Disclaimer: Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Willow, Tara, Xander, Giles and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Buffy The Vampire Slayer, together with the names, titles and back story are the sole copyright property of Josh Wheldon, Fox and Mutant Enemy. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Please contact the author for permission to reproduce this story on any other fan fiction site.
Distribution: The Rainbow Writer's Homepage: http://www.therainbowwriters.com/
Mystic Muse: http://mysticmuse.net
Spoilers: Set sometime during season 4 / 5.
Feedback: All feedback is welcome.
Pairing: Buffy/Other Willow/Tara
Summary: Buffy meets someone who helps her get her mind off of Riley.
Tara was startled awake as the heavy book landed on her chest suddenly. Blinking her eyes a few times she laughed lightly as she realized what had happened.
"So much for neural anatomy." She laughed again as she eased the thick volume up and let it drop with a thump to the floor. Rolling over onto her tummy, she snuggled herself into the pillow. "Might as well do some in depth study of dreams." She murmured as she let her eyes drift closed again.
She didn't know how much time had gone by, but somewhere in the middle of a very odd dream about Willow and ice cream she was awoken by a loud clear knock. As she pulled herself up and ran a quick hand through her hair she moved quickly to the door.
A glance out the small security glass gave her the most depressing picture as a very disheveled and rain drenched Slayer stood shivering on the other side.
"Buffy?" Tara undid the lock and quickly pulled the door open.
"Hey." Buffy tried an optimistic smile when she saw her best friend's girlfriend at the door. "I'm sorry, I woke you didn't I?" She gave the tall blonde a once over seeing her ruffled clothes and tangled hair.
"I fell asleep studying, no great loss." Tara held onto the door and then remembering the wood under her fingers shook her head to wake herself. "P-Please come in." She backed away and watched the Slayer step tentatively in.
"I didn't mean to barge in, I just needed to talk to Willow." Buffy cupped her hands around the opposite elbow.
"She's at the library, study group. Her group has to come up with a viable economic structure for a utopian society by tomorrow." Tara bit her lip as she closed the door. "She should be home in an hour or so if you want to stay."
"No, I should let you get back to your studying." Buffy shook her head but didn't move towards the door. "Just wanted to moan to her about another chapter in the pathetic and depressing life of Buffy Summers."
Tara nodded uncomfortably as she moved back towards the sink and plugged in the small kettle that Willow kept in her room.
"I mean you think you know somebody. Think after being with them, sleeping with them and sharing all your time with them you'd know how likely it was for them to stab you in the back? Cheat on you and then turn around and blame you for it all?" Buffy didn't know where her voice came from as the things that were spinning around her mind were given voice. "I mean men, where the hell do you think they get their brains? Oh wait what brains." She didn't truly realize how much she'd said until her hands hit the soft fabric of the comforter on the bed as she sat down. "Sorry, the last thing you want to waste your time talking about is men." She looked down feeling infinitely stupid.
"B-Buffy, if you need to talk…" Tara poured out two cups of coffee and made her way over to the bed as she handed the Slayer one of the cups. "I-I'm a good listener, even about man trouble." One side of her mouth curled up into a smirk.
"I'm sorry." Buffy shook her head again as she looked down into the cup. "I have this little known Slayer ability called insert one foot, remove and then insert the other." She looked to the blonde and frowned before looking back into the coffee.
"No foot insertions." Tara smiled broader at her. "All lesbians have to take classes on how to have long conversations about men with their heterosexual friends."
Buffy's head came up slowly as she looked at the witch in disbelief.
"Touché." Buffy laughed and smiled for the first time.
"So come on, as Willow says I demand full spillage." She did her best imitation of her redheaded girlfriend. "His name is Riley and…"
"I thought I knew him." Buffy's face fell again. "I mean I thought it could work. He knew I was the Slayer, accepted all that that entailed. Hell, it even turned him on I think."
"Well you are a beautiful, intelligent woman Buffy." Tara smiled at the Slayer, praying she wouldn't take the comment in a bad way.
"Thank you." The Slayer smiled back at her. "But if that was a pass I'm going to have to first chastise you for cheating on my best friend and secondly for trying to take advantage of a vulnerable and distraught woman."
"I have only the most virtuous intentions." Tara laughed lightly.
"Well that's disappointing in a way." Buffy laughed with her. "First Riley cheats on me with a vamp and now I'm not even attractive to other women."
"You know what you need." Tara put her cup on the floor and stood up.
"If you say anything that doesn't involve ice cream and lots of wallowing I'm not sure I'm up for it." Buffy answered honestly.
"Well that's tonight." Tara smiled. "But tomorrow night we need to have a girl's night out. A let your hair down and forget your troubles."
"I don't know." Buffy shook her head a little surprised the suggestion was coming from her best friend's very shy and very reserved girlfriend.
"Look B-Buffy…" Tara felt her confidence wane a bit but she took a deep breath to keep up her courage as she sat back down. "I know we don't know each other too well but after the whole thing with my Dad…"
"I meant what I said Tara." The Slayer's voice was soft and honest.
"I know you did." Tara nodded. "That's why I want to show you that I can be here for you now. I would never try to replace Willow, she's your best friend and I totally respect that but if you ever need an ear to stand in for her?"
"You'll be one of the first people I turn too." Buffy reached out and patted the other blonde's arm. "Tara, I know I haven't come across as the most understanding and open minded person sometimes but I really, really am happy that Willow found you and that you and I have this chance to be friends."
"Me too." Tara barely got the words out before the Slayer engulfed her in a happy appreciative hug.
"Hey am I supposed to be jealous here?" Willow's smiling voice called them out of the embrace from the doorway.
"All depends?" Buffy for the first time felt her playful side unhindered by a fear that she'd say the wrong thing to her Wiccans.
"On what?" Willow dropped her knapsack on the floor and mockingly folded her arms over her chest.
"If you don't mind Tara's hand being on my butt?" The Slayer laughed and was glad to hear both the Wiccans join in.
Willow snuggled in closer to the body beside her as she fought the heaviness in her eyes.
"So you and Buddy seemed mighty chummy this evening." Willow prompted softly before finishing the sentence with a yawn.
"Yeah." Tara smiled as she brushed her fingers into red hair.
"Soooo?" She prompted again.
"I think her and I finally found a common ground." Tara bent down and kissed her lover's lips softly. "Now go to sleep you sleepy head, you have a big presentation tomorrow."
"I'm glad you two were able to talk tonight." Willow yawned again. "Does my little heart good to know my two favorite girls are getting along."
"Yeah." Tara closed her eyes and snuggled in closer. "Does my heart good too."
Buffy stood apart from the line up going into the club looking down both sides of the street for the approach of her friends. A quick and thorough patrol had facilitated her coming straight here.
'I'm going to forget Riley and have a good time.' She repeated her new mantra as she noticed Willow and Tara emerge hand in hand around the closest corner. 'I'm going to forget Riley and have a good time.'
"Hey." She waved enthusiastically.
"Sorry we're late." Willow blushed slightly as they got closer. "We…" She stopped and looked at her girlfriend for a heartbeat before turning back to Buffy.
"No worries." Buffy forced herself to keep smiling. "The vamps kept me busy so I just got here a few minutes ago." She took a deep breath. "Look if you two would rather have a nice couples evening, I can take my chances with the Friday late night movie."
"No way." Willow shook her head and Tara mimicked her. "From this moment on we're just three carefree and fancy girls out for a night to remember." For effect she let go of Tara's hand. "Right Tar bear?"
"Right." Tara nodded. "So we should line up?" She pointed to the growing line.
Buffy only nodded as she followed them to the back again repeating her mantra to gain the strength to do this.
As she breathlessly sat down Buffy realized that despite herself she was having a good time. A few well-mixed virgin pina coladas and even more time dancing had lifted many of her more immediate trouble for the moment.
"Before I forget I wanted to say thank you to you both." Buffy reached across the table and squeezed their hands.
"Thank you?" Tara looked at her a little thrown by the comment.
"For taking me out, showing me a good time." She winked at them both. "Shall I get us another round?" A group of enthusiastic nods sent her bouncing off towards the bar.
"She's either faking really well or she's actually having a good time." Willow reached under the table and squeezed her girlfriend's knee.
"I go with the latter, not even the Slayer could fake for this long." Tara reached down and put her hand over Willow's. "Hey none of that now." She laughed and removed it. "This is Buffy's night."
"Well aren't you the resolved one." The hacker laughed and put her hand back on the table. "Not like I need to be told I'm loved." She pulled a sad and pouting face.
"You are such a vixen." Tara laughed as she leaned over and quickly kissed the redhead's cheek.
"Tara, I didn't expect to see you tonight." A soft light voice broke the moment as a slim woman about the same height as the blonde Wiccan appeared suddenly at the table. Her long brown hair sat straight and wispy to bounce around her shoulders.
"Nicole!" Tara turned surprised at the sound of her friend's voice. "I didn't know you were coming here either." She stood up and the girl's exchanged a brief hug. "Nicole, this is my girlfriend Willow." She grinned at the redhead and reached back for her hand. She felt so lucky to able to make the introduction.
"Hi Nicole." Willow smiled at the brunette. "Nice to meet you."
"I've heard so much about you." Nicole smiled brightly back. "It's nice to finally meet you too."
"Where's Chris?" Tara motioned for her to take one of the empty seats as she took a brief look around.
"I don't know." Nicole shook her head trying not to lose her smile. "We broke up."
"Oh no." Tara's face dropped instantly. "What happened?" She tried to get insight into her friend's dilemma when the Slayer arrived back with their drinks.
"You won't believe how much hassle you get when you ask for a virgin drink." Buffy arrived laughing though she instantly noticed the tone of the table was somber suddenly.
"Nothing important." Nicole answered quickly before she impulsively turned to Buffy. "I can vouch, I had ten invitations to be deflowered by the time the bartender had poured this." She held up her frothy fruit drink.
"I only got six." Buffy laughed as she sat down to fill the last seat at the table.
"Well gentlemen prefer blonde's…" Nicole shot her a sly wink. "But low life college scum have no taste."
"Don't I know it!" Buffy snorted and took a sip of her drink.
"Buffy this is my friend Nicole." Tara waited for a lull in the two girls impromptu conversation. "She goes to the college too."
"Psychology major, minor in Fine Arts." The brunette smiled before taking a sip of her drink.
"Undeclared." Buffy countered with a slight grin.
"Isn't it funny how we all suddenly become our major. No more silly names or personality traits." Willow piped in. "Just 'computer science', 'economics', 'psychology' and such."
"I guess that's why college is so much about finding out who you are." Nicole nodded at the hacker's babble. "But the real irony is that you spend so much time trying to figure out who you really are and all you come up with in the end is the same things you've always known."
"And along the way you spend tones of time trying to figure out other people and how hopefully you'll be able to change so that they'll fit into your life." Buffy turned in her chair as she met with the other girl's philosophy.
"Only to find out that if you needed to change to have them fit there was no way they were ever going to fit because you should never have to change." Nicole filled in another line to their growing debate as Willow and Tara shrunk away from the conversation.
"Do you get the feeling that we're invisible?" Willow leaned over and whispered in the blonde's ear.
"Definitely." Tara turned to whisper back. "Though it seems to have made them both forget about there love lives."
"Which was our goal this evening so congratulations." Willow kissed behind the blonde's ear secretively.
"And congratulations to you." Tara squirmed under the attention happily.
"Would this pretty lady like to dance?" Willow took her hand softly. "I don't think Buffy will be upset if we leave her to her philosophy of life conversation."
"Lead on my love." Tara slipped off her stool.
Buffy took the last of her drink in a slow swig when they finally reached a lull in the conversation.
"Can I get you another?" Nicole motioned to her glass. "We could do a study on the number of invitations we get now that the crowd is likely to be a little drunker."
"No, I think I'm all drunk out." Buffy shook her head. "I should probably see where my two favorite Wiccans have gotten off too."
"Dancing." Nicole motioned towards the dance floor a sweet smile on her face. "They look gorgeous together."
"They do." Buffy turned to follow her eyes and nodded. "They are a perfect example of our theory of perfect fit."
"A extra perfect fit those two." Nicole played with the plastic stick in her drink.
"Two of the lucky ones." Buffy agreed again.
"Do you think if we sighed loud enough our perfect fits would arrive?" Nicole forced herself to look away from the dance floor.
"Hey, hey now no gloom." Buffy tried to keep a strong face as she too turned from the watching the dance floor. "And you are an absolutely beautiful, intelligent and incredibly witty woman. You deserve the best fit, you just have to have faith."
"So do you Buffy." Nicole felt her mouth curl up into a sweet smile. "So do you." She patted the Slayer's hand lightly.
The night was brisk and clear as the foursome chatted their way across the streets of Sunnydale on their way back towards the campus.
"Well this is our cut off." Tara pulled on the hacker's hand to bring them to a stop.
"Oh yeah." Willow stopped her babbling about celestial configurations and looked down the path.
"I'm this way." Nicole pointed off to the path that led across the campus.
"Lucky break for us both." The Slayer looked across the dark paths and her instinct to protect the innocence kick in. Her pesky vamp friends had been making the campus a favorite place for late night snacks and she'd never be able to live with herself if Nicole became one of those snacks on the way home. "I'm that way too." She gave Willow and Tara a brief look to ask them to cover for her.
"Cool." Nicole nodded. "Tara, I'll see you in class and it was really nice to finally meet you Willow."
"Talk to you tomorrow." Buffy waved an absent hand at them as the two girls walked off.
"It must be so hard being the Slayer." Tara frowned slightly as she and Willow began down their path. "Never being able to go off duty."
"I think she finds it helpful when she's hurting." Willow admitted sadly. "Gives her a way to turn everything off without anyone questioning what she's doing."
"Her and Nicole meeting up was good timing in a bad timing way." Tara observed pointing out another grouping of stars.
"That's Orion." Willow filled in the fact before she continued. "Totally, in a bad timing at a good time way. How long had Nicole been going out with Chris?"
"A few months I think. Nicole really thought they were meant for each other." Tara squeezed the hand in her own tighter. "But Chris and her were from different worlds."
"Nicole seems so down to earth and normal." Willow kept one eye on the stars and the other on her girlfriend's gorgeous face. "I guess Chris was a wild boy was he? All dark and broody and mysterious?"
"Wild b-boy?" Tara stopped walking suddenly and looked at the redhead. "Willow, Chris is short for Christine."
"Christine?" Willow stopped with her. "Oh, I thought…" She didn't finish the stupid thought. "Now I feel really stupid. I mean it's the type of thing ones suppose to pick up on right…" She closed her eyes feeling even stupider. "I mean…" She stopped finally.
"Will, it's okay." Tara hugged her tight. "I don't think any of us ever specified that Chris was a Christine and there is no way to know if someone is gay just by looking at them."
"Now I know how easily Buffy starts to feel like she's said something stupid." Willow hugged her girlfriend tighter.
"You are so lovely." Tara laughed as she held on.
"Oh no." Willow pulled back suddenly. "If I thought Chris was a guy, Buffy must think Chris is a guy and if Nicole…" She couldn't finish the sentence.
"Willow, it's okay." Tara continued to laugh as she brushed a stray lock of hair off the redhead's face. "I know Nicole well enough to know she wouldn't do something stupid like hit on Buffy and even if she was stupid enough to on principal the fact that Buffy mentioned Riley about a hundred and fifty times would be a big tip off not too."
"Sorry, just a bit of worry there." Willow smiled under the attention. "I know if Buffy was to end up saying something innocently stupid she'd be the one who felt the worst."
"Come on my silly girl." Tara grabbed the hacker's hand and pulled her towards home. "Buffy will be fine."
"So then Mr. Macho runs to open the door for me and wham…" Buffy laughed so hard she could barely finish the story. "Someone opened the door from the inside and it laid him out cold."
"That must have been hilarious." Nicole held her side as she laughed. "Men can be so stupid sometimes."
"Yeah." Buffy took a deep breath as she tried to get her laughing under control. "But I've bored you with enough old stories about my old boyfriend, what about Chris?"
"Well Chris had this thing about cooking." Nicole started to laugh. "Claimed it was the devils work. Until one morning I wake up to smoke all over the apartment and Chris hopping around the kitchen in a pair of flaming oven mitts."
"And what did she say?" Buffy stressed the word 'she' carefully. She'd watched Nicole play around with her wordings all night but it struck her that it was time to clear the air. Especially since it really wasn't a big deal. She was cool with these things.
"She said…" Nicole's voice was a bit weak but the look of acceptance on Buffy's face made her keep going. "She said the fire wasn't her fault, how was she supposed to know that oven mitts weren't fire retardant."
"That sounds like a line I'd use." Buffy laughed hard.
"It's a good line." Nicole laughed with her until they broke into a comfortable silence. "So what gave Christine away?"
"Dunno." Buffy shrugged. "It's cool though, I mean I was a bit of an idiot when Willow and Tara got together but I'm coming along."
"It comes as a bit of a shock sometimes." Nicole nodded. "You should have seen how much of an idiot I was when I figured out I was gay." She gave the Slayer a bright grin.
"So how did you know?" Buffy asked the typical but serious question.
"Honest answer?" Nicole gave her a sly glance as they walked.
"Of course." Buffy nodded.
"It was simply really, no life changing dramatic event or anything. I was picking out my university courses with my high school boyfriend and I looked between him and the book about a hundred times and I realized there was a reason going so far away from him wasn't bothering me." Nicole shrugged lightly. "I loved him yes, but not passion love, friend love. I would never dare take risks with him, never really would have ever laid my heart or my soul on the line for him. The only people I had ever done that for were women, all friends of course." She made a slight grimace. "But I think I understand now that in my own silent way I was in love with each of them."
"Very deep moment." Buffy nodded thoughtfully.
"Yeah." Nicole shoved her hands deep in the pockets of her jeans. "It's been really great talking to you Buffy but this is my stop." She pointed to a small red brick apartment building across the street.
"You too." The Slayer crossed her arms over her chest suddenly not knowing what to do with them. "I'll see you on campus then." She felt herself smile a little too enthusiastically as the brunette smiled back and made her way across the street.
