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Confessions on Air

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Confessions on Air
By PJ
May 2019

 

"Knight, Vetter, in my office!" Captain Reese's voice boomed through the bullpen. Nick glanced across the desk at his partner and met an equally clueless look on her face, informing him that she had no idea either why they were being summoned unless there was a new case.

They rose in sync from their seats and approached the Captain's office. Upon entering Nick's eyes confirmed what his senses had already told him on the way towards the door; the Captain wasn't alone. Rising from a chair in front of the desk was a tall man in his early thirties with wavy light-brown hair, tanned skin and hazel eyes. Two centuries ago, painters would have outwitted each other to capture a complexion on canvas that displayed beauty in such perfection, Nick thought as the man's gaze rested on him.

"Detective Milton transferred from Montreal,” Reese introduced the young man. "I was planning to partner him with Levis, but as long as he's on sick leave, Milton will be running with you. See to it that he gets acquainted with everything.”

Nick nodded appreciatively at the young man, whose stylish suit spoke of an exquisite taste in fashion. "Nick Knight.” He extended his hand.

"Frédéric, Freddy for short. Pick one,” Milton smiled upon accepting the hand.

"Welcome aboard, Frédéric,” Nick replied. "This is Tracy Vetter.”

"Come on, Freddy, I'll show you around,” Tracy announced cheerily and shooed the men out of the office.

* * * *

"So, what brings you to Toronto?” Nick asked after Tracy and Milton had returned from a trip through the precinct.

"I needed a fresh start after breaking up a long-term relationship, if you know what I mean.”

"Yes, been there, done that,” Nick mumbled while his mind displayed a line-up of occasions when he had moved on to a new place while trying to break away from Lacroix. It had always been a short reprieve before his sire caught up in pursuit. Nick had gotten so used to it that he had actually started to get nervous when Lacroix had taken longer to find him this time. And when he eventually came violence had escalated between them to the point that Nick had believed he had successfully killed him. After Lacroix's return they had for the most part danced around each other, quite aware that any provocation may shift the balance to any unforeseen outcome.

"Nick?” Tracy called, apparently not for the first time.

Nick blinked, "Sorry, what?”

"See? That's what I mean,” she complained to Milton. "He does that at least five times during a shift. Sometimes even during a stake-out. One day you'll miss a perp and get us all killed.”

Nick looked at her sharply. "My partners can rely on me,” he emphasized. "And you were saying?”

"I suggested introducing Freddy at the morgue. Perhaps we can pick up the autopsy report from last night's victim.”

Nodding, Nick grabbed his leather jacket.

"And, what do you think?” he asked Tracy while they waited for Milton to retrieve his coat from the locker room.

"He seems to be a nice guy.”

"And apparently single. Probably a much better choice than that snitch you're dating,” Nick said teasingly.

Tracy laughed out loud. "Don't tell me you haven't noticed.”

"Noticed what?”

Tracy looked at him amused. "Never mind. And I'm not dating Vachon,” she muttered when Milton rejoined them.

* * * *

"O wow, that car is a dream!” Milton exclaimed as Nick steered towards the Caddy. "They let you drive this on shift?”

Nick smiled. "I've had it for a while. Never could get myself to part with it.” He opened the door and waited until Milton had climbed into the backseat.

"Hey, can I invite you guys for breakfast after shift? We can talk cars and get to know each other,” Milton suggested after Nick had started the engine.

"Sorry, I can't,” Nick declined. "I need to be home soon after shift.”

"I'll gladly join you,” Tracy said. "Nick has a sun allergy and can't be out during daytime.”

"I'm sorry. That must be confining,” Milton remarked.

"I've learned to live with it. As long as I stay out of the sun, I'm fine.” He parked at the curb across from the morgue and the three proceeded to Natalie's lab.

The coroner looked up from the body on the autopsy table as they entered.

"Hi Nat. This is Freddy Milton, Metro's newest addition,” Tracy said. "Freddy, meet Dr. Natalie Lambert, our most valuable asset in solving crimes.”

Natalie blushed slightly. She removed her surgical gloves and washed the powder off under the sink before shaking Milton's hand. "Newest addition?”

"I just transferred from Montreal where I've worked three years as detective,” Milton explained.

"I see. Welcome to Toronto then. You look as if you hadn't pulled many night shifts yet,” she remarked in reference to Milton's tanned skin.

"On the contrary. I've always worked nights. That leaves more time to spend on the water during the day,” he smiled. "I'm a passionate surfer.”

"Really? I haven't been to the beach since ––" she dropped off, looking at Nick.

Nick suppressed a passing sensation of guilt, knowing full well that Natalie spent most of her spare time either with him or working for him, which precluded any activities in the sun. "Nat, is the report on Patterson finished?” he asked.

"Let me check.” She walked over to her desk and shifted through several manila folders before picking one up. "Yes, printed and signed. The bullet I extracted matched one that was found on a previous crime scene.” She gave him a significant look.

Nick nodded and turned to the other detectives. "Tracy, Frédéric, I'll meet you at the car in a few minutes.” Once they were alone in the lab, he asked, "What other crime scene?”

"It matched the bullet I removed from your shoulder two nights ago,” Natalie elaborated.

"Ah, that one,” Nick smiled sheepishly. "But that perp's behind bars. I apprehended him.”

"But the gun was never found. Find the new owner and you've got your killer.”

"Great, just when I have another pair of eyes watching me,” Nick sighed.

"And a very handsome pair of eyes,” Nat remarked with a smile.

* * * *

"Good evening, gentle listeners. The Nightcrawler is on the air, keeping you company throughout the night. Let us talk about companionship, mes amis; its values and its pitfalls. Why is it that we embrace the company of one another? For entertainment, … a game of chess, … protection, … love, … or all of the above? Discuss…”

"What a voice!” Milton exclaimed from the Caddy's backseat as they were driving back to the precinct. "Is it just me or can that guy turn you on by his voice alone?”

Nick shot a sharp look at Milton through the rear-view mirror.

"That guy's a total creep, if you ask me,” Tracy commented. "It's a call-in radio show, broadcast from a nightclub on Duncan. Nick's a fan though. Always keeps his stereo tuned to the station.”

"Really? So, what do you think of the voice, Nick?” Milton wanted to know.

"I --- " Nick associated a thousand emotions with that voice. It had scolded him, mocked him, seduced him, and aroused him. "I find it soothing,” he eventually said. He was glad when they reached the precinct's parking lot and he turned off the engine, effectively cutting off the stereo as well.

* * * *

Brad Singer sat behind a table in the interview room staring at Nick who leaned onto the table while Tracy stood with her back against the wall.

"You look fine. I'm sure I shot you. Why am I being held if you aren't shot?” Singer scoffed.

"You missed. And for your information, we also put people behind bars who attempt to shoot a police officer,” Nick said matter-of-factly. "We never found your gun though. However, we did find the bullet you fired at me and it matches one that was extracted from a murder victim two nights ago.”

"So it wasn't me. I was already locked up here,” Singer protested.

"We are aware of that. What we want to know is what you did with the gun after you shot at me?”

"Who said I ever had a gun?”

"I saw you pointing it at me.” Nick dropped his voice lower. "What did you do with the gun?”

Singer stared at him, mesmerized. "I tossed it to Rob when I rounded the corner while you were chasing me, told him to get rid of it.”

"Apparently Rob decided to use it instead,” Tracy remarked. "Does Rob have a last name?”

Singer remained silent.

"His last name,” Nick pressed.

"Singer, he's my bro,” came the reply.

Nick nodded to Tracy and they left the interview room.

Milton, who had watched from the observation room, joined them in the hallway. "Good work. Your voice has that same edge as the Nightcrawler's, ever noticed that?”

"Perhaps I've heard it too often,” Nick said, absent-mindedly. "Tracy, see if you can find the address of Rob Singer. I'll go to Reese and tell him that we need a warrant.”

* * * *

Several hours later Nick parked the Caddy some distance from Singer's apartment building. "You take the stairs, I'll come over the fire escape,” he instructed Tracy and Milton.

