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A Knight in... a Blue Uniform?

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Summary: AU after Graduation. Willow goes to Toronto, and is attacked by a vampire mugger, to be saved by... a vampire cop? crossover with Forever Knight

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Forever KnightLucindaFR15425,836698,86317 Jan 033 Feb 03Yes

A Knight in... a Blue Uniform?

author: Lucinda
rating: y-14, so if you could watch either series, you're fine.
pairing: Willow/Nick
disclaimer: I do not own anyone from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Forever Knight.
Distribution: please ask first,
note: Be aware that I am taking this AU starting at Graduation.

Graduation had in some ways been a success, and in other ways, most ways, had been an utter disaster. Yes, she'd gotten her diploma, and they'd destroyed Mayor Wilkins after he'd changed into a humongous snake like demon. But on the terribly tragic side, they'd blown up the school, many of the audience had died from the vampires that had attacked during the eclipse, been eaten by the Mayor, or died as a result of the explosion. About a third of the students present had also died, among them Oz.

That had been a bitter blow to Willow. They'd saved the world from a horrible fate at the teeth of the Ascended Mayor, but... Willow was feeling to miserable to rejoice. Oz was dead, she'd actually been the one to find his broken body, his limbs bent at unnatural angles, his hear twisted almost off by an overly enthusiastic vampire. She hoped the vampire had been pined by a chunk of flaming rubble, burning to death slowly. Whoever it had been, they had ruined her one chance at happiness, killed the one person who had seen her as desirable, as girlfriend potential. She knew, in the abstract, that she could survive this, but oh, how it hurt.

Buffy was too busy grieving over Faith's betrayal, the recent attempted murder of Angel, her fight with Faith, and Angel leaving Sunnydale, leaving Buffy. Granted it was for her benefit, for the safety of everyone, considering that horrible happiness clause, but Buffy was miserable. Xander... really wasn't talking to her about the deep issues anymore, not after the factory incident. The only other people that had ever been there for her at all were Oz, now dead, Amy, still a rat, and Giles, who was far too much of a father figure to talk to about this.

Willow was quite certain that she wouldn't recover very well both in the place with so many memories and with no support from her friends. The idea of seeing them every day, trying to deal with her pain while listening to Buffy's pain over Angel's departure would be just too much for her to bear. Which was why she had decided to give herself a little trip, as a graduation present. Paid for by her parents, who were currently on a second honeymoon in Rome. She was going to go somewhere entirely unlike Sunnydale, a place that wouldn't be the hot clear sunny skies and teeming hordes of demons. She had originally planned to ask Oz to go with her, but now... she would go to Toronto alone. At least there wouldn't be any memories to run into there.

It didn't take Willow more than a few days to see that she'd been right. Buffy was so focused on her pain that she didn't have time to offer sympathy for Willow, not without the both of them breaking down into miserable tears and moping in pain and suffering. Xander was moping over Cordelia's move to Los Angeles. She couldn't bring herself to talk about it to Giles. So, with a sigh and a few dozen tears, Willow packed some things and got out her parents car to go on a trip. She could drive there, after all, there was no reason to rush, nobody eagerly waiting to welcome her back with sweet kisses. Maybe she could check out some college options while she was away.

Her trip to Toronto had been... well, she'd taken a few wrong turns, almost hit something that she assumed was a deer, nearly been hit by some maniac driving way too fast on the little road, and almost driven off the road in a sudden torrential down pouring of rain. But in the end, she had gotten to Toronto safely, all in one piece with no new injuries. She'd found her hotel with only a few wrong turns, and checked herself into a nice room done in beige and green. The first thing that she'd done was the uninvite spell, almost positive that there would be no need of it, but willing to indulge in a little paranoia if it would let her sleep. After all, what were the chances that she would have a vampire try to get her in her hotel room? It wasn't as if the spell was very difficult, just a few lines and some stinky herbs to burn.

But she was here, with nothing more challenging to do then rest, relax, and sight-see a little bit. She could have fun, in a place where nobody would look at her as the study-buddy, the nerd, or Buffy's shy friend. She had a few ideas how to start, and the first one was a good nights sleep, with no alarm clock to wake her up for school or impending disaster research. She smiled in anticipation, hoping to catch up some on her sleep.

She awoke the next day, gasping for the breath to scream a warning to Buffy, the image of Mayor-Demon Wilkins bending over her, jaws gaping vivid and terrifying in her mind. She let the breath out slowly, trying to calm herself, to reassure herself that they had survived Graduation, Buffy was still alive, and Wilkins was dead. Very dead, his parts detonated into charcoal along with the school. Eventually, it helped a bit, and she took a shower to try and relax her tense muscles, standing under hot water until it ran tepid, and she stepped out shivering. The whole day was spent exploring Toronto, looking at museums and historical buildings. She was trying to relax, and that meant not spending the day dwelling on the end of her high school.

She got so caught up in enjoying herself that she lost track of time, and was trying to make her way back to her car, all the while trying to remember what had caused her to be out so late, well, that had actually been the fascinating museum exhibit on the Celts, but that wasn't the point. She had let herself loose track of time, and was out after dark, in an unfamiliar city. That was almost asking for trouble.

Trouble found her.

She almost missed the soft sound of footsteps following her, but they were slightly out of sync with her own, and she HAD spent three years fighting vampires and demons on the Hellmouth. She sped up slightly, trying to get to somewhere better lit, with more people. Unfortunately, she didn't know Toronto, and there didn't seem to be anywhere well lit in the area, which also gave the unhappy impression that this wasn't the way to her car. Sighing, and feeling extremely glad of the stake in her sleeve, she spun around, hoping that this would be something that she could handle. The person following her looked maybe in his mid-twenties, except for the green-gold eyes and long sharp fangs. He felt almost like a vampire, just like he looked almost like a vampire. Were there more than one type of vampire?

