Broken Origin II: Chapter One
Sunnydale, California: June, 1996

Buffy woke up only when she felt – and heard – something crash into the car.


The loud curse coincided with the violent bump and roll of tires over a curb, and the sudden turn the car took jolted her.

Sitting straight up with her hair in her eyes, she darted a look around, her head dizzy with disorientation. She heard the harsh noise of someone laying on their horn for far longer than was necessary, and beyond that, the sound of another male voice yelling something indistinct. She heard a car door open and slam, felt a flurry of movement beside her.

"My fault? Oh, you sorry sodding bastard!"

Buffy winced as the angry shouting continued, ringing in her ears. She pressed her hands to her ears and looked around for the source. The car had stopped, and Spike was furiously pacing outside next to the open door – all she could see were his legs and the glint of his belt buckle in the darkness as her eyes fought to adjust.

"Yeah? Come over here an' say that to my face mate! I'll rip your bleedin' rocks off and wipe the street with your ass!"

Buffy heard the intent in his voice, and saw him take a few steps farther away from the car, into the glare of the headlights. "Spike! Back off!"

The vampire turned toward her, a sneer fixed on his face – and then he jerked his head back around and actually growled at whoever had been unfortunate enough to piss him off.

Buffy put her hand on the door handle, ready to jump out and run interference if she had to, but almost instantly there was there sound of a car engine gunning, and the shriek of tires on pavement; apparently whoever Spike had been arguing with had decided to grow a brain and run away.

The vampire was still snarling as he stomped back to the car…probably because her presence had cost him dinner, she thought with faint amusement. The funny didn't last long, though, because everything came back to her in a dismal rush, and she automatically pushed back the depression that swept in to consume her.

"What happened?" she asked groggily in an effort to distract herself from the hollowness gathering in the middle of her chest, raising her hands to sweep her hair out of her face.

Spike snapped something garbled about a dented fender, a frustrated curse hissing through his teeth.

"Where are we?"

He ducked his head slightly to look into the car at her, an unlit cigarette clamped loosely between his lips. Buffy's breath caught at the unexpected sight of his vamped face, and she fought not to flinch.

"Home sweet home, pet," the vampire drawled impatiently. "Come have a look...if you dare."

She rolled her eyes at his attempt to sound foreboding.

Tired, muscles stiff, Buffy half-heartedly climbed out of the car to stand behind the open door and look out over the town. It didn't look particularly terrible beneath its sparse layer of twinkling lights. She then looked down at the sign under the car wheels and shook her head. "Remind me to never take driving lessons from you."

Not surprisingly, Spike ignored her, lazily lighting up his cigarette. He took a deep drag and dropped his head back on his shoulders, looking up at the night sky as he blew a long, steady stream of smoke into the air. Some of the tension melted off him, but his face was still set in angry, feral lines.

Buffy was horrified to suddenly catch herself staring at him, but before she could look away, his face changed back to human, and she watched the ripple of his features in fascination, right down to the last reflexive swallow and movement of his Adam's apple in his throat. She was still staring when everything about him went completely, predatorily still. Her eyes left his throat to move back up to his face, and she felt her heart stop when she saw him looking right back at her from the corners of his eyes. The dangerous, hungry expression in them made her wonder if he'd fed that night before they'd left L.A.

The smooth skin around his eye crinkled slightly as an evil, tiny smile curled the corner of his lips, making him look as if he somehow knew exactly what she was thinking, and wanted her to know it.

Buffy jerked her eyes away, stuffing her hands into her jean pockets to hide their abrupt shaking.

"Looks like somebody has a sense of humor," she pointed out, half-choking on the words as she tried to sound uncaring, noting the spray-painted, steadily dwindling population numbers on what she could see of the sign under the car. A long, uncomfortable moment went by, during which her spine tingled and her muscles tensed, as if the part of her that made her the Slayer knew she was being hunted, and was readying herself for the inevitable attack…

"Let's hope so," Spike surprised her by saying around the cigarette.

Relaxing, Buffy looked over the DeSoto's roof at him, eyebrows raised, only to hear him continue, "I really don't fancy moving into a small town chock full of vampires. Do you have any idea how hard it would eventually be to get a decent meal of a night?"

"You actually admitting you might have some competition here?" Buffy looked at him in surprise. Surely that wasn't insecurity she heard in his voice?

Spike violently snorted smoke into the air again. "Yeah, right. Not bloody likely."

Nope, she hadn't thought so. Buffy gave her head a shake, and then shivered in the night air. She ran her hands briskly up and down her bare arms. "So, are we going to, like, go to a hotel or something, now?" She covered a wide yawn.

"With what?" Spike looked her over as if trying to ascertain exactly what planet she'd just arrived from.

