The Talisman

Chapter Three – Motor Boat

Spike sauntered through the cave, tossing the statue from hand to hand as he closed on the Slayer's position. He heard the miniscule scraping that meant she was about to launch an attack and called out, "Keep the stake to yourself, Slayer, 's just me."

Buffy peeked around the corner, her eyes widening at the sight of Spike… all by himself. "Where's the vampires?"

Spike nodded back over his shoulder. "Left 'em back there. Told 'em I'd be back to collect 'em later and not to leave 'til I did."

Buffy's eyes got just a little bit wider. "And they listened to you because…"

Spike's grin almost split his face in two. "I'm their new Master. Dusted the old one and gained myself a pile of minions. I've just won myself a proper Vampire Court."

Buffy gaped at him, her stake hand falling listlessly to her side. "You… you're… Master? A court?" Her grip tightened on her stake as she started to raise it again, a look of grim resignation settling onto her features.

Spike took a step back and held up the hand not holding the statue. "Now just hold on, Slayer. Not gonna let you stake me just 'cause I've got some of my rocks back. And yeah, I'm a Master… have been for decades, pet. The buggerin' chip may have taken my ability to feed, but it didn't erase my status. I'm still a Master Vampire of the Aurelian line, and I'm the oldest and most experienced vampire in Sunnydale, so it's only right that I be in charge."

Buffy took a step forward. "I can't let you take over Sunnydale, Spike."

"And why not? You know I'd never do anythin' to harm you, the Bit, or any of the Scoobies. Haven't I proved that? Over and over? Fought beside you to save the bleedin' world then kept your merry band of white hats alive while you were gone. Think it's safe to say I've switched sides. I'm not after redemption like my git of a Grandsire, but you know I'll keep my word. You need to cut through all that shit your Watcher's been feedin' you all these years – demons bad – humans good. It's crap, Slayer, every bit of it. The world's not black and white, it's all shades of gray and the sooner you suss that out, the better off you'll be."

"But…"

"No buts, Buffy. You've been fightin' alone for how many years when you could've been usin' demons to your advantage. There's tons of demons in this town that like the world just the way it is and will fight to keep it that way. If you'd tapped that resource to help against Glory, you might not have…"

"Had to die."

"Right. Now, take off those Council blinders and really think about this. If I'm in charge of the Sunnydale vampires and I'm on your side then…"

"They're on my side."

Spike touched the end of his nose with a fingertip. "Got it in one, pet." He held up the statue. "Got the transmitter. The git I dusted thought it was some kind of talisman that, once activated, would make you lose your powers and he'd be able to kill you. Apparently they were just about to perform the activation ritual when I showed up. Who knows what that kind of mojo would've actually done to this thing." Buffy was standing there staring blankly at the statue and Spike snapped his fingers in front of her face. "Slayer?"

She startled and blinked. "Sorry… just… uh… a lot of things to think about."

Spike stuffed the statue into his pocket and motioned toward the cave entrance. "I'm sure. Let's get this trinket to your Watcher then I've things to do."

She looked up at him as they made their way out of the cave. "What things?"

Spike cast her a sideways glance. "Gotta find new digs for one. Can't properly rule a court from a crypt, now can I?" He pulled out a smoke and his lighter. "Think I'll move into the mansion. It's large enough… make a right proper lair."

XX

XXXX

XX

Spike pulled the statue from his pocket and made like he was going to toss it to Rupert, chuckling when the Watcher darted to the side. "Where'd you want me to put it, Watcher? Not gonna come back here every time you need to dust, so pick a proper spot and I'll get out of your hair."

Rupert pointed to a large metal chest in the corner of the room. "Please put it in there. A Council team will be here in the morning to return it to its rightful owners."

Spike eased the statue into the chest, snugging it gently into the cushioning. "And how's that going to work being that only demons can touch it? I highly doubt the Council's employin' demons these days."

"No, they're not. That chest has a magical dampening field imbedded in it, so it's safe for humans to carry."

Spike nodded. "Right. Well, I'm off." He started for the door then looked back over his shoulder. "Slayer?"

Buffy jerked and Giles shot her an inquisitive look. "Buffy? Are you all right?"

She nodded distractedly. "Yeah… just thinking. Um… I should go."

Spike smirked. "You want me to walk you, Slayer? You seem a bit out of it. Wouldn't want some nasty to get hold of you 'cause you're too busy thinkin' to pay attention to your surroundings."

She squared her shoulders then shook her head as she walked past him to the door. "No. I'm fine. I'll be fine." She pulled the door open and called back over her shoulder. "See you tomorrow, Giles."

Giles called out his goodbye as Spike pulled the door closed. He jogged to catch up with Buffy who had already made it to the street. "Buffy, hold up, need to talk to you."

She didn't stop walking as she held up her hand. In fact, she started walking faster. "Not now, Spike. I'm tired. Just go do… whatever it is you do, and I'll talk to you tomorrow."

Spike stopped and waited until she'd gotten a bit of distance before he called out, "Fine, Slayer, just had a question, is all. Ever think about goin' into law enforcement? Flippin' burgers isn't really your thing and I bet you'd look right tasty in a uniform… in fact… I know you would."

Buffy stuttered to a halt and slowly turned around. Her eyes seemed to take up half her face as her mouth dropped open and the stake she'd been clutching slid right out of her suddenly noodly fingers to land on the sidewalk with a small thud. Then she started making a noise that sounded a lot like a motor boat engine, "Bu… bu…bu…bu… you said you don't dream! You lied!"

Spike smiled as he started backing away. "Only said that to let you off the hook, Slayer. And I'm not pushin' you now, either. I only brought it up to let you know that I know, and I understand that you're not ready to admit it yet." He stuffed his hands into his duster pockets as he continued to move away. "You know where I'll be when you are. I love you, Buffy." He smiled softly then disappeared into the shadows with a swirl of black leather.

Buffy stood there for a long time staring at the spot where he'd disappeared into the darkness then she bent and scooped her stake off the sidewalk and started for home. She had a lot of thinking to do. A small smile curved her lips as she realized that all her thinking would involve the best way to break the news to the Scoobies that she was in love with another vampire… and where she could go to pick up a uniform and some handcuffs.