parts 8 - 10
He definitely wanted to get to know Willow better. But how exactly should he go about trying to get to know her? It wasn't as if he could just meet her somewhere for a casual lunch, or most of the other ways that people seemed to spend casual time together. He certainly didn't want her to have extensive involvement with his job. So, he needed something other than just 'bumping into her' or talking about something work-related.
Inspiration hit Nick, and he'd decided that he could invite Willow over for coffee and discussion, about the celtic exhibit or anything else that she wanted. Maybe it would help him get an idea of the best way to warn her about LaCroix. But he had the feeling that talking with Willow would be a far better way to spend his evening than 'brooding over his past' as it had been described. Nat was currently out of town attending some sort of seminar training thing about some new development in post mortem research, he'd begged her to spare him the technical details.
He'd never been very good at entertaining himself. That might have been part of how he'd ended up falling into LaCroix' company so easily. It was certainly one of the things that had caused a good share of his problems over the past few... well, his whole existence. Which might mean that inviting Willow over would be a bad idea.
Nick reached for the paper that he'd copied down her contact information on, and walked over to his telephone, dialing the number for her hotel.
He tapped his fingers impatiently on the desk as he waited for someone to answer the phone, not quite surprised that it was the hotel desk clerk. He asked to be connected to the room of Willow Rosenberg, and was asked to hold.
Finally, the phone picked up again, and he heard Willow's voice, curious and almost uncertain. :Hello?:
"Willow? I was wondering... Maybe you might want to come over and we could talk about the celtic exhibit? Or about something else if you want..." He felt uncertainty rise again, and wondered if he should really be trying to get closer to her.
:I suppose that I could drop by. We could talk, about the celts, and maybe about some... regional differences.: She sounded relieved, and almost a bit amused.
From the almost amusement in her voice, he had the feeling that the 'regional differences' that she'd mentioned would have very little to do with the celts and a good deal to do with vampires. "That's fine... wait, do you know where I live?"
:Of course I do, silly. I looked you up, and that was definitely in the file. I'll be over in a bit... hopefully soon if I can figure out how to get there from here.: She sounded like she was smiling.
That made Nick pause, feeling oddly unsettled by that single statement. He also felt quite foolish for not realizing that if she'd accessed his job history file with the police enough to see that he was officially thirty two and had his list of commendations and reprimands, that she would also have his home address. It should have been obvious. "Umm Right. I'll be expecting you over then."
:Sure thing. I'll be over later. Bye for now, Nick.: She sounded very cheerful, and oddly perky as she hung up the phone.
Maybe he'd best have his breakfast now, before she showed up at his apartment. He had a sudden flash of her watching him, and couldn't help but shiver. It would make him feel exposed. Definitely best to get that taken care of before she arrived. He walked over to the small kitchen, pulling a bottle out of the refrigerator. It looked like a dark green wine bottle, but this didn't contain wine. No, the hand written label of 'Bull's Blood' was entirely accurate.
Suddenly, it hit him. He'd invited her over to his house. Willow, the most unexpectedly baffling woman that he'd met in a very long time, was going to be in his home. He should pick up a few things, and make sure that there wasn't anything embarrassing out in sight, like dirty laundry.
Nick set to organizing his apartment, for once grateful that his tastes ran to open spaces. Granted, the large steel shutters over the windows made the place seem a bit dark, but... he was flammable in sunlight, what else could he do?
It didn't even occur to him to wonder why he was so worried about how she would react to his home.
end part 8.
Willow had managed to find the right street, with only a few wrong turns and the help of a map of Toronto. All she had to do now was find a place to park the car and then find Nick's place. Although, unless it clashed with the rest of the street, she would have to add housing choices to her growing list of differences between the Sunnydale and Toronto vampires. Maybe he had a basement apartment...
The apartment building was actually rather nice. Slipping into the lobby, she saw a section of the wall had mailboxes, each with a number and some writing. Walking over, she made the helpful discovery that the boxes listed the name and apartment number of all the residents. One was labeled 'Knight, N.' informing her that Nick's apartment was actually on the top floor. It also appeared to be only accessible by the elevator.
For a moment, Willow wondered how he'd managed to keep something like that, considering all the fire safety codes. For that matter, what would he do if there was a fire? Then, she remembered that the vampires here seemed to be able to fly. Right... maybe fire below wasn't their biggest worry.
She smiled a bit, thinking yet again that her mind went in odd directions. She held a bag in one hand, containing a salad and sandwich for dinner. Considering Nick's own diet would be pretty much liquid, she'd figured that it might be wise to take something along. The elevator was slow, and rattled, not enough to be annoying, but surely enough that Nick would hear it. Did it keep him awake in the daytime, hearing the elevator?