She blinked at him. "With 'what'? The money you got from going all Sweeney Todd on my hair, that's what!"

Spike shook his head, though he looked amused by her unlikely reference. He rested the heel of the hand that held the cigarette on the roof of the car, and shifted so that he leaned on it slightly. "You've got a lot to learn about the world, love," he said with deliberate scorn.

Buffy forgot her discomfort over the moments before and put her hands on her hips, her body posture screaming attitude. "Excuse me? Meaning?"

Spike's eyebrows pitched together. "Meaning, it's my money, not yours, and m'not about to waste it in just a couple of nights puttin' you up in some posh hotel room!"

"Hello, it was my hair, you stole it - in a very traumatic way, I may add – and after the past weeks I'd be happy in an Econo-Lodge right now! Plastic cups wrapped in cellophane on the bathroom counter sound pretty posh at the moment!"

It was Spike's turn to blink. He stared at her through the smoke drifting in front of his face. "Christ, are you tryin' to break me, woman?"

Buffy threw her hands up. "Fine! What exactly are your plans for accommodation?"

"So…what do you think?"


"Yeah." Spike grinned. "That's what I thought. It's not a bad turnout for an hours search, 'specially 'round these parts, is it?"


"I checked around downstairs, a bit. Place has two levels, sewer access, plenty of space – if I…uh, we end up stayin' for a while – "

Buffy was too shocked to catch Spike's little slip-up. "It's…a crypt."

"Well, yeah."

"There are dead…things in here, Spike. Dead things."

"Yes…an' you're talkin' to one of 'em, pet," he reminded her with mock gentleness.

"No, I mean…look. Rats. Dead ones! Everywhere! A-and bodies! Human bodies! Dead human bodies! They're no longer living, Spike!" she hissed.

"So what's your point, Slayer?"

Buffy's wide eyes gave the dark, musty crypt another cringing once-over, her expression one of dread. "I can't sleep here," she insisted weakly.

Spike shrugged. "So don't. S'no skin off my back, Slayer. Feel free to go on your merry way anytime."

But she had no where to go, and no way, merry or otherwise, and they both knew it. Spike didn't bother saying another word as he wrapped his coat around himself and settled comfortably atop his dusty stone slab. He closed his eyes, and seemed content to go right to sleep.

Buffy might as well have been alone in the cavernous, dark space. Her skin crawled as she located a long stone bench along one wall beneath an arch-shaped window, but had to push off a mound of dead leaves and rags – which really turned out to be a mound of dead leaves and something furry with things moving it that apparently didn't like being disturbed. The bundle squirmed as she pushed it to the floor with her foot. She squealed in disgust, and then kicked it across the crypt, feeling goosebumps spring up in places she shouldn't have goosebumps.

"Ew! Ew, ew, ew…" she danced around a little, shuddering, and then looked over to see if Spike had noticed, but he didn't have so much as a smirk on his pale face. She was sure she would have hit him if he had.

Exhausted as she was, Buffy ended up laying down on the bench despite her revulsion. Cold, thirsty, and extremely uncomfortable, she closed her eyes and prayed there wouldn't be any spiders crawling over her in the night.

At rest on his cold stone slab, Spike hid a laugh as he heard the hysterical squeal. He had determined to find a suitable shelter by dawn, one that suited his needs, not hers, but one he couldn't get too comfortable in. Judging from the Slayer's state of near panic, he'd chosen wisely. Going to sleep with a Slayer glowering mistrustfully at him wasn't conducive to a day's rest. Besides, after all he'd done to her, and probably would end up doing to her, he didn't think he should find himself too easy in her company…
Buffy was dreaming.

She knew she was dreaming, but the dream was as vivid as though she were awake. It had the feel of one of her nightmares, but she knew this one was different.

She was standing in a cemetery, surrounded by fading daylight and crumbling headstones…

She was looking into a red pool of boiling blood…

She was flipping the pages of a dust-ridden book, searching through faded black prints of gore-eating demons and dark arcane symbols…

She was surrounded by legions of the newly risen undead, an apocalyptic vision warning of things that could be…

Finally, she was wandering through a dark, dank place, stalking even as she was aware of being stalked.

If she hadn't already been held captive in the lair of another nasty monster, it might actually have been scary.

A long, white, clawed hand suddenly stretched out at her from the darkness, greedily snatching at her throat, while seemingly disembodied wet red eyes glowed menacingly above…she struggled, lifting her hands to free herself, but her attacker suddenly released her on a howl of agony and infuriated defeat.

Buffy twisted away, aware of an even bigger evil lurking beyond the immediate threat, and found herself gasping for breath as panic set in…

This was death, the absolute death of everyone, and everything, and there seemed to be no way to stop it…

Despite her exhaustion, Buffy snapped awake only a few hours later, in time enough to see the dawn making it's appearance through the grimy little window panes above.

