She made two cup of hot chocolate, and tried not to think about what she was doing. Late night hot coco with a vampire. Even if that vampire was only Spike, there was still something majorly messed up about this whole situation. Best just not to think about it.

When the hot chocolate was ready they walked into the living room. She had forgotten about the pillows and blankets on the couch. Spike saw them the same instant she did and raised an eyebrow.

"Riley was snoring," she explained. "I couldn't sleep." She put her mug of hot chocolate down on the table and moved the sleepy stuff, bunching it up in a corner of the couch, making room for her and Spike to sit.

"Right. Perfect gentleman. I'd expected better from Captain Cardboard. Isn't he supposed to be all caring and chivalrous? Least he could have done was take the sodden sofa."

Buffy blushed, embarrassed for herself and Riley. "We are an equal opportunity couch sleeping couple. Very progressive," she joked. Lamely, she knew. But she felt guilty. She couldn't just let Spike insult her boyfriend.

"I see," Spike replied sarcastically, "Girl power and all. Glad those bleeding feminists fought for your right to neck kinks."

"Right and with you around I really don't need any more pains in my neck," she smiled.

"That all you got, Slayer. I expect sharper barbs from you. You sure you're feeling okay? Your verbal jabs usually tend to sting a bit more."

"I guess I'm just exhausted. Been a hard couple of weeks. Hard couple of years. But the couch thing, not really a big deal. I fit better. And I doubt I would sleep much anyway."

"Still, one of the benefits of sleeping with a vampire, love. No breathing means no snoring."

"And other benefits would include what? The killing you while you're so soundly sleeping?"

Spike smirked. "There are others. But most of them are about what happens before sleep, pet. But then, you already know about those, don't you. You should try it again some time with a real vamp."

"Never, Spike. Once down that road was enough for me. I'll stick with real men from now on."

"Yeah, like the toy solider upstairs snoring away like a hog. You're right, Slayer, he is a catch. A real man. You're a lucky girl. You should hold on to him. Don't let the likes of him get away."

"Can we not do this right now?"

"Fine, Slayer, what would you rather chat about, then?"

"Well, what did you and my mom talk about?"

Spike took a sip of hot chocolate and leaned back into the couch cushions. "Me and your mum, we talk about all sorts of thing. You and the little bit, of course. And the gallery. And she always asks me about me, what sort of evil I've been up to, what shows I was following on the telly. It's just nice to have someone to talk to. Didn't have much of that, you know."

It was true. He hadn't. He must have been lonely last year. Once he had left Giles' and Xander's, he had been all alone, mostly. Holed up in that crypt. All by himself. No longer part of the demon world. Definitely not part of hers. It must have been hard for him. It was different now. Now that he was back with Harmony, and they were doing whatever it was they did. Buffy so did not want to think about that. But even so, he must still be kind of lonely. After all. Harmony. Not the most dazzling company. Probably better off being alone. But then, maybe Harmony just proved how lonely, how desperate, he was.

She had never thought about it. Of course she hadn't. Her job was to slay vampires, not worry about their feelings. She wasn't entirely convinced they had feelings. Not real feelings anyway. But still, Spike. He wasn't like most vamps. And she couldn't help but be a little comforted by the fact that he and her mother kept each other company. She must be losing it. Way too much stress. It was making her crazy.

"She is a nice lady, your mum. Reminds me of my own," Spike continued.

"Your mom?"

"You look surprised, Slayer. Vampires have mums too you know. Had to get into the bloody world somehow."

"Of course I knew that. But Giles said most vamps hate their families. Usually they go all Lizzy Borden on them. Sans ax, of course." She paused, "Although I guess they could use an ax if they wanted to."

Spike cringed. "In case you haven't noticed, Summers. I'm not like most vampires. Or are the late night vamp chats over a cuppa coco a usual thing for you? I loved my mum very much. Still do. But she was sick."

"What happened?"

"She died. Did everything I could to save her. But I couldn't. Tried anything I could think of, but I lost her." A pained expression crept over his features. He was such a weird vampire. He could seem so human sometimes. Sometimes she forgot how evil he was. What a danger he would be if he ever got his chip out. Or if it ever stopped working, ever stopped holding him back. And that just made him all the more dangerous. She could not forget who he was. What he was. An evil soulless killer.

