Natalie arrived and let herself in, coming up to find Nick still faintly blood-stained from the sheer sweat of his fearful dreams.
"Nick, your voice on the phone..."
He shifted, taking note of her, seeing her in the low light of his apartment. She was beautiful, flush with life and vitality. He could hear her heart in her chest, could almost feel the blood rushing just under the skin when she took his hand.
He had killed her, in his dream, and she was still at risk, with his hunger growing steadily just in her presence, a reminder that he had not replenished himself.
How easy it would be...
"Natalie, you are not safe here. I should not have called you," he said, his voice growing crisp and tight with his sudden knowledge that as much as he needed to see her, to know she was not dead or dying, he should not have brought her into his home, where she was far from safe.
Natalie looked at him, and her eyes went narrow as she did. "Nick, you don't get to do this to me! I'm your friend, you're hurting, and I will not let you throw me out!"
"But I... you are in grave danger!"
"From you?" Natalie glared fiercely at him. "Nick, how many times are we going to cross this same bridge, huh?" She stepped more boldly into his space, staring down at him where he sat, taking his other hand as well. She held both of them, squeezing as tight as she could, and the pressure was strangely reassuring, a tether to self-control, for Nick.
"Don't you 'Nat' me, mister." She let go of his hands and fell onto the couch beside him. "See? Me, the doctor, unafraid of you, the cop."
"You know it goes far beyond our professions," Nick protested.
"What I know, Nick, is that you look like hell, and we're not going up to the precinct at all, unless we get called in," Nat told him.
"I can't do that," Nick told her, frowning at the life-like memories of the dream, and Tracy's fate. "The captain...."
"....knows just where you are because I had stopped in at the station on my way. He thinks you're overworked, had already sent Tracy out of the station for trying to come in early looking like she hasn't slept in days."
Nick pulled his head back in surprise, then thought over the last few shared shifts, and realized the captain and Natalie had assessed Tracy better than he had. "We wanted to crack the Montel case," he pointed out.
"And you did, with only paper work and follow-up left, which can wait one more night." Natalie reached out for the remote to his windows, opening them to allow the earliest night sounds in, before firmly planting herself too close to him for him to escape her companionship.
Or her scent, which Nick had to admit was striking him on two very different levels. Yes, he hungered, and his nature called for him to feed, but he also could distinguish her shampoo and soap scents, realized he had noticed she had changed them recently.
Somehow, that distinction mattered to him as critical to being who he wished to be, a man in control of himself. He closed his eyes against the heat of his more base nature, focusing on the scent of Natalie's hair, not the sound of her life coursing through her veins, working the smell into a talisman to hold on to. It was a primitive show of transference, little better than throwing his full faith in a God who had no time to listen to the petty affairs of lesser beings.
It worked, though, and Nick soon opened his eyes to see her watching him so steadily, so trustingly. How she could know, having seen so many things, and still give him that trust with no reserve was a mystery of the first order.
"We could always play charades," he said, letting his voice lift, and accepting her smile as more than just amusement. It meant she knew he had accepted her stubborn insistence to stay with him that night.
Somehow games and soft conversation had led to the pair of them sprawling out on the floor. A chess board was now forgotten to one side, as were the two bottles of wine, and the glasses they had used. Natalie had not even fussed over him drinking the special mixture he kept, even as she ordered food in for them.
Nick had tasted the food, made a show of choking it down, and then once Natalie had laughed, proceeded to ignore the rest of her attempts to share with him.
Now, side by side, staring up at the ceiling, Nick felt the last vestiges of the dream holding on to him, demanding the sharing of his daymare with someone who had been caught up in it so fiercely.
Natalie listened, fingers twining with Nick's as he kept himself calm enough to relate it all, including the death he had tasted as he woke to the fleeing sunlight.
"I fear everything in that, save possibly my own death. And I wonder what possible meaning it has?" Nick said at last.
Natalie considered, weighing it all before offering an opinion. "I think Janette would say it is time to move on," she said, amazed even as the words came out of her mouth. "You've grown connected to everyone, and now you know, on a subconscious level that others may figure it out, and that they are in danger because of that."
Nick stared at her, wondering when his 'sister' had possessed Nat. Then again, Nick would not put it past Janette to have decided to cultivate Natalie just to keep better eyes on him.
