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A Very Strange Vampire

1/8/2012 – 3/15/12

 

Buffy tried hard to meet the vampire’s yellow stare with her own best “I’m the Slayer and you can go… something more ladylike than fuck yourself” look, but inside she was quailing.  Spike had always been one of her toughest opponents – including the Master – and he’d just proven why.  The stake that had been so useless against his suddenly invulnerable body was long gone and she was exhausted.  She had no idea how long they’d been fighting, only that the sun – to which it seemed he was also now immune – that had been high overhead when they’d begun was now dropping to the horizon.

 

With no way to cripple or dust him, she’d been reduced to fighting at his whim, using every trick she had just to remain alive. She was bruised, exhausted, and suspected she had more than one broken bone.  Spike’s last punch had knocked her briefly unconscious and she’d opened dazed eyes to find herself restrained by some sort of carelessly tied electrical cable.  Lying atop her inert body and growling, Spike lowered his head and ran one fang over the skin on her throat, licking the trickle of blood that followed its path.

 

He lifted his head and shifted back to his human mien.  “Just as delicious as I knew you’d taste,” he said, leering at her. His motion pushed the erection she’d just noticed into her stomach. Her face contorting in the first fear she’d shown, she willed her exhausted muscles to struggle again. He frowned down at her. “What the bloody hell got into you?”  Something about the revulsion and terror on her face made him draw back slightly, which drew his own attention to the hard-on he always sported when fighting Buffy.  Sudden understanding widened his eyes, and he growled at her with what almost sounded like disappointment.

 

“Relax, Slayer, raping little girls is your ex’s MO, not mine. Can’t help what fighting you does to me, but I’d never take advantage.”

 

She blinked at him, temporarily stilling in surprise. “Wha—?”

 

“Want to kill you, luv. Want to drink your blood. Wouldn’t deny it if I could. Definitely can’t deny what fightin’ you does to me.” He nudged her just to see the revulsion cross her face again, then lifted his hips away.  “But I wouldn’t humiliate you like that. You’re a warrior – best I’ve ever faced.  You don’t deserve that. You deserve a good death after a fair fight.  And I’m just the vamp to give it you,” he added, shifting back into his true face and reaching toward her, fangs out. “It’s been fun, Slayer, but—”

 

“Cheater!”

 

He halted, fangs just barely touching her throat again.

 

“I beg your pardon?”

 

Shaking off the incongruity of hearing the thuggish vampire begging her pardon, Buffy followed up quickly.  “You’ve got the gem.  I can’t kill you. I can’t even hurt you; so you cheated. It wasn’t a fair fight.”

 

“Fuck!”  Spike’s weight was gone as he leapt to his feet and began to roar his rage.  “Bloody, buggering fuck!”  He glared down at her, looking more dangerous than at any point in their conflict.  “You fucking bitch!

 

“I’m just saying….” she responded, too exhausted to control the quaver in her voice, and too surprised to take advantage of the break to test her hastily-tied bonds.

 

“This isn’t over, Slayer,” he snarled, turning his head as a car skidded to a halt and her Watcher stepped out. He watched Giles aim a crossbow at his chest while Xander and Willow backed him up with holy-water filled Super Soakers. Facing the would-be rescuers, he smiled when the bolt flew toward him, although he did wince when it struck his chest. “We’re not done here.” He plucked the bolt from his chest and, snarling at Gilles whose horrified expression made him laugh, he broke it in half and threw the pieces at Buffy.

 

She batted them away with the hand she’d just freed. “We’re not done, Spike,” she assured him. “I can’t let you keep that ring.”

 

“Well, unless you’re planning to steal it from me while I’m sleepin’….” He began to edge away, keeping a wary eye on the advancing would-be rescuers.  “Till next time, Slayer,” he said, blowing her a kiss and jogging off without bothering to worry about the humans staring after him with their mouths open.

 

“Buffy! Are you okay?”  Willow ran up to Buffy while Giles stood guard, hoping he’d missed with his first shot and not that he’d really seen Spike pluck the quarrel out of his heart with only a small grimace of pain.  Willow helped Buffy get the rest of the cables off, then helped her to her feet.  Buffy staggered once, then pulled herself up straight, holding her painful ribs with her one good hand.

 

“Let’s go,” she gasped. “We need to get out of here and into someplace safe.”

 

They hastened to Giles’s car and dove in, casting nervous looks over their shoulders as they did so.  They did the same hasty in and out in reverse when they reached the apartment complex, hustling from the car to Giles’ apartment.  Buffy collapsed on the couch, holding her side and shutting her eyes, while Xander and Willow stood around, looking uncomfortable as they watched their inhumanly strong, demon killing friend lie on the couch with an ashen face and her eyes closed in pain.

 

Giles knelt beside Buffy, holding a first aid kit and asking, “May I help you get cleaned up?”  Without waiting for her nod, he began washing the cuts on her face – stopping when she held up her hand.

 

 “I’ll do it,” she said, “just give me a minute… and maybe some aspirin?”

 

“This will work better.” He handed her two small white pills and signaled Willow to get her a glass of water.  He sat back on his heels and frowned at her with worried eyes.  “I take it Harmony told us the truth about the Gem of Amara,” he said. “Spike now has it?”

 

Buffy nodded, throwing the pills back and taking the glass of water from Willow. She swallowed, then said, “Oh yeah. And it’s everything it’s supposed to be. The sun didn’t burn him, my stake didn’t dust him… nothing I did could do anything but make him laugh.  I even tried to get it off his finger, but it was stuck too tight.”  She put the glass down and winced at the pull on her ribcage.  “I hope it cuts off his circulation and his finger falls off.”

 

“I thought vamps didn’t have any circula—ah, right.  Metaphorical wishful thinking. I knew that.”  Xander turned away, the sight of Buffy so badly battered bothering him more than the thought that Spike was now invulnerable.

 

“Why aren’t you dead?” Willow blurted out.  “I mean, not that you’re not… kinda damaged-looking… but he had you tied up. Why didn’t he bite you?”

 

“Because he’s batshit crazy?  I don’t know. He was about to bite me – for real, this was just a taste.” She pointed to the long scratch on her neck.  “I thought I was about to be dead – I was too tired to try to get loose and I don’t know if I could have kept fighting if I did – but I told him he cheated by using the gem and he….” She shook her head. “He jumped up and started yelling and calling me a bitch. Then you guys came and he told me he wasn’t done with me and he left.”

 

She dropped her head back and closed her eyes.  “I need to get that ring away from him. An unkillable Spike is just…” She shuddered.  “I’ve got to get it away from him.”

 

“We’ll do more research!” Willow said. “There’s got to be some way to kill him… or at least hurt him.”

 

“I think stuff hurts him, just not for very long. He just shakes it off and heals up, like, immediately. I need to carry a sharp knife. Maybe I’ll get a chance to cut his finger off.”

 

“I want you to be careful for a while, Buffy,” Giles said. “Don’t go up against him again until you’ve recovered from this battle.”

 

“Battle… warrior… that’s it!” All three people stared at her. “That’s why Spike didn’t kill me. He was telling me— okay, never mind what he was telling me, it was gross and disgusting— but he said he’d never treat me like that because I was a warrior. The best he’d ever fought. So when I told him he used an unfair advantage to beat me….”

 

“A vampire with a sense of honor?” Xander scoffed and rolled his eyes.

 

“No,” Giles said, picking up on what Buffy had instinctively understood. “Not so much honor as an overwhelming need to prove himself against the best.  Don’t forget, this is a vampire that has already killed two slayers – one of whom was purportedly quite good and had several years’ experience.”

 

Buffy nodded, then winced as it reminded her of how many blows she’d taken. “That’s it. He said I deserved a clean death after a fair fight.  When I told him it wasn’t a fair fight, he got mad, but he stopped trying to kill me.”

 

“So now what?”

 

“I don’t know,” Buffy admitted. “I couldn’t fight him again right now even if he took the ring off.  And why would he do that? If he takes it off, I’ll dust him… probably. If he keeps it on, he’s always cheating, so he can’t kill me.” She perked up. “Maybe he’ll die from frustration?”

 

“Not bloody likely,” Giles said with a sigh. “We will all have to be extremely careful for a while.  We don’t know if he might try to lure Buffy into another fight before she’s ready by kidnapping or killing one of us.”

 

“Well there’s a cheery thought,” Xander said. “I foresee a lot of prime time television in my future.”

 

“And a lot of time for homework in mine,” Willow agreed.

 

“As much as I hate to say it, that’s probably a good plan, guys.  Until I know I’m 100% again, I really don’t want to have to rescue anybody.”

 

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

 

Spike watched from the roof of a nearby building as Buffy and her watcher followed the two young humans to the car.  He had to grin at their obvious fear and haste.  You’d think I was chasing them.  He frowned when Buffy stumbled, watching closely when she grabbed her rib cage.

 

“Poor little Slayer,” he said.  “Met her match this time, didn’t she?” Then he remembered that she would have had him several times if not for the ring, and he slammed his fist onto the low wall in front of him, breaking the bricks into powder. The sight of his smooth, undamaged knuckles was a reminder of exactly why he’d been able to inflict so much damage on the Slayer and he hit it again. “Fuck! Got to find a way to kill this slayer without cheating – not any more than is proper in a good fight, anyway,” he added as he thought about all the little tricks and moves that he and Buffy used against each other every time they fought.

 

“I’ll come up with something. Not going to take a chance on her staking me, but I am going to find a way to kill her fair and square.”

 

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

 

It was several weeks later when he saw Buffy, now clearly recovered from the beating he’d given her, toying with a young vampire as she complained to him about something. He was so enjoying watching her play and quip, he never noticed the men sneaking up on him until the net went over his head.  He saw Buffy turn her head at his roar, and their eyes met briefly before he was hit with something that sent pain shooting through his body. She set me up! That bitch!

 

With another roar, he tore the net off and slammed one of his attackers back against a tree. He was immediately hit with several more tasers, all at the same time, and fell to his knees, shuddering with pain and unable to make his muscles respond immediately.  He was just recovering when two of the black-clad men approached to pick him up.  Buffy’s scream of “Watch out! He’s not really down!” wasn’t quite enough to keep them from being knocked unconscious, but it did alert the remaining men and they backed away, weapons held in front, eyes disbelieving above their masks.

 

Buffy came running up the hill and got between Spike and the sinister-looking, but still to be protected, humans.  She looked back and forth between the men and all their equipment, and Spike, who, while getting to his feet and snarling, was still visibly recovering from the effects of multiple taser hits.  Taking her opportunity, she grabbed his hand and pulled on the ring until it slid off his finger and onto her thumb.  She frowned as the commandoes approached, holding the net, their intent obvious.

 

Spike’s snarls increased as he began swearing.  “You bloody cheatin’ … Couldn’t take me on your own, could you?”

 

“What?”  Buffy stared at him, genuinely confused.  “You think I…?”  She stared from the furious vampire to the commandoes preparing to throw another net over him. Something about the idea of netting vampires rather than dusting them sent her slayer alarms blaring.

 

“What are you guys doing?” She frowned at them. “We don’t catch vamps here in Sunnydale, we stake them”

 

“Out of the way, blondie,” one of the men growled. “This is our vamp. We owe him”

 

Buffy glared, his dismissive words and the implied threat to Spike helping her make a quick decision. Putting one hand behind her back, she gestured to Spike to come closer. When she felt his presence sending her senses off as he moved uncomfortably close, she turned her head just far enough to keep her lips invisible to the soldiers lining up in front of her.

 

“Run!” she hissed. “Get out of here. I’ll stall them.”

 

With no time to argue, and no Gem of Amara to help him resist, Spike turned and sped for the nearby woods at a speed no human could hope to match.  Buffy faced the men who now seemed intent on taking their anger out on her. She kept her thumb tucked into her fist and hoped she wouldn’t have to hit anybody before she got the ring someplace safe.

 

The tallest of the commandoes hesitated, saying, “Buffy? Is that you?”

 

“Riley?”

 

“Stand down, men,” he said. The small squad grumbled, but halted their tentative approach to Buffy.  “What are you doing here? And how did you know he wasn’t unconscious? He should have been down for the count.” Riley pulled off his black mask and frowned at her.

 

“Heh. Well, that’s the funny thing about Spike – you never know what he’s going to do next.”

 

“Spike? It has a name?”

 

Buffy shrugged. “That’s what he calls himself. He’s really William the Bloody.” She waited, but there was no reaction from the men other than puzzled frowns. She cocked her head. “So… I’m guessing you don’t really know much about vamps and demons?”

 

“I know that as many hits as that one took, he shouldn’t have been able to move for hours. We need to get him for—I mean, he’d be an interesting subject— You know what? It doesn’t matter. We’ll find him again and we’ll be ready for him next time.”

 

“Next time he might be easier,” Buffy said, keeping her fist clenched around the ring. “But I’d rather you left Spike to me. He’s mine. I owe him.”

 

There were chuckles from the men and a cough from Riley.  “Buffy, I’m just… well, honestly, I’m kind of flabbergasted at your courage. And really, really confused about what you’re doing out here by yourself at night… But, whatever it is, you need to leave the vamp hunting to us. We’re equipped for it, you’re not.”

 

In response, Buffy lifted one of the still-unconscious men off the ground and tossed him at Riley, snickering to herself when he staggered under the weight.

 

“What are you?”  She couldn’t tell which of the men the question had come from, but directed her answer at Riley.

 

“I’m the Slayer. Couldn’t you figure that out?”  She was greeted with more blank stares.  “Slayer, the. Look it up.  And leave Spike alone. I’ll take care of him.”

 

She waved her hand and walked off.  Her eyes narrowed as she passed by the woods and felt the unmistakable tingles on her neck.  She stopped and pulled out her stake, waiting to see if the lurking vampire would be as stupid as the commandoes, but the signature faded away.  “Smart decision,” she muttered, tucking the stake away and jogging toward her dorm.


 

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

“So, Giles, that’s what happened. Turned out great for me, but I’d sure like to know more about those ninja-soldier guys.  They were definitely after vamps, and they must have some experience because they all knew Spike shouldn’t have been able to shake off their tasers like he did.” She chewed her lip for a few seconds. “I guess that explains the lack of slayees lately. If these guys are out there collecting vamps and demons…”

 

“Did you say you know one of them?”

 

“Oh, yeah, Riley. He’s the TA in our Psych class. Except, I guess he’s not really….”

 

“How well do you know him?”

 

“Not as well as I thought I did,” she said with a grimace.  “Of course, I guess he could say that about me too.” She sighed. “I think we were sort of, kinda, beginning to date? Probably not an option, now that I’ve thrown one of his men at him….”

 

Giles nodded and sat back to ponder this new information. His relief at hearing that Buffy now had the Gem of Amara was obvious.

 

“What are your plans for that ring?” he asked, watching her twirl it around on her thumb.  “Does it have a similar affect on you? Or have you not had an opportunity to find out?”

 

“Oh, wouldn’t that be cool!” Her excitement faded. “But didn’t the books all say it was made just for vampires?  They don’t even say that it’s useful for other kinds of demons. Why would it work on the thing meant to kill them? It’s not like I’ve got a demon in me.”

 

“Quite true.  Ah well, it was just a thought. It would have been nice to be able to send you out knowing you could not be harmed in any way.”  He got up and went to his desk, rummaging around until he came up with a substantial-looking silver chain.  “I’d suggest, until you decide what to do with it or where to hide it, that you conceal it about your person.  It slides off your thumb too easily to suit me.”

 

Buffy took the chain and watched it sparkle in the light. “Oooh, shiny!” she said as she slid the ring onto it and dropped it over her head.  She tucked the chain and ring inside her shirt and brushed her hands together. “There we go. All safe and sound and touching Buffy.”

 

“May I try something?” Giles asked, holding out a slender knife. “Just so we know for sure?”

 

Buffy frowned from him to the knife and back again. “You’re going to stab me and see if I die?  Not seeing the benefits here, Giles.”

 

“Of course not! But if we make a small cut on your arm, we can see right away if it closes up more quickly than normal.”

 

“Yeah, okay…” She held out her left arm, watching closely and wincing as, with a mumbled apology, he sliced a shallow, two-inch gash down the inside of her forearm.  They both watched with mingled disbelief and joy as it began to close up almost immediately. They watched for several minutes until it had completely healed, leaving no trace of the cut, not even a scar. 

 

“Huh! That’s pretty awesome. I don’t think it took Spike that long to heal, though. He just pulled the stake out and presto, he was all better.”

 

“May I try it again?”

 

“Yeah, okay, I guess. But it’s not like it didn’t hurt, you know,” Buffy said dubiously. “It just got better faster than normal.”

 

“I’m sorry, but before I allow you to leave here thinking you’ve become as invulnerable as Spike was, we need to be sure that it’s working the same way on you.”

 

“Giles, the only way to know that for sure is to try to kill me. Not really interested in testing that part of it.”

 

“I just want to try a deeper wound – not a fatal one, but one that could be incapacitating perhaps...”

 

“No!” Buffy snatched her arm back. “Are you crazy?”  She glared at him, shaking him out of the research fog into which he’d been led. He looked horrified and began to stammer an apology.

 

“I am terribly sorry, Buffy. I... I’m afraid my curiosity about the qualities of the gem made me forget.... I am sorry. It was unforgiveable of me, but I beg your forgiveness in spite of that. Of course it is unacceptable that we test this any further. We know it seems to provide some assistance with healing. That will have to do.”

