Shadows On The Heart
by Eva Robinson and Susan B.
February, 1997

based on characters from Forever Knight, etc.
// lyrics from the song "Separate Tables" by Chris DeBurgh //

Late January in Toronto was only slightly colder and wetter than
late January in Frobisher Bay. Natalie vowed for the umpteenth time
to buy a pair of real winter boots, not the fancy leather things
the stores advertised and sold as winter boots. Climbing down the
Belt Line Ravine at three a.m. didn't help matters either, but no
one disposes of a body in an easily accessible place. She was cold.
She was wet. She needed a vacation to somewhere warm, dry and with
no snow.

The prelim. had actually been easy - needle marks, obvious gun shot
wound. In record time she was on her way back to the morgue. 'Too
bad Nick wasn't here', she thought, 'he could've come back with me
and we could have actually spent some time together.' Natalie
sighed. Something had been bothering Nick for weeks. Since
Christmas he had been growing progressively worse. She'd only seen
him sporadically after hours since New Years. Natalie began to
wonder if Nick was getting bored.

She looked up as the morgue doors opened. Nick was standing there
looking uncertain. Natalie stood up, her heart in her throat.
"Nick! What's wrong! You look terrible." She went to him, but
before she could touch him, he stepped back.

"Nat... I've had a few problems lately," he said, unwilling to meet
her eyes.

Natalie felt her blood freeze. "What kind of problems?" she asked,
almost knowingly.

"I've gone back to the bloodwine."

Natalie groaned. "Oh, Nick! You've got to exert more self control.
We are making real progress here. You're going to send everything
back to square-one if you don't try harder," she snapped at him. "I
thought the desire to become mortal was the one thing that you
really believed in."

Nick turned from her and slammed his hand against a holding locker.
The stainless steel dented like a cheap car.

'Great' thought Nat, 'one more thing to explain to maintenance.'

Nick whirled back to her. "YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE! It's not
like I haven't been trying!," he snarled.

"Nick, you came here for a reason. What do you want me to do?," Nat

"Allow me the occasional stumble," Nick replied.

"No. No argument, no concessions, no backsliding. If you want this
to work, you have to give more than you have."

Nick's beeper went off. 'Saved by the bell', he thought. "I have to
go. See you later." And he was gone in the blink of an eye.

Natalie sat back down at her desk, and looked at the paperwork
spread across it. She put her head in her hands and felt like
crying. She was cold, she was wet. She worked with the dead. And
now, the one dead she could help was falling back to where he was
almost 6 years before - a cold slab on her table. Tears began to
fall, blotting the ink on the report. "Damn you Nick!," she cried
to the empty office. "Damn you! And damn the fact that I love you!

* * * * * *

When Natalie arrived at her apartment building she found her
mailbox full of the usual flyers and junk mail. 'If it wasn't for
fan mail from the bank and cable companies, I wouldn't get
anything!' she mused. Then she noticed a letter from the
Ottawa/Carleton General Hospital. With her keys in hand, Natalie
opened the letter and began to read it on her way to her door.
"Dear Dr. Lambert," the missive began with the usual salutations
between professional members of the field. "...large urban centred
hospital.....position unexpectedly available......your name and
reputation well known.....position of Chief Pathologist and Head of
Pathology Research......please reply a.s.a.p." Natalie stood at her
door, dumbfounded. "Research!" she shouted aloud, "a chance to find
a real cure for Nick!" She stopped. Nick! The job was in Ottawa,
how would Nick transfer to Ottawa/Carleton Regional Police? She
knew he would find a way, if he really wanted to.

Sydney gave a demanding meow when Natalie finally came through the
door. "Oh, Sydney, my handsome man. Would you like a change of
scenery?" She giggled hysterically. Not an hour before she wanted
to go someplace without snow, now she was offered a job in a city
where skating the canal was a popular way to get to work for at
least 3 months of the year. What would Nick think? 'Yes' she
thought to herself, 'What would Nick think, and what would Nick
say?' Since it was a rest day for both of them, Natalie decided to
tell Nick about the offer directly. She looked out the window,
winter would keep the dawn at bay for at least another hour. Nat
quickly fed Sydney, and promised to fuss over him when she
returned. Then she left for Nick's.

* * * * * *

Nick sat, twirling an empty wine glass in his fingers, staring at
a blank TV screen. Why had he lied to Nat again? Nick was not only
drinking the bloodwine more, but he had been spending almost every
free night at the Raven. Lacroix's pervasive essence was
everywhere. For weeks Nick had felt himself slipping. "If only I
went to Natalie then instead of Lacroix, things would have been
different," he muttered under his breath. Lacroix's voice on the
radio, Lacroix's image in his dreams, had been drawing him back to
the night club more regularly since New Years. Nick thought he was
strong enough to deal with what he had done, and with Lacroix, but
he discovered he wasn't. The glass stem snapped in his fingers.
Nick was about to hurl the goblet at the wall when he heard the
elevator start. His mind focused on the sound of breathing and a
heart beating in a familiar, welcome pattern. Natalie! He stood and
strode to the elevator before it stopped.

"Nat! I'm sorry for what happened. I know you want to help me
but..." he left the words unsaid. He looked at Natalie; something
was wrong. She didn't look happy, but she didn't look unhappy

"Nick, I received this in the mail this morning," she said, handing
him the letter. "It's a job offer from Ottawa/Carleton General
Hospital." Nat said no more until Nick finished reading. "It would
give me real chance to research a cure for you, not to mention a
major promotion and increase in pay. But, what about us? Should I
take it? If I do, can you arrange a transfer to Ottawa/Carleton
Regional Police?"

Nick stayed silent for a few moments. "You would leave? You would
quit here and take the job?," he asked.

"Well, I was thinking about a leave of absence without pay. Maybe
for a month or so, just to see what the job's like and that. You've
got plenty of vacation time, come with me! I'll get a place big
enough for us and we can work on a cure together. What do you

Nick sat down and stared at the letter. Only a month! In that month
he could beat back the demons. He could find the strength to tell
Nat the truth and ask for forgiveness. He could beat back Lacroix.
He could win.


"This is really kind of sudden, Nat. When are you going to reply?"

"I was planning to get back to them by the end of the week,"
Natalie said, starting to feel her heart sink.

"I don't want to stand in your way, Nat. This would be a wonderful
opportunity for you. You've always wanted to get into the research
side of pathology, now's your chance. Don't wait for me. Take it,
and I'll come up as soon as I can," said Nick.

"But Nick, I want us to do this together. Together, away from the
distractions of Toronto, we can find your cure." She was almost

"I know," he said. "I want the cure too, Nat. But I've also got
half a dozen cases outstanding, court appearances and enough
paperwork to choke a horse. I can't just up and leave it all for
Tracy. That wouldn't be fair."

"Fair? Fair! What about fair for us? What about all the times
you've dropped cases and paperwork in the past? I don't want to go
to Ottawa and spend my time waiting, Nick. This is for US! Don't
you realize that?," Natalie asked, almost begged.

"Yes, I know it's for us - my cure and your research. You'll be
famous for discovering new blood related cures and I'll be able to
walk in the sun. It would be great for both of us, but I just can't
do it right now!" Nick was insistent.

"What about us, Nick?" Natalie asked softly. "What about our

Nick swallowed and felt his heart suddenly beat heavier. "You know
how I feel about you Nat. I want you to be happy. I want you to
have a future."

"With you?"

"Nat, take the job. It's what you want. It's what you need. You
need to get away." Nick felt himself almost believing his words.

Natalie stood up and put on her coat. "I think I will take the job,
Nick. If I can, I'll work on your cure. If you can, arrange to come
up to see me. I'll call you with my new address and phone number."
With that, she left without looking back.

Nick sat back down on the couch and looked at the broken glass
lying on the side table. Nick, you fool! What have you done?

It had been six days since her argument with Nick and she had not
seen or heard from him since, either at work or at home. Nat was
glad she decided to give only one week's notice of her leave
instead of two. 'The sooner I get away from here, the better' she

Natalie only packed her clothes, towels and sheets. The apartment
she was renting was owned by the hospital, so it came almost fully
furnished. She left most of her dishes and pots and pans behind for
Grace's brother Stewart. Grace had been furious with Nick when
Natalie told her what had happened. She cursed Nick every which way
to Sunday, something that caught Natalie by complete surprise. "He
doesn't deserve to carry your medkit!" Grace had said. "After all
you've done for him, he doesn't even show up on your last night to
say goodbye, good luck!" Everyone else from the division had -
Cohen, Tracy, even the dispatcher. It was from Tracy that Natalie
had learned that Nick was taking the next couple of weeks off.
'Maybe he is going to come to Ottawa with me!' Natalie had thought.
But he never showed up.

Grace had told Natalie about her brother moving back to Toronto for
a few months before his new job in Edmonton got rolling. He
wouldn't be able to move into his new house for at least a month,
the sublet was perfect. Grace had promised to pack the remainder of
her things and send them off to her after her month's leave was up,
if she decided to stay in Ottawa. For now Grace would take care of
things. Grace always seemed to be there to take care of things.
Natalie realized she would miss her friendship and support greatly.

Sydney meowed unhappily. He didn't like being in the cat cage for
the short trip to the vet's, never mind a five hour drive to
Ottawa! Natalie reached through the bars of the cage and scratched
his neck. The meowing was replaced by a deep, rumbling purr.

Natalie went once more around the apartment, making sure she hadn't
forgotten anything important, then, picking up Sydney's cage, she
walked out without looking back. The sound of a television from
down the hall made her remember what day it was. It would have been
her day to pick the movies.

By the time she reached the 401, Natalie had stopped crying.

* * * * * *

Loud lights fought loud music for dominion. Leather clad Goths
slipped between punks, body pierced in more ways than possible.
Nearby, ravers leapt and swayed to the computerized beat. All were
looking, but some were hunting.

Surveying his realm from behind the black glass beaded curtain,
Lacroix licked his lips. No bovine mixture this night. It was pure
vintage 77. Lacroix smiled and looked down to the recumbent figure
draped across the black leather love-seat that filled the far end
of his private domain. The boy had wanted to believe. He had wanted
the thrill, the ecstasy, the danger. Lacroix had given it to him.
Not enough to kill or bring over, but enough to cause nightmares
for years to come.

