author: Lucinda

rating: pg 13

pairing: Erik(Blade)/Nikki

Disclaimer: I do not own anyone from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or from Blade.

Distribution: Twisting the Hellmouth anyone else just ask.

note: inspired by the considerable speculation of just who could be the father of Robin Wood.

* * *

His life hadn't always been like this; alone, doing little more than existing so that he could kill more vampires. It wasn't really living, more of an existence. A bleak, violent existence for someone that was assumed to be a bleak, violent man.

His hands moved without conscious direction, cleaning the sword that had become symbolic of him. He didn't use a name anymore, not since... not since Nikki. Unnoticed, a tear formed in his eye, not quite willing to expose itself to slide down his face. He wasn't Erik anymore, he was Blade now.

Erik had ran away from the latest foster home, unwilling to stay in a place where it was so clear that he was unwanted, unwelcome. It was shouted in every glare, every punishment that was harsher for him than their blood children, every time he was chosen for the messy chores. But who could he complain to?

Living on the street was a rather unwelcome and unpleasant experience. He found himself lurking around, eating things that he never would have dreamed could be considered food a few weeks ago. But here, he didn't get punished for things other people had done, didn't get blamed for taking up space, for killing his mother, for being in the way. Not that he'd really killed her... His social worker had explained that one to him very carefully. His mother had been attacked by someone, a very bad someone, and taken to the hospital. She'd died as the doctors had tried to save her, but they'd been able to save him, cutting him from his mother's womb. At the time, the only thing that had come to mind was a simple question - why?

He'd spent years wondering about that, wondering why go to the trouble to save the baby of a single mother, a woman with no family. His father hadn't come forward, nobody had come forward to claim him, take him home with them. So he'd been passed from foster parent to foster parent, never quite belonging anywhere. He'd become defensive, short tempered, and the social worker described him as 'sullen'. She was always asking him why he wasn't happier, more cheerful.

But what did he have to be cheerful about? He wasn't particularly good at school, nobody wanted him on their team for sports, he didn't have friends… He couldn't think of a single reason to be happy and cheerful.

Then, he'd met Nikki. It was rather funny, almost. He'd been trying to run from a group of older, bigger kids, something about being black in the wrong part of town. Unfortunately, he'd ended up in a dead end alley, and they'd cornered him. Nikki had been in the area, he wasn't quite sure why, and she'd tried to help him.

"Get away from him!" She'd sounded so angry.

One of the guys, someone with a shiny gold hoop in one ear and a greasy blue bandana had sneered, clearly unafraid. "Back the hell off, kid. This doesn't concern you."

The girl couldn't have been more than thirteen, but she'd launched the sweetest looking right cross that he'd ever seen, right into that arrogant bastard's eye.

Things got fuzzy in his mind after that. He'd thrown himself into it, his mind whispering all the things that could happen to him and now this girl. He punched and kicked, throwing himself into the fight with desperation, and wishing that he had more of an idea what to do in a fight. He did have a clear memory of that smug guy with the earring trying to grab the girl, right in front of him. He'd reached out, grabbing a fistful of stringy hair and the earring, and yanked backwards, dragging the guy off balance enough that the girl slipped out of reach, and ripping the hoop from the guy's ear.

That had made him howl, and there had been blood, which smelled like copper and anger. It reminded him of one of the foster homes that he'd been in, where Mrs. Turner had fixed a roast every Sunday. Erik had smiled then, and kept swinging, determined not to back down. Erik had long since lost count of the times that he'd been kicked or punched, really only noticing the way his blood was running down his forehead, trying to get into his eyes, and the burning feeling over the tops of his knuckles.

But all the determination in the world hadn't been enough to keep him and Nikki from getting the hell beat out of them. The fact that they'd left the other guys pretty marked up really hadn't made them feel any better. It wasn't until later that he realized how lucky they both were that none of those guys had been carrying a knife or a gun.

Nikki had managed to stagger up first, and then she'd insisted that they go to her place, that they get some bandages and clean up a bit. Her mom had helped bandage him up, and offered to let him stay the night on the couch. From that moment, Nikki was his friend - the first one that he'd ever had. Her mom kept trying to fuss over him, to take care of him as much as he'd let her, which was an odd feeling for him.

Nikki had helped him keep an education, asking him to drop by and help her go over her homework. Her mom would usually ask him to stay for dinner, and after a few half hearted protests the first few times, he'd stopped even trying to object.

There was also someone else that Nikki'd introduced him to, sort of an honorary uncle named Andrew. He'd been a big man, with some of the strangest and scariest scars that Erik had ever seen, like he'd been mauled by some sort of wild animal. And he taught them how to fight. They would slip into the old gym after hours, and he would work them hard, studying boxing, karate, even some gymnastics. He also had them practicing with wooden eastern looking swords, saying that it would help them learn control and precision. Andrew was the most stubborn and demanding guy, insisting that they work each move over and over until it was perfect, until the form was ground into their muscles and bones.