Willow waved to the Slayer as she crossed the magic shop and slipped into the empty seat across from her at the round table.
"I know I'm late." Buffy apologized immediately.
"Let me guess, you and Dawn, one new cardigan and a lot of name calling." Willow laughed.
"Are you adding mind reading to your list of skills?" Buffy laughed with her.
"No, Dawn called the shop to tell us what a cruel big sister you were being." The hacker sipped at her drink.
"Typical." Buffy rolled her eyes. "So anything on the Hellmouth front?"
"Nope." Willow shook her head. "Giles and I have no explanation for the sudden lack of demon activity, though the continuation of the regular vampy presence is soothing."
"In a strange way yeah it is. Though I could use a big scary ten headed lizard thing, just to take my mind off Riley." Buffy leaned down on the book in front just long enough to have her Watcher huff and pull it out from under her chin to reshelve it. "Hi to you too Giles."
"Good afternoon." Giles nodded. "Anything interesting on patrol?"
"Nope, dusted a few fledglings but nothing noteworthy." Buffy shook her head as he moved away.
"I hope last night helped for a few hours." Willow smiled hopefully.
"Last night was great Will." Buffy smiled warmly. "Though I think with Nicole and I droning on about our hatred of life's cruel twists, you and Tara must have been really bored."
"No, it was nice to see you venting and laughing." Willow smiled. "Nicole is really nice, Tara says she's a sweetie."
"She seemed super nice." Buffy laughed as she remembered their walk home. "I can't believe Chris cheated on her. Any woman would be lucky to get Nicole as a girlfriend."
"Oh she told you?" Willow felt a vague tension creep into her shoulders.
"I sorta figured it out Will." Buffy raised an eyebrow. "It's no biggie though, having your heart broken is the same girl or boy."
"Yep." The hacker grinned widely when she saw her best friend's sudden comfortableness. "Though now I feel out of the loop." Her face fell a little. "I was the stupid one who assumed that Chris was a boy."
"Will, don't worry. It wasn't like Nicole had a billboard advertisement about it." Buffy laughed and shook her head at the hacker's forlorn face. "She doesn't hide things but she doesn't broadcast them either, like you and Tara, I admire that. Shows a real comfortableness with herself." Feeling like she'd said too much suddenly she picked up a small book on demonology in the middle of the table and absently flipped through it.
"I had this silly notion that you had assumed Chris was a guy too and that if Nicole had hit on you…" Willow began reading again out of the book in front of her and made the comment without looking up.
"Yeah?" Buffy's eyes shot up from the book suddenly. "Oh I get it." She felt a sharp pang of hurt and vague anger float up. "I'd end up acting all wiggy and stupid so that I made a complete ass of myself."
"No." Willow's look shot up from the book. "I didn't mean that."
"Look Will." The Slayer didn't know what was fuelling her on as her words hissed out across the table. "I know I acted like a complete ass when you told me about Tara. I know I've said stupid things, mostly when I've been trying hard to not say stupid things but could I get a bit of credit?" She closed the book and put it back in its place. "But Nicole just had her heart broken, I think I'm in control of enough compassion to gracefully decline if she had of hit on me."
"Buffy, I didn't mean…" Willow stammered under the Slayer's words. She assumed a lot, she knew that now and all of her assumptions had hurt her friend deeply.
"Whatever you meant Willow, the last thing in the world I would have done last night is hurt her. Try to give me a bit more credit Will." Buffy felt her voice soften as she registered the sad look on the hacker's face. "I'm going to go do my meditation before Giles' face stays in that furrow." She pointed to the watcher behind the counter.
"I'm sorry, I will." Willow tiny voice received a nod before the Slayer headed for the back training room.
Buffy didn't know what happened till the end of her pen stuck sharply into her cheek and roused her from her twice-weekly psychology nap. As always it was just in time to hear the professor stress the importance of following some guideline before he dismissed the class.
"I think I missed something big." She looked to the long lines of chalk scrawled onto the board and felt a deep sinking in her stomach. The Professor's handwriting was a mystery to her at the best of times, but since it seems he had been in a hurry she was able to make out even less than usually. "Paper, APA standards, pre-approved topic…" She scribbled down what she could. "Worth thirty five percent of our final grade." The words made her blood run cold.
"These may help with the decryption a bit." A voice accompanied the sudden appearance of three sheets of neatly written paper into the Slayer's view.
"I know Willow didn't take this class, so my guess is benevolent guardian angel?" Buffy smiled as she turned to see the owner of the voice already recognizing it.
"Nope." Nicole laughed as she stepped over the row of seating and slid into the chair next to Buffy. Her hair tied back into a loose ponytail and tucked under a navy Toronto Argonauts cap that matched the oversized jersey she was wearing over a simple pair of jeans. "Just someone who can't manage to find these seats as comfy as you apparently do."
"Hey this one has a two inch square of padding left." The Slayer laughed. "It makes a world of difference."
"I bet it does." The brunette laughed and shook her head. "I always sit at the back and those seats are extra worn and uncomfy."
"I was just going to ask the ultra stupid 'are you in this class?' question." Buffy stuffed her clipboard into her bag.
"I am but its so huge it's hard to keep track of anybody." Nicole smiled. "So shall we go photocopy these for you sleepyhead?" She stood up and shrugged into her knapsack.
"You're a lifesaver." Buffy smiled back.
"And since I'm assuming you didn't notice…" Nicole meandered her way through the thinning throng of exiting students. "We're allowed to work in pairs for the research and paper. You wouldn't be looking for a partner would you?" She asked the hopeful question.
"Well if the outline for the paper took up three pages I think I'm in desperate need for a partner." Buffy followed her out. "The question is do you want to work with someone who can't stay awake for longer than sixty seconds once Dr. Reynold's starts talking?"
"I'm sure you're brilliant." Nicole nodded that she did. "The photocopier in the business annex is always free if you don't mind a little bit of a walk."
"I don't have class for an hour." Buffy let the brown hair girl lead them outside into the bright afternoon sun.
"Are there any other notes you're missing?" Nicole raised a sly eyebrow as they walked. "I don't have mine with me but I could photocopy them for next class if you were desperately in need of any."
"Will you run or just laugh at me when I say I need all but the first one?" Buffy bit her lip feeling horrible for having to admit this. She'd tried to stick by her guns and not take any more psychology classes but when her careful timetable scheduling had fallen apart and she'd been left with a giant gapping whole that needed to be filled the psych class had been the perfect fit. That her nights were busy Slaying was something as always that would easily explain her lack of educational attention but was also something she couldn't use to her advantage.
"Let's just say you owe me lunch." Nicole smiled and shook her head with a laugh.
"Now that I can manage." Buffy laughed with her as they walked.
Buffy rapped the short rhythm on the door and leaned against the wall as she waited for an answer.
"I'm almost ready." Willow flung the door open with one sneaker on and the other in her hand.
"No rush Will, the evil creatures of the night will wait five minutes I'm sure." Buffy smiled brightly at her.
"Are you sure you want me to come with you?" Willow bent down to tie her other shoe.
"Of course I do." Buffy stepped into the doorway. "I'm sorry I yelled at you at the magic shop. I just…"
"No Buffy, I'm the one who's sorry." Willow shook her head and stood up.
"How about we just chalk it up experience and not worry about it anymore?" The Slayer picked the hacker's jacket off the floor for her.
"Sounds great." Willow nodded happily as she followed her best friend out.
Buffy didn't breath as the dusty remains of the vampire billowed in a cloud around her before settling down.
"Well I have to say he was easy." The Slayer spun her stake and replaced it into her jacket.
"With your new training schedule the vamps don't have a chance." Willow looked on trying to calm her heart down. Though she knew the young man was a newly emerged fledgling and from the first moment Buffy had everything in control she still couldn't keep herself from reacting in the same familiar scared way.
"I'm sure they'll catch up soon." The Slayer cocked her head to one side only to see a cat scurry its way out of the bushes nearby. "So how did your utopian society presentation go?" She caught up to the hacker's place and the two began walking again.
"Well except for my getting tongue tied in front of audiences thing it went fine." Willow rolled her eyes. "How about you? How's psych going?"
"Well I'm still using it to catch up on my beauty rest." She laughed knowing the hacker would know what she was talking about. "But I have a new guardian angel of notes in the class since horrible you didn't take that course." She playfully swatted the hacker with the end of her scarf.
"Who?" Willow turned excitedly. "Some big hunky new man, ready to sweep you off your feet into romantic bliss?"
"Well not quite." Buffy's face fell as her friend's explanation went on. "Nicole."
"Oh Nicole." Willow immediately turned her mind away from all the things she'd been thinking. "I forgot she was a psych major."
"She is." Buffy nodded. "We have this big research paper to do, so her and I are going to work together in the hopes of making it easier."
"And so that you can steal her class notes?" Willow laughed lightly knowing full well the Slayer's horrible record for notes.
"Not stealing, I owe her lunch for them." The Slayer grinned.
"Well at least she's got enough sense to demand repayment." The hacker knew all too well how a Slayer's notebook needed to be supplemented. "Though hold on!" She stopped walking and folding her arms to give Buffy an angry scowl.
"Hold on what?" The Slayer did a three sixty expecting trouble but finding none.
"If the deal is notes for lunch, are you at all aware Miss. Summers' how many lunches you owe me by now?" Willow wagged a finger at her.
"Too many for you too eat waif girl." Buffy laughed at the hacker's mock show.
Willow trotted up the last of the stairs towards her girlfriend's place. It had been easier for Buffy to drop her off here when they'd finished the somewhat uneventful evening patrol. She was about to knock on the door when she remember the stern look and long conversation about how Tara wanted her to feel at home so she checked the unlocked doorknob and just walked in.
"Hey." Tara turned from the book she was reading and waved a sweater-clad hand at her lover. "Everything okay on patrol?"
"Still nothing apocalyptic or earth shattering." Willow dropped her coat over a chair and moved across the room. "Missed you." She bent down and enjoyed a long kiss with the blonde.
"Apparently you did." Tara took a deep breath at the end and smiled. "How's Buffy doing?"
"Well Riley took up part of the conversation but not much all things considered." Willow walked back over and flopped down onto the bed. "Being generous only about 20% of the total conversation. The winner was how infuriating her sister is and how helpless she feels about her mom." She reached down and pulled off her socks tossing them into the laundry basket in the corner of the room. Absently she stroked Miss. Kitty's back, much to the annoyance of the sleeping kitten before she rolled over to have her tummy rubbed.
"She deserves much better than Riley." Tara placed a worn leather bookmark at the page she was on before moving over and dropping to sit at the redhead's feet.
"Oh yeah, on a great Buffy is making new friends note." Willow sat up to face the blonde. "Her and Nicole are working on a psych project together."
"They are?" Tara's face lit up. "That's great."
"That's what I thought." Willow patted the kitten's stomach before pushing up on her elbows. "It's been hard at times for Buffy to connect with people who aren't in on the whole living in a Hellmouth, she's the Chosen One thing but maybe this project with Nicole will give her that."
"Yeah, Nicole is as normal as they come." Tara smiled. "Well other than being from Canada and having that strange obsession with watching football."
"A little butchy is she." Willow raised an eyebrow laughing.
"That's the weird thing, she's not at all." Tara laughed with her. "Apparently her step dad watches it all the time and she just picked up a love for it."
"Fair enough." Willow laughed before falling back down on the bed.
"Willow, have you ever thought that m-maybe…" Tara's voice trailed off as she pulled herself further up the bed to lie down next to her lover.
"Maybe what?" Willow turned her head to face the blonde, reaching out to play with the hem of her shirt.
"Well, we've both agreed Riley wasn't right for Buffy." Tara's voice went very soft as she leaned into Willow's body and snuggled in to the hacker's neck.
"Yes." Willow closed her eyes as Tara's breath activated little shivers within her.
"And you've told me a thousand times how horrible Angel was for her." Tara kept going and busied her lips with kissing Willow's neck when her words stopped.
"Well the whole vampire with a cursed soul thing was a bit of a crux." She moved her head a little to the side partly hoping Tara would ignore the conversation and keep up her current activity.
"W-What if that's because Buffy isn't meant to find happiness with anyone of the male species." Tara moved one arm over her lover as she came up and held her face over the redhead's. She lowered her lips over Willow's before the hacker could answer.
"With that evidence I'm starting to be swayed." Willow moved back out of the kiss momentarily as she pulled the blonde down closer to her.
"Let's just see if we can completely convince you." Tara gave her a wicked smirk before moving in for another searing kiss.
Buffy rounded the dark corner of the library catacombs trying to retrace her way to the table she knew was around her somewhere. Take quick glances around the high stack of books she carried she did her best to keep an eye on where she was going.
"Whoa." Nicole spotted the Slayer emerging from between two of the rows and jumped up to help. "Let me take a few of those." She pulled a few of the books off the top to give Buffy a clearer view.
"Thanks." Buffy smiled and easily made the rest of the way to their table. With a loud thump she dropped them onto the old worn wood. "I have to say the ambience down here is amazing." She turned to the brunette after glancing around again. The aged and tattering posters that lined the painted cement walls were hardly readable. That this entire bottom basement held about a dozen large tables was anyone's guess when you first came off the elevator, but in amongst the large looming stacks were alcoves hidden away from everyone until you were right on them.
"Very conductive to the 'do lots of work in a short time and get the hell out of the library' attitude." Nicole laughed as she sat down in a creaky chair. "So do you think we'll find anything useful in these?" She looked at the three large stacks of bound journals and various books.
"Well hopefully we'll get some leads from the references sections at least." Buffy sat down as well, hoping that Nicole had noticed her direct reference to Dr. Reynold's prescribed technique. She might not have been awake the first time but she'd definitely taken the time to thoroughly read the brunette's accurate notes.
"Very impressive Miss. Summers." Nicole laughed as she pulled open the first dusty book. "And on that note I was thinking. How about we just mark all the ones we think are relevant and then photocopy them so we can do an in depth information pull later?"
"Sounds perfect." Buffy nodded as she too pulled open a volume. "Especially since I'm afraid if we spent too long down here we might never find our way out again."
Tara shifted her hip bag around her body a little as she leaned against the wall outside of the large double doors. A glance at her watch told her that Willow's class should be finished at any moment and she hoped the hacker wouldn't have made any other plans yet. As her mind drifted she didn't even notice the doors open up and students beginning to stream there way out.
"And what's a beautiful girl like you doing looking so deep in thought?" Willow leaned against the wall next to her girlfriend and whispered the greeting to her.
"Oh Willow!" Tara jumped and stood up, laughing lightly when she saw it was just the hacker.
"Buffy and I have been working on my stealth approach." Willow grinned.
"No more practicing on me." Tara grinned back. "I wanted to know if you had time for a coffee. I have news." She rubbed her finger down over her nose, the code they'd decided to put on their new secret quest.
"Definitely have time then." Willow laughed as she repeated the move and they headed off to the coffee shop.
Willow double-checked the occupants of the shop to make sure no one was there who could possibly overhear their conversation and have any interest in it.
"So tell me again why we're doing this?" Willow cupped her coffee in both hands as she looked at her lover.
"We're not really doing anything." Tara gave her a sweet smile, not entirely sure why she had her heart so set on this. "We're just giving things a little outside stir to see if any spells develop."
"Okay, okay." Willow conceded knowing her lover was right. Their long conversation in bed after a slight detour on the subject had filled her with a certain enthusiasm. "As long as we totally agree on the rules."
"We have very clear rules." Tara nodded and reached out to pat her hand. "No direct intervention either in comment or deed. No major interference in any sense and if Buffy ever even hints she's upset about it then we stop right away."
"Yep thems the rules." The hacker nodded enthusiastically. "Cause even if Buffy's had bad luck with men it doesn't mean she has a true appreciation for…" She winked at her lover and blushed deeply.
"I know, but you said it yourself without a little bit of gentle prodding she's not likely to ever give herself a chance to appreciate." Tara took a sip of her milkshake.
"Okay, so what's the new info?" Willow laughed again as she ran a finger down her nose.
"Guess which two people are currently holed up the basement of the library doing research?" Tara raised an eyebrow.
"They're doing a project together." The redhead stated the obvious. "They have to be at the library together."
"Yes, I know but…" Tara tapped the fingers on the table. "If you and I were to run into a certain Slayer and psych major, say…" She kept tapping faster as she thought. "And suggested a little dinner, finishing in time of course for Buffy to go on patrol…" She stopped her tapping. "It would keep them together for a few more hours and give chemistry a time to kick in."
"Wouldn't that count as direct intervention?" Willow leaned across the table a little as she played with her spoon.
"Well no." Tara's face took on an innocent look as she shook her head. "Not with the logic that we all have to eat, whether we eat together or not, so why not all eat together?"
"Oh so direct intervention would be like…" The redhead thought for a moment. "Like getting the two of them out to dinner and then making up some emergency so we could leave."
"That would be against the rules." Tara nodded enthusiastically.
"Okay, lets finish these and run by the library." Willow smiled at her girlfriend.
Buffy didn't know what was going on until she felt a light hand on her shoulder and a gentle voice calling a name. As she registered the owner of both was Nicole and that under her cheek was the cold dusty page of a book she almost wanted to pretend that she'd dropped into a coma.
"Please pay no attention to the comatose girl." Buffy imitated a computerized voice as she squeezed her eyes touched. "She has already died of embarrassment, though if you leave a message after the beep we'll be sure to forward it to her in 'I can't believe I fell asleep' land."
"Don't be so silly." Nicole pulled back and sat down in the chair beside the Slayer. "Besides you look so cute drooling all over." She laughed as the blonde finally opened an eye. "I finished all the photocopying so you and I are free."
"I'm so sorry." Buffy sat up and tried to wipe the previously mentioned drool from her cheek. "I've been putting in extra hard training hours because of the lull…" Her eyes went wide as she realized what she'd been about to say.
"What are you in training for?" Nicole asked without missing a beat as the Slayer's words fell away.
"Martial arts." Buffy decided sticking as close to the truth might help her in the long run. "Can't be too careful walking around campus at night." She flipped through the pile of papers Nicole had returned with.
"I wasn't aware I had protection walking with me the other night." Nicole laughed as she reached into her purse. "I wouldn't have bothered keeping one hand on my mace."
