TITLE: Buffy the High School Student

PART: Prologue & One

AUTHOR: Arashi

RATED: PG

SUMMARY: AU. Everyone's human.

DISCLAIMER: Joss Whedon owns all except this fic. I'm only borrowing
the characters and settings and etc.

DEDICATION: To Kayla and Mae, my betas; Sun-chan, who's always been
supportive of me; MysLii, 'cause...well, she's just cool :P. And to
Jason, who would've made a better Dawn than Michelle Trachtenburg.

FEEDBACK: Please?

NOTES: Okay, for those who like Angel and Xander, Jason brought up
a good point: I AM a little hard on Angel and Xander. But that's
the way I designed them in this. So...well, if you flame me for it,
I'll just reply that this IS an alternate-universe story.

~* Buffy the High School Student *~

PROLOGUE
A slim, compact 19-year-old male with nearly white, bleached blond hair
waering a duster, crept down an alley with unnatural silence. He
obviously had had a lot of practice doing...whatever he was doing. He
kicked a small rock by accident, sending it flying into the chainlink-
and-picket fence. It rattled the metal against what was left of the
wood noisily, bounced off, and landed onn the lid of a tin trash can
with a dull plunk. The man ducked behind a crate and flattened himself
against the wall, waiting for whoever was currently in the kitchen of
the Chinese restaurant to his left or whoever was taking a break in
the back of the bookstore to his right to come investigate the noise.
Fortunately, neither of them magically appeared in a rectangle of
light.

The boy released the breath he'd been holding silently and
checked his pocket to see if his prize was still there. The filched
wallet had yet to be inspected, but was still in his pocket, much to
his relief. Now wasn't the time to rifle through its contents and
risk losing it. Besides, he had HER to dodge on his way into the
house he lived in, along with her mother.

He slid up to the chain fence, shimmied up the fence using
empty, upturned crates and trash cans, and leapt over to the other
side He rolled as he hit the ground, ignoring the sharp pain that
lanced through his entire body. He reached the sidewalk parallel to
to second main drag of Sunnydale, California and sighed with relief.
It was always a rush to do this. Now came the tricky part. He had
to walk as if it were normal of him to take a stroll on the sidewalk
at 11:30 p.m., and not as if he were carrying the Olympic torch.
He also had to avoid policemen and make it seem like he wasn't. He
began to whistle the tune of "I Wanna Be Sedated", then began to sing
the lyrics softly to himself.

Someone jostled past him, but he paid no mind to them. At
least, not until they said, "William?"

William stopped and rolled his eyes. He recognized the voice
as that of the boyfriend of HER. "Cheerio, Liam," William said
sarcastically. He didn't like Liam, didn't approve of HER dating
him either. Couldn't figure out why though. "Out for a midnight
stroll?"

"Yes, actually," Liam replied. "And yourself?"

"The same," William fished a lighter and a cigarette out of
his pocket and sparked it up.

"That's--you know shouldn't be doing that, Will," Liam advised.

"And you should mind your own bloody damn business," William
snarled, turing on the older man. "Be careful who you call 'Will'
as well, Peaches." He smirked. "The name's Spike. Spike Walthrop."

END PROLOGUE

PART ONE

Buffy Summers sat unattentively in her history class at Sunnydale
High. She was a senior this year, and knew she shouldn't blow off
classes (ESPECIALLY this year), but she couldn't help it. She was
so utterly bored.

A piece of notebook paper traveled from one end of the room
to the other, and finally back to Buffy. It was from Willow
Rosenburg, one of her best friends.

'Buffy:
Meet me at the library after class? Pass this to
Xander too... okay?
~Will'

Buffy quickly rewrote the note and sent the note on its way
to Xander Harris, who took the note, read it, and nodded to Willow
and Buffy discreetly. Buffy yawned and began to doodle on what was
supposed to be notes on whatever the teacher was droning on about--
she didn't even know what today's topic was--and think about her
current boyfriend: Liam, or Angel, McDowe. Then her thought train
pulled into Spike Station.

