All About Spike

Buffy Summers' Diary: The Return of Riley
By Lori

Sequel to Buffy Summers' Diary

Rating: PG
Note: Based upon the Bridget Jones Diary
Disclaimer: All things belong to Joss and Helen Fielding (and a little bit to John Donne).
Summary: Riley comes back for Hostile 17. Buffy's written in voice of Bridget Jones.


Calories 3000 (why does Willow insist on baking? Why?). Lottery Ticket 1. Boyfriend Equivalent Kidnapped by Ex-Boyfriend and New Wife 1.

V. confusing and ultimately horrifying day. Am currently on fifth chocolate-chip-macadamia-nut treat and feel no better. Must try to put thoughts in order and stop relying on chocolate to solve personal problems.

Had worked day shift at DP, brought lottery ticket as investment tool, and done quick patrol after dark. (Dawn is staying with Tara, whom she prefers. Everyone prefers Tara, even me.) In Spike's cemetery found no Spike--yes, of course swung by crypt, am woman in thrall to Vampire Sex-god except for actual thrall. However, did stumble, quite literally, across enormous dragony demon. Dragony creature slithered off after I bruised its tail with my new boots, destroying several trees in its wake. Demons have no respect for our balanced eco-system or my fashion footwear, am convinced.

Would have called upon Xander and Anya for consultation and research but their pre-wedding frenzy far more frightening than dragon thing. I chose to put Slayer business on hold and retreat to home for personal growth and being-with-me time. However, needed something to do with self because self rather boring. Having just finished "Slayers Who Love Vampires Too Much," I felt ready to improve my mind further. Luckily Barnes and Noble was still open, since I didn't have any more books at home.

I walked into the busy store and remembered who I used to be: high SAT scores, interested in learning (although not long Victor Hugo novels or, I find, Watcher-penned self-help volumes), lover of poetry. That Buffy was not merely slayer, wage-slave, bad mother- figure and thrall-girl. I wanted to be That Buffy again, and after getting lost in several aisles (it's a huge warehouse space, perfectly understandable), I found the poetry section. Also a blond Vile boyfriend equivalent perusing the shelves.

"Thunderstruck" would not have been too extreme to describe my feelings upon seeing Spike's hands (skilled, elegant hands, stop it, stop it) flipping through a Penguin Classic. Unfortunately said feelings caused me to fall into display of cookbooks on end of aisle, resulting in somewhat sheepish vampire rescuing me from avalanche of Naked Chefs.

"Hello, love, you looking for me?" he said as he pulled me to my feet. He looked as if he were going to follow this up with elaborate story about being caught by mistake in poetry land when really looking for "Nasty Plots Made Easy," but he clearly thought better of it. For an Evil Vampire, he's a terrible liar and he knows it. So he played to his strengths and, putting one hand up by my neck, backed me up against a shelf.

"No, Spike, just wanting a book. New horizons, you know?" I said. Witty quips are hard to come by when Sex-God's fingers are stealing one's breath.

"New horizons, is it, pet?" he purred, hand going somewhere it absolutely shouldn't. In public, anyway. I somewhat feebly pushed it away, but it immediately returned. He put his mouth to my ear. "'License my roving hands, and let them go, Behind, before, above, between, below. O my America! my new-found-land, My kingdom, safeliest when with one man man'd...'"

Well. Obviously one would have to be Slayer of Steel to resist that, and am sorry to record that Spike was (my) heartbeat away from seducing me into yet more public sex, when he added, "'Course, to do this properly, you should be naked. That's what Donne intended, at any rate." And then he did that curled-tongue thing which is at once sexy and annoying. Vile Spike returneth.

It gave me the strength to push him aside rather sharply and begin a short lecture on not being a stupid ass in bookstores, or indeed anywhere. His eyes did that clouding-over thing which means he is mentally chanting "patience, bloody hell, patience, bloody hell" instead of following his instincts to go grrr or smack me hard on the head with the Collected Works of Coleridge. He was trying, really. And there likely would have been a return to poetry and snogging if at that moment Willow and that loose-skinned friend of Spike's hadn't seen us standing toe-to-toe, practically mouth-to-mouth.

"Buffy? And, and, and--" she stammered.

"Spike! Look who I found in New Fiction!" Clem burbled.

