The vampire stood cockily at the door, his wide grin echoed on the faces of his posse as they examined their soon-to-be snacks.
"So this," the vampire purred, his long dreadlocks flowing with his graceful movement, "is the infamous Slayer. I must admit… I was expecting someone a bit taller…"
Buffy growled as she tied back her hair, her nose wrinkling with annoyance.
"Oh, shaddap," she muttered, waving a hand dismissively. "Puh-leese. Why do they always insist on making the short jokes? I mean, hello! If you are going to insult me, at least be original about it."
"Man," one of the vampires, a squirmy looking fellow with a prominent underbite, "I've heard about this chick, man. She's like famous or something."
The other vampire nodded dumbly, his mouth literally dripping as saliva as his gaze jumped from human to human. "Dibbs on the virgin."
"We can't all be as pure as Buffy," Dawn snorted as she leaned against the wall, looking for all intents and purposes completely bored with the situation, though she did quirk a small smile as the protests from her family and friend rang out in response.
"Just joking, Mom."
"You very well better be joking" the older woman said, her voice firm and completely unamused.
The tall vampire shook his head suddenly, almost as if he were trying to exorcise the demons of confusion from his mind. "Um, hello?"
"Mom, tell her not to do that!" Buffy complained uncomfortably as she pulled broke off a nearby leg from a chair and hefted it in her hand.
The trio of vampires looked at one another, confusion evident in their dead stares. Their confusion, though, mutated into anger as the vampire with the underbite exploded in a storm of dust.
"Dawn, close your eyes," Joyce said hurriedly as she gave Buffy "The Look" as the makeshift stake in Buffy's hand instantly pulled back from the drifting ashes.
"Slayer…" Spike growled in warning as he inclined his head to the door, his face startlingly pale.
The Chosen One nodded as she turned her attention back to the remaining two vampires, only to wince as their hard, cold bodies slammed into her small one, laying her flat upon the floor.
Her eyes widened in pain as the dreadlocked vampire's strong fists repeatedly beat into her stomach, knocking her very breath from her body. Her mind forcing her to continue the fight even as her lungs struggled for breath, Buffy thrust the piece of wood straight up blindly until she felt it meet resistance.
"No you don't, baby," the dreadlocked vampire purred, his tone shining with a haughty sort of pride as his hands clenched around the piece of wood aiming for his heart.
"Pete, you dumbass" the vampire barked out as he continued wrestling with girl for control of the slivered piece. "Hold her down."
Pete nodded dumbly, yellowed saliva dripping from his mouth onto her bared stomach as he straddled the Slayer. Instinctively, she tried to roll over but her tiny body seemed unable to shake either vampire off.
Ignoring the high pitched squeals of her family's panicked voices, she pulled back her strength as she allowed the vampires to hit her repeatedly about her torso and legs. After a moment, crossing mental fingers that she had lulled the two goons into false confidence, she jerked the chair leg sharply up.
Buffy winced as the Dread-i-locks bashed her hands away from his chest, her knuckles seeming to scream with the abuse. At least, she thought as she impaled a body with the dull wood, I got the bastard.
"Spike!" she heard Dawn's voice cry out in horror as she felt something thud to the ground right next to her.
Oh, god, Buffy her eyes immediately focusing on the cold blood which seemed to flow freely over her fingers, Spike. I stabbed Spke. Her head moved wildly from side to side as she tried to look at the fallen vampire, but try as she could, the Slayer couldn't see him past the legs and arms of her attackers.
Buffy would never know where she found the strength, but her weary hands fought their way to the dreadlocked vampire's neck, squeezing and pushing until she gained enough leverage to fling his tall body off of hers.
Her head turned abruptly towards the blond vampire, only to exhale in relief as she saw Dawn at his side, the teen girl attempting to gently pull the piece of wood from the powder white stomach.
Instinctively, she nodded her head slightly at Dawn as she sat up, dislodging the salivating vampire until he skidded roughly to the floor. With hardly a thought in her head, she reached over and pulled the chair leg out from Spike's stomach, forcing herself to ignore his cry of pain even as she thrust the bloody wood directly into Pete's heart.
