As Long As You Believe - Sequel to Krew of the Knight
by Pam (Jaxie) Williamson

The characters belong to whoever/whatever/tptb of "Forever Knight."
This story and "Krewe of the Knight" belongs to Pam Williamson; copyright, 1997.
The songs used here belong to their respective owners.
The standard "I claim to be no great writer, just a grateful FK fan,"
applies also.

Writer's note: This story takes place after the 1st season, perhaps somewhere
in the 2nd season. In any case the 3rd has never happened. Stonetree is still captain
of the precinct (Am I the only one who liked this character?)
This story is the sequel to "Krewe of the Knight" and picks up at Nat's
eighth month of pregnancy.

Late 1500's, England-

"Nickolas! How good it is to see you this evening,"the young lady said,
ushering him through the wooden door. She showed him into a large open area
lit by candlelight that was kept neat with chairs, a wooden table, and a
huge fireplace. One wall was filled with rows of books. The young lady,
who looked no older than sixteen, gathered the long material of her skirts
to make her way to the kitchen area, "John is writing. He will join us soon."

Her guest smiled, "What is new? Your husband would be lost without his
love of words." Laughing, the lady replied, "You speak the truth, Nickolas.
I have fresh tea in the kitchen for us while we wait for my husband. I'll
be just a moment. Please, make yourself comfortable."

Nickolas roamed the room for a few moments, pausing to peruse the many
books. His attention then was turned to a lightly brown piece of paper that
laid on the table, a rose beside it. Looking to see that no eyes were on
him, Nickolas carefully picked up the parchment paper and read the beautiful
poem. Reading, the last two lines captured his breath:
"If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none do slacken, none can die."

"My latest work pleases you, my friend?"A voice said, startling
Nickolas. He turned and smiled at his host, John Donne. "It is your finest
work to date,"Nickolas replied.

October 18, Toronto-

He sat on the bed, carefully unfolding the night gown she was planning
to wear that night. How strange, yet at the same time how wonderful to have
her things all around him. To have her body next to his. 'As if we were
made to be one long before John's poems were even written,'Nick thought to
himself. He had just laid out the gown on the bed when he heard her voice
calling for him.

"Nick, help!"Natalie yelled to Nick upstairs. She knew better than to
sit down on the couch. As she wiggled to the edge, she found she could not
obtain a vertical position no matter how hard she tried. Sydney meowed,
rubbing up against her feet. She looked to the side of her very pregnant
belly at Sydney, "And you're not helping the situation." As she was about
to attempt another try, Nick came running down the stairs, "Don't move."
Within a few more seconds, he was at her side and helping his wife to her
feet. Natalie's face turned red, then tears began to well up in her eyes.

"What's wrong, sweetheart?"Nick asked as kissed her forehead. "It
can't be that bad."

She buried her face into his shoulder and let the tears flowed. "I
know I shouldn't feel this way. I should be grateful that we are together,
that I'm even carrying your child, but..."

"But...?"Nick asked as he lifted her tear streaked face. She sniffled
then said, "But, I feel like a whale! I can't even get myself off the couch
or the bed. And let's not even rehash the bathtub incident."

"Aawww, my poor, sweet Natalie,"Nick said as he laughed. Natalie
playfully jabbed his arm,"It's not funny!"

Nick kissed her nose. "Nat, you're pregnant. You're not supposed to
look the same as you did almost eight months ago, or at least that's what
I've read." He knelt down and kissed her swollen belly. "Little One, did
you hear your mother call herself a whale? We need to remind her that she
is carrying you until it's time for your birth and that she is the most
beautiful woman I have ever seen in 800 years."

Placing a hand on the back of Nick's head, Nat's tears stopped as she
listened to Nick's words. She loved his name for their baby. "Your mother
and I love you very much, Little One."

Nick rose, then stroked Natalie's cheek, "I love you, Natalie." He
drew her into her arms. Then, as their lips touched, Natalie felt the baby
kick. As the baby kicked, Nick could feel the tiny punch next to his skin
as well. Natalie smiled, "And we love you too, Nick."


As they made their way from the airplane, Steve Gilbeaux looked for an
empty seat in the terminal. Finding one he said,"Hey, you sit here while I
go get our luggage and the keys to the rental car." His sister, Stace shot
her brother a look of disgust, "Quit doing that to me. Ok? I'm fine."
Stace paraded around Steve, "See, I can walk. I'm not bumping into people
or falling

Steve hated when she did her sarcastic routine. What's more, he hated
the idea that she wanted to travel such a great distance. "Why did Grammy
stood up for you on this, I'll never know!"Steve fired back. The whole
family had begged her to stay. All except Grammy- their grandmother. But
no, Miss Independent had to come. For whatever reason. Steve dropped the
carry-on bag, He looked down, then back into her eyes. "I only agreed to
come with you because you didn't need to be alone. I'm trying to help and
all I get in return is more of your mouth."

She slowly walked over to her brother and gave him a hug. Stace hugged
him tight, "I know that you love me. I love you too. I'm sorry, ok?"
Stace pulled back and gave her best puppy dog eyes, "Look, I'll sit over
here. Ok? I won't wonder around. I just sit here and wait until you come
back with our luggage. Then we can go over to the hotel." Crossing a
finger where her heart was, she said, "Cross my heart and..."

"Don't you dare say it,"Steve said with his finger pointing right in
her face.

Stace smiled as she caught his finger. "Wouldn't dream of it."

Almost twenty minutes had passed when Steve returned with two suitcases
and keys in hand to the rental car they had made arrangements for back from
New Orleans. Stace smiled at her brother as he walked closer. She was
ready for a hot bath and a change of clothes. "Ok, are you ready?"Steve
said as dangled the keys and picked up the carry-on bag at Stace's feet.
Stace rose to leave. "I think the question should be is Toronto ready for
me again. It's been quite a few years since I was here training with Nat.
Maybe they had enough of this half-Cajun gal the last time." They both
laughed. As she walked beside Steve, Stace felt as if the floor was giving
way. "Steve..." Steve caught her arm stopping them both, "Stace! Are you
ok?" Stace blinked hard a few times, then took a breath. "Yeah, I'm fine.
Let's get to that hotel."

They continued to the outside, then to the car waiting for them in the
airport's parking area. Steve sat the luggage down onto the ground. After
unlocking the car's door, he opened the door of the red Grand Am for his
sister. Stace was about to step in when she looked back to Steve. She
caught his hand on the edge of the door. "Steve, remember your promise."
Steve opened his mouth as if to say something. "You promised Steve.
Please, for me." He squeezed her hand, then said, "Bundle up. The cool
night air isn't good for you." Stace got in and the door was shut. While
Steve loaded the trunk with their luggage, Stace spoke into the
dark,"Grammy, why *did* you insist on me coming?"


Back at the loft, Natalie stood before the opened refrigerator. Nick
walked up from behind and gave her a hug. "You know, it works better with
the door closed." Nat smiled back at him. "Well, it would work better
sooner if Little One here would make up his or her mind about what to
eat,"she said looking down at and rubbing her swollen abdomen.

Suddenly, she doubled over. "Ooww!" Nick held her, yelling, "Nat?
Talk to me! What's wrong?" Natalie couldn't think except for the pain. A
sharp deep pain that took her breath. After finally taking a deep breath,
the pain subsided. Nick helped her to the couch, putting her feet up.
"Nat! Please, tell me!"

Natalie looked up at her husband, who was now kneeling beside the couch
with her hand in his. "I'm ok. It was a pain. Just for a moment. It's
gone now."

"Let me call the doctor. No, better yet, let me take you to the
hospital,"Nick said as he jumped up running to get the keys to the caddy and
Nat's coat. Natalie sat up, "No, Nick. It's ok. We're ok. It was
probably a false labor pain. If I go to the hospital, that's probably what
they will find. Then we would have gone there for nothing."

Nick went back to Natalie and sat on the edge of the couch. He put his
hand on her abdomen, "Natalie, please. For me? I don't want anything to
happen to you or Little One." Natalie sighed, "Nick, I'm fine. Besides,
you have to get to the precinct." Nick leaned over and grabbed the cordless
phone from the long table behind the couch. Natalie was about to voice her
protest when Nick held up his hand to silence her. She overheard his
conversation. "Schanke, I won't be in tonight....Yes, Natalie is having some
pains....No, not yet...Ok, I will...Thanks partner."

He replaced the phone. "Now, let's get you to the hospital." Natalie
shrugged, finally giving in. Nick helped her up and helped her into her
coat. Natalie kissed him and smiled, "Don't worry. Everything is fine.
You'll see." As they made their way down the elevator and into the caddy,
Natalie said a silent prayer, "Please, let everything be alright."

"Steve pass my address book over here. It's in my bag,"Stace yelled
hoping Steve heard her through the door that connected their rooms. She
sat by the window looking through its heavy black drapes. "God, the lights
are so beautiful from up here. It's like we're on top of the moon looking
down at all the stars,"she said as Steve came into her room handing the
thick blue book.
Steve opened the drapes wide, "Yeah, it does, doesn't it? Are you going to
call Natalie?"

Stace nodded as she flipped through her book until she reached the "K"
section. She fingered through the names, finally finding the newest entry.
Picking up the phone, she dialed for the front desk, "Hi, this is room 905.
I need an outside line...Thanks." As the phone line beeped, then cleared
once more, Stace dialed. "I hope she's not working. She better not be.
Not at this
late date in her pregnancy,"she mentioned to Steve.

The phone rang once, twice through the empty loft. Stace sat on the
other end as the machine's voice answered, "Yeah, you've reached the Knight
residence. We're either asleep or incommunicado. So, if you want to leave
your name and number, go ahead." Then a beep. She considered just hanging
up, then she took a breath and spoke as if she hadn't a care in the world,
"Nat! Hi, its me. You're never going to believe where I'm at..."Stace
finished the message by
giving the hotel's number then hung up.

"I take it no one was home. It's still early yet. They may have went
out for a bite,"Steve said. His sister replied, "Yeah, she'll call back
afterwards. Speaking of food, you must be hungry. Do you want me to call
down to room service?" Walking over to the radio/alarmclock, Steve flipped
it on, trying to find a radio station, "Sure, a plate of chicken fried rice
sounds good.
Make sure to order yourself something. If not, I'll personally go down to
the kitchen, bring a big meal back up to the room and watch you eat every
bite." As Stace picked up the phone once more, her brother turned the dial
until a deep hypnotic voice come over the speaker:
"Good evening to all creatures of the night.
The Nightcrawer here with you once again. Keeping
you company as the endless night stretches before us.
Tonight, we speak of our dearest friend. His name is Death.
An empty and cold dish for some. For others, one of warmth.
Does He keep you warm? Or does another dare to enter His
sanctuary, keeping you warm while you reach for the sun's rays
that burn your skin?
Embrace Death, my dear brother, do not turn your face from Him.
Death, do be proud. For what You offer, is the greatest of

"What a sick person!"Steve exclaimed as he clicked the radio off. "I
know we have our share of wackos at the radio stations in New Orleans, but
this guy wins the award for most weird." Stace sat staring at the now
silent radio. The phone hung lifeless in her hand, a busy signal going off
as she had yet to dial for room service. "Stace?"Steve said, trying to get
her attention. "Stace? Are you going to call or what?" Stace snapped out
from under the words that
echoed her head, "Ah, yeah. What did you want again?"

Shaking his head, Steve walked over to her and took the receiver, "I'll
call, Miss jet lag beauty. You go run a hot bath and go soak. I'll call
when dinner is here." Stace sluggishly got up to go to the bathroom.
"Anything I can do to help you? " asked her brother. Looking back, she
shook her head, "No, I'll be alright. But, before I do, I guess we should
call home and let someone know we arrived safe,"Stace said as she walked
back to the phone.

After getting an outside line and dialing the proper number, she got
nothing but a constant ringing at her father's house. Taking a breath, she
phoned her grandmother's house. Grammy picked up on the first ring. "Stace,
are you well?"her grandmother said, scaring Stace with her voodoo psychic
abilities. "You know when you do that you scare the living daylights out of
me!"Stace replied.

