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This story was inspired by April French's story "October." It got me thinking about the relationship between Nick and Lacroix. It is not a sequel of any kind and you do not have to have read that one to read this one. (But you should! It is a very good story.)

Choices
by Amanda Berendt
Copyright March 2004

    Natalie Lambert was on her way to Nick's apartment. He had called in sick to work tonight with no explanation. Of course, this was no big deal to Captain Reese or the rest of the night shift, but Natalie knew better. Nick never called in sick unless he had a good reason. She had tried calling him during her break, but there had been no answer. So, at the risk of being over protective, she decided to stop by the loft on her way home.
    Pulling into the gravel lot in front of the loft, she glanced up at his windows. Even though the sun had not yet risen, the metal shutters were down. Nick was home.
    It was more than just this one time of calling in sick. Nick had been different since Schanke and Cohen had died. He seemed to be withdrawing from her, and it appeared to be more than just simple grief. On the surface, everything was still fine. They talked and joked at work, but it was all more superficial than it had been. It was as if he was hiding something.
    She entered the alarm code and took the short elevator ride to the loft. Fleetingly, she wondered if she should have called first but then remembered that Nick would have sensed her approach.
    Opening the door, she saw Nick closing the refrigerator. He almost seemed surprised to see her.
    "Hey, Nat." He said, stepping away from the appliance. Casually, he picked up two empty wine glasses from the table, apparently hoping she wouldn't notice. He slipped them into the dishwasher and turned to face her once more.
    She motioned toward the dishwasher. "Am I interrupting something?"
    Nick smiled. "Not at all." Stepping around the table, he met her on the other side. "To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?" He asked, changing the subject.
    She shrugged. "Nothing really. I just heard from Tracy that you had called in sick and when I called earlier, you didn't answer. So..."
    "You thought you'd check up on me."
    Not wanting to admit her over-protectiveness, she averted her eyes. "Well..."
    "Nat," he put his hand on her arm. "I'm fine. I just needed to sort some things out."
    "Did you get them sorted out?" She asked, with a little more edge than necessary.
    Nick picked up on her annoyance. "For now." He paused and studied her face for a moment. "What's wrong, Natalie?" His tone turned serious.
    She sighed. "I don't know." She took a deep breath and ran her fingers through her hair. "That's the problem, Nick. I don't know what's wrong, or if there _is_ anything wrong. You wont talk to me anymore. Ever since the accident you've shut me out."
    Nick made a move to comfort her, but she pulled away. "You know," she said, backing up. "Maybe I shouldn't have come here. You've obviously decided you can talk to someone else." She motioned to where the two glasses had stood on the table.
    Before Nick could respond, she turned and fled from the apartment, retreating to the world of daylight where she knew he could not follow.

    A few nights later, Natalie was in the coroner's office preparing samples for the lab with her assistant Grace Balthazar. The two women were laughing about something the night janitor had said earlier, when the door opened behind them. Nick stepped silently into the room.
    Grace quickly picked up on the tension between her boss and the detective. "These are finished. I'll just run them over to Ray in the lab so he can get started." She said grabbing the samples and heading to the doorway.
    When she had gone, Nick stepped further into the room. "Nat, about the other day..."
    She began to clean up the supplies from the counter, but didn't respond.
    Stepping up behind her, he continued. "Nat, please. I admit I haven't been up front with you lately."
    Natalie stopped what she was doing, but still did not turn around.
    He sighed and kept speaking. "You're right. I haven't been talking to you... _really_ talking to you. But I was afraid you'd take it the wrong way. I thought you wouldn't understand."
    "What wouldn't I understand?" She asked, finally turning to face him. He face was a mask hiding the turmoil within her mind.
    "I've been seeing a lot of Lacroix since the crash."
    This was not what she had been expecting. Not knowing what to say in response, she just stared at him.
    Nick took a deep breath. "It was Lacroix at the loft the other day." He offered no more information.
    Natalie recovered her voice. "Why?" It was a voice full of defeat. Had Nick changed his mind about wanting to become mortal? Was this some scheme of Lacroix's to bring his son back into the fold? Her brain was reeling from so many questions.
    As if reading her mind, Nick's face softened. "Don't worry, Nat. I'm not giving up." He said meeting her worried gaze.
    Natalie still didn't know what to say.
    "Nat," He said in a calm voice as he put his hands on her shoulders. "It's just," He paused as if searching for the right words. "with all that's happened lately. I needed to talk."
    Anticipating her response, he continued before she could speak. "I needed to talk about the vampire... to work things through. Lacroix was the only one who could help me with that."
    Finally recovering her composure enough to formulate a thought, she spoke. "That all? And he just accepted that... with no conditions?" She was well aware that the older vampire rarely, if ever, did anything for anyone, including his son, unless he was able to gain something from it.
    Nick grinned in an effort to lighten the mood. "Not at first, but he came around. I have a feeling he's taking what he can get, right now."
    Natalie relaxed somewhat. "So are you okay, now?" She asked, relieved they were talking once more.
    There was a silence before he spoke. "I've come to terms with some things. I *do* want to be human again someday, but," he paused. "I can't ignore the fact that for now I'm not."
    Natalie looked at him. For the first time she saw no regret in his eyes. He was not apologizing for what he was, just simply stating the facts. She didn't know whether to see this change in attitude as a step forward or a step back.
    He smiled at her. "Lacroix has helped me to finally realize that some good things have come from my being what I am."
    Always the skeptic, Natalie crossed her arms. "Like what?"
    "You." His answer made her jaw drop. "I have always focused on the the death and misery I had caused through the years. Lacroix helped me discover all the positive things. Just in this life, think of all the times I was able to save Schanke's life because of what I am. He even reminded me that you and I would never have met if I hadn't been brought across."
    They stood in silence for a moment, neither knowing what to say. Natalie was in shock to learn that the man she had always thought of as evil incarnate appeared to truly care for Nick.
    During that moment of silence, the door to the lab opened and Grace stepped in. "Oh, I'm sorry. It was so quite in here I thought you two had left." She began to back out of the lab.
    Nick held up his hand. "No, Grace. It's OK. We're finished. I have to get back to the precinct anyway." He moved to the doorway, but paused before stepping thought.  "Nat, why don't you stop by after your shift and we can talk." Natalie nodded and smiled as the detective stepped through the door.

    Outside the morgue, Nick walked down the steps to the caddy and was surprised to see Lacroix there, calmly leaning against the passenger side door.
    "Good evening, Nicholas."
    The surprise of fining his master outside was quickly replaced by curiosity. "Were you listening to our conversation?"
    The older vampire paused, as if in thought. "Perhaps." He drew in a deep breath of the cool night air, despite the fact that it was not necessary, before continuing.         "You do realize, Nicholas, that you left out one very important individual who has benefited greatly by your existence as a vampire."
    "Who?"
    Lacroix smiled. "Myself." He then became very serious - drawing himself up to his full height and stepping away from the car towards Nick. "Nicholas, the reason why there are so few of us 'ancients' still living is because they lack anything for which to live." He paused and stepped closer to his son. "I shall never have that problem." The older man caressed the younger man's cheek gently before silently disappearing into the night.

~Fin~