Made for fun, not for profit. The Buffyverse belongs to Mutant Enemy and Joss Whedon, I just like to play there.

A/N: Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed. You guys make me happy and that keeps my muse working full-tilt. A gold star for anyone who got the reference to 'Sabrina the Teenage Witch' in chapter 3.


4 - Dinner And Bondage


Giles busied himself with setting the table while Sam was upstairs, and Spike kept channel surfing, pausing when he found a show that struck his fancy. After a little while he found a wickedly funny show about the inner workings of a fictional fashion magazine called 'Blush'. He particularly enjoyed the antics of a character named Dennis Finch, whose sarcasm and acerbic wit appealed to him.

Spike heard Sam moving around upstairs and idly wondered what was taking her so long. He could hear her humming to herself and thought that he recognized the melody as part of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. He shook his head, a smile tugging at his lips. The girl certainly loved music. That much was obvious. He frowned to himself. If only "Early One Morning" wasn't part of her repertoire.

Giles was checking on the leftovers, stirring, turning down burners and the like, when Sam's footsteps finally left her room and headed for the staircase.

She came back downstairs for dinner a few moments later wearing a blue lace-edged camisole and stretchy black sweatpants which flowed loosely below her knees. Unlike her earlier outfit, the thin and form-fitting fabric of this one showed off each curve to its best advantage, and Spike admiringly took in her shape. The robe which she had worn before her bath gave the ensemble a touch of modesty but didn't do much to hide her figure. She had womanly curves and a trim waist, reminding him a bit of 1950s pin-up girls. She wasn't emaciated – he couldn't see her ribs – and she wasn't chubby – no love handles – but somewhere comfortably in between.

"Very nice," he muttered to himself.

She caught him looking and smiled at him before heading for the breakfast bar. She got on one of the bar stools and leaned through the opening, resting her hands on the counter. "So Giles, need any help getting dinner ready?"

Giles shook his head, smiling. "No, just grab a plate, come on in and take as much as you want."

"'Kay." Sam nodded her understanding and slid off of the stool, turning to look at the table. She frowned at the place settings he had laid out and her brow furrowed in confusion. "Giles, I think you forgot something."

"Oh," he moved away from the stove and gave her a questioning look. "I did?"

"Yup." She nodded, gesturing at the plates and utensils on the table. "You only set it for two." She indicated Spike with a jerk of her chin, "but there are three of us."

Giles hung his head, taking a few slow, calming breaths before he looked up at her again. He spoke with strained patience, as though she was a small child he was tutoring. "Sam, Spike isn't eating with us. He isn't a guest."

"Oh?" She quirked one eyebrow challengingly. Still looking at Giles, she raised her voice slightly to address the vampire. "Spike, did the Scoobies capture you?"

He shook his head. "No, I came to them... for help," he added venomously.

She glanced over at him, and he wondered what she was up to when he read a few traces of cocky amusement on her face. "Uh-huh. And in return you offered to tell them about the paramilitary-whatsit, right?"

Spike tensed his jaw, curious about where she might be going with this. "I did."

Sam nodded, the confidence spreading out from her face to affect her posture and tone of voice. When she spoke next she didn't sound snotty, exactly, but supremely sure of the answer to her next query. "Giles, how likely do you think Spike is to answer any questions about what happened to him if you and the Scoobies insist on treating him like crap? I mean, he has no reason to tell you guys anything, and if you keep treating him badly, it makes perfect sense for him to stay quiet just to spite you. Plus, there's the whole you-can-stake-him-whenever-you-want issue, and he's gotta be wondering if you'll kill him right after he talks."

Spike blinked at her, canting his head slightly and standing up. It was his turn to be gobsmacked. Was she...? no, it didn't make any sense, but it sounded suspiciously like she was actually advocating for him. He moved over to stand near her and tentatively rested a hand on her shoulder. "Luv, what are you doing?" His voice was low, throaty and terribly uncertain.

She turned her head, looking up at him with a calm smile on her face. "I'm doing whats right."

He blinked some more, but didn't have a chance to fully process what she had said before Giles came storming into the main room. "Hold on, just hold on! How exactly is it the right thing to do? Considering all the evil he's done over the last century-"

Sam cut him off with a wave of her hand. "He came to you. He offered a fair deal which you accepted but have yet to fully honor, and, putting aside the whole moral issue, it's the smart thing to do."

