Chapter Fourteen

"Report in, Agent Finn. What do we know?"

"We know that Buf- the Slayer hasn't been to her dorm since early yesterday. We thought she was at Rupert Giles' apartment, but when we went in, there was no sign of her." He shifted uncomfortably. "We also think it's possible that Hostile Seventeen is with her."

"She's harboring a hostile? Well, so much for the legends about what a slayer does. That pretty much ties it up. She's to be treated no differently than any other subterrestrial."

"She has to surface eventually," Graham said, his disgruntled tone as much a result of a night and day spent chasing the elusive slayer as it was the lack of sleep.

"Quite true." Maggie gazed at her weary team of crack commandos, her expression softening briefly. "All right. Stand down for now. Get some rest. She has show to up somewhere, at some point. We'll get her. And then we'll see just what it means to be a mythological slayer of demons."

Johnson, a relatively new member of the team, raised his hand. "But, Ma'am," he said, "if the slayer is only a myth, why do we think this girl is one?"

"I have it on good authority from one of our professors here that at one time there was such a... creature. Apparently, in the legends, they often looked like young girls. Obviously, there is no such thing. There are a couple of other possibilities. Perhaps she is a more or less human girl who has been enhanced in some way..." She cleared her throat and looked away from the stronger than normal young men in front of her. "But I think we have to assume there is something demonic in her make-up. Certainly the fact that Hostile Seventeen has been seen in her company is proof of that."

Riley raised his hand. "I'm sure if she was seen with Hostile Seventeen, it was because she was planning to slay it. She may have had a good reason for not doing it in public, but I'm sure she will do it eventually."

"I'd rather we handled that ourselves," Maggie said. "I want that chip back to reuse on a perhaps more tractable hostile."

In spite of the roughness with which Spike had removed her bra and unfastened her jeans, he made no attempt to take them off. Instead, he indulged in more bone-melting kisses that soon had her breathing hard and whimpering low in her throat. When his hand stroked her breast, he circled the nipple with his fingers before cupping the whole breast and rubbing it gently. His touch remained light and caressing, always arousing, never demanding. Only the way she could feel his lips curve into the occasional smile told her that he was very aware of what he was doing to her.

The utter darkness meant that Buffy's entire being was focused on her sense of touch and her sharpened sense of hearing; although Spike's appreciative murmurs as he moved his lips around her neck and down to her breasts were the only sounds in the underground room. With a sigh of surrender, Buffy relaxed and let herself sink into the sensations being created by the invisible lover worshipping her body with his mouth and hands.

When they seemed to be in his way, she wriggled out of her jeans, allowing Spike to pull her panties down with his teeth, then sank back on the bed, legs sprawled, and waited for him to please her. And waited... After what seemed a very long time during which she couldn't even hear him anywhere, she flushed in embarrassment and pulled her legs together. She could feel the slight dip in the mattress that meant Spike was still beside her, but she couldn't hear him breathing or feel him making the slightest movement.

She was just about to jump off the bed in an angry and blind search for her clothes when she felt the faintest movement of air over her skin. It took her several seconds to realize that Spike was running his hands over her body, hovering just far enough above her skin to create air movement, but not close enough to actually touch it. She relaxed again as he caressed every inch of exposed skin, without ever actually touching her. By the time he had worked his way from her toes up to her face, she was breathing hard and biting her lip to keep from crying out in frustration.

She felt his fingertips just barely brush her cheek and lips, and then settle gently on her throat as he began kissing her again. He pressed against the scars left by the Master and Angel, massaging them gently. "If I'd bitten you, I wouldn't have torn you up like this, Buffy," he whispered, moving his lips to her ear and sucking the lobe into his mouth. As he nibbled on that small piece of flesh, he moved his hand from her throat across her collarbone and down to her chest, trailing his fingers between her breasts and down to her navel. Her breathing and heart rate sped up in anticipation of his next move.

As though sensing her impatience, he gave a soft laugh and murmured, "Relax, love. Let Spike take care of you. Let me make love to you the way I wanted to that first time. All you have to do is lie there and enjoy it." He took both her hands in his and stretched them over her head, encouraging her to hang on to the heavy wooden slats of the headboard. "Let me show you what I can do..."

To make his point, his mouth traced a path from her earlobe, past the scars – which he paused to suckle on briefly – and down to her collarbone. Following the same path as his fingers, he kissed and licked his way across her upper chest, working his way back and forth and dropping lower with every pass from one side to the other. Buffy's sigh of relief when he finally reached her breasts was short-lived as he spent several more minutes nibbling and kissing them, but avoiding the nipples now standing to little points.

His free hand was lightly running around her rib cage, making the occasional foray to tickle the bottom of each breast. Every time he dropped it down to her lower ribs, she sucked in her breath with a gasp that made him smile again.

"You think you're funny, don't you," she muttered as she felt his lips curl into another smile. She could sense his headshake as he dropped his hand even lower and began playing with the curls covering her mound. In spite of her fierce determination not to give him the satisfaction, Buffy felt her hips tipping up to meet his teasing fingers as a whimper escaped her open lips.

"I think I'm very good at what I do," he finally responded, sliding one finger into her damp folds and spreading the moisture he found there. "I just want to be sure you take the time to appreciate it."

Buffy's combined growl and moan told him she was reaching the end of her ability to allow him to dictate the pace, and he sighed as he moved down her body.

"Such an impatient bint, you are, Slayer. I see I need to teach you how to savor things..."

As he finished speaking, his mouth replaced the finger that had been steadily caressing her, causing her to arch up with a small shriek. In only a few seconds, he had teased her into a frenzy of gasps and moans. Although she obediently kept her hold on the bed slats, the rest of her body was writhing and her head was tossing from side to side, her "oh God, oh God, oh God" repeating over and over like a mantra. When Spike took her clit into his mouth and bit down gently, the force of her reaction broke the two slats she'd been holding. Her legs came up and wrapped around his shoulders, holding him to her while she shuddered and arched beneath him.

This time, there was no light to show her how debauched she looked, and no fully clothed vampire lying beside her to make her embarrassed at her condition. Rather, the lassitude she felt allowed her to lie beside Spike's very naked body and even rest her hand on his hip with no sense of shame or dismay. The sheet that had been between them was long gone, thrown to the bottom of the bed at some point while she was too wrapped up in what Spike was doing to her to worry about the only barrier between them.

"I think I savored..." she finally said, turning to face him when he gave a full-throated chuckle.

"Told you I was good, luv." Sounding much too proud of himself, he kissed her on the tip of her nose and then nuzzled her shoulder.

"You are so full of yourself! If I wasn't quite so... I'd do something about that."

"What would you do?" His voice was a husky whisper as he brought his arm around her and pulled her closer. "What would you do to make me less..." he took her hand and placed on his swollen cock, "...full?"

Buffy gave an embarrassed laugh, but kept her hand on him and began to stroke and squeeze. The sheer lack of light and inability of either one of them to see anything gave her courage she might have lacked had she been able to see herself. "Oh, I'll think of something," she said, leaning forward until she could put her mouth on his chest. "Let's see how well you do at savoring..."

Removing her hand, which earned her a muffled whimper, she began to kiss her way down his body, stopping to bite each nipple gently, then harder when his growl shook her lips. He couldn't smother the "yes" that escaped, and Buffy smiled her own satisfaction against his skin. "Payback's a bitch," she murmured as she moved down his body one inch of skin at a time.

By the time she reached his sharp hipbone and began to follow it to the juncture of his hip and thigh, he was taking unnecessary deep breaths and the muscles in his stomach were jumping. Without touching the body part he was pushing toward her, she continued her kissing and licking, interspersed with small bites that she had already noticed evoked the kind of sounds she was looking for. Biting makes Spike hot – good to know.

When she finally ran her tongue across the top of his cock, pushing the foreskin away and licking vigorously, he gave up his attempts to remain silent. "Oh, bloody... like that, luv... " When Buffy's stroking and licking had him babbling things she wasn't sure she really wanted to hear, she took him in her mouth and began to suck as hard as she could. As she rolled his balls in her hand, she felt them drawing up, but before she could make a conscious decision about what that meant and what she was going to do about it, Spike surprised her by wrenching her head up and onto his heaving chest. He held her there for a full minute, stroking her hair with one hand, but keeping her hands away from his cock with the other. When his breathing had slowed, he released his hold, but continued to stroke her head.

"Problem?" Buffy couldn't keep the smirk out of her voice, and was rewarded with another growl.

Suddenly his hands were under her arms and he yanked her up to his mouth, plunging his tongue into hers and kissing her in desperation. Her hips were now just above his, and she could feel his cock rubbing against her thigh. The kiss ended as abruptly as it had begun, and Spike grabbed her ass with both hands.

"Need to be in you," he said, whether by way of explanation or as a demand, Buffy wasn't sure. He lifted, then lowered her slowly, sighing in relief and contentment when he was fully seated and Buffy was sitting up on him, his cock now buried inside her. They remained like that for a moment, neither able to see anything, but completely aware of each other. The heavy darkness felt almost alive as Buffy strained to see anything of the man beneath her, but there was nothing but blackness, the slender hips between her thighs and the intimate connection that she could feel in every cell of her body.

Eventually, Buffy began to squeeze her internal muscles around him, squeaking in surprise when his cock twitched in response. For several moments, they remained still, their only movements an internal contest to see who would succumb first to the steadily building tension. As Buffy bit her lip and tried to ignore the way he was stroking nerves she hadn't realized she owned, she began to notice that he felt different from what she could remember of their first, brief, intense encounter. Acting on a hunch, she leaned forward to feel his face. His "sorry, luv" slurred around the fangs she found there. "Thought it wouldn't matter if you couldn't see me."

"It's... it's okay. I just wasn't sure... But it's okay. It's what you are." In spite of her words, her heart began pounding faster as her body reacted to being trapped in the dark with a vampire in full game face, and she had to fight the urge to throw herself off his body.

"Just cause it's what I am doesn't mean you need to be reminded of it now, when you're vulnerable," he said, reading her body's reaction and unconsciously tightening his hands on her hips. "Don't want you to think of me as..."

Buffy leaned in and shushed him with her lips, being careful to avoid the fangs. She brushed her hand over the brow ridges and down to his still full lips, touching one fang carefully. Spike was holding his breath as she explored his face with her hands and lips. Even his cock seemed to be waiting for her to tell him what to do.

"I can't see you," she whispered. "Remember? We can be anybody or anything we want to be. Isn't that what you said?" She sat up and wriggled her hips a little, then resumed her squeezing. "And anyway, I think I kinda like it..."

"Playin' with fire, there," he said, letting out a relieved breath and pushing up into her. "Are you teasing the demon?"

"I thought I was teasing you," she said, beginning to rock her hips against him. Knowing he couldn't see what she was doing, she threw her head back and lost herself in the new sensations, arching her back and rubbing herself against him. He tried to answer her, but when she ground down on him, he lost his ability to talk and participate at the same time. He allowed Buffy to ride him until she had brought herself to a gasping release; then, with a quick flip, he rolled them over so that she was beneath him.

"My turn to drive, luv," he said as he began to move his hips, rotating them so that he was hitting those places she'd just discovered. Wrapping her arms and legs around his body, Buffy pulled him down, using her superior strength to hold him while she continued to grind against him making small whimpering noises as she did so.

"Greedy little miss, aren't you?" he crowed, beginning to pound into her with more force. "Should have known you'd be a match for me, Slayer."

Buffy reached behind her head and grabbed two unbroken slats, using them as leverage as she tilted her hips up to meet his strokes. Released from her grip, Spike propped himself up with his arms, driving his cock even deeper as her legs kept them pinned together.

"You should have known I'd be more than a match," she gasped, feeling his pace increase and urging him on. "Come on, vampire, show me what you've got."

Spike held on until he felt her once again seizing around him, then gave a snarling shout as he emptied himself. His hips kept jerking long after he had spent himself, stopping only when he collapsed upon her and buried his face in her neck. Buffy felt the shift as his game face softened into his normal human mien. It was several seconds before she realized that Spike was sucking on her old scars, and that every pull was bringing her closer to purring with sensual enjoyment.

