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Christmas Medley
By Shadowstar

Disclaimer:  If you think they're mine, you're sadly mistaken.  I borrowed them, hugged them, squeezed them, called them George, then gave them back like a good girl.

Author's Note:  For those of you still waiting for the next bit of Upwards a Downward Spiral, I haven't forgotten and I am still working on it.  RL has been too busy for me to write fanfic for a long time.  Chalk it up to getting ready to graduate.  This is all Christy's fault.  Oh, yes... I'm nominally a DarkNN, if I have to name a faction.  Archive?  Sure, go ahead.

~*~*~*~

Nick shoved his hands in his pockets and walked slowly through the snowy evening.  It was his night off; since he was covering for people with families on Christmas Eve, Captain Reese had insisted that he have a few nights off the week before.  He leaned into the wind and picked his way carefully over the icy sidewalks.  The wind changed directions, bringing him snatches of a carol that he'd all but forgotten.

"Il est ne, le divin Enfant,
Jouez hautbois, resonnez musettes;
Il est ne, le divin Enfant;
Chantons tous son avenement!"

He turned slowly towards the haunting, beautiful music.  It was coming from a small, almost non-descript building across the street.  Nick walked over, passing the three cylindrical spires in front of the building.  He walked up to the plate glass door and pulled it open, uncertain of what would happen if he stepped over the threshold of what was obviously a church.

Nick entered the building soundlessly, following the sound of music as it filled the air.  Surprised that it didn't burn, he walked across the small lobby and opened one of the double doors that led to the chapel.  He slipped into one of the padded pews in the back and listened as the choir sang.

"Depuis plus de quatre mille ans,
Nous le promettaient les Prophetes;
Depuis plus de quatre mille ans,
Nous attendions cet heureux temps.

Il est ne, le divin Enfant,
Jouez hautbois, resonnez musettes;
Il est ne, le divin Enfant;
Chantons tous son avenement!"

Someone slid onto the pew next to him.  "Here to join the choir, Knight?" a somewhat familiar voice asked.

"Brown," Nick said with a nod.  "I just heard the music..."

Detective Brown grinned, "and came to investigate," he said.  "Our program is tomorrow night," he explained.  "We've invited everybody in the community... Santa will be here for the kids, and we're collecting canned goods, blankets, clothes, and toys for some needy families."

Nick thought back to his mother taking baskets of remedies and food to doctor the sick in the village when he was a child.  It was one of the things he'd learned before he'd been sent off to learn to be a knight--take care of the sick and those weaker than you were.  He'd lived to see 800 Christmases, give or take a few, and it never really ceased to sting that he didn't really have anyone to spend that important time of year with.  "That's a good thing to do," he murmured.

"Yeah, well, you should come and bring Dr. Lambert," Brown said with a friendly smile.  "We can't fix all of the bad stuff, but we can help a few families out and make sure that they have some sort of Christmas; we're playing Secret Santa on Christmas Eve." The detective paused for a few minutes.  "Thanks for taking my shift, Nick.  If you hadn't, I wouldn't be able to go do this with my family."

Nick sat perfectly still, listening as the music washed over him.  It had been a long time since he'd felt any measure of peace, but sitting there in the small church, he felt it as the choir sang.

"Ah! qu'il est beau, qu'il est charmant,
Que ses graces sont parfaites!
Ah! qu'il est beau, qu'il est charmant,
Qu'il est doux le divin Enfant!

"Il est ne, le divin Enfant,
Jouez hautbois, resonnez musettes;
Il est ne, le divin Enfant;
Chantons tous son avenement!"


"Maybe I'll come," Nick said slowly.  "And you're welcome--I don't really have much of a family..." he trailed off.

"I know the feeling," Brown said with a sympathetic smile.  He nodded towards the choir.  "Before I married Beth four years ago, I was alone, too."  He glanced at his watch and stood up.  "I'd better go spread out the canvas tarps in the gym," he said.

Nick looked at him curiously.  "For what?"

