I'd like to thank those of you who have favorited or followed this story, and a special thanks to all who reviewed. So sorry the update took so long, I went to college. It takes a surprising amount of my free time hahaha. I hope you enjoy!

Chapter Eight - All Night, Again

I'd given up on this game a long, long time ago. When playing poker with a witch who's more than frivolous with her magic, one will find there's little hope in winning. Or worse, when playing with an over competitive ex-demon who not only doesn't understand the rules, but simply doesn't give a fuck about them, there's not even a point in trying. Now I was just watching Willow try to out cheat Anya, who was out cheating everyone simply by being too stubborn to argue with when she took your chips as poor Xander watched his wiener shack money dwindle away.

The bite on my neck had bruised and scabbed into what could be considered the world's worst hickey - there was no way in hell I was showing up to school with this, I'd be dead. So instead I'd been pestering Xander and Anya, who were so wrapped up in each other that they never questioned why I wasn't in class at eleven on a Wednesday.

It was great really. Perhaps a little lonely, assigning myself as perpetual third wheel, but I didn't have many other options. It was here or hang out with Giles (who would make me go to school anyways) and his books. A few days ago I would've had Spike, but ever since the whole bitey-glowy incident I hadn't seen him.

He just never came back, even left all the clothes he'd just bought.

Was it weird that I missed him?

"Poker!" Anya yelled, slamming her hand of pure junk onto the table, and pulling the pot to her side.

Willow protested, "No way! My hand's way better than yours, I've got three jacks!"

"Well I have a seven and a king, that's a holy number and royalty, so I win," Anya said matter of factly.

"That's just not how it works!" Willow was getting frustrated, "Xander tell her!"

He shook his head, looking more than a bit terrified as Anya's gaze fell on him, "Whatever makes you happy, sweetie." He offered a timid smile and I had to try not to burst out laughing.

"Money makes me happy," Anya said with a grin, "And I'm making much money right now."

"Oh yes you are," Xander grumbled, putting his last couple of bucks into the middle. Poor guy.

There was a knock at the door, and we looked up. Buffy. I'd hardly seen her since the world had almost ended (again), and without my pet vampire I'd missed her all the more. She was smiling, she must've been hanging out with Riley or something. He seemed to be good for her, there was certainly less angsting than when she was with Angel (though mark my words, I'm sure I'll have to go back on that statement one day, the Slayer business doesn't come without angst).

"Hey guys, gambling going well?" She asked.

"Oh yes, very well," Anya said, that beaming grin hadn't faded since she raked in the first ten dollars. Now at fifty we were all broker than before, "Would you like to join? I want to win your money too."

Buffy shook her head, "No. No, thank you. I have patrolling to do, and a desperate need for what little cash I have left." Anya frowned, but Buffy ignored her, "Hey, Marley, I'm going to check out Sunnydale Memorial later, you want to come with?"

I smiled, "Yeah, I'd love to."

There was a time when patrolling was a normal, even arduous, chore. Now, it was the most interesting thing that had happened to me all week...well maybe except for the almost-apocalypse...but after that. Considering that all we were doing was gossiping while sitting in a dark graveyard, I was starting to realize how truly dead my social life was.

"So...Parker's definitely out of the picture?" I asked.

"Oh, definitely. He's not coming around anytime soon, not after Riley punched him," Buffy said with a smile, and a laugh bubbled up from my chest.

"Oh my god, really?"

Buffy nodded, "I never asked details, but he mentioned something about 'defending my honor'."

"Well, I guess chivalry isn't dead after all." Lucky girl, with her big, strong, considerate boyfriend. I'd ask her to set me up with one of his friends if I didn't know that our dates would be dinner, a show, and a surgery.

"What about you?" She asked, "Any new boys in your life?"

"Nope," I lied, I didn't think mentioning the small (and hopefully squashable) crush I was forming on Spike would do either of us any good, "Totally boyless." You know what? I technically wasn't lying, I wouldn't exactly call Spike a boy. An undead man-child maybe, but not a boy.

"What about school? That going well?" She asked, and tried not to stiffen.

"Yeah, great." Technically that wasn't a lie either. I'd hardly been to school the past few weeks, I had no idea how I was doing.

"No demons?"

"Nope, you'd be surprised, not being on top of a hellmouth has done the student body wonders. The death toll hasn't been this low in twenty years." That part was definitely true, and despite the plus side of fewer murders it had been undeniably boring. Sunnyhell had become Sunny-dull: The trailer park of dead eyes and broken spirits.

