Foxy11814 (foxy11814) wrote in fkficfest,
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"Epiphanies?" by foxy11814 (PG, M/F)

Title: “Epiphanies?”
Author: foxy11814
Beta-Reader: Linda
Recipient: waltd
Prompt: Everything you knew was wrong.
Characters: Nick/Nat, Lacroix, Reese, Tracy
Length: 10,853 words
Rating: PG
Summary: Nick has a horrible night and only one person can make it right again.



It started with a lack of…presence, and it immediately alarmed him. Nearly eight hundred years had been dedicated to developing a bond that he knew would withstand the test of time. It had to! So, the void he felt now was a swift kick to the gut. Alarmed, Lacroix leaped immediately into the air.

***

Nick rested his head on the back of his sofa as he sat to contemplate the night. “I don’t care,” he whispered to himself, trying desperately to make himself believe his words. The year had been rough on him. It started with the death of Schanke and continued with illness, gunshot wounds to the head, demon possession…he didn’t care to list it all or even think about it. Whether he believed that he truly didn’t care or not, one thing was painfully true: his shift, like many others this year, had been pure torture, plain and simple...

Nick walked through the precinct with a feeling of apprehension about the night they (as in the police force) were going to have. Detectives Sanders and Goulding were investigating multiple homicides—five, to be exact—that had taken place at the Harbourfront area, and the city was afraid they had a serial killer on the prow. Actually, he was afraid of the same thing. What made it worse for Nick was that he had not been assigned to the case. When the first murder took place, he was on a pretty high profile case involving the murder of one of the mayor’s close friends, but he had quickly put it to bed.

Thanks to the Harbourfront murders, the precinct was chaotic—most of the day and night shifts were in, news reporters were trying to get inside, the few reporters who had managed to slip in were being escorted back outside, and the individuals waiting to be put in lock-up were taking advantage of the chaos and causing a ruckus. He heard Captain Reese’s voice above the insurmountable noise, telling all detectives to meet in the conference room but hardly anyone heard him. To help out, Nick worked his way through the crowd, grabbing each detective he saw on the way and motioned towards the conference room. Once inside, he stationed himself against the back wall with his arms crossed as he watched the other detectives try to find a seat around the large conference table. Once each chair was filled, the others lined-up against the walls, as well. Tracy walked in and immediately made her way to him.

“Boy, that was intense,” she said, brushing her fallen bangs from her forehead. “I thought I was going to get mauled coming from the parking lot.”

Nick nodded at his partner and replied, “It’s always that way when the public feels threatened.”

Before Nick could reiterate or drift into a memory of the past, Reese walked in and slammed the door shut with as much hostility as he could muster. Every detective cringed at their captain’s uncharacteristic behavior.

The captain walked slowly around the room and eyed every detective carefully. He knew his actions would put them on edge, and that’s what he wanted. When his eyes met Knight’s, he started speaking. “Everyone should know why I called you in tonight. There have been five murders in five nights at the Harbourfront. The media, the mayor, and the commissioner have been breathing down my neck about our lack of progress, and I assured them that would not be the case for very long. I’ve decided to make some changes in how we’ve been tackling this case.”

Immediately, Sanders, who had been sitting at the head of the conference table, stood up. “Now, Captain…” he started, knowing he wouldn’t like the direction this conversation was going.

Reese put his hand up to motion for him to stop. “There is nothing personal about this. Every detective in this room is going to be involved in the case. We cannot allow whoever this person is to continue killing. All of you are going to patrol the Harbourfront area until we discover who is behind this. The more people assisting the blues, the more chance we have of catching this guy in the act. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir,” stated the detectives at once.

Reese nodded at their agreement and then went into the part he knew would cause problems for a few. “Good. Before you leave the precinct, please see Detective Wong who will assign you a section to patrol. Before your shift is over, you will report anything you find or notice to Detectives Knight and Vetter. They will be leading the investigation, now.”

Sanders and Goulding immediately gasped.

A lot of mumbles then spread throughout the room, and Nick closed his eyes for a brief moment, hearing everyone’s speculations on how Sanders and Goulding were going to take the news. Nick opened his eyes to look at them, and their deep scowls couldn’t be missed. Question answered.

Reese chose to be oblivious to the detectives’ reactions and stated, “Dismissed.”

The detectives started filing out the room, quickly. Sanders and Goulding looked like they were going to stay behind to talk to the captain until they realized Nick and Tracy were staying behind, as well. With a slight upturn and wrinkle of the nose aimed in Nick’s direction, Sanders strode out of the room with his partner following close behind. They were not happy, and Nick couldn’t blame them. Once the door closed shut, Nick sighed and walked over to the captain.

Reese had been expecting either Sanders or Knight to stay behind to talk to him. He was even prepared for both, even though he was extremely relieved that wasn’t the case. He knew what he had just done was not going to be popular amongst the detectives, and he knew he put Knight and Vetter in one hell of a tight spot, but he had to do what was best for the precinct. He hadn’t been captain for very long and these continuous murders in the same vicinity every night were not making him look good. Knight was the best arsenal he had, so he had to utilize that. He watched Knight approach him and wondered what the detective thought about his decision…he knew he wouldn’t have to wait long to find out.

Politics. Nick knew that’s what Reese’s decision boiled down to. The captain was under pressure, and unfortunately, whenever murders are left unsolved and more are being committed, usually the person in charge of the immediate staff took the big hit. It wasn’t fair, but it was expected. In order to appease everyone’s discontent with the lack of progress on the case, Reese obviously decided to overhaul the entire investigation, so everyone would know the police force was doing everything they could to get the killer off the streets. Nick understood Reese’s actions completely, but that didn’t mean his decision wouldn’t heap problems of its own. “Captain,” said Nick, cautiously, knowing this was a delicate situation that Reese had probably already given a lot of thought to, “I have to talk to you about this case. I really appreciate you having faith in Tracy’s and my ability to apprehend suspects, and I do want to be a part of the operation, but I think Sanders and Goulding should still be the lead investigators. It’s their case. They were first-on-scene…”

Reese already knew the argument, had already considered everything he knew the detective was going to say, and it wasn’t going to sway him. “Save your breath, Knight. I don’t have the time or patience to be politically correct about this. Usually, I’d be sensitive about stepping on any of my detectives’ toes, but right now, stopping these killings is more important, and I need my best team leading the investigation. That’s you and Vetter. I stated that it was nothing personal, and I meant it.”

“Yes, but…”

“No ‘buts,’ Knight. I need you, and I expect you to follow orders.”

Nick sighed and replied, “Yes, sir.” He glanced at Tracy and said, “Go see Wong about our assigned area while I get the case file from Sanders and Goulding.” When Tracy nodded, he headed for the bullpen. There was no point in putting off the inevitable.

