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Truth or Dare

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Truth or Dare
By PJ
March 2017

Nick sat in his loft, staring at the easel in front of him, deep in thought. However, instead of a canvas, the easel held a chalk board on which he had written a list of items. Most were already crossed out. His focus on the problem at hand was so intense that he missed the arrival of his master.

"Homework, Nicholas?" the elder sneered, irritation evident at the lack of acknowledgement from his protégé. "Must be quite an important case."

Nick merely spared a quick glance at the other, ignoring the jibe. "It's not a case, Lacroix," he said absent-mindedly before crossing out another item on the list.

"Oh?"

"I'm trying to figure out what to give Schanke for his birthday."

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

It had been a week since his partner had broached the subject and invited him to a party he intended to hold. Out of habit, Nick's initial reaction had been to decline, stating that he had to work. Unfortunately Schanke had checked the duty roasters and was well aware that they both had the night off. When Nick had remained hesitant Schanke had threatened to eat Myra's garlic-laced bruschetta for the next ten days before reporting to work. At Nick's stricken expression, Schanke had assured him that nobody expected him to interrupt his odd diet. He had plenty of liquors stored in his bar and was confident that something would match Nick's eccentric taste. Nick had finally agreed to come after learning that the event would be a garden party. In case things became too intense, he could leave unnoticed at any time instead of being trapped with mortals in the confines of a house. Besides, Nat would be there to assist him when someone handed him solid food.

Then, two days ago, his confidence shattered when Nat informed him that she would drop by the party only briefly and had to leave for work before sunset. Because one third of the dayshift staff was down with the flu, the nightshift got called in early.

"Don't be a spoil sport, Nick," she had scolded him when he mentioned his second thoughts about attending the party without her. "I thought you attended hundreds of balls. What's the problem with a simple garden party?"

Nick's face clouded. "That was different. And I wasn't on my own." For a while the balls had served as a convenient hunting ground. He and Janette would enjoy themselves on the dance floor, in each other's arms as well as mingling with other guests. As the night wore on they would pick their prey among the patrons and lure them under a pretense outside into the garden. After disposing of the drained bodies they would reunite on the dance floor for a last dance before retreating to their abode where they gave themselves over to carnal pleasures. All under the watchful eyes of Lacroix who would sometimes send Janette on an errand in order to enjoy his lusty offspring himself.

Nick took a ragged breath and brushed the back of his hand across his lips.

"You aren't on your own, Nick," Natalie pointed out, utterly unaware that the memory was threatening Nick's control. "Myra and Jenny will be there, Schanke's bowling friends and probably a couple of other guys from the precinct. What better way to experience humanity can you have than attending an ordinary birthday party?"

"Well, if you put it that way," Nick conceded.

Natalie nudged him in the ribs. "It will do you good, you'll see. Oh, and don't forget to bring a gift."

"A gift?"

Natalie rolled her eyes. "Yeah, that's the custom in this century. You receive a meal and in turn you bring a gift."

"But I don't intend to eat anything," Nick protested.

"Still, you need a gift."

"What kind of gift?"

Natalie shrugged. "He's your partner. Think of something he would like."

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Lacroix sat down in the recliner and regarded Nick with an amused expression. "So, your friend Schanke advances another year closer to his expiry date and you don't have a clue what to give him? Really Nicholas, you used to be so inventive when it came to finding gifts for your closest friends."

Nick closed his eyes.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< August 24, 1779

"Nicolas, what are you doing here?" Janette exclaimed in surprise as Nicholas came up behind her and pulled her towards him for a kiss.

"I was intending to show you rather than tell you," Nicholas answered, playfully pricking the slender column of her neck with his teeth.

"Oh Nicolas, not that I complain about your intentions, but have you forgotten the date?"

"What date?" he mumbled, still focused on the vein in Janette's neck. Then it hit him. "Oh, that date. I wasn't aware it was today."

"He will be disappointed if you don't show up. You know that, Nicolas, especially as this year marks another century."

Nicholas sighed and let go of her. "Are you coming along?"

"I've already delivered my best wishes at midnight, along with a new pair of cufflinks. I do hope you have a proper gift?"

"I'll think of something."

* * * *

Nicholas timed his visit five minutes before midnight and found a simmering Lacroix in the parlour.

"So you decided to visit after all," the elder vampire sneered.

"Happy anniversary, Lacroix," Nicholas stepped in front of him. "I've brought you a gift." When the other looked at him, expectantly, he added softly, "Me."

