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Natalie and the Pocket Watch

Last Minutes

October 2007
Last modified October 27, 2007

by Amy R.

PG.  Please see the endnote for disclaimers, credits, and all that good stuff.  This fanfiction is a tribute to the television series Forever Knight.


She landed in the unpaved parking lot.  The summer sun had set, but the celebration in the pavilion tent had not yet begun to break up, so no one saw her unsubtly vampiric arrival a few steps beyond the glow of electric lights gentled by paper lantern covers.

The live piano music would have made her think of him, if she had not been thinking of him already.  But before looking for her lost love, she hunted out other faces she knew, some in person, others from his stories and his blood.  Old faces, like Catherine Barrington, who had kept his secret for over sixty years now, and Lily Toeffler, who had sought the Sanskrit "book of miracles" for him nearly as long.  Young faces, like Serena, the second vampire to take the cure, and Urs, the third.  She studied the guests until she was certain that no vampires lurked among them, and that no more than those four knew Nick Knight had ever been one.  Satisfied, she spoke briefly with each of the four, then caught the bride's glance.

The human woman's eyes widened.  The bride nodded, and laid her hand on her new husband's arm.

Sure of being followed, the vampire returned to the parking lot.  The silent dark was her friend, not his.

"Hi."  Nick's whispered greeting left a lot to be desired.

"Hi, yourself," Natalie sighed.  He looked good in his tuxedo, and in the flush of his happiness, but he also looked older.  A tan, some weight, laugh lines.  White hairs amid the sun-streaked blond.  Time tracking itself on his mortal body.  She knew she looked exactly the same as when he had last seen her.  Even her beige suit wasn't that different.  "And congratulations."

"Thank you.  Enid -- my wife --"

"I saw her name on the invitation.  Kind of old-fashioned for someone younger than me, isn't it?"

"Her parents picked it from a poem."  Nick shrugged.  "I was going to say, she didn't tell me she invited you until yesterday.  I'm sorry."

"Sorry that I was invited?"  Natalie strolled past the parked cars, down the gravel lane.  She kicked a rock at the news he had not even intended to tell her.  No wonder the card had arrived only last week.  "Or that you didn't know?"

Nick kept pace.  "That's not it, Nat.  I just wasn't planning for . . . I've left your world behind."

"My world."  Natalie clipped the words.  She felt gold erupt in her eyes, and spun to confront him with it.  "Eight centuries yours, under two decades mine.  You dragged me into it, left me to rot in it, and you dare call it 'my' world?"

"Poor word choice.  I'm sorry."  And he did look sorry, though her accusation was hardly fair and she knew it.  He stood perfectly still, carefully neither threat nor prey.

In the early days after his cure, it had comforted her, his obvious familiarity with how easily she could break him, and how much she hungered to drain him.  Tonight, his patient tolerance just made her angrier.  Her fangs surged.  "I spent the best years of my mortality seeking your cure.  I waited for you, Nick!  Why couldn't you do the same for me?"

He spread his empty hands and looked down at them.  "Maybe I'm not as brave as you, Nat."

She snorted.

He met her eyes, calm blue to smoldering yellow.  "When the cure didn't work on you, year after year, I saw my second chance slipping away.  All the things I wanted to do, to be, you couldn't share them.  And there's so little time."

He didn't say that they had been through all this back then.  He didn't remind her of her share in their rift.  And he didn't admit what he had never acknowledged, but which she knew was true, too: that he was not attracted to her as a vampire.  The slightest hint of vampirism -- eyes, fangs, a moan that slid into a growl -- had been like ice water to him since he went back across.  She couldn't stop the words, "You loved your mortality more than you loved me."

He flinched.  "I love my chance at salvation more than I love my life.  You know that's half the cure."

Natalie waved away his metaphysical nonsense, refusing to be sucked back into that old squabble.  "What about her -- Enid?  If someone brings her across--"

"Is that a threat?"  Nick moved at only human speed, grabbed Natalie's shoulders with only human strength, snarled with only human menace.  But he planted himself between vampirism and his beloved.  As she would expect.

