What's For Dinner, Nick?
by Susan B.
November, 1997
---------------

This short story is dedicated to Rogue Cousin Tammy, who dared me
to explore my dark side and write a Nick&Nat story with Nat as a
vamp. Unfortunately I don't have a dark side <g> so my NatVamp is
almost lily white. Takes place immediately after Last Knight.
======================

"Damn you, Nicholas!" Lacroix raged before tossing the stake to the
floor. "Do you truly believe she will follow you? Will she rise up
and offer herself to the morning sun? Or has your serpent's kiss
inflicted her with the vampire's fear of death? The dead don't cry,
Nicholas, and I'll not be burdened with her for an eternity!"
Lacroix vanished.

It was only then that Nick noticed the crimson tears trickling from
beneath the corners of her closed eyelids. The eyelids fluttered
once, twice, and then opened completely. Nick heard a single beat
of her heart, and a cold stab of fear raced through his own. As he
comprehended the flecks of gold in her eyes, nightmarish thoughts
flashed through his mind. Thoughts of Serena, who had believed his
fangs to be a bad dream and who hated him for what he had done.
Thoughts of Alexandria, who felt she had been raped. "Oh, God,
Natalie," Nick moaned. He leaned over and gently laid his head on
her breast, "Forgive me," he cried. But in his heart he knew there
could be no forgiveness for this. He could hold nothing back when
he made love to her; not the vampire, not the bloodlust, not even
his wretched past. She gave herself fully to him, her love, her
blood, her soul. And in return he tainted her with his evil.

He could feel the cool dampness of his own blood tears creeping
across his face and dripping heavily onto her sweater. "I couldn't
stop myself," he whimpered. "I'm sorry." He spat an urgent prayer
for the sun to quickly rise and wash over them both, but he
realized it was too late when he felt her hand gently stroking the
back of his head. "I didn't want this for us, Nat," he cried. "I
wanted to be with you. But not here. Not like this."

"Or an eternity in darkness," Natalie moaned. "What you've been
through. What it feels like to kill. Your guilt. And..." She
stopped herself as a fresh surge of tears washed the gold flecks
from her eyes.

Nick lifted his head and gazed at her. "That's not your hell,
Natalie. You haven't killed. And you don't have to. Ever."

'No,' Natalie sobbed to herself. 'My hell is feeling what you felt
while making love to other women. And so many of them, Nick. So
many.'

Nick grasped both her hands, "Let me help you off the floor," he
offered as he gently guided her to her feet. They stepped over to
the couch and sat down. Using the sleeve of his shirt, Nick gently
wiped the blood from her face. He was surprised to find her eyes
had already returned to their natural blue. "Hungry?" he asked.

"No," Natalie replied.

"You must be."

"I'm not hungry," she insisted, "and the thought of drinking blood
now is no more appealing to me than it was before."

"That's impossible," Nick replied. "It's what we feed on. And we're
always hungry when we're brought across."

Nat smiled limply. "It may be what you feed on, Nick," she said,
"but I have no stomach for it." She did feel a growing hunger, but
the thought of drinking blood disgusted her.

Nick found a sliver of hope rising from his quagmire of grief.
'Perhaps she isn't truly a vampire,' he thought. 'Perhaps I didn't
take too much.' But his isolated spire of joy was quickly doused
when her eyes again turned to gold. He looked at her quizzically.
"Natalie?"

"I'm fine," she reassured him.

"You can control the evil," Nick muttered dismally.

"There is no evil," she replied. "I mean, there was. But it didn't
stay with me. I just need to sort things out." She gestured towards
her temple, "up here... the things I saw."

"Things you never should have seen," Nick said morosely. "The part
of me I never wanted you to know." While horrified that he had
subjected Natalie to his evil, he was relieved that she had been
able to purge it, just as he had purged Divia's.

Natalie closed her eyes. "Well, I know it now," she said curtly.

Nick moved to embrace her. He expected to be pushed away and was
surprised when she returned his embrace with equal vigour. "I'm
sorry," she whispered. "I didn't mean to sound cruel. I love you.
But the things I felt, Nick. The killing. The women. It hurts."

