Infatuation With a Vampire Fran Glass Part 7/11 Nick's Cabin Oct. 10, 1996 10:22 a.m. Scully was having a bad dream. In it, she was riding on the elevator at work when the cables broke and the car began plummeting downward. She screamed in terror, fearing a crash landing, when suddenly the elevator slowed its descent and began rising smoothly upwards again. When it got to the top floor, she waited impatiently for the doors to open, but nothing happened. She pushed the button on the panel continuously, then picked up the emergency phone to call for help. Before she could say anything, a man's voice came over the receiver. "You're safe now," he told her, then the line went dead. Scully hung the phone up, feeling somewhat calmed by the voice. She was prepared to simply wait for the doors to open. She just hoped that it would be soon, because it was getting stiflingly hot in the little room. She saw that she was wearing a heavy jacket but couldn't seem to locate the zipper to take it off. She felt as though she would roast alive if she didn't get it off soon. The overheating of her body finally caused Scully to awaken. It took a few seconds to orient herself to her present situation. She sat up in the bed and pushed off the overcoat that covered her as she took in her surroundings. Besides being warm, the room was also fairly dark. The only light came from the tiny rays of sun peeking through the thin seams of the boards nailed over the window. Scully climbed off the bed, then peeled off her own jacket, finding that she was damp with sweat beneath her flannel shirt. A shower and a change of clothes would be nice but first things first. She found the light switch on the wall and flipped it on. The overhead light brightened the room, then flickered and dimmed slightly, letting her know that the cabin's generator was probably in need of attention. Scully discovered her personal belongings on the dresser, including her gun. She collected the items and checked the gun, pleased to find it still loaded. She grabbed her jacket, and with the gun in hand, cautiously opened the bedroom door and looked out. There were still two candles burning with perhaps only an inch of wax left on each. Still, they provided enough illumination for her to easily spot her host stretched out on the couch, asleep. Scully watched him from a distance for a moment, then allowed herself to relax and put her gun away. He had done nothing to harm her -- other than kidnap her, that is -- and he had probably only done that out of a desperate desire for companionship and to have someone to talk to. That didn't excuse his actions but it made them understandable. Scully decided not to disturb his sleep. She tiptoed about gracefully and went into the bathroom, flipping on the switch and getting the same dim lighting as in the bedroom. The bathroom window had also been boarded up, though the cracks were wider and allowed a bit more daylight to pour through. She closed and locked the door behind her, then toed aside the pile of clothing on the floor near the toilet. After relieving herself, she inspected the meager contents of the cabinet and drawers. Besides a lack of toilet paper in the place, she noted there were no first aid items at all to be found, not even a bottle of aspirin. Not much as far as toiletries were concerned either. There was soap and shampoo but little else available for personal hygiene needs. Scully took advantage of the soap, cold water and a clean looking washcloth to wash her face and neck and under her arms. She ran her fingers through her tousled hair, wishing she had brought along a barrette or rubber band for a ponytail. After sprucing herself up as best she could, she went back into the living room. Nick was still asleep, so Scully decided to quietly check out her surroundings. In one corner of the room, she found a small table with a selection of oil paints and brushes, next to an easel with a canvass turned backwards. She picked up the canvass by the edges and turned it around. There was a photograph attached to the top, left corner of the canvass. It was a picture of Nick and Natalie Lambert apparently snapped during a birthday celebration. Scully studied the snapshot first, then compared it to the image in the painting. Though unfinished, and done in an Impressionistic style, Nick had captured Natalie's likeness quite well. Scully returned the canvass to its stand, then moved into the kitchen area. She checked the refrigerator for breakfast possibilities, but all that she found were unlabeled wine bottles, two full and one half empty. She didn't bother checking the contents. It wasn't all that surprising to find that Nick had a drinking problem to go along with his depression. Scully checked the cupboards next, hoping to at least find some instant coffee or some canned fruit, but apparently, Nick had not done any grocery shopping in a while. Perhaps he was the type who lived off the land, or maybe the drinking had made him not care about eating. There weren't even any cooking utensils or dishes; only a few cups and glasses. Leaving the kitchen, Scully moved to the front door and opened it, careful to avoid allowing excessive daylight to enter. Stepping onto the porch, she raised her chin to the warming sun. The temperature was already about fifty-five degrees and would probably make it into the upper sixties as predicted by the weatherman yesterday. Scully stepped off the porch and away from the cabin. There didn't appear to be any established vehicle pathways, or foot trails to follow. There was some cleared land of about a hundred feet squared, but after that, nothing but trees. Scully picked the least dense area and worked her way through the foliage. She made a special effort to leave herself a trail back to the cabin by breaking small limbs on the trees and bushes she passed. After a few moments of traveling, the trees and foliage grew sparse and the terrain beyond became a rocky precipice. Scully was careful in approaching the edge of the cliff. A cautious glance below revealed a sheer drop of a few hundred feet and a rocky landing. On the other side of the deep chasm were more trees; miles and miles of trees shaping the mountain peaks, and no sign of human inhabitants. Obviously, this wasn't the route to town, so Scully turned around and retraced her steps back to the cabin. Once she entered the clearing, she continued to look around for the trail Nick had used to bring her there. He had to have a vehicle parked somewhere nearby, but after a brief search, Scully finally gave up and returned to the cabin. Upon entering, she glanced at the couch and found Nick the same as when she had left. As she got herself a glass of water from the kitchen, she considered the fact that her host was nocturnal and was likely to sleep the day away. She sipped her water and moved closer to the couch to look at him. It reminded her somewhat of watching Mulder when he slept. Her partner had a way of looking almost childlike in his sleep. Of course, most of the times Scully had watched him sleep were in the hospital while he was recovering from an on the job injury or some unexplained phenomenon. As she watched Nick Knight, she couldn't help but marvel over how handsome and youthful he appeared. His skin was indecently pale and absolutely flawless with no obvious scars or blemishes. Scully was tempted to caress his face simply to see if it was as soft as it looked, but she was afraid she'd be caught in the act. She could just as easily be caught staring. He could open his eyes at any time and catch her standing there gawking. Although she finally managed to tear her eyes away from his face, they still didn't leave his form. She gazed up and down his blue jean clad figure, very much impressed by his well-toned physique. His jeans fit a bit loosely which made her think he had lost weight recently. No wonder, with no food in the place and only wine to live on. Out of nowhere, a mental picture entered her mind of that firm, trim body pressed hotly against hers, his arms encircling her and their lips locked in a passionate kiss. She quickly shook the image out of her head, having no idea what could have possibly spawned the notion in the first place. Yes, he was an attractive man, but she'd met handsome men before. She even worked side by side with one, and not once had she envisioned such graphic desires. Well, with Mulder, she really couldn't afford to let her mind travel in that direction. With Nick, however, she couldn't help but wonder how things might have been if she had met him under more normal circumstances. Scully sighed at the futility of such thinking and was about to turn away from him when she noticed how his body was positioned. He lay flat on his back with his arms folded and hands lying crisscrossed atop his chest. It was the way she'd seen many a dead body positioned for burial. It was also the position she'd seen a few suicide victims assume once they had ingested a lethal dose of something to end their life. Scully became instantly concerned when that thought crossed her mind. She began to study Nick in a more professional manner. She stared intently at his chest, waiting for it to rise and fall with the pattern of his breathing, but it didn't. Scully stepped closer, picked up his wrist and held it lightly between her fingers. She was dismayed at the iciness of his skin and lack of a pulse. Her hand then went to his throat, searching again for a pulse but coming up blank. Dropping to her knees in front of him, she moved his hands aside and pressed her ear against his chest, listening carefully for even the faintest of heartbeats. Her own heart sank when she couldn't detect either a beating heart or a sign of breathing. "No!" she whimpered woefully, lifting her head and gazing sadly down at him. "What happened? What did you do?" She glanced around for any sign of a drug overdose. There were no empty pill bottles, stray tablets or suicide note to be found. She checked his pockets, then ran her hands beneath him and between the seat cushions of the sofa, but still came up empty. She looked at his face again and saw how serene his features appeared. It looked as though he had died peacefully in his sleep. Scully contemplated trying CPR on him, but figured that he was more than likely this way even before she had awaken and way too much time had now passed since then. Even if she was able to get a pulse, his brain would have undoubtedly suffered irreversible and severe damage from lack of oxygen. Scully placed the hands of the deceased back into their original position then slowly rose and went into the bedroom to get something to cover him with. Grabbing Nick's overcoat, she went back into the living room and threw the coat over the body, although she hesitated in covering his face. She'd seen dead many times and in many ways. It was usually bloody, often grotesque, and never very pretty, until now. In fact, he was beautiful, a descriptive term Scully had never really associated with men, much less a dead one. She sat down on the edge of the couch near his waist and reached her hand out to caress his cheek with the back of her fingers. He was ice cold to the touch but his flesh was surprisingly soft. "I know you were in a good deal of emotional pain," she spoke to him in a near whisper. "I'm sorry I didn't get the chance to help you, but... well, I hope you've found peace now." She heaved a deep sigh before finally withdrawing her hand and pulling the top of the coat slowly over his face. She sat a moment longer, silently offering a prayer over the remains, then found herself wiping away the tears that suddenly flooded her eyes. She'd only known him a few hours, but in that brief amount of time, she'd made a connection with him and therefore found his passing a bitter blow. After a few more minutes of mourning, Scully finally rose to her feet and began to ponder her own fate. She regretted that she never got any information from Nick as to their present location or in which direction civilization lay. She vaguely recalled him warning her that it could be potentially dangerous for her to travel alone during the day because of the treacherous terrain, and from what little she'd seen thus far, she had no reason to doubt him. Whether or not he truly intended to escort her back to town, she had no way of knowing; but she honestly didn't believe that he had planned on dying and leaving her stranded. Scully did a thorough search of the cabin, seeking a map and any useful camping equipment. She came up empty on both accounts with not so much as a compass or canteen. It didn't make sense that someone living in the woods would do so without the basics for wilderness survival. Then again, Nick Knight's brain had not been functioning on all cylinders. He had been thinking kill a cow, kidnap the first woman he sees and bring her up to the cabin so she could keep him company. She doubted that he had ever meant her any harm. He had been lonely, confused and simply in desperate need of human contact. Not that any of that mattered now. Scully grabbed the wine bottles from the refrigerator and placed them on the counter. She could use them to store water for her trek down the mountain. One bottle was half empty and already open, so she chose it to start with. She poured the contents down the sink and frowned when she realized what was being disposed. Cow's blood, she thought, disgustedly. Unfortunately, there was no detergent and no pots she could use to boil water and sterilize the bottles. "Great!" she hissed. "Just great." She sighed despairingly and said, "Okay, Mulder, anytime you want to come and rescue me, I'm ready." As she stood at the sink trying to come up with a way she could ensure herself some safe drinking water for her trip, a distant sound from outside demanded her attention. She knew instantly what it was and what it meant. Excitedly, she ran out onto the porch and looked skyward. She realized that she didn't even have to bother to signal because the helicopter was headed straight in her direction. As it neared, she stepped off the porch and waved her arms in recognition of being rescued. There didn't seem to be enough room for the helicopter to land safely, but the pilot was either highly experienced and confident or just insane enough to give it a try. Scully had to duck back inside the cabin as the chopper blades kicked up debris and threatened to clip the tops of nearby trees. After a couple of moments, the engine cut off and the whirling sound of rotating blades began to die down. Scully ventured back outside just as someone was getting off the copter. She had expected to see her partner headed towards her, but instead it turned out to be Sheriff Wilkes, carrying a backpack. "Sheriff Wilkes, I'm glad to see you," Scully greeted him with relief. "Well you're a sight for sore eyes yourself, Agent Scully. Are you all right? You're not injured anywhere, are you?" "No. I'm fine. Is Mulder with you?" "No, ma'am, but he sure did want to come. He got him a little concussion, -- nothing too serious, mind you -- but he's not exactly up to flying at the moment." "How did you know where to find me?" "You got your partner to thank for that. I'm still not sure how he did it. He made some phone calls and pulled a rabbit out of the hat. We would have been here sooner but we had problems getting hold of a pilot." "I'm glad you showed up when you did. I was just about ready to attempt to find my own way down the mountain." "The guy that kidnapped you, where's he now?" Scully glanced ruefully towards the open door of the cabin. "He's inside. He died in his sleep." "I'll be damned," the sheriff grunted. "Your partner pegged that one too." "What?" "Agent Mulder said that I'd likely find the kidnapper looking a little lifeless. He had me to bring along a couple body bags." "A couple?" "Yeah. He wants me to double-bag the guy before transporting him. He wants the body protected against sunlight. He also wants me to throw in some fresh garlic and duct tape this to the body." The sheriff reached into the backpack and pulled out an eight- inch, wooden cross. "You got any idea why your partner would insist on something like this?" Scully nodded once and blew out a sigh. "I'm afraid so." "You mind sharing with me?" "Frankly, Sheriff, I don't think you really want to know." Sheriff Wilkes chuckled lightly and shook his head. "Now you know, that's spooky. That's exactly what your partner told me. Sounds like you two have been together a little too long." "Yeah, tell me about it." -------- Black Eagle Sheriff's Office 1:15 p.m. Mulder had been waiting anxiously for news about Scully's rescue, and when word came over the radio that she had been found alive and well, he nearly cried with joy. After speaking to her briefly, he finally allowed himself to relax and take Deputy Carter's advice about lying down and getting some rest. He napped in one of the cells for nearly an hour until the deputy came to wake him as promised with news of Scully's return. Deputy Carter drove him the quarter of a mile out to the helicopter landing field, arriving just as the blades of the copter were slowly coming to a halt. The sheriff stepped off first, then turned to help the female passenger off. Though he was tempted to run, Mulder walked casually towards them. Scully met him half way, a heartwarming smile stretching across her face as she drew near. She fell easily into his opened embrace and gave as good a hug as she received. Mulder pulled away much too soon and looked her up and down. "Are you sure you're all right?" he asked while simultaneously checking her neck for bite marks. "Mulder, I'm fine. How did you know where to find me?" "I had Frohike run a background check on an alias Knight gave me just before he departed with you. Turns out he owns a few acres of land up there. Did he try anything with you?" "No. He was... he was a perfect gentleman." She looked back sadly at the helicopter as the body bag was being unloaded and transferred to a waiting ambulance. "When I woke up, I found him lying on the couch, dead. I'm thinking that maybe he suffered a brain aneurysm." Mulder shook his head. "He's not dead." "Mulder, I know dead when I see it. He has no heartbeat or pulse, there's no breathing, and he's ice cold." "Okay, maybe he *is* dead but not how you think. Excuse me a sec." Mulder went over to talk to the sheriff for a moment and was given his backpack. He took a peek inside the bag, then exchanged a few more words with the sheriff before shaking his hand in gratitude and walking away. "They'll be keeping Knight on ice at the hospital morgue in Great Falls," he said upon returning to his partner. "I told the sheriff not to worry about the autopsy. That you and I will handle things from here on out." "Mulder, I'd rather not be the one to perform the autopsy on him." "You won't have to. I just wanted to make sure no one else would." "You don't want an autopsy done?" "Well, if he's indeed what I think he is, an autopsy would only piss him off." "You're not still going on about the vampire thing, are you?" "Scully, I saw him. I saw him make the change. The glowing eyes, the fangs. I saw him fly." "You saw him fly?" Scully questioned skeptically. "You don't remember, do you? I could tell he had you under some kind of trance. When I tried to get him to let you go, he picked me up by my neck and flung me like a rag doll into the fencing. Then he just held onto you and flew straight up." "The sheriff told me that you got conked on the head," Scully stated, feeling as though that explained things. "I'm not imagining things, Scully. That's not a dead body they've got there, it's a sleeping vampire. Look, you don't have to believe me. You'll see for yourself when he wakes up." "Mulder, as much as he's been handled, if he was going to wake up, he would have done so by now, don't you think?" "You taped the cross to his chest before you attempted to move him, right?" "Making