Discontinued fanfiction from 2002. I don’t recall anymore what inspired it, but I personally feel it’s not up to my current standards. It’s your basic “get Natalie pregnant with Nick’s child, and then everything goes to hell” piece.
Natalie, newly pregnant, has been left behind by Nick. He hopes to protect her but dark forces are at work, threatening the safety of mother and child.
“I listen to the sound
Of the rain falling down my window
Praying for a gentle wind
To bring my baby back again”
— Celine Dion, Next Plane Out
Natalie stared out the window at the dark grey sky. Rain pounded at the roof relentlessly as flashes of lightning slashed savagely at the heavens, and thunder rolled like a thousand bass drums. In the space between thunderclaps, the wind shrieked like a banshee heralding another death. It fit Natalie’s dark mood perfectly.
She had seen so much death in the past decade, and so little happiness. Her beloved brother, Richard, had been shot and sent to the hospital, condemned to die between four white walls. Fearful for her brother’s life, she had begged Nick to bring Richard across, who reluctantly agreed. Richard came across without a hitch, but became drunk with his newfound power. He died a second death at Nick’s hands, who had not wanted to get involved in the first place.
Her precious god-daughter, Cindy, went missing for months. It was Nick who had to break the news to her. He didn’t say anything, didn’t have to; she saw it all in his eyes, the horror of finding the dead body of a seven year old girl. She had wept in his arms for hours that night, caught between fury and grief. He kept her company as long as he could, as often as he could; his strong, cool embrace her only remaining anchor for sanity.
He even drove her to the cemetery to visit Cindy’s grave. He couldn’t enter holy ground at the time, but he waited patiently outside the gates as she said good-bye, and embraced her again when she felt another onslaught of tears.
They had grieved together when Schanke and Cohen died in a plane bombing. Nick had been inconsolable, insisting that he could of gone instead. The only good that came out of the experience was that Nick had found a baby girl, still alive and breathing, amidst the burning wreckage. But that hadn’t been enough. He still blamed himself for Cohen and Schanke’s deaths, and probably always would.
Neither he nor Natalie had had the chance to say good-bye. “Good-bye” always seemed to come too late.
It had been three months since Nick’s good-bye…. he had cited burn out as his official reason for leaving. Which wasn’t too difficult to fathom, considering Schanke and Cohen had died three weeks before. Captain Reese told him that he understood, that Nick could take as much time as he needed, and that if he so chose, his position on the force would remain open for him until he came back.
He had told her about his conversation with Reese, and his “vacation”. “You deserve it,” she had told him, “you’ve been through a lot more than I have,considering your age. You *need* a vacation to recuperate.” Indeed, he was becoming too easily distracted recently, and restless. He promised he’d get in touch with her as soon as possible.
Now that she looked back on it, especially after three months without a word from him, his behavior at that time now struck her as odd. Almost as if he were looking over his shoulder every other second. Almost as if someone were watching him.
~Wait a minute,~ she thought to herself, ~I haven’t heard from him in three months!!!!~ If her theory was correct, he wasn’t recuperating, but laying low. It made sense, but who was he hiding from?
Another three months of fruitless searching had turned up nothing. Which ironically, gave her hope, because if she couldn’t find him, no one else would. And, she thought, that was probably the way he wanted it. She sighed in despair; but she needed him here, *now*…. *especially* now.
Why didn’t he just call or e-mail? Didn’t he realize she was sitting on pins and needles waiting? *Anything* was better than nothing!
She sighed again, and decided to check her e-mail just one more time. Logging into her Hotmail account, she idly perused the list of messages. And noticed a new one.
The name of the sender was unfamiliar, but instead of moving it into the Trash folder like she normally would have, she felt compelled to open it.
It was amazing how three little letters had the power to turn every bone in her body to jelly. No one called her “Nat” anymore except for Nick.
I’m terribly sorry that I haven’t been able to contact you. I hope you understand.
She did understand…. sort of.
I can’t tell you everything now, but I need you to stay in Toronto. Your life depends on it!
I know that my continued contact with you puts you in more danger than we have already faced. I can’t allow you to get hurt, or worse, killed. Right now, you would be a convenient target for them.
Them?!? So it wasn’t *someone*, but *several* someones!
I cannot be sure if I will survive the impending confrontation. If I don’t come back, a printed copy of this letter will entitle you to everything I own, and protection by the Community.
So he wasn’t sure he’d live to see her again. Do you hear me, Murphy? Your damned Law
doesn’t apply to vampires! Stay away from my man! You leave him alone now, you hear?
Don’t look back in anger if I cannot come back to you. I did not like keeping such a secret from you who had invaded my heart and spirit. You mean so much to me, but I could never tell you. I was afraid. Never did I think I would be lucky enough to find someone like you, or that this precious treasure of love would be mine.
Natalie felt tears well up in her eyes. “I love you too, Nick,” she said in the quiet of her living room.
My heart aches with longing for you. You would have insisted on coming had I told you the truth. But I couldn’t allow you to be placed in further danger.
You have been my only love.
Natalie began to sob freely now. So he *did* love her! She just wished he was there to say the words out loud. But she did as he asked, printing out a copy of the letter. As carefully as if he’d written it by hand, she folded it in threes and placed a tender kiss on the closed message.
She fervently prayed he’d be alright. She couldn’t bear not to see him again.
“God love you, Nick, ‘cos I know I do.” She hoped he’d come back to her. She was running out of time.
Natalie eyed the nightclub warily. There was a line down the block, with a rather unusual crowd. She sighed; at this rate, she’d never be able to get in.
“Well, kiddo, it’s now or never,” she told herself, and with an effort, she got out of her car and cut through the sea of individuals who all had numerous tattoos, a plethora of body peircings, and hair dyed an assortment of colours. She thought they looked like a multi-ethnic PEZ dispenser, which was a rather strange thought. She had been thinking of a lot of strange things lately.
