Meanwhile, Back at the Hellmouth....

 

We begin with the last few lines from Pop Goes the Weasel – in which we left Winterset’s Spike and Buffy too busy to notice they had received a note from “our” Spike and Buffy.

 

“ Well, this delectable body might have somethin’ to do with it….” He pushed himself up on his arms and gazed down at her.  “Might have a whole lot to do with it now that I think about it….”

 

“Prove it,” she challenged.

 

“Oh, you’re on, Slayer.  Hang on to your hat.”

 

“Rather hang on to you,” she said as he skimmed out of his clothes and pressed himself against her.

 

“That works too.”

 

They never heard the tiny pop that was the note from Sunnydale’s Buffy appearing on the kitchen table.

 

 

~~~~~~~Back in Sunnydale.....

 

 

“So, where’s the answer? I thought you took the note yesterday?”

 

Dawn rolled her eyes. “Contrary to what you guys seem to think, I have other things to do besides pop in and out of dimensions delivering messages. It wasn’t anything important, so I—”

 

“Not important!  What do you mean, not important!” Behind Buffy’s back, Spike was making throat-cutting gestures at Dawn and shaking his head vigorously. When Buffy whirled to glare at him, he adopted an air of innocence that did nothing to fool her. “Don’t you think it’s important?” The look on her face had him sending a quick glance around the room to be sure there were no pointy wooden objects close by.

 

“Of course, I think it’s important, love. How can you doubt it? Took you out for a romantic dinner, got down on one knee, gave you a ring... Didn’t I do it up right when I asked you to marry me? How can you doubt how important it is to me?”

 

“Well, you aren’t being very supportive about it,” she muttered. “Every time I try to ask you something important, like... like what color the tablecloths should be, you go running off on some stupid errand. I don’t think you really care if we have a nice wedding or not.” She crossed her arms and tapped her foot as she waited for him to defend himself. 

 

Spike took a deep breath and stepped close enough to put his arms around her unyielding body. Ignoring her frown, he held her close and nibbled on her neck before taking her earlobe in his teeth and biting it gently. His grip tightened as he spoke, ignoring Dawn’s presence.

 

“Buffy, Slayer, love of my life, I don’t care what color the tablecloths are. I don’t care about anything except that the woman I would have been happy to get a crumb from is willing to marry me.  That you said yes when I asked you to be mine in the eyes of the whole bloody world – not to mention two other worlds....  that means more to me than any trappings that go with making that happen. And I know this is important to you, and that you want to be all girlie and bride-like about it, but you have to know, the most important thing to me is that we’re going to be married. Anything else is icing on the cake.  Don’t bloody care what color the icing is, or who else is there to eat cake. All I care about is you.”

 

He kept his grip on her arms until she nudged his chin with her head. “Are you holding me because you love me, or because you think if you let go I might beat you to a pulp?”

 

“Bit of both,” he admitted, smiling down at her in what he hoped was an appealing fashion.  “Just don’t want you brassing off your sister over something we’ve got plenty of time to sort out”

 

“I’m turning into a bridezilla, aren’t I?” she said, sighing and relaxing against his chest. She remained there for several minutes while he murmured in her ear and left kisses all over her face. Finally she exhaled and pushed him away. Turning to Dawn, who had begun clearing her throat impatiently, she smiled.  “I’m sorry, Dawnie.  Of course there’s no rush. All I did was ask them to save the date and tell them the invitation would be there later.”

 

“No problem,” Dawn replied, giving Spike a grateful smile.  “I’ll let you know as soon as we get a reply.  I’m sure they’ll be all excited for you.”

 

“I wish they could step out of those bubbles,” Buffy said. “How awesome would it be to have myself as my maid of honor?”

 

“Hey! I’m your maid of honor!”

 

“Of course, you are,” Buffy soothed, backtracking quickly. “I was just saying...”

 

“You were just saying you’d rather hog all the attention. I’m leaving now. Tell Mom I said hi.” Dawn tossed her hair back, waved at Spike, and stepped into her waiting portal.  In the time since she’d first learned how to travel between dimensions, she’d perfected her ability until she could pretty much come and go as she pleased.  She no longer needed her blood to open the portals; now she just spit on the ground where she wanted one to open.

 

Buffy watched it wink out of sight and sighed heavily. 

“Well, that didn’t go the way I planned it to....”

 

“She’ll be alright, love. I imagine it’s a bit of stretch even for Niblet to be bouncing back and forth tryin’ to help plan a wedding.”

 

“For a bridezilla,” Buffy said, giving him a look clearly meant to elicit a denial. Being Spike, he ignored her hint to lie.

 

“Doesn’t help, that.”

 

Her eyes narrowed.

 

“You’re supposed to tell me how impressed you are with how well I’m handling all this stress.”

 

“Buffy... sweetheart... darling girl....” He sighed and shook his head.  “There is no stress except what you’re creating by wanting everything to be so perfect.  You’d think it was your bloody first Thanksgiving dinner or something!”

 

“My wha—? Oh. It went so well this time around, I forgot you were there for that disaster.” 

 

“Was. Tied up nicely in a chair, as I recall.  While you ran around smashing potatoes and making pies and bears.”

 

“Don’t remind me.” She shuddered. “It was awful! Xander with his syphilis, you showing up wanting me to help you because Harmony threw you out. Stupid Indians and their stupid curses and magic, bear-making knives...”

 

He put his arms around her again and pulled her into a tight hug.  “And you handled it all. Killed the bear, got rid of the curses, and still put a right nice meal on the table. If you could handle all that, I’ve got complete faith in your ability to handle this wedding. It will be perfect... or near enough to that nobody but you will know.”

 

“You know you’ve probably just jinxed the whole thing, right? Whatever goes wrong will be all your fault!”

 

“Never doubted that for a minute,” he said, bouncing away from her indignant attempt to hit him and laughing at her. Buffy did her best to remain angry, but the adoration in his eyes and the grin on his face made it difficult.

 

“Just so you hold that thought,” she said in a face-saving grumble.  “Let’s go find some vampires for me to work out my stress on. Otherwise it might be you.”

 

“One stress-relieving slaying, coming right up,” he agreed, grabbing his coat off a chair and walking to the weapons chest. He opened it and surveyed the contents. “What’s your pleasure, love?” He gestured at the assortment of stakes and swords.

 

She frowned into the chest and thought.

 

“Stakes, of course. But probably swords too? Or maybe a rocket launcher?”

 

The reminder that in spite of Buffy’s knowledge about the Initiative, and Giles and the Council’s ability to bring it to the attention of the US Government, the operation had not been shut down yet, and that they hadn’t been able to prevent Adam from becoming viable brought a growl from Spike.  Without her relationship with Riley—and hadn’t that been fun, trying to be friendly enough to get Riley to trust her, without making Spike so jealous he got himself captured while stalking them everywhere they went—Buffy hadn’t had enough access to the Initiative facility to interfere with Adam’s creation.  As a result, evening patrols were just as apt to encounter hard-to-kill cyborgs as they were vampires or demons. 

 

So far, those they ran into were usually alone and not as invulnerable as Buffy knew Adam to be, but they still required something stronger than a stake to their non-existent hearts.  Spike laughed, but left the one-shot weapon in the box and handed Buffy a sword.

 

“Long as we can lop the head off, we can slow them down enough to take out the power supply.”

 

Buffy nodded and put the sword in its harness on her back.  “Yeah, I know. But fighting these guys every night – not to mention all the vampire and demons minions he’s collecting – is putting a serious crimp in my wedding preparation time.  If the Council doesn’t light a fire under the Army pretty soon, we’re going to have to go after Adam ourselves.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

Adam’s continued successful attempts to increase the size of his army eventually made it imperative that Buffy take Riley into her confidence – at least insofar as what she knew about Adam was concerned. But only when some of their friends had been turned into minor cyborgs, had Buffy felt comfortable bringing Riley and Graham to a Scooby meeting where Giles could tell them what they knew about the organization and what could happen if the lab wasn’t shut down quickly. Their refusal to tell the soldiers exactly how Buffy knew so much about them wasn’t going over well.

 

“Let me get this straight... you are something called ‘the Slayer’, and because of that, you know all this stuff about our... projects?”  Riley was dividing his attention between Buffy and the man leaning against the wall in the back of the shop. The man who never took his eyes off Riley, except to glare at Graham occasionally. There was something about that cold stare that made hairs on Riley’s neck stand up.

 

“I’m sorry, Buffy. I mean, I’ve seen you in action. I know you’re not the average Sunnydale U coed, but I truly don’t see how in hell you could know anything about what’s going on in our labs—” A full-throated snarl from the “man” against the wall had both Riley and Graham reaching for their guns.

 

“We both know more about your torture chambers than you can imagine,” Spike said, pushing off the wall and stalking toward them. “So shut your trap and listen to the woman who’s trying to clean up your mistakes.”

 

Buffy had gotten between Spike and Riley as soon as she heard the snarl, putting a hand on his chest and halting his progress toward the two men just realizing what he was.  “Not helping, Spike,” she said. “Now I have to explain you.”

 

“Explaining why somebody who calls herself a ‘vampire slayer’ has one in her little gang of vigilantes might be a good thing right about now,” Riley said, having replaced his gun with a stake. “Is there a reason why I shouldn’t stake him?”

 

“Because I won’t let you,” Buffy said, simultaneously with Spike’s “Bring it on, Captain America. I’m not so toothless now.”

 

The standoff was interrupted by the loud pop that always announced Dawn’s arrival. While Riley and Graham gaped at the girl who had just appeared in their midst, Buffy rolled her eyes and Giles groaned.

 

“Oops?”  Dawn noticed the two strangers and gave Buffy an apologetic shrug. “Sorry?”

 