 

“Damn right it will,” she muttered. “Cheer up, Giles. My job being what it is, I’m pretty sure I’ll get a chance to test it again. Probably sooner rather than later if I run into Spike again.”

 

 There was a loud pounding on the door, followed by “Come out of there, Slayer. I know you’re in there!”

 

“Speak of the devil….”

 

Buffy walked to the door and threw it open. From the corner of her eye, she could see Giles loading his crossbow.

 

“Shut up, Spike! You’re going to bother the neighbors!”

 

“Give my ring back, Slayer. I need it.” He glanced over his shoulder nervously. “And let me in. I think they’re chasing me.”

 

“Who’s chasing you? And fat chance. Finders keepers.”

 

“You didn’t find it, you miserable bint. You stole it off my hand.”

 

“And I should give it back to you… why? So you can beat me to a pulp again? I don’t think so, Spike. Just be grateful I didn’t leave you to those vamp-hunting soldiers.”

 

He appeared nonplussed, but quickly recovered. “Okay, you let me go. So we’re even, right? You can give my ring back and I’ll go away. You have my word.”

 

“Um…. I can’t do that.”  When he blanched and clutched the doorjamb, saying, “You haven’t….?” She quickly shook her head.  “No, I didn’t destroy it. I probably should, but…” She glanced at Giles, still holding the crossbow pointed at Spike’s chest.  Her watcher shook his head and she nodded. “But I haven’t… yet. But I’m not giving it back to you. You’re dangerous enough without it.”

 

He seemed momentarily pleased and began, “You think I’m—“ The smile left his face and he threw up his head to listen.  “Let me in, Slayer,” he begged. “They’re getting closer.”

 

“Who’s getting closer? You mean the—come in Spike,” she said, ignoring Giles’ gasp. She grabbed the lapels of Spike’s coat and yanked him into the room. She slammed the door behind him, but not so quickly that she didn’t see black-clothed men moving into the parking lot and spreading out.

 

There was tense silence as Spike stood just inside the door facing Giles who was still pointing the crossbow at him. Buffy looked back and forth between them and sighed.

 

“Okay, you,” she pointed at Spike, “stay over here so you don’t make Giles nervous. And you,” she pointed at Giles, “put that thing down, or at least stop pointing it at Spike.”

 

Glaring at each other with suspicion, the vampire and the watcher slowly obeyed, Spike sinking into a big chair near the door, and Giles lowering the crossbow, but keeping it loaded and cocked.  He stood behind his desk and stared at Spike. Buffy put her hands on her hips and stood in front of the nervous vampire.

 

“All right, Spike, what’s going on? What are you doing here?”

 

“Know somethin’ about those ninja wannbes,” he said, casting a glance at the curtained windows.  “They tried to get me again and I only got away because they didn’t know about the gem and some of ‘em were still afraid to get near me.”

He ignored Giles to speak directly to Buffy. “And I learned a bit more from the demon grapevine today.”

 

“What do you know about them?” Giles demanded.

 

“Know the Slayer needs to stay as far away as I do,” he muttered. “Heard them talking. They think she’s some kind of vamp or demon.”

 

“What? That’s crazy! Riley knows me. He… he grades my papers! He buys me lunch…”

 

“I’m telling you what I heard, Slayer. Whoever it is they report to, they think you’ll make a nice prezzie for her.  Yours truly, too, I guess. They’ve got no idea why I was able to shake them off the first time, so they want to find out what makes me different from the other vamps they’ve captured.”

 

“Captured?” Giles looked up sharply. “Not staked?”

 

Spike shook his head. “If they’d been trying to dust me, they would’ve just shot me with one of their stake-shooting penis substitutes.” He paused to snort at Buffy’s disgusted face. “Come on, Slayer. Tell me you weren’t thinking the same thing when you saw those big guns.”  He grinned when she blushed and looked away, sobering when he turned his gaze back to Giles.  “There’s been rumors in the demon community – family members disappearing, sometimes they find a body with parts missing….” He glanced at Buffy, then back at Giles. “Harmless demons, most of ‘em. Know that’s not the Slayer’s doing.”

 

He glanced at Buffy, almost apologetically. “And a lot of vamps went missing just after the Slayer and I had our little… dust up. I know for a fact she wasn’t up to going out slaying after that.  Slayer healing, or no slayer healing. So if it wasn’t her doing….”

 

Buffy’s groaned. “I don’t know why I think I’m ever going to have a normal boyfriend….”

 

“Buffy, is there an chance this man has been dating you as a way of learning more about you?”

 

“Gee, thanks, Giles. Just what I needed to boost my self-esteem.” She glared at him, then sighed.  “I don’t think so. They asked me what I was, and when I told them, they all just stared at me like I was speaking Swahili. I told them to go look it up, but it doesn’t sound like they did.”

 

“Perhaps they will when they’ve reported back to wherever they report.” He glared across the room. “Although, we have only William the Bloody’s word that they are also after you. I’m not sure why you are so quick to trust the demon that was trying to kill you only a few weeks ago.”

 

Spike snorted and shook his head. “Slayer and I have a history, Watcher. I don’t lie to her, and I keep my word.”

 

“Well, when they find out who—what I am, then they’ll stop wanting to catch me, won’t they?”

 

Giles and Spike made identical scoffing sounds.

 

“What?” Buffy glared her indignation. “They might. And then they’ll know that I’m on their side—” A snarl interrupted her. “Okay, maybe not totally on their side, exactly… but that I’m not a demon, I just slay them.”

 

Spike rolled his eyes, and even Giles looked at her with disbelief. 

 

“I want you to stay away from anyone connected to this quasi-military group until we can learn more about them,” he said. 

 

“So, I can’t go to class tomorrow?  ‘Cause Riley will be there.”

 

Giles sighed. “I presume that will be safe enough. But you should probably try to stay in crowds as much as possible until we know more about this group.”

 

“Well, I don’t see how we’re going to learn about them if I don’t get to go where Riley is and talk to him about it.” 

 

“I’m simply asking you not to be alone with him until we know if he and his fellow commandoes pose a threat to you.”

 

“Yeah, Slayer. No shaggin’ the big lump.”

 

“Shut up, Spike.”

 

The vampire shrugged. “Listen to the Watcher-wanker, Slayer. Those freaks were packing some heavy-duty weapons.”

 

“Freaks?”

 

Spike looked embarrassed before saying, “Didn’t get to study them, exactly, but between hitting those two last time, and fighting my way out tonight, I can tell you that they aren’t normal humans any more than you are.  Don’t have your strength or speed, but they aren’t normal.  You be careful, Slayer.”

 

“Okay, thanks,” Buffy mumbled. “You too, Spike.”

 

Giles rubbed his forehead.  “Have I missed something?  Are you two sworn enemies or not?”

 

Buffy and Spike exchanged looks.

 

“Well, we….”

 

“Wouldn’t’ be the first time the Slayer and I have called a truce,” Spiked said.

 

“Is that what we’re doing? Calling another truce?”

 

“I’m willin’ if you are.  Seems like if they want both of us, we might have common cause again, yeah?”

 

“Is anyone interested in my opinion?” Giles said, giving Buffy a pointed look.

 

“No.” Spike returned Giles’s glare with a hard stare of his own. “It’s the Slayer’s decision.”

 

“It’s okay, Giles. Spike keeps his word. If he says we have a truce, we have a truce.”

 

He frowned at the two natural enemies in front of him.  “Why do I have the feeling there is more going on here than I am aware of?”

 

“’Cause there is.” Spike stood up and looked around.  “Do you have a basement? Or a guest room?”

 

“I beg your pardon?” 

 

Buffy flinched, both at the similarity between Giles’ speech and Spike’s use of the same phrase, and at the shock in her Watcher’s voice.

 

“I think what Spike means is, we’re both stuck here until we know the commandoes are gone.  I’d like to get a couple of hours sleep before I have to go to class and pretend I don’t know my boyfriend is planning to capture me and… do whatever it is they do.”

 

“And I can’t go back out until it’s dark again,” Spike said cheerfully. “Unless you keep a lot of sunblock in your medicine cabinet.”

 

“I can lend you a brolly,” Giles said. “There is no way you are remaining here if Buffy isn’t present.”

 

“You don’t trust me. I’m hurt, Watcher.” Spike grinned as he clutched his chest.

 

“Don’t bait the nice man who’s letting you stay in his house, Spike,” Buffy said, cuffing the vampire on the side of his head with no real intent to harm.

 

“Spoil sport,” he muttered. “If I can’t eat him, at least I can annoy him. It’s only fair, Slayer.”

 

“Act your age,” she said, laughing when he began to crouch over and pretend to be using a walker.  Giles just stared at them, too bewildered to speak.  His slayer and the vampire that had sworn to kill her, and had almost succeeded, were laughing at each other like old friends.

 

“Buffy, I really don’t think....”

 

“It’s okay, Giles. Go to bed. I’ll watch Spike for a while and I’ll tie him up before I go to sleep.”  She ignored Spike’s sputtered snarls, waving Giles toward the stairs.

 

“You’re not tying me to anything,” Spike said when Giles had reluctantly left the room. “Unless it’s to your bed?” His expression brightened considerably. “Was that what you were thinking?”

 

“Ewwww, Spike!  And no.”  Her blush spread from her hairline down into as far as he could see of her chest.

 

“Was just a thought,” he said with a shrug. “Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.”

 

Buffy shook her head and walked over to the couch, sitting down and patting the cushions.  “Let’s compare notes on these guys and see what we know, ‘k?”

 

He sprawled out at the other end, putting his feet up on the coffee table and leaning back. “Tell me what you’ve got, luv.”

 

“You first!”

 

“Bloody hell, Slayer. Can’t you let me win anything, even a ‘who goes first’ conversation?”

 

“If I remember right – which it’s possible I don’t on account of getting whacked in the head so many times – you did win the last time we had a serious.... argument.”

 

“I’m sorr—Fuck!”  He glared at her. “We weren’t arguin’ then, I was flat out trying to kill you.  And now you’ve got me almost apologizing for any damage I did.”  He fixed his eyes on her, and she watched with mild trepidation as they flashed between a pretty blue and a fiery amber.  He was taking quick, unnecessary breaths as he visibly tried to control himself.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she snapped back. “I didn’t mean to remind you that you used an unfair advantage to beat me to a pulp.  Think nothing of it.” She waved her hand in the air and met his eyes glare for glare.  “Occupational hazard.”

 

“It isa soddin’ occupational hazard, you stupid bint! You’re a slayer! I’m a vampire. We’re supposed to try to kill each other.”

 

“In a fair fight! You cheated!”

 

They had moved closer together as their tempers escalated and finished only inches apart, both breathing hard and eyes locked in glares that would have sent anyone else into a quick retreat.  Buffy was just wondering if she should reach for her stake when Spike’s expression softened and he said, “By God you’re beautiful when you’re brassed off.  Already knew that, of course, but I’d forgotten what it’s like to see it up close like this.”

 

Speechless, Buffy could only stutter “wha? huh?” as she drew back from him.  She suddenly remembered what he’d felt like when he had her pinned down, and what he’d said she did to him.  She shoved herself farther away and blushed furiously. Trying to pretend she hadn’t heard him or seen the way his face had softened, she coughed and said, “Okay. I don’t know much of anything, except that the guy who was in charge last night is the TA in my psych class.”

 

“And that he’s dating you.” Spike’s voice was oddly harsh as he repeated what Giles had said.

 

“Well... yeah, kinda. I mean we’re not... but I thought we might be....” She sighed. “Pretty sure he’s not dating me now that I’ve tossed one of his big buddies at him. Guys tend not to take that kind of thing well.”

 

“Some blokes wouldn’t mind. Must be an insecure git if he’d let that keep him from—” Spike stopped himself, his expression more frightened than Buffy had ever seen it.  His eyes darted around the room, seeking something else to talk about, while Buffy stared at him and tried to tell herself she was misunderstanding his last few remarks. When Spike remained tongue-tied, she tried to summon up her own change of subject.

 

“You know, now that I think about it, everybody in Riley’s frat house is big, strong, and has a military haircut.  I can’t believe I never noticed that before.  These guys have been right under my nose all the time!”

 

“Have you been in that house?” Spike was more than happy to talk about something else besides how pretty Buffy was and how grateful Riley should be for her company.  “Is there anyplace they could be keeping demons or vamps?”

 

Buffy shook her head. “I don’t think so. Of course, I’ve only been in there for parties and stuff. It’s a big place... but I would’ve felt it if they had vampires. My slayer senses would have gone crazy.” She slumped back against the couch back. “So much for that idea.”

 

Spike shrugged. “Still, you’re probably right about where they live. Makes sense they’d all be in the same building.... I wonder what’s underneath it?”

 

“Underneath it?”

 

“Yeah. When I was looking for my Gem...” he glared at her briefly... “I had plans showing all the tunnels and whatnot under Sunnydale.  There’s practically a whole other city down there. Plenty of room to store vampires and demons where nobody’d find them.”

 

“Do you still have all that stuff?”

 

“Should have. Would be back in my hide-out.  We can go look tomorrow – tonight.”

 

“Sounds like a plan...” Buffy yawned several times in succession.  “Please tell me it isn’t already tomorrow.”

 

“Fraid so, luv. You need to get to bed if you’re going to get any sleep at all.”

 

“I told Giles I’d watch you.” She glared at him as if he was directly responsible for her lack of sleep.

 

“You know you can trust me, Slayer. Go to sleep. You’ve got my word I won’t go anywhere.  Came here for help, didn’t I?  Be bloody stupid of me to go back out there until I think it’s safe.”

 

“I’m not worried about where you go – I’m thinking more about waking up and finding Giles growing fangs or something.”

 

“Not worried about yourself? Is there a reason for that?” he asked, giving her a shrewd once-over.

 

Buffy met his suspicious eyes, then looked away. “No, of course not. Except that you don’t have the gem anymore and I can kick your ass.”  She could feel his intent gaze on her, as she squirmed around and pretended to be making herself more comfortable.  “I’ll just catch a nap here, where I can keep an eye on you, and—”

 

“You wouldn’t lie to me, would you, Slayer?  You wouldn’t be planning to keep that gem for yourself, would you? Thinking maybe it would work on something supernaturally good just as well as it does on supernaturally evil creatures?”

 

Buffy tried to meet his eyes without flinching, but couldn’t. With a sigh, she sat up again and glared at him. “Fine. It kinda works for me too,” she said. “Is that what you wanted to hear? I don’t know if I can’t be killed, but you can’t hurt me like you did then.”

 

“Bloody, buggering fuck!”  His eyes were flashing amber and Buffy forced her tired body to sit up straighter.  “You lying bitch....” He went off onto a lengthy vulgar and profane bout of cursing, most of which Buffy didn’t even understand.

 

When he finally ran down, and stopped, glowering at her and panting, she said, “Look, Spike, it doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t give it back to you anyway. I’m the Slayer, for cripe’s sake. I’m supposed to be making you dusty, not providing you with a way to be unslayable.”

 

“Then why don’t you just do it now?” he said, holding open his coat and exposing his tee-shirt covered chest. “Put me out of our misery.”  He waited, posing dramatically until he realized she wasn’t going to move.  Instead of staking him, she yawned again.  “Didn’t really mean that,” he mumbled, closing his coat with an embarrassed sigh.

 

“I knew you didn’t.” Her lips twitched. “You are such a drama queen.”

 

“Hey!”  He gave her an abashed smile. “Was a bit over the top, wasn’t it?”

 

“Ya think?” She sighed. “Seriously, Spike. I really need to get some sleep. What am I going to do with you?”

 

“Forget about me, luv. I won’t try to kill you, or your wanker of a watcher. You’ve got my word.  Just get your beauty sleep. I’ll wake you if I think there’s a need.”

 

“You’re going to keep watch?”

 

He looked embarrassed. “Well, seems like somebody should – just in case those soldier boys decide to bust in here or something.”

 

Buffy studied him, her head tilted to one side.  “You are one very strange vampire, Spike.”

 

He gave what could only have been called a shy smile, which quickly morphed into his usual cocky smirk. “Not like anyone else you’ve ever met, Slayer. I can guarantee you that.”

 

She nodded, slipping down into her corner of the couch. “You can say that again. Good night, Spike.”  As her eyes drifted shut, she said, “And don’t think you can find the gem without waking me up.”

 

“Thought never crossed my mind, luv,” he said, his disappointed tone putting the lie to his words.  He studied her for a few seconds, trying to see if she was wearing the ring or if it was in a pocket, but he saw no sign of it. He sighed as she squirmed around, trying to get comfortable without touching him. He reached for her feet and pulled them onto the cushion he was sitting on, standing up and saying, “Stretch out, pet.  I can sit in the chair.”

 

“Very strange vampire,” she sighed gratefully. She rolled onto her side and slid one hand under her shirt to stick her thumb though the ring. Just in case...

 

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

 

Buffy woke up to find herself covered by a lightweight blanket and Spike sprawled in the chair, eyeing the approaching sun with apprehension. She stood up and stretched, blushing at the way he was running his eyes over her body.

 

“Stop perving on me and come over here,” she ordered. “You can sleep where I was and the sun won’t reach you.”  She waited while he obediently approached the couch and stretched out upon it, smiling up at her as he put his arms behind his head.  Trying to ignore the bulging biceps and flat stomach his tight tee-shirt was showing off, she tossed the blanket at him. “Promise me you won’t do anything to make Giles stake you before I get back,” she said.

