Chapter One

The vampire chained up in the bathtub startled awake as Buffy burst through the bathroom door. She went directly to the sink and looked in the mirror, poking at the corner of her mouth.


Spike raised an eyebrow in question. "Somethin' wrong, Slayer?"

"I just bit my cheek," she mumbled, pushing her tongue against the throbbing, bleeding spot in the corner of her mouth. "It's bleeding."

"Gotta watch that slayer strength around doughnuts, pet. It'll get you every time."

Spike sincerely hoped that his sarcastic teasing would hide his reaction to her bleeding cheek. He wished he had his duster on to help him hid the bulge in his pants caused by the scent of her blood and the sight of her tongue moving around inside her mouth.

"Very funny, Spike," she growled. "Like everybody hasn't accidentally bitten themselves at least once. "

She ignored the look on his face as she continued pushing against the sore spot. When her blood-tinged tongue slid out of the corner of her mouth, Spike's demon began to howl and he turned away so she wouldn't see his fangs descend. When he turned back, she was pulling on her lower lip, turning it inside out in an attempt to see the bite in the mirror.

Spike groaned and forced his demon back as he leaned closer to her.

"You're killin' me here, love," he said softly without taking his eyes off the exposed wound.

He could almost taste the elixir that was her blood as he stared at the small tooth marks at the corner of her mouth. His world narrowed to the sight and smell before him; he was oblivious to the fact that Buffy had turned around and was staring at him curiously. As soon she realized what he was so focused on, she shuddered and yelled at him.

"Spike? Spike? SPIKE!"

"Ow! You stupid bint! Vampire hearing, here. You almost broke my eardrum."

"Well, you were lost in la-la land – and you were drooling," she defended herself.

"I do not drool!"

Buffy smirked at him and knelt down near the tub. She slid her tongue around her cut again, then stuck it out at him and leaned forward. He stared at the drop of blood on her little pink tongue and whimpered as he leaned toward her. She allowed him to get close enough to really smell and see the blood, then sat back abruptly and pulled it into her mouth.

"See?" she said smugly. "Drool."

The chained demon snarled and yanked on his chains futilely while Buffy laughed at him. When he realized his snarled threats weren't frightening her, in fact were making her laugh harder, he calmed down and waited in a sulk for her to stop rolling on the floor.

"And you say I'm evil," he growled when she finally stopped laughing and leaned back against the sink, breathing hard. He tried not to stare as her clearly braless breasts moved up and down with each breath. His erection was pushing painfully against his zipper and he couldn't decide what he wanted to do more – kill her or shag her into the ground.

Shag first, kill later he decided.

Buffy stood up and spat blood into the sink. Ignoring his renewed whimpers, she rinsed her mouth out several times, grumbling when her cheek continued to bleed slowly.

"I could fix that for you, you know," Spike offered hopefully. "I can make it stop."

"What? How? By draining me? I don't think so!" She stared at him with disgusted surprise.

"No, you uneducated, ignorant..." He paused to get control over his temper. "My tongue can do what yours can't. Make the bleeding stop. Something in our saliva..."

"You want to stick your tongue in my mouth?" Her voice sounded more like a squeak than the quiet disgust she'd intended. "You want me to let you lick me?"

The effect of her disbelieving words was lessened somewhat by the speculative look on her face. She flashed back to a few days ago when they had been "engaged", thanks to Willow's spell.

It's not like his tongue hasn't been in my mouth before... felt pretty good then.

Spike looked at her hopefully and as though he could read her mind, he said slowly, "You didn't mind it so much a few days ago, Slayer. Would only take a second..."

"Well," she breathed as she leaned toward him again, " it is really bleeding a lot..."

And I am NOT doing this because I want his tongue in my mouth again. This is strictly first aid.

"Can't have Slayer blood all over the place," he encouraged. "Might attract nasties and your friends might get hurt." He leaned as close to her as the chains would allow, his lips slightly parted and his tongue just barely visible.

"I can't do that – put my friends in danger, I mean. I guess I'll have to..." The rest of the sentence was swallowed up as his soft, cool lips barely touched hers and he snaked his tongue into the corner of her mouth. He ran it around the bite, gently licking the blood off. The wound stopped bleeding almost as soon as he touched it, but his tongue continued its gentle caress of her cheek, sliding around her teeth and the inside of her lips.

"Wha- what are you doing?" Buffy murmured against his mouth.

Whatever it is, don't stop.

"Just makin' sure I got it all, pet. Don't wanna leave any behind." Encouraged by her continued cooperation, Spike began to apply more pressure with his lips and allowed his tongue to explore deeper into her mouth.

OK, this is waaay too much like kissing – what is he...? Oh! Definitely kissage now. Time to stop, Buffy. Time to move away from the sexy vampire.

Spike had given up any attempt to pretend he wasn't kissing her and he smiled mentally as her heart rate sped up and her body temperature rose. When he realized she was kissing him back and that he could smell arousal, he was so surprised he abruptly pulled back to stare at her.

When the lip-to-lip contact was broken, Buffy came out of the lust-filled daze she'd been in and shrank back in dismay, her hand to her mouth.

Ohmygod! I was kissing Spike! Without a spell to blame it on. I must be crazy.

Bloody hell! I'm a stupid git! Should never have stopped. If she has time to think about what we were doing...

He leaned toward her again, hoping she would let him continue, but she recoiled and looked at him with such abject horror that he sighed and slumped back into the tub.

Guess that's that, then. No way Miss Goody Two-shoes is going to repeat that performance.

He tried to ignore the little stab of pain he felt at the disgusted look on her face.

Buffy stared at the dejected vampire for a minute, then whirled and left the bathroom with slayer-speed.

The following day, Xander, Anya, Willow, Giles and Buffy were sitting around eating doughnuts and discussing what Buffy suspected about Riley's other "job" and the commandos. Spike was lolling on the couch in front of the television idly flipping through the channels. Giles had finally released him from the bathtub so that he could take a shower and with the vampire's promise to stay put, he had allowed him the freedom of the house.

Buffy had just finished telling everybody how her cheek was still swollen from her biting it last night, carefully leaving out Spike's role in stopping the bleeding. She firmly avoided looking in his direction as she talked.

"Oh, you'll need to be careful, Buff. You know how those bites swell up and then you keep biting them cause they're sticking out, and then they get bigger and sorer and then you bite them again and then..." Xander stopped when he realized he was babbling.

