by Judith Freudenthal
Natalie, Nick, and Schanke had sent in their registrations for the week long International Law Enforcement conference months ago, knowing how important it was to keep up to date. Their bosses had given them the week off with the condition that they finished up all pressing paperwork before the conference started.
Schanke had inquired how Nick would handle being there during the day. Nick responded that he'd just have to stay away from the windows. Nat offered to drive over and pick up the Caddy so he wouldn't be squished into her trunk. Nick appreciated the gesture.
A look at Nick, Schanke and Natalie's calendars showed that they had a week left before the conference.
Schanke hated paperwork and having to juggle their pile of paperwork along with their current caseload had him grumbling. He was looking forward to the conference as it would be a nice break in the routine.
Natalie too was looking forward to the conference for the same reason and she was curious to hear of any new discoveries that hadn't yet made the journals. She found it hard to keep up to date on everything and have some semblance of a life.
A week later, Natalie, Nick and Schanke arrived at the Toronto convention center and headed for the registration table. After giving their name and showing either their badge or in Nat's case her coroner's office ID, they were given their registration packets.
"Natalie," said a slim petite redhead, as her friend turned around to leave the registration table. She noticed the slender handsome blonde and the balding portly guy standing next to her pretty chestnut haired friend.
Natalie turned towards the voice and immediately recognized her attractive fiery red headed friend. She also noticed the tall, lanky, dark haired man next to her petite friend.
"Dana," Natalie said. "Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"
"I've been so busy I forgot."
"I know that feeling."
The guy next to Dana cleared his throat.
Natalie introduced Nick and Schanke to Dana Scully. Dana introduced her partner, Fox Mulder to Natalie Lambert, Nick Knight and Don Schanke. The guys introduced themselves to each other.
"Natalie, what are you and your friends doing for dinner?"
"We were on our way to dinner. Care to join us?" Natalie asked.
"I would. How about you Mulder?"
"How could I pass up the chance to learn more about my partner?" Mulder teased.
Natalie and Schanke debated where to go while Nick mostly listened in, giving a suggestion now and then. Once they had decided, the three of them along with Scully and Mulder headed out on foot since the place was nearby. Since it was dark outside, Nick didn't have to worry about sunlight.
They entered the restaurant and were quickly seated. After a quick look at their menus they all knew what they wanted. The waiter appeared and took their orders.
"Natalie, you still working in the coroner's office?" Dana asked.
"Yeah. I enjoy it. A few kinds of cases still give me the creeps. How about you? You still investigating the paranormal?"
"Yeah. It's never dull."
"Paranormal? As in psychics, ghosts, Ouiji boards, vampires?" Schanke asked. He couldn't believe that the FBI would seriously investigate such things.
"You left out extraterrestrials," Mulder joked. "That's my main area of work. I do whatever the case requires."
Natalie did understand, but couldn't let anyone know. How could she say she knew vampires existed without giving away Nick's secret?
"You're kidding, right?" Schanke wondered. Have I found someone weirder than my partner?
"No, he's serious. We work on X-Files. Anything that doesn't fit traditional definitions. Although, many of the cases do eventually have rational explanations."
"How'd you get that assignment?" Schanke asked.
"I was assigned to it six years ago. I was supposed to debunk his work, but I couldn't. Since then I've actually grown to enjoy the challenge, most of the time. I really get to use all my skills. It helps me keep an open mind."
"I understand. Having an open mind is best in our kind of work," Nick said. "We've had a strange case or two."
"Really?" Mulder asked, curiously.
Nick told him about when people thought there was a vampire killer, but it was only a psychotic orderly killing type O homeless people because one of them killed his mother by giving her hepatitis. Of course, he did leave out the parts about him, LaCroix and Janette.
Their food arrived. Everyone ate up while Nick just picked at his. He ate a couple bites before becoming quite nauseous.
"Is it okay?" Mulder asked.
