Prompt: Schanke figures out that Nick's a vampire. But instead of blurting it right out or freaking out about it, he has a little fun with it first, and wants to see if anything that he's seen in the movies is true. Ordering souvlaki with extra garlic, getting Nick to look in mirrors, showing up for patrol wearing a St Christopher medal, etc, just to see what happens. So what does happen?
Characters: Nick, Schanke, Natalie, Captain Cohen, Janette, Lacroix
Length: ~9,500 words
Warnings: Highlight to view: * mild UF interlude in the flashback (m/m, non-explicit) *
Timeline: Between season 2 and 3
"No, I didn’t forget the list on purpose --- Yes, Honey, I’ve written everything down --- Of course, the sugar-free soda --- Yes, I’ll check the expiry date on the milk --- See you soon." Schanke replaced the receiver with a sigh and rolled his eyes.
"Is something wrong, Detective?" Captain Cohen emerged from her office, pulling on her coat. "Your partner left an hour ago."
"Yeah, he suddenly remembered that he had an appointment and rushed out. Sometimes I think he has an internal clock or something that tells him our shift is over, sun comes up, and off he goes. I end up finishing the report and when I’m finally ready to hit the hay, Myra calls and makes a scene because I left the shopping list on the table, and she has no drinks for the weekend. I just bought a caseload of soda and juice last Saturday, but she insists we need to restock again in case Jenny’s friends come over."
The Captain listened to his ranting with a bemused expression on her face. Patting his shoulder, she said in passing, "Have a good day, Schanke."
Grumbling a reply, Schanke retrieved his coat and left the precinct. On the way to his car, he noticed the Caddy still parked beside him. Struck with an idea, Schanke returned to the desk and requested, "Vera, do we still have a spare key for Knight’s Caddy"?
"What for, Schanke?" Vera asked, holding out the keys in front of him.
"He doesn’t need the car during the day, so I might just borrow it for a trip to Zehrs."
"I don’t know Schanke, the last time you borrowed it ---"
"That wasn’t my fault, Vera. The brake line had been cut. I promise it won’t get a scratch this time." When Vera still hesitated, he added, "Cm’on. I get twice the number of crates in that trunk than in mine, which means I’m spared from shopping for at least 2 weeks." Before Vera came up with another argument, he snatched the keys from her and headed out.
* * *
Schanke parked his cart loaded with six crates of various beverages beside the Caddy and fumbled for the keys to open the trunk. A shriek escaped him as he pulled up the lid. Curled up on his side, was the body of his partner. "Nick?!" Schanke gasped in total amazement. When he received no response, Schanke leaned carefully closer.
His first impression was that Nick was dead, probably killed when he left the precinct and dumped into the trunk. However, when he was about to pull out his cell phone in order to call it in, Nick stirred and released a low growl.
Schanke froze at the inhuman sound. On instinct, he closed the trunk and looked around wildly for any witnesses. Brushing the sweat from his forehead, he jumped into the driver’s seat and headed back to the precinct, his beverages forgotten.
* * *
"Is everything all right, Schanke?" Vera asked, concerned, when Schanke returned the keys. "You seem upset. You didn’t get involved in an accident, did you?"
"No, everything’s fine, Vera. Just don’t tell Nick," Schanke assured her quickly.
After sitting down in his own car, Schanke eyed the Caddy suspiciously. What had caused his partner to sleep in the trunk? That place must feel horribly claustrophobic. Was it about his sun allergy? Schanke remembered that Nick had left at sunrise this morning. On some occasions he had driven Nick home in his trunk, but those were usually short trips. However, to sleep in that place? Schanke couldn’t believe anyone would do that voluntarily. Or was there more to it? His heartbeat increased as he remembered the growl that had come from Nick. There was definitely something weird about his partner and he was determined to figure out what it was.
Suspecting that Nick would be confined in the trunk until sunset, Schanke headed to the loft. He punched in the security code and took the elevator to the second level. As he pulled the heavy door aside, he realized that he had never seen the place during the day with the blinds up. It appeared much less gloomy when flooded by sunlight.
Some of his tension eased and he crossed to the seating area, where several video tapes lay scattered on the coffee table. He remembered Nick mentioning that Nat had been over for one of their regular video nights. Curious, what kind of movies had been on the agenda, he took a closer look and froze.
"Dracula", "Love at First Bite", "The Fearless Vampire Killers"? Ever since they had worked that Emily Weiss case, Schanke had suspected that Nick and Nat shared a common interest in that genre. However, was it possible that Nick took things too serious that he no longer distinguished between fact and fiction? He had adapted certain oddities Schanke remembered from the vampire lore when he had read Emily’s last novel. Out of curiosity Schanke ascended the stairs and risked a glimpse into Nick’s bedroom. Fully expecting to see a coffin, he was relieved when he saw a normal bed. However, he furrowed his brows when he saw an empty green bottle on the nightstand.
"Weird," he mumbled. He had seen these bottles in Nick’s fridge. When Nick had been framed for murder a few months ago, forensics had discovered that they contained cow’s blood. Nick had claimed he used it as paint thickener. What was he doing with it in the bedroom though, when all his painting supplies were downstairs?
Schanke turned the bottle over and caught a droplet on his fingertip. It was definitely not wine. Making a face, Schanke pulled out his handkerchief to wipe his finger clean. After returning the bottle to the nightstand, he left the bedroom and peeked into the refrigerator. Six bottles similar to the one he had found in the bedroom were neatly lined up on the shelf, making the only contents in the fridge.
"Odd," Schanke mumbled and opened the freezer compartment. He paled as he discovered several frozen blood bags. The label identified the contents as human and the Toronto General Hospital’s blood bank as the source. "This is more than weird," Schanke whispered. Either his partner had a serious identity problem or --- But he refused to believe the alternative. He had already once made a total fool of himself by thinking that Nick was a vampire. At that time he had been under tremendous stress. The shock to his system had played on his imagination and filled him with bizarre obsessions and fantasies. He didn’t want to go down that road again. While he contemplated what he should do with the knowledge he had gained today, his cell phone interrupted his musings.
"Oh, Myra honey --- No, something came up and I got delayed --- yes, I’m on my way now."
