Didacts And Narpets

by Dave Galloway


Archived October, 2002
Warning: This story is rated R. If you are under
18 years then please do not read any further

## Part 1/37 ##

Walking down the hallway towards Natalie's work area in the Coroners Building, Nick tried to
tune out Schanke's tirade on how lousy the cook had been in the place they just left. "I'm telling
yah Nick, if I wasn't so hungry and we weren't so rushed for results on the Thomsen case, I would have
tossed that burger into the garbage." Taking in the 'I can't believe you just said that look' from
Nick, he continued, "Yes! Those words did just come out of my mouth. Even I have some standards!"

"Have I ever mentioned anything about your 'eating standards' Schanke? I'm just surprised that
'Mr. Fast Food' himself didn't know better than to eat there."

"Well, you have to try a place at least once for yourself to give it a rating on the ole
Schanke-O-meter. On a scale of one to ten, in which ten is the best...I give that place a definite
one!" As if to reaffirm what he had just said, his stomach gave a gurgling-growlish noise.

"See, my stomach doesn't lie."

As Nick turned a lighter shade of pale at the discussion of food and Schanke's breath, he
picked up the pace to the morgue. As they approached the doors to the lab, Nick could hear
music filtering through the doors. He deciphered through the background noises of the building,
a distinct African rhythm with a soothing guitar and a catchy bass beat. Then the lyrics started
with Natalie singing along softly. Continuing down the hall Nick tuned Schanke out completely
as he focused on the lyrics.

I've stood upon my mountaintop and shouted at the sky
walked above the pavement with my senses amplified
- I get this feeling

all my nerves are naked wires tender to the touch
sometimes super-sensitive but who can care too much?
- I get this feeling

Scars of pleasure
Scars of pain
Atmospheric changes
Make them sensitive again

each emotional injury leaves behind its mark
sometimes they come tumbling out like shadows in the dark
- I get this feeling

As they reached the door, Schanke continued talking non-stop. "Maybe Nat will have some Tums or
Rolaids." Pushing the door open they walked into the room. Natalie sat typing her final entries into
the computer as her lips formed the words to the song playing softly out of the portable speaker attached
to her Walkman. Schanke rubbed his stomach with a pained look as he crossed the room. "Hey Nat, you got
any anti-acid tablets?"

"Oh, hi guys. Yeah Schanke I think I do, let me check my purse." As Natalie rummaged through
her purse, Nick became oblivious to everything except the lyrics to the song.

when I think about all I have seen and all I'll never see
when I think about the people who have opened up to me
- I get this feeling

Scars of pleasure
Scars of pain
Atmospheric changes
Make them sensitive again

snow falls deep around my house and holds the winter night
I've heard the lions hunting in the Serengeti night
- I get this feeling

forests turned to factories and river, sea, and sky
hungry child in the desert and the flies that cloud her eyes
- I get this feeling

Scars of pleasure
Scars of pain
Atmospheric changes
Make them sensitive again

Pleasure leaves a fingerprint
As surely as mortal pain
In memories they resonate
And echo back again

emotional scars' over the course of my existence...' Nick thought. <...what 'scars of pain' am I inflicting on those I allow into my life...'

"Nick? Nick, hello? Earth to Nick!" Finally focusing on the hand that waved in front of his face, Nick noticed Natalie standing in front of him and Schanke at the sink washing the chalk taste out of his mouth. "I was saying Nick, the Thomsen report will be ready in a moment as soon as I finish proof reading it. It was natural causes as we initially figured."

"Oh, that's fine Nat. Who are you listening to?"

She turned down the volume to make conversation easier and then replied. "Oh, the tape. Just 'The Guys' Presto album."

"The group's name is 'The Guys'?" Nick asked with a confused look on his face.

Schanke, not missing an opportunity to tease Nick, chimed in, "Yeah, you know, 'The Boys', if I'm not mistaken."

Natalie also not wanting to miss the rare opportunity of teasing Nick continued, "Yeah, Lerxst, Dirk, and Pratt."

"Wait a minute." Nick asked. "The band members are named Lerxst, Dirk, and Pratt, and the group is called 'The Guys' or 'The Boys'?"

Schanke not one to let go when he should have, continued. "You've been in Toronto how long? You've never heard them before? It's one of the great Canadian bands still going strong from the 70's, and it's a hometown group at that."

Watching Nick's look of confusion turn to one of annoyance, Natalie teased further. "What do you think Schanke, should we put him out of his misery before he blows a gasket?"

Schanke saw he may have pushed it too far. "Yeah, we better or he'll just be _real_ wonderful to work with for the rest of the shift."

"Okay, Nick. We've had our fun. The band is called 'RUSH', and the members names are Alex Lifeson, a.k.a. Lerxst, Geddy Lee, a.k.a. Dirk, and Neil Peart, a.k.a. Pratt. Their first self titled album was released in 1974 with all original songs. They are known worldwide, and have out about at least eighteen albums. I'm surprised you've never heard them before. They sell out multiple shows where ever they are playing on tour." Natalie said.

"My tastes in music don't usually stray too far into Rock." Nick replied.

Trying to salvage the rest of the shift, Schanke replied tactfully, "Well, to give him some leeway, they never really ever got that much support from the radio stations as I recall. Too progressive, I guess." Pulling up a chair to Natalie's desk, he sat down with an 'Oof'. "Those were the days. I remember seeing them play in bars before they released their first album. Boy were they raw, but I'll give them credit. Even back then they were doing some of their own songs as well as The Who, Cream and Led Zeppelin. My cousin went to school with the original drummer's brother, the guy who suggested the name RUSH to them. Bet John Rutsey is kicking himself now for leaving the band after they recorded that first album. Then again maybe they wouldn't have had as much success with Neil's lyrics and drumming if John hadn't left."

"You're showing your age Schanke." Natalie said, teasing him. "I was what, eleven, and you were hanging out in bars? I first saw them in Maple Leaf Gardens on their 'Hemispheres' tour. It was a kind of high school graduation present to myself. They really blew me away. I can still remember the controlled fury of Neil doing the overture to 2112. Can he ever lay some fast chops down."

"Well," Nick said, surprised at the enthusiasm that she was showing about the band. "I'm really learning that there is a great deal about you that I don't know, Nat."

"That there is Nick... that there is. Do you want to borrow the tape?" Natalie asked him.

"No, that's okay. I'll pick one up later." Nick replied.

"Hey, how come you know so much about the band Nat?" Schanke said. "I know you're a home town fan and all, but you're a 'girl' and RUSH is a 'guy' band."

Giving Schanke a dirty look, she retorted. "A 'guy' band Schanke. Are you saying, that a 'girl' can't understand the philosophical nature of Neil's lyrical observations of human interaction?" She took a breath as she put her hands on her hips, then continued laying into Schanke. "Are you saying, that a 'girl' can't enjoy the musical interaction of guitar, bass, and drums? Are _you_ saying that a 'girl' can't appreciate the skill they have as musicians?"

"Alright...alright! I'm sorry. Jeez, I take it back. I didn't mean it that way." Schanke cut in.

"And besides, I..." Natalie shut her mouth with an audible snap.

Nick and Schanke exchanged looks, then both asked at the same time. "You _what_?

Turning quite an attractive red hue, Natalie managed to say, "I had a _really big_ crush on Neil when I was a teenager, okay."

"Ahh, the plot thickens." Nick smiled wickedly. "Please, go on!"

"So, I had a crush on him. A lot of teenagers have crushes on musicians. Can I help it that there was never _anything_ on them in the teen magazines? That I had to go through the more musician type magazines in the Library, to find _any_ articles written about the band. Geddy had a great falsetto voice, Alex, was cute, but Neil...Ahhh, Neil. I would hang around the back of the Gardens when they played Toronto trying to catch glimpses of them and get their autographs." Natalie sighed, as she reflected on her teenage heart throb.

As Natalie stopped speaking and stared into space, Nick noticed Schanke cupping his head in his hands as he leaned against the desk. "Schanke are you okay? You're looking kind of pale."

"I'm feeling really lousy. Do you figure you can get through the rest of the shift without me?"

"I think I can manage. Nat, I'm going to take Schanke home, then I'll come back and pick up that report."

"Okay, Nick. I hope you're feeling better soon Don. Just no more grease burgers, okay?"

"I'm definitely not eating at that place again. It rates lower than a one! At least I don't have my car to worry about, Nick picked me up on the way in." Schanke said as he levered himself out of the chair. "Better swing by the precinct so I can tell Stonetree and log out. See you later Nat."

"Bye guys"

"Bye Nat, I'll see you after I drop him off into Myra's caring hands"

As Nick held the door open for Schanke, Natalie could hear Nick say Aand if you need to throw up, let me know in enough time to stop the Caddy." Chuckling to herself about Nick and his car, she flipped the tape over, pressed play, and started proofing her report.

## End Part 1/37 ##

** Pleasure leaves a fingerprint

** As surely as mortal pain

** In memories they resonate

** And echo back again

RUSH - Scars

## Part 2/37 ##

After dropping Schanke off at home, Nick checked his watch. Assumining the store would close soon, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed.

"Sam the Record Man, Jay speaking."

"Hi, is Don Poole there please."

AJust a minute." Put on hold to some dance music, Nick waited. "Don here, what can I do for you?"

"Don, it's Nick Knight."

"Hey Nick! How are ya?"

"Great Don. Look I need you to put together and deliver an order for me."

"Hold on a sec., let me get a pad and pen. Okay, shoot."

"Have you heard of the band RUSH?"

"Of course, who hasn't"

"I need you to put together their catalogue on CD for me."

"Ooh, big spender. Did you want what's on laser disc and VHS also?"

"Yeah, give me everything."

"Rough guess, I'd say with taxes you're looking at around six to seven hundred."

"That's fine. Just put it on my account as usual. Will I be able to get it tomorrow morning?"

"Should be. I'll deliver it myself. Probably between eleven and noon."

"That's great, see you then."

"Right Nick. You know, it still amazes me that Sam set you up with an open-ended account and does delivery for your orders."

"You know what they say, its not what you know its who you know. Night Don."

"Good night, Nick. See you tomorrow."

An hour and a half later, Nick walked back into the morgue. Natalie was not surprised when the door opened and Nick came into the room. She glanced up at him from the paperwork on her desk and asked, "So, did you get Schanke home alright?" Natalie took a second look at him. "Why are you holding your side Nick?" She questioned as she started over toward him.

Nick automatically headed toward the exam table and removed his coat. "On the way back a call came in about a convenience store robbery."

"You didn't get shot again did you?" She said as she went and locked the door. By the time she reached his side, he had his shirt removed and was gingerly touching the gaping wound in his lower left side.

"Well, not exactly." Nick said. "The perp did shoot at me, but he was a lousy shot and he missed. However, he did hit the side of the building and I caught a piece of cement shrapnel. Luckily my coat was open when it hit me and I was able to close it to cover it up so no one noticed. The guy was shaking so bad he dropped the gun and bolted down the alley. The uniforms got him at the other end."

"Not that I'm glad you got injured, but it does work out conveniently for me as I wanted to take some skin and other cell samples to look at. This _does_ provide me with the perfect opportunity." She thought as she smiled to herself and quickly gathered the tools required to pull the fragment and take her samples. She removed a small rock and took the samples she wanted. Natalie watched in amazenent while the wound in Nick's side healed before her eyes. She put her tools away and headed towards the refrigerator. After dumping the gloves in the bio-waste bin, she put the samples in her sample lockup in the fridge. By the time she turned around, Nick had finished closing the top button on his shirt. She noticed the red stain and responded. "I think you better drop home and change before you go back to the precinct."

"Yes. I'm almost wondering if I should keep a couple of changes of clothes in the trunk to save myself transit time." He said as he smiled at her while putting on his coat.

"Well, if you would just keep out of the way of fast moving small objects that can perforate you...you wouldn't have this problem." She retorted as she headed over to her desk to pick up a folder. Out of habit, she stuck out her tongue to lick the corner of her mouth.

"Better me than an officer that would be in the hospital for a few days." He said, as he walked over and removed the folder from her outstretched hand. "Thanks Nat." Leaning towards her he placed his right hand on her shoulder, brushed his fingertips across her pulled back hair and gently kissed her on the forehead. Touching his forehead to hers and giving her shoulder a gentle squeeze, he stepped back and looked into her eyes. Giving her a warm smile, he said. "Thanks for the report too."

"You're welcome, and you're welcome. See you later." She answered.

Nick lifted up the folder in a wave as he headed towards the door and replied. "Yah, I'll call you tomorrow." Then glancing at his watch he amended, "Tonight." Seeing her wave goodbye, he headed out to the car to go back to the loft to change and quickly feed.


## End Part 2/37 ##


** And if the music stops

** There's only the sound of the rain

** All the hope and glory

** All the sacrifice in vain

** If love remains

** Though everything is lost

** We will pay the price,

** But we will not count the cost.

RUSH - Bravado

## Part 3/37 ##


As she unlocked the door to her apartment, Natalie could hear Sidney meowing on the other side. "Hi Sidney, did you miss Mommy, or are you just hungry?" She said as she navigated around the purring gray and white cat twining himself through her legs. Getting more meows as a response, she continued. "Hungry I'll bet, hold on." Having been only a few weeks since the attempted date rape by Roger Jameson, her routine had been to come straight home from work. Natalie was not really comfortable yet to be around any man alone, except Nick. She had started to get groceries only during the daylight hours, when the stores were busy. Her only deviations from work and home, had been to drop over more frequently for short visits to the loft.

The incident had shaken her up more than she was willing to admit to anyone, even herself. Missing the irony, that the loft was the one place where she would be in the most danger if Nick ever lost his control, she felt safest around him. Hadn't his name been the first thing she had said as she came back to consciousness? Finding herself cradled in his arms, being held closely by him. Then, he had come to stay the day with her. Against her objections that she was alright, he had insisted on staying. She finally realized having him there had really helped to calm her down.

She knew that Nick had some feelings for her beyond doctor/patient/friendship. The appearance of 'The Green Monster' after he saw her kiss Roger in the doorway, had made that obvious. Even though he downplayed the intensity of his caring about her, on reflection, it was obvious that he was putting his own feelings aside for what he thought would be her happiness. He just did not realize that being with him would make her the happiest. Even before that incident, the kisses to her cheek or forehead or the one that surprised her the most, the kiss on the lips in front of everyone at the picnic, hinted of deeper feelings than friendship.

"I'm not reading more into this 'I care for you' friendship with Nick than I should be, am I Sidney?" Sidney, who was trying to stick his head into his food dish as Natalie scraped out the contents of the can into it, didn't comment. She washed out the can and placed it in the bag to take to the recycling bin.

Natalie went down the hall to her bedroom. She stripped down and put on her robe, placed her dirty clothes in the hamper, and hung up her suit jacket and slacks in the closet. She walked straight to the bathtub and opened the hot water tap. As the water warmed up, she removed her makeup. She slipped out of the robe and hung it on the door. A cloud of steam greeted her as she slid the frosted door all the way open. After adjusting the water until it was the temperature she wanted, she unhooked the shower massager and turned the knob. She thought, as she sprayed the water around the inside of the bathtub.

She put the unit back in the holder, stepped into the tub, and slid the door closed behind her. A sigh escaped as she turned and let the water pound against her back. Thoughts of a certain blond haired detective surfaced. She shifted and swayed so the water could travel across her neck and shoulders. She envisaged the water jets, as Nick's hands. Those oh so soft hands gliding along her shoulders, working out the knots of tension. The water streaming down her back, as his finger tips trailing down her spine. The spray, as Nick lightly tickling her sides. She giggled to herself. Her stomach made itself known by trying to say 'bubarigmie'. She gave a sigh, and banished her romantic thoughts of Nick back into a more platonic level and finished her shower.

Having wrapped a towel turban style around her head, she dried off, and put on her robe. After selecting a dinner from the freezer, she 'nuked' it and ate while watching a show she had taped from the night before. Sleep started to overcome her. After cleaning up, so Sidney had nothing to get into trouble with, she brushed her teeth then dried and combed out her hair. Those tasks completed, she slipped into her nightgown and crawled into bed. The last thing she remembered before dropping off to sleep was Sidney crawling down the gap in the covers to curl up against her back.

She could feel the contact of his skin down the length of her body. His coolness a counterpoint to the hot flush radiating from hers. She watched the expressions play across his face as she teased the light blond hairs around his nipple. His hands softly caressed her upper back and shoulders for a moment. Then, he trailed his finger tips in circuits along random paths around her back, side, and arms. As she moved her position slightly, she could see a fine coating of almost translucent golden hair covering his chest. It was so tenuous that it looked as if it would blow away if she breathed on it. She heard him moan in heightened arousal, as her lips contacted his skin. His hands briefly caressed her neck before slipping underneath her shoulders to pull her up to his waiting mouth. His slow thorough kiss turned into a gasp that sucked the air from her mouth, as her hand closed around his erection. He left little kisses behind, as he moved his lips up to her ear and started to whisper, 'I lov' "EEEE. EEEE. EEEE."

The dream dissolved, as the shrill electronic whine brought her awake. She found herself laying half on her side, clutching the other pillow to her chest. Reaching over and shutting off the alarm, she sat up to find Sidney curled up on the covers at her feet looking at her. "Morning Sidney, or should I say evening." Climbing out of bed, and putting on her robe, she made her way to the kitchen to put the coffee on. That done she showered, got dressed, and applied her makeup. After putting some bread in the toaster and pouring a cup of coffee, she noticed the light flashing on her answering machine. Taking a sip, she walked over to it and hit play.

"Hi, Nat." Nick's voice came over the speaker. "I know you're still asleep right now, but I couldn't wait any longer. Please come over before shift. I've got a surprise for you. Well, I hope you are having pleasant dreams, see you later." The machine clicked and reset itself.

"Hmm...Nick and surprises?" Looking over to where Sidney was at his dish in the kitchen, she said. "What do you think Sidney? What could it be?" The toast popping up precluded any further speculation.


## End Part 3/37 ##


** I had a dream of a winter garden

** A midnight rendezvous

** Silver, blue, and frozen silence

** What a fool I was for you

RUSH - Presto

## Part 4/37 ##

Not knowing what to expect, Natalie opened the door to the loft and peaked inside. She watched Nick rise from the leather chair and place a book on the end table as she stepped into the room. They exchanged pleasantries and finally Nick directed her over to the couch. Sitting on the coffee table was a wrapped box about fourteen inches square.

"What in the world...." Natalie started to say.

"It's for you, open it!" Nick interrupted her. He seemed to be more excited about giving it to her than she was in unwrapping it. Having pulled the wrapping paper off the box, she opened the lid to find packing paper. Pulling that away she found a bunch of CD's on edge as well as five VHS tapes. "Go on, take them out." Nick urged. Stacking the CD's on top of each other on the table, she found something else underneath. Not having looked at any of the titles on the CD's or tapes, she finally realized what the contents were when she looked at the full sized album cover of the laser disc that read: "RUSH CHRONICLES" The Video Collection in gold letters over a mixed brown background. AKeep going, there's more." Nick motioned. Tilting the box four more laser disc jackets fell into her hands. She sat them down on the table and looked at what was before her with an open mouth and slightly stunned expression. She realized that she had the entire RUSH collection of music in front of her! Nick watched her face in anticipation. She looked at Nick as a big smile spread across her face. Finally she jumped up, threw her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. He cupped her smiling face in his hands and chuckled as he said, "Well, I was beginning to wonder if I had completely blown it."

Still beaming she replied, "No, I was just a little stunned for a minute. Nick, how much did all this cost?"

"The how is connections, and the cost is don't you worry about it. Seeing your face light up with happiness is what I was trying to do, and I'm glad I succeeded. I like trying to make you happy. It makes ME feel good. You wouldn't want me to not feel good would you?"

"Of course not, but..."

"But nothing. It's for you...enjoy them."

Giving him a sheepish look, Natalie said, "Thank you. It does make me happy." Then she leaned in to give him a kiss on the lips. As the kiss went from friendly to passion, she felt Nick tense. After a moment he slowly pulled his lips away from hers. Giving him a minute to regain control, she put her head on his shoulder and just hugged him. Feeling the tension in him release, she looked up into his blue eyes. She put one last quick kiss on his lips and stepped back. "Thank you, It has made me very happy. But I don't have a CD player let alone a laser disc player."

"No, but I do. I guess you'll just have to drop over more often to enjoy your gift." He said smiling at her. "Besides, the loft is almost sound proof, and there are no neighbors to complain about the noise."

Giving him a wicked smile, she said "Right, as loud as I want." Then quickly added, "Within reason of course."

"Of course."

Natalie sat back down on the couch, and started going through CD's. She started by placing the albums in chronological order. Pulling out a Max Webster Universal Juveniles album, a puzzled expression crossed her face quickly replaced by a look of pleasure. After slitting the wrapper open with a finger nail, she opened the case up as she moved toward Nick's high-tech sound system. "I've been looking for this album for years. I almost thought I would have to special order it." She beamed, looking over at Nick, who was back sitting in the chair looking at her with a smile on his face. He enjoyed her being happy. Finding the system already on, she popped the disc into the player, checked the jacket, selected track 5, and hit play. With the volume still low enough to hold a conversation, the sound of two electric guitars counterpointing each other filled the loft. As the song continued, she moved back over to the couch to continue sorting out the CD's. "Back in," turning the case over and looking for the date A1980, after I think it was the Permanent Waves tour, RUSH did this song with their labelmates Max Webster. It's the only time the band has ever played on another groups album." She looked over at him and saw he was still grinning at her, and said, "What?"

"Oh, nothing. Just your memory is right on the mark." He said as he showed her the book he had been reading when she arrived. As she saw the red cover and the picture done by Yousuf Karsh of the guys, she clued in. "I had Coles Book Stores have someone deliver it this morning. It's really a quite good biography of the group."

"I'm surprised." Natalie exclaimed. "You really went all out didn't you?"

"It is something you are interested in and I want to know about you...the not at work you. It will also give us something _you_ are interested in, to talk about. I want to experience some of the things that make up Natalie Lambert...and as much as you want me to let my walls of secrecy down, I need to get to know you too. I may not show it most of the time, but I _do_ care about you Nat."

Wetting her lips to give herself some time to let this sink in, she thought. I love you', but it is the most that he has opened up to me about us. At least I know for sure that he does care for me beyond being a friend or in like a sister'.' "I care about you too Nick...and yes, I would like for you to know about me."

Getting up from the chair he walked over to the entertainment center and dug out a set of cordless headphones from a cupboard. After activating the base unit, he walked back over to where Natalie sat on the couch. "Well, now that that is settled, why don't you enjoy the song while I clean up a bit." He handed her the headphones and then passed her the remote he picked up on the way. Natalie adjusted the headphones, requeued the song, killed the external speakers and turned up the volume.

Seeing her sit back on the couch and close her eyes, Nick started to gather up the box and pieces of wrapping paper strewn around the couch, table and floor. Depositing the box in the kitchen, he opened the fridge and selected a half full green bottle. With a feeling of guilt, he turned his back to Natalie and guzzled the contents. While rinsing out the bottle, he heard the song end. Natalie stopped the play on the CD as he walked back over to the couch and watched her remove the headphones.

"Ah, that 'wall-O-drums' just gave me my percussion fix for the evening." Spying a CD jacket she didn't recognize, she reached over and picked it up. "Nick." She looked over to him, as he sat back down in the chair. "How did you get this CD?"

"It came with the others, Nat."

Giving him a scowl, "I know that! I mean this album is not due to be released for sale for another month!"

"Oh, that one. Well, you can't tell anybody you have that yet. Sam only sold it to me because I'm such a good customer. He kind of bent the rules and gave me a preshipment copy, as long as I kept it to myself until the official release in October."

"Wait a minute, Sam as in Sam the Record Man Sam?" She asked surprised, as she received a nod from Nick.

"I put the order in last night to one of the store managers after I dropped Schanke off. Sam called me this morning, asking me to promise to keep quiet about it, if he sent that one over too." By this time, Natalie had already started to open the wrapper to look at the jacket insert. She looked like a little kid that got to open a Christmas present a day early. "Nat. N"T?" Finally getting her attention, he continued. "We have a couple of hours before shift starts, and an hour before the stores close. Want to go shopping?"

"Shopping? Why shopping. I want to give a listen to this." She said as she waved the CD case at him.

"Hey, you are getting it a month earlier than everybody else, an hour or so won't kill you. Besides, if you are going to be spending more time over here we need to get you some things." At that, her expression softened. "And I have to pick up the other part of your surprise for you, myself."

"Nick this is more than enough, really."

"Nat, the package is already on hold for me. The least you can do is accept it. And once you see what it is, I think you will relent."

She put the case down, and stood up. "Alright, I give. What exactly are we going shopping for?" Natalie asked.

As he walked over to get their coats, Nick started listing off items. AFood, which we will get last, as the grocery stores are open the latest. A coffee maker, as I know you don't prefer instant, a microwave, so you don't have to buy popcorn at the video store, and anything else that you think you might want."

"Nick, that's a lot of money to spend on me. Not that I really mind of course, everybody likes having things bought for them." Natalie quickly added.

"The money I spend on you is not the problem Nat. I just hope you realize that I'm not trying to buy your friendship with gifts, because that's not my intention. I have a few mortal lifetimes' worth of money I could spend and still have more than enough to meet my needs. Compound interest over a few hundred years does add up you know! My problem is spending it without IA thinking that I'm on 'the Take' and looking more closely at me. In fact, I think that's part of the reason they partnered Schanke up with me. To have someone keep an eye on me and let the upper management relax about having a possible 'dirty cop' on the payroll. So let me buy you 'little' gifts every now and then, it makes me happy."

"Alright, I give...I give!...I don't think that you are trying to buy my friendship. What ever you give me from now on I will accept graciously." She proclaimed magnanimously.

"Thank you. Now, shall we go, we're wasting store open hours." He announced with a flourish as he held open the lift door.

"Um, Nick? It's still at least 45 minutes before sundown."

"I'm going to bundle up, and you can drive there and park in the underground. We'll have to take the caddy for space. Okay?"

"Alright, as long as you keep covered up. I can't stand the smell of overdone vampire." Natalie said. Unable to hide her smile.

## End Part 4/37 ##

** Sun dogs fire on the horizon

** Meteor rain stars across the night

** This moment may be brief

** But it can be so bright

** Reflected in another source of light

** When the moment dies

** The spark still flies

** Reflected in another pair of eyes

RUSH - Chain Lightning

## Part 5/37 ##

Having taken longer than they thought in Eatons, they did not get much in the way of groceries except for a few unusual blends of coffee from a specialty shop. Nick insisted on getting a coffee grinder. They headed back to the loft with Natalie's gift as well as the appliances and other small items with still a half an hour before work. Natalie carried the small bags and her gift into the loft as Nick held the appliance boxes stacked in his arms up to his head. (Author note: Eatons is a Canadian department store chain, about twice more expensive than K-Mart, usually the centre store in a large mall, ie. The Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto.)

"I still say we should have just made another trip to the car to bring everything up." Natalie argued.

ALike I said Nat, weight is no problem. As long as I had you here to open the door, I didn't need to put them down or make two trips." Nick replied, slightly piqued.

After watching him walk into the kitchen without bumping into anything, she gave a "Humph, men, stubborn as a mules!" under her breath.

Nick knelt down and placed the stack of boxes on the floor. He turned to her, gave her a smile and said "I heard that!" Natalie didn't respond, other than sticking out her tongue at him. "Nat, why don't you put those packages on the counter here and open up your present before we have to get to work." Giving him an 'I don't care either way' shrug she walked into the kitchen. Her gestures gave an attitude of indifference but the walk gave her excitement away. As much as she had pestered Nick about what the present was, he would not give in and tell her. He had insisted that she did not open it until they were back at the loft. As much to get back at him for not letting her open it sooner, she proceeded to put the contents of the bags in the fridge and freezer. Finally she placed the extra large cups they had purchased into the sink to be washed. She noticed Nick glancing at her every few seconds as he unboxed the coffee maker. She figured she had strung him on long enough and started tearing through the wrapping. Inside was a Sony Discman, complete with "C, stereo, and car adapters.

"This is great! Thanks Nick!" She gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Stepping back she just had to dig him a bit for making her wait so long, and said. "What, no batteries?" Giving her a smirk, he said nothing as he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out two packages of 4 "AA batteries. After taking the batteries from him, she kissed him on the tip of his nose and asked. "When did you pick these up?"

"Do you recall looking at those blouses in Eatons?" Getting a nod he continued, "Well, I slipped over to electronics and bought them. You were so engrossed in looking that you didn't see me leave or come back."

"Sneak!...and thank you." she mumbled as she tore open the pack of batteries with her teeth.

"You're welcome. I knew that you didn't have a CD player at home, or in the computer at work, so I figured that it might brighten your work day to have some enjoyable background noise."

"Does that mean that I get to raid your CD collection?" she said as she inserted the batteries into the player.

As he covered his face with his hands in a mock look of horror he said. "Oh no, I've created a monster!" Getting another raspberry from Nat, he added. "If you keep sticking out your tongue like that, I'm going to have to do something about it."

Getting a "May be that's the reason I do it?" response, he just lowered his head and shook it.

"Yes, you can borrow any CD's I have any time you want. In fact," Nick said, as he walked over to the table behind the couch and picking up a pad and pen. "I'll write a note for you to give to Don Poole at Sam's, telling them to put your name on my account. Then you can get whatever you want. I'm sure that you won't want to listen to RUSH and classical or jazz all the time."

"Oh, I don't know." She said teasing. "I don't usually get tired of listening to RUSH, but a change is nice every now and then." In a more serious tone, she continued. "Thank you. And enough with you teasing _me_ about RUSH. I listen to a lot of other bands. I don't listen to RUSH _all_ the time. I just happen to prefer them the most." After plucking the folded paper from his hands, he received a kiss on the cheek before she placed the paper in her wallet. "Oh, look at the time. We had better get going." Grabbing the Counterparts and the three live album CD's from the coffee table, Natalie put them and the player into her shoulder bag. Giving a quick check to make sure she had not forgotten anything, she joined Nick in the lift. As they parted ways in the garage, she asked "See you later tonight?"

"Umhum. If I don't have a valid reason, I'm sure I can find an excuse to drop over sometime during the shift."

With a wave and 'see you later', Natalie walked out the door to her car, while Nick jumped into the Caddy.


As with the way things usually work out, Schanke and Nick were required to do follow-up interviews on new information from one of their unsolved cases. Nick was unable to stop in to see Natalie. A quick phone call was the only contact they had with each other during the shift. Natalie finished her shift on time, while Nick ended up staying late processing paperwork from a case that was to go to trial soon. Arriving at the loft about twenty minutes before sunrise, Nick went through his routine of emptying out his pockets and unloading his gun. Activating the playback on the answering machine, he listed to a message from Natalie.

"Hi Nick. Just wanted to call and let you know that I'm going to do that grocery shopping that we missed last night. I'll drop over with the goodies before work tonight, after say eight o'clock. See you then, bye."

He swallowed the last of the cow blood in the goblet and shut the blinds as dawn brightened over the skyline. Smiling as he made his way upstairs, he found himself looking forward to seeing Natalie at eight.

## End Part 5/37 ##

** I thought I as okay alone

** Wait for the postman and the telephone

** Lost in a world on my own

** I thought I could run alone

** Thought I could run through the night alone

RUSH - Hand Over Fist

## Part 6/37 ##

By eight thirty that evening, Nick had started to get worried. Eight o'clock had come and gone without sign of Natalie, who was usually prompt. He finished the biography and put it with the CD's for Natalie on the coffee table. He had just started to pour another goblet of blood, when he heard the release for the lift activating. Ten minutes later, he opened the door to find a flustered Natalie with about a dozen bags of groceries at her feet. Not able to resist, Nick said, "You got all of this to the lift in one trip?"

Scowling at him she retorted, A_Three_ trips actually. Well don't just stand there! Start carrying them into the kitchen." She had picked up four of the bags at her feet and had

barely straightened up when Nick leaned into the lift and placed a kiss on her cheek.

"Good evening Natalie."

"Good evening Nick." She said, as her scowl almost disappeared. After motioning with the bags, Nick moved out of her way allowing her clear passage into the kitchen. More to see if she would give him hell, than not, he gathered up all of the remaining bags and followed her. Already unbagging what she had carried, she didn't notice he only made one trip. "You would not believe the line at the check out, and they only had four checkers working. That's the last time I'm shopping at A&P. I refuse to wait in line for over half an hour just to give _them_ money. Why don't you start unbagging. I think I need to enjoy some more of my present from yesterday." With that, she went into the living area and rummaged through the CD's still on the coffee table. Deciding on the "Caress of Steel" album, she placed the CD in the player and turned it on. Natalie walked back into the kitchen, as the opening guitar to "Bastille Day" filled the loft. She found groceries piled on the counter and empty bags scattered around Nick's feet. Sorting through the pile, she started reorganizing it into 'fridge, freezer and cupboard groups. Glancing at Nick, she found him reliving some memory. Natalie gave Nick a nudge as she picked up a box of crackers by him. She asked, as he came back to the present, "Don't tell me you were there."

"Bastille Day? No. That was definately not a safe place for either mortals or vampires. I was there, in France, for a brief period in 1785, for one of Janette's escapades. I returned to England shortly thereafter. Thankfully I missed the uprising. No, I was remembering one of the happier interludes in my life from that time. I was performing theatre with Erica, travelling around England with her troupe. I quite enjoyed acting. I suppose that is fortunate, since, in a way, I am still doing it. My kind must act. We perform to cover the existence of our past lives."

At the mention of Erica and happier times, Natalie felt a touch of jealously. "All the world's indeed a stage, and we are merely players, performers and portrayers, each another's audience outside the guilded cage." she quoted. As a puzzled look crossed his face, she added A'Limelight', from the 'Moving Pictures' album. Neil paraphrased Shakesphere when he wrote the lyrics for that song. Neil isn't one who prefers to be involved in the promo end of the band. He was commenting in the song about how complete strangers who think they know the band members can have no tact. How they see the guys out in public, go over and disturb them, and expect the guys to greet them with warmth and enthusiasm and such."

"Ahh, I remember reading about that in the bio. I've finished it. So you can take it with you if you want."

"I think I will. It will give me something to read during lunch." By this time, the food destined for the freezer and refrigerator had been put away leaving the items for the cupboard. Nick watched her as she slowly filled up his cupboards. "Now when Schanke or anyone comes over, they won't think you're weird for not having any food around to offer them."

"That remindes me." Nick said, as he rummaged through the empty bags looking for the receipt. Giving a whistle at seeing the cost, he went to get his wallet.

"What are you doing?" She asked as he pulled out a bunch of twenties.

"Giving you money for the groceries."

"No. It's not like _you_ will be eating any of this. Though, you _could_ make an attempt to nibble on some of it. Besides, you haven't seen the bill I ran up at Sam's this afternoon. If you gave me money for this, it would only make me feel more guilty for the spending spree I went on. You wouldn't want me to feel guilty would you?"

Chuckling to himself as he put the money back into his wallet, he was amazed at how she could work it so it would make _him_ feel guilty for paying for the groceries. "Had fun did you?"

A_Oh yah_. It was way better than any of those music club offers. I'm ashamed to say that I kind of went a bit overboard." Natalie replied, a little sheepishly.

"So, when will I get to see your treasure trove of goodies?" He asked while watching her make a cup of tea.

"Well, I was thinking," she said, as she sat down on the couch giving him a sideways glance almost daring him to make a sarcastic comment, "I picked up some movies as well as the bunch of CD's. Why don't you come over to my place after work. We could watch a couple of the movies and you could spend the day there."

He considered the implications of spending the day, and figured there would be only a low risk to Natalie. He picked up his goblet, swollowed the contents, and thought.

He missed seeing Natalie give a slight shudder as he drained the glass. "Of course, you'll have to bring some of your supplies. Wouldn't want you to get too hungry would we?"

Nick nodded in understanding and asked. "What's on the marque?"

She took a sip of her tea before she continued. "I got three comedies. "Yellowbeard", "Young Frankenstein", and "Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl". I got the Monty Python on laser disc, so we can only watch the other two at my place tomorrow."

"Sounds fine. I don't think I've seen them before. Funny?" Nick asked.

"I think so, but then again I have kind of a warped sense of humour." she said with a laugh.

"Oh, I don't know about warped. Sarcastic, and maybe a bit bent, yes." He replied laughing. The CD ended. Nick jestured to the table. "Something else?" He took the jewel case she plucked from the top of pile with the dalmation sniffing at a red fire hydrant on the cover and went over and switched albums. The sound of a pulsating synth' replaced the silence as he sat back down beside Natalie. The synth' was soon joined by a complex cymbl ride and drums, with the guitar in the background.

"Neil really tagged the lyrics on that song. I sometimes wonder how many other people, besides me, feel those lyrics sum up our highschool teenage years." Nick, not wanting to say anything that might stop Natalie from talking about herself only nodded for her to continue. Trying to get Natalie to talk about herself was worse than what she went through with Nick. "Growing up in a housing subdivision. The separation between kids at school, the cliques. I was predominantly a loner, I guess. I had friends at school, but didn't really hang out with them outside of school. Helping to take care of Richie, and Grandma's overbearing attitude probably didn't help much either. I guess I never really fit into any of the groups. I was too smart for the 'rockers', not rich enough for the 'snobs', not smart enough for the 'geeks', or hip enough for the 'mods'. I didn't even want to associate with the 'metalers' or 'stone heads'. That left me pretty much by myself. All through High School, I just wanted to get through it and into University. Don't get me wrong. Not all of it was bad. Most of my teachers were pretty good. In fact, it was my biology teacher's encouragement and support that made me decide on a career in the medical field."

He matched up her words with what he could recall from what he had assimilated from Richard's blood. Nick realized that Natalie had not really enjoyed that part of her life after her parents' death. Not having a mother to gossip with or to go to for support must have been difficult for a teenaged girl as sensitive as Natalie.

Natalie became quiet for a few minutes, Nick leaned over and placed a soft kiss on her lips. "Thank you for letting me in." With a half hearted smile, she nodded slightly. Finally she rose and took her empty cup into the kitchen.

She glanced at her watch as she returned to the couch. She asked, "So, are we definately on for the morning?"

"A blizzard wouldn't keep me away."

"That would be a good trick, considering it's about 15 degrees out." Natalie said as she laughed. (Author note: any mention of temperature is in Celsius. Like, I'm Canadian, eh? ;-))

Glad that he had lightened her mood a bit, he also glanced at his watch. "We should get going before we get tardy slips."

Before they went their separate ways, they made promises to 'touch base' like always, sometime during their shift.

## End Part 6/37 ##

** Subdivisions -

** In the high school halls

** In the shopping malls

** Conform or be cast out

** Subdivisions -

** In the basement bars

** In the backs of cars

** Be cool or be cast out

** Any escape might help to smooth

** The unattractive truth

** But the suburbs have no charms to soothe

** The restless dreams of youth

RUSH - Subdivisions

## Part 7/37 ##

Much to his dismay another evening of paper work was waiting for Nick when he arrived at the 27th precinct. The only break he had from Schanke gryping about paperwork and other things during the first half of the shift was when the D.A. came in to tape Nick's testimony for an upcoming trial. When Nick sat back down at his desk after the D.A. had finished, Schanke picked up right were he left off.

"I'm telling ya Nick. As much as I love Myra, she can sure complain a lot."

Knowing Schanke would just keep dropping hints until he caved in Nick asked. "What did you do now, Schanke?"

Stopping the pretense of writing, he unloaded his troubles on Nick. "She's telling me that since I've been working the late shift a lot now, that we don't go out and do anything anymore. It's not as if we don't. We're on the bowling league, and she drags me to her Skin Pretty functions all the time."

"Well Schanke, maybe she wants to go see a movie or show. Something that just the two of you can go to."

"Yah, maybe. But who can afford it? By the time you include dinner, a sitter for Jenny, tickets and munchies you don't have enough left to buy gas for the trip home. She said she's tired of renting movies. She wants to at least see one while it's at the theater."

Thinking about his own tape dates with Natalie, he suddenly realized that he had not taken her _out_ for dinner or a movie or a show for quite a while. Added to that, the fact that Schanke had to work almost permanent nights to partner with him, caused more guilt. "Schanke, I need to step out for a minute. Want me to bring you back anything?"

Looking back up from his paperwork, Schanke replied. "Yeah, a souvlaki would hit the spot." He started to dig in his pocket for his billfold.

"That's okay Schanke, it's on me."

"I'm going to have to mark this day on the calendar. My partrner is actually buying _me_ lunch. Thanks Nick."

"You're welcome, Don. Be back in a while." Nick made his way to the Caddy. After putting the top down, he left the precinct to drive over to see Natalie.

Parking out front of the Coroners Building, Nick headed down the hall to Natalie's work area. The odour of a body being worked on, made itself known before Nick peaked his head around the door to confirm it by sight. Natalie and Grace were suited up in green scrubs, taking samples from the body. Walking into the room, but staying off to the side, Nick waited until he was noticed. Grace saw some movement as Nick came into the room and bumped Natalie's elbow to get her attention. Finishing her description of the kidneys, Natalie turned off the recorder.

Grace, hoping to get these two together, gave Natalie a wink before she spoke. "I'll get these samples over to the lab right away, Doctor." Then she turned to Nick and said as she walked toward the door. "Oh, Detective, what brings you by?" Then walked out of the lab.

Nick only got out a "Hi, Grace." before she was past him and out of the lab. As he turned back to Natalie he said. "Hi, Nat. Busy night?"

