Date: Mon, 23 Dec 1996 21:33:19 -0600
From: StormyNite <>
Subject: The Gift

The Gift
Part (1/2)
by StormyNite

Nick sat at his desk doing the final piece of paperwork on the Trent murders. Tracy
was off for the holidays and most of the crew had gone home early. True it was two
days till Christmas but most of the detectives had logged off hours ago, when the call
came in. It was a grisly scene and not one for any person with a weak stomach. The
whole family was dead--both children, the Mother and Father. Was it murder or
suicide? Only Natalie would be able to tell them. Nick didn't like leaving her alone
with the job she had to do because she knew Pamela and had met both of her children.
Well, in fact everyone had met Pamela's kids just two weeks ago at Christmas Party.
She was such a pleasant person yet afraid. It was obvious now, she had ever reason to
be afraid. Natalie didn't look to well, when she left the scene. She assured him that
she could handle this, but he wasn't sure. It had been a traumatic year for her. First,
her brother, then her godchild and
of course all the trauma he had caused in her life. If he let himself dwell on in to long,
the guilt would overcome him and that was not what Nat needed tonight. He could feel
her grief even now if he let himself
reach out to her. She needed him.


Natalie pulled the sheet over Pamela's face as the tears flowed unchecked down her
cheek. A great sadness with feelings of despair and hopelessness overcame her. Why
hadn't she told them about her crazed ex-husband. Why wait until it was to late.
Maybe she should have pushed her a little harder for answers when she avoided all
comments about her personal life. Natalie realized Pamela was like Nick and herself--
too many secrets to hide from the world, but she was afraid and Natalie had known it.
Could she have done anything to stop it.
She would never know now. Natalie started to sob openly now when she felt Nick's
strong arms pull her next to him. She buried her tear streaked face into his shoulder
and wept. Nick rubbed her shoulder and
cradled her head against him and let her cry.

"Why Nick?" She mumbled into his shoulder. "How can you kill your own children?
She told me that there was no hope of reconciliation between her and her husband. I--
I--didn't realize she thought her whole life was hopeless." Natalie looked into Nick's
blue eyes somberly as the tears continued to flow down her cheek. "Maybe there is no
hope for any of us Nick! Maybe this is just......"

Nick placed his finger too her lips. "Don't do this to yourself Nat. There is always
hope! You taught me that." Nick placed a light kiss to her lips and then released her.
"Get your coat I am taking you home right now."

"Nick, I have to finish..."

"They aren't going anywhere Natalie. You can let Jerry finish tomorrow!" Nick
grabbed her coat and help her put it on.


"Your place or mine?" He said as they approached the Caddie.

"Mine! I need to take care of Sydney unless you plan on bringing him over for
Christmas Eve with us. He is really good with Christmas trees and ornaments." She
smiled slightly at the comment before she giggled.

Nick turned to see her giggle and was glad to see some of her humor return. "Tell you
what, since we have off Christmas Eve for the very first time together, let's swing by
your place, pack up Sydney and your clothes and you both stay with me until
Christmas. We can decorate the tree tonight and I will cook compliments of 'Murray's
catering'. What do you think?"

"Are you sure Nick?" She wanted him to give him an out but the thought of spending
two days with Nick alone with no work both scared and excited her.

"I'm sure Nat. Only no protein shakes for two days! Deal?"

"Deal!" Nat scooted over beside Nick and laid her head on his shoulder overcome by a
peace she had not felt in a long time.


They finished decorating the tree while Bing Crosby sang White Christmas and Sydney
played chase the Christmas balls across the loft floor until they both thought they
would die with laughter over his antics. The
fire gave a warm glow to the whole loft as Nick put the Angel on top the tree and
Natalie turned on the lights.

"It's beautiful Nick." She beamed as the lights twinkled adding a radiance to the
already warm feeling in the room. "Oh, I almost forgot!" Natalie ran over to the bag
she had brought from her place and rummaged through it until she found what she
wanted. It was a brightly colored package wrapped in festive red ribbons.

"Here! You have to open this early." She handed the package to him and kissed him
gently on the cheek. "Merry Christmas Nick!"

Nick smiled with her excitement and felt himself being carried along,not minding one
bit. He was glad to have his Natalie back. He opened the package carefully not
wanting to destroy the beautiful bow that Natalie had made meticulously. He
recognized her knots and smiled. When he opened the package a beautiful white
Christmas Skirt unfolded. It was not the usual white cotton but one made of white
satin hand stitched with gold and silver threads almost to the point that it shown like
new fallen snow. On the bottom Natalie had embroidered both their names and the
year 1996 in gold thread. Nick was speechless.

