Hope for the Future
by Judith Freudenthal

LaCroix held the stake in the air ready to strike when he suddenly moved too fast for even Nick to comprehend. Age did have its benefits.

Suddenly Nick felt a pain in his wrist then before he could question LC he felt his wrist firmly being held in place over Natalie's mouth.

Nick was torn between struggling and allowing her to drink from him.

"Why?" Nick asked.

"I did not want to watch the guilt tear you apart as you regretted your decision. You might not regret it now but you would, whether it took a day or a hundred years. It would consume you. I could not bear to watch that. Nor can I bear the thought of it driving you to seek the sun or someone else to stake you. Also did you not promise to stay with her forever?"

Nick regretted his words to her even though he had meant every word he had said to her. A part of him hated her for pushing him into this so fast, it was so unlike her. And the other part of him hated himself because he could not stop until he had brought her to the brink of death.

After the first few drops had entered Natalie's mouth she began to drink hungrily from his wrist until he was forced to pull it away in self preservation.

"Once she comes to we must leave or be trapped here for the day."

"No. I want to stay. Natalie and I have lives here," Nick said. "She'll want to stay."

"You cannot stay."

"Why not? No one has to know. She can get time off to deal with her friends suicide and Tracy's death. I am expected to take time off to deal with my partner's death."

"I should just leave the two of you here to deal with it but, I would be neglecting my duties as a parent if I did so."

A short time later Natalie opened her eyes. She felt something strange throughout her whole body. She also felt the most intense hunger she had ever felt, it was as if she had not eaten for months.

"Welcome to the night shift, Natalie," LaCroix said as he handed her a bottle of human blood.

She quickly drained the bottle without any thought to the contents. Her thoughts entirely on soothing the hunger. She handed the empty bottle and was handed another this time by Nick, who had seen the hunger still blazing in her eyes. Once this bottle had been drained she handed it back satisfied, for now.

She felt something running down her chin and wiped off a stray drop with her fingers, startled, yet not surprised to see the blood on there. Her fingers went to the healing wounds on her neck.

"Nick, did you bring me across?" She asked as she felt a connection between them that had not been there.

"Yes, he did. With a little encouragement."

"I'm sorry, Nat. I couldn't stop myself from taking too much.," Nick said the guilt and sadness heavy in his voice.

"Remember I said that I wanted you to make love to me even if it meant an eternity in darkness. You promised never to leave me and you're living up to it," she said her hand under his chin forcing him to face her.

"Nicholas here seems to think that you'll want to stay here and resume your life."

"I do. I like my life here."

"There is much for you to learn and master before you can return to your life here," LaCroix said firmly. "Since the sun is nearly up we will start the lessons tonight." He was determined to oversee Natalie's training to make sure that it was properly done.

"I know," she said. "Nick, now I understand why you were so hesitant. I saw all....."

Nick silenced her with a kiss.

The end.

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