Title: Pop Goes the Weasel

Author: Slaymesoftly

Set in the I Know You verse, sometime after Knowing and Watching: Spike and Buffy are offered a job just before the holidays.

Rating R

 

 

Chapter One of Pop Goes the Weasel

 

Is It Spring Yet?

 

"Wake up, lazy bones, we've got a job."

 

Spike growled and pulled the pillow over his face.  Undeterred, Buffy jumped onto the bed and sat on him.

 

"Come on. I know you're not asleep.  Get up."

 

"I would be asleep if some annoying bint would leave me alone." He raised the pillow and gave her his best snarl, complete with fangs.

 

"You know," she said conversationally, "that would be a lot scarier if you weren't hiding under a quilt covered in pink flowers."  When he didn't respond, except to pull the pillow back over his face, she went to the bottom of the bed, reached under the cover and began to tickle his feet.  It wasn't long before his snarls were mixed with snorts of laughter as he tried to pull his feet out of her reach.

 

Instead of giving up, Buffy dove under the quilt and followed his feet as he pulled his knees up to his chest in an attempt to get away from her fingers. She moved her busy hands from his feet to his balls, running her fingernails lightly over them and giggling at the inevitable reaction.

 

"As long as you're down there, you may as well make yourself useful," he growled, dropping his legs so as to put his erect cock in front of her face.

 

"Ha!" she scoffed, squirming the rest of the way up to where he smiled at her hopefully, his fangs long gone.  "You'd like that, wouldn't you, lazy bones?"

 

"You mean you've got me all awake and I get nothing for it?"  He gave her his best pout and his saddest eyes, but she was unimpressed.

 

"If you'd gotten up when I told you to, you wouldn't have this little problem," she said, patting his cock and rolling off the bed to stand out of reach.

 

"Little problem?  Little?" With a roar, he threw off the covers and leapt out of bed, standing in front of her in all his naked glory and righteous indignation.

 

Buffy gave a satisfied smirk and headed for the kitchen.

 

"Now that you're up, you may as well get dressed. We have a client coming by in fifteen minutes."

 

 

 

When Spike finally joined her in the kitchen, accepting his warm blood with little grace, he was dressed except for his shoes.  Whereas Buffy never left the bed without putting on warm socks or slippers, Spike's lack of response to temperature extremes meant that, even in winter, he wasn't overly bothered by the cold floors of their house.

 

He nursed his blood in silence for several minutes, finally giving Buffy a sideways glance.

 

"Did you really mean 'little'?" he asked more meekly than he'd intended.

 

She rolled her eyes. 

 

"You are so easy," Buffy sighed, then brightened.  "How would I know?  It's not like I've ever seen another one. I don't have anything to compare it to, do I?"

 

"And you never will if I have anything to say about it!"

 

He picked up his glass and swallowed the rest of his blood, setting the empty glass down and grabbing her as she moved to pick it up.  He kissed her until she was curled into him and making little whimpering noises in her throat.  When he was satisfied that he'd made his point, be let her go – steadying her with one hand when she briefly staggered.

 

"Wow," she gasped. "You know, if you'd just grabbed the other Buffy and kissed her the first time you saw her, you probably could have killed her easy."

 

He laughed and shook his head, releasing her hand so that she could carry their dishes to the sink.

 

"Nah. That might have worked for old soulled Spike when he first met her – if he could have got close enough to her and held her still long enough.  The Buffy I met was already an expert on how I kiss. She'd have kissed my socks off and then dropped me on the ground." His eyes glazed over for a second as he reminisced. "She kind of did that, now that I think about it..."

 

"Should I be jealous?" Buffy said, just a trace of insecurity in her voice.

 

"What? Oh. Oh no, love. I wouldn't trade you for all the other Buffys in all the other dimensions there are."  He came up behind her and put his arms around her from behind, pulling her back against his chest and murmuring into her ear.  "You're my very own, very special Buffy. The only one I love – the only one I ever will love."

 

"Promise?"

 

"With all my heart.  I'd cross it and hope to die, but..."

 

"But you're already dead," she laughed, her good mood restored.

 

"That I am, pet."  He let her go and started to the bedroom to put his boots on.  "So, who's this client that's so important he can interrupt my beauty sleep at such an ungodly hour?"

 

"It's two o'clock in the afternoon, Spike," Buffy said.  "And he's a friend of Clem's.  He's having a problem with some kind of demonic rodent or something."

 

Spike's head appeared around the corner, his expression thunderous.

 

"A rodent problem?  I got out of my nice warm bed to hear about rodents?"

 

"Demonic rodents," she reminded him.

 

Spike's profanity-laced rant was interrupted by a loud knock on the front door, and Buffy shushed him with a hand over his mouth.

 

"Just try to be patient and listen, okay?  Christmas is coming and we could use a little extra cash."

 

Still muttering about rodents and his dignity, he trailed after her as she went to the door and opened it.  He hung back where the slanting rays of the winter sun couldn't reach him, studying the abashed-looking demon on the other side of the threshold.

 

"Hi," Buffy said, extending her hand.  "Please, come in and fill us in on what your problem is."

 

Spike gave the very human-looking demon a nod of assent and backed up into the darkened living room.  He marveled anew at this Buffy and her willingness to accept all living beings at face value, knowing that, even with the experiences she'd had, the Buffy he'd left behind in Sunnydale still drew a very firm line between "acceptable vampires and demons" and the rest of the creatures inhabiting her world.  He breathed a quiet sigh of thanks that his Buffy hadn't come into this new world with that same hardwired set of assumptions and had adapted to it quickly enough that she hadn't gotten herself killed or become a pariah before he’d arrived to join her.  The idea of living without his mate and partner was enough to make him shudder.

 

He offered his own hand to the K'vleck demon standing uncomfortably in the living room, and gestured to a chair.

 

"Have a seat, mate.  What can we do for you?"

 

Looking more uncomfortable by the minute, George (for that was how the demon had introduced himself) said, "This is going to sound really... bizarre, I know, but we've got these... pests."

 

"Pests?"

 

"Really, really vicious pests," George said quickly.  "They aren't very big, but they're really mean, and destructive.  And they have a... um... a leader or mother of some sort that is big.  So, we can chase them away, but not very far. They always run to it and it… um… yeah, that never goes well.” He paused to grimace at what was obviously not a pleasant memory, then continued.  “And they always come back. Bolder all the time."

 

"Have you tried trapping them?" Spike had to admire Buffy's attempt to treat the problem seriously. He, personally, was ready to toss the wanker out and tell him to find himself a really big cat.

 

"We did.  They ate the trap."  George stared at Spike's curled lip and said, directly to the sneering vampire, "Last night they tried to carry off a child."

 

Buffy's gasp was accompanied by the sound of Spike's feet, which had been comfortable resting on the coffee table, hitting the floor.

 

"Why the bloody hell didn't you say so?" he demanded.

 

"Was the child hurt?" Buffy asked quickly. 

 

George nodded, and then shook his head. "Yes, but not badly.  We were able to kill enough of them that her mother could pull her away before she had more than a few small bites.  We don't think they were planning to eat her right then, they may have been—”

 

"Taking her back to their pack leader," Buffy and Spike said at the same time.

 

"Yes," George said softly.  "We've doubled the guards, but our village is pretty widely spread out and it's very easy for the creatures to sneak in under cover of darkness. I’ve asked everyone to move into the community center until we can be sure they’ll be safe in their homes."

 

"What do these things look like?"

 

"Oh, here," George said, producing a folded piece of paper. "One of our better artists drew you a picture.  The leader looks pretty much like this, only much, much bigger – with bigger teeth."

 

Spike leaned over Buffy's shoulder as she studied the drawing.

 

"Looks like a cross between a weasel and a wolverine," he commented. "Nasty buggers in our world, they are."