She must have been an unusual sight among their number; a petite woman with dark red hair and some extra weight on her hips and belly, who wore little makeup, nondescript clothing and no jewelry to speak of. They all stared at her in stunned silence, wondering what would cause this tiny lady to desire entrance into The Raven.
They all silently moved out her way, and watched in a mixure of sympathy and amusement as Natalie came face to face with the bouncer.
Natalie stared at the bouncer and gulped. She had always thought Nick was tall, and often admired his height, but this guy was *huge*! He was dark skinned with a very tall, very muscular build, the epitome of the cliche of what a bouncer should look like. Natalie also knew — how, she didn’t know — that this guy was also a vampire.
Suddenly, the silent mountain before her spoke. “The owner has been waiting for you.” The voice was exactly what she had expected; a deep bass rumble that sounded remarkably like a pre-eruption volcano.
LaCroix. Right. She knew he had been waiting for her. He knew, to her mind, everything one could possibly know about Nick, albeit in a slighty convoluted manner. He knew she’d come to him eventually, regarding Nick’s disappearance. If anyone knew what had happened to Nick, it would be LaCroix.
The bouncer permitted her into the club, leaving the stunned throng of leather and body-art clad youths behind her. She scanned the club as carefully as her mortal eyes would allow, then decided to sit at the bar.
Miklos noticed her presence and immediately waited on her. “Would you like something to drink, miss?”
“Uh…” she cleared her throat uncomfortably, “just water if you have it.”
He didn’t question her choice, and handed her a tall glass of ice water without batting an eyelash. Now all she had to do was wait.
Apparently she didn’t have to wait for very long. It was amazing how that one little word could make her blood run cold. She was afraid, but she didn’t dare show it, knowing how *he* used fear to get to people.
“LaCroix.” It was strange, and terrifying, to speak to him without Nick around. She wanted to get this done as quickly as possible. She could feel some of the club’s denizens staring intently at her neck. LaCroix could probably detect the increase in her heartbeat, and possibly knew she was hiding something.
“You have come here to find Nicholas, my dear?” The subtle venom in the last two words made ice of her backbone. He was toying with her and she knew it.
“Where is he?” she asked, fear turning her question into a demand.
“Even if I knew, do you think I’d tell you?” he snapped back, his ice blue eyes staring her down as if she were an errant child talking out of turn.
“I can hardly believe you don’t know!”
He dragged her into one of the back rooms, away from the mostly mortal crowd. She realized belatedly that she had gotten loud and he was trying to prevent her from making a scene. “I don’t like it anymore than you do, but I cannot reach him!”
“I thought you could read his mind like an open book!” she snarled angrily. “There’s something you’re not telling me!”
His eyes now sparked with barely contained rage. Without Nick’s presence in Toronto, they would quite possibly continue arguing. Of course, killing the annoying mortal woman was an option, but not a very good one. He would lose Nick forever if he did, and LaCroix knew it. She was an eternal thorn in his side. But she didn’t know that; and that was the card he often gambled on in their various confrontations.
What she didn’t realize was that he was just as angry and frustrated as she. The discomfort of not-knowing was too much.
But playing with such an intelligent mortal’s mind would make him feel better. If he were in the mood for it. Which he wasn’t. Not really. “What do you think I’m not telling you?”
“Something that has happened in the past six months to Nick!”
“You’ve been around him for far too long; you’re starting to sound like him.”
“Tell me, damnit!”
“Patience, child. You need it in your delicate condition.”
Natalie’s eyes widened, totally stunned. “How’d you know?” The tone of her voice had changed to quiet awe. Reflexively, her hand flew to her belly and gently stroked the bulging area.
“That is why you want to find Nicholas so badly, isn’t it?” he replied, with dangerous logic. “To tell him that you have propagated a child.”
Nick sighed, and took a drag of his half-finished cigarette as he stared at the Parisian skyline. It was nearing dawn, and he would only have another fifteen minutes, at best, to enjoy the night. To feel the gossamer fingertips of the moonlight reaching out to him, caressing his skin like a wanton lover. To live as if nothing was of concern to him, to feel free.
Freedom being a relative term, of course. Each night somehow reminded him of his true nature, the choice he had made after he had drunk himself half-blind. A choice that had been motivated by the appearance of a seductive raven-haired woman. He had been young, foolish. All that mattered to him back then was women and drink. And praying the Pope would burn in hell.
Funny how it *still* made him angry now. The Crusades — what a joke! Thousands of people were slaughtered because both sides were truly convinced that their way was the only Way, that anyone who didn’t follow the edicts of their religion would suffer dire consequences. Each side referred to the other as “heathens”, and anyone who didn’t conform to either were “heretics”. And the idea that holy wars still erupted every now and then, even in the mad juggernaut that became known as the Twentieth Century, sickened him. Of course, nowadays the mass murder of a people was usually referred to as genocide.
He had come face to face with a person who became infamous for his cold, unfeeling attitude, and frequent murdering, of Jews. Adolf Hitler had been his name. Nick was racked with a shiver that was not a result of the cool night air. How could God permit such a vile creature to exist? Or as LaCroix was fond of declaring, if there is a God, is He sane?
As of late, Nick often found himself questioning LaCroix’s sanity. As much as he loved the old General, he was repulsed by his extreme possessiveness. In order to hold someone closely, one must be willing to let go. LaCroix refused to let go, and that trait, which had once been so endearing, was now terribly stifling.
In his fledgling days, Nick had truly adored the master vampire. An eager student, he had sat at LaCroix’s feet, and had hung on to every word the elder vampire had spoken. He knew now, though he hadn’t known then, that he had truly been in love with Lucien; his teacher, his confidante. His father, his brother. His lover.
