Dracula – challenge at Good/Evil

 

Title: The Bodyguard  (10/25/05)

Season IV – sort of.  I’ve played fast and loose with the episodes and dialogue, not to mention the timeline.  And the story itself is clearly non-canon.

Rating – no worse than R, if that

Disclaimer – Joss’s characters – well, except for Dracula – he belongs to Bram Stoker.

Distribution- this was written for the Good__Evil community, so no one else should take it without checking with me first. The requirements for the challenge were Dracula, a chess piece and some of the dialogue (I forget just which words). Thanks to Always_jbj for the read throughs and to Selene for this wonderful banner. This is an original work based on characters created by Joss Whedon and belongs solely to the author, Slaymesoftly.

 

THE BODYGUARD

 

               “Get OUT!”

 

              The tall, dark and extremely handsome vampire smiled indulgently as the blond Slayer gawked at him in disbelief.  He preened with self-satisfaction at the recognition and admiration on the girl’s face.   A quick glance at the equally awe-struck boy behind her told him he might have located a human assistant for his stay in Sunnydale and he favored the boy with a short, intense look into his eyes.

 

                After a short conversation, and after promising to see her again soon, he vanished into the air, smiling again at the surprised gasps he left behind.  Oh yes, this slayer, with her Hollywood-influenced knowledge of his history was going to be a wonderful addition to his harem.  If what he’d heard about her was true, she might even be worthy of sitting at his side as a consort.

 

******************

 

              “I’m serious, Giles!  It was Dracula.  I swear!  And he came here to meet me.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

 

               Buffy’s fan girl squealing over the appearance of the storied vamp was causing eye rolling, polishing of eyeglasses, and rumbling growls from the other men in the room.

 

             “I came here to meet you, Slayer.  Didn’t see you going all gaga over that, did I?”

 

             Spike couldn’t have said why he was so put out at Buffy’s obvious delight in being singled out by the older vampire, but he knew if he heard one more squeal from her he was going to rip her throat out – chip or no chip.

 

               “You came here to KILL me, Spike,” she said blithely. “Dracula came here to meet me.  Because he heard I was…” She frowned slightly.  “What did he hear about me, I wonder?”

 

                 “Possibly he heard that you killed the Master, sent Angelus to Hell and defeated William the Bloody, repeatedly,“ her watcher said dryly, ignoring Spike’s indignant snort.  “That, and having survived into your late teens is quite an accomplishment for a Slayer.  You are, in your own way, almost as famous as he.”

 

                 “But, why would he want to meet me, then?  Shouldn’t he be afraid of me?”

 

                  “Bloody hell, Slayer, if he looks at your track record, you seem to be whittling down the remaining members of the Order of Aurelius.  You’re just reducing the number of things he has to be afraid of.  There’s no love lost between us and that gypsy poof, I can guarantee you.”

 

                    The sour expression on Spike’s face inspired Xander to chime in.

 

                  “Hey, Buff, maybe he’s here to thank you! Or offer to help you finish off the job,” he said with a suggestive nod at Spike.

 

                  “Pffft!  I don’t need any help with Spike,” she said airily, ignoring the snarl from the impotent vampire.

 

                    “Be that as it may, Buffy…” Giles’ voice brought her back to the real subject. “It is imperative that you remember that he IS a vampire and not to be treated as an honored guest in our city.  If the chance presents itself, I expect you to stake him just as you would any other…” his voice trailed off as he noticed the glowering blond near the door and he sighed heavily.  “Well, almost any other undead visitor.”

 

                  “Hey, I’m not a visitor.  I bloody well live here now!” 

 

            No one paid any attention to Spike’s protests, except Buffy who gave him a brief smile before quickly looking away. In no way did she want her chipped mortal enemy to know that she actually enjoyed fighting with him, at first physically and now verbally, and that she would miss him if he left. Spike looked at the blushing Slayer quizzically then shrugged his shoulders and pushed past Xander to go out the door. 

 

                 “Well, if you see the poncey bastard again, Slayer, remind him he still owes me eleven pounds.”

 

                     Xander was next to leave, making it only as far as the parking lot before running into the subject of discussion.  His original hero-worship having faded with the reminders that this was, in fact, another bloodsucking demon, he began to back away, babbling inane excuses for leaving.   It took only a second for him to be captured by those deep, dark eyes and to begin nodding and calling the tall, slender vampire “Master.”    Not until the Dracula was sure he had established control, did he release the unfortunate Scooby to scramble home.

 

 

                   Buffy went straight to her room when she got home, quickly brushing her teeth and putting on her pajamas.  She got into her bed and snuggled under the covers, clutching Mr. Gordo and mulling over the arrival of a legendary vampire who was not promising to kill her.  Which only reminded her of the one that HAD come back to Sunnydale for that purpose, and the way their relationship had changed since he’d been effectively rendered harmless by Riley’s boss.

 

               Without volition, her mind went – as it did much too often to suit her – to the time she’d spent engaged to the sexy blond vampire while under Willow’s my-will-be-done spell.  She squirmed and tried to dismiss the thoughts of what a good kisser Spike was, and how gently and tenderly he’d stroked her body when the others were preoccupied with their own spell-gone-wrong problems.  Telling herself that she hated him just as much as he hated her, and that nothing they’d shared at that time meant anything, she resolutely pushed him from her mind and drifted off to sleep.

 

             A sleep that was full of erotic flashes of dreams involving a man who looked suspiciously like a certain peroxide blond vampire.  A vampire whose lips were tickling her neck, making her moan and—  She sat up abruptly, wondering what had interrupted the nice dream that most definitely was NOT about Spike or anyone resembling him.

 

              The bed dipped and she spun around, the words, “Riley? What are you-“ cut off as she met a pair of mesmerizing brown eyes.  Even as her Slayer senses screamed out that there was a vampire in her room, on her bed, she felt herself surrendering to the soft voice and those eyes from which she couldn’t seem to look away.

 

               When his cool lips touched her neck, she dropped her head back, giving the old vampire better access to her throat and murmuring appreciatively as slid his fangs into her vein.  Dracula was well into his plan to put a preliminary claim on the Slayer by partially draining her while she was under his thrall when he was interrupted by a hand closing tightly around his own throat.

 

           “Take your bloody teeth out of her, or I’ll break ‘em off one at a time,” Spike snarled, knowing he couldn’t just yank the older vamp off Buffy without risking serious tearing of her flesh.

 

            Dracula slowly released his hold on the Slayer, gently laying her back down on the bed and smiling at the tiny rivulets of blood running down her neck.  He easily shrugged off Spike’s hand and rose to his feet to confront the much shorter vampire.

 

             “So, William the Bloody, because you can’t kill her, you don’t want anyone else to have her?  Is that it?”

 

              “Uh…yeah.  That’s it!  Of course that’s it.  This slayer is mine, you bloody ponce. You just keep your pearly whites to yourself around her.  In fact, I think you should just take your whole gypsy magic show on the road.  I got this Hellmouth under control.”

 

                The other vampire looked like he was planning to argue for a minute, then he drew himself up to his full height and swirled his cloak around theatrically.

 

               “Very well.  I will leave for the evening.  But I have marked this woman and she WILL be mine before I leave here. I have spoken with Angelus, and he concurs that she will make an excellent consort for me. Your opinion means nothing.  The head of your order has given his permission for me to avenge the Master and Darla.”

 

             Spike’s snarled, “Angelus doesn’t make decisions for me…or for the Slayer,” almost drowned out Buffy’s surprised gasp and the older vamp smiled as he walked to the window and leapt out, turning into a bat as he did so and fluttering away.  Spike shook his head at the theatrical display, then turned back to look at a confused Buffy.

 

              “Did he just say that A-angel sent him here for me?”

 

               “He called him Angelus, pet.  Don’t care how mad the poof was about your new demon hunting boyfriend, I don’t think he’d sic old Drac on you if he had his soul.”

 

                   Even without being vamped out, he could tell her lower lip was sneaking out in a pout and he moved closer to her without thinking about it.  After a few seconds of silence while she considered the possibility that Angel had lost his soul again and teamed up with the famed Vlad the Impaler, the events of the past few minutes came back to her and Buffy sat up abruptly.

 

                  “Did you just save me?  And did I really just let that slimy…Am I bleeding?”

 

                 “Yeah, Slayer. You let him bite you.  You are bleedin’, and I just chased the soddin’ poofter off.  Now let me see that…”

 

                      He leaned over and before she could collect her thoughts to stop him, he ran his tongue over the bleeding holes, effectively sealing them. The taste of her blood went straight to his nether parts, making his pants suddenly very tight.

 

               The feel of Spike’s tongue on her neck sent a shiver all through Buffy’s body.  A shiver that had nothing to do with the temperature of said tongue, and everything to do with having his lips in such close proximity.  For just a moment, they remained frozen, the vampire inhaling the scent from her warm body, the Slayer trembling from the feel of his lips on neck.

 

                  With an effort, Spike wrenched himself away and walked to the window.  Buffy’s “Where are you go-“ was interrupted when he closed the window and pulled the drapes shut.  He walked over to the chair, shrugging off his duster as he did so, and pushed the clothes piled on it to the floor.  He sat down, tipped his head back, closed his eyes and stretched his long legs out in front of him.

 

                 He could feel the Slayer’s eyes on him and he finally sighed and leaned forward to meet her puzzled gaze.

 

                “I’m gonna stay here till dawn, alright?  Just to make sure he doesn’t come back.”

 

                “Oh. Okay,” she said in the most subdued tone he’d ever heard from her.  She was quiet for a few minutes and then asked softly, “What will you do when it’s daylight and you can’t leave?”

 

                   “I’m gonna get into your nice warm bed and sleep all day while you go out to play college coed,” he growled. “Just be sure you warn your mum so she doesn’t take the axe to me when she finds me here.”

 

                  Buffy fought off visions of Spike sprawled naked in her bed and firmly closed her eyes and willed herself to go back to sleep. An hour later, a scraping noise outside the window woke her just in time to see a fully vamped out Spike throw aside the curtains only to be met with a startled squirrel’s terrified scamper to the tree.

