Innocent Blood
by Nancy Taylor
circa March 1997

This story is set approximately six years after "For
All Eternity". You don't need to have read that story to
understand this one, but you may need a little background
information. In my previous series Nick became mortal for
a short time during which he married Natalie and fathered a
child. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, Nick was
brought back across.

Because Laurene is still young enough to need
supervision, Natalie accepted a promotion to the day shift
at the Coroner's Office. Nick, having turned down several
promotion offers of his own, still works the night shift as
a detective.

The third season, as we know it, never happened.

Disclaimer: The characters of Nick and Co. are not mine.
They were created by James Parriott and Barney Cohen. No
copyright infringement was intended. The character of
Laurene, however, is my creation.

Nick walked into the precinct a half hour later than
usual. Tracy watched his progress over to their adjoining
desks, frowning and wrinkling her nose at him as he

"I sure hope you have a good excuse for being late,"
she said. "Captain Reese has been on me already wanting to
know where you were. He wants to see you in his office."

Nick hung his coat over the back of his chair and made
to sit down. "I was reading Laurene a story," he began,
just before he was interrupted by Reese.

"Knight, in my office, NOW!"

Nick smiled sheepishly at Tracy, "That's my cue." She
gave him her best 'I'm with you, you can do it' smile as he
strode across the room and entered the Captain's office.

"Come on in Nick, have a seat," Reese gestured to the
chair opposite his desk. "What's your excuse for being
late tonight?"

"Laurene has a book report due tomorrow and I was
helping her with it. We were discussing the finer points
of 'Green Eggs and Ham'," Nick grinned. He was not the
least bit repentant for his tardiness. In his book his
family came first. Fortunately for Nick, Reese had a soft
spot in his heart for children and families. He recognized
the fact that Nick always managed to do his job, and that
he still maintained the highest arrest record of any cop in
the precinct. Reese was inclined to cut him a little slack
in the area of punctuality once in a while.

"Okay then. Here's the deal, Nick. You're up for
promotion to watch commander again. Don't you think, for
the family's sake, you ought to consider taking it? It
would mean more regular hours and be less dangerous for you
than being out on the street." Reese settled back in his
chair, folding his hands over his chest, and waited for the

"Natalie and Laurene know the risks. They're behind me
all the way when it comes to my wanting to stay active. I
just couldn't handle a desk job, Cap, and we don't need the
money...." Nick tried his hardest to convince Reese. How
easy it would be to just use a little vampire 'persuasion',
he thought, but he refused to use his powers on his
captain. There were places where the line had to be drawn,
and this was one of them.

This was the fifth promotion he had turned down in the
last four years. One of these days someone was going to
insist and he would no longer have a choice but to pull up
roots and move the family to another city. Time was
against him now; he wouldn't be able to stay in Toronto
much longer as it was anyway.

Reese shook his head, he had known that was coming.
"Look Nick, it's getting harder and harder to convince the
Commissioner not to promote you despite your protests. I
really don't understand your reasoning sometimes. This is
a great opportunity for you."

"It just isn't right for me, Cap; not right now at
least." Nick spread his arms in front of him, palms up in
supplication. "I can't explain it any better than that; it
just isn't what I want right now."

Reese shook his head and mumbled something
unintelligible under his breath. "Okay, Nick," he sighed.
"Have it your way. But don't think that you're not going
to hear more on this sometime in the near future."

Nick bounced up out of the chair and was headed for the
door before the Captain had a chance to change his mind.
"Thanks, Cap," he threw over his shoulder as he exited the
office in a rush. He breezed over to his desk and grabbed
his coat.

"Come on, Trace, let's get out of here and get some
fresh air." He headed toward the exit with Tracy trailing
behind, desperately trying to catch up. She finally caught
him as he was folding himself behind the wheel of the
Caddy. She climbed in the passenger side and turned to
Nick with a bemused look on her face.

"What was that all about?" she asked. "Whatever it
was, you sure were in a hurry to get out of there." She
gave Nick a quizzical look.

"Promotion time again," Nick sighed.

"And you turned them down ... again." Tracy looked
over at Nick for confirmation. Nick turned the key in the
ignition, gave the Caddy a little gas and pulled out into
the traffic. He glanced over at Tracy.

"You know how it is, Trace. I've been here in Toronto
for nearly twelve years now...." His voice trailed off.
Taking a deep breath, he continued. "One of these days,
not too long from now in my time frame, people are going to
notice that Natalie will look as though she robbed the
cradle and Laurene will be as old as I look. We can't stay
here forever. Actually, we may have to leave within the
next year or two. I can't afford to take a promotion that
would tie me to the job and this place. I need to be free
to move on." Nick concentrated hard on the traffic. He
hated the thought of moving on, he always hated the moving

1393, outside Florence, Italy

"Nicholas, why aren't you packing?" An annoyed LaCroix
strode into Nicholas' sleeping chamber to find him standing
at the window, staring out into the night in the direction
of the city.