"Well that's - oh here we go." Buffy jumped up, twirling her stake into stabbing position. A three vampires, who looked like they'd never left a rave in the seventies, were stalking towards us. I picked up my stake, keeping a ways back. I was just there for company and a "all goes to hell last resort". I didn't need to get in her way.

"Hey guys, you're kind of late to the party aren't you?" She quipped as the first vamp lunged forward, getting a prompt stake to the chest, "Too bad you missed it by about thirty years." The vamp collapsed into dust, leaving the other two looking a good deal wearier.

"Slayer," the larger one growled.

"You got me," Buffy grinned, and leapt forward, kicking him squarely in the chest. In an ideal world she would have easily staked this one, and then moved onto the second before it even had a chance to drop its fangs. But this wasn't a perfect world, and Buffy tumbled to the ground after a right hook to the cheek, and vamp number two had set her pretty yellow eyes on me.

"Shit…" I mumbled, clutching my stake a little harder. I'd already played this game with Spike, and I'd lost. I didn't need to be playing slayer when I couldn't even control my demons. "D-don't think I won't grill you...like...like a steak." I finished lamely, holding up my little wooden stick.

"That was awful," the vamp commented, halting her advance.

"I know, I'm sorry….I'm new at the whole punning thing."

"What about slaying?" She asked.

"I'm not going to answer that question." The answer was that I was an old hand at being bad at it, and she seemed to know without me having to tell her. I had too much pride to admit I was an easy meal. The vamp snarled and lunged, and with a pitiful yelp I fell under her weight - stake toppling to the grass.

A fist connected with my cheek, and I suddenly had the horrible feeling that she was the kind of vampire who liked to play with their food. Long nails dug into my ankle as she leapt off me and swung. I screamed, flying through the air just far enough to get elbowed by a stone angel. I could swear I heard the vamp laugh...what a bitch.

"Buff-" I started to call, but before I could finish the word hands clamped around my throat. My eyes frantically flitted between the bumpy faced bitch in front of me, and my only chance at salvation who was fighting much too far away for my liking.

I'd survived the glow last time, but I didn't know how to make it kick in. Didn't know how far it would go, who would get caught in the crossfire. Burning Buffy sounded a lot worse than frying my goldfish, or Spike for that matter.

However, I didn't think I had much of a choice anymore. The vamp's brow crinkled even more as my vision started to go gold. Maybe if she'd run right then she would've escaped, but a few seconds later she was dust, and I had a massive headache.

"Marley!" Buffy yelled, and I squinched my eyes shut tighter. Maybe this was what hangovers felt like.

My cheeks were pink from windburn as I dragged myself up the stairs to Buffy's floor. I'd ridden my bike here, and between the cool weather and the breezy weather it had been nothing short of a miserable ride. I just didn't feel like being alone right now...and I knew Giles was busy researching, so I'd hoped Buffy would be a better option.

Also trying to talk to Giles about the whole...glow...thing was nothing short of aggravating. I was worried. It had happened twice now, twice in the matter of a few days. It was getting worse, and the only big change I'd had in my life was a group of science soldiers poking into my insides. They'd fucked up Spike, what if they'd fucked me up too?

Not bothering to knock I let myself in. "Buffy?"

"Nope," Willow's voice answered, "No Buffy, I think she's out with Riley."

"Oh," I said, trying not to sound disappointed.

"But, in the meantime you can hang here," Willow said, bouncing up off the floor, "We were just about to do some spells if you want to watch." She had the biggest grin on her face, one I hadn't seen since she and Oz were together...oh. I looked down at the slightly mousey girl on the floor and it hit me, Willow had a new crush.

"Hi, I...I don't think we've met." I said, sticking out a hand that the girl nervously took, "I'm Marley."


"So how do you guys know each other?" I asked, looking between them.

"Wicca club," Willow said, suddenly sheepish. She must've figured out I'd guessed, "We uh...we wanted to try out this crystal Tara's grandma gave her."

"Well, I've got nothing else to do so, spell away." I said, plopping down on Buffy's bed.

I still hadn't gotten to talk to Buffy, but right now I just wanted to forget about monsters and demons, and pretend I was a normal girl. The band was good tonight, and Anya had managed to find a margarita (which she gave me a sip of), and I was having a good time. Buffy still hadn't shown up, but tonight we'd have the gang back together for a night of all-american fun.

"No Tara tonight?" I asked Willow, who had seemed more than a little off in dreamland tonight.

"No, I thought since it was just a scooby-gang thing she should sit this one out. She can meet everyone later." I nodded, silently thankful. If couples were allowed then between Xander and Anya (who were already absorbed with one another), Willow and Tara, and Buffy and Riley I would be the convenient seventh wheel.