"That stuff will only work on certain people." Buffy felt a very cold slice inside at the idea of Nicole having to face anything, living or dead that would precipitate her fighting for survival. But she above anyone knew it was an everyday occurrence. Though the brunette was slightly taller than the Slayer, Buffy doubted that even with her well-toned figure she'd be much match for many of the creatures she met on a nightly basis. "Anyway, I could have dealt with anything that came our way." She looked down and cursed herself for sounding like she was bragging.
"I'm sure you pack a punch that no one expects." Nicole smiled and began cleaning up. "When do you want to get together to wade through all of this?"
"Evenings are bad for me." Buffy said honestly. "But name a time before dusk and I'm there."
"How about Saturday? We can hole up at my place with some pizza and read till we're dizzy." She flipped the latch closed on her knapsack.
"Sounds great." Buffy nodded as she packed up her stuff as well.
"Hey you two." Willow led Tara through the complicated labyrinth of shelves and emerged in the alcove.
"Hey Will." Buffy snapped to attention when she saw the slightly apprehensive look on her friend's face. "Everything okay?"
"Oh yeah." The hacker nodded. "Tara and I were just going for some dinner at that new Mexican place and were wondering if you wanted to join us."
"Hummm Mexican?" Buffy licked at her lips. "I'm in."
"Great." Willow nodded holding her breath as they waited. She turned to see the look of apprehension on her girlfriend's face as well. They'd agreed to wait for a few moments to see if Buffy asked Nicole herself before Tara jumped in.
"I had their takeaway the other night, it's superb." Nicole added the appraisal absently as she slung her bag onto her shoulder.
"You should come with us, after all I owe you for all that photocopying." Buffy made the invitation as she looped the strap of her bag over her head.
"You sure?" The brunette looked between the three of them. "I don't want to barge in."
"N-No, you could never barge in." Tara felt the words tumble out before she could stop herself.
"No barging, I just invited you." Buffy smiled at Tara and let the happy expression stay as she turned to Nicole. "But one rule…" She pushed her chair in. "No school talk."
Buffy held on tightly to her sides as she laughed. She could hardly remember what had started this string of ridiculous jokes but as they kept going she could barely control herself enough to breath.
"Enough, enough." Nicole begged for everyone to stop as she too struggled to get breath.
"I think maybe we better pay up cause we're getting some very nasty looks from the waitress." Tara turned away from the older woman's glare.
"How much?" Nicole reached for the bill but the Slayer snatched it out of her grasp in a flash.
"Hey I said my treat." Buffy gave her a serious look as she folded the bill and stood up.
"And since a certain girl owes me for many, many notes." Willow raised a mischievous eyebrow at the Slayer.
"Yes Will." Buffy laughed. "You and Tara are covered."
"You know if you two have something else to do?" Buffy turned as they walked and spoke to the Wiccans that followed her.
"Us? More important than keeping you company?" Willow looked at Tara who adamantly shook her head. "Nope."
"Okay, but this better not just be pity for this seemingly unemployed Slayer." Buffy smiled at them, secretly very happy for their company.
"No pity." Tara shook her head. "It's been such a great dinner and why should the party stop just because you have to patrol."
"No reason." Buffy agreed and turned her attention partially back to her task.
"It's too bad we had to drop Nicole off." Willow added slyly, trying to play innocent under the look Tara shot her.
"Yeah, well you know how it is Will." Buffy sighed heavily. "I just hope she bought that story about us working at the magic shop every evening."
"Well it's sorta true." Tara tried to be supportive. "Maybe you should bring her by it one day, just to solidify the cover story." It was the blonde's turn to play innocent under Willow's eyes.
"I don't want to stir up trouble." Buffy turned around briefly to shake her head. "So far Nicole thinks I'm your average run of the mill college student and there's no reason for her to think otherwise."
The other girls exchanged a sad look briefly as they kept walking.
'This might be an impossible task even if Buffy does like her.' Willow thought to herself as she watched the Slayer bury her hands in her pockets as she walked.
Tara pulled at her skirt as she crossed and re-crossed her legs. She didn't know why she'd agreed to do this. Yes, she was Nicole's friend. Yes, she and Nicole often met for coffee and such but this time it felt so underhanded. That she was primed with a number of suggestive comments and questions made her nervous and she hoped her stuttering wouldn't get out of hand.
'And you're doing this because Willow can be very convincing.' She thought and laughed to herself.
"You know laughing to yourself is actually a sign of sanity rather than insanity." Nicole grinned as she dropped down onto the well-worn coffee shop sofa beside the blonde.
"I was just thinking of something Willow did." Tara smiled shyly.
"You are so lucky Tara." Nicole smiled back at her. "Willow's a great girl. I only hope I find someone half as special as her."
"She's magic." The blonde nodded.
"So let me get this whine out of the way first." Nicole reached forward and cupped the latte Tara had already ordered for her. "Chris called and you won't believe the one and only thing she had to say to me?"
"What?" Tara felt her heart rise in her throat. If Chris came back into Nicole's life now the entire plan was lost.
"That she wanted the sketches I did of her for my art class back." Nicole gripped the cup tightly as she tried not to let her anger get the better of her. "I have to hand my portfolio in on Monday and all of my charcoal section is her."
"Are you going to give them back?" Tara tried not to breath a sigh of relief as she knew what a blow this was to her friend. Though she was at the top of her psychology classes, Nicole's true gift and passion was in her drawings and her minor in fine arts filled her muse just enough without interfering in her major.
"I already have, I dropped them off on the way." Nicole put the cup back down and shook her head. "She had some crazy idea that because she's semi-nude in some of them I was going to flash them around town to embarrass her. She was my human body subject, its not like we took pictures in bed or something."
"You're too nice Nicole." Tara patted her arm sympathetically. "What are you going to do?"
"I have to find a new subject this weekend and manage to pull some brilliant sketches out of the air. I've been working on the ones of Chris for two months." Nicole sadly leaned her head into her hands. "I just don't know anyone who I can ask to pose."
"W-What about B-Buffy?" Tara didn't know where the question came from but it blurted out of her none the less.
"Do you think she'd do it?" Nicole's eyes lit up and then shadowed. "Wait, I could never ask her that. She'd think I was hitting on her."
"No, no." Tara jumped in again. "She's smart enough to realize how much trouble you're in when you explain it to her and I know you Nicole…" She patted her friend's arm again. "You'd never do anything like that even if you did like her."
"I'm not that slick for one." The brunette laughed lightly at herself. "And I'd never risk upsetting Buffy either. Our projects going great and she's nice to hang around."
"See, there's no reason why you shouldn't at least ask her." She pushed lightly. "The worst she can say is no."
"Do you know where I can find her?" Nicole asked setting her mind to the task. "She's supposed to be coming over tomorrow to work on our project anyway, maybe she can come over earlier and I can sketch while she's reading even."
"She'll be at the Magic Box." Tara gave the simple answer as she put down her cup. As she realized what she'd said she almost tipped it over.
"Do you think her boss will mind if I just pop in to ask?" Nicole shifted to sit on the edge of the sofa as she went to stand up.
"I better go with you." Tara didn't know any normal way to discourage her from going. "I help with the inventory sometimes so Mr. Giles won't get upset if I come in with you too."
Tara felt herself growing edgier and edgier as they reached main street and then were at the door to the magic shop. Trying to be as normal as possible she lead Nicole in and headed straight to the counter.
"Hello Mr. Giles." She put her hand on the counter to draw the Watcher out of the book he was reading. "We were wondering if Buffy was at work today?" She stared at him hard as she said the words.
"She's in the back." Giles looked from the blonde Wiccan to the newcomer with her.
"Sorry to interrupt her while she's working, but if I could just speak to her for a minute or two you'd be saving my life." Nicole walked closer to the counter a little distracted by the strange contents of the store.
"I'm sure I can spare her for a moment." Giles gave a strained smile. "Tara why don't you go back and ask her to stop her…" He stammered for a moment. "Her work."
"Yeah, I'll get her." Tara shot the older man a smile and hurried into the back room.
"Thanks." Nicole stood awkwardly as the man nodded and returned to his book.
Tara knew that the Slayer was too engrossed in her workout to react to her entrance just yet. She waited until the blonde had landed after a complicated series of flips before she spoke.
"B-Buffy?" Tara tried to find volume for her voice.
"You look like you saw a ghost, what's wrong?" Buffy wiped an arm across her sweaty forehead.
"Nicole." The blonde said the one name and then realized it told the Slayer nothing.
"What's wrong?" Buffy felt her heart sail up into her throat.
"She's outside, in the shop." Tara pointed out the door. "I couldn't stop her from coming, she needs to talk to you. She thinks you're working today."
"Oh well that's a good cover." Buffy looked down at the soaked sweats she was wearing. There was no time to change so she might as well face this now.
"Buffy and I are doing a project for a psychology class we have together." The brunette smiled at the Slayer's younger sister who had appeared out from behind one of the bookshelves and hopped up to sit on the counter.
"You do all that freaky stuff about people's minds and stuff right, cool." Dawn chewed her gum, as she looked the newcomer up and down. "Where did you get your skirt? I love it." She smiled at the long denim item, embroidered with various dragon designs. Leave it to Tara to introduce her sister to someone so cool.
"Downtown Toronto." Nicole answered with a laugh. "I don't think you'd have much luck around here."
"That would explain why she talks funny." Anya added as she looked over at Giles who motioned for her to keep going with what she was doing.
"It would." Nicole nodded.
"Where's Toronto?" Dawn turned and asked Giles.
Ringing her hands Buffy emerged from the back room with Tara in tow. A quick scan led her to see the worst-case scenario possible.
"It's a city in Canada." Buffy answered the question as she moved over to the counter. "Have you been skipping Geography again?"
"No!" Dawn rolled her eyes and hopped off the counter. "It was just a question."
"No worries." Nicole laughed lightly. "I get it a lot."
"You needed to talk to me?" Buffy smiled at Nicole as she waved behind her for the rest of the gang to go find something to do.
"I'm sorry for bugging you at work." The brunette gave her a sweet 'please forgive me smile'. "But I'm in a real quandary and I was wondering if you'd do me the biggest favor in the world."
"I can try." Buffy turned and shot a look at Tara who was busy trying to keep Dawn occupied. The blonde's face gave her no indication what was going on.
"Well I had an phone call from Chris." Nicole rolled her eyes.
"Are you all right?" Buffy reached out a hand without thinking as she brushed the other woman's arm. She'd been lucky enough not to have been forced into any contact with Riley so far, which was a good thing.
"Shaken, but more mad than anything." Nicole tried to hide a bit of what she was feeling. It was completely unfair to put all of this on her new friend while she was trying to work. "See I have to hand my art portfolio in on Monday and part of what I have to have done is a charcoal drawing section on the human form." Buffy kept quite as she waited for more information. "I had finished it all, but Chris had been my subject." Her voice dropped lower as she stepped back a bit further so that no one would be able to hear. "She demanded I give them back cause she got the idea in her head I was going to use them to embarrass her. So I've got a huge hole in my portfolio and only two days to fill it."
"What are you asking here Nicole?" Buffy felt herself getting more and more nervous.
"Could you come over a bit earlier on Saturday and…" The brunette took a deep breath. "Can I draw you while your reading some of the journals?"
"I have one question." The Slayer took the other girl gently by the elbow and led her over to the front of the store out of everyone's sight behind one of the bookshelves. "Exactly why did Chris think the ones of her were embarrassing?"
"Well…" Nicole bit her lip as she tried to find the best way of saying this without sending the blonde in front of her running. "Because she's topless in some of them and just in a sheet in others." Before Buffy could say anything she kept going. "I wouldn't expect that of you though. If you could just wear something like you've got on now it would be perfect." She looked down at the small tank top and shorts the Slayer wore, suddenly trying to figure out just what work the blonde had been doing in the back room. "It's just that the Professor won't mark any of my other sections unless I have a charcoal one. Even if he gives it a bad mark, the others might still keep my grade in a salvageable place."
"You are absolutely desperate aren't you?" Buffy knew that despite her own internal objections she was already willing to help her new friend. After all how bad could letting Nicole draw her while she read be?
"I am. I have no one else to ask." Nicole put on her best pleading look. "I'll owe you forever."
"You don't owe me." Buffy shook her head and smiled. "But only on one condition."
"Anything." Nicole breathed a sigh of relief as she realized Buffy was agreeing.
"No one else knows about this." Buffy's voice had an edge of firmness in it.
"Tara sorta already knows." Nicole bit her lip again worried she'd already be sunk.
"We'll swear Tara to secrecy." Buffy patted the brunette's arm again to calm her down. "I just don't want anyone that I work with knowing." She tried to make her words come fluidly. "Or my sister."
"Deal." Nicole grinned and impulsively hugged the Slayer. "Thanks."
"You're welcome." Buffy tried to find some volume for her voice as her arms closed around Nicole's slim figure. Something about the movement, the decision of where to put her hands suddenly struck her as being so awkward though for the life of her she couldn't figure out why. As Nicole pulled away from her she worried her inner turmoil had been obvious.
"So what time can I expect you Saturday?" Nicole asked quickly, not wanting to push her luck with Buffy's boss and keep the girl from her work any longer.
"Before lunch, say elevenish?" Buffy hoped it wouldn't have to be too early, so that way she could get a few extra hours of sleep in.
"Perfect." Nicole beamed. "I'll slip out so I don't irritate your boss." She began to move towards the door. "Thanks again Buffy."
Buffy waved mutely as Nicole hustled out of the shop and the door chimed behind her. Closing her eyes she leaned back against the bookcase for a moment trying to think.
'What exactly did you just get suckered into Summers?' She questioned herself as she tried to still her mind.
"So?" Tara quietly stuck her head around the side of the bookcase.
"You and me in the back now." Buffy snapped her eyes open as a moment of panic overtook her and she stalked off towards the training room.
Tara sheepishly followed the Slayer through the magic shop and closed the door behind them.
"I-I-I'm so sorry Buffy. She got it in her head to come here and I had no idea how to talk her out of it without it s-s-seeming odd." She tried to explain in a hope of quelling the Slayer's annoyance.
"Tara, I'm not mad at you." Buffy shook her head as she sat down on one of the benches and motioned for the Wiccan to join her. "Just how exactly did my name and modeling get brought up together?"
"Well when she told me her problem." Tara sat down as she was instructed keeping her hands on her knees. "We went through all the people she could ask and you came up as the person most likely to be nice enough to do it."
"I can't believe Chris made her give the sketches back." Buffy cupped her hand around the wood of the bench until her knuckles went white. "Nicole is the last person on earth that would use a picture like that to embarrass someone." She vented the anger in her mind somewhat forgetting that Tara was even there. "I mean I know I haven't known her that long, but I know people and I especially know bad people. It wouldn't even come in her mind to do that. Don't you think?" She suddenly turned the question on the other blonde.
"N-N-Never." Tara shook her head instantly.
"I just want to keep this between the three of us okay?" Buffy pulled one leg up under her as she turned to the blonde. "You can tell Will, I mean you don't have to keep a secret from her or anything but I just don't want the whole Scooby gang knowing."
"I can understand that." Tara smiled slightly as she agreed.
"Dawn will just go on and on about it and Xander would probably make some stupid comments which would result in either Anya or myself hitting him. It'll just be better if we keep this quiet." Buffy didn't know why she felt such urgency in making Tara see what she meant.
"Buffy, don't worry." Tara reached out and patted the Slayer's hand. "Just between us."
"She made you swear you wouldn't tell anyone?" Willow almost let the book in her hand drop but caught it in time. All Tara could do was nod. "This says lots." She rose up off the chair and paced over to the bed where her lover was sitting.
"Does it?" Tara looked at the redhead not so convinced. "She just doesn't want everyone teasing her about posing. Even though she's going to wear clothing, you know the first thing Xander will do is tease her about 'spells'."
"That's the biggest point though." Willow dropped onto the bed. "Buffy never cares that much about being teased. Well except for anyone bringing up the married to Spike thing, but that was my fault. I should make her some more cookies to say I'm sorry for that."
"Willow." Tara tried to call her girlfriend back to the conversation. "I think she was just flustered because I brought Nicole to the Magic Box. You know how she wants to keep the Slayer stuff secret from her."
"I have to talk to her." Willow stood up again suddenly and went to the chair to grab her coat.
"Do you really think that's a good idea?" Tara leaned back against the high-stacked pillows and shook her head.
"No direct interference, I promise." The redhead grinned as she raced out the door.
Buffy had just eased herself out of a steaming post-patrol bath when the doorbell rang downstairs. She was happy now that her sister was still up and was able to get the door. As Willow's voice floated up the stairs she was filled with a sudden edgy concern that something was wrong. After all things had been quiet around Sunnydale and having too much down time always put her on edge.
"Will, what's wrong?" She appeared at the top of the stairs in a fluffy robe with her hair wrapped up in a towel.
"Nothing, I just wanted to talk to you." Willow kicked herself as she realized she had not even thought of a cover as to why she was barging into the Summer's home at eleven o'clock at night.
"Really." Buffy raised an eyebrow at her knowing something must be going on. "Why don't we go get something to drink and Dawn I think you should be in bed by now."
"You are such a pain and you are not the boss of me." Dawn stuck her tongue out at her sister as she trudged her way noisily up the stairs.
"So full spillage Will." Buffy followed the hacker into the kitchen. "What's up?"
"I talked to Tara." Willow figured she might as well start off with the conversation as close to where she wanted it to be just to see where it got her.
"I guess she told you about my little leap into art." Buffy gave the redhead a quick smile as she went to the fridge and pulled out two bottles of flavored water.
"You are so brave." Willow smiled as she took the water.
"I'm going to have clothes on, that is already an established point." Buffy rolled her eyes and sat down at the island. "Tara must have told you that part?"
"Yeah, but I just wanted more than anything to say how proud I am of you." Willow's voice was soft and honest.
"Proud of me for putting on a tank top and letting Nicole sketch me?" Buffy gave her a confused look.
"No, for being so cool about this." Willow grinned at her briefly. "I mean I know you always feel so bad about how you were when I first told you about Tara."