“No worries, Bit,” Spike said, giving her his usual greeting hug as she stepped out of the portal. “You probably just kept the toy soldier from having his head ripped off.”

 

“Hi, and ewwwww!” She looked around at the still gawking soldiers.  “Riley? Hey! How are you?”

 

“D... do I know you?” Riley shook his head, absently filing away the information that only he and Graham seemed surprised to see someone arrive in a bubble that disappeared when she waved her hand.

 

“Oh – well, no... I guess you don’t. But you will... or maybe not,” she added, remembering that Buffy was very much with Spike in this dimension.  She sighed and looked at Buffy. “Is this not a good time?”

 

Giles answered for Buffy. “I suppose, given that it seems we’re going to need to provide more of an explanation than what we had hoped to get away with, the arrival – in such unusual fashion – of someone who can vouch for what we’re going to share, has to be considered a beneficial surprise.” He turned to Riley and Graham. “Gentlemen, this is Buffy’s younger sister, Dawn. Please sit down and keep your minds open to what you are going to hear.”

 

Sending suspicious glares at Spike, who at Buffy’s urging had retreated to his place against the wall and was talking to Dawn in low tones, they reluctantly pulled out chairs and sat. They were careful to remain closer to the door than anyone else in the room, but when everyone except Spike and Dawn had found a chair around the table, they gradually relaxed.

 

“So, what don’t we know?” Graham tried to take over from a still shocked Riley, and addressed his question to both Buffy and Giles.

 

Buffy waved her hand at Giles. “You tell them. You can use big words and make it sound all scientific and stuff.”

 

Giles nodded. “I’ll do my best.” He focused on the two men looking at him expectantly.  “You do understand what Buffy is, do you not?” They nodded uncertainly.

 

“She has some kind of enhancements that make her stronger than normal girls. So, she hunts vampires and demons, just like we do. She’s a demon hunter – or vampire slayer, I guess.”

 

“Well, that is her title, but the job is a bit more complicated than that. She is, for want of a better term, the world’s protector. Not only is she charged with slaying vampires and demons—”

 

 “Evil demons!” Buffy interrupted.

 

“—evil demons, but she also thwarts attempts to take over or end the world – regardless of the source of those attempts. For whatever reason, no doubt related to the Hellmouth...” He waited for them to acknowledge their familiarity with Sunnydale’s least popular tourist attraction. “... some sort of potential world-ending event seems to occur every spring. We refer to them as apocalypses – and Buffy has become quite expert at preventing them.”

 

“How ‘expert’ can someone who is younger than we are be?” Clear disbelief was on both faces.

 

There were groans all around the table, while Spike and Dawn snickered from their place in the back.

 

“See,” Buffy said. “Here’s where it gets really... really weird.”

 

Riley gave a cynical smile. “Are you planning to tell us that you’re really a hundred-year-woman in a nineteen-year-old body?”

 

Buffy cocked her head at him, her demeanor changing until, in spite of the youthfulness of her face, it was obvious she was not a teenager.

 

“No. I’m not a hundred – and I doubt I ever will be.  That kind of lifespan doesn’t come with my job description—“ She paused to smile at Spike who had muttered a protest. “Although I’m doing way better than most slayers, thanks partly to all the help I’ve had.” She waved her hand around the room, including not only Giles, but everyone, including Spike and Dawn.

 

“What I am,” she continued, pulling their attention back on her, “is the Buffy who lives—lived in Sunnydale in a different dimension from this one. A dimension in which it’s already 20...”

 

She raised an eyebrow at Dawn who responded, “2006. I don’t know why you can’t remember that....”

 

“2006,” Buffy said. “So, the me that I am...inside... is a lot older and has already lived through three apocalypses here, four more there... and had people I care about die in one more somewhere else.” She glanced at Spike briefly, smiling when he waved.

 

“And we’re supposed to believe that?”

 

Buffy heaved a sigh and began to describe to them as much as she could remember of layout of the Initiative, Lowell House and it’s secret entrance, Adam and his cyborg assistants, and his plan to dominate the world and fill it with his own creations. She paused only long enough to take a deep breath and then told Riley some personal things about himself that the Buffy he thought he knew could not possibly have known.

 

“You both watched Dawn come through the portal. That’s how she goes back and forth between here and the dimension I... left.”

 

“You’re from another dimension too?” They both looked at Dawn who had approached the table when she heard her name.

 

“Yep. When Buffy disappeared, it took us a long time to find out where she’d gone, and then when we found her, we didn’t know how to bring her back. Turned out I have some... skills... that allow me to hop through dimensions. So, I lost my sister in my world, but I can visit her whenever I want to here.  Works out okay – except that I can’t borrow her clothes anymore.”

 

“You couldn’t borrow my clothes anyway, you freak of nature,” Buffy muttered at her now much taller sister. Dawn just stuck out her tongue and sat in one of the chairs.

 

“I don’t understand how you know all that stuff...” Riley shook his head in disbelief, while Graham nodded.  “Not just the stuff about the Initiative, which is supposed to be top, top secret, but about me. How do you know all that stuff about me?”

 

Buffy bit her lip and glanced at Spike who was staring at them with a carefully blank expression on his face. She turned back to Riley and blushed as she said, “In the other Sunnydale, the one where it’s much later than this, we were... together... for a while. Like boyfriend/girlfriend together.”

 

He perked up and smiled at her. “Well, that’s encouraging. It’s not like I haven’t been trying to get you to go out with me. What did I do differently in your... world?”  He choked out the word and shrugged. “Sorry. I’m still trying to wrap my brain about that whole idea of another dimension.”

 

“Actually, there are three dimensions – that we know of right now.” Dawn grinned at Riley when he gawked at her.

 

“Three?”

 

“Well, yeah. But one of them isn’t much like here. It’s kind of the anti-Sunnydale. It’s where the Buffy and Spike from this dimension got sent when my Spike and Buffy got put here.”

 

Riley rubbed his temples and frowned. “So, every dimension has it’s own Buffy... and....” He waved his hand at Spike.

 

“No.” Dawn’s face fell. “My world doesn’t have either one of them anymore. Spike was dust, and Buffy just got whisked away to here. I can only talk to them when I visit. Same thing for the other Spike and Buffy. Although they don’t care as much, because they didn’t know me until I showed up in their front yard....”

 

“I’m sure there’s an explanation for that, and I’m also sure my brain probably couldn’t take it just now.” He smiled at Dawn to show he wasn’t dismissing her, but then turned back to Buffy.  “Same question, though. If we were together in your world, why aren’t we dating now? What’s different?”

 

Buffy met his hopeful eyes firmly and said, “I am. And Spike is.”

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

“The vampire?”

 

“Spike isn’t your average vampire,” Buffy said evenly, as she stared into Riley’s disgusted eyes.  “He also isn’t the Spike I met when I first got to this dimension. He’s the Spike from my—Dawn’s—dimension, who died trying to stop another apocalypse and was sent back to me as a reward.” At Riley’s “But you—” she interrupted him. “A reward for both of us.  And for this world.” She stopped and dared Riley to contradict her.  When it seemed that he might, Giles stepped in.

 

“I seems that part of the Powers That Be’s plan for Spike and Buffy is for them to use their hard-won knowledge of the dangers that will arise here, to, if not eliminate them entirely, at least mitigate their ability to cause havoc. It has worked out fairly well, so far. Life here is not without its dangers and potential world-ending events; however, so far they have been able to proactively step in and change the course of events enough to avoid any near-disasters. It is our hope that, with your help, she can do the same thing with Adam. Any suggestions you may have would be more than welcome.”

 

Riley focused on the parts that mattered to him as he ignored Giles in favor of asking Buffy, “Your reward was a vampire? For what? Extra muscle? Couldn’t they just give Xander superpowers or something? I don’t understand how that could be a reward. It would be like handing you a hot coal and saying, ‘Here, don’t burn yourself.’”

 

Buffy rolled her eyes, and turned to look at Spike before answering. His posture was more relaxed than she expected, but the stony expression on his face told her to choose her words very carefully. Forgoing the news about his soul for a while, she turned back to Riley.

 

“In our world, Spike has helped me with almost every apocalypse since he showed up when I was only a junior in high school. I’m not saying we were always best buddies, but I came to trust him and to depend on his help. And fighting together gave us a chance to...” She stopped and stood up, glaring across the table. “You know what? Here’s the bottom line: Spike is my fiancé. We’re getting married in a couple of months. That’s really all you need to know. How we got here, and how long it took us to reach this point, is really none of your business. All you need to know is that he earned the right to be here just like I did—the hard way. And it’s got nothing to do with taking down Adam, except that, that needs to happen before it can screw up my wedding.”

 

Xander gave Riley a sympathetic pat on the shoulder as he removed himself to hide behind the counter. “Bridezilla is in the house. Adam doesn’t stand a chance.”

 

Buffy turned her glare on Xander, then back to Riley. “So, are you going to be helpful or are you going to get out of my way?”

 

One look around the room, where everyone, including the vampire, was trying to avoid making eye contact with Buffy, and Riley and Graham got to their feet and began inching toward the door.

 

“Helpful. We’ll try to be helpful. Right now, I think we need to go talk about all this and think about what’s the best thing to do.  We don’t know what Adam’s vulnerabilities are yet. He doesn’t seem to have any.”

 

“His power supply is in his chest. I just need to get to him so I can rip it out and he’s done.”

 

“How do you know that?”

 

“It’s what I did in my world. Dig, yank, toss, and watch monster fall down go boom.”

 

“G...good to know.” Casting frightened glances over their shoulders at Buffy’s satisfied expression, Riley and Graham left the store as quickly as they could.

 