While talking about how the flight was and if the food was eatable,
Stace's grandmother interrupted:

"Have you seen Natalie?"

"No. I called, but there was no answer."

"You must speak with her."

"Yes, I know grandmother but why? We both know it's not about me,
because I won't allow it."

"Yes, I know you won''t let your oldest friend help you during this
time. You will not even allow your family that privilege."


"No matter. All that you need to be concerned with is that it is
there where your future lies."

"Grammy, I don't understand. How can a hotel room in Toronto hold my

"It is the blood Anastasia...the blood. Do not forget."

Stace blinked hard and tried to decide what she heard was correct.

"Give your brother a hug for me. And don't be too hard on him. He
loves you. That is his only crime."

"Grammy, I know."

After an 'I love you' was said by both, Stace hung up the phone.
Before going for her bath, Stace gave her brother a hug, "Grammy sends you
this." She walked to the bathroom like a zombie.

After the water filled the tub, she sank into the warm bath. Stace's
mind focused on the man's deep voice resonating through her and her
grandmother's advice about blood. Stace must have misunderstood. Maybe she
had misunderstood the cleansing and divination ritual also that her
grandmother had given her before leaving New Orleans. Stace thought it was
just to help her deal with everything that was going on in her life.
Sighing, she sank beneath the warm water, hoping after the bath and dinner,
Natalie would be home.


Driving home from the hospital's emergency room, Nick clicked on the
radio. LaCroix had been talking about death. And as always, a subtle
mentioning of Nick's way of error. Natalie looked over at Nick, "Can't he
find anything happy to talk about?" Nick switched the station to a pop
station. The car soon was filled with music. "To him, that probably was a
happy subject."

Natalie stretched a little. "Are you ok, Nat?"Nick asked thinking
maybe he should turn the caddy around to go back for a return trip to the
hospital. "I'm fine Nick! I was just trying to stretch out. After being
on a gurney for an hour made me a little stiff,"she said reassuring her
husband. "We're both fine. You heard the doctor. Dr. Jacobs said that
everything was wonderful. It was just false labor pains." Natalie had to
admit she was relieved to hear those words from the doctor also. Although a
medical doctor herself, Natalie knew nothing about a child whose parents
were a mortal and a vampire. But, it was the vampire whose voice still
brought her skin to crawl that frightened her. "Nick, he'll never up."

Nick reached for her hand, then kissed it. Glancing over to her
worried face, he said, "LaCroix must. He knows it is against our code to
harm our child or the parents of that child. Please do not concern yourself
with him."

Laying her head on his shoulder, Nick put an arm around his wife.
Natalie's body shook as she could imagine LaCroix taking everything she
loved most in this world. "Shhh...Everything will be fine. I promise,"Nick
said reassuring both of them.

Within a few minutes, Nick parked the caddy and they took the elevator
to upstairs. As Nick slid the door open for Natalie, they found Sydney
waiting for them. "Now, wasn't that a nice welcome home,"Nick said to the
cat as he picked Sydney up. He carried Sydney to the cabinet and got a
treat for the purring cat. "You're going to spoil him,"Natalie said taking
off her coat as she walked over to the answering machine. Nick replied,
"Well, I happen to be very good
at it."

The light was blinking. "I bet it's Schanke asking about our trip to
the hospital. He is probably chewing nails to know if it was a boy or a
girl," Natalie said as she pushed the button. By this time, Nick was by his
wife's side smiling thinking about when the time for his child's birth would
really come.

Nick and Natalie both looked at each other as they heard the message.
"Nick, it's Stace! Her and Steve are in Toronto!" She hugged her husband,
"This is so wonderful! Did you ask her to come?" Nick shook his head, "It
wasn't me. She's probably here to repay the visit." He was glad to hear that
Nat's good friend from New Orleans was here for a visit. Since taking
maternity leave from her work, Nat had been a little down, though she often
pretended to Nick that it didn't bother her.

"You go ahead and call Stace. Invite her and Steve over. I'll call
Schanke to let him know everything is fine when your finished,"Nick said as
returned from the kitchen with a bottle of blood and a glass. He kissed his
wife's forehead. The smile that graced Nat's face meant the world to him.

Stace had just finished dressing after her bath when the phone rang.
"Steve, I've got it,"she told Steve as he put another fork full of fried
rice into his mouth. "Hello?"she answered. "Nat!...Good to hear you too!
How are you? Is the baby ok?...Aawww, that's wonderful!...Well, the plane
touched down a little after six this evening...Well, I thought it was time
for a visit.
With the baby to be here soon, I knew you would have your hands full...No, I
don't know how long our visit will be...We'll see ...How's Nick? He's
keeping my promise, correct?" Stace laughed as Natalie described all the
pampering she has received, especially after he found out she was going to
have a baby. "...At least my visit won't include me kicking your husband's
rearend." More laughter. "Tonight? Are you sure? It's nearly
nine...Nat...Nat!... Alright, alright. Steve and I will be there. Just give
me the directions."

Steve dropped his fork when Stace hung up the phone. "Don't give me
that look. She and Nick insisted." Her brother rose from his chair,
leaning his hands on the small dining table staring in disbelief, "Stace,
no. Tomorrow you can go over and visit. You've just had a very long plane
ride...hardly had anything to eat all day, and you look like death warmed over."

"I'm fine,"Stace said as she walked over to her brother. She squeezed
his shoulders and smiled, "Besides, make-up does wonders."


"Did you find Schanke yet?"Natalie asked as she sat before the dressing
table in their bedroom, trying to decide which earrings to wear. Nick
looked over at Nat. "No, not yet. He's out following up a lead we got last
night." He moved closer to his wife, putting his hands on her soft
shoulders. "She's coming to see you. Not which earrings you're wearing."
Nick gave his
wife a hug from behind her. "You are so beautiful."

Nick turned Nat to face him and passionately kissed her. "I love you,
Natalie." Nick's mind went back to the night at over four-hundred years ago
when he first read Donne's poem... 'If our two loves be one.'

Her smile was brighter than a thousand candles. "I love you too, Nick."

Just as Nick was going to kiss her again, they heard a knock at
downstairs. "That has to be Stace!" Natalie said, hurrying to finish
dressing. Nick rose and kiss her cheek, "You finish and I'll see to our

As Natalie finished dressing, Nick rushed downstairs to the living room
then to the loft's sliding door. Nick slid open the door. "Nick! How are
you?"Stace said as she entered, hugging his neck without a second thought.
To her, Nick was family. Afterwards, Stace stepped aside as Nick and Steve
exchanged handshakes. "Good evening Steve. I'm glad you and Stace were able
to make it. Natalie is so excited."

"Mentioning the mom-to-be,"Stace said as she poked Nick in the arm.
"Where is she? Nat invites us over and then comes off as the classic rude
hostess,"she said her voice raised, hopefully Natalie was hearing her teasing.

"Who dares to call me a rude hostess?"Natalie said, walking down the
stairs. Stace rushed over to her friend, "Nat!" After helping Natalie down
the last few steps, the two friends hugged each other tightly. Natalie took
a step back, "How are you? God, it is so good to see you!" Stace smiled and
held Nat's hands taking in her pregnancy, "Hanging in there. And you! You
look absolutely radiant!" She looked over at Nick, "My, have been
doing a marvelous job of spoiling my friend." Nick laughed. "Well, Nat
makes it easy, as long as I don't get pulled into the tub fully clothed,"he
said, grinning as he placed an arm around her shoulders.

Nat sharply turned around, "Nick!" Stace was about to burst into
laughter. "Ok, give. You can't hold out from me!" After she composed
herself, Natalie relayed the story of what was known as 'the bathtub
incident' where she had accidentally pulled Nick into the tub when he was
trying to help her out.

The room came alive with rolling laughter. "Oh no!"Stace managed
between laughs. Nick couldn't help but laugh himself despite Nat's face was
the colour of a cherry.

After a few moments, the laughter died down as Natalie looked at her
friend curiously. Natalie's brow drew tight as she looked at her friend's
face, "Are you sure you're ok?" Stace shrugged, acting confused, "What do
you mean? Of course, I'm ok."

"You look so tired, pale. Don't tell me you've started yet another
diet. You looked thin enough back in February. If you have, I swear
I'll..."Natalie remarked, a worried expression washed over her face.

"It's just a case of jet lag and bad airplane food. Right Stace?"Steve
interrupted with, hurrying to Stace's side. She turned to her brother, then
back at Natalie to reassure her friend, "Yeah. You know how little I've
traveled the past few years." Stace took Natalie's arm in hers and led her
to the couch, quickly to change the subject at hand, "God, what a place to
live! It's like retro-modern meets the Smithsonian."

Nick smiled, Natalie laughed. "It is definitely you Nat,"Stace said as
everyone took a place to sit. "Nick, your wife does a great job at
decorating,"Steve said as he took the chair near the couch. Natalie usually
had to explain this tactfully, since telling others that her husband had
collected most of the decorations for centuries, was out. "Well, I can't
take the credit. Nick did most of the decorating. Her husband gave her the
'thanks, now I get to explain' look. "Wow, you need to go into business
Nick,"Steve said as he looked around.

"Now, give up all the details of the newest family member! If I
remember from your letters, this love child is due next month."Stace
interrupted with.

Nick sat beside his wife as Stace sat on Nat's other. Nick put an arm
around his wife and as the other hand rested on her swollen abdomen. "Yes,
and we cannot wait,"Natalie said, as she snuggled within Nick's body,
smiling. "We thought the baby wasn't going to wait earlier,"Nick blurted out.

"What!?!"Stace exclaimed. "What do you mean earlier?" Natalie
playfully slapped Nick's leg, "It wasn't nothing, really. I had a slight
pain and Nick went ballistic. He took me to the hospital and it turned out
to be a Braxton Hicks contraction."

Stace relaxed, "Whoa, you had me scared for a moment. I've heard that
those type of false contractions can feel like the real thing." Turning to
Nat, then to Nick, she said, "You should've told me over the phone! And,
you shouldn't have invited us over here."

"Maybe we should leave. We can always come back tomorrow,"Steve added
hoping Stace would agree.

"No, that's not necessary. As far as me telling you of my trip to the
hospital and us inviting you both over here, there is no need for concern.
I'm fine and we wanted to see you both so much. We couldn't wait until
tomorrow,"Natalie replied.

"The doctor reassured us that Nat is fine and we both want you to stay.
Please,"Nick said looking at Stace, then back at Steve.

Steve glanced over at his sister, hoping she would say that she would
go back to the hotel, instead she said, "Well, if you're sure we are not
going to be in the way."

Natalie smiled then squeezed Stace's hand, "Now, when have you ever
been in the way?" Stace was about to speak, when Nat interrupted, "...except
for the time when you walked on the balcony while Nick and I were...well,
pre-occupied." Laughter filled the loft.

Sydney finally made his appearance when he crawled from under the couch
to rub against Stace's leg. "Let me guess. You have to be the infamous
Sydney,"she said picking up the cat. Sydney purred and rubbed against her
cheek. "Wow, he really likes you Stace,"Nat said, smiling at her friend.

Nick rose, "Well, can I get anyone anything? Perhaps some herbal tea?"
He was quite proud that he had learned to prepare Nat's favourite tea and
foods despite the fact he could maybe only eat a bite or two of it himself.
He had never known that preparing a meal or a drink for someone could be so
enjoyable. But, of course why he enjoyed it so much was because of Natalie
and the
love he felt for her.

"Sounds wonderful. I'll help you Nick,"Stace said, putting Sydney back
down on the floor and standing up to go to the kitchen area. As she passed
Steve, he caught her hand and looked at her. With her back to Nick and
Natalie, she winked and mouthed to her brother, "Quit worrying."

As Steve caught Natalie up with the latest Gilbeaux family news, Nick
and Stace began the tea and gathering cups. "So, Grammy is doing
well?"Natalie asked. "Just as feisty ever,"Stace replied. "Yeah, she makes
sure Stace keeps her up to date on the latest news of you and Nick,"Steve added.

"She loved the gift you two sent her as a thank you for the wedding.
The Egyptian perfume bottle was exquisite!"Stace exclaimed. "Grammy still
gets teary eyed reading the card."

