of that statement. A son's desire to seek approval from his parent. That might explain things. Perhaps we should continue this discussion later at home. For now, what do you suggest we do with our lovely young friend here?" LaCroix asked as he brought the still entranced girl to stand in front of him. "That is, if you're sure you're not up for a little snack."
Nick moved to take the girl from him. Placing a finger beneath her chin, he lifted it so they could make eye contact. "Look at me," he spoke to her softly. "What's your name?"
"Where's your family, Wanda?"
"All dead but my grandmama."
"Why aren't you home with her?"
"She's old and she's always trying to tell me what to do and how to live my life."
Nick glanced up at LaCroix, but managed to refrain from making any comparative remarks. "Wanda, you should go back home to your grandmother. You take care of her and let her take care of you. No more prostituting. Stay off the streets at night, go back to school and make something of yourself. Understood?"
Wanda nodded. "Yeah, I'll go back home and go back to school."
"Good girl." Nick looked to LaCroix next and said, "I'd like to see to it that she gets home safely. Would you mind coming with us? I don't think I can trust myself alone with her in case *he* comes back."
"Actually, Nicholas, I feel that you're fairly safe from his interference for a while. He tends to need a lot of rest after such a busy night. But... just in case, I will gladly accompany you on your mission."
"Thank you, LaCroix."
After finding out her address, Nick put Wanda to sleep so he could transport her home by air. He then made sure that she would have no memory of their meeting as he left her on the doorstep. He paused long enough in the shadows of a tree on the lawn to watch as the girl's not so old grandmother came to the door and welcomed her granddaughter with opened arms. He then rose into the sky to join LaCroix who had been hovering close by and diligently watching over him. They would go home now. There was a lot they needed to discuss. Nick was highly upset with his master for not telling him about Nicholas de Brabant. Tonight his alter ego had allowed him to witness his friendly relationship with the elder vampire. It was quite obvious that LaCroix found his company more agreeable. Here Nick was slowly losing control of his mind, and instead of helping him, the man he thought was his true friend was encouraging the madness. Unfortunately, he needed LaCroix's support because he realized he wouldn't be able to battle his growing alternate personality on his own. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place.
Oct. 9 Somewhere in the Mountains 2:35 a.m.
There was the nauseating smell of garlic and a stinging itchiness to his skin that greeted Nick as he came to himself in the bathroom of his cabin. He found that his clothing was the source of the garlic smell and perhaps the itchiness as well. Not wasting time to figure out why he was in the condition he was, he hastily tore off his clothes and shoes and jumped into the shower under a spray of cold water. He spent only a few moments washing away the irritant from his hair and skin, then grabbed a towel and patted himself dry.
As he stepped out of the bathroom into the living room of the small cabin, Nick saw that the front door was standing wide open. Wrapping the towel about his waist, he moved towards the door, prepared to close it. Upon reaching it however, his nose detected the strong stench of garlic wafting in from outside. He cautiously stepped onto the porch and glanced about. On the weathered flooring of the porch, he spotted a dark, hooded jacket which reeked of garlic. He started to pick the coat up, but abruptly thought better of it. Instead, he broke off a piece of a low hanging branch and used the stick to lift the coat from the floor.
Reaching carefully into the left pocket of the woman's, thigh- length jacket. Nick pulled out the cellular phone that he found there. He tucked the phone under his arm, then searched the other pocket for some form of identification. His hand touched upon something blazing hot and he jerked out of the pocket quickly. Stinging red welts crisscrossing in an unmistakable pattern formed across his fingers and the palm of his hand. It would appear that someone knew what he was and had armed themselves with garlic powder and a good-sized cross to use against him. Naturally, he wondered what had become of the jacket's owner. There was no odor of human blood on the coat and there was no pleasant aftertaste in his mouth to indicate he had fed on a mortal that night.
Nick closed his eyes and stretched out with his senses. What came back was the sound of a slow and steady human heartbeat emanating from inside the cabin. He tossed the jacket over the porch banister and closed the door as he went back inside, then followed the sound of the heartbeat to his bedroom. He stood in the doorway and studied her from a distance. She laid face down and sideways across the black, silk sheets of his bed with both legs dangling off the side of the mattress. Nick placed the cell phone on the dresser near the door, then slowly approached and kneeled down at the side of the bed closest to where her head lay. Gently pushing back the spray of red hair that hid her face, he was pleasantly surprised by her beauty, although her looks wasn't his main concern. He moved the hair away from her neck and ran his fingers all along her throat searching for bite marks. He discovered a tiny scar at the back of her neck but luckily nothing recently inflicted by a vampire. He sighed in relief, then proceeded to search for some clue as to her identity.
Leery of finding more vampire deterrents, he patted her down first before sticking his hands into her pockets. Underneath her flannel shirt he came across a holstered gun attached to her belt at the small of her back. He removed the gun, unloaded the clip and set each aside, then reached for the square-shaped bulge in her left hip pocket. He wasn't as shocked finding the gun as he was finding out that she was an FBI agent. This was definitely not good. He had kidnapped an FBI agent who apparently knew that he was a vampire.
"Just great, de Brabant," he hissed. "What the hell were you thinking bringing her here?"
He had hoped for some kind of reply but his other personality was probably resting up after such a busy night. Nick considered just picking up the petite Agent Scully and flying her to the closest populated area, which so happened to be more than fifty miles away. His isolated mountain retreat was a good ten hour long hike from the nearest road, but he had to wonder if he hadn't plucked her from a nearby campsite. Perhaps someone was already out searching for her, though it would be extremely dangerous for any mortal to be roaming around such treacherous terrain at night. He really needed to talk to her first, to find out exactly what all she knew about him and who else knew it too. Before waking her up to question, however, Nick thought it best to put some clothes on. He had no idea what to expect from her once fully alert, but he had a good idea that seeing him nearly naked might give her reason enough to make a try for her gun.
He went over to the closet and pulled a denim shirt and pair of jeans from a hanger. Just as he was about to lose the towel, he looked back at the sleeping form on his bed and thought how uncomfortable she looked in the way she lay haphazardly across the bed. It appeared that she had been dumped rather carelessly. Nick wouldn't leave a framed painting to hang crooked on a wall, so he was just as compelled to correct what he saw now. He removed the holster from her belt, then repositioned her lengthwise on her back in the middle of the bed with a pillow beneath her head and her hands resting across her chest. He noted a lack of warmth in her hands and figured that she could possibly use some warming up. There were no blankets available. He didn't have a use for them himself. That was one of the conveniences of being undead; the cold temperatures didn't affect him. There was a potbellied stove in the corner of the room and a fireplace in the living room of the cabin, but Nick didn't feel like bothering with either one at the moment. He went back to the closet and pulled out a coat he had thought to bring with him. It was nearly ankle length on him and lined with plush artificial fur. He only wore it to blend in with the mortals who would think him strange if he walked around in freezing temperatures without one. He placed the coat over his guest, making sure she was tucked in around the edges. He'd read that a good deal of body heat escaped through the uncovered head, so he used a neck scarf that LaCroix had recently bought for him, to wrap about her head and the sides of her face. He had her looking like some kind of new-aged mummy, but at least she'd be warmer.
He took the items he had found on her and placed them on the dresser with the cell phone. He was tempted to hit redial on the phone to find out who she had last called, but decided to hold off. He might end up inadvertently waking up someone he should probably let sleep. Finally, he dressed himself, then turned his attention back to Agent Scully. He walked over to the bed and kneeled down next to it. Resting folded arms on the edge of the mattress, he simply stared at her as she slumbered. She looked so tiny, fragile almost. It was hard to imagine her passing the rigorous FBI Academy training. He also noted from her identification that she was a medical doctor. He didn't even know her but he was already impressed that she had achieved so much in her young life.
For some reason there seemed to be a familiar scent about her. She carried a noticeable but fairly faint odor of garlic where a few grains of the powder had touched upon her skin or clothing, but beneath that odor was something very distinctive. Nick leaned closer and sniffed at her. She had washed her hair with strawberry scented shampoo and lotioned her skin with a cocoa butter moisturizer. Beyond the artificial scents, however, there was something else he couldn't quite identify. Moving in even closer to put his nose to her ear, he inhaled deeply, seeking the minute molecules that still clung to the fine hairs located deep inside her ear canal. It took a few seconds for the information his keen senses picked up to be processed. It was formaldehyde; a scent which brought forth a once forgotten memory.
It had been the pungent odor of formaldehyde which he had awaken to over six years ago when an exploding pipe bomb sent him to the city morgue. He came to on a steel coroner's table, his body mending itself of its seemingly fatal injuries. He awoke ravenous, and lucky for the coroner on duty, there was bagged blood in the refrigerator. Nick closed his eyes and rested his forehead in a nest of silky, red hair as the memory of that first meeting with Natalie came back in vivid detail. She had not been frightened of him despite his golden eyes, bared fangs and warning growl. One would think she had come across vampires every other day the way she took his appearance with such nonchalant ease. He told himself that it was merely her clinical nature which allowed her to view him without fear, but he knew the truth right from the start. He looked into her eyes and listened to the racing of her heartbeat and he knew.
Over the past eight hundred years, it wasn't exactly the first time a woman had fallen for him despite knowing what he was. Unfortunately, their infatuation with him usually ended rather abruptly. He felt the attraction towards Natalie during their first meeting and he knew what the outcome of their relationship would be if he allowed it to progress. He should have left Toronto that very night and saved them both a lot of heartache, but beautiful women had always been his weakness. He'd always had a problem saying no and walking away from potential love. So, as with many others before her, Natalie Lambert had paid the ultimate price for falling in love with a vampire.
Nick breathed in the scent of the woman before him again. Now that he remembered, she smelled even more like his Natalie. He reached under the coat and placed his hand over hers, relishing the softness and warmth. He could pretend she was Natalie, at least for just a little while. It was nearly a month ago when his memories of her had begun to return. He dreamt about her daily; pleasant dreams of them watching movies together, sharing laughs and warm hugs, and even dining out. He had asked LaCroix about the dreams, wondering if they'd had any base in reality. His master would only advise him to ignore the dreams, otherwise he might find himself splitting his mind three ways instead of just the two. But the dreams persisted until one day when he bolted awake and came to realize that the nightmare which had shaken him to his bones, was much more than just a bad dream. The memory of what he had done that night so many months ago came back to haunt him in a blinding flurry. He'd killed her.
Nick wiped a tear away with his sleeve as he lifted his head and looked down at the sleeping woman on his bed. He really should wake her and see about getting her back to wherever he had taken her from. Others could already be on the way to rescue her, or Nicholas de Brabant could return at any moment and finish whatever he'd had in mind when he took her. His secret was at stake and her life was in danger, and yet Nick couldn't bring himself to act. It seemed as though a hundred years had past since he'd last held a woman in his arms. Under the coat, he laced his fingers with hers, noticing how similar to Natalie's her hand felt. He rose from his knees and climbed onto the bed, stretching himself out alongside her, then carefully eased her into an embrace so that her head rested upon his chest and his left arm encircled her as he still held her hand with his right.
Yes, this felt so much better than the last time he had held her. There was no deterioration of flesh or stench of decay. This time, she was soft, warm and breathing. Nick applied a tender kiss to the top of her head, then laid back against the pillow, closed his eyes and tuned into the soothing beating of her heart.
<You are one *sick* puppy,> a familiar voice taunted him from inside his own brain.
"Go to hell," he replied out loud.
<Why don't you *take* her? I brought her for you.>
"You brought her for yourself."
<I'm willing to share.>
"You're not to touch her!" Nick warned sternly.
<And who's going to stop me? Daddy's not here to interfere this time. It's just you and me, Nicky boy. Besides, you want her just as much as I do and you know it.>
Nick didn't bother to respond. There had to be some truth to the statement, otherwise he wouldn't be lying there with his arms wrapped about a total stranger, dreading the moment he'd be forced to let her go. He didn't want to ravage her body or drink her blood, but he did want to touch her and simply drink in her presence. Silence from the peanut gallery allowed Nick to relax again, but only for a moment. As he began to lightly stroke the auburn hair that fanned across his chest, he eventually noticed something different about the woman in his arms. Her breathing pattern had changed and her heartbeat had quickened its pace. Her body stiffened slightly in fear at the realization of her predicament. Agent Dana Scully had awakened.
Winnipeg 16 Days Earlier
As LaCroix pulled his Lexus into the long, curved driveway of the two- story brick home that he shared with Nick, he had a strange feeling that something wasn't quite right. The house set back three hundred yards away from the quiet dead-end street, on a wooded acre of land which provided as much privacy as could be had in the well populated suburb. He didn't like leaving Nick alone and unguarded for any extended period of time since his behavior had become increasingly unpredictable, but he had business to attend to downtown. It was barely dusk when he left and Nick was still sleeping soundly. He left him a note as to when he would be returning and had expected that his offspring could manage on his own for a few hours. He regretted having to take the car because it was such a slow mode of transportation, but it had been much too light out for him to fly.
It was just past ten when LaCroix returned. As the garage door opened for him to enter, he was dismayed to find that the green Cadillac convertible that was usually parked on the right was now missing. It wasn't Nick's original green Caddy. That one had been left behind in Toronto. Several weeks ago Nick had spotted someone driving a blue, older model Cadillac, and immediately decided that he just had to have it at any cost. Then, for some inexplicable reason he had it painted green. LaCroix could see that Nick's memories of his life in Toronto were subconsciously beginning to return. It would only be a matter of time before they surfaced completely. He only hoped that Nicholas de Brabant would take full control before that happened. Although LaCroix cared deeply for Nick Knight, he had to admit to himself that fun loving and guilt free de Brabant was much easier to live with.
As LaCroix emerged from the parked car, his senses were assaulted by the smell of human blood, lots of it. "Oh, Nicholas," he groaned softly. "What have you done now?"
Fearing that he might find a house full of sanguineous corpses, LaCroix warily entered through the garage entrance into the kitchen. Broken glass crunched beneath his shoe as he stepped through the door which had been left standing wide open. His hand automatically went to the light switch on the wall and his fingers came away with a slightly sticky substance. He knew instinctively that it was blood. The wall next to the door had been splashed with it, apparently as a result of a filled wine glass being hurled through the air. There was more of the red stuff to be found on the floor in front of the sink where an opened bottle of their food supply had fallen and its contents allowed to freely flow out.
LaCroix was careful to avoid the mess, not wanting to add to the set of naked, bloody footprints that seemed to wander aimlessly about in all directions. Moving next to the refrigerator where the door had been left ajar, he saw that the dozen bottles of human blood that had been there when he left were now all gone. He closed the refrigerator door and followed the footprints out of the kitchen into the parlor. More blood, this time splashed all over every canvass that Nick had painted.
In the foyer at the bottom of the staircase, a blood-smeared handprint was found on the wall, leading a trail upwards. LaCroix followed. He stopped by his own room and pushed the door open, amazed to see everything as it was when he left. Nick's room was quite a different story though. Furniture had been overturned, the dresser mirror had been smashed, a hole the size of a fist had been made in one wall, and blood stained the once pristine, gray carpet. LaCroix studied the drying, dark stain carefully. It appeared as though Nick had stood in one spot and actually drenched himself in blood, leaving behind a silhouette of his bare feet. On the floor near the closet, lay a black pair of blood- soaked, silk pajamas not far from a well used, damp towel. That was encouraging. At least the child had pulled himself together enough to clean up and not wander out into public looking like a victim from a bad slasher movie. But just where had he gone?
LaCroix opened the closet door and discovered that a suitcase was missing along with a few clothes. He had to find him. He started to leave the house to go searching for him, but decided to take a look at one more thing first. In Nick's bathroom he found a clue that gave him some incite into what had happened. Written three times in blood across the large, vanity mirror was the name Natalie. Obviously, his son's memory of that night had returned and he was definitely having some problems dealing with it. LaCroix scanned the room for the cordless telephone, picked it up from the floor and hit redial to see what number Nick had last called. When a male voice on the other end of the line announced that he had reached the Toronto Coroner's Office, he instantly hung up. He realized that Nick was probably on his way back to Toronto now, which wasn't a very good idea. It wouldn't do for him to be seen by any of the mortals who knew him and thought him to be quite dead.
Also, this thing with the blood had the old vampire more than just a bit worried. He could understand the split in personality, the good versus the bad, but practically bathing himself in blood was not something that his Nicholas had ever done before, no matter how guilt-ridden he had become. In his jumbled frame of mind it definitely wouldn't do for him to run into any other vampires while in Toronto. Mental illness in the vampire community wasn't well received, knowing that irrational actions by a deranged vampire could draw unwanted attention to the fact that they secretly existed. If the Enforcers were to find out, they would be apt to take quick steps to relieve Nick of his multiple personalities once and for all.
LaCroix wasn't quite sure what to do. Even after finding his troubled child, something would have to be done to help him emotionally. Obviously, his condition was getting worse instead of improving. Perhaps it would have been better if his aim with the stake that night had been true. No! He shook that thought out of his mind. Putting Nicholas to death was not an option to be considered. First he would find him, then he'd figure out a way to help him.
Nick's Cabin 3:02 a.m.
Scully came out of her sleep slowly. She'd heard a far away voice but was unable to understand any of the words spoken. She opened her eyes lazily and found that her vision was partially obstructed by her hair having fallen in front of her face. The thought of doing something about it crossed her mind for a second, but she felt too comfortable to move at the moment. She closed her eyes again, ready to drift back off when an unfamiliar male's voice suddenly bellowed out from right above her head.
"You're not to touch her!"
Scully's eyes popped wide open. She awaited an answering reply from whomever the voice had barked his warning, but nothing else was said by anyone after that point. Scully tensed as a hand began to gently stroke her hair. Her mind raced trying to recall any events that might explain her present situation. She remembered being with Mulder in the hayloft, then following him down to the corral after he ran off, declaring that Detective Knight had arrived. Scully had made it to the gate, then someone grabbed her from behind. The voice she'd just heard a moment ago now seemed familiar to her. She couldn't recall any of the words that was said to her back at the corral but she was sure this was the same person who had spoken them. And now that person was yelling at himself and petting her head as though she was a lapdog.
As Scully lay against the stranger's firm chest wondering what steps she should take next, the stroking of her hair suddenly stopped. She closed her eyes and feigned being asleep as the stranger slowly shifted his body from beneath her, leaving her resting on her side. He rose from the bed, taking a moment to tuck her arm back under the covering and place a pillow beneath her head. Scully assumed that he was still standing next to the bed until she heard a click as the light switch was turned off. She opened her eyes to total darkness and thought of reaching for her gun, but couldn't feel the weight of it against the small of her back. Undoubtedly, she had been disarmed. Soon came the sound of a striking match, then the room began to grow increasingly brighter as candles were being lit. Again Scully closed her eyes and waited.
After a few moments, a low voice spoke out from a few feet away. "You can stop pretending now," he said. "I know you're awake, Dana."
Scully opened her eyes and rose up on one elbow. She looked over her shoulder and focused on the pale, but handsome man who stood leaning against the closed door and staring back at her with a smug expression on his face. Scully sat up, swinging her legs off the bed and placing her feet on the floor. She glanced about the room casually, taking in all she could in a quick glimpse. The room was well illuminated with half a dozen burning candles situated in various locations. It was lightly furnished with a bed, nightstand, mirrored dresser and a chair near a boarded-up window. She noticed her gun, badge and phone lying on the dresser. Seeing her eyes rest on the gun, Nicholas casually went to grab it for himself. He loaded in the clip, then held the weapon in a threatening manner, though not pointing directly at her.
The room was rather cold, so Scully pulled the oversize coat that had acted as a blanket up around her shoulders. The thin, silk scarf that had been loosely draped over her head slipped off with the motion. "Where's Mulder?" were her first words.
"You mean your boyfriend?"
"My partner. What did you do to him?"
"Why worry about him? Have you no concerns about your own safety?"
"Did you hurt him?" Scully asked, thinking that it was quite possibly the only way that this man would have been allowed to abduct her.
"He'll probably wake up with a bit of a headache," Nicholas responded with a shrug. "That is *if* he wakes up. I suppose it just depends on how thick a skull he has."
Scully considered her partner to be extremely hard-headed. Hopefully, that was enough to insure his good health. "Where are we? Why did you bring me here?"
"This is my little love nest. I bet you can probably figure out the rest."
"If you're trying to shock me, I'm afraid you're wasting your breath." Scully stood and faced him bravely, holding the long, overcoat securely about her. "I know who you are," she added.
"Do you?" "Detective Nick Knight, formerly of the Toronto police department. Supposedly dead."
"Supposedly?" Nicholas snickered.
"You do look a little pale, but I have to admit, for a man thrown through a car window into a frigid lake, you appear to be in pretty good shape. How did you manage to survive?"
"Who said I did?"
"Oh, so you're the walking dead? You should have grabbed my partner in that case. He believes in such things."
"And you don't?"
Before Scully could answer the question, a shrill, chirping sound startled them both. It was her cell phone ringing and she wanted to go and snatch it up, knowing that Mulder would be on the other end. She looked to Nicholas and saw an expression on his face that dared her to even think about it.
"It's probably, Mulder," she told her captor. "He'll be worried. I wouldn't want him to think I'm dead or anything."
Nicholas allowed the phone to ring twice more before deciding to answer it himself. He picked it up, flipped it open and pushed the connect button. Holding the phone to his ear, he heard a panicky voice on the other end calling out to Scully.
"Don't worry," Nicholas spoke coolly into the receiver. "She's not dead yet," he informed the irate caller. Afterwards, he had to hold the phone away from his ear to protect himself from the bellowing voice on the other end. Even standing a few feet away, Scully could hear the vehemence in her partner's voice as he yelled into the phone.
"What have you done to her, you bastard? Where have you taken her?"
"Mulder, I'm all right!" Scully was able to reassure him just before Nicholas disconnected the call.
"You were right. He *was* worried. Now that we've allayed his fears..." With an insignificant gesture, he crushed the phone in his hand and let the pieces crumble to the floor. "No more interruptions," he smiled devilishly at his guest and slowly began to close the space between them.
"It's pretty obvious to everyone that you need professional help," Scully blurted out, trying to gain control of the situation.
"Yes. You surviving the accident while your friend Natalie Lambert -- or was she your lover?"
Nick froze in his tracks at the mention of Natalie's name. Scully watched intently as the man in front of her had a sudden change in demeanor. His gaze shifted quickly from her to some more interesting spot on the floor, and the gun in his hand dangled loosely in his grasp.
"Did you drive off that bridge on purpose that night?" Scully continued to push. "Or was it really an accident?"
"I... I didn't want to live anymore," said Nick in a childlike tone.
"Did Natalie want to live?"
"She wanted to be with me, forever."
"But it didn't work out that way, did it? You two made a suicide pack, didn't you? Only she died that night, and you lived."
"I killed her," Nick sadly confessed. "She trusted me so and I let her down."
"Why did you dig up her grave?"
"I had to see if it was true. I didn't remember at first. And then it all came back. I tasted her blood and I couldn't stop myself. I killed her and I can never be with her because my soul is damned." His eyes filled with pain as he somberly added, "I am forever cursed."
"No," said Scully, daring to take a few steps forward. "No, you're not cursed. You've had some bad experiences and you need someone to help you work your way through them. I can see that you get the help you need. Just let me have the gun."
As quickly as the heartbroken and vulnerable Nick Knight had appeared, he was instantly replaced by his evil twin. The sorrowful, blue eyes which had been ready to rain tears a mere second ago, abruptly turned dark and ominous. Noticing that he was now within arms length, Nicholas quickly reached out his left hand and gently but firmly grabbed Scully by the back of the neck.
"Has anyone told you lately how beautiful you are?" "We were discussing getting you some help," said Scully, trying hard to remain cool in his grasp.
"Were we? Sorry, but I seem to have a short attention span these days." He stashed the gun he held in his right hand in the back pocket of his jeans, then pulled Scully a bit closer and picked up her left hand. Holding it tenderly as though they were lovers, he looked it over carefully. "No ring," he noted aloud just before he brought her hand to his lips and kissed the back of it delicately. Like his hands, his lips were cold against her skin and Scully flinched at their touch. She could tell he noticed but didn't appear to mind the tiny sign of aversion.
"No special someone back home pining away for you, Dana?" Nicholas asked while using the back of her hand to caress his lightly bearded cheek.
"Most of the men I meet turn out to be deranged killers," came the calm reply.
"They usually don't kill cows. Why do you?"
"Remember? I'm deranged."
"Which is why you should let me help you. You were an officer of the law. You know how serious a kidnapping charge can be. If you're willing to cooperate, I can --"
"Shhh," Nicholas stopped her from talking by pressing a finger to her lips. "When's the last time you've been deeply kissed, Dana?"
Surprised by the question, Scully was unprepared to answer, even if she could recall the last time such an event had occurred. She regretted that she couldn't keep her expression neutral. She also regretted the effects he was beginning to have on her. She could tell he was doing his best to seduce her by the way his icy fingers gently massaged the nape of her neck and played with her hair. His other hand still held hers, but he had freed an index finger in order to stroke her chin and lift it upwards. Scully didn't want to look into his eyes, but was powerless to prevent herself from falling into their deep, hypnotic depths.
Nicholas had locked onto her heartbeat. The steady thrum as her blood pumped through her veins was like a symphony to his ears. "You shouldn't go so long without having a man make love to you, to feel his kiss upon your lips, his caress on your skin, his body moving in rhythm to yours."
The words flowed like warm honey and emotionally, Scully lapped it up. When a pair of cool lips pressed gingerly against hers, she was startled enough to pull back on contact. But a velvety voice told her to relax, and she found herself complying without a second thought. Her eyes closed and her lips parted to allow his tongue to plunge inside and have its way. As he kissed her masterfully, deeply, Scully felt an electrifying tingle race through her body. She was vaguely aware of losing the warmth of the coat that had been wrapped about her shoulders. Then a pair of strong arms encircled her, chilled hands roamed over her back and hips, and a muscled chest all but crushed her breasts. In the back of her mind, she was thinking that she shouldn't let this happen. This was a dangerous madman touching her in ways and places no one had done in a long time. For a brief moment she was able to think clearly and attempted to pull away from his grasp.
"You want me. You want this to happen," Nicholas whispered sensually into her ear. Her struggling ceased instantly and she began to ardently return his amorous advances. Her moans increased with her passion. Nicholas spun her around so that her back was flush against his body. Tilting her head to the left and brushing her hair out of the way, he exposed her neck for nibbling. As he kissed and tongued his way from the base of her neck up to her ear, he felt the change coming over him. His fangs began to drop and his eyes turned golden. Her blood was calling to him. He had to have her, had to drink in her goodness. He could hear Nick Knight screaming at him to stop, to spare her life, but it was a voice he was strong enough to ignore. No LaCroix around to snatch this tasty morsel from him and whiny little Nick wasn't powerful enough to stop him. This was going to be so good.
As he kissed her cheek, his hand went to her chin and lifted it, giving him greater access to her creamy, smooth throat. His fingers glided downward and grabbed the collar of her shirt, yanking it hard enough to pop open the top button. His fingers reached inside the soft cotton and splayed open against her chest. Just as he was on the verge of sinking his fangs into her neck, something stung his hand. He snatched it back instantly and glared at the tiny, cross-shaped burn mark on his palm. Then something seared his eyes and as he looked up, he saw a reflection in the mirror. The small, golden cross that Scully wore around her neck glittered brightly as light from the candles bounced off it and reflected back into the vampire's eyes from the mirror. He shielded his eyes and pushed his intended victim away.