She peered through the storm of dust, her nose wrinkling as she looked for the last vampire.
"Dread-i-locks?" Buffy asked quickly, her voice intense and hard as she glanced at her mother.
Joyce smiled faintly, her cheeks covered in a vivid blush as she extended her shaking hand towards her daughter.
"Mom?" Buffy asked quietly, her hazel eyes wide as they focused on the sharpened stake in her mother's hand.
"Never thought I'd use that thing," Joyce mumbled, her face paling as she looked down at the piles of ashes on the floor. "But…"
Buffy winced as she slapped a bloody hand against her forehead. "Doh. I told you to keep one here, didn't I? Um. Sorry about the chair…"
"Under the circumstances, I don't think I'll ground y…"
"Buffy! Spike…" Dawn cried out, the tears obvious in her voice.
Her body convulsed with a sudden shudder as the Slayer turned her gaze towards her sister and the vampire the girl held in her arms.
"He looks bad, Buffy," Joyce whispered as she knelt down next to the unconscious vampire.
"Could be worse. He could be his annoying, conscious self," Buffy said, her tone intentionally cruel and callous as she tried to force away the memory of the sick, nauseating way it felt when the makeshift stake had impaled his body. She shook her head roughly as she regarded his still body, as emotion after emotion rampaged through her system.
Buffy blinked back the tears as her sister's palm slapped her face hard.
"He was TRYING to help you, moron. He's had the shit beaten out of him repeatedly tonight but he was still trying to come to your rescue," Dawn whispered, her burning anger nearly tangible in the carefully controlled tone. "How can you be so damn mean? He was trying to help you and you staked him…"
Buffy's white fingers probed her reddened cheek gingerly as she stared in shock at the girl whose brown eyes glared accusingly at her.
"Dawn," Joyce cut in abruptly, her gaze noticeably averted from her eldest daughter, "calm down. Just calm down. We will take care of Spike, okay? Right, Buffy?"
She tried to banish the tears from her eyes as she heard the disappointment in her mother's voice … the disappointment in her. I didn't mean to hurt him, dammit! a part of her wanted to scream out. It kills me to even look at him like this. I didn't mean… Focus, Buff, she commanded herself as she silently nodded in agreement to her mother. The Slayer inhaled deeply as she scooted over to the fallen vampire's side.
With surprising gentleness, she laid a hand upon his shoulder and rubbed it softly in slow, small circles.
"Spike? Spike?" Buffy called enticingly, her nose already starting to feel swollen from unshed tears as she tried desperately to retain control over her emotions.
"Wha' you bloody wan', Slayer?" the vampire mumbled, his voice fuzzy and unclear as he slowly fought his way back to consciousness.
"Are you okay?" Buffy asked, lowering her head in the hopes that her long hair would hide the concern she knew would be too visible in her eyes.
"Yeah," Spike sighed as he tried to sit up. His nose wrinkled in either pain or amusement as the Slayer's strong hand pushed him back down. "Cakewalk, Slayer. Jus' gimme a minute to catch my breath."
"We'll be waiting a while, then, considering you don't breathe and all," Buffy smiled softly as she looked the vampire directly in his vivid eyes.
He chuckled weakly as he looked at her, his eyes speaking a million words even as their lips said none. Pure electricity, Buffy thought in amazement as a foreign shyness suddenly washed over her entire body until she found herself looking away.
"He needs blood?" Joyce asked, her soft voice breaking into Buffy's turbulent thoughts with the force of a grenade.
"'Twould be nice," Spike admitted as he closed his eyes. "No worries, though. Looks worse than what it is…"
"Bullshit," Dawn growled suddenly, her face streaked with lines of his blood.
"Dawn…" Joyce sighed, her thoughts obviously not on curse words or punishments as she looked worriedly at the bloodied vampire.
"I think I'd have to agree with Dawn here," Buffy mumbled slowly as she looked towards her sister with a sad, apologetic look. She just sighed as Dawn looked away and ran her hand through the vampire's short, bleached hair. "The faster we get him some blood to help him heal a bit, the happier I will be."