Word Count: 5,813
Prompt: Vampires are being killed, mortals are being turned against their will, and the Enforcers have given Nick X number of days to find the culprit and fix the problem before they fix it for him.
Summary: Nick is trying to figure out who's responsible for the vampire population explosion that Toronto's experiencing, and Janette is making sure the community isn't overwhelmed.
Author's Notes: This story is an AU that takes place during the season two premiere, Killer Instinct, but pulls elements from later episodes of the series, especially A Fate Worse Than Death and Ashes to Ashes. I owe a great deal of thanks to the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History for research purposes, though only a portion of the information (on Roman cameo construction) made it into the fic. Seriously. Awesome site. Thank you to brightknightie, natmerc and triciabyrne1978 for betareading. The title is from Be Near Me by Faiz Ahmed Faiz (and translated by Naomi Lazard).
Nick cast his senses out across Toronto. His mind hunted for a member of the community whose thoughts were unbalanced. To bring mortals across without their consent, whoever he was, he must be mad. Nick would know if Lacroix had returned. Janette would know as well. She would likely have known first, and she'd have told him. Besides, Lacroix was dead, from fire and a stake through his heart, and the dead didn't come back.
No other vampire had cause to hate him the way Lacroix did. Nick had heard the faintest whispers of another vampire at sunset, but they'd subsided. No matter how far he stretched his senses and searched for him, whoever it was hid himself well.
The Toronto skyline was never more distasteful than tonight. This was a life he loved, in a city he could say he felt more at home in than most. The thought of leaving it would have made him ill, if he were capable of it, and Nick might have to leave. He knew all of the people who had been brought across against their will, all in the past week. He hadn't told Janette of the connection. They were all tied to him in some way, and now they were vampires.
Witnesses from cases, like Nancy Leung. Colleagues from the police department, like Officer Bridget Hellman and Norma Alves. People like Monica Howard, and criminals like Laura Neil. People who had escaped from vampires once before, like Bernice Applebaum. Even people like Rebecca, trying to change her life and escape the self-destructive clutches of the fame she no longer wanted. Even young children were being brought across. Gemma, whom Erica had cast in her play as Katherine, had an acting career that was frozen when she had been on the verge of blossoming, and Lisa Cooper, who'd once thought having the power of flight would be 'cool.'
They were women he'd protected in the past, or whom he'd protected others from, and Nick had felt his intervention in their lives had been pivotal. He'd kept in touch with some of them, followed their careers or their sentences. He'd worked with others, or seen how promising their careers were. He couldn't stop what had been done to them by this vampire.
As soon as Nick had realized that all the victims had a connection to him, he'd given Larry Merlin a call. Before you could say 'souvlaki,' Schanke, Myra, and Jenny had been flown off to Italy on a family heritage trip won by an essay Schanke had never written for a contest he'd never entered. Captain Cohen hadn't been happy. After all, they'd just transferred. But what could she do? A free vacation to Europe was hard to turn down, and Nick had volunteered to cover Schanke's case load.
Besides, Nick had made sure Schanke was already in Italy before he let Cohen know about the trip.
Natalie wouldn't leave. He'd tried. Nick had pleaded with her, but she was as stubborn as ever. He'd threatened to throw her over his shoulder and drag her to the airport himself, only to be told she'd turn around and take the next flight back. After all, he needed someone who was skilled at forensics to examine the victims and help him look for commonalities.
He'd caved. It was weak, maybe, but he wanted Nat around, so he sent her sister-in-law and niece away by themselves with another false contest. Nat's quick thinking would help him solve this before it got even more catastrophic for the Toronto community, both vampire and mortal. There was no way to know who was responsible for these crimes.
A group of orphaned vampires, with no master to guide them, were running Janette ragged. She was exhausted trying to keep up appearances at the Raven, but she wouldn't step back from any of it. There was damage control to be done, as most of them didn't know what had happened to them, and their absences had to be accounted for in some way. The vampire community had turned to Nick to do that, as the only police officer in residence. At least, until he'd been taken off the case.
