by Susan B.
November, 1996

Natalie was sitting up in her hospital bed, a tiny newborn wrapped
in a pale yellow blanket slept soundly in her arms. Nick, standing
next to the bed, reached over and stroked the child's pale cheek
before transferring his affection to Nat. He grinned widely as he
gently caressed her hair, then leaned over to kiss her forehead.
Nat gazed up into his blue eyes and smiled. He looked so proud, so
happy, so ...human.

Suddenly the infant cried out for Nat's attention. Her joy suddenly
turned to terror as the child opened his eyes for the first time -
they were golden, and glowing. Nat reached out in panic for Nick,
but grasped only air. He was gone. Nat's heart started to pound. As
she scanned the empty room, the stark white walls seemed to close
in on her. Just as she felt herself slipping into unconsciousness,
the baby screamed again. Nat stared down at her son in horror. Two
trickles of blood ran from his lower lip, where it had been
punctured by his own fully extended fangs.

Natalie woke from her dream startled and visibly shaking. She
rubbed her eyes, and was surprised to find her face full of tears.
The clock on the nightstand next to the bed read four a.m., and the
room was black and still. Consoling herself that it was only a bad
dream, Nat lay back down; but a moment later a real cry shattered
the silence. Nat jumped out of bed and scampered into the living
room, flicking the lightswitch on the way. The crying grew louder,
it seemed to be coming from the hallway. Nat unlocked the door and
opened it cautiously. At her feet lay a tiny infant, wriggling and
naked, in a plain cardboard box.

* * * * * *

Nick was driving home after finishing an early shift. Nat was off
on a week's vacation and work just wasn't the same without her
around. He missed her terribly. It wouldn't have been so bad if he
could have seen her at home, but she had asked him not to come
around for a few days - said she needed some time to "think",
whatever the hell that meant. Nick was depressed and lonely, and
the pouring rain and thick fog he was driving through only
heightened his sense of isolation.

Not really wanting to hear LaCroix, but wanting to feel less alone,
Nick turned on the radio. LaCroix's velvety voice filled the air,
"...abandonment. What can be more cruel than being outcast by those
we love, or by those who should love us? How many gentle hearts
are lost when lovers flee? How many emerge from the warmth of a
mother's womb only to be discarded to a cold concrete slab. We ask,
'why am I rejected'? It is a question with many answers, but only
one solution, a motto if you will, ...though others shall reject
me, I shall not reject myself."

Now feeling even worse, Nick shut off the car radio. Immediately a
loud crackling came over the police band, followed by a clear
announcement of Nat's address. Nick pulled out his cell phone and
quickly dialed her number. The car swerved on the wet pavement as
he made a hard left turn.

Nat answered on the third ring, "hello".

"Nat - are you okay!"

"I'm fine, Nick, just a little unexpected company. Nothing

Nick turned onto her street, "I'm coming over." He clicked off the
line before she had a chance to reply, or refuse. Nick parked on
the street in front of her building and noticed there were no
police on the scene yet. He hopped out of the caddy and ran up to
her apartment. When Nat opened the door Nick was standing there
fumbling through his keys looking for the one to her apartment.
During these last few days he had missed her dreadfully, but he
never understood just how much until he saw her standing there
before him.

Nat reached out and put her arms around Nick, fully realizing at
that moment just how much *she* missed him. She tugged him inside
and closed the door, "You should have come by earlier!"

Nick gave her a quick kiss on the lips and smiled, "You said you
wanted some time alone. Remember?"

"I'm sorry I said that now. But *you* could have been a little more
persistent." Nat felt so giddy and warm in Nick's arms that she
forgot all about Baby Doe, until he let out another wail.

"What on earth..." Nick mumbled as he eyed the room.

Releasing Nick from her embrace, Nat led him over to the couch where
the baby lay, wrapped snugly in her green wool sweater. She bent
over and picked up the child, and rocked it soothingly in her arms.
Nat grinned, "I told you I had a *little* unexpected company. He
was left on my doorstep." She nodded her head in the direction of
the cardboard box sitting on the coffee table, "I found him in that
about fifteen minutes ago, just outside my door. I washed him off,
wrapped him up, and called it in. He looks full-term and healthy,
but I do believe he's hungry."

Nick smiled as he watched Nat cheerfully rocking the baby and
making silly baby-talk, but his smile quickly faded as his heart
grew heavy. This was a side of Nat he had seldom seen, and truly
did not want to think about. Another thing in a list of things he
could never give her ...a daylight stroll through the park, a walk
along a sunny beach, his love, a child.

Nick's bleak thoughts were interrupted by a loud rapping on the
door. He went over and opened it to two plainclothes detectives.
Nick recognized the tall dark-haired man with the grey eyes, his
name was Craig. Nick met him once, and he didn't like him. The
feeling was mutual.

Craig recognized Nick and sneered, "Abandoned babies are a little
out of your jurisdiction aren't they, Knight? That is, when they're
still breathing anyway."

"Not funny," Nick growled.

As the officers made their way into the room, Nat strolled over
with the baby.

"Ms. Lambert!," Craig beamed at Nat.

Nick glanced at Nat and then at Craig, "you know Natalie?" he asked

"Yes, we've met on a ...couple of occasions," Craig replied. "You
haven't met my new partner though. Detective Knight - this is Paul.
Paul - this is Detective Knight."

Nick and Paul shook hands as Craig pulled out his notebook. He
looked around the room and headed for the out-of-place box. "Is
that what you found it in?"

Nat followed Craig over to the coffee table, "Yes. And *he* is all
I found in it - no note, no bottle, nothing. Not even a blanket."

"Nothing to trace," Craig sighed. "We'll have to ask around the
building, the neighbourhood, put out the standard plea to the

Natalie cooed at the baby, "the poor little guy was just lying
there in his birthday suit, and I'd say his birthday was only a few
hours ago, if that." She carried Baby Doe back over to the couch.

"How long until Social Services gets here?" Nick asked.

"Fifteen or twenty minutes." Paul responded. "We'll just have to
wait here until they come."

Nat grinned slyly, "Nick, why don't you come here and hold the baby
while I put the coffee on."

Nick walked hesitatingly over to the couch and sat down. Amused,
Nat gently placed the infant in his arms. Nick was noticeably
uncomfortable, and grew even more uneasy as he watched Craig follow
Nat into the kitchen. He could hear some giggling, but their voices
were so muffled even his keen sense of hearing could not pick up
the actual words. After a few minutes of that Nick had had enough
and stood up. He carried the child over to Paul and dropped it
firmly into Paul's arms, "here, you take him."

Stepping into the kitchen Nick asked, "need any help?". Craig was
holding a tray while Natalie was busy filling it with mugs of hot
coffee, spoons, cream and sugar.

"I think we've got it under control," Nat replied. Nick stood there
quietly until Craig left with the tray, "what was so funny, Nat?"


"I heard you laughing," Nick grumbled as he walked over to her,
"just how well do you know him anyway?"

"You sound jealous," Nat teased.

"Should I be?"

Nat glanced towards the window, "don't you think you should get
going? It *is* almost dawn. You won't have enough time to get home
if you don't leave now."

"I think I'll stay." Nick abruptly turned around and headed for the
living room. Nat followed behind him with a wicked grin on her
face, secretly relishing his jealously.

Natalie sat next to Nick on the couch. Craig and Paul, who was
still holding the baby, sat down in the two chairs opposite them.
Craig took a long sip from his mug before starting his
interrogation. Turning to a fresh page in his notebook he
scrutinized Natalie, "start at the beginning."

"Well I woke up when I heard the baby crying." Natalie shuddered as
she recalled her dream, not honestly knowing whether it was the
haunting image of the vampire child, or Nick's disappearance that
frightened her the most. Nick was puzzled by her fleeting chill of
fear and put his arm around her. Nat continued, "I checked the
time, it was around four."

Just as Nat finished telling the rest of her story there was another
knock on the door. Nick rose and answered the door. A short, green-
eyed redhead greeted him cheerfully, "Hello. I'm Karen Mantt, Social

Paul and Craig stood up as Karen walked into the room. She headed
straight for Paul who immediately handed the baby over to her.
Karen removed the wool sweater and wrapped him in a receiving

"Where does he go from here?" Nat asked as she recovered her

"Well, the hospital for a few days to make sure he's okay, and then
into emergency foster care until a more permanent space is

"What if the mother shows up?" Nat asked.

Karen sighed, "it's unlikely, unless we get a tip that leads us to
her." Karen turned around and left with the infant. Paul picked up
the cardboard box and followed her out.

"I don't suppose you've seen any noticeably pregnant women around
here?" Craig asked Nat on his way out the door.

