Description: make_my_day

marvelgirl made a beautiful banner for this fic – see it?

 

 

Title:   Make My Day

Author: Slaymesoftly

Disclaimer:  I’m just playing with Joss’s characters.  Don’t sue me, I’m poor! If occasional bits of dialogue sound familiar, it probably means I borrowed them from the talented writers of BtVS.  Sometimes you just can’t Improve on perfection…

Summary:  A sequel to my shorter fic “Someday Soon”.  Will probably make a lot more sense if you read that first.  It begins immediately after Spike leaves Buffy’s home to get a new shirt. Takes place roughly during Season V, but totally non-canon.

 

 

 

 

 

MAKE MY DAY

Chapter One

 

Anyone observing Spike’s progress from the Slayer’s home on Revello Drive to his crypt in Restfield Cemetery would have been sure the vampire was channeling three different people.

 

He would go along quietly for a while, a sweet smile on his face, practically humming.

 

 She let me touch her, let me kiss her, let me touch... she touched me!  She defended me to her corn fed boyfriend

 

Then he would be reminded that she had shrunk away from him, horrified at herself and denying he was capable of loving her.  Soon, he would be in game face, snarling and kicking over signs and tombstones.

 

Bloody, fuckin’ Poof! Got her convinced I can’t love without a soul.  As soon as she’s well, she’s gonna go rushin’ back to Capt’n Cardboard and she’ll probably deny there was ever anything between us.

 

Memories of what she’d be denying – the things she’d allowed him to do to her, the things she’d done to him, soon had him swaggering and smirking as he relived the last couple of hours.

 

She sucked my dick! The Slayer put her hot little mouth on me and got me off. And she came for me.  Made her scream, I did.  Like to see Capt’n Cardboard do that!

 

He was so wrapped up in his rapidly changing inner movie that he almost failed to notice the heartbeats coming from his open crypt.  A sudden whiff of an unfamiliar scent had him stopping to sniff the air and to listen as he blended back into the shadows to assess what his senses were telling him.  As rash and impulsive as Spike could be, he hadn’t survived a hundred plus years as a vampire by being stupid.

 

He remained hidden in the dark shrubbery, as still as only a corpse can be, and waited to see who or what was in his home.

 

Well, there’s a surprise.  He watched quietly as Riley and one of his friends stepped cautiously through the door.  The big commando was holding a wooden stake and his friend had a crossbow.

 

“Let’s call it a night, Finn,” Graham said wearily.  “He’s not here and who knows if he will be. You probably scared him off when you told Buffy you were coming over, and he’s halfway to LA by now.”

 

Spike growled softly at the suggestion that he would run from Buffy at the first sign of danger.  He mentally cursed the chip in his head that made it impossible for him to follow his instinct to rip their heads off.

 

Riley glared around menacingly for several more minutes, then sighed and reluctantly agreed to leave.

 

“All right. I’ll get him some other time.  I’m sure he’s still around.  I’ll find him and when I do, I’ll make sure he knows never to come near her again.  Assuming he doesn’t take care of the problem himself, “ he added with a glance over his shoulder into the crypt.

 

“Exactly,” Graham said, slapping Riley on the back.  “At a minimum, he’ll get the message; and if you’re lucky...” The two soldiers moved away and headed for the gate, their voices trailing off as they left.

 

When the sound of their booted feet was gone, Spike moved slowly toward his home.  He got almost to the door, then, deciding he’d rather enter through the sewers, he moved off to drop down the nearest manhole.  A quick sprint through the tunnels and he was entering his lower level bedroom and peering around with suspicion.

 

The downstairs seemed undisturbed and he breathed a sigh of relief that they hadn’t discovered the door to that area.  He went up the ladder carefully and peeked into the main room.  The first thing that caught his eye was the booby trap set up near his door.  A crossbow had been rigged to go off as soon as someone stepped into the thin wire running across the doorway.

 

Congratulating himself on his astute thinking, he disconnected the trap and added the crossbow to his stash of weapons.  He went back downstairs, changed his shirt and headed back to Buffy’s, traveling by way of the sewers just in case they were still out looking for him.

 

He got back to the house on Revello drive to find a sleeping Slayer curled up on the couch under the blanket.  Spike carefully turned off the lights in the house, then sat beside her for a few minutes just watching her sleep.  Her lips were slightly parted and her warm breath stirred tendrils of hair hanging in her face.  Without thinking, he reached a hand forward and gently moved the hair off her face.

 

The memory of his promise to leave her alone until they vanquished Glory, warred with the desire that he always felt around her.  Now that he’d felt those lips, tasted her essence, touched her skin, his demon was screaming to possess her at the same time that William was mentally composing poems to her.

 

Somewhat to Spike’s surprise, William won the battle and he was able to sit quietly and watch her sleep without feeling a need to rip off her clothes and make her his completely.

 

He watched her for a long time, then shook himself out of the pleasant fantasy he was having.  Bending down carefully, he gently picked her up, blanket and all, and began carrying her upstairs.  He hadn’t got very far when he felt her breathing increase and her heart rate go up.

 

She raised her head from its resting place on his chest and breathed, “Spike?”

 

“You know any other vampires that’d be carrying your useless body around in the middle of the night, Slayer?” he asked with a smile that she heard rather than saw.  “And, by the way, pet, lettin’ a vamp watch you sleep and pick you up without waking you?  Not a good career move.”

 

He finished talking without being able to keep the edge of concern out of his voice.  Her slayer senses should have told her there was a vampire in the room and he was worried that they hadn’t.

 

Buffy was quiet for a few seconds, then she said softly, “I knew it was you. I can always tell.”

 

He unconsciously pulled her a little tighter against his chest at her quiet confirmation that she was as aware of him as he was of her. 

 

When they reached the second floor and he started to turn toward her room, Buffy blushed and said, “Not yet, Spike.  I really, really need to pee first.  You were gone a long time.”

 

“Sorry about that, pet.  Took a little longer than I expected.”

 

“Did you run into trouble?” she asked anxiously.  “Are there too many demons and vampires out there now?”

 

“Nothin’ I couldn’t handle, love.  And, no, there aren’t any more than usual. Your watcher and I have been keepin’ them down for you.  Don’t worry yourself.”

 

“Oh.” She wrinkled her brow in a suspicious frown, but decided not to press the issue. 

 

Spike carried her into the bathroom, set her down carefully beside the toilet, and then backed out the door saying, “Give me a shout when you’re ready, Slayer.”

 

When Buffy had finished struggling with her sweats so that she could use the toilet, had washed her hands and brushed her teeth, she called Spike’s name softly and he instantly opened the door.  She smiled at him and said, “It’ll be nice to sleep in my own bed again for a change.  The couch was getting old.”

 

“Your mom should have called me sooner, pet.  No reason why I couldn’t have got you downstairs in the morning and back up here every night.”

 

As he spoke, he was scooping her up and edging through the door, being careful not to bump her head or her leg on the jamb.  He carried her into her room and stood her up while he quickly turned down the bed for her.  Buffy hobbled toward the bed and allowed herself to fall onto it, flailing around as she tried to turn over with casts on one arm and one leg.

 

“You look like a turtle what’s been flipped on its back, Slayer,” Spike chuckled as she squirmed around until she was on her back with her head on the pillow.  He pulled the blankets up over her and fought the urge to bend in and kiss her “good night.”  His hand lingered for a second as he pulled the covers up to her chin, but he remembered his promise and moved it firmly back to his side before it could get him in trouble.

 

“Very funny, Spike,” she grumbled to cover up how badly she wanted his hand to remain on her a little longer. 

 

He straightened up and took an unnecessary breath before turning off the light and moving toward the door.

 

“Good night, Slayer,” he said quietly.  “I’ll be downstairs if you need me for anything.”

 

“Good night, Spike... and... and...t hank you,” she almost whispered, knowing his vampire ears would hear her.

 

“You’re welcome, Buffy,” he whispered back as he went down the stairs.  “You’re welcome, love.”

 

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

 

The following morning, as soon as Buffy started stirring, before she even had time to call for him, Spike was at her door asking if she wanted to get up yet.  He helped her sit up, then carried her to the bathroom, repeating the routine of the night before.  When she was finished in the bathroom, he took her back into her bedroom and sat her down again while he brushed her hair.  As they had before, they both got lost in the sensual pleasure of the activity.  Buffy relaxed as she enjoyed the feeling of gentle brush strokes on her head.  Spike was mesmerized by the scent and feel of her silky blonde locks and he continued to brush long after her hair was hanging down her back smoothly.

 

Eventually Buffy’s stomach rumbled and the spell was broken as she blushed and came back to herself.  Spike startled and stopped what he was doing to ask her, “Does that mean you’re ready for breakfast, Slayer?”

 

“I guess it does,” she admitted, somewhat embarrassed by her body’s demands.

 

“Breakfast it is, then,” he said cheerfully as he stood back up and pulled her to her feet.  “Ready, Slayer?”

 

Pulling Buffy to her feet left them standing only a few inches apart, with Spike still holding the hands he used to pull her up.  Buffy could feel the heat flooding her face and body as she stood there, swaying slightly and waiting for him to pick her up.  She looked away from his penetrating eyes and held herself stiffly.  Memories of what happened the last time they stood that close together crowded her mind and sent her pulse rate skyrocketing.  She tried to ignore the warm feeling his nearness was creating, and she fought off the shivers that were her body’s reaction to being held in his powerful arms.

 

Oh my god.  How are we going to do this?  How are we going to get through the next couple days when we can’t even stand close together without...

 

When Spike felt the stiff and unyielding body he was carrying, he forced himself to hold it as far away from his own as possible.  He resisted the urge to bury his nose in her hair; instead walking down the stairs carefully without looking at or speaking to her.  When they reached the kitchen, he set her down easily on a stool so that her immobile leg would have room to stretch out, moving away from her as soon as she was settled.

 

He tried to ignore the ache in his chest when she continued to refuse to meet his eyes.  The whole time he was fixing her cereal, getting her juice and fruit, she remained sitting stiffly on the stool, only looking at him when she had to.  She ate in silence while Spike warmed up his blood and drank it with her.  To an outside observer, it would have looked like any young couple having their coffee and cereal together in the morning.  But the tension in the room was so thick the air was almost vibrating.

 

When the uncomfortable meal was over, Spike put the dishes in the sink to wash later and stood up.  When he held out his arms, Buffy’s eyes flew to his face in a panic. He bit his lip and growled out,  “Sod it all, Slayer.  I made you a promise and I’ll bloody well keep it! Stop actin’ like you’re trapped with a serial rapist and relax, will you?”

 

He picked her up before she could answer him and carried her quickly to the living room.  He placed her on the couch and pulled the blanket up around her before he said anything else.  When she still wouldn’t look at him, he sighed and sat back on his heels in front of her.

 

“Slayer,” he said quietly.  She shot a quick look at him, then her eyes went back down to the floor.  “Buffy,” his voice shook slightly,  “Look at me, love, please?”

 

Reluctantly, she raised her eyes to look into his and flinched at the hurt she saw in there. 

 

“Buffy,” he began,  “I keep my word, love.  I promised not to push the issue and I meant it.  I’m not going to... to take advantage of you when you’re vulnerable.  I would never do anything to hurt you, Buffy. “ His eyes pleaded with her to believe him.   “Don’t be afraid of me, pet.  Please?”

 

“I’m... I’m not afraid of you,” she said, forcing herself to look him in the eye.  “It’s not you I’m afraid of.”

 

It’s me, and the way you make me feel. The things you make me want to do.

 

As though he could read her thoughts, Spike relaxed and stood up, regaining his usually cocky demeanor.

 

“Then I’ll do my best not to be so irresistible, Slayer.”  He laughed at her eyeroll as he went back toward the kitchen to clean up the breakfast dishes. Suddenly the tension was gone and they were comfortable with each other again.  They spent the rest of the afternoon watching Passions, playing cards, and indulging in their usual banter.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

Since Buffy wasn’t able to leave home, the Scooby meetings were being held in her living room.  The first to arrive later that evening was Giles.  He raised an eyebrow when he found Spike sitting comfortably in the easy chair, sipping blood from a cup that looked very familiar to the librarian. 

 

“ I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m glad you’re here, Spike.  I would like to speak with you. If I could?”  He gestured toward the kitchen with his head.

 

“What could you have to say to Spike that I can’t hear?” Buffy asked in an offended tone.  She glared at the vampire as though he was responsible for trying to hide something from her.  Spike just shrugged and looked at Giles curiously.

 

Giles took his glasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose before beginning, “Riley came by the shop today to tell me that he thought Spike was working a thrall over you and he wanted me to know that he was planning to—” He stopped as the other Brit jumped to his feet and interrupted him.

 

“Already got the memo, Watcher.  No need to bother the Slayer with it. “ He looked hard at Giles, willing him to do what he was asking.

 

“Then you know he—”

 

“Yep, all taken care of”

 

“Oh, well… good then,”

 

Buffy stared back and forth between the two men, knowing she was missing something in the conversation but reluctant to admit it.

 

“So, is that like a British thing?  This whole talking without actually saying anything?”

 

“We understood each other, Slayer,” Spike said with another meaningful glance at Giles.

 

Buffy forgot to pursue the cryptic conversation between her ex-watcher and her temporary nurse as the other Scoobies trickled in and greeted her.

 

“Whoa, Buffster, You must be feeling better – you’re all clean and shiny.”

 

Xander’s praise for her looks just reminded her of how much she’d allowed herself to wallow in self-pity until Spike came over, and she shot him a grateful look before saying, “Yeah.  Somebody pointed out to me that I was turning into messy, stinky Buffy. So we fixed it.”

 

She could see Willow’s eyes grow big as she took in Spike’s presence and the absence of Dawn and Joyce, but she didn’t say anything.  Willow knew Xander’s ability to deny what he didn’t want to know about Buffy would prevent him from making the connection between Spike’s presence and Buffy’s clean clothes and hair. 

 

Just as they had all settled down with soft drinks and chips to begin going over what little Giles had been able to learn from the books they’d recovered as well as his inquiries to the Council, there was a knock on the front door.  Surprised glances were exchanged as they looked around and found no one missing. 

 

While Xander went to answer the door, Giles gestured toward the kitchen with his head, and Spike reluctantly moved to where he couldn’t be seen from the front door.   It opened to reveal an agitated Riley standing on the porch.  He shouldered his way past Xander and strode into the living room. 

 

“And, hello to you, too, Riley,” the Xander snarked as he followed the soldier back into the room.

 

Riley flashed him an apologetic look, but focused on Buffy.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me you were having a meeting tonight?  I wouldn’t have known anything about it if I hadn’t seen Willow and Tara walking this way.”

 

Buffy stared back at him, her brain working frantically.  She realized that not only had she not thought to invite Riley to the Scooby meeting, she hadn’t even thought about him at all the whole day.  Guilt made her stammer and try to apologize for excluding him, even though she knew no one else in the room considered him a part of their Scooby gang.

 

“I... I’m sorry, Riley.  I guess I just got busy doing... stuff, and I probably just figured you’d be by tonight anyway.”  She brightened up at that thought.  “Yes, that’s it.  I just assumed you’d be here tonight, so I didn’t bother to call you.”

 

Pleased with how she’d handled the situation, she sat back on her pillows and beamed at him.

 

He hesitated a few seconds as though he knew she’d made it up on the spot, but then relaxed and went over to sit by her on the couch.  A soft growl from the kitchen made him look up and he turned an interesting shade of purple when he saw Spike glaring at him from the doorway.

 

“What the hell is he doing here?” he shouted at Buffy as he leapt to his feet.  “I distinctly told you to get rid of him.  Didn’t you listen to a word I said?”  He glared back and forth between Spike and Buffy completely missing the surprised looks on her friends’ faces.

 

He also, unfortunately for him, missed the thoroughly pissed off look on the Slayer’s face as he upbraided her for not following his instructions.

 

“I thought I made it pretty clear that I would do whatever was best for me and my family, regardless of what you ‘told’ me to do.” 

 

She glared back at her angry boyfriend, emphasizing his words.   She struggled to contain her amazed outrage that he actually expected her to do what he said just because he said it.  She remembered the phone conversation yesterday and his casual dismissal of her calling, as well as his jealousy over the time she spent on it.

 

  “Spike is the only one other than me strong enough to protect us from Glory.  He and Willow are my best weapons at the moment.  At least until I get back on my feet.  These people are my support system and my back-up.  I am not one of your ‘men’ to be ordered about and I will make my own decisions about who is welcome in my house.  Get used to it or get out.”

 

She blew out an exasperated breath and, fixing him with a steely green eye, waited to see what he would do.  Riley looked around the room and saw little or no sympathy on the faces of the people Buffy referred to as her support system.  The vampire, of course, was openly contemptuous, but he was surprised to see that Giles was also nodding approvingly.

 

His sense that he knew much less than he thought he did about his girl and her life became overwhelming, and he sank back onto the couch cushions shaking his head at himself.   Buffy continued to glare at him for a time, then expelled a deep breath and turned back to Giles.

 

“So, Giles.  Did the Council have any information on Glory?  On who or what she is?”

 

“They are looking into it.  At this point all we know for sure is that she is looking for the missing ‘Key’ and that it had been under the protection of the monks until she located and killed them all.  They will contact me as soon as they have ascertained what the Key is, and what it is to be used for.  In the meantime, we must assume she will continue to pursue you and everyone associated with you in an attempt to find out where it is.”

 

“Speaking of—” Xander was stopped by Willow’s hand gripping his leg very hard.  “Ow! Will. What was that for?”

 

His best friend shook her head slightly and rolled her eyes toward Riley, reminding Xander that the ex-commando was not in on the secret of Dawn’s origin. There was an uncomfortable silence as Xander tried to recover without giving too much away.  He decided to continue his line of thought and hope Riley didn’t make the connection between what he’d started to say and his actual words.

 

“Sorry. Change of subject.  Buffy, where’s Dawn?  Shouldn’t she be home from school by now?”

 

“She’s staying at Janice’s for a couple of days.  Apparently she would rather I yell at Spike when I get bored than at her,” Buffy said with a rueful shrug.

 

“She’ll be around tomorrow,” Spike said quietly, with a wink at Giles.  “She’s coming to my crypt after school so I can help her with her history homework.  I have some old books I told her she could look into.  I’ll run to the crypt and meet her there tomorrow afternoon then walk her home when we’re finished.”

 

“What!” Riley shot upright, forgetting that he was trying to keep a low profile until Buffy calmed down.  “Buffy! You can’t let her go to his crypt!”

 

Buffy stared at him in surprise.  “Why not?  Surely you’re not going to argue that she’s not safe there?  That’s where I send her and my mom when I can’t be with them.  Gl—no one will be looking for her in a crypt.”

 

“Yeah, GI Joe,” Spike drawled with a smirk.  “Why can’t the Niblet go to my crypt?  She knows the way, and she knows how to open the door.  She’ll just go on in, find the books and wait for me—”

 

“No!”  The outburst surprised everyone except Spike and Giles.  Riley looked at the older man for support, but he was busy shuffling through the papers on his lap and refused to look up.

 

“Giles,” Riley said, his voice heavy with meaning.  “Help me convince Buffy that Dawn shouldn’t go there.”

 

Giles looked up as though he had just realized what Spike had said and frowned nervously.  “Oh dear.  Yes, I had almost forgotten.” He turned to Buffy with an innocent look and said, “I believe Riley is right, Buffy.  It would be best if Dawn not go to Spike’s abode just yet.  Perhaps in a few days?”  He looked at Riley inquiringly.

 

“What the hell are you talking about?” Buffy’s normal lack of patience was being sorely tested at Giles and Spike’s obvious knowledge of something pertaining to Dawn – or to Spike’s crypt, she suddenly realized.

 

Turning to her boyfriend, she asked in a deceptively calm tone, “Tell me, Riley, why would it be bad for Dawn to go to Spike’s crypt right now?  Is there a reason why you think it’s not safe?”  She looked at him with wide, innocent eyes as though she was expecting a real answer.

 

When he just stood there looking uncomfortable, Spike couldn’t resist another dig.  “Yeah, tell us, there, Capt’n.  Is there some reason Dawn wouldn’t be safe if she tried to go into my crypt?  Maybe one of the witches could come with her, if you think it’s too dangerous.  One of them could go in first... you know, just to be sure it was safe?”

 

The furious man turned toward the vampire, his face twisted with anger and hate.

 

“Your crypt is no place for Buffy’s mother and sister, or for Buffy or any of her friends.  And... and... it could be dangerous.” He looked at Giles for help, but the watcher just stared blandly back at him.

 

“Why is that, Riley?” Buffy’s tone was still calm, but there was a distinct Slayer edge to it.  “Why are you so sure Spike’s crypt would be dangerous for Dawn?  And why do you think Giles should agree with you?  And why,” she whirled to glare at the vampire trying his best to look innocent, “are you trying so hard to make him say why it’s dangerous?”

 

She glared back and forth between the three men, frustrated because she couldn’t cross her arms angrily or tap her foot.  She settled for putting her one bendable arm on her hip and holding the immobile one out at her side.

 

Spike slipped out of the room into the kitchen, unwilling to be the one who told Buffy what Riley had done to his crypt.  He wanted the man to admit what he’d done, but he also wanted him to realize how close he might have come to killing or injuring Dawn or one of the Scoobies.  When he stopped to think about what could have happened to someone Buffy cared about if he hadn’t happened to catch them in the act, his normally room temperature blood ran cold. 

