“Anne’s been turned.” Buffy’s voice was soft and gentle, but her eyes were hard, challenging.
“Bound to happen eventually,” Spike said after a moment’s silence. “What do you want to do about it, Slayer?”
“I’m leaving it up to you. We can go back and take care of it like we promised, or I can tell the slayers in LA to handle it.”
“What did they say about her? What do they know?”
“About what we figured. She started letting the vamps use the basement and eventually the homeless men started disappearing – then reappearing as vampires. The whole place has become one big nest – and she’s the queen bee.”
“’s what she always wanted, isn’t it?”
“I guess so. I would have thought that meeting evil, soulless you way back in Sunnydale might have cured her of her vampire obsession, but we know it didn’t.” Buffy’s tight jaw was the only sign that she was still bothered by the events of the previous year.
Spike put his arms around her and pulled her close. “Now why would you think meetin’ me would turn a bird off?”
“Um, ‘cause you were evil and planning to eat everybody in the place?”
“Evil, yes, but devilishly handsome and sexy. Come on, Slayer, admit it. You craved my tight little body right from day one.”
“Sheeeyah! Right. That’s just what I was thinking when you were about to smack me with that two by four – ‘Wow, this vamp is soooo hot!’” She grinned at him and continued, batting her eyelashes innocently, “Anyway, I was madly in love with Angel then, and you know it. I wouldn’t have given you the time of day.” When he started to growl, she continued, “And you were in love with Dru. Don’t pretend you weren’t. That’s how I saved Lily and all her stupid vampire-groupie friends. Remember?”
“I do,” he said quietly, releasing her body, but running a hand down her cheek. “I remember that you knew I wouldn’t let any harm come to the woman I loved – even if it meant letting all those willing blood donors go; and then when that woman was you, you couldn’t believe I even knew what love was.”
“Way to bring up depresso Buffy and make me feel bad, Spike,” she huffed, pushing him away. “You know I was just trying to convince myself that it was okay to be using you. If I’d had to admit to myself how I was using and abusing your feelings for me, you wouldn’t have gotten laid at all. And just think how happy that would have made you…”
“Point, love,” he agreed. “You might have made me a mite unhappy from time to time, but parts of me couldn’t have been more pleased with all that Slayer shagging.”
“Pig,” she said affectionately.
“Oink, oink,” came the expected response.
Nine months after Spike had recovered his memories and moved to England with Buffy, they’d settled into a comfortable relationship that managed to combine the affectionate camaraderie of two old friends with a passion for each other that still took them by surprise with its intensity. Spike had been wary of his reception from everyone except Dawn, but the other survivors of Sunnydale had surprised him with their warm greetings.
There’d been a few tense moments with Giles, as the old watcher stumbled through an apologetic explanation for not trusting Angel prior to the battle with the Senior Partners, but Spike had just nodded, saying, “Was a bit suspicious myself for a while, Rupert. Don’t really blame you for that – although, not letting Willow know about Fred…”
Eventually, the apology was accepted and the two Brits were beginning to develop a mutually respectful relationship that included Giles’ tacit agreement that Spike had earned his place in Buffy’s heart and in her life. He soon slipped into life at the slayer school, helping Buffy with training the girls as well as providing backup on the occasional real-life training mission.
“So, what’s the what?” she finally asked, pulling him back from his reminiscing about his time since she’d brought him home with her. “Stay or go?”
“If she’s running a big nest, I’d say we’d best go lend a hand,” he said slowly. “We are the ones that left her there, knowin’ how it was likely to turn out.”
Buffy nodded. “That’s pretty much what I figured,” she sighed. “We created this mess, it’s up to us to fix it.”
Spike grabbed her arm and pulled her in until he could hold her by both shoulders.
“We did not create this mess. Anne…Lily…whatever the hell she’s calling herself now---”
“She’s back to Chanterelle,” Buffy interrupted.
Spike rolled his eyes. “Fine, Chanterelle. She did this to herself. We warned her, and you told her what would happen if she got herself turned or her ‘guests’ started munching on the locals. It’s time for her to pay the piper.”
“Okay, then. I’ll tell Giles we need tickets to LA, and I’ll let the girls there know that we’re coming. They can wait another few days to take out the main nest. The new fledges should be enough to keep them busy.”
Their arrival at the Los Angeles Slayer Residence was tense for the first few minutes. Spike could see the new slayers fighting their instincts -- which were telling them to stake him on the spot. Only when the oldest girl in residence – a former potential who had seen the fiery act that closed the Hellmouth and allowed her to escape certain death – squealed and threw her arms around him did the other girls relax enough to come down off the balls of their feet.
Buffy gave them a recap of her long history with Chanterelle – gliding quickly past Spike’s role at the vampire club in Sunnydale. She explained about the Lethe’s Bramble that “Anne” had used to keep Spike from remembering who he was after the battle with the Senior Partners demon army. That such a battle could have happened in their city, and they not be a part of it, caused much grumbling and complaining until Spike told them about Wolfram and Hart, the Senior Partners and the various forces of good and evil that were constantly in flux.
“You bints are the warriors for Good,” he said with a smile. “But the fact that there are now so bloody many of you means that the powers of evil have to step up their game. They’re gone for now, but don’t expect them to stay gone. You’ll get your chance one of these days – prob’ly when you least expect it.”
Buffy interrupted him with an apologetic squeeze of his hand.
“Spike can fill you in on his stories about evil lawyers and demons later,” she said. “Right now, we have a bigger than usual vamp nest to clean out, and a scrawny blonde vamp to send to hell where she belongs.”
It wasn’t lost on anyone, least of all Spike, that Buffy was taking a very personal interest in this nest. In case it wasn’t clear, Buffy added, “And she’s mine to stake, ladies. Mine or Spike’s – but mostly mine. You guys just take out all her minions.”
The girls nodded, all willing to bow to the senior slayer as long as they were going to get their fair share of the vampires living in the old homeless shelter. Up until recently, they had contented themselves with staking as many fledgling vamps as they could find in the vicinity; but two slayers had disappeared in the week prior to Buffy’s arrival and, while no one could say for certain that Chanterelle or one of her minions had been responsible for their disappearance, they were more than willing to take out their grief on the vampires they knew how to find.
Spike frowned when the slayers reported they had not found any bodies; all they knew was that the two girls had been on patrol one night and had never come back. Only Buffy noticed the thoughtful look on his face and made a mental note to ask him about it later. She watched him observing while the girls told about searching every graveyard in and near the city, as well as all the known demon haunts, but turning up no sign of the missing slayers. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that they were dead, but the lack of bodies to bury was demoralizing for these girls who’d never known a world where they didn’t hold the upper hand in the battle against creatures of the night.
