Mad World

(A/N:  Has anyone seen 'Donnie Darko'?  Isn't that a sweet-deal movie?  It's my new favorite!  Okay, okay, back on topic… I don't have a plot yet.  The entire point of this story (so far) is so, somewhere, I can use some lyrics I especially love.  Isn't that a sweet-deal song?  Anywho, on with the tale.  R/R/E!)

            Natalie woke up, tears streaming down her cheeks.  She let out a strangled sob and fumbled for the phone by her bed.  As her hand touched the receiver, it rang, causing her to jump.  She chocked back her sobs and answered it.

            "Hello?"

            "Nat?"

            "Oh my God, Nick!  I was just going to call you.  I had the most awful nightmare…"

            "You too?  Take the night off and come over.  Please, Nat?"

            "Okay.  I'll be there in twenty minutes."

            "See you soon.  Love you, Nat."  It just slipped out of his mouth, so natural after the dream.

            "I love you too," Natalie replied without missing a beat.  It was only after she hung up from calling in sick to work that she realized how strange that was.  But, after what she had dreamed, it had made perfect sense.  She began to get dressed as tears streamed anew down her face.

~~~~{@

            Nick was in the shower when Natalie arrived.  Her eyes immediately went to the spot by the fireplace.  She looked to the side and found the walking stick, figuring that her brain must have stored it subconsciously and put it in the dream.

            Nick heard her strong, steady heartbeat and almost began to cry in relief again.  He had woken up, covered in bloodsweat.  After calling Natalie, he had gotten into the shower to wash it off before she arrived.  He had been standing under the warm water - water Natalie would undoubtedly have called freezing - for the past twenty minutes.

            He turned off the water and quickly dried off, putting on the jeans he had brought in, just in case Natalie arrived before he got out.  Wanting to see her for himself, he forewent going to get a shirt.  As he trotted down the stars, his eyes involuntarily flickered to the fireplace.

            As soon as he hit the floor, Natalie ran over to him, throwing her arms around him.  Feeling his cool chest against her cheek, Natalie began to cry again.  Nick tried to hide the red tears that began rolling down his face as he held her.  Surreptitiously, he checked her neck for any marks, and found nothing.  He hugged her tightly as they both wept, holding her warm body close to him.

            She began to speak softly, not looking up at him.  "I came over here, and begged you to try Janette's cure."

            It sounded extremely familiar to Nick.  "And after much arguing, I agreed, but I couldn't stop."

            "You thought I was dead.  But you didn't even try to bring me across!  You didn't even consider it!  I asked you to.  That was what I wanted if I couldn't stop!  How could you do that to me?  Completely betray my trust in you?"

            "Because I was too afraid that one day, you would hate me for doing it."  Nick's tears streamed faster, but his voice did not betray him by giving evidence of them.  "I think we both had exactly the same dream, Nat.  Lacroix was there?"

            Natalie nodded and looked up at him.  His tears silenced what she was about to say.  He had never cried in front of her, had never allowed that obvious reminder of what he was.  As she looked up, Nick averted his face, shame filling his features.  Natalie's tears started anew.  She assumed that the images she had gotten when he drank from her were true, also, although she had no idea how she could know things like that.  But if they both had the same dream…anything was possible.

            She was the cause of the depth of his shame at what he was.  He had been ashamed before, but her constant disapproval and haranguing had turned it into constant emotional pain.  Every time he took a sip of blood, he could see her scolding eyes floating in front of his face.  Every time he did anything with his powers, he could hear her telling him that he was setting himself back.  Before she could yell at him, she had to fix this.

            "Nick."  She reached up and turned his head back towards her.  "Don't.  Don't ever be ashamed of what you are.  Whether you believe it or not, you do enough good every day to make up for everything you've ever done, and ever will do.  What you are means diddlysquat when compared to who you are.  I'm sorry.  I'm sorry I just made it worse."