Lacroix looked at the crowd and smiled. The mosh pit was a great
success. But something was missing. Ah, yes, the elegance that
ruled the club when Janette held the reins. Lacroix sighed. So much
lost with Janette leaving. Yes, he had been faithful to her request
to provide a home for the lost souls of the city, both vampire and
mortal. Or as faithful as he ever could be. Miklos had lasted only
one day before quitting. Most of the other staff had left before
the week was out. 'Their loss' Lacroix thought sharply. 'If they
had stayed, they could have joined the greatness!'

Something nudged at his subconscious. 'Ah, Nicholas was back! And,
dressed in black leather with a deep crimson silk shirt, emulating
his father more every day.' He went to greet his prodigal son.
"Nicholas, what a pleasant surprise. I must start reserving you a
table. But, tonight is your night off. Should you not be spending
it with your mortal associate so she can *cure* you?," he asked
with a teasing sneer.

Nick looked very unhappy. "Natalie has taken a job in Ottawa. I
don't know if I'll ever see her again," he muttered.

Lacroix almost shouted with glee. "Really? How terrible for you,
Nicholas. Come into the back and we can talk." So saying, Lacroix
laid his arm across Nick's shoulder and directed him through the
curtain. The love-seat was empty. 'I must remember to put a little
extra in Carlos cheque this week' Lacroix thought, 'he is almost as
circumspect as Miklos was.'

Lacroix directed Nick to the couch, while he took the tilting
console chair that was behind his small studio unit and rolled it
up to Nick. They sat almost knee to knee. "Tell me what happened.
You are my blood, and I can feel that you are most unhappy,"
Lacroix purred, while motioning for Carlos to bring bloodwine.

For the next hour Nick poured out the story of Nat leaving and his
feelings of guilt for not going with her. All the time Lacroix sat
silent, thinking and offering bloodwine. Nick never even noticed
that the bloodwine was increasingly more blood than grape. He just
drank like a man trying to forget. And Lacroix was more than happy
to oblige.

Senses older than clocks told Lacroix that morning would soon be
upon them. He had work to do. The seeds of despair he planted weeks
ago, were finally going to bear fruit. "Go home, Nicholas. Take
tomorrow night off and come back to the Raven. I have hired some
new entertainment. I am certain it will take your mind off of
things for awhile."

Nick stood, feeling strangely giddy. "What did you give me to
drink?," he demanded of Lacroix as he grabbed up his coat.

"Nothing more than bloodwine, Nicholas. Nothing more than
bloodwine," Lacroix answered as he led Nick out of the club. Carlos
was waiting by the Caddy. "Give Carlos your keys. He will drive you
home safely. We wouldn't want you to get pulled over by your own
police force now, would we?"

Nick mumbled something incoherent and passed the keys to Carlos. It
never entered his mind that Carlos didn't know where he lived, or
that Carlos would have to find shelter when the sun came up. He
just got in the passenger seat and stared out the window.

It seemed like only minutes had passed when Carlos pulled up to the
loft. He parked he Caddy inside and helped Nick upstairs. Once
inside, Nick told Carlos to leave, that he was all right. The door
had just closed when Nick collapsed on the couch. Only a force of
habit made him grab for the window remote to close the blinds.

// At separate tables we sit down to eat,
In separate bedrooms we go to sleep at night,
I only wish you knew how much,
You've been on my mind; //

Nick sat in the soft darkness alone with his thoughts. 'Natalie.
Natalie. Natalie. Natalie.' Her name kept going through his mind,
like it was on a wheel. 'Natalie. Natalie. Natalie. Why did you
leave? Why did you leave? Why did you leave?' Before the sun came
up, Nick was face down on the couch, almost in the comatose state
the daylight brought, crying blood into the pillow. Then the
blessed darkness took him.

Nick booked the night off and went straight to the Raven as soon as
the sun went down. He never even questioned himself as to why he
was doing it. He only knew that he belonged there, in a twisted
sort of way.

Lacroix's new entertainment was a band comprised of both vamps and
mortals. The vamps played and the mortals sang. Someone at the next
table commented that they never seemed to have the same singer
whenever she saw the band. Nick ordered 'wine' from a punk with
day-glo green hair and studs through his nose and across his cheeks
in a Celtic swirl pattern. 'God, that must have hurt' Nick thought.

Carlos brought Nick's drink and refused payment. "Whatever you have
is on the house tonight," he grinned. "Lacroix's orders."

Nick's table was on the edge of the dance floor. Bodies gyrated and
lurched to the beat of the music. Then the band's set was over and
the canned music came on. Carlos kept Nick's glass filled as the
evening progressed. Nick was about to leave when a figure appeared
in front of him.

"Dance with me," a familiar voice whispered.

Nick looked up, and saw Janette standing before him. She was
dressed in a soft green, silk camisole creation that came down to
just below her knees. Her hair was loose, but a fillet of spun gold
rested, like a laurel crown, around her head. At her throat was the
cameo she always loved to wear. She was smiling at him, her hand
outstretched. "Will you dance with me, Nicola? Or must I ask a
stranger?" Her eyes smiled at him as he stood and took her hand.

"Janette! You're here! I thought you were gone! I thought...."

Janette touched his lips with a gloved finger. "Shhh, Nicola. I
have returned. I never thought to find you here, but it pleases me
beyond words. Now. let us dance. Then we can talk."

Nick and Janette joined the throng on the dance floor. The crush of
the crowd made them dance closer together than necessary, but Nick
didn't care. Janette was back. Things were better.

Hidden by the shadow of the glass curtain, Lucien Lacroix smiled.

Two dances later the Raven felt too hot, the bodies too close, and
the smell of blood too overwhelming. Nick was more than willing
when Janette suggested they go for a walk along the lakefront. She
slid her hand around his arm and nuzzled close to him, claiming him
as her own for all the world to see.

Nick put his arms around her and, closing his eyes, buried his face
in her dark hair. For a moment he believed he had Natalie in his
arms. He hugged Janette close, letting his lips play over her hair
and neck. His hands slid along her arms, caressing the soft
material of her wrap. A wrap. His mind jolted him back to the
present. With a startled look he gazed at Janette.

"Nicola? Whatever is the matter?," Janette asked in a low whisper
as she reached up and brushed his lips. "Something vexes you
terribly, mon amour. Come, tell Janette what troubles your heart.
Let her take it away." Before Nick could move, Janette's lips
melted to his own. A shock, not unlike an electric current, ran
through him. Nick reached behind Janette's head and crushed her to
him. She gave a low chuckle. "Ma cher! You have missed me!," she
exclaimed. "But do you wish to advertise your desire so openly?
Should we not retire to a more private place?"

Nick felt a growl rise in his throat as Janette turned her head to
one side, offering her pale neck to him. Her hands slipped inside
his coat and pulled his shirt loose. One hand slid under the silk
to caress his back. Nick felt the overwhelming desire of the
vampire starting to rise. He pushed Janette away.

"NO!" he cried. "No, Janette, we have to stop! I can't control..."

Janette grabbed his arm and began to kiss his palm and wrist. "Do
not deny yourself, my love. We are what we are. Why try to be
something less?," she said as she ran her tongue over his wrist.
His pulse throbbed as her fangs slid over the veins, drawing a
slight trace of blood. Gently, she licked the blood off his arm.
Nick moaned and pulled away. His face was contorted by pain and
lust. With a cry, Nick launched himself skyward, towards the
waterfront. Janette watched him for a moment before she too went
skyward with a smile on her face.

Nick landed by the loft. He was shaking and weak. 'Oh God' he
thought, 'I almost lost it again! I almost gave into the beast!
What would Nat think?' And suddenly it hit him - Natalie Lambert
wasn't there. She had followed her career to Ottawa. She had left
him. Nick gave a howl of rage and punched the cinder brick beside
his door.

"Nicola! What behaviour!," a voice shouted out.

Nick spun around and found Janette not five feet away from him.
"How did you know..."

"I followed you, ma cher. It will be dawn soon, you have to get
inside, and, frankly, I have need of a place to stay for awhile.
You will let me stay here, will you not?" Janette came to stand
beside Nick. She raised a gloved hand to his face, but before she
could touch him, Nick caught her hand and kissed it roughly. "My
home is yours, Janette," he said.

Once inside, Janette slipped off her gloves and wrap. She walked
around the room, letting her hands trail over the piano, lifting
the cover sheet from the painting on the easel. She stopped in
front of Nick's video collection, browsing through the titles.
"Dracula Rises From The Dead!, Transylvania 6-5000, Dracula Prince
of Darkness, Love At First Bite," she read out. "Really, Nicola. I
would have expected a more continental flair. Such a selection of
dribble." She laughed.

"They are some of Nat's favourites." Nick dropped onto the couch.
"We watch movies once a week and take turns picking out which

Janette clapped her hands together. "How absolutely delightful!,"
she exclaimed. "We should continue the time-honoured tradition. Is
it your turn to choose or Natalie's? And, where is Natalie, Nicola.
I do not wish to sound ungrateful, but I do not relish the thought
of being here with you and finding out that your mortal saviour is
coming over later on today to watch.... I do not know, how about
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein?" Janette moved over to the
leather sofa and sat beside Nick. She let her head rest on his

"Nat isn't here, Janette. She's gone to Ottawa," Nick muttered,
staring at the blank television screen.

"For a visit?," asked Janette.

"No," Nick replied, and fell quiet. Janette ran her hand up his arm
to his face. She cupped his chin in her fingers and turned his head
towards her. "Tell me," she said.

For the next two hours he did.

"What does a lady have to do around here to get a drink?," asked
Janette, after Nick finished his tale.

"I have cow blood, that's all," he told her.

"Cow blood? Oh, Nicola, how low you have fallen. First Natalie
tries to cure you by forcing you to deny what you are, then she
abandons you for her job and a new fancy title. But, now I am here,
Nicola. I am here to be with you, as it should be. As it was meant
to be. You saw to that, my love. And for that I am grateful. I will
not try to change you. I will not abandon you. I will make things
better for you. You will see, Nicola, Janette DuCharm will give you
back all that you have lost and more." She leaned over and kissed
Nick gently on the lips. "Now, a drink, and then some rest, no?"

Nick looked at Janette. It was well past dawn, Janette couldn't
leave, and he didn't trust himself to share his bed with her. Nick
got up, went upstairs, and returned with blankets and a pillow.