Spike...William Walthrop. That boy was nothing but trouble.
He showed up to three out of eight classes, and was rarely around
campus for lunch. And she had the severe misfortune of having to
share a home with him. Her mother, Joyce, was rather fond of him,
so had immediately taken him under wing. Spike was from Britain,
Liam had brought him here to escape being arrested. From Buffy's
understanding, the only reason Spike attended school (AN: imagine
that, SPIKE attending high school...) was that Angel had threatened
to turn him into the police if he didn't. Angel had sound proof of
Spike's being guilty.

Buffy had to admit--he WAS hot, though the bad boy image he
projected...she wondered if it was a mask, then quickly dismissed
the thought. 'He's 100% bad boy...well, 99.99%. There's a little
bit of angel in that man...'

The bell rang, interrupting Buffy's thoughts. She glanced
down at her notebook, blushed, and closed it. She had been absently
doodling Spike's name. Not good. She shoved everything into her bag
and stood up, nearly being knocked over by someone else. Sweet yet
spicy cologne and cigarette smoke wafted over her, numbing her senses
for a moment. Another scent invaded her mind, joining the other two:
peppermint.

"Careful there, princess," strong hands held her steady. The
voice...British accent...Spike!

Buffy yanked free of Spike and almost fell over once more, only
to be caught and laughed at by him. "Leave me alone, WILLIAM."

Spike rolled his eyes and let her go, his ever-present smug
grin on his face. "As Her Royal Highness commands," he mock-bowed
and cleared the way for her.

"You're such a jerk," Buffy told him, her cheeks red from
falling twice and doodling his name in her notebook.

Spike chuckled, following her down the aisle and in front of
the class. "And your reaction makes it all worth-while, luv."

"Don't call me that," Buffy sighed, discreetly pulling out
the page in her notebook without looking and crumpling it up. She
dropped it in the trash can on their way out. "Or I'll tell Angel
that you've been skipping."

"Ooooo," Spike mocked her. "Gonna go tell your big ball of
fluff that I've been skipping?"

"Yes," Buffy said sternly. "If you keep calling me 'luv' and
'princess' and stuff."

"You don't have the stones to turn me into your beau," Spike
challenged her.

"Oh yeah? I do TOO have the...stones...to turn you into
Angel!" Buffy protested. "Your ass will be in jail faster than you
can blink."

"I highly doubt it," Spike rolled his eyes once more, still
walking with her.

Buffy noticed, and stopped. Spike walked a few more steps,
noticed she wasn't walking with him anymore, and stopped as well. He
turned to face her with a questioning look, to which she answered,
"Don't you have somewhere else to be? You know, walls to graffiti,
windows to smash, a home to vandilize?"

"I'm offended," Spike scoffed.

"And you should be," Buffy answered.

Spike sighed. "And you have your court to answer too." He
looked over Buffy's shoulder. "Here comes Prince Charming as we
speak."

Buffy sighed and shook her head as Xander approached.

"He giving you a hard time again, Buff?" Xander asked, keeping
his eyes on Spike.

Spike arched an eyebrow at him, "I'm not a bloody bug you know.
What, do I have Buffy's lipstick on me?"

"You've been in my lipstick?" Buffy asked innocently.

"I wouldn't doubt it," Xander rolled his eyes. "Come on, we
have to go meet Will, remember?"

Buffy nodded, "I remembered. I got sidetracked though. Spike
can't seem to take a hint."

"Let me spell it out, Billy Idol," Xander said. "Buffy. Needs.
To. Go. Meet. Her. Friends. Now. Got it?"

"What was that? Buffy needs to go meet her friends?" Spike
replied sarcastically.

"Oh that's so funny I forgot to laugh," Buffy muttered under
her breath. "C'mon Xander."

They turned and started towards the library.

"Have fun, kiddies!" Spike called after them.

***
Liam, a.k.a. Angel, McDowe sat in Starbucks, waiting for his
cappuccino. His cell phone jingled on the table and threatened to
fall off, but Liam picked it up and said, "Hello."

