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Title: Just a Little Spell      12/9/04                                                                               Author: Slaymesoftly                                                                                      

Rating: NC17                                                                                                   

 Word Count 100,590                                                                                        

 Season IV – begins during Something Blue                                                                   Summary of this part - Short, sort of mild pwp, from Buffy’s pov during Willow’s spell. Followed by Spike’s pov of the same time frame. Non-canon, right from the beginning.  Spike and Buffy get a bit more involved than they had a chance to on the show and must learn to live with the consequences. The rest of the story is about how they adjust to their new relationship and how it affects both their lives and the lives around them.

 

Just a Little Spell

 

Part I  Buffy pov

 

I don’t know what everyone is so wigged out about.  Yeah, ok, maybe it is kinda sudden, but it’s not like that attraction between us hasn’t been there since the first time I saw him.  I mean, how blind does everyone have to be to not have noticed?

          Blind.  Oops, my bad.  Poor Giles.  I’m sure he’d be handling this a whole lot better if he wasn’t blind.  But, hey! At least he got a chance to see how valuable Spike will be to us. What with his helping to find a counter-spell and all.

           And Xander?  Where does he get off criticizing my taste in partners?  He’s dating an ex-vengeance demon and being pursued by hundreds more. His demon-attracting magnetism is going to get us all killed.   Maybe that’s not his fault, but still....

             I felt kinda bad for Riley.  I guess he thought we had something going there until he saw me looking at the wedding dresses.  I’ll have to explain to him that I was just mad at Spike when I started seeing him.  Now that we’re back together and engaged, obviously I won’t be dating anyone else.

             Got to figure out how to get around this whole “no sunlight” deal.  I’d always thought I’d get married outdoors in the sunshine, but I guess that’s out. Spike’s right.  We’d be checking in for our honeymoon as Mrs. And Mrs. Big Pile of Dust.  Can’t have that.  I’m really looking forward to that honeymoon...

              Whew, that is IF we can wait that long for...Oh, good. There he is, still here and waiting for me.  I’m glad nobody sat in “our” chair.  It feels so good to be cuddled on his lap; to have those strong arms around me; to feel him nibbling on my lip; licking my neck; breathing in my ear...

             I wonder what the lump is poking me in the butt…oh!  That’s what it is! Seems awfully big – I’m sure Angel never felt like that when I sat on his lap. I wonder if anyone would notice if I just slipped my hand down there to feel…Whoa!

          Hee! Made Spike jump.  And groan.  Need to shush him.  I’ll tell him I’ll stop touching him if he doesn’t get quiet.  Ha! That shut him up pretty fast.  I guess he likes what I’m doing.

             I wonder if Giles would mind if we left the room.  He says he doesn’t want to hear us kissing.  Maybe I should offer to go into another room.  We could go in his bedroom…

              Okaaay, then.  Not a good idea to go to his bedroom.  I had no idea Giles knew words like that!  Maybe he’ll go into his bedroom.  Since he can’t see, he might as well lie down.  Think I’ll suggest that.

             Oh, he liked that idea.  Good night, Giles.  Whoops!  Ouch!  Maybe I should help? I’ll bet that hurt, walking into the door like that.  Let me go, Spike. I’m just going to help Giles into his room.  I’ll be right back.  Don’t go away.

              See? I’m back.  And you’re still glad to see me.  I like the way it jumps in my hand when I squeeze it.  And the look on his face.  It’s pretty cool the way he bites his lip to keep from making noise. Such a nice lip.  I think I’ll bite it too…

                Now if we can just get rid of Anya and Xander…Oh, they’re going into the bathroom. Ha! They’ll be in there for a while.  Now there’s nobody here except my fiancé and me.

              I guess he noticed they were gone, those hands are getting…ooooo that feels good.  I wonder what he…gah!  Whoops, quiet, Buffy.  Definitely don’t want to be interrupted just…yet…oh my god…what is he… what?  How did he get my underwear off?  I can’t believe I didn’t notice…oh, that’s nice, mmmmm, that just feels…feels…feels…like…oh my god…Spike!

                Well, wasn’t that a revelation?  Is he laughing at me?  Bet he thinks he’s the first one to make me…well, ok, he is.  But he doesn’t’ need to know that.  Just act like it happens all the time, Buffy.  No biggie.  So he made me get a happy just with his thumb.  It was probably an accident.  Maybe he should try it again.  I’ll bet I could ignore him….

           Or, better yet, I’ll bet I can make him happy first…Just get this zipper down…oh…my…that is big…and…hard…and…okay, concentrate, Buffy.  See how he scoots down in the chair and moans when you pull on it?  Wonder what he’d do if I…hah! Guess he liked that!

 I can do this. Just like licking an ice cream cone or a lollipop – except…bigger, and moving, and…whoa! Swallow, Buffy!  Hurry, swallow faster! 

            Take that Spike.  Now who’s all “look what I made you do, huh?”

            Hey, mister!  What do you think you’re…oh, forgot – no underwear.  There’s nothing between him and my…oh, no, that thing won’t fit in there…well, okay, maybe if I just lower myself onto it a little bit at a time.

            Stop groaning, Spike.  This is going to take a while…in fact, it feels so good going in, it might just take a long ti-…oof! Okay, or we could just ram it in there. That works too. 

            I’m not sure how to do this.  Angel just got on top of me and grunted away for a few minutes.  It didn’t feel anything like this…this is really…quite…nice.  When I move up and down, he moves too.  Sets up some nice…friction…Willow would be proud of me.  Good science word there.  Friction.  Friction is good.  Like friction.  More friction…more…friction…more…more…more…FRICTION!

           Hmm, okay.  There’s more than one way to get a happy.  Good to know.  And he’s still…love his face when he’s trying to control his demon.  Pretty demon. It’s okay, you can come out and play.  Just don’t get too close to my…oh, too late.  He’s already licking my neck…feels kinda good.  Sorta tingley, makes me want to…

             I think I might be…again…Are those Spike’s fangs in my neck?  Cause they sure don’t feel like…oooooh…who knew getting your blood sucked out of your body could feel so good?  I think I’m going to…..oh yeah!  Most definitely. Happy number 3…or is is 4?  I think my brain is turning to mush.

                 I’m letting Spike suck on my blood while he sticks…other things…into other body parts.  And it all just feels… I should be wigging out here.  It’s one thing to be engaged…it’s something else entirely to let him…”Mine?” what the hell does he mean, “Mine”?  I mean, yeah, okay, engaged to be married and all that, but “mine” sounds just a little possessive.  Suppose I did that to him?

                Two can play at this game, buster.  Hmmm, he tastes pretty good, nice smooth skin, if I suck real hard…hah! Weren’t expecting that one, were you, vampire?  You’re mine!  And don’t you forget it.

                This is nice.  Just the two of us, resting together.  He’s still inside me, that’s kinda cool.  Makes me feel all…loved.  Strong arms around me.  Safe.  Loved and safe.  I could get used to this.

              Whoops, Spike hears Xander and Anya coming out.  Quick!  Zip up your pants!  Where’s my underwear?  What do you mean, you don’t know?  Okay, okay, skirt down.  It’s not like anybody’s going to lift it up to see if I’m wearing underwear.

                See, all good now.  I know what you guys were doing in there.  Not us though. Nope, just Spike and his fianceé, Buffy, cuddling in the big comfy chair.  Old “wait for the wedding night” Buffy and gentleman Spike.  Just cuddling, and kissing.  Lots of kissing…kissing is good…got to be the best kisser on the planet.

               Oh look, there’s Willow.  She’s apologizing for something.  I wonder what she did?  Oh, that’s right.  She put a spell on Xander and Giles.  Good thing she didn’t do that to us.  It might have…might have…no.  No…this can’t be right. We’re… we’re engaged.  We love each other.  We…we’re the Slayer and a vampire…

              Oh. My. God.  It was a spell.  And now it’s over.  We’re not…we don’t…we can’t…why do I feel like crying?  Why does Spike look so sad?  Must get off the evil vampire’s lap before he throws me on the floor.  Moving now.  Getting away from evil vampire…must run to bathroom.  Avoid looking at evil vampire.  Just back away and leave the room…

               I am not crying.  It looks like I’m crying when I see my face in the mirror, but I’m not crying.  There is nothing to cry about.  It was a spell. It’s over.  Not our fault.  I don’t love him…  He hates me…  As it should be…  Life can go back to normal now…Are those bite marks on my neck?

 

 

SPIKE POV

 

            Don’t know what’s wrong with the stupid Scoobies.  Even the Watcher.  Isn’t he supposed to be watchin’ things?  Seems like he might’ve noticed how I’ve never been able to take my eyes off his Slayer.  Couldn’t kill her.  Came right here to her for help when I go out of that…place.

 

            So, yeah, maybe askin’ her to marry me was a surprise to everybody.  But bloody hell, they HAD to know how I felt about her.   Can’t say I was sure how she felt about me.  Never prayed so hard in my life as when I was waitin’ for her to answer me.  Would’ve begged if I had to.  But she did it.  She said “Yes”. My Slayer said she’d marry me.

 

            Guess the Watcher can be forgiven for bein’ a tad upset.  Must be hard to go blind all of a sudden like that.  Got to be a spell.  If I can help ‘im find a cure, that should ease his mind a little about his Slayer bein’ with me.

 

            Soddin’ whelp.  He’s shagging an ex-vengeance demon every chance he gets. Doesn’t need to be getting’ all high and mighty with Buffy about her choices.  He’s jealous.  I can smell it.  She thinks he’s not, but he is.  He wants her.  My Slayer.  Not gonna happen, whelp.  Never givin’ her up.

 

            So cute. The way she’s plannin’ this weddin’.  Like we have choices about where and when.  What with her bein’ the Slayer and me a vampire.  In the middle of a meadow on a summer’s day jus’ isn’t in the cards.  We could do moonlight, though.  That might be nice.  Have to mention it.  Moonlight can be right pretty.  And we could go right from the weddin’ to the honeymoon…

 

            Wonder if she’s gonna make me wait till then?  Jus’ looking at her makes me hard.  I’ll be walking funny for the next six months if she tries to hold off till then.  Don’t think she really wants to, though.  Jus’ thinks she should say it.

 

            Ah! Here she is.  My own little heater.  Sittin’ on my lap and cuddling with the Big Bad.  She smells so good, tastes good too, got to have a little nibble of that ear.  Can smell how she’s reactin’ to me.  Know she can feel what she does to me….oh yeah, she feels it…

 

            Holy shit!  She’s really feelin’ it!  Oh, Slayer.  You don’ know what you’re doin’ to me…or maybe she does.  Little minx, tellin’ me to be quiet or she’ll stop touchin’ me.  I can do quiet…might put my teeth through m’lip to do it, but if it’ll make her keep that up, I can do it…

 

            No way can I keep a straight face now.  She actually asked the Watcher if we could go into his bedroom!  Thought the sgit was gonna have a heart attack on the spot.  Based on the words comin’ out of his mouth, Ole Ripper must’ve led an interestin’ life before he settled down… Fuck! She talked him into going to bed!  That’s my girl.  Always on top of things. 

 

            Hey! Not on top of things anymore…come back, love.  Oh, alright. She’s jus’ helpin’ the Watcher to his room.  Leaving me sitting here, my cock pushing against my zipper, getting all cold without her warm little ass covering it up.

 

            Oh, good, she’s back.  Ah, happy cock.  Being petted with her hot little hands…What she’s doin’ to me…need to…bloody hell, she’s biting m’lip with her tiny little teeth.  Wonder if she has any idea what that does to a vampire?

 

            Got to love demon-girl.  She’s draggin’ the whelp off to the bathroom for some noisy shaggin’.  Good job, girl.  You jus’ keep that interferrin’ git in there for a long time while I…

 

            Smooth skin, so warm, so soft.  I could run my hands over her body forever.  Don’ know what I did right in my evil life that she would be wearin’ a skirt today instead of pants, but musta done somethin’ to make somebody up there happy.  Can slide my hand right up that silky leg and into her warm, tight little…Damn, she’s wet.  And ready for me.  Love the way she moves under my hand, love those little noises, whimpers, come for me, love.  Know you want to. Can hear it in those little gasping noises…come on, love…let it…Fuck! Who knew the Slayer would be so responsive?

 

            So adorable.  Trying to pretend that wasn’t new to her.  Know the bloody poof didn’t worry about makin’ her come the one time he had her. All he cared about was getting his dinky little prick in her and losing his soddin’ soul.  And no way a player like that Parker git knows how to please a woman.  If he did, he wouldn’t be movin’ from one to the other like he does….

 

            Wonder how soon I can make her come ag…bloody hell!  She’s got me out and those hot little hands are making me…Bloody buggerin’ fuck!  She licked me!  Jus’ ran that hot little tongue up there like she…oh shit, oh fuck…Slayer, what are…no, stop, love, don’t …I can’t….aaaaaah!

 

            That’s it.  I love this woman.  Love her with every undead cell of my body.  And I’m not waiting for some fuckin’ honeymoon to show her how much.  That’s it, love, let me in.  Straddle me, pet.  Jus’ spread those pretty knees and let me…god…you are so tight…so wet and hot, but so tight…you’re killin’ me here, love.  Want to…too slow…I’ll teach you slow later…now I’ve got to feel you around me…now!

 

            This is heaven.  Know it is.  Can’t be anythin’ else  - feeling the Slayer all around me, breathin’ her scent, tasting her skin.  Din’ take her long to figure out the best way to do this in a chair.  She’s bouncing up and down on me like she…bloody hell…she came again.  Knew she’d be a hot little number, but I had no idea…Got to keep the demon in.  He wants her too.  Wants to claim her…don’t want to scare her…my little Slayer.  I’ll explain about claimin’ after we’re married..let her get used to the…now she’s just fuckin’ with me.  Biting me, coaxing the demon out…she smells so good…tastes fuckin’ fantastic…just a little bite…what could it hurt…can make it good for her…that’s my baby.  Come for me again, pay no attention to those fangs in your neck, you jus’ let yourself feel the love I’m sending you…Gonna make you mine…

 

            I did it.  Didn’t mean to, but I did.  I claimed her.  Claimed my mate.  S’ok, I guess.  We’re gonna be married anyway…she’s…what the hell?  What does she think she’s doin—Jesus, she claimed me back!  Oh god, love.  You don’ know what you’re doin’ to me…Comin’ again, love.  Come with me…come with me, Buffy…Make me….Buffy!

 

            …This is nice.  I could get used to this.  Slayer sittin’ on me, all relaxed and cuddly.  My limp cock still inside her warm body, her blood in my throat.  Want to hold her and love her forever.  Keep her safe.  Never let her out of my…

 

            Leave to the soddin’ whelp to interrupt a moment.  Poor little Slayer, so afraid she’ll get caught with her panties off.  That’s it, love.  Jus’ pull that skirt down and they’ll never know what we’ve been doing.  Not ‘less they can tell from the looks on our faces, anyway.  Know I must look like I jus’ won the lottery… 

 

            What the fuck?  Red jus’ popped into the room, all teary and apologizin’. Oh, she must be the one that mucked up the spell.  Figures.  Well, the Watcher’ll be happier now.  And demons’ll stop trying to beat down the door for the whelp.  Guess Buffy and I can jus’ stay here in the comfy chair and watch the others get over being…no…no…not us…we weren’t…it was real!  It HAS to be real!  I can’t give her up…can’t go back to…

 

            Bugger.  It was a spell.  Spell to make us think we were getting’ married.  But why’d it make us want each other so bad?  Why’d I think I was in love with the miserable bitch?  Speakin’ of which…why hasn’t she jumped off my lap yet?  Shouldn’t she be wipin’ her lips off and stakin’ me?

 

            There she goes…runnin’ to the bathroom without so much as a “sorry, Spike”…prob’ly needs to take a shower.  Get rid of the smell of a vampire on her delicate little parts…S’what I should do too.  Wash the scent of her off my body.  Never get the taste of her blood out of my mind…pure ambrosia it was…I…bloody hell.  I claimed her!  The Slayer!  And she claimed me back!

 

            Fuck. 

 

 

 

Part II

Chapter One

 

 

Amidst the recriminations, apologies and general uproar that greeted Willow’s arrival and the subsequent breaking of the spell, no one noticed that Buffy had retreated to the bathroom and not come out; nor that the resident chipped vampire had stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind him.

 

            Eventually, as Willow began a marathon “I’m sorry” cookie-baking session, and everyone had chocolate chip goodness in their mouths, Xander looked around and asked, “Hey, where’s the evil, undead, sooo-not-ever-going-to-be-a-bridegroom?”

 

            “Who knows?” Anya said.  “Maybe he went for a walk.  You know, to clear his head after the spell?”

 

            “Who cares?” said Buffy, shuddering.  “He’s not here. That’s all I care about.”

 

            “Right there with ya, Buffster.  But shouldn’t we be keeping tabs on him?”

 

            “He’s harmless.  He can’t hurt anybody, and he has nowhere to go.  He’ll be back,” she said quietly.

 

            He’ll be back, and I’ll have to face him.  Sooner or later I’m going to have to talk to him, or look at him, or touch….no, no touching.  There will be no touching of the evil vampire.  Not that he’d want to.  He probably ran out to get away from me.  He’s probably just as repulsed as I am.  And I am.  Repulsed.  Totally.  Never mind the amazing kissing and the soft touches and the…no!  Repulsed.  Just as I should be.

 

            Giles cleared his throat and looked hard at the very subdued Slayer.

 

            “I presume you would like to thank me now for turning down your generous offer to take Spike into the bedroom where your kissing noises would not disturb me?  The Lord only knows what might have happened if you two had been left alone in that state.”

 

            Before Anya could get the words out of her mouth, Xander and Buffy shushed her – putting a puzzled pout on her face and a frown on Giles'.

 

            “You WERE never left alone, I hope?” He gave the ex-demon and her coughing boyfriend a threatening glare, while Buffy did her best imitation of a deer staring down a semi in the middle of the freeway.

 

            “Well,” the boy began,  “not alone, as such, no.  Not for very long, anyway.  I mean not long enough for any-“

 

            “You irresponsible git!  You left Buffy alone with William the Bloody while she was under a spell that had her thinking she was in love with him?  What were you thinking?”

 

            Anya refused to be shushed any longer and spoke up forcefully.  “We were thinking that we wanted to have some orgasms and we didn’t want to do it in front of Spike and Buffy.  Not that I don’t think we might be worth watching,” she added, with a nod in Buffy’s direction.  “But Xander has this thing about privacy…”

 

            “And, I repeat,” Giles gritted out between his teeth, “you left Buffy alone with a vampire that has already killed two Slayers.”

 

            Anya looked at him as though he was a not very bright small child and explained slowly,  “Spike was in love too.  He wasn’t going to hurt Buffy.  At worst, he might have given her an orgasm.  Vampires can be very—mmmph!”

 

           Xander’s hand over her mouth brought a merciful halt to her explanation.  The resulting scuffle as the angry ex-demon removed his hand and berated him meant that they all missed the sudden scarlet color that flooded Buffy’s face.  By the time any one was looking at her again, she had dropped her head and was studiously pretending to read a book.

                 “Well, I suppose there’s nothing to be done for it, now, “ Giles grumbled. “Fortunately, she seems none the worse for the experience.”

 

                He glanced over at Buffy, who gave him a weak smile and immediately dropped her head back to the book.  She pretended to read a while longer, then gave it up with a sigh and got to her feet.

 

              “I need to patrol,” she said, edging toward the door.  “With that spell and everything, who knows what might have gone on while I was thinking about…about weddings and things.  See you tomorrow!”

 

              She whirled and bolted out the door, not dissimilarly from the way the vampire had before her.  As soon as she was safely away from the apartment and the prying eyes of her friends and watcher, she slowed down and finally came to rest sitting on a bench near the campus of S.U.

 

                    Her fingers idly traced the scabbed over marks on her neck as she relived the events of the last few hours.  Unwelcome memories of how solicitous Spike had been when her watcher went blind, how gentle and tender he’d been with her, how overjoyed when she’d said yes to his proposal and worst of all – how completely safe and cherished she’d felt when he held her, all battled with memories of the many times he’d tried to kill her and the times he’d threatened her friends.

 

              Suddenly she doubled over as a sharp pain shot through her solar plexus and she felt a bolt of rage and…was that fear? go through her.  As quickly as it came, the feelings were gone. Shut off as though a switch had been thrown.  She leaped to her feet, sending her senses out in all directions, seeking the source of the sensations.

 

               Buffy wasn’t stupid.  Even given her usual lack of attention to Giles’ attempts to educate her about demons and vampires, she had picked up some knowledge of claiming rituals.  She knew immediately whose those feelings they were, and she almost growled in frustration at the way he’d cut her off.

 

               She found that the marks on her neck were tingling, and that she could increase or decrease the tingles by turning in different directions.  She was soon running through the campus, twisting and turning as the tingles got stronger or weaker.  When they had settled into a steady throb, she knew she was approaching Spike and whatever had caused the initial pain.

              Slowing down, she moved toward a clump of bushes on the edge of the campus, edging cautiously toward the sounds of a struggle emanating from the other side of the clump.  She peered through the leaves and gasped as she saw Spike surrounded by men in black uniforms and commando gear.  Immediately she recognized that these must be the men that had captured and neutered the blond vampire.

 

                 She stood there for minutes, torn between her duty as the Slayer to rid the world of vampires, and the incredible feeling of rage that was flooding her body as Spike tried to defend himself without setting off the agony in his head that she knew would accompany any aggressive moves on his part.  She briefly admired his ability to dodge and evade the many blows that the small group of men tried to land.  His vampire speed and his own innate fighting skills allowed him to hold his own for several minutes.

 

              Suddenly Buffy was on the ground, shaking uncontrollably.   As she struggled back to her feet, she saw that one of the men had apparently gotten close enough to the vampire to hit him with a taser.  The men were now kicking him as he lay on the ground, unconscious and bleeding.  With Spike unable to block the claim, Buffy felt echoes of every blow and she staggered into the clearing, placing herself between Spike and the largest of the commandos.

 

            “Is this a private party, or can I play?” she asked in a chirpy voice.  There was something vaguely familiar about the man in front of her and she saw him flinch just a little when he saw her face.

 

            Interesting…apparently I know one of these guys.  Definitely gonna have to explore that angle.  After I get them away from Spike.

 

            She felt Spike stirring behind her and risked a quick glance to see if he was all right.  To her surprise, he looked up at her and said, “Get out of here, Slayer.”

 

               She shook her head, “no” and turned back to face the advancing soldiers, backing up to stand over Spike as she did.  The man who seemed to know her held up his hand and the others stopped their advance.

 

              “What the hell, Finn?  It’s just one girl and she’s trying to protect a hostile. Just let me move her out of the…” His attempt to push Buffy to one side resulted in his body being propelled across the clearing and into a bush, from which he could be heard cursing and thrashing around.

           When Spike’s voice whispered in her head saying, “Leave! Buffy.  Now. Get out of here.” she was almost in motion before the impact of what he’d done hit her.

 

             Son of a bitch! He’s using the claim to order me around.  I am sooo going to kick his butt!

 

        “If you don’t get out of here, love, you won’t be kickin’ anything but plastic walls.  You think they’re gonna let you go once they realize what you are?  Leave me, dammit!”

 

            Leaving the total wigginess of being able to talk to Spike without speaking aloud as something to worry about later, Buffy shook her head again and crossed her arms over her chest.

 

            “Go pick on somebody who can fight back,” she said contemptuously. “This vampire belongs to me.”

 

               At a signal from the leader, the remaining commandos jumped toward the Slayer all at once.  Of the two coming at her from behind, Spike managed to trip one of them, causing only a minor headache, and Buffy flipped the other one over her shoulder and into the two advancing from the front.  She followed up with a roundhouse kick to the chest of the man remaining on his feet, then turned to grab Spike’s hand and yank him to his feet.

 

                 “Can you run?”

 

                 “Yeah, Go.  I’m right behind you.”

 

                 She threw a dubious look over her shoulder, but when she saw that he was, in fact, running easily behind her she increased her pace and they were soon off the campus and on the way back to Giles’ apartment.  Buffy tried to ignore the fact that Spike was still clinging to the hand she’d used to pull him up. She told herself she was allowing him to hang on just so that she would know if he began to fall back.

 

                  As they approached the apartment complex, Spike slowed down, pulling on Buffy’s hand until she stopped and turned to face him.  Now that the immediate danger was over, she remembered that she didn’t actually want to see him again, let alone be standing in the dark with his hand still in hers.  As he began to gently rub his thumb over her wrist, she moaned and tried to pull away.

 

                “No, Spike. Stop that.  You need to get out of sight.”

 

               “So do you, love,” he said softly, moving into her personal space and never releasing her hand.  “They know you’re something special now and they’ll be wantin’ to put you in that place and find out what makes you tick.”

 

                Damn.  I don’t want to be this close to him.  It’s too much like…what is he doing?  Stop that!

 

               “Stop what, love?  All I did was touch your face.”

 

             “Stop touching me!  There will be no touching of faces, or any other body parts….and…and get out of my head!”

 

          “Alright, Slayer,” he surprised her by saying aloud.  “But you’re gonna have to learn to stop projecting your thoughts if you don’t want me to know what they are.”

 

             “I NEVER want you to know what they are, Spike!  You and my thoughts?  Very not mixy . What do I have to do to make this…thing…go away?”

 

              She thought she saw a flash of pain go across his face, but he quickly masked it with his trademark smirk as he answered, “You mean the claim you put on me, pet?”

 

               “You claimed me first!” she protested.  “What the hell did you think you were doing?”

 

             “I believe I thought I was making sure the world knew how much I love…loved…the woman I was going to marry.  Didn’t mean to cause you any harm, pet.  ‘S why my brain didn’t fry when I did it, I guess.  I’m sorry,” he finished so softly she could barely hear him.

 

              Buffy guiltily remembered how she’d been all over him at the time and how she’d unwittingly put her own claim on him.  She looked away from his dejected face and played with the buttons on her shirt.  

 

               This isn’t his fault.  And it’s not mine, either.  We were just caught up in Willow’s stupid spell and we acted the way two people who wanted to get married would have acted.

 

               “I’m sorry, too,” she muttered, still looking at her shirt and missing the look of surprise that crossed his face.  “This wasn’t anybody’s fault…well, I mean, it was Willow’s fault, but not yours.  Or mine.  We couldn’t help what we…Oh god!”

 

            Her eyes flew up to meet his puzzled expression.

 

          “Spike!  We had sex!  Me. You. Us.  The Slayer.  A vampire.  Oh my god.  I had sex with William the Bloody.  I let you…I touched your…I…Oh my god…”

 

            “Easy, pet.” He stepped closer and unconsciously rubbed her arms soothingly.  “You’re gonna hyperventilate on me.”

 

              When she didn’t calm down, but continued to babble as her heart rate shot up and her breath came even faster, he cautiously exerted the claim and sent soothing feelings into her.   He also used his touch to calm her, placing his arms loosely around her body and pulling her into his chest.

 

               “Easy, love,” he murmured into her ear.  “Easy, pet.  It’s gonna be alright. I promise.  No one’s ever gonna know.  We can get Red to do a forgettin’ spell if you want.  You don’t ever have to think about it again, if you don’t want to.”

 

             When he felt her relax and lean into him, resting her head briefly on his chest, he sighed and rested his chin on the top of her head. Knowing it might well be his last chance, he inhaled the herbal scent of her silky hair and stored it away in his memory.