Even the big nest in the old homeless shelter had been something of a joke to them until recently. They’d sent patrols past it every night, easily staking the newest minions as they made their way from their graves back to their master. But lately, they’d found fewer easy targets and had begun spreading their patrols around more. It seemed that Chanterelle had grown tired of losing her minions almost as soon as she turned them, becoming more cautious and now keeping the newly turned vampires in the building until they had gained some strength and savvy.
Gathering around a big table in the communal dining room, the girls all listened carefully as Spike drew up a map of the building, explaining where the vampires were likely to be during the daylight hours, and how many places would probably be safe due to the large windows.
“I’d guess, unless they’ve blacked out all the windows…What?” he asked Buffy when she stared at him. “’s what I’d do. Why waste all that space when a couple of cans of black paint can make it all usable?”
“The windows are black,” a slender blonde said quietly. “So, what does that mean? That they could be anywhere?”
Spike nodded. “That’s what it means. It’s a big place, but if the nest is as large as you’ve said it is, they might want some room to spread out. An -Chanterelle might even have sun-proofed her apartment. It was pretty safe already, with the heavy curtains she’d put in for me and…” His voice trailed off as he watched Buffy’s stiff back leave the room. With a sigh, he stood up to follow her.
“You birds might want to think about bringing something to smash windows with. Letting in the sun is your best weapon while it’s daylight. After it goes down, they’ve got the advantage.”
“Well, shouldn’t we be doing this like…I don’t know…right now?” a pert redhead demanded. “While the sun is shining and… Hey? Where’d he go?”
One of the girls pointed in the direction Buffy had taken. “I think he’s more interested in Buffy than he is in planning our attack. But that’s okay. We don’t need them…him. I don’t see why we had to wait for them anyway.”
The redhead, whose name was Becky, nodded in agreement. “And why do we have to wait to attack until it’s almost dark? Just so he can go with us? He’s not a slayer.”
The planning session deteriorated into conflicting views of who should lead the raid, and when it should happen, with Becky finally standing up and saying, “I’m for attacking them right now while they’re asleep. Who’s with me?”
There was some hesitation as those who were more inclined to follow directions remembered that Buffy and Spike had been sent there specifically to deal with the problem. After a minute, during which Becky’s lip began to curl in contempt at the lack of enthusiasm for her idea, Janie, the slayer who had originally complained about having to wait for the arrival of the older slayer, stood up and walked to Becky’s side.
“I’m with you,” she said firmly. “These vamps are all just homeless guys anyway. They aren’t very smart or very strong. Nobody’s had any trouble dusting the ones we’ve caught outside yet. I’m pretty sure we can handle whatever we find there. At least whatever we find on the first floor.”
Becky nodded. “Exactly! Even if we just thin out the numbers a little bit, we’ll have some more information about the set up inside. Who else is with us?”
When only one of the remaining girls stood up, Becky shrugged.
“Fine. We’ll be back in a little while to let you guys know how many vamps we dusted for you.”
She swept out of the room, her followers in tow, pausing only to load up on weapons as they left the building.
Spike followed Buffy’s scent until he found her standing at the back door of the rambling building. Rather than the stiff back she’d carried out of the room, her shoulders were now relaxed as she slumped against the doorjamb, staring blindly out into the bright sunlight. He walked up behind her, silently, but well aware that she knew he was there. He rested his hands lightly on her shoulders and put his chin on the top of her head.
“It was what it was, love,” he said. “And not my doin’. You know that. What’s this all about?”
“I don’t know,” she admitted, leaning back against his chest and reaching up to pull his hands down and around her body. “I think it just scared me to realize how close you came to…”
“Was never close to what she’s got now.” She felt him stiffen and squeezed his hands in apology. “Soul wouldn’t have allowed it. If the silly bint had got herself turned somehow, I’d have staked her. And if she’d tried to bleed to death on me…” His grip tightened for just a second, and Buffy gave his arms another reassuring squeeze. He’d long since told her about Anne’s attempt to blackmail him into staying with her by slicing open her own arm. That he’d have been willing to let her die had driven the first chink of doubt into Anne’s store of untrue vampire facts.
were happy there,” she continued her thoughts. “If I’d never shown up, you’d have had a
good life and never known the difference.
Doing enough good deeds to keep the soul happy, getting enough violence
to keep the demon calm, a woman who loved you--
He spun her around so fast her head snapped back.
“I was content there. Mostly. And only ‘cause I didn’t know any better. Was already bored out of my skull a good bit of the time, truth to tell, but I believed her stories about before and thought that was just the life I was used to. And we both know she didn’t love me.” His voice carried just a trace of bitterness – years of being used by women he’d thought himself in love with darkening his expression. “She loved what I am. Was too bloody stupid not to realize it myself until after you got here and I found out a bit more about her past…and mine.”
“But you felt loved. I know you did.”
“I feel loved now,” he rumbled, nuzzling her neck and enjoying her immediate response. “’less there’s something you aren’t telling me…”
“Don’t be an ass,” she huffed, trying to hide her smile. They both knew that the mark on her neck and his matching scar made reassurance superfluous.
“But I’m so good at it,” he grinned. “And you know you expect it.”
“You’ve got that right,” she murmured, arching her neck and humming happily when he began to suck on his mark.
“But you love me anyway.”
“Then that’s all that matters.” He gave her a quick kiss and straightened up. “Well, that and making a plan for later this evening.”
Buffy sighed and reluctantly pulled away from him.
“I suppose you’re right. We’d better get back and help them—“ She broke off when he gasped with mock astonishment.
“Don’t push it,” she warned, her smile taking the seriousness out of her implied threat. His only reply was a quick pat on her ass as he followed her back to the general meeting room.
Where they found chaos reigning. Voices were raised, arguments were going on and much gesturing was taking place. They stared in bewilderment for several seconds until the girls noticed their return and the din died away. Buffy stared around the room, finally settling on the face of one of the slayers she already knew.
“What’s going on?”
Two girls tried to speak at once, stopping when Buffy made a chopping motion with her hand.
“One at a time – You, Bobbi, what’s going on?”
Bobbi’s eyes widened and she looked around helplessly for support. When no one seemed inclined to bail her out, she squared her shoulders and said with only a slight tremble in her voice, “Some…a couple of the girls didn’t want to wait until tonight. They…um…they went to maybe break some windows and try to find out—“
“They’re going in without us? After we specifically said not to?”
“Becky said you’re not the boss of us.” A quiet voice came from the back of the room. A tall, slender slayer who reminded Spike of Dawn stepped forward and added firmly, “And I think she’s right. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t listen to you, cause you’re all…old and experienced and…stuff--”
She broke off and frowned as Buffy visibly struggled to control her expression and Spike smothered a laugh.
“Easy, love. The chit didn’t mean any disrespect. Did you, pet?” he directed at the mortified girl who was just realizing how what she'd said might sound to a woman in her mid-twenties.