Scully teetered unsteadily once he let go of her. It took a few seconds for her to shake off the effects of the hypnotic spell and react to her freedom. She turned and looked back at him curiously, finding him slumping against the wall, eyes shut and holding his head with both hands as though he was in great pain.
"Are you--" Scully started towards him but stopped abruptly when she heard a deep, animal-like growl.
"Get out!" Nick yelled at her, battling that part of himself that wanted to drain her blood. "I don't know how long I can hold him," he spoke in a gruff voice. "Run! Now!" he shouted, following up the verbal warning with another growl.
Scully surmised that Nick was having an attack of some kind, and her first instinct was to try to assist him medically. But with his final warning, it was as if Mulder had just shown up, grabbed her hand and said, "Let's get the hell out of here!" That was the voice she listened to. Scully spun about, and without pausing to make a grab for her personal belongings, ran for her life. Luckily, the doors presented no problems. The bedroom door was unlocked and the main door to the cabin was a simple latch.
The agent found herself outside in the cool night air surrounded by total darkness, barely able to make out the edge of the porch. Reaching for the banister, her hand landed on something padded. When she smelled garlic, she realized that she had just found her coat. She grabbed it as she stumbled down the three steps of the porch, then ran blindly away from the cabin. She managed to slip into the jacket just before tripping over a fallen tree and landing, luckily in a pile of dead leaves. She thought it best to just lie still and give her eyes an opportunity to adjust to the dim moonlight and to check on the progress of her pursuer. Candles had been lit in the living room as well and Scully watched intently at the door she had left wide open. A moment later, she saw a dark figure appear in the doorway. He stood still, turning and lifting his head to the left and right as though sniffing the air for something. Scully gasped softly when it appeared that he had somehow pinpointed her location in the darkness and was looking in her exact direction.
"Dana!" Nicholas called out. "Why don't you come back inside? We were just about to have some fun. I can make it so good for you." He took an unhurried step off the porch, actually looking forward to a prolonged chase. "I suppose you don't want me to think you're easy. After all, we've just met. I like a woman who plays hard to get. I enjoy a good pursuit." He took another step and stopped. "Might I suggest that if you don't want this over before it's barely begun, then you should seek another hiding place. I'll give you a five minute head start. How's that?" He sat down on the second step and leaned back, resting his elbows comfortably on the top step and looking up towards the stars.
Scully cautiously rose from the ground and moved gingerly backwards, deeper into the woods. Checking her pockets, she was dismayed not to find her trusty flashlight. She must have lost it at the time of her abduction, and no telling what had become of her gloves. She had to step carefully while waving her arms out in front of her to keep from bumping into trees or low hanging branches. She had five minutes to come up with a line of defense, to find something to use as a weapon and position herself well enough to create an ambush or counter attack. Thinking about how he could have pinpointed her location earlier, she had to wonder if he hadn't detected the aroma her coat was giving off. Granted, he'd have to have a mighty keen sense of smell, but it wasn't too implausible.
"Thanks a lot, Mulder," she mumbled to herself thinking that now she should probably ditch the coat to put Knight off her trail. She stopped to pull off the coat, hissed and shivered from a blast of cold air, then decided on an alternative. She turned the jacket inside out and put it back on again. At least that would keep the scent from traveling and it would also keep her from freezing her ass off. Trudging onward, Scully thought about what had happened back at the cabin. She couldn't believe that she had actually allowed a total stranger -- a cow-killing stranger at that -- to kiss and fondle her as though they were lovers. What's more, she couldn't believe how much she had thoroughly enjoyed the feel and taste of him, and had actually craved more. Maybe he had drugged her; given her something to make her lose her inhibitions. Undoubtedly, he had used something to put her to sleep in order to transport her from the ranch to wherever the heck they were now.
Not concentrating as carefully as she should on her movements in the dark, Scully tripped over something again, but only part of her body felt land come up to greet her this time. There was nothing for her hands to grasp, nothing to support her from the chest up. As her arms and hands dangled into space, she realized that she had come to the edge of a cliff. Lying at a downward angle, her left foot was caught within the "V" of a fallen branch, which appeared to be the only thing that kept her from plunging over the side. In trying to locate a perch for her hands so she could push herself away from the edge, she knocked loose a rock which tumbled downward into the abyss for several long seconds before it finally made contact with the rocky bottom far below.
"Just great," she breathed in harsh, rapid breaths. She could either fall at least a hundred feet to her death or face an amorous and very handsome psycho, whose only threat so far was his desire to make it good for her. Thinking of it in those terms almost made her wonder why she had been running away. He hadn't actually been violent towards her; just the opposite, in fact. Of course, now was not the time to be contemplating intimacy with her abductor, especially when she felt her anchor beginning to slip. Her weight was pulling the branch from its resting place. The more she struggled to force herself backwards, the more her body shifted downwards. She used one hand to claw into the hard earth at her side while the other tried desperately to locate something she could grab on to.
Where was Mulder when she needed him? It was extremely doubtful that he was anywhere within hearing distance, so Scully settled for the only other alternative. She took in a careful breath, then called out warily. "Mr. Knight, I need your help! I'm in danger of falling off a cliff here. Please, would you *help* me?"
There was no answer to her plea. Perhaps he wasn't close enough to hear. She wasn't even sure that the five minutes were up. Could be that he was still lounging about on the front steps back at the cabin or perhaps he thought she was attempting to lure him into a trap. She tried again a little louder, hoping that her sense of fear and urgency carried through. Still there was no response. Either he wasn't within earshot or he simply wasn't going to help her. Perhaps this had been part of his plan all along. Of course, he knew the area, and he knew what dangers were awaiting her out in the blackness. Knowing that she couldn't depend on a psychopath to save her, and that Mulder wasn't likely to show up within the next two seconds, Scully decided to try to rescue herself. Gingerly, she moved her left leg. The branch that had held her in position, suddenly snapped in two, and she felt herself skid downward.
The Olsen Ranch 3:40 a.m.
"You hanging in there, Agent Mulder?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks."
"I'll have you at the doctor's in just a few."
Now that his pickup truck had warmed up, Jerry Olsen was ready to drive his injured passenger into town for treatment. Although his head was still throbbing and his vision was threatening to double up on him, Mulder shrugged off the pain and discomfort to contemplate his next move. At least he knew that his partner was still alive, though he wasn't too thrilled about the way Knight had said that she wasn't dead yet. He made it seem as though it was merely a matter of time before the situation would change. He had been wrong about the man not purposely hurting others. Perhaps Nick Knight wouldn't hurt anyone, but it was glaringly apparent that Nicholas de Brabant would. If not for an overly affectionate heifer who had licked his face into wakefulness, Mulder might still be passed out among the cow patties where the vampire had left him.
After Knight hung up on him, Mulder had called in the sheriff, hoping to get a search party going immediately. Unfortunately, he couldn't admit to the man all that he had witnessed. When asked for a direction the kidnapper had taken, Mulder was reluctant to point upwards. He had to simply feign ignorance. Sheriff Wilkes figured that the most likely route would have been eastbound towards a cluster of mountains a fair distance away. Although plans were tossed around, the actual search wouldn't begin until daybreak. The sheriff strongly suggested that in the meantime, Mulder should see a doctor and try to get some rest. Not wanting to chance being around a vampire with a bleeding head wound, he decided that he should accept Mr. Olsen's offer of a ride into town to see the doctor.
As he sat in the passenger side of the swiftly moving pickup truck, Mulder pulled out his cell phone and pressed a pre- programmed number. Waiting impatiently through five long rings, he began speaking as soon as the line was picked up.
"Frohike, it's Mulder. I need you to do me a favor."
"Try calling back at a decent time," Frohike yawned, sounding as though he was going to hang up.
"It concerns Scully," Mulder was quick to add.
"What's up? Is she all right?" Frohike asked, fully alert.
"She's been abducted."
"Damn! The same as before?"
"No. It's not the same. I know who's got her, but I need help tracking him down. I need for you to run a check on a man named Nicholas Knight. He was a detective with the Toronto police department up until five months ago when he was presumed dead following a car accident."
"Are you saying that a ghost took her?"
"No, he's no ghost," said Mulder, not bothering to inform his friend of Knight's true nature. "Let's just say that his death was somewhat exaggerated."
"So are you looking to find something in particular?"
"Yeah. Check to see if he has any connections to Montana. If he owns property or if he's done any business anywhere near the city of Black Eagle. Try checking also under the alias, Nicholas de Brabant."
"Gotcha. Anything else?"
"Yeah. Janette du Charme. She was listed on Knight's police file as a person to contact in case of emergency. The only number listed for her was at a closed up nightclub in Toronto called the Raven. You'll find that Knight's personnel file was deleted from police computers, possibly by Knight himself."
"So who the hell is this guy anyway? Why'd he take Dana?"
"Frohike, you want to find her or you wanna talk about it?"
"All right, I'm on it." After hanging up, Mulder glared out the window into the darkness, anxious for dawn to arrive. "She's not dead yet. She's not dead yet." Those words echoed in his mind and all he could do was hope and pray that nothing would alter their accuracy.
Somewhere in the mountains 3:43 a.m.
Scully was falling, descending head first into blackness, her screams echoing through the mountains. Friends and family, both past and present flashed in her mind in the milliseconds that remained of her existence. In the nanoseconds she allowed for prayer, what must have been the hand of God, grabbed hold of her and slowed her terrifying descent into death.
"It's all right, I've got you!" God spoke to her. As one strong hand held fast to her ankle, an arm swooped around her back and lifted her upright. Scully wrapped her arms thankfully around his neck as he gently shifted her in his embrace and flew her upwards. He was taking her straight to heaven, she thought. Funny, but her landing hadn't hurt at all. Still, she couldn't stop trembling or crying.
"Shhh, it's okay, it's okay. You're safe now. I've got you. You're safe."
It took several moments for Scully to realize that she wasn't on her way to heaven and that the arms that held her tenderly didn't belong to God. They belonged to Nick Knight. She lifted her head from the security of his shoulder and glanced up, barely able to see the milky whiteness of his face just two inches away. How he had managed to locate her in the pitch darkness was a mystery, but how he had saved her from certain death was no less than a miracle. It was a miracle she had no desire to question at the moment. She simply nestled her head into the crook of his neck and allowed him to carry her back to the cabin.
It wasn't long before he was placing her gently on the sofa in the living room. He said something to her that she really didn't hear, then left her alone as he went back outside for awhile. Scully was still too shook up to notice how long he had been gone or even when he had returned. Eventually, she noticed the room was getting slightly warmer. A popping noise drew her attention to a well fed fire, recently started in the fireplace. As she turned away from the fire, she was startled by the sudden appearance of a glass of water held by a pallid hand in front of her face. She looked up, apprehensive at first until she saw the timid smile that went along with the offered glass.
She accepted the water and took a few sips to ease the irritated throat she received from nearly screaming her head off. Her host stepped silently away. Scully watched him as he backed himself against a wall and slid down to a stooping position, absently rubbing his left arm as his eyes focused on the dancing flames of the fire.
"Thank you," said Scully.
He looked at her then. "Would you like more?" he asked, referring to the water.
"No, I was thanking you for saving my life. I must have fallen at least thirty feet. How did you catch me?"
Nick smiled nervously. "I'm afraid you must have been hallucinating. I caught you just as you were about to go over the edge. You dangled for a few moments. It probably felt as though you were falling."
That couldn't be. She was sure she had fallen a good distance. She had felt the cool night's wind blowing in her face and whipping her hair about. She had experienced the sensation of free fall, of flying even. But then that couldn't be possible either. There's no way he could have dived over the edge after her and flew her to safety. Tethered by a bungi cord, perhaps he could have managed it, but their flight upwards had been a smooth, jerkless ride. Of course, she must have imagined it.
"Well, thanks anyway."
"Why thank me? If it weren't for me, you wouldn't have been in that situation in the first place. Are you all right?"
"My hands are still a little shaky, but other than that...."
"You... you were running away from me, weren't you? Did I hurt you earlier?"
"Don't you remember?"
"No, not really. I have this condition. I have these blackout episodes where I do and say things I wouldn't normally. I imagine that's why you're here. I kidnapped you?"
"Did I ever hurt you?" he asked again, looking terrified of the answer he might receive.
Scully shook her head. "No, you didn't hurt me. I think you may have injured my partner though."
"Back at the Olsens' ranch. Do you remember that?"
Nick concentrated hard, then asked, "Was he tall, slender build, dark hair?"
"Yes, that was Mulder."
"I met him for a moment. I don't remember what I did to him."
"Well, he sounded as though he was still in one whole piece when he called me on my cell phone."
"You've talked to him since you've been here?"
"Briefly, before you destroyed my phone."
"Oh, sorry.... So he knows where you are now?"
Scully decided not to answer that question. If Knight thought that help was on the way, he might try to make a run for it. She took another sip from her glass, then placed it on the floor at her feet.
"Did you, by chance, sustain a head injury in that car accident?"
Nick eyed her in wonderment. "Car accident?"
"You were in an accident about five months ago, remember? With Dr. Natalie Lambert?"
"How do you know about that?"
"Actually, that's why I came to Montana. I'm Dana Scully with the FBI. My partner and I came in search of you. He suspected that you had something to do with the cattle mutilations."
"Why would he think that?"
"He made a connection between the mutilations and the disturbed grave site of Dr. Lambert." Noting the questioning expression on Knight's face, Scully waved her hand in a "don't ask" kind of motion. "It's what he does. Makes connections that no one else could possibly fathom."
"And you came to hunt me down?" Nick asked, becoming a touch nervous.
"We came to help you."
"What makes you think I need help?"
"First you dig up a close friend's grave and lie down with her, then the next week you're out slaughtering cows. You sound like someone in great need of help, Mr. Knight. Right now, you're suspected of trespassing, destruction of property and animal cruelty, but if you give yourself up peacefully, I'm willing to forego adding kidnapping charges."
"So you're after me because I broke the law?"
"Oh," Nick replied softly, his nervousness beginning to wane just a bit. "Do you mind if I ask a personal question?"
Scully shrugged lightly. "What would you like to know?"
"What is it with you and the garlic-flavored coat?"
Scully's cheeks flushed with embarrassment, then she shook her head and chuckled lightly. "I have my partner to thank for that. He had this wild notion that uh.... Oh, it's too stupid to even say."
"What?" Nick urged her to continue.
"He thought we might run into a vampire. In fact, he thought that you...." She felt too ridiculous to go on with the statement, so she didn't.
"I think I get the picture," said Nick perceptively. "He found out about my sun allergy."
"There was also a mention of an Internal Affairs investigation which uncovered some bottled cow's blood in your refrigerator."
"Yeah, I had to do a lot of explaining back then. I used the blood to thicken my oil paints. I still do."
"Plus, Mulder thought that whoever or whatever was killing the cows had to have superhuman strength."
Nick noted the dubious expression on his guest's face, and was quite relieved to see it there. "I take it, you don't share his theory?"
"Well, I've watched a rodeo or two on TV, and although I'm not in favor of the sport, I was mildly impressed to see an average size man able to wrestle down a one-ton steer and hog-tie it. So I figure that breaking a cow's neck would be more of a matter of technique rather than brute strength. Besides, if you were a vampire, it seems that the myths about your reflection not showing up in a mirror, and garlic keeping you away doesn't seem to be holding up very well."
Nick smiled amusedly. "Well, I'll admit I'm not a big fan of garlic and that I wouldn't want to wear it, or get too close to anyone who does."
Scully nodded understandably. "Yeah, I guess it's enough to keep vampires and everyone else at a safe distance."
Starting to feel a bit more comfortable in her presence, Nick changed his position from stooping to sitting on the floor with his legs stretched out and his ankles crossed. He rubbed lightly at his left arm as he spoke his next few uncertain words. "I uh... Earlier, in the bedroom... I don't remember everything I did, but I never meant to do anything improper. If I took liberties with you that I shouldn't have, then I'd like to apologize. I haven't been myself lately."
Scully thought back to their earlier meeting, and her heart pounded a bit faster as she recalled how he'd had her melting in his arms. No man had ever gotten her so worked up so quickly, and she hadn't wanted him to stop. She had been perfectly willing to let him do anything he pleased to her.
"Agent Scully? Are you all right? Did I get too far out of line with you?" Nick asked with growing alarm.
Scully snapped out of her moment of reverie and shook her head. "No, Mr. Knight. You were... shall we say, a little frisky, but nothing I couldn't handle."
"Good," Nick sighed with relief.
Scully couldn't help but notice how markedly different Nick Knight was now compared to when they first met. He was so unlike the man who had tried to seduce her, and who had chased her out into the darkness in a weird game of hide and seek. She couldn't help but think multiple personalities. He had apparently been divided into three parts: the sweet, boy next door; the aggressive, Don Juan lover; and the disgusting weirdo who likes to mutilate animals and play with dead things. She'd seen two sides of him so far, but she wasn't interested in seeing the third side.
"Tell me something, Mr. Knight--"
"I'd prefer it if you'd just call me Nick. Please."
"Nick, these blackout episodes that you have; do they just come without warning, or is there something that triggers them?"
"They just come," he replied ruefully. "I become someone else... someone named Nicholas de Brabant. He pretty much comes and goes as he pleases, but I noticed that he never comes out between sunup and sundown. And physical pain or discomfort seems to keep him away."
When he said that, Scully finally became aware of the way he was cradling his left arm. "What's wrong with your arm?" she asked.
Nick crossed his arms in front of his chest and gazed back at the fire. "It's nothing, really," he murmured softly.
"What did you do to it?"
"Picked up a splinter when I was sitting on the porch steps."
"Would you like for me to remove it for you?"
He looked back at her and grimaced mildly. "Perhaps later."
His eyes conveyed what he was really thinking. He was purposely withstanding the discomfort of a sliver of wood shoved into his flesh, in order to keep his alter ego at bay and thereby protect her from further assault. Scully nodded her understanding of the situation, then continued with their original topic of conversation.
"So it was Nicholas who killed the cows? You don't remember any of it?"
"No. I would come to later with my shoes covered with cow manure and a few blood stains on my clothes and hands. Didn't take much to figure out what he'd been up to."
"Why do you suppose he did it?"
"He wants to draw attention to himself. There's someone -- a family member -- who's probably out looking for us... for me, that is. Nicholas is trying to make it easier to be found."
"And killing cows would make it easy for this person to find you?"
Nick shrugged. "It made it easy for you and your partner to find me."
He had a point there. "Well, would it really be such a bad thing if this family member should find you?" Scully asked. "Perhaps he or she can be of some assistance."
Nick sighed heavily and shook his head with uncertainty. "I'm not so sure of that. You see, he likes Nicholas de Brabant better than he likes me. It would make his century to have Nicholas take over completely. I came here to get away from him and the rest of the world, so I could think.... But I just don't know anymore. Maybe it *would* be best altogether if I just stepped back and let Nicholas take over."
Scully leaned forward, feeling the urge to reach out to him, but the fact that he was several feet away prevented her from acting on the impulse. "You can't possibly mean that," she spoke to him in a sympathetic tone. "I've read your file, Nick. You were a good cop. You risked your life a number of times to save the lives of others. You made a difference. You cared. Now, it appears that you're suffering from a form of mental illness which I am sure is treatable. You owe it to yourself to get your life back on track, but you can't do it alone. You need help; perhaps just a few sessions with a good psychiatrist. And if you haven't had one done, I would strongly suggest you get a CT scan of your brain just in case you did suffer a head trauma during your accident."
"You think that a head injury could cause something like this?" asked Nick, thinking of the gunshot wounds he had received. Perhaps his natural ability to heal had been compromised due to the experimental drugs and diet Natalie had prescribed for him.
"It's possible that a tumor could have developed," Scully surmised, "causing pressure in a very delicate part of the brain. You seemed to be having some kind of intense headache before when we were in the other room. Do you remember that?"
"I get them all the time. Very brief, but painful. I use to think they were triggered by Nicholas making his exit, but I came to realize that the pain is what chases him away. Though nowadays he's quick to come back when it's over."
"Well, we really won't know for sure what the true nature of the problem is until I can get you to a hospital and get some tests done."
Nick rose from the floor and crossed over to the fireplace. He picked up the poker, pushed back the protective screen, then began to adjust the burning logs whether they needed it or not. He used it as a diversion to keep from responding to the agent's suggestion that he seek medical treatment. There was no way he could agree to that. If he was indeed suffering from a physically induced psychosis, there was only one doctor who could have helped him, but she was no longer among the living.
"The last person who tried to help me with my problems ended up as fish bait at the bottom of a lake," Nick stated matter-of- factly, keeping his back to his guest.
"It's not your fault that you didn't die in the car wreck with her, Nick. In fact, it's a miracle that you survived at all."
Nick grinned sadly at the absurdity of her statement. If only he could tell her the truth. Tell her how he had drained every ounce of blood from Natalie's body, and how LaCroix, his master had taken the body off to dispose of it; to make it seem as though Nick had been driving and that his body had been claimed by the murky undertow of the lake. LaCroix had done an excellent job in cleaning up after his son's mess.
Still poking at the flames, Nick spoke, nearly to himself. "For six years, she was my best friend, my confidant... my reason for living. I took from her and gave nothing in return. I stole six years of potential happiness from her short life, then... I killed her."
Scully stood and moved closer to the fireplace. She still hadn't warmed up completely, and she also didn't like talking to someone's back. She kept a few feet of space between them, though now she was standing to his side. "You didn't steal those years from her," Scully told him, seeing his head turn just slightly in her direction. "Sounds to me as though she gave them to you of her own free will. Perhaps she did expect to get something in return, but she gave them to you freely. You can't force people to do what they really don't want to. In the end, you two were both suffering from depression. She had just lost a friend to suicide, and you had just lost your second partner in the line of duty. Your actions that night were being ruled through overwrought emotions. Neither of you were responsible for what you said or did."
Nick shook his head as he returned the poker to its proper place, then stepped back against the adjacent wall. "You weren't there," he told her while keeping his eyes on the growing flames. "You couldn't possibly know. If it wasn't for me, she would still be alive. I should have walked away that first night we met. I should have never even gone to Toronto. Everyone would have been much better off if they'd never even met me, including you."
"You remind me a little of my partner," said Scully, gazing thoughtfully at the man before her. "He has this really annoying habit of blaming himself for things he has no control over. If only he had gotten someplace sooner or reacted in a different manner, or maybe if people hadn't met him at all, perhaps certain unfortunate individuals wouldn't have suffered whatever fate life had dealt them, including me.... But what Mulder doesn't seem to realize is how much good he's done and how many lives he's saved, mine as well. Nick, you've helped a lot of people and you've saved a lot of lives. But you can't save everyone. No one can. It just isn't humanly possible."
Nick had to chuckle at the irony of that last statement. "You don't know how many times I've heard the same thing from Natalie."
"And I'm guessing you didn't listen to her, did you?"
"I can't help the way I feel."
Scully nodded knowingly. "I understand. Mulder's the same way."
Nick finally lifted his eyes to hers. "Sounds as though you have your hands full with him."
"You can say that."
"But he's your partner and you probably wouldn't trade him for the world, would you?"
Scully smiled lightly. "No one would ever offer that much for him, but you're right. I wouldn't. I've come so close to losing Mulder on several occasions, so I can imagine how devastating that must have been for you when your partners were killed."
Nick lowered his head momentarily in somber remembrance of his two late partners. "It's hard to believe that I couldn't even stand Schanke when I first met him. He was the sort that kind of rubs people the wrong way. But he grew on me quickly, and all those little annoying habits he used to drive me crazy with, became what I truly missed the most once he was gone. And Tracy... I really didn't allow her to get too close to me. I thought I could save myself from any more pain should the unthinkable happen."
"I remember that Mulder wasn't very happy about getting me for a partner in the beginning. I think he tried to make me not like him."
Nick smiled. "I bet you're probably the most important person in his life now."
"Well, we have been through a lot. We've grown closer."
"I don't suppose he'll take too kindly to my kidnapping you then."
"Well, as long as I'm not broken or maimed, I imagine he'll be somewhat forgiving."
"Where was it again that I found you?"
"The Olsen's ranch. About twelve miles west of downtown Black Eagle."
"Oh." Nick glanced at the boarded up window, sensing how much time remained before sunrise. He would have enough time to fly her back to the ranch but not to make it back to his cabin. "Unless your partner knows our location and is on his way to retrieve you, I'm afraid you'll have to wait until this evening before I can take you back."
"Why is that?"
"The sun will be rising soon. And I do a very good imitation of a vampire at daybreak."
"So we're not talking a simple sunburn and rash, are we?"
"No. More like bacon burning."
"What do you have?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"With photophobia that severe, there's usually some underlying medical condition. Off hand, I can think of Lupus and Porphyria. Also, Xeroderma Pigmentosum, but that's a pretty intense, deteriorating type of disease, and you appear much too healthy for that."
He'd forgotten that she had a medical background. Just saying that he had a sun allergy had always worked in the past, especially when reinforced with a hypnotic suggestion. He had second thoughts about messing with her mind now, considering that he had subjected her to enough emotional stress already. However, if he agreed to having one of the conditions she mentioned, she'd probably question him on his treatment and he didn't want to get into any of that either.
"I've never been diagnosed with any diseases," he told her truthfully. "It's just an skin allergy; something I developed after reaching adulthood."
"How curious," Scully mused. "I know there aren't a lot of options out there for people who are photosensitive."
"Natalie... she came up with something once, but...."
"Unpleasant side effects; severe stomach cramps, paranoia, addiction. A high price to pay for one day in the sun. If you don't mind, I'd rather not talk about it anymore."
"All right. Can we talk about me finding a phone to use?"
"Sorry. I don't have one."
"Well, what about drawing a map so I can find my way to the nearest road."
"I wouldn't advise you trying to find your way out there alone. The land is treacherous in places and there're plenty of wild animals."
"Are you telling me that it's safer to wait until sundown to travel? I fail to see the logic in that."
"I know the area. And I know my way around in the dark. After all, I'm not the one who nearly walked off the side of a mountain." "You don't have to remind me."
"Sorry. I know it's my fault that you're here. I should have awakened you and taken you back when I first came to my senses. I still don't know why I didn't."
"I think I do," said Scully. She saw the question in his eyes though he didn't bother to verbalize it. "I remind you of her, don't I? Natalie. I know I don't look like her, but something about me made you think of her. That's why you were lying with me on the bed. When I woke, you were embracing her, not me."
He didn't answer her, not in words at any rate. His eyes squeezed shut and he dropped his head, and turned away. Scully started to go towards him and offer some comfort, but paused when she remembered their earlier encounter in the bedroom. She waited a few moments, then when she heard a soft keening sound emitted from the tortured soul in front of her, she took a chance on drawing closer.
"Nick? Nick, it's okay," she cooed softly as her hand went out timidly to his dark blonde curls. At her touch, he wrenched away quickly.
