banner and beta by Always_jbj

 

OUT OF THE BLUE

 

Prologue

 

 “You don’t have any circulation.” As she spoke, Buffy paused in her rope-tying to lean around and peer into Spike’s face. She would have sworn he was wearing a very undemon-like pout when he muttered about the ropes pinching him as she went back to her job. Finishing to her satisfaction, she stood up and put her hands on her hips. When he couldn’t or wouldn’t give a useful answer to her questions about the commandoes, only continuing to whine, she lightly cuffed the side of his head and walked behind the chair to get back to her Thanksgiving dinner preparations.  She did feel a little bad about tying him up and not feeding him when he was clearly starving.  On the other hand, Spike = evil, so…

 

Too intent on getting back to her meal and the argument about the Chumash spirit, she didn’t notice the frown on Giles’s face when her half-hearted slap to Spike’s head was followed up by a hand on his shoulder as she walked behind him.  The vampire concerned just glowered, and Giles and Buffy were soon too wrapped up in dodging arrows and fighting a ghostly, but very solid, war party of Indians for anyone to pay much attention to his complaints.

 

Spike’s frightened “You made a bear!” brought an apologetic “I didn’t mean to!” from Buffy before she could remember how much she hated Spike and didn’t care if the bear tore him apart.  Although his obvious belief in her ability to handle the situation, and that she may have let him down by temporarily making things worse, bothered her more than she was willing to admit.  As did the ridiculously warm feeling she got every time she thought about how he’d chosen her to come to when he needed help.

 

Stupid vampire – he could have just bought blood somewhere.  What would make him think we—I would believe him and take him in?  Not that he’s ever lied to me about anything important, or that we haven’t worked together before, and he did look more dead than usual… but still…

 

To everyone’s surprise when they finally sat down to eat, she pulled Spike’s chair up to the table in front of an empty plate. She couldn’t have said why she was including their reluctant guest in the “family” dinner – the expression on his face told her that he was just as puzzled about it as everyone else – although he behaved as if he had every right to be there, whining about the lack of blood, being tied up, and generally reminding everyone why they hated him.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

 

A human would have missed it – the sudden intake of breath, the accelerated heartbeat – although even a human might have noticed the ashen face and white knuckles of the hand lying on the table.  Spike’s face twisted in disgust. What was it with his grandsire and women? It seemed like the purer and more innocent they were, they more he had to have them.  Not that Spike had ever known Dru when she was pure and unsullied – before Angelus had driven her insane and made her his childe.  But Angelus had done enough bragging and Dru had done enough babbling that he had a pretty good idea what she’d been like before she was turned.  Still a seer, but a sweet, innocent, sane seer.

 

He drew his attention back to the Slayer, who was now berating her watcher for not telling her about Angel’s surprise visit to “save” her.  He shook his head. Like she’d needed any help with the vengeful Chumash tribe. Even the bear hadn’t fazed her as much as it had him. She’d stepped right up to it. Of course, she’d also been smacked down, but not for long. Spike reluctantly gave the boy credit for courage – pelting the bear with dinner rolls to get its attention off Buffy and her temporary disability.  At least he’d done something helpful…

 

As Spike had known she would, the Slayer had immediately bounced back to her feet and dispatched the bear so quickly it seemed almost anti-climatic. He snorted at the thought that she’d needed any help from his grandsire.

 

“Don’t know what you’re so surprised about, Slayer,” he finally said. “By now I’d think you’d know old grandpa thinks it’s his job to save the world. You’re just a little chit who helps out occasionally.”

 

Her lethal glare brought a moment of blessed silence before everyone started offering their own explanations for why Angel would have come to Sunnydale but not wanted to see Buffy.  Spike just shook his head in disgust. If I thought I was in love with the Slayer, I wouldn’t be proving it by doing things to make her unhappy. Typical of the big ponce…  He met the Watcher’s gaze for a second and realized they were both thinking the same thing. He gave a sardonic sneer and quickly looked away.

 

