When Mulder finally went back inside, he saw LaCroix hovering over Nick, gently cleaning away blood sweat from his forehead. A near empty bag of blood hung from the IV stand, and the bottle containing the tranquilizer was now empty, a final dose having just been administered. Mulder moved to the rear of the camper to check on his partner and found her still peacefully slumbering. If Nick had called out in pain, it seemed as though she would have heard, but it could be that her mind and body were just too exhausted to respond. Mulder walked back towards the front and stood watching silently as LaCroix tenderly stroked the dark, blonde curls of his offspring.

"Was he awake?' Mulder asked "Did you hear him call out when we were outside?"

"No, he did not awaken. But I sensed his distress. I sense a bit of distress in you as well. Did our little discussion leave you filled with questions?"

"A few. I don't suppose there's a vampire beginner's book available?"

"No, I'm afraid not. Perhaps when this is all over, you and I can get together at a later date and go into the matter with greater detail."

Mulder nodded absently. "Yeah. Maybe we could."

"But there remains something else on your mind, Agent Mulder. What is it?"

"I was just wondering if what's been done to Scully's blood, might not have been done to mine as well. There have been a couple of times I was held by the military or whomever and things were done to me that I can't remember."

Without a word, LaCroix picked up a scalpel, then reached out for the agent's hand. Timidly, Mulder placed his palm in the vampire's, then hissed lightly as he felt the scalpel pierce the tip of his index finger. LaCroix put the scalpel away, then squeezed the cut finger to encourage a greater flow of blood. Mulder held his breath as the vampire licked the blood tentatively at first, then engulfed the whole tip of his finger. Afraid that he would find the same unpleasant taste that the woman carried, LaCroix was delighted to find that this mortal's blood had not been tainted. On the contrary, it was intoxicatingly sweet, making it exceedingly difficult to stop at just a taste. He lifted his gaze to the young man's face and saw a pair of eyes filled with fascination. It would be so easy to take him, to immediately create a new addition to his little family, but now wasn't the right time. He had Nicholas to think about.

LaCroix licked Mulder's wound to heal it, then let go of his hand. "Your blood is perfectly normal," he told him simply.

"Thank you," said Mulder as he backed away, only then realizing how foolish his actions were. He'd just allowed a vampire to drink his blood. He'd seen the glint of gold in LaCroix's eyes and knew that the vampire had been tempted to go further. But what Mulder found truly scary was the fact that he hadn't minded at all.

--------

9:15 a.m.

Scully woke up a little disoriented. She sat up in the strange bed and looked about to get her bearings. She saw her partner in the bed across from her sleeping on his back with a wooden cross clutched loosely in his hand resting on his chest. Scully swung her stocking feet to the carpeted floor and rose from the bed to go check on her patient. She found that Nick was still asleep and chained to the chair. His adopted father was nearby, seated on the adjustable stool with his back and head resting against the wall, arms folded across his chest and eyes closed. Scully wasn't quite sure if he was asleep or not. She didn't want to wake him if he was, so she kept her movements slow and silent as she approached Nick.

Checking the sutures on his forehead, she was surprised to find the incision she'd made just hours ago was practically healed. The sutures were no longer needed, so she found a pair of scissors and began to clip them away. With the first tiny snip of the scissors. LaCroix's eyes snapped open and he looked on with concern.

"Is there something wrong?" he asked. Though his voice was soft, Scully was still startled by it.

"No. I was just removing the stitches. He's nearly healed. I didn't mean to wake you."

"I was merely resting my eyes."

"I see you gave him the rest of the sedative."

"He became restless at one point. I thought it best."

"I'm sure it was. He definitely needs to rest." As Scully finished removing the stitches, she casually began a conversation on another topic that had been on her mind for a while. "Mr. LaCroix, did you know Dr. Natalie Lambert?"

"Yes, I had the pleasure of making her acquaintance on a few occasions. Why do you ask?"

"Back at the cabin, Nick told me that Dr. Lambert had come up with something for his sun allergy. I'm thinking now that he meant that she had found a way to make him a normal man again. Do you know anything about that?"

"Dr. Lambert had the misguided notion, as does Nicholas, that he can become mortal again. She created the most vial concoctions and used him as a guinea pig, which I am positive severely compromised his natural ability to heal. I believe that the tumor you removed is a direct result of her meddling. He _is_ what he is. There is no cure for it."

