Persistent Prophecy
by Susan B.
July, 1997

This story takes place immediately after Last Knight and there are
several references to it as well as other eps.

There he was again! Why was he there every time she looked? Natalie
tried to focus on the tall, black clad figure looming just beyond
her, but she herself was nothing more than a cloud of mist. Trying
to focus on Lacroix was difficult. Trying to focus on anything was
difficult. And why was he talking about love and faith? He, to whom
love meant possession and faith meant nothing. And life? What did
he know of life, except how to steal it from others. She wished he
would just stop talking and disappear. She desperately wanted to
tell him that, but she had no voice. She was but a cloud of mist
suspended in the air. Unseen spirit. Floating. Listening. Waiting.

From nowhere, his tortured face appeared. The blue eyes she loved
more than life itself, entombed in a shroud of tears. His face
contorted in anguish. He *was* sorrow. Sorrow, regret, torment. All
that he was, was agony. And all that she was suddenly, and
silently, fell back to the floor.

Feeling as heavy and cumbersome as a slab of granite, Natalie
opened her eyes. Nick was sitting directly in front of her. 'Nick!'
she wanted to shout, but could not. She struggled to reach out for
him, but her stone arms would not budge. Beyond him, she saw
Lacroix's shadowy form still looming. She heard his all too
familiar babbling, "The purest form of love," he crooned, "

'He's lying!' Natalie tried to scream, but still no sound came

Nick turned his head to look down at her, and was delighted to find
her staring up at him. She was licking her lips and making gurgling
sounds, desperately trying to talk. As he gazed upon her the
frustration in her eyes transformed into tears, and the tears
started to trickle down her ashen cheeks. He leaned forward and
softly brushed her lips with his own. Drying her tears with the
tips of his fingers, he whispered, "Don't cry. You hurt your head,
but you will be alright."

Natalie was comforted by his touch and his soothing voice. The fog
slowly drifted from her mind, and soon her sluggish brain was able
to make the proper connection to her vocal chords. "Don't leave,"
she whimpered, "he's lying to you."

Nick grinned as he drew himself back into a sitting position. "I'm
not going anywhere," he said as he eagerly took her hand in his
own, "but I haven't got a clue as to who is lying to me."

Finally able to lift her arm, Natalie gestured at the darkness
beyond him, "Lacroix," she whispered. "He's lying. Love is not

"Lacroix is not here, Nat, and he hasn't been in here."

Natalie soon began to comprehend her surroundings. She wasn't lying
on the floor as she believed, but was in a bed. Nick was sitting on
the edge of it, holding her hand. She glanced around the small
room. The walls were as colourless and confining as the ceiling
above. She realized she was no longer in the loft. A small stand of
grey cupboards stood against the wall across from her bed. She
noticed a large clear jar of wooden tongue depressors sitting on
the countertop, and momentarily wondered why they were there. She
summoned up the courage to focus beyond Nick, to the place where
Lacroix had stood, only to find Nick's long black coat hanging on
the inside of the door. She was perplexed. "Where are we?" she
asked. "Did you bring me across? What is this place?"

"You're in a room in emergency, Nat," Nick replied. "You were in a
crash. Do you remember anything?" He pushed the button on the side
of her bed. There was a soft clunking sound followed by a
continuous hum as the upper end of the bed slowly started to rise.
When Natalie was in a semi-upright position, Nick released the
button to stop the motion.

"Lora killed herself," Natalie said. "I remember that. Then I read
her journal and we were at the morgue talking ...about being
together ...then Tracy died ...and then we were together..."

Nick smiled at her. "You were dreaming," he said. "No one died. It
was our first night off together in over two weeks. Your car was
ready and you were driving that old clunker of a courtesy car back
to Avro. I was going to meet you there and follow you to the loft."

Nat simply stared back at him in confusion.

"Remember? You were hit broadside by a pick-up truck. You smashed
the side of your head against the car door." Nick gently swept a
clump of her blood matted hair from the left side of her face.
"Thirteen stitches and a nasty bruise," he said, as he delicately
touched the square white bandage over her temple.

Natalie looked down at herself, at the simple pale blue hospital
gown she was wearing. "It wasn't a dream," she insisted. "I saw and
heard everything. I felt everything. It was real. I *felt* it and
it was *real*."

"You also had a severe blow to the head," Nick said as he released
her hand and lightly caressed her cheek. "It would appear you had
an interesting time without me though," he added with a grin.

Nat raised her head and stared at him. "You *were* there," she
declared. "I told you I wanted to be with you. Tracy died and you
blamed yourself. You gave up hope of ever atoning for your past,
and said you were leaving. I told you I had faith in you." She
continued to stare at him intently, recalling in her mind the
events that followed ...his wary kiss, his cool lips nuzzling her
neck, the feel of his fangs as they gently pierced her skin, the
raw ecstasy she felt as he sank his fangs deep into her flesh and
they became one. And then the horror she suffered when the vampire
awoke to take Nick's place at her throat. A paralysing chill crept
up her spine and she quickly broke eye contact with Nick. "I asked
you to make love to me," she said meekly, "and you did. You
promised you wouldn't leave me, that we would be together, whatever
happened, forever."

Nick leaned forward and gently gathered her into his arms. He spoke
softly into her ear, "If we made love, Nat, I assure you that I
would have remembered it." Nick soon felt her hot tears seeping
through his shirt. He started to rock her soothingly. "And a
promise I made to you," he whispered, "would not be broken."

She clung to him fiercely, recalling with vivid clarity, and fear,
her encounter with the vampire entity. All these years she had
fooled herself into believing that science alone could cure him
when in reality he suffered an affliction of the body and spirit.
His was a malady sustained by a force of evil that she had stupidly
underestimated and recklessly ignored for far too long. Her heart
broke to think of the number of times she must have hurt him due to
her blind ignorance, her stubborn denial of the evil that lived in
him, that haunted him. She wished she could tell him that, that she
finally understood; but if she acknowledged the demon, she would
also have to acknowledge that she was powerless against it.

They held each other in silence for several minutes, until
Natalie's tears had once again stopped. "It was real and I was
dead," she said sadly. "I was waiting for you. And Lacroix was
there. He talked endlessly, stumbling over himself in his effort to
confuse you. He wanted to stop you from fulfilling your promise to
me, from freeing your soul."

Nick tried to reassure her. "It was a dream, Nat," he said, "just
a silly dream." He loosened his grip on her and sat back so he
could see her face. It pained his heart to see her in such
distress. "In an hour you'll forget all about it," he maintained.
Then he laughed lightly and poked her arm. "So before you forget
*everything*, why don't you elaborate on the making love part."

'Idiot,' Nick scolded himself when his effort at humour failed. She
hadn't found his remark funny at all. New pain of an old sorrow was
revealed in her eyes, and he put it there. He was about to
profoundly apologize, when the door to the room abruptly flew open.

An thin, grey haired nurse wearing bright red lipstick and a
starched white smock burst into the room. "You're awake!" she
exclaimed in a shrill voice as she dutifully marched towards them.
Nick guessed her age to be well over sixty, but her energy level
truly defied her years. Her enthusiasm also stunned Natalie, and
she and Nick exchanged dubious looks.

Nick quickly kissed Nat's forehead before springing up from the
bed. He backed up to the wall and flashed the spry nurse a friendly
smile. "Should I leave?" he asked.

"No need for that young man," she replied briskly.

'Young man,' Natalie chuckled to herself as she shot a glance at
Nick. He winked back at her and she grinned. Her smile pleased him,
it was the first one he had seen since she awoke.

The nurse's voice was much softer when she spoke to Natalie. "And
how are you feeling dear?" she asked as she removed the blood
pressure belt from its niche on the wall. "How is your head?"

Natalie scanned the nurse's nameplate. "It does hurt some Nurse
...Ellen. But I think I'll live. When can I go home?"

"I'm sure you won't have to stay much longer," the nurse replied.
She methodically wrapped the belt smartly around Nat's arm and
started pumping it. When she finished that task, she placed a
digital thermometer just inside Nat's ear and read her temperature.
"All done," Nurse Ellen quipped, before quickly leaving the room.

Nick returned to his place on the edge of Nat's bed. He could sense
the nurse talking with someone outside the door and focused his
vampiric hearing on the conversation.

"What are you doing?" Nat demanded, fully aware of exactly what he
was doing.

Nick broke off his concentration and eyed her sheepishly. "Sorry,"
he replied. "They were talking about your x-rays."

Nat stared at him sternly for a few seconds before breaking into a
grin. She tapped his arm. "Well, what did they say?"

"You cut me off before I was able to hear anything," Nick replied.

This time the door merely creaked open. A very young, very tall,
and very red haired intern entered, carrying an unruly stack of
file folders in his arm. Nick recognized him as Dr. Wilke, the
doctor who had treated Nat when she first arrived. The intern
fumbled through the chart on the top of his pile for a few seconds.
Then he closed the file and looked at Nat. "Do you feel ready to go
home?" he asked bluntly.

"Immediately!" Nat replied eagerly.

"Already?" Nick queried.

The concern in Nick's voice wasn't lost on Doctor Wilke. He spoke
reassuringly to Nick. "Her x-rays are fine and her vitals are
stable. There's no reason why she can't be released." He then
turned his attention back to Natalie. "Unless, of course, you would
*rather* be admitted."

"And fill out all those nasty forms," Natalie scoffed. "I don't
think so."

The doctor chuckled. "Just take it easy for a couple of days. Keep
the wound clean. You know the drill, Doctor Lambert."

Natalie nodded her head.

Dr. Wilke opened Nat's file again and scribbled something in it.
After closing the folder he glanced firmly at Nick. "You will see
she gets home alright won't you?" It was an order, not a question.