Stunned, Lacroix's eyes took on a golden hue before he took his time to unwrap his gift.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

When Nick opened his eyes again, they were equally flecked with gold. He swallowed in an attempt to clear his mind. "Well, I don't intend to give Schanke that kind of gift. That's for sure," he rasped.

Lacroix had moved from his seat to stand close behind him and released a chuckle. "I really appreciate your train of thought, Nicholas, but that was hardly what I had in mind."

Nick whirled around to face him, embarrassed that a simple suggestion from Lacroix had triggered that particular memory. On top of that, he was annoyed that Lacroix had caught his thoughts on the spot. "Oh?"

"Janette might be willing to share you with other women. Do not expect the same generosity from me when it comes to other men."

Although the sentence contained an unconcealed threat, Nick was well aware that this was the closest equivalent to an admission of love he would get from Lacroix, and he felt oddly humbled. Before he came up with a reply, Lacroix leaned forward and underlined his statement by claiming Nick's mouth in a deep kiss of well measured passion. Enough to remind Nick of what they once had, but insufficient to provide any satisfaction to the hunger that was gradually building, just leaving a sweet longing for times past. Breaking eye contact, Nick decided to change the topic. "Why did you come here in the first place?"

With a smirk, Lacroix sauntered back to his seat. "I sensed your distress, and thought you might need assistance."

"Fine," Nick sighed, and turned back to his chalk board. "I've already crossed out a subscription of the kitten club magazine, a computer course, and a Best of 70s CD collection. What else do you have in mind?"

Lacroix crossed his legs and leaned back with a pleased expression. "What is it that your partner desires most, Nicholas?"

Nick cast him a doubtful look. "Souvlaki? I've already discarded the idea of giving him a voucher from his favourite hot dog stand. I wouldn't be able to bear the smell in the Caddy."

"Let's not dwell on the good detective's surface, shall we? If I'm correctly informed, Detective Schanke is a father. What is it that a father cherishes above all else?" Lacroix raised his eyebrows.

"His family, Myra and Jenny," Nick stated the obvious, clearly embarrassed, that he hadn't thought of this himself. "I could draw a portrait if I had something to copy their semblance from." He supposed sneaking into their bedrooms while they were asleep would be considered too creepy if Schanke found out.

"Like you, Nicholas, the good detective surely keeps a photograph of those he holds dear on or in his desk."

Nick knew exactly what Lacroix was referring to. The autographed Nightcrawler publicity shot he had found on his blotter after Lacroix's visit to the precinct on Father's Day. Why he still kept it in his drawer was something he preferred not to think about. Yet, Lacroix was right. Schanke did have a framed photo of Myra and Jenny on his desk. His lips quirked in a smile.

"So glad to be of assistance," Lacroix purred.

* * * *

After Schanke had left on the following evening, Nick had quickly removed the photograph from its frame and placed it on the copy machine. He returned the original to Schanke's desk and left with the photocopy, eager to start working.

Three bottles of cow's blood and several hours later, Nick stepped back from the easel to observe his work. It had been a while since he had painted anything that wasn't abstract. But once started, it had grown on him. He hadn't simply reproduced the photograph, but arranged Jenny's and Myra's faces in a different setting and added Schanke to the ensemble. He had stared at his partner across their desks often enough that he was able to sketch him from memory. The painting showed Jenny in a school uniform looking up at her parents who stood smiling behind her in front of a red brick wall, bathed in sunlight. While Nick studied the painting critically, he wondered if it was too intimate a gift for his partner's birthday. On the other hand, Schanke had complained repeatedly about Nick's lack of appreciation. Nick hoped to dispel this unwarranted notion with this gift. Besides, it would be an appropriate memento when Nick had to move on in a few years. Satisfied, he left a peppy "N" as signature in the lower right corner.

* * * *

In the evening Nick postponed getting up. He debated whether to arrive as soon as he could at Schanke's in order to possibly catch Natalie before she left or to arrive delayed in order to miss the main part of the barbeque. He decided on the latter.

Sensing his master's arrival, he got up after all. When he emerged on the gallery, dressed in his red robe, he found Lacroix in front of the painting, wearing an unusual frown on his face. "Lacroix? Is something wrong?"

Roused from his preoccupation, Lacroix turned his gaze towards the gallery. Whatever emotion the picture of a blond eight-year old had triggered was buried beneath his usual stoic expression. "I see you have been busy," he remarked.

