All About Spike - Print Version
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By Mint Witch

RATING: NC-17, for smut
SPOILERS: Through S6
DISCLAIMER: Do I look like a paunchy guy with male pattern baldness? No. Okay. Let’s all move on.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a wishful thinking S7. As in I WISH! And big thanks to Canada for the world’s fastest Beta.
DISTRIBUTION: I’m not only easy, I’m free. Just ask.
FEEDBACK: Give it to me baby, uh huh uh huh!

1. Coincidence

Dawn found the first one.

Dropping the links onto the kitchen table with an idle comment, “looks like one of the local dogs has made a break for it,” she began her daily quest for after-school snackage.

“Huh?” Buffy looked up from the cutting board absently, her gaze slowly focusing on the pile of chrome. “What’s that?”

“A choke chain, I think.” The younger woman spoke into the refrigerator, “I mean, that’s what it looks like.”

Tinglies crawled up and down Buffy’s spine, Spidey-sense on full alert for no apparent reason. She probed the feeling like a sore tooth, moving into Inquisition Mode: “Where did you find it?”

“Back porch. What’s for dinner?” Dawn eyed the confetti of former vegetables sacrificed to Slayer cooking. “Soup?”

“Ummm…” Buffy looked guiltily at the carnage. “How ‘bout pizza? Could you call?”

“Sure, Buffy! What do you want?” Dawn found herself speaking to her sister’s departing back, chain dangling from Buffy’s fingers, and shrugged, “Super Everything Combo it is, then.”

The rear porch was empty. How long had this been out here? Where exactly had Dawn found it? It was daylight, and Dawn only came in the back door when she stopped at Janice’s first, so it could have been days. She scoped the porch for anything else unusual and came up empty: no fish-mobiles, scary pictures, dead flowers, nothing. Nada. Maybe it was just a dog. But… where were the tags?


Buffy sat on her bed playing with the cool length of chain as she pondered the little mystery. Was she making too much out of this? Nevertheless, she carried it with her as she made one last check of the house, making sure all the doors and windows were locked and little sisters safe in their beds.

Satisfied that the hatches were battened, Buffy retreated to her room. Time for little Slayers to tuck themselves in, as well. After she stripped and crawled into her own bed, she realized she was still clutching the choke chain. The links were warming to skin temperature, and Buffy rolled on her back to hold the collar up to the light filtering in from the street. When she slid the larger ring over her thumb, the rest slid down, pooling onto her chest with a muffled thump.

Smirking at herself, Buffy waved her hand idly, the links gleaming in the faint illumination. The slight motion caused the end on her chest to drag itself across a nipple. With a quick gasp, she repeated the gesture, teasing her eager flesh. The links cooled and coiled, twining themselves around and between her breasts, across her chest, the bumps playing pleasurably against her skin.

Bringing her other hand up, Buffy caught the smaller end-ring on an index finger. She stretched the chain taught and sawed it back and forth across taut nipples, eyes tightly closed, until her breath came in pants and her hips rocked in time.

Buffy whimpered and draped the chain down the length of her torso, hands following to run over her abdomen and along the outside of her thighs. Her legs were pressed tightly together. With a tiny screech, she forcibly pushed them apart, baring her sex to the night.

She held herself open for long minutes as her arousal grew and pressed outward, demanding satisfaction. Her inner walls throbbed and rippled, a deep, persistent ache that wouldn't go away. A trickle of her own fluids rolled downwards, tickling her ass. Buffy fought her own desire, heightening the tension, torturing herself, until she broke, grabbing the collar to roll it across her clit.

The sensation shredded the last of her control. She plunged three fingers into herself, reveling in the heat and moisture. She fucked herself as hard and deep as a limber body could manage. Her hips thrust upwards, whimpers and moans forcing past clenched teeth. Twisting the fingers locked in her cunt, she flailed for the taper decorating her night table. The sweet smell of beeswax tickled her senses, wrenching her mind into candlelight. With a deep moan, Buffy lubed the candle in her own slick juices, before pressing it gently, carefully, into the tight rose of her ass.

Her hand returned to her clit, flicking and pulling in time with the fingers working deep within. It still wasn’t quite enough. She needed more, something, one more finger. In desperation Buffy wrapped the chain around the hand pinching her erect nub and pressed against her mons, rocking and rolling her sex against the cool chrome. The links caught her clit with a sudden hard pinch as her hips thrust upwards, rocketing her to orgasm with a muffled shriek: “Spike!”

Panting, Buffy smiled to herself. There was no longer any doubt in her mind about where the collar had come from: Lassie wants to come home. With a sated chuckle, the Slayer drifted into sleep. She dreamt of vampires and the bizarre courtship rituals of the undead, a length of chain clenched between her thighs.


Spike ground out his cigarette as the pants and muted wails from Buffy’s room faded to soft, girlie sleep noises.

One question answered. Pulling his next gift from the pocket of his jacket, he stroked it through his fingers for a moment, before heading around the back.

RATING: NC-13, this part only, for adult themes
SPOILERS: Through S6
DISCLAIMER: Do I look like a paunchy guy with male pattern baldness? No. Okay. Let’s all move on.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a wishful thinking S7. As in I WISH! And big thanks to Canada for the world’s fastest Beta. And giant double Martini thanks to the Gutter for the loads of support and encouragement. I love the Gutter.
DISTRIBUTION: I’m not only easy, I’m free. Just ask.
FEEDBACK: Give it to me baby, uh huh uh huh!

2. Happenstance

Buffy woke up at sunrise and rushed downstairs in her pajamas. Flinging open the back door, she got a painful sting on the thigh for her trouble. The culprit was a leather traffic lead hanging from the outside knob by the wrist loop. The chrome spring latch had swung out and smacked her when she yanked open the door.

Rubbing the sore spot, Buffy unhooked the leash and brought it inside. The Slayer mused on how extremely kinky this was becoming while she started coffee and got breakfast ready. One never knew what Spike necessarily intended, but what she had done probably wasn’t it. Or maybe it was.

She scooped up the leather and went upstairs to wake Dawn, tossing the leash into her room on the way.

“Dawnie! Hey, time to get up, breakfast is almost ready.” Buffy tapped lightly on her sister’s door.

“I’m up, mmmmmph.” Dawn’s voice was definitely sounding less up and more ‘leave me alone, I’m sleeping.’ Buffy waited for a moment, listening for getting up sounds, and tapped again.

“I’m up, I’m up, okaaaaaay?”

“No, you’re not up, you’re trying to make me go away, which is so not gonna happen.” A muffled groan reached her through the door, followed a few seconds later by Dawn wrenching open said door and stomping into the bathroom.

Buffy smiled to herself. She was getting the hang of this Mom-thing. Cheerfully, she headed back downstairs to finish breakfast.


“What is this?” Dawn was staring at her breakfast in disgust.

“A protein shake and banana-bran muffins.” Buffy was obviously pleased with herself: a real, honest to goodness breakfast, complete with baked goods.

“Ummm, Buffy? What happened to Pop-Tarts? I like having Pop-Tarts for breakfast.” Dawn turned wounded teenager eyes towards her older sister. “Tell me we have Pop-Tarts?”

Buffy shook her head. “Sorry, you ate the last of them yesterday. Besides, they’re not good for you, they’ll rot your teeth. And they’re expensive.”

Dawn sighed. There was no fighting the money. Hockey pucks and yellow sludge would be her fate.


Once Dawn was safely off to school, Buffy went upstairs again, but instead of just grabbing her robe and going into the bathroom for her shower, she found herself staring at the collar and leash pooled on her sheets.

The collar could just be a Spike-thing, the sort of item he would leave as a gift or a threat. But the lead... that was definitely a Buffy -and- Spike thing. Years of Scooby sarcasm, her own snarky comments, and Spike’s bitterness about the chip could be read in that piece of hide and metal. And the sex. She couldn’t ignore the things they said, that they did.

Buffy reached for the leash, running the supple leather through her fingers. It was short, less than three feet long. A short leash. Spike had given her a choke collar and a short leash. Buffy laughed out loud.

She sang in the shower that morning.


As she dressed, her eyes kept returning to the traffic lead. Unconsciously, she chose a gold silk blouse and rust colored slacks. Taking a last spin in front of the mirror, Buffy caught sight of the leash in the mirror. Almost against her will, she paced back to the bed and picked it up. The leather was remarkably supple, a rich, deep brown with an oiled gleam. It seemed to caress her hands, touching her back. The color was a surprise; she would have expected black or even something garish and red. That would have been more obviously sexual. This was a well constructed tool, something useful and beautifully utilitarian.

Buffy turned back to the mirror and wrapped the glossy length of the lead around her hips. She fastened the spring clasp through the wrist loop; the leash draped languidly over her hips, looking for all the world like a trim, chic belt. Buffy spun before the mirror again, a tingle prickling through her groin. There was a hidden naughtiness to this. The idea of wearing it all day, at work, on errands, colored her cheeks a deep pink and brought a sparkle to her eyes.

Buffy stared at herself for a long moment. She should be angry, repulsed, or disgusted. Instead she just felt charmed. It had been a long summer, a summer of playing Mommy to a teenager, working a Mommy job, and Slaying. She hadn’t felt like a woman, well, ever. Spike, intentionally or not, was giving her a taste of that richness. Her hand stroked lightly up her side, outlining the still young breast of the woman in the mirror.

Buffy jerked away from her image and grabbed her jacket. Today would be another long day, but for some reason she wasn’t minding so much anymore.

Her hips switched wickedly as she trotted down the stairs and out of the house.

RATING: NC-17, for very light smut, and some slight kinkiness. I didn’t want to scare the kiddies.
SPOILERS: Through S6
DISCLAIMER: Do I look like a paunchy guy with male pattern baldness? No. Okay. Let’s all move on.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a wishful thinking S7. As in I WISH! And big thanks to Canada for the world’s fastest and best Beta, and to the Gutter for being so all around fabulous. Oh, and 20 points to the folks who can identify the title quote!
DISTRIBUTION: I’m not only easy, I’m free. Just ask. And
FEEDBACK: Give it to me baby, uh huh uh huh!

3. Enemy Action (fyi The Longest Act)

He’s sitting on the back porch when she and Dawn get home from early patrol. Their eyes lock for an instant before he looks down, clasping his hands together between his knees.

Dawn shivers beside her, the force of the younger woman’s fury strong enough to blow her apart. Dawn’s pain and rage cut through the sudden silence like a scalpel, a gasp that slices the skin and draws unexpected blood, “_Spike._” Her young body prepares to launch itself at him, to kick and punch and punish the once beloved for his betrayal. Her fire still burns close to the surface.

Buffy lays her hand on Dawn’s shoulder. “Dawn. No.” Her grip is not as relaxed as it looks, and she’s not as calm as she sounds; tonight, at least, her body won’t betray her.

“Buffy?” Dawn’s eyes are huge and conflicted. The words ‘friend’ and ‘enemy’ have lost meaning over the last year. All that remains is ‘those who hurt us and those who don’t.’ And even that definition ebbs and flows, the line in the sand evaporating and re-forming in a new place with each day. Where does Spike fall now?

“Dawn, go inside, please.” Now Buffy is the betrayer, and Dawn rebels.

“No Buffy, no protecting me, you promised...” She did, she promised not to do this anymore. They are sisters: they protect each other now, take care of each other, because no one else can be counted on.

The elder Summers looks straight into Dawn’s eyes. “Not this time, Dawnie. This is personal. Okay?” Dawn searches Buffy’s face for the truth and nods. They’ve learned to communicate this way over the summer, capturing an entire conversation in a look, a touch, and a few words. Dawn capitulates, for the time being. She has scores of her own to settle, but Buffy just called dibs, and they are fair with each other now. Dawn will get her turn, and then Buffy will be the one to go inside.

Dawn walks up the path, her stride firm and steady. At the stairs she veers as far away from Spike as possible, edging around him to the door, avoiding his gaze. When she is almost inside, he speaks to her. “I’m sorry, ‘Bit.”

She doesn’t turn around, but she stops for a second, hesitating with the need to lash out. She chooses her weapon carefully, for maximum impact. Buffy didn’t need to teach her this, both the girls learned this part on their own, the hard way. Still looking into the kitchen, she strikes: “You don’t get to call me that anymore.” The door closes on Spike’s hiss of pain.

“Well, I deserved that, I guess.”

“You guess?” Buffy’s voice floats ironically on the night breeze. She’s still standing on the end of the path, looking at her former lover. What is he now?

“No.” He’s looking at his hands again, fidgeting with something small and shiny. His face works like he’s either trying to say something or about to throw up. “Buffy, I... I just...” He runs his hands through his hair and surges to his feet, flinging his arms wide.

“Bloody Hell, Buffy, just stake me already! I’m sorry, damn you! I’m so _fucking_ sorry, I can’t stand it!” He tilts his face to the sky, ready to martyr himself in the most melodramatic way possible, sacrifice himself on her splintery altar.

She can’t help it, it just happens. It has something to do with his own maniacal demand, the impossibility of him ever doing anything like a normal person or vampire. He’s always like this. He couldn’t just stalk her, leave presents on the doorstep, lurk in the bushes, and grovel at appropriate intervals, not him. And she knows, she just _knows_ that was his plan. But he got impatient. And now he’s begging her to put him out of his misery. Again.

Buffy laughs. Buffy laughs and laughs, laughter bubbling up from the place where she once kept a healthy sense of the absurd. She laughs and heals and laughs some more, her stomach cramping and tears running down her face. Oh, god, it feels so good.

Spike looks more and more offended. “Hello! Begging for death here? Slayer, don’t you have a sacred calling or something?”

She wipes at her face, and smiles at him, the kind of smile he saw at the wedding. It’s that smile he wanted to die for, to live for, to go on ridiculous quests for. But first he needs to convince her to stake him, before he makes an utter poof of himself.

“Why should I stake you, Spike? Don’t tell me, wait, let me guess: you got the chip out and now you’re going to murder us all in our beds?” Buffy quirks an eyebrow at her once and former mortal enemy, and crosses her arms.

“Well, yeah, now that you mention it... how’d you know? Wait... Clem told you didn’t he?! Can't even trust a fellow demon with a secret no more, can you? And now you won’t stake me just ‘cause of the bloody soul.” Slumping back onto the steps in defeat, Spike mutters obscenities to himself, completely oblivious to the danger stalking up the path.

“You what?!” He looks up just in time to catch her right jab in the nose. Buffy lifts him up by his jacket, ignoring the blood running over Spike’s lip. “What did you do, Spike?” She pins him against the siding with one hand and produces a stake in the other, poised and ready to dust him.

“I got a bleedin’ soul for you. Happy fucking Birthday, Buffy. Sorry it’s a bit late.” His blues eyes look everywhere but at her, as she slowly lowers the stake.

“How did you get a soul, Spike?” The Slayer’s voice is soft and dangerous.

“Found it in a box of Cracker Jacks, if you must know. No worries though, it’s a newer model than Angelus’...” Spike’s voice trails away as Buffy’s forehead hits his chest. “Slayer? Slayer, you okay?”

“No, I’m not okay.” His shirt muffles her reply. “You were supposed to stay gone. I understand gone. Gone is pretty much the standard in Buffy-ville. Now you’re back. What am I supposed to do with back?” Her head rears up and cracks him on the chin. She grabs his lapels again and glares intently, “You’re married aren’t you? That’s why you’re back?”

“Christ, you’ve got issues, Slayer! No, I’m not married. I’m back...” his voice goes fast and snide, “...I’m back because I’m completely whipped, and want to spend the rest of my immortal life begging forgiveness and being a complete punter, loving you from afar. Or a-near. Or whatever you bloody well want, woman.”

“Promise?” Her voice is hopeful.

“What?” His is confused.

“Promise you’re not married, and you really are whipped?” Definitely hopeful.

“I promise.” Tentatively, Spike slides his arms around Buffy’s back, stroking slowly along her sides to twine his fingers together in the dip of her spine. She presses more firmly against his chest, burrowing her cheek against cotton and muscle. “I got another present for you, you know.”

“I know. You’re still not forgiven, you know that?”

“Neither are you, luv.”


They stand there for a long moment. “So what now, p-- er, Slayer?” He always has to push, make noise against the silence. Buffy ignores him, inhaling the strange new smells imbedded in his clothes. He smells of grass and night air, and patchouli of all things. And something else underneath, an odor that is sweet, heavy and drugged. She shakes off her reverie, stepping away from him, and he lets her go. Hurdles number one and two cleared.

“Now we go inside and you spill your guts. How’s that sound?” She doesn’t wait for an answer, just goes into the house assuming he will follow. Of course he’ll follow, he’s her bloody slave, isn’t he?


“So that’s everything? What Spike did on his summer vacation?” Buffy’s been shoveling leftover Mac’n’Cheese, muffins, and now apples into her mouth for over an hour, just letting Spike talk. He had a lot to talk about, apparently. Some of it was interesting, but mostly she was just listening to the rhythm of his words. His voice coiled through the room, marking it with his presence like a kitten rubbing against the cabinets.

Dawn had gradually eased herself into the room, holding herself aloof, but paying attention to everything. She had made a point of not saying anything, even when Buffy asked her to nuke Spike some blood; task accomplished, she had handed the mug to Buffy and Buffy had passed it to Spike. His quiet thanks had been regally ignored.

“Yup, that’s pretty much it.” His face closes for a second, as if there were something he wasn’t saying. Buffy doesn’t press him; they aren’t there yet. Instead, she changes the subject.

“Okay, Dawnie, time for bed. You still have school tomorrow.” Uncharacteristically, Dawn just nods and leaves the room. A few seconds later they both hear her bedroom door close and lock.

Buffy sighs. “That, you are going to have to deal with on your own.”

Spike nods. “I know. Can’t imagine how pissed she must’ve been when you told her.”

Buffy looks embarrassed and confesses the worst. “That’s kinda the problem: Xander told her first.”

“Bloody hell.”

“Um. Yeah. I tried to... I don’t know. Everything was just so crazy. And she’s growing up so fast, and...” Buffy sighs again, then straightens. “But anyway, part of that is my problem, and I’ll deal with it. You and Dawn will have to work out the rest on your own.” So there, she says to herself silently.

The vampire just nods again and stares thoughtfully into his blood. He doesn’t even look up when Buffy slides off her stool and slips upstairs. Pausing in the door of her own room, she debates for a second, then moves quietly to tap on her sister’s door. “Dawnie? I just wanted to say goodnight.”

The lock clicks and the door swings open a crack, one large eye peeking through, quickly followed by the rest of the girl’s head. “Goodnight Buffy,” she whispers, darting a quick peck at Buffy’s cheek. “Don’t stay up too late with the evil dead. And *no* nasty vamp sex!”


“Ha! I mean it, Buffy. Think of this as opportunity to practice acting like a regular person.” Dawn shuts the door in her sister’s face, smirking.