"Ok, no more sugar for you, mister!" Willow said as she moved the doughnut box away from his reaching hand.

Buffy huffed indignantly, "Of course I'll be careful, Xander. Do you think I'm stupid? I know – ow! Dammit!"

Xander tried to look sympathetic and smug at the same time, but only succeeded in smug. Everyone else winced in sympathy for Buffy as tears of pain filled her eyes and she grabbed the side of her face. On the couch, Spike had frozen in place.

With his lack of breathing and complete lack of movement, he closely resembled the corpse he actually was. Fortunately, everyone was looking at Buffy and no one noticed the intent look on Spike's face as the scent of Buffy's blood reached his nose. As Buffy again rushed to the bathroom to rinse out her mouth, he almost groaned his regret at not being still chained to the tub.

Buffy stayed in the bathroom as long as she could, trying to make the bleeding stop and trying not to think about how easily she now knew it could be done.

Not thinking about sexy vampire lips and tongue. Nope! No more vampire tongue. No more tongue of Spike. I can handle this myself.

When she emerged some time later, cheek even more swollen and still slowly leaking blood, she was surprised to see that everyone except Giles had left.

"Where – where is everybody?" she asked, looking everywhere except at the expectant vampire at the other end of the room.

"Ah, there you are, Buffy. I thought you were going to stay in there all day," Giles began. "The others had to get to work and class. We agreed to reconvene tonight to compare notes and determine how we are going to infiltrate this group."

He turned to Spike and said sternly, "Come on, Spike. I need to go out for awhile so you'll have to..."

"Bloody He—" Spike's complaint was cut off as Buffy interrupted both of them to say, "It's OK, Giles. I – I don't have to leave for a while. I'll chain him up before I go."

She carefully avoided looking in Spike's direction as she assured Giles it was all right to leave him loose. She knew Spike would be able to tell if her heart rate went up, so she concentrated on breathing in and out slowly, using the techniques Giles had tried to teach her to control her body.

No way am I going to let him know – er – think, let him THINK, that I'm doing this so that he'll kiss me again. I just want it to stop bleeding and heal. That's all. No kissage required. Just a quick lick...

She blinked as she realized Giles had been speaking to her without her having heard a word he said. She stared at him blankly and responded, "Huh?'

Shaking his head in exasperation, he repeated his instructions. "Just don't leave him loose in the house, Buffy. I don't want to come home and find all my good scotch gone."

"Oh! Ok, sure, Giles. No problem. Chain the vampire in the bathtub when I leave. I've got it. You can go. I've got the whole thing under control. Yessiree, I'm all about the control. I'm control girl..." she trailed off as she saw Giles looking at her with growing curiosity.

With a last, puzzled look at her and a warning glare at Spike, Giles left the apartment and Buffy was alone with an alert-looking Spike.

"Come here, Slayer," he ordered as he kept his eyes on her mouth. "I know what you want."

At least, I hope I do. If I'm wrong it's going to be dusty Spike in a few minutes.

What does he mean, 'he knows what I want'? I don't know what I want! How can he? What DO I want?

When she didn't move from her place on the far side of the room, Spike gave in and moved silently across the carpet. The look on his face could only be called predatory, although Buffy found herself not at all concerned for her safety as he stalked over to her.

"Well then, Slayer?" he challenged her. "Are you just going to stand there and bleed, or are you gonna let me fix it?" His eyes glittered as he waited for her answer.

"A… all right," she whispered. "But just lick it until it stops. No..." She didn't finish her sentence; not really sure what she was going to say. Spike didn't seem fazed by that as he leaned in closer and breathed, "Alright, luv. No..."

When his cool tongue touched her lower lip, she relaxed her mouth and allowed him to slide it in to caress the inside of her cheek. As it had the day before, the bleeding stopped immediately and for several heartbeats they stood like statues, neither one pulling away. Just when Buffy was wondering how long they could remain standing like that, lips barely touching, Spike's tongue in the corner of her mouth, she felt his tongue slide out and with a light caress to her lower lip he brought his head back just far enough to look her in the eye.

The look on his face and in his startlingly pretty blue eyes was one she had never seen before. She was reminded of Willow's spell and the softness of his expression when he looked at her then. Her eyes were drawn to his full lower lip and she admitted to herself that she had not been ready for those lips to leave hers yet.

"I... I... think it might still be bleeding.." she whispered. To her surprise, instead of immediately fastening his lips on hers, Spike tilted her chin up and forced her to meet his eyes.

"No, Slayer. No pretendin'. Either you want me to kiss you or you don't."

Buffy could feel her heart beat go off the charts as adrenaline flooded her body. She was sure she was wearing her "deer in the headlights" look as she tried to deny what she knew was true.

Damn vampire! What's wrong with him? Can't he just accept a good excuse and go with it? This is Spike, for god's sake. I can't tell him I want to kiss him. I DON'T want to kiss him. Do I? Oh god, I do. Can't though. Bad Buffy. Bad Slayer. Can't kiss the sexy vampire. Evil, soulless, undead creature. With such pretty eyes. Such soft, sexy lips. Argh!

Spike watched the internal war being waged behind those huge green eyes and mentally sighed as he released her chin and stepped back.

Right, that's it then. No way is she ever gonna admit she might want me. We've had our moment.

He tried to keep the disappointment off his face as he put his smirk back and sauntered back to the couch.

Buffy stood frozen where he left her, unable to comprehend what had just happened.

Did he just walk away from me? Spike just turned me down? Spike, the leering, innuendo making, pig just walked away from a chance to kiss me?

Since to admit she was disappointed would be to admit how much she had wanted him to kiss her, she opted for her usual response.

"Get yourself into the bathtub, Spike." She snarled at him, eyes flashing with barely controlled anger. "I'm leaving now."

Instead of making the expected bondage innuendos the sight of the Slayer holding chains and issuing orders usually evoked, he just looked at her sadly and walked into the bathroom. Buffy followed him at a distance before realizing that she couldn't very well chain him up without getting much closer to him than she wanted to at the moment. She hesitated for a few seconds, then ordered him into the tub and threw the chains at him.

"Here, put these on," she snapped, staying safely out of reach.

Spike cocked his head at her and asked softly, "That afraid to get close to me, are you, Slayer?"