            Nick quickly wiped his bloodtears away with his arm, which he in turn wiped off on his jeans.  He could change again later.  "But you're right, Nat, in every look you give.  Every nuance of your voice."

            "No I'm not," she said fiercely.  "I never realized it before.  I never realized I was doing it before.  But I'm wrong, and I'm sorry.  Please forgive me?"

            "Of course, Nat."  He pulled her close once more, tucking her head under his chin.

            They stood in silence for a while.  Natalie's warmth slowly seeped into Nick's cold body.  He savored it.  The dream had been too real for his tastes, and the pain of loosing her was fresh, even if it wasn't real.  Her talk of suicide, in real life, had frightened him.  If Natalie hadn't had the same dream, he would have thought it was merely a reaction to that.

            Nick's head snapped up and Natalie's quickly turned as Lacroix flew in through the skylight.

            He eyed the two standing together.  "I just had the most disturbing dream, Nicholas."  The mere fact that he had dreamed at all was disturbing.

            Nick and Natalie glanced at each other, before Nick said, "And in the end, you raised a walking stick above my bowed back, and hissed, 'Damn you, Nicholas'."

            "You had the same dream," Lacroix stated.

            Nick nodded.  "As did Natalie."

            Natalie pushed herself out of Nick's protective embrace.  "In our dream, Divia clawed Vachon and Tracy staked him, and Tracy died from the gunshot wound.  Do you think they had the same dream?"

            "Possibly," Nick said.  Tracy was going to live, most likely.  But she was still in critical condition in the ICU.  Since it was dark out, Vachon would most likely be by her bedside.  "Call the hospital.  Vachon will probably be in her room."

            Nick walked with Natalie to the phone, wanting to be near in case Lacroix tried something.  When the older vampire motioned him over, Nick went.  Perhaps keeping Lacroix engaged would keep Natalie out of harm.

            "Nicholas," Lacroix said quietly.  "Right before the end, you said…"

            "That you were my closest friend.  You are.  Why?"

            Lacroix seemed to pause for a moment, as if in contemplation.  When he spoke again, his voice was loud enough so that Natalie could hear him.  "Then I give you a choice.  You did not fool me at the Azul; I merely postponed the claiming of my debt, which I want now.  Either bring the good doctor across and add her to our little family, or I claim her life in repayment of your debt."

            Nick's eyes glowed red with rage, and his fangs dropped down.  He growled at his father, fully prepared to attempt to take him down.  But Natalie's voice, as she hung up the phone, stopped him.

            "Nick, don't," she said.  "Please, Lacroix.  Give me until sunrise to talk to him."

            "If you try to flee, I will find you," he said menacingly.

            "I know," Natalie replied calmly.  "I'm not as stupid as you think.  Now can you please leave so I can try to argue him into this?"

            "Certainly, my dear."  And evil smile was on Lacroix's face.  Either way, Nick's debt would be paid.  If he brought her across, she would no longer be mortal, and Lacroix was sure that was what Nick loved about he good doctor.  Not her, but her mortality.  Lacroix flew back through the skylight, and back to the Raven.

            Before Nick could say anything, Natalie managed to get out, "First of all, Vachon was there, and Tracy's awake.  They both had the same dream, and your partner is extremely angry with you."

            "Nat, are you insane!" Nick cried.

            Natalie approached him.  She caressed his cheek and studied his worried eyes.  "Nick, what choice do we have?" she asked him softly.  "He won't rest until he's got one of the two.  I'd much rather be a vampire than see you killed by him for resisting, or have him kill me."

            "Nat, I would rather see you dead than a vampire.  And what if I took too much?  Like with Alyssa?"

            Natalie backed away from him, indignant and angry.  "Which is it you love, Nick?  Me or my mortality?  Would you rather have an idealized image of a mortal forevermore, or me?

            "Nat…" He reached out for her, but she backed away.

            "No.  Answer me."