"Fine, we'll give you a five-minute head start,” Milton replied.

Nick didn't need a head start, but nodded in consent. He crossed the lawn in order to get to the back of the building and took to the air as soon as he was hidden in the shadows. While he took a quick aerial survey, he noticed an armed man hidden behind a bush pointing a gun at Milton. Nick quickly dropped to the street level. "Get down!” he shouted while rushing the remaining distance towards Milton and pushing him to the ground. Immediately he felt two bullets impacting in his back.

Tracy had crouched down behind the Caddy and aimed at the bush from where the shots came. She fired and the sudden cease of a third heartbeat told Nick that she had hit the shooter.

"Good shot, Tracy. I think you nailed him,” he called.

"Stay down.” Keeping her gun drawn, Tracy moved carefully toward the bush, where she discovered their suspect lying on his back, shot through the chest. "All clear,” she confirmed what Nick's senses had already told him.

Turning his attention to Milton Nick was slightly surprised to discover dilated pupils, an increased heartrate and a hardness pressing against his front. It had been a while since a mortal man had reacted to him in this way. "Are you alright?” Nick inquired.

"Fine,” Milton mumbled with a deep blush. "Just give me a few minutes.”

Nick smiled knowingly and moved from him before holding out a hand to pull Milton up from the ground.

"Are you guys alright?” Tracy asked and watched as Milton pulled Nick into a brief embrace.

"I owe you,” he said.

"That's what partners are for,” Nick smiled.

* * * *

"Well, looks like you two are on your own for the next three shifts,” Tracy informed Nick and Milton as she returned from Reese's office.

"Will you be okay?” Nick asked, concerned.

"I'll behave this time,” Tracy promised. "I know three days off is standard procedure after shooting someone.”

"Last time she tried to prove that she didn't need a cooling-off period,” Nick informed Milton at his inquiring glance. "Almost didn't end well.”

"I did catch the killer though and saved your butt – again,” Tracy defended herself.

"But this time you'll stay put,” Nick emphasized.

"Promise. But I could really use some distraction now.”

"And I would like to express my thanks for saving my butt tonight,” Milton said. "Can I buy you a drink? Reese suggested we should call it a night and write the report tomorrow. We could go to that club on Duncan you mentioned.”

"Yeah,” Tracy agreed immediately.

Nick considered talking them out of it, but since Milton seemed so eager to visit the Raven after he had heard the Nightcrawler on the radio, he would most likely go on his own. It was better to accompany him so that everybody knew that Milton was under his protection. "Alright,” he conceded reluctantly.

* * * *

Nick steered towards a table near the wall, a good distance away from the bar where he had spotted Lacroix. Although their eyes had met only briefly, Nick was well aware that their table remained the focus of the elder's attention. Tracy eyed the club in search of Vachon, but the Spaniard was nowhere to be seen. After they had settled around the table, a waitress appeared to take their orders.

"I'll have a glass of Merlot,” Milton said.

"Red for me as well,” Nick mumbled.

"Am I the only beer drinker?” Tracy observed. "I'll have a Molson.”

When the drinks were delivered, Nick was not surprised that the glass placed in front of him contained one of the best vintages the Raven had to offer. He took a rather huge swallow to assuage a sudden onset of hunger after the night's events. When he had finished it, the waitress immediately returned with a second glass.

"Nice place,” Milton commented after he had also received a second glass of wine. During the conversation Nick learned that Milton had a keen interest in the performing arts, especially the opera. "My ex introduced me to the opera,” he told them. "We used to go once a month.”

Tracy observed as Nick immediately picked up on the topic and engaged Milton in a discussion of librettos and composers. She had rarely seen her partner so sociable as tonight. Must be the wine, she concluded. In fact, she had never seen him drinking anything either.

Nick groaned inwardly as Lacroix sauntered towards them.

"Good evening, Detectives. Is my club under police surveillance or to what do I owe the honour of your visit?

"Just having a drink after work,” Nick replied.

"Very well. And who's your new friend?” Lacroix inquired smoothly.

"Detective Milton is a new transfer from Montreal,” Nick made the introductions.

"And you're the Nightcrawler,” Milton observed. "I recognize your voice from the radio.”

"Indeed.” His attention shifted back to Nick. "A word, Nicholas, s'il vous plait.” Without waiting for a reply, he strode towards his office.

Not wanting to cause a scene, Nick decided not to ignore the request. "Excuse me,” he mumbled and followed Lacroix, taking his glass with him. Once he had closed the office door, he found himself face to face with his sire.

"Take off your shirt,” the elder demanded.

"What?” Nick stared at him, flabbergasted.

"You reek of a delicious flavour of blood. I suppose you have been shot and the wound has not properly healed as it would have on a proper diet.”

Nick was well aware of the two bullets still embedded in his flesh. He had meant to visit the morgue and have Natalie remove them before heading home. But then the plan to visit the Raven had come up. "Twice, actually,” Nick admitted, slightly embarrassed that Lacroix's nose had been keen enough to pick up on the scent. "I haven't had the opportunity yet to take care of it. Why do you care?”

"I'm trying to sell the Raven's vintages. That becomes rather difficult when my clients perceive a far more delicious flavour in the air that is not available for sale.”

"Oh.”

"I suggest you let me take proper care of the injury.”

"You?” He would rather make a quick detour to the morgue.

"We can hardly ask your coworkers, can we?” Lacroix's hand came up with a pocket knife.

Eying the knife with a worried frown, Nick removed his jacket and unbuttoned his shirt under Lacroix's unwavering gaze. After letting it slip from his shoulders, he leaned over the desk and closed his eyes in anticipation. He suppressed a hiss as Lacroix made a rather deep cut in order to dig out the first bullet. Nick relaxed as the second bullet followed suit. However, where Natalie used a tissue soaked with disinfectant to dab on the wound until it mended, Lacroix used his hand to wipe at the spilled blood, gathered it on his index finger and licked it off. Nick wondered briefly if the deep cut had really been necessary or been performed on purpose to bring more blood to the surface. He reached for his glass on the desk and emptied it in order to promote the healing process.

"There, all done,” Lacroix purred.

"Thank you.” Nick retrieved his shirt and put it back on.

"The pleasure was all mine.”

"That was rather obvious,” Nick remarked and held out his hand. "I need the bullets as forensic evidence.” After Lacroix had dropped them into his hand, Nick pulled an evidence bag from his coat pocket and sealed them inside. Then he picked up his glass which Lacroix had refilled from a bottle on the desk and left the office.

"What did he want?” Tracy asked as Nick returned to the table.

"Nothing important. He thought he saw a suspect earlier tonight.”

Tracy's expression told Nick clearly that she wasn't buying it, but she refrained from further questions.

"You were right, Tracy,” Milton remarked.

"About what?”

"He is rather creepy up close. But that voice…”

* * * *

"Any plans for tomorrow night?” Milton asked Nick at the end of their following shift. They had finished the report and followed up on the remaining loose ends.

"Nothing particular,” Nick replied. Since Natalie was working, he would most likely spend his night off idling the time away between his canvas and the piano.

"Do you want to come along and see La Bohème? I've got a spare ticket.”

Nick looked up in surprise. It had been a long time since he had attended the opera in company. He had tried to get Natalie to join him, but she had always come up with an excuse why she couldn't go. Eventually he had accepted that the opera was something she just wasn't interested in. And so far he had been unable to bring himself to ask the only person who would most likely be willing to join him and had done so innumerable times throughout the centuries. Sometimes he longed for that amicable companionship untainted by disagreements and violence. "I'd be delighted,” he smiled.

"Great. Meet me at 7:30 at the entrance,” Milton beamed.

* * * *

After taking his seat in the main seating area, Nick surveyed the box seats on the upper level. He had no idea if Lacroix attended the opera alone, but those were the seats he would have chosen. When the lights dimmed and Nick had not felt his presence, he relaxed and enjoyed the production.

