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Forever Labyrinth

by Laren

"Nicola? Nicola, come back," she called out.

But he made no response, nor did he even turn around. He simply opened the window and flew off into the darkness of the early morning sky.

"Typical," Janette sighed, her French accent sounding more pronounced than usual, a sure sign that she was annoyed. She got out of bed and closed the window. This was becoming a far too familiar routine for her. She'd welcome her old love into her home, give him what he so desperately needed, then watch him sulk out.

Why don't you just accept what you are, Nichola? Janette thought. If you did, you wouldn't feel so guilty about coming here. Just once, it would be nice if you showed a little appreciation before you left.

Janette knew that he was not likely to change. He was too set in his ways. Her Nicola, Nick Knight to the rest of Toronto, was a man that wallowed in guilt. He felt guilty about almost everything he had done in the last 800 years. Like Janette, Nick was a vampire. Unlike her, or any of the rest of their kind, he longed to be mortal again. This, in and of itself, didn't bother Janette overly much, but the things he did to himself in his quest for mortality often caused problems. For one thing, he insisted in masquerading as a mortal and working as a police detective. That charade became quite complicated at times, but he felt the need to serve the public as some sort of atonement. Then, there was the fact that he starved himself. Instead of taking the human blood he needed, he purchased cow blood from butcher shops, supplementing it with those horrible protein concoctions that his doctor friend made up. His female doctor friend.

You probably think you are helping him, don't you, Dr. Lambert? Janette thought as she got dressed. I'm sure you have no idea about all the nights he comes here, all because of you. Would you change your treatments if you knew?

At times, Janette had thought of telling Natalie Lambert all about the consequences of Nick's treatments. While cow blood and other substitutes would keep him alive, it would do nothing to assuage the constant craving for human blood that all vampires had. Because Nick was always hungry, he couldn't let himself interact with mortals the way a well fed vampire could. His thirst for blood had become so overpowering that he could no longer seperate it from other, more human, desires. That was why, after every night that he'd spend watching old movies with Natalie in her apartment, he would hurry to Janette in desperation. He had to find some release for the pent up lust he had for the doctor.

Do you wonder why he never gives you more than a peck on the cheek, Natalie? Janette thought as she pinned back her dark, shoulder length tresses into a sophisticated style. Have you ever talked about it? Why he dare not make love to you?

Janette sighed again as she looked into her floor length mirror. She had always been glad that the stories about vampires and reflections were myths. Not that she was vain, (though many would have said she had every right to be) she merely enjoyed mirrors because they made it easier to check her appearance. One thing she had learned early in her long, long life was that people judged by appearances. Janette preferred to control the way others viewed her. Now, as she surveyed herself in the mirror, she saw that she looked as immaculate as usual. Utterly flawless...except for the sad, worried look in her eyes. It was a look she had seen in herself more and more lately, as Nick's visits became more frequent.

"Damn you, Nicola," she said aloud. Though she had loved him for centuries, alternatively acting as his sister and his lover, she had no desire to be infected by the cloud of depression he carried with him. "There are times I wish you would just vanish from my life." A whimsical smile came to her face as she thought of old folklore from her long ago mortal life. "You should be carried off by goblins, and never heard from again."

A moment later, she whirled around scanning the room for any signs of an intruder. She checked high and low to make sure she was alone. When she confirmed that she was, she felt more than a bit confused. She was certain that after she had spoken a moment ago, she had heard an unfamiliar voice say: "Your wish is my command."

18 hours later

"Nick, please call me as soon as you get this," Natalie said and then hung up the phone. It was not the first message she had left on his machine since her work shift had started that night, and her worry grew as more time passed without a response. Nick was suppossed to have been at the precinct nearly two hours ago. His work shift coincided with Natalie's own in the Medical Examiner's office. She worked the graveyard shift by choice, while to Nick, it was a necessity.

"Hey, Nat," Detective Don Schanke, greeted her as he entered her office. "Any idea where my partner is? The Captain is not happy."

"No, Schank," Natalie answered, using the colorful detective's nickname. "I wish I knew."

"Hey, uh, don't worry," Schanke replied in an effort to sound comforting. "You know Nick. He'll probably come in any second with some wild story about why he's late. Weird stuff always happens around him."

"If you only knew the half of it," Natalie replied.

"Huh? What do you mean?"

Natalie kicked herself mentally. She may have been worried, but that didn't excuse her need to watch what she said. She was the only mortal friend of Nick's that knew he was a vampire.

"I was just agreeing with you," she answered, recovering her poise. "Weird stuff always happens around Nick."

"Yeah, that's the truth," Schanke said. "Being his partner isn't easy, sometimes. Well, I've got a mountain of paperwork to get to now, but if I hear anything I'll let you know." Without waiting for a response, he turned and left Nat's office.