"Don't be ridiculous," she spit out. "I'm not afraid of you! Never have been, never will be."

"Didn't say you were afraid of me, pet. Said you were afraid to get near me. Different thing entirely, innit?" He raised one eyebrow at her and waited for the punch he was sure was coming. To his surprise, instead of hitting him, she moved closer and yanked the chains out of his hands.

"Hold out your hands," she ordered without looking at him. When he complied, she clamped the hand restraints onto his outstretched wrists, then leaned into the tub to wrap the chains around the pipes. Too late she realized that put her head right in front of his face and allowed her breasts to brush his outstretched arms.

She fought the urge to turn and look into those perceptive eyes as she struggled to tighten the chains without touching him any more than she had to. She was very conscious of his cool breath on the back of her neck.

And why is the vampire bothering to breathe? He's just doing that to get to me. But it isn't. I am totally not reacting to the feeling of his breath on my neck. Nope. No reaction here.

Spike almost groaned as she brushed lightly against him. He inhaled her unique scent –a mix of herbal shampoos, floral soap and Slayer essence. He fought his demon, which wanted nothing more than to sink his teeth into the neck in front of him. Instead, he leaned toward her ear and breathed into it, "Buffy?"

She trembled. She couldn't recall his ever using her real name. If he wasn't calling her "pet" or "luv", he called her Slayer. The sound of her name in that deep, warm voice was her undoing. She turned slowly to meet his gaze and found herself only inches away from the mouth she was trying so hard to avoid.

"Wh- what?" she practically whispered. "What do you want?"

He bit back the "You" that wanted to fall from his lips, and instead just leaned into her mouth, saying so softly that she could barely hear it, "Please?" By the time he finished speaking, he was kissing her and she gave up any attempt to pretend that wasn't happening. With a small moan, she gave in to the desire that she'd been fighting and ground her mouth into his. Their tongues met and tangled, alternately fighting for dominance and stroking each other gently.

The kisses went on, the intensity ebbing and flowing as they explored the sensations they were creating in each other. When, during one of their short pauses to allow Buffy to breathe, Spike brought his chained hands down over her head and around her shoulders, she had a brief moment of panic which quickly dissipated when he slid his hands lightly up and down her back.

The need for more contact was becoming overwhelming and she finally slid over the edge of the tub and down onto his body. As she stretched out against his length as much as was possible in a bathtub, his groan of pleasure sent a shiver through her body.

When Buffy began running her hands up under his shirt and stroking his chest, Spike couldn't stand the chains any more and he growled and rattled them until she broke their latest kiss. When she realized what he wanted, she hesitated for just long enough to worry the frustrated vampire.

"Buffy," he begged. "Please luv, unchain me. Need to feel you. Want to touch you..."

"I don't think so," she gasped out and she pushed away from his body. "No touching – not by you, anyway." As she spoke, she pulled his shirt up and ran her lips over his nipples. She smiled when he hissed and arched into her mouth.

"No, I don't think you'll be touching anything. You just lie there like a good little vampire while I..." She nibbled on one nipple, then slid over to the other. Running her lips and hands all over his torso; she gradually worked her way down to his muscular abdomen. His jeans rode low on his hips and she could see the sharp bones on either side slanting down into his pants as though pointing the way. Toward what, Buffy tried not to imagine. She was shocked at the incredibly strong urge she had to follow those hipbones with her hands and mouth. She settled for running her tongue along his stomach, just above the waistband of his pants and well below his navel.

Spike was hissing and groaning and pleading with her to let him go, let him touch her. Buffy ignored him and continued her exploration of the lean muscular body beside her. She resolutely kept her eyes away from the alarmingly large bulge she could see in his jeans. She did, however, allow her hand to graze the bulge as though by accident and was rewarded with a long string of British profanity.

She was finding it harder and harder to resist the desire to reach into those jeans and actually put her hands on what was in there. She ran one hand down the silky skin on Spike's stomach and when she reached the waistband of his pants he sucked his stomach in with a gasp, allowing her hand to slide down into the space created by his clenched stomach.

No underwear... Spike doesn't wear underwear. Why doesn't that surprise me?

Her fingers became tangled in the soft hairs at the bottom of his abdomen and she gently played with the short curls for a minute. Spike had gone completely silent, waiting to see what she was going to do. As much as he had been begging and pleading with her to release him, he was actually enjoying her teasing and exploring.

Silly bint tried to tell me she wasn't into bondage. Took to this like a duck to water. Knew the Slayer would get off on it.

The feeling of her warm hand gently playing with his pubic hair was making him so hard he was sure his cock would break in half if not released soon. He groaned and sank down in the tub even more, pushing his hips up toward her hand. His pants were so tight, Buffy couldn't pull her hand out, nor could she move it any further. Using her other hand, she fumbled with the button on his jeans, finally popping it off in her frustration. Before she could chicken out, she quickly unzipped him and reached in to pull him out.

Spike gave a sigh of relief and mumbled, "Thank you, luv. Thought for awhile there you were just gonna let me strangle."

The sound of his normal speaking voice snapped Buffy out of the lust filled daze she'd been in as she explored his body and teased him into a frenzy. She suddenly realized what she had been doing, her face flaming a bright red. With a gasp, she quickly let go of the hard column of muscle covered with silken skin that she found in her hand.

Ohmygod! I went from refusing to tell him I wanted to kiss him to... to... oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.

Spike saw the look of horror on her face and understood that the fun was over for a while. He bit his tongue to keep from begging as he waited, not moving a muscle, for her to decide what to do. He knew anything could happen. She could stake him; and very well might if she was sufficiently embarrassed by what she'd been doing to him. She might just bolt from the room, leaving him chained and half-naked. Or, unlikely scenario, she might unchain him and let him finish what she'd started.

He was afraid to move or speak. It wasn't lost on him that it was the sound of his voice that had brought her back to reality and he had no intention of opening his mouth and making any more mistakes. While he kept a grip on his urge to coax her to continue, his eyes were pleading silently for her to stay.

Although she had released her grip on his cock, she hadn't moved otherwise and was still half-lying, half-sitting in the tub with him. He could feel the warmth of her body all along his side and hear her heart beating frantically.

Something about the obvious fear and disgust on her face tore at this heart. He knew without asking that she was less ashamed of what she had been doing than she was to whom she'd been doing it. With that knowledge, he closed his eyes and stopped silently begging her to continue.