"I'm afraid I can't help you there." As Nat closed the door behind
him she noticed glimmers of sunlight filtering through the sides of
the blinds. She turned to Nick, "You better sleep in my room. Just
let me get in there and change the sheets."

Nick stepped towards her and smiled, "I think you're probably
right, but don't worry about the bedding." He put his arms around
her, "by the way, what was it that frightened you? I felt you
shivering when you were telling Craig about hearing the baby cry."

Again Nat shivered involuntarily, "Just a bad dream. It was

"It doesn't seem like nothing. Do you want to talk about it?"

Nat kissed his cheek and grinned, "No, Nick. I really don't want to
talk about it." She slipped from his embrace and went into her
room, emerging a moment later with Sydney. "He'll sleep out here
with me."
* * * * *

Thanks to the black-out curtains, Natalie's bedroom was as dark as
Nick's loft was during the day. Being on the night shift, her need
to sleep during the day made them a necessity.

Nick undressed and slipped into Nat's bed, thick and sweet with her
scent. He clutched her pillow under his bare chest, imagining her
there, and felt the vampire begin to stir. Surrounded by her as he
was, Nick ached with desire, and was fighting to keep the vampire
at bay. /Perhaps he should have let her change the sheets/ Nick
moaned in frustration as he pulled the pillow out from under his
chest, turned it over, and buried his face in it. He felt cool
dampness on his cheek, and inhaled the scent of Nat's recent tears.
Nick's human love for Nat then overwhelmed him, and crushed the
vampire's burning lust.

With the vampire firmly under control, and his eyes a steady blue,
Nick envisioned Nat holding that baby in her arms and again thought
of the things he could never give her. He struggled to hold back
his own tears, but he knew it was a futile struggle always
was. Nick's tears came freely now, mingling with those on Nat's
pillow. He knew at that moment that if they ever cried together,
they would become hopelessly lost in each other, and hopelessly
lost in eternal darkness. Nick fell asleep, and dreamed of making
love to Nat.
* * * * * *

Natalie woke up late in the afternoon and went to Nick's loft to
pick up a bottle of blood for him. She arrived back at her
apartment just as the sun began to set. As she reached her door she
heard someone call out her name. Nat turned her head to see Craig
running up the stairs towards her.

"What are you doing here?" Nat asked.

When he reached the door Craig staggered for a moment to catch his
breath, "I'm just following up on the Baby Doe case, canvassing the
neighbours and such."

"I see," uttered Nat as she turned the key in the lock.

"Do you mind if I come in and ask a few more questions?"

Nat pushed the door open, "There's nothing else to tell. I told you
everything last night."

Craig flashed a coy smile, "Caught me about a cup of coffee

Nat blushed slightly at his vain attempt to flirt with her yet
again. She had bumped into him many times in the cafeteria at work,
and he never failed to ask her out. She never failed to decline.
Nat smiled, "Okay. Come in."

Craig made himself comfortable in a chair while Nat went into the
kitchen. She pulled the bottle out of her shopping bag and slipped
it into the fridge, before making coffee.

* * * * * *

Half-awake, Nick thought he heard Craig's voice in the other room.
It reminded him of when he first met Craig, about six months ago in
the Coroner's building. Craig was standing covertly outside Nat's
office peeking through the doorway. Nick had snuck up behind him
and grabbed him by the shoulder, "You seem to have an unusual
interest in the Coroner."

"There's nothing unusual about a man having an interest in a
beautiful woman," Craig snickered as he broke away from Nick's

"There is when he hides in the hallway and spies on her," Nick
growled. He was tempted to clobber Craig then and there, "I think
you better leave." That was the last Nick saw of him, until last

Nick fully awoke and quickly slipped on his jeans when he heard Nat
shout those very same words, "I think you better leave!" He rushed
into the living room to see Craig with his hands on Nat's
shoulders, almost pinning her against the wall. Craig spun around
just as Nick's fist slammed into his face. Craig stumbled backwards
and held his hand to his nose, blood oozing out between his

"What's this idiot doing here, Nat?" Nick demanded as he pulled
Craig to his feet and shoved him out the door.

"I'm sorry Nick. I really didn't think he'd be like that. He's a
cop for God's sake. He just asked to come in for coffee." Nat
paused for a second and added, "I guess I won't have to worry about
him bothering me at work again."

"He bothered you at work?" Nick asked with some concern.

"Well, he was a little persistent in trying to get me to go out
with him."

Nick almost snarled at her, "So inviting him into your apartment is
supposed to discourage him?"

Nat crossed her arms defiantly, "I knew you were here, Nick. I
figured he'd discover you were here all night and *finally* get the

Before Nick had a chance to counter, his cell phone rang. Nat went
to the kitchen for the blood and a glass while Nick took the call.
When she walked back into the living room, Nick was putting away
his phone. "They think they've found Baby Doe's mother."

"Who is she?" Nat asked curiously.

"The question is 'who *was* she', Nat. They found her body a few
hours ago under the Gardiner near Bathurst."

"Murdered?" Nat gasped.

"That's not entirely ruled out, but the preliminary results
indicate severe blood loss due to haemorrhage associated with
childbirth complications. No overt sign of foul play."

Nat sighed, "So this is one instance where the standard police plea
was accurate. The mother who abandoned her newborn really did need
medical attention."

"You're half-right Nat," Nick replied. "She did need medical
attention, but she didn't abandon her baby. The preliminary report
also states the child was born where the body was found, and the
mother never left that spot."

"Then how the hell did he end up outside my door?"

"That's what I'm going to find out." Nick hurriedly downed two
glasses of blood while he finished getting dressed. He gave Nat a
hug and kissed her cheek, "Lock the door behind me. I'll stop by

Nick arrived outside at the caddy to discover both his passenger
window and headlamp smashed in. It was a none-too-subtle message
from Craig ...a message that things weren't quite over yet.

* * * * * *

After a twenty minute drive, Nick arrived at the Gardiner/Bathurst
site. He was tempted to go talk to LaCroix first about his timely
monologue, but that would have to wait, as would the other thing he
had to take care of. The area was still cordoned off, but only one
officer, Les Greene, remained on the scene.

Les had just finished packing up his things and was heading over
towards Nick's car. Noting the smashed window and headlight he
bellowed out in a loud voice that suited his burly physique, "Hey -
Knight!" "What the hell happened to your car?"

"Don't even ask," Nick groaned as he got out of the caddy.

"Yeah, I know that feeling," Les muttered as he got in his own car
and drove off.

Nick walked around the area, but the only visible sign that
anything at all had happened here was a large blood stain on the
concrete where the body had been. Nick climbed back into the caddy
and he too drove off.

About ten minutes later Nick arrived at the police station. Tracy
was nowhere to be found so he popped into Reese's office. As Nick
walked in, Reese looked up, "Tracy's not in tonight, Nick. She
booked off sick."

"Anything new on the Baby Doe case?"

"Only that murder's been all but ruled out, so there's no need for
homicide to be involved for the time being." Reese tapped the end
of his pencil on the desk, "However, I'm sure you have a personal
interest in investigating the mystery of his arrival at Dr.

"If you don't mind Captain. I do have a couple of things I'd like
to check out tonight."

"I don't have a free officer to pair you with, Nick. It's this flu
going around - again. It's like a damn ghost town in here."

"These are things I can check out myself."

Reese leaned back in his chair, "Fine, go ahead. But if we get any
real murder and mayhem tonight, you're off this case pronto."

Nick nodded his understanding and left Reese's office. He stepped
over to a free desk, sat down in front of the computer and started
pounding on the keys. It only took a few minutes for Craig's
personnel file to pop up. Finding out what he needed to know, Nick
left his car at the station and took to the air. He materialized on
Craig's front porch and banged on the door. A few minutes later
Craig, with a heavily bandaged nose, appeared. "What the hell do
you want, Knight?"

"The question is, what the hell do you want?" Nick barked. "What do
you want with Natalie."

"Stupid question, Knight. And you call yourself a detective? I want
exactly what you think I want - to get laid."

Nick wanted to smash Craig's face in again, and it took every bit
of his resolve to resist. He locked eyes with Craig for the whammy,
"Remember this. If you ever touch her again, I *will* kill you."
Not wanting to look at Craig's face for an instant longer than
necessary, Nick turned and left. He flew back to his car and then
drove to the Raven.

It was one of those rare occasions when the music in the Raven was
not deafening. In fact, as well as being at a much lower volume
than normal, it was unusually soft and soothing. The club was also
strangely empty. LaCroix sensed Nick's arrival and strolled out
from his booth, glass in hand, to meet him.

"So, Nicholas," LaCroix chuckled, "I gather from your presence you
were listening to my broadcast this morning." LaCroix led Nick over
to a table near his booth. They sat down and LaCroix offered, "it
was sheer coincidence that I happened upon the area and heard the
baby's cries."