"Must we leave, LaCroix?" Nick turned from the window
to face his master. There was sadness and longing in his
eyes. "I was just beginning to enjoy myself here; to learn
the arts, to study my music...." He paused, looking into
the cold depths of his master's eyes.

"We have overstayed our welcome here as it is,
Nicholas. It becomes dangerous for us to linger here for
any longer. You are young, you will learn. We must move
on ... we must always be moving on...."

* * * * *
1519, a farm in the English countryside

"Nicola, wake up! We must hurry!" A frantic Janette
shook Nicholas rudely from his sleep.

"Whaa..." he groggily shook the sleep from his head.
"What ... Janette, it's midday!"

"Hurry, Nicola! We must flee, now!" Janette pulled
Nick off the blanket he had spread over the sweet-smelling
hay. He turned to grab his satchel, but Janette was
dragging him toward the barn door. "We don't have time for
that ... they've found us! We must leave ... now!"
Nicholas had time only to grab the blanket to throw over
himself to shelter him from the noonday sun.

* * * * *
1920, Paris, France

Janette opened the French doors to admit an agitated
Nicholas. "Nicola...." Janette turned to him as he walked
into the room. "Did LaCroix find you? He was so angry."

"Yes, he found me. I have to leave.... He'll never
let me live as long as I'm searching for a cure."

"But you can never find one," Janette spoke with the
passion of desperation. "Forget about it ... stay."

Nick shook his head in denial. "No ... I can't. I
can't LIVE as we do anymore! I'll leave Paris tonight,
before he can find me again. Come with me."

"And do what?" Janette whispered. "This is my HOME."

"I'm sorry," Nicholas replied, turning his back to her.

"You will go to Don Constantine," Janette decided, "in
America." She walked over and opened a large steamer trunk
that was to be Nicholas' passage out of France. "He knows
about us, about our kind," she said as she picked a diamond
necklace from a nearby table. "He helps us when we need to
travel. He can help you disappear. I'll make the
arrangements immediately and you'll sail within the hour."

She kissed him passionately then, wishing that he
wouldn't leave, that he would choose to stay with her, yet
knowing he could not. "You'll need this," she stated, as
she handed him the necklace. Nick hated moving on, but
this time he must ... to escape the fury of LaCroix....

"Nick? Helloooo.... Are you there? Earth calling
Nick." Tracy tapped him on the shoulder.

"Huh? Oh, sorry...." He turned to her with a sheepish
grin. "You know how it is."

"Yeah. Well.... At least I know WHAT it is now. You
and Vachon ... I swear.... You two space out more than
anybody else I know." She was grinning now, trying hard to
contain her tendency toward girlish giggles. Ever since
Nick had come clean to her about his being a vampire, she
had understood much more of what made her rather eccentric
partner tick. She could live with the flashbacks, as long
as he didn't wreck the car. She couldn't think of a better
partner to have at her side. They cruised the streets of
Toronto in amiable silence.

The convenience store was quiet, there were not many
customers at three in the morning. The clerk looked up
from behind the counter as a single customer entered the
store. The man looked furtively around, alerting the clerk
to possible trouble. He noted the man's torn jeans, dirty
sneakers and the scruffy coat that hid one of the man's
hands and something he was holding. Before the clerk could
react, he found a sawed-off shotgun in his face and the man
demanding all the cash in the register. The clerk hurried
to comply, but not fast enough for the gunman. He grabbed
a handful of cash from the till and shot the clerk, point
blank, in the face.

Ten minutes later, the gunman was five blocks away
buying his nightly hit of cocaine from a local dealer.

The call of the silent alarm from the convenience store
reached the 39th Precinct at 3:10 AM. Captain Schanke sent
a team of detectives to the scene. They arrived at 3:18 AM
to find what was left of the corpse on the floor behind the
counter. A canvass of the area revealed no witnesses to
the crime. Checking the store's security camera, they
found they had a reasonable picture of the assailant. An
APB went out immediately, and the picture was sent to local
television stations to air on their morning news reports.

After an uneventful night, Nick returned Tracy to the
precinct to pick up her car, and he drove the hour drive
back out to his home and his family. He smiled thinking of
his two girls waiting at home for his return. He couldn't
remember a time in his life when he was more content with
who he was and what he was doing.