 

Bloody bastard!  It’s one thing for him to try to kill me, but to risk the Niblet... If I didn’t have this chip, I’d rip his entrails out and wrap them around his throat.

 

Meanwhile, in the living room, Riley now had everyone’s attention as they waited for him to answer Buffy’s question.  Standing up straight and looking at Giles accusingly, he said,  “Apparently it would be safe for anyone to walk in there... now.”

 

The other man looked back at him and said mildly, “I didn’t tell him.  He already knew.  I guess it didn’t work as well as you’d hoped.”

 

When Riley continued to glare at him, Giles let a trace of the Ripper enter his voice as he added,  “For which you should be very grateful.  It well could have been Dawn, or any one of us.”

 

The sound of the coffee table being kicked across the room brought everyone’s attention back to the thoroughly angry Slayer.  The force of the kick caused her to lose her balance when she put her weight on the leg with the cast and she fell back onto the couch, spoiling the effect somewhat.  But there was no mistaking the tone of her voice or the look in her eye.

 

“Someone, and I don’t care who, is going to tell me right now what all this mysterious talking about things without actually saying anything is all about,” she ground out very slowly.

 

“I believe that would be your job, Agent Finn,” Giles said as he got up and joined Spike in the kitchen. The rest of the group looked back and forth between Buffy and Riley with puzzled frowns.

 

Riley took a deep breath and looked at Buffy.  He was surprised to find himself cringing away from the tiny, temporarily crippled woman glaring at him from the couch. Clutching his righteous indignation like a protective cloak, he said firmly, “I thought Spike was working a thrall on you so that you would let him touch you and stay in your house and I was going to make sure he left town.  When we couldn’t find him at home, we set up a booby trap at the entrance to his crypt.  It was just meant to run him off.  I knew you wouldn’t let me stake him, so we decided to scare him away.” He paused for a second. “In hindsight, it wasn’t a very good idea, I guess.”

 

“You GUESS?”

 

Her boyfriend shuffled his feet and looked at the rug intently.

 

“I didn’t think about the possibility of anyone else coming in the door before he did.  I’m sorry, Buffy.  It just made me crazy to think about him being here with you all the time.  I don’t like it.”

 

“Get out,” she said without inflection.

 

“But—”

 

“Get out now, Riley.  When I’ve calmed down enough to talk about this, I’ll call you.  Right now I have a skanky bitch with superpowers to worry about and I need to finish my meeting with my friends.  All of my friends.”

 

“And that doesn’t include me?”

 

“Not at the moment it doesn’t.  Maybe when I get over the idea that your jealousy might have cost my sister her life, it will.  But not right now.”

 

His shoulders slumped as Riley nodded his head in resignation and walked toward the door.  Before he had even pulled it shut behind him, Buffy had already turned away from him and said calmly, “Now, where were we?”

 

“Pretty much nowhere, Buffy,” Willow admitted.  “Until we know more about Glory and what she wants the Key for, we won’t have much idea of how to fight her.”

 

“I’m afraid Willow is correct, Buffy.  I will contact the Council again and push them to dig a little deeper, but until we have more information on Glory, we will just have to try to stay away from her.” Giles and Spike had come back into the living room when they heard the door shut behind her boyfriend.

 

“Wonderful,” Buffy grumbled.  “Maybe she’ll take a vacation or something until I’m back on my feet.”

 

“Speaking of that, how do you feel?  When do you think you will be ready to start training again?”

 

“Well, my ribs are all healed.” She avoided looking at Spike as she said that, knowing she would turn red all over if she did.  “I’m guessing the arm and leg will be strong enough to get rid of the casts in a day or so.  Then I’ll just have to see how strong I feel.  Maybe by the end of the week?” she looked at Giles hopefully.

 

“Whenever you feel ready, Buffy.  I don’t want to rush you and create more problems, but we will all breathe a little easier when you are back in top form.”

 

With nothing left to talk about, except Buffy’s explosion at Riley, which no one wanted to discuss in front of her, the meeting soon broke up and Buffy said good night to her friends.  Giles was the last one to leave, and he paused before he went out the door.

 

 Looking back and forth between Spike and Buffy, he cleared his throat several times before finally saying, “I would be the first one to admit that Riley should not have tried to tell you what to do, nor should he have taken matters into his own hands in such a dangerous fashion.  However,” he gave the vampire a long look, “it is fairly obvious that he is not totally wrong to be concerned about the amount of time Spike is spending with you and I think in all fairness to him, you need to acknowledge that, Buffy.”

 

Buffy’s face went completely white as she stammered, “Wha—what are you talking about, Giles?  Spike is just extra muscle.  Muscle that I need right now.”

 

If he’d had any doubt that things between his Slayer and the vampire were not as platonic as he would have liked, the expression on her face would have banished them immediately.

 

He took his glasses off, cleaned and replaced them before he answered her.  “It is quite apparent that Spike’s interest in your... well-being is more than that of a comrade in arms.  I can see it, your family and friends see it—” He was interrupted by a snort from the vampire.

 

“If the whelp had any idea how I feel about her, I’d have stakes stickin’ out all over my body.”

 

“Yes, well, with the possible exception of the willingly oblivious Xander, that is.  My point is, the more Buffy defends you and the longer you are in this house, the more Riley has to be angry about.  At this point, I would prefer we not have to worry about the actions of a jealous boyfriend when we are dealing with a powerful enemy.”

 

Buffy’s lower lip jutted out stubbornly.  “This is the first time in a week that I’ve been able to sleep in my own bed and take a shower or wash my hair.  Spike is staying until I get these casts off, and that’s that.  Riley will just have to deal.”

 

“I’m not suggested you do without Spike’s… assistance if and when you need it. I am suggesting that you understand Riley’s reluctance to having his girl friend spending so much time in the company of another man who clearly has feelings for her.”

 

“He can be as reluctant as he wants,” Buffy grumbled, “but he is not going to be giving me orders  – about Spike or anything else!”  She attempted to stomp her foot for emphasis, and ended up falling back onto the couch again.

 

“Yes, well, no doubt he is rapidly finding that you do not follow orders very well,” Giles said with a grimace.  “And if not, I would be most happy to educate him on that subject.”  He pulled the door open and started out the door, ignoring her indignant “Hey!”

 

“Good night, Buffy, Spike.”

 

When the door closed behind him, Buffy threw herself back against the couch and groaned.

 

“Life wasn’t difficult enough – now I’ve got to worry about Riley going berserk and staking you.  I don’t have time for this!”

 

Spike came over and sat down near, but not touching her.

 

“The Watcher’s right, love.  It doesn’t make sense to antagonize him. The wanker’s little trick with the cross bow could have killed or injured Dawn or anyone else who came in there.”

 

Buffy stared at him in amazement.  “Excuse me?  Who are you and what have done with Spike?  You know, William the Bloody? Vampire?  Lives to annoy people and make their lives miserable?” 

 

“Oh, I’m planning to make him just as miserable as I can,” he said, grinning at her.  “But what set him off this time was you defending me to him yesterday and it could have got somebody hurt.  Somebody you do care about,” he added so softly she almost didn’t hear him.

 

She couldn’t figure out what to do or say about his last statement, so she chose to ignore it.

 

“He is not going to tell me what to do!”

 

“I think he’s startin’ to get that, pet.  You just let me worry about defending myself, and I’ll try not to give him any more reasons to be jealous.  Not that I’m goin’ anywhere until you’re all better,” he added hastily.  “But I’ll keep out of sight when he’s around and you can promise not to rub it in his face that I’m takin’ care of you.”

 

She looked at his downcast face and surprised herself by taking his hand in hers.

 

“If he knew what you... we... did... he’d kill you.   You know that, right?”

 

The vampire raised his eyes to her face, surprised that she was willing to talk about what he stubbornly insisted to himself was the love-making they had indulged in the day before.  When he saw the worry on her face, his heart lurched and he felt a warm glow in his chest.  He reached his other hand up to her cheek and gently stroked it.

 

“Nobody except us knows about that, love.  And nobody will.  I already promised you there’d be no repeatin’ until we get rid of that Glory bint.  Not gonna give the soldier any reason to dust me.  Not as long as you need me to help you protect the Niblet, anyway. Can’t help how I feel about you.  And, accordin’ to the Watcher, I’m not real good at hidin’ it; but I’ll do my best to keep a low profile when I need to until we get this sorted out.”

 

“I’m not giving you up just because he’s a dumbass,” she muttered, trying not to lean into the cool hand still stroking her cheek.  “He’s got no reason to...” Her voice trailed off as she remembered that her behavior the day before would have given him every reason to worry about Spike’s presence in her house if he’d known about it.

 

She met Spike’s amused expression as he raised his eyebrow skeptically and she blushed all over.  She dropped his hands quickly and pulled back from him, trying to ignore the twinge of regret she felt when his hand was no longer touching her cheek.

 

“Well, he doesn’t know about that little... mistake... yesterday, so he’s just being stupid!”  She chose not to see how Spike flinched when she called what they did a mistake.

 

 It WAS a mistake.  It had to be.  I can’t get involved with another vampire. Especially one without a soul.  One that thinks he loves me, that protects my family, that watches my back, that is a great kisser... gah!  Don’t think about the kissing, or the—No! Not thinking about that.  It never happened.  Just a daydream.  That’s all it was.  A very real, very sexy, daydream.

 

Spike’s face had closed down when she pulled back and went into her internal denial dialogue.  He had to fight the urge to grab her and kiss her until she was no longer able to deny the attraction between them, but his inner William insisted that he keep his promise not to push the issue.

 

She’s gonna need me to help with this hell-bitch.  I can’t afford to do anything that would make her want to push me away.  Got to let her know that she can count on me without worryin’ I’m gonna be tryin’ to seduce her.  I don’t want her to be afraid to be around me.

 

“You’ll work it out, Slayer,” he said flatly as he moved away from her on the couch.  “Soon’s you get those casts off and don’t need me anymore, I’ll disappear for a while and you two can kiss and make up.”

 

Buffy’s eyes flew to his and he couldn’t help being warmed by the fear on her face.  “Disappear?  Where will you go?  What if I need you?”

 

“Don’t worry, love.” He closed his eyes and tried to shake off the mental image of Riley kissing her.  “I won’t really be gone anywhere. I just won’t be around where your boyfriend can see me and get his knickers in a twist.  You’ll be able to find me if... when you need me.”

 

“Oh, okay then,” she said dubiously. “I guess that will work.  Mom should be back tomorrow and maybe you can just bring me up and down stairs and then go down to the basement or back to your crypt to sleep during the day.”

 

She looked at him hesitantly, offering, “We can ask Willow to put some protection wards around your crypt to keep Riley out.  Just in case....”

 

“I’ll be all right, pet.  Don’t worry yourself about it.  Big Bad here, remember?”

 

I’m trying to remember that, Spike.  I’m really trying, but you keep making it harder and harder.

 

Aloud, she said,  “Yeah, I remember.  You just need to remember that chip makes you a little less bad than you used to be.  And a lot more vulnerable,” she added with a nervous smile.

 

“Worried about me, Slayer?” he asked, doing his best to sound sarcastic rather than hopeful.

 

“Hah! That’ll be the day when I worry about an annoying, fashion-challenged, Billy Idol wannabe.”  She tossed her head and smiled to take the sting out of her words. “Now, carry me upstairs, please. I have important healing to do.”

 

“That you do, love.  The sooner the better,” he said as he scooped her up and headed for the stairs.  “If I get caught playing nursemaid to the Slayer, I’ll have to kill the entire demon population of Sunnydale just to save my reputation.”

 

“You don’t have any reputation to save,” she snarked at him.

 

“Watch it, Missy.  I might ‘accidentally’ drop you all way down these stairs.”

 

She giggled and wriggled as best she could with her immobilized limbs.  He smiled down at her and pretended to let go, then caught her before she could hit the floor and clutched her against his body tightly.

 

“No, you won’t,” she said softly, relaxing into his chest.  “I know you won’t let me fall.”

 

“No, Slayer,” he whispered into her hair.  “I won’t let you fall.  I’ll never let you fall.”

 

When they reached the second floor, Spike repeated the routine of the night before, depositing her in the bathroom and coming back for her when she called for him.

 

He put her on the bed, then stood up quickly and moved toward the door.

 

“I’ll just let you go to sleep now, Slayer.  Give you a chance to knit those bones up and get back on your feet.” 

 

 Give me a chance to get away from your scent, the feel of your skin, those things that are making me so hard I’m not going to be able to walk in a minute.

 

Buffy looked slightly disappointed, but burrowed under the covers and yawned as she said, “Yep. That’s what I’m gonna do.  Get to sleep and get my bones better.  Lots of sleep.”

 

She looked up at him with her hair spread around her head like a golden veil and her eyes searching his face as though there was some secret hidden there.  “Spike?” she asked softly.  “Why are you so different from other vampires?”

 

“Dunno, love.  Always have been – in spite of Angelus’ and Darla’s best attempts to cure me.” He grinned at her and blew her a kiss as he went out the door.  “Good night, Slayer.  Sleep tight.”

 

 I love you.

 

“Good night, Spike.  Don’t do anything to get yourself staked.”

 

 Don’t leave me.  I’m not ready for you to leave me.

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

At Buffy’s insistence, as soon as Joyce returned from her trip she took Buffy in for X-rays of her broken arm and leg.  The doctor made no comment as he checked her well-healed ribs and looked at the X rays of the broken bones that also seemed to be healed.  He looked inquiringly at Joyce and Buffy to see if they were going to volunteer any information as to how bones managed to knit themselves together in less than two weeks, but he was greeting with identical innocent looking “dumb blonde” smiles and gave it up with a sigh.

 

“All right, Ms. Summers.  I’ll cut those casts off right now and you can begin physical therapy tomo—”

 

“That’s all right,” Buffy interrupted him.  “I, uh, I have my own... uh... trainer to help me get strong and flexible again.  Just get my casts off, please.”

 

Shaking his head at her stubbornness, he agreed, saying, “Well, since you’ve only been in the casts a couple of weeks, you probably haven’t lost that much mobility anyway.  I guess you’ll be fine.”

 

“Oh I will be!” Buffy assured him with her best cheerleader smile.

 

She had her mother drop her at the Magic Box on the way back from the doctor’s so that she could let Giles know how much better she was.  She was amazed to see that the shop seemed full of customers.  A closer look showed her some familiar faces and she frowned when she realized she was looking at a delegation from the Watcher’s Council.

 

“Well, this can’t be good,” she muttered as she came the rest of the way into the shop.

 

“Ah, Ms Summers,” one of the tweed-clad men said with pseudo cheerfulness. “How good to see you again!”

 

Buffy was sure she was supposed to know his name, but drew a complete blank and looked at Giles for assistance.

 

“Yeah, likewise, I’m sure.  What do you guys want now?  Am I in trouble again?”

 

“You might say that, Ms. Summers.” The first man glared at her, deploring her lack of manners.  “We are here to discuss Glory and your possible lines of defense.”

 

“Oh!” Buffy was suddenly much more cordial.  “Well, what did you find out about her?  How do I kill her?”

 

There was a certain amount of throat clearing and feet shuffling among the group until Buffy’s obviously growing impatience forced a reply.

 

“She is a god,” one of them said flatly. “We don’t know how you kill her.  We’re not sure it can be done.”

 

“Excuse me?  She’s a what?  Please tell me you meant to say ‘a dog’ and just mixed up your consonants.”

 

“I’m afraid not.” A dark young man with a bookish look to him stepped forward.  “She is very old and from a race of hell-gods.  She is looking for a mystical key that can be used to open a portal and release her to return to her hell dimension.  Unfortunately, opening the portal will also permit things from that hell dimension to enter our world.  Very unpleasant things,” he added unnecessarily.

 

“And she needs this... key... to do this?”

 

“Uh, yes. She requires the Key, which, for some reason she seems to think you are protecting....” He paused to allow Buffy to enlighten them, but when she didn’t he went on, “And she only has until the end of this month to use it.  After that, it will be another thousand years before the portals will be lined up again.”

 

“So,” Buffy mused out loud,  “All we have to do is keep her from finding the Key till the end of the month, and then we’re home free, right?”  She fixed them with a lethal glare.  “Or is there more?”

 

“Well, only that she will undoubtedly be extremely angry if she doesn’t get back to her home….”

 

“We’ve already had the fun of seeing her lose her temper, thank you very much.  I’d rather kill her.”

 

“Yes, quite. Well, we will continue to look into that possibility...” His voice trailed off as he melted back into the crowd of tweed jackets.

 

“Do you have a plan, Ms. Summers?” one of the interchangeable watchers inquired.

 

“Hide the Key, kill anything that tries to get near... it, and find a way to kill the skank.  That’s pretty much it.”  Buffy stuck her lower lip out and dared them to challenge her plan.

 

“And how do you intend to do this?” the first watcher insisted on knowing.

 

“I’m not quite sure,” Buffy admitted.  “But we’ll come up with something,” she brightened.

 

We?”

 

Buffy rolled her eyes at the startled group.  “Yes, we.  I have two very powerful witches here, an experienced Watcher, and... and... some other help,” she finished more quietly.

 

“Would that other help consist of a vampire that is unable to kill humans?” one of the men inquired with a frown.

 

“It might,” she muttered, unsure of their reaction to Spike’s being part of the plan.

 

“Is that wise, Ms. Summers?” the darker man inquired.  “After all, even if he is harmless, he is a vampire. He could still provide the hellgod with information—”

 

“Spike would never do that!  He loves D—” She swallowed hard as she realized how close she had come to revealing Dawn’s secret.

 

“I don’t think he would do that,” she continued firmly.  “If for no other reason, than he’s just too stubborn to give her what she wants.  I trust him.”  As she said that, she realized with shock that it was true.  She did trust Spike.  And had trusted him for months.

 

“Is this William the Bloody we’re speaking about?” the young watcher inquired angrily.  “The Slayer of Slayers?  You trust him?”

 

Out of the corner of her eye, Buffy saw a mousy looking, tweed-clad woman’s head coming flying up when she heard Spike’s name.  She looked at Buffy intently. “William the Bloody is still here? In Sunnydale?  Do you know where can I find him?” she asked eagerly.

 

Buffy looked the other woman in the eye and asked suspiciously, “Why would you want to?  He is a vampire, as your buddies here have so kindly pointed out.”

 

“Oh, I know!  He’s one of the few master vampires left!  I did my thesis on him.  And... I met him when we were here last year for the... well, when we were here before.  But I didn’t have a chance to speak with him for very long.  I should so like a chance to sit down with him and hear about his life.”  At a raised eyebrow from Buffy, she amended, “Well, his unlife, I suppose would be more accurate.”

 

She looked at Buffy hopefully and asked,  “Will he be here later?   Do you think I will get to see him?”

 

Before Buffy could answer, a warm, deep voice came from the door to the training room.

 

“I’m right here, luv.  You can see me all you want. Or all of me you want,” he said with a leer.

 

The woman whirled to look at Spike, leaning against the doorjamb with his thumbs in his belt loops, long fingers splayed along his hipbones.  He gave the watcher a smile that oozed sex and said,  “Haven’t we met before, luv?  Linda, was it?”

 

“Lydia,” she breathed as she remained frozen in place, unable to take her eyes off the lean, muscular blond and his penetrating blue eyes.

 

With a quick glance at Buffy, who was struggling to control an urge to backhand the female watcher all the way back to England, he took Lydia’s elbow gently and offered, “Why don’t we step in here, pet, and you can ask me anything you want while the Slayer and your... colleagues... suss out what to do about that Glory bint.”

 

Mouth still hanging open and eyes still focused on his, Lydia allowed herself to be led into the training room by the charming vampire.  The other watchers stared after her, aghast that she would so willingly go unarmed into a room with one of the most dangerous vampires on the planet.  The only one that seemed at all willing to join her was the openly gay Percy, who stared enviously after them as they disappeared behind the door.

 

“M-Ms Summers,” one of them stammered, “Is that at all safe?  Will Lydia be all right in there?”

 

“Oh, Lydia is quite safe,” Buffy gritted through her teeth.

 

 But I know an annoying vampire who’s going to get his ass kicked!

 

An hour later, just as Buffy was sure she couldn’t tolerate another “Well, perhaps...” “It’s entirely possible...” “ We’ll need to research that...”, the group of watchers finally admitted they had very little left to tell Buffy about Glory, aside from the fact that she appeared to be invulnerable.    As they prepared to leave, Percy hastened to the door of the training room to tell Lydia – and to get another look at Spike.  As he reached the door, the dark haired watcher asked Giles, “What is that room back there?”

 

“That is our training area,” he replied.  “Where we will begin getting Buffy back into shape now that she’s—”

 

Back into shape?” The question rang out sharply.

 

With a sigh, Giles explained to them about Buffy’s mishap with the boulders, including Spike’s contribution to getting her out safely.  They looked at her intently for several minutes, then demanded abruptly,  “We need to see her training.  We must know if she is not up to the task of—”

 

“I’m up to whatever is needed,” Buffy growled, having reached her limit of Council tolerance.  “But I’d be happy to go a few rounds with you if it would make you feel better.”

 

Flinching back from the obviously eager Slayer, he said, “No, not with me.  But we would like to see you spar with the vampire.  That should give us an idea of how recovered you are.  We also wish to see the chip in action, if you could arrange it.”

 

Buffy started to refuse, ready to point out that Spike could not possibly fight back without setting his chip off; and that she didn’t want to hurt him unnecessarily just so they could see the chip fire.  Before she could finish her remarks, the door opened and a giggling and flushed Lydia emerged, gazing adoringly at Spike who was leaning toward her and whispering in her ear.