Nick was somewhat startled, "*You* took him to Nat's?"

"Does that surprise you Nicholas?" LaCroix crooned. "I should think
it is a most logical place. She is a doctor after all, and
connected to the police department."

"I'm not surprised that you took him *there*. I am surprised that
you took him at all." Nick waited for a response from LaCroix, but
none was forthcoming. Understanding the conversation was over, he
rose to leave, "One other thing - about your broadcast - how did
you know the mother planned to abandon the baby? Was she alive when
you found her?"

"No, Nicholas," LaCroix sighed, "she was not alive when I found
her. I was not talking about the child. I was referring to the
* * * * * *

It wasn't quite ten o'clock by the time Nick finished with LaCroix.
Under the circumstances, his work on this case was finished. Nick
headed back to the station, knowing that Baby Doe's expedition to
Nat's apartment would end up as an unsolved mystery. He spent the
next few hours going over paperwork, packing it in around two-
* * * * * *

Nick arrived back at Nat's place shortly before three and let
himself in. Nat had left a table lamp on, but was in her bed
asleep. Nick listened to her muttering in her sleep as he crept
into the room. He couldn't resist yet another stolen moment, laying
down next to her and feeling the warmth of her body against his. As
always, the experience ended as soon as it started, when the
vampire began to appear. Nick bolted upright, and his commotion
woke Nat. When she saw him there on her bed, she pulled him back
down. He closed his golden eyes so as not to frighten her. Nat
nuzzled his ear and whispered a sleepy, "I love you".

Nick kissed her lips gently and whispered back, "I love you". They
clung to each other for a precious moment, but both knew
instinctively that another minute of this and there would be no
turning back. They had too much experience in separation. Nick
pulled himself away from her and left the room.

Nat emerged from her room a few minutes later, dressed in jeans and
a loose sweater. "So, did you find out how Baby Doe came to be at
my doorstep?"

"Nothing I can write up in a report," Nick grinned.


"It was LaCroix, Nat. It was sheer coincidence that he was in that
area and heard the crying. To him you were the most logical person
to take the baby to."

"Are you serious?" Nat asked in disbelief. She was stunned that
LaCroix would have bothered himself over the child. He had shown
his disdain of humanity countless times. "Somehow I just can't
picture LaCroix doing anything so ...benevolent."

"Well, Nat, lately I've come to believe that the thing LaCroix
despises most about humans is what he perceives as their utter
disregard for each other."

"So what are you saying Nick? He *had* to do something or he would
consider himself as apathetic as a human?"

"Something like that I suppose," Nick smiled, "ironic, isn't it?"

Nat just shook her head in confusion.

"Why don't you grab your coat and we'll go visit Baby Doe before
the sun comes up."

Nat hesitated, "I'm not really sure I want to."

Nick picked up Nat's coat and helped her into it. Standing behind her
he quipped, "It's just a baby Nat. It doesn't have golden eyes and
fangs." He bent down and added in a whisper, "and I'm not going

Nat spun around in amazement, "What made you say that! How did you
know! That was *my* dream!"

"I'm a detective, Nat, remember?" Nick took Nat in his arms, "and
I have dreams too."

Nat hugged him tightly, infinitely relieved that he seemed more
amused by her dream than repulsed by it. She kissed him
passionately before whispering in his ear, "I still don't know how
you figured that out, Detective Knight."

Nick opened the door for her and whispered back, "You talk in your
sleep, Dr. Lambert."

-- The End --

Susan B.

by Susan B.
November 1996
(Day 2 - 3:30 a.m.)

Nat smacked Nick's shoulder playfully before looping her arm
through his, and they took the stairway down to the lobby. A blast
of cold air rushed at them as Nick opened the door. The sky was
finally clear after three nights of rain and fog. As they neared
the caddy, Nat noticed the broken headlamp. She didn't say anything
until she noticed the window had also been smashed. "What happened
to the car, Nick?"

Nick opened the passenger side door for her. "Repayment for a
broken nose, I believe." He wondered what she would have thought of
his post?hypnotic suggestion to Craig, and decided it best not to
try to find out.

Nick went around the car and climbed into the driver's seat. They
set off to visit Baby Doe at the hospital.

After parking in the half?empty lot, Nick and Nat entered the
hospital and walked over to the front desk. A young blonde
receptionist in a green dress greeted them with a smile. "Who are
you here for?," she chirped.

"A Baby Doe brought in very early yesterday morning," Nick replied

The receptionist shook her head and frowned. "I'm sorry. At this
hour only family are allowed visiting privileges, and Baby Doe has
no family."

Nick pulled out his badge and held it up. The young woman checked
it and waved them towards the elevators. "I'll call upstairs, you
can go on up."

In the elevator Nat checked her watch and calculated the time until
sunrise. "We can only stay for thirty minutes, Nick." She tried to
remember just exactly when she started measuring her own life
according to the sun, but she couldn't recall.

A few seconds later the elevator doors opened at the third floor
and Nick and Nat stepped out. Directly in front of them was a
nursing station. Hallway corridors ran down either side of it. An
elderly nurse manning the station had just hung up the telephone
receiver and poked up her head. "Take the corridor to the right,
third door down on the left."

Nick and Nat made their way down the hallway and stopped outside
the nursery window. Most of the lights inside had been shut off,
but Baby Doe was quite visible in the first row. He had probably
been there all day for the benefit of media photographers. Nick
tapped lightly on the window and caught the attention of a young
nurse on the other side of the glass. He pointed out Baby Doe and
the nurse signalled them to go into the sitting room next to the
nursery. In the sitting room were a few rocking chairs, a coffee
table, and a large grey couch. Nick and Nat sat together on the
couch and waited for the baby to be brought out.

Moments later the nurse arrived with a tiny blue bundle and a
bottle of warm milk. She looked quizzically at Nat, then Nick.
"He's due for a feeding, anyone interested?"

Nat glanced at Nick and chuckled, then held her arms out. "I think
*I* better do that."

The nurse carefully handed the baby and bottle to Nat. Then she
disappeared back into the dimly lit nursery, leaving Nick and Nat
alone in the sitting room with Baby Doe.

Nick watched with interest as Nat fed the baby. After a few minutes
of silence he reached down and played with the tiny hand. "He is
kind of cute, isn't he."

"He's adorable," Nat beamed, not taking her eyes off Baby Doe. "I
can't believe how attached to him I am already. I guess partly
because I found him on my doorstep."

Nat freed her pinky finger from under the bottle and tickled Baby
Doe's cheek. "Do you believe in love at first sight little fellow?
Do you? Do you?"

Nick let go of the baby's hand and touched Nat's cheek. He gently
turned her face towards him and grinned, "I do." Nick couldn't
remember ever seeing Nat look as content as she did at that very

Nat gently removed the bottle from Baby Doe's mouth. She looked
slyly at Nick. "Time for a burp I think. Do you want to do it?"

Nick tried to refuse, but before he got the words out, Nat had
placed Baby Doe on his shoulder. "Just pat his back softly until he
burps," she grinned.

"I *have* seen it done before, Nat," Nick groaned. His uneasiness
quickly diminished as he started patting and rubbing the tiny back.
Nick seemed to be growing quite fond of the little thing.

"Are you okay, Nick?"

"I'm fine Nat. But I think we should give him a name ? just between
us, of course. I don't like calling him Baby Doe."

"Well then, hmmm ...Snookums, Puddles, Pumpkin..."

"None of the above," Nick sighed.

Nat smiled. "So, how do you feel?"

"I'm here, with you, burping a baby." Nick lowered Baby Doe from
his shoulder and put him back into Nat's arms. "How do I feel? ...I
feel something I haven't felt for a very long time, Nat." Nick
kissed her tenderly on the lips. "I feel human," he whispered.

Nat kissed his cheek and whispered back, "someday".

Nat carefully stood up and crossed the room to take the baby back
into the nursery. She suddenly stopped by the exterior window and
peered out.

"What is it, Nat?" Nick asked.

Nat just smiled and resumed her jaunt to the nursery. "Nothing. I
thought I saw something outside the window, but there's nothing
* * * * *

After leaving the nursery, Nick and Nat headed downstairs. The
newspaper box outside the front doors was crammed with the morning
papers, and Baby Doe's face was splashed across the front page.
Nick waited as Nat quickly dug through her wallet for some change.
She scooped a paper from the box. They continued their walk to the
parking lot and got into Nick's caddy.

"What are you going to do about the car?" Nat asked. "You can't
drive it around like this when you're working."

"I guess you're right." Nick thought about it for a moment, "can
you take it in for me later on this morning?"

