A/N Not a new story but since this was the first chapter of the first story I ever wrote, I felt I needed to go back over it and adjust it a bit. No major changes, just a bit of "tidying up" for my own satisfaction.

Come dance with me by Marianne

He had just enough time to register the pain and look down at his thigh where a barbed dart was imbedded, when he felt the dizziness and darkness fog his brain and he crashed to the floor.

When he awoke, he was in complete darkness that not even his enhanced senses could penetrate, unable to move his arms and legs, which appeared to be pinioned by metal bands. His surroundings seemed to be vibrating – no, rocking – and it took him some time to realise that he was in a small box; only just large enough to contain his body and that he was on the move. He tried shouting and struggling, but no one came. The darkness seemed to press against him and, for the first time since he had been sired, he was afraid of it. It brought back ugly memories of his human childhood, when his father had shut him in a small cupboard if he had been judged to be a "bad boy."

He had no idea how much time had passed when a small hatch just in front of his face opened, and light suddenly flooded in, blinding him. A rough voice said, "Eat," and a plastic pipe was thrust towards his mouth.

He turned his face away and shouted, "What the bloody hell is going on? Why am I here and where are you taking me?"

"Suit yourself."

Before he could say any more, the pipe was withdrawn, the hatch slammed shut, and he was left to his own thoughts. The time passed and, just as he thought he was going to expire from hunger, the hatch was opened again and the pipe was pushed in. This time he grasped it between his teeth and sucked hard, the warm blood flowing into him, restoring his strength.

"Will you sodding well talk to me? Why are you doing this?"

But the pipe was withdrawn and the hatch closed with no response from whoever it was.

He lost all count of time but, just as he thought he couldn't be hungrier, he was fed through the hatch. He stopped asking questions and trying to escape as a bad job - it got him nowhere. His fear grew as time went by until he thought that he would go mad. Finally, the vibration stopped and he lay quiet until he was shaken from side to side as the box was moved, his head banging against the walls. Finally, the movement stopped and a different kind of vibration started. He howled in frustration, having thought that he might be freed from his dreadful prison. The nightmare continued, punctuated only by feeding time.

At last, when all movement stopped, he was hardly in any state to appreciate it. Through the buzzing in his head he heard a scraping sound, cracks of light appeared and the lid was lifted. He had never been so pleased to see light in his life, no matter what awaited him. As his wrists and ankles were freed, he drew himself painfully to a sitting position and looked wildly around. He was in a small, windowless room that looked as though it had been hewn from rock; four burly men surrounded him, holding crossbows, the flickering of their torches making their shadows dance sinuously across the walls.

"Make sure our guest is made comfortable," a disembodied voice commanded.

At that, the men unceremoniously tipped him out of the coffin, picked it up and left, slamming the door behind them. He lay sprawled on the floor only just able to contain his sobs of relief. It was dark in the room now, but, after that awful box, it felt almost like freedom. He spent some time trying to destroy the door, but the wooden layer he managed to dislodge only revealed the metal one underneath. He then spent some more time shouting, kicking, and swearing at it until he ran out of steam.

It looked like a store room, excavated from the bedrock. The walls were uneven and damp and he had examined every inch of them several times over, when the door opened and the same four men came in, this time armed with cattle prods. He glared at them.

"Where the bleeding hell am I? Why have you brought me here?"

The first man thrust the prod towards Spike's chest and, with a yell and a searing pain running through his body; he fell to the floor, paralysed. By the time he recovered, they had handcuffed his wrists behind his back and drawn a hood over his head. They dragged him out of the room and down a corridor, thrust him into another room, uncuffed him, and drew off the hood. As they left the room, he looked around just in time to fend off a blow to his head from another vampire who seemed to be intent on killing him. Confused, he fought for a few desperate minutes almost losing the battle, but the other vampire was young and inexperienced, giving Spike the chance to wrench the stake from his grasp, and dust him.

"Bravo," drawled the disembodied voice, "I enjoyed your performance."

Spike looked around - there must be a camera in the room and speakers.

"And they call me a freak – is this the way you get your jollies? Watching others fight to the death?"

"I'm not interested in "others", only you!" The voice came back.

"Why? Why the hell are you interested in me?"

