Title: How's That For Instincts?

Author: AJ Hofacre

Summary: BEWARE ALL, FOR THIS IS A SPOILER FIC! There are MAJOR spoilers contained in here for 7.17, "Lies My Parents Told Me," which means that, since the date is currently March 7, 2003 (at 10:15 PM), the episode will not be airing until two weeks from Tuesday the 11th... Groan. I don't know how I'm gonna survive till the end of the season from now...

Rating: Oh, I drop a few F-bombs here and there, but nothing really major. In fact, I'd say somewhere between a PG and a PG-13.

Disclaimer: Not mine. Get it? N-O-T M-I-N-E. This... doesn't... belong... to... me... ¿comprendé? Good ^_^

Distribution: You want it? You really want it? Would you be willing to eat a three-year-old Scooby Snak? No? Good, I was just kidding anyway, cuz that's really gross. ^_^ As always, Want, Take, Have. Just let me know beforehand.

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I know what you're thinking. You think I'm absolutely mad, don't you? You think I've lost my mind? I don't know why. I haven't. I'm just as sane as you or anyone else.

So what if I have problems that the average human can't deal with? That's what happens when your Called. The average human can't prevent seven fatal apocalypses in a row. The average person can't die twice and be brought back from Heaven kicking and screaming through magick the second time. The average person doesn't have friends who are witches or vampires or werewolves, or sisters who weren't there fourteen years ago, and who happen to be mystical green globs of glowy energy. The average person doesn't date vampires or commando guys from a secret government organization committed to destroying demons. The average person doesn't live above a Hellmouth, patrol nightly and take out the lesser, more local evils. The average person doesn't have an ensouled vampire that happens to be in love with her (before and after ensouling) trying to be the gentleman and giving her space when all he wants to do is just be near her, because just being in her vicinity alone is enough to make his undead heart soar.

The average person also doesn't flirt non-commitally with her boss, who happens to be the principal at Hellmouth High. Yes, she likes him and everything -- she likes him -- but somehow, she's just not seeing a relationship with him.

Why?

It could possibly be because her ex-boyfriend (aka the soulless killer cum soulless rebel-against-his-kind cum ensouled love-filled slave-puppy mentioned before) is the one who killed this principal's mother during his soulless happy nights. And this principal's mother just happened to be a Slayer.

Just like me.

So why am I running to Robin's house tonight, not sure whether I'm intent on helping Robin and killing my ex, or on helping my ex and getting him the hell away from Robin? After all, Spike killed my sister. Not essentially my sister, since Dawn's not a Slayer, and Spike (more than likely) would rather die than hurt her, even though she hasn't exactly been Little Miss Ray of Sunshine when he's around lately. But Robin's mother, this woman that I've only heard of from Spike and Robin's accounts, was my soul sister, because she was a Slayer. And Spike killed her.

But the Spike I know isn't the Spike of the 1970's anymore. The Spike I know has changed, and I've seen it. I felt it when he lay under me, stroking my hair and murmuring sweet, loving words into my ear when I let him. I felt it when I saw him again for the first time since... that day. I feel it everytime I look at him, and I notice he's been looking at me but doesn't want me to know so he turns his head away. This Spike... my Spike... is a changed man.

So what do I decide? Do I help the man whose origins I barely know? Who I've just met, and who just happens to seem right at home being the resident high school dictator sitting pretty right above the Hellmouth?

Or do I help a vampire... a man, excuse me. Do I help a man I've known for six years, who knows everything about me inside and out, no matter what I try to hide from him and vice versa? Do I help a man who, despite his hatred for me all those years ago, shoved it to the side to help me bring down another souled vampire that I once thought I'd be with forever? Do I help a man who once did anything in his power to make me miserable, because he himself was miserable, and only ended up screwing himself into helping me all over again? A man who has cut me, bruised me, gutted me with cruel words, but has done everything except lie to me when it really mattered? A man who fell in love with me against his will, and a man who allowed himself to be tortured nearly to death for my sister, when he had nothing from me but scorn? A man who stayed in Sunnydale and protected my sister like a rabid pitbull when I was gone all summer? The man I used for comfort when I'd been brought back from Heaven, because I was in misery, and he was the only one who cared enough to help, even at the expense of his heart and dignity? A man that was broken so much over what he'd nearly done to me that he ran to Africa for three months, nearly died again, got a soul, and ended up feeling even more ashamed of what he'd done that he ended up being driven to the brink of insanity?

This man, walking towards me, brushing off his clothes and seething with hatred and betrayal over what my so-called trusted Watcher and the principal I had thought was a friend had actually had the gall to do behind my back?

If I were weighing gold right now, Spike would be rich. Looks like I made my choice.