"Of course," Nat answered brightly. Nat was feeling so blissful
after their visit with Baby Doe, that Nick could have asked her to
scrub his floors and she would have cheerfully agreed.

Nick and Nat were silent during the ten minute drive back to Nat's
place. Both of them were basking in the special contentment they
had experienced in the hospital, both with themselves, and with
each other.

Nick pulled up to the curb and parked the car. He opened the door
for Nat and took her hand, holding it tightly as he escorted her to
her apartment. Nick opened the door and kissed Nat's forehead.
"This is one night I wish would never end."

Nat stared lovingly into his blue eyes. "The night doesn't have to
end now. You can stay over again if you want."

"Of course I *want* to stay, Nat," Nick smiled, "but I don't think
it's a good idea." He leaned over to kiss her cheek, but Nat moved
her face quickly enough to catch his kiss on her lips. Nick hugged
her firmly. As he turned to leave he chuckled, "my, how you love to
tempt fate."
* * * * *

After sunset that evening, Nat stood waiting outside by Nick's car.
He finally arrived with her car shortly after 7:00. Nick walked
around the caddy and checked the newly replaced window and
headlight. He stopped next to Nat. "You look like you're going out.
What's the occasion?"

"I have a date," Nat teased. She paused for effect. "With Baby...
you never did pick out a name."

"I'll think of something," Nick laughed.

Nat's voice took on a touch of sadness. "Do you want to meet me at
the hospital for a few minutes on your way to work? I called Karen
Mantt at Social Services today and she told me he would be
discharged to foster care tomorrow morning."

"Sorry Nat. Tracy's already at the station waiting for me. We have
an interview tonight with a witness. I'll stop by here after work
and we can go say goodbye to him together."

"Done deal," Nat blurted out. She kissed Nick's cheek and smiled.
"Oh, by the way Nick, can you pick up my laptop and bring it with
you? It's in the cold room, under the sink."

"You're *supposed* to be on vacation, Nat."

"I know. I know. I just want to check out some things," Nat

Nick withdrew into his car and headed off to work, while Nat went
upstairs to grab a bite to eat before her trip to visit Baby Doe.

* * * * *

Arriving in the squad room at 7:45, Nick noticed Tracy waiting
impatiently for him at her desk. When she saw Nick, she ran towards
him excitedly. "Fill me on this Baby Doe case! I just found out
about it! The baby was left on Nat's doorstep? Why on earth didn't
you call me!"

Nick grinned. "It sounds like you already have all the facts."

"Still," Tracy paused to catch her breath, "you should have called
me, Nick. How often does something like that happen? And the mother
? they don't even know who she is. No ID, no prints on record, no
missing person match. No one has recognized the photograph of her
the department put out. All we know is she was about eighteen years

"I don't think you need any 'filling in', Tracy," Nick quipped.
"That about sums up the case."

"I just can't believe no one has seen the girl," Tracy complained,
"especially when her pregnancy must have made her *extremely*

"I'm sure plenty of people have seen her, but whether anyone steps
forward with information is something else altogether." Nick
studied his watch and glanced back at Tracy. "Anyway, it's not our
case, and we have that Caleb interview in about forty minutes."

"I'll just get my coat," Tracy said as she skipped over to her desk
and picked up her jean jacket.

Nick decided he was going to stop off at the morgue on their way to
the interview. He reached into his pocket for his cell phone to
call Caleb and let him know they would be a few minutes late. It
was then that he noticed his phone was missing. He had left it in
Nat's car.
* * * * *

Nat arrived at the Hospital at 8:00. She made her way to the third
floor and was surprised to meet Karen Mantt in the hallway leading
to the nursery. Karen had told her earlier that the baby wouldn't
be discharged until the following day. A twinge of panic swept
through Nat. She and Nick had a very special connection to Baby
Doe, and she was distressed at the possibility that they would not
be able to say goodbye to him together.

"Karen!" Nat shouted. "What are you doing here! You told me Baby
Doe wasn't being discharged until tomorrow!"

Karen smiled at Nat. "Relax, Natalie. He's not going anywhere until
tomorrow. I just stopped by on my way home from the office to take
a peek at him."

Nat was relieved and grinned. "He is a little bit contagious, isn't

Karen flashed another warm smile. "Yes, and the mysterious facts
surrounding his birth, and his arrival at your doorstep, only
contribute further to his charm."

It was a bit of a jolt for Nat to think of LaCroix and the word
"charm" at the same time.

Karen and Nat continued down the hall to the nursery window. Nat
noticed a very different atmosphere at this time of the day. The
lights were up full and three nurses were busy tending to the
babies. Happy grandparents and nervous fathers maneuvered for
position in front of the window. The power these little things had
over adults, reducing them to babbling simpletons, was incredible
to Nat. The power Baby Doe had over a certain vampire was
irresistible to her. Lost happily in her thoughts of Nick, Nat
stepped over to the nursery door with Karen.

Karen called into the room for attention, and a gaunt, grey?haired
nurse sauntered over. Karen scanned the nurses's nameplate and said
authoritatively, "Nurse Ellen. I would like to see Baby Doe."

The nurse shook her head. "You're too late. He's not here. Someone
from Social Services picked him up twenty minutes ago."

Karen shoved the nurse aside and barged into the nursery. "*I* am
Social Services, and he is not supposed to be discharged until

Nurse Ellen huffed and crossed her arms. "Well he's already been
picked up." Pointing down the corridor she added curtly, "there's
a pay phone down in the lounge, why don't you just go and call your
office!" Karen hurriedly left the nursery and marched down the

Having heard the exchange between Karen and the nurse, Nat strolled
into the nursery and started checking the bassinets. Baby Doe was
nowhere to be found. She returned to the hallway and grew worried
when she saw Karen returning with a stunned expression on her face.
As Karen approached her, Nat asked, "what is it?"

Karen wrapped her arms around her own chest and shook her head. "It
wasn't anyone from our office. The police are being advised as we

Nat flew down the hall towards the lounge, her stomach twisting
into knots, and dialed Nick's cell phone number. Each ring seemed
to last an eternity. There was, alas, no answer.

* * * * *

At about the same time that Nat had arrived at the Hospital, Nick
and Tracy had arrived at the morgue. Nick felt strange being there
at night and finding a darkened room, but Nat's temporary
replacement was on a call?in basis. Obviously there was no work for
him tonight.

Tracy stood outside the door while Nick entered the room and
flicked on the light switch. He headed for the cupboards across
from where he stood.

Tracy then gingerly stepped inside. "Where is Baby Doe's mother?"

"I don't know," Nick replied. He waved towards the cold lockers at
the far end of the room. "Go take a look if you want." Nick started
searching through the cupboards for Nat's computer.

Tracy cringed at the thought of opening those drawers, but her
curiosity got the better of her. She walked down to the bank of
compartments and creaked one open ? it was empty. She tried the
next one ? it wasn't empty. Tracy slid the shelf out, and noticed
a patch of auburn hair sticking out from under the white sheet. She
slowly folded over the corner of the sheet to reveal Mother Doe's
face. Tracy turned deathly pale and let out a blood curdling
scream. "My God, Nick!! It's my cousin!!" Tracy fell to the floor
in a heap.

Nick stopped his foraging through the cupboards and dashed over to
Tracy. He knelt beside her and slightly lifted her head, "Tracy!

Tracy immediately regained consciousness and opened her eyes. It's
my cousin Nick," she sobbed. "I haven't seen her for four years,
but I know it's her, Melissa Louise Vetter, my cousin."

Nick was dumbfounded. "How could it be your cousin? Surely someone
would have noticed her missing. And with your family's connections
to the police department, she would have certainly been found."

Tracy dragged herself to her feet, avoiding making eye contact with
the corpse on the slab. She kept her eyes on the floor. "Melissa
ran away from home two years ago, on her sixteenth birthday. She
had been having problems with her parents for a couple of years
before that. From what my uncle told me, she just stormed out the
front door one day and said she was never coming back. She never

Nick pushed the shelf back into the cooler. "How on earth could
they have overlooked *that* in the missing persons records?"

Tracy wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her jacket and let out a
mournful sob. "She was never reported missing, Nick. Her parents
didn't want to find her."

Nick took Tracy by the arm and led her out of the morgue, and into
his car.

On his way to the station, Nick pulled out the police radio and
called for Reese. After getting Reese on the other end, he said,
"Tracy's going to need some help, she's just identified Mother Doe her cousin. You better cancel the Caleb interview too."

"What?" Reese asked a little astonished.

"I'll be there in a couple of minutes, Captain. I'll fill you in on
the details." Nick tucked the radio away and concentrated on
getting Tracy, upset and shaken, to the station.

