Tears Of Crimson Regret
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Always There

Title: Always There
Author: BloodyTearsOfLife
Rating: R
Disclaimer: All characters belong to the Joss, he just let’s me play with them.
Summary: This story is canon based, takes place where season five is, but here's the twist: a new vampire who has half a soul, who comes to Sunnydale to help with Glory. Starts after 'Out of My Mind', but Spike never tried to get the chip out, and there is no Harmony.
Warnings: Spike/Temp -(Spike will be with an OC temporarily, but nothing will happen with them. Please don't let it discourage you from reading! (I also will be getting rid of Riley ASAP). This is a Spuffy fic, I promise.)
*Banner made by the lovely people at Banner_Grab.*

Chapter 1   Chapter 2   Chapter 3   Chapter 4   Chapter 5

Chapter 1: A New Visitor

A/N:Big hug to Ariel for, of course, betaing this fic. And thanks to Spikesdeb for making sure my Spike voice was okay. *hugs you both*

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Spike's crypt door slowly opened revealing the entrance of a black clad figure. She closed the door quietly and looked around. She tiptoed in, sniffing her way around. Her eyes flashed gold as she looked around in the dark. The figure stood still as she heard the faint sounds of someone approaching.

"What in the bloody hell are you doin’ in here?" a British voice sounded out and slowly a sleek figure came into the little light that illuminated the crypt. His hair was bleach blonde and he stood in a predatory stance, black jeans molded to his legs. His pale, bare, muscular chest seemed to glow in the darkness. His blue eyes flickered to gold as he approached her.

It was just her luck. She had found the one person she had been looking for.

"Look, it’s almost sun rise and I have nowhere to go," she stated as she stepped forward. Her brown hair shone in the scant light and her brown eyes blended into the darkness. “Let me crash here till the sun goes down and then I’ll be gone. Please?" she asked, hoping that Spike would let her stay; it would make things a lot simpler later.

Spike took a deep breath, contemplating letting her stay for the day, when he caught the scent of her blood; she was hurt. Now that Spike looked closer, he could see the slashes on her clothes and how she was holding her side. Spike couldn’t help the growl he let out once he smelt her blood; it smelled sweet and powerful.

Instinctively, she growled back. Spike could sense the superiority in her growl; it seemed to roll off her skin. This was an elder vampire, older than him, probably even older than Peaches. He scrutinized her trying to figure out who she was. Spike knew most of the Master vampires.

"You got a name pet?" Spike asked.

“Nikole,” she replied standing there, studying Spike--William the Bloody. She knew who he was but he didn’t know who she was, and that brought a faint smirk to her lips. She chuckled at the puzzled look on his face and then stopped at the pull of pain in her side. It was hurting her more than she’d like to admit and if she didn’t lay down soon, she was going to collapse.

She leaned against one of the sarcophagi, trying to ease the pressure on her ribs. She had run into a vampire nest on her first night in this town, Sunnydale. This was really the Hellmouth. She could feel all the vibes coming from it and it unsettled her; but, being a Witch turned Vampire had its advantages. Once she slept for a bit she would have enough strength to finish the healing that the vampire side of her had started.

“Fine, you can stay, but no funny business,” Spike said. Something about this girl puzzled him, and Spike always loved a challenge.

“Thanks, I’ll be gone by sundown,” Nikole replied, hoisting herself onto the sarcophagus.

Spike retreated back into the shadows and went down the ladder. Why he had let the chit stay for the night, he didn’t even know, but something had pressed him to say yes. Agitated, he grabbed a cigarette from a table and lit it up, nicotine filling his already dead lungs.

Now that’s better, Spike thought as he took another drag. He began to pace, thinking about the girl upstairs, Nikole. He couldn’t put his finger on it but there was something different about her. Finally, with dawn now upon him, the pull of sleep became too much, and he drifted off.

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Nikole woke with a start. Keeping her eyes closed, she stretched out her senses. Spike was still asleep downstairs, or at least she thought he was since she didn’t hear any movement; the whole lack of heartbeat made it hard sometimes. She also couldn’t sense anyone outside.

Nikole sat up on the tomb that had been her bed, taking a deep breath and began to meditate. With her eyes closed, her concentration focused, she bathed the room in a pale white color as she healed the rest of her wounds, breathing deeply as she finished.

She looked around, trying to figure out what to do till sundown. Her vampire senses told her she still had a couple of hours still to go. She got up and stretched, loosening up her muscles. She picked up her shirt and scrunched her nose at what remained of it. It had caked blood on it and the sleeves were pretty shredded.

Her stomach gave a rumble. She’d have to eat soon too; the blood loss having a hunger effect on her that she was trying to ignore without much success. Not seeing much but the chair and the TV around, she plopped herself into the chair and turned on the TV, soon being absorbed into the unfolding drama.

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Two hours later, Spike was slowly blinking his eyes open. He heard the faint sounds of the TV from upstairs and figured that Nikole was up. He would have to talk to her. He stretched languidly and then got up, dressing and then headed up, a plan already forming in his head.

“Morning,” greeted Nikole.

“More like afternoon pet,” Spike corrected.

“Yeah, I guess you're right. Only an hour left till sundown and then I’m out of here.”

“Hold up a bit luv. Did you really think I was just gonna let ya go? How do I know that you ain’t gonna go out and snack on the innocent, not that I really care, just don’t want all this comin’ back to me. Don’t need the bloody Slayer down my throat for not killin’ ya when I had the chance,” Spike replied.

Nikole raised an eyebrow at the stake that Spike held in his hand. She watched as he took a defensive stance.

“Do we really have to do this?” Nikole asked getting up from the chair. She took Spike’s non-answer as a yes. “Alright, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.” In a blur of movement, Nikole had disarmed him and pinned to the ground.

“Fuck,” Spike murmured. The girl had moved so fast, he hadn’t even seen her coming.

“Spike, look into my eyes,” Nikole said gripping one wrist in each hand and pinning down his legs with hers.

Lying on the ground, Spike was looking around, trying to figure out the best way to get up. Wait, she had a warm body? That wasn’t right; she should be cold. There was more going on than he thought and he was going to find out.

“Spike! Look at me!” she repeated.

Spike didn’t know what made him look at her; maybe it was the desperation in her voice. He hesitantly stared into her eyes, even though he knew it might not be the smartest idea, especially if this bird had a thrall. He gazed into her eyes for a few moments and then he saw it; it hit him like a ton of bricks: she still had part of her soul.

“Bloody hell!” Spike exclaimed, stopping his struggling and laying placid underneath her.

“So you saw it?”

“Yeah, that I did.”

“Good, now that we got that over with,” Nikole said hoisting herself up and then offering a hand down to help Spike up. He took the hand and was again surprised at the strength it had.

“So pet, what’s with being warm?” Spike asked releasing her hand.

“Yeah, I’ve noticed. I haven’t come across any vamp that was warm either. I have no clue why I am still warm or even why I still have a soul.”

“So what are you doin’ in Sunnyhell?” Spike questioned as he opened the fridge.

“I’m here to see the Slayer,” Nikole said confidently.

“To kill her?” Spike asked, glancing up at her as he poured himself a mug of blood.

Nikole could feel her hunger rise as she breathed in the scent of the blood, but kept her game face down, her years of control coming into play.

“Of course not. I am here to help her,” Nikole said.

“Against what? New big bad comin’ to town?” Spike asked taking a drink of the blood. He could see her eyes flash golden as she watched him drink. Chit was probably hungry after bleeding last night. The gentlemen part of him won out in the end and he poured her a mug and handed it to her.

“Thanks,” Nikole replied and then gulped down the blood. Her face vamped out as she finished it and handed the mug back to Spike.

“No problem luv, figured you could use it after last night,” Spike said taking the mug and turning away. He walked over to the corner area where a little hole in the wall revealed a small water valve. He took his time washing the mugs, setting them on top of the fridge to dry.

“So you were sayin’ somethin’ about a new big bad?” He prompted. Sprawling out in the chair, he looked up at her.

“Something’s coming Spike. Something bad and the Slayer won’t be able to fight it on her own.”

“Care to elaborate?”

“Not here, not now,” she said looking around. “You’re helping the Slayer so I will explain everything when I see her and her Watcher and explain everything to them. I’d rather explain it to all of you at once then have to do it a million times.”

“So what? You’re hopin’ that I will just take you to her and say ‘Oi, Slayer, sorry to bug ya, I know you don’t like me much, but this chit here, who happens to be a vampire, says that something bad’s comin’ and she’s here to help ya and you’re suppose to believe her’. Yeah I see that goin’ over real well, especially with the Watcher.”