~~~~~~~~

 

There was a short silence after they left, then Xander broke it.  “Well, that went well, don’t you think?”

 

“They probably think we’re all insane,” Buffy said with a sigh. “But maybe when they’ve had time to think about it—”

 

“They’ll be sure of it,” Willow said.  “Think about it. Would we believe it? Alternate dimensions, portals, portal hopping sisters, future Buffys, dead future Spikes.... have I left anything out?”

 

“I think it was Buffy’s enthusiasm for ripping out what is essentially Adam’s ‘heart’ that brought on their hasty retreat,” Giles said with a wry smile. 

 

“That’s my girl!” Spike put his arm around Buffy and beamed at her.  She elbowed him in the ribs, mumbling something about “bad influences”, but her lips quirked in a smile.

 

“In the meantime, let’s go patrol in case Adam’s been out there recruiting....”

 

“Does he actually go out?” Willow asked.  “I mean, seems like if he wanted to, he could just tramp around Sunnydale smushing anything that got in his way —even you.”

 

“Trust me, in my time, he ‘smushed’ me pretty damn hard. I’m not really sure why that punch didn’t kill me.”

 

“Cough, hard head, cough, cough.”

 

Buffy glared at Spike, who had wisely retreated to a spot near the door, before saying, “But you’re right. Now that I think about it, I’m surprised he doesn’t go out more. I wonder if there’s some reason he has to stay close to where he was created?”

 

“That is certainly something worth exploring, Buffy. If we discover that is true, perhaps Riley and his men can ensure that all the humans are safely out and we can destroy the complex and all within it.”

 

“Blow it up?”  Xander and Spike exchanged delighted looks.

 

Giles sighed. “Yes, children. Blow it up. Preferably without taking out the entire campus of Sunnydale University.  Willow will you—”

 

“I’m on it!” Willow bent over her laptop and pulled up the blueprints she found for the underground facility.  After studying them over her shoulder for several minutes, Giles, Buffy and Spike straightened up and nodded at each other.

 

“Looks like most of the facility is under the woods.  Which makes sense. That’s where I got out – near a bunch of trees.  They hid that exit under sod after I escaped, but it was on the edge of the woods.”

 

“So, if we can make sure everybody is out of there...”

 

“And Riley’s guys can send in enough explosives....”

 

“Bad guy go boom, and I can go back to planning my wedding.  I like it!” Buffy concluded. “Let’s go find Riley and Graham and tell them.”

 

“You don’t think you’ve given them enough to think about already, Buffy?” Xander frowned, his serious expression giving her some pause. 

 

“But it’s a great idea! And we should do it now, before he does start coming out and walking around where we have to deal with him where more people could get hurt.”

 

“I believe Xander is—and you have no idea how it pains me to say this—correct, Buffy. You’ve given Riley and his friends some very difficult to believe information. They will need time to digest it, ask any questions they may have, and be confident that you know what you’re doing. Then, perhaps they will be willing to take suggestions that require them to trust you to know what you need them to do.”

 

Buffy’s shoulders slumped. “Party poopers,” she muttered, throwing herself into a chair. She sighed, then looked up at Dawn.  “Sorry, Dawnie. I got so side-tracked I didn’t even ask you what you were doing here. Is anything wrong?”

 

“No. Not really. I just thought I’d tell you that I have a message from the Winterset Buffy.” She took an envelope from her pocket and passed it across the table. “I didn’t talk to them, I just grabbed the envelope, so I don’t know what it says. But if anything was wrong, I think they would have waited for me to show up or left a note for me.”

 

Buffy opened the envelope, holding it so that Spike could read over her shoulder.  She scanned through the note twice, then smiled.  “It’s all good. She just says ‘Congratulations’ and that they’ll be here – even if they do have to stay inside a bubble.”

Buffy tilted her head back to look up at Spike. “Do you think it’ll give them any ideas?”

 

He laughed and kissed the tip of her nose.  “Dunno, love. That Spike doesn’t have the soul to make him care about things like legalities or morals or mothers who keep hinting that he make an honest woman of her daughter. And that Buffy’s a lot younger than you are. She may not be ready for something like marriage.”

 

Buffy rolled her eyes. “They’re mated Spike. Just like we are. They already claimed each other. I’d say if either one of them wasn’t ready for a commitment, it’s a little bit too late.”

 

“Point,” he said with a shrug. “Who knows – they’re us. They might have a few years of fighting ahead of them still.”

 

“Well, anyway. The important thing is, they’ll be here.”

 

“Okay, well if that’s all it was about, I’m going to take off again. We’re going out to dinner tonight and I need to get cleaned up.”

 

“Still see that Watcher wanker?” Spike asked, more to get a rise out of Dawn than because he was seeking actual information. As he’d expected, she bristled and glared at him.

 

“His name is George. And I’ll thank you to remember it. He might be your brother-in-law someday, you know.”

 

“Trust me when I tell you that the idea of another Summers wedding anytime within the next ten years is enough to make me want to—” He caught a glimpse of the thunderous look growing on Buffy’s face and stopped himself just in time.  “—to insist that I get to meet this young man so that I can give him a proper welcome to the family.” He beamed, pleased with what he considered a pretty good save, only to have Buffy smack the back of his head.

 

“Don’t think for one second that I don’t know what you were about to say. And if it was to throw yourself on a stake... well, that can be arranged.”

 

“An’ on that note, let’s take ourselves out of here and find you something to destroy that isn’t me.”  He held the door for her, waiting until she’d passed under his arm and out into the street before rolling his eyes at everyone in the shop.  “Coming, love,” he said as he shut the door behind them.

 

There was silence after they left, then everyone let out audible sighs of relief. 

 

“Who wants to start a pool on how long Spike stays undusty?” Xander looked around the room. “Aw, come on. Even if he turns into a bigger whipped wuss than he is, he’s still going to do something to piss her off before they can get married. I’ll say six weeks. Who else is in?”

 

The girls just shook their heads and turned away, leaving Xander and Giles staring at each other. “G-man? What do you think?”

 

“I think, based on what they’ve told us about their world, and what we saw here before this world’s Spike got sent away, that they’ve had many opportunities to kill each other since they first met and it has never happened. Clearly they are both capable of controlling any homicidal urges they may have, no matter how angry they may get.”

 

“You’re no fun,” Xander muttered, flopping into a chair.  “Hey, Dawn. What about you? You’ve known them longer than anybody here. What do you think?”

 

“I think you’re an idiot,” Dawn said. “I can’t believe I had a crush on you when I was little.”

 

“You think I’m an—wait, what? You had a crush on me?”

 

“I was ten. I got over it. About the time Spike came to town, I think...”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Okay then. Good to see you guys, but I do have a date waiting for me, so...” Dawn waved her hand and stepped into the portal that reopened right where it had opened.

 

“Wow,” Willow’s voice was awestruck. “It’s like it was waiting for you.”

 

“It was,” Dawn replied with a smile. “Bye, guys!”  There was another “pop” as she and the portal disappeared.

