Title: Even Demons Need Friends

Author: Slaymesoftly

Rating: PG

Words: 6100 +

Summary: What if Ethan's spell had lasted a little longer, and Giles and Spike had spent more time together?  Goes way AU almost immediately after Giles finds Spike, so no relationship to canon at all except for a few lines of dialogue written by much more talented (and well paid) people. Probably plays a bit fast and loose with the timeline too. :) Now with sequel “A Friend in Need” set in the following season.

 

EVEN DEMONS NEED FRIENDS

 

"All right, Watcher. Know you're good for the money.  Let's go looking for somebody to turn you back into your usual tweedy self.  Where's your car?"

 

"It's back at my flat, you git.  I can't drive like this."

 

"S'pose you're right, at that. Don't think I've ever seen a Fyarl demon driving. They're more likely to be smashing windshields and biting tires..."

 

"I cannot imagine myself behaving in such a fashion.  Let's just get my car and I will tell you where to go first."

 

"Your car and your money."

 

Giles just growled and began lumbering in the direction of his apartment complex.

 

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

 

"This is just not acceptable!" Giles roared and hit the dashboard with a clawed fist. The dash did not take it well.

 

"Calm down, will you?"

 

"I'm not sure I can. I feel like I'm changing."

 

Spike sighed. "Fine with me. So long as you pay me."

 

Another growl rumbled through Giles' chest. "I really like this feeling. Sort of a mindless need to destroy. This anger and rage..."

 

"Good times. Go with it."

 

"No."

 

"Oh, it's fun. I can't do it, so do it for me. Now let yourself go." Spike grinned at the demon in the passenger seat.

 

"I refuse to become a monster simply because I look like a monster. I have a soul. I have a conscience. I am a human being... Oh, stop the car!"

 

"Here?"  Spike frowned as Giles broke the handle off the door in his attempt to get out quickly.  He watched with interest as the bespelled watcher ran after a woman Spike thought he recognized.  "Why, Watcher! I didn't know you had it in you!" Spike cheered as he watched Giles chased the frightened woman down the street snarling and roaring while she screamed, ran, and disappeared around a street corner.

 

He was still grinning when Giles started strutting back to the car – a grin that faded when he saw the woman returning, accompanied by several large men in military uniforms. He was already starting the engine as he saw them pointing at Giles.

 

"There it is! That must be the one that chased Maggie.  Let's get him!"

 

Giles threw a look over his shoulder and sprinted for the car, throwing himself in. "Let's go!  Get me out of here, Spike!"

 

"What's in it for me?" Spike took his time putting the car into gear, although he sped it up as the commandoes began to jog.

 

"There are demon-hunting soldiers chasing me, Hostile Seventeen."

 

The old Citroen jerked into motion. "Right you are. Getting you out of here...."

 

They had only gone a few blocks when Spike began to growl under his breath.

 

"What?" Giles growled back, then slapped a clawed hand over his mouth.

 

"Well done," Spike said with a grin.  "I'll admire your growling ability later. Right now we've picked up a tail."

 

"Just a little one. Hurts to sit on it..."

 

Spike rolled his eyes. "No, you git. Use the non-Fyarl part of your brain. I meant, we're being tailed by a Humvee."

 

"Well, lose them!"

 

"In this piece of shite?"  In spite of his words, Spike floored the car and gained enough of a lead to swerve, unseen, into a narrow alley. He careened down the alley, barely scraping by the walls, and into an open storage pod at the end. He jumped out and tried to pull down the door.  "Little help?" he snarled.

 

"Sorry," Giles muttered, getting out and throwing his considerable weight into pulling the door down. 

 

They waited, Spike not breathing, Giles trying not to pant heavily, while the soldiers pointed floodlights at the alley and argued about whether the car could possibly have had time to squeeze down it and into one of the closed pods. When all had been quiet and dark for some time, they hesitantly raised the door far enough for Spike to peer out and sniff the air.

 

"Think it's alright," he said. "Don't smell or hear anything. What about you?"