It was true; they had been lovers for a time, but eventually Nick had wanted to spend some time alone. That was where the trouble began. LaCroix had taken his fledging’s desire for solitude as a personal rejection, even though the younger vampire had sworn up and down that it wasn’t.
The time they spent together became rife with bitter arguements that sometimes turned violent. The moments of tender lovemaking they had shared became a thing of the past. Eventually, Nick’s desire for a separation became personal, a desire to escape. And, of course, LaCroix refused to let him leave. The elder vampire followed Nick wherever he went, refusing to allow Nick his much-needed solitude.
Until now. This time, he had made sure that no one in the Community, not even Lucien, would know his location. He never stayed in one place for more than a week, and had covered his trail to avoid being found. The only people who had any idea where he would be tomorrow night were himself and Aristotle, and Nick preferred to keep it that way.
He knew back home in Toronto (odd how he considered it home after all this time), Natalie and Lucien were both worried about him. Possibly they’d be verbally at each other’s throats. Nick was filled with consternation at the thought. The two of them had never gotten along, and he knew that dear Lucien (he surprised himself with the tenderness the moniker had been mentioned in his internal monologue) and dearest Natalie would be agonizing over his absence. It wasn’t at all an egotistical consideration. He just knew both of their personalities so well.
Natalie so often tried to be strong, but she was a “leaner” emotionally. She could fool a great many people but she could never fool Nick. Not that he minded being leaned on. It felt good to be needed, to have someone looking up to him. Sometimes, though, she possessed a wisdom far beyond her years. She was also fiery, very passionate. Sometimes tough, but usually tender, and always interesting. Plus, she had both brains and beauty, both in good measure, to boot.
She had never asked for anything from him, and in return he gave her everything he possibly could. Up until he had fallen for her, he hadn’t known what it was like to truly be in love. The kind of love which involved a give-and-take on both sides, rather than just one giving and the other taking. That’s how his relationship with LaCroix had been. Nick kept giving and LaCroix kept taking till, eventually, Nick had nothing left to give. His relationship with Jeanette had been much simpler, too simple, really; it had been purely sexual.
Up until six months ago, his relationship with Nat had been quite the opposite. In fact, he had been going as slow as possible to avoid any mishaps, such as a short-lived relationship, or worse, killing her while making love. But fate decided to intervene.
He had been shot in the head with a cop-killing bullet. The bullet would have killed a mortal, but merely caused Nick to experience amnesia. He woke up in a strange hospital not remembering his name or who all the people gathered by his beside were. Fortunately, the amnesia was temporary, and he eventually regained all his past memories. Natalie and LaCroix had unwittingly worked together to cover up the fact that the hospital’s “miracle patient” had no perceptible heartbeat and abnormally low body temperature. Not to mention the unusual DNA patterns and cellular structure. Natalie had taken care of that last bit by pilfering the blood and tissue samples they had taken from Nick and replacing said samples with someone else’s. No science, just “the good ol’ switcheroo”, as Schanke would have put it, God love him.
Schanke had often poked fun at Nick’s eccentricity, but it was only friendly jesting, not out of a desire to hurt Nick. Schanke’s personality had initially rubbed Nick the wrong way. The donut-loving cop had been about as subtle as a brick wall, and about as tactful as a brillo pad. Later on, Nick had learned to appreciate Schanke’s sense of loyalty.
Despite not really knowing much about his enigmatic partner, Schanke had accepted Nick unconditionally. While Schanke had certainly had suspicions about Nick, he had never really entertained them. Schanke was there for Nick regardless. When someone had a snide comment about Nick, Schanke immediately went to his partner’s defense. When it seemed as if the whole world had turned on Nick, Schanke and Natalie had both been there, supporting him.
It was surprising, really, that his truest friends weren’t of his own kind. He had spent so many years feeling alone and friendless, an outcast among his kind. Without someone to care, and care for, life had no meaning. How did that song go? “You gotta have friends…”
He didn’t have many friends, and over the centuries he had made more than his share of enemies. And these latest were particularly angry with him. They had crossbows and holy water, and they knew how to use them. A feeling of utter dread came over him as he thought about it. Truthfully, running wasn’t really going to solve anything. They would find him soon enough.
There was a single thump on the door to his hotel suite, as if something had hit it.With a feeling of trepidation, he went back in the suite from the balcony, and cautiously opened the door. And was shocked by what he saw.
“Oh God, no,” he moaned aloud.
A body had been slumped against his door, and had fallen into the room when he had opened it. It was one of the bellboys; a young man in his late teens, early twenties. An arrow of hawthorn pierced the boy’s chest, a telltale sign of murder. His eyes were wide open, and his mouth was gaping in silent terror. He hadn’t heard the boy scream. Probably the boy had been so scared he couldn’t make a sound. The boy obviously had been a mere mortal, for the body had not turned to ash.
He knew this would happen. They had found him, and they had used the boy’s death to gain his attention. Well, they had it. He didn’t allow himself the luxury of mourning the boy’s death. They were playing dirty now, endangering the lives of the mortals around him. But there was no use fretting over it. It was time to fight back.
And fight he would. To the death.
Natalie groaned as she slowly climbed up the flight of stairs to her apartment. The complex did have an elevator, but it was for employees only, and her back was now killing her due to her gravid state and the effort of the climb. The baby kicked as if in protest to that thought, and Natalie thought that if Nick was there, he’d probably do the more gallant deed of carrying her up the stairs. Or flying her up them.
Eventually, she got to the top of the stairway, and sighed in relief that she would not have to continue climbing. Fortunately, her apartment was only three doors down from the stairs, so she didn’t have much further to walk. She had changed living quarters numerous times since she had met Nick, and this apartment complex was the largest she had resided in thus far.
