This story is the finishing piece for what has grown into a trilogy
for me. The first two stories in this cycle are "Innocent Blood"
and "The Price."

Disclaimer: The characters of Nick and Co. are not mine.
They were created by J. Parriott and B. Cohen and are owned
by Sony/TriStar. No copyright infringement was intended.
The character of Laurene is mine.

Silver Threads -- Part 1
by Nancy Taylor
(c) Sept. 1997

Two years. Almost two, interminably, long years in this hell
hole of a prison. Nearly two years to think. Two years to study
and learn. Two years to plan revenge on the one who put him here.

Bussard sat in the small, lonely prison cell. There was
plenty of time to think in here. His anger turned outward to the
handsome, blond police detective who had been instrumental in
putting him in this place.

Casting his thoughts back, he remembered his tormentor. It
was a long time ago, maybe fourteen or fifteen years, Bussard
couldn't be certain anymore. This was the man who had tried to
stop the convenience store robbery that Bussard had been a part of.
Bussard had tossed this schmuck a pipe bomb, he'd even seen the
thing explode. How could it possibly be the same man? How could
anyone have survived catching that bomb? And the man hadn't aged.

This was the same man who had just put him in prison for
kidnapping a busload of kids when he was high on cocaine after
another robbery. Bussard had filled this man's gut with lead and
it only barely slowed him down.

No, not a man, Bussard had discovered. He had been studying,
reading. With the help of friends from the outside, Bussard had
discovered what this 'thing' masquerading as a man really was.
This police detective was a monster; the walking dead, a demon
without a soul, immortal as the heavens, cursed to walk the night
and drink the blood of the living ... a vampire.

Bussard smiled, his eyes glittering with madness. Quietly,
he readied his escape plan. Revenge would be sweet....


How many years had it been? Janette stalked her New Orleans
nightclub. Time had little meaning for her, but recently her
thoughts had turned to Nicolas. She had tried to put him from her
mind. She had been very angry at her brother, now master, when he
had brought her back across several years past. But now....
Janette couldn't quite put her finger on the reason, but she felt
compelled to speak with Nicolas and visit his family. Something
did not feel right. The tenuous silver thread which tied them
together as master and daughter vibrated uncomfortably. She and
Nicolas were too far apart for Janette to know what was wrong, but
whatever it was, Nicolas needed her.

"Tell Nayla I'm leaving for a time," Janette informed her
bartender. "She must run the club while I'm gone."

"When can I tell her you'll be back?" Jean Pierre called to
her retreating form.

"When I'm back," Janette replied, and with a flip of her
elegant wrist she was gone.


"Let me help with that, Aunt Nat." Jenny accepted the stack
of colorful paper plates, cups and napkins from Natalie's
overburdened arms.

"Thanks, Jen. I don't know what I'd do without you."
Natalie smiled brightly at the energetic young college student.
"I'm sure glad you decided to come back to Toronto to finish

"Oh, University of Toronto is great, Nattie!" Jenny placed
the brightly colored birthday plates around the table. "I guess I
just got homesick for Mum and Dad. I missed Laur terribly, too! I
just can't believe my little Laurene is turning eight! She almost
doesn't need me to babysit her anymore!" Jenny bubbled.

Natalie chuckled. "She still needs you, Jen. Give her a
few more years at least."

Nick sauntered in and surveyed the partially decorated dining
room. "Anything I can do to help?"

"You can hang the crepe streamers," Natalie told him, shoving
some brightly colored rolls into Nick's hands. "You're good at the
high stuff."

"I always get the 'high stuff,'" Nick whined, smiling, as he
levitated up and began placing the twisted strands of crepe paper
around the room.

Jenny giggled, watching as Nick flew around the room, putting
up the streamers. "I still remember when you finally came clean
and told Daddy!" she said, nearly choking on her laughter. "I
thought he would bust! 'I knew it! I always knew there was
something *strange* about you, partner!'" Jenny blustered in a fair
imitation of her father, Donald Schanke.

Nick and Natalie burst into laughter at Jenny's histrionics.
Nick nearly dropped a roll of streamers as he tried to control his
mirth while suspended a few feet above the dining table. "I
thought it was only fair," he chuckled, regaining his composure
slowly. "After all, you figured it out three years ago at
Halloween. Tracy knows. It didn't seem right keeping it from
Schank." Nick landed softly on the carpet and put down the
leftover crepe streamers. Still chuckling, he continued, "The look
on Schank's face! Priceless! Made me feel a little guilty I
hadn't let him in on the secret years ago."

"Yeah, he was a little P.O.'d at you there for a while."
Jenny looked up from her task of decorating the table and smiled at
her Uncle Nick. Just then the doorbell rang. "I'll get it!" Jenny
turned swiftly and nearly flew from the room.

"Karrie Anne! Glad you could come!" Jenny greeted the first
of Laurene's birthday guests. Karrie Anne wheeled herself into the
house. She was one of Laurene's newer friends, having just met
Laur at the beginning of the school year. She was a cheerful
child, never letting the fact that she had Cerebral Palsy and used
a wheelchair get in the way of her having fun.

"Hi, Jen! Am I the first one here?" Karrie Anne asked,
looking around.

"Yep, but not for long!" Jenny replied, looking over Karrie
Anne's shoulder and out the front door of the Knights' home. "Hi,
Julie! Hi, Cindy! Come on in!"

The house began to quickly fill with young girls as the time
for the party neared. Nick went upstairs to take the packages out
of hiding, while Natalie placed the brightly decorated cake in the
middle of the table.

"Maggie will be bringing Laurene home from skating any minute
now," Natalie informed the guests. "Everyone go and find a place
to hide!"

Girls skittered here and there, hunkering down behind tables
and chairs. Jenny helped Karrie Anne maneuver behind a decorative
silk screen just in time.

Outside, Laurene and Maggie were chattering happily.

"Thanks, Maggie, Mrs. Church, I had a great time!" Laurene
enthused. "Mrs. Church, can Maggie stay over for a while?"

"Of course she can, dear." Maggie's mother replied. "Happy
Birthday!" she called from the car as she waved and drove away.

Giggling, the girls mounted the steps to the front porch. As
Laurene opened the front door, Maggie all but pushed her through

Party guests erupted from hiding places all around the living
room. "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LAURENE!" They shouted with glee.

To be continued....

Silver Threads -- Part 2
by Nancy Taylor

He was angry. Angry and hurt. And brooding. He had managed
to put the whole thing to the back of his mind and get on with his
life, but now the connection that bound him inextricably to his son
had once more come alive. What he felt was not pleasant.

LaCroix was still angry and indignant over his last
confrontation with his wayward son. It had been over a year ago,
nearly two, and LaCroix's perfect memory remembered like


"What have you done with her?!" Nick confronted his master,
channeling all his fears for Laurene into his rage.

With an outward calm at complete odds to Nick's anger,
LaCroix answered his son, "She is quite safe, Nicholas. You know I
would not harm her."

"I know no such thing!" Growling, Nick began to advance upon

Opening her bedroom door and peering out, Laurene rubbed at
the sleep in her eyes. The noise caused by Nick's precipitous
entrance had awakened her. Taking in the tableau before her,
Laurene stepped out into the main room. "Daddy?" she asked,
surprised to see her enraged father.

Nick stopped his forward advance and turned toward the sound
of his daughter's voice, taking in the fact that she was unharmed.
At almost the same instant, LaCroix, reaching out, grabbed hold of
Laurene around the waist and held her closely to him. With his
daughter being used as a shield, Nick could no longer consider
directly attacking LaCroix.

Startled by the sudden turn of events, Laurene cried out,
"Uncle Lucien!?" Struggling in his strong grasp, she demanded,
"Let me go!" In all of her short life, LaCroix had been nothing
but kind and gentle to her. Laurene knew he was a vampire, like
her daddy, but Nick and Natalie had never told their daughter of
LaCroix's dark past or of the tumultuous relationship between Nick
and his creator. This was a side of her precious grandfather that
Laurene had never seen, and it frightened her.