"Of course," Nick replied diligently as he stood up. He followed
the doctor out of the room, leaving Natalie alone to dress. The
intern wandered off down the corridor to continue his rounds while
Nick stood and waited next to Natalie's door. He casually leaned
back against the wall. Knowing that she was going to be fine, he
turned his attention back to the accident, and back to the
unidentified bastard who had caused it.

Nick had been following her in the caddy, in the westbound curb
lane, and was barely a hundred feet behind her when an old black
Ford Ranger suddenly pulled out from behind him and sped past. It
roared forward, passed Nat, shot into the oncoming lanes, made a
wide screeching right turn back into the westbound lanes, and
ploughed broadside into her car with a sickening, metal crunching
thud. The ear-piercing squeal of the tires didn't stop until the
pick-up had pushed Nat's vehicle up and across the sidewalk. A loud
crunch signalled the passenger side of her car crashing into a
brick wall. The front end of the pick-up then bounced off Nat's car
and rolled back, silently, into the street.

By the time Nick had flicked on his police light and hit his own
brakes, he was already at the scene. He had clambered out of the
caddy just in time to see a man scramble out of the truck and flee.
He never saw the man's face, and chasing the creep was out of the
question. The overwhelming scent of Natalie's spilled blood had
implored him to stay. In his panic, Nick had been unable to detect
her heartbeat, and he felt as though a wooden stake had just been
driven through his own heart. "She's okay," he had reassured
himself as he raced to the driver's side door.

He remembered peering through the cracked, blood smeared glass.
Natalie's head was slumped against it. The door had been badly
crushed in, but his unusual strength enabled him to rip it open
with little effort. Nat's breathing was regular and her pulse
strong, but he didn't want to move her. He had placed one hand over
the gash in her temple in an effort to stop the torrent of blood,
while he used his other hand to dig his cell phone out of his
pocket. He had spoken soothingly to her while he waited for the
ambulance, even knowing she was unconscious and unable to hear. The
sweet earthy aroma of her blood was everywhere. He had applied more
pressure to the wound and tried not to think about her blood, even
as it trickled relentlessly through his fingers; but the scent had
grown increasingly intoxicating, and had filled him with desire for

Standing here in the hospital corridor, Nick felt ashamed to recall
how he had found himself having to ward off the incessant urge to
lick his fingers, to taste her blood, to taste her; even as she lay
there wounded and bleeding. He was also utterly relieved that she
had been unconscious during his private battle, and unable to see
the gold in his eyes and the razor sharp tips of his fangs. Unable
to hear his desperate pleas to God to help him restrain the vampire
for just one more minute, and then another, and then another.


Natalie's voice roused him from his reminiscing and he swung around
to face her. She was dressed in the navy turtleneck, bluejeans and
white running shoes that she was wearing when she was brought in.
"Let me help you with that," Nick offered as he reached for the
beige suede jacket that she cradled in her arms.

"No. It's covered in blood," Natalie mumbled as she firmly bundled
up the jacket. "I remember what happened now, the crash. At least
I remember seeing a black shape and two headlights coming at me
from the side before the world went black. What time is it anyway?
How long have I been here?"

Nick deftly slipped his arm inside the exam room and snatched his
coat from the hook on the door. "It's two in the morning," he said,
"and we've been here since ten." He carefully draped his coat over
Nat's shoulders, put his arm snugly around her, and walked her out
of the hospital and down to the caddy.

* * * * *

Tracy had been having a fitful sleep that same night. She had
retired far too early for someone on the night shift, but she had
this and the next night off and wanted to spend some daylight hours
outdoors instead of in bed. After luxuriating in a hot bubble bath,
she had slipped into a comfortably worn pair of red and white
striped flannel pyjamas, drank a cup of tepid herbal tea, and was
in bed by ten. Four hours later she was just falling into a deep
sleep when a soft voice whispered to her mind, "Tracy, wake up".

Tracy was laying on her back, her legs tangled in a pastel jungle
of cotton thermal blankets. "Tired," she mumbled, "too tired."

"Wake up," the familiar voice repeated.

Grudgingly she opened her eyes, and found Vachon sitting next to
her. He was clad in his customary black leather jacket. His big
brown eyes were wide open, and his thick, wavy dark hair straggled
down to just past his shoulders. Poised in their familiar 'almost
smile', the barest shadow of a beard and moustache surrounded his
lips. "You're a dream," Tracy muttered nonchalantly before closing
her eyes and rolling over to face the other way.

"I'm not a dream, Trace. Look at me," Vachon implored.

Tracy felt a cool draft float across her face as he spoke. "You
moved on," she said groggily, "you're a dream."

"Roll over, Tracy."

Tracy lazily rolled onto her stomach. Vachon was usually an
agreeably quiet and charmingly submissive figure in her dreams, she
thought, but tonight he was being downright demanding. "Stop
talking and rub my back," Tracy grumbled, still lost in the daze of

"I can't," was the sullen reply.

Growing somewhat exasperated with her fantasy's dismal lack of co-
operation, Tracy shouted, "This is *my* dream!" Her own shrill
voice finally woke her.

"I'm not a dream," Vachon stated. He raised his hands close to his
face and studied them intently. "I don't exactly know what I am,"
he said. "But I do know that I can't rub your back, as entertaining
as that notion is."

Realizing Vachon really *was* in her bed, Tracy tumbled over in a
frenzy, further entangling herself in the bedding. She struggled to
push the mountain of blankets away so she could sit up. Vachon
seemed blurry to her, so she rubbed her eyes. "Vachon!" she yelped.
"You're back! I thought you left permanently!"

Vachon's gaze wandered from his own hands to her face. Her dazzling
blue eyes, short blonde hair, and buoyant demeanour were just as he
remembered them. "Left permanently," he grinned. "Not a very
original euphemism for being dead."

"You're a vampire, Vachon," Tracy brazenly declared. "The term is
'undead' not 'dead'."

Perplexed, Vachon's lips tightened. He almost squinted his eyes. 'A
resistor who doesn't remember,' he thought, '...Knight must have
somehow gotten through.' He gracefully moved one hand to his chin
and started to lightly stroke it. "No, Tracy," he rebutted. "The
term is 'dead'. I'm not a vampire. In fact, I'm not even real."

Tracy laughed as she shifted her long legs into a kneeling
position. "It's too late now to pretend to be part of my dream,
Vachon!" she squealed.

Vachon scanned her apparel, a vague grin forming at the corners of
his mouth.

"What is it?" Tracy asked, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. She
covertly lowered her gaze for a second to ensure that all of her
buttons were fastened.

"You look like a blonde candy cane in those things," he taunted.

Tracy's cheeks blushed slightly. She had sorely missed her
interaction with Vachon over these past few weeks. He had always
been so relaxed and easygoing, a definite pleasure to be around
after spending a few shifts with Nick. Nick was always so ...tense.
"I really have missed you!" Tracy exclaimed as she threw herself
forward to welcome him with a robust hug. She was utterly stunned
when nothing stopped her from landing flat on her chest, her head
and arms dangling precariously over the edge of the bed. "What the
hell?" Tracy groaned as she twisted her neck around, struggling to
peer over her right shoulder. Her jaw dropped when she saw Vachon's
torso sprouting up from the middle of her back. "My God!" she
shrieked. "You're a ghost!" Tracy fainted.

"Do you want me to stay?" Nick asked Natalie as he steered the
caddy down the exit ramp and out of the hospital parking garage. "I
can pick up a few things at the loft on the way."

"You don't have to stay, Nick ...unless you want to," she replied

"I want to," Nick said, without missing a beat.

Natalie supplied him with her warmest smile, then immediately took
a deep breath. She let her next sentence gush out in a rapid
torrent of words, "But you have to change your clothes before you
come over."

Puzzled, Nick glanced over at her. "Pardon?" he asked, silently
wondering what the hell was wrong with his clothes.

Natalie focused on the front windshield. "Sorry," she muttered. But
you're dressed all in black. The dream, Nick. I just can't deal
with black right now." She looked at him for a moment. "Not on
you," she added, before turning her attention back to the
windshield. She started fidgeting nervously with her hands,
desperately trying to stave off another bout of tears.

Nick sensed the sudden increase in her heart rate and it worried
him. Something in that dream frightened her beyond reason, and it
wasn't just the thought of him leaving. And what that something
might be, scared the hell out of him. They drove the rest of the
way in silence.

When they finally arrived at the loft, Nick pulled up near the
garage door and shut off the engine. He lightly touched Nat's arm.
"Do you want to come up or wait here?" he asked.

"I'll wait here," she replied. "I'm still pretty tired, and if I
come upstairs I know I'll end up falling asleep on your couch."

"I'll just be few minutes," Nick professed. "I want to clean up a
bit." He clambered out of the car and walked over to the building
entrance door.

Nat watched him as he punched in the code and disappeared into the
building. Then she closed her eyes. Ten minutes later she was
startled by a jolt and the sound of the car door opening. Nick
stuck his head in and carefully tossed a blue nylon gym bag onto
the back seat before climbing into the driver's seat.

"I must have dozed off," Nat mumbled. She eyed Nick and grinned,
pleased to see he wasn't wearing black beneath his old brown
jacket. His hair was still wet from what must have been an
incredibly fast shower. Something tugged at her brain and she
leaned over to examine his apparel more closely. He was wearing the
same things she was, a navy turtleneck and bluejeans. "You didn't!"
she cried. Peeking down at his feet, she discovered he was also
wearing white running shoes.

Realizing his little exercise had produced the desired result, Nick
laughed. "I thought it might cheer you up," he chuckled. "And I
*knew* you couldn't complain about it!" Nat smiled and playfully
smacked his arm.