 

"Me? You're the vampire."

 

"And you're a Fyarl demon. Use that big nose on your face and see if you smell any humans around here."

 

Giles knelt down and gingerly extended his face out of the safety of the dark garage.  He inhaled, then coughed and gagged.

 

"Good lord! I smell... I don't even want to know what I'm smelling, actually. But nothing seems... human?"

 

"You'd know," Spike said. "That's got to be hard-wired in, the scent of prey."

 

"I do not consider other human beings 'prey', Spike," Giles snarled, scaring himself again.

 

"Maybe not, but I'll bet that body you're wearin' does."  Spike stood up. "Alright, Watcher. Where to?"

 

"I don't... back to my apartment, I guess. I need to find Buffy... and perhaps Willow."

 

"What's the witch going to do?"

 

"Willow and Buffy should be able to help me locate the bastard who did this to me.  I'll take it from there...." Spike stepped back, grinning at the very real and unapologetic snarl that accompanied Giles' last remark.

 

"I'll just bet you will, at that," he said, reaching for the door.  "Let's get out of here and get Red busy tracking that poor sod down."

 

They raised the door as silently as they could manage. Spike inched the car back through the narrow opening and into the alley, where he made his way more carefully and slowly back to the entrance. Unable to check the street before he backed out, he resorted to flooring it again in hopes of having surprise on his side if the soldiers had lingered. The coast, however, was clear and the old car shot out backwards into a gap in traffic.

 

"Be careful with my car!" Giles growled, raising his clenched – and impressively large – fist.

 

Spike flinched away. "Easy there, old man. Thought you were in a hurry to find the Slayer."

 

"Just get me home," the demon snarled, slouching into the seat as best he could.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

After parking the car, Spike barely made it in the door in time to stop Buffy from stabbing Giles with a silver letter opener.  He grabbed her arm and wrenched it away, earning a bolt of electricity through his brain and a punch from the Slayer.

 

"Bloody bitch!" he snarled, holding his head. "Should have just let you go ahead and do the old man.  Would've enjoyed watching you boo hooing once you found out who he is."

 

"What are you talking about?" Buffy said, preparing to launch herself at the demon again.  "This is probably the demon that kidnapped Giles! If he's hurt him, I'll—" She stopped, staring into the eyes of the demon she'd just punched in the face.  "G... Giles?"  She stared back and forth between the Fyarl demon that was glaring at her in an uncannily familiar way, and the vampire who was also glaring at her.  "What's going on?"

 

"Oh, now you want to ask questions. After you've tried to kill both of us."

 

"All I did was punch you," she said, waving her hand dismissively. "You did the headachy thing to yourself."

 

"While stopping you from killing your watcher!  Bloody bitch," he repeated, sitting up and rubbing his head.

 

"Why is Giles a Fyarl demon? And why is he with you?"

 

"Speak the language, don't I?  And none of you lot had a clue who he was.  I'm the one's helping him stay ahead of the soldiers and find the bloke that did this to him."

 

"Ethan?" Buffy addressed her question to Giles, who nodded vigorously. He pointed at Willow's laptop and made typing motions with his meaty hands.

 

"I'm on it," Willow said, flipping it open and beginning a search through Sunnydale's motels.  It didn't take her long to find where Ethan was staying.

 

"Let's go," Buffy said.  "I'll beat on him until he breaks the spell."

 

Giles roared and shook his head vigorously. He snarled and snapped and mouthed gibberish that Spike translated as, "I'll beat the bloody bastard myself.  Get the car, Spike."

 

"Wait. What? You'd rather go with Spike?"

 

Spike was already at the door, car keys in hand, grinning with delight.  "Let's get the lead out, Watcher.  You've got a sorcerer to rip limb from limb."

 

Buffy watched helplessly as the vampire and his demon companion raced for the car and roared out of the parking lot – right into an unfortunately placed road block the commandoes had set up just down the street. Buffy went rushing after them, in time to see Spike, clearly incapacitated by his chip, and Giles, apparently tasered into unconsciousness, thrown into a black van and whisked away.

