parts 17-20, the end
Willow wasn't certain quite what to do. On the one hand, Toronto seemed rather nice, and she thought that she might enjoy living here. Her rather naughty fantasies about a certain vampire detective might have influenced that, but they certainly weren't the only advantage to Toronto. There were other benefits, educationally and culturally. Although, part of her was still treacherously dreaming of Nick despite all of her protests that he surely wouldn't want to get involved with a mortal. Or perhaps he was already involved with this Natalie. Either way, there wouldn't be a romantic future for Willow and Nick. The wistful thoughts and naughty dreams didn't go away.
Deciding to try to go direct, she packed a small cooler with a few things to take with her and set off to drop in on Nick. Maybe... yes, she would ask him if he knew anywhere to look for an affordable apartment, or if the college dorm might be better... although if she stayed in the dorm, what would she do over the summer?
As she was approaching Nick's building, she saw a woman coming through the door, a thick mane of honey brown hair falling around her, almost masking the tears that sparkled on her face. That half glimpsed face looked almost familiar... But she didn't know anyone in Toronto, except for Nick and maybe sort of LaCroix, in the he'd recognize her and probably give directions if she were lost sort of way.
She made her way to Nick's apartment, opening the door and seeing him slumped in his chair, head in his hands in a pose that spoke of despair and defeat.
"Nick? What's wrong? Can I help you?" She was worried, he looked so upset... It reminded her a bit of Angel when he and Buffy had been having an 'off' stage.
One of his hands moved, in some sort of halfhearted gesture that might have been intended to reassure her. "I'm... I'll live. Or something. That was... Nat was here. She met an ex at that seminar... and now they aren't quite exes anymore."
Willow walked over, kneeling beside him, a corner of her mind noting that his refrigerator was standing open, a green bottle fallen to the floor, sharp fragments of glass everywhere, blood covering his kitchen floor. He must have taken the news really badly. "You look pretty upset about it."
"I'd thought that we... but apparently we weren't. Or maybe I wasn't enough... apparently, she'd rather have a man than a monster..." His voice trailed off into miserable silence. He hadn't looked at her, instead staring at his hands, clenched into fists, leaving almost all of his hands white from tension.
Willow glared at him. "You are not a monster! I mean, vampire yes, but not a monster. Stop sitting here brooding about everything! If she doesn't want a guy like you, I'll bet there are other women in the world that would love a guy like you!"
He looked up, a scowl over his face, eyes green gold pools of anguish, teeth sharp fangs. "How many women would want someone that can't go into the sunlight, can't give them children? Someone that looks like this?"
Willow glared at him, not bothered by his vampire features at all. "Well, maybe you should stick to smart women, women who've figured out that a man's heart is more important than his orthodontics. As for children, if she really wants a baby, there are things now days called sperm banks. Father means someone to teach and take care of a child, not the genetic donor! I'd bet you'd be a splendid father! And while there might not be spells to make you human, there are spells and artifacts to keep you from crumbling to ash in a stray sunbeam!"
Nick looked at her, his expression stunned, the angry scowl fading. "There are... I could go into the sun? But... I don't have anyone..."
"Yes! There could be safe sunshine in your future! Stop calling yourself a monster!" She wasn't certain if she wanted to smack him to get him to stop his now stunned brooding or kiss him. She settled for glaring and yelling at him.
Willow turned from Nick, feeling her cheeks burning as she realized just how close she'd ended up to him, her lips mere inches away from him. "I'll... just go put my dinner in the kitchen. Maybe I can help you get that mess cleaned up."
She couldn't let him know how much she wanted to kiss him just then. There was so much passion and soul in his eyes, and they were so intense, pretty eyes, even while they were green. And his lips... oh, she had a bad case of 'the lusties', as Buffy would put it. But he wouldn't... couldn't have anything like that for her. And they had the start of a good friendship, she didn't want to ruin that by kissing him and making everything all awkward. Sometimes, life could be complicated.
Very carefully, Willow edged around the messy spill, discovering some stained towels under the sink. She dropped them over the blood, confident that they would absorb and hold enough of it that she could see the glass to pick it up. "It's a good thing that these towels are already stained... Blood is pretty tough to get out of fabric."
Nick looked over at her, his eyes widening in something not quite alarm and not quite embarrassment. "You don't have to clean that up..."
