We've Got To Stop Meeting Like This

Getting rid of the Mayor was harder than Buffy'd expected, but with Angel's help and a strategically-placed explosive package, they'd managed to prevent the newly-ascended Mayor/snake from completing the process.

As everyone recovered from the battle, which Giles allowed could be called a win, in spite of a number of obvious vampire victims whose bodies were being collected by Emergency Services staff, they all took deep breaths and compared experiences.

Xander swore he'd seen Harmony's body being loaded into an ambulance, although when none of them seemed overly bothered, he just shrugged. "Well, if she turns into a vampire, I guess Buffy will just have to slay her."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Can you imagine what a lame vampire Harmony would be?" There was general tired laughter from the Scoobies, and even Giles snickered.

Angel's announcement that he would be leaving Sunnydale for Los Angeles didn't cause anybody to look overly concerned either. Except for Buffy, who knew there was another old vampire already living in Los Angeles.

"Are you sure you want to go there?" she asked, attempting to be casual. "I mean, maybe you'd be happier somewhere… else?"

Angel narrowed his eyes at her. Their relationship had never recovered from his lack of assistance with her Cruciamentum, in spite of his best attempts to rekindle her love for him. Without explaining to anyone why her feelings had changed, she'd made it clear that he was no longer the love of her life. When he needed slayer blood to survive the poison in his system, Buffy had managed to get enough of her blood into him to save his life. But she'd done it by slicing her hand open and bleeding into a glass that she then used to pour the blood down Angel's throat. Having been warned by Giles to watch for it, the emergence of Angel's demon didn't catch her by surprise, and she'd been able to punch him into submission before he could bite her.

It had taken another couple of weeks for her to convince him that saving his life was because she needed him and because saving people was what a slayer does, rather an indication of her interest in renewing their romantic relationship. But by the time of the final battle against the Mayor's forces, he had accepted he no longer had a place in her life as anything but another fighter against evil.

"What don't I know, Buffy?" he growled. "Why won't I be happy in L.A.? It's close enough for me to get back here if I'm needed, and there's plenty of evil there for me to fight."

Buffy shrugged. "If that's what you want to do, go do it. I just thought you might want to be…. never mind. It's none of my business what you do. Have a good un-life."

XXX

As soon as she got home and assured Joyce that everyone was fine, she started upstairs for a much-needed shower. The ringing phone made her sigh, but when Joyce held out the phone saying, "It's Spike." she turned around and took it from her mother.

"Hi," she said. "What's up?"

"Is your mum listening?" he asked, the grin on his face clearly audible in his voice.

"No. She handed me the phone and went upstairs," Buffy responded. "Why? Were you about to say something piggy?"

"Yeah. But if you already knew what I would have said, I guess I don't have to say it."

"I guess not." She gave a smile of her own that she knew he couldn't see. "And just so you know, I would have called you later after I had my shower and got into my jammies."

"I hoped you would, but I was too bloody worried to wait for it. And it's not even my phone, so I can only sit around waiting for it to ring for a bit before explanations have to be made." He sighed. "So, it went alright then? Evil politician is gone and all is well?"

"Yep. We had to blow up the school to kill him… And it was a big fight, but all my friends are all right, and we won, I guess." She paused. "Um… Angel said he's leaving Sunnydale… to live in L.A."

There was silence for a full minute.

"Spike? Did you hear me?"

"I did. So, you really didn't need my help, then?"

"We were fine. Not that I… it would have been nice to see you… but…. Did you hear what I said about Angel?"

"I heard you. Just not sure what it means or what I should do about it."

"It's a big city," she said.

"It is. But not so big that two old vampires with reputations aren't going to hear about each other." He growled. "Wouldn't be like us both being in Sunnydale and hanging around you, but we could still have trouble. I should probably move on. Been here too long, anyway."

"Where would you go?"

"I don't know. Maybe Europe, maybe South America…"

"To find Dru…"

"I found her, Slayer. Good long while ago. Just didn't think I needed to tell you about it. We tried to pick up where we left off, but she…. We're not together, Buffy. Doubt we ever will be again. She thinks I'm a bit too interested in you, and for the wrong reasons."

"Oh. I'm sorry." Buffy tried to sound sincere. "Is she mad because you helped me?"

"More like decided it's happened a few too many times, and—bloody hell, I don't know. She's babbling about you floating all around me, and me being ruined by it. Barmy bint that she is, who the hell knows? If she wasn't a seer, I'd just chalk it up to her being daft, but she says it like it should mean something."

"I hope I haven't ruined you. I like you the way you are." Buffy blushed as she spoke, wondering if he could tell.

"I like me the way I am too, luv. Don't feel ruined at all." He laughed softly. "I should go now. I'll send you a card as soon as I've settled down somewhere. If you need me before then, send a note to the regular PO Box. I'll have my mail forwarded when I can."

"Maybe you should get a cell phone. Lots of people are starting to have them here. Older people mostly, like for business or emergencies or—"

"I'll look into it, Buffy. Meanwhile, we can be pen pals again."

"Yeah, pen pals. I guess that's better than enemies… even enemies with benefits."

He gave a warm chuckle. "Any time you want benefits, Slayer, you just let me know…. Meanwhile, stay safe and don't forget to ask for help if you need it."

"Okay, Spike. You too. Don't get dusty."

"Not plannin' to."

XXX

The first card came sooner than she expected, just a short note saying he'd decided to stay on the west coast, but farther north where it rained a lot, and he could go outside in the daytime.

I'm close enough to come back to Sunnyhell if you need me for something, but far enough away that I don't have to worry you're scanning the newspapers to see if I'm eating my way through the population. Working on getting a phone of some sort, but meantime, this address will get mail to me. Take care of yourself and say Hi to your mum for me.

Yours,

W.

On the bottom was another PO Box in some town she'd never heard of in Oregon. She waited a week or so before replying.

Hi Spike,

I'm glad you didn't go very far away. I like knowing you're close by. Not that Oregon is exactly close, but at least it isn't across an ocean or on another continent. Summer's been quiet, like it usually is, but I've been busy getting ready to go to college. Mom insisted I stay on campus to get the "whole experience" whatever that means, so I guess I'll have a new address, but I don't know what it will be yet. Or if I'll have a phone. I'm excited, in a way. It's such a normal thing to do, you know? Going off to college. Even if it is only on the far side of town. But still… it'll be fun. I think. I mean, parties, frat boys…. Did you just growl? Ha ha. You're so predictable.