"What price, Nicholas?" LaCroix inquired, completely ignoring
the struggling youngster in his arms. "What price are you willing
to pay for your mortality?"

Laurene continued to struggle, kicking at LaCroix's shins.
Her karate training was no match for a vampire nearly two millennia
old. "Let me go!" she demanded. "Daddy!! Make him let me go!"

"Let her go, LaCroix!" Nick demanded, advancing once more
upon the ancient vampire.

"She is mine, Nicholas, in payment for your folly." LaCroix
shook his head and regarded his son. "We had an agreement ... you
promised to give up your search for a cure and I promised to leave
your family in peace."

Stopping her struggle, Laurene looked up into LaCroix's face,
searching for the truth. She looked into her daddy's face as well,
the realization beginning to dawn in her young mind. Laurene put
two and two together and came up with.... "It's my fault ... my
fault, Daddy." She hung her head and sniffled. "I was the one
that told Uncle Lucien there was a cure for you in my blood."

"You're not to blame, Pumpkin, don't you ever believe that,"
Nick tried to reassure her.

"Ah, but she is correct, Nicholas. It was her innocent
statement that clued me in to your treachery. I confirmed my
suspicions first, of course. Your Natalie is searching again, and
it would appear that she is quite close to a solution to your
dilemma." LaCroix watched as his son's face drained to an even
paler shade of gray.

"What would you have me do, LaCroix? I can't allow you to
harm Laurene." Knowing that as long as LaCroix held Laurene, he
would be unable to physically attack his master, Nick opted instead
to negotiate. "I will tell Natalie to stop looking. If she has
developed the cure, I won't use it. Please, LaCroix, you MUST give
us back Laurene."

LaCroix enjoyed watching his son beg. Considering his
options, LaCroix locked gazes with Nicholas and proposed, "I will
give her back to you if one condition is met.... Over seven hundred
years ago, you took from me the only woman I have ever truly loved
... your sister, Fleur." Watching his son's face closely, he
continued, "You will now repay two debts, Nicholas.... When
Laurene turns twenty-five, you will allow me to bring her across.
That way, she may be my eternal companion.... The companion that
you have proven so unwilling to be."

"NO!!! I will not allow it!" Nick was beside himself with
the audacity of the demand. No matter the consequences, this was
the one thing he could not allow.

"Yes, I agree," a quiet voice whispered from the confines of
LaCroix's arms. Feeling responsible for this whole affair, Laurene
had decided to take matters into her own small hands.

"It is settled, then." LaCroix allowed a faint smile of
satisfaction to cross his features. Releasing Laurene to her
father, LaCroix turned to retire to his bedroom.

"It is NOT settled!" Lunging at LaCroix, Nick pinned him to
the wall. "She's only six years old, LaCroix! She is not old
enough to make that decision. That is what she has parents for.
You cannot hold her to her word."

"But that is where you are wrong, Nicholas." Twisting in
Nick's grasp, LaCroix managed to free himself and stand nose to
nose with his recalcitrant son. "When you live as long as I have,
you make your own rules. I say this is done, and so it is."
Turning his back on Nick in dismissal, LaCroix entered his bedroom
and closed the door.


Since that fateful night LaCroix had been banned from the
Knights' home and from seeing Laurene. He was patient. Living for
nearly two thousand years, one learns patience. LaCroix could
wait. The few short years it would take for Laurene to grow into a
young woman were but a blink of an eye to the ancient vampire.

But now, now he felt the tug on that silver thread that bound
him so inextricably to his son. Something was drawing him back,
and he knew he must go.


The escape had been frightfully easy, the man mused. He
wondered why he had never bothered to attempt it before. Now he
hid in the basement of an old warehouse. It was time to put his
plan into motion. Smiling, Bussard looked at the array of pictures
and newspaper clippings he had collected with the help of some
friends on the outside. He owed them one, but first he had a job
to do. Slipping the pictures into a large manila envelope along
with the note he had written, Bussard picked up the stolen cell
phone and dialed....


"Close your eyes and make a wish," Natalie instructed the
birthday girl.

Laurene closed her eyes, paused a moment, then taking a deep
breath, blew out all the candles with one blow. The crowd of
children and adults clapped and cheered. Nick leaned down to give
Laurene a kiss on the cheek.

Just then, the cell phone in Nick's pocket beeped. Excusing
himself from the party, Nick walked into the hallway and flipped
open the phone.


"Meet me at the warehouse on Gateway Lane. You know the one.
Come alone," the mysterious voice instructed just before Nick heard
the click of the disconnect.

Nick stared at the phone in his hand as though it might bite
him. Slowly lowering his arm, Nick tucked the phone back into his
pocket and walked into the dining room. Taking Natalie by the
elbow, he led the protesting party hostess away from the

"What's going on, Nick?" Natalie asked in hushed tones,
worried at the somber look on her husband's face.

"He's out, Nat," Nick informed her. At Natalie's bewildered
look, he expounded, "Bussard has escaped. He wants me to meet him
at the loft warehouse."

"Well, you're NOT going!" Natalie exclaimed, a little more
loudly than she had intended.

Drawn by the sound of a heated conversation, Jenny cautiously
approached the couple. "Anything I can do to help?" she asked.

"No, Jen, it's okay, really," Natalie assured Jenny. "We can
handle this. Would you please take over the party for now?

"Sure, Nattie, no problem!" Jenny answered and bounced back
to the celebration.

"I HAVE to go, Nat," Nick stage whispered.

"Why? Why do YOU have to be the one to go?" Natalie was
worried, desperate. The blood-sharing she and Nick had indulged in
over the years had created a tenuous psychic bond between the
couple. Natalie could feel this connection, like a silver thread
tying her to Nick. She could feel his fear, his own desperation,
his need to bring Bussard back to justice himself.

"Because I do," Nick answered simply.

Natalie knew her husband too well to protest further. "Can
you wait until after the party?" she quietly begged.

Nick's head sagged until his chin brushed against his chest.
He shook it slowly. "I have to go now."

"Well, at least come and tell your daughter that you're
leaving." Natalie pulled Nick back into the dining room where
Laurene was busy stuffing her face with cake and giggling like the
eight-year-old girl that she was.

Nick leaned down to envelope his daughter in a huge bear hug.
"I gotta go, Pumpkin," he whispered in her ear.

Laurene turned and looked into her daddy's sad eyes. "Why do
you have to go, Daddy?" she asked.

"Work," he answered her simply.

"Okay, Daddy," Laurene replied seriously. She, too, was
connected to her father, even more strongly than was Natalie.
Laurene could sense her father's need to leave, all the while
regretting the necessity. "Come back real soon, okay, Daddy?"

"I will, Pumpkin. Promise." Nick gave Laurene one last
squeeze and a kiss before he exited the party.

At the front door, Natalie handed Nick his black duster coat.
"Be careful," she whispered.

Nick captured Natalie's lips with a kiss full of both passion
and promise. "I will," he told her as he walked through the

To be continued....

Silver Threads -- Part 3
by Nancy Taylor

Oh, how she hated flying! Janette sat in the New Orleans
airport terminal awaiting the boarding call for her flight to
Toronto. She had packed hastily, taking no more than what would
fit in the two carry-on bags that sat near her feet.

Janette was afraid; the fear nipped at her heels like a mangy
dog. Something was happening with Nicolas and his family; she felt
the resonance of Nicolas' fear. She couldn't put her finger on the
reason, but something had been bothering Nicolas for some time now.

Janette looked up with worried anticipation at the departure
board, noting with frustration that her plane was going to be


LaCroix decided to drive back to Toronto from Montreal, it
would give him time to think. The wind blew in his face as he
piloted the black Jaguar down the highway, going at least fifty
kilometers per hour above the speed limit. The silver thread of
his connection with his arrogant, wayward son thrummed with fear
and pain.