After pausing for a few moments in the doorway to determine how to approach the detectives, Nick simply walked over to them. Sanders remained quiet, stared at his computer screen, and did not acknowledge Nick’s presence. Nick then turned his attention to Goulding, who was staring at him with a look of pure disgust. Ignoring the glare, he stated, “I need the Harbourfront file.”

Sanders finally turned his head to look at their visitor and frowned. “You just couldn’t stand it, could you?” he asked, his voice dripping with venom.

“Excuse me,” replied Nick.

“You just couldn’t stand someone besides you leading a high profile case around here. I bet you were all over Reese, doing your best to convince him to give it to you.”

Nick shook his head and answered, “No, I didn’t. I didn’t expect the assignment change any more than you did…”

“Yeah, right,” Sanders said, with his voice getting louder with each word. “Well, you got what you wanted, Knight, but I promise you that you will have your comeuppance sooner or later, and if I have anything to do with it, it will be soon!”

“Paul,” Nick started.

But Sanders jumped up, flung the file at Nick, and snapped, “Save it, Knight.” He then walked out of the precinct with Goulding following quickly.

At that moment, Tracy walked up to Nick and said, “Whew, that was…”

Thinking of Tracy’s earlier statement in regards to the crowd outside, he supplied, “Intense?”

“Yeah,” she agreed. “Who would have thought Sanders would ever blow his top like that? I don’t really know the guy, but he always seemed to be level-headed.”

“No one likes getting a case pulled,” reasoned Nick. “I’d be pretty mad, too.”

“Yeah, but he has no right to take it out on you. It’s not your fault.”

Nick shrugged and said, “Yeah, but it’s pointless to reason with him right now. I’m sure he’ll cool down after he’s had time to think about it.”

“I hope you’re right,” replied Tracy as she went to her desk to grab her coat. She then took the case file from Nick and said, “You drive to the harbor while I study the file.”

***

Lacroix arrived at Nick’s loft and peeked through the skylight to see his son resting on the couch. He was about to go in when he heard a heartbeat and the sliding door opening.

***

Natalie walked into the loft and sighed exasperatedly as she saw exactly what she expected to see: Nick moping on the couch. His eyes were closed as he rested his neck against the back piece, but as she stepped closer, he turned his head to look at her. Immediately, he brought his head into his hands which were propped up by his elbows that rested on his knees.

“Nat,” he gasped as he shook his head warily.

In response, Nat said, “I have to admit, Nick, I never thought I’d come here for this.”

Nick lifted his head and warily turned to look at her. “What are you here for?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe an explanation?”

Nick looked away and said softly, “What’s the point?”

“What’s the point?” she repeated loudly. “The point is I want to understand what happened! I want to know why!”

That’s something Nick wanted to know, too…

Nick walked the harbor with Tracy going in the opposite direction. Separately, they were checking out the area they were assigned, even though neither suspected anything would come of it. The murderer would probably see all the people about and figure out something was wrong, they reasoned.

But it was the perfect opportunity for Nick to get a feel of the area. He had been there many times, but he had never looked at it as a predator, and he knew this kind of observation might be beneficial in finding the killer. Despite the openness of the area, there were places to hide and surprise unsuspecting people sprinkled throughout the park. There were monuments, trees, walk bridges, and all kinds of other things that provided cover. Any location would be ideal to grab someone taking an afternoon stroll along the water.

As he contemplated the areas in which the bodies were found and what kind of cover was surrounding these scenes, Nick heard someone yell from a distance, “Hey, stop right there! Don’t run!”

Nick recognized the voice—it belonged to Sanders. Nick quickly took to the air, so he could find the detective’s location and possibly help out.

When he arrived on the scene, Sanders was more than a yard behind the boy he was chasing. Landing behind a nearby statue, Nick went around the corner just as the boy was from the opposite direction. He seized the young man, who tried desperately to break free.

“Please,” the boy cried, “you have to believe me. I didn’t do anything! I found her like that, I swear! I wasn’t even supposed to be here!”

Before Nick could ask him to explain, Sanders caught up to them and immediately spat, “What the hell, Knight!” He quickly pulled out his handcuffs and started cuffing and searching the boy as he continued to speak, “I don’t know why I didn’t expect this! You couldn’t even stay in your own damn zone! You knew I’d find a way to solve this case, and here you are trying to steal my glory!”

Nick let go of the boy as Sanders started pulling him away and said, “I heard you yelling, so I came to assist you. I’m not trying to take any glory or anything else from you.”

Sanders started walking back in the opposite direction with the boy but questioned over his shoulder, “Then tell me how you heard me from such a long distance? I’m at the far end of my zone, and yet, here you are, in running distance and close enough to me that you can collar the killer before I can get to him.”

“The killer?” questioned Nick.

Sanders looked back at him with a glare, but Nick thought he saw a hint of fear, as well, as he followed. “As if you didn’t already know,” Sanders spat. “You know Goulding and I caught him in the act. That’s why he ran.”

“I didn’t do it!” the boy cried. “I found her like that, and then you came up yelling at me like I had done something, so I ran!”

Nick could hear the suspect’s heart pounding incessantly against his chest and could tell he really was scared to death—his large round eyes also reflected this. “How can you be so sure he isn’t telling the truth?” Nick asked Sanders.

Sanders continued walking and Nick continued to follow until they reached a scene where Goulding was knelt over a body.

“She’s gone. I tried everything I could, but... I called it in. The uniforms and the coroner should be arriving soon,” said Goulding, getting to his feet.

A breeze came off of Lake Ontario which made Nick smell the multitude of blood that covered the ground. He had to cover his nose with the back of his right hand to lessen the smell’s intensity. He continued to walk towards the body, and when he reached it, he closed his eyes to steady himself. The body’s torso was covered in blood and there had to be multiple stab wounds. He looked at the boy, saw his clean hands and clothes, saw the way he couldn’t even look at the body, and knew he was innocent.

“Sanders, the boy couldn’t have done this,” he stated calmly, even though he was already anticipating the detective’s reaction. He watched as Sanders handed their suspect over to Goulding and then came to stand in front of him. They were mere inches apart.

“And, what do you base this conclusion on?” he asked, angrily. “I saw him with my own two eyes standing over the body with his hand on her throat. He did this, and that’s why he ran.”

Nick stepped back in an attempt to ease the tension he felt mounting in Sanders. He explained, “The victim was stabbed repeatedly, and he doesn’t have a knife on him!”

“He probably dropped it while he was running. Don’t worry, we’ll find it.”