"Do you like it?" Lacroix was an excellent critic of the arts. Despite their frequent disagreements, Nick valued his opinion on his artwork greatly.

Lacroix picked up the photocopy. "You've done well in turning them into a family portrait. The semblance is stunning. I suppose Detective Schanke will be pleased." On an afterthought he added, "Better be prepared to answer questions about how you acquired the skills."

"Thanks for the warning." Nick took a bottle from the fridge and filled a glass. Holding up the bottle, he asked, "I suppose you'll pass?"

"I appreciate your manners, Nicholas. Fortunately I've brought my own." He retrieved a bottle from the table and opened it before filling the glass Nick handed him. "Are you sure you won't rather partake from this?"

"I'm fine." Nick quickly downed his glass. "I need to get ready." He flew upstairs, eager to get away from the tantalizing aroma.

When he returned fully dressed, Lacroix was gone, the half empty bottle left on the table. Nick wrapped a layer of protective paper around the canvas and proceeded into the elevator.

* * * *

When he parked at Montcrest Boulevard, Nick could already hear laughter coming from the back of the house. Apparently the party was already in full swing and people were having a good time. He hoped his presence wouldn't cloud the mood.

He rang the bell, wondering briefly if anyone would hear it at all above the noise from the garden. However, the door opened almost instantly, revealing Jenny beaming up at him. "Hi Jenny," he greeted her.

"Hi Nick," she replied, turned and stormed off down the hall. "Dad! Nick's here!"

Nick followed cautiously. After a few steps, Schanke met him, carrying an empty plate covered in gravy.

"There you are, partner. Come in, come in. Myra! Nick's here."

Myra appeared from the kitchen, accepting the plate from Schanke and storing it in the dish washer. "Hi Nick, good to see you," she greeted him after wiping her hands on a towel.

"Likewise," Nick smiled and took her hand while leaning in to kiss her cheek.

"Schanke mentioned that you won't eat anything from the barbeque, but I can make you an extra dish if you want."

"I'm fine," Nick declined and held out the canvas. "Happy Birthday, Schank. I've brought a gift. Something for your wall." He remembered Schanke's 'I have a wall, I want a plaque' complaint well.

Schanke removed the wrap curiously and stared.

"It's just something I've occupied myself with to pass the day," Nick mentioned.

"You painted this? Wow. Myra, honey, look at this."

"You like it?" Nick inquired.

"It's amazing. I don't know what to say. Thanks, Nick."

"You're welcome, Don."

"What can I get you?" Schanke remembered his duties as host. "We have beer, wine, whiskey, rum --"

"I'll take a glass of red wine," Nick interrupted him.

"You sure? The guys are all drinking beer."

"Red wine is fine."

"Okay. Right." Schanke placed the canvas carefully on a side board and retrieved a goblet from a glass case. From another cupboard he picked a bottle and headed back to the kitchen for a cork screw.

A moment later, he returned with the open bottle and poured a glass for Nick. "Local, from the Niagara region," he remarked, holding out the label to Nick. "Unless you only drink the French stuff they sell at the Raven?"

"This is fine, Schanke," Nick assured him quickly. "Really." For emphasis, he took a cautious sip. It went down smoothly although he would have preferred it mixed with blood.

Schanke led him into the garden where eight men were sitting on wooden benches at a table. Nick recognized Christos and Mitchell from the 96th and Hector and Peters from the 27th. Schanke introduced the remaining four as his bowling crew.

Nick pulled up a chair and set down at the head of the table, opposite from Schanke. For a while he listened to the men talking and joking, finding it not much different from the time when he had dined with his fellow crusaders in Paris. When the silhouette of a female appeared in the brightly lit doorway, he almost expected to see Janette, but a moment later Myra came into view and stopped behind Schanke.

"I'm seeing Jenny to bed, darling. You are all set here?"

"Nick has his bottle of wine; we have four more cases of beer in store. I think we'll be fine, thanks honey." Schanke rose from his seat as Jenny approached in her pyjamas. "Sleep well, my angel," he hugged her.

"Night, everybody," Jenny waved in the general direction of the table before following her mother inside.

Schanke returned to his seat and rubbed his hands. "So, shall we start?" he suggested.

"Start with what?" Nick asked after everybody else had agreed wholeheartedly.

"The Schanke residence is not only famous for its barbeque --"He was interrupted by approving knocking on the table by his guests. "It is also notorious for its entertainment. It's a custom to play 'Truth or Dare' after the lady of the house has retired."

