Author's Notes: Thank you all for your reviews! I've had a death in the family, so both my writing and my internet access will be interrupted for the next week or so… and then semester finals… basically, if you don't hear much from me until the second week of December, I haven't vanished; I'm just dealing with real life. I do incredibly appreciate all your reviews and feedback.

Note on the eventual sequel: Here's what I've decided to do. Since the idea I have for season 2 will be vastly different on so many levels, my plan with regards to a sequel to this story is to highlight some points throughout the rest of the season and touch specifically on changing very deliberate things, so each chapter will be like its own little spotlighting re-write of an episode, but it won't be as complete a re-write as "Five Words".

Chapter note: "It's so fluffy I'm gonna die!" I hope you enjoy, nonetheless. ;)


Chapter 18: Family and Friends

"Buffy…" whispers Xander, momentarily forgetting that with his superior hearing, the vampire in the kitchen can still pick up on every word he utters, "please don't tell me that Spike the Slayer-slayer is in your house."

"Uh… well, yeah, he is," she admits with a little shrug. Way to go, Spikey. So much for warming them up to the idea.

"I've looked in the usual drawer by the coffee filters an' can't find 'em," Spike continues, an only slightly cheeky tone in his voice. Yeah, that's right, kids, he thinks smugly, detecting the silence in the room beyond. Just go on and guess how many times I've been in Buffy's house, chattin' up her mum an' havin' a nice cuppa.

He's still out of sight of the foyer, unseen by the Scoobies gathered in panic just inside the front door. Faith, however, gets a peek at him from her vantage point on the couch, and she smirks at Buffy, nodding approvingly.

"Not sure who the hot blond in your kitchen is, B, but he is a hunk," she whispers, grinning. "Wouldn't mind taking that stallion on a long gallop."

"Faith!" Buffy gasps, her cheeks turning some hitherto unseen color between orange and puce.

"Yo, Mystery Dude!" Faith calls out in reply to Spike's question, still sharpening her stake idly. "I drank all the hot cocoa at Christmas, unless Mrs. S. got more!"

"Oh, bugger," Spike sighs, exaggeratedly disappointed. "Thanks anyways, pet. Buffy, luv, s'that the new junior Slayer I've been hearin' so much about?"

"It is Spike!" Xander gasps, turning around and yanking open the door. "Nobody move! We've got tons of weapons in the van. Oz, come on!"

"Xand, stop, you don't need weapons!" shouts Buffy.

"Hold on! Who the hell is this guy and did he just call me 'the junior Slayer'?!" screeches Faith.

"EVERYONE! BE QUIET!"

Suddenly returning from upstairs, Joyce Summers manages to outshout all the screaming and yelling teenagers, who stare at her as she descends to the foyer.

"Thank you," says Buffy's mother, now the image of calm, cool, and collected. "Now, kids – Faith, look at me. I'm talking to you too – Spike just helped Buffy rescue me and Giles from a terrible ordeal. He is my guest just like any of you, and you are not to harm him or threaten to harm him."

Xander's mouth flops open like a fish out of water, and even Willow, who had a lot more warning, is thunderstruck by Spike's apparent welcome into the Summers' family.

"Mrs. Summers, he's a dangerous vampire," Oz whispers, surprisingly the first who dares to speak out of all the chastised and astonished teenagers.

"And it's exactly that dangerousness that allowed him to save us," counters Joyce. "I know you all have had less than pleasant encounters with him in the past, but Spike has a very strong reason for reforming, don't you, dear?"

She addresses this final part to Spike, raising her voice so he can hear her over the whistling of the water kettle.

"Yes, Mum," he calls back, teasingly proper. "Are we really out of the cocoa packets with the little marshmallows?"

"Let me see if I can help you find some," smiles Joyce, stepping between the teens and joining Spike in the kitchen. The moment she rounds the corner, all of Buffy's friends burst out in arguments.

"Spike is in your house?!" splutters Xander. "Oz, gimme that cross. We gotta make sure she's not a vamp too!"

"Is this that same vampire guy that broke into the school and Willow and I were trapped in a closet for five hours?!" Cordelia demands. "Because I still have trauma!"

"Did he or did he not call me the JUNIOR Slayer? 'Cuz no way in hell am I the junior Slayer!" yells Faith.

