All About Spike

Easier Said
By Moose

Disclaimer: Joss is God. The characters are his. I'm merely having fun with them.
Notes: Post "Wrecked"



The taxi driver pulled into an empty parking lot at the request of his lone fare. The driver was nervous. He had only been driving cab for six months and rarely ventured into this part of Sunnydale after the sun went down. The other cab drivers had told him stories. Stories he had laughed off at the time, thinking it was some sort of cabby initiation. But none of the other drivers had laughed.

"Here," his passenger said, shoving some bills at him. "Keep the change."

As she got out the taxi, lugging an army green canvas bag with her, the driver had a pang of guilt and called out, "Hey! You sure you want to be left off here? Kind of a rough neighborhood."

She walked away, not even pausing to look back when she answered.

"I'm kind of a rough girl."

*****

"You're tight as a drum, love," Spike said, massaging Buffy's shoulders as she sat on the edge of his bed. She moaned in appreciation as he dug deep into her shoulder blades, unknotting tired muscles with his strong, cold hands.

"You should have waited for me," Spike said reprovingly.

"Not all demons wait until it's dark out, Spike."

"Still, taking on five Tiquatat demons by yourself isn't brave so much as bloody stupid," Spike replied.

Buffy turned and gave Spike the look. He was used to the look. It meant he was crossing the line. He loved that look.

"I know how to do my job, Spike," Buffy said with a note of warning in her voice.

"Just saying, love. A certain amount of mustering the troops before you go after a nest of nasties wouldn't be a bad idea."

"I can take care of myself."

"Oh yeah?" Spike grabbed at her quick, without warning, but she was expecting it and slipped beyond his grasp. Pressing for an advantage, Spike sprang forward tackling her to the stone floor. It took only a second before he had her pinned. She didn't like it.

"Ow! Cut it out," Buffy protested.

"Oh, look who's all dainty now," Spike teased. "We smashed a building apart, love. Want to try a crypt?" But as Spike bent to kiss Buffy, she threw him off--a bit harder than she intended. Spike slammed into the far wall and slid down it. Buffy winced. It took a moment before he could speak.

"What was that for!" Spike demanded. Damn, that hurt!

"For being...a jerk, jerk," Buffy said, though more to cover her embarrassment than anger. Spike growled at her trying to grab her again. This time she let him reach her, and he knew it. He pulled her tight against him.

This mouse likes the cat, Spike thought, kissing her fiercely. Buffy kissed him back, wanting to apologize yet deciding this would be good enough. Kiss and make it better...

*****

Something else was watching from a dark alley as the taxi drove off, its eyes never leaving the young woman. It followed her, dodging in and out of the shadows, staying far enough back to keep from being noticed. When she reached the motel, it waited. Watched her check in. Watched her turn a key in a door. Room 25.

Yes, remember the room, it thought, though it was sure it could find her by scent.

Revenge is near. She shouldn't have come back. Now she's ours again.

*****

"Buffy!" Spike called after her, running to catch up, nearly tripping in his half-dressed state. He paused a minute to buckle his pants then continued the chase.

"Get the hell away from me, Spike!"

"Buffy, com'on! I said I was sorry!"

She didn't stop but instead increased her pace. She wanted to be home, away from him. Anywhere but with him.

Spike caught up and grabbed her arm. "Slow down a minute, Slayer. Let's talk..." But Buffy turned, her face full of cold fury and delivered an uppercut to his chin, sending him flying away from her. She was gone even before he hit the ground.

"I'll take that as a 'no' then," Spike said, ruefully rubbing his sore jaw.

*****

Dawn felt the whole house shake as the front door slammed. She hastily closed the lid on a cigar box full of her "treasures" and hid it under her bed.

"Dawn!" She heard Buffy call out. Now what, she thought. Better go see what she wants.

Dawn found Buffy at the bottom of the stairs. She has her angry face on, Dawn thought, cringing inside but determined to stare down her big sister.

"Did you clean up your dishes like I asked?"

Dawn hated that she sounded like Mom, and Buffy sounded most like Mom when she was scolding her. Every once in a while, when Dawn was feeling lonely or wanted to remember what it was like before, she'd piss Buffy off just to hear her Mom again.

"Yes," Dawn said innocently, as Buffy pointedly looked around the living room. Dirty bowls and plates littered the coffee and end tables.

"Well, mostly," Dawn said defensively.

"Clean them up. Now," Buffy said a bit harsher than she intended.

"Alright! Geez, don't slay me or anything," Dawn muttered, grabbing some dishes and heading off to the kitchen. Buffy followed her, feeling a need to explain.

"It's just that we have to stay on top of things around here, Dawn. So things don't get out of control."

"You mean so I don't get out of control," Dawn retorted.

"No. That's not... You just have to do your part around here."

"Yes, I know. I've heard the speech. I could give the speech I've heard it so many times."

"Then how about you try helping more?" Buffy said directly.