As he had for her, more than once.  Until she insisted it was her choice, too.

"No," Natalie pushed his hands away and resumed walking.  "No threat.  Curiosity.  You just vowed 'till death do you part,' I presume -- obviously I wasn't at the church -- but what about undeath?"

"It hasn't come up.  It won't come up.  Enid doesn't know."

Natalie's fangs shrank and her eyes dampened to hazel.  Her jaw dropped, wordless for several steps.  "You married her . . . without telling her?"

"I'm human now."  Nick plunged his hands into his pockets and watched his feet.  "Mortals who know are in danger from the Enforcers.  If I tell her, I can't hypnotize away the knowledge to keep her safe -- and what if she's a resister, who can't be hypnotized by a vampire, like you were?  I won't endanger her like that."

"But, oh, Nick," Natalie reached out in pure sympathy.  She knew how he longed for connection and understanding.  Tying up his identity in a neat bundle and living only part of his whole self was a skill he'd honed for centuries, but he had ached to put that behind him with his vampirism.

"I tell her as much as I can, as much as makes sense."  Nick lifted his head.  "Did you know she's a historian?  Top of her field.  If I slip, she doesn't notice.  Enid's so bright and so enthusiastic, she sometimes forgets that there are people besides undergrads who don't know who won the siege at Damietta or what an écuelle was for."

"But you don't slip."

"I didn't, when I was a vampire.  Now things get . . . fuzzy."  He kicked a rock.  A few steps later, he offered the hesitant, boyish smile that always skipped right over her defenses.  Her heart beat for a second time in under ten minutes, and she felt flushed.  Could he even see her in the dark, this far from the lights?  But he knew she could see him.  "I didn't set out to fall in love, Nat.  But I know a miracle when I feel one."

"So Enid is a miracle, huh?"

"Yeah, she is.  To me."

"Good.  I'm glad."  Also jealous, relieved, furious, proud and terrified, Natalie admitted to herself.  It made her choice tonight clear, not easy.  "But Nick, she recognized me.  How?  And why did she invite me?"

"I have a few pictures, from Toronto.  She knows we -- she knows you and I parted a few years before I met her.  She doesn't know about the vampirism, I swear."

"Most women don't invite their fiancé's ex to the wedding, Nick."

"Enid isn't most women," he smiled.  "Neither are you, Nat."

"Save the flattery for Janette," Natalie laughed before she thought.  "I'm sorry; I don't know where that came from.  So your Enid just thought you'd be happier in your marriage if I wished you well at the start?  And she was that confident I would wish you well, and not make a scene?"

"That's what she said."

"I wish she hadn't."  They had just reached the darkest part of the drive, halfway between streetlamps.  The lighted tent looked small in the distance, partially hidden by trees.  Natalie stopped.  "They might not have come for you for years yet."

"I don't understand."

"It's about the cure, Nick."

"You've discovered how to make it work for you?"  Wild hope flared in his voice, and other feelings flickered through his eyes too fast for even a vampire to follow.

"No," she swallowed her own sputtering emotions.  "I've discovered why it will never work for me.  It's genetic.  It goes back to the RNA transcription we first discussed with the lydovuterine in '95."  She met his eyes, and saw their one day in the sun in those depths.  Natalie looked away first.  "You don't need the whole spiel, I suppose.  Nick, any human can become a vampire, but only those who were not resisters can become human again.  I was a resister; I can never cross back.  That you did means you're not a resister."

"Don't -- Nat, don't give up hope!  Just because this cure won't work for you doesn't mean there's not another!"  He gathered her into a hug, and she let him.  "You'll find it.  I believe in you."  Natalie clung tightly and pretended it was twenty years ago, when the adventure was all before her, shining with fresh, new dreams.