 

“Or a really big ferret,” Buffy said. “I knew some people who had pet ferrets.”

 

George visibly shuddered.  "Pets?"

 

"Well, some of them.  I guess they're really wild animals, but I knew people who had one or two."

 

She looked at the picture again, pointing to the animal's feet.  "When I was a freshman, I had to write a report about an endangered species and I picked the black-footed ferret.  They looked a lot like this – just smaller." Buffy looked at Spike with a small smile.  "I guess they're about to become endangered here, huh?"

 

"That they are, love." He flashed some fang at her, then turned to the startled visitor.  "So, while my lady rounds up some weasel-appropriate weapons, let's you and I talk about our fee, yeah?"

 

"Spike!" Buffy stopped on her way out of the room.  "They're stealing children!"

 

With a sigh, he nodded.  "Right you are, love."  He gave George an apologetic shrug.  "Sorry, mate. Of course we'll help you out – no charge."

 

George gave his first smile since he'd entered the small house where Winterset's most famous evil-fighting duo lived.  "It's not a problem," he said. "We've had a good year.  We can pay you in dollars, or in jewelry. That's what we do. We mine for gold and gems and make jewelry from what we find."

 

Spike shot a look over his shoulder and lowered his voice.

 

"Holidays are coming. Maybe we can work something out, yeah? Something for my lady?"

 

"Gotcha.  You get rid of these baby-stealing creatures, and you can have your pick of things for the Slayer."

 

Feeling much cheerier, Spike went to pull on his boots and get his favorite jacket. At the last minute, he changed his mind and grabbed an older, more beat up coat made of thick cowhide.  And the leather gloves he rarely bothered to wear.

 

"Let's go, pet," he said, picking up the car keys. "We've got weasels to endanger."

 

 

Chapter Two   More Than Meets the Eye

 

Safely covered by clothing and a big hat, Spike ran to the shelter of his customized car, sliding behind the steering wheel and waiting for Buffy to join him.  He could see George waiting impatiently at the end of the driveway, already turned around and ready to leave.  While he waited for Buffy to lock the door and carry the rest of the weapons to the car, he shook his head at how different life was in this world.  Of the few cars that went past while George and his colorful van sat in the street, facing the wrong way, not a one of them yelled, honked or made interesting gestures.  They just calmly drove around the impediment to their progress and continued on their way.

 

Buffy slammed the trunk shut and hopped in the front seat.

 

"Okie, dokie. We're ready." 

 

"Okie, dokie?"

 

"Don't make fun of the way I talk, Mr. sodding, bloody bint."

 

"I am not a bint, Slayer." 

 

"Whatever. Don't make fun of the way I talk."

 

"But it's so easy," he said, grinning as he pulled out into the street to follow George's van.

 

The trip to the K'vleck village was uneventful, and by the time they arrived, the early Winterset dusk was already setting in.  They parked where George had indicated, beside a long wooden building that he explained was their combination community center and town hall.  Inside, hopeful faces turned toward them as the Slayer and her vampire companion followed George to the front of the room.

 

He quickly – and unnecessarily – introduced them, asking those who'd had personal encounters with the marauders to come forward and give Spike and Buffy as much information as they could.  While Spike chatted quietly with the mother of the child who'd been snatched from her bed, Buffy listened carefully to the other adult K'vlecks and made quick notes about anything that might be important.

 

The general theme was pretty much teeth, claws, and overwhelming numbers. The only new piece of information she got was that the creatures seemed to emerge from nowhere.

 

"We have guards posted all around the outside," one disgruntled villager said.  "They’re all close enough to see each other, and all armed with swords or axes.  And yet, these things just seem to pop out of thin air. One minute, there's nothing there, and then the next, there they are."

 

"You can't see them coming?"

 

He shook his head.  "Nope. And to get into that house, they had to get past the guards undetected.  No one saw them until the child screamed and her mother rushed into the room and found them dragging her out through a hole in wall."

 

"Hmmm." Buffy's reply was non-committal. Unless there was magic involved, she couldn't imagine how the creatures could come and go so easily.  "Do they disappear when they leave?"

 

"That's the weird part. We can always watch them leave and follow them. But, they just run until they get to the big one. And then we're too busy trying not to be killed to watch where they go from there."

 

"How many of you have been killed?"

 

"Only two, so far; but we have four others in the Infirmary recovering from their wounds."

 

Spike had charmed both the child and her mother, to the point that the little girl with the pointed ears and violet tint to her skin was sitting on his lap and explaining carefully about the "big rats" that had tried to carry her off.

 

"Did they bite you, love?" he asked, his sympathetic frown reassuring her that terrible things would happen to them if that was the case.  She nodded her head and held out one arm that was wrapped in a large bandage.  "Yes, and then when my mommy tried to pull be away, one of them clawed me."

 

Her mother spoke up.  "They were carrying her away – not really trying to eat her.  I don't know how they did that without cutting her up more than she is, but they did."

 

"But," Buffy said, joining the conversation, "when you are chasing them, they do bite and claw then, don't they?"

 

"Oh yes." The female demon pointed to multiple bandages on her arms and legs.  "They bit me like crazy.  I thought they were going to kill me until the guards came and beat them off."

 

"What happens to the ones you kill?"

 

No one answered, and there were embarrassed shrugs from the adults present.

 

"You don't know?" Spike's voice dripped with disbelief as he handed the little demon back to her mother, ruffling her hair and calling her "bitesize".  "Do they drag their dead away? Do you pile them up and burn them? Do you have a collection of rotting bodies around the village?"

 

"We're too busy worrying about the ones still alive," the head of the security force said defensively.  "What do we care what happens to the dead ones?"

 

Spike and Buffy exchanged looks, and he said in disgust, "Because they may or may not be dead.  Sounds like there's something magical going on here, and that means the little buggers might not die as permanently as you'd like to think."

 

"Only one way to find out," Buffy said, shouldering her weapon bag and picking up her sword.  "Let's go find ourselves some weasels to make dead."

 

Politely refusing to participate in the evening meal, Buffy and Spike returned to their car for a quick snack and to discuss the situation in private.  Buffy had long since learned that no matter how human they might seem, or how good their intentions, meals offered by demons often contained things she would just as soon not know were considered food groups; so she always brought along her own sandwiches.  Spike, of course, had a few bags of blood stashed in a cooler, one of which he punctured with a fang and began to sip.

 

"Any ideas?" Buffy asked around a mouthful of peanut butter and jelly.

 

"Not a clue, pet. But there should be furry little bodies piled up all over here and there isn't a trace of one, so something's going on."

 

As soon as they had finished eating, they left the car and began a slow circuit of what they'd been shown to be the main part of the village. Families that lived in more outlying areas had long since temporarily moved into the center of the town where they were at least surrounded by guards, even if those guards couldn't seem to intercept the creatures before they emerged somewhere unprotected. Buffy and Spike also stopped to examine the gaping hole that the creatures had chewed through the wall of the house from which the child had been taken.

 

"Pretty impressive chewing," Buffy said, staring through the hole into what was clearly the little girl’s room.

 

Spike's only comment was a grunt of assent while he sniffed around the hole and the ground under it.  He shook his head at the confusing mix of scents.  In addition to the scent of the child and her mother, easily recognized, he could also smell something acrid and unpleasant.

 

"Buggers stink, whatever they are," he grumbled, standing up and looking around.

 

"All part of their charm, I'm sure," Buffy said. "Let's go see if we can find some. You can tell them how bad they smell after we capture or kill one."

 

It took over an hour to circumnavigate the entire complex, Spike stopping to chat briefly with a guard here and there and Buffy watching the brush for any sign of attack.  They had just returned to where they began when a scream from the nearest guard brought them running to find him being swarmed by snarling, biting creatures that had not been there a few seconds earlier when Spike and Buffy walked right past him.

 

"Show time," Buffy said, dropping the bag and swinging her sword free.