“Spike, I really need you to take me to them. Look, if I don’t help the Slayer, she and someone she loves could die,” she pleaded.

Spike thought of Buffy getting hurt, how’d she crack if someone she loved died, and caved in.

“Fine. We’ll try tonight,” Spike said and readjusted himself in the chair.

Just as Nikole was about to say thank you, the crypt door opened, letting the direct sunlight in. Luckily Nikole was out of the way, Spike, unfortunately wasn't.

“Bloody fuckin’ hell!” Spike roared and flew into the darkest corner.

“Oh, sorry about that Spike. I didn’t expect you to be up here,” Clem said hurrying and shutting the door.

“Clem!” Nikole threw herself onto Clem and with surprising reflexes, he caught her.

“Well hello. Haven’t seen you in ages.” The two friend exchanged hugs.

“I didn’t know you were in Sunnydale,” Nikole commented, letting him go.

“Yeah, I’ve been here for a few months,” Clem said, his hanging skin moving as he talked.

“You two know each other?” Spike asked coming forward, cradling his arm.

“We met a long time ago. Clem helped me put of a rough spot and we’ve been friends ever since,” Nikole answered.

“I really am sorry about that Spike,” Clem said taking a closer look at Spike’s arm. It was blistered and a bright shade of red.

“Here, let me see it,” Nikole commanded, reaching for his arm.

“Don’t worry about it, I heal right quick.”

“Spike, trust me, she knows what she’s doing,” Clem reassured.

“Fine.” Spike grudgingly gave her his blistered arm.

Nikole gently laid her hands on top of the worst burn. Spike let out a hiss of pain but stayed still. He watched as she closed her eyes and was quiet for a few seconds, her lips silently moving. Then a pale blue light surrounded her hands.

When he realized what she was doing he began to pull his arm away but then stopped when a cool sensation began to run over his burns and soothe them; the relief was bliss. The cold sensation wrapped around his arm and was gone just as abruptly as it had begun. The pale blue light faded away and Nikole opened her eyes.

“All done,” Nikole said removing her hands to reveal a smooth expanse of skin. All that remained of the wound was a slight pink tinge where the worst of the burns use to be. “The pink should fade away after tonight.”

“You’re a witch?” Spike asked suspiciously.

“No, what made you think that?” Nikole retorted sarcastically and rolled her eyes at him.

“Thanks pet,” Spike said warily.

“You’re welcome,” she said giving him a small smile. She then turned back to Clem. “Clem, I’ve missed you so much. So what’s new?” She asked sitting on the sarcophagus.

“Same ole, same ole. Nothing much new,” Clem responded sitting down next to her. “So what are you doing on Sunnydale?”

“Have to help the Slayer. Something bad’s coming Clem, and I don’t like it one bit.”

“So where are you staying?”

“I’m staying at a hotel,” Nikole said.

Spike was sitting again watching TV and acting like he didn’t care but was listening to every word they said.

“Nope, you’re not staying there. We’ll go get your stuff and you can stay at my place,” Clem said patting her on the shoulder.

“You sure? I don’t want to cramp you.”

“Don’t worry about it. You’re my friend and that’s what friends do for each other.”

“Thanks Clem,” Nikole said giving him a quick hug.

“Now, since you’re coming over, we’re going to have to do something,” Clem said grinning.

“Clem, no. I hope you’re not thinking what I think you are.”

“You’ll just have to wait and see. Spike?”

“Yeah?” Spike turned back to them.

“Do you think you can take Nikole to my place tonight? I have to go make arrangements now and it’s still light out, and it can be a little tricky to find my place.”

“Sure mate, I’ll make sure she gets there,” he answered with a nod.

“Thanks Spike. I’ll see you later and be ready for some fun,” Clem said winking at Nikole.

“Bye Clem,” Nikole replied as Clem left, careful not to let any sunlight in this time.

“Well, since I now know you’re staying at a hotel we can get there by the sewers,” Spike said getting up.

“You have access to the sewers in here?” Nikole asked getting up as well.

“Yeah, come on, by the time we get there it should be safe to go out.” Spike climbed down the ladder and waited for his erstwhile houseguest to follow.

Nikole put on her jacket and dropped down the hole. She quietly landed in a crouch and began to look around. Spike raised his scarred eyebrow at her but didn’t say anything. She saw that Spike had furnished the lower half better than he had above.

There was a desk, a bookshelf that was quiet full, and in the center was a large canopy bed. It was rather dark and the stark white sheet stood out. She watched as Spike slipped on a long, black leather duster and stuffed a box of cigarettes into the pocket. “Alright, this way.” Spike led her towards the farther corner and moved back a screen to reveal a large gapping hole, which connected to the sewers.

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After about fifteen minutes and many turns, Spike stopped their trek through the sewers.

“Here we are.”

Spike climbed up the ladder and lifted the manhole cover an inch or so. He looked around to see if the coast was clear before moving the cover off completely. With a fluid grace, Spike climbed out, Nikole following behind him with the help of the Big Bad's offered hand. As he replaced the manhole cover, Nikole found that they were standing directly behind her hotel out of the public eye.

She began to walk towards the front of the hotel, to use the public entrance, knowing that Spike was following right behind her. They didn’t have to worry about a barrier since it was a public place and they both entered with ease. Nikole gave a little nod to the receptionist, who was eyeing Spike, paying no attention to her. The pair of vampires rode the elevator to the 2nd floor.

“I can’t wait to get out of here,” Nikole said opening the first door on the right.

They entered the room and Spike looked around. It was painted an off white color with crème color carpet. The bed took up most of the room but there was a desk in the corner and a small TV sitting on a stand.

“I’m going to take a quick shower first. I’ve still got vamp dust in my hair,” Nikole told Spike as she began to rummage through her bags and pull out some clothes.

“Yeah, so what happened last night pet?”

“Went around looking for the Slayer and I ran into a vamp nest. I decided to take them out myself and got thrown through a window, which was a mistake on their part because that just pissed me off. I went back in and kicked their butts,” she answered grabbing her toiletry bag.

“Sounds like you had a right fun night,” Spike said with a tinge of jealousy.

“Yeah," she chuckled. "It was good after being stuck in the car for a couple of days. Well, I'm going to go take a shower, try not to have too much fun without me,” Nikole said, disappearing into the small bathroom that was attached to the room.

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tbc…

Chapter 2: History Lesson

A/N: Hugs to Ariel Dawn for beta this and never once complaining about it’s length.

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Nikole reappeared after 20 minutes, freshly cleaned and dressed. Spike was watching TV and looked up as she entered. She started to pack up her toiletries, zipping her bags closed within a few minutes, and disposing of her ruined clothes in the trashcan.

“Alright, I think I’m ready to go,” Nikole said picking up the 2 bags she had. Spike nodded his head at her and then led the way out of the room. Nikole checked out and joined Spike outside where he was waiting for her, smoking a cigarette, his puffs of smoke disappearing into in the darkened sky.

“So where’s your car luv?” he asked flicking his cigarette down and crushing it beneath the tip of his Doc.

“This way,” Nikole answered as she began to walk to the small parking area. Her car was one of the 5 cars sitting in the lot. It was a Honda Del Sol, painted blood red, the windows tinted.

“Nice ride pet,” Spike commented as Nikole popped the trunk and put her stuff in.

“Thanks. The windows are a special kind that let me drive it during the day. It’s my favorite of all my cars,” she commented, closing the trunk and pressing a button on her keys to unlock the door. Spike raised an eyebrow at her which she answered with a smile as they slipped into the car. With ease, Spike directed her to Clem’s house.

Within ten minutes they rolled to a stop outside of Clem’s house, Nikole parking in front. Spike waited patiently for her by Clem's front door as she locked her car up. Their vampiric hearing told both of them that Clem and a bunch of people were inside. Nikole had to suppress her laughter as she heard Clem try to quiet the group on the other side of the door.

“You ready?” Nikole asked Spike her hand resting on the doorknob.

Throwing open the door, Nikole braced herself for the one word she expected to hear from the assembled guests.

“Surprise!”

“Nikole come in,” Clem said grabbing her arm and pulling her in.

Spike followed after her and shut the door behind him. The mysterious vampire was soon lost in the crowd as they welcomed her and introduced her to new people.