"Nicola?" Janette asked.

"You take the bedroom. I'll sleep down here," he answered.

"But, Nicola, I would have thought you would like the 'company'
today," Janette said.

"Maybe tomorrow, or the next day, Janette. But not today." Nick
replied with a sadness in his voice.

"As you wish."
* * * * * *

The office of the Chief Pathologist was located in the basement.
'What a surprise' thought Natalie as the senior director of the lab
led her through the labyrinth.

"It's really quite easy to get around down here. All you have to do
is follow the colours on the wall," Dr. Larry Bowen was saying to
her. "See - blue for ER, red for blood bank, white for pathology.
Really, it's very simple." Bowen held the double door leading into
the PathLab open and beckoned Natalie through. Beyond the door was
the same world she had left the day before, only the faces were
different - no Grace, no Stephen the mailboy (or Male God, as he
chose to call himself), no Cohen, or Tracy. Or Nick. Natalie felt
a shiver bowl over her. 'Get him out of your head!' she told
herself sternly. 'He didn't come. He doesn't want you anymore. He
doesn't need you anymore.' Natalie realized Dr. Bowen was
introducing her to the members of the section. 'Oh no! Thank god
for name tags' she mused.

"......and this is the research office. I'm sure you'll be spending
most of your time in here. After all, what's the use of having
research in pathology if we didn't plan on making life-saving
breakthroughs, eh?," Bowen said with a laugh. Natalie smiled. She
wondered if she could ever again work on a 'life-saving

Ten hours later her first day was over. Natalie came out of the
hospital underground into a darkening evening sky. In the distance
she could see lights reflecting off the Rideau Canal. 'I'll have to
learn to skate again' she thought to herself. Across the canal
stood Parliament Hill, all lit up for the evening; the Peace Tower
attracting groups of tourists from all over the country and the
world. All around the snow seemed to be whiter than in Toronto.
Purer? No, it just seemed that way.

Natalie drove home through the unfamiliar streets. When she arrived
at the apartment, Sydney was waiting, but no one else. She noticed
her answering machine was blinking madly. Tossing her coat over the
chair, she hit the playback button and stood in silence. There were
six calls - two from Grace, one from the hospital co-op, one from
Tracy and two from her cousin who had recently moved to Trois
Rivieres. Nothing from Nick.

"Forget it, Natalie!" she snarled at herself. "Forget about the
last six years, he obviously has!" Natalie stalked into the kitchen
to feed Sydney. "We don't need him, do we Syd?," she said, stroking
the cat as he ate. "We have each other."

// I think about you when the morning comes,
I think about you when all my day is done,
Wondering what you are doing now,
Are you lonely too? //

Natalie sat on the kitchen floor and started to cry.

Sundown. Nick had been off for four days now and Natalie had still
not called him. He desperately wanted to hear her voice. 'She said
she would call with her address and phone number' he thought. 'Why
hasn't she called? She's finished with me. She's not going to

Janette was getting restless and hungry. She was not used to
surviving on refrigerated cow blood. While Nick surfed through the
television channels, Janette went up to the bedroom and changed.


Nick turned to see Janette on the landing dressed in a blood red
shift. His heart went into his mouth.

"Nicola, it is time for us to go out. I cannot stand being cooped
up here another night. I am hungry and bored. And so are you."
Before Nick could answer, Janette disappeared from the landing and
reappeared beside him. She took hold of the front of his shirt.
"Come, I have chosen something appropriate for you to wear
tonight." With that, Janette led Nick up to the bedroom. On the bed
was a pair of black leather pants, a silver silk shirt and a black
leather jacket. The jacket was Nick's, but he didn't know where
Janette got the shirt and pants.

Janette smiled at him. "I bought the pants for you two years ago in
Paris. The shirt in Milan. I just never seemed to get around to
giving them to you. Now, be a good boy and get dressed," she said,
as she walked out the door and downstairs.

A few minutes later, Nick appeared at the top of the stairs.
Janette smiled; he looked delicious! The leather pants were soft as
butter, the shirt flowed over his chest like a second skin. He
hadn't yet put the jacket on. With a smile, Nick jumped from the
landing to the floor. 'It feels good to use my strength!' he
thought. 'What else have I been denying myself?'.

"Delicious?," Nick said to Janette, "you look good enough to eat!"

With that he caught Janette up and crushed his mouth to hers. She
ran her hands inside the shirt and down over his hips. Nick let his
hands explore the curves of her body. She began to shake. "We don't
have to go out, you know," Nick said.

Janette shook her head. "We do, ma cher, we do. I am hungry and you
will enjoy our games more when you have had your fill." With that,
Janette broke away from Nick and disappeared through the open
window. Nick followed.

The daylight hours had been plagued by a snowstorm. But now, in the
evening glow, everything looked like a fairyland. Pure, simple,
unspoiled. Nick marvelled at the beauty of the city in its virgin
coat of white. Then a scream shattered his mirage. He looked down
and saw a huge figure looming over a smaller one. Before Janette
could stop him, Nick flew down at the figure in a rage. The rapist
sensed approaching doom, and, throwing the woman to one side,
belted down the alley like the hounds of hell were after him. He
wasn't far from wrong. Nick paused only long enough to determine
that the woman was dead. Her clothes had been ripped from her and
her throat cut. For a moment, he thought it was Natalie - same
hair, same perfume, then he went after her attacker. He caught the
man before he could clear the alley entrance, and dragged him back
to the spot where Janette knelt beside the woman.

"She is beyond our help, Nicola," Janette said in a mournful voice.

Nick stared at the man in his grip. He felt the feral vampire rise,
and this time he didn't even try to control it. The smell of the
woman's blood drifted on the wind, making Janette moan with hunger.
She grabbed at the man's wrist and bit down hard. Blood spirited
across the snow, like a crimson shadow. Janette greedily sucked on
his wrist before offering it to Nick.

"Quickly my love! Before he cools too much! Drink! Drink!" It
didn't take much encouragement. Nick took the proffered wrist and
began to drink. He suddenly realized what he was doing and stopped.
But it was too late, Janette had already plunged her fangs into the
man's neck.

It was over in a moment. Janette took a handful of snow and wiped
her face and hands. Then she took more snow and carefully cleaned
Nick's face. He felt a rush of emotions: guilt, satisfaction, envy,
hatred, desire, all come together at once deep inside him. He
pushed Janette away from him and looked down at the bodies in the

Janette moved up beside him. "We could not help her, Nicola. And
what would your justice system have done to him? A few years in
jail and then free again to rape and murder more innocent women? We
have avenged her, as is our right, our duty to remove these scum
from the city streets. Think of it as a civic duty, if you will."
Janette took his hand. "Come, ma cher, before your brothers-in-arms
arrive and find us here. We will go to the Raven and let Lacroix
deal with this. That is what he is good at." And she pulled him
into the sky. Nick did not argue.

Lacroix greeted his family upon their arrival at the Raven.
"Janette! Nicholas! What a pleasant surprise." He motioned to
Carlos to prepare them a table near the dance floor and bring
'wine'. "It has been too long, Janette. Why didn't you tell me you
were with Nicholas? Are you helping him get over his lost 'love',"
Lacroix asked with a smile.

Janette leaned close to Lacroix and told him what had happened in
the alley. By the time she had finished, Carlos appeared with the
wine. Lacroix took him to one side. Moments later, Carlos and
another from the bar left. Lacroix smiled. There would soon be no
sign of the 'indiscretion'. "I really must pay Carlos more,"
Lacroix said to Janette and Nick, "he is worth his weight in gold
- or blood!"

Janette laughed. "Now you know why I spent so much to keep Miklos
in my employ, Lacroix. Good help really is hard to find."

As Lacroix and Janette laughed and shared talk of the Raven, Nick
found himself looking at a reflection in the mirror tiles behind
the bar. He realized with a start that the reflection was his, and
he didn't recognize it. A spot of blood stood out like a red flower
on his silver silk shirt. He touched it, and rubbed the almost dry
liquid through his fingers. 'What am I doing here?' Nick asked
himself. He looked back in the mirror and watched as the reflection
picked up the glass of bloodwine and drank it down in one gulp. 'Oh
God!' Nick's mind shrieked, 'What have I become!' He stood so
suddenly that the table almost overturned. Janette and Lacroix
looked up at him.


"Nicholas?", they both asked with confusion in their eyes.

"I have taken blood tonight!" he moaned.

"Why deny yourself?" Lacroix asked.

"I have abandoned my hopes and dreams. I am damned again!"
Nick snarled, then he spun around and raced out of the club.

Lacroix and Janette sat in silence looking at one another.

"I will have him back," Lacroix stated.

"I will bring him back," Janette replied.

Nick found himself in front of Nat's old apartment. He saw a light
on in her window and a feeling of joy came over him. He levitated
upwards, stopping outside the closed drapes. He listened... the
heartbeat wasn't Nat's. Nick leaned against a tree in the little
parkette across the street and watched shadows form on the blinds.
It was a man, and from what Nick could see and hear, he was alone.
'She must have sublet' Nick realized. 'She's not coming back!'.

// Because I - I miss you here tonight,
And I wish you were by my side,
And I don't want to let go; //

Nick walked home.

It was almost 1:00 a.m. before Nick returned to the Loft. Janette
was already there, waiting.

"Nicola, where have you been? I have been worried sick about you,"
she said as she met him near the stairs. "You left the club in such
a state, we didn't know what was wrong. Are you all right?" Janette
slid the leather jacket off Nick and led him to the couch. She sat
down beside him and pulled him to her. Nick looked at the
television. A video was on. He pulled away from Janette and sat up.

"What are you watching?," he asked.

Janette paused the movie and glanced over at him. "The French
Lieutenant's Woman. It is one of my favourite movies. I rented it
at one of those 24 hr. places downtown. You don't mind, do you?"

"Turn it off. I'm in no mood for a Victorian tragic romance." Nick
got up and headed for the stairs.

"Nicola, where are you going?"

"To bed. I want to sleep in my own bed tonight. Alone."

Janette watched him go up, and waited. Before long she could hear
the sound of the shower. She went up and prepared herself for him.
When Nick came out of the shower, he was immediately aware of a
presence in his bed. It was Janette. She was dressed in a sheer
peignoir of the deepest blue. It was open. Nick could hear her
heartbeat slowly increasing. His own began to match it.

