banner by Always_jbj

 

Title: Hearts Breaking Even (10/7/05)

Author: Slaymesoftly

Seasons: I, II and III

Rating: NC17

Word count: 65000

Distribution:  Please tell me if you take it, unless you already know you can

Disclaimer: I’m sure Joss would have written it this way if it had occurred to him….but he didn’t, so I’m just playing with characters that belong to Joss Wheden, Mutant Enemy and other large corporations.

AN – This fic was written for Always_jbj as a thank you for her hard work moving all my fics from the old BSV to the new one.  She also, sweetie that she is, did some of the beta work while she was getting peeks at chapters before anyone else.  Final beta was done by the brilliant Amyb who very sweetly does not point out to me that anyone who screws up as often as I do has no business running a community about grammar and punctuation issues.

 

 

Hearts Breaking Even

 

Chapter One

 

         Buffy stared at the glowing portal swirling in space into which the demon she’d been fighting had just disappeared.

 

         “Oh, this can NOT be good!” she groaned and looked at her Watcher with pleading eyes.

 

         “If you hurry, you can jump through, kill him, and jump back before it closes,” he offered helpfully.

 

            “Jump through?  In my new boots?  What if I land in a pond or a pile of elephant poop or something?  I’m not jumping into something I can’t see.”

 

                Her lip struck out stubbornly and Giles sighed as he wondered why he had been the one to end up with a Slayer with no training and no regard for the importance of blind obedience.

 

              “Buffy, you have to do it.  It is your job and as unpleasant as the thought of possibly landing in elephant…manure… might be, you must—“

 

                “Fine, fine, I know.  Chosen One.  The one in all the world, yada yada.  But you are sooo going to owe me new boots if these get ruined.”

 

                  “I will be happy to submit your invoice for footwear to the Council if it becomes necessary.  In the meanwhile, the demon is getting away.”

 

                   “I’m going, I’m going.  But what if I have to chase him and the portal closes behind me?  Did you think about that, huh?  Did you?”

 

                    “In the unlikely event that should happen, I will endeavor to reopen it as quickly as I can.  You simply need to remain in its vicinity so that you may respond quickly when it reopens.  Now, do get on with it, please.  I would like to get home at a decent hour tonight.”

 

                  “Oh yeah, Cause you’ve got so many exciting things to do waiting for you at your apartment.”  With a final glare at her watcher, the blond teenager bit her lip and jumped through the still swirling opening.

 

                    Her landing was nothing like what she expected. She had been braced for some sort of demon dimension full of darkness and slimy secretions that would get on her shoes.  Instead, she landed lightly in the middle of an open meadow full of wild flowers and startled sheep.  If it weren’t for the bright sunlight and the sheep, she would have thought she was still in Sunnydale. 

 

                   An illusion which was quickly shattered when the demon rose up to roar at her from his menacing position over an extremely frightened child.

 

                   “What? “ she yelled back to distract him from his intended victim.  “Did you think I was going to just let you go?  You tore my good shirt.  You owe me, buster.”

 

                    She waited calmly for the demon’s charge, sidestepping agilely at the last second and swinging at his neck with her sword.  Unfortunately, the demon was also fairly agile for something so large and it dodged just enough for her blow to slice into its shoulder rather than removing its head as she had intended.

 

                     “Damn!” she exclaimed, pivoting just in time to duck under a paw tipped with lethal-looking claws.  She ran the sword into the demon’s exposed stomach and yelled triumphantly when it doubled over, screaming in pain.  While it was leaning forward, she quickly pulled the sword out and swung it hard at the neck, which was now down at her level.

 

                     The force of her blow not only removed the demon’s head from it’s still-toppling body, but spun her around so fast that she lost her balance and fell to the grass-covered ground.  She sat there for a second, staring at the demon’s intended victim who was now climbing slowly to his feet.  She gradually became aware that she was sitting on something soft and less than fragrant.

 

                     “Ewwwwww!  Please tell me I am not sitting in sheep poop!” she said to the wide-eyed little boy who was approaching her with awe and not a little trepidation.

 

                    His beautiful blue eyes were as big as saucers in his fine-boned face as he stared at the vision in front of him.   Although the girl on the ground was obviously much older than his nine years, she was nowhere near as tall as most of the adults in his life. In a world where he was always the youngest or smallest in his group, he found the thought that someone not that much bigger than he could have killed a monster exciting and intriguing.

 

                   “Are you a fairy?” he inquired politely, ignoring the fact that she was spinning in circles trying to see the back of her skirt and muttering words he wasn’t sure he understood.  He was sure though, that if he went home and repeated the words, his mother would soon be scrubbing his mouth with foul-tasting soap.

 

                 “Am I a what?”  Buffy stopped trying to see the back of her skirt long enough to acknowledge his presence and the attempt at conversation.  “Don’t be silly.  Fairies aren’t real.  Now, vampires and demons, THEY’RE real.  And very hard on the wardrobe,” she added, pulling her skirt around to the front.

 

                    “Well, it’s just that you are clearly not human,” he said apologetically. “I mean, you are so beautiful, and you can fight and kill monsters.  You must surely be some sort of avenging angel, or warrior elf queen or something like that!”

 

                    Buffy studied boy for a minute, taking in his strange clothing, his accent and the worshipful look on his face. She was torn between indignation that he thought she wasn’t human and delight at being referred to as beautiful.

 

                    “I think someone’s been reading too many comic books,” she finally said kindly, pushing his unruly curls out of his eyes.

 

                     “Comic books?”

 

                      “Never mind.  I don’t have time to explain. I have to jump back through the portal before it---argh!”

 

                        Even as she turned to enter it, the gateway to her home in Sunnydale shrunk in on itself and disappeared with an audible “pop”.

 

                      “Great! Now I’m stuck here until Giles figures out how to get me back.”

 

                  Giving an exaggerated sigh of disgust, she walked to the edge of the meadow and, after carefully checking for more little sheep turds, sat down with her back against a tree.

 

                     “What’s your name?” she asked the boy, gesturing for him to take a seat beside her.

 

                      “It’s William,” he said shyly. He gave a small bow and added, “William Carlisle the Third, at your service.”

 

                       Buffy was charmed by the show of good manners in a boy his age.  Thinking back to when she was in elementary school, or to some of the children she’d babysat for before she was called, she knew that sort of behavior wasn’t typical of young boys.  Not the young boys in twentieth-century Southern California anyway.

 

                      “Thank you, William,” she replied just as formally. “I am very pleased to meet you.  Now, sit down and tell me where, and more importantly, when I am.  Since it looks like I might be here awhile, I might as well know where it is.”

 

                     “As to where you are, you are at my family’s country house in Kent. England,” he added when she looked at him blankly.  “And ,,.and when you are?  How can you not know when you are?  It is June fourteenth, the year of our lord 1864.”

                    

                        “Terrific,” she mumbled.  “Another country AND another century.  I hate portals.”

 

                 William stared at her with a worried expression on his face until she shrugged and smiled at him reassuringly.

 

                  “Do you require assistance then?” he asked, getting back to his feet.  “Shall I fetch the authorities?”

 

                  “Oh, God, no!  No authorities.”  She shook her head and her blond hair swirled around her shoulders, capturing his attention.

 

                 “Your hair is so beautiful,” he said wistfully.  “I should love to –“  He stopped, aghast at what he’d been about to say.  Blushing furiously, he sat back down and studied his boots with great intensity.

 

                  Buffy looked around curiously, observing the placid sheep and meadow full of wild flowers.  Just behind them she could see what appeared to be a small building.

 

                  “It’s really pretty here, William,” she said with a happy sigh.  “I wouldn’t mind if I could stay here all day. I could use a nice vacation in the country.”

 

                  “I…we would…you are more than welcome to do so,” he replied formally, trying to ignore the bolt of joy that shot through him at the thought of her staying all day.  In spite of her protests, he could not stop thinking of her as some sort of mythical creature and he wanted to stay close to her for as long as possible.

 

                  “I probably don’t have any choice but to do so,” she said with a wry grin.  “Who knows how long it’s going to take Giles to open that thing up again. It could be days.”

 

               “You can’t mean to stay out here by yourself all night!”  William’s little Victorian face managed to be shocked and intrigued at the same time.

 

                 “I have to stay near the portal so I can hop back through it when it opens again. Anyway,” she said with a small smile, “I’ll be fine.  I can take care of myself.  Warrior elf queen, remember?” she teased gently.

 

                He blushed again and kicked his toes in the dirt. “You aren’t really an elf queen or a fairy, are you?”

 

                 “No, I’m not.  I’m just a normal fifteen-year-old girl who happens to have…I’m just a little stronger and faster than most people,” she finished with another smile.

 

                 “And you have a sword!” he said enthusiastically.

 

                 “Yes, I do.  Would you like to see it?”

 

                    Eyes wide with wonder, he nodded his head dumbly and held his breath as she picked up the sword and gently placed it in his hand.  The sudden weight surprised him and he almost dropped it, but the sound of her laughter made him bite his lip and struggle to hold it up.  His arm trembled with the effort it took to keep the heavy sword from dipping toward the ground, but he stubbornly forced himself to lift his arm until he was holding it straight over his head.

 

                “Very good!” Buffy’s laugh was gentle and not mocking as she caught the sword on its inevitable drop toward the grass.  “I wouldn’t have been able to lift this sword at all when I was your age.  You must be used to sword fighting.”

 

                  “No, not really,” he admitted.  “I’m rather more of a…a scholar than a fighter, I’m afraid.  I prefer books and poetry to fisticuffs and sword fights. Although it would be wonderful to know how to use one the way you do,” he said wistfully.

 

                  “I can teach you.  If I’m here long enough, I can.  There’s no reason why you can’t be a poet AND a warrior is there?”

 

                 “I suppose not,” he said dubiously as though the idea was so bizarre he’d never considered it.  “But all the other boys say—“

 

                 “The other boys? What do they know?” Buffy waved her hand airily. ”Have they ever killed a demon?”

 

                 “No. No, I’m quite certain they have not,” he agreed firmly. “Clearly you are much more experienced in that field than they.”

 

                  “Well, there you go then.  You just bring a wooden sword back with you ---you ARE coming back tomorrow, aren’t you?” she asked anxiously, figuring that the gathering dusk meant he would be expected home very soon.

 

                 “Oh yes!  I shall be back as soon as Mother finishes my morning piano lesson.”

 

               “Okay, then.  I’ll see you tomorrow.  I think you’d better be getting home before your mother starts to worry about you.”

 

               “Mother is quite accustomed to my wandering all over the farm by myself every summer.  You are quite correct, however, to think she would worry about me if it was after sunset.”  He held up a sketch book and small journal to indicate what he did to amuse himself.

 

                  He turned to leave, then looked back over his shoulder and raised one eyebrow. “Are you sure you are going to be alright?”

 

                 “I’ll be fine.  I’ll just get in that little house there if it rains or something.  You go on home.”

 

                 Buffy watched as his slight figure disappeared into the rapidly-gathering gloom.  She could see him stop occasionally and throw worried looks back and she waved cheerfully every time he did until she knew he couldn’t see her anymore.

                

                 Resigning herself to the fact that she might be stuck here for a while, she walked over to the small building and peered inside.  It appeared to be used for storing various feed tubs and buckets and of course had nothing resembling a bed or food for humans. 

 

               (Oh well, it’s not like I haven’t been cold and hungry before…wait! I haven’t been cold and hungry – okay, hungry maybe; but not I-haven’t- eaten- in two- days kind of hungry.)

 

 

                With a sigh, she resigned herself to an uncomfortable night, and settled against a tree where she could quickly reach the portal if it opened before morning.  She spent the night alternately bored and frightened as the complete darkness settled around her.  She could hear the sheep make occasional “baas” and snuffling noises as they moved around the meadow before quieting down to sleep.  

 

             She amused herself for a while by staring at the stars overhead and marveling at how well she could see them.  Only way out in the desert, far away from the reflected lights of towns and cities, could they be seen so clearly back in California and the complete lack of any glow on the horizon brought home to her exactly how far away she was from her home.

 

                As the night wore on and the portal failed to appear, the Slayer’s head began to droop and she slid down the tree to pillow it on the soft grass.  She told herself she was just resting her head while she kept her eyes open, but it wasn’t long before sleep overtook her fifteen-year-old body.

 

                 She awoke with a start, blinking her eyes in the bright sunlight, taking just a second to remember where she was.  As soon as she realized what had awakened her, she had no trouble remembering the previous afternoon and evening.  Her sudden twitch as she awoke had startled the young lamb that had been sniffing her face, but he only backed up a few steps before curiosity overcame his fear and he stretched his head out toward the immobile girl again.

 

                The lamb’s warm breath on her face, smelling of milk and clover, was a revelation to the city-born Slayer; she lay perfectly still while the young sheep allowed his nose to roam over her face and body.  When he began to nibble on a blond curl, Buffy sat up suddenly and sent him racing back to the safety of his mother’s side while the teenager laughed.

 

              “Sorry, little guy, but I don’t think you really want to eat my hair.”

 

               Mentioning eating reminding her that she hadn’t been able to since lunch the day before, and she grimaced as her stomach growled in protest.  She was afraid to get too far from the portal area, but the pangs in her belly sent her prowling around the edges of the field looking for berries or nuts of some sort.

 

              “I hope William doesn’t forget I’m out here,” she murmured as her search turned up nothing but a few blackberries which were much too far from being ripe to be edible.  Making a face at the sour taste, she sadly dropped the handful she’d picked with such hope and wandered into the meadow to watch the lambs frolicking with each other.

 

               When William arrived several hours later, laboriously towing a rather large child’s wagon behind him, he found his “warrior queen” hiding behind her tree and yelling at a snorting ram that shook his head threateningly.

 

               “William!” she shouted in relief and fear.  “Be careful! That big sheep has gone crazy.  He tried to attack me.  For no reason!  I was just playing with the babies and he—“  She stopped talking as the ram took advantage of her distraction to sneak around the tree and butt her hard enough to knock her down.

 

                 Smothering a smile, the boy rushed to her rescue, delighted that he was able to return the favor for the girl who had saved his life.  Picking up a broken branch, he approached the snorting sheep and tapped it on the nose, saying firmly, “Back off, Sebastian.  Miss Buffy is not going to hurt your children.  You are being very rude.  Now back off!”  He waved his makeshift shepherd’s crook at the large ram and firmly urged him back to his herd.

 

                  With a final glare at Buffy and a shake of his head, the protective flock leader moved back out into the meadow and resumed grazing with his ewes and their lambs.

 

                     Keeping a wary eye on the now placid sheep, Buffy moved out away from the tree and gave William a grateful hug. 

 

                       “Thank you, William, I’m sure you saved my life,” she said with a smile as she walked over to the wagon.  She completely missed the rush of color to the boy’s adoring face and the absolute astonishment on it.  No one except his mother had ever hugged William.  No one, let alone a beautiful girl from another world.  He remained frozen in place until her voice finally penetrated the delighted fog he was in and he hastened to answer her questions.

 

                      “Is this for me?  William? William?  Can you hear me?  Is this for me?”

 

               He shook himself out of his stupor and, forgetting how strong she was, quickly moved to help her with the picnic basket she was holding.

 

                 “Yes, I thought you might be hungry and I didn’t know how long you might be here so I brought you as much food as I could sneak out of the kitchen without alerting Cook to …”He stopped as she tore the top off the basket and began stuffing a slice of bread in her mouth.

 

                    Something about his shocked expression reached through the hungry daze Buffy was in and she stopped chewing abruptly, swallowing the mouthful she already had and blushing all over.

 

                   “I’m sorry, William,” she said apologetically.  “My manners are terrible.  It’s just that I haven’t eaten since yesterday’s lunch and it looks so good—“

 

                  “It’s quite alright, Miss Buffy,” he said politely.  “I should have been quite ravenous myself if I had not eaten for such a long period of time.  Please, continue.  Help yourself to whatever you want.  There is jam for the bread, and some meat from last night’s supper.  And some fruit…”

 

                    For a second she looked like she was going to hug him again, and he waited with bated breath, both terrified and eager, until she turned away and began unpacking the rest of the food.  With a resigned sigh, he relaxed and moved to help her sort out the rather large quantity of supplies he had brought with him.

 

                    In addition to the large picnic basket, which he assured her she could keep with her until she no longer needed it, he pulled out several blankets and a pillow, blushing as he suggested she might need to make herself a bed if she was still there by nightfall.  He also brought out his sketch book and a pencil, laying them carefully to one side for use later.

 

Chapter Two

 

                   In the bottom of the wagon was a wooden sword – clearly a child’s toy, and just as clearly one not having seen much use.  She smiled and pulled it out, placing it beside her on the ground.  The large metal battle sword she had brought through the portal with her dwarfed his wooden offering and William tried to take it back to hide away.  His embarrassment at having brought it was palpable.

 

                 “I’m sorry,” he said, blushing furiously. “I know it is just a toy.  It was all I could find, but…”

 

                “It’s fine, William,” Buffy said kindly.  “We can work on some moves, how to hold it, when to strike.  Things like that. It’ll work.  You’ll see.”

 

                William looked at her dubiously, but set the toy sword back on the ground and waited for her to finish eating.  In a time period when women did their best to appear fragile and feminine, which included picking at their food – at least in public –he found the way Buffy indulged her more than hearty appetite both amazing and interesting.

 

                   “Do you always eat like that?”  he asked hesitantly as she polished off her second apple.  “Not that I mind,” he hastened to assure her when she appeared embarrassed.  “It’s just that I’ve never seen a girl consume quite that much food at one time.”

 

                   Buffy colored slightly and said, “Well, I WAS really hungry.  And I have a really high metabolism.  I burn those calories like crazy – what with slaying, and school and-“  She stopped short at the uncomprehending look on his face.

 

                  “You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?” she asked him, with a smile.

 

                   He shook his head and smiled back at her.   “I am not familiar with some of the terms you use.  I’m sorry.  No doubt it is my own ignorance showing—“

 

                 “No, it’s not you.  It’s me forgetting when I am and how old you are.  You seem so mature for a…a…ten year old?” she hazarded.

 

                  “Actually, I’m only nine,” he said proudly.  “I won’t be ten for another two months.  But I’ve been told I’m very mature for my age – intellectually, if not physically.”

 

                “Well, go me, with the knowing more big words than a brain,” Buffy laughed. 

 

                  After Buffy had eaten her fill and stashed the remaining food, blankets and the pillow in the shed, she tossed the wooden sword to William and said, “Let’s go learn to swordfight, Willie.”

 

                     Leaving her own heavy sword for the time being, she picked up the branch William had used to intimidate the ram and broke it in half, using one piece as her own version of a wooden sword. After showing him how to properly grip the sword’s handle, and watching him make several awkward sweeps with it, she picked up her stick and said, “Okay, now come at me like you want to take my head off.”

 

                  His shocked face and immediate release of his sword told her that was not going to work and she sighed heavily.

 

                  “You aren’t going to hurt me,” she encouraged.  “I won’t let you. Don’t worry about me.  Just try to get through my defenses.”

 

                   “Very well,” he said dubiously, advancing on her and waving his sword around purposefully.  “I shall endeavor to attack you.  But you must promise to tell me if I am too rough.”

 

                   Biting back a grin, Buffy agreed to tell him if he was becoming too aggressive for her and they began a timid sword fight with her stick and his toy.  After several minutes in which it was clear that Buffy was in no danger of being struck by his wooden weapon, William became braver and began to actually try to break through her defense, not sure what he would do if he was successful, but desiring to show her that he was learning something.

 

                   When he faked a stab at her stomach and she lowered her stick to block it, he swung his sword at her exposed neck and hit her on the shoulder.  With a muffled scream, he dropped his sword and fell to his knees in front of her begging forgiveness with tears in his eyes.

 

                  Buffy quickly dropped her stick and knelt beside him, pulling him into a hug and murmuring that it was okay, she wasn’t hurt, that he did just right. She insisted she was proud of him and that he had done just the right thing.

 

                 “But I struck you!”  His lower lip came out in a pout when she refused to stop smiling at him and praising his technique.

 

                 “Yes,” she said proudly, “You did.  It was wonderful! What made you think to try a fake like that?”

 

                  “That’s what you did to the monster,” he muttered, refusing to look at her happy face.  “You struck him in the stomach and then cut off his head.  I thought you might think I was doing the same thing and then I –but I didn’t mean to hurt you!”  His eyes teared up again.

 

                   “I’m not hurt, William. I promise you.  See? Not even a mark.  It was brilliant.  I am so proud of you!”

 

                 “Really?”  The hopeful expression on his face was irresistible and she nodded eagerly.

 

                 “Really.  You are a very quick learner.  I’ll make a master swordsman out of you in no time.”

 

                 Convinced that he had not injured her, and that she really wanted him to keep trying, William went back to his lessons with a willingness that surprised them both.  When Buffy felt he had mastered the art of attack, she switched from strictly defensive tactics to a more aggressive approach and watched with admiration as he quickly adapted to the moves necessary to block her tentative strikes.

 

                 After an hour of this, Buffy laughingly called a halt and went to get a drink from the bottle of water he had brought for her.  While she drank and rested against her tree, William bounced around her waving his sword and smiting imaginary enemies.  She watched him with interest as he kept up a non-stop monologue while he leapt around the meadow.

 

                “You have a lot of energy, William,” she called out as he ran through the unimpressed sheep, shouting a battle cry.  “You remind me of me when I was your age.  My parents thought there was something wrong with me that I had so much energy.  Of course, that was before we knew I was a sl— before I had learned to use swords and other weapons.”

 

                They passed the rest of the afternoon alternating between sword fighting and talking about William’s life when he wasn’t spending his summers in the country.  She listened with interest as he explained about the British school system and how boys from his station always went off to boarding school at a young age.

 

                 “Don’t you miss your parents?”  The idea of being away from her family for most of the year was appalling to the slayer and she looked at the boy with sympathy.

 

                  He shrugged and tried to look unconcerned.  “You get used to it,” he said quietly.  “Everyone does it.  Only a…a…momma’s boy would stay at home.”

 

               Something in his voice told her he didn’t want to discuss that particular aspect of his life any more and she switched the subject to the farm and the kinds of crops raised there.

 

                When evening approached again, William reluctantly picked up the handle of his wagon and turned it toward home. He frowned at the small stash of food Buffy had set aside to eat later.

 

                  “I’ll try to bring you some more bread and meat tomorrow,” he promised.  “Are you sure you’re going to be alright here again?”

 

                 “I’ll be fine,” she assured him with a smile.  “I’ll be waiting for you.  Unless the portal opens,” she hastily added.  “Then I’ll have to leave.”

 

                  “This…portal…it will take you back to your own world?”

 

               Buffy nodded. She had been careful to tell him as little as possible about where she was from, allowing him to believe she actually came from some other world, if not the land of faery, then something else unrelated to the one he knew.  When she wouldn’t answer his specific questions about her life, he went back to referring to her as his “warrior elf queen” and insisting that she came from a magical realm.

 

                 “I should miss you,” he mumbled, turning bright red.  “If you weren’t here tomorrow, I should miss you terribly.”

 

                 “That’s very sweet, William,” she said softly, very aware of the effort it had cost him to say that to her. “I will miss you too, and the meadow,” she waved her hand in the general direction of the sheep, ”even mean old Sebastian, there.  But I have to go back.  There are more monsters there waiting for me to fight them.”

 

                  “You ARE a warrior queen!” he exclaimed.  “A warrior queen who fights monsters.  I knew it!”

 

                  “Close enough,” Buffy smiled.  “I get called a lot of things, but I think I like ‘warrior queen’ the best.”

 

                    With a final “good night” the boy reluctantly turned his steps toward home, casting looks back over his shoulder until he could not longer see her bright hair in the waning light. 

 

                  Buffy spent a much more comfortable night, making herself a small bed in the cabin and snacking on what was left of the food William had brought before falling into a peaceful sleep.  When an inquisitive lamb awoke her the following morning, she didn’t jump this time, but just smiled and gently stroked it’s soft nose and wooly head.

 

                  She finished off the food left from the day before and set the now-empty basket out by her tree for William to take back with him.  She frowned when her stomach growled and she realized that it was getting late in the day and William still hadn’t come.  Telling herself it was nothing to worry about, she nevertheless spent the rest of the day worrying about the little boy she’d only known for two days.

 

                  When darkness fell with no sign of William, she was surprised at the disappointment she felt.  She assuaged her hunger with the few remaining apples and some leftover cheese, but it did nothing to calm her nerves.  Although she had only known him a day or two, she somehow knew that William was not one to lightly break a promise and only the fact that he was a child and therefore dependent on his parents for permission to leave the home kept her from going off to search for him.

 

                   She spent a restless night, waking frequently to check for the portal and to listen for any sign of William.  So it was that she was awake to hear the voices approaching her shed, to hear the rough laughter and quiet crying that made her heart clench in fear.  She rose on her knees to peer out the window, grateful for the coming dawn, which was just close enough to offer some light.

 

                 The sight that met her eyes chilled her, even as she felt anger that threatened to overwhelm her.  Coming toward her on the faint trail that William followed to and from the meadow, was a small group of teenage boys that were dragging with them a struggling William.  While one of the boys pulled the wagon, two others dragged the bloody and bruised boy, ignoring his repeated pleas to take him somewhere else.  Anywhere but to the shed ahead of them.

 

                With a pang, Buffy realized he was trying his best to keep them away from her and her hiding place.  She slipped out the back window and crouched behind the shed while she pondered the best way to deal with what was clearly an ugly situation.

 

                The boys pulled the wagon up in front of the shed and one of them peered inside.  His shout of discovery when he found the blankets and pillow, along with the basket and water bottle brought them all running.  They turned to the defiant boy glaring at them and demanded he tell them who was staying in the shed.

 

                He clamped his lips together stubbornly and shook his head and then, pulling suddenly free from the inattentive boy left holding him, he took off running in the direction of his home.  He had not gotten very far when the much taller and faster boys caught him and pinned him to the ground cursing and punching him in retaliation.

 

                 When Buffy saw them yank down William’s trousers and realized what their intentions were, she no longer wondered how best to handle the situation.  She stepped quietly from behind the shed and walked toward the boys, growling softly under her breath.

 

                 “We’ll teach you to keep secrets from us,” the one holding William said, unbuttoning his own pants.  “Last chance to tell us who is staying there and where he is…”

 

                 William shut his eyes and bit his lip, refusing to reply and bracing himself for what he knew was to come.  He groaned aloud when he heard Buffy’s voice say cheerfully, “SHE’S right here, guys.  Something I can do for you?”

 

               The boys whirled and gaped at the pretty blond girl in the, by Victorian standards, indecently short skirt and boots.  Forgetting immediately about the now sobbing boy on the ground, they began to surround the Slayer licking their lips in anticipation.

 

                  “No wonder William didn’t want us to follow him out here,” one said, walking slowly around Buffy and looking her up and down.  “Although what a little wanker like that would do with a fine figure of a woman like you I can’t fathom.”

 

                 Just as the leader of the little gang reached toward Buffy’s head to grab a piece of her hair, a small figure threw itself in front of her and held up little fists screaming, “Don’t touch her!  Don’t you touch her!”

 

                Laughing, the older boy backhanded William across the face, knocking him to the ground and deliberately stepping on him as he moved closer to Buffy.  Instead of shrinking away from him as he expected, the girl’s eyes narrowed and she hissed, “You really shouldn’t have done that.”

 

                He laughed again, looking around at his friends for appreciation as he asked with a smirk, “And why would that be, missy?  The little gentleman” – he snarled the word – “needs a lesson in minding his betters.  And when we finish with you, we’ll be just the men to give it to him.”

 

                 He nodded to his friends and they all rushed Buffy at the same time, using tactics that they had obviously practiced on other unsuspecting girls.  Unfortunately for them, this time they were rushing a girl who spent her night in violent confrontations with beings much larger, stronger and faster than they.

 

               Ducking under the reaching arms and twisting slightly, Buffy sidestepped the intended group grope and grabbed the leader by his throat.  While she wasn’t quite tall enough to lift him off the ground, she was more than able to squeeze his throat shut, effectively cutting off both his oxygen and his ability to speak.  It took his friends several precious seconds to realize that he was not pretending to be choking, but was actually being throttled by the petite girl in front of him.  With a shout, one of them grabbed Buffy’s arm, intending to pull her away.  He frowned in surprise when he found himself not only unable to budge her arm, but the recipient of a scornful sneer as she dropped the almost unconscious boy to the ground. 

 

                She turned her eyes on his gang members, the joy of battle lighting up her face as she faced the angry boys.  Victorian England didn’t produce many women who would willingly face one angry man, let alone four at a time, and they were nonplussed for a moment before the security found in numbers gave back their courage and they charged.

 

                  Compared to the supernaturally fast and strong beings she fought every night, Buffy found fighting the human boys to be like moving in slow motion.  She spun and kicked and punched and tossed the boys around until she was tired of playing with them, at which time she landed one good blow on each chin rendering them unconscious for several hours.

 

              The leader of the little gang was lying on the ground, still clutching his throat and breathing hard as he watched the small girl wipe out his little gang of rough farm boys.  When she turned her glittering green eyes on him, he cringed involuntarily, shrinking back and whimpering.  Buffy stalked over to him and yanked him to his feet, shaking him like a rag doll for emphasis as she growled, “I will be watching you boys from now on.  If I see one attempt by any one of you to hurt anyone, boy or girl, I will rip off your balls and feed them to you. Is that perfectly clear?”

 

                She cocked her head and waited for his answer.  Instead of answering her immediately, he croaked, “What ARE you?”

 

                 With a wink at a still sniffling William, she said with as much authority as she could summon, “I am a warrior elf queen and this farm is part of my realm.  I will NOT have its tranquility disturbed by ruffians.  Do you understand me?”

 

                  While the boy nodded his head, promising to be a model citizen for the rest of his life, Buffy congratulated herself on channeling her inner Giles.  She picked up the unconscious boys, piling them roughly in the wagon and handing the handle to the only one able to move.

 

                  “Drag your scuzzy friends out of here and take them home.  Then take William’s wagon back to his house for him.”

 

                  Nodding and bowing as best he could while he backed away, the boy struggled to haul his immobile friends down the dirt track and back to the road to town.  Casting the occasional glance over his shoulder at the tiny blond with her hands on her hips, he dragged the heavy wagon behind him putting as much distance as he could between the angry self-confessed elf queen and himself.

 

                Once he was out of sight, Buffy dropped her angry queen pose and fell to her knees beside William, pushing the curls off his face and wiping the tears from his eyes.  At her touch he began sobbing again, babbling apologies for not being able to prevent them from following him.

 

                “Shhhh, It’s okay,” she soothed, pulling him into her lap and rocking him like the child he was. “You were very brave to try to fight them.  They were much bigger than you and there were five of them. There was nothing you could do.”

 

                 He looked up at her with suddenly old eyes and said with solemn promise, ”When I am grown up I will never be picked on like that. Ever.  If someone tries to hurt me, I will…I will kill them if I have to!”

 

                “I’m sure you won’t have to,” she said, hiding her smile at his conviction.  “You’ll be a good man and bad things won’t happen to you.

 

                “But just in case they do,” she added, standing up and pulling him to his feet.  “Let me show you a few things that might be helpful.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

                  They spent the rest of the morning with Buffy teaching William some martial arts moves that would be useful for someone who didn’t have super strength or speed. Along with the judo and karate moves, she threw in some dirty tricks that Giles had shown her when he’d had a little more scotch than usual.

When William protested that using such tactics would be “cheating” she took his chin and looked at him seriously. 

 

                   “When someone is trying to kill you, nothing is cheating.  You do what you need to do to save yourself.  Do you hear me, William? You do what you need to do to stay alive.” 

 

                  He nodded solemnly, promising to remember what she said, then went for a leg sweep that left her sprawled on the ground and laughing with delight.

 

                  When they stopped to rest and eat the rest of bread from the day before, she smiled at how seriously he had taken the training.

 

                   “Now don’t go starting fights just because you think you can win them,” she cautioned.  “With great ability comes great responsibility…and oh my god, I’m turning into Giles!”

 

                      “Who is this Giles?” he asked with what sounded suspiciously like jealousy.

 

                      “He’s my…nevermind. He’s somebody I work with.  He helps me train.”

 

                 “So you can beat the monsters.”

 

                  “Yes, so I can beat the monsters.  Now, shouldn’t you be getting home and into a bathtub and some clean clothes?”  She eyed his ripped clothing and bloody face and hands.

 

                    “Yes, I suppose so,” he sighed. “Mother is going to be so disappointed in me.”

 

                   “Well, just tell her it wasn’t your fault!”

 

                    “Right.  Because that always goes so well,” he muttered, giving her  a glimpse of the little boy behind the good manners and intellectual pursuits.

 

                    She smiled and ruffled his hair. “Well, tell her an elf queen needed your assistance and your clothes got torn in the course of coming to her rescue.”

 

                   “I think I shall write a poem about you tonight,” he announced as he stood up and straightened his clothes as much as possible. “I could bring it with me tomorrow…that is, if you think you would like to see it?” he finished much less confidently.

 

                    “I know I would want to see it, William.  I would be honored.  No one has ever written a poem about me before.”

 

                     “Then I shall be the first.” He smiled and marched off in the direction of his home.

 

                       Although Buffy was quite sure the local riff-raff wouldn’t be back anytime soon, she slept much less soundly and with her sword under her hand until the sun woke her up.  She stretched, then jumped to her feet when she heard the sound of running footsteps. Peering out the door, she saw William running toward her, a cloth bag dangling from his hand. 

 

                  Gasping for breath, he said quickly,  “I brought you some breakfast… and luncheon and supper… but I can’t stay.  I have to go into town with mother today and I won’t be back until this evening.  I hope it’s enough food, the poem is in the bag, I’ll return tomorrow, good-bye.”  He waved his hand, giving her an apologetic look and ran back the way he had come.

 

                   Buffy stood smiling at him until he was out of sight, then dug into the bag to see what he had brought for her.  She ate the warm, freshly baked bread with some of the butter and jam he’d managed to sneak out for her and sat back with a bottle of water to read the poem he’d written.

 

                 She glows when she smiles

                 She is the most beautiful girl for miles

                She slays the monsters and saves the child

                Isn’t afraid no matter how wild

                The enemy may have been

               She is my warrior elf queen.

 

             Buffy’s desire to roll on the ground laughing at what she was sure was the worst poem she had ever seen warred with the warmth she felt that William had written it just for her.

 

              “It’s not like I could write a poem,” she muttered. “Even a bad one.  And he’s only nine years old.  I didn’t even know what a poem was when I was nine.”

 

                Just as she started to set the poem down, she caught movement from the corner of her eye and whirled to see the portal opening.   Frantically, she looked around for something on which to leave a message for William, finally tearing off the bottom of the beautiful paper on which he had written her poem.  She snatched up the pencil that had fallen out of his sketch book earlier and quickly wrote, “I had to go.  I’ll miss you. Don’t forget to cheat if you need to. Your elf queen, Buffy.”  She hastily shoved the paper back in the bag and grabbing her sword, ran for the now full sized portal and jumped through.  Her last view of Nineteenth Century England was Sebastian staring at her suspiciously as she winked out of sight.

 

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

 

 

               “Ah, there you are!”  Giles’ voice rang out with false heartiness as Buffy stepped out of the portal and glared at him.

 

                   “No problem?  You’ll be right back?  I’ll just open it up again if it closes.  Stop me when I get to something that sounds remotely like something that might have actually happened.”