 

"Dammit!"  She ran back to the apartment and dialed the emergency number that Riley had given her.

 

"Hi. Yeah, it's me. Hey, listen we've got a little problem..."

 

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

 

"Okay, Riley promised to get me in so I can see that Giles is okay. He said he'd make sure that Giles and Spike are kept together and not killed." She paused. "I don't think he got what I was saying about Giles, though. He thinks they've got Spike and a Fyarl demon that I need to see about Giles, or something.  We have to get to Ethan before Riley's boss decides she doesn't need either one of them..."

 

"In what? We don't have a car," Willow pointed out.

 

Fortunately, Xander and Anya were just arriving, and Buffy quickly explained where they needed to go.  She was already climbing in while Anya tried to argue against going up against a sorcerer without Giles.

 

"Giles is a Fyarl demon," Willow explained for the third time. "And the Initiative has taken him and Spike away.  We need Ethan to turn him back so they'll let him go."

 

It took longer than they expected to find the seedy motel where Ethan was registered. Eventually Willow figured out Ethan had placed wards around it, making it invisible to anyone but registered guests.  Once they knew what to look for, the fuzzy outline of the building became visible and they could search out Ethan's room. 

 

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

"What is this, Riley?"  Maggie stared into the temporary cage at the groggy vampire and the twitching demon.  "Is that the creature that attacked me? Why didn't you just kill it?"

 

"Uh... I don't... I doubt it's the same one, Maggie.  Buffy said he's not really a Fyarl... well, okay, it – he is a Fyarl demon right now, but it's a sp—" Riley suddenly remembered Maggie's firm belief that there was no such thing as magic or sorcerery.   "Um, I think this one is a... pet. Hostile Seventeen has him under control."

 

"Hostile Seventeen.  We've recaptured our escaped prisoner only to allow him to bring his pet beast back with him?"  Maggie's cold stare had Riley gulping.

 

"Uh, Buffy – the Slayer – she's coming in soon with a... someone who can take them off our hands."

 

His boss's eyes narrowed. "What aren't you telling me, Agent Finn?"

 

Riley sighed. "I promised Buffy we'd keep them together and alive until she can get here. That's all I know, She wants – needs them alive."

 

"Hostile Seventeen is not alive. He is a member of the undead, and he is carrying around a very expensive piece of hardware in his skull."

 

Riley nodded. "She didn't actually say she wanted Hostile Seventeen. Just that he needed to be kept with the demon for... translation purposes."

 

Maggie was about to speak again when her pager went off and she was summoned to another lab.  "Make this go away, Agent Finn," she said over her shoulder as she left.

 

"Yes, ma'am." His salute went unseen as Maggie hurried off.  A sound from the cage brought his head around to meet two sets of yellow eyes.  He stepped closer and peered at Spike and what seemed to be a perfectly normal and very angry Fyarl demon. He was careful to remain out of range of the demon's long arms.

 

"What's going on, Hostile Seventeen?" he asked.  "Why does Buffy want this demon kept alive?"

 

"Didn't she tell you?" Spike dropped back into his human face, cocking his head at Riley, amusement in his eyes.

 

"She said something about it being that older man they hang out with... Giles, is it?" There was a snarl from the demon. "Which is obviously ridiculous.  I couldn't tell Maggie Buffy said she was bringing some kind of a witch in here to turn the demon into some guy she knows."

 

"What did you tell the old bat?"  Giles snorted his agreement of the description of Riley's boss and muttered something in Fyarl that made Spike laugh.

 

"I told her he was your... pet. And that you could control him."  He blinked in surprise when the demon began to wave its arms around and snarl incomprehensible words while the vampire laughed so hard he had to sit down on the floor.  "Does that mean you can't control him?" Riley stared apprehensively at Giles, who was almost foaming with rage.