 

                 She bit back her laughter when he glanced over to see if she’d noticed his embarrassment.  Instead of laughing at him as he would have expected, she smiled shyly and said, “Thank you, Spike.”

 

              “For what?” he answered gruffly.  “Almost killing a bloody squirrel?”

 

              “No, for saving me from Dracula…and for being here to scare the squirrel away.”

 

               Spike was no more sure how to deal with a polite, grateful Slayer than the Slayer was about how to deal with a formerly evil mortal enemy who seemed determined to keep her alive even if it meant risking his big bad persona.  He shuffled his feet uncomfortably, not really wanting to go back to the uncomfortable chair but too worried to leave before the sun could protect the house and its occupants.  Buffy twisted the sheets with her fingers, trying to smother the urge to invite him to protect her from the vantage point of her bed.

 

              The vampire compromised by perching on the window sill, rolling his shoulders to get out the kinks and telling her softly, “Go back to sleep, luv. I’ll be here just in case any more squirrels try to break in.”

 

               Just as Buffy started to lie down again, she was struck be a sudden thought and she jumped to her feet. 

 

                 “Mom!” she gasped, running toward the door.  “He got in here without an invitation, maybe he….”

 

                  “Relax, Slayer.”  Spike was across the room before she could open the door, grabbing her by her upper arms.  “She’s fine.  I can hear her heartbeat and her breathing.  He’s not interested in your mum; he’s interested in you and only you.”

 

                  She tilted her head and looked at his eyes, which had flashed amber for just a second, then put her hand to his cheek.

 

                  “But I have a bodyguard,” she breathed softly. “He can’t get to me.”

 

                “Not if I have anything to say about,” he growled softly. The vibration against her hand sent a tingle up her arm and down her body and she pulled it back quickly, blushing and grateful for the darkness in the room.

 

               The darkness didn’t prevent Spike from sensing her elevated heart rate and rise in body temperature.  He stepped closer, not sure what he was going to do, but unable stay away from the warmth that was calling to him.  Then he remembered how angry he’d been to find Dracula taking advantage of his thrall skills to bite the best warrior Spike had come up against and he forced himself away from the obviously still-vulnerable slayer.

 

                Before he could change his mind, he quickly sat back down in the chair and gestured to the bed.  “Best try to get some more sleep, pet.  You’re going to want to spend tomorrow looking for his lair and you’ll need to be on your toes.”

 

               Smothering a pang of disappointment, Buffy climbed back into her bed and put her head back on the pillow. She looked at the tense vampire sitting in the straight-back chair and said timidly, “Maybe you would be more comfortable if you were…I mean…it’s a double bed.  There’s lots of room.”

 

              “Really not a good idea, pet,” he said through gritted teeth.

 

              “Fine!” she huffed, offended that he would turn down her very generous offer to share her bed.  “I just thought that chair looked really uncomfortable, but if you—“

 

               “Trust me, Slayer.  I’m a lot less uncomfortable sittin’ here than I would be lying next to you right now.”

 

                 “Wha-?  Well that’s just ridi—oh.”  The rush of blood to her face did nothing to ease his discomfort, although it did make him smile briefly.

 

                 “Yeah. Oh.  Go to sleep, Slayer.  I’ve got your back for the rest of the night.”

 

                   Buffy fell asleep wondering why the vampire who was usually full of sexual innuendos around her was suddenly backing off from a chance to follow up on them.

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

                  When Buffy arose the following morning and went to take her shower, Spike groaned and pulled his aching body out of the hard chair.  Pausing only to kick off his boots, he fell face down on the bed and let the deep sleep that the morning sun inspired take him.  By the time the Slayer came back into the room, he was sound asleep and oblivious to her as she got dressed and ready to leave.  She started out of the room, then turned back and quickly double checked the drapes to be sure there was no chance of the sun breaking through.

 

                She stood over her bed indecisively for a few seconds and then carefully pulled the sheet up to cover the vampire, putting it all the way over his head.  Satisfied that she’d done as much as she could to protect him from any flammable accidents, she went downstairs to alert her mother to their houseguest.

 

               Joyce took the news that Spike had spent the night in Buffy’s room surprisingly well – commenting only that if Dracula could get in without the usual invitation required by his kind, that having another master vampire with the same privileges was probably a very good idea.

 

              “So, Buffy,” she said as casually as she could, “exactly how many vampires does that make now, with access to our home?”

 

              “Uh, just the two…oh, no, wait.  Make that three.  Angel still has an invitation I guess.  I never had it revoked.”

 

               “Is that wise?” her mother asked with some trepidation. “As I remember it, he was very unpleasant the last time he lost his soul.”

 

                 Buffy grimaced at hearing Angelus and his actions referred to as “unpleasant”, but nodded in agreement.

 

                  “Probably not, but he gets all offended when I lock him out.  There’s no reason to think he’s going to come back here anytime soon, anyway,” she added sadly, remembering his last visit and the fight with Riley.  “He just, apparently, gave Dracula permission to kill me.  I’ll have Willow do a dis-invite spell as soon as she gets a chance, just in case, but I doubt he’ll come back.”

 

                   Thinking of Riley reminded her that the commando was probably not going to be very happy to find Spike in her bed and she glanced at her mother, blushing hard as she said, “Uh, Mom. If Riley should come by for any reason –not that he probably would, but if he did, it would be better if he didn’t …”

 

                “Don’t let Riley know Spike is sleeping in your bed,” Joyce surprised her by stating calmly.  “Really, Buffy. Do you think I’m stupid?”

 

                Buffy gawked at her mother before smiling and giving her a hug.

 

               “No, Mom.  I don’t think you’re stupid.  I’m sorry.  I just don’t want to deal with the drama right now and…”

 

                “Then I suggest you spend the day trying find a way to discourage Riley from thinking he should be the one to stand guard over you at night,” her mother said, giving Buffy a kiss on the cheek and pushing her toward the door.  “Because, I personally think Spike would be a much better choice – for a bodyguard,” she added quickly at her daughter’s wide-eyed expression.

 

                Buffy waved a quick good-bye and promised her mother she would have Willow do a dis-invite spell in case Dracula wasn’t lying about talking with Angelus.  She also told her to be sure to keep all the doors and windows locked, just in case.

 

                An afternoon spent trying to locate a possible hiding place for the famous vampire had yielded nothing but tired legs and sore feet. Buffy was grateful to find herself back at her Watcher’s, sitting in the comfy chair with her feet up and a Diet Coke in her hand. The room seemed very full, with everyone who needed to know the situation present. 

 

                Riley hovered over Buffy, angering her with his air of protectiveness, although she couldn’t really complain too much with her neck bearing the obvious marks of her inability to deal with Dracula on her own.  She’d admitted that the famous vamp had been able to put her in some sort of thrall – but insisted it was because she was asleep and dreaming that he was able to do it so easily.

 

               Riley’s curious, “What were you dreaming about that would prevent you from recognizing that there was a vampire in the room?” sent her into a brief panic before she recovered quickly and answered, “I’m the Slayer, Riley.  I dream about vampires all the time.” 

 

                 She carefully avoided Spike’s speculative stare and glossed over his timely rescue, saying simply that he’d been passing by and had seen Dracula enter her window. 

 

                The blond vampire stayed in the doorway to the kitchen growling softly to himself as Buffy’s boyfriend glared and blustered that Hostile 17, as Riley insisted on referring to him, should have called for help rather than entering Buffy’s house himself.  He then demanded to know why Spike was able to do so without an invitation, and Buffy casually explained that she had never revoked the invitation he’d received years before he was chipped. 

 

                Riley’s muttered, “It’s a wonder you aren’t bitten more often as trusting as you are of these animals,” had everyone in the room blinking at him in surprise and had Buffy’s hand squeezing her can of Coke so tightly it exploded, showering the commando with sticky soda.

 

                Her apology was perfunctory and she made no attempt to help him clean up, simply taking her can to the kitchen sink and rinsing off her own hands and arms.  She was intensely aware of Spike’s presence behind her as he turned to face her rather than the room full of people.

 

              “Toy soldier’s got a point, pet,” he murmured too low for anyone else to hear. “Why didn’t you revoke my invite?  Weren’t you afraid I’d come back and eat you in your bed?”

 

               The sudden image his words created made her gasp and clench her legs together as she whirled on him and slapped his surprised face.  They stared at each other in shock for a full minute, with the vampire recovering first.

 

              “Didn’t really mean it like that, luv,” he purred, holding a hand to his cheek, “but if that’s what you were thinkin’ would happen, I guess it answers my question.”

 

                “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Buffy muttered as convincingly as she could and pushed past him to go back into the living room.  His quiet chuckle followed her back to her chair and she knew her face was still flaming.

 

               To her surprise, Giles answered Riley’s remark by observing mildly that they “should all be quite grateful that Spike did not require an invitation to enter Buffy’s home or she might already be on her way to Transylvannia.”

 

                The Watcher was more concerned about Dracula’s statements concerning Angelus than he was in the old vamp’s ability to get past both Spike and an awake and aware Buffy, and he grilled her repeatedly on what Dracula had said.

 

               “He said he had talked to Angel—Angelus and he told him he should take me for one of his ‘brides’.”

 

               Buffy’s face was a mixture of rage and hurt feelings at the thought that even without his soul, Angel would sell her out to another vampire. There was an uncomfortable silence in the room until everyone could see tension leave the Slayer’s face and body as she relaxed back into the chair.

 

                An almost audible, group sigh of relief brought a small smile to her lips and she glanced at Spike as she giggled, “You’d think they were afraid of me or something. Am I that scary when I’m mad?”

 

              The blond vampire grinned at her and began, “Well, pet, speaking from experience, I—“

 

            He was cut off by Riley’s snort of derision, as the big man said, “No one here is afraid of you, Buffy.  Temper or no temper, they know you wouldn’t hurt the civilians in here and I’m certainly not afraid of you.“

 

             Spike looked at the commando with his mouth agape.

 

             “You’re dumber than you look, aren’t you, soldier-boy?  And,” he added with a theatrical shudder, “you’ve obviously never seen a brassed off Slayer in action.”