 

              When she felt his arms around her, Buffy immediately calmed down, basking in the somehow still-familiar comfort.  The soothing baritone voice crooning in her ear worked like magic to ease the panic to which she had almost succumbed.

 

              She looked up at him and tentatively asked, “No one will know?  Are you sure? How can I trust you?” 

 

                 She winced when she felt the pain that shot through him – even though he smothered it immediately and never let it show on his face.  He quickly adopted his usual snarky expression and said, “Hey, I’ve got no desire to get dusted over somethin’ I did because of a spell.  You think I want your Watcher or the whelp knowin’ we…especially now that I can’t defend m’self?  And I’d be the laughin’ stock of the demon world if they knew I…if they knew I’d wanted to marry the Slayer.  No worries, pet.”

 

                 Buffy suddenly realized she was being held in the very arms that she was so adamant she needed to forget, and she pushed herself away with a little gasp.

 

                 “What are we doing?” She felt the panic coming back into her voice, but she couldn’t help it.  There had to be something very wrong with the way Spike’s arms felt so right.

 

                “Nothin’, pet,” he soothed. “We’re not doing anythin’.  Jus takin’ a little breather before we go inside.  ‘S alright, love.”

 

                “Stop doing that!”

 

                “Stop doing what?”

 

               “Stop calming me down!  And stop calling me…love.  It’s not…right.  I’m the Slayer…not…not your love.  That was just the spell.  The spell that we are sooo going to forget!”

 

              “Was it really all that bad, lo-Slayer?” 

              His hand gently traced her face and he didn’t try to hide what he was feeling.  Buffy tried to ignore the sadness radiating from the vampire as he continued to stroke her cheek.  She vigorously nodded her head, saying firmly, “Yes, of course it was.  I mean there was kissing, and touching, and…then we…argh!”

 

               No, it wasn’t all that bad.  It wasn’t bad at all.  It was amazing, actually…But I’m the Slayer.  I can’t--

 

               “What?!“ she demanded as the vampire regained his cocky look and moved closer to her, grinning at her indignant expression.

 

               “Methinks the lady doth protest too much.”

 

               “Huh? Who thinks?  What lady? What are you talking about?”

 

               “You’re projectin’ again, love.”  He lowered his mouth to brush his lips across hers, smothering her protest as he did so.  “You won’t have any secrets from me if you don’t learn to control the claim.  I’ll know every little…” kiss… “naughty”… nibble… “thought”…lick… “you”…kiss… “have”.

 

                “No fair,” she moaned as his tongue licked her lower lip and she unconsciously brought her own tongue out to tangle with it. 

 

               “All’s fair in love ‘n war, pet.  Know you musta heard that quote.”

 

               “This isn’t either one, Spike!” she pushed feebly on his chest as she struggled to ignore the warmth in her lower abdomen created by his lips and tongue.  “We’re not at war anymore.  And we’re not in lo-“

 

              With a growl, the vampire dropped every barrier he’d put up to protect her from the claim and let what he was feeling flow between them.  When he heard her gasp, “Oh my god!” and saw her squeeze her eyes shut, he smothered the flow before she could sense how badly she’d hurt him with her reaction.

 

             Dropping his arms from where they’d remained around her slight body, he stepped away, his posture rigid and his face closed.

 

              “Right then. Guess we’d best be getting’ in and talkin’ to Red about that forgettin’ spell.  Can’t have the Slayer walking around remembering how much she wanted the Big Bad now, can we?”

 

              He whirled and moved toward the door, not seeing Buffy’s hand that had come up to reach for him when he finished speaking.  It had been a reflex action on Buffy’s part.  An instinctive need to soothe the pain her mate was feeling; but when he didn’t see it, she let her hand drop and moved slowly toward the door, trying desperately not to think to or about him.

 

Chapter Two

                 When the vampire threw open the door and stomped through the room to the kitchen, Giles paused in what he was doing to glare at his unwanted houseguest.

                 “If you’re going to think you can come and go at will around here, would you please try to demonstrate some manners?”

 

                “Sod off,” was the snarled reply, as Spike went into the refrigerator for a packet of blood.  He wanted the bruises and sore muscles left by the commando’s kicks to heal immediately.  He wanted no reminders of this night at all, including the taste of the Slayer’s blood in his mouth.  For once, he was grateful for the flat taste of the pig’s blood they’d been feeding him.

 

                Buffy came in the door behind him, closing it gently before she shrugged off her jacket and sat on the couch.  She carefully avoided looking at the scowling vampire as he brought his mug of blood back into the room and sat in the big chair.

 

               Giles looked back and forth between the two obviously unhappy people and asked, “Did something happen while you were out there?  Is there a reason you came back together?”

 

                 “No!”

 

                 “Yes!”

 

                “Aha,” Xander said, slapping the table in front of him, “things are back to normal.  Buffy and Spike can’t agree on anything and all is right with the world.”  He leaned back and smirked at the glaring vampire.  “I’m surprised you made it back here, evil undead.  I would have thought Buffy would’ve put a stake through your heart for all that hands-on stuff that went on while you two were…”

 

                “Shut up, Whelp.”

 

                 “Shut up, Xander.”

 

                 “I’m just saying… You two were all cozy, cuddling there in that chair.  All that kissing and…whatever.  It made ME sick.  I can just imagine how Buffy must—“

 

               The growl from the vampire was matched by the angry hiss from the Slayer and for once the not terribly bright young man got the message and bit back the rest of what he wanted to say.

 

                 “All right, sheesh, I get it.  You don’t want to talk about it.  Can’t say I blame you, Buffster, but I would have thought--"

 

                 “Xander!”  Buffy yelled just as Spike leaped to his feet and crossed the room too quickly for human eyes to register his movement.  Before he could follow through on his clearly headache-inducing intentions, Buffy stepped between them and put her hands on his chest.  She could feel him trembling under her fingers as she gently pushed him away from the table.

 

             “Please,” she said quietly, unconsciously rubbing her thumbs against his tee-shirt covered chest in a soothing fashion.  She felt the anger burning inside and couldn’t help agreeing with him just a little.  What they’d done together had felt completely right at the time, and if what Spike had revealed about his feelings for her was true, then she could easily understand his rage at hearing it treated so casually.

 

                As she gently ran her hands out to rub his upper arms, she could feel him begin to calm down and when he gave her an abrupt nod and turned away, she breathed a sigh of relief.  She watched him go back to the chair and sit down, glowering at the bewildered boy across the room.

 

               “Buffy!  You saw that!  He tried to attack me.  Why isn’t he dust?”

 

               “Shut up, Xander,” she snapped at him.  “I don’t want to hear another word from you about the spell or anything that might have happened while we were under it.  Is that clear?”

 

                 “Well, sure, Buff.  You don’t want to talk about it.  I get that.  It must have been…But if you just stake him, you won’t have to think about it anymore. None of us are going to blame you for what the spell made you do, but if he’s not around to remind you…”

 

                    “Leave Spike alone,” she said in her best Slayer voice.  “All of you,” she added, casting a look around the room.  “Just leave him alone.”

 

                    Her watcher’s eyes narrowed as he looked back and forth between the two powerful people in his living room.  As upsetting as he’d found it to listen to them kissing and making plans for a life together while they were under the spell, he found it much more disquieting that they were not back to their usual snarking and arguing now that it was over.  The fact that his slayer seemed to be protecting the neutered vampire was even more disturbing.

 

             Although it was now well after midnight, everyone decided that they would head for their own homes and dorm rooms to try to get some sleep before beginning the day.  Xander and Anya left first, the boy staying a safe distance from the chair holding the morose vampire.  Buffy and Willow gathered up their things and told Giles “Good night”.  As they walked toward the door, Willow hesitated as though she was going to say something to Spike, then shook herself and kept going.

 

Buffy couldn’t help taking a last look in Spike's direction, only to find him staring at her with an unreadable look on his face.  She flushed when his  “Sweet dreams, pet” echoed inside her head and before she could stop herself she thought  “Good night, Spike."

 

           When the door had closed behind the two girls, Spike turned his gaze back to the room only to find Giles staring at him intently.  He reminded himself that Buffy’s Watcher, tweed coats and spectacle polishing to the contrary, was neither stupid nor incapable of dealing with vampires by himself.  He flashed back to when Angelus had killed the gypsy computer teacher and a grieving Giles had taken on the older vampire armed with nothing but a torch and a stake.

 

                 Spike forced himself to look harmless and uninteresting as he stood up and carried his empty cup to the kitchen.  He started to drop it in the sink when a loud cough from Giles made him sigh and rinse it out carefully before setting it to drain on the side.  He returned to the living room, giving the watcher an irritated glare just to reinforce his position as unwilling guest.

 

                   To his surprise, the other Brit went to the cupboard and came back with two glasses and a bottle of good Scotch.  He raised his eyebrow at the vampire in query, then, at Spike’s suspicious nod, poured them both a full two fingers of the expensive blend.  When they were both seated and sipping from their glasses, he looked hard at Spike and asked, “What happened tonight?”

 

                For a minute, Spike panicked, sure that the watcher was referring to his claiming the Slayer and that he was graciously allowing him one last drink before he killed him.   Then he realized that Giles had gone back to the original question he’d asked before they were all sidetracked by Xander’s jealous insistence that Buffy stake Spike.

 

                 Taking a long sip of the smooth liquor, Spike laid it out for the Watcher.

 

                  “Ran into a bit of trouble with those wankers that did this to me.” He gestured toward his head and the still visible scar there.  “Did alright until one of them got me with the soddin’ taser and I went down.  Slayer showed up while they were using me for football practice.”

 

                 Giles frowned.  “Buffy stepped in?  That was very foolish of her.”

 

                 “Yeah. Tried to tell the silly bint that, but I don’t think she listens real well.”

 

                 “You have no idea how right you are,” Buffy's Watcher murmured, waiting for the vampire to continue.

 

       “Yeah, well, anyway, she’s tells ‘em to get lost, they try to manhandle her out of the way, and…you can probably guess the rest.  We ran until we knew they weren’t followin’, then came back here.”

 

                   “Buffy fought humans?”  Giles sounded more upset than he actually was.  He was more than aware of how evil humans could be and had no real problems dealing with them, but it was unlike his Slayer to be willing to hurt them.

 

                   “Well, not so much fought as tossed ’em away from me.  She only actually hit one of them.  Big git, almost looked like he recognized her.”

 

                    “Did she know him?”

 

                  “Have to ask her that.  They were all wearing masks and head covers – real ninja-type stuff.  Would be hard to say what any of them looked like.”

 

                  “Would you be able to recognize any of them again?”

 

                   Spike didn’t bother to ask what the other man meant, he just responded thoughtfully, “Was tryin’ to keep my distance, so I didn’t get a real good chance to memorize anybody.  Think I might be able to pick up on a couple of the scents though if I had a chance.  Enough to know that I’d smelled it before, anyway.”

 

                   Giles nodded and continued to sip his drink.  They drank in surprisingly companionable silence for some time before Spike cleared his throat and said, “Uh, Watcher?”

 

                   Giles raised his eyes, which had been focused on nothing as he digested what Spike had told him.

 

                    “These…people.  The ones that run that lab.  I don’t think they’re all that fussy about what they label ‘demon’ and now that they’ve seen the Slayer in action…”

 

                     Giles sat up with a start.  “Dear Lord!  Do you think they will come after Buffy?”

                    Spike shrugged and finished off his scotch.  “Jus’ sayin’.  She’s not exactly your average co-ed, and now that they’ve seen how strong she is, I’m thinkin’ they’ll be wantin’ to take a closer look.”

 

                    “You could very well be right, Spike,” the Watcher said, finishing his own drink and taking the empty glasses to the kitchen.  “I will instruct Buffy to be careful until we can find out who and what these people are and what they are doing in Sunnydale.”

 

                   He turned his head to look at the very subdued vampire.  “I suppose it’s pointless to chain you back up now that you’ve had the freedom to come and go as you please.”

 

                 “Not goin’ anywhere, Watcher.  Not till the Slayer tells me to.  Then I’ll try to find someplace to lie low till those wankers get out of here.  Or until I can make them fix whatever they did to m’ head.”

 

                    “Well, I’m going to bed.  If you are going to keep vampire hours, please keep the telly turned down low.”

 

                    “No problem.  Prob’ly gonna catch some kip myself.  It’s been a tiring couple of days and I’m a bit knackered.”

 

                   Giles shot him a look, but Spike's expression showed nothing but weariness as he threw himself down on the couch.

                    “Nighty-night, Rupert,” he drawled as he rolled over and put his face in the cushion.

 

                    “Good night, Spike,” he replied before he realized he was responding politely to a vampire.  Shaking his head at the way Willow’s spell had changed them all, he went upstairs and shut himself up in his bedroom.

 

                   Below, Spike rolled back over as soon as the man left the room and lay on his back staring at the darkened ceiling.  He relived every minute of the spell, beginning with his proposal and Buffy’s enthusiastic acceptance and all the way through to their short but intense moments of passion.  He looked at the chair, trying to recapture the feeling of having his woman warm on his lap, the feel and smell of her as she wrapped herself around him.

 

                 He felt himself growing hard as he thought about their kissing and touching, and the way she’d innocently brought him off with her tongue like he was an adolescent boy.  He groaned and unconsciously pictured her sucking on him, her golden hair spread across his bare abdomen and her head bobbing up and down in rhythm with his hips.

 

              He unzipped his pants and allowed his aching erection to spring out and into his waiting hand.  While he pulled on it vigorously, he imagined Buffy sitting astride him again, riding him hard, her head thrown back as she arched over him.  Suddenly, he could feel her as she woke up, writhing with the sensations building in her body, the frantic movement as she tried to increase the pressure on her clit.  He didn’t stop to think about how she would react to his being in her head while he was servicing himself, he just sent his thoughts out as he pulled even harder on his cock.

 

                        “Come for me, love.  I know you can feel me.  Want you so bad.  Make yourself come for me, Buffy.  I’m here, with you.  Are you thinking about me, love? Can you feel how much I want you?  How hard I am just thinkin’ about you? Come with me, Buffy.  Let yourself feel me the way I’m feeling’ you.”

 

                        “Oh my god.  Spike? Spike? What are you…oooooh….why am I…How is this happening?  Why does it feel like you’re touching…mmmm…you have to stop…stop…don’t… stop…you’re making me…oh god,  I think I’m going to…Gah!”

 

                        When he felt her find her release, he let himself explode in his hands, gasping her name as he spent himself.   He lay still on the couch, taking unnecessary panting breaths as he let his thoughts go where they might.  Suddenly, there was a tentative voice in his head.

 

                        “Spike?  Can you hear me?  Did we just… what just happened here?  How did you…What the hell???”

 

                        He winced as her initial satiated bewilderment turned to outrage when the reality of what happened sank in.

 

                        “Sorry, pet.  I didn’t realize I was projectin’.  I was just thinkin’ about you while I…well, was just thinkin’ about you. That’s all. Didn’t know it could carry that far…or that you would…Didn’t know it would effect you like that till it was too late to stop.”

 

                        “Well, how the hell did you think it would effect me?.  Suppose I hadn’t been alone?  It’s just lucky that Willow went down the hall to the bathroom while I was sleeping.  If she’d come back a few seconds sooner…Oh, this is sooo not good.”

 

                        “I thought it was pretty good, pet.  Seemed to me like you were enjoying—“

 

        Buffy could hear the smirk in his voice.

 

                        “Don’t even go there!  You got into my head when I was sleeping and…and…”

 

                        There was silence for a full minute, silence that was permeated with anger and regret.  Finally the vampire could stand it no longer.

 

                        “Buffy?  Talk to me, love. I didn’t mean to do it.  I swear I didn’t. But was it so awful?  What’s wrong?  Talk to me, Slayer.”

 

                        “What’s wrong, Spike” He flinched at the venom he could feel coming through as she said his name.  “What’s wrong is that you got into my head while you were…whatever you were doing…and made me do it with you.  It’s like…it’s like you raped me.”

 

                        The accusation tore through him, rendering him incapable of coherent thought.

 

                        “She thinks I…it felt like rape?  I never meant to…would never…could never…not rape…never force her…jus’ want to love her…can’t help what happens to me when I think about her…how can she think…”

 

                        While he was able to block many of his incoherent thoughts from going through to the Slayer, there was no way for him to hide the anguish that her words caused.  He curled in on himself on the couch, clutching his stomach and choking back the sobs that wanted to burst from his throat in a very unmanly fashion.  As soon as he had enough control to do it, he set up the barriers between them, not wanting her to know how much her thoughts had hurt him, and unwilling to take the chance that she wasn’t through with him.

 

                     Across the town, on the campus of Sunnydale University, Buffy was sent into her own gasping ball of pain as the anguish Spike was feeling poured into her.  Very few of his words came through coherently, although she picked up enough to get the gist of what he was thinking, but the incredible emotional pain, regret, shame and sorrow her words had inspired was overwhelming. 

 

                   “Buffy?  What’s wrong?”  Willow’s concerned voice penetrated the rapidly fading pain and the Slayer sat up to look at her friend sorrowfully.

 

                      “I…I’m all right, Willow.  It was just a sudden cramp.  I guess I pulled something tonight throwing those big soldiers around.  Go back to sleep.  I’ll be fine.”

 

                   “Okay,” her friend said dubiously as she watched Buffy sink back down onto her bed.  “If you’re sure you’re all right.”

 

                   “I’m fine, Willow.  Just fine…” her voice trailed off as she sent her newly awakened senses out trying to find Spike, but there was nothing for her to follow.  It was as though the vampire didn’t exist.  She couldn’t sense him at all and was amazed at how alone she suddenly felt.

                  She eventually went back to sleep, her fingertips resting lightly on the scabs on her neck.

 

Chapter Three

                       

                  Periodically throughout the day, Buffy sent tentative thoughts out, seeking some sort of contact with Spike, but there was no trace of him anywhere.

 

                      I’m not worried.  Nothing’s happened to him.  He’s safe at Giles.  He’s just mad at me and doesn’t want –no he’s not mad at me.  That’s not what I felt before he…it wasn’t anger.  Not at me, anyway.  Damn him!  He knows me well enough to know I say things I don’t mean when I’m mad.  He can’t think I really meant…I mean I did mean it.  In a way.  It WAS without my permission.  I didn’t tell him he could…What does he mean, he can’t help what I do to him. The spell’s over.  He CAN so help it.  Look at me.  You don’t see me mooning over him or dreaming about how it felt to…or what a good kisser he is…or how he made me…gah!

 

                   Telling herself she was just checking in with her Watcher before patrol, Buffy hurried to Giles’ apartment as soon as her classes were over.  She burst in the door, startling the man who was quietly reading at the table.

 

 “Buffy?  Is something wrong?  You’re all flushed and agitated…”

 

 “No, nothing’s wrong.  What could possibly be wrong?  Everything’s fine.  The spell is gone; I stayed awake in class today; everything is hunky dory.  Why wouldn’t it be?”

 

 Giles stared at her intently for a few seconds before shrugging and going back to his book.

 

 “Indeed.  Why wouldn’t it be?”

 

 “Where’s Spike?” she blurted abruptly after scanning the visible parts of the apartment and seeing no sign of the vampire.

 

“I don’t know, actually.  I got the impression he was planning to stay here until there was a reason to leave, but when I awoke this morning, he was gone.  Quite rude, I have to say.  To just leave like that in the middle of the night without leaving a note or anything.  Well, that’s what I get for expecting a vampire to behave like a gentleman, I suppose.”

 

 “Did you need him for something, Buffy?” he inquired when she didn’t respond to his reply, except to slump down into the chair she’d spent so much time in with the missing vampire.

            “What?  Oh, no. No, I don’t need him…I just…just wanted to talk to him about those commandos last night.  To see if he…he…to see if he remembered anything important about them.” She paused her babbling, quite pleased that she’d come up with a good explanation for her behavior.

 

“Oh, well then, no problem.  Spike and I chatted about that quite a bit last night after you left.  I can bring you up to speed.  Essentially, he did not get any more of a look at them than you did, although he does think he might be able to recognize a scent or two under the right circumstances.”

 

 “Oh, well.  That’s good then…he told you all about them…so you know…so I don’t really need to talk to him…”

 

Giles stared at her intently.  “That is correct, Buffy.  You have no need to talk to Spike.”

 

“Right.  No need.  Nope, no needing here.”  She gave her watcher a dazzling smile.  “I don’t need him at all.”

 

 “Exactly.”

 

 There was an uncomfortable silence while Buffy struggled to maintain her cheerful smile and the watcher tried to figure out why she was behaving so strangely.  He mentally reviewed what Spike had told him about the previous night’s events and could come up with no reason for her behavior aside from perhaps knowing one of the men.

 

“Buffy?” he quietly interrupted her attempted cheerfulness.  “Spike did mention that it appeared that one of the men recognized you.  Did you know one of them?”

 

 Grateful to have something else to talk about, Buffy hastened to answer him.  “I’m not sure.  He definitely acted like he knew me, and there was something sorta familiar about his size and voice, but…I don’t know, Giles.  I can’t quite place him.  Must not be somebody I know very well.  Maybe somebody I’ve seen around school…”  She drifted off in thought then her eyes went wide.   “Oh my god!  I think it was Riley!  I even remember that one of the men called him, “Finn.”  How could I have not noticed that?”

 

“Finn? Riley? Unusual name, that.”

“No, no. Not Finn Riley.  Riley Finn.  The TA in Professor Walsh’s psychology class.  That’s who it was!”

 

“Someone on the faculty?”

 

 “Well, a grad student.  He’s very tight with Professor Walsh.  Lives in a fraternity house with a lot of other grad students.  All big, fit guys, now that I think of it…”

 

 “And you know where he lives because…”

 

            “Oh, well,” she blushed and looked down at her hands, “I think he likes me.  We’ve gone out for coffee a couple of times and…What’s the matter, Giles?”

 

            “I am just recalling something Spike said about those men and their…employers…having some interest in you now that they know you are not a normal girl.  Buffy, I think you will need to be very careful around this Riley Finn.  At least until we know more about this organization.”

 

            “Spike’s just being paranoid.  So far all these guys have done is capture demons and vampires.  Why would they have any interest in me?  I’m on their side.”

 

            At least I am unless they’re trying to hurt Spike.

 

             “That may be true, Buffy, but until we are sure they mean you no harm, I want you to be particularly careful around them. Give them no reason to suspect you know who they are, or that you are not a normal co-ed.”

 

             “I AM a normal co-ed!” she pouted, then at her Watcher’s disbelieving expression she amended, “Well, except for the super-strength and the slayage….”

 

            “Precisely,” he said dryly.  “Just be careful, will you, please?  Perhaps you could bring this Riley Finn around to meet us?  Introduce him to your friends?  That would give us a chance to size him up.”

 

             “Well, Willow already knows him, cause she’s in the same class with me, but I guess I could…oh my god!”

 

             “What?  What?”

 

             “I ran into Riley while I was under the spell.  In front of a store selling wedding gowns!  I told him I was marrying an older man…a man named Spike.  Oh, I am soooo screwed.”

 

            “Nonsense.  You’ll just have to tell him…tell him you were kidding or something…you’ll think of something.  I have great faith in your ability to come up with a convincing story, Buffy.  Just imagine I’ve given you instructions that you’ve completely disregarded and now you have to explain why you did so.  I feel sure you will come up with something.”

 

                  “Okay. Thank you…I think.”  She stared suspiciously at her Watcher, not sure if she’d just been insulted or not.

 

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

 

                In a plush office deep under the Lowell House, a grim looking woman was questioning what she had, until now, considered her best squad of demon catchers.

 

                 “All right, Agent Finn.  Explain this to me again, one more time.  You had Hostile Seventeen down and were preparing to re-capture him when a small woman told you he was “her vampire”? 

 

                   “Uh, yes, that was pretty much how it went.”  He looked down at his feet uncomfortably while his companions nodded their heads.

 

                    “And when you attempted to remove her, she took out six of my best men.  By herself.  Without a weapon.  And without actually harming any of you except for bruises?”

 

                   “Uh, Professor Walsh?  The vampire tripped me,” one of the men offered helpfully.

 

                     “Oh, well I’m sure that made all the difference,” she replied with poorly concealed sarcasm.  “Now to continue; when she had incapacitated all of you, she and the vampire ran off and you were not able to keep up with them?”

 

                      “They ran really fast,” Riley mumbled to accompanying agreement from his men.

 

                       “Do we have any idea who or what this woman is?  Is she a demon? Another vampire?”

 

                        “Actually, Professor Walsh, I believe she might be a freshman here at the university.  A student in your psych 101 class, Buffy Summers.”

 

                        “Not a vampire then, if she goes around in daylight.  Perhaps a form of demon we’ve not encountered yet….”

 

                       “I…I don’t think so.  She seems like an ordinary girl to me.”

 

                       Riley shifted uncomfortably as one of his men snickered.  Maggie Walsh fixed the laughing soldier with a cold eye and raised an eyebrow.

 

                     “Riley is trying to date her,” the still snickering man explained.  “He’d like nothing better than a chance to learn more about her.”

 

           “Well, that works out nicely then, Agent Finn.  I suggest you pursue a relationship with this girl and endeavor to learn more about her and her remarkable abilities.”

 

                   “He called her ‘Slayer’,” Graham said quietly.

 

                   Maggie whirled and fixed the soldier with a steely gaze.  “Who called her ‘Slayer?’ and why wasn’t I told this immediately?”

 

                  “The vampire.  Hostile Seventeen.  He told her to leave and he called her ‘Slayer’.”

 

                    “This just continues to get more interesting.  A hostile is rescued by a small girl whom he attempts to send out of danger and whom he addresses by the title of a mythical creature designed to kill his kind.”

 

                     “The operative word there is ‘mythical’, Maggie, “ Riley hastened to interrupt as he saw her go into ‘curious scientist’ mode.  “The Slayer doesn’t exist.  It’s just a story handed down by superstitious vampires.”

 

                    “It would appear, Agent Finn, that there is at least one extremely superstitious vampire out there who believes your Ms. Summers is, in fact, this mysterious ‘Slayer’.  I suggest you put your efforts into both finding Hostile Seventeen and the rather expensive piece of government equipment he is carrying around in his head, and into learning more about Ms. Summers and her possible involvement with him.”

 

                       “She’s not ‘involved’ with him,’ Riley stated firmly, while behind his back his friends rolled their eyes.  “If she actually intended to rescue him from us, I am sure she had a good reason.  She probably doesn’t know he’s a vampire and thought we were mugging him or something.”

 

                   “Well, we’ll find out, won’t we?”  She waved her hand in dismissal, calling Riley back into the room after his men had filed out.

 

                  “Riley, you know I trust you implicitly,” she began, “but I must have your assurance that you will take all precautions with this girl until we have learned more about her.  Under no circumstances is she to learn about our facility until we know who and what she is and whose side she is on.”

 

                   “She’s not a demon,” he insisted stubbornly.

 

                      “That remains to be seen, does it not?”  She turned away in dismissal and the big man left the room shaking his head.

 

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

                     As darkness fell over the Hellmouth and the small city above it, a lone motorist drove past the “Welcome to Sunnydale” sign and headed for Los Angeles.  Inside the big car with the tinted windows, a bleached blond vampire clutched the steering wheel and glared through the small opening in the darkened windshield.