"I do if I want to be able to get into the refrigerator." She was trying to be calm, to keep him from learning how much she wanted to kiss him. Trying not to think of her imaginings of what sort of muscles were underneath his clothing. Would he have many scars? Would his skin feel as smooth as it looked?
She was so busy trying to hide her feelings from Nick that she closed her fingers too forcefully on the curved shard of glass, pain drawing her attention to it a few moments too late. She could only look at the slashes along her fingers, her hand feeling as if it was throbbing as the bright blood welled up.
"ouch." Her voice was barely more than a whisper.
end part 17.
Nick had been sitting in his chair, turning Willow's angry words over in his mind. He'd been vaguely aware that there were other ways to start a family now, but... Honestly, he'd never paid much attention to them, for the most lacking a partner to raise a family with. Natalie had been determined to 'cure' him, to make him human again.
But he wasn't human. He'd remembered Willow's words about reacting like a vampire, so he'd tried to go without using his hypnosis on his job. He'd lasted three days. She'd been right, he reacted like a vampire, not like a human. He depended on his vampire abilities.
Willow was in his kitchen, cleaning up the blood that had been spilled all over the floor when Nat had declared that 'this stuff' as she called it, was the source of his problems. Willow didn't look at things that way. She didn't seem to be bothered by his diet at all... she probably wouldn't even be worried about him drinking in front of her. But... he didn't feel comfortable about her cleaning up his mess, being so forcibly reminded of how very different he was from her.
Then, the sweetest scent filled the air, the scent of Willow's blood. It was like ambrosia, beckoning him, and he could feel his hunger stirring, reminding him painfully that he'd not yet fed that evening. That the blood that he'd planned on having for dinner was even now staining his towels. Willow smelled far better, sweeter with a hint of spice, and power.
Her soft 'ouch' broke his near hypnotic trance, and he was moving in an instant, not to the bathroom where the first aid kit was as he'd thought he should, but to her side. One hand went to her side to steady her if she lost her balance, the other slipped under her outstretched hand, the blood welling up from a pair of slashes on her fingers, clearly the result of one of the shards of the broken bottle.
"Willow?" It wasn't until he'd spoken that he realized he still had his fangs. A part of his mind wailed in despair, certain that this would undo all the careful building of their friendship, fearful that she would think he wanted to eat her.
Actually, he did. Just not in a fatal way.
She looked up, her gaze crossing over her bleeding hand, carefully held in his, to his face. Her eyes were wide and just a bit glazed. "It had sharp edges... Would there be any chance that you have something like aspirin here?"
Nick could feel his muscles quivering. Her blood was right there, literally under his nose, and she smelled delicious. Far better tasting than that wretched cow's blood... "Willow... do you have any idea how... tempting you are right now?"
"Tempting?" Her voice was higher, and a bit breathless, as if the shock and pain of her wound were preventing her from breathing normally. "You mean the blood..." Her eyes looked away from him.
There had been a flicker of something in her eyes, something that hadn't been fear. She didn't smell like she was afraid at all. "I hadn't fed yet tonight... and you smell... God, Willow, you smell delicious." His last words were a half strangled groan, slipping reluctantly from his lips.
"Would it be enough?" Her words were still a bit breathy.
Nick tore his eyes away from what had become a small pool over the palm of her hand. His mind was trying to make sense of her words, but the only thing that he could come up with would be that she was offering her blood to him. But that was impossible, wasn't it? "What? Willow... enough for... are you... I don't want to hurt you."
"I didn't think you wanted to hurt me. But... if you wanted... I mean, I'm already bleeding, no sense in... well, wasting it I guess." Her eyes were alert, and her cheeks turned pink again as she spoke, blushing even as she made her offer.
He had no words for how much her offer meant to him. Or how much it had stunned him, left him shaken to the very core, to his soul. She was willing to let him taste her, to taste her life, her essence. This wouldn't just give him nourishment, although there was far better nourishment gained from human blood than that of an animal, but he would in a sense, brush the edges of his mind against hers, possibly glimpsing her memories, her dreams. He would certainly know her emotions... just as she would feel his.
Wordlessly, he knelt before her like a humble penitent, lapping up the rich crimson life that had pooled in her palm. The taste of Willow filled his mouth, sweet and spicy and so filled with the vibrancy of life, filled with hope and joy and grief... Images slipped into his mind, an empty house, a young man with reddish no brown no dark hair, holding her, telling her that she was 'quite the human', images of himself and Willow, entwined of soft sheets, naked hands moving over naked chests as he nipped at her throat...