"I was an ass Will." Buffy grinned back briefly.
"No, you were a bit shocked that's all." The hacker took a sip of her drink. "But now look at you. I'm so proud of you for agreeing to do this for Nicole without thinking… well you know what anyone could think."
"What could anyone think?" Buffy began peeling the label off her bottle as she questioned the hacker.
"I just think I'm lucky to have a best friend whose so open minded." Willow stepped away from the direct question waiting to see if the Slayer would fill it in herself.
"Will, I am not stupid enough to think that Nicole would fabricate all this in order to get me in a tank top and hit on me." Buffy laughed and shook her head. "We're friends, she needed my help. That's that, the only reason I didn't want the rest of the gang to know was that would be the exact first thought Xander would come up with and I think Nicole deserves more credit than that."
"You two are becoming pretty good friends." Willow began to pull the label off her bottle as well. "Have you given anymore thought to telling her about the whole slayer thing?"
"She doesn't need to know, so no, I haven't thought about it." Buffy shook her head. "Willow, why all this sudden query about Nicole?" She fixed the redhead under an unwavering eye. Something was going on and she was pretty sure she wasn't going to like it.
"Sudden query about Nicole?" Willow sat straight up. "I didn't realize I had done any sudden query."
"Come on, I know you." Buffy kept looking at her friend. "Something's up."
"I just want you to be happy Buffy. After all the trouble last year, and then Riley." Willow gave her a sad look. "I worry about you."
"Willow, I'm fine. Getting more and more over Riley everyday." The Slayer gave a tight smile. "And yes to be honest Nicole has helped a lot with that. I think I've helped her get over Chris, since we both had a mutual vent."
"It's so strange sometimes how people come into our lives just when we needed them most but weren't really looking for them." Willow smiled brightly.
"Yeah it is." Buffy turned and looked out the window suddenly not able to meet her best friends eyes. "Willow…" She didn't look back as she voiced her question in a quite tone. "When you realized you liked Tara, how did that make you feel?"
"I was petrified." Willow took a deep breath before she answered the question she couldn't believe the Slayer had asked. She tried not to read too much into it, after all it could just be an innocent question. "All I could think of was how shocked everyone was going to be. I mean I'd just broken up with Oz and there was that horrible my will be done spell. But I couldn't deny what I felt for her, I couldn't ignore it. She made me happy."
"You're the brave one Willow." Buffy turned back slowly and smiled at her friend. "You listened to your heart even thought you were scared."
"It's easier than you think." The redhead smiled back softly. "Only takes a little leap."
"It's a huge one Will." Buffy turned back towards the window.
Willow tried to be as quiet as possible as she pulled on an oversized t-shirt and then slipped into bed beside her sleeping girlfriend.
"How was Buffy's?" Tara rolled over sleepily and snuggled into the redhead's body the moment she rested on the mattress.
"It was interesting." Willow kissed her forehead lightly as she wrapped her arms around the blonde. "I think the Slayer is struggling to figure out just what she wants."
"I'm sure her best friend made her feel better." Tara opened her sleepy eyes and looked up.
"I tried, but she really just talked around things. I could be wrong though." Willow yawned.
"Only time will tell." Tara closed her eyes again.
Buffy made herself comfortable on the well worn couch in Nicole's living room as the brunette ran off to make them some lemonade. She looked around the small apartment, having to give her friend credit for the way the seeming mishmash of colors and decorations had been pulled together into something gorgeous.
"I love the painting of the snow scene." Buffy called loudly as she stood up and crossed the room to take a better look at the large piece. Looking down in the corner a simple scripted N and V made her realize just who had painted it.
"That was my acceptance piece for the college." Nicole emerged with two icy glasses of lemonade. "It's a park near my mom's house."
"Wow." Buffy studied the intricate nature of the snowdrifts, swearing to herself that they were moving as she watched them. "I mean really wow." She turned and accepted the glass.
"I dabble." Nicole smiled and moved over to the couch. "I can drag out my portfolio if you want to decide if you're still up to being a subject."
"I said I'd do it and a S…" Buffy realized she was about to put her foot in her mouth but quickly changed her words. "Summers' never backs out."
"I'm glad. Though I was wondering one thing?" Nicole put her glass down on the table hoping that Buffy wouldn't be too adverse to her new idea.
"Hoping what?" The Slayer raised an eyebrow as she sat down on the end of the couch.
"Remember how you told me you did a lot of training, for your martial arts?" Nicole turned and picked up one of the throw pillows to play with its fringe as the blonde nodded at her. "I was wondering if you'd do a few of the positions for me to draw."
"Well I could do some of both the fighting positions and the meditation positions for you if you wanted." Buffy agreed easily. She'd been up all night worrying just what it was going to be like having to concentrate on reading while Nicole sketched her. If she was busy working on her control and focus her mind would be too occupied to wander.
"That would be perfect." A bright smile broke across Nicole's face. "Do you want to get that out of the way or focus on the project first?"
"Might as well get the sketching done." Buffy smiled and reached for the workout clothes she'd brought with her. "I just need to get changed."
Buffy was barely aware of any other sound than her own breathing and the irregular scratching of Nicole's charcoal and fingers against her sketch pad. They'd already gone through two fighting positions and one other meditation pose but despite herself Buffy had chosen the most difficult one for last. Pushed up into a handstand on top of two wooden pieces was the hardest of her poses but something inside of her wanted to show off. It was that prideful reality that constantly fought with her serenity and balance as she struggled to keep the pose.
Her mind kept fighting itself as scenes played out and meshed into one another. Images of Angel melted into those of Riley and then for some reason into the very brunette who sketched her now. Trying to use the techniques Giles was teaching her she channeled the confusion down into her arms as she let the pictures flow out. Images of Willow with Oz and then in turn with Tara focused in on the two girls holding hands. Focused in our there hands, focused in on her hands holding a stake and then to her hand being taken by that of another. So many things flashed by her mind that focus became impossible and in a moment of panic she felt her arm slip sideways as she lost the position.
"Buffy!" Nicole's concentration on her drawing broke as she looked up over the paper to see the blonde toppling over. There was only a short distance between them and she leaned forward the best she could trying to stop Buffy's fall.
"Whoa!" Buffy felt all of her mind slam back into her body hard just in time to feel Nicole's hands reaching her and then her body hitting the hard floor. "Ouch." She spoke the one word weakly when her motion finally stopped.
"Are you okay?" Nicole scrambled up off the ground angry with herself for being unable to stop the blonde's freefall. She began brushing long blonde hair off Buffy's face trying to see if she was injured.
"Sorry, I lost focus." Buffy gave a brave smile as her vision cleared and was filled with Nicole's face. "I can get back into it in a minute or two."
"No way." Nicole shook her head violently as she checked the Slayer for injury. "Did you hurt yourself? I should have told you to take a break, it's all my fault. I'm so sorry."
"Nicole, I'm fine." Buffy smiled as she reached out to take Nicole's hands trying to still her movements. "Really I'm fine."
They locked eyes for a moment, holding each other's look as time seemed to slow and go faster all at the same time. Suddenly Nicole pulled her hands away and leaned back so that Buffy could get up.
"Sorry." Nicole apologized again as she scrambled up onto her feet.
"It's okay Nic." Buffy sat upright quickly to show she was fine as she cursed herself for ever causing the brunette so much worry. "You should have seen the smacks I took when I was first learning. This was nothing." She tried to ease the situation.
"I thought you'd hurt yourself." She tried to explain as she retreated and sat on the couch.
"I didn't." Buffy followed her feeling a slight twinge in her elbow where she'd slammed it into the floor but nothing on earth would get her to tell Nicole that now. "And even if I did, I have this uncanny ability to heal fast so no worries."
"Maybe we should take a break from the sketching and work on the project for a bit." Nicole smiled awkwardly at the blonde hoping her moment of weakness hadn't revealed anything.
'You've done it again.' Buffy's mind snapped at her as the Slayer's consciousness came to realize that she was no longer sitting up but was in a completely horizontal position on her stomach on Nicole's couch. The numbness in her arm as it hung off the edge of the sofa gave her a hint to the fact that she'd been that way for along time.
She kept her eyes closed and listened. Maybe if she was really lucky Nicole had fallen asleep too. Maybe at least she hadn't noticed but as her hearing tuned in to the now familiar sound of charcoal scratching Buffy knew she was caught.
"Am I allowed to move or is this to be entitled 'Died of Embarrassment 2'?" Buffy opened one eye slowly.
"Sorry?" Nicole looked up startled from the paper she worked on. "Of course you can move. It's just you looked so beautiful…" She rested the pad on her lap and smiled. "And peaceful."
"Please tell me I didn't snore." Buffy rolled over and sat up in one graceful movement.
"Only a little." Nicole laughed lightly. "And before you worry you've only been out a little while. Not even long enough for the pizza to get here, I was going to wake you when it came."
"If I keep falling asleep on you, you're going to start thinking I find you boring." Buffy reached forward for her lemonade needing something to drink but her own words made her stop. "Not that I do. Just…" She tried to dig herself out of the instant hole she'd made herself.
"I take it as a compliment." Nicole smiled at her again. "Means that you are comfortable around me." She too felt a sudden stiffness at her own words. "If that's okay."
"I think that's the perfect way to take it." Buffy smiled back. Somehow this girl who knew nothing about who or what she was had gotten one of the truest facts of Buffy's life right. Being the Slayer meant always being ready for trouble and that way of life usually meant not sleeping soundly but almost every time she was with Nicole, no matter where they were, she kept falling into the deepest sleeps.
"Must be the pizza." Nicole folded her pad closed as the doorbell rang and the sudden moment of silence between them was ended.
Buffy looked out up from the last of her allotment of reading and studied the beginnings of dusk. As always she was reminded of the stark dichotomy that existed in her life. She had spent the day as any other college student would, studying and eating pizza but tonight she would pick up a stake and hunt the creatures of the night.
'You live a weird life Buffy.' She laughed lightly at herself as she dragged the bright yellow highlighter across another interesting point in the article.
"Something funny in there?" Nicole looked up from her own reading with a neon green highlighter tapping against her lower lip.
"Oh no I was just thinking about…" She tried to find a cover for what she'd really been thinking. "How I really expected to be nervous about posing for you but it was really cool." She gave an honest smile.
"You're stunning Buffy, you should never be nervous about posing." Nicole met the Slayer's eyes for a moment before she looked away.
"I had clothes on, I can't imagine how much more nervous I would have been if I'd been…" Buffy eyes went wide as the thought sent a shot of steely cold all the way down to her toes that shot back up into her head as a fiery bolt. "Naked." The word came out of her slowly.
"It's not like being naked, naked." Nicole felt herself blush slightly. "When you pose for an artist they are admiring you with the most purest of intentions. It's the best parts of love, lust and worship all rolled up into one without of any of the messy stuff."
"Have you ever posed naked?" Buffy let the papers in her hand drop into her lap as she asked the question in a soft voice.
"I sat a few times for a friend." Nicole played with the highlighter. "And as you said I was so nervous but it was such a free feeling. Knowing that she was drawing me, not clothes I'd bought or a certain pose that was meant to show off my eyes or something equally fabricated. She was just drawing me, just me."
The artist's words seemed to hang in the air as the Slayer thought long and hard about them.
"Sounds very free." She whispered finally.
"Yeah, but don't take my word for it." Nicole pushed herself to the end of the couch cushion as she began to pile up papers. "I'm just a hopeless old romantic who finds the best side of everything."
"The world needs hopeless romantics." Buffy pushed herself to match the brunette's position on the end of the couch. "And you are a gorgeous hopeless romantic, so don't dare ever lose that."
"You say the nicest things." Nicole turned to the Slayer and smiled.
"Though I so hate to say this I have to go." Buffy glanced briefly to the ever-darkening sky before looking back to the brown eyes before her.
"I've already used up most of your Saturday." Nicole nodded as she finished the pile. "And we've gotten tones of work done so you deserve to go out and have some fun."
"Actually I have to work." Buffy looked away. She'd sewn these white lies to so many people in the past but for some reason continuously lying to Nicole was starting to bother her beyond belief. "What are you up too tonight?"
"Got that deadline." Nicole grinned. "I'll be finishing up your charcoal's long into the night."
"Don't wear yourself out." Buffy stood up and slung the strap of her bag over her head.
"You either." Nicole pushed herself up as well. "So I'll see you later then."
"Yeah, later." Buffy shuffled awkwardly as she passed her weight from one foot to the other before she headed for the door.
Buffy kicked the tumbling stone again as it came to rest in front of her. Tonight had to be the most boring night on Slayer record. She'd already been patrolling for three hours and she hadn't seen a single solitary vampire, demon or even any of the lesser creatures that often ran from her and were of no harm to anyone. Even a trip by Willy's Place had led to absolutely nothing of interest.
"You'd think something would show up to occupy your mind?" She threw the rhetorical question at a tree as she passed it. "Oh no not that." She felt the gait of her step slow a little as the picture of a certain brunette came into focus in her mind.
She'd been trying to deny it for days now, ever since that first night they'd unexpectedly met at the club. She deluded herself at first, on purpose, that the only reason she found the slim brown haired girl's company so wonderful was because they'd both just gone through a similar heartbreak.
'Come off it Buffy.' She laughed at herself as her mind slotted a long list of incriminating evidence against itself into place.
The most glaring piece of all had been her unexpected talk with Willow the night before. Whether or not the hacker had been asking a lot about Nicole lately as she'd said was irrelevant when she gauged her own reaction to the perception. Especially when the truth was that she'd been trying to do just the opposite lately. So many times in conversation she'd wanted to comment on something that Nicole had said, or that they'd done but she'd purposely stopped herself in fear that Willow or Tara would call her on it.
She'd never enjoyed psychology as much as she did now, knowing that the brunette would be holding her a seat as she had a class in the same hall right before that. Her notebook was filled with pages of their silent conversations scribbled between them as she tried to stay awake and Nicole tried not to be too bored with the professor's lecture.
'Got yourself in a tight spot now Slayer.'
Memories of her momentary breakdown the night before as she asked Willow the question that had been playing on her mind for ages made her face the large wall of evidence before her.
'Maybe you're just looking for something that isn't really there.' She tried to figure out some other explanation. Maybe she was just mixing up her feelings because she was heartbroken and lonely. 'She's funny, intelligent, great to be around, amusing, a talented artist and…' She felt her mind go to a place she hadn't expected it to as she spoke softly to herself as she walked. "She's absolutely beautiful and she makes you totally forget any pain that Riley ever caused you because…" Her words came slower. "She makes you happy."
Willow's words sounded out of her lips and made her stop walking as she wrapped her arms around herself.
"It really is a big leap Will." She shuffled over to a nearby bench and sat down.
A thousand questions went through her mind. She'd been shocked enough when Willow had revealed that she was in love with Tara, but now she was drowning in the her own shock as her body and mind responded to something she never expected to respond to.
"And let's be realistic Buffy…" An angrier part of her mind, the lonely and desperate part of her that she rarely tried to give voice to swelled up quickly. "Just because she's gay doesn't mean she even likes you."
"F-Fancy meeting you here." Tara shifted the heavy schoolbag on her shoulder a little as she meandered her way back from the library.
"Tara." Buffy looked up having been too engrossed in her own conversation to even hear the blonde Wiccan approaching.
"Tough patrol?" The shy girl sat down on the bench next to the Slayer trying to read the deep look of saddest Buffy's face.
"Not a single slay." Buffy shook her head trying to act a bit brighter but unable to even find the energy.
"Other things then?" Tara pushed slightly unable to bear the complete look of depression on the other blonde's face.
"I just don't know what to do, what I want, I don't know anything." Buffy leaned forward and put her head in her hands. "I'm not sure if this is really something I can talk about Tara."
"We can talk about something else then." The blonde tried not to push too much. "How did Nicole's sketching go?"
"It went really well, except for when I lost focus and fell out of a meditation position." Buffy sighed as she sat back. "That's sorta the problem."
"That you fell out of a meditation position?" Tara asked the simple question trying not to read anything into what the Slayer was saying until she had clear proof.
"No, all I did then was scare Nicole." Buffy laughed lightly as she thought of the brunette's petrified face looming over her. "More that things went really well. I fell asleep again."
"You and her are really getting along." Tara noted casually.
"We are." Buffy nodded feeling very overwhelmed as her mind struggled with wanting to say so many things but another part of her edited them all out in fear of saying something stupid. "Sorta one of those people you feel you've known all your life."
"I know what you mean. I felt that way about Willow when I first met her." The blonde smiled brightly.
"Tara, this might come across as the most ignorant and horrible thing I've ever said but please I just need to ask." Buffy stood up and motioned for Tara to stay sitting.
"Buffy, you can ask me anything." Tara folded her arms in her lap trying to prepare herself for any question. "And I know you'd never be horrible."
"Can you picture me dating another woman?" Buffy just blurted out the question quickly before she could stop herself. She stared down at her friend demanding a clear and honest answer.
"That's not mine to answer." Tara shook her head slowly knowing from the sudden falling look on Buffy's face that it was not the answer she wanted. "The only one who can really answer that is you."
"But what if I don't know the answer?" Buffy sat down again and sighed heavily.
"Well the first thing you have to remember is that just because you're asking yourself the question doesn't mean that the answer is yes." Tara turned towards the Slayer.
"But it doesn't mean that the answer is no either." Buffy shook her head. "Let me just say it then." The hard edge within her took hold. "I like Nicole and sometimes I think I like her more than one normally likes a friend."
"That's a perfectly okay way to feel Buffy." Tara reached out and rubbed her friend's shoulder. "How does it feel to say that?"
"The truth is it feels better." Buffy felt herself breath a little easier. "I've been wanting to talk about it with Willow, but every time I went to bring it up I just froze. I feel horrible for saying this…"
"But you don't want to have everyone thinking you're gay if you decide that you're not." Tara finished the sentence for her.
"Common fear is it?" Buffy looked at her unable to believe how their roles had changed. Being the Slayer she was used to being the girl with answers but here was shy and quiet Tara being able to answer her biggest questions.
"It's okay to be afraid." Tara smiled broadly at her. "And even though you might not think it, I'm sure that Nicole is even more scared then you are right now."