Nick had offered to pay the rent for a larger apartment (with an accessible elevator!), but having been asked in the midst of her woman’s lib era, she had foolishly refused. Now she wished she hadn’t. With the baby on the way, she *definitely* needed more space, and she wasn’t so sure that Nick would foot the bill this time. Or let her move in.
At any rate, she didn’t want to impose upon him, even though he had inadvertently imposed upon her numerous times. She didn’t want to turn the loft into her dwelling place, knowing that even if he was absent, she should respect his privacy. There were things in the loft that were almost as old as he was, and Natalie had a feeling that somethings existed there that he didn’t want her to know about. He had a tendency to be overprotective towards her, but his heart was in the right place.
And it had been a long time since anyone had cared so much about her. Even her former boyfriends hadn’t so concerned themselves with her welfare. Often the men she had dated turned out to be terribly self-absorbed, and her parents weren’t much better.
Mama was an okay kind of gal, but Daddy was a force to be reckoned with. As a youngster, Natalie had discovered the prime symptoms of an unhappy marriage by observing her parent’s interaction. Things might have been easier if they had separated, but sadly, her parents didn’t believe in it, much less divorce. Young Natalie Lambert had sworn to herself that if her own marriage turned out to be the pits, she would not let her kids suffer the consequences of a failed union.
The mere idea of marriage filled her with trepidation, simply because of what she had seen with her parents. Of course, Nana hadn’t helped matters any. The decrepit old woman had lived in the same house as her daughter and son-in-law, and helped to cultivate the internal break-up of the marriage.
Nana had never liked Natalie’s father, in fact the deeply religious old woman was of the opinion that Satan would have made a better husband. Of course, her father’s opinion of Nana was just as glowing. He reiterated his opinion time after time, and usually it was liberally laced with profanity.
If Mama had a definite opinion about anything, she never discussed it. Mama was the quiet, sensitive type, and she rarely spoke her mind, especially if she knew her opinions would be rejected. So Mama would keep to herself, quietly sitting in her corner to darn socks, or standing at the kitchen sink to wash the ever growing pile of dishes. She made food that was hot, delicious and filling, and she comforted her children when they were frightened or fell ill.
Natalie, who had always been close to her mother, only recently found out that Mama would sit outside on the porch and cry her eyes out. Mama didn’t want anyone to see her pain, especially not her children. She had recently confided in her now grown daughter that she wanted so much to be strong for everyone, but she always felt so weak. The revelation was that oftentimes Mama felt like a complete failure to her progeny. Natalie, who loved her gentle and sometimes absent-minded mother to bits, did everything in her power to reassure Mama that she was *not* a failure. She had raised five healthy children, all highly successful in their careers, and had scores of grandchildren, grandnieces, grandnephews, and grand-godchildren who all adored their youthful zany Grammie. Natalie insisted that Mama’s descendants did her much credit.
When you came right down to it, Mama simply adored the children in her family. For Mama, life without seeing a youngster’s smiling face was no life at all. Natalie couldn’t help but smile herself, because Mama would have an eighty-seventh reason to smile in three more months. Nick too, would finally have a reason to smile. ~They’ll both be smiling a lot,~ Natalie thought with satisfaction. ~At least they both have a reason now to carry on. And so do I.~
Natalie found herself humming a tune as she began to unlock her apartment door. She couldn’t
quite place it, but she was pretty sure it hadn’t originated from herself. It was a delicate, romantic tune. She remembered hearing a tune like it played in a Baroque style. The doorknob make a quiet clicking sound as it unlocked. She pushed the door open, and was greeted by an empty apartment, with soft dim light from the morning sunshine.
“Honey, I’m home!” she called into the apartment. A small grey tabby leapt from the top of the microwave oven to the kitchen counter, then onto the shag carpet. The tiny creature sashayed to her and began to rub up against her leg. Natalie lifted the loudly purring cat into her arms — taking great care to avoid getting the crafty feline too close to her pocketbook and medical bag — and set him on one of the three bar stools that were placed at the kitchen counter.
“You hungry, sweetheart?” she asked the cat. He merely looked at her for a brief moment, then gave her a plaintive meow. It seemed like he wanted nothing more than to eat, but suddenly, without warning, he jumped back onto the counter. Turning so that he was facing away from her, he sat on his haunches, flattened his ears, and gave an unseen person a half-angry, half-frightened hiss.
“Sidney, what’s wrong?” she asked the feline, as if he could answer her. LaCroix lazily passed the corner that had obscured him, and sauntered past the one opening into the kitchen. He stopped directly in front of Sidney, who hissed at him again, and vaulted down to the kitchen’s laminate floor. Once Sidney had all four paws on the floor, the feline darted into the bedroom.
“Good evening, Doctor,” LaCroix remarked, spitting out the title as if it were an epithet.
“Oh, it’s you,” Natalie replied, who was far from thrilled to see this unexpected visitor. LaCroix merely raised an eyebrow at her tone of voice, which, for some reason, was much more terrifying than him snarling at her. She had, fortunately, never seen him moved to anger, and she prayed that she never would. “How the hell did you get here? The sun’s up!”
“My dear, I am much too old and powerful to be bothered by a little sunlight.”
~No, but I bet you’d be nicely roasted, toasted and burnt to a crisp in the full light of the noonday sun,~ Natalie thought viciously, glaring at him. But she wisely kept such a pleasant thought to herself. Instead she snapped, “why the hell are you here?”
“Because I seem to have discovered information regarding Nicholas’ whereabouts.”
Natalie inwardly sighed in relief. “It’s about damn time!”
