Infatuation with a Vampire

Chapter 6

Benefis Healthcare Hospital Great Falls, Montana - 5:02 a.m.

Mulder was taken to the closest medical facility in the area which happened to be in Great Falls, just south of Black Eagle. Luckily, his head injury turned out to be fairly minor, requiring only three stitches and a couple of Tylenols to ease the pain. After getting patched up, the doctor suggested that he lie down and get some rest. That was the last thing on Mulder's mind at the moment, but he was forced to comply because the world at large still tended to spin a little too fast when he stood. It would be another hour or more before the sheriff would begin the search, so Mulder took full advantage of the temporary bed and blanket he had been given. He was on the verge of dozing off when his cell phone rang. Thankful that he had placed it within easy reach in his shirt pocket, he answered anxiously, fearing bad news already.


"It's me," Frohike's voice came over the line. "Any news on Dana yet?"

"Last I heard, she wasn't dead yet. Have you found anything on Knight?"

"Yeah. I found out that he doesn't really exist."

"How's that?"

"He was invented. On the surface, everything looks normal enough until you dig a little deeper. For instance, he has a birth record but no medical history. He has diplomas and degrees, but nothing to verify actual attendance or graduation, not even from the Police Academy. The guy's a chameleon."

"Among other things," said Mulder. "Anything on the alias?"

"Quite a bit. Only De Brabant isn't exactly an alias. It's a charitable foundation that's been around for about half a century. But there is a connection between it and Nick Knight. The warehouse in Toronto where Knight called home was owned by The De Brabant Foundation, and the assets in Knight's bank account were automatically transferred into the foundation's account after the report of his death."

"That's great, Frohike," said Mulder, impressed by the news, but needing more. "Now if you could just tell me something I can use."

"Getting to it. The De Brabant Foundation once owned a good hunk of mountain property in Montana; most of which was donated back to the Native Americans to whom it originally belonged. A small patch, however, still belongs to the Foundation. Tell me where you are and I can fax you a map of the area. Chances are your boy has a little homestead tucked away up there."

"Frohike, I think I'm falling in love with you," Mulder sighed, thankful to have such a useful friend. "Fax what you have to the sheriff's office in Black Eagle. Oh, did you get anything on the other name?"

"Janette DuCharme? Nope. Once she left Toronto, she completely disappeared. But before she split, she turned over ownership of the Raven to a guy named Lucien LaCroix, a night time radio squawk jock. After a decapitated body was found on the premises, business at the Raven slacked off considerably. He packed up and vacated the same time as your boy went off the bridge. A week later, LaCroix bought him a house in Winnipeg where it just so happens that fifty thousand dollars of De Brabant Foundation money was transferred into a new account under the name of Nicholas Fletcher. Apparently, he and LaCroix are roomies. That's all I have for now. You want me to keep digging?"

"Yeah, if you don't mind. And can you send me a picture of this LaCroix guy, along with a number I can reach him if you've got it."

"It's on its way. Now you find her, Mulder. You bring our Dana back safe and sound or I'll personally kick your ass from here to Area 51."

"I will find her," said Mulder with grim determination. "Or die trying," he added solemnly before hanging up.

Nick's Cabin

It had to be a trick of the light, Scully thought when she saw the odd glow in Nick's eyes. It was downright eerie the way he was staring at her now, almost as though he was ready to devour her whole right on the spot. She swallowed nervously, then tried to pull her wrist from his grasp, but he held on as firmly as a steel trap. His other hand went to the back of her neck in order to hold her head immobile. Scully thought about fighting. She had been thoroughly trained in self defense, and her knee was already within the perfect striking distance. For some reason, however, she resisted the urge to attack. She found herself relaxing in his hold, drawn into those mesmerizing, golden eyes and actually looking forward to his next move.

When his mouth came down solidly upon hers, she eagerly allowed him full access. As his teeth scraped across her tongue, Scully noticed how abnormally long and sharp his canines seemed. Warning bells went off in the back of her mind, but she chose to ignore them. Perhaps it was the fact that it had been too long since a man had been intimate with her, or maybe Nick Knight was endowed with such powerful pheromones that no woman would have been able to resist him. At the moment, it really didn't matter to Scully why she was drowning in his kisses.