 

“That is so cool...” Willow stared wistfully at the bare spot.

 

“When I was a vengeance demon, I could teleport anywhere or any when I wanted to go,” Anya said with a sniff and a glare at Giles.

 

Remembering what Buffy had told him about Willow and magic in her world, Giles frowned at her obvious interest in Dawn’s portal-opening skills and made a mental note to suggest she spend more time training with him.

 

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

 

“I’ll bet you Harris is laying odds right now on how long it’ll be before you stake me,” Spike said, nudging her shoulder with his.  She made a humph noise and shoved him back.

 

“I wonder if the winner will split it with me if I pick their date to do it?”

 

“Is that your way of saying I should make myself scarce for the next few months?”

 

“It’s my way of saying you need to stop rolling your eyes when I try to talk about plans for the wedding and try to be... okay, helpful is probably too much to ask, but... supportive?”

 

He threw an arm over her shoulder and squeezed. “I’m sorry, love. Truly I am. You know I want this as much as you do – I just don’t know how to control my mouth sometimes.”

 

Sometimes?”

 

“Very funny, Slayer.”  He pulled her into a hug so that he could nibble on her neck and lick the place behind her ear that he knew made her heart race. “Sometimes I can do pretty amazing things with my mouth... would you like a little memory refresher?  Hmmmm?” 

 

Buffy gave her own answering hum of pleasure as he kissed and nibbled his way around all the skin he could get to on her neck and one shoulder. She was just about to suggest they pause for that promised refresher when she caught movement from the corner of her eye.  At the same instant, Spike’s head flew up and he snarled his challenge at the approaching cyborg. They broke apart, no conversation necessary as Spike drew his sword on Buffy’s left, and she yanked hers out of its harness on her back.  The half-human, half-machine creature didn’t slow down when he saw two people with weapons facing him, but just continued on his single-minded quest to destroy.

 

“I think I’ve met this guy before,” Buffy said, slicing at one arm, which did not fall off, but did dangle uselessly with several metallic-looking fibers clearly visible under the skin. Spike’s equally quick removal of the creature’s other arm, effectively disarming it when the arm and its built-in weapon fell to the ground, gave them the space they needed to get good swipe at its neck.

 

Buffy grunted when her powerful sweep only gashed the side of its neck, not severing the head as they’d been able to do with others they’d encountered.

 

“The bloody bastard is getting smarter,” Spike said, whirling his own sword at the other side of its neck. “He’s reinforcing the necks in them.”

 

“Crap! Keep him busy, will you?” 

 

Buffy moved around behind what used to be one of Riley’s squad members and stabbed her sword into the middle of its back, hoping it hadn’t occurred to Adam to reinforce the tissues surrounding the device that powered the body.  When the point of the sword penetrated the power pack, there was a bright flash and the sound of sparking electricity. Buffy flew backwards and landed on the ground, her hand still clutching the now-glowing metal sword. The cyborg shuddered and toppled forward, just missing Spike, who leapt around it to where Buffy was lying on the ground, groaning, having thrown the sword some distance away.

 

“Buffy! Talk to me, Slayer. Are you all right?”

 

“Do I look all right?” she whimpered, trying to sit up and failing miserably. “What the hell happened?”

 

“I think maybe poking metal objects you’re holding in your bare hand into a powerful battery might not be the best approach to these things,” he said, relaxing a little as he saw that she didn’t seem to be seriously harmed.  Putting his own sword where he could reach it easily, he knelt down and helped her to a sitting position.  “May want to leave the poking things into all that electricity to the bloke who’s already dead,” he said, his concerned expression belying his light tone.

 

“Yeah, okay. New plan, I keep them busy and you stab them in the battery with sharp metal objects.”  She reached a hand toward his face, cupping his cheek and smiling at him. “I’ll be fine,” she said. “Stop looking all worried. You know I’m tougher than that.”

 

“Doesn’t mean you can’t be electrocuted,” he said, growling softly as he nuzzled into her hand. He helped her to her feet, holding on to her until he was sure she could stay upright.  “Think that’s enough for one night. We should go home now. I can come back out later and dust a few vamps if I need to.”

 

Buffy shook her head. “Nope. Just because Riley knows you’re with me doesn’t mean you won’t get captured if I’m not with you.  It’s too dangerous with those guys all spooked by what’s happening to their friends. You’ll just be another vamp to them, and if they don’t dust you outright....”

 

“They’d put another chip in my head,” he finished for her. “Not gonna let that happen, pet.”

 

“If I go home, you come home,” she stated in her best “I’m the Slayer and you’d better listen” tone of voice.  Without waiting for an answer, she walked to the now immobile creature lying on the ground. Turning him over, she studied his face then sighed. “I think he used to be one of Riley’s guys... For-something... Forrest! That’s it. His name was Forrest.” She shrugged and glanced at Spike. “I don’t think he liked me very much – in our world or this one.”

 

“Bugger got what was comin’ to him then.” Spike nudged the body with his toe. “What do you want to do with him?”

 

“I think we’ll leave him here. If the police find him, it’ll give them kind of a heads-up, if his ex-buddies find him... well, that’ll be one more reason for them to want to help us, won’t it?”

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

When they reached the basement level apartment they’d rented not too far from Joyce’s gallery, Spike sniffed the air and growled.

 

“What?” Buffy immediately tensed up but left her sword in its harness. Her hand throbbed from the burn on it, and she didn’t really want to have to handle a weapon if she didn’t need to.

 

“Dunno,” he said, still sniffing.  “Somebody’s been here...” He put his key in the lock and pushed the door open, nostrils flaring as he inhaled the air from inside. “Don’t think they were inside,” he finally said, following Buffy in after a last scan of their surroundings.

 

The apartment was in the basement of a building housing a doughnut shop on the first floor and offices on the two floors above it, and on a street of equally commercial buildings. As a result, the neighborhood tended to be pretty deserted after early evening and it would be unusual for anyone to be walking near their somewhat secluded, ground-level entrance.

 

Buffy had turned on the lights, but did nothing else but shrug out of her sword harness and flop onto the couch.  Spike frowned at her.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

She waved her hand dismissively. “I’m okay. Just kinda still a little woozy.”

 

He sat down on the edge of the couch and picked up her hand. “Need to do something about this burn,” he said, kissing her palm so lightly she barely felt it. “Be right back.”

 

He went to the refrigerator and took out one of many handy cold packs that filled their freezer, bringing it back and handing it to her. Buffy smiled her thanks and wrapped her sore hand around it.  Spike threw his coat over a chair and sat on the couch, picking her feet up and placing them across his lap. He pulled her boots off and began to play with her toes, tickling her feet and making her giggle.

 

“Feeling better, love?”  He wriggled his eyebrows at her, even as he picked up the remote and turned on the TV. “Could tickle something else for you if you need a distraction...”

 

“What I need is for my head to stop spinning...” She gave him an apologetic smile. “But hold that thought, ‘K?”

 

He snorted. “Like you don’t know that thought never leaves my mind when you’re around.”

 

She laughed softly and shook her head.  “I don’t know what you’re going to do with yourself when I get old and—” Before he could protest that he would love her when she was bald and toothless, she sighed. “Guess that’s not really something I’m going to need to worry about, is it?”  She stared at him with suddenly frightened eyes. “Do you think the Powers plan to just keep bringing me back?  That I’m never going to be allowed to die for real?”

 

“Bloody hell, pet! Where did that come from?” He dropped the remote and gaped at her.   “The Powers that like to mess with people didn’t bring you back when you were dead. You can thank the witch for that.” He stopped and took a deep breath. “Although don’t expect me to ever be anything but happy that she did it. Hate that you didn’t get that rest you deserved, and never want to see you that miserable again, but I can’t ever be sorry you came back into my life. Don’t ask me to pretend to.”

 

“Yeah, but—”

 

“An’ this time, they didn’t resurrect you, they just sent you to a place where you’d have a better shot at being happy. And gave you a face-lift in process,” he said, grinning and ducking when she tried to hit him.

 

“Very funny,” Buffy muttered. “Are you perving on this younger body? Cause that would just be grounds for divorce before we even—”

 

“Slayer, I ‘perved’ on your body when you were a plump, juicy teenager, I lusted after it when you were all grown up with muscles and curves, I still wanted it when you were too thin from stress and working to save the world and I was all souled up and afraid to touch you. And I crave this version of it just as much as I did any of those other ones. But the most important thing about this one is that the woman I love is wearing it.” He peered at her and gave a wicked smirk. “That, and the fact that my grandsire didn’t get to put any scars on this one.”

 

Her hand automatically went to her neck, feeling first the relatively smooth skin on the right, and then the small raised area on the other side where Spike’s claiming bite marked her.

 

“You’re an ass,” she said, but she smiled anyway as she continued to stroke her scar.