"Tragic,” Milton sighed after the applause had died down and audience members streamed outside. His face was streaked with tears which he wiped away with a silk handkerchief. "Shit,” he mumbled in embarrassment.

"It was very moving,” Nick agreed. "Thanks for letting me come along.”

"I'm glad you came. Shall we go for a walk?” Milton suggested.

They walked down Yonge Street, crossed underneath the Gardiner Expressway and continued towards the lake where they strolled along the harbourfront. They talked about previous performances of La Bohème they had attended and compared them to the one they had just seen. Nick was careful to withhold details of the decade in which he had previously seen it. He did, however, mention that he had been to opera houses in Paris, London, Vienna and Turin.

"Wow, you've been around,” Milton observed.

"I did some travelling in my youth,” Nick admitted.

"I've never been to Europe, but my ex has Italian roots. Have you ever been to the opera house in Venice?”

"La Fenice? Yes, it's beautiful,” Nick affirmed.

"One day I hope to see an opera there. My ex told me all about its history.”

"Do you want to tell me about your ex?” Nick inquired gently. He had noticed a faint longing in Milton's voice whenever the ex was mentioned.

Milton shrugged. "He was older – much older. He taught me so much, even how to speak enough Italian to understand an Italian opera without subtitles. We've been together for twelve years.”

Nick had to smile at the parallel. A relationship with an older man who turned out to be an eternal teacher. He could relate to that only too well. "What happened?”

"He felt he was getting too old for me. He basically tossed me out and told me to find someone I could grow old with before he became a burden. It hurt. It still does.”

"I'm sorry.” Nick admired the selfless resolution of Milton's ex. Lacroix would never let him go. Much to his surprise, Nick momentarily found this certainty oddly comforting. They had reached the harbour bridge and stopped on top to gaze at the lake. "You still love him,” he observed.

Milton turned abruptly towards him. "It doesn't matter. He made it perfectly clear that it's over. I'm trying to get over him.” On impulse he leaned forward and kissed Nick on the lips.

Surprised, Nick responded instinctively and their kiss increased in passion. It had been so long since he had been wanted in such an intimate way. It felt good, but Nick was aware that he couldn't allow himself to get carried away. Reluctantly, he broke the kiss. "I'm sorry,” he breathed. "I can't.”

"Ssssh, it's okay. I talked to Tracy. She said that everyone thinks you're infatuated with Dr. Lambert, but that you are in fact just friends. You don't have to hide from me, Nick.” He was about to lean in for another kiss, but Nick stepped backwards.

"No, you don't understand. My love is fatal.”

"It doesn't matter. We can use protection. My ex was also positive, but I'm not.”

Nick silently scolded himself. What else was a mortal supposed to think? He shook his head. "That's not what I meant. I can't be with you because I'm not free. There's someone else.” It was the only plausible explanation he came up with that might deter Milton from seeking a relationship with him. "I'm sorry.”

Milton regarded him for a long moment before nodding in acceptance. "Let me guess, nobody knows, not even Dr. Lambert.”

Nick nodded his head in affirmation.

"I know it can be difficult in law enforcement, but you should consider going public, Nick.” Milton advised. "At least then everybody would know you're off-limits, especially the ladies.”

They walked back towards Yonge Street. "I'm taking the subway to Carlton,” Milton announced as they reached Union Station.

Nick nodded. "I'll see you tomorrow. I enjoyed tonight. I'm really sorry that it didn't turn out the way you had hoped.”

"Geez, Nick, stop apologizing. I enjoyed tonight, too. The opera and the company. Perhaps we can do that again, just the social part?”

Nick smiled. He really enjoyed the discussions about music and art. Few mortals had that vast knowledge on the topic. "I'd like that.”

Milton leaned in and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. "See ya!” Then he bounced down the steps leading to the subway.

Nick turned and continued to walk east on Front Street, hands buried in his pockets, his thoughts more than a century away.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Geneva 1813

Nicholas was in heaven. He was leaning with his back against Lacroix's chest. The elder's hands were teasing his nipples while his lips were poised at Nicholas' neck, applying gentle nips and kisses that drove Nicholas crazy with need. In front of him knelt a mortal man who skilfully tended to Nicholas' member with passionate devotion. They had whisked him from one of Lord Byron's parties after discovering his inclination and inviting him to join them for a ménage à trois.

"Take him, Nicholas,” Lacroix breathed throatily into his ear, the timbre of his voice arousing him even more. "I shall take pleasure in watching you.”

Smiling broadly, Nicholas motioned for the young man to stop his skillful occupation. He raised him from the floor and devoured his mouth in a passionate kiss while moving toward the large bed. The mortal sank onto the sheets and opened his legs eagerly to give Nicholas access.

Lacroix had moved to the side of the bed and produced a silk scarf which he used to cover the mortal's eyes. "We don't want him to tense up in the wrong moment and spoil the surprise, do we?” he remarked.

"Oh, I shall enjoy this even more,” the youth rejoiced in excitement.

Nicholas positioned himself and took him in strong measured strokes, savouring the warmth that engulfed him. The man met his strokes with equal passion, unaware that Nicholas' eyes had turned into a feral gold. As the mortal climaxed, Nicholas gave one more thrust before sinking his fangs deep into the man's neck. He feasted on the life-giving fountain while his own climax shuddered through him, echoed by the mortal's fading heartbeat. When the blood flow ceased, Nicholas collapsed next to the body onto the mattress and met the golden eyes of his master.

Lacroix picked up the body and carried it out of the room. Nicholas lay still panting on the bed, when the elder returned. "My turn, Nicholas,” he breathed before his lips descended on Nicholas' mouth to taste the remnants of his lover's latest meal.

Nicholas welcomed the advances and cried out in bliss as he was taken in the same fashion he had previously applied to the mortal. With a deep roar he embedded his fangs in Lacroix's neck and felt the elder's simultaneous bite into his own shoulder. A second, more powerful climax shook him that was prolonged by the sensation of Lacroix's continued withdrawal of his blood.

Eventually he collapsed in his lover's arms, feeling wonderfully sated. As he lay in the aftermath of spent passions, his thoughts returned to the mortal man. "It's such a tragedy that they die when we experience the utmost bliss.”

Lacroix turned a questioning glance on his protégé. "He was a tasty appetizer, I admit. Do not fret, Nicholas. We shall find another.”

"Still, it's such a waste when we prey on mankind like that,” Nicholas lamented.

"Did you not taste his excitement and joy at being with us, Nicholas? I assure you, he went in a blaze of glory. But few mortals experience that kind of ecstasy in their lifetime.”

Nicholas nodded. Put like that, his uneasiness faded, but a lingering doubt remained in his conscience.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Nick took to the air and focused on flying in an attempt to clear his mind from the lingering memories. He entered the loft through the skylight and was slightly startled to find Natalie waiting for him on the couch. He hadn't paid attention to her heartbeat or else he would have taken the mortal way of entry.

"Nick!” she exclaimed, similarly startled by his sudden appearance.

"Hi, sorry, I didn't know you were coming over. Have you been waiting long?”

"I was called in early today, so I could leave at midnight.”

Nodding, Nick removed his coat and hung it on the coat rack.

"Hey, you look dressed up,” Natalie observed, taking in his attire of suit and tie. "What have you been up to?”

"I went to the opera with Frédéric.” Nick retrieved a green bottle from the fridge and poured himself a glass.

"Frédéric?” Natalie asked clueless.

"Detective Milton.”

"Oh, Freddy. You call him Frédéric?”

Nick shrugged.

"Was it good, the opera?”

"It was. I've seen La Bohème a couple of times. This one rated among the top five. And it was nice to be able to discuss it afterwards with someone who had also seen other performances.”

"As opposed to a total opera ignorant like me,” Natalie said jokingly.

Nick gave her a brief hug from behind. "Your expertise covers other areas. There aren't many around anymore who can discuss classic Hollywood movies as you can,” he teased.

"So, you get along with him well?” It was rare that Nick socialized with his coworkers.