Brown gave him a wide grin.  "We've got real hay again for the Nativity scene that the kids are putting on.  Believe me, you *don't* want to bring hay into the building without a tarp.  We did it last year, and it took *weeks* to get all the hay out of the carpet."

Nick simply nodded.  "I'd better go, too," he whispered, trying not to disturb the rehearsal.  "I'm supposed to be meeting Nat soon."

"Hope to see you tomorrow night," Brown said, offering his hand.  Nick shook it, then headed out the door.  He and Nat were supposed to watch movies, but he was a little reluctant to leave the building.  For the first time in ages, he felt hope.  Just standing inside any kind of church made him feel like perhaps he wasn't irredeemable after all.  Perhaps there was hope for one such as him.  With a sigh, he left and hurried towards the loft where Nat was probably waiting for him.  If all it took was a bit of canned food and some sundries to get in, perhaps it was worth going; Christmas was still a week away and he hadn't been to anything like a Christmas church service in a long time.


~*~*~*~

Nick shifted from foot-to-foot as he waited for Natalie to answer the door.  He was lucky that she'd agreed to accompany him to the Christmas program at the church that night.  "Nat," he said with a grin as the door opened.  "Ready to go?"

"Just let me get my coat," she said as she reached in the closet.  Nick took her coat from her and helped her into it.  He reached for her hand as she turned to lock the door behind them.  Normally, he wouldn't dare to even try and hold her hand, but the thought of going back to that church gave him the courage to try it.  After all, it wasn't as if he'd hurt her but just holding her hand...

"Let's go, Nat," he said with a grin.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" she asked, settling her purse on her shoulder.  "This is a *church*, right?"

Nick grinned, amused.  "Yeah, it is, but it doesn't hurt to go in there.  I guess it's the lack of holy symbols in the building."  He tucked her hand into his elbow and covered it with his free hand as they walked downstairs and out of the building.  He opened the caddy's door and helped her inside.  This would be a perfect night; he knew it.

He climbed into his side of the car, started it, and pulled back out into the street.  "Did I mention that I heard the choir singing last night and they sounded beautiful?" he asked hopefully.  Nick wanted Natalie to have fun at the Christmas program as well.

Natalie reached over and took his free hand.  "I'm sure it'll be fine, Nick," she said with a smile.

Nick released her hand and put his arm around her shoulder.  Natalie leaned against his shoulder and he threaded his fingers through hers.  He'd been careful not to get this close to her since the night that he'd almost killed her, but for some reason, being close to her didn't seem to hold the danger that it had yesterday.  Strangely, he didn't feel the desire to take her blood; he only felt the need to love, cherish and protect her.

"Nick, are you okay?" she asked softly.

Nick smiled.  "I'm fine--I'm better than fine."

"So last night at the church did you some good?" Nat asked.

Nick stopped at a traffic light and dropped a kiss into her hair.  "Yes... For the first time in a long time, I felt some peace." He was silent for a moment as the light turned green.  "It's actually lasted, Nat.  I almost feel as if one such as I could be forgiven."  He felt Natalie shift slightly as she placed a kiss on his jaw.

"I've never believed that you were damned, Nick," she said.  

"Thank you," he murmured.  "You've been my hope for so long, Nat--"

"I know," she said, squeezing his hand.

Nick pulled the caddy into the church parking lot, parked, waited for Nat to scoot away a little, and then got out to open the door for her.  He helped her out of the caddy then took her hand in his.  Together, they walked around to the trunk, opened it, and pulled out a few stuffed shopping bags.  They walked up to the church door.  Just as Nick was about to drop her hand so that he could open it, a young man wearing a dark suit opened it from the inside and held it open.

"Welcome!" he said with a bright smile.  "The donation barrels are over there," he indicated the corner of the lobby.  "And the program will be in the gym."

"Thank you," Nat murmured as Nick pulled her over to the barrels to drop off their entrance fee.  The two of them put the bags into a barrel and hurried into the gym to find some seats at one of the many tables set up in there.  The gym was decorated with green and red streamers and mistletoe was hung over the doors, adding to the festive look.  A large, decorated Christmas tree stood in one corner with a big chair in front of it.  At the front of the room, a microphone stand stood in the center, flanked by an upright piano and a nativity scene.  They sat near the front and together, admired the life-sized nativity scene.  There weren't any people in it yet, but it did have a few life-like statues of animals sitting on the hay.  People filtered in, settling in seats and getting comfortable.  Nick took Nat's coat and left briefly to hang it and his own up.  He went back in and sat down next to her, again taking her warm hand in his colder one.