"It's fine. I'm just not very hungry."
"Natalie, do you believe in the paranormal?" Mulder asked.
"Yes. I don't blindly believe, but I have seen enough to make me question if there is more around us than we realize. I have to agree with Dana though. I do need either scientific proof or enough evidence to convince me."
"What about you two?" Mulder asked Nick and Schanke.
"I agree with Natalie. We'd be foolish to believe that humans are the only life forms in the galaxy," Nick said.
"I don't really believe in all the paranormal stuff. But there might be life out there. An experience I had on a case made me wonder about psychics. I still don't know if they're for real or just full of it."
"What happened on the case?"
Schanke told about the time the Captain used a psychic to help them with their missing persons case. How it wound up being a double murder committed by the father, who was embezzling from his charity organization.
A part of Nick wished he could tell his side of the story, but couldn't without revealing his vampirism was the reason the psychic was having so many disturbing visions. Or at least until she'd learned what Nick was, and then was curious about him and what it was like.
"Mulder, how did you get assigned to the X-Files?"
"I found them in the basement and starting trying to solve as many as I could. I attracted the attention of some higher ups who assigned Scully to debunk my work. They'd prefer I did more mainstream stuff."
"Natalie, what do you do at the coroner's office?" Mulder asked.
"I'm a forensic pathologist."
"How'd you and Scully meet?" Mulder asked.
"We met at the University of Maryland's forensics program. Canada doesn't have a program so I had to pick a university in the States."
"The school assigned us as roommates," Scully said. "Having a roommate in the same field was really helpful. You had a built in study buddy. Also, they wouldn't be partying when you needed to be studying due to different schedules." Scully ordered desert before continuing. "We quickly discovered we had a lot in common and became friends. It was great having someone to talk to as there were few women in the forensic pathology area. It was tough."
"Scully, what made you pick the FBI?" Schanke asked.
"I thought it would be a good way to use my skills. I like a good challenge. I figured it would be more exciting than working for a hospital or the state. There was also a bit of a rebellious reason why I joined," Scully said with a small grin.
"I've never understood why someone would want to cut up bodies for a living," Nick said.
"Same here," Mulder and Schanke said.
"I like the challenge. Each body is a puzzle waiting to be solved. Same goes for each crime scene. I like being able to help get criminals off the streets before they can hurt more people," Natalie said.
"I agree with Natalie's reasons. Also, it helps me either disprove or prove my partner's theories. Sometimes come up with better ones."
"I like being a homicide detective for the same reasons, to protect people. I like to help others," Nick said.
"Same here," Schanke and Mulder said.
"What caused you to pick the X-Files? To stay with it?" Schanke asked.
"It goes back to when my sister was abducted as a child. She was taken from our home by aliens." Mulder waited for the usual sarcastic comments, pleased when there were none. "My parents blamed me because I was babysitting her. There was nothing I could do to protect her. During the abduction, I couldn't move. I've spent my entire life searching for her."
"Before he found the X-Files, Mulder was a brilliant profiler," Scully said. "That knowledge comes in quite handy on our work."
"Why did you switch?" Schanke asked.
"The cases are much more interesting in the X-Files. You never know what to think or what to expect."
"Dana, I remember your thesis being a bit X-File like," Natalie said.
"I guess providing a new interpretation of Einstein's Twin Paradox could be considered a bit X-Fileish."
"You had to do that for forensic pathology?" Schanke asked a little confused.
"No. It was for my bachelors in Physics."
"Sounds like someone's an overachiever," Schanke said with a slight teasing tone.
"Yeah. It probably comes from being a military brat."
"Why'd you switch to medicine?" Nick asked.
"I wanted something where I'd be interacting with people. Where I could help them. Physics was too isolated, too math intense."
"Natalie, do you have any other degrees?" Mulder asked, curious.
"No. I didn't find anything else I wanted to devote that much energy too."