"Come here, ma cher Nicola. Come to me. Come and make love to me,"
Janette's voice whispered in Nick's mind. He went over to the bed,
dressed only in the bath towel. Janette reached up, pulled the
towel loose and pulled him onto the bed. She slid on top of him and
began to kiss him hungrily. The beast within her awoke and she
nipped playfully at his jugular vein. Nick caught her hands and
rolled her over, off of him, and off the bed.

"Nicola!" Janette shrieked in anger. "Why?"

"I can't, Janette. I can't. Every time I close my eyes I see her!
I see Natalie! Oh God. What have I lost? What am I going to do?"
Nick sat up in the bed and began to cry. Blood filled tears fell
from his face onto the edge of Janette's negligee, staining the
blue a deep shade of red. "I have ruined your gown, Janette. I'm
sorry. I've ruined everything. Oh God, I'm sorry!!!" The tears came
faster, accompanied by long, racking sobs.

Janette felt something inside her burst. She covered Nick up with
the sheet and held him. "Cry, Nicola, cry. It will help, it will
ease the pain." Janette looked out of the window as she held him.
The moon was almost full. It had been almost a full moon when she
met ...... 'No' she checked herself. 'Not now! Not ever again!
Nicola is mine! Even Lacroix cannot have him!' But as she held him
and felt the sobs rack his body and soul, Janette knew she was
lying to herself. Softly, she began to cry.

Sleep finally freed Nick. Janette quietly went back downstairs and
poured herself a glass of bloodwine. She stood looking at the
cupboards in the kitchen and realized there were only two mugs. One
was plain blue with the Metro Police symbol and the other was a
blue-grey shade with the word Nat etched into it. Janette's hand
flexed as she forced herself to resist snatching up the mug and
hurling it into the fireplace. She turned to the piano and found a
book of baroque music. Opening the book, Janette's eyes fell upon
the inscription:

'To my favourite player: if it ain't baroque, don't fix it!,
Love Nat.'

'Everywhere I turn in this place I find her!' Janette raged to
herself. 'What kind of spell did she put on my Nicola? What did she
do to him?' Yet, even as she asked herself these questions, she
knew the answer. Just as she knew the answer with Robert.


She was fighting a losing battle. Nick would die of guilt and
remorse before he would express the same sort of love for her.

"Or any sort of love for me," Janette sighed. "I cannot destroy
him, but I cannot have him. The question is now, what do I do?"
Janette paced around the loft until she came to the old secretary
Nick had purchased on a whim a hundred years ago. She casually
lifted the solid maple top and noticed the stationery box. An idea
began to form in her mind, and she hoped it wasn't too late.
Janette flew from the loft.

* * * * * *

Grace was filling out the requisition forms that Natalie always
took care of. The new man was absolutely useless, not to mention
condescending and downright hostile to her. Grace snorted. "I'll
fold, staple and stick his condescending attitude up his....." She
suddenly became aware of another presence in the office.

Grace stood up and faced a beautiful woman; dark hair, pale skin,
dark eyes, standing before her. "Can I help you?" Grace asked,
wondering how this woman got past the OGPS security and the punch

The woman smiled. "Oh, yes. You are Grace, Natalie Lambert's
friend. I need to know Natalie's address and phone number in

The woman looked friendly enough, but... there was something about
her that put Grace on edge. Something feral, dangerous. "I'm sorry.
We aren't allowed to give out personal information. However, if you
leave me your name and address I'll be more than happy to pass it
on to Dr. Lambert." Grace gave the woman her award winning 'Happy
To Serve You' civil servant smile.

The woman kindly smiled back. "I don't think you understand," she
said. "I want you to give me the information now." Grace's smile
froze on her face, as the woman repeated her demands.

A short while later, Grace found herself standing at her office
door, unsure as to how she got there and where she was going. "I'm
going home!" she muttered. "This place is beginning to get to me."

* * * * * *

Janette slipped upstairs to check on Nick. He was still sleeping,
but fitfully. Twice he called out Natalie's name, almost causing
Janette to scream with conflicting emotions. Then she went
downstairs and sat at the secretary. She began to write, just one
page was all she needed. When she was done, she sealed the letter
in an old envelope that smelled of sandalwood. She had bought Nick
the stationery in India just before the outbreak of the First World
War. It amazed her that the sheets and the envelopes were still
supple. Then she picked up the phone and placed a call. "Miklos? I
need you." It was still almost three hours till dawn.

* * * * * *

Natalie woke to the sound of someone pounding on her door. She
looked at the clock, it read 6:45. Grabbing her pink terry robe,
she stumbled to the door. "Who is it?," she called out before she
reached the peephole in the door. There was no answer. Natalie
looked through the security device, but there was no one there.
After ensuring the chain was properly secured, she opened the door
a crack. An envelope fell inside.

Natalie slammed the door shut and picked up the letter. It was
addressed simply to 'Dr. Natalie Lambert'. No address or return
address was on it. She opened it up and was immediately aware of
the scented paper. 'Sandalwood?' she thought. She began to read the
scant, one page mystery. 'Dr. Lambert' it began, 'I am concerned
about you and our mutual friend. I wish to meet with you tonight.
I am not so foolish as to believe you will allow me into your home,
so I propose we meet at a very public place: the observation floor
of the Peace Tower. I will be there at 8:30 p.m. tonight. You have
nothing to fear from me, I just wish to talk.' It was signed simply

Natalie turned the letter over in her hands and glanced at Sydney
curled up on the couch. She felt her heart thump as she slipped the
letter into her coat pocket.

* * * * * *

By the time her day shift was over, Natalie had decided not to go,
and then to go, over a dozen times. She made up her mind as she got
off the elevator and walked to her car. She would go and meet
Janette that night.

On the way home, Natalie make a quick stop at a variety store to
pick up some milk and cat food. As she stood at the counter waiting
for the previous customer to pay for his cigarettes, Natalie
glanced at the tabloids. 'Vampire Murders' a headline screamed out.
She picked up the paper and started to read '...Montreal ...three
to date ...drained of blood ...vampires....'

"Are you going to buy that?," the cashier asked.

Natalie suddenly realized the previous customer had disappeared.
"Sorry," she said as she piled the tins of cat food, the milk, and
the paper onto the counter. Natalie paid for her goods and rushed
out to her car, eager to get home and "read all about it". 'The
photos certainly look real' she thought.

After feeding Sydney and herself, Nat read through the article; but
typical of tabloids, she could not determine how much was real and
how much was not. Natalie checked the clock, and decided she better
get moving if she was going to make it to the Peace Tower by 8:30.

When Natalie arrived at the parliament buildings, she parked her
car in a nearby lot and pulled on her woolen gloves. From the car,
she had to trudge through thirty feet of slush covered asphalt
before reaching the sidewalk. Her feet were already cold and damp.
"Damn, why didn't I get those *practical* boots!," she wailed. When
Natalie reached the cleared walkway, she glanced up at the huge
clock adorning the top of the Peace Tower. It was ten past eight.
After stomping the slush off her boots, Nat trekked along the path
to the main entrance.

After passing through the big wooden doors, Natalie found herself
overwhelmed with a sense of history. The room was massive and the
ceiling soared high above her head. 'Everything around here feels
so old' she thought, 'it reminds me of Nick'. She marvelled at all
the fine detailing, from the carved oak wainscotting and trim to
the elaborately plastered ceiling and cornices. Natalie strolled
across the polished marble floor to the elevator at the far side of
the foyer. Even at this late hour there were several people in line
waiting for the elevator that would take them to the top of the

Several minutes later, Natalie was finally able to get into the
tiny lift. 'It's not much larger than Nick's' she thought. The
closeness of the space, combined with the closeness of her fellow
passengers, made the ride up seem to last an eternity. At last the
doors opened and Natalie burst out. "Finally I can breathe again,"
she mumbled under her breath as she hastened for the far railing.

Gazing over the expanse of the city lights reminded her of Nick. As
she peered down at the brilliant whites and gleaming colours, she
thought of him flying through the night sky. Natalie sighed deeply.
"Oh Nick," she moaned to the heavens, "why did you let me leave?"

Every time Natalie heard the elevator door grind open behind her,
a cold chill crept up her spine. Her pulse quickened each time as
she spun around to inspect the passengers. The third time the
elevator opened, two young children spilled out giggling and poking
at each other. Directly behind them followed an elderly couple whom
Natalie assumed to be their grandparents. And then - Janette

Natalie believed she was prepared for this encounter, but she was
wrong. The last time she saw Janette was a few days before
Christmas, that night in the morgue when Janette was, by all
accounts, mortal. Injured, powerless, and even frightened. The
woman before her was none of these things. She was the old Janette
- self-assured, meticulously made up and drressed - the Janette that
Natalie thought was out of her life, and out of Nick's life,
forever. Natalie's skin grew cold and clammy, and a lump formed in
her throat. Her heart started to pound.

"Hello, Natalie," smiled Janette as she approached.

"Hello," Nat had to choke out the word.

Natalie and Janette simultaneously swung around and stared out over
the city. "I suppose you are anxious to find out why I'm here?,"
offered Janette.

Natalie involuntarily tightened her grip on the iron railing. "I
am. A little."

Janette smiled as she turned to face Nat. "There is no need to be
anxious, Natalie. I have been back in Toronto for a short time and
heard that you had left. I wanted to see how you were."

"Why should *you* be concerned about me?" Nat asked quietly. "You
are in Toronto. Nick is in Toronto. I am here alone." Nat couldn't
help herself, she raised her voice and stiffened as she turned to
face Janette. "Did you come here to gloat? Nick didn't hurt me
enough - now it's your turn? Is that it?"

"No, Natalie, you are wrong. Nick and I *are* both in Toronto, yes,
but we are both very much alone." Janette casually adjusted the fit
of her jacket. "There is something I would like to discuss with
you, but not here. May I come to your apartment? Tomorrow? At

Natalie considered the request for a long minute before nodding her
agreement. 'Whatever it is' she thought, 'it has something to do
with Nick.' She was curious. Nat remained at the railing as Janette
wandered over to the elevator doors. After Janette left, Natalie
again focused her attention on the view of the city. She smiled at
the realization that Nick had again crossed paths with Janette, and
did not backslide straight into her arms.