 

               Giles broke up the impending glaring contest by mildly observing that someone should probably make a phone call to Los Angeles to find out what was going on there.  Willow and Buffy exchanged looks and the red haired witch nodded her head.

 

                “I’ll do it,” she volunteered, earning a grateful look from her friend.  “But what are we going to do if Angelus really is back?”

 

            “I want you to do dis-invite spells everywhere Angel has been, starting with your house and my mother’s.  Then do our dorm room, and any place else he might go.”  Slayer fully in charge, Buffy turned to her Watcher.  “I am assuming you can do your own dis-invite?”

 

             The older man nodded and waited to see how his suddenly mature slayer wanted to proceed.  When she laid out all the precautions that needed to be taken against Angelus, he was surprised to hear her suggest they arm themselves as well.

 

             “Buffy?” His voice was incredulous.  “Are you seriously suggesting we shoot Angelus?”

 

             “I’m seriously suggesting that since dis-invite spells might not work on Dracula, and Angel-Angelus knows his way around Sunnydale, I want everyone protected. We may not be dealing with just one Big Bad here.  We’ll need to be prepared for anything.”

 

               Xander had been wandering around the room, randomly suggesting that Buffy should go with him to “patrol”, but generally ignored by most of the other people in the room.  Only Spike noticed his strange behavior and frowned as the boy kept insisting Buffy come with him.

 

           Willow commiserated with Buffy about the bites on her neck and agreed willingly that spending the night somewhere other than their dorm room was probably a good plan.  She cheerfully assured Buffy that she could spend the night with her new friend, Tara, and between the two of them they should be able to ward the room against even as powerful a vampire as Dracula.

 

                Not one to know when to shut up, Riley growled that he supposed she’d given Spike an invitation to her dorm room also.  He already knew that Angel had been invited in when he’d visited the previous week.  Before Buffy could answer, Willow held up her hand timidly and said,  “Uh, no, Riley.  That would have been me, actually. I sort of invited Spike in.”

 

                The big soldier just threw up his hands in disgust and sat down in a chair muttering to himself about “civilians” and glaring at the smirking vampire leaning in the doorway.

 

           “Buffy, what will you be doing to remain safe?” Her watcher tried to bring the conversation back to the primary issue, which was the fact that his Slayer seemed unperturbed by the thought of having a dangerous vampire able to come and go as he pleased in her home.

 

           “I’m going to stake his skinny ass if he shows up again,” she said firmly.  When she saw Spike and her Watcher exchange looks she frowned and asked, “What?  You don’t think I can do it? He’s just another vampire.”

 

             Hastening to head off a Slayer tantrum that might cost him a bloody nose, Spike gave them a quick run-down on what a thrall by someone as old as Dracula could involve.

 

              “It’s not that you couldn’t do it, pet.  But he’s tasted you.  He’s had you in thrall once and now he’s got your blood in his system.  He can re-thrall you any time he wants.  All he has to do is get close enough to look into your eyes.  You need to be with someone who is immune to him.  Someone who can’t be influenced.”

 

               “Well, I suppose it is rather obvious who that will have to be,” Giles took his glasses off and rubbed them vigorously.  “Although I would much prefer that it be someone else, it seems the best choice would be--”

 

          Buffy’s face blanched and then flushed scarlet, but before she could say anything, Riley spoke up.  “Well, of course she’ll be with me at all times,” he said as though there was no question. 

 

                Both Buffy and Spike stared at the oblivious soldier, marveling at his ignorance of how vulnerable he would be around a vamp as powerful as Dracula.  While Buffy struggled to find a way to tell Riley she didn’t need his help, he and Xander made plans to go with her on her evening patrol. Buffy sent Spike a quick look and shrugged helplessly. 

 

                The vampire walked over to Xander and peered into his eyes for a few seconds, then nodded to himself and walked to the door.  He opened it, taking care to remain away from the waning rays of the sun, and waited until a couple of flies flew into the apartment.  When Giles began to protest, Spike silenced him with a wave and gestured to the dark haired boy trying to coax Buffy to leave with him right that minute.

 

                The watcher subsided suspiciously and watched as the flies circled the room.  When one of them flew past Xander’s face and he snatched it out of the air, Spike smirked in satisfaction and waited for everyone to notice what the boy did with the fly.  Still talking animatedly with Buffy and Riley, Xander unwittingly put the fly in his mouth and ate it, licking his lips when he had swallowed the bug.

 

               Giles’ eyes widened in horror and he crossed the room, prepared to do violence if necessary.  Spike stopped him with a hand on his arm and whispered, “The whelp can lead us to him if we let him go.”

 

               “He’ll lead Buffy to him, too,” the older man hissed back.  “I’m not letting her go with him.”

 

               “Let him take the soldier- it’ll keep Drac busy tonight, dodging the demon-hunters.  I’ll make sure Buffy doesn’t leave her house.”

 

             Giles shot him a suspicious look, but forbore asking how he intended to do that.  He just quietly asked Buffy if he could see her for a moment and led her out of earshot of the two young men who were still discussing how to best protect Buffy while she patrolled.

 

              “What!”  Buffy’s indignant shout from the kitchen turned everyone’s attention to her for a second until she realized they were all staring and turned back to whisper with her Watcher.  After a few minutes of quiet arguing, she flounced back into the living room, glaring at Spike. 

 

                She walked up to Xander and Riley, and in her best “blond” voice, she said, “Tell you what guys.  If you are so worried about me, why don’t you two do the patrol for me and I’ll just stay safely…somewhere.”

 

                Riley was so excited and happy to have been asked to patrol for Buffy as he always wanted to, that he missed the fact that she did not tell him where she was planning to spend the night.  In spite of Xander’s protests, he dragged the other boy out into the gathering dusk, promising to come back as soon as they had located and slain Dracula.

 

                When the door had closed behind them, Buffy whirled on her watcher and Spike demanding, “Okay, I did what you wanted.  Now will you please tell me what’s going on?”

 

                The watcher gestured to the vampire and walked away. Spike looked at Buffy’s angry face, admiring the way anger brought a flush to her cheeks and made her breathe heavily.  He was so busy watching the way her angry breathing was making her chest rise and fall, that he almost missed the fist heading for his nose. At the last second, he felt the air movement and turned his head aside so that Buffy’s not terribly serious punch missed him completely.

 

              “Hey!” he yelled indignantly.

 

               “Oh shut up, you big baby.  Where’d you go, anyway?  I’ve been trying to get an answer out of you forever.”

 

                “Sorry, luv.  I was distracted for a minute.”  He leered at her breasts as they moved up and down with her still rapid breathing.

 

                “Pig,” she mumbled half-heartedly, crossing her arms over her chest to hide the way her nipples pebbled under his gaze.

 

                  “You know it, baby,” he agreed cheerfully, wiggling his eyebrows at her ala Groucho Marx.

 

                  The slayer giggled in spite of herself and relaxed, looking back and forth between her watcher and her undead bodyguard.  “So, what’s up, guys?”

 

                “It appears that Xander has been…recruited, by Dracula,” Giles explained slowly.  “He is expected to take you to his master.”

 

                 “Xander?  Xander is under thrall?”

 

                 “The gypsy bastard put you in thrall while you were sleeping, luv.  How long do you think it would take him to get inside the whelp’s head?”

 

                  “Spike! You make it sound like Xander’s some weak-minded…” The look on her watcher’s face caused her voice to trail off and she winced with sympathy for her friend.  “So, Xander’s become whats-his-name, huh?”

 

                 “The bug-catching gofer?  Yep.” 

 

                 Buffy poked Spike for the self-satisfied look on his face and smiled with delight when he gasped and doubled over.

 

                 “You’re ticklish!” she crowed, advancing on him with fingers extended.

 

                 “I most certainly am not!” he replied huffily, even as he retreated behind the bewildered watcher.  Drawing himself up to his full height and wrapping his duster around himself protectively, he growled, “I am a bleedin’ Master Vampire.  I most certainly am NOT ticklish!”

 

                 “Oh, you SO are!  Come here, big bad vampire.  I have something for you…” Buffy’s giggles as she pursued the snarling vampire around the room put a smile on her watcher’s face and only when she knocked the vamp to the floor and sat on him to dig her fingers into his ribs did he pause to wonder what was going on between the two super-powered blonds.

 

                 When the snarling, giggling duo appeared likely to start knocking over furniture, Giles finally put an end to it by shouting, “Could you please cease wrecking my flat and focus on the evening’s plan.”

 

                Somewhat shamefaced, Buffy pushed herself up off the no-longer resisting vampire and struggled to her feet, casually offering Spike a hand and pulling him up beside her.

 

                   Giles looked at the two lithe, athletic beings in front of him; observed their happy faces and close proximity and groaned silently.  Making a mental note to check the Council’s files for anything that would suggest a mystical link between Slayers and vampires, he shook his head and asked with resignation, “How do you plan to keep out of Dracula’s clutches tonight, Buffy?  Since it appears that his thrall works on you, what is to prevent him from biting you again?”

 

                 “I am,” Spike said quietly, unconsciously stepping closer to Buffy.  “Not gonna get in her way if she can take him, but the second it looks like he’s working his mojo on her, he’s gonna be wishing she’d staked him.”

 

                 “I don’t think he can thrall me if I’m awake and watching for it, Giles,” Buffy said quickly.  “And if I’m asleep, Spike will be there to—to—“

 

                “To keep him away,” he finished for her firmly.

 

               “Exactly!”

 

                Giles looked back and forth from one to the other, then shrugged his shoulders.

 

              “You are welcome to stay here tonight, if you’d like,” he said slowly.  “Although I think we have to assume that my apartment has been compromised also…” He glanced around as though he would be able to see the dis-invite spell he was planning to install immediately.

 

              “Thanks, Giles. But I’m worried about leaving my mom alone if he can get into my house whenever he wants. I think we’d better stay there for the night.  I’ll go looking for him again tomorrow – maybe I can get Xander to show me where it is.”

 

             “I doubt that will be a problem,” her watcher said dryly. “I would assume one of his duties is to lure you into his master’s clutches.”

 

            “Ohh, that sounds so spooky, Giles.  ‘His master’s clutches’.  Very Halloweeny.”  Buffy’s eyes danced with laughter at the older man’s expense as she walked out the door.

