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Witching Hour

By Shadowstar

Rating: PG

I'm nominally a DarkNN, but hey! I can still be recruited. ;) These characters do not belong to me and I do not hold the rights to them. Well, except for Hannah… she's mine, all mine! Mwa hahahahaha! And

HG Wells belongs to himself; I'm just stealing him out of history. ;) This is set second season, before everything hit the fan. This foray into Forever Knight fanfiction and complete and utter insanity can be attributed to sleep deprivation, PEZ, chocolate, and Pixie Sticks. ;)

I blame NiteMar because she introduced me to Forever Knight fanfic, and Stacy, Jenni, and Robin for looking this bit of madness over. Archive? Sure, whatever, wherever ;) FTP archive, Stacy's site, and both FKfanfic archives.

~*~*~*~

Hannah looked around the loft and frowned. This wasn't how home was supposed to look. She hiked her teddy bear and her blankie higher in her arms and stuck her thumb in her mouth before laboriously climbing the stairs. She reached the top and pushed open the door to her parents' room. She walked inside and brightened as she saw her daddy sleeping on his side, facing her, in the big bed. Her mommy wasn't there--she was probably working--but daddy was good enough.

Hannah threw her burdens up on the bed and pulled herself into it, the rough bottoms of her footie pajamas scratching against the slippery, black silk sheets. She climbed underneath the blankets and settled against her daddy, smiling. Maybe this place wasn't so different after all. She grabbed her blankie and teddy bear, cuddled them to her, and stuck her thumb in her mouth before falling fast asleep.

~*~*~*~

Hannah's eyes popped open and she began jumping on the bed. "Daddydaddydaddydaddydaddydaddy!" she caroled, throwing herself on top of Nick's inert form. "*Daddy*!" she exclaimed.

Nick's eyes opened, and glowed gold as his fangs descended. With visible effort, he controlled himself and looked at the curly-headed waif sitting on his chest. "Who are *you*?" he asked in a barely-controlled growl.

"Silly, Daddy," she answered, kissing him on the cheek. "Time to get *up*, it's *Halloween*, and you *promised* to take me trick-or-treating."

Nick sat up, confusion showing in his blue eyes. "I don't even know who you are," he said slowly. "How could I have promised you *anything*?"

Hannah's eyes began to fill with tears. "My name's Hannah Angelique Abigail de Brabant," she said as a single tear rolled down her cheek. "Daddy, you say that I'm your little angel, an' you an' Mommy an' me*live* here." Hannah wiped her arm across her face and began to look around. "Where's Mommy?" she asked with a sniffle. Her lower lip began to tremble again. "Sometimes," she said, wiping away more tears as they began to fall, "you call me your little fleur."

Hastily, Nick picked her up and settled her in the crook of his arm. He didn't know much about children, especially ones as small as this little girl was, but something about seeing tears in her eyes wrung his heart. He wiped her eyes with the sleeve of his pajamas as she threw her arms around him and buried his face in his chest. "Who's your mother, ma petite?"

"Natalie Lambert de Brabant," she said, still sobbing.

Acting on a half-forgotten memory, Nick began to rub the child's back and make shushing sounds. "It's okay, ma petite," he whispered. Her tears slowed and her breathing evened out as she fell asleep in his arms, exhausted from her bout of crying. He looked down at the child in his arms and frowned. He *really* didn't know what to do. After all, the girl *couldn't* be his and Natalie's. Even if vampires*weren't* infertile, he and Nat hadn't…

Nick shook his head and stood up, still cradling Hannah in his arms as he made his way downstairs to the phone. There was only one thing he could think of to do--call Natalie. He sat down on the couch, snagged the blanket off the back of it, and wrapped the little girl in it awkwardly before picking up the phone and dialing the familiar number.

He glanced at the clock and began to speak frantically when she picked up. "Nat? It looks like somebody played a Halloween prank on us, and I need you to come over *now*, please?" Hannah stirred against him and he looked down, praying that she wouldn't wake. "Thanks, Nat--and bring food; our little Halloween prank'll be hungry when she wakes up."