There was no reply. When the four men came back in, he eyed the cattle prods and put up no resistance as they cuffed him, hooded him, and frog-marched him back to his cell. When they had released him and backed out, he found a container of fresh blood on the floor and he drank greedily, then he looked around, nothing had changed. It was still dark, damp, and depressing.

He was used to being lonely since Dru had left, but he had never felt so alone until this room. He wracked his brain trying to figure out why this was happening to him, as he prowled back and forth across the small room, four steps one way and four steps back, but it did not relieve his sense of aloneness. The only thing that helped take his mind off what was happening was to turn in on himself, shutting out his surroundings. So he slumped in a corner and began fantasising, rewriting history, where he was the hero, or, if he felt like it, the villain. He found that his fantasies about the Slayer were the best: where he rescued her and she was grateful, instead of loathing him and punching his face, or where he fought her and won, without the bloody chip interfering.

When next they came for him and took him to the other room, he was prepared for battle. This time it was a more experienced vampire and Spike was wounded several times before overcoming the other being. Groaning with pain, he was forced back to his prison and thrown in. He dragged himself over to the wall and sank into his dreams.

This became the pattern – the men would take him to what he began to think of as the battle room, and he would have to fight for his unlife. He fought all sorts of demons and monsters, each stronger than the last. His clothing becoming ragged and torn; it didn't heal like his skin. He was allowed to recover just enough, before they would come for him again. The "voice" did not re-appear, and, although Spike was sure that he was being watched all the time, he didn't care, he could shut it out.

When Buffy first heard about the Council's all-expenses paid trip to England, she said "No! No way, never, never ever!"

Giles, who had received the phone call, was more cautious. "Well, they don't seem to have a hidden agenda; they don't even want to meet with you."

"Come on, Buffy, at least listen to what Giles has to say." Joyce said.

"Well, what do they want?"

"They emphasised that there were no strings attached – they say that they want to make it up to you, after the hard time they gave you."

"Which hard time would that be? The time they nearly got me killed? The time they fired you as my Watcher?"

"It would be a good time to take a break – after all you have been through. Joyce is getting better all the time, and Willow can help her look after Dawn."

In the end, she allowed herself to be persuaded to go. It was something she had always wanted to do, and, Giles was right, she needed the break. Leaving Willow and Xander with contact numbers and instructions for what to do if another apocalypse threatened, she hugged them and, smiling through sudden tears, waved goodbye.

The trip was everything she could have hoped for. They visited all the places that she had dreamed of, and the stresses and strains of the last few months faded. Giles was enjoying himself hugely too; he loved seeing the expression on her face when she saw the ancient buildings and the historical sites.

On the eighth day of their trip, Giles received a phone call. When he came back, he said, "We have been invited to stay at a private house near the borders of Scotland for the weekend. Apparently, you have a fan who wants to meet you."

"I thought the Council was going to leave us alone!" Buffy said, angrily, "Just as I start to enjoy myself, they get all interfere-y!"

"He is not in the council; he's just a supporter. His name is Sir Laurence Mills – he, apparently, was knighted for his services to charity – in fact, his family supported my training." Giles felt uncomfortable admitting this to her. Should he let his gratitude dictate what they should do? "Look, we don't have to visit if you don't want to; we can keep to our original plans."

Buffy felt guilty, she was behaving like a spoilt child.

"Well, I've always wanted to visit Scotland," she smiled at him, wanting to smooth the worried wrinkles from his forehead. "We only have to stay the weekend, okay? There are so many places I want to see."

"I'll ring him back and emphasise that it's for two days only." He tried to keep the relieved smile from his face; he had always felt indebted to the Mills family, who had paid for his five years at the Watcher Academy.

They travelled by train, with the idea of hiring a car on arrival, but they were met by a chauffeured driven Rolls Royce and driven in style along winding country roads, past densely forested areas until, through a break in the trees, they caught their first glimpse of their host's residence.

"This is a house?" Buffy gaped at the castle-like building as she got out of the car.

A man came towards them and, smiling, held out his hand towards Buffy. He looked to be in his thirties, with blond hair and blue eyes; she shook his hand and smiled back at him. "These places were built when the Scots sent raiding parties over the border in the fourteenth century. They had to withstand sieges that were quite long." He explained.

