Spike had always been an optimist … or, possibly, a masochist. And so every night he stood outside the house on Revello Drive, staring at the second floor. As if his devotion, his intensity, could make the walls transparent, or call her down to him. Call her to her senses.

But if he could see inside … he'd always enjoyed a little voyeurism. Why not? It was the little pleasures in life that mattered, right? And it wasn't like he didn't wank off to the Slayer's picture about five times a day. But the thought of seeing her there, naked, with him—god, it made his stomach turn. Perfectly good human blood he paid that pissant Willy a premium for out of money he'd damn well earned cheating at cards and picking pockets curdled in his stomach when he thought about it, and if that was going to happen he might as well stick to pig and spend the extra cash on a better brand of Scotch.

Why on earth was she with him? It made no sense. He was a complete berk; a Ken doll with a pull-string probably made better conversation. But she was sticking with him with a grim determination that made Spike's stupid love for her look highly romantic by comparison. What did she get if she managed to put up with him for the rest of her highly abbreviated life? A trophy? Or maybe a consolation prize?

There was no way Captain Cardboard appreciated her the way Spike would.

Spike ground his teeth as he stared up at the house. Was Finn murmuring sweet wicked words to her, or grunting and drifting off, his head full of visions of barbecued ribs and the keen differences between American and Canadian football?

Spike would almost rather it were Angel. Almost. Sure, the bastard was evil and smug and had forehead issues, but at least he hadn't shoved a chip in Spike's fucking head. Bastard.

The front door scritched, drawing Spike from his thoughts. He sank back into the shadows and watched Riley walk through the Summers' front yard. At the sidewalk Finn paused for a moment, then began striding purposefully towards the corner. The way Spike had come, the way that led to the center of town. Not the way that led to Finn's apartment. What's this? wondered Spike. Well, why don't we just find out?

Wasn't like he had anything else to do.

Suck houses made Spike's skin crawl. They were pathetic—like soup kitchens for vampires too inept to hunt. Take your dregs of vampire society, then wring every bit of power and blood memory out of them and you had a suck house. Made Spike want to go out and bite everyone he knew just to remind himself that he hadn't sunk that low yet.

This place appeared to be a step or three below average. Mangy vampires servicing humans who barely had the jack to pay them. As far as he was concerned, if a vampire couldn't find plenty of people to bite on the Hellmouth, he just wasn't trying.

Finn was in with the enemy for more than an hour, and he hadn't killed a one. When he finally left—holding a handerchief to his neck—a brunette appeared in the doorway after him. "Tomorrow night?" she asked.

Riley didn't answer.

Riley did return the second night, and the third. Spike didn't bother to check the fourth night.

Instead, he had arrangements to make.

The first thing Riley saw was moonlight glinting off pale hair, and he froze, unable to remember where he was. Then he could see, clear as if it were daylight, that it was Spike sitting across from him, and he had blood on his lips.

"I was wondering when you'd come around," said Spike lazily, reaching up to push the traces of blood into his mouth. He lingered over the action, allowing himself to suck just a little on the pad of his thumb to get off all the acrid goodness.

Riley tried to leap up, but his limbs were sluggish, unresponsive. The girl—Rachel?— had drunk too much, and by the time he'd realized what was happening he was too weak to push her away. As he'd drifted into unconsciousness he wondered if he'd ever wake up.

God knew how much of his blood Spike had taken. He couldn't believe Spike hadn't finished him off.

He might be weak, but he was damned if he'd just lay there and let that monster smirk over him. Riley struggled to reach the stake that was never far from hand, and Spike laughed.

"Don't bother," he chided, pulling Riley's stake from his duster pocket.

"What do you think you're doing?" Riley croaked, fear trickling down his spine—more acute than when he'd lost consciousness. The girl wasn't going to kill him, probably, and wasn't going to torture him; she didn't know he'd been a part of the Initiative, that he'd hunted her kind and put them down like the animals they were. She didn't know what he'd done to Sandy or Rita or the others. He gave her money and blood, and she gave him what he needed.