Scully could tell by the barely controlled vehemence in the vampire's voice that she had touched upon a sensitive area. She wisely chose not to pursue it further.

"Is it necessary to keep the chains on?" she asked, referring to Nick's restraints.

"Until he awakens and we see what kind of mood he's in, I think it's safest. There's food in the kitchen, if you'd like breakfast."

Scully nodded her acceptance of his hospitality. "Thank you."

--------

11:45 a.m.

Mulder awoke from a troubled dream involving aliens and vampires. As if he didn't have enough stars in his nightmares already, he had to invite new characters. He opened his eyes to a semi-darkened room. The area was closed off from the front of the camper by a corrugated partition. The overhead lights were off, and the heavily tinted windows significantly reduced the amount of daylight entering. Mulder sat up in bed and looked across to where he had last seen his partner. He discovered that she had been replaced by a much taller and paler figure. LaCroix lay on the bed with eyes closed and hands folded across his chest. His son had been positioned close by. The dentist chair was still horizontal but had been lowered to its minimum height of two feet, and the arms had been removed to conserve space. The chains still remained around Nick's ankles and waist, but his wrists were bound together as his hands rested on his abdomen.

Mulder got up quietly and carefully slid open the partition, making sure there was no danger of sunlight flooding the sleeping area. He was a little concerned about not finding his partner on the other side of the partition. He closed it, then glanced out the window where he viewed his better half seated in one of two folding chairs, beneath the awning, munching from a bag of chips and reading a paperback novel. Smiling to himself, Mulder opened the door and stepped outside.

"Nice day," Mulder greeted her. "Enjoying yourself?"

"As a matter of fact, yes. Did you sleep you well?"

"Yeah, except for the weird dream I had about being chased by blood-sucking aliens." When Mulder attempted to help himself to Scully's bag of chips, she batted his hand away.

"You don't eat the low-fat kind."

"You mean the no-taste kind."

"There's plenty of other stuff inside. And bring me another diet cola while you're at it."

"Your wish is my command."

Mulder made a trip back inside and came out with an armful of sodas, snacks and the party tray of meat and cheese. He could tell that Scully had already been at the tray because it wasn't as full as the last time he'd seen it. He gave Scully the drink she had requested, then settled down in the other available chair with the rest of the items he'd brought out.

"For a man who supposedly doesn't eat food, Mr. LaCroix sure bought enough," Scully commented. "You think he did it just for us?"

"Yeah, I think he did. I talked to him for awhile right after you went to bed, and he admitted that he had set this whole thing up from the very beginning. He was the one who slipped me the file on Knight. He knew that an operation was necessary and he picked you to do it."

"Why me?"

Mulder filled his mouth with food to keep from answering right away. He didn't want to tell her that she was walking around with slightly alien blood and that she was considered less than appetizing by the vampire community. Luckily, he didn't have to answer because his partner came up with her own.

"Mr. LaCroix said that your reputation preceded you. And if he already knew about you, then he also knew your partner was a doctor who did her slicing and dicing on the dead. Since they consider themselves to be dead in a sense, Mr. LaCroix figured I'd do just fine."

"And you did," Mulder agreed. "Under the circumstances, you did a damn fine job, Scully."

Scully took a sip of her soda, then said, "You know, it's still hard for me to believe any of this. My eyes see things that couldn't possibly be real, and yet.... Of course, if I really tried, I could probably come up with a scientific explanation for all of this."

"You could?" Mulder questioned doubtfully.

Scully thought about it a moment then shrugged. "I didn't say it'd be a great explanation."

A comfortable silence followed as Scully returned to reading her novel and Mulder assuaged his hunger with half the food on the party tray, washed down by a can of root beer. Afterwards, he moved his chair into the sun and slumped down in it, stretching his long legs out fully and folding his hands atop his well-fed belly. Feeling the warming rays on his skin, he thought back to the rest of the conversation he'd had with LaCroix.

"Scully, if someone offered you the chance to live forever, would you take it?"

"You mean like if my fairy-godmother comes and grants me a magic wish?"

"Yeah. Something like that. And you'd never look any older, you'd have special powers, and you'd be able to fly."