Fifteen minutes later they were at her apartment. Nat went right
into the kitchen to feed Sydney, while Nick headed straight for the
couch. 'What else is there for him to do here,' she thought. Nat
had a number of books, but he had already read those that
interested him. Feeling like a rather lax hostess, she made a
mental note to herself to replenish her sorry stock of reading
material. While she filled Sydney's food dish, the thought trickled
into her mind that it must be incredibly boring to live for
centuries on this tiny planet, no matter how many times one moved.
Certainly the moving around itself would become a tedious affair.

After gently setting Sydney's blue ceramic dish down on the tiled
kitchen floor, Nat strolled into the living room. "I'm going to get
cleaned up," she said as she approached Nick. "By the way, about
the accident. What happened to the other guy?"

Nick's entire body tensed up as he envisioned the scum darting from
the scene. "He ran," Nick snarled. "And as far as what's going to
happen to him, wait until I get my hands on him."

"He ran because he was scared," Nat said calmly, trying to stave
off Nick's rising anger.

"I know that, Nat. It's just so could have been left there
bleeding to death could have been dead ....and he didn't
care ...he just ...ran."

"You just don't know how a person is going to react to something
like that," Nat professed. "He panicked. He'll probably turn
himself him before the day is out."

Nick shook his head. "He won't be turning himself in. The truck was
reported stolen yesterday afternoon." He stood up in front of Nat
and very lightly touched the purple bruise on her face where it
overran the bandage. "And he's got a damn good chance of getting
away with this," he said sombrely.

Natalie kissed his cheek. She thought she saw a flicker of a smile,
but she wasn't sure. For all of his humanity, his anger was still
very difficult for him to control. 'But that is very human too,'
she thought as she patted Nick's shoulder. "I'm going to take a
shower and change," she told him, before wandering off towards the

Nick carried his duffel bag into the kitchen and pulled out a badly
needed bottle of cow blood. He poured and drank a glassful, then
replenished the glass before tucking the green wine bottle away in
the back of the fridge. Glass in tow, he strode over to the couch
and sat down. He flicked on the television and watched the screen
while he waited for her to return, but his mind was reliving the
accident. He kept trying to find something, a detail that he might
have missed, anything that might lead him to the other driver.

* * * * *

Dobbs sat stonefaced on the plain turquoise loveseat in the middle
of his modest living room. His arms were crossed tightly in front
of his chest, his upper body slightly hunched over the glass coffee
table in front of him. He hummed bleakly as he scrutinized the
colour photographs spread out on the table. Occasionally he would
stop humming, roll up one of the sleeves of his red and black
flannel shirt, and reach out as though to pick up a photo. On most
nights, he would simply wave his hand over the collection before
withdrawing his arm and resuming his monotonous humming. Sometimes
a particular image would catch his eye, and he would gently stroke
it with his index finger. He was always extremely careful not to
move any of the pictures, for he knew that the slightest
disturbance would propel her spirit from them and he would be left
alone. The undisturbed layer of dust surrounding each photo was
testament to his vigilance.

Feeling the need to touch her this time, Dobbs began the process of
scanning the many faces of his late wife. She was smiling brightly
in most of the pictures, and he surmised that if he was ever happy
again, he might choose one of them. Tonight he needed her
understanding, so he sought an image that reflected a particularly
sympathetic expression. "This will do," he murmured. Dobbs
meticulously lowered his hand and touched his wife's cheek in
practised ritual.

"I'm sorry, Marci," he whispered. "I lost it again. I know I
promised you, but I couldn't help myself. I know you can forgive
me, Marci. The truck was too small and I don't think she died. Will
you forgive me if she isn't dead, Marci?"

He nervously rubbed his bare feet together under the coffee table.
"I think I was supposed to do it, Marci," he continued. "She was in
the shop yesterday afternoon. It was my first day at that place.
Why would she have been there if it wasn't meant to be? What are
the chances? I know it was wrong now, Marci. Maybe she's not hurt
too bad. Will you forgive me if she's not hurt too bad, Marci?"

His hand was growing tired and Dobbs feared it might slip and
disturb the photos. He knew that if that happened, her soul would
be forced from their home. He carefully withdrew his hand and again
folded his arms together. "He was there too, Marci," he said, "I
might have even changed my mind, if he wasn't there."

* * * * *

Vachon was almost as stunned as Tracy to find himself virtually
growing out of her. It puzzled him that he had no substance, yet he
could 'sit' on the edge of her bed. Rather than committing himself
to a lengthy analysis of the anomaly, he just accepted it. If he
could have, he would have helped her back into the bed proper
instead of leaving her dangling over the side like a rag doll.

Her fainting had come as no surprise. Vachon remembered the first
time they met. She was a rather confusing piece of work, he
thought, recalling how she had drawn her gun in that makeshift
morgue just because she heard a noise; and then fainted at the
sight of him standing there short one hand. Afterwards, she had
accepted his vampirism almost as though it was normal. He had found
her unpredictability interesting, but had serious doubts that it
was any kind of an asset to her while she was working.

Tracy started to moan weakly and Vachon thought it prudent to
relocate. He drifted over to a plain wooden chair near the foot of
her bed and patiently waited for her to fully regain consciousness.
He didn't have to wait very long.

"What next," Tracy mumbled as she pulled herself back into the bed,
consciously keeping her eyes closed. She assumed a comfortable
crosslegged position and folded her hands together in her lap
before taking a deep breath and slowly opening her eyes. She looked
directly towards the foot of the bed and Vachon met her gaze with
a straight face. "So, you're still here," Tracy remarked, as though
nothing was amiss.

"You fainted," Vachon teased. "You've never seen a ghost before?"

"Actually I have," Tracy said bluntly, remembering the ghost of her
childhood friend. "And it's not my fondest memory."

"Of course," Vachon offered sympathetically, "the haunting. Sorry."
He remembered how guilty Tracy had felt about her childhood
friend's death, and he was relieved that she didn't remember the
way he had died. Tracy had been an unwilling participant, but she
was the one holding the stake.

Tracy calmly nodded her head in acceptance of his apology, but her
mind raged with emotion. Although she had considered herself a
close friend to Vachon, she had always hoped that someday they
might have a deeper relationship. Even after he left she fantasized
that one day he would return. But never this way. She knew it would
have been extremely difficult to have a relationship with a
vampire, but it was absolutely impossible to have one with a ghost.
Tracy sighed in resignation. "Well," she said, "if there's one
thing I *do* know about ghosts, it's that they don't walk the earth
without a reason."

Vachon looked at her quizzically.

"You don't have a reason?" Tracy asked curiously.

Vachon shrugged his shoulders. "If there is one," he replied, "I
don't know what it is."

Natalie emerged from her shower wearing a thick pink terrycloth
robe and matching fluffy slippers. Nick imagined that if he wasn't
here, she would have donned a comfortable t-shirt and nothing else,
something he hadn't seen since their relationship moved from the
friendship stage into more dangerous territory. Although they had
never talked about it, he knew she overdressed for his benefit. It
helped him maintain distance, helped them maintain distance.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" Nat asked, suddenly feeling
like she was the catalyst of one of Nick's notorious flashbacks.

"Like what?" he asked innocently.

"Nevermind." Nat sighed and sat down next to him.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Nick asked, not entirely sure if he
was doing the right thing, but not wanting to screw things up by
appearing disinterested either.

"About what?"

He slipped his arm around her and gently massaged her right
shoulder. "The dream ...nightmare. It might help to talk." Again,
Nat's fear was revealed to him by the beat of her heart.

"I don't think so," she quickly replied.

Nick wished she would open up to him and confide her fear. Dispel
his fear. He was certainly getting a taste of his own medicine, he
thought, with the number of times he had held back when she urged
him to talk. He discovered he didn't like it any more than she did.
He could only hope that her reasons were the same, that neither of
them wanted to hurt the other.

"Maybe you should get some sleep, Nat. You look tired."

She simply smiled at him. "That thought isn't exactly enticing to
me right now, Nick. Besides, the shower woke me up." Her words
belied the truth, however. Only fifteen minutes had passed before
she fell asleep in his arms, and Nick had to carry her to her bed.

* * * * *

Lacroix could feel the darkness waning as he sat alone in the
Raven. The club was dim and eerily quiet. The bar was empty of
everything save a crystal goblet of sweet scarlet liquid and the
sculptured bust he had had made of himself so very long ago.
Lacroix was deep in thought, and apart from measured movements of
his arm to gently lift and slowly sip from the glass, all in the
Raven was still.

He would not have closed the Raven, he mused, had it not been for
the embarrassment he suffered when his own people abandoned him.
His disciples had trickled away like dust through his fingers. All
except Nicholas. Of course the ignorant mortals had still come, but
where was the fun in that? There was no glory in mingling with
people who could not truly appreciate his innate supremacy. The
club *had* been an amusing entertainment while it lasted, however.
If it had not been for Divia, Lacroix thought, his Nicholas would
probably be here right now, mingling with his own kind, being civil
to his father, being groomed for his plunge back into hell. Lacroix
chuckled at the thought.

He realized that it was Janette's unexpected departure that had
given him the real opportunity to hybridize himself and become a
confidante to Nicholas. The role had been one of his finest
performances. At times he even believed himself! "And how typical
of Nicholas," Lacroix scoffed aloud, "to believe that after all
these centuries I should suddenly change. It would be easier to
turn salt into gold." He took another long sip from his glass. "I
want of you what I've always wanted," he said. "To see you kill
with pleasure again. To see your mortal soul turn black as night.
To watch you put those pathetic creatures out of their misery
instead of ...loving them."