Pulling off her gloves and throwing them into the biohazard bin on her way to the sink, she said over her shoulder in his direction. "Yeah, a couple of domestic's from a case for the 101st. Managed to get away did you?"

"Uh huh. Needed a break from Schanke." Stalling until she had dried her hands and turned towards him, he said, "I was wondering, Nat, have you seen the 'Phantom of the Opera', playing at the Pantages yet?"

"No, I haven't had a chance. Why?"

"I uh, I want to do something for Myra and Don, and for you. I thought that I could treat all of you to an evening out. Myra's peaved at Schanke for not taking her out more. I think it has more to do with him working so many night shifts though. And, I haven't taken you out to a movie or dinner in a while and was hoping to take you out on a, date."

"A date?" "Yes, I think I would like that very much. What exactly did you have planned?"

Glad that Natalie had accepted the idea, Nick warmed up to the concept as he laid out his plan. "Well, since Schanke would probably feel obligated to try and pay for some of it, I was thinking that if I put the idea to him like this, that he will accept it. If I tell him that I'm a bit nervous about going out on a date with you alone and that I want him and Myra to double with us, so that the evening will go smoothly, he might buy it. I'll use paying for the evening as a bribe for the favour he will be doing for me. That way, he doesn't feel obligated to try to pay for any of it and Myra will get her evening out. Myself, I will get to spend an enjoyable night out with you and be doing something to smooth out my partners romantic problems. I was thinking of the eight o'clock evening show, then a late dinner at the Top of Toronto Revolving Restaurant." (Author note: restaurant in the 'SkyPod' at the top of the CN Tower) "It would be late enough that the sun should be setting when we have to leave to pick up Schanke and Myra. After the show is over, we should be able to enjoy a great night time panoramic view of Toronto from our window table in the restaurant. That just leaves me having to explain why I'm not eating."

"Sounds good. When?"

Performing a mental schedule check, he replied. "How's the first Friday in October for you? My contacts should be able to get me tickets for that date without any problems."

"I'm on days that week, looks good to me. I'll pencil it in." As she put her planner back into her purse, she rummaged in a side compartment. Pulling out a set of keys, she slipped two off and handed them to Nick. "Here. I might be running late tonight. Let yourself in, and if you get there before me, please feed Sidney. He gets a handful of dry food tonight, the box is in the bottom cupboard by his dish."

Taking the keys, Nick asked. "Do you want me to pick up something for you to eat? Pizza, Chinese?"

"Pizza sounds good. The usual toppings."

"Right, the works, hold the garlic. Speaking of garlic, I promised Schanke that I'd buy him a souvlaki dinner tonight. I'd better get going. Call me at the precinct if you have to stay late?"

"Will do, see you later."

With a wave, Nick went of on his souvlaki mission. Schanke, as planned was only too happy to help his partner out of his dating bind. Myra had been dropping hints that she wanted to see the show for the past three months, so Nick found out. Schanke was so happy, he forgot to complain about the pile of paperwork for the rest of the shift. Natalie ended up calling to tell Nick that she would be staying late, and to go to her place without her.

## End Part 7/37 ##

** Take yourself a friend

** Kep 'em till the end

** Whether woman or man

** It makes you feel so good

** So good

RUSH - Take A Friend

## Part 8/37 ##

After stopping at the loft to feed, shower and change, Nick let himself into Natalie's apartment. Sidney was only too glad to suck up to anyone who was willing to feed him. He was soon Nick's best pal, getting under foot as he tried to wind his way through Nick's legs. After taking care of Sidney, Nick ordered the pizza.

Nick saw the 'Sam the Record Man' bag on the dining room table, and looked through the contents to kill time as he waited for Natalie to arrive. He found quite an eclectic mix of music. Sorting through them, he found most were 'best of' albums. The rest being regular releases. Group names like Duran Duran, Saga, Lee Arron, The Cars, Bangles, ZZ Top, Steve Miller, Nazareth, Chicago, April Wine, Heart, INXS, Kim Mitchell, Alice Cooper, Supertramp, CCR, and The Eagles formed a stack to one side. On the other side, a pile containing Gowan, Roxy Music, The Doors, The Cult, Meat Loaf, "C/DC, The Jeff Healey Band, YES, Led Zeppelin, Fred Mollen, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and the Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show finished the collection. Nick's thoughts were interupted by Natalie calling to his cell phone. She was on her way. It had not been very long after he had pulled the wrapping off the movies and read the description blurb, when the pizza arrived. Moments after the delivery person left, Natalie came home. While she had a quick shower, Nick opened the bottle of white wine he had brought. Soon after Nick had finished organizing the wine, glasses, and pizza on the coffee table, he qued up "Young Frankenstein". Natalie plopped herself down on the couch in a sweat suit.

Nick sipped at his glass of wine, while Natalie, who sat a discreet distance from him, filled up on pizza. Drinking two glasses to his one, she had started to feel sleepy by the end of the movie. Making a few 'Frau Bruhur' jokes while changing the tape, she sat back down beside Nick. Getting no objection she leaned into his side. She felt content, warm and safe when he put his arm around her shoulder. About half an hour into the movie, the lack of sleep the day before coupled with the long shift and the wine caused her to fall asleep. Nick decided after waiting a few more minutes that Natalie was not going to rouse from her nap. He picked her up and put her into bed. Nick shut off the tape, TV, and turned the lights out. After he checked the drapes in the bedroom, he laid down on top of the covers beside her.

Natalie woke to half sleep state laying on her side. She felt overly hot. As she woke fully, she realized that she was wearing her sweat suit in bed. There was a depression in the mattress behind her. Faint light from the hallway came through the half opened bedroom door, just enough that she could make out Nick in profile. His hands were folded across his stomach. After she slipped out of bed to take care of her full bladder, Natalie returned and stood by the bed. She paused to observe Nick. It always amazed her how much softer his features looked without that grim expression he usually wore. It seemed like he was at peace with himself for a while. Not able to resist the urge, she straightened the covers out, before climbing back into the bed. Moving his arm so it came straight out from his side, she snuggled into him. With her head tucked onto his shoulder, she draped her leg over his. Her fingers touched the cool skin on his chest, where she had worked them between the gap in his shirt buttons. Quite content to finally have Nick in her bed, she cuddled closer to him. This was where she had wanted him for so long. She fell into a relaxing sleep.

Natalie drifted out of sleep to the feel of a feather light touch that roamed up and down her back. Slitting her eyes open, she found that Nick had pulled the covers across them sometime while they slept. Closing her eyes accompanied by a soft sigh, she took account of herself curled against Nick. He had covered her right hand, which was still tucked into his shirt front, with his left. That left his other hand to trace along her back underneath the covers. Her position had not changed during the time they slept, except for her right leg. When she had fallen asleep, it had been draped across both of his legs, but somehow as she slept, she found that it had worked it's way between them. She realized that she could definately feel the bulge of him against her thigh. she thought. She felt Nick move underneath her, as he placed a kiss on the top of her head.

"Morning Nat."


"I know you're awake. Your increased heart beat dosen't lie." As he spoke, he felt her snuggle in deeper against him."

"What time is it?" He heard her mumble.

"Time to get up. I shut your alarm off. I thought it might be more pleasant if I woke you up slowly, instead of that shrill electronic whine.

"Uhm, s'nice." Natalie mumbled.

"Come on Nat," Nick said. "It's going on eight o'clock. We do have work tonight, remember." Getting nothing but a groan for a response, he finally flipped the covers off them. Nick lifted up his shoulder to giggle her head. Natalie didn't respond. Nick raised his arms above his head in an exaggerated stretch, then brought them down quickly. His finger tips tickled Natalie down her back and side.

With a yelp, Natalie pushed off Nick's chest, and ended up kneeling beside him, just out of arms reach. She smacked his leg with the back of her hand. "What did you do that for?" she exclaimed.

"Well, I had to get you up somehow didn't I? It seems to have worked, hasn't it?"

She squinted her eyes at him, similar to a look that Sidney would make before pouncing on something. ALets see how you like it." she said, as she threw herself on top of him. She ended up straddling his waist, with her hands working up and down his sides.

Nick broke out laughing. Not because he was ticklish, but because of the expression on Natalie's face as she said, "Coochie, coochie." over and over. They playfully wrestled with Natalie on top. When Nick finally managed to grab both of her hands, she started to calm down. As Natalie sat back and caught her breath, she found that the bulge she had previously noticed in Nick's lap had turned into a rather hard lump.

Both of them realized the state of his arousal at the same time. Nick rolled Natalie off of him then got off the bed. As he straightened out his shirt he said. "I'll go put the coffee on for you, Nat." Then he quickly left the room.

As she looked at her hand, with her finger and thumb held about a half an inch apart, she thought Natalie got off the bed and followed Nick into the kitchen.

When she walked into the kitchen, she noticed the coffee maker perking. Nick had just retrieved a quarter filled green bottle from the refrigerator. "What are you doing Nick?"

"I'm going to feed, Nat. The sun won't be down for another ten minutes. I need to feed."

"Eat. You need to _eat_ Nick. You're not an animal! People eat, not feed!" She exclaimed. Natalie walked over to him and took the glass out of his hand. "Here." she said, as she replaced it with a mug. "Please use a mug. I know you need to eat, Nick. I'm sorry I snapped at you. But, please use a mug. I can disassociate myself from the blood when I'm at work, but having to deal with it in a non-work setting kind of gives me the willies."

His previous bit of annoyance now gone, Nick replied. "Why didn't you tell me sooner Nat? If I had known, I would have stopped using a goblet when you were visiting. This is my quota for tonight." He said as he took the mug from Natalie and filled it. It's hard, but I am following your schedule to cut back on the blood."

She gave his arm a squeeze and motioned him to sit down at the table. Natalie joined him after making her coffee. Sidney decided then to come into the kitchen and make his presence known. He meowed until Natalie put food in his dish. As he finished, Nick rinsed out the mug and went to the living room window. He opened the curtains before he spoke. "Suns down Nat. I should get going." He turned around with a grin on his face. "I wouldn't want the people at work spreading gossip if I came in unshaved and wearing the same clothes."

"Can't have that, can we." Natalie said, then thought

Nick put the empty bottle in a shopping bag, and put on his coat. Natalie came over to see him off at the door. As Nick bent down to kiss her, she turned her head away and exclaimed. "Eww, your breath smells like raw steak. Don't move." She rummaged through her purse, and came back with a pack of gum. "Here...chew on these." With a shrug, Nick put the stick of spearmint gum in his mouth. He made a face as his taste buds over loaded, but chewed it as Natalie watched him.

After a couple of minutes, Natalie reached up and pulled his head down and initiated a goodbye kiss. "Much better." She said as she released him. Nick opened the door, then turned around in the door way. As he went to hand her back the pack she said with a wink, "No, keep it, you might need it later."

He gave her arm a squeeze and said while chuckling, "See you later a work Nat."

"See you later, Nick." she said as she shut the door.

## End Part 8/37 ##

** Well, hey now, baby

** Said, I like your style

** You really got me, baby

** Way down deep inside

RUSH - In The Mood

## Part 9/37 ##

Nick and Schanke ended up on Stakeout duty for the night. A tip had come in on a murder suspect that was wanted out west in Calgary. The man was last reported heading in the direction of Toronto. Nick and Schanke's case load was low, so they had been delegated to trying to catch the offender.

Natalie had been kept busy herself. Sidney had picked up a minor infection, and she had to make a couple of trips to the Vet's with him. Nick and Natalie did not see each other again, outside of work, until the weekend.

Nick turned on the gas fireplace, as Natalie poured herself a cup of coffee. He sat on the couch and watched, as she carefully walked over carrying the full hot cup. He softly clapped, as she set her cup down on the coffee table without spilling a drop. She gave an exaggerated bow, then sat down beside him on the couch.

"So, Nat. What do you want to do tonight? Movie, music, or how about a game of cards?"

Natalie thought about it for a minute, then replied. "No, I don't feel like doing any of those things tonight." Thinking for a few more minutes, she said, "Tell me a story Nick. Something about one of those far-off lands you've visited, or better yet, tell me about what it was like when you were mortal."

"You don't really want to hear about that, do you Nat?" Nick asked.

"Yeah." Natalie said, with an enthusiastic nod.

With a slight shoulder shrug, Nick said, "Where do you want me to begin?"

"Starting at the start is usually a good idea." Natalie replied with a laugh.

Nick paused a moment to collect his thoughts, then began.

"I was born on my family's 1000 acre estate, in the province of Brabant, in Belgium. Before I was a year old, it had been decided by my Uncle, the Noble of our family, that I would be trained to become a Knight. This, they believed would give my family the most honor as my father was the youngest brother in his family.

"At the age five, my father decided I was old enough to learn to hunt. So he directed the estate huntsman, Luke, to start teaching me. I spent most of my time as a young lad learning to hunt and track in the woods with Luke instead of my father. I believe I became a surrogate son to Luke. I learned a lot about how to survive on my own from him. He taught me how to use a bow, fish, and track game in the forest. He was so proud of me the first time I brought down a hare using my bow." Nick smiled with the thought.

"While my Father saw to my training in survival, my Mother was directed to see to my training in religion. My routine was constant for most of my young life. I would get up before dawn, go hunting on the estate grounds with Luke, then, in the afternoon, my Mother would walk me into town to our church. The priest, Father Sylvian, began my training in theology. The first words I could read and write came from the Bible."

AJust after I turned ten, I was pledged to the Order of St. John's Hospital. This order was similar to the Order of the Temple, or Templers as they are referred to now. Both of these orders had begun as gentle religious charities, before becoming monk-knights after the conquest of Jerusalem by the Moslems."

He looked at Natalie and said, "You know the Catholic hospitals today, came from the Order of St. John's Hospital. The Order had purely pacific brothers who would see to the hostels for the poor, and care for the aged and ill. During the time of the crusades, the Order was primarily dedicated to fighting as an act of charitable love for Christ. When I was accepted by the Order, my family was overjoyed. It was a great honor at the time to be a member of either Order. My family also pledged financial donations to the Order. With these donations from the various noble families in Europe, the Order maintained their own network of castles with all the equipment and horses needed for war."

Natalie, who had been sipping at her coffee nodded for him to continue.

Gazing into the flames in the fire place, Nick continued his narration. "I was sent to the Order's Keep in Belgium. As my training in theology continued, my reading and writing skills improved. As I neared my thirteenth year, the monks thought I showed a great deal of promise and sent me to the main Castle in France. The main Castle was then, what would be considered today, a combination of Armory, Cathedral, Hospital, and University."

"The place was so big it took me over a month before I stopped getting lost." Nick said with a laugh. Then he continued, Apart of my next year was spent in training of the basics of combat. I was also trained in the healing ways. How to stitch wounds, prepare a poultice from herbs, and generally help the Brothers care for the sick. When the Brothers considered my skills enough not to get myself killed in a battle, I was allowed to become a squire." Nick broke his stare from the flames, and looked at Natalie.

Natalie raised her cup for another sip and realized she had finished it while raptly listening to Nick.

"I'm not boring you yet, am I?" Nick asked.

"No, not at all. Quite the opposite, actually." Natalie replied.

"Why don't you make yourself something else to drink, then I'll continue." Nick suggested.

While she waited for the kettle to boil to make tea, Natalie make a 'pit stop' in the washroom. She poured her tea and returned to a comfortable position on the couch. "Okay, I'm ready. Please continue." she said.

Nick returned his gaze to the flames, as he described the events of his young life. Slowly he became caught up in his memories. "Brother Stephan was a hard task master. He was one of the leaders of the warrior faction. I was so proud to have been chosen by him over all the other boys to be his squire. He had a beautiful horse. Louie was his name. It was my duty to take care of Louie, Brother Stephan's armor and weapons. The battle training was demanding. I was lucky. I only got a few scars from the experience. Some of the more inept squires got themselves killed during training."

"In 1208, Pope Innocent III, ordered the crusaders against the Cathars. The Cathars were Christians in southern France who didn't accept the authority of the Pope. The Pope assured all knights that attacking the Cathars would be an act of piety, guaranteed them annulment from all their sins. On July 22nd, the town of Beziers was attacked. The knights encircled the town to prevent any escape. Brother Stephan was atop of Louie, I was holding the reins. The answer to the question Brother Stephan asked the Abbot of Citeaux was burned into my mind that day. Brother Stephan asked the Abbot how they could avoid killing true believers. The Abbot replied, 'Kill them all. God will know his own.' The knights spared no one...the aged, noble, merchants, women nor children. All were systematically killed as the knights closed the circle. The whole town was massacred." He looked at Natalie and said, Aalthough I did not participate in the battle, the degree of butchery astounded me. I threw up my breakfast. Brother Stephan laughed, and said I would soon become used to the sight of a little blood as he handed me his sword to clean."

"The bodies you see at crime scenes today Nat, don't come close to the sight of the bodies from that battle. What disgusted me most, was the mercenaries gutting the bodies of the nobles and merchants, as they looked for swallowed jewels and valuables."

Natalie shuddered, as she involuntarily pictured this site.

Nick reclined against the back of the couch, gazed at the fireplace, and continued. "My training continued for about three more years. The monks, who provided instruction in battle, were impressed at my degree of skill. My training in caring for the sick also progressed. I learned how to amputate limbs without killing the patent as well as other treatment skills. I suppose I ended up with the knowledge of a field doctor by the time the Brothers were finished with that aspect of my training."

"I took up the Cross when I was Knighted, and became a full member of the Order. I was around eighteen then. I was sent by boat to the Keep in Acre. Acre was a Crusader stronghold in Palestine with port facilities on the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It was located about 80 miles north of Jerusalem. Compared to France, the heat was oppressive. It took me several months to become accustomed to it."

"I had been in Acre for about three years before a decision was made to attack Egypt. It was thought that if Egypt was attacked, the Moslem power in the area would be broken. This would also remove the threat of the Egyptian fleet. In May of 1216 we sailed for Damietta, on the eastern side of the Nile delta. We succeeded in taking the city's port in early August. With reinforcements from Europe under the command of Cardinal Pelagius, we set siege to Damietta. The siege was badly organized and commanded. Desertion and disease depleted our army. Cardinal Pelagius refused peace terms offered by al-Kamil, the ruler of Egypt. In late August, our army was nearly destroyed in one battle. The stench of dead, bloated bodies in the hot afternoon sun was an odor I never wanted to smell again. Cardinal Pelagius again refused al-Kamil's offer of peace. He lead us toward Cairo. Many of us thought him stupid as well as pig headed for not accepting the truce. He directed us to camp in an area subject to the annual Nile flood. Al-Kamil used this opportunity to destroy us. Al-Kamil had the flood barriers destroyed and we were deluged with water. A lot of us were washed away. Most drowned from the weight of their armor." With venom in his voice as he spoke, "Pelagius found a boat and escaped, taking most of the food and medical supplies with him." Letting his anger fade his voice dropped to normal and he continued. "Those of us still alive were captured and held prisoner."

Natalie noticed Nick's expression harden as he continued with the next part of his life.

"We were taken to a Moslem stronghold where we were detained. They put about fifty of us in one of the lower rooms. We were stripped, and our wrists manacled behind our backs. Those who resisted were beaten into submission. Each of us were forced to sit against a section of wall that had a ring protruding about six inches up from the floor. The manacles around our wrists were attached to the ring. There was little movement possible. We had to urinate and defecate into a shallow trough that was cut into the floor at the base of the wall behind us. The stench of human waste soon filled the room as the weeks passed. We had to eat out of bowls placed beside us on the floor like dogs at a food dish. The gruel they fed us had no nutrition, so we soon became emaciated. Half of our numbers died from dysentery and disease caused by living in our own filth. When the stench became too much for the guards, they would dump water on us. There were no windows. We soon lost track of all time. The man beside me, Jaques, died one day when he no longer had enough strength to raise his head from his food bowl. To die in such a manor was an atrocity for a knight. They didn't beat us. They just tried to break us by treating us like animals. Through my faith in God I did _not_ allow them to break me!"

Natalie had started to silently cry, as she realized the extent of the horror Nick had lived through.

"I didn't know it at the time, but this was when I first came to the attention of LaCroix. I thought I was hallucinating when I woke up one day to find a tall European man standing in the middle of our cell. I blinked, and he was gone. Sometime later, one of the guards came in and took blood from a few of us. At the time, I didn't know why they had done this. I thought it was some new way of breaking us. I found out after I was brought across that LaCroix had been there. He was crossing the area after teaching Jenghiz Khan the art of war."

"Those of us who remained were released about six months later. Brother Serge and I were the only remaining Hospitallers to survive of our group. Emancipated from our detainment, we were sent back to France when we were well enough to travel. After recovering at the main castle, I was allowed to travel to Belgium to visit my family."

"My parents had not seen me since I was sent to the Keep, fourteen years before. They threw a big celebration when I returned. It was strange having aunts, uncles, and cousins, calling me Brother Nicolas. My little sister Fleur had been a baby when I left. She had grown into a gangly teenager with the promise of becoming a beautiful young woman. She was so overjoyed to finally meet her big brother. She dotted over me the whole time I was there. The day I was to return to France she refused to let go of me. Finally Mother was forced to hold her."

"Back at the castle I fully recovered. I was sent with a delegation to England, to convert the pagan villages in the countryside to Christianity. Our group was lead by Abbot Michel. We traveled across England for a couple of years spreading the word of our Lord. We were in a small town in Wales, when I met her. Her name was Gwyneth. I was exploring the area outside of town when I heard singing accompanied by a harp. I followed the music into a meadow. There she sat, playing the harp and singing a Celtic song. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. We would meet each day in the meadow and talk about the world and life. The Abbot, seeing a Knight of the Order, a monk, being smitten by a pagan had her killed. I had gone to the meadow that day to meet with her, to continue our talks. I was found in the meadow by the town elders standinng over her body. Even though I swore to God that I had not killed her, the town elders blamed me for her death. The Abbot convinced the elders that sending me back to the crusades to fight as a warrior of God would be satisfactory penance for my 'supposed' crime."

"In short order, I was back on a ship to Acre. There was very little fighting at that time. Most of my days were spent caring for the sick in the area. The years started to pass with routine. We patrolled the countryside to break the monotony. Our patrol was two days out from our Keep and I had just moved to the forward right column, when a Moslem Jihad faction ambushed us . They sent a barrage of arrows upon us. I tried to block the arrows with my shield, but I took one in my thigh and side. My horse was hit in the neck. The next thing I knew, the Moslems were descending on us. I struggled from beneath my horse, and managed to snap off the protruding arrow shafts before they got to me."

"The fury I felt, coupled with the pain from the wounds, put me into a near berserker rage. All of the bottled up anger I had held from being a prisoner and being sent back to the Crusades came out. My decades of training kicked in. I was vicious. I spared no one. During the battle my sword broke, but I still fought on like a wild man. Bodies of the enemy were piled around me. The ground became slick with blood. The other Brothers dared not come near me, as I attacked anything that moved. They waited until I passed out from blood loss before they approached. I woke up four days later in the Keep. Infection set into the wounds, and I almost died."

"When I had recovered enough to travel I was sent back to France. I became an instructor at the Castle teaching the next generation of warriors in the ways of battle. In a way I was kind of a celebrity with the boys. I had survived the Crusades twice and lived into my thirties."

"It was at a function at one of the estates that had pledged support to our Order, that I first saw Janette. One of the Feudal Lords' knights had just told a rabid joke, and everyone at the table was laughing. Being the senior warrior present I was sitting at the head of the table. I looked over at the doorway and there she stood. Her beauty took my breath away. I saw her lips move, it was as if she was whispering directly into my ear."

"I threw away everything that I cherished that night. I have never really forgiven myself."

Looking as if he felt every one of his years, Nick got up saying, "Nat, could you see yourself out?" Then made his way up the stairs into his bedroom.

Natalie sat on the couch completely stunned. She had known that Nick had fought in the crusades but, the extent of the horror he had experienced overwhelmed her. she thought.

Natalie continued to digest the whole story as she washed out her cup and finally made her way to the washroom. Her sarcastic side brought up the thought, Chastising herself for her poor taste of humor, she washed up and went up to Nick's bedroom. She entered to find him in his bed, laying on top of the blankets on his side with his back to the door. Natalie did not speak, as she climbed onto the bed and spooned herself against his back.

Nick came back from his memories at the touch of Natalie climbing onto the bed. He lay still as she put her arm around his side to place her hand on top of his. Nick fell asleep, and did not dream.

## End Part 9/37 ##

** The hypocrites are slandering

** The sacred halls of Truth

** Ancient nobles showering

** Their bitterness on youth

** Can't we find

** The minds that made us stong

** Can't we learn

** To feel what's right and wrong

RUSH - A Farewell to Kings

## Part 10/37 ##


Natalie stepped into the lift for Nick's loft. She turned to the panel as the door slid shut. A feeling of dread came over her as she thought of what she had come here to do. Steeling her resolve, she jabbed the button for the top floor. The events of the day played before her mind even as she pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes.

She had worked all days this week. One of the other M.E.'s had asked to switch shifts, promising to owe her a big favor when she needed one. Between the shift change over from nights to days and the steady workload, she hadn't had time to look at the cell samples from Nick the week before. Today was gratefully slow in the morgue, so she took some of her 'free time' to work on Nick's cure. What she had found after looking at the samples and conducting further tests on his blood, brought all of her life's hopes down around her.

In stunned automation she drove home after her shift. Picking up her mail, riding the elevator to her floor, feeding Sidney, changing into her sweat suit, putting a frozen dinner in the microwave, were all done out of unthinking routine. It wasn't until she had hit the button on her answering machine, and heard Nick's voice, that she zoned back into reality. He wanted her to give him a call, or just drop over. Maybe they could do something together on their night off. She sat down heavily on the couch. Sidney did not miss the opportunity to jump onto her lap for some attention. That warm, purring body in her arms opened the emotional flood gate, and tears started to run down her face.

She picked through her meal and forced herself to eat. The dread of telling Nick of her findings hit her. A sudden urge to get out into the remainder of the early evening sunshine and fresh air brought her into motion. She dumped the remainder of her supper into the garbage, made sure that Sidney was fed, and grabbed her coat and purse. She drove aimlessly for a while. After about ten minutes, she found herself at the entrance to a small park. Natalie remembered pleasant summer late-evening walks with Nick. She turned off the car, and watched as daylight slowly made way for the dusk. Grief washed over her and tears streamed down her face again.

Foremost in her thoughts was how Nick would react to her news. , she thought. He had only recently let down some barriers, and opened up enough to begin to let her into his life. She remembered how Nick's dwelling on suicide that summer had scarred her. He had been extremely upset when his old lover and friend had given up and walked into the sun. He had felt so sure that she loved her life, he didn't understand. In stead of coming to terms with his feelings, he had focused himself even more on his job. He renewed his concentration on his quest for mortality and redemption.

The uncertainty of his reaction made her stomach churn. What would Nick do when he found out that mortality was out of his reach for an unknown time? Would he stay with her? If he left, would he take her with him? Would he give in to his vampiric nature? If he gave in, would he go back to Janette, or perhaps, would he offer to bring her across? Or would he...she didn't even want to think about that. Could the tiny beginnings of their relationship grow into something more. If it did, could he refrain from killing her in blind passion?

She wiped the tears from her face. As the sun set over the lake, she knew this was something else that she and Nick might never share, other than on a TV screen. She was the kind of person who did the unpleasant job first, instead of procrastinating. So she dried off her face, touched up her mascara, and started the car. Even though her insides felt like jello, she pointed her car in the direction of Nick's loft.

The slight jolt as the elevator stopped disengaged her thoughts. She could hear Nick at the piano, playing a piece of classical music that she did not recognize. As the door slid open she saw Nick look over his shoulder and smile at her. It was that smile she was slowly seeing more of. That smile he rarely gave anyone but her. The one that always caused her pulse to quicken.

His smile faded and his fingers stopped as he saw the pained expression on Natalie's face. He got up from the piano and met her at the dining table, as she placed her Doctor's bag on it. "Nat, what's wrong?" He noticed her quivering chin, puffy red eyes and accelerated heart beat. "Nat...say something. You're scaring me!"

Natalie moved out of his reach before he could take hold of her arms. She made her way to the refrigerator, grabbed two full bottles of blood, and walked back to the table. "Sit down Nick."

"Nat, what's going on?" he asked.

AJust sit down!" Placing the bottles in front of him she said, "Drink these...don't argue! Just drink them!"

Nick ripped the cork out of one of the bottles with his teeth, tilted the bottle and swallowed until it was empty.

As he made no move to drink from the other bottle she said, "Both of them. Then I'll explain." Nick drank the contents of the second bottle while Natalie took off her coat and sat down across from him. He sat the second bottle off to the side, and waited expectantly for Natalie to speak.

"You remember those cell samples I took last week?" After she got a nod from Nick she continued. "I ran the tests on them today. The results..." Her composure started to falter. She held up her hand so Nick would give her a minute. "The results showed that the virus has invaded every cell in your body. That the 'vampire virus' has attached extra genes into the genome of every cell in your body. This is way beyond anything that I had considered before." The tears she had tried to hold back started to run down her cheeks. She sobbed, "Nick...I can't find a cure...."

Nick's body went slack, all expression drained from his face. He got up and walked in a daze to the window. With his hands on the sill, he leaned his forehead against the glass. "It's over then. All those centuries of searching...for nothing. It's over."

Frightened by the way he said 'over', Natalie went to him. Stopping a step away, she tentatively reached out a hand to touch him. "What do you mean 'over' Nick? What are you planning on doing? She sobbed.

"I'll have to leave this life, this mortal life I've made."

"No! Don't leave me...I love you..." Natalie cried.

Letting the vampire surface, Nick turned to face her. ALove, how can you love this! This thing that I am."

She grabbed his face along his jaw and brought it towards hers, forcing him to make eye contact. "No! It is not what you are! It is only a part of _who_ you are! Part of the person that you are that I fell in love with. We all have our dark sides Nick. Yours is just more obvious and harder to control. Did you feel satisfaction or revel at taking another's life when you won in combat? Did you feel regret at killing after the adrenaline wore off? You told me that most of your mortal lifetime was spent in being trained how to kill. Your whole mortal lifetime was spent balancing your faith in god and helping those not as fortunate as you with that of a trained killer. How much different now are you compared to when you were mortal? We all have the potential to be cruel, to strike out viscously at those we dislike. It's our morality that prevents us, our conscience. Admit it or not Nick, _YOU_ are one of the most moral persons I know. You more than anyone mortal have the potential to kill as it is a side-effect of your need to survive, but your morality and conscience drives you, not the potential of cruelty and hate."

"Didn't we meet after you were severely injured trying to stop a robbery? You could have killed me then without pause, but you didn't, you sought out the stored blood supply instead. Since you've been in Toronto, haven't you placed your own life on the line without a thought, to help save others? You've saved my life and Schanke's more than once. Myra would be a widow now if you hadn't distracted that psycho that was hunting him. I only got a bit bruised from the car rolling over. Seat belt or no, if you hadn't been there to shield me and get me out of the car, I would have died when it exploded. I would have probably been killed by Roger if you hadn't shown up when you did. Nick, I know what you are. Those are just parts in the package I love about you, that draws me to you. I accept you as you are...can't you understand that?" Out of exasperation she lightly shook him by his shoulders. She slid her hands across his shoulder blades to enclose behind his neck and pulled his face to hers and then kissed him.

In the midst of her kissing Nick, Natalie sensed a change. The kiss went from exasperation, to tentative arousal, to a passionate need in him. She slid her tongue into his mouth and let it trail over his fangs. His passion ignited and matched hers in intensity as he realized that she did not fear the vampire that he was. She trusted him with her life. She truly loved him. He broke from the kiss and pulled her close to him in a loving embrace. He inclined his face toward her ear, he whispered in a voice ragged with emotion, "The only way I will leave you Natalie, is if you send me away...I love you so much...it scares me to the core of my being."

"*NICOLAS PICK UP THE PHONE!*" Janette's voice rang through the loft. "*NICHOLAS IF YOU DON'T PICK UP NOW, I'M COMING TO FIND YOU!*"

They had been so focused on each other that they had not heard the phone ring or the answering machine pickup. With a kiss to her cheek, he released Natalie from his embrace. Not wanting to deal with Janette tonight, he almost flew across the room to snatch up the phone. AJanette I'm here!" He said in English.

"Nicolas, our link was thrumming with sorrow and loss, what has happened!?"

Nick gestured Natalie to come over to him. He pulled her into a hug as he continued to speak. "I received some unexpected news that shocked me a bit. I...Natalie and I" he amended, as he gave Natalie a slight squeeze, Awill be over at a later time to explain. I haven't gotten all the information myself yet, but I assure you that I'm alright now. A little shaken, but alright."

"Yes, our bond has quieted. You will come to the Raven and explain all to me?"

"Not tonight. If not tomorrow, then the night after that. I promise we will."

"*You had better. Good night, Nicolas.*"

"*Goodnight Janette.*"

As Nick hung up the phone, Natalie asked him "What was all that about?"

Leading her around to the front of the couch Nick said, "The shock at your revelation caused our 'link' to...overload would be the best phrase. Being children of LaCroix, we have a weak telepathic bond with each other. We can't read each others thoughts. It's more like an emotional link. When one of us is extremely emotional, like fear or sorrow, our bond will almost scream in the others mind if we are physically in the same area as the other."

As they sat on the couch Natalie said, "As fascinating as all of this is Nick, I'm just too emotionally exhausted at the moment...could we just hold each other for a while?"

Nick pulled Natalie to him as he reclined against the arm of the couch. Shifting her position a bit, Natalie wrapped her arms around him. She laced her fingers together as she placed her head on his chest, and felt his arms encompass her. Hearing the sound of his heart beat once, she thought and drifted off to sleep.

Nick lay perfectly still. He had learned as a boy how to stay still, to wait for the prey to expose itself. Now he was still so as not to wake Natalie. She had not slackened her grip around him since she fell asleep. Her steady breathing and heart beat was background noise to Nick's thoughts.

protJgJ' trying to escape him must have been like a slap across the face to him. The ultimate rebellion of a child to a parent.'

condition'. The feeling of flight, the feeling of freedom sailing through the air. The strength, being able to prevent anything from stopping my will. The healing, to survive injuries that would kill a score of mortal men. The night lit as day, no longer does the night hold mysteries in the shadows.'

Nick's thoughts traveled a varied and winding path as he considered his personal morales and faith. He started to idly rub Natalie's back as his mind sorted through his feelings.

The night passed. Nick stayed engrossed in his thoughts.

His internal clock told him of the coming dawn. Nick reached across and picked up the remote. As the sunlight started to trace along the floor, he activated the shutters. Natalie stirred from sleep at the metallic sound. Nick stopped his idle caresses and hugged her to him.

"What time is it?" Natalie asked.

At Nick's answer of "Early morning, the sun's just coming up." she tensed, then relaxed as she recognized the metallic sound as the shutters closing.

Natalie lifted her head off of Nick's chest to look at his face. "You okay?"

Nick smiled and leaned forward. After he kissed her on her forehead, he replied. "Yeah, I'm okay."

## End Part 10/37 ##

** All of us get lost in the darkness

** Dreamers learn to steer by the stars

** All of us do time in the gutter

** Dreamers turn to look at the cars

** turn around and turn around and turn around

** Turn around and walk the razor's edge

** Don't turn you back

** And slam the door on me

RUSH - The Pass

## Part 11/37 ##

Part 11 is continuous with Part 10.

Natalie stretched up and placed a quick kiss on his cheek before she disentangled herself and made her way to the bathroom to freshen up. As she came back into the living area, she smelled coffee brewing. She saw Nick just sitting down at the kitchen table, with the extra large deep blue mug in his hand. Natalie joined him after she made her coffee.

They each sipped from their cups, neither wanting to be the first to speak. After five minutes of silence, Natalie set her cup down and pushed it slightly away from her. "Nick, when you said you loved me so much that it scared you to the core of your being, what exactly did you mean?"

Nick drained the contents of his cup and set it down on the table, sliding it away from him. He gave a very mortal sigh, then started to explain. "I was in Austria in the late 1520's. Over a short period of time I fell in love with a woman named Alyssa. We were married. On our wedding night I showed her what I was. She gave herself to me...to bring her across...I only meant to take her to the edge of death. I gave her my blood and left her to sleep...for the change to take place. When I came back to wake her...I found I had taken too much. I only loved her with a fraction of the intense love I have for you Nat...the thought of accidentally killing you is what scares me to my core. The drinking of blood is not just done for survival, it's a very sensual experience. The feeding drive is linked with a kind of sexual excitement. When we drink another's blood, we feel the persons life. Every drop of blood holds the person's life in it. Who they were, what they thought, how they died. It is like knowing someone's soul, everything they know, everything they are is transformed into touch and taste. When we drink the blood of someone who is deeply in love with us, it is like drinking the finest liqueur. With every sip, to take them inside you and know every secret they hold. The temptation is too great to keep sipping, to draw all of them into you. You become lost in them...then as the blood stops...you realize you have killed them. That is a chance that I can't take with you Natalie. My life would be worthless if I was the instrument of your death....." Nick's voice trailed off. Blood tears had started to form in his eyes, threatening to spill down his cheeks.

Natalie sat there for a moment digesting Nick's revelation. She made a decision and pulled her Doctor's bag onto her lap. She dug around in it for a moment before placing a packaged 10cc syringe and alcohol wipe on the table. Natalie placed the bag on the floor, off to the side, then opened up the wipe packet. She wiped an area on the inside of her left forearm, then opened the sanitized syringe packet. After screwing in the needle and removing it's guard, she found a vein and withdrew about 5 mL of her blood. Nick sat in shocked silence as Natalie went about her task. As Natalie rose from her chair and came around the table to Nick, she recapped the needle and removed it. Nick turned in his chair and gently grabbed her wrist as she brought the syringe up to his mouth. With a note of panic in his voice he exclaimed, "Nat, what are you doing!"

"I'm safely allowing you to know all that I am Nick, that's what I'm doing."

Her blood scent from the partial drop on the tip of the syringe awakened the beast. Nick barely held off the change as Natalie placed the tip between his open lips and pressed the plunger. Her essence exploded on all of his senses. He closed his eyes as he tightly gripped the seat of the chair. He allowed her blood to completely coat the inside of his mouth before he swallowed. He brought his focus into himself, and experienced all there was about her. Natalie's hopes, aspirations, secrets, fears, tragedies and triumphs assailed him. The guilt over convincing him to bring Richard across and the situation that followed. The indecision of whether she would want to be brought over. Her intense love and passion for him passed through him like a shock. Nick slowly focused his senses back to the outside world. By her heartbeat, he could tell Natalie had returned to sit in her chair across the table from him. He turned his head to gaze at her out of blue eyes. He went around the table to sweep her up into an intense embrace.

His face buried in her chestnut locks he said, "I love you Natalie."

"I love you too Nick, always remember that."

Daring no more than a quick kiss as he released her from the embrace, Nick said as he held her at arms length, "I really need to sleep, Nat. I know you have to go and take care Sidney, but would you come back afterwards, be here when I wake up?"

She pulled him towards her and give him a soft kiss. "Of course I will. Go on, get to bed." She said with a smile. With a nod, Nick turned towards the stairs and received a pat on the bum. With a grin he turned back to see her going about the task of cleaning up the table.

He decided on a quick shower as headed up the stairs. As he exited the bathroom wearing his black silk pajamas, he found Natalie sitting on his bed. "Thought I'd stay with you until you fell asleep." She said as she patted the bed beside her. With a grin Nick made his way across the room and climbed into bed. His body relaxed as Natalie laid next to him and cuddled up. Within five minutes he was asleep.

After waiting twenty minutes, Natalie kissed Nick on the forehead and went down stairs. With coat on and purse in hand she left the loft. Having given Sidney some attention and food, she had a quick shower and decided on soaking in the tub for a while. Her thoughts drifted to ways that she and Nick could be together in the physical romantic way, without her life being placed in danger. As Sidney made his way into the bathroom Natalie said to him, "A problem Sidney is only an excuse for a solution that is waiting for improvisation to happen." Full of resolve she climbed out of the bath, dried off and got dressed in jeans and a sweater.

She stopped off at a grocery store on her way back to the loft. As she was putting the bag of milk (Author note: plastic outer bag containing 3x1liter bags of milk) into the shopping cart, a smile spread across her face as an idea formed. The loft was quiet when she returned. She put the groceries away and checked on Nick. Finding him still asleep, she went to her Doctor's bag and removed the needed equipment. Twenty minutes later, after her task was completed and a light lunch consumed, she kicked off her shoes and laid back down beside Nick.

She awoke to find Nick laying on his side with his head propped up on an arm watching her. A smile spread across his face as he said, "Thank you."

"Thank you for what?" She asked.

AFor being here beside me when I woke up, that's what."

She leaned in for a quick kiss then got off the bed. After putting her shoes back on she turned at the door and said, "I'm hungry. I'm going to put something on while you get dressed, see you down stairs." Then was out the doorway.

Nick followed her heartbeat as she made her way around the loft. He thought as he shaved and got dressed.

As he made his way to the refrigerator, he could see Natalie at the dining room table eating her meal. Setting the bottle on the counter, he noticed the packages of different flavored gum on the counter. Smiling at the polite reminder, he filled up the mug and downed the contents. Filling the mug again, he recorked the bottle and placed it in the fridge before joining her at the table. He sipped at his drink while he watched her eat her Ceasar salad. "That was good." Natalie said after she finished the last bite. "Picked it up on my way over, just felt like a salad tonight." After disposing the plastic tray, she returned to the table with a cup of coffee.