:Angelus,: said an ominous, male voice on the other end.

"Yes," he replied. "This is he."

:The cat is in the bag,: the voice answered. :We expect to see
you at the meeting place.:

"I'll be there, I promise," Liam told the man on the other side.

:Make sure you are.: The line went dead. Liam sighed and closed
his cell phone, shoving it in his pocket. A girl with brown hair, about
23, called "Number 33!" from the front counter. Liam sighed, ran a hand
through his hair, and rose.

He grabbed his cappuccino from the girl, who's pale skin contrasted
violently with her dark, nearly black, hair. He left a ten dollar bill
on the counter and left, without a word.

Liam sipped his cappuccino out of the Styrofoam cup and vowed
never to drink coffee from that Starbucks again. Of course, he always
mentally promised himself that, but he was a returning customer to that
particular coffee house. The reason for that being that there were no
other coffee houses in Sunnydale, not even a locally run cafe. At least,
not within his range.

Liam unlocked his car and sat in the driver's seat, momentarily
forgetting what was happening. It seemed that this was a recurring event,
being disoriented. Distantly, he wondered if this was the effect of
having an extremely stressful life. He plunged the key into the
ignition and turned, the engine hummed to life. Foot on the pedal...
'No, not the brake, the gas pedal, you ass'...turn the steering wheel...
drive slowly out of the parking lot...

This was the only way he knew how to deal with this
disorientation. Maybe it was something in the Starbucks...but that
would be impossible. He scratched his head, checked his speedometer,
and watched the road once more.

The "cat was in the bag". That was the important thing. That
was what he had to focus on, that and driving. The meeting place was...
where was the meeting place again? Oh yes, the basement of the local
teen club, The Bronze. No one would think to check down there, unless
they went down there for a little extra fun. They would just keep an
incognito couple making out in front of the door. That was the end of
that problem.

Of course, his accomplice would arrive at 9 o'clock, and Liam
would arrive at 9:44 p.m. That would keep him antsy for the day, and
that would also prevent him from seeing Buffy, at least until the day
after.

Liam's cell phone rang once more. "Damn," he swore, luckily
pulling up to a stop sign and taking the oppurtunity to dig his cell
phone out of his pocket. The time on his car's clock read 11:52 a.m.
Chances were, it was Buffy calling him on her lunch break. "Damn,"
he cursed again, flipping open the cell phone and pulling the antenna
up. "Yo, this is Liam."

:Angel,: Buffy said happily.

'She's so predictable,' Liam thought. "Hello, Buffy."

:Hi. You busy?: she asked.

"Actually, yes," Liam lied. He wasn't busy, he just didn't want
to see her right now.

:Oh,: she sounded disappointed. :I was hoping we could have
lunch together...:

"I'm sorry," Liam lied once more. He wasn't sorry. He wasn't
sorry at all. In fact, he was glad he didn't have to see his whiny
brat of a girlfriend. He didn't love her, he didn't hardly even like
her. "Maybe tomorrow."

:I'd like that,: Buffy answered.

"Can't wait," Liam continued to spew lies. The only thing he
couldn't wait for right now was to meet his accomplice at The Bronze.

:Well...my friends and I are going to The Bronze tonight--:

"Didn't you hear?" Liam interrupted her.

:What? Hear what?: Buffy asked.

"The Bronze is closed tonight," Liam told her. He drove around
the perimeter of most of one of Sunnydale's graveyards, pulling onto
a secluded street.

:What?: Buffy was puzzled.

"The Bronze. It's closed tonight. They're spraying for bugs or
something," Liam stopped his car and turned it off, quietly getting
out and walking towards the park. He sat at one of the benches.

:Oh. I didn't hear that. I'll tell the others. Thanks, Angel,
we would've wasted our evening,: Buffy sighed.

"No problem. Anything for you," Liam was getting tired of
spewing this complete and utter bull at Buffy. It was fun to see what
he could come up with sometimes though.