"Then subsequent householders added to it as they needed to. I think they must have had big families; there are twenty three bedrooms at the last count!" He laughed, and ushered them into the large hall. "I'm Laurence Mills. You must be Buffy – you don't know how long I have waited to meet the famous Slayer." His eyes were glowing with enthusiasm.

"So, it's not your ancestral home then?" asked Giles to fill in Buffy's embarrassed silence.

"Good lord, no! My father bought this place around thirty years ago. It was a bargain, but in dire need of work. He was a self-made man, you know, made his money in scrap metal."

He was a modest hottie Buffy thought – most men would have preferred to hide such lowly beginnings. She smiled up at him, "I'd love to see the rest of the house, er castle".

"It will be my pleasure." The house was huge. "We even have a ballroom," he said with a chuckle, opening a door to a vast room with glass doors all down one side, overlooking the drive and gardens. "Although, there hasn't been a ball held here in living memory."

"It's beautiful," sighed Buffy, impressed in spite of herself.

"Much too big for me really, but dad liked it," he said.

Buffy was shown to her bedroom, complete with an enormous four-poster bed, which she threw herself on to in delight. This was far better than she had ever expected. Laurence was very attractive, and she was looking forward to the next two days.

After dinner, Laurence outlined some of the places he would like to take them.

"What do you think? Would you like to see some places that are not on the tourist track?"

"Put like that, how can I resist?" Buffy laughed.

Giles smiled weakly, and said, "Yes, how could we resist?"

The next twenty-four hours went by in a whirl of visits and introductions. Laurence was an entertaining host who knew everybody who was anybody. Buffy couldn't remember the last time she'd had such a good time. When Giles saw Buffy's reaction, he also relaxed and started to enjoy himself.

The next evening, after a sumptuous meal at a local restaurant, Laurence said reluctantly "I'm sorry, my friends, but I have an important meeting at home. However, please stay on here if you like."

"No, it's all right; I need an early night anyway, since we're leaving tomorrow morning." Buffy stifled a yawn.

"Me too, I'd like to plan our next visit," Giles agreed.

"Oh no, you can't think of moving on yet!" Laurence seemed really upset. "You haven't seen half of what I'd like to show you."

"I'm afraid we will have to. We don't have much longer in England and there're still a lot of places on our visit wish list."

He stalked into her back yard and found her sitting on the back stoop. He raised the sawn-off shotgun, but before he could aim it, he saw the glistening streaks on her face. "What's wrong?"

"Spike, I'm sorry that I said that you were beneath me. I was so tempted to kiss you then, that I said the first thing that came into my head." Tears sparkled in her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. "Please forgive me. I'd do anything to make it up to you."

Spike pulled her towards him with a growl, raining kisses on her face. "I'm sure I can think of a few ways..."

Rough hands pulled him to his feet, and the fantasy changed to accommodate. "I will fight this demon to protect you," he muttered under his breath as his hands were fastened behind his back and the hood put over his head. He was still weak from the previous days' fight and put up no resistance.

When they got back, Laurence asked them to join him in his office. "I thought you had a business meeting," Giles said.

"I've had to change my plans, since you'll be leaving tomorrow," Laurence said slowly. "I have something to show you – I had hoped to explain all this to you tomorrow, but if you are leaving, now will have to do."

He opened the door and nodded to someone outside. To Buffy and Giles' amazement, a hooded figure in rags with his arms chained behind his back was dragged in. "This is William the Bloody, a vampire," said Laurence proudly.

"What the hell is going on?" Giles couldn't believe his eyes. "Why have you brought him here, and why is he in such a disgusting state?"

"Giles, let's hear what Laurence has to say," Buffy said calmly

"Slayer?" Spike whispered.

"It seems to know you," Laurence said. "Have you encountered it before?"

"Yes, we've had a run in or two, but he's always escaped until now." Buffy said expressionlessly.

"This is the culmination of a lifetime's planning!" Laurence pulled off the hood, and Spike blinked in the sudden light. "This monster massacred my family," Laurence snarled.

"What? When did he do that?" Buffy asked.

"About a hundred years ago, my grandfather came back from doing an errand for his mother, to find his parents, his brothers and sisters – including his five year old sister Gertrude, who had hidden in the coal bin, lying in their own blood, their throats torn out. He never recovered from the experience and taught his son, my father, to hate this... thing and to promise to hunt it down and kill it in the most painful way possible!"