"Go on then, Slayer," he said quietly. His head was resting against the back of the tub and he resolutely kept his eyes shut so he wouldn't see the expression of horror on her face. He fought back a whimper as she slowly pushed herself up and away from him. He felt her feeble and unsuccessful attempts to fasten his jeans without actually touching his rapidly softening cock.

"Just leave it," he ground out. "Just go."

She stepped from the tub and stood beside it for a minute, confusion all over her face. She'd never seen Spike so quiet and she couldn't read his face at all. Guilt over what she'd started and stopped so abruptly kept her pinned in place for another minute and she even began a tentative apology.

"Spike... I'm sor—"

"Get. Out." He didn't raise his voice, but the tone reminded her of exactly who and what she'd been crawling all over and why the chip in his head was a good thing. With one final look at his expressionless face, she whirled and ran from the room and the house.

Chapter Two

If Giles and her friends wondered why Buffy insisted that Spike leave the watcher's apartment, they gave no sign of it. Xander agreed, reluctantly, to allow him to stay in his basement bedroom until they could decide what to do with or about him. Guilt made Buffy insist that they couldn't dust him now that he was harmless.

It IS guilt. Guilt for leading him on. That's all it is. Just guilt. It's not like I would miss the bleached nuisance if he wasn't around. Okay, I might miss fighting with him. He's the only vampire I've met since Angelus that can challenge me. But, hey, he can't fight me anymore anyway, so no missage there. Nope, just guilt, and the chance that he might be able to remember more about the Initiative. Nothing else.

When they had stopped the Hellmouth from opening, and Spike discovered he could hurt demons, his attitude improved immediately. He exulted in the joy of pummeling the other demons, disappointed when there were no more left to hurt.

The sight of Riley in his fatigues immediately destroyed his good mood, triggering unpleasant memories of his time in the Initiative labs. He growled low in his throat when he recognized the scent of one of the commandos that had captured him weeks ago. Mingled with Riley's own scent was Buffy's. To the vampire, a tell-tale sign that they were together. Only his highly developed instinct for self preservation prevented him from vamping out and testing the chip's limits as he surprised himself with the instant urge to rip out the man's throat.

He forced the demon back down as he got behind Xander and pretended to be another Scoobie while Buffy and Riley exchanged lies about what each was doing there. He doubted Riley would recognize him in Xander's dorky clothes, but adopted an American accent just in case. He tried not to think about the implications of his reaction to Buffy's scent on the man.

Must just be a carry-over from the spell. Soddin' demon still thinks we're engaged. That's got to be it. Not like I actually care what the Slayer does or who she does it with...

Once he realized he could fight and kill other demons, Spike insisted on patrolling with Buffy so that he could get his "daily taste of violence". She wasn't comfortable having him along, but since she had no desire to let her friends get any inkling of why that would be, she had to settle for walking as far apart from him as she could.

Until the inevitable night when no one else could go with her. She groaned mentally as she saw Spike bouncing up and down eagerly as he waited for her at the graveyard gate,

"Oi! Slayer! Let's get to it!"

"What!" Her voice was a shrill squeak and she felt her heart rate double. "Let's get to what?"

Spike looked at her, picked up the increased heart rate and the panicked look on her face and smiled to himself. He glided toward her, not stopping until we was almost touching her before he rumbled in his sexiest voice, "Why, to the demon huntin', luv. What else would I have meant?"

"No... nothing," she stammered. "I thought that's what you meant." She knew her heart was hammering as he stood there, well inside her personal space, and she knew he could tell.

Except for the necessary exchange of questions and answers that they'd had when he whispered to her that Riley was one of the commandos that worked at the Initiative, they hadn't been alone or spoken to each other since Buffy had picked up her fluttering virtue and run out of the bathroom. The urge to flee again, as fast as her slayer speed could take her, was almost overwhelming. Almost as overwhelming as the urge to move even closer to him and indulge herself in more bone-melting kisses.

Oh my god! What is wrong with me? I have a perfectly nice, normal – well, okay, he's a commando and works for a secret government agency, but hey! In my world that's pretty close to normal. Anyway, I have a boyfriend. And we have perfectly adequate sex. Often. Way often. So, why am I not pushing this annoying vampire away?

Forcing herself to step back and resist the soft, talented lips that were inching their way toward her face, she whirled and began striding into the cemetery without looking back. When she was sure she could speak without stammering, she threw over her shoulder, "I'm patrolling in here tonight, Spike. Why don't you get one of the other cemeteries?"

Disappointment battled with relief as Spike just stood where she had left him. He was still leaning slightly forward as though he was going to kiss somebody, but his face was impassive and he made no attempt to follow her.

There, see? That wasn't so hard. Nope, not hard at all, not even as hard as.. .gaah! Not thinking about... hard... things. Except maybe my boyfriend's hard thing. Yes, Riley's hard thing. That's what I'm thinking about. And I'll see him later tonight. So, lot's of... of adequate... sex later tonight. Something to look forward to. Sex with my nice, normal boyfriend. Perfectly.. .adequate sex. No! not adequate! Good! Good sex. That's better. Lots of good sex with my perfectly adequate boyfri— argh!

Just as she reached that less than satisfying point in her internal monologue, a fledgling vampire had the misfortune to think she looked like an easy meal. He was so focused on biting her, he completely missed the joyful gleam in her eyes when then saw him.

"Who does he think he is?" she asked rhetorically as she kicked the fledgling in the chest. "He can't kiss me! I'm the Slayer for freak's sake!" She waited for the newbie to get up so that she could punctuate her sentence with a punch to his face. As she grabbed him and threw him into the side of a crypt, she continued to yell at him, ignoring his bewildered expression and frantic attempts to escape what was now clearly an insane as well as incredibly strong human.

"I have a perfectly... good... normal... breathing... heartbeat having... boyfriend!" Each adjective was emphasized with a punch to some tender portion of the vampire's anatomy. By the time Buffy got to, "And I don't want any part of an annoying, bloodsucking... vampire!" the fledgling was lying semi-conscious on the ground waiting for her to put him out of his misery."No matter how good a kisser he is!" she finished as she plunged her stake into his heart.