So, anyway. That's what I'm doing now. Figuring out what to take with me, what I can leave at home and just come back to get if I need it. How to mix classes and slaying…. What if my roommate turns out to be a demon? What classes do I want to take? Will they be hard? Boring stuff like that. Like normal girls would worry about. Well, except for the demon roommate, I guess. Maybe that's just me.

Thanks for writing. I miss talking to you. Hope you get a phone soon.

3

Buffy

XXX

Hi Spike,

I guess you're busy up there with all the trees and stuff. College is going great. I like my classes, Willow is in the same dorm (the demon roommate was a thing, BTW – but I slayed her and now Willow and I can be roomies) and in some of my classes. Turns out freshmen are all lumped together in big introductory courses, so we get to share home work. OK, I copy Willow's homework sometimes… but hey! I'm busy. Did you know there are vampires on campus? A vampire gang, with a skanky bitch leader. I'm going to dust her as soon as my arm is better.

Thanks for the phone number. Here's mine. Well, Willow's and mine, I guess. Maybe you shouldn't use it? Maybe I should tell her about us you. What do you think?

Sincerely,

Your friend without benefits Buffy the college co-ed.

PS- forgot the phone number. I'll send it later.

XXX

After a month or so of semi-regular notes back and forth, in one of which Buffy had mentioned wanting to see Spike sometime, she sent an additional short, frantic one.

Spike,

Forget what I said about wanting to see you. Stay away! Promise me you won't come near Sunnydale until I tell you it's safe. Promise!

Buffy

XXX

"Hello?"

"What's going on, Slayer? Don't come until it's safe? Safe for who?"

"Hi Spike." There was a commotion in the background and Buffy tried to shush Willow while she talked. When Willow was sitting quietly, but obviously listening, Buffy put the phone back to her ear.

"Sorry about that. I did tell Willow we were friends now, but she kinda freaked that you know our phone number."

"Don't give a rat's ass about the witch," he said. "Are you all right? Why isn't it safe?"

"I think I'm safe," she assured him. "It's you I was worried about. We've got these…. commando type guys running around campus, and I just found out they're targeting vamps and demons. We were in the same cemetery the other night, and I saw them throw a net over the vampire I was stalking. They zapped him with something and tossed him into the back of a van. I'm trying to find out more about them, and what they're doing, but until I know more, I don't want you around."

"How do you plan to do that without getting hurt?"

"Well, I think I… know… one of them, pretty well, actually… and he saw me there, watching, so we're going to meet someplace later today and talk about what we don't know about each other and probably should."

There was a minute of silence, then Spike gave an audible sigh. "Alright, pet. I don't think you're telling me everything, but I trust you've got your reasons. Don't see why you're so sure I should stay away, though. Been takin' care of myself for a long time, Slayer. I think I can handle a few soldier boys." He sounded somewhat testy and Buffy rolled her eyes.

"Think, Spike. Nets, tasers, big guns that shoot stakes, I don't even know what else. You're pretty awesome—"

Buffy paused when Willow gasped. "Well, he is, Will. You don't know him like I do."

She went back to the phone and Spike. "You're a good fighter, and strong and smart, but that doesn't mean you're super-vamp, and can't be captured."

"Alright, love. If you're sure you're safe, I'll stay away…. so long as neither you or your mum call and tell me different."

"I'll be fine. I just don't want to have to worry about you while I'm busy being fine."

XXX

"Where's Buffy, Watcher?" Spike didn't bother to identify himself, the snarl that accompanied his question left no doubt about who was on the other end of the line.

Giles cleared his throat, then responded with a question of his own. "How did you know—never mind. Joyce. Of course." He gave an exasperated groan.

"Answer my question."

"Buffy has been trying to infiltrate the quasi-military organization operating here, and it appears she has been…. detained in their facility."

"Detained, not killed?" Spike tried not to betray his fear, but he failed to keep it completely out of his voice, and he heard a sigh from Giles.

"No. According to her boy—a man she thought she knew well—she responded to an attempt on her life, set up by the woman he works for— by killing the demons that were meant to do it. Buffy followed that up by making some sort of verbal threat. The woman was so angry, she insisted they treat Buffy as just another demon to study, although Agent Finn was able to convince her that Buffy would be cooperative if she was treated as a guest they just wanted to talk to. She is, according to him, alive and being well-treated, but imprisoned while his boss decides what to do with her."

"Imprisoned where? And how do I get in there?"

"We're just learning things as we go. Riley Finn—the man she'd been dating—seems torn between wanting to help her, and what he sees as his duty to his superior officer. I believe his attempts to seek her release may have earned him some disciplinary measures, and he is having a harder time communicating with us. There is, it seems, a large underground facility on the edge of the campus, in which they've been imprisoning the vampires and demons they've captured."

Giles hesitated. "It would be very unwise of you to attempt to go in there."

"I've never been known for making smart choices," Spike growled. "I suppose the easiest way to get in would be to let myself by captured…."

"As little as I care what happens to you, I really cannot recommend that course of action. You'll be of no help to Buffy if you are confined to the same prison."

"I'm not goin' to leave her in there!" Unspoken, but implicit was "the way you are."

"I have no intention of leaving her in there, but until we can sort out what to do about it, I'm forced to rely on Agent Finn's assurances that she is alive and healthy, and being kept in relative comfort. She had been pretending she wasn't aware that she's a prisoner, but he says she seems to have reached the end of her patience, so he's not sure how they'll react if she objects to being there any longer. I've contacted the Council of Watchers—"

"Wankers!"

Giles let his own anger show as he replied. "No doubt, but in this case, they can be of use to us. They are reaching out to contacts in the military here and expect to have the situation rectified within a few days." He paused, obviously thinking, then continued, "I'm to meet with Agent Finn tomorrow evening. He may have some ideas as to how to get her out."

"Other than doing it himself, I take it?"

"That would not appear to be an option. He is most concerned about his own career, and he has no understanding at all of what a Slayer is. And not much more knowledge about vampires and demons, it seems. In spite of all the 'studying' they are apparently doing in there."

"Then it's probably time for him to meet an old vampire… and one that knows something about Slayers."

