Title: Love Sanctioned  (11/28/06)

Author: Slaymesoftly

Rating: NC17 (eventually, the rest of them were)

Disclaimer: I have no idea why this idea never occurred to Joss, but it didn’t, so I’m borrowing his characters to make them happy.

AN: the fourth and last in the series that began with Loves Lost. Spike has moved to LA and tried to build a life that doesn’t include killing to eat.  Faith has arrived in Sunnydale and the Mayor is on the move.  Playing a bit fast and loose with canon timelines, as Faith’s watcher is arriving after Buffy’s birthday, rather than before – it just worked out better for this fic.  I guess, basically, I’ve given the year a few more than the usual twelve months. LOL

 

 

 

 

Love Sanctioned

 

Chapter One

 

Buffy knocked Faith away and turned just in time to see Gwendolyn slip on the glove and hold it aloft triumphantly.  When the watcher turned her smug smile on Faith and called her an idiot, the two slayers’ eyes met in sudden solidarity. 

 

“Can you distract her?” Buffy whispered.  With a quick nod, the other slayer ran into the building, drawing the false watcher’s fire and allowing Buffy time to pick up a large shard of glass and creep closer to the woman now using the Glove of Myhnegon to shoot lightning bolts at everyone within reach. Buffy sent the sharp glass spinning towards the evil ex-watcher, watching it slice through the woman’s arm just above the gauntlet.  They all shielded their eyes as the lightning drawn by the glove pierced Gwendolyn’s chest and burned her to ash while they cowered away from the flames.

 

As Buffy carefully picked up the once-again-dormant gauntlet and handed it to Xander and Willow for disposal in the magical fire, she remembered Spike’s words when he’d told them there would be another Slayer and another watcher sent out – one that would likely be either crooked or incompetent.   With a sigh, she gazed over at Faith who was still absorbing the fact that she had almost helped her new watcher become an all-powerful demon.

 

(I guess Spike called it – two out of three so far; incompetent can’t be far behind.)

 

When the gauntlet had been properly disposed of and Giles had smugly reported to the Council that Faith’s intended watcher had apparently been obsessed with power, he discovered that the woman had been fired some time ago.  In spite of the vehement arguments from the two slayers that they be left alone for Giles to advise, Quentin Travers informed them coldly that a new watcher would be on the way within the day and to expect him with the week.  He hung up while Buffy was still telling him how completely uninterested she was in having a new watcher.

 

Faith was abnormally subdued; her almost fatal mistake in trusting the woman she had thought was helping her fight the obviously evil and disloyal blond slayer and her fired watcher was causing her to keep her thoughts to herself.  She was not unaccustomed to being on the wrong side of a decision, but this was the first time she had been fooled into helping someone evil and she wasn’t sure how she felt about it.  Nor was she accustomed to being forgiven for her mistakes, as both Buffy and Giles seemed willing to do.  She listened quietly as Buffy said, “He was right, wasn’t he, Giles?”

 

Knowing exactly to whom she was referring, the older man grimaced his agreement. “So it would seem,” he replied, leaving no doubt about his reluctance to admit that Spike could be correct about anything.  “However, in all fairness to the Council,” he ignored Buffy’s rolling eyes and Faith’s snort, “they did not send the harridan.  She murdered Faith’s intended new watcher.”

 

“So, the real watcher wasn’t evil, just incompetent. He was still right.”

 

“I am sure the next one will be a great improvement,” Giles said stiffly, still unwilling to give the vampire any credit for being more knowledgeable about his former employers than he was.

 

Faith gave Buffy a puzzled look and she opened her mouth to explain, then shut it again.  Faith’s easy assumption that Buffy didn’t know what she was doing when she tried to destroy the glove rather than give it to Gwendolyn, had created a lack of trust that Buffy wasn’t sure she was ready to overlook yet.

 

Faith turned away with a casual shrug, but her clenched fists and deliberately blank face were hard to miss. With a sigh, Buffy said, “Faith.  I…I guess I should tell you about Spike.”

 

“Spike?  Miss I-used-to-be-a-cheerleader knows somebody called Spike?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Sounds more like my kind of guy. Is he a hottie?”

 

“I think so.”  Buffy’s stiff posture and clenched teeth had Faith narrowing her eyes until she saw the blond slayer visibly force herself to relax.

 

“Okay, B,” Faith said with surprising softness.  “I get it. Whoever Spike is; he’s hands off.  No problem.”

 

“He’s not a who; he’s a what.”  Giles voice was cold and crisp. He met Buffy’s furious eyes defiantly, his distaste for Spike clear in every line of his body.

 

“A wha-?”  Faith’s eyes narrowed again.  “Is he saying your honey isn’t human?”

 

Buffy’s guilty shrug told Faith that she had guessed correctly.

 

“He’s a freakin’ vampire?  No wonder the Council fired Giles!  No offense,” she offered hastily as she saw his shoulders stiffen.

 

Buffy looked back and forth between Giles’ almost triumphant face and Faith’s suspicious one, and for the first time, she fully realized what Spike meant when he said that they couldn’t be together. For all her bad girl behavior and talk, Faith was a slayer to her core and it was clear that she had just heard something that shocked her completely.

 

Buffy glared back at her sister slayer for a moment, then her shoulders sagged and she said, “How about we go by the Bronze and find a quiet corner to talk about this?”

 

Faith blinked in surprise, then nodded slowly.  The invitation to socialize outside of school or patrol was unusual enough to pique her curiosity and she decided to hear what Buffy had to say before making any more judgments about the other slayer.

 

An hour later, when Buffy had finished reciting, in a flat, emotionless voice, the events of the previous two years, Faith sat back and stared at her with newly respectful eyes.  Far from being the pampered, goody-two-shoes cheerleader that Faith had been so sure was Buffy’s life, she now knew that this was a girl who had fallen in love with not one, but two vampires, had been brutally raped and tortured by the first one and comforted and cared for by the second.  A girl who had killed her former boyfriend and his consort; a slayer who had fed a human man to an incapacitated slayer-killer that she had been responsible for crippling in the first place.  As Buffy spoke softly of her lack of interest in human boys, her growing friendship with and affection for Spike and his for her, as well as their knowledge that the chances of a Slayer and a soulless vampire having any kind of permanent relationship were very slim, Faith began to understand the sudden silences to which her new acquaintance was prone, as well as Buffy’s apparent lack of interest in the opposite sex.

 

“Damn, B.  You’ve just been having all the fun, haven’t you?  No wonder there wasn’t much for me to do until Kalistos came along.”  There was a brief silence while Faith struggled with an emotion not familiar to her.  “So, you and this Spike guy – what’s the deal?  You just gonna pine away here hoping he comes back, or what?”

 

“I don’t know,” Buffy answered, her eyes looking off into a distance only she could see.  “He says he’s working on some sort of plan, but he won’t tell me what it is.  I’m supposed to tell Willy if I need him to come back and help me with something; other than that, I just wait, I guess.  And try to stay alive.”

 

“Easier said than done in our line of work,” Faith responded wryly.

 

“We did okay tonight.”

 

“YOU did okay tonight. I almost handed the world to that bitch on a silver platter.  She was right.  I AM an idiot.  I could fuck up a one-man parade.”

 

“You didn’t know.  We understand that.  You thought you were doing the right thing.  It’s no biggie.  Hey, my boyfriend is part of the Scourge of Europe.  And he killed two Slayers.  It’s not like I’m going to throw stones.”

 

Faith snorted.  “Man, the Council has a couple of winners in us, doesn’t it?”

 

“Best slayers they’ve ever had,” Buffy said firmly.  “And we’re going to prove it.   Just as soon as we finish dancing to this song – come on.”

 

Leading the world’s only other Chosen One to the dance floor, Buffy followed Faith in providing the other patrons a glimpse of what slayers could do with their super strong and super limber bodies when properly motivated by a strong bass line.  They finished the dance, flushed and laughing; leaving the bar arm in arm and walking back to Buffy’s house and few hours of sleep before they faced a new day and a new evil. 

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

Spike spent his first weeks in Los Angeles figuring out where he wanted to spend his time.  Eventually, after tiring of sleeping in his car in underground garages, he found a small but nicely furnished basement apartment on the edge of a demon community.  He made it known that he was available for the occasional body-guarding or property retrieval job and between that and the reduced rent he paid in return for keeping the building quiet and vampire-free, he was able to keep himself, as well as have a little left over for cigarettes and booze. 

 

As he prepared to go out on a new job, he gazed around his small apartment, admiring the furnishings and the Play Station that had come with it. He smiled in sad satisfaction as he compared the comfortable apartment with the stone walls and missing roof of the old mansion in which he’d spent his time with Buffy. Somehow, the apartment managed to suffer by comparison.

 

<I>(Might as well make it a nice place; probably going to be spendin’ most of my time here feeling sorry for myself.)</I>

 

He’d almost turned around and gone back to Sunnydale when he found the rolled up sheets in the back seat of the old car.  Only the rising sun and the difficulty he knew they would both have saying good-bye again kept him from turning around immediately.   Weeks later, he was glad he hadn’t done it.  Sleeping with his face buried in the sheets that smelled of Buffy and of their love-making turned out to be his favorite activity as he slowly worked his way back into LA’s demon community.

 

<I>(I”m sorry, love.  I know you wanted them, but they’re all I’ve got of you for a good long while.  Don’t want to give them up.  I’ll find a way to make it up to you somehow.)</I>

 

              ````````

 

He was chasing a suspected magical book thief through downtown when he ran past a large, modern building with a familiar name. <I>( Wolfram and Hart.  Where have I heard that before?  Oh yeah, that’s where Peaches kept his –sod  that – MY money.  Had somebody there keep it “invested” for him.)</I>  He continued down the street until he had run down his night’s quarry and removed the stolen book from the man’s suddenly weak arms.  A sniff and a listen and he realized that the terrified thief was fully human, if a bit magically enhanced.  Spike gave his latest assignment a wolfish grin and allowed his face to shift.

             

“Guess I won’t be going hungry tonight, will I, mate?” he asked conversationally as he pulled the frightened man closer. His intended victim shut his eyes and squeaked, “If you don’t kill me, I’ll give you something valuable.”

 

              “Already got something valuable, you git.  Somethin’ that belongs to somebody who isn’t you, if I remember correctly.”

 

“No, no,” the man said hastily, flinching away from the fangs only centimeters from his throat.  “Something that is mine.  That only I can give away.  You can’t take it.  I’ll give it to you if you just don’t kill me.”

 

“I’m hungry,” Spike growled, hoping he sounded less whiny than he felt.  In spite of his efforts to seek out true evil-doers for his meals, he was finding it harder and harder to justify killing the always male victims he found and he was leaving more and more of them alive when he finished.  The voice in his head that acted as his newly-awakened conscience  - and that sounded suspiciously like Buffy - was happy but his belly was not; and it was always a struggle to fight the urge to drain his victims.

 

“What is it?” he mumbled, his fangs grazing the man’s throat and sending very satisfying shudders through the would-be mage’s body.

 

“It’s a crystal.  You just look into it and picture your life’s desire and it will happen.  Not right away,” he added quickly, lest he be accused of lying.  “But it will happen.”

 

Images of big green eyes and pouting pink lips immediately filled Spike’s head, as did the feel of silky skin and womanly curves hiding muscles that rivaled his own.  Feeling like a fool, he snarled his assent.

 

“All right. I’ll leave you alive.  But I’m going to drink from you.  Spent too much time chasing you all over town to go out hunting for somebody else.”

 

The relieved man nodded vigorously.  “Of course. Of course.  Take what you need.  Just don’t kill me.  It will be worth your while, I promise.”

 

“Where is it then?”

 

The man fumbled inside his jacket, unwilling to point out to the impatient vampire that being held by the shoulders was interfering with his ability to reach the crystal.  With a triumphant sigh, he finally pulled an ordinary looking pink crystal from his jacket and held it up.

 

“Put it in the pocket of my duster.”

 

As soon as the man had complied, Spike sank his teeth into the artery pulsing in front of him, taking deep draughts of the man’s blood until he felt his victim weakening.  Reluctantly, Spike removed his teeth, being sure to lick the wound closed before he propped the man up against a nearby door. 

 

“You alright, mate?”  Spike cursed himself for asking the poncy sounding question.

 

<I>(A deal’s a deal, innit?  Just making sure I’m holding up my end is all.)</I>

 

The would-be thief nodded his head wearily and took out a cell phone.  He hit a button and murmured a quiet, “I need you to pick me up,” into it, glancing at the nearby street sign and giving an address before hanging up.

 

“So, someone’s coming to get you then?”

 

“Yes.  I’ll be fine. You can go.  Just be careful when you use the crystal.  Don’t waste it on something trivial.  Be sure it really is your heart’s desire, before you activate it.”

 

“What do I do?” Spike asked, his tone making it obvious he thought he was just humoring his victim.

 

“Just look into it and think about what you want most in the world.”

 

“And then what?”

 

“And then nothing, probably.  I can’t tell you when it will happen – that you get your heart’s desire – just that you will.  You’ll just have to trust me.”

 

“You’re a thief,” Spike snorted. “Why should I trust you?”

 

“I trusted you.”

 

“Well, that’s…that was the right thing to do.  I’m a vampire; not a liar.”  The indignation in Spike’s voice would have been humorous if they had not been discussing his having made a meal from the man in front of him.

 

“Neither am I,” the magician said, allowing his head to fall back against the door against which he rested.

 

When it appeared that the conversation was over, Spike made sure he had both book and crystal and then walked back to where he’d left his car, already mentally spending the five hundred dollars he was being paid to retrieve the stolen book.  As he passed Wolfram and Hart for the second time, it occurred to him that with his entire vampiric family dust, he was the surviving heir to whatever money was left in the accounts Angelus had set up so many years ago.  Vowing to follow up the following night and try to locate the right person, he whistled cheerfully as he strode through the night.

 

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

 

The following evening found Spike still in a reasonably good mood as he returned the book and pocketed his reward money.  As he was stuffing the bills in the inside pocket of his duster, his hand brushed against the crystal there and he took it out, glancing at the suddenly intent witch who had sent him after her book.

 

“You have any idea what this is?” he asked, tossing it carelessly from hand to hand.

 

“It looks like an ordinary wishing crystal,” she replied with feigned disinterest, waiting for him to stop tossing it so that she could look at it carefully.  “Yes,” she added when she’d looked it over carefully, “that’s what it is. Nothing special, but I could buy it from you, if you’d like.”  She glanced up at him, her eyes sharp with avarice, and he smiled as he took it out of her reluctant hand.

             

“Wishing crystal, eh?  No, thanks for the offer, but I think I’ll keep it. I’ve taken a fancy to it.”

 

He turned to go, almost laughing at the obvious disappointment on the witch’s face.

 

“Well, if you get tired of it…” She made a last attempt, stopping quickly when he flashed his fangs at her.  She gave him a weak smile and waved good-bye, retreating behind the counter for safety.  “Just…just be careful what you wish for, then,” she suggested.  “Be very sure it’s what you want…”

 

“Yeah, already heard that, but thanks anyway.”  He was out the door in a rustle of leather, the crystal safely tucked into an inside pocket as he made his way to his next destination.

 

Two hours at Wolfram and Hart, during which he had to give a sample of his blood to prove who he was, and he was the sole possessor of the small fortune that Angelus had accumulated through his two centuries of unlife and to which he had added all William’s net worth when Dru made the young man a part of their family.  Spike also made arrangements for a special purchase.  A flash of fang was all it took to convince the fawning human lawyer that he was perfectly serious about his purchase and with what he wanted done to it.

 

He returned to his apartment, setting the crystal carefully beside the bed as he stripped and slid between the sheets that still, to his sensitive nose, smelled of Buffy.  He took the crystal down from the nightstand and set it in front of his face as he leaned on one elbow, picturing Buffy’s smiling eyes and warm lips in front of him.  Feeling somewhat silly, he then imagined himself with her, trying to picture them together, her mother, her watcher and her two disapproving friends watching as they pledged their love to each other in front of the witnesses.

 

When, after several minutes of staring into the crystal, the only thing that had happened was that his eyes began to hurt, he gave up and, with a growl, shoved the pretty rock off the bed onto the floor.

 

“I don’t know what the bloody hell I was thinkin’…” he muttered to himself as he closed his eyes against the faint light beginning to show around the edges of the heavy drapes covering his one window. “Like wishin’ I could be in Buffy’s life is gonna make it happen…”

 

 

He was sound asleep when the piece of quartz on his floor began to glow softly and he was completely oblivious to its steady luminescence throughout the day.  By evening, when he awoke, his previous good mood gone in the wake of his disappointment, it was just a pretty rock again.  A pretty rock that he stepped on when he got out of bed, causing him to curse at it for the useless piece of gravel that it was. 

 

He dressed and went out into the night, planning to use his new-found riches to drown his disappointment and allow him to fall into peaceful oblivion at the end of the evening.  He diligently prowled his neighborhood first, putting a stake through the chest of a vampire that wanted to argue with him about its right to eat the man in the corner grocery store, and sending three others running off to the less well-protected streets of other parts of the city.  He acknowledged the grocer’s grateful wave with a nod and crooked his finger at him as though shooting a gun, reminding him to keep his water pistol filled with holy water handy at night.

 

As had become his habit, he haunted the seedier parts of the city until he came upon a would-be rapist that he held up with one hand while he sent the intended victim on her way.  The man’s struggling turned to panicky thrashing as Spike turned back to him, his demon to the fore.  Ignoring the man’s pleas for his life and promises of a complete change of life-style, Spike sank his teeth into the less-than-clean throat in front of him and drank enough to get himself through the next twenty-four hours.  He then dropped the man’s semi-conscious body to the ground and without a backward look, strode out of the alley and down the street.

 

He finished the evening at a new bar he had discovered.  A demon bar, but one in which humans were safe also, as the owner had a protective spell on the place to prevent violence.  He settled into a small booth and asked the smiling waitress to bring him a glass and bottle of Jack Daniels which he then used to drink himself into a state in which he could temporarily forget that he was living by himself in Los Angeles, and that Buffy was living her life back in Sunnydale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AN – For any readers who pick up on things as quickly as my beta does, *smooches Always_jbj*, let me say right now that I am not following canon timelines very closely.  I’d like to do so as much as possible, but since everything after Buffy dusts Angelus and Dru is off-canon anyway, I’ve taken the liberties that I think I need to in order to tell the rest of the story.  You can either assume Buffy’s birthday came much earlier than we know it does, or that the year 1999 contained a few extra months. (Hey, it’s Sunnydale – it could happen!)

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

“I didn’t say you were wrong.  I said I wouldn’t have done it that way.” Buffy’s voice held an impatient note that caused the other girl to bristle.

 

“Same thing, isn’t it?  If you wouldn’t do it that way, then it must be<I> wrong.</I> Cause, god forbid anyone else might have an idea.”

 

“You know what? Fine! Do it your way.  And when Wesley yells at you, don’t come whining to me about it.”

 

“That moron?  He’s too busy making goo-goo eyes at her royal highness to pay any attention to what we’re doing.”

 

“Wesley-I’m-too-proper-to-fart- Wyndham-Price and Cordelia?  You’ve got to be kidding me!”

 

“Good one, B.  I’ll make a bad girl out of you yet.”  Buffy’s crude description of their new watcher brought a smile to Faith’s face and renewed her good mood.

 

Buffy shook her head, trying to hide the smile that threatened to ruin her lofty tone.  “I don’t know where that came from.  It must be the company I keep.”

 

“What I said.  We’ll get that stick out of your ass one of these days and then you and I are going to rock this town.”

 

“After we kill this stupid demon that thinks he is going to live in Sunnydale and eat people’s pets while he takes over the hellmouth.”

 

“After that.”

 

Tranquility restored, the two slayers continued their interrupted walk through Sunnydale’s cemeteries, their shoulders brushing occasionally as they trusted their slayer senses to alert them to danger.

 

“So. Wesley and Cordy, huh?  I didn’t see that one coming.”

 

“Oh, I don’t think anyone’s coming, B.  They’re just thinking about it and making moon-eyes at each other.”

 

“Wha-?  Oh! You are disgusting!”

 

              “And there’s that stick again.  Damn!  I thought sure it was working its way out.”

 

              “Shut up, Faith.”

 

              “Hey, don’t get all tight-jawed on me again.  I just—“

 

              “No. Shut up. And listen.”