"So you and Tara...you guys official or anything?" I asked, and Willow blushed.

"Well...no, but…"

"But you like her?" I was prying, but I often had little else to do with my life.

"Well...yeah." She said with a smile, and I giggled, and then she giggled, and it was a whole big giggly mess. "You're okay with that?"

"What, that she's a girl?" I asked, "Of course. I'm a demon, I don't see how lesbian is any weirder." We giggled again, "Does she like you back?"

"I think so," Willow smiled, "Oh look, Buffy's here!" She said, pointing towards the entrance where Buffy was struggling with her coat. Riley helped pull the sleeves back for her, which was sweet...wait. Riley?

I glanced at Willow who shrugged. What had happened to scoobies only? I couldn't help but be a bit annoyed, but it wasn't like she'd...oh no. My heart started to beat a bit faster as one after the other the commandos started to pile in. The worst part was that I recognized them - a couple from my great escape with Spike, a few from Thanksgiving - if I knew who they were, they could certainly figure out who I was too.

Hostile twenty eight, the golden girl who liked her kidneys exactly where they were, thank you very much.

Willow shot me a look, seeming to know exactly why I looked so panicked. The commandos were coming over, and one of them seemed to be squinting at me. Without a moment to spare she tossed me her jacket, which I pulled on as I jumped from my chair, pulling the hood up just as Buffy arrived.

"Isn't it kind of hot in here for that?" She asked, and I shook my head.

"I'm not feeling too good," I forced a cough, "think I'm going to go home. Sleep." With that, I pulled the hood further over my face, and practically broke for the door. My heart still pounding as I speed walked down the dank alley.

What the hell had she been thinking? Had she been thinking at all? Oh god...I was starting to sound like Giles.

I kicked a can as I walked, missed, and pretended I'd never even tried in the first place. I wasn't really sure where to go, but I knew I didn't want to go home, and all my friends were playing with the men who wanted to treat me like guinea pig.

Well not all my friends...if I wanted to endure scalding tea I could go find Giles. Or...Spike. Wasn't that much of a difference, they were both British and liked hot drinks. Sure one liked English Breakfast and the other had a penchant for A negative, but otherwise… They actually had the same taste in literature, I'd noticed - never pointed it out at risk of inciting it murder - but the two had more similarities than they cared to admit.

Spike just cursed more.

Feeling the need to curse and rant without feeling like a tattletale, I found myself wandering towards the Restfield Cemetery. No one had said anything to me specifically, but I'd heard Anya grumbling to Xander about him not letting her give Spike a housewarming gift. There was no harm in trying to find him, he had to be around here somewhere.

I started opening crypts, most were empty save the dead people. Well, the slightly deader than I was looking for people. I'd almost given up when I walked into a crypt with a couch.

"Spike?" I called, shutting the door behind me, "You home?"

"Bird, what're you doing here?"

"Oh," Spike laughed harshly, "So you decided to just lead Captain America this way!" He was glaring at me, and any fond feelings that had lead me to come here melted away. Why'd I ever think Spike was a sympathetic person?

"No of course not!" I snapped back, "They're all dancing at the Bronze. So unless you care to join them, I think you're safe."

He grumbled, but he didn't argue further.

"I just wanted to lay low around here for a while," I said, deciding to make my appearance seem more about necessity than the fact that I was just really lonely. Spike nodded, and figuring I was welcome I plopped myself down on his couch.

"Any of them recognize you?" He asked something that, if I thought about it hard enough, almost could have been concern.

"One looked pretty suspicious, but I don't think he was sure."

"Pretty shit of Buffy," he commented, "inviting a small army with a warrant on your head."

"I don't think she realized," I said in half hearted defense of my friend, "I mean, she's kind of love struck...you did some pretty stupid shit for Dru back in the day."

He scoffed, "Oh yeah?"

"You remember when Dru stabbed me?" I asked.

He nodded, "Back when Angelus was still getting toothy, I remember."

"You dragged her out of there about a minute before I went up," I mimed the poof of golden light, "Could've been toast."

"Yeah, well I didn't know that, so it wasn't stupid. Just getting Dru out before the Slayer staked her, you were pretty irrelevant."

"Thanks," I grumbled, and he just shrugged. It was quiet after that, and I busied myself with looking around his new home. It was as dark, dank, and creepy as one would expect. The tattered red couch kind of fucked up the aesthetic, but it was more comfortable than the mausoleum at the center of the room so I wasn't going to make any jabs about it.

"So now what?" I asked.

"What, you expect me to entertain you?" He raised an eyebrow, and I shrugged. After about thirty seconds of internal conflict he stood, and extended a hand to me, "Want to go for a walk?"