Buffy stares at the wood grain for a moment before going into her own room. Easily finding what she was after, she stops for a second on the top stair to consider whether she is really ready for this. There are no easy answers, are there Mom? Suddenly she's missing her mother and her own childhood with a sweet pain.


Spike was rinsing out his mug when she returned to the kitchen. He looked up at her as she slid back onto her stool. “Well, I’ll be headin’ back to the crypt, it’s getting late.”

“I thought you said you had another present for me?” Buffy unhooks the leash from around her waist and drops it and the choke collar she retrieved from her room on the kitchen island. Spike swallows audibly, his Adam’s Apple rising and falling.

“Um, yeah, but it’s...”

“Theme oriented? C’mon Spikey, gimme my prezzie.” Buffy puts out her hands, and Spike’s lips twitch.

“Close your eyes.” Buffy obediently squinches her eyes shut, and something small, warm, and metal dropped into her palms. “Okay, you can open them now.”

Buffy laughs and bounces a little on her stool, not noticing the bemused stare Spike is aiming at her. “I knew it! I’m number one! Whoo-hoo! Numba one, numba one!” Beckoning the vampire over to her, Buffy positions him carefully in front of her and reaches for the collar. She untangles the smooth links and drapes the length of it around his neck. Buffy uses her strength to force the smaller end ring open and clasps it closed around the length of chain. Admiring her work, she tugs gently on the larger ring, to test that it tightens smoothly but won’t come off. Satisfied, she threads the coiled ring of her new present onto the larger ring of the collar. The dog tags hang flat and shiny against his pale chest. Buffy leans close to read the inscription: “Spike” Property of Buffy Summers 1630 Revello Drive Sunnydale California

Looking up into Spike’s face, she laughs, and tugs on it again. The look on his face is agonized and a low rumbling moan makes his whole body vibrate. But his hands remain at his sides, in defiance of the bulge in his jeans. Taking a tiny bit of pity on him, she threads her arms around his neck and places a soft, gentle kiss on his lips. “Thank you, Spike. I really like my prezzies.”

“Buffy...” Spike’s voice isn’t even audible, just a strangled breath beyond the edge of hearing.

“What?” Her breath puffs softly against his cheek.

“I should go.” He sounds as if he were being tortured, which is merely accurate.

“No.” Buffy leans back, and pouts at him seriously. “I need to know if I can trust you, soul or no soul.” She leans close and whispers in his ear, “I want to. Can I?”

Spike cants his own head to the ceiling and closes his eyes. “I don’t know, Buffy. How would I know?” Tilting his head down, he looks at her, searching for the answer.

“You try. You try and try and try, and you never stop trying.”

“How Buffy? Tell me how.” The pain in his whisper is wretched, and she breaks a little. Her newfound joy is fragile, her pleasure tentative. He could destroy this tender peace if he wanted to. But he doesn’t. “Teach me to be good for you. I thought the soul would do it, but…”

She answers for him, “People with souls kill and maim, rape, and hurt each other all the time. I know. God, how I know.” Buffy places her lips against his cheekbone and withdraws. “Hang out with me tonight, Spike. We’ll watch a movie, make out on the sofa, and get all hot and bothered. You’ll stop when I say ‘no’ and I won’t hit you tomorrow.” She looks at him earnestly. “Be my boyfriend, Spike, and I’ll be your girl.”

“Yes, Slayer. I want to be your boyfriend.” He grins at her and they kiss breathlessly.


“Oh god, Spike, stop…” He snatches his hand back so fast it should break the sound barrier, and Buffy giggles. The movie has rewound itself once already, and they are still groping and mashing together. The long, cool length of him presses her into the sofa, their mutual desire grinding through jeans, slacks, and panties. She’s so wet it requires all of her self-control not to shred his clothes and scream for him to fuck her. But Dawn set the boundaries for the evening, and she’s right: they need this first.

Spike peppers soft kisses the length of her neck, hand resolutely returned to her waist. In this, at least, he has been better than she has. Buffy can’t keep her hands off of her vampire; his shirt is on the floor and her fingers play an endless fugue along his ribs, tinkling arpeggios the length of his spine. Then again, Spike never says ‘no’ or ‘stop’. Spike is wallowing in every caress, body humming with pleasured frustration.

“Hold on,” she whispers to him, and struggles to sit up. Reaching behind her, she unclasps her bra and works one arm out of the strap, beneath her blouse. The other strap pulls easily through the opposite sleeve, the flimsy lingerie flicking onto the floor with his shirt. Spike looks on, enthralled and panting his desire.

With a shy smile, the Slayer grasps the offending hand and places it purposefully back on her breast, the erect nipple pressing into her lover’s palm through the gold silk. Spike moans and captures her sore mouth again, licking and biting her swollen lips in time with the plucking of his fingers on her crinkled aureole.

They arch against each other, female opposing male . Her gasps cycle into moans when he lowers his head to the front of her blouse, nipping at her through the slick fabric. She rubs her mons against the evidence of his arousal, her body aching from his kiss, his touch, the play-by-play of juvenile frottage she never experienced in her teens. The tender misery of it drives her to the edge, and she’s close, so close.

With a savage growl, Buffy reaches down Spike’s jeans, grabbing at his ass and shoving him harder against her. Spike growls in turn and returns his hands to her hips, tilting her pelvis up, still suckling and biting her breasts. So close… Her other hand crawls up his body to his neck, and a finger slips through the large ring dangling from his collar. Quick and sharp, she pulls on it. Spike rocks hard against her mound and yowls, teeth tearing through silk, hips pistoning. The sharp pain in her breast shoots through Buffy’s body, sending her over the threshold of her desire.

She’s falling now, more surely than she fell from Glory’s tower. Sparks snap behind her eyes, and Buffy shudders, riding out her first non-solo orgasm in four months. Spike is shaking and moaning against her, hands still firmly grasping her clothed hips.

“Bloody hell, woman, you just made me come in my pants.” His voice is quietly awed.

Buffy smiles. “Me too, babe, me too.”

A long pause. “God, how I love you, Slayer.”

Me too, babe, me too.


Dawn is not pleased. Not only is she late for school, but breakfast is stale hockey pucks, and she has a chemistry test today: so not of the good. She slams out of the kitchen and into the living room, eyes alighting on the couple entwined on the couch. At least they are mostly decent; Spike probably won’t even miss the ten bucks she liberated for lunch money.

At least someone’s happy.

RATING: NC-17, for very light smut, and some slight kinkiness. I didn’t want to scare the kiddies.
SPOILERS: Through S6
DISCLAIMER: Do I look like a paunchy guy with male pattern baldness? No. Okay. Let’s all move on.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is 2nd in the series that started with Coincidence, Happenstance… Enemy Action. I was calling it the “I Wish- verse”, then briefly the Goldfinger series, and right now it’s going by the name Kinky-Buffy-Smut. Anyone who can come up with something I like for this monster gets a cameo or a ficlet, depending upon what that Bitch (a.k.a. My Muse) forces me to write.
DISTRIBUTION: I’m not only easy, I’m free. Just ask. And
FEEDBACK: Give it to me baby, uh huh uh huh!

4. Kitchen Confidential

There was a crick in her neck, and for some reason Buffy couldn’t move her legs. She swam slowly towards consciousness, dreams muddling with memory, as her eyes opened and focused, first on the blond head pillowed between her breasts, and then on the mantel clock. Her lips curved into a smile, prepared to utter sleepy sweet nothings, when her subconscious suddenly threw a fastball into her forebrain and panic slammed through her bloodstream on a wave of adrenaline.

Buffy bucked violently upright, rolling the unconscious vampire onto the floor with a thud. “Crap!” The Slayer surged to her feet, hopped over Spike, and ran for the staircase.

Spike’s eyes opened, and he blinked blearily after the young woman for a second, muttering, “Thought you weren’t gonna do that this time, pet,” but Buffy was gone. Spike closed his eyes in resignation and waited for the other shoe.

Which dropped in the form of a half-naked Slayer screaming, “Coffee!” as she hurdled through the living room into the kitchen. A highly original assortment of bangs, crashes, and curses entertained him for a few moments, and then a mostly naked Slayer streaked back through the living room and up the stairs again.

Spike levered himself to his feet, pulling on his tee shirt as he rose, and started gathering up random items of abandoned Buffy-wear. He strolled barefoot into the kitchen and chucked the garments down into the basement. The sound of the shower turning on swooshed from above.: Spike stared at the ceiling and rubbed at his hair, wondering what the bloody fuck was going on.

Helping himself to a cup of coffee, Spike settled on a kitchen stool and sipped slowly. The shower shut off, and the noises that followed sounded faintly like an Apocalypse, but Spike dismissed the thought. No self- respecting demon would suck the world into Hell before noon.

Buffy jogged into the kitchen a few moments later, wet hair pulled into a ponytail and dripping onto the back of her blouse. She grabbed his coffee cup, sniffed, then downed it in one gulp. She thrust it back into his hand with an urgent, “More!”

William the Bloody Whipped slid off the stool and fetched the Slayer more coffee. She was just fastening his leash around her waist when he turned back around.

“Thanks.” Buffy smiled as she thanked him, then leaned forward and gave him a quick peck on the lips, batting her eyelashes. Call him William the Bloody Confused. But Buffy was speaking now. Rapidly.

“…but I get home around six, and Dawn works at the shop after school on Wednesdays; Anya will drop her off when they close, and Xander stays over with her while I patrol. You can hang here and have dinner with us and then patrol with me, I mean if you want to, but you don’t have to if you, you know, don’t want to--” Spike just stood there, listening to her babble as she ran around the kitchen filling a steel mug with more coffee and packing what looked like a lunch box. The Slayer has a Wonder Woman lunch box: how ‘bout that for irony.

“…my work number is on the ‘fridge, but if you leave, turn off the coffee pot and lock the door, okay? And--” a car honked outside, “Crap, that’s Xander!” Buffy pecked him on the mouth again, thrust his cup back into his hand, and was out the door, mug and lunch box and purse all somehow in tow.

Spike raised his cup to his lips and took a cautious sip. Then he looked down at his bare toes and wiggled them. He stood that way for a long, quiet moment. Then he turned, topped off his coffee, and sat back down on the stool.

It was entirely possibly that he’d had the better end of the deal when she just kicked him in the head mornings.


Xander leaned over to open the passenger door as Buffy slammed out of the house. He smiled: every morning she could be counted on to leap off the porch and run down the front path as if the hounds of Hell were on her heels. The Slayer seemed to be in a constant state of almost-but-not-quite- running-late these days, but at least she was cheerful about it. It was a vast improvement over the Buffy of last year, who was always late, and sometimes completely absent, not to mention terminally depressed.

Sliding into the car, she blithely announced, “Spike’s back,” and fastened her seatbelt with the hand not juggling coffee and female luggage.

“Oh?” Xander was damn proud of his casual tone. Casually checking the mirror for oncoming traffic, he casually reached for the turn-signal lever and prepared to casually pull away from the curb. “How do you know?”

“Cuz he’s in my kitchen.”

Snap! Xander looked down at the plastic lever now permanently separated from the steering column of his car and gave silent thanks to the Powers That Be that they had not been in traffic when Buffy dropped her little bombshell.

“Oh.” Not so casual anymore, are we Xan-man? Xander physically restrained himself from leaping out of the car and running into the house for what would certainly be a humiliating display of male over-reaction. Deep breaths. Yeah, okay.

“Uh-huh.” Buffy waved out the car window, just in case Spike was watching. Xander closed his eyes for moment and prayed for guidance.

Very, very calmly, Xander pulled onto the road, paying careful attention to everything except his passenger. He counted to one hundred. He counted down from one hundred. He attempted to count to one hundred in Spanish but only made it as far as cinco, so he repeated it one hundred times in penance.

He finally spoke when they pulled up in front of Buffy’s building. “Buff--”

“I know, Xander. But we talked about this. And… I invited him to dinner, so he might still be there tonight. Don’t-- just don’t, okay?”

Xander blinked thoughtfully at his friend, then looked away. He heard her unfasten her seatbelt and turned back to face her before she got out of the car.

“Okay, Buffy. But, I really hope you know what you’re doing.”

Buffy gazed at him seriously and nodded in understanding. “I do too, Xander. I do, too.” She opened the door and stepped out onto the sidewalk. “See you later.”

Xander tried to smile, “Same Bat time, same Bat channel.” She smiled at him with genuine fondness and gently closed the door, then strode away. He watched until she was inside, debating with himself, and sighed. Better to just go to work. The Buffster would not appreciate him taking matters into his own hands. But God damn him, if he didn’t want to.


Spike watched telly, called up Willie for a blood, liquor, and fags delivery, slept, watched more telly, and basically killed time until Buffy was due home. The Slayer’s home was woefully lacking in reading material. He was back at the kitchen island watching the clock and pretending to do a crossword puzzle when she breezed in with Harris in her wake.

The whelp nodded to him. “Dead boy.”

Spike nodded back. “Stay-Puft.”

Buffy intervened. “Be nice. Both of you.”

Xander and Spike traded glares, silently promising future mayhem once the Slayer was out of the way.

Her open palm slammed down onto the counter between them, making both men jump. “I mean it!” The males looked away from each other guiltily, relieved when Dawn came in, yelling: “Luuuuuucy! I’m hooooome from—oh. _You’re_ still here.” Turning away, the teenager bestowed a megawatt smile upon Xander. “C’mon Xander, let’s go into the dining room to do my homework.”

At Xander’s nod, Team Angry-and-Sullen stomped out.

Buffy moaned and covered her face with her hands for a second. Looking back up, she smiled weakly at Spike and shrugged. “Sorry.”

Spike shrugged back at her, as he cleared away his puzzle. “S’okay. Could’ve been worse.”

She grinned and rolled her eyes. “What, I’m supposed to be grateful for small favors, now?” Buffy shook her head at Spike, and went to the refrigerator. Pulling out vegetables, she suggested, “Tell you what? I’ll be grateful for help with dinner and hope those two feel a little more charitable with food in their bellies. Can you make a salad?”

“Can try. More of a carnivore myself.” Buffy set the fixings on the island and opened the knife drawer for Spike. While he involved himself in choosing the largest, sharpest, and most testosterone-laden utensil he could find, she did mysterious female things with appliances. Weapon chosen, Spike contemplated the forces arrayed against him. Settling upon the carrot as the most immediately threatening of his foes, he proceeded to flay the innocent tuber, imagining it was Harris, strapped down and obviously so evil that the Slayer was forced to overlook a bit of torture. Take that, fat man.

Unfortunately, even that fantasy couldn’t drown out the question he’d been worrying at all day. Just spit it out, you wanker. Switching to lettuce and thoughts of red-hot pokers, Spike spoke. “Why didn’t you stake me, Buffy?”


“Last night. Why didn’t you stake me, or beat the devil out of me, or something?” He stared fixedly at the tomatoes awaiting evisceration as Buffy came over and leaned her hip against the island.

“I don’t know, really. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do if you came back. I thought about it, a lot actually, but… well, there was no way to know what _you_ would do, and… I just spent a lot of time this summer thinking, and I decided to wing it.” Buffy frowned. “I guess after everything that happened, I decided that Buffy and stone-throwing was kind of hypocritical.”

“Never stopped you before, luv.”

“Oh, thanks for that. You’re not supposed to agree with me, you know.” Spike looked up from his vegetative depredations to raise an eyebrow at her. She huffed back. “What I can’t figure out is why you are back.”

Spike looked away, scraping the thoroughly evil and properly chastised vegetables into the bowl provided by Buffy. “Love’s bitch.”

“What?” She stared at the vampire until he looked back at her.

“I’m Love’s Bitch, Slayer. Always have been, always will be. Couldn’t stay away if I wanted to.” Spike wiped the chef’s knife clean and examined the blade minutely before continuing. “Didn’t want to.” Gazing at his Slayer, Spike reached out and ran the tip of the steel along her cheekbone.

Buffy’s eyes widened and her tongue darted out to wet her lips. The sharp point followed, scraping the lower curve of her mouth, before tracing over her chin and down her throat.

Spike pressed gently against the hollow between her collar bones, then continued downward at Buffy’s gasp. The knife left a thin white scratch on her chest, marking its mesmerizing progress into her cleavage.

A quick flick of the vampire’s wrist, and the first pearl button of Buffy’s blouse slipped easily out of its hole. Maddeningly slowly, the others followed suit, until the pale blue silk was draped open to her waist.

Spike turned the blade, scraping the honed edge up her side, raising goose pimples on the Slayer’s golden skin.

Tears pooled in Buffy’s eyes, her cheeks flushed, and her breath came in quick pants, sawing in and out of her lungs. The danger drove her excitement higher, propelled by sharp objects and the fear of discovery. Lightening curved and spiraled in her belly, coiling down to pool in her sex.

The knife slid over the lace of her bra, slipping beneath the upper edge, and teasing the cup down to expose her nipple. With a quick little flicks of his wrist, Spike used the flat of the blade to spank Buffy’s nipple, the cool metal shocking her with each stinging slap.

Unexpectedly, the Slayer spasmed, arching into an orgasm on her toes. Her skin flushed a deep pink and perspiration beaded on her upper lip. Faster than she could follow, Spike dropped the knife on the cutting board and pulled her against him, jacking her up over his knee and sucking her aureole into his mouth. Buffy moaned and shuddered, writhing against his thigh.

“Oh, god!” Spike hummed in response, the vibration of his mouth against her breast sending another spark straight to her clit. Gradually, Buffy’s breathing slowed and Spike let her slide down his leg, setting her carefully back onto her feet. She had to tug on his hair to make him let go of her nipple, though. He grinned at her unrepentantly, as she fixed her clothing.

Buffy was searching for something to say when the oven timer saved her. She sounded only slightly shaky as she called for Dawn to set the table. Jesus God, dinner was going to be utter Hell.

RATING: PG-13, this chapter. Hey, nobody is forcing you to read this.
SPOILERS: Through S6
DISCLAIMER: Absolutely. They are all mine, I just use a pseudonym and dress up in women’s clothing when I write fanfic.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story picks up from the end of Kitchen Confidential. I was calling it the “I Wish-verse”, then briefly the Goldfinger series, and right now it’s going by the name Kinky-Buffy-Smut. Anyone who can come up with something I like for this monster gets a cameo or a ficlet, depending upon what that Bitch (a.k.a. My Muse) forces me to write.
DISTRIBUTION: I hope in time ‘twill grow into a custom, That noblemen shall come with cap and knee To purchase a night’s lodging of their wives.
FEEDBACK: Is this a trick question? Because I don’t remember the professor saying this would be on the final.

5. A Lesson in Tightropes

Being right sucked Suvolte eggs. Dinner was indeed Hell. And not Hellmouth- y Hell, but actual Hell, complete with seven (or was it nine?) levels and professors who kick you out of their class. Buffy had a sneaking suspicion that she could’ve derailed the whole Acathla fiasco from the get-go just by inviting Angel home for dinner with the family. Years of heartbreak and guilt would have been completely bypassed, and everybody could have lived happily ever after.

