Nick stood on the doorstep of the townhouse and opened the link to his master. He felt LaCroix answer slowly, lethargically. A few moments later the door was opened by Urs. She pulled him in and relocked the door, then wrapped Nick in a fierce hug.
"I'm so glad you're here. He's in the den." Nick hugged her back and headed for the den. LaCroix was seated in one of the overstuffed chairs in front of a roaring fire, a glass of bloodwine untouched on the table beside him.
Nick walked around and picked up another glass, poured himself a glass of the bloodwine and sat in the other chair. LaCroix did not look up or acknowledge his presence in any way.
"I thought I'd have 'breakfast' with you, Father," Nick said, holding up the goblet as if to do a toast.
LaCroix's head snapped up at Nick's use of "father", eyes suddenly blazing with anger. Nick's smile disappeared as he stared at the very angry vampire in front of him.
"How dare you, Nicholas!" LaCroix hissed sharply. "You ordered me away from your life last month, made your feelings clear in front of the entire community! Are you here to gloat over your victory? Go back to your Natalie, Nicholas. It is clear you have no further need of me. Get out." Nick stared back in silence, unsure what to say in response. LaCroix surged out of the chair, slapping away the goblet of bloodwine and pulling Nick to his feet. Nick was too surprised to put up any resistance and felt himself pushed headlong toward the glass picture windows.
"Get out!" LaCroix was practically howling with rage as Nicholas crashed through the glass and into the garden below. Nick heard Urs come in urging LaCroix to let him go. He picked himself up and listened to hear if he would have to come to Urs' rescue, but heard no other signs of violence. He floated up to where he could see into the house without being seen. LaCroix was again seated in the chair, his face covered with his hands. Urs stood next to him in tears, her arms wrapped around his shoulders. She seemed safe and able to calm the storm of LaCroix's intense anger. Nick flew off with a great sense of confusion, heading to the precinct house to talk to Tracy. Maybe she could make some sense of what was going on.
Tracy looked up from the report she was typing to see her partner standing uncomfortably next to his desk. Normally he was immaculately dressed but tonight his clothes were disheveled and dirty. Was that glass on his sleeve?
"Nick? Are you okay?"
Nick nodded. "I need to talk to you. Privately. Can we go for a ride?"
Tracy looked up at his eyes, saw anguish in them, and deduced that he'd been to see LaCroix. She jumped up, grabbed her coat and his arm and headed them for the parking lot.
Neither said anything for a few minutes as Nick guided the caddy through the heavy traffic. He pulled into a park and shut off the engine before turning to Tracy.
"I went to see LaCroix. He didn't want to see me. He threw me out the windows." Nick admitted quietly. He watched Tracy's reactions carefully. He knew that Tracy had found out that Nick was a vampire. Did she know LaCroix was one too? Should he tell her? Was her safety in danger?
Tracy nodded. "Did he say anything? Or did he just throw you out? Did he let you in initially?"
Nick took a deep breath and threw caution to the winds. "Yes. He did let me in initially. Urs was there with him. He had a glass of bloodwine but hadn't drunk any yet." Nick shot a sidelong glance at his partner to gauge her reaction to this.
Tracy reached out and pulled on Nick's chin to make him look at her. "Nick, I know about you being a vampire, I know about LaCroix being a vampire and I know that he's the one that made you and that you two are linked by this bond. Now can we just cut to what happened and stop the tap dancing?"
Nick smiled at her, kissed her fingertips. "I'm glad you know, Tracy. It's still dangerous for you, but…" he put a finger over her lips to prevent her protests. "But, I'm very glad you know. It'll make things easier."
"He answered me through the link very lethargic. Not at all the feeling I normally get from him. And he isn't responding now if I reach out. Normally he's there, waiting for me to reach out. Now it's like he, like he unplugged the phone. I sat down with a glass of bloodwine and said 'I thought I'd have breakfast with you, Father.' He erupted in anger, said that I'd made my feelings clear, that I was just gloating over my victory. Told me to go back to my Natalie and get out. When I didn't respond or move he knocked the glass out of my hand and threw me out. Literally. I flew back up to listen, to make sure Urs was safe. He'd sat back in his chair and she had her arms around him. She was crying." Nick idly ran his fingers on the steering wheel. "Natalie told me what Urs said. I think she's right. I think he is thinking of committing suicide. And I can't think of a damned thing to do to stop him."