 

                  “Yes, well, it was a bit more…complicated than I anticipated.  But we’ve covered for you very well!”  He beamed at her with pride.  “Your mother thinks you’ve been staying at Willow’s to do some intensive studying, and the school has accepted my word for it that you had a family emergency that called you away.”

 

                   “Oh, well, that makes it all okay then.  It doesn’t matter that I sat in sheep poop, slept in a hut with no food for a whole day, got knocked on my butt by a big sheep, had to beat up a bunch of old-fashioned thugs and the only company I had was a nine-year old boy!”

 

                   Without further conversation, Buffy stomped off in the direction of her home on Revello Drive, throwing over her shoulder, “And, oh yeah, the demon is dead!”

 

                     Her watcher rolled his eyes and followed behind her until it was time for him to turn toward his own home.  He went home muttering to himself about disrespectful American children and Slayers who didn’t want to do their jobs properly.

 

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

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four  -  almost a year later

 

             Buffy was enjoying her night off – dancing with her friends in the Bronze, flirting with the boys, laughing with the girls and pretending she was a normal high school junior for one night.  Just for a second, she thought she felt the tingling on her neck that signaled the presence of a vampire, but it faded and she quickly dismissed it, returning to her dancing and pretending for one night that vampires didn’t exist.

 

                “Buffy, have you seen that blond guy in the leather coat?  He is totally checking you out!”

 

                Buffy tried to be casual as she danced around to face the way Willow was looking.  She flushed from head to toe at the predatory look the obviously-not-natural-blond man was giving her.  She could feel his eyes running over her body as she moved to the music and she unconsciously added a little more body movement to her dancing.  She looked around the room idly, as though she might be searching for someone, allowing her eyes to slide across him briefly only to find herself caught in his gaze. The most brilliant blue eyes she’d ever seen fastened on hers and she felt her heart rate increase at the heat she saw there.

 

               She faltered and lost the beat for a second as those eyes bored into hers, pinning her to the spot like a blonde butterfly on a pin.  When he broke into a smirking grin, she brought her chin up and glared, breaking the eye contact and tossing her hair as she turned away from him.  She could still feel his eyes on her and she tried to control the blush that threatened to turn her entire body bright red even as she continued to move sensuously around the floor.

 

                She could tell the minute he stopped watching her and tried to smother the disappointment, telling herself he was obviously too old for her and anyway, she had a boyfriend. (Well, sort of. In a we-hardly-ever-see-each-other-unless-there’s-a-problem kind of way.)   When she overheard a boy frantically calling for help because someone was being attacked in the alley, she sighed, knowing her night off was at an end.

 

              Buffy ran out the back door, yanking the vampire off the girl on which he’d been about to feed and sending the intended victim back inside to rethink her willingness to go for walks with strange men.

 

(I guess this is why I thought I felt a vamp in there.  Stupid vampire. Ruining my night off.)>

 

              The vampire was actually a pretty good fighter.  He was obviously not a fledgling and she was beginning to regret not having grabbed her stake before she came outside.  As soon as Xander called her name and tossed it to her, she dusted the vamp and turned to rejoin her friends.  She was facing away when she heard slow clapping and turned back to find the blond man (Vamp! He’s a vamp!) walking out of the shadows, his mocking applause ringing in her ears.

 

           (Just my luck.  I find a hottie and he’s a frickin’ vampire.)

 

               He was in the middle of a threat to kill her Saturday night when Xander called her name again, asking if she needed help. She watched curiously as the vampire froze, frowning when Xander called her “Buffy.” He stared at her again, his frown deepening, then whirled in a swirl of leather and ran out of the alley.

 

             (Hmmm. Just my name is enough to scare them off now.  That’s pretty cool.)

 

            She joined her friends, grimacing when Willow supportively commiserated with her on the man’s undead status. 

 

              “So, the hottie is a vamp, huh? That totally sucks.”

 

               “Yeah it does, I’m completely onboard with the suckage.  I’m suckable girl – no wait – he’s suckable –no, that’s not it either…”  She shook her head and sighed heavily. “Oh well, one older man in my life is enough - even if he is a vampire and…Oh my god, Willow!  You don’t think I attract vampires, do you?  I mean do you think I put out some kind of vampire pher…fren…fomoho-“

 

                 “Pheromone?” her brainy friend asked with a smile.

 

              “Yeah, that thing.  I don’t, do I?”  Her eyes were wide in horror as she anticipated having to fight hordes of lustful vampires every night.

 

                 “I’m sure you don’t, Buffy,” Xander put in quickly.  “No more than your average beautiful girl, any way.  I mean, I know if I was a vamp, I’d rather bite a pretty girl than an ugly one.  Even if she was the Slayer.  And I’m shutting up now…”

 

                 With both girls giving him a look of disgust, he trailed off mumbling and doing his best not to appear to be ogling Buffy the way the vampire clearly had been.

 

               

 

                 The following evening, when Giles had found a picture of William the Bloody that everyone tentatively identified as the vampire they’d seen in the alley, he shook his head and said seriously, “You must be carefully, Buffy.  William the Bloody has already killed two Slayers.”

 

                      “But, Giles, I’m really not sure that’s who we saw.  The other vamp called him—“

 

                   “Spike,” came Angel’s flat voice as the souled vampire entered the library and the discussion. 

 

                  “You know of him?”  The Watcher gave the old vampire an appraising stare.

 

                  “I don’t just know OF him.  I know HIM.  And if he says he’s going to do something, he won’t quit until he does it. The only way to stop him is to dust him.”

 

                  Buffy felt a small jolt of fear go through her before anger took over and she glared at her sometime boyfriend.

 

                 “Then I guess he’s going to be dusty sooner than he expected,” she huffed, not a little offended that Giles and Angel seemed so willing to assume she was in danger from the new vamp in town.

 

                   “He’s a very good fighter, Buffy,” Angel began somewhat pompously.  “He’s very…innovative and unpredictable.”

 

                   “I’M a very good fighter,” she growled angrily.  “And I’m unpredictable and…whatever that other thing was.  I’m that too.”

 

                 Her lower lip came out to add emphasis to the stubbornness in her voice.  Her watcher fought the urge to roll his eyes in imitation of the teenagers he spent so much time with and he tried to soothe her ruffled feathers.

 

                 “Quite so, Buffy.  No one doubts your abilities.  We are simply saying that you need to exercise some caution until you have had a chance to evaluate your opponent as he was clearly doing with you last night.”

 

                 “Well,” she said, somewhat mollified, “he said he was going to kill me Saturday night, so I guess I’m safe till then. Now I’ve got to go work on Back to School Night stuff.”

 

 

                 When Back to School Night had gone from bad – Snyder and her mom indulging in quality Buffy bashing -- to worse with the arrival of Spike and his minions, Buffy’s first instinct was to take out her frustration on the vampire’s body before she staked him.  When it turned out to be harder than she expected to beat him, she got even angrier and his snarky, “Did I spoil your doilies?” did nothing to calm her down. 

 

                     And when she used one of her tried and true moves and found him anticipating and meeting it with one of his own, she began to feel the first prickles of concern.  Suddenly the fight that she had to admit she’d been enjoying up to that point took on a whole new meaning.  Where before she had been happy to have found a vamp that could give her a good workout before she dusted him, it now occurred to her that there was very real possibility that this one might be able to make good on his threat to kill her.

 

                     When she was pinned to the floor with the vampire’s lean muscular body pressing against hers, that possibility became frighteningly more real.   Buffy struggled vigorously against both the vulnerable position in which she found herself and the wildly inappropriate reaction she found her body having to that position.  The hard length she could feel pressing against her thigh made it clear that she was not the only one to be turned on by the preceding battle and she smiled to herself as an escape plan was born. 

 

                     Staring into the lust-filled amber eyes of the demon, she shifted her hips subtly, allowing his erection to slip between her legs and press into her suddenly damp center.  The sensations that move caused almost made her forget her intention, until the vampire’s involuntary groan reminded her that she had a plan.  She quickly head-butted the distracted vamp, breaking his nose with a satisfying crunch and throwing him over her head.

 

                   She kipped to her feet and turned to face the blond demon, sure she would be looking at the face of an outraged monster.  Instead, the vampire’s handsome human face was back and even as he held his bleeding nose and cursed, his eyes glinted with admiration and joy.

 

                    “Nice move, luv,” he drawled.  “Got to say I didn’t see that one comin’.”

 

                  “Not gonna see the next one either,” she grunted, ripping a broken two by four out of the shattered wall and holding it in front of her.  She had the broken end pointed at his chest, ready to turn him to dust. 

 

                  “You don’ t really want to kill me yet.  Do you, Buffy?”  His sudden change in demeanor and tone startled her enough that she paused and blinked in surprise.  The vampire was speaking almost as though he knew her.  The moment’s hesitation was all he needed.  With a leap, he kicked the board out of her hands and pinned her against the wall, once again putting his mouth much too close to her neck for comfort.

 

                    Surprisingly, he was still in his human face and the teeth he ran down her throat were small and blunt.  Buffy shivered when his cool tongue slid up the side of her neck and she felt his lips twitch into a smile.  He gave a little nip to the skin over her pounding pulse, then pulled back to look into her confused eyes.

 

                       “Not ready to kill you, pet,” he murmured.  “I want to make this last.  You’re the best I’ve ever come up against.  But then, I should have expected that,” he added enigmatically, leaning in to sniff her and letting blood drip from his nose onto her collar. 

 

                     “You’re getting blood on my good shirt,” she managed to gasp out, completely at a loss as to why she wasn’t already dead, but willing to go with his plan to put it off for awhile.

 

                    “Well, you’re the bitch who broke my nose.” he responded indignantly, ”And you cheated to do it!”

 

                  “It’s not cheating when someone’s trying to kill you!” she snapped back at him.

 

                “The hell it isn—“ The vampire’s entire demeanor suddenly changed.  “Bloody hell,” he breathed softly. “It IS you.”

 

                Buffy frowned at the look on Spike’s face and answered with some asperity, “Of course, I’m me.  Who else would I be?”

 

               Ignoring her question, he raked his eyes over her again then raised a shaking hand to her cheek.

 

              “I cut you,” he said as though to himself, running his thumb lightly along her jaw line.  He leaned into her and quickly ran his tongue over the small cut, stimulating it to stop bleeding and sending another shiver through the Slayer’s body. 

 

              Buffy did her best to appear disgusted as she flinched away and muttered, “Well, duh!  You were trying to kill me.” 

 

             She did her best to get the conversation back to something she could understand and realized with a start that the vampire had completely relaxed his grip on her. He appeared to be so distracted that she might easily escape if she tried.  Instead, she remained where she was, inches away from the most deadly vamp she’d every faced and feeling, quite suddenly, perfectly safe. 

 

                 “No, I wasn’t.  Not really. Not yet.”  He spoke absently, his eyes continuing to search her face, almost as though he was trying to memorize her features. 

 

                  “Well maybe if you’d let me in on that plan, your nose might not be broken,” she replied petulantly, angry that he wasn’t explaining himself or his bizarre behavior.

 

                    Her lower lip came out in a small pout even as a voice screamed internally that Slayers did not apologize to vampires for trying to escape with their lives.

 

                  “Why weren’t you trying to kill me?” she asked, almost angrily, trying to bring the conversation back to something remotely not weird and confusing.

 

                  “Was having too much fun,” he answered with a smirk. 

 

                  “Fun?  We weren’t having fun; we were fighting. To the death.”

 

                 “Admit it, luv.  You were enjoying that just as much as I was.  And it was having the same effect on you it did on me,” he added with a leer.  “You just took advantage of it while I was…distracted.”

 

                   “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she sniffed haughtily.  “I was just trying to rid the world of another worthless, bloodsucking demon.  That’s my job, you know.”

 

                 “Yeah,” he said softly, “I know.  You slay the monsters.”

 

                 Something in the way he said it and his tone of voice sent a chill down Buffy’s spine and she tried frantically to place where she’d heard those words before.  Before she could remember anything at all helpful, he threw his head up as though listening, then shocked her into complete silence when he brushed his lips over hers and whispered, “Got to go, luv.  We’ll continue this later.”

 

                  With another dramatic swirl of his leather coat, he whirled and was gone just before Angel, Giles and Xander came rushing up the hallway.  They paused when they got to Buffy, seeing the blood on her shirt from Spike’s nose and misunderstanding her bemused expression.

 

                    “Did he hurt you?”  Angel was in full game face, snarling as he scented his grandchilde all over her.  He quickly assessed the blood as belonging to Spike rather than Buffy and relaxed back into his usual brooding human face.

 

                    “Buffy? Are you quite all right?”  Giles added his own concerned questions to Angel’s.

 

                “I’m fine,” she answered without looking at either of them. 

 

                   “Did you dust him?” Xander asked eagerly.  “Did you slay William the Bloody?”

 

                    She shook her head slightly and tried to focus on the men in front of her.

 

                “Uh, no.  He…he got away.  But I’ll get him next time.”

 

               “So, you had no trouble with him then,” her watcher said with relief.

 

                “Oh.  Oh yeah, he was trouble.”  Buffy’s quick response brought a frown to both Giles’ and Angel’s faces.  “He’s really very good.  Better than me, maybe.  It was almost like he knew me…” Her attention wandered off again as she replayed the fight in her mind.

 

                 “If he’s so good, then how did you get away?”

 

                  “Hmmmm?  Oh, I cheated.”  Buffy’s absent-minded answer left her watcher, her vampire boy friend and her friend staring at each other as she wandered off to find her mother.

 

              

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

 

                 

 

 Chapter Five

 

            Buffy’s stubborn refusal to talk to either one of them about what had taken place during her fight with William the Bloody had both Giles and Angel

fuming.  The watcher and the souled vampire took turns badgering her about exactly what the blond vamp had said and done to make her so sure he wasn’t trying to kill her, and her own inability to understand herself why she felt she could trust Spike’s word leant a defensive edge to her voice.

 

              “Look, I’ve told you what I know.  He acted almost like he knew me from somewhere.  He said he didn’t want to kill me yet, and then he…” Common sense left no doubt that telling either of the angry listeners that Spike had sort of (Sort of! It was just almost a kiss!)  kissed her before fleeing was something to be avoided at all costs and she stopped her recitation of the conversation at the point where the vamp had said she was the one who slayed the monsters.

 

               “He called himself a monster?”  Angel’s voice dripped with disbelief. “That doesn’t sound like Spike.  That’s not how he sees himself.”

 

                “He didn’t call himself a monster; he said that I slay the monsters.  He said it as though it would mean something to me…”

 

                  “Does it?” Her watcher’s cold voice reminded her that both he and Angel were staring at her suspiciously.

 

                  “I…I don’t know.  It sounds sort of familiar, but I don’t—“ Buffy’s voice broke off and her face went whiter than Angel’s.

 

                   The vampire couldn’t miss the sudden increase in her heart rate, replacing the paleness of her face with a flush of bright red, but his repeated requests for her to finish her remark and/or tell him what she remembered went unanswered.  With a mumbled, “I have to go now,” she fled the room, leaving her undead boyfriend and her angry Watcher staring after her.

 

                    She ran out of the library, out the first exit she came to and toward her home.  As her feet pounded onto the pavement, she was repeating over and over, “No.  No. Please no.  Not him. No.”   Tears stood in her eyes and the wind from her passage flicked the moisture out every few seconds as she tried to outrun her fear. 

 

                     She reached her home and flew up the tree leading to her roof, barely touching the branches in her haste to reach the comfort and safety of her bedroom.  She dove through the open window and sank down onto the floor, shivering all over.   When her breathing was once again under control, she crawled to her bed and pulled a locked box out from under it.  She stared at it in fear for a few seconds before pulling a small key on a chain out from inside her shirt and putting it in the lock.

 

                  Carefully removing her diary and setting it aside, she dug through the souvenirs of her limited social life until she found a folded piece of soft paper with a torn edge.  With shaking hands, she unfolded the page and read the words so carefully written there.

  

               She glows when she smiles

               She is the most beautiful girl for miles

               She slays the monsters and saves the child

               Isn’t afraid no matter how wild

               The enemy may have been

              She is my warrior elf queen.

 

              She squeezed her eyes shut, trying blot out the picture of a fine-boned face and beautiful blue eyes looking into hers with admiration and adoration.   When the child’s face morphed into that of grown man with chiseled cheek bones and the same brilliant blue eyes, she felt physically sick and doubled over clutching her stomach.  

 

               She huddled on her floor for minutes that seemed like hours, rocking back and forth and mourning the gentle, brilliant child who’d called her his warrior queen and written a poem about her.  Too wrapped in her unhappiness to notice the vampire tingles on the back of her neck or the scent of cigarette smoke drifting through her window, she never noticed the equally anguished eyes watching her from behind the impenetrable barrier of her window sill. 

 

                Eventually, the physical need for sleep as well as the exhaustion brought on by the emotions roiling through her had Buffy carefully placing the folded paper back in the box. She carefully repacked all her treasures before locking the box and sliding it back under her bed.

 

 

             Buffy ignored all attempts by Giles to find out what had changed her from a bouncy sixteen-year-old high school student to a quiet, sad, all-business slayer. She went out on patrol every night, returning to Giles’ apartment or the library to report on her evening’s slaying in a dull, flat voice.  When he asked if she’d seen any sign of William the Bloody, she shook her head “no” without elaborating.  She saw no reason to tell him that she was sure she occasionally felt the signature of a powerful vampire; usually when she was fighting more than one vamp or demon at a time.

 

              Although she knew Angel often watched over her from a distance, she was sure the signature was not his.  She was curious about the similarity between Angel’s signature and what she knew was probably Spike’s, but put it down to their both being old, powerful vamps rather than young fledglings like most of the ones she encountered in her nightly patrols. 

 

               She went about her slaying with deadly precision and an absence of her usual quips and tricks.  As weeks went by and she didn’t see Spike again, she began to relax and ease back into her usual routine, allowing Xander or Giles to accompany her once in a while as well as agreeing to meet Angel after patrol once or twice a week.   As things went back to normal, her usual sunny disposition emerged and she was soon punning and teasing with the vampires she fought and killed every night.

 

              She had just determined that the bleached blond vampire had probably left Sunnydale, whether because he thought he couldn’t kill her or because he just didn’t want to, when they received information that there was now a new Master of Sunnydale and that he had an insane and injured consort.  There was apparently much speculation in the demon community that the new Master would soon take care of the Slayer, leaving the town at the mercy of its more evil denizens.

 

             Buffy’s hopes that the Master in question was someone completely new were dashed when young girls began disappearing in record numbers and those vamps who would talk before being dusted indicated they were being provided to the ill consort of the new Master.  The Watcher’s Council informed them of the near-dusting of Spike’s sire, Drusilla, in Prague and the possibility that he had brought her to the Hellmouth for healing.

 

                This time there was no brushing off Buffy’s obvious depression as ordinary teenage moodiness.  She sleepwalked through the school day, barely speaking to her friends, and went out alone every night to slay vampires with cold precision.  Even Cordelia noticed and commented on the Slayer’s obvious unhappiness.

 

                Finally, Giles could stand it no more and he politely asked her if she would mind coming to the library in the early evening to talk to him and Angel.  He deliberately left out her school friends, wisely assuming that they had no more idea what was wrong than he did and hoping she would be more open with just the two older men listening.

 

               When she was sitting at the long table in the center of the room, drinking a Coke in a desultory fashion and showing a complete lack of interest in their agenda, Giles spoke in a soft, understanding voice.

 

                “Buffy, it is rather obvious to us – to everyone, actually – that something is bothering you.  This…melancholy…that has consumed you for the past several weeks has us all very concerned.  Perhaps if you would share with us—“

 

               “Is it Spike?” Angel broke in.  “Has he been threatening you again?”

 

               Buffy blinked in surprise and sat up straighter.

 

               “What?  No.  No, I haven’t seen him.  I thought maybe he’d left Sunnydale…” 

 

                Even as she said the words, she knew they weren’t true.  She had learned to recognize the distinctive vampire signature that mean that the killer of slayers was somewhere nearby, even though she had not seen him or heard from him since Back-to-School Night.  And the Council’s information clearly pointed to his presence in Sunnydale.

 

                 “He’s still here,” Angel said grimly.

 

                “How do you know?”

 

                  Buffy’s puzzled look was turned on the vampire and she missed her watcher’s unconscious wince.  The Watcher history books in which they’d found Spike’s picture were close enough to accurate for Giles to know that William the Bloody was somehow related to Angelus.

 

                   Angel took a deep breath and admitted, “I can feel him.  He’s here.”

 

                    “FEEL him?”

 

                  “Buffy,” he gave the watcher a pleading look, but Giles’ face was closed and gave no hint of this thoughts.  “Buffy, I can feel him because he’s family.  I’m his—“

 

                  “You TURNED him?  YOU turned William?” 

 

                  Buffy’s voice was high and shrill as befitted a young girl who thought she had just learned something terribly disturbing about her sometime boyfriend, but the look she gave Angel made him step back quickly in fear.  Buffy was pure Slayer as she stalked the rapidly retreating vampire across the large room, and he hastened to answer her, holding his hands up in front of himself in a placating manner.

 

                 “No, Buffy.  No.  I didn’t turn him.  But…Drusilla did, and I am her sire.  Spike is my grandchilde.  He is…was… a close part of my vampire family.  I can feel his presence just as I could feel Darla’s.  I know he’s still here, I just can’t find him.”

 

                  “Are you trying to?  Find him, I mean.”

 

                   She stopped her predatory stalk toward the puzzled vamp, but kept the hard look on her face.

 

                  “Yes,” he answered simply.  “I know him.  If he has determined to kill you, he won’t stop until one of you is gone.  I thought if I got to him first….”

 

                   “You’d kill your own grandchilde?”

 

                   “I killed my sire to save you, Buffy.” The sadness in his voice was its own reproach.

 

                  Shamefaced, Buffy nodded at the recollection of how much he cared for her and her fight against evil.  When she had sent him a non-verbal twisted smile of apology, he continued,   “Trust me when I tell you that getting rid of Spike wouldn’t bother me in the least.  The boy’s a pain in my ass and has been since he crawled out of his grave.”

 

                  “IS that the problem, Buffy?” Giles asked gently.  “Are you worried about Spike?”

 

                    She shuddered and turned away, not answering him except to shake her head. 

 

                    “I just want to get it over with,” she said softly, almost to herself.

 

                   “Buffy, why don’t you let me handle—“ 

 

                     She cut Angel off with a hard flick of her hand.

 

                   “NO!  No,” she continued more softly, “I’m the Slayer.  It’s my job to slay the monsters.  He knows that.  It should be me.”

 

                  “But, if you are afraid of him…” Her watcher’s voice was calm and reasonable; truth be told, he found the idea of Angel taking on the legendary slayer of slayers very appealing.

 

                  “I’m not afraid of him,” she whispered softly, walking toward the exit. Before either man could register what she’d said about Spike knowing she should be the one to slay him, she whirled on Angel and said fiercely, “It should be me.  Do you understand?  Stay away from him!”

 

               With that final order, she left the building and headed out on her nightly rounds, leaving two very puzzled men behind her to mull over her words.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Six

 

                She walked aimlessly through the first two cemeteries, absently staking one vamp as it tried to crawl from its grave and wondering why he was the only one she saw.  Moving into the next, more remote, graveyard, her attention was drawn to sounds of chanting and the smell of smoke.  She followed her nose and ears to a secluded glade in the woods backing up to the graveyard and found a small group of J’kack demons apparently beginning some sort of ritual.

 

               With a trace of her normal good humor, she sighed, “Why can’t it ever just be a bunch of kids smoking weed?” as she went into action.

 

              Springing into the center of the circle the demons had marked out, she quickly released the intended sacrifices, shoving them through the smoke and hissing, “Run!”  Then she turned to meet the charge of the outraged demons - wishing briefly that she’d thought to bring a sword with her, but falling into the rhythm of the fight anyway.

 

              She was able to use her speed and agility to remain out of reach of the swords the demons had, with more forethought than she had demonstrated, brought to the ritual, but she was unable to penetrate the barrier made by the flashing blades well enough to strike any killing blows.  As she tired, the demons were able to surround her; suddenly dodging their sword strikes became much more difficult and the first tendrils of fear crept into her mind.

 

               When she received a cut on her shoulder from the demon to her left as she ducked the one on her right, she began to think she might really be in trouble.  The wound was not serious, but it hurt and it was bleeding enough to distract her.  Suddenly, she felt Spike’s signature and she found herself sharply disappointed at the thought that he would take advantage of her wound and weakness to attack now.   However, the expected attack from the vampire never came; instead she realized with relief that there was no longer an opponent behind her. Without looking to see where the demon had gone, she understood that she was free to concentrate on the ones in front and to the sides. 

 

              Although still weaponless except for her stake, renewed hope flowed through her body and she pressed the attack once again.  A quiet, “Catch, Slayer,” and she found herself grabbing a sword out of the air over her head.

 

              Now armed with something suitable, she moved quickly to rid herself of the remaining demons, angrily cutting off the arm of the one that had wounded her and the heads of the other two.  When there was nothing left but the green blood from the one-armed J’kack running rapidly into the woods and the disintegrating bodies of his fellow demons, Buffy lowered her sword cautiously and turned around to face the vampire.

 

                She stared at his smiling face, wondering why he seemed so relaxed when he was facing a tired and wounded but basically functional slayer and one who was now holding a sword.  When she didn’t say anything, merely continued to search his face, he finally spoke again, cocking his head to one side.

 

                “Don’t I get a ‘thank you’, pet?”

 

               “Why’d you do it, Spike?  Are you that focused on killing me yourself?”

 

                  Her voice showed her weariness, but she dropped into a fighting stance, raising the sword and looking into his eyes with resigned determination.  She almost faltered when she saw what could only be hurt flash across his face before his eyes hardened and he snarled back at her.

 

                 “If I wanted to kill you, Slayer, you’d have been dead weeks ago.  Let’s just say I was returning a favor.”  His tone changed, and again she thought she saw pain behind his eyes.  “Don’t pretend you don’t remember, Slayer,” he said, almost pleading.  “I know you do.”

 

                  She dropped the sword point again, wondering if she should pretend not to understand him.  She could think of no way for him to know that she’d already connected him with the little boy she’d known so briefly over a year ago.  She was even more surprised that he could remember something so far in his own past and she frowned before responding.

 

                     “So, we’re even now?”  she answered noncommittally.

 

                    “I suppose we are,” he said slowly. 

 

                     “Then I suggest you leave Sunnydale.  And take your…whatever she is with you.”

 

                   “Brought her here to make her well,” he said flatly. “Not leavin’ till I’ve done it.”

 

                    They faced each other stubbornly until the vampire’s face softened.

 

                   “Would you really dust me, Buffy?” His voice was as soft as his expression and for just a second she caught a glimpse of the little boy who’d worshipped her. Then the master vampire was back and she tried to shake off the inappropriate feelings he’d inspired so briefly.   “If you could?” he added with a confident smirk.

 

                     “It’s what I do, William,” she whispered softly, then bristled.  “And of course I could!  You’re not all that, you know.”

 

                     “Yeah, luv, I kinda am,” he said; the words held no sign of braggadocio, but were spoken as if he was stating a fact.  “You’re very good, Slayer, but you’re not ready for me.  Maybe in a couple more years, if you live that long, but not yet.  I’ve had a lot longer to get good at this than you have.  And next time, I’ll be ready for you to cheat. Might even be looking forward to it,” he added with a grin.

 

                     Changing the subject, she ignored his leering grin and asked, “So you’ll just keep feeding her Sunnydale’s teenage girls until she’s well?  I won’t let that happen, Spike.  I can’t.”

 

                    “Didn’t expect you to, pet.  That’s not what we came for.  Minions just got a little carried away about bringing her food; but it won’t happen again.  What she needs she can’t get from humans.”

 

                      Buffy gaped at him.  “Are you saying you aren’t going to be hunting?” she asked incredulously. 

 

                     “I’m saying I don’t plan to give you a reason to come looking for me,” he answered evasively.   “Unless you want to of course.  I wouldn’t mind fightin’ you again; was bloody good fun the first time.  But I won’t give you a reason to stake me.”

 

                    “You exist, Spike.”  Buffy felt her eyes prickle with unexpected tears.  “I’m the Slayer.  I don’t need any other reason.”

 

                     He tilted his head to one side and studied her conflicted face.

 

                    “You know, pet, you’re the only reason I even lived long enough to be turned.  The things you taught me, the encouragement you gave me.  The example you set – well, except for runnin’ from that harmless sheep…”

 

                     “Hey!  He knocked me down!” she replied indignantly before noticing the twinkle in his eye.

 

                     With her sword now being held loosely and pointed toward the ground, he felt confident enough to step closer. He ghosted his hand over her hair, pushing a stray piece off her face and saying softly, “The point is, luv, I don’t think I could kill you if I wanted to.  Not saying I won’t fight you if I have to.  Not saying I wouldn’t hurt you.  But knowing that you’re real…that you’re alive, and not some figment of a child’s imagination…”

 

                      He shuddered and stepped away quickly before she could respond.

 

                   “I’ll try to keep the minions in line a little better, but I won’t have any hard feelings if you have to dust them.  And I’ll try to stay out of your way.  As much as I can, anyway,’ he finished in a mumble.

 

                    Buffy remembered all the times she thought she’d felt him in the past months.

 

                   “Have you been following me?”

 

                    “Not as such, no.  No, of course not!  Why would I follow you?  You’re the bloody Slayer.  Want to stay as far away from you as…” He stopped when he saw her crossed arms, tapping foot and the disbelieving look on her face.

 

                  “How did you happen to be here tonight?  Just when I needed…when I wouldn’t have minded a helping hand?”

 

                   “Jus’ passing by and heard the noise.  Can’t pass up a good fight, you know.  Keeps the old reflexes sharp and—“

 

                    “You didn’t fight.”

 

                      “Well, I could’ve if I wanted to.  Just got sidetracked a bit watching you.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen you in action.  Poetry in motion, you are.”

 

                     “Speaking of poetry…”

 

                    A look of sheer terror passed over the vampire’s face.

 

                   “There will be no speaking of poetry, Slayer.  One word and my promise not to kill you is bloody well forgotten!  I mean it,” he growled as she started to laugh.

 

                   “What’s the matter, Spike?” she teased.  “Writing poetry doesn’t fit your Big Bad image?  What would your minions say if they knew you’d written a poem for a Slayer?”

 

                   “They wouldn’t say a bloody word if they knew what was good for them, “ he snarled. “And neither will you!” 

 

             He grabbed her arms, effectively pinning the sword to her side while he slipped into vamp face and lunged at her throat.  Buffy’s heart rate went up, but she held her ground in the face of the apparent attack, neither fighting him nor attempting to get away.  When his lips just brushed her neck before he shook off his wrinkles and fangs, she knew he hadn’t lied about not being able to kill her.

 

              “I don’t remember you being such an irritating bint,” he grumbled, pulling back from her far enough to see the smile she was trying to hide.

 

                He was very conscious of the warmth flowing from her body and his own body responded to the nearness in unmistakable fashion.  Buffy’s eyes grew wide as she felt him growing hard against her stomach. Although her experience with men since she’d been called at the age of fifteen had been pretty much limited to a few unsuccessful dates with fumbling boys her own age and even fewer yearning late night kisses with Angel, she knew exactly what she was feeling pressing against her again.  She flashed back to Back to School Night and the way she’d allowed that rigid shaft to slide between her thighs.

 

               Her mouth went dry and she tried to speak, managing only to croak out, “Is that going to happen every time you get near me?”

 

                “Looks like,” he answered, lowering his face to her neck again and running his lips over her now pounding pulse.  “Can’t help it, Slayer.  Question is, what are we going to do about it?”

 

                Buffy was unconsciously leaning into the hard body that fit her own so much better than Angel’s bulk did.  If she stood on her toes just a bit, her mouth was almost even with his as he dipped his head down to brush his lips over hers, just as he had weeks ago.  He continued to move them gently across her mouth until her own lips softened and responded to the light pressure.  When he tentatively ran his tongue over her lower lip, causing her to gasp and open her mouth, she gave up any pretense that they weren’t actually kissing.

 

               With a groan, the vampire pulled her willing body against his, slanting his head at the same time to deepen the kiss.  Their tongues met, uncertainly at first, but gaining boldness as they stood together with nothing moving but their mouths.  Buffy kept her hands at her sides, letting Spike’s strong arms hold her to him while their kiss continued to deepen.  As the vampire’s passions became more ardent, his hands began to move over her body, stroking and kneading her flesh through her clothing; when his cool fingers slid up under her shirt to stroke the bottom of her breast, she began to understand that Spike was not likely to be content with the heavy petting and dry-humping that boys her own age might.

 

                While her body responded to everything the vampire did with an enthusiasm that surprised and frightened her, her mind was screaming that she needed to stop him before she found herself losing her virginity while standing up in a graveyard. With a tremendous effort of will, and no small amount of reluctance, she brought her hands up against his chest and tore her mouth away long enough to protest, “Sp-William, we need to stop.”

 

               “Don’t want to,” he mumbled, burying his face in her neck again and planting wet kisses as far down into her shirt as he could reach without unbuttoning it. He felt her tremble and smiled to himself, reaching for the buttons with one hand before he smelled the tears and realized she was trembling more from fear than desire.

 

               “P-please, William.” Her barely spoken plea and the tears rolling down her face shocked him out of his lust-driven haze, and he pulled back immediately.

 

           One look at the conflict in her eyes as well as the fear she couldn’t hide and the Victorian gentleman that he hadn’t been for well over a hundred years took over. He knew instinctively that the fear he could read in her face had nothing to do with his being a vampire and everything to do with his being a man.

 

           “I’m sorry, pet, so sorry. Never meant to…I forgot how young you are…”

 

             “I can’t…I don’t…I’m not ready for…” Buffy stumbled for a way to say what she was feeling; that although her body seemed more than ready to take what he wanted to give her, her sixteen-year-old psyche was not.  As soon as he mentioned her youth, she was reminded of his own age and she nodded in agreement.

 

              “I’m only sixteen, Spike. And you’re…you’re…Oh my God!”

 

             The instant in which, in her eyes, he went from being a slightly older man to a 124-year-old master vampire was readily apparent.  Eyes wide with shock and dismay, she retreated from his embrace, shaking her head as she backed away.  He reached a desperate hand towards her as she continued to move away from him, her hand pressed to the mouth he’d been lost in just a few seconds ago.

 

               “Wrong,” she half-sobbed. “This is so wrong.”

 

                “Buffy….”

 

                 “No!”

 

                  She whirled and ran, dropping the sword so that it wouldn’t slow her down.  She had no idea if Spike was chasing her or not, and she didn’t care as she continued running as hard as she could back to the refuge of her home and her chaste little girl’s bedroom.  Once again she dove through her window and huddled on the floor, rocking back and forth and crying – over what, she wasn’t quite sure.

 

                    

 

Chapter  Seven

 

 

                The following evening, without going into details about their conversation, Buffy did her best to bring Giles and the Scoobies up-to-date on Spike. Back against the wall of the library, Angel brooded in silence, frowning every time she mentioned his grandchilde’s name.

 

              “So, Buffy,” Giles tried to keep his tone impartial and smooth, although he wanted to shout at her for her stupidity in pausing to talk to William the Bloody rather than slaying him.  “You are saying that Spike helped you defeat the J’kack demons and then told you he wasn’t hunting?”

 

                  “Well, he didn’t so much help me as he evened the odds a little – I guess he killed one of them and threw me the sword. Then he just watched me fight the rest of them.”

 

                  “So, once again, he was using this as an opportunity to study your moves.”