He left the loft to run the errands on Myra’s list. He just hoped his already-purchased drinks were still waiting for him.
* * *
After a day of restless sleep, Schanke was back at the precinct an hour before sunset. The Caddy was still parked where he had left it. Schanke parked his car a good distance away and remained seated, his eyes on the Caddy.
When the last rays of the sun had faded, the Caddy’s trunk opened and his partner emerged. Nick sat down in the driver’s seat and drove off. Shaking his head, Schanke left his car and walked into the precinct.
An hour later, Nick walked in, wearing a different set of clothing than the night before. "Hi Schank, you’re in early," Nick greeted him and set down at his desk.
"How was your day?" Schanke inquired, ignoring Nick’s remark.
Nick cast him a curious look. "Good, and yours?"
"Myra sent me shopping. I spent half the morning at Zehrs and the other half at the farmer’s market. When do you do your shopping?"
"What kind of shopping?" Nick asked, confused.
"You know, groceries, the everyday stuff."
"Oh, that. I have an arrangement to have it delivered directly to the loft."
"That’s convenient, but also expensive, isn’t it?"
"Knight, Schanke," Captain Cohen stepped out of her office. "Body’s been found in an underpass of Gardiner Expressway."
"Any details?" Nick asked.
Cohen shook her head. "Call came just in. Coroner is on the way."
"We’re on it, Captain." Nick grabbed his coat and preceded Schanke out of the bullpen.
* * *
Nick stopped in his tracks as they approached the spot where Natalie knelt beside the body of a man in his early fifties. Instinctively he brushed his hand across his mouth and stared in fascination at the blotches of blood that pooled on the man’s chest and on the concrete beside his head.
Noting that his partner was no longer at his side, Schanke turned towards him. "Nick? You – uh – look hungry."
The statement caused Natalie to look up in alarm.
Nick met her gaze briefly before excusing himself quickly in a hoarse voice, "I’m talking to the officer who called it in."
"What can you tell me, Nat?" Schanke addressed the coroner.
Glad that Schanke made no further comment about Nick, Natalie began, "Judging from the coagulation of the blood, I’d say he can't have been dead over an hour, but according to his body temperature, I’d estimate two hours. I can give you a more accurate time after a thorough exam. The blood on his chest is from a knife wound. It missed the heart but made him fall, and he hit his head on the concrete, which accounts for the blood pool here." Natalie indicated the spot beside the victim’s head. "Neither wound was instantly fatal, but he bled out. His pockets are empty, no wallet, no ID."
"Robbery?" Schanke concluded.
"Yeah. Whoever did this must have quite a lot of blood on his clothing."
"We’ll search the immediate area and see if we can find anyone who saw or heard something suspicious within the last two hours."
While Schanke gave instructions to the officers, Natalie headed to the spot where Nick was talking to the officer who had been the first on the scene.
"Are you all right?" she asked when the officer moved away.
"I’m fine," Nick quipped.
"But Schanke had it right on, hadn’t he?"
Nick averted his eyes as a mixture of shame and revulsion crossed his features. "It was very fresh," he admitted. Then he turned his head towards Schanke.
"What?" Natalie inquired as she noted his thoughtful glance.
"I don’t know. Schanke is behaving oddly tonight. He keeps asking all kinds of questions."
"What kind of questions?"
"You know, how was my day, where do I go for shopping."
"You find it odd when someone asks you how your day was? Nick, that’s the most normal question in the world."
"It isn’t when the one who’s asking it knows you spent the day in a trunk."
"You spent the day in the trunk? Again? Why didn’t you call me?" Natalie exclaimed, exasperated. "Wait a minute, Schanke knows that you spent the day in the trunk?"
"When I woke up, the car was moving. My skin was scorched, so someone must have opened the trunk while I was sleeping."
"And you think it was Schanke?"
"Who else would dare taking the Caddy on an unauthorized road trip?"
"Right," Natalie admitted. "So you think he figured it out?"
"I’m not sure," Nick said thoughtfully. "I’ll keep a close eye on him in case he goes prodding into my affairs again."
"Hey Nick, you ready to head back to the precinct?" Schanke interrupted them as he walked over.
* * *
"Nat said the time of death was between one and two hours ago," Schanke related on the drive back to the precinct. "The blood was practically still flowing."
"I know," Nick interrupted him.
"I talked to Nat, too," Nick reminded him.
"Sure." After a pause Schanke continued, "It must feel horrible when the blood is slowly drained from you and you’re incapable of doing anything. I mean the heart was still beating and pumping the blood through his system, so every heart beat issued forth a new flow ---"
"Schanke!" Nick roared and brought the Caddy to a screeching halt.
When Schanke turned towards him, he faced an empty seat. Getting out of the car himself, Schanke stared up and down the road, but his partner had vanished from sight. "Nick!" he called in vain.
"Great," he muttered and rounded the car to take the driver’s seat. He decided to drive to the loft in order to wait for Nick there. He had a feeling that he would turn up there sooner or later.
* * *
Expecting an empty loft, Schanke pulled the elevator door aside and stopped in his tracks. He hadn’t expected that Nick would be there before him. And certainly not in the process of upending a green bottle and choking down the contents like a starved man.
Caught completely by surprise, Nick ceased his feeding and stared at his partner.
"You’re actually drinking that stuff?" Schanke observed.
Nick gazed briefly at the bottle in his hand and placed it on the table. "Excuse me?" he turned his focus back on Schanke.
"The blood? Your 'paint thickener'?" Schanke raised his hands to sketch quotation marks in the air.
"If you know what this is," Nick indicated the bottle, "what are you going to do about it?"
"That depends," Schanke replied thoughtfully.
"Whether you believe you’re a vampire or whether you’re – uh – a vampire.
"What if I told you it is the first?" Nick tested.
Schanke looked increasingly worried. "Then I should probably get you an appointment with the department shrink. You’re my partner, Nick. And I really don’t want you committed, but maybe you should consider some sort of therapy."
Despite the situation, Nick cast a bemused smile at his partner.
"I can reassure you, Schanke, I was just kidding. It isn’t the first."
Schanke just stared at Nick before relief showed on his face. "I’m glad."
