Ring True
by: Eric McCann
circa July 1997

No stuffed animals were harmed during the making
of this story.

Natalie sighed, as she finished up the night's
paperwork. She hadn't seen Nick for over two weeks,
and was starting to wonder just what was going on.
She'd seen him at the station, or at crime scenes,
but he always seemed to be in a rush. Calling him
at home did no good, either, as he always seemed
to be distracted with something. Was he avoiding her?

Her heart stopped for a second. No, he couldn't be.
Seeing someone else? Was Janette back in town? Or
another vamp?

Or mortal?

//Dammit, Lambert, stop it.// She had to work to get
hold of herself. //If it bugs you so much, just get
over there and don't leave until you find out, one
way or another.//

Could she do it? Her heart ached with doubt, and no
small measure of hurt, at being denied for what seemed
an eternity. But, with her decision, she felt some
strength return. She *would* find out. And tonight.


"Absence makes the heart grow fonder." Nick smiled.
Yes, over the last few weeks he had learned this
axiom was true. He felt awful avoiding Natalie as he
had been, but he had learned so much - about himself
and his vampirism, and about how he felt about Natalie.
If there was any doubt in his mind when he started, it
had long since vanished.

Tracy saw him grinning. "What's so funny?"

"Huh?" Nick looked at his partner. He hadn't realized
how perceptive she had become since she started. Of course,
he *was* grinning like a madman. "Oh, nothing. Just in a
good mood, I guess."

"Nick, I've seen you 'just in a good mood.' You've
got something going through that head of yours. Now
spill it."

Yes, since the incident with the prisoner in the precinct,
his partner had changed quite a bit. "OK, Trace. But only
if you can keep it to yourself." Tracy nodded, eager to
be let in on whatever secret project her partner could
have been working on. Nick looked around, then went to her
side of the desk. "I've got a little something I've
been working on for a while, and I'm going to spring it
on Nat tonight. Actually," he said, thinking for a moment,
"make that two little things."

Tracy came closer. "What?"

Nick had to admit, this was easier now that she knew about
him being a vampire. "Well, for one, I've compiled a sort
of history of me. I'm hoping it can get us closer together."

Tracy giggled. "A history of you? After eight centuries,
that has to be a thick book."

Nick showed her the book he had gotten bound earlier.
It was about an inch thick, but mostly pictures, momentos,
and the like. He also brought out a Zip disk. "I figured
this might be easier to carry around, too." Nick sighed.
"Maybe it will help her understand me. Maybe it will give
her some ideas on how to cure me. Or," he said, pausing
for a painful moment, "maybe it will drive her away."

Tracy gave her partner a sympathetic scratch on the back.
"I doubt it'll do that, Nick."

He smiled at her. "I hope not, or it'll ruin the second

"Which is?" Nick whispered in Tracy's ear, and she just
about fell off the chair in delighted suprise.

"Now, if you've recovered, remember - don't say a word!"
He picked up the phone after Tracy promised, and called
a little shop he knew.

(Back at the morgue)

"Natalie?" Grace came into the morgue, which with no work
to be done tonight, was silent as a tomb.

"Yeah, Grace?" Nat looked up from the book she was reading.

"You have a delivery."

Natalie looked down at the book she was reading, and sighed.
//Just as it was getting good and mushy.// "Well, roll
whoever it is in."

"Not one of those." Grace walked over, and handed her a
bundle wrapped in green paper. "One of these. Twelve of
them, actually." Natalie's eyes grew wide as she looked at
the long stemmed roses. "Oh, and a card..."

She picked it up, and read it:
"My dearest Natalie,
The last two weeks have been the longest
weeks of my life. I know I've avoided you.
It's no fault of yours. If I may have the
pleasure of your company tonight, I will
do my utmost to make it up to you.

After all, sometimes the smallest things
make the biggest changes in our lives.

"Wooohoo. Sounds like you've got a hot date waiting
for you tonight, girl. Are you going to go?"

Natalie swatted at Grace for reading over her shoulder.
"Maybe. Or maybe I should make him sweat a little for
dodging me the last few weeks."

"Mmm Hmmm. Well, maybe that birthday present we got you
a while back will help get him sweating. Did you ever
show him that, or is it still packed away in that box?"

Natalie coloured, thinking of the teddy that she had gotten
a few years back. She never had worn it - not for Nick, at
least. Or anyone but the mirror, for that matter. "Weellll..."

"What are you waiting for? We're dead - sorry. Go ahead,
take off, and get ready for him. I'll cover for you."

Natalie looked at Grace. She liked playing matchmaker just a
bit too much. But in this case, maybe she'd go along with it.
"Thanks, Grace," she called, as she got her coat and purse, and
went out the door.