Of course, it was turning out to be a great help when anyone else tried to beat him up. He could fight back now, even managing to drive off older, bigger people, or a pair of bullies at once. Apparently, he was stronger than he looked, as Andrew put it. The idea brought a small smile to his face, and a feeling that this was finally something that he could do – he could fight.

Life could have been great, if things had kept going like that. Everything would have been different, at least, everything that he cared about. But Andrew got hit by a drunk driver one day, just... plowed over by some jerk that not only ran through a red light, but had gone onto the sidewalk as well. The driver had been killed instantly, Andrew had lingered almost a week in the hospital, not waking up even once before he slipped away. It was close to that time that Nikki's dad got laid off from his job, which meant that he was home. And Mr. Wood didn't want his daughter spending time with some 'no-good boy from the wrong side of town', not his precious baby girl.

He'd been skulking around the gym where he'd practiced with Andrew, missing Nikki, missing having Andrew there to care, to take an interest in his life. There had been something... He hadn't been quite certain what, but he'd found himself staring at a couple that were walking down the street. There was something wrong about them, about the way they were moving. Curious, he'd followed them, watching as they'd picked up one of the street whores, and all three had vanished into a dark alley.

Then, he'd smelled blood, thick with fear. He'd looked, shocked and horrified when he saw the yellow eyes and sharp teeth that the couple now had, the way the whore's blood was flowing from the wicked bite on the side of her throat. The way they were drinking the blood.

He had no idea what to do. It was obvious to anyone that had watched horror movies or stepped into a library – those were vampires. Real vampires, with sharp teeth and drinking blood… Part of him wanted to attack them, to kill them for what they'd done to the whore, had probably done to uncounted other people. But he had no weapons, and weren't vampires supposed to be really strong? Part of him wanted to back away, to insist that this wasn't really happening, that vampires weren't really real. Another part of him… He could smell the blood, see how the pair of vampires seemed to belong together, like a happy couple. A bloodthirsty, murderous couple, but still happy.

Most disturbing, something in him was fluttering, wanting to go towards the blood, towards the whole mess. It was calling him. He barely realized as he licked his lips, his emotions churning in fearful confusion.

"That impatient to be desert?" The woman had snarled, blood and fangs garbling her words.

It was as if his feet had decided for him – Erik ran. He bolted, utterly panicked by the vampires, the blood, the way he'd seemed so fascinated and horrified by it all. He hadn't stopped until he'd slipped into an old Catholic church, all but deserted at this hour. There was a faint light coming from the hall with the offices, but the main sanctuary was empty, lit only by a few flickering candles burning in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary. He'd crouched among the pews, terrified and confused, shaking as he tried to understand what had happened, what he'd seen. He tried to bury the fact that something had responded deep inside of him, hoping that he could just ignore it away by concentrating on the fact that vampires were real.

It had been a few days later that he'd met Nikki at the library, and he'd noticed the tension in her shoulders. "Nikki? What's wrong?"

She'd spun around, and her eyes had sparkled when she saw him. The next thing he knew, she was hugging him with all her strength, pressing her face against him. Barely detectable tremors shook her body.

His arms had gone around her, and he just held her, uncertain what had happened, but worried. If he could protect her, or help her, he knew that he would. Nikki was all he had in the world, after all. "I'm here, Nikki."

She'd looked up, her eyes glittering with tears, and raised on her tiptoes. Soft lips brushed over his, and then she was tugging him out the door before he could quite figure out anything beyond the fact that she'd kissed him.

"My dad is being an utter jerk. It's always what's for dinner, why aren't you busy, no wife of mine, blah, blah, blah." Nikki was tugging him along the street, her movements fast and uneven. "He's going to drive me crazy at this rate."

"So, you're looking for something else to do?" Erik had asked, half wondering if he wanted the answer, and a part of his mind still stuck on the part where she'd kissed him. Nikki had kissed him, with her lips that tasted like strawberries.

"I just… I don't know, but I can't stay inside and fume about everything." Nikki looked at him, here eyes pleading. "I tried the gym, but it made me think of Andrew, and that hurt."

"Yeah, he's… not so gone there." Erik had tried to explain. Andrew was dead, but it was as if he might walk into the gym at any moment, there were so many memories of him there, just waiting. He felt as if he'd just have to look in the right place to see Andrew again.

In the end, fate had made the decision for them. It was almost too much like that night almost a year ago when they'd first met. A group of gang members were trying to hassle people, crowding closer around a pair of high school kids. The kids couldn't have been older than Erik and Nikki in years, but life had been easier on them, softer. They were just a couple kids, surrounded by the big bad wolves.

Nikki launched herself at the first one, dropping him with a vicious kick to the side of his knee, followed by a couple rapid punches to his shoulder. Erik was right behind her, taking the gangers down. It seemed so easy, as if they were in slow motion, and it almost felt effortless to dodge their attacks. The gangers were soon on the ground, groaning and whimpering, and the near victims bolted, running away as if they were afraid they'd be hit next.

Erik had found himself holding Nikki again, whispering words as she sobbed against him. He wasn't certain if she was crying from the fight, from the way the kids had bolted, or from life.

End part 1.