On a rainy Saturday night in September, Sanctuary was packed with people. The hum of conversation melded with the insistent throb of dance music, and the bartenders never stopped moving as they mixed and poured drinks for all. From her balcony perch, Amanda surveyed her domain with a satisfied smile. Beside her, Nick leaned on the railing and watched the crowd, trying to see who might become trouble when it came time to close. It was their habit, something that had developed gradually and had never been officially agreed upon, yet Amanda counted on its constancy.
Still, he had not said anything since he’d joined her survey of the crowd. He’d been quieter than usual, a sure sign he was getting restless again. Come morning, Nick would likely vanish on a long motorcycle ride, taking advantage of the fact that he took Sundays and Mondays off. Sometimes, he wouldn’t be back in town until Monday evening. Not for the first time, Amanda wondered how long it would be before Nick left Paris for good. Silently, she reminded herself that Nick had made it clear he was planning on staying this time, and he never broke promises to his friends.
She’d be more worried about his decision to stay if it weren’t for the fact that she knew he honestly enjoyed running the club, and that he had other friends in Paris. What, exactly, he was restless about was still a mystery, though she had a feeling it had to do with the family he rarely talked about – the parents who’d raised him, the siblings he still had. There were still parts of his life he kept to himself, things he didn’t trust her to know. Even as she wished for more of his confidence, she understood he wasn’t ready to give it to her and might never be. That was the price she paid for some of the decisions she’d made with his life, some of the choices she’d made in her own. For the moment, it was enough that he gave her his friendship. He would confide in her in time; he generally did as long as she was patient.
“See anyone you like out there on the floor?” she drawled.
He quirked a quick smile and dropped a careless kiss on her cheek. “No one as lovely as you, Amanda.”
“I’m shocked. You haven’t picked out a companion for the wee hours of the morn?” she said teasingly, knowing he sometimes did.
He pretended to be hurt. “You wound me. You think I’d leave you for another woman?”
She chuckled richly. “Oh, like you didn’t abandon me last week for what was her name, Chantal?”
“Chantal, was that her name?” He feigned amnesia and scratched his head. “I can’t seem to remember. My memory goes in the face of your beauty.”
She laughed again, aware he was teasing her. “Oh, is that it?” She loved this aspect of their friendship, loved that they’d settled into a comfortable space where they were sometimes lovers, but always friends and business partners. “I saw you in the crowd dancing with a few starry-eyed women.”
“Yes, but it was a guy who tried to pick me up.” Nick shook his head. “Or did you miss that?”
“I must have. Was he cute? Did he turn your head?”
Nick chuckled, amused at the encounter. “Not for lack of trying on his part. He was most disappointed for about thirty seconds.”
“Then what happened?”
Nick shrugged. “He found someone else to flirt with." He leaned on the railing and looked at the club-goers. "We’ve got a pretty good crowd tonight; seems a shame to have to break up the party.”
“Always is,” Amanda agreed. She loved that their club had become one of the most frequented in the city and not just by Immortals. “Why did we decide we were going to be the party-enders?”
“Because you decided a life of crime was getting boring,” he reminded her.
“But are you getting bored with this?” she asked with concern. “You’ve been out of sorts lately.”
He chuckled softly. “I love running this club. It’s just…” He let out a tired breath and stared out at the crowd for a moment before turning back to her to answer. “Sometimes I remember stuff that shouldn’t matter anymore. You ever wish you had something you had years ago?”
She nodded, understanding. She remembered food that wasn’t served anymore, dresses that had long been sacrificed to time, and friends she missed dearly. “That why you’re going to go for a long ride tomorrow?”
He smiled. “Something about being on that bike, I don’t know what it is, Amanda, but I come back and things make sense again.”
Reassured by his words, Amanda said firmly, “Then enjoy your ride tomorrow.”
Nick took one last look at the crowd, then at his watch. With a sigh, he asked, “Shall we close this joint?”
She nodded and picked up the wireless microphone that had been clipped to the balcony rail as Nick descended to the main floor to help the staff close up. Switching it on, she said in French, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the voice of Sanctuary. This is last call. We will be closing in ten minutes.” Just to be sure, she repeated the announcement in English, Russian and Spanish.
Half an hour later, the last of the stragglers had left. Amanda had just moved across the dance floor, intending to lock the front door, when a tall, broad-shouldered man of medium build walked up. He wore a dark blue jacket and worn jeans that clung to his hips and long legs. A gray backpack was slung over both shoulders. Rain had plastered his light brown hair to his scalp. A large, slightly crooked nose bisected deep-set blue eyes and a slightly prominent forehead. A strong jaw and thin lips completed his face. The jacket he wore was open enough to reveal a faded Van Halen T-shirt which clung to his well-defined chest and stomach. Well-worn combat boots completed his outfit. Not only did he look like he belonged in an ad for some rugged men’s cologne, he looked like he’d been walking for miles.
