Boy Good

Part 1 - Chapter One

"So...How long you gonna pretend you're still under that spell, Slayer?"

Forever? Or at least until you leave and I can spend the rest of the night happily denying what we just did?

Buffy buried her face in his neck and tried to control her reaction to his words, but Spike's soft chuckle said that her increased heart rate had given her away.

"As long as I can," she finally muttered, feeling the heat radiating from her face as she kept it resolutely buried in the soft skin of his neck. She was unconsciously inhaling deeply as his scent reminded her of what had sparked the embarrassing events of the past hour.

"Come on, pet. You don't really think I'm going to let you get away with that, do you?"

"You could, if you wanted to," she grumbled, still refusing to look at him, and still curled into his side. His hand was gently stroking her arm and she found the action surprisingly soothing and pleasant.

"And, why would I want to do that?" he asked, dropping his head to whisper in her ear – running his tongue into and out of it as he did so. Buffy shivered at the sensations he was creating and moaned involuntarily. "Tell me, Slayer. Why would I want to do that?"

His mouth traveled from her ear down her throat, eliciting more shivers until, with a final whimper, she stilled. She bit her lip and gave a deep sigh of resignation, reluctantly pushing him away and sitting up, clutching the sheet over her breasts. For the first time since he'd told her to open her eyes while they were still intimately connected, she actually looked at him – her gaze disappointed, but stern. Spike's brow wrinkled in confusion and he cocked his head at her curiously. Her body had been telling him she still wanted him, but the look on her face said something else entirely.

"Because, if you're going to insist on reminding me who we really are – or who I really am, anyway, 'cause you were probably just being you…" She let her voice trail off, then exhaled sharply and continued, "If I'm me, and not Cave Buffy, then you're just a pile of dust waiting to happen."

Spike studied her resolute face for a minute, his former good mood ruined by the determination he saw there. He kept his gaze on her, noting that although her steely stare never wavered, her lower lip trembled just the tiniest bit as it crept out in the beginning of a pout.

"Right then!" he exclaimed in one of his mercurial mood shifts. "Cave Buffy it is! More beer?"

Buffy blinked at him in surprise for a second; taking in his hopeful expression and the beer bottle he was eagerly extending in her direction.

What the hell. If I'm still drunk or under a spell, then I can't be responsible. Right?

She tentatively took the bottle he was still holding out, tilting it up and swallowing rapidly.

"Beer good!" she grunted, eying him suspiciously to see if he was going to play along.

"Beer very good, Sl-Cave Buffy. Beer very good." He upended his own bottle, emptying it and dropping it to the carpeted floor with a muffled 'clunk'. "But, you know what's even better, pet?" he purred, taking the empty bottle from Buffy's hand and sending it to join the other one on the floor.

He gently tugged the sheet from her clenched hand, allowing his eyes to roam over her tanned body, pretending he couldn't see the blush moving from her face down her neck and onto her chest. He ran his hand lightly down her body from her neck to her hip, pulling her towards him as he did so. He put his lips on the already healing bite marks on her neck and sucked gently, reveling in the way she shuddered beneath him. Buffy's arms slid tentatively around his neck as she allowed him to press their bodies together again. When she nibbled on his throat, licking lightly and sniffing, he chuckled against her lips.

"Are you sniffing me again?"

"Boy smell nice," she growled, embarrassed at having been caught out.

"Girl smell nice, too, love," he responded, sliding down her body until his face was pressed against the source of the mouth-watering aroma that was teasing him. "Girl smells bloody delectable."

The first swipe of his tongue caught Buffy by surprise and she yelped softly before relaxing and opening her legs for him.

If this is how cave women were treated, it's a wonder they ever left the cave. Oh my god, who knew… Spike… was so… talented… and creative… and… gah!

While Buffy was still trembling from the orgasm that taken her by surprise, Spike crawled back up her body, kissing his way past her navel and pausing to suckle on each breast before stopping when they were face-to-face. He stayed there for a second or two, just searching her eyes for some sign that she wanted him to continue. Becoming more and more nervous, the longer the vampire stared at her, she finally blurted, "What boy doing?"

"Boy is going to teach Cave Buffy how to kiss," he murmured, leaning in to her mouth.

"I already know how to ki—" Buffy's indignant reply was interrupted by the soft, cool lips that brushed over hers briefly before fastening themselves. One light caress from Spike's tongue had her willingly opening her mouth to him. She could taste herself on his tongue, then quickly lost that train of thought as he showed her what he meant by teaching Cave Buffy how to kiss.

For long minutes she allowed Spike to control the kisses, enjoying the way he could go from gentle and tender to fierce and passionate and back again. She felt her already sated body melting into his as the kisses began to have an effect she could not have predicted. With a last attempt to regain some control, she caught his lower lip in her teeth and sucked it into her mouth, smiling to herself at the smothered growl from the vampire.

Oooh, sexy. Who knew having a vampire growling into your mouth could be so sexy? Who knew Spike could be so sexy? Okay, scratch that. I knew it. It's always been there – just hiding behind all the wanting to kill me stuff.

Releasing his lip, she sent her own tongue to battle his for dominance, sweeping it around the inside of his lips and teasing the small indentations in which his fangs were barely contained. A burst of feminine pride went through her when his grip tightened and he growled again, pulling her against his lean body.

Growling back at him, Buffy flipped them over so that he was beneath her, staring up at this newly confident woman, his admiration shining in his eyes. Never taking her eyes off his, Buffy slowly lowered herself onto him, smiling when his eyes rolled back and he arched into her with a gasp.

Putting his hands over his head in an unintentional imitation of the way he'd had her pinned when she awoke from the spell, she held them there while she raised and lowered herself until they were both gasping and panting. Buffy leaned into him, rubbing against his pubic bone as she allowed him to fasten his mouth on the marks on her neck. She released his hands and used hers to clutch handfuls of the soft curls that had been freed by their earlier athletic coupling. He immediately grabbed her hips, digging his fingers in fiercely and holding her in place while he pushed up, his face contorting as he gasped her name.

Buffy gave a muffled scream as she clenched around him, tremors shaking her body and goose bumps covering her skin from head to toe. She barely noticed his own growling release, remembering where she was and with whom only when her breathing had gone back to normal and she realized that she was lying on Spike.

He seemed to be as affected as she was, breathing in unnecessary, hard gasps. His arms were around her back, his hands stroking her sweat-dampened skin in a rhythmic fashion as his gasps turned into a soft purr.

"Boy good," Buffy murmured, her lips moving against the skin of his chest where her face rested. "Boy very good."

"Right back atcha, pet." His reply not hiding the smile in his voice, but lacking the cockiness she had been expecting. "Right back at you." She felt his lips brush the top of her head in what could only have been a gentle kiss.

Realty began to assert itself, and Buffy gave a small sigh and began to roll off the limp vampire, only to feel his arms tighten almost imperceptibly. She surprised herself by dropping a kiss on his bare chest before saying clearly, "Let go, Spike."

He squeezed her gently; then released her with a soft sigh. "What happened to 'Boy good' and Cave Buffy?" he asked carefully, remembering what she'd said earlier about dusting him if he reminded her that she was no longer under a spell.

"I guess she's left the building," Buffy replied almost sadly. "And so will you if you know what's good for you."

"So," he growled, sitting up and looking around for his clothes. "The bitch is back, huh?"

He instantly regretted his words when he felt her flinch and watched her expression harden. She moved away from him, as far as she could without falling off the narrow bed.