She was still breathing heavily, gasping for air, struggling for a hold on her reality. The dream had been so real, different; almost like a vision…

Rolling to a sitting position on the hard bench, she stifled a groan and rested her elbows on her knees, putting her head in her hands as she tried to ignore the discomfort in her back and ribs. She put the disturbing dream out of her head almost immediately – there was no sense in trying to truly hold on to her memory of it, of every detail, because she knew from experience that it would quickly fade anyway.

When she lifted her head to look around, made a face as she realized she could see a lot more she disliked about the crypt than she even had the night before. Suddenly unable to stand herself or the mess a minute longer, she stood up gingerly, stretching sore, stiff muscles, and walked towards the door of the crypt. It screeched a little when she opened it, but the quick glance she threw over her shoulder showed that Spike hadn't moved a muscle. He was still as death, looking eerily like a giant bat laying wrapped up in its wings.

Buffy shook off a shiver. Stepping out into the dewy morning, she carefully closed the inner door and then the outer behind her. She took a deep breath of the fresh air, and then felt an unexpected smile cross her lips as she closed her eyes and felt the warmth of the first rays of sunlight on her cold, tight skin.

Spike had lied when he'd told her she'd never see daylight again. Somehow she'd known that.

Feeling freer and younger than she had in months, Buffy took another deep breath and listened to the birds in the trees chirping for a moment before she took off running through the graves, the quick movements of her feet helping to stir the fast dissipating mist curling around the grass.

Buffy didn't stop running until she'd found her way back out of the cemetery. She paused at the gates, looking back at the sun as it slowly moved across the acres of bleak graves, banishing any and all shadows…for a few hours, at least.

Determined to put the dead behind her – at least for the day - she turned her back on the cemetery and started walking down the quiet street she found herself on, eager to see what the little town had to offer besides vampires.

A few blocks away from the cemetery, the quiet, tree lined street became a little busier. Buffy guessed she must be nearing the town square, from the amount of early morning traffic crisscrossing the intersections.

Mindful of her appearance, she tried to keep a low profile as she walked along, knowing even as careful as she was that she was still attracting some unwanted stares. It was humiliating.

She was grateful unto tears when she came upon a Kwik-E-Mart slash gas station, with an outdoor entrance into a public restroom. The impossibly narrow door wasn't locked, thankfully, and she slipped inside the tiny space with a relieved sigh. The relief quickly turned to disgust when she saw the nasty state of the place, but she just held her breath as she took care of her business and moved to the small metal sink. The mirror above it was polished metal, so she couldn't make out much more of herself than a detailed blur, but she was thankful of it all the same.

She turned on the sink, only to find that the hot water didn't work, and there were no paper towels or soap in the dispensers. Sighing, she twisted the cold water tap and scrubbed her hands, face, and arms as best she could, before contemplating attempting to rinse her hair, and writing it off as a lost cause until she managed to get some shampoo and conditioner ground into it. Instead, she finger combed it, nearly sneezing at the amount of dust she disrupted from it. She finger-fluffed it, working through the tangles in the mirror until it was at least laying flat and straight to her shoulders.

There wasn't anything to be done about her clothes, unfortunately. The dirt and blood and sweat was impossibly stained into the fabric, and it turned her stomach to think how long she'd been in them. If she weren't careful, they'd rot right off.

With a helpless sigh, Buffy turned away from the sink, suddenly desperate to feel the sunlight on her skin again.

Xander Harris yawned and looked at his Tweety Bird watch as he waited for his friend to finish paying for her chocolate milk and donut.

"Explain to me again why I allowed you to talk me into helping you rearrange the books in the school library when it's the middle of summer break and I could be doing some serious sleeping-in right about now?"

Willow Rosenberg turned to look at him, wiping at the milk mustache on her upper lip as she went to the exit of the Kwik-E-Mart, using her back to push open the door since her hands were full. "Because, Principal Flutie says we're getting a new librarian, and the library has to look it's best when she arrives, so of course I volunteered to help re-work the computer system, but it's a mess and taking a really long time, so you're being a wonderful best friend and helping me so I won't be stuck there until school starts up again, and I need – "

" – to take a breath. Geez, Will, calm down. I was just kidding. I'm here for ya, pal. You know I'm all about sorting through dusty old books with you."

The highly stressed look on her face dissolved into one of pure skepticism. "Yeah, right – " she cut off as she swung out against the door, and turned around in one motion, accidentally running into a passerby on the sidewalk outside.


Xander was right behind her, dropping his half-empty plastic bottle of orange juice to catch his friend as she staggered backwards.