:Well I better get going. Love you,: Buffy hung up the phone.

"Why is everybody doing that to me?" Liam wondered as he closed
his cell phone and headed back to his car.

***
Spike wandered behind the high school building and lit up a cigarette.
Ever since his encounter with his house-mate this morning, Spike's mind
had been wandering a mile a minute. It was mostly focussed on Angel,
or as he often referred to him as: Liam or Peaches. Spike had been into
petty thievery in Great Britain, and was into purse-snatching and the
occasional illegal drinking now, but he had a feeling Angel was into
more than just that. He had a feeling Angel was a drug lord, or...or...
bank robbery. Maybe he was a hitman? All Spike knew was that Angel was
a danger to Buffy, a danger to Joyce, a danger to himself, and a danger
to all of Buffy's friends. But no matter how he tried to warn Buffy,
or any of them, they all just said he was being paranoid.

"Well let's see how bloody paranoid I am when one of us turns
up dead," he muttered, taking one last drag off of his cigarette,
dropping it to the ground, and stomping it out.

For some strange reason, Spike felt closely akin to Joyce
Summers, and as for Buffy...Spike didn't know what he felt for Buffy,
but since mother and daughter lived in a house without a father-
figure, he felt he had to protect the women. So that may have been
why he didn't approve of Buffy dating Angel McDowe. Spike snorted and
shook his head. He had been sitting against the brick wall of the
school, but now he rose and dusted off his pants. He was turning
soft, that's what was happening. Instead of worry if the police were
on his tail, he was worrying about his best friend's daughter's choice
in men. He chuckled and shook his head again.

Spike walked parallel to the back of the building and was about
to turn the corner when he was nearly bowled over by one of Buffy's
friend--a redhead with short hair who went by the name of Willow, and
was the only one who was nice to him. She was the one who had been
passing the note in history, and dimly Spike wondered if she knew that
he had saw the note. Not that it mattered. "Why, hello, Red.
Delightful to run into you here, fancy that."

Willow practically turned the color of her hair. "Um...um..."

Spike took out another cigarette and offered it to her. She
shook her head. "Suit yourself," he shrugged, and lit it up.
"What're you doin', lurkin' about out here before school's out? This
isn't your free period, and I though you goody-two-shoes-types never
skipped. No offense."

"N-none taken," Willow stammered. She adjusted her backpack on
her shoulder. "I-I should b-be asking you the same question."

"I always skip," Spike scoffed.

"Oh. Yeah. Well...Spike, can I, ah, talk to you about someone,
er, something?" Willow asked hurriedly.

"Shoot," Spike answered, his cigarette dangling between his
index finger and thumb. He'd taken one puff out of it, and it was
currently burning up.

"What...well, what do you think of...of Buffy's boyfriend?" she
asked cautiously.

"He's a prancing, magnificient fluff ball of a liar with a bad
hairdo," he replied easily. He took another drag off of his cigarette
and dropped it to the ground, smashing it with the toe of his boot.

Willow nodded and let out a sigh of relief. "So do I. That's
what I think of him I mean. I get major bad vibes from this guy. Do
you have the scoop on him?"

Spike always had the scoop on the criminals and night life of
Sunnydale, so why should now be any different? "No," he confessed.
Willow's face fell.

"But you always know what's going on..." she trailed off.

Spike rolled his eyes. "Thanks. Not this time though, but
I'm looking into it. I can tell you what I think though. And how
I met him."

Willow nodded, "Do tell."

"I think Liam's into some heavy lawbreaking. Despite his 'angel'
visage, that man's a demon. He's a drug lord or a hitman. Might be
into jewelry, bankrobbing, the likes of that. We aren't talking your
run-of-the-mill purse snatcher. He's a froofy liar. The bastard's
pretending to love her," he paused for breath. "It's bizarre. I was
out last night doing my territory check and here comes Little Boy
Hairgel walking down the road. A might suspicious if you ask me. All
in black, he was."

"What about when you met him?" Willow inquired.

