From: CLone Star Software <cstar@a...>

Date: Sun Mar 19, 2000 8:51 pm

Subject: From The Depths of Despair

WARNINGS: Explicit Sex (M/F) (Nick/Natalie) and a short self gratification scene.

ARCHIVE PERMISSION: Permission to archive to Mel's FKFanfic Archive, the FKFTP site, Mortal Love Archive, Dark Nick & Nat Archives, and JADFE Archive IS GRANTED. All others must ask permission.

DISCLAIMERS: The Forever Knight characters belong to Columbia Tri/Star. No copyright infringement is intended.

From The Depths of Despair by Nightlady (c) 2000

The heavy, greenish Cadillac slid sideways on the icy surface of the road causing the blond haired man behind the wheel to curse softly beneath his breath. To either side of the road, moonlight reflected off the crystalline whiteness of snow covered fields. Taking a curve too fast, he cursed again, loudly, as the rear of the car fish-tailed and he felt the rear tires lose purchase. Despite his best efforts the vehicle slide into the snow bank and came to a bone-shaking stop. In the silence that surrounded him, the sound of the approaching car's engine seemed to thunder in his ears. A glance in the rearview mirror showed the headlights of the pursuing car rapidly closing on him. Quickly, the driver slid across the front bench seat and flung open the passenger side door. Eyes glinting in anger, he turned and faced the oncoming car.

The other car slowed and stopped several feet from where he stood and the driver exited it. The blonde haired man could see the smug look on the other's face and rage overcame the small touch of fear he'd felt. A sound that was part yell, part growl emanated from the blond haired man's throat as he dashed forward to attack his pursuer. In seconds, the two were engaged in a vicious fight for survival.

Several minutes later silence had again returned, but the pureness of the snow was marred by a large pool of crimson. In the center of this pool lay the corpse of the blond haired man, his head, face down, lay several feet away.

*********************************************************************** Natalie Lambert followed the glow of multiple flashing lights to where her latest 'patient' awaited. Her brow furrowed for a moment as she noticed Nick's car parked near the hub of the activity. 'I thought he was off duty tonight?' She mused as she pulled her car to a halt a short distance away. She was unable to stop the small smile that formed on her lips at the thought of seeing Nick. Grabbing her bag, she got out and headed back to the crime scene. She scanned the area, looking for Nick's familiar form, but didn't see him. She'd only gone a few feet when she saw Captain Cohen and Schanke walking quickly toward her, their expressions grim.

Natalie slowed, a sudden hollow feeling filling her stomach. "What have we got?" She asked.

Schanke opened his mouth, but no words came out. He turned to Cohen a look of anguish on his face.

"Natalie, I specifically told them to not call you for this scene." Cohen said stepping close to Nat and reaching out to take one of Nat's hands in her own. "I didn't want you to have to see this."

"See what?" Nat inquired. "What's going on? Where's Nick?"

Cohen closed her eyes briefly; when she reopened them, they were filled with sorrow. "Natalie, I don't know a gentle way to tell you this. It appears that Nick is the victim here." She saw the look of disbelief in Nat's eyes.

"No, he can't be dead. Where is he?" Nat pulled her hand loose and started to move toward the lights. Knowing that Nick wasn't mortal she had to figure out someway to explain his supposed death.

Schanke finally moved. He wrapped his arms around Natalie. "Don't go over there, Nat. You don't want to see this. I wish to heaven that I hadn't." A small sob escaped him. "Nat, he's been decapitated."

Nat felt the world seem to tilt as a roaring sound filled her ears. Even Nick couldn't survive that! She wrenched away from Schanke and strode purposely toward the lighted area. Her steps slowed as she caught sight of the crumpled form lying in the harsh illumination of the lights. A sob tore at her throat at the sight of the gore-splattered black duster it wore. She moved a few feet closer then slowly fell to her knees. Her eyes were riveted on the body's head lying a short distance away. Tears ran unchecked down her checks as she stared at the softly curling blonde hair that moved gently in the breeze.

Slowly she became aware of Cohen and Schanke standing beside her. "I'm sorry, Captain," she said looking up at Cohen, "I can't seem to make myself do this examination."

"Schanke is going to take you home, Natalie." Cohen said softly. "I've already spoken with the Provincial M.E. and explained what's happened. Dr. McSmith sends his condolences and wants you to take as much time as you need before going back to work."

Nat nodded numbly and accepted Schanke's help in rising. "You've tried to call Nick? I mean maybe someone stole the Caddy." She asked, clutching at any small hope.

"We tried both the loft phone and his cell," Schanke paused. "We heard it ring and found it on the floorboard of the car." Schanke said, as he guided her away from the gruesome vista. "Come on, I'll drive you home and have one of the uniformed officers bring your car." Schanke told her as they walked to where he was parked.

Nat fumbled in her purse for her keys and handed them to Schanke. "I don't want to go home. Please, take me to the loft I need to be where I can feel close to Nick."

Schanke nodded his agreement. "I can stay with you and take you to your place later." He offered.

"Thanks, but I really would like to be alone, Schanke." Nat said. She could feel herself trembling and knew that she was nearing the end of her control. She didn't want anyone around when that control finally gave way.

"Okay, but if you change your mind you know that you can call me anytime, day or night." Schanke said. He'd long suspected that Natalie Lambert, Nick Knight were far more than 'just friends', and he was genuinely concerned over Nat's well being. "If you don't want to be alone you're welcome to spend a few days with Myra and me." He added.

"I know, Schanke." Nat said reaching over to lightly squeeze his arm. "And I know that you're hurting as much as I am right now." Her voice broke on the last few words and she took several deep breaths in an effort to control her tears.

Schanke glanced over at her and nodded, his own throat suddenly filled with a lump of anguish that made speech impossible.

The rest of the short drive to the loft was made in silence as both the car occupants tried to erase the horror of what they'd seen from their minds. Nat refused Schanke's offer to accompany her upstairs. She waited only long enough to retrieve her car keys from a the uniformed officer who'd followed them and to once again reassure Schanke that she would call if she needed him before walking to the door. Punching in the security code, she entered the building. A quick glance showed that the Caddy was indeed absent from the place it usually occupied in the ground floor garage area. 'This can't be real. Please, oh PLEASE let this just be a bad dream!' Nat thought as she made her way toward the lift. She closed her eyes briefly only to reopen them when the image of the headless body lying on the blood stained snow seemed to fill her mind. Getting into the lift, she rode in silence to the loft.

Opening the lift door, Nat gave a small sob of pain as she took in the normalcy of the area before her. A fire was burning in the fireplace and several small lights were on in various areas. She looked over at the overstuffed leather chair and couch but no smiling face, blue eyes sparkling in the fire's light, looked back. Moving farther into the room, she picked up a pullover sweater that had been casually tossed over the back of one dining room chair. Lifting it to her face, she inhaled deeply savoring the faint scent of cologne and Nick that the piece of clothing carried. Her tears began to stream down her checks and an almost primal cry of intense sorrow escaped her lips.

"Nick, why did this have to happen before I ever got the chance to tell you how much I love you? To tell you that you are the only man I'll ever love?" She leaned against the kitchen counter and sobbed as she clutched the sweater in her arms. A sound behind her caused her to whirl around and the sight that greeted her eyes accomplished what nothing else had this evening as she sank to the floor in a faint.