She knew he wouldn't be the only visitor she'd have tonight asking about Nick. Captain Cohen would probably be along shortly, then various other members of the force. It was openly assumed at the station that Natalie and Nick were involved, despite their repeated claims to be "just friends", so everyone that was looking for Nick would no doubt stop by to question her. The ironic thing was, their relationship was platonic, much to Nat's frustration. Nick would only let her get so close, then throw up some barriers.

But now isn't the time to worry about that, Natalie thought. She knew it wasn't like Nick to miss work, especially without checking in. As a vampire, he was better equipped to handle situations that could be dangerous for mere mortals, so the fact that he was missing truly disturbed Natalie. What could be causing him trouble? She decided she couldn't wait to find out.

"Grace," Natalie called to her assistant via the office intercom, "I have an emergency, can you cover for me here for the night?"

"Not a problem, it's a slow night," Grace answered, "and Nat...."

"Yes Grace?"

"I hope you find him."

Nat smiled, hearing the concern in her friend's voice. "I hope so too.

2 hours later

After checking Nick's loft and every other place she could think off, Natalie found herself outside a latenight club called "The Raven". She had deliberately saved this spot for last. It was a place she didn't like to enter. Not that she had any aversion to clubs, but Natalie knew more about this club than the average person was meant to. The Raven was a vampire club, and not one of those gothic/roleplaying types either, it was for real vampires. Mortals could go go there too, of course, and they often did without ever guessing they were mingling with immortal creatures of myth. Which was a good thing, because those mortals that did find out usually met with sudden, untimely ends. Nat was an exception to that rule, but she still didn't like to push her luck. Now though, she felt she had no choice. The vampire that owned and ran the club was very close to Nick, an old girlfriend named Janette. Natalie had always found her intimidating, in more ways than one, but if anyone could help her find Nick now, it was Janette.

Before making her way to the entrance, Natalie untied her ponytail and shook out her long, full mane of auburn hair. She undid the top button of her blouse, hesitiated, then undid the second one as well. She wanted to appear as a typical club goer, if she went in looking like someone on urgent business she would draw attention to herself. And drawing the wrong kind of attention in this club was not healthy. Attempting to appear relaxed, she entered the club.

Behind the Raven's bar, Miklos surveyed the crowd. There were a lot of vampires present tonight, mostly out of towners. Because of this, Miklos left the actual bartending to the other help so that he could keep a better eye on the crowd. He didn't want any of the new faces tonight to cause trouble. Sure enough, he soon saw an unfamiliar vampire, a male with an excessive amount of facial piercings, start to follow a mortal. Miklos started to shadow the hungry vampire, intending to make sure the actual feeding would go quietly, but then he got a good look at the mortal being followed.

"Dr. Lambert?" he said to himself. "Oh, great." Miklos hoped there wouldn't be too much trouble as he grabbed the pierced vamp and pushed him against a wall. "Look somewhere else for a meal," Miklos said seriously. "She's protected."

"By you?" the stranger hissed as his eyes turned yellow and his fangs started to extend. Miklos slapped him.

"Don't be an idiot," Miklos warned. "Somebody could have seen that, and you know not everyone here tonight is a vampire. And as for her protector," Miklos tilted his head toward Natalie, who was oblivious to the two men's conflict, "he fought in the Crusades. Still eager to snack on her?"

The pierced vampire quickly lost his arrogant tone. "T-The Crusades?" he stammered. "Then he'd be--"

"Over 800 years old," Miklos finished the sentence. Among vampires, age meant power, and very few vampires had seen eight centuries. Miklos himself only knew of two others besides Nick Knight.

"Look, man, I don't want no trouble," the pierced vampire said, "I'll just call it a night."

Sensing the genuine fear in the stranger, Miklos let him go. After watching the stranger leave, Miklos approached Natalie.

"Dr. Lambert?" he asked. "Are you looking for someone? I know you don't come here often."

Natalie looked at the vaguely familiar man for a moment before remembering who he was. "You're Miklos, right? The bartender? Yes, I need to see Janette immediately."

"I'm sorry, Doctor," Miklos answered. "Janette has been occupied with very important business all night. She asked not to be disturbed. If there's anything else, I could--"

"Please, Miklos," Natalie cut him off. "This is important. It's about Nick. Janette would want to know about something that involves his welfare, wouldn't she?"

Miklos couldn't argue with that logic. As a confidant to Janette, he knew just how close she and Nick were.

"Follow me," Miklos said to Natalie, even as he anticipated the retribution that Janette would no doubt extract against him later for disobeying her orders.

To be continued.