"He asked me a whole bunch of questions about m'self. My name's
the only true thing I spoke," Spike sat down against the wall again.

Willow glanced at the dirt and said, "Smart."

"Yeah," Spike yanked off his duster, rose a moment, and laid it
horizontally so Willow could sit with him. He did it unconciously,
and continued, "So anyways, this man, Liam, took me under wing. I
was about to make a visit to a house I dreaded to see, but he had
rescued me. He had a private jet and all that jazz." He sighed. "At
the time I didn't think much of it, just that he was rich. Now I've
known him for just a little over a year and I can see part of his
bigger plan."

Willow frowned and took a seat next to Spike. "You think the
jet...?"

"Oh yeah," Spike nodded. "Stolen. Along with it's radar
resistant equipment. Funny thing, I noticed there wasn't a black box.
Kept it to m'self. Guess that shoulda been my first clue this guy
wasn't all he seemed. Secondly, there were four people reported
brutally murdered in London that week. FOUR bloody people. In that
week alone!"

He rose. Willow watched him pace. "What's your part in all of
this?"

"I'm hoping I was just some dumb amateur about to be arrested
that Liam decided to adopt. Like some twisted animal shelter or
criminal refuge," Spike admitted. "I don't want to get mixed up with
him any more than I already am."

"Buffy and the rest of us were supposed to go to The Bronze
tonight, but supposedly it's closed," Willow shrugged. "That's what
he told Buffy. If it's true, maybe we can investigate."

"The Bronze is open tonight," Spike protested. "You don't
suppose..."

Willow's eyes went wide with revelation. "It's...possible..."

"Something's going down tonight," Spike frowned.

"And Liam is involved," Willow finished.

***
Xander glanced at Willow's empty seat. It was quite unlike her to
skip or miss any class, even study hall, when she was healthy. Even
when she was ill she still came to school. It wasn't Willow's free
period, obviously, but it still shook him to think that Willow, his
best friend, would skip. He sighed and glanced out of the window,
nearly bored out of his mind. A red mop and a peroxide blond head
passed by and Xander frowned, coughing and getting up out of his
seat. Everyone watched him go, but none said a word or tried to
stop him. He gathered his belongings before he left.

Xander ran down the hallway and out the door. He saw that
Spike and Willow were walking together, and Willow was even laughing
at some witty remark he had said. "Will!" Xander called.

"Christ, it's monkeyboy," Spike murmured. "Shall we keep
going?" He offered her his arm.

"I-I dunno," Willow accepted his arm. "Maybe we should, I
dunno, wait for him? Or tell him where we're going?"

"I don't want him walkin' with us," Spike growled. "The
whelp just picks on me anyway."

Willow laughed and shook her head sadly. "Sunnydale's biggest
bad boy cut down by a self-depracating nice guy." She looked over
her shoulder and said to Xander, "Library."

Xander nodded, but his blood was boiling. A boy whose head
held more bleach than brain cells had taken claim on Willow. Who
next, Buffy? He'd already sunk his delinquint little claws into
Joyce and now Willow. It was enough to make him sick. Xander
headed back into the school. He wanted to beat Willow and Spike
there. Or...or did they mean the city library? 'Better ask,'
he thought, and ran back outside. "Bleach boy! Will!"

They stopped. Willow looked at him. "Yeah, Xander?"

"Public library, right?" Xander asked.

"No, the L.A. library," Spike retorted. "Of course the
public library."

"Of course," Xander echoed. He hurried to his car and started
up the engine. He sped to the library, but Spike and Willow had
beaten him there. He cursed under his breath as he locked the car
and went up the library steps. He pushed open the heavy oak doors.
He often came here with Willow.

"Hi Xander," the librarian greeted him.

"Hi," he replied. "Did Willow come in here with a guy
with bleached hair?"

"Yes actually," the librarian answered. "I've never seen that
boy. What's his name?"

"Spike," Xander sighed. "Where'd they go?"

"Upstairs and to the right," the librarian said.