An hour later Nikole had managed to meet everyone in the room and find a spot to sit down at the kitchen counter, where several bottles of liquor sat. Grabbing a glass, she poured herself a shot and gulped it down.

“So this is some party for you,” Spike remarked as he approached her, surverying the room. There were a handful of different demons milling about and a couple of vamps.

“Yeah, was kind of hoping the Clem wouldn’t do this. Most of them I know,” she said nodding her head to the groups that were gathered. “There are only a few here that I don’t.”

“How is it that all of ‘em know you and I have no sodden clue who you are?” This got a chuckle from Nikole.

“Spike, they all know me because I’ve either helped someone they know or I’ve helped them. Or in a special case, such as Clem, they have helped me.”

“So, you still want to try and talk to the Slayer tonight?” Spike asked.

“No, I’ll do it tomorrow. I have a feeling this is going to go on for a while,” Nikole replied, taking off her jacket and rolling her shoulders.

“Hey Nikole!” Clem shouted and motioned for her.

“Duty calls,” Nikole said, getting up, leaving Spike at the counter.

It was a couple hours later when Nikole caught up with Spike again. The party was starting to wind down and almost everyone had left, save for a couple of demons. She found Spike sitting with a couple other demons, and Clem, playing kitten poker, his forever faithful duster hanging off the back of his chair.

“Hey,” she greeted, sitting down at the empty spot.

“Nikole, you should join in,” Clem suggested.

Spike raised his eyebrows at the idea and continued to play.

“Clem, are you that willing to be that much more in debt to me?” Nikole asked with a smirk.

“I was hoping that I would be able to win some of the debt,” he said shuffling his cards around.

“And you know how well that always works out. Each time you come out in more debt then when we started.”

“Hey you never know, I could get lucky,” Clem shot back and Nikole snorted with laughter.

“So how much does he owe you?” Spike asked, his winning hand receiving a groan from the other players.

“Why don’t you tell them Clem,” she said smugly.

“100 Calico,” Clem grumbled and Spike almost spit out the drink he had just taken.

“Yeah, and he should just be grateful that I’m his friend and would never make him pay, right Clem?” Nikole prompted.

“Yeah, yeah,” Clem mumbled.

“Does he really owe you that much?” Spike asked unbelieving.

“Yes,” she answered looking him straight in the eye. “You don’t believe me.”

“Never said I didn’t pet,” Spike answered back.

“I don’t need you to say anything, I can see it in your eyes. You don’t believe that I can play. Fine, deal me in Clem,” she ordered.

By the end of the night, Nikole held most of the winnings to Spike’s dismay. Clem couldn’t help but grin as Spike underestimated Nikole.

“You cheated,” Spike accused as Nikole won another hand.

“I did not. You would be able to feel it if I cheated. Magic isn’t off our radar. Watch, I’ll use magic to make the top card an ace and you will be able to feel it.” The room got quiet as Nikole concentrated on the deck of cards. Spike felt the air change for a split second before the feeling was gone.

“Flip the top card, it will be an ace of spades,” she commanded. Spike gingerly picked the card and flipped it over: it was an ace of spades. “So did you feel me change it?” she asked.

“Yeah luv, I did.”

“Told you,” she snapped at him. “Well here you go Clem,” she said pushing her kittens to him. “For letting me stay the night. I don’t need it anyways.”

“Thanks babe,” Clem said with a wink.

Nikole yawned and Clem took it as an opportunity to begin to clear everyone out, announcing the party over.

“So is everyone gone?” Nikole asked after a few minutes.

“Looks like it,” Spike answered as he returned to his seat, his right hand nursing a shot of whiskey.

“Good.”

“I’ll get cleaning,” Clem said, getting up from the table.

“No, just leave it. It’ll give me something to do tomorrow. You know how I get restless. But since your up, you want to get me a bottle?” she asked gesturing to the counter where the mostly empty bottle of liquor sat.

“Sure. Just promise me it will be this one bottle?” Clem questioned as he grabbed a random bottle. She nodded, grabbing the bottle as Clem handed it out to her.

“Thanks.”

“No problem. We’ll I’m off to bed. The guest room is down the hall and last door on the left.”

“Okay. Night Clem.”

“Night,” Clem said disappearing into a room, leaving Spike and Nikole alone. She immediately took a swig from the bottle, downing about half of the amber liquid.

“So pet, when are you going to tell me your story?” Spike asked leaning back in his chair so only two legs touched the ground.

“I told you, tomorrow when I tell everyone else. You’re just going to have to trust me for a little while,” she said taking another swig.

“All right, but don’t get your knickers in a twist when the Slayer goes bonkers on you,” Spike said holding up his hands.

“She won’t.”

“Whatever you say pet. I’m going to leave before it gets too late.” Spike got up and slid on his duster. Nikole chugged the rest of the bottle and set it on the table with a clunk.

With exaggerated effort she rose from her seat and exited the building, intent on reaching her car, Spike following behind her.

“I’ll come tomorrow once the sun goes down,” she stated, grabbing a bag from the trunk of her car.

“Sure luv, look forward to it,” Spike replied sarcastically. He just hoped the chit was being honest and it didn’t come back to bite him in the ass later.

“Whatever Spike. See you later.”

“Yeah, later,” Spike said walking down the road with a swirl of leather.

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Nikole woke up late the next afternoon to find herself alone. She took a quick shower and dressed in a black skirt and a red blouse. She paced around for a while, before succumbing to the need to do something and began to clean Clem's house.

The afternoon crept by slowly, the ticking of the clock echoed in her ears. Her senses told her she still had a half an hour left till sundown. Still she couldn't stay still any longer. She figured she could make it to her car unharmed and decided to explore a bit before grabbing Spike.

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Her afternoon proved helpful, discovering the layout of her new temporary home. She knew where most of the major buildings were, and had even found a place she could possibly rent.

Nikole arrived at Spike’s crypt five minutes after the sun had gone down. She knocked briskly on the door, waiting a few minutes for an answer. Tapping her foot lightly, she gave up waiting and entered anyway.

“Spike?” she called out into the darkness.

“Yeah luv, I’ll be right up,” Spike yelled from the lower level.

Nikole resumed the pacing she had ceased at Clem's house as she waited for the peroxide vampire to emerge from the hole in the floor. When he finally climbed up, a few minutes later she could tell that he had put extra care into how he dressed tonight, her instincts telling her it had nothing to do with her and all with a particular Slayer.

No words were spoken as they departed from his crypt and got into her car. The drive to the Magic Box was quick and Nikole concealed her nervousness with practiced confidence. The truth was she wasn’t sure how this was going to go. She could walk in and the Slayer could stake her, or they could not believe her and stake her still.

“You ready to face the cavalry?” Spike asked with a bemused smile.

“Sure,” she responded with a sigh, following Spike inside.

The shop smelled like different spices and herbs. Her senses told her two witches, a human, a slayer, a watcher, and an odd one that smelled half-demon were in the shop. She stretched out her senses to find their location. She found the Slayer and the Watcher in the back, the two witches were up on the balcony, and the human and the odd one were sitting at a table in front of them.

“Oh did Spikey make a wittle fwiend?” Xander asked mockingly, drawing the attention of the two witches who were descending the stairs. Tara looked up to see what was going on and dropped the book in her hand. She made quick work of the stairs and flung herself into Nikole’s arms.

“Nikole,” Tara whispered into her hair.

“Tara. Hey honey, I haven’t seen you in a while,” Nikole said pulling her back. “Wow, you’re all grown up.” It was then that Nikole noticed the anger, confusion, and jealousy waves coming off the red head. “Might be a good idea to introduce me before she decides I look better as dust,” Nikole whispered to Tara.

“Oh, Willow, this is my great aunt Nikole,” Tara introduced them and the jealously and anger coming from the red head ebbed; the only thing she felt was confusion and curiosity.

“Hello Willow, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” Nikole said shaking her hand.

“Hi, same here. It’s nice to meet some of Tara’s family,” Willow replied trying to be as friendly as she could.

“Well pet, you didn’t say anything about knowing Glinda,” Spike commented from his spot on top of the counter.

“I didn’t know she was here. It’s been a while since I have seen her. Willow, if you could please get the Slayer and the Watcher from the back I can start at the beginning and get everyone up to speed.”

Willow went to carry out her order when she stopped dead in her tracks and turned back to look at Nikole. “Wait you know about Buffy?” Willow asked confused.