 

"Right behind you, love," Spike said, dropping into game face and baring his fangs in a joyful grin.

 

Spike waded into the bodies swarming over the steadily weakening guard, biting them in half and spitting them on the ground while he snatched others and tossed them toward Buffy and her sword.  She was decapitating them as quickly as she could, trying to keep a count at the same time so they would know how many they had.

 

When reinforcements had arrived and the guard had been hustled off to the infirmary, the remaining creatures turned and ran toward the brush.  Spike and Buffy ran after them, easily catching up with the stragglers and dispatching them as they ran by. 

 

"This is almost too easy, pet," Spike said, twisting the head off another creature and dropping the body behind him.

 

"I was kinda thinking that – it's almost like they are slowing down deliberately..."

 

As one, they stopped and looked at each other.

 

"Trap?"

 

"Trap."

 

Grabbing the body Spike had just dropped, Buffy began to back away, her sword at the ready.

 

"Okay, let's go back and see what happens to this one now that he's dead."

 

"Got your back, love," he agreed, extending all his senses – night vision, sense of smell and acute hearing – but feeling nothing around them.  Moving quickly, but not so quickly as to appear to be running away, they retreated to the illusionary safety of the K'vleck village.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

As they passed the area where they had originally fought the creatures, they stared around in dismay.

 

“We had to have killed more than twenty of them!  Where the hell did they go?”

 

“You go on, pet,” Spike said, stopping and sniffing. “Take the one in your hand inside and let me see if I can track them.”

 

“Spike, they were dead! Bitten or slashed in half, most of them.  They didn’t walk away!”

 

Without answering her, he began to sniff and prowl his way around the blood-soaked ground, growling softly under his breath.  Buffy shook her head and went into the community center, slamming the dead body down on a table with a thump.  Curious townspeople came up to stare at the body, one of them shouting and leaping back suddenly.

 

“What? What’s—” Buffy stared, as shocked as the frightened townsman. Before her eyes, parts of the animal began to fall off and disappear.  She slammed her hand down on a toe just as it started to fall off the table, pinning it until it dissolved into even smaller pieces that rolled to the floor and scattered.  The only sign of the dead body she’d brought in was the one tiny piece of flesh still pinned under her hand.

 

She was pinching it tightly, not sure if she could really feel it trying to escape or if it was her imagination that the small piece of tissue between her fingertips was squirming.  Spike came in, still growling under his breath and stopped to stare at her.

 

“Where the bloody hell is it?” he said, looking around. “And what are they doing?”

 

“Trying to catch more of the pieces it dissolved into,” she snapped back.

 

Moving with a speed the demons couldn’t match, Spike snatched up several pieces before they could escape from the room. One of the demon women timidly offered a jar and he thanked her with a smile that made her giggle and blush. Taking the jar he dropped his pieces in and quickly put the cover on.  He held it out to Buffy and she pinched the piece she was holding between her fingers and dropped it in.

 

They all watched with bemusement as the pieces scurried around for a while, then tried to reform, ending up in what looked like a lopsided toe.

 

“Well,” Spike finally broke the shocked silence. “I reckon that explains how they get in and out.”  He rubbed his hands together. “Now to figure out what can make them dead.”  Reaching into the jar, he pulled a piece of flesh free with one hand, bringing out his lighter with the other.  He dropped the tiny piece of flesh onto the flame and watched as it shriveled up and turned to ash. 

 

Buffy had been watching the jar and blinked when she saw that the other pieces were writhing around, although still intact.  When Spike had snapped the lighter closed, she brushed the tiny pile of ash from the table into the jar.  Everyone watched closely, but the ash remained ash and the other pieces reformed into a slighter smaller toe.

 

“Alright then. Fire works. Good to know. What else have we got?”

 

“Let’s start with that,” Buffy turned to George. “Do you have an incinerator or something?”

 

He shook his head.  “No, but we do have a pretty good size cooking pit. We could dig it out some more and keep a fire going all the time…” He raised his hands for quiet and outlined what they were going to need to do. As soon as he had volunteers to dig the pit deeper, and another set who promised to take shifts keeping the fire banked, he stared around at everyone else.  “Okay, folks, here’s the plan. If and when we think we’ve killed one of the little monsters, we toss it into the pit before it can fall apart and get away.  Those who are comfortable away from the village, you’ll be collecting firewood and piling it near the pit – but not until daylight.  I’d prefer at least one armed guard with any groups going out for wood.  Any questions?”

 

Buffy and Spike watched with admiration as the demons scurried around, preparing for what they hoped would be an end to the terror.  In no time they had the children tucked into beds in the community center, guards stationed at the doors, and other guards posted to protect the volunteers tending the fire pit.

 

The K’vleck were basically a very peaceful breed, spending their time mining for gems, growing their crops, and making the jewelry that they sold at monthly markets in the nearest city.  As a result, very few of the weapons in the village were actual weapons.  A few swords, some spears and bows and arrows owned by the hunters who no longer stayed in the woods but now lived in the village, and a couple of shotguns in the possession of what passed for a police department.

 

However, they did possess an abundance of axes, picks, shovels, and other digging instruments that they used in the mines, and those had proven very effective in repelling the vicious creatures.  More guards were posted around the village, but closer together and closer to the main building where everyone not assigned to the pit or guard duty was now crammed in for the night.

 

“Shouldn’t we be doing something besides just standing here watching?” Buffy said.  “I feel like they’re doing all the work.”

 

“It’s their lives, loves. They need to be doin’ the work. The more they can do for themselves, the better off they’ll be.”  He cocked an eyebrow at her. “Unless you were plannin’ to move here to act as the town’s resident guardian.”

 

She elbowed him in the side. “Very funny. I’m just saying, they asked us to do something about these… things… and all we’re doing is watching them do stuff.”

 

Spike smiled at her, his eyes crinkling in the corners as he whispered, “Not feeling like you’re earning your keep if you aren’t killing something, Slayer?”

 

“What? No! Not— Maybe?”

 

“Relax, pet,” he said, putting his arm around her and squeezing. “Nasty as those things are, I s’pect they’ll be back before long. And this time, we’ll be ready for them.  Got it all set up with George – there’ll be crews waiting whose only job is to snatch up the bodies and toss ‘em in the pit before they can escape.”

 

“I know.” She snuggled into his side, then straightened when she caught some of the villagers watching them and smiling at each other.  “But you know me, waiting around is just not my—”

 

Screams from the other end of the village interrupted her. She was sprinting before Spike could finish his, “Looks like we’re up again, Slayer…. Hey! Wait for me, you bloodthirsty little bint!” he added as he tried to catch her.

 

Spike, with his leather coat and gloves, took the lead in pulling the creatures off the guard they’d attacked, tossing them over his shoulder to the pit crew that had followed the Slayer as quickly as they could.  It was clear that the attackers were aware of the Slayer’s presence, as their numbers were much greater than the previous night, and they were popping up in several places at once.

 

Buffy’s head was pivoting back and forth between the creatures swarming in front of her and the screams and shouts coming from other places around the perimeter.  “I’ve got this, pet. You go. Thin the herd a bit and show our friends that the little buggers can be killed.”

 

Without reply, she ran toward the nearest shouts, decapitating as many as she could reach and encouraging the villagers to smash them in the head so as to stun them long enough to throw the bodies in the fire pit.  As soon as an area seemed to be under control, she would sprint to the next and repeat her actions.  The sight of Buffy wading into the snapping jaws and laying about with her sword was all it took to inspire the villagers, and their demon natures did the rest. 

 

She had gone almost all the way around the village before it occurred to her to wonder why she hadn’t yet encountered Spike coming the other way.  A deep guttural snarl from the woods and renewed screams from the villagers who had followed the retreating beasts sent her flying around the corner of a building to find Spike facing off against a creatures that was at least his size, and growing larger with every retreating smaller one.  As each weasel reached the big one, it would leap up and meld into its body almost immediately. 