Giles slowly shook his head. "Oh really? I'm afraid I don't see how coddling a murderer is 'smart'."

She gave an exaggerated, frustrated sigh. "If he could still kill, Willow would be in the morgue, so that's a moot point." She ignored Spike's indignant "Oi!" and went on. "The important thing is finding out about the commandos, and you guys are only gonna get info from him one of three ways." Sam ticked each method off on her fingers as she mentioned it. "Torture, trickery, or playing nice. He ran with Angelus for twenty years. Do you really think that the Scoobies could torture him more effectively than Angelus tortured you, cause I don't."

Giles stiffened, remembering the torture methods Angelus had used on him two years before, when the soulless vamp was trying to awaken Acathla. He also had a mental image of himself on Halloween, kicking the living crap out of Ethan Rayne, and Giles was forced to admit to himself that he didn't have the stomach for real torture, especially when the potential victim was physically incapable of fighting back. Also, Spike was easily as stubborn as Giles was, so even if they did manage to torture him, it wasn't likely that they would be able to break him.

He looked the vampire up and down before grudgingly admitting, "I see your point about the torture. However, you mentioned trickery?"

It was Spike's turn to tense up. His hand was still resting on her shoulder, and she must have felt it when he froze in place, because she flashed him a reassuring smile before turning back to Giles again. "Some kind of spell, probably a truth spell, but I think that's best left as a means to verify anything that he tells us willingly."

Giles frowned, shaking his head at her. "So you're relying on his willing cooperation?"

She shrugged, smiling up at him disarmingly. "You have a better plan? Anyway," she grabbed both plates from the table and moved into the kitchen, talking as she went. "We can finish talking about this over dinner. I'm starved."

Spike watched her go, a borderline awestruck look on his face, and then he hurried to catch up with her, limping slightly along the way. He hadn't been allowed to eat any of Buffy's Thanksgiving dinner, and he was looking forward to tasting it now. The food smelled lovely, and he was starving. Granted, he was starving for blood, not solid human food, but the sheer mass of it would still fill up his stomach for a while and help to temporarily sate his hunger.

When he came into the kitchen, he was greeted by sparkling eyes and an empty plate being playfully shoved at his chest.

"Thanks, luv." He took it with an almost shy smile and nodded his head at her. "For everything." He fiddled with the plate, adjusting his grip on it as he moved further into the kitchen. Considering how badly his hands were still shaking, he wanted to make sure he wouldn't drop the plate and give himself away. His hands only shook when he tried to hold or manipulate something for longer than a few moments, and the plate seemed to be getting heavier by the second. It was almost as though his muscles were on strike. He made a sour face then put the plate aside and let his hands drop to the counter, silently cursing at them for being so uncooperative.

"It's no problem. I just hope you go along with my plan, because otherwise I'm gonna look really stupid." Sam cast a warm glance over her shoulder as she stepped over to the stove and he followed, trailing a few steps behind her. "Do you want some more blood with dinner?"

Her tone was conversational, casual, even, and he shook his head at her in befuddled wonder. "Yeah. Thanks." He moved aside so she could get to the fridge and numbly watched as she took out a pint-bag and filled a coffee mug from it. Her movements were matter-of-fact, and she didn't seem disturbed by what she was pouring into the coffee mug. He shook his head again, just watching her for a little while. "Do this often, do you? Look after vamps?"

"Nope." She shook her head, smiling wickedly. "You're my first."

He chuckled at the innuendo and she handed the mug off to him, making the chuckle die in his throat. He was closer to the microwave, so it must have made sense to her, but the last thing he wanted was to spill even more blood on the floor. Not that he cared about making a mess on the newly-cleaned linoleum – he didn't give a shit about that – but he had a feeling that his explanation of 'it slipped' wouldn't fly a second time, and as hungry as he was he didn't want to waste any more blood. He nodded tightly to Sam and scowled in concentration once his back was to her, willing himself to get the mug over to the microwave without spilling a drop. He hated the fact that it only took him a few strides, and thus, only a few seconds to reach the microwave, and even then it was still a struggle for him to keep the mug steady. He swapped hands once he was in front of the appliance and put the mug in to heat it up for about a minute and a half, glowering at the rotating mug and hating that he felt so weak and unsteady. This was even worse than he'd felt when he'd gone crawling back to Harm after finding out that he couldn't feed any more, and then he'd had to lean against the wall of her boy-band-and-unicorn-splattered lair to stay on his feet. When he gathered his strength and tried to seduce her, he'd barely been able to lift the 120lb bint up and carry her a few yards to her bed. Normally, he could have easily hefted someone twice Harm's size and carried them across town without even thinking about it, but after being on the run and starving, the effort of carrying that bimbo the length of a room made him dizzy. Now he could barely lift a full coffee mug. It was pathetic.