No sooner had the question run through her mind than the fanged person lunged for her, apparently close enough to the Sunnydale vampires that he would go for her throat. She dodged, learning that he moved at vampire speeds, almost too fast for her to counter. Taking a chance that he was young and wouldn't expect any real trouble from her, she feinted with the stake, and kicked right where she expected him to dodge into. His eyes hadn't left the stake, so her foot connected firmly right between his legs. Willow was unprepared for what happened next. The vampire leapt into the air, his legs curling inwards protectively, his eyes going red with rage.

Willow turned and ran, pulling on every bit of memory of where she had passed, whispering a spell to help her run faster, and mentally praying that someone save her. If the vampire could float straight into the air, he could probably move forwards while airborne, and she wouldn't hear his footsteps. He could probably fly faster than she could run. Giles had never mentioned anything about vampires that could fly.

She ran right into the police officer, knocking him to the ground, landing on top of him, her pulse racing, the fear practically rolling off of her body.

"Hey.. calm down. What's the matter?" His voice was calming, the sort of professional calm that was learned carefully to prepare police officers and medical personnel for dealing with hysterical patients and victims.

"There's... back there.. he's after me..." She took a frantic breath, trying to calm down enough to make sense. And then, as she was trying to calm herself that tiny bit, she remembered that most people tried very hard not to see the supernatural. Things like vampires. "I was trying to find my car... I only got to Toronto yesterday. got turned around, and there was someone after me, and then he tried to attack me. I was trying to run away..."

There was a furious roaring noise from a bit above, and Willow flung herself to the ground with a terrified squeak as the vampire's claws raked over her shoulder, slashing the shirt, but only drawing a few drops of her blood. She could feel her insides churning with pure terror, again. Wasn't this the sort of thing she'd hoped to avoid by leaving Sunnydale? She flinched as she heard gunfire, so close that it could only have been from the police officer, and then a fading whistling noise, as if... Carefully, she looked upwards, seeing the vampire receding into the distance. For some reason, the vampire was leaving. She could breath again.

"Thank you officer..." Her voice died away as she looked at the policeman, his eyes the same greenish gold the vampire's had been when he'd first lunged for her. Crap.

"Nick Knight, and it's Detective." He was looking at her, and for a moment frowned, as if trying to figure out why she was staring at him.

Then he realized that his fangs were showing.

end part 1.

Nick took a step towards Willow, and she scuttled backwards, clearly quite aware that he was a vampire, and not the least bit reassured now by the uniform. "Calm down, please. I'm not going to hurt you."

Willow lurched a bit as she regained her feet, still staring nervously at Nick, not quite looking at his eyes. Her voice was a low whisper, filled with pain. "Why... this isn't supposed to be happening."

Nick looked at her, and his eyes seemed to get more intense, tugging at her attention. A small part of her whispered that it would be so easy to just fall into his gaze, and let all the problems melt away, Sunnydale, missing cars, Oz... He was talking, his voice in that soft soothing tone. "There's nothing to worry about any more. It was just a mugger, and he left after seeing my uniform. You've had a long day, and fear can make you see things oddly..."

He was trying to do that mind-control thingy! Anger rose inside her, burning the fear away, and she glared at him. "Stop trying to play with my mind. I don't like it."

Nick, if that was actually his name, looked startled, as if he had really expected that to work on her. He looked as if he was resolving himself to something, and looked at her eyes again. "There are no vampires." The pressure against her mind was stronger this time.

Willow nodded slowly, wondering if most people were really that easy to hypnotize or if she was just very resistant to mental influences. "Riiight. Vampires are just stories, like werewolves, magic spells, and demons."

He gave a small smile, nodding his head as if pleased by something. "Exactly. Now... demons? I didn't say anything about demons. Don't talk about demons. There are no vampires."

A sudden impulse seized Willow, and almost before she could help herself, the words came tumbling out. "... only Zuul."

"What? Zuul? What's this about Zuul?" The look of confusion on his face was amazingly rewarding.

Willow took a careful step backwards. Maybe she could leave while he was distracted. "Pop culture reference, as a friend of mine would say. Ghostbusters, the movie? Umm... why don't you just take yourself to the nearest video rental place and check it out? I'll just be going about now..."

She actually managed to make it almost a block before his fingers caught her by her upper arm, momentum spinning her around to face him again.

"I can't let you go knowing..." His voice sounded almost sorrowful. As if he really cared, or regretted or something. Some sort of emotion of the sort that she wasn't used to.

The frustration and anger and despair that had been churning below the surface of Willow's mind broke up at this, and her expression when she looked at him was entirely outraged. "You can't let me go... knowing. Let me guess... you're sorry. You're sorry that you're a vampire, and that I found out. Guess what? I already knew about vampires being real before I made the mistake of coming to this city! I've seen vampires before, and a werewolf, and more demons than I have time to count. For THREE YEARS I've known about vampires! I lived on the hellmouth! And I am sick and tired of this always happening to me! And I do NOT feel like dying tonight!" She used her magic to cause a bright flash of light, and ran while he was temporarily blinded by the flash.

Willow had lived over the hellmouth, fighting and defending. That had taught her a few things about vampires, the first thing being that to a vampire, the first, easiest, and favorite solution to a problem was to kill the person causing it. Maybe killing her would mess up some careful plan of his, but how would that matter any more to her if she was dead? Best to get as far from him as possible, and stay out of anywhere that he might be able to find her. Hopefully, that uninvite spell would work even on a slightly different type of vampire.

Her lungs felt as if she was inhaling fire by the time she found somewhere that looked familiar, and with an almost surreal feeling, she realized that she could see her hotel. With a rasped whisper of thanks, she gratefully slipped into the hotel, locking herself into the room, slumping against the door, her legs feeling like jelly.

She was panting, and shivering from some weird combination of adrenaline, magic, and the utter bafflement of being saved from the first vampire by another vampire.

It actually reminded her a bit of Angel.