"No, don't!" he said, not as a warning, but more like a plea. "Nat I can't. Please don't ask me to again. I can't," he mumbled as he moved over towards the boarded up window, keeping his back to her.
Scully followed cautiously but kept a few feet of space between them. "Nick?" she called to him without having any idea of how to calm him down.
"Natalie, you don't understand what you're asking me to do," he said, shaking his head with his eyes close. "You think you do, but you don't. I don't want to hurt you. I could never live with myself if I hurt you."
"Please don't ask me to do it, Nat," he cried. "Please!"
"Okay, Nick. You don't have to do it. We won't go through with it. It's okay. You don't have to do it."
Her words finally got through to him. The tension left his body as he turned to look at her with mournful eyes. Scully wasn't sure if he was grounded in the here and now or if his mind was still several months in the past. She saw a questioning look in his eyes that slowly turned into comprehension. Eventually, he smiled shyly at her and she returned the gesture. She was somewhat apprehensive when he reached a hand out to caress her cheek, but the tender look in his soft, blue eyes made her feel as though she had nothing to fear.
When he leaned in for a kiss, she met him half way. Unlike the passionate, heat-filled kiss of before, this one was considerably more tame, much like two kids testing the waters for the very first time. The results were pretty much the same for Scully. Despite the recent criminal actions and apparent mental dysfunctions of this man, Scully was nonetheless emotionally drawn to him. It didn't even matter if he thought she was someone else. When he gently drew away from her, she trembled slightly, her breathing more pronounced as she awaited a follow-up. When it didn't come as she expected, she lifted her eyes to his and saw that he was staring at her strangely.
"What is it?" Scully asked, fearful that his mind had made another unscheduled detour.
"Did I hurt you?" Nick asked her.
"No. No, I'm fine," Scully replied with a tiny laugh, thinking that he was referring to the kiss.
He shook his head and said, "You're bleeding somewhere. I can smell your blood."
Not exactly the words she expected to hear, but for some reason she thought there might be some truth in them. She examined her hands first and found them to be perfectly fine. Even though it wasn't time for her period, she considered opening her coat and checking for any telltale stains. Before she could even make the attempt, Nick put a finger beneath her chin and lifted it. She felt a bit self-conscious to see that his eyes were focused on her nose, but a few seconds later, she felt something else. A tiny stream of fluid began a downward path from her left nostril towards her top lip. A nosebleed, she thought with little concern. When she reached a hand up to wipe away the blood, Nick grabbed her wrist and held tight to prevent her from interfering with the flow. The sound of a low, animalistic growl caused Scully to recoil in fear, an emotion enhanced by the sight of a pair of feral, gold-tinged eyes glaring back at her. Ready or not, she was about to be introduced to Nick's third personality.
Warning: Possible disturbing imagery concerning the late Dr. Lambert.
Benefis Healthcare Hospital Great Falls, Montana 5:02 a.m.
Mulder was taken to the closest medical facility in the area which happened to be in Great Falls, just south of Black Eagle. Luckily, his head injury turned out to be fairly minor, requiring only three stitches and a couple of Tylenols to ease the pain. After getting patched up, the doctor suggested that he lie down and get some rest. That was the last thing on Mulder's mind at the moment, but he was forced to comply because the world at large still tended to spin a little too fast when he stood. It would be another hour or more before the sheriff would begin the search, so Mulder took full advantage of the temporary bed and blanket he had been given. He was on the verge of dozing off when his cell phone rang. Thankful that he had placed it within easy reach in his shirt pocket, he answered anxiously, fearing bad news already.
"It's me," Frohike's voice came over the line. "Any news on Dana yet?"
"Last I heard, she wasn't dead yet. Have you found anything on Knight?"
"Yeah. I found out that he doesn't really exist."
"He was invented. On the surface, everything looks normal enough until you dig a little deeper. For instance, he has a birth record but no medical history. He has diplomas and degrees, but nothing to verify actual attendance or graduation, not even from the Police Academy. The guy's a chameleon."
"Among other things," said Mulder. "Anything on the alias?"
"Quite a bit. Only De Brabant isn't exactly an alias. It's a charitable foundation that's been around for about half a century. But there is a connection between it and Nick Knight. The warehouse in Toronto where Knight called home was owned by The De Brabant Foundation, and the assets in Knight's bank account were automatically transferred into the foundation's account after the report of his death."
"That's great, Frohike," said Mulder, impressed by the news, but needing more. "Now if you could just tell me something I can use."
"Getting to it. The De Brabant Foundation once owned a good hunk of mountain property in Montana; most of which was donated back to the Native Americans to whom it originally belonged. A small patch, however, still belongs to the Foundation. Tell me where you are and I can fax you a map of the area. Chances are your boy has a little homestead tucked away up there."
"Frohike, I think I'm falling in love with you," Mulder sighed, thankful to have such a useful friend. "Fax what you have to the sheriff's office in Black Eagle. Oh, did you get anything on the other name?"
"Janette du Charme? Nope. Once she left Toronto, she completely disappeared. But before she split, she turned over ownership of the Raven to a guy named Lucien LaCroix, a night time radio squawk jock. After a decapitated body was found on the premises, business at the Raven slacked off considerably. He packed up and vacated the same time as your boy went off the bridge. A week later, LaCroix bought him a house in Winnipeg where it just so happens that fifty thousand dollars of De Brabant Foundation money was transferred into a new account under the name of Nicholas Fletcher. Apparently, he and LaCroix are roomies. That's all I have for now. You want me to keep digging?"
"Yeah, if you don't mind. And can you send me a picture of this LaCroix guy, along with a number I can reach him if you've got it."
"It's on its way. Now you find her, Mulder. You bring our Dana back safe and sound or I'll personally kick your ass from here to Area 51."
"I will find her," said Mulder with grim determination. "Or die trying," he added solemnly before hanging up.
It had to be a trick of the light, Scully thought when she saw the odd glow in Nick's eyes. It was downright eerie the way he was staring at her now, almost as though he was ready to devour her whole right on the spot. She swallowed nervously, then tried to pull her wrist from his grasp, but he held on as firmly as a steel trap. His other hand went to the back of her neck in order to hold her head immobile. Scully thought about fighting. She had been thoroughly trained in self defense, and her knee was already within the perfect striking distance. For some reason, however, she resisted the urge to attack. She found herself relaxing in his hold, drawn into those mesmerizing, golden eyes and actually looking forward to his next move.
When his mouth came down solidly upon hers, she eagerly allowed him full access. As his teeth scraped across her tongue, Scully noticed how abnormally long and sharp his canines seemed. Warning bells went off in the back of her mind, but she chose to ignore them. Perhaps it was the fact that it had been too long since a man had been intimate with her, or maybe Nick Knight was endowed with such powerful pheromones that no woman would have been able to resist him. At the moment, it really didn't matter to Scully why she was drowning in his kisses.
As the bleeding from her nose reached her lips, Nick withdrew his tongue from inside her mouth so he could lick the outside. It should have disgusted her once she realized what he was doing, but instead, Scully found it oddly erotic to know that he was tasting her blood. He growled softly, sounding like a purring lion cub. He lapped at the blood that trickled from her nose for a moment longer, then suddenly stopped and drew back. His eyes were still golden but his expression had changed to a grimace. He released her wrist so he could move his index finger to her face. There was still a small amount of blood making its way south. Nick wiped it up with his finger, then put it to his tongue as though he was sampling a small taste of some homemade sauce. After his taste buds had enough time to register the flavor, his frown grew deeper.
"It's tainted," he spoke in a low, husky voice.
His would-be victim looked at him dumbfounded. "Wh-What?"
"Your blood. It tastes spoiled."
Scully was too stunned to even consider a response. It was just as well, because Nick didn't bother waiting for one. He all but pushed her to the side in his haste to get to the kitchen area and the small, brown refrigerator in the corner. He yanked opened the door and pulled out a dark green wine bottle which he uncorked with his teeth. Spitting the cork carelessly across the room, he upended the bottle and drank from it greedily, heedless of the overflow of crimson running down his chin.
The fact that he had just ingested the blood from her nose and thought it tasted spoiled, Scully chalked up to his mental illness. His vampire teeth could easily be falsies that he had snuck into his mouth with a bit of sleight of hand. The eyes that had changed quickly from blue to an iridescent gold could be the results of some kind of special contact lenses that he wore. There was a perfectly logical explanation for everything. However, as she studied the look of pure ecstasy on his face as he drank from the bottle of what appeared to be blood, Scully was beginning to question her faith in logic.
Nick had consumed half the bottle before finally pausing for a breather. His eyes having returned to their normal hue, timidly shifted in Scully's direction. He could tell by her expression that she knew what was in the bottle, but there still appeared to be some doubt as to whether or not she was willing to believe her own eyes.
"You're probably thinking one of two things," said Nick as he looked from her to his bottle and back again. "You're either thinking that your partner was right about me being a vampire, or that I am a hell of a lot more screwed up than you first imagined."
Scully shrugged lightly. "First of all I was thinking that you need to wipe your chin," said Scully, displaying more calm than she actually felt.
A moment of embarrassment flashed across Nick's face as he quickly wiped his shirt sleeve across his chin. Afterwards, he placed the opened bottle back into the refrigerator, then returned his attention to his guest.
"So, *now* what are you thinking?"
"Well, since I don't believe in vampires, then I'd have to say that you are considerably more unstable than I first perceived."
Nick chuckled lightly. "You don't believe your own eyes, Agent Scully? That's rather a strange attribute for a person in law enforcement, don't you agree?"
"The eyes sometimes have a way of playing tricks on a person. It's referred to as optical illusions."
Denial, Nick thought. He had seen it many times throughout his eight hundred years from people who couldn't handle the fact that creatures such as he existed. Actually, it was for the best. The less she believed and knew about him and his kind, the better off she would be. He walked up to her, noting the wariness in her eyes, looking as though she was ready to defend herself should the need arise. He admired her bravery, just as he had admired Natalie's bravery. This time, he wouldn't make the same mistake.
"It's been a long night, Agent Scully. You're very tired. You're ready to get some sleep now."
The moment he uttered those words, Scully realized how true they were. She was so exhausted, she could barely keep her eyes open. "Yes, I am feeling sleepy," she murmured.
"Before you sleep, keep in mind that you never noticed anything unusual about me. You never saw me drinking blood; I never chased you out into the woods, and your nosebleed never happened. Also, you and I were never intimate. All we ever did was talk. Understand?"
Scully nodded drowsily. "We talked," she repeated his words.
"Now sleep," Nick softly commanded, then caught her as her body went limp. Scooping her up in his arms, he carried her into the bedroom and laid her down on the bed. He still wondered about the odd taste of her blood. The bottled cow's blood had been ambrosia compared to the unexpected sour tang of Agent Scully's blood. Perhaps he'd just imagined the bad taste as an unconscious effort not to drain her. The only other excuse he could think of was that her bloodstream was full of some sort of prescription drug which coincidentally made for the perfect vampire deterrent. He was reminded of the plague which had spread through the vampire community, brought on by an experimental drug for AIDS. It was possible that, as then, he had just exposed himself to something perfectly harmless to humans but deadly to his kind. Secretly, he wished that was the case. Finally, a simple way to put himself out of his misery.
Knowing he shouldn't be thinking such things, Nick concentrated on making Agent Scully comfortable. He decided to leave her with her coat on, then threw his own coat over her for added warmth. After a few moments of deliberating, he started a fire in the pot-bellied stove in the corner. When he had watched her in the living room in front of the fireplace, she never really look like she had gotten sufficiently warm. He wanted her to be comfortable enough to sleep through the day. After getting the fire going, he took a final admiring glance at her, then blew out the candles in the room and closed the door on his way out.
Nick walked out onto the front porch and gazed up at the early morning sky. The sun would be up soon and for once he had a solid reason not to greet it. Without him, Agent Scully would be stranded with no food and no way to make it back to civilization. He had purposely chosen to build the cabin in this area so many years ago because of its seclusion and poor accessibility. Agent Mulder was probably out searching for his partner now, but there was no way he could know exactly where to look. Even LaCroix didn't know about this little hideaway, though it was only a matter of time before he would show up in the general area, once he got wind of the cow killings. As soon as he was in the same city as his offspring, their eternal link would do the rest.
He wasn't ready to face his master yet. There were still so many doubts running through his mind, the main one being whether or not he should continue his existence. He went back inside the cabin and stretched himself out on the sofa. As he awaited sleep, he somberly recalled the events that occurred over a fortnight ago.
Toronto 15 days Earlier
He had gone to her apartment first. Hovering outside the windows and peering into the rooms, he saw only unfamiliar furniture and faces. A husband looked on with love and pride as his wife gave their newborn infant its four o'clock feeding. Nick observed them for several moments, envying their harmonious bliss. Finally, he tore himself away from the window and moved on. Next, he flew to his loft. It looked pretty much the same other than the 'For Sale' signs plastered all over the doors. For some reason, he thought he might find her there. Attaining entrance through the skylight, he found his furnishings covered with sheets to help protect against the dust and cobwebs that abounded. The memories of that night flooded back again, but gone was all the evidence that would tell the tale. Of course, Natalie was dead. He remembered that much, but perhaps he had remembered wrong. Perhaps LaCroix had saved her somehow. It wouldn't be the first time his master had picked up his apparently dead leftovers and brought them across. He had never wanted that for Natalie, and he had to be sure of what had become of her.
Nick left the loft and stopped off at the nearest pay phone. He was careful to disguise his voice as he spoke to the person he considered to be Natalie's closest mortal friend. He pretended to be an old boyfriend of Nat's from her college days, just in town and wanting to say hello. Luckily, Grace still worked the night shift at the morgue, but he had caught her off guard with his inquiry about Natalie. Grace solemnly broke the bad news to him, then told him tearfully about the funeral where the entire 96th precinct and everyone in the Coroners Building had turned out to say farewell to both Natalie and her friend, Detective Knight. Grace was in tears by the time she had finished giving all the details. Nick wasn't far behind, but he managed to thank her for her time and say good-bye before losing his self control.
He didn't remember flying to the cemetery, but he must have because suddenly he was there. He also had no true awareness of digging through several feet of earth with his bare hands until his fingernails scraped the top of the sealed tomb. He was overwhelmed by the desire to see with his own eyes what his brain had already told him was true. Anyone could fake a funeral, however. It didn't mean that a body had actually been buried. He should know. He had faked his own a number of times. A few moments more and he had cleared away the soil and breached the heavy lid of the tomb, pushing it off to the side and exposing the coffin within.
He hesitated opening the lid of the coffin. He wasn't sure he'd find a body inside or not, however, he knew he wouldn't be contented no matter what the findings were. He braced himself as best he could, then quickly threw open the lid. "Oh, God!" he cried out as he viewed the contents. The thick, chestnut curls perfectly framed her heart-shaped face just as they had in life. The undertaker had done a fairly decent job in preserving her features, although the makeup applied was a bit heavier than Nick had ever seen her use. He reached out a hand to stroke her cheek, drawing back instantly at the unnatural feel of her skin. But it wasn't her fault that she was dead, he thought. He was the reason she was here, all alone in the dark. The least he could do was spend a little time with her. Carefully, he shifted her body over some to allow him enough room to stretch out alongside her. Making a nest of her hair, he shut his eyes and rested his head against hers as he placed his arm about her waist.
"I'm sorry, Nat," he apologized meekly. "I know what I promised you. But things didn't go right. Your blood was so sweet. I couldn't get enough of it. And then, I couldn't bring you across. I couldn't turn you into what I am. I... I couldn't do that to you. So I asked LaCroix to destroy me, but he wouldn't go through with it."
Nick raised his head so he could gaze down at her face as he spoke. "He made me forget you, Nat.... It was my idea. I wanted to forget because I didn't want to live with the pain. But then, it all came back to me. I remembered. I came as soon as I remembered."
He pressed his lips against her cheek, then nuzzled his face in her hair. "I miss you so much, Nat. I wish I could see you again, the way you were, just one more time."
As he cuddled with the cold, stiffened remains of his beloved, a thought came to mind. He recalled the Kessle House, a special place where the dearly departed was able to contact the living. While working on an apparent accidental death case with Tracy, he had come across the house reported to be haunted. It turned out to be a portal for spirits to reenter the world of the living. He wasn't sure however if the house was still around. The last he heard, someone had wanted to demolish it and put up a new apartment complex or something. He could only hope that it had not been torn down yet.
Nick looked at Nat again and said, "If I don't see you there, then I'll just come back and spend the day with you, okay?" He kissed her on the lips, then rose up from the grave. Lingering in the sky above for a few moments, he surveyed the damage he'd done to the grave site without actually noticing anything wrong with the whole picture. His only thought just before he flew off was that she was wearing a new dress and that it was quite becoming.
A few minutes later, Nick found himself outside the Kessle House. Looking as spooky as it had the first time he'd seen it, he was nonetheless relieved to discover that it was still standing. Perhaps the city decided it was a historical landmark and worthy of conservation, though it was still in dire need of a paint job. He entered through a side door and paused for a few moments to extend his senses throughout the house. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end as he discerned the presence of the spirits that used the house as a doorway from one world to another. Nick knew he wasn't welcome. The spirits had made it clear once before. But he was willing to brave their wrath for the chance to see her one last time.
He moved up the stairs and into the room where he had first made contact with his wife Alyssa. He instinctively knew that she would not be making an appearance tonight. She had already resolved her issues with him and moved on. He walked over to the window and glanced out, catching a glimpse of a quick moving, shadowy figure in the courtyard. The spirits of those he had wronged in the past and who now sought revenge against him, were slowly closing in. Nick took a deep breath to settle his nerves, then turned his back to the window.
"Natalie?" he called out to the darkness. "Natalie, I'd like to talk to you if you're here." He waited a moment but nothing happened. "All right. You don't have to show yourself if you don't want to. I just wanted to.... I wanted to apologize to you for what I did.... For what I did and for what I didn't do. I made you a promise that I didn't keep. I promised you that no matter what, we'd be together forever. I don't expect for you to forgive my actions. I just wanted you to know that my love for you will never die, and that wherever you are now, I hope you've found peace."
He wanted to say so much more to her, to explain what all had transpired that night and since then, but suddenly, none of it seemed very important anymore. He had wanted some kind of confirmation of what he could expect in the afterlife, but he realized that when people die, they only have their personal beliefs to guide them into the beyond. Natalie had gone into death thinking that they would be together. His own wife had forgiven him for not keeping the same promise to her. Back then, he was an inexperienced vampire who naively thought he knew how to pass on his gift of immortality. Both Alyssa and Natalie had died because they made the mistake of loving and trusting him.
He glanced out the window again, looking upwards this time and saw the full moon shining through. Soon, the sun would be doing the same thing. "It ends here," he spoke aloud to himself. "I won't let anyone else suffer because of me, because of what I am. Forgive me my weaknesses, my selfishness, my arrogance. Forgive me, Tracy... Schanke... Cohen.... Everyone who's ever had the misfortune of knowing me. I'm sorry."
With those final words uttered, he sunk to the floor in front of the window and stretched out with hands folded atop his chest, and his entire body bathed in moonlight. He closed his eyes and waited impatiently for the sun. As he lay there, the images of the people closest to him came to mind. He envisioned Janette and the hundreds of years he had spent loving her, rejecting her, and towards the end, how he had envied her. By some strange twist of fate, she had achieved what he had been seeking for centuries. Perhaps it hadn't been so strange at all. Perhaps it was merely one of the many secrets of being a vampire of which LaCroix had failed to enlighten them. Perhaps Nick could have regained his immortality at any time, only his master had never wanted him to know it was indeed possible.
Try as he might, Nick was unable to keep thoughts of his master out of his head. LaCroix had always insisted that he only had Nick's best interest in mind. All the taunting, the treachery and even the physical abuse had only been his way of nurturing so that his son would develop the proper skills for an eternity of survival in a mortal world. Perhaps in his own twisted way LaCroix did love and care for him. Nick remembered the look in his sire's eyes when he had requested that LaCroix stake him. It was the closest he'd ever seen the old vampire to tears. Even the death of his daughter Divia had not moved him as much. The master vampire - - for whatever his reasons, be it love or obsession -- was not able to fulfill his son's request. It was apparent then that he did not want to bare such a loss. However, wherever he was now, come sunrise, he would feel their connection sever completely, and LaCroix would--
"What are you doing, Nick?"
The voice had startled him badly. He was alert and on his feet in an instant. A pained smiled crossed his face when he saw the nearly transparent image of the person who had spoken.
"Tracy," he whispered, unable to say anything more.
"Just happened to be in the neighborhood, were you?" she asked in the same perky tone he had grown used to. "You know, it's really not a good idea for you to hang around here. There are a few creepy types that remember you from wa-a-a-y back when and are still carrying quite a grudge. But don't worry. I'll be watching your back for you."
"Tracy... you were a good partner," Nick spoke, his voice filled with regret. "I'm sorry. I should have told you what I was. You already knew that vampires existed, so there was no real reason why I shouldn't have confided in you."
"Yeah, it would have been nice to know that my partner felt he could trust me. You know, I kept Vachon's secret pretty well. When he died, I really could have used someone to talk to about it. I was even tempted to tell you anyway, but I figured you'd just think I was crazy."
"I thought LaCroix made you forget."
"He did. But I guess that hypno thing you guys do don't carry over into the afterworld. I remember everything now."
"I never meant to cause you pain, Tracy. I thought..." He faltered, sighing deeply. "It doesn't matter what I thought. I was wrong. I was wrong about a lot of things. But I want you to know that I always thought you were a good partner and friend, and I wish I had done the right thing by you."
"Well, just keep it in mind for your next partner, okay? Oh, by the way, Amanda Cohen sends her best and Schanke wants you to know how much he appreciates you being there for his family and setting up that trust fund for them. He would have come but we only get so many visits and he already used his on Myra and Jenny."
Nick nodded. "Tell him I miss him."
"Will do. And Nick? Lighten up, will you?''
She smiled brightly at him as she began to fade back into the darkness. Nick lowered his head and squeezed his eyes shut to try to hold back the tears. His head jerked back up when he thought of something. "Trace?" he called out, but it was too late. He had wanted to ask her about Natalie. He had to wonder if Natalie had gone to the same place as the others. Hers was the only name Tracy didn't bother to mention. He wondered if she would be able to come to the Kessle House as Tracy had. Then he thought, even if she *could* come to him, why on earth would she want to?
Nick faced the window again, fidgeting impatiently as he glared out at the slowly creeping daybreak. "Come on," he spoke anxiously. "Let's just get this over with."
"What's the big hurry?"
He was nearly too overwhelmed by the sound of her voice to respond, and found it nearly impossible to face her. After taking in a deep breath, he finally found the courage to turn around. Just as Tracy had been, Natalie stood before him as an angelic looking, nearly transparent figure. She appeared younger, slimmer and more beautiful than he had remembered.
He mustered a nervous smile and said, "I didn't think you'd come."
"I wasn't so sure I would," came the blunt reply.
The cold tone of her voice caused him to lower his head in guilt and shift his eyes to the floor. "I don't blame you for hating me, after what I did to you. And I don't mean just that night. Throughout the years we've known each other, there have been times when I didn't always give you the respect you deserved. I had the habit of deciding what was best for you based on my own personal viewpoint. I often put my needs and desires first, and completely ignored yours. And there were times when you needed me to be there emotionally for you, and I don't believe I managed that well either. Saying I'm sorry seems embarrassingly inadequate, but I don't know how else to put it."
Natalie arched her brow and shook her in head in mild amusement. "One thing about you, Nick, you were always good at beating yourself up. In this case, you're right on the mark. Saying you're sorry *is* pretty inadequate. And I won't accept your apology.... That is, not until you accept mine."
He had been so fixated on her remark about not accepting his apology that he nearly missed the rest of her statement. He raised his eyes to hers once it dawned on him what she had said.
"I owe you an apology, Nick. I almost didn't come here because I was ashamed to face you."
"No, Nat. You don't--"
"Let me finish," she cut him off with a firm tone. When she saw that she had startled him into silence, Nat continued with her confession. "When we first met, you warned me what getting involved with you might entail. You tried to scare me off, but I insisted I could handle anything that might arise. You were honest with me from the beginning but I was dishonest with you. I lied about being interested in you only in the scientific sense. I was physically attracted to you from the moment I first laid eyes on you. Which is kind of sick in a way considering you were a fresh corpse in a body bag. But I'd been thinking, wow, what a waste. Why couldn't I have met you when you were alive. Then when you suddenly came to life, I guess I sort of took it as a sign that you had been sent by the powers above.
"When I found out that you wanted to become mortal again, I thought that it would be a good way of getting to know you better and that eventually it might lead to something more. It did in a way. We became close friends, and I suppose I should have been happy with that considering the extraordinary differences in our backgrounds. But I had always felt that there could be more. There were times when I looked into your eyes and I was positive you felt the same way, only you'd had some bad experiences in the past and you were afraid to try again."
"I did love you, Natalie," Nick cut in. "I still do."
Natalie smiled sadly. "I know. Even though you never said the words, I knew it. It was in the way you looked at me, the way you touched me, and all those wonderful hugs and tiny little kisses you'd give me.... I knew. But what I felt for you had taken on a more desperate air. After Schanke and Captain Cohen died in that plane crash, I realized how short my time here on this planet could be. Then when I found out that you had planned to leave town without so much as a good-bye, I think that's when I stopped thinking rationally. I believe that's when I started to become almost like a mortal version of LaCroix."
Nick started to contradict her but Natalie held up a hand to stop him from commenting.
"No, it's true. Just as he believed he knew what was best for you, I began thinking the same way. A prime example was when you lost your memory and I tried to take advantage of that. I refused to tell you what you really were because I had convinced myself that your being a vampire was not so much a physical condition as it was a mental hang-up you had to overcome. As a result, you went outside and was nearly fried by the sun. It was wrong of me to withhold such vital information, but love makes you do foolish things sometimes. A bout of depression can make you do even worse.
"Our last night together, I was suffering from depression over an old friend committing suicide. Top that off with what happened to Tracy and you've got the makings of one non-thinking, irrational individual. All I could think was that Nick could make it all better for me. He could chase away all these negative feelings I have and make my world whole. I pushed you into doing something you didn't want to. Something that you felt was not only wrong but dangerous as well. So your old girlfriend Janette goes away for a little while and comes back as a mortal, saying that it was the results of making love to a mortal and taking only a small amount of his blood.
"The scientist in me should have questioned and analyzed every possible detail available before jumping to conclusions. Maybe what happened with Janette had to do with the fact that she was a female vampire, or that she was two hundred years older than you. Could have been some kind of vampire puberty thing going on with her body. Could be that the guy whose blood she drank had unusual properties to it. I mean, the possibilities are probably endless. But at the time, I didn't care how it may have actually happened. I only knew that it had and I wanted that for you. I wanted you to be mortal. I'm ashamed to say it, but I wanted you to be mortal, not because it's what you've been dreaming of for centuries, but... because I wanted you, and I knew that was the only way I could have you."
"None of that really matters, Nat," said Nick, seeing her brow crinkle in guilt. "It doesn't change the fact that I killed you."