 

                        That’s all I am to her.  A vampire.  Something that would rape her, kill her friends.  Something beneath her.  I’ll show her.  If that’s all she thinks I can be, than that’s what I’ll be.  There’s got to be some demon doctors in LA can figure out what those tin soldiers did to me and fix it.  I’ll get this problem taken care of, and when I do…

 

                            He completely lost his train of thought at that point, because he really had no idea at all what he would do once he could kill again.  Instinct told him to go back to Sunnydale and kill the woman who was making him so miserable.  But her teeth marks on his neck, faded as they might be, and her blood inside him that was making every mile he traveled more painful than the last, were both telling him that he could no more kill her than he could spend the day at the beach.

 

                      With a sigh, he put aside any thoughts of what he would do once he was relieved of his disability and drove on into the night.

 

 

Chapter Four

 

            After four days with no sign of Spike, Buffy was having a hard time hiding the fear she felt for him from her watcher and her friends.  Going through the days pretending to be glad she hadn’t seen him, that she was actually interested in the secret commando still trying to date her, that she wasn’t being eaten up with worry was turning her into a very cranky Slayer.

 

          “Hey, Buffy.  Wait up!”  The cheerful shout from the TA leaving the cafeteria building was not what she wanted to hear just that minute.  However, she remembered Giles’ admonition that she get to know the man and bring him around to meet her friends.  She was under strict orders not to allow Riley to get her alone or to go anywhere with him without notifying her watcher.

 

          “Hey, Riley.  How are you?”  She tried to look genuinely interested in him and not suspicious.

 

          “I’m good.  You?”

 

         “Couldn’t be better,” she chirped, flashing him her best cheerleader smile.

 

        “I thought…I mean if you don’t have plans…would you like to get some coffee?”

 

        No.  I’d like to find the annoying blond vampire that you were trying to capture the other night.  And I’d like to know what you did you him and why.

 

        “Sure, Riley.  That sounds like fun.”

 

         An hour and a creamy latte later, they had agreed to meet that evening for dinner and then to join her friends at Giles’ apartment.  As Buffy walked away to hurry to her next class, Riley watched her hair gleaming in the sunlight and shook his head at the idea that she was anything but an exceptionally pretty coed.  Perhaps one that had studied martial arts for many years, he allowed, remembering the kick to his chest that had sent him to the ground.  But, normal. Surely, normal. Not a demon.  Or a Slayer.  Whatever that was.

 

          When Buffy got back to her dorm to dress for her date, she called Giles to let him know that she was bringing Riley by that evening to meet him.  They agreed that they would say Giles was her uncle on her mother’s side of the family and that they were so close because he had been the librarian at her high school for years.

 

        Buffy had finished what she had to say and was preparing to hang up when her Watcher cleared his throat.

 

        “What is it, Giles?” Buffy asked with a sigh.  She knew that sound. It meant she was going hear something she didn’t want to hear.  In this case, contrary to what her Watcher believed, that was not true.

 

        “Uh, Spike has returned, Buffy.  He has not been very forthcoming about where he was, but he is back and taking up space on my couch even as we speak.”

 

        Buffy’s joy at hearing that the vampire was not dusted or captured was immediately mitigated by the knowledge that Riley would recognize him the minute he saw him.

 

        “He’s going to have to hide, Giles.  I don’t want Riley to see him, or to wonder why we’re keeping a vampire in the bathroom.”

 

        “Nor do I, Buffy.  However, he is being quite stubborn about leaving here until he has seen you again.”

 

        “I don’t have time for this now.  Put the bleached bloodsucker on the phone.  Please,” she added into the chilly silence that greeted her demand. She rolled her eyes at the Brit and his insistence on good manners even in the midst of a crisis.  She heard him give an aggrieved sniff before handing the phone to Spike.

 

        “Slayer.”  His voice gave no indication of his mood.  He just waited patiently for her to explain why she wanted to speak to him.

 

        “Spike.”

 

        Where have you been?  I was worried sick.  I thought you were…how could you do that to me?”

 

       There was no response and she realized she wasn’t feeling anything from him.  He was deliberately blocking his thoughts from her and she couldn’t tell if he was receiving hers or not.

 

        “Fine,” she growled.  “We’ll do it this way.  You cannot be there tonight when I bring Riley over.  He’ll recognize you immediately.”

 

        “No he won’t,” was the cryptic response.  “The only person he’s going to meet is your long lost cousin from the old country.  Come to visit with Uncle Rupert.”

 

         “Spike…” She put as much threat and warning into her voice as she could, but she could tell he was going to ignore her. 

 

      “It’ll be alright, pet.    Just want to get a sniff of the wanker and see if he’s who you think he is.  He won’t know me. I promise.”

 

        As quickly as he appeared in her head, he was gone before she could respond.

 

        He’s gonna have to teach me how to do that, dammit.

 

        “What if you recognize him and go all “grrrr” on me?”

 

        “Not gonna happen, Slayer.  I can control myself if I need to.  Anyway, it’s not like I could do anything to him if I did let the demon out, now, is it?”

 

        “I suppose not,” she agreed with a sigh.  “All right.  Tell Giles we’ll be by around 8:30.”

 

        “That late?” he responded noncommittally.

 

         “Yes, we’re going out to dinner first.  And I need to get off the phone and get dressed or I’m going to be late for my da- to meet him.”

 

        There was no response from the other end of the line until Giles got back and said, “Buffy?”

 

          “Giles? Where did Spike go?”

 

          “He threw the phone down and stomped into the kitchen.  What’s going on?”

 

         “Nothing.  Nothing’s going on.  He’s just behaving like a baby.  I’ll see you guys later.”

 

         After a nice dinner at one of Sunnydale’s better restaurants, and a couple of glasses of wine, Buffy had decided that Riley was a pretty nice guy and much more interesting than she had originally thought.  Of course, that was before I knew he had a secret identity, she admitted ruefully.

 

         Over dessert she tried to get some information from him about what he’d been doing since he left Iowa as a brand new college graduate.  She noticed he was a little vague about his “worked for the government, until I decided to try grad school”, but she didn’t want to alarm him by appearing to be too curious.  She reminded herself that he probably had no idea she had recognized him the other night and would not suspect that she was pumping him for information.

 

          It was fairly obvious that he was very interested in learning more about her, questioning her about how long she’d lived in Sunnydale, what her hobbies were, and what she liked to do in the evenings.  She could see that her equally vague answers were frustrating him when he tried to lead the conversation into the martial arts and he finally came right out and asked her if she’d ever studied them.

 

         Buffy was tempted to answer, “No,” just to see him get more frustrated, but she realized that would seem too much like a lie after what the man had already seen, so she nodded and admitted that she’d studied some “basic self defense stuff.  You know, the kinds of things a girls needs to know in this town.”

 

         She didn’t elaborate about what she meant by “this town” and he didn’t pursue it, just nodded happily to himself as though she had given exactly the answer he wanted to hear. Then he led the conversation into another direction, beginning with a discussion of the latest horror movie and, somewhat transparently, into a discussion of vampires and the unlikelihood of them being real.

 

          Buffy laughed, but with the sideways look that he would have gotten from any resident of Sunnydale not dwelling in a fantasy world.  For her to have lived in the town for as long as she had without at least suspecting that vampires were real would raise a red flag immediately, so she went with a denial that was intended to be accepted but not believed.

 

        He accepted her laughing denial with good grace and they finished their dessert and prepared to leave for her watcher’s apartment.

 

        The closer they got to Giles’, the more nervous Buffy became about Spike.  She couldn’t imagine how he was going to disguise himself enough that he wouldn’t be immediately recognized both as a “hostile” and as the specific hostile for which they were searching.  She reminded herself that Riley would not have her slayer senses to warn him that Spike was a vampire and she crossed her fingers that he had done something to hide his platinum hair.

 

          She couldn’t’ resist sending him a quick thought as they approached the door, not really expecting him to be open to communication, but hoping he might be listening for their approach.  She was caught off guard when, before she could send a coherent thought, he was in her head offering soothing advice.

 

       “Calm down, pet.  You’re heart’s poundin’ like it used to when you knew you had to fight me.” 

 

         Buffy could feel the smirk in his voice and growled back at him, “I’m just worried about you, you dumbass.  And my heart sooo did not pound when I had to fight you.  I always knew I could beat you.”

 

       “Must’ve been something else that made it pound so hard then?  If it wasn’t fear, what was it then? Hmmmm?”

 

            “Shut up, moron.  We’re here and you’d better be invisible.”

 

        “Close enough to, luv.  You’ll see.”

 

        Buffy shook off her trepidation and gave the puzzled Riley a dazzling smile as she opened the door to the apartment. 

 

       “We’re here,” she announced unnecessarily as she pushed the door in.  “Here we are.  At my uncle’s apartment.  To meet my friends.  And my relatives. And, could I sound any more nervous?”

 

        “I think it’s cute,” Riley said, smiling at her.  “And, it’s okay.  I’m a little nervous too.”

 

         He moved closer to her and put his arm around her shoulders to give her a little squeeze.  He then froze as the sound of a snarl echoed through the small room and he glanced around quickly, for something to use as a weapon. He felt Buffy stop abruptly, her face a study in shock and disbelief.  He quickly scanned the room, but found no sign of anything hostile and no one else who seemed concerned.

 

        When it appeared that no one else was disturbed about the noise, except possible her uncle who was whispering urgently to a young, bookish looking man in the corner, he relaxed and decided it must have been his imagination.  Willow stepped forward to greet him with a little wave and a “Hi, Riley,” opening up the introductions.

 

         He assumed the older man was Buffy’s uncle, and was a little surprised by the cultured British accent, but Giles smoothly explained that her mother had come to the US with their parents at a very young age, while he was left in England to attend boarding school.

 

        He vaguely remembered being introduced to Xander and Anya one evening in the Bronze, and saw that his recollection of them as ordinary, boring people was perfectly correct.  He waited for the young man in the corner to come forward, and when he didn’t, he strode over to him and extended his hand.  Ducking his head shyly, the man introduced himself as Buffy’s cousin, William. He had a similar accent to her Uncle’s, and Riley assumed he was his son or some close relation. 

 

            At first glance, the much shorter, slim young man appeared very unassuming, soft, light brown curls falling over his forehead, thin, old fashioned looking glasses on his nose, and a younger man’s version of the tweedy English clothing that Buffy’s uncle wore.  However, when he took Riley’s hand to shake it, his grip was very firm, almost to the point of pain and the man found himself squeezing back in the age-old masculine “mine is bigger than yours” contest.

 

            Just as it appeared they would both give up the appearance of a friendly handshake and begin to try to injure each other in earnest, William grimaced in pain and relaxed his grip with a shrug and an apologetic shrug towards Giles who had been clearing his throat repeatedly.

 

          “ My apologies, old man.  I certainly didn’t intend for that to become a test of wills.  I’ve been working on the firmness of my handshake as I’ve been accused of shaking hands like a woman, and I’ve yet to find that line between firm and too hard.”

 

            The embarrassed looking young man peered up over his glasses and did his best to appear harmless and sorry.  His other hand still clutched the book he’d been reading when they came in the door and Riley craned his neck to see what it was.  When he caught the title, “Sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett Browning”, he laughed and relaxed.

 

          “No problem, man.  Although, I’ve got to tell you, that’s quite a grip you’ve got there. I can’t imagine anyone accusing you of shaking hands like a woman.”

 

            Riley turned to walk back to Buffy only to find her standing just inside the door where she’d stopped when they came in.  She was staring at her cousin with her mouth hanging open and an expression of profound disbelief on her face.

 

         “Buffy?  Are you okay?  What’s wrong?”

 

            Buffy continued to stare at her “cousin”, her mouth opening and closing as she tried to say something coherent.  “Wha…ba…mumph….gack” was the extent of her verbal ability and Giles quickly stepped into the awkward silence that followed her attempt at speech.

 

         “I believe Buffy is simply surprised to find William here.  He popped in unexpectedly last night and I’ve had no opportunity to tell her about his arrival.”

 

            “Oh,” Riley said dubiously.  He looked at Buffy again, surprised to see that she had shut her mouth and tilted her head as though listening to something he couldn’t hear.

 

        “Get a grip, luv. Come and give your long lost cousin a kiss hello before the overgrown toy soldier suspects something.”

 

          Moving like a sleepwalker, Buffy walked toward William and offered her cheek for a chaste kiss.  She tried to ignore the way Spike was clearly inhaling her scent as he put his arms around her in a welcoming hug that stopped just short of going on longer than it needed to.

 

          “You are sooo going to pay for this.” she thought at him as hard as she could.  She could tell from the smile he tried to hide that he heard her and she fixed him with a threatening glare before turning around and walking back to Riley.

 

          “Well, I guess you’ve met everybody, even some people I didn’t know you were going to meet,” Buffy said, struggling to regain her perkiness.  She walked toward the kitchen, saying she was going to get them drinks and leaving Riley to make conversation with Willow and Giles.

 

         “William,” she said in her sweetest voice, “Why don’t you help me in here and we can…catch up.”

 

         “It would be my pleasure, love,” he answered, giving the other people in the room an awkward nod as he started toward the kitchen, tripping over the footstool as he did.

 

         “Oh dear!  I am so clumsy.  I’m…I’m sorry…I’ll just be…” He edged his way carefully toward the kitchen, keeping his head down and avoiding eye contact the whole time.

 

         “There’s something familiar about…William, is it?  I can’t put my finger on it, I just have the feeling I’ve met him before somewhere.”

 

        “That seems unlikely,” Giles said flatly.  “He has only been in the country for less than a day.”

 

        “If that’s true, then how does Buffy know him?  Isn’t she a California girl, born and bred?”

 

         “I think they used to travel a lot before her parent’s divorced and her dad found new ways to spend his money.  She used to go to England every summer.”

 

            Willow did her best to contribute to the “Let’s hide the vampire in plain sight” game and was very proud of herself when Giles gave her a pleased smile.

 

          “Yeah,” Xander put in, “now she just gets to go to LA every summer and meet her dad’s latest squeeze.”

 

           “So, Riley,” Giles began in his best surrogate father voice, “what are your plans after you get your degree in…what was it again?”

 

           In the kitchen, Buffy was trying desperately to maintain her anger at Spike for being gone in the face of her equally desperate urge to laugh herself silly at his disguise.

 

         The vampire stood in the entrance to the kitchen, watching the play of emotions flow over the Slayer’s expressive face and grinning from ear to ear.

 

        “What’s the matter, pet?  Don’t know quite how to act around a real gentleman?  Is William a little too proper for you?”

 

         “Is this what you were like before you were turned?”  She tried to stifle the laughter still bubbling in her throat.

 

        “If I say yes, will you lose all respect for me as the Big Bad?”

 

        “Too late. I lost that when you stopped being able to bite.”

 

          His eyes flashed amber for a second; he shrugged and said mildly, “I could find other ways to hurt you…if I wanted to.”

 

          She flushed, reminded of the feelings for her that she now knew he was harboring.  Which reminded her of her words the night he left and their effect on him and she looked up quickly and said, “Spike…what I said the other night…”

 

        “Forget it, Slayer. You were right.  I had no business…you didn’t need to know that much about my…” He paused and moved closer to her.  He felt her heart rate increase again and stopped moving, trying to prevent the pain he felt from showing on his face.

 

         “I wasn’t going to touch you, luv,” he said softly.  “Please don’t be afraid of me.”

 

        Buffy stared at him in confusion for a second before she realized that he had sensed how her heart sped up when he moved closer.  Even though he was maintaining the barriers between them, there was no mistaking the pain in his voice and she closed the distance between them herself, touching him gently on the arm.

 

        “I’m not afraid of you, Spike.  If you’d stop deciding when you will and won’t let me feel you, you’d know that.”  She looked up at him pleadingly.  “I don’t want to be in your head all the time. And I definitely don’t want you in mine without my permission, but…but we’re going to have to learn to live with this thing until it goes away.  And I can’t do that if you keep shutting me out.”

 

        “Don’t want to shut you out pet, I just don’t want a repeat of the other night. I don’t want you to feel violated.  I would never…wouldn’t force myself on you, luv.  You’ve got to believe that.”

 

          He took the hand that was resting on his arm and raised it to his mouth, planting a light kiss on her knuckles, then turning it over to kiss her palm.  When his soft lips touched the center of her palm and his tongue slid out to caress the sensitive skin there, she gasped and felt moisture seep into her underwear.

 

          “Not gonna promise not to try to seduce you, though.” He smiled up into her eyes.

 

            Buffy snatched her hand back and tried to hide the effect he was having on her traitorous body.  Before she could come up with an appropriate response, they were interrupted by Anya.  The ex-demon pushed her way into the kitchen and hissed at Buffy.

 

            “Stop hiding in here with Spike and get out there and do something about your boyfriend.  He keeps staring at me.  What if he figures out I used to be a demon and tries to capture me?  I don’t want to be experimented on and emasculated like Spike was!”

 

            Snickering at Spike’s outraged, “Hey!”, Buffy hastened to sooth Anya’s fears and send her back out to help keep Riley occupied.

 

         “Don’t be silly, Anya.  You’re not a demon anymore, and if you don’t act like you’ve got something to hide, he’ll never know you were.  He’s probably staring at you because you’re so pretty.”

 

        Immediately mollified, the ex-vengeance demon said, “Oh?  Do you think so? Because I just tried this hair color and I haven’t decided if…” As she went on talking more or less to herself, she allowed Buffy to push her out into the living room again.

 

        “Okay, 'William', help me carry these drinks out there,” Buffy said as she reached into the refrigerator for soft drinks and ice. “Do you think you can do that without tripping?”

 

        “Very funny, pet.  I could, but I’m not so sure about William.”

     

         She rolled her eyes and handed him the ice bucket.  “Then I guess you’d better take something easily cleaned up,” she said as she put the cans and glasses on a tray.  “Let’s go….William.”

 

            He stopped her with a light touch on her arm.  “So, are we alright, then? You’re not still angry at me?”  His speech was an interesting mix of his usual lower class cadences and the cultured tones he’d adopted for his disguise.

 

          “Oh, I’m still royally pissed at you,” she said with a small smile, “but not for what happened the other night.”

 

           “What then?” He raised his eyebrows as he followed her out of the room.

 

       “For being gone for four freaking days without letting me know where you were or if you were all right!  For all I knew you were back in the lab being sliced and diced.”

 

         Buffy’s cheery smile at Riley and the Scoobies belied the fury she was sending to the astonished vampire.  When William tripped again and dropped the ice cubes onto the Watcher’s back, it had nothing to do with his disguise and everything to do with the bolt of joy that went though him as he absorbed her words.

 

        She was worried about me.  The Slayer was worried about me….

 

Chapter Five

 

          While William apologized profusely and scrambled to pick up the ice cubes from the floor and the watcher’s chair, Riley rolled his eyes and wondered how someone as athletic as Buffy could be related to someone so uncoordinated and clumsy.  He watched idly as the embarrassed young man gathered the ice cubes and carried them out to the kitchen.  When William returned with a fresh bowl minutes later, the other man had completely dismissed him and barely noticed when he sat down in the only vacant seat, next to Buffy.

 

          After some general conversation about Sunnydale, the town, and the University, Willow asked innocently, “How well do you know Professor Walsh, Riley?”

 

           He surprised everyone by saying quickly, “Well, hardly at all.  I mean I work for her, so obviously I know her, but not well.  No, not well.  I hardly see her outside of class.  No more than you do, probably.  Why do you ask?”

 

         His nervous, and clearly dishonest, response set off alarms bells for both Giles and Spike.  Their eyes met briefly, and in response to Giles’ raised eyebrow the vampire nodded briefly, indicating that the man’s increased breathing and heart rate indicated he was lying.  It occurred to Giles that having a vampire around to assist with interrogations, especially surreptitious ones, could be a good thing.  He also reminded himself not to play poker with the canny vamp.

 

         Did you catch that, pet?   The wanker is lying through his teeth.”

 

        “So it seems.”

 

        Spike frowned at the slight tone of regret in her voice.  Is she starting to like the git? Has she forgotten what he is?   He barely controlled his possessive growl as his demon reacted to the thought of his mate being interested in anyone else.  He forced the demon back down and made sure his jealous urge wasn’t projected to Buffy.

 

          He is one of them, Slayer.  I recognize his scent.  He was definitely there the other night”

 

           Buffy didn’t answer him, but she shifted around in her seat so as to be facing Riley and asked him with feigned indifference, “Why were you so curious about my martial arts training, Riley?  Are you interested in things like that?”

 

           Startled, he blurted out without thinking,  “Yes, I’m a bit of an expert myself.  I was the leading…” Recovering himself, he quickly amended, “but you don’t want to hear about me, let’s talk about your training.  What have you studied?”

 

       Staking 101, Advanced beheading, Demon pummeling, Save-the-World 203…”

 

         Spike smothered a laugh when Buffy punched him on the leg, then blushed when everyone looked at her curiously. 

 

        “Has William done something to anger you, Buffy?” her watcher inquired with a warning glare.

 

         “Uh, no, no.  My hand fell asleep and I was just shaking it out.  It was an accident.”  She turned to Spike and rubbed his thigh gently,  “I’m sorry William, “ she said sweetly, “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

 

         The vampire hissed at the heat from her hand on his leg and shifted to hide his immediate reaction. 

 

        “No, that’s quite all right, luv.  You just go back to your conversation about your barbaric hobby.”  He gave a shudder that caused Riley to roll his eyes again and everyone else, including Giles to have to hide smiles.  “Perhaps he’d like to, oh dear, what is that word? To train with you sometime.  What do you call it? Sparring?  Yes, perhaps he would spar with you.”  He bestowed a proud smile on Buffy and said to the astonished man, “Buffy is quite good, you know.  Amazing, actually.  If you like that sort of thing.”

 

        “Yes, I’m sure she is,” Riley said with a hard look at the embarrassed girl.  

 

         “I am soooo going to kill you.”

 

       “You keep telling yourself that, pet, and maybe you’ll come to believe it.”

 

         Deciding he wasn’t going to learn any more about Buffy from the very strange people she hung out with, Riley reached for her hand and turned to Xander and Anya.

 

       “I thought we’d finish our evening by spending some time in the Bronze.  Would you guys like to join us?” he addressed Xander and Anya, but turned to include Willow and William in his question.

 

        “Oh yes!”  Anya spoke up quickly.  “ Going to the Bronze.  Just the thing an average human couple would do on a weekend night.  We would do that.  We do things like go to the Bronze all the time!  We’re very normal that way.”

 

         Xander quickly grabbed his girlfriend and hustled her into the kitchen to explain why referring to themselves as an average HUMAN couple might not have been the best way to avoid suspicion about her ex demon status.

 

        Willow and Spike exchanged looks and he gave her a wink and a shrug as he said, “Well, if that’s acceptable to Ms Rosenberg, I might…that’s if Uncle Rupert doesn’t mind my running off on my first night in his home?”

 

          “Oh, please,” Giles said, “By all means, you…young people should go out and enjoy yourselves.  We have all day tomorrow to visit.”

 

          “Well, that’s settled then.  We’ll hit the Bronze for some music and liquid refreshment.”  Riley pulled Buffy to her feet and steered her toward the door.  “We’ll just go get my car and be right back.”

 

         “Uh, why don’t I wait here for you?” Buffy looked up at him appealingly and pointed to her very high-heeled shoes.

 

         “Oh, okay, sure.  I’ll be right back.”  He went out the door, pulling it quietly shut behind him.  Instead of heading for his car, he paused outside the door and looked around, spotting a window that was slightly ajar and moving closer to it.

 

         “So, Miss Rosenberg, you and I?  Are you sure you don’t mind?  I’m not really much of a club goer.  I much prefer to spend my time in the library…” As he spoke, Spike was gesturing with his eyes and head toward the window and understanding slowly spread across everyone’s face. 

 

          Everyone except Xander who started, “Taking this a little too much to heart, aren’t you,  dea-“  He was mercifully cut off by Anya’s hand on his mouth.  When she was sure he was not going to continue, she removed her hand remarking, “I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time.  Now you know how it feels, Xander.”

 

         “Spike?  Is he out there? Listening to us?”  The anger came through loud and clear and he had to smile.

 

         He just nodded and held his hand to his ear and cocked his head as though he was listening.  Again, Giles was reminding of the value of having vampiric enhancements when dealing with humans.

 

        “Well, he seems nice enough, Buffy.  Have long did you say you’ve been seeing him?”

 

         “This is our first actual, night-time date.  We usually meet for coffee or lunch.  He took me on a picnic last week,” she added brightly.  “That was fun.”

 

         “Rather a large fellow, isn’t he, pet?”  William put in with a roll of his eyes.

 

        “Yes, he’s very big and strong,” Buffy chirped, giving the vampire a glare.  “I like that in a man.”

 

            No one but Buffy noticed the vampire’s eyes flash amber for a second and she stuck her tongue out at him.

 

          That meant as an invitation, pet?”

 

         “Nope, just my way of dissing you.”  She took the sting out of her thought by smiling at him and was rewarded with a genuine, non-smirking smile in return.

 

            Fortunately the other people in the room were all trying to maintain a conversation about the band at the Bronze, primarily for Riley’s benefit, and no one noticed the silent by-play between Slayer and vampire.

 

            When Spike nodded his head and said, “Okay, he’s out of human earshot now – wait!” He stopped everyone and ran to the open window, leaning out to hear what Riley was saying and to whom.

 

            He turned around, looking much more like Spike wearing glasses than William at that moment.

 

            “The bloody wanker is talkin’ to someone about Buffy on a cell phone,” he snarled.  “Sayin’ he’ll take her to the Bronze and they can ‘observe’ her there.”

 

            “Dear lord!”  Giles frowned and took off his glasses.  “Perhaps you shouldn’t go Buffy.”

 

            “Relax, Giles. I’ll be fine.  So they ‘observe’ me – what are they gonna see?  Buffy dancing?  Buffy having fun?  Nothing demony or Slayerish.  And, anyway, I’ll have all my friends around.  What are they gonna do to me with four other people around?

 

           “Considering that the only one of those four who would be of much assistance in a struggle with someone Riley’s size is not able to harm humans, I would guess they could do whatever they wanted.”

 

            “We’ll be fine, Giles.  It’s not like they’re going to kidnap me from a public place for heaven’s sake.”

 

            She stuck her lower lip out in a pout that made Spike groan to himself.

 

           “And, anyway, I kicked their butts before and I can do it again.”

 

           “Yes, well, you had surprise on your side that time.  Just be sure you do not go anywhere by yourself.  Or allow Riley to get you alone.  And, please. Call me when you are safely home.”

                 

                 The sound of car horn beeping cheerfully outside ended the discussion and with a, “See you later, G-Man,” from Xander, they all walked out to get into the large SUV the commando was driving.  Before Riley could get out and come around to open the door for Buffy, William had already opened it and handed her into the large vehicle.  He closed the door with a wink at the astonished Slayer and squeezed into the back with the Scoobies.

 

          He never took his eyes off Riley on the drive to the club, only speaking when the big man went to put his arm across the back of the seat so that he could touch Buffy’s hair. 

 

          Swallowing his growl, William said in his most unassuming and worried voice, “Wouldn’t it be better to keep both hands on the wheel, Mr. Finn?  Just for safety’s sake?”

 

           “Don’t worry, William,” he replied expansively,  “I’ve been driving for years.  And it’s not like Sunnydale has all that much traffic.”