It was an awkward moment. No social guidelines exist to help one hide one's boyfriend equivalent from one's magic-addicted best friend, who unlike other best friend is not COMPLETELY blind. I called on whatever Social Goddess tricks I had learned by reading "Seventeen" as a girl: complimented her hair, encouraged magic-free excursion away from Summers home, etc. Somehow I did manage to divert Willow from what she really truly had seen, sending her and Clem away to the cafe to continue their discussion of some Oprah novel.

This left me with Spike, for whom the "patience, bloody hell" mantra had just run out. He smirked not at all pleasantly and said, "No, don't tell me. The hellmouth would open if any Scooby or passing demon should suspect that you're shagging the monster. Right." And he turned away, snapping his duster behind him and striding away in manner of Master Vampire.

I scurried after him with minimal attention to personal dignity, scrambling through the front door after him. At the edge of the parking lot I caught him by the arm, spinning him around hard. "What the hell do you think you're doing, Spike?"

He looked at me as if I were mentally challenged. "I'm walking away before I say something I can't take back, Slayer."

Slayer. He WAS mad. He hadn't called me that since...since a v.v. bad moment right after our first night together. But what could have set him off? He knew my concerns, why I didn't want anyone to know how bad we were being. What was bothering him now?

He started moving again, into the vacant lot next to the bookstore. I followed, repeating my question. He kept walking--really, most infuriating vampire ever, and I don't have to read the Watcher chronicles for verification. I grabbed his duster, yanked hard, and wrestled him to the ground. Only natural at that point to climb on top of him to make him stay.

"There ya go, love. You've got me, now what are you going to do with me?" The truly disturbing thing was that he wasn't being suggestive or sarcastic. He sounded as if he really wanted to know. And I had no idea how to answer him.

Just at that critical juncture we heard the loud whirring of a helicopter overhead, and a beam of light swung over us. A shout rang from up above--"There!"

Spike tried to get up, saying urgently, "Soldier boys, Buffy. Got to get away." But I didn't understand what he meant--stupid me--and I didn't let him move. He pushed harder. "Buffy!"

"Buffy!" The voice from above echoed him. "Hold him for me!"

It was Riley. And out of the sky my Black Ops ex-boyfriend dropped. He clearly meant it to be a cat-like move, landing on his feet and running toward me, but I could only think how irritatingly like him to interrupt something v. important. NO sense of timing.

"What do you want?" I asked. Not perhaps etiquette as the recommended greeting to former lover, perhaps, but I was busy.

"That demon you've caught for us." And he zapped Spike with a taser I hadn't noticed him carrying.

"Riley, what the hell are you doing?" I checked--Spike was out cold. "What did you do to, to, him?" I almost said "my boyfriend." Strange moment.

"Good to see you too, Buffy," Riley snapped. "We're here in Sunnydale to break a ring of demon-smugglers, and your associate here is wanted." He tried to do a sneer at "associate" but couldn't pull it off; I'd been hearing a proper sneer too long.

Spike was wanted by Riley's Black Ops people. Could he have done something terrible? Of course he COULD, he's Spike, but found it hard to believe he'd have had the time recently, what with constant shagging and/or fighting, redecorating the crypt, trapped in Summers house, etc. And he looked so beautiful and innocent lying unconscious beneath me...

That did it. I jumped up and turned to give Agent Finn the sharp edge of my tongue (not in sexual way), but he was looking up at another soldier-figure descending from the 'copter. "Sam, over here!" he shouted.

Sam. Funny, didn't look like a...oh, SAMANTHA. New soldier-friend of Riley's was pretty, even in fatigues, and she swanned over in manner of owning the world. "Got it, honey? You're so fast."

"Yeah, Hostile 17's ready for containment." Riley bent down and put his hands on Spike's duster. "Do you have the restraints?"

"What the HELL are you doing?" Had uncomfortable feeling I'd been saying this a lot. Trapped in time loop again? Demon-inspired nightmare? Looked around for arch-nemesiseses, but could only see Riley and Sam. And unconscious Spike.

The helicopter whirred away as Riley busily wrapped Spike up. "You heard me. Taking Hostile 17 in for questioning." He looked up. "Oh, and may I introduce Agent Samantha Finn to you? Samantha, this is Buffy, Buffy Summers."

Sam paused her mumbling into communication device. "Hi, Buffy! I've heard so much about you. Can we do lunch tomorrow, the three of us?"