"But it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't pushed you. I backed you into a corner, Nick, and I didn't give you a way out. It was like my wearing a pork chop necklace and going up to a starving lion, then expecting him to just eat the pork chop. And how many times did you tell me, 'No,' and warn me of what might happen? I don't blame you for your actions, Nick. I was dealing with a lot of different emotions and I just wasn't thinking clearly. What occurred that night with us was my own fault."
"But I made you a promise," he reminded her. "I didn't keep it. You asked to be brought across if things went too far. I had the opportunity to do it. There was still enough life left in you, but I...."
"You didn't want me to become the thing you so desperately despised. I know."
"I brought your brother across when you asked me to because I couldn't bare to see you so upset. I was willing to bring Tracy across whether she wanted it or not in order to assuage my own guilt about the shoot-out. But when it came to making that choice for you, Nat.... I just couldn't. It may have been what you thought you wanted but... I loved you too much to condemn you for all eternity to this hellish existence. But I promised to be with you no matter what. I still want to be with you."
"So that's why you're standing in front of the window waiting for the sun to rise?"
"It should be slightly more effective than the last method I tried."
"Did you really expect LaCroix to go through with it?"
"How did you know? Were you still alive?" Nick asked in growing dismay. "You saw?"
"No, no. You tend to know when someone's messing about with your remains. I was at the cemetery earlier when you were.... Come to think of it, just what the heck *were* you doing, Nick? I'd never seen you like that before. As Schanke would put it, you were acting really whacko."
"I know. I was pretty upset when my memories of that night came back. I had amnesia and I had forgotten. LaCroix--"
"I get the picture," Natalie stopped him. "You don't have to say anymore. In other words, all this just hit you like a ton of bricks and you really haven't had time to grieve."
"I've had too much time to grieve already. Eight hundred years of seeing the people that I care for the most, wither and die or fall victim to my beast. I just regret that it's taken me so long to finally reach this decision. A lot of people would still be alive if I had walked into the sun much sooner."
"Are you sure about that? I seem to recall digging a few bullets out of you that had been meant for others. Schanke would have met his end a lot sooner if you hadn't been there for him a couple of times that I can think of. The same goes for Tracy. You also saved Captain Stonetree's life and his career. And you haven't forgotten that little dating fiasco I had with Roger Jameson. During that bombing scare, how many more people do you think would have died if it hadn't been for you getting involved? You've done a lot of good, Nick. You've saved a lot of lives. You just can't save them all. No one can do it all."
"It doesn't matter anymore. None of it matters. It's time to end it."
"Why?" Natalie asked. She saw him cock his head in wonderment at her question. "Why after eight hundred years?" she attempted to clarify her question. "I mean, why haven't you done it before now? What's kept you going all these centuries?"
Nick didn't have a problem coming up with his answer. "Hope," he told her. "The hope that someday I'd find a way to become mortal again."
"Are you saying that you've lost all hope now; despite seeing that it was possible with Janette? Have you forgotten the time you got to walk around in the sun and eat real food? It may have been only temporary, but it was definitely a step in the right direction. I'll tell you where I hid my notes. Maybe you can find someone else to pick up where I left off."
"No!" Nick blurted out. "No, Nat. I won't put another life at risk like that. Besides... I'm tired. I'm just so tired of it all."
"Nick, I know you're hurting, and as bad as your existence seems now, killing yourself will not make it better. Where I am, I'm afraid that you're not welcome. The place where you *would* be welcomed, from what I've heard, you don't want to go."
Nick lowered his head dejectedly and murmured. "Could hell really be any worse?"
"I know that the past couple of years have been tough on you, Nick. You've had LaCroix come back into your life to torment you, and you've watched a lot of friends die, both vampire and mortal alike. You're suffering from depression, and I mean big time. I know what that's like. I should've gotten myself to the nearest therapist for some help, but instead I allowed it to consume me. I don't know if there are any vampire shrinks out there, but it might be a good idea for you to find someone to talk to. If nothing else, at least get away from this city. Go find yourself a nice quiet place to unwind and commune with nature or something. Forget about all the bad times and remember the good ones. We had some good times, didn't we?"
Nick nodded sadly. "We had lots of them, Nat."
Natalie smiled with tears glittering in her pale eyes. "The sun will be up soon. You should leave here before it does."
"Can I see you again, Nat? If I come back here--"
"Don't," she warned with a touch of sternness to her voice. Softening her tone she said, "Let it go, Nick. It's okay to let go."
"I don't think I can," he admitted tearfully, his voice cracking.
"You never know what you can do until you try. Will you please try, Nick? If not for yourself, then do it for me."
Nick nodded slightly. "I can try," he replied half-heartedly.
"Good.... You'd better go now," she said as she began to drift away from him.
He wanted so badly to follow, but knew it was hopeless. "I love you, Nat," he called out to her. "I'll love you forever."
"You see, Nick. You didn't break your promise. We *will* be together forever, in each other's hearts.... Now, go find some happiness and never give up the hope." She blew him a kiss, then faded from sight.
Before he could respond to her final words or her gestured kiss, Natalie was gone. Nick remained rooted to the spot for a moment longer, unwilling to face the rest of his existence without her. But he had made the commitment to try and he knew he owed her that much. As he left the Kessle House on his way to the loft, he made a solemn vow that he'd do his best to honor Natalie's wishes.
Nick's Cabin Oct. 10, 1996 10:22 a.m.
Scully was having a bad dream. In it, she was riding on the elevator at work when the cables broke and the car began plummeting downward. She screamed in terror, fearing a crash landing, when suddenly the elevator slowed its descent and began rising smoothly upwards again. When it got to the top floor, she waited impatiently for the doors to open, but nothing happened. She pushed the button on the panel continuously, then picked up the emergency phone to call for help. Before she could say anything, a man's voice came over the receiver. "You're safe now," he told her, then the line went dead. Scully hung the phone up, feeling somewhat calmed by the voice. She was prepared to simply wait for the doors to open. She just hoped that it would be soon, because it was getting stiflingly hot in the little room. She saw that she was wearing a heavy jacket but couldn't seem to locate the zipper to take it off. She felt as though she would roast alive if she didn't get it off soon.
The overheating of her body finally caused Scully to awaken. It took a few seconds to orient herself to her present situation. She sat up in the bed and pushed off the overcoat that covered her as she took in her surroundings. Besides being warm, the room was also fairly dark. The only light came from the tiny rays of sun peeking through the thin seams of the boards nailed over the window. Scully climbed off the bed, then peeled off her own jacket, finding that she was damp with sweat beneath her flannel shirt. A shower and a change of clothes would be nice but first things first. She found the light switch on the wall and flipped it on. The overhead light brightened the room, then flickered and dimmed slightly, letting her know that the cabin's generator was probably in need of attention.
Scully discovered her personal belongings on the dresser, including her gun. She collected the items and checked the gun, pleased to find it still loaded. She grabbed her jacket, and with the gun in hand, cautiously opened the bedroom door and looked out. There were still two candles burning with perhaps only an inch of wax left on each. Still, they provided enough illumination for her to easily spot her host stretched out on the couch, asleep. Scully watched him from a distance for a moment, then allowed herself to relax and put her gun away. He had done nothing to harm her -- other than kidnap her, that is -- and he had probably only done that out of a desperate desire for companionship and to have someone to talk to. That didn't excuse his actions but it made them understandable.
Scully decided not to disturb his sleep. She tiptoed about gracefully and went into the bathroom, flipping on the switch and getting the same dim lighting as in the bedroom. The bathroom window had also been boarded up, though the cracks were wider and allowed a bit more daylight to pour through. She closed and locked the door behind her, then toed aside the pile of clothing on the floor near the toilet. After relieving herself, she inspected the meager contents of the cabinet and drawers. Besides a lack of toilet paper in the place, she noted there were no first aid items at all to be found, not even a bottle of aspirin. Not much as far as toiletries were concerned either. There was soap and shampoo but little else available for personal hygiene needs. Scully took advantage of the soap, cold water and a clean looking washcloth to wash her face and neck and under her arms. She ran her fingers through her tousled hair, wishing she had brought along a barrette or rubber band for a ponytail.
After sprucing herself up as best she could, she went back into the living room. Nick was still asleep, so Scully decided to quietly check out her surroundings. In one corner of the room, she found a small table with a selection of oil paints and brushes, next to an easel with a canvass turned backwards. She picked up the canvass by the edges and turned it around. There was a photograph attached to the top, left corner of the canvass. It was a picture of Nick and Natalie Lambert apparently snapped during a birthday celebration. Scully studied the snapshot first, then compared it to the image in the painting. Though unfinished, and done in an Impressionistic style, Nick had captured Natalie's likeness quite well.
Scully returned the canvass to its stand, then moved into the kitchen area. She checked the refrigerator for breakfast possibilities, but all that she found were unlabeled wine bottles, two full and one half empty. She didn't bother checking the contents. It wasn't all that surprising to find that Nick had a drinking problem to go along with his depression. Scully checked the cupboards next, hoping to at least find some instant coffee or some canned fruit, but apparently, Nick had not done any grocery shopping in a while. Perhaps he was the type who lived off the land, or maybe the drinking had made him not care about eating. There weren't even any cooking utensils or dishes; only a few cups and glasses.
Leaving the kitchen, Scully moved to the front door and opened it, careful to avoid allowing excessive daylight to enter. Stepping onto the porch, she raised her chin to the warming sun. The temperature was already about fifty-five degrees and would probably make it into the upper sixties as predicted by the weatherman yesterday. Scully stepped off the porch and away from the cabin. There didn't appear to be any established vehicle pathways, or foot trails to follow. There was some cleared land of about a hundred feet squared, but after that, nothing but trees. Scully picked the least dense area and worked her way through the foliage. She made a special effort to leave herself a trail back to the cabin by breaking small limbs on the trees and bushes she passed. After a few moments of traveling, the trees and foliage grew sparse and the terrain beyond became a rocky precipice.
Scully was careful in approaching the edge of the cliff. A cautious glance below revealed a sheer drop of a few hundred feet and a rocky landing. On the other side of the deep chasm were more trees; miles and miles of trees shaping the mountain peaks, and no sign of human inhabitants. Obviously, this wasn't the route to town, so Scully turned around and retraced her steps back to the cabin. Once she entered the clearing, she continued to look around for the trail Nick had used to bring her there. He had to have a vehicle parked somewhere nearby, but after a brief search, Scully finally gave up and returned to the cabin.
Upon entering, she glanced at the couch and found Nick the same as when she had left. As she got herself a glass of water from the kitchen, she considered the fact that her host was nocturnal and was likely to sleep the day away. She sipped her water and moved closer to the couch to look at him. It reminded her somewhat of watching Mulder when he slept. Her partner had a way of looking almost childlike in his sleep. Of course, most of the times Scully had watched him sleep were in the hospital while he was recovering from an on the job injury or some unexplained phenomenon. As she watched Nick Knight, she couldn't help but marvel over how handsome and youthful he appeared. His skin was indecently pale and absolutely flawless with no obvious scars or blemishes. Scully was tempted to caress his face simply to see if it was as soft as it looked, but she was afraid she'd be caught in the act. She could just as easily be caught staring. He could open his eyes at any time and catch her standing there gawking.
Although she finally managed to tear her eyes away from his face, they still didn't leave his form. She gazed up and down his blue jean clad figure, very much impressed by his well-toned physique. His jeans fit a bit loosely which made her think he had lost weight recently. No wonder, with no food in the place and only wine to live on. Out of nowhere, a mental picture entered her mind of that firm, trim body pressed hotly against hers, his arms encircling her and their lips locked in a passionate kiss. She quickly shook the image out of her head, having no idea what could have possibly spawned the notion in the first place. Yes, he was an attractive man, but she'd met handsome men before. She even worked side by side with one, and not once had she envisioned such graphic desires. Well, with Mulder, she really couldn't afford to let her mind travel in that direction. With Nick, however, she couldn't help but wonder how things might have been if she had met him under more normal circumstances.
Scully sighed at the futility of such thinking and was about to turn away from him when she noticed how his body was positioned. He lay flat on his back with his arms folded and hands lying crisscrossed atop his chest. It was the way she'd seen many a dead body positioned for burial. It was also the position she'd seen a few suicide victims assume once they had ingested a lethal dose of something to end their life. Scully became instantly concerned when that thought crossed her mind. She began to study Nick in a more professional manner. She stared intently at his chest, waiting for it to rise and fall with the pattern of his breathing, but it didn't.
Scully stepped closer, picked up his wrist and held it lightly between her fingers. She was dismayed at the iciness of his skin and lack of a pulse. Her hand then went to his throat, searching again for a pulse but coming up blank. Dropping to her knees in front of him, she moved his hands aside and pressed her ear against his chest, listening carefully for even the faintest of heartbeats. Her own heart sank when she couldn't detect either a beating heart or a sign of breathing.
"No!" she whimpered woefully, lifting her head and gazing sadly down at him. "What happened? What did you do?" She glanced around for any sign of a drug overdose. There were no empty pill bottles, stray tablets or suicide note to be found. She checked his pockets, then ran her hands beneath him and between the seat cushions of the sofa, but still came up empty. She looked at his face again and saw how serene his features appeared. It looked as though he had died peacefully in his sleep. Scully contemplated trying CPR on him, but figured that he was more than likely this way even before she had awaken and way too much time had now passed since then. Even if she was able to get a pulse, his brain would have undoubtedly suffered irreversible and severe damage from lack of oxygen.
Scully placed the hands of the deceased back into their original position then slowly rose and went into the bedroom to get something to cover him with. Grabbing Nick's overcoat, she went back into the living room and threw the coat over the body, although she hesitated in covering his face. She'd seen dead many times and in many ways. It was usually bloody, often grotesque, and never very pretty, until now. In fact, he was beautiful, a descriptive term Scully had never really associated with men, much less a dead one. She sat down on the edge of the couch near his waist and reached her hand out to caress his cheek with the back of her fingers. He was ice cold to the touch but his flesh was surprisingly soft.
"I know you were in a good deal of emotional pain," she spoke to him in a near whisper. "I'm sorry I didn't get the chance to help you, but... well, I hope you've found peace now." She heaved a deep sigh before finally withdrawing her hand and pulling the top of the coat slowly over his face. She sat a moment longer, silently offering a prayer over the remains, then found herself wiping away the tears that suddenly flooded her eyes. She'd only known him a few hours, but in that brief amount of time, she'd made a connection with him and therefore found his passing a bitter blow.
After a few more minutes of mourning, Scully finally rose to her feet and began to ponder her own fate. She regretted that she never got any information from Nick as to their present location or in which direction civilization lay. She vaguely recalled him warning her that it could be potentially dangerous for her to travel alone during the day because of the treacherous terrain, and from what little she'd seen thus far, she had no reason to doubt him. Whether or not he truly intended to escort her back to town, she had no way of knowing; but she honestly didn't believe that he had planned on dying and leaving her stranded.
Scully did a thorough search of the cabin, seeking a map and any useful camping equipment. She came up empty on both accounts with not so much as a compass or canteen. It didn't make sense that someone living in the woods would do so without the basics for wilderness survival. Then again, Nick Knight's brain had not been functioning on all cylinders. He had been thinking kill a cow, kidnap the first woman he sees and bring her up to the cabin so she could keep him company. She doubted that he had ever meant her any harm. He had been lonely, confused and simply in desperate need of human contact. Not that any of that mattered now.
Scully grabbed the wine bottles from the refrigerator and placed them on the counter. She could use them to store water for her trek down the mountain. One bottle was half empty and already open, so she chose it to start with. She poured the contents down the sink and frowned when she realized what was being disposed. Cow's blood, she thought, disgustedly. Unfortunately, there was no detergent and no pots she could use to boil water and sterilize the bottles.
"Great!" she hissed. "Just great." She sighed despairingly and said, "Okay, Mulder, anytime you want to come and rescue me, I'm ready."
As she stood at the sink trying to come up with a way she could ensure herself some safe drinking water for her trip, a distant sound from outside demanded her attention. She knew instantly what it was and what it meant. Excitedly, she ran out onto the porch and looked skyward. She realized that she didn't even have to bother to signal because the helicopter was headed straight in her direction. As it neared, she stepped off the porch and waved her arms in recognition of being rescued.
There didn't seem to be enough room for the helicopter to land safely, but the pilot was either highly experienced and confident or just insane enough to give it a try. Scully had to duck back inside the cabin as the chopper blades kicked up debris and threatened to clip the tops of nearby trees. After a couple of moments, the engine cut off and the whirling sound of rotating blades began to die down. Scully ventured back outside just as someone was getting off the copter. She had expected to see her partner headed towards her, but instead it turned out to be Sheriff Wilkes, carrying a backpack.
"Sheriff Wilkes, I'm glad to see you," Scully greeted him with relief.
"Well you're a sight for sore eyes yourself, Agent Scully. Are you all right? You're not injured anywhere, are you?"
"No. I'm fine. Is Mulder with you?"
"No, ma'am, but he sure did want to come. He got him a little concussion, -- nothing too serious, mind you -- but he's not exactly up to flying at the moment."
"How did you know where to find me?"
"You got your partner to thank for that. I'm still not sure how he did it. He made some phone calls and pulled a rabbit out of the hat. We would have been here sooner but we had problems getting hold of a pilot."
"I'm glad you showed up when you did. I was just about ready to attempt to find my own way down the mountain."
"The guy that kidnapped you, where's he now?"
Scully glanced ruefully towards the open door of the cabin. "He's inside. He died in his sleep."
"I'll be damned," the sheriff grunted. "Your partner pegged that one too."
"Agent Mulder said that I'd likely find the kidnapper looking a little lifeless. He had me to bring along a couple body bags."
"Yeah. He wants me to double-bag the guy before transporting him. He wants the body protected against sunlight. He also wants me to throw in some fresh garlic and duct tape this to the body." The sheriff reached into the backpack and pulled out an eight- inch, wooden cross. "You got any idea why your partner would insist on something like this?"
Scully nodded once and blew out a sigh. "I'm afraid so."
"You mind sharing with me?"
"Frankly, Sheriff, I don't think you really want to know."
Sheriff Wilkes chuckled lightly and shook his head. "Now you know, that's spooky. That's exactly what your partner told me. Sounds like you two have been together a little too long."
"Yeah, tell me about it." --------
Black Eagle Sheriff's Office 1:15 p.m.
Mulder had been waiting anxiously for news about Scully's rescue, and when word came over the radio that she had been found alive and well, he nearly cried with joy. After speaking to her briefly, he finally allowed himself to relax and take Deputy Carter's advice about lying down and getting some rest. He napped in one of the cells for nearly an hour until the deputy came to wake him as promised with news of Scully's return. Deputy Carter drove him the quarter of a mile out to the helicopter landing field, arriving just as the blades of the copter were slowly coming to a halt. The sheriff stepped off first, then turned to help the female passenger off.
Though he was tempted to run, Mulder walked casually towards them. Scully met him half way, a heartwarming smile stretching across her face as she drew near. She fell easily into his opened embrace and gave as good a hug as she received. Mulder pulled away much too soon and looked her up and down.
"Are you sure you're all right?" he asked while simultaneously checking her neck for bite marks.
"Mulder, I'm fine. How did you know where to find me?"
"I had Frohike run a background check on an alias Knight gave me just before he departed with you. Turns out he owns a few acres of land up there. Did he try anything with you?"
"No. He was... he was a perfect gentleman." She looked back sadly at the helicopter as the body bag was being unloaded and transferred to a waiting ambulance. "When I woke up, I found him lying on the couch, dead. I'm thinking that maybe he suffered a brain aneurysm."
Mulder shook his head. "He's not dead."
"Mulder, I know dead when I see it. He has no heartbeat or pulse, there's no breathing, and he's ice cold."
"Okay, maybe he *is* dead but not how you think. Excuse me a sec." Mulder went over to talk to the sheriff for a moment and was given his backpack. He took a peek inside the bag, then exchanged a few more words with the sheriff before shaking his hand in gratitude and walking away. "They'll be keeping Knight on ice at the hospital morgue in Great Falls," he said upon returning to his partner. "I told the sheriff not to worry about the autopsy. That you and I will handle things from here on out."
"Mulder, I'd rather not be the one to perform the autopsy on him."
"You won't have to. I just wanted to make sure no one else would."
"You don't want an autopsy done?"
"Well, if he's indeed what I think he is, an autopsy would only piss him off."
"You're not still going on about the vampire thing, are you?"
"Scully, I saw him. I saw him make the change. The glowing eyes, the fangs. I saw him fly."
"You saw him fly?" Scully questioned skeptically.
"You don't remember, do you? I could tell he had you under some kind of trance. When I tried to get him to let you go, he picked me up by my neck and flung me like a rag doll into the fencing. Then he just held onto you and flew straight up."
"The sheriff told me that you got conked on the head," Scully stated, feeling as though that explained things.
"I'm not imagining things, Scully. That's not a dead body they've got there, it's a sleeping vampire. Look, you don't have to believe me. You'll see for yourself when he wakes up."
"Mulder, as much as he's been handled, if he was going to wake up, he would have done so by now, don't you think?"
"You taped the cross to his chest before you attempted to move him, right?"
"Making sure it didn't make contact with his skin, as per your instructions, yes."
"Well, that was a precaution. From some of the vampire lore I've read, religious symbols can act as a restraint to keep a vampire completely immobile. So even if he does wake up, he'd be paralyzed until the cross is removed. I talked to Captain Reese again and he said that they always had a tough time trying to get a call through to Knight during the day. I'm guessing that means he's a pretty heavy sleeper and probably won't be waking until right around dusk."
"Mulder..." Scully started to argue the insanity of his theory but knew it was a useless gesture. "Whatever. Right now, I'm hungry and I need to shower. So can we just...."
"Sure. This way." He gently took her arm and guided her towards a waiting patrol car and a deputy who was more than happy to drop them off at their motel.
"So, you don't remember him transporting you to the cabin?" Mulder asked as he relaxed in the back seat of the patrol car next to his partner.
Scully shook her head slightly. "No, I don't. I remember going out to the corral, looking for you, and the next thing I know, I'm waking up in bed with...."
"I uh... I'm not really sure. Some of it seems almost like a dream. I think he was holding me."
"I woke up and he was lying on the bed with me in his arms."
"Damn pervert is what he was," came the voice of disgust from the man in the driver's seat. "No telling what he might've done to you if he hadn't croaked first," Deputy Carter continued. "I know it's none of my business, ma'am but are you sure you wouldn't want to be examined by a doctor? Considering you were unconscious and all for a spell. You know what I mean?"
"Thank you for your concern, Deputy, but, I really don't think that's necessary."
"The deputy might have a point, Scully. If you can't remember what all went on, it might be a good idea to get yourself checked out. You could have been drugged or exposed to something. After all, the guy did have a blood fetish, and it might not have all been from cows."
Scully considered the words carefully, knowing that if their positions had been reversed, she would have insisted that Mulder seek medical attention. As the patrol car pulled up in front of the motel, Scully found herself agreeing with her partner. "You're right, Mulder. I think maybe I should get a quick physical, just in case. But I'd like to eat and get cleaned up first."
The agents climbed out of the patrol car and waved their thanks to the deputy. "He didn't sexually molest me, Mulder," Scully blurted out as she walked alongside him towards their rooms. "I'd know if he had."
Mulder simply nodded. Of course, she knew her body better than he. "So when you woke up, he was holding you?" he asked.
"Not me exactly. I believe that he thought he was holding Natalie Lambert one last time. I think they did have a suicide pact going. Only it was her idea and she goaded him into going along with it. He blamed himself for her death and he felt guilty because he survived. He was deeply in love with her. "
Mulder fished a key out of his pocket and unlocked the door to Scully's room. "How does the killing of cows fit in?" he asked as he allowed her to enter first.
Scully stepped into the room and headed straight for the bathroom. She reached into the shower and turned on the water so that it would have sufficient time to heat. She then turned her attention to Mulder who stood leaning against the dresser.
"Nick didn't remember killing the cows. He was suffering from blackouts. He said he became someone else."
"Someone named Nicholas de Brabant?"
"Yes. I think that's the name he used."
"That's the vampire, Scully. The one that took you."
"Nick said that this other personality killed the cows to draw attention to himself. He wanted some family member to find him."
Mulder pulled a photocopy picture from his pocket and showed it to her. "Lucien LaCroix. Don't know what relationship he is to Knight but they were roomies in Winnipeg after leaving Toronto."
Scully studied the picture and frowned, "I wouldn't want to bump into him on a dark night."
"Neither would I. Something tells me, he doesn't settle for cow's blood."
"Oh, so he's a vampire too, is that it?"
"Doesn't he look like one?"
"I'm going to go take my shower now. I know I must smell and look hideous."
"You smell pretty much like I do and you look like...." He was going to say that she looked like hell, but quickly reevaluated her appearance. Considering that a few hours ago, he wasn't sure he'd ever see her again, at least not alive, she was truly a beautiful sight to behold.
"I look like what?" she asked when he had failed to complete the statement.
"A million dollars in change."
"Yeah. A zillion bright, shiny coins. You have to admit, that'd be an awesome sight."
"You know what you look like?"
"Like someone with a mild concussion who's been up all night worrying himself half to death."
"Do I look hungry too?"
She patted his stubble-covered cheek. "Go get rid of that and I'll meet you in half an hour in the cafe."
Benefis Healthcare Hospital Great Falls, Montana 4:22 p.m.
Over a late lunch, Mulder and Scully traded information each had gathered on the mysterious Nick Knight. After their meal, they stopped by the sheriff's office to file paperwork, and later, went to the hospital so Scully could get her check up. As he waited for his partner, Mulder catnapped right outside the morgue, wanting to keep an eye on Knight. After taking a cursory exam and giving up some blood samples to be tested later, Scully went in search of her partner. She found him in the hallway directly across from the morgue, asleep in a chair with his arms folded loosely over the backpack he was holding and his head resting against the wall behind him. Scully walked up to him and with devilishly intent, ran her fingernails along Mulder's exposed neck. He jumped awake in a moment of panic, nearly falling off the chair.
"It's okay, it's okay!" Scully soothed him. "It's just me."
"That wasn't funny," Mulder huffed as he stood and collected his cool.
"Actually, it was," Scully grinned. "Why don't you go back to the motel and get some sleep?"
"No, I'm wide awake now," he said as he slipped his backpack over one shoulder. "How'd your exam go?"
"Fine. Nothing unusual to report. The results from the blood tests will be back later. Urine tests show no drugs in my system, so whatever he used to put me to sleep has apparently already worked its way out. And in case you were wondering, no bite marks were found."
Mulder nodded his head, obviously relieved to hear the news. "Good."
Scully glanced towards the closed doors of the morgue, and asked, "So now what?"
Mulder checked his watch before answering. "Still got a while before sunset, but I guess it wouldn't hurt to check and see if he's awake."
Scully started to make a comment but knowing it would go unheeded, decided to save her breath. She lead the way into the morgue, introduced herself to the attendant on duty and was given complete access to the remains of Mr. Nicholas Knight. Mulder slipped off his backpack then stood with his hand inside one of the pockets, prepared to pull out something in defense should the need arise. Scully tried to ignore his overly cautious behavior as she pulled open the drawer containing Knight. The body was still cocooned within the two body bags. Scully unzipped the first bag to reveal the second bag and the strong odor of garlic.