Nick said his goodbye and hung up the phone as the child cuddled closer to him. He leaned back against the couch and brushed Hannah's hair back from her face. With a long, drawn-out sigh, he closed his eyes and drifted back into his interrupted sleep.

~*~*~*~

Natalie juggled her purse and a large bag of groceries as she waited for the lift to descend. She didn't know what the 'prank' that Nick had told her about was, but she had a sneaking suspicion that she wouldn't like it. After all, with Nick's master being back in town, pranks could mean anything from bodies dumped in his living room to silly string clogging his shades. Then again, he *had* told her to bring food, so she guessed that their prank was at least alive.

Briefly, she wondered if LaCroix had dumped a werewolf pup on them. After all, if vampires were real, believing in werewolves wasn't much of a stretch. Natalie stepped into the lift and waited impatiently as it took her to the next level. She walked out and looked around, searching for Nick. Just as she spotted him on the couch, a small, blonde ball of energy raced toward her and grabbed one leg.

"Mommy!" the child said, giggling excitedly.

Natalie looked down at the little girl, shocked. Her purse fell out of her hand, unheeded as it fell to the floor. "What's your name, little one?" she murmured, brushing her newly freed hand across the child's blonde curls.

"Mommy! You *know* what my name is, 'cause you named me--I'm Hannah Angelique Abigail de Brabant," she said, "an' you picked my first name." Her lip started to wobble and tears started rolling down her face.

Natalie dropped to her knees and pulled the unresisting little girl into a gentle embrace. "Shhh," she whispered, trying to comfort the child just as she had her niece.

Hannah buried her face in Nat's shoulder and clung tightly to one of the people who were the center of her small world. Nothing made sense now that her parents didn't know her. The familiar was somehow gone and replaced with darkness and doubt. She began to shake slightly, terrified of the strange world that now surrounded her.

Natalie hugged her tighter and caressed her hair lightly. "Shhh. It's all right, baby. Everything will be okay." She picked her up carefully and carried her to the couch where Nick was still sleeping. She rubbed Hannah's back and murmured words of comfort and solace. Slowly, the child's sobs quieted, and mournful blue eyes looked up at her.

"Daddy *promised* that he'd take me Trick-or-treating," she whispered. Hannah glanced around the loft. "And my room and my costume are missing."

Nat took a deep breath. "What do you want to be for Halloween?" she asked softly.

"Mommy," Hannah whispered. "You made me a fairy princess costume."

Nat stroked her hair absently. Part of her wanted to call Children's Services and let them deal with the waif, but another part of her almost recognized the child who had been dropped into her and Nick's life so suddenly. It was almost as if… Hannah belonged to them.

"I don't know what happened to your fairy princess costume," Natalie said finally. "Kiddo, how about you and me go shopping and get you a costume to go out with Nick tonight? It's hours before dark, anyway."

The child frowned and appeared to be thinking. Nat had to smile, because at that moment, Hannah looked just like Nick when he spaced out. "Ok," she agreed finally. "Can Daddy come with us?"

"Why don't we let him sleep?" Nat suggested, hoping that the girl would agree with her. She didn't know if the child knew about Nick's condition, and she wasn't sure she wanted to find out. "He had to work for a long time last night, and he's tired."

Hannah nodded slowly and slid off Natalie's lap. "Let's go."

"Just a minute," Nat said, smiling. She picked the bag of groceries off the floor and put the perishables in the fridge, grabbed her purse, and wrote Nick a note. "We're going to have to get you some real clothes," she said softly. "Let me go see if I can find something of Nick's for you to wear--it's chilly out."

Natalie hurried up the stairs and rummaged through Nick's drawers before finding a sweater that looked as if it had shrunk in the wash. She went downstairs and helped Hannah put the sweater on over her pajamas. "C'mon, baby, let's go find you a costume."