I run up to him, catching him around the arm. "Spike!"

He glances at me, quickly shrugging me off. I bite my lip. Okay. The no-touch rule is apparently still in effect. But -- he's injured. I raise my hand to his face: "You're hurt."

He flinches backwards, passing his hand quickly over the small but bloody wound. "It's nothing. Leave it be."

I know he's going to glare at me when I ask, but I can't help it -- I have to know. "Where's Wood?"

As I predicted -- Spike scowls. Then he turns on his heel and heads back toward Wood's house. I hesitate for barely a second, but he seems to notice it, because he says, "Come on, then! Follow me, would you?"

Coming.

When we reach Wood's house, Spike doesn't bother with the front door -- instead, he goes to the garage, which erupts into a bigger cycle of confusion for me. Why the garage? Why not the backyard, or --

Oh. That's why.

Wood glances up at me, barely concealed disgust and disbelief in his eyes. His neck is torn and bloody, with two small, neat puncture holes marring his skin -- his first bite wound, and it's only fitting it should be my Spike to give it to him.

Spike turns to me. "I spared this one tonight, Buffy. I didn't have to, but I like to pride myself on having control." He trails off for a second, then, glancing at Wood again, he seems revved up all the more. "But listen to me, Buffy." I nod. "If he makes a move toward me ever again... if he so much as looks in my general direction with that stupid, idiot face of his again... Mark my words, I will kill him. I don't care what you say."

I nod again. Clearly, something other than the obvious has transpired tonight; something that Spike won't tell me about until he's calmed down, which isn't going to be for a while. Seeing my acceptance of his words, he nods briskly, then turns away, stalking back toward Revello Drive.

He's gone. When he no longer leaves those special tinglies on my radar (and after all these years, Spike's finally developed his own sensation for me when I sense him), I turn to Principal Wood, crossing my arms.

"How does it feel to deal with a fully grown century-plus year old Master vampire?" I ask, not offering my hand when I see that he has raised his own in askance.

He frowns, then rolls slightly to his side, shifting his weight in order to stand up. "Strangely, not like the warm happies I expected."

He looks at me again. He's confused. Obviously, he is, and of course, he should be. I've been nice and kind to him, and lately I've been flirtatious, and suddenly, one incident with Spike, and I've closed myself off. I'm the fucking ice queen. I would have been glad to continue being the kind and polite one to him, but unfortunately, like always, he's become a sleazeball. A sneaky, underhanded sleazeball.

"You tried to kill a friend of mine tonight."

He glances up sharply. "I had a reason."

"Your reason is now null and void. You don't get to use that reason again. You don't get to use any sort of reason, ever again. You tried to kill my friend tonight. You went behind my back, conspired with my Watcher against me and Spike, and you've betrayed my trust. All I can say is, you're damn lucky that Spike let you live."

He's pissed off. Well, duh. "That thing killed my mother! And you're just going to stand there and defend what he did? What he did to me, not even ten minutes ago?"

I raise my eyebrows, challenging him. "Yes. I am." His jaw drops slightly in surprise. "You baited him purposely, Wood. You did this to him, in order to enrage the demon inside of him, and goad him into fighting you. Well, it worked. And yet, he let you live. What do you think about that?"

Wood narrows his eyes, stepping toward me. "I think it was a stupid mistake that he's going to regret the next time we cross paths."

I counter his scowl with a thunderous one of my own. Willow taught me this -- it used to make Xander want to cry and hide under the bed, especially after he'd stolen her Barbie doll. "Spike's not going to regret anything. Spike never regrets what he does in self-defense. You provoked him, and now you're pouting and plotting revenge because he showed you up." I move closer to him. "You are not to come near Spike again. He's not the same Spike that killed your mother. He's different. He's changed. If you don't trust him, then trust me. I know a change when I see it, and the Mother Of was in him. If you don't want to trust me, then fine by me. You're on your own. I'm more than capable of stopping an apocalypse on my own; hell, I've done it six times already, and the last one was caused by my best friend. So be childish, immature and vengeful. I don't care."

I turn to walk out, following the same path that Spike took. But I stop and turn suddenly to add one more thing. "But you don't come near Spike again. Because not only will he kill you..." I look directly in his eyes, forcing him to realize that I'm deadly serious. "I'll let him."

I turn and leave.

In mere moments, I'm back at the house, just as Spike is walking up the porch steps. He stops and turns toward me when he hears the tread of my feet on the path. He waits until I'm level with him before speaking. "So you gonna stake me, or what, pet?"

I look at him in surprise. "Why?"

He looks bitter as he answers: "For chewing on your new boy-toy."