They arrived at the police station a few minutes later. Reese was
waiting at the front doors and met Nick and Tracy there. He took
Tracy's arm and guided her in. "I'll look after Tracy, Nick.
Natalie's looking for you. She wants you to get to the hospital
right away."

Nick was puzzled. "What's going on?"

"Baby Doe's been kidnapped," Reese grunted in disgust.

* * * * *

Nick drove quickly to the hospital. He got out of the elevator on
the third floor and rushed down the hallway. There were six
uniformed officers scattered about, interviewing various hospital
staff. Natalie was standing with her back to the nursery wall. Next
to her stood an officer who was interviewing Nurse Ellen, the nurse
who had handed Baby Doe over to the imposter.

Nick finally reached Natalie, her face awash in tears. She
collapsed into his arms and wailed, "my God, Nick, our baby's been
taken!" Nick held her in his arms. He understood perfectly what Nat
meant by "our baby". It symbolized the intimacy shared between them
that morning in the nursery.

Nurse Ellen wrung her hands nervously as she gave her description
of the culprit. "He was a tall man, white, blonde, close cropped
hair. He did seem a little odd, all dressed in black as he was, but
he had the proper papers."

Nick reeled with utter, heart?wrenching dread. He should have
known. Nat *did* see something in the window of the nursery that
morning. It was a shadow. It was a dark shadow. It was LaCroix.

The description was not lost on Natalie either, as she gasped and
started screaming at the nurse. "How could you! How could you! How
could you give the baby to *him*!" Vivid images of her dream of the
vampire baby came thundering into Nat's mind.

Nurse Ellen glared at Natalie and then at the officer who was
questioning her. "It's not *my* fault," she said brazenly. "He had
all the proper papers."

Nick continued holding Nat in an effort to comfort her, but nothing
could ebb the flow of tears. He staggered with her down the hallway
to the stairwell, and down the back stairs. Once outside, Nick
swept Natalie up into his arms, and flew to the Raven.

* * * * *

The Raven was dark and quiet when Nick arrived there with Nat still
in his arms. Her tears had stopped, but her expression was numb
with hurt and fear. Nick gently set her on her feet and tried the
door. It was locked, and Nick kicked it open. It was cold, dark,
and quiet inside. Nick tucked Nat safely behind him as they stepped
into the club.

LaCroix slithered out from the shadows with an amused look on his
face. "Nicholas ...Dr. Lambert," he crooned, "I've been expecting

"Where is the child?" Nick demanded.

"Quite safe, Nicholas, I assure you."

"And what do you want with it?"

LaCroix chuckled. "You and Ms. Lambert have taken an unusual
interest in the child, have you not?"

"What of it," Nick snarled.

LaCroix took another step towards Nick. "Surely you must know by
now, Nicholas, that your interests inevitably become my interests."

Nick's eyes began to glow.

LaCroix took another step forward. "Don't be a fool, Nicholas. It
would be a fight you could not win." He eyed Nat peering out from
behind Nick's shoulder, and added menacingly, "and you would not go
down alone."

A sense of impending doom inspired Natalie to summon up her
courage. She took a deep breath and stepped out from behind Nick.
She clutched his hand tightly. Nat tried to sound strong and
unafraid, but her voice trembled as she spoke. "You've had your
fun, LaCroix. Give us the baby."

"Indeed," LaCroix grinned wickedly. "It has been rather
...amusing." LaCroix retreated back into the shadows for a moment
and returned with a basket. He walked towards Nick and Nat and
stopped about ten feet in front of them. He glared at Natalie, "Dr.

LaCroix held the basket as Natalie cautiously approached him. Nick
started to follow, but LaCroix held out his arm as a signal for
Nick to stop. LaCroix vaguely licked his lips as Nat peered into
the basket at Baby Doe.

The baby was sound, moving his lips as though suckling in his
sleep. Nat exhaled a loud sigh of relief. "He's okay, Nick!" She
reached into the basket, but LaCroix seized her arm and growled

Natalie looked to Nick for help and Nick charged to her side. "Let
her take the child, LaCroix."

"I will return him myself, later tonight." LaCroix suddenly rose
into the air with the basket.

"No!!!!", Nat screamed, as LaCroix disappeared from the room with
Baby Doe. She was wildly thrashing her arms when Nick grabbed hold
of her from behind. He held her snugly in his arms. "Don't worry,
Nat. LaCroix won't harm the baby. If he was going to do anything,
he would have already done it."

Nick's steady embrace and positive words consoled Nat. She gazed
sadly into his eyes and implored, "why did he do it, Nick? Why?"

"For the same reason he always does it," Nick groaned, "to teach me
a lesson. To remind me that I am not human, and that I will never
be human."

And Natalie understood, finally and completely, the hell that
LaCroix had subjected Nick to for centuries. She was more
determined than ever to release him from his bondage.

* * * * *

Nick and Nat walked in silence back to the hospital to pick up
Nick's car. They remained quiet during the drive to Nick's loft,
both calming themselves after LaCroix's cruel joke.

"I feel so numb inside," Natalie moaned as she entered the loft and
kicked off her shoes.

Nick followed behind her and helped her out of her coat. He lightly
kissed her cheek. "Why don't you go upstairs and lie down. I'll
bring you some tea."

Nat trudged exhausted up the stairs and into Nick's room. Nick's
pyjamas were laying on the bed. Natalie stripped off her clothes
and slipped into his silk pyjama top. Then she climbed into his

Nick had just turned off the stove when he heard the muffled sounds
of Nat's sobs. He could not bear it, and he feared the moment he
dreaded was at hand; the moment they would indeed cry together,
become lost in each other, and lost in eternal darkness. He tried
to shut the sound out, but it would not be silenced. Nick went
upstairs to comfort Nat.

Stepping into his bedroom, Nick saw Nat cuddling and crying into
his pillow, just as he had done with hers. He crept over to the
bed, sat down, and stroked her hair.

Nat rolled over and slowly sat up. She pulled Nick to her and
moaned, "hold me."

Nick took Nat in his arms and she buried her face in his chest. He
felt her warm tears seeping through his shirt, and he rested his
head down on hers. How many times had she cried alone in the night
longing for him? How many times had he done the same for her? It
was more than his heart could stand. Nick started to cry.

Nat had never seen Nick's tears before, but the last two days had
been an emotional roller coaster for both of them. She lifted her
face and found his mouth. Nat delicately kissed his cool lips. She
soothingly wiped the tears from his face with her hand, and softly
kissed his eyelids. Nick's tears stopped flowing as he regained his
composure, "I'm sorry, Nat. I came up here to comfort you, and
things have gotten turned around."

Again Nat kissed his mouth softly. She started unbuttoning his
shirt. "Words won't be enough tonight, Nick. I need your love. I
need you. I need you to make love to me."

"Nat," Nick moaned, "please ...don't. You had a taste of my hell
tonight. I love you too much to envelop you in it for eternity."

Natalie opened Nick's shirt and slid her hands across his bare
chest and shoulders. She kissed his neck gently and whispered
sweetly, "love is a gift from God, Nick, not the devil. I have
faith in God, faith in love, and faith that good *will* overcome
evil. Give me your love, Nick; and I ...will give you faith."

Nick had ached for this moment for so long, just as Nat did. He
drew strength from her words and felt no fear. He was inspired by
Nat's faith, and he had faith in her. Nick kissed Nat passionately
on the lips and whispered, "I love you."

Nat slid the pyjama top over her head. She ached to feel Nick's
skin against her breast. One glimpse of her and Nick's eyes began
to change. He lowered her down into the bed, planting soft touches
and gentle kisses all over her bare skin. He soon found her neck.

Nat moaned in the ecstasy of love fulfilled as Nick's fangs sank
deep into her flesh. He felt her pouring into him and was
overwhelmed with love, his love for her, and her love for him. And
with her love came a bright light, the bright light of her faith,
the bright light of her soul. A blazing light that penetrated deep
into his darkness. A light that found his lost faith and pulled it
to the surface. A light the vampire had no refuge from. The vampire
was enveloped and consumed by it, burned from existence for all

The change was shocking and sudden, just as it had been when he was
first brought across. Nick still clenched Nat's throat in his
teeth, but his fangs were no more. He let go of her throat and
looked at her face, the face he loved. Nick felt his blood stir,
his heart throbbing in his chest. Nick felt ...alive.

Nat felt Nick's heart beating rapidly next to hers. She felt his
skin grow warm. Nat opened her eyes, "Nick?"

Nick stroked Nat's face and whispered the three words that meant
the world to them, "I am human."

