Friday came more quickly than Buffy had expected it to. Typically her week would drag by, her classes murderously slow and leaving her desperate for nightfall and a good slay. This week though it was like she turned around and it was over, and for once she thought she might rather be in class. When she'd suggested the soccer game to Spike she'd done it in an off-handed manner, as a sort of joking consolation prize for not getting to traipse across the ocean to see his beloved Manchester play. She hadn't thought he'd actually agree. Not to go to rinky-dink Sunnydale's game.

That's not to say that she wasn't prepared. Oh no. She could handle Spike. Even if they were out in public and there were dozens of people everywhere going every which way and movement and color and shouting and dear Lord, how was she going to keep track of him? Maybe she could tie a helium balloon to his wrist…

It had taken a little work on her part to avoid Willow after class. She felt a little bad about that; she knew that she'd gone on her date with Oz the night before and was no doubt ready for some intense and lengthy girl-talk on the subject. As much as she was worried about the two red-heads and the strange twist their relationship seemed to be taking, she wanted to be home before Spike showed up. She'd taken to hiding the ring in her room instead of wearing it on her ankle bracelet, and she didn't want to give him time to snoop around.

She made it, but only just. She was slipping the ring into the pocket of her yellow shorts when she heard the front door open and close again, and she walked quickly to the head of the landing to look down on him folding his smoking blanket over the railing of the stairs.

"Let me guess," he rumbled without looking back, his voice low and teasing, "Just five more minutes, yeah?"

"Just for that," she said sweetly, "Let's make it ten." She just barely caught the roll of his blue eyes as she turned back to her room, flicking her hair over her shoulder. "Oh, and try not to break anything while you wait," she called.

It took her far less than ten minutes to finish getting ready. Pulling on a maroon U of Sunny D t-shirt, she pulled her blonde curls up into a high ponytail and stuck a pair of big, square sunglasses on the top of her head. Collecting her clunky digital camera and a few more things that were a part of her new 'tricks to keep Spike incognito' kit from the top of the vanity, she traipsed down the stairs to the waiting vamp.

She found him with his head inside her refrigerator, his jeans and duster already swapped out for a pair of black cargo shorts and a white t-shirt, feet still stuffed into messy combat boots with laces trailing. He emerged with a handful of carrot sticks, something that seemed strangely out of character and yet strangely endearing for him to have come up with. He was clearly aware of her presence because he turned around smoothly and easily, pumping himself up with one arm to sit on the island, his feet swinging reminiscent of that day on the bluff when she'd first fought him for the ring. He didn't jump, didn't start, just cocked an eyebrow at her and began crunching on his carrots.

"Ok look," Buffy began as she deposited her load on the counter at his side with a clatter, deciding that the hard and fast route was probably the most likely to get results, "We both know that you've sorta terrorized Sunnydale for a few years now and let's face it…" She looked him up and down with a mocking twist to her mouth. "You've got a look that's pretty hard to forget."

Spike smirked at her, taking her words exactly the way she knew he would. Hell, she got the eye roll out before he even began his reply.

"Hard to forget am I?" he purred, rolling his tongue behind his teeth.

"You know what I meant Billy Idol," she drolled back. "There are people here that know your face. You're hair's definitely radioactive enough to have burned into a few memories."

"What's your point?" he huffed, finishing off his snack and dusting his hands together.

"My point," she said, "Is that if you wanna go out in public, you gotta go low profile."

"Not dying my hair Slayer, so you can just forget it!" he snapped, abruptly on the defensive, sliding off the counter onto his feet. "Like it fine the way it is thanks."

"I'm not asking you to dye your hair," she replied. Picking up a worn black baseball cap from her pile of goodies, she slapped it on top of his head. "Sunglasses too," she offered, holding out the pair that had come from the duffel he'd stashed in her hall closet. For a minute he just frowned up at the bill of the cap over his forehead, a reluctant, grumbly growl rumbling up out of his chest, then he took the sleek black shades and slipped them on.

Stepping back, Buffy took a second to observe the almost-completed product. In bits and pieces she found a degree of success; the hat covered his hair, the sunglasses his eyes and cheekbones, disguising his most outstanding features. Without the duster and the bumpies, and in broad daylight, she figured they'd be safe. And the whole picture? Damn! To an outsider he was just one pair of over-sized, puffy skater shoes away from your typical campus jerk halfway to bad boy, but she knew better. She might definitely prefer him cloaked in black and leather and night, but she could still see the edge to him, could feel the predator beneath the surface… feel herself in him. A Slayer, fighting to hide in her normal skin, and a master vampire, fighting to break out of his.

Not that she preferred Spike at all, regardless of how he dressed.

Buffy blinked and shook her head. "One last thing, and we'll be ready to go," she smiled, careful to keep her tone light and carefree. Picking up two little makeup pots, she tossed one over. Catching it against his chest, Spike spun the jar to read the label, raising an eyebrow in her direction.

