Disclaimer: I own ... zip. Nada.

Riley glanced at Joyce, who was frowning at him. Not a disapproving frown—though he'd seen those. Just a puzzled frown.

Riley concentrated on Dawn. "Now you loop it through like this—and over—and under—and there you go." He smiled. "That's called a triple- throwback knot. One of my personal specials."

"I bet not even Buffy could get out of this." Said Dawn admiringly. "It's a great knot. Are you going to untie me now?"

Riley thought about it for a second. "Um, maybe. That depends. Why don't you tell me about the fight the other day, when Spike was in your house?"

"Riley Finn!" Said Joyce, shocked.

"He had his shirt off, and he's gorgeous." Said Dawn frankly.

Riley sighed, untying Dawn. "Just kidding, Mrs. Summers, just kidding." He said with a grin. "Buffy already told me about the fight."

Joyce sighed. He was a nice enough boy, but sometimes he just seemed a little detached from reality. Or maybe it was just the way he was always obeying—never taking the initiative, always obeying.

She looked around at the parents and teachers milling quietly, trying to mingle. "I wish the meeting would start already." She grumbled.

Dawn shrugged. "Look, there's Miss Calendar. Ooh, and she looks mad, too!"

Joyce sighed as the teacher approached them. "Mrs. Summers." Said Jenny coldly. "So nice to see you." She glared at Dawn. "And you only brought one of the –"

"Miss Calendar!" Riley moved in quickly, fully into 'evade' mode. Ever since he'd become Buffy's boyfriend he'd learned all kinds of ways to avoid confrontation. "Is that a new haircut?"

She stared at him, surprised.

That was when the doors were pounded down, and yelling gang members converged on the area.

**

Spike loved the way Buffy's hand wound into fists, tightly gripping his T- shirt. He didn't so much love the way her arms were constricting his already broken ribs.

"Luv, I sorta need to breathe." He said reasonably.

"Then why drive like this?" She asked breathlessly, her voice full of the horror he could feel in the strong arms racheting tighter around his chest.

He took another curve at ninety. "Taste death and live, Summers!" He yelled over the whipping wind.

As they approached the school he didn't slow down. Instead he aimed right for the glass front doors.

Buffy realized his intentions and squeezed her eyes shut, holding her head against his back and screaming.

**

Joyce stared at the short man in the leather duster. "All right!" Bellowed Warren. "Shake them down for money, and terrorize them a little. Let them know who's in charge!"

Riley moved Dawn behind him slowly. "Mrs. Summers, stay behind me." He instructed her cautiously.

A dull roaring at the back of his skull caused him to shut his eyes. "Buffy was right." He whispered.

The dull roaring grew louder, and then the doors of the school exploded inward, a motorcycle roaring into the middle of the room.

Buffy climbed off the back, whipping nunchuks around in each hand. Spike picked up the baseball stuck under the handlebars, dismounting the bike, the leather duster settling around him like a cloak.

"All right, freaks, monsters, teachers, and you too Dawn." Said Spike in a half-shout, half leer. "You can just surrender outright, or you can get your butts kicked. Your choice." His face was at least eight different shades of purple, and it was obvious he'd taken a pretty ferocious beating. Dried blood caked the edges of his face.

He swung the baseball bat in a few tight, controlled swing.

"What he said, with more threats." Said Buffy, the nunchuks whirling into motion. "And maybe a joke or two."

"Get them!" Screamed Warren, the self-appointed Master, throwing his hands up and ducking backwards.

Spike stepped back, so that his back was touching Buffy's back, and began swing the bat. She moved forward, Spike moving with her, covering her.

The gang members who charged quickly learned the error of their ways as metal coated with wood slammed into them. Those who thought getting behind Buffy would help quickly learned that it was even worse behind her.

One gang member moved toward Riley and Dawn to escape. Riley grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, lifting him into the air, and threw him away. The other gang members headed their way changed course, choosing a different route.

Spike detached from Buffy, charging forward, grabbing Warren, who stared at the bleached blonde, who sneered down at him.

"Remember when your gang offered me a job?" He asked.

"Um, yeah." Said Warren.

"I quit!" Roared Spike, slamming the baseball bat into Warren's chest with a sickening crack. Warren fell to the ground and Spike turned, facing the rest of the room. "Come on, you half-witted monkeys!"

