Knowing and Watching

 
 

Sue World’s Spike magic manip – sequel to I Know You, II.


AN:  Skip the lengthy summary of the prequels if you’ve already read those stories. It’s provided mostly for those who haven’t read them, or who may have forgotten what happened.






Sue World’s Spike magic manip – sequel to I Know You, II.


Previously:  In Prologue to Life/I Know You, post Chosen Buffy has been grieving for Spike and her unhappiness is causing Dawn, Giles and Willow to worry about her. Willow does a spell that is intended to put Buffy back into the bouncy frame of mind she was in when she was sixteen and as carefree as is possible for a slayer to be.  The PtB step in and return adult Buffy to the body of her youthful self in Season II.  Soulless Spike appears, ready to kill his third slayer, only to find that this slayer knows him too well.  Not only can he not best her in a fight, she calls to his libido in ways he can’t understand.  There is sex, angst, misunderstandings, more sex, sad farewells, and an eventual happy ending in which souled Spike, now “dead” after the final battle in NFA, is given a choice of going to Heaven or returning to Buffy, now firmly established in her younger body.  Needless to say, he chooses to go to his slayer.


In the sequel, titled I Know You, II, we followed the adventures of the displaced Spike and Buffy from the first story.  Buffy, now wearing an older, stronger body, but still a seventeen-year-old slayer, has existed for almost a year in an alternate world in which there is no Sunnydale. She has managed to find a job, a place to live and to make her way in this very different world, but she misses her mother and friends and hopes that someday she will be pulled home.  Spike’s reunion sex with Buffy, which was rudely interrupted when the PtB put “her” Spike into his body, ends abruptly and he finds himself dressed, slayer-less and in a graveyard.  There is much less sex (lots of UST, though) in this story of how a soulless but somewhat changed vampire, and a young slayer whose life has been very different from what it would have been if she’d stayed in Sunnydale, work their way from cautious allies to partners to lovers.


The following story is set in their world and catches up with them a few years after the events of IKY, II. Spike has settled into the role of Buffy’s watcher and fellow fighter against evil.  In their new world, demons and vampires walk among the humans and only those who seek to prey upon others are deemed slay-worthy.  Their lives are eventful enough to keep them from being bored, and quiet enough for them to have grown in their relationship until they are so much a part of each other’s lives that to not be together is unthinkable.


A new villain has arisen in a nearby resort city, and they must call upon some of the things Spike has learned as a watcher to find and defeat him. Because they can, they spend a lot of their time at home having sex.  We peek into one of their research sessions to begin our story...


Watching and Knowing



Prologue:


“Never thought I’d see the day when I missed having a Council of Wankers around.”


Spike’s grumbling elicited giggles from Buffy as she stood up from the table full of books and stretched her stiff back.  Spike’s insistence that they make themselves familiar with all the demon varieties in this world was a constant source of bickering between the reluctant watcher and his slayer mate. However, even he had to admit that wading through the large amount of information publicly available about demons and vampires in their new world was a daunting task.


“Yeah, but if they were around, they’d want to make one of them my watcher.  And I like the one I’ve got.”  She came around behind him and leaned over to nuzzle his ear, sliding her arms around his chest and giving him a small hug.  “I don’t think the Watchers’ Council has anybody quite as sexy as you are, or with all your…talents.”


“Too bloody right, they don’t!” he agreed with a purr.  “And don’t you forget it, missy.  You’re the only slayer to ever have a watcher like me.”


“Of course, I’m also the only slayer in this dimension, so who knows? Maybe, if they had a Watchers Council, it would be full of sexy young men.”  Her giggle at his possessive growl brought a reluctant smile to his face. 


“Got two words for you, love: Rupert Giles.”


“Ewww! Way to spoil that fantasy, Spike!”  She went to straighten up from her position, only to find herself yanked around the chair and onto the grinning vampire’s lap.


“I catch you fantasizing about anything but my tight little body and I’ll--” He broke off, both of them fully aware that he would do nothing to hurt his mate, regardless of what she might do to him.


“You’ll what?” she whispered, watching his lips come closer to hers and closing her eyes in anticipation.  “What would you do?”


Instead of the kiss she was expecting, she found herself dumped onto the floor as he stood up saying, “Turn you over my knee and make that delectable little arse rosy red.”


From her position on the floor, Buffy glared up at him.


“Promises, promises,” she huffed. 


“That it is, love. That it is.”  He smiled and offered her his hand, pulling her to her feet and into a tight embrace.  He gave her the delayed kiss she’d been looking for and enjoyed the way her body responded to him so quickly.  With a barely-audible whimper, she melted into him, trusting his strong arms to hold her up as her knees weakened.  His immediately noticeable response to her turned her whimper into a satisfied sigh as he tightened his hold and whispered into her ear, “What do you say, love? Time to take a break from all this sittin’ and readin’?”


Her reply was to wrap one leg around his waist and pull herself against the bulge in his pants.  He dropped his hands to her ass and hoisted her up so that both legs were around his hips and her warm crotch was pressed against him.  After a few moments of panting and dry-humping, he let her slide down his body so that he could unfasten her jeans and his.  Buffy moved backwards, pulling him towards the table full of books, but before she could jump up on it, he stopped her.


“Oi, slayer! Not on my books!”  At the horrified look on his face, she shook her head and burst into laughter.


“Oh my god! You are turning into a real watcher!  Just listen to yourself, Giles Jr.”


“Bite your tongue!”


“Why don’t you bite it?” she challenged, sliding her jeans down her legs.


With a growl, he picked her up and strode out of their improvised library and into the bedroom, throwing her down on the bed so hard that she bounced.  Still giggling, Buffy quickly shed the rest of her clothes and waited for him to join her in the big, sturdy bed that had been their first purchase as a couple.


Dropping his pants to the floor and tearing his tee shirt off over his head, he leapt into the air and across the space separating them.  He landed with admirable precision, one hand on either side of her head and with his legs just outside hers, holding himself up so as not to knock the wind out of her with his weight.  He shifted into his game face and growled, “Now where is that tongue you wanted me to bite?”


“Right here,” Buffy giggled, sending her tongue darting out at him and then quickly snatching it back inside her tightly closed mouth.  “Oops! You missed it!”


“Is that so,” he purred as he lowered his hips and began to rub his erection against her, teasing at her lips until her thighs parted for him and he could touch the moistened flesh hidden within.  When Buffy opened her mouth in a silent “Oh!” he slipped his tongue in and kissed her, taking care not to cut her lips with his fangs.


In spite of the care he was taking and the way she was distracting him by arching her body against his, he felt her tongue glide across one of his sharp fangs and the heady taste of slayer blood soon filled his mouth.  Making a sound somewhere between a whimper and a snarl, he collapsed upon her, allowing his cock to seek the opening that she was trying so hard to present.  Buffy’s arms and legs came around his body as she pulled him in and began the gentle squeezing that she knew he loved.


The taste of her blood left him with no ability to resist her actions, and he was soon pounding into her and gasping her name as she met him thrust for thrust.  Their mouths met and parted; Buffy’s need for air and Spike’s need to murmur his adoration and appreciation making it impossible for them to continue the deep kisses for any length of time.


When he felt Buffy begin to clench around him and tremble with her release, he allowed himself two small sips from her throat before he exploded within her, calling her name as he did so.


They shuddered together, connected both physically and mentally as their mutual claim sent emotions back and forth between them in a seemingly unending spiral of sensation.  With a final gasp, he buried his face in her neck and allowed his full weight to press her into the mattress.  Rather than try to move him, Buffy relaxed her limbs completely and enjoyed the sensation of being totally beneath him – skin to skin from head to toe.


Eventually, his weight and her desire to breathe became factors and she had to give him a little nudge, saying with true regret, “As much as I like feeling you against me like this, even slayers need to breathe every once in a while.”


“Sorry, love,” he said, immediately rolling off her, pulling her with him so that she was draped across his body with her head on his chest.  “I didn’t mean to smother you.”


“You didn’t.  I’d stay like that forever if we could figure out how to do it without squishing me.”


“Don’t you think you’d get hungry after a while?” he teased, stroking her back with one hand and holding her possessively close with the other.


“Probably,” she agreed, snuggling into his side.  “That was kind of a quickie, wasn’t it?”


“Too fast for you?”  All cockiness was gone as he worried that he’d disappointed her.


“Were you paying attention at all?”


“Yeah, I was paying attention, but if you think it was too fast--”


“Doofus,” she said fondly, kissing his chest and running her tongue across his nipple.  “I didn’t say it was too fast.  I just said it was a quickie.  Isn’t that what a quickie is?  When we both get off really fast?”


“I suppose so,” he agreed reluctantly.  “’s not like I’ve had a lot of experience with quickies…”


“Bragger!”


He laughed and pulled her against him tightly.  “Not bragging, love. Just sayin’, don’t know of anyone else could ever get me off that fast.  You’re my one in a million.”


“You’ve had a million women?” 


“What? No! It’s just an expression.  Bloody hell, Slayer, are you trying to start an argument?”


“Maybe,” she admitted.  “Anything’s better than going back to those boring old books.”


“It’s almost dark, love.  Let’s get some dinner in us and go out for some hunting.  That ought to brighten up your day – we’ll find something for you to kill.”


“Slay,” she said firmly.  “I don’t kill, I slay.”


“Tomato, tomahto, love.  They’re just as dead, aren’t they?”


“No. Sometimes they’re dusty.”  She fixed him with what she hoped was an intimidating glare, somewhat spoiled by being on a face with kiss-swollen lips on a thoroughly limp, naked body.


Instead of apologizing or arguing, he just smiled and stroked her hair.  “I love you, Buffy.  Love you so much it scares me.”


Her face softened and she smiled shyly back at him.  “I love you, too, William.  But it doesn’t scare me; it makes me happy.”


“Makes me happy, too, sweetheart.  I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy in my life – or unlife.”



Chapter One


It had been three years since Spike and Buffy had destroyed the Master and his minions. Three years in which their bond had deepened and Buffy had settled into the job as the one and only slayer in their darker world.  With Dawn’s help, she was able to stay in touch with her mother and her friends back in Sunnydale, but she no longer missed them the way she had before Spike had been deposited in Winterset.  Seeing them through the sides of the portal-bubble once every couple of months had turned out to be enough for all of them.  Xander and Willow were continuing their lives in Sunnydale, finishing high school and moving into adulthood.  Their lives had diverged from both Buffys’ – the Buffy now living in their world was living in grown-up domesticity with her souled Spike and no longer pretending to be any younger than she actually was.


“Their” Buffy, on the other hand, had been forced to grow up very quickly when she’d found herself alone in a strange world.  High school, college, who was dating whom…these were all things that were completely foreign to her life in Winterset. She had settled into a comfortable life that surprised both herself and Spike – slaying what few vampires or demons were foolish enough to want to challenge a slayer and her master vampire mate, traveling around the country, or the world, as she was needed. 


“Come on, lazy bones,” Buffy said, pulling on Spike’s toes where they stuck out of the side of the bed.  “It’s almost three o’clock in the afternoon. We promised the mayor of Shadyside that we would be arriving tonight.  The train leaves at five.”


With an exaggerated groan, Spike opened one blue eye and scanned the room, his gaze going immediately to the windows.  He groaned again when he saw that it was a dark and dismal day outside. 


“So much for hopin’ it was a sunny day,” he grumbled, sitting up and scratching his chest.  “Don’t see why I have to go, anyway.  The woman wants to see you – the Slayer – not some old vampire what follows you around like a puppy dog.”


Buffy’s laughter at his semi-serious complaining did nothing to improve his mood, and he growled as he stretched his stiff body.


“You know you’re not my puppy dog,” she soothed, reaching over to run her fingers through his disarrayed curls.  “You’re my guard dog.  All mean and scary and…”


“And thoroughly tamed,” he laughed, his mood improved by her soothing touch.  “You’ve got me on a tight leash, and you know it.”


“I don’t want you on a leash,” she said, suddenly serious.  “I want you with me because you love me and want to be beside me.  Do you feel like I own you?  Like I’m a boss?”


Once again cursing Buffy’s absent father and whatever other experiences had caused the insecurities still hidden under a beautiful young woman’s outward poise and confidence, he hastened to reassure her.


“Meant that in the nicest way possible, pet,” he crooned, pulling her onto his lap and nuzzling his marks on her neck.  “Want to belong to you.  Do, you know.  Even without the claim, I’d be yours for as long as you wanted me.  You didn’t put that leash on me – I did.  And I’m grateful for it every day.”


“You don’t have to come with me, you know,” she offered, still not sure that she hadn’t detected an undercurrent of unhappiness in his voice.  “You’re right about the mayor.  She just wants to see me to talk about some gangs of young vamps that are terrorizing tourists.  There’s probably nothing watchery to do.  I’ll find out where they hang out, slay a bunch of them and the rest will run home to their mamas.”


“You want me to send you out to face a bunch of undead hooligans by yourself?  What kind of a mate do you think I am?” 


Full of righteous indignation, he rose to his feet and deposited her on the floor, an arm’s length away from his naked body. Without further comment, he grabbed his jeans off the nearby chair and began to pull them on, muttering about “insecure bints with no common sense” and ignoring her satisfied grin.