Buffy stands silently in the middle of the group, letting herself be subjected to Xander waving Oz's cross around in front of her nose, just gazing into Willow's eyes as if she could telepathically beg her best friend to see things from her side.

"Are ya done?" she finally mumbles, once Xander lowers the cross and Willow quietly replies in the affirmative to Cordelia's question.

"Actually, yeah. I have to research a paper on Bosnia due Monday," Cordelia pouts, straightening her coat. "I wasn't gonna bother if Buffy had died. I'm sure Giles would have given me a note. But now that she's not dead anymore, I've got to go hit the books."

"B-but we all came here in Oz's car. Are you just gonna walk?" Willow reminds her.

"I guess so." Cordy steps to the front door, but before she can leave, Buffy suddenly remembers.

"Oh, Cordelia! What did you have to do that time your car got towed?"

Cordelia sighs petulantly. "Do you have to remind me? Shesh. The towing company took it out to their lot. There was a fine. And they totally didn't care that I had a perfectly legitimate reason for how I'd parked my car."

" 'Cuz you're bad at parking?" offers Xander.

"No!"

"You were saving the second spot for someone else?" suggests Oz with a grin.

"No!"

"Oh! Your car squiggled around after you parked!" Willow chimes in, glad to help steer the conversation away from accusations on Buffy.

"No!" shouts Cordelia, now blushing and infuriated.

"Buffy, luv?"

The five standing teens wheel around as Spike enters from the kitchen, and Buffy can't help but bite her lip, just a little. He's rolled up the borrowed ivory shirt's sleeves to display his alabaster forearms, and his hair looks like he's daubed some water on it, taming the platinum fluff into slicked curls.

"Mum asks if you know where the phone book is?" he asks, perfectly demure and gentlemanly. Beside Buffy, Cordelia blinks a few times, trying to reconcile the grotesque-faced monster of her memory with this… for want of a better term, angel, all white skin and hair, almost glowing.

"Meeee-ow," Faith mutters, appraising the vampire with hooded eyes and apparently quite ready to forget the slight on her Slayer status.

Xander gags and splutters. "It… what… him! You're meowing at him?!"

"Nice to see you too, mate," Spike smirks at the boy. "Hope there're no hard feelings 'bout the whole kidnapping deal. Eh, Red?"

"Uh… I… er…" Willow turns pink and steps behind Oz.

"Cordy, didn't you say something about a paper?" Buffy gently reminds her other stunned friend.

Still a bit bug-eyed, Cordelia nods without turning her head toward Buffy – so it looks more like she's giving Spike a thorough once-over – and then she takes a couple uneven steps in the direction of the front door and finally manages to slip out of it.

Faith, meanwhile, stands and approaches Spike, and to Buffy's fury, she does 'that thing' with her hands on her hips and elbows pointed back, accentuating her cleavage. Buffy has tried to replicate it, but no amount of practicing that move in the mirror has made it look anything but ridiculous on her, yet Faith somehow manages to pull it off flawlessly every time.

"Hey," the brunette Slayer practically purrs at Spike. "I'm Faith."

"Spike," he replies by way of introduction, his eyes on her eyes and not one inch lower. "Or 'Bloody Will', but only among pals."

"O-kay," Buffy interrupts, sending Faith a glower. She slams the front door behind Cordelia, rushes to the living room desk, and digs the phone book out of the drawer. "Uh… there can't be many towing companies in a pedestrian-friendly town this size. Should be easy to find."

"Thanks, sweet'eart," Spike murmurs. When Buffy approaches him with the phone book, he reaches both hands toward her – one to slip the thick phone book out of her hand, and the other to cup her hair gently and draw her in. In full view of the four other guests, Spike gives Buffy's forehead two quick kisses – two distinct little squeaks of his lips against her skin, as if showing such affection for her is the most natural, unquestionable thing in the world – and then steps around her and spreads the book out on the desk.

The Summers' living room is deathly quiet for about five seconds, Buffy blushing, Xander and Oz paralyzed in surprise, and Willow's head working overtime. So he's a vampire and he has no soul, but he's being nice and not evil, and Buffy let him kiss her! Did she ever let Angel kiss her in front of us? Then again, Angel was never really the 'around other people' type, let alone with the kissing. And after last year and the very very bad result of the kissing… I guess Buffy really meant what she said, that Spike is nothing like Angel.