Giles hesitated. "I had thought about contacting Angel—" Spike's snarl cut him off in mid-comment. "However, perhaps that won't be necessary. Are you in Sunnydale?"

"Close enough. Where and when are you meeting him?" Spike growled.

"After dark. In Joyce's backyard. She insists on being kept up on Buffy's status."

"I'll be there."

XXX

When Riley arrived in the Summer's back yard, Giles and Joyce were sitting in lawn chairs on the porch, and Spike was on the steps, leaning casually back on his elbows while he smoked. Riley stopped, hesitant at the sight of an extra person, and not one he recognized. He glanced at Giles.

"Is this another one of Buffy's civilian 'friends'?" he asked, casting a disdainful eye over Spike's less-than-clean-cut look.

"Not a bloody Scooby," Spike said, standing up. "But I am a friend of Buffy's, and I'm here to get her out of that place you put her in." His voice trailed off to a growl, and Riley took a step back.

"You're a hostile!" he blurted, pulling out a stake and a taser. "What's wrong with you, Giles? Why is this creature here?"

"This 'creature' is a very old and dangerous vampire, who, for whatever reason, seems to be in the habit of saving Buffy's life from time to time." Giles and Joyce also stood up, the better to glare at Riley.

Although Spike remained in his human mien, and apparently relaxed, he was poised to defend himself if necessary.

"Is this the 'Angel' Buffy told me about? The vampire that used to live here?"

Rather than releasing the angry snarl he smothered before anyone heard it, Spike just shook his head.

"Not Angelus, no soul to lose, and I'm here to do what you obviously can't."

Riley frowned, "What does a soul have to do with anything?"

"Not as much as they'd like to think," Spike said, with a glance at Giles. "Now, can we get on with it?"

Still clutching his stake, Riley shook his head. "I don't understand. Why aren't you trying to kill us? How are you controlling yourself?"

Spike rolled his eyes and looked at Giles again. "What have you been telling him? And is it okay if I eat him?"

Giles shook his head, clearly hiding a smile. "No, you can't eat him. We need the information he has. And he has no idea what the differences might be between an old vampire and the fledglings he's accustomed to facing with tasers and nets."

Riley drew himself up to his full height and sneered down at Spike. "In case you hadn't noticed, I'm armed," he said, brandishing his stake.

"So'm I," Spike responded mildly as he went into game face for the first time since Riley appeared in the yard. He gave Riley a second to get his meaning, then slapped the stake out of his hand, and grabbed the taser. "And I'm a lot faster than you are, enhancements or not," he added, glad that Buffy had mentioned to him that the soldiers were faster and stronger than normal humans, although not up to fighting her. He began squeezing the hand holding the taser, until Riley released it with grimace of pain.

"I'll give it back when we're done here," Spike said, handing it to Joyce to hold. "Now what can you tell us that we don't already know?" He'd shaken off his fangs and wrinkles, and once again looked like a not very large, normal man.

Riley glance at Giles, who nodded.

"Well, the reason I'm here, is because Maggie wants to start running tests on Buffy like she does on the vampires. She's mad because Buffy refuses to cooperate with her and keeps telling her she's going to…. well, let's just say she's making lots of threats that aren't sitting well with a woman who is used to being in command. I… I don't want those things to happen to Buffy. I mean, maybe she wouldn't die, but—"

He flinched when Spike snarled and his full vampire face emerged again.

"Get me in there. Now."

"I don't see how I can…. and you'd just be put in a cage too," Riley said. "You can't fight armed men with tasers."

"You'd be surprised what I can do if properly motivated," Spike said through his fangs. "I'm guessin' those armed men with tasers haven't met many vampires as old as me."

Giles stepped in to try to calm the confrontational nature of the discussion.

"Spike, I already told they haven't. Not only are they not aware that vampires and demons are sentient beings, but they've no idea how much stronger you get with age. I believe Buffy was trying to correct some of those misunderstandings at one time, but I'm not sure anyone listened to her." He shot a glare at Riley.

"And you, Agent Finn. Exactly whose side are you on? If you are truly trying to protect Buffy, then you'll need to get along with those of us who have the same goal. Which may mean having to accept that some harm may come to colleagues, if and when they try to interfere. We need to know where you stand."

Riley's shoulders slumped. "I never wanted Buffy to get hurt. I thought once she saw how well-organized and equipped we were, that she would be happy to give up her… hobby… of slaying vampires and demons." He stared at Joyce, who had burst into bitter laughter at his words.

"Sorry, Riley," she said, shaking her head. "You sound just like me a few years ago. As a friend told me once—" she smiled at Spike "—being a slayer isn't what Buffy does, it's what she is."

Spike smiled back at Joyce, then turned to Riley again. "Can you get me in there? And more important, can you get us out again?"

Riley frowned. "If I said I was bringing you in because I thought you'd make a good test for Buffy…." He sighed. "But getting you back out…. even if I let you out of the fighting cage, you…and Buffy… would have to fight your way out of the lab area. I could show you the way to the tunnels, but you'd have to get there on your own. As it is, I'd be risking a court martial if anyone thought I—"

"That may not be the problem you think it is," Giles said. "The Council of Watchers has set things in motion to have that place shut down. It turns out it was the brainchild of one general who has been relieved of his duties."

At Spike's scoff, he said, "I told you the Council would come through. They take it amiss when someone or something interferes with their Chosen One." He turned his attention back to Riley.

"The point is, you may well end up a hero for saving the current slayer, rather than being disciplined by your superiors, who will be having their own problems quite soon."

Riley appeared dubious about Giles' information from an organization he'd never heard of, but since both Spike and Joyce seemed to accept it at face value, he nodded and reluctantly agreed to take Spike into the labs.

As they prepared to leave, Spike turned to Giles. "If we're not back within twenty-four hours, you might want to make that call to L.A. and tell old grandpop to get his arse up here and do something useful."

Giles looked surprised, but nodded. "If it seems necessary."

Without another word, Spike followed Riley out of the yard.

XXX

They walked in silence until they got to Riley's SUV. They got in and Riley started the engine, but otherwise remained still.

"I can't believe I'm trusting a hostile."

"Is that what you call us? Hostiles?"

Riley looked briefly embarrassed. "Well, that or sub-terrestrials. But I guess that's more for demons than vampires."