Nick smiled over at Natalie. They both knew how blessed they were to
have such friends.

After a few moments, the tea was finished and Stace picked up a cup to
give to Nick. Suddenly her balance went awry, the cup dropping into tiny
pieces onto the floor. "Oh god, I'm so sorry. I'm such a clutzoid,"Stace
said bending down to pick up the pieces of broken china as Nick did the same.

"Stace? Nick?"Natalie asked trying to see what had happened. "Nothing
to worry about Nat, just me being my usual clumsy self,"Stace answered.

Steve jumped up and rushed over to Stace, "Are you ok?" he whispered
into her ear. Nick couldn't help but hear with his extraordinary hearing.
Stace nodded and looked up to see Nick staring at her. "Ah, geez. I'm not
here less than half an hour and I'm already breaking things,"Stace said to
fill the void. At that moment, her and Nick went for the same piece of the
broken china. Nick sensed pain, an unusual heart rhythm. "Stace?"Nick said.
Stace jerked her
eyesight away from Nick, "Ah, what?" By this time Steve was finishing
picking up the last of the china. "Stace, are you sure you're ok?"her
brother asked. And then, Stace smiled, stood and answered, "Yeah, I'm ok.
Just trying to remind myself no more volunteer work in the kitchen."

After the tea was finally poured, served, and the issue of the broken
cup at rest, Natalie continued to ask about Stace and Steve's grandmother
and family. With the conversation well under way, the guests didn't have
time to even notice that Nick had not poured himself a cup of tea.

Nick smiled remembering the eldest Gilbeaux woman. She could see right
through his soul and not flinch a muscle. He could still hear her voice...'
Never stop believing. For it is when we stop believing, we cease to live.'
Nick hadn't stop believing. There may or may not cure to his vampirism, but
there was Natalie, the child- his child she carried, and an endless sea
of love.

Just as Natalie was going to ask another question, someone rapped on
the door of the loft. "Excuse me,"Nick said getting up. Opening the door,
he found his partner looking frazzled. "Schanke! Come in." Schanke looked
around, "Oh, so this is what you do when your wife's in labor. Have a
party...without me." Nick laughed. He quickly updated his partner on the
wasted trip to the hospital, then to find out that their friends from New
Orleans was in town.

"Schanke, this is Stace Gilbeaux, my good friend from New Orleans,
Louisiana. This is her brother, Steve Gilbeaux. Stace works as one of the
N.O. Police Department's coroners. And Steve is a new public defendant
lawyer for New Orleans. Stace, Steve, this is Nick's partner and our dear
friend, Don Schanke,"Natalie said as she introduced everyone.

"So your the Stace that finally got this guy to marry the doc,"Schanke
said as he patted Nick's back. "You have no idea how much me and my wife,
Myra owe you. I mean, we've tried every way in the world to get these two
on the same track short of locking them up in the same room together for a
few days."

Natalie blushed, Nick stared at his shoes. Steve shook his head, trying
to keep his laughter stifled. "Nice to meet you Detective Schanke. I can't
take all the credit. My grandmother had a hand. Besides, these two were
already crazy about each other. All they needed was the right shove from
two hardheaded women,"Stace said, trying not to laugh.

Schanke grinned, "And it's Don. Any friends of the doc's are friends
of mine."

"Hey, I've got an idea!"Natalie said smiling widely. "Since Stace and
Steve are here for at least a few days, lets all get together and go out.
Schanke, you think Myra would be up for a few hours of fun?" Schanke
snorted, "Are you kidding? She loved to. She's been bugging me about this
new place over on Sunset. Called The Escapade. It's like a big ballroom,
but with a live
band and such. Clean, no smoking."

"That sounds perfect. Now if you and Nick can get the same night
off..."Natalie said as she planned a wonderful night with her friend.

Steve interrupted, "I don't think Stace..."

"Stace, a problem?"Natalie asked, once again worried.

Stace looked at Steve, then back at Nat,"Ah, no. No problem. Steve
was just trying to say that maybe it wouldn't think it would be a smart idea
that you go out to a niteclub this late in your pregnancy."

Natalie caressed where the baby was nestled inside her body. "I think
we both would love a wonderful night out. What do you think Nick?" Nick
shrugged, "I say that, if you are sure its ok- providing you have the
doctor's permission, maybe it would be good for all of us."

She kissed her husband,"I'll call Dr. Jacobs tomorrow. Now, if you and
Schanke can get off on the same night."

Steve was about to once again protest, but was cut short by Natalie,
"And we can double this friends night out with an early Stace birthday
get-together." Natalie grinned at Stace. "Oh, why me?"Stace giggled. "When
is your birthday Stace?"Nick asked. "October 31st,"Stace answered.

Making a face as if he'd ate a lemon, "What? Are you serious? You mean
your birthday falls on the same day as horror night...the same day Houdini

"The very same. My grandmother was to have said on the night of my
birth that I was born on the night when the veil of light and darkness
becomes thin,"Stace replied.

Nick looked at Stace wondering if she may have the same gifts as her
grandmother. He would have to ask Nat about that later.

"Stace, I think we need to let the future parents get all the rest they
can,"Steve said.

Natalie frowned. "I wanted to visit with you more!"she said as Stace
crossed to hug her friend. "We can get together tomorrow sometime. You
need your rest,"Stace said as Steve helped her with her coat.

Stace hugged her friend once more, "You'll never know how glad I am to
see you."

"You will never know either,"Nat said, smiling.

After Stace and Steve had left, Schanke looked at his watch. "Well the
last time I checked, I was supposed to be on duty."

Even before Nick spoke the words, Natalie said, "Nick, go ahead with
Schanke. We are both fine." She kissed him on the lips, "I love you."

Nick smiled. "I love you too, Mrs. Knight."

Schanke rolled his eyeballs back and thought to himself, 'Newly weds.'


Stace and her brother arrived back at the hotel suite a little after
ten-thirty with no idea they had been followed.

They arrived to the suite safely. After the good-nights was said and
Steve gave his sister a kiss on the cheek, Stace turned off the lights and
crawled into the soft bed in her room of the suite.

She didn't know when she drifted off to sleep, or when she started
dreaming. There was blood, so much blood. Covering her hands. She looked
down, not knowing where the blood had come from. Then someone handed her a
crystal goblet filled with blood. "Drink,"he'd said. As she lifted the cup
to her lips she saw his eyes.

Steve jumped out of the bed after hearing Stace's screams. He threw
open the door, then ran over to her bed to hold his sister. "Sshhh. Sis,
it's alright. I'm right here." She looked at him blankly, then finally
realized who was holding her. "Steve, oh god Steve. There was so much
blood." Her brother kept holding her, gently rocking her. "It was just a
bad dream, that's all."

Suddenly, Stace jerked away holding her head. Tears of pain now
streaked her eyes. "Ok...alright sis, hang on." Steve ran to Stace's purse.
Quickly he dumped the contents out onto the bed. Finding the bottle he
needed, he popped the top open and poured two pills into his hand. He then
placed the pills into her mouth, grabbed the glass of water that was already
on the nightstand and helped her to drink. After Steve was sure the pills
was swallowed, he gently helped his sister back down onto the bed.

"Thanks,"Stace managed to say. Steve pulled a chair to the edge of the
bed, set down and held her hand. "Just doing my brotherly job,"he said,
shrugging. Steve held onto her hand, stroking her fingers with the other.
Looking down at the hand he'd never noticed how long her fingers were
before. Maybe if she'd not studied to be a coroner, perhaps she could have
been a pianist. That would've gone hand in hand with her seldom used
beautiful voice.

Stace watched her brother quickly wipe a tear. "Hey, none of that.
We've already had this talk." Steve released her hand, scooting back in the
chair. "No, *we* haven't. You talked while we all listened,"he said.

He had to get it off his shoulders, his mind. "Why did you have to be
so selfish? You could have taken the chemotherapy. Forgive me if I don't
understand why a person want to just give up." There, he'd said it.

"Giving up? Is that what you think I'm doing?"


Stace folded her hands in her lap. She licked her dry lips, then
responded. "Steve, I wasn't given the choice of having this damn disease.
But, if I'm going to die, I want it to be on *my* terms." Steve was about
to interrupt, when Stace held a finger up to silence him. "Remember Mama?
Remember when the doctors told her she had terminal cancer Papa forced her
to go through treatment? Remember all the pain she went through, not to
mention the violent vomiting? She was nothing but a wasted shell of a human
being when the doctors was through. What happened Steve? Tell me what
happened to her!"

Looking away, he answered in a hushed voice. "She died."

"That's right. She died. Her death was a miserable, horrible,
excruciating excuse of a ending of a precious life. I will always believe
if it hadn't been for Papa, she'd died happier."

"What do you want me to do Stace?!? Do you want me to smile and
pretend nothing is wrong?"Steve hurled at her as he got up from the chair to
stare out the large window.

Stace could feel her eyes getting heavy from the medication. But, she
fought it. This had to hashed out now. If only for her brother's sanity.
"I don't want you to do anything, except just help me to be happy. And
happiness is being with my over-protective & crazy brother, enjoying my time
with friends and getting in as much laughter as possible."

Walking back to his sister, he sat on the side of her bed. He leaned
and kissed her on the cheek, "It's just hard, that's all. I just don't
understand why you wanted to travel so far during this particular time. I'm
sorry if I was rough with my words. I love you Stace."

Stace's eyes began to close as Steve helped her under the covers. "I
love you too,"she mumbled as her eyes closed.

He sat with her the rest of the night as she slept. "Why Stace? I
know you wanted to see Nat. To say goodbye. But, its like you're hiding
something from me. What is it?"Steve quietly asked his now calm and
sleeping sister. He went to the window and stared at the lights of Toronto
having no idea that a darker figure than death loomed over the hotel.


After ensuring the couple had arrived safely in the building, LaCroix
levitated himself to the hotel's roof. How easy could it be? For months,
he'd tried to think of a way to plan his attack. Although he couldn't touch
Nick and his soon to be family, there was no rule in The Enforcers' code
book that said he couldn't do as he wished with those outside of the family.

He spread his arms open wide, the night's breeze blowing his long,
black trenchcoat behind him. With the traffic noise below, no one could
hear him. He yelled into the night. "I will have my revenge!! It is a
dish best served prepared for an ice-cold meal my dear Natalie!!"
Then wind carried his wicked laughter as he flew back to the Raven.


October 19-

The following evening after Nick left for work, Stace met Natalie at
the loft. Natalie sat at the table almost bursting at the seams with her
good news. Stace couldn't get the words of her grandmother out of her head.
When she had mentioned visiting Nat for a few days, Grammy immediately took
up for her while the rest of the family protested. She could still hear the
conversation that day...
"She is *not* going!"her father had said.

"It isn't your decision to make Henry,"her grandmother replied.

"We only want what is best for her,"Steve said to his grandmother,
putting his two cents in.

"She must go." Grammy firmly stated.

Her father and brother dropped their mouths. "What do you mean
she's gotta go?" "She doesn't have to go anywhere." Their words
collided together.

"Stop it!"she had yelled. "I'm sick and tired of being talked as
if I'm not even here!" She remembered she had grabbed her purse
and stormed out, got in her car. She had peeled out of the
driveway and drove to the airport to get her ticket. Remembering,
she recalled the pain in her head had almost caused her to run
off the road.

In the background of her mind, she could hear Natalie talking. Yet,
her memories kept her there, in the recent past.

"Nick went ahead and left for work last night after you and Steve
left. It looks like this Friday night just may be free for both him and
Schanke. It seems as if two other officers owed them a favour, and now
they're calling the marker,"Nat said. She looked over at Stace standing at
the stove, boiling milk to make some old-fashion hot cocoa. Nat couldn't
help but notice that she hadn't said but a few words since arriving this
evening. Distant by all accounts and looking as if she'd been through war.
Nat continued hoping to bring Stace from her distant state. "Oh, and yes, I
did call my doctor and she said as long as I feel fine, then going out
wouldn't be a problem." Natalie paused, then said,"You've been very quite.
Very unusual for you. Especially when our plans for a night out are looking
up." Stace hooked a finger in her back pocket and bit her lip.