 

             While Spike rolled his eyes, the other Brit made a face and said with as much dignity as he could muster, “Well, it will be All Hallows Eve tomorrow night, so I presume my choice of words is quite appropriate for the season.”

 

              He stopped Spike’s movement toward the door with a hand on his arm, removing it quickly when the vampire looked at him in surprise. 

 

              “I am- -and I cannot believe I am saying this -- trusting you to keep her safe until we can deal with this situation.”

 

              “You have my word, Watcher.  She’s going to be safe as houses.  All she has to do is stay near me and do what I tell her until someone stakes the poncey bastard.”

 

              Giles allowed a brief grin to cross his face.  “And here I thought you knew Buffy fairly well, Spike. “

 

               He laughed when the vampire’s face fell as he realized the truth of what the man was implying, but Spike said resolutely, “The Slayer’s not stupid.  She may be pig-headed, but she isn’t stupid.  She’ll stay close.”

 

              “Really?” Giles asked calmly, “Then why is she out there alone, and you are still in here?”

 

              He watched in amusement as the vampire raced out the door bellowing, “Slayer!  You stupid bint. Come back here or so help me I’ll tear your head off myself. Chip or no chip!”

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

             Buffy was already half-way down the block when Spike caught up with her and she rolled her eyes at his angry scolding.

 

            “Sheesh, Spike.  You sound like…oh, I dunno, Riley?  Angel? One of those annoying men who thinks I can’t take care of myself.”

 

            “I know you can take care of yourself, Slayer,” he grumbled as he fell into step beside her. “I just think if you have back-up, you should take advantage, not walk away from it.”

 

            “You think I should take advantage of you?” she asked with what appeared to be wide-eyed innocence.  “That doesn’t sound like a very nice thing to do.”

 

               “Oh, I could make it nice, Slayer.  Don’t you worry about that.” He leered at her, not really sure if she was flirting with him, but more than willing to see how far she would go.

 

              Instead of snarking back at him, she stopped and tilted her head to study his face for a minute.  “I’ll bet you could,” she murmured finally, before turning and continuing her walk toward her mother’s house.  The astonished vampire stared after her, wondering if he had imagined the speculative look on her face or if she really was considering following up on all the things they’d talked about doing while they were under Willow’s spell.  Shaking himself out of his lust-filled daze, he sped up and was soon walking beside her again.

 

               Before they could reach her front porch, Buffy stopped and chewed on her lip in thought.

 

              “Slayer?”

 

               She glanced at the puzzled vampire and shrugged.

 

               “It just feels weird to be going in so early.  Like I’m shirking my duty or something – hiding in my house instead of going out looking for the latest Big Bad.  Maybe we should just—“

 

              “Maybe we should just do what your Watcher wants you to and wait till we suss out where the bloody ponce is and what’s goin’ on before we go charging in.”

 

               “Am I getting advice on impulse control from William, I-can’t-wait-till-Saturday-night-to-kill-you, the Bloody?”  Buffy’s good-natured grin took the sting out of her words and Spike shrugged and smirked back at her.

 

               “Listen to your bodyguard, pet. I know my business.”

 

              “So, bodyguard,” she whispered, stepping closer to him. “Are you going to be guarding my… body…all…night?”

 

               “Oh yeah, luv,” he answered, leaning down to breathe his response into her ear, “You can count on it.   All night.”

 

                  He smiled at the way she shivered when his cool breath stirred tendrils of hair back from her face, and he was just about to risk running his tongue up the warm skin on her neck when he felt the unmistakable presence of his grandsire.

 

                  Even as he jerked upright and stared at the front door, he felt Buffy stiffen and knew she sensed Angel’s signature also.  All thoughts of flirting fled as she leapt up the steps and threw open the door, calling anxiously, “Mom?  Mom, where are you?”

 

               “I’m right here, Buffy,” her mother’s voice was tense, but firm and the slayer relaxed slightly only to stiffen again when her ex boyfriend appeared in the hallway behind her mother and drawled, “Hello, lover.  Nice to see you again.”

 

               Angelus’ hand was wrapped lightly around Joyce’s neck and both the Slayer and her vampire bodyguard tensed at this undeniable proof that Angel’s soul had somehow been torn out of him again.

 

             Somewhat to the older vampire’s surprise, the Slayer’s dismay was not as pronounced as he would have hoped and he flicked a suspicious look at his grandchilde.  He’d had no idea Spike was back in Sunnydale and he frowned as he tried to understand why he would be at the Slayer’s back and yet not biting her.

 

              “Let. My. Mother Go.”

 

               Buffy’s voice was cold and hard, with no trace of the devastated teenager she’d been the last time he was loose.  Buffy’s mother felt a burst of pride go through her when the vampire holding her visibly flinched at the implied threat.  She rarely got to see her daughter in action as the Slayer and she viewed her with renewed respect; admitting to herself that her little girl was now an adult.

 

              Spike couldn’t contain his smirk when he saw the other vampire react to the Slayer’s voice and he briefly wished her commando boy friend could have been there to see it. 

 

              (Bloody moron. Thinkin’ he shouldn’t be afraid of her.)

 

               Angel blinked in confusion, his plan to make Buffy vulnerable by appearing in her home and threatening her mother was apparently backfiring on him.  Rather than vulnerable, the still-advancing Slayer looked nothing less than lethal as she stalked toward him.

 

             Quickly regaining his poise, the vampire snarled and tightened his hold on her mother’s throat, slipping into game face and allowing his claws to dig into her skin.  Buffy hesitated, but her expression didn’t change and she continued to move toward him.

 

               While she was advancing slowly, Spike was edging around her to move closer and to the side of the vampire and his now struggling captive. His low growl grew deeper as he watched blood trickle down Joyce’s neck from his grandsire’s claws.

 

               Misunderstanding the reason for the blond vampire’s growl, Angelus shot him a grin and offered, “If you help me get the Slayer to Dracula, I’ll share the mother with you.  Not quite the same as Slayer blood, but pretty close to it, I’ll wager.”

 

               “As usual, Peaches, you don’t have a bloody clue what’s goin’ on here.” He grinned at Angelus’ puzzled glare.  “Hang in there, Joyce,” he added as he moved closer, “We’re gonna have you out of this sick bastard’s hands in just a sec.”

 

                Angelus looked back and forth between the stony-faced Slayer and his grinning grandchilde and remembered how they had teamed against him the last time he was in Sunnydale.  With another snarl, he pulled Joyce into his chest and sniffed at her neck meaningfully.

 

              He ignored Spike temporarily to look into Buffy’s eyes so she could see the madness and resolve there.

 

              “It’s your call, lover.  I can kill her and be gone from here before you can stop me.”

 

                He started backing into the kitchen and edging toward the open door.

 

                “If you kill her, you’ll never make it out the door,” she responded, struggling to keep the fear out of her voice.  “I’m sooo over my inability to stake you, Angel.”

 

                “Maybe,” he admitted grudgingly, his ego bruised at the lack of pain on her face.  “But that doesn’t mean you can take me, lover.  After all, I’m the one who taught you to fight.  I don’t think you can beat me.”

 

               “WE can beat you, Peaches,” came the cool voice from behind him.  He whipped his head around to see that Spike had maneuvered his way between him and the door.  “Although,” Spike added, almost as an afterthought, “I’m pretty sure the Slayer can take you all by herself.  She’s grown up some since the last time you had to fight her.”

 

             Angelus wasn’t a coward, but he was also not a fool.  Although he remained confident that he could beat Spike in a one on one situation, he knew it wouldn’t be easy.  Even when the other vamp had been a cocky fledgling, it had taken time and a considerable amount of brute strength to beat him every time Angelus felt the need to discipline Dru’s childe.

 

              And the grown-up Slayer glaring coldly at him bore no resemblance to the little girl he’d gone up against the last time he lost his soul.  With a sudden flash, he remembered that, with the help of the vampire behind him, that little girl had successfully sent him to hell to save the world.  There had been tears in her eyes, but her sword stroke had been sure and firm.

 

               His attention was so focused on the two lithe blond predators on either side of him that he’d almost forgotten about his hostage.  Showing why she was the mother of one of the world’s longest-lived slayers, Joyce dropped her arm and threw her hand backwards between her captor’s spread legs, drawing a surprised gasp and unmanly yelp from the aged vampire.

 

               He released her neck to clutch at his suddenly painful balls and Spike was immediately upon him, shoving Joyce away as he pinned Angelus’ arms to his sides.  Buffy stepped around her mother and buried her fist in the vampire’s stomach. As soon as she had punched his grandsire enough that Spike was sure he was too dazed to fight back, he stepped back and went to assist Buffy’s mother to a stool.

 

              He resisted the urge to lick the blood trickling down her throat and went to the sink to get her a wet paper towel to hold on the shallow cuts made by the vampire’s claws.  Handing her the towel, he joined her on the other stool and watched with glee as the Slayer worked out all her frustrations about Dracula and her inability to fight him on the body and face of his least favorite relative.

 

               As much as he was enjoying the sight of Angelus being pummeled, he couldn’t help frowning at the expression on the vamp’s face as he began to lose consciousness and he finally stepped closer, stopping Buffy’s final punch with a gentle touch on her shoulder.  He leaned in to look into Angelus’ eyes and then sighed heavily as he turned to the Slayer.

 

             Buffy could see the indecision play across his face as Spike struggled with what to tell her. A part of him wanted to let her stake the other vampire, putting him out of her life forever, but he knew she would never forgive him if he let her do it knowing what he now knew.

 

            “Spike?”

 

             “It’s in there, luv.  Much as I’d love to see you put the great poofter out of our misery, I can’t let you do it because you think he’s lost his soul.  Don’t know why it isn’t workin’ right now, but it’s still there.”

 

           Buffy looked at the barely conscious vampire at her feet and shuddered at how close she’d come to dusting him.  She gave Spike a puzzled, but grateful look and ran to get some restraints from her weapons chest.