“No, no. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean you were old, like old. I just meant you’ve been doing this for years and years and some of us are only…I’m not making it better, am I?” she appealed to Spike who was trying to soothe Buffy’s ruffled feelings, but failing miserably due to being unable to control snorts of laughter that only made the Head Slayer’s eyes narrow even more. He kept a tight grip on Buffy’s belt as he smiled at the nervous young girl.
“It’s alright, luv. She’ll get over herself in a minute or two. Meantime, tell me something about the boneheads who thought they knew more about how to handle a big vamp nest than the Slayer who took out the First Evil and an army of uber-vamps with nothing but a brave group of potentials and a tag-along vampire.”
The reminder that they owed their current status to the woman now shaking her head at the vampire holding her – whose own sacrifice to save the world was well documented – went a long way toward removing any doubts they may have had about the wisdom of obeying orders from Spike or Buffy.
Bobbi waved down another attempted apology from the still embarrassed girl and named the three slayers who had gone off on their own. She added that they’d taken weapons and said they’d be back soon.
“Let’s hope they’re right,” Buffy muttered, twisting loose from Spike’s grip with a look that said clearly she didn’t appreciate being manhandled in front of her troops.
He gave her an unrepentant grin and asked, “Okay, Slayer. What do you want to do? Wait for them to come back or go riding to the rescue?”
With a deep calming breath, Buffy showed how much she had earned the right to be the leader of whatever group of slayers she was currently working with. With a forgiving smile, she asked, “What do you girls want to do? They’re your co-workers. You know them best. Are they likely to get out of this without help? Or are they reckless and likely to make bad decisions?”
“Either way, the element of surprise is gone now,” Spike pointed out.
“It is,” Buffy agreed. “But maybe not completely. If we show up right after they take out the windows and before they get inside…”
“It’ll take me longer to get there,” he said calmly, only his tightly clenched fists letting on how hard it was for him to suggest sending Buffy off without being at her side.
“We’ll save some for you,” she promised, trying not to let his obvious reluctance to let her go alone distract her. “So, what do you think, ladies? Do we go riding to the rescue, or do we wait to see if they learn anything important?”
Bobbi bit her lip, but it was another girl who spoke up first.
“I think we should wait for them to come back. They aren’t really stupid, just impatient. I don’t think they’ll do anything dumb. Maybe dust a few minions on the first floor and then report back. I think they’ll be fine,” she repeated with a stubborn set to her mouth.
“Okay,” Buffy said with a nod. “Does everyone else feel the same way? That we should wait for them to report back?”
“What do you think?” The slender girl had gone back to lounging against the wall. After having avoided much of the discussion, another young slayer straightened up and took a few steps forward. “Can three slayers get in and out of a place like that by themselves?”
Buffy and Spike exchanged looks, then turned back to the waiting girls. She gestured for him to speak first.
“Can they do it? Absolutely. Provided they’re smart and quick, and An -Chanterelle isn’t expecting them and doesn’t have any traps set…”
Spike snorted. “These aren’t animals you’re fighting. They’re demons with all the memories and skills they had when they were human. How many of those homeless gits would you guess were veterans of some war or another?” He waited for someone to make a guess, but the girls stared at him blankly until he shook his head and continued.
“I worked there for almost a year. I’d guess a good third of the drunks and bums that hung out there were casualties of some war or another. And not all of them physical casualties. The homeless have their fair share of crazies…and that doesn’t go away when you get turned,” he added with the certainty of someone who’s been there. Remembering Kralik, Buffy nodded her head in affirmation.
“He’s right,” she said, addressing the slayer who’d asked the question. Something about the girl’s laid-back attitude reminded her of Faith – if Faith had been a seventeen-year-old, Southern California Latina senior in high school when she’d been called. “For all we know Chanterelle has herself a minion army of actual, you know, army guys…and girls.”
Some of the slayers who’d been so sure that they should wait for Becky’s return began to frown and shift around uncomfortably.
“I don’t think anyone thought of that,” a short brunette said, biting her lip. “Maybe we…”
“We’ll give them until late afternoon,” Buffy said. “That was the plan anyway – to hit them while the sun could still fry any that ran outside. If the girls aren’t back before then, we’ll meet them half-way.”
Several restless hours later, Spike gave Buffy a gruff “see you later” and ducked into the nearest manhole to begin making his way to the old shelter. Even with his speed, Buffy and the five slayers left were likely to beat him to the neighborhood in which the nest was located. They loaded up with weapons, including axes to break the windows if the other girls hadn’t already done so, grabbed the keys to the Council-purchased minivan, and piled into it for the quick drive to the former homeless shelter.
They pulled into a semi-legal parking place in front of a dilapidated building, taking a quick look inside, but finding nothing more than the usual assortment of crack whores and their equally bleary-eyed customers. No one’s vampire tingles were set off and, ignoring the curious frowns from the few humans lolling around the building, they locked the van and began walking.
Buffy was slightly bemused to find that none of the people they passed looked more than mildly curious of the small groups of clean, relatively pretty and well-dressed girls carrying axes and swords, but she was grateful that no one seemed inclined to call 911 to report them. They were only a block from the nest when movement caught Buffy’s eye.
“Janie!” gasped Anita, the slayer who reminded her of Faith, running forward to catch the bloody and battered girl.
“What happened?” Buffy quickly assessed the girl’s wounds and signaled one of the others to call for medical assistance. While Bobbi quickly dialed her cell and nodded that an ambulance was on the way, Buffy continued her interrogation. “Where is Becky?”
“They…they have Becky,” Janie sobbed. “I tried to warn her…”
“What happened?” Buffy repeated, shaking her lightly when it seemed she might be losing consciousness.
Janie’s eyes went to the other girls from her slayer cadre. Ignoring Buffy, she spoke to them.
“We found Molly,” she said. “And…Dora…”
“You found them? You mean you found their bodies? The vamps had them?” Indignation and grief lent a note of hysteria to the questions.
Buffy’s face drained of color as she remembered Spike’s frown when he heard that two girls had gone missing but no bodies were found. She waved the girls to silence and asked quietly, “What have they done to them?”
“Molly is…I think she might be dead now. But they had her hanging from chains and I think…I think they were taking turns drinking from her. She had bites everywhere.”
“Using her as a blood source,” Buffy growled. “Slayer blood is very powerful. They wouldn’t need to take much to get stronger.”
While the other girls shuddered and winced in sympathy for their fallen sister, Buffy continued her pursuit of information.
“What about Dora? Were they drinking from her, too?”
Janie’s eyes got wide. “No. Not anymore, they aren’t. She…they…I almost didn’t get away…” She stopped, unable to put into words what she’d been fleeing from when she spotted Buffy and the other slayers. Buffy could see when what she’d been unable to say began to register on the other girls.
“They turned her? Dora’s a vampire?”
Shock, horror and disgust battled for first place on the faces of the remaining slayers. Janie nodded silently, shuddering as she remembered how close she’d come to joining Molly in chains.