"Yeah, okay. I get it. You busy. Me kid. Got it."

"You left out that I love you," Buffy said, turning to go upstairs.

"Yeah, whatever," Dawn said, sulking.

*****

Spike hung outside Buffy's back porch, waiting. For what he wasn't sure. He knew better than to try to barge in and have it out with her. She seemed more in a staking than talking mood, but he felt the need to be near her just the same. He lit a cigarette and sat down on the step.

Spike was lost in thought, running over in his mind of what to say when he heard rustling above. It was Dawn climbing out her window. He waited until she hit the ground before he spoke.

"Out for a midnight stroll, little bit?" Spike said drolly. Dawn jumped, not expecting anyone to be there.

"Spike! I..uh, well..." she said trying to think of a good excuse.

"March your butt right back inside! No running off getting yourself killed tonight," Spike said firmly.

"What? Who said I was going anywhere?"

"You normally leave out the window, bit? Doors too prosaic for you?"

"Prozac?" Dawn said confused. Spike rolled his eyes.

"Pro-sa-ic. Crack a book sometime, bit."

"So...what are you doing out here anyway? Stalking my sister again?" she said, trying to divert the discussion.

"That's none of your..." Spike started.

"Do you want me to go get her?" Dawn said mischievously. The look on Spike's face told her the answer to that one. She smiled, acknowledging her victory.

"If it means you not running off again, then yes. By all means, bit. Go get the Slayer," Spike said, grinning back. Touché.

"Well...we could just hang out here for awhile," Dawn said. "Technically I'm out of the house," she added, sitting down on the steps. Spike sat down beside her.

"It's not that bad, is it bit?"

"No. Well...yeah! She's always bossing me around. When she's here anyway," Dawn said sullenly.

"She's just look'n out for you."

"No she isn't. She's just being bossy. Miss I'm-in-charge all the time."

"Well, yeah," Spike said. "She is."

"You're not helping," Dawn lamented. Spike didn't say anything. He didn't know quite what to say. And his mind was on other things.

"You're kinda out of it, Spike," Dawn observed.

"Just think'n. You should try it sometime. Might keep you from getting eaten."

"Did you have a fight with Buffy?" Dawn asked shyly, not wanting to upset the solemn vampire.

"Yeah, you could say that," Spike said, then added, "Don't ask, bit."

"Okay."

They sat in somewhat comfortable silence together, Spike staring at the ground, lost in thought as Dawn looked for shooting stars in the clear night sky. Then Spike flicked the stub of his cigarette away and reached into his pocket for another.

"Say, can I have one?" Dawn asked.

"Um...NO."

"Please?" She wheedled. "Com'on, how 'bout just a drag off yours then? Just one? Please?"

Spike was about to tell her no again, but then he looked into her eyes. They reminded him of her. Buffy eyes.

"All right, bit," he said, lighting a cigarette and carefully handing it to her. She struck a pose with it, making him laugh. Then she inhaled it straight and hard like he knew she would, and started coughing.

"Ugh," she gasped. Spike smirked.

"Oh yeah, real sophisticated, bit," he chortled. She handed the cigarette back to him, still coughing.

"I didn't want cancer anyway," Dawn said between coughs, making an 'ick' face.

"What the hell is going on here!" an angry voice said behind them making both jump.

Oh sh..., Spike thought, sighing.

"Well?" Buffy demanded.

"Nothing!" Dawn said. "I just needed some...fresh air. And Spike..."

"Get inside. NOW."

"But..."

"Now!"

Dawn got up slowly, giving Spike a worried look, then ran inside.

"What do you think you are doing?" Buffy asked Spike, her voice full of venom.

"Nothing, pet. Just stopped by," Spike said soothingly, trying to calm her down.

"To teach my little sister how to smoke? Maybe you want to give her a knife or two to play with while you're at it?"

"Buffy, it wasn't a big deal. She just had a puff. I knew she wouldn't like it..."

"I don't like it, Spike! I don't like you hanging around here giving her all sorts of ideas, encouraging God knows what! That's not what she needs right now."

"How would you know, pet? You talk to her much lately?" Spike barked back.

"She's my responsibility, Spike. Not yours. I want you to stay away from her. And I want you to stay away from me, or I'll have Tara uninvite you once and for all," Buffy said, her voice as cold as ice.

Something broke and fell within Spike. He glared at her. He wanted to smash her pretty face so she wouldn't be so perfect. Strangle her so she couldn't speak to him like that anymore. He hated her. He hated everything about her.

Buffy saw the look in his eyes but didn't understand what it meant, and was only mildly taken aback as Spike abruptly turned and walked away, disappearing into the night.

*****

The next day of school was hell for Dawn. She had barely slept, Buffy's angry words playing over and over in her dreams.

"No more Spike!" Buffy had said to her. "Stay away from him!" Worse, she didn't sound anything like Mom when she said it. And of course, Buffy was going to call to make sure Dawn was home, after school.