Looking around the table, Buffy was forced to acknowledge that so much was wrong with this picture, it was impossible to identify them all, like one of those puzzles in the comics section of the paper. Dawn was good at those, but Buffy got way frustrated and always ended up stabbing at them with her pencil, hoping beyond hope that irritating Sunday supplements were Slayable.

Let’s see: in this picture, four people are having a nice dinner. In the other picture, only one of them is an actual, unadulterated person, the other three are monsters or freaks or glowy green balls of energy. In drawing one, the young woman’s gentleman friend is savoring a nice cup of coffee after a pleasant meal. In drawing two, a former serial-murderer- slash-attempted-rapist is slurping down human blood with every indication of genuine pleasure. Back to the first picture, family and friends are enjoying a quiet moment and the pleasure of each other’s company. Cut to the second, and four very violent purveyors of mayhem are seriously contemplating committing permanent bodily harm to certain other members of this little dinner party.

Too much to deal with, in a really big way. Dawn and Xander were currently playing ‘we hate Spike’, and since Buffy had turned traitor and gone over to the enemy, she was now included in the shut out. Spike had gradually cooled from ‘hot and sexy vamp’ to ‘silent and foreboding vamp’, obviously pissed for any of a hundred good reasons. And Buffy, nominal head of household, temp-job Mommy, and Slayer of the Evil Undead, was still feeling on the warm and tingly side, trying desperately to exorcise the impulse to slide beneath the table and suck off her evil undead not-quite-boyfriend, because oh dear god wouldn’t that feel better than this wrackingly painful tightrope tension. To lose herself in the taste, touch, smell. . .


So not good. And for the life of her, Buffy couldn’t figure out how to fix this. The whole ordeal was quickly driving her into a panic attack of truly epic proportions. Buffy was the Slayer. Slayers save people, save the world, countless times over, dying and resurrecting without the uncomfortable karmic cockroach parts. Unfortunately, Slayers were not Chosen for their mastery of witty social banter. Or was that covered in the Handbook? Appendix S, maybe, for social, addendum IV. Some Watcher from the eleventh century outlining appropriate subjects for Slayer conversation at meals: apocalypses over appetizers, demons during dessert.

The scrape of Spike’s chair broke the rhythm of Buffy’s reflections. She looked up from her untouched meal, grateful for the interruption to her rapidly derailing train of thought. He nodded around the table, lips set into a thin line, and carried his mug into the kitchen. The whoosh of running water was loud in the quiet house. And surely it was only the silence that made the sound of the back door closing seem so slammy.

Buffy rose to follow, anxiety churning in her stomach, but Dawn was already out of her seat and darting towards the back porch. She had to calm down. He was back: he wouldn’t have come back just to take off again. But they still hadn’t talk-talked. God, she must chill. Chill, Buffy, chill. Dawn wouldn’t dust him, would she? Spike didn’t know about… Everything would be fine. Mental fingers wrapped around the thought and held it close, the familiar mantra soothing her.

Buffy sank back down into her chair, closing her eyes against the tension remaining in the dining room. She could feel Xander thinking at her, invisible I-told-you-sos shooting across the table like hard little rubber bullets.


Smoke curled up from the end of his cigarette, the gray tendrils enviably impervious to the hostility blowing through Casa Del Summers. Spike contemplated the collateral damage possibilities of fire as applied to the whelp, wondering idly which of his dinner companions would be rushing outside to play Kick the Spike. Maybe they’d all jump up at once and get stuck in the kitchen doorway like a Stooges skit. Then at least he would be able to finish his cigarette in peace.

Ah, no such luck. Several seconds before the hormone bomb herself landed on his nice, serene porch, the pitter-patter of little sister feet announced who'd wrestled the others to the ground for the long straw. Spike maintained his thoughtful pose, trying to banish a sneaking desire to rip the little brat’s lungs out. Opposing urges warred within the vampire, for some reason far more difficult to reconcile with a soul than with a chip. His demon understood the chip, had even begun to accept it; pain was a recognizable boundary. The soul, however, could be tempted, urges rationalized. Invisible sappers tunneled beneath the ramparts of Spike’s resolve, goading him to snap and bite at the girl, to cause pain equal to his own.

Dawn looked him up and down, face pulled into a derisive smirk. “So I guess all’s forgiven, then, huh? You come back all soul-having and Buffy is suddenly ‘take me now, you sexy fiend?’ Gosh, you might as well change your name to Angel!”

That’s it, time to kill the chit. Spike vamped and lunged, stopping short nose to nose with the teenager. His face morphed smoothly back into his human guise as he ground out, “You don’t have the first clue what you’re talking about, Bit.” The vampire stepped away from Dawn, letting the girl get her breathing back under control. He noted with interest that it didn’t take her long, and even that probably just from the surprise. They’d practiced this trick all last summer: something to while away the evenings and good training for Sunnydale’s particular hazards.

“No? That’s what it looked like this morning: former rapist and rapee gettin’ all snuggly on the couch.” Her expression was antagonistic, but the defiance didn’t reach Dawn’s eyes. Spike’s own defensiveness melted under the hurt confusion lurking in those soft blue depths.

He looked down, wondering idly why he’d spent the entire day without shoes, while contemplating his next words. “Er. It’s complicated, Dawn.”

She exploded at him, screaming shrilly, “Why does everybody always say that? What, it’s too complex for my miniature brain to grasp? I’m sixteen, Spike! I’m old enough for the truth. What really happened? Just tell me what really happened with you guys! Don’t you owe me that much?”

“Fine! You want the truth?” Spike cut the reins on his tongue, and let go. The Bit was gonna learn a lesson here, if it killed both of them. Damn certain Harris wasn’t the one to teach her; the boy was practically in nappies himself. “The truth is, it’s none of your fucking business, Pidge. So you’re all grown-up now? Well, here’s a news flash: actual grown-ups know when to leave be. Only little kids think they get a piece of everybody’s pie! You don’t want all and sundry poking about in your stuff? Then you gotta do the same.”

They glared at each other, both gasping with anger. Dawn’s mouth opened and closed as she fought for something mature and cutting to say. She lost. Badly. “I hate you!”

Spike blinked at her, rocking back on his heels. She could do better than this: they’d screamed through the house for five months, taking out their rage and frustration on each other weekly. Red had even started to keep score, adding up point and counterpoint. He waited.

Dawn collected herself, visibly martialling her arguments into regimental order. Inhaling deeply, she began again, “I don’t care what Buffy does, I don’t forgive you. You left, you hurt her, you hurt me, and you reneged on your promise.” She looked triumphant at his sudden confusion. “You promised to take care of me, to protect me, and then you bailed and Willow almost killed me! Hah! Did you know that, Spike? Willow went all” Dawn scrunched up her face and waggled her fingers in the air in a fairly good Wicked Witch impression, “on me. And you weren’t there! You failed –again- and I. Don’t. Forgive. You.” This last was accompanied by a hard poke in the chest.

He looked down at the finger poking him, then back up at the trembling girl. “Join the party, Summers. I think that makes all of us. Guess you are all grown up.” Spike turned away from her, fumbling for his cigarettes. That last was definitely a direct hit. He hadn’t known about Red, but it made sense with what all else had gone on in his absence. Fuck. He lit one, inhaling deeply as Dawn continued.

“But I don’t understand how she can be all--” more hand waving flickered in and out of Spike’s peripheral vision, “if she hasn’t forgiven you?”

The blonde man took a moment to mentally translate ambiguous Dawn gestures into Spikese and came up –correctly- with ‘snogging’ as the linguistic equivalent. Why didn’t Buffy have this talk with the girl? Knowing Nibblet, she probably did, and the younger Summers was both fishing for more detail and taking advantage of a prime opportunity to bust his balls. Went right for the soft underbelly of a fellow, she did. You had to admire a girl who could multi-task.

“Told you it was complicated.” Shooting a glance at her still mutinous face, Spike shook his head in resignation. “Forgiveness is just a word, isn’t it? Doesn’t mean much, just a short way of saying we’re not gonna talk about whatever it is. Doesn’t make pain go away. Doesn’t mean you trust again.” Next thing you knew, he’d be giving her speeches. He smirked a little- ‘yooou Lieutenant Weinberg?’ Snicker. Damn, what was he spouting on about? Right. “Doesn’t make you forget.”

“That’s not true. Forgiveness is more than that. It’s…”

Spike cut her off as she fumbled to explain herself. “Don’t use words you can’t define, Dawn.” He thought for a moment, searching for an illustration that would mean something to the girl. “Put it another way: have you forgiven your Mum for dying, yet?”

Dawn’s eyes filled. Whispering malevolently, “I hate you, I really do hate you,” she ran back into the house, the door slamming shut behind her.

Spike exhaled smoke and crushed his cigarette on the porch rail, then followed sedately.


Buffy and Xander both looked up, startled, as Dawn raced sniffling towards the stairs. He rose to follow, but Buffy reached across the table, grabbing at his wrist to restrain him.

“Let her be.”

The male yanked his arm out of her grip. “Christ, Buffy, don’t you even care what he did to her?”

“He didn’t do anything to her, Xander. Just leave her alone.” Buffy’s eyes flicked towards the kitchen, a whisper of sound alerting her to Spike’s entrance. The wave of relief she felt was completely out of proportion to the odds that Dawn had decided the vampire would look better in an urn.

Xander continued, oblivious. “Then why’s she crying, Buffy?” He bobbed his head in the direction of her room. “He obviously did something, and maybe you should be a tiny bit concerned about what it was a mass-murdering member of the demon-of-the-month-club could do get her that upset. Or am I the only one who remembers what he is?”

Spike appeared in the archway behind Xander and met Buffy’s eyes over his shoulder. “Told her the truth, is what I did.” The angry brunette spun around. “Said it’s none of her bleedin’ business. It's between the Slayer and me. Same goes for you.” Buffy nodded at both of them, as Xander’s head swiveled back and forth between vampire and vampire slayer.

He finally threw up his hands. “I can’t deal with this tonight, Buffy. I’m sorry, but I’ve just… I’ve gotta go. Retrieving his jacket from the sofa, Xander turned to leave, determined to get out of the house before he said something deeply suicidal. He was almost through the door when Spike’s final blow landed. “Still running away then, are you Harris?” The slam rattled the windowpanes in their frames and they both clearly heard tires squeal as Xander pulled away.

Buffy sighed and looked at the blonde man. “That was unnecessary roughness.”

“Couldn’t help it. Boy gets to me.” He shrugged, a little shame-faced. Seemed to be his day for dishing it out. Just another thing he’d expected the soul to fix. No wonder Xander was such a prat. Had to admit, though, sometimes it felt good to get some of your own back.

“Yes, well, your lack of impulse control might cost me my carpool.” She looked genuinely upset, despite the flip words, and Spike moved over to stand behind her, laying his hands on her shoulders.

“Nah, he’ll be over it tomorrow. Just needs a little time, that’s all.”

Buffy turned and rested her head against his chest, the dog tag pressing into her forehead through his shirt. “Don’t we all.”

Ah, this is what the soul was for, this dreadful craving to give comfort. Their relationship, or whatever it was, had not included much in the way of comfort towards the end. He’d proved himself an utter failure at the Marvin Gaye impression, to boot. Bloody hell. This thing they were doing now, well, it was still far too new for Spike to know what to offer. What would she accept? “Buffy, luv, why don’t I patrol? You can stay home with your sis for once, protect her from the beasties, since Harris scarpered.”

Buffy sighed and shook her head. “No, I really need to patrol and Dawn can handle being on her own. Plus, I don’t want you and Xander to run into each other without Buffer Buffy, for a while. That could be very bad.”

Spike pulled back to look into her face. “Why was Harris here, then, if Bitty Buffy can handle herself?” His expression was comically confused, protectiveness warring with curiosity to transform his forehead into an emotional roadmap.

Snickering, Buffy ran her hand down his chest, eyes wicked. “Because it makes him feel all… manly.” She waggled her eyebrows at him, continuing more seriously. “Honestly, Dawn and I cooked it up, he was pretty down for a while there. She doesn’t really need help with her homework, either, but I think I speak for everyone when I say it would be best if you didn’t pass that on, okay?” He nodded acquiescence and Buffy smiled a silent thanks. “Okay, then. I’ll just go let Dawn know we’re leaving.” She pulled out of his loose embrace, visibly turning into the Slayer as she ghosted towards the stairs.

So many things had changed in such short time. He would never get used the speed at which humans flew through their lives. When had Buffy quit wrapping her sister in down and denial? When had Harris turned into Mr. Hold’s-His-Temper? Where was Red? Did Buffy slay her for threatening Dawn? That brought Glinda to mind: where was she?

His musings were interrupted by Buffy running full bore down the stairs screaming, “Little BITCH! AAAAH!”

“What?” Who?

“Dawn sneaked out; she knows that’s against the rules! She is sooo dead.” Buffy dove into the closet, grabbed a handful of stakes, and was out the door before Spike had a chance to question her further. He forced himself into motion and sprinted after the Slayer.

“Slayer! Bloody hell! Wait up!” He put on another burst of speed, reaching her just as they entered his cemetery. “Where are you going?”

“Where do you think I’m going, Spike? Slow much?” Buffy slowed down to a quick march as her initial rage cooled to a light simmer. “She’s gone to cry on Clem’s shoulder.” She shrugged. “It’s where she always goes when we fight, I don’t see how this would be different.”

Spike stopped, body rigid with horror as her words sank in, and then burst into a run. “Bloody hell!”

“Hey! Why are you- oh no! You have eggs down there, don’t you?!” She sped to catch him, temper flaring up once more, this time at the vampire.

“No eggs, Slayer: it’s much, much worse than that.” They came to a halt at his crypt, Spike staring fearfully at the entrance.

She yanked him around to face her, snarling, “What could be worse than demon eggs Spike?”

Cautiously pushing open the door, Spike’s next word was almost lost in the blast of noise that roared out at them from the dim interior.


RATING: PG-13, this chapter. Hey, nobody is forcing you to read this.
DISTRIBUTION: Did you ever in your life know an ill painter Desire to have his dwelling next door to the shop Of an excellent picture-maker.

6. Illegal Smile

Buffy Anne Summers had never been the type of girl who was prone to self- analysis. She neither looked before she leapt, nor thought before she spoke. She had taken on every demon the Hellmouth had thrown her way and beaten each and every one into bloody submission. Buffy lived a life in which it was a given that a closed door signified spooky music and something ugly on the other side waiting to leap out at her. Her only questions when faced with the inevitable realities of her existence were 'Why Me?' and 'Do you know how much French Tips cost?' Such metaphysical ramblings out of the way, she would proceed to rip the spine out of her latest adversary and let others worry about the big picture. It simply never occurred to her that there was anything left to horrify Buffy Summers, Slayer at Large. That said, there was also nothing in her experience to prepare her for what lurked behind Spike's crypt door.

There was singing. There was swaying. There was music playing. There was dancing in Spike's crypt. How wrong was that?

Flanked by the crypt owner, Buffy surveyed her field, considering and rejecting multiple scenarios. She was forced to concede that no matter how personally offensive, the tableau before her was not sufficiently dangerous to warrant Slayage. Even Spike, after a brief-but-frantic look around the crypt, had settled into his usual hip-shot slouch, sword casually resting against a shoulder. One of her swords, Buffy noted absently, it's gleam painting Spike a barefoot knight, a tattered one-man army rushing to his Lady's banner. When had she begun to take for granted that his efforts would be on her behalf? She had felt his loss keenly over the summer, a cavalier ghost at her side mocking every battle.

Buffy put the thought away for later examination and contemplated her options. Surprisingly, what at first glance had resembled a TV miniseries about Woodstock resolved into a mere four people and many, many candles.

The crypt itself seemed to be bearing the intruders with genteel sufferance. It had been transformed into something reluctantly batik. The stone and marble seemed to tremble with outraged dignity, promising bloody retribution against the onslaught of embroidered pillows, even as the sarcophagi shrank back into the shadows, creeping impossibly into corners for fear of being noticed and draped in tie-dye.

Buffy's eyes picked out the dancers in the flickering light: Clem, Dawn, an unknown male and-- oh dear God-- it was Woodstock. As the last person in the room spun to face the newcomers, gender became mortifyingly at issue. Buffy crossed her arms over her chest, determined not to look down; didn't Mom always say comparisons were spurious? Or something.

Spike's hippies fit the description, that was for sure. Both the man and the woman wore long, colorful, patch-worked skirts, some beads, and cheerful grins. End of description. And what was that smell?

The red-haired woman swirled and shimmied toward Spike, her salient characteristics undulating in a fashion that was both unnatural and unfair. Her smile teased and taunted, causing Buffy's blood pressure to shoot into the danger zone. Buffy might very well be forced to kill her first human if the bitch didn't back off.

The bitch in question turned her smile on Buffy, then spun away to link arms with Dawn. The two danced a complex series of spirals that ended with them kneeling, arms stretched along the floor toward Buffy and Spike in a disturbingly worshipful pose.

The bizarre beauty of the dance distracted Buffy from the eccentric circumstances. With a flash of unwelcome insight, Buffy wondered if this sort of thing lay at the core of Xander's anger. Surrounded by people who glowed and sparkled with an otherworldly brilliance, constantly reminded in such moments that his very mundane-ness made them shine the brighter by comparison, he could only choke on his own bile, nurturing worms of envy in the dark earth of his heart. Trust Spike to bring along two more stunningly exotic reasons for Xander to rage against the vampire.

Buffy's voice plunked into the silence following her sister's strange obeisance. "You are so busted."

The unfamiliar man--scratch that, the unfamiliar male vampire-- nodded happily at Spike. "Dude." Throwing a curious look toward Buffy, he swayed back on his heels and shook his tambourine gently at her, before addressing Spike again. "This your old lady?"

"Excuse me?" Old?!

The blond vampire apparently realized that cutting Buffy at the pass was the better part of valor, and stepped forward, gesturing towards the topless duo. "Slayer, this is Gil and Hattie. They. well, they kind of gave me a ride. Guys, this is Buffy. I, er, may have mentioned her?" Spike's usual aplomb was seriously undermined by the fact that he was twitching. Clem caught his eye, and nodded towards the downstairs with a nearly invisible wink. The sudden tension leaving Spike's shoulders would have arrested Buffy's attention even if she hadn't already been watching the interchange. They were hiding something. Something related to, but presenting a separate danger than the nudie hippies teaching her sister lewd dance moves. Something that made Spike twitchy. He was so going down. Later.

Turning her attention back to the immediate danger, Buffy focused on Dawn, now standing, her arms crossed defensively. "Home. Now."

Gil shook his tambourine again. "Bummer," he muttered in quiet harmony. Buffy's Slayer senses shrilled a warning at the subtle strands of beguilement woven in that voice. Her hand itched for a stake, and she stepped back involuntarily.