After she got seated Nick said. "I'm ready if you want to explain your findings." With a nod Natalie removed the black note book from her Doctor's bag and sat in the chair beside Nick.

"Okay, let me go through what I've found then ask your questions, alright?" With a nod from Nick she opened the note book to the correct page and started. "When I ran your cell samples I found that every cell I looked at had extra genes attached to every genome. I suspect that these extra genes hold the characteristics for your enhanced powers of hypnosis, flying, quick healing, memory, night vision, speed, strength, and so on. I went back to your blood data and looked at the red to white cell counts. I could never figure out why the red cell count was so low. It should be in about a 1:600 ratio of white to red blood cells, but yours is more like 50:50. Your production of red blood cells in your bone marrow has almost been shut down. I took some of your blood and split it onto three slides. I watched it under the microscope as I in turn introduced human blood, some of the protein mix and some cows blood that I had gotten from your stock before, to each of the slides. The human blood was assimilated almost instantly. The white cells consumed the human red cells first, then any other foreign cells. They released what I guess were nutrients back into the system. I also noticed that the slide was cooler when I removed it. Almost as if it was drawing in heat in an endothermic reaction. That doesn't make sense though, as the breaking of bonds should release more heat than would be chemically required to break them...Anyway, the reaction with the cows blood was the same except it took longer. It was as if the cow's blood was not the 'preferred' choice of the white cells. It was almost as if the white cells had been optimized to consume that type of cell first, then anything else if the preferred type was absent. The protein mix did eventually become absorbed, but it took about 500 times as long compared to the human blood. Probably because it wasn't in the preferred 'living cell' package."

Natalie turned from the book to look at Nick. "My God Nick, all along I've been saying that it was your consumption of blood that was keeping you from coming across. I've actually been starving my best friend. No wonder you have been having a hard time controlling the vampire side, you've been starving for years!" She said, emotionally shaken by what she had unintentionally done to him.

Nick placed his hand on her shoulder, nodded, and said, "It's okay Nat, really. Neither of us knew, it's alright...please continue."

Turning back to her notes she took a calming deep breath and said, "I suspect that the 'vampire virus' is also included in the nutrient mixture that the white cells release. The other cells in your body must get oxygen and other required nutrients from this released mixture. I suspect that when you eat, the blood reacts with your stomach acid, is absorbed through the stomach wall and then is attacked by the white cells that are your immune system. The white cells must be imprinted with a preferred food type, due to the time differences of it absorbing the human and animal blood. That's probably why you heal faster from eating human blood compared to cow's blood. I've never thought to ask before Nick, do you...ah...use the bathroom at all in the need to go sense?" She said with a blush.

Clearing his throat, Nick replied, "Ah, no. I don't urinate or...um...the other."

Nodding, Natalie further asked, "You mentioned before that you didn't have to breath?"

Glad of the subject change, Nick said, "Apart from speaking and to blend in with mortals, no I don't need to breath."

"Humm..." Natalie snapped her fingers as a solution came to her. "Then the water from the blood must be lost when you breath then. You aren't removing any oxygen from the air, you're getting it straight from the red blood cells of the blood you consume. So...the air you breath in must get hydrated with water vapor, which is expelled when you exhale. It's the only way your body can get rid of the extra water. You can probably tolerate the wine that you sometimes cut the blood with as it's mostly water and simple alcohol molecules. The water is also present in the blood, and the alcohol is readily soluble in the water. Your natural gag reflex to solid foods is probably a subconscious reaction your body is generating as it knows it will still be starving and wants its preferred food source." Quite proud of her deductive reasoning, she turned to Nick and asked, AQuestions?"

He sat for a moment considering all she had told him. "No. In retrospect everything you've said makes sense. No wonder I've always come to dead ends searching for a cure, it dosen't really exist. All this time I've thought LaCroix was lying to me, taunting me, and here he was telling the truth. But why would he prevent me from gaining posession of the Abarat, what was he keeping from me?" Coming back to the topic at hand he said, "The virus is transferred when we give our blood. It must target the white blood cells as the site to reproduce itself. The conversion into a vampire must take place after they have taken the blood and have fallen asleep. The remaining blood in their body must be at a low enough level then to allow the virus to overwhelm their immune system. Whatever blood is left is probably broken down by the new type of white cells. That would explain why the 'first hunger' is so extreme. The body would be in an extreme state of starvation." Natalie nodded in understanding and agreement as he paused.

"We need to discuss what happened with Richard, Nat." He said in a rueful voice.

Knowing they had put this off and avoided the subject for quite a while, she said, "I know Nick. I think we _do_ need to talk about it before we can move on with our lives together."

"When we are brought across the first blood we consume when we wake becomes our preferred food of choice. When Richard woke up, I gave him cow's blood, hoping that would prevent him from having the urges to hunt humans. I was in essence trying to make him a Carouche, a vampire that feeds off animals. I had hoped that he would never have to take a human life to provide life for himself...That was why I had left him alone that night...There was plenty of blood of his preference in the loft. He had no need to leave the loft to quench his hunger. His anger over criminals being set free due to oversights in the system, must have been the driving force behind his hunting humans. I'm so sorry that it turned out the way it did Nat. When we bring someone over, a mental link is made between the parent and child. The other person is mentally linked to your mind. If the child and parent allow it, it is the most intimate way of knowing another person apart from taking their blood. A certain amount of control is given to the parent over the child when there are no restrictions. I...I did not want to be to Richard like LaCroix was to me...I did not fully open myself to him...Perhaps if I had I would have known and prevented him from...I had to close off my mind from Richard when I had to destroy him...It was as if someone had ripped out a piece of me when he died the true death. I sincerely wish it had of been different. If I had stayed...done things differently, maybe I could have prevented him from leaving that night...prevented him from turning rogue..." Nick turned his head away from Natalie in shame and guilt.

Natalie turned his head to make him look at her. Tears were flowing down her cheeks. Her voice was full of emotion as she spoke. "Nick, we both made mistakes. I put you in a position you did not want to be in. I knew how you hated your existence and I still asked you to bring Richard over. I was being selfish. I was wrong. Don't heap all of the blame on yourself. Richard chose to kill those people. He became mad with power. He was no longer the brother I knew. As much as it hurt, he needed to be destroyed." Sobbing, Natalie buried her head in Nick's shoulder. Through their love, they gained emotional strength from each other. Nick picked Natalie up and went over to the couch where they held each other.

The sound of the phone ringing startled them. Nick picked it up before the answering machine switched on. AKnight."

"Hey, Nickie boy. Figured I'd end up getting your machine."

"What's up Schanke?"

"A patrol just brought in Malcolm Barker. Stonetree wants you and I to question him pronto."

"Okay Schanke, I'll be right in. Bye."

"Soon Nick, Bye."

"Duty calls Nat. Stonetree wants Schanke and I to question a suspect that a patrol just brought in. I have to go." Nick said as he wiped the bit of moisture that remained on her cheeks from her tears.

"I have to go home and get ready for work anyway. When Dr. Taylor asked to switch shifts, he meant to _switch shifts_. I'm on nights again." Her mood lightened slightly. "That will be one big favour I collect from him let me tell you." She went to retrieve her coat, purse and Doctor's bag. Getting serious again, Natalie handed Nick the black notebook saying, "I think you should put this someplace safe."

With a nod Nick took the book and walked over to the fire place mantle. A slight twist of the dragon's ear coupled with pressing on a particular scale opened a secret door high up on the mantle. Nick levitated up to place the book in the secret chamber, closed the door and floated back to the floor.

They rode down in the lift together. Nick walked Natalie to her car. After he opened the drivers door for her, he leaned over and gave her a passionate kiss to send her on her way. "I'm starting to really like this kind of send off." Natalie said as she sat behind the wheel.

Nick leaned into the car before he shut the door and said, "I love you Nat, drive carefully. I'll see you later tonight." After a quick kiss on her cheek he closed the door and watched her drive off before walking over to the Caddy.

## End Part 11/37 ##

** You can be the Captain

** I will draw the Chart

** Sailing into destiny

** Closer to the Heart

RUSH - Closer to The Heart

## Part12/37 ##

Nick walked into the building out of the unseasonably warm 16 degree Celsius air that was encompassing the very early southern Ontario morning. He made his way through the building to Natalie's work area. Nick slipped the flowers he held behind his back as he nodded in greeting to Grace and placed a finger to his lips in the 'be quiet' gesture.

He silently opened the door to the Morgue and peeked his head around the wall. Nick saw Natalie bent over her desk with one knee on her chair seat, filling some information in on a form that sat on her desk. Her Discman played in a low volume one of the CD's she had raided from his collection. He let his eyes drink in her presence for a moment, then lightly coughed so as not to surprise her. Natalie heard the noise and turned her head towards the entrance. A smile brightened her face as she recognized Nick across the room.

"Hi, Nat."

"Hi, Nick!" She said as she pushed herself out of the chair and stood up. She saw the mischievous expression on his face, and wondered why he had not continued into the room. She moved around the side of her desk and with a puzzled expression asked, "What's up?"

Nick brought the bouquet, two dozen long stem red roses with baby breath accents, from behind his back to hold in front of him and said in a low sensuous voice. "Nat, on a hot summer night, would you offer you're throat to the wolf with the red roses?"

With a teenage flashback of her own at the song line, she immediately picked up on the Meat Loaf song 'You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth'. Recognizing the double meaning to the words he had said, a surprised look crossed her face. She smiled as she replied and took a step closer to him. "Will he offer me his mouth?"

Nick, took a step into the room and replied, "Yes."

Natalie took another step toward him and said. "Will he offer me his teeth?"

He took another step toward her and replied, "Yes."

Still slowly moving forward she said. "Will he offer me his jaws?"


"Will he offer me his hunger?"


"Again? Will he offer me his hunger?"


"And would he starve without me?"


"And does he love me?"

With a step between them, Nick moved the roses to the side. He reached up to cup Natalie's cheek with his right hand and brushed her cheek with his thumb. He broke with the song monologue as he said, "Yes, I love you Natalie Lambert, with such a great intensity..."

As Natalie heard the somewhat public 'Yes, I love you' she slid her hands around his neck and pulled his head down towards her. She cut off the rest of his reply, as she guided his cool lips to hers. With half lidded eyes she initiated a very sensual kiss.

The intensity with which Nick quickly responded surprised her. Natalie was further surprised as the kiss went past the point where Nick usually pulled back. Instead he moved his right arm to encircle her back and pulled her closer. His tongue tentatively slipped between her lips to brush against her front teeth. He explored the inside of her top lip with his tongue, then slipped it into her mouth to caress hers.

As they parted, he captured her lower lip and briefly sucked on it before letting it go. His arm around her back loosened to allow her to step back a bit. Natalie took a breath and waved her hand in a fanning motion on her flushed face.

They heard from the doorway. "Well, its about time." They looked towards the entrance and saw Grace in the doorway. Her clasped hands held in front of her in a satisfied manner, with a wide grin on her face. "I was beginning to wonder if I would have to tie you two together to get you to stop circling each other and get down to business."

As she went a deeper shade of red, Natalie looked up at Nick and realized that he was about as close to mortal skin tone as she'd ever seen on him.

Nick, brought his arm from around Natalie, covered his mouth with his closed hand, softly coughed and replied, "You know us guys Grace. You sometimes almost have to hit us over the head to make us see what's in front of us."

Grace replied, "Only too well, Nick." She gave Natalie a wink and said as she turned around to leave, "I'll just give you two some time......" Then walked through into the other room.

"Nick, the flowers are beautiful."

He turned to face her and replied, "I'm glad you like them Nat. I wasn't sure if you would."

"Nick, unless the woman is allergic to flowers, you can't go very wrong with giving them. It's the little gestures that let a woman know you are thinking about them, that you love them. That's what a lot of men forget about. How did you get roses in the middle of the night?"

"And I _do_ love you Natalie." He said as he came over and kissed her cheek. She filled a flask with water. "I can't tell you all my secrets now can I? Lets just say that a particular florist shop owner was more than happy to be awakened to help out one of Toronto's finest." He moved behind her and slipped his arms around her waist as she fixed the bouquet in the flask.

Finished with the flowers, she leaned back into his embrace. After a glance at the wall clock she said, "Almost two hours and the shift will be over. Come and stay at my place today?"

Natalie tilted her head to look at him and received a kiss to her forehead. "Yes, but I'll have to stop off at the loft for supplies first." Nick said as he looked into her eyes. Natalie shifted in his embrace to face him with her hands on his chest.

"Nick I wanted to talk to you about your choice of 'supplies'." Placing a finger on his lips to stall his comments she continued. "Please hear me out. I've given this a lot of thought. Your body is in a state of starvation right now. You need..." She lowered her voice to talk at a very quiet level in case anyone walked in. She knew with his hearing he would have no problem listening. A...human blood. The cow's blood is not doing you any good at the moment. I know you don't want to return to drinking human blood, but think of _us_ Nick. If we are to be together you need to satisfy your hunger. If you returned to human blood you hunger would be satisfied at the cellular level, then my blood wouldn't be as much of a temptation. If you stay drinking cow's blood you will still be in a kind of starvation. The urge for human blood would still be there. The human blood can be donor blood, no one has to die to keep you alive. I have to routinely go through and replace our emergency store of blood as the bags expire. Instead of disposing the bags I could give them to you..."

Nick pulled her close and silenced her with a kiss. He rested his chin on her head as he pulled her into a tight embrace. After a few moments he released her back to a loose embrace. "I understand Nat. You're right. I'd be putting you at too great of a risk if I don't change my 'diet', but I don't want to put you at professional risk by smuggling blood to me. I've checked out Janette's suppliers and all of her stock is expired donated blood. I'll arrange with her to provide me with the necessary supplies." With a grin he added, "Have I told you how much I loved you lately?" Then pulled her back in for a quick kiss.

Before she stepped out of his embrace Natalie said, "I'll never tire of hearing you tell me you love me Nick. I love you so much...I want us to be together so badly..."

"I know Nat...I know." He said as he hugged her. He let his hands trail down her arms as she stepped back. "Speaking of Janette, we need to stop over to the Raven after we get up. You don't want to see Janette in one of her 'snits'...not a pleasant thing to experience." He said with a laugh.

"Especially since I'm probably not at he top of her preferred friends list." Natalie said with a grin. A little more seriously she added, "I don't think you should wait until later to switch your 'diet' source. I'll take a few units with me when I leave, that should tide you over until you can secure a source with Janette."

Nick took her hand and bowed to place a kiss on it. "I place myself in your ever capable hands my lady."

Swatting him on the arm she said, "Oh, stop that you. You better get going before Schanke sends out a search party."

Bringing her hand up to his lips he gave it another kiss. "I love you Natalie. I'll see you at your place in a few hours then."

"I love you too Nick, now get going before Grace has the office grape vine burning up."

With a laugh and a kiss to her cheek he left.

They met at Natalie's apartment before sunrise. Nick consumed two of the blood units Natalie had brought, leaving the third for later. Sidney surprised both of them by climbing onto Nick's lap while they sat together on the couch watching a movie. He had never before shown a great liking for Nick, but was now content to have Nick pay him some attention. The movie over, Natalie went to shower leaving Nick and Sidney together for some 'quiet time'.

Natalie came out of the bathroom dressed in her robe and stood in the hallway. "Bathroom's all yours Nick." She said before she turned toward the bedroom.

"Okay Nat. Could you get me a pillow for the couch?" He asked.

Natalie stopped and turned around to see him walking toward her. "You're _not_ sleeping on the couch Nick. I want you...no, _need_ you to sleep in my bed with me. Not on top of the covers, _in_ bed with me. See," she said as she opened her robe. "I'm wearing my flannel nightgown so I won't get cold. I expect you in bed shortly."

With a perfect British military salute Nick smiled and went into the bathroom and closed the door.

Natalie turned off the main room light, leaving the bed stand light on and climbed into bed. She made herself comfortable on her side and waited for Nick to finish in the bathroom and join her. The sound of the shower running soon put her in that state between awake and asleep. She came awake to the feel of Nick spooning himself against her. He tentatively placed his left arm over her side, his hand resting on her lower chest. Natalie took his hand in her right and brought it up to hold it between her breasts. She stretched behind her with her left to pull him closer and was surprised to find he was not only quite warm but was only wearing his boxers to bed. Natalie ran her hand down his side and slipped it under the waistband of his shorts, partially cupping his cheek, as she wiggled back to lean into him. She felt his right hand, which was trapped between them, mold itself to her bum cheek as she backed into it. With one hand holding his to her chest and the other over his side to pull him firmly against her back, she sighed contented. Being quite awake now and becoming conscious of her physical need of him, Natalie moved his hand to cup her breast. A soft sigh escaped her lips as she felt his fingers mold to her form. The fingers of both his hands started to move in a soft massage of her body. Her pulse quickened and her skin flushed as Nick continued to pay attention to her.

The increase in her heart rate was not lost on Nick. He felt confident that he could hold off the vampire in him for a time. The larger than usual amount of blood he had consumed, human blood at that, had had a positive effect of satisfying the beast for a while. He wanted so desperately to give Natalie some pleasure without the hunger interfering.

He slid over in the bed enough to allow Natalie to lie on her back, still cradled in his arms and gazing up into his adoring blue eyes. As he thought what to do and say, he dropped a sweet kiss on her lips, gave her a big smile , then scooped her up into a snuggly bear hug. As he let her settle back into the pillows, his expression began to change. His desire to give Natalie pleasure formed into ideas, he let his free hand trail from the tip of her nose, across her lips, over her chin and down to the hollow at the base of her throat. "Your skin is so...soft."

Natalie lay her hand on top of Nicks there at the base of her throat, at the top of her safe flannel night gown. A Nick, we don't need to do this...It's alright, I understand if this is too much too soon...It's just that I love you so much, need you so much..."

He 'shushed' her confessions with a light kiss, and placed his cheek next to hers. "Please Nat, let me do this for you, let me tell you and show you how much I love you." He kissed her earlobe and then whispered, AFor you, Love, only for you. I need to do this, will you let me? Will you trust me?"

She slipped her arms about his shoulders and drew him to her for a tender kiss. Then she whispered back, "I'm your's, Nick...show me...tell me. I'll always trust you, always love you."

With a wicked little grin, that made his blue eyes sparkle and her heart melt, he said, AFirst, can we get rid of this flannel....'tent' you're bundled up in? Giggling, she let him help her sit up and peel the offending piece of propriety off. With a satisfied look of accomplishment Nick tossed the thing to the floor. He stopped and stared as he turned back to face Natalie. Seeing her for the first time exposed from the waist up, adoring him, trusting him, was almost more than he could endure without weeping in shear gratitude. He exclaimed, "Oh Nat, look at you...you're so ... beautiful... like a Botticelli angel...My angel...oh, dear God, I love you!"

Natalie felt a momentary wave of selfconscientiousness. Then she reminded herself that this was _her_ Nick. She already belonged to him, body and soul. If he needed to look at her, she needed for him to do just that. She willed herself to relax, settle again into the pillows and close her eyes.

"What are you smiling about, Nat?" Nick asked as he smoothed an errant curl from her forehead and placed a kiss where it had just been.

A Uumm... you, calling me a Botticelli angel." One eye popped open, "Hey, isn't he the guy who painted all his women chubby." As she began to push her way back to a sitting position, she continued, "You aren't saying what I think you're saying are you, because if y...."

Again he 'shushed' her with a kiss and eased her back to the bed, all the time murmuring words of love, adoration and devotion that even she could not ignore or discount. "Shh, please Love, they are beautiful angels, _you_ are beautiful. Let me tell you, let me show you, now, how beautiful you are to me." He kissed her again, this time more passionately. She broke away from his lips to draw in a ragged breath of air.

"Yes..." was all she could manage as Nick took control of her situation and her body's sensual responses. she thought, < I need this so badly'

He began. Another passionate kiss, this time followed by trails of butterfly kisses down her jawline to her earlobe. He nuzzled her hair, "Uumm... you smell so good, like roses and sandlewood. I love your hair down like this, its like a living halo." He ran his fingers through it and positioned it around her face as he continued trailing kisses down her earlobe to her collarbone, and finally back to where his hand had been at the base of her throat. He had wanted to touch her in this way for so long. He took it slowly, savoring every touch he made.

With only a moment's hesitation, he slid his tongue down her breastbone and stopped at the cleft between her breasts. Deciding on a southern course he licked and kissed his way to his left as his right hand took up the assault on the northern mound. Lips and fingers found their mark at the same moment and Natalie felt as though she were nailed to the bed by the waves of sensation that swept over her frame and down into her lower regions. It took no time at all for Nick to bring her nipples to their fullest attention. Switching to the opposite position, of northern kisses and southern caresses, he was rewarded by a soft moan of pleasure escaping from Natalie's lips. "You taste even better than you feel or smell. Nat, I love your body, you're _so_ desirable."

Her response was to run her fingers threw his hair and smooth her knuckles across his chin, thinking as she caressed his cheek with her palm

With determined excitement he kissed each erect little nub of her breasts and began his

further exploration of Natalie. He alternated between kissing and sucking with his mouth and stroking and massaging with his hands. Before long her body felt more tightly strung than a Stradivarius violin. Waves of pleasure were zinging through her like arpeggios and trills. She knew that if this kept up, soon her body would betray her by culminating into in a crescendo before it was time. Just as she thought she may have been gaining a bit of control, Nick placed a quick kiss on her lips then slithered down her frame. His cool body making nearly full contact with her flushed skin. His bare skinned chest and boxered hips shimmed across all those little peaks and valleys he had only finished kissing and touching seconds before.

He reached her thighs with his bare chest and gently spread her legs to accommodate his torso and shoulders. As he slipped his hands under her hips and took possession of her bottom in each hand, she forgot all about any measure of restraint or decorum and threw a leg over his shoulder.

Smiling to himself Nick thought He kissed her belly button, flicking his tongue in and out of the tiny depression. She went totally still. her mind flashed. Just as her stomach fluttered from his touch, he started his journey of kisses straight down from her navel in a direct and predetermined path. He placed a final kiss in the mound of her curls before he parted her labia with his tongue and found that tiny area that controlled Natalie's entire reason for existence at that moment. An intake of air in a ragged gasp was quickly followed by a moan of pure sensual pleasure. He felt her tremble. He knew it wouldn't be long now. He also knew that he himself was at the edge. His corner teeth were beginning to ache, he could feel his beast pounding at the doors of his self control. He renewed his concentration on giving Natalie what she needed, forcing himself to think only of her. He parted the lips of her moist vagina with his fingers and slid one inside of her, never ceasing to give her clitoris the rhythmic stroking it needed. She threw her other leg over his shoulder as they began to twitch of their own volition. As the tiny moans and mews that were escaping from between the knuckles she had thrust into her mouth became louder and more frequent, he slid a second finger into the dark dampness of Natalie's body. At the same time he sucked hard. Her moans began to change in pitch, she locked her ankles together, trapping his head between her thighs. As her hips started thrusting against his fist, not only did he feel the beginning tremors of her orgasm, but also his canines begin to drop as he was swept away by the feel, taste and power of Natalie's release. With each shudder and wave of contractions he screamed to himself until it became like a mantra in his head, trying to hold the beast at bay, to keep her safe.

"YESS...NICK...YESSS...Ooh YES!" Natalie moaned and gasped as her orgasm swept over her.

As Natalie rode to the crest of her orgasm, he found he needed to taste her in the other way. Still caressing her with his fingers to maintain her pleasure, he turned his head until his lips met the flesh of her inner thigh. Natalie, reaching the peak of her orgasm, felt the slight pain as Nick made a shallow inch and a half long cut with one of his fangs. The feel of his tongue as he licked and sucked at the wound, combined with the feel of his fingers still caressing her, gave her the most intense orgasm she had ever experienced.

## End Part 12/37 ##

** Make each impression

** A little bit stronger

** Freeze this motion

** A little bit longer

** The innocence slips away

RUSH - Time Stand Still

## Part 13/37 ##

Part 13 is continuous with Part 12.

A groan started deep in Nick's chest that escaped his mouth with an intensity equaling that of Natalie's, as the taste of her essence charged with her pleasure and love exploded across his inner sense. he repeated in his mind, as he balanced the beast on the edge of control.

Natalie thought as her orgasm started to subside.

Nick licked and sucked on the scratch until his saliva caused the wound to heal over.

Natalie giggled and sighed through her panting as she became sensitive to the touch of his tongue. She let all her muscles go slack, feeling the ache from tensing them sweep through her body in the afterglow.

As the leg lock that Natalie had placed on Nick's head was released, Nick lowered her back to the bed and slipped her legs from his shoulders. He lay between her legs and placed his head on her stomach. His hands caressed her outer thighs and sides as he savored the hot flush of her skin against his cheek. She ran her fingers through his hair as she murmured her love for him. Nick waited for her breathing to return to normal before he kissed her stomach and said, "I'll be right back Nat." He rose from between her legs and went to the bathroom. Natalie lay content. She could hear him in the bathroom running water.

Nick came back a moment later and she could feel the wet warmth of the towel he used to wipe her lower regions. He left again for a moment, then threw her nightgown on the foot of the bed and crawled under the covers with her as he pulled the blankets up around them.

As soon as he lay back, Natalie was on him, kissing him passionately. Her tongue sought out his as she ran her hand over his bare skin. She let her hand traveled lower, tracing his hardness through the boxers before she slipped her hand under the elastic and enveloped him. She felt Nick gently stop her hand as she started to stroke him. Breaking the kiss she looked into his eyes. "But, what about you...I want to please you..."

"You _have_ pleased me Nat...more than you know." Nick said as he leaned up to place a quick kiss on her lips before falling back onto the pillow. "It's too soon Nat. I could barely stop myself from biting you. It took all the control I had to _only_ scratch you. If I get any more excited...I'm afraid for you...It's too soon. I love you Natalie...I don't want to hurt you..."

She leaned back down on top of him, placing small kisses on and around his lips. "I understand Nick. It just doesn't seem fair...the pleasure you've given me..." Her words were silenced as he recaptured her lips. Sighing contentedly, she snuggled between his right arm and side, placed her leg over his and tucked her head under his chin. Nick pulled the blankets up around her neck. He covered her hand that still held him with his own, as he hugged her closer to his chest. The enclosed warmth of her hand around him was like a promise of things for the future.

Natalie was dreaming again. She was laying on top of Nick's cool body, the fine hairs on his chest tickling her cheek. As she became more awake she thought, As she came fully awake, she realized she _was_ laying across Nick. The single beat of his heart resonated through his chest. With a slight blush, Natalie realized her hand was still enclosed around his softened member. Slipping out of bed she picked up her nightshirt and quietly went into the bathroom. A glance at the clock as she returned showed it was only just after three in the afternoon. She climbed back under the covers, cuddled up against him and was soon soundly asleep.

The sound of the shower stopping penetrated Natalie's awakening state. As her mind shrugged off the last bit of sleepiness, she heard Nick slide the shower door back. A few moments later her eyes snapped open as warm droplets of water fell onto her face. Another mini shower ensued as Nick shook his head slightly. Any annoyance instantly disappeared as she saw the wide grin on his face that lit up his eyes with mischief. Natalie gave her own wide grin back to him as she thought

Nick leaned further over the bed to place a light kiss on her nose. Perturbed by such a measly show of affection, Natalie flipped the covers off her hands and reached up to grab a handful of wet hair in each hand before his retreating head got out of reach. Off balance by the downward pull she placed on his head, Nick fell along the bed. Natalie guided his descent so his smiling mouth made contact with hers as his body met the bed. After kissing him soundly she raised his head to look into his eyes. "Now that's how I expect to be greeted in the morning, noon and night. Understand buster?" She said as the grin she had been trying to suppress came to the surface.

"Oh, really? I think I'm going to have to practice this." Nick said as he placed quick pecks on her lips. "Practice this quite a lot I think..." The pecks transformed into a kiss of intensity that left Natalie panting for breath. When her eyes focused again, Nick was standing at the side of the bed clutching the towel closed that threatened to fall from his hips. "Your turn in the bathroom, I'll put on the coffee for you."

She watched his retreating form, clad only in the towel around his waist, exit the room and head back down the hall and into the bathroom. Lewd thoughts filled her mind as his butt was lost to her sight. Nick was just exiting the bathroom dressed in his clothes from last night as she came down the hall. Natalie ran her hand across his bum and quickly pinched a cheek before she slipped into the bathroom and closed the door.

After her quick shower, Natalie exited the bathroom. Her nose picked up the scent of freshly brewed coffee as she stepped into the hall. She paused momentarily as her stomach rumbled, torn between food and getting dressed. Her practical side won out and she continued into the bed room to get dressed.

Natalie entered the kitchen to find Sidney eating at his bowl. Nick handed her a cup of coffee and motioned her to sit at the table. She sat down as she heard the toaster pop up. Nick placed a plate with a cheese omelet before her then turned to butter the toast. He placed the smaller plate on the table and then gathered the dirty utensils into the soapy water. He looked at her as a appreciative hum came from Natalie as she tried the omelet. "This is great! I'm surprised, I figured you wouldn't know how to cook."

With a chuckle Nick said. "I _did_ have to fend for myself when I was mortal remember. Making a cheese omelet hasn't changed over the centuries." He then put the rest of the dirty utensils he had used into the sink and started to wash them.

With a snicker Natalie said. "My, how domestic of you...Can cook, feed the cat, make coffee _and_ clean up after yourself...think I _will_ keep you after all!" Natalie had focused back on eating her delicious omelet, and had missed Nick's change in stance and pause as he washed the bowl in his hands.

She sighed in contentment as she swallowed the last bite of toast. "That was really good." Natalie said as she got up and put the dirty dishes beside the sink and poured another cup of coffee. A quick glance and a half smile was all she got from Nick as he placed the dishes in the sink and started washing them. She finally noticed the change in his mood as she put the milk back in the fridge. She put her cup down on the table then stood behind him. "Hey, what's going on...Talk to me." She said as she put her hand on his back between his shoulder blades. Nick said nothing as he rinsed the last plate and pulled the sink plug. He rested his hands on the edge of the sink and watched the soapy water swirl down the drain. Natalie grabbed a towel and dried his hands then led him to the kitchen table. She held his hands as she sat down across from him. She went over in her minds eye everything they had done and said since she woke up.

Nick looked up at her and she could see the sorrow on his face. There was a red glint of tears at the corner of his eyes. In almost a whisper, "Natalie, you're giving up so much to be with me...I know you love me, but do you understand the extent of how all this will change your life?" Natalie squeezed his hands in reassurance as he continued. "In another 4 or 5 years I'll have to leave Toronto. People will start noticing that I haven't aged. I know how much you like your job...You will have to leave so much of this life behind if you come with me."

In a calm soothing voice Natalie said. "There are no _if's_ about it Nick. _We_ will move on when it's time. People do move you know. Better job prospects, new house, new friends are all part of being mortal. I love you and want to be with you...changing where I live or where I work is only a minor inconvenience compared to living my life without you." Her chin started to quiver and her voice grew emotional as she continued. "I know we haven't talked about this, but sometime in the future we will have to consider bringing me across. We both know I'm not ready to do it now, but I want you to promise..." She locked tear filled eyes to tear filled eyes. "I want you to promise that if I'm ever seriously injured before that time, that you will bring me across. I can't put this any plainer. I want you to bring me across if I am ever in a serious accident before we decide it's time. I'm giving you my permission even if I'm unconscious or in a coma to bring me across. Do you understand? I need to hear you say it Nick, to promise me..."

He held her hands tighter as he said. "I promise you Natalie, that if there ever comes a time where I may loose you due to serious injury, that I will bring you across. Until you tell me otherwise, I _will_ obey this promise to you."

The tears that had threatened to fall spilled over Natalie's cheeks. Nick slid his chair back as she came around the table to sit on his lap and embrace him in a tight hug. She said through her sniffles as she looked into his eyes. "I know you consider your existence a curse and don't want to condemn anyone else to the life you have to lead. But look at the differences between then and now. Now there is no need to kill to survive. A donated supply of blood can always be obtained. And consider what your life may have been like if LaCroix wasn't the person who brought you across. How many of the things you despise about your life as a vampire are due to the influence that LaCroix had over you? I _know_ you would never be like that to me. _You_ are the person who I want to bring me across...no one else. If we open ourselves to each other as you described before...It could be such a wonderful thing...and we could find a cure together. All this talk about nano technology that's the stuff of fiction now, may actually become reality in a few hundred years. Think of all the medical advances that have been made in just this century. Your chance at regaining your mortality is not gone...just delayed for a while. Our chance to be together, happy and without fear _does_ exist."

"Your are so good for me...I love you...I never want to be without you." Nick brushed the tears from her cheek with his thumb. "There is one more thing that's been bothering me..." He lowered his head and looked at her lap until she raised it back up so his gaze met with hers. "Children, Nat. I don't know if it's possible even if in the future when we're brought back across that it will be possible. You know from that sample I gave you a while ago that I'm sterile. If you are brought across your period will also cease for you. I just don't know if it is possible to regain that aspect of mortality if one of our kind is brought back across."

"A lot of couples are without kids Nick. I have to admit that I've thought about what it would be like to have your child. Not any one's child, _your_ child. That's a risk I'm willing to take if it means that we'll be together. I could always have some of my eggs put in cryogenic storage as a safety factor before you bring me across. After you do bring me across we could foster very young children where ever we are. We would have to be careful of their age though, say up to four years old so they wouldn't notice anything different about us. But, that's a long way in the future, we can deal with it then. As for now, I'm okay with not having a child of my own. Please don't worry about that any more, okay?"

"All right Nat, I won't dwell on it any more."

"Good. Remember that I love _you_ Nick. Not for who you might be, but for the person that you _are_. Over time we will both grow as people, but our inner core will always stay the same. It's that essence of character of yours that first drew me to you, that I first fell in love with." They both leaned toward each other and gave the other a kiss that conveyed the depth of their love for each other. As they broke the kiss, Natalie wiped the wetness that was still on her cheeks and said. "Now, why don't I go fix my makeup then we'll go see Janette, okay?"

"Okay, I'll finish cleaning up the kitchen while I wait."

Natalie went to fix her makeup. Nick picked up the three empty blood pouches and put them in a baggie for Natalie to dispose of at work. By the time he had put the dry dishes away, Natalie was ready to go. With a goodbye to Sidney they headed down to the Caddy and to their meeting with Janette.

## End Part 13/37 ##

** We can wear the rose of romance

** An air of Joie De Vivre

** Too-tender hearts upon our sleeves

** Or skin as thick as thieves

** Thick as thieves

** Rising falling at force ten

** We twist the world and ride the wind

RUSH - Force Ten

## Part 14/37 ##

They had traveled almost half way to the Raven when Natalie grew quiet and apprehensive about their meeting with Janette. Nick had heard her heart rate slowly increase from the time they had left the apartment. He pulled over to the curb and shut off the engine, then took Natalie's hands in his own.

"Nat, please tell me what's bothering you. Is it something I've done?"

Natalie had to smile slightly "No Nick, it's nothing you've done. I guess I'm just feeling a little insecure. I know you and Janette go back to the beginning of your life as a vampire..."

Glad that this had come out now, Nick brought Natalie's hands up to his mouth and placed a kiss on each. "Nat, we do have quite a history, but it's just that, a history. After Alyssa...LaCroix convinced me to rejoin him in traveling across Europe. We met up with Janette in Italy about three years later. Being the children of LaCroix, we had always been close. I was still feeling guilty over Alyssa's death. Janette tried to console me...and we became very close. We spent almost a mortal life time together as man and wife...Until one day she left. She felt too constrained by my love for her. She said she needed freedom. I was devastated. LaCroix on the other hand was quite happy. He had me under his control again. I was mentally incapable of putting up much of a resistance against him. Janette returned to travel with LaCroix and myself years later. We three traveled together for a time, but Janette and I fell into more of a sibling role than that of lovers. We've stayed that way ever since. I do love her still, I always will...Just not the same love as I have for you. I feel a loss when we're apart Nat...as if I'm no longer whole. I know by your blood that you love me deeply...I wish I could convey to you how much I love you in a way other than words...so you would know without doubt how much I love you and don't want to loose you.

The tears falling down her cheeks washed away any threat of doubt that she may have had of Janette being a rival for his love. She pulled Nick into a hug and squeezed him for all she was worth. Through her sniffles she said, "I love you so much Nick, I can't imagine my life without you in it..." She could feel Nick stroking her hair and rubbing her back. She laughed thru the remainder of her sniffles. She saw the wetness of her tears on his cheek as she released him from her embrace. "Now," she said as she dried her face. "We've got people waiting and work too. Lets get going." With one more kiss to her hand he sat back, started the car and pulled out into traffic.

The bouncer, one of Janette's retainers, nodded in recognition as Nick and Natalie entered the club. Nick leaned over to whisper in her ear as they stepped off the stairs. "Watch Janette's face when I take her drink." Natalie turned to see the expression on his face change from that of a smile to one of serious intent. Nick lead them across the club, through the wall of chains to the bar. Janette sat stoicly as they approached, looking out over the dance floor. She turned her gaze to them as they neared.

Nick lowered his arm from around Natalie's shoulder and took her hand into his. Glad for the closeness of his touch she tightened her grip. Her knuckles went white as her nails indented his skin. He took Janette's hand from around the stem of her glass and brought it to his lips.

"*Hello Janette.*"

"*Hello Nicolas, I see you're punctual as ever...*" She turned her head to look at Natalie. "Hello again Doctor."

Natalie only gave a slight smile and a nod of her head.

"I said we'd be over to talk Janette. I try to always keep my promises." Nick released her hand to pick up her glass.

Janette was about to say something as Nick tilted the contents into his mouth. She raised an eyebrow as Nick placed the empty glass back on the bar top and savored the taste of the human blood. "You surprise me Nicolas. Why this sudden change in eating habits? What of your self exile to that swill you usually drink?"

"That...is the reason we are here tonight."

"Very well, shall we adjourn to my office...more private and away from curious ears. Miklos, have Alma bring a bottle of our 'Special Reserve' to my office." Janette turned to Natalie and asked, "And what would you care for Natalie...I may call you Natalie?"

"Yes, Natalie is fine...Just a club soda with a twist of lime for me, thanks."

With a nod to Miklos, Janette lead them through the club to her office in the back.

The office was as tastefully elegant in its decor as the person who used it. A large polished antique oak desk dominated the room, its top clear of the usual clutter associated with the running of an establishment. An oversized marble topped serving hutch was the other dominant piece of furniture in the room. Nick steered Natalie past the two wooden straight backed chairs that sat opposite the desk, towards the couch at the far end of the room. As Natalie and Nick sat down, Alma knocked on the door. Janette took the tray from her and gestured for her to close the door behind her as she left. Janette placed the tray on the small table in front of the couch and sat down to the right of Nick. As Janette poured two goblets full of the 'Special Reserve', Nick passed Natalie her drink.

Nick took the goblet from Janette with a nod of thanks and drained it's contents in one long draft. His undernourished body sang with power as the blood was consumed by his system. He looked through amber-green eyes as he held out the goblet for Janette to fill again. Nick drank half the contents, then placed the goblet on the table as his eyes returned to their smokey-blue colour.

Janette, who had been sipping at her drink, locked eyes with Nick and said, "So..."

Nick gave Natalie's hand a squeeze in reassurance then started explaining. "As you have surmised, Natalie was helping me in my quest of finding a 'cure' to our particular ailment. In taking a more scientific approach than a mystical one, she found that it is actually a virus that is present in our blood that makes us the way we are. This virus invades every cell in the host body, altering the cell's DNA. So, until the medical technology advances sufficiently, my quest has been...shall we say 'redirected' for the moment."

Janette studied his face for a moment, then said. "Nicolas, we are both children of LaCroix. Being such we know how to deceive even one another. As much as I want to believe that you have returned more to our ways, what reassurance do I have that you won't seek out the true death in a week, month or year."

"I have returned to my proper diet, but I will not kill humans to survive. I will only drink that which is freely given. As for reassurances..."

"You know the only way Nicolas..."

Natalie grasped the concept of where this conversation was leading. She nodded to Nick as he looked to her for understanding of what he had to do.

Nick released Natalie's hand and undid his right shirt cuff. He rolled the sleeve up his arm, baring his wrist. As he placed his right arm in Janette's hands, he turned to Natalie and grasped her hand again.

Natalie grabbed his hand tight as she heard and partially saw Janette change and sink her fangs into Nick's wrist. Nick's eyes flashed amber-green for a moment before returning to their normal blue. Natalie brought his hand up to her mouth and placed a kiss on his knuckles as Janette sought her answers in his blood.

With a few licks at the closing wound, Janette lowered his hand to her lap and sorted through the memories and feelings his blood held since they had last shared blood. When she released his hand, Nick turned from Natalie to look at her. "So. That is how it is then...Do not worry Nicolas, I shall 'play nice' I believe the term is. I _do_ believe she will make a fine addition to our family when the two of you decide it is time. Until then Natalie will also be under my protection. She does not need to fear coming to the Raven. I will instruct my retainers of this. Any one present at the club who does not follow my wishes shall be dealt with _severely_." Janette rose from the couch and went to the desk. She picked up the phone and dialed an extension. "Miklos, have someone take a case of 'Special Reserve' to Nicolas car." She placed a hand over the receiver and said to Nick, AKeys." Nick tossed her his keys which she caught with vampiric grace. "Have them stop at my office for the keys on their way." After she placed the phone back in it's cradle, she opened a drawer and pulled out a business card. She looked over to Natalie as she wrote on the back of it. "This is my private number Natalie. Call me at any time if you should need me. We _will_ after all eventually be family." Janette handed a speechless Natalie the card and sat down beside Nick. "After centuries of turmoil Nicola, it is a pleasant change to see you at peace with yourself." At the knock on the door, Janette bade the person to enter and handed them Nick's car keys. "In the trunk and be quick about it." The 'person' took the keys and set about their task, closing the door behind them. "We may be of the oldest in Toronto Nicolas, but your search for a cure as you call it has left you as a subject of amusement. Your return to your nature, even if you shun the kill, will do much to restore you to your proper status." The 'person' knocked and returned the keys to Janette before departing again. "Now, I expect the two of you to not be so much of strangers. In fact, I'm holding a Halloween party at the end of next month. A costume party in fact. I expect the two of you to attend, yes?"