The elevator stopped, and she opened the panel that served as a door, her movements halting as she saw what was on the other side. Not a hallway or a small room, no, the elevator opened right into Nick's living space. It was a large open area, with a small area to one side, and a staircase leading to an upper level. A grand piano sat in one corner, and there were several large windows that had what looked like miniature solid garage doors over them, blocking the sunlight far more securely than sets of velvet drapery would have done. A huge television was playing on mute, some nature program about a tropical island, the sunlight gleaming on white sand and turquoise waters.
"Ummm... hello Nick? I really didn't expect the elevator to just open into your living room... but I did manage to find the place..." She pitched her voice to carry a bit, confident that he would hear her.
"Willow? I was trying to get a few things straightened up... just try to make yourself comfortable." His voice seemed to come from above, implying that there were rooms on the level above.
She felt herself smiling. Walking towards what she assumed was his kitchen, she had the sudden question of would Nick have things like plates and bowls? After all, it wasn't as if he would really need any... Entering the small kitchen, she noticed some gleaming pans, and a very normal looking block of knives. Opening a cupboard, she discovered a small stack of plates and bowls, a barely noticeable film of dust settled over them. Another cupboard had several coffee mugs and some wineglasses. Clearly, he had plates, probably just for show.
Curiosity satisfied, she opened the refrigerator to put her small bag of dinner inside. The door was empty, the shelves a pristine white that could only be the result of never being used. An open box of baking soda sat in isolation on the top shelf, and a collection of dark green bottles huddled in the back. Kneeling down, she placed her bag on the shelf, and turned one green bottle so that she could read the label.
"Maybe I should have picked up some cream for coffee, but I thought you only used sugar at the cafe..." Nick's voice was right behind her, and sounded almost uneasy.
"Apparently the whole stealthy thing must come with the fangs... you're as bad about sneaking up on people as Angel." She could feel her heart beating faster. Turning, she wasn't quite surprised to see him right behind her, almost looming. Reaching on hand up, she grinned at him. "Since your almost looming there and blocking the way, be a gentleman and help me up?"
Nick glanced down, and it almost looked as if he was trying to blush as he effortlessly lifted Willow to her feet. "Sorry about that. I didn't mean to startle you."
Smiling, Willow wondered how he could still seem so... nice after being a vampire for a long time. "It's alright, really. I was just putting my dinner in there for later. Considering your restricted diet, I figured I'd better bring something a bit more solid with me."
"You didn't... I could have put that away for you." He definitely looked embarrassed, as if he didn't want her to see any evidence that he was a vampire.
"You have this guilt ridden brooding thing down to an art, haven't you? Calm down, it's not like you have anything particularly icky in there. If I could look inside Xander's family's refrigerator without running away screaming... umm... the point is that your refrigerator isn't scary. Just really, really clean." He wasn't quite like anyone else. There were some similarities to Angel, but he was still uniquely Nick. And she found herself thinking again that he was rather cute.
Nick glanced away, fidgeting slightly. "I haven't... I haven't always been a particularly good person. I killed people. Why shouldn't I brood?"
Willow settled onto his couch, tucking her feet under her as she looked at him. He was another 'Guilt-Ridden Reformed Vampire', and she absently wondered if that phrase should have the little trade-marked symbol after it. She resisted the urge to giggle at the image of trying to trademark that phrase. "You sound like Angel now. 'I did bad things, I killed people' and what he isn't quite saying but you know he really means is 'I am a monster, I hate myself'. It's sort of sad. But, Nick? Has anyone ever pointed out that even if you brood a really long time, it won't bring anyone back from the dead, and it won't change a single thing that has already happened?"
He looked at her, eyes filled with startlement. "But... I've..."
"If you want to say that you did bad things, I won't argue with you. If you want to say that you should feel guilty over them, I won't argue that one either. But feeling guilty doesn't mean you have to brood. Instead, you're going out... that's why you became a police detective, isn't it? To sort of... work out the guilt? Like a penance?" The realization dawned in her mind.
Nick was looking at her his expression surprised. "Yes... how? How did you figure that out?"
Willow could feel herself blushing. "Well, I could try to say that I'm just that smart, but the truth is your eyes and jacket gave it away. Your eyes are all old and sad and brooding, and your jacket has... um, did you know that your jacket has bullet holes all over it? Were you... I hope you weren't wearing it, that would have been very painful..."
"Well... actually... they didn't all happen on the same night." He seemed to find a loose thread on his chair most fascinating.
Willow had a wild mental image of him pulling on the thread only to have the whole chair unravel in old cartoon style, dropping him abruptly to the ground. "This is your way of not saying that you were in it, and since you feel really guilty about your past, you think you deserve the whole shot full of lead part? Does it actually help? Cause if it does, I can try to send the suggestion to Angel, he's always looking for new ways to beat himself up over his past."
"I still don't understand how you're taking this so casually." Nick's voice was puzzled.