“Becky!” she yelped suddenly. “We have to go help Becky! Dora beat her and threw her to some of the minions. They’re going to…”
“I imagine they already have, pet,” came a sober voice from the alley beside them. Sheltering in the shade of the wall, Spike gestured toward the building he knew so well, not quite visible from where they were. “They know now that we’re coming. Chanterelle’s going to want all her minions charged up on Slayer blood before they have to fight us. Come over here to chat, ladies; it’s still a bit too bright out there to suit me.”
Buffy herded the angry slayers to the alley’s entrance, taking a quick look around as she did so – in spite of the sun that should have meant none of the vampires could see them. She knew that didn’t mean that Chanterelle couldn’t be using her knowledge of the weaknesses in the surrounding population to add a few human minions to her group. She quickly joined Spike in the shade and waited to hear if he’d learned anything.
“I tried to get inside,” he said, ignoring Buffy’s furious gasp. “Used to be able to get into the basement from the sewers. Came in handy for getting around in the daytime.” He continued his description of the building’s basement as if unaware that Buffy was glaring at him in a way that promised serious retribution for his attempt to enter without backup. “Went right to it, but the door was welded shut. Bloody stupid move on Chanterelle’s part, if you ask me. Means they’ve got no way to escape…” He shrugged. “But it means none of us can get in that way, either.”
“So, we know they can’t escape through the sewers…” Buffy cocked her head at the entrance to the alley and watched the lengthening shadows of the broken parking meters. “And if we get there soon enough, they won’t be able to run outside either.”
“Let’s go then.”
As one, the vengeance-bound slayers whirled away from the alley. Buffy waved them out, cautioning that they should be alert for traps near the building and that they should wait for her before attacking. She turned to frown at Spike.
“You heard what Janie said, right? That Dora’s been turned?”
“I heard it.”
“Be careful,” was all she said, brushing her lips over his.
“Always, love.” He faded back into the shadows to make his way back to the shelter through the alleys and deserted buildings.
Buffy was surprised to find Janie waiting for her. She’d refused to leave with the EMTs until Buffy came back.
“Why did you tell him to be careful?” she asked, staring in the direction Spike had disappeared. “Wouldn’t he, anyway?”
“Spike has a… history… with slayers,” Buffy said tersely. “I was just reminding him that this one is both a vampire and a slayer.”
“Do you think he’s going to go after Dora? She beat Becky without even trying. And she almost…. I only got away because I was close to the door and the sun was coming in. I just rolled into the sunbeam and crawled out before she could grab a net.”
“Oh, yeah. There were nets laying around and hanging from the ceiling. I guess that’s probably how they got Molly and Dora.”
Buffy fought the urge to shake the other girl again.
“What else should we know? Nets? Turned slayer? What else?”
“Um… the windows are backed with plywood. They don’t break very easily. But the door is broken now,” she concluded with a hopeful smile, her eyes drifting shut. The EMT’s frown as he shoved Buffy aside made it clear that she had obtained all the information likely from Janie. She nodded her head and waved them off.
Since the last days of Sunnydale, she’d become so accustomed to her role as Head Slayer – she who is to be obeyed – that it never occurred to her to wonder why the ambulance staff had been so willing to wait to take off with their patient. It wasn’t until she heard Bobbi’s whispered, “Thanks, Brian,” that she realized that collecting injured slayers had become a familiar task to many members of the Los Angeles Emergency Services.
Buffy smiled her understanding at Bobbi and joined her in striding towards the small group of slayers waiting obediently, if impatiently, on the curb.
“All right,” she said crisply, falling easily into her “General Buffy” persona, “we know the windows are reinforced, so good thing we brought the axes. Although…” Buffy cocked her head at the rapidly sinking sun. “I don’t think we want to waste a lot of time on breaking them. Just knock out one or two to give us as much of an advantage as we can get for as long as we can get it. Watch out for the nets – they may be hanging from the ceiling,” she said, recalling Janie’s words, as well as some of the Initiative’s methods for capturing demons and vampires. “So look up before you go into any open spaces. Don’t forget these vampires have been juicing on slayer blood. They might be a little faster and stronger than usual. Don’t fool around, stake or behead and move on.”
“What about Dora?”
“Spike will take care of Dora,” Buffy said confidently. She decided it wasn’t the best time to explain to the girls why he’d chosen to remove the most dangerous opponent, nor why she wasn’t as worried about it as they seemed to expect her to be.
“And you’re going to dust Chanterelle?”
“I’m going to dust any vamp that gets in my way,” Buffy growled. “But I’ll be looking for her.”
One hour, and another gravely wounded slayer later, Buffy reluctantly allowed the girls to retreat outside where they could better fight the vamps foolish enough to follow them there. They’d found the third impatient slayer just inside the door, her throat torn out and her body drained. After moving her body outside, the still vengeance-seeking slayers had stormed into the big all-purpose room, only to find themselves battling not just vampires, but booby traps and barricades of overturned furniture. They spent much of their time ducking additional furniture as the stronger vampires turned chairs and tables into weapons.
While the girls did manage to stake and behead a large number of minions, they had not been able to advance very far into the building without risking more losses. When Bobbi went down under the force of several vampires, the others had fought their way to her and pulled her bite riddled body away just in time. Buffy’s shout of “Outside, now!” sent them retreating to the relative safety of the open street. Even without the protection of the rapidly disappearing sun, the slayers were better able to use their skills when they didn’t have to worry about lack of space and booby traps.
Buffy scanned the street anxiously, not having seen Spike since he’d identified the turned slayer and – with a joy in the battle that she hadn’t seen in him since he’d returned with his soul – had called her out to take him on. The last time she’d seen them, Spike had thrown the turned slayer through one of the few windows not boarded up and had jumped through it after her.
Leaving the remaining slayers to clean up the minions willing to venture out into the street, Buffy began a worried search for the only vampire who mattered to her. She was seconds away from fighting her way back into the nest, when she felt the familiar signature and followed it to the alley behind the shelter. Both Spike and the vampire he was fighting – a powerful-looking girl that Buffy assumed was Dora – were bloodied and battered. They faced each other, chests heaving with unneeded breaths, the joy of battle clear on both their faces. Buffy hefted her stake, preparing to end the fight, when the alley began to fill with more vampires that seemed to be coming from nowhere.
“Spike! Come on! You can try again later. We need to—” She was interrupted by a hard kick to her back that sent her stumbling forward, stake dropping to the dirty floor of the alley. Sensing the movement behind her, she dropped and rolled, coming to her feet in time to block the intended blow from a grinning vampire clad in old fatigues. Back to back, she and Spike faced Dora and a small group of vampires, all wearing old uniforms indicating one branch of the military or another. Unlike the weaker minions that had overwhelmed the other slayers with sheer numbers, these vamps were obviously experienced and hardened fighters. And, based on the force of the blow she’d taken, Buffy could guess that they’d been filling up on slayer blood.