Nick glanced at Natalie and she nodded and squeezed his hand. "I believe we will be there then. Thank you for your assistance...and acceptance Janette." He said as he stood up. Nick brought Janette's gloved hand up and kissed it before releasing it. "Well, we need to get to work and I need to place my 'groceries' into storage. I'll talk to you later about securing a constant supply?"

"That would be satisfactory. I shall make the proper arrangements. Good night you two. As I said Natalie, if you need me please call."

Quite a bit more relaxed now then she was when they entered the Raven, Natalie said. "Thank you Janette, I will."

The crowd in the club had increased in the time they were in the office. Nick maneuvered them towards and up the stairs. As they reached the car Natalie let out a sigh of relief. Nick held her in a tight hug before releasing her and opening the passenger door. Once they were away from the Raven Natalie said, "Well that went way better than I thought it would."

ALaCroix and Janette have been trying since the late 1800's to have me return more to my proper nature. She knows that my acceptance of being what I am and returning to my proper diet is a large step towards that, even if I don't return to the kill. The way things are in this decade not many actually kill anymore, too much risk in being exposed. Plus, she knows that when you decide to have me bring you across, it will solidify me back in my vampiric nature. She knows I'll be responsible for your training and guidance and that I'm not willing to risk you to the wrath of the Enforcers should I fail. Had I not...dealt with Richard, the Enforcers would have destroyed him then me. She knows that is the last thing I want to happen to you. She's in a win/win situation and knows you are the key to my returning more to my 'true nature'. To safely bring you across I need to be in full control of myself, or I risk both our lives to the Enforcers. Exposure of our existence is not tolerated. Those who are careless are dealt with by the Enforcers with extreme prejudice."

Nick reached across to place his hand on Natalie's leg, and gave it a squeeze. "Now enough of this talk. I'll have to drop you off at work first, then go to the loft and change. Wouldn't want both of us to be late for work. I know if I don't change Schanke will be sure to notice and he'll be dogging my heals for the rest of the shift wanting details." Natalie had to laugh as she pictured the ever persistent Schanke pumping Nick for details.

Nick brought the Caddy into the employee's parking lot behind the coroners building. He pulled to a stop near the entrance. Natalie waited as Nick went around the back of the car to come and open her door for her. old fashioned' etiquette in our relationship.' She thought as he held his hand out for her to take to aid her in getting out of the car. He kept hold of her hand as they walked the rest of the way to the entrance.

"Since you don't have a lunch with you, may I take you out to eat later?"

"Yes, I think that would be a very nice way of spending my lunch hour." Natalie brought their entwined hands to her chest and pulled their bodies closer together. She stretched up on her toes and placed a soft kiss on his lips. Nick followed her mouth with his as she lowered herself back down, initiating more of a passionate kiss that brought a blush of passion to her cheeks. "Now how am I going to keep my mind on work if you keep doing that, hmm?"

Nick kissed the tip of her nose as he straightened. "Oh, about the same way I'll have too." He said as he removed her hand from where she had slipped her fingers down inside the waistband of his trousers.

Natalie's innocent look broke into a wide grin. "Give me a call about 15 minutes before you come pick me up?"

"Shall do..." He stopped as he noticed Grace walking from her car towards where they stood. "I see you're in safe hands, I should get going before I'm late." Nick turned his head in the direction that Grace approached and said in a louder voice. "Good evening Grace." He returned his attention to Natalie, as he brought her hand up and placed a kiss on it before he released it. "See you at lunch then...I love you." He said before he turned and walked back to the Caddy.

Grace reached Natalie just as Nick pulled away in the Caddy. "Well, you look radiant tonight if I may say so. A certain blond hair detective the cause me thinks..."

"Grace!" Natalie exclaimed as she flushed a deep shade of red.

They swiped their magnetic cards in the lock and entered the building. Grace took Natalie's arm in hers as they walked down the hall. "Hum, lets see...You each left this morning in separate cars, yet you arrived in Nick's."

Knowing where this track of speculation was headed, Natalie gave Grace a stern look and said. "Grace..."

Grace ignored her as she kept on with her speculation. "So that would mean that you two rendezvoused somewhere. As you're in different clothes and Nick was still wearing what he had on this morning, I'd say he'd have had to spent the day at your place."


"So, tell me Doctor, did our fair haired detective pass his oral and physical examinations?!"


## End Part 14/37 ##

** When we lift the covers from our feelings

** We expose our insecure spots

** Trust is just as rare as devotion--

** Forgive us our cynical thoughts

RUSH - Emotion Detector

## Part 15/37 ##

Nick stopped off and picked his mail up from his Post Office Box before he arrived at the loft. As he sorted quickly through the envelopes while he made his way back to the car, a smile crossed his face. He thought as he slipped a particular envelope into the inside breast pocket of his jacket. Nick knew he would be cutting it close to being late for his shift. Once he arrived at the loft, he quickly unloaded the contents of the trunk and made his way inside. After storing the bottles in the fridge, Nick flew upstairs and quickly changed. As he walked down the stairs fastening this shirt cuffs, he glanced at his watch and decided there was enough time to make an overseas call. Ten minutes later with a broad grin on his face, he pointed the Caddy in the direction of the precinct.

Nick's suspicion built as he walked through the office to see people glance at him and smile as they turned away. The large grin on Schanke's face confirmed his suspicions of a rampant office grapevine. He muttered "Grace," under his breath a moment before Schanke all but jumped out of his chair to start his questioning.

"So partner, is that by chance a bit of a swagger in your walk? Me thinks those reports of a certain large boat fitting the description of your car being outside a certain M.E.'s apartment building weren't exaggerated." Insulted by the attack to his ladies honor, a cold look of anger washed over Nick's features. Schanke was taken aback as Nick none too gently grabbed him by the arm and pushed him into an interview room. The gaze Schanke looked into sent the little hairs on the back of his neck on end. Knightmare'. I'd be scared shitless too if he'd confronted me in a dark alley.'

Nick's look softened as he spoke. "I don't think that Natalie deserves this brand of cheap innuendo being discussed about her over donuts and coffee, do you?"

Schanke rubbed his arm where Nick had grabbed him as he apologized. ALook Nick, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking when I said those comments. I know you really have feelings for Natalie, I went too far. It's just that you were so much more at ease when you came in that I..." Schanke shut his mouth as he realized he was probably digging himself deeper.

Stonetree chose that moment to stick his head into the room. "There a problem here?"

Nick turned toward the door as he said. "No cap, just a misunderstanding. Everything's fine, we've worked it out."

"Good. You're being paid to work, not to stand around talking. Since you've ironed it out, get back to work." With that he left the door open and walked into his office.

"I _am_ sorry Nick. It won't happen again...Okay?"

"Okay Schanke...Look I'm sorry for jumping on you. Natalie and I are getting closer and I don't want any office trash talk to threaten it." As they sat down across from each other at their desks, Nick tried to lighten his partners mood. "So, is Myra getting excited about Friday yet?"

Glad that Nick no longer seemed upset with him, Schanke warmed to the discussion of their upcoming evening out. "You kidding? She's got it marked in red on the calendar. The day after I told her she made a salon appointment. She even went out and bought a new dress to wear. I haven't seen her this excited about an evening out in a while. Oh, what kind of an affair is it anyway?"

Smiling at him Nick said, "More than a sport coat and slacks, and less than black tie. Before I forget, Natalie and I will be picking you up in the limo at seven."

Schanke whistled at this. "You're really pulling out all the stops aren't you? A limo, play and dinner afterwards. This must be costing you a bundle, are you sure I can't help you there?"

Nick was always taken by how much of a good friend he had found in Schanke. "No Don, I've been planning this for a while. I've got it covered, but thanks anyway. Just you and Myra enjoy your night out, okay?" With a nod from his partner, Nick gestured at the stack of files on their desks. "We had better get started on these before Stonetree gets more ticked off at us."

As it got closer to lunch break Schanke noticed Nick looking more often at the time. "What's with you?"

Nick gave a quick smile as he glanced at his watch one last time and picked up the phone. ALunch date." He said as he punched out the numbers to connect him to Natalie's extension. "Hi, are we still on for lunch? Okay, I'm on my way over, bye."

Schanke hid his smile behind his hand as Nick looked over at him. "See you in an hour pard."

With a wave Nick headed out to the parking lot.

As Nick walked through the halls to Natalie's work area, he received similar smiles from the people he passed as he had at the precinct. Nick made sure to make some noise as he opened the door. Natalie had almost finished doing up the buttons on her coat as he walked into the room. Nick stepped up to her and pulled her hair loose from where it was trapped underneath the coat collar. He leaned in and gave her a kiss on the cheek before whispering in her ear. "We better not be late in coming back, or the office grapevine will burn to cinders from the traffic."

"You too huh? Grace was giving me the third degree by the time you got out of the parking lot. Lets go, I know a place open close by."

The all night diner was a few blocks away. With the biting wind funneling down the street, it was too cold to walk so they drove over. As Nick turned off the motor, Natalie got out and stood by the back of the Caddy, patiently waiting for him. The first seed of doubt about the latest gift he had gotten for Natalie took root in Nick's mind. Natalie looped her arm through his and walked close as they made their way across the parking lot and into the diner. Nick hung up Natalie's coat as she slid behind the table. After placing his own coat beside hers, Nick sat down across from her. Natalie already had the menu open, perusing the selections. She folded the menu closed as the waitress came to their table.

"I'll have the roast beef special and a cup of coffee..." Natalie looked over at Nick with an 'are you going to order something' look.

"Coffee for me, thanks." Nick said to the waitress, who returned within a few minutes with their beverages, then went off to see about Natalie's order.

"Nat, are you okay with 'us' being the topic of so much office gossip?"

A smile crossed Natalie's face as she thought about all the 'thumbs up' and big grins she had received from all the women at work who knew her. "It's not all that bad Nick. Don't worry about the office grapevine, they'll get bored soon and find another topic to gossip about. It'll just take a couple of days. You have to admit, there have been more than a few people who've thought there was something 'more than friends' going on between us." Natalie laughed as she spoke. "Besides, everyone will know that way that you're 'off the market' so to speak."

Nick gave her a puzzled look.

"Oh, come on. You mean to tell me you haven't noticed how the unattached women, and even some of the married ones at work look at you?"

Nick shook his head as he placed his hand over hers. "My attention has always been held by the beautiful woman sitting across from me." Natalie blushed and covered Nicks hand, trapping it between hers.

Natalie reluctantly released Nick's hand as the waitress arrived and set the plate in front of her. Famished, she eagerly started in on her meal. Nick toyed with his coffee cup as he watched Natalie eat.

The corner of the envelope that stuck out of his inner jacket pocket caught his eye. Nick started mulling over how Natalie would receive his latest gift. big girl' as she keeps telling me. She has to make her own decisions on _her_ terms. After all the years I've lived, will I ever stop thinking like I'm still in the 13'th century?'

Natalie sipped at her coffee.

She had finished her meal a few minutes ago and sat watching Nick. "Nick, is there something bothering you?" "Tell me Nick. You know you'll feel better if you talk about it."

Nick hung his head and slowly shook it. Sighing, Nick raised his head and looked at Natalie. "I got you a gift...and I'm having second thoughts that it might not be very appropriate.

Natalie was surprised.

"Okay...with that as a warning, why don't you just give me the gift and I'll hold off judgement until I've thought about it?"

Nick raised his hand and pointed to his jacket. "Inner coat pocket."

Natalie slid over on the bench and stretched up to pluck the envelope out of his coat pocket. Once she was seated back across from Nick, she looked at the envelope then at Nick. He made a motion to the knife. After wiping off the knife, Natalie slit open the envelope and removed the contents. The Gold VISA card with her name on it 'looked' back at her. She looked up at Nick and waited for him to explain.

"It must have come yesterday, it was in my P.O. Box when I got my mail on the way back to the loft to change. It seemed like a great idea a couple of weeks ago, but now I see I might have overstepped my place. I just didn't want you to have to want for anything..." Nick looked down at his clasped hands resting on the table and waited for Natalie's response.

Natalie looked from Nick to the card in her hand and back to Nick a couple of times. She cleared her throat and he looked up. "You _were_ right Nick. I would have found this offensive. Now I said 'would'...You seemed to have realized that I could have been upset with the gift and had second thoughts about giving it to me. That makes a whole lot of difference. We _do_ seem to be growing closer and are starting to get 'in tuned' with each other. I will accept it...I might not use it, but I will accept it." Natalie dug a pen out of her purse, pealed the card off the backing and signed it. She motioned to the waitress for the check.

After tucking the pen back in her purse and the card in her wallet, she leaned across the table. "Thank you. You were initially thinking of handing me the world on a silver platter. I know you only want the best for me...But I'm really quite content just being with you...That _is_ the best for me. Now, give me a kiss." Nick leaned over the table and placed a soft loving kiss on her lips. "There, lets get back to work before they're talking as if we sneaked off for a lunch time tryst."

The remainder of the shift went swiftly by for both of them. Nick picked Natalie up and they were soon on their way back to her apartment. Sidney didn't know what to do first, get attention from his two favorite people or eat.

"I think Sidney's got the right idea Nat, I really need to eat too. How about you pack an overnight bag of clothes and stay at the loft? We could stop by here before work, check on Sidney and you could get your car."

Natalie finished drying off her hands and put the towel down. She walked over to Nick and crossed her hands behind his neck, pulling his face down. "I think that could be arranged." She said before she kissed him, her passion slowly rising.

AKeep that up and we'll never get to the loft." Nick said as Natalie broke the kiss to breath.

"We wouldn't want a hungry vampire on our hands now would we?" She said as she released him. "Okay, just be a few minutes then we can go." Nick waited in the living room as Natalie put a few changes of clothes in her suitcase. She thought as she put her travel bag into the suitcase beside a couple of pairs of shoes.

Nick already had his coat on and held her coat for her. Then he took the suitcase to carry. With good bye's to Sidney they headed down to the Caddy and over to the loft.

## End Part 15/37 ##

** So many things I think about

** When I look far away

** Things I know -- things I wonder

** Things I'd like to say

RUSH - Mystic Rhythms

## Part 16/37 ##

Nick put her suitcase down and helped Natalie take off her coat. "Why don't you make yourself something to eat Nat. I'll take your suitcase up stairs and make some room in my drawers and closet for your things."

Natalie went to the fridge and pulled out an apple and some cheese, then grabbed a bottle for Nick. After hanging up their coats, Nick shrugged off the holster and unloaded his gun. He took his watch off and performed his usual routine of checking the answering machine and the letters he had left on the table earlier. Natalie handed him a full mug as he passed by to get the suitcase.

"Here, no telling how long you'll be digging around in your closet. Might as well take something to sip along with you."

Nick leaned over and gave her a gentle kiss before he took the mug from her hand. "Thanks Nat." With a nod, Natalie went back into the kitchen to prepare her fruit, cheese and crackers. She had just started to cut into the apple as Nick went up the stairs. Still full from her meal earlier, she only made up a snack sized plate. By the time the kettle had boiled, she was half way done eating.

Nick called down, "Nat, I've emptied the top drawer of the dresser and the right side of the closet for you. I'm going to have a shower, okay?"

"That's fine. I'll be up in a bit to put everything away, thanks." Natalie finished her food as she waited for her tea to steep. She took her cup of tea up to the bedroom with her, intent on hanging up her suit before it started to wrinkle. The contents of the suitcase were put away in short order. She spotted Nick's empty cup on the corner of the dresser. The background noise of the shower running brought thoughts of Nick to her mind. A smile crossed her face as she went back downstairs with her empty cup. She grabbed the half full bottle she opened earlier and removed the cork. Pulling out the bag she had placed in the crisper a couple of days ago, Natalie poured a few ounces of blood into a goblet. She thought as she made her way back up to the bedroom.

Natalie put the bottle and the goblet on the dresser and started to undress. As silent as she could she made her way into the bathroom until she was opposite the shower door. The steam from Nick's shower enveloped her naked body like a fine fog. She placed the goblet on the vanity. She opened the shower door and said. "Someone ask for a back wash?"

Nick heard Natalie's heart beat over the sound of the running water and wasn't surprised. He turned the hot water down so she wouldn't get burned before responding. "Yes, there's a spot right around here," he said as he pointed a finger in the general area of the middle of his back, Athat I just can't seem to reach. Any assistance will be _most_ appreciated." Natalie, who had not seen Nick naked in the light before was speechless. Her gaze traveled down his broad shoulders, across his tight bum and down the backs of his legs. Her tongue licked the corner of her mouth. "Umm, Nat. Are you going to wash my back?" Nick said over his shoulder after Natalie hadn't moved for a minute.

"Uh, yah. Hand me the soap." She said as she stepped into the stall and closed the door behind her. Nick handed her the soap, then placed his hands on either side of the shower head, letting the water hit his chest and run down his front. Natalie lathered up her hands and placed them on the water heated skin of his shoulders. A flush slowly came over her as she let her hands roam over Nick's back. Her soapy hands traveled over his buttocks and a low moan rumbled up from his chest. Natalie let her hands discover this part of his anatomy she had never touched before. His cheeks clenched as her fingers slid down between them, then came across his lower cheeks where they met his legs. Her hands made a few circuits before sliding up his sides to his chest and encircle his peck's. Her body pressed against his back and Nick could feel her hard nipples pressing into his skin.

"Ooh, Natalie...Don't stop, it feels _so_ good!" Nick moaned as her hands started to explore his lower chest and stomach. He moved so the water hit him more on the side, allowing Natalie to run the bar of soap over his skin without washing the lather away. Natalie layed her cheek on his shoulder and closed her eyes, using her feeling of touch to explore his body. Nick sucked in his breath as her hands brushed over his hair and rubbed against his erect member. Natalie let the soap fall to the floor as she wrapped her soapy fingers around his hardness. She cupped and kneaded him with one hand as her other started a pumping motion. Nick's eyes turned amber gold and his fangs ached to drop as the pleasure from her touch thrummed through his body. His hips started to thrust slightly out of time with her hand as his excitement built. Natalie kept her body molded to Nick's, her hips falling into rhythm with his own as he thrusted into her hand. "Nat, we need to stop...can't hold back..." Nick said in a guttural voice as his fangs extended. Natalie didn't speak, just tightened her hand around him. With a roar, Nick reared his head back and sank his fangs into his bicept as he climaxed. Every muscle in his body grew taut as his orgasm over took him.

As his orgasm subsided, Nick released his arm and leaned his forehead against the shower wall. If not for Natalie's arms around him for support, he would have sunk down to the shower floor. Natalie unhooked the shower massager from it's holder and washed the soap and blood off them. After placing the massager back into its holder, she opened the stall door and retrieved the goblet from its place on the vanity and stepped back into the shower.

The smell of the blood scent shook Nick from his dazed afterglow. He turned to face her and saw her holding the goblet out to him.

"Here, drink this" She said as she held it out to him. Nick managed to keep his eyes normal and fangs retracted as he took the goblet from her grasp. He closed his eyes and let his sense of smell guide the goblet to his lips. Instead of gulping the contents, he slowly sipped it, savoring the taste of each drop. Natalie took the empty glass from him as he slumped against the shower wall. His head back and eyes closed, he thrilled at feeling Natalie's essence. Nick opened his eyes as Natalie stepped back into the shower after placing the goblet back on the vanity.

Nick took her into an embrace, burying his face in the hair by her ear. "I love you so much Nat..."

Her hands played over his back as she spoke. "I know you do Nick. I love you too. We'll find a way to be together, we just have to be a little inventive is all..." She pulled back enough to kiss him on the tip of his nose. "I've got the need for blood figured out, now if we can only find away around your need to bite..."

He kissed her back on the tip of her nose then said. "I'm sure you'll be able to improvise something, my love. Now... I'm clean and you're not. What _ever_ will we do about that?" Nick asked with a sly grin, then bent down to retrieve the soap.

## End Part 16/37 ##

** We are secrets to each other

** Each one's life a novel

** No-one else has read

** Even joined in bonds of love

** We're linked to one another

** By such slender threads

RUSH - Entre Nous

## Part 17/37 ##

Part 17 is continuous with Part 16.

Nick placed the soap back in the tray and pulled out the bottle of shampoo. "Get you hair wet Nat, 'Nick's Salon' is now open for business." He said with a grin as he poured some shampoo into the palm of one hand. Natalie wet her hair and turned to face him. "Hold onto me to steady yourself Nat. I'm going to need you to tilt your head back and close your eyes...wouldn't want you to get water or shampoo in them." He said as he rubbed the shampoo into both his palms.

Natalie stood directly infront of Nick. Her legs brushed against his, her hips barely touching his skin. She thought as she felt his erection pressing against her skin. A slight smile on her face, Natalie tilted her head back and closed her eyes.

Nick brushed the strands of her wet hair so they fell down her back. He started to work the shampoo into her hair. As his fingers started to massage her scalp, Natalie moaned and pushed her head into his touch. "Does that feel good Love?"

A sighing "Yesss." excaped her slightly parted lips.

Nick was very careful not to get any soap in her eyes as he massaged her head. Soft moans and sighs escaped her as his fingers slid through her hair and along her scalp. Nick glanced down and saw a flush starting to form on her chest, her nipples erect. He slit his eyes and tried to focus on the feel of his fingers sliding through her hair.

"I'm going to reach over and get the massager to rinse your hair Love, hold on."

Natalie pulled herself closer to him. Her hips pressed against his skin, trapping his erection between them.

Nick supported her neck as he reached to unhook the shower massager. "Close your eyes tight." He said as he started to rinse the shampoo from her hair. When all the shampoo was gone, he slid the massager back into it's holder and took her hair into his hands. Natalie opened her eyes surprised as she felt him place a soft kiss on her lips while he wrung the water out of her hair.

Nick gathered Natalie's hair around to the front of her then pulled her body up close to his, her hard nipples pressed into his skin like blunt spears of heated passion. "Put your head on my shoulder Love, relax." He said as he soaped up his hands before returning the bar to its holder. Natalie wrapped her arms around him as his hands left trails of lather along her back. She clinched her cheeks as Nick's hands cupped her bum, his fingers followed a similar path that hers had on him. He brought his hands back up to her shoulders and moved them under the spray, rinsing the soap from her skin. ALet go Love, just stand there for a moment." He said as he stepped back and picked up the soap.

Natalie flipped her hair over her shoulder with one hand as Nick took her other into his. He enclosed her hand between his, thoroughly washing it before he dragged his nails across her palm as he made his way to her wrist. He washed the soap from her hand and kissed her palm before putting her hand on his shoulder. With long soapy strokes of his hands, he washed up her arm to her shoulder. "Your other hand please." He said as he finished with her arm and moved to her other side where he lavished the same attention on her other.

That arm done, he turned Natalie so her back was to him. He stepped up close behind her. Natalie could feel his hardness pressed between their bodies. She laid her head back onto his shoulder and reached behind and grabbed his hips. His hands started spreading lather on her stomach. Her breathing became shallow pants as Nick brought his hands up her sides, brushing the edges of her breasts. He washed her upper chest before encircling each breast in a hand. Nick held her in his palms as he rolled her nipples between his fingers. Natalie moaned and ground herself back against him, her body becoming desperate from the delicious teasing. She whimpered as he released her breasts to take the massager in his hand. He again rinsed the soap from her before he continued his attentions.

ALean back against the wall Love." Nick said as he directed her movement, then kneeled on one knee before her. He caressed the calf of one of Natalie's legs. ALet me lift your foot Nat."

Natalie shifted her balance. He raised her foot and placed it on his knee. He massaged her foot, his fingers coming into contact with every bit of skin. His touch was firm, but did not tickle as he caressed her sole and instep. His fingers slid between each of her toes before his hand make it's way across her arch to meet his other hand at her ankle. Natalie sucked in her breath as she felt his hands slide up her leg, kneading her calf. Nick's hands moved up farther, coating her thigh with lather. A low moan escaped Natalie as his wrist brushed against her labia. The anticipation of him touching her was almost too much to bear. He slid both hands back down her leg and placed her foot back on the floor. Natalie willingly placed her other foot on his knee, eager for his continued touch. Nick lavished equal attention to her other foot and calf. He again brushed her with his wrist as he washed her thigh.

"Touch me Nick...Please touch me...I can't stand it any more!"

Nick placed her foot back down on the floor and slid his hand up the inside of her leg.

"Your every wish and desire, Love."

Natalie shifted her legs apart a bit in anticipation of his touch. His fingers brushed through her chestnut curls as he enclosed a nipple in his mouth. Natalie's legs started to trembel from the exquisite pleasure his touch was causing. Nick wrapped his other arm around her back to help support her. Natalie moaned and panted as his fingers worked along her folds and his tongue circled her nipple. She wrapped one hand up in his hair forcing his head to her breast, as her other hand held his to her as she lunged her hips against it repeatedly. "Oh...Oh...Oh Yes! Nick YES!" Natalie screamed as her orgasm washed through her, relieving the sexual tension that he had built up in her from his attentions.

Nick stood up, trapping Natalie's body between his and the wall, their hands still between them. Natalie passionately kissed him as the strength returned to her legs. "I think I'm going to have to go to 'Nick's Salon' more often." She said as she grinned against his mouth.

"It was _my_ pleasure to serve you, please come again." He said as he smiled back at her before recapturing her lips.

They washed the remainder of the soap from themselves and stepped out of the shower. "Here Nat, use my robe." Nick said as he held it up for her to slip her arms down the sleeves. As Natalie tied the robe, Nick wrapped a large towel around his waist. "I'm hungry Nat, I'll be right back."

"I brought up the rest of that bottle, it's on the dresser."

Nick quickly dried off before walking naked into the bedroom. He didn't bother with the goblet he had picked up off the vanity as he left the bathroom. He raised the bottle to his lips and tilted it back, draining it's contents. Still hungry, he went down to the kitchen for another bottle. By the time Nick returned from sating his hunger and rinsing the goblet and empty bottles, Natalie was wearing his pajama tops and drying her hair.

AFigured you'd only need the bottoms." Natalie said as she grinned at his nakedness. She giggled as she added, "You have to admit you'd look a little silly wearing only the tops."

Nick only grinned back at her as he drew the black silk up his legs.

"Are you going to be warm enough Nat? Want me to put a couple more blankets on the bed?"

"That would be great, thanks. Could you pass me my bag that's on the bed please?" She said as Nick went back into the bedroom. "Thanks." Natalie placed the contents of the bag around the sink for when she got up. She brushed and dried her hair as well as cleaned her teeth before joining Nick in bed.

Nick shut off the light on the night stand as Natalie slid under the covers. She snuggled herself up against him as he wrapped his arms around her. "Good night, I love you Nat."

"I love you to Nick." She said as she lifted herself up to give him a kiss. She lay back down against him and fell quickly to sleep with a satisfied smile on her face.

## End Part 17/37 ##

** What happened to our innocence

** Did it go out of style?

** Along with our naivete'

** No longer a child

** Different eyes see different things

** Different hearts beat on different strings

** But there are times

** For you and me, when all such things agree

RUSH - Different Strings

## Part 18/37 ##

Natalie woke early. She found she was lying on her right side with Nick spooned up against her back. She pulled his hand from where it was draped over her hip and brought it up to clutch it against her chest. Entirely content, she closed her eyes and fell back to sleep.

Natalie opened an eye and looked at the clock on the night stand. With an inward groan she slipped from underneath Nick's arm and went to the bathroom. When she came back she saw Nick had rolled onto his back, still sound asleep. Wide awake from the touch of the cold toilet seat, she felt cheated out of the few minutes of sleep she could have had before needing to get up. With a mischievous grin she gently got back on the bed, careful not to wake Nick yet. She pulled the covers off his chest and leaned over to blow on his nipple. Achieving no effect on him after a few breaths, except to make herself a bit light headed, Natalie stopped and leaned back on her elbow. Another plan formulated as she saw that his head was turned to the left. She shifted her position upward and started to lightly blow in his right ear. Getting no response, she took his earlobe between her lips and teased it with her tongue while dragging her nails along his neck.

A low moan came from Nick as he awoke from her attentions. In one quick motion Natalie found herself on Nick's other side as she squealed in surprise. Nick, laying partially on top of her, leaned over and brushed the tip of his nose against hers. "Morning Love." He said before giving her one of the passionate kisses she had requested upon waking.

"Sleep well?" He asked after breaking the kiss and moving back a bit so she didn't have to squint to look at him.

"Hmm, just fine." She replied as she licked her lips while running her fingers through his hair.

Nick propped himself up on his elbow and ran his other hand up and down her arm. "Nat...I was wondering...Do you think Sidney might like to live in a place with more space...one with lots of nooks and crannies to explore...one with stairs he could climb..." He couldn't hide the expectation from his face as he waited for her response.

It took a moment for the implication of what Nick said to penetrate Natalie's mind.

With no answer, Nick continued. "I love having you beside me when I wake up Nat. Would you and Sidney consider moving into the loft with me? It doesn't seem fair to him being alone so much and..."

Natalie placed her hand on his lips, silencing him. "Yes Nick. I think Sidney would quite like exploring the loft." She said with a smile. "And _I_ would very much enjoy waking up with you beside me every day. I have to pay my rent before work tonight, so I'll ask if there is anyone on the list waiting for an apartment. Next month can be my 'last of' and that would give me lots of time to pack and decide what to put into storage..." Natalie stopped talking as her mind started to formulate what to pack straight away and what to leave till last. [Author Note: 'last of' is the rent deposit, as in first and last months rent when you sign a lease.]

Nick was grinning like a school boy after his first kiss. "Storage won't be a problem Nat. Anything you want to store can go with my things on the second floor, there's lots of room." Nick looked over his shoulder at the clock. "You have a whole month to decide what to store and what to bring, but unfortunately work won't keep..." Nick started to get off the bed.

"Oh, Nick...could you turn up the heat a bit? You might not notice it but it's a bit cold for me."

Nick shifted around to look at Natalie. "I'm sorry Nat, I never thought about you being cold. I relinquish control of the thermostat to you, please set it to make yourself comfortable."

"There's nothing to be sorry about Nick, we're just getting into late fall and it's getting colder out." She smiled, trying to let him know it wasn't a big thing. "The toilet seat was just a bit on the cold side is all...a real eye opener first thing after you get up."

"Okay then, but please set the temperature to how you want it. Whatever you chose is fine with me. I really don't notice that much and I want you to be comfortable. It's your home now too." Nick grinned. I'll go put the coffee on for you while you get dressed." Nick went over to his dresser and took out the underwear and socks. He dropped his pajama bottoms and bent to pick them up. Natalie let out a wolf whistle then started giggling. "You're enjoying this aren't you?" Nick said as he looked between his side and arm at Natalie laying back on her elbows on top of the bed.


Nick just shook his head and put on his clothes. Natalie started to slide off the bed as he walked towards the door. "Want me to make anything for you to eat?"

"No, I'll just have toast or cereal or something. Not sure yet, thanks anyway."

Nick went downstairs as Natalie went into the bathroom.

Natalie came down to find Nick sitting at the table, sipping from his mug as he read his mail. She prepared her coffee and some toast and sat across from Nick.

After Natalie had finished her toast, Nick asked. "So how did you think of the blood idea?"

"Well, I knew that you feared biting me and taking too much. So, I figured that if there was some of my blood close at hand when we made love, that you could drink it from the glass instead of from me. That way we could almost eliminate that fear. I figured that I could take a pint from myself just like giving blood to the donor program. Each time we made love we could use up a bit. I'll have to figure out a volume to stretch it till I'm able to give blood again. If you can get used to having my blood, then you won't crave it as much. Then when you do bite me, you will only need a bit to satisfy that craving."

Nick nodded in understanding. He smiled widely at the beautiful and practical woman sitting across from him. Her eyes furrowed in concentration as she took a sip from her cup.

"I know I've never asked you this Nick, but the answer will be important in helping you regain your control. I know you won't want to answer this...but I do need to know."

Nick nodded after a moment for Natalie to go ahead and ask.

Natalie took a breath and said. "How often in the past did you kill a person to survive, to not be hungry? Every day, every second or every third?"

Nick looked away, hesitant to answer. After a few moments he looked at Natalie and said in a quiet voice. "Usually every other, unless I was flying or using up a lot of energy. Then it was every day." Nick looked down into his mug, the death of the many weighed heavy on his mind.

Natalie starred open mouthed at him as she mentally calculated the volume necessary for him to survive. The impact of what her 'it's the blood that's stopping you from coming back across' diet she'd had Nick on brought tears to her eyes. "Why didn't you explain to me your needs to me before, I would have understood..."

He raised his head to look at her when he heard the sorrow in her voice. "You seemed so sure... I was and still am ready to try most anything that will give me back my mortality. What was a little hunger compared to the chance of fulfilling my dream of becoming mortal... to be with you as you deserve."

Nick got up and went to kneel at her side. He cupped her face in his hands as he said. "I was afraid of what you would think of me if you knew the extent of what I had become... what I had to do to survive. I couldn't take the chance on your friendship...on your love by telling you. I see now I was selfish and wrong. I promise you on my honor that I will try to be more open about my past, even if I fear your reaction."

Natalie bent over and lightly kissed his lips, sniffed, then put her head on his shoulder. She wrapped her arms around him. Though her voice was muffled, Nick could hear her say. "I'll always love you Nick. You aren't the same person you were in your past. Everything you do shows how you're trying to make amends. I'll admit some things you have done will probably scare me, but I think it's better for us to talk about this now before we decide I'm ready to be brought across. To get almost 800 years of memories all at once does frighten me a bit. I would really like to know more of your vampiric past before then."

Nick hugged her tighter. "You shall Nat... you shall. No secrets, I promise."

Natalie gave him another quick kiss before straightening and wiping her eyes. She half heartedly laughed to lighten the mood and glanced at her watch. "Oh, we better get going or Sidney wont get to eat till morning."

Nick got up and stepped back to let Natalie stand. "We wouldn't want Sidney to start in on your drapes again would we?" He said with a smile. "Why don't you go upstairs and freshen up a bit, I'll clear the table."

She gave Nick one of the smiles that lit up her face, squeezed his arm and headed upstairs. Natalie heard the mugs clink together and turned to see Nick walk into the kitchen area. Her analytical mind slowly took over as the bit of information finally surfaced. the hungry wolf' guarding it's natural prey from others in the pack, but not partaking in the feast around him. All the blood at the crime scenes to temp him... the control he must have... We _have_ to exploit this!'

## End Part 18/37 ##

** Closed for my protection

** Open to your scorn

** Between these two directions

** My heart is sometimes torn

RUSH - Open Secrets

## Part 19/37 ##

Natalie sat in the passenger seat thinking about Nick's control problems as he drove them to her apartment. "Nick?"

"Hmm?" He responded, glancing over at her.

"What was your control like when you weren't hungry?"

Nick thought back a moment before he said. "No real problems that I can remember... Why?"

"Well, I've been thinking about the volume you need to drink to stay healthy. If you could, as your Doctor speaking," She said with a smile. "I want you to start drinking four bottles a day, five if you can. I figure that if you aren't hungry when we make love you won't 'want' to take too much, as far as feeding your hunger goes.

Nick pulled into the vacant visitors spot at her building and shut off the engine. He swivelled in his seat to face her and clasped her hands. "As my 'Doctor' commands, so shall I obey." He said before raising her hands to his lips to kiss each of them on the knuckles. Nick lowered her hands but still held them. "My greatest fear is hurting you Nat... to loose control and take too much." Nick smiled lightening the serious mood that had settled over them. "I knew you would come up with a sensible 'scientific' based solution Nat."

She just grinned back. Natalie blushed at her lecherous thoughts and turned to get out of the car. She unfastened the seat belt as she opened the door and stepped out of the car. The cool night air quickly removed the blush from her skin, but did nothing to cool the desire for Nick inside. She came around to the front of the car and linked her arm through his as they walked toward the entrance.

Nick held open the security door after she unlocked it, so that she could enter first. Natalie pressed the elevator button and said to Nick as they waited for it to arrive. "I'll go pay my rent and talk to the 'super' while you see to Sidney, okay?"

"Alright Nat, I'll wait for you in the apartment, then we can decide about who's place we'll stay at tonight." Nick winked at her as the elevator door opened to the second floor.

She just smiled and shook her head as she stepped off. Natalie heard the elevator door shut behind her as she walked toward the superintendent's apartment and knocked on the door.

She heard a Bristol accented voice say AJust a minute." before the door opened to a 60'ish lady holding a Scottish terrier. "Oh, hello Dr. Lambert, how are you dear?"

Natalie smiled back and said. AJust fine Mrs. Hainsworth. And how are you doing Charley?" She asked scratching the dog behind the ears and getting her wrist licked as a response. Natalie opened her purse to take out her check book as she said. "I've got this months rent cheque for you, and a question."

"And what would that be luv?" The gregarious woman asked.

Natalie blushed slightly before responding. "I'm going to move in with my boyfriend soon and I was wondering if there was anyone on the waiting list that could take over my lease."

She gave a surprised happy smile to Natalie before saying. "I'll hate to see you go luv, but I'm glad you've found a special someone. Lets go down to the office and take a look at the list." She put Charley down and closed the door behind her. She took up Natalie's hand as they walked down the hall. "So tell me, would it happen to be that handsome blond haired gentleman that I've seen you with?"

Natalie nodded. "Yes, Nicholas Knight, he's a Detective here in Toronto."

She squeezed Natalie's hand as she giggled a bit. "If I was thirty years younger, I'd love to give him a tour around Trafalger Square! Seriously though, he seems like a very kind hearted person from the short conversations I've had with him in the hall."

"Yes he is. For all the hardship he's had to endure. He has a rare allergy and can't go out in the sun because he burns easily, but he's always willing to help others in any way he can. The fact that he's also gorgeous and has a great butt is just icing on the cake!" Both women laughed the remaining few steps to the office door.

Mrs. Hainsworth opened the door and entered first to turn on the lights. She opened up a file cabinet drawer and removed a folder. "Ah, just as I thought." She looked up at Natalie. "A young couple, very nice, were in on Monday asking if there were any vacancies. The young lady was about 6 months pregnant. Must have been her first one, she was all tired out from walking down to the office. They had moved to Toronto when her husband got transferred and are staying with his folks. Said they could take a two bedroom unit on short notice. If you think you could be moved by the end of the month I can give them a call tonight and see if they still want it? You could use your 'last of' as this months rent."

Natalie sat down heavily in the chair across from Mrs. Hainsworth. She looked up from her hands and took a deep breath.

Mrs. Hainsworth could tell Natalie was 'head over heels' about her Nick. She had pulled Natalie's apartment file out of the cabinet while Natalie thought about her options.

"Could you give them a call now and see if they still want it before I get my hopes up?"

"Sure thing luv, you go on up to your apartment and I'll call you as soon as I know. The young man said someone would be there after six most nights, so I should be able to get hold of them right now." She shoo'd Natalie out the door and sat down to dial.

Nick opened the door to the apartment and found Sidney waiting as usual for attention. He picked him up and closed the door behind him. Holding Sidney up to look into his face he asked as he walked into the kitchen. "So Sidney, how would you like to live at my place. There's lots of room and maybe even a few mice for you to chase." Sidney just blinked and extended a paw to touch Nick's nose. "I'll take that as a 'yes'." Nick laughed to himself as he put him down and got out his food.

Natalie opened the door to find Nick cleaning the Sidney 'you left me alone so I'm going to be bad to get attention' mess on the coffee table. He immediately noticed her increased heart rate and nervousness. "What's the matter Nat?" He said as he came over to her.

"Um, there's a possibility that a young couple could take over my lease the day after tomorrow."

Nick picked up Natalie and spun her around before capturing her mouth in a passionate kiss.

Once Natalie regained her bearings she told Nick of her conversation with Mrs. Hainsworth. "So that would only leave me tonight and tomorrow to get moved."

Nick started to say something, but the phone rang before he could get a word out. Natalie picked it up on the third ring. "Hello? Okay, that's fine. Yes. I'll be down tomorrow morning to sign the papers. Thanks. Bye."

"Well, the couple was ecstatic and took the apartment without even seeing it. We'll sign the paperwork tomorrow." She looked up at Nick in a bit of a panic. "How will I ever get moved in a day?"

Nick walked over and gave her a hug. He kissed her forehead before saying. "We both have personal days coming to us and it's not as is we're busy at work. You call in and I'll call one of my contacts in the moving industry. You 'are' talking to someone with loads of last minute moving experience. I promise you you'll be moved by noon tomorrow." He grinned as his calm demeanor just frustrated Natalie more. She smacked him on the shoulder before going to call in to work and book the evening off.

Nick used his cell phone and arranged for a load of boxes to be brought over in half an hour, then called in to book himself off work. After talking to the desk sergeant he transferred over to Schanke's desk.