Spike shook his head, but didn't respond except to snort. After an uncomfortable few seconds, he muttered, "And I thought the Council of Wankers was ignorant."

Riley put the vehicle in gear and pulled away from the curb. "What is this 'Council' that you and Giles talk about?"

The rest of the way to the Initiative facility, Spike explained to Riley about slayers, watchers, and the organization that employed them. The soldier just kept shaking his head.

"You talk about things that can't exist," he complained. "And if more of them did, they'd just be some kind of undiscovered animals."

"And yet, they exist enough for your boss to want to collect them." Spike exhaled loudly. "Open your eyes, mate. You know Buffy. How do you explain her?"

"I can't," he admitted. "That's why I was willing to let Maggie take her. She shouldn't be able to do the things she can do. Those 'watchers' she works for must be enhancing her somehow…."

"Being Heaven's Chosen One isn't good enough for you?" Spike snorted his disbelief and turned to look out the window. "We're here. What's the plan?"

XXX (part 2)

Buffy was standing in front of her "room", a small area with a bed, a toilet and sink in a closet, and a small desk and chair. She'd learned quite early in her "visit" that the door was locked from the outside, and that it was heavily reinforced. She wasn't sure it was strong enough to withstand a real Slayer temper tantrum, but she'd kept that information to herself until she needed it. For the first two days, she'd reluctantly tried to follow Riley's pleas to "just talk to Maggie," and to pretend she didn't know she was a prisoner. But Buffy had definitely reached the end of her patience, and had made it very clear to her former teacher/now dubious host/pain in the ass captor that she knew she wasn't a guest, and she wanted to leave.

Any illusions she might have had that the woman was going to listen vanished when Professor Walsh appeared, accompanied by two technicians and one soldier. The commando was holding a taser and looked extremely uncomfortable about it.

"Hey, Graham, what's up?" Buffy said cheerfully, reminding him that they'd met socially well before her unwilling stay in the lab.

"Hi, Buffy. Uh…. nothing, really. Mag—the boss wants to run a few more tests on you."

"And you thought you'd need an armed escort?" Buffy all but sneered at Walsh, who ignored her and gestured for the two techs to take Buffy's arms.

"I can walk," Buffy said, shaking them off with an ease that wasn't lost on anyone watching her. From tests the previous day, they already had some idea how strong Buffy was, although they'd had to stop the testing when they ran out of weights to add. Buffy gave a smile that didn't reach her eyes, as she waited to see if she was going to have to get rough—something that was really starting to appeal to her. She kept her eye on Graham, knowing his taser was the only thing that might slow her down.

Maggie narrowed her eyes, but pointed down the hall and followed as Buffy walked off, chatting with Graham as if he wasn't obviously there to tase her if necessary.

They got to the end of the hall and started to turn toward the usual testing areas, when Maggie stopped them.

"Not tonight. I want to see how she fights against something other than my men. Take her to the arena."

Buffy shrugged, but turned to walk in the other direction. "The 'arena'? What is this, ancient Rome?"

Before they'd gone very far, Riley came striding toward them. "Wait!" he said. "I brought in something new for Buffy to fight. It claims to be an old vampire, and says it will be able to beat her." He glanced at Maggie apologetically. "I didn't have any place to put it, so it's in the fighting cage."

Buffy felt her stomach clench as she tried to tell herself it couldn't be Spike or Angel. She'd told Spike to stay away, and Angel wouldn't have bragged about his age or fighting prowess—and he had no reason to be in Sunnydale. She glared at Riley. "How did you get him in here, if he's supposed to be so dangerous?"

"Uh…" The deer-in-headlights look on Riley's face did nothing to relieve her fears, but fortunately Walsh was so busy discussing the new situation with the techs, that she didn't notice Riley's lack of response or Buffy's poorly disguised fear. Graham, however, was not so easily distracted, and he looked back and forth between Riley and Buffy, fingering his taser.

"What's up, Finn?" he asked quietly.

Riley shook his head at Graham, saying, "Nothing. Just… I knew Maggie wanted to see Buffy fight again, and when this guy—uh—creature turned out to be bragging about fighting slayers…."

"So, you're saying it volunteered to come in here?"

Before Riley could respond, Buffy muttered, "Of course he did, the big jerk! I'm so going to kick his ass. Let's go. Where is this fighting cage?"

She started marching down the hall in the direction from which Riley had come, trailed by Riley and Graham, with Maggie and her lab techs hurrying to catch up. When they reached the cage, which was really just a slightly sunken room with a viewing area just above and a chain link fence around it, Buffy stopped and frowned down. Spike was just getting to his feet from where he'd been lolling against the wall and smoking while waiting for her. He grinned at the furious expression on her face.

"Can't you follow simple directions?" she said, glaring at him. "You aren't supposed to be here!"

"Never been very obedient, Slayer. You ought to remember that."

"Am I to understand you know this hostile, Ms. Summers?" Walsh looked back and forth between the vampire and Buffy, gesturing to one of the techs to make notes.

"I do. This is William the Bloody." She waited, but when there was no response, Buffy rolled her eyes. "Don't you people know anything about the creatures you capture?" She sighed and shook her head. "William the Bloody, aka Spike, aka one part of the Scourge of Europe. Also known for having killed at least two slayers. He's freakin' famous. And you have no clue."

Walsh sniffed. "He's just another hostile. Perhaps he's stronger than most, which may make him a good candidate for—never mind. I'd like to see you fight him, but try not to make him dust. I may have a use for him later."

Spike's guttural snarl made even Buffy flinch. The look he focused on the startled woman was lethal and promised future retribution.

"Is this the bitch that's holding you here?" he growled, never taking his yellow gaze off her as she scuuttled to the viewing area with her two assistants. He was in complete game face as he watched her retreat to safety.

"Riley, open the door and put Ms. Summers in the pit. Clearly, she and this creature have a history. It should be an excellent test of both of them. Perhaps it will answer some of the questions Buffy has been so reluctant to answer for me." She turned to her assistants, saying, "Make a note that while the vampire is clearly ready to fight, the Slayer has made no physical changes that we can see."

Spike blinked, his confusion apparent even through his distorted face.

"Is she really that stupid?" he asked Buffy, backing away as she jumped down into the room.