When he mentioned being able to fly, Scully realized where the idea of immortality had come from. "Would I be on a permanent liquid diet and somewhat sensitive to sunlight?" she asked.

"Somewhat."

"You're not thinking what I think you're thinking, are you?"

"Mr. LaCroix offered me immortality. He's nearly two-thousand years old. Do you know how old Knight is? He's eight-hundred. Can you imagine the lives they must have lead, the people they've known?"

"Are you telling me that you want to become a vampire now, Mulder? You can't be serious."

"I didn't say I wanted to become a vampire. I just asked your opinion about living forever."

"Maybe you should ask Nick his opinion on that. I'm sure he has a lot more incite into it. Actually, I think he's tired of his immortality. When we were at the cabin, he told me how Natalie Lambert had tried to help him. Apparently, he missed having the sunlight on his skin, so Natalie came up with something that allowed him to spend a day in the sun. Unfortunately, whatever cure she came up with had some pretty bad side effects, so I guess the search for a normal life was abandoned. And when Natalie was killed, we know he took her death pretty hard. So think of it, Mulder; if he's been around for eight hundred years, then Natalie Lambert's death was definitely not the first one he's had to live with. How many lost loves do you suppose he's mourned? How many friends has he had to bury? How many times has he had to start his life over because everyone else around him is aging and he still looks exactly the same twenty years later? Mulder, from what I've seen, Nick Knight is not a happy man. And he's not a happy vampire either. Do you suppose he'll be that way for the next eight hundred years?"

Mulder had no reply. He hadn't given that aspect of forever much thought. And it bothered him that despite those very important concerns, he still couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to live beyond his normal life span. It's not everyday a person is offered the opportunity to cheat death and the power to defeat his enemies.

--------

2:40 p.m.

It was the first time since teaming with Mulder that Scully had had the time to completely read a novel from start to finish in one sitting. Her partner had taken the car back into town to finish up loose ends with the police and check them out of the motel in which they had never been able to spend the night. She was surprised that he was willing to leave her alone with the vampires, even though they were sleeping and seemingly harmless. He figured that as long as she stayed outside in the sunlight, she'd be perfectly safe. She would have been content to stay outside if she hadn't consumed a cup of coffee, two sodas and half a liter bottle of water in the past five hours. Nature was calling and she didn't have the necessary equipment to easily answer it outside.

Scully ventured inside and slowly slid the partition open, then tiptoed silently past the slumbering vampires and into the bathroom. She finished her business up quickly, but instead of heading immediately back outside, she paused to check on Nick. She knelt down and leaned over to get a look at his forehead. It was a little hard to see in the dim light, so she ran a finger across his brow to determine the extent of his healing thus far. His skin was perfectly smooth with no sign of scarring.

"Amazing," Scully uttered under her breath, then gasped in alarm when she felt something brush against her breast.

"Who are you?" Nick spoke in a raspy voice, his left hand reaching out to make contact.

Recovering from her initial shock, Scully took his hand in hers and gave it a comforting squeeze. "It's Dana Scully," she responded softly. "Do you remember me, Nick?''

"Agent Scully?"

"Yes, it's Agent Scully. How do you feel?"

"I can't see you. There's something wrong with my eyes," he uttered fearfully.

"Wait a minute." Scully stood momentarily and flipped on the overhead light switch. A quick glance at LaCroix revealed that he was not bothered by the light or the low voices. "How's that?" she asked Nick. "Can you see me now?"

"I see a shadow of you. It's very blurry. What's happened to me? I feel dizzy and my head hurts."

"Is the pain like it was before?"

"No. Just a dull ache. And I feel tired, weak. It's hard to move."

"The reason you're finding it hard to move is because you're wearing restraints. The headache, I'd say is from the surgery. I think the rest of your symptoms may just be side effects from the drugs you were given. The dosage used would have killed a normal man several times over."

"Surgery? What surgery?"

"I performed the surgery to remove your tumor."

"I don't understand. The last I remember...." his voice trailed off as he struggled to recall the previous events of his life which had included two beefy Enforcers and the promise of true death. As he concentrated, the haziness of the drugs in his system lifted just enough to enable him to distinguish an undeniable presence. "LaCroix?"

"I'm right here, Nicholas." LaCroix sat up calmly in bed and placed a hand on his son's arm.