But still, she reached out and put her hand on his. Maybe, it was everything she was going through with her own mom, but she could not just ignore, dismiss, his pain. "I'm sorry, Spike" was all she said. She knew it would stupid. Lame. Of course his mother had died. She had been alive over a hundred and twenty years ago. But she didn't know what else to say. In that moment his grief seemed so raw. So relevant. So real.

He shrugged, "No need, Slayer. It was a long time ago. Besides, things were different then. Didn't know much about medicine. Couldn't do all the sodden surgery and stuff they can now. You're mum is gonna be fine. 'Sides, she's a Summers woman. A tough lot, you are. Bloody hard to take down," he grinned. "I know. I've tried."

Riley rolled over in bed. He moved to wrap his arms around Buffy, to hold her close to him. But she was gone. He heard muffled voices downstairs. Buffy and a man. What was Buffy doing up at this time of night? And not killing evil things. And with another man. He pulled on a pair of sweat pants and a tee-shirt and made his way to the stairs.

As he walked down the stairs, the voices became clearer. Spike. Buffy was with Spike. Why? What the hell was she doing up? And with him? Riley continued to move quietly down the stairs. They were talking about mothers. His mother. And hers. That evil bastard. He was using Buffy's mother as a way to worm his way into her life. He was manipulating her. Manipulating the whole situation. And did Buffy have her hand on his? Was she comforting him? What was that cellar scum up to? Riley should have taken him out a year ago when he had the chance.

Buffy looked up and saw Riley in the doorway. She quickly jerked her hand away from Spike's. "Riley. I didn't hear you get up."

"What are you doing, Buffy?" he asked her curtly.

"Nothing to worry about, mate. Why don't you get back to sawing logs?"

"Not talking to you, Spike."

"Sorry, Riley. You all snorey. I came down here. I was going to try to sleep on the couch" she motioned to where the blankets and pillows were piled. She looked at him, apologetically, almost guilty. But she had nothing to be guilty about. She hadn't come down her to meet Spike. He just happened to be here. And they had just been talking. As if Riley would ever feel seriously threatened by Spike. He knew how much she hated him. It was just Spike. So not even an issue.

"And you just up and left our bed. Even after you asked me to spend the night. So that you could, what, hang out with the evil dead? Oh yeah, Buffy, nice. So glad you tell me you're in love with me. Sometimes its hard to tell."

"I do love you. I love you enough that I didn't want to break any of ribs with my elbows or smother you with a pillow in your sleep to get you to stop snoring. And Spike was just here…"

"As usual," he cut her off. "You've been a little too fond of hanging around here lately, Spike."

Spike smirked at him. "So are you talking to me, now?"

Riley ignored the vampire, "And then what, Buffy? Mortal enemies don't usually get cozy drinking hot coco."

"Guess not," Spike shrugged, grumbling to himself.

"We are so not cozy. There is no coziness. Not a dollop, not a drop of cozy. Riley, come on, I mean its only Spike."

"Only Spike. Only Spike, Buffy? He is a killer. A vicious evil killer. No conscious. No soul. No remorse. Or have you forgotten?"

"I haven't forgotten anything. Its my job not to forget."

"I'm right here you know. I can hear everything you're saying about me," the vampire complained loudly.

Riley continued as if Spike had not spoken. "Then why is he still alive? Last time I checked its also your job to kill him. Vampire Slayer. Its in your job title, Buffy, description, everything."

"I don't know. He is… I mean… it is just different. I can't kill him now, Riley. He is harmless."

"He is not harmless."

Spike stood up from the couch, moving towards Riley. "Damn right I'm not harmless. But then again, you're not packing too much of a punch these days are you, Boy Scout? Now that you're off the government juice not quite the action hero you fancied playing. I may have a chip in my head, but at least I can still hit like a man when it counts."

Spike stopped a foot from Riley, his posture defiant. Although smaller than Riley, Spike was more compact. There was a lean muscularity to him that was animalistic, powerful, but controlled. Buffy realized that if he didn't that chip, Spike could kill her boyfriend in a second. Probably even before she could get over there to stop him.