* * * * * *

The following morning, Nick stumbled into the loft just before
sunrise. He didn't go upstairs to see if Janette was in, and he
didn't go to the refrigerator. He went straight to the couch and
lay down. All he wanted to do was fall asleep. Lately sleep had
brought more peace to Nick than he could ever remember. For him, it
had become a narcotic even more intoxicating than the bloodwine. He
so often found Natalie waiting for him in his dreams, and in his
dreams, she made the pain go away.

All Nick really wanted was to sleep in his own bed, to dream in his
own bed, to dream about Natalie in his own bed. He was lonelier
than he could ever remember, and having Janette in his bed, when
Natalie was not, made him feel all the more lonely.

* * * * * *

That evening, Natalie was rifling through her dresser drawers
trying to find a good thick sweater. Her apartment was cold, and
her anxiety over Janette's impending visit made her feel even
colder. Finally, she found a soft brown woolen sweater and slipped
it on over her silk blouse. Natalie checked the clock on the
nightstand, it read five minutes to eight. She went into the living
room to wait for Janette.

Nat peered over at Sydney, who was curled up in a fluffy ball in
the corner of the sofa. "You are so blissfully unaware of emotional
turbulence," she declared to the cat. As she walked towards him,
Natalie thought about how her exodus to Ottawa, her new job, and
her new home had all taken a toll on her stress level. Events had
taken an even bigger toll on her heart. Sydney hadn't even been
fazed. Natalie paused and reached down to gently scratch behind his
little ears. "But then again, you did not leave Nick behind," she
said softly.

Sydney stretched out his legs and yawned. He glanced up at Nat
when, as though on cue, there was a soft tapping at the door.
Natalie went to the door and opened it a crack. Janette was on the
other side.

"Hello again, Natalie." Janette smiled as she carefully removed her
gloves. "Are you just going to stand there, or are you going to
invite me in?"

Natalie opened the door wide. "Sorry. Come in".

Janette surveyed the apartment as she entered. 'Tidy and
functional, but how very dull and dreary' she thought. She declined
to comment aloud on the surroundings, and turned her attention back
to Nat.

"The hospital provided it. It was already furnished," Nat said
almost apologetically. "Can I take your jacket?"

"That won't be necessary," replied Janette as she glided towards
the sofa. On noticing Sydney, she abruptly changed direction and
sat down gracefully in an overstuffed grey chair opposite the sofa.
Janette immediately noticed the tabloid laid out conspicuously on
the glass coffee table, and scanned the headline regarding vampire
murders with some amusement.

Natalie stepped over to the sofa and settled down next to Sydney.
She shrugged her shoulders. "I would offer you something, but I
don't keep ...anymore."

"Of course," acknowledged Janette. She waved her hand towards the
newspaper. "I assume you left this here for a reason?"

"I picked it yesterday," replied Nat. "I was just curious. You were
in Montreal."

"I was there," Janette responded, "but apart from basic
necessities, I did not exactly mingle with the ...locals." She
chuckled slightly, "although there was one rather interesting
local, quite helpful, who dabbled in medicinals..."

"Do you think those people were victims of a vampire?," interrupted

Janette shrugged. "I have no idea, but if they are genuine, whoever
is responsible will be taken care of. I do not generally concern
myself with such ...unpleasantries."

"What is it you want ...exactly?," Nat blurted out, unable to
subdue her curiosity any longer.

"I want to know how much you love Nicola ...exactly," Janette
promptly replied.

"Has something happened to him?," Nat gasped. It had only occurred
to her at that moment, that something could be wrong with Nick. She
got a sudden sick feeling in the pit of her stomach.

"He is fine ...physically," replied Janette, "but he is extremely
depressed. I am worried about him."

Natalie almost said 'good', but a wave of remorse stabbed her
heart. Although she wished she could, Nat could not bear to think
of him in pain. It was Nick's tormented soul that cried out to hers
for love, and her own could not deny him. Nat turned her face away,
afraid she might start to cry. "My feelings for Nick are
irrelevant. If he wanted me, he would be here with me. He has made
it quite clear that he doesn't want me."

Janette leaned forward. "So certain, are you?," she asked solemnly.

Natalie folded her arms into her lap. "Please, Janette. This is
hard enough for me. I loved Nick for six years. Six years is
nothing to you, nothing. For me it was a significant piece of my

Janette clasped her hands together and sank back into the chair.
"You still haven't answered my question."

Natalie could no longer stop the dreaded tears. Janette was the
last person on earth that she wanted to reveal tears to; but
Janette was here, and talking about Nick, and nothing could be done
about that. Natalie relented. "Yes, I still love him. More deeply
than you could ever possibly imagine, and I know I always will."

Janette rose from the chair, walked over to Nat, and placed a cool
hand on her shoulder. "He loves you too, Natalie, and he needs you.
Come back home. Come back to Nicola." Then she disappeared into the

Two days later, on Sunday, Janette arrived at the Raven just prior
to midnight. On noticing her entrance, Lacroix abruptly
discontinued his mingling and stared across the room at her. He
immediately retired to his booth, and Janette leisurely followed.

"How lovely to see you, my dear," Lacroix crooned as she entered
his small and secluded domain. He started to fill two glasses with
bloodwine. "Where is Nicholas tonight?"

"He is home sleeping," Janette replied.

"How appalling!," exclaimed Lacroix as he handed a drink to her.

"He is just being his usual stubborn self," Janette chanted.

"Have you made any further progress with him?"

"You must have patience," she grinned. "Give him time to accept the
loss of his mortal pet." Janette took a leisurely sip of the
bloodwine and smiled at Lacroix. "I believe by the end of the week,
things will have changed considerably."

"Indeed," Lacroix said as he held out his glass in a toast.

Janette followed his cue and they clinked glasses together. "He
will be back with us soon enough," she said convincingly. "Doesn't
he always come back?"

"But of course," Lacroix grinned.

* * * * * *

The following night marked three days since Janette's visit with
Natalie, and Natalie had not yet come home. Janette had hoped her
words would have been enough to bring Natalie back, but they were
not enough. Nicola had been growing more despondent with each
passing day. He had taken to spending as many dark hours off by
himself somewhere as he did at the Raven, and he spent far too many
hours sleeping. Janette knew that even Lacroix would soon lose his
tenuous hold on Nick.

Janette realized it was time to start undoing the recent harm that
she and Lacroix had done. It was well past time. She would have to
push Nicola. If she was ever to get he and Natalie together again
in the mortal world, she would have to sever his ties with the
vampire world. Janette picked up the bottle of clear nail polish
that she had earlier set out on the coffee table and started
working diligently on her fingernails. "Yes," she muttered, "first
I place a wedge between Lacroix and Nicola, and then I place a
wedge between Nicola and myself".

Nick arrived home twenty minutes later. Janette was now curled up
in a chair reading a book. When he stepped out of the elevator, she
snapped the book shut. Janette stared over at Nick. "You are home,
Nicola. That is good. I have something to discuss with you."

Nick threw his jacket to the floor and stepped out of his boots.
"What is it?," he asked as he approached and then slumped into the

"Indulge my curiosity, Nicola. What happened between you and

"I don't want to talk about that!," Nick snapped.

"But you must," countered Janette. If you want to be free of her,
you *must* talk about it."

"I didn't ...I don't want to be free of her," Nick replied grimly.
"I ruined it. All of it. Six years of progress, wiped out in a
matter of weeks due to my incessant backsliding."

"And how did that come about?," asked Janette nonchalantly.

"The same way it always does," Nick replied. "Guilt overwhelms me
and I find solace in the blood, and in Lacroix, and things can only
go downhill from there."

Janette stretched out her legs, then leisurely crossed them. "And
so, what started eating away at you this time?"

"Perhaps it *is* time we talked about it," Nick answered.

"For weeks you have carried guilt for bringing me back across. That
was the catalyst of your most recent fall from grace, was it not?"

"And there it is," sighed Nick. "You had the mortality I so
desperately wanted. You begged me to let you die and I ignored your
wishes. I believed I was becoming more human, Janette; but the
vampire won that round, and he's been winning every round since."

"And Natalie did not understand," Janette proclaimed.

"How could I tell her the truth?!" barked Nick. "Natalie has
forgiven me for a lot of things, too many things. How could she
ever forgive me for that?! How could I even *ask* forgiveness for
that?!" He stood up and paced in front of the couch. "I lied to
Natalie, and that hurts even *more* than what I did."

"Ah," Janette scoffed, "the double whammy! Well, I can help you
with the first problem, but the second you will have to take care
of for yourself."

Nick stopped pacing and glared at Janette. "I suppose you're going
to tell me that I did the right thing. Well, it won't work this

"No," whispered Janette. "I am going to tell you that you did not
do it at all. It was Lacroix who brought me back over that night,
ma cher, not you."

"Pardon!?" Nick fell back into the sofa.

"You are confused, Nicola. You were even more confused that night
with the bullets and the smoke and the fire. You do not honestly
remember *what* happened, do you?"

Nick groaned. He should have known. He went to Lacroix for
information because he *couldn't* remember what happened. Lacroix
*hadn't* told him everything, he merely grasped another opportunity
to dominate Nick by leading him to believe that he had lost all
control and brought Janette back across. That was the beginning of
his backsliding, the beginning of the end.

"Well?," prodded Janette. "You don't remember, do you?. Of course
you don't. Thanks to your father, you were unconscious. All you
remember is screaming in rage inside the house, and then coming to
in the backyard. That is where Lacroix brought me back across, and
that is where he left you."

Nick closed his eyes. "Why didn't you tell me this when you first
arrived back in Toronto?"

Janette leaned forward. "I am too much like my father," she purred.
"He wanted you with us. I wanted you with us. And for all of our
efforts, what is the result? Neither of us has you."

Nick leaned his head back and stared up at the ceiling in agony.
"And I do not have Natalie," he wailed.

The following day, after only a week and a day on the job, Natalie
turned in her hastily scribbled resignation. It was Tuesday
afternoon, and she gave notice that Thursday would be her last day.
She explained to the administrator how sorry she was, but that the
position was not quite what she had envisaged.

After dropping off her notice, Natalie returned to her secluded
space in the basement and sat down at her desk. 'I don't know why
I accepted it to begin with' she thought. 'I should have known I'd
be spending more time doing paperwork than actual research.' Nat
didn't know precisely what she was going to do, but this job only
added to her misery.