sure it didn't make contact with his skin, as per your instructions, yes." "Well, that was a precaution. From some of the vampire lore I've read, religious symbols can act as a restraint to keep a vampire completely immobile. So even if he does wake up, he'd be paralyzed until the cross is removed. I talked to Captain Reese again and he said that they always had a tough time trying to get a call through to Knight during the day. I'm guessing that means he's a pretty heavy sleeper and probably won't be waking until right around dusk." "Mulder..." Scully started to argue the insanity of his theory but knew it was a useless gesture. "Whatever. Right now, I'm hungry and I need to shower. So can we just...." "Sure. This way." He gently took her arm and guided her towards a waiting patrol car and a deputy who was more than happy to drop them off at their motel. "So, you don't remember him transporting you to the cabin?" Mulder asked as he relaxed in the back seat of the patrol car next to his partner. Scully shook her head slightly. "No, I don't. I remember going out to the corral, looking for you, and the next thing I know, I'm waking up in bed with...." "With what?" "I uh... I'm not really sure. Some of it seems almost like a dream. I think he was holding me." "Holding you?" "I woke up and he was lying on the bed with me in his arms." "Damn pervert is what he was," came the voice of disgust from the man in the driver's seat. "No telling what he might've done to you if he hadn't croaked first," Deputy Carter continued. "I know it's none of my business, ma'am but are you sure you wouldn't want to be examined by a doctor? Considering you were unconscious and all for a spell. You know what I mean?" "Thank you for your concern, Deputy, but, I really don't think that's necessary." "The deputy might have a point, Scully. If you can't remember what all went on, it might be a good idea to get yourself checked out. You could have been drugged or exposed to something. After all, the guy did have a blood fetish, and it might not have all been from cows." Scully considered the words carefully, knowing that if their positions had been reversed, she would have insisted that Mulder seek medical attention. As the patrol car pulled up in front of the motel, Scully found herself agreeing with her partner. "You're right, Mulder. I think maybe I should get a quick physical, just in case. But I'd like to eat and get cleaned up first." The agents climbed out of the patrol car and waved their thanks to the deputy. "He didn't sexually molest me, Mulder," Scully blurted out as she walked alongside him towards their rooms. "I'd know if he had." Mulder simply nodded. Of course, she knew her body better than he. "So when you woke up, he was holding you?" he asked. "Not me exactly. I believe that he thought he was holding Natalie Lambert one last time. I think they did have a suicide pact going. Only it was her idea and she goaded him into going along with it. He blamed himself for her death and he felt guilty because he survived. He was deeply in love with her. " Mulder fished a key out of his pocket and unlocked the door to Scully's room. "How does the killing of cows fit in?" he asked as he allowed her to enter first. Scully stepped into the room and headed straight for the bathroom. She reached into the shower and turned on the water so that it would have sufficient time to heat. She then turned her attention to Mulder who stood leaning against the dresser. "Nick didn't remember killing the cows. He was suffering from blackouts. He said he became someone else." "Someone named Nicholas de Brabant?" "Yes. I think that's the name he used." "That's the vampire, Scully. The one that took you." "Nick said that this other personality killed the cows to draw attention to himself. He wanted some family member to find him." Mulder pulled a photocopy picture from his pocket and showed it to her. "Lucien LaCroix. Don't know what relationship he is to Knight but they were roomies in Winnipeg after leaving Toronto." Scully studied the picture and frowned, "I wouldn't want to bump into him on a dark night." "Neither would I. Something tells me, he doesn't settle for cow's blood." "Oh, so he's a vampire too, is that it?" "Doesn't he look like one?" "I'm going to go take my shower now. I know I must smell and look hideous." "You smell pretty much like I do and you look like...." He was going to say that she looked like hell, but quickly reevaluated her appearance. Considering that a few hours ago, he wasn't sure he'd ever see her again, at least not alive, she was truly a beautiful sight to behold. "I look like what?" she asked when he had failed to complete the statement. "A million dollars in change." "In change?" "Yeah. A zillion bright, shiny coins. You have to admit, that'd be an awesome sight." "You know what you look like?" "What?" "Like someone with a mild concussion who's been up all night worrying himself half to death." "Do I look hungry too?" She patted his stubble-covered cheek. "Go get rid of that and I'll meet you in half an hour in the cafe." -------- Benefis Healthcare Hospital Great Falls, Montana 4:22 p.m. Over a late lunch, Mulder and Scully traded information each had gathered on the mysterious Nick Knight. After their meal, they stopped by the sheriff's office to file paperwork, and later, went to the hospital so Scully could get her check up. As he waited for his partner, Mulder catnapped right outside the morgue, wanting to keep an eye on Knight. After taking a cursory exam and giving up some blood samples to be tested later, Scully went in search of her partner. She found him in the hallway directly across from the morgue, asleep in a chair with his arms folded loosely over the backpack he was holding and his head resting against the wall behind him. Scully walked up to him and with devilishly intent, ran her fingernails along Mulder's exposed neck. He jumped awake in a moment of panic, nearly falling off the chair. "It's okay, it's okay!" Scully soothed him. "It's just me." "That wasn't funny," Mulder huffed as he stood and collected his cool. "Actually, it was," Scully grinned. "Why don't you go back to the motel and get some sleep?" "No, I'm wide awake now," he said as he slipped his backpack over one shoulder. "How'd your exam go?" "Fine. Nothing unusual to report. The results from the blood tests will be back later. Urine tests show no drugs in my system, so whatever he used to put me to sleep has apparently already worked its way out. And in case you were wondering, no bite marks were found." Mulder nodded his head, obviously relieved to hear the news. "Good." Scully glanced towards the closed doors of the morgue, and asked, "So now what?" Mulder checked his watch before answering. "Still got a while before sunset, but I guess it wouldn't hurt to check and see if he's awake." Scully started to make a comment but knowing it would go unheeded, decided to save her breath. She lead the way into the morgue, introduced herself to the attendant on duty and was given complete access to the remains of Mr. Nicholas Knight. Mulder slipped off his backpack then stood with his hand inside one of the pockets, prepared to pull out something in defense should the need arise. Scully tried to ignore his overly cautious behavior as she pulled open the drawer containing Knight. The body was still cocooned within the two body bags. Scully unzipped the first bag to reveal the second bag and the strong odor of garlic. "I'll hold on to that," said Mulder as he grabbed the wreath of garlic he'd had Sheriff Wilkes tuck into the bag. "You know, Mulder, I've seen enough vampire movies to know that when a vampire kidnaps a woman, it's usually so she can become his next meal or his mate. Neither of those things happened to me. The man was lonely and he wanted someone to talk to. That was all we did. That was all he wanted." "That was all Nick Knight wanted. Nicholas de Brabant, on the other hand, wanted something different, only Knight somehow kept him from resurfacing and carrying out his plans." "Right," Scully sighed. She then unzipped the second bag and gazed in wonder at the dead man who still looked as though he was about to awaken at any moment. "I don't mean to sound like some kind of morbid pervert," said Mulder, "but that is undoubtedly the best looking dead guy I've ever seen." He reached out and timidly lifted up a finger on the corpse's hand, then let go of it to see what would happen. It flopped easily back to its original position. "Still no sign of rigor mortis." "Rigor mortis usually takes five to six hours to set in, but he's been refrigerated for a while, so it could take a bit longer." Inwardly, Scully thought that the man before was indeed looking a bit too good to be dead. Compelled by the need to satisfy her own doubts, she scrounged around for a stethoscope, then prepared to remove the wooden cross which had been duct taped with a single strip to the front of his shirt. "Don't take it all the way off," Mulder warned her. She gave her partner a dirty look but humored his wishes once again. She unbuttoned Nick's shirt and peeled back just enough to place the stethoscope over his heart. She listened intently for several seconds, then checked his eyes for any reaction to light. "Nothing," she announced, sounding rather disappointed. "Absolutely no sign of life, Mulder." "Not as we know it, at any rate," said Mulder. "I wonder." "What?" "What do you say, we get an EEG done on him." "You want to do an electroencephalogram on a dead man?" "No, on a vampire. Look, there have been plenty of documented cases of people mispronounced dead because outwardly they're showing all the visual signs of death, while internally, their brains are still functioning. I think if you'd just take a look, you'll find that Knight's brain isn't quite as relaxed as the rest of him. Scully, this may be the only chance you'll have to examine him and see what makes him tick. He might not be so cooperative once the sun goes down." Of course, Scully didn't believe in vampires or that Nick Knight was one, but for some reason, she didn't want to believe that he was dead and gone, and nothing could be done about it. There was something other than her partner's enthusiasm that made her cave in and agree to bringing in an encephalograph machine and applying electrodes to Nick's temples. When she turned on the machine, she was rather disappointed that the graph showed nothing happening. "I don't know what I was thinking, listening to you, Mulder," said Scully as she stared at the straight line on the graph. "Maybe I should hook this thing up to you to see if *you've* got any actual brain activity going on." "Ha ha," Mulder faked a laugh and stepped closer. "Maybe he needs some kind of outside stimulus. "Mr. Knight?" Mulder called out to him but got no response. Scully picked up Nick's left hand, noticing the iciness of it along with a pliant softness that should not be still present after all this time. Remembering how he had held his arm in pain as they had talked earlier, Scully wondered about the wound he had hid from her. She unbuttoned the cuff of his shirt and peeled back the sleeve to reveal a swollen and bruised area beneath his forearm. "What is it?" Mulder asked when he saw her examining the arm. "He had complained about picking up a splinter. It looks infected," she noted as she prodded the afflicted area with her finger, "Scully, look!" She looked up, then to the EEG machine where her partner directed her attention. There was a sudden spike in the graph. "Oh my god... he's alive!" -------- end part 7 -------- Infatuation With a Vampire Part 8/11 Mitch, the attendant on duty, had returned just in time to hear Scully's exclamation that the stiff in drawer number ten was alive. He rushed over and gazed down at the electroencephalograph results. "That's weird," he said. "It's only one spike though." "It was a reaction to pain," Scully explained. She decided to test her theory once more by pressing her finger into the infected area of Nick's arm again. The electroencephalograph spiked and continued to draw similar spikes as long as she applied pressure to the arm. Scully reached a hand into her shoulder bag and pulled out a pair of tweezers. "Mitch, can you get me some antiseptic and a bandage, please?" "Sure." Mitch quickly retrieved the items she requested. "What are you going to do?" asked Mulder. "This," said Scully as she deftly probed the small wound on Nick's arm and removed the tiny but troublesome splinter embedded in his flesh. Mulder noticed the constant movement on the graph as the splinter was removed and his partner proceeded to clean and bandage the area. Once the doctoring had been completed, the pattern on the graph faded to a simple line. "Wow! I ain't never seen nothing like that before," said Mitch in total awe. "I guess he's got to be alive if he was able to feel that. I suppose we better get him up to the ER then." When Mulder blurted out the word, "No!" both Mitch and Scully glared at him, waiting for an explanation as to why they shouldn't be racing the patient to the emergency room. Mulder grabbed Scully by the arm and pulled her away so he could talk to her privately. "Scully, you can't take him to the emergency room. Haven't you been listening to me? The man is a vampire. You take him into the ER with a lot of bleeding patients and blood-soaked doctors all over the place, he's liable to wake up and go into an uncontrollable feeding frenzy. Now, he's going to be waking up in a couple hours anyway. Can't we just wait?" "Mulder... okay let's just say for the sake of argument that he *is* a vampire. You said so yourself that this might be my only chance to see what makes him tick. I'd like the opportunity to examine him as thoroughly as possible. Do you have a problem with that?" Seeing the unwavering determination in her eyes, Mulder wisely chose not to oppose her. "No, I don't have a problem with that." Scully gave a simple nod, then walked back over to Mitch. "I need you to bring in a gurney. We're going to take him upstairs and have him admitted for tests and observation." When the attendant set off for the gurney as requested, Mulder approached his partner. He watched in silence as she disconnected the wires of the EEG machine and prepared to put it away. "Will you do me one favor and keep that cross in place while you're doing your tests?" he asked. Scully studied her partner closely for a moment, then said, "You really believe you saw him fly?" Mulder nodded. "How else do you think he got you up to his cabin? The sheriff told me that they didn't spot any roads leading up there and no sign of a trail leading away from the place. He *had* to have flown you in." "Maybe what you saw was us being hoisted up by a helicopter hovering high above. Maybe the same way I was taken off that mountain was the same way I got there." "You're really reaching for it there, Scully," Mulder chuckled mockingly. "Well, I'm reaching for what makes sense, Mulder. And what makes sense is that this man was in a car accident and probably suffered some form of trauma to the brain, which has gone without treatment for too long and has manifested itself into this very unique comatose state we're witnessing now. He mentioned that he had been having some severe headaches and he agreed with me about coming in for x-rays and a CT scan." "He actually agreed to that?" Scully thought about that for a second, then shrugged. "Well... he never disagreed." Mitch returned with a gurney, and as he parked it next to the not quite dead body, he questioned Scully. "Does this guy have insurance? They're kind of funny around here about bringing back the dead and not getting paid for it." "He doesn't need insurance," said Mulder. "He's filthy rich." "He is?" asked Scully with surprise. "Nick Fletcher alias Nick Knight, alias Nicholas de Brabant, multimillionaire. He owns the mountain you were on." "Filthy rich?" Mitch echoed. "That's good enough for me. Let's do it!" Mitch helped to transfer Nick from the morgue slab to the gurney, leaving behind the body bags. Luckily, it was a slow night in the emergency room and a young resident took a personal interest in the case. Dr. Winetraub, naturally, had never seen anything like it before and agreed with Dr. Scully in getting x- rays taken right away. In only a few minutes, they each stood completely dumbfounded in front of the developed x-rays of Nick's brain. "If this guy isn't really dead, he ought to be," Dr. Winetraub marveled over the sight. "It's amazing," Scully concurred. "It's hard to believe he's been fully functioning all this time." "Is that what I think it is?" asked Mulder as he stepped up behind the two medical experts and studied the x-rays attached to the lighted view box. "If you're thinking bullets," Scully replied, "I'd say yes. I'm guessing that these three entered the brain at the same time and about the same angle, though I've yet to find a point of entry. The other smaller dots you see are fragments of a fourth bullet." "There was a report that Knight had been shot in the head last year while on duty. The shooter used cop killer ammo. Knight was at first pronounced dead, but when he miraculously pulled through, they changed the story to say that he only received a flesh wound." "I've seen the kind of damage those type of bullets can inflict," said Dr. Winetraub. "If this guy was hit with one, his brain would have been Swiss cheese. Still, what I'm seeing now doesn't make sense. It looks as though each tiny fragment has been encased in its own little protective sac." "And the fluid in the sacs are causing the fragments to disintegrate," Mulder offered his opinion. "Notice the edges are completely smooth as though they're being worn away. The same thing is happening with the other three bullets. Only instead of three, small individual sacs, he's produced one large, kidney- shaped sac to accommodate all three bullets." "And because of the shape and size, it's causing abnormal pressure to build up in other parts of the brain," Scully added. "That could easily account for his irrational behavior of late, not to mention his current condition." Dr. Winetraub voiced his thoughts. "I'll tell you, Dr. Scully, normally I'd say that Mr. Knight is a candidate for immediate brain surgery, only I honestly don't think it'd do much good." "Why wouldn't you think surgery would help?" "Well, he's not breathing. And you say he's been that way all day. I don't have to tell you that severe brain damage can occur within a few minutes from lack of oxygen." "Yes, of course, I am quite aware of that, but as impossible as it seems, his brain appears to be the only part of him that's actually functioning. I've established the fact that he's capable of experiencing and differentiating between pain and relief. Perhaps if we could get a specialist in to look at him?" "Does he have any next of kin?" "Yes, but we haven't been able to make contact yet. We know that he *does* happen to be a very wealthy man, not that it should influence the quality of care he receives." "Then why did you bring it up?" "Just in case it does." Scully gave the young doctor a knowing glare which worked wonders. "Tell you what. Let's go ahead and get him set up in a room, and I'll make some phone calls and see if I can't get someone a bit more knowledgeable in this field to take a look." "Thank you, Dr. Winetraub." As Dr. Winetraub turned away to speak with a nurse, Mulder gently took Scully by the arm and escorted her out of radiology into the hallway next to where Nick's gurney was parked. "Dr. Scully, I have a quick question for you," Mulder spoke keeping his voice low. "Are you out of your mind?" "What?" "Scully, why won't you believe your own eyes? A man is lying right in front of you with all the classic symptoms of death, only he's not dead. He's been walking around with four bullets in his brain and no sign of an entry wound. You want to know why? Look at