 

             When they had Angelus safely restrained with chains and leg irons, they carried him to the basement and attached the chains to bolts in the cinderblock wall.  When the blond vampire cocked a questioning eyebrow at her and licked his lips, Buffy blushed and said quickly, “They were here when we moved in. I never had them taken out because…well, you never know…”

 

             “Wasn’t sayin’ a word, pet,” he insisted, amused by her bright red face.  “What, exactly, was it you thought I was thinking?”

 

            “Nothing!  I wasn’t thinking…anything.  It’s just you…when we chained you in Giles’ bathtub…and you were all with the …and then you wanted to… Nothing.  I wasn’t thinking anything.”

 

           “Oh, I think you were, pet,” he murmured, moving closer to her and enjoying the way her heart sped up. “I think you were definitely thinking something.  Reminded you of good times, did they? When you had me chained up and at your mercy?”

 

            “You’re a pig, Spike,” she snorted. Neither one of them really took the automatic response very seriously and he just oinked cheerfully as they went back upstairs to check on a shaken, but not seriously injured Joyce.

 

               “I’m sorry, Mom,” Buffy said apologetically.  “I really didn’t think we’d need the dis-invite so soon.”

 

                “Can you explain to me why he isn’t dust?” her mother inquired sternly.  She’d never liked the older vampire, even when she thought he was just a college student tutoring her teenaged daughter.  Nothing that she’d learned about him since then had done anything to change her opinion and she was genuinely upset that he was in her basement, chains or no chains.

 

                Buffy sighed and looked at Spike for assistance, but he just shook his head and walked to the refrigerator to look for blood.  With a glare at his unhelpful back, she said quietly, “Spike says Angel’s soul is still in there.  We don’t know why he went all evil again, but –“

 

              “It’s probably one of Drac’s tricks,” Spike spoke up as he put a mug of blood in the microwave.  “You can’t really thrall another vampire, but somebody with all those gypsy tricks up his puffy sleeves probably has ways to release the demon without knocking the soul out.”

 

             “Why would he do that if he hates your family so much?”

 

             “Probably figured Peaches would keep me busy and leave him free to concentrate on getting you where he wants you.  Might’ve worked too if your mum hadn’t been here.”  He gave Joyce a small smile and got a nervous nod in return. “And if we killed each other that’d just be a bonus for him, wouldn’t it?”

 

              “Are you staying here tonight?” Joyce asked the shocked vampire, staring at him anxiously.

 

             Before he could reply, Buffy spoke up, an edge to her voice, “Yes, Mom, he’s staying here.  But you would be perfectly safe with me, you know.”

 

              “I know that, honey. I’m not doubting you at all – not after seeing what you did to…you are going to wipe up that blood, aren’t you?”

 

              Buffy rolled her eyes and said tightly, “Yes, Mom. I’ll clean it up before I go to bed.”

 

              “Good,” her mother said, all trace of anxiety and fear gone from her voice.  “Why don’t you do that and Spike can keep me company in the living room.  I think I have today’s Passions recorded, if you’re interested…”

 

               While the Chosen One stared after them with her mouth open, her mother and her vampire bodyguard walked into the living room to watch a soap opera, leaving her to clean up all the second-hand blood left from the beat down she’d inflicted on her former boy friend.

 

              She grabbed a sponge off the sink and began to clean up the blood splashes around the kitchen, grumbling to herself the entire time about stupid, soap-opera-watching vampires and mothers who didn’t trust their own super-powered daughters.  By the time she was finished, she had calmed down and she joined her mother and her bodyguard in the living room for some prime-time TV.

 

                When her mother was ready to go to bed, Buffy had forgiven her enough to give her a good-night kiss and smile at the way she marched bravely toward the stairs by herself.  At a nod from the vampire, Buffy jumped up and followed Joyce up the stairs saying, “I’m just going to check the windows before you go to sleep, okay, Mom?”

 

              “All right, honey.  Don’t stay up too late.”

 

               A quick look around showed no signs of a vampire’s presence and all windows were closed and locked.  Buffy bid her mother “good-night” again and went in to her own room to change clothes. When she emerged, having changed into her yummy sushi pajamas, she was surprised to see Spike standing at the top of the stairs.

 

               “Is something wrong?”

 

                “No, pet.  I just thought you might want to get some sleep too.  You didn’t get that much last night.”

 

                 “I suppose I should,” she sighed, turning around and looking over her shoulder at him.  “Are you coming?”  She groaned inwardly at leaving him an opening like that, but to her surprise he just grinned and ignored the obvious reply.

 

                 “I thought I’d sit out here for a while,” he said quietly, indicating the hallway.  “So I can hear Peaches, and see your room and your mum’s at the same time.”

 

               “Oh.” Her lip came out in a disappointed pout.  She started into her room, then stopped and without turning around to look at him she asked softly, “Why don’t you want to stay with me? Are you just pretending when you act like you…like you want me?”

 

              He was behind her, holding her by the shoulders before she was even aware that he’d moved.  He gripped them so tightly she knew she’d have bruises the next day and she gasped as he whirled her around to face him.  Without a word, he fastened his soft cool lips on hers and kissed her until she opened her mouth with a small moan.  Immediately, his tongue was inside her mouth, stroking and caressing, encouraging her own explorations.

 

                 His arms banded around her waist and he pulled her willing body against his, allowing her to feel just how much he was not pretending to want her.  When she reluctantly pulled her mouth away to pant for air, she rested her forehead against his chest and gasped, “Okay, not pretending.”

 

                “Not pretending,” he agreed, taking unneeded gulps of air himself.  “But not going to take advantage of the situation, either.  Much as I might want to…” he said with groan, pushing her away firmly.

 

              “All right, now you’re just trying to confuse me.  Take advantage of the situation how?  You’re going to be in my bedroom. With my mother’s blessing. What’s the problem?”

 

             “Think about this for a minute, luv.  Under ordinary circumstances, even if you really wanted me--” He shook his head when she started to protest. “Even if you really wanted me, would you be wanting to do something about it with your mum right next door and your ex – your ex what has vampire-hearing – in the basement?”

 

              She frowned; then her face crumpled.  “You mean this is just because…it’s another spell?” 

 

               She was forced to admit that he was right – she would never have tried to have sex while her mother  was in the next bedroom; not if she was in her right mind.  And the idea of Angel lying chained in the basement listening to her with another man made her shudder.

 

                 “This is because of the thrall?”  Her voice was small and weak, with tears just hovering in the background.

 

                 “Don’t know, pet.  Only you can answer that.  I jus’ know you’re not behaving like yourself--and that means the bloody ponce still has his hooks into you somehow.  And I’m not taking anything from you that you… that…that you might not want to give if you weren’t under the influence.”

 

             They stared at each other in silence for long minutes, then the Slayer nodded in silent agreement and turned to go into her room.  She got into bed silently and curled up under the blanket to ponder the strangeness of her life.

 

             The vampire she had been sure was her soul mate was chained in her basement because he couldn’t seem to hang on to that soul around her.  Her “normal” boyfriend was a demon-hunting, chemically enhanced commando with little or no understanding of the world she inhabited.  And her mortal enemy, the vampire that had been ogling her since she was sixteen, who was incapable of carrying on a conversation without peppering it with sexual innuendos, who had vowed to make her his third dead Slayer was sitting outside her bedroom intent on protecting both her life and her virtue.

 

              She drifted off to sleep, secure in the knowledge that no matter what Dracula did, Spike would keep her safe.  Something the vampire vowed to himself he would do no matter what it took. He chose not to exam his motives too carefully, comfortable with pretending that he was only keeping her safe until he could kill her himself.

 

             As he settled back against the wall, wishing he could light a cigarette, but knowing Joyce would not want him smoking in her house, a sleepy voice drifted out of the Slayer’s open bedroom door.

 

            “Spike?”

 

            “Yes, luv?”

 

            “Do you have a thrall?”

 

            “Dunno. S’pose I do.  Comes with the whole vamp package I think.  Why?”

 

              “Why didn’t you ever use it on me?  Back when you wanted to kill me, I mean.”

 

             “Well, it’s cheatin’, innit?  Wanted to kill you in a fight, not mojo you to death.”

 

             “Well, that was dumb,” she murmured, as she drifted off.  “I might have killed you.”

 

            “You still might, pet. ‘S what keeps life interestin’.”

 

           “Mmmmph”

 

          The vampire smiled as he heard her breathing become more regular and he knew she was asleep.  He went into vamp mode and extended his senses throughout the house. He could hear Joyce’s even breathing from her room and knew she was also soundly sleeping.  The fact that both Summers women were depending on him to keep them safe gave him an unaccustomed warmth in his chest and he mentally shook his head at himself.  (Turning into a right ponce myself. Must be old William tryin’ to raise his nancy-boy head.  First thing you know, I’ll be spouting poetry and bringing them flowers.)

 

             He listened carefully for sounds from the basement, but the muffled moans and growls he heard told him that Angelus was still recovering from the beating Buffy had given and he relaxed against his wall, prepared to stay awake until the sun could once again take over protecting the house and its occupants.

 

 

 

Chapter Four

 

            Once again, Buffy awoke to the sight of her former nemesis propped up in the chair in her room, dozing lightly just out of reach of the small shaft of sunlight that had managed to find a crack in the drapes.  She studied his softened features for a few minutes, noting the long lashes brushing his chiseled cheeks and the fullness of his lower lip.  She unconsciously licked her own lips, remembering how that mouth felt on hers and the things Spike could do with his lips and tongue.

 

            With a little shake, she brushed the lustful thoughts from her head, reluctant to admit that Dracula’s thrall might be responsible for her attraction to the other vampire, but not willing to risk another embarrassing aftermath if it was true.  She got up and padded softly in her bare feet over to the sleeping vampire and touched his shoulder gently.

 

           “Spike?  I’m up now.  Why don’t you shift to the bed? Get some comfortable sleep.”

 

           His eyes popped open and he glared around angrily before his gaze settled on her and he relaxed, smiling at her sheepishly.

 

           “Some bodyguard I am,” he muttered. “Fallin’ asleep on the job.”

 

          “If I’m the job, then wouldn’t that mean you fell asleep on me?  And, since you’re in the chair, and I was in the bed, all alone…”

 

           He glared into her laughing eyes and growled, “Don’t start with me already this morning, Slayer.  I thought we settled it last night that I’m keeping my distance until we know you’re in your right mind. Don’t fancy being staked if you wake up and change your mind.”

