"Getting Physical", a Forever Knight fan fiction

by Eve

Author's Notes: This is my first FK fanfic, so it's more about trying to get a feel for the characters (Nick and Natalie primarily) than about any kind of plot. I'm still pretty proud of it, though.


~~~~~~

"Hi, Nat... sorry I'm late."

He's been standing behind me--how long, I have no idea. His kiss upon my cheek is customarily cool and feather-light. "No problem," I murmur, and deliberately avoid turning to face him... Nick tends to distract me from my work. To put it mildly.

"Summer, you know, days are getting longer..."

I peer into the microscope. "Uh-huh."

"And I had to stop for gas on the way..."

"Yeah." I triple-check my results without actually looking at the numbers, then finally give up and look over my shoulder.

It's apparent that something is up.

As a general rule Nick moves smoothly, effortlessly--one minute he's in the door, the next minute he's only a few inches away from my ear. Makes me jump, but I've come to regard it as par for the course. But this... this is a noticeable deviation from the norm.

He stands in the middle of the room, hands hidden behind his back, rocking ever-so-slightly up and down on the balls of his feet. He's got an odd, quirky little grin on his face, and his posture is so rigid that I'm tempted to give him a shove and yell "Timber!" He seems, not nervous, exactly, but... expectant. Poised, ready to pounce.

It can't be the impending physical examination that's making him edgy. We've been doing this once a month for--I was about to say, for what seems like an eternity, but suffice it to say it's been quite a while... and he's never shown the slightest qualms about letting me examine him. I guess when you're eight hundred years old and eternally youthful, modesty becomes less of an issue.

I look him up and down; not a hair out of place, as usual. Even his clothes look like he bought them on the way over: his jeans are so new the denim is blue-black. A crisp white t-shirt, set in stark relief against the soft line of his spotless black overcoat, minimizes the pallor of his face. He's clean-shaven, his hair combed back in soft amber waves and still slightly damp, as though he got out of the shower about half an hour ago. All signs point to a rare phenomenon I call Morning Nick--fresh from a good day's rest and ready to go out there on the streets and get shot, stabbed, blown up, burned, smacked around, and generally roughed up. And that's just on his nights off.

His left hand is still behind his back; the other doesn't seem quite sure what to do with itself, reaching for my shoulder and then plucking at my lapel before falling away to pick imaginary lint from the front of his coat. Curiouser and curiouser. When I shoot him a quizzical look, he mirrors my expression teasingly, one eyebrow raised. Just my luck. Morning Nick wants to play.

Nonplussed, I peel off my latex gloves and drop them into the trash. I rarely bother with them when examining Nick--it's not likely he's going to catch anything from me. I move towards the door, but he must have closed and locked it when he came in. Damn those quick reflexes of his.

"Shall we?" I gesture to the nearest table. I've technically got ten minutes left on my lunch break, so we can afford a leisurely pace and a little small talk. Although, rest assured, flying rumours would abound if someone with a key--Grace, say--happened to mosey in and find the inscrutable Detective Knight hanging around the morgue in a state of undress in his off-hours. Although, thanks to his condition (I'm assuming), he isn't usually affected by the cold air in any way that might damage his reputation...

He grins. It's disarming, although I can't shake the sensation that he knows exactly where my thoughts were just now. "Of course. But first--" The hidden hand emerges at last, and proffers what looks to be a moderately expensive box of chocolates. "These are for you."

"I--" the wisecrack I want to make suddenly sinks into the fathomless blue of his eyes, lost forever. All I can do is stammer, "Uh, thanks, uh, Nick... Yeah."

It would be an understatement to say that Nick Knight often surprises me. I mean, let's be honest here: he continually takes every myth I've ever managed to concoct, consciously or otherwise, about human nature, and blows it clean out of the water. But the single most astounding thing about him is the fact that, despite his age and incredible experience, he remains, at heart, so very innocent.