"Enh why not?" I took his hand, letting him pull me up, and doing everything in my power not to blush again. I needed to get this damn crush under control, it was silly at best...dangerous at worst, and almost certainly going to get me trial-less judgement from my friends. I dropped his hand first, and tried not to read anything into that.

Spike swaggered. I really didn't have another, less pretentious sounding word for it. I'd never taken the time to notice it before, but without a doubt, Spike swaggered. Everything that man did was for his own cocky, ego-fed, self image….or maybe he really was just that confident.

Somehow I doubted it. I'd seen him back in my house, sulking around. The swagger was back, and it was for one reason and one reason only. He was a murderer again.

Now we were just wandering amongst the gravestones, completely and utterly aimless. Every once in awhile I would stop to trace names I could hardly see, and Spike would patiently wait a few feet behind me. Caroline Murdy had a pretty dove carved over her name.

"So, you're a demon right?" He said. I could feel his eyes on me, tingles tracing up and down my spine. I tried to shake it off, but knew I couldn't. God, what was wrong with me?

"Yeah." He knew that already, what was he getting at?

"You've got the whole, sparkly hulk thing going on, what else?" I looked back at him with a furrowed brow...sparkly hulk? He'd sat himself up on one of the graves, looking pleased with his joke even though it had gone way over my head.

"Sparkly hulk?"

"Yeah, you know," he said, talking with his hands as he went, "You get hurt, and the big guy comes out. Except the big guy's the fourth of July sparkler of death instead of the green body builder."

Yeah...that wasn't nearly as funny as he thought it was.

"What else you got in there?" He asked, "You can see in the dark pretty well."

"I can?" I sure as hell wasn't aware of that. I was getting stronger wasn't I?

"There's not a streetlamp for fifty meters, but you're reading grave stones. Buffy and the Scoobettes sure as hell can't do that." Spike said, jumping up off his stone, and motioning for me to keep walking with him, "You know, I could kill you."

I hadn't really thought about that, some weird disconnect I had about my whole...demon thing. Half the time, if I didn't think too hard, I could believe I was actually human.

"Will you?" I asked, not particularly concerned. Some stupid part of my brain had come to trust Spike. Spike who had attempted to murder me at least twice previously, and lumped me in as collateral damage three or four times. He was a killer, an asshole, and more often than not plain out annoying. Yet here I was, playing twenty questions in a graveyard with a deadman.

"Nah, not worth it. Kill the only one of you I can stand? Your sunshine mojo would just take me with you anyways." He shook his head, "I do have half a - Bloody hell!" He roared suddenly, hitting the ground.

"Spike?" What the hell should I do? What the hell was -

"Hostiles seventeen and twenty eight have been spotted." The familiar commando code came from a ways back as a hand gripped my wrist and pulled. The grass was cold and dewy, and Spike was cold….and thankfully not dewy as he leaned over to whisper in my ear.

"I can smell five of them, got us surrounded. When I say, we run north. Alright, Bird?"

I nodded, heart beating quickly. Footsteps were closing in, and Spike's grip around my wrist tightened. If there was one thing on this earth that I knew, it was that I didn't want to go back to clorox hell. They knew us now. They knew that at the very least Spike was smart if defenseless, maybe even what I was capable of. There would be no chance to escape again. We'd die down there.

And if there was one other thing I knew, I knew I didn't want to die.

"Go!" Spike whispered harshly, pulling me to my feet and taking off in a dead run. I just had to pray I could keep up.

"Hostiles are moving north, hostiles are moving north."

Spike leapt a headstone, that I just barely managed to dodge around. Fuck him and his vampiric athleticism. If I had to be a demon, why couldn't I be something that could run a mile without wheezing?

"C'mon, Bird, hurry up!" He growled, and I tried not to think too hard about the commandos closing in behind us. If they got me I didn't think Spike would slow down for heroics...hell he couldn't even if he wanted to with that chip of his.

"Where are we going?" I panted, putting on an extra burst of speed to match stride with him.

"Not a fucking clue!" He snapped as we hopped the hedge, and took off down the road towards town.

"Did you just….sniff me?" I asked, turning to glare at Spike. I knew we were in close quarters and all, but he could've shown some common decency and pretended I wasn't food. After half an hour of running we'd ditched them, and ended up in an old factory. We were safe there.

Until they found us.

So we ran to an abandoned suburban home. Where we were safe.

Until they found us.

Over, and over, and over. Until I could hardly run, and the sun was beginning to peek over the horizon. Now we were locked in the trunk of someone's Mazda, Spike's chest pressed to my back. I wasn't entirely sure what time it was, but I thought I could hear birds chirping. I hated birds in that moment, I didn't need anyone announcing that I'd just pulled yet another all nighter with Spike.