"I'll hold on to that," said Mulder as he grabbed the wreath of garlic he'd had Sheriff Wilkes tuck into the bag.
"You know, Mulder, I've seen enough vampire movies to know that when a vampire kidnaps a woman, it's usually so she can become his next meal or his mate. Neither of those things happened to me. The man was lonely and he wanted someone to talk to. That was all we did. That was all he wanted."
"That was all Nick Knight wanted. Nicholas de Brabant, on the other hand, wanted something different, only Knight somehow kept him from resurfacing and carrying out his plans."
"Right," Scully sighed. She then unzipped the second bag and gazed in wonder at the dead man who still looked as though he was about to awaken at any moment.
"I don't mean to sound like some kind of morbid pervert," said Mulder, "but that is undoubtedly the best looking dead guy I've ever seen." He reached out and timidly lifted up a finger on the corpse's hand, then let go of it to see what would happen. It flopped easily back to its original position. "Still no sign of rigor mortis."
"Rigor mortis usually takes five to six hours to set in, but he's been refrigerated for a while, so it could take a bit longer." Inwardly, Scully thought that the man before was indeed looking a bit too good to be dead. Compelled by the need to satisfy her own doubts, she scrounged around for a stethoscope, then prepared to remove the wooden cross which had been duct taped with a single strip to the front of his shirt.
"Don't take it all the way off," Mulder warned her.
She gave her partner a dirty look but humored his wishes once again. She unbuttoned Nick's shirt and peeled back just enough to place the stethoscope over his heart. She listened intently for several seconds, then checked his eyes for any reaction to light. "Nothing," she announced, sounding rather disappointed. "Absolutely no sign of life, Mulder."
"Not as we know it, at any rate," said Mulder. "I wonder."
"What do you say, we get an EEG done on him." "You want to do an electroencephalogram on a dead man?" "No, on a vampire. Look, there have been plenty of documented cases of people mispronounced dead because outwardly they're showing all the visual signs of death, while internally, their brains are still functioning. I think if you'd just take a look, you'll find that Knight's brain isn't quite as relaxed as the rest of him. Scully, this may be the only chance you'll have to examine him and see what makes him tick. He might not be so cooperative once the sun goes down."
Of course, Scully didn't believe in vampires or that Nick Knight was one, but for some reason, she didn't want to believe that he was dead and gone, and nothing could be done about it. There was something other than her partner's enthusiasm that made her cave in and agree to bringing in an encephalograph machine and applying electrodes to Nick's temples. When she turned on the machine, she was rather disappointed that the graph showed nothing happening.
"I don't know what I was thinking, listening to you, Mulder," said Scully as she stared at the straight line on the graph. "Maybe I should hook this thing up to you to see if *you've* got any actual brain activity going on."
"Ha ha," Mulder faked a laugh and stepped closer. "Maybe he needs some kind of outside stimulus. "Mr. Knight?" Mulder called out to him but got no response.
Scully picked up Nick's left hand, noticing the iciness of it along with a pliant softness that should not be still present after all this time. Remembering how he had held his arm in pain as they had talked earlier, Scully wondered about the wound he had hid from her. She unbuttoned the cuff of his shirt and peeled back the sleeve to reveal a swollen and bruised area beneath his forearm.
"What is it?" Mulder asked when he saw her examining the arm.
"He had complained about picking up a splinter. It looks infected," she noted as she prodded the afflicted area with her finger,
She looked up, then to the EEG machine where her partner directed her attention. There was a sudden spike in the graph.
"Oh my god... he's alive!"
Mitch, the attendant on duty, had returned just in time to hear Scully's exclamation that the stiff in drawer number ten was alive. He rushed over and gazed down at the electroencephalograph results.
"That's weird," he said. "It's only one spike though."
"It was a reaction to pain," Scully explained. She decided to test her theory once more by pressing her finger into the infected area of Nick's arm again. The electroencephalograph spiked and continued to draw similar spikes as long as she applied pressure to the arm. Scully reached a hand into her shoulder bag and pulled out a pair of tweezers. "Mitch, can you get me some antiseptic and a bandage, please?"
"Sure." Mitch quickly retrieved the items she requested.
"What are you going to do?" asked Mulder.
"This," said Scully as she deftly probed the small wound on Nick's arm and removed the tiny but troublesome splinter embedded in his flesh.
Mulder noticed the constant movement on the graph as the splinter was removed and his partner proceeded to clean and bandage the area. Once the doctoring had been completed, the pattern on the graph faded to a simple line.
"Wow! I ain't never seen nothing like that before," said Mitch in total awe. "I guess he's got to be alive if he was able to feel that. I suppose we better get him up to the ER then."
When Mulder blurted out the word, "No!" both Mitch and Scully glared at him, waiting for an explanation as to why they shouldn't be racing the patient to the emergency room. Mulder grabbed Scully by the arm and pulled her away so he could talk to her privately.
"Scully, you can't take him to the emergency room. Haven't you been listening to me? The man is a vampire. You take him into the ER with a lot of bleeding patients and blood-soaked doctors all over the place, he's liable to wake up and go into an uncontrollable feeding frenzy. Now, he's going to be waking up in a couple hours anyway. Can't we just wait?"
"Mulder... okay let's just say for the sake of argument that he *is* a vampire. You said so yourself that this might be my only chance to see what makes him tick. I'd like the opportunity to examine him as thoroughly as possible. Do you have a problem with that?"
Seeing the unwavering determination in her eyes, Mulder wisely chose not to oppose her. "No, I don't have a problem with that."
Scully gave a simple nod, then walked back over to Mitch. "I need you to bring in a gurney. We're going to take him upstairs and have him admitted for tests and observation."
When the attendant set off for the gurney as requested, Mulder approached his partner. He watched in silence as she disconnected the wires of the EEG machine and prepared to put it away. "Will you do me one favor and keep that cross in place while you're doing your tests?" he asked.
Scully studied her partner closely for a moment, then said, "You really believe you saw him fly?"
Mulder nodded. "How else do you think he got you up to his cabin? The sheriff told me that they didn't spot any roads leading up there and no sign of a trail leading away from the place. He *had* to have flown you in."
"Maybe what you saw was us being hoisted up by a helicopter hovering high above. Maybe the same way I was taken off that mountain was the same way I got there."
"You're really reaching for it there, Scully," Mulder chuckled mockingly.
"Well, I'm reaching for what makes sense, Mulder. And what makes sense is that this man was in a car accident and probably suffered some form of trauma to the brain, which has gone without treatment for too long and has manifested itself into this very unique comatose state we're witnessing now. He mentioned that he had been having some severe headaches and he agreed with me about coming in for x-rays and a CT scan."
"He actually agreed to that?"
Scully thought about that for a second, then shrugged. "Well... he never disagreed."
Mitch returned with a gurney, and as he parked it next to the not quite dead body, he questioned Scully. "Does this guy have insurance? They're kind of funny around here about bringing back the dead and not getting paid for it."
"He doesn't need insurance," said Mulder. "He's filthy rich."
"He is?" asked Scully with surprise.
"Nick Fletcher alias Nick Knight, alias Nicholas de Brabant, multimillionaire. He owns the mountain you were on."
"Filthy rich?" Mitch echoed. "That's good enough for me. Let's do it!"
Mitch helped to transfer Nick from the morgue slab to the gurney, leaving behind the body bags. Luckily, it was a slow night in the emergency room and a young resident took a personal interest in the case. Dr. Winetraub, naturally, had never seen anything like it before and agreed with Dr. Scully in getting x- rays taken right away. In only a few minutes, they each stood completely dumbfounded in front of the developed x-rays of Nick's brain.
"If this guy isn't really dead, he ought to be," Dr. Winetraub marveled over the sight.
"It's amazing," Scully concurred. "It's hard to believe he's been fully functioning all this time."
"Is that what I think it is?" asked Mulder as he stepped up behind the two medical experts and studied the x-rays attached to the lighted view box.
"If you're thinking bullets," Scully replied, "I'd say yes. I'm guessing that these three entered the brain at the same time and about the same angle, though I've yet to find a point of entry. The other smaller dots you see are fragments of a fourth bullet."
"There was a report that Knight had been shot in the head last year while on duty. The shooter used cop killer ammo. Knight was at first pronounced dead, but when he miraculously pulled through, they changed the story to say that he only received a flesh wound."
"I've seen the kind of damage those type of bullets can inflict," said Dr. Winetraub. "If this guy was hit with one, his brain would have been Swiss cheese. Still, what I'm seeing now doesn't make sense. It looks as though each tiny fragment has been encased in its own little protective sac."
"And the fluid in the sacs are causing the fragments to disintegrate," Mulder offered his opinion. "Notice the edges are completely smooth as though they're being worn away. The same thing is happening with the other three bullets. Only instead of three, small individual sacs, he's produced one large, kidney- shaped sac to accommodate all three bullets."
"And because of the shape and size, it's causing abnormal pressure to build up in other parts of the brain," Scully added. "That could easily account for his irrational behavior of late, not to mention his current condition."
Dr. Winetraub voiced his thoughts. "I'll tell you, Dr. Scully, normally I'd say that Mr. Knight is a candidate for immediate brain surgery, only I honestly don't think it'd do much good."
"Why wouldn't you think surgery would help?"
"Well, he's not breathing. And you say he's been that way all day. I don't have to tell you that severe brain damage can occur within a few minutes from lack of oxygen."
"Yes, of course, I am quite aware of that, but as impossible as it seems, his brain appears to be the only part of him that's actually functioning. I've established the fact that he's capable of experiencing and differentiating between pain and relief. Perhaps if we could get a specialist in to look at him?"
"Does he have any next of kin?"
"Yes, but we haven't been able to make contact yet. We know that he *does* happen to be a very wealthy man, not that it should influence the quality of care he receives."
"Then why did you bring it up?"
"Just in case it does." Scully gave the young doctor a knowing glare which worked wonders.
"Tell you what. Let's go ahead and get him set up in a room, and I'll make some phone calls and see if I can't get someone a bit more knowledgeable in this field to take a look."
"Thank you, Dr. Winetraub."
As Dr. Winetraub turned away to speak with a nurse, Mulder gently took Scully by the arm and escorted her out of radiology into the hallway next to where Nick's gurney was parked.
"Dr. Scully, I have a quick question for you," Mulder spoke keeping his voice low. "Are you out of your mind?"
"Scully, why won't you believe your own eyes? A man is lying right in front of you with all the classic symptoms of death, only he's not dead. He's been walking around with four bullets in his brain and no sign of an entry wound. You want to know why? Look at his arm, the one where you pulled the splinter out. Go ahead. Look."
Feeling him nudge her with his intense stare, Scully slowly reached for Nick's arm and gently lifted one edge of the bandage. After taking a cursory glance, she pulled the bandage off completely and gasped at her findings. Gone was all sign of swelling and discoloration that had been there before. The previously deformed flesh and skin was now as flawless as the rest of him.
"He's self-healing," Mulder told her. "Ask yourself why a minuscule splinter like that would have caused such a nasty wound in the first place. Because it was wooden, Scully. A tiny, wooden stake driven through the flesh of a vampire."
Scully became flustered by the realization that her partner just might be right. "Mulder, I.... I don't.... I don't care *what* he is. Maybe you're right. Maybe his body *is* healing itself." As she continued to speak to her partner, Scully's attention focused on Nick, her hand absently began to stroke his blonde curls. "Perhaps in time, months or years, those bullets in his brain will totally dissolve and they'll be no signs that they were ever there. Maybe in just a few hours or days, that tumor will shrink and the pressure will decrease, and the headaches and confusion he's experiencing now will be history. But right now, he's suffering. Vampire or not, I can't just stand by and do nothing."
Mulder placed himself in Scully's view by leaning over the gurney and turning his head in her direction. His sudden closeness forced her to look him in the eye. It was only then did she become aware of her intimate contact with Nick and she jerked her hand away from him. She was saved from dealing with her partner's intense gaze when an orderly came along and took hold of one end of the gurney.
"Excuse me folks, but I have to take Mr. Knight to his room now."
The agents stepped aside so the orderly could do his job. They silently followed behind the young man as he wheeled the gurney down the corridor. The ride on the elevator up to the third floor, was also in silence. The orderly met up with a nurse who barred the visitors from entering until she'd had a chance to get the patient settled.
"Nurse, it's very important that you leave that cross that's taped to his shirt, right where it is," Mulder warned. "And don't open the window blinds. He's allergic to sunlight." The nurse gave him a peculiar look, then simply nodded her understanding before closing the door. Mulder turned to his partner who was leaning with folded arms against the opposite wall. "Are you okay?" he asked.
"Why wouldn't I be?"
"Downstairs, you seemed a bit... I don't know how to put it exactly. You seemed really concerned about him."
"Aren't *you* concerned?" Scully replied rather defensively. "Isn't that why we came to Montana in the first place; to find him and offer our help?"
"Did something happen up at his cabin that you're not telling me, Scully?"
"I told you, Mulder, all we did was talk. Nothing else happened."
"How do you know? You don't even remember how you got there. He made you forget."
"Oh yeah, that's right," Scully spoke in a mocking tone. "Vampires can mesmerize their victims. I forgot about that one."
Mulder chuckled lightly. "You still don't believe. I bet he could sprout fangs and drink blood right in front of you and you still wouldn't believe he's a vampire."
An image of Nick as Mulder had just described flashed in her mind, causing her to shudder. She quickly shook the thought from her mind and looked up at her partner towering above her. "I believe what you said about him waking up soon. I'm not sure why I believe, but I do. And I also believe that he will need surgery to remove those bullets so that he can return to living his life normally, whatever normal happens to be for him. And finally, I believe that whatever or whoever Nick Knight really is, basically he's a good, decent and very caring individual."
"Must have been a hell of a conversation you two had."
Scully reflected on the different topics discussed for a moment, then stated softly, "It was." She checked her watch for the time and surprised Mulder when she informed him that they still had more than half an hour till sunset. "We've got time for a cup of coffee," she added. "What do you say?"
"You go on. I'll stay and keep an eye on our friend."
"All right. I'll stop off and check with Dr. Winetraub to see what he's found out regarding a specialist. Be back in a few."
As his partner went in search of coffee, Mulder waited patiently outside Nick's room. After a few minutes more, the door opened as the nurse held it for the orderly to wheel out the empty gurney. In passing, the nurse gave him the okay to visit. Mulder entered Nick's room and closed the door behind him. He was pleased to see that the nurse had followed his instructions and kept the window blinds closed, but as he approached the bed, he saw that his other warning had gone unheeded. Nick was no longer dressed in his own clothes. He wore only a hospital gown, covered to the waist by a sheet.
Mulder stepped cautiously up to the right side of the bed and pulled his backpack from his shoulder. He unzipped one of the pockets of the bag, reached inside and pulled out two pairs of handcuffs. Resting the bag lightly on the bed, Mulder took one pair of the handcuffs and as stealthily as possible, clicked it onto Nick's right wrist. At the instant he attached the other end of the cuffs to the bed railing, he heard a low growl. Before he could react, a blur of motion caught him by the throat and pulled him downwards to face the golden eyes and fangs he had encountered once before.
"Mulder, isn't it?" the same menacing voice hissed in his face.
The iron grip around his throat allowed Mulder just enough leeway to gasp for air and sputter a few words. "I'm flattered... you remembered."
"Oh, I never forget the face of a potential meal."
Mulder used one hand to try in vain to break the iron hold on his neck. His other hand was fumbling for one of the zippers on his backpack. "If you're hungry," he gasped, "I... brought the... bottles from your cabin."
"What makes you think I want that bovine swill? I prefer the good stuff. Your heart *does* pump the good stuff, doesn't it, Mulder? I hope you don't taste like your unappetizing partner, but I guess there's only one way to find out."
Mulder's eyes went wide at the insinuation that the vampire had tasted the blood of his counterpart. However, there was no time to dwell on that. He was positive he was about to become dinner. He actually felt the sharp tip of one fang as the vampire sought to rip his collar out of the way. Mulder's hand was frantically reaching inside the backpack seeking and then finding what he hoped would save his life. He grabbed the wreath of garlic and quickly shoved it in his attacker's face. The effects, thankfully, were immediate. When the choking hand fell away from his throat, Mulder quickly rushed to the window and opened the blinds. Hoping to find the protective rays of an evening sunset, he was disappointed to find only a darkening, cloudy sky.
When he looked back, he was not only relieved but also surprised to find that the vampire had been completely incapacitated. Mulder loosed his collar and tie as he stood with his back against the window, laboring to catch his breath. He watched as Nick lay writhing on the bed, the garlic wreath acting as an immovable weight on his chest and an ugly rash forming on his skin wherever the garlic had made contact He attempted only once to grab it with his free hand, but the stinging sensation he incurred, forced him to let go instantly. He twisted his head left and right, in a useless bid to avoid the pungent fumes that burned his eyes and caused swelling in his throat.
Cautiously, Mulder moved towards him, carefully measuring just how safe it was to do so. The eyes were still golden but no longer menacing in appearance. Instead, they reflected a piteous expression of helplessness and anguish. Mulder knew surrender when he saw it. Nick watched him, unable to speak, he pleaded silently for assistance. Mulder braced himself with a deep breath, then returned to the bed. Nervously, he picked up the other handcuff and used it on Nick's left wrist, meeting with no resistance whatsoever. After securing the handcuff to the bed rail, Mulder timidly reached for the garlic wreath. A low growl caused him to draw back, but studying Nick's eyes again, he figured that the growl had only been from discomfort and probably not meant as a threat. Mulder picked up the wreath, peeled off a few cloves from one of the bulbs and tucked them under the edge of the pillow on each side of Nick's head. The rest of the garlic was returned to the backpack.
Once the biggest portion of the crippling irritant had been removed, Nick felt his body slowly beginning to return normal. After a moment, he was able to gasp out a hoarse, "Thank you."
"You were right," said Mulder. "Fresh *is* better."
"Nothing. Um.... Are your eyes going to stay that way?"
Nick turned away shamefully. "Hungry," he whispered.
"Sorry, but all I have to offer is bovine swill. Interested?"
The death look Mulder got from Nick was a touch unsettling. It probably wasn't a good idea to tease a hungry vampire. Mulder reached into another section of the backpack and brought out one of the full wine bottles taken from the cabin. He saw the color in Nick's eyes intensify at the sight of it.
"Oh, I'll have to find a corkscrew somewhere," said Mulder after realizing what kind of top the bottle wore.
"My mouth," said Nick as he weakly forced himself up on his elbows. When Mulder held the bottle up to him, he pulled the cork out with his teeth with a show of impatience and spit it out off to the side. Placing his lips to the bottle's rim, he drank greedily with eyes closed as Mulder tilted the bottle upwards for him.
Mulder found it both exhilarating and a bit gross, feeding blood to a vampire as though he was giving a baby its formula. The bottle was more than half empty by the time Nick had consumed enough to assuage his hunger. He relaxed back onto the pillow, frowning slightly at the smell of garlic that wafted up from each side. He opened his eyes, displaying a calm blue, and focused on the man standing over him. For the first time since he had awaken, he finally became aware of his environment.
After Mulder recapped the bottle and placed it back into his bag, he noticed the look of confusion on Nick's face. "You're in a hospital in Great Falls," he answered the unspoken question.
"The miracles of the computer age. When we first met, you introduced yourself as Nicholas de Brabant. I had the name checked out and discovered you owned a little mountain property out there. The local sheriff went out in a search helicopter, and I suggested that he tape a cross to your chest before stuffing you inside two body bags and transporting you back."
A moment of panic crossed Nick's face as he had a disturbing thought. "Agent Scully! Where is she? Is she all right?"
"She's fine," Mulder assured him. "She just went for coffee. Speaking of Scully, I have to know something. Did you do anything to her? I can tell you've clouded her thoughts somehow so she doesn't remember everything, but I have to know."
Nick saw the deep concern in Mulder's eyes and decided to answer him truthfully. "I didn't hurt her," Nick spoke softly. "I held her in my arms and we kissed. Maybe more than once but I don't quite remember."
A twinge of jealously coursed through his veins, but Mulder pushed the emotion aside as he sought to have his next question answered. "Did you hypnotize her into kissing you?"
"It's possible. That's not normally my style, but then I haven't been behaving much like myself lately."
"Did you bite her tongue or something? Is that how you know that her blood doesn't taste so good?"
Nick had no recollection of admitting that fact, but as he eyed Mulder, and noted the fresh bruises on his neck, he realized there was something else he didn't remember doing.
"She had a nosebleed," he finally answered. "It was nothing I did to her, I swear. We were talking and it just happened."
"And you couldn't pass up a free sample," Mulder surmised.
"Normally, I can. I worked as a homicide cop for years and I was always being tempted, but I had a good handle on my control. Now...." He didn't bother to finish the thought. "Her blood tasted odd," Nick admitted. "It left a sour aftertaste. I figured maybe she was taking some kind of medication. Is she? Is she ill?"
"Not that I know of. She was abducted two years ago by persons unknown. I believe that she may have undergone some secret government experiments involving alien DNA."
"Alien as in...?"
"Little green men from Mars or wherever the nearest home planet base may be. I work for a department of the FBI known as The X-Files. Scully and I investigate unsolved, unexplained cases involving the paranormal. We came across evidence that our government has had contact with alien beings but they're hell-bent on keeping that information strictly confidential. For the most part, no one wants me digging around in The X-Files because they're afraid I may uncover the truth and expose them. But, on the other hand, there seems to be a few rare individuals who secretly want me to find out things. They slip me crumbs that eventually lead to something bigger. Someone slipped me your file in hopes that I'd find you first."
"I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying that your government knows about me and that--"
"Uncle Sam wants you. My guess is for experimentation."
"Is that why I was brought here? You're going to turn me over to them?"
"No, that's not my plan. To tell you the truth, I never really had a plan other than finding you."
"And now that you have?"
"I guess it all depends on whether or not you can get a handle on your control again. I imagine that those sudden mood swings of yours aren't normal. When did they begin?"
"I'm not sure exactly. Two months... maybe more. I can't control him. He's growing stronger every night. I thought that by staying up in the mountains, away from people, I could keep him from hurting anyone. I know it's hopeless now. I can't fight him anymore. There's only one solution left."
Mulder turned at the sound of his partner's voice. He stepped back from the bed as Scully entered the room, then watched with an inkling of envy as her eyes went straight to Nick. The vampire and his former hostage exchanged affectionate smiles before exchanging words.
"Agent Scully, I'm glad to see you made it back safely."
"I'm glad to see you made it back too. When I first woke up and found you on the couch, I thought surely you were dead."
"I'm sorry about that. I didn't realize you'd wake before I would. And I can't believe that I could have possibly slept through all of this."
"I'm actually glad you did. Has Mulder told you about the x- rays we had taken of your brain?"
"No," Mulder answered her. "I only got as far as the helicopter ride."
"You took x-rays?" Nick asked incredulously.
"Yes," Scully replied as she stepped closer to the bedside. When she noticed the handcuffs, she shot a questioning look at her partner. He answered her silently by quickly running his fingers across his neck, drawing her attention to the blossoming bruises there.
Nick picked up on the gesture as well. "I'm sorry about that," he apologized to Mulder. "That's only one of the reasons why it's not a good idea for me to be here."
"We want to help you," said Scully. "I think it's quite possible that your unpredictable behavior as well as those headaches you get could be caused by the tumor we found."
"I have a tumor? That's impossible."
"There seems to be a lot of things about you that fall under the impossible heading. Do you realize that you're walking around with a skull full of lead?"
Nick gave a minor nod. "Accident," he murmured.
"Yeah, well, apparently you healed up on the outside, but on the inside, things went a little weird. A tumor the size of my fist has formed around the three bullets lodged in your brain. I won't pretend to understand how or why it's happened, but I do feel that it's definitely contributing to your problems and that it should be removed as soon as possible."
Nick considered her words carefully, then glanced from her to Mulder, then back again. "Are you suggesting that I have brain surgery? Here in this hospital?"
"Well, unless you can think of someplace better," Scully replied in a lighthearted tone.
"Agent Scully, you do realize that I'm... that I'm--"
"A little different?"
"That's an understatement," Mulder mumbled at his partner's unwillingness to face the truth about Nick.
Scully heard but chose to ignore her colleague. "Nick, I understand that your physical makeup is somewhat unusual, but I still believe that surgery would be in your best interest."
"But not yours," said Nick. "Or Agent Mulder's, or anyone else involved. It wouldn't be just me and my dangerously, unpredictable behavior you'd have to worry about."
"What are you saying?" asked Mulder with growing concern.
Before he could answer, a sudden wave of pain exploded in Nick's brain. His body arched and his hands grabbed onto the rails, bending them significantly. Mulder pulled Scully several feet away from the bed, and they each watched helplessly and waited. Though it seemed to last an eternity, the episode was over in a matter of seconds, leaving Nick, shaky, slightly disoriented and golden-eyed.
Scully started to go to him but Mulder held her back, wanting to wait and see which personality was now present. Nick's eyes searched the room in confusion before finally landing on Scully. He displayed the same look of anguish that he had worn back at the cabin when he had mistaken her for Natalie and pleaded with her not to make him go through with her plan.
"Nat," he called to her weakly, "I can't... I can't do this anymore. I just can't go on this way."
Scully pulled away from Mulder's grasp and went to Nick's side. When she got closer, she noticed tiny beads of blood sweat on his forehead. She pulled a handkerchief from her blazer pocket and blotted the crimson moisture away as she spoke in a tender voice.
"It's okay, Nick. You're going to be okay."
"It hurts," he whimpered.
"I know. We're going to take care of you. We're going to make it so it doesn't hurt anymore."
"I think he needs the rest of this," said Mulder as he uncorked and handed her the half empty wine bottle.
Scully accepted the bottle with only a moments hesitation., then lifted Nick's head and supported it as he drank down the contents of the bottle. She didn't question his need for the blood, nor did she question the strange color of his eyes or sweat. For now, her brain deemed none of that was important.
The bottle was drained briskly, then Scully lowered Nick's head gently onto the pillow. Standing now on the opposite side of the bed, Mulder took the empty bottle and stuffed it back into the bag. A few seconds later, he noted a marked difference in Nick's demeanor. Clear, blue eyes focused on Scully with complete recognition, shadowed by embarrassment.
"It's getting worse, Nick. You really need that operation."
Nick shook his head slightly. "I can't. I appreciate your trying to help, but I can't go into surgery. Just my being here is putting both your lives in jeopardy. I can't afford to have anyone else find out about me."
"You were trying to warn us about something earlier," said Mulder. "You said something like it wouldn't be just you we'd have to worry about. Who else would we have to worry about?"
"I can't say. You already know too much as it is."
"Would it have anything to do with Lucien LaCroix?"
Nick looked at Mulder in amazement. "How...."
"I'm FBI, remember? Mr. LaCroix is a vampire too, isn't he? And he's looking for you. What happens if he finds you?"
"Not if. *When*."