            Nick was silent for a long time, which did not lend Natalie confidence.  Finally, he spoke, in a voice almost too quiet for her to hear.  "I love you, Natalie.  Whether you're mortal or not doesn't matter to me.  But what if this is what you think you want now, and in the future, you hate me for taking the sunlight away from you, for instilling within you the need for blood to survive, for giving you a hundred other awful things?"

            The raw pain in Nick's voice at that thought struck deep through Natalie.  She suddenly understood everything - why Nick always pushed her away, why he had let her die in their dream, why he was so reluctant to do this - when she saw the stark terror in his eyes that that was what would happen.  She moved back close to him, putting her arms around him and laying her cheek on his bare chest.  He hugged her close to him, savoring her warmth.

            "I won't, Nick, I promise you.  As long as I'm with you…"

            "What if I can't stop?" he asked quietly.  "You saw what happened…I don't know if there was enough life left in you to allow me to bring you back."

            "At least we would have tried.  By my hand, by your hand, by his hand, what does it matter?  The end result will still be the same."

            "Nat, don't talk like that!"

            "Well, I'm trying to pound it through your thick skull that this is what I want.  How many different ways can I say it?"  She looked up at him.  "Please, Nick.  Now I'm asking you, as I eventually would have.  Bring me across.  Please, Nick."  Tears filled her eyes.  She hadn't realized how much she wanted it until now.

            "Please don't cry, Nat."  Nick kissed her eyelids.  "Please don't.  But I'd rather live without you than live with you hating me forever and ever."

            "Do you know why they say 'forever and ever', Nick?"  She began to quote from a book. " 'For ever and ever, we say when we are young, or in our prayers.  Twice, we say it, Old One, do we not?  For ever and ever…so that a thing may be for ever, a life or a love or a quest, and yet begin again, and be forever just as before.  And any ending that may seem to come is not truly an ending, but an illusion.  For Time does not die, Time has neither beginning nor end, and so nothing can end or die that has once had a place in Time.' "

            "Where's that from?"

            "Gwion said it in Silver on the Tree, by Susan Cooper.  Hate can't last forever and ever, Nick.  It's not strong enough.  I won't ever hate you for bringing me across, Nick, I promise you that.  In the end, it would be my choice, anyway, right?" Nick nodded.  "Then please, Nick."

            Nick cupped her face in his hands and searched it for any signs of doubt.  She met his gaze strongly, cleaving to her choice of action.  She had been considering asking him for a long time.  The dream had confirmed her desire, and Lacroix had merely made it necessary to convince Nick immediately.

            "Besides," she added quietly.  "I can't stand the thought of having to live without you, and eventually, it will be time for you to move on.  And if you feel half as strongly as I do, then I can't stand the thought of you having to live without me for eternity."

            Nick touched his forehead to hers.  "God, I love you Nat.  I don't know how I managed eight hundred years without you, and I don't think I could survive another eight hundred.  If you're one hundred percent positive, then I'll bring you across.  But…I don't know if I can stop…"

            "Then get someone here to stop you.  And if it will help, drink as much human blood as you can beforehand.  I just don't want to be alone anymore, Nick…" She barely whispered the last part.

            She leaned her forehead against Nick's chest as he kissed the top of her head.  "As long as I'm around, you're never alone, Natalie."

            They stood that way for a long, silent moment, Natalie cuddled against Nick, and his head resting on top of hers.  Then Nick had to ask once more.

            "Are you absolutely positive, Nat?"

            She giggled slightly.  "I honestly don't know.  I can't concentrate when you don't have a shirt on."

            Nick knew that was a yes.  He smiled and stepped away, caressing her cheek.  "Then I guess I'll have to go find one and put it on."  Before she could protest strenuously that she liked him half-naked, he was gone upstairs.