his arm, the one where you pulled the splinter out. Go ahead. Look." Feeling him nudge her with his intense stare, Scully slowly reached for Nick's arm and gently lifted one edge of the bandage. After taking a cursory glance, she pulled the bandage off completely and gasped at her findings. Gone was all sign of swelling and discoloration that had been there before. The previously deformed flesh and skin was now as flawless as the rest of him. "He's self-healing," Mulder told her. "Ask yourself why a minuscule splinter like that would have caused such a nasty wound in the first place. Because it was wooden, Scully. A tiny, wooden stake driven through the flesh of a vampire." Scully became flustered by the realization that her partner just might be right. "Mulder, I.... I don't.... I don't care *what* he is. Maybe you're right. Maybe his body *is* healing itself." As she continued to speak to her partner, Scully's attention focused on Nick, her hand absently began to stroke his blonde curls. "Perhaps in time, months or years, those bullets in his brain will totally dissolve and they'll be no signs that they were ever there. Maybe in just a few hours or days, that tumor will shrink and the pressure will decrease, and the headaches and confusion he's experiencing now will be history. But right now, he's suffering. Vampire or not, I can't just stand by and do nothing." Mulder placed himself in Scully's view by leaning over the gurney and turning his head in her direction. His sudden closeness forced her to look him in the eye. It was only then did she become aware of her intimate contact with Nick and she jerked her hand away from him. She was saved from dealing with her partner's intense gaze when an orderly came along and took hold of one end of the gurney. "Excuse me folks, but I have to take Mr. Knight to his room now." The agents stepped aside so the orderly could do his job. They silently followed behind the young man as he wheeled the gurney down the corridor. The ride on the elevator up to the third floor, was also in silence. The orderly met up with a nurse who barred the visitors from entering until she'd had a chance to get the patient settled. "Nurse, it's very important that you leave that cross that's taped to his shirt, right where it is," Mulder warned. "And don't open the window blinds. He's allergic to sunlight." The nurse gave him a peculiar look, then simply nodded her understanding before closing the door. Mulder turned to his partner who was leaning with folded arms against the opposite wall. "Are you okay?" he asked. "Why wouldn't I be?" "Downstairs, you seemed a bit... I don't know how to put it exactly. You seemed really concerned about him." "Aren't *you* concerned?" Scully replied rather defensively. "Isn't that why we came to Montana in the first place; to find him and offer our help?" "Did something happen up at his cabin that you're not telling me, Scully?" "I told you, Mulder, all we did was talk. Nothing else happened." "How do you know? You don't even remember how you got there. He made you forget." "Oh yeah, that's right," Scully spoke in a mocking tone. "Vampires can mesmerize their victims. I forgot about that one." Mulder chuckled lightly. "You still don't believe. I bet he could sprout fangs and drink blood right in front of you and you still wouldn't believe he's a vampire." An image of Nick as Mulder had just described flashed in her mind, causing her to shudder. She quickly shook the thought from her mind and looked up at her partner towering above her. "I believe what you said about him waking up soon. I'm not sure why I believe, but I do. And I also believe that he will need surgery to remove those bullets so that he can return to living his life normally, whatever normal happens to be for him. And finally, I believe that whatever or whoever Nick Knight really is, basically he's a good, decent and very caring individual." "Must have been a hell of a conversation you two had." Scully reflected on the different topics discussed for a moment, then stated softly, "It was." She checked her watch for the time and surprised Mulder when she informed him that they still had more than half an hour till sunset. "We've got time for a cup of coffee," she added. "What do you say?" "You go on. I'll stay and keep an eye on our friend." "All right. I'll stop off and check with Dr. Winetraub to see what he's found out regarding a specialist. Be back in a few." As his partner went in search of coffee, Mulder waited patiently outside Nick's room. After a few minutes more, the door opened as the nurse held it for the orderly to wheel out the empty gurney. In passing, the nurse gave him the okay to visit. Mulder entered Nick's room and closed the door behind him. He was pleased to see that the nurse had followed his instructions and kept the window blinds closed, but as he approached the bed, he saw that his other warning had gone unheeded. Nick was no longer dressed in his own clothes. He wore only a hospital gown, covered to the waist by a sheet. Mulder stepped cautiously up to the right side of the bed and pulled his backpack from his shoulder. He unzipped one of the pockets of the bag, reached inside and pulled out two pairs of handcuffs. Resting the bag lightly on the bed, Mulder took one pair of the handcuffs and as stealthily as possible, clicked it onto Nick's right wrist. At the instant he attached the other end of the cuffs to the bed railing, he heard a low growl. Before he could react, a blur of motion caught him by the throat and pulled him downwards to face the golden eyes and fangs he had encountered once before. "Mulder, isn't it?" the same menacing voice hissed in his face. The iron grip around his throat allowed Mulder just enough leeway to gasp for air and sputter a few words. "I'm flattered... you remembered." "Oh, I never forget the face of a potential meal." Mulder used one hand to try in vain to break the iron hold on his neck. His other hand was fumbling for one of the zippers on his backpack. "If you're hungry," he gasped, "I... brought the... bottles from your cabin." "What makes you think I want that bovine swill? I prefer the good stuff. Your heart *does* pump the good stuff, doesn't it, Mulder? I hope you don't taste like your unappetizing partner, but I guess there's only one way to find out." Mulder's eyes went wide at the insinuation that the vampire had tasted the blood of his counterpart. However, there was no time to dwell on that. He was positive he was about to become dinner. He actually felt the sharp tip of one fang as the vampire sought to rip his collar out of the way. Mulder's hand was frantically reaching inside the backpack seeking and then finding what he hoped would save his life. He grabbed the wreath of garlic and quickly shoved it in his attacker's face. The effects, thankfully, were immediate. When the choking hand fell away from his throat, Mulder quickly rushed to the window and opened the blinds. Hoping to find the protective rays of an evening sunset, he was disappointed to find only a darkening, cloudy sky. When he looked back, he was not only relieved but also surprised to find that the vampire had been completely incapacitated. Mulder loosed his collar and tie as he stood with his back against the window, laboring to catch his breath. He watched as Nick lay writhing on the bed, the garlic wreath acting as an immovable weight on his chest and an ugly rash forming on his skin wherever the garlic had made contact He attempted only once to grab it with his free hand, but the stinging sensation he incurred, forced him to let go instantly. He twisted his head left and right, in a useless bid to avoid the pungent fumes that burned his eyes and caused swelling in his throat. Cautiously, Mulder moved towards him, carefully measuring just how safe it was to do so. The eyes were still golden but no longer menacing in appearance. Instead, they reflected a piteous expression of helplessness and anguish. Mulder knew surrender when he saw it. Nick watched him, unable to speak, he pleaded silently for assistance. Mulder braced himself with a deep breath, then returned to the bed. Nervously, he picked up the other handcuff and used it on Nick's left wrist, meeting with no resistance whatsoever. After securing the handcuff to the bed rail, Mulder timidly reached for the garlic wreath. A low growl caused him to draw back, but studying Nick's eyes again, he figured that the growl had only been from discomfort and probably not meant as a threat. Mulder picked up the wreath, peeled off a few cloves from one of the bulbs and tucked them under the edge of the pillow on each side of Nick's head. The rest of the garlic was returned to the backpack. Once the biggest portion of the crippling irritant had been removed, Nick felt his body slowly beginning to return normal. After a moment, he was able to gasp out a hoarse, "Thank you." "You were right," said Mulder. "Fresh *is* better." "What?" "Nothing. Um.... Are your eyes going to stay that way?" Nick turned away shamefully. "Hungry," he whispered. "Sorry, but all I have to offer is bovine swill. Interested?" The death look Mulder got from Nick was a touch unsettling. It probably wasn't a good idea to tease a hungry vampire. Mulder reached into another section of the backpack and brought out one of the full wine bottles taken from the cabin. He saw the color in Nick's eyes intensify at the sight of it. "Oh, I'll have to find a corkscrew somewhere," said Mulder after realizing what kind of top the bottle wore. "My mouth," said Nick as he weakly forced himself up on his elbows. When Mulder held the bottle up to him, he pulled the cork out with his teeth with a show of impatience and spit it out off to the side. Placing his lips to the bottle's rim, he drank greedily with eyes closed as Mulder tilted the bottle upwards for him. Mulder found it both exhilarating and a bit gross, feeding blood to a vampire as though he was giving a baby its formula. The bottle was more than half empty by the time Nick had consumed enough to assuage his hunger. He relaxed back onto the pillow, frowning slightly at the smell of garlic that wafted up from each side. He opened his eyes, displaying a calm blue, and focused on the man standing over him. For the first time since he had awaken, he finally became aware of his environment. After Mulder recapped the bottle and placed it back into his bag, he noticed the look of confusion on Nick's face. "You're in a hospital in Great Falls," he answered the unspoken question. "How?" "The miracles of the computer age. When we first met, you introduced yourself as Nicholas de Brabant. I had the name checked out and discovered you owned a little mountain property out there. The local sheriff went out in a search helicopter, and I suggested that he tape a cross to your chest before stuffing you inside two body bags and transporting you back." A moment of panic crossed Nick's face as he had a disturbing thought. "Agent Scully! Where is she? Is she all right?" "She's fine," Mulder assured him. "She just went for coffee. Speaking of Scully, I have to know something. Did you do anything to her? I can tell you've clouded her thoughts somehow so she doesn't remember everything, but I have to know." Nick saw the deep concern in Mulder's eyes and decided to answer him truthfully. "I didn't hurt her," Nick spoke softly. "I held her in my arms and we kissed. Maybe more than once but I don't quite remember." A twinge of jealously coursed through his veins, but Mulder pushed the emotion aside as he sought to have his next question answered. "Did you hypnotize her into kissing you?" "It's possible. That's not normally my style, but then I haven't been behaving much like myself lately." "Did you bite her tongue or something? Is that how you know that her blood doesn't taste so good?" Nick had no recollection of admitting that fact, but as he eyed Mulder, and noted the fresh bruises on his neck, he realized there was something else he didn't remember doing. "She had a nosebleed," he finally answered. "It was nothing I did to her, I swear. We were talking and it just happened." "And you couldn't pass up a free sample," Mulder surmised. "Normally, I can. I worked as a homicide cop for years and I was always being tempted, but I had a good handle on my control. Now...." He didn't bother to finish the thought. "Her blood tasted odd," Nick admitted. "It left a sour aftertaste. I figured maybe she was taking some kind of medication. Is she? Is she ill?" "Not that I know of. She was abducted two years ago by persons unknown. I believe that she may have undergone some secret government experiments involving alien DNA." "Alien as in...?" "Little green men from Mars or wherever the nearest home planet base may be. I work for a department of the FBI known as The X-Files. Scully and I investigate unsolved, unexplained cases involving the paranormal. We came across evidence that our government has had contact with alien beings but they're hell-bent on keeping that information strictly confidential. For the most part, no one wants me digging around in The X-Files because they're afraid I may uncover the truth and expose them. But, on the other hand, there seems to be a few rare individuals who secretly want me to find out things. They slip me crumbs that eventually lead to something bigger. Someone slipped me your file in hopes that I'd find you first." "I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying that your government knows about me and that--" "Uncle Sam wants you. My guess is for experimentation." "Is that why I was brought here? You're going to turn me over to them?" "No, that's not my plan. To tell you the truth, I never really had a plan other than finding you." "And now that you have?" "I guess it all depends on whether or not you can get a handle on your control again. I imagine that those sudden mood swings of yours aren't normal. When did they begin?" "I'm not sure exactly. Two months... maybe more. I can't control him. He's growing stronger every night. I thought that by staying up in the mountains, away from people, I could keep him from hurting anyone. I know it's hopeless now. I can't fight him anymore. There's only one solution left." "An operation." Mulder turned at the sound of his partner's voice. He stepped back from the bed as Scully entered the room, then watched with an inkling of envy as her eyes went straight to Nick. The vampire and his former hostage exchanged affectionate smiles before exchanging words. "Agent Scully, I'm glad to see you made it back safely." "I'm glad to see you made it back too. When I first woke up and found you on the couch, I thought surely you were dead." "I'm sorry about that. I didn't realize you'd wake before I would. And I can't believe that I could have possibly slept through all of this." "I'm actually glad you did. Has Mulder told you about the x- rays we had taken of your brain?" "No," Mulder answered her. "I only got as far as the helicopter ride." "You took x-rays?" Nick asked incredulously. "Yes," Scully replied as she stepped closer to the bedside. When she noticed the handcuffs, she shot a questioning look at her partner. He answered her silently by quickly running his fingers across his neck, drawing her attention to the blossoming bruises there. Nick picked up on the gesture as well. "I'm sorry about that," he apologized to Mulder. "That's only one of the reasons why it's not a good idea for me to be here." "We want to help you," said Scully. "I think it's quite possible that your unpredictable behavior as well as those headaches you get could be caused by the tumor we found." "I have a tumor? That's impossible." "There seems to be a lot of things about you that fall under the impossible heading. Do you realize that you're walking around with a skull full of lead?" Nick gave a minor nod. "Accident," he murmured. "Yeah, well, apparently you healed up on the outside, but on the inside, things went a little weird. A tumor the size of my fist has formed around the three bullets lodged in your brain. I won't pretend to understand how or why it's happened, but I do feel that it's definitely contributing to your problems and that it should be removed as soon as possible." Nick considered her words carefully, then glanced from her to Mulder, then back again. "Are you suggesting that I have brain surgery? Here in this hospital?" "Well, unless you can think of someplace better," Scully replied in a lighthearted tone. "Agent Scully, you do realize that I'm... that I'm--" "A little different?" "That's an understatement," Mulder mumbled at his partner's unwillingness to face the truth about Nick. Scully heard but chose to ignore her colleague. "Nick, I understand that your physical makeup is somewhat unusual, but I still believe that surgery would be in your best interest." "But not yours," said Nick. "Or Agent Mulder's, or anyone else involved. It wouldn't be just me and my dangerously, unpredictable behavior you'd have to worry about." "What are you saying?" asked Mulder with growing concern. Before he could answer, a sudden wave of pain exploded in Nick's brain. His body arched and his hands grabbed onto the rails, bending them significantly. Mulder pulled Scully several feet away from the bed, and they each watched helplessly and waited. Though it seemed to last an eternity, the episode was over in a matter of seconds, leaving Nick, shaky, slightly disoriented and golden-eyed. Scully started to go to him but Mulder held her back, wanting to wait and see which personality was now present. Nick's eyes searched the room in confusion before finally landing on Scully. He displayed the same look of anguish that he had worn back at the cabin when he had mistaken her for Natalie and pleaded with her not to make him go through with her plan. "Nat," he called to her weakly, "I can't... I can't do this anymore. I just can't go on this way." Scully pulled away from Mulder's grasp and went to Nick's side. When she got closer, she noticed tiny beads of blood sweat on his forehead. She pulled a handkerchief from her blazer pocket and blotted the crimson moisture away as she spoke in a tender voice. "It's okay, Nick. You're going to be okay." "It hurts," he whimpered. "I know. We're going to take care of you. We're going to make it so it doesn't hurt anymore." "I think he needs the rest of this," said Mulder as he uncorked and handed her the half empty wine bottle. Scully accepted the bottle with only a moments hesitation., then lifted Nick's head and supported it as he drank down the contents of the bottle. She didn't question his need for the blood, nor did she question the strange color of his eyes or sweat. For now, her brain deemed none of that was important. The bottle was drained briskly, then Scully lowered Nick's head gently onto the pillow. Standing now on the opposite side of the bed, Mulder took the empty bottle and stuffed it back into the bag. A few seconds later, he noted a marked difference in Nick's demeanor. Clear, blue eyes focused on Scully with complete recognition, shadowed by embarrassment. "Agent Scully." "It's getting worse, Nick. You really need that operation." Nick shook his head slightly. "I can't. I appreciate your trying to help, but I can't go into surgery. Just my being here is putting both your lives in jeopardy. I can't afford to have anyone else find out about me." "You were trying to warn us about something earlier," said Mulder. "You said something like it wouldn't be just you we'd have to worry about. Who else would we have to worry about?" "I can't say. You already know too much as it is." "Would it have anything to do with Lucien LaCroix?" Nick looked at Mulder in amazement. "How...." "I'm FBI, remember? Mr. LaCroix is a vampire too, isn't he? And he's looking for you. What happens if he finds you?" "Not if. *When*." The door opened just then and Dr. Winetraub entered carrying Nick's chart. "Ah, Dr. Scully, there you are. I talked to