 

~~~~~~~~

 

Willow emerged from the kitchen holding her latest batch of cookies.  She hesitated briefly, her eyes going back and forth between Buffy and Spike. They were gazing at each other, although without seeming to make eye contact, bemusement clear on both their faces.  They weren’t simpering and cooing the way they had while under her spell (so she’d heard – having only witnessed for herself the frantic kissing as she was ending it.), but there was no animosity in their exchange of looks, only a mutually uncomfortable curiosity.

 

Willow’s entrance and subsequent offering a cookie to Buffy snapped them both out of whatever they’d been thinking and they were soon glaring at each other in more familiar ways. Willow ended up stuffing a cookie in Spike’s mouth just to shut him up before his ability to rattle Buffy by talking about their plans while under the spell could inspire another round of guilt-assuaging cookie baking.

 

 

Chapter One

 

“I would like to use my own bathroom for a while.  Can I – and I find it hard to believe I’m asking this – trust you to stay out of trouble while I take a shower?”

 

Spike shrugged, peering up at the frowning watcher. “Define ‘trouble’,” he said. “It’s not like I’m going to go running out into the sunshine, is it?”

 

“The sun was shining when you showed up,” Giles pointed out.  “However, I was thinking more about my possessions, which would be at your mercy. I really don’t want to have to ask Buffy to come back to watch you while I bathe.”

 

“You could always tie me to the chair again.” Spike rattled the chains holding him in the tub. “Or chain me up again. Slayer got all the fun of that last time.” He curled his tongue at Giles. “Still waiting for that explanation about why you keep chains in your bedroom.”

 

“You really do not want to know,” Giles said, his tone making it clear that part of the conversation was over. “Give me your wrists.”  When Spike obediently held up his hands, Giles unlocked the manacles and handed Spike the key. “You can undo your own feet. And then please be so good as to remove yourself from my bathtub.”

 

Without answering, Spike unshackled his ankle and stood up. At the last second, he caught the falling metal and lifted the chains out onto the floor, preventing them from scratching the porcelain any more than they already had.  He stretched and stood, waiting for Giles to tell him what to do.  With a sigh, Giles gestured for Spike to leave the room, following him into the living room.

 

“There is blood in the refrigerator,” he said. “You may help yourself to whatever is yours.” He handed Spike the remote.  “And stay out of my things.  I won’t be long.”

 

When Giles emerged from the bathroom, clean-shaven and relaxed in pajamas and a robe, he found Spike lounging on the couch and clicking through the channels.

 

“Did you know you’re out of Scotch?”

 

Giles gave a credible growl. “I thought I told you to stay out of my things?”

Spike just stared at him, waiting… “Right, evil vampire. My mistake.”

 

“Being unable to kill hasn’t turned me into a goody two-shoes, Watcher,” Spike said calmly as he turned back to the TV.

 

Giles made no reply, but went upstairs and came back down with a brand new bottle of Scotch.  He ignored Spike’s raised eyebrows, going to the kitchen for two glasses.  When he returned he handed one to the eager vampire and sat down across from him. They drank in companionable silence for a few minutes, Spike eying Giles suspiciously from time to time. When he could stand it no longer he blurted, “Are you trying to get me drunk?”

 

“Why would I want you drunk? I’ve seen you drunk. It’s not pretty.”

 

“Pot – kettle,” Spike replied, lifting his glass in a mock toast.

 

“Touché,” Giles replied.  They sipped some more, then he leaned forward and said, “About your current condition… granted, as you said, it does not make you anything but a harmless still-evil demon, but what if there were more to it? What if there was a purpose behind it? What if the Powers that Be had a hand in your being rendered harmless?”

 

“Then the first thing I’ll do when I get this thing fixed is rip their bloody throats out and dance on their dead bodies.”  A deep snarl accompanied Spike’s words, and Giles looked disappointed as he leaned back and continued to stare at the vampire.

 

“What?”  Spike looked uncomfortable as he chugged the rest of his drink. He held the glass out for more, raising one eyebrow.  “Where were you going with that daft idea?”

 

Moving slowly, Giles poured more of the amber fluid into Spike’s glass. He waited until he’d refreshed his own drink, then settled back into his chair.

 

“I guess, what I was thinking is that your current situation might provide an opportunity for you to… atone, so to speak, for your actions as a vampire. To… to redeem yourself. I would like to offer my assistance, should you want to pursue—”

 

“That’s the great poof’s bag, not mine,” Spike said with a growl. “Got no interest in being good. I like what I am. Just forget it. Got no reason to want to be different.”

 

“Very well. I won’t mention it again. But I should like for you to give it some thought.”

 

“Why?” Spike asked bluntly. “What’s in it for you? Brownie points with the Council of Wankers?”

 

Giles gazed at him over the rim of his glass.  “The Council and I do not always have the same agenda. Theirs is to keep an active Slayer on the Hellmouth. Mine is to see that my slayer remains alive to continue to fill that position. It has occurred to me that Buffy’s job could be made quite a bit safer and easier had she another powerful warrior at her side.”

 

“William the Bloody kills slayers. He doesn’t follow orders from the little chits. Got no reason to help her stay alive.”

 

Giles was silent, sipping his drink and seeming to be done with the conversation. The silence stretched out for some time until Spike said, “So, what do you say to a game?” He pointed at a chessboard on a high shelf. “Or is that just for show?”

 

Without responding verbally, Giles rose to his feet and brought the already set-up board down to rest on the coffee table.  Spike clicked the TV off and leaned forward.  “Gave me the black pieces, did you?”

 

“It seemed appropriate,” Giles replied dryly.  “You may make the first move.”

 

“Always do.”

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

Whatcha doing?”

 

Buffy walked in before Giles had stored the chessboard away for the evening.  Spike was carefully recording who was ahead in what had become a nightly ritual for them. Although the two Brits were from different eras, the longer they remained in each other’s company, the more their somewhat similar backgrounds had become obvious.  Had anyone pointed out that they were becoming friends, they would have denied it vigorously, but the truth was, they enjoyed their nightly chess matches and the conversations that went with them. 

 

Giles had never mentioned the idea of Spike’s helping Buffy again, but now that the vampire knew he could fight and kill demons, he had fallen into the habit of going on patrol with the Slayer sometimes, insisting it was the best way to get the “spot of violence” that he required on a daily basis.

 

“Just making sure I record how far ahead I am of the Watcher,” Spike said, smiling up at her.

 

Buffy snorted and shook her head. “I swear you two could be going steady, as much time as you spend here.”

 

“Could say the same about us, couldn’t you?” He gestured back and forth between himself and the laughing girl. “We’re out there often enough, killin’ things and such.”

 

“Uh… pretty sure nobody’s going to say that about us,” Buffy said with a shudder. “And if Riley even thought it for a second….”

 

“Ah yes. The giant hayseed.  I expect he wouldn’t take it well – thinking his honey was seeing a vampire on the side.”

 

“I’m not seeing you! You just… follow me sometimes.”

 

“Bloody good thing for you I do,” he muttered, clearly miffed at her dismissal of his assessment of their occasional nighttime adventures. “If I hadn’t’ been there last night, that Fyral demon would have broken you in half.”

 

“I had it,” Buffy said with an indignant sniff. “I was just letting him think he was winning.” Spike waited, head tilted, staring at her with eyes that didn’t allow her to look away. “Okay,” she admitted. “You might have helped… a little.”

 

“And…?”

 

“And nothing. I said thank you last night. Don’t push it, Spike.”  In spite of her words, the shove she gave him was more affectionate than angry and they ended up smiling at each other.

 

“Spike helped you last night?” Giles looked back and forth between them, his eyes challenging the vampire to deny what he’d just been bragging about.

 

Spike shrugged and cleared his throat. “Well, yeah. Dozy bint was tryin’ to take on two Fyral demons with a stake.” He gave Giles a sly smile. “We all know how likely that is to work, don’t we?”

 

Buffy shuddered again. “Don’t remind me. It’s a good thing Giles glares at me so often.”  She looked at Spike. “Did you know he glares exactly the same way when he’s a demon?”

 

“Don’t doubt it. So, where are we off to tonight, Slayer?”

 

Buffy looked uncomfortable for a second. “Uh… Riley wants to patrol with me tonight, so I don’t think….”

 

“Got it. No problem, Slayer. Stay safe.”  Spike stood up and walked into the kitchen.

 

“What flew up his ass?” Buffy asked.  Giles just shook his head and waved her off.  Casting another puzzled look at the vampire’s back, Buffy nodded at Giles’s instructions about which cemetery had an extraordinary number of recent burials and left for the night. Telling Giles she’d report in the next day, she left the apartment.

 

When she’d gone, Giles went to his desk and brought out the Scotch. Without asking, he filled two glasses and handed one to the vampire who had just emerged from the kitchen.

 

“Think you’re smart, don’t you?” Spike grumbled, taking a grateful swallow.

 

“I think it’s time to revisit the subject of why you might want to view your status as a step toward a new life.  Or have I misinterpreted your mood?”

 

Spike sighed and sank into the chair. “No. She’s got me by the short hairs. Don’t need a chip in m’head to want to keep her safe.”  He looked up at Giles. “Guess I’ve got my reason now, Watcher.”

 

 

 

 Chapter Two

 

 

Xander walked in just as Spike was showing Willow and Buffy where to find the quote they needed in the second act of Hamlet.  He shrugged at the now-familiar sight of the chipped vampire.  Although Spike didn’t live with Giles anymore, he seemed to be there most evenings – even more often than the Scoobies.

 

Xander watched as all three bent over the large textbook, looking down to where Spike was pointing at the line they needed.  When Willow raised her head, thanking Spike with a shy smile, and Buffy added her own casual thanks, Xander shook his head as if to clear it. Somehow, since Willow’s spell, Spike had wormed his way into their happy little family. A family which now included not just the Slayer, a witch, a former demon, and a reformed demon worshipper, but a vampire who had been their mortal enemy what seemed like only a short time ago.

 

“Yeah, thanks, Spike. Giles always thinks it’s cheating when he helps me with my homework.” Buffy gave Giles a triumphant grin and slammed the book closed.

 

“Watcher probably just didn’t know where to find that line,” Spike said, adding his own smirk at the disgruntled-looking man.  “Needed a bit of help from a fellow countryman who went to better schools.”

 

“Schools? Spike went to schools?” Xander was still trying to figure out what he’d missed. “Spike knows Shakespeare?”

 

Buffy shrugged. “Well, he was probably alive then, wasn’t he? For all we know, he ate Shakespeare.”

 

Identical appalled stares from the two Brits and Willow brought a frown to her face.

 

“What?” she muttered. “It’s not like he isn’t older than dirt…” When they continued to stare at her, she stage whispered to Willow, “When was Shakespeare around?”

 

“Um… about four hundred years ago?”

 

“Oh.”

 

"Bloody Colonials," Spike said, sharing a short bonding moment with Giles that didn't go unnoticed by Willow.

 

"Hey! I knew the right answer!"

 

"Quite right. Willow is an exceptional student who actually learned things during her time at Sunnydale High School."

 

"The Slayer apparently didn't." Spike's smirk was too much for Buffy.

 

"The Slayer was too busy running around cemeteries all night, chasing bad guys and saving the world!" 

 

She glared back and forth between Giles and Spike, breathing hard, her fists clenched at her sides.  Giles immediately looked ashamed, dropping his head and muttering, "Right you are, Buffy. I certainly didn't mean to imply—"

 

"Yes you did. You said Willow learned things, implying that I didn't." She turned her glare on Spike, who had lost his smirk and seemed almost as ashamed as Giles.  "And you! One of the bad guys I have… had to spend my time chasing... You just had to jump right on it and say it out loud, didn't you?"

 

"You do remember I'm evil, Slayer?" he blustered, trying to hide his chagrin.

 

"Maybe you should remember you can't fight back anymore. You know, when you're feeling the urge to be evil? Just in case I decide to make you dusty for it."

 

"You wouldn't do that... would you?"  He looked momentarily worried, then smiled. "No. You wouldn't do it. Too much of a white hat for your own good, you are. As long as I'm harmless, I'm safe from you."

 