 

              The brunette slayer joined her sister in using their enhanced senses to pick up on the sound of chanting.  Moving silently, the two suddenly intent predators drifted through the night in the direction of the sound.   In a small clearing in the midst of several toppled gravestones, they found the demon they had been sent out after.  Tall and slender, with delicate horns curling out of his head, the creature did not appear particularly intimidating as he stood next to a small fire and continued his chant.

 

              Only when a portal began to open over the fire and the two slayers glimpsed the eagerly waiting monsters crowding towards it did they understand how the harmless looking demon mage intended to conquer the helllmouth.

 

              “Holy shit! He’s going to bring those ugly suckers through!”

 

              “Uh, yeah. And then we’ll have to fight them.  I’m thinking this might be a good time for us to take him out.  Like now – before that doorway gets any bigger?”

 

              “I’m on it.” 

 

              Faith flew out of the shadows and knocked the still-chanting demon to the ground.  To Buffy’s dismay, the portal continued to grow as the demon struggled to maintain his chanting in the face of Faith’s vigorous pummeling of his body.

 

              “Shut him up!” Buffy screamed as she began kicking the fire and trying to scatter the wood.  As the fire sputtered into small individual pieces of flaming wood, the portal stopped growing, but remained poised over the charred spot on the ground, the demons on the other side howling and pushing against the small opening.  The chanting choked off with a gurgle and Buffy looked up from her stamping on flames long enough to see that Faith had her hands around the demon mage’s throat and was squeezing it shut, her teeth bared and her eyes alight with a joy that gave the other slayer a momentary chill.

 

              As an arm bearing a sword pushed through the shrinking portal, Buffy grabbed the creature’s wrist, twisting until the sword fell to the ground.  Snatching it up, she quickly hacked off the offending limb just as the portal closed with a slight popping sound.  She stared at the bleeding body part for a second, noting the claws that were still twitching as well as the armor-like scales covering the muscular forearm.  With a shiver, she chopped it into small pieces, which she then scattered much as she had the fire.

 

              A soft sigh had her looking quickly to where Faith was standing up from the seemingly dead demon.  The sigh had apparently been the sound of trapped air escaping from his no longer working lungs when Faith had finally released her hold on his neck.  The two girls stared down at the completed night’s work with satisfaction.  When Faith silently held out her hand, Buffy passed her the sword, stepping back to allow the other slayer room to cut off the demon’s head.

 

              “No sense taking any chances,” Faith commented as she wiped the blade on a clump of grass before joining Buffy in stamping out the remaining embers of the magical fire. 

 

            “Nope. That’s us.  All take-no-chances and do-everything-by-the-book Buffy and Faith.”

 

              Faith nodded solemnly, steeling her face into straight lines until she saw Buffy’s shoulders quivering; at which time she began to snicker.  As her snickers grew louder, Buffy quit trying to hide her laughter and the two girls began walking towards Giles’ apartment, their giggles preceding them.

 

              Once the laughter trailed off to the occasional broad smile, a comfortable silence fell as the two Chosen Ones strolled through the streets of Sunnydale. With two slayers in town, the vampire population was practically non-existent, the occasional visitor to the hellmouth the rare exception, so the gang of four, apparently older vampires, that surrounded them came as a welcome surprise.

 

              “Look here, bros.  Dinner,” a grinning vamp in clothes from the 1980’s announced to his companions.

 

              “Look, Faith.  Funny-looking people!” was Buffy’s perky response.

 

              “Must be our lucky night,” Faith agreed cheerfully.  “You take the ugly ones, and I’ll take the butt-ugly ones.”

 

Neither slayer had yet produced a visible stake, and the vamps were clearly taken aback by the girls’ lack of fear. When the two moved slightly apart to allow each other more fighting room, a frown appeared on the vampire leader’s face.

 

              “A mouthy blonde, and a mouthier brunette.  I think we might have found ourselves our paychecks, boys.”

 

              “Paychecks? Vamps are paying each other to eat people now?”

 

              “Nah, we do that for fun,” he responded to Buffy’s question.  “But the mayor of this town has a bit of a slayer problem and he’s willing to pay big bucks to the vamp who removes it  - or them, as the case might be.” He gave the two frowning girls a toothy grin and gestured to his minions to move closer. “It’s payday, boys,” he growled swinging his fist at Buffy’s head.

 

              Buffy’s head, of course, was no longer there as she ducked his punch and buried her fist in his stomach.  His quick recovery confirmed that he was not a fledgling and she pulled out her stake, determined not to underestimate the now-snarling vampire.  She could hear Faith’s happy squeal as she staked the vamp that had been unfortunate enough to try to get behind her while she was pulling the stake from her waistband.

 

              With Faith now having only one vamp to worry about, she shoved the stake back into her waistband and began to play with her remaining opponent, letting out whoops of delight whenever a punch or kick took an obvious toll on the vampire.  She took her own share of punches as she drew the vamp away from Buffy to give the other slayer room to maneuver, but it was clear that only a mistake on her part could change the eventual outcome.

 

              Buffy was able to get a good solid kick into the leader’s face, knocking him away long enough for her to stake his somewhat less-experienced companion, and freeing her to concentrate on the strongest of the four bounty hunters.  The slayer and the remaining vampire faced off warily, neither wanting to underestimate the other. 

 

              “Kinda running out of buddies, there, aren’t you?” Buffy quipped as the dust of Faith’s last opponent drifted between her and the angry vamp facing her.

 

“More money for me,” he snarled, charging the small slayer and using his size to carry her to the ground.   However, his attempt to sink his teeth into her throat failed when the force of Spike’s claim knocked him back temporarily.  His “What the fu-“ was cut off when Buffy sat up and thrust her stake into his chest.  She glared at his dust, daring it to drift into her face as she stood up and shook herself.

 

              “Neat trick you’ve got there, B.”  Faith’s voice barely concealed her curiosity, but she tried to appear uninterested in how Buffy had managed to throw the large vampire off without moving.

 

              “Yeah. I know.” 

 

There was no explanation from the blond slayer and Faith’s face settled into the indifferent mask that she used as her shield against the world.  She refused to ask Buffy to explain what had happened, knowing there was more to it than luck.

 

<I>(She’s pretty fuckin’ snotty for somebody who has banged two vampires. Wonder how she’d like it if I staked her honey when he comes back?  At least one of us needs to remember what our job is.)</I>

 

 

 

 

             

 

 

 

Chapter Four

 

Spike was nursing his third glass from the bottle of JD that he had, as usual, asked the waitress to leave on the table, when the club’s owner, a green empath demon from Pylea, approached. Without asking permission, Lorne pulled out a chair and sat down, resting his scaly arms on the table and studying the vampire in front of him.

 

“You’ve put away a lot of that stuff in past several weeks, cutie pie.  You want to tell Uncle Lorne all about it?”

 

“I bloody well do not,” the vampire growled doing his best imitation of a rabid dog.

 

“Ah, well,” the demon continued, not at all disturbed, “how about if you sing for me, then?”

 

Spike stared at the large green demon as though he’d suddenly grown another head.

 

“How about I promise not to rip your entrails out if you get up and leave me alone?”

 

Lorne sighed and shook his head.

 

“Can’t do it, gorgeous. One way or another, I’ve got to know what’s going on in that pretty head of yours.  It’s club policy.  If you become a regular, you have to let old Lorne know what’s what in your life.  Woman trouble? Sire problems? Slayer problems?  All of the above?” he guessed shrewdly. “Just give me a few bars of something – you don’t have to get up on the stage if you don’t want to.”

 

“I don’t sing,” Spike growled, the sinking feeling that he might as well be arguing with Joyce or Buffy beginning to penetrate the alcoholic haze he’d been working on preserving since he’d allowed himself to hope briefly that the crystal could get him back to Sunnydale.

 

“Don’t care,” the demon said cheerfully. “And I’ll bet that’s not true. I’ll just bet you could sing like a choir boy if you wanted to, pumpkin.”

 

Spike rolled his eyes and gave up.  He’d been coming to Caritas long enough to know that when Lorne made up his mind someone was going to sing for him, sooner or later it happened.  He had no idea what the empath demon did with the information he garnered from the command performances, but he’d seen tough G’lushma demons leave in tears after a chat with the amiable host.  He’d also seen vampires, demons and even the occasional human, leaving with big smiles on their faces.

 

Without warning, he launched into a couple verses of “I Wanna Be Sedated”, keeping the beat by tapping a heavy thumb ring on the table as he sang.  Spike watched the demon’s face go from pleased to shocked to awed before, throwing a “Good job, sweet cheeks,” over his shoulder, Lorne hurried back to the bar and into an intense conversation with what appeared to be a human man leaning against it.

 

The host made no attempt to pretend he wasn’t talking about Spike as he nodded his head at him and spoke rapidly. The man raised his eyebrows, taking in Spike’s leather coat, bleached hair and lethal glower. The he shrugged, nodded at Lorne and picked up his drink.  His slow stroll over to Spike’s table gave him plenty of opportunity to study the puzzled vampire and re-think his initial reaction.  Spike never went into game face, in spite of his obvious irritation with the host, indicating a control only to be found in master vampires.  Although his attire and the accompanying punk look suggested a vampire that had been turned in the 1980’s, the power Doyle could sense in the compact body said this one was much older than he’d first thought.

 

<I>(Maybe the powers aren’t as confused as I think they are.  This one isn’t what he first seems at all.)</I>

 

With a nod, he stopped at Spike’s table and gestured at the half-empty bottle sitting there.

 

“If you’ll share, I’ll spring for the next one,” he said.  “It seems that we like the same brand.”

 

“Not really getting’ a choice here, am I?” Spike kicked a chair out for the man to sit in.

 

With a grin, Doyle sat and put his glass on the table.  “Well, you might have a choice in the short run – but the Powers have a way of getting what they want eventually; so, yeah, giving in early is always a smart move.”

 

“Powers?”

 

“Oh, my bad.  Didn’t introduce myself.”  He held out his hand, dropping it when Spike just glared at him.  “I’m Doyle.  Part-time demon and full time seer for the Powers That Be.  And you are, apparently, their next champion.”

 

Spike had just taken a large swallow of whiskey when he realized what the man had so casually stated.  He spewed liquid all over the table, narrowly missing the quick-moving seer as he dodged out of the way.  While he struggled to find words to express exactly how totally wrong that was, Doyle moved his chair closer and rested his elbows on the table.  With a casual shrug, he told the sputtering vampire that the Powers considered him, William the Bloody, responsible for the loss of their chosen champion.

 

“The big poof?  <I>Angelus</I> was their chosen champion?  The Scourge of Europe? Raper of little girls and nuns? “

 

“Apparently he was on the road to redemption when the slayer they sent him to assist sidetracked him.  They had plans for him and now they need—“

 

“And now they need another sucker?  No thanks, mate. Quite happy bein’ all unredeemed and evil here.”

 

“Is that so?” Doyle quietly poured himself another glassful of amber liquid as he met Spike’s eyes.  “That’s sure not what Lorne read in your aura.”

 

“Bugger what he saw in my aura.  And bugger the Powers That Be too.  I’m nobody’s tool.”

 

“No.  But you are the vampire that the slayer has chosen for her mate.  The vampire who is trying to change his habits so as to be worthy of her.”  The part-demon seer waited quietly for Spike to get over his angry surprise before he continued, “If the Powers send you to her, that ends your concerns about her watcher, the Council of Watchers, and her own worry about having to slay you someday.  You can be together. Openly.”

 

Only the widening of Spike’s eyes gave away that he was still listening.  Without saying anything to the grinning half-breed that would indicate he had even heard his words, Spike drained his glass and refilled it, bringing the whiskey to his lips and taking another long swallow.   With a shake of his head, he said, “You got the wrong vamp, mate.  I like being evil.  I kill slayers, I don’t follow around behind them waitin’ for marching orders.”

 

Grabbing the bottle before Spike could take the last of the liquid left in it, Doyle refilled his own glass and took a large swallow himself.

 

“Actually, you won’t be taking orders from her; you’ll be taking them from me –er, from the Powers through me,” he added hastily as Spike’s eyes flashed amber and his fangs descended.

 

“I don’t TAKE orders.” 

 

“If it makes you happier, think of them as…suggestions…from the beings that know what needs to be done to maintain a balance in the world.  Trust me,” Doyle continued with a grimace, “most of the time the visions they send me are too confusing to be considered ‘orders’.  They’re more like ‘try to figure out what we mean by this one before it jumps up and bites you on the ass’.”

 

“Can’t think of any reason I’d want to do that to myself.”  Spike glared at the now-empty bottle and gestured at the waitress to bring him another.  “I’d be a complete outcast if it became known I was helping the slayer. It would be worse than the big poof – at least everyone knew he’d been cursed with a soul.  What excuse would I have?”

 

“That you’re mated to the slayer?  That gets around, you’re screwed anyway,” Doyle said cheerfully, reaching for the new bottle and smiling at the waitress.

 

“I don’t think I like you.”  Spike snatched the bottle out of Doyle’s hand and poured himself another full glass.

 

“You don’t have to like me; you just have to listen to me when it’s important.”

 

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

 

Doyle looked around the messy apartment, taking in the empty bottles, crumpled packs of Marlboros and the unmade bed.  He shifted into his demon mien briefly and inhaled the scents in the room, stepping back involuntarily when he recognized the combined aroma coming from the rumpled bed.

 

“You ever going to wash those filthy sheets?” he asked as his human face came back, and with it his less acute senses.

 

“Depends”

 

“On what?  Whether they can bring tears to the eyes of anybody with a sensitive nose?”

 

“On whether or not your nose is that sensitive when you’re not bein’ a demon.  Don’t want to be grossin’ out any human pretties I might bring home; don’t much care if you don’t like the smell.”

 

Spike tried for a leer, but found that he was having some difficulty controlling his face.  He glared at the empty bottle in his hand and then at the laughing man standing in his living room.

 

“Yeah,” Doyle scoffed, brushing off a chair and semi-falling into it.  He, too, glared accusingly at the bottle in Spike’s hand. “Like you’re going to be cheating on the fuckin’ slayer.”

 

“We have an open relationship.”  Spike waved his hand vaguely in the direction of Sunnydale before falling face down on the bed. 

 

“What? She gets to date college boys and you get to sit in Caritas until you’re drunk enough to stagger home?”

 

“She’s dating college boys?” Spike’s head flew up and his eyes tried to focus on Doyle’s grin.  

 

“She will be,” Doyle said smugly.  “She’s off to college in the fall and if you’re still sitting here…”

 

“Wanker.”  Spike’s head fell back down onto the bed.  “I thought you knew somethin’.”

 

“I know she’s got an Ascension to prevent and no one to help her but a loose cannon of a slayer and whatever they’ve sent in the way of another watcher.  The last one tried to kill everybody,” he added casually.  “Slayer had to cut off the woman’s arm to save the day.”

 

“Tha’sh my girl.”  Spike’s speech was beginning to slur as the bottle dropped from his hand to the already stained carpet. 

 

 

 

 

 

AN: Because my beta and I both agree that Joss was probably having everyone on when he told an interviewer that William’s last name was “Pratt”, I have, at her request, changed it from that back to one of the names I’ve used in previous fics that were written before we knew that Joss had said that.  One must keeps one’s beta happy…

 

 

 

Chapter Five.

 

              As it had become her habit to do occasionally, Buffy took the long way home from school the following week, heading for Crawford Street and the mansion that she still thought of as Spike’s home.  She gasped when she turned the corner to find trucks and vans parked in the driveway and construction workers going in and out.  On the top of the building, roofers were nailing plywood onto newly installed wooden trusses.  Packs of shingles were stacked neatly at the end of the drive, awaiting their installation.  Buffy’s face crumbled as she watched the obvious renovations taking place in the old mansion.

 

              With a quiet sob, she turned and raced home. <I>(It’s just a building. It’s just a building. It’s just a--)</I>.  She ran past her mother with a muffled excuse of having something in her eye, locking herself in the bathroom and turning on the water to drown the sounds of her soft crying.  She sobbed softly for a short period of time, then splashed water on her face and left the bathroom.  If Joyce didn’t believe her story of having something in her eye, she didn’t say so and they had a pleasantly normal dinner.

 

              At that night’s Scooby meeting, Buffy quietly asked Willow if she would get on her computer and see who had bought the old Crawford street mansion. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do with the information, but she couldn’t stand not knowing who was going to be living in “Spike’s house”.

 

              It took Willow only a few minutes to come up with the name of the new owner, as well as the law firm that was handling the transaction.  Giles had come over to see what had the two girls so intent and blinked when he saw what they were looking at.

 

              “Wolfram and Hart is doing business in Sunnydale?  That can’t be good,” he muttered.  “What have they done?”

 

              “They just bought one of the old Crawford Street mansions for somebody named…”Willow searched the page carefully before continuing.  “William Carlisle.”

 

              Giles listened to the name, glanced at the address of the house and made the connection before Buffy did.  A muscle twitched in his jaw; the only sign that he didn’t like what he saw.

 

              “Did you know about this?” he asked Buffy, his tone cold.

 

              “Did I know about what?  I just asked Willow to find out who bought the house that Spi- that we – that—“ Buffy stammered, not sure how to say that she thought of the old house as Spike’s, and, by extension, hers.

 

              “It should be fairly obvious who has purchased the building,” Giles said tightly.  “The owner’s name is William; he has used an evil law firm with demon clients to do the legwork for him; really, Buffy, how stupid do you think I am?”

 

              Buffy’s expressions ran the gamut as she realized what Giles was implying.  Anger at the way he was speaking to her, dawning understanding of what his words meant, and finally, joy that she made no attempt to hide.  Willow stared back and forth between the two, her own realization gradually dawning.  Buffy had given Willow and Xander a severely edited version of what had happened to her in that house, as well as finally sharing the fact that she and Spike had developed a friendship that she had not told them about at the time. 

 

              Only after Spike’s next visit to Sunnydale, had Buffy given Willow any reason to think that there was something romantic between the Slayer and the vampire who had come here to kill her.  Willow’s firm “No!” when asked if she should tell Xander about it only confirmed the slayer’s own instinct that told her the boy wouldn’t handle it well, so until her confession to Faith, only Giles and her Mother knew the full extent of her relationship with Spike.

 

              “He’s coming back!”  Buffy couldn’t keep the elation from her voice and she resolutely ignored the thunderous look on her watcher’s face as she explained to Willow that William Carlisle was probably Spike.

 

              In spite of the progress being made on the mansion, upon which Buffy checked religiously twice a week, there was no sign of the absent vampire and eventually the constant state of excitement began to wear off.

 

              <I>(He’ll be back when he’s ready.  I guess he just wants to be sure he has a place to live.  I wonder where he got the money to buy a big house like that?  I hope he didn’t steal it…) </I>

 

              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

              “Come on, man, I didn’t get this headache just so you could have an excuse to beat people up.  Finish what you started and let’s get out of here.”

 

              “You said I should I stop these wankers from finishing the ritual.  Didn’t tell me I couldn’t enjoy doin’ it.”  Spike’s response was a quick snarl as he dodged a sword aimed at his head.

 

              “I said you needed to stop the ritual and set the captives free.  The Powers didn’t say anything about taking on a whole freakin’ army!”  Doyle shouted his argument from the branches of the tree into which he’d climbed to get away from the violence below.  When his pleading had no effect on the vampire’s continued carnage, he added, “You’ve taken care of the last vision we had for LA events, and your house is probably finished now.  We can go back to Sunnydale and tell your slayer that you’ve been chosen to help her.”

 

              Two human/demon hybrids that he killed quickly rather than after a prolonged fight were the only sign given to indicate that Spike was listening; but it was enough. Quickly, Doyle went on, “Or, I could just go myself and tell her you got yourself dusted fighting just for the hell of it when you could have been on the road back to her.”

 

              With a final growl, the vampire accepted the wisdom of what the Irish half-breed was saying.  He threw the man he’d been fighting onto the pile of bodies growing in front of him and ran toward his old Desoto with Doyle already racing ahead of him.  They sped away from the scene, laughing as what was left of the would-be world enders shouted curses after them.

 

They made a quick stop by his apartment to stuff some things in his duffle bag and to tell the landlord he wouldn’t be around for a while; then Spike pointed the Desoto’s nose in the direction of Sunnydale and drove through the night.  After clenching his fists until they hurt, and pressing on an imaginary brake pedal until he was afraid he might go through the floor, Doyle decided the best way to deal with Spike’s driving was to close his eyes.  In spite of the flutters of fear that went through him every once in a while, he soon fell asleep; leaving the vampire to speed through the night with no distraction from his thoughts.