Filing that knowledge away as something to worry about later, she stroked his head with one hand, completely comfortable with his mouth on her neck and his cock still buried within her.

Chapter Fifteen

Eventually Buffy began to feel the chill of the underground room and she wriggled to get Spike's attention.

"Hey," she said. "Can you stop your imitation of a leech long enough to let me pull up the covers?"

"Sorry," he said, raising his head and fastening his mouth on her lips instead. "You just taste like ambrosia to me. All of you does."

"I don't even know what ambrosia is," she grumbled to hide her embarrassment. "But I do know I'm getting cold."

He rolled off immediately and fumbled around at the foot of the bed until he found the sheets and the fluffy quilt, which he pulled over both of them.

"Better, luv?" He curved himself around her, pulling her against his chest and breathing his question into her ear.

"Mmmmmmm" Still safe in the absolute darkness, Buffy allowed herself to cuddle back against him without considering the implications. She'd quit bothering to try to see, actually shutting her eyes against the ache caused by their fruitless efforts to make sense out of the utter nothingness around her. Instead, she nuzzled into the bicep upon which her head was resting and put her hand atop the muscular arm encircling her body. Their legs were tangled together, her body pressed back against his.

When his lips went once more to her neck, leaving light kisses and licking occasionally, she asked drowsily, "Are you going start sucking on me again? Cause, really? Giant, Spike's mouth-shaped hickeys all over my neck probably isn't a fashion accessory I really need. And I'm pretty sure Giles isn't going to appreciate the look..."

His chuckle shook them both, and he nipped lightly at her throat before responding.

"I expect you're right, pet. You're just so delicious, I can't help myself."

Buffy rolled over to face him, in spite of not being able to see the eyes she wanted to glare into.

"Is this some sublimated vampire-can't-bite-so-he-sucks kinda thing?"

"Prob'ly," he admitted cheerfully, taking advantage of her new position to nip at her lower lip. "Is that a problem?"

"Is it a problem? That'd you'd rather be biting me? Yeah, I think you could say it's a problem."

Her body was rigid, her tone icy as she turned her head away from his nibbling mouth. Only the genuine confusion in Spike's voice kept her from driving her knee into the parts only inches away.

"But... Buffy... Slayer..." He sighed and loosened his grip on her no longer pliant body. "Doesn't mean I want to kill you. For vampires, biting is part of making—shagging. Even if I could bite you, it wouldn't be to kill you... or for food..."

"Oh? Then what exactly would it be?" There was no forgiveness in her voice, nor did she relax her tensed muscles. One hand rested against his chest as if prepared to shove him away should it become necessary.

His voice hardened a little to match the anger rolling off her. "You know what, Slayer? I'm guessing you really don't want to know exactly what it would be. All you need to know is that I wouldn't have hurt you if I could."

The black atmosphere that had made it so easy to forget who they were was now a frustration as she struggled to see his eyes, his face, something she could read to help her understand if the pain she thought she detected under the anger in his voice was real or her imagination. When he sighed and rolled onto his back, leaving one arm under her head, but taking the other one away, she followed his example by rolling onto her own back and staring into the darkness.

After long minutes of silence, Spike sighed again and gently pulled his arm out from underneath her head.

"It'll be dark soon," he said, sitting up and feeling around for his pants. "Time to get out and about." He found the jeans and pulled them on, taking his lighter out of his pocket as he did so. Although he really couldn't see in the complete darkness any better than Buffy could, his knowledge of where'd he put things and his predator's ability to sense his surroundings allowed him to find the candles and he soon had light flickering around them.

After so much time in complete darkness, even the soft light from the candles made Buffy squint and flinch away. When she opened her eyes again, Spike was standing by the bed, silently holding out her clothes. His face was closed, and Buffy had no idea what he was thinking as she took them from him and struggled to pull on her jeans without removing the quilt she was holding up to her chest. He shook his head with a sad snort and turned away.

"Go on, Slayer," he said. "Not goin' to try to peek at you this time. Just get dressed and tell me what you want me to bring back for your dinner."

The reminder that she was in hiding did nothing to improve Buffy's disposition. She sat up and quickly dressed, pulling on her socks and shoes before standing up.

"You... you can turn around now," she said with uncharacteristic meekness, before remembering that she was being hunted. "And I'm going out with you. I can't stay in here any longer than I already have. If Giles hasn't straightened this out yet, then I'll just go find Maggie Walsh and straighten her out myself."

"Don't be stupid, Slayer. You heard them yourself. That sadistic bitch thinks you're one of us. You'll be lucky if you don't end up with a chip in your head."

"I'm going out," she repeated. "We'll go find Giles and make sure those soldiers didn't hurt him, and then—"

A sound from above had Spike holding up his hand for silence. He listened intently, then smiled.

"Think the Watcher's here. You stay down here while I make sure he's alone."

Without waiting to see if she'd obeyed, he jumped to the top of the ladder and pushed aside the cover. He went to the door, listened carefully for a second, then opened the inner door. He grinned as the sound of cursing accompanied Giles obviously unsuccessful attempts to open the heavy, outer door; he laughed aloud when the man muffled a shriek when it suddenly opened in front of him.

Giles glared at Spike, then pushed his way into the dark crypt.

"Where's Buffy?" he demanded, straining to see in the unlit upper area. His eyes caught the glow from the entrance to the lower level just as Buffy's head appeared.

Ignoring Spike's muttered, "I told you to stay put," she ran up to Giles and studied his face. A black eye and a swollen lip told her what she wanted to know and her face hardened into something that made both Spike and Giles flinch.

"They are sooo dead," she said, adding with a guilty shrug when Giles coughed, "Okay, not dead dead, cause that would be wrong... but definitely fat lip, black eye, lots of bruises kind of dead."

"I'll live," Giles said shortly. "And you'll have to avoid them a while longer. The Council has put things in motion to have the operation shut down. It appears that there was something similar to what the Initiative is doing during the Second World War. The records are not complete, but they are quite clear."

"The Army was capturing demons and putting chips in their heads during WWII?"

"Not your army, pet," Spike's voice had taken on an entirely different note, one that reminded her that he was really well over a hundred years old and had been, at one time, one of the most feared vampires in Europe. "The Germans. How could I have forgotten? But I thought Peaches shut it down." He turned to look at the astonished watcher. "And how did the Council of Wankers know about it?"

Giles stared at him thoughtfully. "They wouldn't tell me how they knew – just that the records reflected an attempt by the Germans to develop an army of vampires. Apparently it was thwarted at the time. What are you talking about?"

Spike shrugged. "Ended up on a submarine for a while with some nasty pieces of work. We were eating our way through the crew when Peaches was sent to the rescue. You'd have to ask him how he got involved. All I know is we ended up with an American crew and he made me swim to shore. Wanker," he muttered as he turned away. "I'd almost forgotten about that."

Giles studied Spike intently while Buffy stared back and forth between the two of them, her impatience clear. When Giles was satisfied with whatever he was looking for in Spike's face, he nodded.

"It would appear that the idea and some of the technology survived and has been resurrected by the Initiative. It may take some time for the inspectors to get here, but I'm confident that when they do, the program will be terminated. In the meantime," he turned to Buffy, "you would do best to remain out of sight until we can be assured you are safe."

"Giles..." Buffy's voice took on a whining tone that made him sigh and reach for his glasses. "I'm boooored..." A sound from the far side of the room made her glance away from her watcher just in time to see Spike throw a bottle against the wall. She bit her lip, and began, "Not... I didn't mean—" but Spike cut her off.

"You won't be 'bored' again, Slayer. I'm going out." He pointed to the bags in Giles's hands. "Looks like the Watcher brought you some food, so no need for me to hurry back, is there?"

"Spike..." There was no reply as he swept out the open door, and literally vanished into the air. Before Buffy could react to the shouts and snarls outside, several armed men burst into the crypt. Two of them fired simultaneously, hitting Buffy with tranquilizer darts that rendered her unconscious before she could to more than try to yank them out. She dropped to the floor and was immediately trussed up in a wire mesh net.

Riley stared at Giles with a mixture of guilt and satisfaction. "I told them if we followed you, you'd lead us to Buffy. We weren't expecting to get Hostile Seventeen at the same time, but we'll take it."

Trembling with fury, Giles gritted out, "Your organization is on its way out, you fool. I expect it to be shut down within days, if not hours." His demeanor was nothing like that of an unemployed librarian as he glared at the men. "I will be holding all of you personally responsible for any harm that comes to my slayer before that happens."

Riley looked momentarily uncomfortable and thoughtful, but the others laughed and carried their unconscious burden outside to drop her on the ground next to Spike's equally trussed up and unconscious body. Within minutes a large, black SUV pulled up and Buffy and Spike were tossed into the back. Giles stood in the doorway, fuming helplessly as the remaining soldiers kept their guns aimed at him.

"What do we do with him, Finn?" one of the asked, gesturing with his gun.

Riley shrugged. "It's dark. Let him go. If he can make it out of a Sunnydale cemetery at night in one piece, more power to him. If not..."

With no more conversation, the black-clad commandos faded away into the shadows, guns trained on Giles until they disappeared. When he was sure they had left, Giles pulled a stake from his pocket and patted his other pocket for his vial of holy water, then stalked toward the gates, already mentally composing his report to the Council.

Buffy recovered consciousness very slowly – using her ears and other senses to get an idea of her surroundings before she opened her eyes. Suddenly, she was grateful for the hours spent in darkness as she found herself able to sense things she probably would have missed if her eyes were open. She could hear the susurration of a ventilation system, could sense the barely discernible pressure that now said "underground" to her, and she could feel the presence of at least one vampire.

Her face was pressed into a rough, flat surface, which was not quite a rug, but felt as if it would give good traction when she needed it. As she felt the vampire signature approaching, she gathered herself, then sprang to her feet, landing in a crouch with her eyes open. The vampire attacked, meeting only air as Buffy went from her crouch to a spot several feet away. He snarled and charged again, meeting a flurry of punches that sent him to the floor of the large open room. Buffy followed up with a kick to his temple that rendered him unconscious long enough for her to do a quick visual search for a weapon.

She saw nothing useful at first. The room was largely empty, the floor covered with some sort of artificial turf that gave it almost the same feel as hard ground. As the vamp began to stir, she spotted a wooden desk in the corner and quickly ran to it, snatching it up by one corner and breaking off one of the legs.

"It's a good thing you're skinny," she said to the vampire, driving the short make-shift stake into his chest as he staggered to his feet. She watched the dust float to the floor, gazing around with satisfaction. Motion from above caught her eye and she squinted at the windows she could see set into the walls above her. Her eyes narrowed as she spotted both Riley and Maggie Walsh.

Chapter Sixteen

Buffy put her hands on her hips and glared up at the faces peering down at her. She saw Professor Walsh lean down and a voice came out of speakers in the ceiling.

"That was fairly impressive, Ms. Summers. But nothing that my men couldn't have handled just as easily. Let's see how you do against multiple opponents, shall we?"

Before Buffy could respond, a formerly invisible door slid open and several harmless K'vkel demons were shoved into the room. They staggered a few steps, then stopped when they saw Buffy staring at them.

"Slayer! Slayer!" With much shrieking and waving of tentacles, they ran back to the now-hidden door and began to pound on it, begging to be allowed out. Buffy watched them for several minutes, then shook her head and shouted, "Cut it out! They aren't going to let you out, and I'm not going to slay you, so stop screaming. You're giving me a headache."

Buffy went over to the listing desk and broke off the rest of the legs, lining them up on the flat top and studying them with a critical eye. "I guess they'll do in a pinch, but I wish I had something longer and sharper to use."

Her comment set the K'vkel off on another round of screaming and pounding, which ended when she stomped over to them and said, "I told you to stop that! What's wrong with you?"

"Y...you aren't going to kill us?" the bravest demon asked, unable to hide his disbelief.

"Should I?"

"No! No, we're harmless. Well, not harmless, but we don't eat humans... or pets."

"Then stop acting like you're locked in a room with a man – er – demon-eating lion and help me figure out how to make better stakes out of these furniture legs."