 

“Stop them!” Buffy screamed at the villagers who were backing away in fear.  “Don’t let them get to it. It will just get bigger!”

 

Encouraged by the way Buffy placed herself between the retreating creatures and their obvious goal, the villagers regained their courage and began whacking at as many beasts as they could reach, knocking them out and tossing them to the pit crews for disposal. Using her sword almost like a scythe, Buffy was able to prevent intact weasels from getting past her, although she shuddered when she noticed an amputated leg fall apart and scramble toward its “mother” in several pieces.

 

She smiled when she saw one of Spike’s boots come smashing down onto one of the escaping pieces, then frowned as she saw his strip off the gloves that had been protecting his hands.  “What are you…?”

 

He turned to give her a fangy grin, having removed the gloves to use his own claws to rend and tear the bodies. He seemed to have his own crew of parts collectors, young demons who braved the retreating weasels and the proximity to the now-roaring leader to scoop up the parts and throw them into heavy canvas bags. When a bag became too full, or it seemed that the angry creatures inside had regrouped and were going to tear their way out, that crew member would run to the fire pit, dump his squirming, snarling cargo into it and run back to pick up more parts.

 

As the number of creatures able to retreat to their source dwindled, it turned its attention to the two beings that, moving with a swiftness that the demon villagers couldn’t match, were still killing its offspring in large numbers. Ignoring Buffy and her sword, it turned its attention to the yellow-eyed demon ripping and tearing with such obvious elation.

With a snarl that sent what few creatures were left scurrying into the woods behind it, the fearsome beast focused its eyes on Spike. Too wrapped up in the joy of having let his demon out completely, Spike was beyond using common sense. While Buffy shrieked at him to come back, he leapt toward the advancing monster, roaring his own challenge.

There was a blur of motion, and then the two snarling demons were rolling around and trying to disembowel one another. Giving thanks for the heavy cowhide in Spike’s coat, Buffy handed her sword to George and ran to the fire pit. She gestured for Spike’s pit crew to follow her, reaching into the pit and pulling out a burning piece of wood. As soon as they realized what she was doing, the young demons began grabbing their own torches.

Buffy ran back to where Spike was clearly getting the worst of his ill-thought-out challenge to the much larger and stronger creature. Instructing the crew to be sure they avoided touching Spike with the fire, she hovered over the combatants, poking the weasel-demon with her torch every time she felt she could safely do so without having to worry about setting Spike on fire.

When she could see that Spike was tiring, and that he’d lost much too much blood for her comfort, she signaled George to give back her sword, handing him the torch in its place.

“Anything I throw out, you set fire to,” she growled, moving toward the creature that was turning its attention from Spike’s inert body to her. “Got it?”

“Go get ‘im, Slayer,” Spike croaked through blood-soaked lips. “Think I softened it up for you.”

“Idiot,” she snapped. “Get out of here.” As she spoke, the beast dropped Spike’s body and turned to face Buffy. Buffy, however, had already moved, darting behind the creature and slicing off its tail. One of the young demons followed her in and quickly set fire to the amputated part before it could rejoin its fellows. He yelled in triumph, then retreated with a cry when the demon-weasel whirled and gouged him with one of its claws.

“Stay back and just take what I throw you,” Buffy instructed, studying the creature’s speed and deciding that she could match it easily. Settling herself in for a long, tedious battle, Buffy danced around the snarling beast, slicing off parts whenever she got a chance. The smaller the creature got, the easier it was to reach it with the sword without risking an encounter with its teeth or nails. The younger, more agile villagers set their torches to each body part, cheering when they went up in flames and turned quickly to ashes.

By the time the beast had realized what was happening to it and tried to fall apart into individual small weasels that could escape in different direction, it was too late. It had been surrounded by vengeance-seeking villagers who were setting fire to each piece as quickly as Buffy, still waging a now-one-sided war against it, cut them free. Behind the actual combat area, other villagers were making sweeping motions with their own firebrands, scorching the ground and ensuring that no parts too small or fast to catch were able to make it to the woods.

Buffy put her sword down and paused to catch her breath, watching for a minute. When it became obvious that the villagers had the situation well under control, she turned her attention to the bloodied vampire leaning against the side of the nearest building. The little girl they’d met when they first arrived was staring at him while her mother, who’d dragged Spike away from the dangerous torches, hovered with indecision. The little girl gave no sign of fear as she studied Spike’s demon-face, touching his fangs and claws with her fingers. Finally satisfied, she nodded.

“You beat it up,” she said. “You beat it up for me.”

Spike grinned at her and reached a bloody hand toward her head before he thought better of it. “That I did, luv. Gave it a good arse-kicking, I did.”

The mother looked up as Buffy approached. “I dragged him away from the fire, but he wouldn’t go inside. I don’t know what else to do for him. My mother’s a healer; I could get her for you…”

“You did great,” Buffy assured her. “Thanks. It would have been a lot harder to do what I needed to do if I’d had to worry that he was going to accidentally go up in flames before we were done.” She knelt down next to Spike and tried to hide her fear behind banter.

“Is this one of those times when you’re going to tell me I ought to ‘see the other guy’? Cause, I’m thinking the other guy… well, okay, the other guy is mostly ashes now, but…”

“But you’re the one who really kicked its arse. Know that, love. Appreciate the rescue. Think I may have bitten off a bit more than I could chew this time…” It was as close as he was willing to come to admitting that she’d saved his life.

The little demon girl tugged on Buffy’s arm. “What’s wrong with him? Why doesn’t he get up?”

“He’ll be okay,” Buffy assured her, meeting her mother’s gaze and moving her head in the direction of the building. “Why don’t you go inside and we’ll join you there as soon as I get him fixed up. ‘K?”

Somewhat reluctantly, she allowed her mother to take her hand and pull her into the building where all but a small crew of vigilant guards with torches were celebrating the victory.

Buffy looked around, but no one was paying much attention to them.

“Here, take enough for now and I’ll get the other stuff out of the car,” she whispered, holding out her arm.

“Just get me my blood from the trunk,” he said, dropping a kiss on the offered wrist. “It’ll do me till we get home.”

“Spike, you’re a mess and practically drained….”

“No need to take a chance on anyone here seeing anything they don’t need to. Bring me my blood and I’ll be fine. Or close enough to it to drive you home, anyway.”

Giving him a glare that managed to look angry and worried at the same time, Buffy ran to the car and took out the remaining packets of blood. She’d long since gotten over her insistence that Spike stick to pigs blood from the butcher – even though it was a staple in their freezer. When they were going into a fight, she always brought the willingly-donated human blood that he could purchase at Winterset’s demon stores.

 
Putting away that thought for later, she ran back to where Spike was talking to a worried-looking George. The demon glanced up as Buffy arrived, asking, “Is he as badly injured as he looks? We don’t have a doctor here, but we have an excellent healer.”

Buffy bit her lip as they both ignored Spike’s muttered, “Don’t need a bloody doctor.”

“I think somebody’s getting her. Once he gets some of this blood into him, I think he’ll be okay, but it wouldn’t hurt to get a professional opinion. Shut up, Spike,” she added as he tried to object. “Just drink this.” She shoved the first packet into his hands, pleased to see that his fangs dropped immediately as he ripped it open.

“Let’s get him someplace safer than this – just in case they come back.”

George signaled to one of the young demons that had been part of Spike’s crew and the two large men picked Spike up and carried him into the community center. They deposited him on a cot near a back wall. There were shocked gasps from the people who hadn’t seen the battle when Spike’s battered and bleeding body was carried through their midst. As Buffy joined him and handed him another packet of blood, they began to applaud until the whole room was cheering and clapping for the embarrassed slayer and her mate.