It would do him good, LaCroix thought, to suffer a little.
Pain is good for the soul. At that thought, a chuckle erupted from
his lips. Soul. Nicholas had no soul, no matter how desperately
he wanted one or thought otherwise. In nearly a millennia LaCroix
had not been able to pound that lesson through Nicholas' thick

Suffering might be a good thing for Nicholas from time to
time, but LaCroix did not want to lose his son to final death. He
sensed fear building behind the arrogance and anger of his son.
Nicholas was in trouble. Despite their recent differences, LaCroix
could no more ignore the messages coming through their bond then he
could give up drinking blood.

"I'm coming, Nicholas, I'm coming," LaCroix muttered as he
entered the Toronto city limits.

The party was over and all the guests had been picked up and
taken home. Jenny had stayed to help clean up the worst of the
mess, but she had an early class the next day and had to leave
sooner than she would have liked.

Natalie had opened the heavy-duty blinds on the front windows
shortly after the sun had set. Now she sat on the couch exhausted,
watching the snowflakes drift quietly down through the light of the
streetlamp. A small hand laid on her shoulder startled Natalie and
made her jump.

"Sorry, Mummy," Laurene apologized.

"Hey, that's okay Honey," Natalie replied, patting the couch
cushion beside her. "Come sit with me and watch the snow." She
smiled as Laurene plopped down on the couch.

"Mummy," Laurene began tentatively after a few minutes of

"What, Hon?" Natalie asked, turning a concerned face to
Laurene, alerted by the touch of fear in her daughter's voice.

"When's Daddy coming home?"

Natalie ran a soothing hand through Laurene's boisterous
blonde curls. "I don't know, Laur. Soon, I hope."

There was another long pause as they both stared out at the
flakes gently floating down from the dark night sky. "Mummy,"
Laurene began again. "Mummy, Daddy's in trouble."

Fear stabbed through Natalie's chest, piercing her heart.
She turned her full attention to her daughter. "How do you know
Daddy's in trouble?" Natalie asked, fear tingeing her words.

Over the last few years, Laurene's "talents" had become more
and more apparent. She was an unusual and gifted child. The
talent most highly developed was Laurene's ability to "read" Nick
in her mind. Laurene often knew what her father was thinking or
feeling. It spooked Natalie a bit, but Nick seemed to take the
ability in stride, explaining that the silver thread of
connectiveness was common among vampires of the same blood.
Natalie had protested that explanation, using as her evidence the
fact that Laurene was mortal and human in every measurable way.
The family had still not discovered the reason for Laurene's
abilities, but they had learned not to ignore the fact that they

Tears were running down Laurene's cheeks as she sobbed. "I
don't know, Mummy!" Squirming in her mother's grasp, Laurene
twisted free and ran for the front door. "I have to go find Daddy
... help him!" she cried as she twisted the knob.

Natalie was on her feet in an instant, dragging Laurene back
inside the house. "No, Laurene, no. Mummy will call the police.
They'll take care of Daddy."

Natalie picked up the phone and began to dial the Toronto
Metro Police Department. She chewed on her fingertips while the
phone rang once, twice ... and was picked up just before the third

"Let me speak with Capt. Reese, please. It's an emergency.
This is Natalie Lambert-Knight."

"Just a moment, please," the desk sergeant answered.

Natalie chewed another finger while Reese's phone rang. It
was picked up almost immediately. "Capt. Reese," came the voice on
the other end of the line.

"Joe, it's Natalie!" Natalie all but shouted into the phone.
"Nick needs help. A man called during Laurene's birthday party and
told Nick to meet him at the warehouse at 101 Gateway Lane. Nick
hasn't called or checked in and I'm worried. Something's gone

"Damn!" Natalie heard Reese swear on the other end of the

"Joe? Do you know something?" Natalie begged.

"Yeah," Natalie heard Joe Reese sigh on the other end of the
phone. "Bussard escaped from prison around five o'clock yesterday
afternoon. We think he had help. There's been an APB out on him
since last night."

Natalie's heart leaped into her throat and she could barely
speak. "Oh God, no, Joe.... Bussard has threatened to KILL Nick!"
Gathering her anger around her, Natalie spat into the phone, "Why
wasn't Nick told Bussard had escaped?!"

"Shit!" Reese swore. "He wasn't told? Damn, I hate it when
we screw up like that! I'm really sorry, Natalie.

"I've got a squad on their way to the warehouse as we speak.
Nick's going to be all right. Don't you worry."

Yeah, like that's going to happen! Natalie thought, more
worried than ever. "Thanks, Joe." Natalie quietly hung up the

"Laur?" Natalie called out to the empty room. "Laurene?"
Getting no answer, Natalie quickly began a search of the house,
calling out Laurene's name as she looked. Feeling a draft of cold
air coming from the kitchen, Natalie ran into the room only to find
the back door open and Laurene missing.

To be continued....

Silver Threads -- Part 4
by Nancy Taylor

Nick pulled the Caddy up in front of the old warehouse that
he used to call home. Cautiously he climbed out, senses wide open,
at their vampiric peak. Looking around the deserted building, Nick
finally entered through the unlocked door of what had once served
as his garage. He stood quietly just inside the doorway, listening
intently. All he could hear was the scurry of rats as they ran for

Nick's sensitive eyes adjusted to the dimness of the large
room almost immediately. Looking around, Nick spotted a manila
envelope on the floor near the stairs. He walked over to it,
noting that it was addressed to him. Curiosity peaked, Nick leaned
over to pick up the envelope and opened it carefully.

Inside were old photos. Photos clipped from newspapers,
Polaroids and snapshots. Photos of his family, himself, his home.
And a note --

I know who you are. I know WHAT
you are. I know where you live.
You have such a beautiful family.
If you don't want to see them hurt,
meet me outside the Coroner's
Building this evening at 8:15.

Nick glanced at his watch -- 8:11. He'd have just enough time to
arrive at the appointed place. He couldn't afford to waste time
calling for backup, but he had to make certain that Natalie and
Laurene were safe. Taking his cell phone from a pocket he dialed
and got a busy signal. Damn! He didn't have enough time, a
decision had to be made. Launching himself into the night sky,
Nick flew toward the Coroner's Building.

Landing softly in the shadows near the building, Nick heard a
single heartbeat on the sidewalk near him. Cautiously approaching
the sound, he was not surprised when a man jumped from the shadows
just in front of him. The figure raised his arms and Nick found
himself staring down the length of a deadly wooden crossbow.

"Bussard," Nick whispered, his breath puffing little clouds
in the cold night air.

"So, you remember who I am." Bussard pushed the tip of the
arrow against Nick's chest, poking a small hole in Nick's overcoat.

"Yeah, I remember." Nick answered curtly.

"Good, 'cause I wouldn't want ya ta die without knowing who
it was killed you," Bussard growled. He pushed the arrow tip
harder into Nick's chest.

"What do you want?" Nick ventured to ask.

"Move," Bussard commanded, pushing Nick with the crossbow to
the rear of a small black car. Opening the trunk, Bussard
gestured. "I want you to get in." The crossbow pricked Nick's
chest once more.

This had gone far enough, Nick decided. He looked around at
the empty street. There was no one else crazy enough to be out in
this weather unless they needed to be. There would be no
witnesses. Using vampiric speed, Nick rushed Bussard.

The two men went flying and landed, with Bussard underneath,
on the snowy sidewalk. It was a calculated risk on Nick's part.
He felt he needed to take the gamble. He lost. The last thing
Nick consciously remembered before passing out was the force of his
landing impaling the crossbow bolt through his chest.

Bussard opened the trunk of the small foreign car and stuffed
Nick's body in the trunk. It was a tight squeeze, but Buzzard
didn't care much about the comfort of his prisoner.

Bussard wove through the evening traffic, making his way out
of downtown Toronto and heading for the suburbs. He pulled the car
up to the curb in front of a small vacant house, not eight
kilometers from the Knights' home. Opening the trunk, Bussard
lifted Nick's limp body and carried him to the back of the house.

Laying Nick down in the snow near the cellar steps, Bussard
returned to the car and unloaded the equipment his compatriots had
so helpfully collected for him. After depositing the knapsack full
of his means of revenge, Bussard dragged Nick's unprotesting body
into the basement of the house.