 

              <I>(I wonder if she’s seen the house?  Probably should have told her what I was doin’.  Damn!  I should have told her.  Would have helped her believe that I’m coming back someday.  Wonder if she cares if I do.  Of course she does.  Said she loved me, didn’t she?  Buffy wouldn’t lie about something like that.  But she’s so young. Can somebody that young fall in love forever?  What if she doesn’t want me any more?)</I>

             

              He didn’t realize he’d spoken the last though aloud, until a disgruntled Doyle opened one eye to sneer, “Helluva time to think about that, wouldn’t you say?  What with you having claimed her and all.”

 

              “Shut up, you stupid Irish arsehole.  How do you know about that anyway?”

 

              The half-demon held up his hand, showing his crossed fingers.  “Me and the Powers,” he grinned.  “Just like that, remember?”

 

              “Soddin’ powers. Ought to mind their own business, they ought. Don’t need to be blabbing about me and the slayer to every worthless seer that comes down the pike.” 

 

Spike’s grumbling was more good-natured than his words would imply and Doyle just grinned again before shutting his eyes.  “Anyway, you talk in your sleep,” he mumbled, just before he dropped off again.

 

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

 

             

              Dawn was just threatening to break when the big black car rolled into Sunnydale, and Spike had no choice but to head straight for the mansion and it’s welcoming shelter.  He pulled into the driveway just ahead of the emerging sunlight, dashing to the front door only to find that the workmen had conscientiously locked it behind them.   While the demon watched in amusement, Spike raced around the building searching for an open window.  He was happy to find that, per his instructions, the workmen had not touched the room he and Buffy had used as theirs and the window there was not locked.

 

              He walked down the long hallway towards the front room, only to find Doyle standing there waiting for him, wearing a grin and holding a small lock-picking kit.  With a growl, Spike stomped to the front door, assuring himself that it was not damaged before he spoke.

 

              “You might have told me you could do that,” he grumbled, unwilling to admit that he was impressed, nor that he hadn’t thought to do it himself.

 

              “That I could,” Doyle answered in his musical lilt.  “But then I would have missed the fun of watchin’ you scamper around trying to get in before the sun popped out.”

 

              “Bloody Mick wanker,” he muttered as he walked around pulling the drapes closed.  He had not ordered anything in the way of furniture for the interior of the building, only insisting on the heavy drapes that now covered every window and allowed him to walk around the entire house regardless of the time of day.  Doyle followed the vampire into the big kitchen and watched as Spike tested the light switch and smiled when the lights went on immediately.  A quick twist on the faucet and Spike could see that the plumbing was also functioning and the vampire made a mental note to see that the W & H representative who had handled the renovations for him was well rewarded.

 

He pointed in the direction of the main bedrooms and waved Doyle that way, saying with a yawn, “Don’t know what’s left back there in the way of furniture, but I don’t think the fire got to all of it.  You should be able to find yourself a bed for the day.”

 

“I’m no unbreathin’, night-loving’ vampire,” the man complained, half-seriously.  “I don’t sleep in the daytime!  And, anyway, I slept in the car, remember?”

 

“Suit yourself,” Spike headed for the small bedroom down the hall from the kitchen.  “I’m going to catch some kip before Buffy gets home from school.”

 

He shut himself in to the familiar bedroom and fell facedown on the bare mattress.  He was asleep almost immediately; completely confident that he would be undisturbed while the man he still refused to think of as a friend was in the house.

             

              Across town, Buffy was just responding to her mother’s more and more impatient-sounding demands that she get up and get ready for school.  Contrary to what her mother believed, Buffy was not lingering in bed because she was trying to sleep, but because something was making the marks on her neck tingle and causing her to be wide awake and edgy. 

 

              <I>(Maybe I could just forget school today and go by the house – just in case…)</I>

 

              The quick memory flash that showed her Principal Snyder’s latest threat to expel her for missing classes changed her mind, and, with a tired sigh, she began to dress for school.

 

              The barely visible marks on her neck tingled all through the day and Buffy had to fight the urge to rub them when anyone was watching. She shrugged off Willow’s curiosity about her obvious distraction, attributing it in an off-hand manner to “that creepy Mayor and his undead minions”. When Willow reminded her that they were to meet with the new watcher again that night, Buffy groaned aloud.

 

              “I sooo don’t want to hear what he has to say,” she grumbled. 

 

“Hey,” Xander offered cheerfully, having dragged an unwilling Cordelia over to join the conversation.  “We could set up a betting pool.  Sell tickets to people and let them guess where he’d fall on an evil-through-incompetent scale of one to ten. What do you say, Buffy? Sound like a plan?”

 

              “It sounds like a nightmare. My nightmare.”

 

              “I don’t know why you are all so negative about Wesley.  He is young, rich and good looking.”  Cordelia’s assessment of what she considered positive attributes in the new watcher brought nothing but an eye roll from the slayer and a glare from her sometime boyfriend. Willow and Oz did their best to hide their smiles at the brunette’s list of what she considered excellent qualities in a man. Buffy remembered Faith’s assessment of what was going on between Cordelia and Wesley, and silently groaned again.

 

              To forestall a full scale fight about Cordelia’s obvious interest in the new watcher, Willow did her best to distract everyone with another reminder about that night’s meeting.

 

              “Scooby meeting at 8:00 in the library, right, Buffy?”

 

              “Yeah,” the Slayer sighed.  “Scooby meeting at 8:00.  Excitement all around.”

 

              “Is Faith gonna be there?”

 

              Buffy shrugged. “If she remembers that I told her about it.  He’s her new watcher, not mine.  But she’s been acting kinda weird lately, so I don’t know if she’ll come or not.”

 

              Lately?”  Cordelia’s snort of amusement trailed behind her as she walked off to her next class.

 

 

             

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Six

 

              The Scooby meeting was not going according to Wesley’s plan.  Cordelia was openly flirting with him, causing Xander to retaliate by exchanging innuendos with a more-than-willing Faith; Oz and Willow were busy gazing into each other’s eyes; Buffy was rubbing her neck and looking around the library as if expecting something to jump out of the shelves any second; and Giles was sitting at his desk, obviously enjoying the fact that his younger replacement could not get any of the teenagers in the room to focus on his ideas for defeating the Mayor.

 

              In a fit of temper, Wesley slammed down the reference book from which he’d been quoting and took advantage of the temporary silence to say firmly, “This is a perfect example of why civilians should not be included in Watcher/Slayer business.”  He pointed to an astonished Xander, Willow, Oz and Cordelia, announcing in what he hoped was an authoritative tone, “You four will have to leave.  My slayers and I have important business to discuss and you are not included.”  He pointedly avoided Cordelia’s furious glare, opting to turn towards Buffy and Faith with a confident air.

 

              “Giles!?”  Willow’s indignant squeal was echoed by Xander and Cordelia as they all appealed to the only true authority figure in the room.  As usual, Oz was complacently silent.

 

              “Mr. Giles is no longer employed by the Council either,” Wesley said stiffly.   “I am allowing him to stay only because of his previous experience on the Hellmouth.”

 

              With a wave of his hand, the ex-watcher indicated that they were to do as instructed.  In spite of his enjoyment of the young watcher’s ineptitude, Giles sense of responsibility forced him to acknowledge the truth of Wesley’s words.  It <I>was</I> necessary that Buffy and Faith focus on the mission ahead of them, and clearly that was not going to happen with the distraction of having the other young people in the room.

 

              <I>(We WILL be discussing his “allowing me to stay” in my own library)</I> the older man vowed, even as he dismissed the others.

 

              Shooting disappointed and incredulous looks at the librarian, the dismissed students began to make their way towards the double doors leading to the rest of the school.  Just as they reached them, Buffy and Faith leaped to their feet, eyes scanning the room.

 

              “Vamps!” Faith announced.

 

              “Lot’s of vamps,” Buffy agreed, heading for the weapons closet.  She threw an extra stake to her sister slayer and then grabbed swords for both of them.  Without giving a word of instruction, Giles handed out crossbows, holy water and more stakes to the four suddenly serious teenagers now once more active members of the group.  While Wesley watched with bewilderment, in the space of a few seconds the small group was armed and had formed a formidable back up force to the two slayers who were watching the double doors very carefully.

 

              There was a tense silence, broken suddenly by the sound of shattering glass as the outside windows burst inward at the same time that the doors were flung open.  Dozens of the Mayor’s vampire minions poured through the gaps, snarling as they attacked.  Without speaking, Buffy and Faith positioned themselves on opposite sides of the room, taking on two or three vampires at a time.   While a crossbow-wielding Cordelia and Wesley retreated to the relative safety of the bookcases, Xander, Giles, Willow and Oz did their best to take out as many minions as they could without risking hitting either of the two embattled slayers. 

 

              In spite of the best attempts of the slayers to keep all the vampires in front of them, it was soon one-on-one all around the room as the sheer numbers of the intruders began to tell.  Gradually, they were forced back to the same area in which Cordelia and Wesley were doing their best to appear invisible.  The new watcher held a stake clenched tightly in his hand, but seemed to have no idea what to do with it, while Cordelia was shrieking and whacking at any vampire that got too close to shoot at. 

 

               Giles and the three Scoobies were being forced back into the same small space as the two non-combatants, leaving Buffy and Faith to continue to fight the remaining vampires as best they could. It was becoming obvious that the attack had been carefully planned to eliminate everyone with any knowledge of the Mayor’s Ascension plan.  The sheer numbers of the vampires attacking were beginning to overwhelm even the two slayers.  Faith was the first to fall, her shout of surprise alerting Buffy in time for her to stake the vampire leaning over the downed slayer.   While Giles dragged Faith’s semi-conscious body closer to the still-busy crossbows, Buffy was struck from behind and fell forward, turning as she fell so as to be facing her attacker, stake already pointed at his chest. 

 

              She managed to stake the first vampire that fell on top of her, but was quickly pinned down by several minions.  She struggled frantically to pull an arm or leg free, but without success.  She could feel the marks on her neck throbbing and hoped that Spike’s claim could work it’s magic again.  Behind her, she could hear more shouting and Faith’s cry of “demon!” as the vamps holding her down looked up in surprise.  An unfamiliar voice was shouting, “No, darlin’, I’m on your side!” but Buffy had no time to worry about it as the large vampire looming over her lowered his mouth to her neck, drooling on her skin in his eagerness to taste slayer blood.

 

              The now-expected recoil from Spike’s bite, which had flared into visibility immediately, gave the slayer the split second that she needed to head butt him away.  The vampire attempted to reach her again, but each time he was thrown back by the force of the claim.  Those holding her were snarling at him to “get the job done”, although the older ones were beginning to sense that there might be more at work here than a stronger than usual Slayer.

 

              “What’s the problem, man? Bite the bitch!”

 

              “She’s claimed, you morons!  She’s got a fucking big claiming bite right on her neck.  Helluva strong one too – I can’t fight it.”

 

              “Who claims a slayer?” the one on her right arm sneered, only to hear a powerful and chilling voice behind him.

 

              “I do.” 

 

              Before the vamp could register his shock, he was gone – his dust floating to the floor.  Buffy immediately brought that arm across her body to stake the minion that was sitting on her left arm, leaving her free to sit up and knock the original attacker off.  The force of her blow sent him careening into one of the vamps holding her legs and with three of her four limbs now free, the remaining vampire barely had time to realize his precarious position before he too, was floating away. 

 

              As the minions that had been attacking the hard-pressed Scoobies turned back to help with the once again dangerous slayer, they found themselves facing not just the small girl that they expected, but a grinning blond man who slid into a master’s game face as they watched. The grin on his face never reached the amber eyes that were completely focused on the vampire that had dared to attack his mate.  His guttural “mine”, as he turned to face the visibly frightened minion that had tried to bite Buffy, carried to everyone in the room. There was a pause as the reality of the situation began to sink in and then a babble of sound.

 

              Giles, of course, had seen the marks in action before, although their effect on Kralik had been nowhere near as powerful as what he had just witnessed.  Faith’s only response as she quickly figured out what kept Buffy’s neck safe was a muttered, “Damn. <I>I</I> want one of those.”  Wesley, being more knowledgeable about vampire rituals and lore than Willow or Xander, immediately understood and began babbling about notifying the council, the dangers of having a compromised slayer, and generally dithering like an old woman until Giles tersely ordered him to “Shut your bloody mouth!”

 

              The Scoobies were pretty much at a loss, recognizing only that Spike was now turning the remaining vampires into whimpering mounds of flesh.  Buffy staked a few minions almost absently while she watched him take out his fury over her close call.  Then, with a shrug, she went to sit beside Faith on the steps and watch her lover work out his anger.

 

              “So,” Faith drawled.  “That’s your honey?”

 

              “Yep.”  Buffy’s voice was both proud and embarrassed.  Behind her, she could hear Xander demanding to know what the hell a claim was and why Spike would have one on Buffy.  When no one answered him, he subsided into angry muttering about vampires and people not learning their lessons the first time.  When both Willow and Cordelia hissed at him to “shut up”, he glared at them and went over to sit by Wesley.

 

              Doyle, who had retreated to the stacks when Faith identified him as a demon, emerged and smiled ingratiatingly at Willow and Cordelia.

 

              “Hello, gorgeous,” he almost purred at the tall brunette.  “Where have I been all your life?”

 

              ‘Dublin, from the sound of it,” Giles interjected, as Cordelia sniffed dismissively.  “Who or what the bloody hell are you?”

 

              “Name’s Doyle.  I’m an emissary for the Powers that Be, assigned to help short, blond and violent there find his proper path.”

 

              “You’re with Spike?”  Giles voice held all the suspicion he tried not to project around Buffy.

 

              “Alas.  But I’m a much more charming man. I promise.”

 

              “You’re also a demon.”  Faith’s voice slid into the conversation, even though she had not taken her eyes off Spike’s continued decimation of the remaining minions.

 

              “Only half, actually,” Doyle admitted cheerfully.  “What can I say.  My da was always a sucker for a pretty face and my mother had a soft heart.”

 

              As the last of the dust settled into the cracks between the floorboards, Spike finally turned to look at Buffy.  The slayer had risen to her feet, but made no attempt to approach him until he spoke.

 

              “Hi, Cutie.” He smiled at her and spread his arms.  With a happy squeal, she leaped off the step and into his willing embrace, the force of her leap carrying them both to the ground - where they remained, happily ignoring the fact that there were other people in the room.

 

              “Missed me then, did you?” he purred in her ear while she lay on top of him, oblivious to the snickers and shocked gasps from the other people in the library.  Before either of them could do or say anything to demonstrate exactly how much they had missed each other, Giles’ constant throat-clearing finally got Buffy’s attention and she sat up, blushing furiously.

 

              When Giles continued to clear his throat, she reluctantly stood up, offering Spike her hand as he easily popped back to his feet.  He kept Buffy’s hand in his, challenging the watcher to dispute his right to do so.  His eyes were then drawn to the curvy brunette whose emanations of slayer power were making his senses scream.  He ran his eyes up and down her body appreciatively, laughing in admiration when she did the same to him and then licked her lips. He threw her a wink, then turned to acknowledge Willow and Cordelia.

 

              “’lo, Red,” he said easily, as though it had only been yesterday that he last saw her.  “It’s nice to see you again.  Cheerleader.” He nodded his head at Cordelia.  “You’re looking good, pet.  Done something different with your hair, have you?”  He gave Oz a tentative nod, his nostrils flaring slightly as he caught the faint trace of wolf from the boy.

 

              While the girls blushed and preened under Spike’s British charm, Wesley glowered from his place beside an equally furious Xander.  Ignoring the other men in the room, Spike sent his gaze back to Giles and asked quietly, “Tell me, Watcher, with two slayers, two watchers, a witch, and a… werewolf?” He cocked an inquisitive eyebrow at Oz who gave him a small nod.  “…in the room, how the hell did Buffy end up in that position?”  In spite of himself, her ex-watcher flinched at the cold anger in the vampire’s voice.  The unspoken accusation- that he had failed in his duty to keep the Slayer safe - hung in the air between them.

 

              “Clearly it was a planned attack; and equally clearly, we had no idea it was going to happen.  We’ve had no way of infiltrating the Mayor’s organization.”

 

              “Guess it’s a good thing there’s a new master in town, then, innit?” Spike said casually.  The gasp his statement brought from Wesley brought his attention back to Xander and the very young-appearing Watcher beside him.   “You must be the new watcher,” Spike mused, looking Wesley up and down with visible disgust.  “Heard they did evil already, so I reckon you must be ‘incompetent’. What’s your name, Watcher?”

 

              Drawing himself and trying to speak without a tremor, Wesley said, “I am Wesley Wyndham-Price, of the Council of Watchers.  And you are…?” Although Wesley’s experience with real vampires was very limited, even he could sense the power coming from the one in front of him and he was curious as to whom Spike might be.

 

              “William the Bloody.”  Spike let his name hang in the air until he had seen the young watcher’s face blanch, then he shrugged and added, “Or Spike.  I like that better, actually.”

 

              “B-Buffy, move away from him.”  To everyone’s astonishment, the usually cautious Wesley raised his stake and advanced on the grinning vampire.  Spike tilted his head, waiting until Wesley was bringing the stake down towards his chest before catching the watcher’s wrist in a powerful grip.  Their gazes met, and Spike stared deep into the other man’s frightened but stubborn eyes until he was satisfied with what he’d seen. 

 

              “I appreciate that you’re trying to protect my girl,” he said softly, easily disarming the man and pushing him away.  “But if you ever raise your hand to me again…” He flashed his true face briefly and Wesley unconsciously gasped.  He gasped again when Buffy turned to the snarling vampire and smacked him on the back of his head, telling him to “Stop being an ass and scaring everybody.”  Even more astonishing, Spike actually dropped immediately back to his human face and looked mildly ashamed.  To save face, he growled, “You are such a spoil sport, Slayer,” but he was smiling at her as he said it.

 

              “Would someone please tell me what’s going on here?”  Xander’s plaintive whine reminded Buffy that not everyone in the room even knew who Spike was, let alone that she had a relationship with him.

 

              “It’s pretty simple, Xan,” Faith spoke up before anyone else.  “Buffy has herself a pretty powerful undead honey and I think the odds in our favor just went waaaay up.”

 

              “Spike,” he said flatly.  “You think Spike is going to help us fight evil.  What world are you living in, Faith?”

 

              “The one in which he’s already saved my life several times, Xander.” Buffy’s voice was quiet and controlled, but her anger was clear.  “Or were you in some other room just a few minutes ago?”

 

              The boy looked from Giles, who, it was obvious not only knew about the relationship but had seen the vampire more recently than Xander had, to Willow who was wearing her least convincing “I-know-nothing-about-this face.”  Even Faith, as new as she was to Sunnydale, apparently already knew that Buffy and Spike were together. Only Oz seemed to be mildly surprised by the news.

 

              “Is there a reason why I’m the only one who didn’t know that you’ve taken up with another monster?”

 

              Before Buffy could speak, Willow’s soft voice cut in -  “Listen to yourself, Xander.  She couldn’t tell you about Spike.  You would never have understood.”

 

              “You got that right,” he snarled, whirling and pushing his way out of the library before anyone could stop him.

 

              Willow made an attempt to go after him, but Faith put a surprisingly gentle hand on her arm, saying, “Let me go.  If nothing else, I can keep him alive until he has time to calm down.”

 

              Willow nodded reluctantly, biting her lip as she watched the dark-haired slayer disappear through the same doors that her best friend had just used. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Seven

 

              While Buffy and Spike stood together, clearly more interested in each other than in anything else, Doyle proceeded to explain his role as the conduit through which the PTB provided their champions with the information they might need to keep the balance between good and evil.  There was a collective gasp when he said that due to Spike’s role in Angel’s having lost his soul, and the champion’s subsequent death at Buffy’s hands, the Powers had chosen Spike to take the older vampire’s place as their champion. 

 

              He saw Buffy stiffen beside Spike and before she could say more than “Do you mean we—“ he interrupted to assure her that the Powers had nothing to do with Spike’s having fallen in love with her and, in fact, probably would have preferred it not to have happened.  “But,” he added as she relaxed back against the vampire’s shoulder, “they aren’t unhappy about it.  They would never have forced a relationship or a mating on either of you, but since you chose to do it yourselves, they are very pleased.”

 

              “The Powers that Be are pleased that a slayer is mated to a vampire.” Giles’ dry tone indicated a disbelief that he couldn’t hide.