"But you must also know how much I love you," Nick whispered as he
started to rock her soothingly in his arms.

"I felt it," Natalie said. "But that warm light was obliterated all
too soon by... the rest of it."

"The rest is the past," Nick consoled her. "I can't change it, and
you know I would do anything to erase it. I can only hope with all
my heart that you can put it back where it belongs. In the past."

Even as he spoke, the images began to fade from her mind. Nat
focused on the present. On what put her into this position in the
first place ? her overwhelming love for a man caught in the guise
of a vampire. As she relegated the painful memories to the back of
her mind, she was surprised to suddenly notice the sweet earthy
scent of Nick's blood rising from her tear soaked sweater. "I think
I'm getting hungry," she said quietly.

"Wait here," Nick told her as he released her and rose from the
couch. He went over to the fridge, retrieved a bottle of cow blood,
and carefully poured a glassful. He returned to Natalie and gently
placed the wineglass in her hand. "Drink this."

Nat lifted the glass to her nose and sniffed it. She gagged
involuntarily. "I can't drink this stuff," she said.

"Why not?" Nick asked, puzzled.

"You tell me. You've had more experience at this game than I have."

Nick rotated the glass in his hand, and studied the blood as though
to find a reason for Nat's aversion. "Maybe you're not hungry
enough," he commented, suddenly fearing that denying himself human
blood for so long had triggered an opposite reaction in her. His
face grew taut as he set the glass on the coffee table. "Does it
sicken you because it's not human?" he asked warily.

Natalie's eyes quickly changed to gold. She smiled and pulled him
towards her. "It sickens me because it's not yours," she said.

* * * * *

Nick sat up in his bed and watched Natalie as she slept soundly on
her back beside him. It had been almost a week since he had
inadvertently brought her across, and still she had not experienced
first hunger. He smiled to know her only hunger had been for him,
but at the same time he was distressed by it. He had never
encountered, in his near 800 years, a vampire who was not consumed
by the lust for mortal blood.

During their six days of discovery he had determined that she was
as repulsed by garlic as he, but could tolerate far more sunlight.
For a vampire, her powers of regeneration and hearing were weak;
but her night vision was normal. She could not fly, but was almost
as physically strong as he was. She could still hold Joan of Arc's
cross as lovingly as she could when she was mortal. It made even
less sense to him that her heart and mind were still human, but it
was more than he could have ever hoped for. "Faith," he muttered
aloud.

Natalie suddenly opened her eyes and smiled up at him. "That's
sweet, she mumbled."

"Pardon?"

She turned over on her side to face him. "Your love," she said. "I
can feel it settling over me like a warm blanket."

"You know what I'm thinking?" Nick asked curiously. "When did this
start?"

"Just this moment," she replied. "And not thoughts, exactly. I just
know that whatever you're thinking about me, feels good."

Nick chuckled. "You are a strange one," he remarked. "I was just
trying to figure out why you're the most unusual vampire I've ever
encountered."

Natalie smiled warmly. "Well, you once said I was a unique woman.
Are you telling me I am also a unique vampire?"

"Very unique." Nick grinned slyly and started to caress her bare
arm. He could feel her slight tremble under his touch. "Can you
tell what I'm thinking now," he whispered seductively.

"That you want to cover me like a warm blanket?" Nat whispered
back. "You know," she added, "we do have to get out of this bed
sometime. We're both supposed to be going back to work tonight."

Nick leaned down and kissed her deeply. "We will," he said softly,
"later."
* * * * *

Nick and Natalie arrived at the morgue an hour before Nick was
scheduled to report in at the station. He spent the free hour
following her around the morgue, periodically stuffing blood bags
under her nose, before finally satisfying himself that she could
control her urges around so much human blood. She showed as much
disdain for it as she did for the cow blood he had offered her.
'What urges,' he finally admitted to himself, still concerned about
her unusual feeding habits. While being a wet nurse to her was
nothing less than ecstasy, it just wasn't normal. A rush of fear
swept through him at the possibility that her long delayed first
hunger was yet to come.