She pressed the embrace into her perfect vampiric memory, etching every scent and sound and touch, memorizing the reassurances Nick whispered over her.  She wanted this hug forever; she wanted to be able to return to it in years to come, to gird herself with it when days were endless and empty, and nights held nothing but pain.

Eventually, Natalie leaned back.  She cradled Nick's face between her hands, so he could feel her though he could hardly see her.  "Janette is well, and misses you, but I don't think she's forgiven you yet.  Lacroix is . . . Lacroix."

"I didn't ask."

"No.  But I thought you would want to have known."  She kissed him briefly, chastely, both for the honor of his promises and to keep her beast chained.  She wiped her eyes to prevent her bloody tears from dripping on his tuxedo.  "I loved you, Nick Knight.  Nicolas de Brabant.  I will always love you."


"I'm so sorry."  She focused her will, and took his will away.

Natalie regarded vampiric mesmerism like surgery, and she had worked as hard to master the new skill as the old.  As carefully as possible in the short time available, she cut away what she must so that the rest might live.  She stole his first home.  She blurred his birth family.  She subsumed his knighthood in his police service.  She relocated his dislike of politics to recent injustices.  She matched memories of similar size and shape, flattening the stacks with the most recent on top.  She sorted, discarded and stitched, constructing a life that could indeed have unfolded for a man born at the tail end of the baby boom.

What she could not bear to cut, but did not dare to leave, she rolled up tightly and stowed in his subconscious.  His soul, he'd call it.  Perhaps someday . . .

Exhausted and tear-smudged, Natalie watched Nick's progress all the way up the drive to his reception.

When she turned around at last, Lacroix handed her a handkerchief.  "Excellent work, Doctor Lambert.  You are among the best I have seen at such delicate ensorcellment."

Natalie wiped her eyes, blew her nose and shoved the handkerchief in a pocket.  She had hoped Lacroix would not follow her here, but of course there had been scant chance of that.  She had felt his arrival as soon as he wanted her to.  She eyed the ancient vampire carefully, gauging his mood.  His black suit was of an especially high quality; he had dug out that sword-pin he used to wear in Toronto, before Janette had left; and for some reason he held an antique pocket watch.  She said, "If most vampires persist in thinking of psychokinetic hypnotism as a magic spell, it's no wonder they don't use it to its full potential."

"Perhaps once we weed out those who lack the resister gene, performance will soar in many areas."

"'Resister gene' -- I've told you it's not that simple."

Lacroix inclined his head.  "And I agreed there is no cause to eliminate any but those who want to become human again, and can.  I despise waste.  But it has been made part of the Code that none may be brought across from now on who are . . . susceptible . . . to your so-called cure."

Chilled, Natalie crossed her arms.  "I wasn't planning to bring anyone across."

"Of course not," he smiled coldly and stroked her cheek.  Natalie steeled herself not to flinch as Lacroix reminded her that while Nick had drained her that wretched night, Lacroix had fed her.  And if she did not hate him as much as Nick had, well, give them time.  "I know precisely what you were planning, my dear Natalie."

She let her disgust boil up, trying to screen her private emotions with the frank dislike of him that she did not mind sharing.

He laughed.  "I do so enjoy being your master.  It's not just the prestige of you curing the fever, and exposing this . . . vulnerability . . . in our ranks."  His expression congealed with bitterness.  "Now tell me about my Nicholas."

"He doesn't remember anything.  His bride never knew anything.  I handled the guests.  There's no call for the Enforcers here."

"Remember, when you pledge that the Code is intact, you're giving my bond as well as your own.  Did you remove everything?  Did you cache nothing for a bleak and lonely winter?"  She stayed silent; he looked up at the stars.  "Is it your mercy that is your undoing, Doctor Lambert?  Or your appetites?  You couldn't give him up, either."

"He doesn't remember.  He's safe!"