 

“No problem!” Buffy exploded, grabbing Spike’s arm and throwing him back into the training room.  “Watch how well I can handle a vampire when I need to.”

 

Spike glared at her from where she’d thrown him on the floor, then kipped back to his feet and stood directly in front of her. 

 

“What the hell was that?” he demanded, leaning forward and meeting her furious eyes with his own gold-flecked glare.

 

“The council wants to see us fight,” Buffy ground out.  “So fight, vampire!”  With that, she threw a punch at his head that he barely dodged, only to follow it up with a leg sweep and a flurry of punches to his head and body.  He was able to deflect most of her strikes, but quickly realized that she was seriously trying to hurt him.  The council members watched, thunderstruck as the two lithe blonds flowed around the room.  The fight looked like a choreographed dance as the Slayer threw punches and kicks that the vampire anticipated and evaded as best he could.

 

Spike didn’t attempt to throw any punches, but he did block Buffy whenever he could.  They had sparred often enough that he had a pretty good idea what sort of defensive moves he could make without triggering the chip.   However, her obviously very real anger was making it more and more difficult for him to counter her attack.

 

When one of her punches slipped past his defense and bloodied his nose, he vamped out and rushed her, taking her to the floor.  Before any of the horrified watchers could react, he screamed and rolled off clutching his head and moaning.  Buffy stayed on the floor, shame beginning to work its way through the angry haze that had filled her when she saw Spike flirting with the besotted watcher.

 

As she reached a tentative hand toward the moaning vampire, Giles began ushering the curious watchers out the door, telling them he was sure they’d seen enough to know that Buffy was in fighting shape, and that the vampire was harmless.

 

Lydia lingered in the doorway, looking very much as though she’d like to comfort the injured vampire; but one look at Buffy’s narrowed eyes and she squeaked and ran out.

 

When the room was empty and the door closed, Buffy edged her way closer to Spike and muttered,  “I’m sorry.”

 

He didn’t answer, just rolled his head to the side and looked at her coldly.

 

Buffy looked away from his angry face and began picking at some lint on her pants.  As her breathing returned to normal and the adrenaline that had been fueling her furious attack on him left her body, she began to realize that she had really overworked her unstretched muscles and joints.  She rubbed absently at her calves and thighs, until her arms began to ache as much as her legs did.

 

After several minutes of trying to stretch and rub the aches out herself, she heard Spike give an exasperated sigh; he roughly pulled her over to where he was now sitting up.

 

“Come’ere, you silly bint.  You should have known you couldn’t push yourself like that when you haven’t moved those muscles in weeks.”

 

 As he grumbled at her, he began to knead the muscles in her arms and legs, working the tightness out one muscle at a time.  Buffy stiffened at first when she felt his hands moving over her body, but she soon realized he was intent only on relieving the pain that her unexpected burst of activity had created.  She relaxed then and closed her eyes, allowing his skilled hands to soothe the aches and stiffness from her body.  Without realizing how she got there, she found herself lying on the mats while Spike continued to knead her muscles until she felt like a melting pool of Jello.

 

As the tightness left her body and it was no longer necessary for him to knead and rub, his touch turned to gentle stroking and his hands began to move into areas not stressed by the fight.  Buffy felt his cool fingers sliding over her sides and up her shoulders and into her hair.  She was enjoying the sensations he was creating as he gently ran his hands through her silky hair and along her arms.  Her breathing became faster and she felt her pulse speed up as his touch became even softer and more like a caress.

 

She rolled over slowly and looked up at him with half-closed eyes.

 

“Feels good,” she whispered as his hands slid around to the front of her arms and brushed the outside of her breasts.

 

She could feel his hands beginning to tremble as he fought to maintain the distance he had promised her.  He abruptly pulled them away from her body and sat up straighter.

 

“Good,” he rasped.  “I’m glad it feels better.  Can’t have the Slayer all achy and... tight...”  He caught his breath as she reached a hand out and gently touched his thigh.

 

“I really am sorry, Spike.  I was just...” She stopped, not sure what she was about to say.

 

“You were just jealous.” He smirked at her.

 

“As if!  Full of yourself much?  I was just sick and tired of listening to those morons drone on and on about nothing and... and... I....” She stopped again, unable to keep up the pretense in the face of his skeptical eyebrows.

 

“What the hell were you doing in here with her for a hour?” she demanded instead. 

 

“I was softening her up to see if I could find out more about what they know,” he growled.  “Didn’t know you were gonna go soddin’ apeshit over it.”

 

“I did not go ‘apeshit’ over it!” she replied indignantly. “I might have been a little... concerned,” she said, adding more softly,  “You were in here for a really long time.”

 

“You don’t really think I’d do something... anything... with a silly bint like that with you right in the next room, do you?  Do you think I’d do that to you, Buffy?  Do you?” he asked anxiously, brushing her hair back.

 

“Well, I don’t know. You are evil and I don’t know what kind of boyfriend you are.   Not that you’re my boyfriend!” she hastened to add as his face lit up only to close down again when she qualified her remark.

 

He shifted away from her slightly and said with a trace of pain in his voice, “That’s right, Slayer, I’m not.  You have a boy friend, as I recall.  Big, ugly fellow.  Thinks he’s the boss of you.  You remember.”

 

“Yes, I suppose I do,” she mumbled.  “Or I will when I decide to forgive him for trying to tell me what to do.”

 

“Tell you what, pet,” Spike said quietly.  “When you do forgive him?  And you’re all ready to kiss and make up?”

 

Buffy looked at him curiously, wondering where he was going with that thought.  He took her chin in his hand and forced her to meet his eyes.

 

“You think about how you felt seein’ me flirting with that mousy little watcher today, and you multiply that by about a hundred times.  That should give you some idea what I’m gonna be feeling when you go back to shaggin’ your soldier boy.”

 

He dropped her chin and turned away, throwing over his shoulder as he went toward the door.  “Come on, I’ll walk you home.  I promised Dawn I’d help her with her history again tonight.”

 

Buffy stayed sitting on the floor for several minutes thinking about what she would be doing to him when she got back together with Riley.  She groaned softly to herself.

 

I didn’t ask him to fall in love with me.  It’s not my fault if the fact that I have a boyfriend hurts him.  It’s not my responsibility.  I never gave him any reason to....

 

A snarky voice in her head said quite clearly, “Oh yeah, you never gave him any reason to think there was anything between you but friendship.  What are a few kisses and orgasms between friends?  Why you give Xander blow jobs all the time, don’t you?  You put your tongue down his throat every chance you get. “

 

Telling her internal voice to “shut the hell up!” she got to her feet and followed Spike out of the Magic Box.

 

 

 

Chapter Four

 

Buffy spent the next several days doing what she knew she should have in the first place; bending and stretching her body several times a day until she felt comfortable that it would be OK for her to start training again.

 

True to his word, Spike stayed conspicuously away from her; only seeing Dawn at his crypt in the afternoons when she needed help with her schoolwork.  If it was getting dark, he would walk her home and say a quick hello to Joyce, but he never asked about Buffy or looked for her.

 

The Slayer had gone back to the dorm and was busy trying to catch up on what she had missed of her classes while she was home recuperating.  It was becoming increasingly obvious that maintaining her status as a full time student and keeping up with her Slaying duties as well as worrying about Glory were all going to take up more time than she actually had.

 

And, to complicate things, her mother had started getting blinding headaches that had Buffy concerned about her.  She eventually convinced Joyce that she had to see a doctor and was anxiously waiting to hear the diagnosis.  As soon as she determined that she had spent enough time playing catch up with her schoolwork, she left the campus and headed for Revello Drive.

 

 I’ll just check on Mom, then do a quick patrol before I come back to campus.  There hasn’t been much demon activity this week.  I hope that doesn’t mean they’re all hunkering down because of Glory....

 

Thinking about the hell-god reminded her that Dawn was only safe as long as no one let it slip that she was the mystical key that was object of Glory’s search.  She mentally ran through a list of who actually knew about it.  Buffy, her mom, Willow and Tara, Giles, Xander, Anya, and of course, Spike, who had been with Dawn when she made the frightening discovery of her origin in Giles’ journals.

 

Buffy decided she would approach the residential office and make arrangements to move out of the dorm and back to her mother’s house. 

 

 Not only will it be cheaper, but I won’t have to go running back and forth to check on Mom and Dawn.  I’ll just go to classes when I need to and then come back here before patrol.

 

She arrived at her home to find her mother packing a small overnight bag, while Spike paced back and forth on the back porch, smoking one cigarette after another and Dawn ran back and forth nervously between them.

 

“What’s going on, Mom?” she asked as calmly as she could with her stomach turning over rapidly.

 

“Oh, Buffy, you’re here.  Good.  I hated to leave Dawn alone, although Spike did say he would stay with her until....”

 

“I’m here.  I’ll stay with Dawn.  Where are you going?  Why are you packing?”

 

“I’m sure it’s nothing, dear.  You know how doctors are.  He just wants me to come in to the hospital so they can run some tests and confirm that it’s nothing.”

            “It’s such a nothing that he wants you to come in tonight?” Buffy’s voice held all the disbelief she could muster.

 

Her mother stopped packing and sighed.  “There’s a slight chance that it is... something.  And if so, they want to know right away so that they can begin treatment.  But, I’m sure it’s going to be fine,” she finished brightly and resumed her packing.

 

“Spike can drive you to the hospital,” Buffy said suddenly.  “We’ll all come with you.”

 

“Buffy, they aren’t going to know anything tonight, I’m sure.  You and Dawn stay here and get a good night’s sleep and I’ll call you in the morning.  I think I will ask Spike to drive me, though.  The drugs the doctor gave me for the pain are making me really loopy.”  Her mother giggled slightly and Buffy was reminded of band-candy night and how her mother and Giles kept giggling at each other.  It occurred to her to wonder what exactly had been in those cigarettes that she had kept taking away from them.

 

She shook her head to clear the irrelevant thought and went downstairs to tell Spike what she needed him to do.  They hadn’t seen each other since the night of the council’s visit and she wasn’t sure how he would react to her presence in the house again.

 

“She tell you?” he asked as she joined him on the porch.

 

“Yes, at least she told me as much as she’s willing to right now.”  Buffy wrapped her arms around herself, suddenly chilled as all the possibilities began to run through her mind.  “We’ll know more tomorrow, I guess.”

 

“It’ll be all right, love,” his warm voice rumbled near her ear and she looked up to meet his concerned expression.  She had to steel herself to stay where she was and not fall into the comfort she knew he was offering.

 

 Got to keep things business-like between us.  That’s the only way this will work. I can’t let him touch me, no matter how good it might feel.  I’ve got to stay strong.

 

“Of course it will.  I know that.  I’m not worried,” she lied, knowing she wasn’t fooling either one of them.  “She wants you to drive her to the hospital.  Says she’s too ‘loopy’ to drive.  I think she means stoned.” She smiled up at him.  “You don’t mind, do you?”

 

“You know I don’t, Slayer.  I’ll just go start the car now.”  He turned to go back through the house; then paused and asked without turning to look at her, “Do you want me to report back?  Or should I just drop the car off and go home?”

 

“I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight,” Buffy sighed.  “Why don’t you come in when you get back and we’ll have some hot chocolate or something.”

 

He nodded his head, still without looking at her,  “OK, pet.  I’ll see you in a little while.”  He opened the door and went to get Joyce’s bag and put it in the car.  Buffy followed him into the house and went to the front door where her mother was putting on a coat.

 

“You’ll call as soon as you know anything, right?” she demanded.

 

“Yes, Buffy.  I’ll call you first thing in the morning before you go to class.  I’m sure it will turn out we’re all worrying for nothing.”

 

“Of course we are.  But you’ll get a nice rest in a comfy hospital bed tonight, and breakfast in bed in the morning.  So, kinda like a vacation, huh?”

 

“Yes, dear.  It’s just a short vacation and then I’ll be right back.”  She kissed Dawn quickly, hugged them both and went briskly out the door to the car.  The two sisters stood in the doorway, shoulders touching and watched until the taillights were out of sight.

 

“OK, missy.  It’s a school night, so off to bed with you.”  Buffy gave her sister a tight hug and pushed her gently toward the stairs.

 

“She’s going to be all right, isn’t she?” Dawn asked in a tremulous voice.

 

“Of course, she is, Dawn.  She has to be.”  Buffy gave her sister what she hoped was an encouraging smile and waved her toward the stairs.  “Now go get some sleep. I’ll wake you in the morning.”

 

 

 

Buffy paced around the house, too restless to sit down and watch TV, and too afraid to leave Dawn alone to go on a quick patrol.  Eventually she found herself on the back porch, sitting on the steps and resting her head on her knees as she gave in to the anxiety churning inside her.

 

She was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she didn’t hear the car pull up or notice that Spike was back until he sat down beside her and put his coat over her shoulders.

 

“Thanks,” she mumbled, not lifting her head, but leaning slightly toward him.

 

“It’ll be OK, love.” He offered the useless platitude again, not knowing what else to say. 

 

 Bloody hell, I want to make it be all right.  For her, for the Nibblet, for Joyce. Don’t know what these Summers women have done to me, but I can’t stand to see any of them unhappy or in pain.

 

He could feel Buffy leaning in his direction, even though she hadn’t raised her head from her knees or moved her folded arms.  He wanted to hold and comfort her so badly his arms ached, but was afraid to offer something that wouldn’t be welcomed.

 

Wonder where the soldier boy is tonight?  Surely they’ve kissed and made up by now.  Wonder if she called him while I was gone?

 

When he heard a small sniffle from Buffy’s lowered head, and smelled the salty tang of tears, he couldn’t stand it any longer and he pulled her onto his lap.  Buffy buried her head in his chest immediately and allowed the sobs she’d been suppressing to come out. 

 

She cried for several minutes while he held her and murmured soothing words into the top of her head.  Eventually the sobs tapered off to sniffles and she picked her head up to rest it on his shoulder.

 

“Sorry about your shirt,” she sniffled.  “If you leave it here, I’ll wash it for you.”

 

“What, you don’t think I’d want to go home wearing Slayer snot all over me?” he teased gently.

 

 Buffy was amazed when he produced a clean white handkerchief and handed it to her.  She stared back and forth from the handkerchief to his face, trying to comprehend that William the Bloody carried a clean handkerchief in his pocket.

 

“It’s a hanky, love.  You use it to wipe your eyes and nose.”  He smiled at her expression and waited for her to respond.

 

She’s gob-smacked good and proper this time he thought to himself with amusement as she continued to look at him as if he’d suddenly grown another head.

 

“I know what it is,” she muttered, finally wiping the remains of tears off her face and blowing her nose.  “I just can’t believe you had one.”

 

“Hey, properly raised Victorian gentleman here, pet.  Always have a clean hanky to lend a lady in need.”

 

“Guess I seemed pretty needy tonight, huh?” she said ruefully, ducking her head.

 

The vampire reached a hand to her face and tipped her chin up so that he could look at her.  He gently pushed an errant lock of hair back out of her eyes and said softly, “You’re worried about your mum, love.  No shame in that.  Even the Slayer can’t be supergirl all the time.  I’m just glad I was here.”

 

            “I’m glad you were here, too,” she whispered, looking down again.  She was suddenly conscious of where she was sitting and that his arms were still wrapped around her.  She wanted nothing more than to remain wrapped in those cool, comforting arms until the sun came up, but she knew asking him to stay and hold her all night would be very unfair.

 

             Not to mention, probably impossible for either one of us.

 

            As though he could read her mind, Spike ducked his head and without looking at her offered, “I could stay, if you want, pet.  Just hold you till you fall asleep.” Not wanting to see the look of rejection he was sure was on her face, he continued to stare down at his boots until she nudged him to look up.

 

            “I don’t think platonic cuddling in a bed is one of those things Buffy and Spike would be very good at.”  She blushed as she said it, but forced herself to meet his eyes so he would understand that she wasn’t rejecting the offer because it offended her.

 

            “S’pose you’re right, love,” he agreed with a gentle smile.  “But I’d give it a try if you thought you needed me.”

 

             DO I need him?  Why is the idea of falling asleep next to him so appealing? Shouldn’t I be calling Riley right now for moral support?  Why would I rather have Spike here?  Must be because my mom and Dawn like him.

 

            “I... I’d like to try.  If you don’t mind.  Just until I fall asleep?  Then you can go do... whatever it is you do at night.”

 

            Probl’y not a good idea to tell her what I do at night is stand outside her house and listen to her heartbeat while she sleeps.

 

            “I volunteered, pet. Remember?  I can do it.  Provided you keep those little hands to yourself, anyway.”  He grinned at her blush when she was reminded of how she could turn him on just by absently rubbing his bicep.

 

            My hands will be just fine,” she grumbled at him as she stood up and reluctantly moved toward the house.  “You just watch yours mister.” And your lips, and your tongue, and.....gah! This is never going to work!

 

            Spike followed her into the house and up the stairs, stopping when he got to the top.

 

            “I’ll just wait here, pet, until you tell me you’re ready.”

 

            Remembering how he’d cared for her when she couldn’t do anything for herself, she started to laugh at his Victorian sense of propriety.  Then she remembered his “Just wait till those casts are off...” and knew that he was just avoiding temptation. 

 

            “K,” she said softly and slipped into the bathroom.  When she had finished in the bathroom and changed into her least sexy pajamas, she called softly and he was into the room before the words were all out of her mouth.

 

            Buffy was in the bed, covers pulled up to her chin.  She had left space beside her for him to lie down, and was surprised when he pushed the pillow up against the headboard and leaned back on it.

 

            “Come’ere, pet,” he said quietly and held out his arms.  He grinned at her when she slowly emerged from the cocoon she’d made in the blankets. 

 

            “What’re you laughing at?” she demanded, as she curled up next to him.  “I don’t see anything funny about this.”

 

            “You, love.  I’m laughing at you.  D’you really think flannel pajamas and a couple of blankets could make me forget what you look like naked?  I’m a vampire, pet, not just a man.  You fill all my senses.  Your scent is like ambrosia, the sound of your heartbeat makes mine almost beat in rhythm with it, the feel of your warm breath....” His voice trailed off as she looked like she was seriously rethinking the idea of having him in her bed.  “Point is, love, I appreciate your trying to make it easy on me, but you’re not gonna change the way I feel around you just by coverin’ up the goodies.”

 

            “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea,” Buffy sighed, even as she snuggled into his side.  “It’s not fair to you, and—”

 

            “I’ll be fine, Slayer.  This is about comfort and support, not sex.  I know that and I’ve got no intention of violating your trust by trying to take advantage of the situation.  Means too much to me, to know that you’re willin’ to lean on me.” He planted a light kiss on the top of her head.   “Told you last week – nobody ever died from a hard-on.   Not that I have one,” he hastened to add as Buffy cast a quick look toward his crotch.

 

            Buffy realized she was actually quite tired, emotionally if not physically.  She put her head against his chest and wrapped one arm across his body.  With his body against hers, and his strong arms gently cradling her, she drifted back into the same comfortable feeling she’d had outside.  Soon, the only sound in the room was the soothing sound of the clock ticking off the seconds and the light swish of fabric as the vampire’s thumb moved slowly back and forth on the Slayer’s flannel covered arm.

 

When Buffy woke up in the morning, she wondered for a minute why the bed felt so empty.  She sat up with a start as she realized the sun was pouring in the window right onto the spot Spike had been in last night.  A quick search for dust or ashes, and she breathed a sigh of relief.

 

             I guess I can’t yell at him for leaving.  We said it would be just until I went to sleep. And it’s not like he ran off after we had sex or anything.  He was a perfect gentleman.

 

She smothered the little stab of annoyance she felt at the idea that he had seemed to have no trouble being a perfect gentleman. 

 

Hypocritical much, Buffy?  Tell him he can’t, then get mad cause he doesn’t? Way to be inconsistent-girl!

 

            She got up and knocked on Dawn’s door on her way to the bathroom. When she came out to allow Dawn in, she quickly dressed and went downstairs.   She looked at the phone for several minutes, then surrendered to the guilt she was feeling and called Riley’s number.  She tried to pretend she wasn’t relieved when he didn’t answer, and quickly left a short message saying that her mother was in the hospital and that she and Dawn would be going there soon.

 

            With that out of the way, she called Giles and asked him if he could give them a ride to the hospital.  While she waited for him, she called the dorm and told Willow what was going on and asked her to tell Xander.

 

            She was too tense to sit still, so while she was waiting for Dawn to come downstairs and for Giles to arrive, she paced around the house, wiping imaginary dust from all the flat surfaces.

 

 

Chapter Five

 

A short, tense ride later and she and Dawn were following a nurse into the room where her mother was propped up in bed, looking very worried.

 

            “Mom?”  Buffy’s body was rigid as she waited for her mother to tell her everything was fine.  Instead, Joyce sighed and gestured for her daughters to come closer. With Dawn on one side and Buffy on the other, she put her arms around her two most precious possessions and hugged them tightly.

 

            “It looks like I’m going to need a... procedure... tomorrow.” When she felt Buffy’s body stiffen, she quickly tried to soft-pedal the situation.  “There’s a small tumor on one side of my brain and that’s what has been causing the headaches.  They’re going to take it out tomorrow, sew me back up, and I’ll be back on my feet in no time.”

 

            “Is... is it...?” Dawn couldn’t finish the question that was hanging over all their heads.

 

            “We won’t know until it’s out, Dawnie,” Joyce said as she tried to comfort her youngest daughter.  “They’ll biopsy it right away and they tell me they’ll have an answer for us within a few hours.”