 

Spike stopped laughing long enough to say, "Down, boy. Behave yourself. You're scaring the Slayer's boytoy."  When Giles only glared at him, Spike deepened his voice. "Sit, Rupert!" he snarled.  Giles looked back and forth between Spike and Riley, who was fingering his gun and staring into the cage, then slumped against the wall growling and muttering to himself.

 

"Yeah, yeah," Spike said, risking a pat on the demon's head and setting off a new round of snarling. "I'm sure she will. Rip me a new one. Just as soon as she rescues us."

 

"What 'us', Spike?" Giles said in Fyarl. "Buffy will get me out as soon as the spell is broken, but what makes you think she's going to want you? Or that they'd let you go if she did?"

 

"Bloody hell, Watcher! Who's kept your hairy arse safe all night?  That overgrown Boy Scout might have shot you if I hadn't got you to shut up and sit down. She bloody well better be planning to get me out of here!" Real fear showed on the vampire's face and Giles felt a moment of demon solidarity with him.

 

"You kept me safe for the money you expect me to pay you," he said finally.  "But I can't say that I like the idea of leaving anything sentient in this hell hole."

 

"Does that mean you're going to put in a good word for me?  I'm as sentient as they come."

 

"That's debatable," Giles said in his newly guttural voice. 

 

Seeing that the two demons had relaxed and were talking quietly in snarls and growls, Riley eased his hand off the gun and began to walk out.

 

"Oi! Captain America. Where're you going?"

 

"I've got work to do," Riley snapped, unwilling to have anything resembling a conversation with the vampire. "Just wait till Buffy gets here. And keep that... creature quiet." 

 

Spike grabbed Giles just he was about to launch himself at the bars.  "Down, boy. He doesn't mean to be rude. Jus' doesn't know any better." As Riley walked away, he could hear Spike: "Sit, Rupert. Sit, I tell you!  No treats for you tonight."

 

 

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

 

"Buffy! You're here.  Thank God." Riley greeted her with quick hug and nodded to the rest of the Scoobies. In a low voice, he said, "Maggie wants me to neutralize the demon, and take the chip out of the vampire." He stood back to allow Buffy to enter the elevator, looking at the remaining people in apology. "Sorry, guys. I can't let you go with us.  But you can have a seat in there and wait." He gestured to the large living room.

 

"Wha—? Wait, no. She can't do that.  Tell him, Ethan." Buffy dragged a tall man with two black eyes and a fat lip into the elevator with her. 

 

"Buffy... who is this? You know I can't bring civilians down there."

 

"He's the reason Giles is in one of your cages making like a Fyarl demon. And he's going to fix it, aren't you, Ethan?" Buffy shook him, bouncing him against the wall of the elevator.  He mumbled something that sounded like assent and leaned against the wall. His eyes roamed up Riley's body in a way that made the soldier very uncomfortable.  His obvious discomfort did a lot to improve Ethan' mood and he smiled and licked his lips.

 

"I suppose Rupert has learned his lesson by now," he said with a shrug.  "Although I did think perhaps you'd have killed him before you figured it out."

 

Buffy's only response was a glare. She knew full well that without Spike's timely intervention, Giles probably would be dead at her hand and she would never have known what became of him. 

 

The elevator stopped and Riley waited while Buffy shoved Ethan out in front of her.  He joined them and pointed toward the temporary cage holding Giles and Spike. As soon as they appeared, Giles threw himself at the door of the cage, snarling at Ethan and shaking the bars in a way that alarmed Riley.

 

"Fur looks good on you, Rupert," Ethan purred, remaining out of reach.  He smiled and winked at Spike. "Although, considering that you're sharing the cage with a vampire, I'd think you might want to remain like that a while.  I'm not sure your slayer could save you in time."

 

"Spike isn't going to hurt him," Buffy snapped. "He can't. Now break the spell so we can get them out of here."

 

"He can't? Really. Why not... ah, I see the problem.  Easily fixed."  He made a gesture in Spike's direction, muttering a short spell that caused the vampire to yell and drop to his knees.  Buffy stared at Spike curiously, wondering what had set off his chip; then she shrugged and turned her attention back to Riley. No one noticed Ethan clenching his fist over the piece of silicone now concealed there.