"Dawn, we're leaving." Discounting the amiable smiles, completely non- threatening body language, and partial nudity, there were several elements of this whole scene freaking her out, and she couldn't identify them. Add to list of things to torture out of Spike later as well as to list of things for which Dawn would be grounded. A two-for, score.

Dawn whipped her hair around in the patented Dawn hair-whip of "you are such a bitch", and addressed herself sweetly to Hattie and Gil. "Nice to meet you guys. It was fun, but now I have to go be tortured by Sister Dearest."

Hattie descended on the girl, all red corkscrew curls, cooing, and secondary sexual characteristics - obviously some sort of evil Earth Mother hugging demon- and whispered in her ear. Dawn giggled, Hattie giggled back, and Buffy steamed.

She cleared her throat. Not over-reacting, nope, not at all.

Another hair-whip, simple irritation this time, and a "whatever" later, the Summers girls finally exited crypt-party central. Buffy called over her shoulder, "We'll talk later, Spike. And we will talk." The door thumped shut behind them.

Spike sighed.

Looking sympathetically at his counterpart, Gil ventured a comment. "Wanna toke?"

"God, yes." At this, Clem smiled happily and skipped downstairs. The tension level in the room had dropped to its usual low demon buzz with Buffy's departure. Spike shook his shoulders, loosening the muscles. He'd forgotten the electric strain of being in the Slayer's presence. Just a few hours, and all the calm he'd hoarded was washed away by wild, deadly, seductive thoughts. How ironic that when the chips were out, the man was more dangerous than the monster.


Walking beside her sister, Dawn nodded periodically, doing her best 'I'm listening to your rant with due consideration to the fact that you have my best interests in mind' impression, while actually ignoring Buffy entirely and mentally estimating potential developments of the mammary variety. If she ended up like Buffy, implants were definitely going to be a consideration. Either that, or do as Buffy did and contribute significant future income to the inventive people at Wonder-bra, Inc. On the other hand, she was already taller than the Slayer, so maybe she'd also end up more endowed in other areas. Not significant architecture, just something a little more Hattie-esque. That would be fine: not too much, but enough to make certain types of guys notice. Or at least hold up a tube top.

The Gil-friendly cars on this particular train did not indicate another Vamp Crush, though. Of that Dawn was certain. She was so over that. But still, as a point of comparison, Gil-friendly hooters were harmless, right?

"Are you even listening to me?" Uh oh, Slayer Dearest must have asked a direct question. Dawn shuffled through her mental card catalog of Buffy- rants, as her mouth laid down staccato cover fire.

Apparently the question was rhetorical: Buffy steamrollered on, the rhythm of brow beating providing a kicky counterpoint to their footsteps. Dawn's thoughts marched in time, coming to a halt just as they reached the house.

She turned to Buffy, voice dripping sincerity, "I'm so sorry that I worried you, Buffy. I wasn't thinking, and next time I'll totally stay in my room and hate my life, okay? Good night!" Giving a chipper wave to her sister, Dawn ran up the porch stairs, Buffy staring after her, mouth open. Hah! That'll keep her for an hour or two.

Buffy stared after Dawn in furious silence. There simply weren't words. Wheeling around, she allowed herself to be diverted by the other object of her anger. She would find out what the hell was going on at Spike's and return home full of righteous fury. She threw a final sortie at the house, yelling as loud as she could, "You are still grounded!" Now, look who's gotten the last word!

Dawn's bellow floated out the window, just as Buffy stepped off of the curb.

"And I still hate you!" Brat.

Buffy huffed out her breath, squared her shoulders, and sallied forth to brace the vampire in his lair. What did he have down there that was worse than demon eggs?

RATING: PG-13, this chapter. Hey, nobody is forcing you to read this.
DISTRIBUTION: Previous chapters very kindly hosted at and, eventually.
DISCLAIMER: Joss is my type-monkey; I keep him chained under my desk. Naughty, Joss, no touching!
NOTE: Operating a computer while under the influence of Gin is never a good idea. The olives made me do it.
FEEDBACK: Oh, yes, please. And Little Spike-sicles for everyone who has fed the beast before.

7. A Very Brady Apocalypse

A sullen fog slumped through Sunnydale, too anemic to qualify for cool- special-effect status. The misty white tendrils gave Buffy that nifty 'Rock Star Slayer with Fog Machine Included!' feeling that occasionally made patrolling extra fun. Fog and mist and ambient spookiness were appropriate accessories. Buffy slipped into them like her favorite boots, wiggling psychic toes before she moved into the street. Admiring a foggy finger's faintly pathetic attempt at twining, she made her way towards the cemetery. Buttonholing Spike was always an effective distraction from little sister issues, despite the alarming tendency of Dawn issues to become Spike issues. And hey, maybe the hippies had decamped and there could be exploration of Buffy issues. That was a happy thought. Hmmm. how many hours could she siphon off of patrolling for thorough issue exploring?

The Slayer almost missed the demon coming towards her, tingles running down her spine and jerking her back to attention less than fifty feet from the cemetery gates. Buffy looked up, searching for the source of that warning buzz and silently groaned when she located him. Not this, not now.

Suppressing an impulse to hide her face and beat a strategic retreat, Buffy worried at her lower lip and wondered if she could convince the grad student approaching her that she'd recently been in a terrible accident and lost her memory. Probably not. Maybe he hadn't seen her? Only if he'd gone completely blind in the past three days: the street light above her head picked her out like a spotlight. Or maybe a police helicopter. Buffy shuffled forwards, scuffing her boot on loose gravel, and glowered at the offending rock.

"Hey, Buffy!" Slater bobbed a nod, a sweet grin gracing his even, clean-cut features. "How's it going?" Swimmingly. Look, there! Behind you!

Buffy attempted a smile, reaching for friendly-and-casual, but landing on potential-stalker-beep-beep-beep. That wasn't fair. Other than his twice- weekly routine of casually running into Buffy, he was perfectly nice. Nice. She stuffed a variety of less charitable modifiers back down. The guy was in no way striving for Angelus and Spike's standard of spookiness, just cheerfully persistent in his suit.

Er. "Fine! You?" Maybe words of one syllable would distract the Brachen from Buffy's obvious mental impairment. Wait, somehow that didn't scan.

"Okay. Just heading home." He made the statement an offer, eyebrows climbing hopefully up his forehead, promising baked goods.

Buffy was not going to fall for that one again. Slater was perfectly capable of fetching himself safely back to his house without her help. Last time she'd walked with him, she had ended up spending two hours being gushed over by every female in his clan, all of them convinced she was the one to make an honest man out of their prodigal son. It was like trench fighting with muffins and tea. She still wasn't sure how she'd managed to get out without hurting anyone or ending up engaged.

"Okay, well, good to see you again. Gotta go! Bye!" Inanely waving, Buffy broke into a jog towards the cemetery gates, ignoring the disappointed look on Slater's face. Run away, run away! And no guilt. There shall be no Buffy- guilt associated with blowing off the very nice guy.

Somehow, no matter how often she told herself not to feel bad, she still got a little twinge every time she saw him. She'd been honest and forthright and all those synonymy things. So why did she still feel guilty about two tiny dates and one extraordinarily awkward 'let's just be friends' conversation? Maybe because Slater's definition of friend encompassed possible future romance, while hers was confined to panicked avoidance and nervous tics.

So much for buttonholing Spike while she still had her dander up. Buffy bid Irrationally Angry Buffy a fond farewell and welcomed Reasoned Adult Buffy back into the fold.

Buffy's steps slowed to a walk again, as she passed beneath the iron arch of the old burial ground. Spike had taken up residence in what was admittedly one of the nicer neighborhoods of Sunnydale, if you didn't mind all the dead people. The newer cemeteries really were graveyards, vast swathes of rolling green lawn studded with bland concrete memorials. At least here there were gracious benches, tasteful urns, and the occasional angel standing serene guard over the dearly departed. Most of the statuary dated from the late nineteenth century, judging by the inscriptions, a time when death was an art form, not a vaguely embarrassing faux pas. The residents had turned their last resting-place into a morbid plaza, compounding irony upon irony, as Buffy made her way to Spike's door.

She brushed suddenly sweaty palms against navy hips and took a deep breath. She wasn't here to ask him out, for goodness sake, she was here to. to. to what? Yell at Spike because Dawn snuck out? Give sanctimonious speeches and make hysterical accusations? Bomb his crypt, again? Buffy blew out her breath in a sigh, and shuffled mentally through her list of daily affirmations, seeking one that would apply to confusing relationships involving the formerly evil dead and mystical sisters. Nope, nothing. Where was Jack Handy when you needed him? Oh, yeah, he's dead, too.

Well, she'd wing it. They would have that talk-talk, she could reassure herself that nothing more evil than the usual assortment of demons lurked in the crypt, and, assuming appropriate footwear was available, invite back out Spike to go patrolling.

Oh dear lord, it was a date. Buffy had already invited him out, to the Slayer equivalent of a movie. They'd even had dinner first. The realization sparked a sudden attack of butterflies armed with machine pistols in her gut. This was what had been missing over the summer: sweaty palms and anticipatory insects.

The Slayer jigged nervously in place, then did the unthinkable. Raising her hand, she slowly closed it into a fist and cordially made introductions: fist, door, and door, fist. This is called knocking. Innovative and strange, but it could catch on.

Waiting for the door to be answered was excruciating. A small eternity passed while Buffy gravely considered the drawbacks of common courtesy. Maybe she could just kick it in, but that was naturally followed by the irrational rampage she'd resolved to avoid. What was taking so long? Three, maybe four seconds had passed!

The door swung open on the smiling face (don't look down! Do not look down!) of Hattie. "Hello again!" The woman stood in the door, patiently expectant. Buffy pushed her Slayer senses outwards, towards the female, seeking the source of the dissonance she provoked. Not a vampire, or even a demon, but different somehow. Weird. Hattie just looked back at her, serene and cheerful.

"Um. Hi. Is. is Spike in?" What was wrong with her? Buffy, not Hattie, but her, too. Argh.

Hattie didn't seem to notice that Buffy was losing her mind; she stepped back and beckoned Buffy inside with a graceful gesture uncannily reminiscent of Buffy's mother. "Come in. I'll get him." The woman smiled sweetly, and turned away.

The upstairs was empty of anyone else, the TV muted and flashing blue light at the walls. Laughter and music drifted from the lower level on pungent clouds. Thoughts that had tickled at her earlier returned and resolved into comprehension. The sense of relief at the human scale of Spike's latest peccadillo was nearly overwhelming. This Buffy could handle.

Hattie disappeared down the ladder to be replaced a moment later by Spike warily popping his head out of the opening. A burst of loud laughter propelled him the rest of the way upstairs: he gazed at Buffy, looking bewildered.

"Pet? You okay?" He seemed genuinely concerned.

"What? I'm fine!" Ripping Spike a new one and related Slayer fun was way easier than this. "Can we talk? Do you have a minute?" That couldn't have been any more awkward if she'd planned it. Buffy dropped wearily onto a sarcophagus and sighed into her hands. Spike's return had obviously unhinged her; it would be better for everyone if she just checked herself into a nice clinic staffed with quiet, soothing people who wore lots of white.

Spike sat himself beside her, keeping a close but careful distance. "You don't seem alright. You knocked!" He seemed slightly shocked by the uncharacteristic behavior.

Buffy dropped her hands into her lap and laughed quietly. "Didn't mean to scare you, I was just-" How to start this conversation? "I've been working on this little Slayer-Self-Improvement project. Dawn calls it 'trying not to be such a enormous be-atch.' I prefer the phrase 'voyage of self- discovery' myself." She laughed again. "Dawn is more honest than I am."

"Okay." Spike looked away from her, guarded but attentive. She'd forgotten he could do that, just sit and wait for her. The vampire was excellent at being there, sometimes, without expectations, simply present. It was very soothing.

She leaned into him, coming to rest against his shoulder. Obligingly, he scootched closer and wrapped his arm around her.

"Just tell me you're not hiding anything worse than recreational drug use down there? Please?" His shirt muffled her imploring whine, but her words were clear enough to make him start and try to pull away. She clamped onto his waist and held him in place. "Spike?"

Spike relaxed and she felt him shrug. "Nope, you got me, Slayer. I'm dead meat, go ahead and stake me. Illegal, immoral, a bad example for the kiddies, all that, right?"

Was he? Her feelings twisted and tangled, hissing contradictions in her ears. He wasn't good. He wasn't quite bad, either. He'd always been a little too. something, to be deeply evil. Flexible, maybe: just call him Blank. While ideal for stealing RV's and certain sex acts, it didn't make him a poster boy for goodness and virtue, much less DARE. What the hell ever.

"Not so much, I guess. Just don't corrupt my sister with your fiendish ways or start lurking near the Junior High, and I'll walk like an Egyptian. I mean, technically speaking, you are an adult."

"Hmm." Spike gave her an inscrutable look and shifted, fishing at his back pocket. Buffy raised up, watching with interest as he pulled out a small steno pad and a pen, and began writing against his knee.

"What's that?" She craned her head, trying to read the crabbed script, but Spike twisted away from her, tut-tutting mockingly.

"It's private and not for nosy little Slayer's eyes." His soft amused tone belied the words, so Buffy ignored them.

"No, really, show me!"

Spike finished writing and shut the little book with a flourish. Exhibiting a mixture of self-consciousness and pride, he passed her the pad, tucking away the pen at the same time.

Slightly embarrassed, Buffy flipped rapidly through the pages, not really looking. The sheets were crammed with tiny, uneven cursive. She stared unseeing at a line, her gaze sharpening as she realized what it was she was seeing. Turning back to the first page, Buffy began to read, while Spike alternately peered over her shoulder and ostentatiously looked away.

Increasingly engrossed, the Slayer nodded and muttered, occasionally breaking into muted giggles. A particularly shaky entry prompted her to poke at him. "Why is the handwriting so bad?" She pointed to the offending sentence.

Spike took back the notebook, examining it for a moment, as he answered. "Wrote a lot of it on the road; hard to practice your penmanship in a moving vehicle, pet." His lips twisted and he read aloud, "Addendum: Thou shalt not bugger the neighbor, either."

Buffy erupted in peals of laughter and snatched back the list. Turning to the last entries, she caught her breath. Exquisitely Spike, the last few lines read: #207. Thou shalt not expose the Bit to drugs (see #144); #208. Thou shalt not lurk about schools; #209. Thou shalt remember the Slayer can read you like a book (see #9).

Buffy flipped back to page one and reread Spike's version of the Ten Commandments, then handed the pad back to its rightful owner. "You know, most people make do with just the ten. But you seem to have covered everything." She grinned at him as he returned his tiny notebook back to its pocket.

She wasn't prepared for his serious response to her teasing. Pursing his lips, Spike quietly disagreed, "Not nearly everything, Slayer. Every day I have to add something. Things I never even thought of. I thought I was getting myself an instant moral compass, but I can't seem to find North." His troubled face suddenly seemed older, taut with remembered pain, and sins both real and imagined.

Folding her hand over his, Buffy tried to reassure him. "You're doing fine, Spike. Don't try so hard. It'll get easier." She cringed at the trite phrases coming from her own mouth, and continued resolutely. "Or maybe it won't. I don't know." She stood, and moved in front of him. The neck of his tee shirt hid the dog tags, and she reached for the choke chain, pulling it free to lie silver and gleaming against the black cotton. "But you have this to remind you." She regarded the chromed links thoughtfully, and stroked her makeshift belt. "This was a good idea, by the way. Kept you from going all dusty. Sorry I didn't say so, before."

Spike smiled, a sweet expression of pleasure and gratitude that she'd rarely seen from him. "Didn't know why I was buying them at the time. Got the tags in New York, picked up the collar in Ohio, and the leash is from Kentucky, if I remember right. Hattie suggested presents as a good way to. er."

Buffy batted her eyelashes, slyly. "To beg forgiveness? Win my favors? Yup, prezzies help." An ugly, jealous, completely irrational thought made her frown and tug on the leash pointedly. "This was Hattie's idea?"

"Not quite. Her suggestions included livestock and slaves. A bit out of my price range. Although if you really must have a herd of goats." Spike waggled his eyebrows, surprising a giggle from the Slayer.

"No, don't think I'm ready for kids, quite yet." Buffy laughed at her own joke and Spike's pained groan. Controlling herself, she continued, "Seriously though, I actually wanted to talk with you. About. about us?" Buffy shook with nervousness, and a loud thrumming suddenly sounded in her ears. Why was talking scarier than the end of the world?

"What the fuck?" Spike surged off the stone and crossed to the crypt entrance in three quick strides, ignoring her hurt gasp. Throwing open the door, he reared back a step and stared.

Oh. Not nerves, an earthquake. Not her heart beating triple time, giant hailstones in California. Well, that was reassuring: Buffy wanting to the have The Relationship talk really was a sign of coming apocalypse, right up there with seismic activity and prophetic dreams. Why hadn't she figured it out before?

Buffy drifted over to stand behind Spike and looked out at the storm. "Wow. They're the size of golf-balls. I don't think I've ever seen hail that big."

Several stones bounced and rolled into the crypt. Buffy bent to pick one up for examination, but Spike's voice rang out before she could process what she was seeing.

"Fucking hell. They are golf-balls."

RATING: PG-13, this chapter. Okay, maybe a tiny bit of smut.
DISTRIBUTION: and, eventually.
DISCLAIMER: Joss is my type-monkey; I keep him chained under my desk. Naughty, Joss, no touching!
NOTE: This chapter is definitely all about Canada, who has coaxed me through endless rewrites, tipsy self-pity, and the injustice that is American Idol. Thank you Chris, you are a treasure beyond price.
FEEDBACK: If I didn't want it, would we even be here?
PREVIOUSLY: Spike gets collared (Yum). Buffy invites Spike to live out a Ramones song. Xander remains unhappy with Buffy's life choices. Fun with cutlery. Dawn runs away to dance with suspicious hippies. Golf balls from Heeeeeaven.

8. Little Earthquakes

The lower crypt disgorged first Hattie, then Clem, and finally Gil. The three of them milled around aimlessly, and a little slowly, while Gil explained their appearance upstairs.

"Dude, the bus is shaking." He didn't appear to notice anything off about the weather, despite the growing litter of sports equipment, or the storm outside. Instead, the vamp turned to Buffy and reiterated, "Shaking!" He rocked back and forth to demonstrate, but lost either his interest or his train of thought, and wandered over to sprawl in front of the television.

Gil had Buffy seriously confused. Confused and jumpy. She should have staked him on sight, but he hadn't actually done anything to warrant Slayage. Yet. Other than exist, which was usually reason enough for her. But it would be rude to stake Spike's houseguest, right? Maybe he had a soul, too. Oh yeah, because there are so many of those around.

On second thought, there really were. The population of soulful vampire boyfriends, present and former, had certainly doubled recently. Possibly the worldwide population was exploding, and there would soon be a plague of moody, guilt-stricken ex-fiends to deal with, and Buffy would be out of a job. With her luck, they would all move to Sunnydale and try to date her. Xander would combust, he really would.