"Do you not feel the urge to run?" Nick asked in disbelief.
"Schanke, you’ve just witnessed me drinking a whole bottle of blood. Does that not scare the hell out of you?"
Schanke scratched his head. "You know Nick, I’ve never seen you eat or drink anything. Frankly, that scared the hell out of me. I mean, a man has to live on something. I’m actually relieved that you do eat something."
Nick regarded Schanke probingly. "And knowing what I am does not bother you?"
"Is it like in the movies?"
"No, not really."
"Then you go not about biting beautiful girls in the neck?"
"No, I don’t!" Nick protested quickly before relenting, "at least not anymore".
"Yeah sure," Schanke chuckled. "You’d need fangs to do that. And I don’t see those."
Nick suppressed a grin and refrained from correcting Schanke. Suddenly Schanke reached out and dragged him in front of the wall mirror.
"You have a reflection," Schanke observed, clearly disappointed.
"I told you movies aren’t exactly accurate in the depiction of our kind."
"Good, then I don’t have to worry about the garlic on my souvlaki."
"I’d really appreciate it if you did not eat garlic in my presence," Nick emphasized.
"Which reminds me, I haven’t had my lunch break yet. Do you mind if we stopped at a Take-out on the way back to the precinct?" Schanke walked towards the elevator.
"There’s one more thing, Schanke," Nick stopped him and focused on his heartbeat. "Look at me..."
"Later, Nick. The Captain’s probably putting an APB on us if we don’t return soon." Schanke stepped into the elevator, oblivious to Nick’s confused stare.
Nick contemplated a moment if he should force the issue and gain control of Schanke’s mind in order to erase his memory of the last 15 minutes. However, that attempt had failed a few weeks ago. He had to admit that Schanke’s casual manner around him, despite the knowledge of his nature, was a balm to his tortured conscience. Why Schanke hadn’t run in terror from him was beyond his understanding, but he couldn’t deny that it felt good to be accepted the way he was.
"How did you get here ahead of me, by the way?" Schanke asked as he took the passenger seat.
Nick cast him a secretive smile. "I can’t tell you everything, Schank."
"Don’t bother. I know how."
"You turned into a bat."
Nick had a hard time to focus on the road while bouts of laughter erupted from him. "I’m a vampire, not a shapeshifter, Schank," he said when he was able to talk again. He wiped tears of laughter from his eyes and licked the red fluid from his finger, glad that the light was too low for Schanke to notice the colour.
"There’s an all-night Take-out," Schanke announced. "Stop there. I’ll be right back. I take it you don’t want anything?"
Nick stopped the car. "No, I don’t want anything," he assured Schanke and watched as Schanke entered the diner.
Nick reached for the stereo and turned it on.
"What is it that defines true friendship, mes amis? The acceptance of each other despite your past, your nature or your orientation. The Nightcrawler knows your darkest secrets and for that very reason he accepts all of you..."
Nick glared at the stereo in annoyance and turned it off. His attention was diverted when Schanke returned, unwrapping a steaming souvlaki sandwich. The moment he had sat down and closed the door, Nick’s lungs felt as if they were exploding.
"Schanke!" he growled and opened his door, letting himself fall onto the concrete.
"Huh?" Schanke glanced towards his partner and saw him curled up outside the car.
After taking a few deep breaths, Nick drew himself up, using the door frame as support.
"I asked you not to eat garlic in my presence!" he scolded.
"Does it really bother you so much?" Schanke asked astonished. He had ordered the extra dose for fun, just to see how Nick would react. He remembered that Nick had shied away from him in a funny way on previous occasions when he had eaten a little garlic, but this current reaction indicated that he was actually in pain. "I thought as long as you don’t eat it, you’d be fine," he added in an apologetic tone.
"I’m not fine," Nick said, still panting. "It repels me." He reached for the fastenings and removed the Caddy’s top.
"Uh, what are you doing?" Schanke wondered.
"I’m ventilating the car. I’m not going to sit in an enclosed spot with you while you reek like that."
Schanke was slightly stunned. "But you’re aware that it’s barely five degrees outside?"
"The cold doesn’t bother me," Nick said undisturbed.
"But I will be freezing. And my food gets cold."
"You should have considered that before you ordered the double garlic," Nick informed him reproachfully. He waited until Schanke had eaten the offensive food before resuming his seat. Leaning as far away from Schanke as the space allowed he drove to the precinct.
Schanke crossed his arms before his chest and sank down in his seat, trying to provide as little target to the wind as he could.
* * *
"Get out of my car," Nick demanded after stopping at the precinct. "Why don’t you go ahead and start interviewing those who have been brought in while I check with Nat."
"You’re responsible if I’m sick tomorrow," Schanke grumbled as he got out of the car, rubbing his arms.
"And you made me sick!" Nick shot back. He watched as Schanke disappeared into the station, then he drove to the morgue.
* * *
"Hi Nat," he greeted the coroner who stood in her scrubs at the examination table.
"Hey, Nick. I’m still in the middle of ---" she stopped in midsentence, looking up. "What happened? You look slightly green."
"Thank you." Nick leaned against the wall. "Schanke knows."
Natalie put her instruments aside, giving him her full attention. "He does? Again? How?"
"He caught me in the loft, emptying a bottle he knew wasn’t wine."
"See, that’s why I always keep telling you, stay away from the blood. Eat something solid."
Nick glowered at her. At least Schanke didn’t criticize his drinking habits.
"Did you make him forget?"
"He had a souvlaki with double garlic. I couldn’t get within ten feet of him," Nick explained, as he was reluctant to admit that he had doubts in his ability to hypnotize Schanke successfully.
"Maybe we should get you on those garlic pills again to increase your tolerance," Natalie suggested.
Natalie was slightly taken aback by his ferocious response.
Nick’s eyes softened in anguish. "I’m sorry, I snapped at you. It’s just, tonight was a bit much to handle."
Natalie nodded in understanding. Maybe today wasn’t a good day to prod him about his treatments between the crime scene and Schanke’s discovery. "So, what are you going to do?"
"I don’t know. He seems oddly at ease with it." Pushing away from the wall, Nick approached the examination table. "Do you have anything yet that might help us identify him?"