"Wow. Why do I suddenly feel like the dumbest one at the table?" Schanke lightheartedly commented.
"You're not dumb, at all," Natalie said. "Everyone has areas they're great in. You don't need a masters doctorate or MD to be smart. You have some of the best street smarts that I've ever seen. That is more important than having some initials after your name."
Schanke knew Natalie was right. She never flaunted the fact that she was a doctor, unlike some people he'd known or questioned for work. Scully didn't seem to boast. From the way Mulder talked he knew he had more than a bachelor's degree, and was curious what kind.
"Some of the dumbest people I've known had degrees up the wazoo. They had absolutely no common sense. An academic setting was the only place they could function," Mulder said.
"Mulder, what is your degree in?"
"Psychology. I have a Masters in it. I did start on my Ph.D. but got bored and joined the FBI. I wanted to use my knowledge, just spout it off like a pompous windbag."
"Remember, it's what's in here," Natalie said pointing to her heart, "that counts. Not what initials you have after your name."
"Nick, what sort of degree do you have?" Mulder asked.
"A bachelor's in law enforcement."
"That's what I have," Schanke said. "Thanks, guys for making me feel better."
They talked for a while before splitting up to go home or back to the hotel.
The next morning Natalie, Nick and Schanke were at the conference center. Nick was making sure he kept away from the windows as much as possible. He was grateful that having lived for 800 years had given him some immunity to the sun, but not enough for more than a minute or two in direct sunlight before it began to burn. Nick was glad it was winter so he could keep his long black jacket on, along with his baseball cap. He reluctantly had to take off his sunglasses. He was fine as long as he didn't look out the windows.
Scully and Mulder were there as well. Scully was glad to get a break from work. The last couple times she'd tried to take a vacation she'd wound up working, and hoped this time was different. She knew her partner would love to find something odd while they were in town.
The two groups ran into each other a few times during the day. Natalie and Dana had a class together on new techniques in forensic detection. Mulder, Schanke and Nick took one on witness location and questioning. The five of them took a class on crime scenes, and their preservation.
That evening, Schanke excused himself saying he had to get home to his family. Nick knew Natalie wanted some time to catch up with her friend so he too excused himself. Mulder had heard a few things and wanted to check them out so he didn't mind having the evening to himself.
Natalie and Dana went out to dinner together, enjoying the chance to talk uninterrupted. Both had a lot of good stories to tell.
After dinner they headed back to Natalie's apartment to talk.
Natalie fixed them each a mug of coffee. They moved over to the couch to sit.
"Nat, is there more between you and Nick than it seems?"
"No. We haven't taken that step yet. We both want to. We've tried but his father keeps coming in between us. I'm going to let Nick make the next move. He's had a rough life and I don't want to accidentally hurt him," Natalie said. It was the best explanation she could come up with and still keep Nick's secret. "What about you and Mulder?"
"Same here," Dana said. "I really do care for him, but I'm not sure it's the romantic kind of love. He seems more like a sibling. Especially the times when he makes me so mad I want to kill him."
"I felt something special between Nick and I from the first time we met. He told me he did as well. We were just friends at first. We grew closer as time went by. Then somehow it turned romantic. It has caused a few disagreements. Things would be so much better if his father would butt out. Things were going great between us before his father came back into his life on a daily basis." Natalie said. "Yes, there are times when Nick makes me so mad I want to kill him." Natalie realized she'd been thinking 'stake him' and was grateful she hadn't said it.
"Mulder and I did have our first kiss on New Year's Eve, under the mistletoe. Nothing became of it. He did tell me he loved me once, but he was under the influence then. He'd nearly drowned and was recovering at the hospital. His sedative was taking effect so I didn't totally believe him. I know he loves me, but I'm not sure if it is romance or more of a sibling thing he's trying to push into romance," Dana said. "He was deprived of love for a chunk of his childhood. His sister was abducted and his parents blamed him because he was babysitting her at the time. They were playing Stratego when she was grabbed from their living room. He's never forgiven himself and is still searching for her. His parents, his father especially, still blame him. I feel sorry for him. He's got this expression he uses on me and I just can't stay mad at him. He's like a big needy child, but a brilliant one."