Nick recoiled at his touch. "Is this how you plan to keep me?" he hissed. "Blind, chained down and helpless? Did he kidnap you, Agent Scully? Force you to do this to me?"

Scully looked to LaCroix and saw the hurt expression on his face as he rose from the bed. "No, Nick. It's not like that," Scully began to explain. "Mr. LaCroix asked me in a very courteous way if I would perform the operation and afterwards, I volunteered to stay and help him look after you. As far as the chains are concerned, he didn't want you to end up accidentally hurting me or yourself. I imagine it's all right to remove them now though."

No sooner had he heard those words, Nick felt the restraints being removed from his ankles. A moment later, he lost contact with the feminine hand as Scully stepped aside to allow LaCroix to discard the rest of the bindings. Once free, Nick immediately tried to stand up, only to collapse to his knees from disorientation and weakness. Wordlessly, LaCroix lifted him up and aided him in sitting down, quickly adjusting the chair to a slightly reclined, upright position.

Scully returned to his side again and held his hand. "You need to take it easy, Nick," she advised in a soothing voice.

"He had no right to make such a decision for me," Nick grumbled.

"I have _every_ right," LaCroix declared angrily. "You gave me the right when you accepted my offer eight hundred years ago. How many times must I remind you that you are _my_ creation, Nicholas. You. Are. Mine!"

Nick didn't bother to respond. It was an old argument; one of which he could never hope to win. Scully gazed with disapproval at LaCroix, then her eyes shifted to her partner who stood at the partitioned entrance, taking everything in. The picture of the caring father he'd witnessed earlier was in stark contrast to what he saw now.

Realizing the image he was displaying, the elder vampire quickly reeled in his anger. "Performing the operation," LaCroix continued in a milder tone, "was the only way to keep the Enforcers from severing your head."

"I broke the code," Nick responded shamefully. "I was prepared to accept the consequences."

All anger left LaCroix's voice as he spoke next. "Nicholas, do you recall a certain conversation we had; the one in which you told me that you were not going to sit back and let de Brabant steal your life? You said that you were going to fight him every step of the way, and that if I were truly your friend, then I'd help you to win the battle against him. Do you remember that, Nicholas?"

"Yes, I remember."

"Well, I am doing my part to help win the battle. Now I need for you to do yours. You cannot let him win, Nicholas. You cannot give up, not without a fight."

"I'm tired, LaCroix," Nick sighed wearily. "I don't know if I have anymore fight left in me. And for what? What is there left for me?"

"Hope for the future," Scully offered. "Nick, I really don't know what all you've experienced so far. Maybe you've seen it all and done it all, but you never know.... Perhaps the future may bring something new and different and wonderful into your life. Maybe fate has a lot more good in store for you than you could ever imagine. Your hearts desire could be just a couple of days away or a couple of years."

Nick lifted her hand to his lips and placed a kiss in the center of her palm. "I seem to be lacking the energy to argue with you at the moment. Thank you for all your help, Agent Scully."

"You know, I do have a first name," said Scully. "It's Dana."

He smiled as his eyes drooped drowsily. "I've enjoyed meeting you, Dana." With those final words Nick drifted back off into unconsciousness.

"You handled that nicely," said LaCroix.

"About his eyesight," Scully shrugged. "I'm not really sure. My gut feeling is that it's only temporary, either due to the drugs used or perhaps there's some swelling and pressure building up behind his eyes. With his capacity for healing, it may simply clear up soon on its own. But if it doesn't, then I suppose there's a possibility that the optic nerve was somehow damaged during the operation, in which case he'd have to undergo some tests to determine what can be done to repair the damage."

"I'm sure that won't be necessary," LaCroix assured her. "I must thank you again, my dear. For all that you've done. If circumstances were different and Nicholas had lived, I'm sure you and he would have become close friends."

Scully eyed the elder vampire in confusion. "What? What do you mean if he had lived?"

"Nick Knight died yesterday morning at his cabin in the mountains. Remember? You accompanied his body back in the helicopter. You said your final farewell to him in the morgue at the hospital. That was the last you saw of him. This nonsense about him being a vampire is completely ridiculous, of course. There's no such thing as vampires. Your partner simply has an overactive imagination. You will not remember meeting me. You will not remember the Enforcers or performing the operation. Do you understand?"

Scully nodded her head in a dazed movement. "Yes."