*********************************************************************** (Earlier that evening)

Nick grabbed his coat and started toward the lift. Nat was suppose to come over after she finished her shift and Nick had decided to make tonight special. He'd struggled for nearly four years with his feelings for Nat and had finally accepted that fact that he was totally and completely in love with her. To his surprise, Nick found that once he'd allowed himself to accept this, he felt happier than he'd been in longer than he chose to remember. Now, he was not only ready but also eager to act on his feelings. He was in the lift on the way down to the garage before he remembered that he'd arranged to have the Caddy taken in for some needed mechanical work. 'Oh, well, it's not like I have to drive to get where I need to go.' Nick thought. The ability to fly was one of the few things about being a vampire that Nick viewed as an advantage. Exiting the building, he took to the air.

Several hours later, Nick reentered his home. He stripped off the warm, cable knit sweater he was wearing and tossed it onto a chair back. He lingered only long enough to kindle a blaze in the fireplace before heading upstairs. In his bedroom, he placed a small velvet jeweler's box on his dresser before heading into the bath for a shower. The evening had, thus far, gone extremely well, he had found exactly what he wanted for Nat, and he'd made arrangements with her favorite Chinese restaurant to deliver a selection of her favorite dishes later on. Stripping out of his clothes, Nick stepped into the shower and allowed his mind to ponder what it would be like to hold Nat in his arms and make love to her. He noted that just thinking about it had a pronounced effect on him, so much so that he reached to switch the water flow to a teeth-chilling cold spray. As much as he'd enjoy this fantasy, he still had several things to attend to before Nat arrived. He turned off the shower and toweled himself dry, humming softly under his breath as he went into the bedroom to dress. His mind was so filled with his hopes, not only for this night but also for the future, that he was exiting the bedroom before he became aware of the sound of a beating heart and realized that he was not alone in the loft.

Nick tensed and almost instantly relaxed as he identified the familiar sound of Nat's heart. As the sound of her sobs reached his ears, he frowned in concern and moved quickly to the stairs. His concern grew as what she was saying registered in his mind. Eschewing the stairs, he landed lightly in the lower floor of the loft. Nat suddenly spun around and Nick was shocked to see her tear reddened eyes and the look of stunned amazement on her face. He leaped forward and caught her just before she collapsed to the floor.

Even as he lifted Nat into his arms, Nick could see her eyelids fluttering. Carrying her over to the couch he laid her gently upon it. He sat on the edge of the cushions next to her. Nick tenderly brushed Nat's hair away from her face as he softly called her name. As her eyes slowly opened and focused on his face, Nick again saw shock in her face. This was quickly followed by a look of amazement and relief.

"Nick?" Nat whispered as she lifted a trembling hand to touch his face. It was not until she felt the soft, cool skin beneath her fingers that she truly believed that Nick was here alive and unharmed. Pushing herself into a sitting position, Nat flung her arms around his neck and peppered his face with kisses before burying her face in his chest. She pressed against him, relishing the solid feel of his chest beneath her cheek. Tears of utter joy flowed as she felt Nick's arms close around her, holding her securely while he murmured softly in an effort to calm her.

Nick didn't know what had brought Nat to this state, but he was determined to do whatever was needed to reassure her that everything was all right. "Nat, what's wrong? Why are you so upset?" He asked, as she slowly quieted in his arms.

Nat lifted her face to look at him. Her voice still quivering with emotion she related the events of the evening.

"There was a murder in the park tonight. The victim's body was wearing a coat like yours and his build and hair color was the same as yours. I thought you were dead, Nick. Schanke, Cohen, everyone thinks you're dead." She said, drinking in the wonderful sight of his face.

"Nat, you know what I am. You know a gunshot or stabbing can't kill me." Nick said, still confused by her reaction. He saw her nod and then shut her eyes. He felt a shudder run through her.

"I know, Nick, but this wasn't a stabbing or a shooting. The victim was decapitated." Nat said, the horror of the scene clear in her voice. "Even you couldn't survive that." She paused, then added, "And your car was at the scene, stuck in a snow drift. You didn't answer the phone here and when Schanke tried your cell phone, they found it ringing in the floorboard of the car." Tears again welled up in her eyes. "When I saw the car and the body, oh Nick, I thought I'd lost you forever."

Nick pulled her tightly against his chest. "Nat, I'm so sorry that you had to go through this. My mechanic's nephew picked up the caddy late this afternoon. I suspect that is whom the victim is going to turn out to be. Mike is about my height and coloring and I know that he has a duster like mine. He'd admired mine once and I gave him one like it as a gift." Nick said, while he continued to gently comfort Nat. He tilted her chin to look her in the eyes. "You haven't lost me. I'm here and I'll always be here for you." He told her as he kissed her softly on the forehead.

After the total devastation she'd felt earlier in the evening, Nick's arms around her was a soothing balm for Nat. Every fiber of her being told her that this was where she was meant to be, that this man-vampire or not-was the other half of her soul. Her arms seemed to move without conscious thought as she slid her fingers through the silky blonde waves of Nick's hair and then pulled his lips down to hers. As their lips met she moaned softly and then boldly nudged her tongue into his mouth.

Nick's eyes widened slightly at Nat's actions before he willingly returned her kiss. He could hear her heart beating faster as their tongues probed and explored each other's mouths. Nick forced himself to gently break the embrace. As much as he wanted Nat, he didn't want to take advantage of her current emotional state. "Nat," he murmured as he rubbed his check against her hair, "as much as I'm enjoying this, you mentioned something about everyone thinking I'm dead?"

Nat gasped. "Oh my gosh, Schanke and Cohen! Nick we have to let them know!" She said, contrite that she hadn't considered the fact Cohen and Schanke were still mourning Nick's loss.

"I think I'd better go over to the precinct, somehow this doesn't seem like something that should be done by phone." Nick said.

"My car's outside," Nat said, nodding. There was no way that she was letting Nick out of her sight for the rest of this night. "Schanke drove me here and had one of the uniformed officers follow." She glanced about uncertain of just what she'd done with her purse. "The Caddy is probably over at the impound lab by now." Nat continued, finally spotting her purse on the dining table.

Nick stood, never letting go of Nat's hands. "Are you up to driving or should I?" He asked.

"You drive, I'm still a little shaky from all that's happened." Nat said, rising to her feet. She smiled gratefully as she felt Nick's arm encircle her waist and willingly leaned against him. "Just let me go wash my face, I must look terrible." She added.

Nick kissed her softly. "Not to me. To me you always look beautiful." He told her.

A few minutes later, they were in Nat's car heading toward the precinct.

Looks of astonishment greeted them as they entered the building. 'If they snap their heads around any faster, the whole shift is going to need a chiropractor.' Nat thought watching the reactions of the other officers as she and Nick made their way toward the detective's bullpen at the rear. They saw Schanke, seated at his desk, talking on the phone.

"Myra, I still can't believe he's gone." Schanke said, his voice full of sorrow. "I know that when I was first partnered with him I gripped, but Nick turned out to be the best partner I've ever had." There was a pause as Schanke listened to Myra's response. "I know, but I swear, I'd never eat another souvlaki in his car if it would somehow bring Nick back." Schanke took a deep breath. "Honey, I've got to go now. I just needed to hear your voice, and Myra, I love you." He hung up the phone and started to cover his face with his hands.

"Never eat another souvlaki in my car, huh? I just may hold you to that, Schanke." Nick said.

Schanke pivoted around in his chair so fast that he nearly toppled over. Mouth hanging agape he looked in to the familiar blue eyes of Nick Knight. "NICK! What?" Schanke exclaimed, for once rendered nearly speechless. Standing, a wide grin on his face, he reached out and grabbed Nick by the shoulders. "Man I can't remember when I've been so glad to see someone!" Schanke finally managed.

