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Chapter 3: Round the Twist

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Nick leaned back against the smooth black leather of the couch and sighed tiredly before reaching over to hit the message button on the answering machine. He grimaced as Captain Reese's voice echoed through the loft.

"Nick, IA is looking for you to give a statement concerning your partner's death and Commissioner Vetter is out for blood. Call the precinct immediately."

Nick hit the delete button and began to listen to the next message.

"Knight, where are you? I sent some uniforms by your place and they found nothing but a large pool of blood. Is Natalie with you? Are both of you okay? Call the precinct as soon as you get this!"

Nick ran his hand through his hair and frowned. He was too tired to try and deal with his captain right now, but the longer he put it off, the more the situation would deteriorate. He reached for the phone and dialed the familiar number. "I need to speak with Captain Reese, please," he said.

The desk sergeant connected him quickly and Nick grimaced as his boss's voice came over the line. "Reese here."

"Cap'n, this is Knight."

"Nick? Where are you? What happened? Are you and Natalie okay?"

"We're fine, Captain. We're at the loft--Nat is staying with me right now… and neither of us remember much about what happened."

"I'll accept that for now, Knight, but I want both of you in my office tomorrow night to give me everything you remember--is that clear? IA still needs to talk to you about Tracey's death as well."

"Yes, Cap'n. We'll both be in tomorrow, I promise." Nick ran his hand through his hair and grimaced as he heard Natalie stirring upstairs. "Captain, I need to go check on Nat, so…"

"Come by tomorrow night, Nick." The call disconnected with a click and Nick placed it back in its cradle. He flew upstairs, into the bedroom, and landed next to the bed.

"Nat?" he murmured, stroking her face tenderly.

She slowly opened her beautiful, blue eyes and smiled hesitantly. "Nick?" she rasped. "I dreamed that you left me." She closed her eyes and swallowed. "You said that you hated me, and then I died."

"Never," Nick vowed, pulling her close to him. "I'll *never* leave you, Natalie Anne Lambert. I promised you forever, remember?" He looked at her, and made an impulsive decision before he brushed a kiss against her forehead. "Marry me?" he murmured.

Natalie looked up at him, confusion all over her face. "Isn't this a bit… sudden?" she asked tremulously.

Nick shook his head. "Nat, I *love* you. I know it's hard for me to say that, but I *was* raised in the thirteenth century, and I've had years of trying to hide my feelings from both you and LaCroix." His eyes twinkled. "Marry me for all eternity?"

Nat hesitated. "I'm not sure I can promise eternity," she said slowly. "People split up all the time-how can I guarantee that we'll last?"

"You can't, I can't," Nick said earnestly. "But when I come from, divorce didn't exist. Whatever happens, I promise to work it out. I want to spend the rest of my days, nights, whatever loving you. And someday, we'll find a cure--then we can have the family that I saw in your blood."

Nat reached up and stroked his cheek with a trembling hand. "Yes," she breathed, threading her hand through his blond hair.

Nick leaned down, held her close, and captured her lips with his. Slowly, he touched his tongue to her lips, requesting entrance. Natalie opened her mouth under the insistent pressure and began a through exploration of his mouth with her own tongue. The territory was only quasi-familiar, but the feelings evoked had been long denied. Nick stroked the moist, slick surface, tangling his tongue with hers. He gasped against her lips as she began to stroke his fang buds, causing them to descend. He brought his hands up to her hair and tangled them in her curls before breaking off the kiss.

"Nat," he gasped. "Not like this--we've waited for so long, I want our first time to be special." The gold receded from his eyes and his fangs retracted as he leaned his forehead against hers. "We have eternity, ma cherie. I want to wait until after we're married."

Natalie took a deep breath and nodded. "I can't say I'm exactly happy with it, but I *do* understand." She looked up at him through downswept eyelashes. "Stay with me tonight? We don't have to do anything--I just want you to hold me."

