I'd like to take a minute to thank all of you who read my work and especially those of you who drop a review in the box. Grad school's a killer, so it's nice to hear good things about something that I write every once in a while! Enjoy!


She didn't waste any time trying to pull him up. Didn't give him the chance to push her away again. Falling to her knees at his side she grabbed a shard of ceramic from the floor and pressed it hard to her wrist, grinding down to break the skin. It didn't have a cutting edge, not like steel or glass, and it hurt dragging it across her thin, pale flesh, but she bit her lip and did the job, bright red welling quickly and strongly to the surface. Spike seemed completely out of it, mumbling forlornly against the tile, and she had to wrap her free arm around his shoulders and down beneath his chest, had to fight to lift him up just enough that she could slip her wrist under his mouth.

He fully resisted her, shaking his head against her forearm and she didn't blame him, not with the way he'd been reacting to his food lately, but there was no other way to fix this. Pressing her wrist more firmly against his lips, she almost sobbed with relief when she felt him nuzzle around, felt his tongue flicker out and catch the trickle running down her arm towards the floor. He was nervous about it, tentative, but when there was no immediate, violent reaction he seemed to give up, to give in to the draw of it, break under the pressure until finally he took her arm in his hands and sealed his mouth over the wound, drawing long hard gulps of her blood into his battered body.

And her?

Well she just sat back and felt it.

There was something primal to the feeding. Something warm and rightabout huddling close to his side while he drew on her. He was strength and power and control all strapped together with lean muscle, and it was her blood that was healing that, fueling it, gluing him back together. She could feel the tug in her veins as he drank and there was something incredible to it.

It came to an end all too soon, when she could begin to feel the toll it was taking on her own body. Straightening up, she tried to gently pull away, but he tightened his grip painfully on her arm and pulled her closer, this time biting down with sharp fangs over the cut she'd already made. Shadoe held back a yelp at the slicing pain of his fangs crunching down through tendon and pushed roughly at his shoulder.

"Stop," she urged, just a little bit of panic leaking into her voice. All the old warnings that had been piped in over the speakers for so long came flooding back to her, about how she would be used up until there was nothing left of her, and she began to struggle harder. "Stop!"

Something must have gotten through then; her pushing and tugging at him, the high pitched fear in her words, because he released her so fast that she almost spilled over backwards into the messy pink water that covered the floor and soaked in through the thin fabric of her pants. She grabbed on hard to her wrist, squeezing firmly against the jagged slash and the crescent cut of teeth, trying to stem the sluggish flow of blood still weeping from the wound. Spike had rolled backward and pushed himself away, the heels of his boots kicking up splash until he was hunched beneath the lip of the tub pressed tight against the porcelain. There was blood smeared messily around his mouth and over his chin, but he was still pale, some strange emotion glinting hard in dark blue eyes.

"Sorry," he muttered, the words slurred. "Sorry. I... I didn't…"

"I'm ok," she mumbled, unable to drag her eyes from the floor. She got the feeling that she'd scared him. She hadn't meant to, and at the same time, it surprised her. That he was afraid. Was it because he thought he had hurt her, or because he thought he'd almost…

She swallowed hard.

It didn't matter.

For a few seconds there was a harsh silence between them, and then suddenly his hands appeared on hers, gentle, easy, drawing her bleeding wrist back towards his mouth. She pulled back half-heartedly; she knew she shouldn't let him take anymore. She was feeling a little light-headed, a little tired, like her body was heavier than it should be, and so she resisted him until he spoke.

"Lemme seal it," he said quietly. "Can't have you leakin' all over the Watcher's tile, muckin' it up."

That got a giggle out of her, half-hysterical, but a giggle none the less, and she felt his lips curl in a smile against the skin of her wrist. For a moment he breathed hard against her and she wondered if he could do this, but a good feed seemed to have fortified him, and he lathed his tongue smoothly over the damage, sealing the lacerations until there was nothing left there but two thin marks just paler than her natural tone. They tingled a bit and she rubbed at the skin there when she was returned her arm, but she could feel him watching her.

"Should get up out of this mess," he murmured, almost to himself as he ran a hand roughly through his hair.

Glancing over at him, she could see the slump in his shoulders, the same exhaustion she felt herself weighing him down. Crawling to her feet, using the tub to drag herself upward, she peered into the basin and was pleased to find it practically dry, any water from the broken pipe having drained out. He'd remained on the floor, staring tiredly ahead, but when she went to the sink and picked up the key left there, well out of reach, and came back to his side to turn the locks on his remaining restraints, she felt relief swoop through him as the chains dropped off and he collapsed in on himself.

He rallied a bit when she touched his shoulder, the barest brush of fingertips, and pulled himself to his feet, where he stood blankly at her side, swaying back and forth a bit on unsteady legs as he appeared to wait for her to take the lead. Still, when she climbed into the tub she saw a dim surprise flit over his face. It looked as if he might only stand there staring down at her until she reached out and took his hand.