“I’ll be warming up your blood,” she threw over her shoulder as she left the bedroom. 




~~~~~~~~~~~


Learning to get around safely had been a challenge at first, but with the shorter days and darker skies of the new world, Spike had soon adapted to the new conditions and found that many days, a good hat with a wide brim, his ubiquitous leather coat, and gloves would be enough cover to allow him to move around during the daylight hours.


Cities in this dimension were much smaller and more widely spread out than in their original world.  Word had spread about the Slayer and the vampire who was her constant companion, and they occasionally received calls for help from other areas of the world.  Clem, they discovered, had relatives on almost every continent, so no matter where they went, they were assured a place to stay and some demon hospitality.


The trip to the neighboring resort city was a fairly short one – nothing like the ones they occasionally had to take to reach trouble spots elsewhere in the world.  They easily made the train and relaxed into their seats.  There was little to see out the windows as darkness settled in and the train sped through the barren lands between the two cities.


Buffy dozed on Spike’s shoulder until she felt the rougher ride when the train crossed other lines as it pulled into the station.  She stretched, drawing admiring glances from the few men scattered around the mostly empty car.  One possessive flash of Spike’s fangs had them all becoming very interested in something else and, while they waited for the train to stop, they carefully avoided looking at both the pretty girl and the vampire accompanying her.


Buffy shook her head, giggling at Spike’s muttered threats that she knew were more for show than anything else.  He actually enjoyed the attention his California girl drew from the male populations of this darker world, basking in the knowledge that she was all his and happy about it.


~~~~~~


An hour later they were sitting together on an overstuffed sofa in the comfortable living room belonging to Janice Stevenson, the mayor of Shadyside and the woman who had contacted Buffy. They accepted cups of tea and assuring Mayor Stevenson that they understood completely why she hadn’t wanted to meet them at her office.


“I just think it would be better if no one knew that you were here,” she said with an anxious glance around her otherwise empty living room.  “Many of these boys…these vampires…have parents who are still part of their lives, and they would be very unhappy if they knew I had brought the Slayer to Shadyside.”


Buffy nodded her understanding, while Spike raised his eyebrows.


“They’re still with their families?” he asked in surprise.  In spite of the differences between this world and the one they had come from, the idea that you could become a vampire and remain in the bosom of your family struck an ache he had thought long gone.


“Well…” She shrugged and struggled to explain. “I wouldn’t say that they are ‘with’ their families. They all live…well, we don’t exactly know where they live or the police would have done something about them by now. They don’t live at home. We do know that.  But they stay in touch, show up for family parties and things like that.”


“I guess if you’re a parent, having your kid alive – even if he’s really dead – is better than knowing he’s gone forever.”  Buffy sounded dubious, but smiled reassuringly at the other woman.


“Speaking as a mother…” the woman smiled back at her, “I have to say that if something happened to one of my children that was fatal, but didn’t take them completely out of my world, I’d be very grateful.” 


“So what’s the plan, then?” Spike skipped right to the crux of the matter. “You want the Slayer to scare the piss out of them, but leave them in one piece?”


“Yeah.” Buffy frowned. “That’s a good point. What do you want me to do? If I fight them, somebody’s going to get dusty.  Maybe that would scare the rest of them into behaving for a while, but…”


The mayor sighed and refilled her teacup.  “I understand,” she said sadly. “I know that some of these boys are not going to survive an encounter with you. But if it scares the rest of them into minding their manners a bit better, it will be worth it.  I just don’t want their parents to know that I brought you in.”


“Of course,” Buffy said quickly. “You don’t want to lose friends over it.”


“Or votes,” Spike drawled, raising one eyebrow at the flushed woman.


“Neither one,” she responded firmly.  “Some of these people are my friends.  I’ve watched these boys grow up – or grow up as much as they could before something killed them.”  She met Spike’s eyes firmly. “And, yes, I would lose some votes if it became known that I was directly responsible for having any of them killed.  The owners of the businesses that depend upon the tourist trade would be happy, but the boys’ parents and their friends would not.”


“Can’t the parents control them?” Buffy asked, a small frown furrowing her brow.  “I’ve never had to slay anything that had parents before.”


“Everyone has parents, love,” Spike reminded her gently. “It’s just that in our world their vamped offspring tend to do them in before the families have time to mourn.”


Mayor Stevenson appeared shocked.  “You mean in the world you came from, vampires kill their own families?”


“In most cases,” Spike said tightly.  “I think our demons might be a little stronger than yours. You wouldn’t see any turned kids running to Mum for sympathy in our world.”


“Oh dear.”  The mayor sipped her tea while she absorbed this information, then she glanced up at Buffy’s troubled face.  “Then you won’t have any problem staking someone your age or younger?”


Buffy shook her head.  “No. I can handle it.  Back in Sunny- my hometown - it wasn’t uncommon for me to have to stake vamps that I’d gone to high school with.  I even almost had to stake a child once, but An--my boyfr—a friend did it for me.”


She glared at Spike who hadn’t been at all fooled by her stammering, and who had muttered loud enough for the other woman to hear, “Bloody poof probably enjoyed it.”


Turning her attention back to the older woman, Buffy asked, “Is this normal? For you to have so many young vampires in your city?  In Winterset it seems like the vamps are pretty careful who they turn.  They don’t do a lot of random vamping.”


The mayor shrugged.  “We’ve never had quite this many before.  I’m not sure what happened. Maybe an older vamp turned one boy and he went after all his friends?  I don’t know why we ended up with so many boys the same age all vamped at the same time, but it’s like an epidemic.”  She glanced up at a sound from the hallway.  “Oh, hello, honey. Come in and meet our guests,” she said to a lanky teenager wearing a high school jacket.  “This is my youngest son, Jason,” she said, smiling fondly at the boy.


Buffy smiled at the embarrassed young man and waggled her fingers at him. “Hi, I’m Buffy,” she said. “And this is Spike. We’re just visiting here for a few days.”


He nodded and smiled pleasantly, but didn’t come any farther into the room. Spike abandoned his intent to shake hands, sinking back into the cushions and nodding instead.


“You must be pretty important visitors if my mom’s your first stop,” he said, laughing.  “There are a lot more interesting places to go on your first night here than our house.”


Before either Spike or Buffy could explain what they were doing there, Mayor Stevenson spoke up.


“Buffy’s mother and I were friends in college,” she said, giving Buffy’s hand a warning squeeze.  “She promised her mom she would come and see me as soon as she got here.  We were just finishing up our chat when you came in.”


“Well, don’t let me interrupt,” he said with a shrug.  “I’ll be in my room cramming for a math test tomorrow.   Nice to meet you, Buffy, Spike,” he added as he turned to leave.  “Let me know if you want to know where the hot spots are in town.”


“It was nice to meet you, too, Jason. I hope we see you again before we leave.”


Spike just nodded and raised his hand in farewell, frowning slightly as his eyes followed the boy from the room.


After receiving information about which clubs and restaurants the gangs of vamps seemed to be hanging around the most, and being told that Mayor Stevenson had made reservations for them at a seaside hotel, Spike and Buffy stood up to leave.


“Are you going to begin tonight?” she queried as she walked them to the front door.


Buffy shrugged. “Probably. We aren’t expecting to have to stay very long. If these are just kids who’ve gotten carried away with their new power, seeing a few of their friends go ‘poof’ ought to give them something to think about.”


Spike nodded, grinning at the woman’s shudder. “Nothin’ like meeting the pointy end of the Slayer’s stake to ruin a bloke’s night,” he agreed.  “Makes stayin’ home and watchin’ TV with the folks look mighty appealing.”


Turning down Mayor Stevenson’s offer to call a cab for them, they assured her that they would prefer to walk the easy couple of miles to their hotel.


“It’ll give us a chance to get the feel of the city, and to maybe meet one of the gangs.  Who knows? We might get lucky and get mistaken for lost tourists right away.”


  They waved their good-byes and walked off in the direction they’d been pointed, watched intently by their hostess.  When they were out of sight, she closed the door and leaned against it briefly, then raised her head, straightened her shoulders and went to the back of the house.


She knocked twice; then pushed her son’s door open, smiling when he glanced up at her.


“How’s the cramming going?”


“Could be better. I’m thinking maybe I should have paid more attention last week…”


“I’m sure you’ll be fine,” she said, frowning at his unusual lack of confidence.  “You’re a very bright boy.”


“I’m a jock, mom.  When are you going to admit that?”  He gave her a sheepish smile. “I do my best, but I’m never going to be a brain, like…”


“Don’t.”


He sighed and nodded.  “Sorry.”  He waited for a few minutes then asked, “Did you want something, Mom?”


“I…no, not really. I just wanted to…to be sure you were here. That’s all.”  She gave him a sad smile and turned to go.  “Just do your best tomorrow. I’m sure you’ll be fine.” She paused with her hand on the door.  “Jason?”


“Yeah?” He glanced back up at her.


“Stay in tonight. Okay?”


“Was planning to.”  He went back to his notebook, missing the relieved slump to her back as she closed the door behind her.







Chapter Two



“So, pet. What do you think? Is the good mayor hiding something?”


“That’s your call, Mr I-can-tell-when-somebody’s-lying.  Did you think she was?”


Spike shrugged and thought for a minute. 


“Well, she was more nervous than you might expect from someone who should have been glad to see us.  And her heart went into overdrive when the boy came home.”


“Huh.” She watched Spike’s face as they passed under a street lamp, noticing the indecision there.  Giving him a poke in the side, she said, “Give it up, vampire.  What else?”


Spike grinned and put his arm around her. “Can’t put anything past you, can I?”


“Nope!” She popped the ‘p’ sound at the end of the word. “And don’t you forget it, buddy.”


“Wouldn’t dream of it, love.”


“So, what is it? And don’t tell me ‘nothing’, ‘cause I know I felt something weird.”


Spike nodded.


“Something was off with the boy.  He isn’t quite…normal.”


“He’s a vamp?”


Spike shook his head. 


“I don’t think so. He’s got a heartbeat, but it’s very slow. And I’d guess if he’d shaken my hand, his wouldn’t have been much warmer than mine.  Don’t know what to call him, but he’s not a quite a real boy.”


“Well, that is weird.  No wonder she was nervous. She was probably afraid I’d slay him.”  She bit her lip.  “If her own kid is a sort of vamp, I wonder why she called us in? You’d think she’d want to keep me away.”


By this time, they had reached the hotel and restaurant area that began a few blocks from the beach and continued down to the water’s edge.  They located the neon sign marking their hotel and decided to check in before exploring the nightlife going on around them. 


The desk manager had been expecting them, and he greeted Buffy enthusiastically.  It was soon apparent why the mayor might have been forced to bring in the Slayer, in spite of the less-than-human condition of her own son.


“Slayer! It’s such an honor to have you here. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that you and your…” he glanced at Spike, who was rolling his eyes at the man’s obsequious performance  “companion… have chosen our hotel for your stay in our city.”


“I think, actually, Mayor Stevenson chose it for us, but we’re happy to be here.” Buffy smiled her thanks and dug an elbow into Spike’s ribs.  “After we find our room, I think we’re going to sample some of the famous nightlife. Can you recommend a few clubs?”


The man winked and said in a whisper, “Oh, yes. I can show you where to go to find the kind of nightlife you’re looking for. I can’t wait for you to get started. The hotel owner has instructed us to give you every assistance.”


He gestured to a bellboy, who promptly appeared at Buffy’s side, frowning when he realized that the only luggage they had with them were the duffle bags over Spike’s shoulder.  The manager blinked, but recovered quickly.


“Johnny here will show you to your room; that’s part of his job,” he said, glaring at the unhappy-looking boy.  “Whether you have luggage or not.”


The bellboy led them to the elevators and pushed the button for the fourth floor, keeping what he obviously deemed a safe distance from Spike.  Buffy tried to allay his fears, joking to Spike that his reputation had obviously preceded him.  Her joke fell flat as Johnny moved even farther away from the now leering vampire.


“Lead on, John-Boy,” Spike said.  “Maybe I can come up with some other way for you to earn that tip, yeah?”  He wiggled his eyebrows and allowed his eyes to flash amber for a second before laughing and thumping the wide-eyed boy on the back.  “Just kidding, mate. I’ve already eaten today.”


Buffy got between Spike and the clearly frightened boy, managing to sound reassuring at the same time as her glare at the laughing vampire promised serious retribution.


“He’s only kidding, Johnny,” she said kindly.  “He thinks he’s funny and I just don’t have the heart to tell him he sucks at it.”


“Heh,” the boy replied weakly.  “Here we are.”  He pointed to the door of their room and began to turn away.


“Hold on, mate.  I’m sorry I scared you – well, no, I’m not sorry, cause it’s about the only fun I get---” He dodged a half-way serious punch from Buffy, put his arms around her and nuzzled her ear until she stopped trying to squirm away.  “But I really do have another way for you to earn your tip.  What can you tell us about these gangs of baby vamps that are frightening off the tourists?”


Johnny glanced up and down the empty hallway, then whispered, “I have to be careful. You never know who they are.   One day a guy’s just another flunky here, and then the next night he’s munching on the guests.”


Wriggling out of Spike’s grip, Buffy opened the door to their room and jerked her head for them to follow her inside.  She waited, calming the still-nervous boy, while Spike walked around the suite, listening and smelling carefully.  When he nodded that they were the only ones in the room, Buffy relaxed and turned to the bellboy with a smile.


“So, you know some of them?” she asked.  “Were they friends of yours?”


“Well, not so much friends as co-workers…although some of them are guys who went to my high school.  It just seems like there are more of them all the time.”


“Have they tried to recruit you?”


“You mean has anybody tried to turn me into a vampire?”  Johnny drew himself up to his full five feet five inches.  “They know better than to mess with me.  I can take care of myself.”


Turning his back to hide a grin, Spike let Buffy continue the questions, but he whirled back when Johnny said casually, “I’m surprised Mayor Stevenson finally asked you to come. She’s been fighting the hotel and club owners for months.”


“She has? Why? Why didn’t she want the Slayer here?”


“I’m not sure. But she argued against it at every town meeting.  I’ve heard the owners complaining about her. Everybody’s losing money now that word is getting out about our problem.”


Buffy and Spike exchanged looks, remembering his assessment of the boy they’d met.


“Do you know the mayor’s kids, John?” Buffy asked casually.  “Doesn’t she have a boy about your age?”