Nick was quickly getting irritated at Sanders’ bullheadedness. “Have you even taken a good look at him? There’s not a smudge of blood on him! If you really think about it, you’ll realize…”

“Think about it?” snapped Sanders, interrupting Nick’s words. “Oh, believe me, I’m looking at this whole situation logically. You’re doing to me exactly what you used to do to Schanke.”

Nick immediately stiffened at the mention of his old partner.

“Schanke would bust his ass getting clues and talking to suspects during the day, but when night came, you would swoop in and take all the credit. And, God forbid Schanke have a different opinion than you! You’d practically break your damn neck trying to prove him wrong, to prove you’re the better investigator. Schanke…”

The memory of Schanke and his death was still too raw for Nick, so he didn’t want to hear anything anymore from Sanders. He immediately stepped forward, used his left hand to grab the back of Sanders’ neck, used his right hand to grab his shoulder, and spat, “How dare you even utter Schanke’s name to me! You didn’t know him, and you sure as hell don’t know me!”

Nick listened carefully and found Sanders’ heartbeat. He peered intently into his eyes and declared, “You will…”

“NICK!”

Nick immediately looked to his left and saw Natalie and several officers running across the park towards him. She stopped a few feet away from him and looked back and forth between him and Sanders.

Nick swallowed roughly before removing his hands from Sanders’ body and taking a large step back. Sanders immediately crumpled to the ground, and Natalie rushed to help him.

“He’s crazy!” Sanders yelled. He then took a deep breath and said softly to Natalie, “I don’t know what’s gotten into the guy.”

Natalie whipped her head around to stare at Nick disapprovingly.

Nick shook his head and was about to explain when Captain Reese walked up. “Knight, do you mind telling me what’s going on?” Reese continued walking, so Nick followed.

When they were away from everyone, Nick said, “Detective Sanders…”

“…is bitter that I gave you the case,” stated Reese in a firm voice. “I know that, and I’ll have a talk with him, too, but right now I was referring to the body.”

“Oh. To tell you the truth, Captain, I’m not too sure what’s going on, yet. That’s exactly what Sanders and I were discussing. He thinks the boy killed her, but I don’t think so. He’s too clean and too bewildered to have been the murderer. Look at the body. It’s just like the others: Despite the overkill, the killer is sure of himself; there was no hesitation. The boy doesn’t fit.”

“Does ‘the boy’ have a name?”

“I never got the opportunity to find out. Sanders searched him and got his ID, but we aren’t exactly collaborating well.”

Reese sighed and shook his head. “Why is it that my detectives can never be on the same page? Speaking of which, where is your partner?”

Knowing that Captain Reese wanted them to stick together, he replied guiltily, “Checking out our area.”

At Reese’s scowl, he explained, “I was there, too, but we split up. I heard the commotion over here, so I came to investigate.”

“And, now, your partner is out there alone with a killer prowling the harbor…if we don’t already have him in custody, that is,” stated Reese.

“We don’t,” Nick insisted.

At that moment, a uniformed cop came up and said, “Sir, news reporters are here.”

“Great,” said Reese, sarcastically. Before he followed the officer, he turned back to Nick and said, “I expect Sanders and you to work together when your paths cross. We’re on the same team, so both of you need to start acting like it…and find your partner.”

***

Lacroix chuckled to himself at his own reactions—he was relieved that what he felt through the link was not absence but numbness. He didn’t like either when it came to Nicholas, but numbness was better than the alternative. He had been so worried at the possibility that he might have lost him. Instead, it seemed as though his son was having a problem with his pet. Lacroix sat on the edge of the pane of the skylight to continue to watch the situation unfold.

***

“WHY?” asked Natalie, firmly, when she saw she didn’t have Nick’s complete attention.

Nick pulled himself from the memory of the night’s events and answered, “Sanders was being an egotistical…” He couldn’t think of an adequate word, so he begrudgingly settled for “connard.” When Nat raised an eyebrow at this, he continued, “And then you…” he trailed off.

“What about me?” she asked, as she folded her arms across her chest...

As Nick walked back to the crime scene, he noticed Natalie was still talking to Sanders. He was in close enough distance to hear her say softly, “No, there’s no one else.”

At that moment, Sanders looked over at him, smiled happily before turning back to Natalie, and said, “Well, I was thinking maybe you and I could get together sometime and talk about that.”

Nat’s eyes widened. “What?”

“Wouldn’t that make sense—two people who care, coming together…” He trailed off and shrugged his shoulders.

After a few moments, Nat came out of her stupor and answered, “Uh…sure.”

Sanders smiled in response and said, “You don’t seem too sure.”

“Well, honestly, I’m a bit shocked. I had no idea you felt this way.”

“Oh, believe me, Natalie, I do care, but we’ll talk about this later at a more appropriate time. I’ll call you.” Sanders then lifted Nat’s hand and brought it to his lips to kiss softly. When he turned and walked away from her, he saw Nick’s expression and he couldn’t help but grin.

At that moment, Nick’s eyes were meeting Natalie’s and she started walking towards him. Her eyes, which were surprised and maybe even happy a moment before, had seemingly darkened, and Nick knew with hurtful certainty that he was the cause. Nick looked from Natalie to Sanders’ happy gait and expression and back again. There was no way he could handle one of Natalie’s lectures about human conduct or whatever else she was about to spout at him…not now, not after Sanders’ belittlement, not after witnessing what just happened between the two of them. Feeling like he had the wind knocked out of his body, Nick shook his head quickly at Nat, turned around, and walked away. He wasn’t the arresting officer. They didn’t need him.

He heard Nat call his name, but he kept walking until he found a place where he could take to the air. “I don’t care,” whispered Nick, trying desperately to believe it as he flew as fast as he could through the air. It was all becoming too much. He had been trying for weeks—no, months—to ignore the pressure, pain, and turmoil inside of him. He didn’t want to think about the night’s occurrences. He knew, as Lacroix always said it would, his house of cards was falling with each new pressure added.

***

Still watching over the developing situation, Lacroix wished for the first time in his life that he had some kind of connection to Dr. Lambert. He wanted to yell and scream to the frustrating woman to do something, say something, do anything that would get his Nicholas out of the unwavering depression he had managed to put himself into. He had thought he felt a void earlier, but now he realized with each passing moment, he felt Nicholas even less and it was starting to worry him, as it did every time his high-strung child’s emotions got the better of him.

If she didn’t do something soon, he would.

***

Nick didn’t want to be, but he was bothered by the things Sanders had said and done at the crime scene: He had implied Schanke was not happy with their partnership. It was true Schanke and he had often butted heads with each other during cases, and it did seem at times that they were competing with one another, but that was normal between partners…wasn’t it? Their different approaches meant all sides were covered and they always seemed to meet in the middle by the end of the case. Nick hated the notion that Schanke thought of him as an opposition.