 

“Ah, but I’m your arse,” he replied, touching own neck and smiling back at her. “All signed, sealed and delivered.”

 

“Come here.” Buffy tugged on his arms until he was stretched out on the couch on top of her. “I think I’m feeling better.” She wriggled beneath him and smiled at the delight on his face.

 

“Can’t argue with that,” he said, letting his weight press their bodies together. “If you felt any better, I’d probably just go off right here in my pants like a—“

 

“Kisses. Now.”

 

His silent response was all she could have wished for, and they had soon rolled off the couch in the process of removing the clothing getting in their way.  Spike was kissing his way down Buffy’s body, enjoying the way he could make her writhe just by moving his mouth and tongue from one spot to another, when they eventually heard a knock on the door.

 

Spike’s growl shook both their bodies, distracting Buffy so much she forgot what had caused it until the knocking got louder.  The sound of Dawn’s voice brought matching sighs of resignation, and Spike reached for his pants as Buffy shouted back.

 

“Hold your horses!” She left her clothes where they were and ran to grab a robe from the bedroom.

 

“Just get your clothes on and let me in. It’s dark out here and—” 

 

Spike was at the door, barefoot and with his jeans barely zipped, but sword in hand, before the scream ended. He threw the door open, blocking Buffy, who was still tying her robe as she came out, from seeing that Dawn was dangling from the hand of another cyborg wearing bits and pieces of Initiative fatigues.  They stood, frozen, knowing he could break Dawn’s neck before either of them could take him down.

 

“Can you—?”  With no way to answer Buffy’s question, Dawn just widened her eyes, then shut them and disappeared with her usual pop.  The cyborg was left staring at his now-empty hand, the expression on his face almost comical.  It faded to anger when Spike ran the point of a sword into his chest, causing the battery in there to spark and smoke.  With a grunt, Spike pushed harder and the battery exploded, sending him flying back into the apartment.

 

“Wow, what a kick!”  Spike grinned up at Buffy. “Think that may have started my old heart beating again.”

 

Once she saw Spike was all right, Buffy turned her attention back to the half-man, half-robot swaying in the doorway. As it listed toward her, she leapt into action.

 

“Oh no you don’t!” 

 

She shoved it backwards, away from the door, and watched with satisfaction as it toppled over.  Glancing up and down the street and seeing no one, Buffy darted out and began to drag the large body out of the alley and onto the road.  She left it in the middle of the street and ran back to her apartment before anyone could report seeing a half-naked woman dragging a body.

 

She closed and locked the door just as there was another pop and Dawn appeared in the living room.  Her sister glanced at the clothes still strewn around the floor and sighed.

 

“That,” she said, pointing to Spike’s bare chest and Buffy’s skimpy bathrobe, “is why I had to arrive outside instead of in here where I’d be nice and safe.”

 

“Sorry, Bit,” Spike mumbled, still looking a little buzzed from his jolt. “Nobody was expecting you back already. Thought you had a date?”

 

“I did—do have a date. But when I got back, I remembered the other reason I came in the first place, and I thought I’d have time to just pop in and out.”

 

Buffy laughed. 

 

“What?”

 

“Nothing. It’s just, usually when people use that expression, they don’t quite mean the way you do.  So, what’s the other thing?”

 

“Oh. The other thing is that I want to bring George to the wedding, and I wanted to make sure that’s okay before I tell him about it tonight.”

 

“Oh course it’s okay! I mean, I don’t know how much fun he’ll have standing around in a portal bubble, but....”

 

“He’ll be fine. It’s going to have to be a pretty big bubble to hold everybody, so he’ll have lots of company. I figure if I want him to be okay with two Buffys – neither one of which he’s ever met, a dead mom who’s just fine in this world, two Willows, two Xanders—”

 

“Think we get the picture, Bit. You’re going to be feeding him details a little bit at a time. Is that right?”

 

“Something like that. I mean, of course he already knows some stuff, but... yeah meeting everybody, including my vampire brother-in-law.... I’m going to work up to that gradually.”

 

“It’s fine, Dawn. We’re happy to have him.”  She leaned back against Spike who had wrapped his arms around her thinly-clad body and was leering at Dawn over her shoulder. Buffy giggled and smiled up at him before looking back at Dawn, who was rolling her eyes.

 

“You two are disgusting. You know that, right?”

 

“Don’t you have somewhere to be?” 

 

“I’m on my way. Trust me. I’ve seen all the bare body parts I want to.  Go back to whatever you were doing.”

 

“Bye, Bit!”

 

“Good night, Dawn”

 

Buffy was already turning to meet his kiss before the sound of the closing portal had faded.

 

“What say we take this to the bed?” Spike said, picking her up and beginning to walk to the other room while Buffy wrapped her legs around his waist and began to pepper his chest with kisses. “Hey now, don’t start without me,” he complained when she began to rub herself against him.

 

“Better hurry and catch up, then,” she replied, reaching for his zipper as he leaned over the bed to put her down.  By the time he followed her down to the mattress, his jeans were back on the floor and he was growling his impatience.

 

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

 

The sound of the phone broke into the dream Buffy was having where she was being escorted down the aisle by a cyborg in a tuxedo.  She awoke with a shudder and reached for the phone, but Spike already had it.

 

“This hour of the morning, this better be good,” he growled. His eyes narrowed, then he thrust the phone at Buffy. “It’s for you.” He got up and walked into the other room.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Buffy? Was that—

 

“Riley? What’s wrong? Did something happen?”

 

She heard him take a deep breath. “We need to talk,” he said. “We found Forrest this morning. Adam had changed him.”

 

“I know,” she said, as sympathetically as she could manage when talking to someone from the organization that produced Adam. “There’s another one of your men in the—” She paused and decided not to share her address with him. “—somewhere on Elder   Street, downtown. We saw it last night.”

 

Riley gave another sigh. “I know. We already removed the body. Something killed—something destroyed their batteries, but we don’t know what.”

 

“Swords.”

 

“Swor— You did it?”

 

“Well Spike and I did.”  There was a long silence, broken when Buffy said gently, “Riley, they weren’t your men anymore. They were already dead. Adam killed them and he was using their bodies.”

 

“I know.”

 

“So, where do you want to meet?  The Magic Box or somewhere else?”

 

“Somewhere else.  Can I talk to you without the vampire?”

 

“Why?”

 

“He’s a hostile. I can’t think of him as a person – and I don’t like the way he looks at me,” he added, his voice getting softer as he admitted his real reason.

“All right, Riley. Where do you want to meet me?” She could hear Spike growling in from the kitchen as he slammed the refrigerator door.  Arranging to meet Riley in an hour at the coffee shop, she hung up and got dressed.

 

 

 

“Are you going to be all right with this?”  She walked up behind Spike who was watching his blood spin around in the microwave. Buffy slid her arms around his waist and rested her head against his back.  “We need them, Spike. The longer we put this off, the more damage Adam can do, and bigger risk it will be to go in after him.”

 

“You heard him, pet. He doesn’t think I’m a person. Wanker would as soon stake me as not.”

 

“I think he’s afraid of you,” she said, nudging him with her nose. “And I can’t blame him. You do spend a lot of time glaring at him like he was the Riley from our world. This one hasn’t captured or chipped you, and he isn’t dating me. You’re blaming this Riley for stuff he hasn’t done and isn’t ever going to.”

 

“You think he’s afraid of me?” As she’d hoped, Spike chose to focus on that part of her explanation. He turned around in her embrace and put his own arms around her shoulders.  “Really?”

 

“Of course he is. All he knows about you is that you’re an old vampire and you obviously don’t like him. He doesn’t even know about your soul yet.”

 

“Gonna tell him?” he asked, letting go so he could turn back to the counter and take his warmed up blood out of the oven.

 

“I dunno. Maybe?” Buffy got down the cereal and fixed herself a bowl.  “My recollection is that Riley never ‘got’ the whole soul thing, so I don’t know if it would make much of a difference to this one.  The important thing now, is that he listens to my plan and agrees to help us.  Blowing that place up and trapping all the demons and Adam in there would be so much better than having to sneak or fight our way in and get close enough for me to rip that thing out of his chest.”

 

“You know, Slayer, if he’s as invulnerable as you say he is, bringing a building down on him might not be what it takes to get the job done.  He might just crawl out of the rubble, all brassed off and vengeance-seeking.”

 

“Way to rain on my parade, Spike!”

 

“Just keeping it real, love. You’ve got to be ready for that to happen. Doesn’t mean blowing up that nightmare of a place and killing all the demons and vamps still there isn’t a good idea, it just means you can’t turn your back on it till you’ve seen the body.”

 

“All right. I’ll keep that in mind. Maybe Riley will have some ideas about how we can be sure Adam is shut down.”

