Author's Notes: Thank you all for your amazing reviews! Historical notes: A blighty wound means a wound bad enough to earn a permanent discharge from service, sending the soldier back to Blighty (England). Soldiers would often injure themselves on purpose or (ew) place dirty objects in their wounds in order to get an infection that required amputation. They were desperate to leave the Somme, and deserters, if found, were shot. I prefer to think that Clay's blighty wound was purely honorable, though. There's your history lesson for the day. :) If I'd been more ambitious, I might have included historical photos, like Puddinhead did with her stories, but I'll let her have all the honors.
Of course Spike would pick tonight to return.
She'd gone out to patrol, to work off the nervous energy Sir George's news had evoked in her, and there he was, skulking about the cemetery she tended to patrol.
Waiting for her.
His back was to her. Without a word, Buffy dashed forward, stake in position, still too sickened by the vampire to have any thought other than ridding the world of him. He twisted, eyes widening as he realized what was about to happen, and ducked, scuttling away from her.
"Oi now! I've come to you in good faith and this is how you treat me?"
"I don't think I want to hear the word 'good' in conjunction with anything to do with you, Spike. In fact, I seem to remember making myself perfectly clear on what would happen if I ever saw you again. So…"
As she lashed out again, he kicked the stake from her hand and danced backwards. "Didn't have to come back, you know. But found that demon what you were looking for, thought I'd come tell you about it."
"Too late," she shrugged, her fists assaulting him with deadly precision. "Already know what it is and how to kill it."
Spike dodged away from her attack, frowning. "But you can't kill it. S'what the old man said."
"Old man?" Her question didn't stop her knuckles from connecting with his face.
"Bloody bitch!" he howled, then catching sight of her murderous expression, swiped at his nose and blurted quickly, "Warlock, yeah? Friend of the one what summoned the demon."
Buffy paused. Okay, now this was information she could use. "You have twenty seconds to save yourself from being dustbuster-worthy."
"Dustbuster? Never mind. Look, some bloke summoned this Hunter demon fellow. Old French warlock, tired of our lads and theirs messing up his homeland, wanted to make it so both sides would just give up and go home."
She snorted. "Obviously this guy underestimated Haig's determination to kill every last one of his own men."
"Pillock," Spike agreed. "Same seems to be true on Jerry's side. No signs of leaving, even though the demon's wiped out most every hospital over there in the last few weeks."
Buffy mulled this over. "So… don't suppose you know where our warlock lives do you? So I can pay him a not-so-friendly visit?"
Spike shrugged. "Got the general location, but would take some poking around to find which piece of earth is his. Might be able to get it back to you in a day or two."
"Really?" she started to say, then stopped, mind whirling in confusion. "Okay, Spike, what gives? What's your angle in helping me out here?" He'd voluntarily come to her, when he knew what the consequences might be, with information she needed. It was a tiny point in his favor. On the other hand, he was sick and evil and disgusting, and she really should stop holding a conversation with him and start killing him.
"What, can't just do you a good turn, Slayer?" She cocked a disbelieving eyebrow. He rubbed the back of his neck, silent for so long that she turned away with a huff, searching for her dropped stake. "Fine," he said to her back, so low she could barely make out his words. "Didn't like the way you looked at me. Like I wasn't worth knowing after all."
She spun back to face him, but there was only empty air.
Her dreams that night weren't the prophetic kind, but they were just as vivid. Her mom, sick, a little crazy from the tumor. The Queller demon attacking. Riley's voice. It's a scavenger, summoned to go after… Her own voice finishing the sentence for him. Crazy people.
Reading the letter from her Watcher. The demon is summoned; it seeks out areas with a high concentration of the wounded. Spike emerging from her basement, tossing her a knife, stopping the monster that had attacked her mother, helping her without a second thought. Spike in a brown soldier's uniform. Helping her.
Leaning in to bite her.
When he showed up next, with a roguish grin and a flippant 'Miss me, love?', Buffy couldn't deny that she had, just a little bit. It was a fleeting emotion, quickly followed by a rush of revulsion that almost left her gagging, but it was there nonetheless. Obviously her traitorous subconscious had decided to give him another chance, linking his current offer of aid to that time when he'd helped her with the Queller demon, that brief moment when he'd offered her his hand and she'd accepted it.
For weeks now, she'd been convinced that no matter what Spike had told her in the RV, her original assumption had been correct – that all his progress in Sunnydale, his so-called love for her, had been nothing but a by-product of the chip. Not real. With one short sentence, one tiny, low-spoken admission, he'd turned all her certainty on its head.
Buffy hadn't forgiven him, never would. But. If the man inside was really trying to break free… Her conflicted mind whispered that she was supposed to give him that chance. Encourage him. And, well. Timeline still preserved so far, right?