Nick had played it up to Cohen that he thought a serial killer was stalking Nick, choosing his victims from people Nick was connected to in revenge for past misdeeds. Before he'd gotten Schanke and his family out of town, Internal Affairs had shown up and questioned them both, taking Nick off the case. Maybe they even thought Nick was a kidnapper, possibly even a killer given the traces of blood found at the crime scenes, using his job as a police officer to find victims.
Cohen had argued the decision, but she'd had no choice. Nick wouldn't stop working it from the vampire angle, though. He'd find the problem, and he'd solve it.
Even Nick's vampire senses, stunted as they were, felt the presence of two Enforcers landing on the rooftop behind him. Nick brought his awareness back to himself, opened his eyes, and turned to meet what could very well be his death.
"I don't know who's targeting me this way," he said.
The first Enforcer, wearing his customary severe black suit, said nothing. His partner - Nick hesitated to use such a human term for such an inhuman creature - snarled. They were nothing like he and Schanke. Nothing.
The menace in the air was a chill aura, and the force of their thoughts swept over Nick like a tidal wave, drowning him with anger, determination, and the knowledge that, since this unknown vampire had fixed his attentions on Nick, he had to resolve this. If he didn't, the Enforcers would remove all possible threat of discovery. Which included Natalie, a secret he'd hid from them for three years.
The image of Natalie, her throat torn open by one Enforcer as the other drove a stake through Nick's heart seared itself into Nick's eyes, bright and devastating as the sunrise.
Nick staggered back, bringing up his arm to shield himself from the nonexistent sun. Death. Death by tomorrow morning, should he not solve this mystery. When he lowered his arm, blinking open eyes that ached with phantom pain. "Well," he said to the empty rooftop. "At least I know how long I have."
He turned and started searching the city again, until he felt a knot of panic at the Raven. Janette was afraid, not for her life, but for-- It didn't matter. She needed him, or perhaps it was just that Nick needed to know Janette was safe. He gathered his scattered concentration and took to the sky.
Most nights, walking through the Raven was like coming home. Everything about the club, from the curtains to the carefully cultivated atmosphere, showed evidence of Janette's unique touch. It was eight hundred years of a familiar, comforting presence surrounding him the instant he walked through the door.
Tonight, though, vampires slipped away from Nick, eying him askance the instant he walked in the door. Only Miklos acknowledged him, greeting Nick with the customary regal nod of the boyar he had once been.
The burst of panic from Janette had calmed to an undercurrent of anxiety. Nick had time to gather some information before seeing her. He walked up to the bar and pushed away the drink that Miklos set down in front of him.
"Seems like I'm persona non grata these days," said Nick, feigning an amusement that wouldn't have fooled Natalie or Janette.
"Times like these, they might blame you for the unexpected population explosion," said Miklos. He pushed the wine glass back at Nick. "If you're not going to drink it, take it to Janette. She could use it."
Nick wrapped his hand around the goblet and tried not to inhale the sweet, delicate scent of human blood. It had been a long night, and it would be even longer still until sunrise. The temptations of the Raven, and resisting their allure, were harder than usual tonight. He'd been listening too much to his vampire nature.
"What about you?" he asked Miklos, setting the glass down. One of the servers, Brianna, swept it away without acknowledging him. None of the others would, not until this was resolved. "Not afraid of guilt by association?"
Miklos smiled, in a bitter amusement that Nick understood only too well. After all, he'd once been guilty of association when the Enforcers were involved, and had been saved only by Lacroix's intervention. "Only fools fear that when the Enforcers come to town," he said, pouring himself a glass out of the same bottle he'd poured a drink for Janette. "They're scalpels, not blunt instruments."
The threat inherent in being the one the Enforcers were after was enough to chill what little good humor Nick had feigned. "I should go and see Janette."
"You know why she needs you?" asked Miklos. His eyes flickered toward Janette's rooms.
"Another new vampire?" asked Nick. It was almost inevitable, and the guilt of being the cause, however inadvertent, of yet another's damnation weighed on his soul. He longed to find a priest to confess his guilt to, but there were no sacraments for him. Not for any of the damned.