As the bleeding from her nose reached her lips, Nick withdrew his tongue from inside her mouth so he could lick the outside. It should have disgusted her once she realized what he was doing, but instead, Scully found it oddly erotic to know that he was tasting her blood. He growled softly, sounding like a purring lion cub. He lapped at the blood that trickled from her nose for a moment longer, then suddenly stopped and drew back. His eyes were still golden but his expression had changed to a grimace. He released her wrist so he could move his index finger to her face. There was still a small amount of blood making its way south. Nick wiped it up with his finger, then put it to his tongue as though he was sampling a small taste of some homemade sauce. After his taste buds had enough time to register the flavor, his frown grew deeper.

"It's tainted," he spoke in a low, husky voice.

His would-be victim looked at him dumbfounded. "Wh-What?"

"Your blood. It tastes spoiled."

Scully was too stunned to even consider a response. It was just as well, because Nick didn't bother waiting for one. He all but pushed her to the side in his haste to get to the kitchen area and the small, brown refrigerator in the corner. He yanked opened the door and pulled out a dark green wine bottle which he uncorked with his teeth. Spitting the cork carelessly across the room, he upended the bottle and drank from it greedily, heedless of the overflow of crimson running down his chin.

The fact that he had just ingested the blood from her nose and thought it tasted spoiled, Scully chalked up to his mental illness. His vampire teeth could easily be falsies that he had snuck into his mouth with a bit of sleight of hand. The eyes that had changed quickly from blue to an iridescent gold could be the results of some kind of special contact lenses that he wore. There was a perfectly logical explanation for everything. However, as she studied the look of pure ecstasy on his face as he drank from the bottle of what appeared to be blood, Scully was beginning to question her faith in logic.

Nick had consumed half the bottle before finally pausing for a breather. His eyes having returned to their normal hue, timidly shifted in Scully's direction. He could tell by her expression that she knew what was in the bottle, but there still appeared to be some doubt as to whether or not she was willing to believe her own eyes.

"You're probably thinking one of two things," said Nick as he looked from her to his bottle and back again. "You're either thinking that your partner was right about me being a vampire, or that I am a hell of a lot more screwed up than you first imagined."

Scully shrugged lightly. "First of all I was thinking that you need to wipe your chin," said Scully, displaying more calm than she actually felt.

A moment of embarrassment flashed across Nick's face as he quickly wiped his shirt sleeve across his chin. Afterwards, he placed the opened bottle back into the refrigerator, then returned his attention to his guest.

"So, now what are you thinking?"

"Well, since I don't believe in vampires, then I'd have to say that you are considerably more unstable than I first perceived."

Nick chuckled lightly. "You don't believe your own eyes, Agent Scully? That's rather a strange attribute for a person in law enforcement, don't you agree?"

"The eyes sometimes have a way of playing tricks on a person. It's referred to as optical illusions."

Denial, Nick thought. He had seen it many times throughout his eight hundred years from people who couldn't handle the fact that creatures such as he existed. Actually, it was for the best. The less she believed and knew about him and his kind, the better off she would be. He walked up to her, noting the wariness in her eyes, looking as though she was ready to defend herself should the need arise. He admired her bravery, just as he had admired Natalie's bravery. This time, he wouldn't make the same mistake.

"It's been a long night, Agent Scully. You're very tired. You're ready to get some sleep now."

The moment he uttered those words, Scully realized how true they were. She was so exhausted, she could barely keep her eyes open. "Yes, I am feeling sleepy," she murmured.

"Before you sleep, keep in mind that you never noticed anything unusual about me. You never saw me drinking blood; I never chased you out into the woods, and your nosebleed never happened. Also, you and I were never intimate. All we ever did was talk. Understand?"

Scully nodded drowsily. "We talked," she repeated his words.

"Now sleep," Nick softly commanded, then caught her as her body went limp. Scooping her up in his arms, he carried her into the bedroom and laid her down on the bed. He still wondered about the odd taste of her blood. The bottled cow's blood had been ambrosia compared to the unexpected sour tang of Agent Scully's blood. Perhaps he'd just imagined the bad taste as an unconscious effort not to drain her. The only other excuse he could think of was that her bloodstream was full of some sort of prescription drug which coincidentally made for the perfect vampire deterrent. He was reminded of the plague which had spread through the vampire community, brought on by an experimental drug for AIDS. It was possible that, as then, he had just exposed himself to something perfectly harmless to humans but deadly to his kind. Secretly, he wished that was the case. Finally, a simple way to put himself out of his misery.