Spike grinned and waved, nudging Buffy. “Come on, love. Give them one of those cheerleader smiles. You know the other Buffy never got anything like this. Be grateful we live where we do – where they know how to appreciate a hero.”

“It’s embarrassing,” she hissed at him. “And besides, you’re smiling enough for both of us.”

The healer approached quietly, waiting until the couple had stopped talking before introducing herself as Eilene. She was trailed by her granddaughter who, she explained, was very worried about Spike. The small demon stared at Spike with big eyes and a trembling lip.

“It hurt you,” she said, watching while her grandmother removed Spike’s shredded coat and began to study his wounds with a critical eye. The smaller ones were already starting to close, but the larger gouges in his back and sides were still oozing blood.

“It did, luv. But not to worry. Old Spike is tough. I’ll be right as rain in no time.”

“Nana’s going to fix you,” she stated with the confidence of a child. “That’s what she does, she fixes people.”

Eilene brought out a jar of salve and smoothed it over the worst of the wounds on Spike’s back and sides. She handed the jar to Buffy, saying, “Perhaps you should do the rest.”

Blushing, Buffy nodded and began to slather the ointment on the ripped skin across Spike’s stomach and onto the visible wounds under his ripped and torn jeans. It was a sign of how badly he was injured that, in spite of his attempts to seem strong, he had no leering remarks to make about where her hands were going, or what else she could do with them while they were there. Frowning, Buffy handed the jar back and reached for another packet of blood.

“That’s probably the best thing for him.” Eilene nodded in approval as Spike began to gulp from the bag. She bandaged the deepest of his wounds, leaving the others to close up by themselves. “You should stay here tonight, though. He can’t drive. He’ll need all his strength to heal.”

Buffy nodded. “That’s fine. We should stay longer anyway. We didn’t get all the small ones. Some made it into the woods and if they get together….”

“They’ll make another big one,” George finished for her.

“Yeah, probably so.” Buffy looked apologetic. “We should probably try to find them before they can do that. Or before they can reproduce and make more of themselves.” She yawned, then shrugged, embarrassed to have been caught.

“You and your… Spike… need to rest and recover.” He motioned for some onlookers to bring another cot over closer to Spike’s. “You’ll stay here for the rest of the night. We’ll worry about the ones that escaped tomorrow.” He shooed away everyone except the healer and her granddaughter, giving Buffy and Spike as much privacy as they could get in a big building full of people.

“Don’t let anybody go home yet,” Spike said, his voice muffled by the new bag of blood he was tearing open. “Might not be safe.”

George nodded at him. “Way ahead of you,” he said. “The only people outside are those keeping the fire going and guards with swords and torches. If they come back, we’re ready for them and we know what to do.”

“We’ll get ‘em tomorrow…” Spike’s voice trailed off as his eyes shut. Buffy caught the now-empty bag just before it hit the floor. Her eyes met Eilene’s and the healer smiled reassuringly. “Sleep will be good for him. His body is shutting down any unnecessary activity while it works on healing. I think we’ve stopped the bleeding, so the rest of the blood he takes in should stay where it needs to be.”

“When he wakes up, I’ll see that he gets more,” Buffy said. “That was the last of what we brought with us, but I’ll give him more.”

The woman blinked at her, a frown creasing her brow. “You’ve fought hard too. You shouldn’t weaken yourself by feeding a vampire. Surely we can find other blood for him? Even ours might—”

Buffy smiled at her. “It’s okay. My blood is… different. It won’t take much to make him feel a whole lot better. And he won’t take enough to weaken me. Even if he did, I recover a… a little bit faster than most humans would.”

The healer looked at the already closed scratches on Buffy’s face and nodded. Buffy could almost see Eilene mentally adding the new information to her store of knowledge. They looked at each other, sharing a moment of honest communication, before the older woman smiled.

“Well, you’ll know what’s best for each other, I’m sure. Have a good rest.”

 

 

 

Chapter Four   Spike Has a Plan (No, really. A good plan.)

 

Buffy settled down on the cot beside Spike’s, smiling when, even in the deep healing sleep he’d fallen into, he automatically turned in her direction and reached out for her.  She took his hand and pulled it to her lips, planting a gentle kiss on his bloody knuckles as she turned to face him.  Her breathing soon evened out as exhaustion made it possible to block out the sounds of all the villagers snoring and snuffling as they also tried to get a little sleep.

 

A disturbance outside brought Buffy awake much sooner than she’d wanted to be. Hissing at Spike to stay put, she grabbed her sword and walked to the door.  One of the young fire tenders came over to report to George who had arrived at the door right after Buffy.

 

“It’s nothing. A couple of them tried to jump a guard, but he was able to knock them down long enough for us to throw them in the pit.  Unless they come back in really big numbers, I think we’ll be fine.”

 

“Okay, if you’re sure….” Buffy yawned and shook herself. “Maybe I should….”

 

“Maybe you should get some rest so you can go out with us tomorrow to see if we can find where they’re coming from,” George said kindly.  “They have to go somewhere in the daytime.”

 

“Good idea,” Buffy said, giving in so quickly it made her feel guilty. She walked back to where Spike was lying on his side watching her through half-open eyes.

 

“Problem?”

 

“Nothing they couldn’t handle without me,” she said, sliding onto her cot and dropping the sword on the floor beside her. “How do you feel?”

 

“Been better,” he admitted. “Although, I’ve probably been worse….” He tried to move and winced. “Okay, maybe not worse. Not since old BatFace, anyway.”

 

Buffy raised her head and looked around the crowded room. Except for George, making his way back to his own make-shift bed, everyone seemed to be sound asleep, the excitement of the evening’s activity having taken its toll on everyone. She moved to the edge of her cot, getting as close to Spike as she could without climbing into the same narrow bed.  She offered her wrist again, cupping his cheek with her hand.

 

“I know you’d rather do this the fun way, but this isn’t about fun, it’s about getting you back on your feet.”

 

“You’re not food,” he grumbled, in spite of the way his eyes were changing color and his fangs dropping.

 

“Not food. Medicine,” she said firmly, pressing her wrist to his mouth. “Now come on. Don’t be stubborn.”

 

“Want it noted that we’re doing this over my objections,” he growled, even as he licked the place he could smell her blood rushing through the blood vessels so close to the surface.

 

“Pfft! You’re going to get slayer blood. I don’t think your demon’s objecting at all, I think he’s wondering what’s taking you so long.”

 

Without responding, Spike slid his fangs into her wrist, making two small holes over the vein there.  He fastened his mouth over the bite and began to suck gently, smiling around his fangs when Buffy gave a soft moan and slumped down on her bed.  Spike sucked only as long as it took for him to feel the effects of her blood coursing through his body, then reluctantly removed his mouth and kissed the already closing holes.

 

“Do you have any idea how much I love you, Buffy Anne Summers?”

 

“Lots?” she responded, trying to keep her eyes open but wanting desperately to close them and get a few more hours of sleep.

 

“Lots and lots,” he whispered, leaning over to kiss her on the forehead. “Go to sleep, love. I’ll be right here.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

 

There was no pretending it wasn’t morning and time to get up. Not with over a hundred people still milling around in the building.  Although the villagers who lived in the center of the town had all gone back to their homes, those living more on the outskirts or on small farms had remained in the safety of the municipal building.

 

Spike was still sleeping as Buffy eased herself out of her cot. Taking the sword with her just in case, she visited the women’s facilities and then went to the car to get another sandwich from her stash in the cooler.  She ate it quickly in case the K’vlecks would be offended that she had brought her own food, washing it down with the bottled water she’d also put in the cooler.  Carrying the half-empty bottle, she went back inside to find Spike on his feet and in deep conversation with George.