"Or I'll hunt you down," Buffy had said, like Dawn was a demon or something. Maybe a demon child, Dawn thought wryly, watching the clock as her teacher droned on, wondering how long it would take to get to Spike's crypt and back if she ran really fast.

*****

"I'm home!" Dawn called out, throwing her book bag onto the couch and closing the door. Willow came down the stairs, a tentative smile on her face.

"Hey, Dawny."

"Hey." Things between them were still hard. Willow rarely spoke to her now and Dawn could see the guilt in her eyes whenever she did. It must be easier staying away from me, Dawn thought.

"Is Buffy home?" Dawn asked.

"In about an hour. She called and...told me to tell you that," Willow said.

Uh huh, Dawn thought. Told you something else too, I bet. Don't let Spike near her.

"What's this?" Dawn asked, seeing a box full of books, carvings and jewelry sitting on a chair.

"Oh, that. That's just some magic stuff I'm donating to the Magic Box. Most of it is their stuff anyway," Willow confessed.

"Ooh, what's this?" Dawn said, pulling out a necklace with a large, clear gem hanging from a chain.

"That's a wish stone. Well, except it doesn't work. Believe me, I've tried," Willow said, somewhat guiltily. "There's a lot of stuff like that. It's hard to find anything that actually works."

"Why doesn't it work?" Dawn asked, enthralled by the tear drop shape of the stone.

"Don't know. Might be a fake, just costume jewelry. Or might have been used already. Or it could need an ingredient that nobody bothered to write down. Could be anything," Willow answered. "Still, it's probably not something you should play with," Willow cautioned.

"Okay," Dawn said, putting it back in the box.

I'll come back for it later, Dawn thought, secretly smiling.

*****

"Dawn?" Buffy called out walking in the door.

"Hey, Buffy," Willow said from the couch.

"Hey. Is..."

"Yeah, I just checked on her. She's in her room."

"She's still mad, isn't she?" Buffy said, though she knew the answer. "That girl can hold a grudge for like ever," she muttered.

"I think it's kinda rough on her, Buff..." Willow started.

"I know, Will," Buffy said sharply, then regretted it. "I know. But Spike is no good for her. Believe me, I know."

"Okay," Willow said, desperately wanting to drop it. She didn't feel comfortable confronting Buffy on anything of late. Just then they heard a soft knock at the door. Buffy turned to answer it.

When she opened the door, her mouth dropped wide in shock, but she quickly regained her composure.

"Faith," she said.

"Hey...Buffy," the dark haired Slayer said, looking desperately like she didn't want to be there. At the sound of Faith's name Willow jumped up from the couch alarmed. A few powerful spells crossed her mind in a flash. Ones that kill. She stepped behind Buffy.

"Hey, Red."

"What are you doing here?" Buffy demanded.

"I came to see you, actually," Faith said, hardly daring to look her in the eyes.

"Why aren't you in prison?"

"That's sorta a long story, B," Faith said demurely.

"Shorten it. Now." Faith saw the determination in Buffy's eyes. She's wasn't going to make this easy.

"There was prison riot..." Faith began.

"And you escaped," Buffy concluded.

"No! No. I sorta helped save some prison guards. And a couple parole board members. They thought...they thought I deserved a second chance..."

"They were wrong," Buffy said, harshly.

"Look, B, I know there's bad blood between us. But Angel thought I should try..."

"Of course. Angel's idea. No one too far gone to save. Say, what step are you on? Which one covers murder?"

"Maybe this wasn't a good idea," Faith mumbled.

"Wow, we actually agree on something," Buffy said, slamming the door closed and locking it.

"Will, call the others and get them over here. We have to warn them."

"Do you think she is a threat?" Willow said, watching out the window as Faith slowly turned and left. "I mean, she seemed kinda un-Faith like..."

"I'm not taking the chance, Will."

*****

"Well, the cavalry is here," Xander said as he and Anya entered Buffy's home. "The scaredy-cat, run and hide behind big things cavalry, but nevertheless--THE CAVALRY."

"And look! We brought dead fowl," Anya said, showing off her bucket of fried chicken.

"Great. Thanks guys," Buffy said.

"I couldn't get a hold of Tara," Willow said, hanging up the phone. "She must be out..." A look of pain crossed her face briefly.

"We'll try again later, Will." Buffy said.

"Did I mention that we brought fowl?" Anya said, the grease beginning to burn her fingers. "Hot, dead fowl?"

"You can just put it in the dining room, Anya," Buffy said.

"Where's the Dawnster?" Xander asked.

"She's making something to drink. Punch or something," Buffy said.

*****

Dawn stared at her new acquisition, admiring it. The gem gleamed in the kitchen light, almost dancing. She heard the others talking in the next room and she found herself wishing that Spike was here so she could show him. Then on a whim she held the necklace out and said, "I wish Buffy would forgive Spike." Nothing happened.

"Hmph, must be used up," Dawn said. Just then she heard Willow and Buffy talking, heading for the kitchen.