An unwelcome vision of Dr. Lambert drifted into Lacroix's mind and
he growled. He despised the hold she had on *his* Nicholas. He
despised their love for each other. Yes, he did know about love. He
knew that he was powerless against it. He would have disposed of
the annoying doctor himself, he thought, but he knew the truth. He
had even spoken it; their attraction was as 'immutable as the
stars,' and Nicholas would walk into the sun if he ever lost his
precious Natalie. The only way to end their repugnant relationship,
Lacroix realized, was to convince Nicholas that it would be the
best thing for Natalie. Lacroix's eyes glowed red as he recalled
his most recent fantasy of dealing with that nuisance; of draining
her slowly and painfully, and then tying her useless, lifeless body
to an insect ridden post.

Lacroix tenderly stroked the sculptured image of himself as his
eyes returned to their normal state. "The only thing I have
changed, my dear, eternally *naive* captive ...are my tactics."

He stood up and leisurely strolled behind the bar. It had been a
difficult year for him, he thought, recalling how insignificant he
had felt during the asteroid scare. Even more insulting, he had
been rendered powerless by the demon that had possessed Nicholas
for a short time. Immeasurable blows to his self-esteem, but
glowing triumphs in his battle for Nicholas, as evidenced by his
son's willingness to help him fight Divia. His mortal
daughter/vampire master had been quite an unexpected guest, but he
had recovered quickly and cunningly. His mention to Nicholas of
saying a prayer over her ashes had been an absolute stroke of

Lacroix's only true regret was that Natalie had helped save his
people from that dread virus. That affair had caused him, for a
brief hellish time, to feel an obligation towards her. Thankfully
he came to his senses when he remembered that it was her duty to
help. After all, it was her kind that created the wretched thing.

* * * * *

Natalie woke shortly after noon and lay in bed staring up at the
ceiling for several minutes. Apparently Nick had removed her
housecoat and slippers and put her to bed. She grinned at the
thought, wondering if he kissed her goodnight, where he kissed her,
what he might have said. She regretted that she wasn't awake for
the event. "But if you were awake, none of it would have happened,"
she murmured cheerfully to herself.

Without warning, her heart started to pound. She felt faint. The
intense terror that she had experienced during her nightmare washed
over her. Her breathing quickened and her hands started to sweat.
She struggled desperately to regain control. "It's just a panic
attack, Nat," she chided herself. But all the same, she had a very
sick feeling in her heart that her snap diagnosis was totally

In an effort to expel her fear, she turned her thoughts to other
elements of her dream. She felt guilty for concentrating on Lora
lying dead in a tub full of water and blood, but it took her mind
off of Nick. Well, off of that black thing that lived inside him.

Nat soon regained her composure and quickly got out of bed. After
slipping into a pair of black leggings and a pink silk blouse, she
walked silently into the living room. Nick was sound asleep on the
couch with Sydney curled up at his feet. His hands were folded over
his heart and for a moment Natalie was tempted to reposition them
so he wouldn't look so ...undead. "Stop dwelling on it," she told
herself. Then she went back into the bedroom and emerged with a
bright yellow blanket. She tossed it over Nick before going to the

Nat instinctively stayed as quiet as possible during breakfast,
even though the deep sleep that Nick was in made the extra effort
unnecessary. When she finished eating, she used the phone in the
kitchen to call Lora's office. Lora had seemed quite pleased to
hear from her, and they made arrangements to meet that night at six
o'clock at a Chinese restaurant near Yonge and Eglinton.

"That's what started that stupid dream!" Nat blurted out when she
realized that her accident occurred directly across the street from
Lora's apartment building. She looked for further connections
between her dream and reality, but found none. "Lacroix was
probably the truck," she grumbled. She felt a sense of relief that
the remaining elements of her nightmare might soon explain
themselves and dissipate.

Nat went into the living room and bent over Nick. She planted a
soft kiss on his cold pale cheek before retrieving her purse and
his car keys from the coffee table. Then she dug a pale pink denim
jacket out of the closet, slipped into her sneakers, and headed out
to run a few errands.

She quickly remembered how conspicuous Nick's caddy was in the
daylight. Motorists and pedestrians alike would first gawk at the
car and then at her. She felt like a mobile billboard. Her first
stop was the dry cleaners in the mall where she left her blood
stained jacket for cleaning, or ultimately dying a darker shade of
brown. After that, she spent an hour window shopping before heading
off to the grocery store. Her last stop was the library, and it was
almost 3:30 when she arrived there.

She had intended to pick up some books for Nick and avoid the
medical research section, but she couldn't resist a quick peek and
ended up spending nearly an hour flipping through new titles. On
her way to the archaeology section a poster of a T-Rex caught her
eye and lured her into palaeontology. "Hmmm..." Nat murmured. She
scanned through the shelves and discovered most of the larger books
were reference volumes that could only be used in the library, but
she soon found two intensive books that could be borrowed.

As Nat was making her way back up the aisle, she caught a glimpse
of a familiar face sitting at one of the reading tables. It was
Tracy. A pile of books sat in front of her, and she was totally
engrossed in reading. As Nat neared the table, she noticed Tracy
looked rather tired and didn't have a glimmer of make-up on. Her
mauve blouse looked like it had been slept in, and her face was
unusually drawn and pale.

"Tracy? Are you okay?" Nat asked, concern evident in her voice.

Tracy peered up and glanced at Natalie. "Nat!" she cried, as she
promptly closed the book. "I'm fine. What are you doing here?"

Nat sat down across from Tracy and set her own books down on the
table. "I came to find something for Nick to read. I was just on my
way home actually when I noticed you."

Tracy smiled and glanced over at Nat's books. "Oh, Nick's into
dinosaurs, eh? I seem to find out more about my partner from his
friends than from him."

"His real interest is archaeology," Nat replied with a smile. "But
I'm sure he's already read every book on *that* subject. I thought
he might find palaeontology interesting." Nat eyed the sloppy pile
of dark covered books laid out in front of Tracy. "You look like
you're doing some research," she said.

Tracy fidgeted in her seat and casually rested her arm over the
title of the book she had just been reading. "Oh, it's nothing."
Her cheeks flushed slightly under Nat's probing gaze. "Okay, okay,"
Tracy said. She grimaced slightly as she slid her arm away to
reveal the name of the book.

"Restless Spirits," Nat announced with a note of surprise. She
reached over and started shuffling the books around, reading the
titles aloud. "Hauntings ...When They Come Back ...Another Chance."

"Since that haunted house thing. You remember," Tracy said softly.

"Has your ghost come back?" Nat asked anxiously.

Tracy winced. "Not exactly ...I mean, no. I just feel ready now,
you know, to start reading about this stuff without feeling
frightened by it."

Nat nodded knowingly. Apart from Nick, she had always tried to
dismiss supernatural phenomenon; but the past few months had made
that extremely difficult. She had been forced to acknowledge
demonic possession, her grandmother's ghost, and the reincarnation
of a vampire. She had tried to diminish their significance, to fit
them into her little scientific reality; but in truth they all had
a profound affect on her. They were elements that transcended life
and time, elements of good and of evil; and they were all elements
of reality.

Tracy interrupted Nat's private reflections. "Well, it just gets
you to thinking about life, about death, all things in between. You

"Yes I do," Natalie answered flatly before checking her watch. "Oh!
It's almost four, I better get going." She almost wished she could
sit and talk to Tracy for a while on the subject, but she had to
get home and get ready to meet Lora for dinner. Nat quickly stood
up and scooped her books from the table. "Gotta go, Trace. I'll
talk to you later."

"Later, Nat," Tracy replied.

It was almost five o'clock when Natalie arrived in the hallway
outside her apartment. She was struggling to hold the two large
books in one arm and a bag of groceries in the other, while rifling
through her purse for her keys. She was just about to set the
awkward books on the floor when Nick opened the door and smiled at

"You must be feeling better," he said. "Can I give you a hand?"

"I picked these up at the library for you," Nat replied as she slid
the volumes into Nick's waiting arms. "And you'll never believe who
I bumped into. Tracy. Better yet, you'll never believe what she was
read..." Nat cut herself off. "Then again," she added, "maybe you

Nick looked at the books and laughed. "Dinosaurs, Nat?"

"You sound just like Tracy," Nat moaned. She stepped inside and set
the grocery bag on the floor. After closing the door she turned to
Nick and smiled warmly at him. "I thought it might provide you with
a new interest. How long have you been up anyway?"

"A couple of hours," Nick answered as he leafed through a few pages
of the thicker book.

"You must feel like a prisoner by now in this small apartment," Nat
said as she removed her coat and hung it up in the closet.

"I'm always a prisoner during the day," he remarked. As he spoke,
Sydney suddenly appeared whirling around his feet. Nick glanced
down, "But today I have a warden." He turned his innocent grin to
Nat, "Don't you pay any attention to this cat?" he teased.


"He was sleeping at my feet when I woke. I gave him one little
scratch on the head and he won't leave me alone."

Nat reached down and scooped up her bag from the floor. "Hmmm..."
she droned before rubbing the top of Nick's head with her free
hand. "Nope, doesn't work," she quipped. Nat dashed for the kitchen
before he had a chance to react, but his only reaction was a grin.

"Did you have any plans for us for tonight?" she asked as she
busied herself putting the groceries away.

Nick walked towards the kitchen. "Actually, I have plans for me,"
he said. "I was going to go down to the precinct and do some
investigating into your accident."

"That's not a homicide case, Nick. And besides, it's your night

"That's why it's a perfect night to do it."

Nat grinned slyly at him. "That's okay," she said. "I have plans
myself tonight."

Nick stared at her. "Oh?" he said inquisitively.

"Surprised?" Nat toyed with the lost expression on his face. She
tortured him with silence for the briefest of moments. "I'm just
meeting Lora for dinner," she said, "and then I'm going to pick up
my car and come home."