"How do you know that this is the vampire?" Asked Giles.

"A neighbour described the attacker, and, although it has changed its appearance, we have managed to establish that it was William the Bloody beyond all reasonable doubt."

Buffy was staring at Spike listening to the story. He was staring blankly back at her, his blue eyes sunken in their sockets. Although she hated him, she couldn't equate chips ahoy Spike with such horror, but had to admit that pre-chipped Spike could have, and would have, done such a thing.

"What's this got to do with me?"

"Buffy, my father worked all his life for this moment. He slaved night and day to earn the money to afford the research necessary to track down this monster. He found out about the Council and poured money into the Slayer project. Tragically, he did not live to see it fighting for its life, and it has fallen to me to finish what he started."

"What do you mean, fight for its - his life? You want me to fight him?"

"I've been training it for you; it will be a worthy opponent." Lawrence walked over to a monitor and pushed play on the VCR. Buffy saw Spike fighting several monsters and demons in a series of edited "highlights."

"No. There'll be no public slayage for me. When I dust vampires, it's one on one, no invites, no RSVPs," Buffy was thinking fast, "If I do this thing, it must be in private, in a place of my choice, and this creature must be fit – and washed – he stinks!"

"Buffy! You can't seriously be thinking of fighting him!" Giles spluttered.

Before he could say any more, Buffy butted in, "I'll need talkage with my Watcher before I decide."

"Of course, anything you say!" Lawrence was wringing his hands in excitement.

Buffy was wondering how she could possibly have thought him even remotely attractive, when a horrible idea popped into her head. "I hope there's no cameras any place near me!"

"No, no! The only rooms that have surveillance equipment in them, are the vampire's cell and the fighting room," Laurence said hastily, "I wouldn't do that to you!"

Giles looked about to say something, but before he spoke Buffy gave him a meaningful look and walked out of the room, into the garden. Giles followed. When they were a good distance from the house, Giles couldn't control himself any longer.

"What do you think you are doing? You can't possibly be entertaining the idea of fighting Spike, especially for that...that......" For once, Giles was at a loss for words.

"I don't see an alternative, Giles," Buffy said and then filled him in on her idea.

Back in his cell, Spike tried to make sense of what had happened – was it in his mind or had it been real? How had Buffy got there? Did they say that he would have to fight her? The questions spun around his head until he felt dizzy. So he did what he had become accustomed to doing – he forced the real world away and entered his fantasy world – sinking down into a corner and rocking back and forth.

Giles left the estate early in the morning while Buffy, smiling at Laurence, outlined her conditions for fighting with Spike.

"I have decided to fight him in the ballroom, when Giles gets back from town, with only you two there," She told Laurence, who by now was willing to agree to any of her demands. "Giles will have a crossbow, in case the vampire decides to make a break for it."

"I can't begin to tell you what this means to me," Laurence said, clasping her hand. It took all her willpower to keep the smile in place; she squeezed his hand and was amused to see him flinch in pain.

"I always find slaying stimulating," she said to him with a meaningful look. "In fact, they are quite a turn-on," she purred.

Laurence was still taking in the implications of this, when Giles came in. "Well, I've hired the car for the next leg of our journey, but I've been thinking that it would be as well to postpone our departure until tomorrow, to allow you to recover from the fight. Not that I expect it will take you long to dispatch him."

"We can proceed as soon as you are ready," said Laurence, eagerly. "As you requested, I've told the men to leave as soon as they have brought the vampire in."

"Good." Said Buffy. "There's no time like the present."

When Spike was brought to the ballroom, Buffy could see that he was wearing a black sweatsuit and looked cleaner. As soon as the handcuffs and hood were removed, the four guards departed as promised. Spike was swaying; blank-faced and looked, if possible, worse than the previous day. Buffy flew at him, raining blows and kicks to his face and body. He fell back, making no attempt to defend himself, and crashed to the floor. She knelt astride his chest, her hands around his throat, bent and hissed in his ear,

"Spike, can you understand me?"

He looked up at her, confusion clouding his eyes, "Slayer, is it really you?"

"Yes, of course it is, you idiot! There's a car parked just outside. It's got a blanket on the back seat, but to reach it you gotta look like you're fighting me back – follow my lead."