"What is it?" Nat asked, sensing something wrong. She spun around
to find him standing directly behind her.

Nick smiled. "Nothing," he replied. "I'm just worried about you
here alone." He gestured around the room. "With all of this."

"I'm okay and I will be okay," Natalie reassured him. She kissed
his cheek. "Go on. Meet your new partner. Do your job."

As he sauntered out the door, Nick promised to stop by the morgue
during his break.

Natalie immediately picked up the phone to dial a number, and was
surprised by Lacroix's sudden appearance. She set the receiver back
on the hook. "What are you doing here?" she asked bitterly.

"Dr. Lambert," Lacroix crooned. "I just stopped by to see how you
were progressing."

Natalie stood up and snarled at him, fangs descended and eyes red
with anger. "I could kill you for the things you've done to him,"
she snapped. "I used to think you were cruel, but you are
lightyears beyond that; you abusive, manipulative bastard!"

Lacroix grinned. "Vampirism becomes you, doctor. You appear to have
as much, or rather as little, control over it as my Nicholas does."

"He's not *your* Nicholas," Natalie spat. "And I have total control
over this. As for Nick, I suspect a great deal of his confusion is
due to your blatant incompetence."

Lacroix had been enjoying Natalie's outbursts, but even he had his
limits. He allowed his own fangs to descend, and his eyes to turn
a yellowish green. He snarled and stepped forward.

"Is that supposed to scare me?" Natalie laughed. "You're a pathetic
old fool. I know how you fight. The only time you didn't feign
death or run away, Nick saved your sorry ass. I could crush you as
surely as Divia did, Lacroix; for as much as she was evil, I am
good. Take one step closer or get out of our lives forever. Your
choice."

Lacroix didn't move. He grinned as his eyes slowly transformed back
to normal. "Perhaps I'll visit when you're in a more receptive
mood," he said, before vanishing into thin air.

"True to form," Natalie muttered as she sat down and picked up the
receiver again.

Nick arrived at the precinct, hung up his coat, and immediately
went to Reese's office, expecting to meet his new partner.

"Knight. Good to have you back," Reese said as he motioned Nick
forward.

Nick was surprised to find Reese alone in the room. "Where's
Davidson?" he asked. "I thought he would be here."

"His transfer's been delayed a week," Reese advised. "He wanted to
tidy up a few cases first. You're on your own this week." He
suddenly chuckled, "Unless you'd like to team up with Barnes."

"Thanks anyway, Captain," Nick replied, having no desire to be
anywhere near Barnes, whose incessant chatter had been blamed for
at least two of his previous partners having stress related heart
attacks. "I'll go it alone unless I run into trouble."

"Wise call," Reese commented, still grinning widely.

Nick left Reese's office and walked slowly to his desk. He was
overcome with sadness at the sight of Tracy's barren desk. Her
chair was tucked underneath it, as though no one had ever occupied
it. As though she never even existed. He had not given her much
thought this week, apart from the day of her funeral. He and
Natalie had visited her grave that evening. Natalie had tried to
convince him to release his guilt over Tracy's death, insisting
that it wasn't his fault. She tried to make him understand that
Tracy should not have even been in that room. But still.

Nick put Tracy out of his mind and concentrated on the file folders
that had piled up in his tray. Obviously his time off had given the
typing pool a chance to catch up on transcribing all of his and
Tracy's hastily handwritten reports. By the time his dinner break
rolled around, he had proofed almost half of the computer entries.
Anxious to meet Nat, Nick placed the completed folders neatly in
his out tray. As he rose and slipped into his jacket, Reese marched
over to him.

"Good timing, Knight!" the captain bellowed.

"I was just on my way to see Nat," Nick said.

"That'll have to wait. We've got a body down at King and Church.
Behind St. James Anglican."

Nick nodded his head. "On my way."

* * * * *

The regular crowd was already mulling around the victim by the time
Nick arrived. Cops, reporters, and morbid onlookers. He noticed the
coroner's wagon had arrived, but there was no sign of Natalie. "Who
are you and where's Dr. Lambert?" Nick demanded as he approached
the elderly male doctor who was examining the corpse.