He made a face. “Jason Stevenson doesn’t go to a public high school like I did.  He goes to that private school that a lot of the vamps go - went - to.  So did his brother, I think. He was more my age, or maybe a little older.  I’m a high school graduate, you know,” he added with an aggrieved pout, once again standing up as tall as he could.


“We met Jason tonight. But we didn’t talk much. What can you tell us about him or the other brother?”


“Jason’s still at his fancy private high school He’s some kind of a jock -- in the paper all the time. That’s why I know about him. The other one’s…I don’t know. I guess he’s in college somewhere. He’s supposed to be some kind of a brainiac. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him except maybe a picture in the paper or something.”


“But you don’t know him,” Buffy pursued.  “You don’t know if he’s one of the vamps?”


Johnny shrugged. “No. I don’t know him, but I think somebody would have said if they saw him.”  He thought for a second. “Of course, most people who get that close to the vamp gangs end up dead or turned, so it’s not like they’d be telling, is it?”


“Not likely,” Buffy agreed.  “Okay, John, thanks for the information.”  The young man beamed at her use of his more adult name, turning to leave the room. Buffy cleared her throat and glared at Spike until he opened his wallet and handed the boy some bills. 


Johnny smiled his thanks and let himself out the door, leaving Spike and Buffy to ponder what they’d learned so far.



Buffy rummaged through the bag Spike had tossed on the bed, pulling out the dressier pants and top that she’d brought.  As she casually changed her clothes, smiling at his open admiration when she took her shirt off, she asked, “What do you think? All the boys came from the private school at first – and now they’re turning other kids.  Do you think it’s some kind of gang initiation?”


“Not a soddin’ clue, love.  Could be some Master wannabe is collecting minions, but if so, he’s not doin’ a very good job of keeping them under control.”


“Well, if the ‘Master’ is a kid himself, he probably has no idea how run a …what do you call it?  Family?  Clan?”


Spike shook his head and walked over to zip up the back of her low-cut red blouse.


“Family is just those directly related to you – and turned with being family in mind.  It’s a bit different, turning someone you intend to bring into your family than it is just creating another vamp.  And a clan is made up of all the families going back to one or two original vamps of that line.  These kids haven’t been at this long enough to create either one of those things – even if they knew enough to think about it.”


Buffy pulled on a pair of boots that looked dressy, but had sturdy heels and hard toes.  She could fight or dance in them, and even run if it became necessary.  She pirouetted for Spike, asking, “What do you think? Do I look like a tourist?”


“You look good enough to eat,” he said with a leer.  “If anything would bring out a healthy teenaged boy vamp, it should be that outfit.”


Buffy slipped a thin, but very strong, stake into the small of her back, using the looser bottom of the blouse to hide it.  She had a knife in one of her boots, holy water in her purse, and an extra stake in the false lining.


Spike patted his pockets to be sure that the extra stakes were still there, then gestured towards the door.  “After you, my lady.”


“Are you armed?”


“Always, love.”  He flashed his fangs and flexed his fingers, running one claw lightly down her cheek.  “And don’t forget that. The vamps always have their weapons with them. Even the baby vamps.”


“Yes sir, Watcher, sir,” she giggled, preceding him out the door and switching her hips as she walked to the elevator. 


“Just want to be sure that cute little arse stays in one piece,” he growled, stepping into the elevator with her.  “You’re a bit too cocky sometimes.”



Chapter Three


After some advice from the concierge on which clubs seemed to be most likely to lose guests from time to time, they went out into the relatively balmy night air and headed for the first club on their list.


“How do you want to play this, love?  If we go in together, it’ll be obvious you’re with me, and as soon as the bitty bads get close enough to realize what I am, they’ll back off.”


“I know,” she pouted. “I was looking forward to dancing with you, but I guess I’d better stay away if I want to catch flies with my honey.”


“I find any flies touching your honey – they’re gonna wish you’d staked them…” he growled, pushing her ahead of him towards the entrance to the club.


Buffy’s laugh tinkled back to him as she dazzled the bouncer with her smile and easily gained access to the noisy club.  She left Spike outside to find his own way in, and quickly melted into the crowd of pleasure-seekers.  She got herself a drink and began to walk around the room, smiling when spoken to, but not stopping to talk to anyone.  Very few of the patrons looked like they were young enough to be high school, although there were some who appeared to be college-aged.


She finally settled on to a bar stool and nursed her drink until she felt the unmistakable tingle that said ‘”vampire.”  She turned her head slowly, as if scanning the room for someone, seeking the source of the vibes.  She saw Spike’s bright head at the far end of the bar, but quickly dismissed the tingles coming from his familiar signature.  Failing to find anything else remotely vampire-like, she turned back to her drink, only to be startled by the presence of someone on the stool beside her.


“Eeep!”  She grabbed at her drink, which she’d almost knocked over in her surprise.


“I’m sorry,” the shy-looking young man next to her said hurriedly.  “ I didn’t mean to frighten you.”


“No, it’s all right. I just didn’t hear you walk up. It’s so loud in here…”


They exchanged smiles, then Buffy went back to her drink, flicking her eyes at Spike to be sure he hadn’t moved.  They drank quietly for a moment, then her seatmate said uncertainly, “I couldn’t help but notice that you were looking around the room. Are you meeting someone?”


Buffy rolled her eyes.  “Yes, one of my friends was supposed to meet me here tonight. It’s why I came to this club. But I guess she must have found something else to do…”


“That’s too bad.  But, hey! Maybe it’s lucky for me.  I don’t know anyone in here either.  We could…maybe…keep each other company?”


Buffy met his innocent gaze and tried to hide her dismay.  He seemed like a genuinely nice guy, and yet, he was setting off her slayer radar.  Not in the same way that Spike did, but definitely alerting her to his lack of humanity.  She remembered what Spike had said about the Mayor’s son and studied her companion a little closer, noting his normal pink coloring and nervous sweat.  She rested her hand on his just long enough to pick up on the fact that it was not as warm as hers, then took it back quickly.


“I’d like that,” she said with a smile.  “I feel really uncomfortable sitting in a bar all by myself.”


“Would you prefer to move to a table?” he asked eagerly.


Buffy nodded and followed him to a small table at the back of the room. She glanced at Spike again, relaxing when she felt his eyes on her.  As long as he knew where she was and could see her, she wasn’t worried that he’d give them away by tearing through the crowd looking for her.


After an hour of desultory conversation, during which Buffy was sure they were both lying through their teeth, James – for that was the young man’s name – suggested that since neither of them seemed to be the type for loud clubs, they might want to go down the street to a quieter restaurant that he knew about and have a late supper.


Completely bored with what was not happening where they were, Buffy readily agreed and stood up.  She glanced at the bar and saw that Spike was already on his feet and moving towards the door.  Smiling, she allowed James to steer her outside and onto the sidewalk.  There was no sign of Spike, but Buffy could feel him nearby.


She and James strolled down the walk, Buffy keeping enough distance between them that there was no chance he would take her hand or put his arm around her.  She knew her mate too well to expect him to let something like that slide, and she didn’t want poor James to be terrified.  Although he was clearly not all human, he also seemed to be harmless and lonely, and Buffy didn’t want to cause him any unnecessary harm.


Not until they came to an alley and he tried to turn her into it, anyway.  When she balked, mentally re-evaluating her opinion of him, he hung his head and shuffled his feet, saying, “It’s safe. I promise you.  It’s just that the restaurant is at the other end of this alley and I thought it would be easier on you with those high heels to take a short cut. We can walk around the block, if you’d prefer.”


Ashamed of what she’d been thinking, Buffy blushed.  “No, it’s fine. I’m sorry. It’s just…where I come from, walking into an alley with somebody you just met – male or female - isn’t a very good idea.”


“Well, I’m sure I’m safe,” he said with a smile.  “No one as pretty as you are could possibly be dangerous.”


Buffy smiled weakly and nodded, not sure that she hadn’t heard a choked laugh from the rooftop above them.


They’d gone only a third of the way down the alley - which Buffy was surprised to notice was actually pretty well-lit - when a soft sound behind her alerted her to another presence.  She whirled, ignoring the gasp from her companion, to find a boy who looked to be no more than fourteen or fifteen smiling at her.  As several other boys dropped almost soundlessly to the pavement, she smiled with satisfaction.


“Hi, guys!” she said in her best “blonde” voice. “I was hoping you’d show up.”


A few of the smarter young vampires frowned at this unusual display of fearlessness, but most of them just broadened their grins and let their fangs show.  If they were aware that their world now contained something called a “Slayer”, or that said slayer lived only a few hours away by train, it didn’t seem to have occurred to them just yet.  They moved to surround Buffy, shoving her companion to the ground when he tried to protest, but making no attempt to bite him.  Buffy looked over her shoulder at James and hissed, “Run, you idiot!”


She turned her head back in time to see the boy, now right in front of her, grin at her escort and wave his hand.


“Yeah, you’ve done your part,” he sneered. “Run away now.”


Buffy didn’t have time for anything but a disappointed glare at the cowering man before she had to concentrate on the much-too-cocky vampire now running one hand up her arm and saying with exaggerated bravado, “You’re so pretty, I might just keep you.”  Had it not been for his distorted face and the fangs, it would have been laughable to see a boy his age coming on so strongly to an obviously older and uninterested woman.


Buffy rolled her eyes, and without bothering to quip, landed an uppercut to his jaw that sent him flying back into his friends.  Still not realizing what they were looking at, two equally oblivious boys jumped her at the same time.  Buffy ducked their well coordinated attack at the last second, allowing them to collide with each other; and, while they were recovering, she pulled the stake from her waistband and plunged it into first one, then the other.


Before the dust was settled, she had spun into action against the remaining vamps, using her feet and the stake to whittle down their numbers.  The two suspicious ones that had held back whirled to escape, only to find another vampire blocking their way.


“Get out of the way, asshole!” one shouted, shoving Spike’s chest. “We’ve got to get out of here!”


“Don’t think so, mate,” he replied, catching the offending hand and gradually bending it backwards.  “Slayer’s not done with you, yet.”


His other arm shot out and clothes-lined the second young vampire, sending him to the pavement with ease.  Still holding on to his first victim, he continued to apply pressure to the now-screaming boy’s wrist until Buffy, who had dusted all the others, said quietly, “Spike, quit playing with them and just do it.”


“You’re no fun, Slayer,” he grumbled as he pulled a stake from his pocket and put the boy out of his misery.  He yanked the other one off the ground, but before he could dust him also, Buffy said, “Wait!”


She walked up to the terrified boy dangling from Spike’s hand and studied him for a minute.  Without his game face, he looked like any other middle or high school boy, maybe a little paler than you might expect from one living in a resort town, but pretty normal-looking.  She cocked her head at him.


“Do you know who I am?”


“I know what you are,” he snarled. “We were warned about you.”


“Really?  You were warned?”  She smiled.  “That’s kinda cool.” She twirled her stake. “I guess you didn’t listen, then, huh?”


“We didn’t know…nobody said you could…”


Spike came to his rescue. “Nobody told you the Slayer would be a little girl who could kick all your arses without mussing her hair?  Seems like they left out some important information.”


The boy nodded, becoming hopeful as the two very strong adults facing him seemed more interested in talking to him than staking.


“Who warned you?” Buffy asked abruptly.  “Who told you I was coming?”


If anything, the boy’s face became paler and he shook his head vigorously.  Even the shake that Spike used to rattle his teeth couldn’t change his mind. It was obvious that there was something or someone that he feared more than he did the certain death in front of him.


“Give me an hour or so, pet,” Spike said with a growl.  “I’ll get some answers out of him.”


Buffy shook her head, shocked to see what seemed to be tears standing in the boy’s eyes. 


“We don’t torture children,” she said, lifting her stake.  “We’ll find out some other way.”  As the stake plunged toward his chest, the boy cried, “Tell my mother I lo--”


His dust floated down to join the rest of the group’s remains, leaving only Spike and Buffy standing in the alley.  Spike’s ears could pick up the sound of James’ feet as Buffy’s would-be date fled the scene as fast as he could.  He made note of the direction in which the strange man had gone, but his immediate concern was the girl standing in front of him.


“You all right, pet?” he asked anxiously.  “You know that wasn’t really a kid, right?  The demon in there has probably been around for a long time.”


“I’d like to make myself believe that, Spike. But you know what things are like in this world.  That boy wanted us to tell his mother he loves her.  These aren’t normal vamps.  They’re kids that some jerk has turned into monsters and I want to know who did it and why.”


The melancholy that had been so evident just seconds before was gone and in its place was the narrow-eyed determination with which Spike was only too familiar.


“We’ll find him, love,” he assured her.  “There’s something more going on here than just a bunch of kids making bloodsuckers out of each other.”


They started walking, continuing in the same direction that Buffy and James had been going, but they saw no more vampires, young or old, and eventually returned to their hotel. 


The concierge looked at them hopefully, smiling when Spike gave him a thumbs up sign, then held up his fingers to indicate how many vampires Buffy had staked.  He insisted that they take a bottle of the hotel’s best champagne up to the room with them, assured them that housekeeping would respect the hours they would be keeping and that no one would come in to clean the room until well after 2:00 in the afternoon, or later.


“I could get used to this,” Spike said, swinging the bottle by its neck and holding the elevator door for Buffy.   “I think the best thing about this world – other than that you’re here, of course – is the way they know how to appreciate me.”


I appreciate you,” she pouted, then wrinkled her nose. “And, anyway, I earned that champagne, not you.  All you did was stop them from leaving.  I’m pretty sure that’s my bottle.” She made a playful grab for the bottle, which Spike was now holding up in the air.  Instead of jumping for it as he expected, Buffy slid her hand up his thigh and grabbed the immediately responsive body part resting there.


“You’re cheating!” he complained even as he pushed into her hand and lowered the bottle so as to put both arms around her. 