"Why would she be? I'm not even sure if she feels the same." Buffy shook her head not convinced.
"If she does like you Buffy, she's facing the knowledge that she has no chance with you." Tara filled in the obvious that Buffy was missing. "When I finally admitted I liked Willow it was torture, because as far as I knew she was as straight as they come."
"I never thought about that." Buffy admitted leaning forward to put her head in her hand again. "It's all such a mess. She doesn't even know about the whole Slayer thing."
"Maybe you need to decide first if you can trust her to tell her that and then figure out what else you want to happen from there." Tara tried to find an answer.
"Well if she freaks out it'll be a pretty good sign that things won't work out between us." Buffy laughed lightly at her predicament.
"But if she's able to understand and isn't abnormally freaked out about it maybe…" The blonde Wiccan left her statement open.
"Maybe." Buffy nodded. "And I thought being a Slayer was a confusing enough."
"I think its one of the bigger ones." Tara smiled. "Don't worry, you'll work it out." She was glad to see the Slayer finally smile back.
It had taken her ages to make this decision. She'd lapped the block around the red brick building three times before she finally took her courage in her hand and walked up to the second floor and knocked on the small wooden door. It was late she knew that but this was something she needed to do right away or else she might never convince herself to do it again.
"Buffy!" Nicole opened the door surprised. Her white v-neck shirt was covered in various smudges of charcoal, as where the cut off jean shorts she was wearing.
"Hi, I hope it's not too late to drop by." Buffy felt very shy suddenly.
"Of course not." The brunette stepped back out of the doorway and ushered the blonde in. "I was just working on the pictures."
"I can see." Buffy turned and pulled at a thick stain of black that trailed down the front of the shirt.
"I'm a messy artist." Nicole laughed and kept going into the living room. "Do you want a drink?"
"Actually Nic, I needed to talk to you about something and I really just need to blurt it out here before I think of all the horrible ways you're going to react to this and decide not too." Buffy walked her way carefully around the supplies that littered the room and leaned against the glass door to the patio.
"I'm listening." Nicole's face was blank and a little unsure as she waited for Buffy to continue.
"I know you're not from Sunnydale, but as you might have noticed a lot of really weird and unexplainable things happen here." Buffy decided to just start right in. "People go missing all the time, there's lots of scary stories floating around and you might have even run into some strange things yourself." She took a quick breath. "Well the truth is Sunnydale is built over a Hellmouth, which to put it simply is a gateway to hell." She looked anywhere but Nicole's face. "And well that means the whole town is a magnet for all kinds of big bad creatures that I'm sure you were warned about when you were children but never thought really existed. A lot of them are vampires and that's where I come in."
"You're the slayer." Nicole's voice broke through Buffy's rant softly.
"Yeah, I'm the Slayer and my job is to kill all the evil things so that everyone else is safe…" Buffy was about to keep going when she realized what had been said. "How did you know that?" She finally looked at Nicole thrown by the huge grin the girl was wearing.
"Buffy, I've known all along." Nicole shrugged her shoulders lightly. "Chris worked for the Initiative."
"What?" The Slayer couldn't keep the shock out of her voice.
"She was one of their communications experts, not a commando like Riley." The brunette felt herself cowering slightly under Buffy's stare. "She pointed you out to me one day when the whole thing broke up and explained what you did."
"Sorry, I'm still trying to get my head around the fact you've known all along." Buffy sat down in a chair by the door.
"You seemed to want to keep it too yourself and I learnt enough from being with Chris that it was better not to talk about stuff like that sometimes." Nicole bit her lip. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you."
"I'm not upset, I'm just…" Buffy couldn't quite put a grasp on what she was feeling. If Nicole had known all along then it put everything into a slightly different category.
"Buffy, it doesn't change who you are." Nicole stood up and walked over to where the blonde sat, kneeling down in front of her. "Because it's part of who you are. You are a brave and courageous woman who saves the world every night. I would have been able to tell you that even if I didn't know."
"It makes me a freak really." Buffy shook her head.
"No, let me show you." Nicole leaned across and plucked a large piece of paper from the table. "Look at her, really look at her." She held the drawing up for the Slayer to see. "She is not a freak, she is courage, she is bravery, and she is strength, love, passion and commitment."
Buffy didn't see anything at first except herself in a high kick pose. Her arms pulled tight to her body as her left leg extended up high in the air. As her eyes traced the lines of the piece she was drawn up to the brown eyes of the artist before her. As she studied them for a moment her gaze again drifted down to the picture and clearing herself of all of her usual worries and insecurities she tried to really see. As the carefully drawn lines and precise shading came together and for the first time she really saw herself.
"I want to pose for you." Buffy's voice shook as she spoke as she looked up again into warm chocolate eyes. "This is the Slayer, I want to pose for you."
"Buffy, I don't think that would be a good idea." For the first time it was Nicole's voice that wavered as she realized what it was that was being offered to her and her own feeling screamed that she couldn't betray the Slayer in this way. "I…"
"Nicole…" Buffy reached out and put her hands to the other woman's lightly blushed cheeks. "I've been afraid of this for so long but I'm not anymore. Please don't be afraid either."
"I not afraid of this." Nicole reached up to cover one of the hands on her face with her own. "I just don't want you to do anything you're not sure about. I would kill me if I hurt you Buffy."
"I want you to draw me Nic." Buffy rubbed her thumb down over the girl's cheek slowly and was amazed to see her eyes flutter close momentarily. "And I am prepared for the consequences of what I'm asking."
"Just remember we can stop anytime." Nicole's soft voice was reassuring. "My robes' on the back of the bathroom door. Why don't you put that on while I get things ready in here."
Buffy nodded mutely as she finally let her hands fall away and headed off towards the bathroom.
Buffy took one last look at herself in the mirror unable to believe just how confident she was feeling. Wrapped up now in only Nicole's long silky robe she didn't feel vulnerable or scared. She'd asked for this, created this moment and so far Nicole had responded in every way she needed. Taking a deep breath she strode out of the bathroom and back into the living room.
She smiled at the new scene that had magically created itself while she'd been in the bathroom. Most of the furniture had been moved to the sides of the room to make way for a blanketed area complete with pillows that she assumed would become her spot. Nearby a myriad of Nicole's supplies had been stacked up ready for easy retrieve. The room was now fully lit in the soft glow of candles that concentrated in and around where she would be sitting.
"It's my favorite light to work by." Nicole smiled shyly as she turned from her work to see the Slayer enter the room.
"It's beautiful." She nodded softly. "That all for me?"
"I couldn't have you uncomfortable now could I?" Nicole couldn't keep the smile from her face.
"How do we start this?" Buffy asked innocently as she moved over and knelt down on the blanket.
"Just like that." Nicole dropped silently down cross legged on the floor and picked up a soft dark pencil. "Always remember there's no rush Buffy, ever." She let her eyes roam over the Slayer's lean body as her hand began mapping out lines on the paper.
It had been a slow progression and though Buffy didn't know what time it was she really didn't care either. The growing pile of drawings beside Nicole gave her some indication it had been awhile. Things between them had melted into a silent rhythm. She'd simply change positions whenever she was uncomfortable and Nicole would fluidity pick up a new piece of paper and begin a new sketch.
She was on her side now, her hips and legs angled towards the floor as her upper body faced the artist. Nicole's robe was a memory that barely managed to hang on by the one edge that rested over her lower calf. Vaguely in her mind she registered that she was lying here completely naked but the most surprising fact was that it didn't make her nervous. Every second that Nicole's eyes traced over the curves and valleys of her body she watched those eyes. Watched how they saw every millimeter of her in its most basic form, listened to how she was being worshiped as the artist's hand moved quickly over the paper.
There had been several times when the silence had seemed to much for a moment and she had almost broken it but like the artist had anticipated her subject's need, Nicole had looked up and held her eye for a moment. Her chocolate gaze softly saying all that the Slayer needed to hear.
Knowing she'd been in this position for awhile, Buffy slowly shifted herself over onto her back and pulled the pile of pillows further under her head. She kept her arms up, as she bent one leg at the knee and turned her face back towards Nicole. As the artist abandoned her paper for another, Nicole looked up to appraise the Slayer's new position.
"You look…" Nicole's voice came in a whisper as her hands for the first time stayed idle.
"Your eyes have already told me everything." Buffy barely recognized the timbre of her own voice. "Why don't you take a break for a bit?" With a slight shake in her hand she reached out towards her artist. "Show me how good it can be to be free."
Nicole felt, more than consciously let, the drawing tools slip from her hand. When they came to a soft stop on the floor, she leaned forward and closed her hand around Buffy's.
Buffy felt her heart race a little as the woman's fingers touched her, and her mind couldn't deny the electricity in the touch. It was so easy all of a sudden, she realized as she pulled slightly urging Nicole closer.
Nicole moved towards the prone slayer slowly dropping onto her knees as she approached the naked young woman.
"Can I tell you now how beautiful you look?" She rested just short of the blonde.
Buffy licked her lips not sure if she was going to say something or if she was suddenly just completely unsure about whether or not she was ready to kiss her. Not that she was worried about kissing a woman. Just suddenly she wasn't sure if she was a good enough kisser.
"What?" Buffy asked distracted blinking heavy eyelids. "You can tell anything you want." She whispered softly when her mind caught up to the question.
"You are beautiful." Nicole stated, she lifted a charcoal stained hand and pushed it through Buffy's hair.
"I usually..." Buffy went to say something but her heart just wasn't in putting herself down, it couldn't be, not here after what they'd done. "Thank you." She settled on the simple words.
"Why is it so hard for you to believe?" Nicole tried to settle herself more comfortably on her knees as her hand instinctively cupped around Buffy's cheek, she had seen the brief look of doubt on the Slayer's face.
"Cause Nicole, I'm the slayer." Buffy tried to explain wanting so much to be able too but knowing maybe she never could.
"And the slayer can't be beautiful?" Nicole frowned shaking her head softly.
"The world doesn't want or need me to be beautiful, I'm just supposed to do my job." Buffy felt her mood threatening to change as she answered.
"You know I could teach you so much about beauty, about need, and want." Nicole drew her finger over the sculpted cheekbones leaving a light gray smudge of charcoal in her wake.
"I want you to teach me." Buffy felt the easy desire that the drawing session had kindled in her flare up again.
"Do you?" Nicole traced along Buffy's cheek her eyes following her fingers.
"Yes." Buffy answered her eyes fluttering closed under the touch.
"Well it would start with this." The artist leaned forward and placed her lips over her fingers that she rested on Buffy's lips. She softly moved her fingers down off the Slayer's mouth as she pressed her lips against them harder.
Buffy didn't move for a moment as her body slowly melted into the connection. When her mind did catch up to her speeding heart rate she leaned up to press harder.
Nicole felt the strength her model put into their kiss increase and couldn't help but inch forward, her hand, that still held Buffy's squeezed it slightly before pulling back breaking their kiss.
"That was..." Buffy felt the artist pull back and took a staggered breath. She just gave a goofy grin as she looked up at Nicole.
"Yes, it was wasn't it?" Nicole smiled back though her smile was more refined. "Oops, I got charcoal on your cheek, let me get a cloth." The artist glanced over her shoulder but did not actually move.
"I'm sure it's just a tiny bit." Buffy 's grin softened down.
"Well it doesn't mar your perfection in any way at all." Nick replied honestly and Buffy felt her face go a bright shade of red and she bit her lip slightly. "Would you rather I stopped going on about how amazing you are?"
"No, it's just..." Buffy contemplated for a moment. "You know when you know someone really means something and you can't argue with them cause it's how they feel and it's not a line?" She laughed lightly. "God now I'm babbling like Willow." Nicole sat back on her heals a little and watched Buffy for a moment as she struggled with her reply. "You look really beautiful too." Buffy added after watching the candlelight dance of Nicole's face for a moment.
The artist's smile spread across her face gradually, her chocolate eyes smiled in their own happiness.
"We're both kinda skirting round the thoughts and feelings that caused me to drop my best sketches yet, aren't we?" Nick tilted her head a little and moved her hand to rest on Buffy's naked shoulder.
"Sorry." Buffy apologized pulling herself up to sit so they were eye to eye, their hands still clasped together. "For skirting not for getting you to drop the sketches."
"For a slayer you apologize a lot." Nicole laughed softly.
"It's sorta new." Buffy realized as she admitted the fact. "I just don't want to do something wrong." She felt the admission slip out as well.
"There is no right or wrong Buffy," Nicole let her hand moved down Buffy's long pale arm.. "There's just passion and feeling and art." She pushed herself up a little on her knees pushing her body lightly against the Slayer's.
"There are definitely those things." Buffy shifted moving to press even closer, the feeling of her bare body against Nicole's clothed one made every nerve in her body tingle.
"Oh Buffy." Nicole moved her arm around the Slayer's naked body and pressed it openly on her mid back, drawing the Slayer closer still.
Buffy hesitated for just a second before she closed her eyes and kissed the brunette. Instantly she rewarded herself, for the amazing feeling it elicited made her head swim. She wound her free arm around Nicole in similar fashion. Tilting her head Nicole moved herself so that the kiss became both easier and more comfortable. She gently urged Buffy to make it deeper moving her flat hand up and down warm soft skin.
Without consideration the Slayer did just that, letting pressure and sensation give way to heat and wetness.
Their kiss lasted a long time, hands timidly exploring each other's backs, the others gripping and relaxing in rhythm. Slowly Buffy slipped her hand up under the edge of Nicole's shirt feeling the warm skin of her lower back.
Nicole closed her eyes, her head spinning slightly her heart pounding as Buffy's hands moved briefly at the edge of her shirt. A part of her wanted to rip it off, in very dramatic and artistic style, but another part of her needed to keep it on.
Buffy hand inched upwards, moving over the artist's bra strap inquisitively. It was a first for the Slayer and she reveled in the idea as it turned her already aroused body on further.
"Mmmmm." Nicole pressed herself against Buffy's body tightly, her hand slipping down to caress the smaller woman's bare backside. She was unable to cool the intense feelings of desire the Slayer's exploration under her shirt caused.
Buffy heard a slight moan slip out of her lips as she pressed her own hand higher trying to find a way to rid the material from the brunette's body.
"Oh Buffy you feel..." Nicole began, as she slid her hands down lower over warm silky thighs.
"Not half as nice as you." Buffy whispered back, as she ran her hand up and down the full length of the artist's back.
Nicole felt her very soul invaded by intense feeling as she breathed in the warm scented air in the room. She was about to lean in and kiss the Slayer again, with all the heavy want and desire she felt when she suddenly froze.
'What are you doing?' Her mind questioned spinning away from her body that arched as Buffy's hand trailed downwards. 'She shouldn't do this to Buffy.'
"Buffy." She coughed once and then cleared her throat again, letting her hand drop awkwardly to the Slayer's side.
"Nick?" Buffy felt the sudden tension in the body she held but it took her a moment to calm the feverish arousal inside her. "Nicole, what's wrong?" She asked softly.
"It's not so warm in here. Perhaps you should put my robe back on?" The artist moved back on her knees giving the Slayer a little room.
"What?" Buffy pulled her arms back to her, suddenly instantly feeling so exposed as she crossed them over her body. Slowly her hand snaked out and she pulled the light material up over her, not quite sure what had gone so wrong.
"Oh God I hope I didn't ruin the sketches." The artist glanced over her shoulder at the pages of her sketchbook strewn around the floor. She hurried over and began picking them up.
"I'm gonna get dressed." Buffy wrapped the robe tightly around her now frozen body and began to dart towards the bathroom, her mind full of panic and hurt.
"Yeah, okay." Nicole hated herself for agreeing for not explaining or stopping her
"Okay." The Slayer agreed with her own suggestion as she made it into the hallway and into the bathroom.
'Stupid, stupid, stupid.' She ranted at herself as she closed and locked the bathroom door and then shoved herself back into her own clothing. 'You are so stupid. What the hell did you think you were doing?' She pulled on her boots sitting down on the edge of the tub as she put them on. 'How are you going to face her?' She questioned looking at herself in the mirror for a second and coming face to face with the small charcoal stain on her cheek. 'You're so stupid.' She turned on the water and dampened the face cloth nearby before removing it.
"Okay so the plan is, out of the bathroom, out of the door." The coward in her thought up an attack strategy and she found the rest of her agreeing to it quickly.
As soon as the Slayer left Nicole dropped onto the floor dropping the sketches in a neat pile.
'What the hell have you done?' She cursed herself as she meticulously picked up her various charcoals and put them neatly away in their case.
'Talk to her.' She began to reason with herself. 'Explain.' She took a deep breath. 'Let her go, get her a cab and let her walk away, you've done enough.' The guilty part of her shouted loud and hard.
"It's late I should get going and let you get to sleep." Buffy had stood in the living room door for along time waiting for Nicole to notice her, though the artist seemed totally absorbed in putting away her supplies. She reached down and took her bag slinging it over her shoulder.
"Can't I get you a coffee? A soda?" Nicole kept her back turned and forced herself to put down her art case with a controlled move.
"No, no I'm not thirsty." Buffy answered looking towards the door. "I'll talk to you later okay?" She tacked on awkwardly.
"Buffy wait!" Nicole pushed up and turned around.
"Yeah?" The Slayer hesitated shifting her weight anxiously from hip to hip.
"You want to come round tomorrow, see what I've got?" She glanced at the pile of paper.
"Sure." Buffy forced herself to smile. She cursed herself again as she realized that she'd totally misread what was going on. This wasn't about her, this was about the art. That's all it was. "What time?" She added casually.
"Hey whenever you can fit me in, I'll be here all day, I like to wallow in what I've done." Nick almost laughed at the double meaning of her words.
"I'll try to swing by before patrol." The Slayer took a step back. "Get some sleep though, don't let the art keep you up all night." She tried to joke though she felt it fall lamely from her lips.
"Thanks Buffy, for everything." Nicole stood rather aimlessly in the room.
"Yeah, right back at ya." Buffy gave her a short tight smile and then turned finding the doorknob quickly she pushed herself out into the night.