Nick smiled, "Schanke, you try to hug or kiss me and I'll have to kill you." He said jokingly as the rest of the squad room burst into applause.

Schanke's reply was cut off by the sound of Captain Cohen's voice. "What is going on," her question stopped as she caught sight of Nick standing between Nat and Schanke.

"I'm afraid I'm the cause of all the commotion, Captain." Nick said.

Cohen stared for a moment then nodded a rare smile on her face. "So I see. It seems that reports of your death were premature. Perhaps we should go into my office and discuss it that way some work might get done around here." She favored the other officers with a glance as Nick, Schanke, and Natalie followed her into the office.

"Obviously the corpse currently residing in the morgue isn't yours, Knight." Cohen said after they were all seated. "I don't suppose you can shed some light on who it might be and why your car was found at the scene?"

Nick quickly explained what he knew about the situation. When he finished, Cohen sighed. "I guess we'd better send someone over to your mechanic's home and verify that his nephew isn't there. I'd hate to misidentify this body a second time." Seeing Nat's blush and look of discomfort Cohen added, "Dr. Lambert, I did not mean that as any sort of criticism of you. What we found at the scene had all of us convinced that the victim was Nick."

"Thank you, Captain." Nat said, as Nick reached over and squeezed her hand.

Nick spoke, "Captain, do you want me to contact the family?"

Cohen shook her head. "Sorry, Nick, but because your car was there you can't be involved in this investigation. In fact, until I.A. interviews you and makes their report, you're going to have to be on leave."

Nick nodded. "I understand, Captain. I've told you everything I know, so hopefully it won't take I.A. too long to clear me for duty."

Cohen turned to Nat. "Since replacements for your duty shifts for the next several days have already been made, you're also on leave." She told her.

Nat gave her a weak smile. "Frankly, I'm just as glad to not have to do this case. Even knowing that Nick is okay, the resemblance would bother me." She admitted.

"Understandable," Cohen agreed, before turning to Schanke. "Schanke, I want to know who did this and I want to know it as of yesterday. The sooner this case is solved, the faster Knight and Dr. Lambert can get back to work."

"Yes, Captain," Schanke said, "but it would sure be easier if Nick could 'unofficially' help out."

Cohen considered for a minute then reluctantly shook her head. "Can't do it. It might jeopardize the crown's case if we did. I'm afraid that you're on your own on this one." She added, quietly, "Of course there's no reason you can't consult with Dr. Lambert if you need to. There is nothing to link her to either the victim or the crime scene." She looked meaningfully at the three of them.

"Yes, I'm almost certain that I'll need to consult Nat. Thanks for reminding me, Captain." Schanke said, solemnly. He rose, preparing to leave.

"Captain, any idea when I'll be able to get my car back?" Nick asked as he also rose.

"I'll call forensics and check, but I wouldn't expect to get it back for several days." Cohen told him.

"I just hope they put anything they take apart back together again." Nick said, as he headed for the door, Nat beside him.

Cohen chuckled, Knight's pride in his Caddy was well known. "Knight, it's good to know that I haven't lost one of my best detectives." Cohen said, then picked up some papers on her desk.

In the hallway, Schanke clapped Nick on the shoulder. "Give me the address of our probable victim's uncle and I'll head on over there and break the bad news." Turning to Nat he added. "I'll give you a call as soon as I know what I need to consult you about."

Nick wrote the address down and handed it to Schanke. "I'll let you know when I've spoken with I.A." He said preparing to leave. He and Nat had only gone a few steps when Schanke called after them. "Hey, Nick! You weren't really serious about holding me to that bit about no souvlaki, where you?" Nick laughed and shook his head. "Depends, Schanke, depends." He said as he and Nat left the room.

Nat felt her heart drop when Nick, pulling out of the parking area, turned the car in the direction of her apartment rather than his loft. She didn't want to be alone with only Sidney for company. She wanted to be with Nick at the loft, but she wanted him to want her there. Disappointment, combined with the after effects of the adrenaline rush when she'd thought Nick to be dead, suddenly made her feel shaky and on the verge of tears. Trying to keep Nick from noticing her distress, Nat turned her head to gaze out the side window of the car.

Nick glanced over at Nat and cleared his throat. "Nat?" He said softly.

"Yes, Nick?" Nat replied, without turning her head.

"I thought, well I thought that we might stop at your place for a few minutes." Nick began. " I thought you could get some clothes and whatever else you might need for a couple of days. I was hoping that you might be willing to spend that time with me at the loft." He finished hurriedly, unsure of her reaction to his suggestion.

Nat closed her eyes as a wave of happiness washed over her. He did want to be with her! "I'd like that, Nick, I'd like that a lot." She said, turning and giving him a soft smile.

Nick returned the smile. "And of course, we'll need to be sure that we have anything that Sydney will need, too."

Nat thought. "Actually, it'll be easier if I just call my neighbor tomorrow and ask her to stop in and feed him." She said. "Cat's aren't always fond of change and it can take them a while to adjust to someplace new."

"If you're sure, but Sydney is welcome, too." Nick said, sincerely as he pulled the car to a halt in front of Nat's building.

"I'm sure, but thank you for remembering Syd." Nat said. Her mood had lightened considerably, but she was still feeling the after effects of the evening's events. She waited till Nick came over to her side of the car and helped her out.

It only took a quarter of an hour for Nat to change out of her work clothes into a casual outfit and assemble the items she'd need at Nick's. Since she wasn't going to have to work, she packed some comfortable slacks and sweaters. Those, along with her toiletries were quickly put into a small overnight bag. She'd hesitated briefly over her selection of sleepwear, finally putting the lacy black teddy that her staff had given her as a birthday present a couple of years ago in the bottom of the bag. 'Ah well, I can always dream.' She thought wryly as she rejoined Nick who was waiting in the living room.

Nick looked up at her and smiled. "All ready?" He asked, rising.

"I think so." Nat said setting the bag down so she could put on her coat. Nick held the coat and then, picking up the bag, offered her his arm. When Nat linked her arm through his, he leaned over and lightly kissed her forehead, before leading her out of the apartment and back to the car

The short trip to the loft passed in comfortable silence. Only when Nick had pulled the car into the space his Caddy usually occupied helped Nat out and they were riding up in the lift did he speak. "Nat, thank you for agreeing to this. It means a lot to me to have you here."

Nat leaned against him. "I'm glad that you invited me, Nick. I need to be near you right now. I need to be able to see you, to reassure myself that you are okay."

Nick hugged her to him. "As long as I have you, I'm fine." He told her.

"Nick, there wouldn't be any chance that whoever killed Mike thought he was you, is there?" Nat asked.

Nick considered before responding. "I really don't think so, Nat. It definitely wasn't anyone from the Community, they'd have known that Mike wasn't a vampire and therefore not me. Plus I know that Mike had some drug problems. His uncle was hoping that they were all in the past, but it's more likely that this was something drug related than it is a case of mistaken identity." Nick told her.

Nat felt as if a weight had been removed from her. She'd been worrying that the fatal attack had been aimed at Nick. "I'm sorry for Mike, and even more so for his family, but I'm glad that it's not likely whoever did this was after you." She said as she laid her head against Nick's chest. They reluctantly moved apart when the lift halted.