"Get out, Spike. One chance. Take it."

The apology on his lips died unspoken when he saw the unyielding lines into which her face was set. Clenching his jaw, and cursing his mouth, he began pulling on his pants, resolutely keeping his back to her. Behind him, he could hear the rustle of fabric and knew that she was pulling the sheet around herself, hiding her nudity from his eyes.

He had just put on his boots, when there was a sudden rattle as someone attempted to enter the locked room. He didn't need to see Buffy's face to know that it would be showing more fear than he'd ever been able to inspire in her, no matter how often he tried to kill her. Her gasp and frantic scramble for clothes followed immediately upon the unmistakable sound of Willow's voice.

"Buffy? Are you in there? What's wrong? Why is the door locked? Buffy? Let us in!"

Us? There's an 'us' out there?

"Well," Spike slowly pulled on his tee shirt. "Isn't this a bit of a problem? The Slayer naked, a vampire in her room and his mark on her neck."

He relaxed back against the headboard of the bed and grinned at her.

"What are you gonna tell 'em, pet? 'Boy bring beer'?"

While Willow continued to rattle the doorknob and Xander's voice joined hers in begging her to open the door, Buffy just stared at Spike in horror. He was just thinking he would repay her easy dismissal of their evening by walking over and opening the door himself, when she whispered, "Please?" Her expressive eyes met his and in spite of his best efforts to remain impassive, he succumbed to the silent plea there.

"Fuck!" he growled, being careful to keep his voice down, even as he snarled at her and at himself for caring. "I must be bloody insane!"

As Buffy hesitantly answered her friends, saying, "I'm… I'm fine, guys. Just give me a minute to get dressed," Spike stood up and walked to the large wardrobe against the wall, opened the door, and stepped inside, turning to face out into the room. Forgetting about the sheet, Buffy ran quickly to shut the door after him, hissing, "Don't say or do anything – don't breathe!"

"Vampire here, Slayer. I think I know how to hide."

She hesitated briefly, then, without speaking again, closed the door carefully. He heard her quickly dressing and straightening the bedclothes before walking across the room and opening the door.

Her friends took in her tousled appearance and the worried look on her face. "What happened?" Willow asked, frowning as she glanced around the room. "Where have you been?"

"Ri… right here. I came right back here just like Xander told me to. I guess I fell asleep or something."

"So, you're all right then?" Xander's question was accompanied by a hard look at her disheveled clothing and messy hair. "Turns out the beer was magical – that's why you were acting so weird. It turned you into—"

"Cave Buffy. Yeah, I got the memo when I woke up naked and… and naked."

"You were naked? Damn, I knew I should have walked you home!"

The guttural snarl from the wardrobe was almost drowned out by Willow's loud "Xander!" and Buffy's equally loud "No, you shouldn't have!" but slayer hearing picked it up.

"Look, guys, I'm fine. All modern Buffy again. Why don't we go out and have some ice creamy goodness? Doesn't that sound good?"

"So, no more beer?"

"No, no more beer. Beer bad – beer IS bad. Bad beer. Very bad."

Her friends stared at the babbling slayer, their brows wrinkling with suspicion. Willow pointed at the empty bottles on the floor and the remains of the six-pack sitting near the door.

"Where did this beer come from?" she asked, frowning at Buffy's panicked expression.

"Uh… I, uh, I… I guess somebody left it here!" Buffy looked at them brightly, quite pleased with her answer. "That's it! Somebody must have left it here. I'll bet it will be gone by the time we come back," she insisted, pushing them towards the door. "Now let's go get that ice cream!"

She shoved them out of the room, shooting a quick pleading glance at the now-ajar wardrobe. "It'll be all gone when we get back!" she caroled loudly as she closed the door firmly behind her and prayed that she was right.

Chapter Two

Spike was stepping out of the wardrobe before the door had even shut, catching a quick glimpse of Buffy's last pleading look as she pulled the door firmly closed. Growling the whole time, he picked up the empty bottles by the bed and set them by the still unopened ones near the door.

He stared around the room curiously, not having had time earlier to notice anything but the Neolithic slayer. He glanced casually at her textbooks, thrown carelessly on a desk, and began pulling open drawers and looking through them. He snatched his hand back when his reach into one drawer encountered a large cross and a bottle of holy water.

She even takes her work to college with her – I wonder what her advisers would make of that little collection?

He observed the tools of her trade from a safe distance, noting the well-carved stakes lying with the less lethal, but more painful weapons at her disposal. He carefully picked up one of the stakes, noting with a disgusted snarl that the whelp's initials had been carved into the handle. He used the stake to poke around in the drawer and saw that several of the stakes had the same initials carved into their polished surfaces.

Guess that explains the panic – that pathetic wanker would have had a coronary if he'd known what she was doing with me.

He tossed the stake back into the drawer and slammed it closed, unwilling to admit how angry it made him to think that a human male wanted what he'd marked as his. After a cursory look at her makeup table and a large pile of shoes on the floor of the wardrobe, he was ready to take his beer and leave. As he bent down to pick it up, a flash of pink lace caught his eye; he quickly identified it as the thong Cave Buffy had been wearing before deciding that she'd be more comfortable naked.

He grabbed the scrap of lace, holding it to his nose briefly before stuffing it in his pocket. Picking up the beer, he took a last look around the room, wishing there was some way he could leave something behind to remind the slayer of him and their night of suspended hostilities, but knowing that she wouldn't want anything left behind that might cause the witch to be suspicious. He shrugged and let himself out of the room, taking a quick glance down the hall before closing the door behind him. He strode through the dormitory with long, ground-eating strides, ignoring the admiring glances sent his way by what he would normally have considered fair game.

Somehow, I don't think the Slayer would allow whatever she felt about tonight to get in the way if she thought I'd stopped to eat one of her classmates on the way out of the building. I'll grab a drunk somewhere later. Don't really need the blood right now anyway, what with those sips from the Slayer.

Resolutely pushing away any thoughts of how foolish it had been to try to claim a slayer, particularly one that had, up until a few hours ago, hated him as much as he hated her, he wandered off to find a safe place to spend the rest of the night and the following day.

Xander drove Willow and Buffy back to the Sunnydale campus, letting them out within view of Stevenson Hall. In spite of his best attempts to find out why Cave Buffy had been naked, he still knew no more about what had happened to Buffy after he sent her back to the dorm than he had before. Even his shocked questioning when he noticed the tiny fang marks on her neck, got him nothing more than an "I don't remember. I guess something bit me."

Even with Willow's equally shocked and concerned questioning, Buffy refused to discuss the bite marks on her neck, finally snapping out that she was clearly, "fine, not vamped, not drained and not interested in discussing it any more." After exchanging dubious looks, her two friends finally dropped the subject, agreeing that for someone who had been magically converted into a cave woman, she looked as fine as she said she felt.

After saying a quick "good-night" to their friend, the two girls made their way into the building, which was much quieter than when they'd left, it now being the wee hours of the morning.

"I'm sorry, Wills," Buffy began as she put her key into the door of their room. "I know you wanted to get a good night's sleep before the test tomorrow and instead you had to run around looking for Cave Buffy. I just want you to know, I am never drinking beer again! I swear."

Buffy unobtrusively took a quick glance around the room before actually moving inside so that Willow could come in. She noted with relief that the beer bottles were all gone and that there was no sign of Spike. After running down the hall to get ready for bed, she put her damp toothbrush away and cautiously approached her hastily made bed. There was no sign of the activity that had taken place earlier, and she breathed a small sigh of relief as she bade Willow a quick "good-night" and slid between the sheets.