 

            Buffy felt the adrenaline flooding her body and the urge to kill something was almost overwhelming.  She fought down the totally inappropriate response she was having to the situation, and tried to concentrate on what her mother was saying.

 

            She nodded her head as her mother gave instructions for running the household for the next several days, and gave a start of surprise when the older woman asked, “Is Spike here?”

 

            “No, Mom.  It’s 10:00 in the morning.  I’m sure he’s sound asleep in his crypt by now.”

 

            “Oh,” her mother sounded vaguely disappointed.  “Well, you’ll just have to talk to him tonight then, “ she said firmly.

 

            “Uh, okay.  Why?”

 

            “I need to see him about the gallery.  He knows all about the shipments coming in this week and I was hoping he could unpack them one evening and get them out on the floor for me.  I’d ask you to do it, but you won’t know what to do with them, and you’ll be busy patrolling, and with school and Riley—”

 

            “I’ll ask him,” Buffy said shortly.  “Between the two of us, we’ll get it done. Don’t worry about it.”

 

            She wasn’t sure if she was more surprised that her mother intended to rely on Spike, or that she obviously didn’t feel she could rely on her own daughter.  Not for the first time, she was reminded of how much her calling interfered with her relationships and her life.

 

            Even my mother knows I can’t have a normal life.  She doesn’t even expect it of me anymore.  I wonder why I do?

 

            Leaving Dawn to keep her mother company, she walked out into the waiting room to find it full of Scoobies all anxious to know what was going on.  She filled them in as best she could, relaxing a little as their obvious concern and sympathy helped to boost her spirits. 

 

            The doctor came out and asked which one was Ms Summers. Buffy responded quickly, anxiously barraging him with questions.  The attractive young doctor smiled at the pretty blonde and offered to explain what was going on over a cup of coffee.  He introduced himself as the resident assigned to her mom’s ward and asked her to call him Ben.

 

            When Buffy came back from her lengthy coffee-cum-explanation time with Ben, she was surprised to find Riley waiting with Giles.  He immediately got up and swept her into a warm hug as he murmured a combined apology and offer of support.

 

            He insisted on spending the rest of the day with her at the hospital, and offered to come with her on patrol that evening. She tried to discourage him from that, knowing that she was going to have to find Spike to pass on her mother’s instructions.  However, in spite of the fact that his hovering was beginning to make her feel smothered, she was too embarrassed at having spent so much time with Spike recently to reject her anxious boyfriend.

 

            She did mange to convince him that she would be better off patrolling on her own and having the opportunity to work out some of her fears in a physical way.  After watching her wade into a large group of fledgling vampires and throw them all over the graveyard before she staked them all, he swallowed his pride and went to wait in his SUV.  There was something about the glee on her face as she punched and kicked her way through the crowd that made him slightly uncomfortable. 

 

            It wasn’t the first time he’d come face to face with the fact that Buffy didn’t need his help to do her job; but it was one of the more emphatic lessons.

 

            As Buffy got further into the cemetery, she felt the tingle on her neck that meant Spike was somewhere close by.  Sure enough, when she paused to look around, he stepped out of the shadows, hands in the pocket of his duster and a cigarette dangling from his mouth.

 

            “Slayer,” he said pleasantly enough, but without the undercurrent of affection she was used to.  “A little hard on those poor fledglings, weren’t you, pet?  I thought you were gonna kill them all twice for a while there.”

 

            She smiled at him tentatively and said, “I had some issues to work out.”

 

            “Feel better now, then?”

 

            “Oh, much.  Or as much as I can anyway,” she finished, her shoulders slumping as she remembered her mother.

 

            “She’ll be fine, love,” he said firmly, once more seeming to read her mind.  “They’ll get it out and that’ll be it.  Say, do’ya suppose I could slip in there and get m’chip out at the same time?” 

 

            “Don’t joke about that, Spike,” she snapped, then sighed and touched his face gently in apology.  “I’m sorry.  I guess I’m wound a little tight tonight.  How did you know about the... tumor?”

 

            “I stopped off to see your mum.  She told me all about it and also about the gallery shipment.  I’ll go by there tomorrow evening and see what’s what.”

 

            “Oh.  Thank you, Spike.  I can’t tell you how—”

 

            “No need.  Got to take care of my girls, don’t I?” His soft look and shy smile suddenly vanished and in their place was the cold, immobile face of a corpse.  The only thing alive about it was the flashing in the amber colored eyes as Riley strode into the clearing.

 

            “Buffy,” he called, not having seen the vampire. “You’ve done enough for one night.  Let’s get home and go to bed.  You’ll need to be up early tomorrow to be there before your mother goes in for her surgery.”

 

            Buffy whirled back around just in time to see an expression of complete agony go across the vampire’s face.  She remembered what he’d said about multiplying her reaction to Lydia by a hundred and cringed at Riley’s words. Before she could say anything, he vanished as quickly and completely as only a master vampire could.

 

She looked around carefully, but she could tell he was no longer there.  The feeling she got when either Spike or Angel was nearby was completely gone.  Biting her lip, she turned and walked back to the car with Riley.

 

All the way back to the house of Revello Drive, all she could do was think about Spike and his reaction to Riley.  Between worrying about her mother, and worrying about Spike’s state of mind, she could barely follow what Riley was saying about being there for her and leaning on him whenever she needed to.

 

When she realized he was beginning to plan the rest of the week for her, including her taking time off from slaying, and his moving in to the house until her mother came home, she held up a hand and stopped him.

 

“Riley, I appreciate all this thought.  I really do.  But let me figure out where and when I need you, OK?  I think Giles has the paperwork all covered; Willow and Tara will be helping me with Dawn; Mom has already made arrangements for coverage at the Gallery; and of course, Xander and Anya are there if I need anything else.”

 

 OK, I think I got through that all right.  Managed to not mention Spike and still made it clear that he’s not making the decisions here.

 

The big man’s face was still for a minute, then he said bitterly, “So, what you’re saying is you don’t really need me for anything.  Is that right, Buffy?”

 

Buffy looked at his closed, hurt face in dismay.  “No, no, I didn’t mean that at all.  I just meant that we... that I... was already handling most of those things and you don’t have to worry about them.”

 

She wrapped her arms around herself and tried to think of how she could avoid hurting this man who so obviously loved her.  She put a tentative hand on his arm and said softly,  “I do need you, Riley.  It’s just that I need you to ask me what I need – not make that decision for me.  Can you understand that?”

 

He sighed and touched her hand where it rested on his arm.  “I’m trying to, Buffy. But where I come from, a girl like you would expect her man to step in and—”

Buffy withdrew her hand slowly so he wouldn’t think she was angry, and answered before he could finish, “Riley, where you come from there are no girls like me.”

 

There was nothing to say to that, and they drove in silence the rest of the way to her house.

 

They entered the well-lit house to find Willow and Tara waiting with Dawn.  The two witches were anxious to return to the dorm, and wished everyone a good night as soon as Buffy came in.  Dawn looked at Riley curiously and turned to Buffy to ask, “Where’s—ow!”

 

A sharp look from Buffy, accompanied by a quick pinch, prevented the awkwardness that she knew would follow any inquiry about Spike.  Fortunately Dawn picked up on the silent message very quickly and she nodded her head at her sister before turning to go upstairs.

 

“I’m going to bed now.  Wake me up when you’re out of the bathroom in the morning, Buffy.  G’night, Riley.”

 

“Good night, Dawn. See you in the morning.”

 

Dawn shot her sister a startled look, but wisely made no comment as she went on up the stairs and into her room.

 

 

Chapter Six

 

 

“Are you staying?” she asked with little inflection in her voice.  She struggled to sound as though she wanted him to stay, but the best she could do was to keep the impatience out of her voice.

 

Riley watched Buffy as she walked around the house, turning off lights, checking doors and clearly preparing to go to bed for the night.  When she had run out of things to do before going upstairs, Buffy stopped in front of him and took a deep breath.

 

“Do you want me to?” he asked.  “I want to be here for you, Buffy. Whatever you need.”

 

Remembering how peacefully she had slept last night with Spike holding her, Buffy ducked her head and said,  “I could use some company while I sleep.  Somebody to just hold me?”

 

As soon as she saw his look of happy anticipation, she regretted asking him to stay.

 

Great. Now he thinks I want to have sex.  How do I handle this without making him feel rejected all over again?

 

Taking the bull by the horns, she looked him in the eye and said clearly, “I just need to get some sleep, Riley.  That’s all I want tonight.  I’m too worried about my mom to—”

 

Trying to hide his disappointment, he put his arms around her and assured her that he was fine with that.  Buffy tried to smother the urge to compare his smothering hug with Spike’s comforting embrace, as she forcefully reminded herself that this man was her boyfriend.  Spike, she insisted to herself, was just another Scoobie.  A good friend, perhaps, but...

 

When she slipped into bed, Buffy was once again wearing her flannel pajamas, and she saw Riley shoot her a disappointed look as he stripped to his boxers and slipped into bed beside her.  When he put his arms around her and she snuggled up to his warm body, she almost thought it was going to be okay.  She knew he loved her, and she could feel his desire to comfort her as he cuddled her small body and kissed her forehead.

 

It wasn’t long though, before he was running his hands over her back and pulling her up against his body so that she could feel his erection pressing against her leg.  She opted first for trying to pretend she was asleep, but quickly realized that wasn’t going to work as he became even bolder in an attempt to “wake” her up.

 

Buffy was torn about what she wanted to do.  On the one hand, this man was her boyfriend.  She did care about him and it had been a while since they had made love.  On the other hand, she had specifically asked him to let her sleep and he was disregarding that request pretty vigorously. And somewhere in the back of her mind was a baritone voice saying, “…think about how it made you feel and multiply that...”

 

While she was mulling over her options, Riley took her lack of rejection as acquiescence and began to pull her pajama top off over her head, ignoring the buttons.  He ran his hands over her breasts quickly, then went to her bottoms and began to slide them down her hips.

 

“Buffy,” he whispered.  “Please, Buffy.  It’s been a long time.  Just let me...”

 

“Riley, I asked you to let me sleep.  I really don’t want to....”

 

“I can make you want to,” he said as he pulled her against him again.  “You know I can.”

 

 Actually, you can’t.  You’re just pissing me off.

 

Struggling not to say aloud what she was thinking, Buffy pushed against his chest, using just enough of her slayer strength to make her point.

 

“Riley.  I really only wanted an all-night hug.  Can’t you do that?”

 

“No, I can’t do that.  What do you think I am? I can’t lie here next to you, touching you, and not want to....   I’m just a man, Buffy.”

 

“Yeah,” she said with a sigh, “I guess you are at that.”

 

I guess it takes a demon to have that kind of self-control.  A soulless, impulsive, obsessive demon.

 

When he tried to pull her back to him again, thinking that her agreement about his gender meant she was going to let him have his way, she surprised herself by almost snarling at him as she shoved him away and turned her back.  She thumped her pillow once or twice, mostly to relieve her frustration at having nothing else to punch, and then resolutely closed her eyes.

 

“Good night, Riley,” she ground out between gritted teeth.  “If this is too hard for you, feel free to go down to the couch.”

 

Riley was quiet for a minute or two, then jumped to his feet and picked up his clothes from the floor.  “You can be a real bitch, Buffy.  Did you know that?”

 

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’ve it heard it before,” she said, trying not to smile as she remembered who most often used that term around her.

 

The big man stomped out of the room and down the stairs.  He sat on the couch in the dark for a while, then stood up and determinedly went out the door and got in his car. Across the street, a dark figure stepped out of the shadows and frowned as he watched the soldier drive away.

 

Spike looked back and forth between the house and the rapidly disappearing car, then made up his mind and whirled to follow the man who had just left Buffy alone in her bed.  Delight that the two humans hadn’t made love warred with his anger that the man who claimed to love her would leave rather than comfort her without getting something in return.

 

Wonder if he’s gone to get his rocks off somewhere else?  He’s not likely to find much down here in the warehouse district except... bloody hell! He just went into the bite-house!

 

Spike strode into the building, confident in his ability to take out any of the wimpy vampires who got their blood by drinking from willing humans.  No one challenged him as he walked through the warehouse with long, businesslike strides and he soon found the room where he watched surreptitiously as Riley gave money to a thin, angular female vampire.  When she had tucked the money away, she undid the soldier’s pants and pulled up her skirt.  The sight of her elongating fangs was all it took to get the man hard, and he was soon pounding into her, groaning as she sank her teeth into his arm and began taking long pulls of his blood.

 

In spite of the disgust he felt, Spike did not interrupt the two oblivious creatures coupling inside the small room.  He whirled and left the building with no idea where he was going, only knowing that he needed to be moving and he needed to kill something.

 

“Soddin’ bloody wanker!  Leaves the Slayer on the night before her mum is going have a serious operation and goes to a vamp whore.”  The vampire kept of a litany of British invective as he roved through Sunnydale’s cemeteries looking for something on which he could take out his anger.

 

He considered going back to Revello Drive, but he didn’t want to take a chance that Buffy would catch him watching her house when she thought her boyfriend was there.  Earlier in the evening, he’d fought the urge to follow them for more than an hour after hearing Riley talk about taking her home and going to bed.  He tried to get so drunk that he would pass out and forget what he heard, but ran out of Jack Daniels long before he reached the passing out point, and long after he was sober enough to make good decisions.

 

  The result was he’d found himself standing under the tree in Buffy’s yard, listening to sounds of them getting ready for bed.  His vampire hearing allowed him to hear her tell Riley all she wanted was an all-night hug, and his gratitude that he wasn’t going to hear them make love was tempered by the pain of knowing she wanted comfort from her human boy friend rather than him.

 

When he heard Riley’s heart rate increase, and realized the man was growing aroused, he almost couldn’t restrain himself from leaping onto the roof and into the room.  His eyes flashed yellow and he cringed inwardly in anticipation of hearing the sounds of Buffy making love with the man in her bed.  He was so wrapped up in the misery he was anticipating, that he almost missed her reaction and subsequent suggestion that Riley sleep on the couch.  Years of being able to read her moods meant he could tell from her increased breathing and heart rate exactly how brassed off she was at Riley’s attempts to seduce her.  Spike had snarled scornfully when he heard Riley insist he could make her want him.

 

Relief and joy had flooded his body when he heard Riley tromp down the stairs, cursing to himself.  He’d pulled back into the shadows across the street just fast enough to avoid being seen when the angry man exited the house.

 

Now that he knew where Riley had been going, he was left with the question of what to do with the information.  It hadn’t appeared that he was unfamiliar with the bite-house.  He drove right to it and was already in a room with a vamp when Spike got there.  That told Spike that this was not the first time Riley had been there.

 

His stomach clenched a little at the thought of Dawn or Joyce, or even Buffy, being endangered by the former commando.  While most vamps that working in places like that were not willing to give up their meal tickets by killing or turning them, it was always a possibility.

 

His inner debate was interrupted by the arrival of a group of fledgling vamps looking to make a name for themselves by taking out the vampire who killed his own kind.  The joy on Spike’s face as he realized he had something on which to take out his fear and anger should have alarmed the other vampires; unfortunately for them, it didn’t.

 

With a swirl of black leather, he took out the two closest to him without even slowing down.  The broken necks he gave them didn’t dust them, but they were completely unable to continue the fight.  His momentum carried him into the next two in the group, and he was able to get off several good punches and a roundhouse to a jaw before they realized that it was going to take all of them working together to handle the master vampire.

 

Spike’s strength, speed and joy in the fight allowed him to hold his own against the six vampires left trying to kill him, but numbers were not on his side and he knew he was one sucker punch away from being in real trouble.  Just as he was debating the wisdom of running away, the vampire in front of him disappeared in a puff of dust and he saw a blonde vision smiling at him through the dust.

 

“Can I play, Spike?  Or are you keeping all the fun for yourself?” she asked with her perkiest smile.

 

“I can spare a few, Slayer.  Which ones do you want?”

 

The verbal by-play wasn’t lost on the remaining five young vampires and they looked back and forth between the two smiling blonds as realization set in.

 

“Hey, our mistake.  No harm, no foul, right?” the oldest one said, edging away from the stake-twirling Slayer.  “We’ll just be on our—”

 

He was cut off by the swoosh of a stake though the air and looked down at his chest in dismay just before he exploded.  Before the others could react, Buffy was on them and she made short work of the two she tackled as Spike went to work on the other two.  When he had broken their necks and thrown the bodies down with the first two, he sat on a tombstone and watched in admiration while Buffy played with the last one standing.

 

As she punched and kicked the unfortunate vamp around the clearing, Spike strolled over to pick up her stake and used it to dust the four he had left on the ground. As he finished, he saw that Buffy’s punching bag of choice was incapable of getting up again and he tossed her the stake with a, “Here, pet. Put him out of his misery.”

 

Soon there was nothing left but a lot of dust piles and two very satisfied predators.

 

“Well, that felt good,’ Buffy said, letting out a sharp breath. “I had some tension to work off.”

 

To Spike’s surprise, he was able to keep a grip on his tongue and avoid any innuendos about why she was tense.  The last thing he wanted to do was to remind her that she could have shagged away the tension with her boyfriend.  Instead he rolled his shoulders to loosen them up and agreed, “Yeah, had some frustrations myself.”

 

That said, they lapsed into an uncomfortable silence as they both tried to pretend that Buffy shouldn’t be home in bed with her boyfriend rather than standing around in a graveyard with another vampire.

 

While Spike mentally battled conflicting urges to tell her about Riley’s activities or not tell her to avoid adding to the things she was dealing with, Buffy surprised him by saying softly,  “He left me.”

 

The vampire didn’t pretend not to know who she was talking about, just looked at her out of the corner of his eye and said, “That right, pet?”

 

“Yes.  He just called me a bitch because all I wanted was to be held, like... like you did last night.   I didn’t think that was too much to ask from somebody who’s supposed to love me.”

 

She didn’t notice Spike’s wince at her last remark, she just felt his arms go around her gently as he whispered in her ear,  “It’s not too much to ask, love.  Never should be.  Bloody pillock is too stupid to appreciate what he has if you ask me.”

 

“Didn’t ask you,” she mumbled into his chest as she relaxed into his arms and let the feelings of safety and comfort wash over her.

 

I wonder what kind of Slayer feels safe and warm standing in a cemetery at night with a master vampire’s arms around her?

 

“True, but you know me, gonna give you my opinion whether you want it or not.”  She could hear the smile in his voice and snorted in an unladylike fashion as she looked up at him.

 

            They smiled into each other’s eyes for a minute until Spike could feel himself responding to the warm body he was still holding lightly. He moved back slightly so that Buffy would not feel the evidence of his desire against her stomach.

 

            Last thing I want to do right now is make her think I can’t control myself around her either.  She needs know she can lean on me without my wantin’ something in return.

 

            In spite of his having pulled his body back from hers, Buffy could tell from the way his eyes darkened that he was reacting to her nearness the way he always did.  Anger at Riley fueled the ever-present attraction she felt toward the blond vampire, and Buffy unconsciously licked her lips as she stared at his openly needy face

.

“Ah, Slayer.  Don’t do that to me, love.  You know I want to kiss you so bad I—” 

 

He was cut off as she suddenly stood on her toes and pressed her mouth to his firmly.  His arms instinctively tightened around her, pulling her willing body against his as he deepened the kiss.  Once again, Buffy’s world narrowed to the soft, supple lips moving over hers and the cool tongue exploring her mouth.  Her arms crept around his neck and she allowed him to support her as she let her body melt into his lean muscular one.

 

She felt her underwear growing damp and Spike’s smothered growl as he smelled her arousal.  Rather than finding the growl intimidating, she was surprised to find herself even more turned on as it vibrated against her body.

 

 Ooookay.  I know that one’s not in the Slayer handbook.  Growling vampire should not equal lusty Buffy.  Something must be very wrong with me...

 

After several minutes of bone melting kisses, Buffy pulled back slightly to get her breath and try to get a grip on her libido.  Spike continued to hold her lightly around the waist, but allowed her to decide how close they would get and if the kissing would continue.  His demon was screaming to be let out and allowed to take this woman and it took all his self-control to keep his face smooth and his expression hopefully expectant.

 

“I... I need to get home.  I left Dawn there by herself,” she said in a shaky voice. 

 

“Right, then.  You should go.”  He reluctantly slipped his hands off her waist and shoved them into his pockets.  Every muscle in his body was trembling with the effort it took to let go of her strong little body.  “D’you want me to walk you home?” he asked softly.

 

“What I want is...” She stopped herself before she could say anything she couldn’t take back and stood up straighter.  “No, thank you.  I don’t think that’s a very good idea.  Just in case Riley gets over his fit of temper and decides to come back...”

 

“You wouldn’t let him in if he did, would you, pet?”  He surprised both of them with the urgency in his voice.

 

Buffy looked at him curiously and asked, “Well, probably, if I thought he was going to leave me alone.  Why?”  She peered at him intently; something about his look reminded her of the conversations about the booby trap in his crypt.  “Do you know something I should know?” she demanded sharply.

 

“I hope not, love,” he answered cryptically, deciding he wasn’t going to tell her about the soldier’s vamp whore until he had talked to her Watcher.

 

She stared at him for a minute, tapping her foot in irritation, all lust banished by the knowledge that once again he knew something she didn’t and that he wasn’t planning to tell her what it was.

 

“So help me, Spike.  If you’re hiding something from me again....”

 

“Jus’ go home and try to get some kip, Slayer.  You don’t want your mum to think you’ve been up all night worrying, do you?”