"For now."  Lacroix closed his eyes.  "I treasure that you're trying to lie to me -- I do -- because I so enjoy teaching that lesson.  But understand this," he grabbed her jaw and forced her to meet his gaze, "if he ever sees you again, your mere presence could unravel all your intricate work.  I can see him, talk to him, touch him.  You can't.  What you left behind is your prison.  One look at you, and he is Enforcer bait."

Natalie could not move her head or speak.  Lacroix wasn't giving her even that choice this time.

When he let her go, she took one step away and leaped into the air.  She didn't think he would chase her down tonight, when he had Nick so close and had not yet seen him.  Tomorrow was another matter.

But for now, those last moments with Nick were hers alone, and she was going to anchor the memory so deeply, so purely, that Lacroix could not twist or taint it.  Not even if she lived to be as old as Nick before she found another cure.

Not even if she lived to be as old as Lacroix before she was certain she wanted to take it.

*       *       *

Lacroix watched his daughter flee into the sky, then flipped open his engraved pocket watch.  Right on time, a vehicle with two passengers rolled down the lane: the bride and groom on their way to the port and a sea cruise honeymoon.

He strolled to the parking lot, and checked his watch again.  Guests were beginning to depart, including some teenagers.  Younger children must have been left with caregivers.

"Running late?" he raised an eyebrow at the leader of this squad of Enforcers, landing in the field just beyond the lights.  "Doctor Lambert vouches for this gathering, and I vouch for her.  None here violate the Code."

The thug brandished his tusk-like fangs.

"Yes, I agree, that's no reason to go hungry when you had plans for managing the situation," Lacroix said.  "Those under my protection have departed.  By all means, take whom you like.  I trust you won't mind if I indulge myself as well?"




  • Disclaimers

    • Mr. Parriot and Mr. Cohen created Forever Knight.  The Sony Corporation owns it.  I intend no infringement.  Please support all authorized Forever Knight endeavors!  (Does everyone you know own a DVD set?)

    • Characters and situations in this fantasy fanficiton are entirely fictional.  Any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental.  (Vampires don't exist.  Pavilion tents do, though.)

  • Citations

    • Guests.  The four guests Natalie hypnotizes at Nick's wedding come from "Forward into the Past" (Catherine Barrington), "1966" (Lily Toeffler), "Baby, Baby" (Serena), and third season generally (Urs).

    • Enid.  "Enid" is a Welsh name that means "life."  In Arthurian legend, including Tennyson's Idylls of the King, Enid is a paragon whose husband is so in love with her that he forgets everything else.  She is also beloved by another knight, who had been evil, but repents and reforms.

    • History Trivia.  The Crusaders are "who won the siege at Damietta" in 1219, but they also fled Egypt from that same port just two years later.  Eating soup or stew is "what an écuelle was for" (it was a two-handled bowl shared with your neighbor at the table).

    • Canon Tidbits.  The heartbeat every ten minutes is from "I Will Repay."  The "lydovuterine in '95" is from "The Fix."  The Enforcers and the Code are from "Unreality TV."  Lacroix's pocket watch is from "Father's Day."  That "wretched night" when Nick drained Natalie was "Last Knight."  Natalie "curing the fever" is from "Fever," naturally.

  • Credits

    • My thanks to Shelley, who has not read this piece, but who patiently let me outline the idea by phone.  My thanks also to Ell and Mary Ch., for thoughtful beta-reading that set me pondering and polishing.  And my thanks to Valerie, who reassured me that though the angle is odd, the characters are intact.  Errors, of course, are all my own!

    • I made a false start on this story in September 2007, then backtracked and started over in October 2007.  I posted it to fkfic-l on October 24, 2007, and to my website on October 27, 2007.  Please do not archive, post or otherwise distribute this story.  You're welcome to link to it here, on my FK fansite.

    • Thank you for reading!  Your comments and constructive criticism are greatly valued.  (Without new canon, conversation on a story is often the best spark for new stories.  What do you think?)  Please email me or comment on my Livejournal or Dreamwidth.  Again, thanks for reading!

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