 

                     “No, he just likes to—yes!  I mean, yes, he was watching me fight them because he wanted to…study me.”

 

                “He’s up to something.”  Angel’s voice was a low growl and Buffy shot him an irritated look.

 

                  “Or maybe he just wants to cure whatshername and get out of here,” she snapped, surprising everyone with the vehemence of her reply.

 

                    Giles gave the vampire a glare, then continued, “And did you say he apologized for the missing girls?”  The disbelief was obvious.

 

                  “Well, not in so many words.”  She squirmed uncomfortably. “He just said that he hadn’t meant for that to happen and that humans weren’t what he needs to cure his…” She found herself struggling to find something to call the woman Spike had come to Sunnydale to save.  “…His sire,” she finally got out.

 

                  “She’s more than his sire,” Angel said quietly. “She’s his…everything.  They’ve been together for over a hundred years; he won’t leave until he makes her well.”

 

                  “Well, if it isn’t blood she needs,” Buffy tried to smother the jealousy that hearing Drusilla referred to as Spike’s “everything’ sent stabbing through her, “then what is it?”

 

                   “Sire’s blood,” he replied, pushing himself off the wall. “She needs Sire’s blood to heal.  That’s why he’s here; he’s here for me.”

 

                 The entire group of humans gaped at the souled vampire until he bristled.

 

                “What?  Giles, surely you know how important Sire’s blood is to vampires.  It’s what feeds us when we first crawl out of our graves, and it can cure us if we’re hurt or sick.  The only thing close to it would be—“ He broke off abruptly, but the guilty look he shot at Buffy left no doubt about what he’d been about to say.

 

                 “Slayer blood,” she said flatly.  “He could use my blood to heal her too.”

 

                 “He could, but he won’t,” Angel’s snarl and flashing amber eyes were a sudden reminder that he was an even older vampire than Spike or Drusilla.

 

                  “Hey, no problem, then.”  Xander spoke up for the first time all night. “We’ll just feed Deadboy here to the crazy vampire.”

 

                 “We’re not feeding anybody to Spike’s …to Drusilla.”  Buffy spoke with conviction, glaring around the room and daring anyone to contradict her.  “We…I will find a way to make them leave.”

 

                “Or you could just slay them.”  Her watcher’s voice was cold and harsh.  “You have an opportunity to take out two of the remaining three members of the Scourge of Europe, Buffy.  I fail to understand why you don’t consider that your first option.”

 

                “Yeah, Buff, why aren’t you all about the slaying of the slayer of slayers?  And do NOT try saying that at home!” Xander added as they all stared at him.  

 

                  Because all I see when I look at him is a brave little boy who took care of me for a few days last year?  Oh yeah, that’ll go over well, almost as well as “because he kissed me and rocked my world.”  Gah!”

 

                 “Yes, Buffy,” Angel’s voice was almost as hard as thewatcher’s.  “Why is it that neither of you is dead yet?”

 

                  Tired of the pretense, of lying to the people who cared about her, and too preoccupied to watch what she was saying, Buffy snapped back in a tone just as hard as theirs, “Because neither of us wants the other dead.”

 

                  “Can you explain why?”

 

                    She could hear the struggle to control his temper in his voice, and she sent Giles a warning glare before giving up and allowing her shoulders to slump with submission.

 

                 “I could, but I really don’t feel like it.  Can’t you just take my word for it that he isn’t going to kill me?”

 

                 Angel stood up, his impatience clear.

 

                 “I’ve had enough.  I’m going to get to the bottom of this and I’m going to do it now.”

 

                  He started out of the room, stopping when Buffy sprinted to the door to block his way.

 

                 “Where are you going?”

 

                “To find Spike and Dru and get him to tell me what kind of game he’s playing.  You may not want to dust him, but I have no problem with it.”

 

                 “Are you going to dust Drusilla too?”  Buffy had spent some time recently poring over Giles’ books on vampire families and had a better understanding of the ties between sire and childe. 

 

                 The vampire shrugged uncomfortably, avoiding eye contact with the small blonde girl glaring at him and waiting for an answer. When he saw that she wasn’t going to give it up and that the watcher was looking at him coldly, he sighed in resignation.

 

                “I would rather not,” he admitted softly.  “I’m completely responsible for Drusilla’s…condition…and I feel I owe her—“

 

                “So then, you are going to take over care of the insane vampiress after you dust her mate?”  The watcher’s voice was even and gave no sign as to what he was thinking.

 

               “They aren’t mated!” Angel snarled, startling the humans in the room into silence.  Buffy’s eyes were wide with shock at the vehemence with which the normally placid vampire responded to Giles’ question.

 

               “But all the Council’s books say—“

 

               “The books are wrong.”  Angel’s voice was quieter, but no less sure.  “Dru has never allowed Spike to claim her.  He is just a toy and a…caretaker.”

 

                 Buffy bristled on Spike’s behalf at the tone of contempt in Angel’s voice.

 

               “He’s been a ‘toy’ for over a hundred years?  This vampire that you keep telling me is too dangerous for me to take on by myself?”  Buffy’s disbelief was obvious, though her quickly-smothered joy at hearing that Spike and Drusilla were not mated was not so apparent to anyone but herself.

 

               “Tell me, Angel,” Giles refused to let the subject go. “Who will become Drusilla’s caretaker if you dust William the Bloody?”

 

              Angel’s nostrils flared in irritation.  “It’s not my problem,” he muttered. “She’ll turn herself another…companion.”

 

              “And I’m supposed to let that happen?  She gets a free pass to kill somebody just because you don’t like Spike?”

 

             “Fine!” Angel’s impatient snarl gave them a quick glance at what he might have been like without his soul.  “I won’t dust the blond menace.  Satisfied?”  He stalked towards the door, growling under his breath,  “Unless he does something to piss me off.”

 

              “Do. Not. Dust. Spike.”  Buffy’s voice was pure Slayer and there was no mistaking the threat underlying her order.

 

              The vampire didn’t answer, just continued out the doors leaving them swinging back and forth behind him.

 

             “Hey, here’s an idea, Buff.”  Xander spoke up eagerly.  “Why not dust all three of them?  Poof! No more Scourge of Europe.”

 

            “I HEARD that!” Angel’s outraged roar floated back to them.

 

            “You were meant to!” Xander responded, but much more quietly.  As much as he disliked the vampire, he never forgot that the only thing standing between Angel and Angelus was a non-visible soul. Nor did he forget that the vampire disliked him in equal measure.

             

              After once again refusing to tell Giles why she was so confident that Spike wasn’t going to kill her, Buffy left the library and walked Willow home.  They strolled in silence for several blocks before Willow ventured, “Buffy? William the Bloody – does he have anything to do with… I mean obviously he’s a grown man, but he had to be a little boy sometime and it’s about the right time frame and…” She stopped rambling for a breath of air and found Buffy staring at her in amazement.

 

              “How…?”

 

               Willow blushed and admitted, “I loved your story about little William and how brave he was and how he took care of you and wrote you a poem.  And I remembered that you said that he was blond and had beautiful blue eyes, so I did some research…It IS him, isn’t it? It’s William, all grown up?”

 

              Buffy sighed, releasing the tension she’d been carrying around for weeks and grateful to have someone to talk to about Spike.

 

             “Yes,” she said softly.  “It’s him.  All grown up.”

 

              “And a vampire,” Willow felt constrained to point out.

 

              “And a vampire,” Buffy agreed with a groan.  “Not just any vampire, but Angel’s grandchilde and one that has killed two slayers.”

 

                “And he remembers you?” Willow’s voice carried more than a touch of awe. “After all this time?  I mean, I know it’s only been a year for you – but for him it’s been….” She looked at her best friend with renewed respect.  “Wow. I meet guys and they can’t remember my name the next day.  And you…and he…Wowie.”

 

              “Yeah, well, things would be a lot easier if we didn’t remember each other.  Then he’d be dust and Giles wouldn’t be cleaning his glasses and grumbling all the time, and Angel wouldn’t be such a sourpuss.”

 

             “Uh, Buffy?”

 

             Her friend cocked her head in inquiry.

 

             “Giles is always cleaning his glasses about something.  And Angel? Pretty much a sourpuss most of the time.  I don’t think it’s fair to blame it on Spike…er…William.”

 

           “Bloody brilliant observation there, Red.”  The rich, warm voice came out of the shadows just before Spike stepped out where they could see him.

 

             While Willow gaped at the smiling vamp, wondering if his promise not to kill Buffy would extend to her friends, Buffy glared at him and demanded, “Are you following me again?”

 

             “Jus’ happened to be walking this way, pet; don’t get your knickers in a twist.  You should have known I was here, anyway.  What’s the matter with your vamp radar?” 

 

              The tone of concern in his voice wasn’t lost on either of the girls and Willow shot Buffy a speculative look before stammering, “We…she was busy talking to me and it’s Sunnydale so you know, vampires everywhere…and-“  She stopped and looked at Buffy again.  “Why DIDN’T you feel him, Buffy?  Didn’t you tell me you can always tell when Angel’s around?”

 

               “I’m not Angel!”

 

               “He’s not Angel!”

 

                There was silence for a few seconds, both somewhat abashed by their immediate identical responses.  Then Buffy shrugged and admitted,  “I knew he was around.  I just didn’t know he was eavesdropping on us,” she added with another glare.

 

                Completely unfazed by her scowl, Spike smirked and said, “Knew you knew it was me.  Bloody bint -  pretendin’ you didn’t know I was here.  Shame on you, Slayer.”

 

                He grinned at her, obviously pleased with himself at catching her out.

 

               “So, why ARE you here, Spike?  And don’t try to tell me you were just out for a walk, either.”  A look of fear crossed her face.  “Were you hunting?  Did you just kill somebody?” 

 

                   Her heart was pounding as she reached for the stake in her waistband.  To Willow’s complete amazement, instead of moving away in fear, the vampire stepped closer to the Slayer and put a gentle hand on hers pushing the stake back into its resting place.

 

                “Easy, luv.  I wasn’t hunting.  I’d just left you a gift and was on my way back from your house.  Heard you two chattering and thought I’d catch up and introduce myself to your pretty little friend here.”

 

                   Willow blushed all over at the appreciative wink from the vampire she’d identified the first time she’d seen him as a “hottie”.  She ducked her head and peered at him through her hair, whispering a tentative, “Hi?”

 

                  Buffy smothered another pang of jealousy as Spike let go of her to take Willow’s hand in his and gently shake it.  He held it just long enough to make the novice witch blush again as he purred, “I feel a lot of power flowing through this little hand, Red.  Into the magic, are you then?”

 

                 “Willow’s going to be a very powerful witch,” Buffy put in quickly, pulling her friend back from the smiling vampire.  “She’s my right-hand…witch,” she finished lamely.

 

               Spike’s attention was back on Buffy as Willow began edging toward her front walk.  She could see that neither of them was interested in talking to her anymore that night, and quickly mumbled a “good night” as she ran toward her front door.

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

                The Slayer and the vampire barely acknowledged Willow’s departure as they stood only inches apart on the sidewalk.  Buffy felt her heart rate go up again as Spike looked like he was about to touch her; her disappointment when he moved away instead made her sound angry as she said, “Angel says you’re here for him.  That you need sire’s blood to make your…Drusilla…well. Is that true?  Is that why you’re here?”

 

                   “Yes, pet, that’s why I’m here.  There are only two things that have a chance of repairing the kind of damage that mob did to her, and one of them is the blood of her sire.  ‘Course, I don’t know if the great poof is going to give it up willingly…”

 

                “I won’t let you hurt him, Spike.”  She spoke as firmly, if not as threateningly, as she had to Angel.

 

               He cocked his head at her, asking with genuine puzzlement, “Why’s that, luv?  Even with that soul he got saddled with, he’s still just another vamp.”

 

              Buffy started to fidget guiltily, then remembered that the vampire was here with his long-time girlfriend and brought her chin up defiantly.

 

               “He’s my boyfriend,” she said strongly, meeting his darkening look with a stubborn lip.

 

                 “He’s your what?”  Spike’s snarl made her flinch in spite of herself; his eyes flashed amber and she could see the bones in his face beginning to shift before he regained control of himself.  With a visible effort, he forced back the demon and said tightly, “Knew I smelled him on you, but I never imagined… Buffy, luv, he’s not…you shouldn’t…bloody hell, Slayer!  Do you know who he is?”

 

               “I know who he was before he got his soul.  But that was a long time ago, and he’s good now.  He helps me, and he…he…likes me.”

 

                Instead of arguing with her, he stepped close again and ran his hand over her hair, lingering when he reached the ends that were hanging just above her breast. 

 

                “I like you too, luv,” he whispered.  “The more I see of you, the more I…like you.”

 

                 Buffy trembled at his proximity, remembering how it felt to be pressed against the body now standing so close to hers.  He leaned down, his cool breath tickling her ear as he whispered, “Do you like me, luv?  Just a little?”

 

               “Y…you…you’re a vampire…you don’t have a soul…you kill Slayers…” Her voice was more of a petulant whine than a firm denial.

 

               “Don’t want to kill YOU, Buffy.  Just want to…” His lips brushed across her mouth, wringing an involuntary whimper from her as she pushed him away.

 

               “Don’t,” she breathed.  “Please don’t.  You have a…a girlfriend.  A vampire, like you.”  She shuddered and moved back out of reach.  “You need to stay away from me.”

 

                 “If I was a gentleman, I probably would,” he agreed cheerfully.  “But I’m just a bad, rude man – er, vampire, and I don’t want to stay away from you.  In fact…” He moved toward her, frowning when she continued to back away from him.

 

His demeanor made another mercurial switch from cocky vampire to uncertain gentleman as she continued to back away, shaking her head vigorously.

 

                “Don’t be afraid of me, luv.  Please.  I’ll not hurt you or yours.  I swear it.”

 

                 “It’s not you I’m afraid of, William,” she whispered, blushing. 

 

                Sudden understanding shone in his eyes and they softened until she was sure she could see the proper little boy she’d met last year reflected there. 

 

                “I won’t push you, pet.  Won’t ask you for anything you’re not ready to give. Wouldn’t presume…I just want to be around you, Buffy, while I can.  Can’t help what you do to me, but I wouldn’t force myself on you.”

 

               His expressive human face went from anxious to happy as he absorbed the fact that she wanted him almost as much as he wanted her. 

 

              “Doesn’t mean I’m not going to want to touch you,” he added, moving cautiously so as not to frighten her.  “Doesn’t mean I don’t want to kiss you…” His hand gently tipped her face up until he could brush his lips over hers while he murmured soothingly.  He heard the pounding of her heart as he whispered against her trembling mouth. “But I won’t do it if it makes you uncomfortable, Slayer.”

 

               Hearing him call her Slayer snapped Buffy out of her lust-induced immobility and she shook herself regretfully before placing her hands against his hard chest. 

 

              “It does make me uncomfortable, Spike,” she said clearly, holding him off with both hands but not pushing him away yet.  “It makes me uncomfortable for a lot of reasons.”

 

              With a sigh of resignation, the vampire reluctantly let go of her chin and backed away a few steps.

 

                “All right, luv.  Walk with me a bit and tell me what is so awful about spending some time kissing an old friend.”

 

                “We’re not old friends, Spike,” she said with a sigh, turning toward Revello Drive. “We’re just two people who knew each other for a few days a long time ago.  In your case, a VERY long time ago.”

 

               “Didn’t you like William?”  The hurt in his voice was real and she had a sudden flashback to worshipful eyes and a tremulous smile.

 

               “Of course I did! I do – did, like William.  You know I did.  But you…you aren’t him anymore, are you?”

 

               “I am when I’m around you,” he said quietly.  “I’m more like him than I ever expected or wanted to be again.”  His admission that William’s Victorian manners and gentle nature were at odds with the vampire he’d become was just the right touch of honesty it took for her to believe him.

 

              “And when you aren’t around me?” Her voice was a sad whisper.

 

            “I am what I am, Slayer.  I’m a 124-year-old master vampire who was turned and taught his trade by three of the most bloodthirsty and evil demons of modern time.  Can’t change that.  Wouldn’t if I could.  Grown-up William was more than a bit of a ponce; a mummy’s boy who would rather write poetry than earn a living.  No one respected him; no one wanted him.  If he hadn’t had a few tricks up his sleeve, thanks to a pretty visitor from the land of elves,” - he sent her a sideways glance happy to see a small smile touch her lips – “he probably wouldn’t have lived long enough to catch Dru’s attention.  As it was, he got beat up fairly often.  Even though some blokes DID learn that if he was sufficiently frightened he could be bloody creative in his own defense,” he finished dryly.

 

            “So now you get back at all those people by killing and eating total strangers who had nothing to do with anything that happened to you before you were turned?” 

 

              Buffy’s angry tone told him he’d been a little too honest in his reply and he growled softly to himself.

 

             “I’m a bloody vampire, Buffy!”

 

             “So is Angel,” she answered quietly.  “He doesn’t kill innocent people.”

 

             Spike’s eyes flashed amber and his forehead began to furrow.  With a visible effort, he once again fought down his demon although his response came out sounding more like a growl than actual words.

 

               “Angelus is the same selfish, ill-tempered, impatient bastard he always was.  Soul or no soul.  I don’t know what has set him on this quest to be good – other than the chance to get into your virginal little knickers – but he hasn’t been like that for most of the past 200 years and I don’t believe it’s a way of life now.  If he’s concerning himself with the welfare of ‘innocent people’ I can guarantee you he has some kind of ulterior motive.  I didn’t trust him then, and I don’t trust him now.”

 

               Buffy’s face couldn’t hide her dismay and anger - dismay that Spike refused to believe that Angel could be good; and anger that he could allude so crudely to her relationship with the souled vampire.

 

                  “Just because you can’t keep your hands off –you have no right to accuse Angel of—how dare you!” 

 

               “I dare because I know the bloody wanker, better than you ever will.  He didn’t leave us the minute he got that soul.  We had the pleasure of his brooding company for years before the tart finally tossed him out on his arse.  He doesn’t care about anyone but himself, and he has a thing for young girls.  Always has – since before he was turned.”

 

               His voice changed from an angry growl to a soft, pleading whisper that Buffy reacted to in spite of herself.

 

               “I’m not trying to scare you, luv.  Or spoil your love life.  But I know him, and he will hurt you.  Sooner or later, the bastard will hurt you and I…I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t warn you about him.”

 

               His face showed nothing but genuine concern and a bit of longing that she chose not to see.  They had stopped walking to yell at each other and he moved closer to her so that he could gently stroke the side of her face.

 

              “Just don’t let him hurt you, luv; that’s all I’m saying. Be careful.  Find yourself a nice high school boy, and leave the poof to do his brooding by himself.”

 

               “Well, that would be a good solution if I could actually find one who had the same effect on me that some vampires apparently do,” she grumbled, missing the way his eyes lit up at her use of the plural.

 

              “Well,” he grinned as they started walking again, “I didn’t say go find one right now. Maybe after I leave…”

 

               The reminder that he was there only temporarily to cure his long-time girlfriend was all Buffy needed to firm up her resolve.  As they reached the corner of Revello Drive within view of her well-lit house, she stopped again and turned to face him.

 

              “I don’t know why you and Angel hate each other so much – and I don’t think I want to know.  But whatever it is, you need to work it out without bloodshed.  I…I don’t want you killing each other – and I don’t want to have to kill one or the other of you to prevent it.”

 

             “Well, if the bloody poofter will accept his responsibility and give Dru what she needs from him—“

 

             “Didn’t I just say I didn’t want you to kill each other?  What makes you think I’m going to let you feed him to your crazy girlfriend?”  Buffy’s voice was high and shrill and the vampire shushed her quickly when he saw someone look out of one of the houses.

 

             “Shhh, pet. Gonna bring your neighbors out if you keep that up.”

 

            “Duh!  It’s the Hellmouth, Spike.  Nobody goes out of their nice safe home after dark unless it’s on fire or something.  Don’t change the subject.  I’m not going to let you kill Angel to save your skanky girlfriend.”

 

                He cocked his head at her and said curiously, “Have your watcher and Angelus not told you anything about vampire bites, Buffy?”

 

                “You mean other than, ‘don’t get one if you can help it’?  What else is there to know?”

 

             “Exchanging blood is a big part of vampire life, Slayer.  We bite each other all the time.  We can even bite humans without killing if we want to. Dru doesn’t have to kill Angelus to get well – she just needs some of his blood in her system.  She wouldn’t kill him if she had to,” he added bitterly.  “Trust me.  She cares more about that wanker than you do.”

 

              “I sooo don’t want to know what you mean by that,” Buffy muttered, surprised when the vampire readily agreed with her.

 

              “I don’t want you to know what I mean by it either, luv,” he said quietly. “I hope you never know.”

 

                She frowned at him quizzically, but he didn’t elaborate; there was an uncomfortable silence before Buffy said reluctantly, “Well.  I’m home and I should get in before my mother wonders where I’ve been all this time.”

 

                 “She doesn’t know?  Your own mum doesn’t know you’re the Slayer?”

 

                “My mother is a busy woman.  She doesn’t know lots of things that she doesn’t need to, and my being the Slayer is definitely one of those things she doesn’t need to know.  She would wig.”

 

               “I think it’s a mistake to keep something like that from your mum, luv,” he said, sounding very much like an adult speaking to a child.  “The woman has a right to know—“

 

               “To know that I’m out every night killing things?  That I might not come back one of these nights?  What good would that do?  She’d just worry herself to death or order me to quit being the Slayer or some other pointless something.  We went through this when I was first called; my parents didn’t want to know then, and they don’t want to know now.”

 

                He picked up on the sorrow in her voice and without thinking about what he was doing or the public street upon which they were standing, he put his arms around her and gave her a comforting hug.   She stiffened, then relaxed into his embrace and laid her head on his chest.  Somehow his spontaneous reaction to her tone of voice broke through all the defenses she’d set up against him and she sighed happily as he kissed the top of her head and murmured reassuring nothings into her hair.

 

                 Her hands slid around his body to hug him back and what had been a warm, chaste embrace suddenly threatened to turn into something else as he felt the inevitable tightening in his jeans.  Before she could notice, he gently pushed her away, planting a final kiss on her forehead and smiling into her bewildered and disappointed face.

 

                 He rested his forehead against hers telling her softly,  “Believe me, luv, I’d hold you all night if you wanted me to, but you need to go in and I need to get away from your warm little body before I start wanting things I know I’ll never have.

 

              “Good night, Buffy,” he whispered.  “Check outside your window for your gift and use it well.”

 

               With a last quick peck on her pouting mouth, he stepped away and vanished into the night, his long strides carrying him out of sight before she could even say her own “good-night”. When she could no longer see his flapping coat and bright hair, she sighed and walked the rest of the way to her house wondering how a girl who hardly ever dated could have such a complicated lovelife.

 

               She exchanged some small talk with her mother, barely paying attention to what the older woman was saying about an upcoming trip as she mulled over Spike’s words and wondered if she was making a mistake keeping her mother in the dark about her calling.  Putting the subject aside for another day, she said goodnight and went up to her room.

 

                She looked around curiously for anything new that could be construed as a gift, then realized there was no way for Spike to have left a present in her room.  Frowning at her own lapse at expecting a vampire other than Angel to have access to her bedroom, she wondered briefly what he’d meant by ‘leaving her a present’.  A soft breeze from the barely open window caught her attention and she walked to the window to peer out.

 

              Lying on the slightly sloping roof just outside her window was the sword Spike had tossed her the night before.  The one she had dropped when the reality of her standing in a graveyard engaging in lustful kissing with an unsouled vampire had hit and she had run off.

 

              She leaned out the window and carefully pulled the clean and shiny sword into her bedroom, admiring the way it felt in her hand and taking some practice slashes with it.  When she almost sliced through her drapes, she remembered where she was and looked around wondering where she could hide a sword that her mother wouldn’t notice it.  She finally settled on wrapping it in an extra blanket and pushing it up against the wall under her bed. 

 

              She went to sleep that night with a small smile on her face and the taste of cigarettes on her lips.

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

              When several nights had gone by with no sign of Spike or Angel, Buffy began to worry that neither of the two old vampires had obeyed her demand that they stay away from each other.  When she expressed to Willow her fear that they might have killed each other, Xander overheard.

 

                “And that would be a bad thing because…?”

 

              Giles and Cordelia turned to look at her with the same curiosity on their faces as was on Xander’s.  Buffy’s eyes flew to Willow’s, then back to the others, her unwillingness to discuss the two vampires plain to see.

 

             “Well…well, Angel is my boyfriend – sort of,” she stammered, only to be interrupted by Xander’s happy, “Sort of? Did you say, ‘sort of’?  Does that mean you’re getting over your weird urge to socialize with the undead?”

 

              Her friend’s happy countenance quickly gave way to suspicion as watched her cheeks redden with embarrassment.   Her clear reluctance to say anything more also brought a frown to her watcher’s face and he said quietly, “Why don’t you and I have a little chat in my office, Buffy.”  His tone made it very clear it was not a request, merely his polite British way of telling her he wanted answers.

 

              With a final panicked look at a sympathetic Willow, Buffy slowly followed her watcher into his office and stood stubbornly just inside as he closed the door on the curious faces in the library.

 

              “Buffy,” he began pompously, “I feel I have been very patient with you for the past couple of months, but I believe it is time for you to tell me what you know about William the Bloody and why you would feel anything but great relief at the thought of his demise.”

 

              Her shoulders slumping in defeat, she threw herself down in a chair and said petulantly, “It’s all your fault.”

 

              “My fault?”

 

               “You made me jump through that stupid portal last year and left me there for three days!  So, it’s your fault I don’t want Sp-William dead.”

 

                 Giles stared at her until she squirmed uncomfortably in her chair, then he sighed and leaned back in his own seat, pinching the bridge of his nose as he said quietly, “I take it that you somehow met Spike while you were in the other dimension?”

 

              “It wasn’t another dimension,” she whispered. “It was just back in time in our own.  Back to 1864, to a farm in Kent… England.”

 

              “I know where Kent is, thank you, Buffy,” he snapped. “The question is, what has that to do with your reluctance to slay William the Bloody?  Or his purported unwillingness to add you to his tally of slayers killed?”

 

              When Buffy didn’t answer immediately, he sighed and continued, “I am assuming that you and William developed some kind of …relationship…while you were there?  A romantic relationship, perhaps?”

 

            “Ewwww, Giles!  He was nine years old!  What do you think I am?”

 

             “I think you are a Slayer who has had the misfortune to develop emotional attachments to some of the very creatures you are destined to slay.  And I am very afraid that it is going to get you killed.”  The harshness of his words and tone belied the genuine concern on his face as he looked into Buffy’s unhappy eyes.

 

              “I understand that you have some…feelings…for Angel, and it is quite obvious that he cares for you and your mission.  However, I do not believe it is in your best interest to forget what he was before he got cursed with that soul.  Just because he fought on the side of good after tha—“

 

              Buffy interrupted him, speaking so softly he almost didn’t hear her.

“He didn’t start fighting for good as soon as he got the soul.  Spike says he stayed with them for a long time before Darla kicked him out.  He said I…I need to be careful of Angel.  That he wasn’t a good man before he was turned and that  he could still hurt me, even with his soul.”

 

              “He is quite correct,” Giles answered, equally softly. “Although why he would tell you that, I cannot im-“

 

              “You KNEW that about Angel?  What he was like as a human?  And you didn’t tell me?”  Hurt and betrayal were plain in the Slayer’s face.

 

              “Buffy, I work with and around teenagers. I think I have learned when to pick my battles.” He looked at her sternly.  “Look me in the eye and tell me that you would have immediately stopped seeing Angel had I told you he was not a nice person and not a good choice for a romantic partner.”

 

              Buffy’s automatic response died on her lips as her innate honesty made her admit, “No, I probably wouldn’t have.  But at least I would have been warned and then you could say, ‘I told you so’.  If there was ever any reason to,” she added hastily.  “Which there isn’t.  A reason to, I mean.”

 

            “Not that we have seen,” Giles said in a tone that indicated he was not sure they never would.  “Now, if you could explain to me why William the Bloody, who was a nine-year-old child when he last met you, is so concerned about your physical and emotional welfare, I would greatly appreciate it.”

 

            With a sigh, Buffy told Giles about nine-year old William, the sheep, the care he tried to take of her when she was so unceremoniously deposited in his field.  She told him briefly about the well-mannered little boy who tried so hard to defend her against a gang of thugs much older than he.  She gave an abbreviated version of her fight with the older boys, shrugging when he asked dryly if she had remembered she was fighting humans and saying, “I didn’t care at that point.  They tried to rape William and they were planning to rape me.”                                                    When he looked at her apprehensively, she growled,   “I didn’t kill them, Giles. Stop looking all Watcherly and worried.  I just taught them a lesson in bullying.”

 

                “So, you saved young William from death and from a fate worse than death.  And this is why the adult vampire doesn’t want to kill you?”

 

              “Pretty much,” she said, struggling to keep any sign of the heated thoughts the adult William generated from showing on her face.  She did her best to look honest and innocent as she finished cheerfully, “He said then that I must be a warrior elf queen.  I don’t think he thought I was real until we fought at Back to School Night.”

 

                 Buffy carefully left out any mention of William’s poetry, his last name, or the fact that the adult William seemed more than interested in having a physical if not romantic relationship with her.  She just told Giles that she’d had to leave a note for the boy when the portal opened and that she hadn’t seen him since then, not until the adult, demon version of William showed up in the alley, threatening to kill her.

 

             The Watcher’s face was a study in confusion and thought. He shook his head as he muttered, almost to himself, “Vampires with souls fighting on the side of the Slayer; vampires without souls who are capable of loving each other for over one hundred years…”

 

               He missed Buffy’s softly indrawn breath when he mentioned Drusilla’s and Spike’s long term love affair.  Without noticing her reaction, he kept talking to himself.

 

              “Unsouled demons that can remember good deeds from when they were children and remain grateful hundreds of years later.  Who are capable of acting on that gratitude to the point of protecting a Slayer…”

 

             He stopped and looked at Buffy’s puzzled face.  “I believe the Council is neither as all-knowing as they would like to think they are, nor as forthcoming with their employees as they could be.”

 

            “And I’m shocked and amazed,” Buffy said sarcastically.  She made no secret of her contempt for the organization that nominally “owned” her. 

 

          “So, are we done here?” she asked, standing up and edging toward the door.

 

           “I suppose so,” he sighed, taking off his glasses.  “Although I do wish you had shared this information with me right at the beginning.  It would have explained a lot.”

 

              “I’m sorry, Giles,” she said reluctantly.  “I just didn’t think it was anybody’s business but mine and Spike’s.  I just don’t understand why I haven’t seen him or Angel all week.  He said it wouldn’t hurt Angel to give Drusilla what she needs, so why isn’t he around?”

 

              “I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to tha-“  The watcher was interrupted by the loud slam of the door being thrown open as Xander, Cordelia, and Willow tumbled into the small room.

 

               “Buffy!  Slayer needed.  Right now – right here,” Xander gestured behind them and continued to push his way into the room while Willow stood in the doorway looking somewhat sympathetically toward whatever had driven them into the Watcher’s office.

 

            Buffy pushed her way past her friends to see what was so frightening.  At first glance, she couldn’t see anything except a trail of blood from the library doors to the table.  Then she caught a glimpse of a pale hand reaching to the tabletop and trying to pull a battered body to its feet.

 

                 “Spike!”  She rushed to his side, heedless of the blood as she quickly put his arm over her shoulder and propped him up.  He was a frightening sight – his throat torn and bloody, his vamp features fully visible as he struggled to remain upright.

 

           “What happened to you?”  She could see that one arm was dangling uselessly, and that in addition to his torn-out throat, he was covered in bites and claw marks.  His tee shirt was hanging in bloody shreds, doing nothing to hide the gouges on his chest or the hole in his side.

 

            As Buffy carefully helped him onto the table, taking care to lower his upper body gently until he was lying down, she repeated in a tight voice, “What did this to you?”

 

            “Angelus,” he gasped, dropping his head onto the hard wood without so much as a wince.

 

             “Angel?  Angel did this?”  Buffy’s anger was evident, but her concern for the vampire kept her from grabbing a stake and leaving immediately to search for her boyfriend.  “After I told him to leave you alone?”

 

            Spike shook his head gingerly, then met, not her eyes but those he quickly identified as belonging to her watcher, saying clearly, “Not Angel. Angelus. ANGELUS.”

 

                The widening of the watcher’s eyes told him his message had gotten through and he allowed his own eyes to close in exhaustion.  He looked very much like the corpse he was as he lay on the table not breathing or moving, the blood no longer running freely from his almost drained body.

 

               Buffy whirled to the man whom she trusted to know everything and said desperately, “What’s wrong with him?  What do we need to do?  And why does he keep calling Angel Angelus?”

 

              Choosing to answer what he considered the most important question first, Giles said tightly, “I believe he is telling us that Angel has lost his soul somehow and that Angelus is back among us.”

 

              He looked at the anxious young faces peering out of his office and said sternly, “No one goes anywhere alone and you do not go anywhere to which Angel had an invitation.  Can you think of a safe place?”

 

           Willow was shaking her head, but Xander said, “Deadboy’s never been welcome in my house.  We can go there.”

 

             “Very well,” he instructed.  “Use Cordelia’s car, keep holy water, crosses and stakes with you, and get there as quickly as you can.  When it is once again daylight, you can go to your own homes and Willow can do disinvite spells everywhere that Angelus might have access.”  He turned to Buffy, “I presume he has full access to your home?”  He tried to keep the accusatory tone from his voice, but her glare told him he hadn’t succeeded very well.

 

           “Yes,” she said shortly.  “But my mom is out of town, so there’s no one there right now.”

 

           “Fine. Then we shall retreat to my apartment and I will do the disinvite as soon as we get there.”  He cast a dubious look at the inert man lying on his table and said with some reluctance, ”I suppose we will have to take him with us until he has recovered enough to give us some more information.  I believe I have some chains somewhere—“

 

           “He needs blood,” Buffy said abruptly, ignoring for the moment Giles’ suggestion that they chain Spike up.  “We’ll have to stop at the butcher’s or the hospital…”

 

             “The butcher will be closed by now, Buffy,” Giles said with a glance at his watch.  While the butchers in Sunnydale tended to stay open after dark in order to accommodate their demon clientele, they did not remain open all night and it was well past the time for them to have closed.  “And I do not believe that Sunnydale Hospital is going to be interested in sharing the blood they have need of so frequently with one of the creatures that causes it to be in such short supply.”

 

            His voice softened as he saw Buffy tenderly stroke the ashen face on the table. He watched in amazement as the touch of her hand seemed to soothe away the demon and William the Bloody’s handsome human face emerged.  Watcher training consisted primarily of teaching different ways to incapacitate or dust vampires and Giles was uncomfortably aware that it had not prepared him to diagnose or repair damage to one.

 

            “Buffy,” he said gently so as not to startle her. “It is imperative that we leave here for someplace inaccessible to Angelus until we have some understanding of what we are facing.”

 

              “If Spike looks like this, what must Angel-lus…” She stumbled over the extra syllable that meant the difference between the vampire who loved her and his unsouled persona.  “What must he look like?  Spike is the best fighter I’ve ever come up against- better than Angel when I fought him last year.  Maybe he’s dust!” Her frightened eyes came up to meet the sympathetic brown ones of her Watcher.

 

           “Buffy,” he said gently, “I am fairly certain that Spike came here to warn us – you. That would not have been necessary if Angelus was dust or even gravely injured.  We must assume that he is at large and quite capable.”