Knowing he shouldn't be thinking such things, Nick concentrated on making Agent Scully comfortable. He decided to leave her with her coat on, then threw his own coat over her for added warmth. After a few moments of deliberating, he started a fire in the pot-bellied stove in the corner. When he had watched her in the living room in front of the fireplace, she never really look like she had gotten sufficiently warm. He wanted her to be comfortable enough to sleep through the day. After getting the fire going, he took a final admiring glance at her, then blew out the candles in the room and closed the door on his way out.

Nick walked out onto the front porch and gazed up at the early morning sky. The sun would be up soon and for once he had a solid reason not to greet it. Without him, Agent Scully would be stranded with no food and no way to make it back to civilization. He had purposely chosen to build the cabin in this area so many years ago because of its seclusion and poor accessibility. Agent Mulder was probably out searching for his partner now, but there was no way he could know exactly where to look. Even LaCroix didn't know about this little hideaway, though it was only a matter of time before he would show up in the general area, once he got wind of the cow killings. As soon as he was in the same city as his offspring, their eternal link would do the rest.

He wasn't ready to face his master yet. There were still so many doubts running through his mind, the main one being whether or not he should continue his existence. He went back inside the cabin and stretched himself out on the sofa. As he awaited sleep, he somberly recalled the events that occurred over a fortnight ago.

Toronto 15 days earlier

He had gone to her apartment first. Hovering outside the windows and peering into the rooms, he saw only unfamiliar furniture and faces. A husband looked on with love and pride as his wife gave their newborn infant its four o'clock feeding. Nick observed them for several moments, envying their harmonious bliss. Finally, he tore himself away from the window and moved on. Next, he flew to his loft. It looked pretty much the same other than the 'For Sale' signs plastered all over the doors. For some reason, he thought he might find her there. Attaining entrance through the skylight, he found his furnishings covered with sheets to help protect against the dust and cobwebs that abounded. The memories of that night flooded back again, but gone was all the evidence that would tell the tale. Of course, Natalie was dead. He remembered that much, but perhaps he had remembered wrong. Perhaps LaCroix had saved her somehow. It wouldn't be the first time his master had picked up his apparently dead leftovers and brought them across. He had never wanted that for Natalie, and he had to be sure of what had become of her.

Nick left the loft and stopped off at the nearest pay phone. He was careful to disguise his voice as he spoke to the person he considered to be Natalie's closest mortal friend. He pretended to be an old boyfriend of Nat's from her college days, just in town and wanting to say hello. Luckily, Grace still worked the night shift at the morgue, but he had caught her off guard with his inquiry about Natalie. Grace solemnly broke the bad news to him, then told him tearfully about the funeral where the entire 96th precinct and everyone in the Coroners Building had turned out to say farewell to both Natalie and her friend, Detective Knight. Grace was in tears by the time she had finished giving all the details. Nick wasn't far behind, but he managed to thank her for her time and say good-bye before losing his self control.

He didn't remember flying to the cemetery, but he must have because suddenly he was there. He also had no true awareness of digging through several feet of earth with his bare hands until his fingernails scraped the top of the sealed tomb. He was overwhelmed by the desire to see with his own eyes what his brain had already told him was true. Anyone could fake a funeral, however. It didn't mean that a body had actually been buried. He should know. He had faked his own a number of times. A few moments more and he had cleared away the soil and breached the heavy lid of the tomb, pushing it off to the side and exposing the coffin within.

He hesitated opening the lid of the coffin. He wasn't sure he'd find a body inside or not, however, he knew he wouldn't be contented no matter what the findings were. He braced himself as best he could, then quickly threw open the lid. "Oh, God!" he cried out as he viewed the contents. The thick, chestnut curls perfectly framed her heart-shaped face just as they had in life. The undertaker had done a fairly decent job in preserving her features, although the makeup applied was a bit heavier than Nick had ever seen her use. He reached out a hand to stroke her cheek, drawing back instantly at the unnatural feel of her skin. But it wasn't her fault that she was dead, he thought. He was the reason she was here, all alone in the dark. The least he could do was spend a little time with her. Carefully, he shifted her body over some to allow him enough room to stretch out alongside her. Making a nest of her hair, he shut his eyes and rested his head against hers as he placed his arm about her waist.