 

“Don’t think that’s likely to happen, luv. Do you?” The look he gave her was cold and calculating, with no trace of humor.

 

She shook her head. “If you’re asking me can you beat him in a fight, of course you can. But Giles has... hidden depths. And he’s an experienced Watcher.”

 

“And a brave man,” he said, nodding as he remembered watching Giles come after Angelus with only a torch and a stake.  “You’re right. He could get lucky. I’ll be on my best behavior.”

 

“Probably do you more good to be on somebody else’s best behavior. I’m not sure yours would qualify...”

 

“You’d be surprised, Slayer.  I’ll have to show you someday, how good I can be.” He gave her a lascivious grin, curling his tongue up to the roof of his mouth.

 

Before she had stopped glaring and blushing, he winked at her and rolled over, putting the blanket over his head and going completely still. Mentally scolding herself for letting him get to her, she left the apartment and jogged toward campus.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Giles came down several hours later, running a quick eye over the shape under the blanket before going into the kitchen. Spike’s coat was still draped over the chair he’d sat in, and the body under the blanket was too long to belong to Buffy and the scuffed boots sticking out were something that even Giles knew she wouldn’t be caught dead in. Bad choice of metaphor there, Rupert .

 

As the morning wore on, Giles became so accustomed to the still figure in his living room, that he eventually dropped his wariness and stopped reaching for a cross or holy water every time there was a sound.  It wasn’t until well after noon that Spike stirred, throwing off the blanket and stretching before sitting up.

 

“Don’t suppose you keep blood in your fridge,” he greeted the other man. “Could do with a spot of breakfast.”

 

“I do not,” Giles replied. “I am unaccustomed to hosting guests with such unusual nutrition requirements.”

 

“Ah well, then. I’ll just have whatever you’re havin’.” Spike walked to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, taking out a piece of raw meat and beginning to tear into it.  “This will do nicely,” he growled around his fangs, ignoring Giles’ horrified stare.

 

“That piece of very expensive steak was meant to be my evening meal!” Giles finally recovered enough to say.

 

“It’s loaded with fat. Bad for your arteries,” Spike smirked, licking his lips and fingers until there was no trace of blood. “I did you a favor.  You can thank me later.”  He strolled past the vigorously cursing man and threw himself back down on the couch, grabbing the TV remote as he did so.  “I hope I haven’t missed Passions. I think Timmy is still down the well...”

 

“Remind me to have Buffy stake you when she returns,” Giles muttered.

 

“Hey! She made me promise not to do anything that would make you try to stake me. Really not cricket to be throwing it back on the Slayer, is it?”

 

“I feel certain she will forgive me,” Giles said, sitting behind his desk and fingering the crossbow resting on it. “Given the provocation...”

 

“I ate a piece of meat,” Spike scoffed. “Instead of sampling some of the, no doubt tasteless, blood flowing so visibly through your veins.  Your face is really an appetizing shade of red just now...” Spike looked wistful for a moment, causing Giles to blanch and hold up the large cross in his other hand. “Oh relax, old man. Promised the Slayer, didn’t I? That steak will hold me until I get a chance to have the real thing.”

 

“You don’t seriously expect Buffy to send you out to dine on the population of Sunnydale, do you?”

 

Spike sighed. “I s’pose not. Being the goody-two-shoes Slayer that she is. I’ll probably have to bag it until we sort this out.”

 

Choosing to ignore Spike’s willingness to drink bagged blood, as not being within the realm of possibility, Giles instead tried to get clarification of the second part of the vampire’s remark.

 

“Until you sort what out?”

 

Spike looked surprised. “Until we sort out how to discourage the demon-hunting soldiers from thinking that the Slayer should be on their list, of course. Or were you just planning to hope they’d forget about her?”

 

It was Giles’s turn to look surprised. “What do you care what happens to Buffy? I’d think you’d be on your way out of town as soon as it gets dark.”

 

Spike coughed and shifted his eyes around the room before admitting, “Kind of promised one of my mates I’d look for his brother. Plus, Slayer and I have a truce now – common enemy and all that. Wouldn’t leave her here to take them on all by herself.”  He looked offended for a moment, then realized the Watcher was staring at him with eyes that were much too perceptive.  “Bloody bitch is mine to kill,” he said quickly. “Where’s the glory in runnin’ off and leaving her to fight men with guns?”

 

“You are a very strange vampire,” Giles said, shaking his head. “So very different from An—”

 

A guttural snarl interrupted him. “If you are about to compare me to my wanker of a grandsire, I will rip your throat out and square it with the Slayer later.”

 

“Point taken,” Giles said with a sigh. “I didn’t mean of be offensive.”

 

“Never do that again,” Spike said, his voice cold and his expression more frightening than the snarl. “I am not like him and I never will be... with or without his soul.”  Giles studied the vampire’s face for a moment, then nodded at what he saw there.  “My apologies,” he said.  Without further comment, he reached for a tablet and pen. “While we await Buffy’s return, would you object to clearing up some discrepancies in the Watcher’s Diaries?”

 

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

 

Buffy left campus, dressed for the evening’s planned excursion to Spike’s former hide-out. “Wherever that is,” she muttered, turning into the butcher’s at the last second. She was soon on her way again, a bag of fresh pig blood in her hand. She entered the apartment and handed the bag to Spike without comment, her expression daring him to say anything. Giving her a small smile, he took the bag into the kitchen and began searching the cabinets.

 

“To your right,” Giles said, earning a nod from Spike and a startled “whoa!” from Buffy. 

 

“I kinda thought I’d find you guys trying to kill each other,” she said, glancing from Giles to Spike and back.

 

“We got over it,” Spike said without looking up from the microwave’s dials.  Buffy looked at Giles, who nodded in agreement.

 

“It’s been a rather productive afternoon,” he said, patting the tablet that was now covered with notes. “Even allowing for some exaggeration and... some omission ..” Giles gave a growling Spike an “oh please” before continuing. “Even allowing for those things, Spike has been very helpful about filling in missing data in the Council’s accounts.”

 

“Huh!”  Buffy sat down and shook her head.  “Who knew?”  She waited for Spike to come back and sit at the other end of the couch, sipping his mug of pig’s blood and making a face. “Would you rather have gone hungry?” she snapped when he visibly forced himself to drink the warm animal blood.

 

“Sorry, luv,” he said, shocking her into silence. “Don’t mean to appear ungrateful. It’s just...” He sighed. “Thank you, Slayer. You took your time and spent your money to buy me something to eat, and I’m being a wanker about it.”

 

“Okaaaay. Who are you and what have you done with Spike?”

 

A muffled growl was the only reply as he tilted the mug up and drained it. Buffy walked to the window and peered out from behind the shade. It had become dark enough that it would be safe for Spike to go out, but was still light enough for Buffy to see that the parking area held no armed men looking for vampires and demons.

 

“Let’s go, Spike. If we find those maps soon enough, we might have time to go looking for whatever it is we’re looking for...”

 

Giles stood and followed Spike to the door. While the vampire shrugged into his coat, Giles asked Buffy, “What are your plans?”

 

“Well, if Spike’s right and he’s got maps of underground Sunnydale, I’m hoping we can find where these guys might be hiding the vamps and demons they’re catching.  If we can do that, we’ll be able to get a better idea of who they are and why they’re here.  That’s the plan, anyway.”

 

“Just so the plan doesn’t include your own capture,” Giles said with a sigh. “Speaking of which, how did your classes go today?”

 

Buffy shrugged. “Pretty much like usual, if usual meant Riley or one of his ‘fraternity brothers’ was always hanging around watching me. It got so I thought they were going to follow me into the ladies room at lunch time.” She frowned. “Funny thing was, none of them talked to me. They just were always in the same places. Even Riley only said ‘hi’ and then went to stand by Professor Walsh. I’d swear they were talking about me, but that would be crazy...”

 

“Well, be careful and report back to me if it isn’t terribly late.”

 

“’k, let’s go, Spike.”

 

Giles frowned as Buffy and the vampire who’d already killed two slayers walked off like old friends.