What if... could this Nick be a not-so bad vampire? Could he actually be trying to help people, like Angel did? Maybe he'd only intended to hypnotize her, to make her forget all about the vampires this evening. But Willow wasn't entirely confident about the possibility of that. What if she was wrong? What if he was a ruthless, deceptive killer, hunting for helpless terrified victims by wearing a uniform that promised safety and protection? What if...

Willow ran her fingers through her hair, blowing the air from her lungs slowly as she tried to organize her thoughts. Tomorrow, she could go out under the protection of sunlight, and find her car. Tonight, after she stopped shaking, she could hack into the Toronto police department's personnel records and look for a Detective Nick Knight, and see if he was really... or at least officially who he had claimed to be. If he was, then she could... Willow had no idea what she could do. He was definitely a vampire, and might also be a cop. If he was a cop, there was a chance that he might not be a bad guy. IF, and considering her time in Sunnydale, she figured that was a big 'if' he was actually a good guy, she would be able to take a few minutes to figure out what to do. If he was a bad guy, well, you don't spend three years working with a Slayer and not learn how to kill a vampire.

She wondered what the vampire was doing right now.

Nick hadn't expected the painful, intense flare of light that had come from... somewhere. He'd grabbed the young woman's arm, hoping to keep her from running off in hysterics, and she'd just... chewed him up one side and down the other, even though her words weren't aimed at him in specific. The ones about being sorry that he was a vampire had been a direct hit. But... three years? Had she actually known about vampires for three years? And what exactly was a hellmouth? It sounded almost familiar, maybe LaCroix had mentioned it centuries ago, when he'd been trying to teach Nick everything that he might need to know.

The redhead had been terrified, and he hadn't helped matters any when he'd turned towards her with his fangs showing. He'd scared her even worse, and the fear coming from her... it was almost like perfume. Entirely tempting, but he'd given up feeding from humans. She'd known that he was a vampire. When he'd tried to hypnotize her, she'd resisted. He had tried again, using as much mental strength as he could, and for a few moments, he'd thought it had worked.

If he had to be honest, and he could do that in the privacy of his own head, he had bungled that whole encounter. Well, he'd done alright with the get rid of the young vampire, but from there, everything had gone downhill. His fangs had been showing when he'd turned towards her, making her afraid of him. So he'd tried to hypnotize her, thinking that if she forgot about the whole 'vampires are real and one just tried to eat me' that she would calm down. Except that she was resistant, and his efforts not only didn't work, they made her angry. Then he'd mentioned the Rule of Secrecy, which forbid mortals from knowing about vampires, and she'd taken that to mean that he was going to kill her. While he did have to concede that it would be the easiest solution, and the one that many vampires would take, he was reluctant to kill any humans now, especially for something so trivial.

She'd made a reference to demons, which had quite bluntly caused him to panic, remembering his own nightmarish encounter with a demon that had wanted to possess him, to use his body to cause a rampage of terror and mayhem the likes of which would be horrible to envision. His concern had only caused her to be more nervous. Then she'd entirely distracted him by her reference to the movie Ghostbusters, and tried to slip away. She'd almost made it, and he had the sinking feeling that his frantic efforts to catch her had left bruises on that pale skin. She'd been more afraid by that point than she'd been when the young vampire had tried to eat her. He had no idea how she'd known about that horrible flash of light, unless she had created it. Which was impossible, right?

His eyes still burned, and his vision was swarming with purple spots and bluish squiggling lines that floated in front of him. He was grateful that it hadn't blinded him more permanently, and his head was throbbing. His pride was rather battered as well, that a little mortal could escape him so easily, and he called himself a detective...

A detective. A tiny smile crossed his lips as he realized what he'd overlooked. He was a police officer, he could make use of that. He didn't have a name, but he knew that she was newly arrived in Toronto. He could say that he was trying to find a witness, and he could even use the police resources to find her. He had to make sure that she understood how dangerous it could be if the Enforcers discovered that she knew about vampires. They would kill her without a moment's hesitation.

How many places could she be? He would find her eventually, unless she took advantage of the daylight hours to flee Toronto. Honestly, if her angry words had been accurate, she'd seen enough painful and frightening things that she would have no desire to stay simply for the excitement. He winced slightly, considering how last night must have been from her perspective. Rather than exciting, it would probably be closer to say terrifying. Why would she want to stay in a place where she had encountered not one but two vampires, both of which she was convinced were trying to kill her?

Her home would have to be quite hellish to want to stay here after that little un-welcoming evening.

end part 2.

Eventually, Willow stopped shaking. She was still all tangled up emotionally, but her hands had stopped shaking, and she would be able to safely use her computer. Her first step was to find out if there really was a detective Nick Knight. If there was such a person, was he the man... vampire that she'd met earlier? Or was the vampire just using the name because he knew there was really such a person? It would be so much easier to figure out what to do if she knew what sort of person he was!

It didn't take her very long to set up her computer, or to hook it into the internet. It did take a noticeably longer time to gain access to the Toronto police records. Toronto had much better computer security than Sunnydale did, that was for certain. Maybe it was because Toronto was a much bigger city, or because they had a better funding base. Maybe it was because the police here didn't have their collective heads in the metaphorical sand. But it was so much harder to slip into their system.

As it turned out, there was a record of Detective Nick Knight, and the photograph was clearly the same man that she'd bumped into tonight. So, he really was Nick Knight, and he really was a detective. A little further digging found that he had ALWAYS worked the night shift, and had a very colorful record of commendations for bravery, and a scattering of official reprimands for unorthodox methodology. To judge by his police employment, he sounded like an okay guy. The sort of person that she would feel capable and willing to catch the people responsible for a large listing of illegal and dangerous things. He even had a personal history that looked genuine and real.

But there was no way that he could have that much power to him and only be the thirty two years that his official file claimed that he was. Which told her that his records had been 'added' or carefully edited by someone, and whoever had done it was good. Probably his Toronto information was accurate, and it was just the stuff from before he arrived here, like date and place of birth, medical and education records.