Even as she hoped he had somewhere dry to go (preferably somewhere else), Amanda said firmly in French, “I’m sorry. We’re closed.”
“I’m looking for Nick Wolfe. I was told I could find him here,” he answered in English.
“You can talk to him when we reopen at eleven. We closed at five am.”
“Listen, lady, a few more minutes isn’t going to make a difference unless you’re still selling alcohol,” was the frustrated reply. “It’s pouring out here, or didn't you notice? I just need to talk to him. I’m his brother.”
“Let him in, Amanda,” Nick said from behind her. She looked at him warily, hearing a note of warning in his voice. “And lock the doors. Trouble might be right behind him.”
The man stepped inside; she secured the doors. “Not tonight, brother. Nobody’s tried to kill me in six weeks. I don’t miss it. Classy joint you got here, Nick. Who’s the beautiful dragon at the door?”
Amanda briefly considered protesting being compared to a dragon, but the stranger had said she was beautiful. His looks intrigued her; despite being soaked to the bone, he still looked good enough to flirt with. She forgave him for the comparison – she had been barricading the door, after all – and waited to see what happened next.
“The dragon, Dan,” Nick said dryly, “is my partner, Amanda. Amanda, this is Dan, my older brother. So if no one’s tried to kill you in six weeks, does that mean you’re out of the Air Force?”
Dan nodded. “Did my twenty years. Got out before they could send me back to Iraq .” He grimaced. “Three tours in that place is too goddamned long. Got a place I can crash, little brother? I’m running on willpower and caffeine right now, and not much of either.”
Startled at the request, Amanda turned to watch Nick’s reaction. From the way he stood, Nick didn’t look inclined to say yes. She knew all too well he didn’t like surprises.
Nick didn’t budge. He crossed his arms and stared at Dan. “You’ve run on far less before. How’d you find me?”
Dan grinned and shifted the load of his backpack so that he had most of the weight balanced on his left side. “Still paranoid, I see. Your old landlord said you’d told him you were moving to Paris and that you’d given him this address in case any mail arrived that needed forwarding. Nice guy – said to tell you hello and he missed having you as a tenant.”
“I’m surprised he even remembers me,” Nick said guardedly as he eyed his brother skeptically.
Dan spread his arms wide, turning his palms up. “He hasn’t had a cop in the building since you left. He liked it. Said it hasn’t been the same since you left.”
“So you just decided to say what the hell and buy a one-way ticket to Paris?” Nick asked disbelievingly.
Dan shrugged. “Not like I got anywhere else to be. When I got out, I tried the ‘spend a few weeks being a beach bum in Florida’ thing. I lasted six days before I decided I wasn’t cut out for that life and headed back to Torago. I was pretty bummed when I found out you’d moved.” He smiled hopefully. “I was hoping you’d be able to help me get back into being a civilian.” He took a deep breath and said contritely, “I’m sorry I was such a drunk, stubborn, impulsive, belligerent asshole the last time we were together. Forgive me?”
Nick considered his brother’s words. “Maybe,” he said. “It was the last time, and the time before that, and then there was the day you got us both suspended from school.”
“Don’t be such a goddamned prick,” Dan retorted, glaring at him. “And I can’t believe you’re still counting that day at school. That was what, twenty years ago? Mr. Holloway deserved to hear what we told him, and I know you’re not sorry about that at all.”
Nick smiled. “Now there’s the brother I know.” He stepped forward and hugged him. “Welcome to Paris.”
Turning to Amanda, Nick asked, “Amanda, would you please show him to my place and I’ll get the deposit into the safe?”
Surprised by the request and wondering what she was buying time for, Amanda looked at Nick. “I can do the deposit,” she offered.
“You wanted me to make sure that the deposit from Mr. Walker was secure, remember?”
“Mr. Walker deposited something extra?” Amanda asked blankly.
“Yes. That diamond necklace he gave you last night, remember?” Nick said impatiently.
Amanda knew damn well there was no jewelry; the Walker necklace was weeks ago. It was an excuse, plain and simple. It wasn’t the first time he’d used a similar excuse to get her to assess someone. Despite the hug, Nick didn’t trust his brother, and Nick wanted her opinion of Dan before he faced him. “Oh, that!” she exclaimed. “Silly me, to forget about diamonds.” She aimed a killer smile at Dan before she walked over to Nick. “Thank you for reminding me. You will get them all safe and secure?” She leaned over to Nick as if to kiss him on the cheek. “You okay?”
