Once upon a time a good fairy ended up where no good fairy should be. Demons had captured poor Sage and he was being tortured in the sewers of the Hellmouth. It was all because of a silly misunderstanding over a poker game. But good fairies like him have a knack for being exactly where they should be, even when they're not. After all, if it weren't for a game of cards with the girls, Cinderella's godmother would've been home in bed and not taking a shortcut through the girl's garden before the ball. So our friend Sage was chained up somewhere dark and smelly getting his wings clipped, but because of fairy luck, it was right in the hero's smelly garden.

Spike was a vampire who used those sewers every day to get around the Hellmouth, just like all the other vamps. Spike was different though; he'd been helping the good guys for a while. He had changed, not because of a curse, but because of a blessing. He could still love with a whole heart and he loved Buffy the vampire slayer. So he changed for her and would change a lot more before it was over.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's get back to Sage. There were three big demons- no, it was five and they were really huge. Spike knocked 'em out with a pipe. I mean, slayed them with a shiny sword right quick…

The fairy was pure California, from his sleepy eyes and deeply tanned skin, to his blond hair and wings that looked very much like they'd been tie-dyed. His baggy shorts even had a surf shop logo on them. "Hi, I'm Sage, I owe you my wings, dude, not to mention my life. Not many ways to snuff out a fairy but that's one. Three wishes are yours; it is the least I can do," Sage said in a voice that matched his looks as Spike unchained him.

Spike said, "Bugger off, I was next on their list; wasn't doing you any favors."

"Come on, I gotta pay my debts or my godmother will never let me hear the end of it." Sage did some sort of elaborate magic origami and his wings folded over him to form a T-shirt. There were bloody rips here and there but they would only serve to make him blend in better on the Hellmouth.

"Yeah, right, you fulfill your obligations like a good fairy. This was all a big misunderstanding," Spike said incredulously.

Sage straightened up and it dismayed our hero just a little that the fairy could look him right in the eye. "I am a good fairy, or I try anyways; kitten poker's just a game. This is different- this is a life-debt," he said.

"Well, thanks, but you can just flutter off. Seen what happens to people that make wishes and happily ever after, it's not. Besides, there's nothing I want that can be got by you sticking your magic wand in my business," Spike grumbled and stalked off.

"Whoa, harsh," Sage said, limping after the vampire "Look, Spike, I'm no vengeance demon or evil imp. Don't judge me because of one little vice. And just so you know, I'm not the kind of guy who sticks his wand in another guy's business."

"How do you know my name?" Spike demanded. Some of Sage's kind could read minds and he didn't like anyone in his head.

"Aw, come on- like everyone knows you. I'm a little turned around down here and I'm bleeding pretty bad. Do you think you could take me to your place to get patched up?"

"The Magic Box is closer. I'll take you there; maybe the Watcher would like to start a butterfly collection."

"Clem was right about you. You are a grumpy vamp, but deep down you're a good guy."

Spike said, "It's a bad habit I've picked up lately. Must be the company I've been keeping."

"You mean hanging with the Slayer and her friends? Being a 'good guy' does tend to rub off. You know, I can lend a wing with the super-babe. It'll be a change of pace from the nursery, but I've worked with adults before." Spike could see why the guy owed kittens; he had no poker face at all. Sage's face literally glowed with excitement over the prospect of helping him with the Slayer, the sparkly Disney kind of glow.

"I meant, the company I've been keeping is making me a grumpy vamp. As in you getting on my last nerve," Spike growled and then immediately regretted it. Sage looked so crushed; he could've been bottled by McCormick and put in a spice rack. "You seem like a nice enough bloke and all, but I just don't see how you can help me. I don't need an invite to the ball and I wouldn't want Buffy to love me if it were some spell. All I really want is to know is what can be done to make her happy again, short of sending her back to heaven."

"The Slayer's friends really brought her back, huh? I wasn't sure if it was just a rumor. Resurrections like that can be tough. It can cause depression, failure to thrive, stuff like that," Sage said. He looked ageless and serious in spite of the ravaged tie-dye he was wearing. Spike was about to say he'd changed his mind about taking those wishes when Sage started making the climb to the basement of the Magic Box.

"Hey, you've known all along where we were!"

"Busted," Sage admitted with a saucy grin. When they were in the basement he became serious again. "Spike, I might know a way to help Buffy. Help you smooth the path for her a little. In the end a person's happiness is up to them, but we can help. What I need to know is how badly do you need to be the one that rides to her rescue?"