This woman--last name Finn? not sister, surely--and Riley were kidnapping Spike, and here she wanted to fill up her social calendar. V. confused and sad. I tried to think of something to stop the madness, but all that came out was "Oh, sure."

"Yes, we'll tell you about the wedding and everything. I'll call you in the morning," Riley said. He stood and waved at nondescript van, which bumped into the lot. Then he heaved Spike's body over his shoulder. Wanted to hit him v. hard and repeatedly in stomach so he'd let Spike go, but couldn't seem to move. Probably spell. Must have been spell.

He and Sam put Spike, MY Spike, how dare they, in vehicle, then clambered in. Riley made annoying "call you" hand-signal, then they pulled away. I just stood there, looking at where Spike had been taken. Likely would still be standing there if Willow and Clem hadn't found me and brought me home, where I've been trying and trying to figure out what happened.

Black Ops have Spike. Riley married to soldier-girl queen, and we have lunch date tomorrow. Oh, and dragony thing on the loose. There's not enough chocolate chips and macadamia nuts in the world to make this right.


Calories 1800 (Chicken Parmesan, yum), Alcohol Units 1/2 (couldn't trust myself not to spill Sauvignon Blanc on Smug Marrieds), Amazing Rescue Plans 1

8 am:
"I'm calling a Scooby meeting right now!" was my morning greeting when I entered my kitchen. Dawn and Tara had returned from night of Buffy-free fun and were making pancakes; Willow was making wistful faces from a corner. They all turned to look at me and gasped. Well, one can't be expected to remember to take off make-up when one's boyfriend equivalent had been kidnapped, and I'd cried a bit so there was some mascara drippage, and then during the two hours of sleep I'd gotten, my hair had arranged itself in horns. Must have been frightening. Still, appearance not important at the moment.

"What's wrong with you, Buffy?" Dawn asked.

"Spike was vamp-napped by Riley last night. Oh, and by Riley's new wife, who's also a soldier-type. And I have to have lunch with them. And there's a dragony thing crawling around Sunnydale, deforesting it if nothing worse." There, all the news that's fit to tell. Grabbed glass of orange juice from her hand and downed it, dehydrated from hours of sniffling.

Dawn grabbed the glass back. "What are you doing here, and with my juice? Go find Spike! You're not going to be a bitch about this, are you?" Trust Dawnie to get to heart of problem and ignore all subordinate clauses.

Tara, more rational and armed with more information re the demented carrousel ride which is my emotional state, intervened. She moved Dawn away and looked at me sympathetically. "This is terrible on every level, Buffy. I can call Xander and Anya to come over, but... but...what do you want us to do?"

Must confess that of all the nasty horrible things which accompany my sacred duty blah blah, the worst is that people always expect me to plan, be in charge, organize. Why couldn't I have five minutes for sympathy hugs and fun-shaped pancakes? But am terrible selfish person. Spike was no doubt having less fun than I even if he deserved it, which had yet to be established, and I hadn't told anyone except Tara that I was wounded girlfriend equivalent here. Must rescue Spike, must, and get through rest of what was already shaping up to be hell-day.

"Okay. Okay. We'll do this. Willow, go get Anya to help you research dragony thing. And all I can tell you is it's a dragony thing, about 15 feet long, no flames but with a wicked powerful tail. Greenish." I ignored Willow's grumble at being teamed with Anya--no time for personal pettiness which is not mine. "Tell Xander that I need him to get me some information about the abandoned army base outside town, scope out if there's any activity there. Dawn, give me your cell phone, I'm going to need it when I go check out Spike's crypt, see if there are any clues to what he's been doing. I need information before I go to lunch with Riley and spouse. Oh, and can you and Tara stay here and monitor the home phone?"

Dawn handed me the mobile without comment, proving that even teen girl bonded to wireless connection understood how dire the situation was. And Tara stepped forward and said, "I'll make sure it all gets done, Buffy. Now why don't you go take a shower, and I'll make you a couple of funny pancakes for when you get down. Pigs are your favorite, aren't they?"

Love Tara. Perhaps should rethink current Best Friend ranking.

Just sat here in Spike's thoroughly trashed bedroom (worse than what we've done in our special private times, if can imagine) and had a v. small weep. Horrible Black Ops broke just about every item in the crypt, including the bed. I loved that bed, even if haven't precisely spent much time in it.