Then at last Faith lets out a long sliding-tone whistle. "Gosh. B. sure knows how to pick the undead hotties."

Xander gags again. "Sp… pick the… Spike?! Buffy's with Spike?!"

"Uh, Willow, I get the funny feeling that Buffy broke up with Angel," Oz whispers subtly to his girlfriend, taking the situation as calmly as most other everyday life occurrences.

"Yup," she nods. "She, um, she told me on the phone."

"Gotcha."

"Eh, you're right, luv," Spike says suddenly, making most of the Scoobies jump at the sound of his voice, still getting used to hearing it as upbeat and casual instead of life-threatening. "Only got the one. Sunnydale Towing. Bet they're the ones who took it."

"Okay. I dunno if they'd be open on Sunday, but you can always call and find out," Buffy advises. "I'm gonna have some breakfa– … you know what. It's my post-birthday. I can have whatever meal I want, and this Slayer tummy says 'peanut butter and jelly'. Coming, guys?"

Oz and Willow follow her into the kitchen without question, and Faith soon steps in line behind them, her eyes unmistakably checking out the back view of Spike as he bends over the phone book and dials the number. Xander moves more slowly, his hand still clenched tight on Oz's cross.

"Yes, I'm callin' about a black 1959 DeSoto Adventurer that is missin' from the lot out by city hall," Spike says brightly when someone at Sunnydale Towing answers his call. "The vehicle would've been removed sometime yesterday before nine p.m."

"You… you have a vintage DeSoto Adventurer?" asks Xander. All the spite – and most of the air – has disappeared from his voice, as though Spike has just flaunted a gigantic tub of chocolate candy right in front of his face.

The vamp grins. "Yeah. It's a real sweet ride."

"Neat." Xander suddenly shakes his head and backs up away from Spike, getting closer to the kitchen. "Er, I mean… you probably stole it. You're evil and stuff."

"Keep tellin' yourself that, kiddo," Spike smirks, then refocuses on the voice on the phone line. "Yes, the DeSoto… Uh-huh… What?… What the soddin' hell do you mean by 'A HUNDRED DOLLAR FINE'?!" he roars, still in human face, but just barely. "You're the berk who bloody hauled my car there in the first place! You ruddy-well ought-a be payin' ME for it! Did I mention it's BLEEDIN' NINETEEN-FIFTY-NINE VINTAGE!"

"Volume, please, dear," calls Joyce from the kitchen, busy helping the teenagers gather ingredients for their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

"Sorry, Mum," Spike whispers repentantly, holding the phone's mouthpiece to his chest so the employee of Sunnydale Towing can't hear his softer tone. He twists the cord in one hand, puts the receiver back against his ear, and growls threateningly. "A'right, now you listen here, chum. I'm gonna come stormin' over there… and when I get there, so help me, if I find one, just ONE bleedin' SCRATCH on my car…"

"I can't believe Giles was fired. How could Giles get fired?" mumbles Willow, her shocked tone barely audible underneath Spike's continuing terrorization of the towing employee.

"Apparently realizing that a supposedly sacred tradition is actually really stupid, cruel, and totally a male-power-complex thing is a major no-no in the Watcher rules," Buffy shrugs, swiping the last bit of peanut butter from the very bottom of the jar onto a bread slice. "Mom, do we have another jar?"

"In the pantry, dear."

As she scoots off her stool and hunts for the jar, Buffy pauses a moment, wondering what secret superpowers her mom has. How else could she get kidnapped by a bloodthirsty sadistic vampire but still manage to keep the pantry stocked for a horde of hungry teenagers?

"So how did you manage to kill Kralik?" asks Oz as Buffy hops back on her stool, Xander and Willow on the other side of the island mixing a pitcher of lemonade.

"Oh, she was very clever," gushes Buffy's mother before the Slayer can say anything. At her daughter's half-grinning, half-exasperated look, she rubs Buffy's shoulder, beaming. "Oh, you go ahead and tell it dear. You tell it better."