"I'm sorry, Nat," he apologized meekly. "I know what I promised you. But things didn't go right. Your blood was so sweet. I couldn't get enough of it. And then, I couldn't bring you across. I couldn't turn you into what I am. I... I couldn't do that to you. So I asked LaCroix to destroy me, but he wouldn't go through with it."

Nick raised his head so he could gaze down at her face as he spoke. "He made me forget you, Nat.... It was my idea. I wanted to forget because I didn't want to live with the pain. But then, it all came back to me. I remembered. I came as soon as I remembered."

He pressed his lips against her cheek, then nuzzled his face in her hair. "I miss you so much, Nat. I wish I could see you again, the way you were, just one more time."

As he cuddled with the cold, stiffened remains of his beloved, a thought came to mind. He recalled the Kessle House, a special place where the dearly departed was able to contact the living. While working on an apparent accidental death case with Tracy, he had come across the house reported to be haunted. It turned out to be a portal for spirits to reenter the world of the living. He wasn't sure however if the house was still around. The last he heard, someone had wanted to demolish it and put up a new apartment complex or something. He could only hope that it had not been torn down yet.

Nick looked at Nat again and said, "If I don't see you there, then I'll just come back and spend the day with you, okay?" He kissed her on the lips, then rose up from the grave. Lingering in the sky above for a few moments, he surveyed the damage he'd done to the grave site without actually noticing anything wrong with the whole picture. His only thought just before he flew off was that she was wearing a new dress and that it was quite becoming.

A few minutes later, Nick found himself outside the Kessle House. Looking as spooky as it had the first time he'd seen it, he was nonetheless relieved to discover that it was still standing. Perhaps the city decided it was a historical landmark and worthy of conservation, though it was still in dire need of a paint job. He entered through a side door and paused for a few moments to extend his senses throughout the house. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end as he discerned the presence of the spirits that used the house as a doorway from one world to another. Nick knew he wasn't welcome. The spirits had made it clear once before. But he was willing to brave their wrath for the chance to see her one last time.

He moved up the stairs and into the room where he had first made contact with his wife Alyssa. He instinctively knew that she would not be making an appearance tonight. She had already resolved her issues with him and moved on. He walked over to the window and glanced out, catching a glimpse of a quick moving, shadowy figure in the courtyard. The spirits of those he had wronged in the past and who now sought revenge against him, were slowly closing in. Nick took a deep breath to settle his nerves, then turned his back to the window.

"Natalie?" he called out to the darkness. "Natalie, I'd like to talk to you if you're here." He waited a moment but nothing happened. "All right. You don't have to show yourself if you don't want to. I just wanted to.... I wanted to apologize to you for what I did.... For what I did and for what I didn't do. I made you a promise that I didn't keep. I promised you that no matter what, we'd be together forever. I don't expect for you to forgive my actions. I just wanted you to know that my love for you will never die, and that wherever you are now, I hope you've found peace."

He wanted to say so much more to her, to explain what all had transpired that night and since then, but suddenly, none of it seemed very important anymore. He had wanted some kind of confirmation of what he could expect in the afterlife, but he realized that when people die, they only have their personal beliefs to guide them into the beyond. Natalie had gone into death thinking that they would be together. His own wife had forgiven him for not keeping the same promise to her. Back then, he was an inexperienced vampire who naively thought he knew how to pass on his gift of immortality. Both Alyssa and Natalie had died because they made the mistake of loving and trusting him.

He glanced out the window again, looking upwards this time and saw the full moon shining through. Soon, the sun would be doing the same thing. "It ends here," he spoke aloud to himself. "I won't let anyone else suffer because of me, because of what I am. Forgive me my weaknesses, my selfishness, my arrogance. Forgive me, Tracy... Schanke... Cohen.... Everyone who's ever had the misfortune of knowing me. I'm sorry."

With those final words uttered, he sunk to the floor in front of the window and stretched out with hands folded atop his chest, and his entire body bathed in moonlight. He closed his eyes and waited impatiently for the sun. As he lay there, the images of the people closest to him came to mind. He envisioned Janette and the hundreds of years he had spent loving her, rejecting her, and towards the end, how he had envied her. By some strange twist of fate, she had achieved what he had been seeking for centuries. Perhaps it hadn't been so strange at all. Perhaps it was merely one of the many secrets of being a vampire of which LaCroix had failed to enlighten them. Perhaps Nick could have regained his immortality at any time, only his master had never wanted him to know it was indeed possible.