Laurene bustled about the kitchen grabbing her lunchbox
and gulping down a glass of milk. As she whizzed past her
mother, Natalie reached out and caught the sleeve of her

"And just where do you think you're going, young lady?"
she asked with an indulgent smile on her face. Laurene
glanced back with a sheepish smile.

"Today's the field trip to the Royal Ontario Museum,

"Yes, I realize that, dear, but that doesn't excuse you
from eating a good breakfast." Laurene made a face as
Natalie sat her down at the kitchen table and placed a
toaster waffle in front of her. Just then Nick walked in.

"Daddy!" Laurene launched herself out of the kitchen
chair and straight into Nick's arms. Her charming blue
eyes were dancing and her curly blonde pigtails bounced
with her enthusiasm. Laurene was very much a "daddy's
girl". Nick swept her up in his strong arms and held her
high over his head causing Laurene to shriek with pleasure.

Cradling Laurene in his arms, Nick walked across the
kitchen to Natalie and gave her a peck on the cheek. "So,
how are my two best girls this morning?"

"I'm going on a field trip today, Daddy," Laurene
chattered. She squirmed in his arms until he had to put
her down. She ran around the kitchen, too full of energy
to be contained for long.

"Yeah, Mommy told me you're going to the museum. Don't
touch the exhibits, and be sure to do whatever your teacher
tells you to do." Nick grinned indulgently at her energy.
Did I EVER have that much vitality? he wondered to himself.
Raising Laurene had certainly been, and continued to be, an

"Ah, Daddy, I know better than THAT," Laurene stated
emphatically. "I won't touch nothing."

"Anything," Nick corrected absentmindedly. Laurene
grabbed her plate with the waffle and headed into the
living room to watch some morning cartoons before school.
Nick glanced over his shoulder at her, then gathered
Natalie up in a warm and passionate embrace.

"Did I remember to tell you how terrific you look this
morning?" he asked her. Before she could answer him, she
found herself drowning in one of those lustful kisses that
only Nick could give.

"Well, good morning to you too," she chuckled when he
finally let her up for air. "Were you a good boy last
night?" she asked playfully.

Nick turned serious. "If you call turning down another
promotion being 'good'."

"Oh no, not again," Natalie sighed. "Nick, how much
longer can you get away with turning those down? We're
going to have to move soon, aren't we?" Natalie looked
wistfully around the kitchen. She had really become
attached to their little cottage in the suburbs.

"Not any sooner than we absolutely have to," Nick
replied, trying to comfort her. "They won't ask again for
at least another year. We have that long, at least."

Natalie sighed and laid her cheek on Nick's broad
chest. He ran his fingers through her chestnut curls, then
pulled her tight to him in a hug that promised they'd be
together, no matter what.

Their tender moment was shattered as Laurene came
bounding up and tugged on Nick's arm. "Daddy, Daddy, come
see," she insisted as she dragged Nick from the kitchen to
watch a favorite cartoon with her. Natalie watched them as
they snuggled together on the sofa. Nick was laughing
along with Laurene at the antics of Bugs Bunny and Daffy
Duck. Natalie smiled and shook her head as she marveled
again at the changes in Nick since Laurene's arrival.
Knowing he must be starved, she went to the kitchen to
retrieve a blood bag from the refrigerator. Pouring the
contents into a large coffee mug, she took Nick his

"Thanks, Nat." Nick took the proffered mug and took a
sip. That one taste awoke the hunger he had suppressed the
whole night. He downed the mug in one long draught and,
apologizing to Laurene for the interruption, got up to get
a refill. He cornered Natalie in the kitchen. "Are you going
to have any spare time before you have to leave for work
this morning?" he asked in that deep husky voice of his
that always portended delightful pleasures.

With great regret, Natalie slipped out from under his
arm and stood in the middle of the kitchen. "I'm afraid
not, Nick. I got a call earlier that there was a messy
homicide over in the 39th. They saved the body for me....
Lucky me," she grimaced.

"Schanke's beat? Man, I haven't seen him for weeks. I
wonder how things are going over there?"

"Not too good from the sounds of it. The gunman who
shot the store clerk is still on the loose. They've got
his picture all over the morning news." She handed Nick
the newspaper.

Nick skimmed the article and shook his head. "Poor
Schank. Sure wish there was something I could do to help."

"Well ... you can't. It's outside your jurisdiction,
so just try to forget about it and go up and get some
sleep." Natalie gently pushed Nick toward the stairs.
"I'll be up to tuck you in right after I see that Laurene
gets safely on the bus."

Nick smiled at Natalie with his 'little boy' grin.
"Yes, Mom," he said and hurried to dodge her before she
could slap him on the rump.