"No," Spike said, rather defensively, "You gonna blame a man for breathing?"

"You're dead, Spike. You don't need to."

"Still feels nice." I felt him shrug behind me, and I was about to ask him what the hell that mean when I heard footsteps coming up the sidewalk. Oh god, they'd found us again hadn't they? "Shhshh," he hushed me gently, not that I'd been talking. One arm snaked around my waist as he propped himself up, and I found myself hoping he chalked up the sudden jump in my heart rate to fear.

"What're you doing?" I whispered.


"No, the arm."

"Just getting a better angle, love, don't get all claustrophobic on me," he muttered, focusing more on whoever was approaching our hiding spot.

It was quiet for a moment, the both of us stiff as corpses, just waiting.

"It's not -" He broke off as the car suddenly shook, "Bloody….fuck," He hissed, holding me a little tighter as the car rumbled to a start and took off, throwing the pair of us into the wall. I could hear faint voices in the cab, but couldn't hear a damn thing they were saying.

"What're they saying?" I asked, the words coming out all slurred and gooey with my mouth squished between the trunk and Spike.

"Mama's got an important meeting with the general manager at eight o'clock. So us and the kiddos are going to grandma's house for the day," Spike grumbled.

"So what're we going to do?" I asked urgently. We weren't going to stay here forever were we? I knew Spike was a little more familiar with enclosed spaces than I was, but I wasn't exactly liking my temporary coffin. It smelled like a mix between wet diapers, cheerios, and the spicy iron and leather scent I'd always associated with Spike. It wasn't exactly a combo I'd ever wanted put together.

At least it wasn't summer.

He took a deep breath. "Nothing," he said, as I felt himself relaxing against me.

"Nothing? What do you mean nothing? We're...we're going to grandma's house! Where even is that?"

He shrugged, "Doesn't matter, Little Bird. At least the soldier boys'll get off the scent."

"So...we're just going to stay here?"

I felt him nod behind me, "Take a kip, Bird. Could both use the sleep."

So that was that then. I closed my eyes, and fell asleep next to a dead man in what might as well have been a coffin...a coffin that smelled like baby poop. Honestly I'd been in weirder situations.

I woke to the sound of a siren, and practically jumped out of my skin, elbowing Spike in the nose in the process. Over the sound of his muffled cursing I was pretty sure I could hear the mom in the front seat muttering something a bit milder...oh no...I had a sinking feeling that they weren't being pulled over by the real cops. I didn't know how the commandos had found us, or what weird ass batcave technology they were using...but the dread that comes from being trapped between tazers and the trunk of a car was starting to set in.

"Do you think…" I whispered to Spike as the car slowed to a stop.

He nodded.

"What're we going to do? We can't go back there!"

"Don't you think I know that, Bird? I may have had my fun wearing intestines for a hat back in the day, but I never fancied wearing my own!" He growled, and I couldn't help but notice that his grip around my waist was getting tighter as the door to the cop car behind us closed.

"Spike, I know you don't have to breath," I wheezed quietly, "but I do." He let me go just a little bit, and I felt my rib cage move back into place.

"Ma'am, I'm Officer Riley Finn," the voice came from up near the driver's side. Oh shit, what if he recognized me? We hadn't been formally introduced but he'd seen me with Buffy from time to time, "I'm going to need to check your vehicle."

"What? Why?" The woman asked.

"Ma'am, please just pop the trunk," Riley said, calm and commanding. There was a metallic bing as the lid above us cracked open, a tiny ray of light causing Spike to curse and duck behind me.

"What do we do?" I asked, trying to sound more urgent than terrified, "He's going to know who I am."

"Oh and that's our bloody biggest problem is it? I'm about to join to dust bunnies in this damn car." I'd almost forgotten it was daylight by now, shit...Spike might have had his proverbial vampire balls cut off but he was a hell of a lot more resourceful than I was. I didn't stand a chance if that trunk popped open and he turned to dust.

Riley's footsteps were getting closer.

Behind me Spike started to huddle down into his coat, fingers slid into the open crack in the trunk, "You're going to punch him!" Spike hissed.

"What?" How the hell was I supposed to punch Riley? He was huge.

"He's going to open the trunk, you're gonna stand up, and you're gonna pop him right in the nose."

"Spike, I can't -"

I didn't have time to finish the sentence, the trunk was ripped open, and I surprised myself by hopping up like a jack in the box with my fist already cranked back. We made eye contact, just briefly, and I could've sworn I saw a spark of recognition in his eye. I was going to have to deal with that later.