"She thinks I'm a demon of some sort," Buffy said with a shrug. "So, she wants to know what my weapons are."

"Your lethal little fists and feet aren't good enough for her?" he said, ducking the punch she half-heartedly threw at him, and shaking off his fangs.

"Nope. She wants fangs and claws and… I dunno… tentacles?" She blocked the retaliatory punch he threw at her face, and giggled. "That might be cool. I could stake three or four vamps at a time."

"You do that anyway, sometimes." He jumped over her attempted leg sweep, and smacked her on her ass.

"Try that again, and it could be you," she growled, rocking him back on his heels with a more serious punch to his jaw.

He just laughed and rubbed his face. For the next several minutes, they moved around the room, sparring more seriously and still carrying on a conversation, although in much lower tones.

"Is there a plan, or were you just thinking I shouldn't be having all the fun?"

"Bit of both?" he said, tilting his head toward where Riley and Graham were guarding the closed gate and trying to hear the conversation. "Your buddy there is willing to give us a chance to fight our way out."

"Riley? He's going to help us? I mean, he's been pretty nice to me, and taking messages to Giles and Willow, but I can't believe he's going to help us escape."

"I think help us might be a stretch, but he showed me how to find the door to the tunnels, and said he'd find a way to open the door…"

"I don't think he needs to do that. Not much of what they have here could hold me if I really wanted to fight my way out. No way will it stand up to both of us."

Spike was able to hook a leg behind her knee, causing her to lose her balance and following her to the floor. While he had her temporarily pinned, he leaned in to whisper in her ear, "Think it's time for us to get out of here, luv. You know we're going to have fight our way out, yeah?"

Buffy shivered at the combined sensations of his cool breath on her neck and his lean, muscular body pressing hers into the floor. When she felt him chuckle, she snapped out of it and remembered what they were doing. Flexing her entire body, she flipped them over and ended up sitting on him and mock-staking his chest.

"Gotcha!" she said, smiling down at him, then she frowned. "We can't kill anybody, Spike. Much as I might like to." She gestured at the viewing area as she jumped to her fee. As soon as she felt Spike behind her, she waved at Maggie and turned to the exit.

"Guard the gate!" Maggie yelled, but Spike was already in motion with speed that wasn't familiar to Riley or Graham. He kicked the gate's latch off, while Buffy ran at it, full tilt. She left the ground and hit it with both feet, sending the gate and the two men holding it flying back into the hallway. She flipped herself over to land back on her feet.

"Time to go, Spike."

He grabbed her hand and pulled her along in the direction Riley had shown him. They sped down the hall, turning to follow the signs to the exit. Buffy could hear the alarms going off and resigned herself to not getting away easily. Fortunately, the first commandos they encountered were not armed with anything except tasers, which they easily slapped away. While Spike was occupied showing the men how much not like the usual fledglings they faced with nets, tasers, and stake-shooting rifles he was, Buffy shoved the tasers into her pocket and joined him in knocking out everyone in front of them.

XXX

As soon as that first group of unprepared commandos was down, Buffy and Spike resumed running, easily outdistancing a couple of lab techs who tried to catch them with nets. When they could see the exit door in front of them, they found it guarded, not just by several more commandos, but also two bewildered-looking Fyral demons that the soldiers pushed in front of them using their tasers.

"Don't suppose you've got anything silver on you?" Spike growled. He snarled at the demons in Fyral, pointing at Buffy who did her best to look more like a dangerous slayer and less like an unarmed one. One of the demons snarled back something Buffy could tell was disrespectful and stepped toward her.

"He's mine," she said, turning to face the much taller demon. "You wanna repeat that in English, big guy?" She ripped a fire axe out of its housing and stalked toward the Fyral, now clearly rethinking his options.

Spike, in the meantime, had allowed the less belligerent Fyral to slip past him and run down the hall, where his sudden appearance seemed to cause quite a commotion among their pursuers.

"Make it quick, Slayer. What do you want me to do?"

"Just keep the humans off me until I remove this jerk's head," she said, still stalking toward the now-retreating demon.

"Mind the snot," he said, vaulting over the Fyral and knocking down the two men behind him. He kicked their tasers away, but never slowed as he plowed into the three men backing them up. He'd narrowed it down to one large commando holding his taser like a stake, as Buffy stepped up behind him, the now-bloody axe at her side.

She glanced back at the unconscious or barely recovering men, asking, "You didn't have to kill anybody, did you?"

"You said not to," he responded, baring his fangs at the man still standing between them and the exit to the tunnels. "But this git seems like he might need more convincin'…."

Buffy raised her arm and threw the axe past the man's head and into the door, snapping off the lock.

"Convince him," she said. "We need to go." They could both hear the sound of reinforcements making their way down the hall, but cautiously, the frightened Fyral demon having lessened their desire to catch up with Buffy and the unusual vampire with her,

"What say you, mate? You plannin' to make me break my promise not to kill anybody?"

The man, who was still pale from having seen the axe fly past his face, threw his taser away and held up his hands.

"Smart choice," Spike growled as he followed Buffy through the now-open door.

XXX

They paused on the other side, searching for something to block their pursuers, at least temporarily. Between the two of them, they were able to pull a loaded weapons cabinet into place in front of the door, adding to it an assortment of heavy crates. They surveyed their barrier and smiled at each other, stepping closer together until they were not quite touching. Spike had dropped his vampire mien and Buffy stared up at him in the dim light from a bulb above them.

"I told you to stay away," she breathed, her tone not nearly as angry as she meant it to be.

"An' I did. Until your mom called me and said you were a prisoner." He brushed a hand over her hair. "Are you really brassed off at me?"

"I should be," she said, leaning into his hand. "It was a dumb thing to do…." She straightened up. "But I'm too happy to see you."

"I'm happy to see you, too, luv," he said. "In fact…" He pulled her into a loose embrace and was just dipping his head toward her, when the bulb over their heads went out, as did the other faint lights they'd been able to see. "Bugger," he muttered, lifting his head.

"They turned the lights out on us," Buffy said. "We'll never find our way out of here now."

"Vampire, pet."

"What? Where? I don't have a stake—oh. You mean, you. You're a vampire." She shook her head at herself. "Can you see?"

"Well enough," he said, dropping his arms and taking her hand. "Let's get out of here before we try to finish that… conversation."