They jerked apart when the elevator door opened to admit another couple.  Buffy and the other woman exchanged brief smiles; then faced the front until the doors opened at their floor.  With a nod, Spike waited for Buffy to exit the car, then he followed her out with a swagger.


“You’re impossible,” she grumbled, trying not to smile at his cocky smirk.


“Hey, wasn’t me grabbing at someone’s dangly bits.  All you had to do was ask, you know.”


Their banter came to a halt as they saw the figure slumped before the door of their room.  They were just quick enough to catch a glimpse of the fire door closing at the end of the hall, and Spike immediately sprinted to the end of the hallway, bursting through the door and listening for steps to tell him which way the assailants had gone.  Footsteps, too soft and rapid to be human, went in both directions, leaving him to snarl in indecision. He came back from the fire stairs shaking his head and paused where Buffy was leaning over a bleeding Johnny.


“Not human, Slayer,” he growled. “They were too fast for that. Probably could have caught up or tracked them, but I--”


“No!” she interrupted.  “You did right to come back. I don’t want us getting separated here until we have some idea what we’re dealing with.  Help me get him inside,” she added, picking the semi-conscious boy up and swiping her key.  Spike took the boy from her and carried him into the room, placing him gently on the bed.


“His heartbeat’s fine,” he said, assessing the visible damage. “If they were trying to kill him, they didn’t do enough damage to leave the corpse I’d guess they were hoping you’d find.”


Buffy grabbed the first aid kit that was always in her bag, and began to clean and bandage the wound on Johnny’s neck.  The expression on her face did not bode well for the health of his attackers, and Spike stepped back to admire his woman.  Competent, caring and more than capable of avenging the damage done to their new informant, she quickly had the bite wound cleaned and bandaged and was holding a glass of water for the boy to drink.


“Come on, Johnny,” she coaxed. “You need to replace those fluids.”


His eyes fluttered open, widening in fright until he realized who was holding him, then gratefully gulping down the offered drink.  When he’d drained two full glasses of water and a small amount of color had begun to return to his face, Buffy allowed him to slump back against the pillows.  His eyes closed again, his chest rose and fell smoothly and easily while Buffy frowned at him.


“Do you think he needs to go to the hospital?”


Spike shook his head.  “I think he’ll be okay, love. Gonna need a day off work probably, and some good hearty meals, but I don’t think he needs transfusing.”


Buffy bowed to Spike’s hundred years of knowledge about how close to death a human could come and recover -- without allowing herself to really think about how he had become such an expert.  She’d only known him as the helpful companion who had been forced to join her in this strange world, and rarely thought about his many years as a lethal predator before he’d met and been tamed by her other self.


“Okay,” she said dubiously. “If you’re sure…”


“I’m sure,” he said shortly; no more interested in reminding her of why he could be so certain than she was in hearing it.  “Lock the door behind me,” he instructed, moving towards the exit.  “I’m going downstairs to tell his boss what happened and that he won’t be at work for a while.  Maybe he’ll have some ideas about where we should look for the--”


He was interrupted by a knock on the door, and moved quickly to stand behind it as Buffy said, “Who is it?”


“It’s…it’s me. James. From the club?”





Chapter Four


Buffy and Spike shared incredulous looks, his eyes flaring amber and his fangs elongating at the nerve of the man who’d led Buffy into an alley to what was supposed to have been her death.  She held a finger to her lips, shushing the growl she could sense bubbling in his throat, and pointed to the bathroom.  Spike stomped to the small room and stood just inside the door, glaring his lack of agreement. 


“Just a minute,” Buffy said, waving him back out of sight and checking Johnny to be sure he was still breathing.  Satisfied that the room was as non-threatening as one containing a bleeding man and a slayer could be, she opened the door and stared at the man fidgeting on the other side.


“Yes? What do you want?”  Her eyes held no warmth as she waited for his answer.  “And how did you know where I was staying?”


“I…” He looked around nervously.  “I…could I come in? I don’t want to be seen talking to you.”


Ignoring the snarled “Bloody hell!” from the bathroom, Buffy met his nervous gaze.


“Why would I let you into my room?” she asked, her narrowed eyes widening in surprise.  “And why would you want to come in here?  Do you know what I am?”


He nodded vigorously.  “I do. I saw you – what you did to…and then I called…and…I know who you are.”


“Then you’ve got to know that A – I could kill you, and B – that you aren’t on my list of favorite people right now.  And, just in case you didn’t get it the first time…C -- I could kill you.”


“But you…they…I mean. You killed them.  The vampires. All of them?” His voice rose in query and Buffy remembered that he’d run off at some point during the fight.  “So, I didn’t really hurt you, did I?” He sounded genuinely anxious and concerned, but Buffy still stared at him with suspicion.


“You didn’t know I was going to be able to fight my way out of that ambush,” she said, still blocking the doorway with her hard glare and unforgiving stance.  “You thought you’d led me to slaughter.  Tell me, James, how many other girls have you led down that alley for those boys?”


“No…none. Never. I swear!  I was sent to get you. Just you. I’ve never done that before. And I didn’t know they were going to be there – I thought--”


“Who sent you?” Her voice was sharp and he flinched, looking around anxiously.


“Please, I‘ll tell you everything, I promise. But I can’t stay out here. If he hears that I--”


“He who?”  Curiosity piqued, Buffy stood aside and muttered a “Come in”. She watched as the man skittered across the threshold, coming to an abrupt halt when he saw Johnny lying on the bed.


“What happened to him?” he gasped.


“Another one of your little gangs of juvenile delinquent vamps,” Buffy snapped. “Now tell me what’s going on here or meet my newly dust-free stake.” She waved the object in front of his face, smiling with satisfaction when he cringed. “I’m guessing this will work just as well on you as any other vampire.”


“I’m not a real vampire,” he said, eying the stake cautiously.  “I’m just a…a helper.”


“A helper?”


He nodded.  “There are a bunch of us. We’re not vampires – well, we’re sort of like vampires, I guess -- but we can do human things.  Go out in the daylight. Enter houses. Stuff like that.  My heart beats, I breathe--”


“So, James. How did you become a ‘helper’? And why do the vampires here need helpers?”


“Vampires don’t have helpers in Winterset? Or in your world?” He evaded the question, while at the same time admitting that he knew more about her than she’d expected him to.


“Demons don’t need ‘help’ in our world.”  The voice held all the menace and power of a descendent from the ancient line of Aurelius, and James cringed against the door, his face draining of all color as he watched Spike stalk from the bathroom.  His eyes were riveted on Spike’s true face and he had no trouble understanding that this very different vampire might be the real danger in the room.


“Spike, stop it,” Buffy huffed, shocking the already awestruck quasi-human by walking over and fearlessly poking Spike on the arm.  “You’re scaring him.”


“Kinda the idea, Slayer,” he grumbled, dropping his fierce mien and raising a disapproving eyebrow at her.


Buffy shook her head at his posturing and turned back to James.  She gestured to a chair near the bed, and seated herself on the coverlet.


“Have a seat, James, and tell us about these ‘helpers’. What do you do besides lead unsuspecting women into vamp gangs?”


“I’m…I’m really sorry about that,” he mumbled.  “I mean, I have to do what I’m told, but he’s never asked me for anything like that before. And I really didn’t know they were going to jump you.  I thought I was just taking you to meet Mor--somebody.”


Spike snorted in disbelief, earning another glare from Buffy before she turned her back and responded gently.  “So, whatdo you do for them then? “


“Well…” He glanced nervously at Spike before replying.  “We can go out in the daylight, so if it’s too sunny for them we run errands, do shopping, stuff like that.  And I helped him with--” He stopped abruptly.


“Errands? Shopping?”  Spike sank down beside Buffy with a groan.  “We do away with old Batface and in a few years it’s come to this?”


James frowned. “Yes, errands.  I can do things the real vampires can’t, like…like get close to the Slayer, without---”


“James, I knew you weren’t human.  I didn’t know what you were exactly, but I knew it wasn’t completely human.”


“You did?  But then, why…”


“I’m here to take care of the gangs.  Staying away from anybody who gave off vampire vibes wouldn’t exactly help me find them, would it?”  She grinned at James; then turned to Spike for confirmation.  “He could pass for human if you weren’t a vampire, though, couldn’t he?”


Spike nodded.  “They remind me a bit of the half-human, half-demons I’ve met back in our world.  I imagine there’re more of those here where the demons don’t have to hide what they are and can mingle with the rest of the population.”


“Half-demons?”  Buffy forgot about James as she stared at Spike.  “Why didn’t I know about this?”


“It’s pretty rare, love.  Most species are too different to produce children with humans, even if they do hook up.  Usually takes a bit of magic or something to make it work.  And I don’t imagine many of them would be seeking out the Slayer to show off their sprogs,” he added wryly.


She turned back to James. “Is that what you are? Half vamp and half human?”


He shook his head quickly.  “No, no. I’m…I was…completely human.  There’s…” He looked at Spike quickly.  “There’s this guy who can do… I know it sounds silly…but, he can do magic.” He frowned, a keen intelligence shining from his uncertain eyes.  “At least, he claims it’s magic.  I’m not so sure…the things he asked me to explain to him…” His voice trailed off as he appeared to tune them out briefly.


“It doesn’t sound silly to us,” Buffy encouraged. “There’s a lot of magic back in our world.  One of my best friends is a very powerful witch. And even Spike--” A shake of Spike’s head stopped her before she could mention that he reluctantly, if rarely, used magic when it seemed they might need it.


“Really?  Wow, that’s just…really creepy,” he finished with an apologetic shrug.  “I mean the guy I’m talking about is…evil…and mean…and you’re saying your best friend does magic?”


“Back on topic, James.”  Buffy glared at him, offended on Willow’s behalf at his calling magic ‘creepy’.  “What does this guy’s ‘magic’ do?”


“He… when you get bitten, if they take you to him before you…you…” He floundered for appropriate words.


“Die,” Spike said flatly.  “The word you’re looking for is ‘die’.”


“Yeah, that.  Before it happens, he makes you drink something – some magic potion that he invented and mixes with blood.  It keeps you from turning into a complete vampire somehow.”


“This ‘guy’,” Buffy said.  “Is he a vamp? Or some kind of demon?”


James shook his head.  “I don’t know.  I think…I think he’s one of us. But I’m not sure. I just know that the real vampires are afraid of him, and the rest of us have no choice if we don’t want to die.  He stays pretty distant from everybody most of the time. He doesn’t talk to us much unless he’s giving orders.”


“And your orders were to bring in the Slayer?” Spike growled his question, causing James to shrink back again.  He nodded and shot an apologetic glance at Buffy.


“He said she was alien - and evil, and that she would try to kill us…all of us.  That she comes from a world where there aren’t any vampires left because the slayers have killed them all. He said it was important that he meet her and explain about us and how she should leave us alone because we aren’t really vampires.”


“Sendin’ a gang of minions to kill her seems like a bloody stupid way to convince her he’s harmless,” Spike growled.


James shifted his feet uncomfortably.  “I didn’t really expect them to be there – or to jump us like that.  I thought I was taking her to meet him so he could talk to her.   I’m sorry,” he added with another apologetic smile at Buffy.  “I really did think they were just there as an escort – if I’d--”


Buffy waved her hand. “No harm done,” she said dismissively. “They’re all dust and now he knows more than he probably wanted to about me.”  She stretched and eyed the bed upon which Johnny was just now stirring.  “I guess some sleep before I hit the sidewalks and start looking for this guy is out of the question…”


“You’re not going looking for that wanker without me,” Spike growled.


“I’ll be fine,” Buffy snapped.  “I thought we were long past that watching every move I make stuff.  I’m the Slayer. I can also walk around in the nice sunny days this place is famous for.  I won’t put myself in any danger; I’m just going to try to find out where he is and maybe reason with him.”


She turned her attention back to James.  “You do know where he is, don’t you?”


He shook his head. “Not really, no.  I was unconscious when they took me to him to be...saved--” Spike’s snorted “Saved?” earned him another glare from Buffy.  “It was underground somewhere – like in a big cavern, only with lights and furniture. I’ve only been back once to help him with some chemistry stuff; and I was blindfolded.”


“Are there any caves around here?” Spike asked, remembering Clem’s comfortable home near Winterset.  “Looks a bit flat for that.”


James shook his head again.  “I didn’t think so.  This is a beach town – all flat and sandy until you get pretty far away from it.”  He gave Buffy another apologetic shrug.  “He usually meets us in an old school if he wants to tell us something.  The only other time I was in the cavern was when he wanted me to help him with some kind of chemical experiment.”  He gave Buffy a quick glance. “That’s why – not that I’m saying you’re lying about your friend – but that’s why I’m not sure it’s magic he’s using.  He had formulas and books, and he was asking me to check his math, and…”


“Why would he ask you?”


James shrugged and shuffled his feet uncomfortably. “Well, I…we kind of…we went to the same high school and college. He’s older than me, and we weren’t ever friends, but he knows I know a lot about some stuff.  Just not caves,” he added, seeming embarrassed to admit it.  “My field was more chemistry than geology – I know the sea used to be much bigger, but--”


There was a strangled sound from the bed and all eyes turned to Johnny, now sitting up and clutching his throat.


“There are caverns underground,” he managed to choke out. “On the north side of town, away from the beaches.  They were carved out of rock a long time ago when the sea was bigger and came further inland.  I don’t know how you’d get into them, though. I don’t think the entrances are visible anymore.”


Buffy gave Johnny an impressed smile, asking quietly, “How do you feel?”


“Like I’ve been hit by a truck,” he admitted.  He glanced at Spike. “Am I a vampire now?”


“Hah,” Spike scoffed. “Not even close. All you were was lunch.”