“I will share this information with you… for a price.” LaCroix smiled, an expression that wasn’t at all pleasant.
Natalie had apparently begun to celebrate too soon. With a feeling of trepidation, she asked, “And what would that be?”
“I’m sure you have heard of the phrase, ‘the sins of the father shall be visited upon the son’?” LaCroix commented, not hurrying this exchange at all. Natalie nodded in response, her ‘bad feeling’ increasing with each passing second.
“I will also let you continue your search for your so-called ‘cure’, for this same price. If it is a boy, when he comes of age, he will belong to me in place of his father. If it is a girl, when she comes of age, she will be destroyed by her father.”
Natalie gasped in horror. If it was a boy, he would live… as a vampire. If it was a girl, Nick would eventually have to kill his daughter. She pushed the horrific thought away, and asked with a calm she didn’t feel, “and if I refuse?”
“Then you and your child shall both die tonight.”
Nick sighed and shook his head. How, in God’s name, did he get himself into these situations?
It always seemed like he had some long-forgotten enemy lurking in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment to make his life miserable. But he never dreamed that things would get this ugly. He had remained kneeling by the dead boy’s body. It seemed completely beyond his comprehension. Who would go through all this trouble?
He knew the answer would come to him soon enough. And he was right.
“Well, well, well. What have we here?” a familiar voice remarked sardonically. “I’ll be damned… Nicolas De Brabant. Long time, no see.”
Nick whirled around, and found himself face to face with one of his oldest enemies.
Natalie had sighed in relief when LaCroix had vanished. Now as the import of the old General’s words hit her once again, she groaned as she flopped onto the couch. She couldn’t believe it. No, she could. She should have seen it coming!
That cold-hearted bastard! How dare he! He had manipulated her! Her pregnancy had now altered from a time of celebration into a time to barter with the young life within her. She shook with rage. That snake! That cold, calculating monster!
The baby kicked again, and she rubbed her tummy as if to reassure the baby that everything would eventually work out. She began to calm down; if she could just find Nick, and stay away from LaCroix, everything would work out fine. She could easily imagine Nick’s reaction when she’d tell him of LaCroix’s ultimatum. He’d be *furious*!
Natalie grinned maliciously. Nick would probably run LaCroix through with a stake for the second time in almost five years. *That* would learn ‘im!
She knew that Nick had, for at least 300 years, carried on a love/hate relationship with his vampire master. She honestly had no idea how deep their relationship went, but she did know that over the centuries, LaCroix had hurt Nick pretty badly. She felt sorry for Nick; how difficult it must have been to be chained down for so long, and to be allowed freedom only if your master willed it. She knew that it was in Nick’s nature to be a gregarious, free spirit. In Nick’s case, you would have a hold on him only if you were willing to let him go.
Without people, without life around him, without the ebb and flow of human contact, Nick would feel suffocated. To be sure, there were times when he wanted to be alone. Alone but never lonely. He needed that balance between human contact and solitude. After such a long association with him, she knew better than to disturb him when he needed to be alone. When he wanted company, he would fling open his door and invite those in his inner circle into his home. To have a being, who wanted only the freedom to come and go as he pleased, constantly chained to someone’s side was nothing short of mental cruelty.
A part of her wondered if something in Nick *wanted* those chains because he had forgotten that another way of life was possible. Another part of her identified with his struggle. Her life — particularly her childhood — hadn’t been all that much better than his life.
For so long, she too had been chained down. Chained down by her fears. By the abuse she had suffered. She felt tears beginning to form in her eyes. No, she mustn’t get caught in that loop of thought. She should not focus on the past, for the future was waiting. And her future was beginning with this child; the hope of a new life, a new generation.
“Well done, Lucius. We knew you’d see things *our* way,” a disembodied feminine voice remarked calmly. “Your errant child must be controlled. His association with the mortals is becoming dangerous.”
“But his mortal love has assisted us in the past,” LaCroix replied miserably. “She has concealed our mistakes, cured our ill, and coddled our fledglings.”
“For that, she shall be rewarded,” the voice answered.
“By threatening the life of her child?”
“The whelp is an abomination. This child is a result of a consummation that has tainted the royal bloodline.”
“What utter nonsense,” Lucien replied scornfully.
“Can you not feel it, General? The potential, the power that your son has? If he is not carefully trained, he will destroy us.”
“He would never do that.”
“In the unlikely event he becomes a mortal again, our Community would die out.”
The General’s eyebrow went up. “How so?”
“Because we would all die with him.”
Child of darkness, child of night
Bring forth a child of light
From the womb of a woman of light
Her love banishes the night
From the heart of the child of darkness
His power and her love unparalleled
He from darkness comes to light
Their love banishes the night
Darkness no more, light shines
Unbounded by the hands of time
From their love, earth’s joy springs
From their joy, peace forth brings
The love of a woman of light
Saves the soul of the child of night
His vision and power changes all
And even the greatest cities shall fall
Their child holds a lotus and a dove
Bound together by eternal love
Hope in every life’s heart springs
And unending joy the new life brings
Those of dark fear the new child
Their fear, unchecked, grows wild
The child of darkness must suffer
To save the life of child and lover
But hope springs eternal in the heart
And their true love shall never part
“What do you suppose it means, George?” the historian’s colleague asked, peering at the ancient manuscript. It had taken the two of them more than ten years to properly translate the scroll, and still the meaning was not clear.
“Maybe it’s talking about the Second Coming?” George was a Christian who felt very deeply that the manuscript referred to Jesus’ return.
“I don’t think so, George. I mean, if it was Jesus, it would have called the ‘new child’ the ‘Child of God’, instead. And look, the father is referred to as ‘Child of Darkness’ and ‘Child Of Night’.”