"Hey! Watch where you're going, dorkette!"

Xander looked up and cringed – inwardly, of course. He drew in a deep breath as he set Willow upright on her feet and stepped in front of her. "Chill, Larry – it was an accident," he said, his dislike of the large boy in front of them showing in his voice.

"What brings you" slithering "out" from under your rock "so early this fine morning, anyway?"

"Got a job – unlike some losers around here, Harris. By the way – I heard your Dad just lost his. And this after your uncle lost his at that computer company last year. Heard he's still not workin' – too bad he can't get paid for getting drunk off his ass. Failure must run in the family, huh?"

Xander balled his fist. The sad thing about it was he was afraid it was completely true.

"Hey! If Xander's a loser, then at least he's a good loser!" Willow piped up helpfully from behind him.

Xander looked over his shoulder at her, mouth gaping slightly.

"Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser just the same," Larry pushed nastily, forcing his bulk forward, obviously itching for a fight.

"Will, don't help me," Xander told his friend pleadingly, who blanched and mouthed, "Sorry," as she realized what she'd said.

"Let's just go," he mumbled under his breath, making to walk past the taller boy, but he was brought to an ungentle stop by the force of a hand planted directly in the middle of his chest.

"Where you goin', Harris? You tryin' to prove to your little girlfriend here just how much of a loser you really are? Why don't you stand up for yourself, man? You scared?"

His temper suddenly getting the better of him, Xander took a step back, lifting his arm to violently bat away Larry's hand. He opened his mouth to speak, but the hand was suddenly back, fisting in the front of his t-shirt, yanking him forward into a punch.

Xander was pretty sure his eyes went crossed for a second at the sight of those big knuckles bearing down on him, but at least he didn't squeeze them shut, or flinch.

The blow never landed, though.

It took him a second to realize the pain wasn't coming, and when he did, he blinked at the sight before him.

A very small, battered hand was clenched over Larry's huge one, stopping inches from Xander's nose. It was connected to a fragile wrist, which was followed by a delicate, slender arm. The arm looked way too weak to be holding back the kind of strength it was.

Larry's other hand, the one twisted into his t-shirt, suddenly loosened, and Xander stumbled back slightly, his own hand coming up to automatically smooth his shirt. He felt Willow standing behind him, felt her lay a hand on his arm as if to caution him. He looked back up at Larry through the messy fringe of his dark hair and felt his sense of surprise double.

There was a girl standing in between them and Larry, now. She was short, petite, with lank, dirty blond hair, and filthy, ragged blue jeans and t-shirt of an indeterminate color because of all the dirt and stains covering it. Her skin was mostly clean, though, and from what he could see of her face through her stringy hair, he could tell she was kinda pretty. Her eyes were what stood out most about her at the moment, though – they were big, but angrily narrowed, and a clear, bright shade of hazel green surrounded by amazingly long, thick lashes.

"Leave them alone," the girl said low, in a very feminine, steady voice.

Larry was staring at her as if she had three heads, and when he finally made as if to yank his hand out of her hold and get really ugly, the girl simply tightened her hand around his fist.

"I'm not in the mood," the girl said, again in that low tone, her eyes unwavering from the bully's as his breath caught audibly, and actual tears – tears! Xander's vengeful teen heart rejoiced - sprang to his eyes.

When Larry whimpered in his throat, the girl let go of his hand, shoving it back at him. She just stood there, her small frame tense with expectation until the boy forced a painful sneer at them. He clutched his reddening hand to his stomach, glared over the girl's head at Xander with a nasty promise in his small, mean eyes, and finally turned around and stalked off – in a hurry.

Still shocked at what had just happened, Xander continued to gape at his savior.

A girl. A girl had just faced down Larry – Larry Blaisedell! – and was still standing there, breathing!

"Uh…hi," Willow said uncertainly from beside him.

Xander just kept staring at the girl until Willow elbowed him. Startled, he looked down at his friend, and saw her pointedly widen her soft brown eyes at him. He realized how rude he was being and lifted his head again, opening his mouth to form some sort of greeting, but nothing would come out.

The girl was standing there, a vulnerable look coming over her face as the confident fierceness in her eyes faded. She regarded them with such a hopeless, exposed expression then that he had to look away from her.

Xander shook his head as he sent a dark glare after Larry as he left the parking lot in his car. "And don't let the door hit ya' where the dog shoulda' bit ya'," he muttered belatedly, scorning his timing. He bent over to pick up his bottle of orange juice, just for something to do in the uncomfortable moment.

"He's such a jerk," Willow said unnecessarily from beside him, watching the car take off way too fast.

After a long minute of wallowing in satisfaction, Xander turned to the strange girl to try to say thanks again, but she'd disappeared.