“Just trust her,” Tara said quietly and gave her a smile. Willow nodded her head and disappeared into the back. Everyone was watching Nikole with keen attention. She spent a few seconds catching up with Tara before the Slayer and Watcher appeared. Buffy instantly stopped in alarm as she took note the new comer was a vampire.

“Now before you try to stake me, please listen to me,” Nikole pleaded.

“Why would she want to stake you?” Willow asked confused.

“Because she’s a vamp!” Buffy stated, pulling out a stake.

“Buffy, please, she’s okay. She has part of a soul. She won’t hurt us,” Tara spoke up, placing herself in front of Nikole.

“Fine, you have five minutes or until I get tired,” Buffy agreed, crossing her arms and taking a defensive stance.

“You must be Mr. Giles, it is a pleasure to meet you,” Nikole said sticking her hand out to the older man. He raised an eyebrow and didn’t say anything.

“Is it okay to talk freely among them?” Nikole asked, nodding her head to the human and the odd one at the table.

“Yes, it’s all right to talk in front of Xander and Anya,” the Watcher answered.

“Anya?” she repeated. “Anyanka is that you?”

Anya looked up from counting her money, her eyes sparking in recognition.

“Nikole, wow. I haven’t seen you in ages. What has it been 85 years or so?” She asked coming over and giving her an odd hug.

“Are you human now?”

“Yes, my gem was crushed by Mr. Giles. But I am not so upset about it now. I have Xander. He’s all nicely shaped,” Anya said returning back to her spot next to Xander.

“No wonder I didn’t recognize your presence. It still has a demon touch to it,” she stated.

“Oh. That’s nice,” Anya replied flippantly before returning to her money.

“I’m getting bored here,” Buffy said tapping her stake.

“If you would continue please,” Giles pressed stiffly.

Nikole took a deep breath before beginning her tale. “Okay. I lived in a small village with my clan people, the Emol,” she started before Giles interrupted her.

“Yes, I have heard of them, it is said that they were all killed off in 1683,” Giles said taking off his glasses and cleaning them. She gave him a nod before continuing.

“Yes, we were. As you know, we were a quiet resident witch clan that kept to ourselves. I was twenty two at the time. Our clan was thriving and we were almost upon the summer solstice. We were preparing for it. Everyone was busy and no one thought that anything bad could interrupt our celebration.

“In the dead of the night, our village was torn apart. Some evil group who had been rumored to be roaming in the countryside came upon our village. Most of my people were killed outright; others were tortured to death. The leader found me and made me his personal obsession, for what reasons, I’m not sure. They tortured me, found the members of my family that were still alive and killed them in front of me. When I was on the brink of dying, they changed me but something went wrong. I was left with half a soul. My Sire was disgusted with what he had created and left me to die. I don’t even know how I survived.

“I somehow made it to the shade of the forest before sunrise and managed to survive. For a couple of years I lived there, feeding off the animals and nursing them back to health. After a couple of years, I ventured out into the world and found that I didn’t exactly fit in. So I kept to the shadows and lived half a life.

“When I found out about the Slayer, I went to see if I could help. You can imagine that it didn’t go to well. Realizing I couldn’t be out with everyone else, I moved on to towns where there were bad forces and fought against them. I never stayed long enough to get to know anyone and moved from time to time. I lived in a solitary life, doing my little bit to help.

“About 100 years after I was turned, I met a young witch by the name of Siena, she was Tara’s great-great-great-great-great, well you get the idea; it was Tara’s great grandmother. She belonged to the Kishma clan. I saved her from being attacked by a Glimpnar demon. In return for that small service she took me in. Her clan helped me further my magic and I pledged that I would protect them for as long as I lived. I stayed with them, traveling from place to place, keeping my identity a secret. Had a big tragic love story, watched family and friends die and met a lot of people. Made a lot of connections.

“I continued to try to contact the Council to see if they could help me figure out why I still had my soul but as you know, they aren't very forth coming. The clan couldn’t figure out why either and considered it as a blessing in disguise. When I heard of Buffy’s interaction and relationships with Angel and partnership with Spike, I figured that I had finally found the Slayer and Watcher who would be willing to help. That and something’s coming that I have to help you defeat. So now I am here,” she said finishing.

Almost everyone sat dumbfounded. Tara and Anya were the only ones looking slightly bored. Spike had a strange expression on his face and the Watcher looked deep in thought. Buffy on the other hand looked like she didn’t know whether to believe Nikole or not.

“So you’re saying that you still retain part of your soul?” Giles inquired.

“Yes.”

“And we’re just suppose to take your word for it?” Buffy asked incredulously.

“Ask Willow if you don’t believe me. I can sense her magic skills are advance enough to sense if I have a soul or not, and as a Watcher,” she looked over towards Giles, “I believe that you should be able to tell if you really tried.”

Giles looked over at Willow, who closed her eyes and concentrated for a bit, murmuring words underneath her breath. Her eyes shot open after a few seconds and she gave Nikole a smile.

“Giles, she does have part of her soul,” she confirmed.

“Yeah Watcher, even I can see it when I look her in the eyes,” Spike added.

“But you have no clue why you have retained it?” His fingers were itching to grab the closest paper and pen and take note.

Nikole shook her head. “No, I was turned and I still retained a part of my soul. My Sire couldn’t figure out why either. I was hoping you might be able to find out why. I should also tell you that holy water and crosses don’t bug me.”

“Really? Would you care to give us a demonstration?” Giles asked getting up and retrieving a bottle of holy water and a cross and setting them on the counter.

“Sure,” she said grabbing the cross in one hand, and then transferred it to the other to show no burns. She could feel Spike’s eyes on her and the confusion radiating off him. She picked up the bottle of holy water and opened it. Spike moved further away from her and watched in amazement as she began to pour it on her hands with no effect.

“That’s remarkable,” Giles exclaimed, coming over to Nikole to examine her hands closely and suddenly let them go. “You’re warm!”

“Oh yeah, I always forget that little part. Sorry,” she offered, but the smirk on her face belied her sincerity.

“The warmness isn’t a residual effect from the cross or holy water?”

“No. I’m always warm.”

“The cross and holy water have never had an effect on you?” he asked grabbing her hands again and turning them over to look at her unblemished palms.

“No, but I have to say that’s it’s saved me in more times than I can count.”

“What about sunlight?” Spike asked.

“I have a high tolerance of it. It takes me a minute or two before I start to even smoke. I don’t know about stakes and beheading because I haven’t cared to try those yet,” she answered with a smirk.

“Hey, I would always be willing to give it a try for you,” Buffy volunteered. Giles gave her a look and Buffy rolled her eyes before flopping down in a chair.

“You must understand that this is a lot to take on faith,” Giles said.

“She’s telling the truth if that helps any. You all know I don’t lie so when I say something, it’s the truth and Nikole is telling the truth,” Anya added in and Nikole gave her a smile of thanks.

“I will also vouch for Nikole. I have known her all my life and I have never felt in danger from her,” Tara said quietly and stood next to Nikole.

“I’m not asking you to trust me immediately but at least give me a chance. I really am here to help you,” Nikole said giving Tara’s hand a squeeze.

“Wait, if you were turned in 1683, that would make you 317,” Willow said with wide eyes.

“Yes. I’m aging well, aren’t I?” Nikole joked.

“That would make you the oldest vampire to date, but there is no record of you in the Watcher Diaries. I have read most of them and I have never come across a vampire named Nikole,” Giles murmured picking up a couple of books.

“No, there isn’t anything written on me,” Nikole clarified. “Do you really think the Council would document about a vampire who still has part of their soul and goes out and kills their own kind every night?”

“Well, I suppose no they wouldn’t,” Giles thought aloud.

“Watcher, the Council aren’t too keen on Angel. Doesn’t make her situation any different,” Spike cut in, adding his two cents worth.

“Yes, but the fact that you have associated with him and he helped you on a regular basis gave me hope that you would be able to help me.”

“Well, I suppose I could look into it,” Giles decided.

“Thank you,” Nikole said sincerely. “So I’m not going to get staked?”

“Not until you give us a good reason to. Now you were saying about a threat coming to Sunnydale?” Giles said getting back to business.

“I would prefer to talk to you and the Slayer alone. The less people that know about it the better.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Chapter 3: New Evil

A/N: Thanks again to Ariel Dawn for doing a fab beta job and saving me from my repeating word syndrome that I seem to have inherited from her! ;)

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“Very well. We’ll go to the training room,” Giles said after mulling over it for a moment.

“But Giles-,” Willow started to argue but was interrupted by Tara.