Xander waved his hand.  "I don't think I'm too much of a white hat.  Want me to stake him for you, Buffy?"  Spike's snarl did nothing to change Xander's demeanor, only causing him to narrow his eyes and pick up one of Buffy's stakes.  “Can I, Buffy? Huh, can I?”

 

“Oh, leave him alone, Xander.  He’s right. We’re the good guys. We don’t slay innocent—okay, not innocent, but currently harmless, creatures.”

 

Spike cocked his head at Buffy. “Do you ever wonder how many harmless creatures you’ve slayed, Summers?”

 

“What? I—no, of course not. I don’t— Do I, Giles?”  A worried frown creased Buffy’s brow, and Giles glared at the grinning vampire.

 

“I’m quite sure you do not. And it is certainly not in your best interest to begin wondering if every vampire and demon you meet while on patrol might be harmless. There is no such thing.”

 

Spike laughed incredulously, then shook his head.  “I’m disappointed in you, Watcher. Thought you’d got past all that Council of Wankers bollocks.”

 

“Spike…” Giles tone was low and dangerous, reminding Spike of the man who had taken on Angelus with nothing but a torch and a stake. “I will not have Buffy hesitating at the wrong time because some bloody idiot has put the idea into her head that her opponent could be harmless.”  He cringed realizing that he was giving a vampire valuable information that could be used against Buffy, but to his relief, Spike was immediately contrite.  He shrugged at Buffy in apology.

 

“He’s right, pet. Wasn’t thinkin’, was I?  You can’t afford to be worrying about—” He turned back to Giles.  “Best way for her not to worry about it, is to know how to identify the harmless demons.  Anything else would be fair game. Which ones have you taught her?”

 

There was an uncomfortable silence for a full minute before Buffy let out an explosive breath.

 

“I don’t like research and studying, okay?  Giles tried to teach me about different kinds of demons, but I… I didn’t pay much attention,” she finished in a barely audible mumble.

 

“Ah. Well, let’s go then.”  Spike walked over and held the door open. 

 

“Go?”

 

“Yeah. Go. We’re going to hit all the demon bars in town until I’m sure you know which ones are and aren’t dangerous.”

 

“Do I get to slay the ones that are?”

 

“Maybe. If I think we can take ‘em.  Not gonna let you start a bar fight if I don’t think we can win it.”

 

“We?” Buffy said as she ducked under his arm and went out the door.  “When did we get to be a ‘we’?”

 

“When your boytoy’s friends turned me into something that can’t fight anything but other demons.  You don’t want me going crackers with boredom, do you?”

 

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

“Are you just going to let them go?” Xander’s eyes were bulging as he stared between the closing door and Giles.

 

Giles shrugged.  “I don’t recall either one of them asking my permission. In any event, if Spike can teach her to recognize a few different types of demons, more power to him.  It is information the slayer should have, it has just never been Buffy’s forte.”

 

“But… this isn’t patrol. She’s going to bars. With Spike!  The vampire she thought she was going to marry a couple of months ago.  You know, the one that wants to kill us?”

 

“I’m aware of what Spike is, Xander,” Giles said, allowing a trace of irritation to creep into his voice.  “What is your point, exactly?”

 

“My point, is that going bar-hopping sounds way too datey to suit me.  She should be staking him, not going out drinking with him!”

 

“I believe the purpose of the expedition is for Buffy to learn the difference between demons likely to be a danger to her or anyone else, and those with which she need not trouble herself.  This is good information for her to have, and Spike should be an excellent guide. He is, after all, quite an old vampire and one with an excellent education.”

 

“Excellent education? Spike thinks Weetabix is a food group! He still dresses like it was 1970 – not that I remember anything about 1970, but—”

 

“Neither his disgusting food preferences, nor his sense of fashion have anything to do with the education I am fairly certain he received when he was human.  In fact, I have every intention of delving more deeply into the Council’s records and into…” Giles shuddered theatrically and turned to look at Willow.  “And asking Willow to look into internet records of that time for more information about Spike as a human. In spite of what I have gleaned over the past several weeks, I suspect there is a good deal we still don’t know about him.”

 

“We know he’s an evil, soulless demon who only hasn’t killed us because he can’t. Why am I suddenly the only one who remembers that?”

 

Giles shrugged. “We don’t know if there may not be another purpose at work here.  The Powers may have chosen to have Spike chipped as a way to permit him to earn his redemption. Somewhat like they did with Angel. They cursed Angel with a soul he didn’t want; they may have cursed Spike with an electronic chip that prevents him from killing.”

 

“The Powers need to mind their own damn business,” Xander muttered, settling down on the couch.  “Or at least, if they’re going to keep inflicting harmless vampires on us, why can’t they pick a good looking female vampire?”

 

“Instead of two good-looking men?” Willow asked, blinking her eyes with mock innocence.  Xander’s incoherent sputtering brought a smile even to Giles’s face.

 

“Spike and Angel are good-looking vampires! And I cannot believe I just said that…” He subsided into embarrassed muttering while Giles and Willow laughed openly. 

 

“Nice to know you agree with me,” Willow said, still giggling.  “That they’re good-looking, I mean.”

 

“I’m not agreeing about anything,” Xander said. “In fact I’m not talking at all until Anya gets here… and maybe not even then.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“So, where are we going? Willy’s?”

 

Spike shook his head. “No, want you to learn which demons to leave alone – that means we have to go to nicer places. The only harmless demon you’re likely to find at Willy’s is Clem – and even you should be able to figure out he’s alright. ”

 

“Clem?”  Buffy decided, in light of her admission that she didn’t know much about demon types, she wouldn’t punch Spike for his “even you” remark.

 

“Nice guy. Not the brightest, but friendly.  Can’t miss him – he looks like he’s wearing the skin of somebody three times his size. And ears he borrowed from a basset hound.”

 

“Sounds like my kind of guy,” she snorted. “Can’t wait to meet him.”

 

“He’s a nice person, Slayer. Don’t be so judgmental.”

 

“I’m not judgmental! And when did you start using big words?”

 

His only reply to her first statement was a raised eyebrow, but he grinned as he said, “Just trying to help you along with that college education.”  He winced but laughed when she hit him on the arm, saying, “I’ll have you know my SAT scores were high enough to make Giles look impressed.  At least, he was impressed until he heard what Willow’s were… but that doesn’t count. Willow’s like… inhumanly smart.”

 

“Inhumanly, huh?”

 

“Okay, maybe not the best choice of words for somebody who was born and raised in Sunnydale, but you know what I mean. Stop acting like you don’t!”

 

“Just winding you up, Slayer,” he said mildly.  “Sometimes you just make it too easy for me.”

 

“Note to self, stop making it easy for Spike to be an ass.  Oh wait – too late!”

 

“Ha, bloody, ha, luv. Here we are.”

 

“Where we are?” Buffy stared at the nondescript-looking building in front of them.

 

“One of Sunnydale’s nicer demon bars,” he replied, gesturing toward the door. “Let’s go in.”

 

“There are ‘nice’ demon bars?”  Buffy hadn’t moved, and he growled under his breath.

 

“There’s a whole ‘nother world of Sunnydale than what you know, Slayer. Made up of demons that are harmless but like living on a hellmouth. Lot of ‘em look human enough to pass. You probably deal with demons everyday and don’t know it because they don’t do anything evil.  There are even a few vamps that are pretty harmless. Too afraid or lazy to hunt.  They find… other ways… to get what they need.”

 

“Harmless vamps? Other than you?”

 

Spike snarled. “I’m this way because the biggest evil in this town is that lab hiding underground where they think it’s alright to indulge in vivisection as long as they’re only using vamps and demons.  The vampires I’m talking about have chosen not to kill.  Not on purpose, anyway…”

 

“How does a vampire kill ‘accidentally’? Give me a break, Spike. You’re just full of it.” She tossed her head, but moved to the door Spike was now holding open for her.

 

“I’ll explain about that later. Right now, I need for you to smile and look like you wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

 

“What if it’s an evil fly?” she asked, ducking under his arm and entering the room. It was hard to miss the crashing silence that greeted her arrival. Everyone in the room – from the normal and not-so-normal looking couples having dinner to the bartender and the maĒtre d’ – was staring at Buffy with wide, frightened eyes.

 

Spike leaned down and growled into her ear. “Don’t care if it’s the bloody devil disguised as a fly, if you see it here, let it go. And smile!”

 

Following his own advice, he smiled at the glaring headwaiter and gestured to an empty table.  “Nobody’s looking for trouble here,” he said, resting his hand on Buffy’s shoulder. “We’re just going to have a drink or two and be on our way.”

 

The maĒtre d’ nodded stiffly and led them to a booth. Buffy tried to observe him without being so obvious she might make him nervous, but didn’t see anything unusual about him until she noticed the tail hanging below his jacket.  She gave him her best “I’m not planning to kill you” smile and slid into the booth.  Spike sat down across from her and ordered a beer for himself and when Buffy shook her head at his questioning eyebrow, he ordered a Diet Coke for her.

 

“No alcohol while you’re working?” he said with a smile.

 

“Alcohol and Buffy – not mixy things.  Trust me.” She made a face and shuddered, giving him a half-hearted glare when he laughed aloud.

 

“I’ll remember that,” he said. “Not a good idea to ply the Slayer with alcohol.”

 

“Is that what you were planning to do? Ply me with alcohol?”

 

“Maybe. Thought about it.” He shrugged. “Why not?”

 

“Because we hate each other?”

 

“Well… yeah. There’s that. Guess I missed my chance. Should have done my plyin’ when you thought you were in love with me, not after we remembered we hate each other.”

 

“That’s right,” she said, smiling at the waitress who shoved their drinks at them and quickly retreated to the safety of the bar. “We hate each other… “ She frowned as she picked up her glass. “I think… Don’t we?”

 

“Are you askin’ me or tellin’ me, pet?”

 

She gave herself a little shake.  “Of course we do. You’re evil and annoying and…”

 

“And you’re a self-righteous little bitch with a mean right cross.”  He tipped his bottle toward her. “Here’s to us.”

 

Buffy snorted her agreement and lightly touched his bottle with her glass.  She took another deep swallow, then set the glass down and looked around the room at the other customers, most of which had gone back to their meals – although not without casting frequent glances at the out of place couple chatting in the booth.

 

“Alright, Slayer. Don’t stare at them, just listen.  The ones that look human are all either humans, part human, or from demon breeds that can hide their features.  Chances are, they’re all harmless, unless they’re regular evil, criminal types.”

 

“Vamps can hide their demon features,” she said, pointing at his own face. “They’re not harmless.”

 

“True, but your slayer senses should tell you when the good-looking bloke winking at you has a nasty secret,” he said, following his words with the action.

 

Buffy flushed, annoyed at the warmth flooding her face. “I’m getting better at that than I used to be.” She glanced up at him. “I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I didn’t know what Angel was until the first time he kissed me.  He vamped out and I screamed. Then he jumped out the window and fell off the roof.” She shook her head with a sad smile. “Should have taken that embarrassing beginning as an omen, shouldn’t I?”

 

He choked on his beer and laughed loud enough to draw stares from around the room. When Buffy glared at him, he reached across the table and rested his hand on top of hers. “Could probably have saved yourself a lot of pain,” he said. “But if you can joke about it you must be getting better.”

 

Buffy frowned. “I kinda did make it sound funny, didn’t I? Huh! Go me. I’m getting over him.” She gave him a sideways glance. “I’m not quite as over him as I was when I thought I was in love and getting married, but I’m better than I was a few months ago when I thought I was going to die of misery.  And, hey, I’ve even got a nice, normal… or semi-normal….” She frowned, remembering Riley’s no-longer-secret status as a demon-hunting commando. “Anyway, I’ve got a new boyfriend – so take that, Angel.”

 

Spike snatched his hand back, draining his beer and beckoning for another.  “Right, I forgot. You’ve got a new boytoy to help you forget the poof.”

 

“Yep. Buffy has a new boyfriend. Things are looking up.”  There was an uncomfortable silence as Buffy realized Spike didn’t look particularly happy about the mention of Riley. She sighed. “Look, Spike, I know you think you’ve got good reasons to hate Riley – and maybe you do from a vampire’s viewpoint – but the way I see it, the Initiative made you safe to be around without making you… you know, dusty.”

 