She could feel the tears well in her eyes even as the memories welled in her mind. "It isn't what's outside that makes someone a monster, it's not in having sharp teeth or fangs or being really strong. It's what's inside, in the motivation and thoughts that makes somebody a monster. Sunnydale taught me that."
end part 9.
Nick looked at her, and his features looked blurred. It took her a moment to realize that it was from the tears in her eyes. Willow tried to wipe them away with her hand.
"Willow, are you... what's wrong?" Nick sounded uncertain, worried and uneasy, as if he wanted to help, but had no idea how.
The comment slipped out before she could restrain it. "God, Nick, your how old and still get thrown off balance by a female in tears?" She sniffled slightly, wiping at her other eye. "It's not you... it's just... there were some very painful things that happened, and I'm now exactly all better about them yet."
When he spoke again, there was a hint of amusement in his voice. "A bit over seven hundred, and yes, it still throws me entirely off balance. Here, use the handkerchief. Do you... would it help any to talk about it?"
Willow's mind spin as she considered his words. Seven hundred? No wonder he felt so strong... "That's a lot more than thirty two... Maybe I can talk about some of it. Have you... well, you said you talked to someone a bit about a hellmouth?"
Nick nodded, frowning. "Yes... I asked LaCroix, my Sire. He said they attract all manner of demons, and that they corrupt the vampires on them. Makes them go... hmm, turn to the dark side I suppose."
"And that's the look of you really don't want to ever go there. Sensible of you." Willow tried to smile, almost succeeding. "Have you ever heard of a Slayer? Three years ago, this new girl moved to Sunnydale, and I soon found out by accident that she's the Slayer. That all the things I thought were just legends and horror movies are... well, maybe not all of them, but a lot of them, are real. I couldn't just let her face everything alone, so I started helping with the whole research thing. Looking through old, heavy books with her watcher and checking online for some of the stuff."
"I've heard stories about Slayers. Ran into a few watchers as well... my sort of vampires have a standard way to deal with them: look them in the eyes and make them forget they ever saw us. Pretty effective. But, wouldn't that be dangerous for you?"
With a small sigh, Willow continued her story. "That depends on what I'm doing. Hacking into the coronor's records for a list of might be turned people isn't dangerous, but helping fight a seven foot demon with tusks is a lot more dangerous."
He looked shocked. "But... but you could get hurt! You don't... you're only human, you'd be defenseless."
"Only semi defenseless. I've been learning some about weapons, and I'm a good shot with a crossbow. But mainly, I do the research or a little magic." She felt a small smile, mixed with a bit of indignation at being called helpless.
"Magic?" Nick looked worried and a bit uncertain. "But... there's no such thing as magic, only stories and legends."
Willow collapsed into helpless giggles. She was sitting with a vampire, and that vampire was telling her that magic was just a myth.
"What's so funny? Willow?" Nick's voice again, still doubtful.
She waved her hand towards him, tears of laughter streaming down her face. "You... vampire, and... saying magic's just a myth? Do you have... any idea how many people... say that about vampires?"
He chuckled. "Well, maybe that is a bit funny. But, magic?"
"Yes silly, magic. Where did you think that bright light came from when we first bumped into each other? I made it."
His jaw dropped. "You? But... magic isn't... it can't be real."
She knew her smile might be just a tiny bit wicked. "Magic is just as much of a myth as vampires. See? You, " she pointed at him with one hand, and over the palm of her other hand created a small wisp of pale green light. " you sitting there are the mythical vampire, and here over my hand is the mythical magic. But we don't need to go telling everyone, might stir up Hansel and Gretel..." She shivered as she remembered that horrible experience.
Nick's eyes were focused on the small globe, the light reflecting almost the same as it would on a cat's eyes. "That's... you really did magic. Right here in my living room... magic."
"Yeah, right here in your... is it still called a living room if the person who owns it is dead? Magic can be done all sorts of places, but anything really big and complicated tends to requite some preparation, powers, candles, chants in other languages... Big magic takes big preparation. Little bitty things don't take as much, just sort of a bit of emotional control."
He gave a small grin, eyes still fixed on the globe of light. "Magic... it's actually real. Is it safe?"
Willow shrugged. "Sort of and sort of not. I mean, magic's just drawing on energy to do things, so it's basically just a different type of skill. But it can take a bit out of you do do big things, and you should really be sure exactly what some foreign language is saying if you work with magic. Otherwise, you can accidentally make a really bad problem. But it's just a skill, and what makes it good or bad is what you do with it. Just like having super strength can be good if you use it to help people or bad if you go around ripping people's arms of and beating them to death with them. That's bad, very bad and incredibly messy."
"I don't think I want to ask..." Nick's voice sounded stunned all over again.
"We get a lot of icky things happening in Sunnydale." She smiled a bit, hoping that he would be able to get over his shock.
end part 10.