"Hello, Detective Schanke."

"Hi, it's Nick. I won't be in tonight, I just booked off."

"What's up, you sick."

"No, just a personal day. Stop by the loft after work and I'll explain it to you then."

"Okay, but it better be good. You better not be just pulling a ruse to get out of this paperwork partner."

"All will become clear when you stop over after work. Bye Schanke"

"Bye Nick."

He came up to Natalie who was looking around the living room trying to decide if she should take the couch and chairs. "All set Nat, the boxes should be here in about ten minutes, and the movers will be here for what ever is going at six in the morning. I'll move my painting supplies into the corner and we can just put everything there. You can sort it out as you have time and we'll move what you want for storage to the second floor as you go."

"I'm just so overwhelmed. Will I ever get used to doing this Nick? Have you?"

"It's hard the first few times Nat, especially when you have to take a new identity and move to a different country on short notice. You never get used to it. There are always emotions attached when you have to end one life and start another." He put a comforting arm around her shoulders. "So, have you made any decisions about furniture yet?"

Natalie sighed. "The bedroom suite was my Mom's so that definitely goes."

"I'll clear the things I have stored in the second bedroom and we can set it up there."

"Okay, one down... I don't know what to do with the couch and chairs and end tables and...."

"One thing at a time Nat, don't let it overwhelm you. We can put it in storage, call Goodwill to pick it up for charity, or you could offer it to the couple for a small price. They sounded like they wouldn't have much if they're staying at his parents."

"Yes, I guess I could do that..." The phone rang with the ring telling them someone was at the front entrance. Natalie turned on the TV and put it on the security channel. Two men with arm loads of folded boxes were waiting. Nick buzzed them in and went to help carry the cartons.

Once the boxes and packing material were in the apartment and the men gone, Nick handed Natalie a tape gun and a black marker. "Shall we start?" He set up two large boxes and put the dowels inside them. "These are for all the clothes hanging in your closet. You just need to rehang them in here. Why don't you show me what to pack then you can start on your closets."

Nick made quick work of boxing everything in the living room while Natalie worked on her bedroom. Nick started on the kitchen and carefully packaged all her dishes, then moved on to the appliances. After boxing all the cupboard items, he looked around the room for anything he had missed. Seeing that everything was empty he started boxing up the bathroom and linen closet.

He entered the bedroom with a cup of coffee for Natalie and a couple more empty boxes. She had just finished emptying her last dresser and looked up. "Thanks." She glanced at the time and saw it was 3:30am. "Wow, where has the time gone?"

"Except for a few things in here Nat, I think all you need to do is the fridge and take a last look around the other rooms." He moved over to the night stand and unplugged the clock and light. "Why don't you sit down and I'll take care of the night stand and bedding." He said as he opened the top drawer.

Natalie quickly came over and shut it before he had more than glanced inside. "That's okay, why don't you just do the bedding and Sidney's litter box. You need to be going before it's light out and I have to wait here for the movers. Sidney will just get scared and in the way if he's still here." She quickly said.

Nick smiled and shrugged. "Okay Nat, what ever you say." He went into the bathroom to clean the litter box, a hidden smile on his face. Nick thought, referring to the item he noticed in the drawer.

When Nick was out of the room, Natalie opened the drawer and quickly pulled out the ivory coloured phallic shaped plastic device and put it in the middle of the clothes box she was ready to close. Once the box was taped she put a star on it in marker so she'd know which one only she would unpack. After her embarrassment had died down, she started stripping off the bedding.

## End Part 19/37 ##

** Alternating currents

** Force a show of hands

** Rational responses

** Force a change of plans

** anything can happen

RUSH - Prime Mover

## Part 20/37 ##

Nick entered the loft with Sidney in his carrying case in one hand and the bag of kitty litter in the other. "Hold on a minute Sidney, I'll let you out soon." Nick said as Sidney started meowing loudly again. Nick secured the lift door open and hung up his jacket. He had taken Sidney as Natalie asked and was back at the loft by 4:30 am. He picked up the litter box and grabbed the bag as he passed. "Where shall we put this for you Sidney?" He said, glancing over his shoulder to where Sidney in his case was sitting on the floor. Nick filled the box up with kitty litter and opened up the bi-fold doors to the laundry alcove. "Perfect." He said as he slid the blue enclosed litter box into the space between the front of the washer and the door. He put the rolled closed bag of litter beside the box in the corner and left the door half open. "Only another couple of minutes Sidney." Nick took the carton that was still in the lift and brought it into the kitchen. After putting out Sidney's bowls and filling them with water and food, Nick placed his scratching post off to the right of the stairs from the entrance door. With a last look to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything, he walked over to Sidney.

As the door was unlatched Sidney bolted out of the carrier to wind about Nick's legs. Nick picked him up and walked over to the scratching post. Nick held Sidney up to look into his eyes, the sound of the fast beating little heart grew loud. "You will only scratch your claws on your scratching post... You will never scratch at any other piece of furniture... only your scratching post..." He put Sidney down in front of the post and the cat made a few scratches on it before sneezing and checking out his litter box. Nick shuddered at the thought of scratch marks on the legs of the piano.

Nick made himself busy by moving all his painting supplies into the corner. He glanced at the expanse of empty floor, satisfied that the area would hold all of the boxes from Natalie's apartment until she could sort through them. Nick put a classical CD on then flew upstairs, startling Sidney who was prowling around on the balcony. "Sorry there Sidney, but you'll get used to it before the night's over." He said as he picked up the cat to calm him as he walked to the bedroom. "Here, why don't you lie down for a nap in these nice warm covers." Sidney sniffed around a moment. He found the scent of his mistress on the blankets. Finding something familiar and comforting in the new strange place, he snuggled into the blankets.

Nick walked down the balcony and opened the spare bedroom. He switched on the light and noted that the entire floor was covered with boxes. Nick mused as he picked up the closest box and flew down to place it in the lift. He smiled to himself. After about the twelfth trip he stopped to grab a mug and a bottle. He thought as he finished the bottle. His body automatically went through the motions of moving the boxes while his mind fantasized about making love to Natalie.

Nick had moved all the boxes from the lift into the storage on the second floor. He was just putting the elevator lock out key back into the kitchen drawer when the door buzzer sounded. He let Schanke in then got the vacuum out of the closet.

Schanke slid the lift door open and stepped into the loft. "So Nick, where are ya?" He called out after seeing the large open floor space to his right and no sign of Nick.

Nick stuck his head out the bedroom door and called down "Up here." before starting the vacuum. By the time Schanke made it to the doorway, Nick was just finishing up the room. As the sound of the vacuum died down Schanke asked. "So why did you, and I may add, Natalie take the night off? Where is she, I don't see her car here?"

Nick smiled to him as he wrapped the electrical cord back around the holder. "Nat's not here because she's at her apartment directing the movers."

Schanke put one had on the door frame and the other over his heart. "You mean Nat's moving in here?" Nick just nodded as he finished securing the cord and picked up the vacuum. "Wow, going a little quick aren't you there partner... Not that I see anything wrong of course, but it is a bit sudden..." Schanke said as he followed Nick back down stairs.

"Nat and I have had more than a few heart to heart talks. We both felt it was silly and not fair to Sidney going back and forth each night. She inquired tonight if there was anyone on the list who could take over her lease, thinking about moving next month. There was a couple looking for something immediately. We talked and went for it, so here we are. The movers should be here any moment with her things."

"Wow. Boy will Myra flip when she hears about this. You and Nat setting up house _and_ going to see the Phantom all within a few days..."

The door buzzer went off and Nick went to the monitor, looked, then released the lift. Ten minutes later the lift opened to Natalie, the two movers and the lift full of bedroom furniture.

"Here, take these." Natalie said indicating the two boxes at her feet. Nick grabbed one and Schanke the other. "That's the things out of my fridge and freezer, they need to be put away now." She turned to the two movers and said. "The boxes will go in this area, and the bedroom furniture will go up here." Pointing to the empty floor to the right and up in the general area of the bedroom.

Schanke slipped his jacket off as the movers started to unload the lift. "What are you doing Schanke?" Nick asked as he finished filling up the fridge.

"What kind of a friend would I be if I didn't help you move?"

"It's really not necessary..."

"I'm helping and that's that." Schanke said cutting Nick off.

"Okay Don, thanks. At least call Myra so she won't be worried about you."

Nick just shrugged at Natalie as Schanke went off to find the phone. Nick knew he could move everything upstairs himself faster, but when a friend offers... how could he say no without raising suspicion. He pulled Natalie aside as she and the movers came back down stairs from their first trip up to the spare bedroom. "All done at the apartment, or do you need to make another trip?"

Natalie sighed and hugged him, resting her head on his chest for a moment. "Got everything in the truck in one go. The young guy came over before work and we signed the papers. He came up to look at the furniture and wrote out a cheque for the five hundred I asked. He said it was great and would save he and his wife lots of time looking for furniture, not to mention sitting on the floor until they got some."

Nick kissed her head then directed her into the kitchen. "Have you eaten yet?" He asked while pouring her a cup of the coffee he had made just before Schanke arrived.

"Did someone mention food?" Schanke asked as he walked into the kitchen behind them.

Nick laughed and patted Schanke on the shoulder. "Come on, move first eat later. We'll feed you before we send you home to Myra."

Nick and Schanke moved the rest of the bedroom furniture up stairs and set the bed up. The movers made two more trips down to the van for the boxes. Nick rode down in the lift with the movers as they left, while Natalie and Schanke fixed something to eat. Nick took his time paying the movers as he didn't want awkward questions from Schanke on why he wasn't eating. He'd have to deal with that soon enough at the restaurant on Friday. Natalie and Schanke were half way through their eggs and toast by the time Nick reentered the loft.

Passing on Schanke's offer of the last two eggs, Nick started to take the boxes marked 'clothes' up stairs for Natalie. On his third trip back down for more, Schanke said. "Would you look at the time, I've got to get going. Thanks for the food Nat." Then turned to Nick as he came over to the table. "Now you two get some sleep, you're expected to be in to work tonight."

Giving them both a big grin.

"I don't know what he has planned," Natalie said pointing over to Nick. Abut I'm going to get some sleep. Thanks for your help Don, I appreciated it." She said before giving him a kiss on the cheek.

"Hey, what are friends for eh? It's not as if you asked me to help move a body or something." Schanke laughed to himself at his bad joke as he opened the door to the lift and walked inside. "See ya tonight folks." With a wave the door closed and the lift engaged.

Nick helped Natalie clear the dishes off the table before picking her up in his arms. "You must be exhausted. Why don't we worry about the rest of your stuff after we get up, hmm?"

Natalie wrapped her arm around his neck and leaned her head against his as he started to walk towards the stairs. "A shower and bed sounds _so_ good right now..."

They showered together, their thoughts only on the sleep that would soon be theirs. They felt Sidney climb up onto the bed and lay at their feet after they had set the alarm and cuddled up.



"I know it wasn't easy for you to just pick up and move so suddenly..."

"I want to be here with you Nick... now be quiet and go to sleep."

Nick smiled and kissed the top of her head before lying back and closing his eyes.


The next two evenings were spent between work and integrating Natalie's things in with Nick's. Before they went to bed on the Friday morning, everything had been either stored or placed in it's new home.

## End Part 20/37 ##

** Moonrise, thoughtful eyes

** Staring back at me from the window beside

** No fright or hindsight

** Leaving behind that empty feeling inside

RUSH - Fly By Night

## Part 21/37 ##

Natalie finished putting on her makeup and walked into the bedroom. She saw the empty hangers laying on the bed and knew Nick was dressed and ready to go. She put on the emerald green dress and checked herself in the mirror. The dress fit well, conforming to her body in all the right places. The length was just the right height above her knees. The neckline was not daring, but not conservative either. A pleased smile graced her lips as she put on her earrings. With one last look in the mirror, Natalie left the bedroom to go down stairs.

She saw Nick putting a stick of gum in his mouth as he got up from the couch and walked into the kitchen with his empty mug. He came out of the kitchen as she neared the bottom of the stairs.

"You look beautiful my Love." Taking her hand as she stepped onto the floor.

"You don't look too shabby yourself." Natalie said as she brushed the fingers of her free hand under the lapel of this deep blue silk jacket.

They leaned together to give each other a soft sweet kiss. Nick stepped back and put his hand inside his jacket pocket, removing a jewelry case. "This if for you." He said as he opened up the case to show her the broach.

Natalie was surprised to see the butterfly. "It's beautiful..." The light caught the opal wings causing a rainbow of colours to dance across their surface.

"No more than you my Love." He pinned the broach on her dress above her heart. The coolness of the back of his hand stirred Natalie's desire. She felt the clasp quickly warm from the touch of her skin as he removed his hands. The butterfly was about an inch high and an inch and a half in width at the farthest point on the wings. The deep red glow from the ruby body seemed to be surrounded by a kaleidoscope of colours as the light refracted off the wings. The thin gold wire held all the stones together in what seemed like a continuous thread. The skill of workmanship in the piece was astounding. "Something for you to remember the night by." He said as she raised her eyes to his.

"As I shall..." She said before raising up on her toes to capture his lips with hers.

As they broke the kiss, Nick's cell phone rang. After a short conversation Nick hung up. "The limo's here, it's time for us to go."

Natalie grew concerned as they walked over to their coats. "Have you had enough to eat? Will you be okay with so many people around at the theater?"

Nick smiled at her concern for him. "I've had two bottles since we got up." He opened his jacket and pulled out the slim hip flask that was tucked away inside. "And I have this if I really need something to take the edge off." He held her hands after helping her on with her coat. "My control is improving. It's not back completely, but is well on its way. The siren call of beating hearts does not pull at my consciousness like it once did. Another few weeks and I'll have complete control back."

Natalie stepped into the lift as Nick put on his jacket. The building blocked the setting sun as they walked the few yards to the limo.

They could see Jenny waving from the front window as Myra and Don walked down the sidewalk to the limo. Nick sat back in the shadows as the last rays of the setting sun came through the open door. The Driver held the door for Myra and Don. Nick was thankful that the heavy tinting on the windows kept the light from penetrating the interior. Leaning forward as the door closed, Nick greeted them both.

As Myra and Natalie chatted away, Schanke leaned over to Nick and said in a quiet voice. "Myra was just tickled when she saw the limo drive up. She'll be the talk of the neighborhood for a week."

They avoided any talk of work as they rode to the theater.

Don and Myra preened at the attention the arrival of a limo stirred in people outside a venue. Natalie marveled at the aristocratic side of Nick as she took his arm. His demeanor was one of disinterest and aloofness, expecting the attention their arrival would cause.

They entered the Pantages Theatre and were taken by the refurbishment of the structure, restored to the original splendor of it's 1920's design. They checked their coats and were escorted to their suite. They talked about the arched ceiling with the colourful designs and patterns, while they waited for the play to begin. Their attention was drawn to the stage as the house lights dimmed.

Natalie took Nick's hand in hers as the coolness of his skin brought a more intimate feel to the experience of watching the play. The sets were breath taking. The performance of The Phantom, Christine and Raoul were excellent. The lighting and effects transported them to under the opera house and the orchestra played superbly.

At the intermission, the ladies excused themselves to the washroom. Schanke, after making small talk with Nick for a few moments, sought out the mens room.

Nick stepped into the gift shop and caught the eye of one of the busy attendants. With a slight bit of subtle persuasion, the attendant filled out a list of what Nick wanted and rang it through. Nick called the driver and made arrangements for the items to be picked up after the intermission. He was back in the midst of all the other patrons by the time Natalie, Myra and Don made their way back.

Each couple held hands as they returned to their seats, enjoying each other's company as well as friends.

As the play finished they stood and clapped in appreciation. Nick phoned the driver with pickup instructions.

As they got downstairs, Schanke said. "I'll just be a minute." Then amended that after looking at the crowd in the gift shop. "Or make that three or ten. Man, what a lineup in that place. Jenny had her heart set on a mug with The Phantom mask on it..."

"I've taken care of it Don, let's get our coats." Nick said as he took Schanke by the elbow and guided him away from the gift shop crowd.

"When did you do that?" Natalie asked, quietly as they collected their coats.

"While the three of you were in the line up for the washrooms. I arranged for the driver to come in and pick them up, they're in the car now." Nick said as he helped Natalie on with her coat. "I got mugs and the soundtrack on CD for each of us." He kissed Natalie on the cheek then smiled at Myra and Don before he continued. "I wouldn't leave out Jenny or Grace... there is one of each for them too. Now, shall we?" He said gesturing to the entrance.

Schanke pulled him aside as the ladies stepped into the limo. "Nick, you're dropping major money tonight, let me pay for the souvenirs at least."

Nick smiled at his friend. "Don, you're my guest. The only thing I want you to do tonight is make sure Myra has a grand evening. I've got everything else covered. Please, just let it go and enjoy yourself."

The night was cloudless, offering them an excellent view of the city lights as they rode the elevator up the outside of the CN Tower to the Sky Pod. The Top of Toronto Revolving Restaurant was their final destination. The view from their reserved table offered a perfect panarama of the Toronto skyline.

Knowing that Myra and Don would probably order something the least expensive when they looked at the prices on the menu, Nick offered to order for the table.

After ordering a mixed appetizer plate for all to share, he suggested lobster for the ladies. He got a New York Sirloin steak for himself and Schanke, his rare and Schanke's well done. Everyone tailored the accompanying side dishes to their own tastes. Nick accepted the waiters recommendation of a red Hillebrand Courtenay for the men and an Australian white called Wolf Blass for the ladies.

They sipped their wine and tried the various appetizers, as they chatted about the performance. They laughed at the surprise they all felt when the chandelier swung over the first few sets of rows, how the hundreds of candles seemed real, and how the boat seemed to float across the stage in the fog. Nick tried a small taste from a few different appetizers for effect, but used his allergy as an excuse for not partaking in large quantities.

Everyone enjoyed the main course. Nick's centuries of 'faking' eating around mortals came back as if it had never left. Through slight of hand, more of the food found it's way into the napkin in his lap than into his mouth.

They finished their meal with some Ice Wine from one of the companies around the Golden Horseshoe. It was almost time for the restaurant to close when they decided to go. The others put on their coats, while Nick took care of the bill and called the limo to meet them at street level.

Myra, not used to staying up past midnight yawned during the ride back down. They politely declined the offer of coffee back at the loft, but took a rain-cheque to come over one evening later in the month. With kisses, hugs and waves, Myra and Don thanked them for a wonderful evening. The driver carried their souvenir bag and saw them safely inside.

Nick hung up their coats, as Natalie unclipped her jewelry. She placed them on the dining room table as she passed it on her way into the kitchen. "You really surprised me with how much you were able to eat tonight." She said as she reached behind her back and slid down the zipper on her dress.

Nick pulled the empty flask from his hidden coat pocket. "A lot of slight of hand and a trip to the washroom to wash it down..." He raised the flask for Natalie to see as he walked into the kitchen. He placed the bag with the mugs and CD's on the counter. "You learn quick to blend in with other people in festivals and taverns. Those that don't eat or drink are suspect. Since that's the main thing people do together, you learn to make it appear as if you are eating." He rinsed out the flask as he continued. "So, it's still early for us. Did you want some coffee, or something else?"

Natalie took a glass from the cupboard and went to the fridge as Nick talked. She put a full bottle on the counter, then closed the fridge door after she filled the glass with her blood from the pouch in the crisper. "I think... something else..." She said as she walked towards the stairs. Natalie gave him a wicked grin as she started to climb the steps, glass in hand.

[Author Note: Golden Horseshoe is the area in southern Ontario between Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara Falls where grapes, fruits and other warm climate produce is grown. Ice Wine: The grapes are left on the vine until the temperature gets to be around -10C and all the water in the grape has turned to ice, causing the sugar and juice to be concentrated. The wine produced is sweet and is drank as a liquer.]

## End Part 21/37 ##

** You know we're havin' good days

** And we hope they're gonna last

** Our future still looks brighter than our past

** We feel no need to worry

** No reason to be sad

** Our mem'ries remind us, maybe road life's not so bad

RUSH - Making Memories

## Part 22/37 ##

Nick caught a flash of black silk and lace through the unzipped back of her dress as Natalie turned to climb the stairs. Nick pulled the cork out of the bottle with his teeth. He removed it from his mouth and placed it on the counter, before tilting the bottle back and swallowing half the contents in one long pull. He ignored the blood as it sang in his veins. His attention was focused on his desire for his love who was waiting for him. Nick quickly rinsed out his mouth in the sink, flushing away any remaining taste of blood. He poured the rest of the bottles contents into a mug from the drain board and followed Natalie upstairs.

He reached the doorway to their bedroom and saw Natalie just straightening from placing her dress across the back of the chair. As she bent over to brush out the creases, the black silk clung to her cheeks and arched over her hips. Her legs still encased in only thigh high black hose, made her creamy skin cry out to him to be caressed. A soft moan escaped his lips as he hardened at the erotic sight before him.

Natalie smiled to herself at the sound of him behind her. She bent slightly farther at the waist and fussed with the dress for a moment, allowing him a longer look. "You like what you see?" She asked as she turned to face him.

"This vision of beauty before me is all I shall ever want..." He said as he walked into the room. He placed the mug beside the glass on the night stand as he passed. Nick slipped his jacket from his shoulders and laid it across his dressing chair, then slipped out of his shoes and turned toward her.

"One of us is over dressed... and I don't think it's me." She said in a husky voice as she stepped toward him. Her hands sought out his buttons as their mouths sought out each other. Natalie undid his shirt buttons and pulled it free from his pants, as Nick slowly stroked her back and sides with his hands. She slipped the shirt over his shoulder. Reluctantly, he released her to allow it to fall to the floor behind him.

Natalie ran her hands across his chest before dropping them to the clasp and zipper on his pants. She ran one hand over his hardness while the other worked loose the clasp. Her lips sought out a nipple as she pulled down the zipper and pushed his pants down over his hips.

Nick pulled her face up for a kiss. Moving her back a step as he sucked on her lower lip, he kicked the pants from his ankles. Natalie's hands roamed over his silk boxers as she recaptured his mouth. Thier tongues dueled for supremacy as the kiss deepened. Nick broke the kiss and knelt before her. He kissed the exposed skin between the teddy and the hose on her left leg before slowly rolling the hose down. Light kisses were placed down her leg as each new bit of skin was exposed. As her toes were graced with a kiss, he tossed aside the hose and lowered her foot. He stroked his fingers up the back of her right calf as his lips kissed the creamy skin above the hose. Again her hose was removed with his gentle kisses trailing behind.

Nick stood to recapture her mouth. Natalie sighed and moaned as he kissed and licked at her neck. The thrill of the feel of his teeth brushing against her skin, caused her body to blush with desire. Her fingers raked up and down his back as she felt his fangs lightly scrape the skin on her shoulder.

Nick slipped the spaghetti straps over her shoulders, before he moved his attention to the topmost emerald bow at the center of the teddy. "So many ties to keep me busy..." He purred as he caught one of the pulls between his lips. A tiny snap lay underneath the untied bow. Nick looked up into her eyes as he used one fang to pop the snap open. As with her legs, every bit of skin exposed received a gentle kiss. He shifted her position so she was leaning against the foot of the bed by the time he reached the horizontal snaps at her pubic bone. Kneeling between her legs, he looked up as he hooked both fangs between the pieces and pulled down. Multiple little snapping sounds went off before the teddy fell away from her body. Nick brushed his nose across her soft curls, breathing in the scent of her excitement and desire.

Natalie pulled him up before he could do any more. She initiated a passionate kiss while her hands roamed his back. Her finger tips teased his skin until finally sliding under the waist band of his shorts to cup his cheeks. She broke the kiss and slid her hands around to his hips. Natalie slowly drew his boxers down his legs as she kissed his stomach. Nick was panting heavily by the time her lips reached his pubic hair. With a cry of disappointment from her, Nick pulled her up before she could take him into her mouth.

"Why Nick...?" She asked in a pleading voice as she looked into his amber green eyes for understanding.

"It's too soon Nat." He panted. "One slight loss of control, one sudden thrust and I could seriously hurt you... In time, just not right now..."

"I want to feel you inside me so bad..."

"I know Love, I do too... In only a short bit more time, I promise..."

They kissed as they made their way down the side of the bed. Nick gently layed her back and followed with his body beside her. "Your vibrator Nat, get your vibrator..."

Natalie blushed beet red. "You saw that!"

"It's nothing to be embarrassed about Love." He said as he planted soft kisses around her face and neck. "Can you reach it from here..." He asked as his lips traversed her chest to capture a nipple.

Natalie moaned in pleasure at his touch as she reached across and fumbled in the night stand drawer for the device. "H h here.." She stuttered as Nick rolled the nipple he released from his mouth between his thumb and finger, while his lips enclosed the other.

He took it from her hand and worked his body down the bed leaving a trail of fiery kisses along her body. He gently raised her legs to lie between them, as he kissed, stroked and licked her to heighten the excitement. Natalie felt his lips leave her and lifted her head to look. Nick placed the tip of the plastic into his mouth, licking it to coat it with his saliva. Natalie lay back and clamped her thighs around his head as she felt it slowly enter. Nick skillfully set a rhythm between his hand and tongue that had her hanging on the edge of release. Just when she though she couldn't take any more he turned the vibrator on.

Stars exploded across her tightly shut eyes as it pushed her over the edge. "Aah, Aahhhh" She started to scream incoherently as her orgasm over took her. Her legs clamped tight and she bucked against Nick's administrations.

"Oh, oh oh..." She panted as her body slowly came down from its excitement. Nick worked his way from between her legs and moved up to hold her as she quieted. "Wow! It just keeps getting better and better." She said after she caught her breath. "What about you?"

Nick leaned over and quickly drained the mug he had placed on the night stand. "I'll survive Love. Your pleasure is my only concern."

"No..." She said as she ran her fingernails down his erection.

Nick scooted up the bed until his back was against the head board. "No Love, I'm too close to the edge."

Natalie reached over and took the glass of her blood and handed it to him. "If you won't let me, then sip this and let me watch you..." She moved between his open legs and sat back on her own. She started to stroke her breasts and thighs as Nick watched. Natalie reached over and took his empty hand and placed it on his erection. "Pleasure yourself Nick... Let me watch."

Sipping Natalie's blood from the glass while watching her trail her fingers across her body, soon had Nick quickening his pace as his orgasm neared. His climax peaked and all his muscles tensed. He shot blood ejaculate to hit himself under his chin as a muffled growl excaped his lips. Blood trailed down his chin from the corners of his mouth, from where his teeth punctured his lower lip. Four more spurts followed, each with less intensity to land ever lower on his chest and stomach. Nick lay quiet and exhausted as Natalie brought back a wet cloth to clean him.

As she slipped on her slippers and bath robe, she said. "I'll go get another bottle for you. Why don't you step into the shower and I'll join you in a minute." She kissed him on the tip of his nose and turned to go.

Nick caputred her hand and brought it to his lips. "Thank you for understanding Nat..."

Natalie smiled her special smile for him. Her voice was filled with contentment as she said. "I know, each day we get closer... It's only a matter of time."

Nick quenched the hunger remaining before they stepped into the shower. They dried each other off and quickly fell asleep in each others arms.

## End Part 22/37 ##

** Love is born with solar flares

** From two magnetic poles

** It moves toward a higher plane

** Where two halves make two wholes

RUSH - The Speed Of Love

## Part 23/37 ##

Nick heard only one heart beating as he neared the door to the morgue's lab area. It amazed him how hearing Natalie's heart beat could lighten his mood. She had rotated onto the afternoon shift and they had hardly seen each other since the weekend. He quietly opened the door, then fought down the urge to sneak up on her. Nick cleared his throat as he let the door swing closed.

Natalie looked up from her inspection of the chest cavity, and hit the pause button on her recorder. She gave Nick the smile that reached her eyes, the one only he usually saw. "Hi stranger, long time no see." She joked as she stepped away from the exam table to let him kiss her. Natalie licked her lips as they broke the kiss. "Umm, I've been missing those." She said as she pulled off her gloves.

"I could wake you up in the middle of your night when I crawl into bed if you wanted..." He said as he wiggled his eyebrows.

"No thanks... That's all I'd need to happen is to fall asleep with my hands inside someone." She said with a laugh as she washed her hands. "They called you in early huh?"

"Yes, we've gotten a tip on where the guy that killed his family might be hiding. We're just waiting for the search warrant to come through. They want this one tight if he's there, everything textbook. I had a few minutes, so I thought I'd see you while you were awake." He smiled.

"Its only been one night so far, I think you'll survive." She kidded as she sat on the edge of her desk.

Nick sheepishly smiled. "I did also have an ulterior motive for coming down early to catch you still at work."

"Oh, and what would that be?" She inquired.

He reached into his inside coat pocket and brought out a small plastic wrapped bouquet of mixed flowers. Bowing with a sweep of his left arm, he presented them to her. "Natalie my love, would you do me the honor of letting me escort you to the Policeman's Halloween Charity Ball?"

She took the flowers from his hand and pulled back the plastic covering to smell their fragrance. "Why thank you kind sir. I'd be delighted to accompany you to the ball." She said in her best Victorian accent, before loosing it and snickering. She looked around for a flask to put the flowers in and asked. "They're letting you off work to attend?"

"Not exactly." He said as he handed her a flask. "Each department from each division sends two people to attend the event. Schanke and I were chosen from Homicide. The ball is on the 29th at the Royal York."

Natalie glanced over her shoulder as she filled up the flask with the slightly tepid water. She saw Nick's 'little kid with a secret' look on his face. "Why are you grinning like that Nick?"

"Well..." He replied. "I forgot to mention it was a 'Costume Ball', and I've got the perfect costumes in mind. I was hoping I could surprise you..." He trailed off with an expectant look on his face.

"You're not going to embarrass me are you?" Natalie said in a foreboding tone.

"Nat, please trust me. I'd do nothing to cause you embarrassment."

She gave a sigh and with an acquiescing look said. "Well, okay." Then added hastily. "But only if I can pick the costumes that we're going to wear to Janette's party at the Raven." She put the flask of flowers on her desk and turned to look at him.

He paused momentarily, then nodded his head. "Okay, done." He leaned over and gave her a kiss to seal the deal. "I promise you'll like the costumes." He glanced at his watch and kissed her forehead. "I better get going. Schanke's in the car waiting. We're to wait at the address till the warrant comes through."

Natalie leaned forward and kissed him good bye, then shooed him out of the lab as she picked up a fresh pair of gloves. "I'll see you at home in the morning then. Be careful."

"I'll be careful Nat." He said with a show of true concern. Nick took a step then turned and said with a crooked grin. "No stakes or flames will even come close to me... promise!"

Natalie just scouled at him and smacked him in the shoulder for his efforts.

Nick turned from the doorway and placed his hand on his chest. "I'm providing a good example for my partner, Nat. I've got on my vest and I'm making Schanke wear his too. We've both got good reasons to come home to our loves in one piece." With a devastating smile he turned and was gone.

Natalie paused in thought as Nick left the room.

She snapped the gloves on and returned to work on Mr. Jorgenson. As she completed the examination, an idea started to form about their costumes for the party at the Raven. Natalie cleaned up, pulled out her purse, and let a grin spread across her face. She retrieved the business card with the black raven on the front and dialed the number on the back. After getting no answer after 6 rings, she tried the business number printed on the front of the card.

It rang three times before it was picked up. "Hello, Raven."

"Hi, it's Natalie Lambert calling. I need to speak to Janette.'

"Hold on..."

"Bonjour Natalie, to what do I owe the pleasure?"

catty'.' "Hi, it's about your party..." She took a breath to calm herself to ask the favor. "I need a bit of help acquiring the costumes. Nick's secretly picking out the costumes to the Policeman's Halloween Ball we're to attend, and I'm picking out our costumes to wear to your party."

There was a pause at the other end of the line before she heard. "Alright, and what are your costumes to be?"

Natalie smiled as she said. "Have you ever seen 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show'?"

"Yes..." An indignant tone filtered into her voice as she said. "I hope you do not plan as coming as Janet and Brad!"

"No no no..." She was quick to say. "I need you to help me find a pair of tight gold shorts..."

The sound of the bass throbbed in Nick's ears as he approached the door to the Raven. Nodding to the bouncer as he went inside, he suppressed his hearing to make the noise less painful. He made his way down the stairs and traversed around the gyrating bodies on the dance floor to where Janette sat at the bar.

She turned as he approached. "Nicky! I thought you were working tonight. Come in for a snack?" She said with a raised eyebrow.

Janette nodded at Miklos and a glass of uncut blood appeared in front of Nick. He glanced toward the door to make sure Schanke hadn't followed him inside, then picked up and drained the glass in a few swallows. Nick closed his eyes as the blood infused him.

"Another?" Janette said, enjoying the look of rapture on his face.

Nick opened his eyes and looked at her, a smile on his lips. "No, thanks. That glass did take the edge off though, thanks."

"You are quite welcome. Did you only come in for a quick mid-shift snack, or is there another reason?" Janette asked, seeing how he wanted to ask her something, but was hesitant. "Information for some little case you are working on, perhaps?"

"I did come in to ask for your assistance, but not for a case." He toyed with the stem of the glass between his fingers for a moment before setting it on the bar and sliding it away. "I need some help on my Halloween costume for the police ball... Well, not the costume per say, but with my hair."

Janette pulled his head toward her and tilted it, observing it from different angles. "Your hair looks fine to me. What is the problem?"

"Do you recall how I used to wear my hair long?" He asked as he pulled his head back from her hand.

"Yes." Janette said as a smile spread across her face.

"Well, I was wondering if your hair dresser could do some sort of extensions..."

"I do not believe that will be a problem for George. But, you will have to tip him very well to make a house call."

A big grin appeared on his face as his plans came together. "That won't be a problem. Could you set up the appointment for me, I want to surprise Nat so I don't want him calling the loft. If you talk to her, please don't say anything." He asked.

Janette gave him a look of indifference and replied. "I suppose."

Nick bent over and gave her a brotherly kiss, saying as he straightened. "Thanks I owe you." As if in an afterthought, he reached into his jacket and pulled out two tickets. "Almost forgot." He said as he handed them to her. "Here's two tickets to the Ball if you'd like to attend."

Janette accepted the tickets. "Yes, perhaps I shall, thank you. Do not think that this repays my favor." She said as she placed the tickets in front of her on the bar. "And I assure you I will collect."

Nick nodded, wondering what he'd have to do this time to balance the favor he'd asked. He looked toward the door and said. "I'd better get going before Schanke comes looking for me." He kissed her on the cheek and started to move away, then paused. "Please see if he can do it the day of the ball if at all possible." Seeing her nod, he turned and navigated his way across the dance floor and out the door.

Janette gestured to Milkos. "I shall require an escort." She said as he placed a full glass in front of her as she glanced at the tickets.

## End Part 23/37 ##

** Against the run of the mill

** Static as it seems

** We break the surface tension

** With our wild kinetic dreams

** Curves and lines --

** Of grand designs...

RUSH - Grand Designs

## Part 24/37 ##


Natalie slid the lift door open and shuffled into the loft exhausted. She had worked late past the end of her afternoon shift to get a report completed that the detectives at the 101'st. They needed it '"S"P' for a higher profile case. All she felt now was hungry and tired. Nick had been asked to work Friday night, and had been given Wednesday night off instead. She had not seen him since leaving for work on Wednesday afternoon while he slept. Natalie recognized the classical CD playing as she hung up her coat on the rack by the door. She turned to see Nick placing a book on the end table and get up, moving Sidney from his lap and putting him on the chair. She gave a sigh and went over to sit down on one of the dining room chairs.

"You look exhausted. Rough day?" Nick said as he went over behind her chair and wrapped his arms around her. When she tilted her head back to look at him, he gave her a soft kiss before she could reply. Nick started to work his hands across her shoulders and neck, trying to unknot the tense muscles.

Sighing as his hands massaged her she replied. "Yah, a case at the 101'st. They wanted the results before they had even brought in the body." the sarcasm heavy in her voice. Natalie shifted to place her forehead on her crossed arms and said, "Don't stop...That feels _so_ good!"

After about five minutes of working the knotted muscles in her upper back and neck, Nick's hands came to rest on her shoulders. Nat...Nat." he repeated as she came out of her half sleep. "Why don't you go up and have a shower or a bath while I put you something on for supper." He gave her a kiss on the top of her head as she sat up. "How about some pasta and sauce? You could take some leftovers to work for lunch tomorrow."

Natalie turned to look at him and gave him a questioning look. "I know you can cook a good omelette, but..."

"Hey! I've watched you cook. I think I can handle pasta and heating up sauce."

With a groan and a sigh Natalie got up out of the chair. "Well, I don't feel like take-out or a frozen dinner. It _would_ be pretty hard for you to ruin pasta..." She gave him a tired smile. "Okay, thank you. Soaking in a bath sounds right, about now." Giving his arm a squeeze she headed over to the stairs. As she passed the couch Sidney looked up from his place on the chair, gave a stretch, then jumped down to follow her.

As Natalie got up a couple of steps she heard, "Nat, I love you."

Pausing in mid-step, she turned to see Nick standing at the entrance to the kitchen. She gave him an affectionate grin. "I love you too Nick. Give me ten minutes then come up and wash my back?" She got raised eyebrows then a lecherous grin as a response. She quickly added, A_Only_ wash my back," as she proceeded up the stairs.

Nick put the pots containing the pasta and sauce on a very low flame then headed upstairs. Natalie had just finished washing her hair by the time he entered the bathroom. Nick directed his voice over the door of the shower stall. "Want me to fill up the tub?"

"Yah. Wait! Will there be enough hot water? As much as a cold shower would be invigorating, I don't want to freeze."

Nick opened up the hot water faucet on the bathtub as he explained. "When I had the loft renovated, I had them put in an extra large hot water tank that's fed from the boiler that heats the loft." As he talked, he had adjusted the water temperature to the level Natalie liked. After taking off his shirt he cracked open the door to the shower. Nick paused in mid-movement as he saw Natalie. To all outward appearances Nick was perfectly still, except for the growing bulge in his pants. He was looking at Natalie from a back/side view as she bent over to wash her legs. His lust for this beautiful woman slowly built as he watched the soap suds travel down her skin.

Feeling the draft from the door opening, Natalie tilted her head a bit to look at Nick. She gave a little shiver as she realized that she was looking directly at the bulge visibly expanding at his crotch. She cleared her throat as her gaze traveled up his bare chest and saw that the lecherous look had returned to his face.

The sound of her clearing her throat snapped him back to reality. Refocusing to look at her eyes, he said. "Someone call for a back wash?"

"Uhum, and only a back wash...I hate burnt tasting food." She said as she handed him the soap and loofah sponge. After gathering her hair to fall over the front of her right shoulder, Natalie positioned herself so that the water cascaded down her chest. Just as she placed a hand to steady herself, she felt Nick start soaping her shoulders. The soapy caresses soon were counterpointed by the scratchiness of the sponge. Nick started at her neck and worked down her back tracing lazy circles on her skin. As he reached her bum, he placed a light pat on one cheek to let her know he was done. He let one soapy hand trail up and down her back, as he put the soap and sponge up on the rack with his other. Nick noticed the tub was full and slipped a soapy finger between her cheeks to tickle her on her tail bone before his hand left her body. Natalie gave a squeel and rose up on her toes to get away from his fingers. When she looked back to give him hell she saw he had already turned away and was shutting off the taps for the tub.

When he looked back over his shoulder, he discovered that Natalie had just finished washing the soap off and was turning off the taps. Nick extended his arm for her to hold so she would not slip on the tiles. Natalie held his arm and allowed him to guide her into the tub. As she sank down into the water she reached over and gave the large bulge at his crotch a squeeze, leaving a wet hand print behind. "Save that for later." She said with a wicked grin. Nick, who just closed his eyes and groaned as she squeezed him Amuuumed" in response. "Nick...Nick you better check on supper."

Coming back from his vision of what may happen later in the evening, Nick sniffed the air to confirm that there was no burnt odour wafting up from downstairs. After leaning into the tub to give Natalie a passionate kiss, he grabbed a towel and his shirt and headed downstairs. Natalie heard him say as he passed through the bedroom, "I'll call you when it's ready." About ten minutes later she heard Nick call up to her. After drying off, she put on her favorite sweat suit and went down to eat.

While Natalie enjoyed the meal that she did not have to cook, Nick started cleaning up, placing the pots in the sink to soak. After pouring some blood into his mug, he sat down to join her for the remainder of her meal. Natalie smiled as Nick rinsed out his mug then went to get a piece of gum from his jacket. Chewing on the gum he sat back down at the table. "What?"

"You've really got into the habit of chewing the gum after you've eaten."

"Well, if it means you letting me kiss you, then I'll just about do anything." To back his comment he got up and walked around the corner of the table to her, then proceeded to show her with a deep passionate kiss. As he sat back down in his chair, Natalie cleared her throat. Once she had his attention, she reached up to her mouth and pulled out the piece of gum.

"I believe you forgot something..." Nick bent over the table and closed his mouth on her fingers, licking them as he retrieved the gum.

"Thanks, I thought I was missing something." he said with a grin. Noticing she was finished, he got up and took her plate. "Why don't you sit down on the couch and relax with your coffee. I'll clean up here."

Natalie picked up her mug and gave him a kiss on his cheek as she passed. AKeep this up and you'll spoil me. What _am_ I saying...Spoil me!...Spoil me!" She said with a laugh. She picked up the remote and the TV Guide as she sat down on the couch. After checking the listings, she switched on the TV and called over her shoulder, "You want to watch 'Superman'? It's coming on in five minutes."