And, even worse, Natalie and Sanders seemed mighty chummy at the crime scene. If he didn’t know any better, he could have sworn she agreed to go out on a date with the Sanders, and he didn’t like it one bit. Sure, Natalie and he were not together officially—he had no right to expect her to wait for him since a cure may never be discovered in her lifetime, but it didn’t stop the pain from piercing his heart. Nick shook his head and muttered to himself again, “I don’t care.” The mantra was the only thing that was keeping him from falling apart.

“What did you say?” asked Natalie, incredulously, as she stepped closer. When Nick shook his head again, she answered herself. “You don’t care?” When Nick once again did not respond, she said angrily, “Fine! Don’t care! Don’t speak to me! If you don’t care, why should I?”

She turned around to walk out, but Nick quickly shouted, “Would you give me a break, just once?”

Nat looked back and saw Nick rise and storm to the window. As he looked out, she said, “Give you a break? Nick, you didn’t see yourself at the crime scene! Who knows what you might have done if I hadn’t shown up!”

Nick whipped around and said, “I wasn’t going to do anything! Believe it or not, I have been able to make my own decisions without you for hundreds of years! I think I’m still capable!”

“Oh, and your track record has been so impeccable!” she stated, sarcastically.

And, instantly, she regretted it. She knew it was a low blow, especially after he trusted her with the knowledge of his past in the first place. She clinched her teeth as she braced herself for the reaction.

Nick flinched. Part of him wanted to crawl into a hole and not wake up for at least another hundred years, but the other wanted to yell obscenities and curse the world...

Nick walked over to a small sculpture of God blessing Judas with a large, almighty hand cupping his cranial. He picked it up from the table and studied it for a moment before suddenly throwing it. Natalie screamed as she ran across the room into the kitchen. He hadn’t thrown it at her, but his actions scared her. She continued to watch Nick as he quickly grabbed a large painting from the wall and began hammering it repeatedly on his worktable, breaking the art into large mangled pieces. Once it was irreparable, Nick slammed the pieces to the ground and then stormed to the fireplace, grabbed the fire poker, and swung it into the nearby window, shattering the glass into a million pieces.

When he flung the poker down, he turned to the middle of the room, which was spinning wildly around him, clinched his fists as he bent low, and let out a long and fierce yell, which caused his veins to bulge in his neck as blood rushed to his face. He couldn’t control his actions—he felt helpless to do otherwise. All he could do was yell and hear it resonate through his ears …

Natalie stood in confusion as Nick stood there after he flinched. She expected a bigger reaction after her comment, but he simply stood there, seemingly lost in thought.

Almost afraid to speak, she whispered, “Nick?”

The sound of his yell fell from his ears and Nick heard Nat whisper his name. He focused on her and noticed her look of concern. Or was it fear? He shook his head as he turned to survey the undamaged room and sighed. He managed to control his beast again, but for how long this time? “Go,” he answered, softly.

Nat didn’t want to go, but as she opened her mouth to refuse, he shot her a look that stopped her cold. She gasped at his now ethereal green eyes and whispered, “Okay.” She quickly turned and left.

***

Lacroix was shocked but grateful. He never thought her capable—the good doctor had taken a play out of his game book and thrown Nicholas’ past transgressions into his face! Bravo! He knew if anything had the power to knock his son out of his seemingly deadened state, that would be it. After his briefest moment of shock and gratitude, Lacroix gasped at the anger he felt vibrating through his link with Nicholas. He had expected a reaction, but the sudden change from numbness to pure violent fury tore at Lacroix’s balance and he almost slipped from his seat outside the window. He laid his hand on the glass momentarily to regain his composure and stared unbelievingly into the room.

Despite the fury and aggression Lacroix felt through their bond, Nicholas was simply standing there, not releasing those explosive emotions. He supposed that was probably all well and good for the doctor, but it wasn’t good at all for his son. He continued to watch as Nicholas finally and unfortunately slipped back into his state of numbness as he asked Dr. Lambert to leave, and she did.

As soon as the sliding door closed, he entered the loft. His son needed to release the fury and sadness that were overwhelming him this night, and since the doctor’s words did not work, he knew his actions or words had to be even bigger.

***

Nick leaned against the space between his window and fireplace. He was emotionally drained and it was hindering him physically. He couldn’t stand any longer even if he wanted to—he felt his legs give out from under him and he slid slowly to the floor.

Lacroix watched the descent and noticed Nicholas had shut his eyes. Always trying to block out the world, he mused. He stepped in front of his son with a look of pure concern, but before he uttered a word, he took a deep breath and replaced his look of concern with one of amusement. He then forced a chuckle from his throat that would surely arouse Nicholas from his stupor.

Nick opened his eyes and glared momentarily into the cold azure eyes of his master. “What do you want?” he asked, feeling more than a little annoyed that the ancient would feel the need to show up now of all times and laugh at his expense.

Lacroix smirked and replied, “Is that going to be the greeting I always receive for eternity? I really wish you would pick another one.” He chuckled again and turned to look around the apartment. He seemed to be searching for something.

“What are you looking for, Lacroix?” asked Nick, slowly getting to his feet.

“Why, I came to evict that she-tyrant that never gives you a moment of peace, but it appears that I have to find her elsewhere.”

Nick narrowed his brows in confusion. “She-tyrant? Who?”

Lacroix turned back to face his son and answered, “Dr. Lambert, of course.” When, Nicholas’ look of confusion deepened, he explained, “I have felt the emotions, and the lack thereof, that have been radiating from you all night. Dr. Lambert is no doubt responsible, and I have held my tongue and patience for far too long.”

Nick’s look of confusion finally lifted to be replaced with a look that would scare the bravest of men. His brows narrowed as his eyes turned green, and his fangs were noticeable through his scowl.

“Good thing I’m not mortal,” thought Lacroix, pleased at his son’s reaction.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Lacroix,” stated Nick, “but you will not go near her. We have an agreement that you will not interfere in my life with your mindless killing, and it’s a shame I have to keep reminding you of that fact. I will not do so, again.”

Lacroix, with his lips slightly upturned, replied, “You are correct, mon fils. I said I would not interfere in your life with my mindless killing, and I won’t. Dr. Lambert’s death will be anything but mindless.”

Nick rushed up to Lacroix, grabbed the lapels of his coat in his fists, and growled, “You will NOT touch her. You know very well Natalie is off limits. She is not going to be a pawn in whatever game you’re trying to play.”

Lacroix didn’t try to pull away from Nicholas. He merely stared into the younger vampire’s eyes and replied, “You really don’t know, do you? Dr. Lambert and I have been playing this game for years, since she entered your life.”