"Hey." He frowned, turning to look in every direction, trying to get another glimpse of her. He wasn't so happy about being saved by a girl, especially a weird one with freakish strength, but she'd looked so lost and alone for a minute there that he felt compelled to ask if she needed help or something. She was already long gone.

Willow was turning in circles too, her chocolate milk, and donut forgotten in her hands as she noticed the girl's abrupt absence. "Where'd she go?"

Buffy's heart was thundering in her chest from the encounter as she slipped down the alley behind the convenience store. Once she felt like she was safely out of sight from prying eyes, she collapsed against a chain link fence and wrapped her arms around herself.

She should never have interfered, but when she'd crept out of the restroom and seen the big bully standing over the other two teens on the sidewalk, she'd experienced such a feeling of outrage that she hadn't been able to help herself.

Well, she was the Slayer, right? She was supposed to help protect the innocent, wasn't she?

Right. From vampires. From killers.

Not teenage boys who needed to pick on their peers because of something lacking in themselves.

Buffy fisted her hand, the one that had been wrapped around the bully's, and remembered how angry she'd been. She'd almost broken every bone in the boy's hand. She could have done it, easily. As it was, she could still feel the bones grinding and twisting together…it made her feel sick.

She'd scared herself back there. Been frightened of what she was capable of.

Buffy held up her hands, turning them over and looking at them closely, still amazed at their strength even after everything that had happened. Blinking in the daylight, she took a deep lungful of air, feeling a strange force course through her. It made her realize there, in that alley full of sunlight and shadows, that though she might be the only Slayer in the world, without family, without friends, as well as alone, she still had the power to do things – to change things. Or at least try.

Back in L.A., she'd grown up with everything, had anything she'd ever wanted. Life had been all about her, and she'd been so filled with herself that she'd been blind to so many things that went on around her. Until now, even, every thought had been about herself – how her parents deaths and Merrick's had affected her, how her calling, and her subsequent abduction had been so unfair – to her.

Was that the only thing she was good at? Feeling sorry for herself?

"It doesn't matter what I feel," she murmured aloud, still staring at her hands.

And it didn't. She might be alone, but at least she had a purpose in life. She knew without a doubt that she was still alive, and here, for a reason. That was more knowledge than most people ever received.

She caught sight of the thick white scar jaggedly crossing her wrist, and narrowed her eyes.

Buffy dropped her hands and straightened her back, smiling slightly as she felt a huge burden leave her shoulders. It wasn't that she didn't still feel the weight of the world – she doubted that feeling would ever go away, or lessen. It was just the plain and simple fact that she knew she could make a difference. It was her choice.

She could save lives.She could help.

Tilting her face up into the sun, Buffy closed her eyes. She knew what she was now, was free, and no one was going to take that away from her ever again; she'd make sure of it.

Forgetting how hungry and thirsty she was, Buffy opened her eyes again and continued down the alley. She was moving with intent now. She'd spend the day learning the lay of the little town, she decided, and when the night came, she'd introduce the new Slayer to the creatures of the Hellmouth…

…starting with Spike.

It was around seven in the evening when Buffy re-entered the cemetery – Restfield, she reminded herself, re-reading the sign over the gates.

She'd had a long day, wandering the town of Sunnydale. She'd also learned a lot of interesting – well, weird, maybe – things about it.

Like the fact that she'd already counted twelve cemeteries within city limits, and twenty-eight churches, with the sneaking suspicion that there were more yet to be found. She'd also found her way to Sunnydale High. The school was closed for the summer, and she thought that if she timed her visits just right, and after dark, she just might be able to gain access to the showers while the care-takers were away.

Buffy sighed as she walked along over grass and gravel, carefully picking her way around gravestones in the orange and purple twilight. She'd done a fair amount of walking that day, but surprisingly found herself gaining energy as the evening wore on.

It was a good thing, too. She had the feeling she was going to need it.

A sense of trepidation gripped her as she finally drew near her destination. The crypt. It didn't look much different from the others surrounding it, but the knowledge of what dwelled within made it seem more sinister, even in the light.

Buffy shivered, despite the heat of the day that still clung to the air, and went to cross her arms over her chest. She caught sight of the scar on her wrist again, and it was enough to make her nervousness disappear. The view of it made her angry, and suddenly fear just wasn't even an option anymore.

She was striding across the ground toward the silent crypt, determination in every step, when her toe caught on something partially buried in the grass, and she tripped.

Buffy scowled, managing to catch herself, and looked down to see what she'd tripped over. In that moment, a feeling of déjà vu swept over her so strongly that it nearly made her sick to her stomach. The feeling quickly passed, though, when she saw that she hadn't tripped over another body, but something else entirely. Something she stupidly hadn't given thought to the entire day, and which was a welcome sight indeed…

Spike was already sluggishly waking up when he heard the Slayer return.