Like clockwork, Janette's words again crept into her mind. 'He
loves you, he needs you'. Like clockwork, Natalie felt the tears
welling up in her eyes. "If you love me, Nick, why aren't you
here?," she whimpered just under her breath.

// At separate tables we sit down to write,
The separate letters that never see the light,
If only we could just agree,
To read between the lines; //

Natalie picked up a pen and started to write again, pouring out her
heart to Nick. It made her feel better. When she finished writing,
she pulled a tissue from the box on her desk and dabbed at her
eyes. Then she tore the letter into tiny pieces and crumpled the
mess together into a tight little ball. "Damn it!," Natalie cursed,
as she flung the paper wad into the wastebasket.

'Maybe I can find something I really enjoy ...something I can
immerse myself in ...surely things will get better ...eventually
...maybe I should go home, there is nothing there but more

A sudden knocking on her office door roused Natalie from her
thoughts. She looked up to see a doctor standing there whom she
didn't recognize. He had dark eyes, possibly brown; and black hair
that was barely greying around the edges. 'Not as handsome, but
taller than Nick' Natalie judged; followed immediately by 'why do
I compare every man I see to Nick?'.

"May I come in, Dr. Lambert?," the stranger asked as he pushed the
door fully open.

"Certainly," replied Nat, happy to have someone, anyone, to talk to
and take her mind off of Nick for more than five minutes.

"I'm Dr. Levine, Darren Levine," the stranger said as he neared
Natalie's desk. "I work up on four, ENT. I overheard you are
already leaving us."

"It's just not what I expected," Natalie declared, awed by the
speed at which that particular bit of news travelled.

Dr. Levine sat down in the chair in front of Nat's desk. 'She's
even more beautiful up close' he thought to himself. "That's too
bad," he said aloud. "Is there anything we can do to persuade you
to stay?"

"I don't think so, Dr...."

"Darren. Call me Darren," interrupted the doctor.

"Darren," Natalie smiled. "Taking this position was a mistake. I
wasn't thinking clearly about the ...administrative part of it."

"I understand. Paperwork *is* the bane of civilization," the doctor

"I wanted to get more into the actual hands-on part of research,"
Natalie offered.

"Perhaps I can help," suggested Darren. "I have a few friends."

Natalie started to feel uncomfortable as she realized the doctor
was giving her too thorough an examination with his eyes. She
wished again that Nick was here with her.

Darren grinned. "Perhaps we can discuss it over dinner?"

"I don't think so," Natalie immediately replied.

Dr. Levine stood up and sighed. "No chance?"

"No chance," she answered sternly.

When the doctor left, Natalie put on her coat and boots and headed
for her car. As she drove home through the dark and the cold, she
pondered her options. There were plenty of other opportunities in
Ottawa. There were numerous government research labs in addition to
the private labs and Hospitals. For the second time since she moved
here, a glimmer of hope crept into Natalie. She still felt like an
empty shell, but perhaps meaningful work, the kind she imagined
when she accepted this job, would help fill in a tiny part of that
emptiness. "Who the hell am I kidding?," she said aloud.

'He loves you. He needs you. Come home to Nicola.' The words tugged
fiercely at her heart. 'But was it true?' Natalie asked herself,
just as she had a thousand times since Janette's visit ...and then
she cried, just as she had a thousand times since she had last seen
* * * * * *

Late the following night, Nick was again holed up in his loft.
Janette's revelation to him had left him with no desire to see
Lacroix anytime soon, if ever again. How could he have ever
believed that Lacroix and he were finally beginning to reach some
sort of understanding. Nothing had changed between them. It was
just another of Lacroix's vicious games, and he had lost Natalie in
the process.

Nick's thoughts were on Natalie more and more often, and for longer
stretches of time. All of the joy had disappeared from his life
when she left. He turned on the television and walked over to the
shelf where he kept his movies. He tried to choose something to
watch, but every movie he picked out reminded him of Natalie. Some
made her laugh, some made her cry, some just made her act silly.
Whatever possessed him to let her go so easily? Another mistake in
a lifetime of mistakes, a very long lifetime of mistakes. Too long
of a life.

Unable to find anything in his rather meagre collection of videos,
Nick ambled over to the couch and lay down on his back. He reached
over for the remote control and started flicking through the
stations. When he caught a glimpse of the 'great' ape during his
channel surfing, tears started forming in his eyes. He remembered
teasing Nat about her crying over that silly movie, and the antics
that followed. He loved her even then, but the realization escaped

// I want to see you and I know what I will say,
We must be crazy to throw it all away,
Never knowing what is lost,
Before it's all too late; //

Nick immediately clicked off the television and let the blood tears
spill relentlessly from his eyes. He rolled over and cried into the
pillow, wishing with all his heart that Nat was here with him. He
wished the last eight weeks of his life never happened. Most of
all, he wished he had the courage to fly straight to Nat and beg
for forgiveness. Nick cried himself into a restless sleep.

An hour later, Janette arrived at the loft. Nick was still on the
couch and just beginning to stir from his rest. She was pleased
that he was home. As she suspected, her revelation to him about
Lacroix's betrayal had supplied the required wedge between father
and son - the first step back in the right direction.

Nick heard the familiar closing of his lift door and sprang bolt
upright, still dazed from sleep. "Nat!!" he cried out, before
realizing she was gone.

Janette sauntered into the room and grinned. "Mon amour, you have
forgotten my name? It is Janette."

Nick did not respond.

As Janette neared the sofa, Nick quickly flipped over the cushion
he had been crying into earlier. His efforts were not lost on
Janette. She saw the evidence of his broken heart, in the bloody
stains of his tears. It was time for the second stage of her plan
to put Nicola back into Natalie's arms, back where he belonged.

"Ah, Nicola," whispered Janette as she picked up the cushion. "I
think I shall leave you alone with your Natalie tonight."

Nick glared at her. "My Natalie is not here, Janette. That is a

Janette tossed the pillow into Nick's lap. "She could be here,
instead of *that*, if you would only go and get her."

Nick closed his eyes. "I can't do that. Not after what I've done

"She will understand. But you must go and find her, and tell her
everything," Janette replied.

"I cannot go anywhere, Janette," Nick moaned. "I cannot go back, I
cannot go forward. I am stuck between two worlds, with no options,
and only one way out."

"Do not say such things, Nicola. You are in love with Natalie, she
is in love with you. I know the love you feel for each other. It is
a love from deep within the human heart, a place the vampire cannot
reach. A love that I will never feel again." Janette reached down
and lightly touched Nick's shoulder. "Don't waste it, Nicola. Go to
her. Go to Natalie."

Nick sighed forlornly. "What could I ever give her but more pain?
Isn't it better to end it here than to let her waste more years of
her life on me? A man who wants nothing more than to make love to
her, but cannot even touch her that way because he'll turn into a

"Obstacles can be overcome," Janette declared. "You have seen it."

Nick felt more tears building in his eyes and closed them tight.
"There is no more hope, Janette."

"Even I am occasionally wrong, Nicola."

"Wrong?," asked Nick indifferently.

Janette sauntered over to the elevator door. Then she spun around
and faced Nick. "A few years ago, I told you that you lost your
soul the night Lacroix brought you across. Do you remember?"

"I remember, how could I forget?" It was more of a statement than
a question.

"I was wrong, Nicola," Janette said as she entered the lift. "You
lost your soul the night Natalie left, when you lost your hope. If
you *truly* want to find your soul, you must find your Natalie."

After donning her coat and boots, it took Natalie less than two
minutes to clean out her desk at work. She hadn't been there long
enough to accumulate anything more than a couple of magazines, a
pack of gum, and an emergency pair of pantyhose. Natalie stuffed
everything into a plastic grocery bag and headed out the door.

When she arrived at her apartment, she heard Sydney meowing on the
other side of the door. "Sorry I'm late Syd," she said outside the
door, "I had a couple of stops to make on the way home." When Nat
entered, the cat whirled around her feet begging to be fed. Nat
flicked on the lightswitch and took off her coat. Gently nudging
Sydney out of the way with her feet, she managed to get out of her
boots without stepping on him.

"I hope you don't mind that I let myself in," a woman's voice
floated across the room. Natalie was stunned to see Janette sitting
on the sofa.

"I wasn't entirely sure what time you would arrive home," Janette
continued, "and I don't particularly care for lingering in

"I don't mind," Natalie said after catching her breath. "How is

Janette stood up and walked towards Nat. "He is much worse,
Natalie. You must come home at once."

"I've already told you, Janette. Nick does not want me. He does not
love me. He didn't even try to stop me from moving here without
him. Quite the opposite, he encouraged me to leave."

"And I've already told you that he does love you, and that he needs
you. Why don't you believe me?," Janette asked.

"Why isn't he here?," Nat responded.

"Nicola is not here because he cannot bring himself to ask for your
forgiveness. He fears the answer." She paused for a moment. "What
makes you think he doesn't love you?".

Nat sighed. "I've given him every opportunity to tell me he loves
me, that he wants me to be a part of his life now and in the
future, but he has not."

"I see." Janette smiled. "And have you ever told him that you love

"No," Nat replied, wondering why she hadn't, but immediately
realizing it was because *she* feared the answer.

"So. You can love him without speaking the words, but he cannot
love you *unless* he speaks the words? ...The truth is, Natalie,
that you have both told each other. Nick will not repeat it out of
fear for your life; and you do not know it, because you do not
remember it."

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

"I am talking about Valentine's Day, two years ago tomorrow in
fact, when you professed your love for each other. Lacroix would
not have it, and claimed your life as payment on a debt Nicola owed
to him. Nicola saved your life that night, but the price he paid
was high. He was forced to renounce his love for you, and Lacroix
erased your memory of the entire incident."

Nat was stunned. "What?!"

Janette scowled. "I will not repeat what I just said, and neither
will you, *ever*. Know that it is the truth. You must come home,
Natalie, or he will be lost all of us."

Natalie felt warm tears gushing from her eyes, as the realization
dawned on her that, yet again, Lacroix had meddled in Nick's life.
She should have known. Nick did love her. Both of their hearts had
been filled with the pain of silence. "Oh, God, what have I done!"
Natalie wailed.

"Will you come home?" Janette asked.

"I will be home tomorrow," Nat whimpered.