"James Laxton at your service," the grey haired coroner replied as
he stood up. "I'm filling in for her."

"But where is she?" Nick almost yelled.

"What's the problem, Detective?" Dr. Laxton replied. "She said she
had an errand to run a couple of hours ago. Hadn't arrived back yet
when this call came through." He gestured down at the young
bluejean clad corpse lying motionless in the grass. "Shouldn't you
be concerned about this fellow?"

'I wish I could be,' Nick thought to himself as he glanced down at
the fair haired victim. The face seemed almost familiar. "Yes, of
course," he said. "What does it look like?"

The doctor gingerly removed his thick framed glasses and wiped his
eyes. "It's very unusual," he said as he replaced his glasses.
"Throat is slit wide open. But there's no blood."

"What?" Nick asked, his body starting to tremble in fear that
Natalie's first hunger had finally emerged.

"No blood," the doctor repeated. "You know what that means..."

The words caught in Nick's throat. What else could it mean but an
extremely hungry, extremely careless vampire.

"It means the murder took place somewhere else," the doctor said.

"Pardon?" Nick muttered, still shaken.

"It means the murder took place somewhere else!" Dr. Laxton
exclaimed, wondering how the hell this guy ever made detective.

"TOD?" Nick asked.

"Very recent," the doctor replied. "Definitely within the last hour
or two. That would put the actual murder scene within an hour and
a half of here."

"That pretty much covers the entire city," Nick said solemnly. He
bent down to take a closer look at the body. "Any ID?"

"Nothing found on him," the doctor replied. He leaned over the body
and pointed towards the throat. "This is the other unusual thing.
These two little puncture points. Do you see them?"

"Yes, I see," Nick answered sombrely. He knew the marks, and thanks
to Natalie's insight on the differing span of male and female
canine teeth, he also knew the vampire was a female.

* * * * *

Nick finished up at the scene as quickly as he could without
raising suspicion. He was tempted to park his car and fly to the
morgue, but at the same time he feared what he would find. He drove
there, parked the car on the street, and went directly to Natalie's
office. When he poked his head in the door, she was standing in
front of her desk.

"Where were you?" Nick demanded, his face stern.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" Nat replied.

He said nothing, merely walked towards her and grabbed her
shoulders, almost shaking them. "Where the hell were you?"

"You're hurting me, Nick!" she yelled. "What the hell's going on?"
She was getting angry and couldn't stop her eyes from momentarily
flashing gold.

Nick released her shoulders and grabbed her chin firmly with one
hand. "Just tell me where you've been for the last two hours."

Natalie put her hand over his. "Is this the same man who's been
making love to me for a week?" she asked quietly.

Nick dropped his hand in resignation. "You should have come to me,
Nat. It didn't have to be like this."

"Come to you for what, Nick? I have no idea what you're talking
about."

The realization that he had falsely accused her sent a new stab of
pain through Nick. "I'm sorry," he said. "We found a body tonight.
The victim of a vampire. A female vampire. And you had disappeared.
I thought... I thought you did it. That your first hunger had
erupted and you lost control."

Natalie's heart sank. "I thought you trusted me," she whimpered.

"I do trust you."

"Well, you have a funny way of showing it."

Nick took her in his arms. "I'm sorry. I was stupid. I do trust
you. I love you. It's... it's the vampire's bloodlust I don't
trust."

"I saw that bloodlust," Natalie replied. "That evil. I know what it
is, and I know that it's not in me. You've taken my blood, and you
know it can't lie. If the evil was there, you would have seen it,
right? Have you seen it?" she demanded. "Well, have you?"

He could only answer with the simple truth, "No."

"Well then," Nat said, temporarily shrugging off her heartache.
"Tell me about the case." As she spoke, two coroner's aides arrived
with a loaded stretcher. They were followed by Dr. Laxton who
smirked at Nick and smiled at Natalie. "Ahh, Dr. Lambert," he
announced. "Does this mean I can get back to my own office and
leave this fellow to you?"

"Certainly," Nat replied.