"I'm not sure, Will. Regardless, we can't take the chance..."

In her haste to put the gem away, Dawn dropped it--right into the pitcher of pink grapefruit juice she was making.

"Oh crap!" she said. She tried fishing it out with a spoon and succeeded only in pushing it around in circles. After a moment of hesitation, she plunged her arm in up to the elbow and grabbed the necklace. She was hurriedly drying the necklace and her arm off with a towel when Buffy and Willow walked in.

"Everything okay?" Buffy asked.

"Sure. Just a little spillage," Dawn said, slipping the necklace into her back pocket.

"You made this? Looks good," Willow said pouring a glass and tasting it.

"Wow. It is good," Willow said, her eyes widening with surprise. "This is a keeper, Dawny. What's in it?"

"Grapefruit juice and lemon extract."

"Really? You must have added a lot of sugar. This is really sweet," Willow said, in between sips.

"I didn't put any sugar in..." Dawn started.

"Wow, it is good, Dawn," Buffy said, tasting it. "You should patent it then we'd be rich! No more mindless Buffy jobs for Buffy."

Willow picked up the tray of glasses and juice and followed Buffy into the dining room.

"It's not that bad, is it Buff?" Willow said.

"Only if you count the awake parts..." Buffy said cheerfully.

Dawn didn't hear either of them. Puzzled, she removed the necklace from her back pocket and stared at it in amazement. The gem was now a bright blue.

*****

Faith surveyed the bronze, taking it in. It was a busy night with tables being snatched up as soon as they were free. The dance floor was full of writhing couples moving much too fast for the melancholy songs the band was churning out. She didn't feel much like dancing anyway, she thought. Her brief meeting with Buffy had taken its toll. She just wished she could find a table...

"Well, would you look at that," Faith said to herself, perking up. A familiar face in the corner had caught her attention. She walked over and sat down next to him, noticing the flash of annoyance cross his face as she did so.

"Hello, Spike," Faith said.

*****

"Third noise complaint! My freak'n luck I got a crazy," the motel manager grumbled, fumbling for his keys as he approached room 25. When he arrived at the room, he dropped his keys in surprise. The door was nothing more than thin splinters.

"What the hell..." he said, kneeling to examine the wreckage.

He barely had time to scream as a large and very powerful claw wrapped around his face and pulled him inside the room head first.

*****

Spike looked at her confused, and a bit wary. She doesn't smell like a vampire, he thought.

"Do I know you?" he asked pointedly.

"Is that any way to talk to an old friend?" she said with a crooked smile. Then she added, "I'm Faith."

If she had used a cattleprod on his privates he couldn't have been more shocked, Faith thought, trying not to laugh.

His eyes narrowed, noticing her barely contained mirth. Spike forced himself to relax. Well, she certainly isn't hiding a stake on her, he thought, looking over her skin tight jeans and tighter shirt with admiration, if not lust.

"Well, well. The original bad girl," Spike said. He thought he caught a bit of a wince at "bad girl." "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"Saw you here. Thought you could use company," Faith said, trying to keep it light.

"More like you wanted a table, luv. Place is packed."

"That too," Faith admitted. They both drank in awkward silence for a moment, each sizing up the other.

"Mind me asking?" Spike finally said.

"Three weeks. Paroled three weeks from Tuesday," Faith said, anticipating the question.

"Buffy know?" Spike asked directly. Best to get the basics out of the way, he thought.

"Yeah. I...saw her earlier." Faith shifted uncomfortably.

"Still the heartless bitch, I presume?" Spike asked cheerily. Faith half smiled.

"You know, B."

"Yeah. I do," he said, the cheer gone from his voice in a instant. He took a long swig of his beer. Faith noticed the strange note in his voice.

"No way!" she said. It was her turn to be surprised. "You and B? I mean, I knew she had a thing for vampires..."

"That's what I said," Spike muttered.

"Damn. Last I saw, she was making it with soldier boy," she said. Or rather I was, Faith thought. She grimaced inwardly at that thought. No wonder Buffy had slammed the door in her face. Sometimes she forgot the train wreck she had made. She was always moving forward, never looking back. Now she had returned to see the damage. Angel said it was important to see the damage.

"Soldier boy's gone. Happens to the worst of us," Spike said, downing the last of his beer.

"So, why are you here? Crying into your beer?" Faith asked.

"I ain't cry'n, luv," Spike said pointedly.

"Well, you're not exactly whooping up the dance floor, fang-boy," Faith said with that crooked smile playing across her face.

"Just wanted a final taste of Sunnydale is all," Spike said, holding up his empty beer bottle.

"You're leaving Sunnydale?"

*****

Dawn watched the others laughing around the dinner table. Something odd was happening. Everyone was in a good mood. She hadn't seen Buffy laugh like that in a long time. Especially not with the Scoobies. She avoided her juice mix, suspicious of it. The gem changing colors had bothered her. She was going to ask Buffy about Spike but everyone kept talking.