“Natalie doesn’t play games. Whatever game you’ve dreamed up is simply a creation of your own imagination, Lacroix. I will not allow you to hurt her. You know this, and if you want to discontinue the accord we have recently found with each other, just persist in this line of talk and it will be over.”

Lacroix ignored his words and continued to muse, “It almost pains me to admit that perhaps Dr. Lambert is far more subtle, and therefore more effective, in her game play than I am, but of course, we do have to take into account that you have known me for nearly 800 years. Surely, if you knew Dr. Lambert for the same lengthy period of time, her actions and motives would also be much clearer to you than they currently are.”

Nick released his hold on his master and walked away to face the fireplace. Lacroix seemed calm. It didn’t appear that he was going to rush into the night to kill Nat…at least not yet. The ancient wanted to talk, to cause internal chaos. He knew this, but it was better than the alternative, so he retorted, “You have known Natalie for far less a period of time than I have. How can you claim to know her motives more than I?”

“One recognizes oneself.”

Nick turned around and paused, clearly shocked. He did not expect such an answer. “What?”

“My dear naïve Nicholas, you are our shared pawn, and you don’t even see it. Natalie Lambert is a fascinating, determined, and ruthless individual, which is why I have not killed her, yet. She reminds me of myself in my mortal years.” He rubbed his chin as he contemplated the coroner.

Nick gasped. “Natalie is nothing like you.”

Lacroix chuckled. “Do you really not see it? Dr. Lambert is every bit as pushy, controlling, and manipulative as I. The only problem is that she is encroaching on what is mine. I have turned a blind eye to it, because—let’s face it—as quickly as time departs for us, she will not be a problem for much longer even without my interference. However, when she starts to affect your well-being…well, that is where I draw the line.”

“You’re not going to draw any line anywhere! I decide where the line is drawn, and besides she hasn’t…”

Lacroix interrupted Nicholas by storming up to him and stating angrily, “You have said to me that you want to be free, that you want to live your own life and make your own choices. I have graciously left you to your own designs because you wished it, but I do not understand why you would then take my gift and hand it over to someone just as controlling as me.”

Nick shook his head and stated exasperatedly, “For the last time, Lacroix, she is NOTHING like you. I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

Lacroix looked up at the skylight and shook his head almost imperceptibly. He then turned around, went to a chair, and sat down. He looked at Nicholas and explained, “How are we not alike? I suppose you could argue that we have very different ideas about how you should live your life. I believe you should remain a vampire and accept your true nature, whereas the doctor believes you should strive to be a good mortal man, however foolish that wish may be. We are simply on opposing sides. Doesn’t Doctor Lambert dictate what you do on a regular basis? ‘Eat this food, don’t drink blood, take this pill, don’t fly, hold this cross, don’t hypnotize, bring this person across, don’t bring anyone across, spend time with me, don’t spend time with Lacroix, let’s go to a restaurant, don’t go to the Raven…’” Lacroix paused and smiled. “Need I go on? I do have more.”

Nick sat on the couch and stared at his master. “She only says those things because she is trying to keep me true to my desires.”

“Is she really?” questioned Lacroix.

“Yes,” stated Nick firmly.

“Then, tell me, if these things are truly what you want, why do you need her to remind you in first place?”

Nick shook his head and said, “She’s only trying to help me.”

“And, what is my reasoning? Why do I seek you out to talk to you on a regular basis through the airwaves or as we are now? Why?”

Nick sighed and whispered, “You wish to control me.”

Before Nicholas even spoke his reply, Lacroix was already shaking his head. “No more than Dr. Lambert does,” he retorted. “You say she’s only trying to help you, but what do you think I’m doing? Am I really only trying to control and hurt you, or am I trying to help you?”

Nick opened his mouth to respond, but Lacroix cut him off.

“You are being torn in too many directions, Nicholas. That is why you are feeling so overwhelmed and out of control. I cannot allow this to continue, for your own welfare, as well as mine and the community’s. It is time for something to be done about Dr. Lambert and her influence over you.”

Nick abruptly stood as Lacroix soared through the skylight and out into the night.

“Nat,” he gasped and quickly took to the sky, as well.

***

The trip back to the morgue seemed to take a matter of minutes. Natalie had practically raced through the streets, trying to put as much distance between herself and Nick as she possibly could quickly. Now that the task was completed, she didn’t know what to do or think. She merely sat in her car as her mind kept drifting to Nick’s expression as he asked her to leave. He had looked so vulnerable at that moment, but when she opened her mouth to refuse, he had shown her a glimpse of the vampire. No doubt he was quite aware that she would turn and run after the whole incident at Vanderwal’s…and she did, despite knowing he did it intentionally and that he had not, in fact, lost control.

Natalie sighed as she realized she left because she really had no idea what was going on in that head of his. Ever since he was possessed by the demon…no, it was before that. Ever since Schanke’s death, Nick hadn’t been the same, and that confused her. She did not want to minimize the pain she knew Nick surely felt for the loss of his partner, but she knew Nick had experienced loss before. He had lived for 800 years and had been the cause of many deaths, himself. Surely, the detective’s death wasn’t the reason for his all of his recent turmoil. Maybe it was the accumulation of everything piled on top of it, she reasoned with herself. At times she felt pretty overwhelmed, too. Maybe he simply needed some time off, away from the job, away from temptation, away from—even though she hated to admit it—humans.

Natalie opened her car door, stood slowly, closed her eyes briefly, and then shook her head, trying to squander the thoughts that were circling in her brain and send them in another direction. She didn’t care how logical it was for Nick to be away from humans and their temptation right now; she didn’t want it to happen. Nick and she had worked so hard to get him to where he was, now: He lived as a mortal to the best of his ability, and he had a life where he had mortal friends who loved and cared for him. If he suddenly immersed himself back into the world of vampires—and he would do so, because she knew she couldn’t reasonably expect him to stay away from both humans and vampires while he was “getting away”—would he be able or even want to leave *them* again? What if he decided it was much easier to be a vampire than a human after everything that had happened this past year? The truth was she didn’t want to risk it, and Lord help her, she knew she was being selfish.

Natalie turned to lock-up her car, and at that exact moment, she heard someone walk up behind her.

“Dr. Lambert,” a slightly familiar voice stated.

Natalie gasped and dropped her car keys and medical bag onto the payment as she turned around quickly to see who was behind her. “Detective Sanders!” she cried, as she clutched her hand to her chest. “You startled me!”

Sanders reached out and grabbed Natalie’s shoulders. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. I just…saw you and thought maybe you had heard from Detective Knight.”

Natalie took a deep breath and allowed her hands to fall from her chest. “I…I saw him a little while ago. What’s wrong?”