Willow found herself wondering who had done that for him. For him to have such a clean looking official record, all smooth and genuine looking, a professional had set it up. Were there a lot of vampires that lived... existed inside human society, armed with official records claiming them to be alive? Why would they do that? Just how different were the Toronto vampires from the ones in Sunydale?

She carefully put the information into a file, and left the police system, not wanting her searching to be detected. It was actually illegal, and the police would probably get very upset if they found out. Willow had a great deal of thinking to do.

Oh, that's right. She also wanted to call Giles and try to find out why he'd never once mentioned that vampires could fly. Why he'd neglected to mention such a signifigant detail. Willow had gone from terrified, to shaking, to annoyed. Giles was a Watcher, he was supposed to know all about vampires. She reached for the phone, dialling his number with easy familiarity.

Meanwhile, Nick was arranging a few careful checks to find the redhead. He explained that she'd been mentioned as a possible witness, and he wanted to find her and ask her a few questions. Nothing serious, but it was best to be thorough.

She hadn't reacted with denial the way most mortals would, but she had been afraid. She knew about vampires. If the Enforcers learned about this, they would hunt her down and kill her, and possibly anyone that she had told. If they were feeling subtle, they might just erase the incriminating memories for the people that she'd spoken to, but if he couldn't erase her memories, who could? Only someone older that his seven hundred years would have the power to have a better chance, and where would the enforcers... Nick's thoughts dragged to a halt. He knew exactly where they could find a vampire older and more powerful than he was. His Sire, LaCroix, was also in Toronto, and took a much greater part in the vampire politics and socializing that went on. LaCroix had also never shown any strong hesitation about playing with the memories of mortals. The fact that she'd had dazzling green eyes wouldn't matter to LaCroix at all.

Where had that came from? He was supposed to be finding her to make certain she didn't call down the wrath of the enforcers or cause a mortal panic, not thinking about whether or not she had pretty eyes! He needed to pay attention to the important parts of this. She knew about vampires. She had resisted his attempts to hypnotize her, and evaded him. She'd also quite disturbingly mentioned demons and something called a hellmouth, which could only be very bad.

Nick managed to be lucky enough to finish his shift without the slowly fading spots and lines causing some sort of problem. He'd managed to keep his partner Tracy from realizing exactly what was wrong, claiming that he'd 'woke up with a terrible headache', something that would explain the wincing at bright lights and the slighty slower responses from him over the evening. He'd never been so glad for a shift to end in all his time as a policeman. All he wanted to do was go home, and curl up in the soothing darkness and try to figure out what to do about the redhead.

Maybe he'd better stop by and see if he could find anything out about hellmouths from LaCroix. He sighed, trying to prepare himself for the visit, certain that it would not be pleasant. His Sire always seemed dissapointed in him, in his desire for repentance and attonement, his choice to give up feeding from humans. He was certain that if he spoke to LaCroix, there would be subtle barbs and insinuations, all various signs that he had somehow failed at being a vampire. Failed at being a fitting childe for LaCroix. He tried not to let it bother him, but... LaCroix had been more of a parent to him than the ones who'd given him life, how could he not matter?

But what if there was something very important about the hellmouth thing? Was everyone from a hellmouth resistant to hypnosis? If something terrible happened, he knew he would spent the next century blaming himself for not trying harder to learn what he might have to face.

It was with resignation that Nick went to the Raven, a club that, while open to the public, was frequented by several of the vampires in Toronto, who used it as an informal and neutral meeting grounds. It was also the place from which LaCroix did his radio broadcasting. He wasn't in his uniform, and he'd decided to slip out early enough that he could go before his shift. Maybe he could try a glass of Janette's bloodwine.

"Nicholae! So good to see you again." Janette's wecoming smile was brilliant. Men had died for that smile, and it was easy enough to see why.

Janette had always been his favorite relative, another childe of LaCroix. But unlike himself, she seemed to take pleasure in her immortality. "Is LaCroix in? I... need to talk to him, alone."

She gave a small frown, as if unhappy with him for something. "I will go check... perhaps I can offer you a drink while you wait? A glass of the house special?"

Now it was Nick's turn to frown, knowing full well that her house special was the bloodwine. She knew that he normally avoided such things, meaning that the offer could only be a sign of annoyance, or a plan to make him look rude. "N... actually, I think I'll have a glass."

Janette looked startled, apparently having expected him to refuse the offer. "I will tell him you're here."

end part 3.

The glass was placed in front of him, the scent promising a blending of fine red wine and the blood of a strong healthy man. Part of him was unsure that he should be here, that he should have this glass that was so tempting. If he drank this, would it not be more tempting to think of drinking from a living mortal? But then he remembered the flash of light, and the angry words of the redhead whose name he did not know. Hellmouth. Demons. Vampires. He raised the glass letting it flow over his lips, the flavor intense and wonderful. It almost soothed his nerves, almost made this situation feel bearable. As he swallowed the last of the delicious blending, he considered for a moment the idea of having a second glass. But he did have his shift later, and it wouldn't do to chance being influences by the alcohol.

Janette was there again, her dark eyes full of questions, and they could only have increased at the sight of the now empty glass in his hand. "He's in the back, up the stairs. He said you should go right up."

Standing, Nick slid the glass towards her. "Thank you, Janette. And the drink was delicious."

She caught his wrist with one elegant hand, her eyes now worried. "Nicholae, is there a problem?"

"I truly hope not. But... I need to ask him about something, something that I think he may have mentioned a long time ago. It could be important." Even as he spoke, Nick knew that Janette would be able to tell how worried he was.

He could still feel her worried eyes watching him as he left the main area of the club, slipping in beyond the public ares, walking up the stairs to the lair, well, broadcast station of LaCroix. It only felt like entering the lair of a dangerous... well, that wasn't quite right either. He came to the conclusion that he was definitely walking into danger, however it would be described.

