The Dangers of Mopping
by Judith Freudenthal
1999

Natalie was in the middle of a massive apartment cleaning. She'd been too busy to clean for a few weeks and now it really needed it. She hated it but knew it could not be put off any longer.

She had been cleaning for hours now, mopping the kitchen floor was the only thing left to do. She pulled the mop and its bucket out of the closet, softly cursing the broken handle.

"Why didn't I replace it?" She muttered to herself, glad that there was enough of a handle left to do the job, but it would require more effort on her part. Because work got hectic and you forgot, she mentally reminded herself.

She was almost finished mopping when she felt someone behind her. "Nick, I thought I told you to stop doing that!"

"Hello, Doctor," LaCroix said, pleased to hear the escalation in her heartbeat with his greeting.

"What are you doing here?" Natalie said, doing her best to remain calm.

"I'm here to settle some old business." LaCroix said, stepping closer to her.

"What sort of old business?" Natalie asked, trying to hide her growing fear. She sensed that she would not like his answer.

LaCroix moved closer without saying a word, loving how much it bothered Natalie.

Natalie pulled the mop towards her feeling the handle suddenly stop, causing her to wonder what she'd hit. She turned around seeing that she'd accidentally impaled LaCroix.

As she examined the situation she realized he had been about to sink his fangs into her neck. She loved the startled look on his face.

"If you'd remove that, we can work something out," LaCroix said, clearly in pain and rapidly weakening.

Before she could say anything the ancient vampire went limp. She knew it could be a trick of his and did nothing, knowing that if he was still conscious he'd kill her for staking him. And that it would be a slow, painful death.

A part of her felt guilty but another part knew he'd gotten what he deserved.

 

Nick was at his loft reading when he felt his father's pleasure then his surprise and pain. Now he felt nothing of their connection.

Nick picked up the phone and called Natalie. Something inside him told him that was where to start the search.

"Nat, you okay?"

"I don't know. I think you'd better get over here."

Nick didn't like the way she sounded and flew towards her apartment.

 

A few minutes later Nick knocked on Natalie's door and she let him in. Nick did a quick once over, moving her hair aside, sighing in relief upon finding her neck unblemished.

"What's wrong?" He asked, seeing her warring emotions flicker in her eyes, and her somewhat stunned expression.

Natalie didn't know quite how to break it to him, wondering how he'd take the news. She decided to show him.

She took his hand and led him into the hallway by the kitchen.

"I was mopping when I sensed someone behind me. It was LaCroix. He threatened me. He must've moved closer because the next time I moved the mop towards me..."

Nick was stunned by the sight before him. He saw his mentor, his tormenter lying on the ground, staked.

"Is he..." Natalie asked uncertainly.

Nick bent over his master, carefully examining him. "Yes."

"When the mop stopped suddenly I turned around and saw the broken handle protruding from him. His fangs were too close to my neck for comfort."

"What did he say to you?" Nick asked concerned. He'd been afraid of this ever since their friendship had grown into a romance. The disastrous events around Valentine's Day had shown him that they could never be more than friends as long as his master was alive.

"All he said was that he was here to settle some old business," Natalie said. "What happens now?"

"Now we wait for sunrise and make sure he will never bother either of us again."

Nick tried to ignore the guilt he felt since he hadn't been able to prevent the tragedy. He knew it wasn't his fault, but LaCroix had drummed into his head that "everything was his fault" so well he automatically believed it. A part of him hoped no one found out because if they did, then both their lives, Natalie's especially, would be in danger.

Nick knew what he had to do next. He scooped his father up and laid him where the morning sun would do its work.

"Nat, are you going to be okay?" Nick asked a little concerned.

"Yeah. I didn't mean to kill him." Natalie paused as the full impact hit her. "I've never killed anyone before." Natalie looked over at LaCroix. A part of her expected him to get up very annoyed and try to rip her throat out.

"It was an accident. He brought it on himself," Nick said, trying to reassure Natalie that she wasn't responsible.

"Will you miss him?" Natalie asked, sensing Nick's mixed feelings.

"A part of me will. We did have some good times. If it wasn't for him, I'd never have met you," Nick said with a slight grin.

"That's true. My life would be very different without you in it, but I don't think I'd be as content as I am whenever you're around."

"I know the feeling. It feels like you were the missing part of me."

 

An hour later the sun rose, streaming in Natalie's living room window. Nick stood next to her with his arm around her waist and hers wrapped around his waist. He tried to prevent her from watching LaCroix's final demise but couldn't. Natalie watched fascinated, yet horrified. Her fear of fire, of being burned alive came back to haunt her.

After a few minutes the only evidence of LaCroix was the small pile of ashes and his jewelry.

Nick picked up the jewelry, slipping on his father's ring and slipping the sword pin into his pocket. He swept his master's remains into a vase which he set on the table. He then took Natalie's hand and led her over to the couch.

"If I remember, we had some unfinished business," Natalie said, wondering if he'd bring it up. To help clarify things she planted a quick kiss on his lips. She loved the stunned look on his face as she pulled back.

"You remember?" Nick asked quite surprised.

"Yes. I didn't at first because the drug did its job. But I had the strangest dream one night, and later that morning as I was dressing I realized it wasn't a dream, that it had really happened." She saw Nick start to say something and raised her hand to silence him. "It was then I understood why things changed between us. Why you seemed more uneasy around me. I didn't want to mess up things so I went along with it, hoping at some point things would go back to how they were... without LaCroix's threat hanging over our head."

"You're amazing. You know that?" Nick said shaking his head, a grin on his face. He kissed her firmly on the lips. "You know there are still dangers."

"I know, but we'll be fine as long as we take things slowly."

The end

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