Sanders shrugged and replied, “You know Knight’s the lead investigator on the Harbourfront murders now and I made an arrest earlier. Captain Reese wants him there for the interview.” He sighed and continued, “I told the captain I would come here to see if you had seen him or if he would show up.”

Natalie bent down and picked up her keys and bag. She started walking toward the morgue and motioned with her head for Sanders to follow. “I doubt he’ll show up again tonight,” she answered.

“What makes you say that?”

“Oh, nothing…he…he just has a lot of things on his mind right now.”

As they reached the door to the morgue and Natalie reached her hand out to open it, Sanders reached out as well and rested his hand on hers. “You two had an argument after I left, didn’t you? Dr. Lambert, he didn’t hurt me. Sometimes this job gets to you, you know? I’m sure with a little rest tonight, he’ll be okay, and he and I can forget whatever misunderstanding we had today.”

Natalie forced a brief smile onto her face as she pulled her hand away from his. She watched as he opened the door for her and replied, “I’m sure you’re right, but he and I didn’t really talk about it, and I seriously doubt you’re going to find him here, tonight.”

She paused as she heard him whisper, “Good, good.”

“You might want to try the loft…his home,” she continued.

Sanders looked at her, shook his head, and followed her through the morgue and into her office. “No, that’s okay. I’m sure the captain has already sent someone over there to look for him. I’ll just stick around here and wait until I hear something.”

Natalie pulled her coat off and hung it up. “That’s not necessary,” she insisted, keeping her back to him. “I have an autopsy to perform on the victim you found earlier, and it won’t be too pretty.” She glanced at him and smiled. “I’ll be sure to tell him Captain Reese needs him at the precinct.” She paused. “As a matter of fact, I can give him a call.”

She walked over to her desk and picked up the phone.

Before Natalie could bring it to her ears, Sanders reached out and took it from her grasp. “That isn’t necessary!” he shouted.

Natalie jumped at the sound of his booming voice and looked at him cautiously.

“Sorry,” he said, hanging up the phone and raising his hands slowly in a manner to show he meant no harm. “I…while he’s not here, I thought it would be an appropriate time to continue our discussion from the harbor.”

Natalie stared at Sanders slightly for a moment before replying, “I’ll be glad to continue the discussion at a later time. It’s great you want to help Nick, but right now, I really need to do that autopsy.” She paused as Sanders walked up to her slowly. “Okay?”

During Natalie’s reply, Detective Sanders was grinding his teeth against one another. She was turning him down. He might have expected as much under normal circumstances, but… “How can you turn me down? Any other time something concerning Knight comes up, you run along like a little bitch behind him.”

Natalie gasped, but quickly regained her composure. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked. “Look, I don’t know what’s going on between you two, but I have to ask you to leave.”

“Of course!” Sanders yelled to himself. “Of course, she wants me to leave.” He turned and looked at her with a smile. “I tried to stop, you know. Tonight was going to be the end of it. I was going to make the arrest and look like the hero for once, and it was all going to be over. But he showed up and ruined it. There’s no way Captain Reese will believe me over his Golden Boy.” He shook his head. “I guess I have to try again. I wasn’t going to choose tonight, but I suppose anything to throw him off his game is worth breeching the plan.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Natalie, as she backed up against the wall as Sanders’ approached and smiled at her.

“Why, how you’re going to fix everything, Dr. Lambert. For once, you’re going to help someone besides Nick Knight.”

***

Nick flew to Natalie’s apartment and chastised himself when he realized she wasn’t there and looked down at his watch. She was still working as he should be. His error might have just caused Nat her life…and his.

He growled in frustration and took to the air again. He had to make it there in time. He just had to. He couldn’t allow Lacroix to win this time! He knew it could be a mistake, but he put all his energy into flying. It would tire him out and Lacroix would surely fight him, but maybe his own defeat and possible death would be enough for Lacroix to allow Nat to live. “I’m coming, Nat,” he said against the wind.

As he flew by the Harbourfront, he heard a distinct yell in the distance. He paused as he realized it could be another murder at the harbor. He looked towards the morgue as he heard another distant yell. He could just make out the words “Let me go.”

“He only kills once a night,” he told himself and started to fly towards the morgue when he heard another scream.

He couldn’t turn his back on it. The Harbourfront killer may kill once a night, but he could break his pattern, and this could be someone else. Besides, there was a high probability Lacroix would choose to play with Nat for a while before he killed her. It was even possible he would use her as a bargaining chip against him, and he would need her alive to do that. Nick knew it was a gamble as he stopped and looked to the heavens, but it was the only decision he could make. “Please” was the only word he could utter as he raced to the screams.

As Nick flew lower to the ground, he saw a lone car in the distance. It almost looked like a standard police beater that was issued to some detectives. He touched his feet to the ground and continued on foot to the vehicle. He saw someone leaning over the trunk and heard a lot of grunting.

When he was within ten feet of the vehicle, he recognized who was leaning into the trunk. At that moment, he heard Detective Sanders yell, “I have had enough of you!” Nick watched as the detective reached into the back part of the trunk and then reared back with a knife.

Instantly, Nick was beside him, grabbing the wrist before he could bring the knife down.

“KNIGHT!” Sanders yelled.

At Sanders’ words, a person in the trunk started yelling, as well. “NICK!”

Nick grabbed Sanders by both arms, so he wouldn’t get away as he peered into the trunk. What he saw brought such anger and fear that he clinched his hands unbearably on the human he held. Sanders’ scream brought Nick back to his senses.

“How dare you!” yelled Nick, suddenly. He threw Sanders onto the ground with just a bit more force than necessary. He didn’t cringe at all when he heard the pop of his bones and another yell.

Nick reached into the trunk and pulled the blindfold from Natalie and ripped the ropes that were binding her hands and feet.

“Nick,” whispered Natalie as she reached for him, and Nick quickly swooped her into his arms and pulled her from the trunk.

Once her feet touched the ground, Natalie grabbed onto Nick fiercely before slipping her arms around his waist and burying her face into his chest.

Nick wrapped his arms around Nat’s shoulders and held her close. One hand eventually drifted into her hair while the other rubbed her back soothingly. “It’s okay, Nat,” he whispered as he tried to peer at her face, but she wouldn’t look at him. As he pulled away, she followed. “Nat,” he said again. He brought a hand around to slip a finger under her chin. Softly, he brought her face up, so he could look at her.

Nat’s face had smudges of dirt along her cheeks, her chin was slightly scraped but no longer bleeding, and her eyes were glossy from the tears she was trying to contain. As their eyes met, Nat’s jaw quivered, and the cry she tried to hold back but escaped broke Nick’s heart. Instantly, tears poured down Nat’s cheeks and she tried to once again bury her face into Nick’s chest. He allowed her and continued to hold her for a few moments more as he looked down to ensure Sanders was still on the ground.

