|ick felt as if he was becoming disconnected from reality. Everything had a very surreal feel to it. Reese, Tracy, Feliks. He was pulling out all the connections he had to this life, to any life, one by one, removing all his life support.|
|him. He had lots of little details
to take care of. For starters, he had to mail these papers to the
The phone rang. Nick let it ring as he began placing the papers Feliks had brought in manila envelopes that were pre-addressed and contained detailed instructions for the dismantling of his life.
The answering machine picked up.
Nick sealed envelopes efficiently while his disembodied voice spoke in the background.
There was a moment of silence, then, "Nicholas..."
Nick looked up. He should have realized LaCroix would resort to more conventional means.
"Pick up the phone. ... Please."
After a moment, Nick walked across the room and regarded the phone as if it was his most dangerous enemy. Then he picked it up.
"LaCroix," Nick said by way of greeting.
"Nicholas, what are these feelings Iím receiving?"
"You know what they are," Nick said softly, wearily. He closed his eyes.
"You cannot do this, Nicholas. I gave you this life to live. Not to throw it away."
"Iím not throwing it away."
"Then what would you call it?" LaCroix asked, a dangerous edge infiltrating his tones.
"Bringing it to a natural conclusion."
"There is nothing natural about this..."
"And there is nothing natural about this life, LaCroix. Letís not play with semantics. Iím tired of fighting, tired of all of this. I just canít do it anymore."
"So you are giving up? Is that worthy of a Crusader?"
"No, Iím not giving up. Iím moving on."
"To what, Nicholas? Into darkness? Nothingness?"
"How can you possibly know there is a God, or what, if any existence continues beyond the here and now?"
"I just know," Nick said quietly. "I always have."
"The words of the priests of your childhood no longer bear resemblance to what they preach now, Nicholas."
"I know that, too, LaCroix. The difference is that I finally know that men have changed religion for their convenience throughout history. But God has not changed. If we search for him, we can find him, and we can know."
"That is utter rubbish. Religion is and always has been a mechanism to control the rabble. It is a fabrication, Nicholas."
"Perhaps organized religion is, but behind it, there is a God. I know it; you know it."
LaCroix changed tactics, "Donít you love your life, Nicholas?"
Nick closed his eyes. "Yes," he said softly. "Iíve always loved life, thatís why I became your creation. For the love of lifeóand the fear of death. And it is the only thing I have to offer up to God freely as a sign of my repentance."
"Nicholas," LaCroix began, but Nick cut him off.
"LaCroix, please, donít. There are no arguments left. There is nothing you can say that I havenít already said, that I havenít examined or searched. The decision I have reached is one that didnít come lightly or impulsivelyóitís one forged by every experience and moment of my life."
"Are you sure of that? If the dear Doctor had remained loyal, would you be here at this precipice?"
"Not today, no," Nick said, "but I stood at this point when I met her. Without her, it would have happened long ago. And if she was still in my life, it wouldnít happen until she was gone. But in the end, I would still be here. A few years or decades is of little significance. Iíve been on this road a long time. And you know it.
"LaCroix, I donít want to hurt you. I donít want to hurt anyone by this, but I canít go on, and I canít go back. I just canít..."
There was silence for a long moment.
"My son...," LaCroix whispered, "do not do this thing. Wait until I return. We can, we must find another way. Do not... please, Nicholas."
Nick felt his grip tighten perilously on the phone, and at last tears slid down his face. "Iím sorry," he said. "You have been everything to me. Iím sorry so much of the time we were at odds. It has always been my nature to struggle for the impossible, seek the unobtainable, and not value what Iíve had. But I cannot stay or stop this. Thank you for your friendship...and your love...father. Thank you for everything."
"Nicholas!" LaCroix cried out, but Nick took the phone from his ear, and hung it up. But he could not help hearing LaCroixí last impassioned plea, "I love you..."
He quietly picked the phone up again, and left it off the hook. There was now no turning back.
He finished the envelopes, and leaving the house, he flew to the nearest post box, and after a momentís hesitation, mailed them. Then he returned to the loft.
With those letters, lawyers would dispose of his income, Feliks would take power of attorney for the Foundation, his goods would be disposed of, and the loft sold. The loose ends were tied up. He looked out the window, and saw the nightís darkness had not yet loosed her grip. He had an hour yet before dawnís coming. An hour.
He walked to the fridge and opened it, to stare one last time at itís contents. A single bottle was left. It was human. It was odd, Nick supposed, that he would choose for his last meal, that which he had eschewed for so many countless years. But somehow, like the condemned, he chose to savor that which he loved, no, hungered most for, prior to departing this life. And since it was donated, he allowed himself to let go of the guilt that plagued himójust this once. This one last time.
He poured a glass, and then with bottle in hand, walked to the sofa and sat down to contemplate how he had arrived at such a difficult place in his life. As Nick had told LaCroix, it had been inevitable since the night heíd been brought across, but it was the loss of Natalie that had finally left him at this point with no other avenues or options. There was nowhere for his weary soul to find rest except with God. He was so very tired of the fight, tired of always losing.
Heíd lost his humanity.
Heíd lost his soul.
Heíd lost Natalie.
He took a drink and savored it. Natalie. And he remembered the moment when he let her go, made her go...
"I met him at the center," she said in a low voice. Nick watched her fidget with her hands. The center, Nick knew, was the Center for Literacy where Natalie volunteered once a week. Sheíd started doing that to find some balance in her life. Too much darkness, too much night shift. Too much Knight, Nick thought, but heíd never said it. Because he wanted her to be happy.
"Iím not in love with him, but I could be, Nick. If I give it a real shot." She smiled crookedly at Nick. "The problem is, I donít want to. I want to give this a shot," she spread her hands out to encompass him, the room, their life. "But Iíve been giving it a shot for six years."