Over the sound of the cutlery and pots being put away she heard, "That's fine Nat. Want some popcorn?"

"No, too soon after supper...but another cup of coffee would be nice."

Nick brought the coffee pot and milk and filled her cup. He asked with a posh English butler type accent, "Will there be anything else my lady?"

Thinking a moment of her arousal when Nick had washed her back, she replied with a wicked grin, "Not for the moment, but I'm sure I can find something for you to do...I mean _for_ me later."

A seductive smile and "Mmmmm." was all she got in the way of response before he went back into the kitchen to put away the coffee pot and milk. The station's introduction to the movie was just starting as Nick sat down on the couch. Natalie motioned him to swing his legs up and move back to lean against the couch arm. Sliding back between his legs, she reclined against him, resting her head on his upper chest. Nick crossed his arms underneath her breasts and bent his head to murmur in her ear, "Comfy?" All he got was a satisfied "UmmHumm" as she tucked her hands between his upper thighs and the couch and gave his legs a squeeze.

They watched the movie in silence, each content to be with the other.

When the movie came to the part where Superman took Lois for a flight over the rooftops of Metropolis, Natalie nudged Nick with her elbow. "Nick, why haven't you ever offered to take _me_ flying?" She could feel his body stiffen behind her as if the question had been a physical slap.

Nick's arms released her as she turned in his lap to face him. Natalie found the 'wounded puppy dog' look on his down turned face.

She put her hand under his chin and raised his head till he made eye contact with her.

"Well.." Nick began, not knowing how to say it. "Before...When I would use my powers you'd chastise me. Flying is the one thing about being a vampire that I truly enjoy. There's no guilt associated with flying...Only a feeling of freedom." He paused, averted his eyes for a moment then continued. "I wanted to share that with you...but I didn't want to take the chance of hurting or offending you if I offered. I _had_ thought about it, but I was afraid of you'd be upset with me."

Natalie was taken aback by the extent of Nick's concern of upsetting her. She lay against his chest, enclosing him in a hug. She turned her head so she could clearly speak. "I understand. The situation was different then." She raised herself to place a soft kiss on his lips. "I _would_ like to share with you in something that gives you such pleasure."

Nick pulled her to his lips as he layed back. He gave her a soft sensuous kiss as he wrapped his arms around her. Natalie was so involved in his kiss that she didn't realize until she came up for air that they were floating about two feet above the couch cushions. She gave a startled yelp and he quickly lowered them back down. Nick gave her a mischievous grin, as she smacked him on the chest. He swept her up into his arms as he stood up.

"Are you afraid of heights?" He asked as he rose a few feet up from the floor.

Natalie gripped him tighter around the neck and said. "Yes, a bit. Maybe we could try it a for a while inside until I get used to it?"

"Sounds like a plan, your hair is still damp anyway. I wouldn't want to be the cause of you catching a cold by flying you around outside. I don't feel the cold that much, but the windchill would bother you. We'll have to get you a heavy coat, maybe some motorcycle leathers to cut down on the wind effect and let you enjoy the experience. Ready?"

With a nod of agreement from Natalie, Nick rose off the floor midway to the ceiling and stopped.

"We don't really 'fly', it's more like directional levitation. The 'flying' is the simplest form of control. Your mind has a clear picture of where and what you want to do. It takes a couple of centuries to perfect floating in one place." With a chuckle he added, "Especially on a windy day!"

Nick floated around the loft with Natalie in his arms. After only seeing the loft with a 'birds eye view' from the second floor balcony, she found it interesting to look at familiar objects from a different angle. Though her vice-like grip around his neck did not slacken, some of the initial fear of being suspended above the floor dissipated.

"You okay?" Nick asked.

"Yes, fine. I was a bit scared at first, but I feel safe. I know you won't let anything happen to me."

Nick bent his head and gave her a deep kiss as he slowly rotated in a circle. As he broke the kiss Natalie opened her eyes and discovered they were standing between the couch and the coffee table. She hung on with one arm as she stifled a yawn.

"How about we forgo the rest of the movie and I take you upstairs and give you a massage to help you sleep." As he made no move to put her down, she grabbed on tighter and Nick flew them up to the bedroom.

Natalie gave a shriek as Nick threatened to dump her onto the bed, before gently placing her on top of the comforter. "Take off your clothes, Nat, while I turn down the bed."

She stood and slipped out of her clothes then lay on her stomach, pushing the pillow out of her way so her head could rest flat on the bed. She waited for him to return from turning things off down stairs.

Nick entered the bedroom rubbing his hands briskly together to warm them before touching her back. He straddled her torso and went to work on her muscles. Within fifteen minutes of his hands stroking her skin, Natalie was sound asleep. He shut off the light then slipped out of his clothes and crawled into bed beside her, pulling up the covers.

## End Part 24/37 ##

** I find no absolution

** In my rational point of view

** Maybe some things are instinctive

** But there's one thing you could do

** You could try to understand me-

** I could try to understand you...

RUSH - Open Secrets

## Part 25/37 ##

Natalie ended up working late on her final afternoon shift. That had not really bothered her, Nick was working that night and she was only going home to the loft, empty except for Sidney. She wanted to stay up so she could switch her sleep pattern back to the night shift. She had switched over to permanent nights to be in synchronization with Nick's forced schedule. That way they could spend as much awake time off duty together as possible. He had not understood why she would do that, afraid she wouldn't see the sun by sleeping during the day. Natalie had patiently explained that by shifting the time she actually went to bed, either early or late, she would see more daylight time than if she worked during the day. The fact that she worked in the windowless lower level of the building and hardly saw the sun while on days had surprised him. He'd never thought of it that way before.

Natalie thumbed the remote door opener and pulled into the garage. The automatic lights turned on as the car's motion triggered the sensor. Nick had the electricians over soon after she had moved in. He didn't want her to be afraid or hurt herself walking through the pitch black lower level going to or from the car. The electricians had placed motion sensors where ever they were required, in the garage, stairwell and at the entrance door, so that the areas would be well lit for her.

She glanced at her watch as she rode up in the lift. <3:40 am... hmm. I want to stay up and go to bed with Nick, but what can I do for three hours until he gets home?'

"What do you think Sidney?" She asked as she slid back the door to find him waiting for attention. Natalie picked him up and scrubbed his chin as she walked in to the kitchen after hanging up her coat. Having taken care of his needs, she put the kettle on and placed a dinner in the microwave. Natalie went up to the bedroom and changed into her sweat suit, returning before the alarm dinged on the microwave. Having finished her dinner while reading yesterday's paper, she drank the last of her coffee and set the mug down while glancing at her watch. <4:45... hmm.' She went over to the entertainment system and picked up the index card for the 100 CD changer unit. After programing a few hours worth of selections, she headed back up stairs. RUSH's Counterparts album started to play as she entered the bedroom. Natalie started to pull out the clothes hamper, intending to do the laundry to kill some time while she waited. When she spotted Nick's teal coloured silk shirt, she let her mind wander. With her on afternoons and Nick on nights, they had hardly seen each other. With the exception of Wednesday night, over the course of the week they only had brief contact with each other while at work or when he crawled into bed beside her.

Natalie brought the shirt up and smelled it. Since Nick didn't sweat, or even secrete natural oils, it didn't really have an odor. It did hold the scent of his aftershave that she associated as smelling of 'him'. The silk felt so soft against her cheeks. She thought before slipping off her sweat suit and putting on the shirt, leaving the top two buttons undone.

The feel of the fabric as she moved was an erotic caress against her bare skin. Natalie took the hamper down to the washer, taking the package of Hershey Kisses off the counter as she passed through the kitchen. She popped a couple into her mouth, letting the chocolate slowly dissolve on her tongue as she sorted through the clothes. As Natalie busied herself puttering around the loft, more empty wrappers found their place beside the slowly emptying bag.

Nick slipped the Caddy to a stop beside Natalie's car. The closing garage door blocked out the first rays of predawn light. Wearily, he slid from behind the wheel and made his way over to the elevator. Nick detected the sound of music filtering down from above, as the lift released from the top floor and came down the shaft. He thought as he stepped into the lift, recognizing the end of the song. As the lift came to a stop at the top floor, the Morse code for the YYZ instrumental pounded through the speakers. Nick slid the door open and stepped into the loft as the guitar, bass and drums slipped into the 'grove'.

He spotted Natalie dancing in front of the entertainment system, wearing his teal silk shirt and socks. Nick slipped off his coat and holster before he stopped half way across the loft and just watched her. The shirt twisted, rose and twirled around her body as she free danced to the music. The shifting shirt exposed varying degrees of creamy thigh to his gaze as it was tugged by her movements. The glint of reflected light in the corner of his eye caught his attention. A pile of Hershey Kiss wrappers sat beside the nearly empty bag. A soft groan escaped his lips.

He shouted loud enough to be heard above the music. "Hey lady, Police... We've had complaints about the loud music."

Natalie turned and yelled gleefully. "By-Tor!" Before running across the loft and jumping into his arms.

"Oof... Good morning to you too." He said lying flat out on the floor with her sitting on his chest. Catching her had not been a problem, he'd been ready for that. What he hadn't expected was the effect of all the sugar from the chocolate she had eaten. The resulting energy and corresponding height she got as she jumped into his arms, was able to knock him off balance before he could compensate.

Natalie wiggled down his body. She stopped as she reached his waist and felt the bulge in his pants hindering her downward movement. Her hair fell around her face as she leaned over him and started to plant kisses all over his face. On the third pass across his mouth, she captured his lips and sought out his tongue with her own.

Nick's arms rose to embrace her as he returned her passionate kiss. She broke the kiss panting and rested her forehead on his for a moment while she caught her breath. After she could think again, Natalie sat back a bit and supported herself with her forearms on his chest, leaning over him.

The cut of the shirt with the buttons undone drew Nick's gaze to her chest. He could see her breasts swinging free, unrestrained, her nipples erect with excitement. He pulled his gaze away from her heaving chest and looked at her face. Nick put his best 'hurt' look on his face as he asked. "Why'd you call me 'By-Tor' Nat... you consider me a knight of darkness, centurion of evil, the devil's prince?"

An expression of shock washed over her face before she bent over and started kissing him again. The kisses were interspersed with "No, no no..." She raised back to look into his eyes, her hair cascading down to brush the sides of his face. "That's not what I meant at all... I was thinking of the reformed By-Tor... The one who saved the three travelers, the men of Willow Dale from the Necromancer..."

"Oh..." Nick leaned up to quickly capture her lips before dropping back against the floor. "Then I guess that makes you the 'Snow Dog' that reformed 'Prince By-Tor' by showing him the error of his ways..."

"HEY! Who're you calling a dog!" She said indignantly, thumping him on the chest with her hands.

"Oof... I mean a beautiful sleek and graceful she wolf..." He said before quickly running his fingers up her side to tickle her before pulling her down into a passionate kiss.

Natalie ground herself against his hardness as she returned the kiss with equal intensity. She broke the kiss and panted for air, her mouth beside his ear. He stroked her bare thighs as she caught her breath. "You know... I've got a bottle and a glass warming upstairs..." She nibbled his earlobe, eliciting a moan from his lips. With a quick kiss on his nose Natalie pushed herself off him and ran giggling up the stairs. ALast one I the shower has to wash the other's back." She called over her shoulder as she ran down the balcony to toward the bedroom door.

Nick propped himself up on his elbows and shook his head. He quickly shut down the stereo, then unloaded and locked up his gun before taking a bottle from the fridge. He didn't bother with the stairs, but flew directly to the bedroom. Nick drank from the warmed bottle while undressing, letting the anticipation of joining Natalie in the shower slowly build. His eyes were a mix of blue and amber green as he joined her under the hot pulsating spray.

They fell asleep in each others arms two hours later.

## End Part 25/37 ##

** Enter the Champion.

** Prince By-Tor appears to battle for freedom from chains of long years.

** The spell has been broken...the Dark Lands are bright, the Wraith of the

** Necromancer soars away...in the night.

RUSH - The Necromancer: III. Return of the Prince

## Part 26/37 ##


The sun had set an hour before. Nick had just gone upstairs to change for work, while Natalie cleared the 'breakfast' dishes from the table. The door buzzer rang just as she was refilling her cup, startling her. She thought as she made her way to the security panel and monitor. The monitor illuminated, showing an image of Janette. Puzzled, Natalie hit the speaker and the door/elevator release. "Hi, come on up." She said, then waited for the lift to arrive.

The lift halted and the door slid back to reveal Janette, dressed all in black. The pale skin of her face contrasted with the black of her scarf, leather coat and pants. "Bonjour Natalie. I thought it would be more appropriate of me to use the door." She said as she gestured to the skylight with a flick of her wrist, indicating the easier entryway. "Such a perfect night for an invigorating flight. Has Nicolas taken you yet?"

Natalie motioned for her to take a seat in front of the fireplace. AJust inside. We need to pick up something for me to wear before we try it outside. Nick was thinking like motorcycle leathers. Something to protect me from the windchill..."

As Natalie talked, Janette walked around her, studying her dimensions. "I know the perfect place to get what you need. We shall go... shopping together. Oui?"

Taken by surprise, Natalie stammered for a moment before saying. "Sure. Yes, that'd be great... Later in the week?"

As they walked into the living area, Janette looked up as Nick walked out of the bedroom. "Bonjour, mon frere." She said as she gracefully sat in the chair. "I happened to be passing over..." A smile graced her lips. "I thought I would stop in for a visit." She looked around the loft while Nick poured two glasses for them.

Nick finished fixing Natalie's coffee for her. He carried the two glasses by the stems in one hand and the mug by the handle in the other. Nick handed Janette a glass before sitting beside Natalie on the couch, carefully passing her the hot cup.

"I like your improvements to the loft Natalie. It was so barren and masculine before." She said after taking a sip from the glass.

Nick smiled slightly and minutely shrugged his shoulders at the 'jab' to his decorating style. He had endured this kind of banter countless times before over the centuries. He gave Natalie's arm a slight squeeze as he said. "I quite agree. Nat has done a great job of brightening up the place."

Natalie smiled at him then looked to Janette as she spoke.

"Nicolas, could you come over to the Raven and remove your supplies? The fool who signed for our stock also signed for your six cases by mistake. They are currently stacked in my office. I would... appreciate, if you could remove them tonight."

"Oh. Yes, sure. I'll be over right after work."

The phone rang. Natalie picked it up while Nick and Janette chatted.

"Nick... Here. It's Captain Stonetree." She said after a brief exchange of pleasantries. She handed him the phone and sat back down. Natalie tried to catch Nick's side of the conversation, brief as it was, as she sipped her coffee.

Nick hung up the phone and sighed. "They want me in early. Something about the crown prosecutor wanting to go over my testimony one more time." He downed the contents of his glass and raised a questioning eyebrow at Janette.

"Natalie and I have some 'girl talk' to discuss. You run along to your 'job'." She reclined more fully into the chair and sipped from her glass.

Nick gave a minute puzzled shrug, then rinsed his glass out and left it in the sink. He unlocked his gun and slipped it into the holster after loading it. He paused a moment, then went over to Janette and gave her a brotherly kiss on her cheek before retrieving his coat. Natalie got up and met him at the lift door. "I'll call you. Maybe take you out for lunch?" He asked, holding the lift door open.

"Sure..." Her words were cut off as he leaned over and gave her a long, soft, gentle kiss.

He released the kiss. Natalie could feel his cool breath caress her cheek. "I love you Nat. I'll see you later tonight." With a quick peck on her lips, he stepped back and the lift door slid shut.

A flustered Natalie paused as the lift engaged. She regained her composure before turning around and walking back to the couch. She sat down and picked up her mug. "Girl talk?"

Janette set her empty glass on the end table before turning her gaze to Natalie. "More a warning, observation and a suggestion." She said before holding up her hand to stop Natalie's questions. AFirst, if you should ever do anything to cause Nicolas to do himself any harm... I WILL kill you... and it will not be a pleasant death."

Natalie's mouth came open at that, but she held her retort as Janette brought up her hand again and continued.

"You need to think of Nicolas as a perpetually spinning coin, balanced on it's edge. Each gust of wind threatens to upset it, to cause it to fall. Very few of us immerse ourselves as much in the mortal world as Nicolas has. The balance between his self honor and the vampire is a constant struggle for him. He is constantly in emotional turmoil because of how he wants to be and what he is. The hungry wolf protecting the flock of sheep would be a good analogy. His denial of his nature is only a blanket to cover that aspect of himself he does not want to see. It will always be there, only it is hidden from his view, ready to emerge when he least expects it. Nicolas is a very emotional creature. Whether happiness or self loathing, they all share the same intensity. Each time his naivete is shattered, his hold on the beast he contains slips. That is his greatest fear, giving in to that irrational beast. It is a primal thing, a wild thing with savage desires. His fear of hurting you is almost palpable to me when he is near. I do still care for Nicolas. We are after all 'family'. When we were together after his ill fated attempt with Alyssa, I knew then that as much as he loved me, there was still a place in his heart that resented me for leading him into this life. Even when he reveled in the beast within, he still despised what he had become. It was that resentment toward me that I knew I could never overcome, that made me leave him after almost a century of living as man and wife. He did not take another lover for almost two centuries, until he met Erica. I'm sure he has told you something about her due to her recent demise. They also drifted apart. The next time he felt anything of substance toward someone was Sylvian in 1890. He used to gaze at her from afar, until LaCroix used his naivete against him, trying to bring him back to his nature. It 'backfired' as you would say. It only caused him to pull away from his nature, away from his family. You are the only mortal he has allowed this close since Alyssa in 1528. I know he loves you deeply. It sings in his blood. That night when I tasted his blood, I had to be sure he would not do himself harm. He has been on the edge for almost a century. The anguish over our link that night you told him of your findings... If not for your love, he would have given up. If you betray your love for him in any way, it well destroy him. He would either bring down the wrath of the Enforcers turning rogue, or walk into the sun. This is my only warning to you... If Nicolas seeks his end because of you, I shall take vengeance."

Natalie sat stunned at Janette's revelation. She looked up from the mug that her hands clutched in her lap, as Janette returned from refilling her glass.

"Now, the observation. You are proceeding correctly by having him drink human blood. Judging by the quantity of the shipments to him, you have figured out what amount he requires to be well fed. This is good. It will help him regain his control more quickly."

Natalie formulated her thoughts carefully before speaking. "I'd give my life for Nick. I love him unconditionally. He is no longer the same person he was centuries ago. I really do believe he is coming to terms with his earnestness at redemption and the good he can do with his enhanced physical powers by being a vampire. He has such a strong moral code. If not for that code, I think he would have gone insane and destroyed himself long ago." She paused and set her empty mug on the coffee table.

"I realize we are both important people in Nick's life, Janette. I'm hoping that we can set aside our differences and become friends... get past only just tolerating each other."

Janette sipped a moment from her glass. "Us being at odds would slowly tear him apart. Yes, I do think we can possibly become friends. It may be interesting to have a 'little sister'." She said with a genuine smile.

The tension that had built between lessened. "You would _definitely_ bring new meaning to being a 'big sister'. I'd like that very much." She smiled back at her previous adversary, who was now one step closer to becoming a friend.

Natalie's scientific side ignited at the chance to possibly get some frank answers to her questions from a vampire besides Nick. "If you wouldn't mind, could you answer a couple of questions that have been bothering me?.

Janette nodded and sipped from her glass, waiting.

"Nick only gave me vague details of when he was brought across. If you seduced him and LaCroix brought him across, how did you stop from biting him in the heat of passion?" Natalie blushed slightly. "So far he has been attentive, but he won't hardly let me touch him, much less make proper love to me... I was hoping you could give me some idea..."



"Oui. He watched from an adjoining room. He used our link to 'control' me when the urge to bite became too great. I immediately drained a serving girl to satisfy the blood lust, while LaCroix brought Nicolas over. Had I have failed and drained Nicolas, he would have staked me to the ground and left me for the morning sun."

"Nicolas has always had astonishing control over himself. When he first woke, he resisted the hunger unlike any I've ever heard of. Usually a new vampire is incoherent with need, seeking out the first draft of blood their senses find. LaCroix and I had to convince him to take the girl LaCroix had brought in before he went insane from the hunger. Nicolas resisted until the last moment. He has far better control than he gives himself credit for. Has he not worked nightly around mortals in a near starvation state for nearly two years? Only the oldest like LaCroix have that type of control. Nicolas is unique among our kind."

Natalie turned her head away at the reminder of her accidental starvation of Nick. She turned her head back after a moment and asked. "If his control is so great, how can I convince him to be fully intimate with me? He's so afraid of hurting me, he pulls back."

ALovemaking between two vampires is full of primal urges. Biting, scratching and rutting like wild animals. Any bruises or lacerations are quickly healed, the physical power of our enhanced bodies are not restrained during the act. It is also more the sharing of blood than the physical act. With you, Nicolas has to restrain himself. He can not allow his control to slip for a moment and let the beast lose. He is rightly afraid of physically hurting you. He needs to bite to orgasm. He is probably afraid of taking too much. He _is_, as frustrating as it may seem, only looking out for your continued health in those matters." Janette paused. "We are both women, so I shall be blunt. There is a great possibility of him forgetting his strength and bruising your sex organs from his thrusts. If he lost control while you were taking him in your mouth, he could kill you by severely damaging your throat."

The concern in Janette's voice was not lost on Natalie. With sudden insight, she realized that Nick would be very guilt ridden if he hurt her while making love. Her bruises would be very visible and act as a catalyst to drive him deeper into the anguish he would feel. "When we've been intimate... I've had him drink some of my blood from a glass. I thought if he got used to a small amount over a period of time, a habit would form for when he actually took it directly from me..."

Janette smiled. "Yes, this is a good idea. He has been away from human blood for so long, being familiar with yours will aid him in his control when you finally are intimate in the carnal sense. This brings me to my suggestion. You are just starting your next cycle?"

Natalie blushed. Day wise it would be starting at any time. "How did you know?"

Janette smiled and pointed at her nose. "Nicolas would never ask, being the gentleman he is. If you can get around any possible squeamishness it entails, you might consider having him pleasure you during that time. He would get your blood fresh without having to concern himself with biting you... And you would most certainly enjoy his attentions." Janette stood and started to wrap her scarf around her head. "I have acquired those items you requested for his costume. You may want to leave them with me until that night. Let his anticipation build of what you will have him wear."

Both women walked over to the lift door. "And Natalie, for your safety, until you are over your period do not come to the Raven. You may be under my protection, but some may find your scent... alluring." She slid open the lift door. "Au revoir."

The door slid closed leaving a slightly confused Natalie staring at the burn mark.

## End Part 26/37 ##

** The world weighs on my shoulders

** But what am I to do?

** You sometimes drive me crazy --

** But I worry about you

** I know it makes no difference

** To what you're going through

** But I see the tip of the iceberg --

** And I worry about you...

RUSH - Distant Early Warning

## Part 27/37 ##

If anyone had been in the room with her, Natalie would appear to be intently concentrating on the sample she was viewing through the microscope. In actuality, her eyes were unfocused and she was deep in thought. The last few days had been sexually exhausting for her. Once she had convinced Nick her squeamishness would pass, after their first tentative try, they had both been eager to explore that aspect of vampire/human sexual interaction. She broke off her line of introspection. She thought as she peered through the lenses and re-adjusted the focus.

She was almost finished with the sample when she heard a throat clear near the doorway into her area. She thought as she turned and was not surprised to see him standing there.

"Ready to go to lunch Nat?"

"Yeah, just a minute." She said as she turned back and finished what she was doing. "There, ready."

Nick was holding her coat for her as she turned around. "Actually," Natalie said as she washed her hands. "I want to talk to you about something before we go." A hint of excitement in her voice.

Nick hung up her coat and sat on the edge of her desk. "Okay." He said with a smile. "What ever it is, has gotten you worked up. I'm all ears."

"Now don't get your hope's up... but I may have narrowed down the reason why you can't tolerate sunlight."

Nick's eyes opened a bit wider and his eyebrows arched slightly, but otherwise he showed no other reaction to Natalie's news.

Natalie sat in her chair and motioned Nick to pull the other chair closer to the side of her desk. When he was sitting, she began. "Do you remember John from the forensics team?" When Nick shook his head 'no', she continued. A'Bout five foot six, on the slim side, dark brown hair?"

"Okay. I think I know who you're talking about now. How does he fit in?"

"Well... He belongs to a local Lapidary and Mineral club. They're having their annual show in the next two weeks. His interest is in fluorescent minerals and he's doing a demonstration at the show. Anyway... He brought some of his stuff in to use us as a test audience. As he was explaining the process of fluorescence and how the electromagnetic spectrum worked, it got me to thinking. If the electromagnetic spectrum is all one particle, the photon, then it's just the wavelength of the particle that causes you problems."

"You lost me Nat."

"Okay. Radio and microwaves are all around us day and night, right? And they don't bother you. So the longer wavelength photons don't have any effect on you."


"You're fine in moonlight, right?"

"Yes, fine."

"So that's reflected sunlight. Now what's the difference between that reflected sunlight that you can stand in, and direct sunlight that you'll start to fry in?" Natalie asked as she got up and started to pace back and forth. She snapped her fingers. "Of course! It was right in front of me! The Ultraviolet region!" She turned to Nick. "Have you ever had an X-ray before?"

"Nat, slow down... My head's spinning like watching a tennis match."

She stopped her pacing and came back to her chair. "It's got to be the Ultraviolet." She said as she took his hands. "The sun light reflected by the moon would only be in the visible region. Moon light conveys no heat, so it not reflecting much in the infrared either. The Moon must absorb the wavelengths on either side of the visible region." Natalie paused and tried to organize her thoughts, her tongue licking the corner of her mouth.

"The tubes on the sun bed emit visible and long range Ultraviolet light. That's why the light looks purple, violet is at the long end of the visible range. It's the long wave UV that causes people to tan. You can tolerate that for a limited time at that low intensity without being seriously burnt, so maybe you're more sensitive to the short wave UV. The tanning tubes wouldn't emit anything in the short wave region. The whole UV region must be at just the right wavelengths to interact with the virus component in your cells. It must cause them to possibly resonate, go unstable, and implode. The short wave UV must be at just the right wavelength region to cause the most instability. The shorter the wavelength, the more unstable your cells become."

Natalie leaned back in her chair. "Direct sunlight would have mostly long wave UV, but a little short wave UV. That's why you're able to tolerate it for very short periods of time without bursting into flame. The ozone layer absorbs most of the short wave UV, so not much of that reaches the Earth's surface. You're only being exposed to a very low number of short wave particles. But, there's enough short wave to initiate a chain reaction and cause you to ignite instead of burn."

Nick was intently listening to her, absorbing her hypothesis. "Science has progressed so much this century. It's moving so fast... New discoveries seem to be happening constantly. Delving into the unknown from subatomic particles to quasars. The days of the alchemist are over, each field has their own specialist." He took her hands and smiled. "I'm just lucky that your _my_ specialist."

Natalie's enthusiasm built until she was almost glowing. "What we need to do is find some kind of coating to put on your windows. As it is now, the glass or plastic blocks all the short wave, but lets all or most of the long wave through. Your cloths are woven and layered, it acts like a filter, allowing only a few of the particles through the weave to reach your skin. We need a coating for the window to act as a filter to allow only the visible wavelengths through. There must be something like that made somewhere... We'll need to contact a contractor and have him do a search. There _must be_ something like that available..." Natalie slid to the edge of her chair and grabbed his hands tight. "Don't you see... If we can find something, you could stand in the sun! Well, at least behind a window coated with the filter material, but you'll be able to feel the sun on your skin again!"

Nick stood pulling Natalie to her feet. He hugged her close, allowing her enthusiasm to charge him with hope. "To stand in the sun... To feel it's heat again... To join you in the sun..." He tilted her face up and softly kissed her, putting all his hope and trust into the kiss. They held each other for a long moment, sharing each other's presence. He loosened the embrace as he said. AFirst thing when everything opens in the morning, I'll contact the consulting firm I used to renovate the loft and put them on it."

Natalie gave him a quick hug and slipped from his embrace. She pulled him by the hand across the lab to the counter on the far side of the room. Nick gave her a questioning look, wondering what she was up to. Natalie said in a quiet voice. "I destroyed all the samples from you. We need to test this before we get our hopes up too much." Natalie pressed a switch on an instrument, held it for a moment, then released it.

"How?" Nick asked.

"This is a dual long wave/short wave UV unit. I've just turned on the short wave lamp."

"You want me to...?"

"Put this glove on your hand and stick it in the exposure chamber under the lamp." Natalie said as she handed Nick an extra large sized surgical glove. "Be careful to keep any skin outside the chamber." She warned.

Nick pulled the glove on with an audible 'snap'. He glanced at Natalie, his hand hesitating at the flapped opening. "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." He smiled at Natalie's questioning look. "At least you don't have the equivalent of the 'gom jabbar' held at my neck."

"Oh... Now I get it. That's the scene from the first Dune book, where the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother tested Paul Atreides, right?"

Nick nodded as he pushed his hand into the chamber, careful to keep the edge of the glove on the outside.

AFeel anything?" Natalie asked after a minute.

Nick carefully rotated his hand and flexed his fingers. "No. Nothing. Are you sure it's on?"

"You can't see it, it's not emitting anything in the visible spectrum. Here." She said as she slipped a coated slide into the chamber beside his hand.

Nick looked through the view window and saw the slide glowing green.

"It's coated with a fluorescent material that is only sensitive to short wave UV. Now lets switch to the long wavelength." She said as she pressed the other button.

He looked through the window again to find the slide no longer glowed green. Instead, everything had a weak violet reflection. After a minute he pulled his hand out. "Not even a hint of pain or smoke." He said with a smile, as he pealed off the blue glove.

"The Nitrile that the gloves are made of must have the polymer chains densely packed, preventing the UV from penetrating through to your skin."

Nick flipped the power switch off and leaned back against the counter. "I wonder if one of those 'Body Glove' scuba suits would offer any protection?"

Natalie covered her mouth as she snickered. "I think you'd be just a little conspicuous walking down Younge street in the middle of the day, wearing a scuba suit and a welder's helmet."

Nick shook his head and softly laughed at the image she suggested.

Natalie stepped up close to him and ran the back of her hand down his front. "Now a pair of tight Lycra bicycle shorts on the other hand..." She said as she cupped her hand around him and slightly squeezed. Natalie brought her other hand up to try and undo the top button on his shirt.

"Nat! Someone may walk in!" Nick said as he caught her hands and brought them to his chest.

She nuzzled his neck and whispered... Abut I wouldn't be the one with my shirt off now would I?" Her stomach rumbled, letting itself be known.

Nick tilted her head to place a soft kiss on her lips. "We better get you something to eat before our lunch break is over." He pushed off from the counter and led her to her coat.

As Natalie put her arms down the sleeves she said. "You know... I just thought that maybe we could find out what kind of material space suits are made of. They _have_ to handle the harmful photons generated by the sun. If the material can stand the full intensity of the sun, it would be perfect to make some kind of protective suit for you. You might not be able to walk out in the middle of the day in a crowd, but it might be something to keep in the car for emergencies."

Nick put his arm around her shoulder and started them toward the door. He hugged her to his side as he said. "With your tenaciousness Nat, I'm sure we'll find something."

## End Part 27/37 ##

** Oh the light can carry

** All the visions of the sea

** Oh the light can carry

** All the images to me

RUSH - Available Light

## Part 28/37 ##

Natalie quickly descended the stairs from the bedroom, as the door buzzer sounded for the second time.

Nick left earlier to talk to Feliks Twist. The call Nick made to the contractor had struck gold. The contractor had a friend who owned a small window fabrication company in Mississauga, that was doing research in that field. Apparently the prototype filters were very expensive to produce. They did; however, block out all the Ultraviolet wavelengths that 'bleach' interior carpeting, walls and furniture, but were way too expensive at the moment to be practical for normal home use. The company, which was family owned, had just incorporated and was considering putting the project on hold until investors could be found. Mass production would bring the cost per unit down to a more realistic value. Nick made a few calls, talked to the owner, and had tentatively purchased 49% of the shares in the company. Part of the business deal was to have the prototype installed and 'field tested' on one of the loft windows. Both Natalie and himself were working extra shifts, so he had left as soon as the sun had set to finalize the business arrangements through Feliks.

"Hello?" Natalie said, trying to catch her breath.

A young woman with an attache case in her hand looked up at the camera. "Hi, it's Jennifer from Designs and Alterations by Joni. A Miss Lambert is expecting me."

"Yes, that's me. Come on up." Natalie said as she pressed the release button and shut off the monitor. Natalie wondered as she waited at the lift door. She was surprised at how young the woman was when she slid back the door.

"Hello Miss Lambert, I'm Jennifer." She said as she extended her hand to Natalie.

"Hi Jennifer. Please call me Natalie. Nick said someone from your company would be by to do a fitting or something on me..." She motioned her to come inside and took her coat.

"Mr. Knight, yes. It's just measurements actually." Jennifer said as she looked around the loft with wonder. "Wow... your place is great."

"Thanks. Could you give me any hint of what the costume will look like when it's finished?" Natalie asked as she led Jennifer over toward the dining area.

Jennifer placed her attache case on the dining room table as she said. "Actually, I don't have any idea. I'm working at the company during my co-op term. It's this big secret project and only the owner and the senior designer know exactly what's going on." She smiled at Natalie. "I was actually hoping you could tell me. I was only told to come over, see you, and take a detailed set of body measurements so a dress form could be made." She said as she took out a clip board and a tailor's measuring tape.

"All I know is that it will be a surprise costume for a Halloween party we're going to."

"The anticipation must be unbearable... He didn't give you a hint at all?"

"Apart from that I wouldn't be embarrassed and would be pleased with the costume... No."

Jennifer scanned down the list of measurements required. "It's a very detailed measurement set. It should take about twenty minutes or so." She looked at Natalie. "I'm going to have to ask you to change out of those sweats. They're too thick to get accurate measurements. Your undergarments would be best, but if you're uncomfortable you can wear a slip over them."

Natalie shrugged. "No, that's fine... I guess the bedroom is the most appropriate." She motioned for Jennifer to follow her.

The young lady was very professional. She made Natalie feel at ease while she took the measurements. Natalie was surprised at how detailed they were. She expected the usual bust, waist, hip, back length and such, but found that measurements like hip drop and others she'd never heard of were also required. With the last measurement down on the pad, Jennifer excused herself down stairs to wait while Natalie dressed. Natalie came down in a few moments, sweat suit back in place.

Jennifer already had her coat on and was waiting at the lift door. "Thanks so much, I hope you enjoy the costume... what ever it is." She said with a smile as she shook Natalie's hand. "He's gone to a lot of trouble, I'm sure it will look beautiful. Good night."

"Good night." Natalie said before she let the lift door slide shut. She looked at her watch.

The phone rang. Natalie picked it up on the third ring. "Hello?"

"Hi Love." Nick's soothing voice said. "I'm going to have to go to work directly from here. Feliks wants to set up a corporation for me to route all the business interaction through. It's going to take a bit longer than I anticipated. It'll keep that kind of sensitive information out of my personal file, if anyone at work ever did a thorough background check again."

"Will you be free later to take me to lunch, or should I make something to take with me?"

"I'm not sure if I'll be able to get away. I called in right before I called you. It seems Schanke and I will be assisting in a door-to-door. You better take something just in case. I'll call you when I have a better idea."

"Okay. Oh, a young lady from that company you hired stopped by and did the measurements. Can I at least have a hint of what my costume will be?"

"Now Nat... How can it be a surprise if I give you hints to guess from? You'll find out in thirteen days. I'm sure you can wait that long." He teased.

"Alright, I'll wait... but I better like it. Paybacks can be a real bitch you know." She joked.

"I'll keep that in mind." He laughed. "I've got to go. I'll call you after I get an idea about going for lunch."

"Okay. I love you ya know..."

His voice softened to a caress. "I love you too Natalie. Bye."

"Bye." With a sigh, Natalie hung up the phone. She thought as she turned on the stereo before climbing the stairs.

Natalie waved to Jimmy as she walked down the hall to her work area. "Hi Jimmy. How're you doing this evening?"

AJust fine Dr. Lambert, yourself?"

"Not too bad. Would have enjoyed the night off but..." She shrugged and smiled.

"Oh, before I forget. A parcel came for you earlier. I signed for it and put it on your desk."

"Thanks Jimmy."

"You're quite welcome, have a good night." The security guard said as he continued his rounds.

Natalie, her curiosity peaked, went straight to her desk. She eyed the package as she hung her coat over the back of her chair. It was long and about ten inches square at the end. Natalie grabbed an available edge of wrapping paper and quickly ripped it from the box. A plain glossy white cardboard box was underneath. She slit the tape holding the hinged lid closed with a fingernail and opened it to find what was under the wrapper... "Wow!" Natalie carefully lifted the box to smell the large mixed bouquet. She moved the wrapping paper out of the way to find a cut crystal vase at the bottom of the box. Carefully nestled so it wouldn't get crushed or wet, was a rolled piece of parchment, tied closed with a red silk bow.

Natalie carefully extracted everything from the box. She filled the vase and dissolved the plant food pouch in the water, before arranging the flowers in the vase. With the vase in a prominent place on her desk, she focused her attention on the parchment. She untied the bow and uncurled the paper. She immediately recognized Nick's flowing script.

My Dearest Snow,

When I read this I thought of you and what you have brought to my life.


When the dragons grow too mighty

To slay with pen or sword

I grow weary of the battle

And the storm I walk toward

When all around is madness

And there's no safe port in view

I long to turn my path homeward

To stop awhile with you

When life becomes as barren

And as cold as winter skies

There's a beacon in the darkness

In a distant pair of eyes

In vain to search for order

In vain to search for truth

But these things can still be given

Your love has shown me proof

You have taught me through your love and compassion that my soul has not been lost, only clouded by shades of gray. For so many years my heart has been an empty shell, tossed by frigid winds of longing. You have brought order to my existence, your truth to guide me from my maelstrom of conflicting emotions. You have made me whole.

My love, now and forever, By-Tor.

Natalie brushed the tears from her cheeks before they could fall onto the paper. She sniffed and blew her nose after carefully tying up the delicate paper and placing it in her drawer. Natalie thought as she breathed the scent of the flowers.

## End Part 28/37 ##

** In vain to search for order

** In vain to search for truth

** But these things can still be given

** Your love has shown me proof

RUSH - Madrigal

## Part 29/37 ##

Natalie yawned and tried to refocus her eyes on the page of the book craddled in her lap. She sat curled up in the corner of the couch, the workmen were going about thier duties at the other end of the loft. The installer for the window filter had been to the loft on the previous Wednesday, taking the measurements of the window casing. It was Monday and the installation was almost complete. All that was left was to test each ten inch square panel to confirm total blocking of the Ultraviolet spectrum. They had installed the new window on the inside of the loft, taking advantage of the existing windows capability of prefiltering some of the UV spectrum. The retrofitting of the filter panel to the existing window, also meant a quicker installation and not having to rebuild the window and automatic shutter mechanism. When the install team had arrived earlier in the morning, Natalie had sent Nick upstairs with three bottles of Special Reserve. She knew he felt like a caged animal, waiting for release. Nick had grown increasingly distracted ever since they had been in and taken measurements on the twenty first. Even though it was only direct or reflected sunlight that caused him problems, Natalie had convinced him to stay upstairs. She patiently explained that sometimes he intimidated people, and that the installation would go faster without him pestering them with questions.

"Dr. Lambert, we're finished. If you'd come over here I'll explain what we've set up." The installation supervisor said. Natalie marked the page she'd read twice and joined the supervisor at the window. "We've retrofitted the frame into the casing and sealed it with the UV resistant silicone we've developed. Each pane or filter has been attached to the frame grid with the same sealer. We've taken readings from each panel and from around the frame. Everything comes up negative for UV light. We'll have enough panels produced by our small scale equipment to retrofit another window every two weeks. All the measurements of the other windows have been taken, so we'll call a few days ahead and arrange a time to come and do the installation. Mr. Knight will be able to display that rare parchment in about another two months I'd say. The living area will be UV free." He smiled and motioned to the skylight. "That and the upstairs windows will be next after the down stairs area is finished."

He put on his coat and picked up the last of the equipment on his way to the lift. "We'll replace the ten by ten panes with larger ones as soon as they come off the full production line and pass all specifications. That's about it for now... We'll contact you in about a week and a half when we're ready to set up a time to do the next installation."

"That sounds great. Thanks. Have a good afternoon." Natalie said as he stepped into the lift.

"You're welcome. I'll let you get some sleep now that it's quiet and we're out of your hair." He said with a smile and a wave. "Bye." The lift door closed and the elevator engaged.

With a sigh of relief that it was completed, Natalie called up to Nick as she thumbed the remote for the window shutters. "They're gone, you can come down now." She walked the short distance to the window on the right side of the fireplace. The shutters lowered on all the other windows, except that one.

Nick appeared in the shadow of the mantle within seconds of the shutters closing. He gazed longingly at Natalie as she leaned back against the window sill. The sun shining on her features as she turned toward him.

"Are you just going to stand there, or are you going to come and join me?" She asked with outstretched hands.

Nick stepped forward to the edge of the sunbeam and hesitated. He tentatively stuck his trembling hand into the light, waiting for the pain. When none came, he released the breath he didn't realize he'd held. The realization that it would _really_ work struck him. A broad smile spread across his face as he rushed to take Natalie in his arms. He picked her up and spun her around. Both of them laughing with tears of joy pooling in their eyes. As her feet found the floor, they embraced into a passionate kiss. Natalie's tears spilled over and trailed down her cheeks.