"We weren't conversing," she said, allowing him to tow her along beside him.

"What were we doin' then?" He steered her around some equipment, then picked up his pace. "The way's clear for as far ahead as I can see," he said. "We should run while we can." Putting words into action, he broke into a ground eating jog that Buffy had no trouble keeping up with.

"I think you were about to kiss me," she said, as calmly as if they weren't both putting as much distance as possible between themselves and the Initiative labs.

"Think that, do you?" She could hear the smile in his voice, in spite of not being able to see his face.

"Weren't you?"

Without answering her, he stopped abruptly, pivoting so that she ran into his chest. She only managed a "Wha—" before he fastened his mouth on hers and kept it there until she responded with a whimper. They stood still, bodies touching but clasped hands at their sides, while they indulged in kisses neither one wanted to admit they'd been looking forward to for almost a year.

When Buffy finally pulled her mouth away to take a deeper breath, Spike rested his forehead on hers. "Was. It's all I think about. Staying so far away that I couldn't do it again is the hardest thing I've ever done."

"Oh," Buffy said in a breathy whisper. "Maybe we should keep going until we're someplace we can do it again?"

"Right. Time and place, you stupid git," he muttered as he set off at another steady jog.

Buffy's giggle made him growl, but it quickly faded to the chuckle she was sure was a sound an evil vampire shouldn't be able to make.

"Are you laughing at me, you disrespectful bint? Is that any way to treat your rescuer?"

"You look more like my fellow escapee than a rescuer," she said. "And where are we running to, by the way?"

"Beats me. I know a little bit about what's under Sunnyhell from when I was living here, but not a whole lot. Didn't need the tunnels to get around then, and couldn't once I was in that wheelchair…."

Buffy sighed, but her attempt at apology didn't get any further than, "Spike, I—"

He squeezed her hand. "Don't you even think about apologizing for that, Slayer. It's who we were then, and you were just doin' your job. Brilliantly, as always. I don't hold it against you, and I never will."

"Okay," she said meekly. "I'm not sorry."

"Good." He took a few more long strides, then added, "'sides, if you hadn't, we never would have formed that truce, and we wouldn't be where we are now."

"Um… which is….?"

He stopped, sniffing the air. "Dunno, but I can smell fresh air, so I'm going to head in that direction." He snorted. "That's not all I can smell, so watch where you step."

"I can't see where I'm stepping, you doofus. You're the one that can see in the dark, not me."

"Right then, here we go." He scooped her up and began to stride off, cradling her like a child.

"What are you doing?" Her squeak didn't sound nearly as angry as she'd hoped it would.

"Keeping those cute little feet out of the sewer we're going to be walking through in a minute," he said with a laugh.

Torn between indignation and gratitude, Buffy put her arms around his neck and muttered, "I'm not some delicate little flower, you know. I am the Slayer. I can handle a little dirty water… although, these are my favorite shoes," she admitted with sigh.

"Ugh!" she soon added as he began walking through occasional puddles of shallow water. She buried her nose in his neck and inhaled his scent rather than the odor coming from the floor beneath them.

"Are you sniffing me?"

"Maybe. You smell better than the sewer…. a whole lot better!" she added when she realized how that might sound. "I… I like the way you smell."

"Well, that works out nicely, then, because your scent is enough to drive me mad." He squeezed her a little tighter, and increased his speed.

XXX

Giles and Joyce moved from the back porch to the living room and sat in silence, sipping their drinks and sighing from time to time.

"Do you think Spike can get her out?" Joyce finally asked.

"I've got no idea, but if we can trust Agent Finn, it appears to be in Buffy's best interest that she not stay there any longer than she already has. So, at the moment, Spike and whatever help Finn can provide would seem to be her best option. I'm not sure how we'll know if they have or haven't been successful though…"

As if in response to his comment, the phone rang and Joyce ran to answer it.

"Yes? Hello? Buffy?"

"No. Sorry, it's me, Willow. Is Giles there Mrs. Summers?"

"Oh, yes. Hi Willow. He's here." She held out the phone to Giles who was already moving toward her. He took it and said, "Willow? What do you know?"

"Riley called me just now. He said he couldn't talk long, but that Buffy and a 'hostile' had escaped and beat up a bunch of commandos and his boss was really mad and that Buffy should hide for a while," she finished in a rush and paused to gulp more air. "Is she home yet? And why would she run away with a….is Spike here? Is that who helped her escape?"

"I presume it was. But we haven't heard from them, so I've no idea if she's safe yet or not."

"Oh. Well, I guess they'll show up somewhere eventually. I'll let you know if I hear from her."

"And I, you," Giles said. "Thank you for the information, Willow."

"No problem, Giles. Bye."

Without answering Willow, he put the phone back into the cradle and sighed.

"Well, it seems they got out somehow, but I don't know how or where they may be now."

"It's going to be a long night, isn't it?" Joyce said, giving a sigh of her own.

"Very likely," he agreed, freshening both drinks without asking permission. "A very long night. Although, with luck, by the morning the Council will be able to report that the Initiative is being shut down and it will be safe for Buffy…. and Spike…." He stopped and sighed. "Shall I assume she has another vampire in her life?"

Joyce shrugged. "I think he'd like to be, but I'm basing that on a mother's intuition and the way he seems to care what happens to her. He certainly hasn't said anything in front me about it, and as much as I think Buffy is grateful for his offers of assistance, I have no reason to think she returns his affection." She frowned. "At least I don't think I do. He's a bit too old for her, even now that she's technically an adult."

"He's more than a bit too old," Giles said. "Not as old as Angel, but still…."

"She was dating that soldier, but I'm sure that's a thing of the past now."

"One would hope so! Even if he did help them escape in some way, he still allowed them to imprison her."

XXX

Spike stopped and set Buffy down in a dry spot on the edge of the tunnel.

"Are we there yet?" she asked, staring around and trying to see in what was now dim light.

"Maybe?" He pointed above them to a manhole cover. "If that doesn't open in the middle of rush hour traffic somewhere, maybe we can get out of here and figure out what to do next."

"Go home? Take a shower?"

"You don't think they'd come there lookin' for us?"

"Not if that bitch knows what's good for her," Buffy growled, then sighed. "But I guess since the school knows my mom's address….Damn! I was looking forward to a shower and clean hair."