Hannah smiled, showing lopsided dimples on either side of her cheeks. She took Natalie's hand and they walked towards the door to the elevator together. Natalie looked down at the little girl and smiled to see Hannah's enthusiasm. She was bouncing up and down a little, singing about Halloween under her breath. Nat opened the elevator door and they stepped into it, leaving to find a fairy princess costume for the child who had appeared out of thin air.

~*~*~*~

Nick woke slowly and glanced at the clock. It was six in the afternoon, and time he was up. He glanced around his living room and decided that Hannah must have been a funny sort of hallucination. Perhaps the cows' blood he drank for supper last night was going bad. It *was* possible. After all, he could remember drinking some blood that tasted off before and suffering from terrible nightmares. He stretched with the grace of a panther and yawned, his fangs showing with the movement.

Nick smiled--he could tell that Natalie had been there because he could still smell a hint of her scent and her perfume hanging in the air. He glanced around the loft and spotted a note sitting on the end table. He picked it up, read it, and stuffed it in his pocket. It hadn't been a dream. The only rational explanation he could think of was that his master was torturing him--again. 'You're getting more subtle in your old age, LaCroix,' he thought.

Briefly, Nick considered confronting his master, but dismissed it as something that would most likely turn into a painful experience. After all, if one knew what to look for, it was a minor matter to see if a mortal's memory had been tampered with.

Nick flopped back on the couch turned the television on, and started flipping through the channels. He grimaced--there was nothing on TV except for Halloween specials, and the last thing he needed was to see the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" or "Halloween IV" *again*. He turned the television off, leaned back against the back of the couch, and tucked his hands behind his head. He didn't feel like playing the piano or painting; what he wanted was to get to the bottom of where the child came from and take her home where she belonged.

Added to his discomfort was the fact that it was Halloween. Given what he was, Halloween was *not* one of his favorite holidays. Mortals tended to put things together faster on that particular holiday. He always came closer to discovery then. Nick turned as he heard the rumbling of the elevator.

He smiled as Natalie emerged with a small blonde shadow close behind. A small part of him entertained the fantasy that it was real--Hannah was his daughter, and Natalie was his wife. A smile began to creep onto his face as the half-formed fantasy emerged. They were his family. In his mind's eye, he could see himself and Nat sitting on a blanket in the park with the sun warming their skin as she cradled another small infant in her arms. In the distance, Hannah was chasing a beach ball with the sun glinting golden off of her curls. She held a battered, slightly dirty doll under one arm as she reached for the ball and began to run back toward him, shouting the name he had wanted to hear for centuries, 'Daddy'.

Nick was pulled from his reverie by a small bundle of energy landing on his chest. "Daddy!" Hannah called, hugging him tightly. "Mommy got me a fairy princess costume so that we can go trick-or-treating!"

Nick tousled her hair, the same way he had Fleur's so long ago. "Da-ddy," she groaned. Hannah slid off Nick's lap and skipped over to Natalie. "Mommy, can I go put on my costume, now?" she asked.

Natalie smiled and handed the child a bag. "Go ahead," she said. Hannah grabbed the bag and ran upstairs.

Nick watched her go before turning to Nat. "What are we going to do?" he asked quietly. "We *can't* keep her; we should have taken her down to the precinct already. I mean, her parents--whoever they are-are probably worried *sick*."

"But she still insists that *we* are her parents," Nat pointed out. "How about you take her out trick-or-treating tonight, and we'll figure out what to do in the morning? Maybe we can find out *why* she thinks that we're her parents. I mean we *can't* be."

Nick quirked a smile. "Definitely," he agreed. "Vampires are supposed to be infertile, and I know I'd sure remember if we…"

Nat laughed nervously. "So would I… And I've never been pregnant, either."

"About taking Hannah trick-or-treating…" Nick hesitated and started to fidget. "I promised Skank that I'd go with him and Jenny." He looked over at Natalie, wanting nothing more than to pull her in his arms. He refused to act on it though, the carefully platonic nature of their relationship was something that he wasn't willing to change; he would not risk her accidental death.