He turned his head so his lips couldn’t be read by Dan. “I will be,” he said softly so only she could hear. “Just…God. Surprised as hell. Need a moment. God, I hate surprises, especially ones named Dan.” To cover his words, he nibbled on her ear, causing her to laugh, then drew back. So that Dan could hear, Nick said, “I promise not to lose your diamonds, Amanda, if you don’t mind showing my brother upstairs. Dan, you won’t mind if I let Amanda take you up? I’ll be just a moment.”
“I never turn down the offer of a beautiful woman as my guide,” Dan replied.
Amanda hesitated a moment. She wasn’t quite sure she wanted to leave Nick alone; but she didn’t want to show a stranger where the safe was, either. Going with the flow, however, offered her the opportunity to assess Dan and then check on Nick when he'd caught his breath. She turned to Dan and smiled. “If you’ll follow me?”
Dan glanced at Nick, who was already walking away from them, intent on his task, and then nodded. “Lead on.”
She took him up the balcony stairs and over to the secured elevator marked “Private — Residents and Guests Only”, which was the most direct route to the living quarters. The third floor was their private gym; the fourth was Nick’s space; the fifth was hers. Deliberately, she chose not to share that information with Dan.
“Nick never mentioned a brother,” Amanda remarked, fishing for information as they stepped into the elevator. From the pocket of her skirt, she pulled out a card key and swiped it to unlock the elevator’s controls before hitting the button for the fourth floor. The truth was, he had mentioned a brother, once, but then slammed the lid on the subject when she’d tried to ask more about it.
Dan didn’t look surprised at Amanda’s comment. “I haven’t been a part of his life in a long time. Last time I was, he ended up arresting me.”
“Really?” she asked interestedly.
“Bar fight,” Dan explained. “Someone decided to bash the military, and, well…I was home on leave, and I didn’t like what they were saying.” He sighed and ran a tired hand through his hair. “I was young and stupid, and too proud of what I was doing to let the insult slide. Nick was still a patrolman back then. He was pretty pissed. Nick agreed with me, but it was either arrest me or get in trouble for not stopping the fight.” Dan smiled ruefully. “I suppose Nick looks at me showing up this late as trouble.”
“Wouldn’t you, if you were in his shoes?” Amanda asked.
Dan chuckled. “Hell, yeah, I would. But I didn’t come here to cause trouble with him or anyone.”
“Then why did you come?”
“He’s family; he’s all I got since our parents died a few years ago.” Dan shrugged. “Besides, I suck at being a beach bum.”
“It’s not hard to lie on a beach and do nothing,” Amanda remarked. “Why do you think you aren’t good at it?” The elevator doors opened and Amanda stepped out, and then waited to make sure Dan had done the same.
“I’m too used to working at something,” Dan pointed out as they walked down the short hallway to the door to Nick’s apartment. “Too many years in the Air Force, I guess. Can’t just lie there on a beach, drink beer and –” he grinned sheepishly “—watch women. Never thought I’d get the point where I was starting to wonder just how tiny a bikini could go and start critiquing how bad it looked on the body wearing it. That’s when I knew I had to go do something else. So, have you known my little brother long?”
“About eight years now,” Amanda told him with a smile. “So how much older than Nick are you?”
“Two years. Mom didn’t think she could have more kids, so they decided to adopt Nick. I don’t really remember that part; he’s always been a part of my life. He was smart enough that we ended up in the same grade together in school. I think we drove our teachers nuts.” He smiled at the memory. “You know, I always thought if he was going to leave the States, he would end up back in France again. Did he tell you about the time he spent as a boxer in Marseilles?”
Amanda nodded. “He said it was a bad idea, but he had a lot of fun.”
“It was my idea,” Dan informed her. “At least the signing up to work on a tanker part was. He was going to have to choose between basketball and being a lawyer anyway. Might as well do something fun. Surprised the hell out of me when he called me from Marseilles, saying he’d just fought this big-ass bruiser.” Dan chuckled. “Told him to quit boxing before it killed him, then you know what he says?”
Amanda paused before the door to Nick’s apartment. “No, tell me.”
“Cocky son of a bitch says, ‘Yeah, I figured you’d say that, so I’m coming home. Are you going to be able to pick me up from the airport?’” Dan shook his head. “Idiot didn’t remember I was stationed in Germany; he was still recovering from a concussion. Had to get one of our friends to pick him up in Torago; there was no way I could arrange to get home that fast.”
“I take it the two of you used to be pretty close?”
Dan sighed. “Yeah, until I pissed Nick off, and then we lost track of each other.” He looked rueful. “Hope he’s still not pissed.”
“Well, I’ve seen him angry, and I don’t think he is now. Even if he was angry with you, I think he’ll at least hear you out before he does anything,” Amanda told Dan. She liked what she’d seen of him so far. He might yet be trouble, but she didn’t think he was going to be a problem if she left him alone for a few minutes. A lifetime of assessing who was an ideal target for theft had given her the ability to figure out who was going to be a danger to her immediate future; Dan wasn’t it.