When they were finished eating and adjourned to the living room, Dawn started to clear the table, one of the new "helping" jobs Buffy had given her.

"Oh, leave those, Dawn," Buffy said, surprising her. "Come in the living room. I think Anya is going to tell us about sex with Xander, and that's always funny!"

"Yeah. Okay..." Dawn said, confused.

Sex, huh? They never discuss sex around me, Dawn thought. Then she smiled.

"Wait for me!"

*****

"You built a robot Buffy?" Faith laughed hysterically. Even Spike chuckled.

"You're wicked gross," Faith said, still laughing.

"Well, she wouldn't give me the time of day!" Spike protested rather lamely, which only made Faith laugh harder.

"Oh God, that's too much," Faith said still chuckling. She hadn't laughed liked that in awhile. This vampire was turning out to be good company after all.

"So? What? Did you get tired of slapping the plastic yelling 'What's my name! What's my name!'" Faith burst into laughter again.

"Oh, shut it," Spike grumbled, but he couldn't stop his smile either. Of course, being half-drunk helps, he thought. I never would have told her otherwise.

"No. Buffy, the real Buffy, let me back in," Spike said. "Not that way," he added at Faith's look.

"She didn't...we didn't until she came back from the whole dead thing," Spike finished. Why was he telling her this? He didn't know. Maybe it was his final salute. Get it off his undead chest. Tell someone so he could move on.

"She...let you back in? Even after Robo Buffy?" Faith asked, serious now.

"Yeah."

"What..." Faith started.

"What, What?"

"What did you do? How did you get her to..."

"Oh. Got tortured by a hell-god and nearly dusted for her. And her kid sis," Spike answered.

"Great," Faith said, disappointed. Spike caught her look.

"Well, there are two other hell-gods, I think," Spike said, grinning. "You could always wait for one of them to show, torture and kill you. Almost."

Faith grinned back. Definitely good company. They ordered a couple more beers and a fried onion to peck at, which Spike told her was almost as good as blood, which was rare praise from a vampire.

"So, why are you leaving? Not that I want to pry..." Faith said.

"You're not prying, luv. It's just a bit hard to..." Spike paused for a moment, thinking.

"She's all around me. Dru told me that. Said I was covered in her. Dru could see things...she saw through me, what was going to happen. She knew I would love the Slayer. And Buffy, well, she likes her games. Hot and cold being her favorite. Still don't know if she ever gave a damn, whether I meant anything to her. Go to my dust not knowing. But still, a vampire has his pride, right? Plenty of fishes in the bloody sea and all that. It's not like I can't not live without her. Been doing that for centuries."

"What about you?" Spike asked.

"Me? I don't know. I mean, I came back to apologize, but Buffy would barely talk to me. I should leave like you, I guess. But Angel...he said I shouldn't give up."

"Ponce," Spike spat out. "What the hell does he know?"

"He's sorta my sponsor," Faith said, smiling wryly, and on a whim she asked, "Who's yours?"

"Me? Bloody government that's who," Spike said tapping his head. "Stuck this hardware in my noggin so I couldn't feed like a decent vampire should."

"Yeah, but it's just a chip. Not like it has a shut off switch labeled 'EVIL' or anything," Faith said.

"No. Just excruciating pain whenever I try to bite someone. But it doesn't need a switch, luv. After awhile, not feeding, the blood isn't right there all the time. You can still smell it, feel it pulse beneath people, but without the kill, it's just--hunger. You start to think about other things without the blood pounding in your ears all the time." Spike stopped, a bit startled. He had never told that to anyone. Not even Buffy.

"Yeah, I get that. I like the quiet too," Faith said. "Never thought I would. Always liked things to keep moving. Never stop. Got all crazy when things would slow down. Used to think it was boring. Know what I mean?"

"Yeah. Hell yeah."

They both smiled at each other and their eyes met and lingered longer than necessary. Spike was surprised. He knew he didn't have any true feelings for the dark-haired Slayer, but there was a kinship, an understanding absent in Buffy. Faith knew evil. She wasn't a hero. She was like him- someone that played the part on occasion but never really filled the shoes. Someone without a destiny, cut loose and alone.

"Want to..um..." Faith started, suddenly embarrassed. She usually didn't have to ask.

"Sorry, luv. I have some packing to do before sunrise," Spike said softly. Any other night, he thought. Any other night he wasn't leaving the woman he loved.

*****

Faith left the Bronze in a much better mood. She was sorry to see the blonde vampire go. He almost reminded her of Angel, though Spike would bite her head off, chip or no chip, if she said that aloud. But regardless, he gave her the balance she needed. Buffy was a nightmare she had to face. One that didn't seem quite as scary now. And who knows? Maybe a hell-god wouldn't be needed, she thought wryly. Then she remembered Spike.

"Poor bastard," Faith said sadly, remember his eyes every time he spoke of Buffy. Faith sighed. At least this train wreck wasn't hers.

