Title: Debt Paid

Author: Endaewen

Spoilers: 3rd Season? (I've never seen it, only gathered events through other fanfic)

Disclaimer: Not mine, the characters etc all belong to their creator. Sony, I think.

Summary: Nick broke the Code when he let Natalie live with her knowledge of the Community. Now the reckoning is due.

No new customers so far, Natalie thought gratefully. As there were no new cases waiting for her attention on this shift, Natalie was taking advantage of the slow night to catch up on the paperwork her job as one of the city coroners entailed. Let's hope it stays that way. Thankfully, such shifts were common, however, the quantity of paperwork was large enough that one or two busy shifts left Natalie with a small mountain of the stuff, demanding her attention very quickly.

Nick hadn't stopped by once in the last week, or phoned her for any reason. He was going so far as to send his young partner, Tracy for any paperwork. Even Tracy had noticed, asking Natalie if something had happened between her partner and the coroner. Natalie was wondering if he was going to move on, as he put it. If so, she hoped that the vampire would say goodbye first, and not simply disappear without warning.

I don't want to come in to work one day soon, only to discover that he's disappeared without a trace. However, with the way Nick's been acting, I'm afraid it's all too likely. Natalie shook her head as if to shake away the distracting thoughts. Whatever happens, you can't do anything about it, and the paperwork's not just going to go away, she scolded herself as she went back to work.

Just over an hour later, Natalie had finished the paperwork for two of Nick's and Tracy's cases, as well as one or two other cases for the same precinct. Figuring that was as good a time for a break as any, she decided to drop the files off with the two detectives before going on her coffee break.

When she arrived, it was just as she had thought: her two friends were also struggling with that bane of public servants everywhere, called paperwork. Taking a closer look, she realized that Nick had indulged in a bad habit of his and piled most of it on Tracy's side of their shared workspace. Hiding a grin, Natalie toured the rest of the busy room, dropping off envelopes for some of the other on-duty detectives before making her way over to the pair of blond detectives, with the remaining envelopes. "Hi Nick, Tracy," she greeted them. Tracy looked up, groaning at the sight of the envelopes in Natalie's hand. Natalie saw the look and said with artificial cheer: "Yep! It's all for you." She grinned at the face Tracy made. Sobering, the Medical Examiner added, "it's the results for the Hutchins and Wang cases."

Through all this, Nick hadn't done more than greet the new arrival with a simple "Hi Nat". This had become par for the course for the past four or five days. A couple of weeks previously, he would have been chatting with her and teasing her the same way she was with his partner, possibly teasing the younger detective as well.

The two women talked for a minute before Tracy asked if Natalie had time for a mug of coffee. They headed for the break room, leaving Nick still sitting at the desk.

Luckily, there was no one else in the break room, because the minute the door closed behind them, Tracy started asking questions. "What's going on between you and Nick?" If anyone else had been in the room, a question like that would be sending the office gossip grape-vine into new levels of energy.

Knowing that Tracy knew about vampires but not about her partner, and that Nick could, if he chose, listen in on their conversation from his desk, Natalie had to be careful about what she said. She didn't want to give away other's secrets. "Do you know anything about what's going on with Nick?" she asked, instead of answering Tracy's question.

"No, but he seems to be worried about something." Tracy replied. "He hasn't changed towards any of the other people working here, though." Here Tracy frowned, continuing, "except me. He's hardly talking to me now. Not that he's told me all that much sometimes in the past."

Natalie shook her head. "I can't tell you anything. We may be friends, but your partner still mystifies me sometimes." Try most of the time.Must come from being eight centuries old.

The coroner sipped at her coffee and changed the subject away from their mutual friend and co-worker. Ten minutes later, Natalie realized that she really had to get back to work. As they walked back to Nick at the desk, Natalie said, "it was nice to have a chance to just talk to you Tracy, without work getting in the way."

Nick's partner replied: "agreed! We've got to find the time to do it again, Natalie." During the conversation, Tracy had become comfortable enough to start using Natalie's first name in casual conversation, instead of calling her "Dr. Lambert" all the time.

Back at her office, Natalie immersed herself in the paperwork again, hoping to get it finished before the end of the shift. She had the next two days off, and didn't want to even think about work after tonight. Not likely though, she thought with some exasperation.

