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After All
by Amanda Berendt
Copyright 2003

    Dr. Natalie Lambert sat at her desk in the Coroner’s building. She slowly massaged her temples. The past few days had been a bitter frosting on the wild roller coaster ride of the past year.  Following Schanke and Cohen’s deaths, Nick had been reverting back to the vampire. He was becoming closer to Lacroix. She knew he still wanted mortality, but the devastation of the past year would not be easy to overcome. She had already talked him out of moving on once.

The moon makes ribbons to surround you
With the robe of dark around you
I see goodbye
A blade that cuts me from your eyes
I wonder why

     Earlier that evening she had talked with Nick about Laura’s suicide and how it was not such a bad idea. Again, he refused to bring her across. When she asked him, he said it was because he couldn’t condemn her to was in the darkness. But it was, at least partly, he own choice.

It’s time for honesty and answer
Love is the song - we are the dancers
A broken pair - we spin alone
And wonder where - the touch has gone

     She had known Nick for only about six years, but they had grown so close and gone through so much in that short period of time. There was an unspoken love between them that neither was willing to admit.

After all this time
After all we’ve been through
Is this all that we have
No - we still have time
To find each other - after all

     Before they could finish their conversation earlier that evening, Nick had been called away because of a situation at the precinct. After over an hour of thinking, Natalie realized Nick might be right. Perhaps bringing her across was not the answer. That part of living was dealing with the deaths of loved ones. She was just about to pick up the phone to call Nick so they could talk about this, when it rang. Startled, she picked it up. “Lambert.”
    “Natalie, it’s Joe Reese. Is Knight there with you?”
    Her stomach turned at his tone. “No, he left for the precinct over an hour ago. Did something happen?”
    “There was an accident at the station.”
    Natalie gasped, “Oh my god, what happened?”
    The captain gave an audible sigh. “There was a shooting. Detective Vetter was in the line of fire.”
    “Is she going to be all right?”
    Another long sigh, “It doesn’t look good.”

I touch your face and feel you crying
Are all the words we’ve said been lies
We’ll never leave - the place where hearts
Alone receive - what love believes

     It was only about an hour or so before dawn as Natalie sat on the couch in Nick’s loft waiting. She turned as she heard the elevator grind to life. The door slid open and Nick stepped out. She stood up and met him halfway. “Tracy Vetter passed away twenty minutes ago.”

     After taking in the shock, Nick stood at the window staring out over the city - the weight of the world on his shoulders, “Lacroix thinks I’m a fool... bearing this guilt, trying to somehow atone for what I’ve done. Maybe he’s right. All that’s ever come of it is pain. And more death.”
    Natalie stopped him gently. “That’s not true.”
    “Tracy... Cohen... Schanke,” his voice almost broke on the final name. “How many others over the centuries... because of what I am?”
    “How many lives were you able to save because of what you are? You’ve done more than make up for what you’ve done.”
    Nick shook his head. “It’s not enough. It’s never enough.”
    He took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. “I’m leaving, Nat. Tonight.”
    She was stunned. After a moment she said, “Not without me.”

After all this time
After all we’ve been through
Is this all that we have
No - we still have time
To find each other - after all

    He turned to face her, “I’m leaving because of you... to get away from you.” He paused. “You don’t want my love, Natalie. All it will do is destroy you.”
    Natalie touched his arm. “There is a way... there is one cure that we haven’t tried. Janette became mortal by making love to Robert... taking just a little at a time...”
    “It was a lot more complicated than that, Nat.”
    “I’m willing to take my chances that it wasn’t.”
    Nick turned away again. “I’m not. And what if I take too much.”
    Natalie’s voice softened, “Does Lacroix ever talk to you about faith?”
    “In what?”
    “In yourself... in an afterlife... in a greater being who loves us and forgives us - no matter who we are or what we’ve done?”
    He shrugged her off. “Faith is a mortal folly.”
    She moved closer to him. “I won’t accept that the sum of our existence can be measured in the few short years we’re alive here. If that were true, everything we believe would be meaningless. Our lives here would be meaningless. I know that’s not true and so do you.” He looked at her as she continued. “You have faith, Nick. And if it’s a mortal folly, then you’re the most mortal man I’ve ever known.”
    “What are you saying?”
    “I have faith that there is a future for us... Here as we are now... Or somewhere else... I believe in you. I trust you.”

Within the deepest darkness
The seed of morning waits to grow
The sun will come - this much I know

    Natalie took his hand. “Make love to me... take a little at a time.”
    He tensed. “I’m afraid of what might happen.”
    “Don’t be. I’m not afraid to die. Or of living an eternity of darkness. As long as I spend it with you.” Turning to him and cupped his face in her hands. “All I have is faith... and love. All I’m asking is for you to love me.” She looked deeply into his eyes. “I trust you.”
    He turned his face away for a moment, and when he turned to face her again, his eyes were gold and his fangs were extended.

After all this time
After all we’ve been through
If we hold together - just one more night
We’ll find forever - after all

    Nick looked deeply into her eyes. “Whatever happens... we’ll be together...”
    Natalie closed her eyes and added, “Forever.”