A/N - thanks to Kumi, beta extraordinaire.

Chapter 3

"Spike, can you get your new girlfriend to shut up for five minutes? She's making my brain ache"

Spike resisted the urge to tell Buffy that he was surprised she was laying claim to having a brain. She wouldn't take the comment kindly and it wasn't her fault his head felt like it was about to fucking explode. And she had a point about Anya's screeching. It was enough to make saint commit murder. Not that Buffy was a saint. No, she had her delightful moments of sin. Candles sprang to mind. And handcuffs. But she looked like an angel when she was riding up and -

"What do you mean, 'girlfriend'?" As he sauntered towards her, Spike flicked his eyes up and down Buffy's body, smirking. "If you're talking about the shagging doesn't that make you - Owwwwww, bloody hell woman! Leave my fucking nose out of this!"

The vampire staggered back clutching his abused face. The stupid bint had probably broken his nose.


"Shut up, Spike. It's too noisy in here already without you adding to it." Buffy felt a twinge of guilt over hitting Spike. It was a habit she'd been trying to break. But she knew where his train of thought was heading and didn't like the destination. Especially with Xander there to watch the arrival.

And why should she feel guilty? He deserved it the lousy, cheating...damn. Not cheating. Nothing to cheat on. Never was. But still...he deserved it. For disrespecting Giles' shop. Even if it was partly Anya's.

But she was here to stop Xander from causing injury so it might be a little out of line for her to start the violence. Even if Spike had totally provoked her. Stupid, loud mouthed vamp.

And why hadn't anyone got Anya to shut the fuck up yet?

"Will someone please get her to quiet down? She's driving me nuts!" Buffy glared at the other occupants of the room.

"Don't look at me, Slayer. I'm the reason she's gone batty. I'm use to making the ladies scream but this is not my method of choice. If I go near her I'll likely end up with more bruises than you've kindly given me already. You calm her down, if it's bothering you so bloody much. Or, I know, let the boy wonder have a bash. 'Cos I bet she'll respond real well to that."

Spike went back to nursing his swollen nose, occasionally reaching up to bat an ear out of his eyes. Christ, it was worse than when he wore his hair longer, best part of a century ago. At least with hair he could've used Brilcream or the like. And why did the damned things have to flop forward anyway? Why not sideways or backwards? Anywhere but IN HIS BLOODY EYES!

As he let out a growl that strongly resembled a squeal, Buffy crossed her arms and turned her attention to Xander.


"Well what?" Xander looked at her, confusion clear on his face.

The Slayer gave a much more impressive growl before casting her eyes upwards and mouthing 'Why me?' "Do something. Anything."

"Oh right, Spike screws up and you want me to fix it? Not my problem. Unless you want me to finish him off for you. That I can do. And with bleach bunny boy out of the way maybe Anya will calm down. Sounds like a plan to me." And Xander reached down for the axe, feeling more than ready to finish what he'd come there to do.

Trembling slightly and panting for breath, Anya moved to stand in front of Spike, being very careful to not look at him or touch him. Those ears. Oh god, those ears. And the teeth. But she wasn't going to let her former fiancé and current jilter get self-righteous in HER shop.

Buffy had other thoughts as she moved to intercept Xander but her purpose was the same. After all, she hadn't run all the way from Revello Drive to watch. She'd had enough of that sitting in front of Willow's laptop. If anyone was gonna dust Spike over this, it was her. Not that she would. Especially as Anya had stopped screaming and seemed to be getting all defensive of Spike. Which was giving Buffy a very odd feeling in the pit of her stomach. All tight and crampy.

"Both of you leave Spike alone. It's not his fault he's turning into a...bu- into a...rab- a furry demon spawn. If you aren't here to help then leave my shop. No one invited you here. I'm perfectly calm now and I am quite ready to start researching this.transformation." Anya's words were belied by the tremor in her voice and her shaking hands but her body language was clear. Neither Buffy nor Xander was welcome.

