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Chapter 2: Resuscitation

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Natalie's eyes opened as she felt a familiar presence approach. She licked her lips as she smelled something alluring. The scent was unlike anything she had smelled before. It smelled like hazelnuts mixed with freshly turned earth and ripened wheat with a hint of something… sweeter all mixed together. In short, it smelled… delicious.

Natalie looked up as Nick entered the room and licked her lips. *He* was the source of the appetizing smell. "Nick," she growled softly as her eyes became tinted a pale gold.

Nick hurried to her side, sat down on the bed, and offered her his wrist as he used the other hand to stroke her hair. "I'm sorry, Nat," he murmured as her small, new fangs extended and she sank them into his wrist.

Within seconds, she was pulling life-sustaining blood into herself. It satisfied her in a way that the hospital food had not, fulfilling a need that she had been unable to vocalize. She closed her eyes in ecstasy, tasting all that was Nick. His memories flowed through her, laced with his love. She saw his mortal home, his original family, his boyhood. Before she could see more, his wrist was gently removed from her grasp.

His wrist sealed quickly, healing the damage her new fangs had inflicted without a sign of it ever having been there. "That's enough, Nat," he crooned softly. "I don't want to collapse from blood loss and then have to explain my slow heart rate if the staff gets too close."

Natalie's eyes flashed dark gold and she growled softly before settling against him. "What was that, Nick?" she asked, slightly revolted, yet intrigued by what had just happened. The implications of what she had done hit her. She had drunk blood--but not just *any* blood, *Nick's* blood. And she had *enjoyed* it. Natalie shivered slightly and burrowed closer to him.

"You've… changed, Nat," Nick said as he kissed her on the forehead gently. "You're something different, and you need my blood to survive. You *needed* it."

He started to stand, but stopped as Natalie grabbed his shirt. "Don't leave me again," she begged. "You *promised*, Nick. You *promised* that we'd be together--that you'd bring me across if we failed. We'd have *forever*. Why am I this… freak? I'm not human, I'm not a vampire, but LaCroix said that I'm not a hunter, either. What the *hell* am I?"

"I… don't know, Nat," he offered hesitantly. "And as long as I'm here, we *will* have forever. I don't know how or why it happened, but you won't age, you won't die, and I'm afraid that you're stuck with me." Nick looked down, ashamed of what he had done to her.

Natalie wrapped one arm around him. "Then we can be… together?" she asked, hope on her face. She was still a little bit mad at him, but she loved him--and if they could finally be together, then it was worth it.

"I--think so," he said softly. "I'm not sure, Nat, but I need you as much as you need me. *You* are the first to understand me for centuries." Nick put his arms around her and hugged her to him tightly, burying his face in her hair. "I love you," he whispered.

"Don't you *dare* leave me again, Nicholas de Brabant Knight," Nat said, burying her face in his shirt. "I swear I'll track you down-I love you, and I don't *ever* want to be without you." She looked up at him with tears held back in her eyes.

Nick leaned down and cupped her cheek in his palm. "I won't," he promised before he leaned down to capture her lips with his. His kiss was tentative, as if he were afraid that, after everything, she would reject him. Slowly, their lips separated and Natalie leaned against him, content to have his arms around her without the fear that he would pull away. Nick began to pepper small kisses all over her face before he leaned down to kiss her again.

LaCroix walked in the room, followed by Natalie's doctor. "Nicholas," he began, "I have arranged for the good doctor to be released into your care." He glanced at Natalie and frowned. "The movers will bring her possessions to your loft tomorrow."

Natalie glared at LaCroix as the doctor began to speak. As much as she'd like to tell him off for his high-handed ways, she couldn't do it properly without letting loose a secret that outsiders could not share.

"Dr. Lambert," the doctor said, stepping forward. "I want you to take it easy, and you should be in for physical therapy starting tomorrow. Frankly, it's amazing that you're alive at all, not to mention the remarkable condition that you're in. I want you to rest, absolutely no strenuous activity, and especially *no* crime scenes." She handed her a folded sheet of paper before continuing.

"That should be easy," Natalie muttered, "since I've resigned."

"I want to see you in my office next week, but otherwise, you're free to leave," she finished.