"Come on, Laurene, get your coat. It's time to leave
for the bus." Natalie gathered up Laurene's lunchbox and
notebook and stuffed them in her backpack. Laurene pulled
on her coat and followed her mom out the front door. They
walked the block to the bus stop, chattering away about the
field trip and all the fun Laurene was going to have that
day. Once she was safely aboard the bus, Natalie turned
for home.

Natalie walked upstairs to find Nick in his pajamas
brushing his teeth. She turned down the bed for him and
waited for him to come out of the bathroom. His eyes lit
up when he saw her sitting on the bed. Ever since LaCroix
had brought Nick back across, he had been drinking donated
human blood as he had promised the master vampire. Thanks
to that, he was able to have a nearly normal relationship
with this lovely vision who now sat seductively on the edge
of his bed. As he approached her, she rose. He gathered
her in his arms and she could feel his readiness through
the thin silk.

"I can't Nick. I really do have to get to work."
Natalie was nearly as disappointed as Nick to have to turn
him down. She patted the satin sheets and Nick sat on the
bed, laying back seductively in one last attempt to lure
her into bed. With a practicality born of practice and
will power, Natalie pulled the blankets up to his chin and
gave Nick a motherly kiss on the forehead. "Later," she
promised, as she reluctantly headed downstairs and out the
door to work.

Laurene was fairly bouncing as she stood in line to
enter the school bus that would take her and her classmates
to the Royal Ontario Museum. It was her very first field
trip as a first grader and she could barely contain
herself. Her best friend, Maggie, who was ahead of her in
line, got on the bus and called for Laurene to come sit
with her. The girls giggled and chatted excitedly.
Finally, the last of the kids were loaded on the bus and
the driver started to close the doors....

Bussard was still high from the cocaine he had
purchased earlier that morning with the money from the
convenience store robbery. The cops had been chasing him
since before daybreak. He was tired and running out of
places hide. Passing an elementary school, he noticed a
busload of kids getting ready to leave. The driver was
just entering the bus....

A wild looking man with a sawed-off shotgun shoved his
way through the doors of the school bus just as the driver
was shutting them. He pointed the gun at the driver, then
swung it toward the kids in the bus causing many of the
children to scream in terror.

"Drive!" he ordered the bus driver. Mr. Eggers put the
bus in gear and pulled away from the curb.

"Out of the city!" came the order from Bussard. Mr.
Eggers turned the bus onto the busy city street headed for
the highway and the countryside surrounding Toronto.

Behind them, the police, who had been chasing Bussard
on foot, radioed that he had hijacked a school bus full of
kids. Almost immediately there was a swarm of police
vehicles in pursuit, including one containing Captain
Donald Schanke. Nobody, but nobody, was going to hurt any
kids if Don Schanke had anything to say about it....

Nick climbed out of bed around three in the afternoon.
He'd slept longer than he had intended to, and he knew that
Laurene's bus would have her home soon. He headed to the
bathroom for a quick shower, then headed downstairs to get
himself some breakfast. As he poured himself a mug of blood
from the refrigerator Natalie came bursting in the front
"Nick! Nick! Are you up? Nick?" She sounded
absolutely frantic. Putting his mug down and stepping from
the kitchen, Nick walked toward the front room and Natalie.

"What is it, Nat?" he asked, taking her in his arms and
trying to calm her down. "What are you doing home so
early? You're shift doesn't end for another four hours."

"Nick? Thank God!" She collapsed into his arms.
"Laurene's been taken hostage!"

Nick pushed Natalie away from him just enough so that
he could look into her face. Giving her a gentle shake to
help bring her to her senses, he asked, "What do you mean,
Laurene's been taken hostage?"

Natalie looked up into Nick's concerned face, tears
falling down her cheeks in a steady stream. "That gunman
that robbed the convenience store this morning ... he
hijacked Laurene's bus!" She collapsed, sobbing, against
Nick's chest.

As he held Natalie close, trying to calm her down, Nick
felt his anger rise and with it the vampire. As his rage
built inside he pushed Natalie aside and lunged for the
front door. Out on the porch he found himself repelled by
the bright afternoon sun. Smoking from the exposure, he
backed through the open door and back into the living room.

"I've got to get to her ... help her!" Nick hissed.

It was Natalie's turn to gather Nick into HER arms.
She was no longer afraid of the beast. Her fear now was
FOR Nick, not OF him. "You can't. You can't go out now,
Nick. You have to wait until dark." She stroked his hair,
his cheek, trying to calm him down. "It's Schanke's
jurisdiction, Nick. He's on it. He's the one who called
me." She led Nick over to the couch. He was still
agitated, but the fangs had receded and his eyes were blue

Taking a deep breath to try and calm himself, Nick
turned to Natalie. "Tell me ... what did Schank have to
say? Is Laurene all right? Where are they?"