 

The way her lower lip poked out told him she was only postponing, not abandoning, the conversation she wanted to have; but she opted let it go for the time being.  Breathing an unnecessary sigh of relief, he leaned forward and kissed her on the top of her head as he said, “Good night, Slayer.  I’ll see you tomorrow sometime.”  He gave her a little push in the direction of her house and turned to go to his crypt before the sun came up.

 

Buffy stared after him with her brow furrowed, then whirled and stomped off in the direction of Revello Drive muttering to herself about, “…secrets, sneaky, lying vampires...”

 

 

 

Chapter Seven

 

Buffy and Dawn were up and at the hospital by 8:00 a.m. the following morning.  Early enough to see their mother and give her kisses and hugs before she went off for her surgery.  They then went to the waiting room and stared blankly at the television as they waited for the doctor to come and tell them how it went.

 

By 9:30, all the Scoobies were there, as well as Giles and a very subdued and repentant Riley.  Buffy easily avoided his attempt to kiss her mouth, but did allow him to hug her and whisper an apology in her ear.  She shrugged and managed to appear mollified without actually saying that she forgave him.

 

By 11:00, Buffy and Dawn were beginning to cast anxious eyes toward the doors to the operating area and Buffy was pacing from one side of the waiting room to the other.  When the young doctor they’d met the other night appeared and gestured to Buffy, she ran to him, her eyes pleading for good news even as she held herself rigid and tried to appear calm for Dawn’s sake.

 

“She’s going to be fine,” he told her with a smile.  “We got it all and there is no sign of cancer.  It was a benign tumor and now that it’s removed, she should be up and about within a few weeks.”

 

Buffy let out the breath she hadn’t even been aware of holding, and clasped his hand tightly.

 

“Thank you. Thank you so much.  I can’t tell you how much this means to me... us.  We’re—”  Realizing she was one more incoherent sentence from complete babbling, Buffy took a deep breath and gave him a dazzling smile as she repeated.  “We both thank you.  When can we see her?”

 

“You’ll have to wait a while for that.  She’s in the recovery room and she’ll be sedated for the rest of the day, just to keep the brain activity down.  You can see her again tonight, but she probably won’t be able to talk to you until tomorrow sometime.”

 

After making sure he had any and all possible phone numbers to use if he needed to reach her, Buffy went back over to her anxious sister and curious friends to announce with a watery smile, “She’s going to be fine.  Mom is going to be fine.”

 

She hugged Dawn, and then felt them being surrounded as Xander and Willow and more slowly, Tara and Anya, put their arms around the two grateful sisters.  Giles cleared his throat several times, wiped his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose before finally saying, “Oh, what the hell...” and putting his arms around the whole group.

 

No one noticed as Ben’s face took on a panicked expression and he mumbled, “No, no, not now!” as he ran back through the door to the locker area.

 

When the thankful group hug had finally ended, they began to split up, agreeing to meet there again in the evening just in case Joyce was awake by then.  As Riley went to shake the watcher’s hand “goodbye” his sleeve slipped up and he saw Giles’ eyes go to the newest marks on his arm.  The watcher’s eyes narrowed as Buffy saw the marks also and said,  “Oh my god, Riley!  Did a vamp get you last night?  Why didn’t you come and tell me?  I would have—”

 

“It’s no problem, Buffy,” he said uncomfortably.  “I, uh, I took care of it myself.  No big deal.  It’s not like she took a lot of blo—”

 

“She?” Giles asked in a mild tone of voice.  “It was a female vamp, then was it?”

 

Completely missing the by-play, Buffy continued to fuss over the ex-commando, asking how many there were and if he was injured anywhere else.  When she ignored his efforts to resist and pulled up his other sleeve, she gasped at the marks inside that elbow also.

 

“Boy,” she said with an attempt at humor, “I thought I was the only open-all-night vamp bar in this town.”

 

“Comes with the territory,” her boyfriend said shortly as he pulled his sleeves down and fastened them.  “No big deal.”

 

He dropped a quick kiss on the top of her head and hastily left the room, promising to check back with her later to see how her mother was doing.

 

Giles stared after him thoughtfully, but chose not to say anything to Buffy about his suspicions just then.  He did mention as casually as he could to the other Scoobies that they probably should keep their doors locked and be careful who they invited in for awhile.  He hoped he managed to make his point without actually coming out and saying that he wanted them to be careful of Riley.

 

 

Once Dawn was safely at school, Buffy decided to head for the Magic Box and do some training.  They hadn’t seen Glory for a while and she was worried that she wouldn’t be ready if and when the hell-god appeared again.

 

She was surprised to find Giles deeply involved in a conversation with Spike.  The conversation stopped abruptly when she walked in and the vampire walked over to her to ask, “How’s your mum, love?  The Watcher says they got the nasty thing all out?”

 

She smiled at him warmly and nodded.  “Yeah, Ben—uh—Dr. Lewis, says she’ll be fine after a couple of weeks’ rest.  Guess you’ll be taking care of her now,” she teased.

 

“No problem, pet,” he said seriously.  “Whatever she needs. I’ll run by the gallery tonight and take care of the stuff that came in.  Tell her not to worry.”

 

Their conversation was interrupted by the bell over the door, and Buffy watched as Spike melted back into the shadows in the back of the store.  She turned to see Riley come in and looked at him in surprise.

 

“What are you doing here?  I thought you had to work today and wouldn’t be around until tonight.”

 

“I, uh, took the day off.  Thought maybe I’d come help you get back in shape.  For fighting vampires and things,” he added unnecessarily.

 

The way her Watcher was looking at him was making him uncomfortable, and he pulled Buffy into the training room and away from the man’s speculative gaze.

 

While Buffy and Riley indulged in some half-hearted sparring, Giles went to the back of the store where the vampire was hiding.

 

“Are you absolutely sure, Spike?” Giles demanded, continuing their previously interrupted conversation.

 

“Know what I saw, Watcher.  Weren’t the first time either, I’ll wager.”

 

“How could the man be so stupid!” Giles blew out an exasperated breath.  “As though Buffy didn’t have enough on her plate as it is.”

 

“My thinkin’ exactly,” Spike said smugly.

 

Giles shot him a hard look and said, “You know, if I hadn’t seen the marks myself, I’d be sure you were making this up just to cause trouble between them.”

 

“Trust me, Watcher, I wish I had nothin’ better to do than to make up stuff about that wanker.  Not sayin’ I don’t want him gone. Jus’ sayin’ he’s makin’ it awful easy for me.”

 

“Well, as long as he’s here, we—I’d—better take the bull by the horns.” Giles turned and headed for the training room, shaking his head at the stupidity of the younger man.

 

When he opened the door, Buffy had just thrown Riley into the mats and ran to him to apologize.

 

“I’m sorry, Riley,” she said as he winced and rubbed his chest.  “I just forgot you weren’t....”

 

“You forgot I wasn’t as strong as you anymore,” he said with more than a little bitterness.  “Yeah, I got that last night.  I suppose you’d rather be sparring with Spike,” he sneered at her.

 

Buffy blinked at him, a hurt expression on her face.  The only thing keeping her anger at bay was the knowledge that he was right.  She woul have preferred to be sparring with Spike.

 

Making one more attempt to soothe his feelings, she said,  “Riley, you never were as strong as me.  I just didn’t used to have to worry so much about hurting you....” Her voice trailed off as his face darkened and she realized she’d just made it much worse.

 

“That’s right.  I keep forgetting.  You don’t really need me, do you?  For anything.  Why do you keep me around?”

 

“Good question, Slayer,” came a drawl from the doorway.  “Why do you?”

 

Buffy and the soldier whirled simultaneously to glare at the lean vampire lounging against the doorjamb.

 

“Spike...” Buffy began, as she started toward him, only to be interrupted by Riley as he snarled, “She doesn’t need advice from a vampire.” His voice dripped with contempt and venom.  “There’s nothing a blood sucker could offer...”

 

“That right, soldier-boy?”  Spike said, meeting Riley’s eyes with a cold stare.  “You sure blood-suckers have nothin’ to offer?”

 

The bigger man froze in place, trying to process Spike’s words as well as the innuendo behind them.  He turned away and shook his head saying, “I’ve got nothing to say to you, Spike. Get out of here.”

 

Buffy was so busy staring back and forth between the two men, trying desperately to understand the obvious undercurrent in the room, that she hadn’t noticed her watcher’s approach until he was right up next to them.  Forcing Riley to look him in the eye, he ordered, in his best Ripper voice, “I want you to take your shirt off, Riley.”

 

When the other man just stood there, staring at him, he added in a deadly tone, “Now.”

 

“Do as he says, wanker,” the vampire added as he glided into the room, moving like the deadly predator that he was.  “Let’s see what you got under there.”

 

Once again Buffy was the bewildered onlooker to a three-way conversation between her watcher, a vampire, and the man she was supposed to be dating.

 

“What are they talking about this time, Riley?” she asked with an edge to her voice that clearly indicated she wasn’t going to be put off.

 

“Nothing, they’re talking about nothing,” he mumbled as he edged toward the door.  Giles moved quickly to block the exit, bringing a well-used fighting staff out from behind his back when the soldier looked as though he was going to try to go by him.

 

While inwardly Spike was fuming at the knowledge that he couldn’t actually hurt the larger man, he allowed none of that to show as he went into game face and backed the watcher up.

 

Deciding she’d had enough of the cryptic, and more than enough of the stand-off now taking place, Buffy walked up to Riley and ripped the shirt off his back.  She gasped when she saw that his arms, chest and shoulders were covered with vampire bites in various stages of healing.

 

“Riley?  Wha-?”  She looked from her watcher to her boyfriend in dismay and bewilderment.

 

“Yes, Riley,” Giles asked calmly and coldly, “What exactly have you been doing to have accumulating all these bites?”

 

“Riley?” Buffy raised a tentative hand toward a scar just over his left nipple. “What happened?  Did you stumble into a nest?  How did you get so many bites?   And why aren’t you dead?”  She looked back and forth between the three men again, correctly reading from the tension between them that Giles and Spike knew the answers to her questions.

 

Riley stared back at her, anguish warring with anger as he tried to think of an explanation that wouldn’t mean the end to their relationship.  He stepped toward her, ignoring the growl from the vampire, and said hesitantly,  “Buffy, can’t we talk about this... privately?  Somewhere quiet where I can explain—”

 

“She’s not going anywhere with you,” Giles said in a voice that brooked no argument.  “You tell her or we will.”

 

The watcher’s inclusion of Spike was all it took to tip the balance from anguish to anger, and Riley’s face changed as he snapped at Buffy, “I got them from something that needed me, Buffy.  I got what I needed and she got what she needed.  An equal exchange.  Not something you’d know anything about!”

 

Buffy’s eyes filled with tears at his words, but she held them back as she tried to understand what he was saying.

 

“I... I don’t understand.  Did you let a vampire bite you?  Why would you do that?”

 

“Your vampire does things for you, mine does things for me.  What’s the big deal?”  He sneered at her shocked face.

 

“The big deal, you ignorant bastard, is that ‘Buffy’s vampire’ isn’t drinking from her and she’s in no danger of being killed or turned.  I’m not putting her or her family at risk.” Spike’s eyes were amber daggers aimed at the other man.

 

“I don’t understand,” she said, trying to control the tremble in her voice. “Where did you find a vampire that wouldn’t try to drain you?”  She looked at her watcher in confusion

 

“In a vamp whorehouse.” Spike’s cold, even tone belied the jumble of emotions he was suppressing.  He was shaking with the need to hurt the blustering young man the way he was obviously hurting Buffy, but Giles’ hand on his arm and the knowledge that he wouldn’t get more than one punch in before the chip incapacitated him, kept him from following his instincts.  The horrified look on Buffy’s face pleased his demon, at the same time that his heart ached for her.

 

“A what?” She looked back at her boy friend and cringed when she saw the truth on his face.  “Riley, how could you?  I don’t understand... I thought you loved me...”

 

Riley looked back at her defiantly,  “I did... do... love you, Buffy.  But you don’t need me.  I’m just another human to you. Something for you to protect.” His face collapsed and he shuddered as he said,  “I’m sorry, Buffy.  I never meant to...” He turned, pushed past Giles and ran from the room.  They heard the bell jangle as the door to the shop opened and shut behind the ex-commando.

 

Buffy sank to the floor with her head in her hands, letting the tears she hadn’t wanted to shed in front of her former lover fall. 

 

“I did this?  Is that what he’s saying?  I made him feel so inadequate that he....” She raised tear-filled eyes and looked back and forth between Giles and Spike. “This is my fault.”

 

            Spike’s “Bloody hell!” was muffled by the roar from her watcher as he pulled her to her feet.

 

            “This is not your fault!  None of it.  The miserable prat made his own choices and for him to use his relationship with you as an excuse is unforgivable.”  He shook her gently and forced her to look at him.

 

            “Do you hear me, Buffy?  This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with Riley’s inability to deal with the loss of the enhancements that were killing him.  I will not have you adding that man’s inadequacies to your burdens.”

 

            She looked back at her surrogate father with dull eyes, then dropped her gaze and nodded slowly.

 

            “All right, Giles.  I’ll try not to think about it.  Just another crash in the ongoing train wreck that is Buffy’s love life.”

 

            She was looking down as she spoke, and missed the pain that shot across Spike’s face at her statement.  When he was sure she was not going to begin crying again, Giles let go of her shoulders and turned away saying, “We need to let everyone know that Riley has become someone to avoid.  Just in case he...” He didn’t bother to finish his thought.  They all knew the dangerous path Riley was choosing.

 

            Buffy drew a deep breath and mentally shook herself.  “Okay, now then. Would someone please explain to me what a vamp whorehouse is, and why anyone would go to one?” 

 

            She looked back and forth between Spike and her watcher to see which one was going to fill in the gap in her knowledge of vampires.  Giles looked studiously at the floor and cleared his throat several times.  When he took off his glasses for the third time, Spike burst out, “Oh for... I’ll do it, Watcher.  You go make your phone calls.”

 

            Giles gratefully left the room, leaving Buffy staring at Spike expectantly.

 

            “What do you want to know, love?” he asked with a sigh.

 

            “Uh – why? How?”

 

            “The why is easy – some vamps just don’t have the ability or desire to stalk and kill their food.  They’re lazy, or dumb or jus’ not very inclined to kill. But they have to have blood to live, so they have to find a way to make humans want to let ‘em drink. 

 

            “A lot of humans like takin’ chances.  They enjoy walkin’ on the wild side and they seek out vamps for sex... and other things.”  Buffy raiser her eyebrows, but he shook his head and said,  “You don’t want to know, pet. Trust me.”

 

            “So, they find these vamps who won’t hunt and pay them for sex and to drink from them?”  She shuddered and added, “Why would you pay someone to hurt you like that?”

 

            Spike smiled briefly and muttered almost under his breath, “Some things can hurt really good, Slayer.  Remind me to show you sometime.”

 

            She glared at him and he smirked back at her.  In spite of the disgusted look she was giving him, he heard her heart rate go up slightly and got a quick glimpse of curiosity before her face closed again.

 

            “You’re saying it feels good to get bitten?  Hey, been there, done that, not fun.”

 

            “Well, I don’t know about the bite, love. But the blood pullin’? Can have some interestin’ side effects.  Interestin’ enough for some humans to become addicted to it.”

 

            “Side effects?”

 

            “It enhances the sensation – if you get my drift.”

 

            Buffy frowned for a second, then her eyebrows shot up.  “Oh!  Oh my.”

 

            “Yeah,” he said with a genuine smile.  “Oh my.  For both parties.”

 

            There was silence while Buffy digested the new things she was learning about vampires.

 

            “Why didn’t Giles teach me this stuff?” she demanded.  “I should know about... things. It’s my job.”

 

            Spike laughed, “I suspect old Rupert would choke on his tea before he’d tell his Slayer that gettin’ bit by a vamp could get her off.  Don’t know why you didn’t know about the house, though.  Would have thought you’d run across it at some point.”

 

            She gave him another piercing look.  “How did you know about it?”

 

            “Demon, love, remember?  Everybody knows where it is and who works there.”

 

            “So, these vampires don’t kill anyone?  They just...”

 

            “They take what’s willingly given.  No more, no less.  Most of the time, anyway.”

 

            Most of the time?”

 

            He shrugged. “Accidents happen.  Somebody gets carried away and takes too much.  Usually they’ll just turn the victim.  Out of guilt or somethin’, I guess.”

 

            “So, Riley could get turned if he keeps going there?” 

 

            “Could happen.  ‘S why the Watcher and I decided to confront him.  He was putting you and yours in danger.”  His eyes flashed yellow as he thought about how reckless the soldier had been.

 

            She looked at Spike speculatively.  “So, when you got chipped – do you think you could have gotten blood that way?  Would the chip fire if you weren’t trying to hurt the person?”

 

            He stared at her with his mouth open. “Are you askin’ me if I’d sell myself for blood?  If I’d….” He stopped his indignant tirade when he saw her raise her eyebrows.  “Well, hell yes, if I could’ve found a willing donor, I would have.  Would have tried it, anyway. Don’t know what the soddin’ chip would do.”  He looked at her from beneath his eyelashes and shuffled his feet. 

           

            “Wouldn’t have sold myself, though.  Would’ve had to be somebody I actually wanted to...  Anyway, I’m a master vampire.  I couldn’t be seen in a bite-whorehouse with all the misfits and weaklings.  I’da starved first.”

 

            “You almost did, if I remember right,” she snarked at him.

 

            “Yeah,” he said softly.  “But I came to the right place for help, didn’t I?”

 

            “I guess you did,” she answered slowly.  She raised her eyes to his.  “I’m glad you came to us, Spike.”

 

            He glided closer to her and reached out to push a piece of hair off her face. “So am I, love.  So am I.”

 

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

            Spike offered to drive Buffy and Dawn to the hospital that evening, so they finished eating and waited patiently for the sun to go down.  As soon as it was getting to be dusk, the vampire appeared at the door and took the keys to the SUV from Buffy.

 

            The Slayer stuck out her lower lip and groused at him,  “Contrary to what you and my mother think, I am perfectly capable of driving her car.”  Over her head Dawn and Spike exchanged eyerolls as they walked to the vehicle.

 

            “Uh, Buffy?  Mom was pretty clear about not wanting to have to fix any more dents in car.”

 

            “That last one was not my fault!”

 

 She stuck her lower lip out even further, tempting Spike to shock Dawn by taking it in his teeth and sucking on it.  Instead, he leaned over to whisper in her ear that if she didn’t stop pouting, he was going to bite her lip off.

 

“I am not pouting!” she insisted.  “I’m just saying, I got my license and everything and everybody still acts like I can’t drive a car.  It’s not fair.”

 

“You still can’t drive a car,” her sister said primly as she climbed into the back seat.

 

Spike laughed at Buffy’s half-hearted swat at her sister and ran around to hold the door for her on the passenger side.   Tossing her head and ignoring the weirdness of having Spike hold a car door for her, she got into the front seat and turned around to stick her tongue out at Dawn.  Spike slid into the driver’s seat and immediately began punching buttons on the radio until he came to something he liked.

 

The short ride to the hospital was a welcome respite from the drama and worry of the past week.  Buffy and Spike squabbled over which radio stations to play, Dawn disagreed with both of them and they arrived at the hospital laughing and flushed.

 

When Spike walked into the waiting area with Dawn and Buffy, not one of the Scoobies batted an eye. Even Xander didn’t bother to say anything derogatory.  It was apparent that Giles had filled them in on Riley’s evening activities and they all looked at Buffy uncomfortably, not sure what to say.  Finally, Willow stepped up and put her hand sympathetically on Buffy’s arm.

 

“Riley’s a poophead, Buffy.  Are you okay?”

 

“I will be,” her friend answered wryly.  “Kinda getting used to the whole ‘poophead’ boyfriend thing.”

 

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Spike clench his jaw, and she shot him an apologetic look.  As soon as she got a chance she sidled over to him and whispered,  “You can be my boyfriend, and take a chance on turning into a poophead, or not.  You decide.”

 

She moved away quickly, blushing at her own impulsive words, so missed the look of absolute wonder on his face as he stared after her.  The vampire was frozen in place and wordless for so long that Xander finally asked him, “Hey, bloodsucker.  Are you still with us?”

 

“Was jus’ thinkin’, Harris.  Not somethin’ you’re overly familiar with, I know.”

 

“Well I sure don’t expect to see it from you.  Nothing good can come of it, I’m sure.”

 

Mutual insults taken care of, the two settled down away from the chattering women who, in a show of support for Buffy, were busy trashing everything male.

 

When they were finally allowed in to see Joyce, only immediate family was allowed into the room, so the others had to settle for peering in the door and waving.  It was obvious that Joyce was not aware of much going on around her and the Scoobies soon left, telling Buffy they would come back the next day when her mom was awake.

 

Once the large group was gone, Spike slipped unnoticed into the room and stood quietly behind Buffy’s chair as she held her mother’s unresponsive hand and talked to her softly.  When he heard a small quaver in her voice as she talked about not worrying about the gallery, he touched her gently on the shoulder.  Forgetting Dawn was in the room, Buffy reached up and gave his hand a grateful squeeze, then looked up to see her sister staring at them with eyes like saucers.

 

While Buffy went brain dead with dismay, Spike winked at Dawn and leaned down to kiss Buffy on the cheek.  Instead of the shock and horror Buffy expected to see on her sister’s face, there was just delight and just a slight flash of jealousy before Dawn squealed and said, “You two?  How totally cool!”