“And the mother is referred to as the ‘Woman of Light’, Andrew. Call me crazy, but that makes whoever she is sound like the Bless’d Virgin.” George then made the sign of the cross.
Andrew, a staunch non-religious deist, rolled his eyes at what he considered unnecessary dramatics. “Well, obviously the father is somebody altogether different from God. I mean, think about it. ‘Child of Darkness’? Come on!” He paused, and pointed at another key passage of the manuscript. “‘The child of darkness must suffer to save the life of child and lover’? Come on, already, George! Obviously, from that line, she ain’t no virgin!”
George frowned at Andrew. “Whether or not she is technically a virgin is a moot point.”
But Andrew wasn’t finished. “And if the kid *is* Jesus, why is his daddy doing all the work? I mean, isn’t Jesus supposed to have the power that ‘changes all’, and not his earthly daddy? And what’s all this about the ‘woman of light saves the soul of the child of night’?”
George just shrugged. Those were questions he didn’t have the answers to.
“Daddy Dearest could be a certain big red guy with horns, for all you know,” Andrew mocked.
“That’s not funny,” George replied, more than a little miffed. “I doubt the father of such a child is Satan!”
“Hey, maybe Mary saved Beezlebub’s soul!” Andrew added, laughing.
“Stop it! That *really* isn’t funny!”
“Lucifer was a fallen angel, right? Well maybe the Bless’d Virgin herself changed his mind about the whole making-people-suffer thing? It isn’t entirely out of the question. If you look at it objectively.”
George snorted, peeved with his colleague for poking fun at his beliefs.
“Hear me out, George. I mean, the big bad Devil *was* one of the good guys, once. But I doubt it refers to the Biblical stuff anyway. I mean, this scroll is much older than the Bible. Or the Koran, for that matter.” A pause. “Oh well. We’ll eventually get this thing solved. Or we’ll see which one of us is right. Whichever comes first.” With that, Andrew carefully rolled the scroll back up and placed it back in the container that had been created to preserve it.
“After all, George, it’s only a matter of time.”
“How is such a thing possible?” LaCroix asked.
“Nicholas is a very *special* creature, even among us,” the vampiress replied vaguely. Then with a hint of anger, she added, “as you already know, General, he is the next in line for our Immortal Majesty’s throne.”
“Yes, I am aware he is to take your husband’s place when the time comes.” Lucien replied. “But what does that have to do with us?”
The Queen snarled, her dark eyes flaming gold. “It has *everything* to do with us! If Nicholas takes Enkil’s place, he will destroy everything I’ve worked so hard to build!” A brief pause. “We both know he despises the gift of immortality, the desire that we have to feed on the blood of the living, the power we have over life and death. Do you realize what, in his state of mind, he would do to our Community?”
Lucien forbade to mention that the King had been, in his youth, very much like Nicholas. Now, as the ailing monarch Enkil lay on his deathbed, his willful Queen had taken over, and under her reign, chaos ran rampant. ~Maybe,~ the General mused, ~under Nicholas’ rule thingswould improve. Things couldn’t possibly get any worse.~ It was also likely that Nicholas would improve upon Enkil’s ideas, ideas which included the organization of the Council and the Code that was the word and law of the vampire monarchy. Nicholas had a far stronger will than even the Queen herself was given to understand. Nicholas could be stubborn to the pointof obstinancy. And LaCroix was quite sure that Nicholas’ mortal love, the quite fetching Dr. Natalie Lambert, could vouch for that observation.
Another aspect that Nicholas was bound to change was the long-standing tradition of all the Queens either being brought over prior to their lovers’ coronation or shortly afterward. Nicholas would obviously choose the good doctor as his Queen, but clearly he would balk at the idea of bringing her over for the sake of tradition. The prospect of making history with the vampire monarchy’s first mortal Queen, was daunting, if not terrifying, to the older members of the Council and Community. A mortal Queen? Preposterous!
Unlike in the mortal world, the Queen of the vampire world would not be bound to her King through the ritual of marriage. She would be bound to him through sharing blood with him. She would then be recognized as his mate and lover, and therefore as worthy of as much respect as her Sovereign. And though there was no need for marriage itself, among the Vampire Community, they would be commonly referred to as husband and wife. Thus, a King would have to bring over his Queen in order for their bond to be recognized. But despite all that, Lucien knew that Nicholas would find a way around such formalities. Nicholas had the uncanny ability to manipulate a given situation for someone else’s benefit.
The irony of it all was that Nicholas hadn’t the slightest inkling that he would be the current King’s successor. But surely, after a moment of disbelief, Nicholas would soon take to the idea like a fish to water. As uncertain of his place in the world as he may be, no one could deny his skills in both leadership and diplomacy. He knew how to get his way with a sweet, endearing smile, a firm handshake and a sincere thank-you. The General smirked. When the boy put his mind to it, he could put any and all mortal politians to shame. But unlike any mortal politian, Nicholas had no hidden agenda.
It occurred to the General that the Queen didn’t want to simply hand the crown over, now that she was in a position of power. She wanted to stay there, and continue to reign…. despite whatever toll it would take on her subjects. But he shouldn’t question his Queen’s motives; he was his King and Queen’s faithful servant and, regardless, would carry out the orders he was given, whatever they might be.
“Forgive me, my Queen,” Lucien murmurred humbly. “It is not my place to question your knowledge and wisdom, but how could the unborn child of Nicholas and his mortal love be a threat? And in what way is Nicholas ‘special’?”
“There is an ancient prophesy, General, written by The First Ones, that tells of a King whose mortal lover bears his child, and that they will destroy our nocturnal world and create a new one in their own image. That prophesy, I fear, is about to come true.”
“A prophesy? How intriguing,” LaCroix replied.
“Nicholas has a kind of power that our kind has never seen before. A kind of power that we know all too little of.”