 

             In spite of his words, he couldn’t smother that little thrill that he got every time the Slayer said something flirty or suggestive to him and he vowed to torture Dracula for the rest of his unlife if it turned out to be his magic that was creating this warm, willing Slayer.

 

           “I’m just teasing you, you old grouch.  Lighten up.”

 

           Buffy moved away from him and grabbed some clothes as she headed for the bathroom.

 

           “Go to sleep, Spike,” she said more softly.  “I’ll talk to you later this afternoon.”

 

            “Alright, luv.  Promise me you won’t go anywhere with the–with anyone until I can come with you.  If you think you found where the bloody git is hiding, just come back and get me, yeah?”

 

            “Yeah, yeah.  Don’t go anywhere without my bodyguard. I’ve got it.” 

 

                She waved her hand flippantly and disappeared into the bathroom, leaving a frowning and very tired vampire behind. With a sigh of resignation, Spike dropped his boots and shirt and fell once again onto the bed that was still warm from her body.  He inhaled her scent on the sheets and pillows and wished briefly he could take off his jeans and press his whole body into the warm depression she’d left in the bed.  A moment’s thought about Joyce’s possible reaction if she found him naked in her daughter’s bed and he regretfully gave up the tempting idea.

 

              Buffy tiptoed back into the room to get her shoes and quickly pulled the sheets back up over his prone body as she had the day before.

 

              “’M not cold, Slayer,” he mumbled, more from the habit of disagreeing with everything she did than because he wasn’t grateful for her concern.

 

               “Just don’t want to have to sweep your ashes out of my bed tonight,” she snarked back at him.  She countered his replying grunt by smacking him lightly on his rear before jumping away from the bed with a giggle.

 

            “Watch it, Missy,” he growled, turning his head to peer at her with one eye.

 

            She stuck her tongue out at him and left the room, closing the door quietly behind her.  Her palm tingled from the contact with his muscular butt and she fought the urge to go back and feel those hard cheeks with both hands.

 

         (Man, if this is all because of Drac’s magic, I need to get rid of him soon before I do something I’ll never live down.)

 

           She entered the kitchen chanting silently, “I have a boy friend, I have a boy friend, I have a boy---“

 

 

 

Chapter Five

 

              Spike slept comfortably in Buffy’s bed until he was awakened in the afternoon by a timid knock on the door and Joyce poking her head in.

 

              “I’m sorry to wake you, Spike, but I need to ask—“

 

               “’S fine, Joyce. What do you need?”  Spike sat up, rubbing his eyes.  He was very grateful he’d kept his jeans on as he’d awakened sporting a substantial erection from having had his face burrowed into Slayer scented sheets all day.

 

                “Angel – he’s insisting he’s fine now and we should let him loose. I don’t know—“

 

               Spike snorted.  Now that he was awake, he could hear his grandsire bellowing for him to come down and release him so that he could help Buffy.   Rolling his eyes at the whining tone in Angel’s voice, he stood up and assured Joyce she could leave for the gallery and that he would take care of the vampire chained in the basement.

 

               He took his time putting on his boots and shirt, picking up his duster from the back of the chair as he walked out of the Slayer’s frilly bedroom.  He smiled when he got to the kitchen and saw that Joyce had put a mug of blood in the microwave for him. 

 

               (Slayer’s mum knows a good thing when she sees it. I hope it rubs off on her daughter.)

 

               With a wicked grin, he poured some cold blood into a cup for Angel and, taking his own warmed breakfast with him, he opened the door to the basement and carried the two cups downstairs.  He stopped at the bottom, sitting on the steps and sipping his own blood as he studied his grandsire.

 

                Angel glared back at him and growled, “I don’t know what you’re playing at here, Spike, but you need to let me out of these chains. Now.”

 

             “Now, why would I want to do that, Peaches?  Seems to me the last time you were loose you were threatenin’ to eat the nice lady who fixed me my breakfast.”

 

            “And that’s another thing!  What are you doing here?  Did you stay here last night?  Why do you smell like Buffy?”

 

            “I’m here to keep Drac and any other unworthy vamps,” He paused to sneer at the fuming vampire chained to the wall, “away from the Slayer and her mum.  I guess I smell like Buffy cause I was sleeping in her bed…”

 

             Spike smirked and then laughed out loud as Angel threw himself against the restraints with a roar of rage.  He let the older vamp wear himself out raging against the chains before he added, “’Course the Slayer wasn’t in it at the time, so it wasn’t as much fun as it could have been.”

 

             Angel spoke through gritted teeth. “What are you up to, Spike?  I know Joyce doesn’t have the good sense to kick you out and dis-invite you, but what are you doing sleeping in Buffy’s room?”

 

            “I’m her bodyguard until Drac gets what’s comin’ to him. And, apparently until you go back to fun city.”

 

             “YOU? YOU’RE her bodyguard?  William the Bloody?  Slayer of Slayers?  Sing me  another one, Spike.  Her watcher would never let you near her.  Let me out of here.  I need to talk to Giles.”

 

             “The Watcher is who asked me to keep an eye on her.  Don’t think he’s likely to extend that invite to you after the Slayer tells him about last night’s little performance.”

 

            “That wasn’t me and you know it!  I was under some sort of spell…Something let the demon out and I couldn’t control him.”

 

            “See, Peaches. That’s the difference between you and me. I CAN control mine; and that’s why the Watcher trusts me to keep his Slayer safe until she dusts that gypsy wanker.”

 

              “I don’t trust you!  I don’t want you near her.  And if I catch you in her bedroom while she’s in it….”  Angel’s eyes glowed golden as he glared at his rebellious grandchilde.

 

            “You just don’t get it, do you?”  Spike shook his head in mock sadness.  “The only person who can decide who she has in her bedroom-- or her life-- is the Slayer herself.  Or her mum!” he added hastily as Joyce came cautiously down the stairs.

 

             Giving the blond vampire a smack on the back of his head that caused Angel’s jaw to drop, Joyce said firmly, “And don’t you forget it, William.  I still know where the axe is, you know.”

 

             “Yes, Mum,” he grinned, rubbing the back of his head.  “Was just trying to get ol’ Peaches riled up.”

 

             Joyce cast a suspicious eye at the glowering vampire chained to her basement wall and whispered, “Is he still all…you know?”

 

              “I can hear you, Joyce,” Angel said with a sigh, slumping back against the wall.  “And, no, I’m not still all…whatever. I’m fine and if you will tell the bleached moron to let me loose, I’ll get out of your hair as soon as the sun goes down.”

 

               “Gonna have to talk to the Slayer about that, Grandpa. I’ll let you know what she says.”

 

               Spike laughed as he accompanied Joyce back up to the kitchen to the accompaniment of blood curdling snarls from behind him.

 

               “Oh my God!  Is he--?”

 

               “Nah, he’s just brassed off that we didn’t rush to let him loose just because he said so.  He’ll get over it.”

 

               After showing Spike where the Watcher’s number was on the speed dial, Joyce reluctantly left for the gallery and the showing that was scheduled for the evening.  Spike picked up the phone and punched in the Watcher’s number, still grinning at the angry bellowing coming from the basement. 

 

                 “Yes?”  The Watcher’s voice was tired and testy.

 

                “Slayer there?”  Spike didn’t bother to identify himself and was gratified when Buffy’s voice came through the receiver.

 

                   “Spike?  What’s going on?  Where’s Mom?”

 

                   “She’s fine, Slayer.  On her way to the shop for some fancy art show or somethin’.  Peaches seems to be himself again, and he’s whining to be let loose.  Told him I’d talk to you about it.”

 

                   “What do you think?”  Buffy’s question left him shocked into silence.  She was asking HIS opinion? If he’d needed proof that she was not herself, he was sure he’d just heard it.

 

                  “Spike?” the impatience was palpable.  “Do you think he’s all right or not?”

 

                 He sighed heavily and answered with reluctance,  “Yeah, Slayer, I think he’s his usual broody souled self again.  He says somethin’ mojo’d his demon out and he couldn’t put it back. Guess that’s how Drac got him to okay his plan for you.  He knew if the soul was in charge the poof’d come after him for touching you.”

 

                  “So, where’d the demon go?”

 

                    He chuckled. “Think you beat it out of him, pet.  It’s gone back into hidin’ until he’s back in LA.”

 

                     “Okay, fine.  Let him loose, and tell him to get his ass back to LA or I’ll kick it again.”

 

                  “Be my pleasure, luv.”  He took a glance outside at the darkening sky and asked,  “D’you want to stay there until I can come get you?”

 

                   “No, we decided we’re going to let Xander lead me to Drac.  Giles will follow us, just in case.   Let Angel go, and then meet us in the parking lot. You’ll have to stay back with Giles until I get inside.”

 

                  “No toy soldiers as back up?”  He kept his voice calm and controlled, trying to sound like all he cared about was knowing how much help they had.

 

                  “No,” she said shortly.  “We don’t know where Riley is and Xander won’t say.  That’s the reason we’re going there tonight.  To get Riley out.”

 

                  “All right, luv.  I’ll leave as soon as I let the Great Poof loose. You wait for me, Slayer.”

 

                  “Don’t tell me what to do, Spike.” Buffy did not sound very much like the Slayer and he could hear the worry in her voice as she readied herself to rescue her boy friend.

 

                  Biting back the retort he wanted to make, and smothering his growl at her risking her life for the soldier, he just said quietly,  “Please, Buffy.  Just wait for me, luv.”

 

                Her tone softened and she whispered, “Just hurry,” as she hung up on him.

 

                 With a frustrated snarl, he raced down the stairs and threw the keys to the restraints at Angel.

 

                   “Here, you bloody wanker.  Get yourself loose and get out of Sunnydale. I’ve got to go.”

 

                  “Go where?” Angel growled as he began to take off the restraints chaining him to the wall.

 

                   “Got to go do my job.  Unlike you, being around Drac doesn’t take me back to being –oh, wait – I never was an uncontrollable demon. That was you.  Slayer says to get yourself out of Sunnydale before she stakes your arse.”