 

"Uh, Buffy... Maggie doesn't want... I can't let you take Hostile Seventeen."

 

Buffy frowned and looked into the cage where Spike was rubbing his head and gazing back at her with eyes that, though frightened, refused to plead.  She exchanged stares with her old enemy, the vampire that had tried to kill her, made a truce to save the world, and then continued to come back to Sunnydale every time something went wrong in his life.  The vampire who had shown a completely different side to her when another spell had them thinking they were in love.

 

Her silence gave Spike no encouragement and his face went still when she didn't reply immediately.  He stood up and turned away, saying to Giles in Fyarl, "So, this is the thanks I get?"

 

"She won't leave you here," Giles growled. "Don't be a git."

 

"Not how it looks to me."

 

Spike raised his head as Ethan began to chant, his eyes meeting Buffy's again. She made a small gesture with her head to indicate the elevator, smiling when Spike's eyes widened in surprise. She raised a questioning eyebrow and he nodded almost imperceptibly, moving closer to the door to the cage and pushing Giles to the side.

 

"Don't get in my way, old man. I'm hitting that door the instant it opens."

 

Ethan waved a hand in the air and the demon was suddenly replaced with a very naked and angry Giles. Riley blushed and inserted the key in the cage door, holding his taser in one hand. Buffy's "eep!" and Ethan's unrepentant "oops" went almost unnoticed as Spike, who had been waiting his chance, threw himself against the unlocked door.  The force of his exit knocked Riley backwards into Buffy who fell under him. In the heat of the moment, no one noticed that Spike's chip hadn't fired when he knocked Riley down. Under the guise of trying to help Riley up, Buffy held on to him while Spike, Giles and Ethan sprinted for the elevator.  Giles was pleasantly surprised when Spike handed him his leather coat after they'd thrown themselves in and punched the close door button.

 

"Thank you," Giles muttered.

 

"Nothing to thank me for," Spike said. "I don't want to look at your naked body any more than the Slayer does.  Hey! Don't stretch it!" he growled as Giles tried to wrap the too small coat around his body.

 

"I wouldn't mind a look," Ethan purred, earning a raised eyebrow from Spike and a glare from Giles, who pulled the coat even tighter.

 

Buffy slipped through the doors just as they closed. There was no conversation as they all watched the floors whipping by, breathing a collective sigh of relief when they reached the main floor of Lowell House.

 

The elevator stopped and the door hissed open. The three men rushed out, follow only slightly less briskly by Buffy.  With a quick "Time to go!" to the waiting Scoobies, they exited the building and piled into the car. Buffy found herself climbing into the back between Giles and Spike, Ethan having put himself next to the opposite door from Giles'.  She tried to force herself to forget that the man under the much-too-small coat was her watcher, and she huddled next to Spike, keeping her eyes averted. When it looked like Giles was not going to be able to keep the coat around his body, she grabbed Spike's arm and pulled on it.

 

"Trade places with me," she ordered, getting to her feet and crouching above him. He knew she didn't need to be looking at him to imagine the smirk on his face, but he slid over without complaint, putting his hands on her hips to steady her in the careening car.

 

"Watch it," she grumbled as she fell into Ethan before squirming closer to Spike. 

 

"Jus' trying to help, Slayer. Nothing for you to get upset about."  He slid his eyes to the side. "By the way, pet, where's the boyfriend? Thought he would have been hot on our arses."

 

 Buffy blushed and looked uncomfortable. "I... I may have accidentally locked him in the cage.... But it's okay, he has his communicator and—Oh, oops! I have it. Damn!"

 

Spike stared at her with open admiration. "Slayer, you have depths I never dreamt of."

 

"Don't get too excited about it," she said, trying to hide her smile. "He hit his head when he fell and he was too woozy to know what I was doing. It's not like I picked his pocket or something."

 

"Still, points for doing the right thing."