my colleague, but he doesn't--" The doctor stopped dead in his tracks when he noticed that Nick was wide awake. "He's... he's alive! I mean, he's awake! I can't believe it!" He moved closer to the bed, his mouth open in amazement. "Mr. Knight, I'm Dr. Winetraub. Let me shake your hand." He reached for Nick's right hand and saw that it was handcuffed to the bent railing. He looked to Mulder in wonderment. "He's under arrest for kidnapping." The doctor started to draw his hand away but Nick grabbed it and held tight. "Dr. Winetraub, listen to me," Nick spoke in a demanding tone. Once the doctor looked into his eyes, he was spellbound. "Listen very carefully," Nick continued. "You never saw me like this. I'm deader than a doornail. Whatever tests were run on me before were wrong. Computer error, a glitch in the machinery, human misinterpretation. There's no way possible I could be alive. Nothing more can be done for me. You'll turn over my chart to Agent Scully and you'll destroy all other paperwork and computer records concerning me. Understand?" Dr. Winetraub nodded. "Dead, destroy the records," he murmured. Nick let go of the man's hand, then laid back against the pillow, closed his eyes and played dead. Mulder quickly pulled the sheet up on both sides to hide the handcuffs. A second later, Dr. Winetraub snapped out of his dazed state and looked down at the chart in his hand. After a moment of uncertainty, he handed the chart over to Scully. "Why don't you take this, Dr. Scully. I'm afraid there's nothing more we can do here for Mr. Knight. The findings earlier were undoubtedly caused by human or mechanical error. This man is obviously deader than a doornail." "Is that the technical term for it?" Mulder asked while trying to keep a grin off his face. "Forgive me," Dr. Winetraub apologized. "It's been a long day. You'll have to excuse me now. I've got some paperwork to take care of." After the doctor left the room, Mulder broke out into a big grin and said. "You have *got* to teach me that!" Nick opened his eyes and looked up at the agent solemnly. "It's easy to do," he said. "You just have to die first." The simple comment was enough to wipe the smile from Mulder's face. There was so much he wanted to know about this creature, but at the same time, that haunted look in Nick's eyes told him he was better off not knowing. "What about the operation, Nick?" asked Scully. "You really do need it." Nick thought for a moment, then asked, "Could you be the one to perform the surgery?" "Me? No. I'm not that kind of a doctor. I do all my surgery on the dead." "That's what I am," said Nick with an ironic smile. "No, you're not dead," Scully disagreed with him, sounding eerily like Natalie with those words. Nick blinked his eyes to keep them from producing tears, then he looked to Mulder and asked, "What else do you have in that black bag of yours? You know you can't just let me walk out of here, don't you? Even with the surgery, there's no guarantee that my sanity will return. I can't control my actions anymore. Today, it's just cows. Tomorrow...." Mulder understood what was being asked of him. He had come prepared with a couple of long, sharp wooden stakes in case the need arose to defend himself against a raging killer. However, he never thought he'd be asked to assist in a planned suicide. "Why don't we just get you out of here first," Mulder suggested, "then we'll discuss the--" "Someone's coming," Nick warned, then instantly went into his dead man routine. Mulder quickly drew the sheet over Nick's head, then stood back just as the door opened and two men wearing orderly uniforms stepped into the room. Both men stood about six feet tall, one black and one white, appearing to be around the age of thirty and well built. "Excuse us, sir," said the bald, black man, "but we have to remove the body now. They need to get this room ready for another patient." "Well, we were just getting ready to head down to the basement," said Scully. "We can take the body to the morgue ourselves." "Hospital policy, ma'am," said the long-haired blond. "We have to do it. But you're free to tag along if you like." The agents stepped out of the way and allowed the orderlies access to the bed. They each took one side, unlocked the wheels, then began moving the bed out of the room. Scully held the door open for them, then followed them out to the elevator. Mulder was right behind them until he thought of something. "Hold the elevator for me," he said. "I'll be right back." He ran to Nick's room and looked inside the closet where he found a plastic bag on the shelf that contained Nick's clothes and shoes. He realized then that the nurse had followed his instructions after all and had left the cross taped to the shirt. When he returned to the elevator, he found only his partner present and no sign of Nick and the orderlies. "Scully, where'd they go?" "They went ahead," Scully replied casually. "There wasn't enough room for all of us." Mulder watched the numbers light up over the elevator door. "Where the hell are they taking him?" "What do you mean?" "The morgue is in the basement," Mulder pointed out. "So why is the elevator going up?" -------- end part 8 -------- Infatuation With a Vampire Part 9/11 Benefis Healthcare Hospital Great Falls, Montana 7:45 p.m. Scully spoke to the head nurse to establish first whether or not anyone had been instructed to remove Nick from the room. When the answer was, "No," she and Mulder began a frantic search which eventually lead them to the roof where the empty bed had been left shoved against the door to keep it closed. It took several powerful kicks against the metal door before Mulder was able to dislodge the bed and clear their path. He and Scully pulled out their guns and carefully swept across the roof in what turned out to be a fruitless pursuit. "They're gone," Scully stated the obvious. "But where?" As she looked over the side of the building, seeking a possible route of escape, her partner had pulled his night vision binoculars from his backpack and was searching the skies for answers. "You think they took him by helicopter?" "Well, it would make sense if it were government boys. They'd need a fast get away." After viewing the skies in all directions, Mulder gave up, then handed over the binoculars to Scully. "Here, check the streets. I want to take a closer look over there." As Scully scoured the streets below and the buildings nearby, Mulder concentrated on examining the turned over bed by the door. All the linen had been left behind which meant Nick was clothed in only the hospital gown. Mulder lifted the pillow from the ground and discovered the small cloves of garlic underneath. He also found remnants of broken handcuffs where each pair had been snapped off at the chain and the remainder was still attached to the bed rails. Mulder rejoined his partner at the west side of the building. "Spot anything yet?" he asked her. "There's an emergency fire escape over here. They could have gotten down that way. But I don't see anything obvious. There's plenty of pedestrians and traffic. Maybe someone down there saw something. We can ask around. Did you find anything?" "Only more questions. It looks as though Knight broke free of the handcuffs. I'm wondering if his captors were really prepared. Maybe he took them by surprise." "And did what?" "Apparently, you haven't been on the receiving end when his inner child takes over. Trust me, he knows how to play rough. He's also got that hypnosis thing going. Maybe he hypnotized them into just walking away. We could have missed them going down in the elevator while we were coming up." "So maybe Nick just went back to his cabin, you think?" "Maybe. Let's go see if we can't locate some witnesses." ---- Abandoned Barn Black Eagle, Montana 8:08 p.m. Nick remained completely passive while his wrists were being bound with a heavy chain. The other end of the chain was wrapped several times around one of the support rafters above. His arms were suspended over his head, but his bare feet were solidly planted on the straw covered floor. His strength had returned in full and he could have easily freed himself if he so desired. Back on the roof he had considered putting up a fight and escaping, but in the end decided against it. He could no longer control his actions. He was a menace to the mortal population and a security risk to his own kind. He sensed what fate had in store for him now and he would confront it without reservations. He had gone with his captors quietly, not bothering to question their motives or destination. Basically, he already knew what they had in store for him. It did surprise him however that the Community had sent such young and inexperienced Enforcers after him. Their combined ages could not have been more than three centuries. It occurred to him that it was perhaps their naivete that garnered them the assignment. They probably had little knowledge of how dangerous it was to pursue a child of LaCroix's. The master vampire would not let the simple fact that they were Enforcers stop him from seeking revenge should they harm one of his own. Nick almost felt sorry for them, but they had made their own decision to become Enforcers. It's not a job that's forced upon anyone. They wanted it because it gave them a certain dominance over other vampires. It made them feel important and that they were completely invulnerable. They should have done their homework. The Enforcers had expected their quarry to put up a struggle, but when he didn't, they foolishly mistook his passiveness for fear which in turn fed their egos. They made smug comments about him not being as tough as they'd heard, but said little else until they had him trussed up in the dilapidated barn miles from humanity. Leaving him hanging like a side of beef with his backside exposed, the two took their sweet time changing out of their hospital garb into their own Ravenesque style clothing. After dressing, they finally spoke to Nick. "You know who we are?" asked the blonde. Nick looked from the heavily tattooed torso of the blonde clad in leather pants and vest, to the hairless, black man wearing a fishnet T-shirt with nipple rings, and dryly responded, "My worse nightmare?" "That all depends," said the black man. "I'm Matt. That's my buddy Chad. And you're the once great Nicholas de Brabant. Brave knight of the Crusades. Cold-blooded killer of thousands upon thousands. A master with the ladies. Look at you now," Matt huffed with an air of superiority. "A cow sucking, pushover who let mortals get the best of you. Is that what happens when you get old?" Nick had not bothered to make eye contact all the while Matt had been speaking. What the youngster said was all true and there was no need to acknowledge any of it one way or the other. Being reminded that he was indeed older, however, gave Nick a sense of self respect he had thought completely lost. He didn't mind paying for his sins to the Community, but he'd be damn if he'd let these punk ass kids treat him like a feeble-minded, old man. Had no one taught them that advanced age in vampires translated into elevated power? "No. *This* is what happens when you get old." Nick raised his eyes to Matt in a subtly menacing glimmer of gold and projected his eight hundred years of acquired power upon the youthful vampire's psyche. Matt shuddered at the overwhelming and dominating presence he felt emanating from Nick. He knew in an instant that he was no match for the elder vampire should he decide to break free. He took a few steps backwards, then glanced over to his buddy and saw that he too had picked up on the new vibes Nick was putting out. Matt's previously condescending demeanor changed immediately to one of respect. "No offense, man," Matt mumbled sheepishly as way of an apology. After a moment, he felt the air around him lighten as Nick withdrew, becoming submissive once again. "I guess we can do this without the chains," said Matt as he started forward with intentions of releasing his captive. "Leave them!" Chad spoke up. After the brief show of power he had just witnessed, he feared what would happen should Nick gain his freedom. They had been warned to take such precautions by the ones who had sent them on this mission, though at the time it didn't seem necessary. Nick's reputation in the vampire community had become laughable among many. He was considered a weakling and a fool for drinking cow's blood and abstaining from killing. That calm, flash of fury he had just displayed successfully contradicted those earlier impressions. When the prisoner didn't bother to protest the wearing of his chains, Matt decided to leave them and get on with the interrogation. "There have been some interesting rumors floating around about you," he began with a touch of nervousness to his voice, "and we've been requested to check them out. To determine what's true and what isn't. Are you willing to answer some questions?" Nick nodded humbly, keeping his eyes cast downward. "What is it you want to know?" "Did you kill Natalie Lambert?" asked Matt. "Yes," Nick answered candidly. "Were you the one who dug her body up a couple of weeks back?" "Yes." "Why'd you do it?" "I needed to see her again. To make sure." "To make sure of what? That she was really dead?" "Yes. I had forgotten that I'd killed her. And once I remembered, I needed confirmation." "And after you unearthed the body, what did you do?" "I stayed with her for a little while... held her in my arms, kissed her." "You don't think that's just a wee bit perverse, humping a corpse?" asked Chad with a disgusted frown. After the death stare he received from Nick, he wished immediately that he had never opened his mouth. Luckily, the elder vampire was forgiving. Nick cast his eyes to the floor and softly replied, "What was perverse was turning her into a corpse in the first place." "Did anyone see you or did you see anyone else while in Toronto?" Matt continued the questioning. "Only the ghosts." Matt and Chad exchanged a dubious look. It was already obvious to them that Nick wasn't playing with a full deck. There were still more questions to be answered, so Matt continued. "Are you responsible for the string of mutilated cows in this area?" "Yes." "Care to explain?" Nick gave a slight shrug and said, "I felt like killing something. I just didn't want it to be human." "Why not go for wild game then?" asked Chad. "Chase down some elk or wrestle a grizzly bear. Where's the sport in sipping from a sleeping cow?" "I was feeling lazy. They were easy targets. Next question." "Tell us about the FBI agents," said Matt. "Is it true you kidnapped the woman?" "A sudden impulse," Nick murmured. "The local ranchers called them out here to investigate the dead cows. I saw the woman. I was attracted to her. I took her back to my cabin but nothing much happened. We just talked. When I fell asleep, she thought I was dead. A search helicopter found us and transported me out in a body bag." "Do they know you're a vampire? Did you tell them?" Nick thought about his answer carefully. Apparently, the Enforcers had not overheard any of the conversations he'd had with the agents. As far as they knew, he had played dead during his entire time under mortal scrutiny. "I played possum," Nick lied, "and just waited for a chance to get out of there." "Why were you smelling like garlic?" asked Chad suspiciously. When he didn't receive an instant response, he drew his own conclusions. "They know. That's how they kept you contained, isn't it? They know what you are." "They know," Nick admitted regretfully. "But I didn't have to tell them. They're FBI agents. They know how to put clues together. Agent Mulder is a believer. He suspected what I was even before we met and came prepared. They wanted to find me so they could help me." "How were they going to help?" "It doesn't matter. They can't. No one can." Tiring of the third degree, Nick decided to put an end to the inquiry. "Look, can we just cut to the chase now?" he spoke in a more forceful tone. "I freely admit to breaking several major rules of The Code and endangering the vampire community with my reckless conduct. I also admit to being mentally unsound. And, yes, I understand the ramifications of what I've just confessed to you. I know what the consequences are. The incident back at the hospital is pretty much contained. You'll need to double-check to make sure that Dr. Winetraub carried out my orders to destroy all hospital records of me. Your only other concern will be the FBI agents. I strongly advise that you not harm them in any way. Others know that they came in search of me. If anything happens to them, the FBI will issue a full-scale investigation, and you know what that could lead to. It would be best to have them believe that I am, of course, not a vampire, that I am truly dead and that my body has been claimed by relatives. I'm assuming you both know how to hypnotize?" Nick's commanding voice had held the pair of younger vampires virtually mesmerized. When he finally finished speaking, it took a moment for the Enforcers to gather their wits and respond. "Yeah," Matt nodded. "Yeah, we can do that. No problem." "Good. Then I guess that's it. You just need to finish up here." Matt looked to Chad and gave a simple nod of his head. The blonde walked off a few paces out of Nick's view and came back carrying a foot- long wooden stake in one hand and a razor sharp scythe in the other. He gave the stake to Matt, then stood close by with the scythe in hand. "Nicholas de Brabant, our investigation shows you to be in gross violation of The Code on several accounts. We also find you to be mentally unstable and therefore a serious threat to the secrecy of the vampire community. Do you have anything you wish to say in your defense?" Nick shook his head slightly and quietly spoke the word, "No." "Are you prepared to accept your sentence at this time?" "Yes." "Nicholas de Brabant, as representative for the vampire community, it is my duty to sentence you to true death. You are to be staked through the heart, your head severed from your body, your remains set afire, and your ashes scattered to the four corners of the earth. Do you have any final words to say or a message you want passed along to anyone?" Nick didn't want to spend much time thinking about the ones he would be leaving behind. There was Janette, the everlasting love of his life, and of course, there was LaCroix, the unrelenting thorn in his side. "Tell Janette... tell her that I shall love her forever." "Anything else?" Nick briefly considered what message he should leave for his master. However, their love-hate relationship left him at a loss for words. "No, nothing else," he murmured. "I'm ready." "So be it." Matt grabbed the front of Nick's hospital gown and ripped it open to expose his chest. Nick closed his eyes, threw his head back and puffed his chest out to create a better target. Matt raised the stake with both hands, preparing to put it to use. Just as he was about to plunge the sharp point into the pale, unguarded flesh, he was startled by a fierce animalistic roar. "No-o-o-o-o!" A blur of flying feet slammed into Matt, catapulting him through the air, and sending him crashing through the rickety barn doors at the other end. His attention focused on his pal, Chad was slow to react to the danger he himself now faced. Nicholas freed himself quickly by giving a tremendous yank on the chain and dislodging the beam it had been attached to. He swung the heavy chain to easily deflect the scythe which Chad swung at him, actually knocking it from his grasp. Catching the younger vampire off balance, Nicholas was able to wrap the chain around his neck and hold him captive. He forced him to his knees as he knelt down to reach the fallen scythe, then grabbed it and placed the blade beneath the blonde's chin. "Eight hundred years ago, I made a pact with the devil to live forever," Nicholas growled in Chad's ear, "and that's just what