Not that that had bothered them in the past. Buffy was always thinking she had the right to be wherever she wanted just because she was the Slayer. And Xander.... Well, he was frequently where he wasn't wanted without noticing. And not where he was wanted. Like in a church. No, Spike might be far less attractive to her than he had been earlier in the evening but at least he was honest with her and understood her. Even if he was incapable of making a wish when it was needed.

As Anya stood defiantly before her ex-lover and his best friend who was more important than his girlfriend and should have been wife on every occasion, the shop bell rang again.

Spike looked up from his sulki... contemplation of the situation as Willow, smirking, and Dawn, looking pissed off, made their entrance.

Su-fucking-perb. The gangs all here. Roll on the humiliation.

"Oh very nice, Slayer! Not enough to have the whelp after my hide, you had to call in the witch and the Niblet. Did you send out an SOS to the Watcher too. Is Soldier Boy gonna pop by for a laugh at old Spike? Even better, why don't you call the Poof cos I bet he'd just love this. You really are a piece of work."

Glaring at the assembled Scoobies indiscriminately, Spike stood up and made for the training room. As he reached the door he turned back for one parting shot.

Only to find himself chest to nose with Buffy.

"Where do you think you're going? We're not here for fun, Spike. We're her because you.because you screwed up again and it needs to be fixed. So you're not going anywhere. Sit."

"Woof bloody woof. Think you've got the wrong beast, Slayer. Long ears, teeth. Rabbit not dog. I'm not at you're beck and call. I'm not gonna come running just 'cos you whistle. Didn't ask for your help, don't want it. Didn't ask you to come running in with you little pals in tow. And staring at me like I'm a freak show exhibit isn't my idea of helping. So sod off. Demon girl said she'd help, done more than the rest of you put together already. I like her. And I don't like any of the rest of you right now. So you sit. Better yet, go on, fetch!" And with that he took the stake she'd been unconsciously waving at him and threw it towards the shop door.

Dawn smothered a giggle and Willow went wide eyed as Buffy's eyes followed the path of the projectile, the Slayer's eyes only turning back at the sound of the training room door slamming shut.

As she looked back at the door and prepared to chase after Spike, possibly to hit him but certainly to yell loudly and repeatedly, Anya slipped in front of her. With her arms crossed and the trembling now almost non- existent, the young woman looked decidedly formidable. And utterly pissed off.

"I asked you to leave. Quite nicely, in fact. I also asked you to leave Spike alone. I think you are rude and pushy and arrogant and...well, not very nice. If you insist on staying then you and your friends may borrow some of MY research books and find a way to help. Quietly. And without upsetting Spike. Or me. This has been very traumatic and you are being very unhelpful. I suggest you follow Spike's advice and sit. And Willow? You should call Tara and be very nice to her as we will probably need a spell and I don't want you doing spells in my shop. You're too dangerous and thoughtless. Dawn, you can help but don't touch anything. You still owe me money. And Xander.what can you do Xander? Except leave. You're usually very good at that."

The group looked on in stunned silence as Xander sputtered and Buffy tried to decide how much she wanted to hit Anya, even if she couldn't. It would be wrong but damn, it was tempting. After all, who was Anya to call Buffy rude? The woman had the tact of a prickly pear. And the manners of a goat. Maybe the wish should have been about Anya instead. If there had actually been a wish, that is.

"I can help! I'm all with the helping!" Xander had finally found his voice.

"Good, if you're helping you can get refreshments and pay for them. I didn't invite you so you're not guests and therefore I don't have to provide for you. I want fresh coffee, I expect Spike will need some blood and your associates will probably want sugary sodas and donuts. Off you go. Try to come back this time.

Anya went back to ignoring Xander and staring Buffy down. The Slayer decided that she wasn't feeling violent, well, not really and went to join her sister and Willow. She was kinda curious how they'd arrived so quickly. She'd expected Dawn to need dragging here, kicking and screaming all the way.