Natalie walked over and sat next to him on the couch. "Not a problem," she said. "We tell Skank that she's a relative of some kind and convince Hannah to play 'pretend' for a while."

Before Nick could answer, Hannah came bounding down the stairs wearing her costume and swinging a pair of wings from one hand. "I'm ready!" she caroled. "Can we go now, Daddy?" she asked eagerly. Hannah threw herself at him and jumped up and down excitedly.

Nick extracted the wings from her hands and helped her put them on before answering. "In a few minutes, kiddo," he answered. "I need to call my partner and find out if we can tag along with him and Jenny."

Hannah frowned, puzzled. "But Daddy, Jenny is *old*. She babysits for me--and she's in *high* *school*."

"It must be a different Jenny, honey," Nat answered. She glanced at Nick and smiled as he picked up the phone. "Hannah, while we're out trick-or-treating, can we play a game of let's pretend?" she asked, bringing her face down to the child's level.

"Okay," Hannah agreed cheerfully.

"How about you call me 'Aunt Natalie' and Nick 'Uncle Nick' while we're out?" Nat smiled at the little girl, hoping that it would work.

Hannah handed Nat the tiara that had come with her outfit and smiled sunnily. "Sure," she said.

Nat fastened the tiara to Hannah's head as Nick got off the phone. "We need to get going--we're to meet Skank and Jenny in front of their house in half an hour."

Hannah reached out and grabbed Nick's hand. "C'mon, *Uncle* *Nick*," she said, tugging him towards the door. "Let's *go*!"

Natalie chuckled and followed the child and the bemused vampire out the door and to the caddy.

~*~*~*~

Nick walked into the loft, carrying an exhausted Hannah. "How can little kids *do* it?" he groaned. "Five hours of going house to house and then chugging down almost a gallon of Myra's apple cider!"

Natalie chuckled. "And who insisted on doing *every* house, hm?" she said with a raised eyebrow.

Nick put Hannah down on the couch. "Guilty," he answered, a small smile playing around his mouth. He turned on the television and popped in the tape of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". "I just wanted to make sure that she was having a good time," he said, looking at Natalie with huge, puppy-dog eyes. "It's not like we did that on Halloween when I was a kid!" He sat down on the couch next to the sleepy little girl.

"I *did* have fun, Daddy," Hannah said, yawning.

"We're glad you did," Nat said, running her hand through the tousled blonde curls.

Nick helped the child take off the wings and crown, picked her up, and started for the stairs. "Bedtime," he said. He reappeared a few minutes later and joined Nat on the couch.

"So what *did* you do on Halloween as a child?" Nat asked, leaning her head on his shoulder in their normal movie-watching position.

"Halloween was… frightening back then. You have to remember that this was the thirteenth century, when people still believed in witches, ghosts, werewolves, vampires…" he paused. "The presences of both God and Satan were seen in *everything*. Halloween was a time to hide indoors and hope that evil would pass you and yours by. Things have changed since then," he said softly.

"Halloween was always fun when I was growing up, because you got to pretend to be somebody else," Nat said quietly. "And--after my parents died, someone else was a good thing to be."

Nick stroked her hair absently, trying to lend some comfort. He dropped a kiss on the crown of her head. They sat in silence for a few minutes, then Nat spoke up. "Let's watch a movie--you can tell me *all* of the historical inaccuracies," she said with a grin.

Nick smiled and pulled out "Lawrence of Arabia". "How about this? I wasn't there, but I *did* know him."

"Sure," she said with a smile. Nick popped in the movie and they settled down to watch it.

Hours later, Nick finally looked up at the clock. "It's midnight," he murmured. "The witching hour."

Nat simply sighed and snuggled closer into him. It had been a long day, and Nick was probably the most *comfortable* backrest she'd ever had. It also helped that, despite the fact that he was probably one of the most dangerous men she knew, she always felt safer with him than with anyone else. She rested her head on his shoulder, then sat up straight as what looked like a window appeared in the middle of the cluttered room.