Nick was busy actually cooking - he'd only burnt two steaks
trying to get this right. After hearing his plan, Tracy
told him to "get sick" and go home, and promised to cover for
him. Fortunately, as it turned out, since he needed a lot more
time than he thought to re-learn how to make a steak. As he
put the third one - which was finally NOT charred - on a plate,
with a baked potato (only five burnt before that) and salad (no
cooking required), he heard the lift come up. His heart skipped
as Natalie came in.

"Hi Nick."

"I'm glad you came, Natalie. Thank you." He took her coat, and led
her to the table. "Hungry?"

She thought she had smelt something burning on her way up, and
was glad it wasn't him. Now, closer to the kitchen, something
smelled - good. "Yes. Nick," she said, as she looked at the
kitchen, "did you actually *cook?*"

He seated her, and lit the two candles on the table. "Yes," he
said proudly, as he went to get her dinner from the stove. "And
it only took me a few tries to keep them from burning."

Natalie was suitably impressed - moreso when she took a bite.
"Wow. This is really good, Nick. And before I forget, thank
you for the flowers. They were lovely."

They talked a little as she ate, and he sipped at a glass of cow's
blood. As she finished, she exclaimed "Wow. If that was what you
were doing over the past two weeks, it was worth the wait."

"Actually, that only took a few hours." Nick got up, walked behind
Natalie, and rubbed her shoulders. She just let her head roll back,
enjoying the sensation. "I've been thinking." Nat's head snapped
back up.

"You have?"

"Yes. And yes, before you ask, about us." Nick stopped rubbing
her shoulders, and brought out a box wrapped in deep purple
paper, with a gold bow. "Open it," he said, kissing her cheek.

She opened the box to reveal a leather-bound book. Looking up
at Nick questioningly, he gestured towards it. "I thought
maybe this would help a little." She leafed through the pages,
stopping at an occasional print, or picture, or passage that
caught her eye.

"It's you."

"Yes. I want you to know all about me. Not just who I am now,
not just the good. All of it. I haven't told you everything
about me, Nat."

"I know, Nick."

"But not why. I wasn't really sure myself until recently, and
these last two weeks have *made* me sure. I want you to know me.
All of me."

"What brought this on?"

"I've finally realized just what you mean to me. Please," he said,
taking her hand and leading her to the couch, "look through it,
and ask me anything. It's important to me."

For the next two hours, she looked, and learned, occasionally
shocked at some of his excesses, saddened at some loss or situation
of his, always learning, always fascinated at what she saw. She
would ask questions, and he would answer, always honestly, sometimes
joyful, other times sad, or ashamed. She learned of Alyssa. She
got a chance to learn about the bonds between him and Janette. She
learned of the doctor in plague-ridden London. Most of all, she
learned about *him,* and not just through what was on the pages.

When she got near the end, she came across a page that made her
jump. It was a picture of her and Nick at one of the precinct
parties, dancing closely. She savored the memory, and looked up
to see Nick staring at her, intently. The next few pages were all
her, or him and her.

"Nick... even the middle ages, or the industrial revolution, didn't
get this much - what are you trying to say?" She looked up, only to
find he wasn't there, but down on his knee in front of her.
"Natalie, we've known each other for several years now. I don't know
if it's right for me to ask this of you after what you've seen and
learned of me, but..."

"Nick, what I've seen, what I've learned, makes no difference in how
I feel about you. You're a wonderful man. A vampire, yes, but more
a man than a lot of us mortals, and a lot less scary than some. I
don't know what my life would have been like if you hadn't come
into it."

"I remember what you told me, Natalie. My life would be -
different, as well. I can't picture it without you now." Nick
took her hand, and held her eyes. "Natalie, I never want you
to be out of my life." He held her hand out a little, and a
gleam caught it. As she looked down at the ring, newly placed on
her finger, he finally said what she'd wanted to hear. "Natalie,
I love you, and if you'll have me, I want us to be together, as
man and wife. Will you marry me?"

With all this coming at her, she did the only prudent thing.

She fainted.

She awoke a few minutes later, laying on the couch, a concerned
Nick holding smelling salts under her nose. "Ugh... OK, OK, I'm

"You had me worried. Are you sure you're OK?"

Not sure if she'd been having some sort of dream, she glanced
down at her finger.

The ring was there.

"Yes, Nick. Yes... and yes."

Nick looked hesitant for a moment. "You mean..."

"I mean, yes. You could say that Natalie Knight has a nice...
'ring' to it." She smiled, and Nick caught her up in an embrace.

The End