Awareness flooded his face, Buffy felt a surge of movement and then found herself flying through the air. She rolled to her feet, ran towards him, and, fending off his weak blows, kicked him hard in the chest making him stagger backwards into the glass doors which burst open. Spike got to his feet and sprinted to the little Audi, with Buffy and Giles close behind him.

Laurence expected them to capture the vampire and bring him back, but, to his utter amazement, they jumped in with him and the car shot off down the drive, gravel spraying.

Buffy looked through the back window. "Are they following us?" Giles asked.

"No, not yet – oh, yeah here they come, I just saw a car pull away."

"I got the fastest car I could hire; I hope he hasn't got a Porsche or something!"

Spike just lay on the back seat, heavy blanket over his head. He couldn't quite believe that he was free, or who it was that'd rescued him. The road twisted and turned through the forest. Giles, who'd scouted the route that morning, turned into a small gap between two trees and they bumped along into the forest for a few hundred yards before stopping.

"Why've we stopped?" Spike wanted as many miles as possible between him and that dreadful place.

"We're going to double back," said Giles. Just then, they heard the pursuing car pass them and continue along the forest road. "I think we stand a better chance if we use the lane behind the house. Hopefully, they won't have thought of that."

"Hopefully?" said Spike incredulously.

"Look, you peroxide idiot! We didn't have a lot of time to plan this. If you've a better idea, then let us know!" Giles snapped, starting the car and pulling back on to the road. He leant over and handed Buffy a map. "Here, I bought this at the car hire place. It's the most detailed one I could find."

She looked at it in confusion, never having seen an Ordnance Survey map before.

"Um, where are we?"

"Give it here." Spike leaned over the back seat and pulled the map from her unresisting hands. The vampire surprised them both by navigating almost faultlessly down tiny narrow back roads. They got lost a couple of times, but Spike managed to get them back on track, avoiding major roads altogether. Finally, they joined a motorway and lost themselves in the traffic, heading towards London.

After several hours, Buffy needed a break and Giles had some phone calls to make, so they pulled into a service station. They decided that Spike would stay in the car; he was too distinctive with his bleached blonde hair and high cheekbones. In fact, Giles told him that he "stuck out like a sore thumb."

Spike lay on the back seat, still covered by the blanket. He had shut down his emotions, but now he didn't have to maintain the façade, they overwhelmed him. He found that he was shaking uncontrollably; he clenched his teeth and tried for control, but it was impossible.

"Hey Spike, I got you some coffee."

He redoubled his efforts toward self-control, but to his dismay and shame he was wracked with harsh, dry sobs.

"Spike, what's wrong?" Buffy got into the back of the car and pushed him upright. "What's the matter, are you ill?"

He tried to tell her that nothing was wrong, to go away, anything to stop her witnessing his shame, but he couldn't utter a word. Then, to his shock, he felt her arms go round him pulling his head into her shoulder, and she was rocking him back and forth, whispering soothing words,

"It's all right; it's all right, its okay."

His sobs slowly eased, and he lay quietly in her arms, receiving the comfort that he so desperately needed. He looked up at her face expecting an amused smile or a sarcastic comment, but he saw only sympathy. It was almost too much to bear, and he took a deep unnecessary breath. "Thanks," he said shakily.

Buffy felt that she was seeing him for the first time – the cocky, world-wise "Spike" mask he wore had slipped, and a more complex creature was showing through. She gently ran her finger down his cheek over the healing cuts and bruises.

"I didn't know you could feel emotions like that."

He smiled faintly at what she would think if she knew how much he felt for her, then his expression changed, "You won't tell..."

"No, it goes no further," she interrupted, and then said slowly, "Spike, did you do all those things he said you did?"

"What can I tell you Slayer?" pointing to his own chest. "Vampire," he said matter of factly.

"Would you do it now, if the chip was gone?"

"Dunno. I always thought of humans as prey, you know – happy meals on legs. But now I have to deal with them all the time, and I can't hurt them when I want to, I've even got to like some of them." His heart lurched painfully as he longed to tell her again of his love. "Buffy," he hesitated. Did he really want to know the answer? "Why did you and the Watcher risk everything to rescue me?"

"We couldn't let Mills go on doing what he was doing to you, no-one deserves that."

"Not even me, the creature you loathe and hate?"

"Not even you Spike," she said with a grin. "Now do you want this coffee or not?"