 

              “But Angel loves me,” she said pleadingly.  “He’ll still love me, won’t he?”

 

               “I cannot answer that, Buffy,” the older man said kindly.  “I am not aware that it is possible for a soulless being to love – Spike’s affection for Drusilla not withstanding.”

 

                “If Spike can love, then Angelus can love,” she repeated stubbornly.  “He won’t try to hurt me.”

 

                  A gurgling growl from the vampire lying on the table brought their attention back to Spike and they found those brilliant blues eyes glaring at them.

 

                “Can, wants to and will,” he managed to get out of his mangled throat.

“Don’t trust him, Buffy.  Don’t let him—“ His voice faltered and he lost consciousness once again.

 

                  “Buffy!”  Giles’ voice held a steely note that she rarely heard unless he was really angry.  “We need to go. Now.”

 

                 “Fine,” she huffed.  “Help me get Spike up.”

 

                  Between the two of them, Buffy’s slayer strength doing the heavy lifting and the watcher helping her balance the load, they got the unconscious vampire out of the library.  As a precaution, Giles grabbed a large cross from a shelf as they went out the door. 

 

 

              They reached his car without incident, loading the now-moaning vampire into the back seat and driving quickly to the watcher’s apartment complex.  Giles parked as close as he could to his front door, then stood outside the car holding the large cross and looking around warily as Buffy pulled Spike’s complete dead weight out of the car and partially onto her shoulder.  She half-dragged, half-carried him toward to front door, Giles following behind, walking backwards with the cross held up as a warning.  They had just reached the door and Giles was fumbling with the key when an eerily familiar voice floated out of the darkness.

 

               “You don’t really think that pathetic religious symbol can protect you from two master vampires, do you, Giles?”  Angelus’ silky purr was more chilling than an angry roar would have been and the hair stood up on the watcher’s neck.

 

              Wincing as she let Spike slide to the ground, Buffy whirled around, pulling a stake from her waistband as she did so.

 

                “I think this will work, pretty well, Angelus.” She sneered his name even as her heart clenched at the thought of having to kill him.

 

                With the Slayer between him and the menacing voice, Giles got the door open and stepped inside, trying to drag Spike with him.  He paused uncertainly when he couldn’t pull the vampire through the invisible barrier, then sighed and mumbled, “Come in, Spike,” as he yanked the body through the door.

 

                “Buffy, come in, now,” he ordered as she wavered uncertainly, still facing in the direction of the voice but feeling the tingles on her neck that said there was another vampire somewhere close.  Just as she began backing up toward the door, still searching the darkness for any sign of Angel, she felt a whisper of moving air.  Her Slayer reflexes gave her a split second to react before a pale hand with talons for fingernails slid across the space her face had just been.  With a disappointed hiss, a tall curvy brunette vampire in a flowing white dress stepped in front of the startled Slayer.

 

               Deep brown eyes stared into cold green ones as the two natural enemies took each other’s measure.  The vampire began to sway back and forth, smiling as the Slayer unconsciously mimicked her actions.

 

                 “Be in me,” she cooed, gliding closer to the suddenly still Slayer.  “Look into my eyes and be in me.”

 

                  An outraged roar from Giles, and his hand yanking her into the apartment snapped Buffy out of the fog into which she’d been slipping just in time for her to see the fury and frustration on the face that she assumed belonged to Drusilla.

 

                 “Another time, Slayer,” the vampire hissed again.  “I will be back for what’s mine.  You may not have him, my sweet William.”

 

                 “Did you do this to him?” Buffy’s voice was cold and hard.  She carefully avoided looking into the vampire’s eyes this time as she gestured at Spike’s drained body.

 

                “He was fighting with my Daddy,” Dru answered, as though there could be no argument.  “I could not let him hurt my Angelus. Spike was a bad doggie and needed to be punished.”

 

                 “Bitch!” Buffy snarled.  “He loves you.  How could you—“

 

                 Angelus finally stepped out of the shadows and into the reflected light from the apartment’s open door.  Buffy almost gasped at his appearance as it became obvious that Spike had given as good as he got in their fight.  The old vampire did not approach the doorway, carefully staying well out of reach of Buffy’s tightly clenched stake.  Drusilla immediately moved to his side, smiling and murmuring when he pulled her against his chest, running one hand over her breasts as the other crossed her stomach possessively.

 

                  The two vampires faced the teen-aged Slayer, laughing at the look of sudden understanding and dismay on her face as her former boyfriend’s hands began to stroke and caress the now-moaning vampiress.   Buffy watched in horror as Angelus ran a hand under Drusilla’s long dress and up her leg, pulling the dress with it.  He was just slipping the hand between her opening thighs when Giles pulled Buffy further into the room and slammed the door.

 

He sighed in sympathetic understanding as Buffy’s face crumpled and she collapsed to the floor in tears.  He allowed her to cry for her lost naivete for a few minutes, then gently pulled her to her feet and gestured to the inert man on the

floor.

 

                “Rather than crying for the vampire that is trying to hurt you, Buffy, I think you need to concentrate on the one who clearly was trying to save you.  Without Spike’s warning, we would have been completely unprepared for an attack and I doubt it would have gone so well for us.”

 

                 Buffy took a shuddering breath and nodded her head in agreement.  She fell to her knees beside Spike and stroked his cold, pale face before looking up at her watcher for help.

 

                  “What do I do for him?  I don’t know what’s wrong.  He isn’t dust, so I guess that means he’ll heal…?”

 

                   “I feel sure he will heal eventually, Buffy.  We will have to get some blood for him as soon as the stores open in the morning.  In the meantime…”

 

                 As he spoke, he was spreading a sheet on his couch and gestured toward it.  Buffy nodded and picked up the vampire, carefully dragging him to the makeshift bed and placing him on it.  She removed his heavy boots and the leather duster that had somehow survived the battle with only a few new tears, then covered him with a light blanket.  She stepped back, unsure of what else she could do but knowing that she had to do something.

 

                   A sound at the window brought her head around and she grabbed her stake again as Angelus leered in at her.  She heard a muttered, “Bloody hell, I almost forgot!” behind her as Giles quickly began a disinvite spell against the vampire.

 

                As the barrier went up, the old vampire laughed, shaking his finger at Giles as though to scold him for locking him out.  Then his face was gone and Giles hastily pulled the curtains, gesturing for Buffy to do the same at the other windows.  When the apartment was secured and secluded from the outside, they relaxed and dropped into chairs, each lost in thought over the way life had changed for them.

 

 

 

Chapter Ten

 

             When it became apparent that Spike was not going to wake up anytime soon, Giles suggested they get some sleep so as to be up early in the morning to prepare for what might come next.  Buffy nodded reluctantly, politely refusing his offer of his guest room and insisting she was going to stay where she could see what was going on with Spike.

 

               They both peered closely at the vampire’s wounds, Giles agreeing with Buffy that she should cut off the tattered shirt and clean the ones they could see so that they could tell if the vampire was beginning to heal himself.  He held the surprisingly small vampire up while she cut off the shirt and quickly inspected the wounds and bruises.  In addition to the arm, which Giles felt sure was dislocated rather than broken, Spike had a gaping hole in his throat where one of the other vampires had clearly bitten him.  He was covered in gouges that Buffy felt confident had come from Drusilla’s lethal-looking nails, as well as other bites and the hole in his side which looked like it might be from some sort of pole.

 

                    The wounds had long since stopped bleeding; probably, Giles told her quietly, because the vampire had little or no borrowed blood left in his body, and they did not appear to be healing at all.  Buffy agreed to the watcher’s suggestion that they snap the shoulder back into place while Spike was mercifully unconscious.  The satisfying “pop” as it went back into its socket brought a low moan from the still oblivious vamp and, in spite of her regret at having hurt him, Buffy felt a jolt of happiness at this sign of life in the otherwise dead body lying on the couch.

 

                 They stepped back and looked at the corpse in front of them, Buffy’s worried face reflecting her more-than-casual concern for the blond vamp.

 

               “Do you think he’ll be all right?’ she asked anxiously for the third time since they’d begun to work on him.

 

               “I can’t answer that, Buffy,” her watcher said kindly.  “As far as I know, an injured vampire can always heal as long as he is not dust.  How long it takes may well be dependent upon the care and…feeding…he gets.”

 

                “He had to get sire’s blood for Drusilla to heal her,” Buffy said quietly.  “Maybe that would help him.”

 

                  She turned and walked toward the door, picking up her stake and the large cross as she did so.

 

               “What do you think you’re doing?”  Giles’ voice was almost a shriek as her purpose became obvious.

 

                “I’m going to get that bitch and drag her back her by her messy hair,” Buffy said flatly.  “And then I’m going to feed her to Spike until he doesn’t want any more of her disgusting blood.”

 

                 “You cannot be thinking of going after that lunatic by yourself.  I forbid it.”

 

               She looked at her the man who was rapidly becoming a surrogate father to her and said coldly, “Isn’t it your job to send me out there? This vampire is much more dangerous than the fledglings I slay every night. She needs to be—“

 

               “Buffy.”  The weak croak from the couch erased the stubborn, hard look on her face, replacing it with one of concern and hope.

 

                “Spike?”  She ran back to the couch, kneeling beside it where she could look into his eyes.

 

                 “Watcher’s right, pet.  You’re not up to taking on a healthy Dru; not on her own terms and with the poof to back her up. She’s got a really strong thrall; might take you right out without even touching you.   Don’t want you goin’ after them until I’m able to help you.”

 

                  “Which part of I am the Slayer are you two not getting here?”  She glared back and forth from her watcher’s concerned face to the equally worried one inches away from hers. She tried to ignore the truth in what he was saying about the thrall.  “This is what I do.  It’s what I’m made for.  Slaying monsters.”

 

                 Spike’s mouth twitched slightly and he whispered, “And you will, luv. I promise.  Just not tonight, alright?”

 

               “You need her blood,” she insisted stubbornly.  “You can’t help me like this.”

 

              “I’ll heal, Slayer.  It might take a few days, but soon as I get some blood in me, I’ll start healing. Ole Angelus is too weak from fighting me and feeding Dru to be much of a danger for a couple of days; he’s not in a whole lot better shape than I am.”

 

                 “That would, no doubt, be why he remained safely away from Buffy when we were outside.”

 

                Spike nodded weakly.  “He’s in no shape to take on a Slayer. He’ll be lucky to be able to feed himself.”

 

               In the face of the opposition from the two men in the room, and the fact that Spike seemed to be marginally stronger than before, Buffy reluctantly agreed to wait before going after Angelus and Drusilla.  As soon as he was sure she wasn’t planning to go out on her own, Spike allowed his eyes to drift closed again, smiling slightly when Buffy touched them gently with her fingertips.

 

                Once he was assured that Buffy did not intend to go out after Drusilla, Giles excused himself and went to bed where he soon fell into an exhausted slumber that was full of dreams of Angelus rampaging through Sunnydale.

 

                 Buffy remained on the floor beside the couch for quite a while, reluctant to move too far away from the once again dead-seeming vampire.  She turned off the lights and rested her head against the cushion, determined to remain where she wouldn’t miss any change in Spike’s condition.  Taking advantage of his unconsciousness, she studied his beautiful human features while he couldn’t see her doing so.  When she had completely familiarized herself with his long lashes, prominent cheekbones, and the full soft mouth only inches from her own, she raised her head and looked at his partially exposed chest. 

 

                 She squirmed a little at her reaction when she remembered what he’d looked like after they cut his shirt off.  Even with the wounds and bruises all over his torso, it had been obvious that William had grown up into a very well-built man.  She glanced down the lean body that was concealed by the blanket she’d placed over him and wondered briefly what the rest of him looked like.

 

              Telling herself she was only checking for overlooked wounds, she carefully peeled back the blanket and ran her eyes down his torso to his denim-clad lower body.  His flat abdomen, visible above the low-cut jeans, drew her attention until she noticed the blood-caked tear in his jeans.  With a guilty gasp, she pulled back the edges of the ripped material to find what appeared to be knife wound in his upper thigh. 

 

            She was unable to see the whole wound as the fabric seemed insistent upon falling back over it and frustration made her growl low in her throat as she tried to get at the cut.  Finally deciding she could probably get at it better from above, she reached a timid hand toward the waistband of his jeans, unconsciously holding her breath as she popped the snap and reached for the zipper.

 

             She had just eased the zipper down and slipped her warm hand into the jeans, trying to push them away from the knife wound, when a rumbling purr caused her to jump. A quick glance at his face showed no signs of consciousness and she worried at her lip with her teeth while she debated what to do. She clearly was not going to be able to reach the wound from that direction either; not without pulling his pants completely off his hips and thighs.

 

           Buffy could not bring herself to remove the jeans completely, particularly in light of the fact that she saw no trace of underwear either below or above the wound.  Reaching for the scissors that she’d used to cut off his bloody shirt, she was just inserting them into the rip when Spike’s warm voice washed over her.

 

           “If you want to get my pants off, luv, you know all you have to do is ask.”

 

            Blushing furiously, Buffy quickly took her hands away from his cool flesh and put them behind her back.

 

           “I was just…you have a cut…I wanted to…I thought you were out of it!” she finished defensively,

 

            “Gonna take advantage of me while I’m unconscious, were you? Pretty kinky, Slayer,” he whispered, a choked laugh escaping his chest when she continued to blush and stammer.

 

              He stopped laughing when she dropped her head and whispered, “I’m sorry.  I WAS peeking.  But then I saw that wound, and I couldn’t get at it to see how bad it was, and I thought maybe if I –“

 

               Taking pity on her, he painfully lifted one hand far enough to touch hers and bring it back to his leg.

 

                “I’m only teasing you, luv,” he said softly.  “I know you’re tryin’ to take care of me. An’ I appreciate it.  I do.  But putting that hot little hand in my pants is just going to make me WISH I was stronger, not make it happen.”

 

               “I’m sorry,” she repeated.  “I didn’t think it would wake you up. I just wanted to clean that wound too.”

 

               “I’m just dead, Buffy, not buried,” he said, his voice getting weaker.  “There’s no way having your hand that close to my dangly bits wasn’t going to wake me up.  Jus’ give us a minute here and I’ll show you…”

 

               His voice trailed off as he exhausted what little strength he’d had left. Buffy got a clean cloth and washed the wound as best she could without actually taking his pants off, carefully keeping her hands and eyes away from the soft curls trailing down his stomach and disappearing into his jeans.  To avoid that area, she worked blindly with her hand inside the ripped denim, taking great care not to let it wander too close to the inside of his thigh. When she’d cleaned the cut - which she now realized had been aimed at his femoral artery - and placed a large piece of gauze over it, she taped the gauze to his leg, blushing again as she reached cautiously around the inside of his thigh to press the tape against his skin.

 

               Thanking the powers that she hadn’t accidentally run into anything she hadn’t been planning to touch, she tugged his jeans back together and pulled the zipper back up, leaving the snap open.  She breathed a sigh of relief when she had the blanket back in place, covering both the wounded leg and the exposed chest that kept drawing her eyes and making her want to run her hands over it.

 

              She cast another worried look at his immobile face before laying her own head down next to his shoulder and allowing herself to drift off to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eleven

 

 

              When Giles stumbled sleepily downstairs the next morning, he found Buffy curled up on the floor beside his couch, her head pillowed on one of the cushions and Spike’s leather coat wrapped around her.  He tiptoed quietly past his sleeping guests and into the kitchen to make coffee.  When neither of them had stirred by the time he had finished his coffee and dressed for the day, he stopped to study the vampire’s ashen face.

 

              In spite of his confident words to Buffy, he actually wasn’t sure if Spike was going to recover or not.  He’d never seen a completely drained vampire before, but he’d been told they just sort of shriveled up – stuck in a sort of limbo between being animated and being dust.  While Spike did not appear to be quite that dehydrated, he certainly did not look like he was going to be back on his feet anytime soon.

 

              Leaving Buffy to her rest, the watcher left the house and drove to the butcher’s for blood for his unusual houseguest.  His instincts told him that the vampire needed human blood in order to heal properly, but he could think of no way to get it without stealing from the hospital. On sudden impulse, however, he swung by Willie’s, catching the bar owner cleaning out the debris from the night before. 

 

              It only took a few moments of bringing out his inner Ripper to convince the man that providing Giles with several packages of human blood would be in his best interest, and the tweedy Brit drove away quite satisfied with himself.  It wasn’t often that the normally mild watcher had reason or opportunity to indulge his long-suppressed darker side and he decided he quite enjoyed the change.  Determining that getting Spike healed quickly would be the best way to get Buffy’s attention back on Angelus, he drove straight home and carried his cooler full of vampire food into the apartment.

 

             He found Buffy frowning worriedly at the immobile vampire, her face a study in conflicted emotions.  She turned when he came in and ran to take the cooler from him, talking rapidly about how Spike had awakened for a few minutes but then had fallen unconscious again and not moved or spoken since.

 

                Leaving Buffy to attempt to get the blood into the oblivious vampire, Giles left again to check on Xander and Willow and be sure that every place Angel had been welcome was now closed to Angelus.

 

                 Buffy stood uncertainly by the couch, confused about how to get the blood from the bag she was holding into the vampire who was still unconscious.  Knowing that Angel had preferred his blood at body temperature, she carried the cold packet into the kitchen and poured it into a mug, which she then placed in the microwave.

 

                 She carried the warmed blood back into the room and knelt down beside the vampire, dipping her finger into the warm blood and rubbing it gently over his soft lips. When that didn’t work, she dipped in again and this time she inserted her finger into his mouth until she could feel his tongue.  When he began to suck on her bloody finger, she gave a squeal of joy and quickly stuck the straw in his mouth.  She smiled when he made a little mewing sound of protest as she withdrew her finger and substituted the straw, but was gratified to see him continue to suck up the life-giving liquid in the mug.

 

                   When the cup was empty, she quickly took it to the kitchen and refilled it, rushing back to the still-immobile vampire and offering the straw again.  He fastened his lips around it, draining the cup quickly and lying back with a sigh.  When she went to get up to refill it again, he put a hand on her arm and said weakly, “Wait for a second, luv.  Need to be sure I can keep it down before we go filling me up too much.

 

                “Anyway,” he added, meeting her eyes with a wink, “I’d rather be sucking it off your pretty little finger than out of that piece of plastic.”

 

               Buffy ran her finger around the inside of the cup, collecting what little had not gone up through the straw.  She held her finger out with a challenging grin, only to have the grin wiped off her face when the vampire grabbed her finger and began to suckle it in earnest, running his tongue around it while he pulled the already clean finger further into his mouth.  His eyes gleamed as Buffy’s breath hitched, her lips parting in an unanticipated gasp.

 

               She felt the effects of his sensual suckling on her finger all the way down to her womb and she whimpered softly when he let it slide out of his mouth with a small “plop”.  She stared at him, her eyes wide and her breathing fast and heavy as he lay back down with a satisfied smile on his lips.

 

               “Now that’s the way to feed me, Slayer,” he sighed as he rested and felt the borrowed blood being soaked up by his thirsty body.

 

               “Do-“ Buffy’s voice was a squeak and she took a deep breath and tried again, “Do you want more now?  I only have one more bag of human blood,” she added apologetically.  “But there’s lots of pig blood too.”

 

               “One more bag, if you don’t mind, luv.  Then let’s just see what happens, yeah?”

 

               Buffy scampered back to the kitchen and warmed up the last bag of O negative.  As she carried it back into the living room, she studied the vampire to see if she could see any improvement, but to her eye he was still just as cut up and bruised as before.  She sat down on the edge of the couch and waited for Spike to take the cup from her, rightly concluding that he was strong enough to hold it himself.  With a wince, he pulled himself up to a sitting position, allowing the blanket to slip down to his hips as he took the cup from her.

 

               “Not going to feed me, then, luv?” he smirked, watching her eyes running over his chest and stomach.  He could hear her heartbeat increase, but the eyes she raised to his were more worried than lustful.

 

                 “Why aren’t you healing?” she asked softly, reaching out to touch the wound on his neck with a tentative hand. 

 

                   He set the cup down carefully and took her hand in both of his.

 

                “Buffy, I was about out of blood.  Your bloody wanker of an ex…” He paused and looked at her fiercely. “He IS your ex now, isn’t he?” he growled.

 

                She nodded quickly and he relaxed and finished his thought. “Your bloody wanker of an ex and MY bloody bitch of an ex, they did a real number on me.  Deliberately.  Dru wouldn’t let him kill me, but they did their best to make sure I wouldn’t be able to interfere with their plans or to warn you.  They drained me, pet.  Until I’ve got a body’s worth of blood in me, there won’t be any available for fast healing.”

 

                 “What if I drag Drusilla back her by stupid-looking dress and you drink from her? That would fix you up, wouldn’t it?”

 

               “Yes, luv, it probably would, but now we’re back to not wanting you to take them on unless I’m there to help you.  Kind of a Catch-22, innit?”

 

                 “Catch who?”

 

                 He grinned at her puzzled look.  “Nevermind, pet.  Great book.  I’ll get it for you someday.  Point is, you can’t go get her without me, and I can’t get better that fast without her.”

 

                “There’s another way…” Buffy didn’t look at him as she whispered the words. She twisted the blanket around between her fingers, trying to control the way her heart was pounding.  He cocked his head at her curiously.

 

                 “No, pet.  That’s pretty much it.  Sire’s blood.  Anything else wouldn’t--” He stopped when she raised her eyes to his and let him see what she was thinking.  “Oh.  Oh no, Buffy.  Not a good idea, luv.”

 

                  “Angel said it would have worked for Drusilla, so why wouldn’t it work for you?  Wouldn’t my blood heal you almost as fast as hers?”

 

                 “Faster,” he said shortly. “But you’d be a fool to do that, Slayer.  Your blood, it’s…let’s just say it’s one hell of an energy boost. You don’t want to be making a vamp that powerful, luv.”

 

                 “Why not?”  She cocked her head, unconsciously imitating his own gesture.  “I’m not volunteering to do that for any vampire, just for you.”

 

                  Her look of genuine innocence about what she was offering touched him in a way that nothing had in over a hundred years.  Even as his mouth watered at the thought of tasting Slayer blood again after so many years, he fought off the craving and tried to reason with her.

 

                 “Slayer…Buffy…you really don’t wa—“

 

                  “Stop telling me what I want!” She would have stamped her foot if she’d not been sitting down. As it was, she settled for sticking her lower lip out in a pout and poking him with her finger.

 

                 His face held a look of reverence and awe similar to the one he’d had when he was a child and he reached toward her face with a trembling hand.

 

                “You are amazing,” he breathed, leaning toward her mouth and its still protruding lip.  When his lips touched hers and he sucked the lower one into his mouth gently, she exhaled with a moan and leaned into him, her movement causing the vampire to gasp in pain as her weight came down on his wounded leg.

 

               Buffy jumped back with a stuttered apology, only to be held by a hand still barely strong enough to hang on to her. Spike shifted onto his side and pulled her down to lie beside him on the narrow couch so that he could look into her eyes as he spoke.

 

                  “I am not William, Buffy.  I’m not a child, I’m not helpless, and I’m not human.  I’m a vampire who has killed two of your sister slayers and, if you weren’t who you are, would have probably killed you by now. I want to taste you so badly it makes me ache, but I don’t think you’ve thought this through and I don’t want you doing something you will hate me for later.”

 

                  “Do you want to see Angelus and Drusilla kill me? Because you’re telling me that’s what’s going to happen if I take them on without your help.”

 

                   “So you wait for my help.”

 

                  Buffy sighed and rested her forehead against an uninjured spot on his chest.  “Spike, I’m the Slayer.  Girl who slays the monsters, remember? And right now there are two monsters free in my town.  They want to kill me.  They want to kill my friends and family.”  She raised her head and looked him in the eye.  “I can’t wait for you to get strong again.  If you can’t come with me, I’ll have to try it on my own.”

 

                    “That’s blackmail, Slayer. It’s bloody cheating!”

 

                    Buffy looked into his indignant eyes and smiled sweetly. “It’s not cheating if someone’s trying to kill you,” she purred. “And you know Angelus is trying to kill me.”

 

                  He rolled his eyes at her familiar rationalization.  I might kill you, luv.”

 

                    “No you won’t.  You told me yourself, vampires don’t have to kill humans when they bite them.  I trust you, William. You won’t take too much,” she breathed moving closer to his hovering mouth.  “I trust you.”

 

                With a groan of acquiescence, he met her offered lips with his own, allowing the world that contained his sire and grandsire to slip away while he kissed the pretty girl who trusted him.  Once again, Buffy lost herself in the pure sensual pleasure of kissing the weakened vampire. Her frustration built up quickly as she tried to get closer to him without putting pressure on his still-open wounds.  The fact that the wounds could remain open and still not bleed was proof that his supply of borrowed blood was still not what it needed to be and she struggled to keep her mind on healing the body she wanted so badly to be touching.

 

                Wrenching her lips away from his, she stretched her neck out and breathed, “Do it, William. Take what you need from me.”

 

              Soft lips touched the offered throat and he ran his tongue over her pulse point, sucking on it gently and causing them both to moan softly. Then, to Buffy’s surprise, he kissed her throat lightly and pulled away from her.  Before she could protest what she saw as another rejection of her offer, he had picked up her arm, using his nose to push up her sleeve until his lips were pressed against the soft skin on the inside of her elbow. He gently sucked on the exposed area, then, before she realized what he was doing, he slid his fangs in and made two small holes over the vein.

 

                He took his fangs out carefully and fastening his lips on her skin he began to take deep, slow pulls that Buffy could feel throughout her entire, suddenly limp, body.  She moaned deep in her throat as she felt her warm blood flowing from her arm into his caressing mouth.  Spike was making a soft purring sound as he drew just enough of her blood to feel its magical properties affecting his body.  Long before he would have felt her heartbeat falter, or her body weaken at all, he stopped sucking and carefully licked the tiny wounds closed, leaving a soft, open-mouthed kiss on her arm and trailing light kisses down the arm to her hand. He left one lingering kiss on her palm, tickling it with his tongue and causing her to giggle, before raising his head and looking at her through eyes that shone with gratitude and renewed strength.

 

                 “That was a very foolish thing to do, Buffy,” he growled, even as he pulled her in for another lingering kiss that quickly threatened to turn into something more.  “Do you have any idea how powerful I feel right now?”  He pulled her against his visibly healing body, allowing her to feel the hard length of him pressing into her stomach.

 

                    She didn’t answer, being much too busy melting into his lean hardness and giving herself up to the sensations the vampire was creating with his lips and tongue.  Somewhere in the back of her brain, a little voice was screaming that she was on the couch in her watcher’s living room in broad daylight, but it was easily drowned out by her libido’s clamoring for more Spike kisses and more Spike touching.

 

                   In a repeat of the first night they’d met, she opened her thighs and allowed the hard bulge she was feeling to slide between them.  She felt him shiver all over as it pressed against her suddenly damp crotch, stimulating a whimper in her throat.  He rolled over on his back, pulling her with him so that she was lying on top and unconsciously rubbing her throbbing clit against him. 

 

                 Growling softly, he put his hands on her hips and pushed her down against his aching cock.  The heat from her body was making him so hard he was sure all the blood he’d consumed that morning had gone to the same place.

 

                    The voice in Spike’s head reminding him that he was lying in a watcher’s living room, and that the man would undoubtedly throw him out the door into the bright sunlight if he walked in and found Spike shagging his seventeen-year-old charge, was somewhat more insistent than Buffy’s.  No matter how impulsive he might be, Spike had not survived to become a master vampire by being stupid. As much as he wanted to show her exactly how strong her blood had made him, he managed to fight down the impulse to rip off her clothes and take her virginity right there where anyone could walk in on them.

 

                  Instead, he rotated his hips so as to continue the pressure against Buffy’s center, waiting until she was whimpering with frustrated desire before sliding a hand between them.  When his cool fingers slid under her waistband and into her wet folds and he began to stroke places she hadn’t known wanted stroking, her whimpers changed to panting cries and incoherent gasping.  Within a very short period of time, she was arching against his hand, her head thrown back and her eyes closed in ecstasy. 

 

                  The Slayer collapsed onto his chest, still trembling slightly from her first orgasm.  He pulled his hand out of her jeans and brought it to his lips, thoroughly licking her juices off each finger before putting both arms around her and nuzzling her hair.

 

                  “You alright, luv?” he queried when she didn’t say anything.  “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

 

               She shook her head vigorously, but kept her face buried in his chest until the heat from her blushing face gave him an idea what was going on.  He rolled them back to the side so that she was facing him again and tipped her chin up until she was forced to meet his eyes.  She tried to twist away, her face a contrast in embarrassment and contentment.

 

                “What’s this, then?” he asked softly. 

 

               “I…you…we…I…you…I never…what did you…Oh my god!”

 

                “You’re adorable when you’re embarrassed,” he chuckled.  “Did you know that?”

 

                “Well, no, because I don’t think I’ve ever been quite that…embarrassed before.” She continued to be bright red and to look around everywhere except at him.

 

                “You’ve never…?  Oh, my poor, neglected baby.  If you were mine, I’d make you come a dozen times a day – just to watch the expression on your face when you do.”

 

                 His remark reminded her that she had just had one of the most incredible experiences of her young life with someone who was almost a stranger, as well as one of the creatures she had been chosen to slay whenever possible.

 

               “Well, I’m not though, am I?” she mumbled, reluctantly pushing away from him and sitting up.  She was still unwilling to meet his eyes and therefore missed the pain that went across his face at her words.

 

                “No, love, I suppose you aren’t,” he answered, sitting up also and swinging his legs to the floor.

 

                  She shot a quick look at him, amazed to see that most of his cuts and bruises were either already healed or well on their way.  The huge rip in his neck was still raw and oozing, but even it was looking better.  She dropped her eyes to his thigh, hoping to see that the wound there was also healing, but instead she was met with the unmistakable sight of a large bulge in his pants.

 

                  At the same time, the vampire squirmed and tried to unobtrusively shift his swollen cock into a more comfortable position, thereby drawing even more attention to it.  Buffy’s gasp told him she’d noticed what he was trying to do and he grinned ruefully.

 

                “Between your blood and having your hot little body on me like that, it’s gonna be a while before that goes away.  Sorry, pet.  Not much I can do about it right now.  Not with you here, anyway.”

 

                 “What would you do if I—oh!”  Again Buffy turned the color of the large red easy chair as she realized what he meant.  She eyed the bulge again, noticing how it was pushing against the fabric of his jeans.

 

                 “It…it doesn’t look very comfortable,” she ventured, surprising herself with a sudden urge to touch him.  She snatched her hand back just as her disobedient fingers were about to stroke the demin-covered object.

 

                 “It’s just a little…confined…right now,” he whispered, having seen the way her eyes were glued to his crotch and the way her hand had twitched as though drawn to it.  “If I could just…” He reached for the zipper on his jeans, watching carefully for any sign that he was frightening her, but she was watching avidly, her mouth open slightly and her breathing growing faster.

 

               His suddenly clumsy hands fumbled with the zipper, and without thought Buffy extended her own hand and pulled the zipper down easily.  With a sigh of relief, Spike flopped back on the couch, his now freed cock sticking up from its nest of brown curls. Buffy’s hand was still holding the tab of the zipper and she was pulled forward when the vampire fell backwards. 

 

               Her fingers were only fractions of an inch away from the base – close enough that the heat from her hand was more than apparent to Spike.  He fought back a groan, holding an unnecessary breath as he waited to see what she would do.  When she reached out a tentative hand and lightly ran it up to the head of his cock, he shivered and groaned with suppressed desire.

 

                “I want…” Buffy wrapped her hand around him, eliciting another heartfelt groan.  “I…I don’t know what to do,” she whispered.  “Tell me what you want me to do.”

 

               “You’re touchin’ me, love.  That’s more than I ever would have hoped for.  Feeling your hot little hand on me, your breath blowing over my…’S heaven, Buffy.”

 

             “That’s not what you’d be doing for yourself if I wasn’t here,” she insisted stubbornly.  “What would you be doing?”

 

               He opened one eye and cocked his head at her.  “I’d be giving myself a good wank, love, and pretending it was you the whole time.”

 

               “Show me.”  The tone of command brooked no argument and he smiled his assent.

 

              Spike covered her small hand with his own calloused one and squeezed gently.  He then began to slide her hand up and down his shaft, squeezing on the way up and sliding loosely down each time. 

 

              “Like that, pet.  Just like that.  I’d be pulling away on m’ poor aching cock and trying to convince myself I was in your sweet little cunny…would be thinking about you, about your soft lips, your perfect little breasts…your warm mouth…--“

 

                “You don’t know what my breasts look like!” she broke the rhythm to protest.

 

                He grimaced and pushed into her temporarily stilled hand.  “Work with me here, Slayer.  I’ve got a good imagination – know they’re perfect.”  His voice changed and grew softer and warmer.  “Got to be perfect. Jus’ like the rest of you…”

 

                  “Oh,” Buffy breathed out softly, resuming her strong, steady stroking.  “Ok, then.” 

 

                   With Spike’s verbal encouragement, she began to experiment with different pressures, pausing to run her thumb around the tip and collect some pre-cum to provide more lubrication and exerting some of her Slayer strength as she began to pump harder and faster. 

 

                  “Yes, oh, yes, baby.  Like that, love.  Squeeze me harder, pull for me, darlin’.  Make me….Buffy!” 

 

               As he shouted her name, Spike grabbed his torn shirt from the floor and covered her hand and his cock, effectively preventing any hard-to-explain stains on the watcher’s furniture.  While he took some unneeded breaths and tried to calm down, he peered at the Slayer and saw her looking back at him with what could only be called a look of accomplishment on her face.

 

                “Pretty proud of yourself, are you, love?”  He smiled at her obvious self-satisfaction.

 

                “Yep!” she replied happily, then doubt crossed her face and she asked tentatively,  “I…it was okay, wasn’t it?  I did it right?”

 

                 “Bloody hell, pet!  If you’d been any more right, I’d have scared the neighbors!”  He pulled her against his chest, planting soft kisses all over her face until the doubt went away and she was smiling shyly.

 

 “Oh, good.  I wanted it to be good.”  She blushed and started to pull away, but he held fast and nudged at her face until she looked up into his worshipful eyes.

 

                “You touched me, pet.  You let me touch you.  Let me give you pleasure and then you gave it back.  Couldn’t have been anything but good.  Something for me to remember on cold nights when I’ve got no warm Slayer nearby.  I’ll never forget it, love.  Never.”

 

                Embarrassed by his avowal, she squirmed loose and said quickly, “We need to get some more blood into you.”  She looked at him speculatively and added with an embarrassed giggle, “And we need to wipe that shit-eating grin off your face before Giles gets home.”

 

                 He laughed at her, stretching his arms over his head and flexing newly restored muscles.  “Oh I don’t think this grin’s going anywhere anytime soon, love.  When you put a smile on a man’s face, you tend to make it kind of permanent.”

 

              She blushed at his praise, wondering why she wasn’t more ashamed of being complimented on her “wanking” skills.  Picking up his wet, bloody shirt, she carried it to the kitchen trashcan and shoved it down to the bottom, hoping Giles wasn’t in the habit of looking closely at what he threw away.  She pulled her sleeve down over the two little holes on her arm, rubbing them absently before she did so.

 

               She caught Spike watching her rub the bites and smiled reassuringly as his brow furrowed.

 

              “Do they hurt, pet?”  She could hear the anxiety in his voice and hastened to reassure him.

 

                “No, they didn’t hurt at all…and they don’t hurt now. I was just…touching them.”

 

                 He stood up and came toward her, giving her a mouth-watering look at his scarred, but no longer cut up, torso. 