She was just congratulating herself on getting away with the hours-long sex with her mortal enemy when Willow's voice drifted out of the darkness.

"So, Buffy, are you going to tell me how those beer bottles got out of here and who took them away? Cause, you know, I'm thinking it wasn't the good beer fairy."

"Will you hate me if I say, I'd rather not tell you?" Buffy asked timidly.

"No, of course not! What do you think I am? I'm your best friend, so if you want to keep something secret from me, that's okay. I'm fine with it. Really."

Willow's voice dripped with exactly how "fine" she was with it and Buffy sighed softly.

"Willow… look, being Cave Buffy was kind of freaky and it's… possible… that I let someone in the room who shouldn't have been here. And it's possible that he brought… beer. Which Cave Buffy really wanted. It's no biggie, okay? I drank one of the beers, he drank one, the spell wore off and I sent him away, all right?"

"You're not going to tell me who it was?" The pout on Willow's invisible face was very clear in her voice.

"I'd really rather not," Buffy replied quietly.

"Oh my God! You didn't bring Parker in here, did you? Please tell me you didn't have sex with Parker again!"

"What! No! No Parker and ewwww, like I would let him touch me again after— No, it wasn't Parker. It wasn't anybody – I mean with the sex… there was no sex! There was beer drinking and then… spell ending and leaving. That's all."

"But the beer was still here when we came to find you, Buffy. How could he come back after you locked the door?"

"I don't know – I guess he knew how to open it or something. I don't want to talk about this anymore. It's over. Done."

Buffy resolutely put her pillow over her head and pretended she couldn't hear Willow's puzzled "But, Buffy…." After several minutes of silence, Willow gave up and went to sleep, a small frown still wrinkling her brow as she did so.

Chapter Three

Buffy looked around the campus of UCSunnydale and smiled at the normality of her day. The attractive TA who'd invited her on the picnic was slicing an apple for her, the sun was shining, there were no vampires to worry about, and she had come up with a good explanation for Riley to explain why she wouldn't be able to meet him at the Bronze until after ten o'clock.

"Do you often help your mother with moving crates around her shop?" Riley's raised eyebrow and the smile that quirked his mouth said clearly that he found the idea of Buffy's mother choosing the petite blonde to help her move large, heavy boxes around a bit humorous.

"Um, yes, actually, I do," Buffy said, a trace of indignation in her voice. She smothered the anger that his casual dismissal of her usefulness caused, telling herself that it was just another sign of how normal he was and how normal he thought she was. Forcing the huffy tone from her voice, she repeated that it wouldn't take long and that she could meet him after ten.

To her surprise, he nodded and agreed readily. "That's fine, Buffy. I have some patr–work to do early in the evening anyway. I'll just meet you at the Bronze."

"Okay." She gifted him with one of her dazzling smiles. "We'll meet at the Bronze after patro-I help my mother." She smothered the guilt she felt for lying to the man she was coming to like so much, and indulged herself in the pleasure of having him feed small slices of apples into her mouth. The afternoon was marred only by the random thought that went through her mind as she returned the favor and fed slices of apple to Riley.

I'll bet Spike would have wrapped his lips around my fingers and pulled them into his mouth to suck on… Okay… wigging now. I'm here with a potential normal boyfriend and I'm thinking about a sexy vampire. A sexy, never-to-be-alone-with-again vampire, who probably isn't even in Sunnydale anymore. I would have seen him or seen the bodies of his victims if he was still here. He probably left to go chasing after the ho-bag again. And I sooo don't care if he is. Good riddance. Saves me the trouble of staking him. Which I would. Absolutely. Good sex and the best kisses I've ever had – totally beside the point. Evil is evil and Spike is evil. Evil and—

Buffy shook her head as she realized that Riley was staring at her and waving his hand in front of her face.

"Ah, there you are. I thought for a minute that you were on another planet." He smiled at her, enjoying the embarrassed blush that was spreading over her face. "Anything you'd like to share with the class?" he teased gently, shocked when she shook her head rapidly.

"No! No sharing. Not with the class. Not that there's anything to share, because there isn't. Anything to share, I mean. Nope, no sharing here."

"You're a very strange girl," he murmured, cupping her cheek. "But a very beautiful one. I'm glad I met you, Buffy."

"Oh, me too, Riley. Glad you met me, I mean."

After an uneventful patrol that resulted in the dusting of two fledglings that had not even brushed the dirt off their clothes, Buffy decided to drop by the gallery just in case her mom actually did need help with the big crates that had arrived the day before. She had told Buffy that she thought she was going to have all the help she needed, but knowing how large the crates were, Buffy couldn't imagine which of her mother's employees could be of much help.

To her consternation, she ran into Riley as she was taking a short cut through Restfield Cemetery. He seemed as unhappy about seeing her, as she was to find him there. Several minutes of awkward conversation and excuses later, he was insisting on walking her to her mother's gallery and scolding her about using a cemetery as a short cut after dark. Buffy looked curiously at the dark clothing he was wearing, wondering briefly what he was doing in a cemetery at night.

Pushing open the unlocked front door of the gallery, Buffy called out quickly, "Mom? It's me. I've got someone with me. Someone for you to meet," she added quickly at Riley's puzzled frown.

Recognizing the warning for what it was, Joyce didn't say anything about helping with the crates or ask how patrol had gone, only calling, "I'll be right out, honey. I'm just getting the last of these statues put away."

While Riley looked around the gallery curiously, clearly having no idea what he was looking at, Joyce came from the back wiping her dusty hands on her smock.

"So, you really didn't need me?" Buffy asked in disbelief, eyeing one of the large stone sculptures that had been displayed in the window.

"No," her mother answered with a glance at Riley. "I had some help. Some very strong help," she emphasized, with a glance towards the back.

Buffy started towards the storeroom, her curiosity getting the better of her, when her mother grabbed her arm and asked brightly, "And who is this, dear?"

Buffy turned to introduce her to Riley, catching a whiff of cigarette smoke as she did so. She gave Joyce a glare and shook off her arm, prepared to throw her mother's "very strong" help out into the alley where she could stake him for daring to come near her family. Before she could move around Joyce, who had stepped between Buffy and the storeroom with an expression that brooked no argument, she heard the back door slam and resigned herself to the fact that the "help" had already left.

"What have I told you about letting him in?" she demanded, forgetting, in her fear and anger, that Riley was listening.

"There is nothing to keep him out, Buffy. This is a public place; and I am the proprietor. When a willing pair of very strong hands comes in the door and offers to help me, I do not repay kindness with rudeness."

"Kindness! From a v—from him?"

Riley cleared his throat uncomfortably, bringing the attention back to his presence and causing both mother and daughter to postpone the on-going argument over Joyce's continued willingness to trust Spike aside for the time being.

"Mom, this is Riley Finn," Buffy mumbled. "Riley, this is my mom; who apparently doesn't need my help as much as I thought she did."

"Well, to be honest, Mrs. Summers, I couldn't imagine what a cute little girl like Buffy was going to be able to do to help anyway." Riley carefully shook Joyce's hand, choosing to take the smile she couldn't control to mean she was glad to meet him.

"Oh, Buffy might surprise you," she said, shaking his hand firmly. "Normally, I would have had her helping. It just so happens that an old… friend was in the area and stopped by to say 'hello'. He was more than able to help me out."