Laurene shrieked and grabbed her chest, falling down in the
snow almost a kilometer from her home. With tears tracing tracks
down her cheeks, Laurene lay in the snowbank until she could catch
her breath and think more clearly. A few minutes later, she stood.

Closing her eyes, Laurene reached out along the silver thread
that bound her to her father. That connection was quiet now, but
it was still there. That was a good sign. Laurene remembered her
father telling her that nothing would break that connection except
him becoming mortal again, or death.

It was clear to Laurene, who was no longer in pain, that the
pain had been her father's. Daddy's in trouble, she thought,
concentrating harder on their bond and walking in the direction
that she sensed it most strongly. Her path led her farther from
home. Farther than she had ever gone before by herself.

Laurene wasn't afraid. Well, not really. Maybe a little,
she thought, as she tried to talk herself out of the growing fear
in the pit of her stomach. Her father needed her now and there was
no one else to help him except her.

Finally stopping in front of a vacant house, several
kilometers from her home, Laurene looked around. This was the
place. She felt it somewhere deep inside. Daddy is here, she
thought. Somewhere here. I just have to find him and help him.


Having dragged Nick's unresisting form down the cellar steps
and into the basement of the house, Bussard stripped Nick down to
his shorts and bound his arms around a sturdy beam with heavy
ropes soaked in Holy water. Taking a length of razor wire, Bussard
carefully formed a garrotte around Nick's neck, immobilizing his
head against the beam. Draping a string of garlic around Nick's
neck, Bussard finally decided pulling out the crossbow bolt was
safe. He didn't want Knight dead, yet. He wanted to make sure
that this creature suffered as he, Bussard, had suffered. He would
enjoy torturing this monster.

Settling back to enjoy the show, Bussard pulled a sandwich
from the dirty knapsack he had carried, planning to have some
dinner while he waited for his prisoner to come back to

Blood roared in his ears and assaulted his sensitive nose.
It was his own blood, Nick noted. Slowly, his throbbing head
threatening to explode and the pain in his chest nearly unbearable,
Nick fought his way back to consciousness. He felt weak from loss
of blood and from the pervasive odor of garlic that made him retch.
His wrists burned painfully. When he tried to move, Nick felt the
garrotte wire cut deeply into his throat.

Nick's stirring captured Bussard's attention. Turning to his
prisoner, Bussard laughed cruelly. The sight of this powerful
being, nearly naked, weak from blood loss, injured to within inches
of his unlife, warmed a corner of Bussard's hardened heart.
Finally, he knew his nemesis was feeling the same pain and
humiliation that Bussard had felt in prison.

"What is it you want of me?" Nick croaked, the slash to
his throat affecting his ability to talk. Any movement of his head
caused the garrotte to cut deeper. Nick did not want to
accidentally behead himself, he didn't want to give Bussard that
pleasure. He also didn't want to endanger his ability to speak.
Nick sat tall and straight, careful not to move.

"All I want from you is your death!" Bussard spat. "But
first, you're gonna suffer like I suffered." Reaching across his
lap, Bussard picked up a small super-soaker type water gun. "This
is gonna be fun," Bussard cackled as he aimed and shot the water
at Nick's chest. Smoke immediately rose from Nick's exposed skin
as the Holy water caused burning welts to rise wherever it hit.

Nick screamed and jerked at the sudden pain. The garrotte
wire cut deeper and Nick forced himself to sit still before he did
more damage to himself than what Bussard had caused. His eyes
glowed golden and his fangs had dropped. The beast had been
loosed, and Nick no longer had enough control to restrain it.
Hissing, he spat back at Bussard.

Aiming the water gun higher, Bussard shot Nick in the face.
The burning liquid blinded Nick, throwing him into a frenzy.
Twisting, trying to free himself no matter the cost, he caused the
garrotte to cut ever deeper. Finally, too weak from loss of blood
and the Hunger to continue the fight, Nick slumped against the
wooden beam and waited for Bussard to finish the job.


Walking quietly around the vacant house, Laurene saw
footprints in the snow leading to the cellar steps. She crept over
to investigate. Tiptoeing down the stairs and gently pushing the
door open, Laurene poked her head through the crack. What she saw
surprised and frightened her.

"Daddy!" Laurene screamed, running into the room.

Startled by the sudden sound and movement, Bussard picked up
his stolen hand gun and shot. Laurene slumped in a little pink
pile on the dirty basement floor, blood streaming from the wound in
her chest.

Throwing back his head in pain and anguish, Nick's scream
echoed through the empty house.

To be continued....

Silver Threads -- Part 5
by Nancy Taylor

Natalie ran out of the house, barely remembering to take her
coat and close the door behind her. Thank God for the snow!
Natalie thought as she followed Laurene's small footprints out of
the back yard and down the street. When Laurene had
surreptitiously slipped out of the house, she had done so without
her coat, dressed only in her lacy pink party dress. Natalie knew
through experience that Laurene didn't suffer from the cold as
badly as she did herself, but neither did she have Nick's
resistance to the weather.

Natalie followed the trail of small prints in the snow with
trepidation. The wind was picking up and the footprints were being
covered by new snow blown over them. Natalie was worried that
Laurene would freeze out here long before she found Nick or her
home again.

About ten blocks from home Natalie saw the child-sized
depression in the snow at the side of the road. From there the
footprints led north, but quickly disappeared as the storm picked
up in its ferocity. Natalie continued in a northerly direction a
while longer, but finally had to give up. There was no way she was
going to be able to tell which direction her precious daughter had
taken. Reluctantly, Natalie headed back home.

When she reached the house, Natalie was surprised to see
Tracy waiting on the front porch for her. Stomping the snow off
her shoes, Natalie climbed the front steps.

Tracy stood by the door blowing into her hands to keep them
warm. "Hi, Nat! Quite a night, eh?" She paused at the look on
Natalie's face and, dropping the perkiness, got down to the
business of why she was there. "Capt. Reese put out a squad to the
warehouse. They found Nick's Caddy, but Nick wasn't there. They
found this, too." Tracy handed a manila envelope to Natalie.

Accepting the envelope as though it contained a letter bomb,
Natalie gestured toward the door. "Let's go inside and talk,
Tracy." Turning her back on her friend, Natalie opened the door
and stalked into the house. Even her own home seemed cold and
empty without Nick and Laurene. Natalie had also suddenly started
feeling unwell, with aches and pains all over her body, the
sharpest pains residing in her chest and neck. Rubbing the back of
her neck to ease the ache, she dropped her coat on the entry table
and carried the envelope with her to the couch where she collapsed
with pain and exhaustion.

Entering behind Natalie, Tracy hung her coat on the rack,
then picked up Natalie's and hung it too. She followed Natalie to
the couch and sat down next to her. "You look beat," she
sympathized. "There's something more than just Nick missing, isn't
there?" she continued after a moment.

Natalie was overcome with the emotions she had been keeping
bottled up. With her arms crossed over her knees and her head
resting on her arms, Natalie cried. Tiny whimpers turned to deep
sobs as she tried to fathom everything that was happening and why
she was hurting so badly.

Tracy put her arms around Nat protectively. "It's going to
be okay, Nat. Capt. Reese won't sleep until he's found Nick."

"It's more than that, Trace," Natalie said, looking up with
red-rimmed eyes. "Laurene is missing too."

"NO! Oh no, Nat! When? How long ago? Do you know where
she might have gone?" Tracy was beginning to fathom Natalie's deep
sorrow. Laurene out in this storm was truly frightening. "Does
Capt. Reese know she's missing?"

Natalie shook her head. From her position with her head on
her knees, Natalie's muffled voice told Tracy the story. "Just
before I called Capt. Reese, Laurene tried to run out of the house
to find Nick. I dragged her back in, but while I was on the phone
she slipped out the back door. I just got back from looking for

"What did you find?" Tracy questioned. "Could you follow her

"For almost a klik, yes," Natalie confirmed. "But then I
lost her when the wind covered the footprints. She was headed
north. That's all I know. Oh Tracy, we have to find my little

Tracy looked around at the remnants of the party. Crepe
streamers still hung from the ceiling and a few balloons floated
through the house.... Painful reminders that a child's life might
be at stake out in the snow.