"Thanks," Xander took off. Spike was carrying a load of books
and Willow sat down with newspaper scrolls when he saw them. "What
the..." he muttered, joining them. "What's up, guys?"

Xamder looked at the titles of the books. "'Serial Killers of
1997', 'Serial Killers of 1998', 'Serial Killers of 1999 and 2000',
'Criminal Records, Sunnydale, 1990 - 2000, L - McK'?! What the hell
is going on?!"

Willow and Spike traded looks. Willow said, "Spike, get me that
box of scrolls, please?"

Spike nodded and handed it to her, flipping open one of the
books.

"Hello?!" Xander cried. "What the hell is all this?!"

Spike shushed him. He grabbed a few more books on recorded
jewelry thieves and drug lords, crime in Ireland, England, and
California. "We're looking for something."

"Oh, really," Xander replied dryly.

"Look for any of these names," Spike handed Willow a list.

"Angel, L. McDowe, Liam Mc., Liam Mick?" Willow read.

"I saw Liam Mick or Liam Mc. on the jet," Spike explained.

"You guys think Liam is...? Oh no," Xander shook his head.
"That's crazy. And paranoid."

"Since when did you become best mates with him?" Spike asked.
He shoved a book at Xander. "Help us or beat it."

Xander shook his head and opened the book. "So who do I look
for?"

***
They stayed until the library was closed. Spike, Willow, and Xander
all checked out books they hadn't been through yet. Willow had made
copies of articles she'd written down with any mention of murder,
drugs, jewelry, or bank robberies or any heavy stuff she could find.
They vowed to meet again after school at the library, Spike would
already be there after his minimal three classes. He could really
care less if he graduated. He'd dropped out in England, and would
be damned if say through another four years of this bland, boring
drivel.

While Spike was driving Willow home, he suddenly remembered
The Bronze. "Will, call your mum," he handed her his cell phone.
"Tell her you won't be home for awhile," he veered the car the
opposite direction of Willow's house. "Tell her you're gonna party
at The Bronze with a friend."

Willow stared at him blankly for a moment. Slowly, realization
dawned on her face. "Oh. Ooooh. I see." She quickly dialed her
phone numbers (Spike watched her out of the corner of his eye,
memorizing her phone number as she dialed it -- it might come in
handy later) and explained to her mother that she'd be out for awhile
and didn't know when she'd be back -- yes, she did her homework --
this was a friend's cell phone -- yes, it was a safe place -- she hung
up the phone. "My mother worries too much."

Spike chuckled. Willow liked his laugh. It sounded...like
something precious and sweet and rare, and you could drink it forever.
It made her happy to be one of the people that made him laugh. Maybe
she should make an effort to find out more about him...she could bet
that nobody in Sunnydale except Joyce had done that in the year he'd
been here. "So, ah, Spike," Willow said, trying to be amiable.
"What's your real name?"

"William," he replied, simply.

"What's your middle name?" she asked, trying not to come off as
nosy.

Spike gave her a questioning look, then said, "Jeremy."

"Oh. Mine is--" Willow began.

"Alexandria. Which is why you and Xander became friends in the
first place. Your names were similar," Spike finished.

"Well...yeah," Willow sighed and looked out the window.

Spike cast her a concerned look. "I didn't hurt your feelings,
did I?"

She shook her head. "Just surprised me." They pulled into The
Bronze's parking lot. Spike parked the car and exited it. Willow was
about to open her door when it opened for her. She blinked up at a
smiling Spike and got out. "Thanks," she told him meekly.

"No problem, luv," Spike replied. "After all, you ARE my date
tonight."

Willow's heart pounded against her ribcage. Date. This was a
date! Sure, she'd gone out with Xander to a few dances before, but...
This was SPIKE! The heart-throb of Sunnydale High. He was mysterious,
dangerous, and sweet to every girl he came across, the only exception
being Buffy. But that was simply because he lived with her. To
every other girl he was the gentlest gentleman: holding open doors,
paying for a girl in front of his lunch if he happened to be at
school then, laying his jacket on the ground if he stuck around for
gym class. If a boy was being mean to a girl or bullying her (which
happened to Willow way too often), he would tell the kid to go do
something that involved his hand as a second party. And Spike's
accent...