"I found evidence for cardio-vascular disease. He had bypass surgery about three months ago. So you might compare missing person’s files with medical records provided he’s a Toronto citizen. He’s probably taking anticoagulants. That’s what kept his blood flowing longer than usual. I’ll have the exact lab data tomorrow."
"Thanks," Nick turned to go.
"Maybe you should book off," Natalie suggested.
"Yeah, I can’t stand Schanke’s garlic breath anyway. I just hope he keeps his mouth shut."
"He’s probably going to tell Myra."
Nick’s eyes widened in panic. He left the morgue and pulled out his cell phone. "Schanke? How’s it going?"
"After the third hot coffee, I’m finally beginning to warm up."
"I meant about the case," Nick stressed.
"And here I thought you were concerned about my well-being that you deliberately put at risk."
Nick considered a moment to remind him that Schanke’s well-being was constantly at risk in his presence, but decided now was not a good time to discuss this over the phone. "I’m sorry, okay?" he relented instead. "Nat said the victim was on anticoagulants for heart disease and had bypass surgery about three months ago."
"I’ll cross-check with missing persons. When will you be here?"
"I won’t. I want to go back to the crime scene. I’ll see you tomorrow. And Schanke, I trust that you won’t tell anyone. Not even Myra. Otherwise we’ll both be in a lot of trouble."
"Don’t worry, Myra would only tell me I'm drinking too much or not getting enough sleep."
Nick forced a smile and ended the call.
He stopped at the crime scene and raised the yellow tape to enter the cordoned-off area. "Hey, Lewis, go get yourself some coffee. I’ll be here for a while," he told the officer on guard.
After Lewis had departed, Nick bent down to the dark spot of dried blood on the concrete. He stuck his finger into the puddle and raised it under his nose. His eyes flashed golden as he inhaled the scent, committing it to memory. After wiping his finger on his handkerchief, he returned to the car.
After driving aimlessly around the city, Nick found himself in front of the Raven. He entered making his way straight to the bar where he took a seat. He reached behind the bar and retrieved a bottle. Before he could open it, a velvet-gloved hand snaked around his wrist.
"Are you certain you haven’t mistaken the label?" Janette purred in a mixture of surprise and concern.
"I’m sure. Leave me be, Janette," he growled.
Janette backed off and reached up to retrieve a glass which she placed in front of him.
Nick opened the bottle and poured generously. After recorking the bottle he stared a long moment at the red fluid. Then he raised the glass to his lips and took a deliberate sip. He let the fluid rest on his tongue before swallowing, closing his eyes as he tasted the lingering emotions of the donor.
"Hmm, chérie, you do look delicious when you do that," Janette remarked, leaning with her back against the counter.
Nick’s eyes snapped open and he shot her a glare before taking another sip.
"Oh, he does much more than that, Janette. I’m certain he will also taste delicious after indulging like this." Lacroix purred as he stepped up to Nick’s left side. "May I ask what has brought this welcome change in diet about?"
"That’s none of your business," Nick snapped. "And it isn’t permanent."
"How unfortunate." Lacroix picked up a glass from the rack and placed it on the counter beside Nick’s, gazing at him expectantly.
Reluctantly, Nick opened the bottle and filled Lacroix’s glass to the half. The elder vampire raised an amused eyebrow as Nick replaced the cork and stored the bottle out of Lacroix’s reach.
Lacroix raised his glass in salute before taking a sip. "An exquisite choice, mon fils."
In reply Nick emptied his glass in one swallow. Grabbing the bottle, he moved from his stool. Giving both, Janette and Lacroix a warning glare to stay put, he left the club and headed home.
"What’s wrong with him?" Janette wondered.
"Nothing is wrong with him. He’s merely rediscovering himself," Lacroix replied. Fixing Janette with a stern gaze, he added in a steely voice, "The next time Nicholas chooses a human vintage of his own volition, you will not interfere. Do I make myself clear?"
"But is it what he wants?" Janette objected.
"It is what I want!" Lacroix held her gaze until she looked away. Pleased that he had made his point, he retrieved a new bottle from behind the counter and refilled his glass.
* * *
The next evening, Nick sat at his kitchen table, savouring a last glass from the bottle he had brought home. His eyes snapped to the elevator as the motor engaged. As it was still daylight, his visitor could be only human. On impulse he was about to hide his beverage when he recognized Schanke’s heartbeat. Instead he remained seated, his eyes expectantly on the door.
Schanke stepped out of the elevator and stopped while his eyes adjusted to the shadowy gloom of the loft.
Noting Schanke’s predicament, Nick pointed the remote at the blinds of the opposite side of the loft, opening them just enough to allow more light seeping in while he was still securely sitting in the shadows.
Schanke approached the table, noting that Nick was still wearing his robe. "I’m glad you’re up. I couldn’t sleep."
"It’s getting to you," Nick observed, a hint of sadness in his voice. Of course he couldn’t expect Schanke to remain indifferent to his nature.
"What’s getting to me?"
"What I am," Nick clarified.
"Huh? No, that’s fine," Schanke assured him.
Nick furrowed his brows. Taking a sip from his glass, he asked, "What if I told you this was human blood, not cow?"
"So what?" Schanke shrugged.
"So what?" Nick gasped. "Are you out of your mind? I’m having the same sustenance for breakfast that’s running through your veins, and all you say is 'so what'?"
"Nick, you aren’t very different from me. I know you don’t like to kill people either. On the contrary, you’ve saved my life on a number of occasions."
Nick furrowed his brows as there was something oddly familiar in Schanke’s statement.
"Detective Schanke, you’ve asked if Nicholas is different. Au contraire, the Nicholas that I know is very much like you. He doesn’t like to kill people either."
"Of course," Nick mumbled. "I should have known." Schanke wasn’t frightened by him because Lacroix had told him so.
"Nothing." Nick emptied his glass and rose from his seat. "I’m going to get dressed."
Schanke watched as Nick walked to the stairs, giving the patch of sunlight on the floor a wide berth. "The sunlight problem is real?" he wondered.
"Oh yes," Nick confirmed.
"What does it do to you?"