 

              “They are,” Doyle said firmly.  “I’m not clear on what all the advantages are, only that the Powers say there are some.  Obviously, no other vampire can bite her, so that’s one right there, but I think there are more. They just haven’t enlightened me as to what they are.”

 

              “This is highly irregular,” Wesley muttered.  “I must confer with my superiors.”  He turned to go to the phone in Giles’ office.

 

              Buffy’s terrified “No!” stopped him in his tracks.

 

              “Surely you do not expect me not to report this?”  He stared at her incredulously.

 

              “You can’t!  They’ll try to kill us!”

 

              “Nonsense!  They would do no such thin—“ The cold glare on Giles’ face had a stronger effect than Buffy’s frantic pleas and he blinked several times in surprise.  “You cannot believe that the Council would strike out at one of their own?” he insisted as Giles nodded his head. 

 

              “They already have,” Spike put in quietly, his arm tightening around Buffy as he remembered how close they had come to succeeding.  “And they didn’t have any excuse for it then.”

 

              “Sit down, Wesley,” Giles said tiredly, “and let me tell you a bit more about the organization for which you work.”

 

              The younger man reluctantly pulled out one of the undamaged chairs and sat at the table, his expression skeptical but curious.  As the others picked up over-turned chairs and also sat down, Giles began, in a tight voice to explain about Buffy’s kidnapping at Ethan Rayne’s request, her eventual dusting of Angelus and Dru, and the relationship she had developed with the crippled vampire who helped her. He carefully avoided mention of the rape and of the manner in which Ethan met his well-deserved death.

 

              He then told Wesley about the Cruciamentum, a ritual with which the younger watcher was not familiar, and smiled tightly as the young man’s horror was obvious.

 

              “The Council is not overly fond of Slayers that they cannot control, nor do they care for Slayers who are creative and innovative, even though it is those very traits that have kept Buffy alive and successful up ‘til now.  Regardless of how useful Spike might be to us in preventing a possible apocalypse, I cannot imagine the Council accepting his help or tolerating his relationship with their Slayer.”

 

              “I’m not their slayer,” Buffy pointed out.  “Faith is.”

 

              “Technically, I suppose that’s true,” Wesley surprised them by saying slowly.  “So really, what Buffy does should be of no interest to them.”

 

              “Yeah, good luck with that,” Spike snorted.

 

              “I’m afraid Spike is correct.” Giles looked like he had bitten into something sour.  “I am quite sure that they still consider Buffy their property and subject to their directives – even though they are aware that she is not likely to follow them,” he added wryly. 

 

              “Well then,” the young watcher said briskly, “I will just have to explain the situation to them and I am sure they will see the wisdom of encouraging this unconventional relationship.”

 

              While Buffy and Spike rolled their eyes, and Giles snorted rudely, Doyle spoke up again.

 

              “I may be able to help with that,” he offered, preening when all eyes turned to him.  He winked at Cordelia before saying, “Their seers will be able to tell them that I’m the real deal.  I don’t think even the Council of Watchers –“ He was interrupted by Spike’s muttered “Wankers” and glared briefly before continuing. “I don’t think even the Council of Watchers will argue with the Powers That Be; and the Powers have been very clear that they want this slayer and this vampire working together to maintain the balance between good and evil.  I think they would take it amiss if an organization of humans took it upon themselves to mess with their plans.”

 

              It was agreed that Giles and Wesley would contact the Council’s seers and explain the situation, asking them to verify Doyle’s claim that he was the conduit for the PTB, and to share that information with the Council.  Once they had accepted the half-demon’s position, he would break the news that the powers had sent another vampire to help the slayer and that this one was unsouled and mated to her.

 

              As soon as the conversation began to wind down, Buffy and Spike’s desire to leave, and their impatience with not being allowed to do so, became obvious to everyone.  With much polishing of his glasses and clearing of his throat, Giles indicated that the meeting was over.

 

              “Clearly the Mayor has escalated his attacks because the date for his ascension is approaching.  However, I do not believe we will accomplish anything else tonight and it is perhaps more important that we all get a good night’s rest and be prepared to resume discussions tomorrow.  Perhaps…” he reluctantly looked at the vampire who was edging towards the door, slayer in tow.  “Perhaps Spike will be able to find out how badly tonight’s defeat of his minions may have hurt our opponent.”

 

              Spike gave a quick nod of assent and followed Buffy out of the library.  They got only as far as the hallway before they were locked together, mouths fused and bodies tightly pressed.  Spike had Buffy pushed up against the lockers as he ravaged her mouth; her legs came up to wrap around his waist and they groaned together at the sensation of being so close and yet separated by layers of fabric.  Heedless of the other people still in the building, he ground into her, murmuring her name over and over as she pushed back against the pressure.  In a very short period of time, Buffy was gripping his leather coat in her teeth to muffle her shriek of release. She felt Spike shudder and gasp as the feel of her heat against him caused him to lose control and jerk until he was spent. 

 

              Buffy’s legs gradually slid down until her feet were just touching the floor while she leaned on him for support.  His ragged breaths matched her own as he held her up and sucked on his mark.  The sensation was soothing to them both and their breathing soon evened out and he was able to step back and allow Buffy to stand on her own.

 

              “Wow.”  She looked up at him with a twinkle in her eye.  “Is that how much you missed me; or is it because you were afraid that other vamp was going to kill me?”

 

              “A bit of both, I s’pect,” he admitted sheepishly.  “I’m sorry, pet. Didn’t mean to attack you like that, I just---“

 

              “You don’t hear me complaining,” she hastened to assure him. “I was just curious.”

 

              “Got to say, I <I>am</I> feeling much better now.” He grinned at her and began to walk down the hall, stopping to shake himself and add, “Or I would be if I didn’t have to walk back wearing wet jeans.”

 

              “Ewwwww!  There’s that TMI again.” Buffy smacked him on arm as she caught up to his long strides.  “Where are we going?”

 

              “I’m goin’ home,” he said softly, pausing to look at her sideways.  “Was kind of hopin’ you’d be comin’ with me.”

 

              “Back to the mansion?”

 

              “Yeah – it’s in a bit better shape now.  But you prob’ly knew that already, didn’t you?”

 

              “Oh yeah.  I knew about it the day after you bought it.  Mr. William Carlisle…”

 

              When he stopped again to gape at her, she smirked and continued walking. “What?  You thought you could hide stuff from Willow the wonder witch and her magic laptop?  It only took her a few minutes to hick—“

 

 “Hack, pet.”

 

 “Hick, hack, whatever.  Anyway, she got on line as soon as I saw the workers and we knew all about it,” she announced with great satisfaction.

 

              “No secrets from you, huh?”  He grinned wryly.  “You know, you’re adorable when you’re full of yourself.”

 

              “I’m even more adorable when I’m full of you,” she said, blushing furiously and keeping her eyes focused on the floor.  Instead of responding verbally, he swept her up, ignoring her surprised squeak, and lengthened his strides until he had cleared the building and deposited her in the passenger seat of his car. The Desoto was sitting in the middle of the school’s lawn where he had left it when he and Doyle had seen the Mayor’s minions breaking into the building. Still without speaking, he jumped into the driver’s seat and sped away, clods of dirt and grass spraying behind the big black car.

 

              He pulled into the Crawford Street driveway and opened Buffy’s door with a flourish, taking her hand and helping her out of the car.  They walked quickly to the front door, which Spike opened with a key but as Buffy went to precede him into the building, but he put a hand on her arm, saying softly,  “Wait, love.”

 

              She glanced up quizzically to see him gazing at her with a tenderness that made her catch her breath.  He cupped her cheek in his hand and kissed her gently, then picked her up again.  She had no sooner figured out what his intention was, than she found herself being carried across the threshold of the newly restored building.  Her arms came up around his neck and buried her face in his chest to hide the tears prickling her eyes.

 

              He kicked the door shut behind him, and just stood there, holding her until she picked her head up and looked around.  Although she had watched the workmen come and go while the renovations were going on, she hadn’t actually been inside the house since they started working on it.  Her gasp of surprise made the vampire chuckle and he lowered her to the floor so that she could explore.

 

              “You like it, pet?” he asked eagerly. 

 

              “It looks amazing!  And, hey, electricity and everything!”

 

              “And everything,” he agreed.  “Hot water for baths, curtains so I can walk around in the daytime without worrying about going up in flames…”

 

              “And it’s all yours?” Her dubious tone made him growl softly before he replied enigmatically, “For right now it is.  Gonna fix that, actually, but I need to talk to your mum first.”  Changing the subject quickly, he said, “I’ll give you the grand tour later, right now—“

 

              “Right now what?”

 

              “Right now I just want to see exactly how adorable you can get.”

 

              She flushed as she realized that he hadn’t forgotten what she’d said as they were leaving the school, but held her chin up and met his laughing eyes firmly.

 

              “I can get pretty adorable, vampire.  Do you think you can handle that?”

 

              “I guess we’ll see, won’t we, Slayer?” he growled back, picking her up again and striding towards the bedroom.  “I guess we’ll see.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

              Faith quickly caught up to Xander’s extremely stiff back; but instead of saying anything, she dropped into step with him. She had to take an occasional hop and skip to keep up with the much taller, rapidly-striding boy; who, after his first angry glance, ignored her presence as best he could.  Although Faith’s slayer stamina meant that she was still easily keeping up with him, his own anger was no longer enough to sustain the pace and he slowed until he was finally standing still, hands on hips and struggling for breath.

 

              “What are you doing here, Faith?” he was finally able to gasp out.  “Shouldn’t you be back there fraternizing with the demons?  Isn’t that what slayers do?”

 

              The dark-haired slayer was taken aback by the venom in the normally good-natured boy’s voice, and she frowned as she answered lightly, “There was only one demon hottie back there and he’s taken. I figured I’d have better luck out here with the human hottie.”

 

              The fact that Xander was able to ignore her obvious flirting was proof of his agitated state and she frowned again when her comment got no response.  When he turned and began walking again, slower, but with purpose, she gave it one more try.

 

              “Hey! Flirting here!  You don’t get to walk away from that.  What’s wrong with you?”

 

              He whirled, his face contorted and red.

 

              “What’s wrong with me?  What’s wrong with me is that I’ve been nothing but loyal to Buffy since she moved here. Willow and I were the first people to welcome her to Sunnydale.  I showed her the ropes.  Even when I found out she was the slayer, I didn’t back off.  I was there.  I’m her friend.  I’ve been her friend for three years.  I’ve had her back-- “  He stopped to gasp for more air, then, before Faith could open her mouth far enough to respond, he was speaking again.  “And this is the thanks I get?  She goes from one undead boyfriend to another?”

 

              He trudged off again and Faith trailed behind him, chewing her lip as she wondered what to say.  She remained behind, staying near enough that she could prevent any harm from befalling him, but far enough out of his space to not be a further irritant.  When two obvious fledglings stepped out of the shadows and approached, she moved closer, then halted when she saw Xander pull out a stake.   His quietly confident “Bring it on, boys” had her smiling in admiration, even as she made sure to be within stake-throwing distance if needed.

 

              The bolder of the two vamps ran at him, impaling himself on the stake that Xander brought up at the last moment and exploding into a surprised dust cloud. The second, and more cautious, vamp remained out of reach of the stake, instead kicking out in an attempt to sweep the boy’s legs from under him. Xander’s quick side-step and subsequent kick of his own brought the vamp to his knees where he was quickly staked.  Xander stood staring at the dust as it drifted away and said sullenly, “That’s what should happen to vamps.  Maybe I need to remind Buffy of her job by staking that bleached monster before she gets too attached to him.”

 

              Faith rolled her eyes at his deliberate refusal to have seen what was before his eyes. “That’s probably not a good idea, Xan,” she said quietly.  “For a lot of reasons.”

 

              “Name one,” he said stubbornly.

 

              “For starters, I watched him fight tonight and – no offense, cause you just did a helluva job here -- there’s no way you’re staking that particular vamp unless he’s unconscious.”

 

              “I’m not proud. Unconscious works for me.”  He kicked at the remaining dust, then put the stake back in his waistband.  “But something tells me you’ve got more to say…” He sighed and sat down on the curb.

 

              She settled herself beside him, using her stake to draw random designs in the dirt at the edge of the street.  She thought carefully about what she wanted to say and how she wanted to say it, then shrugged and began talking.

 

              “First off – I want to say that I am right there with you when it comes to being freaked about a slayer getting it on with a vamp.  The thought makes my skin crawl.  But I’m not Buffy, and she’s had a more…interesting…life than I have these past few years.  And, I’m not gonna tell you about the parts you don’t know, ‘cause that’s not my story to tell and if B doesn’t want the world to know – I’m cool with that.  It’s her decision.  All we need to know is that she’s been through some stuff, and this vamp means a lot to her. A <I>lot</I> lot.  And she means a lot to him. That mark on her neck, the one that saved her from a bad bite tonight, means something big in the vamp world.  You’ll have to get Giles or Wes to explain the whole thing, but from what I know, they’re as good as married.”

 

              She could feel Xander’s shudder before he even spoke. 

 

              “That’s…that’s just WRONG.  My Buffy would never let a vampire bite her.”

 

              “She’s not ‘your Buffy’, Xander.”  Faith’s voice was gentle, but firm.  “And I’m guessing that she never was.  She’s a slayer.  Our lives are short and our deaths are ugly.  I say, if you care about her, if you are really her friend, you wouldn’t want to do anything to stop her from grabbing a few minutes of happiness while the grabbin’ is good.”

 

              “Faith! He’s a vampire!  Evil, soulless, undead…is any of this ringing your slayer bells?”

 

              “I already told you it does.  I’m not happy that William the Bloody is living in my town either.  But as long as B is willing to vouch for him, and as long as I don’t find out he’s snacking on the locals or planning to add me to the slayers he’s killed, I’m just gonna watch him. And, I gotta admit, he’s very watchable…”

 

              “You too?” He groaned.  “What the hell does that bloodsucker have that I don’t?”

 

              She waited for a few seconds, mentally examining everything Xander had said so far and then asked quietly, “What, exactly, is it that has your pants in such a twist? Is it that he’s a vampire; or is it that he’s Buffy’s vampire?”

 

              “I don’t understand this thing she has for vamps,” he muttered, avoiding the point of the question.

 

              “So, if he was just a hottie of the human persuasion, you’d be okay with it? Buffy would have your blessing to do the deed with him as much as she wanted?  No problemo? Cause you’re all about the keeping her safe from evil, but you’d never criticize her taste in men. Is that about right?”

 

              Xander’s head dropped into his hands.  “I’d like to think so,” he muttered to the trash in the gutter.

 

              “But…?”

 

              “But, I’m probably kidding myself,” he admitted. 

 

              Faith nodded silently and waited to see if he would continue.

 

“I’m behaving like an ass, aren’t I?”

 

              “You’re behaving like somebody who just learned that his good friend has been keeping a pretty big secret from him and he’s pissed off.  Seems normal to me.”

 

              He snorted and raised his head to look at her.  “Somehow I never pictured you standing up for Buffy like this.  I would have thought you’d be glad to rattle her cage.”

 

              “Oh, I plan to rattle it pretty good.” She grinned at him, and winked. “But not tonight. I’m gonna give her some time with her honey before I start stalking him.”

 

              Xander stood up and stretched.  “Okay, Faith, you’ve done your good deed for the day.  I’ll apologize to Buffy tomorrow.  You can go home now.”

 

              “Promised the witch I’d see that you got yourself home without getting killed, so I guess I’ll just walk with you for a while.”

 

              “I’m not sure I’m going home – staking those vamps kinda hyped me up for some reason.  I still have some steam to blow off.”

 

              “Waddaya know? It’s not just slayers that it happens to, huh?”

 

              “Huh? Not just slayers that what?”

 

              “Are you hungry?“ she asked with a sly grin.

 

              “Yeah, I could eat.  Why?”

 

Faith took his arm and began walking in the direction of her seedy hotel room.  “Let me explain something about slaying…”

 

             

 

             

Chapter Nine

 

              “Bollocks!”  Spike’s angry exclamation as he carried Buffy into the room and remembered that the bed had no linens took her attention off the ear lobe upon which she’d been nibbling.

 

              “What’s wrong?”

 

              “I forgot there wasn’t any bedding…nothing here but that old blanket.”

 

              He set her down gently and looked around the room for something with which to cover the bare mattress.  While he indulged in an unsuccessful attempt to find something suitable for the bed, Buffy was busy undoing the button of his jeans and pulling the zipper down.  She pulled the jeans down as far as she could, then shoved him backwards onto the bed and began to untie his boots.

 

              “What the--?”

 

              “I’m just making you more comfortable,” she said innocently. “Didn’t you say the icky jeans were uncomfortable?”  As she spoke, she was pulling his boots off and tugging on the tight jeans. 

 

              “You minx!”  With a laugh, he kicked the pants off and fell backwards, pulling her up from the floor and onto the bed with him.  She let her thighs fall apart so that his cock was pressing against her damp clothing, and she wriggled shamelessly against him.  He groaned and pushed her away to begin tearing at the fastenings of her jeans.  Buffy assisted as best as she could, while also pushing his tee shirt over his head and shedding her own shirt and bra. With much gasping and panting, they were soon naked; without preamble, he slid into her warmth, their matching sighs of contentment making words unnecessary.

 

              They remained still for minutes, basking in the sense of completion that being so intimately connected again was providing. Buffy allowed him to fill her senses; she licked the silky skin on his neck, inhaled the tobacco/whiskey/leather smell that said “Spike”, and enjoyed the way her body molded itself to his without conscious thought. Spike reveled in the warmth surrounding his cock – a welcome change after months of his own cool hand - and he willingly surrendered to the emotion evoked by having Buffy’s arms and legs wrapped around him once again.

 

  Inevitably, nature took over and their hips began a slow, syncopated rhythm that built until they were moaning and growling with the need for release.  Spike’s sharp fangs slid into his marks just as Buffy bit into the muscle of his shoulder and she shuddered around him repeatedly as his deep draughts of her blood kept her spiraling into one orgasm after another.

 

              For his part, every swallow of her powerful blood extended his own release until he finally collapsed onto her, licking the wounds closed before he allowed the lassitude that he couldn’t fight to take over.  

 

              “Love you, Buffy,” he whispered, rolling them to onto their sides so that his weight wouldn’t impede her breathing. “I love you so much. I missed you.  Missed this.”

 

              “Me too,” she murmured, unable to come up with anything more elaborate at that point.

 

              “You too, what?”

 

              “What you said.”  She giggled at his exasperated growl, burrowing closer, squeezing her internal muscles around his already-recovering cock and turning the growl into an appreciative groan. 

 

              “Say it for me, love,” he begged, even as he rolled back onto her and began moving again.  When she didn’t respond right away, he pulled out of her so that only the very tip of his cock was touching her entrance.  He chuckled at her attempts to pull him back, holding himself up on his hands and knees and chiding her gently.  “Ah, ah, pet.  You don’t get what you want until I get what I want…”

 

              His startled “oof!” when she flipped them over and immediately impaled herself on his cock had appreciative giggles accompanying her sigh of satisfaction.  She wriggled her hips against him, gasping lightly as she felt him twitch within her and brush against the spot she’d been hoping he would find again.  Bouncing gently on him, she asked archly, “Now, what was it that you tried to blackmail me into saying?”

 

              “I want…” he growled, pulling her hips down onto his and nudging her internal bundle of nerves until she was whimpering, “to hear you say you love me…” 

 

              “You…can’t…tell…me…what…to…do…” she almost cried through gritted teeth, fighting the urge to surrender to the sensations he was creating. 

 

              “Bloody stubborn bint!”  He held her still, allowing no movement except for the light touches his cock was brushing across her interior flesh.  Whimpering with defeat, Buffy fell forward onto his chest, gasping, “Yes! Yes. I love you.  Please….”

 

              His cocky “Please what, Slayer?” was abruptly cut off when she clenched her internal muscles around his still active cock and squeezed until he groaned. She continued to squeeze rhythmically, ignoring his groans of pleasure/pain as she brought herself to a shuddering release; a release that triggered a shout of ecstasy when she milked his own completion from him.

 

              For long minutes, the only sounds were Buffy’s gasps for air and the vampire’s matching panting.  When she realized that Spike was limp and soft inside her, she rolled off to the side, asking softly, “Did we just have a fight?”

 

              “Bloody stubborn bint,” he repeated, without answering her question.  ‘Were you tryin’ to break me?”