Without a second of hesitation Spike said, "I don't need to be her hero. For all I care, her stupid carpenter friend can get all the credit." Spike had been so intent on talking to Sage that he hadn't noticed that Xander had been in the storage room just behind them. When Spike finally saw him, both he and Xander had a deer in the headlights look for a moment. "I know what it sounds like, but I'm not plotting anything bad for Buffy!" Spike said with less cool than he would've liked.

Xander looked undecided for a moment, then he looked like he was caught in a dust mote- filled sunbeam for less than a blink of an eye. "I know better than to think you want to hurt Buffy, Spike. Just be careful, okay," he said, eying Sage suspiciously and sounding dazed.

"Hey, dude, you go on up," Sage said to Xander with a reassuring smile. "We'll be right behind you."

When Xander was gone Spike whispered furiously to Sage, "You fairy-dusted him!"

"Only a little, it's all part of smoothing the way for your girl. He was telling the truth, as he knows it. I just made it easier for him to admit. The guy actually likes you, you know."

"He's not going to start following me around like a lost lamb, is he?" Spike asked in alarm.

"No way, I was careful. Well, I think I was… Kind of bleeding here," Sage reminded him.

"Sorry, it slipped my mind; your blood looks human enough, but it doesn't make my mouth water, so I wasn't paying much attention. Come on then, there's a first-aid kit in the training room."

Once Sage was patched up, he realized just how desperate things were for the Slayer. Every one of her friends gave off dark, unhappy vibes. The redhead had been getting her power from the dark side and needed some major detoxifying before the poison killed her. Sage kept bad company for one of his kind, and he still didn't want to sit too close to her. Tara seemed to feel the same way; he could tell she was very angry with the other girl.

Giles paced back and forth anxiously, and after looking at his watch for the third time, he asked, "What is taking Buffy so long?"

"She had a lot of demon goo to wash off. She's probably taken a bath after her shower. What's all this about anyway, Giles?" Dawn asked.

"I'd prefer not to talk about it until Buffy is here and our guest has left."

Sage said, "Actually I'm glad the Slayer's not here right now."

"And why is that?" Giles asked suspiciously.

"Because Spike here saved my life so I owe the guy a wish or three. It was awesome luck for both of us 'cause I'm a specialist in just what he wants help with."

"What, romance? Are you going to make Buffy see that Spike is her one true love?" Anya asked.

"That's not what Spike asked for. I haven't been in the glass slipper side of the biz for centuries anyway. I'm a neonatal fairy, I started working here after Cinnamon left; there was a nasty incident there on Halloween a few years back. The powers that be thought I would be better suited for the area."

"You mean you were demoted," Dawn said. "But what would Spike need a baby specialist for?"

Sage shrugged. "I prefer relocated; demoted is so negative. Your sister was somewhere safe and pleasant. Then she was forced to fight her way into a cold, harsh world; basically she's been reborn. Spike wants what you all want. To know what can be done to help her be happy again. So I'm going to sprinkle a little sparkle, and from then on, when it comes to Buffy, Spike knows best."

Tara said, "That could get annoying for Buffy. She might have just been reborn but she'll have to get over the trauma and start making her own decisions eventually. Right now she's not taking care of herself so well. But even if he loves her, Spike shouldn't have the right to arrange her life indefinitely."

"How can we be sure that Spike won't deceive us to achieve his own ends?" Giles asked.

"Why don't we vote on who gets to know how to make Buffy happy? Not that I'd want the job," Willow said with a guilty look.

"It's a gift to me, not a bloody class project! None of you were there in the sewer saving the fairy!" Spike shouted.

"Everybody chill. Here's the deal, Spike knows best for Buffy and cannot mislead anyone in this room about it. My gift will expire with Buffy's next smooch. May this spell lead you to your heart's desire." Sage blew something sparkly at Spike and the vampire sneezed.

"Well, that was disappointing," Anya said.

"I don't feel any different," Spike said.

"Giving someone wisdom isn't as showy as turning a pumpkin into a limo. But it should get this job done. See you, guys, I've got babies to comfort and entertain."

"Hey, I just thought of something," Xander said. "You didn't say we have to listen to Spike, just that he knows best. I mean, I want to help Buffy out, but I've got a full-time job, and Anya wants me to help with the wedding."