 

                “Shirt!” she squeaked.  “You need to put on a shirt.  Now. Before Giles gets home.”

 

 

 

Chapter Twelve

 

          “My clothes are back at the warehouse with Dru and Angelus, pet.  Kinda doubt they’re going to be willing to pack a bag for me and send it to the Slayer’s.”

 

         Buffy couldn’t take her eyes off his lean body, eyes that kept wandering to the prominent hip bones angled toward the still undone button on his jeans.  She unconsciously licked her lips as she said,  “May…maybe I can find something of Giles’ for you to wear…”

 

              “I don’t do tweed, pet,” he bristled.  He followed her eyes to his flat stomach and ran a hand down his chest. “What’s wrong with the way I am now?” he added with a knowing smirk.  “Having a hard time concentrating, are you?”

 

              Buffy rolled her eyes, his cockiness being all it took to get her mind back on their situation. 

 

              “You wish!” she huffed, stomping upstairs to search her watcher’s bureau for a tee shirt.  She pawed through the collection of plain white shirts, pausing when she found a Grateful Dead tee shirt and one with a Black Sabbath logo on it. Underneath them were other multi-colored shirts sporting the names of bands – some she’d never heard of.   “Whoa, Giles! “ she muttered, grabbing one of the white shirts and hurrying back down stairs.

 

             She found the vampire warming up a cupful of pig’s blood and complaining bitterly to Giles that it wasn’t “fit for vamp nor beast”.  Buffy threw the shirt at the vampire, ordering him to “cover up, now!” and bringing a raised eyebrow from the older man.

 

             “Um, Buffy?  Is that my shirt?” he inquired politely as Spike pulled the much too large tee over his head. “Where did…where did you get it?”

      

               Buffy giggled at the slightly panicked look on his face and replied cheerily, “I got it from your drawer – you know the one – it has lots of tee shirts in it?  Lots of DIFFERENT tee shirts?”

 

               She watched with a grin on her face as Giles struggled with whether or not to ask her what she’d seen in the drawer before he realized from her obvious glee that she had found his stash of concert shirts.  He pulled off his glasses and polished them vigorously before clearing his throat and deciding to ignore the whole thing.

 

                “Right, then,” he said quickly.  “Xander and Willow will be by shortly and we can talk about our plans.  Willow has done disinvite spells at your house, her house, in Cordelia’s vehicle, everywhere we could remember that Angel has been.  There is nothing we can do about the school- it is a public building – so we must assure that none of us is there after dark.  Jen- Miss Calendar is coming over also,” he added with a puzzled frown.  “It appears that she has some interest in Angel/Angelus and wishes to be kept informed of his activities.”

 

                “Miss Calendar?  What would she know or care about Angelus?”  Buffy’s brow furrowed.  “She’s a techno-pagan.  Demons and mechanical spirits and stuff like that that.  What’s that got to do with vampires?”

 

                  “I don’t know, but when I warned her about Angelus, she was quite insistent that she be included.”

 

                 Spike watched quietly as the Slayer and her watcher discussed their possible strategies for drawing out Angelus and Drusilla and assessed their potential weapons.  Buffy seemed to be in favor of marching into the warehouse they now knew about – thanks to Spike – and planting stakes in both their hearts as quickly as possible.  She flounced over to the couch to pout when both Spike and Giles vetoed anything as hasty as charging in before they knew what to expect.

 

               “Slayer.”  Spike’s voice was serious, lacking any trace of William or the lecherous vampire that had replaced him.  “Listen to me, luv.  Drusilla has a very powerful thrall. She can—“

 

                “I’ve already seen it,” she muttered, still annoyed that they didn’t think she could take the two vampires.  “I just won’t look at her.”

 

                 “Sometimes that’s easier said than done, luv,” he insisted gently.  “I’ve seen her convince people they were safe in their mother’s arms while she was chaining them to…. Never mind.  I just don’t want you around her unless I’m with you.”

 

                 “Afraid I’ll stake your ho-bag of an ex?” she said meanly. 

 

                  He studied her face until she dropped her eyes and said meekly, “I’m sorry, Spike.  I didn’t mean to—“

 

                  “Yes, you did,” he replied shortly, turning back to Giles and holding up his mug of pig’s blood.  “I want to thank you for the O Neg, Watcher.  It was a big help. But if I’m going to be using this stuff to mend, I’d like to have another day or so to get back up to strength before we take them on. Angelus is a right wanker, but he’s not a bad fighter and Dru can be very…”

 

                      He stopped when Giles held up a hand and said quickly, “I quite agree.  As long as we know everyone is safe—“

 

                   “He’s going to come after the Slayer’s family and friends,” Spike broke in, crossing to sit near Buffy when she gasped. “It’s his way, love,” he said gently.  “He’d rather spend weeks emotionally torturing a victim than fifteen minutes in a fair fight.  He’ll try to weaken you by killin’ off the people you care about before he comes after you.”

 

                    Buffy’s eyes were wet with unshed tears.  “How could he?” she whispered. “He loves me.  He wouldn’t—“

 

                   Spike sighed and rolled his eyes, gesturing for Giles to come closer. “The demon’s out now, pet.  And it’s furious that you made him feel… human.  He can’t admit to loving you – wouldn’t if he could.  He wants you to pay for making him weak.”

 

                    “What about Drusilla?” Buffy demanded.  “I thought you two were l-l-lovers,” She stumbled over the word, finding it very hard to accept that Spike had loved the insane vampire for so long.  “Can’t you just tell her to –can’t you just take her away?”

 

                    “That seems reasonable, Spike,” Giles put in. “Surely your long-time…consort would not join Angelus in an attempt to kill the Slayer if you asked her not to.  You are responsible for getting her well again, are you not?”

 

                   Ignoring the last question, Spike just silently turned his head so that they could both see the still angry-looking rip in his throat.  He looked into the watcher’s eyes and said tightly, “Dru will do whatever Angelus tells her to.”

 

                 Buffy’s eyes were big as the implication became clear and she reached toward him with a sympathetic hand, stopping herself just in time when she saw Giles’ eyebrows go up.

 

                 Spike had seen the aborted gesture and smiled gratefully at her before he continuing, “Just give me a day or two to get up to strength and I’ll come up with a way to distract Dru while the Slayer takes care of Angelus.  Then I’ll take her away and we won’t be back.”

 

                     He didn’t meet Buffy’s confused eyes as he spoke of leaving Sunnydale with his sire; the sire who clearly did not love him as much as she did his grandsire.

 

               Any response Buffy might have made was interrupted by the arrival of Xander and Willow bursting through the door and trying to talk at once.

 

               “Hey, G-man, did you know— What the hell is HE doing here?” 

 

               The boy’s eyes were fixed on the vampire sitting, in his opinion, much too close to Buffy.  While Xander glared and postured, demanding to know why Spike was not only not dust, but apparently well on his way to being healed, Willow gave the vampire a timid wave and smile.  The wink she received in response caused her to blush and study her shoes intently, thereby missing Buffy’s punch to Spike’s arm and his subsequent chuckle as he stood up.

 

                 Before any more explanations could be given, there was a light knock on the door and Jenny Calendar was ushered in by a nervous Rupert Giles.  Introductions were made – the whole room falling deathly silent when she walked right up to Spike and said clearly,  “William the Bloody, Slayer of slayers.  I’d thought Rupert must have been mistaken when he said you had come to warn Buffy.”

 

                   For long minutes they stared at each other, the woman with undisguised curiosity and some fear, the vampire with a speculative assessment of the woman before him.

 

              “Gypsy,” he said finally and turned his back on her.

 

              The librarian and his students stared at the two polar opposites – one a dark-haired, dark-eyed school teacher, the other a blue-eyed, bleached blond punk vampire.  Buffy’s never very plentiful patience quickly wore off and she snapped, “Does either of you want to tell me what that was all about?”  She almost admitted to a pang of jealousy at the thought that Spike might have also met Jenny Calendar before he came to Sunnydale.

 

              I wonder how many girls or women he’s gotten to know over the past 124 years? Why am I starting to think I’m not so unique?

 

              Spike shrugged and gestured to the woman still standing where he’d left her.  “Think the gypsy might have some information to share,” he said quietly, then went into the kitchen to fix himself another mug of pig’s blood.

 

               There was another minute of silence while everyone thought furiously.  Giles’ eyes lit up with understanding, but it was Willow who spoke first.

 

                “Miss Calendar?  Are you a Gypsy?  Did you…well, not you, obviously, because a long time ago, but your…did you…?”

 

                 Jenny smiled at Willow’s enthusiasm for having figured it out, and then addressed Giles.

 

                 “Why don’t you sit down, Rupert, while I tell you about my family and our history with Angelus.”

 

                Jenny’s tale of how her ancestors had cursed Angelus, the Scourge of Europe, for having the poor judgment to kill one of their own young virgins held her audience’s rapt attention. The only one not closely following her narration of how her tribe had punished the old vampire was Spike. He listened idly from the kitchen as she explained how they had cursed Angelus with a soul. The Gypsies knew that, at a minimum, it would take the joy out of his life of torture and bloodshed, and with luck it would damn him to an eternity of guilt and regret.  The hope was that the guilt would be so great that the vampire would eventually dust himself after several years of torment.

 

                When word came that the souled vampire was still alive and working on the side of good with the Slayer, they sent Jenny to keep an eye on him and be sure he was still suffering.  Very hesitantly, she admitted that they knew there was a possibility that a sufficient measure of happiness could break the curse, but the Gypsy woman had seen no signs that the vampire was actually happy, in spite of his growing feelings for Buffy.

 

                 All eyes turned to Spike when she said haltingly, “I cannot imagine what might have made him so happy that he could lose the soul he’s had for so many years…”

 

                  “My dark princess is a very resourceful woman,” he growled, turning his back on them. 

 

                 Buffy was torn between the need to understand what might have happened, and her desire to spare Spike what was obviously a painful memory. Having no such compassion, Xander blurted out, “So, Deadboy Jr.  What did your significant other do that was so happy-making it made Angel lose his soul?”

 

                Spike glared at the boy, then asked Buffy with a serious face, “Can I eat him?”

 

                She shook her head, giving Xander a quieting glare and stepping closer to Spike. “No, he’s my friend.  No eating of Xander.”

 

                 “Just a snack?” he asked hopefully, snickering as the boy quickly retreated behind the watcher.

 

                 Buffy smacked him on the arm, drawing looks of astonishment from the gypsy and the watcher.

 

                  “Behave,” she scolded.  “And tell us what happened to Angel.  How did he get so happy – and if he was happy, why did he try to kill you?”

 

                  “Wasn’t trying to kill me,” he growled.  “Wanted to teach me a lesson and when I wouldn’t roll over and take my beating, Dru jumped in to protect her ‘daddy’ from me.”

 

                 “So, he lost his soul and then he tried to dominate you?” Giles frowned, trying to understand the progression.

 

                 Spike looked at Buffy carefully before saying without a lengthy explanation, “No, it was before. He came to see how sick Dru really was and he smelled something on me he didn’t like.”

 

                 “He did all that because he didn’t like the way you SMELLED?”  Buffy’s disbelief was plain.  Spike whispered into her ear, “Think about it, Slayer,” then straightened up and shrugged.  “It’s a vampire thing – got nothing to do with losing his soul. He’d have been just as brassed off with or without it.’

 

                  “So, if it wasn’t beating you to a bloodless pulp that made him so happy, what was it?” Giles brought the conversation back to the issue at hand.

 

                  “Dru’s bite,” the vampire muttered, refusing to look at anyone.  “That and the fact that I had to watch them—“

 

                  “Had to watch them what?”

 

                    Again, Xander had no compunctions against asking the questions everyone else was avoiding.  Giles cleared his throat and began to take off his glasses while Buffy tried to convince herself Spike didn’t mean what she thought he meant.  She remembered the blatant sexual behavior of the two vampires outside the apartment last night, as well as their obvious delight in its affect on her.  She turned stricken eyes on Spike, hoping he would tell her she was wrong.

 

                   Instead, he turned on her watcher, growling, “Haven’t you told her anything about vampires?”

 

                   “You’ll have to forgive me if I didn’t think the mating habits of the creatures she slays every night were things my teen-aged slayer needed to know just yet,” Giles snapped back just as angrily, guilt that Buffy hadn’t known what to expect from Angleus fighting his belief that she hadn’t needed that information in order to do her job.

 

                  Not one to leave an uncomfortable subject alone, Xander pressed on. “So you had to watch them do what?  Deadboy got groiny with your girlfriend?  And that made him happy enough to lose his soul?  Man, I’ve got to meet this woman! Er, vampire.”

 

                  While the women in the room stared at him, aghast, Spike moved toward him deliberately, his eyes blue ice as he said softly,  “I would be more than happy to arrange that meeting, whelp.”  The cold anger did not totally conceal the pain the subject was causing him and Buffy put a sympathetic hand on his arm and tried to turn him away from her friend.

 

                   “I’m sorry, Spike,” she whispered sadly.  “This isn‘t very pleasant for me to hear either.  I thought he loved me.”

 

                Ignoring the gasps from the other humans in the room, he put his arms around Buffy and murmured into her ear, telling her that Angelus was a “bloody wanker” and not worthy of her tears.  When she had taken a deep shuddering breath and wiped her eyes, he gave the watcher another glare and said so that everyone could hear, “Vampires are not moral creatures.  We take what we want when and how we want it, and sexual fidelity is not an important part of most vamp relationships.”

 

                 He felt Buffy stiffen and reluctantly dropped his arms as he continued, “But Dru and I are…WERE different.  Since the bloody poof left us to go off and brood about his soul, we’ve mostly stayed faithful to each other.  We never mated, but I’ve loved and cared for her for over one hundred years and I thought…” He paused, and swallowed hard before continuing, “I thought she loved me, too.  I thought that I knew what to expect from her.

 

                 “I didn’t expect that the minute her sire showed up, she would be all over him like a bloody coat and I didn’t expect him to be so glad to see her that he would forget about the Slayer.  I should have expected him to object to smelling Buffy on me – even though his nose could have told him there was nothing there to be brassed off about,” he added quickly when her watcher’s eyes narrowed.

 

                  Buffy gave a guilty start, remembering their activities of just a short time ago, but the vampire read her mind and growled too low for the others to hear, “That was AFTER they did us wrong, luv.

 

                 “ Anyway, that was when he decided that after all this time, he could just step back in as head of the family, give me a beating for talking to his girlfriend and shag my woman right in front of me, and I’d just stand there and take it.” Spike’s eyes flashed amber as his demon struggled to emerge again.

 

                   “When I didn’t, when the bloody wanker started losing, my princess - my reason for unliving - she hit me on the head with something and knocked me out long enough for Angel to pull my arm out of the socket and pin me to the floor with some kind of pole.

 

                 “Long story short – they left me lying on the floor while they shagged themselves silly and when Dru bit the big poof, the soul just couldn’t take that much feeling good and it took a powder.  Could see it immediately.  Could tell from how he looked at me that Angelus was back. That’s when they really decided to teach me a lesson.”

 

                 “How did you get away?” Giles asked with surprising gentleness.

 

                 “After they’d got tired of entertaining themselves with me, they went back to shaggin’. I guess they thought I was unconscious again, but I could hear the big poof ranting about the Slayer, how she made him weak, how he was gonna break her.   How he was gonna punish her for—“

 

                 He stopped, not willing to say what his grandsire had planned to do to punish Buffy for allowing Spike to touch her.

 

                “I crawled away while they were busy and went looking for Buffy.  Had to warn her before he showed up and tricked her into getting too close…”

 

                Buffy shivered in spite of herself as she remembered the cruel voice and the familiar and yet different face from last night’s encounter.

 

                “So, Drusilla is recovered then?”  Giles tried to focus on the immediate danger and not on the way the two blonds seemed to be leaning together for support.

 

                 “That she is.  And when she’s fed the poofter enough of Sunnydale’s finest, he’ll be pretty formidable too.   Not,” he added with a sharp look at Buffy, “that this slayer couldn’t take him.  He’s strong, but he’s no match for her if she’s on her game.”

 

                  “What do you mean, IF I’m on my game?”  Buffy’s indignation was stronger than her sadness at being expected to kill Angelus.

 

                  “I meant what I said earlier.  He’s going to try to throw you off by hurting you in other ways.  He’ll try to kill the people you care about, make you weak by making you grieve.”

 

                 “It could work…”Giles muttered almost to himself.

 

                “Or, it could just really, really piss me off,” Buffy said quietly.  Suddenly she looked much less like a teenager and more like the killing machine whose essence had been around for thousands of years.

 

                   Spike cocked his head and looked at her with admiration.  The power radiating off her small body called to him in ways he’d never expected and he recalled why he’d been so anxious to add her to his list of dead slayers.

 

                   “Is it true you killed old Batface, Slayer?” he asked. “That you went back after him even though you lost the first time?”

 

                   “Yes,” she said simply, having no trouble knowing who “batface” was.  She could hear Willow hiss, “The Master” to Xander, and saw him nod in understanding.

 

                    “Oh yeah, the Buffster kicked major Master butt.  And then last month she put a hurting on his minions.  Angelus is just dust waiting to happen.” Xander nodded his head with satisfaction, ignoring the pain on Buffy’s face.

 

                    “All right then, let’s talk strategy.” 

 

             Buffy sat down on the couch and patted the cushion beside her for Spike.  He smirked at the startled looks of her friends and she poked him again before speaking. 

 

               “You’ll distract Drusilla – keep her from putting a thrall on me, and I will dust Angel…Angelus.  That’s the plan, right?”

 

               “Sounds good to me, pet.”  He carefully avoided asking her what, if anything, she planned to do with his lover.

 

                “May I offer an alternative plan?”  Jenny’s voice was soft as she requested their attention. 

 

                 Everyone looked at her, at a loss for any possible alternative to dusting Angelus.  Spike frowned at her suspiciously, wondering if she was going to suggest dusting Drusilla also.

 

                  “What if I could restore the soul?”

 

 

 

Continued in part II  http://spuffystuff.org/hearts2.html

 


Part II

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

           There was silence while everyone gaped at her, and then they all began to talk at once.  Giles allowed the babble to continue for a few minutes before he cleared his throat and tried to get their attention.  After the talking had tapered off, he cleared his throat again.

 

             “You can do that?”

 

             “I think so.  I’d have to research the original curse, but if I can find it, I think I can restore his soul.  Buffy would not have to kill him, just capture and contain him until we could do it.”

 

                She looked around expectantly and saw a myriad of reactions.  Xander looked annoyed; Willow eager, Giles conflicted, Buffy tentatively hopeful, and Spike thunderous.

 

                Before anyone else could speak, he growled, “So, you’re going to put the soul back and what?  Trust he isn’t going to go running after Dru again?”

 

                 “You could take her away,” Buffy said quietly.  “Isn’t that what you planned to do? Make her better and then leave?  If you went far enough away, maybe he’d be willing to stay here.  With me,” she finished in a whisper.

 

                 Reactions from the men in the room were surprisingly similar.  Spike’s demon burst to the fore, sending everyone except Buffy and Giles shrinking away in fear.  The watcher’s face wore a look that no one had ever seen on it – his normally gentle eyes were cold and hard, his mouth set in a tight line and his fists were clenched at his sides.  Even as Xander moved away from the demon sitting by his friend, he was spitting out his fury that Buffy would even consider allowing her former boyfriend to live, let alone continue to hang around.

 

                Jenny was taken back by the negative reactions of the three men, but kept her eyes on Buffy as she repeated softly, “I’m sure I could do it.  If he was truly chosen by the Powers to be their champion and to help the Slayer, then wouldn’t that be a better solution than turning him to dust?”

 

                “And of course, this has nothing to do with wanting the poof to continue the suffering your ancestors wanted for him,” Spike said sarcastically.

 

                 She met his amber eyes firmly, if with some easily visible fear, and responded, ”That would be a happy side effect; although since the original goal was to make him dust himself after years of torment, I don’t think it would matter to them.  It should be Buffy’s decision.  She is the Chosen One.”

 

                The Slayer looked from her angry watcher to her glaring friend and finally into the amber eyes of the vampire whose lover was responsible for their current situation.  She knew Willow would be supportive whatever she decided, and Jenny seemed genuinely willing to leave the decision entirely up to her.

 

                She spoke slowly, clearly still working out her decision while she did her thinking out loud.   “He hasn’t actually hurt anyone yet—“ a strangled snarl from Spike followed by a grunt of surprise from Giles stopped her in mid-thought and she colored with embarrassment as she stared at the only partially-healed vampire with abject apology.

 

               “Oh my god, Spike,” she reached toward him, cringing visibly when he jerked his arm away with another snarl.  “I’m so sorry.  I meant…I didn’t….”

 

               “You meant he hasn’t hurt anyone HUMAN,” he growled. “Yet.”

 

                  Even with the demon still to the fore, it was possible to see the way her words had hurt him.  He moved away from her and went to stand by the kitchen, effectively taking himself out of the conversation.

 

                 She looked helplessly from the angry vampire to her watcher, finding no help there as he looked at her with open disappointment.  Willow’s face was scrunched into her most sympathetic look but she wavered back and forth between Spike and her clearly distraught best friend. There was no one in the room who didn’t understand that Spike’s unwillingness to kill Buffy had contributed to the damage Angelus and Dru had inflicted on him. Nor, that he couldn’t have dragged his depleted body from the warehouse and hidden someplace safe rather than coming to the school to warn them of Angelus’ return.

 

                Leaving until later the task of convincing the vampire that she wasn’t discounting his own suffering at the hands of Angelus, Buffy squared her shoulders and continued.

 

                “I meant that he hasn’t started feeding on Sunnydale’s population yet-“

 

                “As far as we know,” Xander grumbled, earning a glare from the Slayer.

 

               “And if I can get to him before he can get to any of you, then he won’t be able to…distract…me by hurting anyone I care about…again.”

 

                   She shot Spike an immediate glance to see if he’d heard what she said, but he stubbornly refused to look at her, instead turning away to get the last bag of pig’s blood from the cooler.

 

                        She sighed and turned back to Jenny.

 

                         “How long do you think it will take you to get the curse ready?” she asked the Gypsy teacher. “I can’t leave him – them -  running around Sunnydale for very long.”

 

                      “I’ll get on it as soon as I get home,” she assured Buffy.

 

                     Spike spoke up before anyone else, avoiding looking at Buffy as he addressed the teacher and her librarian boyfriend.  He really didn’t give a rip what happened to the other humans in the room, although he had to admit that the watcher had been surprisingly accepting of him and he felt he owed the man something.

 

                      “If he has any idea what you’re tryin’ he’ll be coming after you too,” he said forcefully.  “And he’s got Dru to see things for him.  You can’t be sure he doesn’t already know.”

 

                   “Dru? See things?”

 

                    He rolled his eyes and shrugged as he grumbled, “Thought those books told you all about us.  They didn’t tell you Dru’s a seer?  Was before she was turned and she still has it. O’ course you can’t always tell what she’s talking about, but anytime I could figure it out she was always spot on.  She’ll be right interested in any plans to put that pesky soul back into her precious ‘Daddy’, “ he added bitterly.

 

                   Giles spoke up firmly.  “I will go with you to get the materials you need and you can bring them back here to work on it.  If we leave now,” he checked his watch quickly, “we can be there and back before sundown.”

 

                 “What do you want us to do, Buffy?”  Willow was eager to help, even though she had no idea what she could do against two powerful vampires.

 

                  “Actually, Willow, I had hoped you might help me work on the spell to put the soul back,” Jenny said with a smile, earning the redhead’s gratitude and devotion for the rest of her life.

 

                 “Well, I for one, refuse to participate in anything that doesn’t involve three piles of dust,” Xander spat out.  “If Angel can’t hang on to that soul, then he needs to be someplace he can’t hurt anybody – like a vacuum cleaner bag.  And that ho-bag of a girlfriend of yours,” he glared at Spike,   “she needs to go with him.”

 

                   “That’s two piles of dust, Whelp,” Spike said slowly, beginning to move toward the boy.  “Jus’ what did you have in mind for the last one?”

 

                    Xander grabbed the large cross lying where Giles had dropped it the night before, holding it in front of him defiantly as he said, “The last one should be you, Deadboy Jr.  I don’t know what kind of thrall you’ve worked on Buffy, but you aren’t fooling me.  You’d kill me in a heartbeat if she wasn’t here.”

 

                 “I’m seriously considering killin’ you while she watches,” Spike growled, slipping into game face and knocking the cross out of the suddenly terrified boy’s hand.

 

                 Xander screamed and retreated behind the couch, shouting for Buffy to “Do something! You see?  He’s a blood sucking fiend just like the rest of them!”

 

                Spike continued to stalk toward the couch, waiting until the jibbering boy had been reduced almost to tears as he begged Buffy to save him before shaking off his demon.  As the vampire walked back toward the kitchen, he snarled at a bewildered Buffy, “Keep him away from me, Slayer.”

 

                 Giles sighed and rolled his eyes as Xander’s babbling changed from fearful entreaties for someone to help him back to a litany of reasons why Spike should be dust.  He had little respect for the boy’s intelligence as it was, but to see his small mindedness demonstrated so blatantly just reminded him of the incongruity of the relationship between Xander and the two girls who were his best friends.

 

                “Shut up,” he hissed at him.  “You brought that on yourself.  I’m tempted to let him eat you if you don’t stop that stupid babbling.”

 

                 Spike looked up hopefully, but the watcher shook his head to indicate he hadn’t been serious.  Giles pulled Xander up by his collar and said resignedly, “I suppose you had best stay here with Willow.  Lord knows you are too bloody stupid to be out and about by yourself.”

 

                 Now that he realized that Spike was not really going to attack him – at least not in front of Buffy or her watcher – Xander’s anger came back and he pulled away from Giles roughly.

 

                 “I’m not staying here to watch you people try to come up with a way to save those bloodsuckers from a well-deserved dusting. I’m going home and I’m going to stay there until somebody gives me a good reason to come out!   Like that there is no more Angelus and his evil family,” he added with a final glare at Spike.

 

                 The vampire’s only response was a flat stare that promised eventual retribution and was somehow more frightening than if he’d snarled.  With a final epithet aimed at Spike, Xander slammed out the door and into the afternoon sunlight.

 

             His departure left an uncomfortable silence until Jenny broke it by reminding them that the afternoon was advancing quickly and if they were to get where they needed to go and back before dark, they had to get going. Agreeing quickly, Giles offered to drive Buffy and Willow to Revello Drive so that Willow could do the disinvite spell at Buffy’s house before evening fell.

 

             With a final lingering glance at the vampire, who still refused to meet her gaze, Buffy sighed and left the house with her watcher, her former keyboarding teacher and her best friend.  She tried to focus on the importance of safeguarding her house from Angelus and finding a way to restore his soul rather than the obviously still-angry vampire now lying on the couch in her watcher’s apartment.

 

               As the door closed behind them, Spike allowed his hurt feelings free rein and he indulged in several minutes of creative swearing in several human languages and one demon.  When he’d vented enough of his anger at Buffy’s casual dismissal of his injuries to be able to think clearly, he flopped back onto the pillow that still bore lingering traces of her scent and remembered what she’d so bravely done to help repair those injuries.

 

                  With a sigh, he admitted that her actions were not those of someone who didn’t care about him; comforted, he relaxed and indulged in memories of what it felt like to have that soft but incredibly strong body in his arms.  It wasn’t long before his reminiscing had him growing hard again and he groaned with the remembrance of how it had felt to have her warm hands stroking him with inexpert enthusiasm.  As his pants became tighter and tighter, he gave up the fight and opened them to give himself some relief from the condition the Slayer seemed to inspire even when she wasn’t physically present.

 

                This is just a physical thing I’ve got for the Slayer.  Demon’s hot for the power she carries around in that perfect little body, that’s all.  It’s not like I would give up my ripe, wicked plum for her or anything like that.  I mean, yeah, poncy little William thought she was all that and more, but he also thought she was a bloody elf, so what did he know?

 

                   I’ll just take whatever I can get from her before I take Dru away and that’ll be that.  I’m entitled- after having to listen to Dru shagging the poof for hours, if she says anything…she’ll get over this obsession with Angelus once I get her away from here and show her how much I love her.  Leave the soulful poof to the Slayer if she wants him.. …

 

                 I hope she doesn’t want him.  He doesn’t deserve to have that sweet little mouth, those hot little hands, that amazing body…no…can’t waste that wonderful…not on the great poof…know she’d feel wonderful…can imagine how tight she’d be…squeezing me with those slayer muscles…Buffy!

 

                 With a shudder, he came into his hand, thinking not about his cold, lush-bodied lover but rather of a small, strong body with warm, soft lips and innocent eyes.  I am so buggered, was his last thought as he slipped back into a healing sleep.

 

 

 

Chapter Fourteen

 

            Buffy and Willow went all through Buffy’s home, making sure that neither Angelus nor Drusilla had already been there before Willow sat down on the living room floor to do the disinvite spell. Buffy doubled-checked the basement, knowing that it would be the most likely place for a vampire to hide during the day, but she found nothing and her vampire radar never went off.

 

              When they noticed it was nearing dusk, they quickly left the locked house and hurried back to Giles’ apartment.  Buffy was anxious to see how Spike was doing and to find a way to apologize for her thoughtless words earlier. 

 

             Foot-in-mouth Buffy is alive and well, I guess.  I WAS just thinking about humans – and not just any humans, I was only thinking about the ones I care about.  How bad a Slayer does that make me?  I know Drusilla can go out and hunt now.  She could be feeding him innocent citizens of Sunnydale every night I’m not out there patrolling.  I don’t care what Spike and Giles say. I have to go find them tonight – before they have time to kill anyone else.

 

             Newly determined to capture Angelus immediately and hold him until Jenny could do the spell, she set off at a pace Willow was hard put to match.  They reached the apartment with Willow panting and complaining about her legs, just in time to see Giles and Jenny returning from their trip to get supplies and research materials.  Jenny had also brought her own laptop with her to do more research online and Willow shook her head in admiration.

 

               “Look, Giles!  We don’t have to do all our research in your musty old books.  We can do it on the computers.”

 

                The watcher looked offended as he cleared some space on the table for all the books, as well as the laptop, but he just nodded silently and moved out of the way.  Spike was already up and searching the kitchen for any overlooked bags of blood.  He still ignored Buffy, although he could hear her heart beat increase every time she looked at him.

 

                Finally, she could stand it no longer and she grabbed him by the sleeve, pulling him toward the door and saying, “We’re going to go get more blood for Spike and do a quick patrol.  Giles, you need to have the chains ready in case I find Angelus and can bring him back with me.”

 

                 Spike’s jaw clenched and he said angrily, “I’d like another day, Slayer. I’m still not up to full strength.”

 

                  “I know,” she said calmly, “But then, neither is Angelus, right?  So the longer we wait, the stronger he’ll be.  All you have to do is keep your girlfriend from getting in the way while I fight him.”

 

                   “And then?”  He kept his voice carefully neutral.

 

                    “And then I’ll drag his sorry ass back here to be re-ensouled, and you can…” Her eyes met and held his for a second.  He softened as he saw the sadness and conflict there.  “And then, I guess you’ll…”

 

                   Buffy blinked rapidly, not wanting anyone to see the tears that she couldn’t explain as she realized that if all went according to plan, Spike was going to leave Sunnydale that very night.

 

                 “Right,” he said gruffly, sensing the impending tears and fighting his own unwanted disappointment.  “Let’s go get that blood and then we’ll play it by ear, yeah?”

 

                   With admonishments to take care and stay in touch if at all possible, Giles watched anxiously as his Slayer went out into the night in the company of one of the deadliest vampires in recent times.  He hoped that his gut feeling about Spike’s lack of interest in adding Buffy to his list of dead Slayers was to be trusted as they closed the door firmly behind them.

 

                     They walked through the darkening evening silently for a while, communicating with gestures when they needed to change direction in order to reach Willie’s.  Buffy shuffled her feet with embarrassment when they got there, reminding him that she was too young to go into a bar –even one with demons as its primary patrons. Relief flooded her body when he smiled for the first time since she’d unwittingly hurt him and said, “Not to mention having the Slayer drop in might have a dampening effect on his customers’ fun.”

 

                 She nodded in sheepish agreement, smiling back gratefully when he touched her shoulder before turning to go in by himself.  He stopped at the door and looked back to where she was standing as unobtrusively as possible at the corner of the building, saying softly, “You’ll still be here when I come out, won’t you, pet?”

 

                 Relaxing at his first use of one of the generic nicknames she’d become so used to already, she nodded happily and gave him a little wave.  He smiled back and went into the bar.  He quickly reminded Willie that he was the current Master of Sunnydale and that, if he wanted O Neg instead of his usual Jack Daniels, then it was in the man’s best interest to see that it was forthcoming immediately.

 

                As soon as he had picked up his bags of fresh blood and nodded at a few of the demons he recognized, he left the building, looking immediately toward the spot he’d left Buffy standing.  His stomach clenched briefly when he didn’t see her, but he quickly relaxed when she came around the corner, putting her stake back in her waistband and dusting herself off.

 

               “Sorry,” she said, ruefully. “Had to go to work for a minute.”

 

                 “No wonder you’re not welcome here, luv,” he said, falling into step beside her.  “Really not good for business, are you?”

 

                 “Not in my job description,” she muttered. 

 

                  “No, I suppose not,” he answered quietly. 

 

                  And, with that short exchange of words, the reality of the abyss between Buffy’s world of slaying vampires and demons and Spike’s world of murder and mayhem slammed into them both. 

 

                    With a strangled cry, Buffy whirled to find that the vampire was already reaching for her; they came together with a desperation and despair that refused to be denied.  Her arms went around his neck as he picked her up, holding her to his body with a strength that would have broken a normal human girl.  Disregarding the public arena, Buffy fastened her lips on his, hungry for the bone-melting oblivion they could bring.

 

                    Growling softly, he poured all his conflicting emotions into the kisses he wasn’t sure he could give up, even for Drusilla.  William’s adoration and childlike belief in her goodness fought with the demon’s determination to make her his own, and the adult man just wanted to feel her around him one time before he had to leave forever.

 

                    Time seemed to suspend its passage as they clung together on the sidewalk, bodies pressed tightly together and lips and tongues saying all the things neither one was willing to put into words.  Eventually, the desire sweeping through their bodies was too much and they reluctantly parted long enough for Buffy to gasp, “My house.  Nobody’s home.”

 

                   He nodded and they turned as one to move in that direction, their hands clasped tightly together as though to stop touching would mean a return to their senses and an end to the prospect of quenching the fires raging through their powerful bodies.

 

           *******************

 

                  The Harris household was quiet for a change.  Xander’s father was out somewhere, no doubt drinking himself into a stupor before stumbling home.  He often wondered how his parents had managed to live as long as they had when they spent so much of their time too drunk to take the normal precautions anyone born in Sunnydale should take without thinking.

 

                   His mother had taken her own bottle and closed herself into her bedroom, grateful to have the opportunity to get quietly drunk without having to defend herself.  She ignored the ringing of the front doorbell, knowing Xander was home and would hear it eventually.

 

                  An afternoon and evening of stewing over the way his concerns had been dismissed by the few people that he knew he could consider friends had put him in a foul mood and his first inclination was to ignore the ringing. When it didn’t stop, he thought perhaps it might be Willow or Buffy coming to apologize and he reluctantly got up and made his way to the front door.