"Nat it's beautiful! It just like new fallen snow!" He leaned over and kissed her. "Help
me put it on." They carefully put the skirt around the tree and sat down quietly at the
base to admire their handiwork. Nick couldn't take his eyes off her as she gazed
longingly at the tree and a single tear escaped her eye as she gazed up.

"Do you think there is hope for us Nick?" Natalie turned her gaze back to Nick with a
great sadness, yet somewhere a light still burned in her eyes.

Nick smiled and gently ran his fingers across her cheek and then pulled her into his
arms. "I have something for you early this year too. Something I think we both need."
He handed her a beautifully foil wrapped gold box with silver satin ribbons and bows
dangling all over and didn't answer her question.

"Nick, What is it?"

"Just open it!"

Nat sat down on the floor by the tree and Nick followed. She gently unwrapped the
package to open the box. Inside was a beautiful maple leaf dipped in 18 karat gold. It
was about 1 wide and 1 and half inches long. When you picked it up and held it to the
light you could actually see through the leaf as if it was a gossamer material spun of
pure gold. Each vein in the leaf was visible as if an artists had drawn them in place with
a magic pen. On the top of the pendant was a gold loop in which a small gold chain
was inserted. Natalie sat speechless looking at the gift in her hand. Finally, she spoke.
"I don't know what to say Nick. It's beautiful and so delicate!"

Nick gently picked the leaf up out of Natalie's hand and admired it once again as he
had over the centuries. "It was given to me by my Mother a month before she died. It
is a genuine maple leaf from the tree that grew outside my Mother's window. Each year
she would pick some of the new leaves that budded from the tree and let them dry on
her dresser and then press them into her diary for safe keeping. I asked her when I was
young why she did this because they would dry and become ugly and eventually turn to
dust. Do you know what she told me?" Nick brought his eyes back to Natalie's as he
continued. "She said the appearance of the new leaves every year gave her hope that
life would continue. It was her sign that no matter what happened in the coming year
that all things would come full circle and start over again in the spring. It gave her
hope! She dipped this leaf in gold and gave it to me before she died. She told me that
whenever I felt lost or alone that I should hold the leaf and remember that no matter
what happens--there is always hope." Nick held the leaf up to the twinkling lights of
the Christmas tree to let them shine brightly through the gossamer spun gold fibers. "It
has gotten my through many a long night." He turned and placed the gold leaf in
Natalie's hand and smiled. "I want you to have this now because every time I see you
were it I will now you have faith in me and there is hope for us." Gently he touched her
cheek and wiped away the single tear that escaped her eye.

Natalie leaned forward and gently kissed his lips before she spoke. "I will never lose
faith in you Nick and I will treasure this and keep it safe for as long as I live. Thank
you for reminding me that hope is what keeps us going through all eternity. I guess I
lost sight of that tonight with Pamela's death." Natalie lifted her hair and presented her
back to Nick so he could place the necklace around her neck. When she turned to face
him again with the leaf dangling delicately from the gold chain, it appeared to glow as
it touched her skin.

Nick smiled, knowing he had made the right decision in giving it to her tonight. He
stood up and offered her his hand. Moving back to the couch Nick pulled Natalie onto
his lap while he wrapped a blanket around her legs to keep her warm. That sat in
companionable silence as the fire danced in the fireplace and the voice of Natalie Cole
sang Christmas music in the background. Feeling warm and secure they drifted off to
sleep in each others arms.


Natalie awoke to find herself snuggled under three comforters and black satin sheets in
Nick's bed. She remembered the necklace and immediately touched her throat to find it
still nestled softly there. She only wished Nick had been beside her. Pulling herself
out of the nice warm bed, she started for the stairs only to find Nick already in the
kitchen starting breakfast. It was really strange to think of having breakfast at 5pm but
the night shift did things to your thinking once you got use to it.

"Hi! Did you sleep well?" Nick handed Natalie a cup of freshly brewed coffee. It
smelled heavenly to her.

Taking a little sip, she smiled. "Your getting pretty handy in the kitchen." Sydney
rubbed up against her legs until she leaned down and picked him up. "I see you are
none to worse for wear, you fat fur ball!" She was rewarded with more rubbing only
under her chin this time and loud purring. "You smell light tuna Sydney." She sniffed
him cautiously.

"My fault! I gave him a can of tuna fish when I started the coffee. I thought maybe I
could get on his good side before, he decided to play destructo cat on the tree while we
were gone."