"It's odd, we seem to have quite a bit in common.”

Arms crossed, Natalie regarded him probingly as he sipped from his glass, his eyes unfocused. "You are aware that he's gay?”

His eyes snapped towards her. "So?”

Natalie fidgeted with her fingers. "So it wouldn't surprise me if he developed a crush on you.”

"I've already explained to him that I cannot be with him.”

Natalie's eyes widened slightly at the implication. "He actually made a move at you?”

Nick turned his head to her and smiled. "It was rather flattering. It's been a long time since...” ...I've been desired by a man. He left the rest unspoken as his eyes became unfocused again and his thoughts returned to Lacroix.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Geneva 1813

Nicholas surveyed the assembly of people gathered in Lord Byron's parlour. There were several poets present, but also musicians. Lacroix was waiting for him to choose tonight's meal, but Nicholas was uncertain. He was reluctant to be responsible for cutting short the life of an artist and depriving the world of any potential masterpieces yet to come.

Leaning closer to his companion, he whispered, "I don't know, Lucien. Perhaps you should pick tonight.”

"Hm, there is only one man in this room whom I desire,” the elder breathed into his ear. "Perhaps we should skip tonight's appetizer and proceed directly with the main course?”

Nicholas grinned broadly, feeling flattered and cherished by the announcement. "D'accord!”

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Upon finding Natalie staring at him, he shrugged the memories off. "800 years is a long time. One does try this and that. In fact, the gender doesn't matter. Any mortal who seeks an intimate relationship with me ends up dead eventually,” he stated gloomily. He moved to the piano, placed his glass on the top and sat down on the bench, his face turned away from her.

Natalie touched his shoulder tentatively.

* * * *

"Bon soir, boys and girls. Tonight's topic is broken hearts. The Nightcrawler wants to know who has broken your heart and what you plan to do about it. Are you pining away in unfulfilled desire or are you taking back what belongs to you? The lines are open and we have a caller. You are live on the air. Who has broken your heart, do tell?”

"Hi, my name's Frédéric and I've fallen in love with my co-worker.”

"Good evening, Frédéric. What seems to be the problem?”

"He's involved with another man.”

"Ah, a common dilemma. Have you considered getting rid of your rival?”

"What do you mean getting rid of? For your sake I hope you aren't suggesting murder. I'm a police officer for Christ's sake! I solve homicides, not commit them!”

There was a long pause. "A homicide detective? I thought your voice sounded familiar. And this co-worker you desire told you he has a lover?”

"Yes.”

"Interesting, interesting indeed.”

"So, what's your advice?”

"Would you object to a ménage à trois?”

There was a short pause. "You haven't been any help at all!” Frédéric yelled. Then the line went dead.

"Perhaps not. But you have...”

* * * *

Natalie left after they had watched a movie. Nick had no idea what it was about because his attention had been wandering to the previous events of the evening and to places long forgotten throughout the centuries.

After the lift door closed behind Natalie, Nick pulled another bottle from the fridge. He had just refilled his glass when he sensed a visitor. "What do you want?” he sighed and turned to face the man who had been the focus of his thoughts lately. "It's nearly dawn.”

"There was a time when you were thrilled to be trapped with me during the day,” Lacroix purred.

Nick turned abruptly towards the counter in an effort to hide the effect the memory stirred in him. "What's so important that it couldn't wait?” he asked while pouring a second glass.

"You missed tonight's show, I take it?”

"Yes, sometimes I do have other things to do than listening to your show,” Nick said sarcastically.

"Too bad, I had a most interesting caller. The topic was broken hearts.”

"Lacroix, if you have a point, please make it. I'm tired.”

"You see, this caller found himself in a personal dilemma. He's in love with a co-worker, however this co-worker apparently stated that he has a lover.”

Nick stared at him. It couldn't be.

"Oh, did I mention that the caller is a homicide detective?” Lacroix continued conversationally while picking up the glass from the counter.

"It may have slipped your notice, but Toronto has plenty of homicide detectives,” Nick tried to play it down. He couldn't believe that Frédéric had actually called in to the show.

"But only one who would consider you as a love interest. No need to deny it, Nicholas. I already noticed his unwavering attention on you last night.”

"Jealous, Lacroix?”

Lacroix advanced upon him with a superior smile on his face and stopped only when their bodies were almost touching, trapping Nick effectively between himself and the kitchen counter. "Why should I be jealous when you name me as the reason why you cannot be with him?”

Nick looked up at him. "You assume a great deal. I never mentioned a name.”

"Obviously not. Otherwise your fellow officer would hardly have been so foolish as to call in to my show.”

"I thought if I told him I have a lover, it might dissuade him from seeking a relationship with me. I could hardly tell him the truth!”

"There was a time you would have taken what was freely offered.”

Nick averted his gaze. "I stopped doing that a long time ago.”

"Pity. It was always so arousing to watch you in your element and join in the taste afterwards.”

Nick's head snapped back to Lacroix, flecks of gold dancing in his eyes.

"Mortals are curious, Nicholas. He will ask questions about your alleged lover. Better be prepared to answer them.” Lacroix tipped Nick's chin with his fingers and leaned closer, their lips almost touching. "For instance, what will you say when he asks about the last time you've been kissed by your lover? That it was a century ago?”

Nick closed his now completely golden eyes in defeat and waited for the inevitable. He couldn't deny that he secretly wanted it. However, the touch on his lips never came. When he opened his eyes in confusion, he found himself alone in the loft. "Damn you, Lacroix!” he growled through extended fangs and snatched the bottle, upending it and drinking greedily.

* * * *

Nick entered the precinct on the following evening, hoping intently that no one else had listened to the show and drawn any conclusions. At least he didn't receive any odd looks. Work seemed to go on as usual.

Milton was already at Tracy's desk and looked up with a smile as Nick approached. "Hi, get home alright?”

"Yes,” Nick quipped and sat down at his desk. He pulled a manila folder from his in box and pretended to be busy reading.

"Nick? Is something wrong?” Milton inquired.

Nick dropped his pen and regarded Milton, scrutinizing. "Let's go for a ride, shall we?”

As soon as Nick started the engine, the stereo cracked to life. "Good evening, boys ––"

Nick quickly reached for the control and turned it off. "You shouldn't have called in to the show,” he said softly.

"You heard it? Trust me, I wish I hadn't. That Nightcrawler wasn't helping at all.”

"Why did you call in then, knowing it would go live on air?”

"When I came home, I was rather on edge. I remembered what you said about the Nightcrawler's voice being soothing. So I turned on the radio. He was talking about broken hearts and taking calls. I thought talking about it might help. I had expected advice, not kinky suggestions.”

"What kind of suggestions?” Nick queried.

"I thought you had listened in?”

Nick shook his head. "No, I didn't. I just received a first-hand report on your call.”

Milton furrowed his brows. "He told you I had called? Why would he ––" Then he groaned. "Of course, I'm such an idiot. It's him, isn't he? He's the one you're involved with. I thought there was some sort of connection between you at the Raven.”

Nick gripped the steering wheel tighter, uncertain whether to confirm or deny it. "We –– have a rather complicated relationship. It's anything but smooth,” he eventually said.

"That comes from all the secrecy. I assume he would be thrilled if you went public.”

"No doubt,” Nick sighed.

"So why don't you?”

"I prefer to keep my personal life private,” Nick ended the discussion.

* * * *

Tracy returned to work on the following night. Although he declined to eat anything, Nick decided to come along as Milton and Tracy suggested taking their lunch break at a bistro in order to brief Tracy on the progress made during the shifts she had missed. They took the Caddy to the destination, the stereo turned to CERK as usual.

"Desire is a most potent trigger, mes amis. Giving in to your desire can lead to utmost bliss and following your desire can motivate you to actions which you never deemed possible. The Nightcrawler wants to know what deeds you have committed in the name of des––"

The speech stopped abruptly as three shots were heard over the airwaves. Nick tensed.