The door opened just then and Dr. Winetraub entered carrying Nick's chart. "Ah, Dr. Scully, there you are. I talked to my colleague, but he doesn't--" The doctor stopped dead in his tracks when he noticed that Nick was wide awake. "He's... he's alive! I mean, he's awake! I can't believe it!" He moved closer to the bed, his mouth open in amazement. "Mr. Knight, I'm Dr. Winetraub. Let me shake your hand." He reached for Nick's right hand and saw that it was handcuffed to the bent railing. He looked to Mulder in wonderment.
"He's under arrest for kidnapping."
The doctor started to draw his hand away but Nick grabbed it and held tight. "Dr. Winetraub, listen to me," Nick spoke in a demanding tone. Once the doctor looked into his eyes, he was spellbound. "Listen very carefully," Nick continued. "You never saw me like this. I'm deader than a doornail. Whatever tests were run on me before were wrong. Computer error, a glitch in the machinery, human misinterpretation. There's no way possible I could be alive. Nothing more can be done for me. You'll turn over my chart to Agent Scully and you'll destroy all other paperwork and computer records concerning me. Understand?"
Dr. Winetraub nodded. "Dead, destroy the records," he murmured.
Nick let go of the man's hand, then laid back against the pillow, closed his eyes and played dead. Mulder quickly pulled the sheet up on both sides to hide the handcuffs. A second later, Dr. Winetraub snapped out of his dazed state and looked down at the chart in his hand. After a moment of uncertainty, he handed the chart over to Scully.
"Why don't you take this, Dr. Scully. I'm afraid there's nothing more we can do here for Mr. Knight. The findings earlier were undoubtedly caused by human or mechanical error. This man is obviously deader than a doornail."
"Is that the technical term for it?" Mulder asked while trying to keep a grin off his face.
"Forgive me," Dr. Winetraub apologized. "It's been a long day. You'll have to excuse me now. I've got some paperwork to take care of."
After the doctor left the room, Mulder broke out into a big grin and said. "You have *got* to teach me that!"
Nick opened his eyes and looked up at the agent solemnly. "It's easy to do," he said. "You just have to die first."
The simple comment was enough to wipe the smile from Mulder's face. There was so much he wanted to know about this creature, but at the same time, that haunted look in Nick's eyes told him he was better off not knowing.
"What about the operation, Nick?" asked Scully. "You really do need it."
Nick thought for a moment, then asked, "Could you be the one to perform the surgery?"
"Me? No. I'm not that kind of a doctor. I do all my surgery on the dead."
"That's what I am," said Nick with an ironic smile.
"No, you're not dead," Scully disagreed with him, sounding eerily like Natalie with those words.
Nick blinked his eyes to keep them from producing tears, then he looked to Mulder and asked, "What else do you have in that black bag of yours? You know you can't just let me walk out of here, don't you? Even with the surgery, there's no guarantee that my sanity will return. I can't control my actions anymore. Today, it's just cows. Tomorrow...."
Mulder understood what was being asked of him. He had come prepared with a couple of long, sharp wooden stakes in case the need arose to defend himself against a raging killer. However, he never thought he'd be asked to assist in a planned suicide.
"Why don't we just get you out of here first," Mulder suggested, "then we'll discuss the--"
"Someone's coming," Nick warned, then instantly went into his dead man routine.
Mulder quickly drew the sheet over Nick's head, then stood back just as the door opened and two men wearing orderly uniforms stepped into the room. Both men stood about six feet tall, one black and one white, appearing to be around the age of thirty and well built.
"Excuse us, sir," said the bald, black man, "but we have to remove the body now. They need to get this room ready for another patient."
"Well, we were just getting ready to head down to the basement," said Scully. "We can take the body to the morgue ourselves."
"Hospital policy, ma'am," said the long-haired blond. "We have to do it. But you're free to tag along if you like."
The agents stepped out of the way and allowed the orderlies access to the bed. They each took one side, unlocked the wheels, then began moving the bed out of the room. Scully held the door open for them, then followed them out to the elevator. Mulder was right behind them until he thought of something.
"Hold the elevator for me," he said. "I'll be right back." He ran to Nick's room and looked inside the closet where he found a plastic bag on the shelf that contained Nick's clothes and shoes. He realized then that the nurse had followed his instructions after all and had left the cross taped to the shirt. When he returned to the elevator, he found only his partner present and no sign of Nick and the orderlies. "Scully, where'd they go?"
"They went ahead," Scully replied casually. "There wasn't enough room for all of us."
Mulder watched the numbers light up over the elevator door. "Where the hell are they taking him?"
"What do you mean?"
"The morgue is in the basement," Mulder pointed out. "So why is the elevator going up?"
Benefis Healthcare Hospital Great Falls, Montana 7:45 p.m.
Scully spoke to the head nurse to establish first whether or not anyone had been instructed to remove Nick from the room. When the answer was, "No," she and Mulder began a frantic search which eventually lead them to the roof where the empty bed had been left shoved against the door to keep it closed. It took several powerful kicks against the metal door before Mulder was able to dislodge the bed and clear their path. He and Scully pulled out their guns and carefully swept across the roof in what turned out to be a fruitless pursuit.
"They're gone," Scully stated the obvious. "But where?" As she looked over the side of the building, seeking a possible route of escape, her partner had pulled his night vision binoculars from his backpack and was searching the skies for answers. "You think they took him by helicopter?"
"Well, it would make sense if it were government boys. They'd need a fast get away." After viewing the skies in all directions, Mulder gave up, then handed over the binoculars to Scully. "Here, check the streets. I want to take a closer look over there."
As Scully scoured the streets below and the buildings nearby, Mulder concentrated on examining the turned over bed by the door. All the linen had been left behind which meant Nick was clothed in only the hospital gown. Mulder lifted the pillow from the ground and discovered the small cloves of garlic underneath. He also found remnants of broken handcuffs where each pair had been snapped off at the chain and the remainder was still attached to the bed rails.
Mulder rejoined his partner at the west side of the building. "Spot anything yet?" he asked her.
"There's an emergency fire escape over here. They could have gotten down that way. But I don't see anything obvious. There's plenty of pedestrians and traffic. Maybe someone down there saw something. We can ask around. Did you find anything?"
"Only more questions. It looks as though Knight broke free of the handcuffs. I'm wondering if his captors were really prepared. Maybe he took them by surprise."
"And did what?"
"Apparently, you haven't been on the receiving end when his inner child takes over. Trust me, he knows how to play rough. He's also got that hypnosis thing going. Maybe he hypnotized them into just walking away. We could have missed them going down in the elevator while we were coming up."
"So maybe Nick just went back to his cabin, you think?"
"Maybe. Let's go see if we can't locate some witnesses."
Abandoned Barn Black Eagle, Montana 8:08 p.m.
Nick remained completely passive while his wrists were being bound with a heavy chain. The other end of the chain was wrapped several times around one of the support rafters above. His arms were suspended over his head, but his bare feet were solidly planted on the straw covered floor. His strength had returned in full and he could have easily freed himself if he so desired. Back on the roof he had considered putting up a fight and escaping, but in the end decided against it. He could no longer control his actions. He was a menace to the mortal population and a security risk to his own kind. He sensed what fate had in store for him now and he would confront it without reservations.
He had gone with his captors quietly, not bothering to question their motives or destination. Basically, he already knew what they had in store for him. It did surprise him however that the Community had sent such young and inexperienced Enforcers after him. Their combined ages could not have been more than three centuries. It occurred to him that it was perhaps their naivete that garnered them the assignment. They probably had little knowledge of how dangerous it was to pursue a child of LaCroix's. The master vampire would not let the simple fact that they were Enforcers stop him from seeking revenge should they harm one of his own. Nick almost felt sorry for them, but they had made their own decision to become Enforcers. It's not a job that's forced upon anyone. They wanted it because it gave them a certain dominance over other vampires. It made them feel important and that they were completely invulnerable. They should have done their homework.
The Enforcers had expected their quarry to put up a struggle, but when he didn't, they foolishly mistook his passiveness for fear which in turn fed their egos. They made smug comments about him not being as tough as they'd heard, but said little else until they had him trussed up in the dilapidated barn miles from humanity. Leaving him hanging like a side of beef with his backside exposed, the two took their sweet time changing out of their hospital garb into their own Ravenesque style clothing. After dressing, they finally spoke to Nick.
"You know who we are?" asked the blonde.
Nick looked from the heavily tattooed torso of the blonde clad in leather pants and vest, to the hairless, black man wearing a fishnet T-shirt with nipple rings, and dryly responded, "My worse nightmare?"
"That all depends," said the black man. "I'm Matt. That's my buddy Chad. And you're the once great Nicholas de Brabant. Brave knight of the Crusades. Cold-blooded killer of thousands upon thousands. A master with the ladies. Look at you now," Matt huffed with an air of superiority. "A cow sucking, pushover who let mortals get the best of you. Is that what happens when you get old?"
Nick had not bothered to make eye contact all the while Matt had been speaking. What the youngster said was all true and there was no need to acknowledge any of it one way or the other. Being reminded that he was indeed older, however, gave Nick a sense of self respect he had thought completely lost. He didn't mind paying for his sins to the Community, but he'd be damn if he'd let these punk ass kids treat him like a feeble-minded, old man. Had no one taught them that advanced age in vampires translated into elevated power?
"No. *This* is what happens when you get old." Nick raised his eyes to Matt in a subtly menacing glimmer of gold and projected his eight hundred years of acquired power upon the youthful vampire's psyche.
Matt shuddered at the overwhelming and dominating presence he felt emanating from Nick. He knew in an instant that he was no match for the elder vampire should he decide to break free. He took a few steps backwards, then glanced over to his buddy and saw that he too had picked up on the new vibes Nick was putting out. Matt's previously condescending demeanor changed immediately to one of respect.
"No offense, man," Matt mumbled sheepishly as way of an apology. After a moment, he felt the air around him lighten as Nick withdrew, becoming submissive once again. "I guess we can do this without the chains," said Matt as he started forward with intentions of releasing his captive.
"Leave them!" Chad spoke up. After the brief show of power he had just witnessed, he feared what would happen should Nick gain his freedom. They had been warned to take such precautions by the ones who had sent them on this mission, though at the time it didn't seem necessary. Nick's reputation in the vampire community had become laughable among many. He was considered a weakling and a fool for drinking cow's blood and abstaining from killing. That calm, flash of fury he had just displayed successfully contradicted those earlier impressions.
When the prisoner didn't bother to protest the wearing of his chains, Matt decided to leave them and get on with the interrogation. "There have been some interesting rumors floating around about you," he began with a touch of nervousness to his voice, "and we've been requested to check them out. To determine what's true and what isn't. Are you willing to answer some questions?"
Nick nodded humbly, keeping his eyes cast downward. "What is it you want to know?"
"Did you kill Natalie Lambert?" asked Matt.
"Yes," Nick answered candidly.
"Were you the one who dug her body up a couple of weeks back?"
"Why'd you do it?"
"I needed to see her again. To make sure."
"To make sure of what? That she was really dead?"
"Yes. I had forgotten that I'd killed her. And once I remembered, I needed confirmation."
"And after you unearthed the body, what did you do?"
"I stayed with her for a little while... held her in my arms, kissed her."
"You don't think that's just a wee bit perverse, humping a corpse?" asked Chad with a disgusted frown. After the death stare he received from Nick, he wished immediately that he had never opened his mouth. Luckily, the elder vampire was forgiving.
Nick cast his eyes to the floor and softly replied, "What was perverse was turning her into a corpse in the first place."
"Did anyone see you or did you see anyone else while in Toronto?" Matt continued the questioning.
"Only the ghosts."
Matt and Chad exchanged a dubious look. It was already obvious to them that Nick wasn't playing with a full deck. There were still more questions to be answered, so Matt continued.
"Are you responsible for the string of mutilated cows in this area?"
"Care to explain?"
Nick gave a slight shrug and said, "I felt like killing something. I just didn't want it to be human."
"Why not go for wild game then?" asked Chad. "Chase down some elk or wrestle a grizzly bear. Where's the sport in sipping from a sleeping cow?"
"I was feeling lazy. They were easy targets. Next question."
"Tell us about the FBI agents," said Matt. "Is it true you kidnapped the woman?"
"A sudden impulse," Nick murmured. "The local ranchers called them out here to investigate the dead cows. I saw the woman. I was attracted to her. I took her back to my cabin but nothing much happened. We just talked. When I fell asleep, she thought I was dead. A search helicopter found us and transported me out in a body bag."
"Do they know you're a vampire? Did you tell them?"
Nick thought about his answer carefully. Apparently, the Enforcers had not overheard any of the conversations he'd had with the agents. As far as they knew, he had played dead during his entire time under mortal scrutiny.
"I played possum," Nick lied, "and just waited for a chance to get out of there."
"Why were you smelling like garlic?" asked Chad suspiciously. When he didn't receive an instant response, he drew his own conclusions. "They know. That's how they kept you contained, isn't it? They know what you are."
"They know," Nick admitted regretfully. "But I didn't have to tell them. They're FBI agents. They know how to put clues together. Agent Mulder is a believer. He suspected what I was even before we met and came prepared. They wanted to find me so they could help me."
"How were they going to help?"
"It doesn't matter. They can't. No one can." Tiring of the third degree, Nick decided to put an end to the inquiry. "Look, can we just cut to the chase now?" he spoke in a more forceful tone. "I freely admit to breaking several major rules of The Code and endangering the vampire community with my reckless conduct. I also admit to being mentally unsound. And, yes, I understand the ramifications of what I've just confessed to you. I know what the consequences are. The incident back at the hospital is pretty much contained. You'll need to double-check to make sure that Dr. Winetraub carried out my orders to destroy all hospital records of me. Your only other concern will be the FBI agents. I strongly advise that you not harm them in any way. Others know that they came in search of me. If anything happens to them, the FBI will issue a full-scale investigation, and you know what that could lead to. It would be best to have them believe that I am, of course, not a vampire, that I am truly dead and that my body has been claimed by relatives. I'm assuming you both know how to hypnotize?"
Nick's commanding voice had held the pair of younger vampires virtually mesmerized. When he finally finished speaking, it took a moment for the Enforcers to gather their wits and respond.
"Yeah," Matt nodded. "Yeah, we can do that. No problem."
"Good. Then I guess that's it. You just need to finish up here."
Matt looked to Chad and gave a simple nod of his head. The blonde walked off a few paces out of Nick's view and came back carrying a foot- long wooden stake in one hand and a razor sharp scythe in the other. He gave the stake to Matt, then stood close by with the scythe in hand.
"Nicholas de Brabant, our investigation shows you to be in gross violation of The Code on several accounts. We also find you to be mentally unstable and therefore a serious threat to the secrecy of the vampire community. Do you have anything you wish to say in your defense?"
Nick shook his head slightly and quietly spoke the word, "No."
"Are you prepared to accept your sentence at this time?"
"Nicholas de Brabant, as representative for the vampire community, it is my duty to sentence you to true death. You are to be staked through the heart, your head severed from your body, your remains set afire, and your ashes scattered to the four corners of the earth. Do you have any final words to say or a message you want passed along to anyone?"
Nick didn't want to spend much time thinking about the ones he would be leaving behind. There was Janette, the everlasting love of his life, and of course, there was LaCroix, the unrelenting thorn in his side.
"Tell Janette... tell her that I shall love her forever."
Nick briefly considered what message he should leave for his master. However, their love-hate relationship left him at a loss for words. "No, nothing else," he murmured. "I'm ready."
"So be it."
Matt grabbed the front of Nick's hospital gown and ripped it open to expose his chest. Nick closed his eyes, threw his head back and puffed his chest out to create a better target. Matt raised the stake with both hands, preparing to put it to use. Just as he was about to plunge the sharp point into the pale, unguarded flesh, he was startled by a fierce animalistic roar.
A blur of flying feet slammed into Matt, catapulting him through the air, and sending him crashing through the rickety barn doors at the other end. His attention focused on his pal, Chad was slow to react to the danger he himself now faced. Nicholas freed himself quickly by giving a tremendous yank on the chain and dislodging the beam it had been attached to. He swung the heavy chain to easily deflect the scythe which Chad swung at him, actually knocking it from his grasp. Catching the younger vampire off balance, Nicholas was able to wrap the chain around his neck and hold him captive. He forced him to his knees as he knelt down to reach the fallen scythe, then grabbed it and placed the blade beneath the blonde's chin.
"Eight hundred years ago, I made a pact with the devil to live forever," Nicholas growled in Chad's ear, "and that's just what I'm going to do. It'll take more than some century old, candy ass like you to destroy me!"
"Let him go, Nicholas!" a familiar voice commanded him.
"LaCroix!" Nicholas smiled at his master, standing majestically in the doorway with Matt cringing behind him. "I sensed you were near. Knight was going to let them kill me. But when I felt your presence, it gave me the strength to break out. You won't believe what's been going on, LaCroix."
"Let go of him, then you can tell me."
Not really wanting to let go without a taste of revenge, Nicholas reluctantly obeyed his master and allowed the other vampire to go free. On his way to join his friend, Chad paused in front of LaCroix.
"We were only doing our job," he explained. "He confessed to breaking The Code. He agreed to the sentencing."
"Is that true, Nicholas? Did you confess?"
"No! It wasn't me. It was Knight. He's a mess, LaCroix. He wants to die. I need to take over completely, and I think I know how. But I need your help."
LaCroix stepped closer to his barely clad offspring. "If you need my help, Nicholas, you shall have it."
"I need to kill a mortal!" Nicholas spoke excitedly. "I've come close a couple of times, but I always get interrupted. You could help me. If I could just make a kill, I think that will drive Knight back into his little rabbit hole for good. He can't handle killing mortals. So, the more fresh human blood I take, the weaker he'll become. And once I'm in full control, then I'll behave as a vampire should. No more cow's blood, no more trying to live among the humans. I'll be as you want me to be, LaCroix. I swear it!"
"Listen to him," said Chad. "He's completely insane. The Code says--"
"I don't need *you* to inform me of what The Code *says*," LaCroix snarled over his shoulder.
Chad immediately backed off. The power he felt emanating from LaCroix was ten times the potency of his offspring. It finally became clear to both the young vampires why they had been chosen for this particular mission. Everyone else must have known LaCroix personally and obviously knew better than to come between him and his favorite child.
"We may have been a little hasty in our first assessment," offered Matt to smooth things over. "Maybe we haven't gotten all the facts yet."
"Your patience in this matter is greatly appreciated," said LaCroix before turning his attention back to his protege. "Of course, I'll do whatever I can to assist you, Nicholas."
"I knew I could count on you," Nicholas sighed with relief.
"You need only trust me," said LaCroix as he removed his jacket. He stepped closer to his Nicholas and draped the jacket around his shoulders to cover his nearly nude form. The torn hospital gown was just barely hanging on. "You do trust me, don't you, Nicholas?" asked LaCroix as his hands rested casually upon Nicholas' shoulders.
"Of course, I trust you, LaCroix," came the innocent reply.
"Good, because I only have your best interests in mind."
Nicholas flinched slightly at the tiny sting he felt on his neck. He caught sight of the hypodermic needle he'd just been stabbed with as LaCroix withdrew the hand which had been secretly holding it. He started to question the action, but as the barn began to spin around him, he realized that he had just been drugged. Strong arms kept him from falling, then scooped him up and began carrying him out of the barn.
"Why?" Nicholas managed to croak out just before losing consciousness.
"Trust me, Nicholas. Father knows best."
Mulder's Motel Room Black Eagle 9:50 p.m.
"I don't think I'm going to be able to sleep tonight," Scully sighed as she plopped down on a cushioned chair in the corner of the room. Her partner lay sideways across the bed, his hands folded atop his chest and his eyes closed in thought. "You don't look like you're going to have any trouble though."
"I'm just thinking," said Mulder.
"About how we can track a flying vampire in the middle of the night?"
Mulder opened his eyes and tilted his head to glare at his partner. "Did I hear you refer to him as a vampire, Agent Scully? Are you finally beginning to believe?"
"I was only asking if that's what *you* were thinking, I didn't say it was what *I* was thinking."
"Actually, what I was thinking, besides that, is that I may have been wrong when I said that Knight had whammied those two men into leaving him alone."
"What makes you say that?"
"You know how when you first showed up in Knight's hospital room, he nor I ever noticed you were there until you spoke. And when Dr. Winetraub came in, we were all taken by surprise."
Mulder sat up and leaned forward. "So how is it Knight knew beforehand that someone was coming when the orderlies showed up?"
"He heard them coming?"
"I think he sensed them coming."
"I think he can sense when his own kind is near."
"His own kind? Are you saying that the orderlies were vampires?"
"Knight alluded to someone coming after him. I assumed that he meant Lucien LaCroix. Maybe Mr. LaCroix sent them. Maybe they were rescuing Knight from public discovery."
"So you're saying that's the end of it then? He's being taken care of by his own kind?"
"Yeah. But taken care of how, I don't know. Could be they were only interested in making sure he wouldn't be drawing anymore unwanted attention to himself and possibly to them."
"You don't suppose they'd do anything to harm him, do you?"
"I don't know, Scully. It's all just conjecture. Talking to witnesses, we know there was no helicopter on the roof and no one saw those two men leaving the hospital by conventional means. All we can do now is wait till dawn and take a helicopter back out to his cabin. If we don't find a sign of him there, I don't know where else to look."
"Does that mean we're just going to give up?" Scully asked, looking somewhat forlorn at the prospect.
The appearance of headlights from a vehicle pulling up outside caused Mulder to delay answering his partner. He went to the window and peeked out through the curtains to see who had just arrived.
"The pizza's here," he announced, then turned from the window and began checking his wallet for money. "Mmm, I seem to be a little short of cash. All I have is six dollars. What about you?"
Scully checked her handbag as a knock sounded at the door. "Pizza delivery!" a young, male's voice called out from the other side.
"Yeah, just a second," Mulder answered as Scully gave him a ten dollar bill. Noticing the downcast look still on her face, Mulder gave her hand a tender squeeze and said, "Who said anything about giving up?"
That got a tiny smile from her. Mulder went to the door and flung it open. Instead of the slightly built teenager he'd seen getting out of a pickup truck, Mulder faced someone else standing in the doorway holding a pizza box. The kid in the truck was already tearing out of the parking lot.
"I believe this is yours," the tall, impressive figure stated amiably. "I took the liberty of paying the bill and adding what I hope was an adequate tip."
Mulder stood dumbfounded, a multitude of thoughts racing through his mind, including the fact that he would never make it to the wreath of garlic in his backpack in time should the person standing before him turn out to be what his sixth sense told him he was. The agent took a deep breath and managed to reel in his fears.
"That was very kind of you," said Mulder as he accepted the pizza box. "Tell me how much and I can reimburse you for your trouble."
"Oh, no trouble at all, Agent Mulder. My pleasure."
"How do you know my name?"
"Your reputation precedes you. I wonder if I might not come inside? I have something very important to discuss with you."
Mulder took a quick, worried glance at his partner before stepping back to allow the visitor to enter. After closing the door and setting the pizza aside, Mulder introduced Scully. "This is my partner--"
"Agent Dana Scully. Yes, I know. It's a pleasure to meet you, my dear. I am Lucien LaCroix."
"Mr. LaCroix," Scully nodded a greeting, keeping her distance, and her finger on the trigger of the gun she wore holstered in the small of her back.
"What did you want to discuss, Mr. LaCroix?" asked Mulder, casually making his way towards his backpack on the floor near the bed.
"It seems that we have a mutual friend in common," said LaCroix.
"And who would that be?"
"Nicholas Fletcher. Or perhaps you know him as Nicholas Knight."
"What's he to you?" asked Scully.
"We're family. He's my... adopted son."
"You don't look all that much older than Nick," Scully noted.
"I take that as a compliment," LaCroix smiled. "But I assure you, I am *much* older than I appear."
"Are you a vampire?" the words blurted from Mulder's lips.
LaCroix grinned amusedly. "I see that my reputation has preceded me as well. Good. That means we won't waste time with pretense. Yes, Agent Mulder, I am a vampire. Under normal circumstances, after divulging such information, I'd be obligated to kill you both. However, I happen to be in need of your help with a very delicate matter."
"If you're looking for Knight," said Mulder, "We don't know where he is."
"That's not what I need. I already know where Nicholas is."
"Where?" asked Scully anxiously. "Is he all right?"
"At present, yes. He's being watched by the two young men who retrieved him from your custody."
"Oh, so you sent them?"
"No. I'm afraid they have their own agendas."
"Are they vampires as well?" Mulder asked.
"Yes," LaCroix replied candidly. "The gentlemen -- and I use that term loosely -- who took Nicholas are what's known in my little circle as Enforcers. They police my kind. If one of us should become too high profile, the Enforcers do what's necessary to bring about anonymity. Certain things are tolerated to a degree, certain things aren't. Mental illness among my kind is not tolerated. It leads to unpredictable and irresponsible behavior which may draw unwanted attention from the public at large."
"Are you saying that the Enforcers abducted Knight with intentions of killing him?" asked Mulder.
"Neutralize is the word they prefer. I have convinced them to give Nicholas one more chance to redeem himself. Not an easy task in itself. Nicholas has not always made the best choices even when he *was* in his right mind. Many of his improprieties have luckily gone unnoticed or have been thankfully overlooked. After all, everyone's entitled to a few minor errors in judgment."
"What can we do to help him?" asked Scully, finally relinquishing the grip on her gun.
"I take it, you've had time to examine Nicholas medically?"
Scully picked up Nick's medical chart from the dresser and pulled out one of the x-rays and presented it to LaCroix. As he held the x-ray up to the light to study it, Scully asked him if he knew how the bullets had gotten there.
"I put them there," LaCroix replied with nonchalance. "Well, at least these three," he corrected himself.
"May I ask why?"
"Call it... tough love." He gave her back the x-ray and asked, "What is your medical opinion concerning this?"
"If you're asking if I think the tumor and the bullets should be removed, I'd have to say, yes, most definitely. I'm sure they are the cause of the headaches he's been having. But whether or not they're responsible for his mental status, I can't say for sure. As I understand it, he's suffered a number of personal losses which could easily result in depression and mental confusion. Still, removal of the tumor would be the first step to restoring his health, both physical and mental."
"Mmm, my thoughts as well," said LaCroix. "Unfortunately, circumstances prohibit traditional hospital surgery."
"That's what Nick said. Do you have another idea?"
"I understand that you are a medical doctor."
Scully raised her brows in disbelief once she got the gist of his implication. "You can't be serious! I am *not* a brain surgeon. I can not perform brain surgery on a walking, talking individual."
"How unfortunate," said LaCroix, appearing genuinely distressed by the news. "Because you see, you happen to be Nicholas' only hope for survival. If there is the slightest chance that his sanity will return with the removal of the tumor, we must take it. And it must be done tonight. I am not being giving much time to *fix* things."
Scully shook her head with uncertainty. "I don't.... Even if I were to agree to operate on him, I don't have a place to perform it or the necessary instruments, anesthetics, monitoring equipment--"
"I have made previous arrangements," said LaCroix. "I made inquiries and have already collected the medical items needed for such an operation. I feel that you are qualified to perform the surgery and I ask that you consider doing so. I am a man of great wealth and will, of course, reimburse you handsomely for your time and trouble."
"If I do it," said Scully, "I'll do it for Nick, not for money."