"Gone! Are we going somewhere?"

"Absolutely! I have a special surprise for you this Christmas Eve!" Nick's eyes
twinkled bright blue as he spoke. He was having fun with Christmas this year. It was
the first time in the 7 years he had known Natalie that they got to spend the entire day
or night in this case together. "This will be our 7th year together and want it to be
special. So go upstairs and put on your warmest clothes because we are going
traveling." Nick pulled her chair out to move her along.

"But I haven't eaten yet Nick!" She laughingly protested.

"I will have it finished by the time you get dressed! Go! Go!" She laughed as he
swatted her backside on the way up the stairs.

Natalie finished dressing in no time and polished off the scrambled eggs and bacon
Nick prepared for her. Nick showered and changed while she cleaned up the kitchen.
As he came down the stairs he brought a fur lined wool blanket and an old fashion fur
muff. Natalie saw him approach with all the stuff and couldn't control the questions
any longer.

"Nick! What is..." Touching her lips with his fingers he stopped the question. He
wrapped her up in the blanket and shoved both hands into the muff. He produced a
similar fur lined cap and placed it on her head. When he was finished, she looked like
a little fur lined Eskimo which brought a smile to his face. He pulled the blanket more
snugly around her shoulder and planted a kiss on her lips.

"Where ready now!" He scooped her up into his arms as she began to laugh. In a blink
of an eye he lifted them both off the floor toward the skylight. He stopped only long
enough to open the latch and close it after they were through. He was taking her flying.
She was thrilled as they soared over the Toronto skyline watching the Christmas light
twinkle and flash exclaiming the cheer and hopes of thousands that slept in their beds.
They proceeded North for several miles until they reached the treeline. Nick landed
softly by a nestle of pine trees and Natalie heard bells coming from the distance. The
ground was covered in snow and the air crisp as the waited. "Looks like our ride is
here!" Nick proclaimed as a man in an old fashion sleigh with bells approached. The
sleigh was drawn by a magnificent black stallion that almost pranced as he walked.

"A sleigh ride Nick!" Nat squealed with delight. Nick was thrilled to see her reaction.

Jacob slowed the sleigh to a stop in front of them. "I see you made it Nicholas! Not
that I ever had my doubts." Jacob smiled as he helped Nat and Nick into the sleigh.
They settled into the sleigh side by side as Jacob covered them tightly and produced a
large thermos of hot chocolate for Nat. The sleigh skimmed the surface of the new
fallen snow as they made their way through trees to stop numerous times to enjoy the
view of the Toronto skyline and the simple clear starry night in each others arms.
Several hours later they returned to the loft.


"That was wonderful Nick!" Natalie began unwrapping all the garments as they rode up
in the lift. Handing each one of them to Nick as she disrobed, she waited until his arms
were full to place a soft kiss on his lips. The smile on her face was all the reward he
needed. She opened the lift door since his arms were full to find only the Christmas
Tree lights on and a elegant dinner laid out on the table by candle light. She turned
and smiled at Nick as he came into the room. "You are incredible!" She looked at her
clothes in disgust. "I have to change before we eat. Can we wait a few minutes?"

Nick dropped the coats and blankets on the top of the piano and bowed deeply.
"Anything My Lady wishes!" He smiled and stepped forward to kiss her hand in a
knightly fashion. Natalie curtsied and giggled as he finish kissing her hand.

Natalie returned 20 minutes later wearing a gold sequined long gown and high heeled
shoes to match. At her throat dangled the leaf necklace Nick gave her the evening
before. She let her hair hand loosely about her shoulders the way he liked it. Nick had
changed into a tux and greeted her at the bottom of the stairs. As she reached the
bottom, Nick took her hand and pulled her into his arms. Slowly he ran his fingertips
up her arms to her face, never once releasing his gaze from hers. "Have I told you lately
just how beautiful you are?"

He was driving her pulse mad. When he looked at her that way, she thought her heart
had stopped. Almost in a whisper as she closed her eyes to meet his lips she
responded. "Not enough."

He deepened the kiss as she melted her body into his while his hands explored her
back. Both sensing the danger this kind of action could cause grudgingly broke the

"Shall we eat?" It came out haltingly from his chest as he fought for control of the
vampire within. Nat could sense his struggle and moved to the table. Pheasant under
glass, wild rice and mushrooms, asparagus in white sauce followed by a white
chocolate mouse completed the dinner. Nick tasted the pheasant and mouse to please
her, but thoroughly enjoyed her antics as she savored every morsel as she ate. Taking
her wine glass in one hand and her hand in the other they moved to the living room by
the fireplace. He then handed her yet another small box wrapped in silver this time
with gold ribbons.