“If Nikole thinks that it’s better if less people know, I trust her,” Tara spoke up. Willow nodded her head as Tara squeezed her hand.

“If you’ll follow me,” Giles beckoned. Nikole followed him into the back room.

Buffy gave an exasperated sigh as she headed off to join the pair, calling after Spike as she did so. “Come on Spike.”

“What ya need me for?” he asked jumping down from the counter and walking towards the Slayer.

Buffy waited till he was closer to start talking. “I don’t know about her, and if you’re going to be patrolling, you need to know,” Buffy offered the simple explanation, not looking him in the eyes even though she felt Spike trying to catch hers. She felt rather than saw Spike nod. She turned on her heel and walked into the training room, feeling him follow after her.

She didn’t know what made her tell him to come back, it was just an instinct, one that had saved her more times than she could count, so she just followed it. She could feel the other’s eyes on her and she could just imagine what weird shape Xander’s face had contorted into when she had asked Spike to follow her. She gave a smirk and entered the training room, picking a spot on the wall to rest up against.

“So this new evil?” Giles pressed as the door closed behind Spike.

“Yes. The beast is coming to Sunnydale to look for her Key,” Nikole answered looking across at them.

“A key?” Giles asked with a frown.

“Yes. Long ago, there was a powerful magic essence, called the Key. An ancient order of monks were given the task of guarding it. Recently, the beast resumed her search for the Key. If she finds it and performs the correct ritual, she would be able to open the portals between this world and others, tearing apart the barriers that separate dimensions.”

“Creating hell on Earth,” Buffy said finishing for her and rolled her eyes at the predictability.

“Yes,” Nikole confirmed. “When the monks got word the beast was searching for the Key, they took the Key's essence, gave it form, and sent it to the Slayer to protect. They integrated it into your life so you would never know and protect it still.”

“So your saying that one of us is the Key?” Buffy said.

“No, none of you are the Key, I would be able to sense if you were. The Key has a unique essence to it; it separates it apart from others. Is there anyone not here that you are personally attached to?”

“Just Riley, Dawn, and Mom.”

“Speaking of, where is Captain Cardboard?” Spike asked.

Buffy gave him a warning glare before turning back to Nikole.

“I will have to meet them to determine the identity of the Key,” Nikole told her.

“So what happens when we find the ‘Key’?” Buffy asked.

“I will protect it with my life and try to find a way to diffuse the essence into myself so that the mortal is not in any danger.”

“Hold up, you’re going to take this Key essence or whatever and put it in yourself?” Buffy asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Yes, most likely the Key is a human being, an innocent person who doesn’t even realize they are the Key. If I can find a spell that will allow me to separate the Key’s essence and put it in myself, I’ll do it. I will be able to protect it better and if I am captured, I will be able to fight and the mortal will live.”

“This all sounds good in theory, but how do you propose to find a spell?’ Giles asked, the voice of logic.

“With our combined resources, I’m sure we can find something,” Nikole replied with a small smile.

“I don’t know pet, magic can be a tricky thing. You and I both know that there’s always consequences,” Spike spoke up from his leaned position against the wall.

“As much as I hate to admit it, Spike does have a good point,” Giles said reluctantly.

“I realize that there are consequences,” Nikole said as she began to pace, “But this is the only solution I could think of. There’s no way that we can allow the beast to win.”

“What exactly is the beast?” Buffy asked.

“The Beast is older than anything. You won’t find her in any of your books. She is a hellgod, Glorificus, her minions call her Glory.”

“A hellgod you say? Quiet interesting,” Giles mused. With a glance he caught the stormy look coming from Buffy. The Watcher gave her sheepish smile for his over exuberance. “Well, I suppose I could call the Council and see if they have any information about this thing. You are quiet sure it’s a hellgod?”

“You all wouldn’t be talking about little ole me now would ya?” a voice said from the door to the alley. Standing there was a fashionably dressed, short, blonde girl, her deceptively innocent look belying who she really was.

“The Beast,” Nikole growled as she took a defensive stance.

“Oh such a crude name, please call me Glory,” she said as she took a step inside.

“I suggest you leave the way you came in,” Buffy said, stepping in front of Nikole and crossing her arms.

“Or what?” asked the intruder.

“Or I make you,” Buffy replied.

Spike felt a smirk float to his face as he took the Slayer in, all power and attitude.

“I’d like to see you try,” Glory shot back as she studied her nails.

Buffy charged forward. Just as she reached the goddess, Glory stuck out her arm and threw the Slayer at the wall; Buffy’s body indented into the wall before falling to the ground. Spike stared in shock at the way Buffy had been discarded before rage flooded his veins and he charged, landing a few punches before meeting the same fate as Buffy.

“You wanna try next witch?” Glory asked with a raised eyebrow.

Glory looked over at Giles who finally had managed to rouse Buffy.

Once she had cleared her head, Buffy jumped up, ready to fight again.

“Okay doll, here’s how it goes. I want my key, and I know you have it or know where it’s at. So since I’m feeling generous, I’ll give you a week then I’m going to pay you a nice little visit and I expect to get my key. Ciao!” Glory blew a kiss at the now standing Spike before heading out the door.

“You okay?” Giles asked, worry etched in the lines of his face.

“I’m fine,” Buffy replied, brushing him off. “So you weren’t kidding, were you?” she asked looking up at Nikole, who shook her head in negative.

“I wish I was,” Nikole answered with a sad smile.

“I’m going to go call the Council, see what I can find. Are you sure you’re alright?” Giles asked staring down at his Slayer.

“I’m fine Giles. Go, we’re going to need to find out everything we can,” Buffy answered, reassuring him with a smile.

Giles turned and left, leaving the trio alone. Buffy sat down on the couch with a grimace.

“What can I do?” Nikole asked.

“Ice pack would be nice,” she said and watched as Nikole left to retrieve one.

“You sure you’re okay pet?” Spike asked as his eyes ran over her, he didn’t smell any blood.

“I’m fine!” she snapped and then let out a deep sigh. “Sorry, it’s just, I’m frustrated. How’d you manage?” Buffy asked, not only surprising him, but also herself. Where’d the hell did that come from? Since when do I care about what happens to Spike?

Spike stared at her for a second before getting an answer out. “Fine, a blow to my ego but I’ll be fine,” he replied with a smirk and Buffy couldn’t help but smirk back. She felt a cloud of familiarity set over them and relaxed into the couch.

“How did she? I mean, she just batted me away like I was dust. Spike, that’s never happened to me before?!” She inwardly cringed, waiting for his snarky comment, which surprisingly never came. She saw his forehead crinkle in concentration.

How do I reassure her without sounding too much like a ponce? Spike took a deep breath before he opened his mouth.

“Slayer, you just went up against a hellgod. I’d consider it lucky to still even be alive. Next time we’ll be prepared for her and then we’ll take the bitch down,” he said in what he hoped was a reassuring way.

Oh my god. What am I doing? This is Spike. Evil, soulless Spike. Evil, soulless Spike who is reassuring me that I’m going to beat a hellgod and not rejoicing at the fact I just got my ass kicked. Okay, this is too wiggy, even for me. Buffy straightened up, before looking at Spike.

“What do you know? You’re just some vampire that she could probably squish with her pinky,” she said. She saw Spike’s face fall before a sneer appeared on his face.

Knew it was too good to be true, stupid bint.

“That’s right, I’m just a stupid vampire who actually managed to land a few punches unlike a Slayer I know that just got batted away like a fly,” he spat back.

Okay, this is good, this is normal. Back to trading barbs and no more comfort stuff, because reassuring and Spike don’t even belong in the same sentence.

Before Buffy could say anything back Spike was up, striding out the door into the front of the shop.

Oh god, could I have sounded anymore like of a brat? But this was Spike, who cares, right?

Buffy tried to convince herself of the words that floated in her head, but she still could feel the small ball of guilt that was forming in her stomach. So yeah, okay, Spike wasn’t exactly the nicest guy in the world sometimes but over the summer he had gotten better. Still a pain in the ass but tolerable. He was actually a lot of help and there’d had been the various times when he’d save them out of a tight situation. But what did it all mean? She was saved from pondering any further by Nikole coming back with an ice pack.

“Here you go,” Nikole said handing it over.

“Thanks,” Buffy muttered applying the pack to her shoulder that had taken the brunt of the impact with the wall.

“Mr. Giles said we should join him. He said there’s quite a selection of books to go through.”

“Ugh, I had a feeling he was going to say that.” Buffy got up, keeping the pack on her shoulder.