Stace turned and looked blankly at Nat, "I'm sorry. I didn't sleep
very well last night."

Getting up from the table, Nat wobbled to where Stace stood. She put a
loving arm around her friend. Then choosing her words carefully, she said,
"Stace? Whatever or whoever it is, it'll be ok. I'm right here if you want
to talk." Natalie playfully shoved her friend, "We can have one of our
'wine and talk' times. Hey, I may have to change the wine part to grape
juice, but the talk can still be the same."

Stace cleared her mind from her problems and Grammy's cryptic message.
She turned to Natalie with smile. "Nothing to talk about except you, Nick,
and the baby." Why Grammy wanted her to speak with Natalie about her future
was put on the back burner. Now, it was just two old friends enjoying their

When the cocoa was finished, Stace carefully poured each of them a cup.
Stace raised her cup, "To a new tradition. Hot cocoa and talk."

Natalie giggled. As she took a sip, she thought to herself, 'Now, this
is like the old Stace.'

"I'm just worried about you. That's all,"Stace tried to explain her
silence. It wasn't a lie. She was worried about her friend and the baby.
They both meant so much to her.

Natalie reached for Stace's hand, "Anastasia Trinette Gilbeaux, it's
your turn to trust me not to criticize or judge."

"Getting formal, aren't we?"Stace half smiled, raising one of her dark
eyebrows. Abandoning the cup of hot cocoa at the table, she ambled over to
the piano. Maybe she should tell Nat. Get it over with. And then what?
Nat would be beyond upset. It could cause her to go into premature labor.
Is that how she wanted to remember or be remembered? No. Only with smiles
and laughter. Whatever Grammy thought about her future being in Nat's hands
had to be just her grandmother's over exaggerated voodoo imagination
combined with the knowledge of her granddaughter's health.

Stace fingered a few keys on the piano. She had to tell Nat something.
But what?

Natalie sat, watching her oldest friend withdraw into herself. What
was she keeping? Why so distant? It almost broke her heart to see Stace
fight such a personal battle by herself.

Many months ago it had been her that fought that battle. Natalie
remembered the tears that had fell that night as she and Stace sat on the
balcony at her French Quarters' apartment. She could still taste the salt
from those tears. Natalie couldn't tell Stace the whole truth. But, just
to say the words to someone, to Stace- that she was hopelessly in love with
a man and that she couldn't keep having faith for both of them- had been a
lifesaver for Nat.

It had been Stace that listened as she poured her hear out into the
cool New Orleans night air. It was Stace that had made the radio dedication
that Nick had heard. Stace had been the one insisting on the Mardi
Gras/Valentine wedding. Natalie recalled as Stace stood by her side as her
maid of honor. Stace had looked her that night as if... "Stace, please
tell me,"Natalie pleaded.

This isn't what she wanted. She didn't want to have this conversation
at all. Clearing her mind, she focused on the lie that she was about to
tell her friend. And it severed her soul in pieces.

"A friend from New Orleans is ill. I just found out from Grammy when I
phoned home last night,"Stace said in one breath. She didn't want to lie to
Nat but there was no other way.

A strange feeling washed over Natalie. "A friend. Someone you work with?"

"Ah...Yes. He is in the hospital and the doctors' outlook is grim.
They've told him he is dying."The words, no matter how many times her own
doctors had said them, sounded almost foreign to her.

"You and your friend are...close?" Natalie had suspected that her
friend's unusual behavior was due to more than just jet lag.

Stace walked over to the window and stared into the night. "You could
say that."

Natalie joined her and gave her friend a hug. "I'm sorry. It must be
difficult. I'm always here, if you need me."

Returning the hug, Stace blinked hard to fight the impeding tears.
"And I for you."

October 21

Nick had just finished a half a bottle of blood and was putting on his
black jacket when Natalie made her way down the stairs. He couldn't help
but stare at his ravishing wife. The elegant dress in shades of blue
complimented her beautifully.

"Nick? Is this ok?" Natalie asked while she blushed. By her
husband's expression, she could safely assume that she had chosen correctly.

Slowly, he walked to her and took one of her hands. He brushed soft
kisses across her knuckles. Then, the kisses he placed on her neck as he
held her body.


He nibbled her earlobe. "Mmm, yes Nat?"he mumbled.

She closed her eyes, reveling in his desire for her, even in her
pregnant state. "Honey, we told everyone that we would meet them at The
Escapade at eight sharp."

Trailing the kisses to her cheek, he said, "We could be fashionable late."

Before Natalie had a chance to respond, Nick lowered his lips onto
hers. The kiss deepened and Nick easily lifted his wife into his arms.
Just as he reached the middle of the stairs, the phone rang.

He paused the kiss just long enough to say, "Let the answer machine
have it. I want you now."

Natalie's smile filled his eyes as he went for another kiss. Then he
heard, "Ah, Nick? Natalie? Hi. This is Steve. I think I'm lost. Oh well,
I guess you two have already left..."

Nick looked at his wife, disappointed. He gently placed her back on
her feet and rushed to the phone and clicked the stop button on the
answering machine and picked up the phone.

"Steve...No, We, we were just on our way out...Where are you?..."
While Natalie listened to Nick's end of the conversation, she straightened
her dress and retouched her lipstick. When Nick had finished giving Steve
directions, she was standing by his side with her coat draped over her arm.
She held out her hand to him. Smiling, she said, "Can I lead you into the

Nick placed his hand into her soft one. "As long as you are there, you
may lead me anywhere."


As they rode in the caddy to the club, Nick could feel something was on
Natalie's mind.

"Nat? Are you sure you're up for this?"

"Yes. It's been so long since we've been out. What makes you think

"Most of last night and tonight you've been quite...detached,"Nick said
as he tried to watch the road and his wife at the same time.

Natalie remembered thinking the same about Stace yesterday and the day
before that. Stace had reassured her that her mind was still on the friend
in New Orleans even while the her and Nat shopped and toured Toronto yesterday.

"It's Stace. She told me that she just discovered that a friend of
hers from work is dying. And, there is nothing the doctors can do for
him,"Natalie said, staring out onto the road and the traffic.

"Him? As in a boyfriend friend?"Nick asked. He thought back when
Stace and Steve came to the loft shortly after they arrived to Toronto.
Perhaps this was what caused their friend such pain.

Natalie nodded. "Stace practically admitted to me they are very
close." She paused, then continued. "How sad to find someone to add meaning
to your life, only to lose them to a disease without hope for a cure."

Nick reached for her hand, then kissed it where her wedding band
encircled her finger. "Maybe they will find a cure. Then Stace and her
friend can have a chance at happiness like ours."

Taking a deep breath, Natalie replied, "I pray that happens. No one
should die without having a special love in their life."


Nick and Natalie arrived at The Escapade with five minutes to spare.
As Nick drove the caddy to the entrance, he could see Schanke, Myra, Stace
and Steve standing to the right of the entrance, talking and laughing.

Two valets were waiting to open Nick's and Natalie's car doors when
Nick brought the caddy to a halt. The younger man on Nick's side, held out
his hand for the keys and Nick exited the car. Nick hesitated.

"Hey, Knight! Give 'em the keys already! They're not going to try and
steal a cop's car. Right fellas?"Schanke yelled.

The young man smiled, then his face went blank as Nick stared into his
eyes. The gentleman's heartbeat grew louder. Nick's voice echoed in the
young man's mind, "I expect my car to be returned to me in the exact
condition I left it."

"Exact...condition..."the young man repeated in a monotone voice.

Nick broke the trance and gave a slap on the young's man arm.
Dropping the keys into his hand, Nick smiled and said, "Thanks," then
hurried to Natalie.

Leaning in close to him, Natalie whispered, "Was *that* really necessary?"

"A little extra insurance never hurts,"Nick whispered back.

They reached the rest of their party. As they did, hugs and handshakes
were being made among the friends, old and new alike. Afterwards, the
doorman in a hunter green suit, held the dark glass door open for them.


A short time later, the doorman held the darkened door open once more
for another. He looked and thought it strange this man seemed to arrive out
of thin air. Sometimes patrons of the establishment parked their own cars.
Maybe this was on of those times...or perhaps not.

As he opened the door, he said, "Hope you have a nice evening."

With steel eyes and an evil grin, LaCroix answered, "I am sure it will
be most profitable."


After the coats were checked in, the party of six were shown to their
table to the left of the dance floor. From the outside, the club didn't
look this big- a staircase and elevator for access to the second floor, the
vast dance floor and equally sizable stage which a soft white spotlight
shown down upon waiting for the club's band that would be on later in the

Inside The Escapade was somewhat dark and shadowy except for very low
blue, purple, and yellow lights that seem to intermingle with the darkness.
Like most places on a Friday night, it had its share of a crowd with couples
huddling close to each other and small groups laughing over drinks while
gathered at tables that outlined the spacious dance floor.

"Impressive. Definitely one of the classier places in Toronto,"Schanke
remarked as they each took a chair.

Natalie had to agree. "Myra this is a great place!"she complimented as
Annie Lennox's music filled the place.

"This place is new, isn't it Myra?"Nick asked. From then on the
conversation drifted to one subject to another.

", you just walked in and told your boss you were taking a week's
vacation,"Natalie was saying, grinning. "He must be a fantastic boss to not
yell or scream or give you the speech of 'we can't afford for you to leave
right now.'"

"That's what happened. And he gave me no problems whatsoever,"Stace
said, lying once more as a young lady in a short mini skirt approached the

"Hi, My name is Mandy. I'll be your hostess for this evening. Can I
get anyone a drink?" Mandy said as Steve and Schanke's eyes went to her long

Myra elbowed her husband- who was sitting to her right- hard, then
whispered, "She said a drink...not a date, Don."

Embarrassed he'd been caught, Schanke said, "I know...I wasn't doing
anything." Myra laughed then squeezed her husband's hand.

Meanwhile, Steve continued to stare until Stace whispered into his ear,
"Take a picture. It'll last longer." Steve blushed then rolled his eyes.

Natalie was the first to speak, "I'll just have a club soda." Myra
followed suit, "I'll have the same."

Shake in turn elbowed his partner sitting to his right, "Looks like I
have a designated driver! I have a boiler maker."

Looking over at her husband, Myra said, "Very funny. You better make
sure you can walk because I will not carry you!"

Stace, who was sitting between Natalie and Steve, leaned in and said,
"Myra, we'll just let Nick and Steve carry him. They will probably be
joining Don in the doghouse as well."

Laughter erupted. Then Steve spoke up hoping to salvage the guys
reputation, "I'll think I'll just have a beer. Only one beer." The
waitress then looked over to Nick, sitting between his wife and partner,
"And for you sir?" Nick had often been in this situation the past
centuries. If he just ordered something rather than nothing, less suspicion
and questions followed. "I'll also have a club soda."

"Make that four,"Stace said before Natalie could say anything about
Nick's choice of drink.

Looking puzzled, Natalie asked her friend, "A club soda? As I recall,
your drink of choice is a glass of cabernet sauvignon over ice."

"Well..."Stace began, looking over at her brother.

"Unless you're..."Natalie's eyes suddenly widen. "'re pregnant?"

The rest of the group drew quiet to hear the answer.

"Nat..."she tried to say. 'Only if that were the case,'Stace thought.

"That's why you look so pale."

"Nat..."Stace tried once more, this time a little louder. She covered
Nat's hand with her own. "I'm not pregnant."

Steve interrupted, "Stace...ah...well, has been trying to be a little
more health conscious."

Embarrassed, Natalie said, "Oh, I'm sorry sweetie!" The two friends
hugged. "I guess I thought it would be wonderful for both of us to be

"No problem, Nat. It would have been neat to know that maybe our
children could be as close as we are,"Stace said when the hug had ended.
Her eyes drifted over to Steve. He smiled, emotionally supporting her.

After a twenty minutes had passed, Mandy brought the drinks. Nick spoke
up, "A toast!" He held up his glass as everyone did. "To old and new
friends." "Here, here!"Schanke said. " Stace. Happy early
birthday!"Natalie added.

"Happy birthday," "Best wishes!" Everyone said at the same time.