But Spike wouldn't hesitate to kill him.

"Just wanted a little of the good stuff. You sure they got all that government stuff out of you? Tasted a little adulterated to me."

"The chip—"

"The chip is gone." Spike snickered, enjoying the expression of horror on Riley's face. "What? You thought that because the Slayer stopped me last time that I'd just roll over? You don't get to be my age by taking no for an answer. I've got connections in the underground. Enough money, you can get anything done."

"Then why didn't you kill me?"

"Now why would I want to do that?" Spike challenged pleasantly. "Then you'd be a martyr tragically cut down in your prime by some demon. Now you're just a john whose worst enemy knows all about him, and took was he was selling free. And my, my … have I got a tale to tell the Slayer."

"I'll kill you," Riley promised, his voice growing stronger.

"You'll try," agreed Spike. "Odds aren't in your favor anymore, are there? But then maybe I won't tell after all. Maybe it'll just be between you and me. Our little secret," he finished softly, drawing the words out with relish.

Riley paled, and Spike smiled. Didn't like the thought of a secret between them, did he? A little too intimate for Riley's taste. "Run along, farm boy. Just keep in mind what I'll be thinking every time I run into you at the Bronze, or what I might accidentally let slip next time I'm in a foul mood and you're strutting around like your shit doesn't stink."

"You can't—"

"Tell yourself that."

The door opened, and the brunette Finn favored stood in the doorway. "You done yet?"

Riley looked stunned. "You were in on this with him?"

The girl hesitated a moment before shrugging. "It was money, same as yours."

Color was starting to return to Riley's face. He had to get out of there—he was suffocating, he was going insane. He struggled to his feet and stood, swaying. Spike didn't move to stop him as he stumbled across the room and out the door.

"Don't worry, mate," Spike taunted, turning his head so his voice trailed Finn down the hall. "It's just between us. Gotta stick together, right?"

He could hear Finn pause for a moment, then hurry away as fast as his legs could carry him.

Not bad for a night's work, Spike reflected, standing.

The girl moved closer to him."That was pig's blood on your mouth—why didn't you drink him?"

Spike shrugged. She nudged against him and he pushed his hand into her blouse. Didn't really have anything in mind, but he was feeling expansive. "I don't drink just anybody. God knows where he's been."

"He tasted fine to me," the girl protested.

Spike scowled and withdrew his hand. "Well, you're young, and your palate is undeveloped. Besides, he—god, why am I even talking to you?" he asked himself in disgust, pulling Riley's stake from his pocket and dusting her in one smooth movement.

Spike brushed the dust from his leathers and pocketed the stake. Too bad he wouldn't be around to see the Spud ask hopelessly after his favorite slag—then again, he thought the odds were pretty good that Finn wouldn't be going back there. In fact, he had a feeling Superdud would be getting the hell out of Dodge pretty damn quick. Risk having Buffy find out about his taste for rough trade? He was going to find himself an excuse to leave and fast. If he thought he could just stake Spike, get him out of the way without anyone being any the wiser, he'd do it, but he'd actually bought that crap about the chip being removed. Unbelievable! What a rube—apparently inbreeding really was a bad thing. Wasn't applicable to Spike, but he'd be sure to let Harris know. Spare him any little nasty surprises down the road.

Spike slid the window open and slipped through it, landing lightly on the pavement. No need to leave through the front—they'd go spare if they found out he'd offed one of their cash cows.

He wouldn't always be faking it; his chip would be out someday, he knew that. And someday, someday soon, he'd have the Slayer—have her in a way Finn never could.

His mood was starting to lift. Nothing like making his enemies piss themselves to make him feel all warm and shiny. And dusting the bint? Icing on the cake.

He was a little light in the wallet after bribing the suck house crew, so maybe he'd swing by the Bronze and relieve some frat boy of his excess cash. Why not? The night was still young, and he was on a roll.

Life was good.

The End