"They're okay?" He's still holding out the box. I'm still not taking it. We must look like complete idiots. More grist for the rumour mill if anyone comes in. No one does. I'm almost disappointed, funny enough.

Suddenly conscious of my appearance, I tuck a particularly stubborn curl back behind my ear and awkwardly adjust my lab coat. "Oh, yeah--actually, they're my favourites... how did you know?"

This is a man who has been responsible for great loss of life, in what he likes to call his previous existence. How great, I don't like to imagine. Because, frankly, that would take all the fun out of the fact that he's giving me a present for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

He affects a self-deprecating shrug. "Well, I didn't, to be perfectly honest... I don't really know what's good and what's not, so I asked Schank what Myra likes--"

"And he knew?" Well, I wasn't willing to believe in the existence of vampires at first either. I suppose this isn't that much more improbable.

"No, he had to call Myra and check. Then, of course, he had to go with me and get her a box. And some flowers, to apologize for waking her up at four in the morning."

"Aha."

Nick nods, canting his head boyishly. I simply cannot picture him as a murderer. No; Nick is a human being with a grave (no pun intended), and as yet incurable, illness. I refuse to pathologize his soul because of the crimes of his body. His hunger. He's tried so hard, these past months... and so have I. And I believe him when he tells me he's not the person he was a hundred years ago. Hell, why shouldn't I? I'm not the person I was a week ago, before he showed up at my apartment and informed me we needed to talk about our relationship. Not that we did, exactly, but sometimes talking is overrated...

"Well, they're great, Nick. But why--?" It's only been a few days since our first date--not much of a date, I drank way too much and probably made an ass of myself to boot... I really hope he's not one of those people who celebrates cheesy anniversaries. Then again, he's already had about seven hundred or so birthdays, and, come to think of it, he's been known to forget my birthday, also known as the day we met. "You didn't have to," I conclude tentatively.

"I know. I wanted to." A smile. "Sweets for the sweet." Coming from any other man on earth, a line like that would be right up there with 'what's your sign?'. But from Nick, it becomes a simple statement of obvious fact. He takes a single step closer, nestles the box into the curve of my arm; I find myself cradling it like I would an infant. He oh-so-gently brushes back that pesky curl for me.

Yes, he's definitely one of the nicest birthday presents I ever got... hopefully one of these days I'll get to unwrap him. The thought makes me laugh out loud, and also reminds me why he's here. He eyes me inquisitively, but I simply put the chocolates aside, affect a brisk, business-like demeanor, and command him to strip.

He grins wickedly. "Aren't you going to buy me dinner first?" I ignore him, which turns out to be difficult as he persists, "Or is this your way of thanking me?"

I cut my eyes at him, in what I hope is a seductive manner. "That's for me to know, Detective Knight," I retort huskily.

Nick's face registers mingled amusement and approval. For a moment I feel fabulously like half of a very normal couple. He removes his topcoat and drapes it over the back of a chair nearby.

"Did you write like I told you to?"

A non-committal grunt. I assume this means no.

"Nick--"

"I lapsed three times. Once on Sunday night, and twice on Monday." He grimaces. "Tuesday was hell."

I sigh. Loudly. "Nick, I didn't ask you to keep a journal just to document your... lapses." I pause to recover from my stumble over that particular word. To me a lapse is forgetting to turn off the television before you leave the house. To him, a lapse is undoing everything we've worked for by opening a bottle. "I wanted you to write every time you had a craving. This isn't just for my benefit--not only does it help me see which of the appetite suppressants I give you are working, it's supposed to be therapeutic for you to write about how you feel."

He unbuckles his belt, removes it, and tosses it onto the chair. "I tried, Nat." He pats his pockets and produces a page of crumpled notebook paper. "This was as far as I got."