Following Nikole out into the front of the shop, Buffy paused as she glimpsed Riley come through the doors. He flashed her a toothy smile which she returned before walking over to her and putting a hand on her waist affectionately.

“Hey,” he greeted.

“Hey.”

The whole scene was a demonstration of possession on the part of the large hulking man. Nikole glanced over at Spike and could feel the waves of disapproval and disgust coming off of him towards the other blonde man. She passed her eyes over the blonde man at Buffy's side, evaluating him. He was big and burly, maybe an okay fighter. She scanned over his aura and deducted him from the list: he wasn’t the Key. Her dejected sigh caught the man’s attention and he looked quizzically at Buffy.

“Oh sorry, I forgot. Um Riley this is Nikole. Nikole this is Riley,” Buffy said introducing them.

“Nice to meet you,” Riley said shaking her hand.

Nikole gave his hand a firm handshake and she could feel his eyes roaming over her body. She resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

“You too,” she replied letting his hand go.

She could see Buffy’s questioning glance and she shook her head in negative. Riley gave a small frown but brushed it off.

“So what’s up?” he asked his eyes darting between the occupants of the room, resting finally on Buffy.

“There’s a hellgod in town and she thinks I have something she wants. So we’re making with the research, or at least they are,” she answered as she gestured to the Scoobies sitting at the table, each with a book in their lap.

“Too bad the Initiative wasn’t still around, we could have found out all the info in a couple hours,” he said, looking unhappily at the books.

“You do remember psycho teacher who made her own Frankenstein, right?” she asked, not feeling the need to refresh his memory.

“Yeah,” he said dejectedly. “So what are you doing?”

“Well, I was going patrol. Take Nikole out and show her the ropes since she’s going to be here for a while,” Buffy said looking over at Giles, who nodded his head in approval.

“You want me to come with?” Riley asked.

“Nah, it’s okay. We’ll just do a quick sweep,” she answered and then turning back to Nikole. “You got weapons?”

“Of course,” Nikole answered.

“Well, guess I’ll be shippin’ off then, did my duty,” Spike said hoping off the counter and heading towards the door, the girls following behind him. Once they were out the door, Nikole stopped Spike by grabbing his arm. He looked up questioningly.

“I just wanted to say thanks. I know that that could have totally gone wrong and you risked yourself and I just wanted to say thanks,” she said kissing him on the cheek.

Spike gave her a strange look before noticing that Buffy was watching them as discreet as possible. Nikole winked at him and he smirked back at her.

“No problem pet,” he said bouncing on the balls of his feet.

“So I’ll see you at your crypt later?” she asked loudly, hoping Spike would get it and play along. Spike smile grew wider as he saw Buffy give up on being secretive and flat out stare at them.

“Sure luv, I’ll see you then,” he replied, giving her a chaste kiss and disappearing down the street. He could feel Buffy’s eyes bore into his back and knew that he was going to like this bird after all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Chapter 4: Jaloux?

A/N: A big thanks to Ariel for being a fab beta and for helping with the French in this chapter. You are awesome.

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Buffy twirled her stake and glanced out of the corner of her eye at Nikole, who was scanning the cemetery, looking for any activity. Her ‘spidery senses’ had calmed down once she had gotten used to Nikole’s presence but she had to admit, it hadn’t been all that tingly to begin with.

Nikole’s presence had felt a lot like Angel and for a moment earlier, when she had first met her, she had thought it was Angel. However, when she tuned into it and the signature felt slightly different, more feminine and strong. Now that she knew Nikole wasn’t a threat, the vampire with half a soul seemed like someone she’d really get along with. There was something achingly familiar about her but Buffy couldn’t put her finger on it.

They had been patrolling for about twenty minutes and still nothing, not even a rising fledgling. The cemetery was silent, their trek through the area did nothing to disrupt its deadly silence. Their conversation stalled and Buffy racked her brain for something else to say.

“So you and Spike, huh?” Buffy asked, mentally smacking herself for not having more tact.

“What?” Nikole asked confused, glancing over at her.

“You, Spike, making with the smoochies,” she elaborated, keeping her face blank.

Nikole gave a little chuckle. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t know if I’m up for a long term thing,” she answered with a shrug.

“Long term?”

“Yeah. I mean, you know Spike. Once he likes you and considers you his, it’s kind of eternal. He was with Drusilla for over 100 years. That’s total devotion. Plus, he’s a keeper. I wouldn’t want to get too attached and then have to leave or something,” Nikole replied, internally smirking at how well she was playing off Buffy.

“What do you mean Spike’s a keeper? Who’d want him?” Buffy asked with a scoff even though her brain was still processing all that Nikole had said.

“You’d be surprised. Spike is much more than you think he is. There’s tons that you don’t know. Spike isn’t just a vampire Buffy,” she said cryptically. “Like I bet you don’t even know how he got that scar on his eyebrow,” she continued and Buffy’s frown gave her the answer.

A low growl from up ahead caught Nikole’s attention and she motioned for Buffy to be quiet. Buffy felt the tingles on the back of her neck and pulled out her stake.

“Let’s have ourselves some fun,” Nikole said as she tore off after the group of vampires, pulling her own stake from her jacket. Buffy ran after her and soon joined in the foray. They were both a swirl of kicks and punches, working fluidly together.

Buffy dusted her last vamps and turned back to watch Nikole. She had to admit the girl was extremely good; she was like liquid. Buffy wondered if she looked like that when she fought. She knew she’d have a hard time taking her if she turned against them.

Nikole staked the last vamp and turned to her.

“Well that was a good warm up,” she commented as she brushed herself off.

“Hey, maybe you could help me train,” Buffy said as the idea popped into her head. “Giles and Riley usually help, but well, they’re breakable. And I can’t exactly ask Spike since you know, since he’s Chip o’ ahoy and all. So what do you think?” she asked after she realized she had been babbling.

“Sure as long as it’s fine with your watcher.”

“Oh yeah. I can just hear him now. He’d give his approval in his British babble and then give me a little spiel on the vast knowledge you have, blah blah blah, and then he would ask me why I wasn’t training and wasting my time standing around,” she said with a smirk. Nikole gave a little chuckle.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The rest of patrol was only mildly entertaining. A few fledglings and two big ugly demons, but other than that, it had been quiet. They made their last round though Restfield Cemetery when Nikole stopped.

“Hey, isn’t Spike’s crypt around here?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’ll show you. I can ask him if he saw anything,” Buffy replied as she led the way. Yup, just going to go see if Spike knows anything. Has nothing to do with making sure they aren’t all over each other.

In her slayer fashion, she flung open the door, completely disregarding Spike’s privacy. A high-pitched scream met their ears and Buffy looked up, startled to see her little sister sitting across from Spike on top of a sarcophagus.

“God Buffy! Rude much?” Dawn shouted. Buffy opened her mouth in reply but the sudden steel grip on her arm stopped her. She looked down at the hand holding her and then looked up at Nikole. Her face was glazed over and she stared, as if looking into a void.

“Nikole, you okay?” Buffy asked waving her hand in front of her face. Nikole’s body went lax and she turned towards Buffy with a start.

“Sorry about that. Just spaced off for a second,” she replied, keeping the knowledge that Dawn was the Key to herself for now. She didn’t know how Buffy was going to take it and she was going to wait until she found a way to tell her without being staked. She let go of Buffy’s arm and looked over at Spike. He caught her eye and his quirked eyebrow told her that he could tell something was up.

Buffy turned back to stare at Dawn, walking over to her. “What are you doing here?” she demanded.

“Spike’s helping me with my homework,” Dawn answered as if it were common knowledge while waving the book she had in her hands at Buffy.

“Huh?” Buffy asked confused.

“Your mum asked me to help the Bit when she found out I spoke French,” Spike explained.

“Mom...asked you...to tutor Dawn?” Buffy was flabbergasted. Since when does Spike help for anything other than to help himself? And mom asked him? Oh, there'll be some talking to her about this.

“Yeah, what of it?” Spike shot back, his tone defensive.

“Is she crazy?” Buffy screeched, more talking to herself than them, but Dawn was quick to speak up.

“Buffy quit being a brat. Spike’s just helping me.” She rolled her eyes and turned back to Spike. “Elle me rendre folle. Peut être elle est jaloux, non?”

Buffy’s eyes jumped between the two of them, having no clue what they were saying and wishing she’d paid more attention in French. Nikole snickered in her mind, understanding that Dawn thought that perhaps Buffy was jealous.