I'm going to do. It'll take more than some century old, candy ass like you to destroy me!" "Let him go, Nicholas!" a familiar voice commanded him. "LaCroix!" Nicholas smiled at his master, standing majestically in the doorway with Matt cringing behind him. "I sensed you were near. Knight was going to let them kill me. But when I felt your presence, it gave me the strength to break out. You won't believe what's been going on, LaCroix." "Let go of him, then you can tell me." Not really wanting to let go without a taste of revenge, Nicholas reluctantly obeyed his master and allowed the other vampire to go free. On his way to join his friend, Chad paused in front of LaCroix. "We were only doing our job," he explained. "He confessed to breaking The Code. He agreed to the sentencing." "Is that true, Nicholas? Did you confess?" "No! It wasn't me. It was Knight. He's a mess, LaCroix. He wants to die. I need to take over completely, and I think I know how. But I need your help." LaCroix stepped closer to his barely clad offspring. "If you need my help, Nicholas, you shall have it." "I need to kill a mortal!" Nicholas spoke excitedly. "I've come close a couple of times, but I always get interrupted. You could help me. If I could just make a kill, I think that will drive Knight back into his little rabbit hole for good. He can't handle killing mortals. So, the more fresh human blood I take, the weaker he'll become. And once I'm in full control, then I'll behave as a vampire should. No more cow's blood, no more trying to live among the humans. I'll be as you want me to be, LaCroix. I swear it!" "Listen to him," said Chad. "He's completely insane. The Code says--" "I don't need *you* to inform me of what The Code *says*," LaCroix snarled over his shoulder. Chad immediately backed off. The power he felt emanating from LaCroix was ten times the potency of his offspring. It finally became clear to both the young vampires why they had been chosen for this particular mission. Everyone else must have known LaCroix personally and obviously knew better than to come between him and his favorite child. "We may have been a little hasty in our first assessment," offered Matt to smooth things over. "Maybe we haven't gotten all the facts yet." "Your patience in this matter is greatly appreciated," said LaCroix before turning his attention back to his protege. "Of course, I'll do whatever I can to assist you, Nicholas." "I knew I could count on you," Nicholas sighed with relief. "You need only trust me," said LaCroix as he removed his jacket. He stepped closer to his Nicholas and draped the jacket around his shoulders to cover his nearly nude form. The torn hospital gown was just barely hanging on. "You do trust me, don't you, Nicholas?" asked LaCroix as his hands rested casually upon Nicholas' shoulders. "Of course, I trust you, LaCroix," came the innocent reply. "Good, because I only have your best interests in mind." Nicholas flinched slightly at the tiny sting he felt on his neck. He caught sight of the hypodermic needle he'd just been stabbed with as LaCroix withdrew the hand which had been secretly holding it. He started to question the action, but as the barn began to spin around him, he realized that he had just been drugged. Strong arms kept him from falling, then scooped him up and began carrying him out of the barn. "Why?" Nicholas managed to croak out just before losing consciousness. "Trust me, Nicholas. Father knows best." -------- Mulder's Motel Room Black Eagle 9:50 p.m. "I don't think I'm going to be able to sleep tonight," Scully sighed as she plopped down on a cushioned chair in the corner of the room. Her partner lay sideways across the bed, his hands folded atop his chest and his eyes closed in thought. "You don't look like you're going to have any trouble though." "I'm just thinking," said Mulder. "About how we can track a flying vampire in the middle of the night?" Mulder opened his eyes and tilted his head to glare at his partner. "Did I hear you refer to him as a vampire, Agent Scully? Are you finally beginning to believe?" "I was only asking if that's what *you* were thinking, I didn't say it was what *I* was thinking." "Actually, what I was thinking, besides that, is that I may have been wrong when I said that Knight had whammied those two men into leaving him alone." "What makes you say that?" "You know how when you first showed up in Knight's hospital room, he nor I ever noticed you were there until you spoke. And when Dr. Winetraub came in, we were all taken by surprise." "So?" Mulder sat up and leaned forward. "So how is it Knight knew beforehand that someone was coming when the orderlies showed up?" "He heard them coming?" "I think he sensed them coming." "Sensed them?" "I think he can sense when his own kind is near." "His own kind? Are you saying that the orderlies were vampires?" "Knight alluded to someone coming after him. I assumed that he meant Lucien LaCroix. Maybe Mr. LaCroix sent them. Maybe they were rescuing Knight from public discovery." "So you're saying that's the end of it then? He's being taken care of by his own kind?" "Yeah. But taken care of how, I don't know. Could be they were only interested in making sure he wouldn't be drawing anymore unwanted attention to himself and possibly to them." "You don't suppose they'd do anything to harm him, do you?" "I don't know, Scully. It's all just conjecture. Talking to witnesses, we know there was no helicopter on the roof and no one saw those two men leaving the hospital by conventional means. All we can do now is wait till dawn and take a helicopter back out to his cabin. If we don't find a sign of him there, I don't know where else to look." "Does that mean we're just going to give up?" Scully asked, looking somewhat forlorn at the prospect. The appearance of headlights from a vehicle pulling up outside caused Mulder to delay answering his partner. He went to the window and peeked out through the curtains to see who had just arrived. "The pizza's here," he announced, then turned from the window and began checking his wallet for money. "Mmm, I seem to be a little short of cash. All I have is six dollars. What about you?" Scully checked her handbag as a knock sounded at the door. "Pizza delivery!" a young, male's voice called out from the other side. "Yeah, just a second," Mulder answered as Scully gave him a ten dollar bill. Noticing the downcast look still on her face, Mulder gave her hand a tender squeeze and said, "Who said anything about giving up?" That got a tiny smile from her. Mulder went to the door and flung it open. Instead of the slightly built teenager he'd seen getting out of a pickup truck, Mulder faced someone else standing in the doorway holding a pizza box. The kid in the truck was already tearing out of the parking lot. "I believe this is yours," the tall, impressive figure stated amiably. "I took the liberty of paying the bill and adding what I hope was an adequate tip." Mulder stood dumbfounded, a multitude of thoughts racing through his mind, including the fact that he would never make it to the wreath of garlic in his backpack in time should the person standing before him turn out to be what his sixth sense told him he was. The agent took a deep breath and managed to reel in his fears. "That was very kind of you," said Mulder as he accepted the pizza box. "Tell me how much and I can reimburse you for your trouble." "Oh, no trouble at all, Agent Mulder. My pleasure." "How do you know my name?" "Your reputation precedes you. I wonder if I might not come inside? I have something very important to discuss with you." Mulder took a quick, worried glance at his partner before stepping back to allow the visitor to enter. After closing the door and setting the pizza aside, Mulder introduced Scully. "This is my partner--" "Agent Dana Scully. Yes, I know. It's a pleasure to meet you, my dear. I am Lucien LaCroix." "Mr. LaCroix," Scully nodded a greeting, keeping her distance, and her finger on the trigger of the gun she wore holstered in the small of her back. "What did you want to discuss, Mr. LaCroix?" asked Mulder, casually making his way towards his backpack on the floor near the bed. "It seems that we have a mutual friend in common," said LaCroix. "And who would that be?" "Nicholas Fletcher. Or perhaps you know him as Nicholas Knight." "What's he to you?" asked Scully. "We're family. He's my... adopted son." "You don't look all that much older than Nick," Scully noted. "I take that as a compliment," LaCroix smiled. "But I assure you, I am *much* older than I appear." "Are you a vampire?" the words blurted from Mulder's lips. LaCroix grinned amusedly. "I see that my reputation has preceded me as well. Good. That means we won't waste time with pretense. Yes, Agent Mulder, I am a vampire. Under normal circumstances, after divulging such information, I'd be obligated to kill you both. However, I happen to be in need of your help with a very delicate matter." "If you're looking for Knight," said Mulder, "We don't know where he is." "That's not what I need. I already know where Nicholas is." "Where?" asked Scully anxiously. "Is he all right?" "At present, yes. He's being watched by the two young men who retrieved him from your custody." "Oh, so you sent them?" "No. I'm afraid they have their own agendas." "Are they vampires as well?" Mulder asked. "Yes," LaCroix replied candidly. "The gentlemen -- and I use that term loosely -- who took Nicholas are what's known in my little circle as Enforcers. They police my kind. If one of us should become too high profile, the Enforcers do what's necessary to bring about anonymity. Certain things are tolerated to a degree, certain things aren't. Mental illness among my kind is not tolerated. It leads to unpredictable and irresponsible behavior which may draw unwanted attention from the public at large." "Are you saying that the Enforcers abducted Knight with intentions of killing him?" asked Mulder. "Neutralize is the word they prefer. I have convinced them to give Nicholas one more chance to redeem himself. Not an easy task in itself. Nicholas has not always made the best choices even when he *was* in his right mind. Many of his improprieties have luckily gone unnoticed or have been thankfully overlooked. After all, everyone's entitled to a few minor errors in judgment." "What can we do to help him?" asked Scully, finally relinquishing the grip on her gun. "I take it, you've had time to examine Nicholas medically?" Scully picked up Nick's medical chart from the dresser and pulled out one of the x-rays and presented it to LaCroix. As he held the x-ray up to the light to study it, Scully asked him if he knew how the bullets had gotten there. "I put them there," LaCroix replied with nonchalance. "Well, at least these three," he corrected himself. "May I ask why?" "Call it... tough love." He gave her back the x-ray and asked, "What is your medical opinion concerning this?" "If you're asking if I think the tumor and the bullets should be removed, I'd have to say, yes, most definitely. I'm sure they are the cause of the headaches he's been having. But whether or not they're responsible for his mental status, I can't say for sure. As I understand it, he's suffered a number of personal losses which could easily result in depression and mental confusion. Still, removal of the tumor would be the first step to restoring his health, both physical and mental." "Mmm, my thoughts as well," said LaCroix. "Unfortunately, circumstances prohibit traditional hospital surgery." "That's what Nick said. Do you have another idea?" "I understand that you are a medical doctor." Scully raised her brows in disbelief once she got the gist of his implication. "You can't be serious! I am *not* a brain surgeon. I can not perform brain surgery on a walking, talking individual." "How unfortunate," said LaCroix, appearing genuinely distressed by the news. "Because you see, you happen to be Nicholas' only hope for survival. If there is the slightest chance that his sanity will return with the removal of the tumor, we must take it. And it must be done tonight. I am not being giving much time to *fix* things." Scully shook her head with uncertainty. "I don't.... Even if I were to agree to operate on him, I don't have a place to perform it or the necessary instruments, anesthetics, monitoring equipment--" "I have made previous arrangements," said LaCroix. "I made inquiries and have already collected the medical items needed for such an operation. I feel that you are qualified to perform the surgery and I ask that you consider doing so. I am a man of great wealth and will, of course, reimburse you handsomely for your time and trouble." "If I do it," said Scully, "I'll do it for Nick, not for money." "Very noble, Agent Scully," LaCroix smiled lightly. "Although I hate to rush you into making a decision of this magnitude, time *is* of the essence. What is your answer?" -------- end part 9 -------- Infatuation With a Vampire Part 10/11 It didn't take Scully long to make up her mind. Nick would be sentenced to death for sure if she didn't perform the surgery. If she operated on him and screwed it up, she could cause irreversible brain damage leaving him an immortal vegetable. Not really much of a choice, but as LaCroix had indicated, it was the only chance Nick had for survival. This time, Scully was the one ready to dash off with a perfect stranger to some undisclosed destination. She and Mulder quickly changed out of their business suits into more comfortable jeans and sweaters. They climbed into the back of their rented car as LaCroix took to the driver's seat. Thinking that garlic breath just might come in handy, Mulder topped the pizza off with fresh garlic and brought it along so that they could eat it on the way. Despite her nervousness and apprehension over the impending medical procedure, Scully managed to consume one slice while her partner engulfed three. Following a twenty minute drive out of town, LaCroix turned off the main road onto the open plain for several miles further. Mulder was beginning to become a bit concerned, being driven out into the middle of nowhere by the vampire. Even though he still carried his gun and had brought along his bag of vampire deterrents, the agents would be no match for LaCroix and the other bloodsuckers they were going to meet should they decide on a midnight snack. Eventually, the car came to a stop alongside a motor home with a large canopy stretching out five feet from its side over the door. Dim light could be seen through the heavily tinted windows. LaCroix got out of the car and quickly went to open the door for his female passenger. "Nice set of wheels," said Mulder as he climbed out on the opposite side. "Sleeps up to seven comfortably, I'm told," replied LaCroix. As they entered the motor home, Mulder and Scully were astonished by how much the majority of the recreational vehicle resembled a high-tech operating room. Some of the beds had been removed to make way for medical equipment. Against the wall, was a tall cabinet housing a large monitor on the top shelf. A keyboard, desktop computer and a second smaller monitor were stationed below. Cables could be seen leading from it to a laser surgery setup to the right. Atop a metal table on wheels, lay various surgical instruments, including a cranial saw, drill and lighted probe. In the middle of the room, a dentist chair had been raised to its highest level and stretched out to a horizontal position. Dressed in black silk pajamas, Nick lay unconscious and secured to the chair by padded chains around his ankles, waist, wrists and chest. His right hand had been prepped for an IV, ready to receive additional drugs or blood intravenously when the time came. "I hope I acquired everything you'll need," said LaCroix. "I did some surfing on the net and came across a few examples of brain surgeries. So many different ways for medical science to get inside ones' head these days, it was rather daunting trying to choose the most appropriate method. I saved several pages of text from a few sites I felt might be the most useful, should you feel the need to bone up a bit first." Scully felt her heart pound a bit faster at the sight of Nick and the items she was expected to use on him. She looked to LaCroix and nodded. "That might not be a bad idea," she said, then followed his lead to an adjustable stool in front of the computer. "What did you give him to make him sleep?" she asked while waiting for the computer to boot up. "This." LaCroix pulled a bottle out of his pocket and handed it to her. Scully's brows went up as she silently read the label. "This is an animal tranquilizer." "Yes. Designed for larger animals, bears and such." Scully gave the bottle back to him and he placed it on the table with the surgical tools. "Unfortunately," he added, "I didn't have much time to test the proper dosage. Hopefully, I gave him enough to keep him sedated for the remainder of the night." "Yeah, hopefully," Scully grimaced. While Scully was familiarizing herself with the notes saved from files of experienced brain surgeons, Mulder wandered towards the rear of the camper where Chad and Matt were sitting on a bed side by side watching TV. They gave him a disinterested glance as he nodded a greeting to them, then turned their attention back to the show they were watching with the sound barely audible. Mulder wondered what kind of shows would interest your average vampire, so he moved close enough to get a view of the screen and saw scantily clad women sunning themselves on the beach. Baywatch, he thought. He couldn't tell which they admired most about the show; the beautiful women or the occasional shots of the sun over the horizon. Since it didn't appear that they were interested in socializing, Mulder backed off and returned to the operating room. It took fifteen minutes of studying the computer files for Scully to feel ready to begin the operation. She took a few moments more to acquaint herself with the instruments LaCroix had provided. The lighted probe and large monitor would let her see a magnified view of the insides of Nick's brain. The laser wand would allow her to easily dissolve the tumor, and the cranial brace would keep the patient immobile should the unthinkable happens and he awakens during the procedure. The electroencephalograph, as before, would alert her to any pain her patient might be experiencing, a threat which was more than probable. Scully had reason to worry about the anesthetic they planned to use. Since Nick wasn't breathing, a general gas anesthetic couldn't be given. They'd have to go with an intravenous type, but because of Nick's physiology, there was no way of knowing how much to give him for complete effectiveness. She decided to administer twice the amount for a normal individual of his size, then tested it by hooking him up to the encephalograph and pinching him with clamps in several locations. Not getting the results she was looking for, she injected another dose and gave it a few minutes to work. This time when she pinched with the clamps, the line on the graph remained straight and steady. "Okay, I guess we're ready to start." "Although there should be no need to worry about infection or germs," said LaCroix as he held open a box containing protective surgical wear, "things *may* get a bit messy." "Thank you." Scully pulled out a surgical gown, cap and gloves then shoved them into her partner's hands. "You want to play doctor, Mulder?" she asked while pulling out a second set of surgical garb for herself. "One of my all time secret fantasies," said Mulder. "I know what *my* idea of playing doctor is," he added while slipping into his new outfit. "What's yours?" "Well for starters, you'll be mopping the buckets of sweat from my forehead." "So far, it sounds good. Only in my version, I'm usually the one bound, and the other people hanging around are all women." "Speaking of bondage.... Are these chains really necessary?" Scully