"He said that they're somewhere north of town, out in
the country. So far, everyone is fine. They have the bus
surrounded and they've sent for a hostage negotiator."
Natalie sighed and closed her eyes letting her chin drop to
her chest. She was exhausted. The news, the drive back
home and telling Nick had used up all the energy she had
had left.

Nick stood up and began nervously pacing back and forth
in front of the couch like a caged animal. He wouldn't be
content until he could go after this S.O.B. himself.
Natalie knew exactly what he was feeling. As she watched
him pace she felt the terror grow in her heart. What would
they do if anything, ANYTHING, happened to their only child
... the only child they could ever have?....

It seemed to take forever for the sun to set. Nick and
Natalie alternately fought and consoled each other as they
waited. Their complete helplessness in a situation that
involved the life of their only daughter put a strain on
them that they had never felt before. When the sunlight
had finally faded to a tolerable level, Nick launched
himself out the front door.

"Nick!" Natalie called after him as he flew off into
the evening. "You should have fed first," she continued
lamely to herself. Nick was well out of sight and hearing
now. Natalie was concerned. Nick hadn't fed fully since
the previous morning. His mug sat, still nearly full,
where he had left it when she had come home that afternoon
with the bad news. From what Schanke had told her when he
called that afternoon, Nick would have a long flight to get
to the scene. She knew he would be traveling at top speed
and she knew what that kind of expenditure of energy cost
him. She prayed he would be able to handle the situation
when he arrived.

The ground sped by beneath Nick as he flew away from
the sleepy suburbs he called home to the site of the
kidnapping of his precious daughter. When he could see the
bus and the mass of police surrounding it, he landed
quietly and ran into the area. He spotted Schanke
immediately and hurried to his side.

"Schank! Tell me what's going on." Nick was a little
breathless from his flight and run but, nevertheless,
anxious for any news.

Capt. Schanke turned and looked at Nick in total
surprise. "Nick! Where did you come from? What are you
doing here?"

"My daughter's on that bus," Nick stated in a rush. He
hated standing around, he needed to be in on the action.

"Hey, I'm really sorry to hear that, partner, but
you've got to let us handle this. We've got the situation
under control." Schanke tried, quite unsuccessfully, to
placate Nick.

"Is that son of a bitch still on the bus?" Nick
queried. Schanke nodded. "Are all the children still on
the bus? Has ANYBODY been released?" Nick fired off his
questions like an automatic weapon. Schanke was forced to
admit that no one had as yet been released.

"Then what the hell do you mean that you have this
under control?" Nick was absolutely livid. He could feel
the beast rising within him and made an enormous effort to
keep control of the vampire. Now was not the time to wig
out and get his butt arrested for interfering with police
procedures. This was not, unfortunately, his jurisdiction
and without Schanke's approval he really had no say in how
this situation would be handled.

Schanke placed a hand on Nick's shoulder, partly in
sympathy for his plight, partly to keep Nick in check. His
hot-headed ex-partner had a knack for running headlong into
situations where angels feared to tread. He smiled a sad
smile at Nick. "Sorry, partner. You're too close to this
one. You don't have any business being here. Why don't
you just go back to wherever you parked that boat you call
a car and go home and take care of Natalie. We'll deal
with this. I promise, we'll get Laurene home to you safe
and sound."

Nick hadn't heard a word Schanke had said. He had cast
his senses out toward the bus and touched the mind of his
daughter. 'Daddy's here, Laurene. Just stay calm.
Everything is going to be okay.'

On the bus the children were all huddled in the back,
as far away from Bussard as they could manage in the
crowded space. The two teachers and Mr. Eggers bravely sat
between the children and the crazed gunman.

Laurene got a glazed look in her eyes for a few brief
moments, then turned to Maggie and whispered, "My Daddy's
here. Everything's gonna be okay now." Maggie was crying,
but she sniffed and looked up at Laurene at the news.

"Quiet back there!" Bussard shouted at the children.
He waved the gun in the air, then pointed it at one of the
teachers, who promptly broke out in nervous tears.

"Don't hurt us, please," she begged. "Don't hurt the

"I said QUIET!" Bussard's face was red with rage. He
was beginning to feel the awful pangs of withdrawal from
the cocaine as well and wasn't in the mood for noise of any

The negotiations had stalled as Bussard had asked for a
million dollars and safe passage out of Canada's
jurisdiction in exchange for the busload of hostages.
Schanke didn't want to admit it, especially to Nick, but he
was temporarily stumped. They were waiting for
confirmation of the money, but he didn't expect that they
would be able to get it.