 

              She began to giggle again, then her head flew up and in a very small voice, she asked, “Should I not have done that? Did I hurt you?  I’m sor—“

 

              “Shhh, love.  Was kidding, wasn’t I?  You hurt me in the very best of ways, Buffy.  I promise you.”  He stroked her hair, kissing her worried mouth and doing his best to reassure her that he was not complaining.  “You did what you had to do to get what you needed, and I was just along for the ride…the incredibly wonderful, sexy, satisfying… ride.”

 

              As he spoke, he felt her slowly relaxing against his side, allowing his reassurances to calm her fears and permit her to enjoy the completely fulfilled sensation with which the strenuous internal battle had left her.  He carefully pulled the old blanket over their satiated bodies, and joined her in a brief respite from their reunion activities.

 

 

 

Chapter Ten

 

              As soon as Spike and Buffy had left the school, the sound of the old Desoto tearing up the lawn causing Giles to groan loudly, the remaining people began to drift towards the doors.  Willow and Oz were first, the witch promising to check in first thing in the morning to find out what the next step would be. Offering unusual input, Oz said softly, “It seems to me that now might be a good time to hit the Mayor’s office.  Before Trick can turn him a new army.”

 

              “Quite right,” Giles agreed readily, ignoring Wesley’s open mouth and speaking up before the younger watcher could say anything.  “With a bit of luck, Spike will be able to pick up some information tonight about the remaining defenses and we can plan our attack.”

 

              Doyle’s amused snort brought a glare from both Watchers, but Cordelia just nodded in agreement, adding, “I don’t think Spike is going to be doing much tonight except making Buffy glad he’s back.”

 

              “Thank you for sharing that, Cordelia,” the ex-watcher growled.  “I am hoping that they will ignore their hormones long enough to focus on the problem at hand.  If tonight showed us nothing else, it showed that the Mayor is well aware of whom his enemies are and that he is willing to do whatever is necessary to remove them.”

 

              “I suggest,” Wesley put in quickly, struggling to regain his place as the organizer of the night’s meeting, “that we all go home and get a good rest in order to be fresh and ready to discuss the optimal methods of utilizing our current advantage.”  He looked around with satisfaction as everyone stared at him. 

 

The satisfaction was short-lived as Willow shook her head, muttering, “And I thought Giles was too British…” She gave the young watcher an apologetic smile and waved as she followed Oz out of the library.

 

Giles looked to the half-demon standing patiently and offered, “I can drop you wherever you’re staying on my way home, if you’d like.  I presume that your transportation left with Spike.”

 

“That it did,” he agreed cheerfully, “but I suspect I’d not be too welcome just now if I showed up at Spike’s house.”

 

The reminder of where Buffy had probably gone when she left with her vampire lover caused both watchers to frown and glare at Doyle’s innocent-appearing face.

 

“What?  I’m jus’ sayin’…until he tells me I’m welcome there, I’m not going to make myself at home.  He’s got a bit of a temper, you know,” he added, grinning at the flinch from the young watcher.

 

“Fine,” Giles was rapidly losing patience himself.  “You may stay in my guest room until you can find your own accommodation.  Wesley, may I count on you to see that Cordelia gets home safely?”

 

Blushing furiously, the dark-haired young man nodded his assent while Doyle gave an exaggerated pout and said with a wink, “Aww, and here I was hopin’ the pretty girl was going to give me a ride.”

 

“As if!” she huffed, tossing her hair and taking Wesley’s arm.  “I’m ready when you are.” She smiled at the embarrassed man, leading him to the door.

 

When the ex-watcher and the seer were left alone, Giles went to his desk and pulled out a bottle of scotch and two glasses.

 

“Ah, a man after me own heart!” Doyle’s hearty acceptance of the offered drink brought a wry grin from the older man and he poured his own quickly before joining Doyle at the table.  The two men drank in silence for a minute, until it was broken by Giles’ voice.

 

“So, the Powers That Be have sent William the Bloody to be the Slayer’s helpmate,” he finally said with resignation.

 

              “’Fraid so.”

 

              “It could be worse, I suppose.  At least this one has no soul to lose…”

 

              “That’s the spirit!” Doyle tipped his glass to the other man and then drank it down.  He stared into his glass for a minute, then raised his eyes and said more seriously, “He’s not your average vampire, you know.”

 

              “It would seem not,” Giles’ tone was non-committal.

 

              “I’ve spent a lot of time with him these past few months,” Doyle continued, “and I think I’ve learned a bit about the man.”

 

A raised eyebrow was Giles only comment as he refilled both glasses.

 

“First off, he really loves the Slayer. When I found him and shared the happy news, he was already trying very hard to find a life-style that would permit him to be part of her life.  As much as he wants to hate the thought, the truth is -he started changing his life when he first tried to protect her from Angelus and Dru, and I don’t think he’s ever looked back. 

 

“He’s got an enormous amount of control over his demon; even considerin’ his age, it’s impressive. Angel never had that.  He’s a lot smarter than he lets on, probably had one of those fancy English educations before he was turned.  And,” Doyle raised a finger to be sure he had Giles’ attention, “he is one of the best fighters I’ve ever seen.  The Slayer could do worse than to have him watchin’ her back.”

 

“So,” Giles said dryly, “does this paragon have any less stellar qualities at all?”

 

“Oh yeah,” Doyle said cheerfully. “Lots of ‘em.  But they don’t matter – he’s mated to your slayer for eternity and at this point, the only thing you can do is be grateful that he is who he is and that the Powers are willin’ to back them up to your bosses.”

 

He paused to look Giles in the eye before continuing.  “And you know as well as I do that without that, they’d have a wet team here less than a day after they found out about our two favorite blond killers.”

 

“They may still do so,” Giles agreed with a grimace.  “Travers is much more his own man and captain of his ship than previous Council heads.  I’m not sure how much weight the seers’ support is going to have.  We shall need to keep a very sharp eye out for strangers in Sunnydale.”

 

“From what I’ve seen so far,” Doyle snorted with a grin, “pretty much everybody in Sunnydale is strange – one way or another.  Except for the gorgeous prom queen,” he added.  “I don’t suppose you could put in a word for me there?”

 

“I think I can safely say that you are not Cordelia’s type,” the older man responded dryly.  “Nor do I think that chasing after her is what you have been sent here to do.”

 

“Hey! It’s a pretty thankless job – headaches and all – I think I’m entitled to a little recreational lovin’ when I can get it.”

 

“Yes, well, be that as it may, I am fairly sure that you will not be getting it from Miss Cordelia Chase.”  Giles stood up, putting the empty glasses and the bottle back into his locked drawer.  He gathered his keys and gestured towards the crosses lying on the table.  “You should probably bring one of those with you,” he said, walking towards the doors.  “Just in case Spike did not completely wipe out the Mayor’s undead minions.”

 

With a nod, Doyle gingerly picked up a large wooden cross and held it away from his body as he followed Giles out the doors and to his car.  There was no sign of anything on the streets of Sunnydale, undead or otherwise, and the trip to the ex-watcher’s apartment was uneventful.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

Across town, Xander was gasping for air and staring up at a smirking Faith from his position beneath her.

 

“So, every time you guys slay something, you want to…?”

 

“Pretty much, yep.  Especially if there’s a good fight first.  If I had to guess, I would say that this thing between B and Blondie was already brewing long before they actually got to know each other.  I’d bet they finished every fight they ever had wishin’ they weren’t heading off in different directions.”

 

“If I wasn’t so ridiculously happy right now, I would find that deeply disturbing.”  Xander spoke without opening his eyes, which he had shut when he dropped his head back to the pillow, the better to savor the experience he’d just had.

 

              “So,” Faith said, climbing off his body and reaching for a bag of chips.  “You want something to eat now?”

 

             

 

Chapter Eleven

 

Hours later, an insistent vampire prepared to drive Buffy home; finally getting her to agree that it would not be in his best interest to begin his life in Sunnydale by making Joyce angry that she didn’t know where her daughter was all night.  With many pauses for kisses and caresses, they were finally dressed and ready to leave.

 

“Besides, pet,” he continued the conversation that had been ongoing while they dressed, “I need to get to Willy’s before it closes. Let the evil denizens of Sunnydale know that I’m back, and see if I can find out more about this wanker of a Mayor you’ve got.”

 

“You don’t think he’s going to know who you are?”

 

“I’m bloody well hopin’ he knows who I am,” Spike said, looking insulted.  “I expect him to be beggin’ me for help as soon as he finds out I’m back in town.”

 

“But…I thought…doesn’t everyone know that you and I…that we…?”

 

“Doubt it, pet.  I never left this place until I was almost ready to leave town the first time, so unless you were blabbing about who the pig blood was for, there’s no reason for anyone to connect us.  And I wasn’t here long enough for anyone to notice me when I came back for your birthday.  The only one who knows about us is my buddy, Clem, and he wouldn’t tell.  All anybody else knows is that you and your watcher took out Angelus and Dru while I was trapped in that wheelchair that you put me in.  He’s got no reason to think I’m anything but what I am – the Master of Sunnydale come back to live here for a while and maybe get a bit of revenge on the Slayer.”

 

“Well,” her voice was dubious, “if you’re sure he won’t know that you’re helping me…”

 

“He won’t know, Slayer. Not until it’s too late to matter.  With a bit of luck, I can get close enough to take the wanker out before we have to worry about this whole ‘Ascension’ thing, an’ if I don’t, at least you’ll have a better idea about what’s going to happen.”

 

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

 

The ride to Buffy’s house was leisurely; the Slayer snuggled up against his side as Spike slowly guided the big car through the city’s empty streets.  He pulled into her driveway, intending to let her out and go directly to Willy’s when they both saw her mother’s light go on.

 

“Guess I’d best pop in and say ‘hello’, eh, pet?”

 

“Yeah, probably.  You don’t have to stay long – I’ll tell her that you’re working tonight.”

 

They got out and walked to the front door, which was opened by a relieved-looking Joyce Summers.

 

“I’d like to yell at you for making me worry,” she grumbled, stepping aside to let them in.  “But I’m too relieved to find you in one piece.”

 

“Why would you think I wouldn’t be?”

 

“Giles called to warn me that you might be late.  He said that Spike was here and that there had been some sort of battle at the school.  So, when I didn’t see you…”

 

“Oh, that battle!  We won that one, Mom.  Or, Spike did, anyway.  I don’t think there’s a vampire left in Sunnydale tonight – except for Trick and any other bodyguards the Mayor might have.“

 

“So, you haven’t been fighting with more of the Mayor’s men tonight? Where were you, then?”

 

Buffy’s wide-eyes, Spike’s embarrassed shrug and their matching lack of ability to speak coherently caused Joyce to roll her eyes and shake her head.

 

“Never mind!  I don’t want to know.  I don’t even know why I asked.  I must be getting old,” she added with a soft smile.  “I should have realized that you two would have wanted some time together before you came ho—“

 

“I’m sorry, Joyce.”  Spikes apology was as sincere as it was unexpected.  “It was thoughtless of us.  You have every right to be angry.”

 

Buffy blushed and stammered as she realized that her mother knew exactly what they had been doing, if not where.  It was one thing to have one embarrassing and frank discussion with her mother about her relationship with Spike and something entirely different to be standing right in front of her knowing that she and Spike probably reeked of sex.

 

Fortunately, Joyce was serious when she said she didn’t want to know, and after welcoming Spike back to Sunnydale, she retired for the night, giving them some privacy in which to say their “good-nights”.  With a quick peck on Spike’s lips, Buffy pushed him toward the door saying, “Okay, go get to Willy’s and see what you can find out.  It will help a lot to calm everybody down when they see how useful you can be.”

 

“All right, pet.  With a bit of luck, I’ll make some contacts and maybe even meet the old man himself.  If nothing else, I’ll try to find his right-hand vamp and play a bit of ‘mine’s bigger than yours’; see if I can convince him he wants me on his side.”

 

Before he went out the open door, he leaned in and captured Buffy’s mouth in kiss that continued until she was moaning and pulling on his coat.  With a supreme effort of will, he pulled himself away, muttering, “Well, that backfired on me, didn’t it?  Jus’ meant to leave you something to remember me by, now—“

 

“Now you’ll be thinking about me all night,” she said cheerily, squeezing the bulge in his pants before pushing him away and laughing at his groan.  “And, Spike?”

 

He cocked an eyebrow at her and she whispered with a giggle, “I’m pretty sure yours is bigger than his.”

 

“Bloody right, it is.” He smiled at her happy face and adjusted himself.  “See you later today, love.  Go get some sleep.”

 

“Good night, Spike.  I’m glad you’re back.”

 

“So ‘m I, love.  So am I.”

 

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

 

The reunion with Buffy had put such a smile on Spike’s face that he had to pause outside Willy’s and concentrate on things that irritated him in order to be wearing the appropriately dangerous look when he entered the demon bar.  When he felt that he looked sufficiently evil, he shoved open the heavy door and stopped just inside to glare around the room.  The way Willy’s face paled and his hand automatically reached for a bottle of Jack Daniels was very gratifying and Spike allowed a grim smile of acknowledgement to cross his face as he grabbed the bottle and carried it to a suddenly-empty table.

 

He sat at the table by himself, casually dismissing the first few female vampires that tried to sit with the good-looking newcomer and glancing around the room periodically.  Very few of the vampires or demons were willing to meet his eyes and he basked in the knowledge that his reputation was still intact enough to warrant the proper respect.  Eventually, when a particularly attractive female vampire smiled tentatively at him from the bar, he raised his glass to her and arched an eyebrow questioningly.  Followed by the jealous glares of the other women in the bar, she strolled over to the table and sat down.  Although she was outwardly exuding confidence, Spike could sense her nervousness and he delved into his large store of charm to put her at ease.

 

“Got to say, luv, the decorations in this dive have definitely improved over the last time I was in town.”  He looked her up and down, his message unmistakable and she preened in front of him.

 

“Is that so?”  She attempted to match his casual appraisal with her own long look at him, losing her focus when her eyes stopped on the semi-hard bulge in his tight jeans.  With no way of knowing that it was courtesy of the Slayer’s goodnight kiss, she moved closer to him, leaning forward to offer him a good look at her cleavage.  He leered at her breasts the way he knew she was expecting him to do and licked his lips hungrily.

 

“Oh, yes, pet,” he purred.  “Things are definitely looking…up”

 

He poured them both another drink from the bottle and within a few minutes he had the information he needed about Trick and the Mayor’s iron hold over the demon population in Sunnydale, as well as the latest rumors about the date of the Ascension.  It was obvious that the general demon population had, as yet, no idea that the majority of the Mayor’s fighting force had been wiped out that evening.  Spike nodded wisely as the vampire babbled on about what Sunnydale would be like when it belonged to the demons and how she was more than willing to do her part to contribute.

 

“Planning to take on the Slayer yourself, then, are you?” he asked with a barely concealed grin.

 

“Uh…well. No. Not me.  I mean, not that I’m afraid of her –them – but, you know, that’s the kind of thing that should be left to somebody with experience.” She smiled admiringly at him, sure that her flattery would deflect any lack of respect he might be feeling about her unwillingness to face Buffy or Faith.

 

“That it should, luv,” he agreed with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “And I’m just the vamp to do it.  I pro’bly need to make that clear to the head demon.  I don’t suppose you know where to find this Mayor or his henchman?”

 

“I know where Trick hangs out.  Nobody gets near the Mayor except him.  Do you want to meet him?” 

 

She looked pleased to be able to offer the master vampire something he couldn’t get for himself and Spike let her bask for a few seconds before he shrugged and said, “At some point, I s’pose it would be polite to let him know the town’s master is back.  Got more important things to do tonight, though.”  His leer left no doubt as to what he meant and she glanced at his crotch again, reaching forward to stroke him.  With a swift grace that was too subtle to be interpreted as rejection, he avoided the hand and rose to his feet, holding out his hand to her.

 

“What say you show me where this Trick fellow hangs his fangs, while we head for someplace more…private?”

 

With an eager nod, she pulled him towards the door, already mentally composing her haughty words to the other female vamps when they realized that she was dating the new Master of Sunnydale.   When they were away from the bar and walking towards the area in which she assured him that “Mr Trick” had his lair, Spike draped a casual arm over her shoulder as he coaxed more information from her about Trick and the Mayor.

 

An indignant, “What the fuck?” from the dark-haired girl walking towards them had his companion ducking behind him, hissing, “Slayer!”  while Spike growled in frustration and cursed under his breath.

 

He glared at Faith, willing her to move on, but she headed straight for him with blood in her eye.

 

“You lyin’ son of a bitch!” she snapped, throwing a punch at his jaw. 

 

“You don’t want to do this, Slayer,” he growled back, slipping into game face.

 

“Are you sure?”

 

She sent a well-placed kick to his chest and followed with a flurry of punches.  Spike retreated until he was sure they were out of earshot of his now-whimpering companion before he returned the punches, sending the less experienced slayer to the ground, He landed on top her, hissing into her ear, “What the hell’s wrong with you, wildcat?”

 

“You’ve only been here a few hours and you’re already cheating on B with a vamp ho,” she snarled back, bucking him off.  “I’m gonna save her some heartache and—“ Her head snapped back with the force of his next blow and he caught her before the other vampire could realize that the Slayer was unconscious.  Burying his face in her neck, he snarled and shook her, allowing his fangs to graze her skin just hard enough to cover his lips with her blood. He continued to shake her gently until she moaned and opened her eyes to his amber glare.

 

“The idea was for me to get close to the bad guys, you stupid bint.  I’m on m’way to the Mayor’s second-in-command’s place now – if you haven’t completely bollixed it up.”

 

 His angry snarls were real enough that he could smell the younger slayer’s fear.  Reining in his anger, he growled that she was to run as soon as he let her go, then raised his head to allow the still-trembling, but cautiously approaching vampire to see the blood on his lips.

 

“Come on, pet,” he growled around his fangs.  “There’s enough for both of us.”  As he spoke, he pretended to lose his grip on the now very conscious slayer and allowed her to shove him away.  She obediently took off running, quickly disappearing from the disappointed vampires, leaving Spike to pretend to be embarrassed at losing her.  Fortunately, the other vampire was looking at him with a mixture of pure lust and hero worship at having seen him easily beat a slayer and then bite her.

 

When he saw the adoration on her face, he recovered some of his swagger and put his arm around her again.

 

“Now, where were we when that rude bint interrupted us?” he purred, guiding her in the direction they’d been going when they ran into Faith.  Without reply, the girl led him down the street, stopping in front of a large Victorian house and pointing.

 

“Mr Trick lives there, when he isn’t with the Mayor.  But no one is supposed to go in unless he invites them.  I’ve only been inside once,” she admitted.  “But I guess I’ll be invited in more often now,” she speculated slyly, pressing her body against his.  “He won’t make you leave your girlfriend out on the street, will he?”

 

“Nope, don’t s’pose he will,” Spike said absently as he studied the house.  “Ta, pet.  I owe you one.”

 

“You’re more than welcome,” she purred, still rubbing up against him.  “What do you want to do now?”

 

“I think I should pay my respects.” His grin was feral as he walked up the steps to the front door and kicked it in.

 

He straight-armed the bodyguard that jumped at him, breaking the unfortunate vamp’s neck without even looking at him.  Spike saw the elegant looking man in the big wing chair raise a hand to stop another attack and he allowed his features to fade back to his human face as he nodded his appreciation.

 

“’preciate it, mate,” Spike said with a glare at the obviously angry minions still left. 

 

Trick’s eyes slid past the blond vampire to the nervous-looking woman behind him.

 

“Mitzi, is it?  What is the meaning of this?” His tone was mild, but Spike could see the fear his question evoked.

 

“Don’t be hard on the poor bint. She was jus’ doing me a favor.  Told her I wanted to pay my respects and let you know that the master was back in town. Lest there be any misunderstandin’s.”  Spike’s words were mild, but his eyes flickered amber as he made his meaning clear.

 

Not to be outdone, Trick countered smoothly, “I would have thought that was me.”

 

Spike shook his head slowly, then waved his hand magnanimously.

 

“Can see how you might think that. What with me being out of the country for a bit.  ‘Course, now that I’m back, should be obvious that it wasn’t really a permanent vacancy.”

 

The other vampire narrowed his eyes.  “Do I know you?”

 

Spike grinned and shrugged.  “Sometimes my reputation precedes me. William the Bloody?  Better known as Spike?  Killed two slayers so far – back to work a bit of revenge on the one what lives here.”

 

“Is that the blonde? The one who killed Angelus and Drusilla?  And, if I remember the stories correctly, put you into a wheelchair?”

 

Spike bristled convincingly.  “That’s the one,” he snarled.  “Crippled me and killed my family. I’m here for her.”

