She was tense, as tight as a watch in the passenger's seat, pressed as close to the door and as far from him as she could possibly get. He, on the other hand, seemed as confidant and relaxed as he ever was, slouched low under the heavy dash, the fingers of one hand curled loosely around the steering wheel, the other stretched halfway across the wide bench seat towards her, resting possessively on the gear shift as he maneuvered the big car smoothly through the dark streets. She thought she might hate him for that, right then in that moment, for being so calm where she felt as though she were about to snap herself in two.

He'd mostly ignored her since they'd gotten into the car. She'd expected something, well, more from him. He'd shown up in the same old boots and duster, staring up at her from the bottom of the stairs with a look like… She didn't know why he was looking at her that way. But she thought that at the very least he would open the deSoto's door for her the way he had at that back-alley vamp nest. Instead, he'd only waited for her to climb in herself, turning the crackly radio to a late-night punk rock station and lowering the volume until it just barely filled the silence between them. Occasionally he would murmur a bit of some song when he was making a turn or pausing at a stoplight, much like he had last week, but it felt different, less forced, as though he were simply at ease and just distracted enough to hum along.

But he didn't look at her. Didn't talk, which he always did, didn't ask her what music she liked. No, he just left her to stew, and suddenly it was all just plain funny. She was on a date, with Spike of all people, who said he loved her and who refused to acknowledge her at all, just looked ahead through the cracked, dirty windshield as he drove them across town and away from the Hellmouth.

So she laughed.

It was a half-hysterical, disbelieving sort of laugh, but it was still a full, raucous one that felt more real than any she'd heard out of herself in a long time. She was on a date. With Spike. And where she had expected him to show up with roses and treat her like a queen, he was ignoring her. From the corner of her eye she could see him smirking as he continued looking dead ahead, but she just didn't care, and he was smart enough to wait until she'd gotten it all out of her system and was huffing to catch her breath before he spoke.

"Feel better Slayer?" he asked.

"Oh shut up Spike," she replied, but her tone was light and easy, a smile tilting at the edges of her mouth and softening the sting of the words that were usually so caustic where he was concerned. There was no way he could've known that she needed to work that bit of nonsense out on her own, and even if he had, well, it didn't really matter.

The vampire himself chuckled his own little laugh, the sort that made her feel like he was entirely unsurprised by her jag or the words that had followed it, but that was all - he said no more. Instead, he flicked on his blinker and pulled into a packed parking lot, circling once before wedging them tightly between a Humvee and a tiny little Ford Fiesta. Buffy took a minute to look around; she knew the general area; they were on the shadier side of town down by the docks, but she'd never spent much time here. They were parked three rows of cars away from some sort of club; a big, dark, industrial-looking building with a long line of figures waiting outside a door that appeared to be manned by some sort of mini-giant. Purple neon letters curled in a tight script over the crowd, glowing bright in the dark.


Any sort of ambivalence that Buffy had previously felt about this night flew out the window, and she twisted hard in her seat, ready to punch Spike right in his smug face.

"You brought me to a sex club?!" she shrieked.

Spike raised an eyebrow at her. "Usually save that for the third date," he said flatly before a gleam flared in his eyes and his tongue curled lasciviously behind his teeth. "But if you'd rather…"

"Oh my God!" Buffy moaned.

"Relax Slayer," he sighed in exasperation. "It's tantra, not karma sutra. Bit o' religion out of the east, talks about a higher plane of existence an' exultation, getting closer to God. Little different here in the west, more about a… higher plane of experience I 'spose."

Buffy stared at him with wide, horrified eyes, not at all reassured by his words.

"It's not all about sex Slayer!" he grumbled, and she got the distinct feeling that he was talking about more than just the club, but he had climbed out of the car and slammed the door loudly behind him, so she could do little but follow his lead if she didn't want to sit in the car like a petulant child all night. Squeezing out past the little red Ford that was boxing her in, she took in the full lot and the long line one more time. Whatever this place was, it was popular.

"Feel free to leave any pointy wooden bits in the car," Spike's voice rumbled from over the top of the deSoto, a curl of smoke following his words. He had lit a cigarette and was sucking hard, his cheeks hollowed as the end glowed bright orange in the dark. He finished the thing on a breath and crushed out the cherry under his heel before speaking again. "Place has a spell on it – no violence past the doors, or you get knocked on your ass. Demons here are just looking for a night out on the town, so play nice."

Buffy frowned at him but unstrapped the stakes at her waist and ankle and reluctantly tossed them into the car. Rounding the front bumper to his side, she got a sort of approving nod for her acquiescence before he led her towards the door of the club. As they drew closer, she realized that the line of people waiting to get in really was a line of demons, all kinds of demons, vampires included, but for some reason her Slayer tinglies seemed to have dimmed. Only a dull warning buzz hummed along her spine where there should have been a lightning storm. Spike seemed to notice her distress and stepped in close to her side in an apparent attempt to reassure her.

"Part of the spell," he said quietly as she followed him past the waiting patrons towards the front. "Keeps everybody calm. You have a lot of power Slayer; you've gotta know that. All you'd have to do to clear a place like this out is walk through the front door. Half these ponces would be runnin' already if they could really feel you."