"Lora from your dream?" Nick asked.

Natalie nodded her head.

* * * * *

It was still daylight when the taxi dropped Natalie off at the
restaurant. After paying the driver and getting out of the cab, she
entered the dark panelled lobby of the restaurant. She looked
around for her petite, dark haired friend; but there was no sign of
her. Nat noticed a small fish pond and wandered over to watch the
colourful koi as they swam. Moments later she was startled by a
hand touching her shoulder and she spun around. "Lora!"

"Hi Nat," Lora grinned.

"I feel ten years older just looking at you," Nat said. Lora had
her hair brushed back into a ponytail, making her look even younger
than she usually did.

Lora peered over the wooden railing and down into the pond, "So,
Nat, what have you been up to. It's been at least six months since
I've heard from you."

"Oh, this and that," Natalie replied, amazed at how quickly the
last six months had gone by. "And you?"

"The same," Lora answered. They walked over to the desk and moments
later a young Chinese woman escorted them to a quiet table in the

* * * * *

Tracy parked her car in the underground garage of her apartment
building and carried her books over to the elevator. She had spent
nearly the whole day in the library researching supernatural
events, with particular emphasis on ghosts. The half dozen volumes
she had in her arms seemed the most authentic, if there was such a
thing, and she wanted to glean more information from them. As she
waited for the elevator she wondered if Vachon, or what there was
of him, was still in her apartment.

The elevator door suddenly slid open and an elderly couple emerged.
Tracy recognized them from the last tenant meeting. They lived in
apartment 802.

"Tracy Vetter!" the woman exclaimed.

"Oh, Mr. & Mrs. Miller, hello!" Tracy stepped into the elevator and
positioned herself against the door to stop it from closing. "On
your way out I see," she said, silently hoping her remark wouldn't
lead to a long conversation.

"Yes dear," Lynn Miller replied as she adjusted the wide brimmed
straw hat she wore. "We're going to have dinner with our daughter,
Angela, and her family. I told you about her, didn't I? The one
with four children. Quite unusual today, mind you, with so many
couples only having one or two."

"Yes, unusual," Tracy replied, her body jerking each time the
elevator door tried to close.

"Not a good idea, either," Lynn continued. "It doesn't bode well
for the future, I say. Some couples today don't even have children
at all. Imagine! I had six myself, you know."

Tracy nodded, trying to figure out how to get away without being
rude. Thankfully, Mr. Miller spared her the embarrassment. Tracy
could have sworn she saw his eyes roll up as though he was used to
having to break off his wife's conversations.

"Come on Lynn," Ted Miller urged as he tugged at his wife's arm.
"We're already late."

"Yes, dear, I'm coming," Lynn replied. "Do come by for coffee
sometime, Tracy. We'd love to have you up. Come anytime. No need to
phone ahead. I'm always prepared for company. Not that I have that
much of course, but I am always prepared."

"Thank you, I will!" Tracy called out as the Millers headed for
their car. "Finally," she muttered as she pushed the button for her
floor. Moments later she was in the hallway in front of her
apartment. She unlocked the door and stepped in cautiously,
scanning the room for Vachon. He wasn't there.

Tracy went into the kitchen and dumped the books on the table. She
made a cup of herbal tea and sat down, eager to go through the
books. She jumped when Vachon suddenly appeared sitting across from

"There you are!" Tracy exclaimed. "Look, I've brought back some
books. Hopefully we can find out why you're here."

Vachon nodded.

"Where were you just now?" she asked. "Do you remember."

"I was somewhere," he replied. "But I can't remember where. I'm
beginning to feel like a puppet."

"And someone else is controlling the string," Tracy offered.

"Exactly," Vachon replied.

"That's a good sign," Tracy said.

Vachon looked perplexed. "How can that be a good sign?"

"Well, it means you are here for a reason." She grinned and pointed
upwards with her finger. "Someone sent you here."

"What makes you think it was him?" Vachon asked. He pointed
downwards, "rather than him?"

Tracy shuddered. She didn't want to think about *that* possibility.
"Don't you know?" she asked. "Can't you even tell whether you're
here for good or evil?"

"It's neither good nor evil," Vachon replied. "It just *is*."

"You're in limbo," Tracy determined.


"Yes. I think you're being given a chance."

Vachon seemed interested. "A chance for what?"

This time it was Tracy who pointed downwards with her finger. "A
chance not to end up down there for eternity," she whispered.

* * * * *

Reese happened to peek out his door just as Nick was sitting down
at his desk. "Knight!" he bellowed out as he approached Nick. "What
are you doing here? And how is Natalie?"

"She's doing quite well," Nick said. "She was even out shopping

Reese smiled. "That's good news. I suppose that's why you're here.
Going to look into the hit and run?"

"Don't tell me not to, Captain."

"Not when the victim is Natalie Lambert," Reese said. He had
already started walking away when he suddenly stopped and turned
around. "And Knight ...step on all the toes you can. That's an

"Will do," Nick replied with a mock salute. He punched a few keys
into his keyboard and watched the screen. He soon realized that
nothing had been entered yet about Nat's accident and he would have
to go over to traffic. After checking the wall clock, he decided to
call Nat. "She should be home by now," he muttered as he picked up
the phone and dialed.

The phone rang three times before Nat picked it up. "Hello?"

"Hi, Nat. How was dinner?"

"Chinese, Nick, you *know* I liked it."

He could picture her grin at the other end of the line. "And your

"She seemed fine, perfectly normal. What are you up to?"

"I'm just heading over to traffic now," he replied. "Probably be a
few hours. Do you want me to stop by on my way home?"

"No. I think I'll just do some reading and go to bed early. I'm
visiting my sister-in-law tomorrow. So ...will I see you tomorrow

"If I don't see you on the field, I'll stop by the morgue," Nick
said. "...And after work. How's that?"

"Sounds good to me! See you then."

Natalie was surprised the next evening to find an 'Urgent Memo' on
her desk. Her office was scheduled to be painted the following
night and the memo requested that all loose articles be packed into
boxes and left in the middle of the floor away from the walls. It
was dated April 14th. "The date and the packing," Nat said aloud,
"two more pieces of the puzzle." She was relieved that most of the
details of her nightmare had slowly dissipated. Others had been
permanently etched into her psyche. Her realization of the vampire,
the essence of her soul, Nick's tortured face. Those things were
real and profound to her. They had changed her and they would never
dissipate, and she was pondering them when her phone suddenly rang.

"Lambert!" Nat answered.

As she listened to the voice on the other end her face turned white
and the receiver fell from her hands into her lap. It was an
apparent suicide, at Lora's address. Natalie trembled as she
reached down for the receiver and slowly set it back on the phone.
She stood up lethargically and strolled around her office, picking
up her medical bag and clipboard. In a daze, she slipped into her
coat and went out the door. She walked down the hall and informed
the attendants about the call. Having neither the energy nor
inclination to drive herself to the scene, she told them she would
ride with them.

The trip to Lora's apartment took too little time and Nat had no
desire to get there quickly. When she got out of the car, however,
all she wanted to do was rush upstairs and into Nick's arms,
knowing he would already be there. As she traversed the corridor
towards Lora's door, she saw Nick waiting for her in the hallway.

The moment he saw her, he went to her. She fell into his arms and
he held her tightly. "You don't have to go in there, Nat," he said
softly. "I called and asked them to send someone else, but you had
already left."

"I'm scared to death, Nick," she whimpered. "You know this was in
my dream. You know it."

"It's not like your dream, Nat. She's not in the tub and there's no
blood. She had a bath, put on a nightgown, went to her bed, and
gave herself a lethal injection of something. It's just a horrible
coincidence, Nat. Nothing more."

"A coincidence," Nat muttered, trying to make herself believe it.

"That's all it is," Nick said, "and you don't have to go in there.
I know she was your friend."

"I have to go because she was my friend," Nat said.

The two of them walked back up the hall and stepped into Lora's
apartment. Just as they did, Tracy rushed over with a large
envelope. "This is addressed to you, Nat," she said as she stuffed
it into Nat's hands. "Oh, God!" Nat cried in horror as she stumbled
backwards. Nick caught her and settled her into a chair.

Tracy quickly disappeared into the adjacent room.

As Nat sat staring off into space, package in hand, Nick bent close
to her. "I'll be right back," he whispered. She watched him walk
over to Tracy. She listened to him telling Tracy that he was going
to take her out of there. She saw him walk back towards her. She
felt his lips brush against her hair. And then all she felt was

* * * * *

Natalie remained in a daze all the way to Nick's. He urged her to
talk, but every attempt was met with silence. He gave up. When they
stepped out of the elevator into the loft, Nat removed her coat and
straggled over to the couch. She settled comfortably into the soft
black leather, still clutching the manilla envelope in her hands.
She tentatively ran her hand across the envelope, outlining her own
name with her fingers, before discarding it to the coffee table.

Nick eased himself down beside her. "Do you want me to open it?" he
asked guardedly.

Natalie snapped out of her trance. "I know it's her journal," she
said quietly. "The one I told you about. Go ahead. Open it."

Nick opened the package and pulled out the journal. He passed it to
Nat, but she casually waved it off. She just kept staring at it as
Nick set it back down on the coffee table. Nick clasped her hand
and found it cool and clammy. He could feel her trembling. "Are you
afraid to read it?" he asked softly.

"I already know what it says," she replied solemnly.

"And something in it frightens you?" Nick asked, hoping to finally
discover what really frightened her in that dream.

"The very fact that it is here frightens me, Nick. Lora committed
suicide in my dream, and she left her journal addressed to me.
Don't you see what I've done? Don't you? If I never had dinner with
her that journal would not be sitting there. She was fine last
night. We laughed together. I should have known. I was her friend.
Why didn't I know?"