Nick kissed her tears from her face and stood holding her in a loose embrace. He gazed out the window. The sunlight fell on his face like a caress, warming his skin for the first time since that fateful day. Able to do again, something very mortal that had been lost to him... he was re-experiencing the feeling of the sun on his skin without pain.

Natalie gazed at him, seeing him for the first time in natural light. His broad smile, his eyes reflecting the light. "You're so beautiful Nick. Your hair is like golden silk in the sun..." She ran her fingers through his hair and along the scruff of hair on his cheek and jaw. "Make love to me Nick... Here in the sun..." She said as she started to undo the buttons on his shirt.

Nick cupped her cheeks. Natalie could see the indecision in his eyes... The longing to finally _be_ with her battling with the fear of harming her.

Natalie placed her hands over his. "Do you love me Nick?"

"With every fibre in my being... with all that is my soul..."

"Do you trust me?"

"With my life."

AJust as I love and trust you... I believe in you, in your ability to control your inner beast. We have to try..." She moved her hands to cup his cheeks. A We can always pull back a bit if it gets too much... but we _have_ to try..." Natalie pulled his face to hers, softly kissing his lips. He moved his hands from her face to embrace her as her tongue tentatively parted his lips. Nick moaned deep in his throat and sought her tongue with his as she lowered her hands to brush her finger nails up and down his neck.

Natalie broke the kiss and wrapped her arms around him as her legs decided not to support her any more. They sank down to the floor, still holding each other. Natalie moved to push Nick back, but he resisted her. "Wait Nat." He said as he removed her hands from around him. "I will not make love to you on a cold floor." In a smooth movement, he stood and disappeared in a blur. Before Natalie could blink twice, he was back laying a heavy comforter down beside her. He pulled her to her feet and moved her to the center before reinitiating their passionate kiss. He let his hands roam over her sweat shirt covered back, until his hands cupped her buttocks. Her hands were not idle either. In their loose embrace, they battled each button, in victory exposing more of his skin. After tugging his shirt from his pants, Natalie ran her hands up his cool chest to his shoulders. She pushed the shirt off his back and down his arms as her lips trailed through the hair along his jaw to his ear.

Nick kicked off his shoes as he felt her lips travel down his neck, her tongue darting out to taste his skin. He submitted to Natalie's seduction as he felt her left hand trail down his chest, and her right encircle his back. Another groan escaped his lips as her hand tugged down his zipper and lightly caressed his hardness. After a moment that was all too short, her hand moved up and undid the button, allowing his pants to pool at his feet. The unthought concern that had lurked in the back of his mind leapt forth, overriding the sexual hunger. Nick held her face and looked in her eyes. "Protection... I don't have any condoms. My blood when I climax Nat... we have no idea what it could do to you taking it inside yourself."

Natalie smiled and stroked her fingers along his jaw. "I understand my love, but I'm willing to take that chance. Though I will be taking your blood inside me, it won't be as if I'm ingesting or injecting it into a vein... some of it will be absorbed I'm sure. I know there's some risk involved, but we'll have to face it sooner or later." She gave him a wickedly seductive smile. "I'd prefer it be sooner... I want to feel you inside me, without barriers... natural, as a woman and man are meant to be."

She lowered her hands and slid down his boxers, releasing his erection between them. Natalie hooked her thumbs in the waistband of her sweats and pushed them over her hips. As they slid down her legs, she lifted her arms.

Nick immediately pulled the sweat shirt up her torso and over her head, tossing it to the side. He watched as Natalie worked her feet out of the legs and kicked the bottoms over beside the top. With her hand on his shoulder, she lifted one foot then the other, removing her socks. Once both bare feet met the comforter's surface, Nick quickly stripped his own off. A toss and a kick sent his socks and boxers over beside the other scattered cloths.

Natalie knew Nick was still sensitive about her putting her mouth anywhere near his groin, so she avoided that desire of exploration. She guided him down to lie on the comforter instead. They lay side by side, face to face. Each lightly stroking, caressing and exploring the others skin with their finger tips as the sunlight bathed their bodies. Their fingers soon found each others sensitive parts. Soft moans came from each as their arousal deepened. Natalie's hand traveled along his length and girth, while his fingers stroked her folds.

Knowing how timid he was about initiating their joining, Natalie pushed him over onto his back. She moved her body over his. His cool hardness trapped between their bodies. Natalie straightened and moved slightly to straddle his hardness. She slowly slid herself up and down the length of his trapped erection. The temperature difference of her flushed body contrasted with his coolness. Her labia parted as she moved, coating him with her excitement. With every downward movement her clitoris brushed against him, sending jolts of pleasure through her body.

When Natalie straddled him, Nick had crossed his legs at his ankles, limiting his leverage and ability to thrust up at her. The fear of hurting her was still predominant in his mind. Nick let his hands play across her skin, his fingers lightly raking up and down her thighs. Content in letting her progress at her own pace.

Nick caressed her back as Natalie laid against his chest, her lips seeking his. Breaking from their passionate kiss, she raised herself up. Natalie slid his foreskin back with her hand as she positioned him between her outer folds. She closed her eyes as she stroked herself with his penis, thoroughly coat it with her moisture. Natalie opened her eyes and looked deep into Nick's as she moved him to her entrance. They both gasped at the feeling of their mutual contact. Each saw the others ecstasy play across their face as she slowly lowered herself down. A sigh of pleasure escaped her clenched teeth as she felt his coolness slip fully inside her. Nick supported his torso with one arm as he raised up to pull her to him. They kissed with passion and need as he reclined, pulling her down with him. Her breasts pressed between them, each hard nipple felt like a searing poker against his chest.

Natalie licked and kissed the side of his neck again, teasing his erogenous zone. She pushed herself upright off his chest and started rotating her pelvis, making small circular movents. The hot flush of passion covered her body. Her movements increased in urgency as she became more comfortable with him inside her.

Nick caressed her breasts, sides and thighs as Natalie rode him. His eyes stayed predominately blue with flecks of gold. He leaned up to capture a hard nipple as it brushed past his mouth. The pleasurable feel of her surrounding him was intense. Whimper like moans began in his chest, only to be muffled around her breast. He felt his teeth ache unbearably and finally let them drop. Natalie's movements caused a small scratch as his one fang scraped against her skin. The small taste of her blood conveying her imminent climax.

The extra stimulation was all Natalie required. She sank fully down on him and rotated her hips, grinding herself against his pubic bone. Her breath caught as her orgasm flooded over her. Her inner muscles grasping and releasing him. She flung her head back and the breath she held came out as a scream of released desire.

Nick let out a long groan as he dropped back fully onto the comforter. He held Natalie by her upper arms as he bridged his body. Every muscle grew taunt and hard. His pelvis arched up and fully embedded his hardness into her grasping core. His orgasm over took him. A low howl joined Natalie's scream as every nerve ending in his body seemed to fire at once. His mind drew to a tight focus on pumping his being into her. Nick sank his fangs into his tongue as the need to bite overrode his senses.

Without Nick's hands holding her on him, Natalie would have been thrown off. With her eyes closed and head thrown back, she floated on the crest of her orgasm. Natalie could feel him expanding inside her as he climaxed.

Nick's fangs and eyes changed back as his orgasm subsided. He lowered himself down to lay flat on the comforter again. After a moment to collect their senses, they both looked at each other with goofy satisfied grins.

Natalie supported herself with her hands on his chest, as she in turn swung each of her legs back. All be it a little less hard, he stayed erect. Natalie repositioned herself, being careful to keep him trapped inside her. After waiting so long for this moment, she didn't want to feel the emptiness if he slipped out.

Nick helped her recline against his chest then slipped his arms around her. They softly kissed as the sunlight fell on their skin. Natalie stifled a small yawn. She moved to lie fully against him, savoring the sunlight on her back and the coolness of his body on her front. She smiled a bit as his warming member twitched inside her. With her head on his shoulder and nose pressed against his neck, she fell into a deep satisfied sleep.

## End Part 29/37 ##

** Then lost in that feeling

** I looked in your eyes

** I noticed emotion

** And that you had cried

** For me

** I can see

** What would touch me deeper

** Tears that fall from eyes

** That only cry?

** Would it touch you deeper

** Than tears that fall from eyes

** That know why?

RUSH - Tears

## Part 30/37 ##

Nick tied the sash on his robe as he walked into the bedroom. The towel around his neck stopped the water from his hair from running down his back. With a sly smile, he carefully pulled back the covers, revealing Natalie's sleeping form. She lay on her side, facing the center of the bed. She had pulled his pillow to her chest and curled her arm around it, choosing to steal a few minutes more of sleep. He gazed at her sleeping form. Her nightgown followed her curves. He could just see it disappear under the blanket as it followed the arch of her hip. He leaned over and pulled aside the hair that covered the side of her face.

"Nat... Nat... Wake up. George will be here soon."

Natalie mumbled something and clutched the pillow closer.

Initially intending to give her another 'shower' from his wet hair to help her get out of bed, another idea came to him. "Nat, if you don't get up now, I'll have to help you into the shower."

Natalie rolled partially over onto her back and slowly opened one eye. "Huh?"

"Come on, time to get up. George will be here soon to do our hair."

Natalie rolled back over and pulled up the covers. "Want to sleep." She said, her voice muffled by the pillow.

Nick looked at her for a moment, shrugged his shoulders and said. "Alright then."

Natalie heard him walk back into the bathroom. She snuggled down into the covers. At the sound of the shower starting again, she brushed aside the last tendrils of sleep.

Natalie didn't have another moment to ponder as Nick returned, bare ass to the breeze, ripped back the covers and pulled her out of bed. She shrieked, cursed and laughed, as he carried her with arms under her back and knees into the shower. Her nightgown quickly adhered itself to her body as the hot spray soaked it through. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled his head down into the spray, soaking his hair again, before pulling herself up and capturing his lips with her own. She said as she relaxed back into his strong arm, "At least the water wasn't cold."

Nick let down her legs and pulled her to him. "I wouldn't do that to you Love." He said as he rubbed his nose along the side of hers. A quick kiss to her lips and he was opening the shower door. He just started picking up his robe when he heard the shower door open and Natalie call his name. As he turned around her wet nightgown slapped him in the face before falling with a splat to the floor. He could hear her giggling over the sound of the spray as he tossed it into the sink.

Nick left Natalie to shower as he went down stairs to drink the second bottle he'd taken out, before George arrived.

Natalie came out of the bedroom dressed in her robe and slippers. She saw Nick leading an older portly fellow, who carried two cases, toward the stairs. She waited at the top for them to ascend to the balcony.

"Nat, I'd like you to meet George. George, Natalie."

George put down one of the cases and briefly took her hand. "A pleasure my dear."

Nick pointed to the bedroom door. "We'll set up in the bathroom I guess. It's through the bedroom."

George picked up the case. "I feel like the fairy godmother from 'Cinderella' preparing everyone for the Ball." He giggled at his own 'in' joke as he disappeared into the bedroom.

"We'll probably be forty five minutes to an hour. Plenty of time for you to grab a bite to tide you over." He said before placing a quick kiss on her forehead and following George.

Natalie shook her head and decended the stairs. She made herself some tea and toast. Flipping though the day's paper occupied her time as she sipped her tea.

Natalie had just finished washing the few dishes in the sink, when she heard Nick call down for her.

He stood beside the bed when she entered, a towel draped over his head and around his neck, tucked under the collar of his robe. "He's all ready for you Nat." Nick said as she walked over to him. "When you're done, your costume will be laid out on the bed." He took both her hands. "Everything you'll need to wear will be on the bed... 'everything'." He said as he pulled her into a loose embrace.

They heard George clear his throat from the doorway into the bathroom. "I don't mean to interrupt, but I do have to do Miss du Charm's hair too. She can get in a real 'snit' when I'm late."

Both Natalie and Nick smiled at that. She gave Nick a quick kiss to his lips, then followed George into the bathroom.

Natalie looked at her hair in the mirror as George packed up his gear. He bade his goodbye and packed off to Janette's. Natalie touched the gold circlet that held the diamond of delicate lace on top of her head. Her hair fell over the shoulders of her robe in loose wavy curls. Natalie thought as she walked into the bedroom. Her hand came up to her mouth as she gasped at the beautiful clothes spread out on the bed. Nick had laid everything out in the correct order she was to put it on.

Natalie let the robe slip from her body, revealing her nude form. She tried to assign names to the pieces of clothing as she started to put them on. First was the soft linen gown-like chemise. It fell loosely around her body, ending at the height of her ankles. She picked up the blue raw silk dress. She thought as she slipped the form fitted fabric carefully over her head. The brocade on the bodice of the dress appeared to be of a Celtic design. Delicate embroidery in a silver thread circled the neck, sleeves and bottom of the fabric. The kirtle brushed the tops of her toes as she adjusted it over the chemise. The sleeveless overtunic was last to go on. The golden heavy woolen fabric also contained the delicate silver thread embroidery in two inch Celtic looking geometric designs around the edges. It's bottom edge fell a quarter of the way up her thigh from the edge of the kirtle. Natalie carefully sat and put on the soft leather slippers, died the same colour as the kirtle. A thin leather belt completed the outfit.

She looked in the full length mirror and marveled at her appearance. Natalie grabbed her small purse and headed out of the room in search of Nick. As she reached the balcony and looked down, she saw him standing at the base of the stairs. The sight of him standing in his Knight's uniform took her breath away. Natalie gathered up the hem of her clothes and carefully descended the stairs.

Except for his helmet and shield, Nick stood in full battle dress. His black mid-calf length cloak completely covered his torso. The large white eight sided cross, the only adornment on the cloak which was tied at his right shoulder, fell over his heart. The chain mail hood or coif, was pulled up, so only his face was visible. Chain mail covered his feet and disappeared up his legs under the cloak. The bottom of the scabbard that held his sword could be seen, ending a few inches above the floor on his left side. Nick drew back the cape off his front to hook it behind his sword. He revealed a tan heavy-woolen sleeveless tabard, split between the legs front and back. His movement caused the surcoat to reveal underneath, the chain mail hauberk that reached past his knees. His chain mail gloves, or gauntlets, were tucked in the belt around his waist, while the belt that held the sword and scabbard fell more around his hips.

He took Natalie's hand in his right as she stepped onto the floor. With a smooth movement he lowered to one knee and kissed the back of her hand. He looked up into her face from his position on the floor. "Your beauty my Love is greater than any I've ever seen." He rose to stand before her. From his left hand he brought forth a pendant on a multi extra-fine stranded gold chain. AFor you my Love." He said as he reached behind her and closed the clasp. He arranged her hair so the necklace fell underneath it against her neck. Natalie looked at the pendant. A heart shaped ruby set in a gold base, was surrounded at it's edge by sixteen small blue diamonds.

Nick slipped the coif back off his head, revealing his long shoulder length hair as he arranged it to fall around his neck. "This is the image of the man I once was in the man I now am. I shall always retain the Knight you see before you, it is part of who I am. Striving to be worthy of your love has become my crusade. I love you with all my heart and soul Natalie Lambert."

The tears threatened to fall from her eyes as she ran her fingers through his hair. The droplets threaded their way down her cheeks as she pulled him into an embrace. Her hot lips met his cool ones as she showed him with her passion what words couldn't convey.

They held each other in a wordless embrace for long moments. Natalie moved her hand from around his neck and back to rest on his sides. As her left hand slipped between the cloth of the open sided tabard, she could feel a small hole in the chain mail. It wasn't until Natalie started to trace the outline of the cross on his cape with her fingers, that she lifted her head from his shoulder and asked. "You're wearing a cross... how?"

Nick smiled. "It weakens me slightly, but does not bother me as it once would. Coming to terms with my life has helped aid my aversion to the cross. Using my abilities to help others in my quest for redemption, and my realization that I still have faith in God, has made me more tolerant of the symbols."

Natalie stepped back and ran her fingers through the scruff of hair on his face, then down the hair on his shoulders again. "This is how you actually looked in the 1220's?"

"Yes. The leather jerkin and braies, that's the leather coat and pants under the chain mail, and the surcoat and cape are accurate reproductions. The chain mail, sword and scabbard are the same ones I wore all those years ago. LaCroix thought me mad after I secreted them away and carefully stored them to last through the centuries. I could just not part with something that linked me so strongly to my mortal past. When the Ball was announced, I made arrangements for them to be taken out of storage and sent to me. The design company that made your clothes, also made the rest of my outfit that time had destroyed."

The door buzzer sounded.

"That'll be the limo." Nick said.

"We're not driving?"

Nick smiled. "Chain mail was made for riding a horse, not driving a car." He said as he showed her how the hauberk was also split front and back up to the crotch.

The chain mail on his feet clicked against the floor as they walked over to the door. "And this way you don't have to worry about being the designated driver." He said as he helped Natalie on with her overcoat. He slipped their wallets into the pockets of her coat, so they wouldn't have to worry about her needing to carry a purse.

They were soon seated comfortably in the back of the limo and whisked away to the ball.

## End Part 30/37 ##

** He's got to make his own mistakes

** And learn to mend the mess he makes

** He's old enough to know what's right

** But young enough not to choose it

** He's noble enough to win the world

** But weak enough to lose it --

** He's a New World man...

RUSH - New World Man

## Part 31/37 ##

The doorman opened the passenger side door as soon as the limo stopped in front of the entrance of the Royal York. Natalie took his hand as he helped her from the car, being careful not to dirty her beautiful dress. Nick waved the man's hand away as he gracefully exited the car in his battle dress. He paused a moment to refasten the belt that held his Crusader's sword safely tucked away in it's scabbard. He straightened his cloak, the white cross falling over his heart. Nick took Natalie's hand and they walked the short distance into the hotel. People paused as they passed, amazed at the authenticity of the outfit Nick wore. Natalie got her own fair share of stares after they checked her coat and made their way to the Ball Room.

The Commissioner, his wife and daughter, greeted them just inside the entryway to the Ball Room. The Commissioner wore a 50's style police uniform, while his wife wore a flapper dress from the 20's. Tracy, their daughter, wore a black velvet cat costume. Natalie shook the Commissioners hand and moved down to chat as Mrs. Vetter and Tracy complimented her on her costume.

Commissioner Vetter said as he took Nick's hand. "That's quite the realistic costume you've got Detective. Who are you supposed to be, a Templer Knight?"

Nick stiffened. "*You dare insult a Knight of the Order of St. John?!*" He arrogantly said as he gave the Commissioner a cold stare. The ancient rivalry between the two orders had grown to a mutual bitter hatred and loathing, by the time Nick was inducted into the order. The biases of his mortal life were still fresh in his mind. He realized what he'd done as the Commissioner flinched under his gaze. Nick gave him a sheepish smile and politely said. "No. This is a uniform of a Knight from the Order of St. Johns Hospital."

"Yes, well... it looks very authentic." The Commissioner stammered for words as he tried to regain his composure.

AFamily heirloom." Nick said as he moved to say hello to Mrs. Vetter, who had turned toward him.

After a few polite words with her and Tracy, Nick took Natalie's hand and went in search of their table. They saw Schanke wave from across the room and rise to greet them.

"WOW! Will ya look at you guys!" He looked around, caught Myra's attention and waved her over. AJeeze Nick, you really went all out! Where'd you find that outfit? And Natalie, WOW!"

"You don't look too bad yourself there Schanke!" She said as she suppressed a snicker.

"Woo. Count Floyd here kids." Schanke said as he pulled the black cape around himself. "We've got a scarrrrry movie for you tonight." He lost it, and started laughing at his impression, letting the cape fall free. He was dressed all in black. A black turtle neck and slacks, with the black cape lined in red satin. His hair was slicked back and he had black face paint on his forehead, making the 'V' impression of hair in the classic vampire spoof.

Myra arrived just as he regained his composure. She was dressed as Edith Prickly to Schanke's Count Floyd. From her fake leopard skin hat, heavy black framed 50's style glasses, red star earrings, leopard skin coat with the big black buttons, to her black knee length skirt with the slit in the front to mid-thigh, she looked very much like the character. "Hi! You guys look great!" She said as she gave Nick then Natalie a hug.

Natalie laughed then said. "You guys don't look too bad yourselves! What a great idea to come as 'SCTV' characters."

The announcement came over the system for everyone to take their seats. Schanke lead them through the crowd, over to their table, which sat ten. Moments after they had taken their seats, a couple with a young lady approached their table. The red haired gentleman with the close cut beard wore a late 1800's woman's dress, complete with bonnet, while the lady wore a red Mountie's uniform. The young lady wore an authentic Highland outfit. As they sat down, the man introduced them as James and Sharon MacFarland, or Marigold and Dudley Doright, and the young lady as their daughter Heather. The others only had enough time to introduce themselves before Commissioner Vetter called for quiet.

The Commissioner said a short speech, then introduced the representative for the "IDS Hostel, who spoke briefly. After the speeches were finished, the hostess started leading tables to the buffet. Their table was the third to go.

Nick took small portions of a few dishes. Sharon asked upon their return from the buffet if Nick was feeling alright, seeing how he had taken so little food. He explained about his food allergy, and that he had eaten earlier in the evening. He further explained that he had taken a few of the dishes that gave him the least amount of digestive trouble, so no one would feel uncomfortable eating while he sat there with an empty plate. He skillfully rearranged the items on his plate, along with some slight of hand during the course of the meal. To all but Natalie's skilled eye, it appeared as if he'd eaten something.

During dessert, the talk inevitably drifted to work. They discovered that James was a special liaison officer with the RCMP, assigned to customs. His primary job was coordinating the Canadian drug enforcement teams at the border, with their U.S. counterparts. Sharon, they found, worked part time at home doing hobby-craft work. They were surprised to hear that Heather was in her last year of University. She had gotten a special scholarship for engineering at the university in Edinburgh Scotland. She was back home in Ontario doing her final co-op term, spending time with her family before flying back in January.

Heather and Nick had just started discussing the cultural differences between the two countries, when there seemed to be some kind of commotion at the tables closest to the entrance. Nick inwardly smiled as he 'felt' Janette, then Miklos enter the room.

Janette, always fashionably late, preened in the attention she received from her arrival as they approached the empty seats at the table.

Myra elbowed Don as he leered at Janette's costume.

The mid 1700's costumes she and Miklos wore looked every bit as authentic as they probably were. They appeared as if they had stepped out of the court of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Janette's dress was all done in black and antique gold, brocade and raw silk with black chantilly lace and satin bows for trim. The tight black bodice could be seen below the black lace that traveled from the black satin bow at her bust line to her waist. The gold brocade inset from her waist to her shoulders, formed a square neckline that showed a generous amount of cleavage. The full gathered skirt was trimmed in lace where it scalloped open in the front, to reveal the black and gold brocaded skirt underneath. Gold coloured leather slippers could be seen peaking out from underneath the skirt as she walked the few remaining steps to the table. She had foregone the white wig of the time, preferring to wear her hair partly up. Her ivory coloured neck was adorned with an intricately crafted diamond necklace, which held at least twenty stones.

Miklos was primarily dressed in black. The black heavily brocaded knee length evening suitcoat, was nipped at his waist. A row of black satin covered buttons traveled down the front of the coat, and could also be seen on the cuffs. Black velvet lined the collar, lapels and cuffs. A snow white linen poet's shirt with a ruffled lace cravat front and sleeve cuffs, stood out against the black. White men's stockings were held in place by the black satin knee britches. The matching black brocade weskit, or vest, covered him to his waist. The light caught the polished brass buckles on the top of his black leather square-toed shoes, as he escorted Janette to the table.

Nick stood and kissed Janette on the cheek as she walked up to him. "*Does this not bring back memories my brother?*" Janette said as she let a finger trail over the necklace. "*You look as handsome in your uniform as I remember.*" She gave Natalie's shoulder a squeeze as she turned toward the table. "Are you not going to introduce us Nicolas?"

Nick made introductions around the table as Janette and Miklos sat down.

Schanke was quick off the mark, having picked up on Janette calling Nick her brother. "Hey Nick. I thought you didn't have any siblings... Why'd Janette call you her brother?"

Nick inwardly groaned. He'd hoped no one would have picked up on that. "It'll be easier for me to begin at the start... My grandparents on my mothers side emigrated to Canada to settle in Montreal in the late 1920's. My mother was born there a few years later. She grew up to become a professor in classical music. My grandparents were killed in an automobile accident soon after she had graduated. With no family ties left, she took a job at a university in Chicago, where she met then eventually married my father. He had been orphaned at a young age, but had beaten the odds and managed to put himself through school and eventually college. He was working at the university as a professor in archaeology. Enter me, new years day 1958. I had turned eleven the year that he got a grant to excavate a Mayan site in Mexico. I was sent to stay with a guardian, as we had no living relatives, while my mother accompanied him to the dig. Their light plane went down in the jungle, killing them the pilot and two others. The guardian that took care of me was also the guardian of Janette. We grew up together, traveling the world, as our guardian's business interests took him from place to place. We both had tutors, as we never stayed in the same place for more than a few years. When I became an adult, I returned to Chicago. That's when I became a cop."

"The mystery is finally over. That's the most you've told me about your past ever." Schanke said as he stared open mouthed at Nick.

AJanette and I, though we are not related by birth, feel like siblings to each other from the ties we have with our mutual guardian."

As Nick finished, the D.J. introduced herself, and initiated the entertainment portion of the evening.

The lights dimmed in the room as the pop number started to play. The lights of the D.J. setup flashed and pulsed to the beat. Heather pulled her parents onto the dance floor. After a bit of convincing, Schanke lead Myra by the hand and followed in their wake.

## End Part 31/37 ##

** Some need to pray to the sun at high noon

** Some need to howl at the midwinter moon

** Reborn and baptized in a moment of grace

** We just need a break --

** From the headlong race

RUSH - Between Sun and Moon

## Part 32/37 ##

Part 32 is continuous with Part 31.

Nick leaned over to Janette. "I can't believe you wore that necklace here! What if someone doesn't think it's a fake?"

"I can more than deal with anyone who would attempt to take it away..." Janette wickedly smiled. "Besides, it is not as if anyone here would recognize it." She said as she ran her fingers over the diamonds.

Natalie sat in the middle of their hushed argument until she couldn't stand it any longer. "Would some one please tell me what the hell the two of you are going on about? It's a necklace, a very beautiful one, but just a necklace..."

Nick turned and whispered in Natalie's ear. Janette and Miklos were easily able to hear his words over the other sounds in the room. "Do you remember when I said I was briefly in France in 1785 for one of Janette's escapades?"

Natalie nodded. "Yes, that's all you said. You didn't elaborate on exactly what you were doing."

A_That_ is the necklace that was made for Marie Antoinette that she never commissioned. She'd slighted Janette in court. It was Janette's way of getting even with her. The 'swindlers' that fooled Louis Rene Edmond de Rohan into buying the necklace on the Queen's behalf was us. Janette and I, with a few well placed bits of hypnosis, walked into the jeweler's shop and convinced the jeweler that Janette was Marie. That she was there to personally pick up the necklace. The reason it's never been found is because Janette's had it all along."

Natalie's eyes opened wide as the implication of Nick's story struck her.

"Marie was a bitch." Janette said. "She was rude and smelled of fish. So our little adventure pushed up Bastille Day by a few months. They were running the country into the ground anyway. It had a _minor_ impact on The French Revolution." She sniffed. "Besides... the necklace looks much better on me."

A polka song started as the pop tune finished. Within moments, Don and Myra had returned to the table to drag Natalie and Nick onto the dance floor.

They spent the better part of the evening on the dance floor. Heather got Nick up for a few pop songs and even one slow one. Janette 'persuaded' the D.J. to play a waltz, for which she and Nick were the only occupants on the dance floor. Even the people who didn't enjoy that particular kind of music, enjoyed watching the fluid grace of the two of them dancing.

Natalie got rave comments on her costume throughout the night.

Natalie had sat down at their table for a couple of songs to rest. Nick slipped away for a moment, passing the slip of paper to the D.J. before returning to her side.

"The next song is dedicated to the Knight and his Lady." The D.J. announced before starting the music.

Nick bent down on one knee beside Natalie's chair. "May I have this dance?" He asked as he looked up into her eyes. She took his hand and let him lead her out to the dance floor, as the notes of Jeff Healey's 'Angel Eyes' filled the room. They were soon joined by the other couples.

Nick held Natalie close as they swayed to the slow song. He sang along with the music, loud enough that only Natalie could hear. His voice conveyed his emotion.

Girl, you're looking fine tonight

And every guy has got you in his sight

What you're doing with a clown like me

Is surely one of life's little mysteries

So tonight I'll ask

The stars above

"How did I ever win your love?"

What did I do,

What did I say

To turn your angel eyes my way

Well I'm the guy never learned to dance

Never even got one second glance

Across the crowded room was close enough

I could look but I could never touch

Don't anyone wake me

If it's just a dream

'cause she's the best thing

Ever happened to me

All you fellows

You can look all you like

But this girl, you see, she leaving here

with me tonight

Um, there's just one more thing I need to know

If this is love, why does it scare me so?

It must be something only you can see

'cause girl I feel it when you look at me

As the chorus repeated at the end of the song, Nick leaned in and captured Natalie's lips in a soft passionate kiss that lasted through the end of the song.

Everyone around them on the dance floor cheered as they broke the kiss. They just smiled at each other. Natalie held his hand and moved toward their table.

Bruce sat sprawled in a chair off to the side of the dance floor. He sipped at his 6th rye and coke as he watched the couples dance. One wouldn't exactly call him 'drunk', but he was definitely feeling no pain. Working in a middle management position at City Hall had caused his once husky build to deteriorate into one of fat. He'd squeezed his frame into his old Minor League baseball uniform, complete with cleats and bat. He gave more of an impression of Babe Ruth in his declining years than one of today's athletes. He'd been an 'up and comer' in the Minor League as a pitcher, until he blew out his arm and had to seek another form of work to support himself and his wife. After twelve years of putting up with him, she'd left. He'd steadily drank more, letting himself go to pot. All the while moaning about his glory days and what he could have been. Having married him at eighteen, she decided enough was enough. At thirty-two she figured she still had a good life ahead of her, and it didn't include him. She had moved out three weeks ago and initiated divorce proceedings. It was yet another thing for him to lament over how bad life had treated him.

Bruce drained the last of his drink from his glass as the love song ended. He pushed himself to his feet and made his way unsteadily toward the bar. As he passed the table with the punch bowl, the young lady in the skirt caught his eye. He thought as he leered at her shapely form.

Nick led Natalie off the dance floor, his arm slipped around her waist. Schanke, Myra, James and Sharon had stayed on the dance floor to relive some old memories, as they danced to the "BBA song that was now playing. Nick saw Heather getting some punch from the refreshment table. "Do you want anything to drink Nat?" He asked as he pulled the chair out for her.

"I think I've had enough wine... some punch would be nice, please."

Nick gave her hand a squeeze. "I'll be right back."

As he walked toward the refreshment table, he saw a man approach Heather. Nick could tell from the way the man moved he was very intoxicated. He was close enough he could hear the man's semi-slurred voice over the music, even without his sensitive hearing.

"Well, aren't you just a pretty little thing..." Bruce said as he approached Heather. "I'm Bruce. Let's dance." He said as he reached for her arm.

Heather stepped back a pace as his alcohol laden breath reached her. "Thank you anyway, but no." She said picking up her glass of punch.

"Come on now, don't be shy." He insisted as he reached for her arm again.

"NO! Thank you anyway, but no."

As Bruce made another attempt to take her arm, Nick stepped up to them.

"There you are Heather." Nick said as he lightly put his hand on her shoulder, staring down Bruce. "Natalie decided on a glass of punch after all, so I figured I'd help you carry them back to the table."

"Take a hike Mr. Knight in shining armor... She's going to dance with me!"

Nick focused his senses on Bruce's fast beating heart. "You're drunk. You'll leave the woman alone and go back to your table to sober up."

"Drunk... right, back to my table..." Bruce said as the hypnosis took hold. He turned and weaved his way back to his seat.

Heather turned to Nick as Bruce walked out of ear shot. "Thanks, that guy just wouldn't take 'No' for an answer. I hate to be rude, but he just wouldn't take the hint."

"My pleasure to come to your aid fair lady." Nick said with a smile as he made a sweeping bow. "Nat really did want some punch, could you pour another glass please?"

Heather smiled, her dimples showing. "One glass of punch coming right up."

## End Part 32/37 ##

** Love is born with lightning bolts

** Electro-magnetic force

** Burning skin and fireworks

** A storm on a raging course

RUSH - The Speed of Love

## Part 33/37 ##

Part 33 is continuous with Part 32.

As Bruce approached his chair, he stopped and shook his head like a wet dog. "HEY!" He exclaimed as it dawned on him what had happened. His face flushed with anger. He grabbed the wooden bat leaning up against his chair and turned in search of the guy in the knight costume, intent on showing him who was boss. Nick and Heather had just reached their table when Bruce spotted them.

"There you are," Nick said as he placed the glass down for Natalie. "One glass of punch as requested."

"Nick was so great." Heather said as she sat down beside Natalie. "This guy was bothering me and just wouldn't take 'No' for an answer. Nick persuaded him to go back to his seat without a fuss or anything." She bubbled over and grinned at Natalie. "It was just like something out of a fairy tale... the Knight arriving to save the princess from the evil lord."

Natalie smiled back at Heather and her enthusiasm at telling the story. She turned to look at Nick who still stood beside her and caught sight of a guy in a baseball uniform coming toward them. The angry look on his face and the bat in his hands, told Natalie that this was probably the guy. "Nick! Behind you!"

Nick turned as Bruce was three paces away and quickly sized up the situation. "Put down the bat, we can talk this out."

"I don't think so 'buddy'." Bruce said as he poked Nick in the shoulder with the end of the bat. "I don't know what you pulled on me, but you're going to pay for it!" He took a swing at Nick with the bat.

Nick side stepped the swing easily.

Bruce's momentum took him into the empty table beside them, where he scattered the people's drinks and bottles. He was flushed with righteous anger as he shoved himself to his feet. Pummeling Nick into a messy pulp was the only thought in his drunken mind.

Nick knew by the look on the guy's face that he was passed the point of reason. He'd have to take him down without exposing his powers, and without anyone being injured in the process. Nick started backing away to the edge of the dance floor, away from the tables and into a more open area. His decades of combat training kicked in as Bruce started taking wild swings at him. Nick found his sword in his hand, not conscious of drawing it from it's sheath. Without his gauntlet to protect his hand, the blessed weapon started to slowly burn his palm. Though his hand did not smoke, he knew his palm would eventually blister if he held his sword for any length of time.

Bruce put all his strength behind his swings. His anger cut through some of the alcohol fog in his mind. The madder he got, the more accurate his swings became, until the bat continually glanced off the edge of Nick's sword.

Still surrounded by tables, Nick stayed on the defensive. The commotion alerted the people around them. They managed to get out of the way before the combatants got too close. The word spread through the crowd on the dance floor. The D.J. cut the music and asked everyone to step aside, calling on security to attend to the problem.

Janette went to Natalie's side. "He will be fine Natalie." She said as she put a restraining hand on her arm. ALet him deal with it."

Natalie knew Janette was right, but it didn't help her feelings of helplessness as she watched the drunk take swings at Nick.

Nick let the bat connect with the edge of the sword and bounce away, deflecting the momentum of his advisory. Chips flew off the wooden bat as it connected time and again with the steel.

Schanke and the officers that knew Nick kept the crowd away from them, letting Nick handle the situation.

The pain in his hand from holding the sword increased as his skin started to blister. Instead of tiring the guy out, his strikes against Nick only seemed to spur him on. "Enough!" Nick yelled as he switched from the defensive to an offensive stance. He swung his sword as Bruce took another swing. The blade sliced through the wood of the bat, the tip piece circling end over end in a lazy arc, while the bottom piece was ripped out of Bruce's hands. Nick stepped close to Bruce as he followed through with the swing. He caught him with the pommel of the sword in the face on the back swing, laying him flat out on his back at the edge of the dance floor. With long practiced skill, Nick brought the sword up as he stood over Bruce's sprawled form for the killing blow. He heard Miklos shout his name as his sword started it's downward arc. The onlookers gasped as the sword descended toward its target. Nick pulled back, the tip of the sword halting centimeters above Bruce's chest. "*Yield or DIE!*"

Bruce's eyes focused on the sword tip, then rolled back in his head as a yellow stain spread across is trousers.

Miklos was the first person beside Nick. Feeling his approach, Nick turned toward him, instinctively taking a defensive position with the sword raised. Miklos could see the flecks of gold in his eyes. "It's over Nicholas."

Nick turned to the side. With a roar he brought the sword up and plunged it two handed into the table, the tip stopping inches from the floor. He closed his blistered hand into a fist, holding it close to his body, as he allowed Miklos to lead him away toward where Natalie and Janette stood.

Security cuffed and carried Bruce out, while Schanke went to the table. "Talk about your 'excalibur'!" He exclaimed as he pulled back the edge of the table cloth to reveal the two inch thickness of the table. "How'd he do that!" Schanke carefully tried to pull out the sword, but it wouldn't budge.

Janette and Natalie separated themselves from the crowd and met them half way. "His hand is burned, he needs blood to heal. We can't let anyone see this." Miklos sub-vocalized to Janette. They redirected their movements toward the men's room. Janette quickly explained to Natalie what was going on as they neared the door.

Miklos hustled the man washing his hands out of the room. Janette stood outside, preventing anyone from entering. Natalie hugged Nick to herself as Miklos checked to confirm his impression of no more occupants. Natalie released her embrace and carefully opened Nick's fingers. The skin that had made contact with the sword was red and blistered. "Here Nick, take some blood from me." Natalie said as she pulled up the sleeve of her gown.

Miklos came up to them. "Under normal circumstances human blood would be sufficient, but time is of the essence." He undid his cuff and bared his wrist. "Drink Nicholas, time is short." He said as he held his arm for Nick to take.

Nick took Miklos's arm and looked to Natalie. He received a nod of understanding before allowing the change to come over him and bit into Miklos's wrist.

"Where's Nick?" Schanke asked as he walked up, then tried to push past Janette.

She put a restraining hand on his shoulder, halting his progress. "He is in the washroom with Natalie and Miklos. Let him be. He will be out as soon as he has calmed down."

Janette looked over her shoulder a moment before the door opened. Nick, healed and back in control was first out of the room, holding Natalie's hand in his newly healed one.

Miklos nodded to Janette that all was well as he followed behind them.

"Man Nick... Talk about having every one hanging on the edge of their seats... I really thought you were going to skewer the guy!" Schanke said, keeping pace beside them as Nick and Natalie walked back into the Ball Room.

"You should know me better than that Schanke." Nick said with a chuckle.

The Mayor and the Commissioner approached them, as they walked toward the table that held Nick's sword imbedded through it.

"Detective..." The Mayor said. "I'd like to apologize on behalf of the actions by one of my staff. The man's had his share of personal problems recently, but that's no excuse for his actions tonight."

"You will be pressing charges detective?" The Commissioner asked.

Nick looked at them as he put on his gauntlets. "I won't press charges as long as he agrees to seek help and get some counseling. He can spend the night in the drunk tank till he sobers up as far as I'm concerned."

"Yes, well... I am sorry your evening had to end this way detective."

Nick nodded to the Mayor. "If you'll excuse me, I have to retrieve my sword and arrange restitution with the Hotel Manager."

The two nodded and walked away. The Commissioner happy at having the Mayor owe him a favor, the Mayor worried about how to handle the press.

Nick gestured to the table. "Could I ask for your assistance one more time Miklos?" He asked as he adjusted the chain mail mitts around the tang of the sword. Miklos came up and placed his hands on the table. "On three..." Nick said before counting down and yanking straight up. With a screech of wood against metal, the blade slipped out of the table.

"How'd you do that?!" Schanke asked as Nick slipped the sword back in it's sheath.

"It's an authentic Crusader's sword Schanke. It was made ridged so it could be thrust through chain mail and other light armor."

Heather, James and Sharon approached, Heather's eyes were puffy from crying. "I'm so sorry Nick, if I'd known that would have happened..." Heather said before she started crying again.

Nick took her in a hug and bent his head to whisper in her ear. "It wasn't anything you did or didn't do Heather. The man has problems. It could have been anyone unlucky enough to catch his eye. He'll get the counseling he needs. You said very plainly 'No'. Don't feel sorry for a bad decision _he_ made. You did nothing to be sorry for."

Heather leaned back, stood on her tip-toes, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you. Natalie's so lucky to have someone like you love her so much. I can only hope I'm so lucky."

"When the right person comes along, you'll know with all your heart."

Heather gave him one last hug then stepped back, wiping her cheeks.

Nick looked around. He didn't want his friend's evening to end on such a bad note. "Well, things seem to be winding down here. It's still early, anyone care to come back to the loft?" He said with a smile, trying to lighten the dark mood that had settled over them.

Schanke looked at Myra, who nodded okay. Janette answered 'Oui' for herself and Miklos. Nick looked at James and Sharon.

"Thanks anyway Nick, but we'll have to pass." James said. "Both Heather and I have to work tomorrow. Thank you for the offer though."

Nick nodded. "That's fine. Since Janette and Miklos cabbed over, they can ride with us." He looked questioningly at the Schankes.

"We're fine, Myra's got the keys... D-driver tonight." Schanke said.

"Great. Let me just call our driver and let the management know where to send the repair bill." He gave Heather a hug and a kiss. "Best of luck in your studies, take care." He gave Sharon a kiss on the hand, before he shook both her and James's hand. "A pleasure meeting you both."