I gaze at him and, unable to help myself, I reach my hand up and touch his cheek, gently carressing the wound that Wood left on him. Surprisingly, he doesn't flinch back this time, but instead, leans into my hand, unconsciously nuzzling it. His eyes are still open and questioning, however, and he's waiting for my answer. I shrug simply. "He provoked you."

Spike looks at me in surprise. "What? That's it? You're not gonna... try and stake me, or yell at me for feeding on a human, on your boss, nothing?"

I smile gently. "He provoked you," I repeat. Then I scowl. "And he's not my boy-toy. He's not my anything. Except boss. Well, maybe. There's no way he's not gonna fire me now."

Spike looks at me questioningly, but I shrug again. My hand leaves his cheek and trails down to clasp his hand. I push open the front door gently, leading him inside, being naturally wary of coming across any renegade sleep-rebelling Potentials. Spike follows me without question, but it's apparent he's still confused. I make sure the shades are drawn tightly, and flip the little clip thingy into the lock position so the first person up tomorrow won't suddenly be graced with Extra-Crispy Spike. Then, I pull Spike down to sit next to me on the couch.

"Buffy," he starts. I hold my hand up, cutting off any other words. Slowly, I lean in, and though Spike is probably zinging around off the walls inside his head in surprise now, he leans in as well, unable to help himself. Our lips meet and hold before gently beginning to dance. That's what he always called it, didn't he? The dance. His lips are still as soft as ever... he still tastes like death and life and energy and love and nicotine and blood and mints and Spike all rolled into one. He still has the same tentativeness that we shared during the first time our kiss ever meant something to me -- the night he saved Dawn's life. He's not sure what this means, but he doesn't care, and if this kiss is all he gets for the rest of his life, then he'll die a happy man. His emotions flood through this kiss directly into me, and I shiver with pleasure. Why couldn't I have let myself give in to this gentility, this sweetness all along?

We pull apart simultaneously; Spike, so he can regain his thought process, and me so I can regain, not just my thought process, but my breath as well. I can still taste him in my mouth.

I know this is a rare reaction from me, especially the way I've been toward him. But... he's done everything for me. He's risked his life for me so many times... And he loves me. I can honestly say that I believe him when he says he loves me.

And I love him, too.

Hey, if someone did for you the type of things Spike has done for me, you'd love them, too.

He gazes at me in awe, and I can't help but lean in and give him one last, little peck on the lips. I pull back with a smile, brushing my hand over his face. "We all do what we have to do, Spike," I say. He looks at me in confusion, but just as suddenly as his confusion appears, it is pulled away, replaced instantly by understanding. He nods slowly, a tiny, shy smile, a smile that I have never before seen on the face of William the Bloody, but nonetheless a smile I would definitely like to see more of, curling his beautiful, soft, Cupid's bow lips. I stand up to head upstairs, giving Spike one last kiss, when there's a knock on the door.

This is strange. Who the hell is it at this hour? Everyone I know lives here.

But as I exchange a questioning look with Spike, I'm answered when I open the door and see Benedict Giles standing past the threshold. "Buffy," he starts.

Bet he wasn't expecting to see me glaring at him. Hah. Serves him right.

I was right. He starts in surprise, then continues. "I hope you realize that I only agreed to this for your own good. Your feelings for Spike put aside, you have serious concentration ahead of you for this war. I want you to be prepared, for war, and for any and all sacrifices."

Oh, Giles. You actually believe what you say? You think I don't see that little shred of disappointment in your eyes that I went after Spike, and that you didn't get to see him be brutally massacred? Betcha won't be happy to find out that:

"Spike is still alive. I don't know what you were thinking when you agreed to Wood's inane proposition, but whatever it was, I don't really care. Spike is still alive, and he is still in the fight. We need him."

Giles frowns. Hah. There's that frown of disappointment I was waiting for. Disgusting. Hello, sir, do I even know you anymore? "Buffy, I was only trying to teach you to be on your guard, and to -- "

"You know what, Giles?" I ask. His defense stutters to a halt. I'm sure the look in my eyes is pure ice. I continue. "I think you've taught me all I need to know."

I close the door in his surprised face.

Through my seven years as a Slayer, I have allowed everyone who was not me decide the major decisions and steer my instincts. I think it's about time I started listening to what my instincts are saying to me, instead of listening to everybody else and what they think my instincts are saying to me.

And right now? My instincts are very pro-Spike.

I smile at him slightly, walking over to kiss him again. I can't resist. He looks more relaxed, more happy than he ever has since I've known him. After all, since he met me, he hasn't had a lot to be happy about. Until now. This... This is right. This is good. And the hell with what Xander, Giles and everyone else thinks. This is mine. Spike is my choice.

And, in my own opinion, I think I made some pretty damn good choices.

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Fin