 

“Think it probably isn’t something to be spreading around right now, Nibblet, Let’s jus’ keep it in the family for a while, okay?”

 

Dawn looked disappointed that she couldn’t run out and tell her friends that her sister was dating a vampire, but managed to get a grip on her enthusiasm and agreed to keep it quiet.

 

“So, does this mean you two are going to be having sex in Buffy’s room while Mom’s in the hospital?  Cause the walls are kinda thin and hearing that could scar me for life...”

 

“Dawn!” Buffy was scarlet from head to toe and went from glaring at her sister to frantic glances at her mother.  She sincerely hoped Joyce was unable to hear anything going on around her.

 

“What?  It’s not like I don’t know what it is, you know.  And Spike is, like, really hot and he loves you, so—”

 

“Dawn! Stop. Now!”  Buffy’s glare had gone from embarrassed to just really angry Slayer and her sister finally stopped her excited questions for the time being.

 

Spike was laughing so hard he could hardly stand up and Buffy included him in her glare as she got to her feet and prepared to leave.  She threw a half-hearted punch at his head, but her lips were quirking as she resisted the urge to smile and him and her equally amused sister.

 

“We’ll just see how funny this is to you two when it turns out Mom was awake and heard everything you said,” she grumbled as they headed for the door.  “And I will be reminding her it wasn’t me who brought up the subject of sex.”

 

As they left the room, none of them noticed the small smile that touched the mouth of the sedated woman on the bed, but she drifted back to sleep comfortable that her daughters were being well cared for.

 

 

CHAPTER NINE

 

Spike dropped Buffy and Dawn off at their house, then continued over to the gallery to check on the shipments and try to get them out of the floor.  Joyce’s employees were used to seeing him come and go in the evenings and didn’t question his right to be there when he came in and began opening crates.

 

Before they left for the evening, Spike got them to promise to display everything that he got unpacked and inventoried during the night.  He promised he would place the heavier objects on the floor, leaving them to present the smaller ones. 

 

When he had finished his work and checked the books, he slipped quietly out the back, locking the door behind him.  Satisfied that he had done as much as he could for one night, he headed back toward Revello drive, not sure what he would find there, but knowing it was where he needed to be.

 

He arrived just in time to see an irate Riley Finn banging on the front door while a terrified Dawn stood on the other side, refusing to let him in.  In a second, Spike was on the porch and standing between the much larger man and the door.

 

“Havin’ trouble understandin’ the word, ‘No’ again, are you, wanker?” he growled threateningly.

 

The ex-commando drew himself up to his full height as he glared down at the lean blond. 

 

“Get out of my way, Spike,” he blustered.  “I need to see Buffy and I’m going in there.”

 

“She’s not here!” Dawn shrieked.  “I told you that already. She went on patrol.”

 

“I’ll just come in and wait for her,” he said firmly.  “Let me in, Dawn.”

 

“Don’t do it, Nibblet,” Spike said quickly as he suddenly realized what was off about the tall man.  “The wanker doesn’t have a heartbeat anymore.”

 

Riley dropped all pretense of being human and slipped into a vampire’s ridged face.

 

“That’s right. I don’t.  I’m also just as strong as you are now – and you’re still chipped.”  He leaped at Spike as he finished speaking, only to find himself flying through the air off the porch and on to the sidewalk. 

 

As he rose to his feet, Spike was swaggering toward him, landing a hard right on the fledgling vamp’s jaw as he ground out, “Number one – You have been a vampire for less than a day, while I,” he punctuated with another fist to the face,  “have been around well over a hundred years.  You aren’t even close to being as strong as I am yet.”  For emphasis, he threw Riley into a large tree, then pulled him up and punched him again as he continued, “Number two – the chip doesn’t work on demons, you stupid git.  So I can hurt you all I want.”

 

With a roundhouse kick to the chest he sent the larger vampire back to the ground as he growled, “And trust me, I really, really want.”  As he advanced on the now cringing fledgling, he sensed Buffy and looked away for a second to see where she was. As soon as he wasn’t glaring at the other vampire, Riley leaped to his feet and ran off into the darkness.

 

With a snarl, Spike went to run after him, but a small hand on his arm stopped him.

 

“No, Spike, let him go.  This is my problem and I should deal with it.  He’ll be back and I’ll stake him then.” 

 

He looked at her carefully but could see no sign of anything except acceptance and resignation on her face.

 

 I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let her do that to herself again.  She liked the big git, even if she wasn’t in love with him like she thought.  I’m gonna see to it that he’s a pile of farm dust before she ever has to.

 

“Alright, love.  But if I see him first, or if he’s threatening the Nibblet again....”

 

‘It’s my mess, Spike,” she said firmly.  “I’ll clean it up.”

 

“Bloody fuckin’ hell, Buffy!  Didn’t you listen to anything Rupert said to you?  That soddin’ prat’s inadequacies are not your fault! “ 

 

He stopped yelling and stared at her, breathing hard and unnecessarily.  He softened his look and his tone.

 

“Let me do this for you, love.  You don’t need to hurt yourself like that.  If you don’t want me to do it, ask your watcher.”

 

“It’s my job, Spike,” she growled at him.

 

Suddenly he remembered how angry it made her when Riley tried to impinge upon her slayer duties and he raised his hands in surrender.

 

“Alright, love.  Wasn’t tryin’ to get in your business.  Jus’ tryin’ to spare you some unnecessary emotional pain.”

 

Buffy’s shoulders slumped and she leaned against him in apology. “I didn’t mean to yell at you, Spike.  I know you wanted to spare me.  But, hey, comes with the territory, you know?  I learned very early in my Slayer career that I had to be prepared to slay somebody I cared about it if they became dangerous....” Her voice trailed off and he knew she was thinking of Angelus and how he’d killed her watcher’s girlfriend when she couldn’t bring herself to kill him the first time they fought.

 

He wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head.

 

“It’s okay, love.  I know you can do it.  I just hate to see you unhappy.  Makes me say and do stupid things.”

 

Even as he petted her and assured her that he would not interfere, he was vowing to himself that Riley was going to disappear long before the Slayer was able to find and kill him.

 

 I‘ll talk to the watcher tomorrow.  Maybe between the two of us we can make this go away.

 

 

 

Chapter Ten

 

Buffy pulled back reluctantly and started toward the house.  She looked back over her shoulder at Sike and asked,  “Are you coming in?”

 

Looking at Dawn’s still-frightened face, he nodded his head and jumped up onto the porch.

 

“Yeah, I’ll come in for awhile.  Make sure you two are all tucked in and the house is all locked up before I—”

 

“I meant are you staying tonight?” 

 

She looked him right in the eye and waited for his reaction. He just stared at her for several seconds, stunned that she would ask that in front of Dawn and wondering desperately if he had misunderstood her.  When he saw the big grin on Dawn’s face, he relaxed and moved toward Buffy, tilting his head to one side as he studied her face.

 

“If that’s what you want, Buffy.  You know I will.  I’ll stay as long as you need me to.”

 

“Could be a long time,” she said, stepping closer to him, her eyes still challenging him.

 

“I got time.” He met her look for look.  “I’m not goin’ anywhere.”

 

When she flinched at that, he thought back to what the men she’d had in her short life had done to her, and he followed her through the door to tip her chin up to look at him again.

 

“I’m not going anywhere, Buffy.  I promise you.  I will be here as long as you want or need me.  You or the Nibblet.  Or your mum, for that matter.  Won’t leave you.  Thought you might have figured that out by now,” he finished softly as he pulled her into his arms.

 

With a small sigh, the Slayer allowed herself to be held and cherished while her younger, but wise beyond her years, sister tiptoed up the stairs and locked herself in her bedroom for the night.

 

For once Buffy was able to enjoy the way their bodies seemed to fit together without feeling pangs of disloyalty toward Angel or Riley.  She tilted her face up toward him only to find his lips already on the way toward hers.  At first the gentle, tender pressure was just what she wanted, but as they stood there, bodies touching and mouths silently promising a new relationship between them, Buffy could feel the warmth the vampire always generated in her spreading throughout her body.

 

As her heart rate increased and her breathing became more noticeable, Spike’s own body reacted to her as it always did with his borrowed blood rushing to the rapidly hardening object pressed against Buffy’s stomach.  He remembered his promise to her not to push for a repeat of their mutual pleasuring until she had nothing else to worry about and he tried to rein in the desire that flooded his body.

 

When Buffy shifted her body slightly he caught a whiff of arousal from her and knew he could no longer pretend he was in control of himself.  With a groan, he lightly touched her lips with his tongue, running it around the outside of her mouth until her teeth parted and her own warm one came out to play.  Once again the vampire’s skillful kisses had Buffy melting against his body as her legs lost all ability to hold her up.

 

With her arms around his neck, and her fingers running through the soft hairs at the back of his neck, Buffy gave in to the sensations his hands were creating as he moved them around her body.  Using one arm to hold her to him tightly, Spike allowed his other hand to roam up and down her back, sliding under her shirt to feel her heated skin and causing her to shiver. He reached down and cupped the cheeks of her ass, grinding their pelvises together in an attempt to find relief for the throbbing in his cock.

 

Buffy was no longer willing or able to deny how badly she wanted to feel his naked body pressed to hers.  When his free hand slid around to gently cup a lace-covered breast, she moaned and arched into his hand as she wrapped one leg around his, pressing her warm, damp crotch into his thigh.  As she began rubbing her heated sex against his leg, Spike broke the kiss to growl into her neck, “Bloody hell, love, I know I promised, but you’re killlin’ me here.  Got to touch you, Buffy.  Got to taste you again. Please, love.  Just let me—”

 

Her response was to push him into the living room and onto the couch. He blinked up at her in surprise, not sure if she was rejecting him or not.  One look at her lust filled green eyes and the pink tongue licking her lips and he relaxed back onto the cushions.

 

 Baby wants to play, then.  I can do that.

 

Buffy looked at the lean, black-clad body sprawled in front of her and spoke her thoughts out loud. 

 

“Too many clothes!” she blurted.

 

“Wha-?”

 

She blushed furiously, but didn’t back down now that she’d said it.

 

“You have too many clothes on.  Take them off. Now.” 

 

She knew she sounded more like Sergeant Buffy than a woman in the throes of passion, but Spike didn’t seem to care.  He just smirked up at her and began to slowly pull his tee shirt off over his head.  As he did, his biceps flexed and his stomach was pulled in, allowing a brief glimpse of a line of soft, dark blond curls disappearing into the waistband of his jeans.

 

Buffy’s eyes were going back and forth from his muscular arms, to his flat stomach and up to his now-exposed chest.  As soon as he had dropped his shirt on the floor, Spike’s hands went to the button on his jeans and Buffy’s eyes were immediately riveted on their slow progress in unbuttoning his pants and lowering the zipper.  She gave an unconscious whimper when he stopped unzipping and leaned forward to take off his boots.

 

With her view now blocked, Buffy came somewhat to her senses and she reached for the curtains, pulling them closed against any eyes that might be spying on the Slayer’s house.  She also turned off the lamp in the living room so that the only light was coming from the hallway and the kitchen.

 

A sound from the couch brought her attention back to the vampire just in time to watch him slowly pushing his pants down over his hips and thighs.  She gasped unintentionally when his erect cock was freed to bob against his stomach. 

 

 Woo, hoo!  I almost forgot how big that thing is!

 

She gulped audibly and swallowed hard, lifting her eyes quickly to his face only to see him looking at her with great amusement.  She blushed again when he stood up to let his jeans drop to the floor and said, “See anything you like, love?”

 

He ran his hands down his body from his chest to his groin, then raised his arms over his head in a stretch that flexed every muscle he had.  Buffy knew he was teasing her, laughing at the combination of embarrassment and lust he could read on her face.

 

 All right, Fangface, two can play at this game. Let’s see what it takes to make you start begging again.

 

With a sultry smile that she hoped disguised her nervous thoughts, she softly ordered him, “Lie back down on the couch, Spike.”   The sight of his pale, lean body stretched out on the sofa almost made her forget her plan when her hands stretched, seemingly of their own accord, toward that exposed smooth skin.

 

With a little mental shake, Buffy reminded herself of what she wanted to do to him.  She was helped by the cocky expression on his face as he watched her snatch her hands back from their attempt to touch him.

 

Instead of joining him on the sofa as he clearly expected, she stepped back and gave her own lengthy stretch, accompanied by small sounds of pleasure as she worked her muscles.  She tried not to grin as she noticed Spike’s cocky look being replaced by puzzled lustfulness.

 

She slowly pulled her tank top off over her head, pausing with it just in front of her face, knowing that position was pushed her breasts together and making them appear larger than they actually were.  She tried to avoid looking at Spike’s face as she finished taking off the shirt and tossed it over his head. 

 

From the corner of her eye she saw him snatch it off his face so that he could watch as she unhooked her bra and dropped it to the floor, sighing with relief as she took it off.  She stretched up again, then pulled her arms behind her back to stretch her pectoral muscles.  She ran her hands up her rib cage and cupped her breasts briefly, rubbing a thumb across the nipples as she pretended to study them for a second.

 

She ignored the strangled sound that came from the now very focused vampire as she undid the snap on her stylish, but Slaying-friendly, stretch jeans and turned her back on him as she shimmied them off her hips and to the floor. She heard him growl when she bent over to pull them off her feet, exposing her smooth, rounded butt cheeks to his view.  She peeked back over her shoulder and smirked at him, wiggling her ass at him as she did so.

 

“Get that luscious arse back over here, Slayer,” he growled at her, his eyes devouring her from head to toe.  He licked his lips in anticipation of touching the smooth golden skin now exposed to him.  His eyes were such a dark blue they appeared black as he raked them over curves.

 

“Are you giving me orders, vampire?” she asked sweetly, dropping her thong just out of his reach.  “Cause, you know I don’t follow them very well, don’t you?”

 

With another loud groan, he fell back against the cushions and lifted his hands in surrender.

 

“You win, love.  Whatever you want.  I give up.  Just get back over here where I can touch you... please, Buffy?  Please, love?  Before I spontaneously combust!”

 

With a triumphant smile, she approached the begging vampire and leaned down to whisper softly,  “I like it when you beg.  It makes me feel all...” Her voice trailed off as she gave in to her own desires and ran her hands over his smooth, muscular chest and down his hard abdomen until she her fingers were entwined in the crisp curls at the base of his shaft.

 

She gave it a quick lick with her tongue, but before she could do anything else, she was yanked up and on top of the vampire.  The feel of his cool bare skin against her heated softness was enough to make both Slayer and vampire gasp in pleasure.  Buffy pressed herself against him as hard as she could, trying to ensure that every piece of bare flesh was in contact with his.

 

Spike was clutching her to him, grateful that her Slayer body could take the pressure he was putting on it. When she wriggled against him in an attempt to touch more skin, he gasped and arched up into her, pushing his hips against hers and allowing his cock to slip between her thighs.

 

“Let me in, love,” he begged softly, no longer caring how much of a ponce he appeared to be as long as he could bury himself in her warmth.  “Let me feel you around me.  Let me love you, Buffy.  Want you so bad... need to feel you... love you...”

 

The touch of Spike’s eager cock pushing against her clit brought home to Buffy just what she was doing.  For a wrenching second, she started to recoil, fear of what would happen if she let the vampire love her almost taking over.  Then she remembered his impassioned speech about having no soul to lose and his vow that he was not like Angel/Angelus in any way and she gave in to the urgings of her body and opened her legs to allow him entrance.

 

The look on his face when he felt himself nudging into her was enough to justify Buffy’s decision.  She’d never seen that same expression of absolute awe and adoration on the face of any of her previous lovers.  She barely had time to be grateful that Spike didn’t have any happiness clauses to worry about, before the pure physical pleasure of being slowly filled by his cool, thick length drove all coherent thoughts out of her head.

 

They gave matching sighs of contentment when he was fully buried in her and they could both feel how perfect the fit was.  Buffy felt completed for the first time in her short life.  It felt like his body was designed to fit with hers in a way to give her the most pleasure.

 

Spike was close to losing consciousness at the overwhelming sensation of being buried inside Buffy’s tight, slick warmth.  Her scent, the pounding of the blood in her veins, the sound of her heartbeat and her warm breath on his neck all conspired to render him immobile.

 

Could dust now, happily.  I’ll never be this close to heaven ever again.  This is my heaven. My world.  Never want to leave here.

 

When Buffy began to slowly squeeze her slayer enhanced muscles around him, he quickly snapped out of his happy daze and remembered that it could get better and, in fact, was already doing so.

 

Keeping up a steady murmur in her ear about how wonderful she was and how good she felt, he began to slowly move his hips, being sure to thrust just a little harder at the end of each stroke so that his pubic bone generated pressure on her clit.  He was rewarded by her steady whimpers and gasps as their pace picked up until he was thrusting harder and harder into her as she wrapped her ankles around his back and pulled him in even harder.

 

When Buffy’s whimpers and gasps changed to panting chanting of his name, he couldn’t prevent his demon from emerging to lick the side of her neck.  With a final shriek of “Spike!” Buffy clenched around him and threw her head back, baring her throat to his fangs.  With a muffled roar, he exploded inside her, at the same time allowing his sharp canines to penetrate the soft skin on her neck.

 

Buffy screamed again, as another, more powerful orgasm shook her body and she reveled in the feel of her blood flowing into his mouth.  She came down from the heady high to find him licking softly at the bite wounds, which were already healing even as they collapsed against each other in completion.

 

The Slayer in her wanted to yell at him for daring to touch her with his teeth, but the best she could manage was a very un-slayerly, “You bit me, Spike. Why did you bite me?”

 

He rolled off of her with a sigh, eliciting another whimper from both of them as his temporarily flaccid cock slid out of her. 

 

“I’m really sorry, love.  I had no idea that was gonna happen.  Thought I had more control than that.  Not around you, I guess,” he added ruefully, kissing her forehead apologetically.

 

She raised up slightly, leaning on her elbow and tracing circles on his chest with her finger.

 

“Why didn’t your chip fire?”

 

He looked up at her and asked with a worried frown,  “Did I hurt you?”

 

“What? No, it didn’t hurt... it felt....” She stopped and blushed as she remembered her body’s reaction to the bite.

 

He laughed softly at her obvious embarrassment and said, “Don’t you remember our conversation about why humans would seek out vamps to bite them?”

 

Her eyes widened in sudden understanding.  “Oh my god!  No wonder Riley—” She blushed again and put her face down against his neck.  “I can’t compete with something like that!”

 

She shocked to feel Spike begin to tremble and looked up to see his demon fully emerged and snarling.

 

“There is no excuse for that soddin’ prat to have needed anything more than you could give him!  I didn’t mean to bite you, and if I never had, it still would have been the best shag of my life.  He was an arse and he got what was comin’ to him for doin’ that to you.”

 

The vampire was taking rapid, unnecessary breaths as he tried to calm down and force the demon back.  When he finally relaxed into his human face and Buffy could once again see his beautiful blue eyes staring at her, she leaned forward and nuzzled him gently.

 

“Okay.  Calm down.  I was just surprised by it, that’s all.  I had forgotten what you told me about the biting during sex.”

 

“Didn’t mean to do that to you, pet,” he mumbled.  “I’m sorry.  Won’t happen again.”

 

He stoked her silky hair, not seeing the look of dismay on her face.

 

“So, you didn’t want me to feel that?  You wouldn’t do it again if I asked you?”  She looked up at him with a small frown and the beginning of a pout.

 

He pulled back to look at her in astonishment.

 

“Has your watcher taught you nothing about vampire mating rituals, Slayer? D’you have any idea what you’d be askin’ for?”

 

Buffy frowned more intently and said somewhat sharply, “I wouldn’t be asking you to turn me, you moron.  Just to... But if you don’t want to, that’s fine. I can deal,” she huffed.

 

Instead of responding to her aggrieved comments immediately, he took her face in both hands and captured her lips with his, kissing her until she was moaning against his mouth and reaching for his hardened cock.   When they broke for air and he could once again speak, he put his forehead against hers and shut his eyes as he said grimly, “Don’t ever think that I don’t want to bite you, Buffy. I’ve wanted to bite you from the first time I saw you – and not just because I wanted you dead.”

 

He sucked in an unnecessary breath of air as her warm hand wrapped around him and squeezed tightly.  

 

“Then why wouldn’t you do it again?” she demanded, pulling on his cock at the same time.

 

“Ungh!” he gasped as he pushed into her hand.  His eyes rolled back in his head as he lay back against the pillows and reveled in the feel of her hands on his cock.  “Buffy, Slayer, like that, love.  Oh yeah! Oh fuck, Buffy.  Stop, love, stop... don’t stop, don’t ever stop, Slayer, Buffy.  Buffy!”

 

He grabbed her hands and with a supreme effort of will, he stopped her vigorous attentions to his cock before he exploded in her hands. He held on to her hands, breathing hard and trying to calm himself before he let go.

 

“Jesus, pet.  What are you tryin’ to do to me?” he groaned.  “You could have had a real mess on your hands in another couple of seconds.”

 

“I’m trying to get an answer from you,” she pouted.  “You ignored my question.”

 

“There was a question?” he asked in all sincerity. His brain was still trying to deal with what she’d been doing with her hands. “What was it?”

 

“The question,” she growled, “is why wouldn’t you bite me again if it makes the... you know... so much better.  Don’t you want it to be good for me?  Didn’t biting me make it good for you?”  Her voice became tinged with just a little uncertainty.  “Didn’t you like biting me?  Don’t I taste good to you?”