She unlocked Nick’s door and let Dan inside. “As you can see, the kitchen’s to your left, and the bathroom’s down the hall. You might want to grab a towel so you don’t drip all over. Refrigerator’s well stocked if you’re hungry or thirsty. Feel free to make yourself at home. Nick will be up in a few minutes.”
“You’re not staying?” Dan asked, surprised.
“Sorry, but a girl’s got to get her beauty sleep sometime,” Amanda said lightly, yawning and heading for the door. She’d done as Nick requested. “I’ve been on my feet since we opened the club at noon.”
Dan did the math. “It’s almost six in the morning now. You’re there the entire time?”
“Absent owners make for thieving employees,” Amanda replied.
“True,” he conceded. “I think I’d better do as you suggested and get a little drier before Nick shows up. Before I head off to the bathroom and you leave, can I ask you something?”
She paused, her hand on the doorknob. “You can ask, but I may not answer.”
“Are you Nick’s girlfriend? You seem to know your way around his place.”
She smiled at the predictable question. “Why does it matter?”
“Because the Nick I knew always had a girlfriend around.”
Amanda smiled wider. “Last week, her name was Chantal. Good night, Dan.”
“Goodnight, Amanda. It was nice meeting you.” He headed towards the bathroom, and she waited until he’d shut the door before she walked out the door, shutting it behind her. She walked down the hallway and met Nick just as he was exiting the elevator. She wasn’t worried about Dan eavesdropping; she had no plans on saying anything that he couldn’t hear.
“You didn’t look happy to see your brother.”
Nick sighed. “I haven’t seen him since ’90; haven’t talked to him since ‘96. That was long before I ever heard of you. Seeing him makes me remember how things used to be.” He shook his head, remembering. “He was such a troublemaker when we were growing up. The Air Force helped him grow up, but if it wasn’t a bar fight, it was some woman he picked up.” Nick half-chuckled. “He had a bad habit of saying anything to get a woman in bed. Made my life interesting whenever he was around.”
Amanda smiled. “I imagine you two had quite a reputation.”
Nick grinned faintly. “Yeah, we did.” His smile, not broad, faded. “It’s been a long time since we were together. I hope he’s grown up a lot more. The last time I saw him, I had to arrest him for being an idiot.” Nick ran a hand through his hair and sighed again. “He’s going to be here a while; I guess I might as well find out who he is now.”
Amanda looked at Nick, seeing the wariness in his expression. Nick didn’t trust people easily, and he’d become even more private since he’d become Immortal. To have family show up out of the blue, when Nick probably had written said family off as being out of his life…She didn’t know what that felt like; she’d always welcomed back whomever she’d considered family. “Is having him around going to be a problem?” she asked.
Nick chuckled wryly. “I don’t know, but…he’s all the family I have. Didn’t think he’d ever show up in my life again, especially since I told him I didn’t want to see him if all he did was cause me trouble.”
“You don’t have to keep him around, you know. He’ll have questions.”
Nick sighed. “And maybe I’ll have the right answers. It’ll be fine. One way or the other. Give me some credit, Amanda, I’ve been hanging around you too long not to learn a few of your tricks.”
“Sometimes I wonder if you’ve changed too much because of me,” she said quietly, reaching out to touch his arm and looking at him. It broke something inside her to see how hard he found it to trust people; he’d become such a different man from the one she’d first met. She’d never meant to turn his life so completely upside down, and yet…for all the times he’d complained about the things she got him involved in, she knew he’d be there for her. Still, she wondered if he was happy. “Among other things, you used to uphold the law, not help me break it on a fairly regular basis.”
He met her gaze. “Yeah, and I used to spend a lot of time nearly killing myself chasing evidence, too. I don’t miss that. I may not like everything about the life I have now, but there were parts of the life I had before that I didn’t like either. I wouldn’t trade the last eight years of my life for the world, and I can’t imagine not having them now.” He smiled crookedly. “Besides, you were right: you did give me a gift.” He kissed her lightly, seeming to take comfort in the simple contact. “Thanks for taking him up. Good night, Amanda.”
“Good night, Nick.” She stayed in the hallway long after Nick’s door was shut; shamelessly eavesdropping until she was sure that at least for tonight, there would be peace.
Disclaimer and Notes: After all these years of writing fanfic, you'd think I'd have come up with a better disclaimer by now. With that in mind: folks, I know the characters from the show aren't mine. Really, I do. I'm just borrowing them for a walk on a stormy night, and eventually, they'll come back all in one piece.
Thanks to Amand-r, Dana Woods, Molly and Daniel Archer, who saw this story’s earliest versions and encouraged me to finish it someday. Thanks also to Dante G., Nevada, Rhi, and Keerawa.