Buffy held up one of the stubby pieces of wood and glared at it. To her surprise, one of the smaller K'vkels approached timidly and pulled a tool from a pocket in what Buffy had assumed was funny-looking skin. He held it out, saying, "This might be strong enough to shave them to points."

Buffy handed him one of the feet and he began to scrape along the sides. The other demons quickly took out their own scraping tools and Buffy soon had four, still short, but now properly pointy stakes. She put one in her waistband, one up her sleeve and set the remaining two on the desk. Hopping up to sit on the desk beside the stakes, she sat there swinging her legs and looking bored.

"Ms. Summers," Walsh's voice rang out, her anger clear. "You have subterrestrials in front of you. I expect you to take care of them."

"I am taking care of them," Buffy said cheerfully. "If any big bad vampires come in, I can protect them with my new stakes."

There was some inarticulate muttering from the speaker, as though someone had put a hand over a microphone. Buffy heard, "...go ahead and do it. We can reuse it on something more tractable and it will give us a better sense of which is stronger."

It was several boring hours later when the door opened again and the K'vkels were allowed to scamper out while armed commandos held Buffy at bay. Instead of the door closing immediately, there was a small commotion outside it and then a familiar black-clad figure was thrust into the room.

"Spike! You're all right!" She ran to him, heedless of the armed men backing out again.

He shook his head and winced. "As alright as I can be," he growled, fingering the back of his head. "Devil knows what they did to my poor noggin this time."

"Here," she demanded. "Let me see..." She stared at the new scar on his head and frowned. "They cut into your head again... In the same place."

"Brilliant. I can't wait to see what they want me to do now. Probably provide a punching bag for you to practice on."

"Actually, Hostile Seventeen," Maggie's voice came over the intercom, "we have removed the chip that was preventing you from attacking humans."

"Really?" He looked up at the window, his vampire face emerging as he stared at the woman responsible for causing him so much pain. "Don't suppose you'd like to come down here and explain how you did it, would you?"

"That won't be happening. All you need to know is that you've been freed from your leash, we will not be providing any food for you, and you and Ms. Summers will remain locked in that room until only one of you is left."

Buffy's face paled and she unconsciously moved closer to her stakes. Glaring up at Maggie, while trying to keep Spike in her peripheral vision, she said, "What the hell are you doing? And I can't stay in here all day. What if I have to pee?"

"You are facing, if stories are to be believed, one of the more dangerous vampires on the planet. A demon that has made it his life's work to kill little girls such as you. Surely you have more immediate concerns than whether or not you will be allowed to relieve your bladder!" Maggie's tone was both disbelieving and angry as it occurred to her that the two natural enemies below her did not seem overly inclined to try to kill each other. "And you, Hostile Seventeen. Not only have we provided you with an opportunity to kill another 'slayer', if you do not, you will very likely starve."

"You think I'm going to... that she's food?"

"Why wouldn't you?" Maggie seemed genuinely confused, then interested. "Is there something wrong with her blood? Is whatever she takes to become so strong toxic to vampires?" She turned to speak over her shoulder. "Make note of his answers. If what Ms. Summers takes is toxic to vampires, it could be a good addition to what we give our men."

She looked back in time to see Spike muffling laughter while Buffy glared at him with her hands on her hips. He glanced up when he heard the woman stop talking, saying, "I think you could safely say that Slayers are toxic to vampires. But it isn't their blood that does it. It's those pointy little wooden things they carry around."

"So, then, you could drink her blood with no ill effects to you?"

Spike snorted again while Buffy just gaped at the windows and wondered how someone so stupid could get a PhD in anything, let alone Science.

"Did you miss the part about the pointy sticks? Turning to dust is my idea of a very ill effect."

Maggie studied the two people below her, frowned as she tried to grasp what was going on. Buffy showed no fear of the vampire, and, in spite of his words, he seemed just as oblivious of any danger she might pose to him.

"You did understand me when I said the chip had been taken out, did you not?" Maggie seemed not yet ready to give up her view of "subterrestrials" as animals upon which she could experiment freely.

"I understood you. I'd say 'Ta', but I'm pretty sure you didn't do it to make me happy."

"I did it so that we could evaluate Ms. Summers abilities against something stronger than the first idiot we put in there with her. However, if you are not going to cooperate by attacking her..."

"That's what you want? To see us fight?"

Buffy snorted and dropped all but one of her stakes onto the desktop. She slipped the one remaining stake into the back of the pants and began to bounce on her toes.

"Got your weapon, pet?"

Buffy gave a feral grin. "You betcha. Got yours, vampire?"

"Always, luv," he said, slipping into game face. "I've always got mine."

Without further conversation, they began to spar, at first being careful not to hurt each other, but as it became clear that Spike's chip really was out, their blows became harder and they began to fight in earnest. Spike's hearing caught the sounds from above and as he temporarily pinned her to the floor, he murmured in her ear, "We're drawing a crowd, Slayer."

"It's 'cause we're awesome," she hissed back, flipping him off her body and springing to her feet before he recovered.

Before they could resume their deadly ballet, the door of the room burst open, and a squad of unarmed commandos entered, using tasers to herd a group of snarling vampires ahead of them.

Maggie's voice drifted down again.

"As entertaining as my men have found this to be, it hasn't really shown me that either one of you is as lethal as we've been led to believe. Let's see what you can do against numbers."

"Bloody hell," Spike breathed, eying the tasers and the hungry vamps.

"I'll see your bloody hell and raise you an 'oh, shit!'" Buffy whispered back.

She picked up her other stakes, holding one and putting the other in her sleeves.

"Plan?" Spike asked as the vampires began licking their lips and stalking towards Buffy. The commandos, meanwhile were circling him.

Buffy shrugged. "I don't know about you, but I'm about to show them what a slayer really is." The hungriest of the vampires jumped toward her, only to be impaled on one of her stubby stakes. "Damn!" she said, as the stake disintegrated along with the vampire. She met the next one with a roundhouse kick that sent him careening into two others.

"Got your back," Spike growled, slipping back into game face and snapping the neck of a straggler.

"Watch your own back," Buffy grunted, as she incapacitated two other vampires. "If they get you with those tasers..."

"All over it," he growled, jumping off the floor high enough to kick two tasers away before he came down between their former owners. With a roar of satisfaction, he began throwing punches, using his superior speed and agility to avoid most of the blows they tried to land on him.

Buffy had knocked out or otherwise crippled all the remaining vampires, and was systematically walking around plunging her stakes into their hearts. She discovered that if she did it quickly enough, and yanked them back immediately, she could keep the one in her hand from dusting with the vamp. As she worked, she kept one eye on the remaining commandos, noting that while they still surrounded Spike, they were not really willing to get close enough to taser him.

When Buffy saw Spike throw one of the soldiers into the wall, she moved closer to him and warned, "Don't kill anybody."

"Figured that out for myself, Buffy," he said, sounding mildly disappointed, as he sent another man to the floor unconscious.

Buffy reached behind her and patted him on the leg. They were now standing back to back and waiting to see what the remaining soldiers were going to do. "I know you did. It was more for them than for you. See how scared they are now?"

"The wankers were already soiling their knickers," he growled, then held his hand up for quiet. A grin broke out over his face as he let it drop back into his human mien. "Think the cavalry has arrived, Slayer."

As he spoke, the door opened again and a uniformed man stepped into the room and surveyed the scene. Behind him were several armed men and Giles. The new arrival snapped out several rapid orders, which had the commandos, expressions of relief on their faces, lowering the tasers and moving away from the still-alert duo. As soon as they had left the big room, Buffy moved toward the door, Spike trailing after her.

"Giles!" she said in relief.

He looked around the large arena, taking in the dust liberally sprinkled over the floor, and the moaning or unconscious men now being helped from the room.

"What happened here?"

Before Buffy could say anything, Spike put a hand on her arm. She turned to look at him, understanding dawning at the question in his eyes. She swallowed hard, staring back and forth between Spike and Giles.

"I'll tell you later," she said. "I need to... to use the ladies room. Where is it?" she asked one of the men waiting in the hall. They gestured toward the end of the hall and she sprinted out, dragging Spike behind her. When they were safely out of hearing range, she slowed down, but continued to hang on to his hand. The "ladies room" that she'd asked for turned out to be small unisex toilet set into a closet-sized room.

"Uh, Buffy... I don't think I... I mean I know we... but..."

"Oh, stop worrying. I'm not going to make you watch me pee. I just needed to get away from Giles so we could talk." She went into the room and stood, tapping her foot impatiently until, with an embarrassed shrug, he stepped in and shut the door. She stared at him. "What are we gonna do?"

He shrugged. "Don't suppose your watcher's likely to believe me if I said I wouldn't kill anybody?"

She sighed and shook her head. "I'm not sure I'd believe you," she admitted. When his face fell, she put her hand on his arm. "I know you won't hurt me," she said softly. "And I'd like to think you wouldn't hurt anyone I care about...but..."

"But that includes the whole world," he finished for her.

"It does."

They stared at each other, their eyes filling with tears they would have denied if anyone had dared to point them out.

"So, that's it, then? You'll tell your watcher, he'll order you to stake me, and we're done?"

"I don't want to stake you," she whispered, moving closer to him but holding her trembling hands at her sides.

"Wasn't planning to stand still for it, lo– Buffy." His expression hardened just enough to stop her from touching him. "Could go the other way, you know."

"It could," she agreed, her own face now settling into the hard lines of an angry slayer. "But I don't think it would."

"You're good, Slayer, but you're not invincible. Not by a long shot."

"Same to you, vampire."

She met him glare for glare; the anguish and anger pouring through them making them both shudder. Giles' voice outside the room broke the standoff.

"Buffy? Are you in there? Where's Spike? He seems to have disappeared, and I've heard something very disturbing about him. You need to hear this."

Spike put a trembling hand against her cheek, shutting his eyes when she involuntarily leaned into it. "Open the door, love. Let's get this over with."

Taking a deep breath and straightening her shoulders, Buffy stepped around him and opened the door wide.

"What is it you think I need to hear, Giles?" she said, standing aside so he could see who else was in the small room with her.

He gaped at her, his eyes darting back and forth between Buffy and Spike. There was no mistaking the atmosphere between the two – if Buffy's flat voice and dull eyes hadn't given it away, the sheer agony on Spike's face would have.

"Apparently you are already aware that Spike has had his chip removed."

She nodded, afraid to trust her voice. She startled when Spike stepped up behind and rested his hands on her shoulders.

"We were just discussin' the situation, Watcher."

Giles turned his eyes on Buffy. "Surely you realize there is nothing to discuss? He's no longer harmless. I saw what he did to those men back there. You must do what you need to do."

"They're all alive, aren't they?" Buffy's lip came out stubbornly, and she felt Spike give her shoulders a light squeeze.

Giles lips tightened. "Are you seriously suggesting that William the Bloody isn't going to go back to killing?" He shook his head. "Once again, you are allowing your... feelings... for a dangerous vampire to interfere with your duty."

The reminder of what Giles had lost when Angelus was loosed made Buffy bite her lip, and her eyes fill. She felt Spike's barely audible growl vibrating through the chest now pressed against her back.

"I'm not bloody Angelus!" he snarled, the impact of his impassioned protest somewhat marred by the way his eyes flashed amber and his fangs protruded just past his lips. He was quickly back to his human face, but Giles had seen what he needed to see.

"No," he said quietly. "You are not Angelus, and therefore, there is no soul to be put back into your body. That chip was the only thing standing between you and a killing spree."

"If," Spike said, his voice dangerously calm and low, "I were going to do something like that, I know exactly which wanker I'd begin with..." The look he sent Giles made it quite clear what he meant. Before Buffy could follow up her stiffening body with anything more lethal, he quickly continued. "But I've got something better than the chip, better than a soul – which, last time I checked, everyone of the sadistic bastards working here still has." He kept his hands on Buffy's shoulders, his thumbs rubbing small circles on her back where Giles couldn't see them. When she relaxed slightly, he said. "I have something no other vamp has... a reason for not killing."

Buffy gave a small gasp as she realized what he meant, and what he seemed to be promising. She turned her head, tipping it back to look up at him wordlessly. He gave her a brief smile, then turned his attention back to Giles.