 

“There are two slayers here, you know.”

 

Spike laughed, then laughed again when Trick frowned at him. 

 

“Already met the other one. She’s nothin’.  If I have time after I finish with the real Slayer, I’ll take care of her for you.”

 

Behind him, Mitzi was nodding her head vigorously.  “I saw him. He beat her and then he bit her.  He wasn’t even trying hard.  If he hadn’t tried to share her with me, she’d be dead already.”

 

“Well, Mr. Bloody, it appears I may have underestimated you,” Trick said easily, rising to his feet.  “If you can take care of the slayer problem for him, I suspect the Mayor would be prepared to be very generous with you.”

 

“Don’t need his generosity,” Spike growled.  “Just don’t want any interference.  He minds his business, I mind mine and we’ll be fine.”

 

“Perhaps you don’t understand,” Trick said with what was meant to be a reassuring smile, but that showed all his teeth.   “If you stay here, you will become the Mayor’s business.”  He walked towards the door, gesturing for Spike and Mitzi to precede him. “I will speak to him about you, but I’m sure he’s going to want to meet you in person.”

 

“Fine,” Spike growled with convincing reluctance.  “I’ll talk to the old bugger, but I’m not anybody’s minion.”

 

“As I’m sure will be immediately obvious,” the other vampire soothed.  “As I said, if you take out the slayers, he will be very grateful.  And now, if you will excuse me…”

 

Spike stopped just before he stepped over the threshold. “And if I don’t excuse you?”

 

The two old vampires stared into each other’s amber eyes for long minutes before the darker one looked away. 

 

“I have work to do. I will send someone to find you tomorrow night if the Mayor wants to meet you. Where should I send him?”

 

“I’ll find him.  Just send him to Willy’s; that’ll probably be my office until I set up house.”

 

Trick nodded and began to close the door behind them.  Spike took Mitzi’s arm and walked her down the stairs, paying no attention to the way she was rubbing against his side. He continued to ignore her as they began walking away from the house. They had gone several blocks before he came back to himself and realized that she was tapping her foot impatiently.

 

“Are we going somewhere now?” She ran her hands up his chest to his face, not noticing his slight flinch when her fingers brushed the human tooth marks on his shoulder.  “I think you are so amazing,” she cooed. “How sexy is it that you can kill slayers? Maybe you can bite that bitchy blond slayer and share some of her blood with me?”

 

“Never gonna happen, pet,” he said quietly as he drove a stake into her back.  “But thanks for reminding me whose side I’m on.”

 

Without looking back at the dust drifting away on the sidewalk, he began to head back to Crawford Street and the bed waiting for him there.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twelve

 

              Buffy ran from school directly to the mansion, quietly using the key that Spike had given her to open the big door and tiptoe silently into the house.  A glance at the room he had used before showed no sign of the vampire, and she grumbled to herself as she set out to find him. 

 

              She walked through the kitchen, pausing to check the refrigerator and then smiling when she saw that it was already stocked with containers of blood.  She also saw that someone had picked up some snacks for her and happily grabbed an apple to munch on while she explored the big house.

 

              For the first time, she entered the large wing into which Angelus and Drusilla had kept disappearing during the time they had held her prisoner.  After the fire, and with Spike confined to his bed or the wheelchair, there had been no reason for her to venture to areas that could hold nothing but painful memories.  Now, however, knowing that Spike was the rightful owner of the house and that he wouldn’t mind, she felt comfortable exploring the parts she had yet to see.

 

              <I>(Besides, if he didn’t want me wandering around, he should have been waiting for me at the door</I>), she grumbled silently, somewhat miffed that he didn’t seem to be as eager to see her as she was to see him.  She peered into the first couple of bedrooms that she passed, noting the absence of furniture and the still-lingering smell of fresh paint.  In one room, she found the unburnt furniture that had obviously been piled into one place while the renovators had been working, but still no sign of her vampire.

 

              The last room that she peered into was clearly the master suite – it had large windows along one side that opened onto the garden and courtyard, as well as a small sitting area surrounded with bookcases.  The room was in an “L” shape, allowing the undead occupant of the large bed to comfortably sleep through the day without fear of the sun’s rays.

 

              Buffy tiptoed towards the bed, frowning at Spike’s apparent inability to sense her presence.  He lay on his back, the covers pulled up only as far as his lower abdomen, and one leg bent slightly. One arm was flung across his eyes while the other was stretched out to the side as though reaching for something. <I>or someone</I>she realized, slipping out of her shoes and cautiously sliding onto the bed beside him.  She rested her head on his chest, smiling when his arm automatically encircled and pulled her closer.

 

              “Don’t you know better than to startle a sleeping vampire, Slayer?” His sleepy voice held a hint of laughter that turned into a snort when she huffed and tried to sit up.

 

              “You don’t look very startled to me, you big…big faker,” she sniffed.  “You were pretending, weren’t you?’

 

              He shook his head and rolled on his side to face her.

 

              “Wasn’t pretending, pet.  It’s just that havin’ you next to me seems so natural that I woke up knowing everything was alright.”

 

              Her “humph!” didn’t impress either one of them with its sincerity and she finally relented and snuggled against him. “Really? You knew it was me?”

 

              “I’ll always know you, love,” he said, suddenly serious.  “I could be blind and deaf and I would be able to feel you.”

 

              “Oh,” was all she could come up with in response to the intensity in his eyes.   “So,” she finally said brightly, trying to lighten the tone. “What did you do last night? And how come you’re still asleep?”

 

              “Didn’t get to bed till well after sunrise,” he admitted.  “An’ after driving all the night before, I was a bit knackered.”

 

              “What were you doing?” She tried to keep the suspicious edge from her voice, but his suddenly closed face told her that it hadn’t worked.

 

              “Was doin’ what I needed to do to get a meet and greet with the boss man,” he growled.  “You know. What we decided I would try to do so as to help you out?”

 

              “I’m sorry.”  Her meek apology startled them both and his face softened when he read the sincerity there.

 

              “Me too, pet.  I didn’t mean to snap at you.”  He ran his knuckles down the side of her face, stroking the smooth skin there.  “I’m just a bit grouchy from havin’ to spend so much time away from you last night.”

 

              “And I’m feeling a little insecure about letting you go out without me to back you up,” she admitted.  “I’m still worried that somebody will make the connection between us.”

 

              “About that…” He fell onto his back and tugged her down to rest against his chest again.  He stroked her head, reveling in the feel of her hair sliding over his fingers and shivering when her own hand wandered down to tickle the soft skin just above the sheet.  “I need to know that you’re going to trust me, Buffy.  Whatever I have to do to convince the mayor and his minions that I’m the real deal – I need to know that you’re alright with it.”

 

              He felt her stiffen beside him. “Do you mean you’re going to be feeding?”

 

              “No, pet, I don’t think I’ll need to do that.   But I’m gonna need to be hangin’ out places you wouldn’t want me, and maybe pretendin’…” He paused and tilted her chin up until he was looking right at her.  “…<I>pretendin’</I> to be something I’m not.   I need to know that you believe me when I tell you that nothing you or anyone else might see is anything but a performance.”

 

              Buffy frowned in confusion.  “I believe you, Spike.  What could you possibly be doing that you don’t think I’ll understand?”

 

              “Last night,” he began with a sigh. “I ran into that other Slayer while I was on my way to meet Trick.  I’m not…she might tell you that…” He stopped, not sure how much he wanted to tell Buffy or what Faith might have said about their encounter.

 

              “You saw Faith?” Buffy prodded.  “And…?”

 

              “I take it you haven’t talked to her yet?”

 

              Buffy frowned, shaking her head and looking at him quizzically.  “No. I don’t usually see her until after dark.  Faith’s not real big on the whole ‘going to school’ thing.  Why?  What do you think she’s going to tell me?”

 

              “Well, in the first place, when I ran into her, I wasn’t alone; so I had to fight her and I had to draw a little blood to make it look good.”  He watched cautiously to see how she was taking that part of his story.

 

              “Did you hurt her?”  Her expression gave nothing away.

 

              “Not much. Knocked her out for a sec and poked a little hole so I could get some blood on my lips.  Nothin’ that probably isn’t already healed.  Told her I was workin’ and sent her runnin’ off.”

 

              “Okaaaay…I’m not upset with that.  It’s not like I haven’t wanted to knock her out myself sometimes.  So, what’s she going to tell me that you think I’m not going to take well?” she asked shrewdly.

 

              “She’s going to tell you that I was with a woman – a vamp.”

 

              The room became suddenly cooler.  “Oh?”

 

              “Picked her up at Willy’s and used her for my ticket into Trick’s house. She told him about my kickin’ Slayer arse and pretty much gave him a reason to trust me.”

 

              “I see.  So, you’re saying that you’ll be seeing her again, then?  Just to build some more cred?”

 

              “Wha-?  No! That’s not what I was sayin’.  I was just explaining why she was with me – in case Slayer junior hands you some story about how I’m runnin’ around on you.”

 

              “So, you aren’t going to see her again?”  Buffy was trying very hard to keep her voice even and contain the jealousy seething through her veins.

 

              Instead of answering her, Spike leaned down and ran his tongue over his marks on her neck, then pulled the skin into his mouth and sucked until the tiny scabs came off and he could taste her on his tongue.  He sucked briefly until she was melting against him, then licked the holes closed and nuzzled her cheek.

 

              “She’s dust, love,” he whispered. “I don’t think you really understand what these marks we’re wearin’ mean to a vampire.  I could no more cheat on you, than I could get a suntan.  I’m just tellin’ you about her so that you’ll know what’s going on if I have to do something like that again.  I’m not touchin’ anybody except you – and nobody’s touchin’ me.  But if I’m gonna be the Big Bad, I’ve got to play the part.”

 

              “Any vamp ho that touches you dies slowly and painfully,” she muttered, giving a yank on the curly brown hairs just visible above the hem of the sheet that still covered his lower body.

 

              “Ow! What was that for?  It’s not like I don’t know you’ve got me by the short and curlies, Slayer.”

 

              “That was just in case you were enjoying playing the Big Bad last night,” she responded smugly; then her expression changed and she purred, “But I could kiss it better for you…” Suiting actions to words, she began dropping light kisses down the centerline of his torso until she was nuzzling the very hairs that she had just pulled so hard.  She giggled when the sheet began to rise up in front of her face, following her nose through the curls until her entire head was under the sheet and her kisses were evoking heartfelt groans and cursing from the vampire.

 

              Carefully avoiding the muscular shaft now bobbing in front of her, she continued to kiss her way around it, eventually licking and nipping the insides of his thighs and nudging his balls with her nose.   When the groans had turned to growls, she relented and ran her tongue up the side of his cock, pausing at the head to give his foreskin a little nip before putting her mouth around it and beginning to suck vigorously.  His growls immediately changed to murmured endearments and encouragement as he reached an unusually quick release that left her rapidly swallowing around her giggles.

 

              His cock barely softened after he emptied himself into her mouth, returning almost immediately to an achingly hard condition.  Buffy gave a small “eep” of surprise as she was dragged up from her resting place on his stomach and spun around until she was facing him.  Without preamble, he fastened his mouth on hers, his tongue removing any last trace of his spendings from her lips and teeth.  When the kiss had tapered off to a slow, sensual mingling of tongues and lips, Spike began to run his hands under her shirt to her lacy little bra and unhooking it.

 

              “You’re wearing entirely too many clothes, missy,” he rumbled against her mouth, tugging on the shirt until she lifted her arms so that he could pull it and the unfastened bra over her head.  When her hands were in the air, he moved his mouth to a nipple, sucking it to a rosy peak and then moving on to the other one.  While Spike’s hands and mouth were occupied teasing her breasts into aching mounds, Buffy was unfastening her jeans and pushing them down her legs as quickly as she could.  She rid herself of them with a flurry of little kicks that left both jeans and sheet on the floor several feet from the bed.

 

              Spike’s hands immediately left her breasts to cup her now-bare ass and use it to pull her up his body until she was poised over his face, her hands braced against the headboard.  Her strangled cry as his strong tongue went directly into her entrance and began to tease her inner walls, was immediately followed by moans of sheer pleasure.  The sensations he was creating were so new that she had to lower her head to watch.  The new stimulation was explained when she saw that he was in game face, his already preternaturally strong and agile tongue now lengthened by several inches. 

 

              When she found that his tongue was able to reach the same spot as only his talented fingers or cock had brushed against before, she could do nothing but cling to the headboard uttering whimpers and cries that an observer might have been hard put to recognize as sounds of pleasure.  Trusting her to stay on her knees, he moved one hand to her clit and began to rub small circles on it, matching his rhythm to his still-active tongue until her cries reached a crescendo. She shuddered hard against his hand, tremors shaking her body for a full minute before she collapsed bonelessly into his waiting arms.

 

              When she finally opened her eyes, his demon face was gone and his normal blue eyes twinkled at her with barely-contained glee.

 

              “Shut up,” she muttered, swatting ineffectually at his laughing face.  “That was sooo cheating.”

 

              “So, I shouldn’t let the demon out anymore while I’m…um…” He licked his lips suggestively and cocked an eyebrow at her.

 

              “I didn’t say that,” she said, waving a hand in the air in emphasis.  “Just give a girl some warning, huh?”

 

              “That’d take all the fun out of it, Slayer.” He pretended to pout while she rolled her eyes at him.

 

              “Somehow, I don’t think it really would,” she said, snuggling closer.  “In fact, I’m pretty sure not much of anything could take the fun out of that.” She smiled indulgently at his self-satisfied grin, before rolling on top of him.  “It seems to me that there’s a little problem here that I need to take care of…”

 

              Little?”  His outraged shout was almost drowned out by her giggles.  When she settled herself onto his throbbing cock, he couldn’t hang on to his indignation; instead placing his hands on her hips and holding her down tightly while he pushed his own hips up hard.  “I’ll show you ‘little’,” he growled in mock anger, burying himself until his balls were pressing against her ass.  “Does that feel little to you?”

 

              “Guh!” was the only response Buffy could utter as she clenched around him tightly and reveled in the way he was filling her. She began to move on him, rocking her hips back and forth in a way that had them both gasping in no time.  She watched Spike struggle not to change as he neared his release and she lifted one hand to stroke his face.

 

              “It’s okay, Spike,” she gasped, still rocking against him. “I love the demon too.  Let him out.”

 

              With a relieved shudder, he allowed his face to change, taking care not to scratch her with his claws as he clung to her churning hips.  Fearlessly, she leaned down and kissed his mouth, deliberately allowing his fangs to cut her tongue and whimpering when she felt him swallowing the tiny amount of blood that filled his mouth.  When her gasps and whimpers told him that she was getting close, he flipped them over and sank his fangs into the soft skin on her throat, taking just enough blood to send them both screaming over the edge.

 

              Buffy’s own bite over the marks she’d left the night before lasted until their bodies had stopped shuddering and she could release her hold on his neck.  Following his example, she licked the bite until it stopped bleeding, then collapsed under him.  With a groan, he slowly rolled off, carefully maintaining the contact that they both craved.  With a couple of hours of sunlight still left in the day, he saw no reason not to allow her to drift off in his arms, and he soon followed her into a restorative nap. Neither of them noticed Doyle’s arrival and subsequent perusal of the contents of the refrigerator.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

              His demon-enhanced senses having told the Bracken half-breed that Buffy was in the house and that his interruption would not be appreciated, Doyle took his crackers and cheese, along with a bottle of beer, out to the main room.  He dragged a comfortable-looking chair from the furniture storage area and settled down near a window to amuse himself until the two blonds woke up.  As he dozed off, warmed by the rays of the sinking sun, he idly hoped that Spike would sense his presence before he or the slayer emerged from the bedroom wearing only their happy smiles.

 

              Only his demon half allowed him any warning when the front door burst open and several fledgling vampires tumbled into the room, their eyes lighting up when they spotted what appeared to be an easy meal.  Doyle was on his feet immediately, holding the bottle by the neck in what he hoped was a threatening manner as he bellowed, “Spike! Get your undead ass out here!”

 

              Hoping for a moment of demon solidarity, Doyle allowed his face to change as he stammered, “Hey there, boys.  Nothing tasty here.  Nope.  No nice sweet human blood—okay, really didn’t mean to mention blood….Spike! Slayer!  Now would be a good time to---“ He was cut off as one of the fledglings launched itself at him, carrying him to the floor.  Thinking quickly, Doyle shoved the beer bottle into the open mouth hovering over his throat and shouted again.

 

              In a gratifyingly short amount of time, he was coughing at the vampire dust coating his face and staring up in surprise at an annoyed-looking slayer clad only in what was clearly one of Spike’s shirts.  Wearing only his barely-zipped jeans, her companion had just finished tearing the head off the last of the other two vamps.  He turned to glare at Doyle, then asked gruffly, “You alright, mate?” 

 

              “Uh, yeah.  Turns out he was only here for the Bud Light,” Doyle said cheerfully, holding up the broken bottle and pointing to the glass littering the floor.  “Hi, Buffy,” he added.  “Thanks for the hand there.  Not that I didn’t have it under control…” He trailed off when Buffy just rolled her eyes with a “Shyeah, you did.”

 

              “Spike?” she continued, looking over at the clearly-angry vampire. “How did that happen?  How did they get in?”

 

              “House is owned by a vamp, pet.  Nothin’ here to keep them out just now. But we’re going to fix that,” he growled, reaching for the phone that he’d had installed.  He pulled a card from his pocket and dialed a local number, explaining that he needed some paperwork drawn up immediately. Before he could get any further, Doyle shook his head and gestured for him to hang up. Spike narrowed his eyes, but swallowed his argument and ended the conversation with an “I guess it can wait until tomorrow.  Thanks anyway, mate.”

 

              He dropped the phone and glared at the demon.

 

              “What?”

 

              “I know what you’re thinking – and it’s a good idea; but right now it would be a dead giveaway.  Those papers would have to be filed at City Hall and as soon as the evil mayor sees that William the Bloody has deeded his house over to the Slayer, or her mother, or her Watcher or whatever other human you had in mind, your cover is blown sky high.”  Doyle stopped speaking and folded his arms across his chest.  “You can’t do it until this is all settled.”

 

              Spike snarled and threw the stake he’d been holding across the room. 

 

              “I won’t have her endangered in her own fuckin’ house!”

 

              Buffy stared at him, eyes wide as she realized what he’d been about to do. “It’s your house, Spike,” she said softly. “You paid for it.”

 

              “Got it for you, didn’t I? What do I need a bloody mansion for?  Wanted you to have some place nice to live—“ He stopped, the expression on her face telling him that he probably hadn’t chosen the best way to broach the subject of cohabiting. “Never mind,” he finished gruffly. “We can talk about it later. I want you to feel safe here – I want you to be safe when you’re here.  And you won’t be as long as I’m the owner.”

 

              “It’ll be fine,” she soothed, running her hand up his arm. She could feel the knotted muscle as both man and demon fought the anger brought on by having his home invaded.  “We were okay here before – and we didn’t even have doors that locked, or a roof.  This was just a flukey thing- probably a couple of newbies that didn’t know most of these houses are empty.  It’ll be all right.”

 

             

Doyle looked at the still-furious vampire and ventured, “Maybe you need to let the word get out that you live here.  Dust a few vamps or tear into a few demons and let it be known that they were lingering around your property.  If your rep is what you say it is…” He stopped to grin when Spike snarled at him.  “If it is, then it shouldn’t take you long to remind everybody that you’ve got a nasty temper to go with your…uh…possessiveness.”

 

              “That could work!” Buffy agreed quickly. “It’s mostly gonna be daytime when I’m coming over, so they won’t see me going in and out.  If I get caught outside after dark, I’ll just act like I was hunting something to slay.”

 

              “And then what?”

 

              “And then I’ll slay them,” she said cheerfully.  “Problem solved.”

 

              Spike cocked his head at her and shrugged.  “Fine. I’ll kick some demon arse and let it be known that I don’t like visitors.  Do that tonight, after I meet the wannabe Big Bad.”

 

              Buffy’s face clouded as she realized that he would be going out among the demon population again without her.

 

              “I have to go home for awhile,” she said quietly.  “Will you have time to come with me?”

 

              “Sure, pet,” he responded just as quietly.  “Nothin’s gonna be happening at Willy’s until later.  I’ll go see your mum and maybe drop by your Scooby meeting.” He glanced over at Doyle. “Did you get the Watcher set straight?”