It hurt like a bitch when my fist smashed into his nose, but based on the sound of his groan it hurt him a lot more. Spike, starting to sizzle in his coat, scrambled out of trunk and started running. The mother in the car behind me was yelling in shock, Riley was about to stand back up again, and Spike was making a beeline for the sewers.

"Sorry!" I yelled to Riley, and took off after my vampire.

I didn't have time to think as I jumped down into the manhole, and I'd really rather not think about what I'd just landed in as I splashed waist deep through the sewers. I was going to kill Spike for this. Real fucking gentleman, hadn't even had the decency to catch me, he'd just let me fall into sewage. I'd tripped on landing and went in head first.

"How do they keep finding us?" I wheezed as he pulled me up out of the gutter and onto the little service walkway. I was doing my best not to pout, my day had gone from bad to shitty. Literally.

"Fuck if I know, Bird." He didn't even give me a chance to catch my breath, just dragged me to my feet and started walking. The last twenty four hours or so were really starting to get to me, I hadn't slept other than that brief nap with Spike. Between the sewage and the sleep deprivation my eyes were burning.

"Where are we going?" I asked, and he shrugged in response. "Do you know how to get to Giles' from here?"

"Why would we go see him? Are we going to read G.I Joe and his buddies away?"

"He's kind of the only adult supervision we have, he's usually just my go to," I said, trying to keep my feet moving as Spike dragged me along, hand tight around my wrist. I might have blushed, but something about both of us being covered in shit really took the romance out of it. No, no romance. There was no romance...god I was going to need to get this under control.

"I'm older than him, you know," Spike said. See, there's another reason why liking him would be a bad idea. He could literally be my grandfather, plus several greats.

"Yeah, but you don't count. Your solution to a bad day is a fifth of whiskey, and a spot of violence to lift the spirits," I said, mocking his thick accent.

"Thanks, Bird."

"Giles!" I yelled as the two of us, Spike smoking, burst through the front door covered in sewage and probably looking every bit the demons we were, "Giles, help!"

Three faces looked back at us in a mixture of astonishment and disgust, at least Giles and Xander tried to mask the latter part, Anya nose was wrinkled so much she looked like one of those rabbits she was so scared of. I was breathing hard, and my blonde hair had turned a sickly shade of gunk-brown.

"What the hell happened to you?" Xander asked.

"Buffy's boyfriend, we couldn't seem to shake them, they've been after us all night," I muttered, as Spike stalked into the house, stripping off his dirty clothes as he went.

"Spike, no!" Anya said suddenly, jumping up, "The carpet!"

A shirtless Spike, who had made it over to the liquor cabinet and was pulling out a bottle of expensive looking whiskey, paused and looked back at her. "Why do you care?" He asked, popping off the lid and taking a swig, "Not your carpet, is it?"

She took a moment to think, and sat back down, "No, I suppose not. Carry on."

"Well, it is mine," Giles muttered, "And for that matter that's my bourbon your drinking."

"Need it," Spike grumbled, "The poofs shot me, shoulder hurts like a bitch."

Giles looked at me, eyebrows raised, and I shrugged, "It's been a really long night."

"Well, let me go get garbage bags for your clothes," Giles mumbled, heading for the stair case, "I'm afraid we'll need to burn everything you have now."

I'd forgotten about Spike being shot, everything had happened so fast I'd hardly realized what was going on when he fell. He hadn't exactly complained about it till now either. Frowning, I glanced at his back where something was embedded in the mud and dark vamp blood on his shoulder blade. It flashed, just a little red light like one of those phone towers.

What the fuck?

Curious, I stepped up behind Spike, who was too preoccupied with drinking to notice me, and watched. It was a silver ball, maybe the size of my top thumb joint. The little red light went off every ten seconds or so. Brow furrowed, I reached out and poked it.

Mistake. Spike roared, spinning around and back handing me hard enough to send me into the wall. As I tried to see past the stars in my eyes, I vaguely wondered what kind of idiot pokes an injured vampire. Oh yeah, me. I brought a hand up to my jaw, that was going to bruise wasn't it?

"Hey! Hey!" I heard Xander yell, and as I shook off the fuzzies, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Spike ignored him, "What the fuck, Bird?" Spike yelled, doubled over and obviously still in a good bit of pain.

"You're blinking," I mumbled, standing up straight though it took a bit of effort...everything's a bit harder when your brain feels like it's made of feathers, "Your back is blinking."

Spike looked at Xander, who shrugged, both looking utterly bewildered. He frowned, trying to peer over his shoulder without much success until Xander spun him around so his back faced the mirror. The little ball flashed, and Spike cursed, taking another swig of bourbon.