Without Schanke's knowledge, and when he had his back
turned, Nick had started to slowly walk toward the school
bus. His hands were raised above his head, palms forward,
to show that he was unarmed. Schanke turned and gazed in
surprise and horror at Nick advancing on the bus. "Nick!"
he shouted, but it was too late.

Bussard stuck his head out of the bus. "Stop where you
are! Don't come any closer," he told Nick.

Nick stopped, his hands still in the air. "I'm
unarmed. See? I can't hurt you. I just want to talk.
Just talk, okay?" As he spoke, Nick began to slowly inch
forward toward the bus.

"I said STOP!" Bussard shouted. He sent a bullet
whizzing past Nick's left ear. Nick didn't even flinch,
but he did temporarily halt his forward progression.

"Why not let the hostages go?" Nick suggested. "I'm a
cop, take me instead. I won't give you any trouble. Just
let the children go." He began his slow inching forward
Bussard was not convinced. He shot, point blank, right
into Nick's chest and abdomen. Nick flinched and slowed,
but didn't stop his forward progress. From Schanke's
viewpoint, it looked as though Bussard surely must have hit
Nick with at least five rounds from the shotgun. Nick was
still on his feet and moving forward though, so he decided
that his eyes must have been deceiving him. His men had
jumped into action at the sound of the shots, but Schanke
held them off. He had seen Nick work before, he had worked
with him for a little over three years, and he knew enough
to wait and see what Nick was going to do. It was far too
late to stop him now.

Nick finally reached the door of the bus and put his
foot on the first step. Still talking softly, soothingly,
to the gunman, Nick made his way inside. Bussard backed
away and allowed him to enter. Once he was inside, Nick
scanned the faces of the frightened hostages for the one he
loved the most. Laurene stood up in the crowd and smiled
at her daddy. Nick motioned for her to sit back down and
not attract attention to herself.

Mrs. Rogers, one of the teachers supervising the field
trip, got braver once Nick was on the bus. She stood up
and faced Bussard. "Please let us go. We can't do
anything to hurt you. The bus is surrounded by police.
Why don't you just give up." Her little speech had come
out all in a rush, before Nick could do anything to stop

Bussard turned in one fluid motion and let off a shot
while screaming, "I TOLD you to be QUIET!" Mrs. Rogers
fell to the floor and all the children erupted into frantic
screams. Once again the police tried to move in, but Nick
stuck his head out of the bus and stopped them.

"If you guys interfere, children are going to die!" he
hissed. "Back off!" It went against all his instincts,
but Schanke made his men back off. He knew Nick well
enough to trust that he had things under control. He sure
the hell HOPED Nick had things under control....

Inside the bus, Nick moved over to where Mrs. Rogers
had fallen to check on her wounds. She had been hit in the
thigh and, with the exception of the bleeding, was in no
real danger of dying.

Nick turned to Bussard. "Let them go," he pleaded.
"This woman needs medical attention. The kids will only
become more of a problem as time goes on. Keep me. I'll
stay. You'll still have a hostage to negotiate with."

Bussard mulled over the argument, then, making his
decision, motioned for Eggers and the other teacher to get
Rogers off the bus. The children began to follow. When
Laurene reached Nick, she wrapped her arms around him and
buried her face in his coat.

"So, this one's yours, eh?" Bussard got a manic gleam
in his eyes. "She stays ... and that one," he said,
pointing at Maggie. Maggie stifled a scream behind her
hands. When everyone else was off the bus, Bussard hustled
Nick and the children to the far end and made them sit on
the floor.

Outside, the ambulance and paramedics who had been
waiting to treat the hostages tended to Mrs. Rogers'
wounds, while others checked the children and treated them
for shock and dehydration.

Schanke was pleased that so many had been released but,
after performing a head count, he realized that Laurene and
another child were still on the bus with Nick.

Bussard sat in the driver's seat. He was sweating and
his head felt like someone was banging huge timpani drums
inside it. He was so miserable that he paid only minimal
attention to his remaining hostages.

"You're hurt, Daddy," Laurene whispered.

"I'll be okay, honey," Nick reassured her. He ran his
hand through her curls and down her cheek. "Who's your
friend here?"

"That's Maggie. She's my best friend," Laurene
replied. She smiled hesitantly and reached over to pat
Maggie, who had stopped her crying for the time being.
"It's going to be okay, Maggie. My Daddy can take care of
anything. He's special." She grinned again.

Maggie wasn't so sure. She felt the same way about her
own daddy, but she wasn't sure even he could get her out of
this mess.