Tracy sat quietly, looking at her fingers, debating what course to take with her partner. Finally, she too threw caution to the winds.
"Nick, do you love him?" she asked quietly.
"What!" Nick snapped his head around to glare at her.
"I said, do you love him?" Tracy repeated, louder but calmly.
"What does that have to do with this? This all started after Natalie and I got engaged. Just another ploy to pull me to him and away from Natalie. I can't, OW!"
Tracy had just slapped Nick across the face. Hard.
"What was that for?" Nick demanded.
"That was for turning this into something about you! What the hell is wrong with you? Can't you stop thinking about yourself for two seconds and think about him first? He's thinking about suicide, Nick! If he weren't you sire, would you be acting this way or trying to help him?" Tracy glared at Nick, clearly expecting an answer.
Nick turned to look out the window. Can I set aside our history to help him? I could for anyone else. Can I do it for him? Nick looked back at Tracy, who crossed her arms and glared again.
"I'm still waiting for an answer, Nick. Do you love him?"
Nick met and held Tracy's eyes. "Yes. I love him. That's part of what's caused this problem."
"Have you told him so?"
"You should. Then prove it to him."
Nick laughed and looked away. Tracy punched him in the arm.
"This is serious! We're talking about his life here!"
"I know it's serious, Tracy. But to prove love to LaCroix means a little more than sending flowers. He settles for nothing less than total submission in every way, including sexually." Nick closed his eyes, unwilling to see what kind of reaction that would bring to his young partner's eyes. "I don't know that I can do that anymore."
Tracy sat still for a long while, absorbing this latest bit of information. Then she took a determined breath and pronounced, "Then it's time someone else had a go at showing him love."
Nick's eyes snapped open and he grabbed his partner's arms, ignoring her gasp as his fingers dug into her flesh.
"You will not," he growled out, eyes flashing golden, "have anything to do with LaCroix."
Tracy jutted out her chin in defiance. "Jealous?"
Nick glared a moment longer then released her, the vampire fading from his eyes. "Yes. But I'm not sure over who," he admitted.
Tracy blushed. "I'm flattered, Nick, and if it weren't for Nat and Vachon, I'd say screw regulations…."
"Interesting turn of phrase."
Tracy blushed even harder and slapped Nick on his shoulder again. "You're incorrigible, you know that?"
"It's been mentioned before."
"I'll bet," Tracy snorted. "Someone has to reach out to him, Nick. If you won't or can't, then Urs, Vachon and I will. I asked my father to get me a pair of tickets to the Lion King, front row balcony and I'm going to ask LaCroix to go with me. Now," Tracy turned on the seat to face him. "Any ideas as to how to get him to agree?"
Nick remained silent for a moment. "Well, if you're determined to try the only advice I can give you is to be brutally honest. He'll be angry, but it'll be worse if you lie at all and he finds out."
I don't know how long I sat in that chair after I threw Nicholas out the window. I realized that I was still in Urs' arms and pulled her down to sit on my lap. I took out my handkerchief and wiped away the blood tears.
"Don't cry, Urs. This sort of thing happens all the time between us." I tried for a light hearted tone, but she wasn't buying it. I sighed and hugged her a moment. "Thank you for being here, Ursula." I held her tight for a moment then released her and propelled her to stand. "Now let's go and open the Raven."
"Okay." She entwined her fingers with mine and we flew to the Raven that way. I sat down at my desk. She poured more bloodwine.
"Please, drink. You didn't get anything at the house. Please?"
I looked up into those innocent blue eyes and smiled resignedly. "All right." I took the glass, held it up in salute, and drained it down. She promptly refilled it and stood looking at me expectantly. I chuckled and drained that one down too. She smiled, gave me another tight hug around the shoulders and went to set up the bar.
After I'd made arrangements to have the windows at the townhouse fixed and the mess cleaned up, I looked at all the paperwork covering my desk. All of it should have been handled already, but I just didn't have the heart to face it. I left it behind and went into the bar to help Urs stock and set up for business.