An older man stood up, walked to the front of the gym, cleared his throat, and picked up the microphone.  "We'd like to welcome everyone out tonight," he said with a smile.  He motioned to someone from the audience.  "We'd like to begin our program tonight with a prayer, and we've asked Mrs. Brown to say it."

Mrs. Brown took the mike, folded her arms, bowed her head, and offered a short, simple prayer.  Nick let out a long sigh as the feeling of peace he'd felt the night before settled more heavily on him.  It was almost Christmas, and it felt as if all was right with the world.

After the prayer ended, a ragged line of children dressed in Sunday best clothes walked in and arrayed themselves at the front.  A young woman followed, sat down at the piano, and started to play.  An older gray-haired lady got them started.  Almost together, and slightly off-key, the children began to sing.

"Stars were gleaming, shepherds dreaming
And the night was dark and chill.
Angels' story, manger glory,
Shepherds heard it on the hill.
Ah, that singing! Hear it ringing,
Earthward winging, Christmas bringing.
Hearken! We can hear it still!
Hearken! We can hear it still!"   

Nick gave Nat's hand a squeeze, envisioning their own children standing there eventually.  He brought her hand up and kissed the back of it gently.  She gave him a soft smile as the children finished their song.

"See the clearness and the nearness
Of the blessed Christmas star,
Leading, guiding, wise men riding
Through the desert dark and far.
Lovely showing, shining growing,
Onward going, gleaming glowing,
Leading still, our Christmas Star.
Leading still, our Christmas Star."

The children came to a ragged stop, then began a different song as two young people in costume, carrying a bundle wrapped in cloth walked in from the opposite door.  The young man and young woman knelt next to the manger, and the young woman laid the bundle in the straw in it.

"When Joseph went to Bethlehem
I think he took great care
To place his tools and close his shop
and leave no shavings there

He urged the donkey forward,
then, with Mary on its back,
And carried bread and goat cheese
in a little linen sack

I think there at the busy inn
that he was meek and milk
And awed to be the guardian
of Mary's sacred Child."

The children sang quietly as two older children dressed as Shepards walked towards the nativity scene and dropped to their knees.  "Joseph" leaned forward and smoothed the blankets over the bundle in the manger as the children finished their song.

"Perhaps all through the chilly hours
he smoothed the swaddling bands,
And Jesus felt the quiet strength of
Joseph's gentle hands

And close beside the manger bed
he dimmed the lantern's light,
And held the little Jesus close upon
that holy night."

The children finished their song and stood quietly as the adult choir came in and stood behind them.  They started singing the song he'd heard the previous night as three teenage boys dressed like the Three Wise Men walked in and presented their gifts to the infant.  The choir finished singing, and an older gentleman picked up the microphone and quietly read the Christmas story out loud from the stage.  Nat scooted her folding metal chair closer to Nick and laid her head on his shoulder.  He hugged her tightly as they listened in silence to the story.  

The old man finished reading and a younger man came up to the stage carrying an acoustic guitar.  He settled the guitar strap over his shoulder and picked up the mike.  "We have one last carol to sing before we go on to refreshments and what I'm sure the kids have been waiting for--Santa Claus." He said with a smile.  "I'd like everyone to join in; we're playing this one as it was first played."  He sat down, settled the guitar on his lap, strummed the opening chords, and began to sing in a strong baritone.  Everyone else joined in and sang with him.

"Silent night, Holy night
All is calm all is bright
'Round yon virgin Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace"

The atmosphere was quiet, reverent.  Nick let it seep into his soul as he sang softly with the rest of the audience.  The carol wasn't really that old; he predated it by several hundred years, but he remembered the first time he'd heard it on a cold December night a little over a century and a half ago.

"Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heav'nly hosts sing Alleluia;
Christ the Savior is born;
Christ the Savior is born."

Nick glanced down at Nat, happy that she was with him.  Everything always seemed better when they were together.  No matter how bad things got, she was his light in the darkness.

"Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love's pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth;
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth."

The song drew to a close, and they all sat in silence for a few minutes as the microphone was handed over to the man who'd opened the party.  "Everyone can help themselves to the refreshments," he said with an engaging smile.  "And if anyone would like to play some other Christmas carols, the piano is open."  He stopped for a moment.  "DO you hear what I hear?" he asked the nearest child.  Wordlessly the little girl shook her head.  "Listen everybody!" he said in a hushed whisper.  The room got even quieter and sleigh bells could be heard.

"Santa Claus!" one little boy squealed as a large, fat man dressed in a Santa suit came in to the room with a bulging sack slung across his back.

"HO HO HO HO!" he called.  The children scrambled out of their seats and places in line and hurried to the back where Santa was putting the bag on the floor.  He sat down in the chair and the first child climbed into his lap.

"Thank you for bringing me, Nick," Nat said.

Greatly daring, Nick leaned forward and brushed his lips across hers in a chaste kiss.  "Welcome," he said with his best charming grin.  

Detective Brown walked up and offered Nick his hand.  "Glad you could make it, Knight."

Nick shook his hand.  "It was nice," he said with a smile.

Brown nodded at the way the two of them were sitting.  "So is there anything I should know for the betting pool?" he asked with a gin.

"Not yet," Nat said.

"And we'd appreciate it if this didn't get around yet," Nick said.

"Will do; I remember what it was like when my wife and I got together... and it'll be worse for the two of you because we've been waiting so long."  Brown stuck his hands in his pockets.  "Enjoy the party." He wandered away to stand with his wife and little girl in the Santa line.

"How would you like to go and get something to eat?" Nick asked with a smile. "I made some reservations in case you were hungry."

Natalie smiled.  "Sound good."  She moved back a little, allowing Nick to stand.  He helped her to her feet.  They started towards the door until Nat stopped him.  "Look," she said pointing up.  

Nick looked up and saw the mistletoe they were standing under, then leaned in and kissed her softly, gently, teasing open her mouth with his cool tongue.  The vampire within him was strangely quiet for once as they kissed passionately.  They were so absorbed in each other that they didn't notice when a camera flash went off, capturing the moment for posterity.  The kiss ended as slowly as it began, and they walked out of the gym, gathered their coats and went to the car.

Nick helped her inside, shut her door, and climbed in himself.  "Nick?" Nat said as he started the car.

"Hmm?" he said.

"I--I'm not sure if we can find a cure yet with the current technology," she said softly.

"I know," he said, giving her a troubled look as he pulled the caddy out of its parking space in the full lot and turned into the street.

Nat bit her lip and reached for his hand.  "In twenty years, we might be able to do it," she said, tracing circles on his cool hand.  "By then, I'll be too old for any of our dreams... Bring me across?"

"Nat--I--"

"Nick, I know you've said that you won't condemn me to your darkness, but as long as we're together, it won't be dark for me."  Natalie gave him a pleading look.  "I *love* you," she said. "And if it takes me coming across, well, I'll just have to find a cure for both of us.  I'll ask LaCroix if I have to."

Nick hesitated for a few minutes.  "I'll think about it," he promised.  "I never want to be without you, Nat--I love you, too."  LaCroix had promised not to interfere in their relationship unless asked when Nat had gotten out of the hospital, but if Nat asked, Nick knew that his sire would not hesitate to comply.

"That's all I ask," Nat said quietly.  "Merry Christmas, Nick."

"Merry Christmas, Natalie," he answered.  Maybe she was right.  As long as they were together, nothing seemed that bad.  For the first time in what seemed like forever, he had found peace, love, and hope during the Christmas season.  With Nat by his side, perhaps he could keep it... forever.

End.

Songs: Il est ne le divin Enfant, Stars Were Gleaming, When Joseph Went to Bethlehem, and Silent Night.


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