"You will sleep now until your partner awakens you."

As Scully fell into a deep sleep, LaCroix scooped her up in his arms, then turned to face Mulder who asked, "Are you going to make me forget too?"

"That depends. Have you made your decision based on our earlier discussion?"

"I'm still interested, but...."

"You need more time."

"Maybe if you look me up again in another ten years. If I'm not happily married by then with a couple of rug rats crawling around...."

"Would those happen to be red-headed, rug rats?" LaCroix asked with a smile.

Blushing profusely, Mulder was unable to confirm or deny the possibility. Without even realizing it, he was hypnotized into forgetting about his encounter with vampires and was soon on the road heading out of town with his partner asleep in the passenger seat. Though he couldn't quite shake the feeling that he was forgetting something as he drove along, he didn't want to disturb Scully's slumber. He wouldn't bother to wake her until they reached the airport in Billings.

--------

Scully's Apartment Building One Month Later

Someone on the block was having a party and Scully was unable to park in her normal spot due to the excess of cars which lined both sides of the street. She considered herself lucky to find a space at the farthest end of the block, though she wasn't happy about having to lug her overnight bag and an armful of groceries all that distance. Just returning from a case, she knew there was little food in her refrigerator, so she stopped off at the store to pick up a few necessities. Since the neighborhood was known for its lack of crime, Scully had no qualms about walking down the street late at night. Besides, she was still carrying her gun.

As she moved closer to her building, Scully got the sensation that she was being followed. She glanced behind herself several times, but never saw anyone. When she reached the door of her building, she set her overnight bag down so she could unlock the door. Once the door was open, she reached down for her luggage just as her grocery bag broke open and an item escaped from the bottom. A hand appeared out of nowhere to rescue the falling container of ice cream before it had a chance to hit the ground. Scully jumped back in surprise.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you."

Scully expelled a shocked gasp when she recognized the face of the man standing at her side. "You! You're... you're dead! I saw you. You were dead."

Nick smiled. And shrugged lightly. "I do tend to sleep like the dead," he jokingly admitted. "Do I look dead to you now?"

"No, of course not."

"Here, let me help you with that." Nick carefully took the grocery bag from her, then held up the ice cream container and briefly studied the label. "You'd actually eat something called Moose Tracks?" he asked with a playful frown.

"What are you doing here?" Scully asked, still in a state of disbelief.

"I've been thinking about you a lot lately and I wanted to see you again. Do you mind if I come inside for a little while?"

She had a ton of questions she wanted answered, so Scully allowed Nick to accompany her through the lobby door and into her apartment. She was ready to begin the interrogation as soon as they cleared the door, but Nick was concerned about putting away the grocery items that required refrigeration. He found his own way into the kitchen while Scully remained in the living room. She contemplated whether or not she should call Mulder but Nick returned from his short chore before she had the chance to reach for the phone.

"All done," said Nick with a pleasant smile. "Your carton of Moose Tracks is safe."

"Thank you. Now are you ready to answer a few questions for me?"

"Not quite."

Nick walked up to her and gently drew her into his arms. Scully stiffened in fear as he embraced her and she glared in wide-eyed wonder as he leaned forward to press his lips against hers. His gentleness quickly won her over and once he felt her relax, he kissed her with more passion. Frozen at first, Scully instantly began to melt under his expert mouth. When her tongue scraped lightly against his fangs, she drew back suddenly and stared into a pair of golden eyes.

"Mulder was right. You _are_ a vampire."

Nick stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers and replied softly, "Is that a problem?"

It should have been but for some reason it didn't really seem to matter. Scully shook her head slightly and smiled. "No, it's not a problem at all." She reached her hand up to the back of his head and pulled him down to engage his lips once again. As they kissed feverishly, Scully felt herself being lifted by a pair of powerful but gentle arms. There was the euphoric sensation of floating through the air as he transported her into the bedroom. They hovered above the bed spinning ever so slowly in a circle, the room swirling with candlelight. She closed her eyes pleasurably as cool lips began to trace down the side of her throat. She arched her neck into his touch expectantly as his fangs teased her skin. If he had intended to bite her, she had absolutely no desire to stop him. In fact, she was looking forward to it.

"You want me?" he asked as he began to lick her lips.

"Yes."

"I'm going to make it so good for you," he whispered sensually in her ear.