"That was weird, sounded like gunshots,” Tracy stated.

There was an eerie silence coming out of the speakers. After several minutes they all jumped when the radio cracked to life. "81-KILO, 81-KILO, please respond. Gunshots fired at a nightclub on Duncan. One person reported dead.”

"81-KILO responding,” Tracy answered the call.

From the backseat Milton gently touched Nick's shoulder. "I'm sorry. Are you okay?”

Nick was wondering what awaited them at the Raven. He knew Lacroix could not be the one who was reported dead.

* * * *

As they reached the club, a uniformed officer led them to the sound booth. On the floor near the door was the body of a man in his thirties. As Nick took a closer look at the man's neck, he discovered a slash on the side, probably from a knife. Turning, he looked at Lacroix, who sat in the chair behind his control board. The elder shrugged imperceptibly and raised an eyebrow.

"What happened?” Nick asked the officer.

"Mr. Lacroix claims he was shot at and that he killed the attacker in self-defence with this pocket knife.” He held up an evidence bag containing the knife. Nick recognized it as the one Lacroix had used to extract the bullets from him.

Turning to Lacroix, Nick ordered, "You, come with me!”

He left the sound booth and entered Lacroix's private quarters, Lacroix trailing behind. After he had locked the door, Nick faced him. "What happened, really?”

"I was in the middle of a broadcast when this man entered and fired at me. I turned off the mike and killed him.”

"With a knife?”

"Certainly not. I used the knife to disguise the marks before the police arrived.”

"Why did you get the police involved at all? Why not simply dispose of the body?”

"That would have been my preferred mode of action, believe me,” Lacroix sighed. "Unfortunately, the shots were heard over the airwaves and some overzealous mortals called the police.”

"I need those bullets to corroborate your story of self-defence.”

"I don't have them.”

"They are still inside you. I sensed that you were shot.” Nick pulled out his own pocket knife and advanced a step towards Lacroix.

Lacroix frowned slightly, but complied by slowly unbuttoning his shirt. He held Nick's gaze as he removed the piece of clothing.

Nick unconsciously licked his lips as the shirt slid from Lacroix's shoulders, revealing unblemished skin. "It's already healed?” he observed.

"Proper nourishment,” Lacroix reminded him.

"Of course,” Nick muttered. After all, Lacroix had just drained a man. "Tell me where I should cut.”

Lacroix sat down on the couch and leaned back against the cushions. He indicated three locations on his upper chest. Perching on the couch next to him, Nick started with the one underneath the left clavicle. When he made a deep cut into the flesh, a stream of blood issued forth. Overwhelmed by the enticing aroma, Nick leaned down and closed his lips over the wound. While Lacroix hadn't moved a muscle when Nick made the cut, he now tensed perceptibly and released a low purring sound. He raised one hand and interweaved his fingers caressingly in Nick's hair.

A knock at the door caused both of them to turn their heads.

"Nick? Are you in there? I need to talk to you,” Natalie called.

Nick squeezed his golden eyes shut and suppressed the vampire. When he was sure they were blue, he moved to open the door and relocked it after Natalie had stepped into the room. "What?” he asked when Natalie stared at him.

Only then did he become aware that he was still holding the bloody knife in his hand and that there were probably remnants from Lacroix's blood on his chin. He quickly wiped his mouth and cleared his throat. "I was just trying to retrieve the bullets from Lacroix. It was messy. I couldn't see the bullet with all that blood. I might be more successful with the proper instruments.” He nodded at Natalie's bag.

"You used a pocket knife?” Natalie asked in disbelief.

"Crude, isn't it?” Lacroix breathed. "Do you think I should file a complaint?”

Ignoring the comment, Natalie approached the couch. "How many bullets are there?”

"Three,” Nick and Lacroix said in unison.

Natalie retrieved a scalpel, tweezers and a retractor from her bag. "Okay, tell me where,” she said while donning surgical gloves.

Lacroix indicated the locations again.

"Do you want anaesthetics?” she asked.

"Unless you carry curare with you, I don't believe anything else will work, Doctor,” Lacroix replied.

Natalie frowned, clearly reluctant to cut into a conscious patient. She sprayed disinfectant onto the skin and held the scalpel over the location where she had to cut. She had removed bullets from Nick and even Janette, but she was slightly anxious about Lacroix's reaction to the pain. When she hesitated, Lacroix placed his hand over hers and pushed the scalpel into his skin. Natalie gasped.

"I would prefer to get this over with,” Lacroix remarked.

"Right,” Natalie mumbled. Putting the scalpel aside, she held the cut open with the retractor and used tweezers to probe for the bullet. "Got it,” she announced as she pulled it out. "Number one.” She dropped it into a dish and shot a cautious look at Lacroix's face, relieved to find his eyes unchanged.

"I'm not the one whose hunger you should worry about, my dear,” he stated.

Natalie turned to Nick and tensed as she noticed golden eyes and the hungry look on his face. "Nick, perhaps you should wait outside,” she suggested.

Nick shook his head. "No, I'm not leaving you alone with him,” he rasped through extended fangs.

"Out of curiosity, Nicholas, are you intending to protect me or her?” Lacroix chuckled.

Natalie used his distraction to make another cut on his chest. Much to her satisfaction the chuckling ceased abruptly. Five minutes later she had the remaining bullets removed and the wounds covered with band aids.

"Thank you, doctor.” Lacroix rose and vanished into his bedroom.

"Nick, I know the knife wound on the victim was applied post mortem. What should I put into the report?”

"May I remind you that the deceased was the one who attacked me,” Lacroix remarked testily as he returned wearing a new black shirt. "I would hardly refer to him as the victim.” He filled two goblets from a bottle on the table and handed one to Nick.

Nick accepted the glass and drained it hungrily. "Can you put the knife wound as the cause of death in the report?” he asked.

"There wasn't enough blood to support that scenario. If the knife had hit a major enough vessel to be fatal, there should have been a blood pool.” Natalie cast an accusing glare at Lacroix.

"Forgive me, I'm not in the habit of being messy when I dine,” Lacroix breathed. "Perhaps, when you perform the autopsy, you will find a second knife wound to the heart? That one could have stopped his heart and thus the circulation.”

"That might work.” Natalie gathered her supplies and walked to the door.

"I'll be with you in a minute,” Nick said and faced Lacroix after Natalie had left. "Is there anything you can tell me about the man?”

"So, you do remember what it's like to feed from a living source.”

"I don't need a reminder!” Nick shot back angrily.

"He was quite delicious actually. A hired killer. I've always enjoyed the blood of a fellow hunter,” Lacroix provided.

"Hired by whom?” Nick tried to focus on the main information.

"That I don't know. A mortal, obviously.”

"Any hints about a motive? Why would a mortal want to kill you? Have you had trouble lately?”

"None that I can think of.”

"There might be another attack if word gets out that this one failed,” Nick said thoughtfully.

"Should I tremble for my life?” Lacroix asked mockingly.

"You might have to come in for a statement. So you shouldn't leave town.”

"I wasn't planning to.”

"If that's the case, you may want to take this seriously. Another attack might force you to leave. We're already having a hard time getting this one covered up.”

* * * *

"We've got an ID on the body,” Tracy looked up from her computer. "Jacque Buvier. Originates from Montreal. Has a record of several arrests for suspicion of murder, but was never convicted due to lack of evidence. He was last known to work for a major crime lord in Montreal.”

"So, what brings him to Toronto?” Milton wondered.

"Maybe Lacroix has dealings with organized crime in Montreal?” Tracy suggested. "Perhaps we should bring him in for questioning?”

"Perhaps we should rather set him up in a safe house,” Milton countered. "There might be a second attempt.”

"Apparently he can take care of himself extremely well. I don't understand how Buvier could have missed from that short distance,” Tracy wondered.

"Well, I guess we'll never know. Perhaps he was under the influence of something. Fact is that he did miss,” Nick emphasized. "Frédéric, perhaps you can get in touch with your former colleagues. Ask if they have any additional information on Buvier. Who his contacts were and if he had any connections to Toronto.”