Sage stopped on the way to the door and when he turned back to face everyone he dropped his usually mellow tone and gave them all a hard look. "Oh, sure, everybody can just ignore what Spike says. You're only her friends and family." He gave Willow a hard stare. "You're only the reason she's here at all, and Giles is only her Watcher. It's not like any of you are obligated to help Buffy."

It's a little known fact that Good Fairies are better at laying on the guilt than nuns and Jewish mothers. After Sage slammed the door, Sage could hear Anya say that she would just consider all this as practice for when she and Xander produced colicky infants. As if he would go through with the wedding. Strange that not even Anya had caught on that this wish might be hardest on the one who made it. Sage had, for practical purposes, given the vampire a conscience- at least where the Slayer was concerned. Any time that what Buffy needed and what Spike wanted were in conflict Spike would have to make a decision. It was a good thing that the last thing she needed was for another guy to leave her.

It wasn't until Buffy arrived at the Magic Box to ask Giles why he wanted to see her that Sage's gift to Spike really kicked in. Giles sputtered and fumbled with his glasses and looked at Spike. That was when Spike knew that Giles had planned to leave. He probably had a good excuse and an airline ticket all ready in the pocket he kept patting. The last thing Buffy needed was for Giles to take off. Of course, if Giles were gone Buffy would come to depend on him more. Giles hadn't come right out and asked him had he? Spike thought very briefly of just keeping his mouth shut. Then he looked at Buffy and saw how burdened she looked and it came to him what she needed most from Giles right now.

"Why don't you come right out and offer to co-sign for that loan and hire the lawyer to get the overdue child support from old Hank? I doubt the Slayer will think you're trying to take over her life," Spike said.

Giles thanked Spike for spoiling his surprise. The sarcasm wasn't as false as it could've been. It was clear to everyone in the loop that taking his cues from Spike on what was best for Buffy wasn't Giles' idea of fun.

Life was getting a little more bearable these days for Buffy. She had a few job applications out around town, and thanks to Giles the money problem wasn't apocalyptically bad. Xander had been by a few times to do repair work on the house or stuff around the yard. The little Craftsman bungalow had never looked so spiffy.

Tara had moved out, but kept bringing food by or inviting Buffy and Dawn to lunch. Spike was even helping Dawn with her homework. Anya had asked Buffy what she needed, then seemed disappointed when Buffy couldn't think of anything. Anya got so upset over what she saw as a rejection that she yelled at Spike for loitering around the charms.

That was all surface stuff, though. Dying hadn't made her stupid. They were treating her like she was sick, fluffing her metaphorical pillow. At least things were still trying to kill her on patrol.

"Maybe you should think of law enforcement as a career. You took care of that mugger well enough."

Spike was being serious but Buffy just rolled her eyes at him. Even with the insight Sage had gifted him with he couldn't figure out what had the Slayer's panties in a twist tonight.

"Is the whole world conspiring to make my life easier, Spike? I mean with the notable exception of you! You're the only one I know not making chicken soup for the Slayer's soul."

"You've got to be bloody kidding. All I do is help you, Buffy!" Spike wanted to say it was all he existed for. It was her best friend Willow who never lifted a finger for her, but he backed away as Buffy moved in closer. He'd gotten into the habit of backing away. All the Slayer ever seemed to need from him personally was help on patrol and space. Lots of space, even when she pushed like this; it was driving him insane.

"You didn't help with that guy."

"That guy was human. In case you've forgotten, I can't hurt humans. Would hitting my head against the wall make you happy, Buffy?"

"Stop calling me that!"

Now Spike was truly puzzled. "You don't like your name all of a sudden?"

"You used to… and then we kissed, twice! We were getting to be close. You were there for me… You used to call me all those stupid British names and now you don't… Forget it," Buffy said and took off.

Spike knew she needed more time. So he decided that it had been too long between 'real' headaches and banged his head against the wall just once.

On the way home Buffy formed a theory. The kisses had broken a spell, something had made Spike love her, and now it was over. He liked her okay, but didn't love her anymore.

No, he was really in love.

Now she had to admit it, at least to herself. She'd seen him under a love spell and no spell would cause him to withstand Glory's torture. Maybe it was her; maybe after Spike had kissed her he had realized she wasn't somebody worth loving anymore.

