This story is set in Season 6, just before Hell’s Bells.
If you’re looking for Spike love, you’ve come to the right place.
Thanks to Kaye for being such a wonderful beta reader, and to Fraidy, for holding my hand throughout.
"Yoo hoo," said Buffy.
The vampire, who had lost track of Buffy when she vaulted over his head moments before, quickly turned at the sound of her friendly catcall behind him. She staked him, his last earthly expression one of chagrin as he fell into dust.
That left just one more. The one with the book. Her book. She spun around, her anger making the move a thing of terrible beauty. He was gone! She couldn't believe it. He must have slunk away only a minute before, when he realized just who Buffy was. That had become apparent as his pals had fallen, one by one.
Buffy sprinted out of the alley at full throttle and skidded into the street which, it being around 12:30 on that hot and humid Friday night, was abuzz with activity.
Now where did he go? He had to be close; the alley only had one way out. She scanned the street as she ran. If anyone noticed her, they might have assumed she was the one being chased, looking for help. The idea would have made Buffy laugh, if she'd thought of it. As it was, she was on the hunt, and there were no other thoughts. Well, maybe a couple of other thoughts. That these sandals were murdering her feet, for instance.
By the time Buffy reached the traffic lights, her Slayer sense had quieted to nothing. She must have passed him. She doubled back, slowing to a walk. He was still around here somewhere, she knew - the familiar warning was once again creeping up her spine to nestle in the nerve endings of her scalp.
She searched the faces around her. There were couples strolling hand in hand, a busker with a beat up guitar, hoping "Stairway to Heaven" would earn him some drinking money, a group of rowdy young punks waiting in line to get into a nightclub. She stopped. The nightclub. Was that a hunch she just felt? And since she didn't have any other ideas...
She approached the bouncer, a big bald dude with a compensational goatee. "Did a guy with brown hair push past you in the last few minutes?" she asked him.
"Forget him, baby - it's me you should be looking for," said one of the would-be studs in the lineup. Appreciative laughter rippled behind him. Buffy ignored him, although the comment did feel good. In a totally sexist kind of way, of course.
"Yeah, as a matter of fact, some asshole just elbowed his way in," said the bouncer. "I'm all alone out here, so I couldn't go after him."
"Would it be okay if I went in and looked for him?" Buffy gave him her best smile.
"Sure, honey. Just come back out here to me if you decide you want to try something new."
"I'll do that. Thanks." She moved past him, feeling their eyes on her white cotton skirt. Of course, she could have pushed past the bouncer, too, but the clumsy flirting had made her feel - what? Normal, she supposed, and after Spike, that was saying something.
After Spike. Everything was measured now by his absence. Life, A.S.
And how was Buffy, A.S. doing? Depended on which part you were asking. Her conscience, A.S.? Clear as lip gloss. Her heart, A.S.? Still very much tender to the touch. Her body, A.S.? Reeling. She feared some Buffy parts would never forgive her.
The club was jumpin' jumpin'. The DJ was bringing it home for the people on the dance floor, who happily shimmied through the smoke and flashing lights. Buffy looked the crowd over as she tried to recollect what the vamp had looked like. Dark brown curly hair, average height, bumpy face. Not much to go on, admittedly. What had he been wearing? She couldn't remember. Something dark, she knew - big surprise. Would he chance dumping the book? She hoped not, or she'd be here all night.
Buffy kept going, into the heart of the nightclub. Maybe she should check out the bathrooms. She studied the people sitting at the bar as she walked. The women sat on display like flowers in a row, as the men sized them up and decided which blossom they wanted to sniff.
What's this? thought Buffy suddenly. A betty with a shock of pink in her otherwise blond hair was deep in conversation with the guy on the stool next to hers. Their heads almost touched as they talked, a bottle of ouzo next to them on the bar. He had hottie written all over him, with his Aragorn eyes and pouty mouth. His chestnut hair curled into perfect waves, thanks, Buffy was sure, to a generous helping of spray gel. What was it about vampires and hair care products?