“And that makes him a danger to us?”
“Indeed. The prophesy will come to pass once a male child is born. It is your duty to make sure that the boy will never come into the world.”
Natalie was lying in her bed, alone save for her cat and the unborn child within her. She couldn’t sleep, thinking about everything LaCroix had said to her before she threw him out. She had a funny feeling there was far more to this than what was obvious. Indeed, now that she thought about it, LaCroix had seemed a little *uncomfortable* threatening her, and had been rather reticent regarding information on Nick’s whereabouts.
He had only told her that at last he heard, Nick was in Paris. He had claimed that was all he knew, but Natalie suspected he knew far more than he was telling. Nat had, at the time she first discovered she was pregnant, had a strong, almost psychic, sense of danger around Nick, around the child, around herself. It was that overwhelming impression of danger that led her to a frantic search to find Nick. Now her impressions were being verified, just as she was beginning to feel safe and almost normal again. She knew there was more to this than LaCroix’s personal vendetta against Nick.
She remembered vividly what had happened at the Azure two — almost three — years ago. Nick had hypnotized her while she had been weakened by the drug that LaCroix had administered. For several weeks, she was unable to recall what had happened that night. But then, the mental floodgates opened, and everything came back to her.
She now knew that it was LaCroix, not Nick, who had sent her the bouquet of white roses. She knew that it was LaCroix, not Nick, that she had had dinner with… with a bottle of drug-laced champagne. She remembered the master vampire talking about how love was like morphine. ~One taste and you are enslaved.~ She remembered feeling woozy as the drug took effect. She remembered Nick dropping in through the skylight, shards of broken glass raining down. The angry exchange between Nick and LaCroix, with LaCroix snarling at Nick for depriving him of the mortal woman he loved and threatening to seperate them as retribution. Nick had feigned that he was just using Natalie in order to survive and LaCroix had dared him to prove it by bringing her over.
She recalled how Nick had, seemingly without regard for her, forcefully pulled her out of the chair, his hands roaming over her body as he kissed her hungrily. His behaviour had been animalistic, almost brutal. And she hadn’t wanted him to stop.
LaCroix had protested angrily, and Nick pretended indifference to his master’s reaction as he continued to handle her roughly. She had heard a sudden whoosh of air, heralding LaCroix’s departure, and a relieved sigh from Nick. He had turned her around in his arms, held her close and lovingly threaded his fingers through her hair. She remembered that as her cheek rested against his shoulder, he had whispered that everything he had said to LaCroix was a lie and how he wished that things hadn’t turned out this way. That, truthfully, he loved her more than life itself.
She remembered him wrapping her tightly in the coat she had worn to the Azure, then later hung on the back of her chair before she had sat down to dinner with LaCroix. She remembered Nick cradling her tenderly in his arms, and the feeling of the ground dropping far away from her. She had felt the cold February wind, and him tucking her in the folds of his cloak, as if sensing her discomfort. She had nuzzled against him in her drug-induced daze, at that point not realizing that they were flying high above Toronto. He had tucked her safely into her warm bed, and then hypnotized her drug-weakened mind into forgetting that the whole affair ever happened.
When she had first regained her memories of that night, she had been angry with him for making her forget, but she didn’t tell him why she was angry. She had distanced herself from him for awhile, and she knew that he had realized his romance with Nat was falling apart, and he had found solace in Jeanette’s arms. She had realized she was miserable without him, but didn’t want to admit it to herself. So she sublimated her frustrations into her work, and tried to find satisfaction in doing a difficult and mentally taxing job well.
After Jeanette had departed for Montreal, Nick came back to her, apologizing profusely for every real and imaginary slight he had ever dealt her. She had chided him for keeping secrets from her, and confided that she just wanted to know the truth, rather than being kept in the dark. He had told her again how much he loved her, again apologized and promised that he’d never keep another secret from her. She had promised likewise, and they sealed their deal with a kiss.
Natalie smiled now at the memory. Nick had been true to his word. Nowadays (up until his disappearance), he always told her what he was thinking, never sugarcoating or dismissing it as something she needn’t know. Some of the things he confided in her were less than stellar, but she couldn’t fault him for being honest.
That was the last thought she had before drifting into the welcoming darkness of sleep.
“I have to *what*?” Nick asked, an incredulous look on his face.
“I just told you. *Must* I repeat myself?” Natalie said, looking a bit miffed, and feeling a little embarrassed at having to ask him such an intimate question and requiring such an intimate favour from him.
Nick shrugged. “You’re the doctor.” A brief pause. “Mind telling me *why*?”
“I have a theory,” Natalie answered somewhat curtly. “I need to test it. Now git!” The command was accompanied with a shoo-ing gesture. “Go to the bathroom and do your business like a good little patient.” She opened his hand and dropped a sample cup into his outstreched palm. “Now beat it!”
Nick feigned an insulted expression at being termed “little”, but took the cup and made for the door. As he exited the morgue, he stuck his tongue out playfully at her. Once the door clicked shut behind him, he muttered, “the things I do for love.”
In the morgue, Natalie sighed. The faint blush to her cheeks faded, and she turned to the piles of paperwork she had on her desk. It needed to be done; she would have to wait a few minutes anyhow. So Natalie passed the time by writing up reports…. and trying *not* to think about what Nick was doing in the bathroom at the moment.
About ten minutes later, Nick re-entered the room. “Ta-da!” he announced facetiously as he carefully placed the resealed sample cup, now full with a pinkish white liquid, on her desk.
“Ta-da?” Natalie queried, with a slight smirk on her face and a raised eyebrow. Then when she glanced at the cup, she was amazed in spite of herself. “Whoa! I didn’t need *that* much of a sample!” ~Ta-da, indeed,~ she thought. Then she cleared her throat and added with surprising calm, “but thank you.”