“Je pense que non, ma chère. Nous sommes finis ce soir. Tu dois retouner chez vous. Je pense que ta grande soeur aurai une problème si j'accompanais vous deux. à la prochien? Jeudi?” Spike replied, his French sounding slightly different with his British accent. He’d pretty much told Dawn that he doubted it and that they were done for the night; and that he’d walk her home but big sis wouldn’t take to it, then finally that he’d see her on Thursday.

“Yeah, same time,” Dawn confirmed. She and Spike exchanged air kisses on each cheek while Buffy watched with confusion.

Okay, this is so not the Spike I know. Maybe because you don’t really know him, her mind argued back as Nikole’s earlier words resurfaced. She pushed the thought down and watched as Dawn gather up her stuff.

“What?” Buffy asked indignantly as Dawn pinned her with a glare and huffed at her.

“You have to ruin everything don’t you? And being rude… I’m telling Mom,” Dawn mumbled as she zipped up her backpack and stormed past Buffy out the door. Buffy gave a ragged sigh before following after her and then pausing at the entrance.

“You coming?” she asked, looking back at Nikole.

“No, I’m going to hang with Spike for a while,” Nikole replied with a wink, turned just enough so Spike could see. Spike watched as a frown marred the Slayers face before she gave a shrug and went after Dawn.

“So pet, what game are you playing at?” Spike asked when he felt the Slayer walk out of hearing range. He walked past Nikole and shut the door, turning back to face her.

“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?” she countered. “Falling in love with the Slayer.”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about pet,” Spike said through clenched teeth, a muscle in his jaw giving a little twitch.

“Oh, but I think you do,” she said, piercing him with a knowing gaze. It was as if she could see right through him and Spike knew that he wore his emotions right on his sleeve despite his best attempts not to.

“Oh bollocks! Alright, so I’ve got a yen for the bird,” he admitted as he began to pace. “I know it’s wrong and all that rot, but what’s a bloke to do? It’s not like I asked for it.” He paced over to his duster and grabbed out a cigarette, lighting it up.

“I know what you mean Spike, better than you know,” Nikole said quietly, focusing on a spot on the far wall as memories floated to the surface.

“Is that right luv? Sounds like a story. Why don’t you tell us,” Spike asked as he leaned against a pillar and crossed his arms, training his eyes only on her.

Even though she wasn’t looking at him, he could see the anguished hurt behind her eyes and held back his inner William, who wanted to comfort the girl.

“I fell in love once,” she began, a whimsical smile appearing on her face. “He was sweet and funny, and everything I’d hope he’d be. I met him one night at a pub in London. We began a routine thing and then we started going to the theater and dinner. He made me feel alive again,” her face turned towards the ground and he saw the single tear rolling down her cheek.

“One night, we were out having drinks. Some vamp came in and decided to find a meal. When the vamp left, I excused myself to go after him. Well, turns out my guy trailed after me. He watched as I fought the vamp and let the girl go. I turned to face him and didn’t register that I was in game face. Gave him a good shock, then I got my own,” she said bitterly before clearing her throat.

“Turned out he was a watcher in training. Of course I’d already fallen in love with him and was pretty sure he felt the same way. He told me to stay away or he’d stake me. And I tried for a while to convince him that we could work. It got close one time, he missed my heart by an inch.” She subconsciously rubbed the scar on her chest through her shirt.

“He broke my heart completely that night,” she pressed on, indifferent to the tears that were cascading down her face. “I went on a rampage after that and spiraled downhill from there. It was a while later that I met Clem and he helped put me back together.”

Spike was quiet for a moment, unsure of what to say. He watched as Nikole struggled with her memories for a second before looking up at him.

“I know what it’s like to love someone you shouldn’t and I don’t want someone else to go through that.”

“So what? You’re gonna help me get the girl?” Spike asked trying to kept the hope from his voice.

“Exactly William,” she answered.

He pulled a face at the use of his original name but didn’t say anything.

“So how do you plan on doin’ that pet?” Spike asked after a moment.

“Now we’re getting to the good part,” she said, wiping away the evidence of her tears. “You see, I think Buffy already feels something towards you.”

“Yeah, it’s called disgust and contempt,” Spike snapped back.

“Nuh huh, you should have seen her on patrol. She asked me about you and what was up with us,” she said, a smirk on her face at the incredulous look on Spike’s face.

“She asked about me?” His eyes were wide, a look of wonder on his face.

“I think she might have been a bit jealous. She keeps her emotions very roped in but I could still feel them coming off her. There’s something just beneath the surface and all I have to do is give it a little nudge.”

“Even if you do make her admit she feels somthin’, that’s not going to get her to admit it to her friends. Her precious Scoobies would never approve and then there’s Captain Cardboard and the fact that she sees me as a some dead, evil, soulless thing,” Spike rattled off, flicking down his cigarette and crushing it.

“You let me worry about getting everyone in the right set of mind. All you need to worry about is being the vamp you need to be,” she said as she poked him in the chest, emphasizing her point. “But first, do you really, truly love her?” she asked staring into his cerulean eyes. She already knew the answer; this was just a test to see if Spike could admit it to himself and to someone else.

Spike caught onto the game quickly but that didn’t change his reaction. He knew that if they started this, there’d be no half-ass attempts; it’d be all or nothing. “Yeah, I love her with all of my unbeating heart,” he stated, his eyes never wavering from hers.

“Good,” she said. “Now, first we’re going to have to act like we’re kind of together. It’d really throw her off.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because I’m guessing you complain about Angel having a soul,” she replied and Spike’s grumble proved her right. “And if she sees that you can be with someone with a soul, albeit, I only have half a soul, I’m thinking it might change her perspective a bit. She needs to see that you could be good for her, which you are.”

“Alright, if you say so pet. I just hope this is going to work out and neither one of us gets staked in the process,” Spike mumbled.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Chapter 5: Apologizing...

A/N: As always, a big thanks to Ariel Dawn for betaing and helping me out when I got writer's block. You're the bestest. I also want to thank you all for reading this so far, you guys are awesome, thanks for sticking with it. :)

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Buffy sighed as she watched Dawn walk a good pace in front of her. She had tried to catch up with her younger sibling but Dawn refused to acknowledge her, her strides speeding up as Buffy approached her.

Damn her long legs, Buffy thought, annoyed with her little sister.

Dawn broke out into a run as they rounded the corner to their house, and with renewed speed she sprinted inside. When Buffy eventually caught up, she entered the house, only catching the tail end of Dawn's story.

“And then Buffy came crashing in, was completely rude and ruined my study session with Spike. She got mad and was a brat to Spike. I mean, seriously Mom, she called you crazy and she pretty much accused me and Spike of lying.”

Buffy winced when she heard her mother’s tone.

“Is this true Buffy?”

“Well, technically, yes but--”

“There is no but, Buffy. You are going to go back and apologize to Spike,” Joyce stated as Dawn grinned in victory. “And you,” she started, twirling back to Dawn. “You, go to bed, it’s late.”

“But Mom…” both of the girls whined at the same time.

“I don’t want to hear it. Dawn, up to bed, and Buffy, kitchen,” she said pointing her finger. Each girl gave a groan, glaring at each other before going to their respective destinations.

Buffy plopped herself down on a stool with a pout. She was in for a lecture …and here it comes in 3, 2, 1…

“Now Buffy, I raised you to treat everyone equally. Why is it that you seem to have a problem with Spike?” her mother questioned as she got out ingredients to make hot chocolate.

“Mom! He’s a vamp!” she exclaimed, as if that explained it all.

“I know that Buffy, there’s no need for you to yell. But Spike’s not only a vampire. How would you like it if someone only labeled you as a Slayer? Is the Slayer the only thing you are?”

“No,” she mumbled, not happy at all with the way this was going. Her mom's words were making her brain think and she didn’t like it. Denial, thy name was Buffy. She couldn't escape the fact that this was doubly true, after everything Nikole said.

Buffy perked up as her mother turned off the burner on the stove, signaling that the hot chocolate was ready. Instead of pouring her a mug, her mother laid a hand on top of hers.

“Buffy, I realize being the Slayer isn’t the easiest thing in the world...”

“Big understatement…”

“But that doesn’t give you the right to judge people and look down upon them because they are different,” she finished, taking her point in a different direction than Buffy thought she was going. “You wouldn’t like it if everyone judged you only on the things that make you the Slayer, so don’t you dare do it to others. Spike has feelings just like anyone else.” Joyce turned away, retrieving a thermos from one of the cupboards. Carefully, she poured all the hot chocolate into it, turning back as she put the lid on. “Now, you will take this hot chocolate to him and I expect you to apologize.”