"Very noble, Agent Scully," LaCroix smiled lightly. "Although I hate to rush you into making a decision of this magnitude, time *is* of the essence. What is your answer?"
It didn't take Scully long to make up her mind. Nick would be sentenced to death for sure if she didn't perform the surgery. If she operated on him and screwed it up, she could cause irreversible brain damage leaving him an immortal vegetable. Not really much of a choice, but as LaCroix had indicated, it was the only chance Nick had for survival. This time, Scully was the one ready to dash off with a perfect stranger to some undisclosed destination. She and Mulder quickly changed out of their business suits into more comfortable jeans and sweaters. They climbed into the back of their rented car as LaCroix took to the driver's seat. Thinking that garlic breath just might come in handy, Mulder topped the pizza off with fresh garlic and brought it along so that they could eat it on the way. Despite her nervousness and apprehension over the impending medical procedure, Scully managed to consume one slice while her partner engulfed three.
Following a twenty minute drive out of town, LaCroix turned off the main road onto the open plain for several miles further. Mulder was beginning to become a bit concerned, being driven out into the middle of nowhere by the vampire. Even though he still carried his gun and had brought along his bag of vampire deterrents, the agents would be no match for LaCroix and the other bloodsuckers they were going to meet should they decide on a midnight snack.
Eventually, the car came to a stop alongside a motor home with a large canopy stretching out five feet from its side over the door. Dim light could be seen through the heavily tinted windows. LaCroix got out of the car and quickly went to open the door for his female passenger.
"Nice set of wheels," said Mulder as he climbed out on the opposite side.
"Sleeps up to seven comfortably, I'm told," replied LaCroix.
As they entered the motor home, Mulder and Scully were astonished by how much the majority of the recreational vehicle resembled a high-tech operating room. Some of the beds had been removed to make way for medical equipment. Against the wall, was a tall cabinet housing a large monitor on the top shelf. A keyboard, desktop computer and a second smaller monitor were stationed below. Cables could be seen leading from it to a laser surgery setup to the right. Atop a metal table on wheels, lay various surgical instruments, including a cranial saw, drill and lighted probe.
In the middle of the room, a dentist chair had been raised to its highest level and stretched out to a horizontal position. Dressed in black silk pajamas, Nick lay unconscious and secured to the chair by padded chains around his ankles, waist, wrists and chest. His right hand had been prepped for an IV, ready to receive additional drugs or blood intravenously when the time came.
"I hope I acquired everything you'll need," said LaCroix. "I did some surfing on the net and came across a few examples of brain surgeries. So many different ways for medical science to get inside ones' head these days, it was rather daunting trying to choose the most appropriate method. I saved several pages of text from a few sites I felt might be the most useful, should you feel the need to bone up a bit first."
Scully felt her heart pound a bit faster at the sight of Nick and the items she was expected to use on him. She looked to LaCroix and nodded. "That might not be a bad idea," she said, then followed his lead to an adjustable stool in front of the computer. "What did you give him to make him sleep?" she asked while waiting for the computer to boot up.
"This." LaCroix pulled a bottle out of his pocket and handed it to her.
Scully's brows went up as she silently read the label. "This is an animal tranquilizer."
"Yes. Designed for larger animals, bears and such." Scully gave the bottle back to him and he placed it on the table with the surgical tools. "Unfortunately," he added, "I didn't have much time to test the proper dosage. Hopefully, I gave him enough to keep him sedated for the remainder of the night."
"Yeah, hopefully," Scully grimaced.
While Scully was familiarizing herself with the notes saved from files of experienced brain surgeons, Mulder wandered towards the rear of the camper where Chad and Matt were sitting on a bed side by side watching TV. They gave him a disinterested glance as he nodded a greeting to them, then turned their attention back to the show they were watching with the sound barely audible. Mulder wondered what kind of shows would interest your average vampire, so he moved close enough to get a view of the screen and saw scantily clad women sunning themselves on the beach. Baywatch, he thought. He couldn't tell which they admired most about the show; the beautiful women or the occasional shots of the sun over the horizon. Since it didn't appear that they were interested in socializing, Mulder backed off and returned to the operating room.
It took fifteen minutes of studying the computer files for Scully to feel ready to begin the operation. She took a few moments more to acquaint herself with the instruments LaCroix had provided. The lighted probe and large monitor would let her see a magnified view of the insides of Nick's brain. The laser wand would allow her to easily dissolve the tumor, and the cranial brace would keep the patient immobile should the unthinkable happens and he awakens during the procedure. The electroencephalograph, as before, would alert her to any pain her patient might be experiencing, a threat which was more than probable.
Scully had reason to worry about the anesthetic they planned to use. Since Nick wasn't breathing, a general gas anesthetic couldn't be given. They'd have to go with an intravenous type, but because of Nick's physiology, there was no way of knowing how much to give him for complete effectiveness. She decided to administer twice the amount for a normal individual of his size, then tested it by hooking him up to the encephalograph and pinching him with clamps in several locations. Not getting the results she was looking for, she injected another dose and gave it a few minutes to work. This time when she pinched with the clamps, the line on the graph remained straight and steady.
"Okay, I guess we're ready to start."
"Although there should be no need to worry about infection or germs," said LaCroix as he held open a box containing protective surgical wear, "things *may* get a bit messy."
"Thank you." Scully pulled out a surgical gown, cap and gloves then shoved them into her partner's hands. "You want to play doctor, Mulder?" she asked while pulling out a second set of surgical garb for herself.
"One of my all time secret fantasies," said Mulder. "I know what *my* idea of playing doctor is," he added while slipping into his new outfit. "What's yours?"
"Well for starters, you'll be mopping the buckets of sweat from my forehead."
"So far, it sounds good. Only in my version, I'm usually the one bound, and the other people hanging around are all women."
"Speaking of bondage.... Are these chains really necessary?" Scully asked LaCroix.
"Merely a precaution. Better safe than sorry. So you've decided on a course?"
Scully answered him as she donned the surgical wear including goggles and a mask. "Well, I thought at first that I might have to shave his head and do some major carving from the top, but I think we can get by using one of the less invasive techniques I just read about. I'm going to snake the probe up through the nasal cavity and see if I can get a good look at the tumor. The x-rays don't really show me enough. Once I get a fix on the exact location, I'll make an incision just above the nose, and drill an opening through the skull.
"Lovely," Mulder grimaced at the vivid picture she had just drawn.
After fitting Nick with the stabilizer to keep his head from moving during the procedure, Scully was ready to begin. She carefully inched the spaghetti-thin probe through the patient's right nostril, and watched the monitor as it passed through the nasal cavity. Watching the images on the screen, Mulder couldn't make out heads or tails of where the lighted probe was headed, but still found it fascinating to watch, as did the Enforcers who had left Baywatch behind to witness the proceedings. They each stood near the foot of the chair, out of the way, their eyes glued to the picture on the monitor.
Following a few moments of delicate probing, Scully finally came to what she'd been seeking. Resembling a deep red, rubber ball, the tumor was just barely visible, but at least now she had a better feel for its location than the x-rays had given her. Prepared to make an incision between Nick's eyes, Scully placed the scalpel to his brow, but her hand began to tremble so badly that she couldn't continue. She looked up at LaCroix who was positioned directly across from her.
"There's no cause to be nervous, my dear," he told her in a soothing voice. "You *can* do this."
"I can do this," Scully told herself softly, then proceeded to make the incision with a steady hand. She found Nick's skin to be thicker than normal and had to apply a bit more pressure to break the surface. His blood flowed freely and Scully was about to have Mulder sponge it up when the fluid was unexpectedly sucked back into the opening on its own. Scully was startled by the occurrence but managed to brace herself and continue, realizing that she needed to speed up her actions before the incision attempted to close itself. She used a small spreader to keep it open, then asked Mulder to pass her the drill, already fitted with a circular cutter.
Nick's skull proved to be thicker than normal as well, which was probably the main reason the bullets -- even the cop killer -- had not passed straight through. An inch wide hole was carefully bored through, creating a removable plug of bone and a straight path to the tumor. The probe was used to lead the way once again. Holding the probe steady in one hand, Scully was able to follow its path with the forceps. Everyone's eyes were on the monitor screen as the probe displayed the forceps making contact with the tumor.
"So that big red thing is what needs to come out?" asked Chad in amazement.
"That's it," Scully answered as she prodded the tumor with the forceps to judge its mass. It wasn't a solid ball of connective tissue as would be expected, but rather a thick- skinned, blood-filled sac. At least that should make it easier to remove, Scully thought. She withdrew the forceps and moved the scalpel in to break through the sac. The membrane was much tougher than it looked and it took an extra amount of force to penetrate it. A geyser of blood shot into the air abruptly as the sac burst open.
"Damn it!" Scully exclaimed as she jerked away, her face covered by the red spray.
"Are you all right?" LaCroix asked with concern.
"Yeah. I'm fine. I just wasn't expecting that."
"Good thing you wore these," said Mulder as he removed her goggles and proceeded to wipe the blood from her cheeks and the sweat from her forehead.
"Any more surprises I should be aware of," Scully asked LaCroix who had busied himself with cleaning the blood-splattered patient.
"I'm afraid this is all new to me as well."
After Mulder finished cleaning and replacing her goggles, Scully continued the operation by suctioning out the remaining blood left in the sac. Using the forceps again, the first bullet was captured and eased out with no trouble. Scully blew out a sigh of relief, and feeling more confident in her skills, went after the second bullet. As she dug it out, she heard LaCroix utter a disturbing remark.
"He's in pain," the elder vampire announced, looking as though he was experiencing some form of discomfort himself.
Scully glanced up at him, then took a look at the encephalogram readings which had gone from a simple line to a helter-skelter of dips and peaks.
"Scully, I think he's waking up!" Mulder exclaimed when he noticed Nick's eyelids fluttering.
He no sooner got that statement out when Nick suddenly let out a blood- curdling howl of pain and began struggling against his restraints.
"Mr. LaCroix, the anesthetic! Quickly!"
As LaCroix grabbed the hypodermic needle he had prepared earlier, Scully did her best to try to calm Nick down. She placed her hands on each side of his face and used her voice with gentle words of assurance to try to soothe him.
"It's okay, Nick. It's okay. We're going to give you something for the pain right now. Just hold on a minute, okay?"
Her words meant nothing to him. His brain was ablaze with an intense agony he'd never known before. With eyes golden and fangs bared, Nick attempted to jerk his head back and forth trying to escape from the device that held his skull trapped in one position, and the immense pain that consumed him beyond any rational thought. Just as LaCroix administered the anesthetic, Nick bit down on the latex covered hand that had accidentally found its way to his open mouth. Scully screamed out as one sharp fang pierced deeply into the fleshy area below her thumb. LaCroix was quick to rescue her as he forced Nick's mouth open and pulled her hand away. Scully took a step back and snapped the glove off her injured hand.
"Are you okay?" asked Mulder.
"I'll live," Scully hissed at the pain, then picked up a ball of cotton and pressed it to the wound. "How's Nick?" she asked. A quick glance at the graph revealed the chaotic movements of the needle were slowly starting to level out.
"The pain is easing," said LaCroix. "Perhaps I should give him more of the tranquilizer as well."
"Yes, I think that's a good idea."
As LaCroix concentrated on Nick, Mulder noticed that both Chad's and Matt's attention was focused on Scully, her injured hand and the deep, crimson that oozed from it when she removed the bloodied cotton ball. When he saw their eyes change color, Mulder grabbed the cross he had stored in his back pocket hidden beneath his sweater, and held it up to the Enforcers as he pulled Scully protectively behind him. The two vampires each snarled menacingly while cringing away from the religious symbol.
"Get out!" LaCroix yelled at the two trouble makers. "Both of you, now!" He backed up his command with a fierce growl and a flash of gold. That, and Mulder waving the cross in their faces was enough to send them flying out the door in a blur. Once the door had slammed shut, Mulder turned to LaCroix, still holding the cross up protectively.
The master vampire averted his eyes away from the cross. "I'd appreciate it if you'd put that away," he said in a non- threatening tone.
Mulder lowered the cross slowly and slipped it into his back pocket again, then turned his attention to Scully. "How bad is it?" he asked in trying to get a good look at her injury.
"It hurts like the devil," Scully replied. She pulled the cotton away to reveal a still bleeding puncture wound. "I'm not sure how I'm going to finish the operation now."
"May I have a look?" LaCroix asked. "I may be able to help."
"Help how?" asked Mulder suspiciously.
LaCroix gently took hold of Scully's hand. "I won't hurt you," he assured her, then slowly brought her hand to his lips.
Mulder had to force himself not to interfere as the vampire ran his tongue across his partner's hand. He noticed a slight hesitation before the vampire committed himself fully to the task. There was the slightest of frowns on his face though he didn't bother to comment on the taste of her blood be it good or bad. He simply continued to lick her wound until it healed.
"Better?" he asked afterwards.
Scully stared at her hand in amazement. The pain was gone and just the tiniest scar was visible. "That's remarkable!."
"So you'll be able to continue?"
"Yes. Thank you."
"That's a neat little trick you have there," Mulder commented on LaCroix's ability to heal with his saliva.
"Yes. I rarely get the opportunity to use it. This has been quite an evening."
"But it ain't over yet," Scully reminded him. "Keep a close eye on that graph for me, Mulder. I don't want any more surprises like that last one."
Scully went back to work, moving as quickly and as safely as possible. The third bullet came out readily, but the sac itself proved somewhat troublesome. It was fairly thick, almost like the peel of an orange, making it impossible to bring it through the opening in one piece. Scully had to trim it down into sections then use the laser to burn it away from where it had anchored itself in the very back. About an hour later, Scully removed the last of the foreign matter. She irrigated and suctioned out the cavity, noticing how the surrounding tissues were already beginning to reclaim their space. She plugged the hole in the skull with the section she had cut out earlier, then sutured the incision close.
"That's it," she sighed wearily as she began to remove her operating attire.
"Well, done," LaCroix complimented her effort. "Thank you, Agent Scully. I know it's been a difficult night for you. I do appreciate all you've done for him. I can take over from here on. The two of you may leave whenever you're ready."
"You're kicking us out?" Scully questioned, feeling used and tossed to the side. "Just like that?"
"There's little more you can do now. Nicholas will most likely sleep for several hours and when he awakens --"
"I want to be here," said Scully adamantly.
LaCroix was slightly taken aback by her tenacity. His eyes shifted to Mulder who merely shrugged and said, "I leave when she leaves."
"Very well," LaCroix yielded to their decision and gestured towards the rear of the camper. "Do make yourselves at home. The beds are there, and you'll find refreshments in the kitchen. Help yourself."
While Scully took advantage of the bathroom facilities, Mulder began to dismantle the operating area. He switched off the electrical equipment used and folded up the wires and cables. LaCroix concentrated on making Nick comfortable by removing the monitoring electrodes from his temples and the stabilizer from his head.
"You really went through quite a lot for him. Getting all this equipment, arranging all this," said Mulder in an easygoing chitchat.
"If only he would appreciate it. But that is the folly of parenthood; to hope that your children would appreciate all that you do for them."
"Is he your only child?"
"I have others."
"But he's your favorite, isn't he?" When Mulder saw that an answer to that question wasn't forthcoming, he changed the subject. "What happens now? Those Enforcers will come back tonight and check him out?"
"Yes. If there's no sign of Nicholas de Brabant or any other irrational behavior noted in the next forty-eight hours, the sentence imposed upon him earlier will be suspended and he'll face a ten-year probation."
"And if there's no change?'
"I'd rather not consider the alternative at this moment, if you don't mind."
"Sorry." Mulder retreated and headed for the kitchen area just as Scully emerged from the bathroom, looking slightly more refreshed than when she entered. "Hi. How do you feel?"
"Like I haven't had a full night's sleep in three days."
"There's a bed. Why don't you lie down for awhile? I'll stay up and wake you if anything happens."
Unable to fight her exhaustion, Scully kicked off her shoes and stretched out on the nearest bed. Mulder grabbed the blanket from a second bed and tossed it over. She was asleep before he even finished tucking it around her. He gently patted her hair and whispered, "Sweet dreams."
After making a pit stop in the bathroom, Mulder decided to check out the contents of the mini-fridge. He was surprised to find it packed with canned sodas and a party platter of sliced meat, cheese and fruit. He popped off the protective, plastic covering on the platter and stole a piece of cheese. After tasting a small bite, he grabbed a cola and another slice of cheese before covering the tray and closing the fridge door. As he finished off the cheese and followed it with a swig from the soda can, Mulder became curious about what was in the cabinets. Poking about, he found that the shelves had been stocked with bags and boxes of chips, crackers, instant coffee and something that really caught his attention. He picked up the bag of sunflower seeds, noticing that it, like all the other products were the brands he normally bought. Certain things were beginning to fall into place. He took the bag of seeds and walked back over to LaCroix.
"Ah, I see you found the snacks. I hope everything is to your liking."
"It was you," said Mulder accusingly. "You're the one who slipped me Knight's file. You were in my apartment that night, weren't you?"
LaCroix smiled lightly. "Simply because you live on the fourth floor, doesn't mean you should neglect window security."
"Why me? How did you even know about me?"
"As I said before, your reputation preceded you. A couple of years ago, you had dealings with three young vampires. Apparently, the leader of that merry band, killed his master shortly after being brought across, leaving himself unschooled in our ways and with no proper guidance. He went on to create friends for himself, though not without making a few mistakes before he finally got it right. Then, the three of them together made some unwise decisions in their pursuit for nourishment and enlightenment. The Enforcers -- overworked and understaffed -- were eventually dispatched to find them and set them straight. It appears that you got to them first."
"They were wanted for murder," said Mulder, feeling as though he had to defend himself. "And they were trying to pull an innocent woman into their gang. I was trying to stop them. I didn't mean for them to perish like that."
"No great loss, I'm sure," said LaCroix with an air of indifference. "Your involvement in their destruction was duly noted and you were thoroughly investigated. They wanted to make sure that you were not a hunter."
"Vampire hunter. Someone who makes it his life's work to hunt down and destroy vampires. In your case, it was decided that you were merely doing your duty as a representative of mortal law enforcement."
"And you figured you'd use me to find Knight for you?"
"No. I already knew where Nicholas was. You see, we have this sort of psychic connection that extends for quite a good distance."
"Then if you knew where he was, why did you need me?"
LaCroix didn't bother to answer the question. He knew that the agent was bright enough to figure it out for himself if given enough time. It only took a moment longer before he saw the dawn of realization in the young man's eyes. Mulder glanced over his shoulder at his sleeping partner, then looked back at LaCroix.
"You needed me to get to her. You knew that Knight needed to have those bullets removed and you figured that Scully could do it. You had this planned all along. Did you plan on him kidnapping her too?"
"I know that Nicholas has a weakness for beautiful women. I had no way of predicting his every move -- nor yours for that matter -- but I did realize that if given the opportunity, there was that possibility he might want to possess her. That was a risk I was prepared to take."
"It was a risk *you* were prepared to take?" Mulder shook his head in disbelief. "But why Scully? You could have chosen any doctor in the world, at least one with more experience, an actual brain surgeon. What was so special about her?" In the time LaCroix contemplated giving a response, Mulder suddenly had another revelation. "Her blood," he realized. "Knight told me that Scully had a nosebleed up at the cabin and that he tasted her blood. Apparently, it was pretty unappetizing. When you healed Scully's wound earlier, I noticed how you hesitated before you licked the blood off her hand. At first I thought you hesitated to give her a chance to pull away if she wanted. But that wasn't the reason, was it? You already knew what her blood tasted like. And you knew that if at some point she *was* attacked by Knight, the bad taste of her blood would prevent him from draining her."
"You are quite the perceptive one," said LaCroix, impressed by Mulder's accurate assumptions. "Yes. I was aware of Agent Scully's uniqueness."
"Perhaps we should take this conversation outside," LaCroix suggested. "I wouldn't want to disturb the young lady's sleep."
Mulder agreed with a nod. He set the bag of sunflower seeds aside, then followed the vampire out into the darkness. They only strolled as far as the other side of the car. LaCroix was the first to speak.
"Agent Scully's blood is indeed unique, however she is not the only one of her kind. There are, and have been quite a few others, dating back at least a quarter of a century that I'm aware of. When the first such as she was detected, it was thought to be merely a one in a billion oddity. Later, when one of our distributor's blood supply became contaminated by a very distasteful donor, a thorough investigation lead to a rather disturbing discovery involving your government performing rather dubious experimentation on the unsuspecting public. We thought at first that they knew of our existence and was trying to devise a vaccine against us. Further observation, however, revealed something considerably more sinister afoot."
"Have you seen them?" Mulder asked, feeling a twinge of excitement. "The aliens?"
"Yes. I have seen them, and I've seen what they are capable of doing."
"Have you tried to stop them?"
"Myself and a few others have banded together to see what we could accomplish. Unfortunately, your government has immense manpower and resources, and are not encumbered by daylight travel."
"Do you know what was done to Scully or where they took her?"
"Exactly what was done, no. Alien blood was obviously introduced into her system. Beyond that, I have no knowledge. She was moved about the country by train in a special box car. I'm afraid that's all I know of the matter."
Mulder was slightly disappointed by the lack of information even though it was more than he had known before. "There's a man," he continued the questioning, "tall, dark hair, around sixty, smokes constantly. Do you know him?"
"I know *of* him. He seems to be a key player in all this. We keep a distant eye on him."
"I've seen Knight use hypnosis on a doctor and I know he's used it on Scully. Would it be possible for you to use that on the Smoking Man if you got close enough to him?"
"I'm afraid that not everyone is suggestible. Some are even trained to resist all forms of coercion techniques. But one comforting thought remains. He is, after all, only mortal. He won't live forever."
"Will you?" asked Mulder curiously.
"Death has so far eluded me for nearly two-thousand years," LaCroix proudly confessed.
Mulder blew out a whistle to show that he was quite impressed. "You... uh... you look pretty good for your age," he remarked lamely.
"So I've been told."
"What about Knight? How old is he?"
"I came across Nicholas about eight centuries ago. He was a knight during the Crusades."
Mulder leaned against the rear fender of the car with folded arms and shook his head in astonishment. "I can't begin to imagine some of the things you must have witnessed in your lifetime. The things you're liable to see in the future."
"Would you be interested in seeing the future, Agent Mulder?"
"Seeing the future? How?"
"By not dying. Would you care to live forever?"
Mulder was temporarily stunned by the question. It was one he had not expected, and now that it had been asked, he was troubled by the answer he considered making.
"I see I've surprised you," LaCroix grinned.
"Yeah... yeah, you have," was all Mulder could think to say.
"Immortality, of course, isn't for everyone. And I don't offer it to many."
"Why offer it to me?"
"Because I admire your intelligence, your determination, your capacity for loyalty... and I find you, so far, to be pleasant company. Eternity *can* get rather boring without compatible companionship." LaCroix moved in closer to Mulder and spoke enticingly in his ear. "Just think of it; your senses enhanced tenfold, complete immunity from disease, the ability to fly, *and* you'll never look another day older. You can outlive all your enemies and even use your new gifts to help squash their evil plans."
It was tempting, Mulder thought. Very tempting. He could definitely use such attributes against his enemies. There seemed to be so many pluses, but he knew in his heart that there had to be some down sides to the offer.
Suddenly aware of their closeness, Mulder moved away from the car and the vampire. "Those are the good points," he said after regaining his personal space. "You want to tell me some of the bad?"
"For me, there are none," said LaCroix. "However, if your long term goals include fathering children the old-fashioned way, then you may run into a snag. You'll also find it problematic making traditional love to a mortal woman. No doubt it would be good for you, but I'm afraid that your mate would not be up for seconds. From what I've seen you stuff into your little, black bag, I believe you're aware of all the other drawbacks."
"Would I... would I have to kill for blood?"
"Blood is readily available in take-out form. However, in the early stages, the desire to kill can become overwhelming for some. But you *have* killed before, haven't you, Agent Mulder?"
"In self-defense or to save lives of innocent people."
"And did you feel guilt over those you have killed?"
Mulder considered for a moment the deaths of Eugene Tooms and the sheriff of Dudley, Arkansas both of whom had attempted to make his partner their next meal. He shook his head grimly and answered, "No, not really."
"And you have enemies you wish death upon, perhaps to even kill with your bare hands if it were feasible?"
The images of Krycek and the Smoking Man came instantly to mind. Mulder nodded slightly and responded, "Yeah, I can think of at least a couple."
LaCroix smiled devilishly. "I'm beginning to like you more and more, Agent Mulder. So the idea does appeal to you then?"
"I don't know. It's... it's something I'd really have to think about. A lot."
"Of course, I understand perfectly. Take whatever time you need. A day, a year... ten years even. That is, *if* you should live that long. In your dangerous line of work, we both know that anything can --" LaCroix suddenly looked towards the camper as though he heard a noise. "I should go back in now. Nicholas needs me."
Mulder watched as the vampire hurried back inside, then turned his eyes heaven bound. He wondered if becoming a vampire might not be his actual fate. Everything happens for a reason. That's what he had been told as a child after his sister was abducted. If she hadn't been taken, he never would have joined the FBI in hopes of finding her. He never would have discovered the existence of alien life-forms on earth or that the American government he had pledged his honor to was secretly exploiting innocent lives to achieve some mysterious goal. Perhaps he was destined to help save the world. And perhaps he was destined to do it as a vampire. It was definitely something to think about.
When Mulder finally went back inside, he saw LaCroix hovering over Nick, gently cleaning away bloodsweat from his forehead. A near empty bag of blood hung from the IV stand, and the bottle containing the tranquilizer was now empty, a final dose having just been administered. Mulder moved to the rear of the camper to check on his partner and found her still peacefully slumbering. If Nick had called out in pain, it seemed as though she would have heard, but it could be that her mind and body were just too exhausted to respond. Mulder walked back towards the front and stood watching silently as LaCroix tenderly stroked the dark, blonde curls of his offspring.
"Was he awake?' Mulder asked "Did you hear him call out when we were outside?"
"No, he did not awaken. But I sensed his distress. I sense a bit of distress in you as well. Did our little discussion leave you filled with questions?"
"A few. I don't suppose there's a vampire beginner's book available?"
"No, I'm afraid not. Perhaps when this is all over, you and I can get together at a later date and go into the matter with greater detail."
Mulder nodded absently. "Yeah. Maybe we could."
"But there remains something else on your mind, Agent Mulder. What is it?"
"I was just wondering if what's been done to Scully's blood, might not have been done to mine as well. There have been a couple of times I was held by the military or whomever and things were done to me that I can't remember."
Without a word, LaCroix picked up a scalpel, then reached out for the agent's hand. Timidly, Mulder placed his palm in the vampire's, then hissed lightly as he felt the scalpel pierce the tip of his index finger. LaCroix put the scalpel away, then squeezed the cut finger to encourage a greater flow of blood. Mulder held his breath as the vampire licked the blood tentatively at first, then engulfed the whole tip of his finger. Afraid that he would find the same unpleasant taste that the woman carried, LaCroix was delighted to find that this mortal's blood had not been tainted. On the contrary, it was intoxicatingly sweet, making it exceedingly difficult to stop at just a taste. He lifted his gaze to the young man's face and saw a pair of eyes filled with fascination. It would be so easy to take him, to immediately create a new addition to his little family, but now wasn't the right time. He had Nicholas to think about.