Willow watched as Buffy, who had oddly enough shown up early on inventory day, slamming bottles of herbs around as she cleaned a shelf behind the counter. Casually she ran her feather duster over the line of books until she worked over to where Tara was unpacking supplies.
"I think something went wrong." She whispered dusting the same spot over and over.
"I think so." Tara leaned in close to agree.
"What do we do?" Willow whispered back.
"Well you could talk to her, find out what happened?" The blonde encouraged.
"She talks to you more." Willow jumped slightly as they heard the Slayer slam another bottle down and curse.
"She's your best friend Will, but in some ways about Nick, she has been rather… um talkative." Tara frowned quickly.
"That's what I mean, Hellmouth stuff I'm number one but girl stuff..." Willow smiled. "I'm the best friend most likely not to be talked too instead choosing to talk to my girlfriend."
"Does that mean 'Tara sweetie please talk to the Slayer'?" The blonde smiled with a twinkle in her eye.
"Tara sweetie..." The hacker grinned. "Please talk to Buffy before she breaks something."
"Anything for you." She reached over and kissed her cheek lightly.
Tara quietly padded across the shop, her soft-soled shoes hardly making a noise on the floor. It was strange but she suddenly wished she had put on her boots as normal, they made her feel more confident some how. As she approached the obviously antagonized Slayer the one thing she needed was confidence.
"Err, hey Buffy." Tara spoke while she was still a way back. "I think Mr. Giles would rather the chicken feet stay in the jar and that the jar remains intact." She pointed awkwardly to the jar that Buffy had recently slammed down.
"What? Oh yeah." Buffy looked at the jar a bit lost.
"Buffy, are you okay?" Tara frowned gently.
"Yeah, I mean where else could I be this morning other than doing free labor for Giles in his stupid shop?" Buffy slammed down another jar.
"Please Buffy, the jars." Tara reached out her hand trying to give her friend a sympathetic look. "What's wrong?" She added.
"Sorry." Buffy let go and sighed heavily. "Had a bit of a mix up last night." She looked over to make sure Willow was engaged with her cleaning and sorting.
"A mix up?" Tara moved a little closer.
"You know the whole what if thing we talked about last night?" Buffy waited for her to nod that she remembered. "Well let's just say it was a 'me if' thing and Nicole was just in it for the art."
"Just in it for the art?" Tara's frown became more pronounced.
"I did something really stupid Tara, cause I thought..." Buffy stopped and frowned. "It doesn't matter what I thought. Nicole was just being an artist, there was nothing real in any of it." She turned back to the jars picking one up softly.
"Buffy please." Tara pleaded and almost reached out to touch the Slayer's arm. "Are you saying that Nicole turned you down?"
"Considering I was naked and she was drawing me, I think turned down is the nice way of putting it." Buffy let her hand slip off the jar.
"I... I... I honestly don't know what to say." The shy witch sympathized.
"Don't say anything please, I feel stupid enough." Buffy shook her head, her eyes a little teary though she pushed it down. "It was just a getting over Riley thing, ya know?" She tried to make some sense of it. "No biggie."
"What was a getting over Riley thing?" Tara questioned not understanding.
"You are so sworn to secrecy." Buffy gave her a little look before saying anything else.
"Of course." Tara agreed willingly.
"We kissed." Buffy closed her eyes briefly feeling more than a little bit of embarrassment at her admittance, mostly cause the kiss had meant nothing. Here it was the big bad Slayer had kissed another woman, and it meant nothing.
"You kissed?" Tara's voice came out a surprised whisper.
"Yes." Buffy sighed. "But all part of want and need and art." She said the last word with contempt.
"She said that?" Tara's frown never cleared.
"Yep." Buffy shook her head laughing lightly. "Jokes on the straight girl." She turned back putting a bottle away gently.
Tara was about to question the Slayer as to whether or not she was sure that Nicole had not wanted more but there was hardly any point after all that kind of things wasn't exactly easy to confuse.
"It just..." Buffy was about to say more but she shook it off. "Where do the newt's eyes go?" She asked instead holding up the bottle.
"Right there. Just what?" Tara pushed softly.
"It doesn't matter." She shook her head.
"It does Buffy, what?"
"It was a nice kiss." Buffy gave her a sad smile and sighed. "But I guess that's better that what I usually get so, hey chalk up victory for the Slayer."
"Have you spoken to her?" Tara couldn't believe what Buffy was saying.
"God no." Buffy shook her head. "She said something last night about coming by to see the sketches but no way. I don't even want to see them."
"I'm sorry Buffy, really, I don't know what to say."
"Tara it's okay, it's not your fault." The Slayer gave her a brave smile. "Just how things go with me. You know that."
"Don't think that." Tara shook her head. "There's someone for you Buffy, I know it."
"Thanks Tara." Buffy smiled softly for the first time genuinely.
"Tara!" Nicole pulled open the door to her apartment surprised to see the blonde Wicca waiting behind it in the hallway.
"Nicole." Tara looked up through her hair
"Come in, it's a bit of a mess but..." She moved out of the door to let Tara in and Tara moved quietly through
"It's all right, I don't think I am going to be long." She said softly.
"Oh." Nicole closed the door and followed her in. "What's wrong?" She asked seeing Tara's unusual body language.
"To be honest?" The young witch turned and looked up at her. "You are." She decided to be blunt something that wasn't quite in her nature but in times when there were no other options she didn't have a choice.
"What?" The artist looked at her lost and a little hurt.
"What happened with Buffy?" Tara asked the question like she did indeed already know the answer.
"Oh God Tara I wish I knew." Nicole moved backwards and sat down putting her hands in her hair. "I screwed up I think."
"Screwed up?" Tara questioned, her initial anger just bubbling below the surface.
"What did she tell you?" Nicole questioned sadly.
"That you quite clearly stated that though she was 'nice' you saw her as a piece of art." Tara reiterated.
"What?" Nicole looked up again completely shocked. "No! That's so not what I thought."
"Isn't it?" Tara met the artist's shock with challenge.
"No, I was drawing her and then we stopped and then we were kissing and she was naked and I was..." She got out of the chair and paced slightly. "I didn't want her to think it was some one night thing ya know? Some oh let me draw you, now let me sleep with you. I wanted to wait, I wanted to take her to dinner, make her laugh, let her get comfortable with the fact that I really, really like her."
"And you did that by telling her she was good art?" Tara frowned.
"I told her she was beautiful, and desirable. I never called her art." Nicole shook her head. "Tara I don't normally kiss my models, in fact I have NEVER kissed one of my models. That's why I thought we should stop, and cause she needs to be sure. I don't want to rush her."
"Do you have any idea what Buffy was risking by kissing you?" Tara was suddenly annoyed beyond belief.
"Tara, I didn't want to hurt her." Nicole tried to argue softly.
"I think it's a bit late to worry about that." Tara took a little of the bite form her tone.
"I know she was risking a lot, I know she's never been with a girl before." Nicole sat back down her voice soft and hurt.
"Then why do it? Why let her make a fool of herself? Why throw all that trust in her face?" Tara dropped her anger completely and replaced it with genuine interest.
"Cause I don't sleep with people I really like on the first date. I don't sleep with anyone on the first date." Nicole gave a crooked smile. "Did you sleep with Willow right away?"
Tara remained silent for a moment and the dropped onto a chair with a soft laugh.
"No, we didn't sleep together for…" She paused. "Months." She admitted with a smile.
"I was trying to do what was right for her Tara, I didn't think she'd think I thought it was just a drawing session. God it was so much more than that, I mean you didn't see her she is so beautiful." Nicole sighed again. "And I so blew it."
"You need to talk to her Nicole." Tara looked up. "She's hurt and confused, but not lost to you."
"She's not going to drop by is she?" The artist checked naively. Tara shook her head honestly. "Any ideas where I can find her?" She asked hopeful.
"Willow managed to convince her into do some library work with her until patrol." Tara replied she glanced at her watch. "You may catch her there still."
"Tara, thanks for giving me a chance to explain." Nicole stood up moving over to put on her runners.
"Be careful, she's not as tough as she makes out." Tara warned softly.
"Thanks." Nicole nodded again grabbing a jacket and racing out.
"I'll lock up." Tara called after the retreating artist laughing at the fact that she'd abandoned her apartment without a care.
Nicole had stopped running by the time she reached the library, and the stern scowl she got from the librarian made her slow her fast walk to an ordinary one. She looked around the tall stacks trying to catch a glimpse of either Buffy or Willow. After a short search she caught sight of the dipped blonde head and began her approach pulling at her jacket nervously. She moved up to the table where Buffy was reading, checking that Willow wasn't around.
"Willow, I don't get this whole...." The Slayer looked up expecting the hacker but stopping short when she saw the artist.
"Buffy." Nicole said the simple word softly.
"Nicole." She repeated back in the same tone.
"Can we talk?" Nicole leaned forward and put her hands on the desk.
"Yeah, of course." Buffy closed the book putting her pen in to keep her place.
"We should go outside, I think I managed to upset her already." She motioned to the librarian who hovered close by.
"Let me leave Will a note." Buffy jotted down a quick 'be right back' to the hacker so she wouldn't worry and then stood up waiting for the artist to lead.
Nicole watched her avidly and then back away from the desk turning to move she took a few steps away to the entrance. Buffy moved behind her a reasonable distance smiling at the agitated librarian. She let Nicole open the door as they moved outside to the front steps.
"Buffy, I need to explain something..." Nicole stopped on the top step, before moving down a couple to the next small landing. Buffy wrapped her arms around herself and waited as she very slowly followed. "Something about last night." She struggled.
"Look it's okay, I understand." Buffy shook her head stepping up one step to retreat. "I hope the pictures were worth it."
"No Buffy you don't." Nicole reached out towards the Slayer. "The pictures…" She began. "The pictures are great, but only because they are of you." She dropped her voice low.
"If I look good it's your skill Nicole." Buffy answered stepping back down a bit.
"No it's not, Buffy." Nick made her voice calm and controlled. "You look good, because you are beautiful." She softened the toned looking up into Buffy's eyes.
"I'm sure you didn't run all the way over here to just tell me that." The Slayer found her own voice soft as well as she stared into deep brown eyes.
"No, I ran all the way over here because I wanted to explain what happened." She took a quick breath. "Buffy, I didn't want to be a classic art student, you know bad lines, and taking advantage of beautiful models. Not with you." She rubbed her hands on her pants. "Not that I ever do that." She corrected with a small blush.
"Hey I know no one, male or female, wants to date the slayer." Buffy shrugged digging the toe of her boot into the stone step.
"No, you see…" Nicole made a half step forward her hand reaching out towards Buffy's arm before it stopped. "You see that's where you're wrong. That's exactly what I want to do."
"What?" Buffy pushed the word out a bit surprised. All of her arguments, all of her well-planned reasons were killed with the girl's one statement.
"I want to date you Buffy, I wanna buy you flowers, and mochas, take you to the movies and hold your hand around campus." Nick began rambling. "I want to watch you resting, working and studying. I want to learn everything I can about you Buffy Summers."
"Are you asking me out Nicole?" Buffy asked her rather stupidly for clarification. Nicole chuckled softly and nodded.
"I guess I'm arty with my words to huh?" She shrugged softly and blinked her brown eyes
"But last night..." The Slayer motioned behind her as if to point out the past. "You weren't interested."
"Buffy last night I wanted you, I wanted to… God I wanted to." Nicole stopped and took a slightly self-conscious look around after all they were on campus in the middle of the day.
"And you didn't cause?" Buffy stepped a bit closer as she questioned and a group of students went up the stairs nearby.
"I didn't because, I realized what I wanted to do last night, I wanted to do with you not as a one off thing, and not when the time wasn't perfect. I didn't want you to wake up and regret anything." Nicole explained her actions.
"Did I come on too strong?" Buffy asked suddenly worried about something else completely. After all here was this gorgeous creature, groveling before her, telling her that though she'd wanted nothing better than to ravish the slayer silly, she'd drummed up enough control because she felt so much already. There had to be something wrong with her then, she started to figure.
"No Buffy no," Nicole moved closer and put her hand on Buffy's upper arm, stroking it lightly "Oh God this sounds stupid." She whispered almost angry with herself. "Buffy…" She cleared her throat a little as Buffy bit her bottom lip waiting for her to continue. "You wanna go to the Bronze with me, tonight?" She asked suddenly.
"I have to patrol but I can meet you afterwards." Buffy answered immediately, almost in a rush. "Say 10:30ish?"
"Perfect." The artist smiled broadly.
"Great." Buffy smiled back at her.
"I suppose I should let you get back, you know studying." Nicole took a step back and looked down the steps.
"Yeah, Will..."Buffy motioned to the building. "She's a worrier."
"Could I possibly..." Nicole began but stopped herself.
"Possibly?" Buffy questioned blinking a few times.
"Kiss your cheek or something?" Nicole nearly cringed at how lame she sounded. The Slayer blushed slightly and nodded. Swallowing quickly, wiping her instantly hot and clammy hands on her pants again Nicole leaned forward and pressed her lips against Buffy's cheek surprised at how chilled they were against her warm lips.
"I'll see you at the bronze." Buffy whispered.
"Ten thirty." Nicole whispered back.
Buffy waited till the artist had begun to pull back before she leaned forward pressing their lips together for the briefest second.
"Yeah, ten thirty." The Slayer grinned backing up the steps.
"See you then!" Nicole waved rather stupidly, grinning inanely she leaned back on the metal bar.
Buffy waved back before turning and basically floating inside. She barely noticed that the hacker was again studying at their table as she slipped into her seat looking a bit unfocused.
"Hey." Willow said tentatively.
"Hey. Buffy smiled and opened her book rather absently.
"Is everything okay?" Willow lifted her pen off her notepad.
"Yeah, it's great." Buffy picked up her pencil twirling it.
"Did I miss something?" The redhead asked frowning lightly.
"Isn't it funny how things can get so mixed up when really they are so perfect?" Buffy didn't really ask the hacker and as she realized what she was doing she shook her head. "Sorry Willow, spacey Buff." She grinned.
"Kinda noticed." Willow admitted. "Does a best friend get an explanation?"
"I have a date tonight." The Slayer smiled shyly.
"Oh a date!" Willow flicked her book closed and gave her best friend full attention. "Who, who?"
"Didn't Tara tell you?" Buffy looked at her best friend a bit surprised.
"Tara knows about your date? What is this arrange things without Willow day?" Willow put on a mock pout.
"Will..." Buffy closed her book again and shifted in her seat, she then leaned forward her voice low to hide her words from the other library patrons. "It's with Nicole."
"Nicole the cute artist?" Willow squeaked happy and surprised.
"Yes, Nicole the very cute artist." Buffy grinned. "Are you freaked out?" She asked suddenly worried.
"No." She coughed and lowered the note of her voice. "No, it's just from the magic shop this morning I thought, well I guessed that things hadn't gone well. And then with Tara just up and leaving me to go I'm not sure where…"
"Oh God Willow, it was such a mess." Buffy sighed." I thought she didn't like me, but really its cause she didn't want to be all one night stand-ish."
"So something happened?" Willow leaned forward again.
"We kissed." Buffy tilted her head slightly as she made the admission.
"Kiss kissed?" Willow asked for definition.
"Yes, kiss kissed." Buffy looked down into her book with a laugh. "And I was naked."
"Naked!" Willow's word was a shocked whisper.
"For a drawing." Buffy filled in quickly. "She was sketching me, that's all... then well we kissed."
"Do I want to hear the details?" Willow checked with a slight blush. "I mean I do but am I being all like Xander wanting to know too much?"
"No." Buffy shook her head. "She was telling me how free it felt to pose, and we worked up to it... the naked bit that is." She smiled. "Then we kissed and then it went horribly wrong cause she pulled back and I thought it was cause she didn't like me."
"But she does like you?" Willow felt a bit confused, she just couldn't picture Buffy poising nude for anyone.
"She said she didn't want it to be all 'oh pose for me, wham bam thank you Buffy'." She tried to explain. "She wants to buy me flowers and mochas and go on dates and stuff." She stopped. "Like a real relationship." She froze for a moment. "Willow, I'm the slayer, I can't have a real relationship."
"Hold on Buffy." Willow frowned, as her best friend seemed to veer off her happy ride.
"But look at the evidence..." She scowled more. "I've dated a three hundred year old vampire, an super vitamin rich army commando and a guy I swear had hypnotic go to be with powers. What kinda record is that?"
"A mixed one?" Willow tried helpfully.
"It's horrible." Buffy put her head down on her book.
"Well you're still young." The redhead's words sounded painful to her own ears.
"I should just give up, join a nunnery or something." Buffy shook her head.
"Oh you're both still here." Tara's almost disappointed voice suddenly rang in both the hacker's and the Slayer's ears.
"Yes, still here. Pathetic slayer who can't hope to have a real relationship." Buffy didn't raise her forehead from the cover of her American history book.
"But I thought Nicole was coming here?" Tara frowned ever more as she looked between the two other women.
"She was here." Willow filled in. "They have a date tonight." She frowned.
"Oh okay." Tara leaned on her back foot still frowning. "But then why?" She mentioned to the forlorn Slayer.
"Cause she's worried with all the past not so great relationship evidence that her and Nicole are doomed." Willow kept frowning and the Slayer sighed. "I tried to tell her she was young when she dated Angel, I mean he was all broody and handsome what girl could resist? Even if he did try to kill us all and went mental." She stopped.
Tara's facial expression didn't change so much as grew more confused and worried.
"And Riley hey he wasn't undead, he was a great guy, well accept for the whole initiative thing and the tampering with his chemistry and the half man half machine guy." Willow looked at her girlfriend. "Oh and the guy who hypnotized her into sleeping with him, but I tell you I gave him a good tongue lashing I did." She nodded thinking back to cave Buffy night.
"Er not wanting to s-s-sound out against what you're saying Will." Tara smiled lovingly at Willow and then bravely at Buffy.
"Sound away Tara." Buffy moved her chin up into her hands. "How much worse could it get? At least I didn't date the judge."
"Or Spike." Willow threw in hopefully.
"I-I-I thought I was a half demon, and I-I still found Willow." Tara slid her hand under the table and found Willow's fingers to intertwine them.