 

         He left his arm where it was, but quit trying to reach Buffy who had slid over toward the window as far as her seat belt would let her.  She risked one look into the back seat, but the eyes behind William’s glasses were uncomfortably warm and she quickly faced front again.

 

           This is going to be an interesting night, she sighed to herself.  She took another quick peek at Spike to see if she had unintentionally sent that thought out, but he didn’t seem to have noticed.

 

           Maybe I’m getting the hang of this stuff, she though proudly, only to be rudely disillusioned when she heard, “And maybe I’m just ignoring you, pet.  ‘S not like your thoughts are all that interestin’”

 

           “Screw you, Spike” She regretted immediately her choice of comeback, but instead of the off-color reply she was expecting all she got was a sense of great amusement from the vampire.  Face flaming, she shut down her thoughts as much as possible for the rest of the ride.

 

          When they had reached the Bronze and Riley had put the huge vehicle into one of the parking places outside, William threw open his door and promptly fell out onto the asphalt.  With an embarrassed whimper, he rubbed his knee as he stood up and opened Buffy’s door for her. 

 

         “Come, love.  Let me help you down from there.  It’s quite a drop to the ground.”

 

          Buffy rolled her eyes at him, but took his offered hand and stepped daintily to the ground beside him.  He held her fingers just a bit longer than necessary, but let go as soon as Riley came around the side of the car.  He firmly suppressed his growl when Riley took Buffy’s tiny hand in his large one and led her toward the door, not bothering to look back to see if her friends were keeping up.

 

           The three Scoobies and William followed the pair in front of them, trailing them to a table near the dance floor.  A table that was conveniently vacated just as they came in, by four athletic looking young men with military haircuts.  Spike caught the exchange of glances between Riley and one of the men, and made sure to memorize their faces.

 

            As they took their seats, William made sure he was seated where he could see Buffy and Riley.  He clumsily pulled out a chair for Willow, almost dumping her on the floor as he went to push it in.

 

            “You don’t have to be so convincing that you kill me,” she hissed at him as she grabbed the sides of chair to keep from falling off.

 

             “Sorry, Red,” he whispered.  “William’s just not very comfortable around ladies.”

 

            When the drink orders were taken, William gazed longingly at the long necked beer bottles being carried past their table, but forced himself to order a soft drink, insisting that,  “I have absolutely no head for alcoholic beverages.  I become quite rowdy when I drink.  I certainly wouldn’t want to take a chance on embarrassing any of these ladies with my behavior.”

 

            Willow and Buffy, both of whom had seen Spike drunk on more than one occasion, smothered their laughter with simultaneous coughing, causing Riley to look at them curiously.

 

           With drinks dispersed around the table and the band beginning to warm up, the small group settled back to enjoy themselves as much as was possible for a group of individuals all trying to pretend to be something they weren’t.

 

Chapter Six

 

         As the band began to play, Anya grabbed Xander and pulled him onto the dance floor leaving Buffy and Spike, Willow, and the secret commando to stare uncomfortably at each other.

 

         “Do you dance, William?” Buffy asked with a sly grin, hoping to embarrass the vampire.

 

         Right on cue, William ducked his head shyly and raked at the soft curls falling over his forehead as he fumbled for something to say.  He looked at Willow pleadingly as he stammered, “I…Of course, I was taught the proper steps for dancing with a lady when I was…that is, I’ve been taught how to dance, but I’m afraid I am not very good at it.  And this,” he waved his hand at the gyrating bodies on the dance floor in front of them, “this is not something I’ve ever even attempted.”

 

         “Oh? Well I think you should,” Buffy responded with an evil look in her eye.  “Willow?  Wouldn’t you like to dance?”

 

          “Wha?  Me?  With S-William?”  Her friends eyes were open so wide Buffy was afraid they would fall out.

 

         “Sure. You.  You don’t mind dancing with my cousin, do you?  He doesn’t get to meet many American girls and this may be his only chance to dance with one.”

 

          “I know one that’s going to be ‘dancing’ with me as soon as get this soddin’ chip out, Slayer” came the angry growl in her head.

 

          “Come on, what’s so hard about it?  You can dance with Willow a little bit. It won’t kill you…oh that’s right, you’re already dead.  Buffy’s internal giggle made him smile in spite of himself.

 

         “Jus’ remember, payback’s a bitch, luv.” he sent back as he offered Willow his hand and escorted the nervous witch to the floor.

 

          “Relax, Red, I can’t bite you anymore.  An’ dancin’ with me can’t be any worse than dancin’ with the whelp.  In fact, I’d imitate his style, if he actually had one.”

 

           With Willow’s embarrassed reluctance to dance with a vampire, and William’s obvious lack of comfort with the heavy beat of the music, they made an amusing couple to watch.  Riley was openly sneering at William’s timid attempts to move with the music without actually moving any body parts besides his feet, and Buffy felt a protective bolt of anger go through her before she remembered that William was not really her cousin and didn’t need her to worry about his feelings.

 

          When Riley’s sneer had almost turned to outright laughter, and Buffy could see Willow redden with embarrassment while William just looked more and more lost, she had had all she could take of Riley’s attitude toward her friends.  She took his hand, and with a yank that barely concealed her Slayer strength, she pulled him onto the dance floor and began to move around him.

 

         As she had suspected, the big man’s amusement at Willow and William was because he, himself, had absolutely no sense of rhythm or timing.  While Buffy moved around him, her body responding almost unconsciously to the music, he stood in place and jerked his arms around, trying to look like he was enjoying the beat that he obviously didn’t hear.

 

         He breathed a sigh of relief when the band switched to a slow tune and he could pull Buffy into his arms and just sway in one place with her.  Of course that meant her face was mashed into his chest and she couldn’t see anything but the buttons on his shirt.  Which was just as well, as William and Willow were attempting to move around the dance floor without tripping each other, to the great amusement of both Riley and the four commandos leaning on the bar.

 

         “If you step on my feet one more time, I am going to turn you into a toad,” the red-haired witch growled into William’s ear.

 

         “Sorry, pet.  Jus’ tryin’ to make it look good for the peanut gallery over there.  I’ll be more careful.  Don’t fancy being a toad just now.”

 

         There was a subtle shift in his demeanor and suddenly, although he still held her awkwardly, he was no longer treading on her feet and they were no longer bumping into other couples as they moved around the floor.  She just had time to register that Spike appeared to be quite a good dancer, when they crashed, quite hard, into another couple and she heard him apologizing profusely.

 

        “Oh, I am so sorry, Mr. Finn, Buffy.  I’m so clumsy.  Please forgive me.  I hope we didn’t hurt anyone?”

 

         Riley glared back at him briefly, then relaxed and laughed.  “No problem, William.  You just pushed us a little closer together.  Can’t complain about that now, can I?  Not with something as beautiful as Buffy in my arms.”

 

        The fact that he referred to Buffy as something, rather than someone, was not lost on the three people watching him.  Nor was the possessive way he held her against him and stroked her back.

 

        Biting back the snarl that threatened to break out of his throat, William smiled shyly and suggested,  “Perhaps Ms. Rosenberg would like a break from my abuse of her feet and we could switch partners for the next song.  If my cousin is willing to risk her own toes, that is?”  He gave Buffy a shy sweet smile that had her responding in spite of herself.

 

        “Oh, I’d love to, William.  You don’t mind, do you, Riley?” She turned to her date with a smile.

 

        “Huh?  No, of course not, Buffy.  You and your cousin go dance and Willow and I will get to know each other better.”

 

        Riley spent several minutes trying to figure out how to dance with Willow so that he could talk to her about Buffy without causing her a serious neck injury and he missed the first few minutes of William and Buffy’s dancing.  When he finally sorted out the best way to be able to talk to Willow, seem to be dancing, and keep an eye on Buffy at the same time, he almost tripped as he spotted the blond duo.

 

        Contrary to the awkward and self conscious way William had been dancing with Willow, he and Buffy were moving together in perfect rhythm, twirling and dipping as the music called for it.  Just as the music slowed down to a very romantic and lush section, Riley lost sight of the two cousins.  Even with his height, he couldn’t see over the crowd between them to follow what they were doing.

 

        What they were doing was swaying together on the other side of the club, as far away from Riley and the Scoobies as Spike could get them.  When he was sure no one could see them anymore, he wrapped his arms around Buffy’s waist and pulled her unresisting body closer.  She rested her head on his shoulder and slid her arms up to wrap around his neck as her body nestled into his as though it belonged there.

 

        Neither was willing to break the spell by talking, so they just let themselves get lost in the music, forgetting for a few precious moments that they were Slayer and vampire.  And forgetting that there were four other people in the club whose job it was to watch Buffy.   At the end of the bar, Graham craned his neck to keep them in sight, frowning slightly at their seeming involvement.

 

        Although none of Riley’s friends were particularly happy that he’d taken such an interest in the strange little blonde, Graham’s loyalty to his friend caused a stab of anger when he saw her dancing so closely with the dorky-looking man who had come in with them.  He relaxed when the slow song ended and they broke apart, both looking slightly embarrassed about their previous closeness.

 

        Buffy broke the awkward silence first, saying with a reddened face, “That was…you’re actually are a very good dancer…I…I liked it.”

 

        “Me, too, love,” he said softly.  “Could have stayed like that all night.”

 

        Any further conversation was drowned out as the band went back into another song with a pounding beat and Buffy began moving her body to the music.  Before she could stop him, William’s hands were on her hips and he was matching her move for move as he danced behind her.  Every shift of her hips brought her ass into contact with his body and it wasn’t long before she could feel the proof of what he whispered that she was doing to him.

 

        Buffy pulled away and spun around to face him, still dancing, but keeping her distance.  “Stop that!”  She glared at him.  “William would never behave like that!”

 

        He laughed, and reached for her again as he said, “You got that right, pet. That ponce wouldn’t have known what to do with a girl like you.”

 

        She danced just out of reach of his hands and studied him speculatively.

 

        “Is that what you were like before you were turned?  Is William really you?”

 

        “What? Me?  A light weight like that?  Are you crazy, Slayer?  You know I’ve always been bad.”   He gave her his most evil leer, but Buffy could see the panic behind his eyes.

 

         “Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much,” she snarked at him aloud, putting her hands on her hips.  “I’ll bet that’s exactly what you were like.  No wonder you like being a vampire so much!  I’ll bet guys like Riley picked on you all the time.  Didn’t they?”

 

        “You don’t know what you’re talking’ about, Slayer,” he growled.  “I don’t take anything off wankers like that and you know it.”

 

        “Not now, you don’t…didn’t…before your…disability, anyway.  But what about when you were human?  When you were a sweet, gentle man who read poetry and wore glasses?  Huh?  What about then, Spike?”

 

             “I never!   You don’t know what you’re talkin’ ab—wait, did you just say I was sweet?”

 

         “I said William was a sweet man.” She struggled to control the rush of color to her face and the increase in her heart rate.  “You’re just pretending to be him. Aren’t you?” she asked almost pleadingly.

 

         “Of course I am, pet.  You know me.  Big Bad, evil undead, just waiting to get this thing out of my head to go back to my killin’ ways.”

 

        “Yeah,” she said quietly.  “That’s what I thought.  I almost forgot for a few minutes,” she added so softly he wasn’t sure he heard her. “Silly me.”

 

           She turned and began walking back toward the table where Riley waited with undisguised impatience.

 

            “Buffy…”

 

           “Don’t, Spike.  Just…don’t.”

 

Chapter Seven

 

              The whole time Buffy and William were dancing, in addition to trying to watch them, Riley was grilling Willow about how well she knew her friend and if she had noticed anything “unusual” about her. Willow, never a good liar, was doing her best to field his questions with more questions of her own.

 

              “Gee, Riley, that’s a funny thing to ask about someone you’re dating. If you thought she was strange, why would you ask her out?”

 

                “I didn’t mean strange in a bad way, Willow. I just meant…is she stronger than normal? Maybe she runs faster? Does she believe in vampires?”

 

               “Well, she runs faster than I do!” Willow responded brightly. “But then, my five year old cousin runs faster than I do, so…” She tried to ignore the vampire comment, and Riley wisely didn’t pursue it.

 

                “William seems to have discovered his dancing gene,” he commented dryly, watching the two ‘cousins’ moving gracefully around the floor.

 

                “Yeah, well, Buffy can do that to a guy. She’s a really, really good dancer and she makes the guy look good. Even somebody like William can look good if he’s dancing with Buffy,” she said cheerfully, not having noticed what a terrible dancer Riley was when he was with Buffy.

 

                “Apparently so,” he grumbled, leading Willow back to the table. “I don’t dance like that with MY cousins, “ he muttered as he yanked a chair out for Willow.

 

                As Buffy approached the table, he watched her work her way gracefully across the crowded dance floor and wondered what it was about the girl that attracted him so. Yes, she was pretty, and obviously very athletic if her actions the other night were to be considered; and, despite her lack of attention sometimes in class, he thought she was very bright, but there was something about her…something almost otherworldly, that drew him.

 

          She can’t be a demon. She’s just too…pure…too full of light. But, something’s not quite right, there. I’ve got to find out what it is before Maggie goes into “Let’s cut it up and see what it is” mode.

 

               Buffy gave Riley a plastered-on smile and sat down beside him with a sigh. She looked back toward the dance floor, but there was no sign of William and she briefly worried before she remembered he wasn’t actually a timid bookworm who was unfamiliar with Sunnydale. Although, he IS still kinda helpless if somebody picks a fight with him.

 

                Shoving worry about William to the back of her mind, she turned to her date and tried to answer his implied question.

 

                   “William seemed to pick up some pretty amazing dancing skills when he left Willow for you…” The jealousy and suspicion were palpable.

 

               Buffy shot a panicked look at Willow before replying, “Uh, yeah. See, the thing is, William isn’t really as clumsy as he seems to be. He’s just really, really…lacking in self-confidence around girls.” She ignored Willows attempt to muffle a snort of laughter. “But since I’m related to him, and we’ve danced together before, he doesn’t get all left-footed and tongue-tied around me. It’s a family thing, I guess.” She blushed prettily. “I get sort of tongue-tied and clumsy around guys I…like.”

 

                 Riley fixed her with an intense, but hopeful stare. “I’d like to think that explains some of things you say and do around me,” he said carefully.

 

             Deciding she’d lied quite enough for one evening, Buffy settled for ducking her head and looking embarrassed, hoping he would take that for an answer. It must have worked, as he beamed at her and put his big arm across the back of her chair.

 

                   Sticking to safe subjects like Sunnydale U. and the various courses available there, they were able to manage several minutes of actual, non-probing conversation before Xander and Anya returned to the table. Xander tried to catch Buffy’s eye as he said carefully, “Buff? Think you might want to check on William. He’s having a bit of a problem.”

 

               Her head flew up and she sat up straight. “Problem? What kind of problem?”

 

              “Four problems, actually. Four, large, muscular problems.”

 

             “Somebody’s picking on…William?” She rose to her feet, only to be stopped by Riley’s hand on her arm.

 

               In a deceptively mild tone he asked, “Why didn’t you stop it, Xander? Why come and get Buffy? Surely you don’t expect a small girl to intervene?”

 

               Xander’s “deer in headlights” look lasted until, with a disgusted snort, Anya said, “Of course, he came to get Buffy. It’s her cousin, after all. And she can-“

 

                 Recovering himself quickly, the boy interrupted, “Yeah, the thing is? The Buffster? She’s got this real knack of…calming people down, you know? They just kind of…back off…when she gets involved.”

 

                  Standing up to loom over her, Riley said, “Well, you aren’t going off alone to break up a fight on my watch. Where are they, Xander?”

 

              He pointed silently toward the hallway where the restrooms were located and trailed behind as Buffy and Riley moved quickly in that direction. They arrived to find William crouched against the wall, holding his hands over his face defensively. Surrounding him were the four commandos that had been watching all night. One of them sported a swelling eye and another was nursing a bruised hand as they advanced on the cowering man.

 

             “What the hell is going on here?” Buffy’s voice was not what you would expect from a frightened coed. There was no scream, no shout for the bouncers, not even, if appeared, any real concern for the welfare of her cousin. There was just cold steel that demanded an answer.

 

             Riley looked angrily over her head at his men and added his, “An explanation would be really good right now.”

 

             “We were just watching your back, Finn,” the one with the blackened eye grumbled. “We thought he was getting a little too friendly with your girl friend there, so we decided to scare him. The asshole swung on me so we had to rough him up a little.”

 

               “He’s her cousin, you morons,” Riley glared at the surprised men. “They’re supposed to be friendly.”

 

                 Buffy felt a stab of guilt at Riley’s defense of their deception, but then she looked at William, sliding fearfully along the wall in her direction and got over it.

 

               “What did you do to him?” she asked, pulling the cringing man behind her.

 

              And why didn’t you tell me something was happening”

 

               “Didn’t want to blow your cover, pet. I had it under control.”

 

                “Nothing,” Graham replied, nursing his hand. “We just pushed him around a little and said we were going to take him outside. Then he went nuts on us and tried to get away and when we stopped him, he hit Forrest in the eye.”

 

                   Buffy shot Spike a surprised look, wondering why he wasn’t on the ground in pain from his head, but he indicated the blood trickling from his split lip and she understood that the commandos had assumed his pain was from the retaliatory punch.

 

                “So, he tried to get away from you, you manhandled him, he tried to fight back and you hit him? Do I have that quite right, guys?” Buffy’s expression belied the cheery tone of her voice and suddenly they all remembered what had happened to them the last time they’d tangled with her over someone she was protecting.

 

              Behind her back, William was peering fearfully at the large angry men being faced down by a small girl. Spike was sorely tempted to stick his tongue out at them, but smothered the urge as something William would never do. He settled for getting as close to Buffy as he could and glaring at them over her head.

 

                Riley stepped between the angry Slayer and his men, saying, “Buffy, why don’t you take William back to the table and get some ice on that lip while I talk to these guys? Obviously this was a misunderstanding of some sort and I think I can straighten it out.”

 

                   Giving the men one last glare, Buffy took William’s arm and began walking away with him. She didn’t let go of him until they got back to the table, where she fished some ice out of her glass and rubbed it gently on his rapidly swelling lip.

 

                   If the Scoobies were surprised at her solicitous behavior, they didn’t say anything. They attributed it to play acting for Riley’s sake as he made his way back to the table.

 

               What the hell were you doin, going off by yourself like that? They might have really hurt you.” Along with the residual anger, there was an edge of concern that she didn’t try to hide.

 

             “They were just tryin’ to scare me, pet. If I hadn’t whacked one accidentally, they probably wouldn’t have touched me. You should have let it go. Thought for a minute there you were gonna go all Slayer on them in public.” The warmth, gratitude, and fear for her that accompanied his thought was strong enough to make her hand shake slightly.

 

             “I guess that’s all I can do for that lip. You’ll be okay tomorrow.”

       

            “I’ll be fine, love. It’s already startin’ to heal...unless you want to kiss it better…?”

 

            “You wish!” She gave him a push on his shoulder and moved away quickly.

 

             You know I do, pet.”

 

                 Riley’s arrival back at the table put an end to the private conversation before she had to respond and Buffy quickly focused on the other man.

 

                “So, what was that all about?” she demanded, hands on hips. “What will William think of Americans now?”

 

                 Riley blew out his breath and readied his explanation. “Those are some of my…fraternity brothers. They didn’t know who William was and they thought they’d try to discourage him from any thoughts of…They just thought they were helping me out, that’s all.” He turned to William. “I’m sorry, William. I hope they didn’t hurt you badly. Or frighten you too much,” he added, barely smothering a smile.

 

             Buffy felt the surge of anger that went through Spike, but William replied meekly, “No, no. I’m quite used to being…bullied, actually. I’m usually better than that at getting myself out of such situations without harm. I’m grateful that you and Buffy stepped in, though. I’m afraid I may have made them very angry when I accidentally hit that unpleasant man. There’s no telling what they might have done to me.”

 

                 “Somehow, I think they would’ve been extremely sorry if they had,” he replied with a speculative look at Buffy. “Your cousin seems quite…protective of the defenseless.”

 

               Everyone tensed as Riley came so close to describing such a big part of a Slayer’s mission, but William snorted and said, “Well, yes, when we were children if she wasn’t pummeling me herself, she was taking up for me when someone else tried to.”

 

                 “Yep,” Buffy said with a glare in his direction, “Nobody hits William except for me. That’s the way it’s always been.”

 

                “An interesting relationship.”

 

               He smiled at Buffy to show he was kidding, so missed the flashes of amusement that went across the face of the Scoobies.

 

               Doesn’t know the half of it, does he, pet?”

 

               Buffy didn’t answer him, but had to duck her head to hide her grin and he smirked in spite of himself. He was quickly back to being William as Willow stood up and said, “It’s getting late. I guess we’d better be getting back…”

 

              “Back? Back to where?” Riley was genuinely puzzled. “Surely, you don’t all live with Buffy’s uncle? Willow, I know you live in the dorm. Won’t you want to be going there?”

 

              As he spoke, it occurred to him she might have been planning to go home with William so as to give Buffy and him some privacy. The idea that anyone would want to spend time alone with the wimpy William was so ludicrous he didn’t even consider it. Even a bookworm like Willow could do better than Buffy’s cousin.

 

                 “But, I’ll be happy to take all of you back there before I take Buffy home, if that’s what you want.” He spoke up quickly before Willow could change her mind.

 

               “No, I think Willow just meant we need to get William back to Giles’ before she comes back to the dorm with me. That’s what you meant, isn’t it, Willow?”

 

                Buffy’s eyes were sending very clear signals, and remembering Giles’ admonishment that she wasn’t to be left alone with Riley, Willow quickly corrected herself.

 

                “Oh, yes! That’s what I meant. We’ll take William home, and then you’ll take me back to the dorm, and since that’s where Buffy lives too, we’ll all be where we need to be…” She let her voice trail off when she realized she was starting to babble.

 

                 Trying to hide his disappointment, Riley sighed and began to herd them toward the door.

 

               “All right. We’ll drop William off at his uncle’s and Xander and Anya at his house, and then I’ll take you girls back to the dorm.”

 

               The ride to Giles’ apartment was made in silence as everyone was afraid to say what he or she was really thinking. If Riley seriously wanted to take Buffy away, there wasn’t going to be much Willow could do about it.

 

              If he does anything to make you at all nervous, pet, you holler. Got it?”

 

               “So you can do what? Scold him to death?”

 

              He tried to smother the hurt her words caused, but the apologetic look she sent toward him told him she’d felt it.

 

             “Jus’ sayin’, pet. We’ve got this thing, might as well use it. Consider me your 911.”

 

             “Yeah, I can’t wait to hear you explain to Giles why you know what’s going on with me when I’m not there. I don’t think you’ll be real helpful with that stake in your chest.”

 

               The wave of gratitude she sent him took the sting out of her words and he agreed ruefully.

 

               “Good point. Pun not intended. Not saying I’m gonna tell him how I know. I’ll think of something if I need to. Somethin’ that won’t get me dusted.”

 

            They pulled up in front of the apartment complex and Buffy sat in the passenger seat while Xander and Anya and William got out. Xander thanked Riley for the ride and said he lived close enough for them to walk home. He and Anya waved and began the short walk to the Harris’s house.

 

              “Will they be all right?” Riley inquired. “Walking home at night like that?”

 

              “Oh yes. Xander grew up in Sunnydale. He knows how to avoid the…bad neighborhoods.”

 

              William stood outside the big vehicle, shuffling his feet and looking around apprehensively.

 

             “Uncle Rupert was quite clear that I was to avoid being by myself in the dark,” he said nervously.

 

             “You want me to walk you to the door?” Riley asked incredulously.

 

             “What? Oh, no! No, my goodness, of course not. I just thought…no, that’s quite all right. I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

 

             “Well, good night then,” Riley was clearly impatient and anxious to get going. “You’d best get in and take care of that lip.”

 

               “Good night, William,” Buffy said softly. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

                “Good night, Buffy, Ms Rosenberg. Thank you for a lovely evening. And thank you, Mr. Finn, for helping to rescue me from your overzealous…fraternity brothers.”

 

             “No problem,” he replied, climbing back into the car. “I’m sorry they misunderstood the situation like that.”

 

              As they pulled away, Buffy asked in a mild tone, “So, if William weren’t my cousin, you would have been okay with that behavior?”

 

              Riley was not a stupid man. He thought long and hard before he answered her. Buffy waited, tapping her fingers impatiently as the man clearly struggled to find the right thing to say.

 

             “Well, of course, I don’t approve of their bullying anyone. But they thought they were looking out for my interests.” He gave Buffy what was meant to be a flirty smile. “I’m sure if he hadn’t panicked and hit Forrest when then said they were taking him outside, they wouldn’t have actually punched him. They’ve been trai- I mean, you know how guys are. Someone hits us, we hit back. It’s a guy thing.”

 

               “Uh, huh,” was Buffy’s only comment and they rode the rest of the way to the dorm in silence.

 

                When they reached the campus, Riley parked and insisted on walking the girls to their room. Willow hastily said “good-night” and went inside, leaving Buffy standing in the hall while Riley obviously tried to think of way to get close enough to kiss her. Finally growing impatient with the foot shuffling and throat clearing, she went up on her toes and quickly kissed his cheek, thanking him for the nice evening.

 

               Clearly disappointed, he stopped her as she went to enter the room and asked, “Can I see you again? Maybe without all the friends and relatives?” He smiled anxiously and she was reminded that she had actually enjoyed his company earlier in the evening.

 

            “Of course. I’d like that.” She gave him a smile and said warmly, “Maybe we can have another one of those picnics.”

 

              Buffy went in the room and closed the door on Riley’s happy face. She walked over to her bed and threw herself down with a sigh.

 

               “Why does life have to be so complicated?” she complained.

 

                 “Uh, cause you’re the Slayer,” Willow ventured from her bed.

 

             When there was no answer, she went on, “He seems nice, in an I’m-not-telling-you-who-I-really-am kind of way. Do you like him?”

 

              “Not as much as I did before his buddies tried to beat up William,” Buffy growled.

 

                “Uh, Buffy? You do remember that William is really Spike, don’t you? You know, evil undead vampire, tried to kill us? Tried to kill me, right here in this room just a couple of weeks ago.”

 

                She sighed and rolled her head over to look at Willow. “I know, Will. I know he is. But he’s just so…” She shook herself. “Must be something left over from the spell.”

 

              “He’s sweet, isn’t he?” Willow surprised her by saying.

 

               “William? Yeah. Yeah he is. I wonder if that’s what he was like before he was turned?”

 

               “I think so,” Willow said quietly. “I’m pretty sure he was.”

 

               Buffy looked over at her friend in astonishment. “You do? Why?”

 

               Looking uncomfortable, the red-haired witch said, “Well, in the first place – it takes one to know one. I don’t think he could be that convincing if he hadn’t been like that at one time. And….”

 

           “And?”

 

           “And every time he tried to kill me? Or threatened to, anyway. He was really very sweet about it.”

 

              “Spike was sweet? About killing you? Splainy, please.”

 

               “Well, when he wanted me to do that spell for him. You know, to get him back together with Drusilla?”

 

                 Buffy smothered the pang of jealousy she felt at being reminded of Spike’s hundred-year love affair with the dark haired vampire.

 

               “I don’t think he ever was actually planning to kill me. He just wanted me to do the spell. He was so unhappy. I really felt sorry for him. All he wanted was to get his girl friend back.”