~~~~{@

            Vachon woke with a start in a chair by Tracy's hospital bed (he had 'convinced' the doctors to let him come whenever he wanted and stay for as long as he wanted).  He had just had the most horrible nightmare.  In it, he was dead, Tracy was dead, and Nick and Dr. Lambert were dead.  He ran his thumb down Tracy's warm cheek and concentrated on her heartbeat, to reassure himself that she was indeed still with him.  As his thumb reached her jawbone, her heart rate sped up and he noticed tears beginning to leak out from under her eyelids.  Was she waking up?  Should he call a doctor?

            Both question were answered when a nurse, alerted by the more rapid beeping of the heart monitor, enter the room.

            "Is she okay?" Vachon asked, the worry in his voice quite apparent.

            The nurse didn't answer until she had checked Tracy over.  "She's fine.  Well, as fine as she can be.  I'd say that she's waking up, and having a helluva nightmare."  Before Vachon could ask questions, she left, to continue on her rounds.

            He held Tracy's hand and listened, wishing there was some way he could wake her up.  If a dream it was, he thought it to be a long one, lasting well over fifteen minutes.  Finally, her eyes opened and blinked rapidly.

            "Vachon?"  It was a strangled sob, uttered like she knew he wouldn't be there.

            "I'm right here, Trace." He leaned over her bed, so she could see him.  He winced when she burst out sobbing, and carefully hugged her, mindful of the gunshot wound.  "It's okay, Trace.  You're okay.  Hush.  Please don't cry."  Whenever she cried, he got the urge to hold her and comfort her and make her pain go away, emotions that were dangerous for a vampire.

            "I had the most horrible nightmare," she sobbed, even though it was making her wound hurt.  "You were dead, and I was dead, and Nick was a vampire-"

            "And he and Dr. Lambert died," Vachon finished for her.  "I think we both had the same dream."

            Her tears began to quiet because Vachon was there, and holding her.  "And the General whammied me into thinking you had moved on without telling me.  Don't you ever do that to me.  Either one."

            Vachon knew she was talking about leaving and making her stake him.  At least, if their dreams were exactly the same, she was.  Knowing that, since vampires existed, anything was possible, neither one questioned the likelihood of dream sharing.  Vachon gently wiped the tears off her cheeks.  After that dream, he had realized that Tracy meant much more to him than she should.  Perhaps it was time to move on.  Or maybe he should talk to Knight about how he dealt with his feelings for Dr. Lambert.

            "It felt so real."  Tracy shuddered.  "I should have known it was only a dream, though.  I mean…Nick was a vampire…" She paused, and then repeated it.  "Nick was a vampire.  That wasn't part of the dream!  That was a memory!  Oh my God, that bastard!  That explains everything."  Vachon had sat back, but now Tracy grabbed his wrist and drew him closer.  "Don't you dare lie to me about this, Javier.  Because I will find out, do you understand?"  Tracy could feel herself getting tired again.  She must have lost a lot of blood.  "Is Nick a- is Nick one of you.'

            Vachon's mind raced.  He could lie, but she would undoubtedly ask Knight herself.  What was he supposed to tell her?  Catch 22 - either way, someone was going to try to hurt him.

            The phone beside the bed rang.  Vachon jumped before answering it.  "Hello?"

            "Hi Vachon.  This is Natalie.  How's Tracy?"

            "Hi Doc!  She's better - she's awake."

            "Tell her I said hi, and that I hope she gets out of there soon."  Vachon relayed the message.  "Nick said that she got shot because she saw that he was a vampire… Does she remember?"

            Vachon met Tracy's eyes for a second.  "Oh, yes, she does.  And to say she's pissed at him is like saying Antarctica's a bit chilly."

            Natalie laughed slightly.  "I'll be sure to warn him that she's out for blood.  Anyway, I called because Nick and I both had this really strange dream.  So did Lacroix.  You were dead-"

            "And so was Tracy.  And Knight took too much from you, and right before the dream ended, the General was about to stake him.  Tracy and I had the same dream."  Vachon paused.  "There has to be some kind of meaning behind this.  There are too many people involved for it to be a coincidence."