 

~~~~~~~~~~ 

 

“So, where is this ‘hide-out’ and why didn’t I find it?”

 

“Didn’t know to be looking for it, did you? You thought I’d scampered off like a good little vampire when you threatened me at that party.  Didn’t do it. Went looking for my gem instead.  And found it.”

 

“Stop calling it yours. It was never ‘yours’, it was something really old that you found. And now it’s mine.”

 

“I spent weeks looking for that ring!” he growled. “Putting up with incompetent minions, Harm’s mouth—”

 

“Speaking of Harmony, where is she? Is she going to be looking for you?”

 

“Doubt it,” he said without explanation.

 

“Oh.” Buffy remembered Willow telling her about finding Harmony crying in the crypt full of jewelry. “That’s right, you staked her. “ She glanced at him from the corner of her eyes. “There are easier ways to break up, you know.”

 

“Easier than making the ex go ‘poof’? Kinda doubt it, Slayer. Anyway, she had the ring on. Didn’t dust. I was so happy to have it I didn’t bother to try again.  Pretty sure I’m not on her list of exes she’s anxious to see though.”

 

“Yeah, I can see where that would be a real relationship killer.”

 

“That wasn’t a relationship,” he growled.

 

“No? What was it then? She called you her boyfriend.”

 

“She also thinks unicorns are real,” Spike said.

 

“Point.”

 

“Too bloody right. If those ninja wankers snatched up Harm, I can just about guarantee after an hour of her incessant prattling, they’d either cut her loose or dust her.” They walked in silence for a few minutes, Buffy trying to decide if Spike was really as unfeeling as he seemed. After a few minutes he nudged her arm. “You’re thinkin’ I’m the poorest excuse for a man as you’ve seen since that wanker that dumped you, aren’t you?”

 

Buffy winced at the reminder about Parker. She’d forgotten that Spike had witnessed her humiliation that day.  “Pretty much, yeah,” she admitted. “You’re both pond scum.”

 

“Admit it, luv. I had a lot more reason to want to be rid of my ‘ex’ than he did. He had you. All I had was... Harmony.”

 

Buffy frowned, trying to decide if she’d just been paid some sort of compliment. While she was thinking, Spike spoke again.

 

“How did you know I tried to stake Harm?”

 

“Oh, Giles and Xander and Willow were right behind you. I guess they must have found your hide out... Anyway, when they got there she was crying and saying what a jerk you were. That’s why they looked so frantic when they came to rescue me. Giles figured out you had found the Gem.”

 

“The watcher didn’t stake her?” 

 

Buffy looked away and cleared her throat. “Well, no. I mean – it was Harmony. I guess he just figured she’s so stupid she’ll walk into the sun or something.” She looked at him from the corner of her eye. “She was crying and looking for sympathy. It would have been like... like...”

 

“Shootin’ fish in barrel?” She could hear the grin in his voice. “Takin’ candy from a baby?”

 

“Something like that, yeah.” She sighed. “I told him I’d do it later, when I... felt better.... But I haven’t done it yet.  I guess that makes me a bad slayer, huh?”

 

“’Bout as bad a slayer as letting you go when I had my fangs on you makes me a miserable excuse for a vampire,” he agreed. “Bad as we are at our jobs, it’s a wonder anybody’s afraid of us.” He bumped her with his shoulder. “Isn’t that right, Slayer?”

 

Buffy laughed and pushed him off. “Speak for yourself, William.”

 

“Here we are, pet.” He gestured for her to go ahead of him into the side of the hill.

 

“Hey? Isn’t this...?”

 

“Yeah. Is. Quickest safe way I know to get back to my lair. We’ll just drop down into the tunnel and follow it back to the cave.”

 

True to his word, and ignoring the piles of treasure around them, Spike dropped down through the ceiling of the tunnel and began walking back toward Sunnydale, Buffy hastened behind him, her own eyes unable to see in the now perfect darkness. When she tripped and stumbled into him, he whirled and growled at her before realizing what was wrong. “Sorry, Slayer. I forgot you can’t see like I can. Here, give me your hand.”

 

Without waiting to see what she would say, he took her hand and pulled her close to his back, putting her hands on his waist. “Just hang on and stay right behind me,” he said, setting off at a somewhat slower pace to accommodate her shorter legs.  Through the soft leather of his coat, Buffy could feel his muscles flexing and releasing as he turned from time to time to scent the air and be sure they were heading the right way.  When they noticed the dim glow ahead, he stopped and she bumped into his back.

 

“If you wanted to get closer, pet, all you had to do was say so,” he whispered over his shoulder.

 

“In your dreams... Why did you stop?” In spite of her question, she kept her voice just as low as his, trusting he had a good reason for being quiet.

 

“Lights ahead,” he said, “and thought I heard voices.”

 

“Oh.” Buffy peered around him, seeing the glow some distance away. “Is that your... lair?”

 

“Should be. Best let me go ahead and see what’s what,” he whispered. “If there are vamps there, they’ll hear your heartbeat before you get close enough to do any damage.”

 

“I don’t care if they know I’m coming. And I’m not staying here by myself.” Buffy renewed her grip on his sides. “Let’s go.”

 

Spike’s only response was a sigh as he began moving forward. They made it all the way to the hole leading into the lair before any of the vampires in there noticed them. 

 

“Blondie Bear!” Harmony’s piercing shriek had even Buffy holding her ears. 

 

“I thought you said you were done with him,” a big vampire in a letter jacket growled, glaring at Spike.  “Oh. Look he brought his own blonde. Good thing,” he sneered as Buffy stepped out from behind Spike.

 

“Buffy? What are you doing with Spike? You can’t come in here. It’s my lair. No slayers allowed.”

 

Buffy rolled her eyes and muttered to Spike, “You dated her for how long?”

 

“Too long,” he said. “But in my defense, I’m not used to being alone and she’s got one hell of a— Right. Not anything you need to know, I guess.”

 

While Spike and Buffy held their short conversation, Harmony and her minions stared at them. The big one said, “Should we get them now, mistress?”

 

Harmony turned to gape at him. “You moron. That’s Spike. My ex. He’ll tear you apart now that he’s seen you with me. He’s terribly jealous.”  She preened and smiled at Spike. “I’m not really dating any of them. I just let them think I would so I could have minions. You shouldn’t hurt them.”

 

Buffy gawked at Harmony. “Minions? You have minions?” She rolled her eyes at Spike. “Crap. I am  a bad slayer.” 

 

He snorted in amusement at her momentary dismay. “I’m as amazed as you are, Slayer.”

 

“Buffy, what are you doing here?” Harmony remembered that Spike hadn’t come alone and she turned her gaze back to Buffy.  “And why hasn’t Spike killed you? He said he was going to.”

 

“You said that, did you?” Buffy smirked at Spike.

 

“You can’t believe anything that stupid bint says, Slayer.” Spike shuffled his feet and managed to appear ashamed and furious at the same time. “And anyway, we didn’t have a truce then.”

 

Trying to regain control of the situation, Harmony looked Buffy up and down and sniffed. “You’re in college now, Buffy. Shouldn’t you be learning to dress better? I mean, that sweatshirt! And those jeans are so last year.”

 

“Hey! These are my favorite slaying pants I’ll have you know!” 

 

“I’m sure there’s nothing that says you can’t be fashionable while you slay,” Harmony said with what she thought was great patience.  “But that never was your thing, was it? And by the way, what are you doing with my boyfriend?”

 

Buffy glanced at Spike.  “You don’t mind if I stake her, do you?”

 

He shook his head. “Knock yourself out, luv. Bint means nothing to me.”

 

Harmony gasped, but began to move behind her minions who had decided to take things into their own hands and charge Spike and Buffy. While Spike toyed with the jock-minion, Buffy twirled, punched and kicked her way through the other three, leaving piles of dust on the floor. Harmony, who, in spite of knowing who and what Buffy was had never seen her in action, turned even paler. When Buffy turned to watch Spike dancing around the over-matched minion, Harmony ran out of the cave entrance and into the welcoming night vowing never to criticize Buffy’s clothing ever again.

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

“Come on, Spike. Stop playing around.” Buffy was sitting on a table, swinging her legs and twirling her stake impatiently.  Before the startled minion could register what she’d said, his dust had joined the others on the floor and Spike hopped up on the table beside Buffy.

 

“Bloke’s got to have some fun, Slayer. Can’t fight you now, gotta get my share of violence in somehow.”

 

“You can fight me any time you want,” Buffy said as she dropped off the table into a ready stance. “I owe you a few broken bones.”

 

“Are you ever going to shut up about that? Bloody hell, woman! You dropped a church organ on me and put me in a wheelchair for months. Don’t hear me whinging about it every time I see you.” He stepped off the table to face her.

 

“That was different!”

 

“How was it different?”  They were standing nose to nose, tempers rising again.

 

“Well, for one, I didn’t have any cheater Gem of Amara, so it was an even fight. And secondly... secondly... You’re... you’re evil. You deserved it!”  She grinned triumphantly at him, and he broke into a reluctant smile.

 

“Can’t argue with that, I guess,” he said, remaining in front of her until she blushed and moved away.  Shaking himself, he began to wander around the large cave.  “The maps were on the table, but that was weeks ago. Hard to tell what that airhead has done with them.”

 

In spite of his words, he had only looked through one set of drawers and knocked the unicorns off one set of bookshelves before he found the rolled up maps stuffed onto another shelf along with the reference books he’d stolen from the library.

 

“Ah, here we are. Surprised she didn’t burn all the things taking up precious unicorn space,” he muttered, pulling them out.  He began to spread them out on the table, using the heavy books to hold down the corners.  He grinned when Buffy noticed the stains on the table and wrinkled her nose.

 

“Is that... Ewwww!”

 

“Don’t be so dainty. It’s not like you don’t shed something’s blood every night.”

 

“That’s different! It’s evil blood... and usually a weird color and stinky,” she added as if that settled it.

 

“Tomato, tomahto, Slayer. I’m guessing the families of those demons would see you as the evil one.”

 

“Well, they’d be wrong,” she said, somewhat uncertainly now that she’d heard his comments about harmless demons being killed by the commandoes. “Wouldn’t they?” 

 

He glanced up at her puzzled face and stepped away from the table to stand in front of her.  “They would,” he said with surprising conviction. “Don’t ever think different. If you want to know what demons you could give a miss, you ask me and I’ll teach you which ones are harmless to humans. Anything else, you get them before they get you.”

 

Buffy blinked at his earnest expression, watching him realize what he’d said and try to recover his big bad image.  He straightened up and turned away from her gaze. “Not that I give a bloody fuck what happens to you, mind, but came all this way to kill you myself. Don’t really fancy knowing some over-eager demon is gonna steal my glory while we’re all truce-having and what not.”

 

He kept his back to her as he returned to the table and began tracing lines on the maps. Buffy stared at him in silence, not sure what to do with this Spike who could go from crude, cold-hearted and evil to gentle and concerned and back again within only a few seconds.  “Will the real William the Bloody please stand up,” she murmured to herself, blushing when he looked up and winked at her.

 

“You weren’t supposed to hear that.”

 

“Vampire, pet. You don’t want me to hear it, don’t say it.  Now, come over here and let me show what we’ve got.”

 

Somewhat reluctantly, she moved to his side and looked down at the maps. Spike put his finger a spot marked with an “x”. “We’re here, Slayer, and this,” he moved his finger, “is where we came from. Doesn’t go anywhere but to the treasure.  But, if we were to go off in this direction, we’d be heading for the campus of Sunnydale U – where it looks like there’s a pretty big space. That’s where I’d look first, being as your soldier boys are all busy pretending to be college students. There are dozens of tunnels, some old, some new, but that’s the only place I see with what looks like a lot of open space.  It’s one of the newer maps, too, so not some old leftover from when old Batface ruled down here.”

 

Buffy snickered at his description of the Master, earning a smile from the vampire. “Never did congratulate you on that, did I?”

 

“Wasn’t he, like, your great, great, something or other? Shouldn’t that make you mad? That I killed him, I mean.”

 

“Hell no! Couldn’t stand the old bugger, and he couldn’t stand me. Only tolerated me cause I came with Dru.  Liked having the girls around, he did.”

 

Buffy shuddered. “He was so... ugly... I can’t imagine even a vampire....” She shuddered again. “Ugh.”

 

Spike’s chuckle sounded right in her ear, and she jumped with a little “eep!”

 

“Not all vamps are as good lookin’ as I am, Slayer. And most of them don’t care as much about beauty as I do,” he said, nuzzling her neck and inhaling deeply. He frowned when she flinched away and put a defensive hand to her throat. “Wasn’t going to bite you, Slayer.”

 

She tried to ignore the disappointment on his face. “Well what were you doing then?”

 

“Nothing, I guess. Sorry. Forgot myself there for a second.” 

 

Buffy stared at him, trying to figure why he seemed so mad about what seemed to her to be a perfectly logical reaction to finding his mouth near her throat.  “Le... let’s go,” she said, moving toward the tunnel he’d pointed at earlier. Without speaking, he took one of the torches off the wall and strode off down the dark tunnel, leaving Buffy to hurry after him.  After they’d been walking briskly for several minutes, he slowed and dropped back to walk beside her.

 

“You smell good.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“You smell good. That’s why I had my face on your neck. Wasn’t tryin’ to bite you.”

 

“Oh... I smell good in a ‘I vant to drink your blood’ kinda way or ...?”

 

“You smell good in a womanly kind of way.  And yeah, I’m a vampire, so your blood is part of that, but not what I was thinking about.”

 

Suddenly very sure she didn’t want to know what he had been thinking about, Buffy didn’t respond except to say, “‘K”, but she relaxed and walked beside him easily.  When the silence began to be uncomfortable again, she asked, “If you hate Harmony so much, why were you dating her? She can’t be the only female vamp in Sunnydale.”

 

“Aren’t that many,” he said. “Met her the first night I got back and....”

 

“And...? Or is this going to be something piggy that Xander might appreciate more than I would?”

 

He laughed. “Yeah, suppose it would be.  Let’s just say I’m not used to being alone, yeah? Always had a woman in my life, and Harm’s right pretty. Took me a while to figure out she really is as dumb as she seems, and that she never stops talking unless you put something in her mou—” He didn’t quite stop himself in time to keep Buffy from rolling her eyes and moving slightly away from him. She heard him sigh as he shook his head.  “Sorry, Slayer. Not helpin’ my case much am I?  Don’t know what to tell you. Stayed with Dru for well over a hundred years, loved her and took care of her through everything, and she left me anyway. Told me I wasn’t demon enough for her and that I—”

 

“So ‘cause Dru did you wrong, you think that makes it okay to be mean to other women?”

 

“You’re right, pet. I’m a wanker.” He threw up his hands in defeat.

 

“Well, in your defense, Harmony is a shallow, catty bitch... and evil.”  She sighed. “I guess I should cut you some slack.”

 

He huffed a laugh. “Remind me never to question your wardrobe.”

 

“That isn’t about— okay, maybe a little bit.”  She looked down at herself. “Do I look that bad? These are slaying clothes – black, so blood doesn’t show and I blend, stretchy pants for kicking, awesome boots – also for kicking. I don’t know what her problem is.”

 

“Don’t know what it is, either, Slayer. You look fine to me. She’s probably just jealous... and have I mentioned stupid?   Stop!” His suddenly hissed command and the arm he threw across in front her stopped her in mid-stride. His tense body posture made her swallow her complaint, but when he threw the torch down a side tunnel and pulled her in the other direction, she balked.

 

“What are you doing? How am I supposed to—”

 

She cut herself off when she notice the faint glow from ahead of them, letting Spike pull her into a small crevice in the wall.  The torch guttered out, leaving them in darkness and huddled together in the small space. Only the tension she could feel in Spike’s body as he listened and scented the air kept her from shoving him away.  “What is it?” she whispered. “What’s out there?”

 

“Don’t know for sure. But whatever it is, it’s coming this way. Not human. Not vamp. Must be some kind of demon...” 

 

The glow grew brighter, and soon Buffy could hear the sound of shuffling footsteps as the demon approached. She couldn’t help a muffled gasp when it got close enough for them to see what it was.  Even in the poorly lit corridor, they could see that the creature looked like some sort of demon Frankenstein monster. It moved ponderously on feet that were crudely stitched onto legs that were a different color, and scaly where the feet had profuse hair growing on them.  Where it should have had a hand, one arm ended in a skewer of some sort. The other, more normal-looking arm and hand held a flashlight. The eyes were vacant and staring, as if it was following directions only it could hear.  As it passed them, a large scar indicated where it must have once had a tail, and attached to it’s back was some sort of mechanical device. 

 

It shuffled past, giving no indication that it was aware of their presence.  Once the light from the flashlight was once-again just a glow in the distance, Buffy let out the breath she hadn’t even realized she was holding and relaxed against the body behind her – until she remembered who it was. She straightened up with a mumbled apology, putting an inch or so of distance between them.

 

“Wasn’t complainin’, luv,” Spike’s voice rumbled in her ear, his breath stirring the hairs around her face. “Can lean on me anytime you want to.”

 

“As long as we have a truce you mean,” she said, fighting off the shiver that had gone through her.  There was a long pause before he spoke.

 

“Yeah, ‘s long as we have our truce. That’s what I meant.” There was an awkward silence as they stepped out into the tunnel and Spike picked up the torch.  He took out his lighter and flicked it on. “Guess we should keep going, yeah? Must be headed the right way.”

 

“Maybe we shouldn’t light it again?” Buffy gestured to the distance where there was still a glow, even though the demon and his flashlight were long out of sight in the other direction. “I could just hang on to your coat again.”

 

“Alright. I’ll just leave it here in case we need it on our way out.  Grab hold, Slayer.” He closed the lighter and put it back in his pocket, waiting until he felt Buffy’s hands on his waist before starting forward.

 

The glow grew steadily brighter and Buffy was soon able to see almost as well as Spike could. They crept silently along the now-smoother floor until they reached a place where the tunnel forked and there was a sharp turn to the left. Ahead of them, was the same dirt and rock wall they’d been following, to the left, the walls were smooth concrete, with lights placed just often enough that it was possible to see. 

 

“Where do you think we are?” Buffy whispered, even though Spike hadn’t indicated there was anything around.

 

“If I had to guess, I’d say we’re right under the campus, but maybe on the edge. Where the frat houses are located,” he added somewhat unnecessarily as Buffy was way ahead of him.

 

“Great. So there’s something under Lowell House. Something with man-made walls and patchwork demons wandering around in it. Do you think we can get close enough to see what it is?”

 

She felt him shrug beside her. “We can try getting a little closer. Gonna be no place to hide in that tunnel, though. If we get spotted, we’re as good as caught.”

 

“We can fight our way out,” Buffy said with more confidence than she felt.

 

“Feeling bullet-proof are you?”

 

She sighed. “Not really. But seriously, if we can just get a peek at—”

 

“Alright, Slayer. Let’s go. Bullets can’t kill me, and they probably can’t kill you either now. Maybe,” he added under his breath.

 

Moving quietly and slinking along the walls, they made their way down the corridor. Pausing when he thought he heard something, Spike was listening when Buffy began to tug on his arm. “What?” he hissed. “I’m listening here.”

 

She pointed silently to the ceiling and a large vent there. He nodded and grinned. “Still like crawling around in ceilings, do you?” He bent down so that she could get on his shoulders, standing up as soon as she was set.  He held her ankles as she wrestled the cover off the vent and put it inside the opening.

 

“Ready, pet?” Without waiting for her nod, he raised his hands over his head, lifting her until she could pull herself up through the open vent.  She turned around and peered down at Spike.

 

“How are you going to get up?” She extended an arm. “Can you grab my hand? Maybe I can—” 

 

He shook his head and gestured at her to get back. “No time, luv. Incoming.  Get back.”  Before he’d finished speaking, he had left the ground and propelled himself into the open space. Buffy grabbed his arm and pulled him forward, falling backwards with Spike on top of her.  They froze for a moment, but Spike’s ears told him there was no time to enjoy their position.  With a “shhhh” he rolled off and grabbed the vent cover.  He’d just reinstalled it when even Buffy’s ears caught the sound of booted feet.

 

Lying flat and staring through the slats, they watched as a small group of black-clad commandoes passed beneath them, talking among themselves.

 

“So, Finn. What’s the plan tonight? Are we after the hostile or the girl?”

 

“Whichever one we find first, I guess.  We can go after Buffy in the daytime, so unless she’s out doing her ‘slaying’ tonight, we should probably concentrate on that hostile. Maggie really wants a chance to study him.”

 

“Man. If a chip could harness the power that vamp had....”

 

“He’d be a hell of a weapon behind enemy lines, wouldn’t he?”

 

Their voices faded as they moved away, but Buffy could tell that Spike was still listening, so she remained silent until he rolled over on his back and stared at the invisible ceiling above their small space. 

 

“Spike?” she whispered tentatively when he seemed to have disappeared. Her voice startled him out of his thoughts and he turned his head to reassure her.

 

“Still here, pet. Just trying to understand what those wankers were talking about.” He suddenly grabbed her hand tightly.  “Promise me something, Slayer. Promise me you won’t let those bastards have me.  Promise you’ll kill me first.”  He clung to her hand while she moved closer, shaking her head.

 

“What are you talking about? And no – I’m not going to kill you.  I mean, not right now, anyway.”

 

“Just promise me,” he repeated, not releasing her hand when she tried to pull away.

 

“Okay, okay, I promise, but— What did they say?”

 

“Let’s just say I’ve had some experience with that kind of military thinking and I’m not planning to be anybody’s lab rat – or secret weapon.”  He let go of her hand and rolled to his hands and knees.  “Let’s see where this air duct goes, yeah? Maybe we can learn more about this place.”

 