"This." Nick moved to the corner of the light patch and held out his hand into the ray of sunlight. After a few seconds wisps of white smoke emanated from his skin. He quickly retracted his hand and cradled it under his arm.
Schanke stared at him, wide-eyed. "Do you keep burn ointment around or do you want me to run to the pharmacy?"
Nick had expected that Schanke would panic at the sight of him. He wasn’t prepared for the concern he perceived in his friend’s voice. Embarrassed he held out his hand for Schanke to see. "I don’t need it."
Schanke watched in amazement as the scorch marks on Nick’s hand faded until the skin was unscathed. To make sure he wasn’t fooled, Schanke grabbed Nick’s other hand and examined it as well.
"I heal very quickly," Nick explained, retracting his hand from Schanke’s scrutinizing gaze. Then he quickly ascended the stairs to get dressed.
* * *
When Nick stepped out of his bedroom, he found Schanke standing at his piano, studying the sheet music Nick had scattered on the surface. He lifted over the railing and landed noiselessly behind Schanke. "Sun’s down. We can go," he announced.
Schanke jumped. "Jeez, are you trying to give me a heart attack or what?" He took in Nick’s appearance. Dressed in black jeans and black turtle neck, he stood only a step away from him. He must have been too absorbed to notice him coming down the stairs, Schanke concluded.
Nick gave him an innocent grin. "Sorry."
"I was trying to figure out if I know the composer," Schanke nodded towards the piano.
"You do," Nick replied and walked to the coat rack to retrieve his jacket.
"Well, who wrote it?" Schanke asked, pleased that his partner gave him that much credit in the music department.
Schanke picked up one of the sheets and held it up. "But it’s written in ink."
"That was the common technique back then," Nick shrugged.
Schanke gaped at him. "Wait a minute, you mean you wrote this in ---"He noticed a date written on top of the page. "1802?"
Nick regarded him concerned, wondering if this was the moment when Schanke would turn away.
"It’s true then that vampires don’t age?" Schanke realized instead. "Just how old are you?"
"Older," Nick said evasively.
"Why are you still working instead of drawing a pension?" Schanke wondered.
"Do I look like I’m old enough for a pension?"
"Well, I don't feel old enough to retire."
"And you're not acting like you’ve lived that long," Schanke observed.
"I would think at your age, you’d be a little more experienced around women."
"What are you talking about?" Nick asked, slightly taken aback by Schanke’s criticism of his talents in the romance department.
"About Nat of course. Haven’t you learned anything about how to win a woman?"
"Times have changed, Schanke. Women are no longer considered a conquest. We’re just friends. I value Nat too much to overstep my boundaries."
"I’m sure she wouldn’t mind a little romance."
"It’s a little more complicated. Trust me, Nat would mind. And so would someone else," he added in a mumble. He opened the lift door, successfully ending the discussion.
Schanke cast another glance at the sheet music before returning it on the piano. "Jenny wants to learn piano," he mentioned as he joined Nick in the lift. "Myra’s mother has already registered her in a course that she’s going to finance as present for Jenny’s First Communion."
"It’s good to start at a young age," Nick remarked.
"The problem is she needs to practice at home in addition to the courses. I could buy a used piano or get a rental, but what if she loses interest after a year? Last year she wanted a horse. Myra’s mother got her the entire riding equipment and Myra took her to a stable in Claireville every Saturday. It lasted three months then she preferred riding a bike instead of a horse."
"Does Jenny always get what she wants from her grandmother?"
"She’s the only grandchild. But actually it’s Myra’s mother who always gets what she wants. I’m not even sure it was Jenny’s idea about the piano."
"Sounds familiar," Nick sympathized.
"Yours must be worth a fortune. I’ve never seen a Steinway in a private home."
"It was a gift," Nick said softly while his eyes became distant.
New York City, 1855
Nicholas placed his hands on the keys and began to play. He closed his eyes as he focused entirely on the music. Never before had he played on an instrument that conveyed such perfect sound as this grand piano from a local company that had arrived in the morning.
He kept his eyes closed as the music faded and a pair of hands came to rest on his shoulders. Reaching up, he covered the hand on his right shoulder with his own and turned his head to place a lingering kiss on the white skin.
"Anything less than a perfect instrument wouldn’t do your skills justice, mon amant. Do you approve?"
"Oui. C’est magnifique. Merci beaucoup, Lucien."
Lacroix smiled at the rare address. "I’m immensely pleased that you do not reject all my gifts, Nicholas."
Nicholas turned towards him in protest. "Have I not shown you last night how much I appreciate your other gift?"
Lacroix placed his finger-tips under Nicholas’ chin and held his gaze. "It is your impulsive passion that I cherish, Nicholas. Although I’m quite aware that it is the same impulsive passion that causes you to leave on a whim over a trifling matter. It has happened in the past and it will most likely happen again."
When Nicholas opened his mouth to object, Lacroix silenced him with a deep kiss on his lips. Then he placed Nicholas’ hands on the keys and breathed into his ear. "I want you to think of touching me when you touch this, Nicholas, even when you choose to reject my other gift..."
Nick lifted his head to look at Lacroix. "I will always think of you," he promised and opened his lips to accept another kiss. The deal was sealed with lips interlocked while Nicholas’ hands roamed over the keys in a crescendo of increasing passion.
"Earth to Nick, earth to Nick," Schanke called repeatedly. "Unless you want to spend the entire night staring at the elevator door, I suggest we get moving."
* * *
"Any progress, detectives?" Captain Cohen asked as she passed their desks on the way to her office.
"We have an ID on the victim," Schanke informed her. Checking his notepad, he continued. "The name is Chris Wingham. CEO of Wingham & Young, a consulting company that specializes on control management. His secretary reported him missing when he didn’t show for a meeting this morning."
"Are you still working from the robbery angle?"
Schanke shrugged. "A search of the area yielded nothing. No wallet has been found. Day shift interviewed the homeless who use to camp out in the vicinity. Nobody saw anything, nobody heard anything, nobody found anything. Nada."
"Do you have anything that doesn't start with a negation?"
"Maybe it wasn’t random," Nick stepped in.
"He doesn’t have any next-of-kin, so we’re going to ask his business partner if he had any enemies," Schanke continued.