 

             He looked out to see a frightened-looking woman in a strange-looking dress and glanced around quickly to see what might be threatening her.  Knowing he was safe inside, even if there were vampires nearby, he opened the door cautiously and peered out at her.  He was immediately caught in her dark eyes, losing himself in them completely.  It was unnecessary for her to ask him to “be in” her, as he was already hers as soon as their eyes met.

 

             Without a thought, he willingly left the house and followed her down the sidewalk, nodding agreeably as she told him how happy her ‘daddy’ was going to be to see him.  When he seemed to falter for a moment as a little voice inside his head began screaming at him, she quickly sent him visions of her naked body climbing on him as he writhed on an old-fashioned looking bed.  The voice was instantly silenced as his sixteen year old libido led him into the night.

 

               ******************

 

 

Chapter Fifteen

 

               Oblivious to anything but the need that was consuming them both, Spike and Buffy fell through the front door of her house, her gasped “come in” barely slowing them down as they made it no further than the living room floor before collapsing in a frenzy of questing hands and hungry mouths.

 

                Muffled whimpers from Buffy were matched by heartfelt gasps from Spike as her hands crept under his shirt.  His own hands were ripping at her blouse, popping buttons all over the floor in his haste to reach the firm mounds hidden by a barely-there piece of lace.  He dropped his head to fasten his mouth on one nipple, suckling through the lace even as his other hand reached to unfasten the flimsy bra.

 

                     When his lips fastened themselves on her nipple, Buffy arched into his mouth, sure that she was reaching the pinnacle of pleasure.  She fell back against the rug, her body lax as she reveled in the things his mouth and talented hands were doing to her.  

 

                  “Want you so much, love,” he murmured around his mouthful of breast.  “Want to love you the way you deserve. Want to give you—“

 

                 The touch of her hands on his aching cock caused him to lose his train of thought as he growled his pleasure at her touch.

 

               “Yes, pet.  Yes. Touch me.  Hold me.   Let me feel your warm little hands on me again.”

 

                His hands went to the waistband of her pants, unzipping them quickly so he could reach the treasure waiting inside.  Buffy shivered and moaned, trying to spread her legs to give him better access.

 

                 When he pulled his hand back out without touching her, she whimpered in protest and he murmured against her mouth, “Jus’ for a second, love.  Need to get them off you if I’m going to see to you the way I want to.”

 

               Coming out of her lust-induced fog, Buffy stopped moving and fixed her gaze on the blond man whose hands she expected to produce more pleasure for her virginal body. Her sudden lack of participation finally got Spike’s attention and he stopped his assault on her tight pants to look back at her solemn face. Completely misunderstanding the thoughtful look there, he immediately turned back into William and stopped trying to undress her, beginning to stammer apologetically.

 

                “I’m sorry, love,” he whispered, “I told you I wouldn’t push you and here I am ripping at your clothes like a—“

 

                “Shhhh,” she said, touching her fingertips to his mouth.  “I just thought maybe we should move this to someplace more…comfortable.”

 

                  “And that would be?”

 

              “I was thinking my bed might be good.” She blushed as she said it, sure that he would think she was some kind of slut. “I mean, not that I ever… but if I did, I always thought that’s where I…”

 

                “Your bed it is, love.” He tried to hide how affected he was by her invitation into her bed, but the warmth and reverence in his eyes was unmistakable.  One look at his face and she knew that she was making the right decision.  Carefully moving away from him, she stood up and held out her hand.

 

                “Come up to my room, William.  I want to…I want you to make love to me.”

 

                  She blushed furiously, aghast at her own boldness, but he gave her no time to rethink the invitation, flowing to his feet gracefully and scooping her up in his arms.

 

                 “Which way?” he growled, already heading for the stairs.

 

                  “S—second room on the right,” she stammered.  Her heart was hammering as he took the stairs three at a time, reaching the door to her room before she had time to reconsider.

 

                   He deposited her gently on the floor beside her bed, letting her slide down his body until her feet were touching.  Capturing her mouth in his, he swept his tongue around it, teasing and tasting while his hands finished removing her blouse and bra.  When she was naked from the waist up, he stepped back to look at her in the reflected light from the streetlights outside.  

 

                  “Beautiful,” he whispered in reverence as she squirmed uncomfortably under his admiring eyes.  “No, don’t…please,” he begged when she reflexively tried to cover her breasts.  “They’re perfect.  Just as I told you they would be,” he added with a smile.

 

                    He pushed her gently back until her knees hit the bed and she sat down abruptly with a little squeal. Kneeling at her feet, he quickly pulled off her boots and began tugging on her pants. To his surprise and dismay, she grabbed at the waistband and blurted, “No!”

 

                     “No?” He couldn’t hide the disappointment in his voice and she giggled softly before adding, “Not until you…” She gestured at his coat and shirt.

 

                   Understanding lit up his face, and he quickly stood up and shrugged out of his coat, peeling off his borrowed tee shirt as well.  Buffy’s mouth went dry at the sight of his flat stomach and the faint trace of fine hairs leading into the jeans riding so low on his hips.  She smothered a little mew of unhappiness when instead of taking off his pants he sat down beside her to unlace his boots first.

 

                    When they were both wearing nothing but their jeans, he turned to her and ran a hand softly over her cheek. He could feel her heart pounding and sensed her nervousness as his hands ghosted over the hard peaks that were her nipples. 

                 

                He teased her with soft, gentle touches and open-mouthed kisses to her face and neck until he felt the nervousness retreat, replaced with growing desire and need. He suckled eagerly on one breast, enjoying the whimpering encouragement coming from the girl in front of him.  When she grabbed his neck and pulled him up for another tongue-thrusting, hungry kiss, he finally pushed her gently backwards and pulled her legs up onto the bed.

 

              Still moving slowly and carefully, never taking his mouth off her demanding lips and tongue, he began to push her pants down over her hips.  His smothered growl when they wouldn’t go anywhere brought a small giggle from the now more relaxed Slayer and he took his mouth off hers long enough to grumble, “Do you always wear such tight pants?”

 

                “Look who’s talking,” she snarked back as she unzipped his jeans and tried to push them down far enough for her to reach the velvet covered hardness she’d fondled earlier in the day.

 

                 He grinned and sat up, sliding to the end of the bed and taking hold of the hems of her pant legs.  With short, anxious tugs, he worked them down her hips until he could see the darker curls showing through her thin underwear and he could inhale the heady aroma of her arousal as it was released into the air.  He leaned forward, planting a light kiss just over her lace-covered mound and earning another squeak from the surprised Slayer.  With a rakish grin, he yanked her pants the rest of the way down her legs and crawled back up until he was hovering over her body.

 

 

                 The sight of Spike crawling like a big cat, his jeans open to show the trail of curls leading to his still-hidden cock caused more moisture to seep out into Buffy’s already soaked panties and he smirked in satisfaction.  Lowering his head, he buried his nose in her damp underwear, laughing when the surprised girl gasped in shock.  Before she had time to wonder what he was doing down there, he ripped through her thin panties with his teeth and stuck his tongue into the damp warmth he found there.  Using it as easily as he would have his fingers, he ran it over and around her folds, working his way into the center and his ultimate goal.

 

                A strangled mew was all Buffy could manage as he set about showing her what 125 years of practice and the lack of a need to breathe could permit a man to do.  She’d thought the things he’d done to her with his fingers had been the height of sensation.  Now, she was finding out what he’d meant by “seeing to her the way he wanted to.”

 

                Using his strong, agile tongue, his soft lips and his blunt human teeth, he had her twisting and sobbing, begging for she knew not what until he pulled her clit into his mouth and began to suck on it.  The orgasm that swept over her made the one earlier in the day pale by comparison and she lay beneath him shuddering and trembling long after she’d screamed her pleasure into a pillow.

 

               Spike moved slowly up her body, one hand pushing his own jeans down his legs, until he was poised at her entrance, nudging the warm wetness there but waiting for her to recover enough to give him permission.

 

               When Buffy realized what was poking at her still-quivering vagina, she took a deep breath before looking at the lust-filled blue eyes boring into hers and nodding slowly.  She raised her knees, using her feet to push his jeans the rest of the way down his legs, and was caught by surprise when he used that opportunity to nudge his way further into her.

 

               He pulled her legs around his waist, tilting her hips up towards him and saying in a ragged voice, “I want you so badly, love.  I can’t wait any more.  Got to feel you around me…”

 

                Buffy pushed back against him, saying bravely, “Do what you need to do -  I…I want you too.”  She blushed lightly then tensed as he pushed against the small fleshy barrier in his way.  Fighting his demon for control, he tried to stretch her slowly, trembling with the effort to hold back. He moved the head of his cock slowly, edging his way in bit by bit until Buffy looked at his anguished face and rolled her eyes dramatically.

 

              “Slayer, here, Spike. High pain threshold. Just do it.” 

 

               She grabbed his muscular butt cheeks with both hands and pulled him towards her just as he slammed his hips forward and broke through the only barrier to being where he wanted to be.  As he pushed himself all the way in and felt her contract against him, he sighed in relief and happiness, content for the moment just to revel in her.  He remained still as long as he could, giving her time to get used to the intrusion and for the pain to go away.  He could smell the faint trace of her blood on the air, mixed with her arousal and sweat.

 

                 Buffy gave one little “eep!” when he broke through, then was lost in the incredible sensation of having a large, hard cock buried inside her.  She unconsciously clenched around him; then at his groan, tried frantically to relax, afraid that she’d hurt him.  She tried to apologize, only to have him chuckle into her mouth as he kissed her over and over, murmuring that she could squeeze him like that all day long, but that if she did, he was afraid the whole thing could be over with much more quickly than he’d planned.

 

                  He began to move gently in and out, keeping his thrusts short and watching her carefully for any signs of pain on her face.  All he saw was a growing awe as the movement of his hips started a whole new buildup of tension in her lower abdomen.  When he experimented with swirling his hips at the end on each stroke, he soon had her arching into him and repeating his name as he hit a spot inside that sent sensation throughout her entire body.  Feeling the strength in the arms and legs wrapped around him, he finally permitted himself to let go and began pounding into her, reveling in the Slayer’s ability to take what he was doing and urge him on to do more.

 

                  As she approached another climax, and her breathing turned into the little gasping whimpers he was coming to recognize as signs that she was about to come, he urged her on with his voice and body. 

 

                “That’s it, love.  Come for me Buffy.  Want to feel you coming around me.  Squeeze me tight, Slayer.  Let me feel your…  Aargh!”

 

                The powerful muscles surrounding his cock contracted over and over as Buffy rode out another powerful orgasm.  She buried her nails in his back and grabbed his shoulder with her teeth as she spasmed against him, riding his cock like it was her salvation.  The forces she was exerting on his body were too much and with a roar, he spurted into her, his hips continuing to jerk long after there was nothing left to expend.

 

                   For long minutes there was no sound in the room but Buffy’s ragged breathing and the vampire’s totally unnecessary gasps for air.  He lay on top of her, reluctant to move until she forced him to.  For her part, she was more than happy to have him covering her body with his; she was sure that she would never feel anything as right and satisfying in her life as the comforting weight of his body on hers. 

 

                       Her legs were still wrapped around him, although they had slid down from his waist to drape over his thighs, and he was still buried inside her, only partially softened, in spite of having had one of the most powerful orgasms of his unlife.  Finally, he raised his head and asked her softly, “Are you alright, pet?  I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

 

                   “If by all right, you mean do I think anything will ever be able to top that?  That would be a big ‘no’.  If you mean, am I glad we did it -” She looked up at him shyly - “that would have to be a big ‘yes’.  Even if it does mean you’ve ruined me for anybody else. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to –“

 

                    Schooling his face not to show what the thought of another man touching her was doing to him, he said sadly, “Yes, you will, love.  Some bloody unworthy wanker will come along and steal your heart and you’ll forget all about poor old Spike.  You’ve got an amazing amount of passion in that powerful little body and you’re going to want to enjoy it.  And you should,” he rumbled, hiding his face in her hair. ”Promise me you will,” he whispered softly.  “Promise me you’ll have a long happy life with some undeserving bastard and you’ll make him pleasure you every day.”

 

                     “Is that what you want?”  Dismay was clearly evident as she stiffened under him.  “You want me to go out and find some other man and have sex with him, like…like I was some kind of slut?  Is that what you think this was?  That I’m just so over-sexed that I’d jump the first vampire who—“

 

                    “Shhh, pet, shhh,”  He tried to soothe her agitation, cursing himself for his words.  “I’m a stupid git, if that’s how I made you feel, because that’s not what I meant at all.  I know you’re not one to take this lightly.  ‘S why I feel so honored that you would let me be the one to…Bloody hell, Buffy.  Can’t you tell what this meant to me? 

 

                 “Fell in love with you when I was nine years old, didn’t I?  Even when I thought you weren’t real, I couldn’t stop thinking about my ‘warrior elf queen’.  You were my ideal woman.  Can’t tell you how many poems I wrote about you. Even after I thought you were a figment of my imagination, I compared every woman I met to you. Wasn’t until I got older and you’d faded a bit that I was able to think about falling in love with anybody else.  Then I met Dru and I—“

 

                “Forgot all about me?”  Her lower lip came out in a pout and he growled softly as he took it in his blunt teeth and worried at it before answering her.

 

                “Never forgot you, pet.  Just thought you were a romantic boy’s daydream.”

 

               “This IS just a dream, isn’t it?” she said, turning suddenly serious.  

 

                 ‘Feels pretty real to me, pet,” he leered, wriggling his hips and showing her that he wasn’t done yet.   “What do you mean, just a dream?” he asked, when she didn’t respond to him the way he’d hoped.

 

               “This.  Us.  The Slayer and a vampire.  Right now is all we’ll ever have. Miss Calendar will put Angel’s soul back and you and Dru will go away and someday this will all seem like a dream too.”

 

               “Don’t really see any other path, love,” he said carefully. “I’m not all soul-having and goody-goody like the poof is—was.  And, I don’t see Heaven’s Chosen One leaving her duties to her watcher while she spends her time shagging a vampire.   Not that that wouldn’t be an excellent idea, mind you,” he added quickly.  “Jus’ don’t see it happening.”

 

               “So this is all we’ll have,” she whispered sadly, unconsciously clutching him tighter. 

 

              “Then I think we should make the most of it, don’t you?” he asked, tacitly agreeing with her statement.

 

 

 

Chapter Sixteen

 

                       She felt his cock jump inside her as he spoke, and she giggled in spite of herself.  Shaking off the sadness she felt at knowing he would be gone soon, she squeezed him with her internal muscles and murmured, “How would we do that?”

 

              Spike concentrated hard and without moving his hips, began to move his cock so that it bumped against her womb, providing just enough stimulation to make her gasp and whimper.  In retaliation, she began rhythmic contractions of her muscles; contractions that soon had low, rumbling growls coming from his chest.  The growls vibrated throughout Buffy’s body, adding to the sensations already being created by his still active cock and bringing accompanying hums from her own throat.

 

             For long, ecstatic minutes, they stubbornly kept up the unspoken contest to see who would move first. Buffy was gritting her teeth, refusing to give in to the urge to begin rubbing her pelvis against him, while Spike fought down his demon and its demands that he pound her into the mattress.  Without either of them realizing what was happening, they gradually began moving together.  Slowly at first, small, barely perceptible motions that gradually developed into harder and harder thrusts until Buffy was clinging to the headboard with both hands while Spike pushed against her with his full vampiric strength.

 

              Buffy’s head was thrown back as she felt another earthshaking orgasm building and Spike’s eyes were drawn to her throat and the pulse pounding there in rhythm with the motion of his hips.  She opened her eyes to see, not the soft blue eyes she was expecting but the amber lust-filled gaze of the demon she’d first met at Back to School Night. 

 

               With a growl of her own, she pulled his face down to her neck, gasping, “Do it.”

 

               There was no pause as his fangs elongated and slipped through the soft skin on her neck.  As soon as she felt the first long pull on her blood, Buffy began to tremble.  With a muffled shriek, she fell into a pattern of orgasm after orgasm with every deep pull on her throat.  Her slayer senses, which should have been telling her to fight the demon, instead were reveling in the sense of complete surrender to the vampire drinking her life’s blood.

 

                 With the first draught, Spike’s demon began screaming for him to drain this woman beneath him.  As each swallow of powerful Slayer blood reached his body, he grew stronger – the last of his wounds closing and his muscles bursting with new strength.  When he felt her begin to spasm around him, he let go, pouring that strength back into her as he pumped his lifeless sperm into the waiting womb and fighting to suppress the claiming words that trembled in his throat.

 

                  When he felt her heart slowing down, Spike snapped out of the lust-induced fog and immediately withdrew his fangs from her neck, licking the wounds closed and nuzzling her anxiously.

 

                 “Slayer?  Buffy?  I’m so sorry.  Talk to me, love.”

 

                 “Wow?” she offered weakly.  “What the hell was that?”

 

                “That was me being a selfish wanker and taking advantage of the situation,” he responded, relaxing now that he knew she was all right and rolling off to the side.  “I am so sorry, love.  You have no idea how that--”

 

               “Okay, I’m thinking I kinda have an idea.  Feeling a little woozy here.  But, come on, Spike.  I asked you to do it – and, all things considered?  Not dead and definitely feeling the happy factor.  I’m surprised I didn’t lose MY soul after that little performance.”

 

               He laughed ruefully and agreed.  “Got to admit, pet, if I live to be a thousand, I don’t expect to ever feel like this again.  That was bloody…If I try to put it into words that poncy William is going to come out spouting poetry. You are absolutely amazing.”

 

               “Not so bad yourself there, Vampire.” She smiled at him, her eyes sleepy. 

 

               She curled into his side, sighing comfortably when he pulled the covers up over them and put his arms around her. 

 

                “I’m just going to take a little nap now  - and then we’ll go kick soulless vampire butt…”

 

                 “You’re not kicking anything tonight, pet.  Not until I know you’re back to full strength.” 

 

                  He dropped a kiss on her forehead and began to ease out of the bed.

 

                  “Where’re you going?” she whined without opening her eyes.

 

                  “Going to find you something to drink.  I’m too full of Slayer blood to sleep right now.  You rest and I’ll be back before you know it.”

 

                    There was no answer as Buffy fell into a restorative sleep, her Slayer healing working hard to replace the blood she’d lost.  While Spike pulled on his jeans and walked downstairs, she snoozed peacefully feeling completely sated and relaxed.

 

                       Spike let her sleep for several hours before dropping his jeans on the floor and trying to wake her with another kiss as he slipped back into the bed. When she didn’t respond immediately, he began whispering in her ear.  His murmured endearments flowed into her still sleep-logged brain, the words not really registering as much as the warmth and caring in his rugged baritone.  Eventually she responded, turning over to blink into his worried eyes and smile reassuringly.

 

              “Ah, there you are.  Was beginning to worry a bit, pet. Been here for quite a while trying to get you to wake up.”

 

               “I heard you,” she yawned, “I just didn’t feel like waking up. It was nice. Hearing you tell me….” She opened her eyes wide, suddenly remembering some of the things he’d been murmuring into her ear and staring into his embarrassed face.

 

                “Yeah, well, had to say something, didn’t I? I mean there you were, dead to the world with a vampire leaning over you…”

 

                   His voice trailed off as she reached a hand up to stroke his cheek, almost as if she was trying memorize the shape of his face.  He studied her, anxiously trying to decipher the look she was giving him. 

 

               “Yeah,” she agreed finally, “I guess you had to say something.”  She sat up, stretching her arms over her head and blushing at the admiring look he was giving her now-exposed upper body.

 

              He grinned lasciviously and licked his lips before reluctantly turning away to reach for the large glass of orange juice he’d brought up with him.                                     “Here, love. Stop tempting me with those perfect little bosoms and drink up.  Need to replace your fluids, Slayer healing or no.”

 

               They leaned back against the headboard in companionable silence while Buffy obediently drained the whole glass of juice.  When it was empty, she held it out to him with a questioning look and he immediately grabbed it and stood up to go get more.  A barely perceptible sound outside the window brought his head around and Buffy was surprised to see him go immediately into game face, snarling viciously.

 

               Her head snapped around, her mouth forming an “o” when she saw a furious Angelus snarling back at Spike from just outside the window.  They remained in a frozen tableau for long, tense seconds, the soulless vampire on the roof glaring at his naked former girlfriend and his equally naked grandchilde. 

 

                 Buffy grabbed the sheet, automatically pulling it up to cover the breasts Angel had never seen before, while Spike stood up, completely comfortable with his nudity as he walked over and yanked the drapes closed. 

 

             *****************************

 

                Furious over what he’d just seen, as well as his inability to get into the house and do anything about it, the older vampire raged through Sunnydale, grabbing anyone and anything that did not appear strong enough to fight back and ripping out their throats with no regard for whether he actually needed the blood or not.  So great was his rage that he was unable to take his usual cruel enjoyment in killing his victims slowly.  He ripped and tore until he’d worn himself out leaving Sunnydale awash in the blood of those unfortunate enough to have crossed his path.

 

             He returned to the warehouse to find Drusilla sitting patiently beside a pale, drained Xander, waiting for her newest toy to wake up.  It was obvious from the marks on his body that she had amused herself for quite a while before finally draining and turning the boy.  Even though Angelus had planned to kill the first one of Buffy’s friends he could get his hands on, and even though he had sent Drusilla to look for one of them while he checked on the Slayer, his disgust at seeing which one she’d come back with was palpable.

 

                Angelus grabbed her roughly, yanking her dress over her head and lifting her onto his hard cock.  Even as she growled and screamed in delight, she was watching him shrewdly and reading his mood.  With a vicious swipe of her claws, she left four bleeding slashes across his face as she hissed, “You are wishing I was her.  That dirty little slayer that has taken my William.  You have seen them!”

 

                 Her sire ignored her except to backhand her for scratching him, dropping to the floor and pounding into her until he was done.  Then he rolled off and pointed at Xander’s still immobile body.

 

                “I don’t know what possessed you to turn that worthless piece of shit, but since you have, I know what his first meal will be.  I’ll show her what it means to defy Angelus.  And I’ll make that childe of yours pay too.  No one takes what’s mine and lives to brag about it.”

 

              When Drusilla refused to listen to his insistence that Xander would not be waking up until the following evening, he left her in disgust and went into the makeshift bedroom to sleep until all the blood he’d taken had worked to bring him back to full strength. 

 

              Drusilla waited quietly beside Xander’s body, talking occasionally to one of her dolls and watching carefully for any signs of consciousness. 

 

 

Chapter Seventeen

 

              Spike spent the day in Buffy’s bed; reluctantly kissing her good-bye as she had insisted that she had to go to school, if for no other reason than to see Giles and Ms Calendar and find out how the re-ensouling spell was coming.  After a shower that took much longer than expected, due to Spike’s joining her in the bathtub, she finally was able to dress and leave.  In spite of his insistence that he was too pumped on Slayer blood to sleep, she could see the advancing daylight causing his eyelids to droop, leaving her no doubt that he would be sound asleep a few minutes after she left. 

 

                He gave a grumbled assent to her instructions not to answer the phone, lest it be her mother calling from San Francisco, and forced her to promise she would eat a hearty breakfast and drink a lot of water all day.  With one last, lingering kiss, she let herself out the door and hastened to Sunnydale High School to do her best imitation of a perfectly normal seventeen-year-old virgin.

 

                  In the library, Giles and Jenny continued to work on the spell needed to reinstall Angelus’ soul.  Fortunately, it was a slow day for the computer teacher and with few classes, she was able to concentrate on her work.  With Willow’s record as an “A” student, she had no trouble getting the novice witch released from class to “help” her in the library.

 

                 She felt sure that she would have the curse spell figured out and ready to go within a day or two and she praised Willow’s enthusiasm and research abilities, as well as commenting on the magical potential she could feel in the excited redhead.

 

                 “Buffy! “ Willow greeted Buffy’s arrival at lunch time with an excited squeal.   “Miss Calendar says she can feel all kinds of magic in me.  She thinks I’m going to be a very powerful witch.  Isn’t that awesome?  Think of the ways I’ll be able to help you then!”

 

                   Buffy smiled indulgently, happy that her friend had found some confidence even as she found herself wishing they were alone so that she could share her own exciting news about the loss of her virginity.  Somehow she was sure that information was not anything her watcher either needed or would want to know, particularly considering that the man in question was not one of her schoolmates but a 124-year-old master vampire.

 

               “That’s great, Will.  We’re going to be unstoppable.  Like the three musketeers – or maybe the two musketeers?  Have you heard from Xander?  He wasn’t in class.”

 

                 “No. I haven’t seen him either.  I guess he’s still mad at us.”  Willow’s excitement over her newfound skills was tempered somewhat as she remembered how angry her oldest childhood friend had been when he slammed his way out of Giles’ apartment.  “Maybe he stayed home today so he wouldn’t have to see us.”

 

                    “Sure, that’s probably it….” Buffy’s voice held just the slightest tinge of fear.  She’d never known Xander to stay angry for more than a couple of hours and she hoped that their friendship wasn’t going to be ruined over her decision to restore Angel’s soul rather than dust him.  “You don’t think he would have gone out…No, that’s ridiculous.  Xander is too smart to go out after dark – especially with Angelus and Dru out there somewhere.”

 

                    Giles raised his eyebrows at her insistence that Xander was “too smart” for anything, but kept his own counsel about the young man.  Knowing how much the two girls cared about the boy, he sincerely hoped that they were right and that Xander was just staying home to nurse his anger.

 

                     Packing their books, computers and supplies up for the trip back to the watcher’s apartment, the adults offered to drive Willow and Buffy home.  Buffy blushed slightly as she said she had to go back to her house to get Spike.  Her watcher’s jaw tightened as it became clear that the vampire was sleeping at the Summers home, but he held his tongue, just asking mildly, “And what is the plan for this evening?”

 

                    Blushing again, Buffy stammered that Spike was completely recovered and that they intended to confront Angleus and Drusilla as soon as the sun went down, catching them in the warehouse before they had time to begin the evening’s hunt.  There was no argument from anyone about the necessity of ending their brief reign of terror as soon as possible.  The news had been full of stories about the many citizens who had met a bloody and untimely end the night before, and no one doubted who was responsible.

 

                    Speaking up timidly, Willow ventured that maybe they should move the spell casting to Buffy’s house.  With her mother out of town for the rest of the week, and the basement a perfect place to chain up a vampire, it seemed to make more sense than the Watcher’s small apartment.

 

                     When Buffy agreed, they all decided to meet her back at Revello Drive when they had picked up what they needed for the night.  Willow went with Giles and Jenny so that she could pick up some clothes before going to Buffy’s for the night, and the Slayer told them she was going out to pick up Spike and go after Angelus and Drusilla.  She promised to leave the door unlocked if they were gone before everyone got there.

 

             After assuring her watcher that she would be bringing either Angelus or his dust with her when she got back, she waved cheerfully as she set off for home.  Excitement and anticipation fed her energy and she made the walk to Revello Drive in record time.

 

                   Letting herself into the house quietly, she cast a look over her shoulder to see that the sun was still a good twenty-five minutes from being down far enough to make it safe for vampires to be out and about.  She tried to smother the thoughts of what they could do with that twenty-five minutes, but lost the battle the minute she closed the door and a partially naked vampire pinned her to it, crushing her lips ravenously as he complained about being without her all day.

 

                   Buffy giggled at his growling description of what her blood had done to his body and how he’d spent the entire day with an aching hard-on, waiting for her to come home. 

 

                “All day?” she asked archly, rubbing her hand along the bulge pressing into her.  “And you couldn’t think of anything to do about it?”

 

                 “Well, I might have had a good wank or two,” he admitted sheepishly, “but it wasn’t even close to having the real thing around me.  My poor, cold hand is a poor substitute for your warm little---“ He slid his hand under her skirt and cupped her already dampening sex.

 

                   “Gah!” His move had caught Buffy by surprise and she felt her knees give way as he worked his fingers past the elastic on her underwear.  With his free hand, he quickly unzipped and he was soon pressing his hard cock against her entrance.

 

                    “Want you so bad, love. Let me in now, Slayer.  Let me feel you…”

 

                 As he spoke, she was reaching one leg up to hook around his waist, resting her full weight on one arm as he poised her over his cock.  When she just nodded dumbly rather than answering him, he plunged home, pinning her back to the door and sighing with relief.

 

                   “You feel so good, pet.  Missed you all day. Wanted you so bad…need you…”

 

                    He began moving, pushing her into the door with each thrust and forcing small grunts from her as he did so.  He was just about to ask if he was hurting her when she wrapped the other leg around his waist and began to raise and lower herself on him, spinning them around so as to be riding him against the much-abused door. 

 

                    When it became clear they weren’t getting the kind of friction desired, Spike turned away from the door and allowed himself to fall backwards, landing on the hall carpet with the Slayer on top of him.  She put her hands on his chest, making it clear she was taking charge of their activities and he grinned as he relaxed and let her play. 

 

                    She slid her hands up his bare chest, pausing to pinch his nipples before leaning down to lick them.  His strangled “Buffy” told her she was having the desired effect and she took one in her blunt teeth, biting it until his growls turned to snarls.  Sitting back up, she smiled innocently down at him and began to bounce up and down on her knees, slamming down into his hips harder each time.  With a wicked grin, he grabbed her hips and began rising to meet her, using his hands to help him hit the spot for which he was aiming.

 

                   Her head thrown back and her long hair hanging down behind her, she looked like a fantasy come true; she was beautiful even as her face scrunched up in concentration as she lost herself in his expert movements.  When he could contain himself no longer, he reached between them and took her clit between his fingers, twisting and rubbing until he felt her begin to shudder around him.  He held her tightly in place as he spent himself inside her, not releasing her to collapse on his chest until he felt the last fluttering of her walls.

 

                They rested together quietly for a moment, both suddenly aware that they had probably just made love for the last time.  His arms tightened around her as he whispered in her ear,  “Bloody hell, pet.  I didn’t mean for our last time together to be like that.  Wanted to—“

 

                 “You didn’t do that, I did,” Buffy replied, her voice muffled by his shoulder where she had buried her head.  “I don’t know what I was thinking…I just needed you in me and I wanted to…”

 

                “You wanted to be runnin’ the show?” he smirked, tilting her head up until he could see her blushing face.

 

                 “Is that terrible?” she asked tremulously.  “Does that make me some kind of ho-bag slayer?  That I would attack you like that?”

 

               “No, sweetheart.  It just means you are a warm, passionate woman. I s’pect the Slayer in you is more than willing to be in charge, and not shy about it either.  I just wish we had some time to explore that side of your…”

 

                 “We don’t, though, do we?” she whispered, dropping her head again so that he couldn’t see her eyes.  “This is it.  You’re going to leave with Drusilla and I’m going to put Angel’s soul back—“

 

                  She was interrupted by another snarl.

 

                   “You are NOT going to go back to seeing that bloody pillock, are you?  Bloody hell, pet, if Dru could make him that happy, just thinking about getting into your knickers is like to be enough to send the soul packing again!  And if that happens while you’re…vulnerable…” 

 

                    His face was flashing in and out of his vamp features as he wavered between fear for her safety and anger at the thought of Angel’s touching her.  She stared at him in astonishment, happiness at the obvious jealousy she saw on his face warring with her growing anger that he would think he could tell her who to see when he was gone.

 

                   “Are you or are you not planning to take your precious Drusilla and leave here forever?” she asked through clenched teeth.

 

                  He sighed.  “Yes, pet,” he answered quietly. “I am.  And I know I’m a bloody hypocrite for trying to tell you what you can do after I leave, but ...” He sighed again. “Buffy, love, if I think there’s any chance you’re going to trust that sadistic wanker after this, I won’t be able to—“

 

                  Keeping her face buried where he couldn’t see it flaming, she muttered, “I don’t think you need to worry a whole lot about me seeing anybody else after this.”

 

                 He chuckled briefly, the vibration sending pleasant tingling through her body.  “As chuffed as I am to hear that, pet, it’s going to happen.  You know it and I know it.  Might not be the great poof -- and I hope it isn’t, for your sake.  But it’s going to be somebody.

 

                “A warm, passionate girl like you isn’t going to want to be alone, not now that you’ve had a taste of… I just hope whoever you find is close to being worthy of the wonderful gift he’ll be getting.”

 

                 They rested together quietly for several minutes, neither one willing to be the first to pull out of their intimate connection.  As Spike realized that remaining where he was, buried inside the warm walls that felt so comfortable and at the same time so exciting, was going to lead him to initiate another round, he groaned and reluctantly rolled her off onto the floor.

 

                 Buffy gave a little whimper as he slipped out of her, feeling the moisture sliding down her leg onto the rug.  Making a little face, she sat up and straightened her clothing, sighing as she saw the wet spot on the carpet.  “It’s a good thing this rug was already dirty,” she groused, rubbing vainly at the spot.

 

             He laughed, saying, “It’ll be dry by the time your mum gets home. She’ll never notice, pet. Now, those sheets on your bed…”

 

             “Oh my God!  I never thought about the sheets!” 

 

               She leaped up and made to go up the stairs, stopping when he grabbed her ankle.

 

              “Relax, Slayer.  Just so long as you get them washed before your mum gets home, you’ll be fine.”

 

                Twitching away from him, she said, “I need to go up there anyway, to change into something I can fight in.”

 

               “ Alright, love,” he agreed, sitting up and zipping his pants.  “You go change into poof-catching clothes and I’ll go fix you something for dinner, yeah?  Jus’ bring my duster and boots down with you if you will, pet.”

 

                “You aren’t coming upstairs with me?” she asked in a very small voice.

 

                  Before she could blink he was holding her tightly, face buried in her hair as he growled, “If I go up there again, love, I’m never going to be able to make myself leave.  And I doubt your mum would fancy coming home to find a vampire living in your bedroom…” He tried to finish with some humor, but the way he was clutching her to his chest told her all she needed to know.

 

                  With shaking shoulders, she began to cry softly, holding on to him as if to a lifeline in a storm.  Kisses and murmured endearments and comforting words did nothing but make the upcoming parting loom even more painfully, and for a brief flash the vampire seriously considered allowing her to dust his unfaithful lover so that he would not have to leave Sunnydale or the girl he had found that he was just as enamored of as when he’d been a young boy.

 

                With suspicious moisture in his own eyes, he held her while she cried quietly until the sobs had trailed off to hiccups and she stirred, pushing herself away from him slowly.

 

                “I’m sorry,” she sniffled.  “I didn’t mean to be a big baby about this. Some warrior I am, huh?”

 

                 “Even warrior elf queens are allowed to cry sometimes, love,” he whispered huskily.  “If the reason is good enough.”

 

                 “Okay,” she said briskly, giving herself a mental shake.  “We have vampire butt to kick and I’m wasting time crying when I should just be glad for –“

 

                 She didn’t finish, just pushed him toward the kitchen and started up the stairs once again.   She got as far as the landing when there was a light knock on the door and she returned to answer it.  Expecting Giles and the two spell casters, she was surprised to find a slightly disheveled Xander looking at her apologetically.

 

                  “Xander!  Are you all right?  We were worried about you when you didn’t come to school...”

 

                  “I’m fine, Buffy.  I just needed to do some thinking and I think I’ve got my head on straight now.”  He looked at her appealingly, his warm brown eyes pleading silently.  “Can I do my groveling inside?”

 

                  “Of course you can. Please, Xander. Come in.”

 

               As she spoke, Spike was listening from the kitchen, growling softly when he realized who she was talking to but opting to stay out of the way if the boy wanted to apologize.  It was several precious seconds before he realized that, while he could hear the conversation easily, he was only picking up one heartbeat.  He sprinted for the hallway, calling Buffy’s name as he moved with vampire swiftness.