He could feel the blissful warmth flow into him, the warmth that bottled blood never brought, making him feel whole and strong and alive. Strength flowed into him, filling him from his mouth to his hands and his feet. Still, he licked at the slow seeping of blood, partly to get every last droplet, and partly because she tasted so wonderful... She didn't fear him, didn't look at him and see a monster. She'd said the words before, but they had been only words, and words could lie. Blood didn't lie.
She didn't fear him. But... had he tasted desire? He sucked very gently at the cut, hearing her moan a little, her breath fast and shallow as she leaned on him.
He did taste desire... but was it her own, or had his cravings for her passed through the link, filling her mind with the same erotic images that he'd had? Would she come out of this hating him, not for his fangs, but for his lustful thoughts of her? For the way he wanted to explore her body, to bring them both to heights of pleasure? He had no way to know.
Somehow, he found the strength of will to place her gently on the chair when the flow of blood stopped. Instead of carrying her to his room and trying some of those images in reality, he got the first aid kit, gently wrapping the gauze over the cuts. He held out the small bottle of aspirin, looking at her face in an effort to gauge her reaction. "Willow?"
"You aren't a monster, Nick. Someday, maybe you'll begin to see that for yourself." Her eyes were still darkened with the pleasure she'd felt through the link, experiencing an echo of his own bliss. "Was that enough? You aren't... I mean, umm..." Her words faltered, replaced by blushing silence.
She wasn't worrying about her hand at all, but about him! "Willow... you are utterly, unpredictably astonishing. That was... quite wonderfully enough. Your blood holds a strength that I can't quite explain... I feel... better isn't the right word, but it will have to do."
"Good. Who's the dark haired woman? With the pretty dress... I saw her in my head while you... umm... I saw her." She was still blushing.
Dark haired... it clicked for him, and he wondered what else Willow might have seen. "That would be Jeanette. She's also one of LaCroix' Childer. But Willow... this isn't the sort of thing people do everyday. There could be... consequences."
She looked at him, her eyes sparkling and full of questions. "You don't just mean consequences like I need to be sure to get extra iron and dark green vegetables, are you? Can that wait until... not now? I feel really tired all of a sudden."
"Here, you can rest here for a bit..." Nick gestured at the couch, pulling out a pillow for her to rest her head on. Part of him was insisting that he be a gentleman and offer her his bed. Another part was suggesting that if he did get her into his bed, it wouldn't be restful. So, the couch it was.
She shifted, resting herself on the couch, pulling the blanket over her arms and back. "Okay... can I have an hour?"
An hour? If she wanted, he realized with a start, he would give her centuries. "An hour should be fine."
So, he found himself torn between the desire to sit there, watching her rest, or doing something useful. He came to a compromise, deciding that he would pick up and dispose of the broken glass, and then watch her.
end part 18.
Somehow, she'd drifted to sleep. It wasn't surprising that her dreams had been about Nick. Dreams where instead of placing her on the couch, they'd gone up the stairs to his room, shedding their clothing and... well, it hadn't happened.
Her hand was throbbing, a stinging pain that radiated up her arm. Glass cuts always hurt far more than they should... and it was just sad that she'd learned enough about being injured in her time over the hellmouth to make that comparison. She could feel the pressure of he bandages, not too tight, but snug over her cuts. Nick had wrapped the gauze over her injuries, regardless of the fact that they were fairly minor.
But that had been after she'd fed him. After she'd offered him her blood, an offer that he'd accepted. He'd looked so surprised by that, the fact that she would let him taste her blood... But she'd seen the naked hunger and need in his eyes. Granted, it had been a hunger and need for blood, instead of for her as Willow, but... it had felt so good to be wanted. And then he'd started licking the blood away... She hadn't quite known what to expect, only having a vague confidence that Nick didn't want to hurt her, and this wouldn't be like being bitten by a Sunnydale vampire. But she'd had no idea that it would feel so good to have him licking and sucking at her hand and fingers.
It was no wonder she'd been having such passionate images in her mind when he'd done such... such tempting things. Yes, she could rest a good share of the blame for those images and dreams on Nick. Why did he have to be so tempting anyhow?