"I don't know, Nick,” Tracy said after Milton went to make the phone call. "Lacroix's story sounds awfully fabricated to me.

"Perhaps you're right. We should call him in for questioning,” Nick said and pulled out his cell phone. He retreated into a secluded corner before touching the speed dial.

"Yes, Nicholas?” the phone was answered smoothly.

"I need you at the station.”

"Is that really necessary?”

Nick lowered his voice. "Tracy is getting suspicious. She doesn't believe that the shooter missed you. You have to convince her otherwise.”

"Very well, in that case I will be on my way.”

Nick had just stored his cell phone away, when Milton joined him in the corner. "Are you okay?” the younger man asked.

"Yeah, why?”

"There's something I've been wondering about. I watched your reaction when we arrived at the Raven. There was nothing in your expression that gave away that you'd just lost your lover. Either you're the most cold-blooded person I've ever met or you knew that Lacroix wasn't the one reported dead.”

Nick groaned inwardly. "I had a hunch that he wasn't shot because the mike was switched off after the shots were fired.”

"You mean he had the presence of mind to switch off the mike after being shot at and then go about defending himself with the pocket knife? Whew, I guess, then he's the most cold-blooded person I've ever met.”

"No argument here,” Nick mumbled and walked towards the entrance where Lacroix had just stepped in. "Thank you for coming. You could have taken a bit more time. Now we have to explain how you got here so fast.”

Lacroix shrugged. "You sounded rather urgent on the phone.”

Nick led him to an interview room followed by Milton. He motioned for Lacroix to take a seat behind the desk. "You remember Detective Milton?”

"Of course, the man who has a crush on my Nicholas,” Lacroix acknowledged the other detective. "So you have taken my advice to heart, Detective Milton, and attempted to get rid of your rival?”

"What are you insinuating?” Milton exploded.

"You seem to be the only one I can think of who would benefit from my demise,” Lacroix breathed. "But I can assure you, Detective, I'm not so easy to eradicate.”

"Lacroix, you can't be seriously thinking that he has anything to do with the attempted murder,” Nick exclaimed.

"They are both from Montreal. I believe it is your job to notice such common links.”

"How do you know the deceased was from Montreal,” Tracy asked after joining them in the interview room. "We never released that information.”

"I told him when I called him to come here,” Nick said quickly. Casting a glare at Lacroix, he wondered what else the elder had learned from Buvier's blood and kept to himself.

Tracy took the seat next to Milton while Nick remained standing in the background. "Can you describe the events again, Mr. Lacroix?” Tracy asked. "From the preliminary statement it didn't become clear how the shooter missed you.”

Lacroix focused entirely on Tracy. "I was in the middle of a monologue when I noticed a disturbance at the studio door. When the man entered and pointed the gun at me, I took cover behind the control desk.”

"So he missed because you took cover?” Tracy repeated.

"Yes, or would you care to offer another explanation, Detective?” he held Tracy's gaze.

"No,” she replied, slightly absent-minded.

Lacroix smiled menacingly. "I thought so.” He raised his gaze to Nick who nodded imperceptibly.

"And then you tackled him with the knife?” Milton resumed the questioning.

"No, I'm not in the habit of tackling people. I hurled the knife at him. I suppose I was lucky to hit the heart. He dropped the gun and slid to the floor.”

"When he was already incapacitated, why did you additionally slit his throat?” Tracy inquired.

"To see if he was dead, of course.” When Tracy merely furrowed her brows, he elaborated. "A knife wound to the heart stops the heart and freezes the blood. Had he been still alive, lots of blood would have poured from the neck wound. In that case I would have called an ambulance.”

"Uh-huh,” Tracy mumbled, unconvinced. "Feeling for a pulse didn't occur to you?”

"Of course. However, I could not detect a pulse and I wished to be thorough.”

"As long as we don't know who's behind this, you should consider moving into a safe house,” Milton suggested.

"I appreciate your concern, Detective Milton, but I don't think that will be necessary.”

"Then we should at least position an officer at the club,” Milton insisted.

"I'll stay with him,” Nick stepped in, causing a raised eyebrow from Lacroix in response.

* * * *

Nick sat at the bar, watching the last customers leaving the club while the staff ran around gathering glasses and cleaning up.

"Sunrise is in 15 minutes,” Lacroix informed him. "If you wish to spend the day at your loft, I suggest that you leave now.”

"No, I'm staying,” Nick replied.

Lacroix raised an eyebrow. "So concerned about my well-being? I'm truly touched.”

Nick turned towards him. "It's not your well-being I'm concerned about. I just don't want to deal with another drained body if there is a second attempt.”

"Really, Nicholas. Anyone who is stupid enough to mess with me must not be surprised to end up dead. Or would you rather I did nothing so that he can continue killing your precious mortals?”

"He cannot continue killing if I put him behind bars,” Nick reasoned.

"Well, the club is closed for today. Do you wish to remain here and guard the door or are you coming?” Lacroix retrieved a bottle from behind the bar and walked towards his quarters. Nick followed with increasing nervousness. So far Lacroix had been busy at the club, paying little attention to him. Now Nick would be the sole focus of the other's attention.

They hadn't spent time together in close proximity for several decades, so Nick wondered how they were going to pass the early morning hours as it was too early yet to sleep. However, after Lacroix had handed him a goblet filled with blood, Nick found himself being ignored for the most part and he wasn't sure whether to feel relief or annoyance. Lacroix had settled down in an armchair by the fireplace, completely absorbed in the morning newspaper. Nick moved to explore the room, taking in changes Lacroix had made after taking over the dwelling from Janette. He browsed through the books on a shelf and eventually settled down on the couch with a volume of Voltaire. The regular monotonous sound of Lacroix turning newspaper pages made him drowsy and he nodded off.

* * * *

As Nick woke refreshed from a deep sleep, he breathed in his master's familiar scent before realizing that he lay in a comfortable bed, securely ensconced in Lacroix's embrace. Turning his head, he gazed directly at the elder's profile. Still asleep, Lacroix's features were relaxed, the usual menace missing and a smile playing around his lips. Nick tried to pry himself from the embrace, causing the elder to stir eventually.

"Good evening, Nicholas.”

"How did I end up here?” The last Nick remembered was reading on the couch, where he had intended to spend the day.

"You fell asleep. I thought you might be more comfortable here.”

"That wasn't necessary. I was perfectly fine on the couch.”

"You were far from fine, Nicholas. You were tossing constantly and developing a delicious sheen of red on your brow.”

Nick regarded him startled. "I don't remember having a nightmare. I slept soundly as I haven't for weeks.”

"And why do you think that is, Nicholas?” Lacroix inquired indulgently.

Nick averted his gaze. Unconsciously his body must have responded to the protective presence of his master and relaxed into a deeper sleep than he ever allowed himself in the solitude of his loft. "I don't know. I guess I was just tired.” He moved from the bed and locked himself into the bathroom to take a shower.

In his zeal to escape Lacroix's immediate presence he forgot to take a change of clothes into the bathroom. Freshly showered, the thought of reusing the crumpled clothes he had slept in was not appealing. However, parading in front of Lacroix with only a towel around his waist seemed even less appealing. Instead he wrapped himself in one of Lacroix's morning robes he found in a cabinet.

Feeling hungry he entered the empty club in order to pick a bottle from the bar. Lacroix appeared from the cellar carrying several bottles. He wore a stylish brocade robe that was far too exquisite for this century. Nick was in the middle of pouring when he heard a knock on the Raven's door.

"The club does not open for three hours,” Lacroix stated and continued stocking the shelf with the bottles he had brought.

"It's Tracy and Frédéric,” Nick recognized the heartbeats. He walked to the door and removed the heavy bolts.

"Hi Nick,” Tracy greeted him. "Nice robe! We thought we would just check in with you before heading to the precinct.”

"Everything quiet so far?” Milton asked.