 

Buffy shook her head.  "I'm sure helping you get out isn't even in the same universe as 'the right thing'." She glanced up at his admiring face. "But you did help Giles a lot. I guess we owe you."

 

"I believe there was a dollar figure involved..."

 

"Don't push your luck." She nudged him with her elbow in a companionably way and he bit back the retort on the tip of his tongue.  Instead, he nudged her back and said "Feeling pretty lucky right now."  He glanced over at Giles, who was still clutching his coat closed and trying to look dignified at the same time.  "Although, if your watcher was a good-looking bird, I'd be a lot happier about sitting next to him while he's naked."

 

"Better you than me," Buffy muttered, averting her eyes from the other side of the car.  Spike's snort of amusement made her poke him again, then move even closer when she realized that her ass and thigh were pressed up against Ethan's. Spike lifted his left arm, giving her a few more inches in which to move away from the grinning sorcerer. He rested his arm on the back of the seat and tried to tell himself he wasn't enjoying having Buffy's warm body pressed up against his side.

 

When Ethan made a somewhat lewd comment about having Buffy rubbing up against him, Spike's involuntary snarl surprised him almost as much as it did Buffy. While she blinked at Spike, and Giles glared from the other side of the car, Ethan made a mocking hurt face.

 

"Well, that's bloody ungrateful of you," he said, holding up his closed hand.  Spike frowned in confusion that turned to understanding and then... to fear.  He dropped his gaze to Buffy's head, which was nestled under his arm as she tried to avoid touching Ethan, and then back to the sorcerer's smirking face.

 

"Bloody hell..." he breathed, wondering how to test what he thought Ethan was saying without giving it away.  He thought back to just a short time ago when he'd slammed a barred metal gate into Riley without so much as a twinge, and he began to smile.  Until he glanced down again and noticed Buffy looking back and forth between them, her own fear plain to see.

 

Before the situation could turn into something neither of them seemed to want, Ethan leaned forward across them and said to Giles, "I hope you enjoyed your little walk on the wild side, Rupert.  It could happen again. Say once every full moon...." Without waiting for a response, he yanked open the car door and threw himself out onto the grass of Giles' apartment complex.  

 

He disappeared so thoroughly and so quickly that Spike was sure the man had used a spell of some sort. His suspicions were confirmed when Willow's head whipped around. "I feel magic!"

 

Giles began swearing quietly, his language sounding more like Spike than that of the respectable librarian he had been until recently.  Xander stopped the slow-moving car, allowing Buffy and Spike to jump out and begin casting around for any sign of Ethan. As Buffy wasted her energy running toward the road, Spike cast a suspicious glance at an owl sitting on a limb over his head.  He lifted his head and inhaled deeply. There was just enough trace of Ethan's scent to tell him he'd found the mage. He opened his mouth to call Buffy, then remembered what he owed the man.  Taking a quick glance to be sure he wasn't being observed, he walked closer and said softly, "I owe you. But if you ever come back, or do anything to harm Buffy...."

 

The owl gave a mocking hoot and lifted into the air, his wings as silent as the night.  Spike waited until the owl was well out of range of Buffy's stakes or knives before shouting, "Slayer! There he goes! He's an owl!"

 

It took several minutes for the disappointed and outraged swearing to stop, and a few more before everyone was willing to admit they had no way of catching something that had already flown out of sight.  With a resigned sigh, Giles walked toward his door, Willow, Xander and Anya trailing in his wake.  "Are you coming in?" he asked when neither Spike nor Buffy had moved. "Don't you want your coat back?"

 

"Be there in a moment, Watcher," Spike said, watching Buffy cautiously.  He could see her fingering the stake she kept in the waistband of her pants, but he couldn't hear the accelerated heart beat that would tell him she was preparing to attack.

 

"I guess I shouldn't stand this close to you," she said, not moving away but watching him carefully.

 

"Was snuggled into my side a bit ago, weren't you?  You were safe enough then."

 

"Was I?  Or was it just too crowded in the car?"