Looking slightly offended, Johnny turned his gaze back to Buffy. “I can show you where the caverns are probably located,” he said.  “Maybe not right this minute, but…”


“That’s okay,” she assured him. “We’ll get some food and more liquids into you.  You can show us as soon as you feel better.”


She stood up and stretched. “In the meantime, if I don’t have to go looking for this guy right now, I think I’m going to have a nap and then investigate the beach.”


“Investigate it for what?”  Spike’s sharp question was echoed by the curious expressions on the faces of the younger men.


“Um…sand? Sunshine? Warmth?  You know, all those things we don’t get much of in Winterset?”


“Ah. You can take the slayer out of California…”


“But you can’t take the California out of the slayer,” Buffy finished for him.  “Since I don’t need to go searching around randomly for the bad guy, I might as well soak up some sun while we’re here.   Maybe by tonight Johnny will feel up to showing us where to start looking.”


“In the meantime, Slayer, what are we going to do with these gits? I can’t say I fancy all four of us sharing our bed…” Spike glared at the two suddenly nervous men.


Johnny raised his hand weakly. “The hotel has a dorm for employees who need to get some sleep in between shifts.  You know, like if you work a big party that doesn’t end until sometime in the morning, and you have to be back to work by noon?  It’s just easier to stay here and sleep than it is to go home and come back.”  He fumbled at the bandage on his neck.  “If this has stopped bleeding…”


“It hasn’t,” Spike said flatly, reminding them all that he was one of the creatures they hunted.  “Can smell it from here – all fresh and…” 


“I can go home,” a pale-faced James said quickly.  “I don’t need to be here anymore, do I?”


Spike turned amber eyes on the clearly frightened ‘vampire helper’.  “And why would I let you do that?” he inquired softly.  “You were taking my mate to somebody who wants to kill her.  Why would I let you walk out?”


“Let him go, Spike,” Buffy said with a weary sigh.  “He’s the least of our worries right now – and no harm was done. We dusted a whole gang of vamps that we probably wouldn’t have found without him.”  She turned a flinty stare on the visibly relieved man.  “But don’t think I’m going to forget that you lied to me,” she said.  “You could have just told me what you were and what you were supposed to do.”


James nodded vigorously.  “I know. I know. It was wrong of me. I see that now.  But he would have killed me if I hadn’t followed orders.”


Spike’s snarl reminded him that there was at least one vampire in the city who wanted to kill him because he had, and James cringed against the door, wondering if he was fast enough to get out of it and away before Spike could catch him.


“He would have killed you? You’re sure?”


James kept one eye on Spike while he responded to Buffy.  “He controls his minions – they aren’t allowed to live at home anymore after they join his gang.  And they’re afraid of him, so he must have some kind of a hold over them like the one he has over us. I don’t know what it is, but he’s got something.”


“Are you sure he would have killed you if you hadn’t followed orders? Maybe he’s just got everybody fooled into thinking he’s dangerous.”


“Well, he could kill me in the sense that he has the magic potion that keeps me alive,” James admitted.  “If we don’t get it at least once a week, we’ll keep slowing down until we can’t move anymore.  If that happens, people will think we’re dead and we’ll be buried alive.” His face made it very clear what he thought of that scenario.


“No,” Spike said in disgust. “You’ll be buried dead, you stupid git. And then you’ll dig your way out of the grave just like a proper vampire would.”


Spike looked at Buffy and curled his lip.  “Sounds like our big bad has found a way to arrest the process and convinced these wankers he’s the only thing keeping them alive.”  He shook his head. “Not a bad scheme, as evil schemes go, I guess…”


“You mean…I ama vampire?”


Buffy nodded sympathetically.  “I’d say so, James. That’s why you set off my radar.  This guy you’re so afraid of has come up with a way to keep you almost alive – for as long as he needs you.  But he’s probably just postponing the inevitable.”


James looked even paler as he listened, finally mumbling, “I’d like to go now, if you don’t mind,” as he opened the door.  “I have to tell my…family.”


When Spike made no move to stop him, he quickly squeezed out the partially open door and ran off down the hall, not even pulling it completely closed behind him.  With a disgusted look, Spike slammed the door shut and turned his glare on Johnny.


“Think you can make it to this ‘dorm’ by yourself?” he asked, his tone much less gruff than his words.


Johnny nodded and stood up, swaying for a few seconds before catching his balance. 


“I…I think so,” he said, taking a few tottering steps.


“Spike…”


“I’m on it, sweetheart. Why don’t you get that nap you wanted and I’ll let myself back in when I’ve seen to lunch here.”


“Let us know when you feel strong enough to take us to the area with the caves,” Buffy said kindly. 


Johnny nodded and whispered, “I’ll have to take a day off…”


“I’ll take care of that,” Spike said. “You just get your strength back and don’t be worrying about work for awhile. Your boss owes us.”


With a whispered, “Goodnight”, Johnny followed Spike to the door, pausing before he followed him out of the room.  “I’m not sure,” he said slowly, looking back and forth between the two, “but I think that guy might be the mayor’s oldest son.  I saw his picture in the paper when he graduated from high school.”  Spike and Buffy exchanged looks as Spike led Johnny out the door and down the hall to the elevators.  The vampire’s quick support when Johnny seemed to be swaying again, made it clear that he really was planning to escort the boy to safety and Johnny relaxed as they made their way to the room behind the kitchen where the staff could crash whenever they needed to. 


As soon as Spike had ascertained that the area was fairly busy and that Johnny wasn’t likely to be alone often, he said goodnight and hurried back to Buffy.  He paused only to instruct the night manager that his head bellboy would be helping them for a few days and was not to be fired or docked if he wasn’t at work. The man assured him that the entire staff was at their service if necessary and that he would leave notes for the other shift managers to that effect.


Spike slipped quietly into the room, undressing silently when he saw that Buffy was already asleep.  He groaned mentally as his internal sense of time told him that daybreak was only a couple of hours away, then remembered that Buffy would be the one going out during the day. He could remain comfortably in bed with the dark curtains on the windows blocking the sun.  Feeling much happier, he slid into bed and wrapped himself around the girl sleeping there. He smiled when she automatically snuggled back into his body, and he drifted off to sleep with his nose buried in her hair.




Chapter Five


He awoke long after dawn, to find that Buffy was already up and putting on her bathing suit.  He admired all the bare flesh she was slathering with sun block; flesh that, in this normally chilly climate, she rarely displayed outside of the privacy of their bedroom.


“Been planning for this all along, have you?” he asked, laughing at the caught expression on her face.


“I just thought I should be prepared for anything,” she sniffed, pulling a loose pair of sweatpants and a shirt over the bikini.  “You’re just jealous because I’m going to be getting a suntan and you aren’t.”


“Right you are, pet,” he said with a yawn. “You’ll be out there getting your knickers full of sand and I’ll be up here snoozing away.  That’s me – jealous.”