The page is torn in one corner, having apparently been violently wrenched from its home by the author, in mid-sentence. Two words are scrawled repeatedly across it with increasing urgency: I'm hungry. I'm HUNGRY. I'M HUNGRY!!! Well, he's no Lord Byron, but I have to give him partial marks for effort. There is a rust-coloured thumbprint at the top of the page. I don't like the image this conjures up, so I hand the paper back.

"Add a funky beat, I think it'll do well in the techno scene," I remark, deliberately keeping my tone light. It hurts when I put so much of myself into this, and he can look me in the eye without so much as a flicker of remorse and say he lapsed. It hurts that he can be so cold. I tell myself it's just that he's done this so many times before only to have it fail, he doesn't want to get his hopes up, doesn't want to get my hopes up... I remember his jubilation when we discovered what we thought was a cure, the way he swept me up into his arms and we stood there in the sunlight, sharing the laughter of true kindred spirits. But every now and again, some stray thought stirs up all my latent insecurities, and I wonder if he even cares about me at all.

One look in his eyes convinces me that he does.

"I tried," he repeats, in a velvet whisper I almost don't catch.

"I know."

I breathe deeply, inhaling the brisk, spicy aroma of his aftershave, and the deeper, more essential scent underneath that is just him. That persistent, intoxicating smell, a combination of burnt cinnamon, copper, and honey, always manages to make my heart race. From a professional standpoint, I'm fairly certain there's a physiological basis for it; probably some pheromone unique to vampires, something that speeds the beating of the mortal heart and thus increases blood flow.

On an emotional level, however, I want to associate the scent, the sensation I gain from it, with Nick. Not his condition... just him.

I recall the ride home from the restaurant, coming out of a wine-induced haze with my head on Nick's shoulder, his arm around me... and his scent, gently stirring me to something resembling a normal level of consciousness, my heart pounding rapidly. If he'd turned to look at me in that moment, I just know I would have kissed him like he'd never been kissed in all his centuries on this earth.

He didn't look at me then.

However, he is looking at me now.

He places both hands on my shoulders, and I can feel him gazing into me... through me...

Which is when Grace comes in.

Nick lets his hands fall to his sides and takes a brisk step back. The fog surrounding me lifts--for the most part--but Grace's dumbfounded expression and her querulous, "De...tective Knight?" don't quite click in for me immediately, until she adds, "I thought it was your night off."

"It is." Nick aims his most charming smile at Grace, who, for whatever reason, is steadfastly immune to both detectives and blonds. He gestures to the chair. "I forgot my coat here the other night, I just thought I'd swing by and pick it up."

I can tell she thinks this is a total crock, but her only reply is a very small, "Ohh."

"Did you need something, Grace?" I ask, pointedly shifting the focus of the conversation away from Nick.

Her eyes never leave his face as she responds, "No, I was going out to grab something to eat, did you want anything?"

My stomach kicks into overdrive at the thought of a curried tuna salad sandwich from the deli down the street, but I know Nick's physical won't leave me enough time to eat it before I have to get back to work. "Thanks, no."

"How come the door was locked?" The inquiry is directed at me, but she's still looking in Nick's direction.

He fields the question easily. "Oh, sorry, I must have done that."

Another "Ohh," even smaller than the first.

"You have a nice lunch, Grace." There's a soothing cadence to his voice that makes me wonder.

She nods, and leaves, locking the door again on her way out.

"Nick, did you--?" I make a hokey Svengali-esque motion with my hands. He shakes his head.

"Didn't need to. Maybe she's hoping to collect on the office pool," he suggests, rather cryptically, unbuttoning his fly.

"What office pool?"

His sudden, rich chuckle surprises us both. "You haven't heard about that yet?"

"No, but I never bet on those things, I always lose."

"Well, this time, you'd definitely have the inside track." He slides the jeans off and steps out of them, leaving them in a denim puddle on the floor.

I don't like where this is going. "Why?"

He smiles self-indulgently. I poke him in the chest.

"Why, Nick?"