She was more than ready for him to keep his word. They floated down onto the bed and just as he was about to fulfill his promise, the moment was shattered by the ringing of the telephone. Reluctantly, Scully answered it with a groggy, "Hello?"

"Rise and shine, G-Woman," Mulder's voice boomed cheerfully through the receiver. "We've got a new case, so jump in the shower, get yourself packed and I'll be over to pick you up in an hour."

"Mulder? What...."

"Shake the cobwebs out, Scully. You with me?"

"Yeah, I just... wow, I just had the wildest dream."

"Oh yeah? How was I? Never mind. Tell me about it on the plane to Texas. See you later."

Scully hung up the phone but instead of getting up, continued to lie in bed. The dream she'd just had was still quite vivid in her mind. She closed her eyes to recapture the passionate moment but was interrupted once again by the telephone. She didn't even get a chance to say hello first before Mulder started speaking.

"You got me curious now. I can't wait till later. Tell me about this wild dream."

"I was dreaming about Nick Knight."

"Oh, the dead guy? What happened?"

"Well, for one, he wasn't dead. He came to see me at my apartment and he just started kissing me. I pushed him away when I felt his fangs and then I saw he had golden eyes. He admitted to being a vampire. And he asked me if I minded, which for some reason, I didn't. Then we kissed some more as he lifted me up and flew me into the bedroom."

"Then what happened?" asked Mulder, finding the dream somewhat intriguing.

"My idiot partner called and woke me up."

"Oh, sorry. But it's funny you should mention Knight. I had a dream last week about Mr. LaCroix, the guy who showed up to claim Knight's body. It was really odd, considering that I only met the man for a moment while you were getting your checkup. But anyway, in the dream, we were out in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night and he started to suck on my finger."

"He sucked on your finger?"

"Yeah. Then he told me that maybe we could get together later sometime. Hey, that's not funny," Mulder protested against his partner's outburst of laughter.

"If it's not, then I don't know what is," Scully giggled. "Thank you, Mulder. That certainly helped to wake me up."

She hung up the phone again, then rose from her bed and headed for the bathroom. When the phone rang yet again, she grumbled under her breath as she snatched up the receiver.

"Look, Mulder, if you expect me to be ready when you come to pick me up, you've got to stop playing with the phone."

There was no reply on the other end. Scully called out Mulder's name twice, then was about to hang up when suddenly, piano music began playing. It sounded classical in nature and Scully reasoned by the rich tones that it was not a recording she was hearing. She couldn't think of anyone she knew with classical training. It was possible that the caller had dialed a wrong number and she was not meant to be the recipient of this impromptu serenade. She tried a couple of times to get the caller's attention, but the music continued to play. Finally, she just remained quiet and listened.

It was a beautiful piece, the kind of song that might be played in fine restaurants to accompany a romantic, candlelit dinner or end up in a music box. Scully sat down on the edge of her bed and listened for another minute and a half until the piano played its final, heartwarming notes. Though she expected to hear a voice after the song finished, there was only silence on the other end.

"That was lovely," said Scully, hoping to get a word out of the caller. "You play beautifully."

The only response she received was in the playing of two notes which sounded as though someone was using the music to say thank you. After that, the line went dead. Scully instantly dialed star-69 in hopes of reaching the person who had just hung up. All she got was an operator recording telling her that her call could not be completed as dialed. Perhaps it had just been a wrong number and the shy caller had meant to serenade someone else. It couldn't have possibly been meant for her, could it? At any rate, it was a nice way to start her morning; a sexy dream starring a handsome lover, a good laugh provided by her partner, and a mini concert over the phone. She doubted seriously if the rest of her day would be as nice. As she headed for her shower, she wondered what sick horrors could possibly be waiting for her in Texas.

--------

Paris, France

Nick sat staring glumly at the piano keys. He was still depressed over Natalie's death, but the pain wasn't as overwhelming as before. He had spent the last month composing a song in her honor. Since he was unable to play it for his beloved, he decided to play it for the woman who had become somewhat of a substitute. When Nick dialed the number and heard the voice on the other end, he had wanted so much to talk to her but he knew in doing so would only lead to trouble. To Agent Scully, he had died back on that mountain in his cabin. It wouldn't be fair to her to reveal himself now. She was going on with her life, as well she should. The song had been a simple way of thanking her. Dana Scully, like Natalie, had put aside her fear and risked her life in order to help him. Because of her unselfishness, his life was back on track. The severe headaches were a thing of the past and the alternate personality of Nicholas de Brabant had thus far, not returned.