Nat went over to the couch and sat down while Nick took her bag upstairs. In the bedroom he picked up the jeweler's box he'd left on the dresser and slipped it into one of the drawers. He felt even more certain now that he'd made the correct decision in buying the item it contained, but he wanted Nat to be rested and over the shock she'd had before he presented it to her. He needed to know that whatever her response would be, it was because of her true feelings and not just reaction to the fright she'd had. He was just leaving the bedroom to return to the lower level of the loft when the buzzer sounded.

"That will be your dinner." Nick told Nat as he headed for the lift door.

"My dinner? When did you order dinner?" Nat asked.

"It was going to be a surprise. You were going to come over and watch videos when you finished your shift, remember?" Nick said.

Nat nodded. "With everything that's happened, I'd forgotten." She admitted, starting to get up from the couch.

"Stay there, I'll fix it and bring it to you." Nick told her. After the deliveryman had been paid and had left, Nick fixed a plate with a small sampling of the various dishes the restaurant had sent and putting the rest of the food in the fridge. Carrying the plate and a pair of chopsticks over to Nat, he sat them on the coffee table by the couch.

Nat smiled, "That smells wonderful, now if I can just get the energy to eat it."

"That's not a problem," Nick said, taking the plate and selecting a tempting morsel with the chopsticks. He offered it to Nat, who laughed and then took the food.

"I think I was about three years old and sick the last time someone fed me like this." She mused. "And they didn't use chopsticks." She added, smiling.

"You ate Szechwan Chicken when you were three?" Nick said, as he selected another bite for her.

"You know what I mean." Nat said, after eating the proffered morsel. "I think I could get used to this." She added. "Peel me another grape." She teased.

Nick laughed. "I'm afraid they didn't send any grapes, how about some egg roll instead?"

"Nick, I can't eat another bite." Nat said several minutes later. "But I have to admit that food was just what I needed."

Nick took the plate into the kitchen and rinsed it off before rejoining Nat on the couch. "Do you want to watch a video?" He asked.

"I don't think I could concentrate on the plot." Nat said as she snuggled against Nick. "How about some music instead?"

Nick picked up the remote and soon the strains Debussy's 'Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp' filled the loft. He began to lightly caress Nat's shoulders, feeling the tension slowly dissipating from her muscles. As the music drew to a close, Nick smiled. Nat was sound asleep in his arms. Nick carefully stood and carried her up the stairs. Laying her in his bed, he removed her shoes and drew the covers over her. Nat stirred and partially awakened. "Nick, don't leave me alone." She murmured.

Nick hesitated, then lay down, atop the covers, next to her. "Shh, I won't leave you." He said as she moved close to him and quieted. "If you consent, we'll never be apart again." He added, softly.

 Nat felt someone shaking her. "Wake up, Natalie." A familiar voice insisted. She opened her eyes to see Grace standing beside her bed. "What?" Nat said, confused. She'd been at the loft, with Nick, so why was she now at home and what was Grace doing here?

"I'm sorry to have to wake you, especially when you finally managed to sleep, but you need to get up or we'll be late." Grace told her.

"Late?" Nat asked.

"For the services." Grace said softly looking at Nat sorrowfully. "For Nick's funeral."

Nat felt her heart start to pound. "No, I was just with him. He's not dead, Grace! He's not!" She cried out, sitting up.

"Nat, shh. It's okay, it's just a bad dream." Arms wrapped around her holding her securely as the voice registered in her mind. She twisted and leaned into the embrace as her heart slowed and she relaxed. "Sorry I woke you, Nick. I guess that after last night, I should have expected a nightmare." She told him. "I dreamed that I was at my apartment and Grace was there telling me to get up because we had to go to your funeral."

Nick could feel her relaxing as she realized that it had been no more than a dream. He was glad that he'd stayed beside her and she hadn't had to awake from that dream alone. He kissed her temple. "Still sleepy?" He asked.

Nat shook her head. "Not really. What time is it?"

"It's almost sundown." Nick told her. "Shall we get up?"

Nat nodded. "Yes, and in spite of that dream, I did sleep well." She looked up at him.

Nick stroked her hair and smiled. "I've had plenty of rest and I must admit I rather like waking up with you in my arms." He told her. 'And I want you there without the bedclothes, or anything else, between us.' He thought as her scent and the soft warmness of her body called to him. He gave her another quick kiss before adding, "Since you're not sleepy, why don't you grab a shower and I'll go down and see what I can find for your breakfast?"

"A shower sounds good. I won't be long." Nat said slipping out of the bed. She gathered the items she needed and a clean outfit from her bag and disappeared into the bathroom.

Nick stood and stretched before heading to the kitchen. He'd grab a shower and change after he'd checked in with Schanke made sure that Nat had something to eat.

In the shower, Nat stood beneath the spray and let the hot water wash the last remnants of the dream from her mind. She smiled softly as she recalled the way Nick had held her, not just now but last night when she'd been nearly hysterical with joy at finding him unharmed. She recalled his words, 'I'll always be here for you,' and smiled. She'd long since admitted to herself that she was in love with Nick, but she'd never really been certain of exactly what his feelings for her were. That he'd stayed with her while she slept, even if he had stayed atop the covers rather than getting into the bed, and his remark about liking awakening with her in his arms seemed to indicate that he might care about her.

As she soaped her body, she let her thoughts drift to what it would be like to feel Nick's hands touching her. She shivered as an unexpected wave of desire washed over her. Her breathing quickened as she let her fantasies continue and her hand dropped instinctively to rub her sensitive mound. Nick caressing her. Nick's strong arms holding her naked body against his own as they made love. She closed her eyes as she rubbed her breasts, teasing the nipples. She wondered what it would feel like to have his manhood deep inside her. She imagined lying beneath Nick, gazing up into golden eyes, knowing that soon she would be joined with him for eternity. To her surprise, the idea not only didn't frighten her, but also excited her. She realized that she was willing to do anything, even become a vampire, if it meant that she and Nick would be together. She gave a small gasp as she suddenly came. She rinsed slowly, allowing her breathing to return to normal. "Maybe packing that teddy wasn't such a bad idea after all." She murmured softly as she got dressed. She pulled her hair back from her face into a scrunchie.

Nick started a pot of coffee and then checked his freezer. Since Nat often stopped by either before work or after she got off shift, there was a selection of items there as well as a smaller selection of foods in the refrigerator. Nick smiled as he pulled out a package of cinnamon rolls from the freezer. He carefully removed two, placed them on a plate, and then put them in the microwave. He set the timer but didn't start the oven, wanting to wait until he heard Nat coming down stairs so that the rolls would be nice and warm for her.

Once that was done, Nick proceeded to check his answering machine. He smiled as Schanke's voice came over the speaker.

"Hey, partner. I've been calling Nat's place off and on all day with no answer, so I'm guessing that she's with you. Would you mind asking her to give me a call if the two of you ever stop 'comforting' each other?" There was a pause before Schanke added in a more serious tone. "And Nick, I'm really glad that I can call and rib you about this. I don't ever want to feel the way I did last night when we thought it was you lying there in two pieces."

Nick shook his head, amazed that someone with whom he'd had such a difficult beginning had become a truly close and trusted friend. It was a feeling that he liked.