* * * * *

LaCroix landed soundlessly on the roof of the hospital. He stared
almost lovingly into the basket at Baby Doe and cooed, "for
everything that is lost, something is found." LaCroix then flew
down to the third floor and hovered outside the nursery window,
waiting for the opportunity to slip inside unnoticed. When the
chance arose, LaCroix returned Baby Doe to his bassinet. He gently
glided his fingers down Baby Doe's neck and whispered softly, "it
matters not that I have lost him, for I shall, one day, have you."

-- The End --

Susan B.

by Susan B.
December, 1996
(Day 2/Nighttime, Nick's Loft)

Lying in bed entwined in each other, Nick shed his first human
tears in centuries. Not tears of sadness, and not merely tears of
joy. They were tears of release, love, and bewilderment; and of the
spiritual renewal that had been denied him for so very long. They
were the tears of life.

Nat held Nick close to her, captivated by the feel of his warm
skin. She stroked his hair softly as she held him there, and
whispered to him tenderly as his warm tears spilled onto her
breast. They lay and clung to each other for hours. They cried,
laughed, caressed, and made love. Human love. For hours they lay on
Nick's bed, afraid to leave it, terrified that what they had might
end. Nick and Nat soon fell into a shallow sleep.

Natalie woke first and slipped on Nick's pyjama top. She stumbled
out of bed and staggered into the bathroom, appearing a few minutes
later with a glass of water. Kneeling down at the side of the bed
she gently shook Nick's shoulder. "Time to wake up, Nick."

Nick rolled over on his side and propped himself up on one elbow.
He opened his eyes slowly and glanced up at Nat. "You're not going
to throw that water in my face, are you?"

Nat handed the glass to him. "Of course not. I thought you might be
thirsty." She giggled and added, "after all that ...exercise."

Nick took a small sip, and then a longer one. He gurgled it around
in his mouth like a child. It was only water, but it tasted good.
He drained the glass and set it on the table, then reached out for
Nat. "Come back to bed."

"Not yet!" Nat teased. "First I want you to do something."

"What's that?" Nick asked.

Nat lifted the remote control from the nightstand and offered it to
Nick. "Open the blinds."

Nick grinned and took the control from her. They looked at each
other excitedly as he pushed the button. The blinds made a delicate
grinding sound as they opened, and daylight quickly flooded the
room. Nick and Nat were not looking at the sun though, it had been
too long since they saw each other in the light of day, and that
chance had been wasted.

Entranced by the way the sunlight picked up the highlights in Nat's
hair, Nick tugged her forward and ran his fingers through it.
"You're even more beautiful in the sun." Nick leaned over to kiss
her lips, and she returned his kiss fiercely. They had both waited
years to be together, and now they could not part. Nick slowly
undid Nat's buttons as he left tender wet kisses down her neck.
"Come back to bed," he whimpered.

Nat climbed enthusiastically back into his bed. She reached for the
remote control to close the blinds, but Nick reached out to stop
her. He kissed her ear and murmured, "I want to make love to you in
the sunlight."
* * * * * *

LaCroix sat in the basement of the Raven, pondering the previous
night's events. In his own way he had become attached to Baby Doe.
He had made a decision to let Nick go, and to take the child when
it was old enough. But right now LaCroix was feeling completely
alone. He lost his sense of Janette many months ago, and now his
sense of Nick had disappeared. LaCroix wasn't sure he wanted to
remain alone, waiting for the child to come of age.

LaCroix found himself wondering what it would be like to take
Nicholas' blood before bringing him across. He had not had that
luxury before, that being Janette's doing. While LaCroix usually
thought of Nicholas as *his* child, in a way he was really *their*
child, his and Janette's. Perhaps that was why Nicholas was his

He sat and thought of these things, and considered his two options.
Certainly the idea of taking part in Baby Doe's upbringing appealed
to him ? a child to mold into his own image, even before he was
brought across. But Nicholas ? there was a history there, a long
history. Nicholas had proven quite a challenge for him. LaCroix was
attracted to the weakness he perceived in Nicholas. He believed
Nicholas would be easily controlled, and readily give himself to
his father. Things had turned out vastly different than what
LaCroix had imagined, but Nicholas had given him centuries of
amusement. With a life as long as this, amusement was a necessity.

LaCroix was excited by these two interesting possibilities. He took
a long sip from his glass and declared, "there is no reason why I
cannot have both."
* * * * * *

Back in the loft, the alarm clock blared out at four in the
afternoon. Nat shut the bell off quickly, before it woke Nick. This
would be Nat's first night back at work after her week long
vacation. She wanted to get cleaned up and ready for work before
Nick had a chance to lure her back into bed, a scenario which
wouldn't have taken much effort on his part. Nat looked at him
sleeping soundly. "Not much effort at all," she muttered.

After showering and dressing, Nat went downstairs to the kitchen.
She had no idea what to feed Nick, but thought something light
would be the best approach. She had kept some groceries in his
kitchen, as she had spent many an evening here. Nat popped some
frozen dinner rolls into the oven to warm, and set out a platter of
cold sliced chicken and raw vegetables. By the time she finished
setting the table, Nat heard the groan of the water pipes as the
shower upstairs was turned on. Nick was awake.

While Nat was waiting for Nick, she turned on the television to
check the news. Nat immediately found out what she wanted to know,
that Baby Doe had been returned "mysteriously" to his bed in the
hospital the previous night. The unexplained movements of the child
encouraged the media to change his name from Baby Doe to Baby Go.
Other information Nat gleaned from the newscast included the fact
he was delivered that morning into temporary foster care at an
undisclosed location.

Nat clicked off the television set as she heard Nick's feet
thumping down the stairs. She didn't really want to even mention
that Baby Doe was returned to the hospital, as that would make her
think of LaCroix. Well, really she didn't want Nick to think of
LaCroix. Deciding to skip the word "hospital," Nat simply said,
"Baby Doe's safely in foster care now."

Nick was glad to hear the news, but a dark shadow did seem to pass
across his face for an instant. He didn't want to dwell on it
either. "That's good."

Nat met him at the bottom of the stairs. "I made dinner. I didn't
really know what to make, so just eat what you feel comfortable

"I just have to do one thing first." Nick walked over to the fridge
and took out the two remaining bottles of blood. He then set them
on the countertop and stood in front of the sink. Nat followed him
and wrapped her arms around him from behind, she rested her head on
Nick's back. Like a reformed alcoholic determined not to touch
another drop, Nick made a ritual of opening the bottles and sending
their contents spiralling down the drain. He turned the hot water
on full and rinsed the sink clean of the blood.

Nat kissed Nick's back through his shirt and gave him a parting hug
as she released him. She stepped backwards as Nick rinsed the
bottles. Before turning around, Nick stuffed the clean bottles in
the cupboard under the sink.

"So. How do you feel?" Nat asked.

Nick grinned and kissed her fleetingly on the lips before replying,
"I feel hungry."

Nick and Nat sat down at the table to eat, Nat spending more time
studying Nick than actually eating. She had a big silly grin on her
face as she watched Nick fully experience each new taste. Nick
encouraged her reaction with his exaggerated antics, rolling his
eyes every time he took a bite.

Just as they finished dinner the sun began to set. Nat laughed,
"it's going to be strange closing the blinds at dusk rather than

Although Nick smiled and nodded back in agreement, the thought of
night coming sent a sudden cold shiver through him.

Nick dropped Nat off at the morgue and arrived at the station
shortly after seven. He was extremely apprehensive about his first
night out as a mortal. Not because of any dangers he faced on the
job, although he would *definitely* have to adjust his working
habits. But he did fear LaCroix. He had no defence against him now,
and no way to protect Nat from him either. Nick just wasn't sure
what LaCroix would do, or whether he would do anything at all. He
did not know what to expect, or when it would come.

When Nick walked into the squad room he noticed Tracy sitting at
her desk deep in thought. Her face was a little pale and her eyes
puffy. Tracy had obviously been crying. She was also nibbling on
her nails, and looking quite nervous and agitated.

Tracy glanced up as Nick approached.

"What's wrong?" Nick asked quietly.

Tracy sighed, "It's Melissa's son, Nick. Can we go over and see
Nat? I *really* need to talk to somebody about this."

Nick was a little confused and somewhat concerned that something
was wrong with the baby. "Sure. We can go right now if you like."

Tracy stood up and put her coat on. "Thanks, Nick."

Ten minutes later Nick and Tracy arrived at the morgue. Nat was
sitting at her desk writing in her notebook when they entered the
room. Nat immediately noticed that Tracy was upset, and turned her
attention to her. "What is it, Tracy?"

Nick felt a little awkward. "Do you want me to leave you two

"No. That's okay. You may as well hear this too." Tracy smiled
half?heartedly. She found a chair by the door and slid it over to
Nat's desk. Tracy sat down facing Nat, as Nick walked around and
stood behind Nat.

Nat's curiosity peaked. "Well?"