"Yes, nothing unusual,” Nick replied and led them to the bar. As he felt Milton's appreciative gaze resting on him, he automatically hid his smile by taking a sip from his glass.

"Uh, Nick? Are you sure red wine for breakfast is a good choice while on duty?” Tracy asked.

"Really, Nicholas. How do you intend to protect me when you're drunk?” Lacroix scolded mockingly and took the glass from Nick, draining it in a single swallow.

Slightly irritated, Nick adjusted his focus on his coworkers. "Lacroix will be doing his show again tonight. That should be sufficient to let anyone know the attempt has failed.

"Are you okay with playing the bait?” Milton asked.

"I wouldn't refer to myself as bait, Detective. I'm merely resuming my business as usual,” Lacroix informed him.

"We'll drop by again around midnight,” Tracy said, eager to get away from the elder's presence. "There's an unmarked car across the street in case you need backup.”

Nodding, Nick waited until they had left before snatching his glass back from Lacroix to refill it.

* * * *

Nick sat on a bar stool, leaning against the wall adjacent to the sound booth. From his position he could easily listen to Lacroix's broadcast while keeping his eyes on the door without being obvious.

"Bon soir, gentle listeners. True love is a rare find. Only once in the course of millennia may you find this perfection incarnate. And while you thrive on the bliss of passion, your lover strives for independence. How far would you go to reclaim what is indisputably yours? The Nightcrawler is on the air, listening to your confessions.”

Nick merely shook his head and emptied his glass before refilling it from the bottle on the table. Why was it that Lacroix could speak about true love to the entire city, but was incapable of expressing any such feeling in the privacy of their bedroom? Carnal desire had brought them together again and again. Once Nick had hoped for more, but instead they had drifted apart when his moralities collided with Lacroix's expectations.

"I don't share your view of true love,” a caller said, bringing Nick's attention back to the show.

"No? Perhaps you will be so kind as to enlighten us on your view on the topic,” Lacroix breathed into the microphone.

"I don't think true love is defined by claiming one's love. Instead, it is defined by the effort to do what is best for your lover,” the voice explained. Nick silently agreed.

"Of course, it's always about what they want, isn't it? I strongly believe satisfying your lover is what is best for him, wouldn't you agree?”

"But what if circumstances arise that render you incapable of satisfying your lover? Is it not the ultimate act of love to let him go and ensure that he finds someone else who can?”

"Ah, but what if that someone is already taken? Would you take measures to remove the rival so that your lover can live happily ever after?” Nick straightened. Did Lacroix think this caller was the one who wanted him dead? "But take heed,” Lacroix continued. "Some rivals do not wish to be removed. Perhaps you would care to continue this most interesting conversation in private?”

Apparently so, Nick concluded and approached the studio door.

"I would want that very much,” the caller replied.

"Very well. Cherry Beach should be deserted enough for this purpose, wouldn't you agree? Shall we say in twenty minutes?”

"D'accord.”

Nick stepped into the sound booth as soon as the on-air sign was switched off. "Who was that?” he demanded.

Lacroix regarded him with an amused expression. "Someone who would prefer to see me dead, obviously.”

Nick leaned onto the control desk. "Why?”

"You heard him. I'm in the way of his lover's happiness,” Lacroix shrugged.

Nick's eyes darkened. "Why, who have you been with?” he demanded.

"That's a very good question coming from you, Nicholas.”

Nick groaned inwardly as the pieces fell into place. "Milton's ex,” he mumbled. "He described him as an older man who had broken up their relationship so that Milton could find a new love. Apparently, he's desperate to ensure Milton gets what he wants for him.” He pulled out his cell phone and pressed the speed dial for Milton.

"A mortal dilemma. Fortunately, we are above such concerns as the inability to satisfy one's lover.” Lacroix rose.

"What are you up to?” Nick stepped in his way.

"Making sure he does not attempt to kill me again. It is upsetting my audience.”

"You can't kill him, Lacroix!” When Milton didn't answer his phone, Nick punched in another number. "Tracy, it's me. Is Frédéric with you?”

"We were on the way to the Raven and listened to the Nightcrawler. All of a sudden Freddy jumps out of the car and takes off. What's going on, Nick?”

"He recognized the caller. It's his former boyfriend. Did he ever mention a name?”

"Not to me. You spent more time with him.”

"He merely said his family came from Italy. Meet me at Cherry Beach. I suppose that's where he's heading.” Nick ended the call, only to find himself alone in the sound booth. "Damn,” he muttered and rushed out of the club, taking to the air instantly.

* * * *

As Nick reached Cherry Beach, he came to a face-off between Lacroix and an older man who leaned with his right hand on a cane while holding a revolver in his left hand. Milton's ex, he presumed. Although his face showed scattered wrinkles, his eyes were keen and clear, indicating a mind that had not yet succumbed to the tell-tale signs of age and disease. Lacroix stood about five meters away, hands buried in his coat pockets, and entirely undisturbed by the gun that was pointed at him.

"Domenico, don't!” Milton called as he came running from the parking lot. He stepped between the two men, shielding Lacroix. "What the hell are you doing? If you want to shoot him, you'll have to kill me first.”

"Do not interfere, Frédéric. Leave this business to me. My farewell gift to you.”

"I quite agree, Detective. You're spoiling the outcome of this encounter. Signor Favrini and I were just having a most enlightening conversation,” Lacroix stated.

Milton turned to him in disbelief, which gave Nick the opportunity to land unnoticed behind Favrini. "I'm trying to save your life here,” Milton pointed out, clearly unnerved by Lacroix's attitude.

"And I appreciate the intention although it is quite unnecessary, wouldn't you agree, Nicholas?” Lacroix breathed.

"Undoubtedly,” Nick confirmed, causing both Milton and Favrini to whirl around in surprise. Milton recovered first and used Favrini's distraction to snatch the gun from his hand.

"Domenico Favrini, you're under arrest for the attempted murder of Lucien Lacroix.” Nick pulled out handcuffs and proceeded to read him his rights.

The approaching sound of a police siren caught their attention. "That will be Tracy,” Nick announced. "Let's go and meet her in the parking lot.” When Lacroix remained behind, Nick intoned, "You, too. Your statement will be needed.”

"Guys,” Tracy greeted them as she got out of her car. "How did you all get here? There's only one car in the lot.”

"Uh, I kind of borrowed that,” Milton said sheepishly. "I stopped it on the road, flashed my badge and told the driver I needed it for urgent police business. Do you think I'll get into trouble for that?”

Nick laughed out loud. "Don't worry, my former partner used to do that a lot.” He motioned for Lacroix to take the front seat of Tracy's car while he slipped with Favrini into the backseat.

"So, what's your excuse for needing a ride?” Tracy asked, resuming her conversation.

"They say carpooling has its benefits,” Lacroix smirked.

"Yeah, sure,” Tracy muttered.

* * * *

Nick and Milton stood in the observation room, watching through the one-way mirror as Tracy and Reese took Lacroix's statement.

"Nick, I had no idea that it was him,” Milton said. "I don't know what came into him.”

"He loves you deeply, Frédéric. He would do anything for your happiness. A weird act of altruism. I suppose when you love someone so completely, you kind of lose perspective and stop caring for collateral damage.”

"Speaking from experience?” Milton inquired curiously. "Is that how it is between you and Lacroix?”

"Sometimes,” Nick admitted.

"I still can't believe he remained so cool with the gun pointed at him. He wasn't always a radio host, was he?”

"No, he's ex-military. A retired general,” Nick provided.

Milton nodded. "That explains a lot.”

Indeed, Nick thought and turned his attention back to the interview room.

"You've heard me correctly, I do not intent to press charges,” Lacroix stated smoothly. "Signor Favrini and I were merely having a conversation when we were so rudely interrupted by your officers.”

"What's he doing, Nick?” Milton whispered.

"I don't have the slightest idea,” Nick whispered back.

"What about the gun he pointed at you?” Tracy asked.

"Ah yes, an original Singer-produced M1911A1, a collector's item. I hadn't seen one of those in a while.”