Thinking of Schanke, Nick's thoughts turned to Nat and how from the first moment he'd seen her something about her had captured his heart. He listened to the sound of running water from the shower took a deep breath as he felt himself becoming aroused. He longed to see her nude, to taste the sweetness of her skin, and to caress each and every curve of her body. He wanted to slide his own body against hers and have her touch him. The need to bury his shaft deep within her was nearly overwhelming. Nick shook himself. 'Tonight, I'll ask her tonight.' He vowed, as he struggled to contain his growing arousal. Going to the kitchen, he grabbed a bottle from the fridge and downed the contents. He grimaced at the flat, slightly bitter taste of the bovine blood as he imagined the rich, sweetness of Nat's ruby life essence. He'd finished that bottle and most of another when he heard Nat's footsteps on the stairs. Punching the start button on the microwave, Nick went to meet her. He smiled as he watched her descend the stairs dressed in a pair of charcoal colored leggings and a soft looking sweater in a gray, green, and blue pattern that clung to her enhancing her curves. Nick couldn't take his eyes off her.

Nat saw the way Nick was watching her and gave him a radiant smile. "I take it you approve of this outfit?" She teased.

"Without a doubt." Nick responded, taking her hand and pulling her near him. The light floral scent of her shampoo and the deeper spicy scent that was uniquely Nat filled his head. "Mmm, you not only look good, you smell good, too." He said as he softly nuzzled her neck.

Nat laughed lightly. "Thank you, but you're going to give me a beard burn if you aren't careful." She told him jokingly as he rubbed his face against her cheek. She wasn't sure just what had caused Nick to be so demonstrative but she did like it.

Nick's laughed and ran his hand across his chin. "I'll take that as a hint that I should see to getting a shower and shaving." He said as he kissed her nose. "There's coffee made and as soon as the microwave pings, you'll have hot cinnamon rolls to eat." He lightly caressed her hair. "Oh, Schanke left a message asking that you give him a call." Nick added as he headed for the stairs.

"Uh oh, sounds like we've been found out." Nat said. " I'm sorry, I forgot to forward my calls to my cell phone."

"Nat, I don't care if Schanke, or anyone else, knows that you're here. I'm not ashamed of the way I feel about you." Nick said, his voice soft. He walked back to where Nat stood. "Does it bother you that Schanke knows you're here?" He asked.

Nat looked into his face and felt her heart leap with happiness. "No, it doesn't bother me at all." She said. The soft ping of the microwave caused both Nick and Nat to turn their heads.

"You'd better go and eat while it's hot." Nick said. "I'll be down in a few minutes." He added.

Nat nodded, "Hurry back down." She told him, smiling. When he'd disappeared into the bedroom, Nat fixed a cup of coffee and took the rolls from the microwave. She carried them over to the table and sat them down. Before she sat, she got Nick's phone, dialing Schanke's number as she walked back to the table.

"Hi, Schanke," Nat said when he answered. "Nick said you've been trying to reach me?"

"Nat, yeah, I've got a few questions about the case I'm hoping you can answer." Schanke said.

"I'll try, providing I can without compromising any potential prosecution." Nat said.

Fortunately, Schanke merely wanted to check with her to see if she thought several tests that her replacement had ordered were what she'd have done. Nat assured him that they were. Schanke also told her that the deceased had been positively identified as Mike Trewright.

Once the business reasons for the call was finished, Schanke couldn't resist asking, "So, did Nick call you and give you my message?"

Nat chuckled softly. "No, Schanke, he told me when I came downstairs this evening."

"I kinda figured you might be at his place when you didn't answer your phone." Schanke said. "I mean, you had, well we all had, a nasty experience last night when it seemed like Nick was our victim."

"Yes, we did." Nat said. As much as she liked Schanke, she really didn't want to get into a discussion about her and Nick's relationships with him.

"So, um, if I need to reach you later tonight or tomorrow, where should I call?" Schanke said.

Nat smiled, knowing that Schanke was really just curious as to whether she was going to spend another day with Nick. "You can reach me here at Nick's loft. I'm going to be staying here for a couple of days." She almost laughed aloud as she heard Schanke's muffled "YES!" She glanced up to see Nick coming down the stairs dressed in a pair of jeans and a thick cable knit sweater.

"Good, I mean glad to know how to get a hold of you." Schanke stuttered.

"Thanks, Schanke, I'm glad to be here too." Nat said, smiling as Nick walked over to the table. "I need to go now, Nick just finished showering and I'm not sure what he has planned."

Nick indicated that he wanted to speak with Schanke as he came to stand beside Nat's chair.

"Hang on, Nick wants to talk to you," Nat said and handed Nick the phone.

"Schanke, do me a favor and ask Cohen if there would be any problem with my going over to Mike's uncle's house, just to express my condolences. I want to tell Greg how sorry I am but I don't want to jeopardize the case." Nick said. He paused a second, "Yeah, I'll hang on. Thanks, Schanke." As he waited for Schanke to return, Nick spoke to Nat. "Would you mind if we drove over to the Trewright's? Mike's taken care of my car for a long time and I know that he must be sick about this."

Nat reached up and took Nick's hand. "I don't mind at all. If you'd rather go alone, I can wait here." She offered.

"No, I'd prefer to have you with me." Nick said giving her hand a small squeeze before once again turning his attention to the phone. "Yeah, Schanke? Good, tell the captain that I'll make it clear that I'm there only as a private citizen." He listened for a moment. "Yes, she is and she might stay even longer than that." Nick said, glancing at Nat. He laughed. "I'm glad you approve, Schanke. Yeah, I will. Talk with you later."

Nat got up and took her dishes into the kitchen. "Just let me rinse these and then I'll grab my coat and we can go." She told Nick, who nodded agreement.

Five minutes later, they were in Nat's car headed for the Trewright's residence.

Nat stood quietly watching Nick as he extended his condolences to Greg Trewright and other members of the Trewright family. She wondered how many times in his long life that Nick had paid a similar call on some mortal friend? She'd murmured her own condolences when Nick had introduced her to Greg, tactfully omitting that she was a provincial coroner. Nat listened as Nick explained that because of his relationship with Mike, he couldn't be involved in the murder investigation and that Don Schanke was one of the best detectives in Metro Homicide. When Greg Trewright began to apologize for Nick being inconvenience while the Caddy was being held by the forensic team, Nick quickly told him to not give it another moments thought. After about thirty minutes, Nick and Nat left.

In Nat's car, Nick turned to her and asked. "Do you want to go somewhere or should we just spend a quiet night at the loft?" He hoped she would choose the latter, as he wanted time to talk to her about their future.

Nat didn't hesitate. "I'd like to go back to the loft. It's so seldom we have time to just relax and enjoy each other's company that I don't want to waste any of it." She was hoping that perhaps she could both find a way and get the courage to sound Nick out about his feelings, if any, for her. "Unless, there's something you wanted to do, that is." She added.

"There is nothing that I'd rather do than spend quiet, uninterrupted time with you." Nick said. He saw the light blush and smile his words brought to Nat's face. He started the car and headed back home.

At the loft, Nat made herself a cup of hot cocoa while Nick lit a fire in the fireplace. Moving the coffee table aside, he placed a large, thick, soft throw on the loft floor in front of the couch. Piling several big pillows against the couch he made a comfortable sitting area for he and Nat. As a final touch he laid a warm afghan nearby, in case Nat got chilly.

Nat carried her cocoa over to where Nick was standing and smiled. "That looks very inviting." She handed Nick her cup while she sat down and snuggled back against the cushions. Nick gave her back the cocoa and got a bottle and a wineglass from the kitchen. He poured a glass of his nourishment and then joined Nat. He slid his arm around her shoulders as she leaned against him. For several minutes they sat in silence watching the dancing flames in the fireplace. Nick could hear the steady, calm beat of Nat's heart as she relaxed in his arms. He loved the feel of her near him and ached for more.