“Bully for them. And I should be excited about that because…?”

 

She frowned. “Well… I don’t know. I thought maybe we… never mind. Forgot there for a minute. We hate each other. Of course you’re not happy that you can hang out with me—us. I don’t know what I was thinking…”

 

“You were thinking it’s handy to have somebody besides the watcher who can talk to you about demons and help you with your homework.  Got it, pet.  Let’s get on with the lesson, yeah?  Now see that couple in the corner? The ones with the pale green skin? They’re….”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

Three clubs later, Buffy was grumbling as she followed Spike down an alley.

 

“I don’t think it’s fair that you can drink as much as you do and never have to pee.  You’ve had twice as much to drink as I have tonight, and I’m the one who’s always looking for the restroom.”

 

She heard his deep chuckle, something she decided she was coming to like as long as she didn’t let herself think about who was making that warm sound. “Entrance is right down here, luv. The loo is on your right when we go in.  This one’s more of a mixed bag, so be on your toes.”

 

“You mean we might get a fight out of this one?”  Her eagerness was obvious and he snorted with laughter.

 

“Getting’ bored are you, Slayer? I’ll see if I can rustle you up a little exercise while you’re doing your business.”  He opened the door and pointed to the right where a door with a picture of what might have been a female Fyral demon beckoned.

 

“Don’t start without me,” she warned, pushing the door open.  She ducked into a stall and quickly relieved herself of the last four Diet Cokes. As she was washing her hands – surprised at the relative cleanliness of the sink – the door opened and a familiar voice floated in ahead of its owner.

 

“Don’t try to pretend you don’t know this is where I hang out, Blondie Bear.  Stalking is not an attractive quality in a man.  Just accept that we’re finished and—Gah! Buffy!”

 

“Harmony.”  Buffy said, mentally assessing the entertainment value of fighting with or staking Harmony vs whatever Spike was going to be able to scare up.

 

“You shouldn’t be here,” Harmony sniffed. “This is a high-class demon bar. You know, for people who are evil?”

 

“Uh huh. And you don’t think the Vampire Slayer should be interested in a place where there are vampires and evil demons? Where do you think I should be hunting for them?”

 

“Well, not here!  What if somebody thinks you’re with me?”

 

“Not likely. Slayer’s got taste.” Spike’s voice came through the door that he was holding open with one hand while he tried to fend off an angry demon with very large teeth and four arms.  “Little help, Slayer?”

 

“Slayer? Help?  Oh that’s just pathetic, Spike. You brought Buffy with you to try to make me jealous?  Are you insane?”

 

“Feel free to take the time to stake her on your way out,” Spike grunted as the demon punched him hard enough to drive him into the small sink area.  Buffy ripped the towel holder off the wall and hit Spike’s attacker over the head as he tried to follow up his punch.

 

“This is the ladies’ room, you moron,” she said, whacking him several times until he retreated to the larger area by the door.  Two burly demons that Buffy didn’t recognize approached as Spike jumped onto the bleeding demon’s back swearing in several languages.

 

“Take it outside, Spike,” the bouncers said, shoving the snarling combatants toward the door.  “And take your destructive girlfriend with you,” one added as he saw Buffy holding the bloody towel dispenser.  Ignoring the bouncer’s outstretched hand, Buffy stared around the bar, noting that many of the patrons were disappearing out another exit in the back.  She shrugged and tossed the metal box at the bouncer.

 

“Think we got what we came for,” she said, following the sounds of battle out into the alley.  Behind her she could hear Harmony saying, “Girlfriend? That’s not his girlfriend. I’m the girlfriend. That’s just a fashion disaster he brought to try to win me back.”

 

The door swung shut behind her and Buffy watched as Spike tried to exchange punches with something that had two more arms and fists than he did.  Taking her time, she strolled to the dumpster and picked up a sturdy-looking broom leaning against it.

 

“Say when, Spike,” she said, holding the broom in a loose grip as she sat on a trashcan to watch.  She started to get up when the demon pinned Spike to the ground and began to hit him in the face, but relaxed when he vamped out and threw his opponent off with a roar. With his own fangs out and calling upon the added strength his demon gave him, he soon had his opponent trying harder to get away than to fight.  With a final snarl, it pushed Spike away long enough to take off running down the alley.

 

Shaking off his vampire mien, Spike strolled back to where Buffy was twirling the broom, her disappointment plain.  “I didn’t get to slay him,” she complained. “You hogged the fight.”

 

“Sorry, luv. Was having a good time. Forgot you might want a piece of him.”

 

“Oh well,” she said, tossing the broom away. “I got to hit him on the head a bunch of times. I guess that’ll have to do me.” They began walking out of the alley, side by side. Spike bumped against her arm. “You know, Slayer, you are my kind of woman.”

 

“I am? But I’m… you know… sane?”

 

His face darkened.  “I was trying to be nice, Summers. Didn’t need that reminder of what else I’ve lost.”

 

“Sorry,” she said, almost as surprised as he was when the word left her mouth. “I forgot we had that in common.  That we’ve both been dumped,” she explained when he glanced at her with a raised eyebrow.  

 

He stared at her for a few seconds. “Their loss,” he said finally, throwing an arm over her shoulder. “What say we finish up the evening by wrecking Willy’s?”

 

“As tempting as that thought is, I think I should call it a night. As long as I’ve got all this caffeinated liquid in me, I may as well take advantage of it and try to get some studying done before I go to sleep. I have to read the rest of that play.”

 

“Can’t compete with Shakespeare,” he said with an exaggerated sigh. 

 

“Trust me, Spike, I’d much rather be wrecking Willy’s with you than reading about some guy and his skeezy uncle in Denmark. But there might be a pop quiz tomorrow.” She cocked her head. “I’m not sure the professor isn’t a demon. I should have you check that out for me…”

 

“I think we know which one on the faculty could be a demon, Slayer,” he growled. “Don’t know why you haven’t dropped that vivisectionist’s class yet.”

 

“Spike, I know she… okay, not a warm fuzzy person, but calling her a demon or a vivi-whatever is just…”

 

“That’s the term for those who “experiment” on live animals, luv.  Now, if you’re willing to consider vamps and sentient demons ‘people’, then she becomes a sadist and a serial killer.”

 

“Well, I hope I’m going to get a chance to see for myself soon. Riley’s trying to get me into the facility as a… I dunno… guest co-worker? Or something. I don’t think Professor Walsh was all that impressed by what I do, but once I kicked butt on Riley’s squad she—”

 

“You did what?”

 

“He set it up for them to jump me so that I could show what I can do. Without warning me about it.”  She snickered. “I had to hold back a whole lot, but I think they have a better idea of what a Slayer is now.”

 

He cocked his head and looked at her in a way that made her face flush and grow warm  “You know, luv, I don’t think they’ve got the first clue what a Slayer really is.  But I expect you’re just the girl to open their eyes.”

 

Once again Buffy was reminded of how certain he’d been that she would deal with the Chumash warrior and save them all.  She peered up at him from the corner of her eyes.

 

“Did you just pay me a compliment?”

 

“Me? What? Compliment the bane of my existence?”  He made a rude noise and threw his hands in the air.  “You’re barmier than Dru ever was if you think I’d do that.”

 

“Right. Just checking. I didn’t really think so.”

 

“Just so we’re clear.”

 

 

 

They reached Buffy’s dorm and paused just to the side of the main door.  There was an uncomfortable moment when neither one seemed to have any idea how to end the evening – a moment easily broken when Willow spotted them through the window and came outside.

 

“Hey, Buffy… Spike.  Did you guys find a bunch of demons to learn about or beat up?”

 

“Found our share,” Spike said, stepping away from the girls.  “Slayer knows more than she did before we started,” he added, giving Buffy an enigmatic look.

 

She met his gaze steadily. “Un huh. I think you could safely say I learned some things tonight.”

 

Willow looked back and forth between the two of them, a small frown creasing her brow.  Ooookay. Well, that’s good, I guess.  So, Spike did his job, right? You’re all caught up on the different kinds of demons?”

 

“Well, I don’t think—”

 

“Hell, no.  We just scratched the surface tonight.  Gonna have to go out a few more times before I’ll feel like I’ve taught her everything she needs to know.”

 

“We are talking about demons here, right?”

 

“Of course we are! What else would we be talking about?” Buffy dropped her righteous indignation. “Well, except maybe Shakespeare, I guess.” She peered up at Spike. “Do you know anything else about his stuff besides Hamlet?”

 

“I do,” he said. “Every self-respecting Englishman knows Shakespeare inside and out.”

 

Buffy turned to Willow.  “I think we just found ourselves a study-buddy.”

 

“A what?”  Spike began edging away from the two girls now smiling at him with patently false sweetness.

 

“Giles says you’ve got a really good education… for an old guy, I mean.  And you said you know Shakespeare.  You’re perfect for helping us with this class!” Willow beamed at the panic-stricken vampire.

 

“The last time I worked as a tutor, I got paid for—I mean, you’re barmy if you think I’m going to spend my time trying to make up for the appalling educations you got in what passes for schools in this country.  I have my pride, you know.”

 

“No you don’t,” Buffy said cheerfully. “If we buy you beer, you’ll do pretty much whatever we want you to. Won’t he, Willow?”

 

“You’re not old enough to buy me beer,” Spike said with less conviction than he’d intended to have in his voice.

 

“It’s a college town, Spike. With demons. Even I know where to buy beer if you’re underage.” Willow gave him a scornful eyeroll.

 

‘You can start now!” Buffy grabbed the sleeve of Spike’s coat and began tugging him toward the door. “You can help us study for tomorrow.”

 

“Hey now, Slayer.”  Spike planted his feet.  “I just gave you a course in demonology.  And I already showed you the line you needed to find in Act II. That’s all you get out of me for tonight.”

 

“Oh, come on. You can go beat up whatever’s left at Willy’s later.  If I think you’ve made me smarter, maybe I’ll even come with you.”

 

Although Willow gave Buffy a funny look, she grabbed Spike’s other arm and began tugging him toward the door.  “Right. You help us out, and then Buffy will help you beat things up at Willy’s.”

 

“Don’t need help beating things up,” he muttered, allowing himself to be towed along.  “Do just fine all by myself.”

 

“You were totally losing tonight until I hit that creep on the head,” Buffy said, releasing his sleeve now that he was no longer protesting.  “You totally owe me.”

 

Spike stopped and cocked his head at her. “Have you picked up some kind of infection from being in college, or did you spend too much time with Harm tonight?”

 

“What?”

 

“What?”

 

Buffy and Willow spoke simultaneously.

 

“You were with Harmony?”

 

“No! She just came into the ladies room when I was getting ready to leave it. I don’t know what he’s talking about.”

 

“I’m talking about the way you’re talking. Not that you’ve ever been all that eloquent, but—” Spike pitched his voice high and sing-songed, “ ‘You totally owe me.’ Tell me that doesn’t sound like something Harmony would say.”

 

“Eloquent?” Willow was staring at their new study-buddy with wide eyes. “What ladies room? Where were you?”

 

“Nowhere. Just some demon club. While I was in the lady demons room, Spike got into a fight and I had to bang the thing on the head with the towel dispenser to make it let go of him. And Harmony was there and she got in the way and she was yelling at Spike that I was there to make her jealous, and, yeah… it was just…” Buffy paused and looked at Willow and then at Spike.  “… kinda fun. In a totally inappropriate and shame on me kind of way,” she added primly when Spike broke into a big grin and Willow looked at her with narrowed eyes.

 

“So, you went out with Spike, and you had… fun?”

 

Buffy flushed and shook her head.  “Well, no, of course not. I mean – I was with Spike, Willow. Where’s the fun in that?  It was all with the learning about demons and which ones I should slay and….” Her voice trailed off when she saw Spike’s grin fade, to be replaced by the cold face of a dead man. Without a word, he whirled and strode off into the darkness, disappearing from sight before Buffy could say or do anything.

 

The two girls stood for a minute, staring after the now invisible vampire.

 

“Shit,” Buffy said softly.

 

“I think you hurt his feelings,” Willow said.

 

“I didn’t mean to. I just… you looked so shocked and I just wanted to….” She sighed. “I did, didn’t I? Who knew vampires have feelings to hurt…”

 