"Got my soul, conscience, whatever you want to call it, right here," he said. "Not going to kill her, and I don't plan on givin' her any reason to kill me."

"Buffy," Giles pleaded with his slayer, even as his intuition told him that the unique vampire in front of him was telling the truth. "Surely, you don't believe him!"

"I'll believe him until he gives me some reason not to," she said, bringing up her hands to cover and squeeze Spike's. "Spike has never lied to me."

Chapter Seventeen

"Spike has never lied to me."

"Well, technically, pet..." Buffy's elbow to his mid-section cut off whatever he'd been about to say, and he waited quietly, rubbing his diaphragm.

"You cannot seriously be thinking about..."

"I'm not thinking anything, Giles. I'm just telling you that I'm not going to slay Spike unless he gives me a reason to. Anything else is between him and me. It's not your business and it's not the Council's."

"Considering that it was the Council's intervention that was responsible for our timely arrival, I feel fairly certain that they will consider it more than their business if they find you have taken up with another vampire." He looked at Spike's hand, noting that it still rested lightly on Buffy's shoulder, then raised his eyes to the vampire's. "Do you recall our conversation about how unlikely it is that you will ever be out of his shadow?"

Spike's faced darkened and there was the trace of a growl in his voice when he replied. "Not feeling all that shadowed right now," he said. "And I don't give a bloody rip about anyone else's opinion but hers."

"You are putting her in grave danger," Giles insisted.

"'Her' is standing right here!" Buffy said, waving her hand between them. "What the hell are you two talking about?"

"Tell you later," Spike said. His gaze challenged Giles' disapproving eyes. "When we're alone."

Buffy saw her watcher's jaw tighten at Spike's obvious assumption that he and Buffy would be spending more time together, and she sighed. "Stop it," she hissed. "Don't make things worse than they already are."

The three-way standoff might have continued for some time, had the uniformed man who had arrived with Giles not chosen to approach them.

"Mr. Giles, is this the young lady we were here to rescue? I'm a little confused, and wondering if drugs might somehow be involved. According to our prisoners, she killed several attackers; and yet, they also are insisting that the military personnel who have been incapacitated were fighting only with the young man behind her. Who, they are insisting is a... vampire?"

Giles heaved a sigh and moved toward the other man. "Let's you and I find a place to chat about this, shall we? Perhaps we can get one of your prisoners to give us a tour of the facility and explain what was going on here."

As soon as he had ushered the man down the hall, Spike said, "That was our exit cue, pet. Time to go."

Buffy nodded and looked up and down the hall. "But which way? I wasn't exactly taking notes when they brought me in here."

He sniffed the air a few times, then gestured. "Fresh air coming from this direction, and that's where our 'rescuers' came from. Let's get out of here before they find out I'm one of the demons they're about to meet."

With a nod, she followed him to the doors of the facility, only to discover that it was now broad daylight... and sunny.

"Bloody California weather," Spike muttered, shrinking back against the inside wall.

"Your fault for being flammable," Buffy said, looking around for the nearest manhole cover or shade. "Look – over there. Can you put your coat over your head and make it to that manhole?"

Spike peered cautiously around the door and nodded. "I think so. If you run over there and hold it open so that all I have to do is dive in..."

"Okay." Buffy darted to the manhole and yanked on the cover, falling backwards as it came up much more easily than she had expected. "Ow!"

Spike shot across the intervening space, diving head first into the opening. As he went past her, Buffy heard him ask, "Are you alright?"

She sat up and leaned over the dark hole. "Spike? Where are you? Are you okay?"

A string of curses met her question and she leaned back in relief. "Is that a 'yes'?"

The voice got louder as Spike climbed the ladder and stopped just short of the sunny opening. Buffy gazed down at him, smothering a snicker when she saw that he was dripping in foul-smelling water.

"Laugh, and I swear I'll bite you," he snarled, reaching up with one hand, then snatching it back when it began to smoke.

"You can't reach me. So, nani, nani, boo boo." Buffy giggled and stuck out her tongue as she stood up. "I'm going back to the dorm to get cleaned up and take a nap," she said. "You can come over later – when you've had a shower and changed your clothes."

"Oh, I see how it is. Man gets a little messy and suddenly he's not good enough for the Slayer to walk home with him."

"You stink, Spike. A lot. And if I walk home with you down there, I'll stink too. Go home. Get clean." She paused then leaned over again until she could see his face. "And don't eat anybody, okay?"

"Only you, pet. Only you."

Buffy rolled her eyes at his leering face and snapped, "Pig!"

"Oink, oink," he replied, dropping with a splash back into the water below. "See you after while, love."

Buffy slid the manhole cover back into place and began walking toward the dorm.

"Stupid piggy vampire," she muttered, even as certain body parts warmed up as a result of what he'd said.

Buffy had just woken up from a much-needed nap when she saw Willow standing in the doorway and whispering to someone. She sat up and called out, "Wiilow? Who's out there?"

Willow turned around, her expression apologetic. "I'm sorry. I was trying to be quiet so we didn't wake you."

Buffy padded over to the door and peeked around Willow's shoulder.

"Oh. Hi," she said to the blushing girl standing there. "I'm Buffy. Willow's roommate."

"T...Tara," the other girl responded.

"Tara's in my Wicca group," Willow said, smiling at her new friend. "We were going to um... work on spells... here, but since you're here, I guess we can go to her apartment."

Buffy frowned. "Why? I'm awake now, and I'll probably be going out later. There's no reason why you can't do it here. I'll be very quiet – I promise."

The two Wiccas exchanged looks and the blonde girl ducked her head and blushed again. Willow shook her head, saying, "No, it's okay. Anyway, you might want... " She stopped, not sure what to say about Spike. Although Buffy had yet to fill her in on where she'd been and what had happened, Spike had been in Buffy's company so often lately that it seemed natural to assume he would show up when the sun was down. Particularly after she'd heard an abridged version of the day's activities from Giles.

"Yeah." Buffy nodded. "Tara might not be ready to meet... Okay. I'll see you tomorrow, then. I have a lot to tell you."

"I'm sure you do," Willow said with a sly smile. "I've already heard the Giles version."

"Oh." Buffy blushed, unable to think of a quick response. With a wave, Willow went out, leaving the door open. Her voice drifted back, "Tell Spike I said 'Hi'."

"Smartass," Buffy muttered, unable to keep a smile off her face. Grabbing her robe and towels, she went down the hall to shower off the accumulated grime from the past two days.

When she came back, key out to open the door, she was surprised to find it unlocked. She entered cautiously, relaxing when she spotted Spike's coat draped over a chair. He was lolling on her bed, seemingly immersed in one of her textbooks.

"Are you comfy?" she said, trying for sarcasm but coming perilously close to sounding genuinely interested.

He looked up, acting surprised. Buffy rolled her eyes, knowing full well his vampire hearing and other senses had been aware of her before she even opened the door. He laughed and closed the book, keeping his finger in it to save the place.

"I'd be more comfy if you brought your naked little body over her where I can reach it," he said, leering at her as though he could see right through the bathrobe she was holding closed.

"Pig!" She said, throwing her wet towel at his head.

"Is that such a bad thing?" He pointed to Mr. Gordo, who had accompanied Buffy from her mother's house to the college dorm. "Seems to me you have a thing for pigs."

"Mr Gordo is not just a pig! He's... he's... He's Mr. Gordo, and I love him." Buffy clutched the stuffed animal to her chest and tried not to feel like she was being childish.

"Are you five?" Spike, it seemed, was not going to permit her to get away with it. He stood up and moved closer to her.

"He's a different kind of pig," she muttered, placing him casually, but carefully on her desk. "You're one kind, and he's... a different kind."

Spike took her hand and pulled her towards him. "I'm the real, live, breathing... kind," he whispered into her ear. "A lot more fun than any stuffed animal."

"You're none of those things," she gasped, arching her neck to give him better access to it. As he nibbled on the skin of her throat and began to suck on one of the marks he'd left the night before, she said, "Okay. Maybe more fun... and kind of real..."

Spike sat back down, pulling her into his lap and opening the book he was still holding.

"Look," he said, flipping to the page he'd been holding. "Here's what your school book says about the year of the Pig." He began to read aloud, " The Year of the Pig - In Chinese culture, the pig is associated with fertility and virility. To bear children in the Year of the Pig is considered to be very fortunate, for they will be happy and honest—"

"Fertility!"

"Virility, Slayer. Pay attention."

"I am paying attention. It said 'fertility' and 'virility'. And it's talking about bearing children!"

"Calm down and let me finish," he growled. "You know I can't make you pregnant – just ignore that part."

"So you're not virile?" She giggled when he snarled.

He glared at her. "Do I need to remind you about my missing chip?"

In reply, she leaned up and kissed him on the nose. "I wouldn't, if I were you. Now, what else does it say?"

Somewhat mollified by her teasing tone, he continued:

Positive and Negative Capability

Positive: The Boar can be sensible, sensual and sensitive, sweetly naive, caring, self-sacrificing, erudite, talented, open-handed, candid, outgoing, amusing, charitable, obliging, graciously hospitable and virtuous.

"There! How's that for pig qualities?" He raised his eyebrows triumphantly, only to have Buffy snatch the book from his hand and begin to read herself.

Negatives: The Boar can also be hot-tempered, pessimistic, outrageously epicurean, earthy to a fault, sardonic, snobbish, snide, authoritarian, competitive, know-it-all, stingy, victimized and sometimes downright criminally mad at the world.

She grinned at him. "Yep. Sounds like you, all right."

He took the book from her and dropped it on the floor, then slid his hands into her open bathrobe, pushing it off her shoulders. She squealed and tried to pull it around her body, but he was holding her too tightly.

"We can't... Willow..."

"The witch and her girlfriend are off for the night. I met up with them in the lobby. You won't be seeing them back here any time soon."

"Her... you mean Tara? Her new Wicca friend? And how to do you know what they... girlfriend?"

"I'll explain later, love. Right now I want to show you what it means to be virile."

"How about sensitive and caring and sensual and—"

"Can be whatever you need me to be, Buffy," he said, ceasing his constant nibbling at her neck long enough to meet her eyes. "You tell me what you want from me."

Buffy stared into his eyes, reading all the things she'd been trying not to see, but finding them not nearly as frightening as she'd expected.

"I want the Council not to kill you," she blurted, surprising herself as well as Spike with the desperation in her voice. "And if you stay here, I'm afraid they're going to try."

"Can't leave you, Buffy," he said, falling backwards and pulling her tightly against his body. "Don't make me leave, love. Don't make me leave," he finished in a whisper.

"I don't think they'll let me keep you," she whispered back, not caring that her robe had slid completely off her body and she was naked against him. "I don't know what to do."

"Let me love you. Let me stay here and love you. You know I'll watch your back. We could make you the longest lived slayer in history."

Buffy gave a laugh that was half sob. "I'm not sure the Council would consider that a plus. They already tried to kill me once. The only reason they put up with me is because Faith is crazy and in a coma."

"All the more reason for me to stay here and help you. Even a Council of Wankers wet team would have a rough go against the both of us."

"How do you know about—"

"Been studying slayers a long time, love. Know your enemy and all that."

"Am I your enemy?" Buffy murmured, squirming around on his body until he groaned. Instead of answering her, he toed off his boots and rolled them over until he was on top. He brushed his lips across hers, smiling when her mouth opened in welcome. He grabbed her lower lip in his teeth and growled softly.

"You know you aren't," he said. "Never will be again. Don't care what happens –what you do. I will never be able to think of you as my enemy..." His words trailed off as Buffy fastened her mouth on his and they fell into the kisses that made the world and all its worries fall away. It wasn't long before he was pressing her into the mattress and she was wrapping her legs around him and grinding against him.

"You have too many clothes on," she gasped, holding him so tightly that he couldn't have taken anything off if he'd been trying.

"If you let go of me for a second, I'll take care of that."

She reluctantly relaxed her hold and let her legs fall apart. Immediately, he pulled his T-shirt over his head and rolled to the side to unzip his pants. With Buffy's eager assistance, he shoved his jeans down his legs and kicked them off to join his boots on the floor. Before covering her again, he propped himself up on his arms and stared admiringly. It was the first time he'd actually seen her nude body – the complete darkness having been the key the last time they'd made love – and he paused to savor the sight.