“Mom!”

“Don’t 'mom' me young lady! You do as I say. And believe me, I will know if you don’t.” She stared Buffy straight in the eyes, her stare reflecting a serious and slightly scary mom. Buffy nodded her head once, and Joyce gave her a smile, handing her the thermos delicately before making a pointed glance at the back door.

Buffy’s pouting lip protruded further. However, after getting no reaction from her mother, Buffy stood up, shuffled her way to the door, taking her time as she did so. Her mother yelled after her as she began to close the door.

“And don’t you dare take a sip of that unless Spike lets you!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stupid vamp, he has mom all brainwashed, Buffy thought as she trudged through the entrance of the cemetery, the thermos held loosely in her hand. She had seriously contemplated drinking the chocolate herself and then looping back home in a half an hour but her mother’s voice rung in her head. Not to mention that her mom was down right scary when she wanted to be.

Buffy slowed her pace and nearly stopped she heard the laughter from Spike’s crypt. It got louder as she stepped closer. Getting as close to the door as she dared, she could hear the rumble of Spike’s voice, punctuated by laughter, presumably Nikole’s.

Buffy took a step even closer, pressing her ear to the door, trying to hear exactly what Spike was saying, but the noise abruptly stopped. Buffy flew away from the door and tried to act natural while the door opened. Casually, Spike stepped out.

“What do you want Slayer?” he questioned, resting in the doorway.

Buffy gave a little cough at being caught and walked out into the moonlight, giving him a weak smile.

“Been standing there long?” he asked.

“Nope, just got here,” she lied.

Spike smirked at her, telling her he knew she was lying, but why he didn’t call her on it, she didn’t know.

“So…” he drawled out.

“What?”

“Slayer, you’re on my doorstep, not the other way around.”

“Oh yeah,” she said with a tiny blush. Why was he able to get her all flustered all the sudden? She took a deep breath before looking back up at him. He stood poised, head titled, waiting for whatever.

“I’m here to apologize,” she finally admitted, bracing herself for the remark she knew was going to fly her way.

“Alright,” he simply said, surprising her. When he didn’t say anything else, she clenched the fist not holding the thermos and gritted her teeth.

“So I’m sorry, for the way I treated you earlier.”

“No problem Slayer, you’re just looking out for your lil’ sis,” he offered nonchalantly. “Is that it? Because I’ve got company to tend to.”

“I…well…”

Is he brushing me off? This was not a scenario she had anticipated. And it startled her that she was hurt by this fact. In regular Slayer fashion, the hurt turned to anger.

“Here,” she said, stepping forward and thrusting the thermos at him.

“What's this?” he asked, inspecting the thermos.

“Hot chocolate. Mom made it for you,” she answered curtly.

“That was right nice of her. Tell her thanks, yeah?”

“Sure…”

“Well, you better get home Slayer, before your mum worries. Ta!” With that Spike turned, closing the crypt door firmly behind him.

Buffy blinked. What had just happened?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Spike stood against the door, fighting the urge to turn right around and say sorry to Buffy. Alright, so he hadn’t been all that cold but still, she had for once apologized to him and he had blown her off.

It was for the best, right? Spread a little light on just what she had and didn’t even know till it’s gone…

He then resisted the urge to slam his head back into the metal door, when a hand was laid on his arm.

“You did good,” Nikole said gently.

“Yeah? Then why do I feel like a stupid git for what I just did?” He broke free from her tender grip and threw himself harshly on the couch, bouncing slightly.

“Spike, didn’t we just have this discussion?” she asked with a sigh.

“That we did pet. It just…argh…it’s hard to break a bloody habit once you’ve started it.”

“I know, that’s why you just got to take it one step at a time. Now, what do you got there?”

Spike looked down at the thermos still held in one hand and smirk.

“Oh luv, you’re in for a treat.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy stood outside the crypt in inner turmoil. She was finding it hard to resist the desire to stomp inside the crypt and pound the living snot out of the vamp. After everything, after she had apologized, he'd acted as if nothing had happened and literally closed the door on her face. And he didn’t offer her any hot chocolate to boot.

Not that apologizing had been her idea or anything but still…

Buffy found herself in a foul mood indeed.

Her attention was drawn to the right as a fledge began to claw its way out of its grave.

Nothing like a good slay to cheer me up…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Oh my god.”

Spike grunted in agreement.

“It’s perfect. Who made it?” Nikole asked as she took another sip from her mug, savoring the way the hot chocolate tasted on her enhanced taste buds, almost purring in delight.

“Slayer’s mum,” Spike answered, staring down into his mug. Now that he thought about it, Slayer probably had only apologized because her mum made her. He didn’t feel so bad after that deduction.

“What ya thinking?” Nikole inquired, noticing his facial expression and the slight change in his aura.

“Just laughing at myself. Slayer was acting all hurt when her Mum was the one that made her ‘pologize, and I was worried I’d hurt the chit’s feelings.” His laughter was rough. He hated when Buffy played mind games with him.

“She’s still outside you know,” she commented.

“Yeah, I can feel her. She’s fighting a fledge.”

“Feel like a little fun?” she asked with a mischievous smirk.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy delivered a roundhouse kick, sending the vampire spinning. She quickly extracted her stake from its hiding place and slammed it into the fledge’s back, finding its mark.

She coughed as she swatted the dust from the air, her hearing picking up on the opening of Spike’s crypt. She dashed behind a mausoleum, trying to slow her breathing as she hid.

“Well, aren’t you a gentleman, but I think I can walk myself to the Magic Box. Remember, vamp here too.” Nikole’s voice was teasing and for reasons unknown to her, Buffy found a frown marring her face.

“Right luv, almost forgot ‘bout that. See ya tomorrow, after dusk?”

“You got it.”

Buffy peeked her head around the corner just in time to see Spike kiss Nikole on the cheek. She didn’t know whether to feel disappointed because there hadn’t been lips and tongues, which she had suspected there'd be, or happy because there hadn’t been.

Spike and Nikole smiled at each other before she walked off with a flirtatious glance over her shoulder, disappearing into the shadows.

Spike started to close the door, but stopped in his tracks. He took a deep breath before turning around.

“You know Slayer, with all the hanging around you’re doing, I might just start to think you’re stalking me.” His voice was teasing and she could just imagine the smirk on his face.

“Pfft, as if Spike,” Buffy automatically replied before remembering that she was suppose to be hiding. She mentally smacked herself before strolling out as though she had planned it.

“Well Slayer, I care to differ since this is, what? The second time I’ve caught you.” He quirked an eyebrow at her, the smirk on his face not budging one inch.

“I was fighting a vamp,” she reasoned. “You know, you do live in a cemetery. Vamps not so uncommon.”

“Sure, whatever you need to tell yourself. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some kip to get. 'Night Slayer.” He nodded his head and turned inside, the crypt door closing with a resounding thud.

Buffy stood dumbfounded. No way had he brushed her off again. Oh no, no way was this flying. She marched to the door and slammed it open with a kick.

“Where do you get off?” she ranted, planting her hands on her hips, Spike flashing her a naughty grin.

“Well luv, to be honest, I--” Spike was cut off as Buffy slammed him against the wall. “Geez Slayer, what’s got your panties in bunch?”

“Remind me again why I don’t stake you?”

“You sure it shouldn’t be the other way around, and more why you don’t let me stake you?”

Buffy’s answer was a punch to the face and Spike shook it off as best as he could. He continued to taunt her nonetheless.

“Boy, Slayer, seems like ya got some pent up tension and… frustration. Solider boy not getting the job done?”

“Can we not discuss my sex life?” Buffy demanded.

“Or lack thereof.”

“You are so asking for it,” she threatened as she pulled out a stake from the waistband of her pants.

“Yeah, so give it to me good.” Spike leered at her.

Buffy tightened her grip on the stake and held it up. They stood facing off until Spike finally caved and latched onto Buffy, bringing her closer to him. His lips ghosted over hers and he hesitated before letting her go and stepping away.

Again Buffy didn’t know whether to feel glad, or disappointed, or hurt. She stood breathing hard before embarrassment took over her and she lunged, punching Spike with more force than she intended and knocked him to the ground. “Nobody would want to give you anything,” she snarled. How did I let him get that close to kissing me?

Spike stared up at her with unshielded anger and glared at her as she turned and marched out.

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