It was some time later, Natalie wasn't sure how much later, probably an hour or two, that the Medical Examiner was abruptly aware that she was no longer alone in the room.

One moment, she was alone, the next there was somebody else in the room. No sound from the door, which was the only entrance into the room, though, either opening or closing. She looked up to see two men standing silently on the other side of the desk.

The two figures were imposing, reminding Natalie of the few encounters she had had with Lucien Lacroix during the time of the Fever. One thing was certain, Natalie thought, I've never seen either of these two before. Both were wearing dark clothing, neither too casual, nor too formal. Except for the air of menace, they were the sort of people you could pass in the street and never think twice about. The Coroners eyes flicked to the clock on the wall behind the two strangers. There were still several hours before dawn. Vampires.

The figure on the left nodded to acknowledge and confirm her suspicions. Natalie did her best to control her reactions, but she knew that the two standing in front of her could tell that she was frightened, regardless of what she did. Still she could do her best to not show it outwardly.

Natalie decided to remain silent until she knew why the two vampires were there. She figured they weren't there to kill her right off, or they would have already. Had that been their intent, she doubted she would have even seen them. However, she didn't want to inadvertently do or say something to change their minds on that count either. Staying silent remained the safest option.

"Natalie Lambert?" The one who had earlier confirmed that they were vampires spoke. "Would you come with us please?" The words were a request in the same way that requests from the police were: not at all, they were orders. This was the final piece for things to click into place for Natalie. Enforcers. This must have been what Nick was worried about all week. Would have been nice if he'd told me, not that it would make a bit of difference, if I understand what he's told me in the past. Only a second had passed while these thoughts raced through her head.

She changed her mind about not asking questions as she got up from behind the desk. "Can I ask who you are, and why you are here?" Natalie hadn't look away from the two impassive figures from the moment she had become aware of their presence in the room.

This time it was the one who had not yet spoken who answered. "We are Enforcers, as I am sure you have already surmised."

Blast it! This is what Nick was afraid of, from the beginning. Nothing can be done now though. Natalie was not by nature a fatalistic person, but it seemed to her that she was staring her end in the face.

It appeared that her thoughts were visible on her face, because the Enforcer speaking said next: "you will be perfectly safe, for now, provided you do not do anything stupid." Not that that was all that reassuring, especially the 'for now' part.

Given that there didn't seem to be any overt threat to her at the moment, Natalie dared to ask one more question. A rather optimistic one at that. "How long will this take?" Assuming I'm going to be coming out of this alive, she muttered to herself in a quieter tone of voice. At the same time, she got her coat and got ready to go.

The same one who had been speaking earlier answered her question as well. "As to your fate, nothing has been decided yet. For the moment, those in charge simply wish to talk to you and de Brabrant," he said, first responding to her mutterings, then answering the question. "I would assume at most a couple of days."

There was no other option but for Natalie to do as they told her. Minutes later, they were out of the building. Surprisingly enough, or not, given the senses my 'escorts' have, Natalie thought, they hadn't encountered anybody, not even her assistant, Grace, as they left. I could have sworn there were more people working here, even on the nightshift. Perhaps they hypnotised them into leaving the area.

Once outside, the two vampires escorting Natalie drew her into the shadows. With that action, she got an inkling of how they were planning to transport her to where-ever they were going. With that realization came the first outward sign of any severe emotion on Natalie's part. She paled.

"Don't worry, you'll be perfectly safe," the one now holding her at the waist said. There was nothing intimate in the action though. Anyway, Natalie was sure she could hear amusement in his voice at her predicament. "Just hold on tight." With that warning all three of them went straight up.

Soon enough they were at their destination, the Raven. The club owned and run by Lucien Lacroix. It was also one of the local Community hangouts. Regardless of whether it was a comfortable place for her or not, Natalie was glad to be back on the ground, partly because the flight had been a terrifying experience, and partly because it was cold up there. "There, that wasn't so bad, was it?" the Enforcer who had transported her asked.

Natalie decided it would be safer if the didn't reveal her true thoughts on the matter, which were that she would have felt distinctly safer had she been flying with someone she trusted, such as Nick. Instead of answering, the coroner simply nodded.