Tracy fidgeted uncomfortably in her chair. "You're both going to
think I'm an awful person. It's Melissa's baby. I've been thinking
about it all day. I can't take him."

"What *are* you talking about?" Nat asked.

Tracy sighed, "I'm the only relative capable of caring for him, but
I can't care for him. I'm not prepared for it. I'm just not ready
for a family, and I really don't want the responsibility."

" that's what this is about," remarked Nat. She knew Tracy
felt guilty about not wanting the baby. Nat had years of experience
in dealing with the pain that guilt wrought on Nick. Support was
what Tracy needed, and Nat would not contribute further to her

"I know he's my nephew," Tracy continued, "but I hardly even knew

"What do you plan to do?" asked Nat inquisitively.

"I've decided to put him up for adoption. But I want to do it
privately. You know...check out the couple for myself."

Nat felt a wild thrill of anticipation run through her as she
considered the possibility of adopting Baby Doe. At first the idea
seemed ludicrous, but the more she thought about it, the more it
seemed to make sense. But there was Nick to consider. As though on
cue, Nick put his hands on Nat's shoulders, and she eagerly lifted
one of her own hands to cover one of his.

Nick bent over and mumbled into Nat's ear, "you want him, don't

Nat squeezed his hand tightly and whispered back, "do you?"

Tracy overhead their words and gawked at them. "Are you serious?"
she asked, a little shocked.

"We just might be, Tracy," Nick answered. "Why don't you give us a
few minutes."

Tracy got up clumsily from the chair and left the room, hoping and
praying inside that this would work out after all. And what better
people could she hope for to raise Melissa's son? She hadn't known
either of them for very long, but she knew Nick and Nat were both
caring, compassionate, and responsible.

Natalie stood up and faced Nick. She took his hand and meekly
bounced it in her own. "*Are* we serious?"

Nick smiled. "At this moment there's nothing I want more than to
settle down and raise a family with you."

"And what about the next moment, Nick? We are talking about years
of committment here. I want to do this, but I can't do it by

Nick hugged her. "I've loved you since the first moment I saw you,
and I won't stop loving you. I told you before I wasn't going
anywhere, and I intend to keep my word."

Nat was euphoric. After all these years of waiting, all her dreams
were coming true one right after another. She couldn't wipe the
smile off her face. All she could sputter out was, "you still have
to think up a name for him, Nick! We can't keep calling him Baby

Nick thought about it for a minute. "We'll give him a new name." He
placed a playful kiss on the tip of Nat's nose. "After I give you
a new name ? Mrs. Knight."

* * * * * *

When their shifts were over, Nick and Nat headed home in the caddy.
As they passed her street, Nat asked, "where you going? You missed
my turn?off."

"I just assumed you would be coming back to my place," answered

"Well, Nick. I can't keep wearing the same clothes every day. I do
have to go home and change occasionally." Nat giggled, "and I would
like to get my own pyjamas."

Nick slowed down the car and checked his mirror. He made a quick u?
turn and headed back to Nat's street. He pulled over in front of
her building and stopped the car. He turned to her and smiled.
"Bring your things to my place, Nat. I don't want to wait until
we're married." Nick leaned over and added in a low seductive
voice, "and I don't want to wake up again without you in my bed."

"Neither do I," Nat purred, before they got out of the car.

Sydney heard their arrival at Nat's apartment door, and meowed
loudly as they entered the room. Nat picked him up and took him to
the kitchen to feed him. After feeding the cat, she went into her
bedroom to gather up some clothes and make?up.

A few minutes later, Nat reappeared from her room with a blue
overnight bag. "We can come back later today or tomorrow for the
cat, and to pack up anything else I need."

Nick was standing by the window tapping nervously on the window
ledge. "It will be light soon, and safe."

Nat strolled over to him and touched his shoulder. "Nick. We can't
let him make us afraid of the dark. Put it behind you. Put all of
it behind you. He's made you miserable for long enough. *That* life
is over. The bond between you no longer exists. He must accept
that, and so must you." She made a fine speech, but her stomach
felt queasy just the same.

Nick whirled around to face Nat. "It is behind me, but it was my
hell for a very long time, and I still remember it as such. In time
the images will fade."

Nat reached up and kissed him gently. "Let's go." She turned out
the lights as they left the apartment.

Halfway down the hallway, Nat blurted out, "damn. I forgot my
bathroom stuff." She handed her bag to Nick, "why don't you take
this down to the car. I'll just be a few minutes." Nat spun around
and headed back to the apartment, while Nick headed for the stairs.

Natalie unlocked her apartment door, stepped in, and flicked on the
lightswitch. She stood mouth agape, and stiff with fear, at the
sight of LaCroix standing ten feet in front of her. He was holding
Sydney, and roughly stroking the animal's head. "Good evening, Dr.
Lambert." LaCroix dropped the cat to the floor. Sydney landed on
his feet and quickly scurried away.

"What do you want?" Nat gasped as she backed up against the door.

LaCroix spoke softly, "I want Nicholas back."

"He doesn't want that life," stammered Nat.

"Nicholas is my son, and I want him back," demanded LaCroix.

Natalie wrapped her arms around herself. "It's time to let go of
him LaCroix. If you truly think of him as your son, you must let
him go."

LaCroix grinned. "I think not, Dr. Lambert." He pulled out a
newspaper from behind his back and blatantly exposed Baby Doe's
picture to Nat. "This child means a lot to you, does he not?"

"You already know he does," Nat replied.

"Of course," Lacroix paused. "Would you be so kind as to give
Nicholas a message for me?"

Natalie's heart really started to race now, and she felt herself
growing nauseous. She knew exactly what was coming. "What's the

LaCroix tossed the paper down to the floor in front of Nat's feet.
"I will have a son. The child, or Nicholas. His choice." With those
words LaCroix vanished from the room.

Nat flew to the bathroom, her face clammy and pale. She hung over
the toilet and was sick. Her heart was pounding in her chest, and
she was having difficulty catching her breath. As her nausea
subsided Nat slid over to the sink and turned on the tap. She
rinsed her face and mouth, and dried her face. Then she started to
cry, and to shake uncontrollably. Nat made an attempt to fill up a
bag with her toiletries, but it was too difficult to hold anything
in her hands. Everything she tried to grasp went crashing to the
floor. In a fit of anger, shock and fear, Nat flung the bag across
the bathroom, raced to the door, and fled the apartment.

Still waiting in the car, Nick checked his watch. He was just about
to go upstairs and find out what was taking her so long when he
heard the still familiar swoosh of a vampire. Nick was startled by
LaCroix, who suddenly appeared in the passenger seat.

Until now, Nick did not really believe he would fear this moment,
but his mortal heart betrayed him. He could feel it beating faster
in his chest. His first thoughts were of Natalie, and what had
delayed her. Horrifying images flashed through his mind ? Natalie
dying, Natalie dead, Natalie being fed on by LaCroix, Natalie being
brought across by LaCroix. It had been centuries since he had felt
real fear, and it was paralysing.

LaCroix could hear the throbbing of Nick's heart. He was amused by
it and smiled. "You fear me, Nicholas. How ...interesting. What
does that feel like ? to fear?"

"Leave, LaCroix. I want no part of you. We are finished."

LaCroix chuckled. "We are not finished, until *I* say we are
finished. I want you back, Nicholas."

"That's impossible, and *you* know it," Nick snapped.

"Certainly you do not expect me to let you go that easily,
Nicholas. I do not intend to spend eternity alone." LaCroix stared
up at Natalie's apartment. "I will have you, or I will have that
which you love."

Nick snarled, "you wouldn't dare."

"I could take her whenever I want. If you do not join me, that fact
is something you will have to live with for the rest of your mortal
life." LaCroix grinned, "you have until five tomorrow morning to
decide." As suddenly as he appeared, LaCroix vanished.

As Nick jumped out of the car, he heard Nat's voice calling out his
name. He raced to meet her as she staggered down the walkway from
the front doors of her building. Nick could tell from the tears
streaming down her face that LaCroix had indeed visited her. She
had the same numbness about her that he saw the night before, when
he was still a vampire. Nick was truly beginning to think that his
newfound mortality was, after all, a huge mistake. He took her into
his arms and led her to his car.

* * * * * *

Nick and Nat arrived at Nick's loft in utter despair. The room was
filled with morning sun, but it was a cold and surreal light. The
warmth and happiness of the previous night, and that very morning,
seemed very, very far away. Nat sluggishly removed her coat and
shoes and went over to the couch. Nick followed and sat beside her.
They held each other for a long, silent, and agonizing time.

"He'll never leave us alone, will he?" Nat sobbed.

"I'm sorry, Nat. I didn't think it would be like this," replied
Nick. "I just didn't ...think."