Dammit, the hippie was messing with her categories, distracting her, and she didn't like it one bit. Buffy refused to acknowledge that her distraction might have more to do with the blond vamp than Gil-ly with the Long Black Hair.

A golf ball rolled toward her and thumped against her boot, drawing her attention back to the rain of non-toad-like-objects. Buffy looked down and then stared out at the hailstorm.

"I should do something." Something more productive than saying that, for instance.

Spike stuck his head out to look and leapt back inside with a yelp.

"You don't want to go outside in that, pet. You'd be knocked flat in two ticks." Stepping gingerly through the mass of balls rolling in the entryway, he forced the crypt door shut against the flow. The noise was scarcely less with it closed, pounding through the small space and rattling the windows in their aging frames.

Buffy tossed the ball she'd picked up from hand to hand, a thoughtful frown creasing her brow. This was too pat: everything was happening too fast, and it was somehow wrong. Not wrong in a big evil kind of way, either, but wrong as in slightly off-kilter. One minute she was mashing with Spike, and the next there were nudists. They'd gone from deep and meaningful to silly and kind of lame in 24 hours. What was that about?

Focusing, Buffy examined the variables and came up with two biggies. Two plus two equaling. She spun around and looked, really looked, at Spike's new friends. No Slayer senses, just good long stare.

Gil was still stretched out in front of the television, Clem slumped at his side. Hattie had wrapped a scarf or something around her to form an intricate halter, and was squatting on the floor, contemplating one golf ball after another with a doubtful look on her face. Switching her gaze up to Buffy, she informed the Slayer, "They're not pearls."

Buffy rolled her eyes, but the non sequitur sharpened her attention on the other woman and her eyes narrowed.

"No, they're not. Should they be?" She felt Spike coming up behind her, drawn by the warning in her voice. He could recognize her tone, even if these strangers didn't.

Hattie continued, heedless, "it's always pearls. 'A gift of the waters for the Queen of Heaven.'"

The Slayer stalked towards the hippie chick and lowered herself to the floor, raising her voice to be heard over the cacophony.

"What. Are. You. Talking. About." When the woman didn't reply, she turned to Spike. "What does she mean?"

"Search me, Slayer." The vampire shrugged. "I haven't got the foggiest: her and her vamp are following some sort of prophecy.

"Think it's a load of crap myself, but she's convinced that you can interpret 5000 year old prophecy with musical theatre." He shoved his hands in his pockets and shifted uncomfortably at Buffy's blank stare. "Fuck if I know."

She rose to her feet and dusted her hands off decisively, "Well, then, Magic Box it is. Tally-ho."


Buffy was slightly surprised to learn that not only did Spike have another pair of boots, he had dozens: a whole coffin of them doubled as table and storage chest. Creepy, but practical. Her fingers itched to get in there and see if they were all alike. Or she could just ask him, like a normal person. Ooh, Dawn moment.

The five of them strode through the tunnels, an even more motley crew than the Scoobies. They could call them the Scooby Auxiliaries. Oh, or the Spikettes! Buffy laughed aloud at the thought, and the Spike in question shot her a worried look.

"Something funny, Slayer?" He'd retrieved the sword and was carrying it as if he expected to be attacked any second, stalking beside her with Feral Grace [TM]. Strangely, Buffy wasn't worried; maybe it was the Feral Grace [TM].

Buffy chuckled again and flipped her hand at the three behind them. "Just thinking about how weird we look, traipsing through the sewers." She trailed off, and then continued in a firmer voice. "Have you seen Anya, yet? Since you've been back, I mean."

Spike's head whipped toward her, his face outraged for a second, before his features settled into frozen blandness. His "no" was crisp and clipped.

"Oh. Okay. I was just wondering. No bitchy-Buffy hidden agendas, here." Well, maybe a few. "So she doesn't know you're back, then?"

"I think she probably has a clue, pet, but we haven't really spoken, per se." At her exasperated pout, he sighed. "Left her a note and a few quid for Burba weed." He raised his voice pointedly, so that it would carry back to their companions. "Since *someone* used the last of my stash for nachos!"

Clem cleared his throat nervously. "I'll pay you back, Spike, I told you I would. I'm just a little short right now." He continued more confidently. "I'm sure we'll get that contract from the city: then I'll be able to pay off that mess last spring."

Spike acknowledged this with a curt nod, a smirk belying to his rigid body language. The vampire only held the pose of offended homeowner for another minute, before relaxing once again into Feral Grace [TM]. Strange that that was how he looked relaxed. Although, upon reflection, she'd never seen him happier and more content than when he was fighting or.

Buffy coughed, blushing, and sought for something, anything, to distract her from naughty Naked!Spike thoughts. "You paid for your Burba? Where'd you get money?"

"I do have skills, you know, Buffy!" he huffed. "I paid for a lot of stuff, getting back here, and I did it honestly -for the most part- with the labor of my own two hands, thank you very much!"

"No, I didn't mean- " she tried to interject, but the vampire was busy defending his honor.

"But no, old Spike is evil, doncha know, snapping necks and robbing corpses while whistling a merry little tune. Not like your precious Angel, never mind I got the bloody stupid soul! And who'd I do it for? He didn't do it for you, did he? No, it was a sodding curse!" Spike was working himself up into a tantrum, roaring and stabbing at the air, words tumbling out as if a dam had burst.

"But I put my immortal unlife on the line, and what do I get? Kicked in the bloody balls, every fucking time! See if I ever do that again! As a matter of fact, I'll give the damned soul back, you ungrateful, self-righteous, b- "

Buffy did the only thing she could think of. Stepping in front of him, she grabbed Spike's head and yanked his mouth down to hers. Hmmm, lips of Spike.

Vaguely, she heard the ring of metal hitting stone, but Spike's arms were slithering around her waist, pulling her closer. Buffy forgot their audience entirely and crawled up his body, wrapping her legs around the vampire's narrow hips. Her head swam: it was like the first time and the last time and every time they had ever kissed. While their lips melded the world vanished. Tasting Spike was like walking through fire: he thawed the frozen black heart of her.

Had she ever thanked him for that, for the fire that burned in her again?

Buffy struggled for air, dragging oxygen in through her nose when Spike failed to release her mouth. His hands were confident on her body, certain of her response: one hand holding her ass, molding her against him, the other skimming up under her blouse, and there was a reason they shouldn't be macking right here, right now, but she couldn't seem to recall it at the moment. Not when his touch was setting her ablaze.

A loud cough interrupted Buffy's reverie, and she jerked her mouth away from Spike's with a gasp. Her eyes fluttered open to find Hattie and Gil holding hands and smiling indulgently behind a mortified Clem.

"Uh. Buffy? Spike? Shouldn't we be." The demon's voice trailed away miserably.

Spike had burrowed his face in her neck when she pulled away. Now he looked up and glowered at poor Clem, before loosening his grip. She slid languidly down his front, still a little woozy, and they exchanged a heated stare, while each struggled to regain composure.

"Right then." Spike's voice came out a little hoarse, and he turned away to pick up the fallen sword. When he continued, he sounded almost normal.

"Slayer, it might be best if I take point. You can bring up the rear." His voice descended briefly into a hot growl that made Buffy's nipples stand up and say 'I want that one'. "Yeah, uh, to protect the non-combatants from any beasties sneaking up behind us."

Rationally, it was a good plan, and what they should have done in the first place. Buffy sighed.

"Aye, aye, Cap'n!" She tossed Spike a mock salute, then turned and marched several paces back the way they'd come. Spike hid his smile, pretending to check his blade for dings, as she settled herself into a ridiculous parody of parade rest. He wasn't usually so careless with the sharp pointies.

As they set out again, Spike seemed to have forgotten his earlier fit of pique. He had regained his 'all is well with any world that had him in it' swagger; Buffy was torn between watching their rear or his rear. His jaunty stride did amazing things to her boyfriend's ass.

Boyfriend. She'd said it to Spike the once, but she hadn't really admitted to herself that this was what she wanted. What she'd wanted and needed all along. Her boyfriend disasters were legendary, or at least they should be.

Maybe in a hundred years Giles' journals would make her love life a warning to future Slayers: whatever you do, don't do this or this, and definitely do not do that. Although, Giles himself had seemed to find this latest example of Buffy-decision-making a source of endless amusement: it was almost worth being the butt of the joke just to hear him laugh like that again.

Which was oh-so-very strange. Xander had never managed to lose his look of pinch-lipped horror every time the 'S' word came up, but Giles barely contained his mirth. He couldn't or wouldn't explain why it was so funny, either, yet she'd frequently found herself laughing along with him.

Oh how she missed Giles. He had. perspective, that was it. Giles had swooped into Sunnydale, saved them all, and done it with style and humor. Then he'd flown away again with Willow tucked under his wing, a string of promises left behind to hold his place in their lives.

Thus far, his record of promises kept was unbroken, a Summers' family record. When Buffy was honest with herself, she could admit that his absence -and his constancy in spite of it- played a big part in the peace she'd managed to achieve over the summer. Giles didn't promise what he couldn't deliver, so he always delivered on what he did promise. There was probably a lesson in that somewhere. She should tell Spike; he could add it to his list. Maybe it was already on his list.

Or perhaps Buffy would make her own list. #1: Do not beat the crap out your boyfriend and leave him for dead. #2: Lying about boyfriends never turns out well. #3: All guys are complete dicks at one time or another.

Maybe Xander should start keeping a list, as well. Anya might appreciate the irony.

RATING: PG, this chapter.
DISTRIBUTION: Previous chapters at and, eventually. And if you ask nice.
DISCLAIMER: Joss is my type-monkey; I keep him chained under my desk. Naughty, Joss, no touching!
NOTE: Thus this chapter begins my ode to Leonard Cohen. If you want to be spoiled, listen to The Window. On second thought, don't; spoilers are evil. Oh, and thanks to Canada for the beta, and Kimi for twisting my rubber arm to post.
FEEDBACK: If I didn't want it, would we even be here?
PREVIOUSLY: Spike gets collared (Yum). Buffy invites Spike to live out a Ramones song. Xander remains unhappy with Buffy's life choices. Fun with cutlery. Dawn runs away to dance with suspicious hippies. Buffy's got a Brachen beau. Golf balls from Heeeeeaven. Some walking and talking.

9. Of Locks and Keys

The unlikely group straggled into the basement of The Magic Shop with Buffy galloping around her clotted companions, yelling, "Anya! It's me, it's Buffy, Anya!" even as the room exploded into brilliance. The vampires dived back into the tunnel, Spike cursing vigorously.

The glowing abruptly faded, and Buffy was relieved to see Anya snap her spell-book shut. The shopkeeper had placed wards on every conceivable entrance against strange demons and potential thieves, and was not the least bit reluctant to launch fireballs at anyone who didn't enter through the front door with wallet in hand.

"Is Dawn here, yet?" Spike caught the question as he and Gil re-emerged from the tunnel, and shot her a quizzical look.

"She's here, yes. We were just wondering if you would show up." Anya exchanged a complicated nod with Spike as Buffy passed her, and lagged behind to usher the others up the stairs. "She brought Xander with her, I can't imagine why. Oh! And I found that Dustin you were dating, lurking in the alley. He still won't make a wish, by the way, despite being brutally dumped."

Oh dear god, not this, too. "Dylan, Anya, his name is Dylan Slater," Buffy muttered through clenched teeth, earning another look from Spike.

"Whatever." Closing the basement door behind them, Anya slid back to her post behind the counter and sniffed. "I just thought I should keep you informed. I'll let you know if he changes his mind."

Buffy forced herself to smile cordially at the three already seated around the research table. What she really wanted to do was run out into the hailstorm and get knocked unconscious for an hour or five.

"Hi, again, Buffy." Slater twiddled his fingers at her with shy smile. "I'm glad you're okay."

Spike stalked bonelessly around the table and propped himself against a bookcase, sword still in one hand. He smirked at her and mockingly waggled his free fingers at the Slayer. She glared back.

Buffy should have remembered that dirty looks were Spike's favorite form of encouragement. He set down the sword, clasped his hands under his chin, and gazed longingly at the ceiling, mouthing 'Buuuuuu-uuuuffy.' Bastard. Not funny.

Forcing her eyes away from the immature vampire's antics, she sweetly addressed the Brachen, "Yeah, I'm okay. How about you? You weren't caught outside, were you?"

It wasn't his fault that he was the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"I'm fine," he reassured her.

"I found him trying to take cover behind the dumpsters," Anya argued. "He could've been killed."

"No, really, just a few bumps and bruises." Slater gave a self-deprecating laugh. "My aunt would say that's what I get for dawdling."

"Well, I'm still glad you're okay." Buffy transferred her gaze to Xander and Dawn. "You guys?" They both shook their heads. "Good."

"Okay, quick intros, then with the research." She ran through the cast list, introducing everyone quickly, trying not to notice how Slater's face fell when she reached Spike. Avoidance: avoidance was key.

"Let's crack these books, people, time's a' wastin'!" Buffy chirped desperately, clapping her hands once in an attempt to be upbeat and commander-y. Spike's smirk broadened into a delighted grin. Argh.

Buffy ducked and scurried, planting herself in the chair next to Dawn. "So, what do we know? Anything? Anya?"

The demon waved at the books piled on counter and table. "We've selected the most frequently referenced prophecies, but unfortunately none describes yuppie sports equipment. Rains of frogs are common, however, as are occurrences of currency and small valuables falling from the sky."

Xander snorted, switching his attention from scowling at Spike to mocking his ex-fiancée. "Pennies from Heaven? Hasn't that been done?"

"Wait, that's actually--" Buffy rose to pace around the table. "Hattie said something about it not being pearls, and Spike, you said that she and Gil have this theory about musicals and prophecy."

She looked for confirmation from the two hippies, but they were oblivious, staring with interest at the assorted merchandise of the store.

"Hello! Gil?" He came to attention, looking at her expectantly.

"Musicals, prophecies? Does this ring a bell in there, somewhere?"

"Oi, Slayer, watch your tone," Spike came to his friend's defense.

Gil shook his head and looked down at his companion. "Not me, Slay-sister, I'm just along for the ride." He nudged Hattie with a sandaled foot. "But she's got us this far, so it's groovy."

The prophetess smiled brilliantly from her lotus on the floor. "Hair!"

Interrupting her pacing to sidle up to Spike, Buffy whispered, "Does she ever make any sense?"

"Not often, luv, but she plays a mean game of Twister," he leered.

"I'll just bet." She threw him another glare and made a mental note to discuss inappropriate boyfriend behavior later. A full-fledged argument had exploded while her back was turned.

"Hollywood is run by demons, Xander! Pennies From Heaven, Singing In The Rain, Charlton Heston," Anya was retorting, shrilly.

He thumped his hand on the table, "It is not! You're just saying that." There was no way Xander that would ever admit that The Matrix was an evil plot. Not the best action movie ever made; it simply couldn't be.

"Oh, come on. The entire industry is based on apocalyptic prophecy and the end of human oppression. Before motion pictures and TV, there were plays and bards. Beowulf was a warning to demon-kind, you know."

Clem nodded soberly, finally joining the conversation. "Humans came and drove us out of the fens: it was genocide. Very scary stuff. My grand-da used to tell the story every Grofj Day. Kinda like Christmas in July," he clarified for the humans.

"Oh, is that where that came from," Dawn murmured, looking thoughtful.

Buffy's head was beginning to hurt. "Okay, so what we have here is what, the suburban version of rains of pearls, is that it?"

Dawn looked a little guilty. "Well, it makes sense." She opened her backpack, revealing a tote stuffed full of golf balls she'd gathered in a moment of inspiration before heading for the Magic Box. "The Pro Shop at the country club pays for used balls recovered from the woods and stuff. Some of my friends make extra money that way."

"Well," all heads turned to the Brachen, the only one of the group who had actually cracked a book. "This one says that the coming of some sort of god will be, er, 'heralded by a gift of the waters.' I think." He shrugged. "But it also mentions other stuff. My early Sumerian isn't very good."

The Slayer groaned. "We so need Giles for this. Hell Gods I can do. Dead languages, not so much."

"It doesn't mention a Key or anything, does it, Dyl?" Dawn looked a little nervous. "'Cause if it does, I'm so outta here."

"Don't worry, Dawnie, no matter what happens, there are no more towers in your future," Buffy reassured her sister.

"Duh! Like I care about that. Geez, Buffy," Dawn absently rubbed her ribs, "I'm all ready doomed to a life without bikinis; I'm not giving up middy tops." She set her chin, performing a Willow-worthy resolve face. "There will be no more permanent scarring of the Key, ever. And that's final."

Spike jerked away from the bookcase he had been holding up, as if he'd been burned, and stalked towards the girl, staring hard at Buffy all the while.

"No," he murmured, hand hovering over the girl's shoulder, "there won't be. I'll dust before I fail you again, Bit."

Dawn's face softened, and she looked back at him. Spike dropped his gaze from Buffy to meet the eyes of his chosen charge, and let himself touch her, the barest brush of his fingertips against her hair. They communicated silently for a long moment, the tension between them palpable to everyone in the room.

Buffy tried not squirm at the intensity of their connection. She'd been dead when they had turned to each other, and it probably had not been easy, but they made it seem so effortless. Spike and Dawn could forgive each other with a glance, while Buffy struggled to even talk to them. Would it always be this way, her sister and her lover closer to each other than either was to her?

They turned to look at her then, and the Slayer was no longer excluded. She wasn't closed out, she was part and parcel of each, and they in turn were part of her. Their combined gaze drew her forward until she was standing next to the pair. Her fingers brushed Spike's through the curtain of Dawn's hair and an electric charge seemed to run through Buffy.

Spike's eyes widened in surprise. He slipped his other arm around her waist, and drew her against his side. She leaned into him gratefully, returning the caress as her left hand dropped to rest on Dawn's shoulder.

Xander coughed. He was looking away from the scene, obviously uncomfortable, but holding his tongue. His last ally was gone, which meant he would have to get used to another vampire in Buffy's life or lose her and Dawn both. Although, technically, this vampire was back in Buffy's life, but she'd hidden it before, so he hadn't had to deal with it last year.

Turning his gaze to his old friend, Xander met the Slayer's sympathetic smile. At least this time, she wasn't lying to everyone. And he didn't have to like it. But he also didn't need to make this any harder for her than it would already be.

Buffy turned her attention to Slater. He was concentrating on the book in front of him as if his life depended on it, not just his heart. It wasn't her fault, but she still felt guilty for putting him through this.

"Hey, guys?" The assembled Scoobs and auxiliaries looked up at her soft call. "Why don't we call it a night? We've done as much as we can here, and it seems to have stopped." At some point during Xander and Anya's bitch- fest, the noise from outside had slackened, and now it was completely silent outside, excepting car alarms. More than one Sunnydale resident would wake up tomorrow to a broken windshield.

Gil helped his companion to her feet, as everybody stood and stretched, shuffling towards the entrance. Buffy tightened her grip on Spike when he tried to pull away, turning to him.