"Methinks the lady doth protest too much, Slayer," Spike whispered from the shadows where he had watched and listened to her one-sided confrontation with the fledgling. As much as he wanted to approach her and force her to acknowledge the attraction between them, one look at her still-angry face told him that could be a one-way ticket to dust.

He melted back into the bushes, intending to do as she'd asked and patrol throughout the other graveyards, when the sound of stealthy feet caught his attention. He froze where he was, confident his preternatural stillness would make him invisible to almost anything.

He had to smother a growl as a small band of commandos entered the area and spread out in an arc, guns at the ready. They were dressed all in black, including the caps on their heads, but his nose told him one of them was Riley. With his vampire hearing, he was able to hear the conversations as they whispered back and forth to each other.

"I see something up ahead," the one in the lead said softly. "It's got a heat signature, so it's not a vampire. Human or demon – one or the other."

"I see it," replied the man on the right flank. "It's... it's a... girl? A blonde girl?"

Riley shouldered his way to the front of the group and pushed their guns down toward the ground.

"Be careful with those, men. That's... Buffy?" His voice rose as he got close enough to recognize his girl friend.

Buffy whirled at her name, her stake in her raised hand. "R-Riley? What are you doing here?"

She looked behind him at the black-clad men accompanying him and knew that Spike had been telling the truth about Riley's involvement with the Initiative. Since he'd seen her, stake and all, she decided not to lie to him and waited for his response to her presence in the graveyard.

"I'm working, Buffy. The question is, what are you doing out here by yourself in the middle of the night?"

"Well, I'm working too."

He looked from her open face to the wooden stake in her hand and shook his head.

"You need to leave this kind of thing to the professionals, Buffy. I don't know how or why you and your friends became involved in demon-hunting, but you don't have to do it anymore. Let us handle it."

"Why?" Buffy asked quietly. "So you can run experiments on them in your lab? Or incapacitate them so they can't feed or defend themselves?"

Spike's unbeating heart jumped in his chest when he heard the disapproving tone in her voice.

Is she sorry that I'm chipped? Is she scolding them for what they did?

The big commando gaped at her and asked, "How do you know about the labs? Or Hostile 17? Have you seen him?"

"Hostile 17?"

"Yeah," one of the other men put in. "Vampire, about my height, bleached blond hair, major attitude problem. He escaped with a $40,000 electronic chip in his head that we weren't finished testing."

Buffy shuddered as she listened to them discussing Spike as though he was a lab animal. She suddenly hoped he had done as she asked and gone to another cemetery. Without examining her reasons, she knew that she did not want these men re-capturing him.

"Have you staked him, Buffy?" Riley inquired. "Because if you have, I'd like to know where so we can look for our chip. It should be lying in the dust..."

"He isn't dust, Riley. And there's no reason for him to be. Now that he's harmless-"

"He was never meant to be released, Buffy. The chip is a prototype. We have no idea how well it works, or for how long. We can't just leave him walking around."

"You can if I say you can," she said flatly.

There was a muffled laugh from one of the men as Riley gawked at her and said, "If you say we can? Buffy, don't you think you're taking this whole 'we protect Sunnydale' thing a little too far? Exactly who do you think you are?"

"I can't believe you haven't figured it out yet, Riley. Or is your organization so into technology that you can't be bothered learning anything about your enemies... or their enemies?"

"Their enemies? What enemies do vampires and demons have besides each other?" He looked around at his men for support and noticed one of them raising a tentative hand. "Johnson? You're our resident vampire lore expert. Do you know what she's talking about?"

The man he spoke to ignored Riley and studied Buffy carefully before asking slowly, "Are you her? "

Buffy nodded her head at him, then turned to Riley. "Well, it's nice know at least somebody bothered to do some research."

Riley looked back and forth between Buffy and Johnson in bewilderment as he shook his head. "Will one of you please tell me what you're talking about?"

Johnson cleared his throat and said, "She's... she's the Chosen One. The Vampire Slayer."

"The what?"

"Slayer. The. Look it up, Riley. I've got work to do and I want to get at least a little bit of sleep tonight." Tossing her hair, she turned her back on her thunderstruck boyfriend and started deeper into the cemetery. "And leave Spike alone!" she yelled as she stalked away.

From his hiding place in the bushes, Spike was torn between unexpected delight that Buffy was trying to keep him alive –or at least, undead – and his raging demon which wanted nothing more than to fly into the group of commandos and rip them to shreds for what they had done to him. Unfortunately for the demon, every time a violent thought started to turn to movement, the chip gave a warning jolt that kept Spike immobile and fuming.

Since he couldn't attack the soldiers, he settled for listening to them and what he heard chilled him. He heard Johnson explaining to Riley and the rest of the squad about vampire slayers and trying to answer their questions from what was obviously a very small store of knowledge. He told them that the general consensus was that the Slayer was myth. Something used to frighten the things that go bump in the night. He also offered some other "facts" about slayers that would have had Spike laughing aloud if he hadn't been worried about being caught again.

The silent grin left his face when Johnson said to Riley, "You know, Professor Walsh is going to want to meet her. She's as unnatural in her own way as the demons are. Maggie's going to want to study her."

Riley frowned at the men around him. "Have you all forgotten that she is also my girlfriend? I'll talk to Maggie about her, and I'll ask Buffy if she'll come in to meet her; but there will be no 'studying' her. Not on my watch!"

"Yeah, sure, Finn. I didn't mean we were going to taze her and bring her in in chains or anything like that. Just meant, you know, Maggie'll be interested in her."

The men moved away, still discussing Buffy and what it meant that she was the Slayer, leaving Spike frozen in his hiding place. He didn't stop to wonder about the fear that gripped him as they continued to talk about how they needed to learn more about Buffy and slayers. He just waited impatiently for them to get far enough away that he could sprint after Buffy and warn her.

Her warm scent still hung in the air and he easily followed it until he heard the sounds of battle ahead. He burst into a clearing to find Buffy fighting with a large, snarling demon that looked like nothing more than a giant rabid gopher. Just as Spike realized Buffy had only her stake to use as a weapon, the demon grabbed her left arm in his mouth and lifted her into the air, shaking her like a rat.

Her agonized scream sent Spike leaping onto the demon's back in an attempt to break its neck. He found it was too strong and had very little neck to twist. Instead, he held its head still and shouted, "Slayer, his eyes! Use your stake!"