Buffy turned her head to the side where she couldn't see his admiring eyes, but she forced herself to keep her hands at her sides, resisting the urge to cover her body.

"Would it make you feel better if you looked, love?" Spike seemed to instinctively understand why she'd turned away. He touched her chin with one finger, gently urging her to turn back to him. "There's nothing here to be ashamed of, Buffy. You're a vision. The most beautiful thing I've ever seen." He cupped her cheek with his hand, feeling the heat from her blush against his palm.

"You're making me blush," she said softly. "The things you say... Nobody has ever..."

"No one has ever told you how bloody perfect you are? Wankers!" His snort encompassed her previous lovers as well as any man she'd ever met who hadn't fallen at her feet. She smiled at him with more warmth than she'd shown yet. Then, with a smirk, she deliberately ran her eyes down his torso, from his amused face, past his chiseled chest and amazing abs to the slender hips now hovering over her still-open thighs and to the object jutting out from the brown curls at the bottom of his abdomen. She blinked and raised surprised eyes to his.

"It's big," she said, rolling her eyes when he laughed with delight.

"Is," he said, lowering his body to touch hers. "But it all fits, doesn't it?" He nudged at her entrance, rubbing the head of his cock against her. "Do you remember, love? How well it fits?"

"I do," she said, bringing her legs up around his hips and pulling him towards her. Her arms encircled his back and he allowed himself to be pulled into her embrace. "Now, weren't you going to teach me something about your virility..."

Chapter Eighteen - Slime is Not an Option

Hours later, Buffy lay in the curve of his arm, her hand tracing patterns on his chest. The lamp on the desk cast a yellow glow over the room, the light not quite reaching all the dark corners but illuminating the room too brightly to invite sleep.

"It's not dark in here," she murmured. "I like it dark when I sleep..."

His chest shook gently, then he rolled to face her. "Is that your way of sayin' you want the one who can see in the dark to get up and turn off the light?"

"Kinda?"

"You only had to ask, love. You know I'd do anything for you." Buffy blinked as he stood up and walked to the desk. His backlit body with the muscled back and legs and tight ass temporarily distracted her from his words. However, when he'd killed the light and returned to the bed, she remembered why she'd been so surprised. Where those words, from most men, might have been whispered as a flowery declaration, Spike had simply stated what he saw as a fact.

As he settled next to her, pulling her close until she was comfortably snuggled into his side, she said, without trying to hide her amazement, "You would, wouldn't you?"

"That's how I am when I love... " Although his words and tone were casual, she could feel the tension in his body. Despite some mumbled phrases during the height of passion, he had never ever actually said he loved her.

He can't love me, can he? He's got no soul... and we just stopped being enemies last week... She remembered what he'd said about how he'd always grown hard when they were fighting, and blushed to remember how often she'd thought about how it felt to be pressed up against him, even when she was holding a stake to his chest.

As she made no response, she felt him stiffen a little more and his arms loosened just a bit. She unconsciously tightened the arm she'd been resting across his body, holding him in place. She lifted one leg and wrapped it around his thigh, pinning him to the bed.

"Spike... I... " She stopped, not sure what she wanted to say, but very conscious that the wrong words could shatter whatever was growing between them.

As though he could read her mind, he relaxed and began to stroke the arm holding him so tightly. "Wasn't asking for anything, Buffy. I know it's too soon for... know I've got to prove myself, got to earn..." He brushed light kisses across her face. "Not expecting anything from you, other than you allow me to be in your life."

"You are in my life. How could you doubt it?" She waved her arm to encompass their entwined naked bodies. "Do you think I just... with anybody?" Buffy pushed away thoughts of Parker and their one-night stand. It's not like the one-night thing was my idea. Then she remembered Spike's words to her when he'd had the Gem of Amara and she stiffened. "Do you?"

"No, love. No. Didn't mean that at all. I know I was a wanker when that git brushed you off. But, it was because I was so jealous I couldn't see straight. Arse was too stupid to know what a gift he'd been given. He'd had what I wanted and there he was – treating you like... Trust me, Buffy, if you hadn't taken that ring off my finger, he would have been my first meal."

Somewhat mollified, she sniffed and put her head back down on his chest. "Okay, then." Her head snapped back up. "Not okay that you eat him!"

He laughed. "Yeah, yeah. I know." He nuzzled her hair and purred, "Is it okay if I scare the piss out of him sometime? Put the fear of Spike into him?"

Buffy shrugged. "Sure. Have fun. I already hit him on the head a couple times, though. Maybe we should move on..."

"That's my girl." He tightened his arms around her and squeezed.

"Your girl is sleepy," she replied, stifling a yawn.

"Then she should sleep." He pulled the covers up over their bodies and settled down for a night of marveling at where he was and who was sharing the bed with him.

When Buffy woke up, Spike was clearly deep into his normal daytime sleep. She extricated herself from his arms and stood up, smiling at the way they seemed to automatically tighten when she first moved. She grabbed her robe and clothes and ran down the hall to shower. When she returned, Spike was sitting up, holding the sheet to his chest and glaring at Willow who was standing in the middle of the room hyperventilating.

Buffy walked up to her and touched her shoulder, bringing an "eep!" and a jump.

"Sorry, Will. I didn't mean to scare you."

"You... he..." Willow took a calming breath, still staring at Buffy's bed. "Spike is in your bed. Spike is naked in your bed."

"How do you know I'm naked, Red? Did you peek? Shame on you!"

Willow turned her eyes to Buffy. "I didn't peek, I swear! I just... "

Giving Spike a glare that did nothing to stop his laughter, Buffy patted Willow on the shoulder. "Don't pay any attention to him. He's just trying to embarrass you."

"Well, it's working," Willow grumbled. "Consider me embarrassed."

"Guess getting up to put my pants on wouldn't be a good idea then," Spike said, still grinning. He fell back onto the pillow and crossed his arms behind his head.

"Not unless you want to be wearing warts for the next couple of days," Willow threatened, her initial shock at finding a naked vampire in her roommate's bed wearing off. Buffy whispered in her ear, so low that even Spike couldn't make it out. Willow nodded. "Well, okay. But just because you asked. Not because I don't think he deserves it." She turned and pointed at Spike. "I'm going to go take a shower. You'd better have pants on when I get back, mister!"

They watched Willow leave, then Buffy approached the bed, her head down. He took her hand and pulled her closer. "What's this, then?" he asked. "Having second thoughts?"

"Not really. I'm just realizing how not well some people are going to take this." She sighed. "I'm not sure I'm ready for that."

He frowned. "Your watcher knows – not that he's happy 'bout it – your best friend knows. Who else, besides your mum," he paused and shuddered theatrically, "matters? Were you maybe planning to call the big poof and share?"

Buffy's wide eyes and open mouth told him she'd never even thought about Angel's possible reaction. She moaned. "Oh my God. I forgot about Angel. He's going to totally wig." She stared at Spike. "He's going to kill you!"

"He's going to want to kill me," Spike agreed. "Might not be all that easy..."

"How can you be so casual about this?" Buffy's voice was climbing higher. "How could I forget about Angel? What's wrong with me?"

Spike cocked his head at her. "Maybe I'm just that much better than he is?" he said, trying for a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. When she didn't respond, he tried again. "Or maybe," he tugged her closer again, "maybe you've moved on."

"Well duh!" she said, throwing up her hands and turning away, completely missing the surprise and awe on his face. "That's not the point. It's who I've moved on to that's going to be the problem." She turned back around and peered at Spike through the hair that had fallen in front of her face. "He hates you, you know."

"Feelin's mutual, pet. Trust me." Spike threw the sheet back and reached for his pants. "Old grandpa isn't one of my favorite relatives, either."

"Okay. So we just have to make sure nobody tells him. If he doesn't know, he can't get all fangy about it."

Willow came through the door just as Spike finished zipping his jeans closed.

"Who can't get all... oh! Angel. Oh yeah, fangy, stakey, flamey—"

"Not if he doesn't know," Buffy said quickly. "If we don't tell him..."

Willow nodded vigorously. "That's right. Giles doesn't like to talk to him, I don't talk to him, you don't... You don't, do you?" Buffy shook her head. "Okay, then we're all good. None of us are going to tell him. Xander hates him, so he's not going to tell... "

Buffy cleared her throat. "I was kinda, sorta thinking that we'd put off telling Xander for a while. You know, give him some time to get used to seeing Spike with me instead of making some big announcement that—"

"That would make him wig," Willow finished for her. "You're right. He's going to be as bad as Angel – just not as scary." She looked at Spike apologetically. "He's probably going to want to stake you, though. You'll have to be careful."

"Not quite the pushover I was a few days ago," Spike said as he pulled on his tee-shirt.

"And on that cheery note..." Willow watched as he got back into Buffy's bed and pulled the sheets over his head. She raised her eyebrows at Buffy, who shrugged.

"It's not like he can go out now," she said, making an apologetic face. She picked up her notebooks and waited while Willow put on shoes and got her own supplies for class. With a last look at the immobile lump in Buffy's bed, they left the room.

"I am never going to get this off my coat!" Spike looked down at the body of the chaos demon he'd just killed and snarled. "I wish I could kill the wanker all over again." He glanced up at Buffy who was standing conspicuously far away. "What the bloody hell are you doing?"

"Staying away from you. You're all... slimy. And you smell... And did I mention slimy?"

"Got this way protecting you. Or have you forgotten that already?"

"You weren't protecting me," she sniffed. "I could have handled him just fine. I just didn't want to get slime all over my new blouse and shoes."

"Point is, pet..." His voice sounded suspiciously like a snarl. "I ruined my clothes trying to save yours. And now you're actin' like you don't want to be seen with me."

Just then a young couple walked past them, wrinkling their noses and gagging. The girl gave Buffy a sympathetic look as they stepped into the street to avoid getting close to Spike, who was standing in the middle of the sidewalk with slime dripping down his face and off his coat.

Without speaking, Buffy turned and began walking towards Giles' apartment complex. She ignored the snarling vampire trailing her through Sunnydale, giving sunny smiles to anyone who seemed inclined to mention the slimy, smelly, angry-looking man behind her.

She entered the apartment and quickly turned to block the door. "Backyard, hose, now," she said firmly, pointing to the end of the apartment block. Still snarling and swearing in several languages, Spike obediently went around to the back of the building, kicking several lawn chairs out of his way as he did so. Buffy watched out the upstairs window as he hung his coat over one of the abused chairs and sprayed it down with the hose. He then put his head under the hose and washed the slime out of his hair and off his face, removing the gel in his hair at the same time. She smiled as the familiar curls began to sprout on his head, then ran downstairs to let him in.

It was only then that she noticed Heloise standing in the kitchen and raised her eyebrows at Giles. He cleared his throat and said too quietly for the curious woman to hear, "It seems only fair that I, too, be permitted to trust someone you don't."

Before Buffy could answer, Spike slipped up behind her and smirked at Giles. "At least you know this vampire isn't going to lose his leash and kill your ladyfriend."

Giles' jaw tightened at the mention of Jenny, then he exhaled and nodded. "Point taken."

Heloise had approached the group, staring back and forth between Spike's wet head and the wet leather coat he'd left hanging by the door.

"Is it raining again?"

"No," Buffy responded cheerfully. "Spike just had a little run-in with a Chaos demon and he got slimed."

Heloise ran for her notebook. "Chaos demon? I don't have that one. What can you tell me about them?"

"They're gross and disgusting and I didn't want one sliming on my good clothes," Buffy said, shuddering. Before anyone could explain more, Xander and Anya entered and were introduced to Heloise. Giles referred to her as his "friend from the university" to snickers from Spike, who Buffy then elbowed him in the ribs.

Heloise's "tsk" went almost unnoticed as Willow and Tara came in, sparking another round of introductions. As soon as everyone had sorted out who was meeting whom for the first time, and what the various relationships were, Heloise focused back on the Chaos demon question and Buffy's response.