"It's not your fault, Nat," Nick whispered as he stroked her hair.
"How many times have you told me what a personal thing suicide is,
how it can take the very people you least suspect?"

"I dreamed her death, and now she is dead," Nat whimpered. "When I
got the call tonight, visions from my nightmare overwhelmed me. I
feared that I had envisioned the future. But now my greatest fear that I am creating it."

"You're not thinking clearly, Nat," Nick said soothingly. "She may
have addressed the envelope to you because she felt close to you
last night, but that is the extent of it. You had no hand in her
suicide, and no way of preventing it." He put his arms around her
and held her quietly for several minutes before releasing her.
"Maybe it's time to tell me about your dream, Nat," he said.

Nat knew in her heart there was one thing she could never tell him.
It would kill him to know that he could not stop the evil from
pushing his love aside and draining the life from her. A death that
would have been most bearable, she thought, if only she had been
with him until the end, instead of with the beast.

Nick saw the pain in her eyes. "Nat?"

"Sorry," Nat replied as she snapped out of her reverie. "Next we
were in the morgue. It was late. We were talking about the journal.
Then I saw a prisoner in the precinct. He was being transferred. He
had no handcuffs on. He struggled and took a gun and a hostage..."

"You're safe there," Nick interrupted with a grin. "Prisoners are
not transferred at night, they are always cuffed and often
shackled, and they don't make tourist stops at police stations."

Natalie stared at him. "Well this one did, Nick, and his name was


She could tell by the slightly stunned look on his face that the
name was familiar. "You know him?"

"His wife was murdered a few weeks ago, violently. You wouldn't
remember her. You were on vacation and Debra did the autopsy. Dobbs
is our chief suspect, but we don't have enough to arrest him.
Actually we don't have anything we could use to arrest him. I'm
sure you've heard the name around the precinct."

Nick's double reassurance calmed Nat a little. Perhaps Lora's
suicide was just a strange coincidence, she thought. She hoped.

"What happened next?" Nick asked.

"We were back in the morgue," Nat continued. "I was depressed. We
were talking about being together. The phone rang. They told you
there was trouble at the station and you left."

"I left when we were talking about being together?" Nick asked
incredulously. "When they had a whole precinct full of cops to deal
with it?"

"Yes," she said simply.

Nick just shook his head in disbelief, wondering if that's what
instilled her fear of him leaving. He had certainly left her in the
lurch too many times so he could respond to a call. He would have
to make an effort to correct that situation.

"Anyway," Nat said. "You met up with this Dobbs character in the
locker room. You whammied him and he was going to put the gun down.
Then there was a noise and he stopped. You struggled with him and
he fired. Tracy was by the back wall and took the bullets, one of
them in the head. You blamed yourself, and things went further
downhill from there."

Nick heard her voice starting to crack. "Do you want me to fix you
some tea or something?"

"No," Nat replied, "but I could use a glass of water."

Nick quickly rose from the couch, lifting the journal from the
coffee table as he did so. He took it with him into the kitchen and
left it on the counter. A moment later he returned with a glass of
ice water and passed it to Natalie.

Nat took several gulps before continuing with her story. "The next
thing I saw was you and Lacroix at the Raven. He was leaving and he
wanted you to go with him. He said it was time to move on." Nat
suddenly glared at Nick. "I don't know why you listen to him," she
snapped. "If you should have learned anything in 800 years, you
should have at least learned that he is not to be trusted."

Nick was surprised by the anger in her voice and suddenly felt
uneasy, mainly because he knew she was right. He had been rather
enthusiastic about Lacroix's apparent change in attitude. But
history ignored, is history repeated.

Nat cleared her throat. "Anyway," she said, her voice back to
normal, "I remember seeing you visit Tracy in the hospital, packing
up my office, Tracy dying, and meeting you in the loft. You said
you were going to leave that very night, that you could do no more
to atone for your sins."

Nick could see tears building in Nat's eyes as she stared at him.

"How could you say that, Nick?" she asked. "*You* were the one who
moved our relationship forward that Valentine's Day. *You* were the
one who begged me to come back to you when I tried to leave. You
wanted me to love you. How could you leave me now? How could you
even think it? And how could you give up when you're closer to
mortality than you've ever been?"

"It was a dream, Nat," Nick intoned. He tried to sound strong, but
the pain in her voice almost brought forth his own tears.

"I'm sorry," she mumbled. "I don't want to go any further. Can we
just watch a movie or something?"

Nick could feel her despair, but she wouldn't tell him any more.
"What do you want to watch?" was all he could think of to say.

"Something uplifting," Nat replied.

They watched movies until dawn, exchanged small talk, laughed, and
eased their way back into their normal reserved relationship.
Closing credits were scrolling down the television screen when
dawn's light started filtering through the window. Nick reached for
the remote and closed the blinds. "Do you want to sleep upstairs or
on the couch?" he asked Nat.

Nat smiled. "I think I should go home," she said. "Someone accused
me of not paying enough attention to my cat."

"No!" Nick teased as they rose from the couch. He helped her into
her coat and walked her to the lift before gently kissing her
forehead. "I'll see you at work tonight."

Nat smiled and pecked his cheek before stepping into the lift.
"I'll be there."

Nick didn't realize until after she left, that she had forgotten
Lora's journal.

It was nearly one in the afternoon when Dobbs woke. He staggered
out of his bedroom and into the living room dressed only in grey
boxer shorts and a white undershirt. His mind was racing. He knew
that stupid detective would be working tonight, and he intended to
pay another visit to the 96th. One of these days, he thought, he
would get through those idiots at the front desk and get in to see
that useless Knight and his equally useless partner.

Dobbs stopped at the coffee table and stared down. His photographs
lay in a tumble, some of them on the floor. "Marci!" he screamed.
He fell to his knees, arms outstretched, his chest landing atop the
mound of photographs. His hands started to shake, and tears gushed
down his face. "They haven't found him yet, Marci!" he screamed.
"How can I leave? How can I join you? They haven't found your
killer yet! Oh, Marci!"

Dobbs lay where he fell for several hours. He knew Marci's soul had
left their home and it was time for him to die. But her killer had
not yet been found. Her killer ...had not even been looked for.
Dobbs knew that would only happen when he was no longer a suspect.
He soon formulated a plan, and rose from the floor. "A dying man's
last words," he said, "are always taken as truth."

* * * * *

Nat had just hung up her coat and sat down at her desk ready for
the night shift when Nick appeared at her door. She was almost
hoping he wouldn't show up tonight, but she couldn't hide from
fate. She swallowed hard and smiled at him. "Come on in!"

"You forgot this at my place," Nick said cautiously as he
approached her. He was holding Lora's journal in his hand, unsure
whether she left it at the loft on purpose or by accident.

"So I see," Nat replied, motioning with her hand for him to leave
it on her desk. "Did you read it?"

"Yes," Nick answered truthfully. "Do you mind?"

"Not at all." Nat rose from her chair and went to stand in front of

"Are you going to read it?" Nick asked her.

"Tell me if I'm close," Nat said. "Lora thought her life was empty
because she didn't have a home in the suburbs, a husband, a
minivan, and two kids."

"Something like that," Nick said. "It was never my intention to
deprive you of a normal life," he added with sincerity.

"A normal life is for someone who lives in a normal world," Natalie
replied. "I belong to a much larger world now. A world where life
in and of itself is not nearly as relevant as I once thought." She
paused and stared thoughtfully at him. "Freeing your soul from the
vampire is everything to me, Nick," she said. "And I understand now
that it's the most important thing that I could ever do with *my* life."

Nick smiled warmly and took her hands in his own. "But you *are*
lonely," he whispered.

"It just kills me that we can't be together. But if I know that you
love me, that you have hope for a future for us..."

"I have that love and that hope," Nick interrupted as he enveloped
her snugly in his arms. "I want to be with you, but not in
darkness. You know that."

"I do now," Natalie said as she buried her face in his chest and
cried. She loved the feel of his arms around her and didn't want to
ever let him go, but in her heart she knew that their future had
already been sealed. She knew it the moment she got the call about
Lora's suicide.

For the second time in two days, Nick felt her tears on his chest.
Keeping apart during the best of times was difficult for both of
them. When she was suffering as she was now, it was pure torture
for him. He wanted to end her loneliness and her tears, but not at
the price of her soul. He held her tightly in his arms for several
long minutes. And then his cell phone rang.

Natalie tensed. She felt dizzy, as though everything around her was
moving in slow motion. Nick took the call, and his words flashed
through Nat's mind before he even spoke them. Well, one word,
'situation', meaning 'trouble'.

Astonished, Nick snapped the phone shut and nervously stuffed it into
his pocket. He stared at Nat's face as if looking for an answer, but
all he saw was confusion and pain.

"You can't go!" she shouted. "You can't! You know you can't!"

Nick placed his hands snugly on her shoulders. "Nat. You told me
what happened in your dream. I know what to expect. I can stop it.
I can make sure Tracy isn't hurt."

"You can't stop anything, Nick."

"I have to go. Dobbs is raising a ruckus at the station. He'll only
talk to me."

Nat cringed. "That didn't happen in my dream, Nick. You don't know
what's going to happen." She stared down at the cold tile floor.
"But I know," she added morosely. "Tracy's going to die. Tonight."

Nick caught her chin in his hand and met her eyes. "She's not going
to die," he assured her. "I'll see to that. I have to go."

"Then I'm going with you," Nat proclaimed.

Nick shook his head and summoned a modest smile. "No," he said as
he turned to leave.

Natalie grabbed his arm from behind and held it tightly. "You're
not leaving without me," she said firmly.