"Oh, that's good. I'm glad you got some help. Are you sure you're finished? Because if you aren't, I'd be happy to help you out."

"Well, there is one more big crate that we didn't get to before you came in…."

"I'm your man." Riley smiled. "Just point me at it."

Rolling her eyes behind his back, Joyce led Buffy and Riley into the storeroom and pointed at a partially opened crate in the middle of the floor. Striding to it confidently, Riley looked at the two boards that had already been pulled free and flexed his arms. Wrapping one large hand around the next board, he grunted and pulled until it came loose with the screeching of nails pulling free.

Pausing to collect himself, the big commando looked around curiously. "Did your friend use a crowbar or something?" he asked, still searching for a tool. "Surely he didn't pull those boards up with his bare hands? If he did, he must be a lot bigger than I am."

"Um actually, he's—" Buffy stopped herself before she could describe Spike to Riley. "He's just very strong. I think he works out a lot."

"I work out a lot," the man muttered. "This guy isn't normal. He must be some kind of freak."

In spite of herself, Buffy found she was losing patience with Riley's insistence that no one could possibly be stronger than he was. Gesturing to her mother to distract him, she waited until his back was turned, then quickly pulled up the next two boards. Riley whirled at the sound, gawking at the now-open crate, his mouth agape with surprise.

"Okay, mom. Where do you want it?" she asked perkily, tipping the crate and gesturing for Riley to pull the sculpture out. While he wrestled and grunted, finally working it out of the crate and setting it on its base, Buffy casually held the large wooden crate and waited. Joyce pointed silently to a corner of the room and Buffy helped Riley drag the heavy sculpture across the floor, taking care that she didn't help so much that he suspected that she could have moved it by herself.

When they had walked Joyce to her car and seen her safely on her way home, Buffy and Riley began the long walk to the Bronze. Buffy was striding out as if on a mission, anger at Spike for not staying away from her family, at her mother for trusting the vampire just because he was always polite to her, and anger at Riley for being so arrogant fueling her rapid steps. If Riley wondered how a small girl could cover so much ground so easily, he didn't ask, just extending his long legs to keep up with her and chatting about school and the next day's classes. Buffy's anger wore off and as their steps slowed, the conversation became easier and Riley felt that he could bring up the short argument she'd had with her mother.

"Uh, this strange guy – the one who is so strong and who helped your mother out? Why did you get so mad at her for having him around? Is he an ex-boyfriend of hers or something?"

"Boyfriend? Mom? My mom?"

"Well, if he's not an angry ex, why don't you want her to let him in? Who is he?"

"He's just an old… he's somebody I know… from school. That's it. Somebody I've known since my junior year of high school. He's not a… a… very nice person. He could be dangerous. She just refuses to believe that he might hurt her."

"Well, she seems to be right so far. He did a hell of a lot of work there tonight—"

"He needs to stay away from my mother!" All of Buffy's agitation came back and her pace increased along with it.

"Okay, okay," Riley soothed, struggling to catch up. "How about if we hang out there once in a while and maybe we can catch this guy and I can 'reason' with him. I'm sure I can explain to him that he needs to stay away from your mother."

"You do remember that he opened and moved all those crates of sculpture by himself tonight, right?" Buffy asked wryly. "I think your words were, 'he must be a freak'?"

Riley stiffened. "Are you telling me I should be afraid of him?" Disbelief and a trace of amusement colored Riley's voice. "I can take care of myself, Buffy. There's still a lot you don't know about me."

Biting back a retort involving Spike's having him for lunch, Buffy just nodded and put on her best cheerleader smile.

"I'm sure that's true, Riley. And I appreciate the offer. Really I do. But I think I should take care of Sp– the problem myself."

"How are you going to do that? If this guy's as bad as you say, I don't want you trying to handle him by yourself."

Reminding herself that Riley knew nothing about her slayer skills and strength, Buffy forced herself to look appreciative and said between tightly clenched teeth, "He has a lot of respect for me. I'll be fine. I just have to convince him that it's in his best interest not to visit my mom unless I'm there."

"I still think he'll be more likely to listen if he sees me backing you up," Riley grumbled as they reached the Bronze and he held the door for her. "I appreciate how confident and independent you are, Buffy, but if this guy is as strong and potentially dangerous as you say he is, I'd be a lot more comfortable if you let me handle it for you."

"I understand that, Riley. Really, I do. I just don't think it's necessary. Honestly. If I think I need help with him, I'll let you know. I promise."

Her new boyfriend suddenly stared at her suspiciously. "You said you've known him since you were in high school – is this guy one of your exes?"

"What? My what? Sp–that guy? Oh my god, no. No, not at all. There is no exing about it. He's just an annoying… guy… who came to Sunnydale a few years ago and keeps coming back to irritate me."

"Well, that's a relief!" Riley smiled broadly. "I didn't think you were the kind of girl who would have any dangerous exes in her life, but you never know."

Buffy winced as she thought about Angelus, and wondered if Riley would classify a two-hundred-year-old master vampire known as the Scourge of Europe as "dangerous". Not to mention his grandchilde, who had cut his own swath through the populations of the world and killed two slayers besides.

"Nope!" she chirped brightly. "No dangerous exes in my life. No exes at all, hardly, really. To speak of. I mean I guess there's Parker, but…."

"The less said about him the better," Riley growled. "I wouldn't consider him an ex – he's just a mistake you made."

Buffy made a face and muttered, "You got that right"

If I learned nothing else from that night that I refuse to think about, it's what it's like to make – have sex – with somebody who's really good at it. Parker should follow Spike around and take notes.

Chapter Four

With unpleasant or unsettling conversational subjects now out of the way, Buffy and Riley found a table and sat down to enjoy their drinks. She turned down his offer of a beer with a small shudder, opting instead for a Diet Coke.

"You don't like beer?" he asked with a smile, setting her coke down in front of her.

"Uh, sometimes I do," she said slowly. "Sometimes I do, but it's not really good for me."

"I just thought you might want something that would relax you, rather than something with caffeine in it. There's nothing like a nice cold beer to ease the tension."

"There's no tension! I'm not feeling any tension. Are you feeling tension? Cause, not me. No sir. No need to ease tension here."

As Buffy babbled, causing Riley to smile at her and say soothingly, "Well, I'd like to think there was a certain amount of… tension… between us. You know, there's something that makes my whole body hum when you're around. I was sort of hoping you were feeling the same thing. That maybe that's what's responsible for your… speech habits."

"You mean my babbling?" she asked ruefully. "I was, wasn't I? Babbling, I mean."

"You were; but it's adorable."

He leaned back in his chair, clearly pleased to think that Buffy was having the same reaction to his presence as he was to hers. She flashed him a guilty smile and began playing with her drink, drawing circles on the table with the condensation on the side of the glass.

It took a few seconds for Buffy to realize that the tingling she was feeling in the back of her neck was her slayer sense alerting her to the presence of a vampire, and she had a moment of panic as she wondered how she could get away from Riley long enough to stake whatever vamp was using the Bronze for his take-out. To her relief, he excused himself to use the restroom and she was able to move around the room until her senses led her to the area under the stairs.

Glancing around quickly to see if anyone was watching, she slid closer to the dark area, groaning as she recognized the vampire in question.

"Dammit, Spike. What are you doing here? And what were you doing at my mother's gallery?"