"I know the feeling. Nick's had many of the same problems. His father, actually more like a step-father, has played all sorts of mind games with him, and still does. He has mentally, and physically abused Nick. He's still mentally abusing him. Nick tries to escape it, but can't. If you'd seen Nick before his step-father came back into his life you'd have seen a completely different person. He was much happier, and much more able to show his feelings," Natalie said. "Whenever he's around I get that wonderful feeling. And when he kisses me..." Natalie smiled, her eyes twinkling.
"I'm happy for you. Maybe he'll be able to overcome the effects of his step-father's abuse."
"He does make progress. Sometimes his step-father sees this and ups the level of the game, tossing him back where he was," Natalie said. "I hope Mulder can overcome his problems. I want you to be happy."
They continued to talk about their lives, work, all sorts of stuff while they sipped their coffee. They both were having a great time.
"I see you've kept in shape," Natalie softly said. "I wish I had the time to."
"I like fieldwork, so I have to stay in shape," Dana said. "I always thought you could use to gain a few more pounds. I'm glad you did."
"Thanks. I put on more than a few, but I don't get a chance to work out. I don't mind too much. Nick seems to like it. Matter of fact, that was when he started to pay more romantic attention to me."
"Don't let him go."
"I don't plan to," Natalie said. "What about Mulder?"
"He's done some incredibly sweet things, but also some incredibly stupid things to help me," Dana said.
"I'm glad we bumped into each other yesterday," Natalie said.
"Me too. We really need to see each other more often."
"I know," Natalie said. "I wonder if they boys had a good night?"
"I wonder what they did," Dana said.
"Nick probably painted," Natalie said.
"Knowing Mulder, he probably went after any odd rumors he heard. Especially after hearing that vampire story," Dana paused a moment before continuing. "We've had two cases that were believed to be vampire related."
Natalie tried not to show any reaction. Did she know about vampires?
"One was a cult that believed they were vampires. They dressed very Goth and hung out in the gaudiest club. Mulder said one of them actually spontaneously combusted in his cell the next morning. No one believed him. I heard about this case from Mulder, and read the file out of curiosity. It happened during my abduction."
"What about the other case?" Natalie knew that the abduction still bothered her friend, so she'd changed the subject.
"We had been called to this hick town to check out another case of vampires. I thought it was another case with a rational explanation. These were some of the most hicksville people we've met in a long time." Dana paused a moment. "The body we were to examine was bloodless with two puncture marks on the neck. There was a lot to point to vampirism, but still not enough to convince me. I still have trouble with some of the theories Mulder comes up with." She knew Natalie wouldn't laugh, but still felt a little silly telling this story. "Mulder was drugged by what he claimed was a vampire. The pizza I'd ordered, he ate after sending me off to do an autopsy. I didn't believe a vampire drugged him. I mean, why would a vampire have to drug it's intended victim?"
Natalie knew her friend was right. Why would a vampire have to drug it's prey?
"I was tricked by my partner into a night time graveyard stakeout with the sheriff. Mulder thought I was attracted to him, I wasn't that attracted. Maybe, just a little as he was kinda cute. Mulder was jealous. The sheriff drugged my coffee. I swear I saw glowing yellow eyes and fangs."
Natalie tensed slightly, which didn't go unnoticed.
"Have you had something similar occur?" One look at her friend gave her the answer. "You have, haven't you."
Natalie didn't know what to say. "Yes. I too have had a bloodless body or two in my office with dual puncture marks on the neck."
"Do vampires really exist? Are they really that hick like? I hope they're not that redneck like."
"What do you think?" Natalie asked unsure what to say.