*****

Dawn looked around a bit flabbergasted and doing her best imitation of a bright red apple. The conversation had indeed been about Anya's sex life with Xander. And Anya wasn't holding back the details.

"Then there was this thing he did with his tongue..."

Dawn got up to leave, shocked she hadn't been sent from the room by Buffy long ago, but Buffy was happily sipping her grapefruit concoction without even so much as a blush. And Xander, whom Dawn thought should be at least as red as her, was calmly listening to his bride-to-be describe parts of him that... Dawn didn't want to think about it.

Buffy noticed Dawn getting up to leave. And then noticed something else for the first time.

"Are those the earrings Mom gave me?" Buffy asked.

Dawn guiltily reached up and felt the small, expensive gold earrings in her ears, waiting for the punishment. She had taken them without permission.

"Yes," Dawn said, trying to put on a brave front.

"They look good on you."

"Huh?"

"They look good..."

"I heard the first time. Aren't you mad?" Dawn asked.

"No," Buffy said cheerfully. "I mean, it's no big. I know I told you to stay out of my things, but it's not the end of the world. No big whoop."

"Okay...Buffy, are you feeling alright? I mean..." Dawn closed in to whisper in her ear, "...everyone is acting so strange."

"Oh, you mean Anya and the sex talk? She always does that. Not worth getting mad over it," Buffy explained.

A knock at the front door interrupted them. Buffy yelled out "I'll get it!" and cheerily bounced to the door.

*****

Faith didn't know what to say. The idea of coming back to Buffy's house, which twenty minutes ago sounded like a great idea, now seemed utterly foolish.

What if she just slams the door again, Faith thought pensively. I shouldn't be here. Angel was wrong. She'll never forgive...

Then the door came flying open and a smiling Buffy stood before her. Faith waited for the smile to fall, but miraculously it didn't.

"Hey, Faith!"

"Uh...hi, Buffy." Maybe she is smiling because she is going to kill me, Faith thought.

"Uh, look, Buffy I needed to say some stuff and I'm sorry for coming back here..." Faith started.

"Oh, don't worry about it. Come in!"

"You want me to..."

"Com'on silly. The gang's all here. Well, except Tara. And Giles. But I'm sure they would like to see you too."

So that's it, Faith thought. Make her grovel before all of them. Buffy really wasn't going to make this easy.

Faith took a deep breath and followed Buffy inside.

"Hey everybody! Look who's here!" Buffy said.

"Faith!" they all cried out, except Dawn who just stared incredulously as Buffy and her friends surrounded the prodigal Slayer.

"How've you been?"

"Ooh, nice shirt."

"You just missed my Xander sex story. Oh well, I can tell it again."

"Want some grapefruit juice? Dawn made it and it's really fantastic!"

"No!" Dawn yelled out and they all stared at her. Even Faith, who's bewildered expression began to harden. Something's up, her Slayer instincts were telling her. And now she knew who to ask.

*****

Three had followed her scent, loping forward. The only sound they made was that of their claws clacking on the pavement and their short, snorting intakes of air. They were close. The scent was strong.

"There," the leader growled, pointing a claw at the house. They heard laughter inside.

"Revenge is ours."

*****

"I don't know!" Dawn said angrily, trying to pull away, but Faith's grip was like a vice on her arm. Faith had managed to corner Dawn near the fireplace while Anya retold her sex story.

"Look, kid! You're the only one here not acting all touchy-feely and I want to know why," she hissed quietly.

Dawn thought a moment, then relented. She needed someone's help. Even if it was from the psycho bitch Slayer that almost killed her Mom.

"Alright! I...I think it has to do with this..." Dawn began, pulling the necklace from her pocket. Just then the front door exploded inward. Three dark and hairy demons shambled forward, teeth barred.

"Oh! Friends of yours, Faith?" Buffy asked, then she turned toward the first demon. "Don't mind the door. I'm sure Xander can fix it," she said congenially. The demon swung its arm, back-handing Buffy hard, sending her flying half up the stairs.

"Yeah, I could probably fix the door," Xander said to Anya, unconcerned.

"Buffy!" Dawn screamed.

"Ooh, sorry! Hope my head didn't hurt your hand...claw thingy!" Dawn heard Buffy call down, then followed by a softer "Ow."

The other two demons were on Faith in an instant. She grabbed a fireplace poker and swung it, keeping them back.

"What do we do!" Dawn screamed.

"Break it!" Faith said, as a demon launched itself into her, knocking her to the ground and causing her to drop the poker.

Break it? Break what? Oh! Dawn thought realizing, the necklace. Duh!

Dawn grabbed a heavy metal bookend off the bookcase. She put the gem on the floor and brought the bookend down on it as hard as she could. It didn't break.

"It won't break!" Dawn yelled, bashing at the necklace over and over again.

Faith kicked the demon off of her and grabbed the poker again.

"So, what's your deal? Itching for a fight? And I do mean itching, cuz you got that whole lice thing happening all over your fur..." Faith taunted.