When the microwave finally 'dinged' he opened the door a millisecond later, grabbing for the mug and gulping down the blood as fast as he could. Drinking it so fast helped; it almost felt like he was snacking on a human, if not for the pesky ceramic rim bumping against his lips instead of warm flesh, and bolting it down quickly meant that the sour taste didn't linger nearly as much.

He sighed happily, lowering the mug and shifting back to human features – he had vamped out while drinking – and grabbed a sheet of paper towel off of a roll-holder on the counter to wipe the bloodstache from his face before turning to face her again. The blood helped him feel a bit steadier and temporarily quieted the gnawing hunger, but that wouldn't last for long without seconds.

"Luv, can I get a refill?"

When he turned back to the stove again she was serving up helpings of stuffing and mashed potatoes onto one of the plates. "Sure," she said in mid-scoop, looking appraisingly at the size of the helpings. "Just one sec." She nodded to herself, apparently satisfied with the portion, put the stuffing spoon back into its bowl and stepped to the fridge, opened it, reached inside and held out a half-empty pint bag to him all in one fluid motion.

Spike smiled wide at her, crumpling the dirty paper towel in his hand and stuffing it into one of his back pockets. "Thanks, luv." He moved to take the blood, immensely relieved that the mug he'd just bolted down had steadied him as much as it had, and pleased that he was able to fill up the mug and bring it back to the microwave without fighting to keep his hands steady. He put the mug in and set the timer, turning back to see what Sam was up to.

While he was setting up the new mug, she had taken out a third plate and was putting mashed potatoes on it so that all three matched each other: there was a generous spoonful of peas wedged between a little mound of mashed potatoes and a slightly larger one of stuffing on each plate, with a pool of gravy atop each potato mound, making them each resemble miniature gravy-volcanoes.

Spike shook his head, slightly resenting that she was ladling out his food. She had already helped him when he hadn't been expecting it, and he would rather repay the favor than become further indebted to her, since he had a hunch that she wasn't the type who forgot those kinds of debts. "Bloody hell, girl. I can serve myself. You don't need to do that..." he reached for the spoon she had been using to ladle the gravy, but she jerked it away from his hand with a shake of her head.

"Please, I like being useful. Tell you what, though." He stared at her curiously, his expression urging her to go on. "You can get the turkey out of the oven. Three slices for me, please." She smiled brightly at him and he returned a more rueful version of the same expression.

"Alright," he sighed, grumbling softly. He grabbed a pair of oven mitts and slipped them on as he bent down to open the door. If he was quick enough about it, his hands wouldn't have much of a chance to start shaking again, and besides, the mitts were big enough to potentially hide any tremors. The microwave 'dinged', but he ignored it, instead focusing on getting the turkey pan out of the oven. The pan was easily the heaviest thing he'd tried to handle in a while, but he managed to get it onto the counter without any trouble.

While all this was going on, Giles just watched them from the dining area. Spike wearing oven mitts... it was certainly shaping up to be a strange evening. Considering everything he had ever read, seen, and been told about William the Bloody, he was more than a little shocked to see how civil and even helpful the vampire was being to the young lady in his kitchen. More flies with honey indeed. Still, he wasn't nearly convinced that Spike would willingly tell them anything useful.

Sam opened the fridge and took out a small foil-covered bowl which was half full of cranberry sauce. "Giles, how much of everything do you want?" Before he answered, she ducked down, rooting around in the lower cupboards for his gravy boat. When she found it, she straightened up again and started pouring gravy into it from one of the smaller saucepans on the stove. Once it was full, she set in on the breakfast bar and slid it through to the other side so Giles could take it without needing to enter the small and crowded kitchen.

"Gravy, for the table," she explained. "You want big portions or small of each?"

Giles shook his head even as he put the gravy boat on the table. "Sam, you really don't have to. You've been traveling all day."