Don't know what they were looking for, either. No sign of anything shrieking "Big Bad lives here! Torture or dust now!" Useless to have come here. Not helping anyone.

While having therapeutic moan, the cell rang. It was Dawn, eager to be Queen of Information. "Buffy, Buffy, Xander says the base is mostly boarded up, but there's activity in one section, minimal security. There's a road there in case we have to go rescue Spike if that's where he is, but I bet that's where he is, don't you? Willow found the demon in a database--it's a Georgius demon, people-eater, gross. Oh, and nocturnal. We probably can't find the lair 'til this evening." There was a murmur in the background, and she continued, "Right, almost forgot, thanks Tara. You're supposed to meet Stupid Git Riley at Stephano's at noon, okay?"

Dawn just called Riley a stupid git. Had three immediate, conflicting reactions: she'd been spending too much time with Spike again; "stupid git" was in fact strangely satisfying after drama of last year; desperately wanted to hear Spike say those words to Riley's face, possibly followed by "pillock" or one of the thousand British insults of which he is master.

"Oh, and Sophie called." Dawn brought me back from mental listing of such insults and self-query of why they always sounded sort of sexy in Spike's voice. "She was supposed to meet Clem for breakfast? But she couldn't find him anywhere. She was wondering if you knew where he was."

Oh look, the last straw. At least Spike had been notorious for years as Scourge of Europe or similar, even if he'd been fighting on my side for over a year. Stupid Git Riley (absolutely the mot juste, bless Dawn) would not have known of his valorous accomplishments, since S.G.R. had merrily run away in midst of my personal crisis. But Clem! Other than People for the Ethical Treatment of Kittens, surely nobody would want to kidnap pleasant loose-skinned demon, and I felt sure it was Black Ops's fault.

Stupid Git and wife were going down. But first they would take me to Spike.

Classic. Lunch with S.G.R. and Sam went v. well, if one enjoys jellyfish-sting-style remarks throughout appetizers and main course.

"Buffy, you're looking thinner. Must have been a hard year for you." No, Riley, deaths (including my own) in family are picnic, just like the ones you're so fond of. "Buffy, it's so hard to stay feminine and still Slay every night. But really, your hair looks LOVELY." Thanks, Sam, many people find it posy Black-Ops boyfriend- equivalent-stealing cow. Seriously, being Smug-Married by these people was almost more than I could bear. Did I ever in my heart of hearts want to be Mrs. Smug-Married Finn? Might have to revisit my long-held belief in past desperate love of Riley. But I kept eye on current goal and made suitable remarks in response, asking about Belize, wedding, etc. I was Woman with a Plan.

Riley made it easy for me when coffee was brought at end of meal. "So, tell me about Spike. He's still around and not dust, I see. What were you doing with him last night? Does he still give you information when you pay him?"

"Yes, he was going to be beaten into helping, in return for the usual bucket of cash." Sorry, Spikey, blackening your already rather sooty name is sacrifice for greater good, I thought. "We've got a slight Georgius-demon problem, and I still need his assistance. He speaks Georgius, you see." I crossed my fingers, hoping fervently that dragony creature actually HAD language rather than just foul breath and grunts.

"Oh, guess we couldn't help you there, we've never encountered that kind of demon." Whew. Now wait for it, wait for it...Sam smiled at me. "But we could take you to Spike if you like. Our people should have finished the initial interrogation, and you could ask him what you need to know."

Yesss! Am strategy queen! Managed to get exactly what I wanted, AND had Riley pay for my lunch. While he was signing credit card slip, I sneaked to the bathroom and called Xander and rest of Scoobies, putting them on alert. It was time to implement Phase II of Helpful Demon Rescue 2002.

3:45 pm:
In Black Ops stronghold, if can be so termed with only one external guardpost and very few troops. On car ride here, by the way, found out what Spike's Big Evil was supposed to be. He apparently had traded with horrible Demon Tycoon (trafficker in weaponry, smaller demon slaves, etc.) when he and Dru were last in Brazil; recently captured Demon Tycoon, before Black Ops carelessly cut off his head, had mentioned Spike as name to be reckoned with. That was all it took to bring Riley and Co flitting back to my territory and my boyfriend equivalent, although they had neither evidence or authorization to do so.

Is always a shock to run into Spike's past crimes, but this seemed so clearly belonging to previous unlife that I wasn't fussed. Besides, look what icky thing from MY past had crawled back into the picture. No, not really time for me to judge.