“You are going to explain this to me,” she hissed, crawling after his rapidly disappearing legs. There was just enough light from the widely spaced vents that she could see him, although not well. From the speed with which he was moving, she assumed he must be wearing his fangs and wrinkles. Her own vision was just good enough to make out his feet ahead of her.  She’d let her attention wander when he stopped suddenly, and she bumped into him.  “Oops?” She sat back on her heels, embarrassed at how she’d run her face into his leather covered rear.

 

“Are you being clumsy or kinky?” he whispered, moving over so she could come up beside him. “Cause if you wanted to get closer to my arse—ow!” His muffled laughter did nothing to relieve the heat that she was sure was turning her face into a glowing mask.  She punched him once more for good measure, then hissed, “Why did you stop?”

 

He pulled her a little closer and pointed down.  Instead of the corridor that was all they’d seen so far, they seemed to be looking down into some sort of operating room. Strapped to a table, with a ball gag in his mouth, was a wide-eyed and terrified-looking vampire. His eyes went to the ceiling for a second as he heard their voices, but his attention went back immediately to what was happening to him. Behind him, someone in a white coat was shaving a portion of his head. Buffy watched in sick fascination as the technician sliced into the vampire’s scalp, then took a small power saw and cut away a piece of bone.  Even with the gag, they could hear the high-pitched shriek as the saw cut into the vampire’s skull.

 

Buffy gasped and unconsciously moved closer to Spike. Never taking his eyes off the procedure below, he whispered, “Promise me.” Buffy nodded vigorously, unable to take her own eyes off the room below.  The ‘doctor’ doing the operation used tiny forceps to take something off a tray and insert it into the vampire’s open brain. There was some muttered conversation and some more work that ignored the whimpers and snarls coming from the restrained vampire. When she was finished, the doctor put the piece of bone back and sewed the scalp closed.

 

She stepped back, stripped off her gloves and mask, nodding to the burly men standing nearby. “Let him go,” she said.

 

“Professor Walsh!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

 

Spike’s hand over her mouth prevented Buffy from whispering anything else, as he pulled them away from the vent and flat on the floor. Buffy followed his lead, remaining completely immobile and holding her breath while they waited to hear if she’d been heard. Fortunately, the removal of the gag had increased the volume of the subject’s snarls to the point that no one was listening for any other sounds.  Staying completely flat and silent, they edged back until they could once again see into the room below. Once the restraints were off the vampire, he shook his head and glared around the room before launching himself at the doctor. Unperturbed, she stood still and watched as he fell to the ground, screaming and clutching his head.  She allowed him to get to his feet and try a few more times before nodding with satisfaction. 

 

“Job well done,” she said, turning away. The operated-on vampire remained on the floor, holding his head, his yellow eyes glaring his fear and hatred at her. “Put him away. We’ll start the training tomorrow.”

 

“You’re going to use him?” one of the men in lab coats asked as he yanked the vampire to his feet.

 

“He’ll do until Agent Finn’s squad locates the hostile that they have assured me is so much stronger than this one.  Once we have him, I’ll remove the chip and install it in the new subject.”

 

Fearing that Spike, who was now biting his own wrist to muffle his snarls, was about to dive through the vent and get them both killed or captured, Buffy rolled on top of him and used her weight to try to hold him still.  The body under hers was so rigid she wondered if vampires could pull muscles from clenching them too tightly. She put her hands over his, rubbing gently in an attempt to soothe him. Gradually, she felt his back loosen up and he relaxed under her. 

 

In the meantime, the room below seemed to be empty, the doctor having walked out leaving the two attendants to drag the unresisting vampire out of their view. 

 

“I’m alright, Slayer. Let me go.”

 

With a final squeeze, Buffy released his hands and rolled off to lie beside him.  Spike licked his bleeding wrist, taking deep, unnecessary breaths.  They lay quietly, side-by-side for several minutes, absorbing what they’d just seen.

 

“I promise,” Buffy whispered, turning her head to speak.  “I promise, Spike.”

 

“Ta, luv. Know that’s not your style.”  He raised his head and turned to meet her gaze, their faces only inches apart. “Guess it’s just as well you’ve got that ring instead of me. Got no desire to spend eternity finding out what they mean by ‘training’.”

 

“We need to get out of here. I want to tell Giles about this place.”

 

“I’m right behind you, Slayer,” he said getting to his hands and knees again.

 

“Fat chance,” she snorted. “I’ll dust you if I have to so you don’t end up in that place, but that doesn’t mean you get to crawl behind me watching my ass till we get out of here.”

 

He gave an exaggerated sigh, but she could hear the amusement in his voice. “You’re no fun.”  As he moved to get in front of her, he murmured in her ear, “It’s a very watchable arse, you know.”

 

“And don’t you forget it,” she said with a smile he couldn’t see.

 

His, “Not likely, luv. Not likely at all,” floated back to her as he began crawling rapidly back the way they’d come.  When they got to where they’d entered the ducts, they stopped and debated the merits of knowing the way out versus following the air ducts in hopes of being farther away from any random squads of soldiers before emerging.

 

“We’ve got a better shot at fighting them if we’ve got room to maneuver,” he said.  “But if we’re down there, we’ve got nowhere to hide.”

 

“Yeah, but we don’t know where this goes. What if we end up right back under the campus?”

 

“Soon’s we see dirt under us, we’ll know it’s time to bail out, Slayer. We know how far we came before we had to jump up here – anyway, I can kind of tell where we are – relative to other things. We’re going north now, and that’s the way back to the tunnels.”

 

“Huh, my own personal growly compass. How about that?”

 

“Not anybody’s bloody anything, Slayer.” Spike’s voice had lost the warm tone she’d been becoming used to. “Not yours or any other human’s.”

 

“Sorry,” she surprised them both by saying. She shocked herself more by putting a sympathetic hand on his arm. “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.  I wouldn’t—”

 

He sighed and covered her hand with his own, patting it. “I know you didn’t mean it like that. I’m just feeling a mite touchy about the idea of being used. I’ll get over it.” There was an awkward pause while his hand remained on hers and she wasn’t sure if she should move her hand first. Buffy could feel the muscles bunching under her hand and unconsciously squeezed them. Spike’s thumb was gently stroking the side of her hand.  They both froze as they realized what they were doing. Before the situation became any more uncomfortable, Spike snorted and said, “On a count of three, we both let go, right?”

 

Buffy giggled softly. “ ‘K”

 

Counting together, they got to three and snatched their hands back. Spike tried to stick his in his pockets, but it was too awkward to do that while he was sitting down, so he settled for putting them behind his back.  Buffy crossed her arms across her chest, sticking her hands in her armpits. There was an awkward silence as they avoided making eye contact.

 

“We should go,” Buffy said finally, beginning to crawl off. Too late, she remembered why she hadn’t wanted Spike to be behind her, but he kept a respectful distance between them and she couldn’t think of a good reason to ask to switch. Not until they ran out of light from the tunnels, did she stop and ask Spike to change places with her.  He squeezed past with minimal touching and set off immediately. When the air duct widened and got taller, then ended abruptly in a large intake vent that opened to a wooded area, they stopped, stood up, and stared out past the slowly turning fan that filled the opening.

 

“I can’t see anything,” Buffy complained, barely able to see the fan in the moonlight from outside.  She started forward, but Spike pulled her back.

 

“Don’t try to walk through that Slayer. Just cause you have the Gem doesn’t mean you can’t get chopped into little bitty pieces.”

 

“Well, how are we going to do this?” She crouched down, trying to gauge how fast the blades were moving.  “I think we can roll under it.  One at a time.”

 

He crouched beside her, then nodded. “That’ll work. You first, Slayer.”

 

“Here I go.” Crouching so close to the blades that she could feel them brush just past her face, she counted to herself until she was satisfied that she knew how much time she would have. As soon as the next blade began its climb, Buffy dove under the fan, snatching her feet up as she rolled out onto the grass.  She turned around, but couldn’t see Spike in the darkness behind the fan. It wasn’t until he rolled out and collided with her that his blond hair caught the moonlight.

 

“Oops?” Buffy said as he started cursing and growling.  She moved so he could get away from the still turning blades that were just brushing against his boots.  “Sorry. I didn’t know you were going to be that close behind me. Are you okay?”

 

“Will be after I’ve counted all my body parts,” he growled, pulling his coat away from the fan. 

 

“I said I was sorry!  I didn’t know you would be right behind me.”

 

“Did you think I wanted to stay there one second longer than I had to?” he muttered as he crawled toward her and stretched out on the ground.

 

“No, I guess not.” She cocked her head at him, now able to see him lying next to her.  “I think we’d better get out of here and find Giles.”  He turned his head to the side and looked up at her.

 

“What’s your hurry?” He waved his hand around. “We’re safe now. There’s a moon. The ground is comfy...”

 

“You’d better not be going where I think you are with that line of thought,” she said, hoping he couldn’t see her blushing.

 

“I was just thinking it was a nice place to rest up for a few minutes. Don’t know where your mind went, Slayer, but if that’s where you want to go, I’m right there with—”

 

“Me? What? I never... no. There was no going... anyplace.”  When she saw his body shaking with laughter, she slapped him on the chest. “I hate you,” she said, slapping him again for good measure.

 

Still laughing, he grabbed her hand and held it. “No you don’t. You don’t hate me.”

 

“Of course I do. We hate each other. It’s what we do.” When he continued to hold her hand, once again moving his thumb against her wrist, she said less emphatically, “Don’t we?”

 

“If you say so, luv.” He sighed, getting to his feet and tugging on her hand to help her up.

 

“I say so.”  She took her hand away and looked around the tiny clearing in front of the still turning fan.  “Which way to town, compass person?”

 

He sniffed the air, turning from one direction to another, then began walking through the trees. “This way. Watch the roots. It’s dark in here.”

 

Tripping along behind him and muttering to herself, Buffy said, “Why am I always following you places I can’t see? Dammit!” She limped for a few minutes on the ankle she’d twisted, grateful for the Gem when the pain was soon gone and her ankle was fine again.  “Wow,” she whispered to herself, forgetting that Spike’s hearing would have allowed him to hear the changes in her gait.

 

“Yeah,” he said, his voice tight. “It’s pretty amazing, innit?” Increasing his pace, he got so far ahead she had to run to keep up.

 

“Spike... I...”

 

“Save it, Slayer. You’ve got it, I don’t.”

 

They didn’t speak again until the reached the end of the woods and oriented themselves. Still without talking, Spike strode off in the direction of Giles’s apartment complex.

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SIX

 

The door was somewhat uncharacteristically locked, and Buffy had to knock and wait for Giles to answer.  Which he did quickly, ushering them in and slamming the door behind them.

 

“What’s got your knickers in twist, Watcher?”

 

Ignoring Spike, Giles addressed himself to Buffy. “Your ‘boyfriend’ paid me a visit tonight. Uniform and all. He wanted to warn me that whatever our ‘relationship’...” Giles’s mouth twisted as if he had a bad taste in it. “...is, he felt it only fair to warn me that you were under surveillance as a suspected ‘hostile citizen’ and that it would be in my best interest to cut off all contact with you.”

 

“He what? And, if I got the drift of that ‘relationship’ crack, ewwwww!”

 

“Jus’ when you think somebody can’t possibly be stupider than he looks...”

 

Buffy shot Spike a puzzled look. “What do you know about what Riley looks like? You’ve only seen him all dressed up like some kind of ninja.”

 

“Not exactly,” Spike mumbled, looking away. “May have seen him... once or twice... in the evening... out and about...”

 

“ ‘Out and about’?”  She gasped. “You mean with me? When we were on a date?  Have you been spying on me?” 

 

Spike threw up his hands in only partially mock surrender. “Easy there, pet. Not like I was peeking in windows or anything. Just keeping track of your progress after the... altercation... we had. Wanted to know when you were all better.”

 

“Why? So you could half-kill me again? Not helping yourself here, Spike.” Buffy fingered the stake tucked into the back of her pants.

 

“Bloody hell, Slayer! We’re enemies! As you’ve reminded me several times lately. Yeah, I was thinking... I don’t know what I was thinking. Wouldn’t cheat and use the ring again, but if you were all healthy and strong...”

 

“You’d what? Take the ring off and fight me even-steven?” Buffy turned her back, scoffing.

 

“Doesn’t much matter now, does it? You’re the one can’t be killed. I could beat on you till the cows come home and you’d just pop back up like a bloody bad penny.”

 

“Buffy?” Giles was staring from Buffy to the angry vampire and back again. “Did you tell him?”

 

“He guessed, Giles. I didn’t see any reason not to admit it. I’ve got it, he doesn’t. End of story.”

 

Spike’s expression made it very clear that he did not consider the story even close to ending, but he said nothing, only pushing back his demon and sprawling in the big easy chair with a loud growl.

 

“Just so we’re clear – do you two still have a truce, or should I rearm the crossbow?”

 

“We’re fine,” Buffy said with a sigh. “We just aren’t very good at having conversations that don’t end in yelling.” She looked at the still-glowering vampire. “Tell him we’re fine, Spike.”

 

“We’re fine,” he imitated, smirking at her glare. He met Giles’s suspicious gaze and said more seriously, “She’s right, you know. It’s just what we do. We get mad, we threaten to kill each other...” He glanced at Buffy and then away. And then I notice how gorgeous she is and all that angry blood goes south. Deciding that wasn’t probably in his best interest to share, he continued, “Slayer’s a hard enough opponent when all the odds are on my side. If she’s got the Gem, and it’s working for her, then my chances of getting it back are slim to none. Doesn’t make me happy, but I didn’t live this long by being stupid.”

 

Buffy’s face flushed and she looked away from Giles’s curious glance to stare at Spike. She hadn’t missed his hesitation when he talked about their frequent arguments. He so better not be thinking what I think he’s thinking! The vampire gave her a wink as he draped one leg over the arm of the chair and tried to look innocent, failing miserably.  That is what he was thinking about! What a pig! Buffy tried very hard not to feel a little burst of pride that Spike found her so attractive he got hard even when they were just angry at each other.  She blushed and turned away from his amused gaze.

 

“So, forgetting about their dirty minds and all, did you tell Riley what our relationship is?”

 

Giles shook his head. “I got the distinct impression that it would mean nothing to him, and I could see no good reason to try to explain about the Council to someone in the military. Council contacts are looking into the situation and will keep us apprised of whatever they find out—”

 

Buffy scoffed loudly. “Sure they will.”

 

Giles sighed and nodded. “Quite right. However, it is in their best interest that their only available slayer not be captured or confined so as not to be able to do her duty. They suggested that you remain out of sight until they have done further investigation and/or begun the process of alleviating the situation.”

 

“What the hell does that mean?  I’ve got classes to go to!”

 

“As I recall, that was never one of your priorities before,” Giles said with a wry smile. “I cannot imagine being absent for one or two sessions is going to ruin your college career.”

 

“Not much of a scholar, Slayer?” Spike’s grin was too happy to suit Buffy.

 

“Like you’d know anything about how hard college is!” she snapped back at him.

 

He gave her a long look, then turned his gaze to Giles. “Know old Rupert here probably went to Cambridge – not a bad university, but not as tough as m—some.” His tone was casual, as if he’d just mentioned it was raining.

 

Giles frowned at Spike, vowing to pull out the old Watcher’s diaries and see what else they had to offer about William the Bloody’s life as a human.  “Hard to imagine that a thug named ‘Spike’ knows anything about the rigors of British universities...” he said, hoping for more information.

 

Spike just gave an enigmatic smile and made no reply.

 

“Did I just miss something?” Buffy stared back and forth between the two Brits – one so very stuffy and seeming so old to her, the other so very much unstuffy and, despite his appearance, so very much older. 

 

“Nothing important,” Giles said. “What is important, is to decide where you can hide for a few days until we know more about whether or not it will be safe for you to—”

 

“Giles! They’re torturing... things. And yeah, okay, evil things by and large, but still... I mean vampires are... what’s that word that means sorta like people?”

 

“Sentient,” Spike answered first.  “The word you’re looking for is sentient. Self-aware, capable of feeling fear and pain, and of understanding the concept of being a slave.”  His jaw clenched. “And so are many demons, Slayer. And not all of them are evil.  Most of the demons in Sunnydale are here for the boost the Hellmouth gives them; they’re just going about their lives, raising their families and minding their own business. Ought to be able to walk the streets without having to worry that they’re going to be snatched up and turned over to vivisectionists.”

 

 Giles stared at Spike. “You seem more touchy about this than I would have expected....” He waited while Spike seemed to be wrestling with himself.

 

“Been there already,” he finally said. He slid his eyes sideways at Buffy. “Not sure how the big— Never mind. Here’s all you need to know. The Nazi’s had a plan during WW II to make weapons out of vamps and demons. I was one of the three that survived their attempts to make us controllable. Wasn’t the most pleasant time of my unlife. Only got away because they underestimated us and...” He looked at Buffy again. “And we got away.”

 

Buffy stared at him. “Okay, what’s with the shifty eyes? So, I’m guessing you killed some Nazis? Not finding myself caring a whole lot about a bunch of bad guys who would have been dead by now anyway. What aren’t you telling me?”

 

“Nothin’ you want to hear, Slayer. Point is, the only difference I can see between these wankers and the Nazi wankers is better technology. Same intent to use demons as weapons, and same lack of interest in how many they kill or maim in the process.”

 

Giles reached for the phone, putting it back down when he realized it was still the wee hours of the morning in England.  “I will let the Council know this new information. Surely if something like this was going on, they would have something about it in their records.”

 

“Was an American operation by the time I got out,” Spike said. “Which probably explains why it’s happenin’ here and not in Merry Olde.”

 

Giles stared at Spike, his eyes narrowing. “I should like very much to learn more about this... adventure... of yours. Including exactly how you got away.”

 

“Maybe.” Spike glanced at Buffy again. “One of these days, Watcher.”

 

Buffy stamped her foot, glaring at Spike. “What aren’t you telling me?” she repeated, moving closer and getting right up next to him.  “What don’t you want me to know?” She fastened her glare on him, daring him to look away.

 

His own anger rising to meet hers, he snapped, “Don’t want you to know that the Americans somehow got your rat-eating, souled up ex to swim down, save what was left of the crew from me and the two ugly old buggers they’d captured along with the Nazi sub. In the process he turned a good man so as to save the ship and the few men left of the crew.  And then, after the vamp did his job and fixed things, he threw us – me and the new family member he’d made – out in the water to sink or swim. Didn’t think you’d want to know that your precious Angel could be that flexible about his “no siring new vamps” rule.” He glared back at her, waiting until her own anger had turned to dismay before breaking their staring contest. He turned away, muttering, “I know you don’t care about what he did to Sam and me; that’s a vampire thing. But it was pretty much off the charts in terms of how you treat family and newly created members of it.”

 

While Buffy turned away, struggling to adjust to the idea that Angel had turned an innocent man – it never occurred to her to doubt Spike’s word – Giles gestured for the vampire to move closer. Although he kept his hand within easy reach of a large cross, he felt comfortable enough to say, “I’d like to know more about this event, if you don’t mind.”

 

Spike blinked at the sudden politeness from the man he knew didn’t trust him at all. He nodded, but jerked his head at Buffy. “Later, Watcher,” he said. “It’s nothing you need to know now.”

 

“I think if the souled vampire Buffy trusts is capable of killing and turning people – contrary to what he would have us believe – it is important that I know about it.”

 

Spike shrugged. “The poof isn’t as squeaky clean as he’d like Buffy to think he is, but I doubt he’s been running around siring vamps for the past sixty or seventy years.  She’s safe enough. ‘Specially if he stays in LA,” Spike added in a whisper. He met Giles’s eyes and said, “The important thing is that it was Americans who captured that sub and the records of what the Nazi’s were trying to do. Seems like they might have kept those old records around until somebody decided to give it another try.”

 

Giles nodded his agreement and turned to watch Buffy. Having recovered from her shock and putting the new knowledge aside as something to worry about later, when she didn’t have a bunch of commandoes trying to capture her, Buffy walked over to where Spike and Giles were standing.

 

“So, what are we supposed to do? Sunnydale’s not very big. We can’t stay here, I can’t go home – I don’t want them to know where my mom is. I can’t go back to the dorm. And we know they’re trying to find you.  Where can we hide?”  She missed Spike’s smile as she included him in her question.

 

“Vegas!”

 

“What?”

 

“Las Vegas. We can hide there. It’s not that far, but they’d never think to look for us someplace like that.”

 

“For good reason!” Buffy put her hands on her hips. “I’m not going to Las Vegas. Not with you or anybody else.”

 