I stare up at him until he breaks. "Schanke was telling me about it. Apparently there's a rumour going around that you and I are... you know."

"That we're what?" I want to hear him say it.

"That you and I are involved." He pauses, and then continues, as seamlessly as though he's been saying it his whole life: "That we're lovers." The next sentence is muffled by a mouthful of cotton, since he's got his t-shirt up over his head by this point. "And they're betting on how, and where, we'll finally be caught in flagrante delicto."

"You're kidding me."

He spreads his hands before him in a gesture of innocence, which, compounded with the fact that he's standing there in only his shorts, hair mussed from the impromptu striptease, lends him an air of vulnerability most women would find irresistable. Fortunately, there's just me here right now. "Schanke only told me so he could try and convince me that if I had to succumb to my animal urges, the backseat of your car would be the best place for it. He says he'll split the profits with me. Sixty/forty, naturally."

For a moment I'm torn between amusement and outrage. Finally the former wins out. "Don't I get a say in this?"

"Oh, I'm sure I can get him to cut you in for ten," he deadpans.

"Funny man... okay, have a seat."

He puts both hands behind him and levers himself up onto the stainless steel examination table, perfectly at ease, while I get my instruments together. Even though, as a general rule, it's all the same to him, I've allowed him to retain his boxers. Black silk. I've taken enough bullets out of various areas of him to know he has plenty of ordinary cotton ones, which leads me to the inevitable conclusion that he deliberately dresses up for these examinations. I smile at that, and he catches me. "What?"

"Oh, don't mind me, I think I'm a bit punchy tonight. Look straight ahead." I shine my penlight into his eyes, one by one. The pupils respond obediently to all the normal stimuli, the irises remaining harmlessly blue and clear. "Up... down... okay, look at me. Could you--?" I still haven't found a workable euphemism, but he understands what I'm asking.

His face becomes an expressionless mask, and then his eyes begin to glow dully gold, giving off a coppery sheen when I flash the penlight. The line of his mouth also alters, almost imperceptibly, but I'm familiar enough with that aspect of his physiognomy to know what I'll find when I check that out, so I take my time. Also, I'll admit it--it creeps me out a little to see those deadly incisors up close. Kind of like sticking one's head into the lion's mouth and trusting him not to bite your head off.

A sharp intake of breath from my patient reminds me that this isn't easy for him, either. His upper lip is dotted with red beads of perspiration.

"Okay, no change there. Say 'ah'."

Nick sticks his tongue out mischieviously before complying, and for a moment the blue resurfaces from beneath the gold. Then he opens his mouth, and there, protruding grotesquely from an otherwise ordinary set of teeth, are the incisors.

"Ah."

"No change there," I repeat. The sharpened points suddenly retract. He closes his mouth and regards me with a hangdog expression. I swab the blood-sweat from his lip with a section of gauze, then bag it for later analysis. "Ever thought of having them removed?"

The set of his jaw changes, hardens. "I've tried it."

"What happened?"

"They grew back." Well, obviously, I almost retort, but don't. "Every time," he adds, a bit more meditatively. He seems in awe of his own healing abilities, even after all these years.

"How are you doing on the garlic pills?"

"I had to stop taking them for a couple of days... come on, don't give me that look. I spent all day Friday in communion with the commode. And Schanke was complaining about my breath non-stop. I did okay with the liver, though--I managed to keep it down the second time, when I ate it raw."

"I figured you would. Sit up straight." I move behind him and tear the wrapper off a sterilized needle. "I want to try you on a new protein drink--"

"Naaaaaat..."

"Niiiiiick..."

He treats me to a wide range of disgusted faces, but doesn't press the issue further.

I stick him in the back of the neck with the needle; he doesn't even flinch. "Feel anything unusual?" I question.

"No."