Two more charged him at once. He spun around, kicking one while hitting the other with the bat. Near him Buffy was once again a blur of action, spinning, kicking, punching, nunchuks finding flesh like a magnet.

The gang members scattered.

The principal was lying on the ground, but now that the noise of the fight had faded he began to stir. Buffy grabbed Spike, pulling him down a hall.

"Come on, Spike." She said.

"What's the hurry?" He asked.

"I don't know about you, but expelled? So not good for my grades." She replied.

He chuckled, following her. "That was great, wasn't it?" He asked.

"You're such a pig!" She said.

He grabbed her shoulder, spinning her around, and caught the nunchuk she swung at his head. "Hey, pig I may be, but you enjoyed that, admit it!"

"Why'd you help?" She asked.

He shrugged. "I enjoyed it." He said.

"And that's all that matters to you?" She asked.

He leaned forward and kissed her. "Yep. He murmured.

She grabbed his head, pulling him closer, and kissed him back. He wrapped his arms around her gently, moving closer, and the two of them stayed like that for a moment.

Then she pushed him away suddenly, violently. "Oh my god!" She said, upset.

"What?" He asked.

"I have a boyfriend!" She said, turning and walking away. "I mean, and you, you're the bad guy! You broke my nose!" She pointed to her still very sore nose. "You—you're a jerk!"

He grinned. "Oh, sure, and you didn't kiss me back at all." He said happily.

"You're a pig!"

**

Riley checked Warren for a pulse. "He's alive." He told Snyder. "But barely."

Snyder tapped his foot on the ground. "Did anybody see who did this?" He asked.

Riley shook his head, the lie coming easily. "We were too busy trying to escape, sir." He said softly.

"I'm sure I heard Buffy Summers yell." Said Synder.

Behind him Dawn stuck her tongue out at him. Riley kept a straight face. "It might have been, but I've asked, and nobody could say for sure." And that might have been because of the tone in his voice when he asked. You never know.

**

Xander closed the door. "Well, he's sleeping." He told Buffy and Spike. "The doctor said it would be good if someone, um, watched him."

"How's Willow?" Asked Buffy.

"She's fine." Said Xander. "Oz is sitting with her."

"How are you?" Asked Buffy.

"Fine." Said Xander, glaring at Spike, who stood facing away from them, an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips.

"Shoulda busted you a couple more." Muttered Spike. He turned, flipping the cigarette away, and brushed by Xander, going to sit by Giles' bed.

Buffy followed him, sitting opposite him, staring at Giles. "He's a good guy." She said finally.

"He's okay." Allowed Spike. "Bit of a ponce, but he's taken my side a couple of times."

"And that's what matters, taking your side?" Asked Buffy, glaring at Spike. He met her gaze levelly.

"Hm, yeah." Said Spike, grinning.

She shook her head. "You're nothing but an animal, Spike." She told him gruffly.

"An animal? Like a tiger. A ferocious tiger." Said Spike, still amused.

"A rat." Said Buffy loudly.

Spike leaned forward. "Now, if you were an animal you'd be a fluffy teddy- bear. With little stick things, of course."

"They're called nunchuks." Said Buffy through gritted teeth.

"Nunchuks, right." Said Spike. "Gotta say, I love seeing you...twirling...big sticks..." He couldn't keep from laughing, and began chuckling. Buffy turned red.

"You're a pig, Spike!" She said, leaning across the bed. Spike leaned forward, so that they were barely six inches apart.

"Yeah, I am." He acknowledged.

"Oh, dear lord..." Murmured Giles, stirring. He blinked his eyes open, staring. "Could you fight... a little quieter? Please?"

Spike grinned. "Sure, gramps, sure." He said, sitting down.

**

End Part One

A/N: Positively the longest build-up I've ever written. Now we can finally get down to business. Buffy's boyfriend—agrees with her! An uneasy truce with Spike, who wants her bad! A triangle! A little sister! And—well, the return of Angel, coming soon. (what, you thought I could just throw him away? So sorry.) Plus, Faith (another throw-away plot line come back!). And just who was supplying drugs to the kids of Sunnydale? Could it be that the mayor...? No, that would be too wacky! Tune in soon!