Try as he might, Nick was unable to keep thoughts of his master out of his head. LaCroix had always insisted that he only had Nick's best interest in mind. All the taunting, the treachery and even the physical abuse had only been his way of nurturing so that his son would develop the proper skills for an eternity of survival in a mortal world. Perhaps in his own twisted way LaCroix did love and care for him. Nick remembered the look in his sire's eyes when he had requested that LaCroix stake him. It was the closest he'd ever seen the old vampire to tears. Even the death of his daughter Divia had not moved him as much. The master vampire -- for whatever his reasons, be it love or obsession -- was not able to fulfill his son's request. It was apparent then that he did not want to bare such a loss. However, wherever he was now, come sunrise, he would feel their connection sever completely, and LaCroix would--

"What are you doing, Nick?"

The voice had startled him badly. He was alert and on his feet in an instant. A pained smiled crossed his face when he saw the nearly transparent image of the person who had spoken.

"Tracy," he whispered, unable to say anything more.

"Just happened to be in the neighborhood, were you?" she asked in the same perky tone he had grown used to. "You know, it's really not a good idea for you to hang around here. There are a few creepy types that remember you from wa-a-a-y back when and are still carrying quite a grudge. But don't worry. I'll be watching your back for you."

"Tracy... you were a good partner," Nick spoke, his voice filled with regret. "I'm sorry. I should have told you what I was. You already knew that vampires existed, so there was no real reason why I shouldn't have confided in you."

"Yeah, it would have been nice to know that my partner felt he could trust me. You know, I kept Vachon's secret pretty well. When he died, I really could have used someone to talk to about it. I was even tempted to tell you anyway, but I figured you'd just think I was crazy."

"I thought LaCroix made you forget."

"He did. But I guess that hypno thing you guys do don't carry over into the afterworld. I remember everything now."

"I never meant to cause you pain, Tracy. I thought..." He faltered, sighing deeply. "It doesn't matter what I thought. I was wrong. I was wrong about a lot of things. But I want you to know that I always thought you were a good partner and friend, and I wish I had done the right thing by you."

"Well, just keep it in mind for your next partner, okay? Oh, by the way, Amanda Cohen sends her best and Schanke wants you to know how much he appreciates you being there for his family and setting up that trust fund for them. He would have come but we only get so many visits and he already used his on Myra and Jenny."

Nick nodded. "Tell him I miss him."

"Will do. And Nick? Lighten up, will you?"

She smiled brightly at him as she began to fade back into the darkness. Nick lowered his head and squeezed his eyes shut to try to hold back the tears. His head jerked back up when he thought of something. "Trace?" he called out, but it was too late. He had wanted to ask her about Natalie. He had to wonder if Natalie had gone to the same place as the others. Hers was the only name Tracy didn't bother to mention. He wondered if she would be able to come to the Kessle House as Tracy had. Then he thought, even if she could come to him, why on earth would she want to?

Nick faced the window again, fidgeting impatiently as he glared out at the slowly creeping daybreak. "Come on," he spoke anxiously. "Let's just get this over with."

"What's the big hurry?"

He was nearly too overwhelmed by the sound of her voice to respond, and found it nearly impossible to face her. After taking in a deep breath, he finally found the courage to turn around. Just as Tracy had been, Natalie stood before him as an angelic looking, nearly transparent figure. She appeared younger, slimmer and more beautiful than he had remembered.

He mustered a nervous smile and said, "I didn't think you'd come."

"I wasn't so sure I would," came the blunt reply.

The cold tone of her voice caused him to lower his head in guilt and shift his eyes to the floor. "I don't blame you for hating me, after what I did to you. And I don't mean just that night. Throughout the years we've known each other, there have been times when I didn't always give you the respect you deserved. I had the habit of deciding what was best for you based on my own personal viewpoint. I often put my needs and desires first, and completely ignored yours. And there were times when you needed me to be there emotionally for you, and I don't believe I managed that well either. Saying I'm sorry seems embarrassingly inadequate, but I don't know how else to put it."

Natalie arched her brow and shook her in head in mild amusement. "One thing about you, Nick, you were always good at beating yourself up. In this case, you're right on the mark. Saying you're sorry is pretty inadequate. And I won't accept your apology.... That is, not until you accept mine."

He had been so fixated on her remark about not accepting his apology that he nearly missed the rest of her statement. He raised his eyes to hers once it dawned on him what she had said.