He was reluctant to relinquish his place on her shoulder it felt so good, but he heard Giles approaching so he sat up with a sigh and took his coffee.

"I've been in touch with a couple of my friends, and one of them, Toby, has invited us to stay with him," Giles said.

"Does he know Spike's a vampire?" asked Buffy.

"Well, no – it's not the sort of thing you discuss on a public telephone. But he's an old friend of mine and thankfully very broad minded."

"Look," said Spike, "perhaps I'd better sod off now, save you all the trouble."

"Oh, don't be so stupid, if Laurence Mills can find you in a country the size of the USA, he'd have no trouble hunting you down here, and all that we've done would be wasted. Now shut up and let me drive," snapped Giles.

Spike shrugged, and looked down at his clothing with disgust. "Does this Toby have decent clothes sense? He's not a retired librarian too is he?" he asked suddenly worried.

Buffy stifled a giggle. Trust Spike to say the inappropriate thing at the most inappropriate time. They reached their destination in the early evening, all of them sunk in their own thoughts. "Well, here we are, and that's Toby come to greet us," Giles said wearily.

A rotund, middle-aged man bustled up to them and shook Giles' hand with both of his.

"Rupert, how good it is to see you after all these years!"

Spike looked him up and down and sighed. Buffy nudged him and he closed his mouth on the sarcastic remark he was about to make.

"This must be Buffy and Spike," his voice showed his amusement at their names, but his face was expressionless. "How do you do?"

Buffy shook his proffered hand and elbowed Spike in his already bruised ribs, until he also shook the man's hand.

"Do come in. I have supper laid on for you – you must be exhausted after driving all the way from the Scottish borders."

"Bet he won't have any O neg," muttered Spike, dodging Buffy's elbow as they followed their host into the house. Over their meal, Giles told Toby some of their tale. He took the revelation about Spike remarkably well.

"Nothing you get up to surprises me, Rupert. Does he need to be fed now?"

"Excuse me, but he is here and can bloody well answer for himself!" Spike was indignant. Toby backed away, suddenly nervous. "And, yes, he does want to be fed now."

Spike was enjoying the effect he was having; it was like an antidote to all the pain and suffering humans had caused him over the last few months.

"Spike – shut up." Giles said sharply. "It's all right, Toby, he won't hurt you, he..." This time Buffy nudged Giles, and gave him a warning look. "He's just tired, like we all are." Buffy completed the sentence for him.

It wasn't that she didn't trust Toby, but it was better that he know as little as possible about them, for safety's sake. They discussed the safest way of getting a supply of fresh blood, without raising any suspicions, and it was decided that as Spike had fed that day, they would leave it until tomorrow, when they would be on the move again.

Giles and Toby were in the kitchen catching up on old times, while the other two sat sprawled in armchairs in the sitting room. As it was a small house with only three bedrooms, Buffy suggested that Spike sleep on the couch.

"Oh, great," grumbled Spike, "no decent clothes, no proper food, and now I get to sleep on the sofa!"

"Stop moaning, it's better than the place you've been sleeping in recently," Buffy said wearily.

Spike looked at her. She was tired, rumpled, and not a little dirty, but she had never looked lovelier to him, and it took all his willpower not to grab her and smother her with kisses. Better wait 'til my ribs have healed before I try anything like that, he thought to himself ruefully, knowing what her reaction would be.

"Yeah, sorry."

She looked at him in surprise – was that a genuine apology? He was making a habit of surprising her and going against type.

"I'm going to have a bath, and, before you make any suggestions, no – I don't want my back scrubbed, and I have been washing my own hair for years!" Buffy swept out of the room and up the stairs.

Spike woke with a searing pain in his fingers, and, for a second, thought he was back in his cell. He yelped and jumped to his feet, swatting at his smoking hand.

"What bloody idiot opened the curtains?" He yelled.

"That would be this bloody idiot." He swung round to see a small, attractive, middle-aged woman in the doorway.

"Who the hell are you?" he snarled.

"I was about to ask you the same question," she said calmly. "I am Hilda Norton, Mr Robinson's housekeeper."

"Oh, I'm sorry; it's just that I'm allergic to sunlight," he said weakly.