"First we need to call and report her missing," Tracy stated,
taking charge of the situation. Picking up the phone next to the
couch, Tracy dialed the precinct and gave the missing child report.
Despite the fact that Laurene had been gone less than an hour, the
report was taken and acted on quickly. Between the severe weather
and the fact that her father, a police detective, was also missing,
Laurene's disappearance became a top priority for the police.

After the call was made, Tracy got up and went into the
kitchen to fix hot chocolate for Natalie and herself. Bringing the
steaming mug back into the living room, Tracy found Natalie going
through the contents of the manila envelope. Pictures were spread
on the coffee table and Natalie was reading the note.

"Thanks, Trace," Natalie said, accepting the mug of hot
chocolate from her friend. "Bussard is responsible for this?" she
asked, gesturing to the array of photographs and newspaper

"Yeah, we think so," Tracy replied. "We haven't had time to
have the handwriting analyzed. They dusted for prints, but the
results aren't back yet. Spooky, isn't it?" Tracy picked through
the pictures until she found one of Laurene on the school
playground. "You don't think Bussard had anything to do with
Laurene disappearing?"

"I dunno, Trace," Natalie answered, feeling even more
exhausted than she had after the party. "Laurene left here of her
own free will, but whether Bussard found her or she just got lost
in the storm.... I don't know." Natalie leaned her head in her
hands and shook it slowly.

"Well, you finish that hot chocolate ... you need the energy.
Then we'll take my car and go out looking. Okay?"

Natalie picked up the mug and drained it. Grabbing Tracy by
the hand, she pulled the younger woman out the door. "What are you
waiting for? Let's get moving!" The two women piled into Tracy's
car and headed off to search for Laurene.


Janette disembarked from her plane into the Toronto airport.
Pain and fear were singing through her mind, making her tremble.
There wasn't enough time for conventional transportation. Janette
tossed her bags into one of the airport's lockers and, hurrying
outside, took flight, headed north and out of the city proper.

To be continued....

Silver Threads -- Part 6
by Nancy Taylor

Pain seared through his being not once, but twice. LaCroix
pulled the Jag over to the curb and concentrated briefly on the
pain. Yes, it was Nicholas and ... it was not. He hadn't felt the
second pain directly, but through Nicholas. Laurene!

LaCroix was out of the Jag instantly and took to the air,
unconcerned if anyone witnessed his departure. He had been driving
through Toronto when the pains had hit. The silver thread drawing
him toward his son and granddaughter was leading him out of the
city, toward the suburban area that Nicholas called home.

Streaking through the storm that had enveloped the city in
the past few hours, LaCroix unerringly headed for the formerly
vacant house that now held his family. Landing in the back yard
only short minutes later, he rushed down the cellar steps, ripping
the door from its hinges and throwing it behind him in his haste.

The tableau that faced LaCroix upon entering the basement
enraged him. Nicholas was unconscious and bound to a sturdy
support beam. He had obviously been tortured, but LaCroix sensed
his son's life was not in immediate danger. Laurene lay in a small
bleeding heap on the floor, her heart rate slowing as her life's
blood drained out into the dirt. The scent of the blood incited
the vampire in LaCroix. In an instant he was across the room,
Bussard pinned in his iron grip.

Fear tasted sweet. LaCroix reveled in the terror of his
victim as he drew the life sustaining nectar of human blood from
this man who had so wantonly done harm to his family. Letting the
bloodless corpse drop to the floor, LaCroix turned his attention to
his granddaughter.

"Aaah, mon Petit Ange," LaCroix whispered as he cradled
Laurene's small body in his arms. "You must not die." LaCroix
could see only one option, an option he did not savor, but the only
one reasonably available to him at this juncture in time. Leaning
down, he gently brushed the golden curls from Laurene's neck.

The bite was gentle, as gentle and loving a gesture as
LaCroix was capable of making it. Never had he tasted sweeter
blood, not even those young women he had taken the time to sweeten
with honey and wine. This blood was filled with such innocence,
with love, gentleness and kindness. As he listened to Laurene's
heart slow to near death, LaCroix felt himself swoon. Barely able
to keep his wits about him, he bit into his wrist and pressed the
bloody wound to Laurene's mouth.


Her precipitous flight landed her in the yard of a small
suburban house. Drawn by her bond to Nick, Janette made her way
down the cellar steps and through the ruined door. The metallic
scent of blood accosted her delicate nostrils, making her eyes
turn golden and her fangs drop.

"Who are you?" asked a small voice from the middle of the
room. Janette's attention was drawn away from the tortured form of
her brother/master to the strange scene of a little girl cradling
LaCroix's unconscious form in the middle of the room.

Janette was startled at the scene before her and not a little
surprised that this young girl showed no fear of the awesome
creature standing before her in the doorway. "You are Nicolas'
child, are you not?" she inquired as the realization began to dawn.

"Auntie Janette?" Laurene asked in amazement. "Are you here
to help Daddy?" Tears were streaming down her cheeks, salty and
clear. Still weak from the healing bullet wound, Laurene slumped
slightly, her energy depleted. Now that help was here, she no
longer had to be the strong one.

Janette moved across the room to the child and LaCroix.
Reaching out, she gently put a hand to LaCroix's cheek. "What has
happened here?" she asked, quickly assessing LaCroix's condition
and finding no sign of injury. "And what of you, child? You have
been hurt."

"I'm okay," Laurene assured her aunt, wincing slightly as she
turned to look over at Nick. "Daddy needs you most," she insisted.

Giving LaCroix one last look, Janette moved quickly to
Nick's' side, assessing his injuries and how he was bound. She
carefully removed the razor wire which viciously circled Nick's
throat and threw it savagely across the room. The necklace of
garlic followed, accompanied by a grimace of disgust. Picking at
the heavy knots that bound his wrists, Janette hissed as the
remnants of the Holy water burned her hands. Finally, Nick's limp
form tumbled into her lap.

Biting into her own delicate wrist, Janette let the blood
drip onto Nick's lips. Seconds passed, then minutes, before Nick's
tongue emerged to lick the droplets from his mouth. Janette placed
her bleeding wrist against his lips and Nick was soon drinking
desperately, coming slowly back to awareness as the blood of his
sister/daughter strengthened him.

"Daddy!" Laurene called from across the basement as soon as
she heard Nick stir. Nick sat up slowly, aches and pains
assaulting his weary body. The deep cut to his throat was already
healing, but still ached abominably.

Finding energy reserves she didn't know she still had,
Laurene launched herself into her father's lap and wrapped small
arms around him. "Everything's gonna be all right, Daddy," she
whispered, burying her face in Nick's shoulder.

"I know, Pumpkin, I know," Nick assured his daughter, hugging
her close to him and gently stroking his hand through her hair.
His hand brushed across two small welts on Laurene's neck.
Curiosity overcoming his pain and fatigue, Nick brushed her hair
away from her right ear. Doing so exposed two small puncture
wounds, already beginning to heal.

"What is this?!" Nick bellowed, despite the biting pain the
extra volume cost him.

"That would be my doing," came LaCroix's soft voice from
across the room. Sitting up and holding his throbbing head,
LaCroix faced Nick. "She was dying from the bullet wound," he
explained, totally unrepentant for his actions. "My only recourses
were to let her die, or bring her across." His head ached severely
and he really didn't feel like arguing with Nick at the moment.

"But she's mortal." Janette turned to LaCroix in surprise
that the elder vampire hadn't noticed that fact. The look of
astonishment that crossed LaCroix's face at that revelation would
have made Janette chuckle had the situation not been so serious.
"And what of you? She was tending to you when I arrived."

LaCroix shook his head and attempted to stand. He staggered
to the nearest wall and slumped there, astounded by his own
weakness. "By the gods, what is happening to me?" LaCroix looked
up at the ceiling as though the answers would come down from the
heavens. As his heart beat twice in succession, he slumped back
down to the floor.