 

His eyes flew open and he stared at her, completely bewildered.  When he realized she was seriously questioning his reaction to making love to her, he sat them both up and took her hands in his.  He swung his legs over so that his feet were on the floor and she was sitting astride his lap.  Without thinking, she lowered herself onto his rigid cock and wrapped her legs around him.

 

He grinned at her wryly for a moment and said, “Wanted to have a serious conversation about this, love, but you’re not makin’ it easy on me.”

 

“Go ahead,” she demanded.  “Converse.  I’m listening.”

 

As she spoke, she clenched her muscles around him and smiled when he groaned.  Then her eyes went wide and she yelped in surprise when he twitched inside her, nudging a sensitive spot she hadn’t known was there.

 

“Stop that!” she said indignantly.

 

“I will if you will, you evil woman,” he growled at her.  “We need to talk about this now and if I have to put clothes back on both of us to make it happen, I will,” he threatened.

 

Buffy blinked at him and realized he was deadly serious. 

 

“Okay,” she said softly, “I’m sorry. Tell me what I need to know.” She stayed where she was on his lap, but held still and waited expectantly for him to explain.

 

“Right then,” he said with a sigh.  “Has Rupert told you anything about vampires and sex?”

 

“Um, other than, don’t do it with them?”

 

“Very funny.” He rolled his eyes at her.  “You already know about the... enhancing... effects of a bite during sex, and that a bite like that isn’t usually fatal and can be repeated.” Before she could say anything, he put a finger over her open lips and shook his head.  “That’s what happens when vamps are doing it for the free blood.  They have sex, bite, drink, and everybody goes home happy.” 

 

He took a deep, unnecessary breath and continued, “It’s a little more complicated than that when there are... feelings... involved.” He peered at her from under his dark lashes and she shifted uncomfortably as his love for her shone in his darkened eyes. 

 

“If I were to say I— the wrong thing… while I was drinkin’ from you, I’d be claiming you.  And if you should say... the wrong thing... at the same time, you’d be accepting the claim.”

 

Buffy frowned, both at his obvious avoidance of whatever was so dangerous to say and at herself for not paying more attention when Giles tried to teach her about vampire lore.  She struggled to remember what exactly a claiming ritual was intended to do.

 

“So, if you said this ‘wrong thing’ at the wrong time, you’d be what? My boyfriend?  What’s so awful about that?  I thought you wanted to be my boyfriend?”

 

The vampire gritted his teeth in annoyance.  “I’m a vampire, love, remember?  Immortal?” When she raised her eyebrow, he smiled sheepishly. “Well, ’less you dust me in a fit of temper one of these days.  Point is, a claim is much more than a boyfriend/girlfriend kinda thing. It’s more like a marriage. Sacred.  And, it’s forever. It ends when one of you is dead or dusty. “

 

“Oh,” she said in a small voice.  “I guess I shoulda paid more attention in Slayer-school, huh?”  She looked at him from behind a curtain of golden hair.

 

He pushed her hair out of her face and smiled at her.  “I’m sure you had no reason to think you’d have to worry about it someday, love.  And you won’t,” he said firmly.  “Not if I’m careful.  And I will be.  I promise you, sweetheart,” he finished.  “Would never do that to you.”

 

            As much as I might want to.  Know you don’t belong with the likes of me. Won’t try to hold you longer than you want to be here with me.

 

She studied him carefully for a full minute, then leaned in and kissed him softly.  “I trust you, Spike.  I’m not worried about it.”

 

“Good,” he said with an affectionate leer, “Cause I’ve got plans for you, Slayer.” 

 

As he spoke, he twitched his cock again, hitting the bundle of nerves he was looking for and watching her eyes go wide again. 

 

“Oooh,” she moaned and squeezed him hard. 

 

They were soon engaged in a competition to see which one would surrender first to the sensations they were creating using just the muscles that connected them so intimately.  An outside observer might have thought they were asleep as they sat facing each other, foreheads pressed together, eyes shut, each trying to be the last to give in to the rapidly building tension.  After minutes of complete immobility, they suddenly uttered matching moans and shuddered all over as their orgasms shook them out of the trance-like state they’d fallen in to.

 

They collapsed against each other, laughing and breathing hard as they rolled onto their sides on the couch.  Spike pulled the afghan up over Buffy’s relaxed body and they drifted off to sleep, still wrapped in each other’s arms.

 

Outside the small bungalow, a glowering set of amber eyes stared at the curtained window and a large vampire snarled.  He had seen Buffy shove the other vampire onto the couch and hoped briefly that she was angry enough to stake him.  When she pulled the curtains instead, he let his demon use his new senses to listen to their voices and Buffy’s heartbeat as the two lovers began to consummate their new relationship.

 

He listened long enough to be sure of what he was hearing, then ran off into the darkness snarling and planning his revenge on the vampire that had taken what was his.

 

 

Chapter Eleven

 

Spike felt Buffy moving beside him and tightened his grip on her waist. “Where d’you think you’re goin’, Slayer?”

 

She sighed and gave up any attempt to be stealthy.

 

“I’m going up to my room before Dawn wakes up and sees something she’ll be blackmailing me about forever,” she hissed at him.

 

He looked down at their entwined naked bodies and grinned. “Right, you are, pet.  There are some things the Nibblet just doesn’t need to learn about first hand.  Not from yours truly, anyway.”

 

He sat up and nuzzled her neck, licking the scabs over his bite wounds.  Buffy felt a jolt that went all the way from the bite marks to her womb, and she was instantly aroused and wet.

 

“What the hell...?”

 

“Side effect, love,” he growled into her neck.  “Has the same effect on me. Hell of an aphrodisiac, your blood.”

 

As he lowered his mouth to her breasts and sucked one rosy nipple in to tease with his tongue, she gasped out,  “No, Spike, we can’t.  It’s almost morning. Dawn will be...”

 

“Dawn sleeps like the living dead,” he mumbled around her nipple.  “We’ve got time.”

 

Deciding to rely on his inherent ability to know how close the sun was to rising, Buffy gave in to the warmth spreading throughout her body and arched up into his mouth, whimpering with need.

 

He rolled onto his back and lifted her hips up onto his, never breaking the suction on her nipple. One hand was holding the other breast and stroking that nipple so it wouldn’t feel neglected.  Buffy slid down his body until she could feel his rigid cock rubbing against her clit.  With a moan, she rubbed up and down on it until she was panting and moving so much he had to let her nipple go with a soft popping sound.

 

She gave a small whimper as he pulled her hips up and away from the wonderful friction she’d been creating, then gave a small shriek as he held her over his face and gently touched her with his tongue.  When he sucked her clit into his mouth and began pulling on it, she grabbed the arm of the couch to keep from screaming.  She felt the wood under the upholstery give as she clenched her fists around it and let the vampire bring her to orgasm after orgasm.  She was using her arms and her trembling thighs to hold herself suspended in place while he used his clever lips and tongue on her most sensitive parts.

 

When she was reduced to a limp, moaning body lying on top of him, Spike took pity on her and pushed her back down so that her face was near his.  He kissed her slack mouth and she could taste herself on him as his tongue probed hers until she responded to him.

 

When she was kissing him back with enthusiasm, he slid his cock into her and began to rock his hips slowly, allowing the pleasant tension to build as he thrust in and out. Thanking the PTB for slayer stamina and recovery time, Buffy began squeezing gently every time he pulled back to thrust again.  At his encouraging, “That’s it, love.  Don’t hold back. Give me everything you’ve got,” she began to increase the power she put into her squeezing and she soon had the vampire moaning and gasping as she used her muscles to milk him to his climax.

 

When he roared his completion this time, he fastened his lips around the marks on her neck and sucked hard, smothering the noise of his roar in her throat.  The pressure of his lips on her wound brought Buffy to another, totally unexpected orgasm and she sank her blunt teeth into his shoulder to muffle the scream.

 

“Love you so much, Buffy,” he mumbled into her neck as he licked the lightly bleeding holes in her neck.  His vigorous sucking had pulled the scabs off and he could feel the small amount of slayer blood invigorating his body.

 

When she hissed in fear and pulled back, he tried to ignore the pain that shot through him as he hastened to explain that he wasn’t trying to claim her.

 

“Didn’t say it while I was pulling on you, love.  Didn’t say or do anything possessive.  Know you’re not mine.  Not really.  Won’t say it to you.  Not without your permission.”

 

Buffy relaxed back against his chest and asked timidly, “What about if I say something... possessive... or— Not that I would!” she hastened to add at the look of pure joy that flashed across his face, followed by a quickly hidden disappointment.  “But what if I did?”

 

“Don’t really know, pet.” He tried to keep his voice even and unemotional. “Never heard of a human initiating a claim; let alone a Slayer.”  He looked at her thoughtfully. “Not like it’s somethin’ you need to think about doin’, Buffy.  I’m yours body and... well... if I had a soul, it would be yours.  You have me.  My body and my heart for as long as you want them. And probably for a lot longer than that, pet.  I’ll never leave you until you tell me to.”

 

“Why would I tell you to?” she asked in genuine confusion.  “I don’t want you to go away.”

 

“Someday you will, my love.  You’ll want to get married and have your own little nibblets.” He stroked her hair softly and moved a stray lock out of her eyes.  “When you retire from Slayin’, you won’t have any place in your life for a vampire.”

 

“Slayers don’t retire, Spike,” she said wryly.  “You told me yourself, we come with expiration dates.”

 

“Not you,” he said fiercely. “Not while I’m around.  There will be no expiring on my watch, Missy!”

 

Buffy decided the conversation was getting much too intense for a newly begun relationship.  Hoping to lighten the mood, she said teasingly, “You’re just afraid I’ll get all old and wrinkly and you don’t want to be around for that.”

 

He laughed at her and agreed softly, “Caught me out, pet.  Don’t want to be helpin’ you across streets when you’re doddering.”

 

She tossed her head and began to gather up her clothes.  She threw his pants to him and told him she’d see him that evening.

 

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

 

Giles, Buffy, Willow, Tara and Anya met in the Magic Box later in the morning.  Buffy filled them in on what had happened to Riley and the importance of being careful if they saw him anywhere.

 

Willow looked at Buffy with sympathy and asked, “Are you okay about this? ‘Cause, you know, we could try to stake him ourselves if you...”

 

Her friend looked at her gratefully and smiled. “It’s all right, Willow.  I can’t say I’m happy about it, but on the scale of unpleasant tasks in Buffy’s life, it doesn’t even come close to having to send Angel to hell.”

 

She shot a guilty look at her Watcher’s closed face and whispered, “And I know I have to do it soon.  I won’t shirk my duty this time.”

 

Giles put his hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently.  “I never thought you were shirking, Buffy.  You were very young to have to make that kind of hard choice... and ultimately, you made the right one.”

 

“Just not quick enough to save Ms. Calendar,” she mumbled.

 

Her watcher gave her shoulder another squeeze and said, “I do not blame you for that, Buffy.  I blame Angelus.”

 

The Slayer gave herself a little shake and said briskly, “Yeah, well, anyway, this is a completely different sitch.  All I have to do is find Riley before he can cause too much damage and...” She trailed off, a look of horror on her face.

 

“Oh my god.  All his friends from the Initiative!  They won’t know!  I’ve got to tell them!”

 

She ran toward the door, waving as she went.  “I’ll catch you guys later.  Be sure somebody tells Xander about Riley.”

 

 

Chapter Twelve

 

Buffy took the steps up to the fraternity house door three at a time and burst in to the living room, looking around frantically.  In her hurry to be sure the other soldiers were all okay, she didn’t notice that the room was heavily draped and darkened even though it was a bright day outside.

 

When she didn’t see anyone near the door, she went in further, searching frantically for signs of life as she advanced.   A sound from around the corner in the game room made her look to her left and she was surprised to see Xander standing near the pool table.  Standing unusually close behind him was Riley’s former roommate Graham.

 

Buffy saw Xander’s eyes looking over her head and when they widened in fear, she whirled and ducked just in time to avoid the fire ax a vamped out Forrest was aiming at her head.  A quick kick to his jaw, followed by a leg sweep that took him to the ground, and she had the axe in her hand and was swinging it toward his neck.  At the last second she shifted it away from the snarling vampire on the floor as Graham said, “Do it, Slayer, and your buddy here is lunch.”

 

She looked up to see Graham also now in vamp face, holding Xander by his neck and licking his lips.

 

Growling herself in frustration, Buffy moved slightly to where she could keep Forrest within her peripheral vision. 

 

“Let him go, Graham,” she said coldly. 

 

“Oh, I don’t think so.  What are you gonna do?  Kill me?”

 

 He laughed and showed her his torn throat.  His laugh choked off when Forrest tried to sneak up on her from the side and, without taking her eyes off of Graham and Xander, she smashed the axe into his head, sending him to the floor unconscious.  Looking the newly turned vampire in the eye, she swung the axe and sliced the downed vampire’s head off, watching the dust drift away out of the corner of her eye.

 

“Well, yeah,” she said, rolling her eyes at the surprised fledgling. “What part of ‘vampire slayer’ didn’t get explained to you?”

 

With a frightened snarl, he shoved Xander toward her and ran out of the room using his newly acquired vampire speed.  Without knowing how many other men in the house had been turned, Buffy was afraid to leave Xander alone while she chased him, so she pushed him toward the door and out into the safety of the sun.

 

As they walked back toward the Magic Box, Buffy scolded Xander to hide how upset she was at his close call.

 

“Didn’t you get the memo to stay away from Riley?  What were you doing there?”

 

“Same thing you were, probably.  I thought I’d warn the other guys before he got to them.”  He looked at her sheepishly.  “Should have listened to Giles’ warning about getting close to any of them unless I was standing in the sun.”

 

When Buffy raised her eyebrows and grinned at him, he quickly added, “Which I will deny with my dying breath – okay, bad choice of words—if you try to tell him I said it!”

 

They were both laughing when they entered the shop and Giles looked up in relief.  “You got to them in time, then, I take it?”

 

“Oh no,” Buffy answered, still giggling at Xander, “he’s been there. Had to kill Forrest. Graham got away.”

 

“And this is amusing?”

 

Her Watcher’s cold tone brought Buffy back to the seriousness of the situation and she subsided.

 

“No, of course not,” she said apologetically.  “I was laughing at Xander.”

 

“Xander, why is there blood on your shirt?  And why is it torn?” Anya’s questions took the attention away from Buffy and put it on Xander.

 

“Well, now that’s a funny story....” he began.  The Watcher just shook his head and retreated to the back of the shop muttering that he would never understand American children.

 

After spending the afternoon with her mother in the hospital, and making it very clear to the staff that she was to have no visitors after dark except for herself or her sister, she went home to prepare for the night’s work.  She knew Riley would be using his commando training to raise an army of vamps, and she wanted to eliminate the nest as quickly as possible.

 

She found Spike sitting on the couch watching Passions and sat down beside him to fill him in on what she’d found at the fraternity house.

 

“So, soldier boy’s tryin’ to make himself a vamp army of minions, huh? Wonder how that’s gonna work out for him?”

 

She looked at him and frowned.  “It seems to be working out just fine, if Graham and Forrest are any example.  What do you mean, you ‘wonder’?”

 

“Jus’ that Wonderboy got himself into that pickle and prob’ly isn’t at all perturbed by it.  But he’s turnin’ men who don’t wanna be vampires. Even though their demons will see that they are properly bloodthirsty, they still might resent the hell out of him.  They might not remember why they hate him; but they’ll hate him.”

 

He seemed so sure, Buffy didn’t actually doubt him, but had to ask, “How do you know that?”

 

“Ever wonder why you never hear of any turned Slayers, love?”

 

“Uh, no, actually.  I never thought about it – except when I have nightmares that it happens to me...”

 

“That’s why.  You’d hate it.  And even though you’d make one hell of a vampire,” he grinned at her outraged look and ducked the punch she threw at his head,  “your first official, vampiric act would undoubtedly be to dust the one who turned you – and your demon would want to do it slowly and painfully. It’s pretty widely accepted that only a bleedin’ idiot would think about turnin’ a Slayer.”

 

“You mean no one ever has?”

 

“I guess some stupid git must have at one time or there wouldn’t be so many stories about what happens after.  But, it hasn’t happened in my lifetime... er, unlifetime.”

 

Buffy was quiet for a few minutes, thinking about what he said.  “So, did you resent Drusilla?  For turning you, I mean.”

 

He looked at her with wide open eyes.  “Resent her?  She was my salvation.  William was a bloody wuss that nobody cared about. Dru gave me an unlife that was worth livin’”

 

A pang of jealousy made Buffy flinch away from him as she heard the affection and gratitude in his voice.

 

“Oh,” she said, her tone cold and distant. 

 

She refused to turn and meet his eyes as he said quietly,  “You asked me, love.  Doesn’t mean I don’t love you.  That I’m not happy with my life now.”

 

When she didn’t answer, he put a tentative hand on her arm and rubbed gently.

 

“Buffy?  Look at me, love.  Don’t turn away like that.”

 

She shook herself and reluctantly turned to meet his anxious eyes.  “It’s okay.  I just... sometimes I forget... what you are.  I really didn’t need that much of a reminder just now.”

 

He sighed and pulled her into his lap.  “I am what I am, Buffy.  Just as you are what you are.  I can change how I behave for you; the things I do, the way I dress... but I can’t change what I am.  All I can do is promise you that I will never intentionally let that bring you any harm.”

 

 

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

Instead of walking back to the Magic Box that evening for the Scoobie meeting to discuss how to find Riley and his minions, Spike told Buffy he wanted to swing by his crypt and pick up a few more weapons.  With a quick kiss, she went off toward town and he walked to his cemetery.

 

Before entering his crypt, he sniffed and listened carefully, not wanting to find out the hard way that Riley had rigged another trap for him.  When he didn’t sense anything, he walked in his door and headed for the weapon’s chest.  Too late, he sensed movement above him and spun around only to find himself entangled in a net that had dropped from the ceiling.

 

He immediately attacked the steel cables hindering his movements, but they were designed to hold the most dangerous of demons and his teeth and claws were not up to the task of shredding the net.  The last thing he saw before the tazer knocked him unconscious was Riley’s grinning face instructing his minions to bring the vampire with them.

 

When Spike didn’t show up at the Magic Box after an hour, Buffy began to pace the floor alternately worrying and fuming. 

 

“Where is that bleached pest?  He knows we need to move tonight before Riley has a chance to turn any more of his buddies.  I’ll kill him when I get my hands on him.

 

“Something must have happened.  Spike wouldn’t worry me like this.  He’d be here if he could...”

 

“Relax, Buffy,” Xander interrupted her verbal tantrum, “It’s Spike. He probably stopped for a drink at Willy’s or got into a card game or something.  It’s not like you can actually rely on—”

 

A fierce glare from Buffy stopped him in mid-Spike bash and he subsided as he realized how worried she really was.

 

“Uh, Buffy?  Is there something you want to tell us?  Something I’m pretty sure I really, really don’t want to know?”

 

When her only response was to look up anxiously, an expression of hope on her face at the opening of the door, he sighed and muttered to himself, “Here we go again.  Another damn vampire.”

 

Buffy’s hope was short lived, as the sharp-featured, dark woman who came in looked around nervously before speaking.

 

“Are.. .are you the Slayer?”

 

The gang exchanged looks as Buffy approached the trembling woman.  “I am.  Why do you want to know?”

 

The thin brunette retreated toward the door as Buffy stalked toward her.  “I... I’m... supposed to give you a message.”  She eyed the door as she continued to retreat from the Slayer, now almost on top of her.

 

“From?”

 

“He said you would know who it’s from.  He said to tell you if you want your pet vampire, you have to come and get him.” 

 

She visibly trembled as Buffy’s eyes narrowed and she practically snarled,  “Come and get him where?  Where is he?”

 

“A... a... at the Initiative’s house on campus.  In the game room,” she said.

 

“The game room?”

 

“Yes, he said...,” She visibly gulped, “He said he wanted to... to play.”

 

Gasps from the Scoobies in the room took Buffy’s attention off the other woman for a second, and she took that opportunity to bolt for the door.  She was almost out when a supernaturally strong hand grabbed her arm and yanked her back into the room.

 

“Where do you think you’re going?  And how did it happen that Riley choose you to deliver his message?”

 

The woman was shaking and trembling in front of her, and tears were beginning to fall from her eyes.  Buffy’s was about to reassure her that she would never harm another human when she realized that the arm she had grabbed was not warm.  She allowed her Slayer senses full rein and focused her full wrath on the frightened vampire in front of her.

 

“How did he happen to choose you?” she asked in a soft, but deadly cold voice.

 

“I... he... we... I...” The now game-faced vampire could only stutter in fear.

 

“You’re the one who turned him,” Buffy stated flatly.

 

The trembling demon in front of her nodded dumbly.

 

 “I didn’t mean to!” She finally found her voice again as she begged for her life.  “I didn’t know he was yours.  He made me do it.  Said he’d kill me if I didn’t do it.”

 

Buffy’s face crumpled in horror as she realized exactly how twisted Riley had become when he lost his enhancements.  She recognized with a sense of shame how much her friendship with Spike and the jealousy that it inspired had fueled Riley’s dementia.

 

 This really is my fault.  It’s my fault Riley is what he is, and it’s my fault he’s taking it out on Spike.  I guess this is why Slayers never marry.  We’re fatal to the men who love us.

 

A shaking on her arm brought Buffy out of her self-flagellating trance and she realized she was still holding the terrified vampire who had turned her ex boyfriend into a soulless fiend.  Without changing her expression, she pulled a stake from her waistband and plunged in into the other woman’s chest.  As the dust floated through the shop, she muttered, “I’m sorry,” and turned back to her dumbfounded friends.