Stupid Git Riley and Sam took me into v. small warehouse. In cage-- must take calming breath when think about it--in cramped, none too clean cage, Spike and Clem were being held. Clem was trying to chat with one of the two guards, but Spike lounged silently against wall. A bruise discolored one temple, and he had dried blood coming from his swollen mouth, apparently not from afternoon snack but from beating.

That wounded mouth painfully split into a trademark smirk when he saw me, and his voice was a little rougher than usual. "Ah, Slayer. How's the happy reunion going? Come to gloat before delivering a nice stake to the heart?"

What was his prob--oh. Of course. Not only had we been in a difficult relationship moment right before his capture, but as far as he knew I was in collusion with Smug-Married Soldier Nasties. And there they were, with tasers and assorted instruments of vampire or demon death ready to hand all around. While obviously wanted to throw myself into his arms and then throttle him for being an ass, this situation required finesse.

I stepped forward to the cage, and he sauntered forward so that we were almost touching. Our eyes locked. "I'm not the gloating type, Spike. I couldn't believe that you would betray me...the source of so much cash over the past year."

"But--!" Clem started, but without taking his eyes from mine Spike wrapped his hand around Clem's arm and twisted. Clem yelped and moved back out of the way. You know, being with a smart guy is so refreshing. With just one little clue ('cause everyone knows the boy has gotten NO money from Scoobies in the past year), he realized I was here to save him. He was working with me--and if there's one thing clear in our whole tortured history, it's that the Buffy-Spike alliance is practically unstoppable.

I looked back at the questioning faces of Stupid Git Riley and wife. They wouldn't be easy to maneuver from this point. Spike snarled theatrically (and a little over the top--must speak to him about that), "Don't tell me. You're shocked and surprised at my bad behavior. Slayer, I'm laughin'. So what are we waiting for, then?"

Wish I could have told him that our plan depended on the rising of a Georgius demon and the good timing of Xander Harris. Just to see his face.

6:30 pm:
Have found Big Evil from the Master to the Mayor. Have lived on the hellmouth for several years. Have managed to make it back after two death scenes. Have worked several double-shifts at the DP. But never knew true horror until forced to spend three hours with ex-boyfriend and new wife in their tiny Black Ops kingdom, waiting for Xander's call to tell us about Georgius menace.

Riley strutted in manner of turkey male, showing off admittedly cool firepower and gassing about Fabulous Demon Kills in Central America or similar. Sam mostly added small details to his tedious stories. However, she also cornered me at one point to explain, kindly and gently, that I hadn't appreciated or understood her honey-bunny when he'd been with me but she would do a better job and I couldn't have him back. Bit tongue quite hard to repress heart-felt reply along lines of I wouldn't have him back on a bet, especially since now had boyfriend equivalent who (although evil undead) comprehended things like loyalty, poetry, foreplay, and personal satisfaction gained by defeating bad creatures without using taxpayer dollars. But couldn't tell her that without revealing my not-so-little secret.

Oh, and Spike was still languishing in cage. After our earlier mind- meld and warehouse theater piece, he'd sort of slumped in corner. I realized that not only had he been beaten, but horrible Black Ops hadn't fed him. Mentioned quite casually, about seven times, that vampire translator probably wouldn't work unless he got nourishment, until finally Stupid Git stopped fondling weapon collection and trotted off to fetch blood. I took that opportunity to sneak over and whisper to Spike that he was supposed to speak Georgius--his scarred eyebrow flew up, and he said, "You do realize, pet, that Georgius demons don't actually have a language. It's basically just crash and bash with those blokes." Gah! Just as I'd predicted.

Ooh, cell phone. Must be Xander. On to final phase of Helpful Demon Rescue 2002!

V. sad and confused, yet triumphant. Where to begin...

Right, Xander called as arranged. Tara had done tiny locator spell to find lair of Georgius, and she, Xander, and Willow had taken Harris construction van to do surveillance. (Anya pleaded off for wedding business, and Dawn stayed with her. Will owe Dawn several thousand dollars in hardship duty for this, as her evening activity involved folding napkins in shape of swans.)