asked LaCroix. "Merely a precaution. Better safe than sorry. So you've decided on a course?" Scully answered him as she donned the surgical wear including goggles and a mask. "Well, I thought at first that I might have to shave his head and do some major carving from the top, but I think we can get by using one of the less invasive techniques I just read about. I'm going to snake the probe up through the nasal cavity and see if I can get a good look at the tumor. The x-rays don't really show me enough. Once I get a fix on the exact location, I'll make an incision just above the nose, and drill an opening through the skull. "Lovely," Mulder grimaced at the vivid picture she had just drawn. After fitting Nick with the stabilizer to keep his head from moving during the procedure, Scully was ready to begin. She carefully inched the spaghetti-thin probe through the patient's right nostril, and watched the monitor as it passed through the nasal cavity. Watching the images on the screen, Mulder couldn't make out heads or tails of where the lighted probe was headed, but still found it fascinating to watch, as did the Enforcers who had left Baywatch behind to witness the proceedings. They each stood near the foot of the chair, out of the way, their eyes glued to the picture on the monitor. Following a few moments of delicate probing, Scully finally came to what she'd been seeking. Resembling a deep red, rubber ball, the tumor was just barely visible, but at least now she had a better feel for its location than the x-rays had given her. Prepared to make an incision between Nick's eyes, Scully placed the scalpel to his brow, but her hand began to tremble so badly that she couldn't continue. She looked up at LaCroix who was positioned directly across from her. "There's no cause to be nervous, my dear," he told her in a soothing voice. "You *can* do this." "I can do this," Scully told herself softly, then proceeded to make the incision with a steady hand. She found Nick's skin to be thicker than normal and had to apply a bit more pressure to break the surface. His blood flowed freely and Scully was about to have Mulder sponge it up when the fluid was unexpectedly sucked back into the opening on its own. Scully was startled by the occurrence but managed to brace herself and continue, realizing that she needed to speed up her actions before the incision attempted to close itself. She used a small spreader to keep it open, then asked Mulder to pass her the drill, already fitted with a circular cutter. Nick's skull proved to be thicker than normal as well, which was probably the main reason the bullets -- even the cop killer -- had not passed straight through. An inch wide hole was carefully bored through, creating a removable plug of bone and a straight path to the tumor. The probe was used to lead the way once again. Holding the probe steady in one hand, Scully was able to follow its path with the forceps. Everyone's eyes were on the monitor screen as the probe displayed the forceps making contact with the tumor. "So that big red thing is what needs to come out?" asked Chad in amazement. "That's it," Scully answered as she prodded the tumor with the forceps to judge its mass. It wasn't a solid ball of connective tissue as would be expected, but rather a thick- skinned, blood-filled sac. At least that should make it easier to remove, Scully thought. She withdrew the forceps and moved the scalpel in to break through the sac. The membrane was much tougher than it looked and it took an extra amount of force to penetrate it. A geyser of blood shot into the air abruptly as the sac burst open. "Damn it!" Scully exclaimed as she jerked away, her face covered by the red spray. "Are you all right?" LaCroix asked with concern. "Yeah. I'm fine. I just wasn't expecting that." "Good thing you wore these," said Mulder as he removed her goggles and proceeded to wipe the blood from her cheeks and the sweat from her forehead. "Any more surprises I should be aware of," Scully asked LaCroix who had busied himself with cleaning the blood-splattered patient. "I'm afraid this is all new to me as well." After Mulder finished cleaning and replacing her goggles, Scully continued the operation by suctioning out the remaining blood left in the sac. Using the forceps again, the first bullet was captured and eased out with no trouble. Scully blew out a sigh of relief, and feeling more confident in her skills, went after the second bullet. As she dug it out, she heard LaCroix utter a disturbing remark. "He's in pain," the elder vampire announced, looking as though he was experiencing some form of discomfort himself. Scully glanced up at him, then took a look at the encephalogram readings which had gone from a simple line to a helter-skelter of dips and peaks. "Scully, I think he's waking up!" Mulder exclaimed when he noticed Nick's eyelids fluttering. He no sooner got that statement out when Nick suddenly let out a blood- curdling howl of pain and began struggling against his restraints. "Mr. LaCroix, the anesthetic! Quickly!" As LaCroix grabbed the hypodermic needle he had prepared earlier, Scully did her best to try to calm Nick down. She placed her hands on each side of his face and used her voice with gentle words of assurance to try to soothe him. "It's okay, Nick. It's okay. We're going to give you something for the pain right now. Just hold on a minute, okay?" Her words meant nothing to him. His brain was ablaze with an intense agony he'd never known before. With eyes golden and fangs bared, Nick attempted to jerk his head back and forth trying to escape from the device that held his skull trapped in one position, and the immense pain that consumed him beyond any rational thought. Just as LaCroix administered the anesthetic, Nick bit down on the latex covered hand that had accidentally found its way to his open mouth. Scully screamed out as one sharp fang pierced deeply into the fleshy area below her thumb. LaCroix was quick to rescue her as he forced Nick's mouth open and pulled her hand away. Scully took a step back and snapped the glove off her injured hand. "Are you okay?" asked Mulder. "I'll live," Scully hissed at the pain, then picked up a ball of cotton and pressed it to the wound. "How's Nick?" she asked. A quick glance at the graph revealed the chaotic movements of the needle were slowly starting to level out. "The pain is easing," said LaCroix. "Perhaps I should give him more of the tranquilizer as well." "Yes, I think that's a good idea." As LaCroix concentrated on Nick, Mulder noticed that both Chad's and Matt's attention was focused on Scully, her injured hand and the deep, crimson that oozed from it when she removed the bloodied cotton ball. When he saw their eyes change color, Mulder grabbed the cross he had stored in his back pocket hidden beneath his sweater, and held it up to the Enforcers as he pulled Scully protectively behind him. The two vampires each snarled menacingly while cringing away from the religious symbol. "Get out!" LaCroix yelled at the two trouble makers. "Both of you, now!" He backed up his command with a fierce growl and a flash of gold. That, and Mulder waving the cross in their faces was enough to send them flying out the door in a blur. Once the door had slammed shut, Mulder turned to LaCroix, still holding the cross up protectively. The master vampire averted his eyes away from the cross. "I'd appreciate it if you'd put that away," he said in a non- threatening tone. Mulder lowered the cross slowly and slipped it into his back pocket again, then turned his attention to Scully. "How bad is it?" he asked in trying to get a good look at her injury. "It hurts like the devil," Scully replied. She pulled the cotton away to reveal a still bleeding puncture wound. "I'm not sure how I'm going to finish the operation now." "May I have a look?" LaCroix asked. "I may be able to help." "Help how?" asked Mulder suspiciously. LaCroix gently took hold of Scully's hand. "I won't hurt you," he assured her, then slowly brought her hand to his lips. Mulder had to force himself not to interfere as the vampire ran his tongue across his partner's hand. He noticed a slight hesitation before the vampire committed himself fully to the task. There was the slightest of frowns on his face though he didn't bother to comment on the taste of her blood be it good or bad. He simply continued to lick her wound until it healed. "Better?" he asked afterwards. Scully stared at her hand in amazement. The pain was gone and just the tiniest scar was visible. "That's remarkable!." "So you'll be able to continue?" "Yes. Thank you." "That's a neat little trick you have there," Mulder commented on LaCroix's ability to heal with his saliva. "Yes. I rarely get the opportunity to use it. This has been quite an evening." "But it ain't over yet," Scully reminded him. "Keep a close eye on that graph for me, Mulder. I don't want any more surprises like that last one." "Yes, ma'am." Scully went back to work, moving as quickly and as safely as possible. The third bullet came out readily, but the sac itself proved somewhat troublesome. It was fairly thick, almost like the peel of an orange, making it impossible to bring it through the opening in one piece. Scully had to trim it down into sections then use the laser to burn it away from where it had anchored itself in the very back. About an hour later, Scully removed the last of the foreign matter. She irrigated and suctioned out the cavity, noticing how the surrounding tissues were already beginning to reclaim their space. She plugged the hole in the skull with the section she had cut out earlier, then sutured the incision close. "That's it," she sighed wearily as she began to remove her operating attire. "Well, done," LaCroix complimented her effort. "Thank you, Agent Scully. I know it's been a difficult night for you. I do appreciate all you've done for him. I can take over from here on. The two of you may leave whenever you're ready." "You're kicking us out?" Scully questioned, feeling used and tossed to the side. "Just like that?" "There's little more you can do now. Nicholas will most likely sleep for several hours and when he awakens --" "I want to be here," said Scully adamantly. LaCroix was slightly taken aback by her tenacity. His eyes shifted to Mulder who merely shrugged and said, "I leave when she leaves." "Very well," LaCroix yielded to their decision and gestured towards the rear of the camper. "Do make yourselves at home. The beds are there, and you'll find refreshments in the kitchen. Help yourself." While Scully took advantage of the bathroom facilities, Mulder began to dismantle the operating area. He switched off the electrical equipment used and folded up the wires and cables. LaCroix concentrated on making Nick comfortable by removing the monitoring electrodes from his temples and the stabilizer from his head. "You really went through quite a lot for him. Getting all this equipment, arranging all this," said Mulder in an easygoing chitchat. "If only he would appreciate it. But that is the folly of parenthood; to hope that your children would appreciate all that you do for them." "Is he your only child?" "I have others." "But he's your favorite, isn't he?" When Mulder saw that an answer to that question wasn't forthcoming, he changed the subject. "What happens now? Those Enforcers will come back tonight and check him out?" "Yes. If there's no sign of Nicholas de Brabant or any other irrational behavior noted in the next forty-eight hours, the sentence imposed upon him earlier will be suspended and he'll face a ten-year probation." "And if there's no change?' "I'd rather not consider the alternative at this moment, if you don't mind." "Sorry." Mulder retreated and headed for the kitchen area just as Scully emerged from the bathroom, looking slightly more refreshed than when she entered. "Hi. How do you feel?" "Like I haven't had a full night's sleep in three days." "There's a bed. Why don't you lie down for awhile? I'll stay up and wake you if anything happens." Unable to fight her exhaustion, Scully kicked off her shoes and stretched out on the nearest bed. Mulder grabbed the blanket from a second bed and tossed it over. She was asleep before he even finished tucking it around her. He gently patted her hair and whispered, "Sweet dreams." After making a pit stop in the bathroom, Mulder decided to check out the contents of the mini-fridge. He was surprised to find it packed with canned sodas and a party platter of sliced meat, cheese and fruit. He popped off the protective, plastic covering on the platter and stole a piece of cheese. After tasting a small bite, he grabbed a cola and another slice of cheese before covering the tray and closing the fridge door. As he finished off the cheese and followed it with a swig from the soda can, Mulder became curious about what was in the cabinets. Poking about, he found that the shelves had been stocked with bags and boxes of chips, crackers, instant coffee and something that really caught his attention. He picked up the bag of sunflower seeds, noticing that it, like all the other products were the brands he normally bought. Certain things were beginning to fall into place. He took the bag of seeds and walked back over to LaCroix. "Ah, I see you found the snacks. I hope everything is to your liking." "It was you," said Mulder accusingly. "You're the one who slipped me Knight's file. You were in my apartment that night, weren't you?" LaCroix smiled lightly. "Simply because you live on the fourth floor, doesn't mean you should neglect window security." "Why me? How did you even know about me?" "As I said before, your reputation preceded you. A couple of years ago, you had dealings with three young vampires. Apparently, the leader of that merry band, killed his master shortly after being brought across, leaving himself unschooled in our ways and with no proper guidance. He went on to create friends for himself, though not without making a few mistakes before he finally got it right. Then, the three of them together made some unwise decisions in their pursuit for nourishment and enlightenment. The Enforcers -- overworked and understaffed -- were eventually dispatched to find them and set them straight. It appears that you got to them first." "They were wanted for murder," said Mulder, feeling as though he had to defend himself. "And they were trying to pull an innocent woman into their gang. I was trying to stop them. I didn't mean for them to perish like that." "No great loss, I'm sure," said LaCroix with an air of indifference. "Your involvement in their destruction was duly noted and you were thoroughly investigated. They wanted to make sure that you were not a hunter." "A hunter?" "Vampire hunter. Someone who makes it his life's work to hunt down and destroy vampires. In your case, it was decided that you were merely doing your duty as a representative of mortal law enforcement." "And you figured you'd use me to find Knight for you?" "No. I already knew where Nicholas was. You see, we have this sort of psychic connection that extends for quite a good distance." "Then if you knew where he was, why did you need me?" LaCroix didn't bother to answer the question. He knew that the agent was bright enough to figure it out for himself if given enough time. It only took a moment longer before he saw the dawn of realization in the young man's eyes. Mulder glanced over his shoulder at his sleeping partner, then looked back at LaCroix. "You needed me to get to her. You knew that Knight needed to have those bullets removed and you figured that Scully could do it. You had this planned all along. Did you plan on him kidnapping her too?" "I know that Nicholas has a weakness for beautiful women. I had no way of predicting his every move -- nor yours for that matter -- but I did realize that if given the opportunity, there was that possibility he might want to possess her. That was a risk I was prepared to take." "It was a risk *you* were prepared to take?" Mulder shook his head in disbelief. "But why Scully? You could have chosen any doctor in the world, at least one with more experience, an actual brain surgeon. What was so special about her?" In the time LaCroix contemplated giving a response, Mulder suddenly had another revelation. "Her blood," he realized. "Knight told me that Scully had a nosebleed up at the cabin and that he tasted her blood. Apparently, it was pretty unappetizing. When you healed Scully's wound earlier, I noticed how you hesitated before you licked the blood off her hand. At first I thought you hesitated to give her a chance to pull away if she wanted. But that wasn't the reason, was it? You already knew what her blood tasted like. And you knew that if at some point she *was* attacked by Knight, the bad taste of her blood would prevent him from draining her." "You are quite the perceptive one," said LaCroix, impressed by Mulder's accurate assumptions. "Yes. I was aware of Agent Scully's uniqueness." "How?" "Perhaps we should take this conversation outside," LaCroix suggested. "I wouldn't want to disturb the young lady's sleep." Mulder agreed with a nod. He set the bag of sunflower seeds aside, then followed the vampire out into the darkness. They only strolled as far as the other side of the car. LaCroix was the first to speak. "Agent Scully's blood is indeed unique, however she is not the only one of her kind. There are, and have been quite a few others, dating back at least a quarter of a century that I'm aware of. When the first such as she was detected, it was thought to be merely a one in a billion oddity. Later, when one of our distributor's blood supply became contaminated by a very distasteful donor, a thorough investigation lead to a rather disturbing discovery involving your government performing rather dubious experimentation on the unsuspecting public. We thought at first that they knew of our existence and was trying to devise a vaccine against us. Further observation, however, revealed something considerably more sinister afoot." "Have you seen them?" Mulder asked, feeling a twinge of excitement. "The aliens?" "Yes. I have seen them, and I've seen what they are capable of doing." "Have you tried to stop them?" "Myself and a few others have banded together to see what we could accomplish. Unfortunately, your government has immense manpower and resources, and are not encumbered by daylight travel." "Do you know what was done to Scully or where they took her?" "Exactly what was done, no. Alien blood was obviously introduced into her system. Beyond that, I have no knowledge. She was moved about the country by train in a special box car. I'm afraid that's all I know of the matter." Mulder was slightly disappointed by the lack of information even though it was more than he had known before. "There's a man," he continued the questioning, "tall, dark hair, around sixty, smokes constantly. Do you know him?" "I know *of* him. He seems to be a key player in all this. We keep a distant eye on him." "I've seen Knight use hypnosis on a doctor and I know he's used it on Scully. Would it be possible for you to use that on the Smoking Man if you got close enough to him?" "I'm afraid that not everyone is suggestible. Some are even trained to resist all forms of coercion techniques. But one comforting thought remains. He is, after all, only mortal. He won't live forever." "Will you?" asked Mulder curiously. "Death has so far eluded me for nearly two-thousand years," LaCroix proudly confessed. Mulder blew out a whistle to show that he was quite impressed. "You... uh... you look pretty good for your age," he remarked lamely. "So I've been told." "What about Knight? How old is he?" "I came across Nicholas about eight centuries ago. He was a knight during the Crusades." Mulder leaned against the rear fender of the car with folded arms and shook his head in astonishment. "I can't begin to imagine some of the things you must have witnessed in your