The look he got from Miklos was sympathetic, but there was more to it, though Nick couldn't identify what. It put all his senses on alert.
"Your coroner friend," said Miklos. A few of the community knew about her. Miklos was one of them.
Nick almost flew toward where he could feel Janette's internal pull.
"Where is she?" demanded Nicolas. His coat, long and black, flapped behind him. His movement would be a blur to mortal eyes.
Janette had stepped out of her private quarters the instant she felt Nicolas enter her club. It would not do to have him in her rooms. Not if previous experience with the others was anything to go by, and Janette was very fond of judging by previous experience.
"I found her outside," said Janette, blocking Nicolas from the door with her body. He was too upset, beyond all rational thought. "She was disoriented. She certainly had no idea what had happened to her, right up until the point she tried to attack one of my patrons."
"Let me see her," he said. Nicolas carried the full weight of his years in his eyes. He tried to shove past Janette, but he had forgotten once again that she was older than he was. She caught his shoulder in an iron grip.
"Natalie does not need to deal with your overwrought guilt complex in addition to everything else that she is going through," snapped Janette. "She isn't the first mortal to be brought across against her will in this little crime spree - or even throughout history - and I highly doubt she'll be the last."
"I have to find out who's doing this, Janette." It was not pretty, the way that Nicolas tortured himself over something so unnecessary. "Who would bring mortals across against their will? Who would bring Natalie across?"
"Some people think that Natalie would be a fine addition to our community." Janette's eyes narrowed, and Nicolas took a step back, once she let him go. "I expect she will be, once she adjusts."
She would have to help Natalie adjust, just like she would have to help the others. There was no one else in Toronto qualified to help them. She had other duties too, but perhaps Janette could shift things at the Raven around. Once the crisis was over, at least. That way she could keep her image of calm, of being unaffected by this vampire, whoever it was, in place.
"How can you say that?" he asked. Poor Nicolas, he was appalled. At another time, Janette would have been angry, but this was an unusual situation. She could not help but feel an upwelling of sympathy for him.
"Natalie is an adaptable woman," said Janette. Her eyes flickered toward the door. "Go. Find out who is doing this before the Enforcers return."
Their presence had been impossible to miss, and she had felt them through the connection she and Nicolas had. Even Natalie had glimpsed the threat of sunlight and the death it entailed.
"What will you do?" asked Nicolas. Instead of leaving, his eyes strayed to the door, beyond which Natalie lay in Janette's bed. It was gratifying that he leaned toward her, at least.
"What I always do," said Janette, biting off each word in lieu of the heavy sigh that would reveal too much. She did not give Nicolas a subtle cue this time, but, instead, prodded him into turning around. "Go."
She had pieces of others' lives to pick up and mend together once again.
Janette let herself back into her room. Natalie was not laying down any longer, but standing. "I heard the whole conversation."
"I know," said Janette. "Your senses have sharpened. I do not recommend spending time in a loud nightclub for the next while."
"This is weird." Natalie shook her head and walked across the room. She sat on the edge of Janette's bed. "Why can't I remember who brought me across?"
She did not know what to do. Not with this woman. They had almost been rivals, symbols to Nicolas of the vampire and the human worlds, but that was before. It wasn't just Natalie's life that had to be reworked. Whoever had done this had to have known how it would affect, not just Nicolas, but Janette.
"Some vampires, those who are very old and very powerful, can alter the minds of resistors, or even other vampires," said Janette. If this had been a mortal woman she didn't know, like that blonde from last night, she'd have sat next to her, perhaps put one arm around her. But this was Natalie Lambert, and so Janette stayed across the room, poised and still, and feeling just the slightest bit gauche for doing so.
Natalie didn't say anything. She was silent for long moments, and Janette let it stretch out. It would not do to push too much, and she suspected Natalie would speak her mind if given enough time.
"I'm starting to get hungry, Janette." Her eyes were glassy, and her voice was distant.