While Buffy muttered about what she was going to do to Professor Walsh, Spike was scrambling up the ladder to lift the edge of the manhole cover and peer out. He nodded, and dropped down to Buffy.

"It looks good. It's a residential area, it's late, and there's not likely to be much traffic. I'll hold it up while you get out."

"And then what? Where are you going to be?" She narrowed her eyes in suspicion.

"Right behind you, love, trust me. Not planning to let that luscious arse out of my sight."

"Oh, 'k then." She pretended to ignore his comment about her ass, but she knew he could probably see her blush or sense her increased heart rate. His quite chuckle told her he had, and she slapped his chest in retaliation. "I think you have too much fun making me blush."

"You won't let me kill people; a vamp's gotta have some sort of hobby." He held on to the hand still on his chest. "And hearing your heart beat faster is one of my favorite things. An' you know it." When she didn't reply, only shook her head, he signed and released her hand.

"Up you go, love."

He waited for her to climb the ladder, then started up behind her. Buffy stopped at the top and pushed up on the heavy metal cover.

"I can do this, you know," she said as she pushed it up and off to the side.

"Know that, but helping you is more fun." As he spoke, he was pressed up against her back, one hand holding him to the ladder, the other reaching past her to give the lid another, unnecessary, shove. The action pressed their bodies even closer together, and he groaned when Buffy leaned back against him. "That's cheatin', Slayer. Want to get you somewhere safe and there you go, distracting me!"

Buffy gulped, then whispered, "I don't know why, but I never feel safer than when you have my back. Except, maybe when you have it like this, with your arms around me."

"Oh, bloody hell, Buffy," he breathed in her ear, and pulled her in more tightly, so that she could feel every part of his body, including one that seemed to be trying to tuck itself between her butt cheeks. "You'll always be safe with me, love. Don't know why that is. Don't want to even think about it, but you're gonna have me at your back for the rest of your life. Whether you want it or not."

Ignoring the open manhole above her head, Buffy squirmed around to face him, letting her arms drop around his neck, confident that his hand still holding the side of the ladder would keep them both in place. She gave herself a few seconds to enjoy the new position, then gazed at him and said, "I want. I don't know why I want, and I know I shouldn't, but I do."

If not for the sudden clang of a car bumping into the displaced manhole cover, the lengthy and steadily deeper kiss they fell into might have gone on until Spike lost his grip and dropped them both into the sewer. However, the sound of metal meeting metal right past their heads quickly reminded them of where they were, and they broke apart with a laugh.

"To be continued later," Spike said.

"'K. Let's go. I don't hear any more cars coming."

XXX

After they'd scrambled out of the hole and replaced the cover, they hurried to the sidewalk and looked around.

"You know this town better than I do," Spike said. "Where are we?"

Buffy stared around, taking in the silent homes and well-tended yards. "This looks like Willow's neighborhood. So, my house is that way." She pointed to the left and began walking, allowing their hands to brush with every stride, before biting her lip and taking his hand in hers. He rewarded her with a warm squeeze that made her smile, even though they never looked at each other as they made their way down the street.

They had to duck twice before reaching Revello Drive. The first time, it was a normal police car, but they hid behind a fence just in case. The second time, they dove into the bushes just before a familiar-looking black SUV moved slowly down the street. Spike covered Buffy with his body, pulling his coat up over his head and becoming so still she was unpleasantly reminded that he was not, technically, alive. Which turned out to be important when a light passed over their hiding place, but could show nothing but shadows and shrubbery. All very still.

"What about the night-vision glasses, or the infra-red ? If Buffy's hiding somewhere, her body heat should give her away. Won't help us find the hostile, but they've probably separated by now anyway." Graham's voice rang out loud and clear, to be joined by Riley's equally loud, "You're probably right. Not picking up any body heat with these glasses, probably was just a cat jumping out of the road. Let's swing by her mother's just in case they might be that stupid, then go back and tell Maggie we couldn't find them."

Buffy and Spike waited, him perfectly still, Buffy taking short, shallow breaths that she held as long as possible before taking another one. Long after the vehicle had moved off, they remained where they were, Buffy completely hidden under Spike, and trying to concentrate on remaining still, rather than molding herself to his body, even though she really wanted to. But as the sound of the SUV faded away, she could feel him relax, and once again he breathed in her ear, tracing his tongue around it. She could sense his smile when she shivered under him, and she retaliated by wriggling her hips around until she was sure she'd achieved her goal.

"Playing with fire there, Slayer," he growled, pressing her into the wet grass and pushing his now-hard cock into her thigh.

"Oh, like you weren't licking my ear because you like making me… react to it."

He chuckled and nibbled on the skin of her neck. "You caught me, love. Just can't keep my lips and tongue off you. You're so delicious."

She stiffened under him, ignoring how good it felt to have his mouth on her vulnerable throat. "Is this some vampire thing? You really want to eat me?"

"Oh, sweetheart, if you only knew…." He took a deep breath and shook his head as best he could without changing their position. "I'm guessing you don't mean that the way I would…. I just meant I lo-ike the way you feel and smell and taste. As a man, I'm responding to you as a woman, not as a slayer or a bloody meal. If I was still human, I'd be just as happy to have my mouth on you. Being a vampire just means I can be more aware of how you're reacting to it. You can't pretend not to be responding to me because I can feel your body heat increase, hear your heart speed up, and smell—"

He stopped himself abruptly and dropped his head, waiting for her reaction. When she sighed and softened under him, he began kissing her neck, working his way up to her mouth and waiting until she was kissing him back to send his tongue out to caress hers. Buffy relaxed into what she was sure were kisses designed to make her forget everything except the man (vampire!) whose body was molded to hers as if they had been born to fit together.

Fortunately, Spike had not completely stopped paying attention to their surroundings and he raised his head suddenly.

"They're coming back, luv. Might be time to find a new hiding spot."

Without further conversation, they rolled apart and to their feet. They bolted down the narrow alley between houses, running until they were sure they hadn't been seen or followed. Finding themselves in front of an old cemetery, they slipped through a gap in the fence and began searching for a new hiding place.

"Sun's coming up soon, Buffy," Spike said. "What say we try one of these old crypts?"

"Ugh! You want to hide in a grave?"