"I don't know what to think. A part of me does believe they exist. I've seen enough evidence to make me believe. But a part of me says that they can't exist."
"I know exactly how you're feeling," Natalie said. She still didn't know what to tell her friend.
"I do believe they exist. I've seen them, talked with them. I've seen bloodless bodies with two puncture wounds in the neck."
"I too believe they exist for the very same reasons," Natalie said.
"Do you know any vampires?"
"Yes. They're three very different personality types. None are the hicks you mention. All three are elegant, sophisticated, and educated."
"Any chance of meeting them?"
"You've already met one. One I do not like so I will not introduce you to him. He gives me the creeps. I haven't decided about the third one yet. It would be dangerous for you if they knew you knew."
"Okay. Are you in danger?"
"Some, but I help them keep their existence a secret so that helps. Also not too many are aware I know. You're the only person I've ever told."
It hit Scully what Natalie said about having met one.
"Is it Nick?" Scully asked, realizing he had barely touched his food during dinner, was really pale, had cold hands, and was careful to avoid the sunlight, and kept his coat and hat on all during the day.
"You were right. He's nothing like those I've met. I never would've guessed," Dana grinned. "I also see why you two haven't gone farther in your relationship. What's it like to kiss?"
"His lips are a bit cool, but very nice and soft. I've never kissed him when the fangs were visible. He's careful to keep that part under wraps whenever we kiss."
"How did you really meet?"
Natalie told the story of her twenty-eighth birthday and how she met Nick. She loved watching her friend's reaction. She also told of his choosing cow over human blood and how he wants to become mortal again, and that she's helping him with that quest.
Scully was fascinated by the tale her friend told. She knew it was true. She did have a little trouble believing Nick was a vampire, but on the other hand the facts did fit.
"I hope Mulder doesn't find any hints that there are vampires here. Or any other odd things. He tends to run off, often without thinking first, word to anyone, or backup."
Both ladies were seriously yawing.
"Dana, why don't you take the bed, I'll take the couch."
"No. I can't kick you out of your bed." Dana had an idea. "We're both adults. Why don't we share?"
They entered the bedroom and each claimed a side of the bed.
Several hours later a loud banging at the door woke them. Natalie slipped into her robe and headed for the front door.
She unlocked and opened it, admitting Nick and Schanke.
"I'm sorry. I must've forgotten to set the alarm clock last night. I'll be ready shortly. Make yourselves comfortable."
Natalie's headed into the kitchen to fix some coffee and breakfast.
There was another knock at the front door.
"Nick, can you get that?" Natalie called out.
Nick opened the door and allowed Mulder to enter.
Scully came out of the bedroom in a robe. She was quite surprised to see three guys in Natalie's apartment.
"Sorry I'm late. Nat's alarm clock didn't go off. She was supposed to wake me when it did."
Scully entered the enclosed kitchen where both Nat was and the coffee was.
"Morning," Natalie said.
"Morning," Scully said.
Natalie stuck her head out of the kitchen. "Who wants coffee?"
"I'm fine," Nick said.
"I'm okay," Schanke said.
"I'll grab some later," Mulder said.
"Okay, that just leaves more for me and Dana."
Natalie and Dana entered the room with their coffee cups.
"Nat, do you want the first shower?"
"Sure," Natalie said.
"Mulder, how did you find me here?"
"When you didn't come back, I figured you might've stayed over. I got the address out of the phone book."
"We were talking most of the night. Before we knew it sleep over took us," Scully said.
Natalie entered the bedroom to shower and dress. About fifteen minutes later Dana entered the bedroom.
Natalie came out when she was done and talked with her friends while Dana finished up.
The five of them took two cars to the convention center so neither vehicle would be left behind.
Nick, Natalie, Schanke, Mulder and Scully all had lunch together. Nick ordered fries and doused them with catsup before eating several. He noticed Scully trying to hide her surprise. He tossed Nat a quick glance. She very quietly whispered, "later." His subtle nod was her assurance he'd heard her.