“You are such a bloody goody-two-shoes,” Spike said, sighing in mock despair. “Somebody really should take you in hand and teach you how to live.”

 

“I live just fine,” she muttered. “I don’t need advice from evil, piggy vampires.”

 

“Never know till you try it, luv.” He laughed as she pretended to be staking him, grabbing her wrist and pulling her closer. “Whenever you ready to take that stick out of your delectable arse, You let me know, yeah? I’m here to help.”

 

Giles cleared his throat noisily, causing them both to realize exactly how close together they were. They broke apart, Buffy blushing while Spike snickered at the glower her watcher was aiming at him.  “I believe I found you less disturbing when you were trying to kill her,” he said. “Do remember that the crossbow is always nearby.”

 

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, old man. Slayer and I were just having some fun.”

 

“It’s okay, Giles,” Buffy agreed. “He can’t help himself. I’m not a ho, and I’m not crazy or stupid. He just doesn’t know what to do with me.”

 

Spike snarled, then leaned down to whisper in her ear, “I know exactly what to do with you, luv. Just say the word.”

 

“The word is ‘ewwwww’,” Buffy replied, shoving him away. “Now can we please make some kind of serious decisions about what to do? If we don’t decide something by morning, we’ll be trapped here and they can just waltz in and grab us whenever they want—What?” 

 

Spike had frozen and held up his hand for silence. While the vampire was obviously listening to something neither she nor Giles could hear, Buffy moved to the weapon chest. Giles picked up his crossbow, but also slipped a handgun out of a drawer and into his pocket.  When Spike’s demon came out and he faced the front door, snarling, Buffy threw open the chest and yanked out two swords. She offered one to Spike, but he shook his head, baring his fangs.

 

“Got my weapons, pet.”

 

As he spoke, the door burst open and a squad of soldiers entered and spread out across the front of the room, their weapons trained on the two humans and one demon facing them.  Riley came in behind them saying, “I’m sorry, Buffy, but we need to figure out what you are.  There are two ways to do this. The easy way is that you and the vampire there come with us without a fuss, and no one gets hurt—“ He frowned when Buffy and Spike gave identical bitter laughs and settled themselves into fighting stances.  “Or, you can try to resist, and we’ll have to do it the hard way. Your choice.”

 

Buffy exchanged looks with Spike. “I’m not sure either one of us knows how to do things the easy way, Riley.”

 

Giles kept his eyes on the soldiers farthest away from them, thinking he could get at least one shot off, perhaps even more if they were concentrating on capturing Spike and Buffy alive.  “Perhaps you should rethink this and give it a couple of days. I don’t think your little group is quite as important as you think it is, and kidnapping coeds is frowned upon in many circles.”

 

Riley’s brow furrowed. “What are you talking about? You don’t know anything about us.”

 

“On the contrary,” Giles continued smoothly, “I know that your activities are connected to attempts to revive a program that initiated in Nazi Germany. I know that your group is not operating with the complete knowledge of your government.” Giles congratulated himself on a good guess when Riley visibly flinched. “And I know that your inability to understand Buffy’s role in Sunnydale and the depth and length of reach of her... employers... is not allowing you to make informed judgments. You really should have done your research on Slayers and the Council of Watchers before you took it upon yourself to attempt to thwart one in the performance of her duties.”

 

There were blank stares from all but one of the soldiers watching the exchange of words. His eyes were growing wider as he looked from Buffy to Giles and understood the relationship. He frowned in confusion when his gaze fell on Spike, but since neither Slayer or Watcher seemed afraid of him, he relaxed his stance and allowed his rifle to drop.

 

“Ah,” Giles said. “I see at least one you knows how to... what is the word I want?”

 

“Google,” Buffy and Spike said simultaneously.

 

“Enough of this, we need to—” Riley was interrupted by a buzz from his communicator.  His face paled as he listened, nodded and clicked if off. “Stand down, men,” he said. “We’ve been called back to base.” Without further conversation, the men marched out of the apartment, casting threatening looks at Spike and Buffy as they did so.

 

“Well, that was a mite disappointing.” Spike shook off his demon.

 

“What? We didn’t have to fight a bunch of armed men with a sword and your fangs?  I’m surprisingly okay with that.” Buffy rolled her eyes at him.

 

“Nice bluff, Watcher,” Spike said with a smile. “Remind me never to play poker with you.”

 

“Bluff? You were bluffing?”

 

Giles nodded. “I was. Although I suspect most of what I said was true or will be by this time tomorrow. I’ve no idea why they got called away, but it does give the Council another day to reach someone with the authority to shut that place down.”

 

“In the meantime....”

 

“In the meantime, I suggest we find ourselves good hiding places. I, personally, intend to call the Council again, then repair to a neighboring town until they can assure me it is safe to return. You are welcome to come with me,” he said, his expression as he glanced at Spike indicating exactly how not welcome the vampire might be.  He began stuffing books into the small safe under his desk.  “With luck, they will not burn my apartment building down looking for you two.”

 

“On that cheery note...” Buffy looked at Spike. “Vegas? Really?”

 

“It’s fun there, Slayer. Watcher doesn’t know what he’ll be missing. There’s cheap booze, cheaper shows with lots of naked women, and gambling. What’s not to like?”

 

“Um, booze, gambling, and shows with naked girls?”

 

Spike sighed. “There’s also sunshine, swimming pools, shops full of clothes, and everything is cheap – cheap hotel rooms, cheap food, cheap shows...”

 

“Why is everything cheap?”

 

“Because they make their money off the gambling. Don’t want people to not have money to lose, do they?”

 

“Speaking of money...”

 

“No problem, pet. We’ll swing by the cave and grab ourselves some pawn worthy jewelry.”

 

Buffy looked back and forth between the eager vampire and her frowning watcher. “I know I’m going to regret this,” she said as she followed Spike out the door.  “I just know it...” But I’ve never seen Las Vegas and this might be my only chance to go there...

 

 

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

Buffy and Spike managed to make it back to the ancient crypt containing the treasure without incident, although they did have to dodge a small group of demons being controlled by one glassy-eyed soldier who, at the one glance they were able to get, seemed to also have some parts that didn’t belong to him.

 

“What the hell was that?” Buffy breathed, knowing by now that Spike could hear her slightest sounds.  He didn’t answer her until they’d safely left the slow-moving squad behind.

 

“Looked like more of their bloody experimenting – apparently it’s not limited to hapless demons, she’s willing to turn on her own men.”

 

Buffy shuddered. “What kind of a monster....”

 

“The kind that has a soul to dirty up, Slayer.  Us regular old monsters are more straightforward when we create minions.”

 

“I never thought I’d see the day when I’d agree with you about good and evil, but....”

 

“Evil’s where you find it, luv. It’s those wankers that think they own you that want you to think having a soul has something to do with it.”

 

Buffy didn’t reply, just followed Spike through the woods. With his black coat, all she could really see was a slightly darker shadow topped by a shock of platinum hair.  She hesitated when they got to a small hill, losing sight of Spike in the total darkness. When a flickering light showed her where he’d gone, she followed the glow and soon found herself standing in the big, treasure-filled room.

 

“See anything you’d like, Slayer?” he asked, putting the candle in a jewel-encrusted cup where it leaned at an angle and cast a small circle of light on the things around it.  He moved the light to a table in the very back of the big room, explaining, “Don’t want to take a chance on anyone finding this or coming to check out the light.  I think I’ll try to hide the entrance when we leave...”

 

Buffy walked around, idly picking up pieces and putting them down again.

 

“Meant it, pet,” he said, watching her. “If you like something, take it.”

 

Buffy shook her head. “It’s not really my style...” she said, dropping the gaudy, if valuable brooch she’d been holding.

 

“Suit yourself. I’ll just be a minute.” He tested a few cloth bags that seemed too rotten to hold together. He then found a newer canvas tool bag and began filling it with gold and silver coins.  He paused at one heap of jewelry, peering at Buffy from the corner of his eyes, then put something in his pocket. When he’d filled the bag as much as he thought was safe, he walked back to her and sat down beside her on the bench from which she’d been watching him.

 

“What’d you get?” she asked, more from curiosity than because she cared.

 

“Coins, mostly. They’ll be easy to sell and get spendable money for.” He nudged her arm and pulled his hand out of his pocket. “This more your style?” he asked, holding out a bracelet made of delicate gold and silver links.

 

“Oh!” Buffy’s gasp brought a smile to his face. “That’s... that’s beautiful.” She looked up at him. “But it’s not—”

 

“It’s not anything, Slayer. It doesn’t belong to anyone, and probably hasn’t in over a hundred years. Go on, take it if you like it.”

 

She held out her hand, then, before he could drop in into her open palm, she twisted her arm and held out her wrist.  “Can... would you put it on for me?”

 

He blinked, but nodded and cleared his throat. “Sure, luv. Be happy to.”  He bit his lip and growled, having some trouble working the clasp with his fingernails. “Hold still, you bloody bugger,” he muttered as he worked to fasten it around her wrist.  Buffy’s muffled giggle did nothing to improve his mood, but the way she held her arm out to admire it in the candlelight brought another smile to his face.

 

“Looks good on you, Buffy,” he said, then stood up and shook himself. “Best get going if we’re going to get to Vegas before the sun comes up. Grab hold.”

 

Buffy blinked in surprise, then understood what he’d meant when he snuffed out the candle and they were plunged into darkness. His hand touched the wrist she was still holding out, pulling it to his side so she could stay behind him until they got outside where the moonlight made seeing a little easier. Spike stopped when they were once more in the small clearing in front of the barely hidden entrance.

 

“Got to do something about this,” he muttered as she let go of his coat. He handed her the bag of coins, laughing when she almost dropped it.

 

“Heavy!”

 

“Mostly gold, luv. It is heavy.”  Still chuckling, he began to pull boulders in front of the heavily vegetated entrance, grunting as he rolled a particularly large one that almost filled the visible part of the hole. “What do you think, Slayer? Is that gonna do it?”

 

“I could tell better if it was daytime, but I think it’s pretty well-hidden. It’s not like a lot of people are going to stumbling around looking for a crypt out here in the woods, anyway.”  She walked up and handed him the bag of gold. “How come you didn’t do this right after you found it?”

 

“Ah, didn’t care then, did I? All I wanted was that bloody ring.  An’ I came in and left through the tunnels. Didn’t even notice the crypt had an entrance until I came back for some more stuff and saw a sunbeam. Went to investigate and found the opening. Must’ve had a door at one time, but it’s long since rotted away. Anyway, like I said, all I cared at first was seeing if I could go out in the sun to find you.”

 

“Which you could,” she said with wry twist to her mouth. “I can vouch for that.”

 

He gave a loud, exaggerated sigh. “If I apologize, will you stop bitching about that?”

 

“A – it wouldn‘t be a real apology, cause you wouldn’t mean it. And B – I’m not bitching about it. It just kinda sticks in my mind, you know?  Near-death experiences tend to do that.”

 

“Lemme ask you a question, Slayer.  If I hadn’t had the ring, and that stake you put through my heart had actually dusted me, would you be apologizin’ for it?”

 

“Wha—? No! You were—are— you are evil! And anyway, you’d be dust now. You can’t apologize to dust.”

 

“Exactly.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“We were trying to kill each other, Buffy. Just like we’ve always done from time to time. If you’d won, you wouldn’t have felt bad about it. You’d have been pretty chuffed that you dusted William the Bloody, Slayer of Slayers.”

 

Once again, their voices were rising as they faced off, nose to nose.

 

“You beat me to a bloody pulp! That’s not slaying, that’s... that’s being deliberately.... mean.”

 

He gaped at her. “Mean?”

 

“You know what I’m saying. You didn’t kill me. You just hurt me a whole lot.”

 

“I didn’t do that because I was enjoying hurting you, you daft bint! I did it because you are such an amazing fighter that you were able to keep fighting long after anybody with any sense would have given up! It isn’t my fault you’re so bloody hard to kill!”

 

They were face to face, glaring at each other from only a few inches apart. Buffy’s chest was heaving as she took deep angry breaths and Spike’s angry expression was fading as he took in her flashing eyes and parted lips. 

 

“If you don’t move, I’m not responsible for what happens,” he said, trying to maintain his angry tone.

 

“You wouldn’t....” she growled back, standing her ground.

 

“Don’t push me, Slayer, just back off.” His face came closer; she could see the amber flashes in his eyes.

 

“Don’t tell me what to do. You’re not the boss of me!”

 

“Don’t want to be your boss, want to....”

 

He brushed his lips across hers once before fastening his mouth on her and swallowing whatever retort she was intending.  Touching nowhere but their mouths, they clung together, learning each other’s taste and the feel of lips and tongues.  And learning more about themselves than either one expected or wanted to know.

 

When Buffy finally realized what she was doing, she wrenched her mouth away, putting a hand to her lips and staring at his equally shocked face.

 

“Did we just...?”

 

He nodded and swallowed hard. “We did. Didn’t mean to, but... heat of the moment and all that.”

 

“So, it was an accident, right?”

 

“Right.”

 

“Maybe... maybe we should try not to fight so much,” Buffy ventured as she began to walk back the way they’d come.

 

“Yeah, good luck with that,” he growled under his breath.

 

“I heard that!”

 

They didn’t speak again until the reached the edge of the woods and Spike gestured in a direction she wasn’t expecting. “Car’s this way,” he explained. She nodded without speaking and trotted to keep up with him as his long strides took him toward the old warehouse where his Desoto was hidden. 

 

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

 

“Are we there yet?” Buffy sat up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. She almost thought Spike’s hand had been resting on her head before she woke up, but when she saw how fast they were going, she decided there was no way he wouldn’t have had both hands on the wheel.

 

“What are you, five?” he said, laughing when she huffed angrily.  “Almost, Slayer,” he said, still chuckling. “Bloody good thing, too.” He pointed ahead of them. “Sun’s just getting ready to pop up and try to make me a roman candle.”

 

“Do you want me to drive? You could get in the back and hide on the floor or something.”

 

“You? My car? Drive my car?  I don’t think so, Slayer. I’ve heard about your attempts to get your driving permit.”

 

“Who told you?  And they were lies!”

 

“Your mum is who told me. You calling her a liar?”

 

“Oh, that’s right. Hide behind my mother’s skirts,” she grumbled, slapping him on one muscular thigh when he kept chuckling. She snatched her hand back quickly, telling herself she hadn’t really liked how his leg felt under her hand.

 

“Here we are, Slayer.”  While Buffy gawked at the brightly lit strip, Spike drove directly to a hotel with an underground garage and turned in. He waved off the valet and rolled down his window, shouting that he would park it himself.  Finding a level that suited him, he pulled into a slot and turned off the engine. 

 

“Now what?”

 

“Now we go up through the garage into the hotel and get a room.  Then, I’m going to look up a friend to convert some of these coins for us so we can go shopping.”

 

“You can’t go out. The sun’s coming up!”

 

He laughed again. “I don’t have to go out, luv.  Everything we might want is going to be in the hotel here. And it stays open 24/7.  We never have to leave the casino area.” He paused and looked at her. “’less you want to, of course. I forgot you don’t want to gamble. We’ll find out where the pool is and you can spend the day getting freckles.”

 

The man at the front desk didn’t blink at their rumpled clothing and lack of luggage, he just nodded and put the heavy bag of gold in the safe for them before handing over the key to a suite.

 

“Onlyoneroom, Spike?” Buffy hissed to him as they walked to the elevators. “In your dreams!”

 

“Relax, Slayer. It’s a bloody suite. Got plenty of room for both of us... and separate king-size beds. Nothing to get your knickers in a twist about.”

 

 

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

 

 

While Buffy was wandering around the admittedly large set of rooms, Spike left with his pockets full of gold coins.  She had just determined which bed she wanted and settled down for a quick nap when he burst back into the room, grinning from ear to ear.

 

“Jackpot, Slayer!”

 

“You’ve been gambling already?” She peered up at him, her hair hanging over one eye and her expression disapproving.

 

“What? No. Not yet. I’ll get to the tables later. No, here’s what’s exciting....” He came over to her bed and began to empty his pockets of money.  Buffy stared at the bills he was throwing at her, shaking her head to clear the sleep from her eyes.  She rubbed them, looked again, then picked up one of the bills he was still throwing on the bed.

 

“Is this a hundred dollar bill?”

 

“That it is, Slayer. And we’ve got a bundle of ‘em. Turns out those coins are worth more than I thought.  If I had the time to search for a good, legitimate place to sell them, we’d probably have twice this much.”

 

“Why do you keep saying ‘we’?” she asked, gathering up a small group of bills even as she did so.  “It’s your money, isn’t it? You found that treasure.”

 

He seemed momentarily deflated, then rallied. “It’s ‘ours’ because I say it’s ours. You were with me when I picked up the coins, weren’t you?” He looked at her hopefully.  “I was hopin’ you’d help me spend it.”

 

Buffy cocked her head at him.  “You were, huh?  I’m not sure I can drink or gamble away this much money.  Kinda not my thing, you know?”

 

“No problem, pet. I can drink and gamble enough for the both of us.  But I thought you might want to pick yourself up some frillies to wear while we’re here – or were you planning to walk around Las Vegas in jeans and a sweatshirt?”

 

Buffy blushed, looking down at the clothes she’d had on all day and most of the night. 

 

“Not that you don’t look fetching,” he hastened to add when she dropped her head and shrugged. “But I’ll bet if you took a few of those bills you’re tryin’ not to grip so tightly and went down to the shops, you’d find plenty of ways to spend it.  Think of it as spending my money, if that makes you happier.”

 

When Buffy still look doubtful, he added, “I think I noticed at least one or two shoe stores...”

 

She laughed and shook her head. “There is no way my mortal enemy should know that much about me.”

 

“Hey! Got to know my enemies weaknesses, don’t I? Who knows? If I hadn’t found the Gem, I might have just smothered you in footwear someday.”

 

Smiling in spite of herself, she stood up and stretched, blushing when Spike stared at her with unconcealed admiration. Pretending she hadn’t noticed the expression on his face, she began to put her boots on.  “So, where are these ‘shops’?” she asked. “And will they be open now? It’s almost 6 a.m.”

 

“Told you, luv. This town never shuts down. Everything is open 24/7.  Come on, I’ll show you where things are and then I’m going to go try my luck at the tables.”

 

Handing her one of the room keys, he waited for her to put it in a back pocket and stuff a handful of bills in her front pockets.  He opened the door for her, ignoring her shocked glance, and whistled as they walked to the elevator. 

 

“You’re pretty cheerful for somebody who’s supposed to be hiding from people who want to dissect him while he’s alive – so to speak.” She smiled at him. “No offense, dead guy.”

 

“None taken, slayer of dead guys.” He put one arm around her. “Who’s going to go looking for us in a place like this? I think we’re safe enough here.”

 

Buffy elbowed him in ribs. “You know you probably just totally jinxed us, right?  In Buffy’s world, ‘we’re safe now’ is a signal for the apocalypse to begin.”

 

“I’ll remember that,” he said, moving his arm and gesturing for her to leave the elevator ahead of him.  He led her down one of several carpeted corridors on the first floor, pointing out things she might want to know about on the way. “That’s the way to the swimming pool, that’s the gym, that’s the spa – in case you want to be pampered for awhile – that’s where we–you–can get breakfast later, and there are the shops.” He pointed down the hall where a number of small neon signs indicated a cluster of stores.  “It’s like a mini-mall.”

 

“Wow....” Buffy stared, picking out the stores with familiar names and deciding where to begin.  She glanced up at Spike. “What if I run out of money?”

 

He rolled his eyes, but answered with a smile. “Just charge it to the room. I left a couple of the coins with the main desk. They know we’re good for it.”  He gave her a little nudge. “Go on, Slayer. Buy something pretty to wear into the casino tonight – and something skimpy for the pool.”

 

“”K. Where are you going to be?”

 

Spike pointed back the way they’d come. “I’ll be in the casino. Come and find me if you get bored and I’ll teach you how to bluff at poker.”

 

“I know how to play poker! Sort of...”

 

“Uh huh. Miss Goody-two shoes? Doubt it.  Later, Slayer.”

 

He was already walking away when he finished speaking. There were several people around, so she had no choice but to glare after him rather than chase him down and punch him.  Instead, she walked toward the first shoe store, muttering to herself about spending every penny he had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

Several hours later, Buffy had run out of hands with which to hold her bags and noticed that she was very hungry.  She walked back to the small restaurant/coffee shop that Spike had pointed out and was able to get a booth to herself. She piled her purchases on the seat across from her and ordered the big breakfast.  She was just cutting into her pancakes, when Spike appeared at her side.

 

“There you are.”

 

“How did you find me?”

 

“I followed the sound of my money leaving,” he said, smiling to show her he was only kidding. “And the pile of boxes and bags across from you was kind of a dead giveaway.”  He slid into the seat beside her and snatched a piece of bacon from her plate.

 

“Hey!”

 

“Don’t be stingy, luv. I haven’t eaten yet.”

 

“You don’t eat – you drink.”

 

“I eat sometimes. Just doesn’t do much for me nutrition-wise, but some things still taste good. Fried pig in one of them.”

 