The three of them entered the building, which was very different than when Natalie had seen it open for business, which it clearly wasn't at this time. No music or coloured lights, and the tables were all stacked to one side of the room. There was also a crowd, which she assumed were all vampires. In the crowd, she spotted the few Community members that she knew on sight: Vachon, Lacroix, and a couple of vampires for whom she had removed slivers. Worryingly, Natalie couldn't find Nick anywhere there. Then Nick and Tracy were brought in behind her. Natalie's heart sank, feeling ever more certain of her doom, and that it was going to be a public end as well, designed as a warning for the rest of the Toronto Community.

Nick and his partner had been brought in under guard as well, three Enforcers for the two of them. From the looks of things, Tracy had obviously found out about her partner and was not happy. If the three of them got out of this intact, Nick was going to have to deal with it, and Natalie didn't want to be anywhere near by for the explosion.

The coroner, now probably former coroner, and soon to be body, as her mental voice put it, knew her brain was seizing on these inconsequential things to avoid thinking about the current situation, which as far as she could tell was getting worse by the minute.

Soon after the two detectives arrived, five vampires filed in from one of the other rooms in the club. There was an aura about them, which demanded respect and fear, much like tat of the Enforcers who had escorted or guarded Natalie, but more so. At any rate, with the newcomers arrival, the low buzz of voices stopped entirely.

There had been something familiar about the way the room had been set up, Natalie thought, but she hadn't been able to put her finger on what it was until the arrival of the five vampires. Then it hit her: It was a lot like a cross between a courtroom and a throne room.

At one end of the room, opposite the doors to the outside world, were five chairs, where the newly arrived vampires were seated. The rest of the crowd stood around the other three sides of the room and there was a clear space in the center area of the room.

It was towards this center area that the three of them were now led. The two detectives and the coroner ended up standing, facing the seated vampires. Two of the Enforcers who had brought them here were standing one to either side of the group, the other three were now standing just in front of the crowd behind them, or so Natalie thought. She certainly couldn't see them standing behind her any longer.

She didn't have a change to worry about it any more, as the centermost of the seated vampires stood and began to speak. "Nicholas de Brabrant, you stand before the Elders Council accused of breaking the Code. Your guilt in this matter is clear, as the evidence of your transgressions stands here beside you. The penalty called for by our laws for this is your death." He looked at the two mortals flanking the vampire. "And theirs." At that statement there was a low muttering from the crowd standing behind the accused. He paused, letting his statement sink in. "Have you anything to say, de Brabrant?"

Nick looked over at Natalie apologetically before saying anything. "In my defense, when Dr. Lambert here found out about our existence, I did attempt to make her forget, however, it turned out that she is a resistor. As is, I believe, also the case with Detective Vetter.

One of the other members of the Council of Elders caught Nick's phrasing on that statement and queried it. "You believe? You do not know. Why not?"

"Until tonight, when the Enforcers were ordered to bring us before the Council, Tracy had no idea that I am a member of the Community. Having heard that she is a resistor, I thought it better to not risk her finding out about my double life, by trying and failing to make her forget about our existence myself.

Natalie was trying her best to keep an eye on both Nick and the Council. So far, she thought there was a trace of fear in Nick's voice and face, but no expression she could read on the faces of any of the Council members. Tracy, however, from what she could see, considering that the detective was standing on the far side of Nick, well, if looks could kill, Nick would be a pile of smoldering ashes. Still, Nick's partner was intelligent enough to not do or say anything right then, no matter what she was feeling. Natalie figured it was a mix of fear at their current situation and anger and betrayal that her partner hadn't trusted her enough to tell her what he was himself.

Nick explained the situations where each of the mortals had discovered the existence of the Community, then one of those questioning Nick asked why he hadn't killed the two mortals when he discovered that they were resistors. "Because I have made a choice to avoid killing where there is any other available option. Besides, the attention the media gives to the deaths of anyone who works with the police or justice system is immense." Natalie noted with surprise that there had been an involuntary nod of agreement with Nick's last point from two of the Council members.