"I owe you an apology, Nick. I almost didn't come here because I was ashamed to face you."

"No, Nat. You don't--"

"Let me finish," she cut him off with a firm tone. When she saw that she had startled him into silence, Nat continued with her confession. "When we first met, you warned me what getting involved with you might entail. You tried to scare me off, but I insisted I could handle anything that might arise. You were honest with me from the beginning but I was dishonest with you. I lied about being interested in you only in the scientific sense. I was physically attracted to you from the moment I first laid eyes on you. Which is kind of sick in a way considering you were a fresh corpse in a body bag. But I'd been thinking, wow, what a waste. Why couldn't I have met you when you were alive. Then when you suddenly came to life, I guess I sort of took it as a sign that you had been sent by the powers above.

"When I found out that you wanted to become mortal again, I thought that it would be a good way of getting to know you better and that eventually it might lead to something more. It did in a way. We became close friends, and I suppose I should have been happy with that considering the extraordinary differences in our backgrounds. But I had always felt that there could be more. There were times when I looked into your eyes and I was positive you felt the same way, only you'd had some bad experiences in the past and you were afraid to try again."

"I did love you, Natalie," Nick cut in. "I still do."

Natalie smiled sadly. "I know. Even though you never said the words, I knew it. It was in the way you looked at me, the way you touched me, and all those wonderful hugs and tiny little kisses you'd give me.... I knew. But what I felt for you had taken on a more desperate air. After Schanke and Captain Cohen died in that plane crash, I realized how short my time here on this planet could be. Then when I found out that you had planned to leave town without so much as a good-bye, I think that's when I stopped thinking rationally. I believe that's when I started to become almost like a mortal version of LaCroix."

Nick started to contradict her but Natalie held up a hand to stop him from commenting.

"No, it's true. Just as he believed he knew what was best for you, I began thinking the same way. A prime example was when you lost your memory and I tried to take advantage of that. I refused to tell you what you really were because I had convinced myself that your being a vampire was not so much a physical condition as it was a mental hang-up you had to overcome. As a result, you went outside and was nearly fried by the sun. It was wrong of me to withhold such vital information, but love makes you do foolish things sometimes. A bout of depression can make you do even worse.

"Our last night together, I was suffering from depression over an old friend committing suicide. Top that off with what happened to Tracy and you've got the makings of one non-thinking, irrational individual. All I could think was that Nick could make it all better for me. He could chase away all these negative feelings I have and make my world whole. I pushed you into doing something you didn't want to. Something that you felt was not only wrong but dangerous as well. So your old girlfriend Janette goes away for a little while and comes back as a mortal, saying that it was the results of making love to a mortal and taking only a small amount of his blood.

"The scientist in me should have questioned and analyzed every possible detail available before jumping to conclusions. Maybe what happened with Janette had to do with the fact that she was a female vampire, or that she was two hundred years older than you. Could have been some kind of vampire puberty thing going on with her body. Could be that the guy whose blood she drank had unusual properties to it. I mean, the possibilities are probably endless. But at the time, I didn't care how it may have actually happened. I only knew that it had and I wanted that for you. I wanted you to be mortal. I'm ashamed to say it, but I wanted you to be mortal, not because it's what you've been dreaming of for centuries, but... because I wanted you, and I knew that was the only way I could have you."

"None of that really matters, Nat," said Nick, seeing her brow crinkle in guilt. "It doesn't change the fact that I killed you."

"But it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't pushed you. I backed you into a corner, Nick, and I didn't give you a way out. It was like my wearing a pork chop necklace and going up to a starving lion, then expecting him to just eat the pork chop. And how many times did you tell me, 'No,' and warn me of what might happen? I don't blame you for your actions, Nick. I was dealing with a lot of different emotions and I just wasn't thinking clearly. What occurred that night with us was my own fault."

"But I made you a promise," he reminded her. "I didn't keep it. You asked to be brought across if things went too far. I had the opportunity to do it. There was still enough life left in you, but I...."

"You didn't want me to become the thing you so desperately despised. I know."

"I brought your brother across when you asked me to because I couldn't bare to see you so upset. I was willing to bring Tracy across whether she wanted it or not in order to assuage my own guilt about the shoot-out. But when it came to making that choice for you, Nat.... I just couldn't. It may have been what you thought you wanted but... I loved you too much to condemn you for all eternity to this hellish existence. But I promised to be with you no matter what. I still want to be with you."