"Yeah but you two are special, I mean even dumb slayer me can see that." Buffy smiled a little at them. "All lucky in love, face the brave new world, rage against the dying of the light kinda special."
"I-I-I don't think it matters much who you are Buffy. It has nothing to do with luck either, it's all to do with that other word, love." Tara pointed out softly.
"I'm meeting her at the Bronze tonight." The Slayer looked at the blonde.
"Then focus on that, I-I might not know a lot Buffy but I do know that Nicole isn't Angel or Riley." Tara pointed out gently. "I think she deserves a chance at least."
"You promise she's just Canadian?" Buffy smiled. "Not some long lost snake goddess or demon from the third hell dimension?"
"Probably 100% maple syrup underneath." Willow grinned and put in the idea.
"That I can handle, I do pancakes." Buffy grinned back a bit more upbeat.
For the thousandth time Buffy brushed down the patterned heavy skirt she wore. A tall pair of dark brown calf boots and a frilly open necked shirt smartly complimented it. She'd bailed a bit early out of patrol to meet Tara and Willow for a wardrobe consultation and after much fanfare they'd all agreed this was perfect. Trying not to feel like everyone in the bar was watching her she walked slowly through the crowd looking for the artist.
Finally as the crowd shifted she spotted the tall brunette sitting on a stool near a tiny table looking very nervous.
'Just as nervous as I feel by the looks of it.' Buffy decided as she appraised Nicole's outfit. The artist was in a pair of flared cords. Shiny laced boots peaking out from under the low hem. A small fluffy navy thermal vest sat over a long sleeved black shirt, which was spattered in the front with a sparkly shooting star. Buffy fluffed out the cuffs of her shirt before making a confident beeline to the table.
"Hi." She announced as she got close and the artist looked up at her.
"Buffy." Nicole said somewhat pointlessly after all who else had she been waiting for. She pushed herself off her stool and stood awkwardly with her hands by her sides.
"Nicole." Buffy said her name back smiling, as she looked the artist up and down again. "You look really nice."
"You too, really nice, I mean is this so you attract the vampires?" She laughed softly cursing herself for initially thinking the slayer had dressed up for her.
"I could never slay in this skirt." The Slayer pointed out practically. "I changed silly." She eased and playfully swatted the brunette's arm.
"Oh yes, of course." Nicole shook her head feeling even more stupid.
"Is this how you wander around normally?" Buffy's hand almost went to reach for the sparkles that ran across her chest but she pulled herself back.
"No, it'd get all chalky and messy you know." The artist moved her hand back and forth aimlessly as she spoke.
"Are you waiting for like the host of blind date to jump out and ask us how it's going so far?" Buffy grinned at their collective nervousness.
"You want to sit? Can I get you a drink?" Nicole laughed and nodded.
"A drink would be great." Buffy pushed up to sit in the other stool.
"Coke? Beer?" Nicole looked for directions.
"Coke." The slayer nodded.
Nicole nodded and hurried off to return moments later with two cokes. She put them on the small table and pushed herself up onto the free stool.
"So was tonight okay patrol wise?" Nicole began smiling gently.
"Very." Buffy nodded. "Two vampires less in Sunnydale."
"Makes a girl feel safer." The brunette noted.
"Don't worry I would never let anything hurt you." Buffy said seriously.
Nicole leaned in and held one of the glasses towards Buffy. Buffy nodded her thanks as she took it and had a sip.
"So you like to dance?" Nicole nodded toward the throng.
"I do." Buffy smiled. "Do you?"
"Yeah, I mean I'm not like worlds best dancer or anything." Nicole shrugged gently. "But I can feel a good rhythm."
"Oh that's disappointing, Tara told me you were a world class dancer." Buffy grinned.
"I'll have to do something about that snitching witch." Nicole laughed.
"Well you don't want to piss the witches off cause she'll put a spell on you." Buffy laughed and wiggled her fingers at the brunette.
"You know I find it very hard to be frightened by the thought of a Tara spell."
"I think unless you did something to hurt Willow then you wouldn't have to worry about anything more than a extra chocolate chip cookie spell." Buffy smiled.
"So when you say you like to dance, does that mean you wanna dance now?" Nicole asked shyly looking down to the table.
"Sure." Buffy stood up.
"Great." Nicole slid off her own stool.
"Lead on." Buffy held out her hand.
"Oh yeah, okay." Nicole nodded and moved through the crowd Buffy stood there for a moment with her hand limply in the air before just following her onto the dance floor.
"I didn't even think to ask if you liked the song." Nicole apologized over the heavy bass beat as she moved into an easy movement with the song keep her distance from the blonde but watching her every move.
"No, no it's lovely." Buffy moved a bit closer tying to hear.
"I don't suppose you get much free time to enjoy this kind of thing." The artist continued trying to talk over the song though she wasn't sure why.
"I try to do it as much as I can." Buffy admitted. "Do you?"
"Well you know Chris wasn't into 'the scene' too much." She grimaced the moment she mentioned her ex's name.
"Too bad..." Buffy smiled. "You're a great dancer."
"You too, I mean you look great dancing, the way you move." Nicole found herself staring and concentrating less on her own movements that became little more than a sway.
"What?" Buffy was only catching bits and pieces of the girl's words and moved even closer.
"I said I love the way you move." Nicole leaned in and spoke closer to Buffy's ear. "When you're dancing." She added hurriedly.
"I love the way you move too." The Slayer shivered as she felt the brunette's breath on her neck.
"I..." Nicole said loudly when suddenly the song changed to a slower quieter number, the artist blushed slightly at starting so loudly and she lower her voice before continuing. "I could watch you move forever."
"That would be nice." Buffy nodded shivering slightly, noting the change in music herself.
"I…" Nicole began again as she moved so close to Buffy that her hand grazed against the Slayer's side as she moved to the soft rhythm. "I'm glad you came."
"So am I." Buffy slid a bit closer to her.
Nicole was about to slide her hand forward to rest on Buffy's hip, when she reminded herself of where they were and who she was with. Her mind also quickly reminded her that this was their first date and she was a girl she wasn't sure Buffy was ready to be seen dancing 'with' another woman just yet.
"W-what?" Nicole blinked at the blonde.
Buffy put her hand over the one in the air holding it as they swayed slightly to the music.
She must have heard the song a thousand or more times and never paid much attention to it before, but right here and now in the low lights with the slow bass and solo electric guitar literally surrounding her body and mind with Buffy standing so close to her that she would have sworn she could feel the blonde's heart beating, Nicole actually listened to the words.
"And brushes her long blond hair, and then she asked me do I look alright and I say yes, you look wonderful tonight." Mr. Clapton sung, his mellow tones expressing Nicole's very thoughts.
Without thinking Nicole stepped even closer and moved her other hand to rest on Buffy's hip.
Buffy closed her eyes as with the sound of the soft music they melted together more. The rest of the bar seemed to melt away. Her arms went up as she loosely held the brunette's neck.
Nicole truly believed at that moment there was a heaven, and some how she had stumbled right in through the door as she slipped both hands fully round the Slayer's back linking her hand to her own wrist as she encircle the slim frame easily bringing her head to rest against the side of soft blonde hair. Buffy felt every tired muscle, every nervous feeling inside her relaxed as she felt the artist's arms go around her. Without persuasion or force Nicole led the to of them in a slow gentle rocking circle as the songs melody continued.
Nicole didn't know who to thank more, the DJ or the romantic sap that had requested the songs as Eric Clapton melted into Sarah Mclachlan's version of Unchained Melody.
"You know I think your amazing Buffy." Nicole whispered into soft blonde.
"You know when you say it, I believe it could be true." Buffy whispered back nestling in a bit closer.
"You should." Nicole gave a gentle squeeze.
"Keep telling me and I'll try." The Slayer commented softly.
"Hey, hey what's this? Red's tendencies rubbed off on you Slayer!" Spike's condescending voice cut through the songstress' voice. "Got yourself a hottie to try have you?"
Nicole instantly stopped their gentle sway but didn't release her grip as Buffy's body immediately went stiff.
"Spike, unless you want to end your pathetic undead life I suggest you leave now." Buffy didn't turn. "I'm sorry." She apologized to her date.
"Hey I'm not saying I blame you, but isn't Red gonna feel its all a bit of a 'if you can be gay I can be gay' thing?" The vampire glowed with boastful arrogance.
Buffy pulled back looking in brown eyes for a moment before slowly turning. Nicole eased her grip effective releasing the Slayer from her arms.
"Shut up or I'm going to use you to clean the dance floor." She glared at him standing protectively in front of Nicole.
"Oh touchy slayer." Spike gave a little jump and held up his fists in a mock battle pose. "You know you'd never do it." He jeered.
"Come on Nicole, he's harmless." She took a deep breath and then reached back grabbing her date's hand and leading her away.
"Oh yeah that's right walk away from me!" Spike called perusing the two of them as they left the dance floor. "She's no Agent Finn Slayer." The peroxide vamp looked Nicole up and down slowly.
"Again I am so sorry." Buffy stopped again and Nicole shook her head though the whole scene made her feel more than uneasy.
Buffy smiled at Nicole before she hiked her skirt up a little and turned hitting Spike firmly in the head with a spin kick which sent him down.
"Ow! Well that was uncalled for." Spike leaned heavily up on one knee raising his hand to pat at the trail of blood from his lip, which had split from the sharp heel.
"Unless you have something nice to say then don't even dare to open your mouth." Buffy barked at him. "This is my date, I won't have you or anyone comparing her to anything. Got me?"
"Okay got the message." He pushed up off the floor and held up his hands in mock surrender. "Though I was wondering you know later, can I sneak by and watch?"
Nicole groaned and lowered her head, flushing deep crimson. Buffy raised her fist to him almost ready to strike.
"I'll take that as a no." Spike backed off a little. "Hey hottie, don't place bets on this date, you haven't got what Buffy needs." He called before disappearing into the crowd.
Nicole said nothing she merely kept her head down.
"I'm sorry." Buffy turned feeling huge amounts of tension in her shoulders. When she saw the brunette's head down she frowned.
"No, no it's okay." Nicole didn't move apart from shaking her brown locks.
"He's just a bastard vampire." Buffy moved closer and slowly put her hand on Nicole's cheek to guide her face up.
"Hostile-17 I believe." Nicole let her head be guided but didn't make eye contact.
"Hostile, bitchy premenstrual 17." She tried to joke. "Nic, what he said isn't true." She added softly.
"Which bit?" The Canadian asked sadly.
"First off I'll never let him so much as watch us hold hands." Buffy tried to get her to hold eye contact. "Secondly I am not copying Willow, or trying out a hottie, even though you are very hot, for the record." She stroked her finger down Nicole's cheek. "And thirdly, Spike doesn't know a damn thing about what I need."
"We have lectures in the morning, I should get you home." Nicole looked up past Buffy to their coats and drinks.
"Okay." Buffy conceded with a sigh.
Buffy kept her arms around her body as they slowly made their way down the sidewalk. They hadn't said much since the bar. Spike's had put a damper on the evening to say the least. Buffy rethought every word, every action she'd taken and hated the peroxide vampire more. She made a vague plan in her head to go beat the crap out of him near the dawn just to make herself feel a bit better.
"So, do you think you will come round and see the sketches, I think I have chosen the one I am going to work into a finished piece." Nicole said as they walked keeping her eyes on the sidewalk dead ahead of her.
"Yeah, of course." Buffy nodded and then suddenly drew her feet to a stop. "Okay, this is when the date-o-meter comes up and Spike's interlude makes it go to what a three or a two?" She tried to get Nicole to say something. Nicole stopped instantly hearing Buffy's footsteps end.
"Date-o-meter?" Nicole frowned her eyes barely leaving the tarmac.
"There's this show, friend's set you up on dates and then they follow you around with camera's and tape you." The Slayer explained.
"Guess I must have missed it." Nicole admitted with a shrug.
"Nic, I'm sorry." Buffy's voice was sad. "He's undead, he's got bad timing... I mean it was so nice dancing."
"Yeah the dancing was very nice." A small smile crept onto the artist's face.
"So..." Buffy smiled and took a slight step closer. "Do I look alright?" She remembered the words of the song.
"You look wonderful Buffy." Nicole looked Buffy up and down fully and then eased her fingertips into the hair at the Slayer's temple pushing back through it gently loosing herself momentarily in the Slayer's eyes.
"Can I be pushy already and say I like it a lot better when you look at me?" Buffy leaned into her hand.
"Of course you can." Nicole smiled. "I like looking at you better than the sidewalk to."
"You okay?" Buffy reached out taking her other hand. The artist nodded though not with 100% conviction.
"Are you?" She queried.
"Come on now, I know when I'm only getting 76% of a nod." Buffy rubbing her fingers over the back of Nicole's hand as the artist shrugged. "Please Nic." Buffy pushed softly.
"It's nothing." Nicole shook it off. "I guess I shouldn't let badly dyed vampires get to me."
"How did he get to you?" Buffy's voice was soft and she reached up tracing the brunette's chin.
"Nothing. It's a bit chilly to just be stood Buffy, we should get you back." Nicole didn't flinch away from Buffy's touch but she didn't lean into it either
"Please, talk to me. We had enough of a screw up last night when we didn't talk things out." Buffy moved even closer.
"Got to me as in he's right, I'm no Riley." Nicole whispered.
"No, you're not." Buffy agreed. "But I'm not with Riley anymore and the one thing you have proved to me is that I don't want to be with him anymore." She stopped her hand holding brown eyes. "I'm trying to make a start with you."
"Buffy I..." Nicole started and then breathed deeply. "Can I buy you coffee tomorrow?" She finished with a smile.
"Only if I can buy you a muffin." Buffy smiled back.
"Only if they have blueberry." Nic teased.
"Blueberry for my blueberry." Buffy smiled and then licked her lips as she realized what she'd said.
"What?" Nicole screwed her nose up and looked at the Slayer.
"Blueberry muffin for my big blueberry artist." Buffy repeated and laughed at the face she was getting.
"Did someone forget to tell me that you go slightly crazy after eleven?" Nicole wound her fingers around Buffy's hand laughing.
"You should blame the crazy blonde witch." Buffy grinned wildly.
"Why?" The Canadian just watched Buffy's face with pleasure.
"For not telling you I get slightly crazy after eleven." Buffy kept grinning. "You should see me after twelve."
"Now I'm getting just a little scared!" Nick laughed louder. "Come on you lets get you home."
"Yeah lets go." Buffy held her hand tightly and started down the street.
Willow picked up her full steaming frothy mocha and blew over the creamy colored chocolate sprinkled foam and then looked over at her best friend who was busy demolishing a blueberry muffin.
"I didn't know you liked them." She nodded looking at the partially eaten cake.
"I didn't, but Nic loves them and she's always having one when we meet for breakfast so I..." Buffy smiled. "Sorta acquired the taste."
"Oh I see, and how many breakfasts have you met for now, I've lost track." The hacker admitted smiling broadly at the Slayer's admission.
"I don't count." Buffy's smile softened as she chewed on a piece of muffin. "Okay so twelve in the last two weeks." She grinned.
"Oh this is so exciting." Willow enthused she reached out and patted Buffy's hand. "So it's going well?" She asked, her eyes sparkling.
"Nicole and I were thinking, the four of us should go out for a movie or something. That new Sandra Bullock flick is opening on Friday." Buffy nodded to her best friend.
"A double date, wow, a double date with my best friend and her girlfriend, wow, I mean could things be any better than this?" Willow beamed.
"Will, can I ask you a question?" Buffy began slowly turning her spoon over and over in her mocha.
"You know apart from maybe studying as a foursome, or you know sorting out some new organizational rotation for the shop…" She rambled on.
"Willow, Will!" Buffy reached over to run a hand past the hacker's gaze.
"What? Oh yes sorry Buffy." Willow gave her best friend an apologetic smile.
"We're not quite you and Tara level yet. That's sorta what I wanted to talk to you about. If you can focus long enough before you have us having a double wedding." Buffy laughed.
"Oh Goddess a double hand fasting." The redhead's eyes glazed over.
"WILLOW!" Buffy laughed and kept stirring. "You'd think you'd been planning this me and a girl thing for ages." She laughed softly.
"OH no Buffy, I don't think about your sexuality. I mean that would be wrong wouldn't it? I mean I did, that is, I didn't you know when you were going out with Riley it was a bit hard not to think about, you know, with the two of you kinda." Willow babbled going brighter red by the second.
"Will, I get the picture." The Slayer smiled.
"Okay so back to best friend dilemma, what can I do to help?" Willow smiled happily and gave her best helping face to Buffy.
"Okay, so, well... you know." Buffy stammered trying to find a way to begin.
"I know?" Willow frowned taking a sip of mocha.
"You and Tara, I know I didn't always know and…" She briefly looked up at Willow. "And I'm sorry about being stupid at first, ya know, but like..." She took a worried bite of her muffin.
"You want to come out to Giles? And Xander?" Willow quizzed.
"No, God no I haven't even thought of that." Buffy's eyes when wide and worried. "It was more the sex bit." Her words were almost silent. Willow nearly sprayed the Slayer with mocha foam "I'll shut up now, pretend I didn't ask." Buffy looked down in her drink as the hacker reacted.
"No, no Buffy I'm sorry." Willow started shaking her head and spluttering a little. "No, it's perfectly okay to ask about, well you know, that."
"It's more like a lack of that." Buffy admitted. "I mean is a lack of that normal at first? Did you and Tara have a lack of that?"
"Well yeah, for a while Tara and I didn't, that. And then we did, and after we had, well you know, we really liked, that." Willow blustered.
"Well Tara had had that before you right?" Buffy questioned softly and carefully. "And you hadn't had that kind of that, so did you start the that or did she?" She realized how stupid the question seemed.
"Well I had had that, but not with, well not with someone like Tara, I mean Oz and I, well had that." Willow's face was nearly as red as her hair.
"No I know you and Oz had that, I mean I've had that with Riley and Angel like you said." Buffy cut in turning pink herself. "But with Tara, the whole that thing, with you never having had Tara type that."
"Oh I wanted that with Tara, like really early." Willow stated looking up nodding a bit.
"But?" Buffy leaned forward.