Xander reported when demon creature started making early-evening- activity noises, and then I told Riley and Sam. They of course were gung-ho to kill dragony thing, apparently feeling rather cranky at not getting to dust Spike or decap Clem (who had been caught checking Spike's crypt when Black Ops were busy demolishing it. Ooh, v. scary loose-skinned guy). The Smug Marrieds conferred and felt they could go after creature with just my added fighting skills and the "translators," leaving helicopter people etc behind. Whew.

Off we went in their van, then: Riley and Sam in front seat, me in middle, Spike and Clem seemingly chained up in back. I say "seemingly"--kleptomaniac little sister, who I feel SURE was tutored by certain bleached-blond baby-sitter although they claim otherwise, had shown me a week ago how to fiddle with locks. Sad statement about applicability of criminal skills to my everyday life.

It was easy to find demon lair in the end; we just followed line of downed trees and power lines to an unpopulated area near the old Initiative caves. Stupid Git waxed nostalgic about the good times we'd had there, while Sam and I gritted teeth. Really, former psychology major should not be so insensitive, nor should I be surprised at said insensitivity. Have slept with him, after all.

When we arrived, as planned I got out first. Scoobies were waiting in the one small section of trees left standing, and they pointed out the cave from which a black mist was rising. "Talk about Eau de Demon Funk," Xander said to me. "Now, remind me. When am I supposed to do the what?"

Oh for God's sake. "I told you, when--"

"Hi, Xander! Girls!" Riley said, looming behind me. Oh no no no no. He wasn't supposed to interrupt before I could remind Xander of plan. But here Stupid Git was, shaking Xander's hand and completely screwing up the proper order of things.

Sam had gotten Spike and Clem out of the van, and I noted that at least SOME individuals knew enough to follow the plot and pretend to be chained up when they were supposed to be. Tara and Willow squeaked when they saw them--why? couldn't have been surprise, had been clearly laid out in plan--but Riley was asking Xander about T-joints or some such imaginary item and didn't notice.

Spike tilted his head at me in inquiry, and I rolled my eyes and shrugged. Apparently my foolproof strategy, which would have involved misdirection, substitution, and a bit of lying (not from Spike, bad liar), had been bombed from within. Let him see what he could come up with, since I'd gotten us this far. He grinned, the familiar Vile well-alright-then!-chaos-on-the-way expression which once would have chilled my bones but now was strangely endearing.

He said politely to Sam, "Shall I begin?"

She got S.G.R.'s attention, and he carefully arranged the Scoobies behind him. Then she shoved Spike roughly in the back and said, "Go on."

He staggered a bit at the blow. When he righted himself (deftly managing to keep chains around wrists. Is good with chains), he planted his feet wide and bellowed, "Oi! Oi, dragon!"

A rumbling issued from the cave. Dragony thing had heard him, as probably had Giles in England. Possibly could have picked up bellow from space.

Riley yelled, "What kind of Georgius language is that, Spike?"

Smirk. "Close enough for government work." Sam lunged at him and he evaded at the last minute, sending her tumbling to the ground. Riley started toward them, but as I pulled on his jacket Spike shouted his usual battle-cry, "Heads up!"

And indeed it was heads--two heads, two Georgius demons, crawling out of the cavern.

Time to set aside personal differences and focus on scaly things at hand. As they crawled out, I breathed in and coughed. Apparently had just met the baby one on the previous night. The bigger one was easily twenty feet of smelly, cranky badness.

Of course my insane boyfriend equivalent shouted, "We call the big one!" He threw off his chains, sprinted back to the van, and pulled out two swords. "Here, love!"

I caught mine as he sent it my direction, then smacked the flat of it on Riley's stone-stunned butt. "Go on, stupid git, you and Sam take the little one." Perhaps shouldn't have said the "stupid git" part out loud, not ladylike, but was under stress at time.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see Tara and Willow holding hands; hoped vaguely it was return of true love rather than magic pre- show, but couldn't take time to inquire. Instead I took off after Spike, who'd almost reached the bigger demon. "You want eyes or tail, pet?"

Neither was particularly attractive, but..."Eyes!" And from there our work was laughably simple. Couple of front flips, a bit of jab jab jab with swords, couple of punches in vulnerable portions of dragony anatomy, slash cut slash, and voila! one ex-Georgius demon. Messy but routine.

When we turned, however, we were in time to see the smaller demon's tail whip forward and knock Riley out and off his feet. On the backswing the tail caught Sam's taser, leaving her weaponless. Really, it made me doubt these two had ever known the joy of full battlefield communication.