Nick examined his daughter's wounds, assessing the fact that
the bullet had traveled cleanly through her and that her injuries
were healing. The bite marks on her neck were rapidly fading as
well, yet her heart beat strong and sure within her small chest.

Janette tossed Nick his clothes. "You had better get
dressed, Nicolas. We must leave this place and find food and
shelter from the coming dawn."

Carefully, Nick found his balance and stood. As he slowly
pulled on his clothes, every muscle in his body screamed at the
abuse he'd just been through. Once he was dressed, Janette herded
the small band out into the yard.

Once outside, Janette lifted lightly into the night sky,
fully expecting her companions to follow.

"Janette?" Nick's voice floated up to her as she hovered,
waiting for Nick and LaCroix to follow with the child. "May we

"We don't have the time to walk," Janette answered him,
feeling just a wee bit anxious and annoyed.

"My home is just a few kliks away, we can make it," Nick
insisted. LaCroix was now leaning heavily against his son. Nick
could sense the binding silver thread was not yet broken, but he
could read nothing of his master through it. No matter how hard
he concentrated on their bond, there was no feedback. "LaCroix
needs help. I can't carry him."

Janette landed softly. Briefly examining LaCroix, Janette
pulled back in horror. "He is warm! His heart beats!"

To be continued....

Silver Threads -- Part 7
by Nancy Taylor

"We'll find her, Nat, don't worry." Tracy was trying as hard
to convince herself as she was Natalie. The pair had been tracing
paths up and down the snowy streets, slowly working their way in a
northerly direction for close to an hour now.

Suddenly, Natalie pointed. "Tracy! Look there!"

Following Natalie's pointing finger through the windshield of
her car, Tracy observed four figures making their way down the
sidewalk through the snow. There was an elegant looking woman
dressed in a stylish black sheath dress and high heels, but no
coat, with a tall, middle-aged man leaning heavily against her.
Accompanying these two was a tall blond man in a shredded blue silk
shirt carrying a child wrapped in a long black overcoat.

"It's them!" Natalie tugged lightly at Tracy's sleeve.
"Pull over!"

Getting out of the car, Natalie ran to greet her family.
"Nick! Oh, Nick! What a relief! Where have you been? How did
you find Laurene?" Natalie babbled, barely giving Nick a chance to
answer her. Tugging at the lapels of the coat, Natalie opened it
enough to get a glimpse of her precious daughter.

Nick smiled as he glanced down at the small form in his arms.
"She's sleeping," he whispered.

"Where was she? Was she unconscious when you found her?"
Natalie was more concerned over her daughter's welfare at the
moment than anyone else's, including Nick.

"She'll be fine, Nat," Nick told her. "But it's a long story
and we need to get her home and warm."

"Yes, of course, you're right," Natalie conceded, still
fussing with the coat that wrapped around Laurene like a cocoon.
"May I hold her?"

"Get in the car and I'll hand her to you," Nick instructed.
Natalie climbed into the rear seat and Nick settled Laurene in her
lap. "You know, she should be belted in," he told Natalie.

"I know, but I just can't see disturbing her. She needs to
sleep," Natalie insisted. Once she was settled in the car, with
Nick beside her, Natalie opened the coat to get a better look at
their daughter's condition. What she saw when she opened the coat
caused her to gasp. "What happened here?! Nick?" The blood on
the front of Laurene's dress threw Natalie into a near panic.

"Bussard," Nick answered. "Laurene was searching for me, I
could feel her looking, feel her getting near. She startled
Bussard when she walked in on us." Nick paused for a breath, not
wanting to have to relive the moment. "He shot her."

"Oh my God, Nick! Why didn't you do something? How could
you let that happen?" Natalie was beside herself with anger and
worry. She wasn't even sure who it was she was angry with,
Bussard? Nick? Herself? Laurene? "Nick, we have to get her to a

"No, that won't be necessary." Nick spoke calmly, trying to
allay Natalie's fears. "Look," he said, gently parting the tear in
Laurene's dress to expose the wound. "It's already nearly healed.
The doctors would diagnose her with blood loss, but how would we
explain the rapid healing of the wounds?"

Janette gave Nick a warning look from her position in the
front seat of the car. With a very slight tilt of her head, she
indicated Tracy.

"It's okay, Janette. Tracy knows about us," Nick informed
her. Janette gave him a disapproving look.

"A-hem," Tracy cleared her throat to get everyone's
attention. "We're home." Pulling up to the curb, Tracy parked the
car in front of the Knights' home. Getting out of the car, she
assisted Janette in getting LaCroix up the front steps. Nick
carried Laurene while Natalie took out her keys and opened the
door, ushering everyone into the warmth of the house.

"Nick, take Laurene upstairs and put her to bed. I'll be
there shortly," Natalie instructed. Turning, she watched as Tracy
helped Janette support LaCroix into the house.

"Is there a room for LaCroix to rest?" Janette asked.

"Tracy, could you show Janette to the guest bedroom, please?
I need to take care of Laurene." Natalie was all doctor now that
her family was home safe. "I'll be up to check on LaCroix when I'm
done taking care of her."

Tracy led Janette and LaCroix up the stairs to the guest
bedroom. She helped Janette lay LaCroix out on the bed, then went
to the linen closet for a blanket to cover him. "Is there anything
I can get for either of you?" Tracy asked solicitously.

"You know of us," Janette stated. It was not a question.

"Uh, yeah," Tracy nodded.

"Then do you know if Nicolas still drinks that *cow* swill?"

"Uh, no," Tracy answered, uncomfortable with the subject
despite several years of being exposed to the vampire community.
"No, he's drinking, uh, human now. Donated, or, or something," she

"Could you bring me a bottle? Perhaps two?" Janette asked.
"And a glass?"

"Yeah, sure," Tracy responded, beating a hasty retreat from
the room to fetch the bottles.

Meanwhile, Natalie had retrieved her rather sizable first aid
kit. Considering that their daughter had such special abilities,
and that her husband occasionally still needed bullets extracted,
Natalie kept a larger than would be considered normal assortment of
items in her kit. She extracted a bag of glucose solution from a
small refrigerator and put it in the warmer. Pulling the IV stand
out of the corner, she hauled her equipment up the stairs to
Laurene's bedroom.

Entering the room, Natalie found Nick sitting on the edge of
Laurene's bed. He had dressed her in flannel pajamas after
cleaning her up a bit and was now running his fingers lightly
through her hair. Laurene was snoring softly, a small smile
gracing her features as though nothing at all had gone wrong.

Natalie set up her things and gently inserted the IV needle
into Laurene's arm. Once she was certain the drip was properly
regulated, she turned to Nick. She had opened her mouth to rake
him over the coals for letting Laurene get hurt, when she noticed
the ugly scar slowly healing at Nick's neck. Natalie's hand went
to her own throat as she remembered the pains she had felt earlier
in the evening.

Reaching over, Natalie carefully began to unbutton Nick's
tattered shirt. "Oh Nick! What happened to you?!?" Natalie was
immediately sorry for the hurtful thoughts she had been about to
hurl at Nick. It was obvious that he, too, had suffered greatly.
Although all his wounds were now healing, they were doing so very

"Nat, it really *is* a long story. How about if you get me a
couple bottles and let me take a shower? I'll tell you everything
I know." Nick looked up at Natalie, the weariness very apparent in
his face.

Natalie glanced once more at Laurene, who was sleeping
peacefully, and nodded. The couple rose and exited their
daughter's room, headed in opposite directions.

Before heading downstairs, Natalie stopped by the guest room.
"Hey, Trace," Natalie greeted her friend at the door. "Thank you
so much for everything you did tonight. There's no way I can say
thank you enough." Natalie enveloped her friend in a big hug.
"You ought to go home now, get some rest. We'll be fine, honest!"

Tracy gave Natalie a skeptical look, but smiled and nodded.
"Anytime, Nat. You can always call on me." She turned to leave
the room and paused. "You'll call me this evening and let me know
how everyone's doing?"