 

               He was afraid for a second that he’d been too late, as he found Buffy back down on the same rug upon which they’d just made love, a vampire at her throat. A vamped-out Xander was on top of her, his mouth uncomfortably close to the Slayer’s neck, but Spike could smell no blood and sighed in relief even as he moved toward them. The newly-risen vamp had made a fatal mistake, stopping to rip at Buffy’s clothes and rant about the smell of sex and the way she reeked of Spike, rather than biting her immediately while he had surprise on his side.

 

                Buffy was holding him off with one hand, the other scrabbling frantically for something wooden when suddenly he was gone – yanked off her body and thrown through the front door by a fully vamped-out Spike.  The new fledgling was no match for a furious master vampire full of Slayer’s blood, and it was only a few seconds before he was lying semi-conscious on the ground, Spike sitting on him and holding out his hand for a stake.

 

                “Slayer, now!” he ordered.  When nothing happened, he looked up to see her staring at her old friend with tears pouring down her face.  The stake she’d picked up held loosely in one hand, the other over her mouth to smother her sobs.  He began to curse fluently, knowing that Angelus had set the scene so as to weaken the Slayer with grief before attacking her.

 

               Suddenly her eyes grew big and she screamed, “Spike!” as she burst through the door and into the yard, too late to prevent Angelus’ attack from carrying him off Drusilla’s new toy and into a nearby tree.  While the two vampires ripped and tore at each other, Xander staggered to his feet and stumbled toward Buffy, still more intent on ripping off her already torn skirt than killing her.  She raised her stake shakily, keeping one eye on Spike and Angelus and one on the advancing fledgling vampire wearing the face of her only male friend.

 

               When Drusilla glided out of the shadows, moving with slow grace toward the Slayer and her fledgling, Buffy felt the first tremors of fear.  To her surprise, the vampire stopped Xander in mid-attack, ordering him with an angry hiss to “wait his turn” as she advanced on the waiting slayer.  Making sure to avoid the old vampire’s eyes, Buffy went into a fighting crouch, her stake held tightly, ready for any opening.

 

              Drusill, however, continued to move around the slayer rather than attacking, swaying and crooning words all the more frightening for being uttered in such a soothing voice.

 

                “Naughty Slayer, to give to my Sweet William before Daddy got his taste.  Slayer must be punished and William must be punished.  Daddy wants to punish the Slayer.  She is his to play with.  William was a naughty boy to think he could –“  She caught sight of Buffy’s neck and the two rapidly healing marks there, and her entire demeanor changed as she hissed and slashed at Buffy’s face.  “He marked you.  My William marked you.  Slayer blood and he didn’t have to kill you for it.

 

            “Be in me,” she commanded so forcefully that Buffy was meeting her eyes before her common sense could kick in.  She felt herself begin to sway with the insane vampire and called out quickly, “Spike!”

 

             “He won’t help you, little girl,” Drusilla hissed.  “He is—“ She was interrupted as Spike lunged for her, pulling her to the ground and away from Buffy.

 

              “Time to switch, Slayer,” he growled, trying to hold the screaming, spitting, snarling vampire down.

 

                Without answering, Buffy leapt toward the advancing Angelus, hitting him in the chest with both feet and watching with satisfaction as he staggered backwards, surprise evident on his face.   Without waiting for a quip, she followed up with a flurry of punches, keeping the stake in her hand but not holding it out as a weapon.

 

                  Her fury over the death of her friend, anger at Xander for allowing himself to be caught and turned, rage that once again Drusilla had almost had her in thrall and her unhappiness at Spike’s impending departure fueled her kicks and punches.  Slowly, inexorably, she beat him back, allowing not so much as a punch to penetrate her defense as she systematically reduced her former boyfriend to an unconscious heap on her front lawn.

 

                  Just as she was turning to see if Spike needed help subduing Drusilla, Giles’ little car sped into the driveway and the watcher jumped out, Willow and Jenny right behind him.  He was holding a set of chains, which he quickly used to restrain Angelus’ arms and legs and to chain him to the tree under which Buffy had left him.

 

                  Willow’s face was a study in fear and anguish as Xander turned toward her and she saw the demon wearing the face of the boy who’d been her first and only close friend since kindergarten.  Jenny grabbed for her arm as the crying girl reached toward the boy she still thought of as her best friend, pulling Willow back just before the vampire’s gnashing teeth could take off her hand.

 

                  Buffy placed herself between Xander and the other humans, holding her stake and saying firmly, “Back off Xander.  I’m not going to let you hurt them.”

 

                 “What’s the matter, Buffy?” he snarled. “Are you jealous? Don’t worry, there’s more than enough of me for both of you.  I’m what you want now, right?  If you let me have a taste of what I want, maybe I won’t kill anybody.  If you’re any good, maybe I’ll even let you live.” 

 

                  He paused to think, then sneered, “Oh, who am I kidding?   I’m a monster just like them.  And you and Willow are about to become my first meal.”

 

               The Slayer shook her head sadly, shifting the stake and beginning to cry as she readied for his attack.  She knew there was no way a newly-vamped Xander would have a chance against her and she steeled herself to dust the demon wearing his face.

 

                Willow’s anguished, “Buffy!” stopped her planned staking and she flipped Xander over her head to give her time to see what Willow wanted.  With sobs tearing from her throat, the novice witch tried to speak quickly enough to

get Buffy’s attention before the vampire staggered back to his feet and attacked again.

 

                “Don’t dust him!  Please. It’s Xander!  You can’t kill him.  We can restore his soul when we do Angel’s!”

 

                 Buffy shot a quick look at Jenny Calendar, who shrugged and nodded, before meeting Xander’s charge with a hard right to his jaw.  She took his now-unconscious body and dragged it over to the tree where Angelus was just beginning to recover from his beating. With a long-suffering sigh, Giles took another set of chains out of his car and quickly secured Xander to the same tree as his grandsire.

 

                   All eyes turned back to Spike who was still wrestling with a snarling, screaming Drusilla.  The infusion of Slayer blood from the previous evening had made him more than capable of restraining his sire, but nothing he did or said would calm her down or make her stop fighting to get to Angelus.  With a soft, “Sorry, pet” he brought his fist up into her chin and sighed with relief when she collapsed at his feet.

 

                Once he was sure she was going to remain unconscious for a while, he turned his attention back to the small group of humans watching him. When his gaze shifted to the tree and the two groaning vampires chained to it, his face darkened and he whirled on Buffy.

 

                “What the bloody hell are you doing?”

 

                ‘We…we’re going to put their souls back,” she said defiantly. “If Angel can have a soul, there’s no reason Xander can’t.”

 

                 “Why would you want to?” He glared at her in bewilderment.  “Buffy, he tried to rape you!  And he was going to rip your throat out.”

 

                “That was the demon,” she insisted. “Xander is my friend.  He…he loves me and so does Angel. I can’t kill them –not if we can put their souls back.”

 

               He stared at her, his body rigid with disbelief and anger.

 

               “He did just what I said he would – came after one of your friends and sent him to kill you.  How can you even think about not dusting him?  And your ‘friend’ there,” he sneered at the still unconscious Xander,  “You think those thoughts just appeared like magic when he got turned?  Losing his soul just took away the tight rein he was keepin’ on those feelings.  You put it back, you’re just letting him hide them again. Doesn’t mean he won’t still be thinking….” 

 

                Spike’s face was flashing back and forth between demon and human as he fought the rage that the idea of leaving her with both Angel and Xander still alive evoked. 

 

                 “This is my decision, Spike.  Not yours.  I don’t kill the people I care about if I don’t have to.  And if Willow and Miss Calendar can put their souls back, I don’t have to.  They won’t be soulless vampires any more. They can be my friends again.”

 

                 Spike’s human countenance was firmly in place as he looked at her sadly.  With no thought to the other people looking on, they stepped closer together until they were only inches apart but not touching.

 

                 “So only vampires with souls are welcome in Sunnydale.  Is that the way it is, Slayer?”

 

                  Buffy swallowed hard, fighting the urge to touch him one last time.

 

                 “That’s the way it has to be, Spike.  I can’t believe I’m letting you take HER away.”  She gestured at the still unconscious Drusilla. “I should stake her right now.”

 

                  “Why don’t you then?” he said coldly, moving slightly to put himself between Drusilla and the Slayer.

 

                  “Because you love her, and I wouldn’t do that to you unless I had no choice,” she whispered, dropping her head and then lifting it again to look at him with firmness.  “It’s up to you to keep her so far away that I never have to choose.”

 

                   He nodded tightly. “Alright, then.  I’ll just grab my stuff from inside the house and we’ll be out of your hair.”

 

                    Without another word, he strode into the house and up the stairs. He was back within a few minutes, boots and duster on.  He tossed the tee shirt he’d worn earlier to Giles with a “Thanks, mate,” as he walked over and picked Drusilla up.  He put her over his shoulder, walking to the tree where Angelus snarled ineffectually and strained against the chains holding him down.

 

                    “I hope you enjoy that soul they’re gonna put back in your useless body as much as you did the first time round,” he said calmly as his grandsire’s demon visage glared at him.  Spike leaned in closer and spoke in a voice only the other vampires could hear, “If either one of you makes any attempt to touch or hurt her, I’ll make you suffer in ways that even you, Angelus, couldn’t imagine.”

 

                     Straightening up, he looked around at the small group of humans one last time.  He exchanged nods with the watcher and a flat, hostile stare with the gypsy who was going to make it possible for Angel and Xander to remain in Sunnydale with Buffy. He winked at Willow, who gave him a tentative wave and then he focused on the Slayer.

 

              Buffy was holding herself upright by sheer force of will as their eyes met for the last time.  Her nostrils flared as she fought the tears threatening to fall, but pride kept them in check and she lifted her chin to stare at him defiantly.  For the first time since she’d been called, she felt the full weight of what it meant to be THE Slayer and she caught a glimpse of how unlikely it was that she would ever be able to have a normal relationship; one that wasn’t affected by her calling.  She had a brief moment of regret that she hadn’t staked the insane vampire that first night while Spike was unconscious, wondering if he would have been willing to give up his life of evil had he not had his insane sire to care for.

 

               Spike stared at the tiny girl who had not once, but twice in his lifetime, stolen his heart within a period of days, and wondered if things would have been different without the presence of his sire.  Her goodness and innocence radiated from her – affected not at all by the passionate lovemaking they’d shared.  It was a purity that transcended bodily needs and he saw no place in her life for a soulless vampire; even one who loved her as much as he was coming to realize he did.

 

               The air was fairly vibrating with tension as the two blond super beings tried to say the things that needed saying using only their eyes.  Common sense told them both that to move closer or touch was to invite disaster. There would be no good-bye hugs for them.  No last, lingering kisses to tempt fate; instead they were left with an exchange of anguished looks that lasted until the watcher cleared his throat and made to usher Jenny and Willow into the house.

 

                 The stir snapped them out of their mutual wordless sorrow and with a final sigh the vampire turned away.

 

                  “Take care of yourself, love,” he said clearly as he headed for the old warehouse and his car.

 

                  “Good-bye, William,” Buffy’s whisper barely carried to the humans, but the vampire’s ears had no trouble picking it up.  “I’ll miss you.”

 

                  There was no response as the black shape with the while bundle on its shoulder vanished into the night.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eighteen

 

                   Buffy fought with every fiber of her being to control the urge to run to her room and fall face down on her bed sobbing her heartbreak into the sheets that still smelled of tobacco and sex.   With a supreme effort of will, she kept her face immobile as she walked over to look at the two vampires who were not leaving her.

 

                  “Buffy?”  Giles’ quiet voice broke her concentration on the two snarling, snapping vamps, and she raised her eyes to his in question.

 

               “Now that they are awake, how do you propose we get these two creatures to your basement?”

 

                 “Yes, Buff,” Angelus’ oily voice joined the conversation. “How do you expect to get me into your house?  Last time I checked, when you were busy fucking my grandchilde, it seemed like my invitation had been revoked.”

 

                Buffy’s face flamed as she heard Giles gasp behind her and she gave the smirking vampire a look that cut him off in mid-jibe.  There was no question that he was, at that moment, only seconds from achieving the dusty ending that Spike had so passionately wished for him and Angelus wisely shut his mouth; although he couldn’t control the self-satisfied leer on his face.  Buffy’s hand went to the stake in her waistband, clutching it so hard her fingers left dents in the hard wood.

 

               She couldn’t look at her watcher, but she knew he was cleaning his glasses vigorously as he tried to pretend that he’d never heard what the vampire had said.  When he had gained control of his voice, he asked again, “What is your plan? Now that they are conscious, no one will be able to get close to them without risking serious injury.”

 

               “Not a problem.”

 

                 Without changing her expression or giving any warning, Buffy shot her foot out, connecting with Angelus’ jaw, effectively both shutting him up and knocking him out.  She backhanded a retreating Xander into unconsciousness before hitting Angelus on the head with her stake to reinforce his immobility.

 

                 While the two creatures were unconscious, Slayer and Watcher quickly unchained them from the tree and began to drag them towards the house.  Buffy smothered the thought of how much easier the task would be if Spike had been there to help her, and did her best to take most of the weight upon herself as they hauled the inert bodies up the steps and through the door. 

 

                Her growled, “Come in” when their forward progress was halted at the front door bore nothing hospitable in its tone as she once more invited Angel back into her home.  They pulled the two vamps to the top of the basement stairs where Buffy used her feet to kick and shove them far enough to allow gravity to take over.  She took her time following their bouncing bodies down the stairs, waiting for the Watcher and Jenny and Willow before helping Giles fasten the chains to iron rings in the cement floor.

 

                At her Watcher’s questioning look, she shrugged and said dismissively, “They were here when we moved in. My mother thinks they anchored gymnastic equipment.”

 

                   When the vampires were securely fastened to the floor, Buffy looked at the gypsy and asked anxiously, “When do you think you’ll have it?”

 

                   “Before dawn, I hope,” she replied quietly. “We’ll go work on it now,” she added, gesturing for Willow to accompany her.

 

                   The novice witch gave one last sad glance toward her good friend’s battered and unconscious body before following her teacher up the stairs to work on re-installing his soul.  Giles and Buffy stood in silence for several minutes before she began, “Giles – what Angel said…”

 

                   He held up a hand to forestall her confession. 

 

                 “Buffy, I really – and I CANNOT emphasize this enough – really do not care to know.  I am not blind and it is perfectly clear that you and Spi-William have feelings for each other.  I cannot say that I approve of those feelings, any more than I approved of your dating Angel, but you are entitled to have them and if you choose to act upon them…well, let’s just say that it is not going into my Watcher’s Diary and therefore I have no need to hear it discussed.”

 

                 His face was flaming and Buffy couldn’t suppress a small smile as she answered, “Ok, Giles.  Don’t ask, don’t tell.  I got it.”

 

                   With a last look at the still-unconscious vampires, she followed the embarrassed man up the stairs and out of the basement. 

 

                    After watching Willow and Jenny discussing various wordings to use and possible ways to eliminate the happiness clause, Buffy grew bored and wandered around the lower level of the house.  She eventually found herself back in the kitchen and saw the pans that Spike had put out, reminders that he’d been planning to make her dinner before the other vampires showed up. She sadly put the pans away and fixed herself a sandwich.

 

                   She could almost hear his voice scolding her, “That’s not a decent meal, Slayer. You’ve got to keep your strength up – you never know what you might need it for…” and she could see the rakishly raised eyebrow that would have accompanied the innuendo in the last remark.  She smiled softly until she remembered that she would never hear that smirking voice again.  The resulting loss of appetite had her leaving the half-eaten sandwich on the counter and resuming her restless pacing around the house.

 

                      As she knew she would, she soon ran out of places to explore on the first floor, and reluctantly went upstairs to her room. She stared at the rumpled bed for what seemed like hours, knowing she had to wash the stained sheets before her mother got home but not wanting to give up that last trace of William’s presence in her room.  She finally compromised by leaving the pillows alone, but stripping the sheets to take to the washer.

 

                     She carried them down the stairs, through the kitchen and into the basement, sparing only a fleeting glance for the two vampires that were chained to the floor.  Both vamps sat up snarling when they caught the scent wafting off the sheets that Buffy had clutched to her chest.  Ignoring their growls, she kept her face buried in the linens until she reached the washer, where she had no choice but to let go and drop them in the tub.  She was adding soap when Angelus spoke up.

 

                     “Getting rid of the evidence before your mother gets home, lover?” His voice destroyed the mellow mood inspired by the Spike and Buffy scent on the sheets and she almost snarled herself as she turned to meet his leering face.

 

                   “If you want to live to regret that recovered soul, you’ll shut up now,” she said with a growl that would have done credit to a vampire. 

 

                    “Well, if you’re so set on putting my soul back, does that mean we can take up where we left off? I’m not used to taking Spike’s leavings; usually I let him have mine…eventually, but I’m willing to make an exception in your case.  What do you say, Buff?  You and me?” 

 

                   He made an obscene gesture with which she was unfamiliar, but there was no mistaking its meaning and she made no attempt to hide the disgust on her face.  Beside him, the newly-made vampire was openly ogling his former friend, leering at her as he added his own proposition.

 

                 “Or, how about me?  Huh, Buff?  Won’t I be right up your alley now? All that vampire power and a soul besides – what more could a vampire layer –oops! Slayer  --want?”

 

                “How about a vampire who doesn’t need an artificially restored soul to behave like a gentleman? How about a vampire who is capable of self-control around humans?  How about one who can still love even though he’s a demon?”

 

               Buffy glared at the two grinning vamps, almost angrier at herself for letting them get to her than she was at them.  She knew Angelus was just trying to rattle her and she’d fallen right into his trap.  Furious with herself, and sure that if she remained in the basement any longer she would stake one or both of them, she slammed the lid down on the washer and pushed random buttons until it started going.  Without another look at or word to the taunting demons, she walked back upstairs as calmly as she could while ignoring them completely.

 

               She stomped into the dining room, telling Jenny, “You’d better get that spell pretty soon or there isn’t going to anybody left to use it on.”

 

               She ignored the questioning glances from Giles and Willow, throwing herself into a chair and resting her elbows on the table.  After several minutes, she looked at her watcher and said abruptly, “Giles, I’ve decided to tell my mom about…everything. She needs to know about vampires and demons and she’ll need to know about Xander.  She’s probably going to think I’m crazy at first, so I might have to call on you for backup.”

 

             He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Very well, Buffy.  I suppose this is not something that you will be able to hide from her forever and she will certainly be safer knowing what is and is not safe to do at night.”

 

              A muffled squeal from Willow brought their attention back to the two women working on the re-ensouling spell and Slayer and Watcher whirled to look at them hopefully.  At a nod from Jenny, Willow blurted, “We’ve got it!  And we think we can make the souls permanent.  No ‘hello happy, bye-bye soul’!”

 

                  “Let’s do it,” Buffy said, standing up quickly.  “I want them out of my house.”

 

                  “But, Buffy.” Willow’s voice was puzzled and her forehead wrinkled with concern.  “Once they have their souls back, they’ll be Angel and Xander again. Our…friends.  Angel can be your—“

 

                     One look at Buffy’s face and she decided not to finish that particular line of thought. 

 

                 “Well, anyway, it’ll be okay for them to be in your house, won’t it?”

 

                “I don’t want either one them to have access to my house,” Buffy said firmly.  “As soon as we get them out of here, I want you to do a disinvite – for both of them.”

 

               “Shall we include William the Bloody in that?” Giles asked mildly.  His expression belied the calm tone of his voice.

 

             Buffy looked from her watcher to the two expectant faces of the witches and narrowed her eyes.

 

               “That won’t be necessary.  He isn’t coming back.”

 

                “But if he should…Your mother--”

 

                “My mother would be more than safe around Spike,” Buffy said through gritted teeth.  “And so would all of you.  I don’t want to hear about it again.”

 

                 She left the room with finality, calling over her shoulder, “Let’s get this spell over with.  I still need to patrol tonight.”

 

                 When the demons in the basement saw the determined-looking gypsy and eager novice witch coming down the stairs with their hands full of spell ingredients, they reacted in very different ways. Xander, the newly-raised vamp who had not yet hunted or even fed except for a drunk Angelus had thrust at him on the way to Buffy’s, retreated behind his grandsire in fear.  In addition to the demon’s abhorrence of having a soul, was Xander’s fear that he would turn back into the useless sidekick he’d been before Drusilla had turned him into something powerful. He was somehow unable to recall that his newfound power had been less than useful against either Spike or Buffy.

 

                Angelus, remembering how it felt to be cursed with a soul while still remaining a demon at heart, pulled on the chains with all the strength of a master vampire, trying to get to the gypsy before she could send him back into his perpetually melancholy persona.  Buffy stepped quickly between the angry demon and her friends, her stake out and ready should the chains break before the spell was cast.  She closed her ears to the taunts and threats coming from the vampire with whom she had once thought she was falling in love, although the gasp from Willow told her that the others were listening to the invective coming from his mouth.

 

                She knew that he was just trying to distract her with his vivid descriptions of what he’d seen her doing with Spike; hoping she would be so upset that he could catch her off guard if and when he broke the chains.  Although she knew that the filth coming from his mouth bore no resemblance to anything she and Spike had actually done, and that he had seen nothing except their nakedness in her bed, she cringed at what her friends were hearing.  She almost hoped that the chains would break, giving her a good excuse to drive the stake she was clutching so tightly through his heart, shutting his mouth permanently.

 

                 When she heard Willow and Jenny begin chanting behind her and smelled the burning herbs she breathed a sigh of relief, then laughed at the panicked look on the vampire’s face as he felt the spell developing. It was easy to see the moment when the souls were forced back into the two vamps.  Xander screamed, clutching his chest and screwing up his face in terror.

 

                 Angelus snarled, seeming as though he was trying to bite the offending bit of light before it could worm its way into his body.  His protesting and snarling was to no avail as he soon gave his own guttural scream and fell over onto the floor.

 

               There was a heavy silence as the screams faded and the humans waited to see if the spell had worked.  Buffy remained on guard, her stake ready while they waited for Angel and Xander to open their eyes.

 

 

Chapter Nineteen

 

 

             The silence was eventually broken by the sound of Xander’s ragged crying. He refused to look at his two best female friends as he buried his head in his hands, remembering the things he had said and done only a few hours earlier.  Willow edged closer to the still-chained vampires asking softly, “Xander? Are you all right?”

 

              When he looked up at her with anguished tear-filled eyes, Willow rushed to his side and threw her arms around him.  Buffy’s frightened cry of “Willow!” went unheeded as the redhead sank to her knees beside her friend, holding him while he sobbed on her shoulder.

 

              Buffy immediately stood beside them, stake in hand, while she waited to see to whom Xander was still chained, Angelus or Angel.  When the older vampire made to move closer, Buffy fell into a fighting stance, stake at the ready, only relaxing when Angel lifted his normal, sad brown eyes to hers, saying softly, “It’s okay, Buffy. I’m me again.”

 

           “Tell me, Angel,” she asked bitterly, “exactly when were you NOT you? Was it when you were trying to get into my bedroom?  When you ripped the throats out of half of Sunnydale?  Or was it when you killed and turned one of my best friends?”

 

             “Um…technically, that was Drusi….” Buffy’s glare left no doubt where she was placing the blame.  “Right, my responsibility,” he sighed, slumping against the wall.  “I suppose ‘I’m sorry’ is a little—“

 

              “Don’t want to hear it,” she said, turning away.  “As soon as Giles unchains you, I want you out of my house.  And take him with you,” she gestured at Xander’s shocked face.  “You made him, or you let your insane childe make him, so you take care of him.”

 

                 “You don’t mean he’s to live with me?”  Angel’s voice rose to painful levels at the same time that Xander howled, “Noooooo!”

 

                “Well, where else is he going to live?”  She turned around and put her hands on her hips. “How is he going to learn where and how to get pig’s blood? Who’s going to teach him how to be a souled vampire?”

 

                  The two newly-souled vamps glared at each other.  “But I don’t like him,” the older one whined.

 

                 “Right back atcha, Deadboy,” Xander growled.

 

                 “Work it out.”

 

                  Buffy waved her hand dismissively and went back up to her kitchen to finish her abandoned sandwich.   It wasn’t long before two very subdued vampires followed by Buffy’s watcher and the two women responsible for saving their un-lives by restoring their souls, made their way up the stairs and into the kitchen.  After a few uncomfortable moments, during which Buffy did her best to ignore them, they mumbled thanks to Willow and Jenny and let themselves out the door.

 

                 “Do it now, Willow,” Buffy said wearily as soon as the door had closed behind them.

 

                   Her friend started to argue, then shrugged and did as she was asked, effectively making the house impervious to any vampire except the one that no one was willing to mention again.    With a yawn, Jenny said that she really had to catch up on some sleep and Giles offered to drive both her and Willow to their homes.

 

                 After assuring them that she would be fine by herself, Buffy bade them “good-night” and closed the door firmly behind them.  She really wanted nothing more than to soak in a hot bath, wallowing in her unhappiness, but guilt for having not patrolled the night before would not allow that respite; instead she packed up her stakes to make a quick patrol of the closest cemeteries.

 

                  She found only a few fledglings to stake and she suspected that Spike might have dusted most of his minions before leaving Sunnydale.  The thought of Spike was enough to ruin the mood that had been slightly elevated by slaying and she turned her footsteps toward her empty house and even emptier bed.

 

 

                   She approached her room with some trepidation, not sure what would be worse – picturing Spike in her bed, or finding that she was already forgetting what it was like to have him there.   She threw herself down upon the unmade bed, burying her face in the pillows that still smelled of cigarettes and some indefinable scent that she was sure she could identify for the rest of her life as belonging to Spike.

 

                   Raising teary eyes after a while, her eye was caught by a piece of paper on her nightstand and she reached for it with a trembling hand. Although the handwriting was much smoother and more mature than the painstaking writing on the paper safely boxed under her bed, she had no doubt who had left it there.

 

                 “Dearest Buffy,” she read. “The poet in me is screaming to be allowed to compose a sonnet to our time together; a fitting sequel to the bit of drivel I left you the last time we met.  Time, alas will not allow such luxury, and, truth be told, my skills at composing poetry are no better than they ever were so it is probably just as well.

 

                   I don’t think I have the words to tell you what these past too-few days and your acceptance of the monster that I am mean to me. To express the joy that your generous gifts brought to my cold heart.  I was not exaggerating when I said I would never feel like that again no matter how long I remain among the undead. Five hundred years from now, should I remain undusted that long, my cold, unbeating heart will still be warmed by thoughts of the Slayer who trusted, and, dare I say it? loved me.

 

                  Every time I think about how rarely a Slayer lives into her late teens, I want to throw it all away and fly to your side, determined to do my part to see that you do not meet the usual fate of your sisters-in-arms.  And yes, I am aware that the incongruity of my worrying about the fate of a slayer must be one of Fate’s more unkind jokes, but there it is. William the Bloody has become so fearful of learning that a new slayer has been called that it is likely I will never leave my room lest I hear something that will cause me to want to walk out to greet my first sunrise in 124 years.

 

                 With everything I am and have, I implore you to take care as you go about your duties.  Barring incredibly good luck, I cannot imagine an ordinary vampire even coming close to beating you in a fight; but I beg you to take care anyway. And always remember to cheat!

 

                 There are so many thoughts trembling in my heart, so many things I wish to say to you, but I know that you are in the yard, tapping your foot and waiting for me to take my leave, so I will just leave you with this thought – know that somewhere in the world, a monster loves you ever so much.  You will always be a warrior elf queen in my dreams.

 

                  With all my love,

 

                  William

 

 

PS – If you let that bloody wanker Angel touch you, I will come back and rip off both his arms!”

 

               Buffy dropped her head onto the pillows, torn between laughter and tears.  The incongruity between the formal, stilted wording in the body of the letter and Spike’s angry post script summed up so perfectly the two sides of the unusual vampire that she was left gasping even as she pressed the paper to her face as if she could somehow feel the hands with which he’d held it as he wrote.

 

            Rather than putting it away in her box of treasures with his poem, she put in the drawer of her nightstand so that she could reread it at will and went off to take her shower before bed.

 

              She read the letter one more time before going to sleep with her nose burrowed into the scent of the note’s author where it suffused his pillow.

               

                   

                   ******************

 

                  By the time her mother returned to Sunnydale, there was no trace of Buffy’s overnight guest, and no sign that any sort of magical activities had taken place in their otherwise very ordinary basement.  The sheets had been washed, dried and put back on the bed, the shackles had gone home with the Watcher and the sword was carefully hidden under the bed with her locked box of valuables.  The only mistake she made was to accidentally leave Spike’s letter out on her nightstand….

 

                 “Buffy Summers!  I need to see you in the living room, young lady!”

 

                  Uh oh. This can NOT be good. What have I done now? That she knows about?

 

                  “Yes, Mom? “  

 

                 Buffy tried to appear cheery and unconcerned, all the while searching her brain for what might have upset her mother.  Joyce had only been home a few days and Buffy had not yet found the right time to sit her down and tell her about her daughter’s night job.  One look at her mother’s face, however, and she knew that she should have found the time to have that talk. Then she saw what her mother was clutching in her hand, and her stomach began to hurt. 

 

                   Waving Spike’s letter in her hand, Joyce gestured to the no-longer wrapped up sword on the couch beside her and asked heatedly,” Do you have an explanation for any of this?  An explanation that will not get you grounded for the next two years?”

 

             Buffy took a deep breath and said quietly, “Sit down, Mom. This is going to take a while.”

 

               Joyce reluctantly perched on the end of the couch, still holding the letter tightly.  Her face was tense as she waited for Buffy’s explanation.  She really felt there was only one way to take comments like, “…the gifts you gave me…” or “…loved me…,” but there were so many puzzling references in what was obviously a love letter that she really hoped there was some other explanation for it.  She tried hard not to think about the things that happened just before they left LA, when she and Hank had blamed Buffy’s inexplicable behavior on trauma over their breakup, but finding a genuine sword under her daughter’s bed was bringing up all those old memories.

 

            “May…may I please have my letter back?” Buffy asked timidly, terrified that her mother was going to destroy one of the few things she had of Spike’s.

 

            “Not until you explain it to me.”  Joyce’s voice was soft but firm.  “I need to know why my seventeen-year-old daughter has a love letter from someone claiming to be 124 years old.  And why he is afraid that you won’t…won’t live very much longer.”

 

             Buffy sighed and sank down into a chair.  She looked at her mother silently for several minutes, then exhaled and began by saying, “Mom, I’m going to tell you some things that are going to sound very…strange, but I want you to promise me that you will wait until I’m through before you wig out, ok?  Just hear me out, and when I’m done you can ask your questions or whatever.”

 

             Joyce nodded slowly and relaxed back against the couch.  She placed the letter on the coffee table, being sure to keep it closer to her than to Buffy.

 

              “All right, Buffy.  I’ll hear you out, but if this is more of that same vampire stuff that you tried to feed us in LA, I will have to tell you I am very disappointed in you.”

 

             “Well, Mom,” Buffy bit her lip, then took the plunge. “I guess you’d better prepare to be disappointed.  Because you’re about to hear more about vampires, demons and the…the….Oh, this is so hard.  I wanted Giles to be here when I—“

 

            “Giles?  Mr. Giles, the librarian?  What on earth has he to do with this.  Oh my god!”  Joyce’s eyes got huge and she looked at the letter on the table. “Please don’t tell me you are having an affair with the school librarian!”

 

              “Wha-? No!  Ewwwww!  Mom!”  Buffy’s very real surprise and disgust soothed her mother’s nerves somewhat, but she persisted.

 

                “Then why would he need to be here – and who is “William?” and why is he comparing himself to someone who is 124 years old?”

 

                 “Because that’s how old he is, Mom.”  Buffy sighed, holding up a hand to halt her mother’s automatic protest.  “Please, let me tell you this my way and in some kind of chronological order, okay?  Then I’ll explain about Spi-William.”

 

                 When Joyce had subsided to frowning agreement, Buffy began her tale.  In a flat, uninflected voice she quickly rehashed her meeting with Merrick when she was only fifteen and had first been called. She tried to explain about being Chosen, but finally gave it up saying only that, “Giles can explain all this metaphysical stuff, Mom.  All you really need to know is that I am the current Slayer and have been since we were in LA.  We’re here, in Sunnydale, because there was a vampire emergency here and I needed to be closer to the Hellmouth.”

 

               She waved her hands again, “I’m sure the Council had something to do with all of that.  The gallery being for sale, the house -- all of it.  They wanted me here and they fixed it so we would move here.  You’ll have to ask Giles about that, too.”

 

                At her mother’s terse suggestion that she explain just why the school librarian was so involved that he could explain everything Buffy couldn’t, Buffy nodded and said tiredly, “Merrick was my first Watcher.  He isn’t anymore. He was killed by vampires before we left LA.  The vampires that I killed when I set fire to the school gym.”

 

                 There was an intense moment in which Joyce tried to deal calmly with this reminder of why they had left LA, and then she nodded tightly for Buffy to go on.  Mentally, she was already trying to decide how she would get Buffy to the psychiatrist she fully intended to have her see immediately, but outwardly she continued to listen with open eyes and an open mind.

 

                 “Giles is my new Watcher.  I met him the first day of school. I…I tried to refuse to be the Slayer again. But…it wasn’t possible. The vamps knew I was here and…I just fell back into the slaying. I had no choice.  I’ve been doing it since we moved here.”

 

                 “And, how long will this…slaying…go on?  When are you permitted to quit?”

 

                 “When another Slayer is called,” Buffy said simply. 

 

                  “And when will that be?” Her mother was relentless in her pursuit of some shred of hope that there would be an end to the mental nightmare in which her daughter was apparently trapped.

 

                 “When I die.”

 

                  Joyce’s face went white. She snatched the letter up off the table and quickly reread the part about Slayers only living into their late teens.  Buffy’s seventeenth birthday having come and gone, she wondered briefly if her daughter was becoming suicidal and covering it with this story of vampires and demons.  Then she remembered things from that last year in Los Angeles; things that she had tried very hard to forget or dismiss as something other than what they seemed.  With a shudder and a groan, she dropped her face into her hands, accepting that whatever was going on in her only daughter’s life, it was not a figment of her imagination---and it seemed likely to get her killed.

 

                  Buffy was immediately at her side, putting her arms around her mother and murmuring soothing assurances that she was fine and she intended to remain that way for a long, long time. When Joyce had regained her composure, she sat back and looked at her suddenly adult-seeming daughter with new eyes.

 

                “So – Back to School Night – the reason you were running all over the building was…”

 

                “Spike – William.  He attacked the school to kill me.”

 

                  “THIS William?” her mother waved the letter around, causing Buffy to snatch it out of her hand before she could destroy it.

 

                  “Okay, see, that’s another thing I need to explain….”

 

                 “I can’t wait to hear this one,” her mother grumbled, reluctantly joining her daughter in a small laugh.  “It’s going to be a doozy, isn’t it?”

 

                 Buffy smiled, “Yes, it is.  But it’s a good doozy – well, mostly,” she added, remembering that little William had become a vampire and spent over one hundred years living off human beings.

 

                 She briefly covered her short stay in 19th century England, grimacing sympathetically when her mother gave a muffled cry at Giles’ having ordered her to jump into the portal after the demon. She told her mother about the charming little boy she met there, glossing over the encounter with the gang of thugs, and told her how wonderful it was to have his company while she was there.

 

                “He was so brave, and so cute and he wrote me this wonderful…well, okay, it’s probably pretty bad, but a poem about me and I never got to say ‘good-bye’ because he wasn’t there when the portal opened again.