"What?" he asked, "You want me to paint my chest? Need to corral a few more blokes for that Slayer. 'Course, if you just want me to take my shirt off again…"

"No!" Buffy yelped, though her mind had suddenly wandered to just that scenario. All on its own of course. Damn thing. "I mean…"

'Smooth Buffy. Not defensive at all!"

Swallowing hard, she shrugged and feigned nonchalance. "You could always be punctuation," she said, unscrewing the cap on her 'Sunny Yellow' paint. "We could just tack you on to the end of whatever word's already there."

"Again, thanks, but no," he answered, dropping 'Deep Maroon' onto the counter. "Makin' enough of an ass o' myself with this thing…"

"Don't," Buffy warned as he reached for the ball cap, but all he did was crease the bill and turn it around so that it pointed down the back of his neck. "It hides your hair. And at the very least you can wear a little war paint." She approached him confidently, one pointer finger dipped in each color, though she wasn't at all sure he would bear the insult. "You'll look dumb if you don't wear something with the school colors."

"Who says my dosh is on Sunnyhell?" he asked as he took two steps back, skirting the island and retreating strategically from her onslaught.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Not scared of a little face paint are you Spike?" she taunted. She'd backed him up against the counters now, leaving a safe three feet of space between them as she held up her dripping fingers. "Come on," she wheedled. "A couple little stripes won't kill you."

"How do you know?" he demanded, eyes fixed on the paint on her hands. "A demon's still got his pride, even if he… makes deals with the… Slayer…" His sentence trailed off into mumbles as he seemed to realize that whatever his definition of pride was, he seemed to no longer think that he did have it.

That cut at Buffy, the light, teasing mood they'd had going evaporating. In an effort to get back to it, she decided to compromise.

"Come on," she cajoled, "Two stripes on each side and I'll let you do me."

That seemed to snap him out of it, because his eyes leapt up to hers with a glint and a lascivious grin curled over his mouth as what she'd said registered warm and heavy in her stomach.

"Oh, god, eww!" she cried. "Don't say it Spike. Just hold still."

Without waiting for a response, she darted in, drawing a parallel line each of maroon and yellow on both his cheeks like Indian war paint, and darting back out before he could move. Wiping the paint off her hands on a paper towel, she offered him the pot of burgundy, her breath catching when he moved in close, dipping the first two fingers of his left hand into the paint.

"Give me an S?" she asked, pulling her ponytail back so that her hair wouldn't stick in the wet paint.

To her discomfort, he took another step in to her side so that there was barely an inch between them. She felt like she was burning, like the heat of his body was pressing full-length down her side through their clothes, but that wasn't right was it?

"I'm flattered pet," he murmured, and his breath fluttered hot on the skin of her collarbones as he ducked his head in close. He raised his hand and she waited for his touch on her cheek. "But if you were to wear my mark, it would be lower." His hand circled her throat lightly, two fingertips pressed firmly over the artery in the side of her neck and she should have jumped, should have knocked him halfway across the room onto his ass for what he was suggesting, but she found that she couldn't move at all.

After one long minute she finally found her voice again.

"As if Spike." She tried for a nervous laugh but her voice was tight and strained, and she didn't doubt he could hear it. The thought made her feel cold and electric and . "And God, ego much? Try S for Sunnydale."

From the corner of her eye she saw him smirk, and with one quick, even motion, he slicked a cool, curving S over the plane of her cheek. She wasn't so distracted that she didn't feel his other hand dipping into her front pocket and pulling out the gem of Amarra, but she was more than well enough preoccupied not to stop him. Stepping back, he wiped his hands clean on her crumpled paper towel and slipped the ring onto his finger before turning to leave the kitchen. "Move it Slayer," he tossed back over his shoulder, apparently sensing that Buffy was still rooted to the ground. "Wanna get a good seat."

Buffy swallowed and after a monumental struggle managed to unglue her feet, moving to follow when the camera on the island caught her gaze.

"Hey wait a second!" she called, and he stopped and turned to face her again. Raising the camera before he could protest, she snapped off a quick couple of shots. "I thought you might wanna see," she explained, holding out the camera to the frowning vamp. "Since, you know, the whole no-mirrors thing..."

Spike hesitated, shifting on his feet before swiping the camera out of her hand and scrolling through the three images she'd taken.

"Oh bloody hell," he muttered viciously. Tossing the camera back to her, he spun on his heel and marched for the front door. "Let's go Slayer!" he shouted. "May look like a soddin' ponce but I'm not missin' the bleedin' kickoff!"