Cohen nodded and walked into her office.
"Got the address?" Nick asked.
Schanke lifted several papers on his desk. "Ouch!" he yelped, retracting his hand. "Stupid filing clip. Cut myself on the metal strip." While he lifted his finger to his mouth in order to lick off the blood that welled from the tiny cut, he noticed Nick’s tense posture. "What? Don’t tell me you get sick from a tiny scratch." Looking around for any eavesdropper, he added in a whisper, "I thought you have this for breakfast every day?"
"Exactly!" Nick pressed. When he was sure that he was not going to launch himself over the table in order to feed on Schanke’s finger, he stood. "Can we discuss this in the car?"
"Sure," Schanke grabbed his notepad and hurried off to catch up with his partner who was already out of the bullpen.
* * *
"Bleeding in my presence is not a good idea, Schanke," Nick explained, after Schanke had joined him in the car. "I might have done something stupid had I been on my usual diet."
"Your usual diet?"
"Cow’s blood. I usually drink cow’s blood, but it doesn’t have the same effect as human blood. I have difficulties to keep the hunger at bay."
"Like yesterday at the crime scene? You looked hungry then."
"Yes," Nick admitted, ashamed. "And your talking afterwards in the car didn’t make things easier."
"Tonight I had a glass of human. As you know," Nick explained, steeling himself to hear snorts of disgust or worse.
"See, all this diet crap is doing no good!" Schanke exclaimed instead. "I always keep telling Myra to spare me with her low cholesterol, low fat regimen. If I don’t get my necessary amount of calories, I feel irritated and I’m impaired in my performance which is dangerous for a cop. You have to stop starving yourself, Nick."
Nick stared at him. It was strange hearing this from a mortal whose very race he used to prey on. And yet, he had to admit that Schanke’s words made sense. After the bottle of human blood he had emptied, he hadn’t felt the least tempted by Schanke’s blood. Had he been putting everyone around him deliberately at risk when he had been starving himself? If Schanke could accept his intake of donated human blood, could he accept it himself?
"What?" Schanke interrupted his thoughts.
"I need to see Nat. Meet me at Young’s apartment in 30 minutes."
"But how are you going to ---"Schanke stopped in midsentence as he noticed the empty seat beside him. "I knew he can turn into a bat!" he muttered and slid behind the wheel. Checking his watch, he decided to make a short stop at the Eaton Centre to get something to eat.
* * *
"What are the ingredients to achieve a state of satisfaction? Is it the occurrence of a long awaited event, the aftermath of passion, a delicious menu or all of the above? The Nightcrawler is extraordinary satisfied tonight and he wants to share this feeling with all of you, my gentle listeners..."
Following the sound of the Nightcrawler’s voice, Nick opened the door to Natalie’s office and found her sitting in front of a small stereo, wearing a frustrated expression on her face.
"I didn’t know you were a fan," he remarked.
Natalie’s head snapped up, startled by Nick’s sudden appearance. His ruffled hair indicated that he’d probably flown.
"Would you rather I did not? Would you mind telling me what this was about?" she indicated the stereo. "And don’t tell me this has nothing to do with you. Why do I get the feeling he’s practically gloating?"
A guilty expression crossed Nick’s face. "He caught me drinking human blood last night."
"I know, I shouldn’t have," he shrugged the guilty feeling off. "But it helped to keep the vampire at bay when Schanke cut himself today. I’m not sure what might have happened if I hadn't been sated." Before Natalie could utter a word of protest, he continued, "I’ve realized tonight that I’ve put everyone around me in unnecessary danger when I don’t feed properly. I shouldn’t do that anymore. I have much better control when I drink donated human blood."
"Nick, we’ve had this discussion before. You didn’t want to drink human blood anymore. What has changed now?"
"It doesn’t bother Schanke. He’s able to accept it."
"What do you mean, he’s not bothered? He just found out what you are. People usually don't do well with that!"
"You did well," Nick reminded her with a lopsided grin. "And so did he. He’s okay with it."
When Nick evaded her scrutinizing gaze, she prodded, "What are you not telling me?"
Looking to the floor, Nick said softly, "I think the reason why he doesn’t freak out is because Lacroix told him not to."
"Last month, when Schanke went to him, Lacroix dissuaded him that I’m a vampire. He said I’m not very different from Schanke and that I don’t kill. That must have stuck with him. Lacroix can be very persuasive."
"Oh, he’s more than that," Natalie snapped. "Don’t you see? He’s manipulating Schanke and uses him to make you feel less guilty."
Nick’s mood darkened. "There’s no way to make me feel less guilty after all I’ve done," he said gloomily. "And this isn’t about guilt. This is about belonging, to be a part of society. I thought this was something you’d approve of." Schanke was right. After 800 years, he still didn’t understand women.
"There’s nothing wrong with wanting to belong. As long as it’s what you want and not someone else."
"What I want?" Nick’s gaze rested a moment on her lips before wandering to her throat where he stared at her vein that pulsed in sync with her heartbeat. "You have no idea what I really want." Ashamed at the turn his thoughts were taking, Nick quickly excused himself and rushed to the door. "Schanke’s waiting. I’ve got to go."
Natalie stared after him, absently scratching the side of her neck.
* * *
"I had a cheeseburger with double cheese and no garlic," Schanke announced as Nick walked around the corner of the apartment building where Ernest Young resided. "Please don’t tell me you’re allergic to cheese as well."
"I appreciate your consideration, Schanke," Nick smiled. "Cheese is fine."
They rode the elevator up to the top floor. Schanke whistled as the door opened to a spacious loft. "Reminds me of your place."
"Thank you for meeting us at this time, Mr. Young," Nick addressed the man who approached them when they stepped from the elevator. He was in his forties and was wearing suit pants and a shirt with an open tie hanging casually from his neck. "I’m Detective Knight and this is Detective Schanke. We are the investigating officers in Mr. Wingham’s death."
"It’s awful," Young said, brushing his hand through his hair. "Your colleagues said it was a robbery?"
"We’re currently trying to rule out any other possibilities," Nick explained, moving further into the loft. "What exactly is your business, Mr. Young?"