Just then Nick moaned and slumped against Laurene.
"Daddy? Daddy, are you okay?" Laurene tried to push Nick
back to a sitting position, but he was too heavy for her.
He stirred slightly, and lifted his weight from her.

"I've lost a lot of blood, sweetie," he told her. "But
I'll be okay."

"When was the last time you fed, Daddy?" Laurene was
concerned. She knew full well what her daddy was and what
his limitations were.

"Huh? Oh ... yesterday, I guess."

"You need to feed soon, Daddy." Laurene looked at him,
then shoved her wrist in front of his face.

"No hun, Daddy can't do that," and he pushed her away.
Nick closed his eyes and tried to rest and recoup some of
his dwindling strength. The hours dragged past and, in the
shorter late spring nights, the sun was about to rise.

Laurene could sense that dawn was near. She woke from
a light doze and nudged Maggie. Whispering, she told her
friend, "My Daddy has a really bad sun allergy. Would you
please help me cover him with our coats?" Maggie
reluctantly shed her coat and shivered in the predawn
chill. Laurene draped their coats over Nick's head and
hands then bent and kissed him on the cheek.

"Is he going to be okay?" Maggie asked. She wasn't
even sure if Laurene's daddy was still alive. He was so
quiet and still.

"He got shot," Laurene informed her, "but he'll be
okay." Laurene had seen this before ... many times before
in her short life. She actually envied her daddy's
supernatural powers, not even realizing that she possessed
a few of them herself. She knew with a certainty that her
daddy would be all right as long as she could keep him out
of the sun and get him fed soon.

As the sun rose, Bussard got drowsy. He had been awake
for almost thirty-six hours straight now and desperately
needed to sleep, but his fear and his addiction prevented
When Maggie began to cry and whine about being hungry,
Bussard came back and backhanded her so hard that she
cracked her head on one of the seats and slumped

"Let that be a lesson to you, too," Bussard growled at
Laurene. Laurene looked up at him with defiance in her
eyes, but she remained silent.

When Bussard left to go back to the front of the bus,
Laurene crawled over to check on her friend. She cradled
Maggie's head in her lap, stroking her and crooning quietly
to reassure her friend. She checked on the coats covering
Nick and adjusted them from time to time as the sun passed

When dusk finally began to fall again, Nick stirred and
sat up. He looked like death. Laurene left Maggie, who
had recovered somewhat, and crawled back over to check on
her daddy.

"You need to feed," she whispered in his ear. "If
you're going to get us out of here you need to be strong."
Laurene argued her case in a manner far beyond her years.

Nick knew he needed blood, but he couldn't possibly
take it from the children, and if he fed off Bussard, how
would he ever explain things to Schanke and his men? Nick
moaned again and wondered how he ever managed to get
himself into these things. One way or another, he was
determined to get his daughter and her friend out of this

Laurene quietly dug around in her backpack. She found
her wooden ruler with the metal drawing edge. She pulled
it out and held it in her hands. First she looked to
Maggie, who was sleeping again, then to Nick who was on the
verge of passing out. She took the sharp, pointed corner
of the ruler and, gritting her teeth, dragged it across her
wrist. She winced at the pain, but she refused to cry out.
The blood welled up from the wound and she place her wrist
to Nick's mouth.

The sweet smell of the blood awoke a ravening bloodlust
in Nick who, injured and exhausted, could not resist the
siren call of the life-giving sustenance. He grabbed
Laurene's wrist and began to drink with a vengeance. Only
when he felt her begin to slump against him did he come to
his senses enough to stop.

Laurene smiled up at him, recovering far more rapidly
than any mortal had a right to. "Feeling better, Daddy?"
she asked. Her eyes danced with love and trust.

Nick smiled back at her. "Yeah, lots better sweetie.
Thank you." He leaned over to check on Maggie. "What
happened here?" He noted that she had a rather large lump
on the side of her head.

"The bad man hit her and she bumped her head on the
seat. She's had a hard time staying awake since. Is she
going to be okay Daddy?"

"Yes, honey, she'll be okay, but I think she might have
a concussion." Nick gathered Laurene in his arms and held
her close. He knew from her blood what a brave, kind and
loving soul she was and, if it were possible, he loved her
even more. He looked toward the front of the bus and saw
Bussard pointing the shotgun in their direction.

Gathering all his newfound strength and speed, Nick
literally flew to the front of the bus and tackled Bussard,
knocking the gun from his grasp before he could get a shot

The police outside, hearing the noise and seeing the
action, finally stormed the bus and took Bussard into

Nick carried Maggie out of the bus and handed her over
to the waiting paramedics. Laurene followed, holding on to
the tail of Nick's coat.