"That's how they keep finding us, isn't it?" He growled, slamming down his handle, "Been leading them right to us like a...like a fox with built in hounds." Yeah, he was about as tired as I was, and starting to get just a bit tipsy. It made sense though, how else could they have tracked us down in a moving car?

"Well we're going to have to get it out," I said.

"Or we could just throw Spike out," Xander offered, "Save us the hassle."

"No." Spike, giant asshole that he was, didn't deserve to get thrown out into the burning sun to get run down by jar heads. Whether I had some stupid crush on him or not. "It shouldn't be too hard...just need some tweezers or something."

"Great," Spike muttered, taking another drink, "I'm going to need more of this."

A few minutes and a lot more yelling later, we had one drunk vampire and a bloody tracking device that no one wanted to hold and no one knew what to do with. Four of us sat around the coffee table, the little ball flashing in the center. I blamed Buffy for this, and maybe it wasn't fair, but somehow I doubted we would've been found if they hadn't seen me that night. Right now though, I had bigger things to worry about than being pissy with Buffy. Primarily, at exactly what time I should expect my appointment with the local paranormal doctors.

"Well now what?" Xander asked.

"We could smash it?" Anya suggested, and we all gave a noncommittal shrug. Taking that as a go ahead, she picked up Giles' favorite mug and slammed it down. We all flinched as ceramics went everywhere; and the tracker, unharmed, flew off the table and right into the back of Spike's head.

"Ow," he mumbled, hardly moving from his place sprawled across the loveseat. He was still pretty plastered, though considering he'd downed a whole handle of whiskey I was kind of impressed. Vamps could hold their liquor.

"What about Will?" Xander asked, "You think she could magic it to death?"

"Do we have time to get her over here?" I asked. The commandos were a bit like flies at a barbeque: fast, sneaky, and after your sandwich. Except in this particular situation I was the sandwich, which I can assure you is an incredibly nerve wracking thing to be. At least Spike got to be drunk, Giles was a stickler for things like rules and underage drinking laws.

"Do we have any other options?" Xander shot back as he picked the tracker back up and set it on the table, "This thing's like a little terminator, it's got a red light and everything."

"Yeah, and if you wait long enough someone will even come and shoot you," I grumbled. "What if I just take it? I could run it down to a park somewhere, ditch it, and not leave this house for the next week."

"Absolutely not," Giles said.

At the same time as Spike said, "Yeah, why not? Bird can handle herself." While I was a bit touched by his faith in me, I wasn't entirely sure that was true. Still I didn't see a ton of options. I'd rather have a chance to run then be a sitting duck in here.

"It's far too dangerous," Giles said in his admonishing librarian voice, "With the device on her, finding Marley would be -"

"A walk in the park?" Anya offered.

"Yes…" Giles said, cleaning his glasses out of exasperation, "And unless we can track down Buffy I doubt we have anyone who could hold them off should Marley run into trouble."

Spike barked a harsh laugh, before opening his eyes to look at Giles, "What, gonna pit Slayer against Loverboy?" He asked with a slight slur. Deep down I knew Buffy would choose me over her new buddys, but I had the same sense of anxiety about that situation. She wouldn't ditch me...but it would complicate things.

"Why don't we just call Will?" Xander said, getting up and heading towards the phone, "She might be able to buy us some time, and if the soldier boys show up we'll figure it out then."

With Spike still passed out on the couch - a couch Giles was now muttering about burning considering we both still smelled like the inside of a sewer - and Anya and Xander playing a game of go fish I couldn't concentrate on, I found myself nervously pacing the kitchen while Giles made tea for the two of us. My head hurt from Spike's slap, it was my fault really and considering it was Spike I wasn't expecting an apology.

I just hoped it didn't bruise, I already had the vamp bite. I didn't need to go to school looking like I'd been getting into fights for the last week...or I guess go back to school. I hadn't exactly been in a while. Still, I was pretty that my kidney placement was much more important than advanced placement. I'd worry about school later.

"Chamomile with honey," he said, pushing a mug towards me, "Should help with the nerves."

"Thanks," I said with a soft smile.

"And do stop pacing, you're going to give me a headache just watching you." Giles took a sip of his own tea as I tried to fight the urge to keep moving. The tea did help, it was warm and removed just enough tension to ease the pain in my head. Didn't do much to stop the gaping pit that was growing in my stomach, but that wasn't going anywhere till that tracker's little red light stopped flashing.

Not that it would end there. The Initiative was relentless, and didn't help me that they had a Slayer on their side. Buffy might not want them to go after me, but the whole girl with super powers thing sure gave them enough free time to look for escapees.