Surprising her, the demon spoke. "You killed our wife!"

"Our? So you're saying she was a big skank then," Faith quipped.

"Oh," Willow said, turning to Faith. "Kinda like you." Then added, "Sorry."

"Don't worry about it, Red," Faith said, sharply bringing the poker up to connect with the demon's head as it lunged at her.

"We all..." Faith began, slamming the poker into demon's mid-section causing it to double over then sweeping it off its legs.

"...have our demons..." she added, driving the fireplace poker down with all her Slayer strength, impaling it through its chest.

"...to kill," Faith finished. Her victory was short lived however, as she ducked a clawed hand from a second enraged demon.

Buffy in the meantime was desperately apologizing to the demon that had her pinned on the stairs.

"Now, I don't mean to be rude, but your odor is a bit...strong? Not that I'm complaining! It's probably a good demon odor to have!"

This isn't working, Dawn thought, her arm nearly limp from swinging the heavy bookend. The gem wasn't even chipped. She needed more muscle.

"Buffy!" Dawn yelled running to the stairs. Buffy was barely keeping the demon from choking her to death with its large, clawed hands.

"Sorry...but...I...can't...breathe..."

Dawn raced up the stairs and yanked hard on the demon's fur. It yowled and turned toward her. Dawn hurled the necklace at Buffy and then ran, the demon close behind.

"Crush it, Buffy!" Dawn screamed out, leading the demon into the living room.

"I can't do that, Dawn. It's too pretty," she heard Buffy say.

Faith can handle two demons, right? Dawn thought. But Faith wasn't in good shape. Her face was cut and she appeared to be holding her side while kicking desperately at the demon in front of her.

"Xander, get the weapons!" Dawn yelled out. She ran toward the kitchen, the loping demon close behind.

"Weapons? I don't know...someone might get hurt..." he said.

Dawn grabbed a large knife in the kitchen just as the demon pounced on her. She instinctively brought the knife high and plunged it into its thick neck. It howled as she screamed then fell dead on top of her, crushing her. It took her a moment to wriggle out from under it.

"Remind me to puke later," Dawn said, the odor filling her nostrils. She found Buffy sitting on the steps holding the necklace.

"Crush it, Buffy," Dawn repeated.

"I can't. What if it belongs to someone and they..." But a thought just occurred to Dawn.

"Crush it or I will never forgive you," Dawn said. Buffy hesitated a moment then squeezed the gem. At first Dawn heard a crack, then a grinding noise as Buffy reduced it to powder. A look of worry appeared on Buffy's face and Dawn sighed in relief, but Buffy pushed past Dawn and ran into the living room.

The demon was on top of Faith, viciously working her over with its claws.

"Buffy!" Xander yelled, lobbing an axe to her. He had reluctantly been pulling out some weapons at Faith's colorful demands.

"Hey!" Buffy yelled, kicking the demon in the backside. It roared and turned on her, but as it lunged Buffy buried the axe deep in its forehead.

"Sorry about the splitting headache," she added as it fell dead to the floor.

Faith slowly scrambled to her feet, still clutching her side. She felt everyone's eyes on her. Dawn was the first to approach Faith.

"Are you okay?" she asked, feeling extremely guilty.

"I'll live," Faith said, wincing.

"Hurray for us," Anya muttered.

"What did you do?" Buffy said, her voice hard as ice. Dawn cringed.

"It's my fault, Buffy," Faith said, surprising Dawn.

"I did a spell...so you would...forgive me," Faith managed to get out, avoiding Buffy's cold stare. Buffy deliberately walked up to her, preventing Faith from looking anywhere but at her.

"You want me to forgive you, Faith?" Buffy said.

"Then stop lying to me." The words hit Faith like a cold slap. Blood was leaking from between her fingers, but she stood her ground, determined not to run away.

I can take it, Faith thought. I have to take it. But she felt a tremendous relief wash over her as Buffy finally removed her eyes and focused them on someone else.

"Dawn," she said, her voice nearly as cold as when she spoke to Faith. Tears were sliding down Dawn's face.

"It's all your fault! Why can't you just forgive him!" Dawn yelled at Buffy. Buffy took a step back, surprised at the ferocity.

"He'll leave. You're making it so he'll leave and I don't want him to go," Dawn cried.

"Who?" Buffy said, confused. Dawn shook her head fighting the tears back.

"Spike! Who else?" she said, angry now.

"Spike won't leave. He never leaves," Buffy said, exasperated with her little sister. That's what this was about? Spike?! That stupid vampire was the cause of all this...

"Uh, Buffy?" Faith interrupted. She blanched when Buffy's eyes fell on her again, but she braced herself and continued.

*****

Buffy hesitantly entered Spike's nearly bare crypt. She found him busily throwing the last of his belongings in a cardboard box.

"What do you want, Slayer?" he said, not even bothering to look at her. He knew it would be her.

"So, you're really leaving, huh?"