 

                 “She didn’t say that, Spike.  And if she did, it’s only because you’ve been feeding her lies.”

 

                Spike stopped his return trip up the basement stairs to turn and stare at Angel in complete amazement.

 

                “Peaches, you tried to kill her mum last night.  I know that soul has done you some damage, but are you tellin’ me you don’t remember that?”

 

                 “I remember it,” he mumbled. “But she knows it wasn’t really me. She’ll forg-“

 

                  Spike started to retort, then shook his head and just continued up the stairs.  Ignoring the sounds of the other vampire freeing himself and shouting for him to wait, he went out the door, coat over his head, and ducked into the nearest manhole.  Ten minutes later, he poked his head up cautiously and breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the sun had dropped far enough for him to emerge. He sprinted to the parking lot of Giles’ building, only to find it empty.  Snarling to himself, he quickly sniffed the air, searching for some trace of the Slayer’s scent. 

 

                   Five minutes later he picked up the faintest trace of her unique scent and thanked the Powers that he’d had the past two days to sleep surrounded by Buffy’s essence, knowing he probably would have missed it had it not been so familiar to him.  He ran along as fast as he could without losing the trail, grumbling to himself the whole time about “impatient bints” and “wankers not worth saving”.  Just as he arrived in front of the castle that he was sure hadn’t been there last week, and prepared to join the impatient Watcher in entering the building, he was knocked to the ground..  His last thought before briefly losing consciousness was that he was going to fail Buffy when he’d promised to keep her safe.

 

               Inside the old dog pound now masquerading as a castle, Buffy was having an argument with the Romanian vampire about the nature of her power and the likelihood of her joining his “family” willingly.  When she continued to deny that she had any interest in exploring her “darker nature” with him, he went to a chess set tastefully decorating a small table and picked a piece from the white set.   As he held the piece in his hand and fondled it, she found herself shuddering as though he was touching her.

 

               “Do you see this, my sweet slayer?” he asked, showing her the queen he was holding in his hand.  “This could be you. My consort.  My queen.” 

 

                  He gently stroked the carved wooden figure and Buffy trembled, feeling his hands as though they were traveling over her own body.  She shuddered again as he laughed and caressed the object in his hand, smiling at the disgusted and unwillingly lustful look on her face. 

 

                  He closed his hand on the small queen and Buffy felt her breath become labored as her chest was squeezed by an invisible giant hand.  Spike!  Where are you?  You promised me… She fought unconsciousness as long as she could, but finally succumbed to the lack of oxygen and collapsed where she was standing.

 

******************

 

               When Spike’s senses came back, he glanced around fully expecting to see Dracula’s human or vamp minions surrounding him.  Instead, he found himself facing an angry, fully souled Angel.

 

                “Did you really think I was going to let you go riding in to the rescue, Spike?” He said the younger vampire’s name as though it was a curse.  “Did you really think I would let you anywhere near her?”

 

                “This isn’t about you, Peaches.  It’s about keeping Buffy from becoming one of that wanker’s undead whores.  So, either help me, or get the bleeding hell out of my way!”

 

                 He jumped to his feet, slipping into game face as he saw his grandsire shake his head and allow his own fangs to descend. Angel placed himself between Spike and the open door, growling, “Buffy can take care of herself until I get there.  She doesn’t need help from the likes of you.”

 

                  “What the bloody hell is wrong with you, Angel?”  The Watcher’s voice had an icy edge and he cradled the crossbow in his arms as he stood beside the younger vampire.

 

                 “What’s wrong with me is that I don’t want Buffy thinking she owes this pain in the ass anything.”

 

               “So, you’d rather she died?”  Giles’ voice was a mixture of disbelief and disgust. He had never really forgiven the souled vampire for killing Jenny Calandar and to hear him casually dismiss Spike’s proven ability to keep his surrogate daughter from Dracula’s control because he was worried she would be grateful to the wrong vampire, made his hand itch to cock the weapon in his hands and send a bolt into Angel’s chest.

 

               “Go inside, Watcher. If you get a chance to put a bolt through that piece of Romanian shite, you won’t hurt my feelings.”

 

                 Spike’s voice was quiet and controlled and the watcher found it more chilling than any of the ranting he’d heard from the blond vampire through the years.  He looked back and forth between the two master vampires facing off with equally determined expressions and nodded briefly.

 

                 “I’ll do what I can,” he said quietly.  “Don’t be long.”

 

                 “Don’t plan to be.”

 

                 As Giles slipped around Angel and into the hallway, he heard the sounds of snarls and growls as the two vampires came together, fists and fangs clashing.  He entered what seemed to be the main room and froze in horror as Dracula raised his head from the Slayer’s throat, blood dripping from his fangs.  He smiled at the Watcher, enjoying the sight of his brides stripping the man of his crossbow and dragging him to the ground to run their mouths and hands all over his body.

 

                Contrary to how it appeared to Giles horrified gaze, the vampire had not drained Buffy, but simply sampled her blood again while she lay on the table far enough under his thrall to be unable to move and not so far that he couldn’t see the fear and loathing in her eyes.

 

                  “Giles!” She managed to get out.  “Spike?”

 

                  “Coming,” the older man replied before he lost all interest in anything but the cool bodies crawling all over him. 

 

                   Outside, Angel was discovering that the unruly fledgling he’d disciplined so often over a hundred years ago had matured into a master vampire with not only superior strength, but a joy in the fight itself that made him a more than formidable opponent.  When a particularly powerful kick to Angel’s chest sent the larger vampire slamming into the side of the building and stunning him into temporary immobility he realized that Buffy might well have chosen the right bodyguard after all. To his surprise, rather than follow up with a killing blow, his grandchilde simply whirled and ran into the building, leaving his defeated grandsire to slowly pull himself erect and stagger into the building after him.

 

               Buffy hung on to her Watcher’s answer that Spike was on his way, fighting grimly against the old vamp’s insistence that she taste his blood and learn what awaited her as his consort.  He was still pressing his bleeding wrist against her clenched lips when she heard a familiar drawl behind her.

 

               “Found some friends there, have you Rupes?”  The amusement in Spike’s voice when he saw the staid Watcher writhing under the attentions of Dracula’s brides was a welcome sound and Buffy immediately redoubled her efforts to avoid the blood being forced on her.

 

               Her muffled cry brought Spike’s attention to the bloody scene in the center of the room and his expression changed immediately from amusement to fear and rage.  With a bellowed, “Buffy!” he crossed the space in one bound, shoving the older vampire off the table and across the room.  

 

                “Come on, Slayer, Snap out of it.”  He pulled her up, running his tongue over the bleeding holes in her neck as he had the last time and using his thumb to wipe Dracula’s blood off her still rigidly clenched lips.  She gave him a grateful look, but remained limp in his arms. Turning his head toward the still-stunned dark haired vampire Spike snarled, “Release her. Now!”

 

               With a resigned shrug, Dracula waved his hand and said dismissively, “Very well.  I release her.  She is too stubborn to make a good bride anyway.”

 

              Buffy turned her eyes on Spike, taking in the cuts and bruises left from his fight with Angel.

 

               “You look like hell,” she said shakily, smiling at him in spite of her words.

 

               “You’re welcome, pet,” he grinned, pushing her bloody hair off her face.  “Are you alright now?”

 

                “I’ll be better when I’ve turned that slimy piece of dead meat into dust,” she growled, glaring at the vampire just bringing himself to his feet and trying to maintain an air of dignity.

 

                “Look at me, my queen.  Look into my eyes—“ Dracula’s voice choked off as Spike landed in front of him, punching him in the nose and blackening both eyes. 

 

                “Didn’t I tell you to keep your bloody fangs to yourself around her?  And that goes for your stinking thrall, too.  Try it again and your castle’s going be on the market as a fixer-upper.”

 

                Spike shook the taller vamp, banging his head against the wall until he felt a small hand on his arm.

 

                “Uh, Spike?”

 

                Dropping back into his human face, he turned to look at the girl standing beside him holding a stake.  Abashed, he let go of the other vamp and stepped back.

 

               “Sorry, pet.  I didn’t mean to get in your business.  I just—“

 

               “You were just doing your job…bodyguard.  Now it’s time for me to do mine,” she added grimly as she plunged her stake into the famed vampire’s chest.

 

                   She watched in satisfaction as the dust fell to the floor and turned to leave, tossing her hair behind her.  Spike touched her arm, nodding his head back at the pile of dust and raising an eyebrow.  Buffy sighed and nodded, turning back around and waiting impatiently as the dust particles reformed.  As soon as they had reassembled themselves into the shape of the world’s most famous vampire the Slayer pushed her stake up against his chest and said, “Do you think we’ve never seen your movies?”  She drove the stake in again, watched the dust fall and folded her arms. 

 

               She tapped her foot until the particles started to pull together again then snapped, “I’m standing right here.”  The particles immediately fell back to the floor and she took her foot and scattered them around before walked over to where the brides were just looking up from her Watcher’s bemused face to see what was going on.

 

              She staked two of them before they had time to shriek, and dusted the last one as Spike caught the fleeing female vamp and held her still for the Slayer’s stake. The two blonds looked down at the still-dazed but increasingly embarrassed watcher, watching in amusement as he tried to straighten his clothing without being obvious about it.  They simultaneously burst out laughing, Buffy turning away to give the man some privacy to get himself together.  Spike continued to grin at his fellow Brit until Buffy poked him to get his attention.

 

            “Leave him alone, Spike.  We need to go find Xander and Ri—“

 

            “You’re still bleedin’, luv,” Spike’s eyes were riveted on the blood still trickling down the side of her neck and without realizing it, he licked his lips slowly.

 

             Buffy tilted her head and watched him with a small smile before moving her hair back and offering her throat.

 

              “Well, what are you waiting for?  Fix it, Spike.”

 

              The vampire gaped at her.  “Not sure how I feel about this,” he growled as he leaned toward her.  “The Slayer offering me her bleeding throat to lick like I’m as harmless as a pet dog.  Should I be offended or honored?”

 

              “I was kinda hoping you’d be turned on,” she whispered as his cool tongue ran up her neck. 