"Is anyone busy tonight?" Mulder asked. "I found this club last night and I thought we might all enjoy a night out. It's a little dark but the music's good. The owner is a knockout."
Nick felt a small wave of panic and hoped no one noticed. Natalie did. She shot him a quick glance.
"What's it called?" Natalie asked.
"It had a bird name... umm... The Raven."
Schanke spewed a mouthful of soda. Natalie nearly choked on her iced tea. Nick tried not to show any reaction.
"I take it, you've heard of the place."
"Yeah, Nick's friend is the owner. It's a weird place," Schanke said. He hoped friend was the right word to use when describing Nick and Janette's relationship. He still hadn't figured out exactly what it was, but knew it wasn't a simple friendship. He did remember her saying they'd dated at one point.
"Maybe you can get us a good table then?" Mulder said.
Nick didn't know what he could say to persuade Mulder to want to go elsewhere without raising his curiosity. From what he'd heard, once that happened there would be nothing to prevent him from poking around until his curiosity had been satisfied. Or until the Community did something about it, which he did not want to see happen as it would only cause more trouble.
"I'll see what I can I do," Nick said, knowing he should be there to make sure there was no trouble.
Scully found herself wondering if the club's owner was a vampire. She hoped that if so, that Mulder never found out. She was not going to go through that whole mess again. She also knew it could be dangerous and that's the last thing they needed, some other group trying to kill them.
"How should we dress?" Scully asked.
"From what I saw, black is a good choice. Something a bit more..." Mulder didn't quite know how to describe it. "Nick, how would you describe it?"
"Every female there is hot," Schanke said, a little too enthusiastically, immediately realizing and regretting it.
"I'm telling Myra," Nat teased.
"The less the better, but... no one looks like a hooker. It's sorta elegant in a weird way," Schanke said trying to explain but failing miserably. He saw a lady enter wearing a short black dress with a matching jacket. "Sorta like her." He pointed to the woman.
"I didn't bring anything like that with me. I have my suits and a few casual outfits."
"Don't worry about it. You'll be fine," Natalie said.
"Natalie, have you been there?" Mulder asked.
"Once or twice. It's not really my type of place. I prefer a nice quiet evening at home with friends, movies and popcorn."
After lunch the fivesome returned to the conference center for their afternoon classes.
That evening, Nick picked Natalie up at her apartment. After the Caddy was in motion, Nick asked.
"Does Scully know?"
"Yes. She and her partner know vampires exist," Natalie said as she saw Nick's surprise. "Mulder had a case where he not only learned about them, but one of the suspects spontaneously combusted in his cell when the sun hit him. But he and Dana had another case where they were sent to investigate an odd death. Does a pair of puncture marks on the neck of a bloodless body ring a bell?"
Nick nodded. They did know. "What happened?"
"Apparently these vampires were very hicklike. They preferred to drug their victims first. Both of them saw glowing eyes and fangs. One of them was the town's sheriff."
Nick was quite disturbed by these vampires. He'd heard rumors of such ones, but hadn't paid it too much attention.
Natalie noticed he was disturbed. "Scully had pretty much figured out you were a vampire. She was glad to see that not all are like the hick ones she met."
"Has she told her partner?"
"No. And I don't think she will."
"I'm glad," Nick said. He trusted Natalie's judgement.
Before long, Nick and Natalie arrived at the Raven. Scully and Mulder arrived in their rental car a minute or two later. The foursome headed for the door.
The bouncer took one look at Nick and let them through.
Janette happened to be looking towards the door as the group entered. She was surprised to see Nick and Nat there, along with the slightly odd man from the night before and an attractive redhead she didn't know. She wondered what brought Nick here. She didn't think it was business.
Janette waited for them to approach. Nick knew he had to say hello and introduce his guests.