Spike didn't respond. He was done with this game. He had made up his mind. Bitch doesn't need me then I don't need her, he thought, hoping it was true yet knowing it was a lie. But he knew sometimes the lies were necessary. It was the only way he could leave her.

"Look Spike, I know I said some things..."

This time he turned and stared hard until she averted her eyes from his gaze.

"Right," Buffy said dejectedly, deciding to go. But a twinge of anger gnawed her.

"It's your fault!" Buffy yelled suddenly, unsure even what she was saying.

"My fault," Spike said, incredulous. "How do you figure that, pet? The loving you or shagging you part?"

"All of it! It's all your fault! I didn't ask you to love me."

Spike looked at her. Why was she here? To rub it in? To ease her conscience?

"What do you want," Spike repeated.

"Nothing! I don't want anything from you!" Buffy yelled at him. But her eyes. Something in her eyes, a hint of...desperation? Spike couldn't tell. He would have to push to find out. Back to the game, he thought wryly.

"You can do better than that, love," he said, walking towards her, a malicious grin on his face. Buffy inched back all the way to the wall, her eyes never leaving his. When she tried to move away he slammed his hand in front of her, blocking her path. Buffy hesitated a moment then reached for his belt, but Spike slapped her hands away.

"Do better," he said menacingly.

After a moment, staring into his terrifying eyes she said, "Stay." And just as Spike started to relax she added, "for Dawn." Spike threw his hands up in disgust.

"That's it! I can't take it anymore! You're worse than the whole bloody lot of us combined! You keep bleeding me dry!

"Yeah, alright, I love Dawn. She has enough of you in her for that. But it's not enough. She isn't the one I want, the one I dream about."

"Spike..." Buffy started, but Spike continued on.

"You keep punishing me for loving you, Slayer. And okay, so I'm a vampire and you think I can take it, but I won't. Not anymore. And I shouldn't have to. It's done between us. There isn't anything more you can do to me.

"Do you think I want to leave? You think that I don't know what it'll be like, not seeing you? Not touching you? But it's worse now, Slayer. There's not a part of me that doesn't want you, which means there isn't anything left of me. It's all you now. And when I hate you, I hate me. And when I love you...

"It was different before. Just a dream, a stupid dream I could never touch--that you could never touch. But then we shagged and it all changed. It became something real. And you just piss all over it like it doesn't mean anything. Do you know what that's like? Do you have any idea?"

"Yes," Buffy said quietly.

"Yeah, of course you do. A vampire screwed you so you screw a vampire. Bloody brilliant. You should write a book about it. Sell it to all your friends."

"Spike, what do you want me to say? I'm sorry? Fine, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to..."

"But you did, pet. You meant to. That's the whole sodding point." Spike stopped. He turned from her. He couldn't look at her.

"I'm going. You win, Slayer. I never thought I would, but it's all that I have left now. I should have known. It always ends like this with you. But I thought I was different..." Spike said, mostly to himself.

Spike picked up the box he was packing and walked past her to the door.

"Spike!" He stopped, waiting, his back to her. When he heard nothing else he walked out of the crypt, determined not to look back. He couldn't see the tears running down her face as he left. Nor could he hear, after he was long gone, the hesitant, almost practiced words that broke the silence of the deathly still crypt.

"Stay for me."

*****

When Spike reached his car he found Dawn leaning against it.

"So, you're leaving huh." It wasn't a question.

"Yeah, bit," Spike said, throwing the last box into his back seat.

"Take me with you," Dawn said suddenly. Spike looked at her, surprised, then shook his head.

"She needs you," he said simply.

"So do you," Dawn retorted. Spike smiled at her. I wonder if she's right, he thought, but he just shook his head again. A minute passed wordless between them, then Dawn reached down and picked something up.

"This is for your road trip," Dawn said, handing him a thermos.

"I don't drink coffee, bit," Spike said wryly.

"It's not coffee. It's blood."

Dawn answered his raised eyebrow, "Butcher's blood. Funny, they never asked me what it was for."

"That's Sunnydale for you," Spike said, tossing the thermos in the front seat. "Thanks, bit."

"Spike..." but she didn't finish. Instead she threw her arms around his neck, hugging him.

"Don't go, Spike! I'll work on her. She'll listen to me. I'm her sister. She'll have to listen to me," Dawn said, tears streaming down her face.

Spike clutched her briefly, fiercely, then pulled away.

"You mind her. No matter what, Dawn. You do as she says, you hear me?" Spike said forcefully. Dawn just nodded, choked with tears.

"Sun's almost up. I gotta get moving," Spike said, quickly turning away and climbing into his car. He slammed the door hard enough the black painted windows clattered.

Dawn watched Spike drive away, wondering what she was going to do without him, or worse, what he was going to do without her.

"He'll be back," she said to no one.

I'll steal another wish stone if he doesn't, she thought, wiping her eyes. And that thought made it bearable again as she started her long walk home.



The end.

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