Natalie murmured her thanks before turning her attention back to LaCroix. Noticing her apparent dismissal, the doctor left the room. She had other patients to see, after all.

"Why the shift in attitude, LaCroix?" she asked, narrowing her eyes. "I *do* remember what happened at Azure."

"Because, my dear doctor, *my* Nicholas now has a vested interest in your well-being. Or did he fail to mention that?" LaCroix asked silkily. "You die, he dies; the Council and the Enforcers will see to that. I refuse to lose my possession because of you, doctor." He said. A small smile stole over LaCroix's face. "And you, too, now belong to *me* through Nicholas. *You* are part of *my* family, and that means that you are also my possession. I do *not* give up what is *mine*."

Nat glowered at LaCroix from the safety of Nick's arms. "I don't belong to *anyone*, LaCroix."

"No? My good doctor, *your* survival is dependant on Nicholas'. *You* now need his blood to live. If you die, the council kills him. And since *he* belongs to me, why--so do you." A slow, evil grin spread over his face. "The Council said that *my* blood will do in a pinch--like father, like son, I suppose. Perhaps my son could be induced to… share."

Nat buried her face in Nick's chest. "You touch her, LaCroix, I swear--" Nick began.

"It would be better for *you* if you remembered who I *am*, Nicholas," LaCroix growled dangerously, hints of gold dancing in his eyes. "You *will* be at the loft within a few hours. She *must* be instructed on the code, and I will arrange some of your *proper* food to be delivered."

"No! I *won't* drink human blood," Nick said stubbornly.

"Oh, *yes* you *will*, mon fils. *You* may be able to subsist on that swill you drink, but she may get sick because of your *diet*. If you do not return to your natural food, she will *not* get what she needs from your blood. You *will* return to human blood, and I will see you *both* at the loft." With that as a parting shot, LaCroix left the room.

Nat shivered slightly and cuddled closer to Nicholas. Nick stroked her hair absently. "I'm sorry, Nat." he said. "I don't want anything to happen to you," he whispered. "There goes our search for a cure."

"No, Nick--there's nothing to be sorry for, and it isn't the end." She looked up at him and smiled. "We have forever, remember? If we can find a cure for you, then we can find a cure for me, too. And *when* we find it in fifty or sixty years, then we'll have the life in the sun together that we both want."

"But I'll have to drink human blood," he reminded her gently. "No more cow, no more protein shakes--if I'm not drinking the right kind of blood, then *you* could get sick because you won't be getting the nourishment that you need."

"Then we'll find another answer," Natalie said, hugging him tightly.

Nick leaned in to kiss her once more just as a nurse came in, pushing a wheelchair in front of her. "Dr. Lambert," she began. "We're releasing you, so if your friend will wait outside a few minutes, we'll get you dressed and then he can take you home."

Nick leaned in and kissed her softly before standing up. "I'll be right outside," he promised before heading toward the door.

Nat sighed, pushed herself off the bed, and began to dress. Home--with Nick. Now *that* sounded like an interesting idea. It was too bad that the doctor had outlawed any… strenuous… activity. Finally, Nick could make love to her fully without worrying about killing her and they had to wait. Murphy's Law, she reminded herself as she stopped to catch her breath. Slowly, she pulled her clothes on and lowered herself into the wheelchair. At least now, they could be together without fear of reprisals.

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Daniel stared at the fire engine and spun one of the wheels idly. He'd had the toy for as long as he could remember; he remembered the giver as he remembered his first days as a vampire. He had kept it close to him ever since as a symbol of his change. It had been fifty-three years of being trapped in the body of a twelve-year old. Fifty-three years of never ending childhood.

Once upon a time, he had envied Peter Pan, but not anymore. He had become one of the Lost Boys and was tired of it. He wanted to grow up. Bitterly, he wished that Lucinda had let him die long ago, and that he had never met LaCroix and Nicky. His princess hadn't deserted him--she had simply been forced into leaving by their master. He knew that if she knew that he was still alive, she would look for him. Unfortunately, she probably believed him to be dead, so Lucinda was the one who took care of him.