"But I didn't know you know." She stumbled a bit and looked back down into her drink.
"Know how to go about it?" Buffy filled in taking a sip of her own.
"Know more if Tara wanted that." Willow replied awkwardly. "I was, well and she's so…"
"Oh. And how did you find out if she did?" Buffy pushed.
"Well I didn't that is I wanted you know to do lots of pre-checks, you know an assessment of the situation." The hacker explained.
"What kind of pre-checks?" Buffy questioned.
"I had a list of them, in colored pens." Willow smiled.
"Willow, it's been three great weeks and…" The Slayer tried to explain.
"And you want that?" Willow offered looking down.
"Am I wrong to want that?" Buffy bit her lip. "I mean what we have now is great, I mean wonderful, but ya know."
"Oh no, no, no way, it's not wrong to want that." Willow shook her head determined. "That is a very wonderful and important thing."
"So what pre-checks?" Buffy questioned going back to the hacker's comments. "To make sure she wants that."
"I thought you two were having a quick mocha and then going to the library." A new voice cut in and Willow looked up to see the unmistakable figure of her girlfriend moving over towards them.
"We were, see mocha." Buffy picked up her drink looking incredibly guilty. "Just a mocha eh Will? Innocent mocha between best friends."
"Very mocha, very innocent." Willow nodded.
"Avoiding study is what it looks like." The blonde witch smiled and slid into the booth beside her girlfriend.
"You caught us." Buffy smiled as she sat down.
"So what are you to chatting about?" Tara asked stealing a sip of Willow's mocha as she looked between the two of them and watched them both freeze. "Oh is it a secret?" She asked when neither replied.
"No, of course not." Buffy shook her head awkwardly.
"H-h-have I interrupted something?" She suddenly stammered, her age old uncertainty kicked in even after Buffy's words.
"Couldn't have a secret from you, could we Willow? We were just talking about Nicole and I." She added hastily when Tara stuttered.
"No, no secrets baby." Willow slipped her hand over to cover Tara's
"Just discussing how the four of us should go to that new movie on Friday." Buffy filled in.
"Sandra Bullock." Willow emphasized.
"That's the one." Buffy smiled. "A good wholesome night of Sandra Bullock fighting crime."
"I think that's a lovely idea." Tara agreed still glancing between the pair not certain that she still wasn't missing something.
"Do you want a mocha?" Buffy asked suddenly. "I know you and Will like to share, but I could get you one and you could share both of them?"
"I can get one." Tara replied with a shrug.
"No, no, let me." Buffy darted out of the booth. "I want to get another muffin."
"Hi love." Willow waited a few awkward seconds before she leaned over and kissed the blonde's cheek.
"So what did I interrupt?" Tara asked softly.
"Buffy was asking..." Willow gulped and looked over to make sure the Slayer was far away in the line-up for coffee. "About snugglies."
"Snugglies?" Tara leaned in a little closer.
"You know..." Willow put an arm around her back. "Special snugglies."
"Buffy was asking you about our snugglies?" There was an element of shock and almost horror to Tara's voice.
"Not really our snugglies, just snugglies in general." Willow shook her head to the worry. "How long before snugglies, who should start the snugglies? I think there is a lack of Buffy and Nicole snugglies." She smiled sadly.
"Oh I see." Tara replied. "Buffy wants to make love to Nicole." She stated simply.
"Yeah." Willow coughed turning red.
"And did you tell her how perfect and wonderful and great it is, and that she should just move with the feeling one of these nights? Just like you did." The blonde continued.
"Um not so much." Willow put her head on the blonde's shoulder. "We sorta didn't get much said." She looked up into blue eyes, playing her fingers over the blonde's leg. "Maybe you should talk to her." She smiled.
"Me?" Tara smiled. "Of course I don't mind."
"You're so much better at this stuff, I just go red and get all tongue tied and we end up calling it 'that' for twenty minutes." She tried to explain, still rubbing her lover's leg.
"That?" Tara chuckled though she tried not to.
"It was so horrible." Willow snuggled in further.
"Why don't you go off to the bathroom when Buffy gets back and I'll see what I can do." Tara promised kissing soft red hair.
"I love you." Willow grinned up at her brightly.
"I know you do." Tara replied happily.
"I got you some of those chocolate biscuit things you like too." Buffy returned depositing the cup and plate on the table.
"Ooh lovely." Tara nodded her thanks.
"I'll be back in a minute." Willow smiled and slipped out of the booth. "Little girls room." She explained to the Slayer's look of confusion.
"The price of mochas." Tara smiled at Buffy.
"Totally, it's worse if you forget to go before a three hour lecture." She laughed.
"So Willow tells me that you and Nicole are doing well." Tara's voice was soft and even as she took a biscuit.
"Oh yeah, I think we're doing great." Buffy grinned happily.
"That's great." The blonde nodded. "No problems at all?" She pushed gently.
"Willow told you didn't she?" Buffy deflated slightly.
"She did, and Buffy before you panic or worry, I think that making love is a beautiful way of saying you love someone. There's nothing to be embarrassed, or worried about." She soothed munching on her biscuit.
"What if there is a lack of?" Buffy questioned relaxing a bit simply because of the often nervous witch's seemingly relaxed stance.
"Well if there's a lack of it, and you feel there shouldn't be, then introduce the idea of it." Tara replied softly. "Buffy making love isn't something you plan, work out and then execute. Its spontaneous, fun and above all mutual." She looked at the Slayer.
"I'm going about this too slayer like aren't I?" The blonde sighed.
"You are, I'm not sure whether me telling you this will help or not, but Willow and I first made love, the night Oz left." Tara explained.
"You did?" Buffy tried not to look too shocked. "But... you guys had been... well I thought together for ages."
"Yes, its wasn't planned, it certainly wasn't expected and we had been together a while. But it was the right time Buffy and though we possibly could have made love earlier, it was the right time to make it then." She continued.
"So right time, check." Buffy nodded. "Did the fact that Will had only been with Oz make it harder?"
"No Buffy." Tara smiled more and shook her head. "Your brain might not know what to do but your body and heart will."
"I just so don't want to screw this up." Buffy explained smiling back.
"I know from Nicole the one thing she doesn't want to do it rush you" Tara said helpfully.
"What else did she say?" Buffy pushed lightly.
"That she thinks you re the most beautiful woman she has ever seen, that you make her feel like a Goddess just by holding her hand. In fact Buffy it's quite overpowering listening to her sometimes!" She grinned.
"Are you making fun of me?" Buffy asked worried before she contemplated what the blonde was saying. "Overpowering how?" She tacked on thrown by the phrasing.
"No, I am not making fun, and over powering because sometimes I wonder if you're the one who has magic, because Nicole is completely in love with you." Tara casually munched on another biscuit.
"In love with me?" Buffy's eyes went wide.
"She hasn't told you?" For the first time Tara faltered.
"No that I would remember." Buffy nodded to herself. "No mention of the 'L' word." She smiled suddenly as she thought about it, as she stared off her smile grew bigger and happier.
"She's got a free till lunch." Tara watched the Slayer's face. "I think."
"She does." Buffy kept her smile as threw her knapsack strap over her head. "Say bye to Will for me." She slid out of the booth. "And Tara." She stopped before she bolted away. "Thanks."
The blonde looked up and smiled, blinking blue eyes.
Buffy wiped her palms on her jacket and then knocked on the door.
"TWO SECONDS!" Nicole's voice called to her through the wood.
"No rush Nic, it's just me." Buffy called back smiling.
"Oh Buffy." The door opened to reveal a rather charcoal covered Nicole, dressed only in a pair of white overalls. "Hi."
"Hi." Buffy smiled and waved at her slightly. "Sorry, did I interrupt?"
"No of course not, I was just working on you, that is, on your picture." Nicole wiped her hands and backed away from the door letting Buffy come in.
"Cool." The Slayer made her way in dropping her bag on the chair. "For you." She dug into her coat and held out a single badly snapped rose.
"Oh that's great." Nicole took the offered though damaged flower and sniffed it carefully.
"I sorta wanted to go by the flower shop but Anya was working and wouldn't lend me twenty dollars unless Giles was there to 'approve' it." She laughed. "So, I hope the neighbor down the street doesn't mind."
"No really Buffy this is nicer than any they'd have anyway." Nicole laughed and stopped she moved closer to the Slayer and offered her arms in a hug. Buffy moved and hugged her tightly, breathing in the scent of the taller brunette and smiling.
"I thought you were studying with Willow." Nicole didn't release her hold though she relaxed it a little.
"I was but I had an attack of need to see my Canadian." Buffy smiled relaxing but not letting go either. "I'm prone to them you know."
"What Canadians?" Nicole laughed.
"No." Buffy laughed with her pulling back enough to see Nicole's face. "Needing to see you." She leaned in and kissed her softly.
"Well any time you feel the need, just find me." Nicole purred when the kiss ended.
"You too, unless I'm on patrol." Buffy added seriously. "Then only cause it's dangerous, but leave me a message at the shop and I'm right here." She kissed her again.
"Mmmm so am I supposed to think these missing attacks are a bad thing? Cause right now…" She said between kisses. "They feel very good."
"Well the missing part is bad, the seeing you bit is good." Buffy grinned and kissed her again.
"Feels like ages since I've seen you." Nicole said softly. "I was working on your picture and I was just trying to picture you. Remembering the perfect tone and color for your skin."
"Me boring... you gorgeous." Buffy smiled gazing into deep brown eyes.
"Buffy you forget, me artist you Slayer, I say what's beautiful, and I say you." Nicole gazed back.
"No see me slayer, me see lots of ugly things, know gorgeous when I see it, and I say you." Buffy kept gazing and smiling. Suddenly every time she'd seen Tara and Will acting sappy and mushy made perfect sense.
"I have pictures to prove your beauty." Nicole countered without thinking she moved her hands up and down over Buffy's back.
"I have live evidence." Buffy smiled hugging her a little closer. "Did you need to get back to your picture?" She kissed the brunette slightly.
"Why would I want to look at canvass when I can look at flesh?" Nicole replied and then blushed furiously. "That is I mean when I can look a you."
"Sshhh." Buffy put her finger over Nicole to stop her. "You don't have to explain."
"You're finger is trembling." Nicole noted as the Slayer's finger rested on her lips.
"Is it?" Buffy smiled slowly. "Probably cause I love you." She whispered the words softly before she could even think to stop herself.
Nicole forced herself to swallow.
"You do?" She whispered back blinking.
"I do." Buffy nodded. "I've been so worried about what I should do and say and when I should do it or say it, and I realized today none of that matters. Cause you make me feel happier than anyone ever, and I love you." The Slayer spilled out her mind and almost missed the answer.
"I love you too Buffy, God I love you." Nicole suddenly pulled Buffy close.
"I love you, you want it in French? I can do French?" Nicole smiled looking at Buffy's face.
"I don't know French." She laughed lightly. "I could phone Giles and find out what is in ancient Sumerian?" She grinned holding the Canadian tighter.
"No need." Nicole shook her head.
"Good, cause I don't want to let go." Buffy smiled and kissed her again.
"I can't believe how good hearing you say that makes me feel." Nicole beamed.
"I don't say it very often Nic, only when I mean it." Buffy kissed her again.
"I don't either." The artist agreed.
"Now there was one other thing I think we need to talk about." Buffy kissed her softly for a moment.
"What, anything you know that." Nicole quickly agreed.
"It's not a bad thing." The Slayer rubbed her back easing away the sudden worry. "And it's not a big plan thing either, it's just a when the time is right..." She smiled her voice soft. "I want to make love to you." She used Tara's wording naturally.
"Oh my…" Nicole's voice was a growl. "You have no idea no idea at all, how good that feels to hear."
"How good?" Buffy raised an eyebrow.
"So good." Nicole slipped her hands around to Buffy's hips.
"Me too." Buffy kissed her again.
"Come here." Nicole gently pulled Buffy's hips up encouraging the Slayer to lift off the floor. Buffy eased upon her toes, kissing her girlfriend deeper.
Nicole smiled in their kiss, loving the change that brought them closer to the same height. Buffy's hands moved up playing high on the brunette's back.
"You know when you said abut the whole plan thing and the very agreeable time is right thing, could now be a right time, maybe?" Nicole grinned.
"I think right now is a very good time." Buffy nodded softly.
"Are you sure, I mean I can do candlelit dinner, soft music and moonlight, if you'd rather." Nicole's fingers massaged Buffy's hips.
"Maybe later." Buffy grinned and kissed her again. "We can do all that another night."
Buffy didn't open her eyes, as the first thing she really became aware of was the warm soft body she was curled around. The sun was just starting to set and lit the room in gentle shades of purple and red. Instantly a huge grin spread across her face as her mind caught up to the lusciously spent feeling in her body. She kissed the bare shoulder near her and hugged Nicole a bit tighter.
"You can open your eyes your not dreaming." She whispered before kissing close to the Slayer's ear.
"Just memorizing you with my fingertips." Buffy whispered back, running her fingers over the brunette's stomach in small circles.
"Well feel free!" Nicole purred.
"Unfortunately..." Buffy kept up her motions opening her eyes. "I have to patrol soon, but can I come back later?"
"I could come with you." Nicole said looking into the Slayer's eyes.
"Do you want too? It's dangerous." Buffy reached up to stroke brown hair behind her new lover's ear. "And I mean dangerous undead things want to kill you dangerous."
"The same things that want to kill you, and I'm supposed to stay here worrying? Chris taught me some basics, and I promise to hide behind lots of trees." She gave a quirky smile.
"We could get Tara and Will to come, they can show you the best trees." Buffy grinned, though she wasn't sure if she was keen on the idea but not seeing how she could let the others come and not ever let Nicole.
"Actually I think Willow and Tara have something else on tonight." Nicole said softly.
"What?" Buffy asked not remembering anything being mentioned.
"Well Tara stopped by earlier to borrow some of my charcoal." Nicole smiled.
"Oh." Buffy blushed. Now that she had an intimate knowledge, thinking of Tara and her best friend during their private time took on a whole new vivid dimension.
"You know I think Tara is a little more, adventurous that she appears." Nicole chuckled.
"Adventurous how?" Buffy had the question out before she thought about it.
"Well as well as the charcoal she'd bought a whole roll of paper." She replied trying to answer the question without being too obvious.
"Pretend I didn't just ask that." Buffy giggled shifting over a little to look down at the brunette. "So you want to come with for patrol?"
"Do you mind, I could stay and cook you a nice meal or something."
"No, if you want to come of course you can come." Buffy underlined. "You're a Scooby now." She grinned. "Which trust me is a better name than the slayerettes."
"I believe. We should get dressed." Nicole added happy the Slayer had agreed she come go.
Buffy pushed up off the ground as the vamp under her disappeared.
"All clear." She yelled to the large tree that Nicole had ducked behind.
"You know these trees are great for hiding, I swear that one has hand prints in just the right places." Nicole poked her head around the tall pine and grinned.
"Xander loves that one." Buffy grinned at how easy the night had gone. Four vamps down and not even so much as a worry about Nicole's safety. In fact having the brunette around seemed to up her concentration just that little bit. "So you ready for mocha's? It's post slayage ritual."
"Sounds great, and double muffins."
"Only for you." Buffy held out her hand and Nicole closed her fingers around the Slayer's
"Wait up a second." She urged the Slayer to stop.
"What?" Buffy stopped for her.
"I just wanted to say surrounded by all this, having just watched you, well, slay." Nicole pointed out. "I love you Buffy Anne Summers."
"I love you too, Nicole Samantha Palmer." Buffy smiled and squeezed her hand.
"Love, love, love, give us a break slayer." A low growl from behind the pair.
"Spike, do you ever just get tired of pissing me off?" Buffy turned looking at him with a shake of her head.
"No." He flicked on his lighter and lit his cigarette that hung lazily out of his mouth.
"Well then I won't give you the satisfaction." She stepped closer to Nicole before going to lead her away. "Goodnight Spike."
"Oh now come on, play with Spikey." He dashed round and cut into their path.
"Go to Hell Spike." Buffy stopped with Nicole slightly behind her.
"Isn't lover boy, oops girl, gonna say nothing?" He looked Nicole up and down.
"Please feel free to insult him, he's a big enough idiot to deserve anything." Buffy assured her.
"Can I really be bothered?" Nicole spoke only to Buffy.
"Good answer." Buffy smiled and squeezed her hand. "Night Spike." They began to walk away again.
"Oh that's right pretend I don't exist!" Spike ran after them.
"You do exist, trust me I can not forget that." Buffy reminded him as they walked.
"You know Slayer." Spike called coming to a stop before them. "You've given me two great reasons to get this chip out now. Before I only looked forward to ripping your heart out, now I can feast off her too. It's a real you know…" He growled.
"One second love." Buffy stopped abruptly. She let go of Nicole's hand and in a second sprinted the few short feet to Spike grabbing him by the throat. "If you ever get that chip out..." She growled at him. "And you dare so much as even walk on the same street as her, I won't just stake you... I'll leave you in pieces and mail you all over the world. You understand William?" She tightened her grip.
"Easy slayer." Spike gasped between coughs. "I was just winding you up."
"I don't like jokes." Buffy held her grip tighter before she let go. "And if you go spouting your mouth off to the other demons, I'll know it was you and guess who I'll feed to the gila monster under the school?"
"You seem kinda tense, not getting any?" He grinned as he dropped to his knees holding his throat.
She glared at him and kicked him sideways into the grass. Turning she went back and took Nicole's hand.
"Best I ever had." She whispered to the brunette kissing the back of the hand she held.
"You didn't have to do that for me you know." Nicole whispered glowing with pride.
"Yes, I did." Buffy nodded as they walked away. "You're my girl, undead things don't talk bad about you or I hurt them."
"Your girl?" Nicole stopped again grinning.
"Well yeah, I love you and we just..." Buffy grinned and blushed. "Is saying it a bad thing?"
"No it's not." Nicole shook her head. "I like being your girl." She grinned wider.
"Come on then, mocha's for my girl?" Buffy kissed her hand again.
"Or other yummy things?" Nicole quirked her eyebrow and pointed towards home with her head.
"Yummy things." Buffy grinned and started to playfully drag her along.
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