 

              “Oh, that was a given, luv,” he purred, licking the now-closed bites long past the point where they stopped oozing.  “Does this mean it wasn’t the thrall talkin’ when you invited me into your bed?”

 

               Before Buffy could answer, Angel burst into the room shouting, “I KNEW he was up to something!  Step away from him, Buffy.  I’ll save you!”

 

               Angel rushed toward the two surprised blonds, who turned their heads to stare at him.  His clearly murderous charge toward Spike was interrupted by Giles’ sitting up suddenly, causing the enraged vampire to trip over him and crash to the floor at Buffy’s feet.

 

                “Angel?  I thought I told you to go back to LA?” She whirled on Spike angrily. “Didn’t you tell him what I said?”

 

               “I told ‘im, luv.  Guess he didn’t believe me.”

 

              Angel looked up at them, bewilderment clearly written on his face. 

 

               “Buffy, he bit you!  I just saw him licking your blood off.”

 

                The Slayer rolled her eyes and shook her head.  “No, Angel.  DRACULA bit me.  You know, the vampire that you said could have me?  The one Spike has been protecting me from this week?  Spike was just stopping the bleeding.  Which, if you’d waited to find out, might have kept you from looking like such as ass.”

 

                “Got to say though,” Buffy said, turning back to glare at the blond vampire smirking at Angel,  “You took your own sweet time getting here.  I thought I told you to hurry? Giles came in a long time before you did.”

 

               “Sorry, pet,” he answered shortly.  “I had to get past an obstacle that was set up in front of the door.”

 

               “What obstacle?  I didn’t see any-“ She looked back and forth from his banged up face and Angel’s equally battered body.  Understanding slowly appeared in her eyes and she took a menacing step toward her ex-boyfriend.

 

                “You tried to keep him from getting in?  What the hell is wrong with you, Angel?”

 

                   “Jealousy,” her watcher croaked, pulling himself to his feet and walking around the rising vampire.  “He was more worried about your being grateful to Spike than he was about saving your life.”

 

                   Buffy stared at the embarrassed face of the man she used to think of as her soul mate and shook her head sadly.  She spoke softly and slowly.

 

                    “That’s twice recently you’ve tried to decide for me who I can and cannot have in my life.  I think it’s time for you to go back to LA and stay there, Angel.  You wanted me to have a life without you—so let me do it.  Stay out of if from now on.”

 

 

 

                   Chapter Six

 

                When Angel had slunk off into the night, muttering to himself about vamps that should never have been allowed to crawl out of their graves and women who don’t know their own minds, Buffy looked at her Watcher and allowed real concern to show for the first time.

 

                “Do we know where Xander and Riley are?”

 

                 He shook his head and started to speak when the former burst into the room, his own thrall gone now that Dracula was still dust particles scattered around the floor.

 

                  “Where is he?” he demanded, waving a stake vigorously.  “Where is the bloodsucker that thought he could make me his butt monkey?”

 

                   “You WERE his butt monkey, you stupid git,” Spike grinned. 

 

                 When Buffy and Giles nodded in reluctant agreement, Xander shamefacedly lowered his stake and mumbled, “Well, it was okay.  I knew Buffy could take him.  No problem.  Right, Buff?”  His voice begged for the answer he wanted to hear and Buffy sighed.

 

                 “No problem, Xander.  We had it covered.” 

 

                 She looked apologetically at Spike as her friend chose to assume “we” meant the Watcher and the Slayer, but the vampire just shrugged and smiled warmly at her. Confident that Spike knew how much she appreciated his help, Buffy turned back to Xander and demanded to know, “Where’s Riley?  What did they do to him?”

 

                 The boy jumped suddenly and gasped, “Oh, my god!  I forgot about Riley!  I…I might have, sortof, kinda…left him with the brides for a while…yesterday.”

 

                Buffy’s face paled and Spike couldn’t control his growl at her obvious fear for the man who was theoretically her boyfriend.  Pushing down the jealousy that threatened to destroy whatever good will he’d built up between them, he followed Xander and Buffy down the hall.  When the boy stopped in confusion, admitting that he didn’t know exactly what room Riley might be in, Spike blew out an unnecessary breath and stepped forward.

 

                “Follow me,” he muttered.  “I can smell the overgrown boy scout.”

 

                 Buffy followed him anxiously as he strode off down a corridor, sniffing occasionally to be sure he was going the right way.  “Is he…?”

 

                  “He’s alive, luv,” he admitted reluctantly. “But I do smell blood.”

 

               He reached a darkened opening and held up his hand for her to stop.  Slipping into vamp mode, he leaned in and looked around, finding himself looking down into a damp, dirt-floored room on which her boy friend was sprawled, apparently asleep.  There were no stairs down into the pit, and he said, “Just a minute, Slayer.  I’ll hand him up to you.”

 

                  After warning Buffy to stay back from the edge, he jumped down to the damp floor.  A muffled, “eep!” was his only warning that Buffy had disobeyed his order to stay back from the edge and he whirled just in time to catch her as she fell gracelessly into the room. 

 

                 “Bloody hell, Slayer,” he growled into her hair which was covering his face in a sweet-smelling cloud, “Can’t you follow a simple direction?”

 

                 In spite of his angry words, he used the occasion to hold her tightly for a few seconds before lowering her feet to the floor.  As she slid down his body until her feet were touching the bare ground, he almost groaned aloud at his instant reaction to her warmth.

 

                  “I’m sorry?” she breathed meekly, her arms still around his neck where they’d landed when he interrupted her fall.  Neither of them made any move to separate until a moan from Riley reminded Buffy of why she was standing in the dark clinging to Spike.  With a guilty start, she slowly pushed away from his chest, trying not to notice that his arms had tightened almost imperceptibly before he sighed softly and released her. 

 

                  She stepped back, her hands sliding down his arms until they rested on his wrists.  He could feel her trembling and couldn’t stop himself from whispering, “Slayer—Buffy…”

 

                “No,” she said in a less than firm voice.  “Don’t.  Please?”  She released his wrists and stepped back again, almost stepping on Riley.

 

                “Buffy?  Is that you?”

 

                 “Yes, Riley, it’s me. ..and Spike.  We’re going to get you out of here, okay?”

 

                   She heard him struggle to sit up and reached out a hand until it rested on his head. 

 

                 “Spike’s going to hand you up to me and Xander and we’ll pull you out.  Can you stand up?”

 

                  “Yeah, I think so.  I’m just a little weak…”

 

                   Buffy turned to Spike, knowing he could see both the soldier and her.  Her unspoken question was obvious to him and he whispered softly, “I smell the blood, luv.  I imagine they’ve been chewing on him a bit.  He seems pretty strong, though.  Heartbeat’s steady and whatnot.”

 

                  She nodded and looked up at the opening where Xander was on his hands and knees trying to see them.   She flexed her legs and said,  “Xander, get back. I’m coming out.”

 

                  She felt Spike’s hands on her waist and knew immediately what he was going to do.

 

                 “On three.”

 

              “One, two…three!” She jumped as Spike tossed and she was back up in the doorway, grabbing the sides for support.  She turned quickly and gestured for Xander to stand to the other side.

 

               “Okay, if you can get him up here, we’ll catch him,” she called down. 

 

                She heard sounds of scuffling and growling before Riley’s large body came flying up at them almost too hard for them to stop it.  Buffy’s Slayer speed allowed her to snatch at his arm before gravity could pull him back down and she yanked him through the door and onto the floor.  Once he was in the light, she could see the small bites all over his neck, arms and shirtless torso.

 

                  “Oh, Riley!  You’ve been bitten all over!”

 

               “I’m all right, Buffy.  It wasn’t that bad, actually.”

 

                Spike’s sarcastic snort caused a puzzled frown to cross Buffy’s face before she turned her attention back to the commando. 

 

                “Do you need to go to the hospital?”

 

                 “No, I’ll be fine.  Just get me back to the base.  We have…remedies…for things like this.”

 

                 With Xander on one side and Buffy on the other, they helped the weakened soldier walk toward the door and Giles’ waiting car.  As they passed the entrance to the large hall where Dracula’s dust was once again struggling to pull itself back together, Buffy paused and said loudly,  “If this place is still here tomorrow, I’m coming back and setting fire to it.”   She was rewarded by the sight of the dust falling back to the floor, doing its best to remain still and innocent-looking.

 

                With a snicker, she continued out the door after her Watcher, the blond vampire bringing up the rear of the small parade.   As he passed the doorway, he slipped inside quickly and snatched the white queen from the floor, putting it in his pocket for safekeeping.  He laughed as an angry hiss came from the dust pile, and knew he’d made the right decision for keeping Buffy free of the old vampire.

 

                  Giles insisted that only those who had lost blood during the course of the evening were allowed to ride in his small car, leaving Spike and Xander standing on the sidewalk staring wistfully after them.   Spike could see a small face looking out the rear window at him until the car was out of sight, and he cradled the carved queen gently in his hand as he watched it drive away.

 

                 With a thump on Xander’s shoulder that brought him only a slight twinge of pain, he started off, surprising the boy by offering to see him safely home.  They strode through the night, the shorter blond vampire walking with such authority that he appeared just as tall as his much larger dark-haired companion.

 

                “I guess you’ll be glad to go off slayer-sitting duty and get back to whatever it is you do now that you can’t eat people?”  Xander’s attempt at friendly conversation was met with a snort.  “I mean, it’s not like Buffy needs a bodyguard anymore.  So I guess that means you’re out of work.”

 

                “I guess it does,” the vampire replied noncommittally. 

 

                “It’s not like you were getting paid for anyway,” Xander continued.  “You WEREN’T getting paid for it, were you?”

 

                 Spike thought back to past few days and nights; sleeping in Buffy’s slayer-scented bed, flirting and touching her without fear of reprisal, of the expression on Angel’s face when she sent him packing, of the lingering promise in the way her body responded to him even after the thrall was broken.  He smiled and once again softly touched the carving in his pocket.

 

                  “Not as such, Whelp.  Not as such.”

 

                  He strode on through the night, smiling to himself and ignoring the puzzled looks from the boy walking beside him.

 

The End

 

The sequel “I Would Die for You” can be found at    http://spuffystuff.org/dieforyou.htm

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