lifetime. The things you're liable to see in the future." "Would you be interested in seeing the future, Agent Mulder?" "Seeing the future? How?" "By not dying. Would you care to live forever?" Mulder was temporarily stunned by the question. It was one he had not expected, and now that it had been asked, he was troubled by the answer he considered making. "I see I've surprised you," LaCroix grinned. "Yeah... yeah, you have," was all Mulder could think to say. "Immortality, of course, isn't for everyone. And I don't offer it to many." "Why offer it to me?" "Because I admire your intelligence, your determination, your capacity for loyalty... and I find you, so far, to be pleasant company. Eternity *can* get rather boring without compatible companionship." LaCroix moved in closer to Mulder and spoke enticingly in his ear. "Just think of it; your senses enhanced tenfold, complete immunity from disease, the ability to fly, *and* you'll never look another day older. You can outlive all your enemies and even use your new gifts to help squash their evil plans." It was tempting, Mulder thought. Very tempting. He could definitely use such attributes against his enemies. There seemed to be so many pluses, but he knew in his heart that there had to be some down sides to the offer. Suddenly aware of their closeness, Mulder moved away from the car and the vampire. "Those are the good points," he said after regaining his personal space. "You want to tell me some of the bad?" "For me, there are none," said LaCroix. "However, if your long term goals include fathering children the old-fashioned way, then you may run into a snag. You'll also find it problematic making traditional love to a mortal woman. No doubt it would be good for you, but I'm afraid that your mate would not be up for seconds. From what I've seen you stuff into your little, black bag, I believe you're aware of all the other drawbacks." "Would I... would I have to kill for blood?" "Blood is readily available in take-out form. However, in the early stages, the desire to kill can become overwhelming for some. But you *have* killed before, haven't you, Agent Mulder?" "In self-defense or to save lives of innocent people." "And did you feel guilt over those you have killed?" Mulder considered for a moment the deaths of Eugene Tooms and the sheriff of Dudley, Arkansas both of whom had attempted to make his partner their next meal. He shook his head grimly and answered, "No, not really." "And you have enemies you wish death upon, perhaps to even kill with your bare hands if it were feasible?" The images of Krycek and the Smoking Man came instantly to mind. Mulder nodded slightly and responded, "Yeah, I can think of at least a couple." LaCroix smiled devilishly. "I'm beginning to like you more and more, Agent Mulder. So the idea does appeal to you then?" "I don't know. It's... it's something I'd really have to think about. A lot." "Of course, I understand perfectly. Take whatever time you need. A day, a year... ten years even. That is, *if* you should live that long. In your dangerous line of work, we both know that anything can --" LaCroix suddenly looked towards the camper as though he heard a noise. "I should go back in now. Nicholas needs me." Mulder watched as the vampire hurried back inside, then turned his eyes heaven bound. He wondered if becoming a vampire might not be his actual fate. Everything happens for a reason. That's what he had been told as a child after his sister was abducted. If she hadn't been taken, he never would have joined the FBI in hopes of finding her. He never would have discovered the existence of alien life-forms on earth or that the American government he had pledged his honor to was secretly exploiting innocent lives to achieve some mysterious goal. Perhaps he was destined to help save the world. And perhaps he was destined to do it as a vampire. It was definitely something to think about. -------- end part 10 -------- Infatuation With a Vampire Part 11/11 When Mulder finally went back inside, he saw LaCroix hovering over Nick, gently cleaning away bloodsweat from his forehead. A near empty bag of blood hung from the IV stand, and the bottle containing the tranquilizer was now empty, a final dose having just been administered. Mulder moved to the rear of the camper to check on his partner and found her still peacefully slumbering. If Nick had called out in pain, it seemed as though she would have heard, but it could be that her mind and body were just too exhausted to respond. Mulder walked back towards the front and stood watching silently as LaCroix tenderly stroked the dark, blonde curls of his offspring. "Was he awake?' Mulder asked "Did you hear him call out when we were outside?" "No, he did not awaken. But I sensed his distress. I sense a bit of distress in you as well. Did our little discussion leave you filled with questions?" "A few. I don't suppose there's a vampire beginner's book available?" "No, I'm afraid not. Perhaps when this is all over, you and I can get together at a later date and go into the matter with greater detail." Mulder nodded absently. "Yeah. Maybe we could." "But there remains something else on your mind, Agent Mulder. What is it?" "I was just wondering if what's been done to Scully's blood, might not have been done to mine as well. There have been a couple of times I was held by the military or whomever and things were done to me that I can't remember." Without a word, LaCroix picked up a scalpel, then reached out for the agent's hand. Timidly, Mulder placed his palm in the vampire's, then hissed lightly as he felt the scalpel pierce the tip of his index finger. LaCroix put the scalpel away, then squeezed the cut finger to encourage a greater flow of blood. Mulder held his breath as the vampire licked the blood tentatively at first, then engulfed the whole tip of his finger. Afraid that he would find the same unpleasant taste that the woman carried, LaCroix was delighted to find that this mortal's blood had not been tainted. On the contrary, it was intoxicatingly sweet, making it exceedingly difficult to stop at just a taste. He lifted his gaze to the young man's face and saw a pair of eyes filled with fascination. It would be so easy to take him, to immediately create a new addition to his little family, but now wasn't the right time. He had Nicholas to think about. LaCroix licked Mulder's wound to heal it, then let go of his hand. "Your blood is perfectly normal," he told him simply. "Thank you," said Mulder as he backed away, only then realizing how foolish his actions were. He'd just allowed a vampire to drink his blood. He'd seen the glint of gold in LaCroix's eyes and knew that the vampire had been tempted to go further. But what Mulder found truly scary was the fact that he hadn't minded at all. ----- 9:15 a.m. Scully woke up a little disoriented. She sat up in the strange bed and looked about to get her bearings. She saw her partner in the bed across from her sleeping on his back with a wooden cross clutched loosely in his hand resting on his chest. Scully swung her stocking feet to the carpeted floor and rose from the bed to go check on her patient. She found that Nick was still asleep and chained to the chair. His adopted father was nearby, seated on the adjustable stool with his back and head resting against the wall, arms folded across his chest and eyes closed. Scully wasn't quite sure if he was asleep or not. She didn't want to wake him if he was, so she kept her movements slow and silent as she approached Nick. Checking the sutures on his forehead, she was surprised to find the incision she'd made just hours ago was practically healed. The sutures were no longer needed, so she found a pair of scissors and began to clip them away. With the first tiny snip of the scissors. LaCroix's eyes snapped open and he looked on with concern. "Is there something wrong?" he asked. Though his voice was soft, Scully was still startled by it. "No. I was just removing the stitches. He's nearly healed. I didn't mean to wake you." "I was merely resting my eyes." "I see you gave him the rest of the sedative." "He became restless at one point. I thought it best." "I'm sure it was. He definitely needs to rest." As Scully finished removing the stitches, she casually began a conversation on another topic that had been on her mind for a while. "Mr. LaCroix, did you know Dr. Natalie Lambert?" "Yes, I had the pleasure of making her acquaintance on a few occasions. Why do you ask?" "Back at the cabin, Nick told me that Dr. Lambert had come up with something for his sun allergy. I'm thinking now that he meant that she had found a way to make him a normal man again. Do you know anything about that?" "Dr. Lambert had the misguided notion, as does Nicholas, that he can become mortal again. She created the most vial concoctions and used him as a guinea pig, which I am positive severely compromised his natural ability to heal. I believe that the tumor you removed is a direct result of her meddling. He *is* what he is. There is no cure for it." Scully could tell by the barely controlled vehemence in the vampire's voice that she had touched upon a sensitive area. She wisely chose not to pursue it further. "Is it necessary to keep the chains on?" she asked, referring to Nick's restraints. "Until he awakens and we see what kind of mood he's in, I think it's safest. There's food in the kitchen, if you'd like breakfast." Scully nodded her acceptance of his hospitality. "Thank you." ------ 11:45 a.m. Mulder awoke from a troubled dream involving aliens and vampires. As if he didn't have enough stars in his nightmares already, he had to invite new characters. He opened his eyes to a semi-darkened room. The area was closed off from the front of the camper by a corrugated partition. The overhead lights were off, and the heavily tinted windows significantly reduced the amount of daylight entering. Mulder sat up in bed and looked across to where he had last seen his partner. He discovered that she had been replaced by a much taller and paler figure. LaCroix lay on the bed with eyes closed and hands folded across his chest. His son had been positioned close by. The dentist chair was still horizontal but had been lowered to its minimum height of two feet, and the arms had been removed to conserve space. The chains still remained around Nick's ankles and waist, but his wrists were bound together as his hands rested on his abdomen. Mulder got up quietly and carefully slid open the partition, making sure there was no danger of sunlight flooding the sleeping area. He was a little concerned about not finding his partner on the other side of the partition. He closed it, then glanced out the window where he viewed his better half seated in one of two folding chairs, beneath the awning, munching from a bag of chips and reading a paperback novel. Smiling to himself, Mulder opened the door and stepped outside. "Nice day," Mulder greeted her. "Enjoying yourself?" "As a matter of fact, yes. Did you sleep you well?" "Yeah, except for the weird dream I had about being chased by blood- sucking aliens." When Mulder attempted to help himself to Scully's bag of chips, she batted his hand away. "You don't eat the low-fat kind." "You mean the no-taste kind." "There's plenty of other stuff inside. And bring me another diet cola while you're at it." "Your wish is my command." Mulder made a trip back inside and came out with an armful of sodas, snacks and the party tray of meat and cheese. He could tell that Scully had already been at the tray because it wasn't as full as the last time he'd seen it. He gave Scully the drink she had requested, then settled down in the other available chair with the rest of the items he'd brought out. "For a man who supposedly doesn't eat food, Mr. LaCroix sure bought enough," Scully commented. "You think he did it just for us?" "Yeah, I think he did. I talked to him for awhile right after you went to bed, and he admitted that he had set this whole thing up from the very beginning. He was the one who slipped me the file on Knight. He knew that an operation was necessary and he picked you to do it." "Why me?" Mulder filled his mouth with food to keep from answering right away. He didn't want to tell her that she was walking around with slightly alien blood and that she was considered less than appetizing by the vampire community. Luckily, he didn't have to answer because his partner came up with her own. "Mr. LaCroix said that your reputation preceded you. And if he already knew about you, then he also knew your partner was a doctor who did her slicing and dicing on the dead. Since they consider themselves to be dead in a sense, Mr. LaCroix figured I'd do just fine." "And you did," Mulder agreed. "Under the circumstances, you did a damn fine job, Scully." Scully took a sip of her soda, then said, "You know, it's still hard for me to believe any of this. My eyes see things that couldn't possibly be real, and yet.... Of course, if I really tried, I could probably come up with a scientific explanation for all this." "You could?" Mulder questioned doubtfully. Scully thought about it a moment then shrugged. "I didn't say it'd be a great explanation." A comfortable silence followed as Scully returned to reading her novel and Mulder assuaged his hunger with half the food on the party tray, washed down by a can of root beer. Afterwards, he moved his chair into the sun and slumped down in it, stretching his long legs out fully and folding his hands atop his well-fed belly. Feeling the warming rays on his skin, he thought back to the rest of the conversation he'd had with LaCroix. "Scully, if someone offered you the chance to live forever, would you take it?" "You mean like if my fairy-godmother comes and grants me a magic wish?" "Yeah. Something like that. And you'd never look any older, you'd have special powers, and you'd be able to fly." When he mentioned being able to fly, Scully realized where the idea of immortality had come from. "Would I be on a permanent liquid diet and somewhat sensitive to sunlight?" she asked. "Somewhat." "You're not thinking what I think you're thinking, are you?" "Mr. LaCroix offered me immortality. He's nearly two-thousand years old. Do you know how old Knight is? He's eight-hundred. Can you imagine the lives they must have lead, the people they've known?" "Are you telling me that you want to become a vampire now, Mulder? You can't be serious." "I didn't say I wanted to become a vampire. I just asked your opinion about living forever." "Maybe you should ask Nick his opinion on that. I'm sure he has a lot more incite into it. Actually, I think he's tired of his immortality. When we were at the cabin, he told me how Natalie Lambert had tried to help him. Apparently, he missed having the sunlight on his skin, so Natalie came up with something that allowed him to spend a day in the sun. Unfortunately, whatever cure she came up with had some pretty bad side effects, so I guess the search for a normal life was abandoned. And when Natalie was killed, we know he took her death pretty hard. So think of it, Mulder; if he's been around for eight hundred years, then Natalie Lambert's death was definitely not the first one he's had to live with. How many lost loves do you suppose he's mourned? How many friends has he had to bury? How many times has he had to start his life over because everyone else around him is aging and he still looks exactly the same twenty years later? Mulder, from what I've seen, Nick Knight is not a happy man. And he's not a happy vampire either. Do you suppose he'll be that way for the next eight hundred years?" Mulder had no reply. He hadn't given that aspect of forever much thought. And it bothered him that despite those very important concerns, he still couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to live beyond his normal life span. It's not everyday a person is offered the opportunity to cheat death and the power to defeat his enemies. -------- 2:40 p.m. It was the first time since teaming with Mulder that Scully had had the time to completely read a novel from start to finish in one sitting. Her partner had taken the car back into town to finish up loose ends with the police and check them out of the motel in which they had never been able to spend the night. She was surprised that he was willing to leave her alone with the vampires, even though they were sleeping and seemingly harmless. He figured that as long as she stayed outside in the sunlight, she'd be perfectly safe. She would have been content to stay outside if she hadn't consumed a cup of coffee, two sodas and half a liter bottle of water in the past five hours. Nature was calling and she didn't have the necessary equipment to easily answer it outside. Scully ventured inside and slowly slid the partition open, then tiptoed silently past the slumbering vampires and into the bathroom. She finished her business up quickly, but instead of heading immediately back outside, she paused to check on Nick. She knelt down and leaned over to get a look at his forehead. It was a little hard to see in the dim light, so she ran a finger across his brow to determine the extent of his healing thus far. His skin was perfectly smooth with no sign of scarring. "Amazing," Scully uttered under her breath, then gasped in alarm when she felt something brush against her breast. "Who are you?" Nick spoke in a raspy voice, his left hand reaching out to make contact. Recovering from her initial shock, Scully took his hand in hers and gave it a comforting squeeze. "It's Dana Scully," she responded softly. "Do you remember me, Nick?'' "Agent Scully?" "Yes, it's Agent Scully. How do you feel?" "I can't see you. There's something wrong with my eyes," he uttered fearfully. "Wait a minute." Scully stood momentarily and flipped on the overhead light switch. A quick glance at LaCroix revealed that he was not bothered by the light or the low voices. "How's that?" she asked Nick. "Can you see me now?" "I see a shadow of you. It's very blurry. What's happened to me? I feel dizzy and my head hurts." "Is the pain like it was before?" "No. Just a dull ache. And I feel tired, weak. It's hard to move." "The reason you're finding it hard to move is because you're wearing restraints. The headache, I'd say is from the surgery. I think the rest of your symptoms may just be side effects from the drugs you were given. The dosage used would have killed a normal man several times over." "Surgery? What surgery? "I performed the surgery to remove your tumor." "I don't understand. The last I remember...." his voice trailed off as he struggled to recall the previous events of his life which had included two beefy Enforcers and the promise of true death. As he concentrated, the haziness of the drugs in his system lifted just enough to enable him to distinguish an undeniable presence. "LaCroix?" "I'm right here, Nicholas." LaCroix sat up calmly in bed and placed a hand on his son's arm. Nick recoiled at his touch. "Is this how you plan to keep me?" he hissed. "Blind, chained down and helpless? Did he kidnap you, Agent Scully? Force you to do this to me?" Scully looked to LaCroix and saw the hurt expression on his face as he rose from the bed. "No, Nick. It's not like that," Scully began to explain. "Mr. LaCroix asked me in a very courteous way if I would perform the operation and afterwards, I volunteered to stay and help him look after you. As far as the chains are concerned, he didn't want you to end up accidentally hurting me or yourself. I imagine it's all right to remove them now though." No sooner had he heard those words, Nick felt the restraints being removed from his ankles. A moment later, he lost contact with the feminine hand as Scully stepped aside to allow LaCroix to discard the rest of the bindings. Once free, Nick immediately tried to stand up, only to collapse to his knees from disorientation and weakness. Wordlessly, LaCroix lifted him up and aided him in