            "I don't know.  Perhaps it's a message from God telling us to change things, or else something awful like that is going to happen?" She paused, and Vachon could hear the General speaking in the background.  He was giving Nick the ultimatum - bring her across or she dies.  "Oh, shit, I have to go before they kill each other."

            "Doc!  Tell him to fill himself on human before he attempts it!  Even I know that."  Vachon knew that Dr. Lambert would most likely convince Nick that brining her across was a good idea.  Hell, even he could see that the benefits outweighed the downfalls, and he was sure she could.

            "Thanks Vachon,' she said hurriedly.  "Bye.'  The phone clicked in his ear.

            "What was that about?" Tracy murmured, trying to stay awake.

            Vachon sat back down and caressed her cheek.  "Nothing important.  Go back to sleep, okay?  You need it to get better."  And I can't stand losing you, he thought.

            Tracy decided his idea was a good one and let herself be carried off in a silver shoe, into a sea of dew.

~~~~{@

            Nick stared at the mug of blood in his hand.  The mug of human blood in his hand.  He had enough for two fledglings delivered from the Raven.  Lacroix had sounded slightly surprised when Nick asked, but had complied without question.  The General never broke his word, once it was given, but Nick had the feeling that the ancient vampire had something up his sleeve.

            He felt Natalie put a hand on his shoulder, and covered it with his own.  "It's almost dawn," she said quietly.

            Nick quickly downed the glass.  Even though it tasted a hundred times better than the steer blood he usually drank, it still left a bitter taste in his mouth and he winced.  It went against everything Natalie had drilled into his head for the past five years.

            "Yes, it is," he said, tilting his head back so he could see her behind him.  "Are you having second thoughts about this?"

            Natalie walked around him and sat in the chair beside him.  "No, of course not.  But… Nick, you understand that this is what I want, right?  That I would have asked you sooner or later?  You're not going to drain me, then decide not to bring me across, are you?"  Natalie could see that she had hurt him with her question.  "I'm sorry, Nick, but…"

            Nick fought the urge to look away from Natalie, to flinch from her unwavering gaze.  "No, Nat.  You have every right to worry about that.  I promise on the mortality that I hope to achieve, I won't do that.  Ever.  Not knowing how bad you want this."  He reached out and ran a thumb down her cheek.  "I promise you, we'll be together forever."

            Natalie smiled, slightly nervously.  "Gee, that sounds slightly familiar."  She regretted her words instantly.  As Nick's eyes flickered away, she torched his cold cheek with the back of her hand.  Nick immediately covered it with his own, his bright blue eyes meeting hers.  "Will you be able to stand to be around me when my heart barely beats, and my body isn't warm anymore?"

            Nick nodded.  "Of course.  Always and forever.  But what about when you look at me, and all you can see is the person who took away your sunlight, your place in heaven…" He turned his head away, unwilling to see the doubt that he was sure would be slowly spreading across her face.

            Natalie gently turned his head back, so he was looking at her.  She fought the urge to grin - they must have had this conversation six or seven times by now.  "I won't.  As cheesy as it sounds, as long as I'm with you, I have sunlight.  It's not like I get to see it anyway.  And one day, I will find a cure."

            Nick leaned forward slightly, fighting not to weep at the loyalty of that statement.  Natalie met him halfway, and their lips locked together.  She could feel the fire that his touch always ignited coursing through her body, raging to spill from every pore.

            "I love you," Nick murmured around their lips.

            "How touching," Lacroix said scathingly.

            Nick and Natalie broke apart guiltily, as though they had been caught doing something they shouldn't.

            "You've had your time, now what's your choice?"

            Nick reached for Natalie's hand, needing her strength.  "I'll bring her across if you give me your word that never again will you plot against us, or try to interfere in our lives.  I want your word that you'll leave us alone forever."  Natalie squeezed his hand comfortingly, finding it ironic that he was the one that needed her strength right then, not the other way around.