"So, the Slayer is a bit myxophobic, and she allowed her boyfriend to take the brunt of an attack so as to avoid damage to her clothes?" She fixed Buffy with a disapproving frown. "I know that you and... Spike... are not what I first took you for, but even so, the way you treat him is shameful. All that physical abuse... I don't know why he stands for it."

Before Buffy could respond with anything testy, Spike rested his hands on her shoulders and spoke over her head.

"I'm a vampire, luv. Much as I appreciate your concern for my well-being, the Slayer and I have been physically abusing each other on pretty equal terms for a long time. We can take it. And, for me, that's part of her charm. Trust me when I tell you the rewards are worth every bloody punch."

Heloise looked at Giles for support, but he just shook his head. "I really don't want to know, and neither do you." He took her arm and steered her away from Spike and Buffy, who were having an animated, whispered conversation. Spike hadn't removed his hands from Buffy's shoulders yet, and she was carrying on her part of the conversation looking back at him over her shoulder. Neither of them had noticed the way Xander was staring in disbelief.

He was uncharacteristically silent for the rest of the evening, spending much of the time watching Buffy and Spike as they and Giles brought everyone up to speed on the Initiative and what was likely to happen to it.

"Do you think they're going to release all the demons and vamps?" Willow asked, patting Tara's hand absently when she gasped at the thought.

Xander's eyes were now darting back and forth between both Willow and Tara, and Spike and Buffy, all of whom seemed to him to be sitting unnecessarily close together and doing more touching than was normal. Finally he blurted out, "Willow? Have you done another spell?"

She blushed and moved even closer to the girl she'd introduced as her new Wicca friend. "Do you mean... them?" She gestured to Spike and Buffy, now arguing about what to do if the Army decided to just empty the cells and turn everything in them loose in Sunnydale.

"Well, yeah. We can start with them. What the hell is going on? And why did the Prof call Spike Buffy's boyfriend?"

Buffy spoke up, shrugging uncomfortably. "When she first met us, she just assumed he was... with me. We were too busy just then to tell her any different."

"That was then. This is now. Tell her different!"

"Well..."

"Well? There is no well. There will be no welling here. Just tell her!"

"Xander, I really wanted to give you some time to get used to this, but..."

Xander appealed to Giles. "G-man, do you hear this? You're not going to allow it, right?"

Giles cleared his throat. "I believe Buffy is old enough to do without my permission when it comes to whom she is... seeing."

"Have you forgotten what her last vampire boyfriend did to you? Because I haven't."

"Xander, Spike isn't like Angelus. He's not..."

"Not soulless? 'cause I'm pretty sure he is. Last time I checked he was trying to kill us all."

"I know it seems kinda sudden, but we—"

Buffy was becoming visibly upset the longer Xander talked, and Spike finally stepped in. "What Buffy does and who she does it with is her business. She doesn't need your permission or anyone else's. Get over it."

Xander looked around at Giles, Willow, Tara and Heloise, seeing that none of them looked shocked or surprised.

"So, I'm the last to know, then?"

"You are," Spike said. "And with good reason, you judgmental git. No wonder she was afraid to tell you."

"No," Xander said, with surprising calm. "No, I'll bet I'm not the last to know. C'mon, Anya. I've got a call to make."

Chapter Nineteen

Vigilance

"That bloody stupid git!" Spike's snarl caused Willow and Tara to flinch. Giles, however, surprised them all by adding, "The boy never has been overly bright, but this is..."

Buffy looked at them both, her dismayed expression bringing another snarl from Spike and a sympathetic moan from Willow. "Do you really think he's going to call Angel? He hates Angel."

"He hates Spike, too," Willow volunteered with an apologetic smile in his direction. "He blames you for... for making him lose Cordelia."

"Come again? I never even saw the cheerleader that trip. Not that I don't think she wouldn't have left his sorry arse anyway, but—"

"But you were responsible for leaving me and Xander in that warehouse – and making us think we were going to die."

Spike looked at Buffy for clarification.

She sighed and rattled off, "Oz and Cordelia found the warehouse and went running in to the rescue. Willow and Xander were smooching and Cordy fell onto a rebar when she tried to leave. Cheating boyfriend and hole in tummy all in one night equals very unhappy Cordy. She wouldn't even talk to him for weeks."

"Well, I didn't tell the idiot to start snogging you while I was gone!" Spike said indignantly. "He can't blame me because he's stupid!"

"Can and does," Buffy said. "And now that you..." She stopped, unsure what to say about the crush Xander used to have on her.

"And now you're with the other girl he wanted in his life," Willow filled in. "It's like you took them both away."

Spike's eyes flashed amber as he growled, "That wanker wants you too?"

"It was a long time ago," Buffy soothed. "I'm sure he's over it. He has Anya now."

"If we could focus on the actual issue here..." Giles' voice brought their attention back to him. "An angry Angel, or Angelus, is not something to be welcomed."

"I can't imagine this news is going to make him so happy he loses his soul," Buffy said with a sigh. "But even Angel is probably going to be pretty dangerous – to Spike, anyway."

"Been a long time since I was the big poof's punching bag, Slayer," Spike growled. "He might find he's bitten off a bit more than he can chew if he comes after me."

"Yeah, thanks for that image." Buffy wrinkled her nose, then added, "And I don't really want to have to referee that fight if it's all the same to you." She approached Spike and touched his cheek gently. "And I don't really want to hurt Angel like that if we can avoid it."

While Buffy worked to soothe Spike's ruffled feathers, Willow stood up.

"I'll go find them and talk him out of it. I'm sure he'll understand what a bad idea it is once he calms down." She took Tara's hand and pulled her to her feet. "We'll be back soon – or I'll call. Don't worry, Buffy. I'm sure he won't do it."

Spike and Buffy watched the witches leave, then looked at each other and shrugged. Buffy turned to Giles, asking, "Do you think I should call Angel and just tell him to hang up on Xander if he calls?"

"You know him better than I," he responded stiffly. "Perhaps he won't be as concerned as you think."

Buffy and Spike exchanged looks again and shook their heads. "I don't think 'concerned' is quite the word you're looking for there, Watcher," Spike said with a small grin. "Try bloody raving."

Angel had just come on the line when Willow burst into Xander's basement apartment. Xander had gotten no further than, "Buffy is—" when Willow grabbed the phone from him.

"Nevermind, Angel. It's nothing. Nice talking to you, bye now!"

"Willow? Was that Xander? What did he mean 'Buffy is—'. What's wrong? Is she all right?"

"She's fine. Couldn't be finer. It's all good here. Bye!"

Willow clicked off the phone and dropped it onto the chair.

"What were you thinking?"

Xander fell into the chair, not even noticing that he'd sat on the phone.

"Oh God. I can't believe I did that. Buffy's going to kill me..."

"If she doesn't, Spike probably will," Willow agreed, sitting on the bed. "How could you do that?"

Tara and Anya stood together uncomfortably, watching the two old friends.

"I'm an idiot?" Xander ventured.

"Not arguing with you," Willow said, her frown turning into a sympathetic smile. "But hey, you never actually said anything about Spike, so maybe Angel will just think you were drunk or something."

"I tried to tell him not to do it," Anya volunteered. Tara patted her arm and smiled in encouragement as she frowned. "But I didn't think about taking the phone away."

"Speaking of which..." Willow pointed to Xander's legs. "You wanna get up off the phone so I can call Giles' and tell Buffy it's okay?"

With an embarrassed shrug, he stood up and handed her the phone. "Here you go. Still warm from the Xan-man's butt."

Willow wrinkled her nose and held the phone out gingerly. "Oh the other hand, why don't you make that call?"

The phone in Giles apartment rang insistently - Buffy, Spike and Giles all stared at it.

"It's probably Willow, calling to tell us she caught Xander in time."

"Of course that's who it is. Who else could it be?" Buffy's false assurance went no further than her words.

They all watched as the answering machine came on and an all-too-familiar voice said, "Giles? Are you there? Pick up, if you are."

"And once again the great poof sticks his nose in where it isn't needed." Spike's disgusted remark was matched by the expression on his face. Only when Buffy had turned toward the answering machine, distress clear in every line of her body, did he allow his insecurity to show. "Buffy?"

Her glance flickered from the phone to Spike and back. "Maybe... maybe you should answer him, Giles?" she said. "I mean, just in case it's unrelated and—"

"Bugger that! You know bloody well it's 'related', Slayer. The only question is, what did that flaming idiot tell him?"

"Well we won't know unless we let Giles talk to him, will we?" she snapped back. Before the exchange could escalate, the phone rang again and Giles picked up the receiver to find Joyce on the line.

"Hello, Joyce," he said calmly, waving a soothing hand in Buffy's direction. "What can I do for— Oh, I see. He did? No, no. I can assure you Buffy is fine. I have no idea what Xander might have said that— Ah, good then... I mean, how odd." His lips pinched together as he listened to what Joyce was saying. "That's... useful to know. Thank you so much for telling me – us." He paused again, then gestured for Buffy to approach. "She's right here. Why don't I allow her to tell you herself?"

He thrust the phone into Buffy's hand, saying, "Please assure your mother that you are fine."

Leaving Buffy to tell Joyce a modified version of the day's events, he moved over to stand near Spike.

"What was that all about?" Spike growled. He'd only been able to pick up bits and pieces of the conversation, in spite of being in the same room.

"It seems that Xander only managed to say Buffy's name before Willow interrupted him and hung up. So Angel called Joyce to ask if Buffy was home and if she was all right. Apparently, the soldiers had paid her a visit previous to showing up at your crypt, so she was already a bit apprehensive when Angel called to ask about Buffy and to say that Xander had called him."

"Oh, well, can't blame the woman for being rattled. Must be a nightmare, knowing your only child is out every night fighting all sorts of nasties. That's bad enough, knowing soldiers from her own country might be after her too was probably enough for Joyce to break out that fire axe she tried to brain me with."

A shadow went across the former watcher's face. "Yes. I imagine it is very difficult, knowing one's... child... is in constant danger."

Spike peered at him intently, then gave a warm, genuine smile. "Knew you weren't made of the usual watcher stuff, Rupert," he said. "Got something besides ice water in those veins, yeah?"

"Hence my reluctance to see my... charge... become involved with a soulless killer," Giles responded. The small, grudging smile he allowed to cross his face took the sting from his words. He nodded as Spike murmured, "Not him, Watcher," and turned as Buffy crossed the room.

"Is your mum all sorted?"

"Yeah. Mom is fine, but she thinks Angel is planning to come up here to check on me." She worried her bottom lip with her teeth. "Maybe you should—"

"Maybe I should what?" Spike's face was expressionless, but his voice managed to convey menace and great sadness at the same time.

"Lose the wrinklies," Buffy said, tapping his forehead, completely unconcerned that he'd changed. In spite of Giles' choked gasp, she went up on her toes and brushed her lips across Spike's mouth, managing to avoid cutting herself on the fangs just visible behind his lips.

"Sorry, love. Didn't know I'd gone into game face on you."

"Are you planning to do that every time Angel's name comes up? Cause, you know, it's gonna get old fast."

"Wasn't the poof's name that did it," he muttered, too annoyed at himself for losing control to realize that she was gently teasing him.

"I know," she said with a sigh. "But you thought I was going to tell you to hide or something. Didn't you?" she demanded went he put on his most innocent expression.

"That may not be a bad idea," Giles said. "I am forced to admit that the best way to deal with Angel – if he actually shows up – may be to let him see that Buffy is fine and that he isn't needed here. Then he will leave and..."

"And the Slayer and I can live happily ever after?" Spike said with a sardonic smile.

Giles shrugged. "I quite doubt that happily ever after is a likely future for a slayer and a vampire," he said, more to Buffy than Spike. "However, preventing Angel from finding out that he has been replaced in your affections by... Spike, of all... people, may be in everyone's best interests."

Spike looked like he'd just swallowed some very bitter blood. "Much as I hate the thought..." He gave Buffy a tight smile Buffy and sighed. "Watcher's probably right. If he doesn't see me around, and the boy keeps his mouth shut, Angelus'll have no reason to get his knickers in a twist. You can feed him some half-truths about the soldier boys and he can go back to saving the denizens of Hollywood thinking all is well in Sunnyhell."