Finally, he reached the top of the stairs, after a short eternity of a twenty foot flight of stairs. Raising his hand, he paused, considering knocking at the door. After a few moments of simply standing there, hand raised, he sighed, and just opened the door, stepping inside. The person sitting inside would be taken by a casual observer to be no more than an older man, with close cropped grey hair and dark clothing, with pale fingers steepled before him. Raising his pale eyes, he looked across the room, showing no surprise at the door's opening. "Hello Nicholas."

"Hello LaCroix. I have... a few questions." Nick's voice showed some of his reluctance to be here.

LaCroix made a slight frown as he spoke. "I was not aware of anyone in the Community drawing police attention to themselves..."

For a few moments, Nick debated the idea of trying to hide the redhead from LaCroix. But LaCroix would learn of the incident at some point. "One of the youngers tried to attack a tourist last night. She said something about a hellmouth."

Nick had expected the way LaCroix had looked at him with an almost disappointed frown when he mentioned the attack, but when he said the word 'hellmouth' LaCroix had actually paled, his body tensing. Could there be something that frightened LaCroix?

"Are you absolutely certain the word was Hellmouth? Where is this person now?" There was an intensity and an urgency to his voice, and LaCroix' eyes almost seemed to burn, without actually changing color.

Nick gave a small nod. "She said Hellmouth. Rather loudly, as I recall." With a small shudder, he remembered what else she'd said. "She also mentioned demons. I'm currently... trying to find her."

LaCroix closed his eyes, and his lips moved, as if he was mentally reciting... he was silently offering prayers to the gods of his youth, gods that he had told Nick were unnecessary to a vampire. Opening his eyes again, he looked at Nick. "Please tell me the Hellmouth isn't here."

Nick's bad feeling about the word grew, fed by the obvious worry and... yes, fear that he could see in his Sire. "No, it wasn't here. She said that she lived on the hellmouth. I had the feeling that I'd heard the term before, probably something that you tried to teach me about... and it feels important."

"That's a good thing. I did mention the Hellmouth to you. It is a place where the barriers between earth and the Hells are thin, and it radiates power and evil. If there is a Hellmouth, there will be demons of assorted strengths and powers, and it causes a change in the vampires. Dwelling in the range of a hellmouth corrupts them, feeding their basest desires and urges, twisting their features, changing them. Hellmouth vampires do not look like us anymore, and as far as I know, they cannot fly. Their hunger grows, and it is not uncommon for them to drain three or four mortals every week to satisfy their bloodthirst. My words on the subject was to avoid a hellmouth. It would be safer to move to a sun-loving beach city."

"Three or four... that... but how could they remain undetected?" Nick knew that he was gaping in shock.

LaCroix had an expression of distaste. "I once... passed through an area with a hellmouth. The vampires there make very little effort to be undetected. Often it simply consists of not showing their fangs in public and killing anyone who does see them. They then depend entirely on the human desire to not know to take care of the rest."

Sudden understanding crashed into Nick. If that had been the whole of her experiences with vampires... it was no wonder she'd thought he would kill her. Most likely, it was all she'd ever seen from vampires, violence and bloodshed and killing. "Yet another reason to find her... she wouldn't know that the vampires here aren't... we don't do things like that."

"I'm surprised to hear you of all people defending us. Hadn't you decided that you wanted to turn your back on us, to become human again? Have you and that doctor had much luck on your quest?" There was an odd note to LaCroix's voice, something beyond the expected taunt about his efforts with Nat.

"I still think that some vampires are evil. But... some of us aren't. Janette isn't evil, Urs and Screed... Vachon, they aren't evil. You... well, there are still times that I think you're evil, but not like that. You have more finesse than that." Nick's voice gave a clear view of the tangled mess of his emotions.

LaCroix had a small almost smile. "Find this woman, and try to prevent her from causing trouble for the community as a whole. Preferably without getting yourself killed."

"I do plan to find her. I've already started inquiries. As for my efforts... I assume you've noticed that I am still very much the vampire? We..." Nick paused, his mind running over the latest failures, and Nat's increasing frustration. For him, it was a hope of redemption, of a second chance. But it seemed to have become something of an obsession for Nat, and he wasn't entirely certain why. "We have found a number of things that did not work."

"Perhaps you are not meant to become human again. Perhaps it is your fate to finish you existence as a vampire." LaCroix sounded almost casual. "Find the woman, try to prevent her from doing anything rash."

Nick could not find the words to respond to LaCroix's parting words. They echoed inside of him, and he could feel them, leaving something like bruises. 'not meant to be human' 'finish your existence'... What made them burn even more was that a part of him feared they were true.

He made his way down the stairs and out of the Raven, hoping to learn if there had been any information on the woman. Even a name, a general area would be good. Somewhere to start looking.

end part 4.

Willow had found the information on Nick Knight, and it had only given her more questions. He had an excellent record, not one of bland perfection, but his mistakes were either matters of protocol, or situations where he'd acted as he had thought necessary at the time, without waiting for clearance, or backup. There were also numerous occasions where, reading between the lines, it was obvious that he'd made use of the special advantages that he had as a vampire. It looked as if he had really thrown himself into police work, and, even more puzzling to Willow, most of his perpetrators were brought in alive, although many of them had been noted as 'dazed' or 'disoriented'. Maybe he was using that mind-control trick on criminals, but it didn't seem like he was feeding on them.

So where was he feeding? If not on his criminals, then it had to be elsewhere, even if he went the bagged and bottled route that Angel had used. Hmmm... perhaps she should check the local hospitols and butcher shops to see if there were any sort of regular deliveries or the sort or regular purchases...

After making a few hours worth of careful inspections into records, Willow was still baffled. She hadn't found anything that told her where this guy got his blood, although it did seem like there were vampires frequenting some club called the Raven. Making a mental note to avoid that place, Willow frowned at her pages of careful notes. Either she was missing something, or Nick simply wasn't leaving the same sort of feeding trail that she was used to.