            "That I can not promise, Nicholas.  But I will give my word that I will discontinue my attempts to hurt and destroy you and the good doctor."  Lacroix's face showed his unwillingness to compromise.

            Nick could see this, and slowly nodded his head.  "Then leave.  I'd judge you have just enough time to get back to the Raven."

            "I will know if you defy me, Nicholas," was Lacroix's parting shot.  "And I will seek retribution."

            Natalie shuddered when he was gone, and Nick wrapped his arms around her.  The shutters on Nick's window began to rumble down their tracks, shutting automatically.  Natalie hugged Nick and stepped back.

            "I want to see one last sunrise before…"

            Nick nodded silently.  Natalie went to the lift, throwing one quick glance over her shoulder before the doors closed.  Nick did not see it.  He had turned away, unable to bear the sight of her going to see her last light.

            When Natalie returned, twenty minutes later, Nick was standing in front of the fireplace, staring into its empty depths.  He turned around slowly as she came to stand behind him.  His face was at its most pitiful - sadness and guilt filling it to the brim.  She could see a slight stain of red in twin trails down his cheeks.

            "Are you absolutely sure?" Nick asked.

            Natalie smiled slightly, truly happy for the first time in a long while.  "I'm more sure about this than I have ever been about anything before.  And if you ask me that once more, I'm going to hurt you."

            "I just want to be sure…" Nick said softly.

            "I know," Natalie replied, equally as soft.  She stepped in close to his body.  "But my answer will forever be the same."

            Nick smiled, feeling a ray of sunlight - the love and trust in Natalie's eyes - strike his heart.  "Promise you'll come back for me?"

            "I promise," she said quietly.

            Nick gently kissed her lips, then the side of her jaw, and then her neck.  His fangs extended, and his eyes turned golden as he slightly nicked her neck for a tiny taste.

            Struck by a sudden burst of fear, Natalie pushed him away.  She had just realized that they were in the same position as in the dream.  Hurt and bloodtears immediately filed Nick's eyes.  Natalie caressed his cheek and quickly spoke to reassure him.

            "Anywhere but here.  Anywhere but on this rug, in front of the fireplace, okay?"  She led him away, to over by his piano.  Once more, she pulled his head down to kiss him, and ran her tongue around his fangs, producing a groan from him.  She sliced the tip of her tongue on their sharp edges in one sudden motion, and Nick could taste her readiness, her need for him to do this.  All of her fear melted away as Nick lowered his mouth to her waiting neck.

"And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
That the dreams in which I'm dying
Are the best I ever had…"
            Tears for Fears - 'Mad World'

*Fin*

(A/N:  Well, this did not go at all as I planned it to.  I'm not quite sure I liked the way it turned out, but hey, what can I do?  Perhaps I'll write a different version, and stick to the original idea I had.  I hope you enjoyed.  Oh yeah, and below is a rundown of what did happen in the series, and what didn't, in this particular universe.  I'm glad you read, I pray you review, and I hope you enjoyed.)

Ashes to Ashes

Divia in general - Real

Attack on Vachon and anything related to that - Dream

Lacroix whammying Tracy into forgetting Vachon was dead - Dream

Last Knight

Lacroix's entire speech in 'Last Knight' - Dream

Psychiatrist's suicide - Real

Natalie talking about suicide - Real

The scene in which Natalie says, "Well, then it's simple.  You just have to love me as much as I love you" to Nick - Real
The scene where Nick flashes back to Alyssa - Real
Dawkins shoots Tracy - Real
Nick about to bring Tracy across and Natalie telling him not to - Real
Lacroix about to leave - Dream
Natalie telling Nick Tracy's dead - Dream
Natalie's conversation with him after that - Real
The rest of the conversation, up until the point at which Natalie asks Nick to try Janette's cure - Real
Natalie asks Nick to try Janette's cure - Dream
Nick trying it - Dream
Natalie unconscious on floor - Dream
Lacroix's speech - Dream
Lacroix about to stake Nick - Dream
Sunrise - Real!!!  *grin*
 
That's it.  I hope that helped!