"As long as he doesn't go to Willy's, doesn't talk to Xander, and doesn't catch us together. Yeah, no problem." Buffy rolled her eyes.

"I believe vigilance will be the order of the day for a while," Giles said. "Until we know that he has been and gone, you will have to be very careful."

"What about Xander?"

"I'll speak with him." Something in Giles's voice brought Buffy's head around. She had a quick glimpse of the man who had attacked Angelus with a torch and a stake, and then Giles was his normal self.

"Whoa, Giles. Scary there for a second."

"Told you the Watcher had depths, love," Spike said with a grin.

Chapter Twenty

Buffy stared back and forth between Spike and Giles, then shrugged. "Okay then. How are we going to do this? You just stay away for a while – hide in your crypt or something? And I'll just go about my business, going to classes and slaying? How long do you think we're going to have to keep this up?"

Spike shrugged. "Doesn't take long to get here from LA, does it? Couple of hours at most? I reckon we're going to be hearing something from old Angelus by midnight."

Buffy stood up. "Well, that gives us time for a quick patrol before I go back to the dorm. He'll probably go there to look for me first."

"Does he know where you live?" Buffy was sure she saw Spike's eyes flash amber for just a second.

"Huh. I don't know. I guess not, now that I think about it. He'll probably come here, then. He knows Mom doesn't like him, so I doubt he'll go there."

"Perhaps, if he does come here first, I can convince him that Xander was over-reacting to your capture by the Initiative and I can send him on his way back without your having to interact with him at all."

"That'd be cool. Way better than me having to talk to him. Go, Giles!" She turned and walked towards the door. "Come on, Spike. We've got time to get in a quick patrol before we go into hiding..."

"I thought just Spike was going to be hiding," Giles said stiffly. "You told me you were bored staying in his crypt."

"Uh, well, yes. Yeah, that's what I meant. Spike will go hide in his crypt and I'll just go back to my dorm room... by myself." She gave Spike a sheepish smile that changed to a frown when he smirked at her. Waving at Giles, she yanked the door open and escaped into the cool night air. Spike quickly caught up to her and walked along, hands in pockets, humming an unfamiliar tune.

"Shut up!"

"Didn't say a word, pet."

"You were thinking... stuff. I could tell."

"What stuff do you think I was thinking? Hmmm?"

Buffy didn't answer, just increased her speed as she turned in to Shadyrest Cemetery. Easily keeping pace with her, Spike pressed. "What? What might I have been thinking? Afraid to tell me, Slayer?"

Buffy huffed. "As if!"

"I think you are," he purred, stepping in front of her so abruptly that she walked right into his chest. He wrapped his arms around her and murmured into the top of her head, "I think you're afraid to admit that you were thinking about coming home with me again. That you want to come home with me."

"Do not," she mumbled, even as she relaxed into his embrace.

"Do too." He lowered his head to kiss her ear, crossing her jaw line and ending near her mouth. "At least I hope you do," he breathed, brushing his lips across hers. "Because I want you to, want it so bad I can't see straight."

Before Buffy could decide what she wanted to answer, Spike's head flew up and he sniffed the air, then dropped his arms and disappeared so quickly that she barely heard his, "Later, love. Won't be far."

"Wha—huh?" Buffy whirled in circles. "Where'd you go?"

The tingles on her neck – so similar to and yet different from Spike's signature – had her pulling out her stake and peering into the darkness with narrowed eyes. However, the familiar signature, as well as Spike's abrupt departure, quickly told her what she was going to see; and when Angel finally appeared striding towards her she was already relaxed, sitting on a tombstone and twirling her stake.

"Angel!" she said, with a genuine smile. "What are you doing here? Is something wrong?"

"That's what I came to see," he said, glancing around with suspicion. "What's going on?"

"Did you see Giles?" She tried to deflect his question. "He was going to tell you all about it."

Angel's eyes narrowed even more. "Tell me all about what? And how did you know he was going to tell me something if you didn't know I was coming?"

"Uh..." Buffy sighed and pointed to another gravestone. "I'm sorry, Angel. I did know you were coming – Mom told us. But there's no reason for it. Really. I'm fine – as you can see. We had a little... incident... here with some sort of secret Army thingie. But Giles got the Council to look into it, and we got rescued before anything else bad happened to anybody."

Refusing her silent offer to join her in sitting on the dearly departed, he said, "When did this 'thingie' happen? Xander just called an hour or so ago."

"Yeah, about that... Hey! How did you get here so fast?"

"I have a client who owes me. He flew me up in his helicopter."

"Oh, Angel!" Buffy's dismay was real, as was her sympathetic pat on his arm. "I'm so sorry you made that dash up here for something so..." She shook her head. "I'm going to kick Xander's butt for this."

"It's no problem, Buffy," Angel said stiffly. "I'm just glad to see that you're—" He paused and pulled her hand back, holding it to his nose. He frowned and moved closer, ignoring her "What are doing?" as he inhaled the scents coming off her body.

"When was Spike here?" he snarled. "Is that why Xander called me? Because Spike was back?" He sniffed again. "He's all over you. Have you been fighting him? Did you dust him?"

"No... I... he... we..." Buffy elected to go with half-truths. "We were both captured by the Initiative. They wanted to watch us fight, so we did; then they sent in some vamps and some commandoes and we had to fight them; and then Giles showed up and we weren't prisoners anymore."

"You didn't answer me, Buffy. When did this happen? Spike's scent is fresh. Like he just... Is he watching you?" Angel glared around. "Is he holding hostages? Is that why you're trying to get rid of me? Do you need my help with Spike?"

"I don't need any help with Spike," Buffy sighed. "It's fine, Angel. Can't you just take my word for it and leave? Not that it's not nice to see you," she hastened to assure him, giving him a warm smile. "But I'm really sorry you made the trip up here for nothing."

"If Spike's back in Sunnydale, that's not 'nothing', Buffy. You remember what he was like the other times."

"I remember, Angel. I remember that I put him in a wheelchair the first time, and that he helped me when you – sorry, Angelus – tried to end the world. I remember that he didn't actually hurt Willow or Xander when he was trying to get her to do a love spell for him. I remember that I kicked his butt when he had the Gem of Amara... and... well, let's just say we've gotten to know him a lot better since the Initiative showed up and put a chip in his head."

"A chip?"

Buffy waved her hand around. "The were experimenting on vamps and demons – Spike said you stopped the Nazi's from doing something like that a long time ago? Anyway, they made it so he couldn't bite anybody and he came to us, and then Willow did a spell, and... Well, anyway. You don't need to worry about Spike. He isn't going to hurt anybody."

"If he's so harmless, why can I smell him all over you?" He stepped closer to her and sniffed again, his eyes going wide before turning amber. Through descending fangs he snarled, "And why do you smell like you've been..."

Buffy backed up, bring her stake into a ready position as she watched Angel struggle to control his demon.

"Just so you know? That whole sniffing thing is just really gross and really, really an invasion of privacy."

Ignoring her angry retort, he said, "I'll kill him." His fangs were still visible as he spoke.

"That could be a mite harder than you think, Angelus." Spike's voice preceded his appearance by only a moment. He stopped just beside Buffy and stared at his grandsire.

"I thought you were going to hide," she hissed.

"Tired of hiding," he said. "And more than a bit tired of watching him talk to you like you're his private property."

"She is mine!" Angel snarled. "If you've touched—"

"Angel," Buffy pointed out, stepping between the two vampires. "I'm not yours. You walked away, remember? You told me to move on and have a life."

"This is not moving on!" He glared at her. "This is just accepting a poor substitute for what you can't have. And you, William," he sneered in Spike's direction. "You're still taking my leavings. I'd think you'd want to look for someone who wasn't always going to be wishing you were me."

Buffy's face crumpled at being referred to as Angel's "leavings", but quickly turned to a slayer's angry mien when she saw how Spike flinched at Angel's words. Before Spike could move, Buffy was in Angel's face, punctuating her words by poking him in the chest.

"Leavings? I'm your 'leavings'? That's all I was to you? A possession?" Her pokes, which she made using all her slayer strength, had pushed Angel back several yards. As a finale, she shoved him with both hands, causing him to fall to the ground and stare up at her in astonishment. "And news-flash, Angel, I have never once wished Spike was anybody other than who he is. I didn't wish that when we were enemies, and I sure as hell don't wish it when we're—"

"Enough, love," Spike's voice was surprisingly gentle as he touched her arm. "Let me talk to him, yeah?"

"Talk to him? I told you, I don't want to have to referee any fights between you two."

"Just talking. We can do that, can't we, Liam?"

Angel had sprung to his feet at Spike's approach, but allowed his face to go back to the human form that Buffy had once been so in love with. He gave her his best soulful brown eyes, but when she remained on guard and near Spike, he nodded.

"All right. Talk."

Spike looked at Buffy. "Do you trust me?" She nodded slowly. "Then let me talk to him alone." When she started to protest, he said, "He knows me, love. All I have to do is tell him... It'll be alright. I promise."

"Don't... just be careful, 'k? I don't want anybody's dust floating away tonight."

"We'll work it out."

He brushed Buffy's hand with his fingertips, then moved off into the cemetery. "Let's go, Angelus. Need to sort this out so the girl can get some sleep tonight."

Buffy stood, frowning as the two vampires walked far enough way that she could no longer hear their words, and could just barely make out their shapes in the dim light. She watched carefully, but except for some excited arm waving, she couldn't see anything to be alarmed about. They were clearly keeping their voices low enough that she couldn't hear them.

She was so busy trying to see and hear what was going on several hundred yards away, that she didn't notice the vamp sneaking up on her until she felt his drool on her cheek. Reaching behind her, she grabbed his head and threw him over her shoulder to land in a surprised heap at her feet.

"Slayer!" he said, edging away without quite standing up.

"Who were you expecting in a graveyard at night?" she asked, kicking his legs out from under him as he tried to rise. "Or did you order take-out and think I was your delivery?" Not waiting for an answer, she leaned down and drove her stake through his chest. She shook her head at his dust. "You were too stupid to last long anyway."

When she glanced back up, Spike and Angel were approaching, their steps making no sound as they passed over turf-covered mounds. They stopped when they were only a few feet away, and Buffy raised her eyebrows at them.

"Well?"

"I'll be going back to LA now," Angel said grudgingly. "But if something happens – to either one of you – " he shocked Buffy by saying, "the other has to promise to call me. I don't want to hear it from Xander, or anyone else."

"Wha—?" Buffy stared at Spike. "What did you say to him?"

"Tell you later, pet. Just get your good-byes done, yeah?"

Spike turned his back and walked away, giving the illusion of privacy even though Buffy knew he would be able to hear every word.

"I don't—"

"It's all right, Buffy," Angel said with a sigh. "I can't go so far as to wish you well, but I'm confident you're safe with him. And that he'll... You'll be safe," he finished. "I can't believe you aren't at each other's throats all the time, but..."

Buffy coughed and shuffled her feet. "Well, I wouldn't say we never fight anymore, but now we get over it and we... make up." She hoped it was too dark for Angel to see her blush.

"Really don't want to know," he said with a wry smile. He leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "Be safe, Buffy. And if he stops making you happy, feel free to dust him."

Buffy laughed and gazed into the face that had once been so important to her. "Somehow, I don't think you really mean that." She reached up and cupped his cheek. "But thank you, anyway."

"Take care of each other," he said, raising his voice just enough to be sure Spike could hear him. Without another word, he vanished into the gloom, quickly getting so far away that Buffy could no longer see or feel him.

She felt Spike come up behind her and she leaned into his chest when his arms went around her. "You are going to explain this to me," she said, feeling her whole body relax from the tension she'd been carrying all night.

"Someday, love," he said, squeezing her tightly. "When you're ready to hear it."

Chapter Twenty-One #203 Crumpled Paper

"You are going to tell me what you said to him!" Buffy's voice preceded her into the apartment, causing the people there to sit up and stare at the door. When Spike appeared behind her, holding the door open for her to sweep into the room, they all gave varyingly sincere sighs of relief and settled back in their seats.