He rolled over and put the pillow over his head, mumbling, “Have fun, love. Don’t get sunburned,” as she went out the door.


~~~~~~~~~~~


Buffy grabbed a bagel and a banana from the breakfast bar in the lobby and ventured out into the unusually warm and sunny day. The incongruity of being in a town called Shadyside while heading out to enjoy the sun made her giggle.


I wonder if Spike would mind if we moved here, she mused, enjoying the warmth soaking into her scalp and the soft breeze on her face.  For the first time in months, she felt a spasm of homesickness – not just for the people she’d left behind, but for the sunny weather and warmth that she’d taken for granted the first sixteen years of her life.


She walked along the concrete ‘boardwalk’ for some distance, lost in thoughts of Sunnydale, her mother and her high school friends -- so wrapped up in her thoughts that she never noticed the small group of boys trailing her at a distance that made them all but invisible.  Even when she turned and began walking back towards the hotel and its inviting sandy beach, she didn’t notice the tiny figures in the distance as they ducked behind buildings and into walkways between hotels.


Waving at the girl selling drinks and snacks near the sand’s edge, Buffy walked out until she found a stretch of beach with no one nearby. She spread the towel she’d taken from the room and settled herself comfortably on the warm sand.  Within minutes, she’d drifted off to sleep, unaware of the change in personnel going on behind her at the drink stand.


An hour of napping, a quick dip in the still-too-cold water, and Buffy was ready for something to eat and drink.  She left her towel where it was, pulled her sweatshirt over her head and walked to the refreshment stand, showing her empty hands as she approached.


“I didn’t bring any money with me,” she explained with a smile, indicating her pocket-less sweatshirt. “Can I just bill it to my room?”


“Sure. No problem, miss,” the young man behind the stand said.  “What would you like?”


Buffy gave him her order, turning to gaze at the rapidly clouding sky while he poured her soft drink and placed her sandwich on a napkin.  The dropping temperatures made her shiver, and she attributed the chill on the back of her neck to the sudden lack of warm sun.


“There goes my sunny day,” she grumbled, smiling her thanks and taking a long swallow of the drink.  She’d eaten two bites from the sandwich and had several more swallows of her drink before she began to notice that the world was spinning.


“Oh shit! Spike is going to be so pissed at me…” was all she had time for before the drink fell from her hand and she collapsed into the waiting arms of several young ‘helpers’.  While the boy manning the stand assured onlookers that she’d just had too much sun and would be fine, his friends pretended to be carrying her into the hotel, only turning to dash down the side walkway when they were out of sight.


They threw the unconscious slayer into the back of a car and sped off, congratulating themselves on their own cleverness and anticipating the praise from their “Master”.


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


Spike awoke the first time an hour or so after Buffy had slipped out the door; he forced himself out of bed to cautiously pull back the edge of the curtain, flinching as the sunlight streamed in.  Shading his eyes against the brightness, he could just make out Buffy’s bright green bikini and blonde hair as she dozed on her towel. He smiled to himself as he let the curtain fall, hoping that she would remember she no longer had her southern California tan and couldn’t afford to spend all day in that kind of sunlight.


When he awoke again several hours later, he could tell that the bright sunshine had already gone away. As he drank his blood, he wandered over to the window and peered out again, only to find nothing but Buffy’s towel and sweatpants lying forlornly on the mostly empty beach.  The lack of sunbathers and swimmers told him that the clouds had moved in long enough ago to have sent most of the tourists indoors.  Where was Buffy?


Spike threw his clothes on and flew out the door barely bothering to pull it closed behind him. He arrived in the lobby just in time to see the EMTs rolling an unconscious girl out of the building. A glimpse of long dark hair assured him it wasn’t Buffy, and he rounded on the newly arrived night manager.


“What happened?” he demanded, his voice more  snarl than question. “And where’s Bu—the Slayer?”


The man wrung his hands and shook his head. “I haven’t seen Ms Summers. I just arrived and found that the girl who runs our beachside refreshment cart has been injured in some way.”


“Was she bit?”


The man shook his head. “I didn’t see any blood. But she’s unconscious and they said they don’t know if she’ll be all right or not. One of her co-workers found her stuffed into a storage closet.”


“That the cart that was right out there?”  Spike gestured towards the beach where he’d last seen Buffy.  Without waiting for an answer, he headed for the dormitory where he expected to find Johnny, only to find the much-recovered boy on his way out.


“The cave area. Take me there, now,” Spike ordered, not knowing or caring if Johnny had recovered enough to point the way, let alone drive.  “They have Buffy,” he explained as he followed the obedient young man out of the lobby and to the covered garage.


Spike insisted on taking the wheel, leaving Johnny clinging to his seat belt as the car burst out of the garage and onto the, fortunately, not yet busy street.  Between the heavy clouds, tinted windshield, and Spike’s duster, he was able to drive through town with no more sun damage than an occasional puff of smoke from a hand too long exposed. Following the boy’s directions, Spike sped to the north, searching for some sign that the ground under their feet was not as solid as it seemed.  A slight swelling in the terrain here and there indicated that they might no longer be on a sandy plain, and he quirked an inquiring eyebrow at Johnny, who nodded back.


“Anywhere around here would be over the caverns. But like I told you, I don’t know of any way in.  I know there have to be some, because I’ve seen film of the interiors, but if there are any ways in or down, they must be inside a building.”


Spike pounded the steering wheel in frustration, staring around at the bland landscape with its mix of homes and businesses.  There was no way to tell which of the innocent-seeming buildings might have a cave entrance in the basement and walking around hoping to catch a whiff of Buffy’s scent would take much longer than he was willing to wait.


“Damn, I hate to do this,” he muttered, spinning the wheel and heading back to the hotel.


Johnny had enough sense not to ask what “this” was, he just clutched his seat belt and hoped that Spike didn’t wreck his car.  In no time, they were back in the garage and sprinting for the elevators.  Johnny waved weakly as Spike, with an impatient grimace, indicated he was not waiting.  The vampire threw open the door to the fire stairs and raced to their floor, arriving well before Johnny emerged from the elevator.  Spike had left the room door ajar, allowing the puzzled bellboy to walk in.


He found the vampire rummaging through one of the duffle bags he’d carried to the room, growling in frustration until he found the book and bag he’d been searching for.  He pulled the bag out and emptied the contents on the floor, searching the room with his eyes until he located the “Welcome to our city” materials on the desk. 


“Grab that folder for me, will you?” he demanded, opening the book and turning to a dog-eared page.  Flipping through the folder until he located the map of the city, he quickly spread it out on the floor.  Gesturing to Johnny to help him hold down the edges, he pulled some herbs from his pile of strange objects, and threw them onto the map with a few hairs he’d found on Buffy’s pillow.  He began murmuring a spell from the book in front of him, grateful that the small amount of magical ability he’d had in their own dimension seemed to be much greater in this one. A simple locator spell was well within the realm of his abilities and it worked quickly.


While Johnny stared with amazement, a small light appeared over the blonde hairs on the map; then it began to move until it hovered over an area that, according to the map, was on the edge of a residential neighborhood, but well over the area containing the underground caverns.


“What do you think that is there?” Spike demanded.  Unlike most of the businesses, which were clearly identified on the tourist guide, the residential areas had only street names to indicate where they were. There was no indication what sort of buildings might be found where the light was indicating Buffy’s presence.


Johnny shrugged. “There used to be a community college around there. It moved to newer buildings over here…” He pointed to an area several blocks away from where the light still hovered.  “It could be pointing to the old building.  It’s probably empty.”


“And it probably has a big basement,” Spike concluded.  “Easy enough to hide a cave entrance.”


He stood up and shook off the map, sighing as the light vanished.


“All right,” he said.  “Let’s go.”


“Go?”


“To get Buffy out of there,” Spike explained with what he felt was admirable patience, unaware that his face had changed and he was speaking around his fangs.  “You’re up for that, aren’t you?”


“Um…I…uh…are you sure you want me?  I can’t…I mean I sort of can, but…vampires?”


Spike shook his head.  “Thought you said you could take care of yourself,” he muttered, digging around in Buffy’s bag.  He pulled out a water pistol, holding it gingerly as he handed it to Johnny.  “Here, put this in your pocket and be bloody careful where you point it if you have to use it.”  He rummaged a bit more and handed over a stake and knife. 


“Maybe…” Johnny said timidly…”maybe I could do some magic?  That is what you did here, isn’t it?  Magic?”


“You can’t just do magic, you git.  You have to study it, learn the spells…and it doesn’t hurt to have some talent for it.  Nobody in this world even knows it exists.”


“The vamps do,” John said stubbornly.  “That guy last night said so. He said their boss uses magic to keep them alive.”


“Maybe. Maybe the wanker just wants to keep them thinking that.  Point is, you don’t know any magic, and I don’t have time to teach it to you.  Not that I would, anyway.  Bloody well hate the stuff, myself.”


“But you just used it!”


“This is an emergency,” Spike said gruffly.  “And, anyway, I’m Buffy’s watcher – it’s my job to know how to do locator spells and such.  Had to learn it whether I wanted to or not. Now, let’s go! Move your bloomin’ arse.”


With a whimper, Johnny followed Spike out of the room, once again taking the elevator while the impatient vampire ran down the stairs.  By the time the elevator deposited him in the garage, Spike was waiting just outside the door, engine running and fingers tapping impatiently. The boy was barely in the car when it leapt forward, tires squealing, and headed out into the dusk.


Chapter Six


Deep underground, Buffy woke slowly, keeping her groggy head down while she tried to assess her situation.  She grimaced when she realized she was chained to a wall of chilly stone.  Damp moss covered much of the wall, softening the rock behind her back, but making her skin crawl with its fuzziness.   She remained still, her head still hanging as she tried to learn more about where she was and who had her.  Not that she really doubted who or what it was.


Her legs were not shackled, a mistake she sincerely hoped she would have a chance to drive home to her captors.  However, her outstretched arms seemed to be firmly anchored to the wall on either side of her body.  Her shoulders were aching from bearing her weight and she cautiously allowed one foot to take some of that weight and give her shoulders and arms a chance to recover.


“Take a look, men. This is the Slayer,” came a disgusted voice from somewhere to her right.


“She’s just a girl,” someone responded. Buffy could hear the cringe in his voice as he quickly backed down.  “But an evil one. I can see that.”


The first voice deepened.  “Are you doubting me?  Do you think I’m lying about what she wants to do to us?”


There was the sound of uncomfortably shuffled feet and then a tentative, 

“She doesn’t look like much to me.”


Buffy tried to peer through her hair without letting on that she was awake. All she could see was the terror on the faces immediately in front of her.  A bloodcurdling snarl from close by brought an unconscious tightening of her muscles.  The snarl was followed by the sound of breaking bones; and she was soon gazing into the terrified face of a youthful looking vampire now lying, paralyzed on the floor in front of her.  He was soon all that she could see as everyone around him quickly moved away.


“Does anyone else want to question my judgment?” the voice said.  “If I say she’s dangerous to you, she’s dangerous to you.  But not unbeatable.  As you can see…” The voice took on a preening tone.  “…my magic worked just fine on her.”


Buffy’s head flew up and she met the eyes now studying her with such arrogance.


“What ‘magic’?” she sneered.  “You just had your lackeys slip me a mickey.  Could have been any one of a dozen drugs in that concoction.”


“Shut up, bitch!”  he hissed, moving closer and raising his hand.  Now that he was close to her, and angry enough for his eyes to glow amber, Buffy could see that he was a vampire – not one of the half-dead creatures that he’d created, but the real, undead thing.  He appeared to have been turned at a fairly young age – mid twenties, perhaps – but was clearly older and stronger than the youngsters he’d turned for minions.


Buffy looked around the room, which, in addition to a small group of semi-human boys and young men, contained a few more young vampires leaning against a wall and doing their best to appear unconcerned about the Slayer’s presence as well as unsympathetic to their former companion.  She spotted a distraught looking James in the back of the group of helpers, standing next to a boy that she was fairly sure was the mayor’s younger son.  James was frowning and whispering to the boys on either side of him; Buffy hoped he was telling them that she wasn’t planning to kill anybody who hadn’t done anything to deserve it.


Rather than do what her captor had ordered, she raised her voice and repeated her words.


“Anybody can put knock-out drops in a drink,” she said.  “Just like anybody can learn how to make blood that can keep a vamp alive for a little while.  There’s no ‘magic’ to it; it’s just science. All you need is the formula and any of you could do it.”


She took another look at the angry vampire in front of her and smiled coldly.


“And for the record, helper guys, he’s not one of you,” she said with rising confidence.  “He’s just an ordinary, garden-variety vamp that’s created a bunch of minions to make himself feel like a big cheese.”


The fist that crashed into the side of Buffy’s face wasn’t a complete surprise, but she couldn’t prevent her head from impacting the wall behind her.  Suddenly the soft moss didn’t feel creepy anymore as she fought for consciousness and was grateful that her skull hadn’t cracked. 


Fortunately, mutinous muttering from the young men and boys milling around in the cavern took the would-be master’s attention off the slayer.  He fell into his vampire mien and tried to stare down his workers.


“You know I’m what’s keeping you alive,” he snarled.  “Why are you listening to her?  She’s here to kill you.  Just like I warned you.  She already killed seven of my best soldiers---”


Buffy’s scoffing laugh and “Those little boys were your best?” brought his attention around to her again. 


“I have more,” he said ominously, gesturing towards an opening that she hadn’t noticed before.  “You’ve challenged Mordor at your own peril.”


Buffy’s incredulous Mordor? went unacknowledged, although she thought she caught a snicker from somewhere in the back of the large room. All eyes turned towards the tunnel entrance at which the would-be master had gestured so theatrically.


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


Spike brought the car to a shuddering halt on the street outside the deserted-looking building.  He cocked an eyebrow at Johnny who responded with a nod.


“This is the place that the light went to,” he said.  “All we need to do is find the way in.”


Without responding, Spike jumped out of the car and moved towards the front door.  With the boy trailing behind, looking anxiously over his shoulder at the gathering darkness, Spike walked right up to the door, studied the chain and padlock across it briefly, then kicked it completely off its hinges.  Still without speaking, he strode into the dark building, pausing when he heard Johnny stumble behind him.


With a sigh, he turned around and muttered a few words, holding out his hand and the ball of light that had appeared there.


“Here,” he muttered, handing it to the awestruck boy.  “Just keep your hand flat and don’t let it go out.”


“How…how do I do that…?”


Spike shrugged. “Beats soddin hell out of me.  Just think happy thoughts or something.  Come on,” he added, clearly not willing to take the time to provide any more instruction or information.


Following the soft light in his palm, and the swishing of Spike’s coat as he jogged towards the marked stairwell, Johnny basked in the trust being placed in him. With the soft light showing the way, he was easily able to follow Spike down the stairs to the lowest levels of the basement.  He was so enthralled with his portable light that he bumped right into Spike’s back without noticing that he’d stopped. The soft growl sent him cringing away until he realized that it wasn’t intended for him.  In front of them, blocking the entrance to a ragged hole in the cement-block wall, were three of the young vampires that had attacked Johnny in the hotel.


He glared at them from the safety of his position behind Spike, wanting nothing so much as to turn around and follow his light back out into the relative safety outside.


Spike had allowed himself to fade back into his human face when he’d handed Johnny the light, so to the boys facing them, he appeared to be another human, if one slightly more confident than the young man cowering behind him.


“Spike, I don’t think I can…”


“You don’t have to,” he said curtly. “Just watch my back.”


Without further conversation, he walked up to the eager boys, jostling each other to be first at the two humans stupid enough to enter their lair.  He had broken one vamp’s neck before the boy even realized he was in trouble.  The other two jumped Spike together, which did them no good at all, although it did extend the fight just slightly.  While Spike was disposing of the guards in a silent, deadly fashion that Johnny found more chilling than the snarls coming from the younger vampires, a fourth guard emerged from the tunnel entrance. Sizing up the situation, he picked up a piece of broken steel from the debris in front of the man-made cave entrance and approached silently from behind Spike.