“So this is William the Bloody,” Dora sniffed. “You’re not all that. It’s a shame Chanterelle wants you alive; I’d love to be the slayer that dusted the Slayer of Slayers.”
“Sorry to disappoint, pet, but you’re not a slayer anymore. You’re just another vampire. As soon as the vamp that killed you had his one good day, you became another statistic.”
“That’s a little sexist, don’t you think, Spike?” The voice, so familiar and yet so different in tone came from some distance behind the ring of vampires surrounding Spike and Buffy. Anne/Chanterelle stepped closer, taking care to remain safely behind her bodyguards, but close enough for Spike to see her. “It wasn’t a man who turned her…it was me. I killed a slayer. Just like you have.”
“I should have thrown her out the window when I had the chance,” Buffy muttered, moving in a small circle, automatically responding to shifts in Spike’s position.
“Right there with you, love. Right now, though, what say we regroup and think about interesting ways to kill her somewhere a bit less crowded?”
“Edinburgh?” Buffy asked, referring to a similar situation in which they’d been surrounded by very angry Ch’lack demons.
“That’s the plan. On three…”
The listening vampires smiled to themselves, confident that whatever the two heroes had planned, they were more than ready for it. As Spike intoned, “One…” they tensed, preparing themselves to pounce before he could get to “three”. Which he’d had no intention of doing. At “one” he leapt almost straight up, his legs lashing out to smash two faces before gravity brought him down on the outside of the circle. At the same time, Buffy had thrown herself directly into Dora’s knees, smiling at her pained shriek. Buffy rolled past the temporarily crippled vampire, grabbing her abandoned stake as she did so. She came up outside the circle and drove her stake through the back of the nearest camo-clad minion. Not pausing to try to inflict more damage, she joined Spike in a break for the alley’s entrance, running until they were safely away from the building and within sight of the other slayers.
“Let’s go,” she said tersely, checking quickly that all the remaining slayers were able to walk under their own power.
“Everybody who isn’t vamp food or a too cocky vamp is right here. We’re going back to regroup.”
After dropping off Bobbi to join Janie in the hospital’s ER, the battered and bruised slayers returned to the residence. By the time they got there the Watcher/Housekeeper had already left to wait for the injured girls to be released into her care, but a note directed them to a casserole in the oven and cold drinks in the lounge refrigerator.
Shaking her head at them, Buffy headed for the suite that she and Spike had been given.
“I’m going to shower first…” She cast a critical eye at Spike and added, “But you need to eat.” She went to the cooler they’d brought with them and took out a bag of pig blood. “Here, drink this, and then after I eat…”
“I’m fine, Buffy,” he said, cutting her off before she could finish her thought.
“You’re not fine. You’re beat up, bloody and you’re going to be fighting a turned slayer who’s been snacking on slayer blood. I’m not sending you back there without evening the odds. This is not negotiable.” Her lip came out in stubborn pout, and she put her hands on her hips for emphasis.
“We’ll talk about it later,” he mumbled, tearing open the bag and guzzling the chilled blood. Buffy watched him from the corner of her eye, his lack of complaint about the temperature of the blood saying everything she needed to know about how badly his body needed replenishment.
“Damn right we will,” she vowed silently as she went into the bathroom and turned the water on. “Stupid, stubborn vampire.”
She knew that Spike’s reluctance to drink from her was a direct result of how close he’d come to draining her so many months ago. But she also knew that the chances of his losing control like that, or of her own unwillingness to stop him, were very slim if not non-existent. Something about the stony expression on his face when she emerged from the bathroom told her the resulting argument might not be something she wanted to have within earshot of younger slayers. With a sigh, she dressed, tossed him another bag of blood, and went downstairs to see if there was going to be any dinner left for her.
As the other slayers finished their meals and left to go shower and compare wounds, Buffy began to mull over her possible options. She was still thinking when Spike, looking better but still battered, walked past her to sit on the back porch and smoke. She watched him play with his lighter, finally bringing the flame to the tip of his cigarette and pulling the hot smoke into his lungs. The snick of the lighter snapping closed accompanied a broad smile that spread across her face.
When Spike came back inside, eyeing her suspiciously when she smiled at him, she stood up and took his hand.
“Time for bed,” she said cheerfully. “We have to get an early start tomorrow.” She pulled him upstairs, helped him out of his clothes and pushed him towards the bed. “Just lie down and rest. I’ll be there as soon as I brush my teeth.”
Still watching her through narrowed eyes, he said, “Not going to drink from you, Slayer. Another packet of grade A Hampshire hog and a good night’s sleep, I’ll be back to normal.”
“Wasn’t going to ask you to,” she said cheerfully. “I’ve got a new plan.”
“Oh, just something I remembered from high school.”
“You’re going to blow up the nest?” His eyes lit up with a male’s interest in making things go boom that didn’t seem to fade no matter how old or what species the male happened to be.
“Wrong high school, Spike. This was before your time. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow. Let’s get to sleep now, ‘k?”
Ignoring his frustrated growl, she slid between the sheets and curled into side, smiling when, in spite of his obvious annoyance, his arms automatically went around her. She snuggled into him and nuzzled his chest until the soft growling turned to contented purring and she felt his arms relax as he fell into a healing sleep.
After spending some time mentally going over what supplies they would need and how much time it might take to get them, Buffy drifted off herself, the bruise on her back already losing it’s color and well on its way to being just a memory. She was in the middle of a very real-seeming dream in which Spike was using his talented mouth to bring her to the brink of orgasm over and over when she opened her eyes and realized several things: It was morning, light was clearly visible around the heavy curtains on the windows; she was not dreaming, and Spike had both her legs over his shoulders and was busy licking her inside and out while her hips – without any thought on her part – were moving vigorously against his mouth.
He looked up at her with grin. A grin tinged red with the blood on his lips.
“Looks like Mother Nature thought I needed a little boost,” he said, sticking out his blood-covered tongue. “Why didn’t you tell me this is what you had in mind?”
“I… didn’t… know…” she gasped, arching into him as he went back to work. “You know I never know when to expect… aaaah!”
“Shhhhh, love. Don’t want the other slayers getting jealous, do we?”
Buffy didn’t reply. She’d long since stopped feeding Spike’s ego, knowing full well that he could tell from her reactions and the sounds she made how much she enjoyed his talents. She pulled the pillow over her face to muffle any more loud responses she might have, and let him amuse himself by cleaning out any trace of the rich blood her body had decided wasn’t needed that month.
She was still quaking when he slid up her body, tugged the pillow off her face, and slipped into her.
“I love you, Buffy,” he whispered, as his hips began moving against her.