In addition to advanced healing, part of Nick's condition seems to be a deadening of the pain centers of the brain. He feels it, sure, but not right away, and not nearly as much as an ordinary person would. However, I've learned through experience that if he can see the needle going in, he tends to experience a twinge of entirely psychological pain. This one vestige of humanity is definitely reassuring, but doesn't exactly help my results. I jab him again with the needle, lower this time, and a little harder. "Now?"

"Uh-uh."

I remove the needle, and make a motion as if I'm inserting it into his left shoulder, but the tip never touches his skin. "How about now?"

"Um... still nothing."

"Okay..." I press the needle into the blade of his shoulder until I hit bone. "Anything?"

"Nope--wait, my shoulder itches. The left one. Feels like a bug bite."

I remove the needle. "That's a good sign." There isn't a drop of blood from the point of entry. Not a good sign. But, as always, I take it in stride; I run the tip of my finger over the places I've been prodding him, checking to see if they've healed yet.

"I can definitely feel that," he remarks.

I've never been a very demonstrative person, and have always shied away from overt displays of affection. At least, until I met Nick. Those little touches of his--a hand at the small of my back or an arm around my shoulders, a touch to the cheek or even a kiss... I've come to expect them as a matter of course now. All right, it's more than that. I've come to enjoy them. And even now I've been letting my free hand remain perched at the juncture of his shoulder and neck for a moment longer than the doctor-patient relationship allows for. It's hard not to notice how smooth his bare skin is. Or how cold. He reaches up, covers my fingers with his own.

"Warm hands, the first sign of a good physician," he remarks. Wonder if a warm face is the sign of a good pathologist? He takes my hand, turns it over, and applies a leisurely kiss to the palm. As much as I want to protest, to draw back, I could really get used to this. That delicious semblance of normalcy is back with a vengeance now. Whether unconsciously or by design, he's managed to drape my arm over him, drawing me closer. I perch my chin on his shoulder for a moment, giving him the reciprocal contact he seems to crave from me, before reclaiming my hand and getting things back on track.

"Okay, Nick, almost finished; all that's really left now are the usual suspects." I walk back around the table, tossing the needle in the trash, and motion for him to scoot over. "I'm just going to sit beside you for a second, if you don't mind."

"Knee bothering you again?"

"No more than usual." Translation: hell, yes.

Nick places one hand on my knee with a look of sympathetic wistfulness--as much as he dislikes seeing me in pain, he's envious of my human ability to experience it. Even through the fabric of my slacks, his hand is like ice, which soothes the burning pain a little.

"When are you going to get a haircut?" I inquire, reaching up and ruffling the halo of tumbled golden curls.

"Is that Dr. Lambert in her professional capacity asking? Or my Natalie trying to drop a hint?" The corners of his lips turn upward in a teasing smile.

"I need a new hair sample," I tell him, trying to ignore the faint buzzing beneath my skin that began with his pronouncement of the words my Natalie. "The last one--" Hmm, how shall I put this delicately--decomposed? "--ran out. And I'm assuming you don't want to go walking around the precinct with a big bald patch back there. If you're in the mood for a manicure, I could use some more nail trimmings too." His look softens me in spite of my resolve to get this done, and I add, "Trust me, if I wanted you to change anything, you'd know about it."

"Of course, I forgot--you're about as subtle as a crate of booster seats."

"A crate of...? Okay, you lost me."

"Oh, right, I didn't tell you about that, did I?" He continues to talk as I go through the usual motions--testing his reflexes, his blood pressure, his heartbeat (such as it is) and so forth. "It was on Wednesday. I called you after my shift but the machine picked up."

"Yeah, I was knee-deep in here Wednesday morning, tour bus accident. I didn't make it home until almost noon."

He nods soberly. "Schank and I got this call about the Werner case... the suspect said he'd turn himself in if we met him at this warehouse, it actually wasn't too far from my place. It turned out he wasn't interested in going with us, and in point of fact just wanted to take as many cops out as he could before eating the last bullet. We got him, but before I could get up to where he was he tried to drop a crate on Schanke. It was a close call, too--I almost didn't reach him in time. When the crate smashed, all these booster seats spilled out... Anyhow, that's his new saying--any time I do anything, it's suddenly comparable to a crate of booster seats. I just felt like spreading the joy."