 

               “Hmph!” was the only response to that.

 

                “And when he came here looking for you? I was so unhappy about…Oz…and I thought nobody wanted me, and he…he tried to make me feel better. He told me I was pretty, and that he’d bite me in a minute, if he could…and…okay, maybe that’s not such a good example; but he was trying to make me feel better. Even when he was worried about what was causing him so much pain when he tried to bite me, he stopped and talked to me. He was a lot like William, only scarier.”

 

                “And the complications go on,” Buffy muttered to herself as she turned over to go to sleep. She told Willow “good-night” and shut her eyes resolutely, vowing not to think about sweet vampires or nice secret commandos or anything except peaceful sleep.

 

           “You alright, luv?”

 

            “Yes, I’m fine. Safely in my bed.”

 

           “By yourself?” The anxiety was palpable.

 

          “Of course, by myself! What do you think I am, some kind of slut?” She made no attempt to hide the hurt feelings his question generated, nor the resulting anger.

 

             “I’m sorry, Buffy. That was William’s insecurity…or the demon’s possessiveness. Not sure which. I didn’t mean to suggest you-I’m sorry, love, truly, I am.” Spike sounded so much like William, Buffy smiled in spite of herself.

 

            Buffy? Slayer?”

 

             “Relax, Spike. It’s okay.” She gave a mental sigh. “I didn’t even kiss him good-night.”

 

             Didn’t kiss me good-night, either.” Buffy had no idea how a person could send a pout telepathically, but there it was, and she had to smile.

 

            “Good night…William…” Buffy pictured herself pressing her lips to his cool soft ones and wasn’t surprised when she felt an answering pressure. Before the kiss could turn into anything that would lead to embarrassing movements and noises, Buffy broke it off and snuggled into her bed.

 

           “Good night, love” was the last thing she heard before she closed her eyes and allowed sleep to overtake her.

 

 

 Chapter Eight

 

          “Well, Agent Finn?”  Maggie Walsh tapped her foot and waited for Riley to tell her what he’d learned about Buffy.

 

           “I’m sure she’s not a demon.  Although…I can’t say I don’t think there’s something going on with her.  I just can’t put my finger on what it is.”

 

          “She’s scary as hell,” Graham put in.  “That’s what it is.”

 

          Maggie looked at him with astonishment and not a little dismay.

 

          “You are afraid of this girl?”

 

          “Well, not most of the time,” he squirmed and looked to his friends for help. “But when she stepped in last night…there was just something about her…”

 

          “Her friend, Xander, said she’s really good at defusing situations.  Maybe that’s how she does it.  By sounding scary.”  Riley was reaching for explanations, knowing that no one was buying it.

 

           “Tell me about her friends, and the family you met.”

 

          “Not much to tell.  Her uncle seems nice enough. Very English, very bookish.  Her cousin’s kind of a younger version of the uncle.  Neither one looks like he could fight his way out of a paper bag.  Whatever Buffy has going for her, it certainly isn’t genetic.”

 

            “Got that right!”  Forrest and Graham exchanged high fives, remembering how frightened her cousin had been.  Conveniently forgotten were the black eye and bruised hand, both courtesy of the wimpy cousin.

 

          “Her friends are okay.  Willow, you know from class.  She’s a brain. Very conscientious, not really very outgoing.  Xander’s kind of a…I don’t know.  I think he and Willow are childhood friends or something.  His girl friend is a little strange. Comes out with the oddest things sometimes.  They’re always shushing her.  That’s about it.”

 

         “Nothing demonic or strange about them?”

 

         “Nope, just regular old people.  Oh, the cousin has one hell of a grip when he shakes hands…”

 

         “Stronger than yours?”  Maggie’s voice indicated her sudden interest.

 

         “Hard to say.  He was giving me a run for my money when he stopped and apologized.  Don’t know where it would have gone from there.  There’s no way he’s a fighter, though.  He’s afraid of his own shadow.  Just wants to sit around reading poetry.”

 

        “Things are not always what they seem, Agent Finn.  You, of all people, should know that.”  Maggie paused to think, then said with an air of decision, “All right, I’ll give you the rest of the week to learn what you can about this girl while we try to obtain information about this mythical ‘Slayer’.  We’ll meet again on Friday and decide on a course of action then.

 

        “And, gentlemen?  I haven’t forgotten that Hostile Seventeen is still out there somewhere, nor that Ms. Summers is the reason he got away the second time. I want this situation rectified, soon.”

 

        “Yes, Ma’am,” they chorused as they left her office.

 

        “Where do you think we should start looking for the hostile?” Forrest asked as they walked back to the elevator that would carry them back up to Lowell House.

 

        “I think we should begin with her uncle.  She seems to spend a lot of time there.  Maybe we can get him to tell us something.  Or that wimpy cousin of hers.  I doubt he’d stand up to an interrogation.”

 

       “I think we’d better be damn sure we know what we’re looking for, before we start harassing her family,” Graham said mildly.  “I’ve got a feeling she wouldn’t like it very much, and I’m not sure I want to see her get mad again.”

 

        “Come on, guys.  You’re talking about Buffy like she was six feet tall and had big teeth and claws.  She’s an athletic little girl, with martial arts training who caught us by surprise.  That’s all.”  Riley shook his head at his men.

 

        “Tell you what.  I’ll ask her to come in and spar with us.  Give us a chance to really size her up and see how good she is.”

 

         “I’m not sparring with some woman that only comes up to my belt buckle!”

 

        “Fine, I’ll spar with her.  It shouldn’t take long to prove she’s just a human girl who got lucky.”

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

 

         “You want me to what?”  Buffy put her hands on her hips and glared at her watcher indignantly.

 

         “I want you to take Sp-William shopping for some clothes.  My things are too large for him and if he’s going to continue to pretend to be your cousin, he is going to need more than one shirt and one pair of pants.”

 

        “If Buffy doesn’t want to go, she doesn’t have to,” the vampire said quietly from his place in the big chair.  “I’m perfectly capable of buying my own clothes.”

 

        “I am not sending out a vampire who may, or may not, be permanently harmless, to roam through the Sunnydale Mall without someone to watch him.”

 

        “Haven’t hurt anybody yet, Watcher.  And I got to mingle with all sorts of plump, blood-filled bodies the other night at the Bronze.”

 

       “You also almost got yourself re-captured and/or beat up,” Buffy said with a sigh.  “Okay, I guess we can do this.  We’ll hit the mall tonight.  Find clothes for the vampire.”

 

        She gave William a sideways look and said with an evil grin, “This could actually be a lot of fun…”

 

        “Hey!  Don’t get any ideas there, Missy.   You might get to hold my leash, but you are NOT picking out clothes for me.  I’ll stake myself before I let you dress me.”

 

         Now, if you want to undress me, pet, that’s a different story.”

 

        He gave her a most un-William-like leer and she tossed her head and turned away with a sniff. 

 

        “Let’s go, William.  I have things to do later tonight.”

 

         “That right, Slayer?” he asked as they walked out the door with a wave to the Watcher.  “Gonna let Capt’n Cardboard find his way to second base, are you?”

 

          He was careful to keep any trace of real worry or fear from reaching her, but she shot him a suspicious look all the same.

 

          “He’s a nice guy, Spike.  Don’t blame Riley for his what his obnoxious friends did.”

 

          “Are you starting to have feelings for that pillock, Slayer?  Have you forgotten that he’s been lying to you since you met him?  That HE knows somethin’ about what you are and you know nothin’ about him except that he wears dark clothes and prowls around in the dark pickin’ on innocent vampires?”

 

          “I’m lying too, Spike.  I haven’t admitted to him that I’m anything more than a martial arts expert – or told him that I know it was him the other night.  OR,” she cocked her head at the scowling vampire, “that my ‘cousin’, William is actually the vampire he was trying to recapture.”

 

          “Yeah, well, you’re lyin’ for a good reason,” he grumbled, brushing his hand against hers as they walked down the street.  When she didn’t pull away, he moved closer and they finished their walk to the mall touching briefly with every step.

 

        They wandered around the men’s department of the first store, arguing about what they should and shouldn’t buy.

 

         “Okay,” Buffy agreed with exasperation, “you can buy a pair of jeans, but they have to be blue ones – no black.  And no tight tee shirts.  Here, this will look good on you.”  She held a light blue button down shirt up under his chin, admiring the way it brought out the blue in his eyes.

 

          “Think it’ll look good, do you?”  He took the shirt and held it at arm’s length.  “Guess I’ll have to take your word for it, luv.  ‘S not like I can see myself in the mirror, is it?”

 

          Sunnydale being what it was, none of the clerks in the store commented on the fact that the cute little guy in glasses never tried anything on or looked in the mirror.  They just smiled and agreed with the pretty girl helping him pick things out that he needed a little color in his wardrobe.

 

         When Buffy thought they had got enough “nancy-boy wear” as Spike called it, to get through the next week or so, they walked though the mall looking into windows.  Spike kept Buffy giggling with his comments on the people passing by. He would try to guess what they were thinking and kept trying to get her to stop them and ask if he was right.

 

         When a rowdy group of boys walked by, ogling Buffy and commenting on her body parts, he began to growl and she had to grab his hand and pull him away.

 

        “Okay, okay.  We both know what they were thinking.  But, growling? So not a William thing to do.”

 

         “William wouldn’t like them talkin’ about you like that either, pet,” he said with a glare back over his shoulder. 

 

        “Maybe not, but he wouldn’t GROWL.  You’ve got to be more careful when we’re out in public.  More William, less Spike.”

 

         As Buffy spoke, she stopped in front of the Victoria’s Secret store to admire the display.   She felt William step up behind her and he rested his hands lightly on her shoulders as he growled softly.

 

         “What did I just tell you?” She turned around and glared at him.  “William would NOT be growling at everything!”

 

         “Trust me, love,  standin’ here in front of this window with you?  William would be growling – you jus’ wouldn’t have been able to hear him like you can me.  He’d be embarrassed, but he’d be growlin’.”

 

         The truth of what he was saying was evident in his heated gaze that went from her angry face down to her suddenly hard nipples and damp crotch and back up again.  He licked his lips as he scented her arousal and felt her leaning toward him.  Before he could capture the lips so near his he was jostled by a passing shopper, and the moment was lost.

 

        Blushing furiously, Buffy started walking again, pulling him away from the lingerie store, only to find that the next store, based on the things in the window, might as well have been called, “Spike’s store.”  The window was done almost completely in black and red and contained various leather articles of clothing as well as an assortment of spandex tops. 

 

         He pulled Buffy into the store and held a leather mini skirt up to her as he turned her around to look at herself in the mirror.

 

        “It’s you, pet.  This skirt and one of those stretchy tops…you’d turn William into a wild animal.”

 

         “Why am I thinking that isn’t such a stretch for him?” she laughed, pushing the skirt away.  “And it isn’t William that wants me to dress like that…he’d be ashamed to be seen with me in that outfit.”

 

          “You wouldn’t have to wear it out in public, Slayer…”

 

         “No!  We are not using the money Giles gave me to buy things for me to wear just for you.”

 

         “Would you wear it if I paid for it, Slayer?”  He wiggled his eyebrows at her hopefully and gave her his sexiest smile. 

 

         Before she could answer him, he suddenly dropped the leering look he’d been giving her and, grabbing her hand, he pulled her out of the store quickly.  Buffy was just opening her mouth to ask him if he’d lost his mind, when William was tugging her away from the store, head down and mortified expression on his face.

 

          “Good lord, Buffy!” he said in a close imitation of Giles at his most incensed.  “Mother would throw me out of the house if I brought one of those spouse-abuser shirts home to wear!   How could you even think about taking me into that kind of store?”

 

         Buffy was torn between picturing Spike’s ripped body in a tight wife-beater, and wondering what the hell had gotten into him all of a sudden.  Then she felt the hand on her arm as Riley said,  “Buffy!  Imagine running into you here.  What are you doing?”

 

          Shooting Spike a grateful look, she covered smoothly, and only slightly dishonestly, “ Oh, I just took William out to see a shopping mall and maybe pick up some more California-friendly clothes.  Tweed coats and heavy sweaters aren’t all that useful here in Sunnydale.”

 

         “I suppose that’s true.”  He turned to the embarrassed looking young man. “So, William.  What do you think of our local mall?  Bet there’s nothing like this back in England, huh?”

 

          “Quite so, quite so.  Buffy is showing me many strange and wonderful things here in her city.  I’m quite exhausted from all the sight seeing.”

 

          “Well, why don’t I give you two a ride back then?  You can rest at your uncle’s and I’ll take Buffy back to the dorm.”

 

          Since neither one of them could think quickly enough to offer a good excuse why not, they soon found themselves back in the SUV and heading for the apartment complex.

 

           Riley pulled up near the door and waited for William to get out, frowning slightly when Buffy reached for her door also.

 

           “I said I’d take you back to the dorm, Buffy.  I thought we might stop and have a drink or some ice cream on the way.”  He looked hurt and disappointed and Buffy sighed.

 

           “I have to check in with Giles first, Riley.  Be sure he knows I brought William home safely and with his credit rating still intact.”

 

          “Fine,” he said, opening his own door.  “I’ll just come in with you and then we’ll leave from here.”  As they walked toward the door, he commented lightly, “I’m just amazed that everyone keeps expecting you to keep William safe.  It’s like they think you have…oh, I don’t know….super powers or something.”

 

         “Hee, hee,”  Buffy laughed weakly.  “What a silly idea, Riley.  It’s just that he’s new to the city and not very…adventuresome.”

 

          “I’m actually quite cowardly when Buffy isn’t around,” William volunteered eagerly.  “She brings out the explorer in me.”

 

           Riley rolled his eyes at that amazing remark and held the door open for them.  Only to be met by a very surprised Giles and an attractive woman with café–au-lait skin.

 

          “Buffy!  W-william.  I wasn’t expecting you back so soon.  This…this is Olivia.  An old friend.  She just popped in and we were…catching up.”

 

         “Uncle Rupert, you old dog, you,” William snarked as he walked into the living room with his packages.

 

          Giles shot him a dirty look and then turned to Buffy.

 

          “I, ah, I’ve been trying to, ah, resolve the…sleeping arrangements…and I…um…I spoke to your mother, Buffy.”

 

          “My mom?  What for?  Do you want Olivia to stay there?  I’m sure it’s okay.”

 

         “Don’t believe it’s the bird he’s trying to get rid of, love.”  She could feel the amusement in Spike’s voice, even as she saw him turn away to hide his smile.

 

        What? What do you mean?  You mean he wants you to…  But why? Then he’d be alone here with…oh!  Oh my!  Ewwww!”

 

          “Um, er, actually, I had hoped that your mother would be willing to give William a place to stay for the night.  And she has graciously agreed, although she requested that you accompany him – just for the, um…fun of it,” he finished lamely.

 

           Riley’s disappointment was palpable, but he cheered himself with the thought that meeting Buffy’s mother would add another piece to the puzzle that was Buffy Summers.

 

          “I’d be happy to drive you there, Buffy – William.  I’d like to meet your mother, anyway, Buffy.”

 

          “Uh, okay, sure, that would be…great…I guess.”  She gave Giles a look, clearly asking if he’d filled her mother in on what was going on.  He gave her a brief nod and began shepherding them to the door.

 

          “Well, good.  That’s settled then.  I’ll see you all tomorrow sometime.  Nice to see you again, Riley. “  He practically shoved them out the door.

 

           “Well, that was just…” Buffy was at a loss for words.  She’d not seen Giles express any interest in a woman since Jenny Calendar had met her death at the hands of Angelus, and to be practically thrown out of the apartment so that he could be alone with one she’d never heard of or met was throwing her for a loop.

 

            Spike’s obvious amusement at her distress and surprise was becoming irritating.  He made no attempt to hide his internal laughter, even though he was outwardly very controlled.  Finally, Buffy could take it no longer and she blurted out, “Stop it!”

 

         Riley turned to her in surprise.  “Stop what?” he asked in genuine confusion.

 

          “Uh…I…uh…I thought I saw something run in front of the car,” she explained weakly.  “I guess it was nothing, though, cause, you know, no bump in the night…”

 

          Shaking his head at more inexplicable behavior from her, Riley turned onto the road to Buffy’s mother’s neighborhood.  They drove in apparent silence for a while as Riley allowed Buffy to remain lost in thought.  He would have been less accommodating if he’d known that he was the subject of her thoughts.  Hers and William’s.

 

         “Spike?  He never asked me where Mom lives.  He still hasn’t asked me for directions or an address.  He’s just going there.”

 

        “Noticed that, pet. Kinda makes you wonder what else the wanker knows that he shouldn’t, doesn’t it?”

 

        As they pulled up in the driveway of the house on Revello Drive, Spike began to worry about getting into the house.  Hoping Joyce would have enough sense to ask him in, he slowly followed Buffy and Riley up the sidewalk.  When she notice how slowly he was walking, Buffy turned around and said, “Come on, William.  You know Mom is anxious to see you.”

 

        “Is she gonna be anxious enough to remember I need an invite?  Cause I don’t feature having soldier boy watchin’ me bounce off the barrier.”

 

       “What barrier?”

 

        “Vampire?  Ringin’ any bells here, Slayer?”

 

       “Oh, THAT barrier.  Doesn’t exist.  I never took you off the guest list.”

 

        With that blithe remark, Buffy opened the front door and held it for William and Riley, ushering them in with a flourish.  Before Spike could get over the fact that the Slayer had never done a dis-invite spell for him, her mother was hugging him and cooing over the “handsome man” he’d turned in to since she’d last seen him.

 

          When William and Joyce had finishing pretending to be long lost relatives, rather than a barely acquainted vampire and mother of the Slayer, Riley was introduced as someone from Sunnydale University that Buffy was seeing.  If he was disappointed at not being introduced as a boy friend, he hid it well, shaking Joyce’s hand and complimenting her on the décor of the house.

 

         It wasn’t long before Riley became uncomfortable with his clearly unnecessary presence at what he assumed was a family reunion and he finally excused himself for the evening.  Telling Buffy he’d see her in class the next day, he shook hands with Joyce and flipped a wave at William as he went out the door. He lingered for a minute in the doorway, apparently hoping Buffy would step out onto the porch with him for a kiss, but when she didn’t, he gave up with a sigh and left.

 

       He was half-way back to the base before he realized what he’d done.  Shit! I never once asked her where her mother lived.  Just went right there.  And she never asked me how I knew where it was.  I wonder why? 

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

         Once Riley was gone, and Spike had walked around the house to confirm that he was not listening outside a window, Joyce and Buffy went into the kitchen where there was hot chocolate simmering on the stove.   Spike hesitated in the doorway of the kitchen, looking very unsure of himself and more like William than he had at any point yet.  When Joyce noticed him hovering bashfully just outside the room, she gave him a genuine smile and said, “Come on in, Spike – er, William.  I know you like my hot chocolate.”

 

        “Remember that, do you?” he smirked as he regained his confidence and took a seat next to Buffy.

 

        “Well, yes.  It’s not every day a lovesick, drunk vampire appears on my door step looking for my daughter,” she said with a wry smile.  “Those kinds of things tend to stick with you.   Especially,” she added, “when said daughter comes home and tells you how dangerous the vampire is and yells at you for letting him in while she beats on him.”

 

       “Ah, good times,” Buffy laughed as Spike glared at her. 

 

       He turned to Joyce and said with complete sincerity,  “I would never hurt you, Joyce.  In spite of what your daughter might say about me.  You have my word.”

 

        “So, the Summers women have nothing to fear from the Big Bad, even if you get the chip out?  Is that what you’re saying?”  Buffy’s voice was teasing, but her eyes bored into his looking for an answer she knew she had no reason to expect from the vampire.

 

         “I was talkin’ ‘bout your mother, pet.  She’s always nice to me…well, except for that axe thing…You, on the other hand…”

 

         “Hey! I’m nice to you.  This is me, letting you sit in my mother’s kitchen and drink hot chocolate.” 

 

          She stuck her lower lip out in a pout and watched with great interest as his eyes zeroed in on her lip.  She flashed back to the spell and how he sucked on her lower lip every time she stuck it out.  Suddenly the room was very warm and she felt her underwear growing damp.  Spike’s eyes flew open wider and she flushed, sat up straighter, picked up her cup and made a show of finishing off her cocoa.

 

           “Well, that was really great, Mom.  I – we – really appreciate you letting ‘William’ stay here while Giles has company.  Where do you want him to sleep?”

 

         “I fixed up the cot in the basement,” she said, turning to Spike apologetically.  “It’s not very fancy, but I thought you’d be safe from the sun there.”

 

         “That’s very thoughtful of you, Joyce.  I’m sure it will be fine.  I’m just sorry the tin soldier had to be there when we made the arrangements.  I’d rather he not know that you are involved in this.”

 

       “I gave birth to the Slayer, Spike,” she said dryly.  “I couldn’t get uninvolved if I wanted to.  Not that I want to, honey!” she turned quickly to Buffy and smiled brightly at her daughter.  “I’m very proud of you and what you do every night.”

 

       Buffy rolled her eyes, knowing her mother would give almost anything to have a normal daughter who was going to marry, have children and more than likely outlive her mother by many years.

 

       “Thanks, Mom. I know you are.  And speaking of what I do every night – I haven’t patrolled much lately.  You up for a little violence, vampire?”

 

       “You’re playin’ my song, luv.” 

 

       Spike bounced to his feet and stood eagerly by the door.  Buffy and Joyce had to laugh at him.

 

       “You look like a puppy dog, that can’t wait to go out.”

 

        “You might at least have said I looked like a big, mean guard dog,” he grumbled as they went out the door.

 

         Still laughing at him, Buffy waved at her mother and told her they’d be back late.  Joyce said she was going to bed and fumbled for something to say, finally settling on, “Have fun slaying, dear.”  She shook her head at herself as they Buffy rolled her eyes and closed the door.

 

         “I probably shouldn’t be letting you come with me,” Buffy said quietly after she’d quit chuckling at him.  “We don’t know where those commandos are or how many of them might be out tonight.”

 

        “All the more reason for me to be with you, pet.”

 

       She stopped and faced him.  “You won’t be able to do anything to help me.  They are all obviously human.  You’d just get yourself captured again.”

 

        “I’m not lettin’ you go out by yourself until we know those sadists in that lab aren’t plannin’ to add you to the ‘let’s see if it bleeds when we cut it’ list!”

 

         Buffy stared at him, watching his eyes flash amber and his forehead begin to wrinkle until he fought the demon down.

 

         “You won’t LET me?” she asked in a voice that was cold steel.

 

        Bollocks!

 

          He tried his best to look repentant, even as his lower lip came out and he repeated stubbornly, “Didn’t mean to sound all ‘me Tarzan, you Jane,’ on you, pet.  That was the demon speakin’ to his mate.  But, you don’t know what those people are like, Slayer. And I don’t want you to find out the hard way.  Won’t apologize for that.” He glared at her defiantly.

 

         She glared back just as defiantly, daring him to repeat what he’d said.  For several long minutes the two powerful beings challenged each other, neither one willing to back down.  Finally, Buffy threw up her hands and spun away from him.

 

         “Fine!” she snarled. “Don’t come complaining to me when you have to spend another week in their lab nursing a giant headache!”

 

          They walked silently toward the nearest cemetery.  Spike kept the mental barriers up between them so that she wouldn’t sense the profound fear he had for her.  He knew her well enough to know she wouldn’t want to be coddled or protected.

 

          Know it’s her job to be the protector, don’t I?   But she could let me help her out.  Not tryin’ to take her job.  Just want to keep her alive.

 

          “So,” Buffy said quietly as the reached the gates to Restfield, “sadists?”

 

         “Don’t know what else you’d call someone who performs autopsies on livin’ demons, do you pet?”

 

          “What?”  Buffy’s stomach churned at the mental picture.  “You must be wrong.  No one would do that. Even to a demon.  That’s…that’s….” She couldn’t think of what to call it.

 

        “Called it vivisection in my day, pet.  That’s what they called it when they did it to kittens and puppies.  Nasty business, that.”

 

        Buffy shuddered and unconsciously moved closer to the vampire.  She tried to wrap her brain around the idea that humans could be so cruel.  Suddenly she turned to Spike.

 

        “What did they do to you?”

 

        “Nothin’ I couldn’t handle.  Vampire, here, you know.  Pain is like…foreplay to us.”

 

          He grinned at her, but his eyes slid away from her probing look.  He could tell she was trying to get into his head, and he deliberately conjured up visions of naked dancing girls and leather-clad women carrying whips.

 

          “Ewww, Spike!” She slapped him on the arm and made a face, while he laughed.

 

          “Gotta be careful goin’ into my head, pet.  Never know what you might find there.”

 

           “Hmph!”  Any further discussion was delayed by the arrival of a group of hungry looking fledglings.  One look at the small girl and her meek looking escort and they were salivating.

 

            “See, guys?  I told you we’d find something to eat soon.”

 

            The first one in line reached for Buffy, saying, “I’m taking the tasty blonde. One of you can have her date.”

 

            “What do think, William?  Play a little or just dust them right away?”

 

            “I’m thinking, RUN, pet.”

 

            Before Buffy could register her disbelief, Spike was in her head telling her that he could hear heartbeats from the surrounding brush and thought there were at least four or five humans watching them. 

 

        “Commandos?”

 

       “Don’t know what else would be hiding in a cemetery in the middle of the night, pet. Do you?”

 

      “Shit, shit-shit-shit! Okay, there’s nothing I can do about it.  This moron is going to bite me if I don’t stop him.  But you can still be William.  Maybe they won’t notice you.”

 

      “I’ll play – but only as long as you’re winnin’, Slayer.  One slip and these wankers meet a master vampire.”

 

      “Deal.  Now start screaming, William!”

 

     “I’ll make you proud, love.” 

 

        During the course of their rapid mental communication, Buffy had held the puzzled vampire off with one hand, trying not to be obvious about it.  As soon as Spike began backing up and shouting, “Oh dear, Oh my god, oh, help!  Someone help us!” she shrugged and plunged a stake into the vamp’s heart with her other hand.

 

          Figuring she was busted no matter what she did, Buffy began to fight in earnest, dusting them as she got a good opening and punching and kicking when she didn’t.  She could see from the corner of her eye, that even as he appeared to be shrinking back in fear, William was moving around so as to be able to guard her back no matter how she changed position.

 

        In no time, the fledglings being inexperienced and stupid, she had dusted all but one of them.  The remaining vamp tried to grab William on his way out of the cemetery, only to find himself being held by a hand that was gradually crushing the bones in his arm.

 

        Still shrieking hysterically, William held on to the panicked vamp until Buffy had strolled over and put her stake through its chest.  When it exploded into a dust cloud, the man threw himself into her arms sobbing in relief.   Buffy put her arms around him and whispered comforting things in his ear until she realized he had buried his head between her breasts for a reason.  Pushing him away, she stood up and yanked him to his feet.

 

         “All right, William, pull yourself together or I’ll have to slap you,” she snapped at the smirking man.  “I told you, you shouldn’t have come with me tonight.  Maybe next time you’ll listen!”

 

          As she scolded Wlilliam, and he shuffled his feet in embarrassment, they were working their way toward the gate of the cemetery.  As soon as they knew they were out of sight, they sprinted away, only slowing as they neared the house on Revello Drive.