"Well, he had these pills. I think they were like blood vitamins or something, or maybe they had some kind of anti-crazy meds. Anyway, I poured holy water into the glass he had to drink his pills with, so he pretty much did all the work for me."

"Never thought I'd see the day when holy water actually made a difference in a fight," Faith mutters, whittling away at her stake with one of the Summers' nicer kitchen knives.

"Now, when you say 'fired', do you mean 'fired'?" asks Willow, begging clarification for the ump-teenth time.

"You're not cruising past that concept anytime soon, are you, Will?" chuckles Xander.

"Talkin' to me, kid?" Spike smirks as he strolls in from the living room.

"No, Spike, you're 'Bloody Will'. Willow is just 'Will'," grins Buffy, letting her vampire slink up behind her and hug one arm around her waist, snatching a sandwich right out from under Xander's fingertips. The boy scowls and makes a dry-heaving face when Mrs. Summers's back is turned, but Willow smiles, again surprised by the ease and affection between the two blonds.

"Yeah, shesh, Pasty, get with the program," Faith says snidely, but her face belies her feigned distaste with the blond vampire, still looking him over, a lusty glint in her eyes.

"So what's the sitch on your car?" asks Buffy with a soothing smile.

Spike sighs grumpily, swallowing his mouthful of sandwich. "Blighters are gonna make me hawk up a hundred bob to get it back. Oh, and here's the sweet part. Didn't even tow it 'cause of me parkin' all cross-wise or runnin' over the sign or anythin'. Towed it on account of it bein' 'an obstruction to the visitor parking for city hall'. On a bleedin' Saturday, with nothin' goin' on to attract any stinkin' visitors at all."

"I'd blame the Watcher-replacing guys, but from their whiny attitudes I don't think they'd gotten here yet when we found out your car was missing," offers Buffy. "All that 'ten-hour-flight, blah, blah, mollycoddling, blah, blah, you're fired, blah'. What is 'molly-coddling' anyway?"

"Are you sure they fired Giles?" Willow begs yet again before Spike can stop chuckling enough to answer.

"Yes!" say Buffy and Xander in unison.

"Well, it's just… he's been fired. He's, he's unemployed! He's… between jobs!"

"Giles isn't going anywhere, Will," says Buffy comfortingly. "He's still librarian."

"Okay… but I'm writing an angry letter!" the red-haired witch proclaims.

"You know, nothing's really going to change. The important thing is that I kept up my special birthday tradition of gut-wrenching misery and horror."

"Bright side to everything," notes Oz.

"And the birthday tradition of Lunchables, apparently," Spike whispers in her ear. "Thought you said that part wasn't so bad, eh?"

Grinning, Buffy nudges him with her shoulder, still trying to open the second peanut butter jar.

"I'll just feel better when I've got my strength back, and I figure out how much of a pain in the butt this Wesley guy's gonna be."

"Yeah, new Watcher," snorts Faith, hacking viciously at the tip of her new stake. "At last, someone who'll be more of a Scooby outcast than me."

"Give you a hand with that, little lady?" grins Xander, watching Buffy struggle with the peanut butter.

"You're loving this far too much," she scowls daggers at him, but nevertheless hands over the jar.

"Admit it. Sometimes you need a big… strong… man… er," he laughs nervously, equally unable to open the container. "Will, gimme a hand with that?"

"Don't mind if I do, Xander." Smirking devilishly, Spike swipes the jar right out of the boy's hands and pops off the lid with barely any effort.

"Show off," Xander gripes.

"This is gonna get so confusing," mumbles Willow.

Yet, as the young witch watches Buffy exchange a beaming smile with the slim blond vampire, 'confusing' seems an easy price to pay.

The End


Author's Closing Notes: This timeline will be continued in a sequel called "Let It Burn" (also a RED song title, from their album Until We Have Faces). I'm not sure when I'll be writing it, as I'll be focusing on finishing "Five Words or Less" and starting the sequel to that story – but if you 'follow author' or 'favorite author' me, you might get notifications about that sort of thing; I can't remember how it works. The new season 2 AU will be called "Enemy's Heartstrings", and I also don't know when I'll be starting that one, possibly January. Oh… and I still need to get rid of Angel. Bugger.

Thank you all for every bit of feedback you've given me in the form of reviews, follows, and favorites! ~AGriffs