It was cramped and wet and it took a good minute of jostling once he'd gotten in after her to make them both fit, but there was something terribly comforting about it too; pressed tight together, half resting on the other, existing in the same space. This time it was him turning in to her, hooking one leg over her knees and fisting his hand in her shirt at her ribs, burrowing his face into her chest near the crook of her throat where she could feel his breath on her skin. There was an aching tension in the back of his shoulders, like he was holding on to her with everything he had when all he wanted to do was fall away, his eyes crunched shut tight. Something in her chest hurt and in an effort to ease that pain she began to hum, soft and low, a tune she didn't recognize but clearly knew. The hand that curled beneath him came up to tangle in the soft curls that had dried into his hair, and as she ran her fingers through it she finally felt his muscles start to relax, melt into the curve of her body as his chest began to rise and fall in a fixed, even rhythm.

Her own eyes began to grow heavy then and she lost the beat of her song as sleep dragged at her. The last thing she remembered before dropping off into the dark was the low, steady rumble of a big cat's purr echoing up out of the bowl of the bathtub.


"They're sleeping," Giles said quietly, closing the bathroom door with a barely audible click.

Buffy glared at him from the other end of the hallway, a frown firmly in place as she rubbed at her elbow. She'd clipped it off the wall when Shadoe had thrown her out of the room, catching it just right to hurt.

"What is she Giles?" the Slayer asked. "I mean, I know she caught me off guard and all, but she's stronger than she looks, and that cut in her stomach is better than it should be."

"I don't know," the older man replied, taking off his glasses for a good polish. "I've been in contact with some of the other Watchers less affiliated with the council and they've reported that Faith is alive and well, as are you."

"So she's not a Slayer," Buffy declared. "I told you he was lying."

"I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss what Spike has to say," he cautioned. "He has more experience with Slayers than a lot of the council does. He knows a different side of this, and for a vampire, Slayer blood is a very distinctive and powerful thing. If he says that she has it, I believe him."

"Then what?" she demanded in exasperation, getting up from where she perched on the back of the couch and crossing her arms. "She didn't just appear out of nowhere. One of us dies, another rises – that's how it works!"

Giles sighed and she could almost see his brain working at the problem. The glasses came off again but this time he pinched the bridge of his nose, massaged his forehead and his temples.

"I'm well aware, thank you," he sighed wearily. "It doesn't make sense." Raising his head he began to tap the frame of his glasses against his teeth. "The only explanation I can give is that she is indeed a potential."

"But what does that mean?" Buffy urged.

"Well Slayers don't just happen Buffy," he tried again, moving over to his desk chair and sitting down where he could face her. "There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of potentials in the world, girls who one day might be called. They're a little bit stronger, a little bit faster. Nothing like you of course, but just… more."

"And you think that explains it?"

"Her side of it at least. The healing, the Slayer blood, as weak as Spike claims it to be…"

"So what about the rest?" Buffy asked, and a still, quiet coldness seemed to fill up the room. The things Spike had said… "You really think he was telling us the truth? That there's a lab under the college and there are people down there playing out torture fantasies? Running tenth-grade bio class experiments?"

Giles looked at her with something akin to a pity. "I put very little beyond the world and the people in it Buffy."

"I guess I can get behind the demon thing," she conceded, tilting her head. "Trying to understand what scares them, what they can't control."

"It's despicable," her Watcher interrupted. "Like children pulling the wings off of flies." Standing up, he came to her and placed his hands on her shoulders. "You carry a burden Buffy," he said insistently, "But you cannot lose sight of your humanity. There is no excuse for cruelty in this world, where there is already so much pain. Yes, you kill, but you make a clean kill. There is honor in that."

Buffy blushed and looked away, and Giles dropped his hands to move into the kitchen and start a kettle. There was a few minutes of quiet before she spoke again.

"Not everyone's so forgiving."

"No, I suppose they're not," Giles replied, his voice tight, and Buffy was reminded harshly of the loss of Jenny Calendar.

"Say they do have demons down there," she said, a little too quickly in an attempt to change the subject. "I mean, I saw the stitches." And she had. Black and harsh against the pale skin of Spike's chest and his sunken stomach, the watercolor of blue and purple and yellow bruising, and honestly it had twisted in her own guts. "Do you really think he found her down there?"

"What do you mean?" he asked with his back to her as the kettle began to whistle and he moved it from the burner.

"It's just hard to imagine I guess," she responded, her words distant. "People doing that to other people. I mean, it's the twentieth century, not World War II. No matter what Spike says about the Nazis."

Giles chuckled despairingly and shook his head, and it jolted her.

"You're young Buffy," he began in a flat, numbed voice. "Still a child really. You know so much of what the supernatural realm is like, but I fear you know less of the human sphere. Yes, I know, you've been taught of all the war and murder and history of this world, but you haven't ever really lived it, never seen it with your own eyes. It's distant from you. You see such deep darkness every day in the world of demons that the world of humans pales in comparison."

Raising his eyes from his tea cup, Buffy was struck by just how old he looked in that moment.

"Let me tell you Buffy," he warned, "People can be just as dark. Just as brutal. It's hard to imagine, yes, hard to swallow, but I have no doubt that what Spike, and Shadoe, have seen and lived through is not only possible but probable. It is an unfortunate truth that I would not be at all surprised to find just what Spike has described down there."

"So what do we do?" she asked, her voice small and fearful.

"I don't know."