Nick stopped for a moment, but didn't turn around. "Will you wait
in the car?"

Nat didn't answer. She just started walking with him.

Ten minutes later, Nick was pulling into the precinct parking lot.
He parked the car and looked firmly at Nat in the hopes that she
would wait as he asked, but she already had her seat belt unbuckled
and her hand on the door handle. "I'm coming with you," she curtly
announced. Nick merely nodded his head in surrender. Together they
went around to the side entrance, where Dobbs was supposed to be
waiting for Nick.

Unlike the main entrance, this small rectangular reception area was
calm and very quiet. A solemn faced, square jawed rookie with a
buzzcut was manning the front desk, which was actually a counter
that spanned wall to wall with a hinged opening at one end. The
rookie was busy filling out a report. Along the wall behind him was
a row of grey metal filing cabinets and a glazed door that led
deeper into the station. Nick didn't recognize the rookie, but
assumed he was filling in for Sgt. Barnes who had a peculiar habit
of booking off sick the third Monday night of each month.

Both Nick and Natalie glanced around. Apart from themselves and the
other officer, there was no one else in the room. Together they
walked up to the counter. Just as Nick was retrieving his ID from
his pocket the rookie raised his head. "May I help you?" he
inquired authoritatively.

Nick flashed his badge. "Detective Knight. I understand someone was
in here to see me?"

The officer quickly set his pen down. He offered his hand to Nick and
introduced himself. "Name's Dawkins!" he said.

Natalie felt a shiver run up her spine at the mention of the name,
but she couldn't recall why.

"Dawkins," Nick echoed. "About my visitor?"

Dawkins peered over the counter to the far left of the front door. He
gestured towards the empty wooden bench. "He was sitting right
there a few minutes ago," he said. "He was in to see Captain Reese.
Not long after that, Reese brought him out here and told him to
wait, said that you would be here shortly."

Natalie nervously took Nick's hand in her own and squeezed it.
They both strolled over towards the bench out of the rookie's
earshot. Nick turned towards her and smiled. "So," he said
quietly, "nothing to worry about. Dobbs has left."

"You're not going to do anything stupid like go and look for him
are you, Nick?" she asked uneasily.

"No, I'm not going to go look for him." Nick grinned as he checked
his watch. "But my shift's almost started." He offered Nat his arm
and started leading her towards the front door. "Come on," he said.
"I'll drop you off back at the morgue."

When they were within ten feet of the door, it suddenly flew open
and Dobbs rushed in. His hair was tousled and his eyes looked wild.
He saw Nick instantly. "Knight!" he screamed. Nick and Natalie
froze. Dobbs had one hand hidden in his coat pocket.

Nick took a step forward, putting himself between Natalie and
Dobbs. "Show me your hands," he ordered, "slowly."

Dobbs smiled strangely as he removed an empty hand from his pocket
and waved it in the air. "Why?" he snorted. "Are you afraid I have
a gun in here? Are you afraid I'm going to shoot you for
dereliction of duty?"

Nick was still unsure whether or not Dobbs had a weapon. He started
walking forward, being careful to keep himself between Dobbs and

"That's far enough!" Dobbs barked.

Nick glared at him. "What is it you want?" he asked angrily.

"I want my wife's killer, Detective. You've sat on your ass long
enough. Why haven't you done anything to find him?"

"Because I believe he's standing right in front of me," Nick said.

"You're wrong, Knight," Dobbs growled. "But you don't give a damn,
do you? My wife is dead and her killer is free. You don't give a
damn because you think I did it, and you're always right, aren't
you, Detective?"

>From the corner of his eye, Nick spied Tracy emerging from the
glazed door by the filing cabinets into the reception area.

Tracy recognized Dobbs immediately, especially his voice. Every day
since his wife's funeral he had called, asking what progress had
been made on the case. A few times he had even come to the station,
but was always politely turned away before he got anywhere. Nick
had suspected Dobbs right from the start, and Nick had an uncanny
ability when it came to identifying the guilty party. 'Well,' she
thought. 'I am his partner. And this idiot seems to be giving him
a hard time....'

Nick didn't know what to do. Dobbs had not become an established
threat yet and he could not protect Tracy without leaving Natalie
exposed. He took another step towards Dobbs and locked eyes with
him. He listened for Dobbs' heartbeat and tried to seize his mind,
but the hold was tenuous at best. "Go home," Nick said firmly, "Go

Nick's contact with Dobbs was suddenly broken by a loud squeaking
sound followed by an even louder thump. Tracy had lifted the hinged
section of the countertop and walked through, letting the
countertop slam back down into place behind her.

Dobbs quickly eyed Tracy before returning his attention to Nick.
"Home?" he asked with a cracked voice. "No. I can't go back there.
I won't go back there." He calmly reached into his pocket. "And I
did not kill my wife!" he screamed as he pulled his hand out.

Tracy saw a flash of black and drew her gun.

Nick immediately recognized the weapon for what it was. He saw
Tracy take aim. "NO!" he screamed at Tracy. But it was too late.
She had already fired two rounds into Dobbs' ribs. He fell to the
floor with a thud, bleeding profusely.

Nick heard Natalie scream behind him. A quick glance told him she
had fainted and fell to the floor. Then he saw Tracy run towards
Dobbs and kick the weapon from his hand. He noticed her face pale
as he ran towards her. "Go take care of Nat, Trace!" he yelled.

Tracy was stunned. "Nick, I, uh, I..."

"See to Nat, Tracy!" Nick shouted. Tracy turned and rushed to
Natalie. She knelt down on the floor. "Nat, Nat," she said quietly
as she gently prodded her shoulders.

Nick felt Dobbs' neck for a pulse and didn't find one. He didn't
expect to. Tracy shot him clean through the heart, twice. He looked
at the 45 replica lying discarded on the floor. It was a pellet
gun. Dobbs expected to die tonight and he never intended to
take anyone with him. Something was very wrong here and Nick knew
it. Then he noticed the label on Dobbs' jacket. It read "Avro
Service Station."

Within seconds, several officers had converged on the scene. Nick
could already hear the siren of an ambulance in the distance. He
stood up slowly. "There's nothing they can do for him," he
announced, before walking over to Nat and Tracy.

"She's still unconscious, Nick. I can't wake her up," Tracy moaned.
As Nick knelt down beside them he noticed a trickle of blood
seeping out from under the bandage on Nat's temple. "She's opened
up her stitches," he said. "I'll get her over to ER. You're going
to be here for a while, Trace."

Tracy rose to her feet. "I didn't know, Nick. I had no idea. It
looked real. I thought it was real."

"You did the right thing, Tracy, but you're going to take a pounding.
Go talk to Reese. Take officer Dawkins with you." Tracy stumbled
off through the throng of cops and disappeared behind the counter.

Nick lowered his face to Nat and gently stroked her cheek with one
hand. He held his other hand firmly over the wound, "Nat? Nat?" he

Natalie started moaning. "Nick," she whimpered.

"It's me, Nat. Come on. You have to get up. You're bleeding. You
have to see a doctor."

Natalie opened her eyes. "Tracy?"

"She's okay. Dobbs didn't make it, but Tracy's okay."

Nick helped Natalie as she struggled to sit up. He let her rest for
a few seconds before getting her to her feet. "Here," he said as he
pressed her own hand over the bandage. "Clamp down on this until we
get to the hospital."

As Nick drove Natalie to the hospital, the Marci Dobbs case started
to flash through his mind. He missed something. He must have missed
something. Dobbs had gone into the police station fully intending
never to walk out. He had tried to kill Natalie. Why? He had
accused Nick of dereliction of duty. Why? His last words were a
declaration of innocence. Why? Nick knew there was only one reason
why. "It's all my fault," he said glumly.

"What?" Natalie almost shouted. "What did you say?"

"I missed something, Nat. Dobbs didn't kill his wife. I wouldn't
listen to him. I didn't try hard enough. He was the one who hit
you, almost killed you."

"I'm not dead, Nick, so stop talking like that."

"And Tracy?" Nick asked. "The SIU's going to be all over her, not to
mention the press. I don't know if she's ever going to want to pick up
a gun again. Her career could be over. Finished, thanks to her partner's

"You're not incompetent."

Nick glared at her, and the coldness she saw in his eyes frightened
her. "Tell that to Dobbs' dead wife," he snapped.

"Oh, God," Natalie whispered.

Nick said nothing. He had almost gotten her killed. His partner
would never be the same. He felt yet another life was crashing in on
him. He had stayed too long, and too many other lives were being
destroyed because of it.

They finally arrived at the hospital and Nick opened the car door
for her. He offered no comfort as he walked her into emergency.
"I'm going to leave you here, Nat," he said icily. "I'll be back in
an hour to pick you up."

"You're not staying?" Nat asked. Her voice trembled.

Nick fought back the urge to put his arms around her and hold on to
her tightly. "I have to go, Nat. I'll be back."

"You're going to Lacroix, aren't you?" she asked.

Nick didn't answer. He just left.

Nick was surprised to find the Raven so barren and silent. Although
the clientele had dwindled in recent weeks, it had never been
totally deserted. He walked through to Lacroix's back room where he
found Lacroix packing a large steamer trunk.

"Nicholas," Lacroix said. "I knew you would come. I sensed your
confusion, your ...turmoil."

"You're leaving?"

"Yes. It is time. It is time for you to leave this life as well."

"I'm not ready to leave."

"Whether you are ready matters not," Lacroix said in the sincerest
voice he could muster. "It is time. I sense your pain. You have
become too entangled in the lives of the mortals around you. One
mortal in particular."

"Natalie," Nick whispered to himself.