Nick put his fingers to the keys and began playing an encore. As he tickled the ivory, he recalled Natalie's ghost suggesting that he get someone else to take over the work she had started in regards to him finding a cure for vampirism. Briefly, he considered that perhaps Agent Scully might be willing to continue the research, but he shook that thought out of his mind. He'd already promised himself that he would not get involved with another mortal. Besides, he was restricted from socializing with them at all for the next ten years as part of his probation which included surprise visits by the Enforcers and constant supervision by LaCroix.

Speaking of the devil, his master entered the parlor and stepped up behind him. He didn't even flinch when LaCroix placed a hand on his shoulder. There had been a time when he would have instantly shrugged it off, unable to stomach his touch. But for the past month, the elder vampire had shown him nothing but understanding and kindness. It made him wonder if LaCroix had not developed multiple personalities and his real one had been forced into submission. Of course, it was probably due to the simple fact that Nick was behaving as a normal vampire. His pursuit of a mortal life had been temporally abandoned and his thirst for human blood had for the time being, won out over cow's blood. It made LaCroix happy, and if LaCroix was happy, then Nick's existence would be peaceful.

"I do enjoy hearing you play, Nicholas. I'm glad you've finally found the desire to compose again. That melody is quite enchanting."

"I'm glad you think so," Nick replied softly. "I plan to play nothing else for the next ten years."

"Still in a mood, I see." LaCroix walked around to the other side of the grand piano so that he could face his offspring. "I've planned a little surprise for you. It's something I'm sure will lift your spirits somewhat."

"And what would that be?"

"Hello, Nichola."

Nick's hands froze on the piano keys when he heard that voice. LaCroix's presence was so strong that he had completely masked that of his daughter. She stood right behind him. Her right hand settled on his shoulder, then slid halfway down his chest. He grasped it gently and brought it to his lips.

"LaCroix told me about Natalie," she spoke delicately. "I know what it feels like now to lose a mortal you've grown to love. I'm sorry for your loss."

Nick turned to look at her. She was as beautiful as ever with her long, raven hair pulled back into a French roll and tendrils cascading along the sides. Her pale, alabaster complexion was offset by sparkling, blue eyes and ruby lips. He gently guided her around the bench so that she could sit down next to him, then wrapped his arms about her possessively.

"I'm sorry, Janette," he spoke, choking back the tears. "I know I didn't respect your wishes. You had the chance to leave this world a mortal, but I took that away from you. I don't blame you for hating me. But I just couldn't bare the thought of losing you forever. Please forgive me. I'm sorry."

Janette eased away from him slightly so that she could look into his tearful eyes. "What is it about you, Nichola that prevents me from staying angry with you?"

That got a smile out of him. He wanted to ask if she was back to stay but decided that would be too pushy. He was lucky she wanted to see him at all. She granted him a simple kiss on the lips, then patted his cheek lightly.

"Play for me, Nichola. I want to hear my favorite."

Out of all the songs she'd been exposed to during the centuries, only one had become her all time favorite, mainly because it was an upbeat love song that two could play at the same time and she enjoyed trying to keep up. Without hesitation, Nick began playing the first chords of "Heart and Soul." After a moment, he gave Janette the cue to join in with her part. When she hit the wrong keys, they both broke out into laughter, and Nick started his part over again.

LaCroix smiled in contentment to see his children together again and sharing a laugh. It was good to have his family back under one roof. It had been far too long. The master vampire made himself comfortable in a wingback chair and listened as the laughter grew while the song suffered. His thoughts strayed to include a certain American, government employee. Agent Mulder would indeed make a fine addition to his little family. Janette surely wouldn't mind a new brother, although Nicholas would probably scoff at depriving another mortal the opportunity to grow old and die. And then there was Agent Scully, who would probably be the true deciding factor in Agent Mulder's final choice. LaCroix decided that he would take his time with the matter. A decade wasn't long to wait at all. He knew from experience that acting too hastily could easily lead to the creation of a problem child, and though he truly loved the one he already had, he certainly didn't want another one.

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The End