"We are advising other companies on how they can increase their efficiency in the financial sector. You know, lowering costs, increasing profit. We analyze the structure and identify expendable resources."
"Human resources," Nick ventured.
"You’re one of those guys who get lots of hard-working people fired, huh?" Schanke chimed in. "I’m sure you've made a lot of enemies."
"Do you have a list of your clients from the recent weeks so that we can check if anyone who had been fired on Mr. Wingham’s recommendation is responsible for his murder?" Nick asked.
"I have a file on my notebook. Let me make a print," Young offered and walked into his study area.
After exchanging a glance with Schanke, Nick walked around the loft. As he neared the kitchen, he stopped in his tracks and inhaled deeply.
"What?" Schanke whispered as he noticed Nick’s tense posture.
"I smell blood," Nick whispered back. Inhaling again, he tracked the scent to the waste bin. He opened it and reached inside, pulling out a black hoodie with visible stains of what he recognized as the victim’s blood.
"Is that yours, Mr. Young?" Nick asked, holding the hoodie up for Young to see.
Young turned from his notebook and stared at the detectives. "How did you ---" Without finishing the sentence he bounded through the open balcony door.
"He’s taking the ladder up to the roof," Nick announced after listening for Young’s footsteps. "Take the stairs, I’m cutting his way off on the roof."
"Of course I’m taking the stairs. How else am I supposed to get on the roof? Nick?" Noting that his partner was no longer beside him, Schanke groaned and hurried onto the balcony where he climbed the fire escape. As he reached the roof, his eyes bulged as he saw that Nick had already collared their suspect. Schanke pulled out his cuffs and tied Ernest Young to an iron post that stuck out from a chimney.
"He was going to fire me," Young exclaimed. "After he came back from rehab, he was having second thoughts about this whole business all of a sudden. He wanted to turn it into one of those welfare companies that help unemployed people to get a job. He was about to ruin the entire business. I had no choice but to get rid of him."
Nick stared at him in disgust and retreated to the opposite side of the roof.
"I called for backup," Schanke joined him a short time later. "It’s a pity this Wingham guy didn’t get a chance to make it up to those he fired. I’m sure he could have done a lot of good with his contacts and money."
"Do you really think he deserved a second chance after all he did?" Nick asked.
"If he really wanted to change, why not?" Schanke shrugged. "He could have made a difference."
Nick smiled, deeply moved by Schanke’s view. "Let’s wait for backup so that we can wrap this up."
Schanke reached into the pocket on the inside of his jacket and retrieved a lengthy pouch. "While you were out and about to see Nat, I picked up Jenny's First Communion gift at the jewellery store." He opened the pouch and picked up a delicate silver chain with a cross, holding it out for Nick to see. Instinctively, Nick took a step backwards. Unknowingly, he was already standing at the edge of the roof. He lost his balance and fell.
"Nick!" Schanke screamed as he saw his partner disappearing into the dark depth. "Oh my God!" He rushed to the fire escape and descended the stairs. As he reached the ground, he expected to see Nick’s body badly battered. Instead he found a bat near the location where Nick should have touched down.
Bending down, he examined the lifeless body. "Nick?" he addressed the bat. "Please, don’t do this to me. You said you were almost indestructible."
When the animal didn’t stir, he pulled out a pocket knife and made a small incision on his thumb. Squeezing a few droplets of blood on the animal’s mouth, he held his breath and waited. When nothing happened, he pulled out his handkerchief and wrapped the bat carefully inside. There was only one person he knew who probably knew how to help Nick.
* * *
Schanke parked his car in front of the CERK studio and made his way to the sound booth.
"Detective Schanke, I haven’t expected to see you again," Lacroix greeted his visitor. "What brings you here?"
"I’m so sorry. Your son fell off a roof today. It’s probably my fault because I showed him Jenny’s gift." Schanke started to feel uncomfortable as two ice blue eyes bore into him.
"Do continue," Lacroix demanded, wondering where this was leading.
"I found him on the ground. He assured me that he couldn’t die, but he’s not moving. I’ve already tried to give him blood, but nothing happened."
Although it didn’t show, Lacroix was clearly confused. He should have sensed if anything happened to Nicholas.
"Take me to him," he demanded.
"I’ve brought him here," Schanke said, unwrapping his handkerchief.
Lacroix stared at the dead bat and wrinkled his nose in disgust. "That is not my son!"
"Are you sure?"
"This is a rotting cadaver." Pointing behind Schanke, he added, "That is my son."
Schanke turned around to see Nick stepping from behind the curtain. "Nick! You scared me! My, am I glad you’re okay, buddy."
After taking care that Ernest Young remembered nothing of the incident on the roof, Nick had followed Schanke to the CERK station with increasing anticipation. Maybe Nat was right and Lacroix was manipulating Schanke. His partner was behaving far too casual around Lacroix for his comfort. "What’s going on here?"
"The good detective here seems to believe you had turned into a bat. I wonder why that is, Nicholas?" Lacroix demanded.
"He knows," Nick admitted, hoping that Lacroix wouldn’t call the Enforcers or do anything worse.
"Indeed?" he breathed instead. "Tell me, Detective Schanke, why did you come to me when you believed Nicholas’ life was in danger?"
Schanke had been wondering the same thing. "I don’t know. You’re his father, aren’t you? I assumed you’d know what to do."
Lacroix looked immensely pleased. "The loyalty of your friend is truly touching, Nicholas. What do you wish me to do about him?"
"Schanke, wait for me in the car, okay?" Nick said without taking his eyes off Lacroix.
"Detective Schanke," Lacroix called him back and indicated the bat on his table. "I would hate to have bodies piling up in my vicinity. Kindly remove this, will you?"
"Of course," Schanke quickly rewrapped the bat in his handkerchief and took it with him.
"What have you done to him?" Nick demanded after Schanke had left.
Lacroix raised an eyebrow at his son’s offensive question. "Why do you believe I have done anything?" He turned towards a cabinet and retrieved a second glass which he filled from the bottle on the table before sliding it over to Nicholas.
After a moment’s hesitation, Nick picked up the glass and took a sip. "He’s not acting normal. He found out what I am, and he’s not upset or disgusted. He’s even insisting I quit my diet."