“Bet you say that to all the slayers you—”
She never finished her intended remark, wrapping her arms and legs around him and clinging until she felt him shudder against her. He remained, lying on her now relaxed body, until they heard the sounds of chatter in the hallway outside their room. With a groan, he rolled off and stared at the ceiling.
“Time to get up,” she sighed, dropping a kiss on his chest as she sat up.
“It’s no time for any self-respecting vampire to be up,” he grumbled, trying to pull her down with him.
“You wouldn’t know self-respect if you fell over it,” she snarked back, eluding his hand and getting off the bed. “Come on, lazy. Get up. I’ve got a plan to explain.”
Buffy escaped to the bathroom, getting herself cleaned up and dressed before coming out to find that Spike was on his feet, but still naked.
“Gonna take a quick shower,” he explained.
Buffy nodded. “I’ll meet you downstairs,” she said. “Don’t be too long. I want you there for this.”
She left as he headed for the bathroom, wondering idly if the tiny amount of slayer blood he had ingested was actually enough to do him any good, or if he just liked it. Once she’d gotten over her original “ewww” reaction to his insistence that the rich blood her body produced every month or so was no different from any other blood, just more fun to obtain, it had become their habit for him to help himself whenever the occasion arose. She had to admit that he did seem marginally stronger than when she’d first found him with Anne, and he now had what, she supposed, passed for a surprisingly healthy look… for a vampire.
As soon as Spike joined her downstairs, she asked the slayers to quiet down while she explained what she was thinking. She began with the basic facts.
“We’ve lost five girls, and have two more injured badly enough to hit the Emergency Room.” She smiled briefly at Janie and Bobbi, both of whom had returned from the ER, but were clearly not up to fighting strength yet. “We’re fighting against vampires that have been feeding on slayer blood – pretty much a vitamin tonic for them, isn’t that right?”
She cocked an inquisitive eyebrow at Spike who managed to appear apologetic and cocky at the same time.
“That’s right, love,” he said. “It’s quite a boost to a vamp’s system. Bit more temporary than we might like, but….” Glares from around the table stopped him before he could dig himself too deep a hole.
“So,” Buffy continued, adding her own glare, “we’ve got some experienced fighters with supernatural strength that’s more than normal vamp strength; we’ve got a queen bee vamp who’s been getting at all the blood first, so who knows how strong she is right now; and, we’ve got a turned slayer who may or may not be stronger than she was before, but who is a trained fighter and who knows you guys really well.”
“You make it sound like you think we can’t beat them,” Janie said, shifting her bandage-covered legs as though planning to get up.
“I didn’t say that,” Buffy said sharply. “We can beat them. I’ve no doubt of it. But I see no reason to risk any more lives when there’s an easier way to do it than fighting them on their own turf.”
She explained her plan, laying out the materials they would need and waiting for the reaction. Which came swiftly.
“Will that work? Are you sure?”
“It works,” Buffy said tightly. “Trust me. Been there, used to have the tee shirt in my drawer.”
With a minimum of discussion and argument, they settled on the plan and scattered to collect the materials needed. While the girls went about preparing for the next expedition to the nest, Spike and Buffy sat at the table and made notes about the building’s exterior, including what kind of siding it had and where the windows and doors were located.
“You’ve been holding out on me, love,” he said, nodding his head in admiration. “Had no idea you’d trashed more than one high school. No wonder that scrawny little rat of a principal didn’t want you around.”
“I knew you’d go for this,” she sighed with mock disapproval.
“Chaos, mayhem, things that go boom. What’s not to like?”
“You are such a guy sometimes.”
A couple of hours later, with the sun still making its ascent towards noon and the streets around the shelter still relatively empty, two vans full of slayers and supplies drove up to the rear of the building. Buffy and her chosen squad of revenge-seeking slayers jumped out and quickly unloaded their supplies, waving the vans off as soon as they were empty. While the two injured girls – who had refused to stay home – watched for genuine homeless people to shoo away and for any sign of police or nosy neighbors, the rest of the girls used well-coordinated movements to get everything into place.
Gasoline was poured around any and all possible exits, into the dumpster, under the doors, through the roughly patched broken windows, and onto the wooden siding. Only the part of the building facing the street was not soaked in gasoline. The remaining girls, stakes hidden, stood where they could easily see if any blanket-covered inhabitants made it out the front door.
At the agreed upon signal, matches were struck and thrown onto the reeking liquid surrounding the building. Using Spike’s lighter, Buffy set fire to the gasoline-soaked pile of debris in front of her and stepped back quickly. All the slayers retreated to a safe distance to watch the old building go up in flames. They smiled in satisfaction as the occasional flaming vampire leapt from an upper window, only to dissolve into ashes before reaching the ground.
With the sound of fire engines ringing in their ears, Buffy signaled the girls to beat a hasty retreat, taking Anita, the Latina slayer, with her as she slid into a manhole to meet Spike in the sewers. At his suggestion, she’d sent him and another slayer to watch the tunnels under the building – just in case.
The sounds of battle coming from the direction of the shelter told her that it had been a good plan. She ran towards the sounds, footfalls behind her indicating Anita was having no trouble keeping up. She skidded to a halt when she saw Spike, an obviously injured Caroline behind him doing her best to guard his back while he faced off against Dora and a small group of minions. Once again, Chanterelle was remaining out of the fight, offering verbal encouragement to her troops from a safe distance.
The sight of Buffy and Anita, stakes and swords in hand as they moved up beside Spike sent a few of those troops running back the way they had come. Before Chanterelle could throw them back into the fray, there was a muffled explosion behind her and acrid smoke came drifting through the tunnel.
“The building collapsed! We’re trapped!” The minion’s hysterical scream was cut short as his sire swiped her taloned hand across his neck, severing his head from his body.
“There are only three of them,” she growled, shoving the others back towards Spike and the two healthy slayers. Caroline had scuttled away from the fighting and was sitting propped against the wall far enough away to be safe, but close enough to use her sword if she needed to.
While Spike engaged Dora, his eyes alight with the joy of combat, Buffy and Anita worked their way through the remaining minions, staking and beheading with cool efficiency and a minimum of quipping — although Anita could be heard muttering to herself in Spanish from time to time. As soon as it looked like Anita was going to be able to handle things herself, Buffy vaulted over the head of the remaining vampire in front of her, staking him as she landed. She was now facing Chanterelle, whose bared teeth and expression of fury bore no resemblance to the quiet, gentle girl Buffy had known.
“You!” the vampire hissed. “I should have never let you in the building. Or told you that Spike was here. This is all your fault!”
“Oh, I certainly hope so,” Buffy said, her own smile feral and deadly. “I warned you if you let a nest settle in here, I’d be back. And here I am,” she concluded, leaping at the snarling vampire. To her surprise, she was met with a powerful backhand that slammed her into the slimy wall.
Note to self. Drinking slayer blood makes vampires fast and strong.