 

          They paused once when a strange-looking man appeared behind a hedge, but didn’t stop to look at him more closely when Spike couldn’t sense anything demonic about him.

 

         “Ugly bugger,” he commented, looking back over his shoulder at the tall, skinny man.

 

         “Slaying ugly people is not in my job description,” Buffy said, tugging him along with her.  “Let’s get back to the house before I have to do more explaining than I feel up to right now.”

 

          They had no sooner reached Buffy’s home, than Spike heard the roar of engines rapidly approaching.  Tumbling through the door, they quickly hit all the light switches, plunging the house into darkness to match all the others in the sleeping neighborhood.

 

          They knelt down, side by side, to peer out the front window and watched as two black SUVs, just like the one Riley drove, came roaring up the street. The vehicles slowed when they got close to the house and rolled to a gradually stop across the street.

 

            After several minutes of waiting, they saw doors open and men wearing infra-red glasses got out and stared at the house. They then reached into the vehicle and pulled out a binocular-like device, which they began to point at the house.

 

            “Basement!” Buffy hissed, grabbing Spike and yanking him toward the kitchen.

 

            They threw open the basement door and jumped down the stairs, landing easily at the bottom.  Buffy stumbled slightly and Spike caught her, frozen in place as her warmth was pressed up against his cool body.  He was ordering his arms to open and let her go, but they refused to listen; instead, pulling her in closer and sliding around to encircle her waist.

 

          Buffy was mesmerized by the feel of the hard body pressed against hers.  Except for the short time they’d spent dancing in the Bronze, she’d had very few opportunities to feel how well their bodies fit together.  Without her volition, her arms went around his neck and she raised her mouth to his descending lips.

 

 

Chapter Ten

 

           The gentle pressure from his soft, cool lips was all it took for Buffy to realize how much she’d missed the non-stop kissing they’d done while under Willow’s spell.  With a small moan, she melted into him, allowing herself to be supported by the supernaturally powerful arms wrapped around her.  Spike slanted his head and deepened the kiss, sending his tongue out to trace around her lips and teeth.

 

           She sent her own out to meet it and they became lost in re-learning each other’s mouths.  Buffy sent her tongue tracing over his gums, teasing at the retracted fangs and making him groan in ecstasy.  When she cut herself on the incredibly sharp tip that Spike couldn’t prevent from protruding, the taste of her blood almost brought him to his knees.

 

         Rather than pull her injured tongue out of his mouth, she continued to push against his, letting him pull it in further as he sucked on it, desperate for more of the elixir that was her blood.   The feel of him pulling on her blood again made her legs give out, and she sank to the floor, pulling the vampire down with her.

 

         Their mouths never parted as Buffy lowered her head to the floor and let Spike cover her with his body.  She relaxed her thighs to allow him to settle between them, the hard ridge of his erection pressing against her.  When that pressure wasn’t enough, she brought her legs up around his hips and pulled him into her harder than he would have thought possible.

 

         Buffy’s entire focus was on the intense pleasure being generated by the pressure of his hard length and the matching sensations taking place in her mouth.  She ground her pelvis against him, completely lost in the building orgasm towards which she was gasping.  Spike thought his cock was going to catch fire from the heat and friction her grinding hips were creating. 

 

           Buffy’s muffled scream into his mouth and the accompanying arching up of her body was more than he could withstand and his hips jerked as he came against her quivering body.  He let down the barriers and the waves of sensation ran back and forth between them, prolonging the pleasure until they collapsed in mutual exhaustion.

 

           The vampire remained on top of her, taking his weight on his elbows, but allowing their hips to remain pressed together.  Buffy slid her legs down to wrap around his thighs lightly.  Her arms remained around his back, holding him to her while her heart rate slowed to normal.  Removing his mouth from hers so that she could take in the gasping breaths needed to recover, he licked at his marks on her neck, thrilling at the immediate response he got.

 

          Buffy reached up and ran her fingers through William’s soft curls, twirling them around her fingers as she did.  His glasses had somehow remained in place throughout all the activity and she pushed them gently back up on his nose.

 

           “Hey, William,” she said softly. 

 

          “Hey, yourself, love,” he answered with a smile, leaning down to plant a light kiss on her nose.

 

          “Somehow I don’t think that was very William-like behavior,” she said sternly.  “I’m sure he wouldn’t approve.”

 

          “The dry humpin’?  Maybe not, pet, but going off in his pants?  Very William-like. Trust me,” he said ruefully.

 

           “Ewww. TMI, Spike!” she said, shoving him away gently.

 

          He laughed and rolled off, being sure he kept one arm holding her to his side.

 

           “You brought it up, love.  I’da just as soon left William out of it.”

 

           “I LIKE William,” she said with a small pout.  “He’s sweet.”

 

           He nipped at her lower lip gently and said, “I’m not him, Buffy.  You know that, don’t you?”  He had a frightening thought and asked abruptly, “That’s not why you…why we…bloody hell, Slayer.  Is that what this is all about?”

 

           He dropped his arm and sat up suddenly, looking at her intently.  When she dropped her eyes and looked away, he felt his heart clench and he moved away from her, cursing at the wet, sticky pants he was now wearing. 

 

          Suddenly desperate to get away from her, he prowled the edges of the basement, listening carefully. In spite of the intensity of their recent experience, only a short period of time had actually elapsed since they leaped down the stairs to avoid the infra-red sensors wielded by the commandos, and as coherent thought came back, both Slayer and vampire remembered that there were potential enemies outside the house.

 

             When she started to say something, he held his hand up sharply and cocked his head.  Looking around the dim room, he spotted a dirty window and moved toward it as silently as only a vampire could.  Buffy sat on the floor where he’d left her, watching intently as he clearly tracked someone around the perimeter of the house. 

 

             When Spike got to the window, he cautiously raised his head to peer through a small clear spot in the glass.  In the gloom, Buffy could just barely see him shift into game face as he looked out into the dark yard.  He flinched and dropped just as a dark figure crept by the window and hesitated for a second.  With his hearing strained to the limit, the vampire could just hear the whispered radio conversation.

 

           “I don’t think they’re back yet, Finn.  There’s no way her cousin could have moved that fast, no matter what she can do.  We beat them here.  What do you want to do?”

 

           Cursing silently that he could not hear the response, Spike listened intently as the man outside the window answered.

 

           “Got it. Cameras, sensors and recorders.  I’ll get the back yard.  Hey, there’s a window here to the basement.  Want me to see if I can get in?  I could put a sensor in there.  If they’re hiding a hostile, that’d be the place to do it.”

 

         "Be ready, Slayer.  He’s talking about comin’ in this window. Much as I might like to rip his throat out, I don’t think I shou—“

 

          Buffy’s voice in his head was practically screaming as she interrupted him.

 

         “They want to come in my HOUSE?  The place my mother lives? All you need to do is get out of my way when I—“

 

       “Down, Slayer!” Buffy felt the admiration he was not trying to hide. “Somebody musta said “no” to that idea.  He’s movin’ off to put stuff in the yard.”

 

        Buffy moved over to the window to look out, but her night vision was not good enough for her to make out the black shadows in the yard.

 

        “What are they doing?” she hissed.

 

        His cool breath stirred tendrils of hair as he whispered in her ear, “Puttin’ cameras and some kinda sensors and recorders around.”  He felt her heart accelerate when his lips brushed the shell of her ear.  He wanted nothing more than to pull the fleshy lobe into his mouth and suck on it, but he was still hurt at her obvious preference for a man he no longer was.

 

        They waited in silence, Spike using every one of his vampire senses to follow the progress of the men as they circled the house, hiding their high tech devices under bushes and in trees.  Finally, they were done and they moved back to their vehicles, pulling away from the house much more sedately and silently than they had arrived.

 

        Buffy and Spike waited impatiently to be sure they weren’t coming back, then crept back up stairs.  Before Buffy could reach for the light switch, Spike stayed her hand, his touch freezing them both before he made himself let go and said, “Gimme a few minutes to listen for heartbeats – just in case they left somebody behind.”

 

        Nodding in agreement, she smothered the disappointment she’d felt when he stopped touching her.  She tried to ignore the obvious unfairness of her wanting Spike to be William, the man, while making use of the vampire’s gifts to help her when she needed it.

 

       After all, I didn’t even know there was a William when I was engaged to Spike.  I was engaged to the vampire.  I didn’t mind the demon then.

 

      “Was the demon that claimed you, love.  Not some poncey poet.”

 

        Buffy blushed in the dark, but Spike could sense the rush of heated blood to her face and smiled.

 

 “I didn’t mean to think that out loud.  You shouldn’t have listened.”

          

 “Yeah, well, evil vampire, here, pet.  You don’t want me readin’ your thoughts, don’t put ‘em out there like that.”

            

 “I’m working on it.  I’m getting better, aren’t I?”

             

 “Prob’ly.  I’m trying to stay out of your head ‘less I need to tell you somethin’ important.  But when you’re thinkin’ right at me like that…”

 

         Buffy changed the subject abruptly, asking, “Do you hear anything?”

 

         “No,” he replied aloud, following her lead.  “Do you want to go smash the stuff now, or wait until daylight?”

 

           “If we do it now, they might come back to put new ones around.  Let’s just leave them till morning and I’ll tell Giles about it.  See what he thinks we should do.”

 

          “In the meantime, pet, they’re gonna be expecting to see us comin’ home pretty soon.”

 

          “Hmmm. How are we going to do that from in here?  They’ve got cameras focused on all the doors, I’m sure….oh, I know!  We’ll go out my bedroom window and come back in the front door.” 

 

           They went quietly through the dark house, up the stairs and into Buffy’s room.  Spike looked around, inhaling the overpowering scent of Buffy that permeated everything in the room.  He tried very hard to keep his gaze off the neatly made bed, but his eyes were continually drawn to it, visualizing Buffy sleeping there.   

 

          “Spike?  Spike?  Earth to Spike,” she whispered from the window.  “Come on.  What are you doing?”

 

         “Nothin’, love.  Jus’ indulgin’ in some wishful thinkin’.”  He moved to the window and watched as Buffy opened it and slipped out with the ease of long practice.

 

        “Done this before, have you?” he smirked quietly as he followed her out onto the roof.

 

         “Until you showed up wanting a truce and I had to tell my mother the truth.  Every night, for almost two years.”

 

        “Sh”  He put a hand over her mouth, almost groaning aloud at the feeling of her warm, soft lips on his palm.

 

        “We don’t know how sensitive those recorders are.  Better not to talk till we’re on the ground.”

 

       I knew that!”  Buffy was embarrassed that she hadn’t thought of being heard discussing her Slayer status or calling him Spike.

 

         It took them only a few minutes to drop gracefully to the ground from the tree limbs.  When Spike had looked around and spotted the camera, they carefully moved away until they reached the sidewalk.  Once they were sure they were out of range, they turned around and began walking toward the house.

 

         “I must say, Buffy.  Life in Sunnydale is certainly more exciting than it is in London.  I don’t believe we have creatures like that there.”

 

         “Actually, William, I’m sure you do.  You just aren’t as likely to see them as here.  It’s important to know how to avoid them if you are going to be out at night in Sunnydale.”

 

           They walked up to the front door, carefully maintaining their identities as cousins, although Buffy had obviously given up pretending she wasn’t a vampire fighter on some sort.

 

            Once they were safely inside, they stood awkwardly in the front hallway, neither one sure what to do next. 

 

          “Well, I guess I’d better try to get some sleep before tomorrow,” Buffy said carefully.  “College classes and all that.”

 

           “I’ll go see Giles first thing in the morning and see what he wants me to do about those surveillance devices.”

 

         “Yes.  Your education is quite important.  You should get your sleep while you can.”

 

          “Hey! Maybe he’ll tell us to bash them with hammers.  That could be fun.”

 

         “I’m thinking more like, let Willow take one apart and see what they do.  And, until we know that, we’ll just have to be very careful what we say to each other and Mom.”

 

         “You know if they have heat sensors on them, we’re buggered, right? I can look and talk like William, but I can’t make my heart beat or my body temperature go up. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea. My being here.  Don’t want your mum havin’ to worry about those wankers too.”

 

         “I’m not letting them take you back.”

 

         “I’m not planning to go back.  Jus’ saying, maybe I shouldn’t be here.”

 

        “Too late now.  You’re here and if they noticed anything when we walked up, then we’ll deal with that when we have to.  In the meantime, you can hide in the basement and sleep all day tomorrow while I have to pretend I wasn’t up all night.”

 

         Aloud, she said,  “Good night, William.  I’ll see you tomorrow. “

 

         “Good night, pet.  Sleep tight.”

 

          “Sweet dreams, Slayer.”

 

        “There will be NO dreams, sweet or otherwise, if you know what’s good for you!  I need sleep, not…dreams…or whatever.”

 

      “Fine.”  The disappointed sigh was impossible to hide. “But I can’t make any promises, love.  Knowing you’re just up the stairs… alone… in your bed.  Naked, maybe?”  he added hopefully.

 

       “Spike…” There was no mistaking the visual she sent him of a large, wooden stake.

 

        Hey, a bloke can hope, can’t he?  Good night, Slayer.” He leaned in and planted a chaste kiss on her lips, drawing back quickly before she could object or turn it into something else.

 

         “Good night, William,” she said softly. 

 

 

Chapter Eleven

 

           Buffy was up early, in spite of only having a few hours of sleep.  Spike had been true to his word and the only dreams she had about him were her own, difficult-to-suppress, memories of how he felt pressed against her. She drifted off to sleep dreaming she was curled up next to his cool body and had to smother a pang of disappointment when she woke up alone.  She dressed and went downstairs quickly, taking her mother into the bathroom and running the water to drown out their voices.

 

           To her immense surprise, there were no voices to drown out.  Neither she, nor her mother, was capable of making a sound.  After several frustrating minutes, she grabbed a tablet and wrote down what she needed to say.

 

           Joyce’s face darkened as Buffy gave her a capsule version of the night’s events and explained that everything they might say, if they could speak, was probably being recorded.

 

           “Of course, that doesn’t seem to be a issue just now,” she wrote with an angry slash.  She scribbled some more words and shoved the tablet at her mother.

 

             “It’s going to be okay, Mom.  As soon as I get Giles and Willow here, we’ll find them and take them down.  But you’re going to have to be careful how you talk to Spike until then.  I don’t want them to find out William is the vampire they’ve been looking for.”

 

            Grabbing the table from Buffy, her mother wrote furiously, “All right, Buffy.  But please do not bring that soldier back here.  I don’t know that I am that good an actress – and right now I want to take a baseball bat to him.”

 

         “Whoa, Mom!  And Spike thinks I’m violent!”  Buffy laughed at her mother’s embarrassment and hugged her.

 

           As soon as Joyce had left for work, Buffy hastened to the other side of town and Giles’ apartment.  Just before she reached his door, she remembered why they’d had to go to her house last night and decided she really didn’t want to find her watcher in bed with his guest.  She paced around the parking lot, frustrated with her choices.  On the one hand, she obviously couldn’t make a phone call, but on the other, knocking on the door seemed unnecessarily embarrassing for all of them.

 

           Her dilemma was solved when the door opened and her fully dressed watcher peered out.  He saw Buffy and immediately gestured for her to come in.  Once inside the apartment, they frantically scribbled back and forth.  The morning news, which was done in closed captions, told about several people being found dead with their hearts ripped out.  Giles had already put Olivia to work doing research, and as Willow and Xander and Anya arrived, the full Scooby machine was at work on identifying the problem.

 

         Looking over Willow’s shoulder, Buffy spotted a drawing of a figure that looked very much like the ugly man she and William had seen the night before.  She pointed at the picture, gesturing to her eyes until Willow finally said, “You’ve seen one of these?”

 

           Buffy nodded vigorously and scribbled, “Last night.”

 

           Another hour of research, and they had their answers as to both the missing hearts and the missing voices.  Buffy nodded her head when Giles wrote that she had to locate the box with the missing voices and open it before any more Sunnydale citizens lost their hearts. 

 

           Armed with the knowledge of what was needed to disrupt the Gentlemen’s quest for more hearts, she headed back to Revello Drive, the entire crew including Olivia following along.  She showed them the cameras, and sensors, pointing out the hiding places as they approached her front yard.

 

           While Anya and Xander took Olivia into the house, Giles and Willow bent down to look at one of the sensors.  After studying it for a minute, Willow plucked a wire from the back and picked it up triumphantly.  Buffy looked at the recording device and carefully stepped on the microphone pointed at her front door, crushing it beneath her feet.

 

          When Willow stared at her, indicating she could have disconnected it also, Buffy shrugged and wrote, “Low tech solution to high tech problem.”

 

          Giles shook his head and they entered the house, leaving the camera running until they could decide what to do about it.  Willow and Buffy went out to the back yard and dismantled the camera, recorder and sensors they found there.  A close inspection of the rest of the yard revealed one more camera, two more recorders, duly smashed by Buffy’s feet, and another sensor.

 

          They went back in the kitchen door to find William having a mug of warm pig’s blood for breakfast and looking much too rested to suit Buffy.  And much too cute.  He was wearing the new blue button-down shirt and jeans.  With his soft curls falling over his forehead and his startling blue eyes peering out from under them, he looked adorable. 

 

           She sincerely hoped she hadn’t been projecting when she had that thought, but William gave no sign that he’d heard her refer to him as adorable.  Instead, he tilted his head at her and asked, “What’s with the mass laryngitis, pet?”

 

        “I’ll fill you in later.  Let’s just say you and I are going hunting ugly people after all.”

 

        He raised his eyebrows, but didn’t pursue it when he noticed Willow giving them a funny look.  He gave her his best, most innocent “William” smile and she relaxed and went back to examining the sensors they’d brought in. 

 

         Spike took his mug of blood into the living room and sat down to watch the news with Olivia, leaving the Scoobies to watch Willow as she dismantled the sensor.  It occurred to him that Giles might very well have not told her he was a vampire, so he made sure to act as bewildered and confused as William would undoubtedly have been at all the weird happenings around him.

 

          By the time evening was approaching, Willow had managed to incapacitate the sensors so that they could not record Spike’s lack of body temperature, or accurately count the humans present in the house. They carefully replaced them where they’d found them.  The cameras were twisted just enough that they pointed to a wall of the house, rather than a door.  There was nothing to be done about the microphones Buffy had crushed, but with no one able to speak, they doubted the commandos would be listening anyway.

 

            With nightfall, Buffy and Spike went through the weapon’s chest, taking whatever easily concealed things they could find.  Without knowing what to expect from the Gentlemen, they tried to be prepared for anything.  As they worked at getting ready to go out, Willow studied them surreptitiously.  She was positive they were communicating in some fashion other than with gestures, but she couldn’t imagine what it was or how they would have come to be able to do it.

 

            Leaving the Scoobies at her house with her now home-again mother, Buffy left by the front door, conspicuously waving “good-bye” to William and Joyce.  As soon as she was safely away from the house, she stopped and waited while Spike caught up with her. 

 

         “What took you so long?”

 

         “Had a little trouble with the whelp wantin’ to follow me up to your room and keep me out.  The witch had to step in and show him the tree outside the window before he’d let me set foot in there.  The way he watched me, you’da thought I was gonna set fire to it or somethin’.”

 

          Buffy was intrigued by the underlying hurt she could feel as he told her about Xander’s unwillingness to let him near her room.  Afraid he would pick up on her thoughts, she pushed her curiosity aside for the time being and concentrated on discussing their plan for the night.

 

           “Okay, we’re going to search through the residential areas because that’s where they got the hearts last night – from people who were sleeping.  We’ll save the dorms till last, cause nobody goes to sleep early there.  We’re not going to get in the way unless we have to, to save a life.  We’ll follow them back to wherever they’re keeping the voices and try to open the box”

 

           “I got it, pet.  The first three times.  What are you so nervous about?”

 

          “I’m not nervous.  I’m….concerned.”

 

          “About?”

 

         “I know the commandos will be out tonight looking for the same guys we are.  What if they see us/you?”

 

         “Well, I could try screaming again, but I guess that won’t work if I’m holding a sword…”

 

          “No.”  There was a tone of command in Buffy’s thought. “If we run into them, you leave, or hide, or something.  I don’t want them to see you. I don’t want them wondering why William is always with me when I’m out slaying.”

 

         “Not leavin’ you alone, pet.”  Spike’s determination was palpable.

 

          “You are if I tell you to.”  Buffy’s determination was equally strong.

 

           Their inevitable stand-off was interrupted by the arrival of several of the Gentlemen’s helpers.  They fought all but one of them to a stand still, finding that the only way to kill them was to cut off their heads.  The remaining creature ran off with its awkward, loping gait, arms swinging wildly; Buffy and Spike in hot pursuit.

 

           They followed him to a clock tower and watched as one of the Gentlemen floated past, carefully holding what appeared to be another heart.  Close behind him, was a squad of commandos, led by Riley Finn.  Shoving Spike behind a bush and ordering him to “stay here unless I call you”, Buffy ran into the tower behind the Gentleman and ahead of Riley.

 

          Ignoring the soldier, except to keep an eye on how he was doing in the fight, Buffy battled her way into the tower and began searching frantically for the voice box.  Just as she located it, she was attacked by two of the long-armed creatures at once and pinned down.  As she frantically tried to kick them off of her before the advancing Gentleman could take his scalpel to her chest, she gestured toward the box, trying to get Riley to smash it.

 

          In her anxiety to get the box smashed quickly, she hadn’t realized she was projecting her frustration and thoughts until William burst through the door and brought his fist down on the box, releasing all the captured voices.  Immediately, Buffy began screaming, not stopping until she ran out of breath and all the Gentlemen had succumbed to exploding heads.

 

          For several seconds, no one moved or said anything.  Buffy was struggling to regain her breath, William was hovering over her anxiously, and Riley was looking back and forth between the two as he struggled back to his feet.

 

           “Buffy, we need to talk,” he said unnecessarily. 

 

           Spike gave a very un-William-like snort, and she shot him a warning look before turning to face the big commando.

 

             “I suppose we do,” she said tiredly.  “But not tonight.  I’m tired and I want to go home.  I’ll meet you in the coffee shop tomorrow.  Is that all right?”

 

             “I thought maybe you could come to Lowell House for coffee.  We could talk there with more privacy.”

 

              Buffy studied him for a full minute, trying to assess how much she could trust the man.  She could feel Spike behind her, willing her to say “no”, but ignored him as best she could.   When she nodded her head in agreement, and told Riley she’d meet him at Lowell House, the vampire stalked out of the tower and disappeared into the night.

 

              “William isn’t walking home on his own, is he?” Riley asked with a grin.

 

             “No, I’m sure he’ll wait for me.  I think he just needed to get out of here and away from all the blood and gore.”

 

              “He’s awfully delicate for the cousin of a Slayer, isn’t he?” Riley tried to appear casual as he used her title for the first time.

 

              “He’s a good man,” she said shortly, neither confirming nor denying his implication.  “I’ll see you tomorrow, Riley.”  She went down the stairs and out into the night, leaving the commando and his team staring after her small form as she walked down the street toward her waiting cousin.

 

 

Chapter Twelve

 

             The long walk to Revello drive was made in silence – mental and physical.   Spike made no attempt to disguise the anger burning within him, but he didn’t project any thoughts toward Buffy at all.  She knew he was furious that she’d agreed to enter the fraternity house by herself, but she was too tired to argue with him about it.  The only thoughts she allowed to enter her head were thoughts of a hot bath and her soft bed.

 

            They entered the house, still not speaking to each other, to find that everyone else had found their voice and there were at least three conversations going on at one time.

            

            Giles, Olivia and Joyce were trying to have a dignified, adult conversation about Sunnydale, Slayers and Watchers – all of which had been new to Olivia until that morning.  Xander wanted to complain to all and sundry about Spike’s taking up residence in the Summer’s house, and his obvious familiarity with Buffy’s bedroom.  Anya was anxious to get home and get some quality time with Xander before it got too late and he fell asleep.

 

           Buffy and Spike stood inside the door listening to the cacophony of noise and exchanged a look that clearly said, “Can we have the silence back again?”

 

          Finally, Willow noticed their presence and shouted, “They’re back!”

 

          “Good job, Buffster,” Xander spoke up first.  “Way to dust those guys and get us our voices back.”

 

          “Actually, William did that,” Buffy said, emphasizing “Wiliiam” as a reminder that their words might be heard.  She thought she had smashed all the microphones, but wasn’t sure they didn’t miss one somewhere.

 

            “Yes, well, good job, William,” Giles said, picking up on the vampire’s obvious anger, but at a loss as to what might be causing it.  “Any complications, Buffy?”

 

             With a snarl, Spike pushed past the humans in the room and went down to the basement. There was an uncomfortable silence following his departure and Joyce frowned slightly.  She made a motion as if to go after him, but Buffy’s voice stopped her.

 

          “Let him go, Mom.  He’s just pissed at me.”

 

           “Buffy!  Language!”

 

            Rolling her eyes, Buffy said tiredly,  “If it’s all right with everybody else, I’m going to take a hot bath and get some sleep.  I’ll fill you all in tomorrow night.  I’ll know more about the commandos then, too.”

 

            She turned and made her way upstairs, refusing to answer any of the questions being thrown at her about the commandos and how they figured in to the night’s actions.

 

          In the basement, a furious vampire was pacing from one side to the other, desperate for something on which to take out his anger at the Slayer.  Every time he picked up something to throw, he would recognize it as something Joyce probably valued, and he would set it down carefully, snarling the whole time.

 

          Bloody, stupid bint!  Goin’ in there alone…and in the daytime, when I can’t go out.  If anything happens to her, I’ll rip that place apart…brick by brick, body by body.

 

           He lifted his head as he heard a heavy step on the stairs and watched as Giles descended.  He didn’t offer a greeting, just threw himself on the cot and glared.

 

          “Would you like to let me in on what this little tantrum is about?” the man inquired in a deceptively mild tone.

 

         “Not a tantrum,” the vampire said with a growl.  “If I was havin’ a tantrum, this place would be in shambles by now.”

 

          “Point well taken.  And I am sure Joyce thanks you for your restraint,” he answered wryly.  “But I still want to know what’s going on…and why I should leave an angry vampire in the same house with my Slayer and her mother?”

 

         “Wouldn’t hurt them,” he growled.

 

         “Isn’t that couldn’t hurt them?  I think we both know what you would do if you weren’t effectively neutered.”

 

          “Wouldn’t, couldn’t, same thing.”  He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall. “You know nothing, Watcher.”

 

           When Giles didn’t respond, but remained standing at the bottom of the stairs waiting for an answer, Spike growled again and stood up.  He smiled to himself when the Watcher couldn’t hide a small flinch as he stalked toward him.  Giles recovered quickly, but Spike had seen the movement and felt the slight increase in heart rate.

 

          Considering that he was still dressed like William, complete with glasses, the vampire was quite pleased with himself to think he could still frighten an experienced Watcher.

 

           “Did she tell you what she’s gonna do?” he demanded as he invaded the watcher’s personal space.  “Did she tell you what she agreed to?”

 

          “The only thing she said was that she was tired and going to take a hot bath before going to bed.  Perhaps you could be a bit more forthcoming?”

 

           “She agreed to meet with that bloody piillock tomorrow – at his fraternity house.  By herself.”  He watched with satisfaction as Giles’ face paled, and added, “That would be the house that is full of soldiers pretending to be college boys, in case you’ve forgotten. The one that Red thinks is built over the lab where they use live demons for carving practice.”