"So, you survived the night, I see," Giles said.

"Did," Spike said shortly. "Plan to survive a lot more of them, in case any of you were wonderin'." He looked right at Xander as he spoke.

Xander jumped slightly as he was kicked under the table. He gave Anya a glare, but she pointed at Willow, who smiled sheepishly. With another glare, he stood up and walked over to Buffy and Spike. His eyes shifted back and forth between them, finally settling on a spot just over Buffy's shoulder.

"I'm... I'm sorry. I shouldn't have shot off my mouth like that, and I shouldn't have called Angel. I'm just glad Willow got there in time to interrupt me and—"

Buffy looked at Giles. "You didn't tell him?" Giles shook his head.

"No. They just got here and I hadn't decided whether to tell them about Angel's phone calls, or to wait and see if he showed up last night."

"Oh," Buffy said, coming into the room and waiting for Spike to sit in the big chair so that she could sit on his lap. "Well, he did. He took a helicopter and got here way before we thought he would."

"So, he found you first, then?" Giles frowned. "I wondered why he never showed up here."

"He found us," Buffy said, rolling her eyes.

"And yet you both appear to be quite healthy and in one piece..."

"Yeah. It was touch and go there for a minute, but we got him to calm down, and then Spike talked to him and then he said, 'Okay' and then he left." Buffy beamed and leaned back against Spike's chest, rubbing her thumb across the arm he had draped across her stomach.

There were several minutes of incomprehensible and competing comments and questions before Giles finally held up his hand for silence. When the noise had trailed off and Spike and Buffy were facing expectant eyes, he nodded to them

"An explanation might be quite useful here," Giles said with a trace of impatience.

"That's what I keep telling him, but he's being stubborn." Buffy tilted her head back to glare at Spike who was smirking back at her. "Says he'll tell me when I'm ready to hear it, or some such crap"

"We're ready to hear it," Willow said to accompanying murmurs of agreement.

"Not for your ears," Spike said easily. "Not unless and until Buffy wants to share it."

"Buffy can't share it!" she growled. "Buffy doesn't know it yet."

Giles stared at them thoughtfully, then got up and began scanning his bookshelves.

"Won't find it there, Watcher," Spike said quietly. "Much as the Council of Wankers knows about my kind, they don't know everything. Some things are still between vampires."

"Actually," Giles said, still scanning the shelves, "I was looking for a small volume that Heloise has lent me. I hadn't had time to look over it before, but I suspect now might be a good time."

Spike snorted. "Like that watcher wannabe had anything but pure drivel in her 'library'."

"Not quite everything was drivel, Mr. Pratt," Giles said with a sideways glance to see Spike's response. He wasn't disappointed when Spike sat up so quickly he almost dumped Buffy onto the floor. Giles smiled and pulled a slender book from a shelf "Ah, here it is. The early research upon which the published version of Lydia Chalmer's thesis on William the Bloody was based. Written by her great-grandmother when she was working for the council as a researcher."

He grinned at Spike's paler than usual face. "It seems that Heloise and Ms. Chalmers are distant cousins who share a family interest in vampires. One specific vampire in particular..."

Buffy jumped off Spike's lap, easily breaking his limp hold on her. "Ooooh, let me see it!"

With a strangled "No!" Spike lunged for her, falling to the floor when she easily evaded his grab. The Scoobies were treated to the sight of the vampire they had feared for so long lying on his back, arm over his eyes, moaning, "Just stake me now."

"You know," Xander remarked to anyone who was listening, "ordinarily I'd be all over that, but the entertainment value of watching Spike trying to disappear into the rug far outweighs the satisfaction I'd get from staking him..."

A muffled growl was as much complaint as Spike could muster before he sat up to try to salvage something from the situation. He saw that Buffy had the book in her hands and was rapidly flipping through the pages, pausing frequently to say, "Really?" or "Seriously?" as she found something interesting.

"Com'on, love," he pleaded. "You know that silly bint – no offense, Watcher," he added as he remembered that Giles now had something of a social relationship with Professor Inkfel – "believes everything she's told. Bet old great-gramma was just the same. Books probably full of lies and exaggerations..." His voice trailed off helplessly as Buffy just raised her eyebrows at him and went back to reading.

Spike gave a resigned sigh and went back to the chair, slouching down in it and shutting his eyes, which snapped open when Buffy said, "What's this?"

She was holding a piece of discolored paper in her hand, straining to read the faded ink upon it.

"What is it?" Willow's curiosity was finally getting the best of her and she came up to peer over Buffy's shoulder. "It looks like some sort of poetry... What is that word there? It looks like eff...effil...eep!" She flinched at Spike reached past her and snatched the paper from Buffy's hand, then retreated to his chair, crumpling it and putting it in his pocket.

"Hey! Giles, are you going to let him do that? Isn't that, like, priceless or something?"

Not trying to hide his snickers, Giles said, "Well, technically, I suppose, it is his property. Apparently he dropped it the night he was turned and one of the servants found it. No matter," he said with a broad grin, "I believe the entire text of the... poem... appears later in the book."

Finally taking pity on Spike's obvious distress, Buffy put the book in her back pocket and went back to the chair.

"Come on, Wordsworth, let's go find something nasty to slay. Something tells me you have a lot of hostility to work out tonight."

Several hours later, when Spike had wiped out two nests and helped Buffy stop a demon ritual of some sort, they stopped to sit on a bench near his crypt.

"Feel better?" she asked with a small smile, brushing her hand lightly over the bruise developing on his cheekbone.

"A bit," he said grudgingly. When she just continued to smile at him, he dropped his head onto the back of the bench, then rolled it toward her. "So, have you lost all respect for me now?"

Buffy shook her head. "I already knew that William was a gentleman. I just didn't know he was quite so..."

"Poncy?"

Buffy laughed. "I don't think I even know what that means – but whatever it is, I'm pretty sure you aren't it."

"William was," he admitted. "And when I'm around you, sometimes I..."

"I like your William," she confided. "He's very sweet and... loving."

"I'm not him anymore, pet. Haven't been for a very long time."

"Close enough," she whispered, sliding closer to him and nibbling on his earlobe. "I'm glad you're not really him. I like a little monster in my man."

"How about a little monster in you" he replied, pulling her over to sit on his thighs facing him.

"How about a whole lot of monster in me?" she purred, rubbing herself against him.

"Shameless hussy," he said, standing up with her in his arms, her legs wrapped around his waist.

"Disgusting pig," she retaliated. As he began walking towards his crypt, she amused herself with leaving kisses all over his neck and face. By the time they reached the double doors, they were both breathing hard. Spike yanked the outer door open, then kicked the inside one. Without stopping to close either one, he went straight to the rug covering the downstairs.

With a rueful laugh, Buffy unwrapped her legs and slid to the floor.

"As romantic as this is," she said, giving him a little shove towards the open door, "I really don't like the idea of leaving the doors open." While he ran over to close them both securely, she moved the rug and plywood from the entrance and peered down into the darkness. "I'm going to buy you a lamp," she muttered. "With a remote switch."

He came up behind and laughed softly into her ear. "But the candles are so much more romantic," he crooned.

"There is nothing romantic about jumping into a black hole and breaking my leg," she grumbled, waiting for him to release her and go light the candles.

Instead, he scooped her up again and dropped almost straight down, barely clearing the steep ladder. He deposited her on the bed, then pulled out his lighter. The 'snick' of the mechanism was immediately followed by a soft yellow light that illuminated the room. Spike hurriedly lit a few candles, then ran up the ladder to pull the concealing wood back into place. When he dropped back to the floor, he froze.

While he'd been working to give them light and privacy, Buffy had shed her clothes and was lying in the middle of the bed, her tanned flesh glowing gold in the flickering candlelight. Speechless, he began to take off his own clothes as he stalked toward her. He didn't pause when he reached the end of the bed, but climbed onto his hands and knees to crawl up her body until he was hovering over her.

"You look like a vision from a dream – something not of this earth and much too good for the likes of me. If I were still poncy William, I'd be composing a poem to you right now."

"Ooooh, I think I'd like that! Write me a poem, Spike."

He dropped from his hands and knees, earning a small "oof!" from Buffy, even as she put her arms around him and rubbed against his body.

"Is that a no?"

"Too bloody right it is," he growled, nestling his hips between her open thighs. "If you want poetry, I'll buy you a book."

"I want a William Pratt poem," she said with a mock pout. "Isn't that what you've got crumpled up in your pocket? A poem you wrote a long time ago?"

"Nothin' in that pocket but trash," he said. "Now can you stop talking about poetry and concentrate on what we're doing?"

"You brought it up—mmph!" Spike's lips put an end to the conversation, and Buffy forgot completely about the crumpled paper in his pocket as she fell into the kisses that she was afraid would be her undoing for the rest of her life.

When he slipped into her, she brought her legs up and locked her ankles behind his back, meeting him thrust for thrust as they went from banter to mutually satisfying orgasms within a very short period of time. Buffy grinned when she dropped her legs and shifted her weight, causing Spke to growl, "Where do you think you're going? We're not half done yet, Slayer."

"I know that," she said, flipping them over without losing contact with his still-hard cock. "I just wanted to get a different view." She smiled down at him, marveling at the soft, gentle expression on the face that could so easily turn into a monster's frightening mien. She sat up, moaning involuntarily when the action drove him deeper and she felt him twitch. "Oh, two can play at that game," she said, beginning a rhythmic squeezing that soon had him fighting to remain in his human face.

"Let it go," she whispered, leaning down to brush her lips over his emerging canines. "Let me see you... Let me feel you..." She gasped as she felt him change inside her, suddenly thicker and more flexible than before. Spike grinned past his fangs.

"Remembered that, did you?" he asked, pushing against her interior nerves and evoking gasps and whimpers as he moved inside her. Buffy didn't answer him verbally, remaining in place and matching his invisible movements with her own powerful clenches. To an outside onlooker, it would have seemed that nothing was happening – the two nude lovers were simply enjoying a respite from more vigorous lovemaking. However, one look at Buffy's face and the ecstatic expression on it would have told a different tale. Her lower lip was clenched in her teeth and whimpers were building into louder cries.

Beneath her, Spike was forcing himself to remain immobile while his eyes rolled back in his head and a steady stream of growled obscenities came from his throat. When Buffy finally fell forward with a small shriek, he arched up into her and roared his own release.

For several minutes they remained locked together, Buffy lying sprawled atop him while he ran his hands lightly around her back. Eventually she gave a small sigh and raised her upper body, dropping a kiss on his chest as she did so.

"Still not done," he mumbled, his limp body and closed eyes making a liar of him.

"Maybe not," she agreed, giving him a parting squeeze before she rolled off and snuggled into his side, "but I have to go to classes tomorrow, and go to my mom's to do some laundry. You can sleep all day. I can't."

He rolled towards her and nuzzled her neck. "I'm sorry, pet. I'm jus' being selfish. Forgot you've got things you need to do in the daytime. Go to sleep. I'm just going to lie here and wonder what I ever did to deserve— Gonna watch you sleep. Just in case you're a dream and you try to disappear on me."

"Don't think I've forgotten about how you got Angel to leave without major bloodshed," she said, a yawn interrupting her stern reminder. "You need to tell me what happened there. One minute you're waving your arms around, I look away to slay a stupid vamp and it's suddenly all hunky-dory and Angel is telling us to take care of each other"

"It was vampire stuff, love. Family and ritual stuff that neither one of us has ever paid much attention to – me even less so than Angelus. But we know the rules, know the rituals. He's my grandsire. I just appealed to his sense of family and fairness."

He fastened his mouth upon the skin on her neck and began to suck gently, pausing to look at the new mark he'd put on her. "I promised him something – something in the far, far future – and he agreed that I could love you for as long as you'll have me."

"There's got to be more to it than that," she grumbled, unconsciously turning her head so that he could go back to sucking on her skin.

" 's all you need to know, love. If we ever— If it ever becomes important for you to know the rest of it, I promise I'll tell you... I promise..." He went back to the strangely soothing sucking and Buffy drifted off to sleep, if not any more knowledgeable, at least reassured that the two most important vampires in her life were not going to kill each other over her.

The end.