"Really? Apparently he’s concerned about your well-being, as any good friend would be. I don’t see anything abnormal in that. You do value his opinion, do you not?"
"Yes, and it makes me suspicious that it is so closely in line with yours."
"I see. Has it never occurred to you that I may have been right all along?"
Nick glared at him. Lacroix was looking far too smug for his taste. Irritated, he emptied his glass.
"You don’t have to admit it, Nicholas," Lacroix purred. "The very fact that I see you enjoying my offering tells me all I need to know."
Nick stared into the empty glass and replaced it on the table. "Can you make Schanke forget again?"
"Of course. It will last a month and then you’ll make another mistake and he will discover again what you are."
When Nick gazed at him, dumbfounded, Lacroix demanded, "How did it happen this time?"
"It wasn’t my mistake," Nick protested. "He accidentally found me in the trunk during daytime."
Lacroix released a short laugh. "How inconvenient. Spending the day in a trunk to which mortals have access is an unnecessary risk. Do we have to talk about curfew again, Nicholas?"
"No, we don’t! So, you are not going to remove Schanke’s memory?"
"As I said, it would only be temporary. Unless you plan on moving on, he will most likely find another clue that leads him to the truth. I must say that I find him rather intelligent for a mortal, considering that he came to me when he believed your life in danger. But why would he think you fell off a roof? I don’t recall you being that clumsy."
"He had a cross," Nick sighed. "He seems to try out everything on me that he learned from the movies. Yesterday he had a double dose of garlic, he dragged me in front of a mirror, he asked about daylight."
"I highly recommend mentioning wooden stakes before he tries to find out for himself if they work, Nicholas."
Nick’s eyes widened.
"I will certainly kill him if he turns out to be a danger to you or the community, although I’m currently reluctant to do so since he proved to be so... helpful."
Nick’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Is that why you want him to keep his knowledge? Because he supports your twisted view?"
"My view is neither twisted nor does it require support from a mortal, Nicholas. It is merely a reflection of your own wishes. Have you not always wanted to belong to this mortal world you value so highly?"
"Yes," Nick admitted.
"Even you have to admit that walking among mortals is so much easier on a healthy diet than on your self-inflicted starvation along with those tedious attempts of your doctor friend, who only served to drive you into further seclusion."
Nick wanted to protest but there was nothing he could counter. "Sooner or later he will see my eyes or my fangs and be repulsed."
"But that is unlikely to happen on a proper diet, don’t you agree?" Lacroix perched on the edge of his desk and crossed his arms before his chest while his gaze remained on Nicholas with heightened intensity.
"What?" Nick fidgeted with his fingers, feeling momentarily distracted by Lacroix’s scrutinizing gaze.
"I cannot say that seeing your true nature gives any cause for being 'repulsed'. Au contraire, I find that sight of you rather... seductive."
Nick blinked the emerging amber from his eyes. "I doubt that Schanke shares your opinion."
"I sincerely hope so. With your permission, I will let Janette know to have her supplier set up a constant delivery to your loft. Just to assure that Detective Schanke will not be subjected to any slips in your control."
"Thank you, but I can make my own arrangements," Nick declined.
Lacroix inclined his head in acknowledgement. "As you wish."
* * *
"So, the bat business is a myth, but the effect of crosses is true?" Schanke asked as Nick joined him in the car.
"Yes, and before you try anything else, let me tell you that wooden stakes do work."
"I guess you won’t be coming to Jenny’s First Communion then?"
Surprised by the question, Nick turned towards him. "It’s a family celebration. I don’t belong ---"
"Nick, you’re practically family."
"I’m sorry, I can’t. But I’d like to give her a gift, if that’s okay?"
"You don’t have to, but sure, Jenny loves gifts."
"Good, leave that piano business to me."
"Are you crazy? These things cost a fortune! I can’t accept that."
Nick held up his hand to calm Schanke down. "Schanke, it’s okay. Really. I may not receive a pension, but I’ve managed to accumulate… backup over the years."
"Are you sure?" Schanke sounded still doubtful. "What if she finds out that piano isn’t her thing?"
"Then she’ll find something else and you can do what you want with it."
"Fine, but make sure to get a used one."
Nick rolled his eyes and started the engine. Making a u-turn, he headed back to the precinct, resisting the urge to turn on the stereo.
* * *
Natalie stared in irritation at the long-stemmed white rose that had arrived in her office along with a note attached to it. A single word was written in elegant script on the slip of paper.
~ Checkmate ~
First he had to gloat on the stereo and now this. She was actually surprised that he went to such efforts. She’d assumed he’d regard her as a nasty bug that was beyond his range of attention. However, the fact that he sent the note indicated that he had regarded her as a worthy opponent and possible danger to his son. If he thought she would surrender and stop seeing Nick, he’d be in for an unpleasant surprise.
* * *
Lucien Lacroix stood on the roof across the morgue and listened to the single heartbeat in Dr. Lambert’s office. The sudden increase confirmed that his message had been received and conveyed the desired effect. Mortals were so predictable in their actions. Especially when it came to Nicholas. He was certain that the good Doctor would insist on maintaining her relations with his son. It would only be a matter of time until she succumbed to Nicholas’ dark charms which were much more prominent when he was in peak condition. No one had ever been able to resist that attraction for long – himself included. He was looking forward to the day when Nicholas was revelling in his nature again. He would always belong to him.
Quotes taken from "Close Call", written by Michael Sadowski
The piano manufacturer Steinway & Sons was founded in New York City in 1853.
Forever Knight and its characters were created by Barney Cohen and James D. Parriott and are copyright to Sony/Tristar. None of the characters in this story belongs to me. I'm just borrowing them temporarily. No infringement intended. No profit is being made.
Special thanks go to amilyn for beta-reading and suggestions, to lafenris for the inspiring prompt, and to the moderators of the fkficfest (brightknightie and amilyn) for creating the opportunity to write this story.
I apologize for slightly misinterpreting the prompt. I wasn’t sure if "Schanke doesn’t blurt it" meant he doesn’t blurt it in front of others or in front of Nick. I chose the first option and I hope you enjoyed reading it despite of that.