 

                “Then Spike came to Sunnydale and he attacked me and we were fighting and all of a sudden he didn’t want to kill me anymore and…”

 

                “And this Spike. He’s your William?”

 

              Buffy nodded.  “He grew up and got turned into a vampire by Drusilla but he remembered me. All those years, he remembered me…”

 

             Buffy’s wonder and gratitude were obvious and her mother had to say sharply, “Well, of course he did!  You’re beautiful and…and…oh my god. Did you say you have super-powers?”

 

             Without answering, Buffy stood up and picked up the easy chair in which she’d been sitting, lifting it with one hand and holding it up long enough for her mother to get some sense of what she didn’t know about her athletic daughter’s true abilities.

 

              She set the chair back down carefully and then asked softly, “Do you believe me this time?”

 

               Joyce flushed, remembering how they had accused Buffy of lying or doing drugs the first time she had tried to tell them about being called.  She nodded slowly, twisting her hands together.

 

              “I do.  I don’t understand it, but I believe you.  Is there anything else I need to know?”

 

              “Uh, yeah, but I don’t want to wig you out any more than I already have.  The main thing to know is that you should never invite anybody int the house after dark – even if you know them.  Oh yeah, and Xander is a vampire.”

 

                “Xander?  Xander Harris?  How could I not have noticed that?”

 

                “Well, it kinda just happened.  While you were gone.  But it’s okay,” she added hastily.  “Willow and Ms Calendar put his soul back so he’s not going to eat anybody and…”

 

                 “Willow?” Joyce’s voice was weak as she tried to absorb more unbelievable information.

 

                 “Tell you what, Mom.  I’ll call Giles and we’ll go over to his house tonight and you can get all caught up on everything. Okay?”

 

                Nodding numbly, Joyce completely forgot to question Buffy about her relationship with William or Spike or whatever her daughter called him and went off to pour herself a stiff drink.

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty

 

               With Joyce’s understanding, if not her complete acceptance, of her calling and its duties, Buffy found that her life became much easier.  No longer did she need to sneak in and out of her room at night or lie to her mother about her activities.  Although, after reporting on a particularly gruesome and dangerous slaying episode and watching her mother go into hysterics, Buffy had learned to be as vague as possible when it came to describing her more exciting evenings.

 

               Once Joyce had sat down with Giles and had a chance to ask all her questions, look through his old Watcher’s Diaries and other reference books, she looked at the man with new understanding and appreciation.  The more she watched him with her daughter, whose own father was conspicuously absent from the major events of her life, the more she was grateful to the British librarian for his obvious affection and concern for Buffy.

 

                  They were able to establish a comfortable friendship centered around their mutual love for Buffy and their desire to see her outlive all the Slayers who had come before her, although the watcher was very candid with Joyce about the dangers Buffy faced every night.

 

                 “May I ask you something, Rupert?” Joyce asked quietly, early on in their relationship.

 

                   “Of course, Joyce.  Please. What do you wish to know?”

 

                   “I want to know what you know about William. About Spike.  Can my daughter really trust him the way she seems to?”

 

                    He sighed and pushed his glasses up off his face.

 

                    “I wish I could answer that with certainty,” he replied honestly. “I simply don’t know.  It’s quite true that as soon as he recognized her he ceased his attempts to kill her, and, in fact, risked his own life to protect her from Angelus; however, before he knew who she was, he had every intention of making her his third dead Slayer.”

 

                    “I think he loves her,” Jenny put in quietly.

 

                    Giles nodded reluctantly.  “That would seem to be the case.  However, since he has left the area with Drusilla and with no intention of returning, I am hoping that any similar feelings she may have for him will dissipate with time and she will fall in love with someone more…appropriate.”

 

                  Joyce and Jenny exchanged a look of female solidarity at the idea that “appropriate” would ever be an issue with a young girl when it came to choosing with whom she would fall in love.

 

                It was months before Buffy was herself around Xander or Angel; and they were no more comfortable around her.  While Xander was profusely apologetic about his words and behavior while unsouled, Buffy couldn’t forget what Spike had said about the way the boy felt about her.  She had caught him once or twice looking at her with eyes that flashed amber when he thought she wasn’t looking and in spite of Willow’s frequent hints to change things, she was glad he no longer had access to her home. She really didn’t relish the idea of waking up one night to find vamp Xander in her bedroom – soul or no soul.

 

               As for Angel, his apologies were sincere enough, but grudgingly given.  He persisted in acting as though she was in the wrong to have had sex with Spike while he was off fucking Drusilla.  In the interest of peace, she refrained from pointing out that he had jumped on Dru before he lost his soul, not after, but she made sure he also knew that he wasn’t welcome inside her home.  Any chance they might have once had for a relationship had been ruined once she’d had a chance to enjoy Spike’s sardonic humor as well as his talented hands and mouth.  She found that the idea of kissing Angel’s brooding face or being held by his overly large body was just completely unappealing, although it took several months for him to accept the change in her feelings.

 

                 Xander had moved back into his parents’ basement; if they noticed that he had stopped going to school in the daytime, they didn’t mention it.  He came and went as he pleased, confident that his mother would not bother looking into his small refrigerator and finding his stash of pigs’ blood.  In spite of their dislike for each other, Angel’s sense of tradition was too strong for him to leave someone of his line on his own, and he reluctantly took Xander under his wing, teaching him which butchers were the most accommodating, what other types of blood were available, and giving him some history of their vampire family.

 

                He did not consider Xander a grandchilde in the way that Spike was his clear descendant, but the tiny amount of blood that Drusilla had allowed him to take made him a bit more than a minion, and Angel grudgingly accepted responsibility for training the boy.  The fact that he found Xander almost as annoying as Spike, but without the desire to please that had mitigated Spike’s more outrageous behavior as a young vamp, made taking care of his newest family member more of a chore than even he had expected.

 

              When Xander complained about his treatment, asking if this was how Angel had treated Spike when Drusilla first turned him, the older vampire had had enough and snarled, “Be very grateful, boy, that you are being brought up by me and not the Angelus that broke William in. You would not have survived to still be a thorn in my side 124 years later.”

 

                Buffy did her best to maintain some sort of normal high school life – for her mother’s sake as much as for her own; she dated casually, but refused to become involved with anyone. She and her mother agreed that they would not share her vocation with her father, and they were both grateful when his busy schedule made it impossible for Buffy to visit him in LA for more than a weekend every once in a very great while.

 

                Summer came and went, and Buffy’s senior year of high school got off to an uneventful start.  She briefly thought about having met Spike for the first time in the early fall two years ago, and again the year before, but scolded herself for hoping that might become a tradition.

 

               No, he’s gone and that’s that. Time to move on.  It was wonderful, but it was just one of those things….Oh my god, I sound like an old song from the 40’s!  Gah!  I really need to get out more.  Get that man – vampire-- out of my mind and heart. I need to find somebody else who will make me feel…

 

               Only in her bed at night, alone with her thoughts and his often-read letter, did she give in to the fear that she really was never going to see him again. She had no idea where he’d taken Drusilla or what they were doing.  Her slayer side gave a guilty twinge, knowing that they were feeding on the citizens of some other country, but she couldn’t help but hope that he was all right and not in any danger.

 

              Giles had assured her very early on in her slaying career that the older a vampire was, the more difficult to slay.  Not only were their strengths and speed far greater for their age and experience, but the longer they survived, the more they learned what they could and could not do in order to remain undetected among human populations. That was why most of her patrols involved graveyards; better to catch them as fledglings and dust them while it was relatively easy than to allow them time to perfect their survival skills. Those skills improved with every year of unlife – Drusilla’s encounter with the mob in Prague not withstanding.  Giles said that her willingness to take chances such as that was clear proof of Drusilla’s insanity and that she surely would have dusted at the hands of her pursuers had not Spike risked his own unlife to rescue her.

 

             The reminder that Spike was still with his insane girlfriend, in spite of her behavior with her sire, sent Buffy into another brief melancholy as she worried about his safety and suffered pangs of jealousy over his devotion to the brunette vampire.  For several weeks she was subdued and quiet, slaying with a fierce determination but little or no flare. 

 

             Sleep held her as it never had before.  When she was alone in her room, in her bed, hugging Mr. Gordo to her chest and rubbing her face on the pillowcase that she’d never washed, she was free to dream of hands that soothed and excited at the same time; lips that could go from tender to demanding and back again in one kiss; a powerful, lean body that fit hers so well that they seemed made for each other. In her dreams, there was no slayer, no vampire, just William and Buffy making love over and over until they were exhausted.  When she would wake up to find herself grinding her hips into the unsatisfying mattress, she would slip a hand into her pajamas and try to imagine it was Spike’s talented fingers stroking her to release.

 

             So she passed her time, finding just enough older, smarter vamps to slay that her skills continued to improve and she became stronger and more confident everyday.  As her eighteenth birthday approached, Giles became surprisingly reticent, promising to take her out for dinner, but refusing to discuss it otherwise.

 

             Buffy almost cancelled the proposed night out, although she knew her mother was looking forward to it, when she found herself so weak that she was almost killed by a fledgling vamp.   She thought she must be getting the flu or something as she became more easily tired and grew weaker and weaker. Finally, she told Giles that she didn’t feel she could patrol – she was so weak she could barely lift a sword, let along wield it against anything more vicious than the practice dummy.

 

             With a grim face, he assured her it was all right for her to miss patrol for a few nights and they made plans for him to pick her and Joyce up on her birthday.  Buffy dragged home, too exhausted from trying to train to do more than tell her mother she was tired and going to bed.  Morning came too early and she found herself with no more strength or energy than she’d had the night before. For the first time, she wondered if she was losing her powers; if somehow another Slayer had been called and no one had bothered to notify them.

 

              Giles, however, pooh-poohed the idea, saying simply that she was probably tired and needed more rest .  He refused to listen when she said she that had lost her Slayer strength, mumbling reassuring platitudes and not meeting her eyes.

 

 

 

           *****************

 

 

            In a small city in Colombia, a half-drunken Spike overheard a bar conversation between two other demons that made his stomach clench with dread.

 

            “So, you know that Slayer in California, the one that killed the Master?”

 

             “Yeah. She’s quite a piece of work.  That’s why I’m living here!”

 

            When the laughter died down, the first demon said, “Seems she turns eighteen in a few weeks.  You know what that means.”

 

              “New Slayer!  Maybe the next one won’t be quite so tough,” the second demon said wistfully.  “I’d sure like to go back to the Hellmouth.  I liked it there.”

 

            Fighting back his panic, Spike nodded companionably and said casually, “Hey, mate. Bit of a Slayer fancier myself. What’s so special about this one turning eighteen?”

 

            “And you are?”

 

             “Name’s Spike.  William the Bloody. Maybe you’ve heard of me?”

 

             “Oh yeah, you’re the one who’s living with that crazy slu-“ He was interrupted by a sharp punch from his friend.  “Sorry,” he said quickly. “I didn’t mean—“

 

              “Yes you did,” Spike answered calmly.  “It’s alright, mate.  I know what she’s doin’.  We’ve reached an understanding about it.”  He smothered his shame and rage at hearing Dru’s infidelity discussed in a bar.  “So what’s the deal about the Slayer turning eighteen?”

 

                “You’ve never heard of the Cruciamentum?”

 

                “One of those Council of Wanker things, is it?” Spike tried to appear only mildly interested as he called for another round of drinks on his tab.

 

                 “Yeah, those idiots!  When their best Slayers turn eighteen, their watchers take away their powers and then they lock them in building with some random vamp.  If the girl can dust it without her super powers, she gets them back.”

 

                 “And if she can’t?” Spike rocked back in his chair, blowing smoke rings at the ceiling.

 

                They both looked at him like he wasn’t very bright. 

 

                “Then the vamp kills her and another slayer is called.”

 

                 “I see.” Spike struggled to keep his voice noncommittal. “Seems like a waste of resources, if you ask me.”

 

                 “Well nobody ever said humans were overly bright.” 

 

               The demons roared with laughter, which Spike did his best to join even as every fiber of his being was demanding he tear out the door and run all the way to California if he had to.  As soon as it was possible to do so politely, he excused himself and left the bar, taking to his heels as soon as he was out the door.  He burst into the room he’d been sleeping in by himself since he’d caught Dru with a chaos demon, and began throwing things into a duffle bag.  He mentally reviewed what he would need to get to California as quickly as possible.

 

                He passed Dru’s room and paused for a second, wondering if he should tell her where he was going.  Even though she was still furious at him for taking her away from Angelus, she depended on him to take care of her and expected him to be there when she wasn’t cheating on him with some other demon.  The sounds coming from her room made up his mind for him and he left the building without a backward glance.

 

                He had to bite a baggage handler in order to get into the plane’s cargo hold, although he refrained from draining the man, leaving him on the floor after stealing his uniform.  He had a tense moment when it appeared the direct flight from Colombia to LA was going to be searched for drugs, but at the last minute money changed hands and the door was firmly shut.

 

                The flight gave him plenty of time to wonder what he was going to do when he got to Sunnydale. Other than eat that watcher if he’s done anything stupid to her 

 

                He had no idea what had gone on in Sunnydale since he’d taken Dru and left the country.  He had been very careful not to follow any news pertaining to the United States or California; had kept in touch with no demons on the Hellmouth and done his best to relegate Buffy back to her status of fond memory that might or might not be real.  But, a year later, he had to admit that it was never going to happen.

 

                  His warrior elf queen was a living, breathing, warm and loving woman.  One that he had held in his arms, whose essence he had tasted.  A woman he had felt come on his hand, in his mouth, and on his cock.  A Slayer who had willingly given a vampire her blood.  Who had cried when he left her to save his unfaithful lover from a well-deserved dusty death at her hands.

 

                   I am well and truly buggered, he thought, not for the first time.  Face it, William, you’re in love with the bloody Slayer and there is no way that can end well.

 

                 It was still dark when the plane landed at LAX and Spike was able to sneak out with the baggage and make his way to the cabstand.  Picking the pocket of a harassed-looking man in a business suit, he quickly took the bills out before handing the wallet back to the grateful man with a cheerful, “Think you dropped this, mate.”   A short cab ride and he was picking up his beloved Desoto, patting her fondly while the demon in charge of the storage facility got change for one of the hundreds Spike had lifted at the airport.  A few more minutes, and he was on his way to Sunnydale, growling softly as he realized he didn’t know the exact date of Buffy’s birthday and might be too late already.

 

 

Chapter Twenty-one

 

             His first stop was Willie’s bar to pick up the latest news.  The entire demon community knew that the Slayer’s eighteenth birthday was imminent; one quiet, young-looking female vamp insisted she’d been a student at Sunnydale High and that she knew that the Slayer’s birthday was, in fact, that very day.  There was some discussion of forming a group to wait outside the designated building and watch to see who or what emerged, but the possibility that there would be muscle from the Watchers Council surrounding the house discouraged all but the hardiest or drunkest demons. 

 

               The youngest ones still argued for forming an audience to cheer the victor, one claiming he’d heard the Watchers Council had picked, “Some real badass vamp this time. Name’s Kralik.  Turns out he was already a torturing murderer before he got turned. Not their usual tame newbie.  They must not want this Slayer to win.”

 

             Spike did his best to seem casual and mildly interested, commenting only that,  “I’ve always figured this bint was going to be my third Slayer. Guess I should wander over there and see who’s trying to steal my glory.  Anybody know where they’ve set this up?”

 

            Directions to the abandoned rooming house firmly fixed in his brain, Spike threw the last hundred dollar bill on the bar and bought a round for the house before easing out the door and sprinting to his car.  Five minutes of frantic driving and he was pulling into a driveway beside a large house that showed no signs of life except a black van in the driveway. A broken sign proclaiming The Sunnydale Arms dangled from its remaining hook. 

 

                 One look at the van, one sniff inside, and Spike shifted into game face, growling softly.  The scent in the van was not Buffy’s, but it was close enough to leave him worried.  He got back into the Desoto and moved it around to the rear of the house, parking it carelessly in the middle of the yard.  He sprinted to the back door of the building, easily breaking the flimsy lock and entering what appeared to be a kitchen.  The sight that greeted him did nothing to soothe his rattled nerves.

 

             Two bodies lay sprawled across the table – both with gaping holes where their throats had been.  The size of the men and the now-useless weapons beside them told him they were Council muscle and he wondered briefly what kind of vampire, other than a master, could take out two armed and experienced Council workers.

 

               Tradition had it that the Council tended to choose newly-risen, less than dangerous vampires for the Cruciamentum.  It was not, after all, in their best interest to have their Slayers lose the battle to remain alive.  One that could not defeat a fledgling vamp using just her wits and the weapons provided, was incompetent and therefore expendable.  There was no way that Buffy fit that description and Spike frowned as he moved away from the dead men. He remembered the mocking words from the demon at Willie’s about the Council not wanting Buffy to win.

 

               Got to be a pretty canny vamp to get the drop on experienced soldiers like that.  And a powerful one to get them both at the same time.  Almost looks like Buffy’s being set up to fail.

 

                 He moved silently through the house, glancing impersonally at another body, this one clearly a watcher or one of their many flunkies.  Following the trail of bodies and blood, he made his way to the top of stairs clearly leading to be basement.  He listened carefully first, detecting the racing heart beat of an extremely frightened human, but no other sign of life.  When he heard footsteps approach the stairs, he stepped back into the shadows until a newly-turned vampire still bearing the bloody wound that had killed him came into view.

 

                The fledgling was no match for a master vampire with an agenda and soon found himself helpless and unable to speak as he was hustled from the house.  When Spike felt they were far enough away not to be heard, he removed his hand from the vamp’s mouth and whispered, “One chance, wanker. What’s down there and who does he have?”

 

                “The…the Slayer’s mother,” the trembling fledgling squeaked. “He’s using her to get the Slayer here.  He’s a serial killer, turned vamp.  The Council keeps him drugged so that he’s controllable, but he got loose and---“

 

               “And they’re sending the Slayer in there with him?  Without her powers?”  Spike’s snarled whisper was filled with pent up rage and the unfortunate fledgling whimpered in fear.

 

               “She’s been…difficult.  The Council wants a new Slayer to guard the Hellmouth.  This one is too unpredictable.”

 

                “Her watcher agreed to this?”

 

                 “No, he thinks it’s a regular Cruciamentum.  Easy kill if she keeps her wits about her. He doesn’t know what’s waiting in there.  No one counted on Kralik getting loose, though.  Now he’s free and there isn’t any Slayer to stop him.  I’m lucky I got killed quickly because he needed me to help him. Others aren’t going to be so lucky.”

 

                “You’re about to be lucky again,” Spike said absently, already thinking about ways to defeat the vampire inside the house as he wrenched off the unfortunate former watcher’s head.  He brushed the dust off his hands and moved back toward the house until his attention was distracted by the tingles that indicated a Slayer was in the area.

 

                A peek around the corner of the house showed him a panting Buffy, running up the driveway, Giles trailing behind her begging her to wait for him and not to do anything rash.

 

               “That sonofabitch has my mother!” she shrieked back over her shoulder as she threw open the unlocked front door. “If she dies, it’s your fault!”

 

                 Spike quickly slipped in the back door and ran to the basement stairs, hitting the bottom with one graceful jump.  He took in the scene at a glance, a pretty blond woman tied to a chair, clearly frightened out of her wits but with a defiant tilt to her chin.

 

 

                 Glancing around quickly, he saw no sign of the other vampire; then he heard the Slayer’s enraged voice upstairs and heavy footsteps moving in her direction.   With a slash of his fangs, he ripped through the ropes holding Buffy’s mother, quickly sliding back into his human face as she cringed away from him.  Before he could explain that he was there to help, she had picked up a pitcher from the nearby table and clocked him on the head.

 

                “Hey! That was bloody ungrateful!”  He glared at her briefly, then his voice softened as he explained,   “I’m here to help you and your stubborn bint of a daughter.  Stay behind me and when we get upstairs, I want you to go out the front door and lock yourself in the watcher’s pathetic excuse for a car.  Are we clear?” 

 

                 Something about the urgency in his voice and the worried looks he was shooting toward the upper floor triggered a thought and Joyce looked at him carefully before responding.

 

                  “Wi-William?” she gasped.  “Spike?  Are you Spike?”

 

              “Pleased to meet you,” he growled.  “Let’s GO!”

 

               Grabbing her by the arm, he raced up the stairs almost pulling her off of her feet.  He shoved her in the direction of the front door, hissing, “Run!” while he followed his ears toward the sound of breaking furniture.

 

                 Satisfied that Joyce was safely outside, he moved quickly toward the sound of Buffy’s pounding heart, allowing his howling demon full rein.  When he burst into the room where the insane vampire appeared to have Buffy cornered, he slid to a halt and watched her with admiration.  She held a bottle of pills in one hand, pills for which the demon was shrieking and reaching as the Slayer danced around the room, always keeping a piece of furniture between herself and the raving monster.  Just before she ran out of barricades, she threw the pills across the room, running in the opposite direction while the vamp pounced on the bottle, frantically tearing at the top.

 

              She ran straight into Spike’s chest, stiffening when she felt herself caught by arms too strong to belong to anything human.  Before she even looked up at him, she brought her knee into his groin; even without her slayer powers, she brought him gasping to his knees, tears filling his eyes.  Only then did she see who had been holding her and she dropped beside him, babbling apologetically.

 

             “Spike!  I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was you.  I don’t have my powers and I can’t sense…What are you doing here?”

 

              “Came to save you, didn’t I?” he managed to grit out.  “Although if that overgrown troll attacks right now, I don’t know how much help I’ll—“

 

              “Shhhh.  Just watch,” she whispered.

 

             He followed her gaze to where the enraged monster was using the glass of water from the table to wash down the pills he’d just swallowed.  The lumbering vamp, a vicious and maniacal smile on his face, turned and began stalking toward them.  He made it only a few steps before stopping and beginning to shake. Pain, outrage, and fear chased themselves across his face just before he roared and burst into a cloud of dust.

 

               Spike raised an eyebrow at the girl still kneeling beside him, and she grinned wickedly.

 

              “What did you do, pet?”

 

              “I cheated,” she said smugly. 

 

              “Goes without sayin’.” He grinned back at her. “But how?”

 

              “I put holy water in all the water glasses.”

 

              “Good on you, then,” he responded, getting painfully to his feet and pulling her up with him.  “Should have known you wouldn’t need my help for one ugly vamp.”

 

              They stood staring at each other, neither one making a move to get closer together or further apart until Spike finally burst out,  “Bloody hell!  It’s been too long.”

 

               He pulled her into his body, lifting her off her feet as he dipped his head toward the lips he’d thought never to see or taste again.  The kiss was tentative at first, the vampire not sure what his reception was going to be; the girl wondering if he came back only to save her and would walk out of her life again now that the crisis was averted.

 

                Before their brains could process the emotions being stirred, their bodies were already responding and the kiss deepened almost by itself as they let their instincts free to make the decisions.  By the time a breathless Giles and a stubborn Joyce Summers had burst through the front door, crossbows at the ready, Buffy and Spike were oblivious to anything but each other.

 

               It took a large amount of throat clearing by the watcher and an indignant, “Buffy!  William!” from Joyce to penetrate the pleasant, lustful fog into which the two lovers had fallen.  With a loud sigh, Spike reluctantly set Buffy back on her feet and relaxed his grip. When she moved away with a sheepish smile at her mother, he let go completely, standing uncomfortably with his arms at his sides.

 

            “Are you all right, Mom?” Buffy asked anxiously, feeling a sharp twinge of guilt that she had temporarily forgotten that her mother had been a captive.   “How did you get loose?”

 

            “William untied me and sent me outside.  And Rupert, here, expected me to stay out there while you were locked in with that monster!” she finished with a glare at Buffy’s watcher.

 

              “Did he also tell you he’s the one responsible for makin’ Buffy lose her powers and settin’ up this little test?”

 

              There were matching gasps from the two women and they turned identical wounded looks on the mortified watcher.  The scowl Giles shot at the glaring vampire promised a staking as soon as he could arrange it, but when Spike’s expression evolved into an equally deadly promise of retribution for his putting Buffy in danger, the older man backed down immediately.

 

             “Buffy…Joyce…I cannot begin to tell you how sorry I am about all this.  I had no idea they were using such a formidable vampire for Buffy’s Cruciamentum.  It is almost as though Quentin was TRYING to get her killed…”

 

               “He was,” Spike said flatly. “The flunky told me so before I dusted him. She was never meant to walk out of here.   And you set her up for them,”

he finished quietly, unconsciously reaching for Buffy’s hand and pulling her closer as though to protect her from her own watcher.

 

                  Giles’ face was a study in confusion, dismay, horror, and finally a quiet anger. “I see,” was all he said in response, but there was no sign of the gentle bookworm in the man’s demeanor as he ushered them out the door.  “Let us be gone from this unpleasant place.  I will be needing to make some phone calls immediately.”

 

                Buffy and Spike turned down his offer of a ride, the vampire pointing out that his own car was hidden in the back yard and needed to be moved before the rest of the “Council wankers” showed up to pick up the bodies.  Joyce looked back and forth between the two superbeings holding hands so tightly, then sighed and nodded.  The glimpses into Buffy’s life that she’d had over the past year had given her an unwelcome but clear understanding of exactly how not normal her daughter’s world was, and she had no doubt that her disapproval of the girl’s relationship with a much older vampire would be met with the scorn it deserved.

 

                When Giles appeared about to argue, she poked him and said, “Leave them alone. You have enough to deal with explaining to me why I shouldn’t ask Spike to kill you for endangering my daughter like that.  If I don’t like the explanation, I may do it myself,” she added, waving the crossbow in his face.

 

                Spike’s laughter as he and Buffy went around the building to find his car drifted back to them and they heard his chuckled, “Looks like you’re a bit of a chip off the old block, pet.”

 

                 They walked quietly for a few seconds, savoring the joy of being together again, before Buffy spoke suddenly.

 

                “Did you really come back to save me?” she asked quietly.

 

                “Well, yeah.  As soon as I heard the story about this barbaric test and that your birthday was coming up, I took off.  Got here as soon as I could, but it almost wasn’t fast enough.”  His eyebrows came together in a frown as he considered how close she had come to dying and he squeezed her hand a little tighter.

 

                “And now?”

 

                “What do you mean, ‘and now?’ “ he asked with genuine bewilderment.  “Jus’ got here, didn’t I? I don’t really know what now.  I guess that depends on you, love,” he said more softly, looking at her out of the corners of his eyes.

 

                  Dropping his hand, she marched toward his car, not turning to look at him as she responded, “So, you’re not going running back to wherever you were?”  She tried to keep her voice even and not allow the fear or hope to show through, but she couldn’t control her heartbeat and he felt it speed up.

 

                “Not unless you tell me to, Slayer,” he answered quietly.  “There’s nothing for me there.  Everything I care about is right here in this miserable town.”

 

                 “I’m not a Slayer right now, Spike.  Will you still want me if I don’t have my powers?  Giles promised I’d get them back pretty soon, but what if I don’t? What if I’m not the Slayer anymore?  What if my blood couldn’t heal you?  What if I can’t keep up when you want to---mmmmmph!”

 

                  Deciding the best way to show her he would still want her, powers or no, he pulled her in for another lengthy kiss, one that went on until she was whimpering and clinging to him with both legs wrapped around his waist.  Gasping unnecessarily, he pulled his mouth away and fought to get the back door of the car open.

 

                 He stumbled into the car’s wide backseat, pinning Buffy to the upholstery while he tried to fit a hand between them.  Her own hand was trying to get his jeans unfastened but having no more success than he was squeezing between their two tightly-glued bodies.  With a frustrated growl, he lifted himself up on his arms and pushed her skirt up, ripping through her underwear before popping the snap on his own jeans and yanking down the zipper.

 

              As soon as he was free, Buffy yanked him back down, using her heels to pull him into her in one quick move.  She wriggled her hips until he was as deeply seated as she could get him, then she stopped moving and sighed in happiness.

 

              “I missed you,” she whispered against his mouth. ”Missed you so much.”

 

             “I missed you, too, love.  You have no idea how badly I wanted to come back here.”

 

              “What did you do with Dru?  Did you bring her back too?”

 

               “No, pet. That’s done.  She’s never forgiven me for letting you take away her precious ‘daddy’. She doesn’t want me… and I don’t want her anymore.”

 

              While they talked, he began rocking his hips gently, letting the sensations build slowly for both of them.  He buried his nose in her neck, inhaling the scent he’d tried to keep fresh in his mind for almost a year.  Taking the soft skin of her neck in his mouth and sucking on it, he pulled the sweet smelling blood to the surface, carefully keeping his demon under control.  Buffy arched her neck, moaning softly as his lips pulled gently on her skin.  All she could think about was the way she had felt when he pulled blood from her while they were making love and she unconsciously pulled him in tighter, forcing his teeth against her throat.

 

             “Ah, no, love. Not now.  Not here.  Not like this.”

 

             “You don’t want to bite me if I don’t have my powers?”

 

              The pain and uncertainty in Buffy’s voice tore at his heart as he realized he was behaving just as she been afraid he would.

 

             “No, sweetheart, please believe me, that’s not it at all.  But it’s been so bloody long, and I’ve dreamed of this so often – I’m afraid, love.  Afraid of how badly I want to taste you again. I came so close to taking too much the first time…”

 

            “I trust you,” she said softly.  “I know you won’t hurt me.  Especially not now, while I’m not…” She gasped as he touched the spot she’d never thought anyone would find again and she unconsciously squeezed him tightly.

 

             “Guh!  Are you sure you don’t have your powers, love?  Because that didn’t feel like…”

 

              “No, I still feel weak – I just…I missed you so much…Please, William, please…”

 

              As she approached her orgasm, she clutched him and begged for the ecstasy that he could provide with his fangs.  He could feel his own release building, unable to control himself after a year of dreaming of the very liquid being offered so willingly.  With a groan, he sank his elongated fangs into the soft skin, unerringly finding the faded scars from his first bite.  With a cry, she arched against him, shaking and sobbing as waves of pleasure washed over her.

 

             Spike exploded into her, the taste of her blood adding to the incredible sensation of having her warm body around him again.  Other than a faint trace of the drugs her Watcher had been giving her, Buffy’s blood tasted and felt no different than what he remembered from the year before.  He took only a few deep draughts, enough to leave them both trembling and teary as they recovered.

 

            As he carefully licked the tiny wounds closed, he murmured against her throat, ”I love you so much, Buffy. Want you to make you mine forever.”

 

             “I don’t have forever,” she murmured back, curious about the odd sensation that had shot through her body at his word.  “But I’m yours if you want me.”

 

             When Spike’s body trembled against her and there was no mistaking the magic flowing around them, she heard him mutter,  “Bloody hell.  I am a soddin’ idiot.”

 

              He pushed up on his arms again, leaving their bodies still intimately connected. 

 

               “I’m sorry, love.  I didn’t mean for that to happen.”

 

              “You didn’t mean for what to happen?” she asked, her lower lip coming out in a pout.  “And what do you mean, you’re an idiot? For what?  For—for…loving me?  Is that why you’re an idiot?”  Her eyes began to swim with unshed tears as she thought she heard him say that he was sorry they’d made love.

 

                “Not sorry for loving you.  Could never be sorry for that, sweetheart. I’m sorry I opened my big mouth and said it at the wrong time, is all.”

 

               “So,” she said, making a shrewd guess, “that strange tingling I felt wasn’t just because you’re so good at sex?”

 

                “ ‘Fraid not, pet.” He grinned in spite of himself.  “That was a claim.  The demon…no, not the demon, me – I said the words that would bind you to me while we were still---“ he wriggled his hips against her to emphasize what they were “still”--- and with having my mouth on your neck like that… I’m sorry, love.  I really didn’t mean to do that to you.”

 

                    “Why not?”

 

                  Her forthright question took him aback a bit, and he struggled to answer it thoroughly without frightening her.

 

                 “Because a vampire claiming ritual establishes a bond that lasts for life.  It only goes away when one of the mated pair dusts.  And usually, so I’m told, the one left behind walks into the sunlight soon after.  You’re only eighteen years old, Buffy. Barely old enough to be legally married, never mind shackled to a demon for the rest of your life.  Even if I thought it was a good idea, I would never intentionally do anything like that to you without talking about it first and giving you a chance to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”

 

                   “Not to mention the back seat of an old car isn’t the most romantic place for a lifelong pledge,” she said dryly.

 

                  “That too,” he agreed sadly, waiting for the anger he was expecting to see when she fully realized what had happened to her.

 

                    The anger didn’t materialize, although she did nudge him hard enough that he took the hint and reluctantly pulled out of her warmth, tugged her skirt down and helped her sit up.  He zipped his pants and backed out of the still-open door, saying gruffly, “Let’s get out of here, pet.  We can sort this out when we don’t have to worry about a squad of tweed-wearing Council wankers showing up any minute.”

 

                  Nodding her head in agreement, Buffy slid across the seat and out the door, only to get right back into the front through the door Spike was holding open for her. She slid across the large seat just far enough to let Spike in behind the steering wheel, putting her hand on his thigh possessively as he started the car and drove out of the yard.

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-Two

 

 

                    The ride to her house was quiet, the vampire worried that he might have done something to irreparably damage their relationship, the Slayer trying to absorb the idea that she could be “mated” for life to this man she really hadn’t known very long.  Only the fact that sitting beside him, touching him, feeling his spendings on her inner thighs felt so very right and special kept her from wigging out.

 

                

            The watcher’s car was still in the driveway when they arrived and Buffy pushed open the front door to find her mother holding a finger to her lips for silence and Giles yelling at someone on the phone, “I don’t care what kind of a meeting you say the bloody bastard is in, you tell him Rupert Giles wants to speak to him right now! “

 

              When he turned around to see who had entered, Buffy and Spike could see that he had the beginnings of a black eye, as well as blood on his lip, to which he was holding a piece of ice.

 

              While Buffy stared at her mother in wonder, Spike gave the embarrassed woman a grin and a thumbs-up behind the Slayer’s back.  They stood awkwardly in the hallway until with a murmured explanation to Spike, Buffy hastily went up the stairs to her room to find some underwear and clean off her legs. If her mother wondered why Buffy didn’t just use the downstairs bathroom, she didn’t say so, just gesturing for the vampire to come in and sit down.

 

                Apparently the person to whom the Watcher wished to speak had been found as he was now using large amounts of British-flavored profanity to berate the unseen person. 

 

                 “I don’t care how ‘undisciplined’ you think she is, you bloody pillock. She has already outlived most slayers and was able to take care of your intended assassin as well.  If you ever,” his voice dropped to a flat, cold murmur, “attempt to harm my Slayer again, I will make you pay in ways you will wish you had never learned.  Do we understand each other, Quentin?  And you can take that half-baked apology and shove it up your arse!”

 

               There was a short pause, then Giles said clearly, “I bloody well can talk to you like that.  I am no longer your employee.  I quit. Do you hear me you miserable wanker?  I no longer work for you and neither does Buffy.  You would do well to keep your employees out of Sunnydale from now on.  After,” he added, “they pick up the bodies left behind by your less-than-tame vampire.”

 

               He hung up the phone decisively, turning around just in time to see Buffy come into the room and run to hug her mother.  When his surrogate daughter turned to face him with eyes that managed to express rage, pain and incredible disappointment all at the same time, he could only hang his head in abject apology.

 

               “I will understand if you choose not to forgive me, Buffy,” he said quietly.  “But I would hope that you will give me another chance to prove to you how extremely sorry I am and how truly important you are to me.”

 

                “Did you just quit the Council?”