"Truth or Dare?" Nick asked with an ill foreboding.

"Yeah, it's fun. You choose 'truth' or 'dare'. When you choose 'truth', you have to answer a question truthfully, and when you choose 'dare', you get an assignment that you have to complete. Let's start with Brian. Truth or dare?"

"Dare," Brian Mitchell replied immediately.

After some debate among the friends, Schanke announced, "We want you to drink a bottle of beer down in one."

Mitchell grinned. "That's easy." He retrieved a new bottle from the case nearby, opened it, raised it in salute, and downed it in hasty swallows. Everybody cheered when he was done.

Nick followed the game anxiously. A part of him wanted to bolt; another enjoyed the easy camaraderie between Schanke's friends. In an attempt to avoid being fed with atrocious beverages, Nick thought it was safer to choose truth.

"Okay, Nickyboy, how did you learn to paint so well?" Schanke wanted to know.

Nick smiled inwardly. This was one question he was prepared to answer. He shrugged. "When you're confined inside during the day, you have a lot of time on your hands."

There was a moment of silence before understanding dawned in Schanke's eyes.

Nick silently cursed himself for having dampened the cheery mood after all. However, the silence lasted only temporarily, before another beer was opened and the game continued with cheers and laughter. Nick observed that the more alcohol was consumed, the more intimate the questions became. Yet, when it was his turn, he chose 'truth' again.

This time it was Detective Peters from the 27th who phrased the question. "I heard that you're still working very closely with Dr. Lambert and that your official status is still 'just friends'. He sketched quotation marks in the air. "With that in mind, I would like to know who the last person you've kissed was."

Nick froze, Lacroix's kiss still very freshly embedded in his memory. The others applauded Peters for having put the question so delicately. Apparently everybody expected the answer to be Nat. "Surely you will agree that I cannot answer this as a gentleman," Nick said evasively.

"Don't worry, everything that's said in the garden stays in the garden," Schanke assured him with a wink. "That's why we wait until the wife is gone."

Nick sighed in defeat. "Well, if you must know, it was Myra." Upon Schanke's shocked expression he confessed, "I gave her a peck on the cheek when I greeted her this evening."

Everybody erupted in laughter again while Schanke relaxed slowly.

Nick relaxed as well and downed a good portion of his wine. That had been a little too close for comfort. Maybe he should choose 'dare' on his next turn.

With his mind still lingering on Lacroix's kiss, Nick found it difficult to follow the ongoing game. Meanwhile he was on his second glass of red wine. Without the haemoglobin content, he felt the effects of the alcohol more than usual and his stomach was beginning to rebel against the abnormal food choice.

Nick downed the remainder of his glass and set it carefully on the table. He was certain that he would feel better after two glasses of uncut blood.

"Nick?" he became aware of Schanke's concerned voice. Apparently he had called several times already. Turning to the others, Schanke continued, "See, that's what I mean. He does that all the time. Mitchell, it's your turn next. Ask him of whom he thinks when he gets that look on his face."

"Yeah, ask him if the last name begins with an L," Peters frolicked.

Alarmed, Nick glared at him.

"Are you alright, Nick?" Schanke asked again. "You – I don't know, you look really pale, man. I mean paler than usual."

Nick rose from his seat, using the table for support. "I'm not sure, Schank. I think I need to leave."

"Man oh man, look at those young ones. Just no stomach for drinks. I've never seen anyone get drunk from two glasses of wine."

"I'm sorry, Schank," Nick rasped. "Apparently it didn't match as well with my diet as I had thought." He took a deep breath and walked towards the house.

Schanke followed him quickly. "Wait, you weren't planning on driving home in your condition, were you?"

Actually Nick had planned to fly home, but he wasn't sure if he could. "No, I'll just walk for a while and catch a cab on the way." He was already at the door when Schanke caught up with him.

"You sure you don't want me to call you a cab?"

"I'll be fine. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Thanks again for the gift," Schanke called after him as Nick was already out of the door.

* * * *

Nick staggered from the elevator and grabbed the first bottle he set eyes on – the one left by Lacroix on the table. Upending it, Nick downed it in hasty swallows. When it was empty, he sat down at the table, leaning his head on his arms, and closed his eyes, waiting for the human blood to work its magic.

"Feeling poorly, Nicholas?"

Nick groaned inwardly upon hearing the smooth voice of his master close behind him. "I've been better," he muttered.