"Then you must eat." Janette uncorked a bottle of her private stock and poured it into a wine glass, ignoring the hungry look that Natalie hid after an instant. "You will feel better after you do so."
"Shouldn't--" Natalie paused, staring down at the glass held out to her. Natalie was very good at keeping her emotions off her face. It would serve her in good stead, though Janette could feel the emotions roiling underneath Natalie's surface. They were all too easy to read. "Nick drinks animal blood."
Janette bit back a sigh of frustration. There was too much for her to explain, too much that had to be taught. Why had no one ever thought to set up a vampire orphanage? "Nicolas has also had eight hundred years to build up his strength. Without that, a steady diet of cow would drive him mad with hunger."
She could not help the way her face wrinkled in distaste. It was cow, with all the depth of a desire for grass, and none of the subtle nuance or the varied emotions that human blood brought with it.
Natalie's mouth twisted, and then she broke into a chuckle. It was awkward-looking, but if Natalie could find some amusement in being brought across, Janette would take her victories where she could.
Nick walked back out onto the dance floor, where Miklos was still holding down the bar. He was wiping the counter top with a rag, avoiding an area where something glinted in the dim lighting. All Nick's cop instincts came to the foreground. This was different. In a place like the Raven, during a time like this, different meant it needed investigation.
Laying on the counter top was a cameo. It was ancient, of obviously skilled craftsmanship, and Nick would bet that the value was incalculable. The setting was pure gold, with elegant, simple adornments. The profile of a woman, or perhaps a young girl, was carved in opaque white glass, brought out in relief atop a translucent blue background. It was, in a word, aristocratic.
"Where did this come from?" asked Nick. He picked the cameo up and turned it over in his hands. There were no distinguishing marks, not even the maker's ancient, chiseled markings that might give the beginnings of its history.
"No idea." Miklos shook his head. "I don't think I want to know."
"I can tell you." Gemma stood at the bar, where she hadn't been a moment before. Her hair had been brushed and tied back into a pony tail. She was wearing blue jeans and a fitted t-shirt. She looked much calmer and more put together than the last time he'd seen her, just after she'd been brought across.
"Aren't you a little young to be hanging out in a place like this?" asked Nick. Becoming a vampire had changed Gemma. It had made her harder, and something in her eyes challenged Nick as he looked at her.
"What will you do, Detective Knight, shut down the club for letting sixteen year old vampires through the door?" Gemma's laughter was still bright, but underlying it was something darker. "What am I going to do, drink beer?"
"No, I suppose you wouldn't do that," said Nick. The tragedy of her lost innocence struck him once again.
"It doesn't matter anyway, does it?" asked Gemma. "My friend left it for you. She wanted to see if you would recognize it."
"I'm afraid I don't," said Nick. He turned it over in his hand. The thick gold chain must have taken hours to make. There was something trying to reach him, but Nick couldn't grasp it. Not now that he'd moved much closer to mortality with Natalie's help.
"She wants to meet you," said Gemma, smiling. She leaned on the counter with one elbow. "I think she's mad you don't understand what she did for me."
"She?" Nick frowned. He'd thought - no, feared - that it was Lacroix, somehow returned from death. "Where does she want to meet me?"
"She'll let you know." Gemma looked at him expectantly. Nick glanced at the cameo once more, then dropped it into her outstretched palm. She handed him an envelope and was gone before he could blink.
He couldn't escape whatever this game was. Playing it through to the end was the only way to stop it. If only he knew what the rules were.
"Someone is doing this to get to Nick." Natalie had her arms crossed and was leaning against the wall. She held a wine glass filled with blood. "Do you think it's Lacroix? Can vampires - we - come back from the dead?"
Janette had thought about it. She had, in fact, spent many hours trying to determine whether Lacroix had returned. If there were any other vampire than herself better qualified to find the most tenuous threads of a connection, she did not know one.
"It's not him." Janette's voice was sharper than she'd meant for it to be.
"Right," said Natalie, holding her hands up and looking annoyed. She probably used that tone on Nicolas all the time. "You'd know, then. It's not him. Who else has that kind of a grudge against Nick?"