So Willow took Spike's hand and accepted his arm for the second
time that day and headed towards The Bronze.

"Hi Spike," sighed one girl as they walked. Spike nodded and
smiled at her, paying for Willow's and his cover charges as they
entered the club. "Spike, hi!" called another girl. Spike waved
and smiled.

"Bloody airheads, all of them," he muttered to Willow. She
laughed--er, giggled. Spike frowned. Then she began to cough,
earning a worried Spike, who bought her a glass of water. "Red, you
all right?"

Willow nodded and sipped at her water.

"Hey," Spike said to the bartender, taking off his jacket and
handing it to him. "Hold this, will you? It's bloody hot in here.
Also, you seen a guy about...ye high, brown eyes, brown hair...mighta
been called Angel or Liam or the likes of that?"

The bartender glanced around and motioned Spike closer. "Saw
the guy you're lookin' for. Name's Angelus, right?"

"That's the sod," Spike nodded, grinning.

"He's in hte back room with the couple in front of it. Try the
back door or the window," the bartender handed Spike his duster back.

"Thanks, mate," he slipped the man a ten dollar bill. "C'mon,
Red."

He grabbed Willow's hand and led her to the back door outside.

***
Buffy had forgotten that The Bronze was "closed" and went anyway.
Parking was full in the front of the club, so she'd had to park in
the back. As she got closer, she decided to skip the cover charge
by going in the back way. The throbbing pulse of dance music
pounded her ears even before she reached the club. Suddenly, she
saw two figures jerk around about ten feet ahead. A white blob and
a red blob moved along with the figures. She knew the white was
probably Spike, after all, who in their right mind dyed their hair
THAT color? The red sparked Buffy's imagination--probably some
chick Spike picked up on the way into the club. Something fizzed
through Buffy's veins and pulsed in time with base and the sound of
her high heels on the pavement.

All Buffy saw was red hair before she whipped the girl around.
"Hey--Wills?" Buffy frowned.

"Okay Red," Spike motioned to Willow, not noticing Buffy had
the other girl occupied. He was peering through a basement/back room
window. "He's in there."

"Buffy!" Willow looked shocked. "Spike, it's Buffy."

"What? How can you--" he looked over at Willow. "Bloody hell.
What're you DOING, Princess?"

"I think that's what I should be asking you, Detective
Watson," Buffy replied, releasing Willow and crouching by Spike.

"It's Detective Sherlock Holmes, you stupid bint," Spike
muttered. "And Doctor Watson."

"And you would know this, how?" Buffy replied sweetly. "I mean,
you're never in lit..."

"I've read it," Spike stuck his tongue out and motioned Willow
closer.

Buffy's frowned again. "That's...what's..."

A large diamond traded hands inside. A woman in a long black
dress handed Liam the diamond in a black cloth.

"Meet Angelus, luv," Spike told her softly.

"That's not Angel..." Buffy's voice was muffled by her hand.

Willow patted her best friend's back. "It is, Buffy..."

"It's not!" Buffy protested loudly, tears streaming down her
cheeks.

Spike immediately went into comfort mode. He took her into
his arms, much to Willow's dismay, and stroked her hair, whispering
soft and comforting words to Buffy. Buffy sobbed into his shirt as
he rocked her back and forth. "Shhhh," he murmured. "You're all
right, luv. I'm here. I'm here, princess," that was the first time
Willow'd heard him use the term "princess" endearingly with Buffy.
"I'm not going anywhere as long as you need me."

Buffy roughly shoved him away and wiped her arm across her
eyes. "Thanks," she muttered quietly. "But I'm all right."

Spike nodded. "Shall we go do some underage drinking or
call the law enforcers?"

When they looked back in the room, Liam and the woman were
gone.