Urs, Miklos and I worked in comfortable silence for an hour or so. The others who sought sanctuary in the Raven's back rooms were sitting in small groups in the corners, drinking and talking amongst themselves. I liked this time of day at the Raven. Before the music and the lights started, before the mortals who forced us into our masks arrived. It reminded me of Rome. I glanced at the clock and sighed. It was time to open the doors. Urs squeezed my fingers and looked at me sympathetically. Did she understand? How could she? She was the product of a different culture, a different time. I handed her the keys and she proceeded to unlock the club. A small line of mortals and vampires had already formed outside. The bouncer began to check them through as the lights and music came on. I decided that paperwork was beginning to look more attractive and escaped into my office.
I hadn't been at my desk for more than five minutes when there was a knock at the door. That didn't take long, I mused. What could have happened already?
"Come in, Urs."
The door opened but it wasn't Urs. It was Nicholas' mortal partner, Detective Vetter. She closed the door and walked up to the desk.
"Detective. Won't you sit down?" I figured I'd better play nice. I needed Vachon and Urs to help with the bar, it wouldn't do to alienate their friend.
"Would you like a drink?" I asked as she sat. "I can ask Miklos to bring you in something."
"No thanks. I can't stay long, I'm on duty." She looked at me hard for a moment. Wonder what's on her mind. I have the feeling I'm about to find out. Her eyes are the same color as Ursula's.
"LaCroix, Urs has told me that you aren't yourself lately." I felt myself bristling with anger at Urs' for betraying my feelings to a human, but before I could shoot back a retort, she continued.
"Don't be mad at Urs. She's really scared. She loves you and she's afraid you're going to do something stupid, like go into the sun."
I sat back, calming a bit. This did explain her odd protectiveness of me.
"Well," I said with a sneer, "now I have an explanation for Nicholas' visit this morning. What are you here for, Detective? Afternoon tea?"
"No. I'm here to tell you that I care whether you live or die. I care when my friends are upset and need help. And weird as it may seem, I care about you."
I laughed derisively. "Please Detective, spare me you concern. Save it for Vachon and Urs. I have work to do."
"Why are you so depressed?"
The quiet question caught me off guard. She looked directly into my eyes and asked it again.
"I'm not depressed, I'm tired."
"Tired of what?"
"I really have no desire to discuss it with you."
"Than who would you feel comfortable discussing it with?"
I flashed my eyes and teeth at her. "You're as tenacious as a bull dog, Detective Vetter. I have no intention of discussing my personal business with anyone."
"Tired of what?"
I was confused at this response until I realized she'd dropped back to her questions again.
"Perhaps you didn't hear me correctly? I am not discussing this!" I shouted, loud enough to be heard in the bar.
"Tired of what?" she asked yet again.
Gods, this woman is relentless! I jumped out of my chair and circled behind her. I could feel her heart rate jump. She was nervous, fearful. Good.
I leaned down and gently pulled her hair away from her ear, whispered into it, "I am not discussing this, Detective Vetter. I suggest you back away from this rather dangerous line of questioning." I felt her shiver, saw her close her eyes and take a breath. I backed away and she stood up. Finally. She's gotten the point. Now to get her out of here.
"Thank you for your concern, Detective, but I assure you it is unnecessary. Good evening." I walked back to my desk and sat down, expecting her to leave. She didn't. Damn. I looked up at her, couldn't read the expression on her face. "Something else, Detective?"
"Yes. There is." There was a firmer tone in her voice. The kitten has claws.
"Friday night, I have two tickets to the Lion King, front row balcony. I'll pick you up at sundown. Be ready." She turned to leave. I moved with vampiric speed to intercept her before she could.
"Be ready? Since when do I come at your beck and call?"
"I'm gonna give you three choices, LaCroix. One, you can answer my questions. Two, you can kill me. Three, you can go to the Lion King with me on Friday night. What's it going to be?" She met my gaze head on and I could see the conviction behind them. I turned away and sat back at my desk. There was no way I was going to answer her questions. I could easily kill her, but couldn't face the mayhem that would cause with my staff who all liked her. I'd been maneuvered into a trap. I raised my eyes to look at her, raised a glass in salute.
"Very well, Detective. I will 'be ready' Friday at sundown."
She nodded and left without another word.
I truly had no intention of going. Anything to get her out of my office without any more fuss. I looked at the paperwork again, then pushed it onto the floor in frustration. Oh, what the hell! Why not go? Better to be watching what was purported to be an excellent show than enduring another night of dance music at the Raven.
I reached down and picked up the nearest paper and began to fill it out, feeling strangely better at the prospect of going to a show. It had been too long, I thought since I had done so. It just wasn't fun to go alone.