"More than you might think," said Janette. "But none I know of with the ability to hide themselves so well."
"Hide themselves?" Natalie steeled herself and took a drink. It was perhaps her third or fourth swallow, and each one sent a shudder of pleasure through her that she couldn't conceal.
Janette leaned back in her chair and sipped at her own drink, feigning ignorance of Natalie's struggle. It was something that should be private, made unfortunately public by her youth.
"One of the many things Nicolas never told you about is the mental connection that vampires share," said Janette. It was not as if she needed to ask. With the way Nicolas fought their bond, he would never tell Natalie about it. "Vampires in one family, mostly, can read each other's emotions. The older ones, or the ones with the most skill, they can read thoughts, or send them to another. Outside of one's own family, one can often only ascertain if another is a vampire."
"That would explain a lot." Natalie shuddered, this time in horror.
Janette narrowed her eyes. "What do you mean?"
"I've been getting these flashes--" Natalie broke off. "At first I thought they were things that I was feeling. Things that were related to being brought across."
"But?" prompted Janette. There was more. The threads of something had started to tie themselves together in Janette's mind, but she needed more to put it all together.
Nicolas needed the trappings of an interrogation room and his ever-so-human police badge to gather information, but Janette had never needed that. A few kind words, a welcoming look. The promise of understanding was the beginning of trust, and she could give that to Natalie without reservation. Or, at least, she could if it meant figuring out who this threat to the community was.
"They started getting more and more depraved." Natalie swallowed. "First emotions, then flashes of things she's done. I've been trying to block them out."
There was a flash of blonde hair, and a hand reaching out to a woman who was begging and pleading as she inched back. There was a cross, the symbol that Janette so feared, and a girlish, mocking laughter. Underneath all of it was a raging anger that Janette had never felt before.
"Get this under control, Natalie. Stop sending them to me." Janette stood, battered by images from Natalie's mind. How had she not seen this earlier? She'd been so busy trying to contact Nicolas, to search the city for whoever had been targeting him. How had she not seen that Natalie had become part of her family?
"You can see--" Natalie stopped as Janette stood in front of her, faster than her too-recently mortal eyes could follow.
"Take deep breaths," said Janette. She put her hands on Natalie's shoulders. "You don't need them any more, but you're still so close to being human that they'll calm you down. You're certain this was done by a woman?"
The strength of the connection meant it was a close one. Perhaps another of Lacroix's children? One of the women, then. Francesca was dead, and Alyce Hunter had no reason to seek revenge on Nicolas. Alexandra hated Nicolas, it was true, but after he'd let her escape, Janette had taken care of that little problem. No, it could be none of them.
"Yeah, I'm sure." Natalie pulled herself together once again. The woman was very adaptable. "A woman. Maybe a girl. There are times it's like I'm seeing through her eyes."
If it could be none of Lacroix's other children, then it could only be Lacroix's master. The one he had never told them of, no matter how patient or subtle Janette had been with her inquiries. If Nicolas was seeking out Lacroix's master, she could not leave him to face her, not on his own. Not if she was old enough and skilled enough to alter Natalie's memories. Not if she wanted Nicolas to live. Not if she wanted to live herself.
She left before Natalie could follow her.
"I hate when you guys do that!" yelled Natalie.
Janette could sense the dejection when Natalie realized she was now alone with her thoughts. Natalie put on a brave front, but she was too young, too new to this. She would only be a liability. It was best to leave before Natalie tried to come along regardless. She would do something so brash and foolish as that.
Nick opened the envelope when he was away from the Raven and all the prying eyes. Not that many of the younger vampires wanted to be near him right now. The card inside didn't have any writing on it, but Nick knew that picture. Sekhmet, the Egyptian goddess of war and death. Perfect for a vampire, and he knew where the statue was exhibited.
He took to the air, heading in the direction of the Royal Ontario Museum.
The halls were quieter than they should be. Even at this hour, with the museum closed, Nick knew that guards would be walking the halls. Not tonight, though. Tonight, they were deathly silent. The tang of blood filled the air, imperceptible to a mortal, perhaps, but the guards had been drained.