“Spike’s not exactly an average vampire,” Willow observed. “How many vampires fall in love with Slayers and try to help their watchers or fight off demons chasing their friends?”

 

“That was your spell!” Buffy whirled on Willow with wide eyes. “You said we should get married.”

 

“I didn’t say anything about being in love. You guys did that all on your own.”

 

Buffy put her hands on her hips and stuck out her lower lip. “Well, if I was going to marry somebody, I’d have to be in love with him. That’s just how it works.”

 

“And apparently it works like that for Spike too,” Willow said with satisfaction. “He has feelings. Like I said, not exactly your average vampire.”

 

“Not your average vampire.” Buffy agreed and turned to enter the building. “We might as well go in. I don’t think he’s coming back to help us study.”

 

“Yeah, I got that.  Oh well, we’ll do it the old-fashioned way – read the play again.”

 

“Again?”

 

It was Willow’s turn to sigh. “Yeah, again. I already read it last week, didn’t you?”

 

“Uh… no? I think I was busy… with Riley.  He said he’d read it with me, but we got distracted…”

 

“Distracted, huh?” Willow poked Buffy’s arm.  “So, things are good on the Riley front?”

 

“Better than good.  Buffy has a boyfriend with a pulse, who fights demons and vampires and has awesome arms and… and… isn’t a jerk!” she finished with a smile.

 

As they entered their room, Willow held up the textbook containing Hamlet. “If we procrastinate much longer, it will already be time for the quiz.”

 

“Maybe there won’t be one… “ Buffy said hopefully. “She didn’t say for sure, she said maybe.”

 

“That’s professor-speak for ‘there’s going to be a really hard surprise test’, Buffy.”

 

“I told Spike she was a demon,” Buffy muttered, picking up her own book.  “Can’t you just give me a quick recap?”

 

Willow sighed. “You shouldn’t have made Spike mad. He can probably recite the whole play.”

 

“Spike gets mad at me all the time. He’ll get over it.”  Buffy spoke with more surety than she felt as she remembered how his face had gone from pleased and happy to stone cold. 

 

“Not in time for a test tomorrow, he won’t,” Willow said.  “Start reading and just ask me questions when you don’t understand something.  Maybe we can hit the highlights and you’ll know enough to do okay on the test.”

 

“I’d rather be beating up demons with Spike,” Buffy muttered. “I get beating

things up – castles and uncles marrying mothers… not so much.”

 

“Just read, Buffy.” Willow’s voice was beginning to sound irritated, and Buffy stopped grumbling and began to read.

 

 

Chapter Four

 

The expected test the next day didn’t go well. Buffy had fallen asleep before she finished the second act and she had to guess at the answers to many of the questions.  When she turned in her mostly blank paper with its invented answers to the few questions she’d been willing to take a stab at, the professor glanced at it and gestured for Buffy to wait instead of leaving with the other students.  Willow made a sympathetic face, but obediently exited the classroom to wait outside.

 

The professor stared at Buffy over the rims of her glasses.  She sighed and handed the paper back.

 

“Ms. Summers, I am not going to bother grading this.  I will give you until tomorrow to actually read the play and come to my office during my regular office hours to take a revised version of this test.”  She hesitated, then nodding as if agreeing with herself about something, she continued. “Ms. Summers—Buffy, I was born in Sunnydale. I went away to attend college in New England and had no intention of returning… ever.  Do you know why I did return a few years ago?”

 

Buffy shook her head, biting back the urge to say “Because you’re a demon and it’s the Hellmouth?”

 

“I accepted the job here and returned home because I’d heard, from reliable sources, that there was now a girl living in Sunnydale whose job it was to keep the vampires and demons in check. That it was now safe – if one took reasonable precautions – to go out in the evenings. Even to teach evening classes at the local university.”  She smiled at Buffy’s wide-eyed expression.  “That girl is known as a… vampire killer? Some sort of demon assassin?”

 

“Slayer,” Buffy said shortly. “I’m the Slayer.”

 

“Ah. Well, whatever you choose to call yourself, I am well aware that you often do not get much sleep, nor much time for study in the evenings – and for much better reasons than most college students.  Therefore, I am going to cut you some slack in this class.  Not to the extent that you are not expected to do the readings and write the same papers as everyone else, but if you will email me in the morning on days when you’ve not had time to do the assignment, we will arrange for you to take an extra day and bring the work to my office. Is that acceptable to you?”

 

Buffy just stood, mouth gaping, and stared at the woman she’d thought was a demon. When the professor began to frown, Buffy shook herself out of her stupor and nodded vigorously.  “Yes. Yes, of course it is.  And thank you.”  She turned and ran out of the room before the teacher could change her mind.

 

Willow stood up from the bench she’d be waiting on.  “So, are you in big trouble? What did she say?”

 

“She said she knows I’m the Slayer and she’s giving me an extra day to get work in any time I need one.” Buffy waved the test. “And I get to study for this and take it over tomorrow.”

 

“Wow.  I don’t suppose you mentioned that you have a friend who’s a witch and helps you out sometimes….”

 

Buffy rolled her eyes. “You mean my friend the genius, who is so smart this school practically paid her to come here? That friend?”

 

“It was just a thought. Even geniuses can use a day off once in awhile.”

 

“Sorry, Wills. I just grabbed my test and ran.”

 

“Oh well, it was just a thought.  Hey! Maybe you can get Spike to help you out tonight.  Instead of studying demons, you can study Shakespeare.”

 

“You really think Spike’s going to be willing to do the study-buddy thing now? He was really ticked off last night….”

 

“He was really hurt last night. I’m sure when you apologize for—”

 

“When I what?”

 

Willow heaved a sigh. “Apologize. You know, tell him you didn’t mean to sound like he wasn’t any fun and that you didn’t enjoy the evening.  Give him some reason to think you’re really sorry you said what you said.”

 

“I am sorry. But I don’t know… apologizing to Spike… It could set a whatchamacallit… precedent!”

 

“Just explain to him that he shouldn’t get used to it,” Willow said with a snicker. “It’s not like that wouldn’t be true.”

 

“Very funny.”  Buffy sighed and stopped.  “I guess I should go find him and see if he’ll do it.  If he won’t, I’ll have to… I don’t know what I’ll have to do…”

 

“Read the play yourself?”

 

Buffy shuddered. “Apologize to Spike it is. I can do this.”

 

“You can do this,” Willow agreed. “Do you know where to find him in the daytime?”

 

“Yeah. He found a crypt in Restfield. I made him tell me where it was so I could check up on him.”  When Willow looked at her with raised eyebrows, Buffy hastily added, “You know, in case the chip stops working or something. It’s important that I know where to find him.”

 

“Not saying a word…” Willow mimed zipping her lips.  “What do you want me to tell Riley if he asks where you are?”

 

“Oh, crap, Riley. I forgot all about him.” Buffy ignored Willow’s shocked expression.  “Tell him I’ll… I’ll catch him later today or tonight.  I mean Spike might not want to do this right now, if he’s sleeping or something, so I don’t know…”

 

“Okay. I’ll just tell Riley you’re working on an important assignment and you don’t know when you’ll be back on campus.”

 

“Exactly.”

 

“Tell Spike I said ‘Hi’,” Willow said as she turned to go to her next class.  “And tell him I still want him to be our study-buddy – assuming he isn’t still too mad to talk to you,” she added, remembering the vampire’s uncertain temper.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Textbook in hand, Buffy approached the crypt Spike had described to her.  She shuddered as she pushed open the inner door, wishing she’d brought a flashlight. The small amount of light coming in the door and the filthy windows only made the interior murkier. 

 

“Spike? Are you here?”  The only reply was a groan from deeper in the room. Moving cautiously, Buffy entered, relieved when her eyes began to adjust to the gloom.  She could see a figure huddled on top of a stone sarcophagus and approached it, all her senses alert. Her neck told her it was a vampire, and something familiar about the tingles told her it was probably Spike.

 

“What’s wrong? Are you sick?” 

 

As her eyes adjusted to the gloom, she reached for his shoulder and rolled him towards her, flinching when she saw the swelling and cuts on his face.  His eyes were shut and she wasn’t sure if he was even conscious. She spotted a candle on a stone shelf and brought it closer to the sarcophagus while she looked around for matches. Finding none, she checked the pockets of Spike’s coat, sighing in relief when she found his lighter and used it to light the candle.

 

Setting her book on a nearby table and holding the candle in the air, she took another look at him in the flickering light.  Blood on his chest and hands as well as his face made her frown and look around for something to set the candle on.  She set it on a corner of make-shift bed and pulled Spike’s ripped shirt the rest of the way open, shuddering at the additional bruises and cuts she found there. She lightly ran her hands over his ribs, biting her lip when she felt the broken ends pushing against his skin.

 

“What the hell did this to you?” she whispered, wondering what, if anything, she should do.  The only response was another moan and an attempt to shift his position, which brought on a pained gasp.  His eyes slit open as far as they could, given the swelling around them.

 

“Slay—?” he tried to say, his bruised lips barely moving.

 

Shhh,” she said, touching his shoulder.  “What happened to you? Wait, never mind. Don’t talk. What do you need? What should I do?”

 

“Make up… bloody mind,” he gasped.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said, the apology slipping out without thought.  “I don’t want you to hurt yourself any more than—but if you tell me what I can do….”

 

“Blood,” he said. He fixed one barely-open eye on her. “… good stuff.”

 

“Okay.  I’ll go to Willy’s and—you didn’t get like this trying to clear out Willy’s by yourself, did you? Cause he’s not gonna want to give me blood for you if—”

“Didn’t wreck… place. Didn’t go…”

 

His eyes drifted shut again, and Buffy decided not to ask him any more questions. She patted his shoulder again, then moved the candle back to its shelf and left the crypt. She ran most of the way to The Alibi Room, only slowing when she was in the parking lot.  She walked straight up to the bar and grabbed the owner by the arm, dragging him past the few curious customers sitting around so early in the day and into his office.

 

“Blood. The good stuff. Gimme all you’ve got.”

 

“Have you been turned, Slayer?”

 

“Don’t be stupid. I just walked here in the daylight, didn’t I?  Just give it to me.”

 

“What for?”  At her narrowing eyes, he quickly back-tracked. “Yeah, sure. Just a second.”  He went to a small cooler and reached in for a bag of blood, yelping when Buffy reached past him and picked up the cooler.  “Hey, Slayer! I need—” He broke off when she glared at him. “Right. You obviously need it more than I do.”

 

“I’ll bring your cooler back,” she said as she went out of his office.

 

“You do that,” he muttered, watching her leave the building. 

 

 

 

Moving as quickly as she could with a full cooler swinging from one arm, Buffy made her way back to Restfield.  She pushed the crypt door open with her free arm, kicking it closed behind her without turning around.  The candle was still flickering, allowing her to look around the surprisingly large area.  She spotted a few more candles and quickly lit them, throwing the room and its inhabitant into much sharper focus.  She saw no sign of something to use to feed Spike the blood, so pulled a bag out and held it near his face.

 

“Come on, Spike. Wake up. I brought you some blood, but you need to sit up.” There was no response from the inert vampire.  With a sigh, she slid one arm behind his shoulders and lifted him into a semi-sitting position. He had gone into game face at her touch, but still seemed unconscious.  She rubbed the top of the plastic bag against one exposed fang, uttering a quiet “yes!” when it ripped open.

 

She dribbled some of the blood onto Spike’s lips, waiting until his tongue snaked out to lick them before moving the bag back into place.  As soon as his demon realized what was in front of him, it was easy to finish the feeding. All she had to do was pour the blood into Spike’s open mouth and watch him swallow it down. When the bag was empty and he began to growl, she shook him. “Just hold your horses. I have to get another bag out,” she snapped. “And stop growling at me!”

 

She knew she was being unfair, that the growling was coming from an injured demon and Spike probably had no idea he was doing it, but the idea that he would growl at her while she was feeding him had brought an automatic reaction.  She dropped the empty bag and reached down for another one, keeping one arm behind Spike’s shoulders. When she stood up, Spike had his eyes open and was staring at her with a puzzled expression on his face.

 

“Slayer? Where’d you come from?”

 