"Yup, and this helpful burst of energy could wear off at any time, so take advantage of it while it lasts."

He sighed, giving in, and sat down tiredly on one of the bar stools. "Very well, I suppose. Medium helping for the potatoes, small for the stuffing, side of peas and two pieces of turkey to start, thank you."

"Okay." Sam nodded, turning around and removing some of the stuffing from Giles' plate, since he wanted a smaller portion than she had given him. Instead of putting the extra stuffing back into its pot, she added it to her own plate and grinned maniacally at the heaping pile o' stuffing, bending down to be almost eye-level with it. "You're mine now! Heh heh heh." She smiled, closing her eyes and sniffing the food euphorically. A few moments later the microwave 'dinged' again and she shook herself, snapping back into the moment. "I'm back."

She straightened up and glanced over at Spike, who was quirking an eyebrow at her as he took off the floral-patterned mitts, and she shifted self-consciously. "What? Like you've never talked to your food?"

"Well, luv," he chuckled, moving in beside her and adding turkey to the plate which Sam seemed to have claimed for herself. "My food can usually talk back."

"Fine," she sighed. "Point. Anyway, I'll finish dishing the turkey, so when you've had that blood, could you pass the plates over to Giles?"

Spike nodded as he stepped back to the microwave just in time to silence a second reminder beep. "Yeah." He grabbed the mug and drained it in one long pull. "Bloody horrible," he muttered to himself, wiping at his mouth with the crumpled napkin afterward.

Sam put two slices of turkey on each of the remaining plates and set to work stirring the cranberry sauce, which seemed to have congealed into a mini version of The Blob. She frowned at the bowl at she worked to break up the jelly-like mass into a more spoon-able consistency.

"Giles, you didn't add glue to this, didja?"

The two men shared a look as Spike pushed the plates across the breakfast bar, Spike managing to silently comment both on Sam's question and second it with the same expression. Giles stood and took two of the plates, shaking his head in fond exasperation at her as he carried them to the table.

"That's it. I give up." Sam decisively put the cranberry-blob-glue-sauce down on the counter and gave it a murderous look. "Helpfulness expiration date has passed. Time to eat." She headed out of the kitchen, glaring at the bowl again as she sat down at her plate and started digging in.

Spike grinned at her back as she left the room and grabbed a knife and fork for himself from the drying rack on his way to join her. He sat down across from her with his back to the breakfast bar, leaving Giles the seat at the head of the table. Giles met them both at the table and sat down, then shook his head and started to get up again.

Sam frowned at him. "Problem?"

He indicated the bowl of cranberry-glob still sitting on the counter. "Just be a second."

Sam smiled at him, waving for him to sit down again. "I got this." She narrowed her eyes at the bowl and leaned forward in her chair, pressing her lips together into a thin line. Spike threw a confused glance at Giles, but the man just nodded at Sam and went back to eating his peas.

"Luv, what are you..." Spike looked back at Sam and his mouth stopped working, probably because the bowl of cranberry-glob came floating past his head at roughly eye level. He blinked at the floating bowl as it came in for a gentle landing on the table, and then spent a few moments looking from Sam to the bowl and back again.

She was fighting with the spoon again, and she wasn't making any progress this time either. "Screw it," she muttered, and held out a hand over the bowl, and said softly but distinctly, "loosen." There was a slight glow of light from under her palm, focused around the bowl, and then she relaxed her arm. "That should do it." Now when she tried to take the spoon, it lifted out easily and she was able to spoon cranberry sauce onto her turkey slices with no trouble at all.

Spike stared at her, watching as she dished out cranberry sauce as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. He shook his head, frowning at her in confusion. "How?"

She quirked an eyebrow at him and handed off the cranberry bowl to Giles. "Magic. How else?"

Spike sat back in his chair and studied her. "You're a witch, luv?"

Sam chuckled good-naturedly, glancing over at Giles who was – if such a thing is even possible – smugly eating his mashed potatoes. She grinned at Spike and shrugged. "I'm sure as hell not the Easter Bunny."

Spike shook his head again, still confused. Also, he couldn't help remembering that she had very casually mentioned using a truth spell on him, and if the bird was a witch, then she probably hadn't just been talking about hypothetically casting a spell on him. Oh no, she probably meant it, and he knew how wacky that kinda mojo usually was. If it went wrong, no telling what might happen to him. She'd been so bloody chummy with him and hadn't even bothered to mention 'oh, by the way, I'm a witch and I could cast a spell on you whenever I want.' Come to think of it, why hadn't she mentioned it? Was she just trying to get him to lower his guard and then wham, hit him with magical truth serum when he wasn't looking?