Taking a deep breath, Johnny pulled the water pistol from his pocket and fired it straight into the vampire’s face, praying that none of the painful droplets would land on Spike.  As the newly arrived vampire snarled curses and pawed at his face, Johnny grabbed the bar he’d dropped and swung it at the distracted vamp’s head, sending him to his knees.  Unsure of what to do with his stake, Johnny continued to pound on the vampire’s bloody head and shoulders until Spike closed his hand over the re-bar, putting an end to the assault.


“I think you got him, John-boy,” he said with grudging admiration. 


“I watched your back.”


“That you did, lad.  It was a good job and I’m grateful for it.”  As Spike spoke, he twisted the unconscious vampire’s head until it popped off and joined the dust of the ones Spike had already disposed of.


Holding up a finger for silence, Spike led the way into the inky darkness, allowing John to hold on to his coat in lieu of providing another light for him.  They moved quickly but quietly down the length of the sloping corridor, reaching the end of the tunnel just as the two remaining guards stepped out into the cavern in response to their master’s voice.


“I have more,” said the voice from within the well-lit cavern.  As Spike and Johnny carefully peered around the corner, the consternation on the master’s face was clear when only two of his guards stepped into the room.


“Wha--?”  He glared fiercely.  “Where are the rest of you?”


“We thought we heard something, so they went back to--”


“Go find them!”  Mordor cut him off and pointed imperiously.


Nodding obediently, one of the young vampires leaned back and peered into the tunnel behind them, only to disappear from sight without a sound.  Buffy’s grin was not visible to Mordor as he frowned at the remaining minion.  However, the helpers milling around in front of her saw it and began muttering questions to each other.  Only James, and the boy beside him, understood the grin for what it was.


With a tug on Jason’s arm, James began inching his way along the wall, getting them as far away from the tunnel as he could.  Mordor was glaring at the remaining guard.  Even as he gestured for the other vampires that had been lounging against the wall to come forward, he snapped at the boy in front of the tunnel.


“Well, what are you waiting for?  Go see what’s keeping him!”


With a cocky wave, the boy turned and entered the darkness. There was a muffled thud and his unconscious body sailed back into the cavern, landing in the open area where the injured minion was moaning quietly.  All eyes were now on the only entrance and exit from the big underground room. The few additional young minions that had not started forward so quickly now retreated behind their master, hoping not to be picked next.


Buffy’s grin had become a laugh, cut off when the outraged vampire wrapped his hand around her throat.  He snarled his threat to kill her, as Spike, now leaning casually against the tunnel entrance and seemingly unperturbed by Buffy’s apparent danger, finally made his presence known.  A quick glance had shown Spike that Buffy’s legs were free and that she didn’t appear worried, so, with an effort, he smothered the urge to fly across the room and rip the head off the vampire that dared to touch his mate.


Buffy stared into the amber eyes, waiting until Mordor loosened his grip on her throat and lowered his head to bite before bringing her bare legs up and burying her feet in his mid-section.  He flew across the room, landing at Spike’s feet with a loud “oof!”


Spike’s feral grin as he gradually let his true face emerge, sent the remaining youthful minions skittering back to the far end of the cavern. Even to these brand new vampires and their not-quite-vamped-yet comrades, the difference between their so-called “Master’s” features and those of the century older true master he was facing was more than obvious.  Unimpressed by the snarls from the demon now climbing to his feet, Spike grabbed Mordor by the throat and belt, holding him over his head effortlessly.


“I’m gonna kill you,” Spike said in a conversational tone.  “The question is, will it be quick – or am I going to take my time and show you what it means to have been a student of Angelus?  What do you think, pet?  Fast or slow?”


He glanced over at Buffy to see that James and Jason had crept past the few remaining guards and were fumbling with the manacles around her wrists.  One of the would-be guards approached, taking care to remain out of range of Buffy’s feet, and handed them an old iron key. They quickly opened the bands around her wrists and stepped away.  Buffy flashed them a grateful smile, then turned back to Spike.


“I think we need to find out what he was giving these guys, and what’s going to happen to them if they don’t get it anymore,” she said, meeting Spike’s disappointed glare with her own determined face.


Dragging the struggling demon to the center of the room, Spike shook him.


“Well? You heard the lady.  What’s the bloody story?”


From his place beside Buffy, James began to move towards an alcove hidden by a curtain.  He yanked the curtain aside to expose a make-shift sink, a large tank and various hoses and pipes, as well as a long table filled with beakers and vials, probably brought down from the abandoned college labs above.  He pulled open a drawer in a cabinet and began searching through files and papers, mumbling to himself as he did so.  Jason had opened another part of the cabinet and exposed shelves of bottles, some marked, some not.


The snarls from Mordor increased as James began to study an open folder, nodding and talking to himself.  When he was satisfied, he looked up and said, “I’ve got the formula, and I think we can duplicate it pretty easily.  The only tricky thing is that it requires a little bit of vampire blood.”


“I think we’ve got a volunteer right here,” Spike grinned.  “Should be enough in this wanker to keep you alive for years.”


While Buffy frowned, not completely sure if Spike was seriously considering keeping Mordor around as a blood bank, the vampire began to struggle in earnest, calling on his few remaining minions to come to his assistance.  Spike ignored them, concentrating on forcing Mordor to the floor and

placing a foot on his neck.  He held on to one arm, holding it at an angle which ensured that the more the vampire struggled, the more pain he inflicted upon himself.


Buffy stepped confidently between the uncertain minions and their creator.


“It’s up to you, boys,” she said gently.  “You can try to rescue the creep who made you like this, or you can agree to stop harassing tourists and go back to your families.” 


“She can’t take all of you!”  Mordor managed to growl out as Spike continued to twist his arm.  “She’s not even armed, you cowards. Get her!”


Buffy shrugged, seemingly unperturbed that she was facing several vampires wearing only her bikini and a sweatshirt.  She bounced on her the balls of her feel and cocked her head at them.


“Are you sure about that?” she asked.  “Who wants to find out first?”


With a cocky shrug, one of the boys stepped forward.  Seemingly newly turned and still wearing his high school letter jacket, he grinned with the confidence of the star athlete he’d been until very recently.


“I’m not afraid of some half-naked bitch,” he said around his fangs.  “I can take her…”


His leap towards the slayer ended in embarrassment as she slipped to one side and allowed his momentum to carry him past her.  As he flew by, Buffy kicked one bare foot into his stomach, both halting his forward progress and doubling him over in pain.  With no stakes hidden in her sweatshirt, she seemed nonplussed for a second, until Spike’s soft “here you go, luv” alerted her to the stake he was tossing her way.  She snatched it out of the air, and grinned at the angry demon snarling at her and clutching his stomach.


“Come on,” she encouraged him.  “One half-naked bitch still standing here.”


When he charged her again, staying low and carrying her to the ground under his burly body, there was a collective gasp from the onlookers; a gasp that turned into a cheer when Buffy rose to her feet, coughing and brushing the vamp dust away from her face.  She looked at the two incapacitated minions lying on the floor and walked over to them.


“Sorry, boys,” she said with genuine regret.  The businesslike way she calmly drove her stake into first one vampire, then the other had a chilling effect on the few remaining minions. When she cocked her head at them in query, they held up their hands and backed away, assuring her that they would be returning home immediately and remaining there for the foreseeable future.


“Now then, wanker,” Spike said, pulling Mordor up and shaking him. “Tell these boys what needs to be mixed with what to keep them from turnin’ into garbage like you.”


Mordor did his best to appear intimidating and in charge, despite his being held almost carelessly by the much older and stronger vampire.


“It’s magic,” he blustered.  “Without me, you’ll all die.”


“Bullshit,” Johnny said quietly from behind Spike.  “I know enough about magic to know it doesn’t come in beakers.”  He beamed as Spike thumped him on the back in agreement.


James spoke up, holding the folder in his hands as he neared them.  He waved it at Mordor, saying, “You stole this from me, didn’t you?  This is the formula I was working on when I was…” He paused, understanding filling his face.  “When you sent your minions out to turn me,” he gasped.  “You did it on purpose so I wouldn’t realize it was gone.  You son of a bitch!”


Shoving the folder into his brother’s hands, James threw an inexpert punch at the demon face grinning at him.  When it became obvious that he wasn’t likely to connect with any force without a little help, Spike obligingly moved Mordor into the path of James’ fist, which connected with a satisfying crack.


James immediately stopped, rubbing his sore knuckles and glaring at object of his ire. 


“You used my own work against me!  That formula was supposed to help vampires to live more normal lives.  Not turn them into half-vampire/half-human servants for you.”


“You were wasting it,” Mordor huffed.  “Too wrapped up in your precious ‘research’ to see the possibilities. With that formula and a few minions, I could control the city.”


“Wait!” Buffy interrupted.  “Did you already know what he was before you got bitten?”


James shook his head.  “We were at the same university. He was a grad student there. In the same department, but I didn’t know him.  He disappeared one day….and when he came back he would only work at night.  I should have figured it out – but he wasn’t my TA, so…” He glared again.  “I was tearing the place apart, looking for my notes and experiment results – and he had them all this time.”  He looked like he wanted to take another swing at Mordor, but Jason stopped him.


“You’ll just hurt yourself,” he said with all the pride of youth. “This is my thing. Let me.”


He stepped forward, fist clenched and arm cocked, only to find Spike had pulled Mordor out of his reach.


“Sorry, lad,” he said with seemingly honest regret. “You’ve got a right to some vengeance. But this wanker just tried to bite my mate.  I’m thinking he needs to learn more than he ever wanted to about what constitutes a real vampire.”  


Spike muttered a few words, and tossed another ball of light to Johnny. “Here you go, John. Why don’t you lead everybody out of here?  I’ll be right along.”


Buffy walked up to him and met his steady gaze for several long seconds.


“Do I want to know what you’re going to do with him?” she asked, a small frown creasing her brow.


“Prob’ly not,” he said quietly. “But I’m gonna do it, so you just run along with John-Boy and the almost-vamps.”


For the first time since those early days when Spike was struggling to control his behavior so as not to upset her, and she was struggling with the idea that her new best friend was a soulless, formerly-evil demon, she felt a chill go up her back when she gazed into his amber eyes.  She opened her mouth to protest, then shut it again when Spike said, “This is between demons, Slayer. Get out.  John can take you back to the hotel.  I’ll be there when I can.”


Sending a sympathetic look toward Mordor – which immediately terrified him into struggling against the iron grip Spike had maintained – she turned and began to trot after the light she could see leading the way out.   She hesitated once, but a quiet “Keep going, love” set her legs in motion again. 



Chapter Seven


When they had all exited the building through the broken door, the former minions and helpers milled around aimlessly. Buffy watched them for a few minutes, shook her head, sighed heavily, and jumped onto the hood of John’s car.  When she had their attention, she smothered her discomfort at her lack of clothing and began her speech.


“Okay, guys. Here’s the deal.  It sucks to be you, but that’s not anybody’s fault but that scuzball downstairs.”  Her face clouded for a minute. “And I’m guessing he’s going to be really sorry about it pretty soon,” she added softly, then took a deep breath and stood up straighter. 


“Anyway, those of you who have homes and families to go to – I’d suggest you go home and tell your mothers you love them.  Anybody I catch munching on the tourists – or anybody else – is fair game for staking. Is that clear?”


There were murmurs and nods of agreement from both vampires and semi-humans. 


“Are we all going to die?” one of the helpers asked.  “That’s what you said, isn’t it? That we’re all going to be vampires eventually?”


Before Buffy could think of an answer, James cleared his throat and held up a hand.  She nodded to him to speak up.


“I think I can make this work for all of us,” he said hesitantly.  “I’m pretty sure that he was just using the formula I’d been working on. He threw some other stuff in there to make it seem like magic, but mostly this is just my formula for helping vampires lead more normal lives.  I think we can keep ourselves the way we are for as long as we want to.  I hope so, anyway,” he finished softly.


With that, Buffy left him to answer their questions, jumping down from the car and opening the passenger side door.


“Can you drive?” she asked a pale-looking Johnny.


He nodded. “I think so. I’m a little tired, but I haven’t really done much today except burn a lot of adrenaline, so…”


“Okay. Let’s go then,” Buffy said abruptly, stepping into the passenger side.


She rode the rest of the way back to the hotel in silence, only shaking her head when John let her out at the front door and asked if she needed him for anything else. The memory of watching Spike’s silent, deadly dispatching of the guards gave John some inkling of what might be happening to Mordor and he thought he understood Buffy’s silence.  Wondering what it must be like to live with someone capable of such dispassionate violence, he told her “goodnight” and drove home.


Buffy waved at the manager as she headed for the elevator bank, just nodding when he asked if she was all right.  “He’ll be along,” she responded when he asked about Spike.  “We’ll probably be leaving tomorrow evening.”


“Already?”


She gave him a chilly glance.


“The problem has been solved.  I’ll do a little clean up before we leave, but there aren’t going to be any more vamp gangs after this. I’ll need my key, please. I left it on the beach.”


He hastened to hand her the sweatpants, towel and key that had been retrieved from the sand, thanking her profusely and expressing again his gratitude and delight that she was not harmed. She nodded and turned away without another word; leaving him to wonder what had happened and where her vampire companion was as he watched her bare feet carry her to the elevator and disappear inside.


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


Buffy had showered, changed into pajama bottoms and one of Spike’s tee shirts, and was staring blankly at the television when he quietly let himself into the room.  She glanced up from her place on the bed, muting the television and raising an eyebrow at him.  He didn’t reply, just shrugged off his coat, went into the bathroom, and stood under the shower until he and his clothes were blood free.  Leaving the wet jeans and shirt hanging over the shower rail, he dried off and walked out to stand beside the bed.  They stared at each other for long minutes, the naked vampire who had spent the past hour torturing to death the demon who’d made the mistake of attempting to kill his mate, and the girl who’d been chosen to save the world.


Finally, Buffy clicked the sound back on and moved over.


“Are you coming to bed?” she asked, indicating the space at her side.


“Wasn’t sure I’d be welcome,” he replied, sliding under the sheet but taking care not to touch.


“I wasn’t sure, either,” she admitted.  “But I’ve had time to think …”


“And…?”


“And I remembered that the love of my life is a soulless vampire who loves me so much that I sometimes forget what he is.  But I can’t. I shouldn’t.  It’s part of who and what you are and I have to remember that.”


Her voice was firm, but she kept her eyes on the television and he could see just the slightest quiver in her lips.  He took the remote from her, turned the sound off again, and touched her chin, asking – but not forcing – her to look at him.


“I am a soulless vampire, Buffy.  I always will be.  But you have to know that I would never do anything to anyone that might cause you pain – if I can help it.  I promised you that a long time ago, didn’t I?  That I wouldn’t make you have to stake me? I wouldn’t have wanted you to watch me tonight; but I expect you to accept that it was something I had to do.  My demon wouldn’t have settled for any less….and I’m not sure that the poncy man I was when I was human wouldn’t have felt the same way.”


He leaned back until he was lying on his back, tugging her gently down with him.


“Even if we weren’t mated, I would have wanted to make that bastard pay for kidnapping you and thinking he was going to bite you. You’re everything to me, Buffy. My conscience, my heart, my reason for being.  Anyone tries to take that away…”


“I understand,” she whispered. “I really do.  It’s just easy to forget sometimes that the wonderful man who loves me has another side.”  She looked up at him with glistening eyes.  “Make love to me?” she asked softly.  “Make me forget again?”


He dipped his head in silent acquiescence, covering her face with soft kisses that brushed across her lips before gradually settling there.  With no haste, they kissed, taking their time until their tongues, by mutual agreement, slid out to deepen the kisses into the bone-melting caresses that they could indulge in for hours.


When Buffy was making small whimpering sounds in her throat, he slipped his hands under the tee shirt and began to stoke the soft skin there, waiting until she was arching her breasts into his hand before skimming it off over her head.  Again, taking his time, he kissed his way around her torso, licking and sucking at each nipple in turn before, moving down to her belly button and nudging the waistband of pajamas with his nose. 