"Do you mind coming back to the house? I still want to talk to you, okay?" He nodded agreement.

"Are we done, then?" Anya piped up. "Good. You can all leave, now. Please come back during regular business hours with money, and thank you for visiting The Magic Box."

Buffy drew Spike away as Dawn stood and stretched. "I am going to be totally scragged tomorrow." She grinned at her older sister. "Unless my favorite person in the whole world wants to write me a note. Pullleeeeze, Buffy? Let me stay home," she pleaded, "I don't have any tests tomorrow or anything, and I can totally get the homework from Janice and Lisa. Please?"

"Uh-uh. If I can go to work, you can go to school."

"But you have super-powers: super-stay-awake-Slayer-powers!" Dawn's whine went straight to Buffy's guilt reflex, but she held firm.

"Dawn," she warned, "you are going to school tomorrow, and that's final. Do not make me sic the Kroger on you."

The teenager crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue, deliberately juvenile. "Beeatch."



"Klepto." The girls dissolved into giggles, as Spike looked on in shock and Xander watched fondly from the doorway.

It was good to see them like this, acting like sisters, not warden and inmate. Dawn had been so thoroughly inserted into their memories that it was easy to forget she and Buffy were practically strangers only a year or two ago. The remembrances were actually a handicap to the sisters' relationship, creating a false sense of familiarity not grounded in reality. But over the summer, the slight awkwardness between them had gradually vanished, replaced by a deep loyalty and true affection. Enough so that they could now tease each other and laugh together.

A knot deep in Xander's soul loosened, releasing tension and resentment he hadn't even realized was there. They were beautiful, but they weren't his. Like Anya, they belonged only to themselves, and he was merely privileged enough to be included in their lives. It was more than enough.

"Hey, Anya," he began nervously, "can I, uh, walk you home?"

Anya looked up at him sharply. "I am perfectly capable of apparating myself, Xander," she reminded him with asperity. "I am a vengeance demon, as you seem to prefer to forget."

Xander winced, but pushed on. "Then, um, would you mind walking me home? Dawn brought me here and." he gestured out into the dark night.

A softly startled look passed over Anya's face and a tiny smile flickered around her mouth. "Oh! Um. Of course, Xander. I should have realized you are human and defenseless. Just let me lock up, and I would be, um. I will. yes." Flustered, she turned to the remaining threesome, said a hurried goodnight, and joined Xander at the door, locking it closed behind her.

Spike watched the exchange with amusement. It looked like Puff Daddy was well on his way to reconciliation with his demon-girl. Good on him. Unfortunately, he was now locked in the shop with Buffy and Dawn; not that it was necessarily a bad thing, but..

"I hate to destroy a tender moment, pet, but are we camping out in here or am I to break out a window?"

"You haven't told him?" Dawn snickered.

"I thought you did!" Buffy protested, releasing her hold on Spike and holding up her hands defensively. "It's yours to tell, anyway."

"Oh, yeah, right." Dawn rolled her eyes and flipped her hair back. "Like that's ever stopped you before, blabbermouth."

The girl eyed the vampire speculatively and snickered again. "Watch and be amazed, blood-breath."

She sauntered over to the closed door of what Spike distinctly remembered as a utility closet and pushed up her sleeves. Throwing a mischievous wink at Buffy, the Key pulled a tiny switchblade from her pocket, snapped it open, and ran her finger down the razor sharp edge.

A thin, red line of blood oozed out of the cut; Dawn reached out, grasped the doorknob firmly with her wounded hand, and threw open the door with a flourish.


"Holy fuck!" Spike yelled as Buffy seized his hand and dragged him towards the rectangle of green light.

"Show off," she muttered at her sister as she propelled the stunned vampire through the portal.

"Bloody fucking fuck!" Spike was still shouting obscenities when they stepped through into Buffy's bedroom. Dawn followed calmly, struggling to keep a straight face as the realization of where they had landed finally shut him up.

Handing the blade to Buffy, Dawn stepped away from the portal. The Slayer sliced her own finger, reached through the wall of viridian light and pulled the door shut.

She closed the miniature switchblade and tossed it back to Dawn, watching Spike warily. His eyes were wide and shocked, his gaze flicking back and forth between the two sisters.

With a choked sound, he flung himself at the closet, trying to push it open, but the door had reverted to it's natural closet state and once again opened into the room. After a few seconds of struggle, Spike was finally able to grasp the concept, and wrenched the door wide, only to be confronted with Buffy's stylish yet affordable wardrobe.

He slammed the closet shut again and leaned back against it, mouth working silently as he stared in panic at Buffy and Dawn. Buffy was doubled over with laughter, tears streaming down her face.

"That was cruel, Dawn," she gasped.

Dawn had fallen back onto Buffy's bed, howling and holding her stomach.

"Oh. oh. but so funny!" She pointed weakly at Spike. "You. ha! You should've seen your face! Omigod!"

Buffy slowly regained control of herself, clutching her aching side.

"I'm sorry, Spike, that was really mean," she chortled, not the least little bit repentant.

"What the bloody fuck was that?" he roared at the giggling duo.

Dawn sobered slightly and sat up. Giving Spike a smug look, she indicated the closet, "Door," herself, "Key," and Buffy, "Lock."

His head whipped toward Buffy. "Lock?"

"Kinda, yeah. More like Anti-Key, though." She shrugged. "We're not sure why, but Giles is researching it."

"How did you--" The vampire was still unable to form complete sentences.

"Figure it out? Kind of a funny story, actually." Buffy shifted uncomfortably. "In a deeply scary and almost fatal kinda way."

Dawn nodded agreement. "Big scary accident. Mucho badness." She smirked. "But for future reference, you might want to be careful about pissing me off. Just a suggestion."

"Enough, Dawn, I think he gets the idea." Spike gaped at the inappropriately amused twosome as he tried to assimilate what had just happened.

"I think you broke him, Dawnie," Buffy observed.

"Naw, he'll get over it."

"I don't know. Maybe you should have warned him first."

"Hey, a picture's worth a thousand words, right?" Dawn shrugged, unconcerned. "Whatever. I've gotta crash, since a certain evil someone is making me go to school tomorrow." She glanced at the bedside clock. "Make that today," she said pointedly, and levered herself off of Buffy's bed. "You should too, if you're gonna go to work tomorrow."

Buffy grimaced. "I know, but I have to call Giles first; he'll want to know what's going on."

"Yeah." Dawn kissed her sister's cheek as she let herself out. "See ya tomorrow, sis, evil dead."

"Sleep good, Dawnie." Buffy smiled affectionately at her sister's back, before turning to Spike. He still looked completely shell-shocked. She grabbed his hand and led him firmly from the room.

"C'mon, White Fang. Let's get you some blood before you pass out."

RATING: PG-13, this chapter.
DISTRIBUTION: Previous chapters at
DISCLAIMER: Joss is my type-monkey; I keep him chained under my desk. Naughty, Joss, no touching!
NOTE: This one goes out to and the lovely people who share it with us. And thank you's galore to Canada, my lovely beta; Miss Spank aka Kimi, who won't even recognize this from my angsty babbling about it weeks ago; and Jen, who helps me shop when I'm avoiding my fic demons.
FEEDBACK: If I didn’t want it, would we even be here?
PREVIOUSLY: Spike gets collared (Yum). Buffy invites Spike to live out a Ramones song. Xander remains unhappy with Buffy’s life choices. Fun with cutlery. Dawn runs away to dance with suspicious hippies. Buffy’s got a Brachen beau. Golf balls from Heeeeeaven. Some walking and talking. Xander gets over it (kinda) and Anya takes pity on his poor fragile self. Buffy and Dawn exhibit surprising new skills and scare the piss out of our Spikey. Awww, poor Spikey! The cruel sisters point and laugh. How mean!

10. Closing Time

“You are so weird.”

Spike raised his head at her comment. Ten bucks on what he would do next.

Yup, there he goes: left eyebrow, head-tilt combo, hold, hold, aaaaand... he lands it. The crowd goes wild! Yes Jim, Team Vampire will definitely be taking home the gold this year.

“What?” He sounded faintly defensive. Maybe that’s because she was staring. There should be a website, Gah. Buffy shook herself out of head-tilt hypnosis and pointed to the mess on the battered kitchen island.

“What are you doing?” Spike had pulled everything out of the bag from Willie’s and lined each item up like a macabre solitaire game.

“Selecting my entrée, Slayer.” He raised and dropped the eyebrow again, before returning his attention the grisly menu laid out the counter. Engrossed in the decision making process, the vampire sipped at a glass of the scotch that had mysteriously appeared in her home. Or not so mysteriously, considering where Spike had gotten the blood. Willie probably raked it in as Sunnydale’s sole purveyor of demonic delicacies.

Buffy shuddered. The bags were far more disturbing than actual blood. A Slayer got used to blood, gore, and slices of skin flapping unpleasantly in the breeze, but those small, sterile packets were creepy. If the fluid were blue, those bags would be dead ringers for the hot/cold heat packs she kept for contusions and sprains, and ew!

This train of thought led inevitably to wondering if one could just stick the whole bag in the microwave to warm them or if it would explode like Dawn’s attempt at instant eggs. A whole different kind of Gah! going on there.

“It’s blood, Spike. B-l-o-o-d. Just pick one before it curdles on the countertop.” Gross, icky, bad! Buffy had a sudden image of the vampire version of cottage cheese and nearly lost her cookies. This is what happened when one dated vampires: a whole dimension of badness that far surpassed human boys with a penchant for peanut butter and potato chip sandwiches.

“Just blood? Just blood!” Spike picked up a squishy sample and shook it at her, a deeply offended expression on his face. The eyebrow twitched madly. “This is the good stuff, Slayer. A-1 prime, best grade plasma, fresh from the campus blood drive. You don’t just dump this in a novelty mug and suck it through a crazy straw.

“For example,” he examined the neatly lettered label on the packet in his hand, “this is a 22-year-old male, no STD’s, tested positive for marijuana, with traces of alcohol in his system. Probably from a kegger the night before.” He frowned and set it down. “Would clash with the scotch, though. Save it for buffalo wings.”

The vampire chose another. “Now, this one is a sprightly young co-ed: 18, vegetarian, clean as a whistle.” Spike pursed his lips appreciatively and set it aside for dinner, as he returned the losing contestants to their bag. The bag went into the vegetable crisper until next time.

Buffy shuddered. Salad was definitely not going to be served with dinner anytime soon.

“That’s sick, Spike.” She frowned thoughtfully and picked up the winning donation. “Who labels these things, anyway? ‘Cause this is disturbing in so many ways.”

Shrugging, he snatched back his meal. “Don’t know, don’t care.”

“Then how do you know for sure? It could be anyone’s blood; some junkie looking for drug money, or a homeless person.” Visions of bag ladies thumped on the head and drained by an evil nursing assistant danced through her head.

Spike rolled his eyes. “Vampire, pet, remember? One, I would know,” he poured the blood into her Pyrex measuring cup and raised it to his nose, eyelashes fluttering as he inhaled. “And two, Willy is well aware that I’d get him for cheating me.”

As satisfied as a sommelier, Spike placed the cup in the microwave and turned to face Buffy.

“Oh, really, soul-boy? And before you were chip-loose and fang-free you woulda what, tickled him to death?” She snorted, arms crossed and challenging.

“Chip didn’t give a good goddamn about property damage, luv.” An evil smirk propped up the corners of his mouth like quote marks emphasizing the difference in species, as if she could forget. “Can of petrol and a match and Fwoomp! No more Willy’s Place.” He chuckled at her appalled stare. “Not to worry, pet, got no plans to firebomb the git.”

“But…” Buffy sputtered, searching for words. He had a soul now; didn’t that make him different, better, not evil? “How could you even think of that? It’s---”

“Evil?” Spike stalked towards her, smirk wiped away. “I’m a vampire. I’ve spent five times my original life being a vampire, and I will continue to be a vampire until I’m dust. Vampire. Evil, soulless thing. Remember?”

His arms shot out, trapping her against the cabinets as his voice lowered to a rumble. “You don’t get it, do you? You never once understood.

“The chip’s not what kept me on a leash, Slayer. It was never the chip.” One hand stroked down her arm to her hip, and grasped the lead still looped around her waist. He tugged, pulling her tightly against his own slim frame. “It was you. Always you.”

Hands slid and wandered, stroking skin and silk and gabardine. She shuddered under the teasing, her arms unfolding of their own accord to fasten around him. He made it so easy to forget, his wicked tongue trailing up her neck to the point of her cheek. Buffy moaned, even as he whispered bitter truths in her ear.

“Sent hit-men after you once. Coulda done it again,” his hands grabbed her ass and he pressed against her. Buffy’s head fell back at the sensation, silently pleading for more, “and again, and again, until one of ‘em finally got you good.”

The movement of his lips against her skin was intoxicating. She was sucked under by the sound of his voice, the meaning of his words lost beneath waves of frustrated desire.

And suddenly he wasn’t there. Buffy almost fell, her knees buckling at the abrupt loss of support. She gasped and leaned heavily on the counter until her head cleared, irritation chasing away weakness.

“Damn it, Spike!” He grinned a little, but pretended to ignore her, his attention ostentatiously focused on programming the microwave.

He spoke without turning around, feeling a little smug, but not enough to risk a stake through the heart for gloating. “Call your Watcher, pet.”

“Don’t wanna.” She glared at his back and pouted, chin dangerously pointy. “Besides, it’s probably like, midnight there or something.”

“It’s after midnight here, but full morning in the Motherland, Slayer.” Spike didn’t bother to do the math, instead extending his awareness of night, pushing his senses against the boundaries of his nature. Somewhere within there was a vibrato twanging, and his demon cowered at the onrushing sun, counting down hours, minutes, and seconds.

No watch or clock could tell the truth of time. It wasn’t about the soothing tick of wheels and gears, or a blinking electronic display. Time was divided into darkness and light, safety and danger cycling endlessly through years and decades of un-life. Hunt and feed, sleep and dream, constellations of predators emerging with the moon and retreating before the sun since time immemorial.

Impatience with the Slayer made Spike’s words sharp. She should feel it, she should know the rhythm as well as the creatures she hunted, if not better.

“Rupes is probably on his second cuppa by now. Call him before he for leaves to do whatever Watchers do when they’re not watching.” Tweedy prats.

“And you would know this how?” Buffy still sounded sullen.

He squashed down his irritation, but a sigh escaped. “Lived with ‘im, didn’t I? Just get on the horn.”


Spike rescued his dinner while Buffy dialed. The magic of modern technology in the form of McBlood distracted him from her voice, while he wrestled with the urge to brood.

He felt as if there thousands of invisible eyes watching him, a constant itch on the back of his neck. In his more paranoid moments, he was certain these invisible observers were sitting in judgement, waiting for him to fuck up, wondering how he could return to the scene of his crime.

Certainly Xander was on the jury, ready to stake him at the first lapse. And yet, the episode which had most recently put him on the carpenter’s shit list felt nearly inconsequential, a grain of sand among infinite others. The horrors he had performed, the gore and terror of over a century, eclipsed a single moment of mad desperation on tile.

No, despite his melodramatic re-entrance, what he’d tried to wrest from Buffy didn’t weigh nearly so heavily on his new soul as all that had preceded it. Babies haunted him, coal miners and their families, bodies impaled for the sensual pleasure it gave his demon and his demon bride. He had constructed elaborate tableaus of terror in his time, disdaining to feed even. He and Dru, Angelus and Darla; they had made death their craft, dynamic performance art of the most self-indulgent kind.

And the worst part, the part that really stung, was that he increasingly suspected he hadn’t been any better at that than he had at poetry. Spike was a dilettante, and a poor one. No wonder they had sneered, and Dru had left him. William was bloody awful and had never gotten any better, even at being a demon, just more ostentatious with each Slayer, like a spotty adolescent smoking in the boy’s room.

So it was all for nothing. He’d killed and maimed and reveled in blood for nothing. All that death, empty and meaningless and useless and he was still the git in the corner, knobby kneed and trying too hard. It was funny, in a morbid way: thousands of bodies heaped upon his conscience, just because he was a middle-class wannabe who couldn’t rhyme for shit.

Spike finished his blood and rinsed out his cup, then wandered into the living room to sprawl on the sofa. Buffy’s voice skittered across the surface of his attention, and he closed his eyes wearily.


It never failed to amaze her how a transatlantic phone call could be as clear as if Giles was in the same room, but whenever she called Xander, his voice seemed to come from the bottom of a well. A very deep well.

Buffy made a mental note to swing by the telephone company on her next patrol. Demonic activity was more likely than technical failure in Sunnydale.

His voice on the line had been reassuring, soothing her jangled nerves. She’d reported the events of the past few days in an urgent babble, her words tumbling over themselves like unruly toddlers, but she couldn’t seem to slow down: “so while Dawn making a little extra money isn’t a bad thing, since I still can’t afford to giver her an allowance, it’s a little weird-- dontcha think?”

Maybe if she talked fast enough, he wouldn’t notice the Spike parts of her ramble. There was no telling if he’d still think it was funny, and she couldn’t see his face over the phone to give her a clue. Giles could be unpredictable that way, and the soul bit was bound to bring up lots of… stuff. Issue-y stuff, involving torture and leather pants, and the last time she’d been involved with a vampire.

The moment of silence on the line stretched like taffy into several moments. Buffy was seriously considering hyperventilating when Willow’s voice came on.

“Buffy? Giles is cleaning his glasses really hard, and I think he may be going into catatonic shock. So I thought maybe I should take the phone for a minute, so you didn’t think he was dead or something.”

“Oh.” Should she repeat the whole story or just move on to regular Willow-phone-call type conversation? Except that there was nothing regular about talking to Willow, anymore, for obvious reasons. “Ummm. So how’s it going?”

Willow laughed, the sound darker and sadder than it used to be. “I’m fine, couldn’t be better, if you don’t count horrible guilt and suicidal depression. But, hey, other than that, everything’s peachy. One day at a time, et al.”

“That’s good. You sound better.” God, this was awkward. They hadn’t spoken a half dozen times since Giles had taken her to England. Buffy was totally on board the ‘love, give, forgive’ train, but really, what could she say: Oh hi, how’s it going, seen any good movies recently? And hey, how ‘bout those Mets, huh?

“Spike’s back,” she blurted, and mentally kicked herself. Hippie vampires, golf balls falling from the sky, and Hell-god prophecies, and that’s all she could think of to say? Talk about Freudian.

“Oh.” There was a noisy slurp and chew over the line, proving Spike right about it being breakfast time in Bath. “So are you shtupping him again?”

“What? No! Maybe. What’s shtupping?” A muffled howl from the living room caught Buffy’s attention and she peered around the corner to see Spike doubled over with laughter.

“You know: boinking, banging, doing the nasty.” Willow’s voice was clinically interested, as if she were curious but not particularly invested in the answer either way. It was vaguely comforting compared to Xander’s reaction. “Because that’s the only thing I can think of that would make Giles get a drink at 9:30 in the morning.”