After Schanke had downed half of his drink, Whitney Houston's 'Step by
Step' was being announced as the next song. Schanke said, "Myra, I think we
need to show these youngsters that we are still in the game."

Myra grinned, "Don, are you asking me what I think you are?"

Schanke stood and helped Myra up, "Let's go boogie."

Once more laughter bubbled. Stace stood and asked her brother, "I love
this song! Shall we?" Steve gave her a look of disapprovement but complied

As they left, Nick stood and held a hand out to Nat, "If you are up to
it...may I have this dance?"

Nat's smile of love reached her eyes. "Yes, you may."

The three couples began to sway as Whitney Houston's voice echoed:
"Well, there's a bridge and there's a river that I still must cross,
As I'm going on my journey, I might be lost
And there's a road I have to follow, a place I have to go
Well no one told me just how to get there,
but when I get there I'll know."

And as the chorus began, the three couples were dancing now as a group.
Stace looked over at her brother and smiled. Nick took Nat into his arms
and gave her a quick kiss. Schanke hugged his wife:
"Cause I'm taking it step by step, bit by bit,
Stone by stone, yeah, brick by brick,
Step by step, day by day,
Mile by mile..."

Then as the next verse and chorus was sung, Stace turned to her
brother, took his hands into hers and looked into his soul as they danced to
the beat of the music. She mouthed the words that came next,
"Don't give up, you've got to hold onto what you've got,
Don't give up, you've got to keep on movin' don't stop.
I know you're hurting, and I know you're blue,
I know you're hurting, but don't let the bad things get to you."

Steve drew his sister into his arms, his closed eyes wet with tears.
Through the semi-darkness, only Nick saw his reactions. He had a feeling
Stace's odd behavior was more than just a friend's illness. And whatever it
was, it was going to hurt Natalie.

The song came to and end and everyone went back to the table a little
more breathless. Schanke quickly drank the rest of his drink and was looking
for Mandy.

"Natalie, we've still got it girlfriend,"Stace said as she playfully
hugged Nat. Nat laughed, as well as everyone.

Under the table, Steve grabbed his sister's hand and squeezed it.
Stace turned to read Steve's face. She smile and nodded to let him know
that she was fine.

The club was suddenly filled by the DJ's voice, "The Escapade's
featured band, Love Bites, will be up in twenty! But, before then, here's a
double shot of Bryan Adams. Enjoy!"

As 'Everything I Do' began to play, Natalie remarked, "Stace if I
didn't know any better, I'd say that you were up to your dedications again."

Stace held up her hands, "Not me. At least not this time." Smiling,
she continued, "Go ahead, don't you two waste a perfectly good love song,"

Nick stood, held out his hand once more and lead his wife to the dance

"Myra...ah, you wouldn't..."Schanke began to say. "I'd love to
Don,"Myra said, her smile filling his heart.

The song started and couples began to sway:
"Look into my eyes - and you will see
What you mean to me
Search your heart - search your soul
And when you find me there, you'll search no more."

Nick held Nat close as they let the words speak for their hearts. He
then looked deep into her eyes and kissed her. "I love you Natalie Knight."
Natalie smiled as tears of joy glistened her eyelashes, "I will always love
you Nick."

With the two couples on the dance floor, Stace turned so that she could
watch. She leaned back into Steve. "Nat and Nick are really happy, aren't

Steve put his chin onto her shoulder, "Yeah, they are. Thanks to you
and Grammy."

"Nah...we just helped a little. The love between Nick and Natalie was
there all along. Life just got into the way."

"Ya know lil and Grammy could start a romance service,"Steve
said teasing.

Stace elbowed him and laughed. She then resumed watching her friends
dancing. Stace became quiet as a tear fell helplessly down her cheek, "They
have a love that most of us will never experience."

He turned his sister's face to him and wiped away the tear, "But, the
most important thing is that we're loved by someone whether it's a friend or
family. Have I ever told you how proud I am of you?"

Stace hugged his brother tight knowing that she was loved although it
wasn't the love she had no time left for.

While Nick and his bride were on the dance floor, LaCroix was staring.
"Oh Nicholas, is this what you're reduced to?" He then turned his attention
to the young lady leaning back into the man. From listening outside of
their hotel room that night, he knew that they were brother and sister. It
could be fun if he involved both. No, the one that would hurt the now Dr.
Knight would be the young, dark-haired, lady. Funny, he'd never notice just
how exotic shade of colour that dark hair was until now.

While the song came to a close, Nick sensed another vampire in the
room. LaCroix. His body tensed. "Nick, something wrong?"Natalie asked as
they began to make their way back to the table. Nick decided not to say
anything. Nat did not need the stress. "Its nothing Nat,"he said, putting
his best smile forth, then leaning to give her a quick kiss.

As the two couples returned to the table, Stace remarked, "That was
some awesome dancing you guys."

Both Nat and Myra grinned, Nick and Schanke looking confident.
"Well...ya know. When the Schankster is out on the dance floor, everyone
better move it or lose it,"Schanke said.

Again, laughter ruled the table. Stace looked up to see a man on the
opposite of the dance floor, leaning at the end of the bar. His eyes seemed
to piece her soul, her very being. He could hear his voice echo in her
head, "Come to me." She blinked hard then looked away. Had she really
heard that or wished it?

LaCroix's smug face then turned one to curiosity. Had she broken the
trance? What kind of person was she? This was to be a an interesting chase

The words to the second Bryan Adams' song reverberated through her:
"Life - thin as thread.
Sometimes you're lucky,
Sometimes you're better off dead.

As Stace's eyes kept fixed upon the mysterious man, the conversation
continued though she was oblivious to it as the song continued:

"Well, I know what your heart desires,
But you can't take it with you
Into the fire."

Suddenly Stace stood up. "Where are you going Stace?"Steve asked.
"Uh, Don, you said you wanted another boiler maker right?"

"The waitress will be here in a minute or so,"Natalie said.

Stace replied as she left, "Well, I need the stretch. Be back in a
few." With that, Stace disappeared into the crowd, leaving the rest of her
party confused. "Wonder what *that* was all about?"Myra asked. Nick
replied, "Women, who can understand them?" In return for this statement,
Nat smiled and politely slapped Nick's arm and reminded him, "Remember that
you have to home with one."

Stace made her way through the crowd, only to see the strange gentleman
vanish around the corner behind a wall near the bar. She slowed her walk
and rounded the corner to find him there standing with his arms crossed.

Leaning with one foot and both hands propped behind her against the
wall, Stace bit her bottom lip, then said, "Didn't your mother ever tell you
that it wasn't polite to stare?"

He rose an eyebrow, a sly grin brought a bit of colour to his ashen
face. In a deep captivating voice, he said "I was never one to do as I was

Stace listened and felt as if his voice was familiar, but from where?
She took a breath, "What is your name? I would at least like to know who
has had the pleasure of staring at me."

"You waste no time." Taking a step closer to her, he answered, "I
am...LaCroix. Lucian LaCroix."

She rose an eyebrow herself, "One can't waste what one doesn't have."

His presence, his body so close to hers caused her heart to race with
excitement. LaCroix could sense her rising heartbeat and could smell the
sweet scent of her blood, and the feeling of dilemma within her even from
this short distance. He took in her dark hair and eyes into his mind. This
woman who was to be his object of revenge was slowly becoming an object of
desire. He slowly closed his eyes and opened them hoping to refocus on his

Without warning, Stace turned and walked away. He didn't know why he'd
said it, but the words escaped his throat, "And what may I call you?"

Stace stopped and seductively turned to face him. She brushed passed
him, passed the wall to retrieve a napkin and a pen from the end of the bar.
When she had returned, she tucked the napkin into his hand, then
said,"You...can call me anytime while I'm in Toronto."

The words of the song rang through her head as she reached up and
placed a hard kiss on LaCroix's unexpecting lips:
"You could wait for your dreams to come true,
But time has no mercy.
Time won't stand still for you."

He pressed her close as she deepened the kiss. Then just as soon as
the kiss had begun, she abruptly stepped back ending the kiss. Stace turned
and provocatively strolled back to her table. LaCroix watched her hips
rocked to one side then the other in her black leather pants. All thoughts
of revenge left his mind as he stared at this...this mortal. And that kiss!
What had come over him? Remembering, he carefully opened the napkin. It
simply said, 'Anastasia, Room 905' and the hotel's phone number. He drew
the napkin to his nose and breathed in the traces of her perfume that the
enticing, bewitching vixen had left behind. His eyes were beginning to
change and LaCroix could feel his fangs extending. Quickly he made his way
to a secluded spot to regain control.

As Stace walked back to her table, she couldn't believe what she had
just done. Kissed a man she didn't even know. But, for some reason she was
drawn to him. She ran a finger over her lips, remembering his pressing
hard against her own. Then she ran it below the bottom one to remove the
smeared lipstick. And his eyes! She could get lost within them with and
never return.

Sitting down, she was confronted with five pairs of eyes, all fixed on
her. "What!?!"

Steve said, "Uh, I thought you went for a drink for Don." Stace,
looking embarrassed, tried to cover, "Ah, well, yes. But, ah, my stretching
took a little longer. Sorry, Don."

Schanke shrugged, "Hey, no problem. Mandy brought me another one anyway."

"May I have your attention!"the DJ, now stood on centre stage in front
of a microphone. He waited for a moment then continued, "Welcome to The
Escapade. You guys are the greatest!" Claps and cheers bounced off the
walls. "And here is the band you're waited for! Here is Love Bites!!"

As the band began to play, others gathered at the stage, clapping and
singing. Stace joined in the singing from her seat:
"Come on baby, let's get away
Let's save our troubles for another day-
Come go with me, we've got it made
Let me take you on an escapade."

Steve leaned over and hugged his sister. "I've always loved your
singing." She smiled, then an idea struck her head. As everyone enjoyed the
music, she excused herself a second time.

"Now where is she going?"Myra inquired? "Is she ok?"

Nat and Nick exchanged glances. "I bet that she's going to do one of
her famous dedications,"Nick said he looked at Natalie. Nat grinned, "Oh, I
know so." Both Schanke and Myra looked bewildered. "Huh?" "What?"they both
asked the same time. Natalie laughed then proceeded to explain the various
dedications Stace arranged in New Orleans including the one over the radio
and at the Mardi Gras ball.

Two songs had passed when Stace finally returned with a grin as if she
were the cat and the rest of her party were the rats. "Uh oh,"Nick remarked
turning to Nat, "I think we're in trouble."

Steve drew his eyebrows together, "Stace?"

" didn't...or did you?" Nat said, secretly wishing for
another dance with her husband.

Stace looked to Nat, to Nick, then back to Steve. "I'll guess you'll
have to wait and see."

A few more fast paced numbers from the band, then overwhelming clapping
from the crowd. Then the lead singer, a long haired gentleman spoke,
"Tonight, we've had a unusual request." Both Nick and Nat looked at each
other and said, "She did." Stace smiled and shook her head. What she had
planned for Nat, no one would have guessed.

The band's leader continued, "This persuasive lady from New Orleans,
Louisiana has requested a unusual dedication. Help me welcome her to the

The crowd clapped as Stace made her way to the stage, leaving her
friends contemplating what she had up her sleeve next.

Stace was helped up the stage by the gentlemen, then she spoke, her
voice resinating over he hushed crowd, "Usually, I do this second-hand, but
I'd like to make this dedication in person. This song is for my oldest
friend, her husband, and the new life that is soon to be in the world. Nat,
remember that nothing is impossible as long as you believe."

With that said, Stace nodded to the pianist to begin. As the first few
notes of the song played, the only light that was shown was a soft white one
beaming on Stace as she sang looking at where her friend sat:
"Every now and then
We find a special friend,
Who never lets us down
Who understands it all.
Reaches out each time we fall
You're the best friend that I've found.

Natalie sat there, unable to move. She could feel that she was on the
verge of tears. Nick put his hands onto her shoulders and kissed her cheek.
"I know you can't stay
A part of you will never, ever go away
Your heart will stay."