As the assistants laid the body out on the autopsy table, Dr.
Laxton tore a sheet of paper off his clipboard and handed it to
Nat. "Here's the field report. He's all yours." The doctor and his
aides immediately left the office.

Nick and Nat walked over to the table and Nat lowered the sheet
from the young man's face.

"I thought I saw him before!" Nick exclaimed, suddenly remembering
where.

"You know this guy?"

"I couldn't place the face before," Nick replied. He looked at Nat
apologetically. "And my mind was too busy jumping to insane
conclusions." His smile was cut short by a sudden realization.

Natalie noted his shocked expression. "What is it?" she asked, worried.

"This is Briana's friend, Mark," Nick replied. "I've only seen him
once, from a distance. But I'm sure it's him."

The two stared at each other for a long moment. Nat was the first
to speak. "Do you think she did it?"

"She wouldn't have been able to kill him," Nick said. "He never
would have allowed her to take all of his blood. And unless the
throat slash was accompanied by a stake through the heart, he
shouldn't be dead."

"Do you think there might be another like Divia about?"

Nick shook his head. "I don't imagine Divia would have taken the
time to try to hide her handiwork with a knife."

"There is another possibility," Nat said cautiously.

"What's that?" Nick asked.

"That he became mortal before he was killed."

Nick arrived at Briana's last known address twenty minutes later.
He knocked on the door and was soon greeted by the petite, dark
haired woman. "My, my, this is a surprise," she said rather
sarcastically. "Come in."

Nick caught a whiff of a familiar fragrance when he entered the
spacious apartment and brushed it off. "I have a bit of bad news
for you," he announced, "about your friend, Mark."

"Mark," Briana echoed as her eyes darted across the livingroom
towards the bedroom door.

"Yes," Nick said. "He's dead."

"By one of us?" Briana asked, the barest trace of a smile forming
on her lips.

"That seems to amuse you," Nick commented. He paused for a moment
and added, "By one of us who is very sloppy."

Briana sighed. "I have a very jealous lover," she said. "Mark was,
how shall I put it, an obnoxious pest. He wouldn't leave me alone."

"And who exactly would this clumsy lover be?"

"I am not a clumsy lover, Nichola," a familiar voice sang out from
across the room. "I simply left a calling card for you."

Nick, stunned, turned to find Janette gliding towards them. She was
wearing a long, silky black gown, her hair draped loosely over her
shoulders. She nodded towards Briana who instantly disappeared into
the kitchen.

"Janette," Nick gasped. "You are Briana's lover?"

Janette smiled slyly at him. "You know our mortal preferences
remain with us, Nichola; in art, in music, in... everything." She
reached out and stroked his face seductively with her hand. "Who
knows," she mocked, "perhaps if you were a woman, we *would* have
been eternally happy together."

Nick grasped her hand tightly and removed it from his face.
He knew she had enjoyed women as much as she enjoyed men, and there
were many times in the past when that knowledge made him feel not
only unwanted, but totally inadequate.

"We have some unfinished business, you and I," Janette remarked.

"I'm sorry, Janette," Nick stammered. "I don't know what came over
me. I shouldn't have denied your wish to die as a mortal."

"You only forced me to make the choice again, Nichola," she
replied. "I could have walked into the light, but I chose to come
back."

"Then you have forgiven me?" Nick asked.

"In time perhaps," Janette answered. "You did, after all, force an
unwanted decision on me."

Nick was anxious to change the subject. "About Mark," he said. "How
could you kill a vampire like that?"

Janette examined her red fingernails. "He was mortal when I killed
him," she remarked flatly.

"But how did he become mortal?" Nick asked.

"I have no idea, Nichola." She glanced at Nick and laughed
outright. "Unfortunate that it's too late to ask him. Isn't it?"

'She knows and she's not going to tell me,' Nick thought. 'That's
her revenge'. He spun around and stormed out the door.

Briana returned from the kitchen and stood next to Janette.
"Whatever made him think Mark was once a vampire?" she asked.

"I don't know," Janette replied. "But sometimes revenge is even
sweeter than expected, isn't it?"