A smile caught the edge of Buffy's mouth and she hurried to follow him out the front door, but was stopped again by her fleeting dart past the hallway mirror. Two steps backward had her facing her reflection head on, and she was… unsure about what she saw. Her eyes were bright, her cheeks flushed, a sneaky curve to her lips that looked like the grin she used to wear when she was sneaking out of the house at night back in LA. God, she looked like… She didn't know what she looked like, but she certainly didn't look like a Slayer chasing after a Master vamp. Straightening her shoulders, she put a look of stern attention on her face, brushing the end of her ponytail off her shoulder.

And that's when she saw it.

Two dark red dots on her neck where her pulse beat hard, an acrylic kiss mimicking a vampire's bite.

Swallowing hard, Buffy shook off the chill running the length of her spine and scrubbed at the paint with the heel of her palm until nothing was left. Grabbing her keys, she pointed her finger sternly at her reflection one last time and ran out the door.

The walk from Buffy's house to Sunnydale's campus was a long one, but for two slightly-more-than-humans, or in his case slightly-less, it was a brief and easy one. Lucky enough for him the Slayer seemed distracted, caught up in something she was unwilling to share, because she was quiet the whole way, her hands together, worrying at her cuticles as she walked. Was fine by him; he had his own tangled thoughts to work through.

The week had gone by fast after his little sparring session with Buffy in the cemetery. He'd walked stiff-legged back to his crypt that night where a cold shower had helped to clear his head, though not for long. He had enjoyed that fight so much, so much more than he should have, and he didn't know what that meant their… future interactions. Having shaken the feeling away long enough to fall asleep, he had been plagued by strange dreams that he couldn't remember after waking with a strangled gasp, too warm in twisted, sticky sheets.

The rest of the week had been no better.

He'd gone hunting on the edges of town the night before and had run into a…snag.

As they walked Spike felt his face start to shift at the memory, his lips curling back from sharp teeth in a grimace until he clamped down on the emotions roiling up in his chest. Last night had been a disaster, a complete bloody mess, and if nothing like that ever happened to him again, it would be far too bloody soon! He just couldn't seem to hold on to his demon face, his human mask slipping back to the fore without summons or permission. He'd never had a problem gettin' it up before, and he'd do a lot of wicked bad things if he could keep it that way from now on.

It had been the girl's fault. Fightin' him the way she had. Kickin' and clawin' like some wild thing, screaming until he'd clapped a hand over her mouth then biting down hard on his fingers. He'd whipped her around so fast it had almost made him dizzy, slamming her back against the brick wall of the alley he'd dragged her down and snarling viciously as he shook out his bleeding hand, the other wrapped tightly around her neck. He had turned on her with flashing amber eyes, ready to dive for her throat, but something had stopped him, jerking him back like an icy steel hook in his stomach.

Blonde hair. Light green eyes, not quite the right shade. A spitfire, with a battle-ready attitude.

So naturally he was reminded of her.


There was nothing natural about it.

He had been abruptly disgusted with himself, with the pang of guilt that hummed in his chest like the vibrations of a ringing gong, and the feeling only mounted when he let the girl go. She had screeched like a banshee and taken off at a full-out sprint, and he had watched her go with narrowed eyes before melting away into the night, disappearing before she could rouse a lynch-mob. Finding a nice safe rooftop he sat back on his heels, staring down at his hands and it was like they had belonged to someone else.

What the hell had he done that for?

As if to echo the question, his stomach had rumbled loudly, reminding him that he hadn't eaten in a while. So why had he let her go? Oh, he'd let people go in the past, both before and after taking a bite, and for lots of different reasons, but most were to amuse himself. He'd never turned his nose up to a perfectly passable meal on an empty stomach before just because he felt…


It wasn't because he couldn't imagine biting Buffy. On the contrary, he thought about biting her a lot. Glancing over at his silent companion, his eyes lingered on her neck, the ends of her ponytail brushing golden hair across it as she walked. Yeah, he thought about it. Hard and sharp and fast because she'd pissed him off and deserved a little nip. Firm and deep so he could get at that sweet, sweet Slayer blood. Lots of different ways. Lots of different places…

Spike shook himself.

Right then. Wasn't because he couldn't imagine it.

He hadn't been able to do it because he knew she wouldn't like it.

The vampire frowned. Suddenly it mattered to him what the Slayer thought. What she wanted, what she cared about. Like it was his responsibility to satisfy her.

His mind took another twisted turn at that thought and he just about made himself sick. The hell was it between him and the Slayer lately, the teasing, the compromising, the incessant innuendos on both their parts at every turn, even when they weren't trying… He must just need a good lay. Yeah, that was it. It had been… well, too long, and she was the only female he'd spent any time around lately that didn't have tentacles or drip. Plus she'd got his motor revving the other night with their little sparring session. He was just letting it transfer, that was all.

Spike looked over at her walking easily by his side in the sunlight and sneered.

Wasn't like he was getting hot for the Slayer. That was just bollocks!