Frowning, she tried to remember anything that she might have missed. Angel had said something once about places where humans paid money to have vampires bite them, which he'd seemed really unimpressed by. Apparently, it was the sort of thing often done by the inept who couldn't hunt, and catered to humans with suicidal tendancies or vampire fantasies, like the low end version of the club that Ford had once set up. She had no idea how to check for something like that, but... she had the feeling that Nick wasn't the sort of guy who would do something like that. He seemed to have a bit much class. But what if he was... biting people and making them forget? Could a vampire make someone forget how they got a big nasty bite on their neck? That just didn't seem very plausible to her.

She still couldn't come up with how Nick could be getting the blood that he would need. Unless his type of vampire didn't need as much blood in addition to being able to fly. She couldn't help but shudder at the idea. That almost sounded like a type of super-vampire, which was scary. Regular ones were bad enough.

She'd spent hours of her morning trying to figure out where he got his blood, and had only succeded in giving herself a headache. With a sigh, Willow decided to go back to the museum. Surely, she could relax looking at the exhibits? And if she parked near the museum, she wouldn't get lost searching for her car again. She also packed a pair of stakes and some holy water, just in case she lost track of time again.

When the alarm went off in the next room, Willow jumped, spinning to face it with an unsettled, almost frightened squeak, and she actually saw the two figures, arms loaded with things from the Egyptian exhibit, attempting to run away from the advancing museum security. The would-be thieves split up, one going to the left and beyond her sight, the other headed right towards her.

"Get out of my way!" The crook sounded fearful and angry, and his breath smelled of hamburgers.

Willow wasn't at all afraid, and reacted on instinct, her time in Sunnydale insisting that you never let the angry and afraid baddy get behind you. She feinted with a fist, and with a sweeping motion, knocked him off his feet, causing him to land on the ground, the gold and jeweled objects in his arms spilling onto the floor.

"Don't move, buster." Her voice sounded far braver than she actually felt. A tiny part of her mind was screaming, convinced that this was absolute insanity, she had no back up, nobody to defend her if things got ugly, and what if he had a gun?

Willow found herself standing over the thief, her heart hammering loud in her ears as her mind went over all the possible ways that this could have ended in tragedy. She wasn't a hero, she didn't have the training to deal with thieves! But... how could she just stand back and do nothing? And if he'd gotten away, and something horrible had been done as a result, some horrible ritual or... Willow closed her eyes for a moment, trying to remind herself that not every thief was tring to unleash a demon or complete some obscure ritual to set in motion terrible events. Sometimes, they just wanted the money.

"Thank you, Miss, but we can handle him now. The police are on their way." One of the museum security guards spoke, his voice disrupting Willow's internal thoughts.

With a small smile and now trembling limbs, she made her way over to a bench and sat down. She'd just involved herself in police procedure, and now she'd have to stay in Toronto. Maybe it would have been simpler to just let him get away.

Willow quietly sat there, loosing track of time as she tried to figure out if she'd just been brave or incredibly foolish. She was still trying to figure it out when she head the security guard speak, being very relieved that the detectives were here. Glancing up, Willow saw that there were two of them, one a blond woman who almost reminded her of Buffy in the way she stood, full of confidence and authority. The other... almost the last person that she'd wanted to see again in this city. Detective Nick Knight.

Just as she was debating a skyward glance and a murmured 'why me?' she heard Detective Knight say what in other circumstances would be a harmless phrase: "I'll just go over and ask her a few questions." With those few, polite sounding words, he began to walk towards Willow.

"I'm Detective Knight, and I'd like to ask you a few questions.... you." From the sound of his voice, he'd started his often repeated introduction before getting a good look at her. It was clear that he recognized her, and had not expected to see her again. With a slight smile, he spoke again. "Since you know who I am, maybe we can move to who you are?"

Willow sighed, a part of her entirely unsurprised that she would encounter the vampire Detective again. "I'm Willow Rosenberg, and that's with an 'e', from Sunnydale, California. My oh-so-memorable home. I came to the museum to relax, and I was over there," she gestured at the case displaying several skillfully crafted Celtic brooches and torques. "I heard this noise, the alarm, I suppose. But I jumped, and I looked to see what the noise was coming from, and there were two people, their arms full of things from one of the Egyptian cases, and the security gaurds were going towards them. One person went to the... umm, my left, and out of my line of sight. The other one came towards me, and he yelled at me. Then I um... sortofknockedhimdown." Her words trailed off in an embarrased whisper.

Nick looked at her, one eyebrow raised in apparent surprise. "You just... knocked him down? How did you know he wasn't armed? What made you take the risk?"

Willow could feel her blush intensifying, in spite of her desire NOT to blush in front of the vampire, even if he was sort of cute. "I think... about the only thing I was thinking was that he'd be more dangerous behind me where I couldn't see him than in front of me. His arms were full of gold and jeweled things, if he had a weapon, he would have had to drop them to use it. It wasn't particularly wise, or planned, I just... well, I just did, and then I started trying to figure out what I was thinking."

"I've had that happen a few times... But you're a bit more fragile than I am." His words could be taken easily, as no more than a warning to the civilian to leave the capture of criminals to the police, but both of them knew that it was also a simple fact; vampires were more durable than mortals.

Willow looked at him, finding that his eyes were just eyes, though they were quite pretty eyes. "I guess you are... considering that I'm not the biggest, sturdiest person in the world. But... I did it, and it's too late now to have second thoughts. Or too late to do anything about it anyhow."

"Willow, there is something that I need to talk to you about, but not here." His voice was low, and it was obvious that he didn't want this to be overheard.

Willow swallowed, having the feeling that this would be coming. "Would I be right to guess that this talk would have to do with the other night?"

"Yes. And it's very important." Something in his voice got through to Willow, conveying the urgency behind his words.