"Shut up, Spike. You're not a man. Never will be. And now you're less than a demon. You're just pathetic," Riley pushed the vampire. Hard. "I should just stake you now. Do the world a favor."

The vampire was quick to regain his balance. Demon reflexes. Almost feline. He moved towards Riley again. Unintimidated. "You know what? I wish you'd try. I'd kill you right through the pain. Wouldn't take long. And it would be worth it, mate."

"Big talk from kind of a little guy."

"Alright, alright," Buffy got between the two men, pushing them apart. "That's enough with the masculine bravado or whatever the hell it is you're doing. You can puff your chests up at each other and hit each other with clubs or whatever to prove your manliness another time. But right now you both need to cut it out."

Spike grinned. "Better listen to your girlfriend, yeah. Wouldn't want to get hurt."

"You'd better listen to my girlfriend, Spike. As far as I'm concerned, she is the only thing keeping you alive. As soon as she says the word, you're dust."

"Okay, both of you listen to the girlfriend." Both men were still glaring at each other. Riley was the first to back down, turning his head to look at Buffy and giving Spike a clear view of the bite marks on his neck, which was not concealed by the t-shirt he had thrown on.

Spike began snickering manically. Buffy turned to look at him. "What the hell is so funny, Spike?" she demanded.

"Looks as if some nasty already got a piece of your boyfriend, Slayer. Just a lot of tough talk from a guy with two holes in the side of his neck."

Buffy moved to the other side of Riley, trying to get a look at the bite marks, his hand instinctively flew up to cover them

"Oh my god, Riley. Are you hurt? What happened?"

"Its nothing, Buffy. I was just doing a quick patrol the other night. And I ran into a vamp. Lost the upper hand for a second. I'm fine. Buffy. Really."

"I can't believe I didn't notice. And that you didn't tell me."

"With everything going on with your mom and Glory, I didn't want you to worry about me."

"No need to fret, friend, she doesn't," said Spike, still sniggering.

"Shut up, Spike," Buffy shot him an icy glare.

"What? Its funny. A solider boy snack for some beasty," he chortled.

"Watch it, Spike, the vamp that did this to me, its dust now. Blowing in the wind."

Spike's face assumed mock seriousness, "Yeah, I'm sure you licked it good, just after you let it sink its fangs in. Have a taste." His expression cracked with another burst of laughter.

"I didn't let it do anything. And you're about two seconds away from joining it. Besides, unless I'm forgetting how all this works, pretty sure you must have gotten bit by a vampire yourself. The only difference is I lived to tell about it."

"Not like it effectively shut me up."

"He does have a point. He doesn't shut up. No matter how much you wish he would," Buffy added, clearly annoyed.

Spike scowled at her. "'Sides, I wanted it. That's the difference between you and me, white bread. I wanted it. I wanted the darkness. I embraced it. You just weren't good enough to avoid it." Spike watched Riley's expression change. "Or maybe you did want it. Maybe you wanted to see what the all the fuss is about. Maybe you're a little bit darker than I thought. Or trying to be."

Riley opened his mouth, ready for a retort, but Buffy spoke first. "Of course it didn't want it, Spike. What kind of suicidal perv purposefully gets bit by a vampire?"

Spike shrugged. "Takes all kinds."

"Ew, Spike. You really are bent, you know that."

"You might have mentioned something like that before, Slayer. Besides, vampire. Supposed to be twisted," he glanced out the window. "Well, kiddies, as much fun as this has been. Its almost dawn, so I better be heading to home sweet crypt. Really don't fancy wasting any more time with the lot of you than I already have. Can probably get in a spot of evil before daybreak if I hurry." He looked at Buffy, "Give my, you know, regards to your mum, will you."

"She will not," Riley asserted.

"She'll do what she bloody well pleases, you poofter," Spike said, backing towards the door. "And you best not mind about her and what she tells her mum. You better watch out for yourself, mate. Because your girlfriend can't always be watching out for your pathetic hide. And one of these days some nasty is going to sink its teeth into you much deeper than whatever broad did that." And with that Spike went out into the night.

Buffy turned to Riley. "Why did he say that?"

"Say what? He said a lot. You're right. Guy never learned the virtue of shutting up."

"Why did he call the vampire who bit you a 'broad.' You never said it was a girl, did you?"