"Let me have a look at that hand. We should run it under the cold tap." She took his hand in hers. "Oh, I seem to have the wrong hand," she said lifting the other and looking at it closely, seeing no marks at all. She raised her sharp brown eyes to his blue ones. "I could have sworn that these fingers were burnt; but there's no sign of blisters or anything." He seemed to be having difficulty in meeting her gaze. "You're a vampire, aren't you?" she said curiously.

"What? What makes you say that?" Spike was amazed; he had never met anyone quite like this lady.

"I've come across one or two in my time," she said calmly, "but I have some spells that protect me from your kind. You still haven't told me who you are, or what you are doing here."

When Buffy came downstairs in search of breakfast, she found Spike perched on the kitchen counter, laughing and talking to a small, capable-looking woman. For a moment, she was transported back to her own kitchen, with her mother and sister enjoying his company – which at the time she hadn't understood – and she felt an emotion that took a moment for her to recognise: jealousy. What on earth had she to be jealous of? After all she hated Spike didn't she? Buffy pushed the thought away and came into the kitchen. After the introductions were made, Mrs Norton began bustling around making breakfast; Buffy raised her eyebrows at Spike and motioned him to follow her out of the kitchen.

"It's all right, she knows I'm a vampire," Spike said casually.

"You told her!" Buffy was furious.

"Don't blame him, dear," Mrs Norton smiled at Buffy as she came through the kitchen door, "I guessed."

At a loss for words, Buffy gaped at her. Spike smirked, "She's a witch."

"And you're the Slayer," Mrs Norton said slowly. "Well, well I never thought I'd meet a Slayer."

Buffy was still having difficulty in forming words, "Wha... what gave you that idea – did he tell you that?" She glared at Spike and bunched her hands into fists.

"No, he didn't have to. You have the aura."

"I told you, she's a witch," Spike chanced another smirk, "she can sense aura and things."

"Mmmm, can I smell tea and toast?" Giles came into the room. "What's wrong, Buffy? You look like someone's just hit you with a wet kipper."

He had woken feeling a lot better and more optimistic, but after they introduced him to Mrs Norton, he was feeling worried again.

"Let me get this right. You are a practising witch? How long have you worked for Toby? Does he know about this?"

"Which question would you like me to answer first?" She seemed amused.

"I'm sorry, but this is a bit of a shock, I know Toby won't have anything to do with magic..."

"It's all right," she smiled, "yes, I am a practising witch, I have worked for Mr Robinson for about two years, and no, he doesn't know."

"Who doesn't know what?" asked Toby as he came through the door.

"Oh, we were just saying Spike doesn't know how to behave properly in company. You just can't take him anywhere" Buffy said blithely, oblivious of Spike's glare. She continued before he could say anything, "Okay guys. Let's plan!"

"I just have to pop out on an errand. It shouldn't take me long. Why don't you start without me and I can catch up when I get back." Toby smiled at Spike nervously. "I'll see what I can do about getting you, er, some of your special food." He backed out of the room, and they managed to hold on to their mirth until they heard the front door shut behind him.

They started discussing things over the full English breakfast Mrs Norton had cooked them.

"How did you manage to get in and out of the countries you used to go to? You obviously can't have a passport." Buffy's voice was muffled as she devoured the buttered toast.

"It's quite easy to get on board a cruise liner as a visitor – Dru and I would find two passengers who looked like us and..." Spike faltered to a halt.

"Then you'd kill them and take their places." Giles completed his sentence with disgust in his voice.

"Well, yeah," Spike looked indignant, "we are vampires you know."

"Well, it's not going to happen this time – we have to find another way." Buffy was oddly uncomfortable at the reminder of Spike's reality.

"No, I wouldn't harm any innocent bystanders now, even if I didn't have this bloody chip in my head. I know you wouldn't like it."

Buffy looked at him in amazement, but, just as she was about to speak, Mrs Norton said, "Chip in your head?" So they had to explain the situation to her.

"Does Mr Robinson know about this?" They assured her that he didn't, and she agreed that it was wisest to keep him in the dark. "I don't know him well. He keeps himself to himself, but I think that he does like to impress people with what he knows, so the less he knows the better."

"The first thing to do is to try and make Spike less conspicuous," Giles looked pointedly at Spike's hair.

Spike glared at him, "It takes a lot of time and effort to get it like this! I'm damned if I'm going to let you mess with it!"