"He told me he wants you back, Nick. He said that if he can't have
you, he'll take the baby."

Nick put his arm around Nat and pulled her to his chest. He rubbed
her back gently. "I received a similar message. But LaCroix prefers
to hold you over my head."

Nat rubbed the tears away from her eyes. "We should leave Nick.
Today. We'll go away, where he'll never find us."

"I know from experience that LaCroix is relentless. If he wants to
find us ? he will find us."

"My God, Nick. What are we going to do? I can't lose you to him.
Not now. Not ever!" cried Nat.

Nick lifted her face and looked deeply into her eyes. "You won't
lose me to him. I promise you that. We will think of something."

Nick helped Nat to her feet. "Let's go to bed and get some sleep.
Then we'll decide what to do."

* * * * * *

Nick woke up shortly after sunset. He removed Nat's arm from his
shoulder delicately so as not to wake her. He then pulled on a pair
of jeans and a shirt, and headed downstairs.

Nick called into the station to let them know neither he nor Nat
would be in that night. Then he called the Raven and spoke to
LaCroix. After hanging up the phone, Nick set about preparing tools
for the imminent confrontation with LaCroix. They were tools a
mortal would use against a vampire ? holy water to subdue, and a
sharp wooden stake to destroy. It would have to be a wide wooden
stake. One wide enough to rip LaCroix's heart from his body. He
would not fail this time.

As Nick was working a piece of lumber, planing the end of it into
a deadly point, he heard Nat's footsteps coming down the stairs.

Nat strolled over to him and gazed at his handiwork. "That is your

Nick glanced at her for a second. "I have done this before. It will

Nat knelt down beside Nick and rubbed his shoulders lovingly. "But
you were a vampire then. You're mortal now."

"What else is there to do, Nat?"

Nat felt tears slipping from her eyes yet again, "I don't know."

Feeling the stake was sharp enough, Nick set his work aside. He got
up and walked over to his desk. Nick pulled his gun out of the
drawer. "Nat. Come over here."

Nat picked herself up off the floor and went to Nick's side.
"What's this for. You can't *shoot* him. We already know that won't

Nick almost smiled as he reached out for her. He held her tightly
in his arms. "It's not for LaCroix. If something happens, if I
don't succeed, I want you to shoot me."

"What!" Nat screamed and struggled to back away.

Nick held her firmly and wouldn't let her move. "Please, Nat. I
can't go through that again. It would be worse this time, much
worse. LaCroix is much more powerful than he was when I was first
brought across."

"No, Nick," Nat whimpered. "If he brings you across, we can make
love again, you will be cured again."

"I can't take that chance, Nat. It took centuries for me to get to
the point where my faith could be restored. I would awaken
overwhelmed with evil and bloodlust. And somewhere within that
mire, my faith and love for you would be trapped, possibly for
eternity. I can't bear the thought of that."

Nat's body wracked with grief as yet more tears escaped her eyes.
The thought of having to kill Nick was unbearable to her.

Nick finally released his tight hold on Nat, but she would not
release her grip on him. In an effort to comfort her, he finally
grinned reassuringly. "Don't worry. It won't come to that." Nick
held her for a few minutes longer, until her latest bout of tears
had ended.

Nat listened carefully and watched closely as Nick explained how to
use the gun. She prayed that she wouldn't have need of it, but Nick
was sincere in his desire to be killed rather than to be brought
across again. Nat knew in her heart that if it came to that, she
would not fail him.

After finishing the quick lesson, Nick handed the gun over to Nat.
She walked across the room and put it in her purse, then came back
to him. "When do you plan to confront him?"

"Just before dawn," Nick replied, "at the old Church out on
Britannia Road."

"LaCroix agreed to meet you in a Church?" Nat asked a little

Nick managed another grin, "It *was* a concession on his part, I
must admit."

Nick and Natalie arrived at the old one?room Church just before
sunrise. It was a small brick structure, and sat just off the
roadway. The area was surrounded by open land in all directions.
Nick slipped the wooden stake under his coat, and the flask of holy
water into his pocket. He and Natalie slowly got out of the car.

Inside, the church was dark and musty smelling. There was only one
window and it was placed over the alter. It was a huge stained
glass depicting Jesus on the cross. But the colours were thick and
murky with age and grime. Even in midday very little light would
pass through.

There was no electricity in the building, but there was a rack of
candles on a table just inside the door. Nick scrounged through his
pockets for matches, finally found some, and began lighting the

As the soft light filled the Church, Nat took Nick's hand and they
stepped further into the room. LaCroix was already there waiting.

"I trust you've made a decision, Nicholas," LaCroix crooned.

Nick squeezed Nat's hand before letting go of it and approaching

When he was within five feet of LaCroix, Nick whipped out the flask
of holy water and threw it over him. "Yes I've made a decision ? to
destroy you!" Nick immediately snatched the stake out of his coat
and lunged for LaCroix.

LaCroix stepped aside and laughed. "The damage I sustain from holy
water is insignificant, Nicholas. If you want to kill me with holy
water, you will have to drown me in it."

Nick swung wildly with the stake trying to get LaCroix, but LaCroix
just toyed with him, stepping safely out of reach with each thrust.
LaCroix soon grew tired of the game and seized the stake from Nick.
He broke it with his hands and tossed the pieces to the floor.
"That will be quite enough, Nicholas," LaCroix snickered. "It's
getting late. Let us do what must be done."

Nick was devastated. His last hope was that Natalie would follow
through for him.

LaCroix spoke solemnly, "you will give yourself to me freely, and
your, will be left alone."

Nick nodded his head in resignation.

"You give yourself freely?" growled LaCroix.

"I give myself under duress," Nick fired back. "Let me say goodbye
to Nat."

"Very well," LaCroix said. "It makes no difference now. Look at the
time you have already wasted, Nicholas. The sun is up, and we will
be stuck in this dreadful place the entire day."

Nick backed up a few steps and turned to face Natalie. When he
reached her, he held her in his arms as tightly as he could, but it
could never be tightly enough. Her tears flowed freely, and his own
started to fall. He nuzzled her ear and whispered softly, "remember
I love you, and I will always love you. Keep that with you,

They shared a lingering kiss, neither wanting to separate from the
other. LaCroix soon grew impatient and demanded Nick join him.
Natalie touched Nick's face as he backed away from her. She sobbed,
"I love you. I won't let you down."

Nick returned to LaCroix and stood beside him, not taking his eyes
off of Nat.

LaCroix glared at Natalie. "You took him from me. I now reclaim

"He will resist you!" Nat shouted through her tears. She covertly
removed the gun from her purse and readied it to fire.

"Perhaps he will try to resist me, in time. But how much time? That
is the question, Dr. Lambert. And it could be a very long time
indeed." With one arm LaCroix grabbed Nick around his upper chest,
and used his other arm to hold Nick's head back and bare his neck.

Natalie aimed the weapon at Nick's heart. LaCroix grimaced at her.
"Your devotion is admirable, Dr. Lambert, but I assure you that
weapon is quite useless. He will be mine before any *permanent*
damage is sustained."

"Natalie, do it now!" Nick begged, as he struggled to see her face
one last time.

LaCroix chuckled loudly. "Not even God himself can save you now,

LaCroix's eyes changed colour as he extended his fangs and prepared
to strike.

"God forgive me!!!" Natalie screamed as she fired the gun at Nick.
The Church roared with a thunderous sound as huge shards of glass
came crashing to the floor. Nat missed her target, but had hit the
stained glass window. The blazing light of the sun poured into the
room, filling it with a brilliant, hot light. LaCroix looked for
somewhere to hide, but there was nowhere to hide. He screamed in
pain as the sunlight seared his ancient flesh. The acrid smell of
that burning flesh filled the room and stung the nostrils. Billows
of thick grey smoke emanated from him. LaCroix fell to the floor,
writhing in agony. And then he was no more.

* * * * * *

As LaCroix's remains lay turning to ash on the floor of the Church,
Nick staggered over to a stunned Natalie. "My God, Natalie! Why
didn't I think of that?!"

"I didn't think of it myself, Nick. I was aiming for you!"

Nick laughed in relief and held her arm as they walked out of the
Church, "I'm glad you're a lousy shot."

When they were in the car, Nick leaned over and kissed Nat
passionately. "I almost lost you."

Nat returned his kiss. "No, Nick. I almost lost you. You will never
lose me." She nibbled on his ear and whispered, "let's go home and
make love." Nick grinned.

As they started driving away, Nat smiled. "I shot Jesus, Nick. I
suppose, in a way, regardless of what LaCroix believed, God was
able to save you."

"It *has* been a week of miracles," Nick replied. "First I felt
human. Then I was human. Now I am free."

-- The End --

Susan B.