A sudden thought occurred to her. She'd seen that woman, Jeanette from Nick's mind, from his memories. What had he seen from hers? Had he seen those lustful images? How could he have missed them? So much for hiding her hopeless attraction... She groaned slightly, pulling the blanket over her face in a futile effort to hide from her own embarrassed thoughts.
It smelled like Nick. She was wrapped in a warm blanket that smelled like Nick, on his couch that carried some of his scent... and it wasn't helping chase away those dreams at all.
It didn't take very long to come to the conclusion that wrapping herself in Nick's scent wouldn't make the lusty thoughts retreat. And she'd seen Nick sitting over in his chair, watching her. There were so many emotions in his expression, concern, worry, and something else, something almost... tender.
Pulling the blanket down a bit, she sat up, one hand trying to smooth her hair. "Nick?"
"Do you feel any better? You seemed a bit... light headed earlier." There was worry in his voice, and she could tell that he was trying not to startle her.
Exactly what had him worried that he'd startle her now? She'd seen him sucked into painful, anguished despair, seen him fighting against his hunger, she'd even let him drink from her hand after accidentally cutting it... why did he have that nervous look now?
"I do feel a bit better. My hand has that owwie glass cut thing going, but that's to be expected. I'm just feeling a bit... well, confused I guess. You said something about consequences?"
Nick shifted a little in his chair, suddenly looking uncomfortable. He was looking at his hands now, not looking into her eyes. "Willow... I... when I tasted you, there was a touching of our minds. I saw things from you, and you saw things from me. There were some... things... I'm sorry. I didn't want to... unsettle you with anything from my mind."
He didn't want her to be upset by things from his mind? From his memories? That was what he was worried about? Maybe he hadn't seen those images after all. "You didn't. Well, the whole major fight with LaCroix glimpses were... umm... sort of freaky, and um, that looked painful. You didn't accidentally scare me away or anything like that."
She barely heard the murmur of his next words. "Actually, I was more worried about the naked thoughts than the violent ones..."
Willow froze, her mind lurching awkwardly. If Nick had been worried about frightening her away with 'naked thoughts', who was he imagining or remembering naked? Did she dare hope... "Naked thoughts?"
He glanced at her, his eyes oh so briefly making contact with hers before returning to an apparently fascinated study of his left thumb. "The ones of me and... you. Naked. But ummm... I don't suppose you'd be willing to let me make you forget I ever said that?"
Nick thought the naked images had been his? But she'd been having... What if she wasn't the only one that had naked naughty thoughts going through her mind? What if Nick had some 'lusties' going as well? "You thought those were yours? Are you sure they weren't... umm, is it normal to have naughty passionate thoughts about someone if you're drinking their blood?"
"Only if you find them attractive the rest of the time." His words were low, as if he wasn't certain that he wanted to tell her.
He wouldn't be sitting there worried if he hadn't been having naughty thoughts of his own. And his words... 'only if you found them attractive'. That could only mean that he found her attractive. "You think... you find me attractive? Enough that you're having naughty, naked-touching thoughts about me?"
"Yes." Nick looked at her, as if he'd come to the conclusion that avoiding her eyes wouldn't make anything any better.
She could feel herself smiling. "Wow. I wouldn't have thought that... I mean, I don't seem to be the type. Nobody but Oz ever..." She could feel the tears trying to burn in her eyes.
He was there, arms around her, holding her. "Who was Oz?"
She let her arms wrap around Nick, feeling muscles under his shirt. "Oz was my boyfriend. He was the only guy that ever seemed to think I was attractive at all. We were so happy together."
"What happened?" Nick was running his hand up and down her back, almost as if he was petting her.
She sniffled, not wanting to let herself drown in tears again. "Graduation. He got killed in the fighting... Our Mayor turned into a demon and tried to eat the graduating class. It was... a lot scarier than a mugger in the parking lot, even a vampire mugger."
There was something in Nick's voice as he spoke, something that almost dulled his words, a signal to Willow that he was probably on another 'I'm a monster' kick. "He must have been the boy... young man with the hair that kept changing colors."
"Yeah... that was Oz. He was a musician." She pulled herself to a sitting position, looking Nick right in the eye. "He was also a werewolf. Oz wasn't a monster. Neither are you."
end part 19.