// And I - I miss you here tonight,
And I wish you were by my side,
And I don't want to let go; //

* * * * * *

While Janette was with Nat in Ottawa, Nick was driving his caddy to
the station. He wondered why he was even bothering going back to
work. It hadn't been the same since ...since Natalie left. Nick
felt another stabbing pain in his heart. He pulled a bottle of cow
blood out from under his seat, spat out the cork, and guzzled down
the entire contents. It didn't help. Nick tossed the empty bottle
out the car window, where it crashed into a brick wall and smashed
into a thousand pieces. He didn't care. All he cared about was
Natalie, but he had pushed her away. Was Janette right about Nat's
love for him? Could she love him still? Enough to forgive him? He
was afraid to find out.

Nick soon arrived at work and was met by Reese the instant he
walked into the squad room. Reese frowned at him. "When was the
last time you shaved?"

Nick glared at Reese and ignored the question.

"Most people come back from vacation looking laid back and relaxed,
Nick," Reese said. "You look like hell."

"I don't want to talk about it," snapped Nick.

"Fine. Good thing Tracy's off this week, you look like you could
use some time alone."

"Did you want anything in particular?," Nick barked.

Reese handed Nick a slip of paper. "Get down to Bathurst and
Lakeshore, apparent homicide victim, young male."

"Anything else?"

"Yeah," mumbled Reese. "Where the hell did you go on vacation?"

Nick turned around and stormed out of the station.

* * * * * *

When Nick approached the group gathered around the murder victim,
he was a little startled to overhear them discussing "vampire"
killings in Montreal. When he reached the victim he understood why.
The corpse was white as a sheet, and the head was turned to the
side revealing fang marks in the neck. Nick knew it was a vampire's
work. Just as he reached down to turn the victim's head, Nick felt
a hand firmly clutch his shoulder. "If you want to touch the body
you better put on some gloves," an unfamiliar voice bellowed out.

Nick spun around to face the man, who was almost Nick's height. He
appeared to be in his late sixties, his hair was very white and his
skin quite wrinkled from sun and age. "Who are you?," Nick asked.

"Dr.Kobe. Douglas Kobe," the old man replied as he scrounged
through his bag. "I've been filling in for the Coroner while he's
on leave."

"While *she's* on leave," Nick corrected the doctor. Visions of
Natalie again invaded Nick's mind, and what was left of his heart.

Dr.Kobe fished out a pair of white latex gloves from his bag and
handed them to Nick. "And you are?"

"Detective Knight," Nick replied as he slipped his hands into the
gloves. "What's this talk about vampires?"

"Not vampires, detective. Possibly a person who believes he is a
vampire" He grinned at Nick. "Don't you read the tabloids? They had
three similar killings in Montreal a week back. The bodies are
drained of most of their blood, by way of the jugular.

"Does this look like the work of the same killer ...or killers?,"
Nick asked.

"I'm not the detective, Knight. I haven't thoroughly examined the
body, but I do believe you might be looking at a copycat killing

"Why is that?," Nick inquired.

"This boy's had his chest severely crushed," replied the Doctor.
"I've already determined almost every bone in his ribcage has been
shattered, crumbled actually. The Montreal bodies were completely
intact and sound." The doctor winked and added, "apart from missing
blood and some bruising around the puncture points, of course."

Nick wondered if he was wrong to assume that a vampire committed
this murder. He reached out and turned the boy's head around so he
could see the face. Nick was horrified to look into the lifeless
eyes staring back at him. It was Janette's mortal lover's son,
Patrick, the boy she took guardianship of during her short bout of
mortality. The boy she had seemingly grown to love as her own

The doctor noticed Nick's alarmed reaction. "Do you know him?"

"No," replied Nick as he stepped away from the body and ran for his

Ten minutes later, Nick arrived at the Raven. The club was not yet
open, and it was dark and quiet inside. Lacroix immediately emerged
from the back room. "Ah, Nicholas, I have missed you. What brings
you here so early in the evening?"

Nick dashed towards Lacroix, holding back the urge to plunge a
stake through his black heart. "We have to talk!" he shouted. The
moment he reached Lacroix, they both felt the presence of other
vampires. Suddenly two enforcers materialized behind Nick. He
whirled around to face them. The two intruders were clad entirely
in black, with long black hair. Even their eyes were black.

"What have you done, Nicholas?," Lacroix snarled.

"He has done nothing," growled the taller enforcer as he pulled a
photograph out of his trenchcoat pocket. He handed the photo to
Lacroix. "We are looking for this woman. We understand she is one
of ...yours."

Lacroix glanced at the picture of Janette. "It is not a very
flattering image," he said casually. "What is it you want with

"We had to dispose of a risk tonight," replied the enforcer. We
tracked him here from Montreal. He took three there last week, and
took a boy here tonight." The enforcer pulled a sapphire studded
silver bracelet from his pocket and dangled it in front of Lacroix.
"We found this, and the photograph, on the ...permanently

"I see," Lacroix uttered.

"Do you know where she is, or not?" the enforcer demanded.

"Not at this particular moment." Lacroix paused and added
nervously, "is she to be terminated?"

"She is to be warned." The enforcer dropped the bracelet into
Lacroix's open palm. "See that she is reminded of her
responsibilities in bringing people across, and that a second
offence will *not* be tolerated."

The two enforcers dematerialized as quickly as they had appeared.

Nick looked questioningly at Lacroix. "It was Robert, wasn't it? I
wasn't aware she brought him across."

Lacroix grinned. "She didn't bring him across, Nicholas. I did."

"But you declined to mention that little fact just now," Nick
stated with some disgust.

Lacroix strolled over to a table and sat down. "There was no need.
It *is* only a warning. If they had more serious intent, I would
have protected her good name."

Nick did not believe him. He felt a growing sense of revulsion at
Lacroix's cowardice. "What happened in Montreal?"

"I do not give up my children so easily, Nicholas. I was intrigued
when I discovered Janette's mortal love. He was rather ...unique,
don't you think, to capture her cold heart? I expected to welcome
him as a most worthy addition to the family. But alas, Janette's
...lovemaking, had the reverse affect. Quite distressing,

"Quite," Nick sneered.

Lacroix grinned. "I was there the night he was shot, and I brought
him across. That was almost two months ago, however. I had hoped to
be reunited with Janette through him, but he disappeared that very
night. That was the last I had heard of him - until now."

"How did you manage it?," Nick asked. "Janette was there, she told
me what happened."

"She only remembered what I wanted her to remember. She was mortal
at the time, Nicholas, and the mortal Janette is not a resistor.
She recalled seeing Robert shot in the chest, nothing more. It
wasn't difficult to find a transient fitting Robert's physical
description. The facial discrepancy was taken care of with a blast
from the same gun that sent the bullet into his heart."

"And of course you never told Janette."

"Oh, Nicholas," Lacroix chortled. "She knows now. I told her
everything when I made her a vampire for the second time in her

"Yes. You have been busy," Nick stated.

Lacroix chuckled. "I see she has already told you."

"She doesn't know Robert murdered his son tonight, Lacroix."

Lacroix's smile evaporated. "You are right, of course. That could
be a problem." He glanced at the bracelet before stuffing it into
Nick's hand. "I trust you will fill her in on the ...sordid

Nick had never truly recognized the overt cowardice in Lacroix
before. How was it that he was always so blind? Nick had always
believed himself to be the coward - afraid to fully embrace
vampirism, afraid to fully embrace mortality, ...afraid to reveal
the magnitude of his love for Nat. It was becoming abundantly clear
to Nick, that it was not he who was the real coward.

* * * * * *

Fifteen minutes later, Nick arrived back at the loft. Janette was
just nearing the bottom of the stairs when Nick approached her. He
held out the bracelet that Janette had given to Robert.

She snatched the bracelet from Nick's hand. "Where did you get

"From two enforcers who visited Lacroix at the Raven tonight," Nick
answered. "They had to terminate Robert, Janette. He was out of
control. They believe you were the one who brought him across and
Lacroix did not correct their little oversight. They came to give
you a warning."

"I see," murmured Janette as she walked over towards the sofa.

Nick followed her. "Why didn't you tell me Lacroix brought him
across? You have apparently known for some time."

She slumped down into the sofa. "What does it matter? Robert is
dead now."

Nick sat beside Janette and took her hands in his. "He is not the
only one who is dead. Robert found Patrick tonight and killed him.
He murdered his own son, Janette."

"That's not possible!" Janette shouted. "Robert would never do

"I am sorry, but it is true. We found Patrick tonight. His lungs
were crushed, and his body was drained."

Apart from a few heavy sighs, Janette remained silent for several
minutes. She soon stood up and gazed down at Nick. "And so, Nicola,
now I too understand what it is to feel this ...guilt." Before
disappearing up the stairs, Janette muttered, "I do not like it."

* * * * * *

Natalie didn't wake until almost noon that day. It was Valentine's
Day, and she had made the decision the previous evening to go home.
She didn't mean to sleep in so late, but she tossed and turned in
her bed the entire night, and didn't fall asleep until nearly
sunrise. All she could think about was seeing Nick again. Nick
...Nick ...Nick. 'God, how I miss him' she thought. He loved her
and needed her, and she loved and needed him just as badly. Natalie
couldn't wait to get home.

After getting out of bed, Nat trudged into the kitchen and flicked
on the coffeemaker. Then she quickly went to shower and dress. In
the state of anxiety she was in, that took all of ten minutes.

Too nervous to eat anything, Nat just poured herself a cup of
coffee, fed Sydney, and cleaned up the previous day's dishes. Then
she started packing up her personal belongings and clothes and
loading up the car.

Nat put the last load into her car at one in the afternoon, and
then went upstairs to retrieve Sydney. It was then that she
remembered Grace's brother was still occupying her apartment in
Toronto, and would be until the end of February. "Well, Nick,"
Natalie said aloud as she picked up the cat carrier and left the
apartment, "you better love me enough to let me stay there for the
next two weeks."