LaCroix licked Mulder's wound to heal it, then let go of his hand. "Your blood is perfectly normal," he told him simply.
"Thank you," said Mulder as he backed away, only then realizing how foolish his actions were. He'd just allowed a vampire to drink his blood. He'd seen the glint of gold in LaCroix's eyes and knew that the vampire had been tempted to go further. But what Mulder found truly scary was the fact that he hadn't minded at all.
Scully woke up a little disoriented. She sat up in the strange bed and looked about to get her bearings. She saw her partner in the bed across from her sleeping on his back with a wooden cross clutched loosely in his hand resting on his chest. Scully swung her stocking feet to the carpeted floor and rose from the bed to go check on her patient. She found that Nick was still asleep and chained to the chair. His adopted father was nearby, seated on the adjustable stool with his back and head resting against the wall, arms folded across his chest and eyes closed. Scully wasn't quite sure if he was asleep or not. She didn't want to wake him if he was, so she kept her movements slow and silent as she approached Nick.
Checking the sutures on his forehead, she was surprised to find the incision she'd made just hours ago was practically healed. The sutures were no longer needed, so she found a pair of scissors and began to clip them away. With the first tiny snip of the scissors. LaCroix's eyes snapped open and he looked on with concern.
"Is there something wrong?" he asked. Though his voice was soft, Scully was still startled by it.
"No. I was just removing the stitches. He's nearly healed. I didn't mean to wake you."
"I was merely resting my eyes."
"I see you gave him the rest of the sedative."
"He became restless at one point. I thought it best."
"I'm sure it was. He definitely needs to rest." As Scully finished removing the stitches, she casually began a conversation on another topic that had been on her mind for a while. "Mr. LaCroix, did you know Dr. Natalie Lambert?"
"Yes, I had the pleasure of making her acquaintance on a few occasions. Why do you ask?"
"Back at the cabin, Nick told me that Dr. Lambert had come up with something for his sun allergy. I'm thinking now that he meant that she had found a way to make him a normal man again. Do you know anything about that?"
"Dr. Lambert had the misguided notion, as does Nicholas, that he can become mortal again. She created the most vial concoctions and used him as a guinea pig, which I am positive severely compromised his natural ability to heal. I believe that the tumor you removed is a direct result of her meddling. He *is* what he is. There is no cure for it." Scully could tell by the barely controlled vehemence in the vampire's voice that she had touched upon a sensitive area. She wisely chose not to pursue it further.
"Is it necessary to keep the chains on?" she asked, referring to Nick's restraints.
"Until he awakens and we see what kind of mood he's in, I think it's safest. There's food in the kitchen, if you'd like breakfast."
Scully nodded her acceptance of his hospitality. "Thank you."
Mulder awoke from a troubled dream involving aliens and vampires. As if he didn't have enough stars in his nightmares already, he had to invite new characters. He opened his eyes to a semi-darkened room. The area was closed off from the front of the camper by a corrugated partition. The overhead lights were off, and the heavily tinted windows significantly reduced the amount of daylight entering. Mulder sat up in bed and looked across to where he had last seen his partner. He discovered that she had been replaced by a much taller and paler figure. LaCroix lay on the bed with eyes closed and hands folded across his chest. His son had been positioned close by. The dentist chair was still horizontal but had been lowered to its minimum height of two feet, and the arms had been removed to conserve space. The chains still remained around Nick's ankles and waist, but his wrists were bound together as his hands rested on his abdomen.
Mulder got up quietly and carefully slid open the partition, making sure there was no danger of sunlight flooding the sleeping area. He was a little concerned about not finding his partner on the other side of the partition. He closed it, then glanced out the window where he viewed his better half seated in one of two folding chairs, beneath the awning, munching from a bag of chips and reading a paperback novel. Smiling to himself, Mulder opened the door and stepped outside.
"Nice day," Mulder greeted her. "Enjoying yourself?"
"As a matter of fact, yes. Did you sleep you well?"
"Yeah, except for the weird dream I had about being chased by blood- sucking aliens." When Mulder attempted to help himself to Scully's bag of chips, she batted his hand away.
"You don't eat the low-fat kind."
"You mean the no-taste kind."
"There's plenty of other stuff inside. And bring me another diet cola while you're at it."
"Your wish is my command."
Mulder made a trip back inside and came out with an armful of sodas, snacks and the party tray of meat and cheese. He could tell that Scully had already been at the tray because it wasn't as full as the last time he'd seen it. He gave Scully the drink she had requested, then settled down in the other available chair with the rest of the items he'd brought out.
"For a man who supposedly doesn't eat food, Mr. LaCroix sure bought enough," Scully commented. "You think he did it just for us?"
"Yeah, I think he did. I talked to him for awhile right after you went to bed, and he admitted that he had set this whole thing up from the very beginning. He was the one who slipped me the file on Knight. He knew that an operation was necessary and he picked you to do it."
Mulder filled his mouth with food to keep from answering right away. He didn't want to tell her that she was walking around with slightly alien blood and that she was considered less than appetizing by the vampire community. Luckily, he didn't have to answer because his partner came up with her own.
"Mr. LaCroix said that your reputation preceded you. And if he already knew about you, then he also knew your partner was a doctor who did her slicing and dicing on the dead. Since they consider themselves to be dead in a sense, Mr. LaCroix figured I'd do just fine."
"And you did," Mulder agreed. "Under the circumstances, you did a damn fine job, Scully."
Scully took a sip of her soda, then said, "You know, it's still hard for me to believe any of this. My eyes see things that couldn't possibly be real, and yet.... Of course, if I really tried, I could probably come up with a scientific explanation for all this."
"You could?" Mulder questioned doubtfully.
Scully thought about it a moment then shrugged. "I didn't say it'd be a great explanation."
A comfortable silence followed as Scully returned to reading her novel and Mulder assuaged his hunger with half the food on the party tray, washed down by a can of root beer. Afterwards, he moved his chair into the sun and slumped down in it, stretching his long legs out fully and folding his hands atop his well-fed belly. Feeling the warming rays on his skin, he thought back to the rest of the conversation he'd had with LaCroix. "Scully, if someone offered you the chance to live forever, would you take it?"
"You mean like if my fairy-godmother comes and grants me a magic wish?"
"Yeah. Something like that. And you'd never look any older, you'd have special powers, and you'd be able to fly."
When he mentioned being able to fly, Scully realized where the idea of immortality had come from. "Would I be on a permanent liquid diet and somewhat sensitive to sunlight?" she asked.
"You're not thinking what I think you're thinking, are you?"
"Mr. LaCroix offered me immortality. He's nearly two-thousand years old. Do you know how old Knight is? He's eight-hundred. Can you imagine the lives they must have lead, the people they've known?"
"Are you telling me that you want to become a vampire now, Mulder? You can't be serious."
"I didn't say I wanted to become a vampire. I just asked your opinion about living forever."
"Maybe you should ask Nick his opinion on that. I'm sure he has a lot more incite into it. Actually, I think he's tired of his immortality. When we were at the cabin, he told me how Natalie Lambert had tried to help him. Apparently, he missed having the sunlight on his skin, so Natalie came up with something that allowed him to spend a day in the sun. Unfortunately, whatever cure she came up with had some pretty bad side effects, so I guess the search for a normal life was abandoned. And when Natalie was killed, we know he took her death pretty hard. So think of it, Mulder; if he's been around for eight hundred years, then Natalie Lambert's death was definitely not the first one he's had to live with. How many lost loves do you suppose he's mourned? How many friends has he had to bury? How many times has he had to start his life over because everyone else around him is aging and he still looks exactly the same twenty years later? Mulder, from what I've seen, Nick Knight is not a happy man. And he's not a happy vampire either. Do you suppose he'll be that way for the next eight hundred years?"
Mulder had no reply. He hadn't given that aspect of forever much thought. And it bothered him that despite those very important concerns, he still couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to live beyond his normal life span. It's not everyday a person is offered the opportunity to cheat death and the power to defeat his enemies.
It was the first time since teaming with Mulder that Scully had had the time to completely read a novel from start to finish in one sitting. Her partner had taken the car back into town to finish up loose ends with the police and check them out of the motel in which they had never been able to spend the night. She was surprised that he was willing to leave her alone with the vampires, even though they were sleeping and seemingly harmless. He figured that as long as she stayed outside in the sunlight, she'd be perfectly safe. She would have been content to stay outside if she hadn't consumed a cup of coffee, two sodas and half a liter bottle of water in the past five hours. Nature was calling and she didn't have the necessary equipment to easily answer it outside.
Scully ventured inside and slowly slid the partition open, then tiptoed silently past the slumbering vampires and into the bathroom. She finished her business up quickly, but instead of heading immediately back outside, she paused to check on Nick. She knelt down and leaned over to get a look at his forehead. It was a little hard to see in the dim light, so she ran a finger across his brow to determine the extent of his healing thus far. His skin was perfectly smooth with no sign of scarring.
"Amazing," Scully uttered under her breath, then gasped in alarm when she felt something brush against her breast.
"Who are you?" Nick spoke in a raspy voice, his left hand reaching out to make contact.
Recovering from her initial shock, Scully took his hand in hers and gave it a comforting squeeze. "It's Dana Scully," she responded softly. "Do you remember me, Nick?''
"Yes, it's Agent Scully. How do you feel?"
"I can't see you. There's something wrong with my eyes," he uttered fearfully.
"Wait a minute." Scully stood momentarily and flipped on the overhead light switch. A quick glance at LaCroix revealed that he was not bothered by the light or the low voices. "How's that?" she asked Nick. "Can you see me now?"
"I see a shadow of you. It's very blurry. What's happened to me? I feel dizzy and my head hurts."
"Is the pain like it was before?"
"No. Just a dull ache. And I feel tired, weak. It's hard to move."
"The reason you're finding it hard to move is because you're wearing restraints. The headache, I'd say is from the surgery. I think the rest of your symptoms may just be side effects from the drugs you were given. The dosage used would have killed a normal man several times over."
"Surgery? What surgery? "I performed the surgery to remove your tumor."
"I don't understand. The last I remember...." his voice trailed off as he struggled to recall the previous events of his life which had included two beefy Enforcers and the promise of true death. As he concentrated, the haziness of the drugs in his system lifted just enough to enable him to distinguish an undeniable presence. "LaCroix?"
"I'm right here, Nicholas." LaCroix sat up calmly in bed and placed a hand on his son's arm.
Nick recoiled at his touch. "Is this how you plan to keep me?" he hissed. "Blind, chained down and helpless? Did he kidnap you, Agent Scully? Force you to do this to me?"
Scully looked to LaCroix and saw the hurt expression on his face as he rose from the bed. "No, Nick. It's not like that," Scully began to explain. "Mr. LaCroix asked me in a very courteous way if I would perform the operation and afterwards, I volunteered to stay and help him look after you. As far as the chains are concerned, he didn't want you to end up accidentally hurting me or yourself. I imagine it's all right to remove them now though."
No sooner had he heard those words, Nick felt the restraints being removed from his ankles. A moment later, he lost contact with the feminine hand as Scully stepped aside to allow LaCroix to discard the rest of the bindings. Once free, Nick immediately tried to stand up, only to collapse to his knees from disorientation and weakness. Wordlessly, LaCroix lifted him up and aided him in sitting down, quickly adjusting the chair to a slightly reclined, upright position.
Scully returned to his side again and held his hand. "You need to take it easy, Nick," she advised in a soothing voice.
"He had no right to make such a decision for me," Nick grumbled.
"I have *every* right," LaCroix declared angrily. "You gave me the right when you accepted my offer eight hundred years ago. How many times must I remind you that you are *my* creation, Nicholas. You. Are. Mine!"
Nick didn't bother to respond. It was an old argument; one of which he could never hope to win. Scully gazed with disapproval at LaCroix, then her eyes shifted to her partner who stood at the partitioned entrance, taking everything in. The picture of the caring father he'd witnessed earlier was in stark contrast to what he saw now.
Realizing the image he was displaying, the elder vampire quickly reeled in his anger. "Performing the operation," LaCroix continued in a milder tone, "was the only way to keep the Enforcers from severing your head."
"I broke the code," Nick responded shamefully. "I was prepared to accept the consequences."
All anger left LaCroix's voice as he spoke next. "Nicholas, do you recall a certain conversation we had; the one in which you told me that you were not going to sit back and let de Brabant steal your life? You said that you were going to fight him every step of the way, and that if I were truly your friend, then I'd help you to win the battle against him. Do you remember that, Nicholas?"
"Yes, I remember."
"Well, I am doing my part to help win the battle. Now I need for you to do yours. You cannot let him win, Nicholas. You cannot give up, not without a fight."
"I'm tired, LaCroix," Nick sighed wearily. "I don't know if I have anymore fight left in me. And for what? What is there left for me?"
"Hope for the future," Scully offered. "Nick, I really don't know what all you've experienced so far. Maybe you've seen it all and done it all, but you never know.... Perhaps the future may bring something new and different and wonderful into your life. Maybe fate has a lot more good in store for you than you could ever imagine. Your hearts desire could be just a couple of days away or a couple of years."
Nick lifted her hand to his lips and placed a kiss in the center of her palm. "I seem to be lacking the energy to argue with you at the moment. Thank you for all your help, Agent Scully."
"You know, I do have a first name," said Scully. "It's Dana."
He smiled as his eyes drooped drowsily. "I've enjoyed meeting you, Dana." With those final words Nick drifted back off into unconsciousness.
"You handled that nicely," said LaCroix.
"About his eyesight," Scully shrugged. "I'm not really sure. My gut feeling is that it's only temporary, either due to the drugs used or perhaps there's some swelling and pressure building up behind his eyes. With his capacity for healing, it may simply clear up soon on its own. But if it doesn't, then I suppose there's a possibility that the optic nerve was somehow damaged during the operation, in which case he'd have to undergo some tests to determine what can be done to repair the damage."
"I'm sure that won't be necessary," LaCroix assured her. "I must thank you again, my dear. For all that you've done. If circumstances were different and Nicholas had lived, I'm sure you and he would have become close friends."
Scully eyed the elder vampire in confusion. "What? What do you mean if he had lived?"
"Nick Knight died yesterday morning at his cabin in the mountains. Remember? You accompanied his body back in the helicopter. You said your final farewell to him in the morgue at the hospital. That was the last you saw of him. This nonsense about him being a vampire is completely ridiculous, of course. There's no such thing as vampires. Your partner simply has an overactive imagination. You will not remember meeting me. You will not remember the Enforcers or performing the operation. Do you understand?"
Scully nodded her head in a dazed movement. "Yes."
"You will sleep now until your partner awakens you."
As Scully fell into a deep sleep, LaCroix scooped her up in his arms, then turned to face Mulder who asked, "Are you going to make me forget too?"
"That depends. Have you made your decision based on our earlier discussion?"
"I'm still interested, but...."
"You need more time."
"Maybe if you look me up again in another ten years. If I'm not happily married by then with a couple of rug rats crawling around...."
"Would those happen to be red-headed, rug rats?" LaCroix asked with a smile.
Blushing profusely, Mulder was unable to confirm or deny the possibility. Without even realizing it, he was hypnotized into forgetting about his encounter with vampires and was soon on the road heading out of town with his partner asleep in the passenger seat. Though he couldn't quite shake the feeling that he was forgetting something as he drove along, he didn't want to disturb Scully's slumber. He wouldn't bother to wake her until they reached the airport in Billings.
Scully's Apartment Building One Month Later
Someone on the block was having a party and Scully was unable to park in her normal spot due to the excess of cars which lined both sides of the street. She considered herself lucky to find a space at the farthest end of the block, though she wasn't happy about having to lug her overnight bag and an armful of groceries all that distance. Just returning from a case, she knew there was little food in her refrigerator, so she stopped off at the store to pick up a few necessities. Since the neighborhood was known for its lack of crime, Scully had no qualms about walking down the street late at night. Besides, she was still carrying her gun.
As she moved closer to her building, Scully got the sensation that she was being followed. She glanced behind herself several times, but never saw anyone. When she reached the door of her building, she set her overnight bag down so she could unlock the door. Once the door was open, she reached down for her luggage just as her grocery bag broke open and an item escaped from the bottom. A hand appeared out of nowhere to rescue the falling container of ice cream before it had a chance to hit the ground. Scully jumped back in surprise.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you."
Scully expelled a shocked gasp when she recognized the face of the man standing at her side. "You! You're... you're dead! I saw you. You were dead."
Nick smiled. And shrugged lightly. "I do tend to sleep like the dead," he jokingly admitted. "Do I look dead to you now?"
"No, of course not."
"Here, let me help you with that." Nick carefully took the grocery bag from her, then held up the ice cream container and briefly studied the label. "You'd actually eat something called Moose Tracks?" he asked with a playful frown.
"What are you doing here?" Scully asked, still in a state of disbelief.
"I've been thinking about you a lot lately and I wanted to see you again. Do you mind if I come inside for a little while?"
She had a ton of questions she wanted answered, so Scully allowed Nick to accompany her through the lobby door and into her apartment. She was ready to begin the interrogation as soon as they cleared the door, but Nick was concerned about putting away the grocery items that required refrigeration. He found his own way into the kitchen while Scully remained in the living room. She contemplated whether or not she should call Mulder but Nick returned from his short chore before she had the chance to reach for the phone.
"All done," said Nick with a pleasant smile. "Your carton of Moose Tracks is safe."
"Thank you. Now are you ready to answer a few questions for me?"
Nick walked up to her and gently drew her into his arms. Scully stiffened in fear as he embraced her and she glared in wide-eyed wonder as he leaned forward to press his lips against hers. His gentleness quickly won her over and once he felt her relax, he kissed her with more passion. Frozen at first, Scully instantly began to melt under his expert mouth. When her tongue scraped lightly against his fangs, she drew back suddenly and stared into a pair of golden eyes.
"Mulder was right. You *are* a vampire."
Nick stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers and replied softly, "Is that a problem?"
It should have been but for some reason it didn't really seem to matter. Scully shook her head slightly and smiled. "No, it's not a problem at all." She reached her hand up to the back of his head and pulled him down to engage his lips once again. As they kissed feverishly, Scully felt herself being lifted by a pair of powerful but gentle arms. There was the euphoric sensation of floating through the air as he transported her into the bedroom. They hovered above the bed spinning ever so slowly in a circle, the room swirling with candlelight. She closed her eyes pleasurably as cool lips began to trace down the side of her throat. She arched her neck into his touch expectantly as his fangs teased her skin. If he had intended to bite her, she had absolutely no desire to stop him. In fact, she was looking forward to it.
"You want me?" he asked as he began to lick her lips.
"I'm going to make it so good for you," he whispered sensually in her ear.
She was more than ready for him to keep his word. They floated down onto the bed and just as he was about to fulfill his promise, the moment was shattered by the ringing of the telephone. Reluctantly, Scully answered it with a groggy, "Hello?"
"Rise and shine, G-Woman," Mulder's voice boomed cheerfully through the receiver. "We've got a new case, so jump in the shower, get yourself packed and I'll be over to pick you up in an hour."
"Shake the cobwebs out, Scully. You with me?"
"Yeah, I just... wow, I just had the wildest dream."
"Oh yeah? How was I? Never mind. Tell me about it on the plane to Texas. See you later."
Scully hung up the phone but instead of getting up, continued to lie in bed. The dream she'd just had was still quite vivid in her mind. She closed her eyes to recapture the passionate moment but was interrupted once again by the telephone. She didn't even get a chance to say hello first before Mulder started speaking.
"You got me curious now. I can't wait till later. Tell me about this wild dream."
"I was dreaming about Nick Knight."
"Oh, the dead guy? What happened?"
"Well, for one, he wasn't dead. He came to see me at my apartment and he just started kissing me. I pushed him away when I felt his fangs and then I saw he had golden eyes. He admitted to being a vampire. And he asked me if I minded, which for some reason, I didn't. Then we kissed some more as he lifted me up and flew me into the bedroom."
"Then what happened?" asked Mulder, finding the dream somewhat intriguing.
"My idiot partner called and woke me up." "Oh, sorry. But it's funny you should mention Knight. I had a dream last week about Mr. LaCroix, the guy who showed up to claim Knight's body. It was really odd, considering that I only met the man for a moment while you were getting your checkup. But anyway, in the dream, we were out in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night and he started to suck on my finger."
"He sucked on your finger?"
"Yeah. Then he told me that maybe would could get together later sometime. Hey, that's not funny," Mulder protested against his partner's outburst of laughter.
"If it's not, then I don't know what is," Scully giggled. "Thank you, Mulder. That certainly helped to wake me up."
She hung up the phone again, then rose from her bed and headed for the bathroom. When the phone rang yet again, she grumbled under her breath as she snatched up the receiver.
"Look, Mulder, if you expect me to be ready when you come to pick me up, you've got to stop playing with the phone."
There was no reply on the other end. Scully called out Mulder's name twice, then was about to hang up when suddenly, piano music began playing. It sounded classical in nature and Scully reasoned by the rich tones that it was not a recording she was hearing. She couldn't think of anyone she knew with classical training. It was possible that the caller had dialed a wrong number and she was not meant to be the recipient of this impromptu serenade. She tried a couple of times to get the caller's attention, but the music continued to play. Finally, she just remained quiet and listened.
It was a beautiful piece, the kind of song that might be played in fine restaurants to accompany a romantic, candlelit dinner or end up in a music box. Scully sat down on the edge of her bed and listened for another minute and a half until the piano played its final, heartwarming notes. Though she expected to hear a voice after the song finished, there was only silence on the other end.
"That was lovely," said Scully, hoping to get a word out of the caller. "You play beautifully."
The only response she received was in the playing of two notes which sounded as though someone was using the music to say thank you. After that, the line went dead. Scully instantly dialed star-69 in hopes of reaching the person who had just hung up. All she got was an operator recording telling her that her call could not be completed as dialed. Perhaps it had just been a wrong number and the shy caller had meant to serenade someone else. It couldn't have possibly been meant for her, could it? At any rate, it was a nice way to start her morning; a sexy dream starring a handsome lover, a good laugh provided by her partner, and a mini concert over the phone. She doubted seriously if the rest of her day would be as nice. As she headed for her shower, she wondered what sick horrors could possibly be waiting for her in Texas.
Nick sat staring glumly at the piano keys. He was still depressed over Natalie's death, but the pain wasn't as overwhelming as before. He had spent the last month composing a song in her honor. Since he was unable to play it for his beloved, he decided to play it for the woman who had become somewhat of a substitute. When Nick dialed the number and heard the voice on the other end, he had wanted so much to talk to her but he knew in doing so would only lead to trouble. To Agent Scully, he had died back on that mountain in his cabin. It wouldn't be fair to her to reveal himself now. She was going on with her life, as well she should. The song had been a simple way of thanking her. Dana Scully, like Natalie, had put aside her fear and risked her life in order to help him. Because of her unselfishness, his life was back on track. The severe headaches were a thing of the past and the alternate personality of Nicholas de Brabant had thus far, not returned.
Nick put his fingers to the keys and began playing an encore. As he tickled the ivory, he recalled Natalie's ghost suggesting that he get someone else to take over the work she had started in regards to him finding a cure for vampirism. Briefly, he considered that perhaps Agent Scully might be willing to continue the research, but he shook that thought out of his mind. He'd already promised himself that he would not get involved with another mortal. Besides, he was restricted from socializing with them at all for the next ten years as part of his probation which included surprise visits by the Enforcers and constant supervision by LaCroix.
Speaking of the devil, his master entered the parlor and stepped up behind him. He didn't even flinch when LaCroix placed a hand on his shoulder. There had been a time when he would have instantly shrugged it off, unable to stomach his touch. But for the past month, the elder vampire had shown him nothing but understanding and kindness. It made him wonder if LaCroix had not developed multiple personalities and his real one had been forced into submission. Of course, it was probably due to the simple fact that Nick was behaving as a normal vampire. His pursuit of a mortal life had been temporally abandoned and his thirst for human blood had for the time being, won out over cow's blood. It made LaCroix happy, and if LaCroix was happy, then Nick's existence would be peaceful.
"I do enjoy hearing you play, Nicholas. I'm glad you've finally found the desire to compose again. That melody is quite enchanting."
"I'm glad you think so," Nick replied softly. "I plan to play nothing else for the next ten years."
"Still in a mood, I see." LaCroix walked around to the other side of the grand piano so that he could face his offspring. "I've planned a little surprise for you. It's something I'm sure will lift your spirits somewhat."
"And what would that be?"
Nick's hands froze on the piano keys when he heard that voice. LaCroix's presence was so strong that he had completely masked that of his daughter. She stood right behind him. Her right hand settled on his shoulder, then slid halfway down his chest. He grasped it gently and brought it to his lips.
"LaCroix told me about Natalie," she spoke delicately. "I know what it feels like now to lose a mortal you've grown to love. I'm sorry for your loss."
Nick turned to look at her. She was as beautiful as ever with her long, raven hair pulled back into a French roll and tendrils cascading along the sides. Her pale, alabaster complexion was offset by sparkling, blue eyes and ruby lips. He gently guided her around the bench so that she could sit down next to him, then wrapped his arms about her possessively.
"I'm sorry, Janette," he spoke, choking back the tears. "I know I didn't respect your wishes. You had the chance to leave this world a mortal, but I took that away from you. I don't blame you for hating me. But I just couldn't bare the thought of losing you forever. Please forgive me. I'm sorry."
Janette eased away from him slightly so that she could look into his tearful eyes. "What is it about you, Nichola that prevents me from staying angry with you?"
That got a smile out of him. He wanted to ask if she was back to stay but decided that would be too pushy. He was lucky she wanted to see him at all. She granted him a simple kiss on the lips, then patted his cheek lightly.
"Play for me, Nichola. I want to hear my favorite."
Out of all the songs she'd been exposed to during the centuries, only one had become her all time favorite, mainly because it was an upbeat love song that two could play at the same time and she enjoyed trying to keep up. Without hesitation, Nick began playing the first chords of "Heart and Soul." After a moment, he gave Janette the cue to join in with her part. When she hit the wrong keys, they both broke out into laughter, and Nick started his part over again.
LaCroix smiled in contentment to see his children together again and sharing a laugh. It was good to have his family back under one roof. It had been far too long. The master vampire made himself comfortable in a wingback chair and listened as the laughter grew while the song suffered. His thoughts strayed to include a certain American, government employee. Agent Mulder would indeed make a fine addition to his little family. Janette surely wouldn't mind a new brother, although Nicholas would probably scoff at depriving another mortal the opportunity to grow old and die. And then there was Agent Scully, who would probably be the true deciding factor in Agent Mulder's final choice. LaCroix decided that he would take his time with the matter. A decade wasn't long to wait at all. He knew from experience that acting too hastily could easily lead to the creation of a problem child, and though he truly loved the one he already had, he certainly didn't want another one.
Th-th-th-that's all folks!
Hope you enjoyed it!
Virtual flowers or simple words of praise graciously accepted.
p.s. If you don't know the song "Heart and Soul" it was featured in the movie, "BIG." It's the duet Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia stomped out on the floor piano.