"Are you telling us you were talking antique weapons?” Reese hollered.

"Is that against the law?” Lacroix inquired in an innocent voice.

"No, but obstruction of justice is. We have a statement here from two of my detectives who both say they interrupted a stand-off between you and Domenico Favrini in which Favrini pointed a gun at you with the obvious intention to kill you. Are you suggesting they lied?”

"A misinterpretation of the facts, Captain. I never felt threatened by Signor Favrini.”

"And there's no connection between Favrini and the man who attacked you in the sound booth?” Reese asked.

"I believe discovering any such connection is your job, Captain,” Lacroix breathed.

Reese shook his head. "Well, I don't know why you're doing this, but based on your statement, we have no choice but to release Mr. Favrini.”

"Call it a weird act of altruism,” Lacroix smiled directly at the screen behind which Nick and Milton were watching.

"It's almost as if he heard you, Nick,” Milton observed, astonished.

"Yeah,” Nick muttered and opened the door to meet Reese, Tracy and Lacroix who stepped out of the interview room. Nick reached for Lacroix's arm and dragged him into the observation room, closing the door behind them. "If you did this so that you can better kill him when he's released, I won't allow it,” Nick stated.

"Nicholas, if I wanted to kill him, I could have done so before you arrived at the beach,” Lacroix pointed out. "Besides, killing him would be rather counter-productive.”

"To what?”

"To gathering his love-stricken paramour and leaving this city.”

Nick perched on the desk, arms crossed in front of him and regarded Lacroix with a broadening smile. "You want Frédéric out of town?” he concluded. "Why?”

Lacroix frowned on Nick's obvious glee. "My thoughts on his whereabouts are irrelevant.”

"But you would prefer if he left town,” Nick pressed. "Too bad, I rather enjoyed visiting the opera with him.”

As expected, he received a glare in return. "If you wish to attend the opera in the future, Nicholas, come to me! I can procure better seats than orchestra.”

Nick grinned at him openly and stood. "You are jealous.” Without waiting for a response, he left the room, still wearing a broad smile on his face.

* * * *

"Where's Frédéric?” Nick asked Tracy as he found her alone at their desk.

"He's accompanying Favrini to his hotel and took the rest of the night off. Do you think he will go back to him?”

"I would hope so. He never stopped loving him,” Nick said absent-mindedly.

"Is that why Lacroix didn't press charges? To enable them a sunset reunion? I would never have taken him for such a romantic.”

"Trust me, their romance had nothing to do with it,” Nick said dryly.

* * * *

After returning home from his shift about an hour before dawn, Nick changed into a comfortable white poet's shirt and walked towards his canvas, intent on distracting himself with painting before his mind became too caught up in thinking about the night's events. Lacroix's display of jealousy had provided Nick with the certainty that Lacroix's feelings towards him went far beyond carnal desire. This realization filled his heart with a joy he never dared to hope for. It also provided him with the power to postulate conditions, but he knew from experience that he had to tread very carefully when he delivered them.

Nick had just poured himself a second glass of blood when the door bell announced a visitor. He activated the viewer and recognized Milton. "Take the elevator to the second floor,” he instructed.

A few minutes later, Milton stepped curiously into the candle-lit loft. His eyes glanced over the painting equipment, the fireplace and the piano before settling appreciatively on Nick.

"What will you do now?” Nick asked.

"I'm staying with him as long as it takes. The doctors have given him three years, maybe five if he doesn't catch an infection. I've made it clear to him that I intend to see him out.”

Nick nodded in acceptance. "So you're both returning to Montreal?”

"Yes, I've called my former captain. I can get my old position back and start on the 15th.”

"I'm sorry to see you go so soon,” Nick said softly and touched his shoulder gently. "If you ever need anything...”

"I know where I can find you. Thanks, Nick.” They gazed at each other a moment. Then Milton leaned in and caught Nick's lips in a tender kiss. Nick responded in kind. Milton pulled away when he needed to breathe. Smiling, he blew Nick a kiss and stepped into the elevator.

After the door had closed, Nick became aware of the displeasure surging through his bond with Lacroix. Rolling his eyes, Nick blew out the candles and left through the skylight.

* * * *

Nick skipped the club and entered Lacroix's quarters directly. He retrieved the book he had started the previous night and moved into the bedroom. Discarding his shoes, he draped himself across the bed and continued to read.

Half an hour later Lacroix entered and stopped in his tracks to regard the tableau in front of him. Nicholas lay on his bed, his head propped up on his right arm, the white poet's shirt in disarray, revealing a good portion of his well muscled chest. His hair shone golden in the light from the bedside lamp.

"What are you doing here, Nicholas?” he asked wearily.

Nick placed the book on the nightstand and fixed his gaze on Lacroix. "I sensed your displeasure and thought you might want to reclaim what you believe is yours.”

Lacroix stepped farther into the room and perched on the side of the bed. "Is it merely a belief?”

Nick smiled and reached up to draw Lacroix down to him, initiating a kiss. As soon as their lips touched, Lacroix began to devour his mouth with almost desperate passion, a release of all the restraint he had practiced over the last decades. He pushed the half-way open shirt to the side, revealing more of Nick's chest and shoulder. His lips found a special spot at the base of Nick's neck where he began to chew without breaking the skin. Simultaneously his right hand travelled tantalizingly down Nick's chest, making its way undeterred into the waistband of Nick's pants.

Nick thrashed on the sheets as Lacroix's hand cupped him. He reached for Lacroix's head, pressing him tighter against his neck, needing to be bitten. His other hand tore at Lacroix's shirt to get access to his shoulder and the artery his teeth ached to penetrate. His eyes flashed crimson as the shirt yielded to his effort and bare skin was revealed. Nick lunged forward and bit deeply into the shoulder. A moment later he felt Lacroix sinking his teeth into Nick's neck. The pull of his lips was incredibly erotic and heightened by the rhythmic rubs and squeezes Lacroix's hand applied to Nick's manhood. Nick bathed in the delicious fountain of Lacroix's blood as wave after wave of pleasure swept through him. Shivering, he buried his fangs deeper into Lacroix's skin, wanting all of him.

After minutes of feeding from each other, Lacroix raised his head and looked at Nick questioningly. "Are you sure that this is what you want, Nicholas?”

"Yes, take me, Lucien,” Nick responded without hesitation and proceeded to remove Lacroix's belt. The elder returned the favour and soon they had rid each other of their clothing. Too eager to allow for tender foreplay, Nick pulled Lacroix on top of him and wrapped his legs around his waist. Lacroix descended on Nick's mouth and slid his tongue between Nick's lips while simultaneously pushing himself into his beloved until he was all the way in.

Nick responded with a sigh of contentment that soon turned into groans of pleasure as Lacroix began to thrust expertly with increasing depth and hardness.

"Mine!” Nick cried out in bliss before sinking his fangs once more into Lacroix's neck. Lacroix's bite followed suit and they both shuddered as their mutual climax rocked through them.

When the blood had soothed their passions, Lacroix moved from his lover and stretched out beside him. "That was supposed to be my line, Nicholas,” he remarked.

Nick grinned at him. "Your plan worked. Frédéric is returning to Montreal.”

"Good.”

"I'm curious, if you were worried that I might take Frédéric as a lover, what kept you from killing him as you used to?”

Lacroix frowned. "The thought had crossed my mind. However, you would have known the moment you took my blood and resented the action. I did not want to risk that.”

"A wise decision.” Nick raised himself and leaned over Lacroix. "Make sure to adhere to it if you want this to last,” he said seriously.

"Will it last beyond a one-night stand, Nicholas?”

"That depends entirely on your conduct.”

Lacroix glared at him. "I do not take kindly to extortion, Nicholas.”

"But you like rejection less,” Nick argued with a triumphant smile. "It's your, decision, Lucien.” Bending down, he caught Lacroix's lips in a tender kiss.

The elder mumbled something unintelligible against Nick's lips before yielding to his lover's skillful advances.

FIN