* * * * *

By the time Nick returned to the precinct, his anger at Janette had
ebbed. He deserved it. He knew he did. Janette knew how Mark had
become mortal ? he could see it in her expression. If this had been
two weeks ago he would have wrung it from her, regardless. He sat
at his desk and anxiously waited for the end of his shift. Then he
left to pick up Natalie. She was just shoving Mark into the cooler
when he arrived.

"Finished with him?" Nick asked.

"All done," Nat replied as took off her lab coat and donned her
own. "Did you find out anything?"

"Nothing I can write up in a report," Nick advised.

Natalie smiled at him. "Same old story."

They walked out of the morgue together, climbed into the caddie,
and headed for the loft. "It was Janette's doing," he said. "And
unless some alert citizen finds a puddle of this man's missing
blood somewhere, this case is going to remain unsolved."

"Janette was able to kill a vampire? Like that?" Natalie asked.

"She said he was mortal when she killed him," Nick replied.

"And you believe her?"

Nick nodded his head. "Yes. I also think she knows how he became
mortal, but she won't say."

They remained quiet during the rest of the trip. In the elevator,
Nick put his arm around Natalie. "Are you going to try to drink
something else tonight besides me?"

"Is it bothering you that much?" Nat asked.

Nick slid the door open and they strode into the loft. He kissed
her lightly on the cheek. "I find it quite delightful," he said
honestly. "But dependency has never been one of your traits, and
you can't be comfortable depending solely on me as a source of
food."

"Is it any different than you depending on those bottles in the
refrigerator?"

"I can always get those bottles replaced, Nat. What if something
should happen to me?"

Natalie put her arms around him. "You said forever, Nick. Remember?
Besides, if I really had to, I'm sure I could plug my nose and down
something else."

Nick smiled warmly. "I guess that means I better go drink
something," he whispered.

"Yes. Do that," Natalie said. "Then come upstairs to the spare
room. I've got a surprise for you." She left Nick in the kitchen
and hurried upstairs. Five minutes later, he joined her in the
spare room.

"What's all this?" he asked. The room looked like a doctor's
office, with cupboards, microscopes, a fridge, a metal table, a
computer, and pieces of equipment he couldn't even identify.

"It's a lab," Nat replied, "sans sink of course. But I can always
go to the bathroom for that. I just got the idea on the way to work
tonight, and had to be here to receive it. No small feat, either,
getting all of this delivered immediately."

"What's it for?" Nick queried, feeling even more guilty over his
previous verbal attack on her.

Natalie walked over to him. "Well, what do you think, Nick? You
want to become mortal, don't you? We're living together, aren't we?
I can work here."

He hadn't even discussed his goal of mortality with Nat since he
had brought her across. He still wanted it, but he didn't want to
hurt her by bringing up the subject. Nick absently shuffled his
feet, "I didn't think you'd still want that, Nat."

"All I want is us together, Nick," she admitted. "If you still want
mortality, I'm still going to work towards it."

Nick held her in his arms and kissed her deeply on the lips. "I do
want it," he whispered. "But having you with me, it just doesn't
seem so urgent anymore."

Natalie returned his kiss, and gently ran her fingers through his
hair.

"And about earlier," Nick continued, "there are no words to tell
you how sorry I am for what I thought. For doubting you."

"It's in the past," Natalie consoled him. "Take the advice you gave
me and put it in the past where it belongs. I've already forgotten
it. Almost."

"I love you," Nick whispered as he nuzzled her ear.

"I love having the lab next to the bedroom," she whispered back, as
she tugged him towards the door. "I'm feeling an incredible surge
of bloodlust as we speak."

"Ahh, Nick sighed, as he let her lead him into the bedroom. First
hunger for the twentieth time, Nat?"

Natalie bodily pushed him onto the black satin sheets. "*Only*
hunger," she declared as she seductively climbed on top of him.
Unable to hold back another moment, Natalie sank her fangs into his
willing neck. Before succumbing totally to the ecstasy of his
blood, his love; she captured his memory of Briana and Janette. Her
last rational thought before Nick sank his fangs into her neck
was, 'I'll deal with Janette tomorrow.'

-- The End --

Susan B.
cd397@torfree.net