He'd known precisely the moment she'd left the crypt that morning, but he hadn't cared enough to do anything about it. He'd actually been pretty damned pleased, because sleep was a scarce thing with a Slayer – little threat, or no - loitering only steps away.

He was about to open his eyes and give a long, leisurely stretch on his stone perch when he felt an incredibly rough, strong tug at one corner of his duster where it was wrapped under his side. He yelped, and found himself flying through the air. The leather actually made a snapping sound as it rolled out and stretched, whipping him into a crazy spin right off the lid of the tomb. His eyes popped open in enough time to see a whirl of color before he hit the stone floor and rolled across it, to land face down, the impact making him groan.

"You bit me," the Slayer's voice accused from somewhere overhead, and Spike pushed himself up enough to see two little tennis shoe clad feet standing spread apart before him. He winced slightly before getting his own feet under him and standing, working kinks out of his back and shoulders. "What the bloody hell was that all about, then?" he complained, still too asleep to feel more than just vaguely murderous.

"You. Bit. Me."

Holding one side of his head where it'd struck the floor, Spike glared over at her, violence flaring in the depths of his eyes. "Yeah, I bit you – and I'm about to do it again, if you don't watch yourself," he promised menacingly.

Buffy put her hands on hips and gave his rumpled appearance a slow, insulting once over as he picked up his duster and lazily started sorting through it. His hair was thoroughly mussed; the short curls looked ridiculously soft and they were sticking up at all angles. His black t-shirt was faded out, stretched at the neck and wrinkled. Dried cemetery mud speckled his scuffed boots and had splashed up the lower legs of his jeans. She shook her head.

"Spike, when was the last time you washed your jeans? Strike that, when was the last time you washed anything?" It was truly disgusting how badly dirt didn't make him look any less attractive. Buffy stuck her tongue out at him in retaliation to that last thought, and turned her nose up as she'd smelled something funny.

"Ha. You've got room to talk," Spike said resentfully, motioning pointedly to his nose with his thumb as he found his lighter.

"Like you gave me a choice!" Buffy half-snarled, all too aware of her bedraggled, matted hair, dirty skin, and filthy, torn clothing. Her teeth felt fuzzy enough to carpet an entire house.

"If I offend your oh-so delicate sense of smell, you should see about finding me a decent shower!"

"See about it yourself," Spike snapped in irritation. He put the cigarette in between his lips, swinging his duster on and settling it comfortably on his shoulders. "I've got more important things to do tonight."

Buffy crossed her arms, swallowing. She'd known all day that this confrontation was coming. "Like what, eating a bunch of Girl scouts?" she challenged.

Spike strode over to her, his close stance intimidating. He blew a ring of smoke at her head. "Maybe. What's it to you?"

Buffy waved the smoke away, grinding her teeth in frustration despite her instinctive fear of him. "I'm not letting you kill anybody, Spike!"

His eyes narrowed as he flicked away the cigarette, and then leaned down until he was right in her face. "What makes you think you can stop me, Slayer?" he asked menacingly, his features changing. His yellow-gold eyes glittered from between slitted lids as he snapped his fangs at her. "What makes you think you can stop me from killin' you right now if I wanted to?"

Buffy's expression never changed as her fingers grasped the rough, weathered wood of the old canopy stake she'd tucked into the back of her waistband beneath her shirt. She uncrossed her arms, and suddenly the dull but deadly point was between them, the power in her arm steadily pressing it into his chest.

"I was thinking maybe, this."

The look on the vampire's face was priceless before he took a step back, lifting a hand to press it to the area above his heart. She hadn't pushed hard enough to break the skin, but she was pretty sure she'd left a nasty indent with aspirations of becoming a deep tissue bruise.

"You tried to stake me, you bloody bitch!" Spike suddenly shouted in a tone of awed disbelief.

Buffy kept her expression cool as she crossed her arms again. "And you're surprised about this? But, no, if I'd really wanted to do it a second ago, I could have."

Spike growled at her, but Buffy suddenly launched into speech, perhaps startling herself even more than him with her vehemence.

"Don't you want to do anything else with your existence?" she blurted. "You're like a big, spoiled baby, running around, doing whatever you want, hurting whoever you want…you don't even have a reason for it! I mean, sure you have a reputation for being a bad ass, but you're nothing else to anyone or anything but a killer waiting his turn to be staked. Do you really want to go out that way, a footnote in some Watcher's dusty old diary?"

Spike was speechless for a moment before his expression changed from surprise to one of blatant suspicion. "Careful – almost sounded like you're startin' to care for me. You're not gonna' change me into something I'm not, Slayer." He wriggled black-nailed fingers at her. "M'not gonna' be your soddin' little pet vampire. Don't try to push me into a do-gooder role. It won't work."