Buffy didn't answer, but she did roll his words around a bit in her brain. It made sense, what he'd said, and it was… kind of sweet, in a way. A compliment, coming from him, but she wasn't sure… Shaking her head, she tucked the little speech away for later, just in time to realize that they were standing in front of the seven foot tall, three foot wide demon bouncing the front door.

"Back of the line," it gurgled at them, his multiple eye stalks bobbing in Buffy's direction.

"Eyes in your head mate," Spike snarled nastily, his fangs flashing. "Don't much appreciate you ogling my Slayer."

Buffy wasn't so distracted by his proprietary tone and the strange heat that flushed through her veins at his words that she didn't notice how the demon's eyes somehow managed to widen without the benefit of eyelids. "Slayer?!" he yelped. "You brought a Sla…" Finally dragging his eyes from Buffy's chest over to Spike, the demon jumped half a step backward and cringed. "M, M, Mr. Bloody!" he stammered. "My apologies. Of course, Tantric is always happy to serve a Master of Aurelias such as yourself…"

Spike rolled his eyes, stuffing a folded stack of bills into the pocket of the demon's horribly tight checked-flannel shirt. Taking Buffy lightly by the elbow, he shouldered roughly by the bouncer and the loudly complaining line of demons and led her through the darkened doorway.

"Wow," Buffy murmured in a dumbfounded tone.

"What?" Spike asked curiously, looking down at her as they moved along a short hallway towards a slim, red-headed woman behind a counter.

"Mr. Bloody?" she said with half a giggle. "Spike, you… you have clout! You're like a big shot or something!"

"I was," he corrected, and the bitterness and anger that had leaked through his brash tone had her stopping in the middle of the hall. "What?" he asked defensively, a bit more loudly this time.

She just stared. She'd known that about him, hadn't she? He was a Master vampire, she could feel it every time he slipped up behind her, and she knew that he was one of the youngest there had ever been. He came from a well-known line, sure, like vampire royalty, but Spike had made himself, fighting his way to the top with fists and fangs, and while maybe that wasn't something so admirable in the human world, he was a rock star in his own right. It wasn't all that unbelievable that his name could get him into a demon club ahead of the line. What was a shame was that she'd forgotten. Forgotten, because of the chip, and because of the way he let her walk all over him all the time.

Guilt hit her low in her belly and she frowned, pushing it roughly away. What was she doing, feeling bad that he'd fallen from the hallowed, bloody halls of demon fame? It was a good thing that he had. If he were still him, if he were still the feared and infamous William the Bloody, he would probably have a third jewel in his Slayer of Slayers crown by now, lording over the whole Hellmouth on a throne made of corpses.


Worried blue eyes watched her carefully, and she blinked hard.

Maybe not?

"Sorry," she muttered. "I just… sorry."

"Hey," he said, touching the back of her arm with his fingertips, confusion lingering around his mouth. "Slayer, what…" She shook her head and offered up a forced smile, and it seemed enough for him to let it go. Turning, he looked up the hall towards the red-head behind the counter, the one watching them with her brows raised and her lips quirked. "Ready?" he asked.

Buffy smiled back, a real smile this time, and nodded. "Ready."

Spike nodded in return and led her up to the counter, where Buffy recognized the woman manning it as another vampire. Behind her, a honeycomb of shelves covered the wall, each filled with piles of black fabric.

"Welcome to Tantric," she purred cattily, clearly annoyed that they had held her up from the game of solitaire open on the computer behind the desk. "Two?"

"Yeah," Spike replied in answer, though Buffy didn't understand the question. "Just the tops though, thanks pet."

The vampiress smiled and her eyes slid slowly over Spike's torso, and for just a minute Buffy felt that hot burn in her chest again. This might be a sham of a date between the two of them, but from the outside Spike was taken, and she was more than a little pissed that this girl was eyeing him so blatantly. Just as the shock of her own, dare she say jealous, feelings hit her, the vampire turned to her and gave her the same treatment, grey eyes lingering on her chest and waist. Turning her back on them, Buffy watched as her fingers danced over the left-most shelves, grabbing a square of folded cotton from the top and the bottom. These she thrust into their hands along with a small brass key before swiveling in her seat and going back to her game.

"Guys on the left, girls on the right," she said in a bored tone without looking up from her screen.

Buffy's eyes widened and panic flooded her. What?! Spike might not be her first choice of… companion, but she certainly didn't want to be separated from him in a building full of demons that she didn't know without any sort of weapon. The smile he tossed her then was just a bit wicked as he backed away, towards the door that she only noticed just then. Tossing a glance over her shoulder, she discovered a second one on the other side of the hallway just behind her, marked with some sort of rune that she suspected was like the little white girl shape you found on public bathrooms.

"Spike," she began, a warning clearly audible in her tone as she turned back to the vampire quickly becoming the bane of her existence.

"See you on the other side luv," he smirked. Then he pushed back through the door and disappeared, leaving her completely alone.