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    Chapter 6:
    Things Fall Apart

Nicholas curled up as much as his bindings would permit and whimpered.  The mental images were getting worse, and he didn't know how much more he could stand.  He had seen plenty of atrocities against humanity in his eight hundred years, and they were all he could see.  It wasn't long before images of himself began to replace the victims, until visions of his death at the hands of thousands of people over and over again paraded before his eyes.  

"Ohhhh, *Nicky*-boy!"  the high pitched voice of his captor said.  "How do you like my latest invention?  Is it good?  I've got another *present* for you."  

Nick shuddered violently as a cold needle slid into his arm.  It didn't take long to feel the drug's effects.  Pain wracked his body, and flowed over every nerve ending.  He struggled against his restraints, and desperately tried to break free.  He could feel the handcuffs digging in, and blood oozing from the resultant cuts.

Nick heard a rattling of keys, then the bands around his chest tightened, making it harder to breathe than it had been before.  "Poor Nicholas," the voice of his tormenter said with a high-pitched giggle.  "Getting hungry, my pet?  Never fear, your new master will feed you."

Nick recoiled as he felt a large needle punch through his skin and into his stomach.  "This lovely mixture is *special*, Nicky-baby.  It's rat and chimpanzee blood cut with a variant of curare."  His captor started to laugh again.  "Eventually, it should paralyze you, and poison your blood for your itty-bitty-widdle-*girl*friend."

Nick tried to snarl around his gag, but a steel-toed boot thrust into his ribs between the titanium bands stopped that.  "I'll release you *soon*, you selfish, arrogant, SOB, release you to go back to your putrescent *daddy* and your milk-sop *fiancee*.  Your tainted blood will kill her!"  The voice started laughing hysterically after that last pronouncement, then faded away with the sound of footsteps.

Nick moaned softly around his gag.  Soon, the footsteps came back, and cold hands began to caress his face.  The hands removed his gag, then smacked him hard across the face.  "Nicky, Nicky, *Nicky*.  You've been a *bad* little boy, and it's time to eat your supper!"  Before Nick could speak, a forkful of food was shoved in his mouth.  "Swallow, Nicky--or I'll send someone out to take care of *Natalie*!"  Nick swallowed, and tried not to gag as the noxious concoction was placed in his mouth.  It was worse than the worst of Nat's protein shakes, and his already-tender stomach began to roil uneasily.

He heard the scraping of a utensil on a plate.  "You're going to eat your supper, Nicky-boy!" the voice crowed.  "That's a good baby."   A few more minutes passed of being fed from a spoon before his captor stopped.   "Now, Nicky, you have to drink your milk like a good little boy, or you don't get any dessert!"  A glass was forced to his lips, and he started gagging, choking, and coughing as the liquid poured into his mouth and throat.  

Nick gasped for air when the last of the liquid was gone, the bands around his chest making it even harder to get the air he required.  "Now Nicky, you didn't finish your supper," the voice said in a sugary tone.   He tried to refuse, to move his head, but his efforts were in vain.  His tormenter inserted a tube in his mouth, and began to push a nasty, mushy substance through it.  As soon as that stopped, a dirty, smelly rag was shoved back into his mouth and duct tape put on to secure it.  

"Good baby, Nicky.  We'll be calling *Papa* again soon."  He heard footsteps retreating as he fought the inevitable nausea from having foreign, non-blood substances in his stomach.  Nick tried to curl around his aching stomach, knowing only the waves of pain and nausea from both the drugs and the forced feeding as his stomach tried to handle mortal food as it had not for centuries.  Even the food he'd consumed during the Litovuterine-B incident hadn't caused the excruciating pain he now suffered.

*Natalie*.  He thought of her with longing, how she could make him feel better with just a word or a touch.  He even thought longingly of LaCroix, the only father he'd ever really known.  At least what LaCroix did to him when they weren't getting along was *predictiable*.  At least LaCroix let him fight back.  He could also remember happier times, especially when he was a new vampire, when his sire had showered him with the love and affection that his mortal father had neglected to give him.  He wanted out.  He wanted *home*.  He wanted the pain to stop.  He wanted Natalie and... LaCroix.


LaCroix frowned as he brushed a curl away from Natalie's face.  She was pale, even for a vampire, and the shadows under her eyes had grown deeper.  The physical connection between his Nicolas and Natalie was worrisome, especially with the torture he was enduring.   He could feel the ghost pains of his son's torment through their link.  Everything in him demanded that he rescue his child, but he was hampered by the fact that the civil authorities were involved, and Nicholas did not even know where he was.

LaCroix looked up as Reese walked back in the room.  "Any word from the kidnapper?  Any idea where my *son* is being held?"

Reese rubbed his eyes tiredly.  "I'm afraid not, Mr. LaCroix.  So far, we don't have any leads."

LaCroix clenched his jaw as he felt his fangs begin to descend.  He couldn't afford to lose his temper and reveal his kind's existence.  "Look at Natalie, *Captain*," he said, his last words leaving his mouth in a hiss.  "Science cannot explain everything--she and Nicholas are connected, and as he weakens, so does she."

Reese gave him a skeptical look.  "Connected?  Nat just looks a little sick; she's probably been coming down with something.  I can call a doctor--"

LaCroix leaned back in his chair.  "No need," he said, with a barely concealed sneer.  "A... doctor cannot help my new daughter.  Only Nicholas' presence can do that.  If any man ever had a soul, my son does, and it has somehow become bound up with Natalie's.  This wait only serves to put both of them in danger, *Captain*.  The longer you delay, the weaker he becomes, and Natalie's condition follows."

Reese raised his eyebrow skeptically.  "Probably just has the flu," he said dismissively.