"Monsieur de Brabant, Miss Lambert," an elderly gentleman said as he stepped out of the portal. He had a distinctive British accent and was dressed in nineteenth century clothes. One hand reached up to smooth down his gray mustache. "You wouldn't by any chance have met a… little girl, would you? She answers to the name of 'Hannah Angelique Abigail de Brabant'."

Nick gave the man a guarded look. "And who would you be?" he asked.

"Oh, yes! Excuse me! Let me introduce myself-my name is HG Wells. I'm a time traveler."

Nat gave him a puzzled look. "HG Wells, the writer? Aren't you *dead*?"

"Only some of the time." A whimsical smile passed over his face.

"You're not like me," Nick said slowly, "but you *do* resemble the man I met on a trip to Europe back then. Since you know my birth name, I'm assuming that you know…"

"That you're presently a vampire? Yes, yes of course. Mr. de Brabant, where I come from, knowledge of your kind is quite common, and accepted. The establishment of Utopia brought greater understanding of small cultures like your own--you and Miss Lambert here played a major part in that." The funny little man consulted a device in his hand.

"Unfortunately, when I was doing a temporal sweep, I noticed that your eldest child was missing--she must have accidentally been drawn through a rip of the space-time continuum--so I located her and came here to take her back to her place in the timeline."

"So she really *is* our daughter?" Nat asked.

"In one timeline, yes," he answered. "You see, in my world, you two are an inspiration." He looked at Nick. "The fact that you overcame the nature of the vampire gives the world hope that things can change. Mortals and vampires alike know your name, and the name of Miss Lambert, for she helped you achieve your fondest dream." HG Wells smiled at the pair. "But that's only in one timeline. In yet another, you accidentally killed Miss Lambert in a fit of rage and then suicided by walking into the sun."

He looked up as Hannah came downstairs, holding her teddy bear and blankie. "Hello, Hannah," he said with a happy smile.

"Hi," she said, with a shy wave.

"Your mom said to tell you that, 'The light always comes through the darkness'," he said, crouching down at her level.

Hannah came across the floor and held out her hand. "That means that I'm supposed to go with him," she said solemnly, looking at Nick and Natalie. Her face fell. "I guess you're not my Mommy and Daddy?" she asked.

Nick dropped to his knees and kissed her on the cheek. "Not yet," he whispered. "But we might be… someday."

Hannah hugged him and took HG Wells's hand. "Bye, Uncle Nick and Aunt Natalie," she said softly, "I'll miss you."

"She won't remember any of this," he promised. "I'll take her back to right after she was pulled through."

"What about us?" Natalie asked.

"I'll leave you with the memories--even legends need hope," he smiled enigmatically. "The future… is what you make of it." HG Wells pressed a button on his device and stepped back through the window, taking Hannah with him. A few seconds later, the window winked out and they were again alone.

Natalie spoke first. "That was… interesting," she said finally, not knowing what else to say. She picked up her coat. "I'll see you tomorrow?" she asked. "I need to go home and feed Sydney."

Nick nodded, not trusting himself to speak. He watched in silence as she headed out the door. He got up, headed for the kitchen, and, after a moment's hesitation, pulled out one of Natalie's protein shakes. He took a deep breath and chugged the noisome concoction, then forced it to stay down. For twenty-four hours, he'd been given a precious gift-a glimpse into the life he wanted. He smiled as he remembered his earlier dream of himself and Natalie in the sunlight with a family. Perhaps one day it would happen. It *could* work.

He rinsed out the plastic container in the sink and wandered over to the couch. Nick collapsed on it and threw his arm over his eyes. Chasing Hannah around had worn him out. He closed his eyes for a minute, intending upon getting up and neatening up the loft. With a sigh, Nick drifted off to sleep. He awoke several hours later and glanced around his apartment. It had been a dream--it had to have been a dream. Nick looked around the loft, searching for some confirmation that it had all been a hallucination, until his eyes fell upon a sack filled with candy sitting on his coffee table.

Perhaps it hadn't been a dream after all.

Finis.