 

Eilene, on her way out to go home, greeted Buffy just inside the door, nodding her head in Spike’s direction. “He’s either the fastest-healing vampire I’ve ever seen, or your blood is like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

 

Buffy shrugged. “Well, Spike is a fairly old and strong vamp, but since the wanna-be master apparently wiped out the slayer line in this world long before you were born… I’m gonna go with my blood is like nothing you’ve ever seen.” 

 

“Would it have that effect on any vampire?”

 

“Why? Are you thinking about using me as a blood donor?” Buffy smiled to show she was kidding, but she stepped back and balanced on the balls of her feet.

 

“What? Oh! On my…. No! Not at all. It was just professional curiosity. Does it have any other qualities?”

 

Buffy blushed. “Well, according to Spike, it’s a… What’s that thing that makes people feel sexy?”

 

“Aphrodisiac?”

 

“Yeah, that. He says it is. Couldn’t prove it by me, though. I think he’s always horny, so… Never mind. More than you wanted to know. Sorry.”

 

Eilene laughed softly and rolled her eyes. “If that’s true, it seems like vampires would be trying to bite you all the time.  They don’t, do they?” She frowned with sudden concern.

 

“Not here, they don’t. But in our… where we come from, sometimes they do.  If they know about it. You know, nobody here knows anything about slayers. Most vamps think we’re mythical and when they see me they just think… who is she kidding?”  Buffy shrugged again. “Of course, if they’re evil, then I have to slay them and by the time they figure out I’m not kidding, they’re dust.  So, no, I don’t have vampires chasing after me because they’ve run out of… whatever.”

 

“And if they did, I suspect Spike would have something to say about it.” Eilene smiled as she watched Spike notice Buffy’s presence and beckon her over, his face lighting up as he did so.

 

“Oh yeah.  You could put money on that,” Buffy said as she smiled her good-bye and walked toward her much healthier appearing mate.  “Hey,” she said softly. “How are you feeling?”

 

“Much better, love.” He flexed his shoulders, wincing when the movement pulled on the barely-closed wounds.  “Not hundred percent, but I’m good to go.”

 

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Don’t think I didn’t see that flinch.  You’re not going anywhere. You’re going to stay here and rest while I go out looking for the lair.”

 

“Not without me, you aren’t.” He narrowed his own eyes and glared down at her. Buffy glared back just as firmly.

 

George cleared his throat and backed away from them, saying, “I’ll just be… over here, getting my stuff ready…”

 

The glaring contest continued until they both relaxed at the same time. A smile ghosted across Spike’s face. 

 

“Let’s get some food into you while we fight about it, alright?”

 

“I already ate my last sandwich. I’m fine. I can fight just as well hungry.” Her own lips twitched in response.

 

“They have real food here, pet. I checked for you. You’ll hurt their feelings if you don’t at least have some fruit and cheese. I’m going to wolf down some raw liver, myself.”

 

“Okay, if I did have an appetite, that thought would have trashed it completely.”

 

In spite of her protest, she followed him to the kitchen area where a long buffet table had been set up for those who lived too far away to go home and make their own breakfast.  Taking a small plate, Buffy put some cheese and melon slices on it, adding a piece of toast with cream cheese.  Spike managed to swallow the raw liver that the kitchen staff had produced without actually letting anyone see him do it, and he joined her at a small table, smacking his lips and licking off any last traces of blood.

 

“You’re totally gross, you know,” she said, using dainty fingers to pick up a piece of melon.

 

“And yet you love me anyway,” he said with a grin.

 

“I do,” she replied, suddenly serious. “And that’s why I don’t want you to come with us.  And anyway, it’s daytime. The sun might be out.” He just raised his eyebrow. “Well, it might. You don’t know!”

 

“One,” he said, holding up his hand and folding down one finger, “we’ll be in the woods. Even if the bloody sun does make an appearance, I’ll be alright with my hat and what’s left of my coat. Two – I can scent the little buggers, so can help with the tracking. Three – if the lair is in a cave, you’ll need somebody who can see in the dark.  And four….”

 

Buffy cocked her head. “Four?”

 

“I’m going and that’s an end to it.”

 

She glared into his eyes, which did not reflect their usual warmth but only a cold determination, and then suddenly gave in.

 

“Fine. You can come. But you don’t try to fight anything that has fangs and claws bigger than yours. All right?”

 

“No promises if it comes after you, but yeah, I’ll do my best not to provide today’s lunch.”

 

Satisfied that each had received any and all concessions the other was willing to make, they relaxed, and Buffy quickly gulped the rest of her breakfast. They joined the group George had gathered at the front of the big room, nodding in approval at both the weapons displayed and the smoldering torches being carefully protected by several younger members of the group.  All the torch bearers had containers of fuel and extra matches or lighters in case the torches needed coaxing to burst into flame when needed.

 

“The hunters are going to meet us at the edge of the woods. They’ve followed a few trails, but the ones that escaped seem to have scattered in several different directions so we’ll have to spread out a bit at first.”  He looked at Spike. “I suspect your predator’s nose will be much sharper than ours. Maybe you will pick up on something our trackers missed.”

 

“Bad as the little buggers smell, I’m surprised the Slayer can’t follow their scent,” he said, ducking her half-hearted swing at his head. “But, yeah, I shouldn’t have too much trouble.”  He pointed to the crushed brush right in front of them and asked one of the hunters, “I’m guessing that’s where the overgrown wolverine came from?”

 

The hunter introduced himself as Joe and nodded. “Yeah. It’s pretty easy to follow it back until it gets smaller. Eventually, it isn’t much different from the tracks left by all the little ones.”

 

“That’d be where they first started to clump together then.  Let’s see what we can follow from there.”

 

The forest demon nodded again, and turned to lead the way. “That’s what we figured, but George said just to get a general direction from the trails leading away, so we waited for you and the Slayer.”

 

“Let’s go, then,” Buffy said, stepping up behind Spike who was already visibly testing the scents.

 