Her sight got blurry as she slowed down in her yard. After all the overwhelming grief she'd felt over losing her mother, and then losing heaven, it was losing Spike's devotion that made her cry. The last time she had cried like this Spike was there to comfort her. Just her luck; she was finally feeling something, and it was unrequited love. She sat on the porch and tried to get herself together.

Just as Buffy was about to go in and ask for Willow's help a blonde girl came out. Buffy glanced up. "Hi, Tar… er, Amy?"

Willow came out after Amy. "Yes, I figured out how to de-rat her; isn't it great?"

"That's really good, Will."

"You don't need anything from me do you, Buffy?"

"Actually..." Buffy said.

"Good, then I'll see you later. Amy wants to see her dad, then we were thinking of maybe hitting the Bronze," Willow said quickly, and both girls were gone before Buffy could reply.

Buffy had really wanted Willow's advice. So much for the theory that her friends were conspiring to help her. She couldn't talk to Giles or Xander about being in love with Spike. They'd been weirdly nice to him lately, but Buffy was certain they would wig. Well, she was sure Giles would. A couple times lately, it almost seemed like Xander had really become Spike's friend. That left Dawn and Anya, and Dawn liked Spike too much to be objective, and there was no way to pry Anya away from Xander. She needed some new friends and she needed food.

She ate an apple while she heated up some ham and cheese casserole that Tara had brought by, then followed the meal up with a pint of ice cream. Then she said out loud to the empty house, "See, world; Buffy Summers can take care of herself. I'll figure out the Spike thing in the morning."

Scarlett much? she thought to herself as the phone rang.

"Slayer, I need to see you."

"Spike? Spike! I mean Spike." It took three tries to say his name without a squeak. "Why are you calling me?"

"This has to end. I need to see you. Even if it's not what you need." Spike sounded desperate.

Buffy said, "Okay, I'm not sure what this is all about, but if you need me I'm there."

"It can't be all about you forever. I mean it is, but I have to -- Bugger, just forget it."

"Spike, I said I would meet you. Now you have to tell me where and when."

"My crypt in an hour?"

Oh, my God, what am I doing, she thought. Spike echoed her okay, his voice as uncertain as hers and it made Buffy smile.

Spike scattered rose petals on the bed and lit the first candle, then he changed his mind and blew it out. It was too staged, it presumed too much. He eyed the cobwebs in the corner. Maybe he should clean up, but with his limited resources, all he'd accomplish would be to move the dirt around and make himself a mess. Asking her to meet him in an hour was stupid. If he waited an hour, he'd lose his nerve or his mind. When she kissed him it could ruin things. She was a bit better, but what if it was too soon? He grabbed his coat and left the crypt. He'd follow his heart to the Slayer as always.

Buffy tore apart her closet. What had made her say she'd meet Spike in an hour; she had nothing to wear and her hair was a wreck. There was no way she could be ready in an hour. It had been so long since Riley, she was really getting nervous. What would it be like to make love to Spike? Riley had seemed to feel deep down that she was somebody small and breakable and it made her feel treasured and real. But it was him that was actually breakable. Most of the time it had been very good with Riley but it had always had a carefulness to it, like two hedgehogs kissing. Spike wouldn't be careful that way, would he? Maybe it would be better to forget sexy, and go for patrol wear. He'd never said it was a date. She finally decided it was silly to primp, and even sillier to wait any longer, and headed out the door.

She ran into him on Oak St. outside of an abandoned Victorian. "Spike?"

"Not going to say my name three times, pet?"

"I thought we were going to meet at your crypt?"

"Well, you know me, love, I could never follow through with a plan."

Just because he was standing there smirking, and not expecting it, and because he was Spike, Buffy kissed him.

The only one to notice the Disney-ish sparkly glow was the Fairy responsible for it. He still owed Spike two wishes. Helping Buffy was easy on his part so sending those nerds on a cruise to Alaska was a freebie. Just so you know, the freak polar bear accident was in no way his fault. So Sage thought about it for two beats of his wings, a very long time for a fairy, and sprinkled more fairy dust before he fluttered off.

It was still the Hellmouth and it would never be too boring. For example, the next morning was a Tuesday so they had to rescue Dawn from Willow and a warlock named Rack. By then Spike would know he was able to walk in the sun as well as night. It would take until spring for him to figure out the chip was gone. Not a perfectly happy ending, but it was boring enough that the First Evil rolled over in the Hellmouth and went back to sleep for another decade or so.

The End