Before they could get into a heated argument, Buffy said, "I dye my hair sometimes, so maybe I should try and, er, tone it down a bit." Spike was so taken with the thought of her washing his hair that he let the matter drop, much to the others' surprise.

"Can you get me some decent clothes?" he said plaintively. "I can't wear this anymore..." he plucked at the tracksuit, at a loss for words to describe his disgust. Buffy grinned at him mischievously,

"I don't see anything wrong with it. It's black, isn't that your favourite colour?"

There was a crashing sound, the door burst open, and Laurence Mills walked, in flanked by his four, armed bodyguards.

"Bloody hell!"

Spike leaped to his feet, looking 'round frantically for an escape route, his pale face even more pale. Before anyone could move, he had leaped up on the kitchen counter and smashed his way through the window. As he landed in the flowerbed, his whole body flinching at the exposure to the sun, he realised his skin wasn't smoking. In fact, it felt numbed. He didn't waste time thinking about it but sprinted towards the trees.

"Get after it; don't come back until you have it!" Mills was beside himself with fury, but the gun pointed at Buffy never wavered. "How could you help it escape? You are supposed to be a vampire Slayer, not a vampire saver!" he yelled at her.

Buffy said nothing, but just stood, arms crossed, glaring at him, the knowledge that Spike was probably dust at that moment making her feel ill. Mills produced two sets of handcuffs from his pocket and fastened Giles and Buffy securely to wait for the return of the vampire. Buffy surreptitiously looked around for Mrs Norton, but she had disappeared, giving Buffy a grain of hope.

The four heavies fanned out, methodically searching the wood. "He might have survived if he ran quickly enough into the trees, make sure that you look carefully, I'd hate to be the one who has to report that we've lost him!" Mills' second in command, ordered.

Spike watched them, hoping that the dark clothing would camouflage him, but one of them spotted him. He took off running through the undergrowth, fending off branches and brambles as he went, a crossbow bolt narrowly missing him. With no need for oxygen, he soon outstripped his pursuers. He hid in a hollow under a fallen tree, thinking bitterly about how he'd like to rip out their throats if only he could. The hollow was a good hiding place. The men came near but never came close to discovering him as he lay there pressed into the mud. When he was sure they were gone, he made his way slowly and carefully back towards the house.

"There you are!" a voice said softly.

Spike whipped round with a yelp of surprise and fear.

"Don't worry, dear, it's only me."

Mrs Norton beckoned him on, and he followed her to a small cottage some distance away. When they were safely inside, she looked at him quizzically

"Why were you going back to the house? Couldn't you see that madman was still there?"

"I can't just leave them there; I've got to find a way to get them out." Spike paced back and forth in his distress.

Mrs Norton stared at him "Why do you care about them?" She looked at him closely, "Ah, I see, you love the Slayer."

"What? No! I just can't let them..." he ran out of words as the meaning of what she had said filtered through his brain. "Love her? No, of course not, I mean I'm a vampire..."

"And she's the Slayer." Mrs Norton finished for him with a smile. "Well, even if you don't know it, it's evident to me."

"Wait a minute, how did you know how to find me? I know no one was following me, I was very careful." Spike said, trying to change the subject.

"Didn't you wonder why the sun didn't burn you when you jumped out? I cast a protection spell on you when you leaped out the window. The same spell allowed me to find you. Now, let's get you cleaned up. You smell worse than a pigsty." She pushed him towards the stairs and the bathroom. "Come on, strip off. I think that outfit has seen better days. I'll see what I find for you."

He stared at her, doubts and fears clouding his mind. Yet what option did he have, save to trust her? She'd looked after him so far, and he decided to go along with her plans for the moment. She showed no sign of leaving the room, so he stripped off his top and stood, flexing his muscles, smirking at her. She looked at the healing scars on his body and suddenly seemed to realise what she was doing and, for the first time, looked disconcerted.

"Oh, I'm sorry; I'd better let you get on with it."

"What's the matter, pet? Don't you like what you see?" He raised one eyebrow at her, "You can't say that I'm too young for you – I must be old enough to be your great-great-grandfather." He said with another grin.

She collected herself, and, smiling broadly, said, "Spike, I don't think you'll ever be old enough!"

He looked at her agape; she had really taken the wind out of his sails. Then he roared with laugher along with her and felt better than he had for weeks.