 

~~~~~~~~

 

The majority of the trackers had spread out, following as best they could the barely visible trails left by the fleeing creatures.  There was a shout as one of them spotted a small weasel, but before he could capture it, it fell apart and the smaller pieces were soon lost in the underbrush. 

 

For the first fifteen minutes, the trackers were moving further and further apart, then, Buffy noticed, they seemed to be coming closer.  “Is something wrong?” she asked the first one to get close to them.

 

He shook his head. “No, the trail turned and started in this direction.”  Gradually, they were joined by the other trackers as their trails, in turn, joined the one Spike had been following.

 

“Looks like they’re all headed in the same direction now,” he said. “Look sharp everybody, and be ready to fire up those torches.”

 

Moving carefully, but more swiftly, they sped along the now-visible-to-everyone trail until they found themselves stopping at the edge of the trees in front of what seemed to be an abandoned mine entrance. The doorway was still visible, but the large beams bracing the sides had long since started to crumble so the opening looked more like a cave than an artificial construction.

 

Buffy and Spike turned to George who shrugged. “It’s probably one of ours, but it looks like it’s been out of use since way before my time.”

 

“Let me just take a look…” Spike started across the clearing toward the entrance, halting when Buffy grabbed at his torn sleeve.  “Relax, love. I’m just going to stick my nose in, take a few sniffs, maybe look around. Won’t go in very far….”

 

“You’re not going in at all without me,” she said, stamping her foot.

 

“Give me five minutes. If I’m not back, or you haven’t heard from me, bring on the pitchforks and torches, yeah?”

 

“I’ll go in with you,” Joe volunteered. “My night sight is better than most. Not as good as yours, probably, but as long as we’re within sight of the entrance, I should be able to see where I’m going.”  He handed off his bow and arrows, and borrowed a pick from one of the group.

 

With Buffy and George hovering at the entrance, Spike and Joe slipped inside the mine. They moved quietly, stopping often to sniff the air and stare around.  Spike held his hand up, halting the hunter and gesturing ahead.  Although Joe’s vision was much better than that of anyone not from a long line of underground workers, it was already getting too dark for him to see much besides the walls on either side.

 

He waited while Spike went into game face and gave a silent snarl that was answered from somewhere much too close for comfort. Spike pushed lightly against the other man’s chest, backing up slowly without taking his eyes off the dark area in front of them.  A rustling sound from the darkness was all it took for Joe to understand what was happening and he began to back up much more quickly, keeping his eyes focused on the darkness. As they got closer to the entrance, he could see the large shadow that was gaining speed as it followed them.

 

It charged just as they were close enough for those outside to see them, and Buffy snatched one of the torches from its holder. “Give me that!” she said, dropping her sword and darting forward. She waved the smoldering torch until it burst into flames and ran into the cave entrance just in time to push it into the face of the charging creature.  With a snarling scream, it halted, allowing Spike, Joe and Buffy to retreat to the relative safety of the clearing.

 

“More torches! Now!” Buffy ordered, standing in the doorway and holding hers in front of her.  She was quickly joined by several other torchbearers who had all coaxed their flames into life. Spike ran to George, saying, “ I’ve got a plan…”

 

After whispered conversation, George grinned and nodded. “We can do that,” he said. “Got the stuff right here.” Dropping his pack onto the ground, he began to remove things.

 

Spike pointed at several of the other men in the group. “You, you, and you, gather up as much dry wood and brush as you can.”

 

While Buffy and her crew kept the snarling creature at bay, the men who were collecting wood began returning with armfuls of dry tinder and dead wood.  Spike frowned and began muttering to himself.  Nodding his head at no one, he ran back to George. “Are you ready?”

 

“I’ll need to be inside to set the charges,” George said. 

 

“Yeah. Need to get the fire materials inside too. Alright, here’s the plan….”

 

Buffy glanced over her shoulder when he approached. “What’s the what? This isn’t getting us anywhere, it’s just keeping it from getting out.”

 

“Know that, pet. Got a plan, but we need to force it back about twenty or thirty yards.”

 

“Can we do that?”

 

“Shouldn’t be a problem. The torches will provide enough light for you all to see where you’re going, and I’ll be right behind you. I’ll be able to see far enough into the mine to know if it’s trying to escape or if any pieces fall off and try to run past you.”  He quickly ran through the plan with the boys holding the torches, gave instructions to the men holding the firewood, and nodded to George that they were ready.

 

“Show time, love.”

 

Buffy said, “Let’s go, guys. Stay together and keep the torches pointed at that thing’s face. We need to back it up as far as we can without getting too far from the way out.” Advancing slowly, they used the flames to make the snarling creature back up. “If anybody’s torch goes out, you get out of here; the rest of us will fill the space.”

 

Behind them, George was busy about ten yards inside the entrance where there was plenty of light coming in for him to use to see what he was doing. Meanwhile, much farther into the cave, wood was being carefully piled up all the way across the tunnel, creating a wall of highly combustible materials.  Buffy cast a quick look over her shoulder at the activity behind her.  At a signal from George, the men piling up the firewood retreated into the daylight. 

 

“Time to go,” Spike said, leaping over the barrier of dry wood.  He continued to back up, watching as the torch bearers ran past, dropping their flaming torches at the bottom where the driest tinder had been placed. Buffy remained until the last boy was safely running from the cave before throwing her own torch at the demon and turning to run.  With a whoosh, the pile of wood burst into flames just as she jumped over it, singeing the bottom of her jeans.

 

“Get out!” she shrieked at Spike who had stopped to wait for her. “I won’t catch fire that easily. You will!”

 

He didn’t respond except to grab her hand and pull her after him.  As soon as they burst out of the mine entrance, George pressed the plunger on his charges. For a second, it looked like nothing was going to happen, but then there was a roar and a rumble that shook the ground.  When the noise stopped and the dust cleared, the mine entrance was invisible, a large portion of the hillside having slid down to cover it.

 

 

 

“Let’s go,” George said, barely glancing at the landslide he’d created.

 

“Don’t want to stay and admire your handiwork?” Spike seemed surprised and almost offended that George didn’t want share the destruction appreciation with him.

 

“I’ve been mining my entire life,” George said. “I know what my work looks like. Right now, I want to get into the archives, find this mine, and make sure it doesn’t have any other exits.  If it does, I’ll need to find them before the beast can.”

 

“Ah. Good point. Go on, then. The Slayer and I will bring up the rear… just in case.”

 

As the K’vlecks began the trek back to their village, Spike slid to the ground and leaned forward, his elbows on his knees.

 

“What’s wrong?” Buffy dropped down beside him, frowning at the pinched look around his mouth.

 

“Think my little leap over the firewall might have pulled something open.  I just need to rest a bit….”

 

Before he finished speaking, Buffy was pulling his coat off, gasping at the blood leaking through his shirt.  “Dammit! I told you—”

 

“Don’t start,” he said, his voice temporarily stronger, then fading again. “Did what I had to do. I’ll be fine.”

 

“I know you will,” she said, laying him down on his side and lying down next to him. She pulled him over on top of her body, wriggling until they were stretched out together in a familiar fashion.  She nipped at his neck, running her lips from there to his mouth and back to nibble on his throat again.  A rumbling purr followed her actions.

 

“What are you doing, love?”  He moaned and pressed into her. “An’ don’t think that’s a request to stop, but….”

 

“What do you think I’m doing? I’m turning you on so you’ll want to bite me.” She brought her legs up around his hips, taking care not to touch any of the wounds on his back.  Rocking into him, she said, “I don’t want to get naked out here in the woods, but we can fake it.”

 

“There’s nothing fake about what I’m rubbing against you, Slayer,” he growled.  “But I’ve got no problem with being naked. Who’s gonna see us? Squirrels?”

 

“The K’vlecks might come back to see what’s taking us so long… and I so am not providing that kind of show.  This is a good as it gets. Take it or leave it.”

 

“Leaving it isn’t an option,” he murmured as he began to kiss her.  “You know me better than that.”

 

“I do,” she giggled and moved her legs down to hold his thighs in place while she arched up against him.  “I know you.”

 

“Shameless hussy,” he gasped as he began to rock against her. Buffy clung to him, working herself against him, her breath coming faster and harder and whimpers escaped her throat as the sensation built.  When Spike slid his fangs into the mark on her neck, she muffled her scream in his shoulder as she shook under him.  He sucked on his mark, pulling her rich blood into his mouth and exploding with his own orgasm.

 

They lay quietly for several seconds, Spike licking the blood still trickling out until he realized how quiet Buffy was.  He raised his head and stared at her, the fear in his eyes undisguised even though his senses told him that her heartbeat was strong and even.

 

“I’m okay,” she said, reading his fear and reaching up to soothe his wrinkled brow away. 

 

“I took too much.”

 

“You took what you needed. It’s okay. I’ll be fine.  And if I’m not….”

 

“If you’re not, I’m never biting you again.”  She just stared at him, then shook her head.

 

“Yeah. Right. Maybe if your teeth all fall out…”

 

“What? I can love you without biting you. We’re thoroughly mated. It’s not like we haven’t done that enough that we need to be renewing it all the bloody time.”

 

“Okay, fine. You won’t bite me again. I’m not food, and you don’t like it when you drink my blood. Got it.  But you’re feeling good enough to argue now, and I’ll bet your back looks like new.  So get off me and let’s start back before they come looking for us.”

 

She rolled him off, no longer worried about his wounded back, and got to her feet.  He stood up beside her, his expression thunderous.  “You’re too pale.”

 

“I live in a world where the sun hardly ever shines, and I work nights. I’m fine. Come on.”  Buffy started off, leaving a growling vampire to follow her as best he could while trying to keep his sticky jeans from chaffing his favorite body part.  When she faltered after a few hundred yards, he was there to catch her before she could sit down.

 

“Told you so,” he said, good humor restored.  Buffy rolled her eyes, but made no objection when he scooped her up and strode off, his tattered coat flapping in their wake.

 

“You know, you’re going to have to throw this thing out when we get home. It looks more like a leather loin-cloth than a coat.”  She rested her head against his chest and smiled. “Although the thought of you in a leather loin-cloth is pretty interesting….”

 

They hadn’t quite reached the village when Joe appeared, walking toward them with a worried look on his face. When he saw that Spike was carrying Buffy he ran to them.  “What happened? Is she hurt?”

 

“I’m fine, Joe,” Buffy said, indicating to Spike that he should put her down. “Spike needed some first aid and it kinda tired me out.  But I’m good.”

 

“If you’re sure…” Joe looked dubious. “I can get a litter out here and—”

 

“We’re okay, mate. Thanks anyway. Slayer just needs some food and drink and then I think we’ll head for home. Should make it by bedtime if we leave early enough.”

 

Joe nodded and disappeared, jogging in the direction of the village. By the time Spike and Buffy walked into the Community Center, Eilene was waiting for them, as was a full range of human and vampire food.  The healer watched carefully as Buffy immediately drank a whole pitcher of water and then made herself a sandwich of roast beef and cheese.  While Spike gulped down more raw liver and patted his stomach happily, he kept his eyes on Buffy, not relaxing until he could see the color back in her cheeks.  His eyes met Eilene’s and she frowned at him, looking back and forth between Buffy and her vampire.

 

“She’s very stubborn,” he said with a shrug.  Buffy glared at him, then smiled at Eilene.

 

“I’m fine,” she assured her. “He’s fine and I’m fine. By tomorrow morning I’ll be… even more fine.”

 

The healer sighed. “I suppose you know what’s best for you.  This is all new to me, and I don’t suppose I’ll ever need the information again.”

 

“Let’s hope not,” Buffy said, helping herself to another slab of meat and more water. 

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

After they’d eaten, rested and been thanked profusely by both George and most of the villagers, they got in the car and waved their good-byes.  Spike blew a kiss to the little girl he’d befriended the first night, assuring her they would come back to visit someday.

 

“Are you okay to drive, really?”

 

“I’m fine, pet. Lie down and get some kip while I get us home, yeah?”

 

“Talked me into it,” Buffy said, already putting her head on his lap. “Let me know when we get there.”

 

He rested one hand on her head, stroking her hair softly as he drove through the countryside, taking them home. 

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

He pulled into the driveway and shut off the engine with a sigh of relief.  Buffy raised her head and looked around, blinking against the darkness.

 

“Where are we?”

 

“We’re home, love.  Time to get into our own comfy bed and get some real sleep.”

 

When Buffy started to the rear of the car to unload, he said, “Leave it. We’ll get it tomorrow.”  He didn’t look back at her as he started toward the front door, swaying just a little at the top of the steps.  Buffy was on the porch beside him before he could get his key in the lock, putting his arm over her shoulder and taking the key herself.

 

“You moron,” she said, opening the door and steering him toward the bedroom. “My blood is awesome, but it can’t work miracles.  Why didn’t you stop to rest if you were so tired?”

 

“Wanted to do my resting in my own bed,” he growled, sitting down and letting her untie his boots while he skinned out of his tee shirt. He fell backwards, not arguing when she picked his legs up and swung them onto the mattress.  His eyes closed, and he went as still as the corpse he really was before Buffy had even pulled his boots and pants off.  Shaking her head, she pulled the quilt up out from underneath him, covered him with it, and left the bedroom to lock the front door.

 

She thought briefly about taking a shower, then settled for a quick pee and brushing her teeth before going into the bedroom. She was shedding clothes as she walked, arriving at the bed nude and chilly.  Sliding in between the sheets, she snuggled up to Spike, hoping he could feel her warmth through the bedding between them.  As soon as his arm flopped over her waist, she smiled and let herself drift back into the pleasant sleep that had been interrupted by their arrival home.

 

At some point during the night, she awoke long enough to feel Spike squirming under the covers and snuggling up behind her, bare skin to bare skin. If she needed any sign of how tired he really was, the fact that he quit moving the instant he was pressed up against her would have done it.  Her own eyes drifted shut again as she pulled his arm more tightly around her body.

 

 