When he saw the detective trying to rise to his feet, he whispered, “Nat, I have to take care of this.”

Nat reluctantly looked up and let go of Nick as he perched her on the bumper of the vehicle. He slowly turned to the detective and said, “You are under arrest for the attempted murder of Natalie Lambert.” As Nick started going over Sanders’ rights and handcuffing him, Natalie called to him, “Nick?”

“Nat?”

“He’s probably in trouble for more than my attempted murder,” she whispered.

“What do you mean?”

Natalie didn’t turn around but pointed into the trunk behind her. Nick dragged the detective over and looked inside. Bloody clothes were stuffed into a plastic grocery bag. It looked like an outfit the detective might wear to work. As Nick looked down at the knife on the ground, he gritted his teeth as he realized the implications: Sanders had killed or hurt someone before and he could very well be responsible for the city’s recent deaths.

Quickly, Nick walked the detective to the back of the beater and tossed him inside. He then went to the front and grabbed the radio to call it in. Once he was finished, he rushed back to Natalie. She was clearly in shock. Her body was shaking uncontrollably and her face stayed towards the ground.

He sat beside her on the trunk and said softly, “I just called it in. We’ll have to stick around to answer some questions, but afterward, I want to take you to the loft. I…want you to spend the day with me.”

Nat looked up into the sky and started to catch the hint of daylight approaching. “Are you sure you’ll have enough time to stick around with me?”

Nick leaned over and kissed her lightly on the lips and whispered, “Yes.”

***

Nat sat on the couch with her eyes closed as she listened to Nick on the phone.

“Thanks, Tracy. Yes, she’s okay. I’ll look after her. You look after the Caddy. Yeah. Bye.”

Nick hung up the phone and smiled at Nat as she opened her eyes. “News?” she questioned.

Nick walked over to the couch and sat beside her. He grabbed her hand and said, “The lab report came in on the blood we found on the clothes in Sanders’ trunk. It matched the latest victim. He’s responsible for the Harbourfront murders.”

“Oh, my God,” whispered Natalie as she shook her head.

“It turns out his partner Goulding found out about it a few nights ago but didn’t want to turn him in. Partners get rather close, you know.”

Natalie reached for Nick’s hand and squeezed it. “Yeah, I know. Sometimes, I thought you preferred Schanke over me.”

Nick laughed and answered with a smile, “Hardly.” His face turned serious and he added, “They devised a plan to blame the murders on Zachery Woods, the boy he arrested earlier. He was an informant of theirs on past cases, and they had asked for a meeting at the harbor. Sanders changed clothes and they waited to arrest Zachery. Supposedly, Goulding believed Sanders would stop killing if he could find a way out of the mess without going to jail.” He stopped and shook his head. “I guess my appearance put a cramp in their plans.”

“So, how do I fit into all of this?” she asked.

“I suppose he was going to kill you and try to blame someone else again. I don’t know. Supposedly, all these murders started because he wanted to be first-on-scene on a murder, so he could get the limelight for solving a big case. He thought he was in competition with me.”

Natalie narrowed her eyes in confusion. “Why would he think he was competing with you?”

Nick shook his head and shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Nat scooted closer to Nick on the couch and rested her head on his shoulder as she slipped an arm behind his back. “Don’t you take any of the blame for this,” she stated sternly. “I know you. Somehow you’ll say your presence caused this, or better yet, if you weren’t here to solve these murders all the time, maybe Sanders would have been in the limelight and he wouldn’t have turned to murder to acquire fame.”

Nick pulled back and looked at Nat.

She shrugged, “Like I said, I know you.”

Changing subjects, Nick said, “I was so scared I was going to lose you.” At Nat’s questioning gaze he continued. “Lacroix stopped by after you left. He implied that he was going to go after you because you have an influence over me. I went by your place to stop him and when I realized you weren’t there, I thought I might be too late…I almost didn’t go to the Harbourfront when I heard your screams. I thought Lacroix would be with you at the morgue…but something stopped me.”

Natalie smiled and said, “Your heart. I don’t care how you look at it, Nick: Either your heart couldn’t allow you to turn away from someone in need when you knew you had a chance to stop it, or somehow it knew it was me at the Harbourfront. Either way, it allowed you to make the right choice. It would have been the right choice even if I wasn’t the one there.”

Nick brought his hand up to Nat’s cheek, brushed the back of his hand across it, and then ran his fingers through her hair. “In an odd way, I’m glad it was you. I just don’t know what I’d do if…”

“Shhh, I’m here and alive. No need in contemplating anything more.” Nat leaned up and gave him a brief kiss on the lips.

When she re-stationed her head on Nick’s shoulder, Nick wrapped his arms around her and admitted, “I’m just sorry that another potential…boyfriend ended up being a lot less than ideal.”

Nat immediately pulled away from Nick and raised her eyebrow in question. “Potential boyfriend?”

“Yeah,” answered Nick, lowering his gaze in embarrassment. “I heard you talking at the crime scene. I know Sanders asked you out.”

As soon as Nick was finished with his words, Nat started laughing.

“What’s so funny?”

Nat punched him in the arm and said, “Oh, Nick, what am I going to do with you?” She laughed again and said, “He asked me out to discuss you, supposedly.”

“Me?”

Nat nodded. “He said he was worried about you, that you lost it when he merely expressed his condolences about Schanke.”

“Liar!” spat Nick, finally meeting her gaze.

Nat nodded. “He said he was concerned and wanted to help you. I was shocked, but I didn’t have a reason not to believe him at the time.” She smiled at him and added, “We surely weren’t going out on a date if that’s what you were thinking.”

Suddenly, Nat paused and her smile disappeared. “Nick, is that what happened? Is that why you left the crime scene?”

Nick looked away.

Nat brought her hand to his chin and pulled his face back towards her. “Were you jealous of him?”

Slowly, Nick let out a breath he didn’t realize he had been holding until that time. He grasped Nat’s hands and nodded.

Nat smiled and then said, “And, that’s what you were so desperately trying to convince yourself that you didn’t care about.”

Again, Nick nodded. After a few moments, Nick explained, “Honestly, it was an accumulation of things. Everything has been so crazy this year, and the thought of you with Detective Sanders…I couldn’t stand it. I know you can do so much better than him, but I also know I don’t have any right…”

“Of course, you do,” whispered Nat. Once again, she leaned over and kissed Nick, but this time, she ran both hands through his hair and held him to her. When Natalie ran her tongue across Nick's lips, his appeared and their tongues dueled for dominance until Nick finally found his way into her mouth as his arms circled her waist and pulled her to strattle and sit on his lap.