Janette dreamt that day of her life with Robert and Patrick. She
was a mortal in her dream, with mortal feelings, and mortal
weakness. She was sitting next to Patrick reading aloud from a
book. When Robert approached they were all laughing and teasing
each other. Suddenly Robert's eyes flamed red and he growled. His
fangs descended as he ripped Patrick from her arms. In her dream,
Janette tried to evoke her vampire, but it was gone. She was weak
and powerless, and could not tear her eyes away from Robert and the
horror of what he was doing. He did not know Patrick was his son,
only that he was compelled to be with him. He did not know that his
loving hug was snapping ribs and crushing lungs into bloody pulp.
He did not know that his vampire's kiss was sucking the lifeblood
out of his mortal child.

Janette woke suddenly from her rest. She had never before
experienced bloodsweat, and she did not like it. Janette got out of
bed and went into the bathroom to wash and change. She promised
herself she would never again think mortal thoughts, or feel mortal
feelings. All of that would end, here and now.

* * * * * *

Nick dreamt that day also. He was asleep on the couch, having
pleasant dreams of himself and Natalie. They were outdoors in the
sun, but there was no background in his dream, and he did not know
where he was. They had a young daughter with curly blonde hair and
brown eyes. She was sitting in a child's swing. Natalie was behind
the swing pushing it gently. He stood in front of the swing. Each
time the swing approached he would reach out and clap his hands
together, and the toddler would laugh with delight. He felt happier
than he could ever remember. But Patrick's gruesome death soon
invaded his dreams as well, and with the next advance of the swing,
he tore the giggling child from her seat. An instant later he saw
a look of stark terror on Natalie's face, but he did not know why.
Nick suddenly realized his arms were empty. He stared down at the
ground beneath him. His daughter lay there, with her throat torn
out. He tasted the blood of his child on his very own lips.

Nick woke in a bloodsweat, and vowed with a vengeance that he would
never again give up his battle against the vampire and his struggle
for redemption. He would never again lose hope in his quest for
mortality his quest for a real future with Natalie.

Nick sat up and wiped his face with his sleeves. As he did so, he
heard Janette's footsteps coming swiftly down the stairs. She was
fully dressed, with a suitcase in hand, ready to leave.

"You are awake, Nicola," Janette smiled.

Nick rose to his feet as she neared him, still visibly shaken by
his nightmare. "You're leaving?"

Janette stopped close to Nick. "Yes. It is time. I know now that
our paths are destined to remain separate. You must continue your
journey towards humanity. I must begin my journey away from it.
Janette smiled slightly, "east is east, and west is west, as they

"What are you going to do?," Nick asked.

Janette turned away from him and walked to the door to retrieve her
jacket and boots. "I am going to forget these days and drown these
silly human emotions in human blood. I shall reclaim my life at the
Raven. Lacroix owes me considerable debt. I will ask him to leave
the City for a time, and to leave you alone." When she was fully
attired, Janette again spoke to Nick, "Nicola, I do not want to see
you again. This is the end." She reached over and pushed the button
for the lift before glancing back. "What are you going to do?"

Nick smiled, for the first time in a long time. "I'm going to find
Natalie. And there will be no more secrets between us."

// Yes I - I miss you here tonight,
And when I hold you by my side,
Well I'm not going to let go. //

As he spoke, Janette heard the lift approaching. She laughed as she
slid open the door. "You will not have to look very far, Nicola."
Janette disappeared into the lift, and Nat stepped out.

"Nick!!!," Natalie dropped her purse to the floor and ran into his
arms crying. He held her tightly, and did not even try to stop his
own tears from falling. He felt as though she had been gone for
years, as though a part of him had been gone for years. He buried
his face in her hair and breathed in her scent deeply; not merely
the sweet earthy scent of her blood; but the fragrance of her hair
and skin, and even the scent of her tears. He lifted his head and
stared at her face, her beautiful face. She was his life, his love,
his hope. She *was* his future. He kissed her softly on the cheek
and tasted her warm, salty tears, sweeter than any blood ever was
or ever could be. "I'm so sorry, Nat," he sobbed.

Natalie lightly touched Nick's face and gently wiped away his blood
tears with the tips of her fingers. "I've never seen you cry
before," she said. Natalie planted velvet kisses on his eyelids. "I
am the one to be sorry. I love you, and I won't leave you, ever
again. Will you forgive me?"

Nick kissed her lips gently. "You've done nothing wrong. It was my
fault, all of it. Can you ever forgive me for being so blind and so
stupid?" He tenderly took her face in his hands. "I need you and
your love, Nat, and I won't ever let you go again." He tugged
Natalie down to the couch, where they settled entwined in each
others arms.

Natalie ran her hands over Nick, and then slipped her arms inside
his robe. She caressed his bare chest and shoulders lovingly. He
had ached for her touch for so long, that it alone induced him to
moan with pleasure. It was not the pleasure of lust, but the
pleasure of love. The radiance of her love was revealed in the
warmth of her hands and fingers; and his cool skin, along with his
heart, melted beneath them. Nick ran his own fingers through
Natalie's hair, and kissed her lips and neck with his own lips and
tongue. He loosened her blouse, and explored the warmth and
softness of her skin; skin that had been forbidden to him for so
long. Nick kissed her fully and deeply, brushed a wisp of hair from
her ear, and softly whispered, "I love you more than life."

"And I you," she returned without pause.

Natalie marvelled at the sheer ecstasy she felt under Nick's loving
hands. She was sharing an intimacy with him that she had been
hungering for for years. Looking into his blue eyes, she knew how
hard he was trying to keep the vampire at bay. She knew how
desperately he wanted to make love to her for love's sake. But love
must turn to passion, and she herself had been swept away too soon.
Natalie started to tremble uncontrollably with desire for him. Her
desire was revealed in the quickness of her breath, and the rapid
beating of her heart. And the rapid beating of her heart, called
the vampire out.

"NO!!!" Nick howled in agony as his eyes turned to a luminous gold.
He tore away from Nat and turned his back to her. "I'm sorry," he

Natalie quickly wrapped her arms around him from behind. She
nuzzled his ear with her lips. "Don't ever be sorry for that. I
know you can't give me all of your love, but I want all that you
can give." She tenderly stroked Nick's hair until he returned to

After a few minutes had passed, Natalie tried to get Nick to turn
back around and face her, but he was being obstinate. In an effort
to position herself in front of him, she tried to slide around his
side, but it was a tricky manoeuvre. His silk robe was too
slippery, and the couch just wasn't quite wide enough. Nat ended up
face up in Nick's lap with one arm pinned between them and the
other clutching his shoulder. The rest of her was awkwardly
dangling along the edge of the couch.

"What *are* you doing, Nat?" Nick finally asked.

Nat smiled. "Besides trying not to fall?"

"Yes, besides that." He couldn't help but grin.

"I was going to try to cheer you up, Nick, but I seem to have
gotten myself into an embarrassing situation." Natalie laughed
freely at herself.

Nick's heart lightened at the sound of her laughter. "Are you going
to fall on your butt for me?" he teased.

She tried to smack his arm but almost lost her balance. "No. But I
do have something even better!"

Nick leaned his head down and kissed the tip of her nose. "What
could be better than seeing you fall on your butt?"

"A movie!," Nat exclaimed. "Help me up!"

Nick kept a firm hold on her arms until she was able to wrangle
herself into a position where she could slide her knees safely off
the couch. "What did you want to watch?," he asked.

Natalie stood up and started walking towards the elevator. Nick
pounced up and materialized in front of her as she neared the lift.
"Where are you going?," he asked with a worried expression on his

Natalie bent over and scooped her purse up from the floor.
"Nowhere, I'm just getting my purse. A little jumpy, aren't we?"

"Oh," Nick replied sheepishly, "I thought you were going to go out
or something."

Natalie started rummaging through her purse. "Anyway, I have just
the thing for you right in here. I picked it up last night on my
way home from work." She chuckled. "Uh...I guess I'm going to have
to *mail* it back to the video store."

"What's the movie, Nat?"

She eagerly held out the video for him. "Abbott and Costello Meet
Frankenstein!," she beamed.

Nick laughed out loud.

"Does that mean it's one of your favourite movies?," Nat asked.

"No," Nick answered warmly. "It just means that I love you."

Natalie gave him an intense hug and he returned it in kind. "You
better love me," she giggled into his ear. "Grace's brother won't
be out of my apartment until the end of February, so you're stuck
with me for the next two weeks."

"That's good!" Nick professed. "I have a lot of things I want to
tell you. The first of which is that I want to be stuck with you
for the rest of my life."


Nick caressed her cheek and flashed her a coy smile, "Yes. I do
have a lot of things to tell you."

"No!," Nat cried, "....the rest of my life part..."

"Forever," Nick whispered sincerely, "...if it comes to that." He
kissed her again on the tip of her nose before taking the movie
from her hands and heading for the VCR.

Nat returned to the sofa and sat down while Nick put the movie in.
"What is that on top of the television?," she asked as she clicked
on the set.

Nick popped in the tape and glanced at the top of the TV to see
what she was talking about. It was a small package about four
inches square, wrapped in red and white paper, and topped off with
a tiny red satin bow.

"Well ...what is it?" Nat asked again.

Nick picked it up and brought it over to the couch. "I don't know,"
he said as he sat down. "I never noticed it there when I woke up

"Open it," Nat said enthusiastically.

He grinned at her. "Did you leave it there?"

"How could I have?," she giggled. "My arms have been around you
since I arrived."

Nick kissed her again and smiled. He tore off the wrapping paper to
find a small white cardboard box. Inside the box was a clear glass
mug containing a sprig of mistletoe, and a note. Nick scanned the
note, grabbed everything, and quickly vanished into the kitchen. A
moment later he returned with a wide grin on his face. The mug was
filled with blood and he was zealously swishing the mistletoe
around in it.

"What *are* you doing?," Nat asked, quite perplexed.

Nick sat down beside her. "It's a gift from Janette," he replied
before swallowing the entire liquid contents of the mug. He placed
the cup on the coffee table and handed the note to Nat. She read it

"Dearest Nicola... I met an interesting gentleman when I was
in Montreal, who introduced me to the power of this ancient
flower of love. Fill a cup with bloodwine (or that dreadful
cow if you so prefer), stir it with this sprig, and drink.
(It worked for me and Robert!) au revoir...Janette."

"So," Nat declared. "There *was* more to it after all."

Nick gave her a sly grin. He leaned over and fleetingly kissed her
lips. "Do you want to try it?"

"I don't know," Natalie replied, a little unsure. "What do you

Nick kissed her lips passionately and whispered in her ear, "I
think it's already working."

-- The End --