~~~~~~~

 

 

Her own panting moans woke her the next morning.  Spike had obviously recovered more quickly than she had. He was visible only as a large lump under the covers, where he was kissing his way down her body while his fingers played magical tunes on the suddenly needy spot between her legs.  Her “Gah!” almost drowned out the popping sound from the kitchen, but Spike’s growl and subsequent appearance from under the blankets told her she hadn’t imagined the sound.

 

“Buffy? Spike?  Are you awake?  And decent?”

 

“Yes! And No!” Buffy hastily added, peering around on the floor for her bathrobe.  “Just hold on a minute.”  She spotted the robe and giving Spike a kiss on his disappointed face, she jumped out of bed and wrapped the robe around her.  “Are you coming?” she asked, looking over her shoulder as she reached for the door.

 

“Apparently not,” he said with a pout. He pulled his pants on and zipped them, frowning at Buffy when she just stared at him.  “What?”

 

“Put a shirt on,” she said, throwing it to him. “Dawn doesn’t need to know that much about you.”

 

Rolling his eyes he yanked the shirt over his head and followed her to the kitchen where Dawn was waiting impatiently.

 

“It’s about time,” she said. “Were you going to stay in bed all day?”

 

“Thought had crossed my mind,” Spike said, glaring at her. She ignored his glare and stepped out of her portal to hug Buffy.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said to her sister. “But there’s some stuff going down in Sunnydale and Buffy said to let you know that if it comes down to it, they may need you there.”

 

“Of course!  But what can we do? Won’t we be stuck in the portal?”

 

“Yeah. I think they want you mostly as backup if they need to convince… somebody… that they’re telling the truth.”

 

“Do we have to leave now?” Buffy asked with resignation in her voice.  “We just got back from—”

 

“No, no. Not now. Buffy’s trying to handle it herself, but she just wanted to give you a heads up so you check for messages from them every day. I guess she thinks if she does need you, it might be an emergency of some kind.”

 

“What kind of emergency?”

 

Dawn shrugged. “I guess if the Intia—  You know what? Nothing. It’s probably going to be nothing. Just hang close to home for a while, okay? Just in case.”

 

“That’s it? My morning was interrupted just so you could tell us to stay home?” Spike’s glare had turned lethal, but Dawn stared back at him unperturbed. He wondered briefly what other talents she might have that made her so impervious to his implied threats, deciding to settle for glaring at her.

 

“It’s 3:00 in the afternoon. And you two can go back to whatever you were doing as soon as I leave.  Which is about now…” She stepped back into the portal, waved and disappeared with another ear shattering “pop”.

 

“Bloody nuisance, you sister is,” Spike growled.  “And the other you too, for that matter. Do they think we have nothing better to do than sit around waiting for a call for help from them?”

 

“They came when we needed them,” Buffy reminded him, slipping her arms around him from behind and holding him tightly.  “If they hadn’t, we probably wouldn’t be here now – either one of us.”

 

He relaxed and nodded. “I know that, love. I’m just being a wanker about being interrupted.”  He turned around in her embrace and lowered his head to kiss her. “Now where were we?”

 

Buffy giggled and moved away.  “I think you were about… here,” she said, dropping her bathrobe to the floor and pointing to where his attention was already focused. She spun around to run to the bedroom, Spike only a half-step behind her.  He tackled her to the bed and held her down with his body while he mock-growled and sucked on her neck.  “Cheeky bint.”

 

“Cheeky bint who loves you,” she breathed, wriggling beneath him.

 

“It’s the only reason I put up with you,” he said, his words belied by his warm gaze as he allowed her to turn over to face him. 

 

“Liar.”  She smiled back at him. “You are such a liar.”

 

“ 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.

 

 

The End

 

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