 

“What?” she demanded of their shocked faces.  “She was a vampire. I’m a Slayer.  It’s what I do.”

 

Without speaking to anyone again, she marched into the training room and began filling a bag with weapons.  Giles watched in concern as she shouldered the bag and headed for the door.

 

“Buffy? Is this wise?  It is obviously a trap.  Perhaps it would be better to wait until daylight when we can use the sun to our advantage.”

 

We aren’t going, Giles.  This is my mess and I’m going to clean it up. Now.  Before anyone else gets hurt.”

 

“Buff, it’s just Spike.  He can take care of himself.” Xander tried to add his support to her watcher’s suggestion, but a glare from his girl friend shut him up.

 

Willow spoke up next, “Buffy, you know Spike wouldn’t want you to risk...”

 

The Slayer’s face was expressionless as she looked around at her friends.

 

“Spike can’t always have what he wants,” she said firmly.  “I’ll be back.”

 

There was silence in the room after the Slayer left the shop.  All eyes swiveled to Giles as they waited for him to tell them what to do.  The older man sighed.  He sighed for his Slayer who was once again going to be asked to do things no nineteen year old girl should, and for the otherwise normal young people sitting in front him waiting to be told when and how to put their lives on the line.

 

“We’ll give her a good head start, then we’ll bring the back-up.  Just in case.”

 

While her friends nodded their heads, relieved to have a plan of some sort, he kept to himself the thought that he doubted she would need them.  Something about the look on her face when she left told him the Slayer was in full control of this mission. 

 

 

Chapter Fourteen

 

Inside the large room designated for innocent pastimes like table hockey, foosball, and pool, the area had been cleared and only one pool table remained in the middle of the floor.  Suspended from the overhead chandelier, was a bloody vampire.  Riley’s minions had hung the chains over the fixture at their boss’s orders and then had taken turns flinging pieces of wood at the unconscious vampire’s body.

 

He’d woken up from the taser blast to find that he was riddled with gouges and cuts wherever the wooden missiles had found their marks.  Conspicuously untouched, was the area over his heart.   They were instructed, on pain of instant painful retaliation, to leave the vampire undusted until Riley gave the word.

 

To amuse himself while his minions flung bits of sharp wood at the now-conscious vampire, Riley proceeded to tell Spike in great detail what he was planning for Buffy when she got there.

 

“Now that I’m a vampire, she should be a lot happier to see me, don’t you think?” he jeered.  “Doesn’t really matter if she is or isn’t though, I’m going to fuck her brains out before I drain her. “

 

He gestured to the lone pool table left in the center of the room, right under Spike’s dangling body.

 

“Right here. So you can get a good look at her face when I’m pounding in to her.    I want you to watch.  I want you to see every flinch, hear every scream.  Then you can watch me rip her throat out and swallow every drop of that bitch’s blood.”

 

Fear briefly gripped Spike’s entrails, but he tried to keep his voice cocky and smooth as he smirked at the larger vampire preening below him.

 

“This is the Slayer, you stupid git.  You really think she’s gonna be stupid enough to just waltz in here and let you have your way with her?”

 

 Please God, don’t let her be that stupid.  Stay awa,y Buffy.

 

“Oh, I think she’ll come, Spike.” He spit the vampire’s name out like it was dirty word. “She won’t leave you here at my mercy.  You know Buffy, always off to save her little friends.”

 

“Not one of her friends.” He replied shortly.  “Vampire, here, or have you forgotten?”

 

The other vampire snarled at him, “No, I haven’t forgotten.  I know just what you are.  It’s what she wants.  Vampires.  Angel.. you....  Now she’s going to get all the vampire she can handle.   I’ll teach her what a real vampire is.”

 

His snarling speech was spoiled somewhat by the sounds of choking laughter coming from the chained vampire above him.  Spike couldn’t even speak, he was so thunderstruck at the idea of this fledgling vamp thinking he was going to take the Slayer that had defeated both Angelus and William the Bloody.

 

Riley’s face darkened and he gestured to his minions to resume their game of making Spike bleed. 

 

“Just don’t dust him yet.  I want her to see him hanging there and I want him to watch when I fuck her in that pool of blood on the table.” He gestured to the sticky red puddle forming underneath the chained vamp.

 

“You want him to watch you what me where?” 

 

Buffy’s incredulous voice carried from the entrance to the room, causing all heads to swivel toward her. 

 

Spike took advantage of the distraction to shift his chains so that he was basically holding himself up rather than hanging from them.  One quick flip over the arm of the chandelier and he would be free to drop onto the table below.

 

“Get her,” Riley ordered.  “First one to bring her down gets seconds.”

 

Spike watched in admiration as Buffy took on four commando-trained vamps at the same time and dusted or incapacitated all of them.  As always, the sight of her in motion made his pants tight.

 

 That’s the woman GI Joe thinks he’s going to get the best of? That beautiful piece of human weaponry?

 

The sight of their comrades’ dust floating above the floor, as well as the look of sheer glee on the Slayer’s face made the other minions hesitate.  While they reviewed their options, Buffy attacked, taking out three more and sending the others back behind Riley.

 

Growling in frustration, he stepped forward, holding a tazer in the hand down at his side. 

 

“Hello, sweetheart.  Glad to see you could make it.  I told your pet here that you would come to get him.”

 

“Came to clean out the vermin, Riley.  Or have you forgotten what I do?”

 

“I haven’t forgotten what you do.  When you’re not slaying vampires, you’re fucking them.  Just thought I’d get in on the action.”

 

“The only action you’re going to get is the business end of a stake, Riley.” She stared at him coldly as he advanced on her.

 

“Now, Buffy, that’s no way to talk to your boyfriend.” As he spoke, he suddenly reached toward her shoulder with the tazer.  To his surprise, with a flick of her wrist she both blocked his attack and knocked the device out of his hand. They both watched it skitter across the floor to come to rest against the wall.

 

The Slayer raised her eyebrows at the surprised ex-commando and asked him sweetly, “What’s the matter, Riley?  Lose your equalizer?” 

 

The enraged vampire threw himself at her, screaming over his shoulder to what men he had left, “Get that tazer and hit her, now!”

 

Although Riley’s size and weight carried both him and the Slayer to the floor, she had already brought her knees up and used her coiled legs to shove him off before he could reach her with his teeth.  Behind him his minions looked back and forth between the large angry vampire and the deadly little girl and turned their backs, running for the door.

 

Only Graham retained enough loyalty to stay.  He crept toward the tazer, picking it up and slinking toward the preoccupied slayer as she faced off against her former lover.

 

Before he could reach her, Spike slipped his chains off the hanging lamp and dropped gracefully to the table.  He tossed one of the chains around the neck of the attacking minion and yanked on it hard.  He smiled in satisfaction as the other vampire’s neck snapped and his head popped off leaving a small pile of dust on the floor.

 

He turned to watch Buffy as she swept Riley’s feet out from under him and jumped on him, stake out, as he fell.  Suddenly the vampire’s ridged face was gone and Buffy was looking down on the soft, open countenance of her former boyfriend.

 

“You can’t kill me, Buffy.  You care too much about me.  You may not love me, but I don’t think you can kill me.” 

 

He smiled at her and reached a tentative hand toward her face. 

 

“You’re just not that kind of girl,” he said softly.  “You couldn’t kill someone you cared about.”

 

Buffy shook her head at him sadly.

 

“Oh, Riley.  I’ve had that tee shirt since I was seventeen.”  With a shrug, she drove the point of the stake into his chest and watched dispassionately as his surprised face exploded into dust.

 

She stayed where she was for a minute, kneeling in the dust that was all that was left of her second serious boyfriend.  A soft sound behind her made her turn around and she saw Spike looking at her sympathetically.

 

“Are you all right, pet?” he asked gently.  He didn’t try to touch her, but offered his manacled hand to help her up.

 

Without answering his question, she silently took his hand and allowed him to pull her to her feet.  A glance around the room showed her the key to the chains and she quietly unlocked them for him.

 

“Are you okay?” she asked, looking over his bleeding body critically.

 

“Yeah, ‘m fine.  They’re all superficial cuts.  Lots of blood, not much damage.  Wanker wanted to be sure I’d be around to watch him have his way with you.”

 

“As if!” She rolled her eyes and headed for the door.  “Come on,” she threw over her shoulder.  “Let’s go home and get you cleaned up.”

 

They left the building only to find Giles and the rest of the Scoobies resting on the porch.  Her watcher stood up as Buffy came out the door.

 

“Is he...?”

 

“Yep.  Buffy sent another boyfriend to hell.” 

 

Her tightly closed face told them not to pursue it and they looked instead at the bloody man trailing behind her. 

 

“Whoa, Capt’n Peroxide.  Interesting body art you got there,” Xander snarked.  “Can I contribute? There seems to be a bare spot right over your heart.  I could fix that....”

 

“Shut it, Xander.”

 

Her friend frowned, his feelings hurt at her cold tone. 

 

“I was only kidding, Buff.  Deadboy, Jr. knows that, don’t you?’ He turned to look at Spike quizzically.

 

The vampire just shook his head and frowned toward Buffy, indicating he didn’t want her bothered.

 

There was an uncomfortable silence for several minutes until Buffy asked, “So, did you guys see any fleeing minions?”

 

“Yes, we managed to stake all of them as they ran past.”  Her Watcher looked from her to Spike. “What, exactly were they running from?”

 

When Buffy didn’t answer, Spike offered, “They decided backing up their wanker of a sire wasn’t worth a Slayer ass-kickin’.  Left him to fend for himself.”

 

The Watcher nodded in satisfaction.  “Well, then, it appears we got them all.  A good night’s work, Buffy, Spike.”

 

Spike shrugged, “All I was tonight was bait for the Buffy trap.  Speaking of which, Slayer… “ He whirled on her.  “What the bloody hell were you thinkin’?  I’m just telling the stupid prat that you’re too smart to walk into a trap, and in you traipse. By yourself!” He glared momentarily at her Watcher and friends.

 

She looked at him steadily, then said,  “I’m the Slayer.  The Slayer. By myself is how I’m meant to go through life.”

 

She broke eye contact with a shaken Spike and started walking toward her home.  Her Watcher exchanged looks with the frozen vampire and the Slayer’s horrified friends.  Xander started to run after Buffy, but Spike put a hand on his arm and said softly, “No.  Let her go.  She didn’t mean that the way it sounded.  She just needs to come to terms with what she had to do.  Probably has some grievin’ to do.”  He tried to smother the pain he felt at being included in the people she was cutting herself off from.

 

“Spike is, and I cannot believe I am saying this,” Giles said rolling his eyes at himself, “correct.  We must give her some time and space.  Buffy’s calling is not an easy one.  She has had to make many painful decisions for one so young. She deserves some time to herself.”

 

With that, they all headed off to their various homes to see how much sleep could be salvaged from the rest of the night. Giles surprised Spike by offering the use of his bathroom to clean up his wounds.  He also managed to find an old tee shirt of Spike’s to replace the ruined shreds left of the one he’d been wearing.

 

When Spike was cleaned up and vampire healing had already started to close his cuts, he sat down in a chair and gratefully took the glass of Scotch the other Brit offered him.

 

They drank in companionable silence for several minutes until Giles finally put his glass down and leaned toward Spike.

 

“I’m not sure how many more times she can be expected to do things like this before she gives up.”

 

Spike had been resting with his head on the back of the chair, his eyes closed when Giles began to speak, but at that he snapped his head forward, eyes wide open.

 

“She’ll never give up.  It’s not in her,” he insisted, even as he knew the truth of what the watcher was saying.

 

“You’ve killed two slayers, Spike.  Are you really that good?  Or did they just not want to win anymore?”  He fixed the vampire with a steady eye and waited for the reply.

 

“Bit o’ both, I suspect,” he answered honestly with a shrug.  “But they were ordinary slayers – all about the mission. No time for friends or family.”  He frowned for a second.  “Not completely sure about the New York one.  Heard she had a kid... but—”

 

“She did,” the watcher said flatly.  “He was three or four.”

 

He watched Spike carefully and was gratified to see the vampire wince slightly. 

 

“Didn’t know that.  Not that it would have mattered back then.” He looked the other man in the eye and waited for a response.

 

“No,” Giles sighed, “I suppose it wouldn’t have.  The Council never has figured out why a girl that old, with a child already, would have been called in place of someone younger.”

 

“Cause she was damned good,” the vampire responded immediately.  “Took me two fights to best her.”

 

He paused and took another sip from his drink.

 

“I think she was tired of it.  Not that she wasn’t trying to kill me. She was.  But when I had her down, she just looked like she was ready for it to be over.”

 

“Is there…”  Giles cleared his throat and started again. “Do you see any sign that Buffy feels that way?  She’s been a Slayer much longer than most girls. And she’s lost a lot of people she cared about.”

 

Spike felt his stomach clench at the thought of Buffy being ready to die for her calling.  He thought back over the ways she had changed since he first fought her three years ago.

 

“She’s not quite the bubbly cheerleader she was before she had to send the great poof to hell; but I don’t see any signs that she’s ready to give it up to some Big Bad just to get a rest.  I think she’s made of sterner stuff than you give her credit for, Watcher.”

 

At least I hope to hell she is He vowed to watch her closely for any signs that she was harboring a death wish.

 

“I hope you’re right, Spike.  I just don’t know how many more losses she can handle before...” He stopped and gave Spike one of his best Ripper glares.

 

“I really do not want her having to take any more actions like she did with Angel and Riley.  If I thought for one minute that you might—”

 

Spike held up a conciliatory hand.  “I’ve already promised her, Watcher, that I will never give her a reason to stake me.  I’ll dust myself first before I do that to her.  You have my word.”

 

The other man stared at into the vampire’s steady blue eyes, then nodded his head.

 

“Alright then,” he said and settled back with his drink.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Fifteen

 

When he’d finished his drink and said “good-night” so that Giles could get some sleep, Spike was left walking through the town, wondering where he should go.  Every instinct he had told him to head for Revello Drive and offer what comfort he could to the woman he loved.  But something about the bleak look on her face when she left told him he might not be as welcomed as he hoped.

 

Even while he tried to decide what to do, his feet carried him to the small bungalow with the SUV in the driveway and he stood under a tree staring at the house.  He could hear Dawn’s heartbeat and the music in her room and knew she had got safely home from visiting her mother at the hospital.  He frowned when he couldn’t pick up any trace of Buffy in the house.  Then a small breeze brought him her unmistakable scent from the back yard and he walked around to find her sitting alone on the porch steps.

 

He walked up and sat down beside her as close as he could without invading her personal space.  As much as he longed to hold her and let her sob onto his chest, he had too much respect for the Slayer to treat her like the little girl she appeared to be.

 

Buffy hadn’t acknowledged his presence, but she was silently grateful that he had come to her rather than back to his crypt.  She wanted nothing more than to lean on his willing shoulder and let him lend her his strength, but her pride kept her upright.

 

Unable to control his inner William any longer, Spike reached for her hand and gently stroked the back of it as he asked, “You okay, love?”

 

She gave a deep sigh, then surrendered to temptation and rested her head on his shoulder.

 

“I will be,” she said quietly.  She tilted her head and looked up at him. “I’d think you might be worried about your own okayness right about now. Dating me seems to be a bit of a health hazard.  You never know when I might decide I have to kill you.”  She tried to smile, but her lip was quivering too much and she quickly dropped her head so he wouldn’t see.

 

“Ah, pet.  You only kill the ones you love.  Know that’s not me, don’t we?” He tried to keep his voice light, and hoped the bitterness he felt didn’t show through.

 

She ignored his tone and answered his question obliquely.  “Didn’t love Riley. He’s dead anyway.”

 

She stood up to go inside, but was stopped when he didn’t release her hand.  He turned it over and pressed a kiss into her palm, looking up at her as he did so.

 

“You’re not gonna scare me off, Slayer.  Told you before and I’ll tell you again, as often as I have to – I will never knowingly do anything to make you have to stake me.”

 

“You mean you’re gonna stop being annoying?” She attempted a smile and was rewarded with a grin from the vampire.

 

“Didn’t promise not to do anything might make you want to stake me. Just said you wouldn’t have to.”

 

He got easily to his feet and stood facing her.  Still holding one hand, he used the other to push her silky hair back from her face.

 

“Don’t think I properly thanked you for savin’ me, love,” he breathed, leaning in to touch his lips gently to hers.  He felt her warm breath sigh out as she melted in to him and he slid his hands around her waist and pulled her against his body.

 

Buffy leaned back in his embrace and looked up at him archly. 

 

“So, are you willing to risk your life by staying in the Slayer’s house again?”

 

“Pretty much willin’ to risk whatever body parts I have to if it means being close to you.”

 

Buffy’s response was to put her head back on his chest and let the warmth and security of his love flow over her.  For long, comfortable minutes they were just a man comforting and protecting the woman he held in his arms.  Eventually Buffy gave a little shiver as the cool night air worked its way under Spike’s duster to chill her bare arms.

 

Giving her a little squeeze, he held her away from his body and kissed her forehead.

 

“Time to go in, Slayer.  Don’t want you catching cold on me.”

 

With a nod, she turned and opened the kitchen door so they could go in.  She walked through the house, turning off lights and checking doors, pausing at the foot of the stairs to look at him with a glint in her eye.

 

“You know we’ve only got a couple of days before Mom comes home and you can’t stay here anymore.”

 

“Well then, let’s not waste ‘em,” he said as he picked her up and leapt up the stairs, two at a time.

 

Smothering her giggles against his shoulder, she allowed him to carry her into her room where he threw her on the bed and jumped on top of her.

 

“Now I gotcha, Slayer,” he growled into her neck, making his marks there tingle.

 

“No you don’t,” she answered as she shoved him to the floor.  “I have to pee first.  And brush my teeth, and—” She giggled as he growled at her from the floor.

 

“Well, hurry up about it, pet.  Don’t want to waste one minute of the time we’ve got left.”

 

While Buffy was in the bathroom, he quickly stripped and slipped into the bed, laughing as the sheet tented over his very erect penis.  When she came back into the room, the first thing Buffy saw was the sheet standing up over Spike’s hips and she stopped, cocking her head to look at it.

 

“What’s that under there?” she asked innocently.

 

“Get your pretty little arse over here and I’ll show you,” he demanded.

 

“Oh, I think I’ll just look for myself.”

 

Instead of going up to the head of the bed to get in, Buffy picked up the side of the sheet and crawled under it near Spike’s knees.  She rubbed her cheek on his thigh and began moving her mouth up his leg, planting light kisses as she went.  She could hear Spike growling softly, but he had enough sense to keep his hands away and let her play.

 

When she reached his cock she ran her tongue up one side of it, pausing at the top to flick her tongue into the little slit there.  She smiled as he hissed and his hips pushed up involuntarily.

 

“Mmmmm,” she purred as she continued to lick her way around him. “Just like a lollipop.  A really big lollipop,” she added as she put her warm lips around him and began sucking.

 

“Uhgh!  Oh, Buffy, love, my sweetest girl.”  He could no longer see the tent he’d made in the sheet, as Buffy’s ass was now pushing it up, waving in the air as she worked her mouth on him.

 

As she held the base of his cock in one hand and moved her mouth up and down on him, the vampire kept up a litany of praise for her efforts.   “Like that, love.  Oh yes, pet. Your mouth is so warm, you feel like... aaaah, I’m coming, love, I’m coming!  Love you, Buffy!” he shouted as he thrust his hips up into her mouth and felt her swallowing him down.

 

When he’d got his unneeded breath back, he picked up the end of the sheet and peered down the length of his body to see a very self-satisfied Slayer smirking back at him.  Her chin rested on his thigh as she licked her lips and asked, “Did I remember how to do it right?”

 

Instead of answering her, he just reached down and yanked her up to meet his mouth.  While he kissed her thoroughly, she could feel him harden again against her stomach.  His hands were moving lightly around her body, leaving goosebumps everywhere his cool fingers touched. 

 

Buffy lost herself in the kisses he was prolonging to the point that she had to stop and gasp for breath against his mouth.  He would allow her one quick breath, and then his lips would be on hers again and his tongue would be running around her teeth, tangling with her own tongue as he put everything he was feeling into the kiss.

 

She slipped down onto his ready cock and sat up to position herself more fully.  The vampire stared in awe as she stretched her arms over her head, giving him a look at her hard nipples and taut, tight tummy.  Faint traces of lighter skin over her breasts and pubic bone told him she’d acquired her golden color basking where he could never be with her.

 

            He mentally flinched at the reminder of how unnatural it was for him to be between her thighs.  For the Slayer to be riding him as she was now doing and moaning his name as she ground her hips down onto his.

 

With a growl, he flipped them over so that he was kneeling between her legs, holding her hips up with his hands.  Her flexibility allowed her to lie back on the pillow, perfectly relaxed and comfortable with her shoulders on the bed and her hips held in the air.  The position allowed him to touch that spot deep inside that sent shock waves of sensation through her body.

 

She went from relaxed to writhing under him as he plunged in and out of her, twisting his hips to rub against her clit at the same time as his cock was stimulating the bundle of nerves inside.  When she had already come twice and was panting his name again, he finally dropped her hips and fell down on top of her, still thrusting in a steady motion.

 

When he was within reach, Buffy put her arms around him and pulled him to her chest, even as she brought her legs up to wrap around his hips and hold him in to her.  She was clenching him with every muscle in her body and chanting, “Don’t leave me, don’t leave me.  I want you, Spike. Want you forever.”