Walking into the Egyptian wing on the third floor, the smell grew stronger. There was a presence; it had to be the vampire he was looking for. He stepped around a corner into the main exhibit hall.
A blonde girl, wearing ripped jeans and a leather jacket over a black tank top, stood next to the body of a security guard. The cameo Gemma had left earlier was hanging around her neck.
Behind her stood Lisa Cooper, frozen for eternity at the age of ten. Gemma stood near her, hovering like a protective older sister. "Hey, Nick!" exclaimed Lisa. "This is way better than being Janey Jinx."
"Lisa, you don't understand--" began Nick.
"She understands better than you do," said the blonde. "Nick Knight, the reluctant vampire. The one who wants to be mortal again, so badly that he killed his own master. We do have a fondness for that in our family, don't we?"
"What do you mean?" asked Nick. She must be very old, to hide herself from him so well.
"She's Lacroix's master," said Janette, stepping around the corner. Nick glanced over in surprise. She must have been just behind him, and he hadn't noticed her. Not until now, when she was there to stand beside him. "You are too close to being one of them, Nicholas."
"Lucius' other favorite, I see," said the girl. She gave Janette an appraising look. "Stepmother to an entire city of too-young vampires. Are there any vampires other than you two who are older than, say, a hundred?"
"They're all children of this century, maybe the last," said Janette. She shrugged. "They amuse me. But to be Lacroix's master, you must be very old indeed."
"My name is Divia. Has Lucius told you nothing about me?" she asked. She glanced back over her shoulder at Gemma, who smiled. "Gemma says that she knew what Erica was. She was ready to be brought across. She barely fought me, though Lisa took a little more persuasion."
"I didn't get it before," explained Lisa. She shrugged. "Oops."
"Why would you do something like that?" asked Nick. He was revolted. "Why would you bring children across? It's forbidden among our kind."
"There's an entire society here with all these new rules. I was never able to be a part of that, thanks to Lucius." Divia studied Nick, and all he could think of was Nat and her lab specimens. "He beheaded me, then locked me up in a sarcophagus with the symbol of Ra. For centuries. It was very boring."
"My God," breathed Nick, as Janette flinched.
"So you see," said Divia, wandering around the room, her fingers trailing against a sarcophagus. "I was very cross when I got out and learned that you'd killed Father, and deprived me of my revenge."
"You are his master and his child? His mortal daughter?" asked Janette. She studied Divia in the way that she often studied other women, gauging her looks and her personality. It was something Nick had never been able to duplicate. He had his own way of getting to know people. "There is a certain family resemblance, now that you speak of it."
"Don't act so shocked, Nick," said Divia. She turned to Janette and smiled. "You know how depraved Lucius was, don't you? I could only inherit that from him. Or maybe he inherited some of it from me. I suppose we'll never know."
"Why did you do this? Why would you bring all these people across?" Nick couldn't wrap his mind around why she'd do this. Why she'd do this to him.
"Don't be stupid, Nicholas," snapped Janette. "She thinks she's doing them a favor. Not to mention, she's lonely. Wouldn't you be, after being trapped for centuries?"
Maybe it was an explanation of Divia's actions. It wasn't any kind of excuse. It didn't let her off the hook.
"Why people I'm connected to?" asked Nick, demanding answers. "Why Natalie?"
"Your coroner friend?" asked Divia. She raised one hand and smashed the lid of the sarcophagus, shattering the sun carved into the top. "You got Jenny out of Toronto before I could bring her across, by the way. A girl needs friends her own age, don't you think?"
"I can't believe you're having a discussion about the necessity of female bonding," hissed Janette.
"Natalie was a good second choice, though," said Divia, brushing stone chips off her hands. They scattered on the floor. "She cuts up dead bodies for a living. There's something dark inside her, or why would she do that? A hundred years or so, and who knows where that will lead her."
"Maybe on the path to mortality. Nowhere near the depraved monster you say she'll become," said Nick. "Natalie's a good person. She won't let what you've done to her change that."