Nick brushed a soft kiss against her lips before bowing. "As milady wishes," he said, his eyes twinkling. He gave her his little-boy grin before untangling himself and walking over to the dresser to pull out a pair of pajamas. He smiled, then headed to the bathroom to change clothes.

Nick emerged a few minutes later, slid under the covers, and opened his arms to her. Natalie snuggled close and put her arms around him. She laid her head on his chest as he began to stroke her back soothingly. Nick hugged her tightly and kissed the crown of her head. "I love you," he whispered.

Nat dropped a kiss on his chest and began to run her hand up and down his arm. "I love you, too," she said. "I guess we'd better get the guest room ready," she said, giving him a look of pure desire. "These new senses of mine are going to take some getting used to, so I'd better stay with you until I learn to use them--and frankly, I don't think I could wait until our wedding night if I'm sleeping in the same bed with you."

Nick laughed, and she could hear the rumbling deep in his chest. "We'll take care of it as soon as the sun goes down," he promised before yawning sleepily. Nat started to say something else, but looked up to see that Nick had fallen completely asleep in the time it had taken her to organize her thoughts. With a smile on her lips, she closed her eyes and drifted into the waiting arms of Morpheus.

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Daniel threw his ball against the wall and smiled at the thud it made. In a short space of time, his plans were beginning to mesh. He would be free of Lucinda, one way or another. He caught the ball and then threw it again, catching it as it bounced. If only Lucinda or his hated sire had seen fit to create another miserable vampire child, he might have a playmate. Perhaps then he wouldn't be so unhappy. Somehow he doubted it. Misery shared was misery doubled, after all. He had considered walking into the sun after it had become apparent that he would always be a lost boy, but Lucinda had caught him when he'd tried it after his fortieth birthday. She always made sure to chain him to the wall before the sun came up, now. He had no escape.

He started from his reverie as Lucinda poked her head through the doorway and spoke. "Danny-baby," she began. "Stop that infernal racket! We have guests coming tomorrow and you need to clean your room to make it presentable. Your examinations by the Council will be later this week as well."

Daniel grimaced. "Yes, Lucinda," he said with a sigh. Reluctantly he began to clean up, going over his escape plan in his head.

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"This is the Nightcrawler, gentle listeners. And tonight's topic is... Family. No matter what they do, we forgive them, for they will always come back. Everything comes down to Family and family responsibilities. In the end, my children, our families are all we have to share our world with. In the end, gentle listeners, your family will be all that is left to you.

"There is a sect of Christianity that believes that families can be together for all eternity. Think of it, my children of the night. Your family, with you forever, through eternities to come. So tonight, I ask, do you know where your families are? Are they safely tucked up for the night? Are you fulfilling your responsibilities to them?" LaCroix cut off his microphone and cued up the music. It was Peter and the Wolf tonight. True, it was a departure from his usual fare, but somehow his heart felt lighter than it had for quite some time. His Nicholas was returning to him, thanks to Natalie.

His Janette was all but dead to him--he could feel her distantly, but he was no longer her sire. He had created more children than Janette and Nicholas, but only those two had the right to be called his children. His beautiful, beloved ones; lost, but now returning. Thanks to his new granddaughter, Natalie.

Family was, after all, the only truly important tie to hold on to throughout the centuries. Ties that bind. They were bound by blood, and it would never fade. His children, his family. The fact that his golden child was returning to him was almost enough to make him smile; almost, but not quite. He hadn't been a Roman General for nothing.

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Natalie opened her eyes slowly and smiled when she found herself wrapped in Nick's lukewarm embrace. Strangely enough, his touch didn't feel as cool as it once had. True, his body temperature was probably still around ten degrees below normal, but he felt different. She snuggled up against his inert form and threw her arm over his waist. Perhaps it was the undeniable fact that he was now hers. She kissed him gently on the chest and smiled. Finally, she could publicly stake her claim. 'Eat your heart out, girls, Nick Knight is *mine*.' She was startled out of her thoughts by Nick's hand stroking her curls.

