Disclaimer: Characters belong to a bunch of people that are not me.

Written for Amilyn for Yuletide 2007, who requested a Nat story.

But Together
by Estirose
c 2007

Natalie Lambert relaxed by the fireplace. A few years ago, she would have been at the morgue, being alone, working because she had nothing else to do.

Well, she still had nothing else to do, but even coroners deserved a day or two off; so she and Grace and a few others had rented a good-sized cabin, deciding to celebrate Christmas together. They were all away from their families at Christmas, all alone, and they'd had enough of it. So when Grace had proposed it, all of them had, at one point or another, agreed to come. Even Natalie hadn't required much persuasion; there were only so many Christmases she could spend finding cause of death. Sure, it was a gift in a way, but one she did every night, most of the month, every year, and it was time to take a break and be Natalie.

And Natalie was going to relax. "Nat, you and I need a break," Grace had said, and she'd found herself agreeing without much fuss.

"And I definitely needed a break," Nat mused to the flames and the fireplace, to the tools to one side.

"Yes, you did, but do you ever listen to me?" Grace asked, settling down in the other chair. Nat could hear the others talking softly in the background, laughing and enjoying themselves.

"I did this year," Nat said, taking a sip of her cider "You strong-armed me into it."

Grace laughed. "Girl, I just mentioned it and you agreed."

"I didn't make it that easy!" Nat proclaimed.

Grace just laughed, as Grace did. She admired her friend's ability to know when to take a break, how to live her life without stress and loneliness, at least as much as one could on the graveyard shift that they were both on. Few things bothered Grace. "Honey, you were so tired that day, I could have knocked you over with a feather."

Natalie gave her a wan smile. She probably had been. She was used to late shifts, after all, but somehow, it had worn her out. She barely saw her brother Richie; he was busy again, as he was year after year, away from where she needed him to be. Christmases were never celebrated with him anymore.

Christmases were never spent with family, and she was sick and tired of it. She wanted to relax, be around people, not be Nat Lambert, City of Toronto Coroner.

"Yeah, I guess so," she admitted.

Grace took a sip of her own drink. Wine or whatever, Nat didn't know. Nat was a designated driver, Nat was staying sober, who knew what might happen if she got drunk. They'd have to drag her ass back to Toronto for something urgent, probably.

"We never get the cute ones on graveyard," Grace mused.

"Corpses?" Nat asked. "Or detectives?"

Grace laughed. "Detectives, of course. You don't get Hollywood-quality looks with that bunch. Unless they're trouble, of course."

"Define trouble," Nat said. She had to confess, there actually weren't that many good-looking detectives hanging around the morgue, or the crime scene. She was familiar with all of them, and while none of them were terrible to look at, they weren't easy on the eyes either.

"Troublemakers, the reprimanded guys, you know the sort. Anybody Captain Stonetree can stand."

"Right," Nat agreed. "Haven't had any of those in a while. Captain Stonetree fired the last one." Yeah, she remembered that last one, all right. What had he done? Falsifying reports? Embezzling? She'd forgotten. It wasn't like he'd graced her presence all that long, no pun intended.

"He's getting another one," another one of the group said, drifting in Nat and Grace's direction. "Another troublemaker, supposed to be walking the straight and narrow after IA got a hold of him."

IA made her shiver; she didn't like them, no employee did. Internal Affairs policed the police and and related services. She'd dealt with them once, something about improper computer access somewhere in the morgue, and she never wanted to deal with them again.

"For his sake, I hope he does," Grace said fervently. She winked at Nat. "Maybe you can catch a reformed bad boy."

Of course, what husband wanted a wife who cut up corpses each night? Though she imagined some had the guts or the tolerance to deal with that sort of thing. There was some kind of place down in the U.S. where they studied human decomposition, and she'd heard the head of that project was married. If he could do it, she could do it.

Natalie snorted. "No thanks." If they weren't sleeping with somebody else, they were proving how they got into trouble in the first place. "You'll catch one first."

Grace was outgoing, vibrant, she'd had more than one boyfriend and wasn't afraid to speak ill of the exes. "Maybe." She looked at Natalie thoughtfully. "Your turn, though."

Nat had to laugh a bit at that. Her? Get lucky in love? She didn't think so. She was destined, it seemed, to be the mysterious cat lady, retiring to a home in the city and adopting a dozen cats.

But she tried not to think about that. It was Christmas, after all. This group, together they'd traded gifts, traded gifts some more (it was amazing how popular puzzle books were this year), laughed over dinner and drinks, and forgotten that most of them didn't know each other. Christmas was a time for togetherness, after all.

"I'll be a good girl next year and remember to ask Santa for someone tall, dark and handsome," she joked. "And alive. With a pulse. Breathing." She had to inwardly laugh at that condition; she was sure some of her "patients" had been tall, dark and handsome. They were just very, very dead.

"I'll take one of those, too," another woman called. from a chair close to to the table. "Deliver him my way, please."

The group laughed. Maybe they were all unlucky in love, but at least they were together. At the cabin. Relaxing. Being there for each other.

Maybe Nat was luckier than she thought.

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