 

“Bloody inconsiderate of him to want to talk to you in the daytime,” Spike grumbled as he put his empty cup in the sink.  “Means I can’t be there.”

 

“I think that was kinda his point,” she said, smiling at him.  “Go back to sleep. I’ll be home as soon as I can.”

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

So, what do you think? Will that work?”

 

Riley leaned back and thought for a few seconds.  “Yeah. It just might.  We’d need to round up the right kind of explosives... maybe throw in a few incendiary devices for the vamps....” He smiled at her. “I like it. No danger to civilians, no hand-to-hand with cyborgs wearing the faces of my buddies.  When do you want to go?”

 

“As soon as you tell me you’re ready.  Spike and I will go in front and clear the space of any vamps and demons, so all you and your men will have to do is follow us and set up your stuff.... and then let us know when to clear out.”

 

“You sure you want to bring Spike with you? Asking him to fight his own kind?”

 

Buffy sighed. “Look, I know you don’t like him, and he definitely doesn’t like you, but you’re both being jerks about this and we really don’t have time for it.”

 

“I don’t like him because he’s a hostile running around loose, and because he looks like he’d as soon kill me first chance he gets. I don’t care if he likes me or not, I just don’t get why he’s singled me out. I’m pretty sure it isn’t because I look tastier than anybody else.”

 

Buffy gave a half-smile and shook her head.  “Remember how he kinda over-reacted to you when you asked how we knew so much about the Initiative? And what I told you about our...you and me, I mean... relationship in the other world?”

 

“He’s jealous?”

 

“Well, partly, I guess – which is where the being a jerk comes into it.  But he also spent some time in that lab back in our world. It wasn’t... wasn’t a very pleasant experience for him, even though, if he’s honest, it’s probably why we had a chance to get to know each other well enough to... Never mind that. The point is, he’s blaming you for things you – this you – haven’t done and aren’t going to. Things that happened years ago and have nothing to do with our lives now. So – bad Spike.”

 

When Riley started to speak, she stopped him. “But, you just met him. And you’re judging him by what he is, not who he is or what he knows about your organization. So – bad Riley.”

 

Buffy bit her lip and looked directly at him before continuing. “Spike is not your average vampire. He and Angel—I’ll tell you about him some other time—have souls.  In Spike’s case, he got it on purpose; he fought for it – for me.  But he was in love with me long before he got it, and he was helping me with stuff long before then too, so it’s not like he wasn’t already doing good... but the soul.... It makes him something very special.  He isn’t, never was, and never will be like the vamps you’re used to staking and capturing.”

 

“So, when you say he was in love with you before... you mean when you were dating that other, much luckier, me?”

 

Buffy acknowledged the compliment with another smile and nodded. “Yeah. He had to spend a lot of time seeing and hearing things he really didn’t want to. It was the only way to be close to me, so he hung around even when it hurt. You really can’t blame him for not being glad to see you again.”

 

“I guess not.” Riley shrugged and shook his head. “I don’t really get all this stuff about souls, but I’ll try to remember he’s not on the to-be-staked list and I’ll tell the other guys.  Now, about those weapons....”

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

“So, that’s what we did back in my time. I was able to defeat Adam because of a spell that linked all four of us.” She looked around the table at Willow, Xander and Giles.  “And I wouldn’t have been able to stop him without it. It gave me the power I needed.”  She sat back and put her hand over Spike’s where it rested on her shoulder. “Granted, this time I’ve got Spike with me...” She glanced up at him and curled her lip. “...instead of out running around pretending he was helping so we wouldn’t stake him.”  Ignoring his indignant growl, she went back to the subject at hand. “And, we’ve got lots of military help with big explody things and guns that make big holes in stuff.  But, just in case....”

 

“You do not think the ordnances will do the job?” Giles frowned. “Then why are we wasting time on them?”

 

“Well, two reasons, really. One, it gives Riley and the guys who are left something to do to help clean up their mess. It’ll look good to the regular Army guys if and when they get here.  And, it should take care of everything else that’s in there. Instead of them escaping or hiding down there for years, all those demons and vamps will be gone. Poof!  So, job well done... except maybe for Adam.”

 

“I don’t get it, Buffy. Why won’t it kill Adam too? Not,” Xander hastened to add, “that I’m not all onboard with the blowing stuff up.  But seems to me it’s a win-win for us.”

 

“I’m hoping it will,” she replied. “Or that I can at least get close enough to blow that powerpack out of his chest with a rocket launcher. But as Spike pointed out, we don’t really know exactly how invulnerable he is. If I can’t get to the power pack, he might just come crawling out of the rubble some day.  With my luck, it’d be during my wedding.”

 

“So, we are to remain close by as a magical back-up?”

 

“Yeah. Is that okay?  I mean, I don’t want you guys to be so close that you’re in danger this time, but if we have to give me that extra power in a hurry....”

 

Giles nodded. “It’s a good plan. It never hurts to have an alternative plan in place. I will research the spell immediately.”