 

              The other man shrugged. “I did what I could. I think he’ll be okay with it, once he gets used to the idea.  He called the Council’s seers and got them on it.  Now you just need to hope they see the same things I do.”

 

              “Oh, that’s reassuring,” Spike drawled.  “Nobody in the bloody world sees things the way you do.”

 

              Doyle grinned unrepentantly.  “And that’s why I’m such fun to be around.”

 

              Buffy rolled her eyes at their banter and started back towards the bedroom.  Spike immediately followed her, telling Doyle, “Jus’ wait here for a minute and we’ll take you with us to meet the Slayer’s mother.”

 

 

              Joyce was her usual cordial self when Spike introduced Doyle as “some bloke what thinks he needs to hang around and tell me what to do.” She smiled warmly and said in a stage whisper, “Well, it’s time someone decided to.”

 

              While the others laughed at his disgruntled expression, he growled, “Oh, like I don’t get enough orders from you and your bossy bint of a daughter.”

 

              Buffy had already shared with Joyce Doyle’s reason for being in Sunnydale with Spike, and she had hinted about the Powers being all for a relationship between the vampire and the slayer. However, she hadn’t actually gone so far as to tell her mother about the full ramifications of being mated to him.  All Joyce knew was that Spike had put some sort of mark on Buffy that protected her from being bitten by other vampires, and she had no quarrel with anything that kept her daughter safe.  Although mildly disturbed at the idea of Buffy’s boyfriend having drunk her blood, she pushed that image aside in favor of remembering how it had given Buffy a precious few more seconds when Kralik was trying to kill her.

 

              With a heavy sigh, Buffy resigned herself to the idea that she was going to have to be much more explicit in her explanations if there was any chance of her mother’s not going off at the thought of Buffy and Spike living together.  Joyce shot a shrewd look at the visibly bothered slayer, but refrained from saying anything in front of the men. 

 

              “I guess we’d better get going,” Buffy said finally.  “There’s another meeting tonight – although I don’t know what we can tell them that they don’t already know—“

 

              “We need to be sure the watchers are willin’ to hold off at least one more night and give me a chance to get my meeting with the Mayor.  With a bit of luck, I can take him down and no one else has to risk getting’ hurt.”

 

              Joyce’s grateful smile almost made up for the anger he could feel rolling off the slayer and he ducked behind Doyle as he continued, “Not that I don’t know that the Slayer is more than capable of winnin’ this thing all on her own, but why risk the damage to her new clothes, right?”

 

              Completely unmollified, Buffy muttered, “That is so lame,” as she brushed past him and out the door.   With a cheerful wave, Doyle followed her to the darkened car, chuckling to himself even as he reminded her, “He’s just trying to do what the Powers sent him back to do, you know.  Keep you safe.”

 

              “So, I’m what? Fired? He gets to kill everything evil and I get to sit on the sideline and admire him like a good little girlfriend?  I don’t think so!”

 

              Spike slid into the driver’s seat, asking quietly, “You don’t think so, what, Slayer?”

 

              “That the powers mean for me to sit around watching you be all heroic like some…some…girl!”

 

              The fact that both men were laughing again did nothing to improve her temper and she rode the rest of the way to Giles’ apartment glued to the door with her arms folded tightly.  When they arrived, she grabbed the door handle and yanked it open before Spike could stop her, jumping out and striding quickly to the Watcher’s door.

 

              “I hope the old man isn’t smart enough to have this apartment watched,” Spike muttered to himself as he climbed out and extended his senses.  “That’d be all I need-- being seen givin’ the Slayer a ride.”

 

              Satisfied that he couldn’t sense any other demons in the area, and that all the heartbeats he heard were coming from nearby apartments, he followed Buffy to the door and waited for Doyle to join them.   At the last second, he felt the distant presence of another vampire and he growled at the watcher to “bloody well let me in before you blow my cover.” 

 

              Somewhat reluctantly, and taking his time about it, Giles finally said, “Come in, Spike,” and stood aside. 

 

 

 

Chapter Fourteen

 

              With Doyle’s help, and Buffy’s grudgingly given assent, Spike was able to convince both Giles and Wesley to give him the night to get a meeting arranged with the Mayor.  He was just preparing to leave, hoping to be “found” at Willy’s sooner rather than later, when Faith and Xander walked into the crowded apartment.

 

              Without a word to anyone else, the younger slayer walked up to Spike and got into his personal space.

 

              “You bit me,” she growled, her eyes never leaving his and searching for any sign of fear or threat.

 

              “I scratched you,” he corrected mildly, refusing to flinch from the proximity to an angry slayer.  “Might have saved your life – it’s not like you could have fought me and another vamp at the same time.”  The lack of bravado in his flat statement was the only thing that kept Faith’s temper in check.  He was telling the truth, and they both knew it.  If he’d really intended to kill her, she would be dead.

 

              “Oh yeah.” She fought back the only way she could. “That’s right. You had an undead honey hanging all over you.”  She sent a quick glance Buffy’s way, but was met with a hard stare that told her Spike had already explained away the other vampire’s presence.   “So, what’s the plan for tonight? Spend some more time with the ho-vamp?”

 

              “Not all that turned on by dust,” he said quietly, shrugging and turning away in a deliberate show of fearlessness. Ignoring Faith’s furious glare, he walked over to Buffy and kissed her lightly.  “I’ll be leavin’ now, love.  You might want to check Willy’s later on and see if he’ll tell you where I went.  Could make it sound like you’d just learned I’m in town and were lookin’ to kick my arse.  Again,” he added with a smile meant only for her.

 

              “Okay,” she agreed dubiously.  “But you be careful.  Don’t trust the Mayor or Trick.”

 

              “Didn’t get to be this old by bein’ careless, love.”

 

              Buffy rolled her eyes, remembering the brash vampire who had come to Sunnydale intent on making her his third dead slayer.  “Yeah, right,” she muttered, walking him to the door.

 

              With a nod to the watchers, and a wink at a still-fuming Faith, Spike left the apartment and got into his car. The presence of another vampire had barely registered on him before he found himself losing consciousness as the minion hiding in the back seat brought the blackjack down on his head in a very professional manner.  It took only a few seconds for Spike’s inert body to be dragged from the car and thrown into a nearby van that was already moving before the minions were fully inside.

 

              Inside the apartment, Buffy suddenly gasped and clutched her head, shaking it in confusion when Giles asked what was wrong.

 

              “I don’t know,” she admitted.  “I just felt something weird for a second – like Spike was…” Her voice trailed off as everyone relaxed.

 

              “He just left, Buffy,” Willow pointed out helpfully.  “He probably isn’t even out of the parking lot yet.  What could happen?”

 

              “You’re right, Will.  It’s probably nothing.  He can’t be in trouble already…”

 

              Even as she spoke, Buffy was edging towards the window, pulling back the curtain to peer into the well-lit parking lot.  To her surprise, she saw the Desoto still sitting where Spike had parked it, the doors on the driver’s side gaping open.  With a cry, she was out the door and to the car before anyone even registered that she’d left.

 

              Wesley’s “Oh dear,” was quickly followed by Doyle’s “So much for being careful…” 

 

              A quick examination of the car’s interior showed a few drops of blood on the back of the driver’s seat, and Spike’s keys resting on the floor mat where they had obviously fallen.  Grabbing them quickly, Buffy glared around at the deserted parking lot; her shoulders slumping when she realized that there was no sign of another vehicle and no way to tell in which direction one might have gone.  Closing the car doors carefully, she reluctantly followed everyone else back into the apartment.

 

              “So,” Faith drawled, “does this mean we’re moving on to Plan B?”

 

              “So it would seem,” Giles responded with a grimace. “Or, it would, if we actually had a plan B.”

 

              “Buffy?” Willow’s concerned use of her name brought Buffy out of her uncharacteristic silence.  “What do you want to do now?”

 

              “Kill them all.”

 

The cold, flat voice bore little resemblance to the perky teenager with whom they were all familiar, and everyone in the room unconsciously flinched back from the woman standing in front of them.  Her face bore no trace of grief or worry, only a cold anger that promised serious pain to anyone who stood between her and her goal. Even Doyle did a quick mental re-evaluation of the benefits of having a slayer mated to a master vampire as he shared a sudden jolt of fear with the humans in the room.

 

After several minutes of tense silence, Xander finally couldn’t tolerate the tension any longer and he said cheerfully, “Okay. So the bleached wonder is gone.  We were doing all right before he got here.  We don’t need him to do this.  All we need to know is where they took him and we’ll know where the big poobah is.  I say we go back to the original plan and hit them now while the numbers are still down.”

 

While he was speaking, Buffy had been going through the weapons chest and putting stakes in her pockets and other hiding places.  She also took out a sword and hefted it experimentally.  Without responding to Xander, she headed for the door, ignoring everything but the need to rescue her mate.  At Wesley’s indignant, “Where are you going?” she paused only long enough to say with no emotion, “To get Spike back.”

 

Giles stepped in front of her, doing his best not to flinch from the expression on her face as he said gently, “Buffy, if you will wait just a few moments, we can do a locator spell.”  He didn’t add that without it, she would be wasting her time searching all over Sunnydale, but waited quietly as the knowledge made its way through the revenge-focused fog.  She gave herself a quick shake and nodded her head.  The eyes she raised to his were once again those of the girl he knew so well.  Eyes that were filled with the anxiety previously hidden behind the cold rage of a slayer whose mate was in danger.

 

“Yes – yes, that’s a good idea.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  Let’s do the spell and then I’ll go kill them all.”

 

“Okaaaay,” Xander’s voice broke the awkward silence.  “I’m detecting a theme here.”  While Willow began to set up the locator spell, taking Spike’s keys from Buffy with a tremulous “May I?” the boy began to dig into the weapons chest.  He pulled out the crossbows, swords, extra stakes and containers of holy water, offering with a grin, “Pick your poison, ladies and gentlemen.”

 

Faith snatched the remaining stakes before anyone else could get to them, distributing them about her body in much the same way that Buffy had.  Cordellia quietly picked up one of the crossbows, taking time to dip some arrows into the holy water before putting them into the quiver around her waist.  Doyle nodded with approval, sidling up to her and whispering, “My kind of woman, you are.”

 

Her dismissive shrug did nothing to dim his smile, and he hummed to himself as he looked over the selection of weapons. He settled on another sword, testing it first to be sure that he was capable of picking it up and swinging it.  Faith’s derisive snort brought the faintest trace of emerging spines to his face before he shook them off and said quietly, “I’m the seer, not the muscle. That’s for you and the violence-prone blonds.  I do only what’s necessary to stay alive.”

 

Buffy tapped her sword impatiently against her leg while Willow frowned over the map of Sunnydale.  The small light that should have led them to Spike darted here and there, never remaining in one spot long enough to indicate a location.  She looked up at Giles, a question in her eyes until he pointed out that the light was remaining conspicuously away from the area of high school.

 

“The Hellmouth.  Of course. Why didn’t we think of that?”  He hadn’t even finished speaking before Buffy whirled and ran out the door.  Faith exchanged looks with Xander and Doyle, then snatched Spike’s keys from the floor and tossed them to the demon.  “Let’s go sticker-face.  No sense lettin’ B have all the fun.”

 

There was a slight hesitation on Wesley’s part as he watched the young slayer, a half-demon seer and a high school boy set out after the long-gone senior slayer.  Giles picked up his own keys, handed Wesley the other crossbow, and nodded towards the door.

 

“I believe this is our chance to be more than figureheads,” he said as he shepherded the two girls and the young watcher out to his car.  “If the Mayor is on the Hellmouth, it’s entirely possible that he is planning to move sooner than we expected.”

 

 

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

 

Spike awoke to a sharp pain in his head and the knowledge that he was suspended from a ceiling and lashed rather painfully to a large wheel. A glance around the room told him nothing about where he was, other than that it appeared to be a low level basement. The floor was dirt, and the vibrations in the room were pure evil.  From the corners of his eyes, he could see Trick engaged in intense conversation with a well-preserved, but elderly man whom he was clearly trying to appease.

 

“He was with her.  He went willingly into her watcher’s house, and came out under his own power.  Whoever he is, he’s obviously not to be trusted.”

 

“Well,” the mayor said mildly, his shrewd eyes not missing the fact that the vampire was now conscious, “let’s just find out exactly how much he is not to be trusted, shall we?”

 

He strolled over to the suspended vampire and looked him over carefully. Behind him, Spike could see the other vampire glaring his fury over having been almost gulled into introducing the new master vampire in town as a possible ally in the Mayor’s quest to Ascend.  Even as he congratulated himself on his foresight in planting a small group of their much-reduced army of minions at the Slayer’s home and in the watcher’s apartment complex, his eyes were promising a slow, painful death. 

 

The Mayor walked slowly around the growling vampire, his tone almost admiring as he commented, “I’m not sure if you are extremely brave or extremely stupid.  Which quality would have inspired you to seek to make yourself at home in my city?”

 

“Sod off, old man. I live wherever I want.”

 

“Oh my. I do so dislike disrespectful and crude behavior.  Mr Trick? I thought you told me this…creature was a master vampire?  Surely not, with an attitude like that.  Shouldn’t he have learned some wisdom and manners by now?”

 

“I’ll teach him manners, sir. Have no fear about that.” The dark vampire moved closer to Spike, baring his teeth in what was meant to be a frightening smile.

 

Spike ignored the posturing underling, focusing his attention on the man in front of him.

 

“So, you’re the big bad wannabe, huh?”  He looked the man up and down as contemptuously as he could from his awkward position. 

 

Unperturbed, the Mayor responded with, “And you, my dangling friend, are William the Bloody.  Slayer of slayers.  And yet, here I am, plagued by two of the annoying little girls.  One of which you have already had at your mercy, and one of which we had all assumed killed you some time ago.  Would you care to explain your miraculous escape from our fair city after Miss Summers put you into a wheelchair and killed your sire and grandsire?”

 

“I lead a charmed life,” Spike said insolently.  “An’ if that stupid bint I picked up last night hadn’t been so greedy, Slayer Jr. would be dead by now.”

 

“And yet, Mr Trick’s trusted associates assure us that not only did you drive the Slayer from her home to her watcher’s, you remained inside with two slayers, two watchers, an apprentice witch and sundry other interfering humans.  Are we to assume that your charmed life is responsible for your ability to walk out of there unharmed?”

 

The mayor turned away, leaving space for Trick to move closer to Spike and show him the squirt bottle that he was holding so carefully.  He allowed a drop to fall onto his own finger, showing his teeth again as Spike’s eyes widened at the sight of the blister immediately raised.

 

“Or, shall I assume the worst? That, for whatever reason, you are working with the Slayer and had intended to use your reputation to insinuate yourself into my organization?”

 

Spike’s scoffing, “Wouldn’t have your organization on a bet,” did nothing to deny the obvious truth in the man’s shrewd assessment of Spike’s real purpose in bringing himself to their attention.  He managed to keep his face cold and contemptuous as the wheel was tilted until he was hanging in an upside down position.  He braced himself mentally for the anticipated pain as Trick moved even closer and held the bottle of holy water over Spike’s exposed crotch.  With the way he was tied, legs spread, there was no way to protect himself from the liquid being slowly dribbled onto the worn denim of his jeans.  He hissed as smoke began to rise from the inside of his thighs and he felt the liquid working it’s way down towards his rapidly-shrinking balls.  He was struggling so vigorously against the ropes holding him in place, that he didn’t at first notice that there had been no more holy water to follow the first frightening trickle.

 

Sounds of fighting from the other side of a heavy door brought his attention back to events not directly concerned with his important body parts, and he realized that Trick’s attention was no longer on him, but was focused on the noises coming from outside the room.  Minions that had been lazing around the area were suddenly alert and moving in the direction of the disturbance.  The sudden silence outside was immediately followed by the crash of a door being kicked off its hinges, and framed in the entrance was a Buffy that he had never seen. Standing there with her sword in hand and her hair glowing in the reflected light of the torches, she looked liked an avenging angel. 

 

“You hurt my mate.”  Her voice was deadly quiet, her body as taut as a bowstring.

 

If it were possible for an African-American vampire to blanch, Trick would have done so.  Leaving the job of fighting the Slayer’s back-up warriors to the minions now leaping to the attack, he turned and ran towards a door on the far side of the big room.  Buffy’s thrown sword, while not dusting him, pinned him to the floor where he fell and she walked slowly to where he was writhing on the bare dirt; absently staking any minions foolish enough to impede her purposeful walk.

 

For some reason, in his haste to leave, Trick had clung to the holy water with which he’d been planning to torture Spike.  Buffy’s eyes went from the plastic bottle in Trick’s hand, to the still-smoking fabric of Spike’s jeans and her eyes narrowed in sudden understanding.  With a creditable snarl, she snatched the plastic bottle from his clenched hand and held it up.  Placing a foot on the vampire’s neck to hold him down, Buffy yanked the sword from his back and proceeded to squirt the contents of the bottle into the wound.  She watched dispassionately as the old vampire writhed and screamed, smoke and steam rising from the bleeding gash in his back.

 

The rest of the Scoobies had, by this time, successfully fought their way into the large room, the Mayor had retreated to a dais in the center of the area and surrounded himself with what few minions remained.  Between Faith’s stakes and the crossbows, their numbers were rapidly dwindling and it was clear that the Mayor of Sunnydale was soon going to be alone on the stage.

 

Spike’s roar of rage as the man began to chant, caught Xander’s attention and he somewhat reluctantly used his sword to slice through the ropes preventing the vampire from joining the action. With his feet released, Spike was already twisting his body and barely waited for his arms to be freed before he was across the room and leaping onto the stage.  Before their eyes, the ordinary –looking man in front of them began to swell and grow, his eyes changing to yellow slits. 

 

Without pausing, Spike threw himself upon the still-changing man and buried his fangs in the elongating, but still-human neck in front of him.  His snarls as he ripped out the man’s throat, not bothering to swallow the foul blood spurting from the severed artery, were chilling to hear.  The humans in the room withdrew to the doorway, Faith’s stakes taking care of any minions left trying to escape.  They watched in quiet horror as Buffy calmly waited for the holy water to eat its way to the unbeating heart of the screaming vampire at her feet, and Spike shook the now-limp body of the mayor like terrier shaking a rat.

 

When Trick finally stopped screaming and burst into a cloud of dust, Spike pulled his teeth from the very dead-appearing body at his feet and looked up to meet Buffy’s eyes.

 

“Well done, love,” he said quietly.  “Do you want to do the honors here?”  He gestured at the body at his feet and she nodded with understanding.

 

“No, here, you do it,” she responded, tossing him the sword hilt-first.

 

He plucked the sword from the air and in one motion, cut off the Mayor’s head. He smiled in grim satisfaction as the body spasmed, and then began to dissolve.

 

“Knew that foul-tasting bugger wasn’t human,” he growled, spitting into the rapidly growing puddle.  Kicking the head across the room to roll into a corner, he jumped down from the stage and walked up to Buffy.

 

“Thank you, Slayer,” he said softly.  “Thought for a bit there that I was gonna be missin’ some important parts.”

 

“Did he hurt you?” she asked anxiously, fighting the urge to run her hands over the endangered area.

 

“Nothing that can’t be kissed better when we’ve got a bit more time and privacy,” he said, curling his tongue behind his teeth. “Assuming I can find someone willin’ to do it, of course.”

 

“I don’t think that will be a problem,” she whispered, brushing her lips across his mouth.  “Do you?”

 

“Bloody well hope not,” he whispered back as he put his arms around her waist and pulled her against his body.  

 

Even as their bantering words tried to downplay how close she had come to losing him, Buffy’s arms that were squeezing his ribs to the point of pain. He held her for several long minutes, whispering soothing nonsense in her ear until the sound of throats being cleared brought them both back to reality.

 

“If you two lovebirds are through checking each other for damage…” Doyle’s lilting drawl brought a glare from Spike, but he straightened up and allowed Buffy to step back.  Now that the threats to her mate had been eliminated, she slid back into her role as perky high-schooler.

 

              “So,” she said with a big smile, “as apocalypses go, that one didn’t last long.  Who’s up for pizza?”

 

             

 

              Chapter Fifteen

 

              By tacit agreement, no one mentioned the deliberate cruelty they had seen from the slayer, nor the feral behavior of her demon lover.  Buffy and Spike continued to act as though they had done nothing more than a good night’s work as everyone found their way out of the school basement and back to cars they’d left scattered haphazardly in the parking lot.