“Don’t you remember? I was here before and you told me you needed blood. So I went to Willy’s and got you some blood.  Now here, open this one.” She pushed it against his mouth, smiling when he automatically bit into the bag and began to drink. By the time he’d finished half of it, he was able to hold the bag himself and Buffy just kept an arm behind him to help him stay upright.  When he’d finished it, she started to reach for the cooler again, but he shook his head.

 

“Give us a minute, luv.  Need to let that do its work.” His eyes drifted shut again, so she gently lowered him until he was lying down again.  He sighed, wincing as bones tried to knit.

 

“What’s wrong?” Buffy’s hand went back to his chest where he was resting one hand on his ribs.

 

Nothin’ Ribs are healin’ is all,” he said, biting his lip. “Stings a bit.”

 

Buffy frowned and pushed gently on one of the ends sticking out. “Shouldn’t we tape these into place or something?” she asked, running her hands over his rib cage as his own hand dropped.

 

He tried to shake his head, winced and said, “No. They’ll go back on their own. Just need to not be moving around much until they line themselves up.”

 

“Huh. That’s pretty cool. My bones don’t do that. They heal fast, but they have to be set.”

 

Without replying, he moved one hand toward her face.  “Can’t believe you’re feeding me,” he said, his eyes still shut.  “Must look really bad to be getting’ this kind of attention….”

 

“You do,” she said shortly. “You look like you should be dead…er…deader. Are you ready to tell me what asses I have to kick for this?”

 

His smile was sad as he opened his eyes to meet hers.  “Think you already have, Slayer. Although, if you want to give them an arse-kicking reminder….”

 

“Remind—? Riley? Riley’s men did this?”

 

“Them or some of their mates. Were definitely the overgrown, overfed soldier boys. Knew what I was too, and they knew I couldn’t fight back. Used me as a punching bag until I vamped out at ‘em. Then they left me screaming and holding my head – walked off laughing.”  He snarled as best he could through his torn lips. “When I get this chip out….”

 

Shhh…” She stroked the side of his face until he stopped growling. “You need to stop saying that. If you get the chip out, I’ll have to stake you.”

 

“You’d stake me?” He raised the hand holding the empty blood bag. “Why are you helping me if you still want to stake me?”

 

“I didn’t say I wanted to stake you, I said I’d have to. It’s not the same thing.”

 

“I’d be just as dusted – assuming, of course, that you could take me.”

 

“I could take you, Spike. Don’t ever doubt it. I’m not that little girl you found on Parent Teacher Night. I’ve kicked your ass a couple of times since then; I can do it again.”

 

He stared into her steady gaze, then nodded.  “Reckon you could at that, luv. It’s not like an ex-fiancé would be as hard to kill as the love of your life.  Sent him to hell, didn’t you?”

 

“I did.”  She turned away.  “I did what I had to do.” She whirled back to catch him watching her with an expression she couldn’t interpret. “I’ll always do what I have to do, Spike.  It’s who I am. It’s what I am.”

 

“It’s not all you are, Slayer. Not by a long shot.”  He dropped the empty bag on the floor, struggling to push himself into a sitting position. Buffy immediately darted back to his side and put her arm behind him for support.  He turned his head, putting his now-human features right in front of her face as she held on to his shoulders. It was the first time they’d been so close since the spell that had made them spend an entire evening snuggled into a comfy chair together.

 

Spike’s Adams apple bobbed as he swallowed hard, his eyes focused on Buffy’s mouth. She gasped, her tongue licking her suddenly dry lips as she stared at the naked lust on the vampire’s face.  They remained frozen like that for several seconds until Buffy found her voice.

 

“D…do you want another bag of b…blood?”

 

Spike took a deep breath and turned his head away. “Not what I really want just now, but I suspect it would be better for me… Yes, luv. Another bag of blood, if you don’t mind.”

 

Here.  She thrust another bag of blood at him, turning away as soon as he took it and fussing with closing the cooler. “There are a bunch more in here. Let me know when you need another one.” She picked up her textbook and, more to avoid looking at Spike than anything else, sat down against the wall under the largest candle. “As soon as you can reach them by yourself, I’ll get out of your… I’ll leave you to rest.”

 

She kept shifting her eyes to Spike until she was sure that he was going to be able to open and hold the bloodbag by himself, then opened her book to the middle of the first act of Hamlet and began to read.  There was silence in the crypt while Buffy tried to concentrate on the intrigue going on in a Danish castle and Spike sipped at his third bag of human blood.  When he’d finished it, he laid back down to let the blood do its work, turning his head to watch Buffy.

 

A small frown creased her brow, and she would occasionally grab her lower lip in her teeth as her eyes flew over the pages.  He watched her silently until her frown deepened and she was clearly rereading something several times.  He made a small sound that brought her eyes flying to his.

 

“Are you okay? Do you need me to get you more blood?”

 

“No, thank you, luv.  I was just wondering what had you so bogged down there….” He looked away, giving what he hoped looked like a casual shrug. “Thought maybe I could help you out with something….”

 

“I thought you were too mad at me to be my study-buddy,” she said, staring at the back of his head. He turned it and peered at her over this shoulder.

 

“If you thought that, why’d you have old Will tucked under your arm when you got here?”

 

“I… I was going to try… I thought maybe if I….” She took a deep breath and steadied her gaze. “I was going to apologize for what I said last night. I didn’t mean it, I was just trying to make Willow think—”

 

“You didn’t want the Scoobies to think you could enjoy the company of an unsouled vamp. I figured it out, pet.  Was brassed off for a while, but I got over it.”

 

“You did? When?” Buffy’s mind went immediately to their unsuccessful study session the night before, and she wondered if she should have chased him down.

 

“’Bout the time you ran in here carrying Willy’s entire supply of O neg.  Not the first thing I’d expect from the Slayer, is it?”

 

“You thought I’d just leave you here like that?  That I’d just go, ‘Oh, Spike’s too hurt to help me out. Too bad, guess I’ll go find somebody else.’ That’s what you think of me?”  The disappointment on her face had him quickly backpedalling.

 

“Don’t look at me like that, luv.  Know what a caring person you are, know how you take care of anybody you… well, the world, I guess, isn’t it?  But I’m just an old vamp that you’re allowin’ to live because you know I can’t hurt anyone anymore.  Letting me live and helping me do it are two very different things, yeah?”

 

“You think I’d leave somebody I… I know… injured like that if I knew how to fix it?” Her eyes were wide and fixed, bright with tears that she hoped he wouldn’t notice – but he did.

 

“Bloody hell, Buffy.”

 

He groaned and slid off the sarcophagus, collapsing before he got all the way to her. While she bit her lip, torn between helping him and kicking him away, he crawled the rest of the way to the wall and pushed himself up to sit beside her. Resting his head on the stone behind them, he became still as only a corpse can, then put his hand over the one she was using to hold her place on the page. He patted it, giving a small squeeze before moving his hand back to his own leg.

 

“I’m sorry, luv.  You’re absolutely right. I should have known you wouldn’t leave a frien—someone you know—in pain if you knew how to fix it.  And you did fix it,” he said, giving her a little nudge. “Look at me. Little bit ago, I wasn’t even conscious, and now I’m volunteering to teach you to appreciate Shakespeare. All because the Slayer brought me blood.” He gave her a glance from the corners of his eyes. “I’ll bet you didn’t pay the old thief for it either, did you?”

 

Buffy gave a half-hearted giggle. “Nope, I pretty much just walked out with it.” She slid her eyes to the side to meet his. “I think you’re a bad influence on me.”

 

“Jus’ helping you get that stick out of your arse,” he said, flinching when her eyes suddenly narrowed.

 

“As apologies go, that one sucked,” she said, scooting away a few inches.

 

He sighed. “It did. I’m sorry. Again. Apologizing’s not somethin’ either one of us is used to, is it? Not to each other, anyway….” He smiled at her. “I’ll try to get better at it.”

 

“Or, you could try not to say things you’d have to apologize for….” Buffy’s lips twitched as she fought a smile of her own.

 

“I s’pect I’ll have more success perfecting my apologies than I will remembering not to say things to brass you off.”

 

She gave an unlady-like snort. “You’re probably right.”  She sighed and held out the book.  “So, you think you can help me understand what’s going on here before tomorrow morning?”

 

 

 

Buffy left Spike’s crypt as the sun began to go down, giving him strict orders to stay in for the night and get better. 

 

“I’ll come back tomorrow with more blood, and you better be here getting better – not out somewhere getting beat up again.”

 

“Yes ‘m, Slayer, ma’am,” he said, giving her a mock salute.  “Got no plans to do anything but drink up Willy’s nightly profits and let my bones mend.  By the time you get back tomorrow, I’ll be my handsome self again.”

 

Buffy rolled her eyes.  “Just be normal looking, ‘k?”

 

Laughing at his growled “That is my normal look,” she slipped out the door, closing both the interior and the heavier outer door behind her.  It occurred to her that the Initiative soldiers might well decide to investigate a large crypt if they noticed it had an open door. Smothering the thought that she was protecting one of the creatures she was sworn to destroy from her boyfriend’s men who were, in theory, on the same side, she hastened away from Restfield.

 

 

 

Chapter Five

 

Later that night, after a tense dinner with Riley in which she’d ordered him to leave Spike alone and he told her she didn’t own Sunnydale or the vampires that lived there, she went looking for something to take out her anger on.  Two cemeteries and several dusted vampires later, she was feeling much better when she ran across a small squad of commandoes surrounding a wrinkled demon who looked much like Spike’s description of his friend.

 

“Clem?” she asked, shouldering her way through the surprised commandoes.

 

“Yes,” he said, nodding vigorously. “I’m Clem. Nice to meet you, Buffy.”  He eyed the soldiers, now readying a big net and moving closer. “Are you with them?”

 

“No, I’m not.”  She turned on the soldiers.  “You guys don’t need this one. He’s harmless – and friendly.”

 

“What difference does that make?” The man holding the net looked at his men and laughed. “We don’t have one like this.  Maggie likes getting new species to work on.”

 

“He’s not dangerous,” Buffy said, slowly and distinctly. “There’s no reason for you to take him anywhere.”

 

“Look, blondie,” the man said.  “You might be able to tell Finn what to do, but this is my squad and we don’t take orders from college coeds, no matter how tough they think they are.”

 

Buffy’s eyes narrowed.  “Clem, why don’t you check out Res—“ She stopped, realizing she would be giving away Spike’s location. “Why don’t you go find a friend to visit for a while?  Just till it’s, you know, safe to be out and about.”

 

“But … you…” Clem looked from Buffy to the burly men glaring at her.

 

“You know who I am, don’t you?”

 

“Oh, yeah. Everybody knows the Slayer, but Sp— my friend would never forgive me if I ran off and left you by yourself.”

 

“Trust me. If he was here, he’d be sitting on a tombstone, watching the show.  Go. Now.”

 

While the commandoes’ attention was on Buffy and the way she was settling herself between them and the demon, Clem was able to step away and begin running with surprising speed for someone with his size and build.  In no time, he had disappeared into the trees and they could no longer hear or see him.  With a furious shout, the squad leader turned on Buffy.

 

“You stupid bitch! You let him get away!”

 

“Uh, yeah. Kinda the idea. You know – he’s not dangerous, you shouldn’t capture him? Wasn’t I clear about that?”

 

“I don’t care if you are Finn’s fuck-buddy, you ever get in my way again, you’re going to find yourself in a cage, lady.”

 

Buffy’s expression hardened and her voice was low and carried an authority that made all the men step back. “Before you go making threats like that, I think you should talk to Riley and his squad. It might be harder than you think.”

 

Buffy turned her back to leave, a sense of movement and a swishing noise her only warning that they had cast the net at her. Dropping to the ground, she rolled quickly enough that it hit her on the shoulder and slid off.  She continued her roll, coming to her feet and facing them, her expression temporarily freezing them in their tracks.

 