"It's nice to see you again, too, love," he snarked, stepping forward far enough for her to notice his eyes raking over her body. "Who's the oversized boy scout?"

"That's my boyfriend," she answered haughtily. "And, I sooo did not just see you flash some fang at me!"

"Wasn't at you," he muttered, pushing his demon back. "Was what you said."

"That I have a boyfriend? And that's your business, because…?"

He moved closer and ran his tongue over the now-invisible marks he'd left on her throat weeks ago. Buffy smothered a whimper and fought the urge to press up against the body only inches away.

"Stop that," she ordered, pulling her shoulder up to block his access to her throat.

"Stop me," he responded, pulling her closer and running his lips up to her mouth. "Make me stop, Slayer. If you can."

"Oh, I can, Spike," she began. "You just watch—" She was cut off by his mouth, which, in spite of her protests, was now fastened on hers. His tongue was insistently tickling her lips, which parted just to tell him to let go allowing it to invade her mouth and begin caressing her own tongue. Bad! Bad Buffy! This is very bad. I'm kissing Spike and there is no beer involved. And my nice, normal soon-to-be-boyfriend is in the same room.

When it became obvious that Buffy's increased heart rate was mostly panic, rather than the excitement he'd been hoping for, Spike reluctantly released her mouth with a final nip on her lower lip. His arms had slipped around her waist, and he held her lightly, enjoying the way her body was still pressed against his. Her head briefly rested against his chest while she took a deep breath, which she released with a shudder.

She pushed away from him, refusing to acknowledge the pang of disappointment when he quickly dropped his arms and stepped back into the shadows. A muffled growl from the vampire was her only warning as Riley came up behind her to ask, "Is there a problem, Buffy? Was this guy bothering you?"

Buffy couldn't control the small "eep!" that left her mouth as she realized he was standing right behind her and glaring into the shadows at Spike's impassive face. Pushing her aside, Riley stepped into Spike's personal space and, looming over the much smaller man, growled, "You'll want to be leaving now, asshole."

Spike's eyes were flashing amber and Buffy could just hear the snarl in the back of his throat. Instead of shrinking away from the larger man, as Riley had clearly expected him to, he moved forward, his platinum hair glinting in the light. Before he could say or do anything, Buffy stepped between the two men, giving Spike a warning glare and pushing gently on Riley's chest.

"There's no problem, Riley. I just came over to talk to Spike about the gallery thing. Please don't start anything."

"Buffy, there is no need for you to be afraid of this guy while I'm around. I saw him trying to grab you. Let me take him outside and I'm sure I can convince him that he'd rather leave town."

Spike's eyes lit up in anticipation and he literally bounced on his toes as he responded, "Yeah, Slayer, Let him take me outside."

"No!" Buffy glared at the vampire again, hoping Riley hadn't noticed what he'd called her. "Not gonna happen, Spike. Just get out. Go. Now."

Hoping that Riley wouldn't notice that she was actually holding him in place, Buffy did her best to intimidate the vampire into leaving without a fight. When it looked like he was not going to give up the chance to fight the other man, she hissed and shoved Riley back a few steps before grabbing Spike's arm in a painful grip and dragging him toward the door.

"I swear, Spike. If you mess this up for me, I will stake you. Mystical, drunken, mind-blowing sex or not, I will not let you spoil my chance to have a nice, normal boyfriend."

"There's nothing nice, or normal, about that big git," the vampire snarled, snatching his arm away from her. "You should have let me eat him." His voice and expression changed abruptly to pleased and hopeful. "You thought it was mind-blowing? Really?"

"Just go, Spike." Her voice lost its angry edge as she remembered what they'd been doing just before Riley appeared. "I don't want to stake you – I just want you to leave me alone. Let me have a normal life," she almost pleaded.

His own mood changing to match hers, he touched her face gently, pushing a stray lock of hair back behind her ear. "You're the Slayer, love. I don't think normal comes with that title."

"I don't think boinking evil vampires comes with it either," she replied, unconsciously leaning into his hand. "You need to leave Sunnydale. Before something happens and one of us has to kill the other."

He studied her serious face for a full minute, gazing into her eyes until he was sure of what he was seeing. Finally he dropped his hand and nodded slowly.

"Alright, love. You're probl'y right. It's not like this was goin' anywhere, is it?"

"Exactly. It was just one of those… magical… spell-magical, not magical-magical," she hastened to clarify, "things that happen on the Hellmouth. We'll just put it behind us and move on."

He cocked his head at her and began to speak; then suddenly glanced over her shoulder. "Here comes the Peaches substitute, pet. I'm guessing that makes a good-bye kiss out of the question?"

When Buffy whirled to watch Riley striding toward them, his face a study in fury, Spike took advantage of her distraction to lean in and whisper in her ear, "I thought it was magical-magical, Slayer." He brushed his lips over her cheek and then vanished into the night, out of sight long before Riley came running up to Buffy.

"What did you mean by going out here with him by yourself?" he said angrily. "You could have been hurt!"

"He wasn't going to hurt me, Riley," she said evenly. "I took him out here to keep him from hurting you."

"Buffy, that wasn't going to happen. I understand that this guy has you convinced he's really dangerous, but it's obvious that he's just some punk thug wannabe. I could have handled him."

Buffy just stared at the man for whom she'd sent away the best kisser she'd ever met and shook her head. "Fine," she agreed. "You could have handled him; but this way, you didn't have to. And that makes me much happier than having to watch a bunch of macho posturing from the two of you."

She turned and started off in the direction of the dorms, rolling her eyes when Riley hastened to catch up to her.

"Where are you going?"

"Home. Or back to the dorm, anyway. It's late and I have class tomorrow."

"Let me walk you back. This town isn't really all that safe at night."

"Gee, ya think?" She fought hard to keep the sarcasm from her voice. I'm really being unfair to him. He has no idea who or what I am and he's right. For most girls it wouldn't be safe to be walking alone this late at night.

"I'm sorry, Riley. I seem to be in total bitch mode tonight." She looked at him apologetically. "I don't know what's wrong with me that I'm such a cranky Buffy all of a sudden."

But, I'm sure it has nothing to do with having sent Spike away. I'm glad he's gone.

"That's all right, Buffy. You've had an unsettling evening; what with that guy harassing your mom and then showing up at the Bronze to harass you."

While Buffy was debating about whether or not to correct Riley's assessment of the evening's events, her neck began to tingle and she looked around, wondering if Spike was following them. She wasn't sure if she was relieved or disappointed when three young vamps in game face stepped out of the shadows and blocked their path. Riley stepped in front of her, blocking their view of the girl with him and said in his most authoritative voice, "You'll want to move along if you know what's good for you."

The raucous laughter that greeted his remark was abruptly cut off when Buffy stepped out from behind him, stake in hand.

"You probably should have listened to him, boys," she said cheerily, waving her stake.

The vampires began to back away, never taking their eyes off the Slayer, now stalking toward them. Riley was just congratulating himself on having backed down three hostiles without having to reach for his taser, when he followed the direction of their frightened gazes and realized they were backing away from the little girl he'd thought he was protecting.

He stood, rooted to the spot, as Buffy stalked the vampires until they were trapped within the alley from which they'd stepped. With their backs to the wall, the three not-quite-fledglings found their courage and leaped to the attack. As they snarled and charged, Riley shook himself out of his surprised immobility and pulled his taser from his pocket. He ran toward the melee in the alley, confused to find there were now only two vampires left and Buffy was dancing around them, scolding them for ruining her evening.