Lacroix stepped forward and picked up the empty bottle. "Why is it that you resort to proper nourishment only when you're miserable? Has it ever occurred to you that you wouldn't feel miserable in the first place if you partook of this on a regular basis?"

Nick didn't feel well enough yet to counter the reproof in the way he wanted. He merely managed another groan.

"Is it working?" Lacroix inquired. "No? Hmm." He sauntered over to the kitchen counter and retrieved a goblet from the overhead cupboard. He bit into his wrist and filled the goblet with the blood that poured from the wound. "Perhaps a stronger vintage is required." He set the half-filled goblet next to Nick on the table.

Nick sat up as soon as the aroma hit his nostrils. Automatically he reached for the goblet and inhaled deeply before savouring the contents without pause. He felt the strengthening effect immediately. The offering was enough to assuage the nausea, but in its place arose a different sensation – a desire fuelled by the feelings distilled into the blood he just had consumed. Nick focused a hungry golden gaze on Lacroix.

Smiling, the elder brushed his fingertips sensually along the base of Nick's neck. "More?" he queried with a raised eyebrow.

When Nick merely nodded, Lacroix sauntered over to the couch and settled in its centre. "You know where to find more," he breathed, leaning his head back to expose his neck. "Come and take it, if you dare. Or be truthful to yourself and admit to the folly of your current lifestyle. What will it be, Nicholas? Truth or dare?"

Nick sighed inwardly. He had played that game all evening. Had he not already decided at Schanke's house to choose 'dare' on his next turn? What choice did he really have? He could decline and try to overcome the hunger on his own, making him irritable, miserable, and dangerous, for days, or he could indulge this once to fortify himself in order to continue his restricted diet.

Focusing his eyes on the inviting vein in Lacroix's neck, Nick rose slowly from his chair and moved over to the couch. Bending his right knee on the seat, he swung his left leg across Lacroix's thighs so that he came to sit on Lacroix's lap. He steadied Lacroix's head with his arms and leaned in to lick the skin that covered the main blood vessel. When he felt Lacroix tense slightly under the caress, he struck and pierced the vein, sucking fiercely.

Instantly he felt strong arms embracing him, crushing him tightly against the other's body. Hands roamed over his back and slipped into the waistband of his jeans, caressing his buttocks. In response Nick grinded himself against Lacroix and wasn't surprised to find him equally aroused. For a moment, he ceased his drinking and sat up, eager to uncover more of Lacroix's skin by removing his shirt.

Instead he found his lips claimed in a searing kiss. Nick willingly opened his mouth to allow Lacroix access, revelling in the sensation as the elder sucked on his tongue while simultaneously opening the buttons of Nick's shirt. After the shirt was discarded, Lacroix motioned to him to stand. He rose as well and between kisses they continued to remove their remaining clothes.

Once they were both naked, Lacroix whirled Nick around so that he came to stand with his back against the mantelpiece. Pinning Nick's arms against the wooden structure, Lacroix started an arousing attack with his mouth along Nick's torso, teasing one nipple to hardness and then the other before moving further down. Nick thrust his head back and growled deeply.

Finally Lacroix released Nick's arms and knelt down in front of him. Casting a leering glance upwards, he grabbed Nick's buttocks and mouthed him completely.

Nick wasn't sure how long his legs would support him during the intense pleasure he received from his master's lips. "Lucien!" he cried out in bliss as he neared the edge. However, before he reached the peak, Lacroix pulled him down onto the rug in front of the fireplace. Lifting Nick's legs around his waist, he took him completely, eliciting another groan of bliss from him as he began to thrust. Nicholas met each thrust with equal abandon until the need to bite became unbearable. Releasing matching roars, each bit simultaneously into the other's neck.

Their bodies remained joined during ecstatic shudders while they drank from each other again and again. Nick still felt Lacroix nuzzling his neck as he fell into an exhausted slumber, his arm wrapped around the other, and a smile of satisfaction on his face.

* * * *

Nick stirred as the elevator door was pushed aside.

"Nick?" Natalie's voice called into the dark loft.

Nick's eyes shot open. He found himself alone on the floor by the fireplace, his body covered by a blanket. His senses told him that the sun was still above the horizon. Hence Lacroix couldn't have left yet. He relaxed somewhat as he heard the shower running upstairs. At least Natalie hadn't caught them in each other's arms. He fervently hoped that the sound of the shower was too low for mortal ears.

Meanwhile, Natalie had groped her way to the couch.