Buffy remained crouched against the wall, fighting the urge to close her rapidly-swelling eye, while an overly confident Chanterelle stalked towards her, clearly expecting that she’d temporarily immobilized the Slayer. Buffy waited until the slavering vampire reached for her with both hands. As Chanterelle yanked her up and forward, Buffy used her legs to propel herself in the same direction with a force and speed the vampire hadn’t anticipated. Leading with her stake, she plunged it into Chanterelle’s chest even as the vampire’s fangs scraped the skin on her throat.
Coughing through the dust cloud, Buffy frantically rubbed her eyes and searched for Spike. Her vision cleared just in time to watch his game face fade away and Dora’s dust settle onto the damp floor in front of him. His right arm dangled from his side, the bone bent at an awkward angle, but the satisfied expression on his face showed no trace of the pain he ought to be feeling. Only when he whirled to be sure she was okay, did he wince and grab the arm with his other hand, trying to hold it still.
Hastening towards him, Buffy watched from the corner of her eye as Anita dusted the last of her vamps and bent down to exchange high fives with Caroline. Anita helped the injured slayer to her feet, letting the smaller girl lean on her as they began to make their way in the opposite direction from the smoke, dust and heat billowing down the tunnel from the now destroyed old wooden building.
Buffy whipped off her jacket, ripping it to create a make-shift sling and promising Spike she would fix the break when they got back to the slayer residence. Moving slowly so as not to jostle Spike’s arm any more than necessary, they made their way away from the smoke and dust and towards the fresh air of an open manhole. Eager hands reached down to help them out, quickly replacing the manhole cover as soon as both Spike and Buffy were standing in the street – Spike cowering gratefully beneath the ratty blanket one of the girls had snatched off a gawking homeless man.
“Much obliged, mate,” Spike muttered as he hurried by the still staring man and into the shelter of the nearest shaded area.
The vans had been parked several blocks from the shelter, in an alley behind a used furniture store. The girls made their way back to the transportation as casually as possible, pretending to be annoyed that the police lines prevented them from getting closer to the source of the flames and smoke. Spike and Buffy took the much slower, but safer route dodging from shadow to shadow until they also were able to climb into the relative safety of the vans.
The ride back to slayer central was uneventful and swift. The girls were soon gathered in the kitchen, congratulating themselves on a job well done, while the watcher did her best to patch up Caroline. When she’d finished, she turned uncertainly towards Spike and gestured at his arm.
“Do you… would you like me to set that for you?”
Spike studied the woman’s anxious face and the way her hands twisted together while her eyes darted around the room.
“That’s all right, luv,” he said, licking his lips. “Never know what the pain might do to me – or how my demon would react.”
Buffy smacked his head with the ice pack she’d been holding to her face and stepped between the laughing vampire and the white-faced watcher.
“He’s just kidding, Mrs. O’Toole. He’s always confusing being an ass with being funny. But don’t worry about it. I’ll fix it when we get upstairs, and he’ll be half-way healed by the morning.”
With a sigh of relief she made no attempt to hide, Mrs. O’Toole handed Buffy the things she’d need to set Spike’s arm. Leading him carefully past the shafts of sunlight that streaked the hallway, Buffy preceded Spike up the stairs to their room, muttering to him the whole way about how dumb it was to frighten people who didn’t know him well.
“A decent watcher shouldn’t scare that easy,” he mumbled back. “Bloody woman has no sense of humor.”
“A – she’s more of a house mother than a watcher – and you’re a moron.”
“You just dusted one of the slayers who used to live here. And, yeah, okay, she was a vampire and trying to kill us, but still… Plus, these girls have lost at least five of their friends in the past couple of weeks – because we walked away from a situation that we knew was going to go bad. Chanterelle was our fault – and these girls know that. They don’t need to be reminded that you’re a vampire right now. They need some time to grieve and get used to the idea that you aren’t something they should be slaying.”
“Well, when you put it like that…”
Spike paused and moved silently back to the top of the staircase. He listened intently for several minutes, then nodded and returned to Buffy’s side.
“I’m sorry, pet. You’re right. Those bloodthirsty little bints downstairs are arguing over how mad you’d be if they dusted me!”
He sounded so aggrieved and indignant that Buffy had to smile in spite of the situation.
“I guess I ‘d better tell them, then,” she said with a sigh, as she pushed open the door to their room. She stopped just inside, cocking her head at him and asking wryly, “Wasn’t anyone sticking up for you?”
Before he could answer, they both noticed that they weren’t alone. Anita jumped up from where she’d been sitting in the only chair, falling into a fighting stance that was immediately imitated by Buffy. The two girls stared at each other for a tense few seconds before Anita relaxed and sat back down.
“Oh good, it’s you.”
“Who else might you have been expecting in our room?” Spike asked, grimacing as he tried to slide his broken arm from the sleeve of his jacket. Buffy rushed to help him, biting her lip in sympathy when he couldn’t suppress a groan.
“Caroline was afraid… We thought maybe…”
“You thought one of the other girls might try to slay herself William the Bloody while he was crippled?” Spike’s voice contained a level of disappointment that had Buffy wincing; she bristled on his behalf.
“What’s wrong with them?” she growled, completely forgetting that she’d just been lecturing him about why the slayers might not be comfortable with him in the house.
“They didn’t see Dora,” Anita said quietly. “Or Chanterelle. They don’t know what they were like… They don’t understand that you were facing a demon – a very strong demon. I mean, yeah, they understand it cause we’ve all been taught about what happens when humans are turned, but I don’t think they really believed it. They think you killed Dora.”
“Wonderful,” Buffy muttered. “He almost gets himself dusted so that they don’t have to face a very dangerous demon wearing the face of their friend, and their reaction is to get mad at him. Stupid girls!”
Anita shrugged, her resemblance to Faith striking Buffy once again. “Hey, they come from homes where everybody’s good all the time.” She winked at Spike. “Bad boys scare them.”
Being referred to as a “bad boy” perked Spike’s spirits up and he leered at her, curling his tongue behind his teeth.
“But not you, luv? OW!” His attempt to flirt with the laughing girl was thoroughly quashed when Buffy chose just that moment to pull his arm into position. Ignoring his blood-curdling snarls, she briskly wrapped it tightly, winding the Ace bandage around and around until it was almost as firm as a cast. When she was satisfied that she’d immobilized it well enough, she stepped back and blinked at him innocently.
“I’m sorry. Did I hurt you?” she asked, smothering a snicker when he growled in response.
Shaking his head, he broke into a rueful grin and pulled her into his side with his good arm.
“’s alright, love. You know how chuffed I get when you go all jealous on me. Makes me feel manly and…”
Anita cleared her throat and gestured towards the door.
“Uh, I’ll just…”
“No,” Buffy said, giving Spike a squeeze before stepping away from him. She walked over to the cooler and took out one of the remaining packets of blood. Tossing it to Spike to catch with his free hand, she said, “I’m going to go downstairs and tell them the facts of life. I need for you to stay here in case anybody thinks she can be a hero all by herself.”