“He’s not mad is he? Because no, no nastiness here! Well, not much. Yet. Although, the knife thing was pretty nasty, but in that good tingly way, not in a bad scary way, except you know, knife.” Great, babble on Buffy. She should just change her name to Brooke and bring the metaphor to life. Or was that a simile?

Willow gave her a respectful moment to contemplate sinking into the floor with embarrassment, before responding. “I think that was a TMI, but since it made no sense, I’ll pretend I didn’t hear any of it, okay Buff?”

Giles voice interrupted from the background, and there was a muffled exchange that she couldn’t quite make out. “Sorry, Buffy, but we’ve gotta go. Giles says he’s not upset, but ‘do be careful’” Willow sounded exactly like the Watcher for a second, “and he’ll see what he can find. We’ll call you later, okay?”

“Oh, okay, sure.” Buffy was nonplussed as they made swift good-byes. What was so urgent that it outranked the Hellmouth, anyway? She indulged in a little more self-castigation: that wasn’t fair, but it was hard. She was used to Giles dropping everything when she needed him, and hadn’t yet gotten out of the habit. Nine months did not six years of habit break.

She hung up the phone with exaggerated care, laying the receiver back into its cradle as if it were glass. Her hand lingered on the plastic, eyes blank and introverted.

Spike watched her wander into the living room from his place on the sofa, his own eyes wary. It was hard to tell if the conversation had gone well, and he didn’t quite know what to make of her talking to the witch.

“You okay, pet?”

Buffy lowered herself onto the floor next to the couch and let her head rest against his thigh without answering. The events of the past three days spun dizzily in her brain, and her stomach suddenly felt as if she were riding the Tilt-A-Whirl at the fair.

It was just too much all at once, especially after the summer of peace she’d been having. Now suddenly it was back to business as usual, and she wasn’t ready, hadn’t studied or even gone to class. Buffy needed time, but time was what she didn’t have. Instead she had Spike, and two new pieces on the board with unknown agendas, and prophecies, and an angry Xander, and a little sister with more mood swings than an entire ward of manic-depressives.

Her Watcher was watching a witch, not her, and Willow was her friend so she wasn’t allowed to resent that, was she? But still, it felt like another betrayal, another usurpation of her place. Her dad had gotten himself a new family, with shiny new kids who didn’t burn down schools; Riley had his perfect Kevlar wife with a mission to match; Angel had replaced her with Faith, swapping out the old Slayer for a shinier, faster model with better handling. Even The Powers That Be had chosen Kendra, and then Faith, over the damaged original.

How soon until Spike did the same, and dear god where had that thought come from? Despite his claim, he hadn’t come back to her unencumbered. It may not have been a wife, but the soul cast a shadow, tugging him away from her. It was easier when she’d thought that he’d turned to Anya: Buffy could just add him to the list. Easy when you’ve done it countless times before.

The fragile identity she’d pieced together over the months was cracking along familiar fault lines, the glue that held her together turning brittle. Her hand crept up Spike’s thigh, slipping stealthily toward the familiar opiate of his flesh.

Gentle fingers trapped hers, capturing her hand. “No, pet, not like this. Not when you can’t see me.”

Buffy’s eyes flew up to the vampire’s, and the hurt regret in them shattered the last vestige of her control. Sobs beat their way up her throat, bursting from her mouth with cries like wounded birds. It burned.

“No!” Buffy hiccupped, resentfully, as tears finally escaped down her cheeks. “I’m not okay, and it’s all your fault!”

He lifted and tugged, pulling her up until she was nested against his lanky body, arms wrapped tightly around her shoulders. Buffy wailed into his chest, gasping, hands fisted in the material of his shirt as she shuddered and cried.

“Shhh, luv, I’ve got you, let it out.” Spike stroked her hair and let her bawl, holding her together so that she could fall apart. “That’s it, pet, just let it all out.”

She sniffled and muttered. “I’m getting your shirt all snotty. Gross.”

“It’ll wash.” She could feel him trying not to laugh, a muted rumble in his chest. “Now then, what’s this all about?”

Buffy sighed, somehow not as mortified as she thought she would be. “Nothing. Everything. Not enough sleep. Willow and Giles and stuff.”

“Oh, yes, of course. That makes it perfectly clear.” Stupid vampire. How dare he be mocking and sarcastic when she was obviously having a complete breakdown. She thumped him on the chest, and realized with a start how very girlfriendy that was. Buffy sat up, straddling Spike, and stared at him, brow wrinkled.

“What?” He stared back, expression waxing from boyfriendy to worried.

Her mouth opened and closed silently, as she searched for words. Oh god, revelation. Bad, bad revelation. Riley. Oh my god.

“What? Buffy, you look like a gaffed fish. Speak woman!” He shook her, hands cupping her shoulders. “What are you thinking?”

“Oh god.” She stared at him in horror, her mind comparing and contrasting a million different moments. “This is what Riley wanted. Why couldn’t I do this with him?”

He looked at her and cocked his head. “Do what? Get his shirt all snotty?” He laughed at her dumbstruck nod. “I dunno, Slayer. Do you?”

“It’s gonna sound stupid, but I think it’s because he used starch. And ironed.” Okay, maybe it was a dumb revelation, but epiphanies didn’t have to make sense. “I mean, it’s kinda hard to really let go with someone, when you’re afraid of messing up their nice outfit, you know?”

Spike chuckled and sat up, pushing her off of his lap. “Honestly, Slayer, I do know. I also know that it’s time for you to tuck in, before this evening becomes any stranger.”

“Don’t wanna.” Her lower lip pushed out, and she pouted at him through her lashes. “I wanna have The Talk.”

“No talk. Talk later.” He scooped her up, ignoring her halfhearted wiggle of protest. “Sleep now, before you become completely incomprehensible and I’m forced to kill you for my own sanity’s sake.”

She yawned in response, relaxing as he carried her up the stairs in pleasant boyfriend fashion. This was good. Buffy’s thoughts slowed and she let herself be dumped on her bed.

“Good night, Slayer.” Cool lips rested against her forehead and her eyes fluttered open.

“Good night, Spike. Sorry I got you all grody.”

He laughed and kissed her hard on the mouth, and was gone.

Buffy yawned again, and struggled out of her clothes without getting off the bed. Pulling the covers over her, she set the alarm and snuggled into her pillow.

This was normal. Strange and unnatural, but it felt normal. She was asleep in seconds.

RATING: PG-13, this chapter for adult situations, language, and mild violence.
DISTRIBUTION: Previous chapters at
DISCLAIMER: Joss is my type-monkey; I keep him chained under my desk. Naughty, Joss, no touching!
NOTE: This chapter is pretty much a bridge. Oh, and a chance for me to torture Xander, just a little. Big thanks to all the graphics bunnies. Check out to see their efforts. Proceeds are donated to needy fans who wanna go to cons.
FEEDBACK: If I didn't want it, would we even be here?
PREVIOUSLY: Spike gets collared (Yum). Buffy invites Spike to live out a Ramones song. Xander remains unhappy with Buffy's life choices. Fun with cutlery. Dawn runs away to dance with suspicious hippies. Buffy's got a Brachen beau. Golf balls from Heeeeeaven. Some walking and talking. Xander gets over it (kinda) and Anya takes pity on his poor fragile self. Buffy and Dawn exhibit surprising new skills and scare the piss out of our Spikey. Awww, poor Spikey! The cruel sisters point and laugh. How mean! Then some smoochies, some snot, and a lame-o epiphany.

11. The Future

Spike let himself out of Buffy’s window and crept along the roof to Dawn’s room. Just a quick check to make sure she was sleeping safe and sound, and then he could go make everything ready for the big night.


“Ah!” The vampire jumped and spun to face the threat, lost his footing on the slanted surface, and fell hard, scrabbling for purchase on the rough surface as gravity tried to work it’s will. With a muted bellow, his game face leapt to the fore, and he drove his claws deep into the cedar shakes, feet hanging precariously over 30 feet of air. The last thing he needed was a broken neck. Spike hung there for a moment, feeling less like a predator at the top of the food chain than a fluffy bunny faced with headlights and a semi.

“Geez, Mr. Stealthy, how ever did you manage to get caught by the Initiative with those catlike reflexes?” The voice drifted down from the roof’s peak, dripping teenaged sarcasm.

“Bit,” he hissed and swung back onto the roof. He leapt with self-conscious grace over the dormers to Dawn’s perch. “What are you doing up here?”

“Duh. Spying on you and Buffy, what else?” Her eye-roll was perfectly visible, a belated reminder that he was still in demon mode. Spike growled softly and shook himself back into human guise as he settled next to the girl.

“If you didn’t leave tonight, I was totally gonna blackmail her into letting me stay home from school.” She heaved a disappointed sigh. “That’s an hour of sleep, wasted.”

Dawn shot him a sly sideways glance and rearranged her face into a pout. “I don’t suppose you could be persuaded to sneak back into her room and make with some PG-13 nookie action, huh? Solely in the interest of my continued health and well-being, of course.” She batted her eyelashes and tried not to smirk.

Spike grinned at her and leaned back to fight his trouser pocket for possession of his smokes. He really needed a new jacket. “Much as I hate to disappoint you, Platelet, I do have other plans for the wee hours.”

Spike lit up with a deep sigh of pleasure, savoring the mingled bite of nicotine and tar across his tongue. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, though.”

“Think nothing of it.” Dawn waved grandly, changing both mood and subject with the regal aplomb that only adolescent girls could pull off convincingly. “So are you and Buffy official, this time?”

“Define official.” He quirked an eyebrow at her and took another drag, leaking smoke out his nostrils.

“Going steady, out of the closet, dating, yadda yadda.” She shifted uncomfortably in place. “C’mon, spill, my butt’s getting sore.”

“Dunno. Maybe. She wants to talk.” Spike pondered the glowing tip of his cigarette and wondered whether he should be merely afraid, or very terrified. His hindbrain was voting for gibbering terror.

“She wants to talk, or she wants to have The Talk? Did she capitalize?” Dawn jigged and shifted again, wincing.

Spike looked at her in awe. “How do you chits do that? Capitalize, boldface, and change font with your voice?”

Dawn let loose a triumphant crow and stood. “Ha! She did, didn’t she?” He nodded. “I knew it!”

Mission accomplished, she picked her way down the roof to her window, abandoning Spike to the company of RJ Reynolds. The wind carried her snickering chant up to him: “…k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes loooooove…”

He shook his head and pitched the cigarette out into the yard, rising to make his own way down. Women. Dead or alive, they were all mad as hatters, gods love 'em.


Spike worked the streets of Sunnydale in a tightening spiral, chain-smoking and casually staking as the opportunity arose. The new high school was similar enough to the old that his preparations there presented little difficulty, and the vampire was feeling well pleased with himself when he finally reached his own cemetery.

There was still plenty of time until sunrise, so he continued circling, taking out a few stray fledglings and some joker’s attempt at undead animal husbandry. Some vamps never learned that demonic house pets were a bad idea. The things inevitably strayed out into the sun and got fried; one squirrel-chasing incident was all it took. Better to just put the poor, sorry bastards out of their misery. Still, it always pissed him off to have to stake puppies.

“Don’t move, Soul Train.”

Spike froze. Buggering hell. “Don’t any of you Scoobies sleep?”

“Just turn around slowly.” The vampire actually considered it for a nanosecond. Fuck that.

Spike dived to his left in a blur of supernatural speed and flipped off his hands towards the sound of the voice. He landed silently beside Xander, dropped to a crouch, and swept the carpenter’s feet out from under him as the crossbow twanged and released a bolt right where he’d been only seconds earlier. Spike backhanded the boy, grabbed the crossbow as Xander reeled with the blow, and threw the weapon out of immediate range.

Xander pulled out a stake and lunged towards the vampire, or tried to. His knee folded and he collapsed onto the turf with an ignominious squeak.

Spike danced back, away from his fuming attacker. “What the fuck was that for?!”

Xander rolled up into an awkward sprawl and leaned against the headstone he’d been hiding behind. He rubbed at his wrenched knee, glaring back at the outraged vampire.

“One, I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I’d patrol, and two, I want to have a little talk with you. Frankly, when having conversations with vampires, I prefer to be armed. Heavily armed.”

“Was this a shoot first, ask questions later type of conversation, mate? Because I don’t see you having a meaningful exchange of ideas with my ashes.”

Xander had the grace to look embarrassed. “I didn’t actually mean to shoot, it just sort of went off.”

Spike sighed and glared, glared and sighed. “No harm done. Fat lot of good the artillery did you, anyway.” He hopped up onto a neighboring monument and lit another cigarette, ignoring the crossbow and regarding Xander steadily. “So. Talk.”

Xander shifted uneasily, avoiding his gaze. “Um. Well, that’s the thing. I hadn’t really gotten farther than ‘don’t move,’ but if you give me a minute or two, I’m sure I could come up with something along the lines of ‘you better not hurt Buffy, you evil bastard, or I’ll stake you.’” He tipped his head back against the stone and closed his eyes. “And I think it’s been amply demonstrated just how empty that threat is.

“Still,” Xander straightened and met Spike’s eyes, “I’m a creative guy and I’m pretty sure I could come up with something painful and permanently dusty.”

Spike nodded agreement, tapping the ash off the end of his smoke. “I’ve no desire to be on the wrong end of a rocket launcher, I’ll give you that.”

“Oh. Okay, then.” Xander seemed a little surprised and continued with more confidence. “In that case, let’s set some ground rules.”

“First, stay away from Anya. In the carnal sense, I mean, not the retail sense.” He looked to the vampire for concurrence, and got another nod.

“Not to worry, one time thing, that.”

“Good. Okay, second,” Xander rubbed his hands together, “I know we’ve already covered this, but no hurting Buffy in any way, shape, or form.”

“Wouldn’t dream of mussing a hair on her or the Bit’s head.”

“That covers third. So, fourth, uh… I don’t what comes next, but I’ll think of something. Just keep your nose clean.” Xander nodded firmly, satisfied.

“Right then, my turn.” Spike jumped to his feet, sauntered over to squat in front of the human, and began ticking off his own rules with his fingers.

“One: lay off Buffy about us. She decides, not you or me. Two: don’t go sneaking around trying to shoot me in the back. Makes me nervy. Three: be nice to Anyanka, she’s a good egg, and deserves better than you. Remember that, or I’ll remind you in the most painful way possible. And four: I don’t know yet, but if you piss me off like this again, I’ll rip your arms off and use them to beat you to death. We clear?” He smiled pleasantly.

Xander gulped and nodded. It was never good when vampires smiled at him like that. “Crystal.”

“Good.” Spike exhaled a plume of smoke in his face and frowned. “I think it’s probably best if the Slayer never finds out about this.”

That earned a vigorous nod in reply, as Xander levered himself up. “Oh, on that point we are in complete agreement. Yup, complete and total simpatico.”

“Is this what’s meant by male bonding? Because I always thought it would involve orgasms and manly cries of ecstasy. I’m very disappointed.”

“Anya?” Xander startled, and would have fallen again if Spike hadn’t grabbed his arm. And how weird was that? “What are you doing here?”

The vengeance demon stepped into view and scowled at her ex-fiancé. “I could ask you the same thing, Xander, but I think I know, and I’m not pleased. You have no right to interfere in my life. If I want to have sex with Spike, I will, and you have no say. None.

“Not that I do, nothing personal, Spike.” She shot him an apologetic glance and he smirked back. “But as a matter of principle, I resent your making ultimatums regarding my orgasms and I won’t tolerate it. You are violating my civil liberties and undermining the fundamental tenets of a free society.”

“I didn’t mean it that way, Anya,” Xander huffed, flapping unattractively. “I was just---”

“I don’t want to hear it. Go home, Xander.” She turned her back on him, crossing her arms. Xander stared at her rigid posture, and then flicked a look at Spike, who shrugged.

“I’m sorry, An,” he said, softly. He looked for a second as if he would say more but didn’t, walking away instead.

Spike watched the other man until he was out of sight, feeling an unwelcome empathy for him, before addressing Anya.

“Were you looking for me, pet?” She shook her head without raising her eyes from the ground.

“No, just following Xander.” Her arms fell to her sides, hands dangling limply as she finally met his gaze.

“I don’t know whether I’m waiting for someone to make a wish against him or trying to protect him,” she whispered. “Half the time I’m worried sick, but the other half I want to pluck out all of his body hair, strand by strand.”

Spike winced.

Anya sighed. “Anyway, so long as you’re here, I should give you a card.” A rectangle of stiff blue paper appeared in her hand. He raised an eyebrow as he accepted it.

“I meant to give you one earlier,” she explained. “I’ve diversified, expanding into the virtual marketplace, while still adhering to my core competencies.”

Anya pointed out the logo proudly. “The graphics are up at Café Press, and you can find it by searching on RetailJustice. This URL - works, too. It’s fully operational and all major credit cards are accepted.”

Spike nodded gravely, complimenting her. “It’s very nice, Anyanka. If I decide to curse Xander, I’ll come to you first thing.”

The vengeance demon fairly glowed, beaming. “Thank you, Spike! I look forward to doing business with you.”

She cocked her head suddenly. “Oh well, duty calls.” Anya fluttered a good-bye and disappeared.

Feeling vaguely like an undead Greta Garbo, Spike extended his senses, checking for any more unexpected visitors. Satisfied that there were no other Scoobies –or anything else- lying in wait to accost him, he cautiously started home. With any luck, he’d make it back well before sunrise without being shot, cursed, or maimed. Hope springs eternal.

Spike reached his crypt with no further excitement. Rounding the corner quickly, in anticipation of a nice chat about the evening’s festivities, followed by an even nicer morning snooze, he skidded to a halt, gaping in horrified outrage.

There was a bloody huge R.V. parked in front of his crypt.


The bell over the door jangled cheerfully as Buffy walked into The Magic Box.

“Anya? Are you here?” She called into the empty looking shop, searching for signs of life. “Anya?”

“Good evening, my sister.” Buffy whirled around to face the strange woman coming towards her and stared. She was dressed like a refugee from a costume party, Hattie-style, only different. The multicolored skirt swung in heavy silken pleats, and strings of pearls hid her bare chest. Gleaming black hair tumbled in ringlets, wrapped with more pearls.

“It’s morning,” Buffy argued, gesturing to the windows, but they were dark, and her hand fell.

The petite stranger shook her head and smiled. “Not yet, but it will be soon.” Reaching Buffy, she hugged her like a long lost cousin, and took her arm. “Come, sit. There is much to be done before they get here.”

Buffy let herself be led to the research table in a daze. As they sat, a woman dressed in a white skirt and tight girdle entered from the back room, carrying a tray. She set bowls of figs and dates, a jar of wine, and small plates of sticky looking pastries before them, and retreated silently.