Nick turned and picked Laurene up, holding her up over
his head and spinning her around until she screamed and
giggled to be put down. Nick gathered her up in a huge
bear hug. He had his daughter back safe and sound. There
wasn't a happier man on earth at that moment.

Schanke walked over to the father-daughter
hero-of-the-hour pair and slapped Nick on the back. "Good
work, partner! I didn't think you were going to pull it
off there for a while."

"What, Schank? You doubted me?" Nick gave Schanke his
innocent hurt look, turning those big blue eyes on his

"Oh, never for a minute," Schanke laughed. "You did
have me a little worried there for a while though." He
picked Laurene up and held her in his arms. "My, but you
sure have grown since I saw you last," he commented to her.

"Yeah, right, Schank.... You saw me just last month."
Laurene scowled at Schanke until he had to laugh and put
her down again.

Just then Natalie showed up, running up to Nick and
Laurene and gathering them together in a big family hug.

"Oh Nick! I got the call a half hour ago that you and
Laurene were okay. I think I broke all the speed limits
getting here."

"Hey, Nat. How're you holding up?" Nick lifted her
chin with a finger so that he could gaze into her lovely
wide blue eyes.

"I'm just fine now, and that's what counts," she
answered. Nick wrapped his arms around her and smothered
her with a passionate kiss, releasing all his pent up
tension into that one act of love. Laurene stood back next
to Schanke and shook her head.

"They do that all the time when they think I'm not
looking," she smirked. Schanke laughed and patted her on
the back in acknowledgment of her observation.

Nick and his family reached home just before sunrise.
Natalie fixed some breakfast for Laurene then bathed her
and put her to bed for some well-deserved rest. Nick
showered and dressed in his pajamas, grabbed his mug and a
couple blood packs, and settled in the living room to wait
for Natalie.

Once Laurene was properly tucked in, Natalie came and
settled next to Nick. "Did all those bullets just go right
through you?" she asked, wondering if she'd need to dig any
out before they headed to bed.

"Yep, straight through, every one of them," Nick
answered. "But I lost a lot of blood before the wounds the
healed. That shouldn't have happened."

"But you hadn't fed in so long and you used up a lot of
energy getting there," Natalie noted.

"Yeah, I suppose," Nick conceded. He took a long drink
from his mug and refilled it. He took another sip, then
set the mug down and turned to Natalie. He took a deep
breath, not knowing exactly how start what it was he wanted
to say. Natalie looked deeply into his troubled eyes.

"What is it, Nick?"

"I ... I fed from Laurene." Nick dropped his head and
studiously examined his fingernails.

"You what?" Natalie asked in amazement.

Nick looked up into Natalie's unbelieving face. "I was
weak from blood loss and spending the day out in the open,"
he began. "Laurene offered herself to me, but I
refused.... Nat, she slit her own wrist and put it to my
mouth. I'm sorry ... I just couldn't control myself...."

Natalie shook her head sadly. Nick looked so forlorn
and guilty. She hadn't seen him look this bad in over six
years. "She looked fine when I put her to bed. I didn't
see any scarring on her wrist."

Nick looked up in surprise. "But I fed from her, Nat!
There had to be some sign...."

"Nope. Nothing," Natalie replied. "What did you read
in her blood? Do you remember?"

"Only that she loved me and wanted to help. It was the
only way she knew to help me.... Nat, she's special. I
always knew she was, but I thought that was just a father's
pride. She's different." Nick looked up at Natalie then
and an excited animation crossed his features. "Could she
have somehow inherited some of the vampire virus ... gene
... whatever?"

Natalie gave him a strange look. "You were mortal when
she was conceived, Nick. I don't know how that could be

"Laurene's mortal too.... I've never sensed
anything different about her until last night. Nat, she
could read me, she could feel me as one vampire senses
another. And her blood.... I couldn't take too much, but
it nourished me far more than that small amount should
have." Nick was practically bouncing in his excitement as
the memories flooded back.

"And there was no sign of the wound on her wrist
tonight," Natalie mused. "I promise I'll take a blood
sample and check it out Nick, but right now I need to get
you to bed too."

Nick reached over to the table for his mug and downed
the remaining contents then he took Natalie's hand and led
her upstairs.

In their bedroom, Natalie once again noticed Nick's
readiness for her through the thin silk of his pajamas.
This time she was in absolutely no mood to refuse him.
This was most definately a time for celebration. Their
clothes lay scattered on the floor of the bedroom,
forgotten by the lovers in their passion.

Down the hall in her bedroom, Laurene giggled.

The End