Buffy just continued watching him, concentrating on keeping her voice steady. "I don't want a pet. I don't care if you're good or evil, or, God forbid, stuck someplace in between. But it comes down to this – I catch you killing, I kill you. It's that simple."

Spike's eyes burned into her back as he watched her turn and go towards the door.

"Not if I kill you first."

With a bravado she didn't feel, Buffy calmly looked back at him. "You're welcome to try. Just between you and me though, I don't think you can bring yourself to do it. You've had one too many chances already, and you didn't follow through."

"I had motives," Spike said defensively, shoving his hands into his pockets. "Lots of 'em."

"Yeah? Well, let me know when you've decided to stop making excuses." Hefting the stake, Buffy threw him a last warning glance over her shoulder as she reached the door.

"Where are you goin'?" the vampire asked on a snarl, clearly unhappy at having his so-called authority challenged.

"I'm the Slayer, aren't I?" Buffy's hazel eyes turned cold before she directed them back in front of her and tugged hard on the door handle, ignoring the resulting screech.

"I'm going to go slay…incidentally, you may wanna' stay out of my way tonight. I'll be back by dawn."

"I'll be counting the minutes, I'm sure," The vampire snarled at her back as she closed the door behind her.

Outside in the late dusk, Buffy stopped long enough to allow herself a small, triumphant smile before she set off into the night.

Spike sent a killing look at the door as it closed.

He wasn't in the mood to deal with the Slayer right now. He'd had to listen to Angelus's commands for the first twenty fucking years of his unlife, and he'd had enough of it to last an eternity. No one was ordering him around again, especially not a little girl at least a foot shorter than him.

Well, maybe half a foot.

His expression growing sour, Spike set to putting his clothes to rights, and straightening his hair before he stepped out of the crypt to trail the Slayer.

It'd been true, what he'd told her about having more important things to do tonight, but he found himself following the girl despite himself. He was curious to see what she was up to – something about the aggravating little chit had changed during the day, that much was for certain.

Maybe the Slayer's new determination to rush out and get herself eaten killin' baddies could be put to good use, he decided. Use the Slayer as a calling card of sorts; draw out the great-grand sire - if the flighty she-bitch was even still around these parts, as he'd heard. Which she probably was. There was too much power in the air hereabouts for her not to be. He recalled the old Master had always been the one she'd run to when things too hot and heavy for her to handle, and he'd wager that's exactly what Darla had done when Angelus had gone all soul-having all those years back - the toadying little trull.

Even if she didn't show herself right away, it wouldn't take long for one of the Master's lesser minions to report back that another Master had horned in on their territory – which Spike had every intention of doing. Unlike Los Angeles, Sunnydale looked to be a juicy little berg, and he had the feeling nothing could ever bore him here.

A menacing smile crossed his face as he caught sight of the little blond walking just ahead of him, with her pert nose stuck up in the air and her pitiful excuse for a stake gripped tight in her fist at her side. She sure thought she was something, didn't she, thought she was stalking the night for uglies, thought everything was going to happen on her terms. She really had no idea she was the one being hunted by the vamps she seemed convinced she was keeping such a vigilant lookout for.

Spike shook his head as he caught sight of one of his kind moving along the tops of the crypts lining the path the Slayer had taken. Here was a prime example of how little experience she had. She obviously couldn't sense the vampire's presence, because she just kept walking right along, oblivious to the evil dogging her heels. Again he found himself disgusted by her ineptness as a Slayer. Sure, the girl had her moments, but it wouldn't take much for any vamp worth his swagger to take her out.

Up ahead, the Slayer let out a startled yelp, and Spike ran forward a bit to get a better look at what was going on. He stopped in the shadow of a tree, peering toward her, fully expecting to see the girl tussling with her blood-sucking shadow. Instead he saw her picking herself up from the ground, brushing at her clothes and grumbling angrily to herself. He rolled his eyes - she'd tripped.

It was during this bout of clumsiness that Spike chanced to see the stalking vampire perched on the low roof of a tomb right above her. The demon's eyes flashed in the darkness as it gathered itself to strike.

Spike watched the attack with detached interest, at first, tempted to leave the girl to her fate – it was no less than she deserved, after all – but sadly her death would put a pinch in his slowly evolving plans. He needed to keep her around for a little while longer…

Buffy was unknotting and re-tying her stubborn shoelace when the vampire attacked. It hit her in a flying leap, jarring her shoulder and her arm nearly out of its socket. Instinctively she rolled with the force, bracing her hands and feet against the growling creature's body, and using the momentum to push it away. She'd left her stake on the ground beside her when she'd tripped over the shoelace – she needed to find it, and quick.