sitting down, quickly adjusting the chair to a slightly reclined, upright position. Scully returned to his side again and held his hand. "You need to take it easy, Nick," she advised in a soothing voice. "He had no right to make such a decision for me," Nick grumbled. "I have *every* right," LaCroix declared angrily. "You gave me the right when you accepted my offer eight hundred years ago. How many times must I remind you that you are *my* creation, Nicholas. You. Are. Mine!" Nick didn't bother to respond. It was an old argument; one of which he could never hope to win. Scully gazed with disapproval at LaCroix, then her eyes shifted to her partner who stood at the partitioned entrance, taking everything in. The picture of the caring father he'd witnessed earlier was in stark contrast to what he saw now. Realizing the image he was displaying, the elder vampire quickly reeled in his anger. "Performing the operation," LaCroix continued in a milder tone, "was the only way to keep the Enforcers from severing your head." "I broke the code," Nick responded shamefully. "I was prepared to accept the consequences." All anger left LaCroix's voice as he spoke next. "Nicholas, do you recall a certain conversation we had; the one in which you told me that you were not going to sit back and let de Brabant steal your life? You said that you were going to fight him every step of the way, and that if I were truly your friend, then I'd help you to win the battle against him. Do you remember that, Nicholas?" "Yes, I remember." "Well, I am doing my part to help win the battle. Now I need for you to do yours. You cannot let him win, Nicholas. You cannot give up, not without a fight." "I'm tired, LaCroix," Nick sighed wearily. "I don't know if I have anymore fight left in me. And for what? What is there left for me?" "Hope for the future," Scully offered. "Nick, I really don't know what all you've experienced so far. Maybe you've seen it all and done it all, but you never know.... Perhaps the future may bring something new and different and wonderful into your life. Maybe fate has a lot more good in store for you than you could ever imagine. Your hearts desire could be just a couple of days away or a couple of years." Nick lifted her hand to his lips and placed a kiss in the center of her palm. "I seem to be lacking the energy to argue with you at the moment. Thank you for all your help, Agent Scully." "You know, I do have a first name," said Scully. "It's Dana." He smiled as his eyes drooped drowsily. "I've enjoyed meeting you, Dana." With those final words Nick drifted back off into unconsciousness. "You handled that nicely," said LaCroix. "About his eyesight," Scully shrugged. "I'm not really sure. My gut feeling is that it's only temporary, either due to the drugs used or perhaps there's some swelling and pressure building up behind his eyes. With his capacity for healing, it may simply clear up soon on its own. But if it doesn't, then I suppose there's a possibility that the optic nerve was somehow damaged during the operation, in which case he'd have to undergo some tests to determine what can be done to repair the damage." "I'm sure that won't be necessary," LaCroix assured her. "I must thank you again, my dear. For all that you've done. If circumstances were different and Nicholas had lived, I'm sure you and he would have become close friends." Scully eyed the elder vampire in confusion. "What? What do you mean if he had lived?" "Nick Knight died yesterday morning at his cabin in the mountains. Remember? You accompanied his body back in the helicopter. You said your final farewell to him in the morgue at the hospital. That was the last you saw of him. This nonsense about him being a vampire is completely ridiculous, of course. There's no such thing as vampires. Your partner simply has an overactive imagination. You will not remember meeting me. You will not remember the Enforcers or performing the operation. Do you understand?" Scully nodded her head in a dazed movement. "Yes." "You will sleep now until your partner awakens you." As Scully fell into a deep sleep, LaCroix scooped her up in his arms, then turned to face Mulder who asked, "Are you going to make me forget too?" "That depends. Have you made your decision based on our earlier discussion?" "I'm still interested, but...." "You need more time." "Maybe if you look me up again in another ten years. If I'm not happily married by then with a couple of rug rats crawling around...." "Would those happen to be red-headed, rug rats?" LaCroix asked with a smile. Blushing profusely, Mulder was unable to confirm or deny the possibility. Without even realizing it, he was hypnotized into forgetting about his encounter with vampires and was soon on the road heading out of town with his partner asleep in the passenger seat. Though he couldn't quite shake the feeling that he was forgetting something as he drove along, he didn't want to disturb Scully's slumber. He wouldn't bother to wake her until they reached the airport in Billings. -------- Scully's Apartment Building One Month Later Someone on the block was having a party and Scully was unable to park in her normal spot due to the excess of cars which lined both sides of the street. She considered herself lucky to find a space at the farthest end of the block, though she wasn't happy about having to lug her overnight bag and an armful of groceries all that distance. Just returning from a case, she knew there was little food in her refrigerator, so she stopped off at the store to pick up a few necessities. Since the neighborhood was known for its lack of crime, Scully had no qualms about walking down the street late at night. Besides, she was still carrying her gun. As she moved closer to her building, Scully got the sensation that she was being followed. She glanced behind herself several times, but never saw anyone. When she reached the door of her building, she set her overnight bag down so she could unlock the door. Once the door was open, she reached down for her luggage just as her grocery bag broke open and an item escaped from the bottom. A hand appeared out of nowhere to rescue the falling container of ice cream before it had a chance to hit the ground. Scully jumped back in surprise. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you." Scully expelled a shocked gasp when she recognized the face of the man standing at her side. "You! You're... you're dead! I saw you. You were dead." Nick smiled. And shrugged lightly. "I do tend to sleep like the dead," he jokingly admitted. "Do I look dead to you now?" "No, of course not." "Here, let me help you with that." Nick carefully took the grocery bag from her, then held up the ice cream container and briefly studied the label. "You'd actually eat something called Moose Tracks?" he asked with a playful frown. "What are you doing here?" Scully asked, still in a state of disbelief. "I've been thinking about you a lot lately and I wanted to see you again. Do you mind if I come inside for a little while?" She had a ton of questions she wanted answered, so Scully allowed Nick to accompany her through the lobby door and into her apartment. She was ready to begin the interrogation as soon as they cleared the door, but Nick was concerned about putting away the grocery items that required refrigeration. He found his own way into the kitchen while Scully remained in the living room. She contemplated whether or not she should call Mulder but Nick returned from his short chore before she had the chance to reach for the phone. "All done," said Nick with a pleasant smile. "Your carton of Moose Tracks is safe." "Thank you. Now are you ready to answer a few questions for me?" "Not quite." Nick walked up to her and gently drew her into his arms. Scully stiffened in fear as he embraced her and she glared in wide-eyed wonder as he leaned forward to press his lips against hers. His gentleness quickly won her over and once he felt her relax, he kissed her with more passion. Frozen at first, Scully instantly began to melt under his expert mouth. When her tongue scraped lightly against his fangs, she drew back suddenly and stared into a pair of golden eyes. "Mulder was right. You *are* a vampire." Nick stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers and replied softly, "Is that a problem?" It should have been but for some reason it didn't really seem to matter. Scully shook her head slightly and smiled. "No, it's not a problem at all." She reached her hand up to the back of his head and pulled him down to engage his lips once again. As they kissed feverishly, Scully felt herself being lifted by a pair of powerful but gentle arms. There was the euphoric sensation of floating through the air as he transported her into the bedroom. They hovered above the bed spinning ever so slowly in a circle, the room swirling with candlelight. She closed her eyes pleasurably as cool lips began to trace down the side of her throat. She arched her neck into his touch expectantly as his fangs teased her skin. If he had intended to bite her, she had absolutely no desire to stop him. In fact, she was looking forward to it. "You want me?" he asked as he began to lick her lips. "Yes." "I'm going to make it so good for you," he whispered sensually in her ear. She was more than ready for him to keep his word. They floated down onto the bed and just as he was about to fulfill his promise, the moment was shattered by the ringing of the telephone. Reluctantly, Scully answered it with a groggy, "Hello?" "Rise and shine, G-Woman," Mulder's voice boomed cheerfully through the receiver. "We've got a new case, so jump in the shower, get yourself packed and I'll be over to pick you up in an hour." "Mulder? What...." "Shake the cobwebs out, Scully. You with me?" "Yeah, I just... wow, I just had the wildest dream." "Oh yeah? How was I? Never mind. Tell me about it on the plane to Texas. See you later." Scully hung up the phone but instead of getting up, continued to lie in bed. The dream she'd just had was still quite vivid in her mind. She closed her eyes to recapture the passionate moment but was interrupted once again by the telephone. She didn't even get a chance to say hello first before Mulder started speaking. "You got me curious now. I can't wait till later. Tell me about this wild dream." "I was dreaming about Nick Knight." "Oh, the dead guy? What happened?" "Well, for one, he wasn't dead. He came to see me at my apartment and he just started kissing me. I pushed him away when I felt his fangs and then I saw he had golden eyes. He admitted to being a vampire. And he asked me if I minded, which for some reason, I didn't. Then we kissed some more as he lifted me up and flew me into the bedroom." "Then what happened?" asked Mulder, finding the dream somewhat intriguing. "My idiot partner called and woke me up." "Oh, sorry. But it's funny you should mention Knight. I had a dream last week about Mr. LaCroix, the guy who showed up to claim Knight's body. It was really odd, considering that I only met the man for a moment while you were getting your checkup. But anyway, in the dream, we were out in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night and he started to suck on my finger." "He sucked on your finger?" "Yeah. Then he told me that maybe would could get together later sometime. Hey, that's not funny," Mulder protested against his partner's outburst of laughter. "If it's not, then I don't know what is," Scully giggled. "Thank you, Mulder. That certainly helped to wake me up." She hung up the phone again, then rose from her bed and headed for the bathroom. When the phone rang yet again, she grumbled under her breath as she snatched up the receiver. "Look, Mulder, if you expect me to be ready when you come to pick me up, you've got to stop playing with the phone." There was no reply on the other end. Scully called out Mulder's name twice, then was about to hang up when suddenly, piano music began playing. It sounded classical in nature and Scully reasoned by the rich tones that it was not a recording she was hearing. She couldn't think of anyone she knew with classical training. It was possible that the caller had dialed a wrong number and she was not meant to be the recipient of this impromptu serenade. She tried a couple of times to get the caller's attention, but the music continued to play. Finally, she just remained quiet and listened. It was a beautiful piece, the kind of song that might be played in fine restaurants to accompany a romantic, candlelit dinner or end up in a music box. Scully sat down on the edge of her bed and listened for another minute and a half until the piano played its final, heartwarming notes. Though she expected to hear a voice after the song finished, there was only silence on the other end. "That was lovely," said Scully, hoping to get a word out of the caller. "You play beautifully." The only response she received was in the playing of two notes which sounded as though someone was using the music to say thank you. After that, the line went dead. Scully instantly dialed star-69 in hopes of reaching the person who had just hung up. All she got was an operator recording telling her that her call could not be completed as dialed. Perhaps it had just been a wrong number and the shy caller had meant to serenade someone else. It couldn't have possibly been meant for her, could it? At any rate, it was a nice way to start her morning; a sexy dream starring a handsome lover, a good laugh provided by her partner, and a mini concert over the phone. She doubted seriously if the rest of her day would be as nice. As she headed for her shower, she wondered what sick horrors could possibly be waiting for her in Texas. -------- Paris, France Nick sat staring glumly at the piano keys. He was still depressed over Natalie's death, but the pain wasn't as overwhelming as before. He had spent the last month composing a song in her honor. Since he was unable to play it for his beloved, he decided to play it for the woman who had become somewhat of a substitute. When Nick dialed the number and heard the voice on the other end, he had wanted so much to talk to her but he knew in doing so would only lead to trouble. To Agent Scully, he had died back on that mountain in his cabin. It wouldn't be fair to her to reveal himself now. She was going on with her life, as well she should. The song had been a simple way of thanking her. Dana Scully, like Natalie, had put aside her fear and risked her life in order to help him. Because of her unselfishness, his life was back on track. The severe headaches were a thing of the past and the alternate personality of Nicholas de Brabant had thus far, not returned. Nick put his fingers to the keys and began playing an encore. As he tickled the ivory, he recalled Natalie's ghost suggesting that he get someone else to take over the work she had started in regards to him finding a cure for vampirism. Briefly, he considered that perhaps Agent Scully might be willing to continue the research, but he shook that thought out of his mind. He'd already promised himself that he would not get involved with another mortal. Besides, he was restricted from socializing with them at all for the next ten years as part of his probation which included surprise visits by the Enforcers and constant supervision by LaCroix. Speaking of the devil, his master entered the parlor and stepped up behind him. He didn't even flinch when LaCroix placed a hand on his shoulder. There had been a time when he would have instantly shrugged it off, unable to stomach his touch. But for the past month, the elder vampire had shown him nothing but understanding and kindness. It made him wonder if LaCroix had not developed multiple personalities and his real one had been forced into submission. Of course, it was probably due to the simple fact that Nick was behaving as a normal vampire. His pursuit of a mortal life had been temporally abandoned and his thirst for human blood had for the time being, won out over cow's blood. It made LaCroix happy, and if LaCroix was happy, then Nick's existence would be peaceful. "I do enjoy hearing you play, Nicholas. I'm glad you've finally found the desire to compose again. That melody is quite enchanting." "I'm glad you think so," Nick replied softly. "I plan to play nothing else for the next ten years." "Still in a mood, I see." LaCroix walked around to the other side of the grand piano so that he could face his offspring. "I've planned a little surprise for you. It's something I'm sure will lift your spirits somewhat." "And what would that be?" "Hello, Nichola." Nick's hands froze on the piano keys when he heard that voice. LaCroix's presence was so strong that he had completely masked that of his daughter. She stood right behind him. Her right hand settled on his shoulder, then slid halfway down his chest. He grasped it gently and brought it to his lips. "LaCroix told me about Natalie," she spoke delicately. "I know what it feels like now to lose a mortal you've grown to love. I'm sorry for your loss." Nick turned to look at her. She was as beautiful as ever with her long, raven hair pulled back into a French roll and tendrils cascading along the sides. Her pale, alabaster complexion was offset by sparkling, blue eyes and ruby lips. He gently guided her around the bench so that she could sit down next to him, then wrapped his arms about her possessively. "I'm sorry, Janette," he spoke, choking back the tears. "I know I didn't respect your wishes. You had the chance to leave this world a mortal, but I took that away from you. I don't blame you for hating me. But I just couldn't bare the thought of losing you forever. Please forgive me. I'm sorry." Janette eased away from him slightly so that she could look into his tearful eyes. "What is it about you, Nichola that prevents me from staying angry with you?" That got a smile out of him. He wanted to ask if she was back to stay but decided that would be too pushy. He was lucky she wanted to see him at all. She granted him a simple kiss on the lips, then patted his cheek lightly. "Play for me, Nichola. I want to hear my favorite." Out of all the songs she'd been exposed to during the centuries, only one had become her all time favorite, mainly because it was an upbeat love song that two could play at the same time and she enjoyed trying to keep up. Without hesitation, Nick began playing the first chords of "Heart and Soul." After a moment, he gave Janette the cue to join in with her part. When she hit the wrong keys, they both broke out into laughter, and Nick started his part over again. LaCroix smiled in contentment to see his children together again and sharing a laugh. It was good to have his family back under one roof. It had been far too long. The master vampire made himself comfortable in a wingback chair and listened as the laughter grew while the song suffered. His thoughts strayed to include a certain American, government employee. Agent Mulder would indeed make a fine addition to his little family. Janette surely wouldn't mind a new brother, although Nicholas would probably scoff at depriving another mortal the opportunity to grow old and die. And then there was Agent Scully, who would probably be the true deciding factor in Agent Mulder's final choice. LaCroix decided that he would take his time with the matter. A decade wasn't long to wait at all. He knew from experience that acting too hastily could easily lead to the creation of a problem child, and though he truly loved the one he already had, he certainly didn't want another one. -------- Th-th-th-that's all folks! Hope you enjoyed it! Virtual flowers or simple words of praise graciously accepted. Fran Glass aka Dynojet@aol.com http://members.aol.com/dynojet/foreverx/ -------- p.s. If you don't know the song "Heart and Soul" it was featured in the movie, "BIG." It's the duet Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia stomped out on the floor piano.