“Get her!” The man in charge ran at her, forgetting about the net on the ground. His foot tangled in the mesh and he went down, cursing and reaching for his weapon.  With one kick, Buffy knocked it out of his hand and into the bushes several feet away.  Seeing their leader on the ground, the other three charged her, only to find themselves being flung almost as far away as the weapon. Using their own momentum, and her Slayer strength, Buffy was able to separate them so that she could punch each one quickly and efficiently. Very shortly, the only one left conscious was the one trying to get his foot out of the net.

 

He glared at her, but climbed to his feet well away from her powerful fists. 

 

“This isn’t over,” he said.

 

Buffy just shook her head and began to walk off.  “Tell that to the guy behind you,” she said, gesturing with her thumb at the newly-risen vampire approaching him.  “Maybe he’ll listen to you.”

 

She left the area, but circled back to make sure the vamp didn’t get lucky and manage to kill one of the groggy commandoes, now all on their feet and reaching for their stakes.  As soon as she saw that they were recovered enough to be capable of defending themselves, she began to jog towards Restfield Cemetery.

 

 

She got to Spike’s crypt just in time to see him come running out the door with Clem right behind him.  The wrinkled demon was armed with a baseball bat, and Spike was carrying a sword.  They stopped when they saw Buffy facing them, hands on her hips. “Just where do you think you’re going?”

 

Spike exchanged looks with Clem and shrugged, dropping the sword’s point to the ground. “So, you’re okay then?”

 

“Of course I’m okay. What are you – Angel?  There were only four of them, and they’re just humans.  Little stronger than most, but….”

 

“They’re a good bit stronger than most,” Spike said, “And you won’t kill humans, so there’s always the chance one of them could’ve got lucky while you were busy trying not to break him.” 

 

Buffy looked back and forth between Clem with his baseball bat, and Spike with the sword he would have been lucky to get one swipe with before his chip incapacitated him.  The warmth of gratitude fought with the irritation she felt that they’d thought she needed to be saved.  She shook her head and sighed.  “Let’s get back inside – just in case they aren’t the only squad out tonight.”

 

Spike held the door, waiting until she and Clem were both inside before pulling the outer door shut.  He grabbed the only lit candle and gestured toward the back of the big room.  “Found something,” he said. “Place we can be where the light won’t show outside.” 

 

Buffy watched with curiosity as Clem sat down and slid, disappearing into the floor with a muffled thud.  She followed Spike, peering over to stare into the darkness below.  Wha—”

 

“Trust me, Slayer. Just let me go first, yeah?”  Spike turned and dropped into the hole, the candle almost winking out as he did so.  Within a few seconds, the light steadied and increased as he obviously lit more candles.  “Okay, Slayer. It’s not that far,” Spike said, his voice floating up to meet her. “Come on down. I’ll catch you.”

 

“Right. You’ll catch me. With broken ribs.”

 

“The ribs are much better, luv. Just let yourself drop down here.”

 

She looked over the side and saw it really was only ten feet or so to the floor below, and that Clem and Spike were standing just beneath her.

 

“Okay. Get out of the way.”  Without waiting to see if they’d obeyed, she jumped forward in a small arc and let herself drop through space, bending her knees and landing easily.  She straightened up and looked at Spike who had grabbed her arm to steady her. “I’m okay,” she said, smiling to show him she didn’t really mind the hand she had no need of.

 

“Nice jump, Slayer,” he said, dropping his hand and moving away. “Sorry it’s so primitive down here, but I’ve got plans for it.”  He gestured around the large, cave-like room. “Some carpets on the floor, a bed, some other furniture, maybe some drapery on the walls… Could make a right comfy bedroom for a vampire.”

 

“Where does this go?” Buffy was peering into a dark area that seemed to have no end.

 

“Don’t know for sure, yet, but I know it goes into the sewers and other tunnels. It should mean I can get around town in the daytime without actually going outside until I get where I’m going.  Thought I’d check it out tomorrow. See how far I can go and still find my way home.”

 

“Couldn’t something nasty find its way right to your bedroom?”

 

“That’s what I keep telling him,” Clem said.  “It’s handy, but not very safe.”

 

He shrugged. “Can right now, but that’s the first thing I’m going to fix.  Here, look.” He tugged her hand and pulled her farther into the dark tunnel. “I don’t think I’m the first one to live here.  At one time, there was a gate across here. See where the fencing goes into the walls?”

 

“Spike, it’s dark in here. I can’t see anything.”  He turned golden eyes on her, managing to look contrite in spite of his vampire features.

 

“Sorry, pet. Forgot you couldn’t see me as well as I can see you.  I’ll show you later when I have light down here.” 

 

All three of them turned around and walked back to the candlelit main room.  Spike gestured at the hole in the ceiling. “First thing to do is make a ladder or some stairs.  Clem’s brother is a carpenter, he’s going to help me build it.”

 

“Maybe Xander could help… never mind. I guess that’s a stupid idea.”

 

“Don’t think Harris is quite as accepting of my hanging out with you white hats as Red and the Watcher seem to be,” Spike agreed. “Really can’t imagine his reaction to being asked to help my with my new home.”  His eyes grew thoughtful. “Although, if I threatened to move back in with him if he didn’t help me….”

 

Buffy giggled in spite of herself.  “That might do it,” she agreed.  “I can’t believe Giles sent you to stay with Xander when Olivia was here. Talk about your Odd Couple.”

 

“I was a perfect house guest. I don’t know what his problem was,” Spike said, his attempt to look genuinely confused and hurt causing Buffy and Clem to both laugh out loud.  When the laughter, which Spike reluctantly joined, had died down, Buffy brought them back to the night’s events.

 

“Okay, so here’s the deal. Some of these guys aren’t as nice as Riley is.  And they don’t seem to care who or what they get in their nets, so until I can get this straightened out—”

 

“Did they try to capture you?”  Every trace of laughter was gone from Spike’s voice.

 

Buffy shrugged. “I guess so. He said he’d put me in cage if I interfered again, then I told him that might be harder than he thinks and they tried to net me when I was walking away… I guess they almost did, actually.”  She smiled at Clem. “I might have been pretty happy to see you guys if they had.” She glanced at Spike, from whose throat a steady snarl was coming. “Although I don’t know what you thought you were going to do with that sword. You know your chip probably would have fired as soon as you even thought about whacking somebody with it.”

 

Coulda taken at least one of them down with me,” Spike said, hanging his head at the truth in her words.  Buffy looked at his dejected posture and without thinking moved close enough to touch his arm.

 

“Hey, how about you watch my back against vamps and demons, and let me take care of any bad guys that might give you a headache.  Is that a deal?”

 

“Not if they’re trying to hurt you, it isn’t,” he mumbled, realizing what he’d said when she dropped her hand and stared at him.  “I mean, I owe those wankers,” he said quickly.  “Don’t care if you think they’re good or bad, I’ll tear their entrails out and feed….” His voice trailed off as Clem shook his head and Buffy sighed.

 

“Quit while you’re ahead, Spike,” she said, giving him the same sort of light cuff that she’d used at Thanksgiving.  He tried to hide a smile as he cleared his throat.

 

“Right, quitting now… “  He stared at Buffy. “Are you admitting they aren’t quite the white hats you think they are?”

 

She sighed again. “I don’t know what to think, but if I get a chance to get in there and see what’s going on, I’m going to bring it up.  There’s no good reason for them to be capturing or killing anything that isn’t dangerous or evil.  I just need to make Professor Walsh understand that and I’m sure it’ll be okay.”

 

Spike snorted and leaned against the wall to light a cigarette.  Clem shrugged and said, “I guess in the meantime I can use the tunnels to get home.  Can I borrow a candle, just till I get to the sewers?  My eyesight’s good, but it’s not as good in the dark as yours.”

 

“Sure. Here.” Spike lit an extra candle and handed it to his friend.  “Just watch yourself out there for awhile, mate.”

 

“Likewise,” Clem said, waving as he started into the darkness.  “Nice to meet you, Buffy. And thanks for the rescue.”

 

“You’re welcome, Clem. It was nice to meet you too.”  Buffy waved back and watched as he disappeared down the tunnel.  She turned back to Spike who was smoking his cigarette and staring at her.  “What?”

 

“Nothing, luv.” He tossed the cigarette to the floor and stepped on it.  “Shouldn’t you be heading home to rest up for that test tomorrow?”

 

“Are you trying to get rid of me?” she teased, mentally chastising herself for being flirty with the vampire.

 

“No,” he said. “Just don’t want to see all my hard work go to waste because you were too sleepy to do a good job tomorrow.”

 

“Uh huh…” She gave him a doubting look, then frowned. “You are going to stay here after I leave, aren’t you? I don’t want all that blood to go to waste, and you still look like crap – no offense.”

 

“None taken, luv.  Yeah, I’m plannin’ on staying here. Gonna start bringing my stuff down here and work on making it comfy.  I won’t need the light after you leave, so I won’t attract any attention.  Gonna be out of blood by tomorrow, though, so I’ll have to go out tomorrow night.”  He paused, then put on his most casual air as he said, “Might be a good chance to catch you up on some more demon types. If you don’t already have plans….”

 

Buffy nodded. “’K. I’ll come by on my way to Giles’s and let you know how you did as a tutor.”  If either one of them found it strange to be making plans to go out again the next evening, they didn’t mention it. Spike just nodded and offered to toss her up to the floor of the crypt.  Buffy eyed the distance and shook her head. “I think I can make it.  I might not be able to jump like a vamp, but I can make that one.”

 

Spike shrugged. “Alright, Slayer.  Let me go first then, just in case you need catching.”  He flexed his knees and left the ground as if he weighed nothing. He landed lightly on the floor above and turned to grin down at her.  “Let’s see you do that, Slayer.”

 

With a glare, Buffy bent her knees and leapt up, landing on her knees at the edge of the hole. Strong hands had her shoulders and strong arms lifted her away from the opening.  When they were safely turned away from the entrance to the lower floor, Spike let her down, holding her in place for a few seconds before dropping his hands to his sides.

 

“Not too bad for a human,” he said.

 

“Yeah, well, thanks for the catch.  I don’t think I would have fallen back in, but it was nice not to have to worry about it.” She gave him an embarrassed smile, surprised when he seemed as embarrassed as she was. He quickly recovered his usual snark.

 

“No problem, luv. Couldn’t have you splattering yourself all over my new bedroom, could I?”

 

Buffy made a face.  “On that disgusting note, I think I’ll head back to the dorm and see if I can sleep without dreaming about castles and moats and ghosts and… “  She shook her head.  “Good night, Spike.”  Buffy moved toward the door, her steps becoming slow and tentative as she turned away from the glow of the lower level and her eyes tried to adjust to the darkness between her and the door. She cursed when she ran into one of the few pieces of furniture Spike had scattered around the big room.

 

“Here – hold my arm.” Spike was suddenly beside her, taking her hand and laying it atop his forearm.  “I can see better than you can.” 

 

They made their way across the open space, pausing when they reached the inner door, by which time Buffy’s eyes had adjusted to the gloom, and she took her hand off his arm.

 

“Moon’s coming out now. Shouldn’t be hard to see once you get outside.”

 

Buffy nodded then cocked her head at him. “It’s not like I don’t appreciate this weird new behavior of yours, but this isn’t my first time walking through a cemetery in the dark you know.”  She smiled to let him know she wasn’t making fun of him, but he stiffened and drew away.  She sighed. I’ve done it again.

 

“Look, Spike. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate it… or… or like it, but it’s just weird, okay? We hate each other. Remember?  You’re the evil and annoying vampire and I’m the self-righteous bitch who hits you a lot.”

 

“Is that who we still are? Cause I’m looking at the girl who took care of an evil and annoying vampire when he needed it. The same girl who backed down armed men to let a demon she’d just met escape from her boyfriend’s mates.” He reached a hand toward her, brushing her cheek and pulling it back before she could object.  “I’d like to think we’ve moved beyond hating’ each other.  Might not be friends, but….”

 

“Is that why you were on your way to fry your brain by helping Clem rescue me?”

 

“Maybe. Maybe I just wanted an excuse to kill one of those wankers.”

 

“So you weren’t trying to save me?” He growled when he heard the barely contained amusement in her voice.

 

“You know I was, Slayer.” He growled again. “But if you tell anyone about it, I’ll have to kill you.”

 

She laughed softly and patted his cheek. “Okay, Big Bad. I won’t tell. I don’t want to ruin your reputation.”

 