 

~~~~~~

 

 

Spike and Riley exchanged wary nods of greeting when Buffy and the Scoobies arrived at the agreed staging area several hundred yards from the intended entry point. They earned quick smiles from Buffy before she went into her “general Buffy” persona and began running through the plan.  Riley glanced at the van containing Giles, Willow and Xander. Although they were parked well back from where the soldiers were unloading things from their trucks, it was obvious they intended to remain in the area.

 

“Uh... Buffy?” Riley jerked his head toward the van. “Shouldn’t they be somewhere... safer?  This could get ugly if Adam’s demons notice us before we’re ready to blow it.”

 

Buffy sighed. “They’re my backup plan, Riley. It’s too complicated to explain to you now, just trust me. If this doesn’t take Adam down and I have to fight him, I’m going to need them and what they can do.”

 

“I thought the vampire was your backup?”

 

“Spike is my... he’s my partner. He’ll have my back when I fight. That’s not what they’re here for... exactly.”

 

“I can’t wait to see it,” Riley muttered.

 

“I’m hoping you won’t have to.”

 

“Don’t you know how this is going to turn out? I thought you were all future girl who knows everything.” He sounded almost bitter, and Buffy frowned as she looked at him.

 

“I know how things went in my world.  This one is already different, and has been since I got here and started changing stuff. In my world, I had to go in and fight Adam on his home turf – and I couldn’t have done it without the mystical help I got from Giles, Willow and Xander.  I’m hoping that won’t be the case this time. If we can bring this place down around his head, even if he survives, I should have a few minutes to do what I need to do before he recovers his full strength.  But, no, I don’t know how it’s going to turn out – hence the backup.”

 

She turned around and looked for Spike, standing watchfully near the entrance they’d chosen. Riley had stationed squads at all the other exits to capture or destroy anything that tried to come out before they were ready. Their orders were to blow their own targets as soon as they got the signal from Riley that the main event was ready to happen. They wanted to be certain that nothing could leave the facility before they blew it up.

 

“We’re going in,” Buffy said.  “Tell your explosion guys to stay far enough behind that they can’t be attacked by anything that might get past us.”

 

“They’ll have back up and cover,” Riley said, shouldering a very large gun and gesturing to a group of similarly armed men. “Don’t worry about anything that gets past you, we’ll have it covered.”

 

“Yeah, well, just don’t miss and hit one of us, huh?  Neither one of us,” she added.

 

“I’ll be careful.” He turned to his men and gave them quick last-minute instructions, including to be careful not to hit either Spike or Buffy who would be fighting in front of them. “Let’s roll,” he said, gesturing after Buffy and Spike, who were already heading for the big tunnel.

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

Although the tunnels were not as well-lit as they had been when there were humans using them, there was still enough dim light to see by. It was actually lighter than it had been outside where they’d been very careful not to use any really bright lights that might alert the inhabitants to their presence.  They were able to get fairly far in before Spike held up his hand and stopped.  Buffy fell into a fighting stance when he held up three fingers and pointed down the tunnel where it curved and began to drop down into the earth. She nodded and waited.

 

When the demolition team caught up to them, she held her finger to her lips and indicated they should remain where they were.  Then she and Spike walked forward, as quietly as possible, although they both knew that vampires would probably hear them coming, just as Spike had been able to hear three beings of some sort ahead of them.

 

Rounding the corner, they found two vampires and an odd-looking demon, arguing over where they needed to be.  “It’s not like anything alive is going to come in—urk!” His dust was not yet to the floor when Buffy whirled on the other vamp while Spike attacked the demon.  In the interest of speed and silence, there was no quipping from Buffy, just a quick dusting before she turned to help Spike. Whatever the demon was, he seemed to be stronger than would be expected for something his size, and Spike was struggling to get him into a position where he could break his neck.

 

“Fuck this!” he growled softly and pulled his sword, partially severing the demon’s head and exposing the wires holding it on.  As he expected, the demon continued to fight, his now useless head dangling.  “Stand back, pet.”

 

Buffy moved behind the creature, trying to keep it facing toward Spike so he could get a good shot at its chest. When he plunged his sword in, the demon tried to scream – but Buffy was quick to lop the head the rest of the way off and all that came out of the throat was an angry gurgle that quickly died out as its battery exploded and it fell to the floor.

 

“I could get used to this,” Spike said, grinning as he picked himself up. “We may have to invest in a pair of jumper cables, Slayer. Spark up our love life.”

 

She rolled her eyes, and stepped around the body to wave the soldiers forward. As they reached her, Riley’s communicator vibrated and he glanced at it. “Bad news. One of my squads was made. They had to shoot and blow their tunnel closed to keep the enemy in.”

 

“So, we’re almost out of time?” Buffy whirled and called to Spike. “Let’s go. Forget being quiet – we just need to get these guys where they need to be.”  She threw back over her shoulder at Riley, “Tell your men to blow those other tunnels now. I want anything trying to leave to come this way.”

 

“What if it’s Adam?”

 

Buffy shrugged and pointed to one of the men holding a rocket launcher. “Tell him to aim for the middle of Adam’s chest – after he tells us to duck.”

 

“Do we really want a nuclear explosion while we’re still in here?”  Spike touched Buffy’s arm as they ran forward.

 

“Whatever it takes, Spike. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”

 

At Riley’s signal, all the other exits from the facility had been blown shut – at least temporarily.   When he shouted to Buffy that they were far enough in for what they needed to do, she and Spike stood facing the now-visible open area while the demolition squad began to place their charges. They moved forward and took up positions just in front of the men who were working swiftly as they moved farther into the big room, placing their devices in the spots they’d pre-determined would do the most damage.

 

“Here we go, pet,” Spike said as the first wave of escaping vampires began running toward the main exit from the room.  They slid to a stop temporarily when they saw Buffy and Spike facing them, but soon recovered their courage as more vampires and demons began to fill in behind them – all eager to get out of the facility that was filling with smoke from the smaller explosions.

 

Using stakes and their bare hands, Buffy and Spike had soon reducing most of the vampires to, if not dust, incapacitated bodies on the floor. As the first of the demons reached them, they switched to swords and began to cut their way through the press of bodies.  Riley had discovered that a shot to the chest was enough to incapacitate the batteries in those creatures that were obviously not all flesh and blood.  Letting him and a few others with heavy-duty assault rifles pick off the cyborgs, Spike and Buffy spread apart and began to pick off any demons or remaining vampires that had figured out what the men working on their knees were trying to do. 

 

When Spike intercepted a vampire just as he was reaching for one of the demolition crew, backhanding it away and then following up with a stake to its heart, the man mumbled a quick “thanks” before going back to his work.  As soon as he was finished, he nodded and stood up. With Spike guarding his back and keeping area around the planted explosives clear, he quickly retreated back into the tunnel.

 

Buffy had performed the same service for the man setting up devices on the other side of the room, keeping his area free of both demons trying to stop him, and those that just wanted to kill. 

 

Riley’s shout that they were good to go, allowed Buffy and Spike to retreat behind a barrage of fire from the soldiers guarding the retreat.  When everyone was clear, they threw some grenades in to keep the demons and cyborgs from getting to the explosives.

 

“Here, let us. Which ones make fire?”  Buffy took the offered incendiary bombs and handed one to Spike.  “Bet I can throw farther than you can,” she said, lobbing hers into the big room, well past anywhere the soldiers had been able to reach.

 

“You throw like a girl,” he growled, heaving his almost all the way across the space. 

 

“Incoming!” The shout was barely soon enough for everyone to fall to the floor and avoid the blast from Adam’s arm.  They could just see him, walking through the flames and smoke and raising his arm again.

 

“Buffy! Spike! Let’s go!” 

 

Buffy threw one last grenade that blew up right in front of Adam, before joining the retreat.  She hoped that would slow him down enough for them to get clear before the whole place went up.

 

“Do it!”  She yelled as they ran past the man holding the detonator.  He pushed the button, then followed them out to the staging area. From above ground, they could hear a deep rumble that grew in intensity as the ground shook and dust and smoke began to billow out of the entrance.

 

“Lights!” Riley yelled and the powerful floodlights they’d kept shuttered while making their preparations lit up the entire area.  The forest covering the lab seemed to rise into the air, then collapse, making a shallow crater filled with trees.  As reports came in from the squads stationed around the perimeter, they all reported no sign of anything except dust and continued rumblings as more underground collapsing took place.   The men stationed near Lowell house had kept that area clear of students, so there were no civilians in the area to see the fraternity house gradually sink into the ground and disappear in flames.

 

“Nothing could live through that,” Graham said. “It’s over.”

 

“It’s not over till I know that monster isn’t going to crawl out of there,” Buffy said.  “He might be stuck in there for awhile, but—”

 

“I think...” Graham pulled forward a man in civilian clothes wearing a lab coat. They both flinched at the deep snarl that burst from Spike’s throat. The man stared, eyes wide, at the vampire glaring at him from beside the girl he’d been told was responsible for their new knowledge about Adam.  Spike was staring at the man as if he planned to rip him apart, until Buffy put a calming hand on his arm.

 

“Spike. This is not whoever you think he is. I mean, he is, I guess, but he hasn’t done anything to you. And he’s not going to. Let. It. Go.” Buffy stood between Spike and the clearly frightened, but also curious man.

 

“Is he... is that...?” He looked at Buffy. “How are you controlling him? I’d like to compare notes—”

 

“We’ll be right back,” Buffy said to Graham and Riley, as she physically dragged Spike away from man who had no idea what he’d done. Spike was in full game face and snarling without letup. She got him a good distance away and waited until he stopped snarling before releasing his arm.  “Are you okay now?”

 

He took a deep breath and nodded. “’m sorry, pet. I recognize that bitch’s minion. He’s the one that helped her put the chip in my brain.”

 

This minion didn’t do anything to you. And he never will.” She put a hand on his cheek. “Why don’t you stay over here with Giles and let me find out why Graham brought that guy over. ‘K?”

 

“I’m not gonna bite him,” he growled. “Just had a little flashback....”

 

“Doesn’t matter. I’ve got a feeling you and he will both be happier if you stay apart.  I’ll be right back.”

 

Leaving Spike to explain to Giles and the Scoobies what was going on, Buffy walked back over to Riley and Graham. She looked at the still curious lab tech and asked, “Okay, so if you worked for Professor Walsh in the labs, why aren’t you a cyborg? And if you don’t stop looking at Spike like that, I’m going to let him eat you,” she added as the man’s eyes kept going to where Spike was leaning against the van and smoking while he stared at them.

 