"I wasn't going to let him know about my night job until we'd been dating longer! You guys are sooo going to pay for this!" As she spoke, she kicked the shortest one in the chest, knocking him against the wall. From the corner of her eye, she saw Riley reach toward the other vamp, sending the creature to the ground. With a shrug, she tucked her stake into her waistband and began to take out the night's accumulated irritations on the face and body of the remaining vampire.

When she saw that Riley's vampire was beginning to stir, she pulled her stake out and put her opponent out of the misery she had caused. She turned back in time to see Riley pull out his own stake and drive it through the heart of the vampire at his feet.

They stared at each other for long minutes, stakes in hand and dust at their feet. Finally, Riley broke the silence.

"So, this is why you weren't afraid of that guy, huh?"

"Um, yeah. Pretty much. I, uh, I don't scare all that easily."

"I can see why," he said with a small laugh. "No wonder those vamps backed away from you. But, how did they know?"

Buffy blew out her breath and sighed. "Did you hear what Spike called me, back at the Bronze? When he wanted me to let him fight you?"

Riley shook his head. "I wasn't really paying attention to what he was saying. It didn't seem important at the time."

Buffy laughed. "Good call. It usually isn't – important, I mean. But he does talk a lot, and that time he called me 'Slayer'."

"Slayer?"

"The Chosen One? She-who-walks-through-cemeteries? The Vampire Slayer? The one in all the world who—Is any of this ringing a bell?"

"Sorry, Buffy. We're pretty well-versed in the various demons and vampires, but coeds who frighten them just hasn't come up yet."

"We?"

"Uh, yeah. There's some… stuff about me that I was waiting until we'd been dating a while longer before I told you too," he admitted sheepishly.

"I guess we need to talk, huh?" she asked with a small smile.

"Yeah. I would say so," he agreed.

"Can it wait until tomorrow? I'm really tired and I'd like to just go to bed and get some sleep."

"Of course, it can wait. Let's just get you back to the dorm and we'll talk tomorrow. Over coffee? Around ten?"

"Sounds good."

The walk back to the campus was made mostly in silence, broken only by Riley's idle questions.

"So, who else besides this Spike guy knows that you're the Slayer? Is it common knowledge?"

He hasn't figured out that Spike's a vamp. How dumb is that? Probably just as well. I don't want him to go out looking for him. Not until I know more about what's going on.

Aloud, she said quietly, "No, I don't think it's common knowledge. Most of the kids I went to high school with knew – or they knew there was… something… anyway. But now? Willow, Oz, Xander, my mom, Giles, of course – he's my watcher – and.…"

"So, that's why Spike called you that. He knew you from high school."

"Uh, yeah. He's known I was the Slayer since I was sixteen."

Riley nodded and was silent for another few minutes. "You'd think, if he knew, he'd have been too afraid of you to harass you or your mother…. Or, do you treat humans differently from the way you handle vampires?"

"Slayers don't kill humans," she said flatly. "Or harm them if at all possible." Okay, not really a lie. It's totally true. Letting him think Spike is human isn't lying; it's just… omitting.

When they reached the dorm and Riley leaned down for a goodnight kiss, Buffy tried not to compare his warm, dry lips with the ones she'd been enjoying earlier in the evening.

He's gone. He said he'd leave and he's probably on his way now. And that's good. I don't need him here complicating my life.

Chapter Five

The conversation the following day went as well as could be expected, with both parties having to admit to omitting some pretty major pieces of information when they had originally met. Buffy explained about slayers and watchers and gave Riley a very short, edited version of the things that had happened to her since she'd been called.

She tried to gloss over her relationship with Angel, saying only that he had been cursed with a soul, had lost it temporarily, had it restored and was now living in Los Angeles. Riley seemed a little bewildered by the soul/no-soul thing, but nodded when she assured him that the vampire was very much in her past and that she rarely even talked to him anymore.

In turn, the undercover commando told her about the organization he worked for and their mission to shut down the Hellmouth and to destroy all the demons and vampires drawn to it. He told her he had spoken to his superior officer – which, to Buffy's surprise, turned out to be her psych professor – and that she was anxious to meet her outside of the classroom and to learn more about slayers.

Buffy thought she held her temper very well when Professor Walsh's condescending attitude began to rankle. When the older woman smiled in a patronizing fashion as she commented on Buffy's "poking them with a pointy stick" as a comparison with the high-tech weapons her men used, Buffy almost lost it, asking tightly, "Riley, how many vamps have you killed this week?"

He goggled at her. "This week?"

"Yes, This week. How many so far?"

"Well, not counting the ones we've captured for—" He broke off at a shake of his boss's head. "My squad has dusted a total of four," he said proudly.

Buffy rolled her eyes and stood up, facing her professor.

"I usually get that many in a night. And have been since I moved to Sunnydale when I was fifteen. Do the math, Professor Walsh; then you can smirk at my 'pointy sticks'"

With a final glare at the visibly shocked woman, she walked out the door and down the hall. She could hear a short conversation behind her; then Riley was running to catch up.

"Buffy – look, I'm sorry. Maggie didn't mean anything by that. She's a scientist and to her everything is about the science and technology."

"Riley, how can you apply science and technology to supernatural beings?"

"Now, Buffy, you don't really believe these creatures are supernatural, do you? They're just subterrestrial animals – a little more sentient than some, but animals never-the-less. That whole Good versus Evil thing you were talking about – well, it just doesn't hold up. They aren't evil; they just can't control themselves the way humans can. A vampire can no more control his bloodlust, or his actions, than a wild dog can."

"How, exactly, do you account for Angel's soul and the curse that put it in? Or werewolves? Or the Hellmouth, itself, for that matter?"

"I can't explain about your… friend's soul or lack of soul…. I suspect there is a logical explanation, though. We may want to look into that when we're through here in Sunnydale."

"How do you explain me, Riley?"

"Oh, that's the easy one. That organization that watches you – I 'm sure they've enhanced you somehow. Maggie would love to know what they used, just in case it's better than what she gives us. Maybe you can get Mr. Giles to talk to her about it?" he concluded eagerly.

Buffy shook her head helplessly and shrugged. "Okay, Riley. You win. I hope you don't have to learn the hard way."

"See you tonight?" he asked as she turned to go into the building for her next class.

"Sure. I'll see you tonight. Right after patrol."

Before he could offer to patrol with her, she ran in to the building repeating like a mantra, "He's nice. He's normal. He likes me. He's nice. He's normal. He likes me. He's nice. He's…."

Agreeing to disagree about the supernatural origins of the creatures they were hunting on a nightly basis, Buffy and Riley continued to build their tentative relationship. Somehow, knowing that Riley was not as normal as she had originally thought was less of a problem than she expected.

Maybe Spike's right. Maybe I can't do normal. I need something more. Somebody who is more an equal. Somebody who understands me, and what I am. Okay, Riley's still not much with the understanding, but at least he's strong and he hunts vamps and demons. That's got to be a plus, right? I mean, yay super strength and… stuff.

The night that Maggie Walsh insisted that Riley's squad ambush Buffy as she walked across campus so that Maggie could "evaluate and confirm" what the girl said about herself and her powers, took the relationship to a new level; one for which Riley had been waiting for some time. When Buffy had easily and successfully put all his men on the ground unconscious and moaning, the big commando found himself turned on by her as never before. To his delight, the workout seemed to have had the same effect on Buffy and she raced him back to his room at Lovell House.