“Who are you? Where’s Anya?” Her companion just smiled and pulled an open i-book towards her. She typed rapidly for several moments, while Buffy eyed the food suspiciously, before looking up with a serious expression.

“I’m afraid we don’t have much to spare. The tribes of the one god have burned Diamah and D’ashtar to the north and we’re currently flooded with refugees.” The woman typed some more and looked grave. “I can provide some limited funds. No grain or wine, unfortunately, with all the new mouths to feed.”

“Okay.” Buffy looked down at her sparkly halter and red leather pants. Fat bees buzzed lazily through the muggy air of the store, landing on baskets of pomegranates stuffed into shadowed corners. “I’m dreaming, aren’t I?”

Her hostess smiled and shrugged, reaching for glazed crescent of golden dough, dripping with honey. The odor was pungent, heavy and sweet with spices.

“Dream schmeam. This is important, and there is little time, so pay attention.”

A printer hummed and spat in the background, and the attendant returned with a battered scroll, neat lines of wingdings marching across its creased, brown surface.

The black haired woman examined it closely and sighed. “We’ve sent a warrior and a handmaid with your consort. They will make the journey west, to build the temple and restore the rites of the people before they arrive.”

“Before who arrives? Who’s coming?” Buffy was starting to panic.

“The rest of the refugees, of course. We can’t take them all, nor are we immune to the fires.” The dream person rolled up the scroll and tapped it thoughtfully against her palm. “Move swiftly, sister: there is much to be done, and you have only begun.”

Smiling sweetly, she reached for several strands of pearls, pulling them over her head. She held them towards Buffy, who bowed her own head to accept. As the pearls fell against her chest, the strings broke and they rained to the floor, bouncing and rolling away.

The bell over the door rang again, and golden sunlight streamed in as it opened into the shop, framing the blond man standing at the entryway.

Buffy jackknifed upright with a choked gasp, her eyes snapping open to the same sunlight flooding in through her bedroom windows. It dripped down the walls like honey, heavy and sweet, and she smelled spices.

With a groan, Buffy fell back onto her pillows and reached for the snooze button, closing her eyes wearily. The remnants of her dream unrolled behind her eyelids.

“Uh oh.” Giles was so gonna want to know about this.

RATING: PG all chapter. Sorry Guttersnipes, sometimes our characters must do things other than shag each other into the nearest available surface.
DISTRIBUTION: Previous chapters at
DISCLAIMER: Joss is my type-monkey; I keep him chained under my desk. Naughty, Joss, no touching!
NOTE: This chapter is dedicated to the lovelies who kept me from committing hari kari last week while I had the flu: Shaddyr (sorry it took so long!), Jen, and as ever, Canada, beta goddess.
FEEDBACK: If I didn't want it, would we even be here?
PREVIOUSLY: Spike gets collared (Yum). Buffy invites Spike to live out a Ramones song. Xander remains unhappy with Buffy's life choices. Fun with cutlery.

Dawn runs away to dance with suspicious hippies. Buffy's got a Brachen beau. Golf balls from Heeeeeaven. Some walking and talking.

Xander gets over it (kinda) and Anya takes pity on his poor fragile self. Buffy and Dawn exhibit surprising new skills and scare the piss out of our Spikey. Awww, poor Spikey! The cruel sisters point and laugh. How mean!

Then some smoochies, some snot, and a lame-o epiphany, followed by sneaking around, Xander torture, and the obligatory dream sequence.

Wow, this part is rapidly exceeding the text for length. Maybe I should change my name to Robert Jordan.

12. Hotel California

“Pick up the phone, pick up the phone.” Buffy tried to send urgent psychic messages to Bath, but apparently they weren’t receiving. Giles’ answering machine clicked on instead, his plummy British accent directing her “to please leave a message after the damn it to hell; infernal machine! Is this thing beeeep---”

“Hey, Giles, sorry to bug you again, this is Buffy by the way, but you probably knew that, huh?” She giggled nervously. “Um, I just had a pretty darn vivid Slayer dream, and ARE YOU THERE? Sorry. Call me back, okay?”

Dawn was staring at her, the banana bran muffin in her mouth completely forgotten. “Schoo ungky ‘uffy?”

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” the Slayer replied absently. “And I’m not sure. I had a freaky Slayer dream.”

Dawn gulped slimy yellow protein goo in an attempt to wash down the expanding mass of carbohydrates in her mouth. The muffins didn’t actually taste all that bad, but one tiny bite seemed to grow until she felt as if she were having one of those dreams where she woke up trying to chew her pillow. No wonder Buffy was so skinny; a single muffin-puck could probably feed a small third world country.

She finally managed to swallow. “Wanna talk about it? Maybe I can unlock mysterious dreams, too. Was it prophetic?”

Buffy smiled. “Sure, I doubt it, and I don’t know yet. In the dream it all made perfect sense, except it didn’t. Like I was supposed to do something, and I was this close to knowing what it was, but I just didn’t quite get it.” She sighed and brightened. “But hey, you know how you can help me?”

Her sister looked suspicious. “No, and I’m not sure I want to. Will it involve work?”

“A little, but not much.” She ripped a page out of her dream journal. “Can you email this to Giles from school?”

“Oooh, is this your dream?” Buffy nodded. “Cool! Can I read it?”

“Sure, if you wanna. You’d have to see it for research, eventually. I don’t know if I got it all right, but that’s what I could remember when I woke up. If you could check the names too, that would be great. I don’t know if they are people or places or demons or what.”

Dawn scanned her sister’s crappy handwriting with interest. “Did you spell it the way it sounded in your dream? I mean, is this phonetic?”

Buffy frowned. “I hope so. I’m really bad with names.”

“No kidding.” Buffy frowned harder, looking a little insecure. Dawn hastened to reassure her. “Actually, if it is phonetic, they look a little familiar to me. Do you mind if I swing by the Public Library after school?”

“That’s a good idea, actually. While you’re there, make enough copies for the whole gang.”

“’Kay.” Dawn unwrapped herself from the stool and hopped down, a move that seemed less necessary every morning. She stuffed the piece of paper in her knapsack, swinging the bag over her shoulder as she headed out the door.

“Hey!” Buffy yelled. “Where are you going? You still have half an hour.”

“I’m gonna stop by the Pro Shop and turn some straw into gold, if your Wardeness would be so kind as to let me out on a day-pass.” Dawn could go from happy sister to sulky sister in 3.6 seconds.

The elder Summers grinned.

“Yep, I just like to know where you’re going. Have a good day and call me before you go anywhere other than school or the library, okay?”

Dawn saluted. “Aye-aye. Can I go now?”

“Yes, out of my sight, you ingrate.” Dawn bounced down the porch steps, waving over her shoulder at her sister’s shouted, “and be careful!”

Buffy closed the door behind her and checked the clock. For once she had plenty of time to get ready. Really, it was the little things, sometimes. An extra five minutes of bonding with the shower was heaven on a stick. Detachable showerhead with pulsing massage action, beware: randy Slayer on the loose! Resistance is futile.

As she made her way upstairs, Buffy considered the notion that she’d been spending too much time with Xander recently. The sci-fi quotage was getting out of hand.


He was sleeping. It was daytime, Spike was a vampire; thus, he was sleeping. If he was sleeping, then this was a dream. A nightmare even, but not real. Nope. Not real, because there was no way his crypt had been turned into a soup kitchen for homeless demons.

The head of Restfield security had stopped by before sunrise to tell him the RV would have to go and that the night watchman position was still available, if he wanted it. And he did, but so far he was refusing to acknowledge the RV problem, which could undermine his credibility.

Great, now he was thinking about a sodding job.

Spike closed his eyes and refused to breathe. Hattie was not cooking bean and rat stew in his kitchen. It was a dream, all a dream. Except someone was invading his personal space in the dream.

“Dude, you up?”

Spike cracked an irritated eyelid at Gil, looming about an inch away, then shut it again. “No, I’m sleeping, and this is a dream.”

“Oh, okay.” The other vampire’s voice retreated to the corner occupied by Hattie and Spike’s hot plate.

“He’s still sleeping.” Spike could actually hear Gil’s head rattle when he shook it. “These baby vamps, man, they sleep all the time.”

He resisted the urge to get up, just to prove the elder vampire wrong. It was a dream; there was no need to argue with a figment of his imagination.

The odor of Cheetos approached his slab, and Spike stifled a groan. What now?

“Um. Spike?”

He answered without opening his eyes. “Clem.”

“Do you have any extra towels?”

“Do I look like the day manager of the Holiday Inn, mate?” Bloody buggering hell, there was no way he was going to get any sleep, here, today. Spike surged off the sarcophagus with an impartial snarl, startling a family of Tomko demons playing pick-up-sticks and an aged Gorgon knitting a very large and hideously yellow cap with her brass claws.

“Do I? No, I bloody well didn’t think so! The lot of you, sod off. I want this place empty when I get back. Not a single sodding thing, living or dead, is using my towels.”

Spike grabbed the pink and purple batik cover from his bed and stomped down the stairs, heading for the deepest, darkest, smelliest cesspool he could find. Maybe there he could get some fucking sleep.


Xander nearly rear-ended the neighbor’s SUV when he pulled up to 1630 Revello Drive. Buffy had never, ever, in all the years he had known her, been waiting at the curb for anything. She ran like the devil, she leapt short stairways in a single bound, and she occasionally didn’t show up at all, but she never stood coyly waiting for her ride, neatly dressed and ready to roll. Not even for slayage.

It was Pod Buffy: that was the only explanation. Xander peered through the car window, waiting for the really real Buffy to haul down the porch stairs and kick Pod Person’s ass.

Instead, Pod Buffy opened the passenger door, slid into the seat, and smoothed her skirt over her thighs, favoring him with a glowing smile. “Thanks Xander. I wasn’t sure you would show. I really appreciate the ride.”

“Who are you and what have you done with Buffy?”

Pod Buffy cocked her head winsomely. “Xander, have you been smoking something I should know about? Because I know you’re an adult and all, but it’s probably not a good idea to drive under the influence.”

He stared at her. “Okay, you’re Buffy.” He put the car in drive and pulled out into traffic. “I was just surprised, that’s all. You’re never ready and waiting.”

She laughed and buckled her seat belt, avoiding coffee stains only through the magic of Slayer reflexes. “Oh, that! I woke up early with a Slayer dream, the spooky prophetic kind. So, I figured as long as I was awake, I might as well make with the readiness.”

Xander nearly rear-ended another car. It was definitely Pod Buffy. “You had a Slayer dream, but you’re laughing? How many fingers am I holding up and take me to your master!”

Buffy blushed, and mumbled something about getting reacquainted with household appliances and the joy of hot rollers. So not going there.

“Anyway, I left a message for Giles, but I’d like to have a Scooby meeting tonight. Can you be at the Box before sundown, maybe 7ish?”

“Sure, Buff, no problemo. The Xan-man is there.” Should he mention his encounter with Spike? Only it wasn’t an encounter, because that made it sound like there were orgasms and manly cries of passion, which there weren’t. Ever. His confrontation with Spike: that was manly sounding, without the orgasms. Yeah. Confrontation was the word.

Except, he and Spike had agreed the Slayer didn’t need to know. Yeah, but Spike was evil, so maybe he’d gone back and told her in order to score points. No, if he’d told her, she’d be pissed. Unless it was all some twisted game, to catch him in a sordid web of lies. Except there was nothing sordid about it, because hey! No orgasms.

Time for a little indirect interrogation: a subtle steering of the conversation with the single manly goal of finding out if she was about to break him like a potato chip. “So, Buffster, Buffino, Bufforama: will Spike be there?”

She shrugged, but blushed a little pinker. “I don’t know, I haven’t seen him since last night. Well, early this morning, really. But do you think he would come if I asked him? I mean, if I happened to see him to ask him?”

Okay, that conversation took a left turn at the interstate. Xander shot a wary glance at his passenger: Pod Buffy was slowly choking the life out of her chubby mug. “Um, I really couldn’t say.”

She nodded and looked out the window, chewing her lip. “Xander, can I ask you something?”

Uh-oh, here it came. The least she could do is wait until the car was stopped to kill him. “Sure, Buffy, anything.”

“Did Anya ever… cry on you?” Xander glanced at her, but she was still looking out at the traffic.

“Well, yeah.” Her head whipped in his direction, and his brief glance at her face revealed an almost desperate expression. “You know, when she was having that time of the month, or the cash register was short, or… well, a lot.”

“No, I mean, like total weepy, snot on shirt, make it all better, cry-fest?”

“Yeah, Buff, I get it.” His mouth twisted with wry affection. “For An, those things are world ending. As an ex-demon, she was surprisingly emotional.”

He shrugged. “I kinda liked it, you know? I miss it. It made me feel like I could do something for her, something no one else could. I could be there when she needed me.”

“Oh.” Xander looked over at his friend. Her eyes were swimmy and wide, suffused with emotion. “Oh god. You liked it? Really? It’s… normal?”

“Yeah, it’s normal.” Xander pulled up before Buffy’s building, and put the car in park. “Why do you ask?”

“No reason.” She looked down at her lap. “No, that’s a lie. I… I never cried on anyone, before, anyone guy-like, I mean. Or at least, not for a long time. I didn’t know I could. I thought it would make me… weak. Not the Slayer.”

“Oh.” Xander sat back, thinking over her words. “Did you cry on… Spike? Last night, maybe?”

She nodded, toying with her hem. “Did you feel better?” Another nod. Oh, god, this was awkward. This was Spike. This was so beyond surreal that Rosencrantz was in line behind him at the ATM.

“Well, if it made you feel better, that’s what counts, right?” She looked up at him, grateful.

“Thanks, Xander. I’m sorry.” Her eyes dropped to her lap again, and Xander wondered what could send her back into her shell so quickly.

“Why are you sorry?” He reached across the seat for her hand. “I love you, Buffy, you know that, right? You’re one of my best friends, and I want you to be happy.”

He squeezed her hand. “I can’t say that I’m thrilled about the Spike thing, but as long as we’re being honest, I wasn’t keen on Angel either. I still wish things had worked out with Riley, but…”

She flashed him a shamefaced look from under her lashes. “Oh. You never?”

“I never.” She shook her head. “I just couldn’t.”

“It’s okay, Buff.” Xander screwed his courage to the sticking place and reached out towards his friend, lifting her chin with his free hand. Screw twenty-minute load-and-unload zones. This was important. “If he couldn’t be what you needed, then you’re better off. I love you for who you are, bad boyfriends and all.”

Xander dropped his hand and looked at her thoughtfully. “You know, Buff, you’re not my hero anymore.”

Her eyes flew up to meet his, hurt, and he smiled. “You fell off the pedestal a while ago, and I’m glad. I don’t need heroes, I need friends. The paragon thing? Well, it doesn’t last. The friend thing? It seems to be working. Don’t try so hard, Buffy, it’ll be okay.”

She huffed out a breath and squared her shoulders. “Yeah. Everything will be okay.” She faced him. “Thanks Xander. You’re a good friend.”

“Thank you. I’m trying.” He watched her fumble out of her seatbelt, far less poised than she had been when she got into the car. He should remember that: messy Buffy was normal. Sharp Buffy was a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He wondered if all women were like that.

Xander Harris smiled to himself and stuck his hand out the window to signal, as he prepared to merge back into traffic. He learned something new every day. Now he just needed to remember to get the turn signal replaced. Xander sighed. The learning new things bit would be more impressive if he could remember the old stuff.


Swinging her briefcase, Buffy disappeared into the 9:00 AM herd of office-bots. She ducked and wove as groups of the bots clustered in front of the elevators, working her way to the rear wall. With a sharp left turn at the ugliest piece of corporate art on the planet, she was standing in front of a nondescript gray steel door.

She quickly checked over her shoulder to make sure no one was around, and then slipped through, silently easing the heavy door closed behind her. Endless concrete stairs loomed, and a sly smile flickered across the Slayer’s face. Eat your heart out Suzanne, this Summers has buns of titanium.

Fifty-six floors and thirty-nine minutes later, Buffy skipped to a halt before another gray steel door, barely breathing hard. She leaned against the wall and toed off her trainers, trading them for the heels lurking in her briefcase. She could totally take the stairs in pumps, but she’d learned the first day she’d tried this that the shoes crapped out long before she did.

Buffy exited the fire stairs and entered the executive suite, fully togged for corporate America. Well, actually a couple of secretaries and the random tourist or three. It was kinda mean, but she really enjoyed sitting at the reception desk. The glass wall of the suite had a freaking amazing view of the bay: several times a day she got to tell camera-wielding couples from Iowa that this floor was not open to the public and if they didn’t remove themselves im-meeeed-i-atly, she would be forced to call security.

Buffy smirked, unconsciously mimicking Spike. Oh, she was eeeevil.


Our vampy hero was coming to the end of his own, less vertical, journey. Without really thinking about it, he had ended up at The Magic Box. He looked up at the stairs warily, not sure if he should be expecting fireballs or not. Nothing had attacked him the first time he’d come here, but the episode last night had made him cautious.

Anya stuck her head through the door. “It’s not warded against you, Spike, just strangers. Unless you plan to steal something?”

He attempted to look mad, bad, and dangerous to know, and sauntered toward the stairs. The image was slightly undermined by the big purple blankie trailing behind him. “Just looking for a place to crash, Anyanka. You don’t mind if I use the sofa in back, do you, pet?”

Shaking her head in irritation, Anya shut the basement door as he passed through. “You do realize that this is a business, not a half-way house?”

“Yes, well, it’s not my first choice, either. Just tell me yes or no.” Spike tapped his foot, and gathered his blanket up into wad, cradling the bundle against his chest defensively.

“What’s wrong with your crypt?” Suspicious, Anya stared at him, still not relenting.

Spike sighed. “Nothing’s wrong with my crypt, it’s just a wee bit noisy with every fucking demon on the west coast,” his voice spiraled into the danger zone, “using my fucking towels!”

“Uh huh.” Anya nodded encouragingly. Spike on a tear was well worth the entertainment dollar.

“I have plans for the evening, you know? I gotta rest up, be ready.” He gave her a beseeching look. “It’s not like I can just rip out hearts and tear off heads night and day, day and night: I’m not a sodding’ robot, am I? A vamp needs his beauty sleep, now and again, right?”

“Yes.” Anya smiled and patted Spike’s shoulder in a reassuring manner that signaled fellowship between demons. Or she hoped that’s what it signaled, and not ‘I would like to have sex with you.’ She snatched her hand back, worried.

He cocked his head. “Yes?”

“You may sleep on the sofa. But don’t snore or do anything that might disturb the customers,” she warned, “or I’ll have to ask you to leave.”

Spike looked offended and stomped towards the back room. “I don’t bloody snore.”

Anya sniffed. “All men snore.”

“Not a man, pet, vampire. I don’t breathe, and I don’t snore.” He slammed the door pointedly behind him, ignoring her disbelieving snort.

The vengeance demon smiled. All men snored, even vampires: she knew that for a fact. Male snoring was the single most common reason women made wishes.