|Fiction Home||Freestanding Stories||Alone Trilogy||Legacy Series||In Progress|
By Amanda Berendt
Copyright February 2005
Natalie lay alone in the empty bed. Despite the years of sleeping alone, she had quickly gotten used to sharing it. But recently she had more often than not found herself alone. Squinting in the darkness, she looked at the alarm clock on the bedside table. It was after midnight. Sighing, she rolled onto her back and stared up at the ceiling.
It had been nearly three years ago. She and Nick had finally succeeded. He had, after searching for so long, regained his mortality. It hadn’t been any single cure, but a combination of factors. She had perfected the litoveuterine injections, plus she had finally convinced him that he was not evil. Perhaps it was his positive attitude combined with her medical treatments. But whatever had actually caused his transformation, they had succeeded.
During those first weeks, Nick had been ecstatic. He had spent every moment possible in the sun. They had gone on picnics, to the beach, and Sunday in the caddy with the top down. Those first few weeks had been pure bliss. It was as if they hadn’t a care in the world. After a while, though, they did return to reality.
Nick spoke to the captain and requested a transfer to days citing a remission of his skin condition. He seemed to adjust easily to his new routine. He even went a step farther and asked Natalie out on their first official date.
Natalie had just arrived for her shift. She hadn’t seen Nick in several days. Their work schedules were now opposite.
The phone on her desk rang as she sat down. “Lambert.”
“Hey Nat.” It was Nick. He was still at work; she could hear the noise of the dayshift over the phone. “Did you just get in?”
“Yep, I haven’t had a chance to look at any of the day files, yet.”
He laughed, something he’s been doing more of lately. “It’s not about the files. I was just wondering if you were busy tomorrow night?”
“Do you maybe want to see a movie or something?” He sounded nervous.
“Nick Knight, are you asking me out on a date?” She giggled.
After a moment, during which she could hear the comments of Nick’s co-workers, he answered. “I guess I am.”
“I’d be delighted.” She decided to give him a break seeing as he hadn’t done this in a while… or maybe at all. “I’ll check out what’s playing and give you a call tomorrow, ok?”
“Great, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” As he hung up the phone, she could hear cheers from the bullpen. Apparently, Nick had decided to go public with his feelings. It certainly would make things very interesting at work for a while.
That date had turned into another and soon the department was taking bets on when Nick would propose. But he was taking it slow. It was nearly a year before Nick asked her.
Natalie smiled, as she lay alone in the dark remembering their wedding. It wasn’t the grandiose affair that most young girls (herself included) envision their wedding day to be, but it was the most wonderful day of her life. It had been a small wedding – only a few people had been invited. When they had planned it, she and Nick had realized that neither one of them had many true friends. Nick had insisted on the ceremony being held in a church and she had agreed, knowing how important that aspect was to him. They enjoyed a beautiful honeymoon in Hawaii before returning to the mundane world of work.
It was not until a few months ago – not long after their first anniversary when things began to change. It happened so gradually that Natalie had not noticed at first. Nick began to come home later and later. He volunteered for extra shifts at night. They had talked about maybe buying a house, and she thought perhaps he wanted to do it the ‘mortal’ way by not relying on the Foundation’s wealth. So it had gone on like that for a while, neither saying anything.
One night, though, Nick had not gotten home until well past midnight. Natalie had called the station and been told he had clocked out hours before. After trying his cell phone and pager and getting no answer, she began to worry. She had always worried about him attempting to help someone and forgetting that he no longer had the vampire’s ability to heal. So she sat up and waited. When he finally opened the apartment door and walked in, the fear vanished into anger.
“Where have you been? Why haven’t you called?” She was almost in tears.
Nick calmly hung up his jacked by the door and walked past her into the bedroom without saying a word.
She followed him and grabbed his arm. “Nick, what is going on?”
He sighed. “Nat, I’m sorry ok? Some of the guys went out for a few drinks and I just lost track of time, alright?” There was something in his eyes that told her there was more, but she didn’t push the matter. It was late and he would have to get up in a few hours for work.
And so it went for the next few weeks. Natalie stopped getting angry; it wasn’t worth it since Nick didn’t seem to respond. He became more distant even when he was home. She tried to get him to talk, but he wouldn’t. Brooding was his way.
Natalie sighed and pulled the covers tightly around her. In the silence she heard the apartment door open and close. When Nick didn’t come through the bedroom door, she began to wonder what he was doing. The apartment was silent. She looked again at the alarm clock and saw that it was almost 4.30am.
Sliding out from under the covers, she tiptoed to the door and peered out into the darkness of the living room. No lights were on, but the pre dawn light of the morning was visible at the edges of the curtains. In the gloom, she could make out Nick sitting on the couch. She pulled the door open and stepped out into the living room.
There was no response.
“Nick, are you okay? Did something happen?” Worry began to creep into her voice when he didn’t even look at her. She crossed to the couch and sat beside him. She felt him tense as she leaned against him. “Nick whatever happened, I’m here. Just talk to me and we can get through it.”