Buffy frowned and stopped stuffing pancake in her mouth. “What are you going to do about eating? It’s not like I’m going to let you munch your way through the other guests.”

 

“Not something you need to worry about, Slayer. I won’t go hungry, and I won’t be hurting anybody.”

 

“You want to explain that?”

 

“No. All you need to know is that you don’t have to follow me around to make sure I’m not killin’ the customers.”

 

They didn’t speak any more while Buffy finished her breakfast and Spike drank a cup of coffee.  He signed the check and stood up, walking to the other side of the booth, picking up most of her packages and waiting for her to grab the rest.  Still in silence, they went up to the room.  Depositing the packages on Buffy’s bed, Spike stretched and said, “Don’t know about you, pet, but I’m knackered. Do me a favor?”

 

Buffy raised an inquisitive eyebrow at him, then followed his gaze to where his bed was being bathed in sunshine coming in the windows. She quickly ran to the window and pulled the heavy black-out drapes across, plunging the room into almost total darkness.

 

“Whoa!” Her eyes adjusted quickly enough for her to watch Spike shedding first his shirt and then his jeans – leaving his ivory body quite naked. Telling herself she could just turn away, she continued to stare at him as he pulled down the bed covers.  “Spike! What are you doing?” Somehow, her angry rhetorical question came out more breathy than she’d intended, and she mentally smacked her own face.

 

“Going to bed,” he responded, hiding his grin. He eased into the bed, sighing as he felt the mattress underneath.  “This beats the hell out of your watcher’s couch,” he said as he burrowed into the pillow.

 

Buffy shook her head and started going through her purchases, looking for the bikini she’d bought earlier. Casting a suspicious eye at Spike, she carried it into the bathroom to change, covering both the bathing suit and the ring hanging around her neck with the matching cover-up she’d bought.  When she was sure the gem was hidden in the bra of the bikini, she left the bathroom carrying a towel. Gathering up the rest of the things she might need for spending a few hours at the pool, she turned in Spike’s direction again.

 

“I’m buying you pajamas while I’m out,” she said to the still lump on the bed.

 

“Don’t wear ‘em,” the lump mumbled, confirming her suspicion that he hadn’t really gone to sleep yet.

 

“We’ll see.”

 

She still didn’t see his grin as she let herself out the door.

 

 

Hours later, Buffy woke up to find she’d spent a little too much time poolside. Diving in, she swam a few laps to cool herself off, then climbed out and surveyed her bright pink skin ruefully.  Experience told her that her slayer healing would kick in shortly and the burn would fade by nightfall, but in the meantime she was just as uncomfortable as anyone else would have been.

 

She let herself into the room quietly, seeing that Spike hadn’t stirred from his place.  She went directly to the bathroom and got into the shower, washing the chlorine from her hair and her new suit.  The gem hung between her breasts, swinging back and forth as she moved.  When Buffy stepped out and toweled off, she realized that she hadn’t brought any other clothes in with her.  She peered out and saw that Spike was still lying immobile on his bed. Wrapping herself in a big towel, she tiptoed across the space between the bathroom and her bed and began to rummage through her purchases as silently as possible.

 

In the darkened room, she didn’t notice that Spike’s eyes were open and watching as she clutched the towel and tried to find new underwear and other clothing.  Although the ring was hidden under the towel, the chain was fully visible around her neck, and Spike’s eyes narrowed when he spotted it. His thoughts and his gaze, however, were continually distracted by the damp, tanned legs showing beneath the towel. When Buffy bent over, the pale cheeks of her ass were momentarily visible, and in spite of himself, he made a strangled sound in his throat.  She froze, one hand holding her clothes, the other clutching the towel.

 

“If you’re peeking at me, I’m going to turn you over to those soldiers,” she warned, standing up and turning to glare at him.

 

“Be fair, Slayer. It’s not peeking if I’m just lyin’ here minding my own business and you come out and flash me.” Since she already knew he was awake, he sat up, letting the sheets fall to his waist. Buffy stared at his bare chest, so entranced by what she was seeing that she failed to notice the equally lustful expression on his face. Only when he moved and it seemed he might get up did she come to herself and, with a small “eep!” run back to the bathroom to get dressed.

 

She came out very carefully, making sure that Spike could hear her coming.  “Okay, I’m coming out now. You’d better be dressed...” Buffy was wearing pink sweatpants with a matching shirt. The gem was once again carefully hidden under the shirt, although the chain was still visible around her neck.  She tugged unsuccessfully at the neck of the sweatshirt, but there was no way to turn it into a turtleneck.

 

“I’ve got eyes, Slayer,” Spike growled. “No sense ruining your new shirt tryin’ to hide it.  Should have figured it out by now, anyway. Wasn’t on your finger, so unless you were hiding it in your pants...”

 

Buffy faced him, falling into a relaxed but ready stance.  “Damn! Why didn’t I think of that?”

 

“Dunno,” he said, shrugging. “It’s the first thing I would have thought of.”

 

“My pants?”

 

“Hiding it in underwear,” he said with a grin. “Course, I couldn’t do that because I don’t wear any – as you well know...” He winked at her, laughing at her blush. “But you could have done it.” He eyed her chest for a second. “Okay, maybe not in your bra...”

 

Buffy threw the nearest thing at him, which was an empty shoebox that he easily batted away.

 

“Wasn’t trying to offend you, luv, just calling it as I see it.”

 

“Hmph!”  Buffy turned her back and began to comb out her hair.  Smirking, Spike walked past her wearing nothing but his partially zipped jeans hanging off his hips.

 

“Feel like doin’ more shopping, Slayer?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“While I’m in the shower, would you run down and get me some clean pants and a shirt?”

 

“What do you want?”

 

“Want just what I’ve got, only cleaner.” When she bit her lip dubiously, he continued. “You don’t have to worry about anything else. Soon’s I get cleaned up, I’ll go get something more suitable for this evening and something to eat. Just grab me some clean jeans to wear.”

 

“Can I buy you pajamas too?”

 

“You can buy ‘em, but you can’t make me wear ‘em.”

 

“I can’t sleep in the same room with you if you’re naked!”

 

He was laughing as he closed the bathroom door, leaving her standing with her hands on her hips and glaring after him. Tossing her wet hair, she turned and headed for the door, afraid of what she’d find when he came out if she didn’t have clean clothes for him.

 

Which turned out to be a legitimate worry as she opened the door to find him with a towel hanging precariously from his slim hips.  Marching up to him and ignoring his blatantly displayed body and the way he was smirking at her flaming face, she thrust the bag at him saying, “Clothes. Now.” 

 

“You’re no fun, Slayer,” he said, sighing when she spun around and walked into the small sitting room, keeping her back to him until she heard the bathroom door close again.  He emerged in just a minute, pulling the black tee-shirt over his head. Giving her a glare, he tossed the sweatpants she’d included with the jeans and shirt onto the bed. “I sleep naked, Slayer. Get over it.”

 

“This isn’t negotiable, Spike,” she said, glaring and moving closer to him now that he was dressed again.

 

“Too bloody right it isn’t,” he growled back, stepping forward to meet her angry gaze. 

 

They were already standing nose to nose when they both remembered what had happened the last time they were angry and in close proximity. Buffy bit her lip, moving far enough away to be out of kissing distance. Spike stepped back at the same time, his face shutting down.  He sat down and put on his boots; he glanced at his old socks, then shrugged and dropped them on the floor. Slinging his coat over his shoulders, he opened the door and strode into the hall.

 

“Where are you going?”

 

“Out.”

 

 The door slammed behind him, leaving Buffy to stare at it. He’d promised not to feed while they were here, but she wasn’t sure if she could trust that promise. She bit her lip, wondering what to do before deciding she probably wouldn’t be able to find him anyway. Crossing her fingers that he wasn’t killing anyone, she turned back to her own bed and began to sort through her purchases and put them away. 

 

With Spike gone, and her sunburn still itching, she took off her sweats and stretched out on the bed in her underwear, sighing at how good the cool sheets felt on her still-heated skin.  She turned on the TV and settled back to catch up on some afternoon soaps, smiling at the way you could pick up one of those shows weeks later and it would hardly have progressed from the last one you’d seen.  Unless, of course, someone had died or gone missing...

 

The sound of Spike’s key clicking the lock woke her just in time for her to turn over to face the door. Which had opened, leaving a staring vampire in the entrance to the room. Buffy pulled the sheet up to her chin and glared at him.

 

 “Stop that!”

 

“Stop what?”

 

“Looking at me like that!”

 

He snorted. “You don’t want me lookin’, don’t be laying around half-naked. It’s my room too, you know.”

 

“Says the man who thinks I should be okay with it that he’s naked all the time.”

 

“I doubt my naked body has the same effect on you as yours does on me, luv,” he said in a much milder tone than she would have expected. “That’s about you being a priss, this is about me being able to walk the rest of the evening... which it is by now, by the way.”  He walked in and made a point of turning his back on her, tossing a bag on his bed. “Why don’t you get dressed in something pretty and I’ll buy you dinner?”

 

Buffy watched him with narrowed eyes, but when he kept his back turned, she slipped out of bed and ran to the closet to grab one of the complimentary robes hanging there.  She debated about what to wear to dinner in a casino when her escort was going to be vampire in black jeans and tee shirt, settling on a plain, but flattering black sheath that could be dressed up or down.  She carried it, and the appropriate underwear, into the bathroom and quickly dressed and did her make up. If there was a tiny voice in her head reminding her that she was getting all dressed up to go out to eat with someone who drank blood and looked like escaped punk rocker from the 80s, she ignored it. Telling herself she wanted to look decent because she was going to be out in public, in a place where people dressed up all the time, she finished her hair and went out to put her shoes on.

 

She hadn’t looked at Spike until she sat down to fasten her sandals, pausing in shock when she saw that he, too, had changed clothes. Wearing black dress pants and a black silk shirt, he looked like he’d just walked off a GQ photo shoot. The cheekbones that she’d noticed the first time she ever saw him, suddenly took on a life of their own now that his hair was slicked back and he was dressed in normal clothes. 

 

“What?” he asked when she continued to stare at him, mouth agape and shoe in hand. “Did you think I was going to take you—to go out to dinner at a nice place dressed like a bouncer?”

 

“Uh. No, of course not. I knew you wouldn’t...” She sighed and put her sandals on. “I’m sorry, Spike. I guess I did think that. I’ve never seen you wear anything else.”

 

“Apology accepted, luv,” he said walking over to her and offering his hand to help her up. “Stand up, let’s have a look at you.”  In heels, her head came to his chin. He stepped back and ran his eyes over her, smiling when she blushed and unconsciously straightened her dress.  “You’ll do, Slayer. You’ll do.”

 

“I’ll do? That’s it? I’ll ‘do’?”  She snatched the key and the small bag she’d bought off the dresser and stalked to the door.

 

“Oh, come on, Slayer,” he groused, following her out. “You know you’re gorgeous. Don’t need an old vamp to tell you that, do you?”

 

She sniffed and punched the button for the elevator. “I don’t need it, but it might have been nice to hear it.”

 

“I promised to be good... never said anything about being nice.”  When she didn’t respond, he leaned down and whispered in her ear, “But you do look good enough to eat, luv.”

 

She gave him a wide-eyed look that made him laugh, then glanced away quickly. “No matter how you meant that....”

 

“You’ll never know, Slayer. You’ll never know.”

 

“You’re disgusting.”

 

“See, that’s what happens when I try to be nice – you tell me I’m disgusting. Can’t win for losing here.” 

 

His quiet chuckles as they rode the elevator down never stopped, and by the time they reached the first floor, she was laughing with him. Still smiling, he steered her toward the restaurant and nodded to the headwaiter who quickly escorted them to a small table near the stage. 

 

“Do you know him?”

 

“Do now. You’d be amazed at what throwing around hundred dollar bills can do for a bloke’s popularity in this town.”

 

“I think that would do a lot for your popularity in almost any town,” she said with a wry smile. “Are we going to run out of money already?”

 

“Nah. I only sold about a fourth of what we brought with us. We’re in good shape for as long as we want to stay here.”

 

“Where are you going to get blood?” She tried to keep her voice casual, but she’d noticed a slight flush to his skin, and he seemed much happier and more contented than when he’d slammed out of the room. She mentally crossed her fingers that she wasn’t going to have to stake him before they got home.  He cocked his head at her, obviously reading her real thoughts, and sighed.

 

“This is Vegas, baby. You can get anything you want if you have enough money—” He was interrupted by a buxom brunette who ignored Buffy to lean over him and whisper in his ear.  While Buffy stared, the woman ran a hand into his shirt and visible played with one nipple while she continued to whisper. Her ample breasts were pressed against his arm, and Buffy couldn’t help remembering his implied insult to the size of her own breasts. She clutched the table hard enough to crack the wood. Spike took the girl’s hand from his chest and kissed it before pushing it and her chest away.  “Having dinner here, luv, with my... partner.  I’ll catch up with you later, yeah?” The girl pouted, gave Buffy a glare, then flounced away with much more rear action than was necessary.

 

“I... You... She....” Buffy couldn’t get her breath to call the girl all the names that were going through her mind.

 

“Sorry about that, Slayer,” he said. “I told you throwing around those hundred dollar bills makes a man popular.”

 

“Was that a...?”

 

“Working girl?  Yeah, she is. Bit of a special sort of working girl. Caters to a particular cliental, if you know what I mean.”

 

“How would I know what you mean? What kind of a place is this?” Buffy’s voice was climbing, and he put a hand over hers in an attempt to calm her down. “I don’t hang out places where people like that work.”

 

“Shhh, Buffy. Calm down. The poor bint heard I was handing out money for... services rendered... and she was offering. That’s all. She probably thought you were a vamp too, so—”

 

Buffy’s voice dropped down, but she snatched her hand away. “Exactly what kind of services, Spike?” It was clear Buffy was already figuring it out.

 

“She lets vamps drink from her if they can pay for it. There’s quite a few working girls like that here. It’s all above board – they know the vamps won’t kill them or tear them up, and the vamps get to feed without worrying about being tossed out in the desert sun by hotel security. Everybody’s money is good here, Buffy.”

 

“You drank from her today?”

 

“From one of her friends. Guess word went out that there were more bills where the ones I gave out came from.” He looked into Buffy’s flashing eyes and sighed again. “Won’t happen again, Slayer. I’ve already made arrangements to have blood brought to the room.  But when I left, I was....”

 

“You were mad at me.”

 

He nodded. “Was. Needed to get away before I... we... did anything we’d regret. And I was hungry. Hadn’t eaten since... I’m not really sure.  When some underdressed woman figured out what I was and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse...” He sighed and looked almost ashamed. “I couldn’t refuse.” He watched her face turn cold and hard. “It was freely-given blood, Buffy. I didn’t hurt her, and I paid her well for it.”

 

“That’s just... just... icky.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

By the time Spike had finished his “very rare – bleeding is fine” steak, and Buffy had eaten her meal, she relaxed enough to be curious rather than disgusted.

 

“So, what do you mean, you didn’t hurt her? How do you bite somebody without hurting them? I’ve been bitten. It hurts like hell!”

 

Spike reached across the table and, waiting for her to nod permission, tipped her head so he could see the scars on her neck.  He grimaced and growled under his breath. “I hope you made a dust bunny out of those morons?”

 

“Well, the Master... yeah. He’s pretty much dusty dust. But Angel—” 

 

Spike’s snarl made her flinch back from his hand, staring at him with wide eyes.

 

“Angelus? That wanker bit you and didn’t brag about it?” He snorted his disbelief.

 

“N...no. It was Angel.” At Spike’s incredulous look, she hurried on. “It was a... a health issue.  He was dying and he needed Slayer blood. I tried to feed Faith to him, but she—”

 

“You allowed him to do it, and he tore you up like that?” Spike seemed genuinely shocked, and Buffy was suddenly ashamed of the scars on her neck. She put her hand over the scar, and said defiantly, “He was dying! He needed my blood. How else could he get it?”

 

“If I didn’t think you’d stake me for it... but since I know you would...“ He held up his steak knife and his empty wine glass.  “If you want to slice into your wrist and bleed into this glass, I’ll be happy to show you one easy way your ex could have got plenty of slayer blood without having to lay a tooth on you.”

 

“I... we... nobody thought of that....” She kept her hand over her scars and tried to remember that night and her panic that Angel was going to die in her arms. Telling herself he’d been so delirious with fever that something as simple as her bleeding into a glass for him probably never crossed his mind, she straightened up and glared at Spike.  “You weren’t there. You don’t know anything about how bad—”

 

“I know I could take enough blood from you to heal from just about anything, and do it without hurting you or leaving a scar. Or almost killing you... He did, didn’t he? Almost kill you?”

 

Buffy’s head bent again as she stared at her hands where they were twisting her napkin. “I... might have needed a transfusion... after... But he brought me to the ER,” she finished, raising her chin to meet his gaze. “He wasn’t trying to kill me, Spike.”

 

“Didn’t try very hard not to, I’ll wager,” he growled. “Would be just like him, to use you to save himself, then brood about it for the next hundred years.”

 

“So, that girl that you drank from today, did she bleed into a glass for you?”

 

“Don’t be daft. She wanted what I could give her just as much as I needed the blood.”

 

“Your money, you mean.” Please mean she wanted your money.

 

He studied her face for a few seconds, then gave a small, sad smile. “If that’s what you need to think, luv.” 

 

As the waiter cleared away their plates, Spike said, “So, it’s nice and dark out now.  Do you want to have a tour of the Strip?  No sense coming to Vegas if you’re going to go home not knowing anything about it.”

 

Buffy held up one sandal-clad foot and wiggled the four-inch heel at him. “I’m not exactly dressed for hiking,” she said. He never took his eyes off her foot and ankle as he replied.

 

“You can change into something less death-defying, and would you please put that foot down?”

 

Buffy dropped her leg and frowned at him.  “What? It’s not like I was flashing the other customers, Spike. I only held it up high enough for you to see my shoe.”

 

He stood up and walked around to pull out her chair.  “Sorry, Slayer. Was the Victorian in me coming out. The sight of a dainty ankle has the same effect on me as a bare nipple would on a more modern man.”

 

Buffy laughed. “So, I could flash you a nipple and you’d be fine? But my ankle turns you on?”

 

He mumbled something she couldn’t quite hear, but that sounded suspiciously like “everything about you turns me on.”  Deciding she really didn’t want to know if that was what he’d said, she didn’t ask him to repeat it, just nodded toward the elevators.

 

“Why don’t you wait here while I go change my shoes?”

 

“Alright. I’ll be over there at the one-armed bandits.”

 

Buffy returned, having swapped her dressy shoes for flat sandals that looked like flipflops, but were held in place by thin straps.  Even when buying shoes to wear to the pool, she’d thought about slaying and gone with something she could run or fight in if she had to. She looked around for Spike, finding him shaking his head at a blonde girl in a very tight dress.  He was smiling at her, but clearly turning down another offer from one of the many ‘working girls’ in the casino.  Buffy walked up and deliberately took his arm, ignoring his surprised look and giving the other woman a glare.  The woman sighed and stepped back just a bit.

 

“You could have just said you’d already booked somebody else for the night,” she said, eyeing Buffy up and down.  “She looks like an amateur. You sure you don’t want more of the real thing?”

 

“He’s sure,” Buffy growled, standing in front of Spike and pushing the girl away. “And you’re an idiot.”

 

“Really?” The rejected donor seemed willing to get right in Buffy’s face, and Spike put a restraining hand on the Slayer’s arm.  “Well, I’m not the one walking around with ugly scars from messing with the wrong vamps,” she huffed, pointing to Buffy’s neck. She tossed her head and began to walk away. “Like I said, amateur.”

 

Spike threw his other arm around Buffy’s waist just in time to keep her from going after the blonde prostitute. He held her tightly until she stopped struggling and said with a sigh, “You can let go. She’ll get herself turned and then I’ll stake her.”

 

“Do I have to let go?” he asked, whispering it into her ear. “I’m kind of enjoying this – holding back the Slayer from doing in a human, I mean,” he added quickly when she stiffened against him.

 

“Let go,” Buffy said, smiling up at him to soften her words. She pulled her hair forward over her left shoulder to cover the scars there. Scars that she knew were barely noticeable to anyone who didn’t already know they were there. Spike gave her a little squeeze, then released her.

 

“They aren’t that visible, Sl—Buffy,” he said as they began walking toward the exit. “Only somebody who knew what to look for would see them.”

 

“She said they were ugly.  You said—”

 

“I just thought they were attack scars and said it was possible to take blood without leaving a scar.  You’re the Slayer, luv. Any scars you have are probably well-earned and badges of honor.  ‘Cept maybe for the one from my idiot grandsire,” he added in a mutter.

 

“I wonder if the ring will help them go away?” Buffy wondered aloud. “The cut Giles made didn’t leave a scar.”

 

“Doubt it, pet. They’re old and set. Any fading they do is going to be the result of time, not magic.”

 

“Not helping, Spike.”

 

“It is what it is, Slayer. Now come on. Stop worrying about your pretty little neck and let’s go see Vegas.”

 