James walked with Nick as the others made their goodbys. "Heather told me what happened Nick. Thank you for watching out for her." He said, grasping Nicks hand again.

"You're welcome. The guy was set to go off. Things worked out okay, no one was hurt and he'll get the help he needs."

James nodded and with a last shake of the hand went over to the door where Sharon and Heather waited.

Nick continued on to the front desk, thankful that everything _had_ worked out for the better. He called and spoke to the desk manager, before joining the others while they waited for the limo.

## End Part 33/37 ##

** Some are born to move the world --

** To live their fantasies

** But most of us just dream about

** The things we'd like to be

** Sadder still to watch it die

** Than never to have known it

** For you -- the blind who once could see --

** The bell tolls for thee...

RUSH - Losing It


## Part 34/37 ##


The sound of the piano slowly awakened Natalie from her sleep. She reached across the bed for Nick, but found only empty space. She came awake enough to realize that it was Nick who was playing the piano. She yawned and stretched, causing her nude body to appear from under the blankets. A glance at the clock told her she had slept late, it was past six.

Wanting to feel her bare skin against his, Natalie had purchased a zoned electric blanket. The artificial heat warmed Nick's body to a more comfortable level, allowing her to forego the heavy night gowns she had previously needed to wear. Nick had also been eager to sleep with her skin against his own, and had stopped wearing his silk pajamas to bed.

Throwing the covers back, she grabbed Nick's robe and put her feet into her slippers. Tying the robe closed, she brought the collar to her nose and breathed in his faint scent of shampoo and aftershave. Walking into the bathroom to get a glass of water , she saw the reflection of her tousled hair in the mirror. Having taken care of her thirst, Natalie ran her brush through her hair before making her way downstairs.

Nick, who had followed her heartbeat from the time she had started to wake up until she came into his sight, greeted her with a big smile. "Good morning, sleep well?"

Coming around the stairs to the piano, she saw Nick sitting there in his black silk pajamas. She gave him a bit of a pout while she moved to sit beside him on the bench. She leaned against him, closed her eyes, listened to him play for a moment, then replied. "Yes, until I woke up with you not beside me."


At his pause, she opened her eyes and turned her head to look at him. He gestured with his chin towards the mug sitting on a piece of sheet music on top of the piano. "I needed to eat, and I know though you accept it, you don't really like to watch me while you have your breakfast."

"That's sweet, but it's not bothering me as much any more. It's part of who you are. I spent two years of getting on your case about drinking, it's conditioned my response. Just give me a little more time and I'm sure I won't even notice."

She leaned over and gave him a soft kiss. As she straightened up she licked her lips. "Is that strawberry I taste?" she asked. Carrying on the song with one hand, he picked up the mug and spit the gum into it before putting it back on the piano. "Ah, I guess that answers that question." She leaned in for another kiss, as Nick give her leg a squeeze before returning his hand to the keyboard. "And that's sweet to." After a pause she asked, "What song are you playing?"

"Oh, just something Beethoven and I were playing around with at one time."

She gave him a nudge, "Name dropper."

He nudged her back with his shoulder, "Can I help it if I met a lot of people you consider an important part of history?" giving her a sideways look with a grin. "Here, maybe you will recognize this piece." Closing his eyes, he focused on playing.

It wasn't until he started singing the lyrics in his sexy baritone voice, that she recognized the song as Eternal Flame from the Bangles 'best of' CD which she had recently bought. The sound of Nick's voice was like an emotional caress.

Close you're eyes, give me you're hand, darling

Do you feel my heart beating, do you understand

Do you feel the same, am I only dreaming

Is this burning an eternal flame

I believe, it's meant to be, darling

I want you when you are sleeping, you belong with me

Do you feel the same, am I only dreaming

Or is this burning an eternal flame

Say my name, sunshine stirred the rain

A whole life, so lonely, and then come and ease the pain

I don't want to loose this feeling, Ooh

Natalie slipped one arm around Nick's back, the other across his stomach. She lay her head on his shoulder, being careful not to obstruct the movement of his right arm. She could feel the muscles in his back moving underneath her hand through the silk pajama top as he played.

Say my name, sunshine stirred the rain

A whole life, so lonely, and then come and ease the pain

I don't want to loose this feeling, Ooh

Close you're eyes, give me you're hand

Do you feel my heart beating, do you understand

Do you feel the same, am I only dreaming

Or is this burning an eternal flame

Close you're eyes, give me you're hand, darling

Do you feel my heart beating, do you understand

Do you feel the same, am I only dreaming

Is this burning an eternal flame

The passion in Nick's voice as he repeated the chorus twice more, brought such a wave of feeling over her that she started to silently cry.

Nick brought his hands away from the keys. The last notes echoed and faded to silence. He slipped his right arm around Natalie, covered her arm on his stomach with his left, and just held her. With a sniffle, Natalie raised her head from his shoulder. "That was beautiful Nick." Shifting a bit, he cupped her cheek with his left hand. He leaned in and kissed the tear trails from her face, ending with a soft loving kiss on her lips. Natalie sighed as he broke the kiss and sat back.


"Humm." was her reply as she focused her eyes on his face.

Nick got up and walked from between the bench and the piano to kneel on both knees at the side of the bench. He swung Natalies legs around so her slippered feet were resting on his thighs. Reaching into his pajama-top pocket, he brought out a dark brown oak box about two and a half inches square. Taking both of Natalies hands from her lap into his right hand, he used the thumb on his left to open the box and reveal the ring inside. "Natalie Lambert, will you do me the great honour of becoming my wife?"

The tears of happiness started running down her face again, as all she could do was hold onto Nick's right hand and nod her head yes. At this, Nick worked the ring out of the box as he set it on the floor. As he still held both hands, he singled out her left and brought it up between them. After kissing the back of her hand, he slipped the engagement ring onto her ring finger. Feeling the cool metal around her finger brought Natalie out of her daze. She slipped off the bench onto Nick's lap and proceeded to kiss him as passionately as was possible. Natalie tried to convey all of the feelings of love, happiness, and joy at being with him into that kiss. When her need to breath started to assert itself, she broke the kiss and moved her arms from where they were wrapped around his neck to his torso. Placing her cheek against his, with her lips less than an inch from his ear, she whispered "Yes."

After he held her in a semi-tight hug for a minute, Nick loosened his arms enough so that he could look into her eyes. "Natalie, you are an exceptionally intelligent and beautiful woman. My one regret is that I can't become mortal again, that I can't promise you the 'normal' life with me that you so greatly deserve." Placing a finger on her lips, he gestured her not to speak. Natalie had never seen Nick in this state before. Blood tears had started to pool in his eyes, as he let all the barriers he had formed around himself break down. He let the person he loved see the raw emotions he had always been so careful to conceal. "But I love you with all that I hope is my soul. Your love, understanding and faith in me has allowed me to live life for the pleasure of it after centuries of misery. You are my counterpart Natalie. I feel as though a part of me is missing when we're not together... That I am only complete and content when I'm with you. You have allowed me to accept that in our love and faith in each other, there is forever." The tear drops spilled over, leaving twin trails of red in their wake.

Natalie brushed the tears from his cheeks, before wrapping her arms around his neck and holding him in a tight hug. Nick slowly stood, moving his arms to hold her close to him. Natalie wrapped her legs around him as his hands cupped her buttocks. With a very mortal intent, he walked up the stairs and into their bedroom.

Natalie smiled before capturing his lips in a soft kiss as he stopped beside the bed. His obvious arousal, trapped between them against his stomach, left her no doubt he was eager to consumate their engagement. Her ankles slid down the back of his thighs as he lowered her to stand on the floor. Her arms slipped from his neck and her fingers sought the buttons on his top.

Nick's hands traveled up her back to entwine in her hair, holding her head as he returned her kiss. His hands slipped down her shoulders from her hair, while she pushed his opened top off his back. Nick's fingers undid the bow of the robe sash, before allowing his top to slip behind him off his arms. Natalie's robe fell open, exposing the strip of creamy skin from her neck to the chestnut curls covering her mons.

Neither attempted to speak. They allowed their fingers and lips to convey what words of adoration could not.

Natalie took her hands from where her fingers teased his nipples and moved them to her side. A gentle push from Nick's fingers sent the robe to puddle around her feet in one fluid motion. The backs of his fingers trailed from her shoulders across the skin of her now flushed upper chest. He moved them to caress the skin of her back as she leaned in, taking one of his nipples into her mouth. Her hands rubbed his sides and buttocks as she switched to suckle from his other breast. Natalie could hear the low moans starting in his chest before they escaped his lips. She hooked her fingers around the waistband of his pants, then sunk down to the floor.

Nick lifted one foot, then the other, as Natalie removed the pants from his ankles. His body went ridged as he felt her nails and hot breath ascend up the inside of his legs.

Natalie waited for Nick to panic and pull her to her feet, when she felt his body stiffen under her finger tips. She was pleasantly surprised as his hands only touched the outside of her shoulders, allowing her to continue on her path. One hand slid over his hip to cup his cheek, while the nails from her other trailed over his scrotum.

Nick's body tensed to complete rigidity. His breath held anticipating her touch.

Natalie trailed her tongue from her fingers at his scrotum up his hardened length. Her fingers moved to gently squeeze his testes as her lips slid over the head of his penis. She could feel Nick's body tremble in his control while the groans rumbled from his chest, when she swirled her tongue around its end. The tip of her tongue pressed into the slit as her mouth released him. Natalie let her tongue trail down the top of his hardness until it buried itself in his curly blond pubic hair. With soft kisses alternating with nips, Natalie rose until she moved over his neck to recapture his lips.

Nick wrapped his arms around her back and turned her toward the bed as his tongue lazily dueled with hers.

Natalie clasped her arms around his neck again as she wrapped her legs around his waist. "Make love to me Nick..." She whispered in his ear.

Nick moved onto the bed, gently laying her body down. His arms wrapped around her shoulders took up most of his weight.

Natalie moaned and sighed into his mouth as she finally felt his weight on top of her. She reached down with her right hand to guide his hardened member into her body. Her hand directed his head to part her labia, moving to first coat him with her juices before placing him at her entrance.

Nick broke the kiss and looked into her eyes. His eyes had lost all of their blue, replaced by the amber green of the vampire. "I love you with all my heart Natalie..." He said as he gently thrusted his cool length to penetrate her moist core.

Natalie pulled his head down into another kiss as she hooked her heals behind his buttocks. She arched her pelvis to allow him the deepest penetration as he started to stroke himself inside her. Their kisses were not ones of need, but ones of soft passion. Nick varied the speed and rhythm of his gentle thrusts, occasionally grinding his pelvis against hers, stimulating her to a fevered pitch. Their moans muffled by each others mouths, grew more frequent as their climax approached.

Nick let his aching fangs drop as he felt Natalie's orgasm overtake her. He gently pressed his teeth into her neck beside the artery. One brief suck to start her blood flowing was all he allowed himself. Natalie screamed in the rapture of her climax as his fangs pierced her skin. Nick moaned in time with the pumping of his orgasm. His mind touched hers in telepathy as her essence exploded across his senses. Images and feelings flooded Natalie's mind. Her reaching out to touch Nick's face; a snippet of their conversation on the sidewalk; her agreeing to aid him in his quest for mortality; her laughing as she threw popcorn at him; the feeling as he kissed her forehead; the feeling as he ran his fingers through her hair; her smiling face in the sunlight with arms stretched out to him....

Nick withdrew his fangs from her skin and tongued the droplets of blood that welled from the wounds. In all he had only taken a mouthful of her blood. Natalie gasped and panted as her orgasm subsided. Her arms tightened around him as a fleeting feeling of loss overtook her, when his mind slowly left hers. Nick kissed away the tears of joy that streaked her face. Her eyes opened to his blue ones gazing down at her. "So wonderful... I never thought it could be that way..." Natalie said, her hands stroking his long hair. Nick slid his hands around her back and closed his eyes. They levitated a few inches off the bed, rolled in mid-air, and descended back to the bed with Nick on the bottom. Natalie pulled the covers from around their feet over them. Nick caressed her back as she snuggled against him. "Your love has made it so Nat..."

They slept, ate, then made love through the rest of the night.

## End Part 34/37 ##

** Love is born with solar flares

** From two magnetic poles

** It moves toward a higher plane

** Where two halves make two wholes

RUSH - The Speed of Love

## Part 35/37 ##

Natalie couldn't help but grin every time she imagined seeing Nick in his costume. She had just picked the costumes up from Janette's. Janette had played along with this bit of mischief and had not told Nick what his costume was. When Natalie left the Raven, Janette had been instructing Alma and the others on the placement of the last bit of decoration, getting everything ready for her Halloween party later that evening.

Natalie thought as she thumbed the door opener, drove into the garage and parked beside the Caddy. She hummed 'Time Warp' as she rode up in the lift, with two bags she had retrieved from the back seat of the car bumping against her legs. With a look of nonchalance, she opened the lift door and stepped into the loft. A smile spread across her face as she heard the shower running. After hanging up her coat, Natalie put the two bags in the downstairs washroom. That done, she selected three CD's from the rack and put them along with the note she wrote in her purse. Sidney, having heard her down stairs from where he had curled himself up in the satin sheets, came down for attention and food. Natalie, after putting some Bach on to play, swept Sidney up from the stairs and waltzed him into the kitchen. Leaving Sidney contentedly eating at his bowl, Natalie brought out a bottle to warm for Nick and started preparing her own supper.

Natalie glanced over when she heard Nick decending the stairs. He was dressed only in his robe as she had requested. She finished cutting her sandwiches as he walked up behind her. Nick slipped his arms around her waist from behind as he buried his face in the hair at her neck. "Hmm, by the smell of smoke in you hair I'd guess you've been to pick up our costumes." As she went to respond, Nick brushed the hair from the spot on her neck that covered the two red marks from the evening before. They were slow to heal, as he had reopened them a few times when they'd made love through the previous evening. The thought she was about to say left her mind as he started to lick and nibble on the area.

Natalie released her grip from the edge of the counter and slid her hands along Nick's hips, until she firmly grasped a cheek in each hand. She pulled their bodies close together as a moan escaped her lips. "You can keep doing that all you want, but I'm still not going to tell you what your costume is until we're ready to go..."

Nick stopped and put his chin on her shoulder. "But Nat..."

"No butts." She said as she squeezed his cheeks. "Now go eat, or at least let me eat. The longer it takes the longer you have to wait to see what your costume is."

"Oh... alright." Nick said as he moved to face her, giving her his 'little boy pouting' look. When this didn't have any affect on her he smiled, kissed her cheek and went to get a mug off the shelf.

Natalie just shook her head as she carried her glass of milk and sandwich to the table.

Nick sat down across from her before she had taken a second bite from her meal. He said after he took a large swallow from the mug, AJanette must be driving everyone crazy at the Raven."

Natalie smiled as she remembered seeing everyone scurrying about doing Janette's bidding. "Yes, it was a little intense when I was there."

AJanette is in her element at a party or ball. She's just as bad for details going to a party as much as throwing one. She's drained more than one dress maker over the centuries that has done a substandard job on her outfit of the time."

Natalie laughed before saying. "Oh, she said for me to tell you to make sure we arrived early. That she would be _quite_ perturbed with you if we were late. She even said something about bodily injury, but I didn't quite catch it."

"Why would _I_ get all the blame if _we_ were late?"

Natalie just smiled and took another bite from her sandwich. Janette had warned her that Nick might be stubborn once he found out what his costume was.

Nick mulled over this new bit of information as Natalie finished her meal. As he broke from his reflection, he noticed that Natalie had finished her meal and took her dishes into the kitchen. When he turned back around after placing the dishes in the sink, he saw her coming out of the down stairs washroom with a bag in her hands.

"I'm going upstairs to change. I left your costume in there." She said as she pointed to the washroom and began climbing the stairs. She had just reached the top step when she heard.


"Yes?" She turned to see Nick holding up the pair of gold coloured wrestling boots in one hand, and the gold speedo type shorts in the other.

"Where's the rest of my costume?!"

"Oh... sorry." Natalie set her bag down and dug around in it for a moment. She pulled out a pair of gold coloured ankle socks and threw them down. "Here, catch."

Nick caught them with ease then scowled back. "That's it?!"

"Yes. Don't be such a baby Nick. It's not as if you'll catch cold. And besides, you promised it was my choice."

"But Nat... what if some one sees me?"

"The shorts are lined." Natalie said with a wicked grin. "No one will 'see' anything." She turned and started walking toward the bedroom. She knew Nick would wear it. Her smile grew wider as she looked over her shoulder at him.

He was standing there with a resigned look on his face, staring at the costume in his hands.

She giggled as she went into the bedroom, got his track suit, and went back to the railing. "Here."

Nick looked up in time to see the balled up clothes heading for him.

"We wouldn't want you getting arrested for indecent exposure on the way over to the club now would we?" Natalie snickered to herself as she went to change into her costume.

Nick was just putting away the dishes he had washed while waiting, when he heard Natalie coming down the stairs. He came out of the kitchen as she stepped off the last step. "Ahh... now I get it... Dr. Frankenfurter." He said as he recognized Natalie's costume. She hadn't bothered with the pink rubber gloves, but wore the green surgical outfit and the oversized strand of pearls.

In her best Dr. Frankenfurter voice, Natalie said as she walked toward him. "I've been making a man, with blond hair... no tan. And he's good for relieving my..." She wrapped her arms around his neck and finished before kissing him A...tension."

"Mmm... Are you sure we can't be late?"

Natalie released her hold around his neck, took his hand, and started to lead him toward the coat rack. "Come on, we'll have plenty of time for that later."

Nick helped her on with her coat. Natalie scooped up her purse and keys as Nick put on his trench coat, meeting him at the lift door.

The bouncer at the door recognized Nick and Natalie. He stepped aside opening the door, letting them in over the protests of some of the uninvited cliental lined up outside the club.

Janette 'felt' Nick as they walked inside and met them at the bottom of the stairs.

"Your costume is fabulous." Natalie said as she took in the ensemble. Janette wore black elbow length soft leather gloves on her hands, while her costume of black feathers descended from just below the top cleft of her cleavage to mid thigh. Her hair was swept back, with just the right number of feathers carefully pinned in it. She was the perfect embodiment of a Raven.

"Why thank you Natalie." She said as she swatted Nick in the arm. "It is nice for you to say." She winked at Natalie before saying. "Nicolas, you are coming to my party as a common jogger?" She gave a wide grin as he scowled at her.

"You know exactly what my costume is Janette."

"Do not pout Nicolas, it is not becoming of you." Janette took Natalie by the arm and started walking toward the back of the club. "Come, you can put your coats..." She looked directly into Nick's eyes. A...and your other outer wear in my office. Lead the way Nicolas."

Nick walked down the hall in front of the ladies. Hidden from his view, Natalie slipped the three CD cases and the note from her purse and handed them to Janette.

Janette stayed outside the door and let Natalie enter after Nick. "I shall have your drinks waiting at the bar for you. Do not take too long Nicolas, or I _shall_ come looking for you." As she closed the door, the house band started to play. The heavy bass filtered through into the room.

Natalie placed her coat on top of Nick's on the couch and waited for him to take off the track suit. She sat down in the chair as Nick hesitated, his fingers on the waistband of the top. "Don't dally too long Nick. Janette will come looking..." She said with a teasing smile.

"Could I please disrobe in peace?"

"Aww, don't I get a show?" Natalie asked fluttering her eyelashes and looking innocent.

Nick placed his hands on either chair arm and leaned in until his nose was a couple of inches from hers. "If I give you a show now," he said in a husky voice, AJanette will definitely come looking for us." He leaned in the last few inches and stole a kiss before he straightened and started to take off his sweatshirt.

When Nick had the sweatshirt over around his head, Natalie leaned forward and yanked his track pants down to his knees. She held his hips as she slid to the edge of the chair.

Nick stopped what he was doing and let out a guttural moan, as Natalie swirled her tongue around the rim of his navel before plunging it down into the hollow.

She could feel his growing erection against her chest as he unconsciously pushed his hips against her probing tongue. A weak whimper came from Nick soon followed by a moan as Natalie drew back then blew on the wet area she'd created.

Nick pulled the sweatshirt all the way off and dropped it on the floor behind him. He shuffled back and drew Natalie to her feet. He caught her up in an embrace and gave her a tongue probing passionate kiss.

A loud rapping sounded on the door before Janette opened it and stepped into the room. She found them still holding each other, Nick's track pants around his ankles and his cheek resting on top of Natalie's head. She could see his eyes turning back to their normal blue through his slitted lids. Janette cleared her throat before saying. "Enough of that now you two... though you did come here tonight to enjoy yourselves, I think you are having too much of a good time. I could 'feel' your excitement at the bar Nicolas. Now... your drinks are waiting. Dance, mingle. It will do you good Nicolas to be seen by the community present tonight."

Natalie stepped away from Nick and steadied him as he finished taking off his track pants. They linked hands and followed Janette to the bar. Janette sat down on the side corner stool and motioned Natalie to sit on her left, where a glass of white wine was waiting for her. Nick stood between them, accepting the glass Janette handed to him. "Congratulations are in order I believe Nicolas. A toast..." She said raising her glass. "May you and Natalie enjoy an eternity of happiness... to friendship, new family and love."

"To friendship, new family and love." Nick and Natalie said in unison as they clinked their glasses with Janette's.

Nick quickly drained his glass of Special Reserve, while Natalie sipped at her white wine.

Janette took Natalie's left hand and looked at the ring again. A large twelve sided facet blue diamond sat in the center of the ring, surrounded by alternating pink diamond and emerald chips aligned with each face, set in a platinum band. "I must say Nicolas, your eye for jewelry is still as exquisite as ever." She gave Natalie a smile and her hand a friendly squeeze before releasing it. <*Not only shall I be gaining a 'sister-in-law', but also an unexpected friend as well...*'

They had been chatting with Janette for a few minutes about some of the patrons costumes, when Alma came over. She stood behind him and whispered in his ear, loud enough for Janette and Natalie to hear. "Hmm, Nicky... don't you just look delicious tonight!" While drawing her nails down the side of his neck and along his back until she caressed one of his cheeks through the gold fabric.

Both Nick and Janette immediately noticed Natalie's heart rate jump as an angry/possessive expression was displayed on her face. "Alma! Behave yourself." Janette admonished. "Nicolas is already spoken for." She said gesturing at Natalie's engagement ring.

Alma glared at Janette for a moment, sniffed and said. "His loss." Before walking away.

The house band took a break and the person responsible for the music nodded to Janette after catching her eye.

"Come, dance with us Nicolas." Janette said, as she took Natalie's hand and pulled her off the stool. "You are here to loosen up and have an enjoyable time, come." Janette started pulling Natalie after her as she moved in the direction of the dance floor. Natalie grabbed Nick's arm as she passed, giving him no choice but to follow.

## End Part 35/37 ##

** Time and motion

** Wind and sun and rain

** Days connect like boxcars in a train

** Fill them up with precious cargo

** Squeeze in all that you can find

** Spontaneous elation

** And the long-enduring kind

RUSH - Time and Motion

## Part 36/37 ##

Part 36 is continuous with Part 35.

The opening notes of ZZ Top's 'Sharp Dressed Man' started as they reached the dance area. Natalie and Janette started to dance around Nick as he stood there and thought

"Come on Nick, loosen up." Natalie said as she danced in front of him.

Nick started to slowly move to the beat of the music.

Janette leaned in close to his back and said in his ear. "You can do better than that Nicky." She teased. "You're always so stiff and proper."

Nick looked over his shoulder to glare at Janette before putting more enthusiasm into his dancing. As the song finished, Nick started to move off the dance floor.

Janette deftly stepped to block his way as the next song started. The sound of an automatic camera shutter snapping filled the club before the more Disco'y beat started. Janette's retainers stared down any protests, as some of the patrons started to complain about the choice of music.

Nick thought as Duran Duran's 'Girls on Film' picked up the beat. Nick closed his eyes until they were just slits. He gave into the beat of the music as he swayed and gyrated in a free form dance.

Natalie gaped open-mouthed as Nick danced, seeing a side of him she'd never experienced. Even Janette was taken aback for a moment, as she had not seen Nick this way in centuries.

Nick danced with fluid grace. His movements ranged from improvised forms of fighting moves that he had learned through the centuries, to more of a bump and grind during the instrumental chorus that would make most Chip n' Dale dancers stop and take notes.

As Nick had started to dance with more enthusiasm, the people on the dance floor slowly widened the area around them, until only Natalie, Janette and Nick were dancing. All eyes were on Nick's scantily clad form. His muscles were clearly defined all over his body as they rippled from his movements.

The sound of clapping, cheers and cat calls, met Nick as he stopped dancing and opened his eyes at the end of the song. He barely had a chance to catch his bearings before the grinding guitar and slow heavy beat of Lee Aaron's 'Sweet Talk' filled the club.

Natalie stepped up to Nick and clasped her hands behind his neck and pulled their bodies closely together. The coolness of his skin only intensified the hot flush of passion for him that coursed through her body.

Natalie glanced over to see Janette and Miklos in a similar embrace. The dance floor started to get crowded as almost every woman who had watched Nick dance grabbed their boyfriend (or the guy who happened to be standing beside them) and dragged them onto the dance floor.

Wanting as much of her body as possible pressed against his cool skin, Natalie shifted her hands from around his neck to under his arms which were wrapped around her. Her left hand trailed up and down his lower back, while her right stroked and combed through the long hair that hung down his back. Natalie laid her head on his shoulder, her lips almost grazing the skin on his neck. She started to huskily whisper the lyrics.

Sweet seduction from the tip of your tongue

No interruptions, I want you one on one

Anticipating, your bark your bite

I'm captivated like a voice in the night

Don't keep me waiting anymore

Break the silence

Don't keep me waiting anymore

I want you...

Give me some of that sweet talk

Whisper in my ear and talk to me

Sweet talk...

Say those words I want to hear

Nick's eyes were barely open slits. They changed to amber green as Natalie's hot breath seared the skin on his neck, re-igniting the passion they had kindled earlier. Nick could feel the tightness of the shorts increase as he started to become excited and hard. Nick lowered one hand to cup her buttock while he raised the other to stroke her hair.

The growing bulge of Nick's passion was not lost on Natalie. She slipped her fingers down his back and under the waist band of his shorts. She pulled him closer, grinding her pelvis against him to the sound of the beat. Her breathing became more like panting and the sound of her heart beat loud in her ears. She lifted her head as she directed him to lower his. Natalie caught his lips in a passionate embrace, her tongue slid into his mouth and carefully caressed his lowered fangs.

Nick alternated between moaning and whimpering into her mouth as the jolts of pleasure flashed to his brain. The urge for her blood became too great and Nick broke the kiss before he nipped at her tongue. They were both panting heavily as they touched foreheads for the rest of the song.

Natalie could see the red colour of Nick's eyes through his slitted lids. She glanced down as they separated and saw that his erection had pulled down the top of his shorts slightly. His golden hair peaking over the waist band. She giggled as she started to walk toward their spot at the bar where Janette had just sat down, Nick close behind her. up' or we would have gotten a real show!' The house band started as they reached the bar.

Natalie sat down and drank the rest of her glass of wine, while Nick quickly downed the glass Janette handed him. He kept his eyes closed as he held the glass out for more. Natalie waved her hand in front of her face in a fanning motion, as Nick drank the second glass more slowly.

Janette winked at Natalie before saying. "That was quite a show Nicolas." She glanced around the club. "By the number of ladies paired up with someone, I'd say your dance had quite the effect."

Natalie slipped off the bar stool and leaned over to whisper to Janette. "Washroom?"

"Down the hallway past the office, door is on your right."

With a nod of thanks, Natalie turned to see that Nick had regained his control. She smiled as she caught his blue eyes, then went past him into the hallway.

"*I like her Nicolas. We have become... friends. Yes.*" Janette paused and looked him in the eyes. "*If you should hurt her Nicolas, you _will_ answer to me.*"

"*I would die the true death before willingly hurt Natalie.*" Nick said with intense conviction.

"*Yes, the two of you seem to bring the better out of each other.*" She put up a hand to stifle a laugh. "*I thought I was going to have to escort the two of you to one of the back rooms. You two charged the club with enough sexual energy to turn even a prude into a wanton woman.*"

Nick just smiled as he brought his refilled glass up to his lips.

Natalie started to splash cold water on her face as soon as she got in the washroom. She looked in the mirror as she dried her face with the length of paper towel. Thoughts of them giving into their mutual desire when they returned home, filled Natalie's mind as she left the washroom.

The long dark haired vampire watched Natalie exit the washroom through the beads from the door way into the back room. Spark was barely over a century old, and very arrogant. He knew Natalie was 'off limits', but didn't care. He had just come back from a few months in the southern U.S. and was not fully aware of Nick's return to the fold. When he'd left Canada, Nick had still been on his 'cow only' diet. Spark considered Nick a fool, one of the oldest in the community abstaining from drinking human blood. Not only did Nick work closely and protect them, he even wanted to return to being one again. Spark on the other hand, reveled in the power he held over humans and thought Nick no more than a carouche.

Spark was through the beads and backing Natalie against the wall before she had taken two steps down the hall. His eyes were amber green as he gazed upon her. "Where do you think you're going Missy? Back to dance with that carouche boyfriend of yours?" Spark's fangs dropped. "You need to feel the presence of a 'real' man." He pushed her head to the side as he leaned toward her.

As Natalie stepped into the hallway, she felt a presence behind her. Her heart rate jumped up as the vampire backed her against the wall. She stood still as it became apparent to her that she wouldn't be allowed to leave. Her blood turned cold with fear as he dragged his fingers down her neck and turned her head. She realized no one would be in time to save her from his bite. She silently screamed.

"*I haven't felt this much at peace with myself in centuries. I will always seek the light, it is part of who I am. I won't kill humans to survive, but...*" Nick stopped in mid-sentence. A frightened look flashed on his face, quickly replaced by one of intense anger.

"*What is it Nicolas?*" Janette asked, very concerned. She could feel the anger emanating from him in waves. She caught the word 'Natalie' before he turned and in a blink was gone. Janette followed after him.

Nick stopped talking as he heard Natalie's terrified scream in his mind. He didn't hear Janette's question. The anger rose He spoke her name before he raced down the hall with vampiric speed. He saw Natalie pressed back against the wall, her eyes squeezed shut and a look of shear terror on her face. A vampire he didn't recognize was just lunging in for the bite. He yanked him away from Natalie by the hair and jacket, throwing him through the door way into the back room, ripping off most of the beads. "Natalie, Natalie... It's okay I'm here... You're safe."

Natalie opened her eyes to see Nick fully vamped out, his eyes a ruby red. How close she had come from being torn from her life with him fell upon her. She started to cry as her emotions overloaded. "Nick..." She said as she wrapped her arms around him, burying her face against the crook of his neck.

Nick made a quick check to make sure she wasn't bitten, then gently transferred her to Janette's arms. The anger at seeing Natalie in terror awakened the deepest recess of Nick's dark side. He gave the beast free rein, and the beast reveled in it's freedom. Nick looked at Janette who held Natalie against herself, calming her while the shock wore off. His eyes had turned such a dark red with his anger, that they almost appeared black. "Take care of Natalie." He growled before turning toward the doorway he had thrown the vampire through.

"*Nicolas, what are you going to do?!*" Janette had never in all the centuries seen Nick behave this way. The anger came from him in intense waves. All the vampires in the club stopped and turned their heads in the direction of the hallway. One of Janette's retainers went down to investigate while the other blocked off the hallway, preventing anyone else from following. The mortals in the club could sense the change in the mood, but could not fathom why.

In a low drawn out guttural growl Nick replied. "KILL!" He turned away and went after the vampire that dared to take his love away from him. As he went through the doorway he reached up with his right hand and snapped off a piece of the door trim, improvising a stake. Nick spotted the upstart shrugging off the beads as he got up, a wild look on his face. The arrogant hunter had become the prey.

## End Part 36/37 ##

** Pounding in your temples

** And a surge of adrenalin

** Every muscle tense --

** To fence

** The enemy within...

RUSH - The Enemy Within

## Part 37/37 ##

Part 37 is continuous with Part 36.

Spark panicked and made a try to pass Nick into the outer room. Nick backhanded him. The force of the blow broke Spark's jaw and sent him flying into the center of the room where he bounced off a pillar, breaking a few ribs.

Nick walked over to the prone vampire like a feral beast closing in for the kill. He grabbed Spark around the throat with his left hand and slammed him upright into the pillar. Spark's eyes rolled up in his head from the impact of his skull bouncing off the hard surface. When Spark regained consciousness a moment later, he opened his eyes to a nightmare.

The smile on Nick's face was far from pleasant. Spark realized he was dead, and that his death would be slow and pain filled. He tried to scream but the grip of Nick's hand around his neck had crushed his larynx and wind pipe. In blind panic he started to scratch and kick at Nick.

Nick ignored the gouges Spark was making on his arm. He brought the end of the wood up to a few inches from Sparks face as he growled. "You DARE to attack someone you KNEW was under MY PROTECTION! You will pay for YOUR ARROGANCE with YOUR LIFE!" Nick pulled back the stake and stabbed him with the 45 degree cut end of the wood, just nicking the surface of his heart. Nick leaned in close to Spark's face as he twisted the wood slowly deeper. The beast reveled in the pain of the other. Nick was oblivious to the splinters of wood piercing his palm as he staked Spark. All Nick could see was the pain and terror of the other as the tip of the stake penetrated to the center of Spark's heart.

"NICOLAS!" Janette screamed at him.D"R

Not letting up on Spark a bit, Nick whipped his head to look at Janette and let out a snarl. He saw Natalie standing beside her, tears streaming down her face.

"Nicolas, listen to me... You are scaring Natalie. It is MY right to deal with Spark." She said, recognizing the vampire hanging from his hand. "It is my place and my orders he has ignored. I shall be the one to deal with this fool!"

Nick had only half heard what Janette had said. As he looked into Natalie's eyes he saw her afraid of what he had become... what he despised about himself... like LaCroix. His grip on the stake slowly loosened until he released it. His hand dripped blood from the wounds that still had the splinters imbedded in them. His eyes reverted back from red/black to amber green to their normal blue. "It's your right." He said as he released Spark to slide down into a heap at the base of the pillar. He saw the tendrals of fear leave Natalie's eyes and be replaced by relief and renewed trust.

Spark attempted to crawl away on his hands and knees as Nick stepped away from him. Janette brushed past Nick and yanked Spark up and sunk her fangs into his neck from behind. The chauvinistic arrogance and his degrading attitude toward women that she found in his blood, drove her anger into a fury of rage. She pulled away with a roar and ripped his head from his body. She dropped his head, which made a dull thud as it hit the floor. She turned to her retainer. "Take this carcass up to the roof. Stay with it until dawn and make sure it is destroyed." Her look and tone of voice suggested the same fate if her wishes were not carried out.

Nick walked to where Natalie stood with her hands outstretched to him. They held each other in a clinging embrace.

Janette cleared the others from the room and stood outside the door. She was close enough if needed, but far enough away to give them privacy. She motioned for a towel to clean the blood off her hands and a couple of bottles to be brought to her.

After a few minutes Nick and Natalie both loosened their embrace enough to look into the other's face. Both found tears streaking the others cheeks, Natalie's clear, Nick's red.

"I heard you scream for me Nat. The feeling of you in terror was like someone had driven a dagger through my soul. Are you okay? Did he hurt you?" Nick said, his voice full of concern.

Natalie brought her hand up to brush a tear streak from his cheek. "I'm okay... still shaken, but okay."

"I... I lost it... The beast took over and wanted vengeance..."

She cupped his cheek with her hand. "You can rein in the beast Nick. It will never control you again, you've shown that tonight. I will never fear what you are Nick... I love you, always, remember that."

They heard Janette clear her throat and turned to see her and Miklos enter the room. Janette held a pair of tweezers, while Miklos held a bottle and a glass of club soda. They reluctantly released each other. Natalie took the glass with a nod of thanks, while Nick took the bottle of straight blood.

Janette took Nick's wounded hand and started to pull the long splinters of wood from it.

"As much of a regretfully bad experience as this has been," Miklos said. Athe young ones will be sure to know what will happen if they cross their elders."

"Yes Nicolas, you have secured your place of respect within the community. No one would dare be foolish enough now to go against your wishes." She put a hand on each of their shoulders. "Why don't the two of you retire for the evening? I think you both need some 'quiet time' together."

They looked to each other and nodded at Janette's advice. After handing their empty containers back to Miklos, they went to the office to retrieve their cloths and coats. Janette walked them to Natalie's car. She gave each of them a hug and a kiss on the cheek before they got inside.

Janette 'felt' something as the car drove away when she moved to go back inside the club. She stopped and made a 360 degree turn, before shrugging and going inside.

A dark shape stepped to the edge of a pool of light spread by a street lamp. Had an observer passed on the street, they would have seen a tall man dressed in black leather. What would at first appear to be a mask, on closer inspection, would be found to be healing burn marks on the man's face that traveled up into his spiky blond hair. Had an observer been close enough to hear, they would have heard the man say. "Plus ca change." Before he flew off into the night. His manical laughter echoing hollowly down the alley.


** A boy alone, so far from home

** Endless rooftops from my window

** I felt the gloom of empty rooms

** On rainy afternoons

** Sometimes in confusion

** I felt so lost and disillusioned

** Innocence gave me confidence

** To go up against reality

** All the same

** We take our chances

** Laughed at by Time

** Tricked by Circumstances

** Plus ca change

** Plus c'est la meme chose

** The more that things change

** The more they stay the same

** Now I've gained some understanding

** Of the only world that we see

** Things that I once dreamed of

** Have become reality

** These walls that still surround me

** Still contain the same old me

** Just one more who's searching for

** The world that ought to be

RUSH - Circumstances


Afterword to Didacts and Narpets

Yes, I am a BIG TIME 'RUSH' fan. Apart from writing the story, I also challenged myself to find some song lyrics from RUSH's body of work to make a tag that could summarize that part. On a whole, I'm satisfied that I met both of my personal challenges.

Growing up in Southern Ontario, I figured that the character of Natalie, being just slightly older(5 or so years) than myself, would have been exposed to the same influences, and since the character was raised in the Toronto area, and RUSH is the biggest worldwide Canadian band from that city during the time that she would be growing up.......I was looking at that part as from the characters more scientific point of view. How she might lock onto the band as they don't have throw away lyrics (like most rock and pop bands), and have more of a philosophical outlook. From the characters drive to solve puzzles, I figured she would not just brush past the surface, but look deeper into a band that she would really like. Also, since the character would have gotten into the band in her early teen years, say fifteen years later she would know a fair bit about the band if she was still enthused with their music. Glam wise, RUSH is really a studio type band that plays mostly studio perfect live shows (along with wicked laser and light effects, and a giant back screen for film effects. Most groups today list RUSH as one of their influences). The group looks at playing like a job, just average guys where they go home afterwards, and don't want to have a media hyped image of today's bands. They aren't like KISS or other type glamrock bands that were/are out now. I was worried that I was RUSH thumping too much, but wanted to try to bring something that would go back into her teen years that she would still be interested in at present. She _could_ have had a crush on Neil Peart (the drummer) in her young teen years. That interest would have her knowing a lot about the band. As I said, the guys are very private people off tour, so she would have to dig around for comments and such in magazines other than the teen idol stuff, more like Modern Drummer, Bass Player or Guitar and other more technical type magazines for musicians. Hence a more technical and less of a (dare I say it?) girl type of an outlook to a band. (Yep, I'm probably going to get flamed from that comment, but I didn't know how else to say it, honest!).

Didacts and Narpets is taken from a song on RUSH's third album, Caress of Steel (1975), called The Fountain of Lamneth. This epic length song was side two of the 'vinyl' album and is song 5 on the CD. The song contains six parts, part two which is Didacts and Narpets, where Neil Peart does some wicked drumming. The song itself is about a travelers life from birth to death, about a mans compulsion to see and taste the world, and if possible to understand what these experiences mean. The traveler finds that the key, the end, the answer, is that there is none. Whether the song fits the character of Nick's quest, is of anyone's opinion, you'll just have to listen to the song and make the decision for yourself. The last part of the song reads, "I am still. I'm together. I'm apart. I'm forever at the start. Still I am."

In the October 1991 news release from the RUSH Backstage Club, Neil said:

"Okay, I may have answered this before, but if not, the shouted words in that song represent an argument between Our Hero and the Didacts and Narpets - teachers and parents. I honestly can't remember what the actual words were, but they took up opposite positions like:

"Work! Live! Earn! Give!" and like that."

The word Didactic in the dictionary lists: intended primarily to instruct; intended to teach a moral lesson; having or showing a tendency to instruct or lecture others.

Narpets is an anagram for Parents.

As for the story title, I thought the title was fitting, as throughout Nick's vampiric life, LaCroix as his 'parent' was trying to teach him to lose his human morality, and give into the beast and bloodlust and kill without remorse, while Nick held the opposite view point.

On the Didactic side, as in intended to teach a moral lesson (though the Natalie character was not at odds with the Nick character as would be in the song), I saw her as teaching him that he could accept his vampiric nature if there was no cure, and still hold onto his moral outlook. That good and evil are just shades of gray, depending on the viewpoint of the persons perception.

Anyway, thats my take on it, and besides, among all the FK stories out there on the various archive sites [www.fanfic.com (it's a great thing she does! Big hug to Webmistress Mel) and the NNPack 'Mortal Love' site, to name two]. I knew that at least the title of my story would be original ...... thanks for reading.

Dave Galloway