 

           Giles flinched again at Spike’s description of the activities that went on in the research facility.  As a watcher, he, of course had no problems with groups that killed vampires and demons, but the idea of capturing them for the purposes of doing experiments on sentient creatures offended his British sense of fair play.

 

         “I will certainly discuss the foolhardiness of entering the lion’s den, so to speak.  However, as you have noticed, Buffy has a tendency to do as she pleases, not as she’s told.”

 

         “Stupid bint’s going to get herself killed.  Or worse.”  He stalked back over to the cot and threw himself down again.

 

         “I sincerely hope that will not be the case, Spike.  But, if it should be, I’m quite curious as to why a vampire that has repeatedly made it his goal to kill his third Slayer is at all concerned about it.”

 

           “She’s mine,” he answered shortly, looking away from the Watcher’s probing eyes.

 

            “To kill, you mean.  She’s yours to kill and you don’t want anyone else stealing your glory.”  The expression on Giles’ face was grim and his hand twitched as though holding a stake.

 

            Spike looked up at him and stared flatly until Giles looked away.

 

             “Yeah, that’s right, Watcher. Wanna keep her alive until I can kill her myself.”  He snorted with derisive laughter.  “You know, for a watcher, you sure don’t see much, do you?”

 

            Giles took off his glasses and polished them vigorously.  He’d been aware of a developing relationship between his charge and the neutered vampire, but to hear it confirmed by William the Bloody himself was to make it real.

 

             “I’ve seen enough to know I do not want Buffy involved with another vampire.  I believe one experience like that has caused her more than her share of grief.”

 

            “I’m not him, Rupert,” the suddenly quiet William said, closing his eyes wearily.  “Got no soul to lose, now, do I?”

 

           Giles had no answer to that, and he turned to go up the stairs.  He paused and looked back at the immobile man on the cot, but William’s eyes remained closed and he did not look up again.

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

            Giles offered Willow and Xander rides and they gladly accepted, joining him and Olivia in his old Citroen.  He dropped them off and headed for his apartment and a few hours of, he hoped, quality time with his guest.  Instead, he got a tearful discussion of how frightening it was to be visiting somewhere with vampires, demons, creepy, mystical gentlemen that took living hearts and armed soldiers that crept around in the dark.

 

            Sighing for his non-existent social life, Giles agreed to drive her to the nearest airport in the morning so that she could go home to safe, un hell-mouthy, England.  As a result, he did not have an opportunity to talk to Buffy before she got up and went off to meet with Riley.

 

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

         Buffy had done exactly what she’d said she was going to.  She went upstairs, ran a tub full of hot water and bath oil, and soaked in it until it got uncomfortably cool.  Then she got out, dried off, and fell into her bed without even putting on a nightie or pajamas.  Spike’s comment about her sleeping naked briefly crossed her mind, but a tentative attempt to see if he was open to her resulted in nothing but cold silence and she gave it up for a deep dreamless sleep.

 

            She awoke in the morning, glanced at the clock, and rushed to get dressed and meet Riley at the appointed time.  She didn’t stop to have breakfast, so didn’t hear or see the basement door crack open as she ran out of the house.

 

           ~~~~~~~~~~

As she walked up to the door of Lowell House, she suddenly felt very alone and found herself wishing for even a snarky remark from the vampire that had been her on and off companion for over a week.

 

          911, my ass!  Stupid vampire.  I could be kidnapped right now and he’d never know or care.

 

         “Yes, I would, Slayer.” 

 

            The feelings of relief and joy that flooded her at the familiar voice in her head caused Buffy to stop in mid-stride.  She stumbled and almost fell before she could recover from the unexpected answer.

 

          “So you’ve decided to speak to me again, huh”

 

           She tried to smother the happiness it generated, but she could feel his smile and knew he’d sensed it.

 

         “If you’re gonna be all stupid and careless, Slayer, somebody’s got to be watchin’ your back.”

 

        “I’m not being careless.  I’ll be very careful.  I’m all about the carefulness.  And the only thing stupid I’ve done lately is go to sleep naked last night –by myself.”

 

           She giggled uncontrollably when she felt the bolt of pure lust go through him and when Riley opened the door to invite her in, she was still smiling widely.  Too late, she realized he thought the smile was for him, and she tried to back pedal quickly when he took it as an excuse to hug her.  Squirming her way out of his smothering embrace, she backed up and looked up at him.

 

          “I thought we were going to talk?”

 

          “We are.  I just thought…you looked so happy and…normal. Human.”

 

          Buffy quirked her eyebrows at him in an unintentional imitation of a blond vampire.

 

         “Okay, normal, I get. But, human?  What do I look like, a chimpanzee?”

 

         Riley laughed uncomfortably.  “No, no, of course not.  I just meant –we’re not really sure what a Slayer is…and…”

 

           “We?”  Buffy stiffened when she found herself suddenly surrounded by several clean-cut young men.  She recognized two of them from the Bronze and gave them cold looks before turning back to Riley.

 

          “This is how we’re going to talk?”  She stared at him suspiciously and began edging toward the door.

 

          “There’s no need for panic, Ms. Summers,” came a woman’s voice from the hallway.  “We just thought we’d all have a nice chat and you wouldn’t have to repeat yourself over and over.”

 

          “Why would I be repeating myself?  I’m going to talk to Riley, and that’s it.”

 

         “Well, the thing is,” Maggie Walsh said, entering the room to stand just out of reach, “Agent Finn and his men work for me.  You are here at my request. I wish to study you.”

 

         “STUDY me?”  No one missed the steely tone in the Slayer’s voice, and the men who had already tangled with her backed up a step.  Maggie Walsh, however, didn’t flinch.  Instead, she relaxed her posture and put on her most charming smile.

 

          “I’m sorry, Buffy – May I call you Buffy? – I’ve not made myself understood.  Until recently, we thought that the Slayer was a myth, something to be evoked to frighten young demons.  We are delighted to find that not only is she real, but that she lives right here in Sunnydale. I simply wish to sit down with you and learn more about who you are and what your life is like.  How did you become the Slayer?  When? How long do you plan to continue it?  Things like that.”

 

          She smiled at Buffy with what appeared to be genuine warmth.

 

          “I’m sorry we’ve gotten off to such a rocky start.  Why don’t we all come into the game room and sit down and relax.  You will tell us about yourself, and we will tell you what we can about our…operation.  Agent Finn, please get Buffy some refreshments.  What would you like, dear?”

 

          Buffy reluctantly followed the older woman into the large adjoining room and perched nervously on the edge of a chair.  She gave Riley a tentative smile of thanks when he handed her an opened can and said, “Diet Coke, right?”

 

            Recalling Spike’s story about the drugged blood they’d tried to feed him, she pretended to sip the Coke, then set the can down on the nearby table.

 

           “What’s happenin’, Slayer?  Where’d you go? Why’d you’d get so nervous?”

 

          “It’s OK, Spike. I just misunderstood or something.  She said they wanted to study me and I—“

 

         “NO!  No, Buffy!   Don’t let them take you to the lab.”

 

         “Relax, she didn’t mean it that way.  We’re just sitting down in the frat house to talk.  I’m have a Diet Coke and I’ll tell them about me and they’ll tell me about them, and then I’ll be on my way home.”

 

       “Don’t trust them, love.  Please.  Listen to me.  And who is ‘she’?”

 

       “Professor Walsh, my psychology teacher.  Turns out she’s in charge.”

 

      “Cold, nasty piece of work?  Looks like a man?”

 

       “Well, that’s kinda rude, but, yeah, I guess you could say that.  How did you know?”

 

      “That’s the bitch that put this thing in my head!  She runs that bloody charnel house.  Get away from her, Buffy.  Now!”

 

        “What am I going to say?  The vampire who talks to me in my head says I have to go now?  You’re over-reacting.  I’m a human.  They’re not going to hurt me.  She just wants to know about me.”

 

       “Slayer, Buffy, please…love.  Just get out of there.  Tell them you’ll talk to them later.  Tell them your house is on fire.  Tell them the bloody world is endin’! I don’t care.  Just do what you’re told for once in your soddin’ life!”

 

          “You do NOT tell me what to do!  Get that idea through your thick head.  Now leave me alone so I can concentrate on my conversation!”

 

        “Fine, you stupid, stubborn, bitch!  Find out the hard way.” 

 

         Buffy almost cringed at the anger pouring out from the vampire, then shuddered as the link closed down completely.  She told herself she was glad he was out of her head, but she suddenly felt very alone.

 

       This is not a problem.  I’ve been doing things alone ever since I was called.  I don’t need some paranoid vampire with a grudge against these people telling me how to do my job.  The Slayer works alone.  That’s how it is.

 

        As Buffy finished her mental pep talk, she realized that Professor Walsh had asked her something, and she had to think quickly.  Unfortunately, the first thing she came up with was “Huh?”

 

        “I’m sorry, Buffy,” Maggie was at her most patient and charming, “I guess I didn’t make myself clear.  I was asking if you would mind working out a little with one of my men.  Just so we can study your techniques and speed.”

 

        Even though the whole idea of being “studied” was giving Buffy a creepy feeling, she couldn’t think of a good way to refuse and soon found herself trailing after Riley and his friends into a well-furnished gym just off the game room.

 

        “Uh, Buffy,” Riley said as he pointed to a man taking off his shoes.  “This is Graham, I think you met—“

 

         “We met at the Bronze,” Buffy said coldly.  “You were threatening my…cousin”

 

          Graham shuffled his feet uncomfortably.  “Actually, we met once before that – you threw me into a bush”

 

          “Oh yeah, I remember.  You told Riley not to back off because I was ‘just a little girl’.”   Buffy gave him her best cheerleader smile.  “Kinda pissed me off.”

 

         “Yeah, I got that.  I thought we might spar a little and I’d try to get some of my own back.  If that’s all right with you,” he added hastily as Riley frowned.  “I’ll be careful.  I won’t hurt you.  I promise.”

 

          “Oh, I know you won’t.”  Buffy smiled sweetly and took off her own shoes.

 

          She stepped onto the mats and began stretching and warming up as the young men watched in admiration.  When she was comfortable that her body was awake and ready, she turned to Graham and said, “I’m ready when you are.”

 

         For several minutes they just circled each other cautiously, until Buffy was sure she was going to scream from boredom.  When she stopped circling and put her hands on her hips impatiently, the commando rushed her with a grin on his face; only to find himself flying across the room and slamming into the padded wall.

 

         Buffy turned around and faced him, hands back on hips and head cocked to one side.  With a furious glare, he charged again, carrying her to the mat with his weight.  Before he had time to savor his victory, Buffy had put her hands under his chest and lifted him off her body far enough that she could get her feet between them and kick him over her head.  She quickly whirled and landed on his back, pressing his face into the mat and painfully pinning one arm behind him.

 

         She was immediately picked up off the downed soldier and tossed across the mat.  She looked up to find herself facing a furious Forrest who was standing over Graham and glaring at her. 

 

          “Normal human girls can’t move like that.  And they aren’t that strong.  I don’t know what you are, but it isn’t human.”

 

           Buffy stared at him in astonishment.  “Exactly which part of ‘I’m the Slayer’ didn’t you get?  Along with my “Chosen” career, which requires me to spend my life in dark, stinky places fighting with disgusting, dead things that want to kill me, I was given some assets to help me do my job.  I’m just as human as you are, just stronger and faster.”

 

           She put her hands back on her hips and glared back at him. 

 

         “And, incidentally, I spend enough time fighting supernaturally strong creatures to know that you guys are faster and stronger than normal humans too.  So what does that make you, huh?”

 

           Before the angry man could reply, Maggie stepped in and said smoothly, “I’ve chosen only the cream of the crop for my operation.  They all came here in perfect physical condition and I have only enhanced their natural abilities.  You see, just like you, Buffy, they must fight beings that are stronger and faster than they are; so we give them all the advantages we can; the finest in technology and the newest scientific and medical advancements. But, I believe I speak for everyone, when I tell you that we don’t quite understand what sorts of enhancements you have, or how you got them.  Can you enlighten us?”

 

           Buffy looked back and forth between her professor and the men in the room and shook her head.

 

          “I think you ought to talk to Giles.  He knows all that stuff.  I wasn’t really paying attention when Merrick explained it to me.”

 

          “Giles?  You mean your uncle?  And who is Merrick?”

 

          “Merrick was my first Watcher.  He was the one who told me I’d been called.”

 

          “Ah.  The more we learn, the more questions I have.  What is a watcher? Why do you have one?  What is Mr. Giles connection to all of this?”  Maggie smiled at Buffy.  “You can see why we are reluctant to let you go until we’ve had time to thoroughly debrief you.”

 

          “To de-what me?”  Buffy wasn’t sure, but thought they might be planning to take her underwear.  She stood up very straight and said sternly, “There will be no de-briefing of this girl.  Oh no.  You can talk to Giles and let him explain stuff to you.  I’m done here.”  She turned and started toward the door.

 

          “I’m afraid not, dear,” Maggie said calmly as she gestured to Riley.

 

           With a quick, “I’m sorry, Buffy,” he plunged a needle into her neck and forced out the liquid in the syringe.

 

            Buffy had time to think  Damn that vampire.  I hate it when he’s right! before the sedative took effect and she lost consciousness.

 

 

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

           Spike spent the afternoon sulking, refusing to send so much as an “up yours, Slayer,” in Buffy’s direction.   When Giles got back from taking Olivia to the airport he immediately tried to call Buffy in her dorm room, but only got a surprised Willow who assured him she hadn’t seen Buffy since the previous night.

 

        “She said she was really tired, Giles.  Maybe she just stayed at her mom’s and slept all day.”

 

        “That’s probably it, Willow. Thank you. I’ll call her there.”  The Watcher hung up the phone with a frown, remembering Spike’s angry insistence that Buffy had decided to go the fraternity house and meet with Riley alone.  He felt a twinge of fear at the idea of her not having at least checked in with Willow, or gone to class all day.

 

         When the phone began to ring, Spike stared at it with indecision before finally grabbing it and growling,  “What?”  Followed immediately, by a much more William-like, “Good afternoon, Summers’ residence. William speaking.”

 

         “William?  It’s Uncle Rupert.  May I speak with Buffy, please?”

 

            “She’s not here.  I haven’t seen her since she left this morning for her visit with the toy soldier.”  Spike made no attempt to keep his disdain for Riley out of his voice.  “She’s probably in class or back in the dorm.”

 

          “No,” Giles said carefully, not sure who might be listening,” She’s not. No one has seen her since last night.”

 

           There was a short silence, followed rapidly by a lengthy string of British profanity.   When he ran out of obscenities, Spike paused and Giles took the opportunity to put in, “Quite right you are, but that is not helping us locate her.  I will call Willow and bring her over to try a locator spell.”

 

           “Wait a minute,” Spike said shortly, opening up his mind and extending it out frantically searching for Buffy.

 

         “Come on, love.  Just tell me where you are.  Talk to me.  Tell me you’re all right and I’ll go right away again.  Buffy?  Please, Slayer, just say something. Tell me you hate me. Threaten to stake me for interrupting your good time.  Anything.”

 

        There was no answer, and he couldn’t sense Buffy at all.  His stomach clenched at the implications, but common sense told him there was no way she could have died without his feeling it.

       

         Right then, unconscious.  I’m goin’ to hang that bloody soldier with his own entrails.

 

         “Watcher,” Spike’s voice was nothing like William, and Giles felt a chill go up his spine at the tone, “I think we’ve got a situation.  Tell the witch to come to your place.  It’s closer.”

 

          “What do you know?” Giles surprised himself by not questioning the vampire’s instructions.

 

         “I know she’s not dead; but she’s not conscious either.  I’ll be there in ten,” he added, hanging up before Giles could question how he knew those things.

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

 

         Buffy came back to consciousness slowly, and kept her eyes shut as she tried to remember where she was and what had happened.

 

         Oh yeah, they wanted to take my underwear, and then the lights went out. All useful information, I’m sure.

 

         She did a quick check of her body and discovered that not only was she missing her underwear, she was missing her entire wardrobe.

 

         Naked. Naked is never good.  And…tied up.  Even more not goodness.  Tied, though, with rope. Not chained. Stupid amateurs still don’t get it.  Okay, tied up and hanging by my arms. Feet are not tied.  Room is…warm?  No, the room is hot. And getting hotter by the second.  Are they planning to cook and eat me?  What the hell?

 

            Unable to figure out anything else about her situation, Buffy opened her eyes and stared around.  She found herself hanging from a pole, her feet just inches off the ground.  The room she was in was obviously one of the lab’s experimental rooms that Spike had alluded to.  She cursed herself for not making him tell her exactly what happened to him when he was in there so that she would have some idea what to expect.

 

            Sweat began to pour off her body as the room continued to get hotter and hotter and she squirmed against the ropes in an effort to loosen them.

 

            “Ah, I see that you are awake again, Buffy,” came the voice of a woman the Slayer was really beginning to dislike.  “We’ve begun our testing program.  Would you please let us know what you are feeling just now?”

 

            Buffy was dumbfounded at the calm, pleasant tone of Professor Walsh’s voice as she asked the sweating, naked girl how she felt.

 

            “I’m hanging by my arms, which are getting tired, by the way; some pervert has taken all my clothes, and I think I’m inside a giant oven.  How the hell do you think I feel, you arrogant bitch?”

 

            “There’s no need to be abusive,” Maggie answered in a tone that undoubtedly cowed the young men under her command.  “We are simply running you through some of the same tests we use on the vampires we capture.”

 

            Changing the subject, she asked, “So, you do feel the heat then?  That’s interesting.  It didn’t seem to bother the vampires that much.”

 

            “Because they’re DEAD!”  Buffy shouted.  “Are you stupid?”

 

            There was no reply, but the temperature in the room began to go down noticeably.  And down, and down.

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

 

           In Giles’ apartment, he, Willow, and Spike stared at each other.

 

           “What makes you think Buffy is unconscious?” the older man was asking.  “And how can you be sure she’s not dead?”

 

           “I’d know if she was dead,” he mumbled, not really wanting to tell the watcher how he knew, but desperate to make him believe him.

 

            Willow stared hard at the squirming vampire and said quietly, “He knows she’s unconscious because he can’t hear her right now.  Isn’t that right, Spike?”

 

            “Wha-?  No! Don’t be ridiculous, Red.  How would I be able to hear her? Vamp hearing is good, but it’s not—“

 

             Giles looked back and forth between them.  “What do you mean, he can’t hear her?  We have to assume she has been taken to the facility under Lowell House.  He’s quite right. Even vamp hearing can’t extend that far.”

 

           “That’s not what he’s using.  Is it, Spike?”  Willow put on her “resolve” face and made the vampire look her in the eye.

 

           “Don’t know what you’re on about, Witch,” he growled, trying to look away.

 

           “You know, for somebody who’s all about the evilness, you don’t lie very well,” she responded.

 

             Before Spike could respond, he felt the first confused stirring of consciousness in Buffy and he held up his hand for silence.  Cocking his head, he listened as she collected her thoughts and sorted out her surroundings. He snarled when she realized she was naked, and groaned in recognition when she noticed how hot the room was getting.

 

           Willow and Giles watched in slow understanding as they saw the emotions play across the vampire’s expressive face.  Relief, followed quickly by outrage, and fear that they knew instinctively wasn’t for himself.

 

             “ Buffy? I’m here, love. We’re comin’ to get you.  Can you tell me where you are?”

 

           “Spike?  I’m where you were.  She said they’re running the same tests on me that they run on the all vampires they catch.”

 

            He couldn’t disguise the stab of fear that went through him at her words, and she asked anxiously,  “What else are they going to do to me? They took my clothes, and it looks like they took blood out of my arm…oh, and they just tried to cook me, but it’s getting better now.”

 

            “It’s going to go from hot to cold, pet.  They tried to see how hot or cold they could make us before we couldn’t function anymore.”

 

          “Terrific. I’m gonna go from baked Buffy to a Slayer-sicle”.

 

          “What’s going on?”  Giles put aside his questions about how Spike was communicating with Buffy for the time being and demanded to know what was going on.

 

             “They’ve got her in the lab and they’ve started their regular vampire tests on her.”  Spike’s voice was even and cold. 

 

              “Buffy’s not a vampire, for the love of god! What are they thinking?”

 

            “They’re thinkin’ they’ve got somethin’ they don’t understand, and they’re gonna take it apart and see what makes it tick. “

 

            “Giles! We’ve got to get in there.  We’ve got to find Buffy before they really hurt her.”  Willow’s eyes were wide with worry.

 

             “Yes, we do, obviously.  However, we know nothing about that place or where she is inside it.  Spike,” he turned to the vampire, “write down everything you remember about the facility and how you got out of there.  Willow,” he pushed the anxious red head toward the table, “search on the web for whatever you can find out about what may have been built under there.  There is no point in our charging in without a plan and some idea where we’re going.”

 

              *************************

 

              Buffy was still hanging in the room that was rapidly becoming colder and colder.  Goosebumps burst out on her arms and legs, followed quickly by uncontrollable shivering. 

 

              “Hang in, love.  We’re working on this.  Need to figure out where you are exactly and how to get there.”

 

            “I’m cold, Spike.  They know I’m not a vampire. Why are they doing this?”

 

           The discomfort and just a trace of fear that he felt in her voice, had the vampire growling aloud even as he tried to soothe her with the reassurances he was sending.

 

           “You need to think about warm things, pet.  Like my tight, little body and how hot it makes you.  Think about my hands on your breasts, my tongue teasing your needy little...”

 

              He felt a weak trace of amusement from the Slayer, even as her thoughts became disjointed and confused.

 

           Cold, sleepy,  think of warm things…so cold…William makes me warm…Spike…Spike is warm…no…Spike is a vampire…not warm…why does he make me warm?…warm…sleepy…too cold…doesn’t hurt anymore….

 

            “Buffy?  Slayer?  Come on, pet. Stay with me.  Don’t go out on me again, love.  Buffy?  Buffy?”

 

         One look at the anguish on the vampire’s face and Giles knew things weren’t going well for his Slayer.

 

          “What happened?  What’s going on, Spike?”

 

         “She’s passed out from the cold.  Let’s hope the wankers are smart enough to figure out she could die from cold like any other human and don’t just leave her there like they do the vamps.”

 

           “What happens to them?” Willow couldn’t keep the trace of scientific curiosity from her voice and he gave her a glare before reluctantly answering.

 

           “The first few, they jus’ left there to freeze solid.  Then they whacked them apart with hammers and laughed when they shattered.  By the time they got to me, they were trying to figure out exactly how long it took to get a vamp so cold it couldn’t move, so they took me out when I stopped movin’.”

 

           “Well, they’ll know that Buffy can’t freeze and live, won’t they?”

 

          “I’m sure they will, Willow.”  Giles’ voice was as reassuring as he could make it while he was pondering how many explosives it would take to blow up Lowell House if his Slayer didn’t leave it alive.

 

          ***********************

 

           Buffy woke up to find that someone had put her clothes back on her, and draped her in a blanket.  She was also strapped down to a table with an IV drip in her arm.

 

            “Ah, Buffy,” came the hated voice, “I’m glad to see you are awake.  That was quite informative.  It appears that you can withstand temperatures much higher and lower than the average human, and yet, had we left you there, you would have died.  Very interesting.”

 

              “You could have asked me, you know,” she gritted out through teeth that still wanted to chatter.

 

             “Oh, we are planning to,” Maggie’s voice was cheerful and she nodded to the technician standing beside the examining table.  He twisted a knob on the tubes leading to the IV and Buffy immediately felt herself getting woozy again.

 

              “This is one of our better discoveries here.  It is designed to elicit truthful responses from subjects – whether demon or human.  Far superior to old fashioned ‘truth serums’.”

 

                “Not telling you anything,” Buffy growled, sounding a great deal like a certain blond vampire.

 

              “You sometimes sound surprisingly like Hostile 17, as I recall him,” Maggie said, speculatively.  “Perhaps it’s an attitude thing you have picked up from spending so much time around vampires.”

 

               “I don’t tend to spend much time with them.  Only as long as it takes to make them dust.”

 

                “And yet, you prevented my men from recapturing Hostile 17. Why is that, Buffy?”

 

                 Buffy fought the urge to tell the woman everything about Spike and their history, although she couldn’t prevent herself from growling, “He’s mine.”

 

                “Yours?  Interesting.  We will have to go into this further.  But right now I have some questions about your uncle and your friends.  Tell me about Rupert Giles.”

 

               “No,” Buffy said flatly.

 

             Maggie gave an exasperated sigh.  “Very well, we’ll do this the hard way.  Is your uncle in any way connected to your Slaying duties?”

 

             Buffy thought about her mother’s brother in Ohio and grinned to herself. “No, he’s not,” she said truthfully.

 

            The older woman glared at her, then turned to the technician.  “Turn it up,” she ordered.  He looked at her as though he wanted to argue, then shrugged and twisted the knob again.  Buffy felt more warmth as the increased drug flowed into her veins.

 

            “Now, lets try again.  Is Mr. Giles aware of your activities?”

 

            “Yes.” Buffy responded immediately.  “But shouldn’t you already know this stuff from your cameras and recorders?”

 

            Before she could stop herself, Maggie replied, “They don’t seem to be working very we--   Oh, very clever, Buffy.  You’re not a dumb as you look, are you?”

 

            “Nope!” Buffy replied cheerfully and truthfully.

 

              Gritting her teeth and vowing that the impudent young woman tied to the table in front of her was not going to rattle her, Maggie Walsh turned and called Riley into the room.

 

             “Agent Finn, I want you to bring in Ms. Summers’ uncle, cousin, mother, and those other young people who seem to be part of her circle.  We’ll see how they respond to my serum.”

 

            Buffy pulled furiously at the restraints holding her down, glaring at the smiling woman.

 

             “You leave my friends and family out of this!”

 

             “I don’t think so.  I think we’re going to find that they are in this up to their ears.  Aren’t we, Miss Summers?”

 

             “Yes,” Buffy almost sobbed as she was unable to prevent the word from leaving her mouth.  “But my mother isn’t.  She doesn’t have anything to do with it.”

 

             “She gave birth to you.  I’m sure there is something we can learn from her.”

 

              The professor turned to leave the room.

 

              “I’ll be back when we have more subjects to study.  Until then, enjoy your stay.  Perhaps Graham and Forrest might want to keep you company…”

 

               “Hurt my friends and family and I WILL kill you.”  There was no trace of the young coed Maggie knew from class in her voice.  The sound of an angry Slayer made the woman hesitate for a minute as a chill went up her spine.

 

           “I don’t think so,” she managed to say without her voice quivering. “Such braggadocio is admirable, but hardly believable from someone in your situation.”

 

           “Truth serum,” Buffy said coldly and smiled to herself when she saw the meaning of the two words hit the other woman.

 

            Lab coat fluttering, Maggie quickly left the room without saying anything else, vowing to humble the irritating girl before she was done with her.

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

              Willow put the spells she’d found that she thought might be helpful into her pocket along with the layout of the ductwork in the facility.  While the actual facility itself was apparently a secret, it hadn’t seemed to occur to anyone that the schematics for blocking out the duct work and electrical wires gave anyone who cared to look at them a very good idea of what the layout was. Willow had no trouble hacking into the systems of the companies that did the work and printing out their plans.