She almost pulled out her stake, but decided it would be prudent to ask questions first, stake later, just in case. "I believe you have something of mine," she said to him as he picked up the bottle of ouzo and drank from it.
"Are you talking to me?" he asked, innocent as a bucket of bunnies.
"Yes, I am. I want that book."
"I don't get what you mean," he said, offended.
"Would you get it if I showed you my stake?" she asked him. The $ 64,000 question.
His lovely brown eyes casually moved across the rest of the nightclub, noting the exits. The girl he had been talking to looked from Buffy to the vampire and back again, trying in vain to get a handle on this conversation's subject matter. She asked him, "Who's this, like, your girlfriend?"
"No, she's, like, my mortal enemy," he said with a laugh. The laugh of the overly optimistic, Buffy thought. He turned to her. "How did you know it was me? Could you just sense it because you're the Slayer?"
"Actually, it's because you're sitting on the book," she nodded in the direction of his bum, a good two inches off the stool.
He smiled ruefully. "Not quite enough time to hide it somewhere safe."
"Well, you have bigger things to worry about now," Buffy assured him, pulling the stake from the waistband of her skirt.
"I guess. It's too bad it worked out this way, because it's not like I went looking for trouble. I was just walking along, minding my own business, and there was the book for the taking. You should've just listed it on Ebay."
Buffy flipped him a hand to talk to. "It's been really good chatting with you, but I'm getting a little bored. Let's wrap this up."
"Fine with me," he said, and stood as he smashed the bottle down on the edge of the bar. The neck shattered, leaving the rest of the bottle, slopping ouzo, in his hand. He pulled back, making sure not to get any of the spray on himself. The girl beside him stood up too, disgusted more than frightened.
Buffy rolled her eyes. "That's very bar fighty of you. Should I push over a table now?"
He vamped out in response, his hand abruptly snaking to the right. In a split second, he had grabbed the girl by her pink-streaked hair and yanked her next to him. He curled his other arm around her throat, the jagged edge of the bottle digging into her neck. The girl shrieked and started to cry. He had not looked away from Buffy once.
"Don't even think about it," Buffy said to him. She gave the girl what she hoped was a reassuring look, a no need to worry - I'm the Slayer look. Buffy took a step forward, but he jerked the bottle and a freshet of blood spattered from the girl's neck. Buffy stopped.
"Ooh, she's quite the bleeder," he said, and took a lick.
"Let her go," said Buffy. How did this get so out of hand so fast?
He ignored her. "I'm not sure what's in your book, but I'm guessing it's got to be pretty juicy for you to chase us halfway across town like that. Man, I've only been in Sunnydale a couple hours, and I've already stolen a book of magic - from the Slayer! Very cool. Not too smart of you, though."
"That was not my fault!" She was wringing Mr. Pointy's neck.
"Oh, then was it the friends you were with? I notice they didn't stick around to give you a hand catching me." He had an accent, shades of Good Will Hunting. A Boston vampire? He was a long way from home.
"Not that it's any of your business, but I made them leave, because I was a little freaked out about you stealing the book. And that's pretty funny coming from a guy who left his friends to be staked."
"Those weren't friends," he said. "I'd just met them tonight - we were only supposed to go drinking. Joke's on them, huh?"
"Let her go," Buffy said again.
"If you say so," he said. He poured the rest of the bottle of ouzo over the front of the girl's cashmere sweater. "It's a shame to waste the booze, but what can you do?" The girl whimpered into his forearm. He pulled a lighter from his pants pocket.
Buffy's heart crawled into her throat. She held her hands up in surrender. "It's okay, it's okay! We can talk about this!"
"Yeah, not so much," he said, and lit the girl on fire. Buffy had seen and heard a lot of things as a Slayer, but she'd never heard anything like that girl's screams.
The vampire pushed the burning girl into Buffy's arms, then reached down and scooped up the book from the stool. He gave Buffy a salute and disappeared as panic followed the smell of charred flesh through the crowd.
Continued in Chapter 2