"What are we going to do?" I asked, glancing over at the sleeping vampire.

"Well, when Willow comes I'm sure she'll have -"

"No...I mean, after. I can't even go hang out with my friends anymore without risking getting kidnapped again. I'm sure Spike doesn't have it much easier, Buffy's been showing them around the graveyards - a few more weeks and he's going to have a small army playing in his front yard."

Giles was quiet for a moment, deep in thought, "I...I hesitate to propose this as an option...especially for you, a little less so for Spike. Have you considered that perhaps Sunnydale isn't the safest place for you anymore?"

That hurt. What hurt more was the somber look Giles was giving me. These people were my family...where was I supposed to go? With who? I may like Spike, perhaps even a little more than I should; but how was I supposed give up my home of the last four years?

"I know Spike isn't ideal...but the two of you do seem to get along. It will forever puzzle me as to how...but perhaps just for a little while." He spoke slowly, each word carefully chosen. He didn't want me to go either.

"I don't -" I started, when I was suddenly cut off by a yell from the living room.

"Marley!" Xander was peering through the curtains, "Marley, they're in the road!"

"Damn it," Giles muttered, setting down his tea.

Back in the living room the tracker was blinking faster than before, and I was starting to panic. Anya, who hadn't quite taken the the time to take her head out of her cards was muttering about matches.

"Xander," she said, "If you don't hurry up, I'm just going to have to pronounce your fish dead and throw your cards down the toilet."

"Toilet!" Xander exclaimed, letting the curtain fall.

"What?" Almost all of us said at once, excluding Spike who hadn't woken up yet.

"Toilet!" Xander exclaimed with a grin, as if that was going to make any of us understand. Shaking his head, he grabbed the tracker and took off towards the bathroom. A few seconds later I heard something flush.

"Ohhh, toilet," I said as it hit me. Darting to the window I glanced out into the street, two commandos as two confused looking commandos twisted this way and that trying to follow the signal. Oh thank god, I was safe...for now. I still had Giles' suggestion weighing heavy in the back of my mind, but for now I didn't have to worry about getting cut open again. Laughing, I ran up to a rather proud-of-himself looking Xander, and threw my arms around him.

"That was good, right?" Xander asked, grinning.

"So good."

The front door opened, and we all looked up to see Willow peering in with a bag full of crystals and herbs, "Am I too late?" she asked.

"Yes," Anya said, "But Xander saved the day, so it doesn't really matter."

"Okay," Willow said a little awkwardly as she stepped inside. Her nose twisted up within a matter of seconds, "Oh god what's that smell?"

Yeah, I probably needed a shower.

Everyone had agreed that it was best if Spike and I laid low for a little while, and so I actually had Giles' permission to skip school for a few days and hide out in his house. Willow brought me some fresh clothes from my house, and picked up the clothes Spike had left there while she was at it. I was showered, clean, and ultimately exhausted.

Buffy still hadn't shown up, though I wanted to talk to her about her soldier-buds a bit before I...before I brought anything up about skipping town. I knew I missed a lot of school, but something about forcibly having to leave it and everything else I knew behind sat wrong with me. I'd already done that once before.

I shook my head, I didn't have to think about this right now.

I laid down on the couch across from Spike, who was still dead asleep, half naked, and covered in grime. Everyone else had gone home, except Giles who had gone out to the butchers to prepare for Spike's stay. I wanted nothing more than to use the quiet to close my eyes and sleep, just for a little bit...or maybe for a couple days. I hadn't decided yet. Pulling a throw blanket over myself, I laid back and closed my eyes - rubbing my stiff jaw one last time before I rolled over to sleep.

"Bird," Spike mumbled, and my eyes lazily opened as I turned to look at him. Was he still asleep? "Bird," he said again, this time a little more forcefully.

"What, Spike?"

"Sorry about your face…" He trailed off, but his eyes were still open. That pretty blue color set above dark circles that might have just been vampirey but were probably from exhaustion.

"Sorry about poking your bullet hole," I replied.

He laughed a little, "Yeah, that was damn stupid of you."

It was quiet for a moment, and I thought he might have drifted off again.

"I heard what Giles said to you," he muttered, "'Bout leaving."


"Vampire," he said, all matter-of-fact like, "We've got good ears, and we're good at playing like we're sleeping...I wouldn't mind though, what he suggested about us taking off together. If I have to get saddled with one of you idiots, I'd rather it be you."

"Thanks, Spike," I said with sleepy sincerity. His eyes fell shut, and in a few minutes we were both fast asleep.