He shook his head and buried his face in his hands. The silence of the room was broken by his stifled sobs. When he finally spoke, his words ripped through her heart.
“I am so sorry, Nat… I thought I could do it… that I really wanted it…” His body shuddered as he tried to contain his grief.
Natalie didn’t know what he was talking about. She held him tighter and whispered to him. “Nick, we can deal with this. We’ve been through so much together, this is just one more issue.” She leaned her head against his shoulder and rubbed his back.
He took a deep breath in and let it out. “No, Natalie, it isn’t.” He stood up and crossed the room leaving her alone on the couch.
Nick’s sudden change in tone made her nervous. “Nick, what do you mean… what’s going on?”
He turned to face her, but he stayed in the shadows away from the dim light of the widow. “I have wanted to tell you for so long, but I didn’t know how. I knew the longer I waited, the longer I kept it from you, the harder it would be. I didn’t want to hurt you after all you’ve done for me.”
The calmness of his voice didn’t match the words he was saying. Natalie sat there on the couch staring at the shadow in the corner that was Nick. Several times, she opened her mouth, but words didn’t come. He didn’t want to hurt her? What did that mean?
Finally, her thoughts came together. “I don’t understand. What have you wanted to tell me?”
Nick came to the couch once more, but instead of sitting beside her, he knelt facing her. He took her hands in his. “Natalie,” her heart skipped a beat, he very rarely used her full name. “I never meant to hurt you.” He leaned down and kissed her hands. When he raised his head again, the eyes that met hers were golden.
She gasped, pulling her hands away from his. He let her pull away without a word and calmly stood and stepped away from the couch.
“Nick…” Natalie cried. It wasn’t fear, but regret. “Oh god, Nick… why?”
Silence hung over the room for several minutes before Nick spoke. His voice was calm and sure. “Natalie, all these centuries I thought I was searching for my lost mortality, but with your help, I discovered I had been wrong.” He held up his hand to stop her before she could protest. “When we began working together, you didn’t believe that this was a metaphysical condition. Initially, you focused on the physical aspects of the vampire. That’s where we were wrong. What finally worked was you convincing me that I wasn’t evil. You finally made me believe that it was my humanity that I was searching for, which I thought went hand-in-hand with mortality. With the regret and guilt gone, there was nothing stopping the transformation.
In the beginning, I was so happy. I loved being in the sunshine, but then, as we settled into the routine, I kept feeling like something was missing. I didn’t like the normality. So, I started going out with the guys from work. It helped for a while, but even that wasn’t enough. So, with a little reluctance, I started going back to The Raven. Being there, even as a mortal, was exhilarating. I missed that feeling, Nat. I missed the vampire.”
Natalie interrupted him. “Lacroix made you do it, he hated that you were mortal and he forced you.”
Nick shook his head, “_I_ went to him, Nat. Actually, he didn’t believe me at first. He thought I’d change my mind again.”
Natalie was almost afraid to ask. “What made him believe you?”
“He tasted my blood.”
Natalie was silent.
Nick crossed the room and reached out to put his hand on her shoulder. She started at his touch and he pulled back.
“Natalie,” He kneeled down in front of her once more. “Whenever I would wallow in my guilt and regret, you would always try to convince me to continue on by telling me how many people I have helped because of the vampire. I still want to help people and I don’t think I can do it if I have to worry about getting hurt or killed.”
She reached up and touched his face, trailing her fingers across his cool skin. “Oh, Nick…”
He saw the tears in her eyes. “Nat, please tell me this doesn’t change things.”
She pulled her hand away as the tears began to fall. “Of course it changes things, Nick. I wanted you and I to have a life together… to have a family. But now…”
“I don’t know, Nick. I thought we’d fixed everything, but now it’s…”
Nick stood up and backed away from her. “Now it’s what, Nat?”
She hesitated before speaking. All of her fears were now coming to fruition. “Nick, I stood by you for all those years because there was that light at the end of the tunnel that we were both striving for. Now that we’ve finally reached our goal, you’ve turned around and gone back into the darkness. I can’t do it again, Nick. I just can’t.”
The silence hung between them.
Nick looked into her tear filled eyes. “So it’s over.”
Natalie didn’t answer. She turned away from him and buried her face in her arms.
It was nearly noon as Nick sat alone at the bar of The Raven. Resting his head on his hands, he didn’t notice the figure approaching the bar behind him.
“It seems Natalie did not take your news very well, hmm?”
“Janette.” He acknowledged her with a sigh.
She sat on the stool beside him and ran her fingers through his hair.
He leaned into her touch, grateful for the kindness. “She said it was over, Janette. I thought, of all people, she wouldn’t turn away from me.”
“Oh, mon coeur,” she said wrapping her arms around him. “She thought she had won, and then you go and forfeit the game.” Nick shifted and returned the embrace. “She is mortal, Nicola, and you are not. You know better than most that we must make sacrifices in our dealings with mortals.”
“What am I going to do, Janette? I thought she was the one, that we would spend our lives together.”
Janette held him closer. “You did spend a life with her. Now it is over and we must go on. Paris has always been a good place to start over.”