He growled softly, narrowing his eyes at her. "Why is this just comin' up now?"

She laughed and gave him a patient smile. "Well, it's not exactly the easiest subject to broach." Sam saw the distrustful way he was looking at him and sighed. "I've been here, what... three hours? Less? It didn't come up until now, okay." She sounded apologetic, sort of, and grumbled down at her food, angrily stabbing a piece of turkey with her fork. "Sorry if it bugs you, being around a witch." She glared up at him for a second, her expression angry and hard, and then dropped her gaze and brought the turkey-laden fork up to her mouth, bitterly muttering to herself. "I'll try not to get any witch-juice on you."

Spike's face relaxed and he let out a quiet huff of air. "No, luv. Doesn't bug me at all, long as you're not plannin' to do any mojo on me."

She sneered at him contemptuously, "well I'm not, okay?" Sam dropped her fork with a clatter, startling Giles, who up until that point had just been enjoying watching Spike squirm. Apparently, it hadn't occurred to him that Spike's reaction might upset Sam, and she was most certainly upset. She had pushed her chair back from the table and was running her fingers through her hair, fisting her hands in the curls.

Spike shot Giles a worried 'what the hell did I say?' kind of look, seriously thrown by her sudden change in attitude. Giles just smiled tightly and hurried to the kitchen, where he grabbed a few tall drinking glasses and started filling them up at the sink, throwing concerned, fatherly glances at Sam over his shoulder every minute or so.

"God, why does everyone get so fucking paranoid around me? Like you guys, you're twitchy as all hell, like you're expecting me to turn the pair of you into toads or something, just 'cause I'm angry." She dropped her hands from her head and started gesturing wildly. "Like I have no self control or something! Yeah, I have powers, but I don't just go around using them on people. Only assholes with power do that, and yeah, I'm a bitch sometimes, but I don't ever cast on anyone unless they've asked me to!"

Spike got up, wincing when the movement hurt his leg, and shifted to stand next to Sam's chair. He felt unaccountably responsible for how upset she was, and wanted to calm her down. Hell, she had stood up for him, after all, and aside from how confused and grateful he was about that, he knew that she wasn't likely to speak up for him again unless he smoothed things over and did her a good turn. People weren't exactly lining up around the block to help him, so he wanted to make damn sure not to lose the only real ally he'd found. He may have just met the girl a couple hours before, but even so he did have some experience dealing with upset, unpredictable women. He smiled ruefully to himself, thinking that maybe his time with Dru might not have been a total waste after all. At least this bird isn't seein' rot that's not there. He tentatively laid his left hand on her shoulder much in the same way that he had before, but this time he gave her a gentle squeeze.

Most of the tension and anger in her muscles left at the kind touch, and she looked sideways at him with a guarded expression. He leaned his right hip against the table and braced his right hand on the tabletop, trying to take some weight off of his injured leg while still staying close enough to keep his other hand on her shoulder. He'd always been able to get through to Dru if he touched her, kept his voice low and gentle, and explained himself calmly and honestly. He figured that if it worked on a vamp who was totally sack of hammers most of the time, it should definitely work on Sam.

"Luv, I didn't mean anything by it. Was just surprised is all." He threw a quick look to see if Giles was still in the kitchen and lowered his voice when Giles came out with the filled glasses, not wanting the Watcher to hear what he was about to say. "I'm not used to stayin' with you lot an' I'm... nervous, I guess. Harris and the Slayer just threaten and insult me, Watcher here either shoves me about or ignores me... you're the only one of the lot of 'em to treat me decent, 'cept Red, and she's not over here much."

Much to Spike's relief, she didn't comment on his admitting to being nervous, and instead just gave a shaky sigh and nodded her understanding. "And then you find out I'm a witch and you freak a little cause I didn't say anything before."

He bobbed his head sheepishly, smiling a bit, and glanced back to check on what the Watcher was doing. Giles was putting water glasses on the table, setting one by his own plate and one by Spike's while Spike and Sam talked. Spike frowned, briefly wondering why the Watcher had bothered to get a glass for him, seeing as the man thought of him as an annoyance, a burden, an irredeemable creature of evil not worthy of any consideration... He shook off his anger and focused back on Sam.