"Nice hair," she said instead, more than a little disconcerted that he now looked as he had in her Slayer dream.
He ran a self-conscious hand over his newly slicked back do. "Was time for a change," he sniffed, and she wondered if he'd chosen his new look to please her, but then had to abandon her musings to pay attention to the details he was imparting. "So!" he finished, clapping his hands and rubbing them together. "Ready to take on a warlock?"
"Ready to scope it out," she countered. "Don't have any magic users at my disposal, so I'm thinking I ought to tread carefully."
Spike nodded. "Right. Smart. Plan it out." He bounced on the balls of his feet. "Sod planning. Where's the fun in that?"
"The fun is in me not suffering from some horrible curse," she enunciated slowly. "Slayer strength is sadly useless against magic." She looked him over, watching him crack his neck and stretch his arms out, limbering up for a fight. "And, what, are we battle buddies now? You think I'd actually trust you at my side?"
"Yeah, I suppose that might be awkward. Well, you change your mind, let me know. Never ate a magic user before, thought it might be a treat. Make the blood spicy, like," he said wistfully. "What?" he said to her narrowed eyes.
She shook her head, disgusted once more. "And I knew it was too good to last. I highly recommend you leave." He opened his mouth to protest and she cut him off. "Before you say another word."
He was just far enough away that she could barely see him when he called out, "Knew you missed me! Try not to scream out my name when you're frigging yourself in bed later tonight, pet."
Of course. Because otherwise he wouldn't be Spike.
"So not an issue," she muttered as he disappeared from sight.
"You up for learning some magic?" Buffy asked Edith the next day.
"Yup. I have a spell to ward off that soldier-eating demon, thought we could take a crack at it."
Edith winced. "I… Well, you're the expert. If you feel I would be able…"
Buffy laughed. "I'm no expert. I've never even really done a spell." Hmm, does the trance thing to reveal magic count? She took one look at Edith's face and backtracked. "But! Participated in many! And this one's super easy. The worst that can happen is it won't work."
She didn't have the heart to tell Edith there could be other worsts. But it was this or try to find a witch, and she didn't know any. There didn't even seem to be any magical supply type stores around town, hence the reluctance to go looking for a spellcaster. Knowing her luck, she'd end up right in the lap of the warlock who was making the spell necessary in the first place.
Besides, she'd seen it in the Slayer dreams, her and Edith and Doc performing the spell successfully. True, Doc and Edith had collapsed after, but that part was a little fuzzier. Buffy didn't think it had been a direct consequence of the spell.
"I'm fairly certain you're supposed to help me, you and Doc Reynolds. Tonight, under the full moon." Edith looked at her askance. "Okay, see, sometimes I get these dreams. Prophetic dreams. Part and parcel of the Slayer package. The ones I've been having very specifically show you guys doing the spell with me, and it working."
Edith licked her lips, running a hand through her sandy curls. "This spellwork… it does not involve the summoning of evil forces, does it?"
"Nah, looks white witch-y to me. No calling on the forces of darkness."
Nodding her head resolutely, Edith said, "Well. I am a modern woman."
Doctor Reynolds had been as easy to convince as Edith, and now they stood outside, under the light of the full moon, replicating Buffy's dream almost perfectly. Buffy read the final part of the spell, and a shiver passed through the trio, followed by a brief burst of twinkling purple lights in the shape of a dome settling over the hospital. Within seconds, the barrier was invisible.
Edith glanced around with wide eyes, shivering. "I… there was… I didn't imagine it, did I?"
"I felt it as well," the doctor's deep voice rumbled. "Within my bones. I felt the surge of power." Both of the women turned to him.
"I think you're our power source," Buffy said slowly. "I barely registered anything. You sure you've never done magic?"
The doctor grinned. "Not to my recollection. Although, I can see the allure. You say we are to repeat this spell at the other hospitals?"
Buffy eyed him warily. "Magic can be dangerous, you know. I've seen some spells go ka-blooey with… bad side effects."
"You didn't tell me that!" Edith said.
"Sorry? This one seemed pretty safe. I'm just saying. In general. Magic can be dangerous, so don't get all excited to delve into it on your own."
The doctor rubbed his chin. "Yes. Of course. Perhaps… perhaps, if I wish to pursue it further…"
"Talk to your buddy George," Buffy supplied. "He'll be able to help. In the meantime, yeah, we can get to work on the other hospitals. It has to be under the full moon, and since tonight was the first night, we have the next two to work with. Will you be able to come with?"
"I'll arrange it. And supply the transportation." He hesitated, then said, "I have been meaning to tell you ladies, I'll most likely be moved to the field hospital in Ginchy sometime soon, now that the line is holding there. Our little hospital here will close at the same time. I'm not sure what it will mean for the two of you, but I wanted you to be prepared."