He just stared at her until she laughed at herself. "Yeah, okay. You're a vampire, and I spend half my life in cemeteries. A crypt it is."

They walked deeper into the graveyard, until they found a neglected-looking crypt with a metal door hanging half-open. Spike peered in, pushing an interior door out of his way. While Buffy fidgeted at the entrance, staring around as if black-clad commandos might appear at any moment, Spike prowled around inside until she was sure there was nothing there but spiders. She'd been just about to ask him what he was doing, when he came back to the door and beckoned her inside.

"Come in, Slayer. This should do us for a bit."

As soon as Buffy was in, they pulled the outer door back into position, and closed the wooden interior door.

"Who puts double doors on a grave?" Buffy muttered. "And windows in a crypt?"

"Somebody who plans to live in it? Or more likely, be undead in it," Spike replied as he prowled around more.

As the dawn light began to filter in through the dirty windows, Buffy found that she could make out candle holders set into niches carved in the stone walls, and a stone sarcophagus that looked more like very uncomfortable furniture than someone's last resting place. She watched as Spike kept moving around, searching all the dark corners until he seemed satisfied he'd found everything useful.

"Aha!" he said, presenting her with a half-melted candle. "You can have light."

"There's plenty of light now," she said, gesturing at the dirty windows. "Let's save that for tonight."

"Are we plannin' to be here tonight?"

She shook her head. "I don't know. I wish we could get hold of Giles or Mom, or even Willow. Somebody who might know what's going on." She frowned. "Did it sound to you like Riley and Graham were talking really loud so we could hear them?"

"Did," he said tersely. "The question is, were they trying to warn us where not to go, or trying to lull us into feeling safe so they could double back and grab us?"

"If it was just Riley, I'd say 'helping', but I don't know why Graham would go along with that. He looked pretty pissed off when that gate slammed into him."

"Either way, we know they're watching your mum, and probably the watcher too. Our only chance to get hold of anybody is with a phone." He frowned. "You know, if this is the cemetery I think it is, the groundskeeper here owes me a favor. From way back when I was running Sunnyhell and planning your demise."

"How's that working out for you?" Buffy said, stepping up behind him and surprising herself by slipping her hands around his body and leaning against his back. His startled twitch showed that he was just as surprised as she was at the affectionate action, but he recovered quickly and brought one of her hands to his mouth to kiss her knuckles.

"Pretty damn brilliantly," he said, holding her hand and turning around to face her. He kept his lips on her hand, smiling when he felt her heart rate go up.

"I've been trying to remind myself I wasn't planning to stay here very long, or to try to push you into anything you may not want, but here we are with no place to go and nothing to do…." He wriggled his eyebrows suggestively, but Buffy chose to hear only part of what he said.

"You were going to leave again?" She stiffened and tried to pull away, but not hard enough to actually regain possession of her hand.

"I thought it best. We both know how wrong this whatever-it-is between us is."

"What happened to watching my back forever?"

"I engaged my mouth before it was connected to my brain when I said that."

"So, you don't plan to watch my back any more?"

He growled and dropped her hand, turning away and swearing under his breath. When he turned back to her, she was watching him warily, and he realized his fangs were dropping. He shook them off and sighed deeply.

"I'm sorry, love. Not growling at you. It's at myself for not knowing what the bloody hell to do." He grabbed her hand again and pulled her towards him. "Want you so bad, I can't see straight half the time. And the idea of leaving you here to face whatever the next potentially deadly bit of evil shows up next by yourself makes me want to…." He stared into her wide eyes. "I'm a vampire, Buffy. Unsouled, evil, and right happy about that most of the time. But I can't be those things and be part of your life. I know that, and so do you."

"What…" She choked a little and started again. "What do you want me to do? Keep you on speed dial in case I run into something I can't handle—" She stopped and glared at him.

"And FYI, I am a fully capable slayer. I killed the Master. I beat Angelus, and then sent Angel to hell while you ran off with Dru. And I blew evil, wanna-be ascended demon Mayor into little bitty snake pieces. I appreciate the things you've done for me. I do, a lot. But you need to stop acting like I'm going to disappear tomorrow if you aren't here to protect me!"

His expressive face, now back into its human guise, was a mixture of anger, fear, and sadness; until it settled into the blank face of a dead man.

"Right then. So, it's just me that thinks there might be some reason to stay. My mistake. I'll be out of your hair by tomorrow."

Buffy stared at him in bewilderment. "What….?"

"I got it, Slayer. You don't need me here, so I'll just be on my way."

"That's what you got from that? That I don't need you, so you should just go? You don't want to be around me unless I need you?"

"What other reason would there be?"

Buffy was about to let him have it, tell him he was too stupid to live, and should hit the road, when she caught the faint trace of hope behind his words, and mentally reviewed the conversation. She shook her head.

"Why don't you ask me what I want you to do; instead of worrying about what I might need," she said softly. "Or tell me what you want? That works too."

"What do you want, Buffy? Do you want me to live somewhere else and only show up when you think you need extra muscle?"

"Is that what you want?" she asked with a small frown.

"I asked you first," he said, his face settling into stubborn lines that she was already realizing hid more than they showed.

"I want us to figure out a way for you to be here all the time. And not just to watch my back," she added quickly. "I want you to want to be with me enough to try to work something out." She sighed. "But it sounds like you don't want to do that. Or that you don't think you can."

She turned away, refusing to let him see how unhappy she was about it. She stood, back to him, wondering what he was thinking. Suddenly, he was behind her, arms around her body, holding her against his chest. Slayer instinct made her stiffen and begin to flex, then she felt him murmuring in her ear.

"Never said I didn't want to try. I just know how hard it's going to be. I'm goin' to make a lot of stupid mistakes."

"Like thinking because I don't like being treated like a damsel in distress, it means I don't want you around?"

"Like that, for one. I should know better. You're probably the best slayer I've ever seen, and I wasn't showing you the proper respect. You have every right to be brassed off at me."

"Did we just have our first fight?" she asked, tilting her head back to look at his face.

"I'd call it more of a misunderstandin'," he said, as her brushed his lips over hers.

"Oh, then no make-up kisses?" She turned in his embrace so that she was facing him, and put her arms around his neck. "I think we should call it a fight."

"Can call it World War III if it means I get to kiss you again," he growled, following words with action.