"I know you are in love with her, Nicholas. And that being so, you
must leave. Your continued presence prevents her from having the
life she deserves. If you truly love her, you must leave."

"I can't," Nick muttered.

"You must think of her," Lacroix countered. "Is that not why you
came to me tonight?"

"I don't know why I came. I shouldn't have come."

Lacroix snapped the steamer trunk shut. "You came because you
wanted to hear the truth. Your dream of a life with her will never
be more than a dream. Your quest is hopeless and your love is
doomed. But it need not be for Natalie."

"Continue," Nick said.

"She can still have a life, Nicholas. She will find love again with
one of her own kind. Someone who can love her the way she should be

"She told me that is not important to her," Nick said. His heart
sickened at the thought of Natalie in someone else's arms, but he
knew Lacroix was right. She did deserve more than he could give.
Much more.

"She told you what you wanted to hear, Nicholas. She is in love
with you," Lacroix said. 'The seeds have been planted', he thought,
now all he had to do was sit back and let them take root. "I'm
leaving tonight, Nicholas. With or without you. I will come to your
loft later for your decision."

"Don't come to the loft," Nick said. "If I decide to go with you,
I'll be here by four o'clock." He turned around and left the club,
totally ignorant of the smug grin on Lacroix's face.

* * * * *

Nick got into the caddy and drove off towards the hospital. He
parked on the second level of the parking garage and was about to
get out when he heard a familiar voice speaking to him from the
passenger seat.

"When are you ever going to learn to stay away from him?" Vachon

Nick quickly spun around. "What the hell are you doing here?" he
asked. "You're supposed to be dead."

Vachon grinned. "I happen to know that you have been reacquainted
with many 'dead' people over the course of your very long life."

"And what else do you know?" Nick asked.

"Only what I need to know. That you are considering making the
second biggest mistake of your life. That you are thinking about
leaving with ...him."

"He is my master, my creator," Nick muttered.

"A master of lies and deception," Vachon proclaimed. "He *created*
nothing. He simply defiled your mortal flesh with his evil, and
then led you to believe that you needed him." Vachon casually
rubbed his chin with his hand. "You would have been far better off,
you know, if he just left you alone as I was left alone."

"He says it's for the best. That my quest is hopeless. That Natalie
would be better off without me."

"And what do you think?" Vachon asked. "Do you believe your search
for mortality and redemption is hopeless?"

"I don't know anymore," Nick said quietly.

"So," Vachon said. "He insists your search is hopeless, yet has
always shown up at the appropriate moment to stop you. Why do you
think that is?"

"I never really thought about it," Nick replied, suddenly wondering
why he hadn't.

"You obviously haven't thought about a lot of things," Vachon said.
"You have allowed yourself to be led, misled, and manipulated for
so long that you have *forgotten* how to think for yourself."

"You know me that well?" Nick asked sarcastically.

"I know your mind and heart seek mortality and redemption, but what
your soul seeks is freedom."

"That's a freedom that only comes with death," Nick remarked. "And
I fear what becomes of an unforgiven soul."

"It's a freedom that comes from strength, and strength comes from
faith. Faith in yourself, in others, ...perhaps even God." Vachon
paused for a moment. "And what makes you think you will not be
forgiven?" He made a sweeping gesture with his arms. "This is a lonely
place, but even here I have been given a last chance to atone. And you
have a monumental head start on me."

"If I am to be forgiven, then why am I not mortal? Why haven't I
received any sign, any help at all from ...God?"

"He sent something to you a long time ago," Vachon replied. "The
only thing he could send, the strength to help you free yourself.
Something that you have sought with even more vigour than mortality."
Vachon pointed towards the hospital. "Unconditional and eternal
love. And it's in there waiting for you now. You can fight for it,
or you can slither away and surrender to Lacroix. The choice is yours."

"Natalie," Nick whispered as he glanced towards the hospital. He
turned around to speak to Vachon, but Vachon had disappeared.

Nick walked into the Hospital and was surprised to find Reese
there. "How's Tracy?" he asked.

"I think she's going to pull through this mess okay," Reese said.
"Just remember you're her partner, Knight. She'll be looking to you
for support."

"She'll have it," Nick said.

"Oh, and by the way, this is for you." Reese pulled a sheet of yellow
paper from his pocket and handed it to Nick.

"What is it?"

"The Marci Dobbs case. Tracy apparently had one of her own gut
feelings on this thing and sent out the name of his boss, Standish,
for a background check."

"His boss?"

"Yeah, Standish Automotive, where Dobbs worked until last week.
Seems you two questioned him about Dobbs' whereabouts at the time
of the murder and learned that Dobbs had been out on a parts run.
Your partner couldn't get over the fact that he was sent all the
way to St. Catharines for a part he could have picked up
practically anywhere in Toronto. She sent in a request for
background check on the guy."

"And I missed it," Nick said.

"Don't tear yourself up over it, Nick. You knew Dobbs had a messy
background, that woman in Wiarton. His boss said he was out for a
few hours and you put two and two together. As it turns out,
Standish has an even murkier background than Dobbs."


"This is the strange part," Reese said. "Standish turned himself in
an hour ago. Couldn't spill his guts fast enough. Said a long
haired biker told him to. And get this ...the biker was a ghost."

Nick chuckled.

Reese just shook his head, "I'll just never understand people,
Knight. Nope. Not in a million years. A ghost. A biker ghost. What
next..." Reese muttered his way right out the front door.

Nick was walking over to the reception desk to find out which room
Natalie was in when the young Dr. Wilke approached him. "Detective
Knight," he said. "I hope you're looking for Natalie."

"Is she okay?"

"I replaced a few stitches. What did you do to her?"

"She fell," Nick answered.

"I'm not talking about that. She's been crying up a storm since I
first saw her. We had to leave her in there, hoping someone would
eventually come by and pick her up."

"Where is she?" Nick asked. "I have to see her."

"Room four. And I suggest you get her out of here quickly and make
up for whatever the hell you did."

"I will and I will," Nick declared as he went to find Natalie. A
moment later he found her room and opened the door.

"Nick!" Natalie cried out when he stepped in.

"I'm sorry, Nat," Nick said as he rushed to her and held her in his
arms. "I shouldn't have left you like that." He buried his face in
her hair. "Will you forgive me?"

"I forgave you the minute you walked through the door," Natalie

Nick lifted her face and kissed her lips. Then he gently wiped away
her latest tears with his fingers. He had caught too many of them
these past few days. 'More glue to meld to my heart,' he thought.
"Come on," he whispered softly, "let's get out of here." Nick
put his arm around her and led her out of the hospital and down to
his car.

"Where are we going?" she asked as he held the car door open for

"The loft," Nick replied. "I'm under doctor's orders to make up to
you for, in his words, 'whatever the hell I did'. And I plan on
following the doctor's orders."

"There's something I have to tell you, Nick," Natalie said before
she got in the car. "I should have told you before."

"What's that?"

"My dream. When we made love. I met the vampire. It *was* evil and
it scared me."

"I've tried to tell you that, Nat. Several times."

"I know," she said. "And I'm ...I'm sorry for all the times I hurt
you because I could not see it."

Nick caressed her cheek. "There's nothing to be sorry for," he said.
"You are the warmest and most forgiving person I've ever known.
It's difficult for such a heart to admit such evil." He smiled
warmly at her. "But we have a new weapon in our arsenal tonight."

"A new weapon?" Nat asked.

"You'll see when we get home," Nick replied. Natalie got in the car
and Nick shut the door behind her.

They drove to the loft in silence, and when they got off the
elevator, Nick walked over to his desk. Natalie followed closely
and stood behind him as he reached for the box that contained Joan
of Arc's cross. "I've always had hope," he said, "of becoming
mortal one day, of being forgiven." He reached in and picked up the
cross, and his hand did not burn as he held it. "But now I have
something even more powerful," he said. "Faith." Nick gently placed
the wooden cross back into the box and turned to Natalie. "And I
have you," he said before softly kissing her lips. "And I love

"Ahh," Natalie moaned. "This is the making up part. I like it."

"I thought you might," Nick grinned. "Shall we continue this
romantic interlude on the roof?"

"It's a little cool out, but why not!" Natalie said. "It's only
four, we have an hour till sunrise. I'll get the blanket, you bring
the drinks." She disappeared upstairs and came down with a thick
blanket. Nick met her at the door with two glasses, one of white
wine and one of cow blood. They slipped out the door and up the
stairs to the roof.

Nick spread the blanket out and they sat down together under the
stars. After taking a few sips of their respective drinks, they
both laid back to stare up at the night sky.

"You know, Nat," Nick said, "vampires have a very limited
perception of life. Limited to the earth, to the physical world."

"So do many mortals," Natalie said. "And so did I, basically, until
a couple of days ago."

"But how could anyone look at the stars and not believe that there
is more? How could anyone want to spend an eternity looking up at
the stars instead of existing among them?"

"What are you trying to say, Nick?"

"Only that I understand now what you meant, about freeing the soul.
About what it truly means." Nick turned on his side and faced Natalie.
"I'm trying to say that I want to spend this life with you, and
then I want to die with you." He leaned over and kissed her cheek.
"I won't leave you," he said, "and I won't be left behind when you
are gone."

"And if we never find a cure?" Natalie asked.

"We will," Nick proclaimed.

"But if we don't?"

"The sun will be the cure," he answered sincerely. Again, he
kissed her softly on the lips, a kiss that quickly grew more
passionate under Natalie's prodding. She paused for a breath. "You
may very well have to use that cure this morning if we don't stop
now," she cautioned.

Nick smiled and kissed the tip of her nose. "Someday," he said.

"Someday make love, or someday die?" Natalie whispered.

"Someday both," Nick whispered back. "But not today."

--The End--