"What are you doing here, Nat? It's still day," he remarked, obviously startling her.

She switched on the lamp on the end table and turned towards his voice. "There you are. Are you all right? Myra called me and said you left the party early because you weren't feeling well."

"I'm fine now," he quipped, sitting up while making sure to remain completely covered by the blanket. At least he could be confident that no traces of their former activities were visible on his face. Although they had virtually bathed in each other's blood, any spilled remnants were either reabsorbed by his skin or licked away by Lacroix. He had learned early in their relationship that his insatiable lover wouldn't let any drop go to waste.

"Didn't make it to the bed, huh?" Natalie concluded.

"I was really sick."

She regarded him probingly. "I'm sorry about that. But you haven't looked this well in months. See, I told you spending time with Schanke's friends would be good for you."

"Indeed," he mumbled.

"Myra also told me about your present. You really went out of your way, Nick. How did you come up with the idea of a painting?"

Nick hesitated a moment before admitting, "Well, actually, it was Lacroix's idea."

Natalie's eyes widened. "You discussed this with Lacroix?" she asked in disbelief. "And he actually let you go to a party with mere mortals? What was in it for him?"

Nick's face fell. It hadn't occurred to him at the time, but in hindsight it was indeed unusual for Lacroix to not mock him about attending his partner's birthday party. In fact it was highly unusual of him to offer assistance in choosing a gift for the occasion. But he couldn't have possibly foreseen the outcome of the party. That Nick would return home sick, in desperate need of sustenance, or could he? However, considering how brilliant a chess player he was, Nick wouldn't put it past him.

"Nick?" Natalie roused him from his reverie.

"Hm?"

"I have to go in early again today. So, if you're sure you're allright, I'll be off. I'll see you later."

Nick nodded absently. "Thanks for checking on me."

The moment the lift started descending, Lacroix appeared on the gallery, fully dressed. "I never thought there was something she and I would agree on."

Nick wrapped the blanket around himself and stood. "Agree on what?" He craned his neck to face his master.

Lacroix moved in a blink and joined him downstairs. "You haven't looked this well in months, mon cher. Although, I doubt your dear doctor would approve of the regimen."

"I'm glad she didn't come in earlier."

"I thought so, which is why I decided to remove myself from your embrace when I heard the lift motor engage."

Nick was surprised. "That was considerate. Thank you." He waited for the proverbial quid pro quo, but when no demand came, he continued his previous train of thought. "Last night when I came home sick, you were waiting for me. You knew I was going to need blood. And don't give me that 'A father knows when his children are in pain' speech. You didn't object that I was going to Schanke's party. So you knew something would happen that would make me sick and need blood. Am I that predictable?"

Lacroix smiled at him openly. "My dear Nicholas, if you were predictable, I would have gotten bored with you centuries ago. I can assure you that. On the contrary, it is your spontaneity that I find most refreshing." To emphasize his point, he leaned in and captured Nick's lips in a lingering kiss. "Come and see me if you feel hungry again."

Nick frowned after Lacroix had departed through the skylight, realizing that a response to his suspicion had been successfully evaded. With Lacroix's presence no longer in the loft, Nick felt a touch of loneliness, as if a part of himself was missing. Trying to shake off the feeling, Nick opened the fridge and picked a bottle of cow's blood.

He spit the first mouthful instantly into the sink and stared at the bottle in horror. This was utterly dreadful after indulging on the ambrosia that flowed in his lover's veins. How could he ever have subsisted on this swill? Still, he refused to consider the alternative and, after a desperate groan, took another cautious sip. Eventually he poured a glass and settled onto the couch, drinking his breakfast and wishing there was more passion in it.

He quickly emptied his glass as the elevator arrived and Schanke stepped into the loft, carrying a container which he set on the kitchen counter. "Feeling better? I brought your car over." He eyed the empty glass in front of Nick and narrowed his eyes. "Are you sure it's a good idea to drink on a sick stomach?"

"No." Nick grabbed his glass and started for the sink to rinse it out. "I admit this was a poor choice. But I'm fine. I hope I didn't disrupt your party."

"Nah, but I got quite a run-down from Myra afterwards because I hadn't called her. She was truly upset that you just vanished instead of letting her take care of you. Today she insisted on cooking chicken broth although I assured her that you probably won't eat it."

Nick eyed the container aghast. "Thank you, Schanke. I might actually try it later." Would Lacroix drop by if he got himself sick again?

FIN