Lucinda and LaCroix had been lovers, once. He had seen it the last time her blood had healed him after he cut it too close. He wasn't sure that he understood it, but he had seen them together in her memories. He supposed that he should be grateful to her for taking him in; after all, he wasn't really her responsibility, but he wasn't at all thankful. By all rights, he should still be with his master, his sire--LaCroix.

He hated Lucinda. He hated how she treated him, and it was all LaCroix's and Nicky's fault. He threw the fire engine across the room and smiled as it hit the wall. "Take that, Nicky," he growled. His head shot up as he felt the presence of the two people that he hated most in the world enter the house.

Curious as to why they would come to see the Council, Daniel stood and crept silently to the back entrance of the room where they would be sure to meet. He lurked in the background, listening to the ruling of the Elders. He smiled as he heard the ruling and then slipped downstairs. Lucinda would be in to check on him soon; she didn't like him wandering around strange cities by himself, and he had never been to Toronto.

Daniel hurried back toward the room he was to occupy for the week they'd be in town and looked around. It was disgusting. Lucinda had put him in the old nursery of the house just as always. He pulled the dust cover off the bed and sat down on it with a grimace of distaste. It was unfortunate that the cleaning service couldn't arrive until the next day, so they had to live in filth for one night. He didn't mind messes, but the dust that covered everything was gross. Daniel laid his head on his knees and let himself dream of playing in the sun the way he had during his mortal life, before the war, so long ago.

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LaCroix stood in his office and examined the roll of paper before him. It was closed with the seal of the council, and he thought he knew what it might contain. Idly, he ran his finger over the seal, trying to decide if he should open it right away. With a decisive tug, he broke the seal and began to glance through the papers.

Surprise swept over him as he read the cover letter. Contained in the roll of paper was all the known information on the doctor's condition. Information from the archives was *not* usually dispersed so readily. After all, the archives were a written record of their kind--proof of their existence. He read over the missive once more, knowing that the records must be either hidden or burned once the information was committed to memory.

A slight smile passed over his lips as he noticed the signature at the bottom. Lucinda. They had been lovers on and off for over a thousand years, and she had never been one to allow him to operate on partial information. LaCroix tucked the papers into a folder before leaving his office. He took off from a dark corner of the alley behind The Raven and flew to Nicholas' loft, entering through the skylight.

He paced quietly across the room, noting the crates of blood that had been delivered. "LaCroix," Nick greeted him.

"Nicholas," he responded, crossing the large, open space and handing his son the sheaf of papers.

"What's this?" Nick asked curiously.

"A gift from Lucinda," he answered. "It's all of what is known about what your Natalie has become."

"Lucinda? Isn't she who you gave Daniel to?" Nick asked, his mouth twisting into a grimace of disgust.

"Yes," he answered. "Lucinda always wanted a child--so I gave her my little… experiment."

Nick nodded shortly. "Nat is asleep upstairs," he said, responding to LaCroix's unspoken question.

"She will be all right, Nicholas," LaCroix said, laying his hand on Nick's shoulder. "I have always thought that she would make a fine addition to our Family."

Nick shrugged LaCroix's hand off. "But *I* did this to her," he said harshly.

"Do not dwell in the past, Nicholas. What's done is done, and your Natalie will be fine." LaCroix reached out to stroke his son's shoulder gently. He was determined that the good doctor's condition would be good for all of them--he could finally have his son back. Not all of the centuries they had spent together had been as bad as recent years. Perhaps some of their old father/son relationship could be salvaged.

Nick closed his eyes wearily, submitting to the caress. "That doesn't change the fact that I *hurt* her," he said softly.

LaCroix sat down with a boneless grace. "You didn't mean to, mon fils," he said. "And now, she will be with you forever--I won't object." He smiled. "You can even keep your mortal 'job' if you wish."

"What is the price, LaCroix?" Nick asked.

"None," LaCroix grinned wolfishly, "for now. According to the papers, the good doctor should sleep for at least twenty-four hours now, and I wish for you to call me when she wakes. Nicholas, I *will* assist in her training. She *will* learn everything she needs to know, just as if she were brought fully across. Is that *clear*?"

Nick nodded slowly. LaCroix smiled once more before disappearing through the skylight.