Buffy gritted her teeth against the pain in her arm and swung around so that she could drive the point of her stake into the eye glaring at her from the immobilized head. With a shriek, the beast dropped her to the ground and ran toward the woods, with Spike clinging to it's back and snarling as he sank his fangs into the creature's shoulder. He was enjoying the chance to work off his anger at the commandos so much he briefly forgot about Buffy until his sensitive hearing picked up her barely audible, "Spike."

He immediately let go of the still running demon and raced back to the huddled form on the ground. Blood was spurting from her arm, which looked like it had almost been severed by the demons teeth. As Spike ran up to her, she lost consciousness and her head slumped to the ground.

Spike was an old vampire and he knew the sound of a laboring heart when he heard one. He frantically racked his brain for what to do when you did not want someone to bleed to death. One hundred, twenty-six years as a vampire hadn't prepared him for saving lives, only taking them.

Think, you stupid git! Think! Got to stop the bleeding. Got to stop it now. She's got an open artery. Got to stop the blood from pumping into that arm. Oh, god, love, don't die. Please don't die, Buffy.

He looked at her shirt, which had been torn to ribbons by the demon's claws and teeth and saw his solution. Ripping it off her body without bothering with the few buttons left on it, he twirled it into a makeshift tourniquet and wrapped it around her arm just below the shoulder, twisting the ends to tighten down on her arm and stop the blood from spurting out.

As soon as the bleeding had slowed to a slow oozing, he pulled her into his lap and cradled her body against his chest. He looked at the ragged gash on her arm and shook his head.

"Bloody hell, Slayer. It's a good thing we practiced on those little bites in your mouth. Think this one's goin' be more of a challenge, eh, pet?"

As he spoke, he leaned down and ran his tongue around her arm, licking all the blood off the center of the gash. He was so intent on stopping the bleeding and healing the wound that he barely noticed the way her blood was singing through his veins. Slowly and methodically, he worked his way around and over the wound, licking all the blood off and watching the edges try to pull together as his healing saliva closed down the exposed blood vessels. He briefly loosened the tourniquet to see if he had stopped the bleeding enough to convert it into a bandage and smiled with satisfaction when only a small amount of blood issued forth. He gave a final lick to the new blood, then wrapped the shirt around the wound itself and stood up.

He listened carefully to her heartbeat and was relieved to hear it pick up a steady, although weak, rhythm. But when a shiver passed over her body, he realized that between the blood loss and possible shock, she needed to be kept warm. He took off his duster and wrapped her in it, murmuring to her the whole time.

"I'm sorry, love. I know bein' on me didn't make it warm for you, but it'll help until I can get you to your watcher."

He picked her up carefully and headed for Giles's apartment with long, ground-eating strides. He heard her heart beat increase several times as he strode through the town with her, but each time he murmured soothing things in her ear and she drifted back into unconsciousness.

When he got to the apartment he didn't bother to knock, just kicked the door in and carried his burden inside. Giles jumped to his feet as his door burst inward and he set down the guitar he'd been tuning to reach for a weapon. When he saw what Spike was carrying, he leapt across the room to take her from him.

"What happened?" he demanded, taking in Buffy's blood soaked clothing, the makeshift bandage and her pale face.

"Demon. Bit her arm. She needs blood." Spike gasped out, not even realizing he was taking unnecessary gulps of air.

Giles pulled off the bandage and winced as he saw the magnitude of the wound. Without the tight bandage, the wound began to ooze blood again and without thinking about who was watching him, Spike quickly leaned in and ran his tongue over the open area.

"What the bloody hell do you thi—" Giles' outraged shout was cut off as he saw the blood stop flowing and the edges of the cut harden off. He shot spike a hard glare as he quickly re-bandaged the arm. He was trembling with barely suppressed anger at the sight of a vampire licking his surrogate daughter's blood, but had to acknowledge what his eyes had seen.

"Is that why she isn't bleeding now?" he asked in a neutral voice as he tied off the bandage and straightened up to look the vampire in the eye.

"Well, yeah. Had to do something. She was bleedin' to death and the tourniquet wasn't gettin' the job done fast enough. I did what I had to do." He stared defiantly back at the other man.

The staring contest between the vampire and the man who worked for the organization dedicated to killing his kind could have continued indefinitely, but a muffled moan from Buffy reminded them of their priority.

While Giles wrapped Buffy in a blanket and got his car keys, Spike went to the weapon's closet and began rummaging around. When he emerged with a broadsword in his hand and took a few practice swings, Giles asked him, "What are you doing?"

"Goin' huntin'" was the terse reply as Spike headed for the door. "Get some blood into her. Her heart beat still isn't strong enough."

Chapter Three

Buffy insisted on leaving the hospital after her wound was dressed and she had received several pints of blood. The emergency room doctor had been in Sunnydale too long to waste his time asking questions like, "How did this wound get closed so quickly?" Or, "how can someone so close to death be sitting up asking for pizza an hour later?" He just signed her out, gave her painkillers, and told her to be more careful of "dangerous machinery" in the future.

Since Buffy didn't want her mother to know anything about her close call, and she still felt too weak to go back to the dorm, she ended up ensconced on the couch in front of Giles's TV. He listened to her description of the demon, but decided identifying it could wait until tomorrow. Buffy sipped at the large glass of juice Giles had set beside her and they settled into an awkward silence.

The silence was broken as Buffy set her glass down and asked quietly, "Where's Spike?"

Hiding his surprise that Buffy knew who had carried her unconscious body to safety, Giles answered her honestly.

"I can't say for sure. But I suspect he is knee deep in demon parts. I just hope he remembers to return my sword."

There was another silence, then Buffy said, "Stupid vampire. Never does what he's told."

Her watcher just raised an eyebrow in question and she elaborated, "I told him to leave and go to another cemetery. He wasn't supposed to be there."

Giles took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose before he answered wryly, "Yes, well, in this case I think we should be grateful that he does not follow direction well, wouldn't you say?"

Buffy nodded her head briefly; then glanced at her arm and back at her Watcher.

"Giles? Why am I not dead? I saw my arm. It was almost bitten off and blood was spurting out of it."

Giles polished his glasses vigorously before he admitted, "It would appear that Spike administered first aid... of a sort. He seems to have used his vampiric... gifts... to stop the bleeding and begin closing the wound. He had to repeat it briefly here when I removed the bandage and I saw the results with my own eyes. It would not have been, perhaps, my first choice of... assistance... but it was remarkably effective. He, um... used his..."