This just proves that I'm normal and that I really like this guy. That's why I'm turned on. It's got nothing to do with the fight I had first. It's because I really like Riley. I'm ready to take our relationship to the next level. It's got nothing to do with being a slayer and getting turned on by violence…

In the back of her mind she heard sarcastic laughter – male and female. The female laughter sounded uncomfortably like Faith, and the male snickering sounded much too much like someone she really didn't want to be thinking about when she was just about to have sex with her boyfriend. Resolutely blocking the laughter and the accompanying visuals from her mind, she threw herself into the proceedings – to Riley's delighted surprise and the subsequent test of his stamina.

"Wow," he managed to gasp, when he finally had to admit defeat and call for a rest. "Whatever they give you Slayers, I want some. In fact," he said, with a warm smile and a kiss, "I think I'm going to need it, if that's an example of what we're going to be doing."

Buffy managed to suppress her eye roll, but her disobedient thoughts went to another, smaller, stronger body, one that didn't need to rest between bouts of physical sex. One that didn't require her to pretend more satisfaction than she currently felt. She was almost grateful when Riley rolled over and began to snore, thus freeing her from stroking his ego any more than she already had.

Using an early class as an excuse, she got up very early and dressed hastily. She pretended not to notice his disappointment as she kissed him quickly and ran out the door. Once again, her steps were accompanied by a mental chant; this time, "He's human, he likes me, he's almost normal. He's human, he likes me, he's almost nor—"

If, in the dark of night and the privacy of her own bed, she was secretly disappointed that Spike had left so willingly, without even saying "good-bye" to her mother, she smothered the feeling as best she could; telling herself that it was no more than could be expected of an evil, soulless creature. I told him to leave, and he left. What was I expecting? That one night of sex – most of which I wasn't even me for – would make him fall in love with me? I don't want him to fall in love with me, anyway. I don't….

Chapter Six

After Buffy's destruction of Riley's elite squad of demon hunters, Maggie reluctantly agreed that Buffy seemed to be "the real thing" and she gave Riley permission to take her through the Initiative's underground complex. The soldier was excited as he led Buffy through labs, classrooms, weapons storage areas and finally, to a set of heavily armored doors. He swiped his pass and gave his name, smiling at her with barely concealed glee.

"What's up, Riley? " she asked with an affectionate smile. "After all I've seen already, what could possibly be so exciting?"

"You'll see," he grinned, holding the door for her to precede him. "I have a surprise for you."

He led her down a large, well-lit hallway lined with holding cells into which it was easy to see through the transparent walls. Buffy frowned slightly as she caught a glimpse of demons and vampires lying listlessly on the floors. Riley didn't really answer her questions about what they were doing in what were obviously cages; instead, going on at great length about how indestructible the walls were and how escape-proof the facility was.

Buffy paused in front of one room and pointed at the pretty, large-eared, lavender-skinned girl lying on the floor.

"Riley? What is she doing in here? That's not really a demon. She's sort of an elf. She's harmless. And very young," she added, after taking another look at the terrified girl. "Her family is probably worried about her."

"Elf – demon. Same thing," he said gruffly. "Maggie wanted to study her. I'm sure she'll let her go when she's finished with her." He took Buffy's arm and dragged her away from the glass, frowning when it felt like she was going to resist him. "Come on, I want you to see your surprise."

He stopped pulling on her and gestured to the transparent wall in front of them. With a gasp, Buffy threw herself at the wall, her fingernails scrabbling on the slippery surface as she stared at the creature on the floor. In spite of his emaciation and the bruises and cuts all over his face and body, there was no mistaking the platinum hair and she whirled to face her boyfriend.

"What have you done to him?"

Startled, Riley blinked at her for a second before explaining, "You do realize he's a vampire, don't you, Buffy? I don't know how he fooled you for so long, but he is. A very strong one, according to Maggie. She hasn't been able to break him yet."

"Break him?" She stared at the amber eyes glaring back at her and realized that she was seeing Spike as she never had before. He looked completely feral and murderous. Only the trace of emotional pain barely visible under the very real fury that was evident in his snarling face allowed her to see that the Spike she knew was still in there somewhere. She pounded helplessly on the wall, watching as he retreated to the corner, snarling at her.

"What have you done to him?" she repeated softly. "What have you done, Riley?"

"We've just been testing him. Seeing how long it takes a wound to heal, how he reacts to holy water and crosses – we haven't quite figured that one out yet, but we will. There has to be a good explanation," he mused aloud, sidetracked momentarily by the puzzle of the vampire's reaction to holy relics. "I think he's being starved now to see how long he can survive that."

"Open the door," she said flatly, not taking her eyes off the snarling occupant. "Open it now."

"I can't do that! This is a vampire, Buffy. Not one of your school mates with a bad attitude. Don't you get that?"

"Of course I get it, you idiot!" She whirled on him and shoved him into the opposite wall. "I told you I've known him since I was sixteen! Do you think I wouldn't have noticed that he was a vampire? Now open that door!"

"You don't know what you're asking—"

"I'm not asking. I'm telling. This place is a… a zoo and I'm taking my vampire out of here. And her, too," she added, gesturing to the hopeful elf.

"You can't open his door. He hasn't eaten in almost a month. Even with the chip Maggie put in, the bloodlust won't be controllable. He'll kill you." Riley pleaded.

Before Buffy could respond, Maggie Walsh's voice floated through the speakers in the ceiling. "Let her in, Agent Finn. Perhaps it will give me a chance to see her in action against something more dangerous than your pathetic excuses for soldiers."

"No!" Riley shouted, then cowered as the disembodied voice cracked out, "What was that, Soldier?"

"Buffy…." he pleaded, even as his hand reached for the button that would open the sliding door.

"Open it, Riley," she said clearly, never taking her eyes off Spike. She was sure he recognized her, the fierce anger in his amber glare told her that. She wasn't sure why he seemed so enraged with her, but she was determined to get him out before they did anything else to him.

Riley's large hand came down on the button and the door silently slid back. Buffy was through the opening before it had even quit moving, cautiously approaching the vampire she hadn't seen for months.

"Spike?" she whispered softly, squatting down to meet his eyes. "Are you in there?"

"Get out, Slayer," he growled distinctly. "Get out now!"

"No." She stood up in a reflex response to his growl, but planted her feet and crossed her arms. "I'm not leaving without you."

"Little late to worry about me, isn't it?" he snarled, still crouching against the far wall. "Time for that was before you told your boy toy to pick me up."

"Before I wha—? I never – I thought you left town." She turned to glare out the open door at Riley. "You don't think I would do something like this to you… do you?" Her voice dropped to a whisper as she realized why he was so furious at her.

His angry expression wavered just the smallest bit and she pressed on quickly. "I thought you knew me better than that. After we… I couldn't… I wouldn't…. Please believe me," she finished, her voice still a whisper. "I didn't know, Spike. I swear. I didn't know. About any of it," she said in a louder tone, waving her hand around. "I don't know what's going on here, but I'm going to find out."

"You need to get out, Slayer," he said without the accompanying snarls, but with a note of finality. "Get out now, while you can."

As he spoke, there was the barest whisper of sound and Buffy snapped her head around to see that the door was sliding shut behind her. Outside, Riley's face was a study in confusion and fear as Maggie Walsh stood beside him, her arms crossed and a smile on her face. She leaned into a microphone and said clearly, "I want to thank you for this opportunity, Miss Summers. Buffy – may I call you Buffy? I have been hoping to study this vampire's reaction to bloodlust and to see you in action against his kind. You have provided me with the ideal situation. I hope he is not too weakened for us to get a reliable test result. Considering what he was capable of when we first captured him, I wonder how he will fare against a slayer?"