 

"Could have had you before anyone even noticed it," he said, putting his hands in his pockets and shrugging.  "You were right there, and I already had one arm around you."

 

She cocked her head at him.  "Why didn't you?"

 

He sighed and shook his head. "Wouldn't believe me if I told, Slayer.  Let's just say I appreciate that you didn't stake me when I couldn't fight back, and that you took me with you when you broke your watcher out of that place."

 

"You know I probably would have left you there if I'd known." 

 

He nodded. "Know you would. That's how you white hats operate, isn't it? Good's good and got to be protected."  He reached one hand out and touched her face lightly. "Fortunately, I'm evil and can be more flexible. If I don't want to kill someone, I don't."

 

"I don't want to slay you, Spike," she said, biting her lip.  "But I...."

 

"But it's your job. Know that, don't I?"

 

Buffy took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. "So where does that leave us? Are we going to fight now?"

 

"Your call, luv.  I can leave town again, jus' like I did the last time we had a deal, or...."

 

"Or what?  And don't think I haven't noticed that you never stay gone, no matter how many deals we have."

 

He grinned at her.  "Just can't stay away, can I?"

 

"Apparently not," she grumbled.  "I don't know what's wrong with you."

 

"Neither do I," he said. "But I'm beginning to suspect. Think maybe Dru was right after all."

 

"Dru? What could that crazy ho-bag possibly know about it?"

 

He growled low in his throat, but let the insult go. "She knows why I keep coming back."  He touched her face again, sighing when she just barely flinched. A human would have missed it, but Spike dropped his hand. "It's you, Slayer. I keep coming back because you're here."

 

Dismay flew across her face before she shut it down. "You keep coming back to kill me?"

 

He shook his head. "No, luv. That's what I always told myself, but that's not what it is."  He began to pace, not looking at her as he tried to explain what he was only now figuring out himself.  "It's you, Buffy. I want to be where you are.  I need to be where you are."

 

"But you're... the chip...."

 

"Chip's gone, luv.  No sense denying it. Should have at least given me a bit of headache when I slammed that door into your... into the soldier boy. But it didn't. The mage confirmed it."

 

"Ethan lies. All the time," she said desperately.  "Maybe he was just saying that."

 

His hand lashed out, the punch knocking her back on her heels. He stood stoically while she grabbed her cheek and stared at him in horror.

 

"He wasn't lying, Buffy.  I'm not muzzled anymore. You need to tell me what you want me to do."

 

"I want you to be safe to be around!  I don't want to be looking over my shoulder all the time wondering if this is the day you decide to try to kill me again!"  His nostrils flared as he scented the tears she refused to let fall.

 

"That won't happen," he said, moving closer and leaning his forehead against hers. He kept his arms at his sides, but pressed his head against hers as though the contact would allow him to share his thoughts.  "I couldn't kill you if I tried. Wouldn't. That's not what we're sussing out here. It's not even on the table."

 

"What are we doing, then?" she whispered back.

 

"We're trying to decide if I should stay or go.  It's your call."

 

"If you stay, I'll have to stake you."

 

"Why?"

 

Buffy stepped back and raised her head to stare at him.  "Because the chip is gone. Just because you aren't trying to kill me, doesn't mean I'm going to let you go running around Sunnydale munching on the citizens!"

 

"So, it's 'go' then?"  His eyes were saying things she really didn't want to hear, and Buffy turned her head away.  Spike grabbed her chin and turned it towards him. "Don't look away.  If you're telling me to get out of your life, you do it to my face, Slayer."

 

Buffy shook her head and gave him a sad smile. "Somehow, I don't think you'll ever be out of my life, Spike.  But I can't—"

 

"Could promise not to kill anybody. Or only bite evil-doers and such."

 

"Biting is biting, Spike. I can't let you do it.  Not here."

 

"But it's alright if I do it somewhere else? Is that what you're sayin', Slayer?"

 

"No! It's not all right if you do it somewhere else. It's not all right at all. Anywhere. Ever. But..."