"He licked me," Buffy said bluntly.

"Ah, yes. So it would seem." Her watcher was surprised to see that not only was she not upset about Spike's version of first aid, she had a small smile on her face.

"So, Spike saved my life." It was a statement, not a question.

"I would have to say that he did. There is no question you would have bled to death very quickly without his help. Although," he added thoughtfully, "I cannot imagine what his motive was. I would have thought he would be delighted to watch you bleed to death. Perhaps he was enjoying licking your blood and just accidentally closed the wound... although that wouldn't explain the tourniquet or bandage..." His voice trailed off as he went over the vampire's uncharacteristic behavior.

"And now he's gone after the demon," she went on as though Giles hadn't spoken.

Ok, I will not wig out here. Means nothing. Probably means nothing. He likes killing things. Of course he went after the demon. It's what he does. Kills things. He's a killer. Except – he didn't kill me. He saved my life. Spike saved my life. He saved my life and he's a great kisser. Gah! Things are getting complicated.

"I am assuming so." The older man yawned and stretched as he stood up and suggested, "Why don't you try to get some sleep here? I can fix the guest bed."

"I'm fine here, Giles. You go on to bed. I'll just curl up here on the couch and rest till I've got my strength back." She smiled up at the man who was her only father figure. "I know you old people need your sleep."

"That would be amusing, Buffy, if it weren't so true," he responded ruefully as he headed for the stairs. "Good night. I'm glad you're going to be all right."

"Yeah, me too," she answered softly as she snuggled down on the couch. "Me too."

Chapter Four

Buffy's peaceful sleep was interrupted after an hour or so by a presence in the room. Her instincts screamed, "Vampire!", but before the adrenaline even had time to reach her system, she recognized which vampire and she relaxed back onto the couch. It didn't occur to her to question how or why she could separate Spike's signature from all others. She just knew she did and she let her eyes drift shut again.

The next time she opened them, it was to find a pair of intense blue eyes only a few inches from her face. The hand that Spike had been cautiously reaching toward her face was quickly withdrawn when he saw her looking back at him. For several seconds they just stared at each other without speaking. Finally, Buffy collected herself and said, "I thought I told you to go somewhere else to patrol. Why didn't you go? You could have been caught by the Initiative again." The soft look on her face belied the angry words.

Spike blinked at her in surprise then smiled and brought his hand back to her face to stroke her cheek.

"You're welcome, Slayer," he said softly. She gave him an answering smile and leaned into his hand briefly before pulling back from him.

He sat back on his haunches and studied her carefully; she was beautiful. Her cheeks had their color back and her eyes were sleepy green pools. Her golden hair was spread out around her head and he had to resist the urge to run his fingers through it. Something of what he was thinking must have shown on his face, as Buffy blushed and looked away from him uncomfortably.

Watch it, mate. The girl's just getting her strength back. She doesn't need to see you lookin' at her like she was a piece of candy.

"Did you bring Giles' sword back?" she asked abruptly. He shot her a surprised look, wondering how she knew about the sword.

"Yeah, pet," he mumbled. "It's back."

"Is the demon chopped into little bitty demon bits?"

"Very little bitty bits, Slayer. He won't be biting anyone else's arm off."

"Good," she said emphatically and smiled at him. "The littler, the better. And I hope it hurt!"

"Well, aren't you the bloodthirsty little chit tonight," he grinned at her with delight. "You sound almost like a vampire, Slayer."

"I so do not!" she huffed; then grinned back at him.

They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes until Buffy asked carefully, "Spike. Why did you save me?"

He wore a look that could only be described as terrified. He worked his mouth for a minute, trying to make something coherent come out while she waited patiently for his answer.

Sod it all. How do I answer that without getting myself staked or sounding like a nancy-boy?

"Um, well... I came here to kill you, didn't I? Not much point in letting some overgrown gopher take the glory now, is there?"

He sat back and smiled at her, quite pleased with his explanation. Buffy studied him closely for a minute; then shook her head and snorted, "Oh, well, I knew there had to be a good reason." She continued to shake her head and smile.

"Hey! Are you laughin' at me? Don't you believe me? Why else would I save your cute little arse?"

"You think I have a cute ass?" she pounced. "Maybe that's why you saved me. You like to look at my ass."

He rolled his eyes and growled. "I didn't mean that. It just slipped out. It's just an expression, Slayer. Don't go making a big deal of it."

"So, you don't think I have a cute ass? Is that what you're saying? You don't like my ass?" She tried to look mournful, even as she smothered her giggles at his obvious frustration. He stretched his neck out and rolled his shoulders in an attempt to relieve the tension there.

"I'm crazy about your arse," he surprised himself by admitting. "It's your mouth that makes me want to kill you."

"I thought you liked my mouth too," she said softly. "Don't you like my mouth, Spike?" she asked, just barely leaning toward him.

Spike groaned as he surrendered to his need to touch her and assure himself she was really all right.

"I love your mouth, Buffy. Just..." he brushed his lips over hers lightly, "not... "he applied a little more pressure, "when... words... are... coming... out... of" With each whispered word, he planted another soft kiss on her lips and moved slightly closer to her. When he got to "it" he reached one hand to the side of her face and held her still as he deepened the kiss.

Buffy felt herself melt into the couch cushions when his tongue began delicately swirling around hers and she reached up with her good arm to pull him closer. Her fingers played with the soft curls on the nape of his neck as she let herself sink into the kiss.

It wasn't long before both were breathing hard and craving more contact. However, when Buffy tried to pull Spike up on the couch with her, the pressure on her injured arm was so painful that she gave a muffled scream.

Spike was instantly repentant and he pushed her back onto the cushions, babbling apologies and kissing her face as he tried to make the pain go away.

"I'm sorry, luv. I'm so sorry. I'm a bad man. Never meant to hurt you, Buffy. I'm sorry."

Buffy was touched by his obviously sincere concern for her, and she touched his cheek soothingly as she said, "It's okay, Spike. I know you didn't mean to hurt me. It... it was my fault. I was trying to..." Her voice trailed off as she realized she wasn't sure what she was trying to do, only that she wanted him closer.

"I just wanted to be touching you," she said shyly, refusing to meet his eyes. "I wanted you to be close to me. Guess it wasn't a good idea, huh?"