"I don't want to," Nick admitted. "Is that why I dreamed I died as well?"
"Maybe. Maybe it's part of your defeatist nature saying only death can take you away from being a vampire. I'm no psychoanalyst, and I'm definitely no fortune teller." She squeezed at his fingers. "I don't want you to move on alone. I don't like the idea. We've come so far."
"I don't know about that, Nat. I still don't like food, and your efforts to assist my other … issues have had very limited success," Nick answered her.
The next thing he knew, Natalie was sitting up, his hand all but flung aside, and she was glaring at him.
"You think that's the only reason I don't want you gone? That the only thing I would measure as 'coming so far' is your progress to become human?" she demanded of him.
Nick, despite eight hundred years and counting of dealing with the living condition would have to admit he knew nothing of women. Nat must have seen this in his face, because the woman was up on her feet, finding her shoes and purse with all intentions of leaving.
Nick rose swiftly catching her before she could reach the door. "Nat..."
"Let go, Nick. I'm upset and I can't deal with you right now."
There were tears that Nat was refusing to shed, and Nick felt like his heart gave a resounding thump to notice them. He shook his head as he understood.
"Nat, I can never afford to assume you might be talking about something other than a professional note to our dealings," he told her. "I don't want to hurt you, and here we are talking about me possibly needing to move on."
"And I said I don't want you to do it alone," Natalie told him, as blunt in her tone of voice as she knew how to be.
It hit with all the power of a stake through the heart, and was nearly as devastating. "You can't go with me; it's all about breaking ties, associations that can mark you," he pointed out.
"Bullshit, Nick." She laughed, bitter and harsh. "If that was the case, you and Janette wouldn't have stayed together as long as you both have implied at different times. Lacroix wouldn't have kept you on a choke chain so often." She looked into his eyes, seeing the argument building there. "I can't say that I wouldn't have ever made the request of your nightmare, Nick. Maybe not for quite those reasons, but I know I don't want to lose you. I don't want to lose us."
"Now, more than ever, I'd refuse," Nick told her firmly.
Nat did not let that deter her. "Doesn't mean I can't be a part of your nights, for whatever time we manage," she pointed out.
"Then don't leave here now," Nick said, impulsively. Her words were rattling him, but at the same time, he suspected if she left, there would be new repercussions of the kind to damage them forever.
Only, they didn't really have forever, did they?
Natalie drew in a deep breath. "How awkward do you think it will be if I stay now?"
Nick leaned in and kissed her forehead. "Not at all. You've given me things to think about, certainly, but... I think you need to make the next chess move, and I refuse to let you win this time."
The deflection to an innocent pastime was welcomed, as Natalie settled and put both purse and shoes back in their proper place, ready to put the weighty conversation on hold.
Nick stretched fitfully, then became aware of the body beside him. Natalie had stayed the night and now day, joking that she was there to fend off the daymares from returning.
Shockingly, it had worked. Nick couldn't remember feeling so rested, so alive and alert, in a very long time.
When she opened her eyes and caught him staring at her, she gave a nervous half-laugh and smile. "I know my hair looks horrible after sleeping, but still..."
"No, you're beautiful like you always are," Nick flattered, but there was truth there too. The very tousled look she was complaining about was terribly endearing. "No, I was watching you and thinking."
"Uh-oh. Watch out, Toronto," she teased him. "Detective Knight has been thinking!"
Nick chuckled, but then he got serious. "Death is one more form of running away. I think the dream was my brain telling me I was too close, and because of that, I should run," he told her.
"And..." She drew out the word into a question.
"I'm not running any more. I won't let being me be a danger to those I care for, not if I can help it, but when I walk away, it will be on my terms this time. Not running from Lacroix, not running from witch-hunts, nothing but me recognizing the time has come." Nick took her hand, holding it between them. "And no matter what, you will be the only regret I could have, in leaving, Nat. I care for you, and our friendship runs deeper than any I think I have ever known."
Natalie took a moment to find her voice. "Nick, when it come time... we'll cross that bridge. But until then..." She squeezed his hand, then slid up enough to kiss his cheek. "...we've got all the time in the world, really. So here's to a long friendship?"
"I think we left the wine by the couch, but yes," he responded, tucking her in close to just hold, savoring the feeling of not being alone.