"So that's why you're standing in front of the window waiting for the sun to rise?"

"It should be slightly more effective than the last method I tried."

"Did you really expect LaCroix to go through with it?"

"How did you know? Were you still alive?" Nick asked in growing dismay. "You saw?"

"No, no. You tend to know when someone's messing about with your remains. I was at the cemetery earlier when you were.... Come to think of it, just what the heck were you doing, Nick? I'd never seen you like that before. As Schanke would put it, you were acting really whacko."

"I know. I was pretty upset when my memories of that night came back. I had amnesia and I had forgotten. LaCroix--"

"I get the picture," Natalie stopped him. "You don't have to say anymore. In other words, all this just hit you like a ton of bricks and you really haven't had time to grieve."

"I've had too much time to grieve already. Eight hundred years of seeing the people that I care for the most, wither and die or fall victim to my beast. I just regret that it's taken me so long to finally reach this decision. A lot of people would still be alive if I had walked into the sun much sooner."

"Are you sure about that? I seem to recall digging a few bullets out of you that had been meant for others. Schanke would have met his end a lot sooner if you hadn't been there for him a couple of times that I can think of. The same goes for Tracy. You also saved Captain Stonetree's life and his career. And you haven't forgotten that little dating fiasco I had with Roger Jamison. During that bombing scare, how many more people do you think would have died if it hadn't been for you getting involved? You've done a lot of good, Nick. You've saved a lot of lives. You just can't save them all. No one can do it all."

"It doesn't matter anymore. None of it matters. It's time to end it."

"Why?" Natalie asked. She saw him cock his head in wonderment at her question. "Why after eight hundred years?" she attempted to clarify her question. "I mean, why haven't you done it before now? What's kept you going all these centuries?"

Nick didn't have a problem coming up with his answer. "Hope," he told her. "The hope that someday I'd find a way to become mortal again."

"Are you saying that you've lost all hope now; despite seeing that it was possible with Janette? Have you forgotten the time you got to walk around in the sun and eat real food? It may have been only temporary, but it was definitely a step in the right direction. I'll tell you where I hid my notes. Maybe you can find someone else to pick up where I left off."

"No!" Nick blurted out. "No, Nat. I won't put another life at risk like that. Besides... I'm tired. I'm just so tired of it all."

"Nick, I know you're hurting, and as bad as your existence seems now, killing yourself will not make it better. Where I am, I'm afraid that you're not welcome. The place where you would be welcomed, from what I've heard, you don't want to go."

Nick lowered his head dejectedly and murmured. "Could hell really be any worse?"

"I know that the past couple of years have been tough on you, Nick. You've had LaCroix come back into your life to torment you, and you've watched a lot of friends die, both vampire and mortal alike. You're suffering from depression, and I mean big time. I know what that's like. I should've gotten myself to the nearest therapist for some help, but instead I allowed it to consume me. I don't know if there are any vampire shrinks out there, but it might be a good idea for you to find someone to talk to. If nothing else, at least get away from this city. Go find yourself a nice quiet place to unwind and commune with nature or something. Forget about all the bad times and remember the good ones. We had some good times, didn't we?"

Nick nodded sadly. "We had lots of them, Nat."

Natalie smiled with tears glittering in her pale eyes. "The sun will be up soon. You should leave here before it does."

"Can I see you again, Nat? If I come back here--"

"Don't," she warned with a touch of sternness to her voice. Softening her tone she said, "Let it go, Nick. It's okay to let go."

"I don't think I can," he admitted tearfully, his voice cracking.

"You never know what you can do until you try. Will you please try, Nick? If not for yourself, then do it for me."

Nick nodded slightly. "I can try," he replied halfheartedly.

"Good.... You'd better go now," she said as she began to drift away from him.

He wanted so badly to follow, but knew it was hopeless. "I love you, Nat," he called out to her. "I'll love you forever."

"You see, Nick. You didn't break your promise. We'll be together forever, in each other's hearts.... Now, go find some happiness and never give up the hope." She blew him a kiss, then faded from sight.

Before he could respond to her final words or her gestured kiss, Natalie was gone. Nick remained rooted to the spot for a moment longer, unwilling to face the rest of his existence without her. But he had made the commitment to try and he knew he owed her that much. As he left the Kessle House on his way to the loft, he made a solemn vow that he'd do his best to honor Natalie's wishes.


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