"Good morning," he said as she looked up at him. Nick leaned down and captured her lips in a sweet kiss.

"That's nice," she breathed as he broke off the kiss.

"Mon coeur," he said as he began to pepper kisses across her face, "m'âme," he kissed her eyelids. "Ma vie," he strung kisses across her cheekbones, "ma lumière dans les ténèbres."***

Suddenly, a horrible thought occurred to her--what if they found a cure for him, but her cure was completely different? How could she go for an eternity without him? "Nick," she whispered, as she put her small hand on his chest to still his movements. "I want you to bring me fully across," she looked up at his, sorrow in her blue eyes. "I don't want to be stuck like this--neither one nor another--for eternity, and my cure could be completely different from yours."

Nick cupped her cheek in his hand. "I--thought about it, when I found out what happened," he admitted. "But it's not possible, not anymore."

"What do you mean?" she asked, horror beginning to dawn on her face.

"The Council sent what little is known on your condition to LaCroix; and bringing you across is no longer possible." Nick rested his cheek on the top of her head. "It has been tried before, but it has always failed."

"Why?" she asked.

"We don't know, but the few that have become as you are have never survived long." Nick looked at her sorrowfully. "The vampires that made them what they were either abandoned them or were destroyed--and they died from starvation. M'âme, j'ai besoin de tu et tu a besoin moi."****

Silent tears began to run down Nat's cheeks. With everything that had happened, this new shock was overwhelming. Nick gathered her close to him and began to rock her gently back and forth. "Shhhh," he whispered. "This is *my* fault, mon coeur. I wish to God that I had been able to control myself, and hadn't condemned you to this--or that I had ignored everything and brought you across."

"No," she whispered. "Nick, *I* asked. This is just as much my fault as it is yours--and bringing me across would have destroyed something vital in you, and I couldn't stand that." Natalie reached up to stroke his cheek gently. "I love you, Nicholas de Brabant. I love you, and I need you." She clung to Nick, and his arms cradled her close to him.

"Reese called," Nick said finally. "He wants to see both of us; I told him that neither of us remember what happened. I said I found you in the loft, and that I was knocked out."

Nat wiped her face on her sleeve. "You do realize what this means?" she said with a slightly watery grin.

"No, what?" Nick looked puzzled.

"It means that *you* are going to have to wear a bandage." Natalie shot him a wicked grin. "As much as you like to pretend to be him, you're *not* Superman, you know."

Nick pretended to look injured. "Well, I *can* fly..."

Nat's eyes twinkled mischievously. "That's good, because I only marry men who fly. Now be a good eight hundred year old vampire and go get my medical bag so that I can fix you up."

Nick kissed her quickly, hopped out of bed, and saluted. "Yes, ma'am!" he said before leaving to go downstairs.

Natalie chuckled. Life with Nick would certainly be interesting. Even after six years, he could still surprise her, but she wouldn't have it any other way.

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Daniel sat in the middle of his bed in the nursery and pouted. He had been grounded for the night by Lucinda for some minor infraction. He flopped down on to the bed and sighed. At least his escape plan was coming together--and it would begin tonight. Soon, he would be free. Free from Lucinda, free from his sire, free to find his Princess. He was sure that she still loved him. After he found her, then he could free himself from his cursed existence. It was only a matter of time--and time was a thing he had in abundance.

Daniel pulled out a notebook and checked off something on his list. The distraction was in place, and it should all come off without a hitch. He was counting on everything being in turmoil to facilitate his escape. The added bonus to his plan was revenge-he would have it, and soon. It was his life; perhaps he could create some suitable companions. After all, it might be fun to have a gang of child vampires to hang with. They would at least alleviate his loneliness.

He smiled as he contemplated his plan. Soon, he *would* be free.

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Natalie hesitated before placing her fangs in Nick's neck and drinking. She felt his hands running up and down her back and heard his soothing voice in her ear as she drank the much-needed nourishment. She had been growing more comfortable with it, but she was still hesitant to bite her beloved. Feeling full, she withdrew her fangs and licked the last droplets of blood from his neck.