I smile. "Schanke's a character."

"You're telling me." Nick rolls his eyes and assumes an expression of pious suffering as I remove the blood pressure cuff from his arm.

"Well, we're all done here, soooooo, I'll thank you to hop down and get dressed before Grace comes back in here and has a lot more to say than 'Oh'."

"Right." He slides off the table, turns away from me, and bends over to pick up his clothes, a move I can't be sure isn't deliberate. "So what's the prognosis, Doctor?"

"Looks great--I mean, you're in excellent condition," I correct hurriedly, "apart from the usual, um... side effects of, uh... acute hematophagia, and, uh...."

Then, of course, he whirls around just a touch faster than normal human speed, and I'm caught in the middle of a purely aesthetic appreciation of my patient's anatomy. He grins, pulling on his jeans.

I give up and go on the offensive. "Nice view, by the way."

He blinks, impossibly ingenuous. Yeah, right, Nick--and I also believe you're thirty-four years old and were born in Vancouver. Once he sees I'm not buying it, he takes the compliment in the spirit in which it was given. "Thanks. Glad to oblige."

"I'll get your protein shake--don't run out on me, now." The man has no fear of bullets, but if you try to nourrish him, he leaves skid marks.

"I won't." He's busily engaged in tucking his t-shirt into his jeans.

I go into the fridge, emerging with the thermos I prepared before coming to work--and he's still there. Will wonders never cease? "Here we go. Orange flavour."

"Lucky me."

"Yes. And now, if you don't mind, I'm sure there are guests in the foyer, anxiously awaiting an audience with the princess of the formaldehyde kingdom..."

Nick's sweeping gaze encompasses the empty tables before focusing on me once more. "Slow tonight?"

"Yes, which makes a welcome change."

Now a calculated glance towards the door. "And Grace just got back..."

"Well, I'll have to take your word on that."

He effects the ever-so-charming smile which usually means he wants something from me. "I was hoping I could take you to lunch."

"Oh, well, the thing is... I already had my lunch break. Just now. And I'm not that hungry." My stomach rumbles in adamant protest. Traitor.

Nick shoots me a faintly reproving look, then leans in and applies a kiss to my temple. "I'll talk to Grace."

He's got one hand on the doorknob by the time I interject. "Nick--"

"Yeah?"

"Talk to her, don't... talk to her. Okay?"

His smile widens into a grin, and he nods. "Okay." He disappears into the hall.

Was that a glimmer of gold in his eyes, just before he--? "I mean it!" I call after him.

"Okay!" he calls back.

In a moment of unparalleled optimism, I grab my coat and struggle into it. I can hear a low murmur of voices just outside the door, Nick's mostly, and then he returns, a cheerful spring in his step. "Piece of cake," he announces. I brush past him and pop my head out the door.

"Grace...?"

She smiles and waves away any objections before I can form them. "Go on, girl, let the man buy you a sandwich. You look like you could use it." She sure doesn't seem hypnotized... well, all right then. I turn back to Nick, who is looking inordinately pleased with himself.

"I am going with you on one condition--you have to eat something."

Well, that took the wind out of his sails all right. He recovers quickly, however, replying, "I'll eat something, if we take your car."

This is something new; normally an outing with Nick isn't complete without a tour of the block in the convertible, top down of course. "We don't need a car, the deli's just around the--" I stop, mid-step, and glare at him as I make the connection. "If I spot Schanke out there with a camera, you're a dead man, Nicholas Knight." Forestalling the inevitable retort, I add, "You won't even know what happened... I'm gonna hit you like a crate of booster seats."

His laughter still echoes resoundingly through the empty morgue as I close the door behind us.