“The pleasure was all mine,” he replied, grinning. To which Natalie thought sarcastically, ~I’m sure it was.~
A few days later, after Natalie had gathered a few more samples from her other “unique” male patients, she called Nick back to the morgue to reveal her findings. He had been bugging her about it the whole time, partly out of curiosity and partly out of poking fun at her virginal embarrassment. At one point he commented, “you’re so cute when you blush,” which only served to deepen the pink on her face.
“Don’t tell me it took you three days to figure out what’s what,” he commented once they were alone again in the morgue.
“Well, I had to get more samples from *other* sources,” she replied, slightly annoyed.
“Do you have a habit of being *this* interested in vampires of the male sex?” he asked with a smirk.
“My ‘interest’ is purely professional,” Natalie replied, more than a little peeved. Her reply brought a sarcastic “uh-huh” from Nick. She silenced him with a glare.
He sniffed, and instantly realized the reason behind her short temper. She had a particular feminine scent about her, and at that moment he knew he was treading on shakey ground. He resolved to observe more circumspect behaviour in her presence and refrain from teasing her until it passed.
Of course, now that he had zeroed in on the scent, it served to make her more desirable to him…. as if that were even possible. Over the centuries, Nick had found that it wasn’t just him who would become excited by this particular scent, but *any* vampire (not so much the females as the males) who smelled it would almost instantly become aroused. It was beginning to drive him crazy already. He shook his head in an attempt to clear the resulting erotic images from his mind.
This had happened numerous times before, but that was one aspect of the vampire nature which he normally kept secret from her. This time he unintentionally spoke up. He breathed in her scent and remarked wistfully, “you smell so good.”
Her manner instantly changed, and she began to blush once she realized what he meant. “Just please try to pay attention for five minutes.” He agreed, and tried to keep his attention centered on her words rather than the intoxicating aroma that was emanating from her.
She cleared her throat. “Now,” she said pointedly, “as you know, a vampire’s blood contains both the vampire gene and the virus that alters the genes when there are non-vampiric cells present in a vampire’s body or a human is infected with the virus.”
“Right. And the virus isn’t transmitted through biting, which is why we have to share blood in order to bring someone over.”
“Exactly. Now here’s what I found: the sperm of most male vampires contains both the vampire gene and the virus. Now the fertilization of a human egg *is* possible; that was what I tested. However, once the egg is fertilized, the virus attacks it and destroys it, making fertilization possible but actual conception a biological impossibility.”
“*Your* sperm is an anomaly. I’ve checked, double checked, and triple checked even, just to be sure. And I came up with the same answer every time. Your sperm contains the vampire gene…. but not the virus.”
Nick blinked disbelievingly at what that could entail. Could it really be possible? Or was he dreaming? He hoped not. “Meaning…?”
“It’s biologically possible for you to father a child.”
She frowned thoughtfully. “I’m not sure. There’s too many variables involved. It could be your bloodline, your age,” she began, then explained quickly, “out of the patients I got samples from, you’re the oldest.” Then she continued with a hopeful smile, “or we could be getting closer to a cure.”
Should he dare to hope? “Then children are in my future. And maybe mortality.” In a soft tone, he thought aloud, “I could have a family. Like the one I left behind so long ago.” Then, with a soft caress of her auburn locks, he added, “with you.”
She looked up at him, not quite able to believe what she just heard. Any doubts she may have ad about his feelings for her dissipated when he held her close and confided earnestly, “I ould never want anyone but you to be the mother of my child.”
Her gaze dropped down to his chest as she began to play with a button on his shirt, not daring to look up at him again. “But we have to be careful,” she said softly. “There’s too much we still don’t know – *I* still don’t know. We have to tread carefully.”
Nick sighed, then, capturing her busily plucking fingers in his hand to regain her attention, he replied quietly, “I know. *I’ll* have to be careful. If I lose control, you could lose your life.”
There was a moment of silence between them as they both considered the possible outcomes. ven if he could control his bloodlust or if they found another route entirely, there still would be no telling how the child would turn out. So many variables, so much they didn’t know. Yes, they would have to be extremely careful. There was no doubt about that.
Nick then smiled, a glimmer of hope still in his eyes. “But it *is* possible.”
“Then I guess I just need to start working in the restraint department,” he cracked. Natalie iggled in spite of herself. The moment of humour quickly faded and his expression became erious. He closed the remaining physical gap between them by pressing her against him. She felt so small and warm in his arms.
She leaned against him, savouring the rare physical contact. With one arm around her, he tilted her head up with his free hand and gazed into her eyes, then tenderly pressed his lips against hers.
After he had pulled back slightly, she cleared her throat and remarked, “well, that certainly wasn’t a bad start.”
Whatever he was about to say at that moment was interrupted by Grace entering the room.
“Hey, Loverboy,” Grace began, giving Nick a mock glare. “Get your hands off of the bosslady. She’s got work to do.”
Nick groaned goodnaturedly, and Natalie, still ensconced in his arms, looked at her friend and employee. “Oh Grace,” she griped. “Not now!”
“Yes, now,” Grace replied, then gave Nick another mock glare and a light smack on the shoulder. “So beat it, Casanova.”
Nick reluctantly relinquished his physical hold on Natalie, but dropped a quick kiss on the bridge of her nose before he moved toward the door. Natalie offered him a “bye” in a playful tone and waved in a flirtatious manner.
Behind Grace’s back he mouthed, “see you later,” and quickly vanished out the door.
After he had left, Grace muttered, “just friends, my big round chocolate booty!” To which, Natalie just giggled in reply. Then, of one accord, they both turned their attention back to the work-related matters at hand.