"Perhaps," said Divia. She smirked at him. "Perhaps not. We'll find out in a hundred years, won't we? I'm done bringing people across, by the way. Now's the fun part."
He wanted to kill her for what she'd done, but he couldn't. She said she was done with her wrongs. She was obviously taking responsibility for some of the people she'd brought across, Gemma and Lisa, at least. He'd killed Lacroix, and that was only because of the fire raging all around them. He had thought Lacroix wanted to end their cat-and-mouse game of centuries. It was self-defense in the heat of the moment. He did not know if it would be that, not this time.
Nick stepped forward, stopped only by Janette's hand clamping on his arm in a steel grip. "Do not do this, Nicholas," she said. "She is stronger than you are, and, even if you won, you would never forgive yourself."
His soul was already stained black with mortal sin that would never wash clean. He wouldn't - couldn't - add to it. His conscience wouldn't let him kill Divia in cold blood. Janette knew that, knew him, even better than he knew himself.
"Listen to Janette," said Divia. Her voice was mocking. "How well will your quest for mortality go without your human champion? I'll have to make sure you suffer for thwarting my revenge against father."
"What about just leaving us be?" asked Janette, her voice tight. "Leaving Nicholas be?"
Peace. It was all Nick wanted. Peace, and a return to the grace of God.
"I'm curious to see what this little game of ours is going to bring," said Divia. "Now that the museum's excavation has let me out of my prison, I'm going to have a great deal of fun. What remains to be seen is if the two of you will have fun as well. Don't worry about the Enforcers. I'll let them know that I've finished my little spree. It will be pleasant to see them again."
She was gone, just like that, Lisa and Gemma with her. Nick and Janette were left alone with the cold body of a security guard.
"You should call that in," said Janette, nodding at the body with distaste. "Be a cop, darling. Come and find me after you wrap this up. We'll talk then."
The Raven was shutting down for the day when Nick arrived. Natalie was still inside, he was sure. He walked into the empty club and through the areas where the other vampires slept. Janette's rooms were in the back. She had left her door open. Natalie was pacing, and Janette sat on a chair, looking uneasy.
"There you are," she said, holding one hand out to him. Nick stepped inside and took it, kissing Janette's hand.
Natalie whirled toward him, breathing out a sigh of relief. "You're all right."
"I told you he was," said Janette tartly, exasperated, he was sure, with him more than with Natalie. "I would know if he was not. You would too, if you would stop and listen, like I showed you."
"Yeah, well, I'm new to this whole creature of the night thing," said Natalie, with a shaky smile. "I guess I need practice."
"I need to tell you what happened," said Nick. He didn't want to have to explain that he had brought this on her by killing Lacroix. He didn't want Natalie to blame him.
"I know what happened," said Natalie. She had her arms crossed. "Janette told me about Divia."
"Then you know it's my fault. She did brought you - everyone - across because I killed Lacroix," said Nick. He stepped away from Janette. "I'll understand if this changes how you feel about me."
"Don't be ridiculous!" snapped Natalie. She took three steps forward, until she was nose to nose with Nick. "I don't blame you for any of this. It's Divia's fault. Divia is the one who chose to bring me across, and besides, it's not like I was going to leave, not knowing you were in trouble. Blame her, not yourself."
Nick wasn't sure he believed what Nat was saying, but she believed it. He'd take comfort in the fact that she was still here and speaking to him, and that Janette was still with them. She was blossoming in Toronto, in a way he had never seen with Lacroix around. Maybe if Divia was focused on him, she'd leave Janette be.
Janette broke into delighted laughter. "Now I know why you and she have become such good friends, Nicholas," she said. "I like her attitude. Yes, I think she will do very well as one of us."
He didn't know what would happen, now that Divia was here. Now that she was angry with him. He would need to work hard to maintain his progress toward regaining his humanity, and so would Natalie, if that was what she wanted. They were in it together, just like before, and Janette was here.
They'd find a way to get through this. They'd find a way to make it work. He didn't think Natalie or Janette would let him get away with thinking otherwise.