Nick felt his head spinning. Willow hadn't seemed at all upset about those erotic images. Was she simply dismissing them as a random fantasy, the product of tasting the blood of a living person? But, then she'd said the young man with the changing hair had been her boyfriend, had been a werewolf...
"I thought werewolves couldn't control themselves when they changed." He felt like he stood on the edge of some discovery, some change that would alter his whole world.
She sighed against his shoulder, her warm breath curling against him. "He couldn't. So, we sort of umm... lockedhiminthelibrarywhenthemoonwasfull."
He knew there was an answer in there. But everything had run together. "He couldn't control himself after the change, so you locked him up? In the library?"
"Yeah. But he was a really sweet guy. I guess I'm still having problems getting over him dying." Her voice sounded so small and sad.
Nick felt something inside protest. He didn't want Willow to be hung up on someone else, her heart belonging to someone that was dead and gone. He wanted... he wanted her heart to be hung up on him. "It takes time to recover from someone that you... care about dying. You said it had been less than a month? It's only natural for you to grieve for him. I just hope you don't give up on having a future, some joy because of it."
"It's not that I'm entirely against moving on, partly because if you find someone that you care about, you care, even if you don't want to, even if you try to fight it. So, it's not like I'm ruling out the chance of ever caring for someone, of ever wanting... well, of ever wanting naked naughty touching. But, the other person has to want me as well, which is where most of my problems have come in." Her eyes were peeking at him through a veil of dark red lashes, sparkling with something that Nick prayed was hope, could be desire.
Part of his mind was chanting 'please oh please oh please' as he rested his hand on her back. "Do you think that nobody would want you? Willow, sweet, those images weren't just from the blood. But I would think that you'd want someone..." His words trailed off as he tried to consider how to put it. Didn't all women want to spend the rest of their lives with someone human? Someone to grow old with?
Her hand moved, swatting the back of his head lightly. "Stop the 'nobody wants a vampire' thing. You got this broody line down your forehead. You aren't a monster. There would be lots of women who would want a guy like you."
Nick blinked, feeling utterly astonished. "You swatted me... What was that for?"
She shifted a bit, the simple movement causing him to almost groan in frustration. "You were brooding again. It's not good for you."
"Are you going to hit me every time I do something out of line?" Nick's voice had a bit of a teasing edge, but inside, he was wondering. Sometimes vampires liked a bit of roughness to their passion, a plan to 'swat him into good behavior' might have some very unforeseen consequences.
She smiled, slowly, secretively. Leaning towards his ear, he could feel her breath as she whispered her response. "You might like that a bit too much, Nick."
He was sure that he was blushing. "Umm... what do... how did you?"
"I've read the Watcher Journals. You said the Hellmouth vampires were corrupted, not that they had new things show up out of nowhere. Seems there's a strong tendency for vampire sexual habits to include a bit of dominance games, maybe a bit of blood." She glanced down, her hair falling over her face. "Which means that you might like it if I swatted you."
The long neglected hedonist in him felt like rolling over and purring. She knew about the occasional tendency of vampires to play a bit rough, and she was still sitting here, maybe flirting with him? Maybe God really was smiling on him... "Does that frighten you?"
"That would depend on the vampire. I wouldn't consider a relationship with just any random vampire, and of the ones I've met here, LaCroix is definitely too scary. Of course, I shouldn't be jumping into a relationship immediately, and I certainly shouldn't be worrying about the immediacy of a potential partner's sexual habits..." She was blushing, the heat from her face easy for him to notice.
"You almost sound like you're asking me out." The idea was new to him. For centuries, the men had always done the courting. But this? Nothing had prepared him for Willow.
"Not exactly... not yet anyhow. It wouldn't be fair to either of us to start dating while I'm still coming to terms with Oz dying, but maybe... when I'm not so mopishy? If you'd be willing to be involved with a mortal, I mean." Her voice held hope, and a slight tremor from the fear lurking beside the hope.
He'd touched her mind, and knew that the fear would be of rejection, of being found not good enough. "So, when you're feeling better, and not so unsettled after your graduation, you might be willing to go out sometime?"
Her smile was a dozen times brighter than the sunrises he watched on the television. "That would be wonderful."
Nick couldn't have put it better himself. Besides, it wasn't as if he didn't have all the time it would take for her to heal and move on from her pain. When she was ready, he would be here for her. Maybe he would even feel like he deserved a chance to be happy.
end part 20.
End Knight in a Blue Uniform.