Nat finished her cocoa and after placing the empty cup out of the way, snuggled closer to Nick, laying her head against his shoulder. This sort of intimacy was rare and she treasured it, while every fiber of her being craved a far deeper intimacy with him. She longed to be one with him, to know him and have him know her completely. She wanted to run her hands through the soft golden waves of his hair and along the firm muscles of his body. She wanted to spend the rest of her life, or all of eternity, loving and making love with him.

Nick finished his drink and set aside his glass. He shifted slightly to pull Nat further into his arms. When she raised her head and smiled at him, he couldn't resist bending his head and softly kissing her. To his pleasure, she responded at once, parting her lips to allow him to deepen the kiss. Tightening his embrace he tenderly explored the warm haven of her mouth with his tongue, breaking the kiss only when he felt his beast stir. He kissed her forehead and then spoke.

"Schanke said to tell you quote, 'It's about time you two came to your senses.'" Softly caressing her hair, Nick added, "I don't often find myself in agreement with Schanke, but in this case he's right. It is about time we came to our senses and admit what we feel."

Nat swallowed before asking, "And what is it that you feel, Nick?" She could feel her pulse quicken as she waited for his response.

Nick reached out to cup her face with his hand. "That after all the centuries I've found the missing half of my soul. Someone that I love more than I ever dreamed it was possible to love. Someone with whom to spend all of eternity is too short a time. Someone whom I pray with all my heart can love me." He paused then added. "I love you, Nat and I want us to be together. You know what I am and you know that for us to be together will likely end in you having to become what I am. I know it's a lot to ask, but I'm hoping that you will consider the possibility, assuming that you share my feelings, that is." Nick watched her face closely, scarcely breathing as he waited for her answer.

Nat felt as if she might burst from the happiness that filled her. "Nick, I've loved you from the first time we met. I want to be with you and if that means that I'll have to become a vampire, then giving up the sunlight seems a very small cost." She said, smiling up at him.

Nick felt his spirit soar as he listened to Nat. He gazed into her eyes, his own reflecting the love he saw in hers. Again he sought her lips, this time allowing the fullness of his feelings loose as he kissed her with a deep, intense passion. He heard her moan slightly, then felt her arms tighten around him as she pressed against him, her own passion meeting his and sending a blaze of desire through him. His hands traveled along her body, caressing her through her clothes. When they parted for air, Nat looked at him with sparkling eyes.

"Stay right here, I want to slip into something more, 'comfortable'." She said, before standing up. She smiled and then went up the stairs. In the bedroom, she dug into her bag and pulled out the teddy. She stripped off her sweater, slacks, and other garments then slipped the teddy on. She blushed as she saw how it clung to her body, the bodice barely covering the dark nipple area of her breasts and the hem falling to just cover her thatch of pubic hair. Reaching up she undid her hair from the scrunchie and let it fall loose and free to cascade about her shoulders and frame her face with an auburn halo. Taking a deep breath she opened the bedroom door and started down the stairs. She saw Nick look up at her and slowly get to his feet.

Nick gazed at Nat as she walked down the stairs toward him and knew that he had never seen any woman as beautiful as she was. To him she looked like an angel, albeit a very sexy angel with her hair floating around her like a shimmering aura. Nick reached out his hand to her as she approached. As she took his hand, he raised hers to his lips and kissed the back of it before gently drawing her close to him. "Nat." He whispered.

Nat felt her breath catch in her throat. Nick's voice was soft, yet so full of his love. She met his gaze, letting her own feelings show in her eyes. Nick bent his head toward her and she felt his lips touch hers just as she heard the sound of the lift door opening and Schanke's voice calling out. "Hey anyone home?"

Nat froze, unable to move even as she heard Schanke's "Ohmygosh! I um, I didn't mean to interrupt you. I mean I didn't mean to barge in while... dammit you know what I mean!" Not until she felt Nick drape the afghan around her shoulders did she manage to squeak, "Excuse me a minute,' and hurry back up to the bedroom. There she leaned against the closed door and tried to decide whether she should cry or laugh. The glimpse she'd gotten of Schanke as she'd made her escape decided her predicament. He'd been facing away from both she and Nick, but the reddened color of his neck told Nat that he was probably about to die from embarrassment. Her hand over her mouth to muffle the sound, Nat gave in to her laughter. 'Oh Lambert, you may NEVER live this one down.' She thought wryly. She mentally promised to not let Schanke live it down either. Getting herself under control, Nat grabbed Nick's robe from the foot of the bed and belted it around her. Then she went back downstairs; to insure that Nick didn't kill Schanke for his ill timed visit.

Nick watched Nat flee up the stairs and took a very deep breath. 'I should have killed Schanke years ago, before I started to like him.' He thought. 'Then he wouldn't be here now!' Nick could hear muffled sounds from the bedroom, but he wasn't positive if it was Nat crying. It almost sounded like laughter. Aloud he said, "You might have called and let us know you were coming over, Schanke."

Schanke's head bobbed up and down. "Yeah, I should've called, but I didn't think I'd be interrupting anything..." Schanke broke off what he was saying.

Nick could hear Schanke swallow and mutter, "Man, I get one foot out of my mouth and stick the other one in!" Despite his frustration at the interruption, Nick found that watching and listening to Schanke was truly funny. His attention was drawn away from Schanke by the sound of the bedroom door opening. Looking up, Nick felt a little of is frustration ease when he noted that Nat hadn't redressed, only put on his bathrobe.

Nat walked over to Nick's side, smiled at him, and slipped her hand into his. She immediately felt him give her hand a squeeze. "Schanke, it's safe to turn around now." She said, amusement evident in her voice.

Schanke turned around and gave Nat a sheepish look. "I swear, I only saw you for a second." He said, apologetically still blushing.

"It's okay, Schanke. But," Nat paused for emphasis, "if I ever hear even a hint that you've said ANYTHING to ANYONE about it, you will become my prime test subject for all control comparisons in the lab." Nat knew just how much Schanke hated anything to do with needles.

Nick fought to keep from smiling as Schanke's blush rapidly disappeared.

"No problem, Nat. I won't say anything, I swear." Schanke said. He looked at Nick. "And I'll make sure that you know I'm going to come over from now on." Schanke added, looking miserable. He considered Nick and Nat to be two of the people he cared about the most, after Jenny and Myra, and hoped that this wouldn't damage the friendship he felt they had. Cautiously he glanced back at Nat. When she gave him a soft smile he felt immeasurably better.

Nick relented too; he hated to see his usually jovial partner looking so glum. "In case you hadn't already figured it out, Nat and I are trying to advance our relationship." Nick offered.

Schanke couldn't resist grinning. "Is that what you call what I saw?" He quipped.

Nick shook his head and chuckled. "You're incorrigible, Schanke." He said, releasing Nat's hand and putting his arm around Nat's waist, drawing her closer to him. He felt her readily lean against him.

Schanke gave a small chuckle. "Anyway, the reason I'm here is to let you know that we've got a good lead on the perp from last night." Schanke said. "He left a nice hand print on the hood of your car, Nick. One Miguel Meja, known as "Machete" because that's his weapon of choice. He's also well known to the narcs as a big time dealer."

"Makes sense," Nat offered. "A machete could do the kind of damage we saw."

"Find him, Schanke. No one deserves what happened to Mike." Nick said, quietly.