Xander and Clem tried to get to Riley to pull him out of hungry demon's path, but it cleverly felled a tree which they had to scramble to avoid. Shot a glare at Spike, which he tried and failed to ignore. With a "Oh, bloody HELL, Buffy!" he jumped over, slashed one of the demon's arms, then dragged Riley out of reach of tail or teeth.

I rushed over to Sam. Tara had dropped Willow's hand, firmly told her "No cheating, honey!", and magicked Mrs. Finn's weapon back to her. "Get the eyes," I said, then climbed up on its back. When Sam zapped the creature on the bridge of its nose--well within target range--I was able to hack off its head. Now really was that so difficult?

Time to take stock. Stupid Git was moaning but awake, and Sam ran to his side to offer wifely support. Willow and Tara were hugging. Xander told Clem to forget about the five dollars he owed him from my hell-birthday party's poker game, now that they were fightin' buddies.

And Vile Spike smiled at me lovingly. "Thank you, pet, for the rescue and the violence," he said, doing that sexy hip thing he substitutes for normal walking. He raised a hand, one of those skilled, elegant hands (only barely smeared with Georgius goo), to my face to caress it--

I knocked it away. "No, not now! Someone could see." He knew what I meant, I'd explained it often enough. His eyes changed color, expression. Not the irritation or fury I usually got, but...bitter disappointment. In me.

Couldn't think about that then, still had work to do. Walked over to Riley and Sam, and waited 'til they looked up from Smug-Married cuddlefest. "Now that you've actually seen Spike and Clem fight on the side of right, may I assume that they're free to go and free from any government-sponsored harassment?"

Riley looked away, as if I had disappointed HIM too, but after a bit he said "Okay. Fine. We'll take their names off the list." He didn't even bother to thank Spike for saving him. Sam just mumbled a "nice to meet you," we said we'd exchange Christmas cards, and the two got into their van and drove off. And good riddance to them. Didn't feel so much as a hint of a shadow of a pang.

Collected Scoobies and auxiliary and got into Xander's vehicle. Cleverly arranged it so I could ride in shadowy back with Spike (Clem sitting up with Xander and chattering away on cell phone to Sophie; in the middle seat Tara praising Willow for strength of mind and Willow praising Tara for strength of spell). Took Spike's hand and looked at him. If he wanted to thank me properly for saving him, he could sneak a kiss or two or more in the dark. Instead he gazed at our intertwined hands. Softly, seriously, as if resuming our conversation of last night which had been so rudely interrupted: "You've got me. Now what are you going to do with me, Buffy? What do you want?"

What did I want? What did I want? I wanted to be That Buffy of several years ago, who got to play as well as work, to read poetry and care about clothes, to have worlds of possibility before her, to have love and give it back. I wanted..."I want to be normal. Ordinary."

"See, there's the problem, love. You're not normal. You're extraordinary."

Cannot fully express how I loathe way he puts things, so crystalline you'd think they could be seen through but really faceted and shining, blinding. "Extraordinary?"

"Yes. And 'til you realize it, how amazing you are, I can't play our game any more. No more secret cuddles, no more shag-fests in alleys or shadows. And you've got to realize the second most important thing."

Couldn't breathe v. well, what with tears choking and similar, but managed to say, "What's that, Spike?"

He leaned forward and put his mouth against my ear, with his index finger gently gently rubbing over my lips. "'I scarce believe my love to be so pure As I had thought it was, Because it doth endure Vicissitude, and season, as the grass; Methinks I lied all winter, when I swore, My love was infinite, if spring make it more.'" His lips briefly replaced his finger. Then he looked out the back window and banged on the door, saying, "Hey, whelp! Let me out here!"

The van slowed to a stop. Spike's gaze brushed my lips, then he gave me one of those Vile smiles. He whispered, "What you've got to understand, love, is that I'm extraordinary too."

Rest of drive was painful blur. So v. confused. When Xander pulled up to Summers home, every light was on. Vaguely thought how Dawn would have to hear Power Costs Money lecture again when felt less shaky. But Dawn was out on the front porch, jumping and squealing. I could hear her through the steel.

"Buffy, Buffy, Buffy, I was putting away your coat, from last night? And something fell out of your pocket, and Anya was watching the lottery, and, Buffy! Buffy! You won! We won!"

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