"I didn't. But you need to learn not to take everything he says so serious, Buffy. He is evil, remember. Last a checked truth wasn't high on his list of priorities. I don't think I need to give examples, but I will if I have to. I'm sure it was just another lame attempt at emasculation or something. You know how he is."

"You're right. I'm sorry, Riley. Its just been a long night. Well, a long day and night. Do you think we could try to get some sleep?" she wrapped her arms around him, leaning her head on his chest.

"You're not going to go back to the couch, are you?"

"As long as you promise not to be snore man," she smiled at him.

"It's a deal," he kissed the top of her head. "I'm just going to get a glass of water. You head upstairs."

"Okay," she kissed him. "Riley?"


"I love you. And I do worry about you. I hate the fact that you got hurt doing my job. And I'm sorry I was there to protect you. I need you, and I just don't want anything to happen to you. Especially not anything fangy or demony. Not anything that I'm supposed to take care of myself. Not anything that I've been chosen to deal with. Because being the Slayer has lots of perks, what with the superpowers and everything, but the caring, kind boyfriend is a special Buffy bonus. Kind of like the toy in the bottom of the cereal. It makes the whole box better. And I need that. I need you. Because you make things better, easier for me. You're always there for me. And I don't want to lose that because you were being a big dummy and got yourself killed. I just want you to make sure you know that."

Riley sighed. He hated when she talked to him like that. Like he couldn't handle himself. Like she was more of a man than he was. Just because she was faster and stronger and chosen to be a better fighter. Sometimes she made him feel so weak. So useless. But it wasn't worth bringing up now. They had just gotten rid of one problem. A problem called Spike. They didn't need him dredging up more reasons to argue now. She was going through hell. And she needed him now. Or at least she said she needed him. He would talk to her about it some other time. Later. "I do. And I love you too."

"Okay, then, goodnight. Or good morning. Or whatever. You'll be to bed soon?"

"In just a minute. I promise."

He went into the kitchen poured himself a glass of water. He waited until he heard her go up the stairs and close the bedroom door. Then grabbed a stake and opened the front door, checking outside and checking the tree Spike usually lurked behind. But the blond vampire was no where to be seen. Pity. He would have loved to have had a chance to stake him. Buffy would thank him for it. Eventually.

He had his reasons for wanting the vampire dust. Maybe Spike's parting words had just been a shot in the dark, but they had hit a little too close to home. A bit too near the mark. Riley didn't know how much the vampire guessed, but he wanted to take care of him before he had the chance to blab anything. Especially to Buffy. She could never know what he had done. She could never know that he had sought comfort in the arms, or rather fangs, of another woman. And he would kill whoever he had to in order to make sure. He would have to keep an eye on Spike. Make sure he didn't try to move in on his girl. Not again. Buffy wasn't thinking clearly when it came to Spike, so it was up to him to protect her from the vampire. Who knew what kind of evil demented things Spike was planning.

Spike walked back to his crypt from Buffy's house, still chuckling to himself. That pounce Riley had been scared. And he had a reason to be. Those bite marks on his neck were too perfect, too clean, too neat. There had been no ripping. No tearing. No sign of a struggle. He had let himself be bit. Spike was bloody sure of that. And from now on he would be keeping a close eye on the Slayer's toy solider. And as soon as he was sure what Captain Cardboard was up to he would tell Buffy. Show her, if he could. That would get rid of the bugger. The next time there would be no one to interrupt when she decided to let him in again. And he was sure she would let him in again. Eventually.

Those bite marks would be his way to the Slayer. He sure was a twisted bloke. Here he was plotting the guy's downfall not because he hated the Slayer, wanted to her hurt, but because he loved her, wanted to be with her. What was happening to him? A vampire in love with a Slayer. It was disgusting. It was perverse. It stunk of Angel. It made him sick. It was wrong. On so many levels. He was such a bloody pathetic, sorry twit. As if he even had a chance with her. Not in hell, he thought wryly to himself.

But then again, Sunnydale was pretty close to hell, wasn't it. Being the Hellmouth and all. Maybe with the overgrown boy scout out of the way, Buffy would actually see him. See how he had changed for her. See how he loved her. He snorted to himself. Not very likely. But a fellow had to try.