Natalie grinned, "You bet, Trace. Do you mind seeing
yourself out?"

"No problem! Night, Nat!" With that, Tracy disappeared out
the bedroom door. Natalie heard her footsteps retreating down the
stairs, followed by the sound of the front door opening, then
closing again.

Natalie turned to Janette. "How is he?"

"I do not know," Janette sniffed. "He sleeps." She picked
up her wine glass and sipped at the ruby contents.

Natalie walked over to the bed and began a brief inspection
of LaCroix. He did feel a bit warmer than a vampire should have.
Natalie leaned down to put an ear to his chest. After a minute she
rose, a look of astonishment on her face. "His heart is beating!
Not as fast as a mortal's, but way too rapidly for a vampire...."

"Her blood has poisoned him," Janette accused. "He is
becoming MORTAL!"

"What?" Natalie was abashed at the accusation. "What do you
mean? Whose blood?"

"Laurene's. LaCroix drained her, tried to bring her across.
He gave her his own blood, and in return she gave him THIS!"
Janette hissed, anger dancing in her eyes.

"No. No, Laurene couldn't have done this," Natalie insisted.
She's too small, too young. Besides, all the research I've done on
her blood indicates that would be impossible!"

"Do you not believe what your own senses tell you?" Janette
questioned. "He is coming back across! Go!" Janette demanded,
pointing toward the door. "Leave us alone. I will deal with
Nicolas over this later."

Alarmed at the tone of Janette's voice, Natalie quickly
exited the room and headed downstairs for the bottles of blood that
Nick had requested.

Dawn was dusting the horizon with its rosy golden glow as
Nick finished explaining what he knew of the story to Natalie.
Three empty "wine" bottles littered the coffee table and Nick's
more visible wounds were all but healed. Natalie rose to close the
blinds for the day.

"I think we ought to get you to bed," Natalie told Nick,
noting the exhaustion ringing his eyes. "You go on. I'll check on
Laurene then come join you."

Nick wearily climbed the stairs headed toward their bedroom.
Natalie picked up the bottles and deposited them in their special
recycling bin in the kitchen before following Nick upstairs.
Stopping by Laurene's room, she changed the IV bag and checked on
their daughter. Laurene was sleeping peacefully, all signs of the
bullet wound nearly gone now. Natalie leaned over to kiss Laurene
on the forehead before heading off to join Nick in bed.

To be continued....

Silver Threads -- Part 8
by Nancy Taylor

LaCroix slept restlessly. As the sun began to set and
evening settled over the snow covered landscape, he slowly began to
regain his senses. The pain and disorientation he had felt the
previous night after trying to save Laurene had been replaced by a
ravenous hunger. The scent of the blood drew him.

Slowly, LaCroix opened his eyes. Janette had fallen asleep
in the chair next to his bed. On the nightstand were two bottles
-- one nearly empty, the other quite full. Grabbing the full
bottle, LaCroix ripped the cork from its neck and upended it,
nearly draining the entire contents in one long draught. Pausing
only briefly, he finished the bottle and emptied its companion as
well. A low growl escaped his throat, awaking Janette.

"LaCroix!" Janette was startled. She quickly took in the
two empty wine bottles and the glowing golden eyes that faced her.
She felt the thrumming of the silver thread that still connected
her to LaCroix through Nick.

Throwing off the light blanket that had covered him, LaCroix
rose from the bed and stalked out of the room without a backward
glance. Janette followed him downstairs to the kitchen, where he
grabbed another bottle from the refrigerator.

"It's good to see you up and around," came a cheerful voice
from the other side of the room. "How are you feeling this

"Natalie?" Janette pulled her attention away from LaCroix,
who was downing yet another bottle of blood.

"Uncle Lucien!" a small voice called from the living room.
Skittering in her stocking feet on the hardwood floors, Laurene
came sailing around the corner, crash landing into LaCroix's knees.
For the first time in almost two years, LaCroix laughed. He
scooped up the energetic bundle and held her close.

Laurene planted a wet kiss on LaCroix's cheek. "Thank you,
Uncle Lucien, for saving my life." Laurene paused, turning serious
for a moment. "I'm sorry if I made you sick. Are you feeling
better now?"

"Oui, mon Petit Ange," LaCroix smiled at her. "Don't worry
about me, I'm quite fine. What happened wasn't your fault, but I
think your parents and I need to talk."

"About what?" Nick asked, walking into the kitchen, buttoning
the cuff of his shirt. He grabbed the partially full bottle that
sat on the counter next to LaCroix and drained the contents.

"About this daughter of yours and what happened last night,"
LaCroix answered him, setting the squirming bundle of energy back
on the floor.

"Let's at least be civilized," Janette scolded. She hunted
through the cupboards until she found the wine glasses. Taking
three, she grabbed another bottle from the refrigerator and headed
to the living room.

Natalie poured a glass of milk for Laurene and got herself a
cup of coffee, then followed the trio of vampires into the living
room, trailed by a small pink shadow.

"And just what DID happen last night?" Natalie began, sitting
on the couch next to Nick. Laurene crawled up in her mother's lap
and snuggled herself down. When no one started the conversation,
Natalie looked around with impatience. "Well?" she prodded.
"Look, Nick told me all he could about what happened up until
Bussard, uh," Natalie paused, not really wanting to discuss the
issue too bluntly in front of Laurene.

"Honey, why don't you go play with your computer for a
while?" Natalie suggested. "Your Daddy and I have some grownup
business to discuss with your Uncle Lucien and Auntie Janette."

"Okay," Laurene piped. "Can I get on the Internet?"

"Not right now, Pumpkin," Nick answered her. "Mummy and
daddy need to talk and we can't help you. Why don't you play one
of those adventure games?"

"Yeah!" Laurene shrieked, running for the small room that
served as a part-time office for Nick and Natalie. Natalie shook
her head, amazed at the recuperative powers of their daughter.
Laurene had awakened that evening, after a good day's sleep, as
though nothing at all had happened to her the night before.

"Okay," Natalie began again once Laurene had left the room.
"After Laurene was shot, what happened?"

"I heard the gunshot from outside," LaCroix began. "I
entered the basement, and upon seeing Nick bound and unconscious,
and Laurene laying on the floor, I killed Bussard."

"Just like that," Natalie deadpanned, "you killed him. Just
like that."

"What would you have had me do?" LaCroix returned
sarcastically. "He had bound and tortured your husband and shot
your daughter. Did he deserve a plaque to hang on the wall?"

"Enough, LaCroix," Nick interrupted. "What happened next?"

"You were unconscious," LaCroix continued, speaking to Nick
and ignoring Natalie as much as possible. "But I could tell you
were not in danger of imminent demise. Laurene, on the other hand,
was on the brink. I attempted to bring her across."

"I came in shortly after that, I believe," Janette chimed in.
"But you were unconscious and Laurene was holding *you*!"

"Yes, when I drained the remaining blood from Laurene it made
me feel weak, dizzy. I was almost unable to feed her to bring her

"But she did feed from you?" Nick asked.
"Oh yes," LaCroix replied. "It is the last thing I remember
before Janette revived us both and we left that abominable place."

"You were warm!" Janette told him. "And I could hear your
heart beat in your chest."

"He wasn't mortal," Nick stated. "No, because the thread
that binds us was never broken."

"How can that be?" Janette asked, incredulous.

"Maybe," Natalie broke into the conversation, "maybe...."

"What, Nat? Do you have a theory?" Nick's curiosity was

"Well, you both," she started, indicating Nick and LaCroix
with a wave of her hand, "know that I have been studying Laurene's
blood for a possible cure for Nick." When she got quiet nods, she
continued. "I didn't think there was a direct cure there. Perhaps
something that genetics might be able to isolate in the near

"But now I wonder.... Could Laurene's blood BE the cure?
Perhaps, because she had lost so much blood, and because she is
small and her blood volume not very much to begin with," Natalie
paused to gather her thoughts. "Maybe there just wasn't ENOUGH
blood to complete the process? Maybe LaCroix drank enough to start
the change, but there wasn't enough to finish it, so he reverted

Nick, LaCroix and Janette stared at Natalie in stunned
silence. "Will somebody say something, please? Or am I just going
out of my mind?" Natalie looked desperately between the trio of
vampires, searching for some clue as to how they were taking this.