~~~~~~~~

 

Five hours and four casinos later, they were working their way back to their hotel through the neon-bright night. Buffy squinted against the lights and bumped her shoulder against him. “Didn’t you say it was nice and dark out here? I feel like I need sunglasses, and I’m surprised you aren’t crispy by now.”

 

He laughed and bumped her back. “It’s like walking in the daylight, without the side-effects. Vamps love Vegas.”

 

“I’ll just bet they do,’ she grumbled, remembering the girls at the casino.

 

“Let it go, Slayer. Works like that in Sunnyhell too, except in reverse.” He held the door for her and shook his head when she demanded he explain. “Tell you later, luv. Right now, I think we might have a situation...” He pointed down a corridor where a man had just dragged a woman into a linen closet.  They hurried down the hall, just in time to watch the door close.  Buffy looked from her fllpflops to Spike’s sturdier shoes and raised an eyebrow. “Got it, pet.” He planted one heel against the doorknob and shoved, popping the door open and stepping inside in time to catch the vampire biting the woman.  When they could see her face, Buffy recognized the girl who’d called her an amateur.

 

Spike grabbed the vamp and tossed him to the side, growling, “Don’t you know the rules here, wanker?”

 

“Fuck the rules,” he snarled back, standing up and stalking toward Spike. “Go get your own.”

 

Buffy stepped between the vamp and the sobbing girl. “He’s got his own,” she said with a cheery smile. “Wanna try to munch on me?”

 

Too used to easy kills, and never expecting to find the Slayer in Las Vegas, the vampire licked his lips and nodded. “Works for me, blondie.” He walked right into her first punch, landing on his ass and blinking up at her.

 

“Did I forget to introduce myself?  She’s ‘blondie’, I’m Buffy. The Vampire Slayer?”

 

Pulling a stake from the holster on her thigh, she leaned down and ran it though his chest without further quipping. She stood up and put the stake away, pretending she couldn’t see Spike staring at the exposed skin while she did so.

 

“Always wondered where you put those things,” he said after clearing his throat. Buffy threw him a grin and bent over the still-crying girl, looking at her throat with a critical eye. “Well, now you’ve got ugly scars,” she said. “Better get to an ER and get those looked at. Tell them it was an animal attack. That always worked for me.”  She let Spike help the wobbly girl to her feet and send her staggering toward the lobby.

 

“Well, that was just....” She glanced at Spike who was raising an eyebrow at her. “... kinda fun,” she concluded with a sigh.  He laughed and put an arm around her shoulders.

 

“Thought for a minute there you were going to pretend you don’t get off on fighting and killing.”

 

“I don’t!  That’s you, not me!”

 

“Nice to meet you, Pot. My names is Kettle.”

 

“Very funny.” She stalked toward the elevators and punched the button.

 

“Come on, Slayer. Admit it. A little violence was a great way to end the evening.”

 

“I’m not admitting anything,” she muttered, but she was smiling, and he leaned against the elevator wall and smiled back at her.

 

 

The room had been cleaned up while they were out; Buffy commented that usually things like that happened in the mornings, causing Spike to point out that in Vegas, day and night tended to be pretty interchangeable.

 

“Makes sense, I guess. You know the guests are probably going to be out around dinner-time and later.” She went to the window to look out at the lights. When she felt Spike come up behind her, she stiffened automatically. Remembering that they had a truce, she forced herself to relax, but he’d already noticed.

 

“Still don’t trust me at your back, Slayer?” The disappointment in his voice was palpable.

 

Buffy put her hand on the chain holding the ring and shrugged. “I would if it wasn’t for this ring,” she said, staring out the window. “But I know how bad you want it. Our truce doesn’t include anything about you not trying to get it back.”

 

Spike ran a finger along the back of her neck, letting the chain glide over it as he slid his finger along the silky skin. Buffy tightened her grip, shivering at his touch.

 

“Would you feel better if it did? If I promised you I wouldn’t try to get it back until we don’t have a common enemy anymore?”

 

Buffy looked up at him, tipping her head back to meet his gaze, holding it long enough to read the sincerity there, but not long enough for him to continue leaning forward until he was close enough for their lips to touch. She turned her head, missing the disappointment that flashed across his face when she did.  He took his finger off her neck and she moved away, breaking the tension.

 

“Spike...” She sighed and walked to the end of the window, pulling the drapes closed and shutting out the bright lights outside. “Everything I’ve ever been taught tells me I can’t trust a vampire’s word. I just... I don’t know, okay?  Give me a while.” She yawned and looked at the clock. “I need some sleep,” she said, almost apologetically. “Will you...”

 

“I’ll be fine, Slayer,” he said, throwing himself on his own bed and picking up the remote. “I’ll keep the telly turned down to vamp-hearing levels and you can get your beauty rest.”

 

When Buffy emerged from the bathroom, wearing her sweatpants and a tee-shirt, the TV was on, but so low that she couldn’t hear it. She nodded at Spike’s questioning expression and got into bed, snuggling down in the luxurious sheets and closing her eyes.  After a few minutes, her voice drifted out of the pillows.

 

“Spike?”

 

“Yes, luv?” he said absently, intent on the movie he’d found.

 

“What did you mean ‘it’s the same in Sunnydale’?”

 

“The girls?”

 

“Yeah. You said you’d explain it.”

 

He sighed and rolled on his side to look at her.  “It’s the reverse on the hellmouth.

Here, the girls do it for money, but they learn to enjoy it, and the vamps aren’t stupid enough – mostly,’ he snorted, remembering the one she’d dusted, “to give the girls–or boys–any reason to not want to take their money.  In Sunnyhell, it’s the humans who pay, and the vamps aren’t stupid enough to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. So to speak.”

 

There was silence while Buffy thought about what he’d said.  “People want to get bitten? I just don’t get it.”

 

“Any time you want to find out why, luv, you let me know, yeah? Be happy to teach you why.” He wriggled his eyebrows in an exaggerated leer, at which Buffy dutifully made a disgusted face.

 

“I’ve always thought vampires are just like that guy tonight – they can’t stop themselves once they’ve tasted blood.”

 

“You do remember that I’ve had my teeth on you twice recently, don’t you? And you aren’t dead yet.”

 

“Well.... yeah. But that’s cause you stopped...”

 

“Any vamp can stop, luv. It’s just most don’t have any reason to.”

 

“But that means...” She broke off, refusing to believe that Angel could have stopped himself before he drained her. “This is making my brain hurt,” she finally said, pulling a pillow over her head.

 

Spike just shook his head and went back to his movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Ten

 

A phone call to Willow when Buffy woke up provided the information that there’d been some sort of problem at the campus of UC Sunnydale and classes had been cancelled. Students were instructed to remain in the dorms, so Willow’s plan to spend a few days with her parents had gone down the tubes.

 

“I don’t think it matters, though. Those commando guys are too busy with whatever’s going on to worry about tracking down your friends. Giles called me early this morning to tell me to go home, then he called back and told me not to worry about it. Apparently some demons got loose or something. Anyway, the soldiers started blowing things up and now the real Army is here and nobody knows what’s going on.”

 

Forgetting about Spike, now sleeping in his own bed, Buffy began pulling off her pajamas and pulling out her daytime clothes. When she was dressed, she called Giles, trying to talk to him and pull things out of the closet at the same time.

 

“What do you mean, ‘don’t come back yet’?” she yelled, forgetting about the sleeping vampire. “If there’s something going on, I need to be there.”  She listened for a second, then glanced at Spike who was peering at her through bleary eyes. “Well, yeah, he did, but I can— I can so drive! I’m just not very good at it.” She sighed. “Yeah, yeah. Okay, but we’re leaving as soon as the sun goes down.”

 

She hung up and looked over at Spike.  “Sorry?” she offered as he sat up, once again giving her a look at his mouth-watering torso. She smothered the wildly inappropriate reaction she was having to seeing the sheets barely covering his lower abdomen and tried to explain.

 

“Giles says something went wrong inside the lab—it’s called The Initiative, by the way—and they had to call in the regular Army to help out the guys who worked there.  The Council apparently has heard about it, but didn’t know they were already operating here. He said it’s okay for m—us to come home, but there’s no rush until he figures out what we need to fight...” She paused when he cocked his head at her. “Well, what I need to fight, I guess... if those guys aren’t still after us, there’s no reason for you to—”

 

“Wouldn’t leave you to fight something by yourself, Slayer,” he growled, missing the surprised look on her face as he reached for his pants.  “When do we leave then?”

 

“We can’t leave until it’s dark. Giles was very... unsupportive... of my driving abilities.”

 

“Tell you what, pet, when this is all over, I’ll give you driving lessons, alright?  In your mum’s car!” he added quickly. “Not mine!”

 

“Spike, when all this is over, we’re not going to have a truce any more. Why do you want to teach me to drive? Or are you figuring I’ll just kill myself doing it and save you the trouble?”

 

He laughed, but sobered immediately. “Nah. The idea is to keep you alive while I figure out how to get my ring back.  If I don’t let you drive by yourself till I know you can, I won’t have to worry that you’ll do something stupid and off yourself before I get around to it.” He frowned. “Come to think of it, I guess having the ring means you wouldn’t die, doesn’t it? Well, there you go, then. This is the perfect time for you to take driving lessons. You can’t kill yourself. And by the time I figure out how to get my ring back, you’ll be good enough at it not to crash into anything bigger than you are.”  He smiled at her, pleased with his own reasoning.

 

“Huh.” She rolled her eyes and looked at the pants he was holding. “Why don’t you go back to sleep? I’m going to run downstairs and get some food and buy something to carry all my stuff back in.  You don’t need to get up yet.”

 

He shrugged and dropped his pants on the floor. “Alright, pet. Talked me into it. I am still a bit knackered.”

 

“Do you need more blood?” She frowned with what she assured herself was concern for the casino’s customers, not for Spike.

 

He shook his head. “Got some in the little mini-fridge there. I’ll be fine. Go have fun before it’s back to the daily grind.” He flopped back on the bed, put the pillow over his head and became immobile again. The sheets were still barely covering his legs and hips and Buffy took advantage of his inability to see her to take another long look at his body. She realized she’d been staring too long when he lifted the edge of the pillow to peer at her. “See anything you like, Slayer?”

 

“Sorry,” she muttered, blushing from her roots to her chest. “I wasn’t... I mean I was, but... dammit, Spike, you’re naked!”

 

“Not quite, but I could be if you wanted—” His hand plucked at the edge of the sheet as if to throw it off.

 

“Gah!”

 

Buffy used every ounce of her slayer speed to get to the bed before he could get completely naked, yanking the sheet out of his hand and pulling it up to his chin.  He put his hand on hers, holding it to his chest.  “I don’t mind if you look, Buffy. I was just pulling your chain. But if you’re going to stare at me like that, there’s a good chance you’ll see something you don’t want to.”

 

From the corner of her eye, Buffy caught the tent beginning to form in the sheet and she blushed again, snatching her hand away. “I said I was sorry.”

 

“And I said I didn’t mind, so long as you know what you’re doin’ to me.”

 

“I don’t mean to,” she whispered. “I just... I’m not used to worrying about... I mean most vampires... and I never... except for Angel... Gah!”

 

“I’m not most vampires, Buffy. Never have been, never will be.” He closed his eyes, then opened them again almost immediately to glare at her. “And I will never, ever be the same as your bloody ex. Man or vampire.” He shut his eyes again and put the pillow back over his face.

 

Buffy stood beside the bed, biting her lip, then pulled the rest of the covers up over him, frowning when the extra weight didn’t make the tent go away.  She watched his chest rise and fall as he heaved a sigh.

 

“It’s not going to go away because you cover it up, Slayer. Just get the bloody hell out of here and when you come back it won’t be a problem any more. I promise you.”

 

She frowned, then got his meaning and blushed again. Without responding, she turned and grabbed the key, vowing to herself not to return until Spike was awake and dressed.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

After a late breakfast while most people were having late lunches, and a walk outside that lasted only long enough for her to decide it was too hot, even for a southern California girl, she did a little more shopping and returned to the room. It was late afternoon by then, and she thought Spike would probably have woken up.  The sound of the shower when she entered the room told her she was right.