"Guess we're both sick of people expectin' the worst of us, eh, luv?"

Sam smiled, nodding again. "Yeah. I've had it up to here with the pre-judging," she held up a hand several inches over her head and he grinned. "Guess that's why I'm so stubborn about giving you a chance, 'cause I know how incredibly shitty it feels when people won't do that, and, hey, irony, 'cause usually when someone gets angry and frustrated about being treated badly because of prejudice, they end up doing exactly the kind of stupid crap that reinforces the prejudices."

Spike squeezed her shoulder again, running his thumb run back and forth over the top of her arm and letting his sheepish smile mature into a grin. "Well put, luv. You've got quite a good head on your shoulders." Something that felt suspiciously like happiness started to bloom in Spike's chest when her face lit up and she smiled gratefully at him.

"Thanks. I just figure with you and the Scoobies that I'll try to break the fun little vicious cycle of pre-judging and see if that changes anything." Sam laughed harshly to herself, rubbing her hands over her face and shaking her head. "You think I'm nuts now, right? Just snapping like that out of nowhere?"

Giles came over to stand on Sam's other side and put a glass of water in her hand. He stared at Spike thoughtfully, noting the vampire's hand on Sam's shoulder, and pursed his lips in disapproval. "Thank you for calming her down, Spike, although I suspect that she would have been able to do so on her own."

Spike tensed his jaw, but before a retort had formed on his lips he felt warm fingers curling around his left hand. He looked down in confusion and saw that Sam had reached up and was loosely holding onto the hand he had laid on her shoulder. She met his eyes, gave her head a single, stubborn shake and muttered, "break the cycle, remember?"

Sam took a few sips of the water and glared over at Giles. "Spike wasn't 'calming me down', Rupert, and please can the condescension. He apologized for jumping to conclusions about me, and explained that he only did it 'cause of how the Scoobies have been treating him, you know, expecting the worst of him?" She put the glass down and sighed tiredly, fixing Giles with a worn look. "The same thing that made me flip just now?"

Giles let out his own sigh and waved at the table. "Let's get back to dinner, shall we? We can continue this discussion while we eat."

Sam gave Spike's hand a friendly squeeze before letting go of it and flashed him a cheeky wink, nodding that they should do as Giles said. Spike nodded back his agreement, reluctantly let his hand drop from her shoulder and moved around to sit down in his chair again. Meanwhile, Sam scooted her chair close to the table and picked up her fork. After Spike sat down, he just blinked at Sam's plate, watching in awe as she polished off one of the turkey slices and made half the stuffing vanish before he'd even reclaimed his utensils.

"Christ, luv." He shook his head with a worried frown. "Stop to breathe once in a while or you'll choke."

Giles smiled as he raised his glass, took a sip and chuckled fondly at Sam. "Don't bother, Spike. When she's this hungry I often mistake her for a vacuum cleaner. Never seen her have a problem yet."

"Nice way to talk, Giles," she said around a mouthful of turkey. "Girls just love being compared to machinery." She smiled, softening the sarcastic remark so Giles would know that she hadn't really taken offense.

Spike shook his head, watching her with undisguised fascination as he worked on his own meal. "Didn't think birds ate this much when there are blokes around."

Sam looked up indignantly from her plate, where she had apparently started to hide peas in her mashed potatoes. "I do when I'm hungry."

Giles had another spoonful of stuffing, eyeing her dubiously. "What are you doing?"

She shrugged, scooping up a forkful of potato/pea combo and bringing it to her mouth. She chewed the lumpy veggie mush and swallowed it before answering. "I don't like peas. Never have, really, but I was serving stuff on auto pilot and didn't think. If they're in the potatoes, I won't taste 'em as much."

"So Sam," Giles started, "did something happen?"

She looked at him blankly. "How do you mean?"

"Well, generally speaking you don't fly off the handle like that unless something upsetting has happened recently." He stared at her steadily, giving her the kind of look which let her know that he wouldn't be backing off until he got the truth from her. "Judging from what you and Spike were saying, can I assume it was something involving prejudice about witches?"

Spike looked over at Giles suspiciously. "Hold on, Watcher, how much did you hear?"