The first speaker stood again. "The laws of the Community are clear, as is the sentence for breaking them in this way. It shouldn't rate gathering the Council, much less a hearing in front of it." Natalie's feelings of doom increased at those words, then the speaker continued. "And yet, as we have found out, were it not for this mortal," here he looked straight at the medical examiner, "the toll of the Fever would have been much greater. Had it raged much longer, it would most likely have spread to other cities, wiping out entire populations. Those the Council have spoken to," here his eyes raked over the crowd, "suggest that it was Dr. Lambert who discovered and provided the curative agent"

For the first time since her arrival, one of the Council spoke directly to Natalie. "For this we owe you a debt of gratitude. In addition, we have heard that Dr. Lambert has done her best to alert us to the inevitable bodies that occasionally turn up poorly disguised. At the same time, going out of her way to divert official scrutiny as to the reality." Here Natalie grimaced in distaste. She didn't like doing that. It felt too much as though she were lying.

"It is due to the way that Dr. Lambert has aided us so extensively that the Council was convened here to discuss this breaking of the code, and to decide her future."

Chairs were brought out for those who were on trial and the Council questioned Natalie for the next couple of hours in front of the crowd. The topics discussed included: her impressions of those members of the Community that she had met and what she had done during the Fever. Also, what the coroner did on encountering a Community kill and how she felt about it. Finally, about an hour before dawn, the five Council members left the room for a short time. When they returned, it was to announce their decision.

"Natalie Lambert, we have come to an unusual decision because of the debt we owe you. It has been decided that, provided you swear to uphold the Code as one of us would, you will be permitted to leave as you are, but considered by our laws to be a member of the Community." The medical examiner sagged in relief, knowing that she was going to survive the night. "The same offer has also been extended to you, Tracy Vetter. Your other choices are: To be brought across, or to be killed. Your decision is to be made after dark tonight." With that, the Council dismissed the rest of the crowd.

Nick, Natalie and Tracy were led into the office in the bacl of the Raven, where they were soon joined by one of the Council members. With him was one of the Enforcers who had 'escorted' the group to the club in the first place. He brought food and drink for the four of them.

The Enforcer spoke, thanking Natalie for her efforts during the Fever. "No, it didn't get me," he said at her look, "but it almost killed one of my children. The curative agent was found just in time. If there is anything I can do for you today, I'll be just outside the door."

Once they were left alone, Tracy's patience ran out. "You knew that I knew about your kind and you didn't tell me the truth?"

Nick nodded, and before she could continue, spoke. "Tracy, it was safer this way for both you and I. Or so I had hoped." He shook his head at the futility of that hope. "I'm sorry."

"Partners need trust for it to work out. I trusted you, but did you trust me?" Tracy paused, her voice sad. "And more importantly, can I trust you now?"

"I swear to you, Tracy, other than this, I have never withheld information on anything of importance. If you don't want to remain as my partner because of this, I won't fight it, just please don't make any decision on the spur of the moment."

About ten minutes later, one of the members of the Elders Council, one who hadn't spoken earlier at the meeting, entered, After his entry, the subject changed to the rules that the two mortals were going to have to live by for the rest of their lives. Also known as The Code. The Elder remained in the room for most of the day, watching Nick explain the intricasies of the Code to Tracy and Natalie. Occasionally he would contradict Nick or explain some detail in more depth, but mostly he stayed silent and watched.

Of course, much of the Code couldn't and wouldn't apply to the two mortals as they weren't actually vampires. It was mostly the rules on secrecy which concerned them. That and the ruling structure and hierarchy of the Community. Still, they had to know and understand it all. However, even the watching Council member knew and understood that it would take time for Natalie and Tracy to absorb and learn the details of the rules fully.

By the time night had fallen again, Natalie and Tracy were prepared to agree to keep the Code. In front of the Council and the majority of the Toronto Community they swore formally to do so. As they stood in front of the Council seconds before swearing the required oath, Natalie thought it reminds me of when I swore the Hippocratic Oath, but even ore solemn and important.

Nick also had an oath to swear at the same time: to take responsibility for the two mortals and to ensure that they did keep the code. To him was given the role of protector and instructor, making sure they knew and understood the rules, to answer any questions. However, should either of them break their oath, the penalties allotted to the two mortals would also fall on him as well.

Soon after, the three of them were permitted to leave. It turned out that when they had been summoned, that one of the Enforcers had made sure that they would not be missed for several days. For which small mercy Natalie was grateful. Now she just had to deal with an angry cat.