Nick drew her closer, so she rested against his chest. She rubbed his arm and sighed. "Still not comfortable with that?" he asked softly.

"No, not quite," she admitted. "The enhanced senses are easier to deal with--at least here at home. I'm not sure what would happen if I went back to work."

Nick started stroking her auburn curls and chuckled. "We'd probably have to find a dark corner at every crime scene."

"And we'd get called on PDA at every opportunity," she said with a wry grin. "I just don't like seeing you as... dinner," Nat said.

Nick kissed her lightly on the top of her head. "It'll get better," he promised. "Especially when the sharing goes both ways."

Nat looked up at him curiously. "Both ways?" she asked curiously.

Nick nodded. "Vampires need blood to... finish," he said, giving her the vampire equivalent of a blush. "The scrolls hinted that you do now, too."

"Oh," Nat thought about that for a minute. "What's it like?" she asked quietly.

"It's the most intimate act possible," Nick whispered huskily. "You and I are are mind-linked because I created you, heart-linked because of our love--and I believe we're soul-linked because you are my soulmate--your soul helped me find the remnants of my damaged one. M'âme, *you* are the one who has helped me begin to heal--I can't live without you. Blood-sharing will only strengthen our links, because it allows you to *know* another person totally, completely. And shared--" Nick shook his head, unable to continue.

Nat turned her face up, silently asking for a kiss. Nick brushed his lips against hers. "I love you," he murmured, allowing his eyes to change to gold.

"I love you, too," she said, golden bubbles welling up in her blue eyes. Nick leaned down to steal another kiss, but the moment was lost when Natalie started to try and tickle him.

"It won't work, Nat," he said, his eyes returning to their normal hue and glinting in mischief. "I'm not ticklish. LaCroix, is--but I'm not."

"The General, ticklish?" Nat asked, half-laughing.

"Ohhh, yeah," Nick said with a grin. "I found out by accident, a *long* time ago."

Nat regarded him with amusement. "Tell me later. I've been learning things about the vampire nervous system... about how every sensation is more intense because of our heightened senses." She smiled evilly. "My father was only ticklish under his arms--I'm sure that there's *one* place on you that's sensitive when I do... this." She ran her fingers down the inside of his arm and was surprised to get a snort of laughter.

Their conversation quickly degenerated into a tickle/pillow fight that left them gasping in laughter and the living are of the loft covered in feathers. It took quite a while to clean up, but it had left Natalie much more comfortable in her own skin than she had been since the change.

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Nick peeked into Natalie's room and smiled. His beloved was asleep in his guestroom where she belonged at the moment. It had been an eventful two weeks, but things had started to settle down. He had sent to Belgium for his ancestral jewels for Nat, gotten them cleaned, and given her a very special piece for their engagement present; a diamond, ruby, and sapphire pendant that his father had gifted his mother with.

Nat had promptly refused to ever take it off. To everyone's surprise, she had also refused to go back to the coroner's office--at least for the time being. The wedding was in two weeks, and he couldn't wait to finally be with her in every way possible.

He floated above the floor and glided slowly into the room. Nick kissed Natalie on the cheek before consulting his watch to confirm what his internal clock told him. The sun had gone down, it was his night off, and he had some shopping that had to be done, preferably before Natalie woke up. The cupboards were almost bare, and Natalie needed mortal food in addition to his blood.

Nick scribbled a quick note and left it on the pillow beside her head before grabbing his keys and heading outside. He drove the caddy to the grocery store and picked up the items. Opening the trunk, he started to load the bags into the car when he felt a sharp sting on the back of his neck. His last conscious memory was that of dropping the bag before descending into darkness.

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Translations:

*** Mon coeur=My heart,

M'âme=my soul,

Ma vie=my life.

Ma lumière dans les ténèbres=My light in the darkness.

**** M'âme, j'ai besoin de tu et tu a besoin moi. = My

soul, I need you as much as you need me.

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