Using only his nose to move the fabric, he worked his way down her abdomen until his face was buried under the stretchy material and his tongue was tickling her outer lips.  In spite of her obvious enjoyment of what he was doing, and her anticipation of what would come next, she surprised him by tugging on his still damp curls.


“No,” she whispered. “I changed my mind.  Come up here.”


Spike obediently raised his head, his face settling into disappointed lines, which relaxed when she pulled him up until they were face to face and she was stroking his cheek, smiling softly.


“Don’t look so worried,” she said, leaning up and brushing her lips across his.  “I just want you to be in me right now.  I want to feel you inside me, loving me.”


Exhaling a relieved sigh, he nodded and relaxed against her.


“No place I’d rather be, love.  You know that.”


He rolled off to allow Buffy to squirm out of her pajama bottoms, then immediately rolled back to cover her body with his.  Buffy’s legs opened for him, her feet meeting behind his back as she wrapped her legs around his waist.  She held up her face for the kiss that accompanied his quick slide into her welcoming body.  As she surrounded him with her scent and began moving gently, Spike released the tension that had been holding him captive since he’d entered the room to find Buffy staring blankly at the TV.  With a grateful shudder, he allowed himself to collapse upon her, nuzzling her neck and inhaling her essence.  Buffy’s tightening arms and her playful bite on his shoulder brought him back to the task at hand.


“Right, you stupid git,” he muttered to himself, “Girl wants a good seeing to and you’re wasting time crying on her shoulder.”


“The girl is right here,” she reminded him.  “And getting a little bored.”


“Bored?  You’re bored? I’ll have none of that!”


With a rumbling growl, he began to move against her, using his blunt human teeth to nip across her shoulder and up her neck.  Holding himself up on his elbows, his hips churned against hers, the extra twist at the end of each stroke bringing forth very satisfying whimpers and moans from the suddenly no longer bored Buffy.


Her surprising lunge upward, which ended in her teeth seizing the skin of his throat, sent him crashing over the edge with a roar.  He buried his own fangs in her neck, pulling deep draughts of blood as she quivered beneath him, crying his name.  



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


In lieu of the money the grateful merchants attempted to give her, Buffy gladly accepted an envelope of gift certificates for several hotels and restaurants near the beach.  Promising to come back later in the season when they assured her the sun would come out and shine warmly all day, Buffy and Spike left the small “thank you” ceremony that had been hastily thrown together in the hotel ballroom.  Mayor Stevenson, now basking in the gratitude of the city’s merchants, walked with them to the waiting cab.


“I want to add my personal thanks,” she said to Buffy as they walked through the hotel lobby, trailed by John who had insisted on carrying their bags in spite of Spike’s rolled eyes.  “I’m sure you realize now how hard this was for me; knowing that my own children had been caught up in it.”


Buffy nodded her understanding.  “I do – but except for the parents of the boys I had to slay…”


“They’re very upset,” the mayor said with a sigh.  “I don’t know if they will ever forgive me…”


“Did you explain to them that those boys were already dead? They were just animated corpses that---”


Casting an eye behind them, where Spike and John were talking quietly, Mayor Stevenson said, “Animated corpses who still loved their families and came around often enough for their parents to kid themselves that they still had their children. Surely, you of all people, can understand the need to pretend that a loved one isn’t dead?”  She looked pointedly at the vampire trailing behind them.


Buffy stopped and stared, her mouth gaping open.  “Spike’s different!” she insisted. “For one thing, he was already vamped when I met him. Had been for over a hundred years.  It’s not like he was my human boyfriend and I kept him around after he became a vampire.”


“But could you have staked him if he was?” the older woman asked gently.  “If someone you loved got turned, could you kill him…or her?”


“I think so,” Buffy responded quietly.  “I haven’t had to make that choice in this…” She decided against sharing information about Sunnydale and the other worlds in which Buffy the Vampire Slayer existed.  She met the mayor’s eyes firmly.  “I’m sure I could.  If it had to be done, I could do it.  It’s part of being the Slayer.  You do what you have to do and you cry about it later.”


Behind them, John was importuning Spike, disregarding the steady growl coming from the vampire.


“But, Spike,” he coaxed. “I was able to keep that light going all the way out of the building.  It didn’t fizzle until I accidentally squeezed it too hard.  Just think how much I could help you if you taught me to do magic.”


“Don’t need help,” Spike grunted.  “Not from some eager beaver who didn’t even know there was such a thing as magic two days ago.  Magic’s not something to play with. It’s got consequences.  Bad ones, sometimes.”


“But that’s why you need to teach me!  So I don’t make any mistakes that could have…consequences.”


Spike stopped and glared at the eager young man beside him.


“Are you sayin’ you’re going to do this with or without me?”


“Uh…yeah?”


“You know, if you go all evil, the Slayer’s gonna have to kill you.”


“I’m not going to use it for evil!” John protested.  “I want to help people!”


“Famous last words,” Spike grumbled as he reached the taxi and took their bags from the anxious bellboy.  He shook hands with the mayor and tossed the bags into cab before joining Buffy in the back seat.  He rolled his eyes as John stood by, bouncing from one foot to the other as he waited for an answer.


“We’ll talk,” Spike finally said grudgingly, ignoring the “yippee!” from John and the puzzled look from Buffy.  They waved as the cab pulled away and headed for the train station.


“What are you and Johnny going to talk about?”


Spike shook his head.  “He wants to be Gandalf,” he growled.


“Who?”  In spite of her mockery of Mordor’s chosen vampire name, her disdain had been based on nothing more than having heard the name before.  All she knew about Mordor was that it was a name Xander had mentioned when talking about a movie.


He sighed and pulled Buffy into his side.  “Remind me to have Dawn bring us a couple of books…” He looked at Buffy’s unenthusiastic face and added, “and a couple of movies and something to play them with.”


“You’re wearing your ‘I’m mated to an ignoramus’ look again,” Buffy pouted.  “It’s not my fault I spent my nights chasing vampires and then got yanked into a world where I had to go to work right away. I’m not stupid, just…”


“Never said you were, sweetheart.  You’re not stupid and you know I don’t think you are.  Said it before, and I’m saying it again, if you want to finish high school and even try college, I’m all for it.  I can make enough money for the both of us.”


“Maybe I will,” she muttered.  “But I’d be learning all different stuff in the schools here, wouldn’t I?”


“Prob’ly. I think the science and maths would be the same, but literature and history…yeah, it would be very different.  Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, though.  This is our world now, pet.  Don’t think we can keep pretending we don’t belong here.”


“So, even if I go to school, I still won’t know what you’re talking about half the time, will I?”  She gave him a poke in the ribs.  “You’re still going to give me that look.”


“You don’t get those bony little fingers out of my ribs,” he growled, trying not to squirm and laugh, “you’re gonna wish a look was all you were getting.”


“Ooooo, the big bad vampire is threatening me!  Too bad he can’t bite or even get wrinkly when he’s being tickled.” 


Buffy began to play with him in earnest, using her fingers to hit all the places she knew would annoy him the most - until she realized that the combination of snarls and choked laughter was causing their driver to spend more time looking into his rear-view mirror than on the road in front of him.  With a final dig that turned into a satisfied pat to his ribcage, she stopped tormenting Spike and settled into the corner of the seat, smiling at him fondly.


“You are going to pay for this, you know,” he said with a glower that was totally wasted on the grinning girl.


“I’m counting on it,” she leaned over and whispered in his ear, retreating quickly when he tried to grab her. “Ah, ah,” she scolded. “Behave yourself. We’re not alone, you know.”


“He can’t see me,” Spike leered, tilting his head at the mirror.  “He’ll just think you’re--”


Before Spike could follow up his implied threat, their cab pulled into the train station and the driver stopped in front of the entrance. He refused to take any money from them, insisting that he’d been well paid already.


“My business was really falling off,” he explained.  “Not to mention having to wonder if every fare I picked up might decide to get hungry before we got where he was going.  I’m just glad to know that it’s safe for the tourists to come back.”


Buffy accepted the thanks with her usual uncomfortable blushes. Even now, after years of working to protect the population of this world, she hadn’t got used to being thanked for what she did.  She couldn’t suppress a pang of guilt as she thought about the Buffy back in Sunnydale who faced annual apocalypses without any support or appreciation from the citizens she was protecting.


She was still quietly thinking about it when she and Spike had taken their seats on the train.  As it pulled out of the station and began the journey back to Winterset, Spike nudged her shoulder.


“Penny for your thoughts?”


She startled and looked up in surprise.  “I was just thinking,” she said slowly.


“Always a dangerous thing…”


Her poke to his arm was half-hearted and he realized that she really was deeply engrossed in whatever she was thinking.  His stomach clenched a little as he reviewed the events of the past couple of days and wondered if she was having second thoughts about living with a cold-blooded killer.


“Buffy…?  Love?” The worry in Spike’s voice brought her attention back to him and she had no trouble recognizing his uncertainty.


“I was just realizing how good I have it here,” she said, smiling when his shoulders visibly relaxed.  “I get thanked for doing my job, I get freebies from grateful people, we hardly ever have to fight anything we can’t both handle, nobody has tried to end the world yet…”


“Bite your tongue! You know you’ve probably just set up this world’s first apocalypse, don’t you?”  Spike’s horror was almost genuine, and if Buffy hadn’t known how much he enjoyed a good fight, she might have believed him.


“That’s just the thing,” she said.  “Even if we have to handle a pending apocalypse once in while, we still have it better than the other Spike and Buffy.  I mean, yeah, things should be easier for them than what they had in the dimension they came from…” She shuddered briefly at what little she knew of the world from which the older Spike and Buffy had been pulled.  Just knowing that their presence in her Sunnydale, with it’s demons and vampires, and potential for yearly apocalypses, was considered a reward for what they’d both endured in the dimension they’d come from was enough to make this one – cold or not – seem like a vacation.


“They have each other, love,” Spike said gently, putting an arm around her. “Think that’s all the reward they wanted or needed, yeah?”


She snuggled into his side, grateful for his ability to read her thoughts so well.


“Well, we have each other, too. And we didn’t have to go through all that stuff for it.  We just fell in love and…”


“Speak for yourself, pet. I’m the one who spent his first six months here with blue balls from living in the same house with the woman he--”


“Pig!” Her interruption was more affectionate than angry, and he dropped a kiss on the top of her head.


“Oink, love.”


“My own fanged piggy wiggy.  Maybe I should start calling you Mr. Gordo…”


“Over my dead body, Slayer…  Or yours.  Could go either way on that one.”


Her giggle brought a reluctant smile to his face; knowing that she could still laugh in the face of a threat from him – as idle as the threat might be – went a long way to reassure him that his lapse into demonhood hadn’t damaged their relationship in any permanent way.


“Do you even know who Mr. Gordo is?”


“I do. Had to kick the bloody pig out of the bed just before I…” He stopped, remembering why he’d been in a position to object to the presence of a stuffed animal, and how close he’d come to landing on the floor beside the pig when Buffy’d noticed his cavalier treatment of her beloved Mr. Gordo.  Deciding that he didn’t need to share with his Buffy what he’d been about to do with her older self, he trailed off to a muttered, “Know only too well what it is.”


Buffy narrowed her eyes suspiciously, then shrugged and tucked her head under his chin and closed her eyes.


“Wake me when we get home,” she murmured, not seeing the smile that crossed his face, but knowing the arms holding her in place weren’t going anywhere.




Epilogue


They arrived home without incident, dropping their bags in the hall and heading to the kitchen for blood and food.  Spike groaned when he noticed the light blinking on the answering machine, muttering, “Knew we never should have had that phone line put in.”


Buffy ignored him, pulling sandwich materials out of the refrigerator, setting them on the table and pouring blood into a mug for him.  She put his dinner into the microwave and sat down to make her sandwich.


“Do you want to hear these, pet?” he asked, glaring at the machine as if it was intentionally interfering with his plans for the evening.


“I suppose we should,” she mumbled around a mouthful of bread and meat.  “Just in case…”


The microwave dinged and Spike took his blood out and began to sip it as he pushed play.   The first two messages were from friends they’d made in Winterset, inviting them to a party that they’d already missed while in Shadyside. The third was from Buffy’s boss, who reminded her that she didn’t have to report to work for another two days.  The fourth message, which Buffy came and stood beside him to hear was from the chief of police, wondering if Buffy and Spike would like to discuss a training course for his officers who frequently had to deal with drunk or angry demons and vampires.


“Huh! It’s just now occurring to him that we might have something to teach his men?”


“Don’t scoff, pet. It’s a legitimate way to make money using our specialized skills.”


“Specialized skills’?”  Buffy raised her eyebrows at both his willingness to make money legally, as well as his use of such language.  “If you get any more Gilesish, I’m going to have to rethink this whole ‘mated’ thing.”


“Very funny,” he growled, signing her to be quiet as he listened to the last message.  It was a plea for help from one of Clem’s many relatives. One they had met when driving from Winterset to a vacation in the mountains several hundred miles away.  According to the embarrassed sounding demon, a local incubus had taken a young vampire for a mate and the two of them were draining the local human and demon populations of both blood and energy. 


“I really hate to bother you guys with this – I know you’re busy – but nobody here seems to know what to do about them.  Nobody’s died yet, but ...  Schools and businesses are closed as often as not, because nobody feels like going to work anymore.  If you can come, give me a call.  You’re welcome to stay with us if the Slayer won’t be too uncomfortable being with so many demons…”


“Well, there you go, love.  I guess our next job is already lined up for us.  What do you want to tell him?”


Buffy sighed and headed for the bathroom.  “Tell him we’ll be there in a couple of days, I guess. It doesn’t sound like it’s a real emergency and I want to spend some time in my own house. Plus, I have to show up for work once in a while – just so they remember that I work there.”


“Sounds good.  It’ll give me some time to read up on incubi, too.  Don’t want anything stealing your energy – I have plans for it.”  He leered at her as she began shedding clothes.


“Oh, I’ve got plenty of energy. Don’t you worry about that!”  She dropped the last of her clothing on the floor and shut the bathroom door, turning on the water and stepping into the shower with a happy sigh.


Spike quickly returned the phone call, assuring Mike that he and Buffy would be there in a few days and asking him to call back if anything changed and they were needed sooner than that.  As soon as he’d said ‘good-bye’, he began walking toward the sound of running water, dropping his own clothes on the floor as he did.  He opened the bathroom door and stepped into the tub, pulling the curtain shut and enclosing them both in the steamy space.


“Took you long enough,” Buffy teased.  “I thought maybe you’d decided to start your research tonight and I’d have to scrub my own back.”


“You don’t have to scrub anything yourself, Slayer,” he purred, pulling her against his warmed body.  “I’ve got you covered.”


“You’ve got me covered, huh?” she mumbled into his chest.


“Like a bloody blanket, love.”


“I think I like that.”  She raised her face for his kiss.  “I think I like that a lot.”


Several minutes later, when Spike slipped on some spilled bath gel, and landed on his ass in the bottom of the tub, Buffy’s legs still wrapped around his hips, their showering sex came to an abrupt halt.


“Are you all right?” Buffy asked, trying not to laugh at the indignant look on his face.


“I’m fine,” he grumbled. “Just embarrassed and brassed off at having a good shag interrupted.”


“Guess it’s a good thing we have super-healing and high pain thresholds, huh?” Buffy said as she rubbed the bruises on her knees and ankles.


“I don’t plan to make a habit of falling down in the bath, Slayer,” he said, lifting her up so that she could step out of the tub.  “This was a one-time thing. And it’s all the fault of that bloody gel you use instead of real soap.”


“Oh, so it‘s my fault you’re getting so old you can’t make love standing up anymore?”  She giggled and ran for the bedroom, smiling to herself at the bloodcurdling snarls punctuating Spike’s attempts to climb out of the wet, slippery tub.  He caught her just as she reached the bedroom, tackling her to the floor and grabbing the back of her neck in his teeth.


“I’ll show you ‘old’,” he murmured around his fangs, which were quickly being replaced with soft, mobile lips and small human teeth nibbling on her neck..  “You aren’t going to be able to walk for a week!”


“There you go again - promises, promises…” 


“I always keep my promises, love…thought you’d know that by now.”


“Well, actually…” She paused to whimper as his lips found a particularly sensitive spot.  “I’m pretty much counting on it…”



The End.




















































































































































 

Artwork by SueWorldArt