“I kinda doubt anybody down there could stake Spike – even if he does have only one arm,” Anita said, sending the preening vampire an eyeroll that still managed to be admiring. “I saw some of that fight with Dora – she’d have mopped the floor with any of us.”
it, too,” Buffy said, as she left the room. “But just in case…
Anita shrugged and sprawled across the chair while Spike settled onto the bed and began to gulp down the red fluid Buffy had given him. The young slayer watched in fascination as his eyes changed color and his fangs descended while he swallowed. She’d seen his demon face while he was fighting the turned slayer, but there was something very different about seeing traces of it while he lolled on a bed having his dinner.
Spike noticed her stare and forced his demon away, licking the blood off his lips and smiling apologetically.
“It’s not human, pet,” he offered by way of atonement for his obvious enjoyment of his meal.
Anita shrugged. “Not a problem,” she said with a hard grin. “I’ve known plenty of humans whose blood I’d’ve been happy to see you chug. In fact, if you’re still hungry, I know just where to go to round up a donor…”
“My kind of woman,” he responded, no trace of flirtation in his voice or expression, only admiration.
She laughed and shook her head. “I’ve seen your kind of woman in action. I think it’ll be a while before I’m anywhere near that kind of slayer. And, I don’t think I’ll be looking to poach on her territory,” she added, just in case he was misunderstanding.
He smiled ruefully and got up to throw the empty bag away. “Truth is, luv, there’s no way you or any other woman – slayer or not – could poach. When it comes to other women, I’m all talk – no action. Comprende?”
“Comprendo,” she responded with smile.
Buffy entered the room just in time to hear Caroline shouting down one of the slayers who hadn’t been involved in anything except setting fire to the shelter.
“You’re an idiot!” she was saying. “In the first place, Buffy trusts him. He saved the world, for God’s sake! He fights on our side. He has a soul. What the hell is wrong with you?”
She paused in disgust, pointing at her bandage-wrapped leg. “And even if he wasn’t on our side, I saw that fight with Vamp-Dora, and it lasted a lot longer than the half-second it took for me to be out of it. Let me tell you, there’s no way any of us could take him – broken arm or not. He’s… I’ve never seen a vamp fight like that.”
“Not to mention,” Buffy’s voice broke into the babble that followed Caroline’s speech, “anyone who wants to take on Spike, has to go through me.” She fixed a cold stare on the most hostile face she could find and waited until the other slayer dropped her gaze. “We’ll be leaving by nightfall,” she added. “We have jobs to get back to. Jobs training girls like you how to fight like Spike does, so that you get to live longer than your friends did.”
She fixed her gaze on Caroline’s sympathetic face and said softly, “We’re sorry that Anne got herself turned into Chanterelle. But she was human when we left, and it’s not like we could kill her just to keep it from happening. There was always the chance that she would make the right choices… We had to give her that chance.”
Without another word, she turned around and went back upstairs to their room. She found Spike and Anita arguing over which was uglier – a Fyarl demon or a Chaos demon. She shook her head, laughing as Spike stood up and attempted to imitate something with horns that dripped slime all the time. Anita laughed along with her and conceded the point.
“Okay, okay, you win. Slimy antlers wins over bad breath and claws.”
“We’re leaving tonight,” Buffy announced, breaking into the laughter and tossing Spike another bag of blood. “Better drink up, you won’t get any more until we get home.”
“Is everything okay?” Anita frowned at the lack of expression on Buffy’s face.
“It’s okay. I don’t think anybody’s going to come after him now. But there’s no reason for us to stay. You girls are more than able to handle any minion clean-up there might be. I’d watch for another batch to be heading for the shelter tonight, if I were you. Maybe send some patrols out to check the nearest cemeteries or empty buildings.”
Buffy spoke matter-of-factly as if it there could be no question that Anita should be in charge of the evening’s plans, and the girl found herself contemplating where to send her patrols before she’d even realized that she was taking herself out of her normal roll of sarcastic onlooker and into the roll of leader. She nodded and headed for the door, still going over plans in her mind as she descended to the main level.
“So, Slayer.” Spike interrupted Buffy’s gathering of their few belongings by putting an arm around her waist and pulling her to a halt. “Have we outstayed our welcome, then?”
Buffy let out an explosive breath and shook her head. She turned around and nestled into him, taking comfort in the familiar smells and the voice rumbling in her ear.
“I don’t know. But they don’t need us, and I don’t want to be here, so we’re leaving. I don’t know how to talk to girls like that – they think they know everything, and that they’re so special that nothing bad should happen to them.”
“They are special, love,” he murmured. “Just not as special as you are. You and Faith – you’re the last slayers to understand what it meant to be the one girl in all the world.”
Buffy nodded against his chest, then stood up straight and pulled away.
“And I hope they never have to find out,” she agreed. “But still, there’s something about having all these girls out there with Slayer powers and no real watchers to teach them about… stuff. I’m a little worried about where this could go.”
“Nothing you can do about it if it does all go pear-shaped, sweetheart. It won’t be your fault.”
“How can you say that? Of course it will be my fault! I gave them those powers. If they—”
“Stop,” he said firmly, tipping her chin up so that he could meet her eyes. “Whatever happens, the only thing you’re responsible for is figuring out a way to defeat the First Evil and save the world. If some of these silly bints misuse the gifts they’ve been given, it’s on them, not on you.”
He waited until she nodded and he felt her shoulders relax before releasing her.
“Right then. That’s settled. How long before you want to leave?”
“It’s barely afternoon yet. We’ll have to wait until dusk to leave for the airport. And then I don’t know if we’ll be able to get on a plane tonight or not. But we’re not staying here.”
“I know where there’s a nice hotel…”
“You do? Where—oh.”
“Yeah, ‘oh’. You might remember it. Seems to me we spent some quality time there not quite a year ago...”
“Do you think we could get the same room?”
“Worth a shot, isn’t it?” He gave her his most appealing leer, laughing when she pushed him down on the bed and straddled him.
“It might be at that,” she agreed. “But I don’t think Giles would be happy paying for us to stay in a hotel when we have a perfectly good room here.”
“Old tightwad,” he muttered, pulling her down to nestle against his chest.
“Well, it is his money. Or the Council’s anyway.”
Buffy snuggled against him. “Let’s just take a little nap until it’s time to leave for the airport. To be perfectly honest, I’d rather make love in our own bed than in some hotel. We can wait until we get home.”
Her eyes were closing, so she missed the happy smile that filled his eyes and curved his lips as he listened to her casually referring to their small apartment and large bed as “home”. He shifted her into a more comfortable position and gingerly rested his bandaged arm on her stomach.
“We can wait till we get home,” he echoed. “That we can, love.”