"He kills slayers," Buffy snapped. "This is William the Bloody. He has killed two slayers – that we know of."

Riley's face contorted in fear and he tried to reach for the door release, only to have his boss push his hand away.

"The vampire is weak, Agent Finn, and I haven't released him from the chip yet. If she's all you say she is, she should be able to handle him. Isn't that right, Ms Summers?"

"Spike won't hurt me," Buffy replied firmly, crossing her fingers behind her back. "He's not going to attack me. He won't do what you want him to."

"We'll see," was the only reply as she herded a reluctant Riley out of the hallway and closed the doors. "We shall see, Buffy.

When the hall was empty of everything but the cages full of demons, Buffy turned her attention back to the vampire glaring at her suspiciously.

"Well, come here," she ordered, holding out her wrist. "Let's get some blood into you so you can help me take that bitch's little concentration camp apart piece by piece."

"Are you daft?"

She sighed with exasperation. "No, I'm not 'daft'. I'm thinking that, maybe, between the two of us we can break this plastic stuff – whatever it is. But you're going to need blood and slayer blood is the best there is. Now come here." She held out her wrist again, frowning when, still in vamp face, he just continued to shake his head. "You can do it, can't you?" she asked softly. "I mean without killing me? You did it before – you bit me and didn't take much."

"I wasn't starvin' then, love." His wry answer and the endearment went a long way to reassuring her that she'd been right when she said he wouldn't hurt her and she moved into his space. Ignoring his flinch, she sat down beside him and leaned against the wall.

"Well?"

"There's another… complication. Even if I was willin' to use you as food – which I'm not, by the way; don't think I didn't notice those crossed fingers, Slayer." His growl this time was totally different from the feral snarls that had greeted her first appearance. As she heard the hurt undertone in his voice, she slid closer to him and bumped his shoulder gently.

"I know," she said quietly. "It's just… you were pretty scary there for a while."

"I scared you?" His pleased question made her smile as, for the first time since the door was opened, she caught a glimpse of the cocky vampire she knew so well.

"You wish," she laughed, giving him another nudge. Changing the subject abruptly, she asked, "Do you think they're watching us?"

"Don't think so. They've got cameras all over the 'testing' areas, but they seem pretty sure about us in here. It took them a long time to figure out that I wasn't drinkin' their drugged blood and they would have been able to see me pouring it out if they'd bothered to watch."

"So, you could drink from me – and they wouldn't know you were getting stronger. Then, when I'm ready to..."

"It doesn't matter, pet." His voice was once again angry and resigned. "That bitch did something to my head – if I bite you without her holding some button or other… well, let's just say it couldn't happen. Feels like my bloody head is goin' to explode."

She snapped her head around, staring at his morose face, her eyes big. "You mean you can't hurt anyone? Not even enough to get us out of here?"

"Trust me, love, I tried. Did my best to rip that big git of yours a new arse, but I couldn't get past the first couple of punches before I was down on the floor, screamin'. Hurt so bad I didn't even notice what the wanker was doing to me until I woke up."

Buffy looked at his face again, seeing the blackened eyes and split lips with suddenly wiser eyes. Ignoring his growl of protest, she pulled his tee shirt up and studied his bruised ribcage with a clinical eye. She reached for his belt; realizing that she had yet to see him on his feet and fearing what she might find if she looked at his legs.

"If you're tryin' to get me naked again, pet, I've got to tell you, I don't really think I'm up to it just now." He gave a shaky laugh. "Never thought I'd say that to you," he confessed. "But it's true."

"Shut up, Spike. Don't be a pig," she responded absently, changing her mind and running her hands over the blood-soaked denim covering his legs. When he winced at her touch on his thigh, she gave a good imitation of a growl herself.

Suddenly, a door in the ceiling opened and several bags of blood fell through. Although Spike frowned at them suspiciously, his mouth watered at the sight and he unconsciously whimpered. Maggie's voice came through the microphone in the ceiling.

"Those are not drugged, Hostile Seventeen. If we are going to have a real test of your ability against a slayer, you are going to have to get some strength back. Please drink them. We will provide more in a couple of hours."

Buffy shot to her feet. "What do you mean "a couple of hours?' You can't keep me here! Let me out now!" She began to pound on the transparent walls, sending all the demons within the complex howling with her.

"Until I know exactly what you are, and why you are so familiar with this vampire, you will remain here with us. I have already notified Ms Rosenberg that you are helping with a project and that she shouldn't expect to see you for a day or two."

With an outraged shout, Buffy kicked the wall with every bit of angry slayer strength she had. To her surprise and delight, she felt it give just enough to give her some hope. Pretending to be stymied, she stomped over to the bags of blood and began throwing them at the vampire.

"Here," she hissed. "Drink up. We're getting out of here, and we're taking these walls with us."

While Spike ignored her in favor of gulping down the blood as quickly as he could sink his fangs into the bags, Buffy sat down and pretended to pout while she studied the wall she'd kicked. She almost laughed with satisfaction when she saw the hairline crack extending from an upper corner. Confident now that she could break out of the cage when she was ready, she studied the various complicated devices in front of the cages.

Spike leaned back with a sigh, closing his eyes and allowing the much-needed blood to begin the repairs his body needed. In spite of his desire to remain conscious and help Buffy plan their escape, he felt himself drifting into the restorative sleep that his body was demanding.

"Slayer," he murmured hoarsely, "Don't think I'm gonna be much company for a bit. Got to sleep, pet."

"Was that bitch lying?" Buffy's voice was shrill and she made no attempt to whisper her question. She relaxed when Spike shook his head slowly.

"No, don't think so. Don't feel drugged – just need some down time to let the blood do its work. Just give me a couple of hours, pet, but try to wake me up if you need me for something."

"Oh. Okay. I guess we can wait until you're better."

She watched him slump against the wall and then slide down to the floor. She left him there for a while, draping his duster over him and then walking to the front of the cell to peer in both directions to see what else was in there besides the elf she'd noticed when they first came in. Giving the disappointed-looking girl a reassuring smile, Buffy let her gaze drift around the cages, noting the one other vampire present as well as the various demons. All looked as discouraged and listless as Spike, although none were as physically abused-looking as he was. She remembered what he'd said about waking up to find out what Riley had done to him while the chip was firing and she mentally vowed to make what was rapidly becoming her ex-boyfriend pay for his bullying.

She frowned in a puzzled fashion as she noticed what appeared to be a human woman sitting on the floor in one of the other cages. Noticing the Slayer's confused stare, the vengeance demon shifted into her demon features briefly, then back into her haughty human face. Buffy nodded briefly, knowing that a vengeance demon was not likely to provide much physical assistance if it came to fighting their way out. Her slayer training told her to leave all the demons where they were, but her innate sense of decency and fair play insisted that she release everyone she could, even if it meant she was going to have to stake the vamps later.

Resigning herself to a wait until Spike had received more blood and was ready to help her break out, she settled down against the wall again. She studied his sleeping face, not surprised to see that he'd allowed it to settle into human features as he slept. When he shifted his head against the hard floor and moaned, she gently pulled him closer and rested his head in her lap, running her fingers through his curls until her own eyes drifted shut for a brief nap.