Buffy looked at Edith. "I do believe it's our bedtime," the British woman said, determined to mask her disappointment though her voice trembled. "I admit the magic took something out of me. We can discuss the other on the morrow, perhaps?"
The Slayer took her cue from her friend. "We'd better get home and get rested up for tomorrow then."
"Tell me more about these dreams?" Edith asked a few nights later. They'd managed to protect most of the hospitals on the English side of the line, and Buffy had been trying to work out how to get the information to the German side.
Edith poked her when she remained lost in thought. "Sorry! The dreams, right. They're… like clues, I guess. Not entirely accurate, because I saw the demon attacking and being repelled, right after we'd done the spell. And obviously that didn't happen. I think it was just a way to let me know it would work. Sometimes the clues make sense, but usually they don't, not until after the fact."
"You don't have any other predictions for us then?" Edith sounded disappointed.
Not if you ignore the fun little prophecy hidden in my floorboard cubbyhole.
Since the prophecy concerned only Buffy, she didn't feel guilty about keeping it a secret. For now.
"I think you should find a way to let Reynolds know how you feel," Buffy suggested. "There might have been… a clue. About the pair of you. In my dream. Or I could be misinterpreting it, but… you won't know unless you try, right? Carpe Diem and all that?"
Edith picked at a thread and didn't answer.
He'd taken to following her again, and Buffy wished he would stop, just go away and leave her alone. She'd already let herself become too trusting of him once, too comfortable with him. It wasn't a mistake she planned on repeating. Buffy wouldn't dare let herself believe he'd changed, not again, no matter how Spike's admission that he cared what she thought of him affected her.
"Go away, Spike," she called out, her voice tired and heavy. "I can't… just, please. Leave me alone." She had to pull up short when he stepped directly in front of her, his brow furrowed, expression confused.
"Have you… don't you…?"
He couldn't seem to find his words for once, but Buffy was past caring. Yes, she'd decided to let him live. For now. Maybe even encourage him, when she could. The magnitude of his evil still weighed on her though, and she couldn't bear to be near him tonight. "Please." Her eyes held his. "Just go."
His face was turbulent, dizzying in the intensity of emotion that flickered in his blue eyes. "Have you stopped believing in me?" he blurted suddenly, expression more vulnerable than she cared to admit, before he seemed to realize it as well and adopted a sneer.
Buffy considered him for a long time before she replied. "Isn't that what you wanted? To prove to me how evil you are?"
"Looks like I got my wish, then." There was no triumph in his voice.
"Looks like," she agreed, and against her better judgment, her heart thawed at the despair that skittered across his face. She ignored the feeling, stepping around his immobile form and continuing on her way.
"Oh shit!" Buffy gulped as yet another demon joined the fray. Taking on one was easy, two doable, three a bit of a stretch, and five… not a good plan. There'd only been two when she started though, and a clear path of retreat. That option was blocked, leaving the only choice to fight a losing battle.
Until Spike appeared at her left side, fighting in sync with her as if he'd been doing it for years. She shot him a startled glance.
"Looked like fun," he said with a shrug, ducking a meaty hand. "On your right, Slayer."
They were soon down to a demon each, and they snapped their foes' necks in tandem. The dead demons fell to the ground with a synchronized thud, and Buffy noted Spike was breathing just as heavily as she was, his chest rising and falling in time with her own.
"Well, that was a kick," the vampire said, giving her a saucy grin. "Fight well together, you and me. Almost like we'd done it before."
He waggled his eyebrows at her, readjusting himself. "'M all wound up now, fancy having a go? Bet we'd be just as good at fornicating."
She watched him lick his lips a moment longer than she should have. Not wound up. Nope. Not me.
The Slayer shook her head. "Night, Spike. Thanks for the save." No matter how familiar fighting with him had felt, he wasn't the man who'd fought Glory by her side. Knowing what she did now, that an unchipped Spike might fall in love with her, might care what she thought of him… she might have trusted her Spike enough to fall into bed with him.
This one? Not so much. Not when Claire's battered face still swam in her mind.
She turned and walked away.
Even as she realized both incarnations were 'her' Spike now.
Buffy hurried out to patrol, actually looking forward to talking to Spike for once. She'd finally had some time to poke around the warlock's place, with Edith acting as a nervous lookout and translator, all set with a ready excuse about lost foreigners, and she wanted to get the vampire's take on the situation.
The old man lived a few towns over, on a small acreage near Maurepas, with woods and a stream and a multitude of stone buildings. One in particular had caught Buffy's eye, a tower that seemed to have no doorway. If she were the betting kind, she would have bet that the summoning spell would be found somewhere within that tower, protected from the outside world.
She was curious to know if the evil vampire would agree.
And it looks like evil is the key word.
Dru stepped out of the orphanage vestibule, a baby in her arms, Spike following along behind.