 

           Giles and Spike, who was still dressed in William’s new blue shirt and jeans, were digging through the weapon’s chest for easily hidden, but lethal objects to take in with them. They each slipped sharp knives into ankle holsters, as well as garrotes in their pockets. Although he didn’t change out of William’s clothes, Spike did get his Doc Martin’s and exchange William’s loafers for his own boots.  He raised his eyebrows curiously when Giles went to the hall closet and pulled out a metal box. When he pulled out an automatic pistol and loaded it, Willow’s eyes bugged out. 

 

           “I never knew you had a gun, Giles!” she said wonderingly.

 

           “There is a great deal you don’t know about me, Willow,” he replied evenly, causing the vampire to give him a hard look, even as he admired the comfortable way the other man handled the gun.

 

            “That wouldn’t help you much against vamps, Watcher,” Spike drawled as Giles shoved the gun into the waistband of his pants.

 

          “Not everything evil we meet is bullet-proof, or non-human,” Giles answered with more than a trace of Ripper in his voice.

 

         “True enough, Watcher. True enough.”

 

          The three would-be rescuers stood in the middle of the living room, double checking their weapons and going over their plan.

 

           “I’m sure Buffy appreciates your willingness to assist us, Sp-William, but I can’t see what help you think you can be when you will rendered immobile the first time you hurt a human.”

 

            “You let me worry about that, Watcher.  If they don’t know about my…disability…, just  flashing m’ fangs might be all it takes to back somebody off.  And if they do, I’ll jus’ have to pick my one human really carefully.”

 

            He looked at the dubious man and said firmly, “’M not leaving her in that place, and ‘m not gonna sit here and worry until you get back.”

 

           “Fine. I suppose you are old enough to make your own decisions about something like this.” 

 

             Willow and Spike both smiled at Giles’ words and the vampire snarked, “That I am, Uncle Rupert.  But I do ‘preciate the thought.”

 

            “Then I guess we should get going.  We’ll need to figure out how we’re going to get into the--“ When Spike’s head flew up and they realized he was listening to Buffy, Giles stopped talking and waited. 

 

              “Spike?  Can you hear me?”

 

              “Yeah, I hear you, pet.  What’s goin’ on? Had me a little worried there, Slayer.  What with turnin’ into an ice cube an all.”

 

               “I’m okay.  But I’m tied down to a table and they gave me truth serum to make me tell her about Slayer stuff.”

 

               “ What do they know?”

 

             “Not much.  I made her mad and she left until –Spike! You’ve got to get away somewhere!  They’re coming to get Giles and Willow and mom, and William.  You need to hide!”

 

         “Not happenin’, pet.  We’re just leaving the Watcher’s to come get you.”

 

       “I don’t want them to get their hands on you again.”

 

       “It’ll be alright, pet. You concentrate on getting’ loose and quit worryin’ about me.  ‘M jus’ another vampire, love, nothing for the Slayer to be concerned about.”

 

        “Dammit, you stupid vampire!  I don’t want anything to happen to you – I don’t want to lose you!”

 

       Spike couldn’t respond for a few seconds.  He swore his unbeating heart skipped a beat as he felt her embarrassment at the unintended admission.

 

            “That the truth serum talkin’, love?” He didn’t try to hide the effect her words had on him.

 

            Buffy didn’t answer him directly.  She just said, “Please, Spike – just don’t be there when they come…Giles can tell them William went back to England or something.”

 

         “Too late, pet,” he said as the door burst open and Riley came in, rifle held in front of him and followed by two more commandos.  “See you in a bit.”

 

         “We should have no problem finding Buffy, Uncle Rupert. It seems as though we’re getting an escort.”

 

 

Chapter Fourteen

 

          William stepped back behind the Watcher, trying to shield Willow, but Riley gestured with his gun for all of them to move ahead of him.

 

           “Let’s go.  Professor Walsh wants to meet all of you.  You too, William,” he said as Spike tried to slip toward the kitchen.  “She said ALL of Buffy’s friends and relatives.  That includes cousins from other countries.”

 

           “My goodness,” William said, eyeing the rifles apprehensively.  “If this woman wants to meet us, why didn’t she just invite us to tea?”

 

           “Consider this your invitation,” one of the other men said with a grin as he nudged the cowering man with his rifle.

 

             “Oh dear, oh dear,” William kept repeating as they moved toward the door, managing to keep himself between the guns and Willow.  Just before they reached the door, Riley stopped them and looked at the surprisingly calm older Brit speculatively.

 

             “Let’s see what you’ve got in those pockets, ‘Uncle Giles’, he said, gesturing for him to come closer.  For a second, Giles looked like he was planning to resist, then he shrugged and stepped forward.

 

              Riley set down his rifle, indicating to the other men that they should keep all three of the nervous people covered, and began to pat down Giles’ pockets.  When his hand bumped against the gun, he grinned in satisfaction and pulled it out.

 

             “Look at this, boys.  Our tweedy librarian seems to have some unusual accessories.”

 

              The soldier was so smug and proud of himself, he didn’t bother to search Giles thoroughly or even to order him to empty out his pockets.  Thinking he’d found the only weapon the other man was trying to smuggle in, he tossed it onto the sofa with a laugh and said, “NOW, we’re ready to bring these people in.  Although,” he added, turning to look at a nervous William and frightened-looking Willow, “I can’t imagine why Maggie wants to see you two.”

 

           “M—me neither,” Willow said moving closer to William.  “Why don’t I just stay here and—“

 

           “Sorry, Willow” Riley said with a disinterested shrug,  “Maggie wants all of you, and your other friends too, as soon as we can find them.  Let’s go.” 

 

            He gestured for Willow to go first and gave William an unnecessary shove as he went by.

 

            “You can be quite sure, Mr. Finn, that the British consulate in Los Angeles is going to hear about this outrage.  I am a loyal subject of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, and as such, not to be trifled with.”  He stuck his chin up in the air and shoved his glasses back up his nose as he bravely met Riley’s amused look.

 

             “Do be quiet, William,” Giles said, hiding his smile.  “I am sure Agent Finn is not interested in hearing your intention to bring diplomatic pressure upon his organization.”

 

             “Well, he should be,” William blustered.  “This is an outrage, that they think they can treat British citizens like…like…animals!”

 

             When Riley raised his rifle as though to bash William in the face, he cringed back immediately and whimpered in fear.  The commandos all laughed, missing the amber flashes in his eyes as he ducked his head.

 

              They were put into the back of the SUV; by themselves, but with one soldier facing them at all times.    He was instructed to keep his eyes primarily on Giles. Even though the Watcher’s demeanor was that of a middle-aged man caught doing something quite out of character, Riley was suspicious. The fact that the man even had a gun, let alone that he was planning to bring it with him when looking for his niece, told Riley there was more there than what seemed obvious.

 

            Willow and William he dismissed as weak and cowardly, and he paid little or no attention to them until the driver commented, “Hey, Finn, do you think we’ll get to see this one’s goodies like we did the blonde?”  He jerked his head at Willow who had gasped, then leaped to put her hand over William’s mouth just in time to muffle the snarl.  She could feel his fangs just edging out of his gums, and saw his eyes flashing amber as he tried to suppress the demon that wanted to rip the driver’s head off.

 

            “Serenity!” she hissed, projecting as much magic as she could summon without a spell.  To the surprise of all three, Spike immediately calmed down and slumped in the seat, looking relaxed and calm.

 

             “Whoa!” Willow whispered.  “I should have done that a long time ago!”

 

              “Quite a trick there, Red,” he whispered back.  “It’s not easy to push down an angry demon.”

 

               “That was quite impressive, Willow.  I must say.”

 

              “What was quite impressive?”  The soldier guarding them looked at her suspiciously.

 

              “Nothing!” they chorused together.

 

               He frowned, but could see nothing wrong.  All three were still sitting quietly on the back seat, their hands in plain view.

 

                “Buffy?  You there, pet?”

 

               “Where the hell else would I be?”  she grumbled at him. “Still tied to a table here – I think I might have loosened one of the restraints, though.  I think I’m on a table meant for ordinary humans, not Slayers.  Did you know leather stretches when you pull on it?”

 

             “They’re bringin’ us to you, Slayer.  Do what you can, but don’t let ‘m know you’re loose until we get there.”

 

                Into the silence he said, “You hear me, Slayer? You wait till the cavalry gets there.”

 

                Her sigh was almost audible and he had to smile, “Well, you’d better hurry.  I’m getting bored and….oh, peachy, here comes the goon squad again…later.”

 

              Spike couldn’t get her to talk to him again, but he was able to visualize what was happening through her disjointed thoughts and emotional reactions.  He whispered to Willow that she’d better have her calming spell handy as he picked up on what was going on in the room.

 

              The two soldiers approached Buffy, laughing at the way she glared apprehensively at them.

 

               “Not quite so brave, now that you can’t move, are you, ‘Slayer’?”  Forrest said “slayer” like it was a dirty word.

 

              “Maybe she’s not comfortable,” Graham put in.  “Didn’t she look more relaxed when she was naked?”

 

            “Yeah, now that you mention it, she did.  I’ll bet she’d like to be naked again; that right, Buffy?”

 

             While the men were amusing themselves trying to intimidate her, Buffy was flexing her muscles and stretching the leather restraints to the point that she could slip her arms out.  She kept her hands under the table so that they wouldn’t notice that her upper body was free. 

 

           “If they touch you, they’re lunch.  You know that, don’t you, Slayer?”

 

         “I appreciate the sentiment, Spike, but – news flash – if they touch me they’re little piles of broken bones long before you get here.”

 

          “Let’s just get her out of those uncomfortable jeans, huh?  I don’t know why Maggie made us dress her again.  Naked was working for me.”  With a nasty chuckle, Forrest reached for the zipper on Buffy’s jeans only to realize that with her legs tied down, he would not be able to remove them or slide them very far down her legs.

 

            “What the hell are you doing?” Graham almost yelped as the other man reached for the restraints holding Buffy’s feet and legs.  “You know you can’t let her loose.”

 

             “Relax, I’m not going to.  I’m just going to undo one leg at a time so we can get those pants off her.  What can she do with only one leg free?”

 

               As soon as Buffy’s left leg was freed, she brought it up to sweep Forrest’s head down onto the table with a painful thump.  At the same time, she sat up and grabbed Graham before he could reach for his rifle, slamming his head down against the edge of the table.

 

              While both men were stunned, she quickly undid the remaining restraint and jumped to her feet.  Before Graham could rise, she slammed both hands into his back and forced him down across the table, using it to hold him up while she punched his kidneys until he sank to the floor moaning.

 

             Forrest raised his head and saw with bleary eyes what was happening to his friend.  He moved toward the weapons they’d left by the door, but immediately found a small, barefoot, and very angry girl standing between him and his gun.  Completely ignoring how fast she’d just shown she could move, he charged toward her, only to find himself propelled through space and slamming into the door with his shoulder.

 

            A credit to his training, he did not back off as the tiny predator stalked toward him, but held up his one good arm in a defensive posture and fell into a fighting stance.  A stance which did him no good as, with a flurry of punches and kicks, Buffy reduced him to the pile of broken bones she’d promised Spike she would.

 

            While she stood, panting, over his broken body, she cringed slightly as she looked at what she’d done.  The whole time she’d been beating on the man, she’d been aware of Spike’s presence in her head, urging her on with his own rage.  She paled as the implications hit her.

 

          Oh my god.  My behavior is being influenced by one of the most notorious and deadly master vampires in the world.  I was out of control.  I almost killed these guys.

 

         Spike had followed the whole thing – trying to maintain his contact with Buffy while getting out of the car and entering the lower level of the facility.  Willow’s calming grip on his arm was the only thing that kept him from vamping out as soon as the commandos starting talking about Buffy, but nothing could prevent the surge of rage that went through him when they actually tried to take her clothes off.

 

          He knew the rage was flowing through the claim, but he didn’t try to stop it. He rejoiced in every punch and kick, his demon cheering at the sight of the man lying unconscious on the floor.  When Buffy turned her attention back to Graham, he was ready to offer more suggestions when her regret and shame flowed back to him and he realized what he was doing to her.

 

          He immediately tried to push his demon down, smothering the possessive feelings toward his mate that had inspired the demand for violence.  Buffy relaxed slightly as the urge to kill both men faded and she was able to assess the damage she’d done.  Graham appeared to be in one piece, with the exception of a large, swelling over his eye where his head had hit the table and the obvious pain he was in from her blows to his lower back.

 

         She tried to feel bad about the way he flinched in fear when she approached him, but decided that both Buffy and the Slayer were just fine with what she’d done to him.  Forrest, on the other hand, she couldn’t look at without guilt.  Yes, the man definitely deserved to be punished for what he’d been trying to do to her, but she knew that without Spike’s influence she would never have continued to beat him after he was no longer a threat.

 

           She knew Spike was controlling the demon and she sent him grateful acknowledgement, even as she tried to hide the fear and disgust she was feeling at her behavior.  Her first terrified thought about being controlled by William the Bloody had come through loud and clear, though and Spike had felt his heart clench in fear at the way she’d reacted.

 

          “We’re here, love. We’re in the building.  Let’s work this out later, alright?  Know you’re upset, but now’s not the time.  Soon’s you’re safely out of here, we’ll talk it out, yeah?  We’ll suss out what we can do about it.  I promise, love.  Jus’ don’t shut me out yet.”

 

          Riley delivered his captives to Maggie Walsh’s office, waiting quietly by the door as she looked them over.  Giles, who’d already met her once and decided he hated her when he just thought she was an arrogant college professor, stared back at her with a cold expression on his face.  Maggie was somewhat taken back at the change in demeanor from the self-conscious, stammering man she’d dismissed from her office and the one standing before her.  This one was clearly not someone to be taken lightly and she reminded herself that Buffy had admitted he had something to do with her Slaying duties.

 

         She indicated with her eyes that Riley was to stay close to the man, and then turned her attention to the nervous-looking redhead and the young man beside her.  William was trembling just slightly, but the psychologist in Maggie picked up on it and she smiled at the fear she thought was being evidenced.  Willow could have told her that the trembling was from Spike’s struggle to control the demon trying to get across the desk to the white-coated woman, but she kept silent and concentrated on sending soothing magic toward the angry vampire.

 

             “Well, Miss Rosenberg, I must tell you I am quite surprised in your choice of companions. I’ve been quite taken with your intelligence and talents and had actually given some thought to recruiting you.  It is quite disappointing to find that you are already involved in demon hunting in some mystical fashion.”

 

              Willow just stared back at her in amazement.  She was so shocked at the thought of being recruited by anyone that she couldn’t even indulge in her usual babbling.  Then she remembered that this woman had kidnapped her best friend and, based on what little Spike had shared with them, possibly tortured her and she drew herself up and did her best to give an icy glare

 

             “You kidnapped my friend,” she said with more confidence than she felt.  “Why would I want to work for you?”

 

              Maggie waved her hand dismissively and looked at Willow with open speculation.  “I wonder what your place is in this little gang of demon-hunters?  I wonder what we don’t know about you that we can discover in our labs?”

 

             Calling on reserves of courage she didn’t know she had, Willow stared back at her teacher and said calmly, “You might find out more than you care to, Professor Walsh.”

 

             Maggie blinked in surprise; then, tired of being threatened by what she insisted on thinking of as little girls, she turned toward the young man who appeared so meek and yet according to Riley was so strong.

 

             “And you, William, is it?  How do you fit in here?  Are you really just a visitor from out of the country?  If you are truly related to the Slayer, I wonder if we will find that her strength is inherited?  I’m curious as to how such a slender man could have such a strong grip.  Perhaps we will have a chance to find out how strong you actually are also.”

 

            “Oh, I think you can pretty much count on it,” Spike answered, making no attempt to sound like William. 

 

            When Riley whipped his head around in surprise, Giles leaped for him and twisted the rifle away, bringing the stock up and hitting the man in the chin.  He whirled and held the gun on the woman who was reaching for her phone saying coldly, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

 

              She froze, her hand just inches away from the intercom on her desk.

 

             “You’ll never get out of here alive, you know,” she said, relaxing back into her chair.

 

            “We’ll see,” was the only answer.  “Now, where’s my Slayer?”

 

            Maggie smiled.  “She’s under control, and entertaining some of my men.  Men who are not terribly fond of her, I might add.  Perhaps if you answer some of my questions first, I will see that she is brought here.  Or, better yet, I will take you to her.”

 

             Giles looked at Spike and the vampire made a face and shook his head.

 

             “Hate to spoil your plan there, you ugly bint, but the Slayer is not under control, the men who were with her will be needing serious medical assistance, and she is on her way to this office.   She’s quite brassed off, by the way,” he added, as Maggie paled.

 

            “There is no way you could know that,” she growled.  She saw Riley edging toward Giles and as the big man reached for his rifle, she tried to hit the intercom.  Only to be stopped by a very fast, cool, and strong hand on her wrist.

 

           “Wouldn’t do that, if I were you,” William drawled.  “The Slayer didn’t leave much for me to do to those wankers that were trying to rape her, but I can have you dead and drained before she gets through that door.”

 

            He took off his glasses and vamped out at her, smiling when she cringed back in her chair with a small cry.  Recovering herself, she glared back at him and said,  “Hostile 17, I should have known.  You won’t be killing anyone.  The harder you try, the more that chip in your head will fire.  You’re more helpless than Ms. Rosenberg.”

 

           “Well, since Red here is turnin’ into a right powerful little witch, I don’t believe that should be givin’ you a lot of hope.”  As he spoke, he was squeezing her wrist, smiling as her eyes widened in pain.

 

            “Your chip…I put that in myself…” She tried to speak through the pain in her hand.  She stared in fascination as the vampire seemed to be listening to something, then sighed as he reluctantly eased his grip on her hand.

 

            “Keep it off that intercom, or I’ll break it off,” he snarled as he let go.

 

            “If you made me let go of that bitch jus’ so you could have a go at her, I’m goin’ be really brassed off at you, Slayer.”

 

            Riley and Giles were wrestling for the gun, but as the larger man gained the advantage, the door burst open and Buffy stormed into the room.  Riley had been so involved in his struggle with Giles that he had not seen the byplay between Spike and Maggie.  He assumed he was still holding two helpless people and an older man hostage.   He turned the rifle he’d finally regained possession of toward Buffy and said, “I’m pretty sure you aren’t bulletproof, Buffy. So, just go stand over there near your friends while I figure out what to do here.”

 

           Looks were exchanged quickly and Giles nodded toward Maggie as he and Willow moved as inconspicuously as possible to be close to her chair.  As they did, William shoved Buffy behind him.  When Giles grabbed Maggie in a choke hold, holding her in front of him like a shield, Riley fired at William.  He smiled in satisfaction as he saw the Englishman’s body jerk and blood appear on his blue shirt.

 

            

Chapter Fifteen

 

         

           “Spike!”  Buffy’s cry was part anguish and part anger. 

 

             "What the hell did you think you were doing?"

 

            "Puttin’ the already dead bloke in front of the bullet, you ungrateful bint"

 

            "I didn’t ask you to take a bullet for me,"  she growled, fear fueling her anger.

 

             "Didn’t have to. No way was I gonna watch you get taken out by somethin’ we both know couldn’t hurt me."

 

           Aloud, he said, “Relax, Slayer.  You know a bullet can’t kill me.”  He examined the hole in his shirt and peered inside to see the hole pouring borrowed blood down his chest.  “Hurts like a bugger, though,” he said, just before he slid toward the floor, grabbing at the desk for support.

 

             Buffy immediately wrapped her arms around his waist and lowered him gently the rest of the way down.  She looked up at her watcher and best friend, ignoring for the moment the furious woman Giles was gleefully holding immobile.

 

             “I need something to cut a bullet out,” she demanded.

 

              “Check my ankle, pet. There’s a knife there.” Spike’s voice was hoarse with the strain of both the pain he was feeling and his attempts to keep it from bleeding over into his mate.  Buffy glared at Maggie as though the older woman had pulled the trigger herself.  A suddenly outnumbered Riley had bolted out the door as soon as he shot William, using the confusion to put some distance between himself and the angry Slayer.

 

              Buffy reached down and found the slender knife attached to Spike’s lower leg and pulled it out.  She ripped his shirt off, exposing both his muscular chest and the still-bleeding hole in it.

 

             “Damn! I liked that shirt,” she muttered as she tried to see through the blood and gauge how deep the bullet was.

 

                 "I can buy another one just like it, if you like it that much, pet. But I refuse to wear it where anybody but you can see me."

 

                 Ignoring his attempt to distract her, she used the shirt to blot up the blood so that she could locate the bullet.

   

                   "I’m sorry,"  Buffy sent him quickly, as she probed the wound with her finger.  He nodded at her to continue and went back into vamp face as the pain brought his demon to the fore.  Her searching finger found that the bullet had lodged in the back of one of his ribs as it went through his body.

 

                   “I found it!” she said triumphantly, then sobered. “But I’m not sure how I’m going to get it out without doing more damage.  And you’re losing a lot of blood.”

 

                  Buffy looked at Giles for help and he shrugged, shoving Maggie down in her chair not at all gently.  He pulled the overlooked garrote from his pocket and placed it around her throat, anchoring it tightly to the back of her chair.  He had Willow get another one from Spike’s pocket and used that to tie her hands securely.

 

                Looking her directly in the eye, he said in his best Ripper voice, “If you try to move, you’ll strangle.  Is that clear?”

 

                  An answering glare was her only response, and he nodded, turning to Willow.

 

                “If she so much as breathes funny, turn her into a toad,” he instructed.

 

               Willow made a face and cringed.  “Ewww, Giles, you know I hate frogs and toads!  Can’t I make her a kitten or something?”

 

               Maggie listened to the perfectly serious exchange between the out-of-work librarian and the unassuming, but brilliant, girl with a combination of fear, shock and an overwhelming urge to learn more about these people.  Wlillow folded her arms across her chest and fixed the woman with her best resolve-face glare, daring her to think about moving. 

 

               Giles knelt down on the floor near Buffy and looked into the wound.

 

              “I suggest we go in from the back to get that out.  With vampire healing being what it is, it needs to come out before the bone begins to grow around it.”

 

              Using his ruined shirt as a cushion, Spike lay down on his stomach and clenched his fists as the Watcher picked up the knife and began to make an incision in the vampire’s back.  Heedless of who else was watching, Buffy pulled one of Spike’s hands into her lap and began to stroke it gently as Giles cut into Spike’s back and dug the bullet out of the bone.

 

             "I’m sorry, I know we’re hurting you, but it’s for your own good."

 

            "Bet you say that to all the demons your Watcher carves up for you" he snarked, fighting the urge to scream as the knife began digging into the bone around the bullet.

 

             As the bullet was pried loose and popped out onto the floor, Spike’s control slipped and Buffy gasped when a stab of pain went through her back.

 

            "Sorry, pet.  Slipped there for a minute" Buffy could feel the weakness from the blood loss slipping up on the vampire and she rubbed his hand vigorously, ignoring her Watcher’s frown.

 

            “Come on, Spike.  Don’t leave us now.  We still have to get out of here,” Buffy pleaded with the almost unconscious vampire.

 

             “He needs blood, Buffy.  Human blood.”

 

             Slayer and Watcher turned as one and looked at the suddenly pale woman sitting behind the desk.  They gave her several minutes to contemplate the obvious answer before Buffy said with a sigh,  “The Slayer doesn’t kill humans, Giles.  That’s the first thing Merrick ever taught me.”

 

            The relief on Maggie’s face was visible – and short-lived.  While Buffy turned back to the semi-conscious vampire and gently stroked his light brown curls, Giles leaned in to the wary woman and whispered, “My Slayer doesn’t kill humans.  Neither I nor the vampire are encumbered with those issues.”

 

            He had to smother a grin at the fear he could feel rolling off the arrogant professor as she understood his implied threat.

 

            Keeping her back turned to the rest of the people in the room, Buffy reached a quick decision and used the sharp knife to slash her wrist.  She held the bleeding wrist to Spike’s mouth and whispered, “Drink, Spike.  It’s freely given.  Slayer blood, come on, you know you want it.”

 

             Spike’s demon took no time fastening his mouth on the bleeding wrist and the elixir coming from it.   As he swallowed healing draughts of Buffy’s blood, the demon receded and Spike became conscious of what he was doing. He groaned as the powerful Slayer blood flowed down his throat and began the healing process.  In spite of his wound, Buffy’s nearness, enhanced by her blood, had the same effect on him it always did and he shifted uncomfortably against the rapidly growing bulge in his jeans.

 

           "I could make this a lot more fun, love, if we were just…"

 

         "This is medicinal, Spike!  Just drink and get better."

 

             Buffy was very grateful that no one could hear their thoughts as she blushed, remembering what happened that last time he drank from her.  She closed her eyes briefly and let the incredibly sensual feeling wash over her.  As his swallowing slowed and came to a halt, Spike ran his tongue over her wrist until the bleeding had stopped and the edges began to close.  He finished with a light kiss to the wound; then moved Buffy’s hand back to her lap.

 

           "Not that I don’t appreciate it, love, but what was that all about?"

 

             Spike was allowing the feelings engendered by her gift to flow freely between them and Buffy found herself blushing again as his gratitude and undisguised lust filled her.

 

               “We’ve got to get out of here,” she replied, trying to ignore his heated gaze.  “And nobody wants to carry your lazy ass.”

 

                 The sound of Buffy’s voice brought everyone’s attention back to the pair on the floor and one look at Spike’s sparkling eyes and almost healed body had Giles grabbing his Slayer’s arms and turning them over.  When he spotted the newly healed cut on her wrist, he dropped her hand with a growl that would have done credit to a vampire.

 

              “What the bloody hell are you doing?”  He shouted at her.  “Letting William the Bloody drink from you?  He might have killed you!”

 

               “No, he wouldn’t,” she answered with a surety that paused the man in mid-rant.  The Slayer and the man who’d been fired from the Council for being too fond of her, stared at each other for a long minute.  Spike rose to his feet and stood behind Buffy, resting his hands lightly on her shoulders.

 

              “You know better than that, Watcher,” he said calmly.  “You know I’d never hurt her.”

 

             “Angel was in love with her, and he almost killed her when she let him have her blood.”

 

              Spike’s face darkened and his grip tightened on Buffy’s shoulders.  When she winced, he apologized silently and rubbed them gently.

 

              “I told you, I am NOT the bloody great poof.  My demon doesn’t rule me the way his does.  I don’t hurt the people I…care about.” 

 

             “What’s done is done,” Buffy interrupted.  “Now that he’s healthy again, we need to concentrate on getting out of here.”

 

              She turned to look coldly at Maggie Walsh.

 

               “I’m assuming her…employees…will not want to lose her, so she’s going to be our ticket out.  I’ll handle any fighting we have to do, and Spike will –“ she turned to look at the vampire. 

 

               “Spike will do what needs to be done,” he said enigmatically, stepping around to stand beside her.

 

              ‘Well, don’t get shot again, please.”

 

              "I don’t know, pet.  Considerin’ the cure, it might be worth it…Maybe you could use me as a non-human shield."  His silent laughter told her she didn’t even need to mention that he was a pig.

 

              “Your blood healed him.”  Maggie’s flat, no-nonsense voice brought everyone’s attention back to her.  She was staring at Buffy with undisguised fascination, and Spike stepped forward growling.

 

               Buffy put a hand on his arm and he stopped, but he never took his icy blue eyes off the white-coated woman.  She temporarily ignored him while she studied Buffy intently.