After waiting for a moment to see if Anya would acknowledge him again, Xander headed for the door. Only to stop short.

"Hey, the helping thing? Actually, not with it. Not if it means helping Spike. Bugs Bunny can get his own animal juice. And since when did rabbits drink blood anyway? So I'm going nowhere. I'll just stay and make sure he doesn't do anything else that he'd need dusting for. How's that for helping?" And with that the brunette turned and leant against the doorframe, arms crossed.

"But you wouldn't be helping Spike, you'd be helping me. You keep asking what you can do for me. This is it. I don't want anything else you could offer."

Xander blushed. He wanted to refuse, tell her that he'd been willing to dust Spike for touching her, that he'd do anything to protect her, that he still loved her. But she didn't want to hear it. She was asking him to help her. So he would, even if it meant doing Spike a good turn. He might rage about the unfairness of it inside his head but he wasn't going to risk pushing Anya further away. He needed her. And he'd do anything to make her feel the same way.

He looked up and met Anya's eyes. There was no warmth there but when he nodded he thought he saw the glimpse of a smile on her lips. It was a start. And it was enough to make him straighten his shoulders and lift his head as he finally left the shop.

"Why are you still standing there? I thought you all had things to do of a helpful nature. Well?" The shop's remaining occupants realised that Anya had turned her attention back to them. With a rolling of eyes from Dawn, a glare from Buffy and a timid smile from Willow, they all turned to their appointed tasks.

Only to hesitate as they realised they weren't sure exactly what they were supposed to be doing. Either that or they were reluctant to do it.

"Ummm, Anya? Do I really need to call Tara? After all, we know what happened so..." Willow nervously twisted her hands as she looked from the phone to their new commandant. It was nice to have an excuse to phone her former lover but she was scared of the reception she might get. Tara would help. There was no doubt about that. The blonde witch was so loving and caring and kind and gentle. But she could be very cold when she felt hurt. And Willow had hurt her. Maybe someone else could call and then she could sit back and sneak glimpses of Tara as they researched together.

Dawn broke into her thoughts with a question.

"What do you mean 'we know what happened'? I don't know what happened. I mean, I know about the table and Anya and Spike getting..." She paused as she made vague gestures with her hands. "And by the way, ewwww! We have to research at that table. Couldn't you at least have used the counter? 'Cos you never let me go near the sales till. But what else happened?"

"Yes Willow, what else happened?" Anya turned her stern gaze on the witch.

"Well, you see, er...Buffy might have made a wish?"

"No! No, there was no wishing! Willow, you know I didn't make a wish!" The Slayer looked at her sister and the shopkeeper, who were now staring at her open mouthed.

"Willow, tell them you made a mistake." The redhead blushed at the pleading in her friend's voice and wished she'd kept her mouth shut.

Buffy found herself confronted yet again by an angry Anya and backed up until she was sitting in the chair at the dreaded table. There had to be a way of avoiding the upcoming conversation. She so didn't want to get in to details, especially with her sister there. Although she had nothing to feel guilty for, she doubted that anyone else would see it that way. Even Willow seemed to believe it was her fault. She might get back up from Xander when he 'd finished his snack run but she didn't think it would be soon enough. Oh, boy.

"Why would you do such an idiotic thing as make a wish? Are you really as stupid and inconsiderate as you sometimes seem to be?" Anya felt no need to be tactful. She knew how but she didn't see the point. And Buffy didn't deserve it. Then she realised.

"It's you! You're the one that made Spike all sad and upset. You're why he's been drinking and why he wanted comfort sex. It's you and you're jealous!"

"What? No! That's...that's...so not true. I've got nothing to be jealous of. I don't care if you two want to.do that. It's got nothing to do with me. Uh huh, no way. Why would-"

The Slayer's denial was cut off by a high-pitched scream coming from the training room. As they all turned towards the sound in shock, the door was torn open to reveal a furious Spike.

"Right, that's it. Do you hear me? This is not fucking funny. I've grown a sodding tail!"