The foursome headed for the bar. They placed their orders and Nick introduced Mulder and Scully to Janette Du Charme.
Scully studied Janette and noticed the attractive dark haired woman was studying her as well. She was wondering just what Nick's connection with Janette was. She noticed how Janette seemed to flirt with Nick and he returned it, but not quite as enthusiastically. Something Janette seemed used to.
Their drinks were ready. When the two federal agents tried to pay, they heard Janette say "It's on the house."
"Thank you," Scully said.
Nick, Nat, Scully and Mulder headed for the nearest empty booth. The only open one was in the back of the club.
"Mulder, I see what you meant," Dana Scully said as she looked around.
"It seems like you and Janette know each other quite well," Mulder said, hoping he wouldn't cause trouble between Nick and Natalie. He could tell the two seated across from him were probably more than friends, unless it was a parallel situation to him and his partner.
"We were lovers years ago. Now, we're just friends," Nick said. He was trying to figure out the relationship between the two agents. Was it like his and Nat's deep friendship or was it more romantic? He couldn't tell for sure.
They sipped at their drinks. Nick was glad for the dark lighting as he could drink his bloodwine without too much scrutiny.
By the time they finished, Mulder stood and offered his hand to his partner. "Care to dance?"
"Sure," Scully said as she scooted out of the booth.
"Nat, care to dance?" Nick said wanting to keep an eye on things, at least for the first dance.
"Sure," Natalie said. She welcomed the excuse. Usually the only time they danced was at work related parties.
The two couples had a nice time dancing. After a couple songs they sat down. A new round of drinks were delivered.
A while later Natalie and Scully wanted to dance, but neither guy wanted to. So the two ladies headed for the dance floor.
"How often do you come here?" Mulder asked, curiously. He wondered if the bouncer had let them in because Nick was here frequently or because he was friends, and maybe more, with the owner.
"Not too often. This isn't my idea of a fun night. I too prefer to stay home with friends, watch movies, maybe do some painting." Nick decided to change the subject. "What about you?"
"I like to play basketball or watch movies," Mulder said, neglecting to mention that sometimes they were very adult movies. "I also like to keep up to date on the latest in the paranormal and government conspiracies."
The guys watched their friends having a great time on the dance floor. The ladies were dancing like two friends having a great time.
After two more songs the beat slowed, and the two ladies rejoined their guys.
The two couples talked, danced and had an enjoyable time.
Janette kept an eye on the mortals to make sure there was no trouble. She kept a close on Mulder, sensing that he knew what they were but it hadn't hit his conscious mind yet, but would soon. She wasn't sure how much Scully knew, but sensed she knew Nick was one. She remembered hearing how a pair of FBI agents had been sent to investigate a careless killing by a group of low members of the vampire society. That group had wisely left before the agents could learn any more. Since the agents were known for their odd cases, the Community didn't feel they were a threat, unless they poked around too much and threatened the vampire community with exposure.
After a couple more hours every one was tiring and goodnights were said. Mulder wound up going back to the hotel alone, while Nick dropped Natalie and Scully off at Natalie's apartment for some more girl talk.
Inside Natalie's apartment the two ladies took a seat on the couch.
"I had a great time tonight. How about you?" Scully said.
"So did I. I think the guys even enjoyed themselves."
"I agree," Scully said. "Is Janette a vampire? I sensed many of the same traits in her as I did in Nick."
"Yes. She's Nick's vampire sibling and ex lover."
"She's beautiful. Both she and Nick have old souls. Nick is an interesting combination of playful little boy and grown man. Too bad he carries so much guilt and pain with him."
"I see many similarities between Nick and Mulder. Both have seen so much pain in their lives and carry such guilt about it, yet it doesn't stop the playful side from coming out when around friends," Natalie said.
"Does Schanke know?" Scully asked curiously.
"I don't think so. He does think Nick's odd, but accepts that. I think he will put the pieces together one day, maybe soon, if he hasn't already."