 

              With Spike driving his Desoto and Buffy beside him, seating arrangements had to be juggled in order to fit everyone in a vehicle.  Cordelia and Wesley wound up going back with Giles, while Willow, Xander, Faith and Doyle stood looking at the big black car in front of them. Willow blinked when Faith climbed in next to Xander, sliding close to him and making room for Willow beside her.

Doyle’s lips twitched as he closed the door behind the redhead and got into the front next to Buffy.

 

              “I’m not quite sure how the only one on this seat without super powers gets to be shotgun,” he muttered, half seriously, as he looked out the window nervously. “How do we know we got them all?”

 

              “Doesn’t matter,” Spike said matter-of-factly.  “If one got away to tell about what happened to their bosses, all the better.  It’ll be a long time before something evil decides that Sunnydale would be a good location for an Ascension or any other world-ending plan.”

 

              He frowned when Buffy, Willow and Xander burst into bitter laughter.

 

              “Somethin’ funny, pet?”

 

              Xander answered for her. “Something or somebody tries to end the “world as we know it” almost every year, Spike.  If you’re going to be staying here with the Buffster, you better get used to the idea.”

 

              In an effort to soothe the disgruntled look on his face, Buffy stroked his cheek gently, smiling when he took his eyes off the road long enough to kiss her palm.

              “When word gets around that the Slayer has William the Bloody for a mate, only the really, really stupid ones will be willing to try.”

 

              “You think so?”  He visibly preened at her words.

 

              “Hell, yes,” Doyle put in from his safe place on the other side of the car. “Nobody’s going to want to piss the Slayer off by hurting her mate.  Not after tonight’s little performance.”

 

              Spike’s growl was drowned out by the laughter from the backseat, but when Buffy’s soft chuckle joined them, he allowed the corners of his mouth to twitch just a bit.

 

              “Guess they’re right, Slayer.  Nothing girlie about your work tonight.  I was the one needin’ the backup this time.  Remind me to thank you for that.  Properly. When we’re alone.”

 

              “Consider yourself reminded,” she answered with a blushing glance into the backseat. She rested one hand on his thigh, enjoying the feel of his muscles flexing as he worked the gas pedal; her thumb rubbing in soft circles on the denim until his “ahem” brought her attention to the response visibly growing alongside his other thigh and she reluctantly put her hand back into her own lap.

 

              The watcher’s small apartment seemed quite crowded, Oz having arrived with pizza and an apology for missing the fight.  Buffy assured him that they’d had it well in-hand, and that Willow had been quite safe thanks to her new-found ability to form and throw small balls of flame.  The werewolf cocked his head at his pleased-looking girl friend and nodded.  “She’s pretty special, my Willow,” he said quietly.  It wasn’t long before the two had waved their “good nights” and left in Oz’s van.

 

              Spike watched Doyle watching Cordelia as she flirted shamelessly with Wesley, asking him questions about Oxford, his family and life in England. The young watcher basked in the clearly new-to-him attention from the vivacious brunette, answering her as best he could without appearing to be bragging about his background.

 

              “You’re wastin’ a lot of time on something you’re never going to have,” the vampire said mildly.

 

              “I’m a patient man,” Doyle responded cheerfully. “Sooner or later she’ll notice how worthy I am.”

 

              “The cheerleader?” Spike asked dubiously. “She wouldn’t know ‘worthy’ if she fell over it.  All about the clothes and money, that one is.”

 

              Doyle shook his head.  “There are depths there, Spike. It’s just nothing’s brought them out yet.”

 

              Spike shook his head.  “You keep telling yourself that, mate.”

 

              “Think about it.  She could’ve stayed home and painted her nails tonight instead of loading up a crossbow with holy-water soaked arrows.  I’m telling you, I see something there…”

 

              “You see big tits and a pretty face.” 

 

Spike tapped the half-demon on the head as he stood up and raised an eyebrow at Buffy who immediately left her conversation with Giles to return to his side.

 

“You ready to go, love?”

 

She nodded and turned to say “goodnight” to the remaining people in the room.  Her brow furrowed as she saw that Xander was spending more time with Faith than with Cordelia.  (I guess I can’t really blame him. She’s pretty much throwing herself at Wesley.  But Faith? Xander?)  Shaking her head at her own audacity in criticizing her friends’ choices, she took her vampire’s hand and followed him out the door.

 

They walked silently to the car, holding hands lightly the way any ordinary couple might have.  When they reached the car, rather than opening the door right away, Spike leaned against it, his legs spread, and arms reaching to pull Buffy against his body.  He nuzzled her neck gently; then swiped his tongue over his marks.  The resulting whimper and shiver had him smiling against her skin even as he felt himself growing harder.  He moved his mouth up to hers and they sank into an affirming kiss that caused the rest of the world to fade into obscurity.

 

Faith’s “Get a room!” as she and Xander left the watcher’s apartment brought only a lazy smile from the two blonds.

 

“Don’t need to,” Spike drawled. “Already got a house.”

 

He pushed away from the car and opened the door for Buffy, holding it until she had slid across the seat to her spot beside the driver. He then walked around the car, giving the two glaring brunettes a cheerful two-fingered salute as he got behind the wheel.  He pulled slowly out of the parking lot, groaning softly as Buffy’s hand began to stroke the bulge in his jeans.  Her slow, rhythmic caresses were making it more and more difficult to drive and even as his foot pressed down harder on the accelerator, his steering became more erratic.  With a sigh of relief, he finally rolled into the driveway, taking a short cut across the corner of the lawn as he did so.

 

“Hey!  You ran over the grass, you big dope.  And I thought I was a bad driver.”

 

“You are a bad driver, pet,” he growled, throwing the car into park and cutting off the engine.  “I did that on purpose.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I was in a hurry.” 

 

Before she could respond again, he had her straddling his lap, her back pressed against the steering wheel and her damp jeans against the cock straining behind his zipper.  He pushed her shirt up, taking one nipple into his mouth, lace and all.  Her muffled yelp as she arched into his mouth was drowned out by the blare of the horn against which she was pressed.   Without so much as missing a swallow, Spike threw himself backwards onto the broad seat, pulling Buffy down on top of him.

 

              With Spike’s close call still very much on their minds, they immediately used the extra space to begin unzipping and removing suddenly much too tight denim.  When Spike had pushed Buffy’s pants down as far as he could reach, she used one foot to push the other leg off, leaving her with her jeans and underwear dangling off one leg and her now accessible sex pressed against the cock that had fought its way out of his unzipped jeans.   She sat up just long enough to center herself over the rigid shaft and then sank down onto it, falling forward to meet his ready mouth and smother her happy moan with his lips and tongue.

 

              His arms banded around her – one holding her torso tightly, the other pulling her hips into his to provide the maximum amount of friction.  It took only a few panting, squirming minutes for the slayer to clench around him, shaking with the force of her orgasm.  Immediately, his own body responded and his back bowed as he arched into her, growling her name and spending himself.

 

              For long seconds they remained lying quietly across the seat of the car, the vampire’s hand idly stroking the bare skin of her flanks as he waited for her breathing to go back to normal.   Eventually, Buffy gave a shaky laugh and sat up again.  She glanced around the darkness outside the car’s tinted windows, suddenly realizing where she was and what she was not wearing.

 

              “I can’t believe we did that here,” she mumbled as she untangled herself from his legs and tried to pull her pants back on.  “Especially with a perfectly good bed inside the house.”

 

              “Seems like we felt a need, love,” was his surprisingly quiet response. She had expected him to say something cocky or crude, and was left speechless by his statement.

 

              “I guess we did,” she said finally.  “But now I feel the need for a hot bath or shower and a nice soft bed.”

 

              He gave a soft chuckle and sat up also, fastening the button of his jeans, but leaving the zipper down.

 

              “Sounds good to me, pet.”  He kissed her quickly, then opened the door and slid out, waiting patiently until she had pulled herself together enough to step out of the car.  A short walk to the door, a turn of the key, and they were inside.  They walked directly to the back of the big house, not bothering to turn on any lights as they walked to the big, newly-renovated bathroom attached to the master bedroom.

 

              While Buffy ducked into the recessed toilet stall, Spike turned on the hot water and sprinkled bath salts into the large soaking tub.  Still working in the relative darkness, he found and lit several candles, placing them on the shelf above the tub where the soft light fell onto the sweet-smelling water.  Buffy’s “ooooh” as she emerged into the candlelit room brought a shy smile to his face.

 

              “Do y’ like it, love?  Wasn’t sure what colors to get, but the scents reminded me of you.”

 

              “It looks lovely, Spike.” 

 

              Buffy began to undress, completely comfortable with the vampire’s admiring stare and more than willing to show off for him.  As she dropped her shirt and bra to the floor, she reached up and stretched, arching her back so that her perfect breasts jutted out as if begging for his mouth again.  His attempt to smother his growl had her giggling to herself as she turned her back and began to remove her jeans and underwear.  At the sight of her firm bottom sticking up at him as she bent over to pull her jeans off, he could no longer contain the hunger building in his body.

 

              “Don’t be pushing that in m’ face, pet, if you don’t expect me to take a bite out of it,” he said, following his words with a nip on one plump cheek.

 

              Buffy’s surprised “eep!” brought a rumble of laughter from the vampire as he pulled her back against his once-again hard cock.  He let her squirm against his body for a minute, then released her and gave her a little shove towards the rapidly-filling tub.

 

              “Get yourself in there and enjoy the water while it’s still hot,” he said gruffly.  “If you stay out here, it’s gonna be like the car all over again.”

 

              With an obedient smile, she stepped into the scented water and sank gracefully down, her groan of appreciation ringing in his ears.  He turned the water off before it could slosh over the side, and began to remove his own clothes.  It was Buffy’s turn to stare appreciatively as his compact, muscular body came into view.  She unconsciously licked her lips when he pushed his jeans off and turned to walk towards her.

 

              “See somethin’ you like, pet?”  His cocky smirk soon faded into a softer expression at her quiet, “Yes, I do.  I see you.”

 

              Stepping into the other end of the tub, he, too, sank into the warm comfort and they smiled at each other as their legs and feet met in the middle, entwining themselves gently.  Matching sighs of contentment had them smiling at each other, lust temporarily satisfied by proximity and anticipation.

 

              After soaking peacefully for quite awhile, Buffy’s toe nudged his leg and she said, “Penny for your thoughts?”

 

              “Was thinkin’ how nice this is, and how wonderful it would be to end every night out the same way.”

 

              Every night?”

 

              “You don’t want to be with me every night?” His pout was exaggerated, but the pained flash in his eyes was more than real and Buffy chose her next words carefully.

 

              “You know I do.  But…” She sighed and stroked his leg with her foot, flinching when he pulled it away just far enough to let her know that her explanation needed to be very clear.

 

              “But?”

 

              “But, I haven’t sat down with my mom yet to explain this whole “mated” thing to her.  I’m not even sure that I can explain it.  I don’t really understand it myself.”

 

              He dropped his head back against the rim of the tub, ignoring the way the hard tile impacted his skull.

 

              “Knew I shouldn’t have done it. I should have just marked you as mine – still would have protected you – without takin’ away your options…” He closed his eyes tightly and said through clenched teeth.  “’m sorry, love.”

 

              “You’re sorry?  You don’t want to be mated to me?”  The edge in her voice barely hid the hurt feelings behind it and his eyes flew open.

 

              “I never said that! Don’t put words in my mouth, Slayer.  I want it – of course I want it, but I never should have done it without explaining it to you first – let you decide if you were ready for—“

 

              “I thought we both wanted it,” she whispered, meeting his glare with wide-open eyes.  “I thought we wanted to be together.”

 

              “Buffy…” He shook his head. “This is so hard.  This is the conversation we needed to have before we said those words.  And it’s my fault.  You had no idea what you were agreeing to.”

 

              “So, tell me.  What’s so awful about being mated to me?”

 

              “For starters,” he growled, trying to ignore her deliberately provocative words, but failing, “there’s nothing awful about it.  My demon is delighted – he has a mate, and whole demon world knows it.”

 

              “What about you?  What about Spike-William?  He isn’t happy?” She withdrew her own feet so that they were no longer touching, but simply looking unhappily at each other from opposite ends of the big tub.

 

              “He’s over the moon, love,” he said softly.  “You’re everything that ponce, William, ever wanted and thought he’d never have.”

 

              “Then what’s the freakin’ problem?”  Her frustration burst out before she could stop it, and she slapped the water for emphasis, splashing them both.

 

              “There’s no divorce from a mating, Buffy.  You’re very young. If you change your mind, if you decide you want a husband, children…you have a right to those things.  And you could have them,” he added quickly.  “I would never stand in your way.  But, those marks, the connection between us, the way we…belong…to each other – those things are never going to go away.  My demon will always see you as his – and, in spite of anything else you might feel, you will always feel that pull.  The only way you would be free is if I dusted.”

 

              “Why would I want to be free?” she asked with genuine confusion.  “I love you, Spike.  I said those words because I meant them.  I don’t know why you don’t believe me.  I don’t want a “divorce”, and, given my job, I really can’t imagine being around long enough for that to happen.”

 

              “You will be if I have anything to say about it,” he growled.  “That’s why the soddin’ powers let me come back to you. To keep you safe.”

 

              “Well, fat chance of that happening if you’ve gone off somewhere so that I can get divorced!” 

 

              They glared angrily at each other from opposite ends of the suddenly small tub, until Spike began to shake his head and chuckle.

 

              “Listen to us, pet. We may as well be married- we’re fightin’ like we were already.”

 

              “We’re not fighting- we’re just…arguing,” she insisted, her own lips twitching despite her best efforts.

 

              He slid one leg back into the center of the tub and rubbed it gently along her shin.

 

              “I don’t want to argue with you, Buffy.”

 

              “What do you want to do?” Her own leg extended until she could nestle her toes into the crease at the top of his thigh.  The immediate reaction she got from his semi-relaxed cock had her smiling with delight and she began to tickle his balls with her toes.

 

              “Two can play at that game, Slayer,” he said as he ran his foot up her leg.  Instead of touching her as and where she expected him to, he wrapped his toes around the neatly-trimmed curls and tugged on them.

 

              “Ow!”  With a competitive gleam in her eye, Buffy curled her own toes around his hair and yanked hard.  Instead of the violent retaliation she was expecting, Spike slid down until he was completely underwater and pulled her legs towards his face.  Buffy struggled to keep her own head above water as she arched into the mouth now fastened on her most sensitive body part. 

 

              (Boyfriend who doesn’t have to breathe – definite plus.  Boyfriend with a hundred years of experience – plus, plus. plus.  Mate who knows how to end an argument – priceless…)

Chapter Sixteen

 

              It took Spike only a short time to cause Buffy to completely forget what they’d been arguing about as she arched her back and almost forced her own head underwater.  Her fingers curled around the rim of the tub, as she lay there, helpless to do anything but whimper and gasp.  When he emerged from the water and took a quick glance at her twisted face, he began to suck in earnest, reveling in the way her legs wrapped around his head as she shamelessly urged him on.  “Oh, god, yes, Spike.  Yes, yes. Let me…please…Ahhhh!”

 

              While she drifted bonelessly, her hands still resting on the sturdy porcelain of the tub’s rim, he sat up and slid closer, meeting with no resistance when he pulled her into his lap.  Once again, her legs went around him, this time clutching his body to hers as she settled herself onto his thick length.  Matching sighs of relief and contentment brought smiles to their faces, and they rested briefly, foreheads pressed together.

 

              “I love you, you know.”  Buffy’s voice was soft, her breath warm on his face.

 

              “I know you do, sweetheart.  I don’t doubt it. I’m sorry it sounded like I wanted to go away. I don’t, you know.  Never want to leave you.  I was just afraid—“

 

              “You were afraid the whole ‘claimed by a vampire thing’ was too weird.  I get that. I do, really.”

 

              “It  <I>will</I> be a bit hard to explain to your mum.”

 

              “What if we put it in a way that she could understand?”  She raised her head just enough to meet his gaze for a second, then glanced away, embarrassed.

 

              “An’ what way would that be, my love?” he whispered, his cock twitching inside her just enough to elicit a retaliatory squeeze that made him groan.

 

              “What if…what if we just got married?  I mean, like really married. Like we were regular people—“

 

              “All legal and whatnot?”

 

              “Yes. I mean, I guess a church is kinda out of the question, but—“

 

              “Are you asking me to marry you, Slayer?”  The quirk of his eyebrow and the slight chuckle in his voice were belied by the slight tightening of his arms and warmth of his eyes.

              “I…I guess so.  I mean…I guess I shouldn’t…but it would…”  Her voice trailed off, as there was no answer forthcoming from the very still vampire upon whom she was sitting so intimately. She had just begun to squirm with embarrassed disappointment when he tipped her chin up with one hand.

 

              “Miss Summers,” he said very formally, “will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”  He watched her expression go from disappointment to joy before adding,   “Say ‘yes’, pet, and make me the happiest man in the world.”

 

              “Yes, Mr. Carlisle.  I would love to marry you.” she responded softly and equally as formally. 

 

              They kissed solemnly; then broke into happy smiles, almost forgetting for a moment what they’d been about. 

 

              “Think your mum is going to be happy about her daughter gettin’ married at such a young age?” he teased.  “An’ to such an old man?”

 

              “A whole lot happier than she would have been to know that you’ve been drinking my blood and that we’re bound together forever in some kind of weird vampire thingie,” she responded, rolling her eyes.

 

  While he tried to compose a suitably snarky comeback to her easy dismissal of a solemn vampire ritual, she began to squeeze him using only her internal muscles as she remained otherwise immobile.  Before long he was murmuring his eternal love and devotion, his voice becoming hoarser and deeper as she gradually milked him into a shuddering release that left him resting his head against her neck and licking his marks, his purrs reverberating through both their bodies.

 

Before Buffy knew it, she was responding to the steady vibrations coming from the vampire and fighting the urge to begin moving against him.  As though reading her mind, he put both hands upon her hips and held her firmly in place while his steady purring sent her into a prolonged and powerful orgasm; one in which he quickly joined her when she clenched around him.

 

They clung together, each too sated and relaxed to do anything but lean on the other and wait for the strength to climb out of the rapidly cooling bath water.  With a resigned groan, Buffy eventually succumbed to the chill creeping over her body and untangled herself from the equally reluctant vampire. She stood up and climbed out, quickly ducking into the separate shower stall to wash the bath water out of her hair with comfortably hot water. She had just poured shampoo onto her head, when she felt Spike slip into the glass booth behind her.  Without comment, he began to massage her head, spreading the suds and removing any trace of bath oil from her hair.  She silently handed him the conditioner, quickly rinsing the shampoo out and enjoying the pampering that the vampire seemed determined to indulge in at every opportunity.

 

Buffy quickly returned the favor, helping Spike wash the bath water out of his own unruly curls and then handing him a towel from the stack waiting for them outside the shower.  The fact that they were able to rub each other dry without being sidetracked into another love-making session on the cold floor tiles was a testament to how thoroughly sated they both were.

 

Once they had slid into the large bed and snuggled together under the fluffy quilt, Buffy felt herself quickly slipping off to sleep.  She peered up at her mate, but he appeared to be wide awake and concentrating.

 

“Penny for your thoughts?” she mumbled against his chest, not quite curious enough to keep her eyes open for the answer.

 

“Jus’ makin’ my to-do list for tomorrow, love,” he answered softly. “You can go to sleep.”

 

“What to-do list? We took care of the bad guy; there isn’t any more to-do stuff.”

 

“Got to transfer this house to your name so we don’t have any more unexpected visitors, got to get some more cash so you can go grocery shopping, got to set up a regular blood delivery so you don’t have to worry about it, got to help Doyle find a place of his own so we don’t have to worry about what he can and can’t hear, got to ask your mother for your hand…”

 

“I think you’d better talk to my mom before you get carried away with all that other stuff,” she yawned.  “You need to put that at the top of your list.”

 

“I can make it number two, pet; but I’ve already got one at the top of my list.  First thing tomorrow, I’m going to make love to my mate again.  That’s gonna be my first thing to do every day from now on.”

 

“’k, I can live with getting Mom’s permission at number two…”

 

Her voice trailed off as she let sleep take her, confident that she would wake up safely held in her undead mate’s powerful arms.  Neither vampire nor slayer had any idea that the Powers That Be were well aware of the long-term effects of a mutual claim between a vampire and a slayer.  The knowledge of what effect it would have on Buffy’s longevity, not to mention the mystical effects on Spike’s long-dead sperm, were still ahead of them.  All they knew for sure as they allowed proximity to lull them to sleep was that they had vanquished an evil  foe and earned the right to rest.        

 

 The End

 

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