When they pulled away, each breathing deeply and their foreheads touching, Nat said, “I know we never define what it is that we have here, but I want you to know you never have to worry about Detective Sanders or anyone else coming between us. There’s no competition.”

Nick smiled at her words as he got control of his senses and realized where he was and where he had dragged Nat. He pulled back, met her gaze, and whispered, “I feel the same way.”

With Nat’s grin, he leaned forward and kissed her again with even more intensity than the first time. And, this time, their hands were doing a bit more exploring. Nick’s hands started in her hair, but quickly ran down her back, to the slight swell of her butt and pulled her body to him firmly.

As Nick pulled her, Nat was running her fingers over Nick’s neck, down his shoulders, to his chest. With their bodies so close and having nowhere else to go, she decided to explore his entire chest and give everything she had to the kiss.

It seemed to last for hours when Nick finally pulled away and said, “Nat, I need…”

Nat looked into his eyes and saw a hint of red, not the green she had been expecting. “You need a break?” she whispered. She watched as Nick nodded and saw his Adam’s apple bob up and down uncontrollably while he tried to bring the vampire under control. To help him, Nat got off his lap and asked, “Did you try that protein shake I gave you, yesterday?”

Nick, with his eyes closed and still breathing roughly, said, “No, I haven’t had the chance.”

“Well, you do now,” she said with a smile. She went to the refrigerator, frowned at all the bottles of blood she saw, and poured Nick a glass of her latest concoction. “Here,” she said, handing him the glass.

Nick smiled and quipped, “You knew this would kill the mood quicker than anything I could think of.”

Nat smiled in amusement and said, “Oh, it’s not that bad, Nick. Give it a chance. Be a good boy!”

To appease her, Nick held his breath and sipped the tiniest portion of the fluid he could manage.

“Very good,” praised Nat and smiling at how easily they had slipped back into their routine despite what just happened.

Figuring she should give Nick a little more time to bring himself under control and for her to decide if she should bring up what their kisses meant, she went back into the kitchen. She opened up the refrigerator and started pulling the bottles of blood out to put in a bag had brought inside with her.

***

Nick sat on the couch with his eyes closed and listened to Nat move around the kitchen. Despite the night’s events, he was now happier than he had been. His mind still felt Nat’s lips pressed against his, and he had to admit it was hard to stop kissing her, but he knew he had to. He cared for her too much to put her in any danger.

With that thought, he turned his focus onto Lacroix. He was almost grateful that his master had threatened Nat when he did. If he hadn’t done so and left, Nick would have never found Nat in time to stop the Sanders from killing her.

A shiver ran down his back as he realized just how close he had come to losing her.

He opened his eyes and looked at skylight. Only certain ones were uncovered to allow sunlight to enter the loft where he would not hurt himself. He stared at the windows, not really seeing them or the sunlight. Instead his mind was wondering why he had not run across Lacroix after he left. It was not like Lacroix to disappear after he said he was going to do something. Did Lacroix see Sanders take her and figured the mortal would do his job for him? But wouldn’t Lacroix want that pleasure for himself? Or maybe, just maybe, Lacroix had threatened Nat because he had somehow gained knowledge of Sanders' plan and his threat was his way of warning him that her life was in danger...No, it couldn’t be that. Maybe Lacroix never had any intention of going after Nat in the first place. Maybe he had been trying to help him somehow, as he was claiming to do at that very time. What the ancient was helping him with and how berating him and threatening Nat would accomplish this goal was beyond him, but he still contemplated it.

Nick opened his link to his master and felt nothing but a comfortable thrum. There was no anger or hostility. It gave credence to his current thoughts. He finally looked at Nat, shook his head, and said, “Nah.”

He rose from the couch and walked into the kitchen to see Nat closing her bag full of his bottles of blood. Despite not believing Lacroix intentionally helped him last night, he thought about their conversation.

He sighed and walked over to the counter. He grabbed Nat’s bag and unzipped it. When he started emptying its contents back into the refrigerator, he turned to his companion and said, “Nat, we need to talk.”

***

Lacroix chuckled as he lay in bed and contemplated what was going on at this very moment. He had felt his son connect with him briefly, trying to gauge his mood, and knew Nicholas was wondering why Dr. Lambert wasn’t dead at his hands. He wouldn’t bother telling him. Nicholas would never believe it, anyway.

Very cautiously, Lacroix touched their bond again and realized Nicholas was talking to the doctor about her habit of trying to run his life. He heard variations of the same speeches from Nicholas constantly; albeit, Nicholas was being a lot nicer to Dr. Lambert than he usually was to him. Regardless, it was fortifying to know his son was coming a lot closer to realizing the truths around him. It was fortifying to know Dr. Lambert was, as well.

“Welcome to my world, Doctor,” he whispered in amusement.

THE END!

Author's Notes: First of all, I hope everyone, especially waltd, enjoyed the story. Now that we got that out of the way, I suppose I should address a few concerns:

Only Walt and the mods know this, but my prompt actually said a little more than I revealed above when introducing this story. It also stated, "Miscommunication is rampant and a bad guy (usually LC) ends up as the good guy." I didn't want to add that description above, because I felt as though it would spoil the story, so I hope you forgive me, especially those of you who are not Cousins and prefer to think of Lacroix as the spawn of Satan! JUST KIDDING! LOL!

In addressing this prompt, I thought long and hard about "everything that I knew was wrong," and I came to the very real realization that some people may disagree with what is "wrong" in the FK universe. (I tend to love it as is, as well, but we can all recognize why our beloved characters have the problems that they do.) I didn't come up with a universal problem that we could all agree on, per se, even though I do hope I hit on a few everyone could agree on. The main one I wanted to hit on was Natalie's "Lacroix-like tendencies," even though I'm aware some of you might disagree she's like Lacroix, as Nick does or did, LOL. I did touch on a variety of others, as well, even small ones, and of course, they are open to your own interpretations: Nick's belligerent but common greeting to Lacroix, Nick's tendency to not express how he's truly feeling, Reese's handling of his officers/detectives, Nick believing his interpretation of events without verifying it, how Nick's behavior (along the lines of his solitude) and success rate can affect others, and a few others.

I also want to say my prompt was in the pairing genre, and I realize my story is more of a gen fic with romantic slantings. I just felt as though Nick and Nat should work on the current issues revealed in the fic instead of having sex right away. I'm sure you can forgive me. *winks*

Again, I enjoyed writing this, and hope everyone enjoyed reading it!
Tags: author: foxy11814, character: lacroix, character: natalie, character: nick, character: reese, character: tracy, game: 2011, genre: drama, genre: policework, pairing: nick/natalie, rating: teens and adults, type: m/f
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