"But why," Nick finally began, "did her blood merely
strengthen me when I drank from her during that hostage situation?"

"I don't know, Nick," Natalie was feeling exasperation
creeping up on her. "Maybe you didn't take enough blood to start
the process.

"There must be a 'critical mass' for this reaction," she
continued. "You probably have to take at least a specified minimum
amount of her blood for the cure to begin to work. Less than that,
and her blood merely strengthens you."

"Can you prove that, Nat?" Nick asked her.

"Not without experimenting with Laurene in a way that I don't
think any of us really want to contemplate."

"Could her blood prove a cure for Nicolas when she grows up?"
Janette wondered.

"There's a possibility, when she's an adult, that she might
be able to cure Nick, but it would be risky," Natalie answered her.

"One thing I know for certain," Nick interjected. "Laurene's
promise to be brought across when she turns twenty-five is no
longer valid." He turned to look LaCroix directly in the eyes.
"You broke that contract yourself in trying to bring her across
last night."

"Indeed," LaCroix agreed. "Considering the consequences, I
would be a fool to try." Nick and Natalie smiled in relief.

Getting down to the practical once more, Natalie asked, "And
what are we supposed to do with Bussard's body? He died of
premature exsanguination, you know. It's a little hard listing
"vampire" as the cause of death."

"I'll see to it that the Community takes care of the body,"
Nick answered her.

"And how are you going to explain that to the police, your
colleagues?" was Natalie's rejoinder.

"We don't need to tell them anything," Nick replied. "We'll
let them search, it will keep them busy." He smiled at Natalie.
"Eventually, they'll stop looking."

"Nicholas, have you considered the fact that it is past time
for you to move on from this life?" LaCroix scolded his son.

"Yes," Nick nodded soberly. "I've been in this city for
fifteen years," he said turning to Natalie and taking her hands in
his. "It's time to move on to a new city, a new life."

"So soon?" Shaking her head with regret, Natalie leaned
against Nick's chest for the comfort it provided. "Well, I can't
say I didn't know this was coming," she sighed. This was all
moving so fast. How did Nick do it, lifetime after lifetime?

"It never stops hurting," Nick whispered to her, as though he
were reading her mind.

To be continued....

Silver Threads -- Part 9 (Epilogue)
by Nancy Taylor

It had been a week since Nick and Natalie had turned in their
resignations, citing the need to lead less exciting lives for
Laurene's sake. The stress of their daughter's now infamous eighth
birthday had been the last straw in what had been an impending case
of burnout for both parents. Now they were surrounded by packing
boxes and furniture with dustcovers ... and a few close friends.
Don and Myra Schanke had come and brought Jenny with them. Tracy
had come too and, in typical Tracy fashion, brought a cake and
champagne so they could have a "going away party."

"I'm gonna miss ya, Partner," Don Schanke informed his
ex-partner and good friend. "When are you pulling out?"

"Tonight's our last night here, Schank," Nick told him.
"We're driving out tomorrow evening," Nick indicated the
crowded room with a sweep of his arm, "right after I load the
U-Haul truck."
"You guys are going to love Montreal!" Myra enthused. Nick
and Natalie had felt safe in letting this small group of friends
know their destination and new identities. Nick was bound closer
to this mortal lifetime than he had been to any of the others in
his long past. It was just too hard to make a clean break.
Besides, Laurene had thrown one of her rare hissy fits at the
thought of leaving her best friends. Moving to Montreal had seemed
the ideal solution. They would be far enough away to start their
new lives and near enough to keep some small contact with their old
one. Laurene had stopped her fussing when Natalie had assured her
that she could e-mail Maggie and Karrie Ann as often as she liked.

Over in their own little corner, eating cake and drinking
Pepsi, Laurene and Jenny were talking, apart from the adults.

"I'm really gonna miss you, Jen!" Laurene sniffed. "I wish
we didn't have to go!"

"Hey, I'm going to miss you, too, Munchkin!" Jenny reached
over to ruffle Laurene's wild curls. "But you knew you were going
to have to move, someday, didn't you?"

"Yeah, but I didn't know it was going to be so hard!" A big
tear threatened to spill from Laurene's eye and roll down her

"I know how hard it is to leave your friends," Jenny
sympathized. "It was really hard for me to go away to college and
leave Mum and Dad ... and you."

"But you came back." Laurene swiped at the tear with the
back of her hand.

"Yes, I did. But you can come back to visit too!" Jenny
comforted the crying child. "And just think -- in ten years you
can come back here, if you want, to go to college!" Jenny smiled
across the small table.

"Ten years is a long time," Laurene reasoned.

"But it goes fast," Jenny assured her.

"Will you write and e-mail me?" Laurene looked across the
table at Jenny with her large, expressive blue eyes.

"You betcha!" Jenny high-fived Laurene and they both smiled.

Tracy piped in her two cents worth as well. "Yeah, Montreal
is great! I've got an uncle that lives there. Maybe I could stop
by for a visit sometime when I'm up that way visiting him?"

"Of course you can, Tracy! You'll always be welcome in our
home." Natalie smiled warmly at her good friend. She was really
going to miss Tracy and the Schankes. They had all become like
extended family to her. But, Natalie thought, after losing her
brother, her goddaughter and her Nana, as well as this most recent
scare with Laurene and Nick, she really wasn't going to miss
Toronto that much. There were too many sad memories here. Looking
over at Nick with his blond curls as wild and carefree as Laurene's
and his blue eyes sparkling with laughter, Natalie considered that
Toronto held some very *good* memories for her as well.

"And don't forget the cabin up at the lake!" Don Schanke was
reminding Nick. "You're still welcome to use it anytime you like."

"Don's right," Myra added. "That poor cabin doesn't see
nearly enough use. Just drive up there anytime. You know where we
hide the key."

"Thanks, you two, we really appreciate that. Laurene loves
the woods around the cabin." Nick smiled.

The hour was getting late and everyone was running out of
different ways to say good-bye. Finally Myra took hold of the
situation in her typical 'take charge' fashion. "Come on, Don.
It's time we go and let these good people finish packing and get to
bed," she said. "Jenny? Come on Hon, we have to go now!"

"Bye, Laur!" Jenny picked up the little eight-year-old
bundle of energy and hugged her tightly. "You have a safe trip.
Write me when you're settled, okay?"

"Yeah, okay," Laurene sniffed, her usual unquenchable energy
dampened by the necessity of saying good-bye.

Everyone took turns hugging everyone else, then, suddenly, it
was over and the Knights found themselves alone. Despite the
excitement of moving to a new city, starting new jobs and a new
school, the family felt a terrible emptiness. Nick's voice echoed
in Natalie's mind as she turned to usher her family off to bed.
'It never stops hurting....'


Natalie pulled the Caddy up in front of a little French
Colonial style house. Darting out of the car as soon as the engine
died, Laurene began inspecting the outside of her new home and its
spacious yard. Nick pulled the U-Haul trailer to the curb, parking
behind the car.

"This is GREAT!" she called to her parents who were lifting
suitcases from the trunk of the Caddy. Laurene ran back to grab
her small suitcase of 'essentials;' dolls, toys, her favorite
games; then went running back up the steps of the front porch.
Bouncing impatiently from one foot to the other, she waited for
Nick to come and unlock the door.

Nick set his load of suitcases down by the front door and dug
for the key in his jeans' pocket. He had no more than flung the
door open when the blonde bullet streaked inside, searching for the
bedroom she planned to claim for her own.

Nick chuckled and shook his head. In an inspired gesture, he
turned and swept Natalie up in his arms, carrying her over the
threshold of their new home and their new life together.

A New Beginning....

Knightie/N&NPack/FKXS/GWDFC/FMFC/Bat Mom ^^v^^