Giles turned and regarded him thoughtfully. "Enough to know that the two of you have more in common than I previously believed, and that you, Spike, are capable of being more patient and considerate than I had thought possible for an unsouled vampire," he dropped his gaze to the table and set to work cutting a bite-sized portion of turkey as he muttered, "especially considering all of our past dealings with you."

Spike's suspicious expression cleared away and he sat back, mouth slightly agape and blinking copiously. "Uh..." He shook his head slightly, glancing over at Sam to see how she was reacting to what Giles had said, and saw that she was nodding her approval with a slight smile. Spike knew what she wanted him to do; she wanted him to accept the compliments with good grace and ignore the insulting post script, but he couldn't do it. He still wasn't ready to trust Giles, not as much as he was starting to trust Sam, so he did the next best thing.

Spike plowed his fork into the stuffing and shrugged his cocky attitude back on like a favorite sweater. "Yeah, well, thanks, Watcher, but if you bothered to listen to me before now, you'da known that already..."

Sam sighed, and Spike could tell that she was disappointed with how he had decided to handle the matter, but he really couldn't do anything about it just then.

"Okay, you guys. Now hug."

They both turned to look at her sharply, Giles seeming scandalized and Spike with murder in his eyes. She just laughed, holding up her hands in token of surrender. "Kidding." She shrugged. "Both of your comments had parting shots, so I decided to tease you an eensey bit. Sue me."

Spike's murderous expression cleared away and he shook his head, giving her a faint smile and chuckling under his breath about how she was a "cheeky little thing" as he turned his attention back to the meal.

"Ahem." Giles shot her a no-nonsense paternal glare. "I was asking you if anything happened which might explain your sudden outburst."

Her playful mood evaporated and Sam dropped her eyes to the tabletop and sullenly picked at her one remaining piece of turkey, shooting occasional rebellious glances at Giles. "Yeah..." she angrily poked her fork at the potatoes, huffing out a quiet breath. "About a week before my flight back here."

Giles set down his utensils and wiped his mouth with the napkin which had been resting on his lap. "Well?" He leveled the same no-nonsense look at her that he had been wearing before, and this time Spike didn't interrupt because he was curious about what could have happened to uspet Sam.

She sent Spike an imploring look, but he just tilted his head and frowned a tiny bit. "If something happened, luv, you should tell the Watcher. Might be able to help." When Giles looked at him in surprise at the vote of confidence, he added under his breath, "First time for everything."

Sam fiddled with her knife, never looking up for more than a few seconds at a time. "Okay, so the Italian coven I was studying with had shown me this spell and I was trying it out in my hotel room. It went a little..." Her shoulders drooped and she set the knife down. "... Haywire. It didn't... it just went off the rails... and out of my room and down the hall in this big cloud with a bang. Everyone on my hall must have heard it, and in the rooms right above and below me, and someone pulled the fire alarm but I don't know why. I guess 'cause of all the smoke... but it was this horrible pea-soup color, not like regular smoke at all, and there were little squiggles of blue energy crakling through it." She sighed shakily, twisting a napkin in her hands and looking like she was seeing it all again.

Giles leaned forward with a shake of his head to rest a hand on her shoulder and offered a comforting smile. "That sounds disappointing, but-"

She closed her eyes and brushed off his hand. "No, that was just how it started."

Spike watched as she took a few steadying breaths before going on. He didn't notice the way her camisole rose and fell with each exhalation, or how closely it clung to the soft curves of her body. Nope, not at all.

Well, maybe a little.

"All the doors on the hall had opened because of the noise, and with the fire alarm going, everyone kind of collected in the lobby. It was the middle of the afternoon, so there were maybe a few dozen people, and they were all jabbering at each other, wanting to know what was going on. My Italian is good enough to know what most of them were saying... Some of them thought it was a prank, but the people on my hall saw the cloud and saw that it was moving away from my room, and a few of them recognized me..."

Giles' eyes had gotten huge, and he let out a quiet "Good lord."

Spike could hear that both Sam's and Giles' heart rates had sped up, and he could smell the worry pouring off of Giles. Sam didn't smell quite as worried Giles did, but she was obviously traumatized by what had happened. Usually, when Spike got a good whiff of fear off of someone it was almost like tasting an appetizer, and smelling all of the apprehension from the two humans should have made his mouth water, but this time it didn't. His eyes were glued to Sam, and the look of distress on her face kicked Spike's protective instincts onto high gear and he growled out, "Luv, did they hurt you?"