"Yeah, that's the other thing I wanted to tell you. Seems that Mike had been trying to keep clean. There were no traces of any drugs in his system and the word on the street is that he was killed because he refused to help Meja move drugs into Toronto." Schanke said. He shook his head sadly. "Anyway, we've got Meja's apartment under surveillance and there's an APB out on his car. Given a little luck, we might nab him by morning."

Nick walked over and clasped Schanke's shoulder. "Thanks, Schanke. I really do appreciate you keeping me up to date on what's happening."

"Yeah, well I promise, next time I'll phone first." Schanke said, as he and Nick walked toward the lift.

Nick gave a wry smile. "Good, I would appreciate that." He said, as Schanke stepped into the lift and closed the door. Nick waited till the lift stopped and then set the controls to insure that no one else would be able to just come up. Nick turned around to find Nat had spent the past few minutes turning off most of the lights in room leaving only the flames in the fireplace and a few candles for illuminations. As he watched, she removed the robe and laid it over a chair back.

"Now, where were we?" She asked as she walked into his arms.

"I think we were here." Nick replied before capturing her mouth with his. He pulled her tightly against him, as his tongue met hers. His hands roamed across the silky fabric of the teddy before sliding beneath it to caress her soft skin. He heard Nat make a sound of pleasure when he did this and felt her press her body to his, rubbing slowly against his hardening manhood.

Nat felt her body react immediately to Nick's touch. Desire, so strong it made her feel lightheaded washed over her as she kissed him with total abandonment. She had ached and dreamed of this for so long. She felt his growing arousal against her and thinking of it buried deep within her caused her to moan with need. She wrapped her arms around him, wanting to be even closer than she was to him. She slid her hands beneath Nick's sweater, feeling the coolness of his skin.

Nick broke the kiss, his eyes golden. "Nat, you have to be sure that you are willing to risk what might happen." He panted. "If we continue, I might drain you to the point where you'll either die or I'll have to bring you across."

"I know, Nick. I don't just want to be with you, I need to be with you. I'll take whatever risk I have to in order to love you." Nat said. "Make love to me, Nick, and if you have to, make me what you are." A tear formed in the corner of her eye. "I can live as a vampire, but I can't live without you."

Nick wiped the tear away with his thumb. "Nor I without you." He told her. He lifted her into his arms and carried her over to the pillows. Laying her on them, Nick paused to remove his sweater, shoes, socks, and trousers. Clad only in a pair of black silk boxers he stood above her gazing at her before he lay down beside her.

Nat drank in the sight of Nick's body as the flickering flames cast a golden hue on his pale skin. Her eyes drifted down and she felt her juices flow at the obvious bulge of his manhood as it pushed against the thin fabric of his boxers. She was very aware of the intensity of his gaze on her and blushed wondering if he was comparing her to Janette. Her worry ceased as Nick lay down beside her and nuzzling her neck murmured, "You are so beautiful."

Nick let his lips and hands move slowly down Nat's body. He gently caressed her nipples through the thin lace of the teddy, until they were hard and erect. His lips followed his hands as he kissed and suckled her flesh.

Nat caught her breath as Nick explored her body. Every nerve she possessed seemed to be hypersensitive and she relished the sensations that were coursing through her. She moaned as he sucked one of her nipples and felt her juices flow. Her hands began their own exploration, running along the firm planes of Nick's muscles. Her body felt as if it were on fire and the coolness of his flesh was tantalizing. She gasped as his hands slipped beneath the teddy along her upper thighs.

Nick let his fingers memorize each delightful curve of Nat's body. The soft skin of her breasts and abdomen, the wiry curls of her pubic hair and the moistness of the cleft that held her inmost treasure served to increase his arousal. "Nat, I want to see all of you." He told her. Helping her to a sitting position, he swiftly removed the wispy teddy revealing all of her to his eyes. He caught his breath as he felt the warmth of Nat's hand against his hardened shaft.

"I want to see all of you, too." She whispered as she gazed lovingly into his eyes.

"As you command, my lady." Nick said and shucked off his boxers. His manhood stood out from his body, thick and erect.

Nat felt her heartbeat increase as she imagined the long, thickness of Nick's cock inside her. She felt desire so strong that her womb ached with need. She reached out and took him in her hand, slowly stroking the length of his shaft. She smiled as she saw Nick partially close his eyes, an expression of pleasure on his face. Nick gave a low growl of enjoyment and Nat could see the tips of his fangs through his parted lips. She continued to stroke him wanting to give him pleasure.

Nick luxuriated in the feelings that washed over him. It had been decades since he'd experienced this sort of sensual pleasure, so different than vampiric lovemaking. He'd dreamed of Nat touching him like this and the reality was far exceeding his imagination. He rode the waves of pleasure, yet resisted giving in fully to them. He wanted his ultimate pleasure surrounded by Nat's body. "Nat, I want to be in you when I come." He told her, his voice husky with desire. He saw her nod and with a last gentle stroke she released him and raised her arms to him. Nick lay partially atop her nuzzling her neck while his hand sought the moist folds of her pubic region. He began to slowly massage her sensitive nub, hearing the quickening of her heart as her body responded to the erotic sensations. His lips moved down the length of her neck to her breasts. He took one hardened nipple in his mouth, licking and sucking on it as Nat moaned and arched her back in pleasure. He took her to the edge and held her there while she clutched at him and strove for release. The ambrosia scent of her arousal and her blood called to him and he knew that he must soon seek his own release. He sucked hard at her nipple while at the same time intensifying the pressure to her clit and felt her body shake with the ensuing orgasm. Releasing her nipple, he shifted his position and, as the most intense portion of her climax began to wane, impaled her with his manhood.

Nat could barely think, as her body seemed immersed in such intense pleasures that she thought she might faint from the joy of it. Nick's lips and hands seemed to stimulate every nerve that could provide sensual gratification. She writhed beneath his touch and the aching need to feel him in her intensified with each of his caresses. She felt herself being skillfully brought to the very edge of orgasm and she moaned and pressed against Nick's hand seeking release. Her breath came in short gasps, as the wonderful tension continued to build beyond anything she'd ever known. At last, Nick allowed her to slip over the edge into a powerful climax that made her cry out wordlessly as she felt wave after wave of contractions flood her senses. She'd barely begun to recover from the wonderful onslaught of pleasure when she was thrust once again toward the peak as Nick slipped his engorged member fully inside her. She cried out Nick's name and instinctively raised her hips toward him wanting to feel as much of him within her as she possibly could. Meeting Nick's thrusts with her own, Nat soon found that she was once again at the brink of total ecstasy.

"Nick, together. Please I want us to come together." She panted. Turning her head to bare the slender column of her throat, she reached up and urged Nick's lips to it and the pulsating vein there.

Nick could not remember ever feeling such wonderful sensations in his life. Not only was his body luxuriating in the purely sensual passion that his coupling with Nat was causing, but his heart and soul were soaring with happiness at finally being one with her. He was fast approaching his climax and he could tell that Nat was close to hers. When she urged him to come with her and pulled his lips to the source of her lifeblood, Nick could not resist. He sank his fangs deep into her creamy flesh and the burst of blood that filled his mouth was sweeter and more satisfying anything he'd ever known. His body shook with the force of his climax and he felt Nat's vaginal muscles contracting around his member. At the same time, he at last knew her fully, every secret hope and fear of hers, every pain and joy in her life, and all her dreams and loves carried to him with her blood. Strongest and brightest of all was her love for him and her joy in their lovemaking. He also felt her total acceptance of him, just as he was. Nat's love for him filled him with such peace that Nick drank deeply, wanting the experience to continue. When he at last stopped drinking, he felt panic as he realized that Nat was lying limp in his embrace. "Nat!" He cried softly as he pulled her close to him. He relaxed slightly as he heard her heartbeat, still strong and regular. He took a deep breath as, in response to his voice, her eyelids fluttered, then opened.