Stace closed her eyes allowing every emotion to escape through every word:
"I'll make a wish for you
And hope it will come true,
That life will just be kind
To such a gentle mind.
If you lose you way
Think back to yesterday,
Remember me this way...Ooo...remember me this way."

Schanke whispered over to Steve, "She should've gone in show business
instead of being a coroner. Man, oh man, can she sing!"

Steve heard him as he continued to be in awe of his sister. Stace took
the microphone from its stand and as the spotlight followed her movements,
walked stage-right in order to get closer for a better angle to see Natalie:
"I don't need eyes to see
The love you bring to me,
No matter where I go.
And I know that you'll be there
Forever more a part of me, you're everywhere
I'll always care."

She reached towards Natalie and smiled as she sang. Once more she sang
the chorus. Then closed her eyes. When she opened her eyes once more, the
words, this time were directed to both Natalie and Nick:
"And I'll be right behind your shoulders watching you...
Standing by your side in all you do-
And I won't every leave,
As long as you believe, you just believe."

When he thought no one was looking, Steve allowed the tears he'd been
holding back to fall freely. He quickly wiped them away before no one could
noticed. No one, but Nick.

From his secluded spot, LaCroix watched in wonderment. All thoughts of
revenge suddenly seemed to be vanquished with each note, each word she sang.
He had to know this woman.

Stace finished the song and the crowds went wild. Both crowds from the
dance floor and second floor continued to yell for more as she thanked the
band's leader and left the stage. Even before she reached the table,
Natalie was standing there with a tear-streaked face. "Oh Stace!" She
hugged her friend tightly, not wanting to let go. Stace whispered,
"Natalie, you will always be my very best friend. I love you girl."
Natalie drew back, wiping tears from Stace's face, "I love you too, you
crazy nut." Arm in arm, they made their way back to the table where the
rest of the group stood ready to give hugs. Steve kissed his sister's cheek
and whispered, "You will never cease to surprise me."


October 22-

The following night, Natalie sat on the couch with a book, a beautiful
wispy smile adorned her face. "You look positively content,"Nick said as he
bent down to kiss her forehead.

She sighed, "You know, I am. I have a wonderful husband, a brand new
life within me, and last night my friend gave me the best dedication I could
have ever dreamed."

Nick sat on the arm of the black couch looking down at her and smiled,
"Yes, it was, wasn't it? In all the years I've lived, I've never met
someone quite like Stace."

"I don't think you ever will,"Nat said as she giggled. "Do you think
Schanke and Myra had a nice time?"

Nick nodded and grinned, "Yeah, I think so. Myra seemed very pleased
that Schanke danced with her as much as he did." As Nick grabbed his jacket,
he asked, "You and Stace have anything planned tonight?"

Natalie thought, "I don't think so. I think we were both in agreement
that I'd just call her later since we all were up until this morning."

"Good thinking,"Nick said as he kneeled down. He kissed his wife
goodbye, "I'll see you when I get back. I love you." Then he kissed her
swollen abdomen, "I love you too, Little One. You and your mother take care
of each other while I'm at work."

Natalie smiled, "Have a safe night at work. We love you too."


The phone rang, startling Stace as she stared out the window into the
night. She had been thinking of the strange, exotic man from last night.
Picking up the receiver, she answered, "Hello?...Yes, this is
Anastasia...Alright...Thank you." Hanging up the phone she searched for a
pen and a piece of paper.

Steve had left earlier after Mandy, the hostess from last night, had
gotten in touch with him and asked him out for a drink. Stace had promised
to lay down and take it easy tonight, but this was much too important.
Quickly she scribbled that she would be gone for a few hours and not to
worry. She quickly pulled on a pair of jeans, black boots, and a white silk
shirt tucking it in the pants. One last check in the mirror to retouch her
makeup and hair, Stace grabbed her
jacket and left the room, locking the door behind her as she rushed to the

A few minutes later, she was making her way through the large luxurious
lobby when she saw him. She slowed her walked until finally reaching him.

"Good evening Anastasia,"LaCroix said as he lifted her hand to place
a soft kiss.

Stace blushed and said, "Good evening. And to my friends, it's Stace."

"I prefer Anastasia. It reminds me of someone I knew a very long time
ago,"LaCroix replied remembering the Russian Czar's daughter.

"Then, Anastasia it is." Stace smiled.

LaCroix caught himself lingering in the past. He grinned and said, "Oh,
and you may call me Lucian."

"It would be my pleasure...Lucian,"she said looking at him with her
alluring eyes.

He held out his arm for her. "Shall we?" As she looped her arm though
his, she responded, "Yes."

For an hour, they walked the streets of Toronto discussing her line of
work and his work at the radio station. Stace realized it must have been his
voice that she'd heard her first night in Toronto. "Why do you talk of such
dark subjects, Lucian?"Stace asked as they passed in front of a park.
LaCroix led her to a bench. "Perhaps the reason could be that I live and
work in the
darkness of the night,"he answered hoping not to get into the subject of
vampirism, although of course he could easily lose himself into draining
this woman right at this moment.

Stace shrugged, "Yeah, I guess so. But, it's got to be more than that."

"Since you've already had first had experience with my 'discussions,'
tell me...what do you think of them?"LaCroix asked.

Rising, she walked to the water's edge, "I've only heard the one about
death. And even though my brother thinks you are in need of serious help, I
on the other hand could relate."

Intrigued, LaCroix rose as well to join her. "Please, elaborate."

She didn't want to ruin the evening. But, she had to say something, "My
mother died from cancer many years ago. And I've always felt that if my
father would have let her come to terms with it and become friends with
death, then she would have left this life happier."

Something penetrated LaCroix's cold wall around his soul. He couldn't
put a name to it. "I am sorry for your lost,"he simply said. And then he
noticed a tear in the corner of her eye. Without thinking, LaCroix bent
down and kissed the tear. He suddenly scolded himself. He should be
draining her! Not consoling this mere mortal!

Stace looked up into his eyes. Their lips found each other without a
sound. His hands wondered, exploring. Hers held his neck, then trailing
down the front of his chest. What was happening to him? Unexpectedly, he
broke the kiss and turned away. Stace tried to find the words as she talked
to his back, "I'm sorry. If it was something I did or said...I promise not
to push." Stace turned and walked back to the bench.

The vampire in him had emerged and wanted to do more than just kiss this
mortal. "It's not you. I must leave."

Before she had a chance to respond, she turned to find that LaCroix had
vanished into the night.


LaCroix found himself outside of Nicholas' loft. He should just turn
around and fly back to the Raven and chalk this up to a rare moment of
insanity. Instead, he found himself standing outside of the loft's sliding

Natalie thought she had heard a knock.. She rose and opened the door to
find LaCroix, "Nick's not here and I won't tolerate your presence." Then
the thought struck her strange that he'd come in through the door and not
the skylite.

He said nothing. Just entered with a look on his face as if he'd been
hit by a truck. He went over to the fireplace and stared into the burning
embers, "I am not here to see Nick. It is you that I wish to see."

Quickly she said, "LaCroix, there is nothing for you here. The
Enforcers will not allow any harm to come to me or the baby unless you are
prepared to lose you life."

"That's not why I came. Believe me, I wish it were."

Almost afraid to ask, Natalie spoke the words, "Then, why are you here?"

LaCroix couldn't believe what he was saying, "I want to know how is it
that Nicholas and you love each other? Does this emotion of love hurt so much?"

She collapsed on the couch in unbelief at what her enemy was asking.
Natalie shook her head, "Pardon?"

"I think I have fell victim to the thing I've despised about you and
Nicholas,"he continued.

Taking a breath, she answered in bewilderment, "Well, ah...we just do.
We believe in the love we feel and we have faith in it."

"Belief and faith, I have never understood those concepts. To have
faith in something other than yourself. Throughout the centuries I've
witness those that would be killed for those ideas. But..." he commented.

"Why LaCroix! This is a side of you I've never seen,"Natalie remarked.

LaCroix turned sharply her, "I came seeking help doctor, not to be your
source of amusement!"

"I apologize." She paused then said, "Here is my professional opinion.
You have all the classic signs of a common mortal condition that is called
'love.' The prescription is to get an abundance of it from this other
person and to return it in equal amounts."

LaCroix looked at Natalie with somber eyes, "I have no idea if I have
the ability to do what you ask."

She couldn't believe she was doing this. Giving advice to LaCroix about
his love life. She was in utter disbelief at this conversation. "LaCroix
all it takes is a little belief."

"We shall see doctor." With that, he flew out through his normal way of
departure. Natalie shook her head and pinched herself to make sure she
hadn't drempt this episode. Getting the cordless phone, she dialed Nick's
cellular one. "Nick, you're not going to believe this..."


When LaCroix returned to the park, he was relieved to see her still
there. He quietly walked up to her. It startled him when she spoke, "All
you had to say was that you didn't want to be with me." Stace stared out
over the pond that the park encircled. She had felt his presence behind
him, though she didn't understand how. Maybe she did have a little Grammy
psyhic in her after all.

"Forgive me. I was foolish,"he simply said.

She bit her bottom lip and said nothing. Then she felt him sat next to
her, then his hand on her chin to turn her face to his. "Anastasia, there
are many things about me that you will never understand. But, I find myself
unexplainably attracted to you."

Stace opened her mouth to speak when he silenced her with a passionate

Several hours flew past until it was nearly one in the morning. Stace
and LaCroix had walked the streets talking about her New Orleans and places
he had seen, stopping here and there for a stolen private moment. Stace
looked at her watch, "I don't want to, but I must return to the hotel. If I
know my brother, he will have the entire police force searching for me."

LaCroix smiled. How long had it been since he'd truly smiled from his
cold heart? Centuries, perhaps? But the smile was contagious as Stace
produced one of her own. "I've enjoyed this evening with you, Lucian."

"You have given me more than I deserve,"he quietly said.

As they turned the corner towards the hotel, Stace suddenly saw complete
and utter darkness. She could feel herself falling, but could do nothing to
stop it. A silent scream roared through her head as the pain crashed inside
her brain.

In a split second, LaCroix was at her side, "Anastasia!!" He thought
about taking her then, but people had begun to gather around. He could
someone say, "Call an ambulance," another one saying, "Hey, does anyone know

What seemed like hours, was only in reality was a few minutes when the
ambulance arrived. "Stand back, please,"said one of the attendants as she
pushed LaCroix away. "Ok, we've got low pulse, low respiration. Let's get
the O2 on her,"another attendant said. They lifted her non-responsive body
onto the gurney. "Are you her with her?" LaCroix looked down at her body,
wishing he'd just bring her across. "Yes, yes, I'm with her,"he answered.
"Ok, ride with
us. Will need her information,"the attendant said after they had lifted the
gurney into the back of the ambulance.

As they rode in the ambulance, LaCroix watched as an I.V. was placed
into her arm. The sounds of the siren and heart monitor beeping filled the
small, cramped vehicle. He couldn't filter all the noise and comprehend at
the same time. He should have just took her as he'd originally planned.
Then none of this would have happened. He shook his head. No! He couldn't
be feeling this! He was supposed to be immune to guilt!

"What is her name? Do you know of any known allergies?"he could one of
them ask as they rushed to the hospital. LaCroix shook his head,
"Anastasia. I don't know..."

Before he knew it, they had arrived at the hospital. A team of doctors
were already waiting for the patient. He ran beside them as she was rushed
through the automatic double doors, down a hall and through another set of
double doors. Suddenly he was stopped by one of the nurses, "Sorry,
authorized personal only. You'll have to wait in the waiting room." She
pointed to the room behind them.

Is this what love did? Made one feel helpless? If he could only have a
moment alone with Anastasia, there would be no more need of doctors.

LaCroix walked into the empty room. He tried to think. Immediately, he
thought of Nicholas. He needed him. Not wanted to leave Anastasia alone,
he picked up the phone and hoped there was someone on the other end to help
him make the call.

The hospital operator kindly assisted him to place the call, though she
was baffled why an obviously intelligent man didn't know how to dial a
phone. After going through the precinct, he was finally connected with
Nicholas. "Knight,"Nick said. LaCroix took a breath and spoke.
"Nicholas..." Nick couldn't believe what he was hearing. First, Nat
calling to say that LaCroix had dropped by for a friendly chat on the
subject of love, now this.
"Nicholas, I need you. It's Anastasia. She is in the hospital. I...I
don't know what to do,"LaCroix hurriedly said.