"How does Nick cover his inability to be in the light?"
"An allergy to the sun. He uses a food allergy story to avoid scrutiny about why he doesn't eat like others do."
"How old are he and Janette?"
"How old do you think they are?"
"I have no idea. Nick seems to have an old world elegance to him. Maybe one or two hundred?"
Natalie chuckled. "Way off. Nick's eight hundred and Janette's a thousand." Natalie loved the stunned look on her friend's face.
"Was he drinking human blood tonight?" Scully asked a little uneasy.
"He was drinking cow blood. It blends in nicely with red wine, doesn't it."
"Yeah. What about Janette?"
"From what I've heard, Nick's the only vampire to drink cow blood. They don't kill for blood anymore. What they drink has been freely donated. I would guess most of it is stuff blood banks can't use, and probably a bag of the 'good stuff' goes missing now and then." She did not want to get into a discussion on Carouches tonight. She was too tired.
"You know this will probably be our last night together. I should spend some time with Mulder. We rarely get time off when one of us isn't injured." She saw her friend's concern. "Don't worry. He's usually the one hurt."
"Too bad that when we get time off because of an injury or illness we can't enjoy it."
The next morning the alarm clock went off, Natalie hit the snooze alarm.
"Good morning," Dana said, having been awakened by Natalie's movement. She smiled up at her friend.
"Good morning," Natalie said with a matching smile. "Who gets the first shower?"
"You can have it," Dana said.
"We have to see each other more than every couple years," Natalie said.
"I know. We should be in control of our careers instead of the other way around. Why do we let it control us?"
"I don't know. Washington and Toronto aren't that far apart. We should try to do a long weekend at least three or four times a year," Natalie said.
"I'm for it."
Natalie headed into the bathroom for her shower. A part of her was sad that Dana had to return home so soon.
While Dana was waiting for her turn in the bathroom, she was thinking about how she'd miss her time with Natalie.
Nick and Schanke arrived at the convention center ready for the next day of the conference. Mulder arrived moments later. Natalie and Scully arrived a couple minutes later.
The day went smoothly. Everyone attended the classes they had signed up for and whatever lectures either interested them or were important to their keeping up to date.
That night Schanke went home to his family, Mulder and Scully went off to eat and explore the city, and Nick and Nat went back to Nick's loft for one of their video nights.
Mulder knocked on his partner's hotel room door. She opened the door, walked into the hallway and locked her door.
"Where are we going?" Scully asked.
"I thought we'd do a little sightseeing and find somewhere to eat. Maybe the top of the CN Tower."
Meanwhile, across town at Nick's loft, Natalie sat down on the couch with her plate of beef low mein while Nick sat next to her with his mug of cow blood. She knew something was bothering him and knew he wouldn't talk until he was ready to.
She speared a piece of beef and a few noodles and brought the fork up to his mouth. He knew he had to try it. He knew this was part of her attempts to get him eating real food to see what he can tolerate and what he can't.
He took the offered forkful and choked it down. It wasn't as bad as some of the things she'd had him try, including the various protein shakes she'd insisted he sample.
Natalie's large smile was his reward.
She picked up her fork and started eating. Nick started the movie.
Natalie set her plate on the coffee table when she was finished and leaned against Nick. He wrapped his arm around her, loving the feel of her this close to him.
The next day was the final day of the conference. Nick, Natalie, Schanke, Mulder and Scully attended the last of their classes, and lectures.
That night they went out to dinner together having enjoyed spending much of the week together.
After dinner the fivesome went back to the hotel to talk. After a couple of hours every one tired. Natalie and Scully hugged each other as they said goodbye. The rest exchanged good byes with each other. Schanke, Nick and Natalie headed out while Scully and Mulder went up to their room to pack.
Scully and Mulder spent the morning seeing a few of Toronto's sights before they had the long drive to the airport.
Nick, Natalie and Schanke had to work that night.