"And weíre still at the same place," Nick said quietly.
"Yeah. What do I do, Nick. I love you," she said, and Nick closed his eyes at the pain, but then opened them to let her in. If they had nothing else, at least they had honesty.
Nick closed the distance between them and took her hands in his. "Natalie," he said in a low voice, "I love you. But I love you too much to hold you back from being happy. And you arenít happy. We live in a place of frustration and pain, and itís not your fault.
"Nick...," Natalie began.
"No, let me say this, now. If I donít, I might not have the courage to ever say it. I want you, Natalie. More than anything. But it isnít going to happen. At least not now, and most likely if it does happen, if I do find my mortality, not in a timeframe that will let us be together. I think we know that. If science has the answers, itís going to take time. A lot of time. And you donít have time. Only I do.
"And not only that, Iím not the best patient. I get impatient and frustrated. I fail to follow the doctorís orders. Iíve hurt you by that, I know. But I am what I am, and change is not easy. There are aspects of what I am that are so desirable and so addicting, that I give in to them far too easily. I forget what I want most, Natalie, for what I want right now."
Nick stopped, and leaned his forehead against Natalieís.
"So what are you saying, Nick?" Natalie asked with tears blurring her voice.
"Iím saying that you should walk away from this. While you can. Take your heart and see if you can find happiness with this man. If you can find love, then do it. He can give you a whole heart. One that hasnít been damaged almost beyond repair by his choices. And Natalie, he can give you children and a home. Family. I canít."
Natalie began to cry silently into Nickís shirt, and he clutched her close, tears blurring his own vision.
"I donít want to, Nick," she whispered.
"I know. I donít want you to either, but you must. This is your chance, Natalie. Take it."
Natalie looked up at Nick. "What about you? What about us?"
"Iíll be fine, Nat. Yes, Iíll be jealous, but youíll never see it, I promise. Iíll stay away. Weíll put this back to a business only relationship, Nat. Weíll let it go."
"But the cure?"
"If I need to wait for another lifetime, and more science, I will. If it intrudes on your happiness, then itís got to go."
"Itís not fair," Natalie cried.
"Life has never been fair, Natalie. It just is. And I will do this for you. Because I love you more than life itself. I love you more than anything. And because of that, Iíll wait until another time for a chance for a cure. Iíve got plenty to work on as it is."
"I donít know if I can...," Natalie began.
"Yes, you can," Nick said firmly taking her by the shoulders and looking deep into her eyes. "If you have reached the point where you can look at this man and find him attractive and interesting, you can. If you think you might love him and you have the courage to tell me, then you canóand you must."
Natalie closed her eyes. "I donít know how."
"Then let me help," Nick said.
Natalie furrowed her brow. "What do you mean?"
"Open yourself up, and let me in."
"Hypnotize me? NO!"
"You must. Let me do this. I can ease the pain, and help you walk away."
"Oh, Nick...," Natalie wept.
"Itís the only way, Nat. Otherwise, youíll end up alone and lonely if that cure doesnít happen soon. So let the cure go. Let me go," Nick pleaded.
"How will you bear it, seeing me walk away? How will you live with it, knowing I no longer remember how much I love you?"
"Iíll bear it the way I bear everything else. Because I must. And Iíll be happy because youíre happy."
"Promise me one thing," Natalie said finally weeping openly.
"If it doesnít work with Kyle, youíll bring my memories back."
Nick was silent for a moment, and then said quietly, "I promise."
Natalie stared into his face with such longing and desire and hopelessness that Nick felt his heart break.
They stared at each other, standing at the precipice,
knowing there would be no going back. Natalie put her hands up on Nickís face and pulled him to her, kissing him desperately, hungrily, hopelessly, and Nick responded, pulling her tightly into his arms.
And then as his fangs dropped and desire and love turned to lust and hunger, Nick pushed her back.
"Natalie," he whispered, reaching into her mind, catching her heartbeat, "open yourself to me, let me in, trust me completely."
"I do," Natalie wept, staring into his eyes.
"Then listen to me, hear only me..."
And she had trusted him, and heard only his voice. When she had left
the loft that day, she had left as a friend and colleague, not a lover.
She had never been back. He had given her heart back to her, and
freed her to go forward into a sunlit life.
"...heís such a jerk. He acts like he knows everything. How
does he knowóanymore than anybody elseóhuh?"
"...we are here to become like him, not for him to become like us..."
He stood on the roof of the loft staring at the stars and made a quantum
leap in his view of God. God wasnít what his mother had taught
him at her knees, or what the priests taught now. He wasnít to be
defined by anyoneís ideas or particular hopes and dreams. He wasnít
part of anyoneís political agenda. He was God. who Carla had said
wanted her to become like him. The words in the Bible suddenly had
new meaning. Things he had held true suddenly shifted and fell apart
He smiled slowly. It was true. Heíd been pulled down for so
long, but he felt the strength and courage seeping into him. Though
terrified of what was to come, he felt full of power and strength.
He had the power to bind the vampire and free his soul. And he would
LaCroix, far away in Quebec closed his eyes and wept, as his link to Nicholas disappeared in a blinding flash of light.
And Nicholas, to his joy and surprise found out that, indeed, God was not
what people said he was as he knelt at his Saviourís feet and wept.
*Full of Grace, by Sarah McLaughlin
In it's defense, may I say that if Nick's basic desire was redemption,
and he if
he could not achieve it as a vampire, then this is a logical and perhaps the only
choice that would free him to reach his goal. Whether God would judge
vampires by the same rules as mortals, is...a debate for another time.<g>
Comments would be appreciated...but flames will be doused before
my email account catches fire...<g>