She was scrabbling around in the grass when the vampire struck again. It hadn't wasted any time, renewing its attack with furious intensity. Buffy gasped as it locked an arm brutally around her throat, dragging her head backward in preparation of its bite.

Already seeing black spots in her vision, Buffy grabbed at the forearm choking off her air, struggling backwards in an attempt to throw the vampire off-balance to keep it from sinking it's fangs into her neck. She felt a trickle of saliva against her skin and shuddered in revulsion, tearing at the vamp's forearm with her fingernails. It hissed in her ear and tightened its already lethal hold on her throat.

In very real danger of blacking out, Buffy gave a desperate kick backwards with heel of her shoe, feeling it connect with the vampire's knee. The kneecap popped on impact, and the vampire howled, falling back.

Though she was dizzy from lack of oxygen, Buffy knew she didn't dare hesitate, not even to catch her breath – hesitation was a bad thing in her line of work, and she'd just learned that lesson the hard way, twice.

Her throat felt crushed, and she gasped for air as she stumbled forward, falling to her knees as she finally saw the stake. She managed to wrap her hand around it as she heard the enraged vamp come up behind her, and quickly rolled onto her back as it flung itself at her. She blindly jabbed the stake up in front of her as it descended, but never knew if it hit it's target as the world abruptly went black.

She woke up a few minutes later, or at least that's what it felt like to her.

Buffy sat up, clutching her pounding head, still holding onto the stake for dear life, her breath wheezing in her bruised throat. It took her a few minutes to realize that she was still alive, and another couple after that to stop marveling over the miracle of it.

Hurting all over, she finally gained her feet. She stood in the silent graveyard, her eyes darting around for the vamp that had attacked her. She found it in a pile of scattered black ash at her feet.

"Huh," she said to no one in particular, wincing as the sound gouged her sore throat. She toed the ashes with her shoe, stirring the little motes of black dust with a sense of pride. It was stupid to feel pride over a kill that had been nothing but dumb luck, she knew, but the knowledge that she'd done it helped boost her confidence.

After a moment of straightening herself out, both mentally and physically, she gripped her trusty stake in her hand and set out through the cemetery again. Yeah, she hurt like hell in every conceivable place, but not badly enough to make her knock off for the night. Killing one vamp wasn't going to make much of a difference; she had to do some more hunting before she'd be anywhere near satisfied.

Then - she sighed, thinking longingly of warm food and hot water – then she could see about making herself comfortable.

It was almost time to make a visit to good old Sunnydale H.S.

From the dubious shield of a statue of a small family huddled together, heads forever bowed in prayer, Spike watched the Slayer all but give herself a pat on the back before she walked off again.

He snorted. So she thought she'd slain herself a vamp, did she? What a laugh…if he hadn't snuck up from behind and put his hand through the blighter's back when he had, she'd be meat for the beasts right about now.

"Haughty little bitch," he muttered to himself, kicking the crumbling stone at the base of the statue as he started to strike out after her again. The Slayer might be strong, but she knew jack-all about fighting. If he wanted to keep her alive for any amount of time in this town, it looked like he was going to have to follow her around every second of the night.

Unless –

Spike's thoughts were interrupted by the appearance of another vamp on the Slayer's tail. Grinning in anticipation of another kill, he crept forward, snagging the other creature from behind. It turned feral eyes on Spike, which widened considerably at the sight of him. It was obviously at a loss as to why another of its kind was attacking it.

Spike shrugged at the unspoken question. "Nothing personal mate, but I can't have the other fish nibbling my tasty bait, now can I?"

The vampire began a violent struggle, but Spike caught sight of more vampires closing in on the Slayer, and didn't have time to linger. With an impatient sigh, he thrust his hand into the vampire's chest cavity, breaking through muscle and bone, and closed his hand around the unbeating heart. There was a great sucking sound as he yanked the shriveled thing out, and then the vampire – and it's heart - disintegrated.

Spike made a face at the mess covering his hand, and decided there had to be an easier way.

An hour later, they were coming after her in packs of two's and three's.

After a particularly satisfying tussle, Spike grabbed the last vamp that would have chased after the Slayer around the neck, and jabbed the makeshift stake he'd acquired through it's back.

The vampire obligingly dusted, and Spike brushed off his hands, his eyes flickering up to watch the ignorant little blonde continue to make her way through the vamp infested cemetery. He sighed in frustration as he saw movement in the shadows of a nearby mausoleum, and caught sight of another demon creeping up on the girl.

Even after being attacked three times and suffering numerous injuries, the stubborn bint still wasn't showing any signs of giving up.

Clearly it was gonna' be a long night...

To Be Continued in Chapter Two…

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