Nat felt a sharp sting on her neck, triggering a second orgasm, then her mind was flooded by images of Nick. Some of the images were of Nick's past and she felt his remorse and guilt over his actions. She felt his loathing for what he was and his despair that he was forever condemned to an existence of loneliness and without love. As the images continued, still faint but growing in clarity, Nat felt Nick's first stirrings of hope that his fate might be alleviated. She felt his memories of their first meeting and knew the depth power of his love for her. She reached out to this love and felt it seem to solidify and grow in power. Like a sudden electrical shock the power seemed to surround her and she sank into the warmth of it. She was floating in a sensation of total peace and comfort when she heard Nick call her name. She opened her eyes to see his worried face inches from her own. Smiling, she reached her hand up and traced the outline of his features.

Seeing Nat's eyes open it seemed as if cold knot of fear suddenly unraveled in Nick's chest. He kissed her tenderly cradling her close to him. "Are you alright?" He asked, softly.

Nat nodded. "I'm fine, Nick. I'm better than fine." She looked up to him with loving eyes. "I've never felt so loved in my life." She said, recalling the sensation. "It was the most beautiful thing I've ever experienced." She snuggled close to him.

Nick smiled. "For the first time in longer than I want to remember, I feel at peace. I feel whole." He told her, his voice soft with love.

For several hours, while the candles burned down and went out, they lay before the dying fire, cuddling and murmuring endearments to one another. With the approaching dawn the flames had died to glowing embers. Nick felt Nat shiver slightly and realized that the large room had cooled to what was certainly an uncomfortable temperature for a mortal. Scooping her into his arms, he carried her upstairs and laid her on the bed, before slipping in next to her. Nick pulled the covers over both of them as Nat, lying on her side, snuggled up against him and quickly succumbed to sleep. Draping his arm around her, the silkiness of her hair and softness of her body against him, Nick, too, found sleep easily.

Shortly before sunset, Nick awakened, Nat still cuddled close to him. He kissed her softly, so as not to awaken her, and then slipped from the bed. Grabbing a pair of pajama bottoms, Nick put them on. He took the jeweler's box from the drawer and padded out of the bedroom. Downstairs he hummed softly as he fixed a tray to take up to Nat. He returned to the bedroom just as Nat was awakening.

Nat opened her eyes and stretched. Memory of the preceding night caused her to sit up and reach to her throat.

Nick paused in the doorway, smiling as he saw the covers drop away to reveal Nat's nude form. A moment of worry filled him as he saw her touch the small marks still visible on her neck. "Nat?" He said.

Nat turned at the sound of Nick's voice. "I was afraid that I'd only dreamed last night." She said, a radiant smile on her face.

Nick happily returned her smile. "Well, last night seemed like a dream come true to me, but it did really happen." He told her, carrying the tray over to the bed. "I thought you might enjoy breakfast in bed." He said as he set the tray before her. He lingered, enjoying the view.

Nat noticed where his gaze was directed and smiled. She felt no embarrassment at Nick seeing her nude, rather she found his gaze exciting. "Nick this is lovely. Be careful or you'll spoil me." She said as she looked at the tray. A steaming mug of coffee sat beside a bowl of strawberries, grapes, orange slices, and melon slices. To one side was a small silver dome, which Nat assumed covered some sort of bread item. She sipped first at the coffee sighing with pleasure at the taste. She nibbled at the fruit, then lifted the dome, and froze. Instead of a sweet roll or toast, a small velvet jeweler's box sat on a plate.

Nat raised her eyes to Nick. "What's this?" She asked, quietly.

Nick smiled. "Why don't you open it and find out?" He said, sitting down beside her.

Nat picked up the box and slowly opened it, her heart beating quickly. Inside, was a pear cut diamond ring. Nat could feel her hands trembling. "Oh, Nick, it's beautiful." She whispered.

Nick took the box and removed the ring. Taking Nat's left hand, he slipped the ring on her finger. "Natalie Lambert, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?" He asked.

Nat nodded. "Oh yes." She said, her voice shaking with emotion. "How did you get this so quickly?" She asked.

Nick chuckled. "Actually, I bought it the night Mike was killed. I'd just gotten home a few minutes before you arrived. I'd planned a lovely, romantic night for us and then I was going to ask you." He explained.

Nat smiled. "It sounds like it would have been lovely, but I know that it could not have been any more wonderful than last night was." She said.

Nick lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. "Let me give you an eternity of nights like that, Nat." He said. " As much as I hate what I am, I can't stand the thought of losing you, ever." He knew from her blood that she was truly willing to consider being what he was.

"I'm willing to spend eternity with you, Nick. I love you so much, that even eternity won't be long enough for me." She told him.

Nick moved the tray to the side and leaned forward to kiss her. "We'll sit down and make plans, but we won't do anything until after we get married. I want you to have the kind of wedding of which you've always dreamed."

"So long as I'm with you, it will be the wedding I've always wanted." Nat said. She looked down with happiness at the diamond sparkling on her finger.

The shrill of Nick's cell phone sounded just as Nat's beeper went off.

"Uh oh, if we're both getting calls," Nat said.

Nick walked over to the dresser and brought Nat her purse, then retrieved his phone from his jacket. "Knight." He paused then laughed. "Yeah, okay Schanke. We'll be expecting you." He turned to Nat. "Don't worry about the page, Schanke wanted to be certain we both knew he was on his way over." He told her.

"How long till he gets here?" Nat asked, getting out of bed.

"He said about fifteen minutes, so you have time to put some clothes on." Nick replied, adding, "The clothes part is mine, not Schanke's."

Nat laughed, "Good."

Fifteen minutes later, Nick heard the sound of the lift's motor announce Schanke's arrival.

"I just stopped by to let you both know that they picked up Meja about two hours ago. He's confessed to the killing, so it looks like this case is closed. The Captain said to tell you that she expects you in to work tomorrow night." Schanke said as he entered the loft. "Your car is ready to be picked up anytime you want to get it, too." He added as he sat down in the chair opposite the couch Nat was on. "Hi, Nat," he told her, then his eyes widened and a grin broke out across his face. "Excuse me, but is there anything you two would like to tell your good pal Don?" Schanke pointed to Nat's hand. "Say something about that?"

Nat glanced at Nick who smiled. "I asked Nat to marry me and, as you've clearly guessed, she said yes."

Schanke stood and pounded Nick on the back. "Man, this is GREAT! Wait'll I tell Myra!" He exclaimed.

"Schanke?" Nat said. "I know you happy for us, but please, let us tell everyone?"

"Oh, yeah, sure!" Schanke said. "But I'd love to be around when Cohen and Grace find out." He added.

Nick laughed. "I think we might arrange that."

Schanke headed for the lift. "I'll let you two get back to planning your wedding. Let me know a soon as you have a date picked out, okay?"

"We will, Schanke." Nat called. She sat back and watched as Nick walked back from letting Schanke out. In only forty-eight hours she'd gone from the depths of despair to the peak of happiness. She smiled as she thought of the future that now awaited her.

The End

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