Willow looked at him, internally debating how much she could trust him. "There's a little coffee shop down the street... if it's not too crowded, I could use a cup."

He gave a small smile, and nodded. "That should work. So, coffee to calm your nerves? I doubt... hope that you've been involved in very many police investigations."

She could only smile. "No, not to many police investigations for me. This is all new... sort of unsettling."

"So, shall we go have coffee and talk?" Nick's voice carried no threat, just a faint sense of hope and urgency.

end part 5.

They carefully headed towards the doors, and Willow glanced over to where Nick was murmuring something in his partner's ear. A bit beyond them was...

There was blood splashed over the marble floor, and a cluster of people crowded around, almost obscuring her view of something, except that between the forrest of legs, she could make out a dark form, and she could actually see one hand, limp and outstretched on the floor. The body looked as if it was dressed in the security uniforms of the museum.

Willow felt a cold shiver pass through her. Had she ever actually seen a body that had been killed by 'normal' means? Considering, she had to say that outside of the funeral for one of her father's friends when she was little, she'd never seen someone who'd died by natural causes or human hands. That was quite sad, actually.

Nick came back, a small frown on his face when he realized that Willow was staring at the people clustered around the body. "We were going to go talk somewhere more private."

He gently put one hand on her arm just above the elbow, and lead her to his car, and drove them down the street to the coffee shop.

Willow started feeling a bit less numb after they'd settled into the small table in a corner, a mug of hot coffee in her hands. She sipped it, a small corner wondering if she should let it cool before deciding that she needed the small amount of grounding it would give her.

"That... that was another security guy, wasn't it? Is that... is that why you asked if I'd thought about the thief having a weapon?" Her voice was quiet.

Nick gave a small nod, sipping his own coffee. "Yes to both questions. Are you... are you alright?"

Willow gave a small, tight smile. "I've never seen someone who'd been killed by another human being before. It was always vampires or demons... And that just seems so... not right."

With a troubled tone, Nick spoke again. "You make it sound like you've seen a great deal."

"Sunnydale, Hellmouth. Place of many bad things and a death rate almost as high as Toronto. umm... I did a little checking on you." Her voice sounded almost flat, even to her own ears.

"What did you find?" His eyes were filled with curiosity.

Willow gave a small sigh. "More confusion. Nice official record, by the way, but... I don't believe you're thirty two. Not as powerful as you feel. You... And you really got me baffled trying to figure you out, you know."

Nick leaned back in his seat, a small smile at the corners of his mouth. "What baffled you?"

Willow glanced around the room, looking to see where the other people were, and how much they might overhear. Coming to the conclusion that nobody with normal human hearing could hear them, she gave a little grin. "Well, your police record speaks highly for you, and it's the sort that kind of makes me want to trust you. But I was just giving myself a headache trying to figure out how you got your blood, because, well... you need to have some, and I wasn't seeing how. Then there's the whole you can fly and the cranky guys back in Sunnydale didn't."

"Ahhh... glad the official documentation meets your approval." He paused, as if trying to gather his thoughts. "I... the vampires like me aren't the same as the ones in Sunnydale. I talked to someone else, trying to figure out the term Hellmouth. It's... trouble, which it sounds like you already knew. He also said that it changes the vampires there... makes them... he said it strengthens their darkest desires and increases their blood thirst. We... we aren't all like that."

She looked at him, trying to figure out what was going on in his head. He looked so awkward about the whole thing, as if the topic of the hellmouth made him all uncomfortable and nervous. "I'd noticed a few... differences, but... some were in appearance, and then there was that trick the other guy pulled. Just... whoosh." A hand gesture to indicate the other vampire flying accompanied her words.

"It's not that hard. But... another difference, a bigger one is that we... those of us in other places worry more about people finding out. There are laws, and a code of secrecy. You can't go talking about... us. There are Enforcers, people who's whole job is to keep our laws, and they're ruthless. It's better if you... don't say anything." He was looking at her, his eyes intense, but not the sort of intense that meant he was trying that mind-control thing again.

Willow felt something twist in her stomach, something that felt like it could go very cold. She drank some more of the very hot coffee in an effort to prevent that. "As in... kill me dead sort of ruthless. Not to be confused with unleashing an apocalypse ruthless. That's... not very comforting on a personal level."

"You don't seem very surprised." Nick's voice sounded gentle, as if he was trying not to panic her.

She gave him a small, apologetic smile. "I'm not in the habit of thinking random vampires want to be my friend, so it isn't much of a surprise. But... umm, if I just don't mention the... mess the other night, I'm safe... safer anyhow?"

He glanced for a few moments at his coffee, as if trying to find answers in the bottom of it. "What about... specific vampires?"

Had he actually meant that? Was he... that almost sounded like he was flirting with her. But... why would a centuries old vampire be interested in flirting with her? And she still hadn't answered his question... "Well... it might depend on the specific person in question. I wouldn't rule the possibility out entirely, after all, Angel was sort of a friend, except for the whole cryptic brooding in the dark and fixated on my best friend sort of thing. Your eyes sort of remind me of his, the whole older and guilt ridden sort of look... and that wasn't meant as an insult! I just meant... oh dear, I'm babbling... it's the coffee, just blame the coffee... and this trip hasn't gone at all like I'd expected it to go." She knew that she was blushing now.

Nick's eyebrows had very nearly met his hairline as he'd listened to Willow's words just spill out. "Oh... ahh... something tells me that the coffee didn't quite calm you down. But I am... older, and I do feel rather guilty over the things I did when I was younger. I'll have to remember never to give you coffee if I want to be able to follow your sentences..."

"But it was only one cup! I don't get bad until after the third one." Willow had the oddest feeling that he didn't believe her.

Nick looked worried, and his voice was astonished. "This isn't bad? What happens that's wor... umm, more than this?"