"Anastasia? LaCroix I don't know..."Nick had started to say.

LaCroix interrupted, "Natalie's friend."

"I'm on my way LaCroix,"he said hanging up the phone and fishtailing the
caddy in the middle of the street. Stace was short for Anastasia, he
should've remembered. He popped on the siren and rushed to the loft for

After picking up Natalie, he waited to explain until they were on the
way to the hospital. "Nat, stay claim. Alright?" Nat looked at her
husband, shaking, "Just tell me Nick." Nick took a breath, "It's Stace.
She's at the emergency room."

Natalie grabbed her chest, "What...But, why?? Tell me! She's ok,
right? Nick?"

Nick took one of her hands, "Sweetheart....Nat. I don't know all the
details. LaCroix only told me that she was there over the phone."

"LaCroix? LaCroix phoned?" Nat shook her head. "He must have been
done something to her. He'd better not have hurt her!"

"If he'd done anything, a hospital wouldn't have been necessary." Nick
paused then took courage in what he was about to say, "And Nat? I think why
LaCroix came to you is because Stace is the person he was referring to
earlier this evening."

Natalie was dumbfounded. "Stace...LaCroix? They don't even know each

"I don't understand either, Nat. Let's just wait until we get there."

"Steve! Did anyone call Steve?"Natalie suddenly thought outloud.

Nick answered, "Yes. He's not at their hotel suite. But, I've left
word at the hotel for him when he returns."

A few minutes later, Nick pulled into the parking lot of the emergency
room. Rushing inside, they found LaCroix in the waiting room.

LaCroix stood. Nick watched as Nat approached his master. Natalie was
shaking all over, unsure as to ask what first. And then, standing just a
foot away from LaCroix, it hit her like a ton of bricks. A realization of
how LaCroix came to be in Stace's life. "You bastard! You had planned all
along to bring her across for revenge. To pay back the pain when Nick
married me. Tell me it's not the truth LaCroix! Say it and I'll stake you
where you stand!"she hurled at him. Anger overwhelmed her. "I don't know
how you wormed your sorry existence into her innocent life, but it stops now!"

Nick grabbed Nat by the shoulders and into his arms, "Nat! This is not
helping Stace."

LaCroix pursed his lips and looked away. Then he turned his eyes back
to Natalie, "I will not deny that I had a plan of revenge that included
Anastasia. I don't know how, but it changed. I can't explain it. I swear
that all I said earlier tonight to you is the truth."

"How dare you! You aren't even worthy enough to say her name!" Natalie
yelled in between the tears. "What did you do to her?"

"I assure you doctor, I did her no harm. We were walking back to her
hotel when she collapsed." He paused. "You thought about bringing her
over,"Nick said. LaCroix nodded, then continued, "There were too many
people surrounding us. Someone called an ambulance."

Natalie collapsed into Nick's arms, "Get him out of here, please...just
tell him to go!"

Nick looked over at LaCroix, amazed at the small change that had been
wrought. Maybe there was hope for his master yet. LaCroix nodded and left
the hospital.

Just after LeCroix's departure, Steve burst into the waiting area,
"Where is she? What happened?"

"I'm not sure Steve, "Nick said. "We just got here. Apparently she was
out walking...and collapsed,"he explained trying to leave LaCroix out of it.

Natalie went to Steve. "I'm sure everything will be alright. Maybe she
just fainted."

Steve snorted, then sarcastically said, "Fainted, right."

Walking to the large picture window, he peeked through the slitted
blinds. Many times he had visualized this moment. But, he had imagined
this moment would be at home in New Orleans. He would have been there when
everything came to an end. Stace would be surrounded by her family. Not in
a totally different country in a strange hospital.

"Steve?"Natalie asked, perplexed by his reaction.

He took a breath. His voice cracked as he spoke, "I begged her not to
come. Papa, me, everyone did. Everyone except Grammy. She kept telling
Stace that she had to, that her future was here in Toronto."

Nick's brain began to sift thought the new information.

"If only Stace had stayed in New Orleans." Steve spun around and
blurted out the very thing he had promised his sister that he wouldn't.
"She would not be dying in some strange place surrounded by doctors who
doesn't have a damn idea of what's going on."

Natalie couldn't speak. She just stood there motionless, emotionless.
No, it wasn't true. She had just misunderstood. About to fall, Nick
grabbed his wife and sat her down into a chair. "Oh God!, not Stace!"

Nick understood now. The weird vibrations from Stace. The peculiar
looks that had been exchanged between her and Steve. Why Mrs. Gilbeaux had
encouraged Stace's visit to Toronto. Stace's grandmother had hoped that Nick
would bring Stace across in order to spare her from death.

In shock, Natalie looked at Nick blankly, then grabbing his jacked, she
buried her face into his chest, sobbing.

Steve watched Natalie, now wishing he could take back his words. But
it was too late and nothing would be the same.

Natalie sniffled, blinded by tears as she spoke, "How long? When did
this nightmare begin? Surely there is something...something that can be done?

Kneeling by his Natalie's side, Steve took her hand into his and began
to explain. "Stace began having terrible headaches shortly after
Thanksgiving. At first we all thought, even the doctors assumed that the
headaches were attributed to stress. That was the theory until the test
results proved everyone wrong." Steve paused, swallowed, then continued.
"What the doctors found was a massive malignant brain tumor."

Natalie gasped. Nick watched as the women he loved fall apart and
there was nothing he could do to prevent it.

"It's inoperative. Further blood work showed that she has leukemia.
The tumor is a secondary cancer,"Steve added.

Natalie couldn't think. "But...what about chemotherapy?"

Steve lowered his head and sighed, "She refused the treatment." He
looked at Natalie, "You remember how our mother died?" Natalie nodded as it
hit her, "She died from...cancer." Steve nodded, "Stace did not want to
suffer during whatever time she had left."

Reaching for Steve, Natalie hugged him. She kept asking, "Why? Why
Steve? Why couldn't she just have told me?"

By this time, both were in tears. "She wanted to say goodbye with
smiles and laughter."

Releasing her, Steve walked back to the window leaving Natalie crying
in Nick's arms. Nick gently rocked her back and forth. The pain she was
feeling tore his heart in two. He wanted to say or do something, anything.
Holding onto her tight he helplessly listened to her sobs of hopelessness
and grief. Natalie looked at Nick, then whispered to him, "You *can* do
something Nick." He shook his head, "Nat..."

"I'm looking for someone with Anastasia?"a masculine voice said in the

Steve turned around, his face wiped free of tears. "Yes, I'm her
brother. Steve Gilbeaux." He prepared himself for the worst.

The doctor shook his hand, "Doctor Krinard. I'm in charge of your
sister's case. Please, have a seat."

As they sat, Steve introduced Natalie and Nick. "It's o.k. Whatever
you have to tell me, I have no objection to them hearing."

Dr. Krinard opened Stace's medical chart and cleared his throat. "I
guess there's no need for me to go over your sister's medical history. She
woke up shortly after she arrived to the emergency room. She gave us her
history, which our tests confirmed. The brain tumor was the reason she

Steve let out a sigh of relief that his sister was still alive.
"Can I see her?"

"As I've said, she is awake. But, she is groggy form the pain meds. I
understand she has been on pain medication for awhile?"

"Yes, since August. She couldn't bare the pain anymore."

The doctor nodded his head. "Did she receive any chemotherapy?"

Steve shook his head. "After her doctors told her it was terminal, she
refused to try." He looked away and sarcastically laughed once more. "She
had told me that she hadn't been given a choice about the disease, but she
was going to have a choice about how she died."

The room grew quiet as Natalie and Nick held each other.

Then, the doctor spoke once more. "I would like to inform her doctor
in the states what transpired tonight. Just to keep them updated."

Steve quickly scribbled the doctor's name and phone number on the paper
Dr. Krinard provided.

Natalie still couldn't believe this was happening.

"When can we see her?"Steve asked once more, but slightly different.
Nick noticed the subtle change of wording from 'I' to 'we.'

Dr. Krinard stood to leave. "Let the nurses get her settled into her
room. I want to keep her for overnight observation despite there is nothing
we can do for your sister. I'm sorry. All we can do now is have faith and
belief during times like these. My prayers are with you all,"the doctor
said as left.


The nurses finished checking Stace's I.V. then left leaving her alone
with only the sound of the steady beat of the heart monitor as company. She
closed her eyes. When she opened them next, LaCroix stood by the room's now
opened window.

She didn't care how he entered, only that he did.

Slowly, he walked to her and took one of her hands into his. LaCroix
had overheard everything. The test results, her explanations, the doctor
talking with those in the waiting room.

Opening her mouth to tell him the truth, he placed a finger over her
lips. "I know you are dying. I can prevent it. I can design it so that you
live forever."

The images of blood, eyes of a man she didn't recognize, Grammy's
divination ritual- all became clear. Stace removed his finger from her
lips. "You're the one."

In an instant, his eyes changed so that they glowed and fangs now were
present. Stace should have been scared, but she was not shock nor repulsed.
Just amazed.

"Yes. I am what you have sought after. Anastasia, what I offer you is
a rare gift. I make it your choice. Tomorrow night, I will require an answer."

Suddenly, the door opened and LaCroix was gone, the window closed once
again. Steve, Natalie, and Nick listlessly made their way into the room.

Stace leaned her head back and groaned, "Oh God, its the gloom patrol."
She looked over at Steve, "You told her didn't you?"

"Don't be harsh with your brother. He loves you Stace,"Nick said.

"Yeah, I know,"she replied as she reached her hand for Steve's as the
other reached for Nat.

Natalie sat by Stace's side, "Why didn't you tell me? There were no
need for the lies."

Stace glanced over at Nick. "Would you take my brother to get some
coffee? He looks like hell."

"Stace..."Steve began. "I'll be here. Nat and I need to talk,"Stace
finished with.

Nick kissed Natalie, "I'll be right back. I love you."

"I love you too."

Stace was beaming as the guys left. "Now, that's what I like to see."

"Don't change the subject, Stace."

"Alright. I'm caught. Why I lied..." Taking a breath, Stace said, "I
didn't want a death bed scene like this one. We both deserve a hell of alot
better." She paused for a moment, then continued. "You're one of my oldest
friends Nat. I didn't want to cause you pain."

"But, either way it would have."

"I know"

Natalie rose and walked to the window. "You knew when I was in New
Orleans. You could have told me then."

"Oh right Nat. I don't think *Hi Nat! Welcome to New Orleans! Oh, by
the way, I'm dying.* exactly goes together. Do you?"

"But, you seemed o.k. You were working, always on the go, and we even
drank our share of vintaged wine together."

"I wasn't on heavy duty pain medications then. Oh, and I didn't take a
vacation from work. I quit the job in August."

Natalie walked back to her friend's bedside. Uncontrollable tears
fell. Stace let Natalie sob to wear the shock down. Then she faced Natalie
squarely in the eyes. She retrieved a tissue from the table near the bed.
Wiping the tears from Nat's eyes, Stace firmly stated, "Your five minutes of
crying is up. Save them for joy when you're baby is born. No tears Nat. Only
smiles and laughter."

Hugging her friend, Natalie said, "Only smiles and laughter...I promise."


October 23-

The following night, Stace leaned back in the chair in front of the
huge window of her hotel room. She felt like an eighteen wheeler had ran
over her and the driver forgot to tell her.

She had opened the drapes wide and turned the inside lights off so that
she could bathe in the moon's light. Would this be the way it would be if
she accepted Lucian's offer? What kind of life would she have? She felt
sure it would be one without her family. Fangs would become apart of her
life as well as blood becoming as the staple of nourishment.

He had said forever. What if forever became to long? Although her
mother's side of the family was Catholic and her father's of a voodoo
heritage, Stace had always had her own personal theory of life. She believe
that it was an ever changing process, in which in each stage, a person would
grow and learn something more than in the previous stage. You lived, you
died, you lived again in another state of being until it was time for the
next change.