LaCroix growled softly under his breath and willed himself to keep his temper.  Joe Reese was too prominent to just disappear; he would be missed.  Sternly, he reminded himself that draining the idiot mortal wasn't a good idea; police had been examining the Raven too closely as it was.  Before he could say anything, the phone rang again.

Reese answered it and hit the speaker phone.  "Midnight tomorrow," the disguised voice said.  "Make the drop off in the waste paper can near the lake at Golden Gate Park," the voice said.

"I want to speak to my son." LaCroix said with a growl.

"Mon pere?" Nicolas's weak voice said.  "Je me sens malade, Papa.” (Father?  I feel sick, Papa.)

LaCroix answered him, his voice low and soothing.  “Je serai la bientot, Nicolas,” he promised. (I’ll be there soon, Nicholas.)

“S’il tu plait, mon pere ne me laissent pas ici.” (Please, Father don’t leave me here.)

The sound of skin slapping skin came over the phone.  “That’s enough,” the voice sounded harsh.

“Je viens, Nicolas, je promets.”  LaCroix switched back to English.  “You will pay for that,” he promised harshly.  (I’m coming, Nicholas, I promise.)

Mocking laughter followed his statement.  “We shall see, General—we shall see!”  The call ended with a click.  

Natalie stirred and opened her eyes.  If anything, she was paler than before and her face had taken on a greenish cast.  “LaCroix?” she murmured.

LaCroix pulled her close to him and smoothed a wayward curl back from her face.  “I’m here,” he said simply.  He wanted to leave, follow his link to his son, and rip out the throat of whoever had done this, but he couldn’t.  He was helpless.  LaCroix *hated* being helpless.  By the Council’s decree, if Natalie died, so would Nicholas.  And if Nicolas died, Natalie would as well.  He could easily lose both of them within the next few days. It could not be tolerated; it would not be tolerated!  

Nicholas had been *his* son for eight hundred years; he would not give him up now!  LaCroix took a deep breath, exerting his formidable self-control to calm himself.  “Have you found where he is?”  He asked, striving to remain civil with the mortal.

Reese shook his head.  “It was too fast; I’m sorry, Mr. LaCroix.”  He paused for a few minutes.  “Can you tell me why Nick never told us that you’re his father?  His records give no indication of it.”  

LaCroix allowed a small, amused smile to cross his face.  “My son and I have not seen… eye to eye about things for a long time,” he said finally.  

“All right,” Reese said gruffly.  “Nick still has to answer for investigating that headless body in your beer fridge without telling us of your… connection.”

LaCroix flashed him an irritated glance.  “Don’t you think you ought to *rescue* him first, *Captain*?” he asked acidly.  Nat stirred, so he gathered her close to him, and stroked her hair when she burrowed into his side.

“Nick?” Nat murmured.  Her eyes shot open.  “LaCroix, they’re *hurting* him.  They’re making him sick!”

“How do you—“ Reese began.

“Leave us.” LaCroix ordered, cutting him off with a glare.  Reese shivered slightly after meeting the ancient vampire’s eyes and left as quickly as he could.

“Ma fille, we will rescue Nicholas,” he promised.  LaCroix listened for a moment, then held his wrist out to her.  “Drink, Natalie.  You must drink for Nicholas and stay strong for him.”  He watched as she hesitated for a moment, then sank her small, sharp fangs into his wrist and drank of him.    Nicholas would be returned.  There was no other alternative—he would *not* lose either his son or his new daughter to anyone or anything!

Nat took one last swallow and he gently tugged his wrist free.  “Are you sure, LaCroix?” she asked, her amber-flecked blue eyes pleading for reassurance.

“We *will* get him back, ma petite,” he promised.  LaCroix kissed her on the forehead.  “And whoever is responsible will *pay*,” he said with a soft growl.  He pushed into his link with the doctor to find that his ancient blood had dulled the pain and made her sleepy.  “Sleep now,” he said huskily.  

Natalie nodded and her eyes started to drift shut.  Through her, he could feel his son’s distress even more clearly—it had been a long time since he had shared blood with Nicholas to strengthen their bond.  LaCroix closed his eyes and clenched his jaw to keep his fangs from descending.  Nicholas’s kidnappers would pay for their audacity and he would get his son back.  He never lost, after all.


Daniel skipped around his new toy, chanting children’s songs in a sing-song voice.  He stopped and looked at it, then decided that it wasn’t colorful enough.  He hurried to his room and returned with markers and paints and got to work.  With vampiric speed, he added color to it until the toy was covered with a plethora of colors.  “Beautiful!” he said admiringly.

Daniel’s head snapped up as he heard Lucinda call his name.  He tousled his toy’s hair, gathered his supplies, and hurried back to his room before she could arrive.  “I’m in my room, Lucinda,” he called.  Daniel stuffed his supplies into a drawer, then sat down on the floor with his model train.  It was essential that he look innocent when she came in.

He had a feeling that she wouldn’t approve of his most recent acquisition, and it could get him in trouble if he wasn’t careful.  Daniel plastered his most winning smile on his face as Lucinda walked in.  “Do we get to go on a field trip?” he asked hopefully.

Lucinda shook her head.  “Not tonight, Danny-baby.  I’ve got to go out on Council business.”  She patted him on the shoulder.  “You stay close to home and there’s plenty of uncut blood in the fridge.”

“Can I have some bloodwine?” he asked, pushing his boundaries.

“Sorry, kiddo.” Lucinda ruffled his hair.  “You’re too young; it’d make you sick.”  With that as a parting remark, she left, leaving Daniel to his own devices.

Daniel glowered and let his eyes flash amber.  He would always be too young.  “It’s all your fault, Nicky,” he hissed.  He stood up and made his way back to the passage.  The only thing that would make him feel better would be to play with his toy.  Who knew?  He might accidentally break it before it was time to give it back to its rightful owner…