"Nick?" Natalie was surprised to see another gift after last night. She opened it
carefully to find yet another necklace nestled in a satin lined leather case. In it sat a 6
diamonds each cut perfectly in the shape of a teardrop surrounding a large 2 carat
teardrop center stone. It hung from a 3/4 inch gold chain.

"One diamond for each year I have known you and the 7th is for being the light in my
darkness---for loving me in spite of what I am." He reached over and an unhooked the
leaf necklace around her throat. "Here hold this!" He handed her the chain the leaf
necklace had been on and flipped the diamond necklace over to find a hidden clasp that
fit perfectly to the leaf loop. When he turned them over the large diamond tip fit
snugly to the leaf stem making them appear as one. Together they were an exquisite
piece. He turned her around and placed the necklace back around her neck. When he
finished ,he gently caressed the necklace as it dangled on the end of the chain next to
her breast. Turning his gaze back to hers he continued. "You fill me with light and
hope Natalie. I love you now and forever!"

Gently touching his face she could read the emotion in his eyes. The three words she
had longed to hear since the day she met him meant more now than they ever did. He
truly loved her. It was in his eyes, his actions and his heart. She would never doubt it.
"Say it again Nick." She whispered as she brought her lips to his.

"I love you Natalie and I think I always have!" He deepened the kiss as she ran her
hands up under his jacket letting them caress the hard muscle there. It was wonderful!
She bathed in the sensations coursing through her veins as her pulse raced and Nick's
breathing increased. How much longer could this last before the vampire appeared.
She didn't care about the risks only that he loved her. Nothing else mattered as he
continued the onslaught of her lips and then her neck. He stopped abruptly and pulled
her head against his shoulder to stop the raging beast from appearing.

"It's okay Nick! It's okay!" She pulled away from him slightly to force him to look at
her. His golden eyes met her blue ones. "I love you Nick--know that. Nothing is going
to prevent us from being together." She smiled and ran her fingers down the side of his
face tracing his fangs slightly with her fingertips. "The vampire doesn't scare me
anymore because I know that his heart is no longer cold. One step at a time. Together-
-we will defeat the vampire with love and ffaith and no one will ever keep us apart
again." She kissed him gently on each one of his fangs bringing tears to his eyes. She
wiped the tears away as the fell and brought each one to her lips. "See!" She turned
her finger toward him to see. "No blood, only saltwater," she smiled as she brought
her finger back to his lips.

Amazed at her reaction and understanding, he pulled her back into his arms. "Dance
with me Natalie. Dance with me until dawn and then spend the night in my arms,
because tonight of all nights you have given me the greatest gift of all----HOPE and
unconditional love. No man has ever been so blessed."

She walked over to the stereo to put on slow music and then walked into his arms.
"My pleasure Sir Knight!" And they danced until dawn and fell asleep in each others
arms in front of the tree.


The sun began shining through the one shade that for some reason did not close. The
warmth of the sun shining into the room awoke Nat as she lay snugly in Nick's arms on
the couch. Seeing the sun on the floor she reached for the remote. "Nick! Nick!
Wake up!" She shook him roughly trying to wake him.

"Nat! What is it?" He struggled to wake after only a couple hours of sleep. Seeing the
sun pouring through the window he tensed until he saw the tree. Natalie pulled him to
his feet and out of the sun as it touched the edge of the couch while he stood
speechless in front of the tree. She closed the shade quickly and returned to his side.

In place of the 10 foot Christmas tree they had so lovingly decorated, stood a 10 foot
red leafed maple tree decked with all their decoration down to Natalie's hand made
satin tree skirt. On the tree hung Natalie's gold leaf swinging as if in a breeze. She
touched her throat to verify that it was indeed gone. Nick walked to the tree as if
mesmerized by the motion of the leaf. As he touched the leaf it disappeared only to be
replaced by a beautiful white card with a gold dove of peace emblazoned across the
front. Nick opened the card and sank to his knees as he read.

Natalie came quickly to his side and touched his trembling hand for support. The card
was addressed to Nick and Natalie and read:

With Love and Faith
There is always HOPE!
You are never Alone!

Merry Christmas!

When his single tear touched the card it disappeared to be replaced by the gold leaf
once again.

Nick placed the gold leaf back on Natalie's necklace under the diamond clasp and
smiled. "Forever and Always Natalie! Merry Christmas!" He brought his lips to hers
which she gladly accepted.

The End

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