“But he... you... You can control him.”

 

“He controls himself,” Buffy said tersely. “But he’s not perfect at it, so you might want to take that look off your face. You won’t be putting a chip in his head – not this time around.”

 

He whirled to stare at Buffy. “How do you— 

 

Graham interrupted him. “You don’t need to know what she knows or how she knows it. All you need to do is tell her what you told me.  About the powerpack and fire.” From the way Graham and Riley were glaring at the man, it was obvious they didn’t consider him an ally.

 

“All I said was, if the fire gets to Adam’s body, his atomic power supply will overheat and destroy itself.  And anything within a hundred yards or more, probably,” he added.

 

They all turned to look at the area over the labs, noting the thick smoke and occasional visible flames shooting up through the collapsed earth. 

 

“What do you think?” Buffy asked Riley.

 

He shrugged. “We put plenty of incendiary bombs in there along with the explosives. As long as there’s enough oxygen for the fires to feed on, they should keep burning until the fuel runs out.  I don’t know how he’d be able to get away from it. The whole place looks like it’s burning.” He pointed at the flames still coming out of openings in the earth.

 

Buffy sighed. “Okay. I’m going to call it a win.  But I think we need to keep an eye on this area for a while. Just in case....”

 

“We’ll do a complete recon when it’s daylight. If we haven’t detected an explosion of that size by the time the fire dies out, I’ll send a crew in to look for Adam’s body – or parts of it. Whatever’s left.

 

“Okay. Great.”  Buffy smiled at Riley and Graham. “Thanks, guys.  This would have been a whole lot harder without you.”

 

“No problem. I’m just glad we got our mess cleaned up.” Riley took the lab tech by the arm. “And now you’re going to explain to us why you didn’t come to us right away to tell us everything you know about the monster you helped create.” 

 

Buffy watched as they marched the protesting man over to one of the SUVs and threw him in, then turned around and walked back to where Spike and the Scoobies were waiting for her.

 

 

Chapter Five

 

So, what’s the what?” Xander asked.  “I was hoping for more of a bang, but we couldn’t see much from here.”

 

“All the bang was underground – where it was supposed to be,” Buffy said.  “Although, according to that lab guy they found, when the fire gets to Adam’s powerpack—”

 

The earth shook under their feet, knocking several soldiers and Giles to the ground. The center of the depression erupted, throwing trees, rocks and dirt into the air.  By the time everything had returned to earth, and the dust had cleared, there now seemed to be more of a crater than a depression. It was hard to tell, as most of the floodlights had broken or toppled over.

 

“Wow.”

 

“I’m guessing that means Adam went boom?” Willow was peering into the darkness, trying to see.

 

“If that guy was telling the truth, that’s what it means. The fire got to his powerpack and we just had our own little mini-underground nuclear bomb test.”

 

“Yay us?”

 

Buffy shrugged. “Well, actually, yay Riley and his guys. They brought all the weapons and exploding things. All we did was take out some vamps and demons.”

 

“On the contrary, Buffy,” Giles said, patting her on the shoulder. “Without your knowledge of Adam’s weakness and your insistence on destroying him as soon as possible, who knows how long it may have taken to eliminate that source of world-ending danger.  Another apocalypse avoided.  Well done.”

 

As they all climbed back into the van for the drive back to town, Spike said, “Seems like the old Powers may have know what they were doing this time. As far as this world is concerned, anyway.”

 

“Our world will be fine,” Buffy said. “They’ve still got a Giles, a Willow, a Dawn, a Xander... and a whole bunch of slayers.  They don’t need us.”

 

“Famous last words, pet. I hope they didn’t hear that.” He pretended to shudder and everyone laughed, confident in the security of this world, now protected by two people who knew what was coming.

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

As they were dropped off at their apartment, Buffy and Spike waved good-night and then opened the door and stepped down into their living room. After scenting the air, as he always did when coming home, and finding no trace of intruders, Spike closed and locked the door.

 

“When are you going to stop being so paranoid?”

 

“When hell freezes over and I know evil is trapped there forever,” he responded, throwing his coat on a chair. “Where are you going?”

 

Buffy looked back at him over her shoulder as she walked toward the bathroom. “I’m going to shower off all this vamp dust.  Wanna help?”

 

“Singin’ my song, love,” he said, already pulling his shirt off over his head. He followed the sound of her giggles as she dropped her own clothes in a dusty heap.

 

“Put your stuff there so I can wash them the next time I’m at Mom’s.” 

 

Buffy leaned over to turn on the water, giving Spike a good view of her rounded cheeks as she fiddled with the water temperature. When she was satisfied, she turned the shower on and stepped into the tub, pulling the plastic curtain across the opening. By the time Spike joined her, she was already wet and had shampoo in her hair.

 

“Allow me,” he said, beginning to massage her scalp with his powerful fingers. Buffy murmured her appreciation and leaned back against him, resting her hands on his thighs as he cleaned her hair and relaxed her head.  He turned her so she could rinse the shampoo out, then picked up the washcloth and body wash. 

 

Buffy stood still for the familiar ritual as he generously applied bodywash to the cloth and began to run it around her body, starting with her neck.  He carefully scrubbed both arms, her chest and her breasts – bringing the nipples to hard peaks as he gave them extra attention. He then moved the cloth down her body, rubbing in sensual circles as he made his way down one leg and up the other.  Buffy obediently spread her legs for him when he nudged them apart and, using his hand instead of the cloth he worked his way around her folds, to her opening, to her other opening – everywhere but to the body part she was trying, less than subtly, to present to him.

 

“Did I miss a spot?” he asked, grinning up at her. “Was it this one?  Or maybe this one? Oh, I’ll bet it’s this one....” With his soap-slicked hand, he began to stroke her clit while she clung to his shoulders and tried to keep her feet.  In a short amount of time, she was whimpering and digging her fingers into his back as he replaced his fingers with his mouth and bit down gently. Buffy gave a small shriek and collapsed over him, letting him hold her up with arms around her thighs as she rested on his back and began to breath normally again.  Dropping a kiss upon his back, she straightened up and leaned back under the water to rinse off the lather remaining on her body.

 

“Your turn,” she said, tugging him to his feet and changing places with him. While he washed the dust from his own hair, Buffy took the washcloth and began soaping his body, enjoying the way his smooth skin and muscles felt under her hands. She stepped closer, putting her arms around him and running the cloth over his back and down to his ass. The little gasp he gave when she allowed her fingers to linger in his crack and creep down to circle his hole made her smile in satisfaction.

 

She slid her fingers forward to stroke just behind his balls, then stepped back and began to soap his flat abdomen, playing with the light brown curls that trailed down his lower body. She soaped his cock, running her hands up and down it and dipping down to roll his balls in her hands while he braced himself against the tiled wall and watched her. Using the soap as lubricant, Buffy soon had him thrusting into her small, but powerful hands as she worked his cock the way she knew he liked best.  As he began to spurt, she watched the shower water rinse it away with the soap.

 

“Com’mere, you,” he growled, pulling her up and wrapping his arms around her. Wet bodies pressed tightly together, they stood under the water, letting it pour over them as they kissed until it began to lose its warmth.  When Buffy shivered, he let go of her and let her step out of the tub. Turning off the water, he followed and gratefully accepted the towel she handed him.  They dried off and then, in what had become another ritual, Spike took a wide-toothed comb and combed out Buffy’s hair, finishing by running a dry towel over it until it was mostly dry.

 

As they left the bathroom, Spike yawned mightily.  “Must be almost dawn,” he said. “I can’t keep my eyes open.”

 

“Got to bed, then,” Buffy said, patting him on his rear. 

 

“Aren’t you coming?”

 

“Not if you’re going to be sleeping, I guess.”  She grinned at him to indicate she was kidding, but he grabbed her hand and pulled her against his body. She smiled with satisfaction as she felt him swelling against her hip.

 

“Thought you couldn’t keep your eyes open?”

 

“I can shag with my eyes shut,” he growled, falling onto the bed and pulling her with him. “Won’t have you thinkin’ I’d rather sleep than make love to you.”

 

“I wasn’t—“ Spike cut off her response by kissing her until she was almost dizzy.  True to his word, he rolled her over and nudged his way in between her thighs without opening his eyes. Buffy relaxed her legs and let him work his way into his goal, then wrapped her own legs around his waist and pulled him in closer.  “Let’s see what ya got then, vampire.”

 

“Got you, don’t I?” he purred, beginning to move slowly and steadily.  “I’ve got you, and that’s all I’ll ever need.” 

 

Buffy murmured in appreciation as he picked up speed and began to pound harder, pushing himself up on his hands so as to be looking down at her.

 

“Your eyes are open,” she gasped, beginning to thrash her head around as he kept hitting just the right spot. 

 

“Like to watch you when you come for me.  I’ll shut my eyes later.”  As he spoke, she clenched around him, arched her back, and closed her own eyes in ecstasy as she shuddered to a conclusion. As soon as he saw her going over the edge, he let himself find his release, closing his eyes and gasping her name as he came.  He collapsed on top of her, stretching out while she put her arms around his back and dropped her legs to rest outside his.

 

They lay together, breathing in unison, until Buffy noticed he wasn’t responding to her nibbles on his ear. When he stopped breathing and just laid on top of her without moving, she bit down a little harder on his earlobe.

 

“If you start snoring, the wedding is off!” she said when he flinched. She felt his chest shake as he laughed before rolling off.

 

“Was just a bit knackered, pet.  Don’t know why you aren’t just as tired.  I think we fought more vamps and demons tonight than we usually do in a year.”

 

“I am tired,” she admitted, smothering a yawn. She stretched and stood up. “I’ll just make sure the curtain is closed, and turn out the lights. I’ll be right back.”

 

“I’ll be right here,” he mumbled, closing his eyes again.

 

Buffy ran into the living room and pulled the heavy drape across the one small, high window that let the only sunlight into the apartment. She hit the light switch on her way back to the bedroom, and felt her way to the bed.  She crawled up until she found Spike’s arm, which he’d left lying across the bed for her. Putting her head on his chest and swinging one leg over his, she smiled as the arm automatically came up around her back and pulled her closer.

 

“Night, love,” he said, kissing her forehead.

 

“Night. Get plenty of rest. Tomorrow we’re going to pick out wedding invitations. And you’re going to be there, and you’re going to participate.”

 

“Looking forward to it, love,” he sighed. “Looking forward to it.”

 

“I don’t think you really meant that.”  She yawned again. “But I’m too tired to fight about it right now.”

 

“Thank God for small favors,” he muttered, turning his face into the pillow.

 

“What was that?”

 

“I said, ‘I love you, Slayer’.”

 

“You did not.”

 

“Did too....” His voice trailed off and he became perfectly still.

 

“Did not....” Buffy sighed against his chest and closed her own eyes in well-deserved rest.

 

 

The End