She shrugged listlessly and gave Spike a wan smile. "Not really. Scared the crap out of me. I mean, there weren't any torches or pitchforks and they didn't have time to figure out it was my fault or for things to get really ugly before the hotel manager's wife – who is really the one who runs things – calmed everyone down. She's in the coven that showed me the spell, and she explained away the cloud and the noises as being a maintenance thing and she opened the hotel bar early. Still, there were..." She crossed her arms and shrugged again, seeming to fold in on herself a little. "People were saying some really nasty things about witches... and foreigners, and it just..." she sighed shakily, taking a few deep breaths in an effort to calm down. "It was a bad day."

Giles sat back again, nodding, and smiled tightly. "Yes, well, at least you weren't hurt." He patted her arm and turned back to his plate, then he paused with his fork poised in midair and blinked at her in confusion. "Why did she open the bar?"

Sam raised both her eyebrows and smirked, polishing off her glass of water. "Memory-altering spell. Everyone who took one of the free drinks just remembered it as a false alarm, and she made sure that everyone on my hall had a drink. She also showed me what I did wrong, later that evening, and how to do the spell without fouling it up, so there won't be any more boom-y cloud-thing incidents."

Giles got up from his seat and took Sam's empty glass to refill it in the kitchen.

Seeing as he still wasn't comfortable letting his Big Bad guard down around Giles, Spike waited until Giles was out of the room to reach across the table and pat Sam's hand reassuringly. "I'm glad she stepped in, luv. Crowds can turn ugly. People are okay on their own, you can handle 'em easy enough in the ones an' twos, and smallish groups are alright, but in a mob?" He shook his head sagely. "In a mob, people are dumb, panicky dangerous animals. Almost lost Dru to an angry mob." He flashed her a tender smile and sat back, pulling his hand away before Giles returned to the table.

Sam was either oblivious to the fact that he was trying to keep up appearances in front of Giles or intentionally trying to sabotage his efforts, because she smiled back at him fondly as Giles was sitting down. "Thanks for the concern, Spike. Sometimes I just hate people. You know?"

"Yes," Giles handed back her refilled glass and sat down again, rolling his eyes and commenting archly, "People can be such a bother."

She shook her head at him fondly, "Fussy, fussy," and patted his arm. "Thank you for the water, Giles."

Spike tensed, frowning to himself as Giles sat down. Hang on, why the bloody hell did I mention Dru? I'm not with her, bloody well never hope to see the daft bird again, 'cept maybe to stake her. I'm a lone wolf now, remember? 'Sole survivor, no more partners,' that whole bit. Ringin' any bells, Spike? That's the only reason I stayed with Harm: easy, convenient sex and no danger of getting' burned like I was with Dru, 'cause you have to actually care about a bird for her to hurt you. Not gonna let that happen to myself again. I'm strictly the love 'em and leave 'em type from here on out.

A slight movement from Sam caught his eye and he looked over at her again. He concentrated on her vitals, listening for her heartbeat and taking a surreptitious sniff of the air. He couldn't help smiling when he heard her heart beating out a normal rhythm and smiled wider when he didn't get even the slightest whiff of fear from her. Again, he caught himself feeling glad that she was alright and schooled his features into a vague expression, savagely trying to squash the warm, fuzzy feelings he got when Sam turned to him and smiled, tipping her head slightly to one side as she looked at him.

"You okay over there, Spike? You're not saying much."

He nodded tightly, forcing a smile. "Yeah, pet. Go on an' tell us more about your trip. Maybe pick a happier story, yeah?"

She gave him a grin and he matched it, trying not to let on about what was going on in his head. She started telling a story about the first time her host-family's daughter had taken her out to a German bar, and she was just getting to a part about trying to flirt with a local guy in her fractured German when Spike's stomach dropped to the floor.

Wait. When did I start calling her 'pet'?

His eyes went wide as he watched her talk, and he took a completely unnecessary gulp of air, followed by a few swallows of water to steady himself, holding the glass so tightly in his hand that it almost shattered, but it was no use. She smiled at him and the warm fuzzies returned, and this time they were the un-squashable kind. Spike shot a longing look at the bookshelf where Giles kept his Napoleon brandy and closed his eyes.

Oh balls.