Continuing to stare out the window into the night, Stace waited for her
answer to arrive.

On the couch, Natalie sat leaning into Nick's embrace as a roaring fire
burned in the fireplace. She stared into her cup of hot cocoa unable to cry

Nick fingered the chestnut curls of her hair, rubbing his cheek against
them. "Nat?"

"Hmm?"Nat managed to voice.

"Honey, I wish there was something I could say to make this better for

Nat turned and sat her cup on the table and hugged Nick, "I know. I
also know that you won't bring her across." She paused, then said, "I need
to call Stace to see how she is doing."

"Nicholas..."LaCroix's voice startled them both. Nick had been so
wrapped up in Nat's pain, he hadn't sense LaCroix's arrival.

Nick stood, then helped his wife from the couch.

Nat wasn't up for this. "LaCroix, leave by whatever way you came in."

Nick looked at LaCroix, "Maybe you should leave."

"We must talk." LaCroix walked over to face them.

Natalie sat, resigning herself to get this over with as soon as possible.

Nick could sense turmoil within LaCroix. He picked up his glass of
cow's blood and drained it.

"I have told Anastasia about my true self and have given her the choice."

"You did what!?!"Natalie exclaimed in horror. It was one thing if Nick
would bring Stace across, but not LaCroix!

"Natalie, she is dying. And I have found that I cannot live without her."

"You mean as a playtoy that you will toss aside or torment like you
have done to Nick."

Nick rose, "Natalie needs no more pain. Especially from you."

"No, Nicholas,"LaCroix interrupted with. "Let her finish."

Natalie swallowed hard. "You wanted Stace as revenge against me. Now,
you say that you actually care for her. How do I know you're telling me the

LaCroix crossed in front of the fireplace to lean on the other side of
its mantle. "You don't. I have not given you any reason to believe what I
say. But, know this. With or without your blessing or understanding, if
Anastasia accepts my offer, I will make her one of us."

In the next breath, LaCroix flew out of the loft via the loft's skylite.

Natalie crumpled into Nick's waiting arms. "Please tell me none of this
is happening."

Nick couldn't say the words she wanted to hear. All he could do, was
to hold and love her.


Stace managed to get Steve out of the room long enough for her to sneak
out to the elevator. Once out of the lobby, she made her way to the park.

When she arrived, she was disappointed that he wasn't there. He hadn't
said where they would meet, but she had a feeling. Maybe she had been wrong.

She turned to leave when she nearly ran into him.

They stared into each other's eyes. "Hello Lucian." How her voice
blanketed his cold soul. "Good evening, Anastasia. I trust you are feeling

She smiled, "I am."

They walked to the water's edge. "Have you thought about my
proposition?"LaCroix asked.

She sighed. "Yes. As much as I would like to say yes, I'm afraid I
can't accept."

LaCroix felt as if a stake had went though him. "Why? I offer you
eternity free of pain. The world would be at your fingertips. You could
have everything you desire!"

"Except my family. And it goes against my philosophy of life. If I
can't be true to myself, then who or what can I be true to? An eternity
without the family I love...If I died tomorrow, I'd have my family."

LaCroix shouldn't have been, but he was moved by her words. "I am

"I know. But maybe I can make it up to you." LaCroix looked at her in
confusion. "Steve and I are leaving the day after tomorrow." Stace
outreached her hand for his. "Come back with me."

October 30-

Nick watched Natalie finger the tiny ring that hung around the huge
stuff polar bear's neck as they laid on their bed together.

"I wish Stace hadn't left so soon. I miss her so much." Natalie
remembered the tearful goodbye in the airline terminal. She could still see
Stace's plane take off. "What if..."

"No what ifs. We are going to have faith and believe that everything
is going to work out."

"But, LaCroix is with her!"

"I know. But we have no control over that situation. Stace invited him."

Natalie looked at the stuffed polar bear once more. Stace had given it
for the baby along with clothes and accessories galore before leaving Toronto.

"Nat, don't stop believing now,"Nick pleaded as cuddled next to her.
"I haven't and look where it has brought me."

"Could you help me from the bed?" Nick got up and went to Nat's side of
the bed. As she rose, she felt a twinge, then a gush.

"Nick I believe,"Natalie's smile broadened. "My water just broke. I
believe its time to get us to the hospital!"


October 31-

After twelve hours of labor, Natalie held a new life in her arms.
"Nick she is so beautiful!" Nick kissed the his daughter's forehead, then
Natalie's. "You both are." She breathed a sigh of relief. "I'm glad she
is so healthy despite being born a few weeks early." Nick smiled, knowing
that a child of his would most likely have some of the rapid healing genes
that he possessed.

Flowers from Schanke and Myra, from Grace as well as from Stonetree and
the rest of the precinct were everywhere. Nick still couldn't believe he
finally had a child of his own!

Just as Natalie handed their precious bundle of joy to the proud
father, a nurse opened the door and peeked her head in, "I'm sorry to
disturb you. Detective, there is a long distance phone call for you. He
said it was important."

Regrettably, Nick handed his daughter back to Nat. "Daddy will be
right back Little One." He kissed his daughter and wife, then exited the room.

"You can take the call from here,"the nurse said pointing to a nearby
phone at the nurses'

"Thanks." Nick picked up the phone. "Knight..."


Nick turned so that no one over heard, "LaCroix?"

"Anastasia is dead. And yes, I mean it in every mortal sense of the word."

Falling silent, Nick looked back at the closed door where Nat was on
the other side holding their new-born daughter. How was he supposed to tell


"Yes, I'm here. Please extend our sympathies to Stace's family." A
pause. "LaCroix, I'm sorry for your loss as well."

"I trust you will tell Natalie. I will be back in Toronto after the
funeral tomorrow night." A pause. "Best wishes to your new family."

With that, the phone clicked letting Nick know that LaCroix had voiced
everything that needed to be said.

He placed the receiver back onto its cradle. Slowly, Nick walked back
to his wife's room. He stood there, holding onto the door's handle for what
seemed like an eternity, dreading what was to come.

Finally, he opened the door. "Nat, I have to tell you something..."

November 2-

Natalie sat in the chair nursing their daughter. "Nick could you get
the supplement bottle from the frig for me?"

After retrieving it from the refrigerator, Nick handed the bottle
filled with the red liquid.

"Whoever you whammied, you did a wonderful job explaining our baby's
unusual anemia,"Natalie said as she finished nursing, then letting their
infant daughter drink from the bottle.

Sitting by his wife on the arm of the chair, Nick placed an arm around
Nat. "What can I say? It's all in the stare."

Nat kept quiet. She had been somber ever since Nick told her about
Stace. When he had, Nick expected overwhelming tears of grief, but there
were none. To this day, Natalie had not shed one tear. Worried, he had
talked to her doctor. "Nick, everyone handles grief in their own unique way.
She's just had two major events of opposite proportions take place. Give
Natalie time. Just love and support her. That's what will get her
through,"Dr. Jacobs had told Nick.

He looked over at his wife. Nick stroked her beautiful chestnut hair
and asked, "What are you thinking about?"

Shrugging, she answered, "I was thinking how much Stace would have
loved her godchild."

Nick softly caressed his daughter's cheek. "She would have loved to
spoil her rotten."

The first time since hearing of her friend's death, Natalie smiled.
"Yeah, she would have."

A knock was heard at the sliding door. Nick bent down and placed a
kiss on his daughter's forehead. "I'll go and see who it is."

He slid the door opened to find LaCroix standing there. "I thought
entering this way would be less...startling."

Nat sat the bottle down on the nearby table and stood cradling the
baby. She said nothing, but stared in anger at LaCroix.

"Come in,"Nick said, unsure what was to come next.

LaCroix entered with a vase of a least a dozen roses in one hand and a
brown envelope with the other. He handed the vase to Nick. "In honor of a
new life."

Caught off guard in this surreal scene, Nick could only say, "Thank
you." He sat the vase on the dining table and went to Nat's side.

LaCroix's gaze drifted over to the baby Natalie held...Nicholas' child.

"I am sure you are wondering what my purpose is coming here tonight. I
promised Anastasia that I would give you this personally,"LaCroix said as he
handed to Natalie the brown envelope.

Natalie hesitated, then gave the baby to Nick. With a shaky hand, she
took the envelope that simply was labeled, 'Natalie Lambert Knight' in
Stace's outrageous handwriting. Nat walked to the fireplace, turning her
back to LaCroix. She ran her fingers over her name. 'Stace wrote this.
This is the only thing I have left of her. I should have been there, not
that cold-blooded monster,'she thought to herself. Carefully, she opened
the sealed envelope. Enclosed was a letter and a cassette tape.

Unfolding the letter, she silently began to read:
"Dearest Nat-

Well, it's been a trip hasn't it?
Don't be sad. I've enjoyed the ride while it lasted.
And with a friend like you on the journey, who wouldn't?
We will always be together. No matter where you are,
I'll be there...reminding you of Grammy's advice
that all it takes is a little belief and faith.
That's all that was necessary for me.

Don't be angry with Lucian for my sake. I know his
intentions in the beginning towards me were for harm.
But, believing in my love for him brought out some goodness.
The last couple of nights, he has been by my side
answering all those questions you couldn't. I now know
why you felt so in despair with your relationship with Nick
so many months ago. Nick is like Lucian- a vampire.
Oh Nat, I am in awe at your courage and your love for Nick!
I know your child will inherit all those wonderful traits
that you and Nick carry within your hearts. Natalie, never
doubt that within your heart lies a love with enough faith
and belief for the entire world.

I will miss you my friend.

Remember me with smiles and laughter.
That's how I'll always remember you.

Never long as you believe,

Natalie steadied herself holding onto the fireplace's mantle. "Nat?"
Nick said placing the baby into the bassinet before rushing to her.

"Anastasia understood Natalie. She had faith that you kept Nicholas'
secret hidden for...good reasons,"LaCroix said.

Nat looked at Nick. "LaCroix told her all the things I couldn't." She
stepped away from him to put the cassette into the stereo's tapedeck. She
pushed the play button and withing a few seconds, she heard a slow song
begin with notes from a piano, then Stace's serene mellowed voice.

She froze. It was as if Stace were right there. And then she doubled
over, almost collapsing before Nick steadied her, turned her around and
pressed her shaking body close.

All the emotions of anger, hurt, and grief poured out like a waterfall
as Nick held her close and stroked her hair. "Ssshh, let it go Nat. Let
the tears come, its time." As she did, the words to the song Stace had
recorded flowed through the loft:
"And when October goes, the snow begins to fly
Above the smoky roofs, I watch the planes go by.
The children running home beneath a twilight sky,
Oh, for the fun of them, when I was one of them..."

LaCroix silently moved to the window and stared out into the night
remembering his lover's enticing eyes, dark hair and the sweet taste of
her lips:
"And when October goes, the same old dream appears
And you are in my arms, to share the happy years.
I turn my head away to hide the helpless tears,
Oh, how I hate to see October go."

As the piano part of the song played, Natalie looked over Nick's
shoulder at LaCroix as he stood looking out the window. Suddenly her tears
halted as she witnessed something unbelievable. Out of a corner of
LaCroix's eye, a single bloodtear. It fell like a silent raindrop, leaving
a red-coloured trail behind on his cheek and down his face.

She stood there staring. And then, withdrawing from Nick's arms, she
went over to the bassinet where the baby was, now sleeping. Nat looked back
at Nick as if to say with her eyes, "It's alright now."

Gently, Natalie picked her up and stepped towards LaCroix. "Stace said
all it took was a little belief. I think she would have wanted this." She
hesitated, then placed the child into LaCroix's arms, making sure the baby's
head was supported. Nick moved next to LaCroix to keep a watchful eye over
his daughter.

LaCroix looked at the child, remembering what he had promised Anastasia try and have that faith and belief himself.

Nick watched in amazement as the three of them marveled over the one
thing that could bring them to this moment, together. Natalie took her
daughter's tiny fingers into her hand, kissed them, then said as the song
"Meet Stace's godchild- Anastasia Nicolette Knight."

"I should be over it now, I know,
It doesn't matter much how old I grow-
I hate to see October go..."

The End