“See that you don’t,” he said, resisting a frightening urge to hold her hand against his face while he kissed her palm.  Horrified at himself, he stepped away and opened the door for her.  “Out you go, Slayer.”

 

“Good night, Spike.”

 

“Good night, luv. Stay safe.”  His voice was so low she wasn’t sure she actually heard him, but common sense told her she’d already spent more time with him than she should have in one twenty-four hour period, so she didn’t turn around.

 

 

Chapter Six

 

Giving Willow an abbreviated version of the day’s events, Buffy just shook her head at the questions about Clem and the soldiers and, pleading exhaustion, went to bed.  Where her dreams contained more snarky, blond vampires with sexy chuckles than they did scenes from Hamlet.

 

In spite of the lack of Shakespearian dreams, Buffy felt she’d sailed through the test – waiting anxiously for Professor Brandon to glance over it.  When she looked up with a satisfied smile, Buffy relaxed and beamed.  “So, did I do okay this time?”

 

Professor Brandon nodded. “You did very well. Even the essay question was answered with detail and thought that I have to admit, I wouldn’t have expected.”

 

Coloring, Buffy remembered Spike’s easily understood explanation of why Hamlet said and did so many of the things she didn’t understand. “I… uh… I have a… friend… who knows a lot about Shakespeare, and he helped me understand the play.”

 

“Oh, a tutor?  Well, that’s not a bad idea for someone in your special circumstances.  Is it that handsome young man who often meets you after class?”

 

“Handsome man—? Oh, Riley. No. No, it’s not Riley. He’s just my boyfriend. The guy who’s helping me is an old… Just somebody I’ve known for a while who knows a lot about English Literature.  He’s British,” she finished brightly as if that explained everything.

 

“Ah well. He’s doing an excellent job. Give him my compliments.  I could use an assistant who can discuss and explain Shakespeare in that kind of depth.”  She waited patiently for Buffy to offer more information, but when her comment was greeted with wide-eyed panic, she shrugged.  “Well, that’s it, then.  I’ll expect to see you in class tomorrow.”

 

“Yeah – I mean, yes. I’ll be there. And thank you.”

 

 

 

 

Buffy met Willow for lunch and they walked together to their Psych class.

 

“So, Dr. Walsh is some kind of mad scientist? And she doesn’t just run her experiments on evil creatures? That’s kind of scary.  What if she wants to study you?”

 

Buffy shrugged. “Between Riley’s squad and those jerks I beat up last night, I wouldn’t think any of them would want to get near me.”  As they entered the building, the girls saw Riley standing outside the room staring at them, a strange expression on his face.  “I’m going to tell Giles about it tonight, though. In case he wants to let the Council know about the new demon hunters in town.”

 

Before the girls reached the door to the large lecture hall, Riley ducked inside without speaking to them. They exchanged looks, then entered the room and sat midway up the tiered seating.  Riley was standing near Dr. Walsh, obviously engaged in a heated conversation.  Buffy narrowed her eyes when they both turned to stare at her.

 

“I wonder what those creeps last night told him?  If  they told him anything. The squad leader said some pretty nasty things – I don’t think he likes Riley very much.”

 

Willow nodded. “Maybe the other guy is jealous because Riley has a girlfriend. A girlfriend that can beat him up.”  She frowned. “Seems weird that he didn’t even say hi to you, though. You don’t think that guy told a bunch of lies that Riley believed, do you?”

 

“I don’t know what he could have said. All I did was keep them from taking in a harmless demon to experiment on. If they’d left Clem alone like I told them to, I wouldn’t have had to hit anybody.”

 

“And they wouldn’t have tried to capture you,” Willow pointed out. “That’s really the biggie – they knew who you were, and they still tried to catch you like you were some kind of demon or vampire.  Riley should have kicked their asses again when they told him they tried to capture you.”

 

“You’d think.”  As Dr. Walsh stepped to her podium and turned on the screen behind her, the girls stopped talking and took out their notebooks.  All during the lecture, which ended earlier than usual, Riley just stared at Buffy, looking away every time she tried to meet his eyes.  When the class ended, he remained at the front of the room with the professor, still not saying anything to Buffy or Willow, or even acknowledging their presence. 

 

Willow studied Buffy’s hurt and puzzled face as they walked out of the building.  “I’m sure he’s got a good reason for behaving like that,” she ventured. “He’ll probably call you tonight to explain and apologize.”

 

“I have plans for tonight,” Buffy said.  “Too bad for him.”

 

“You don’t want to hear why he’s being such a poophead?”

 

Buffy sighed. “It’s because he’s a guy.  It’s what I do to them. Start dating Buffy and immediately turn into a poophead. I think it’s some kind of spell the Council puts on slayers so we can’t have real lives.”

 

 

 

 

Buffy attended one more class, grabbed some food in the cafeteria, and went back to her dorm to change clothes.  She stared at the phone, but it gave no sign of ringing.  “Buffy plus boyfriend equals suckage,” she muttered. “I’m definitely blaming the Council.”

 

She dressed quickly, putting on black jeans and a long-sleeved red tee shirt.  Adding a black denim jacket, she tucked her stakes in and around her body and left the room. At the last second, before pulling the door shut, she dashed back in and grabbed a dark scarf, stuffing it in her pocket. 

 

As she walked down the stairs, she happened to glance out a window to see several black-clad men lurking behind cars and bushes. The chill that ran up her spine at the sight was enough of a warning for her to turn away from the main exit and sneak to the other end of the building.  Careful study of the small emergency door and the area outside it seemed free of black-clad soldiers and she slipped out of the building and sprinted into the nearby bushes.

 

She was very grateful for her color choices that evening as she heard voices approaching and realized the commandoes were planning to stake out the door she had just used. Covering her bright hair with the scarf, and pulling it across her face, Buffy faded back into the shadows, moving slowly and silently until she was far enough away that she thought she could outrun them if necessary.

 

She ran the whole way to Restfield, pausing only to stake a waiting vampire and the newly-risen one he was helping out of the grave.  She had an uncomfortable moment as the newbie cried, “Dad!” when the first vamp turned to dust, but his immediate attempt to bite her was a reminder that, related or not, they were evil and dangerous creatures that it was her job to destroy.  She reached Spike’s crypt, yanked the outer door open far enough for her to slip in and shove the inner door out of her way.

 

Spike’s head appeared in the glow from the lower level.  “Slayer?”

 

“Yeah, it’s me. Get out of the way, I’m coming down there.”

 

He blinked at her abrupt demand, then disappeared.  “There’s a ladder now, Slayer. You don’t have to jump.”

 

“Oh.  Well… good.” She looked at the crudely put together pieces of wood and bit her lip. “Are you sure you don’t want Xander to help you with this?” she asked, stepping gingerly on the top rung.

 

Spike shrugged and stepped back where he could watch her descend.  “I might bring it up tonight. Clem’s brother’s a nice guy, but his idea of building something…”

 

Buffy reached the bottom, one foot still raised to the last rung, stretching her jeans over her rear. She turned her head to look at Spike only to find him staring intently at her ass.  She sighed and blushed. As seemed to happen so often lately when she was around Spike, she found herself annoyed and embarrassed in equal parts.

 

“Spike! Stop staring at my butt and finish your sentence!”

 

“Huh? What sentence?”  As she planted her foot on the floor and turned around, hands on hips, he raised apprehensive eyes to her face. When he saw more blushing embarrassment than anger there, he relaxed and shrugged. “Your arse is very watchable, Slayer.  You must know that or you wouldn’t wear such tight trousers.”

 

“I don’t wear…. Okay, maybe I do. But you shouldn’t be looking at it.”

 

He gaped at her.  “What do you think I am… a eunuch?  Just cause I can’t kill anymore doesn’t mean I’m completely neutered, you know.”

 

“Oh, trust me, I know….” she muttered, turning away from him, forgetting about his vampire hearing.

 

“Remember that, do you?” he crooned, moving closer to her and laughing when she whirled around with wide eyes and a face that had once again gone very pink.  “Wasn’t sure if you’d really forgotten, or if you were just hoping I would.”

 

“We agreed we were never going to talk about anything we said or did during that spell,” she said, glaring at him.

 

“Hey, I didn’t bring it up, you did.”

 

“I didn’t mean to! I didn’t know you could hear me.  I wasn’t talking to you, I was talking to myself, so… so it doesn’t count!” 

 

Buffy faced him, hands on hips, eyes narrowed and making it very clear it wouldn’t be in his best interests to continue the conversation. He remained standing very close to her for several seconds, then sighed and moved away.

 

“Alright, Slayer. So, what brings you here so early?  It’s barely dusk – wasn’t expectin’ you for another hour or more.”

 

“Oh. That. Well – first off, I aced the test! “ Her expression changed to one of delight and he returned her smile. “The professor was really happy with it and she said… well, she thinks you’re a pretty amazing tutor. I think she wanted me to tell her who you are so she could offer you a job as a TA or something, but I….”

 

“A job? Me?”  He shook his head. “You told her to forget it, I hope.”

 

“I didn’t tell her anything. I just kind of let her hint drop to the floor and didn’t pick it up.”

 

“Good thinkin’”

 

“Well, yeah. I mean, it’s not like you could work in a university anyway. You’d have to have some kind of degree… and a green card or a social security number… and references… and…” She peered at him. “You don’t have any of those things, do you?”

 

He shrugged. “Can get most of them if I need them. Reckon the degree’s got a little dust on it by now, though.” Ignoring her surprised look, he patted his wallet. “Do have a drivers license, although I’ve never had to show it.  Mostly if I got stopped I just ate the—“ He stopped when the surprise changed to disgust and disappointment. “Not something you really need to know, I guess… and I’ve not done it recently!” he added quickly, when her expression became even more unhappy. “I’m not like that anymore.”

 

“You’re not like that because you have no choice,” Buffy said, her shoulders slumping. “I don’t know why I forget that sometimes.”  She turned away and stared around the room, avoiding his eyes and noting the other improvements he’d made. He’d moved a bookcase in from somewhere, and, oddly enough, a small desk.  More candles were visible, both in dirt recesses he’d carved out of the walls and on all the flat surfaces.  “Lots of candles,” she said, still not looking at him.  If she had, she would have seen the frustration and regret on his face – emotions that were gone by the time she did look him, replaced by his usual cocky smirk.

 

“I like light,” he said. “Don’t need a lot of it, but I like it.”  When she didn’t respond, he sighed and pointed at the ladder.  “Long as you’re here, I guess we may as well head to your watcher’s.” He pinched out all but one of the candles, hissing when he burned his fingers.

 

“Yeah, I guess so,” she said, going to the ladder and starting up slowly. “Don’t look at my ass,” she said, her voice colder than before.

 

“Wouldn’t dream of it, Slayer.”  He moved up behind her. “But if you don’t move it faster, I might bite it.”

 

She froze, and for just a second he thought he’d gone too far, then he heard her muffled giggle and he smiled with relief. Without answering him, she pushed off, pulling herself past the last two steps with her arms and landing easily on the floor of the crypt. She turned to watch him appear right behind her.

He stepped into the room and stood with his head cocked.

 

“Am I goin’ to need one of those apologies I’ve been practicing?”

 

Buffy frowned – “No, I thought it was funny. I know you wouldn’t really do it. Why would you— you’ve been practicing?“

 

“Didn’t mean the crack about biting your arse – although wouldn’t be so sure I wouldn’t do it, luv. It looks very bitable – I meant reminding you of what I am… used to be. Atmosphere got right chilly after that.”

 

“Oh.” She shook her head. “I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at myself for… “ She looked up at his too pretty human eyes and said sadly, “You can be so… and then I….” She shrugged.  “I let myself forget sometimes. And I can’t. I shouldn’t do that. When I forget what vampires really are, people die.”  At the devastated look on his face, which he quickly masked but not before she’d seen it, she stepped forward and touched his cheek.  “I needed the reminder. I should be thanking you, not acting mad. Maybe I should be apologizing.”

 

“I’m not him, Buffy,” he said, catching her hand and holding it against his face. His eyes challenged her to deny that she was punishing him for things Angelus had done.