 

"But?"

 

"But I won't know about it if you aren't here.  If I don't know where you are, what you're doing...." His raised eyebrows and surprisingly disappointed expression had her arguing, even though he hadn't said a word.  "Shut up! I know how that sounds. Do you want me to kill you?"

 

He shook his head slowly. "I want you to admit you can't do it.  Any more than I could kill you."

 

Her stare was suddenly cold.  "I could do it, Spike.  Don't ever think I couldn't. I sent the love of my life to hell on the point of a sword. I think I can stake you if I have a good reason to."

 

"Knowing you'll be sending me off to wreak havoc and mayhem somewhere else isn't a good reason? That doesn't sound like you, Slayer.  Think the Council of Wankers might revoke your license to slay for something like that, don't you?"

 

"Are you trying to goad me into staking you? I'm giving you a chance here, Spike. Why aren't you taking it?"  Buffy's voice was somewhere between a plea and a whimper.

 

"Because I don't know what to do!" he said, throwing his hands in the air and whirling away from her. "I don't want to leave yoSunnyhell, and I can't wear a leash anymore. I won't."  He turned back and looked at Buffy, his eyes pleading for her to understand.  "I am what I am, Buffy. Do you have any idea how hard it's been these past few months? Living on pig blood and stale bagged stuff from the hospital?  How much my demon is howling for the real thing, warm from the tap and full of fear?  Do you know what that's like, Slayer? Do you?"  It wasn't until she backed away and brought out her stake that he realized he'd vamped out.

 

"Bollocks!" He shook off his demon, but maintained a respectful distance from her.  They stared at each other from several feet apart, Buffy's breath coming hard and fast as the adrenaline pumped through her system.  Suddenly, Spike's shoulders slumped and he dropped his head to stare at the ground.

 

"Could never work, could it?" he whispered. "Even if we both wanted—" He lifted his head and focused suspiciously bright eyes on hers.  "It won't work," he whispered.  He shook himself and stood up straight again, throwing his shoulders back.  "Alright, then.  Leave it is.  But I'll find a way to keep in touch.  If you need me – for anything  – you'll tell me, yeah?  Don't be afraid to holler for help, Buffy." His voice had taken on a pleading tone. "You hear me, Slayer? Don't take on more than you can handle."

 

"Wh... where are you going to go?"

 

He shrugged. "Don't know. Want to be close enough to get back in a hurry if you wa— if there's need. But far enough away that I won't be tempted to..." He shook his head. "I don't know, and even if I did, it's probably best if you don't know where I am." He gave her a small smile. "Don't want you scanning the newspapers and blaming every dead body in the city on me, do I?"

 

Buffy had dropped the hand holding the stake to her side.  "You need to get your coat," she said softly.

 

He shook his head. "You keep it for me. If I'm gonna go, it's best I just do it." He stepped back into her space, one eye on the stake dangling at her side.  "Just one thing before I go..."

 

Buffy was just opening her mouth to ask what it was when he dipped his head and fastened his mouth on hers.  His arms went around her and he pulled her against his body, trapping her arms against her sides.  He moved his lips over hers until, with a small whimper, she relaxed against him and responded to the kiss.  Unlike the public, lip-smacking kisses they'd shared while under Willow's spell, this one was all about exploring each other's mouths and learning what the other liked best.  There were no giggles, no growling over wedding arrangements or comments about exes, only an aching tenderness and deepening passion that soon had them forgetting all about the reason for the kiss.

 

Not until the door opened and Willow shouted, "Buffy? Spike? What's wrong?" did they break apart, staring at each other with new understanding. They ignored Willow's repeated, "What's wrong? Aren't you coming in?"  Spike reached up and stroked her cheek softly.

 

"See you around, Slayer."

 

"See you, Spike."

 

He melted into the shadows and when Buffy could no longer feel his presence, she turned and walked into the pool of light coming from Giles' doorway.

 

He always comes back. Spike always comes back.

 

The End?