"I babble faster, and I tangent more, and I say more of the tangents. Hey, do your type reflect? Because I always wondered how Angel shaved with no reflection, and maybe you have the answer... You said something about the hellmouth increasing a vampire's blood thirst, which made it sound like you didn't need quite as much, but I've been giving myself a headache trying to figure out where you do get yours..." Willow spilled a couple questions, still hoping that eventually, someone would tell her how vampires shaved with no reflections. The question had nagged at her for years.

Nick nodded slowly, his expression wary. "You babble more than this... right, no more coffee for Willow. I have a perfectly normal reflection, so I can't help you with that one. Cow's blood from a local butcher, a couple bottles a week. You do realize that you'll have to stay in Toronto at least until the trial of those museum thieves is over?"

With a small sigh, Willow nodded. "I'd sort of figured that much. And as for that other matter... I should have expected a would be mugger in the city. I just... violence makes me nervous."

Nick gave a small nod, his face showing a bit of amusement. "Right... muggers are a fact of cities. And if you don't mention it, you won't have to worry about the Enforcers. Which means, yes, safer."

"yay... safer is always better than they're out there, really strong, and after you." Willow picked up her coffee cup, frowning when she saw that it was empty. "Well... I guess that should cover tonight. Would it be upsetting if I said I hope not to run into you professionally?"

All Nick could do was laugh. "No, not at all offensive. Besides, you didn't say you didn't want to see me."

Willow sat there for a few moments, feeling stunned. That had definitely sounded like he was flirting a bit. And whatever differences there might be, the Toronto vampires could still do that vanishing thing that Angel did so frustratingly well in Sunnydale.

"This is so entirely weird." She felt as if she were somehow betraying Oz's memory by thinking that Nick was cute. Of course, the fact that he WAS cute had a bit to do with her thoughts, and there was a huge gap between thinking someone was cute and getting involved with them.

But he was still cute.

end part 6.

Nick sighed, trying to figure out why he kept thinking about the redhead, Willow. It was good to have a name for her finally, although he really wished he'd learned it under other circumstances. She seemed entirely calm about hacking into his records, and seemed to view his... diet in an oddly abstracted manner. As if it was little more than a curious mental puzzle to figure that aspect of him out.

Her mind worked in baffling ways.

She hadn't seemed terribly surprised when he'd warned her about the Enforcers, more like someone who'd had an unhappy suspicion confirmed. Someone who expected danger from vampires. And for some reason, it really bothered him that she wasn't safe, merely safer.

He could picture her so clearly, her pale skin paler from the situation at the museum, her hair the bright red of fall leaves, her eyes full of questions and intelligence... She was actually quite pretty.

A part of his mind wondered what sort of life she'd led that had her so calm to hear that there were several powerful vampires that would kill her if they discovered that she knew they existed. That she had seen dead bodies, but not from human actions. That she had shouted about fighting demons as if it were no more dangerous than a walk through the park.

He would never again make the mistake of thinking that coffee would make her easier to understand. The only time that could possibly hold true for her would be when she first woke to face the day... and he highly doubted that he'd ever be there when she was waking up. Although, she seemed fairly accepting of his condition, now that she didn't think he was going to kill her. It was a bit unsettling, even Natalie had never been so calm about it, only aware.

He'd asked if she would be his friend. It sounded so... appallingly childish, actually. He was a grown man, and had been a vampire for seven hundred years, he shouldn't have to gaze over into a pair of pretty green eyes and ask 'will you be my friend?' Well, maybe it hadn't been quite that direct, but it had been close.

It was embarrassing, and sadly... it was about an accurate summary of what had happened. Find the pretty girl near the dead man, ask her a few questions about the not-quite dead man, warn her of danger, and ask if she'd be his friend. He could only wince as he imagined what LaCroix might think about that little talk.

LaCroix. He hadn't even considered the possible danger to Willow that was his Sire. LaCroix had been his Sire, his mentor, his friend, and his tormentor, sometimes all at once for centuries. He could be utterly ruthless, and if he decided that Willow was an obstacle to his plans for Nicholas... Willow would be no match for LaCroix.

How could he warn Willow about his sire without either terrifying her so badly that she ran screaming... no, Willow wouldn't run screaming from a big scary danger. She would slip out quietly, and then run as soundlessly as she could. He could just imagine her, with her green eyes oh-so-serious, explaining that 'screaming will only attract unwanted attention'. The other possibility that he could picture her trying would be to seek out LaCroix and... most likely get herself killed. Neither extreme appealed to Nick.

He closed his eyes, attempting to sort through the possible ways to explain to her. He had no idea how to start. He didn't want her to be too frightened of LaCroix, partly because he wanted her to stay, and partly because running would attract attention. But he didn't want her to go confront LaCroix either.

The problem was that he didn't know her well enough. How could he gauge what was too much information and what was not enough if he didn't know her? Clearly, he would have to spend more time with her, to learn more about her and her past.

For her own safety, of course.

Nick almost believed his desire to see her was only to keep her safe. For about a minute. Then, another image of her eyes, sparkling over her coffee came into his mind, and he sighed, running his hand though his hair in frustration. He had a deeper interest in her than wanting her safe, and he couldn't quite deny it. He wanted to get to know her, to learn more about her, to see more of her smiles.

Part of him almost wondered what sort of reaction Willow would have to his search to regain his humanity. Would she laugh as his sire had? Eagerly dive into scientific study and tests as Nat had done? The idea of two determined women looking at him as a baffling scientific puzzle made him shudder. With a bit of luck, her reaction would fall in between.

He was also curious why she'd come to Toronto. She was staying in a small hotel, he'd had to get her current address as part of his questions. He knew where to find her, or at least contact her. Maybe he could... suggest they meet somewhere, and he could help her find places that she'd want to visit while in the city? He could even justify her company with the 'need to ensure her silence', not that he would need an excuse to spend time with her.

With a small sigh, he came to the conclusion that he would definitely be wanting to learn a lot more about Willow.

end part 7.
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