"I think it's a bloody wonderful idea, sweetheart. But you need to rest and heal. I shouldn't have—"

The rest of his sentence was cut off as she pressed her warm lips to his in a chaste, but affectionate kiss. "Just hold that thought until I'm better," she breathed into his mouth before pulling back slightly and blushing at her boldness.

Don't know what I'm embarrassed about. It's not like I wasn't all over him when he was in that bathtub. I should have known we couldn't start kissing without...

When their mouths separated, he tipped his head to touch his forehead to hers as he traced her parted lips with one finger.

"I hope that's not the drugs talkin', pet. Cause I'm plannin' to hold you to that the minute you're healed up." He straightened up and continued, "That said, you need to rest and I need to clean your watcher's sword so he doesn't get all pissy about how I took care of it. Go back to sleep, luv. I'll see you tomorrow."

He set a gentle kiss on her forehead and stood up to walk away. Buffy's eyes were closing before he had even turned away and she went back to sleep with a small smile on her face.

Chapter Five

The following morning Buffy was sitting at the kitchen table, eating a large bowl of cereal and telling Giles about her meeting with Riley and the squad of commandos.

"I told them to leave Spike alone, but I don't think they're going to. Stupid soldiers. Only one of them even knew what I was and he looked at me funny.

"Funny? You mean he laughed at you?" The watcher frowned.

"No, that would have been Riley," she growled into her corn flakes. "No, this guy was looking at me like I was a walking museum display or something. It was kinda creepy."

Whatever Giles was going to reply was interrupted by a knock on the door. He sighed and got up to walk over and open it – which was not difficult as it was still damaged from Spike's kick the night before.

Standing outside was an agitated-looking Riley Finn. "Giles! Have you seen Buffy? I can't find her anywhere and there was a girl fitting her description brought into the emergency room last night with..." He stopped talking as he spotted Buffy calmly eating her cereal.

"Bu-Buffy? You're here. And alive. And... you're eating cereal…."

He turned to Giles and said, "So I guess it wasn't her last night. The report said the girl's arm was almost ripped off and that she had lost a lot of blood."

Buffy stood up and waved at him cheerily with her bandaged, but much recovered arm.

"Nope, it was me. But how did you know about it?" she asked, suddenly suspicious.

Riley looked temporarily embarrassed, then admitted, "We monitor all ER admissions for signs of vampire or demon activity. When I heard about – I went looking for you but you weren't in your dorm or at home and I didn't know where else to check. But if it was you... They said the girl was in critical condition; you look like somebody with a scratch on her arm." He shook his head in puzzlement and waited for her explanation.

"Riley, I thought that other guy told you about me last night. Didn't you listen?"

"Johnson? Well he didn't really know that much. He said you were this 'vampire slayer' that is mentioned in the literature, and that you were enhanced in some way that allows you to fight the vampires on equal terms. But he didn't mention that you couldn't be hurt!"

"It's called slayer healing, Riley. I can be hurt. I can be killed, for that matter. Most slayers don't live as long as I have. They are killed by something before their eighteenth birthday. But I am harder to kill than a normal human. And I do heal really, really fast, so..."

"Maggie is definitely going to want to meet you," Riley said, getting excited at the prospect. "She'll be ecstatic to have something to study that's on our side!"

Buffy looked at him dubiously and Giles frowned. "Something to study?" he asked pointedly, "or someone to meet? Which is it, Riley?"

"Oh, someone to meet. Absolutely. I didn't mean to imply... But she may want to run some tests. You know, just to see if you can really—"

"Tests?" Buffy asked in a high pitched voice. "There will be no tests. I am totally no-test girl."

"They'll be harmless, Buffy. You know, just testing your strength and reflexes. Stuff like that."

"Like the ones you ran on Spike?" she asked quietly. "Harmless, like that?"

"Hostile 17 is a vampire, Buffy. The strongest one we've run across yet. We learned some valuable things from him before he escaped, and we could learn even more if you would stop protecting him."

"Leave him alone." She spoke softly, but there was no mistaking the steel in her voice and Riley suddenly had a quick glimpse of the Slayer. Even as he told himself he wasn't backing off from a girl half his size, his mouth was busy assuring her that they were not planning to touch Spike without her permission.

"We'll just monitor his actions as he goes about his business and see how well the chip modifies his behavior. As long as it's working, we know he can't kill or feed off humans, and we can easily recapture him if we need to. It's not like he can fight back now."

Something in Riley's smug tone rubbed Buffy the wrong way and she had to bite her tongue so as not to tell him how brave he sounded about taking on a helpless creature.

Whoa! What's wrong here? This is my boyfriend. Spike is just... just the vampire who saved my life and kissed me and... hooo boy, could my life get any more mixed up?

As soon as Riley felt he had control of the conversation again, he went back to his request that Buffy meet Professor Walsh in her other capacity as the head of the Initiative Lab. Giles and Buffy exchanged dubious looks, but Riley's honest face looking at her hopefully led her to agree to go with him later and meet Maggie Walsh as Slayer and scientist rather than coed and professor.

Riley left the apartment with Buffy's promise to meet him later at the Student Union and go with him to Dr. Walsh's office. Buffy took the hospital bandage off her arm and surveyed the rapidly closing wound.

"You know, Giles, I think this is healing even faster than normal." She looked at her Watcher and added with a twinkle in her eye, "Maybe I should have Spike lick me every time I get hurt?"

"Oh good lord, Buffy! Don't say that even in jest. There's no telling what a regular infusion of Slayer blood would do to a vampire his age. He could become incredibly strong... invincible even. I shudder to think about it. William the Bloody..." The watcher drifted off into visions of the havoc an enhanced Spike could wreak on the world.

"Relax, Giles. I was only kidding. It's not like I want Spike licking me, for heaven's sake!"

Spike licking me. No, I don't want that... not much I don't.

Buffy was very grateful that Giles didn't have Spike's ability to sense her arousal or hear her heartbeat. She was pretty sure her face was flushed and she turned away so that the man who was like a father to her wouldn't have any idea what the thought of Spike's licking her was doing to her body.

Buffy's meeting with Maggie Walsh started out much better than she'd expected. The older woman was fascinated by the whole process of calling new slayers.

"And you say these are always teenagers? Young teenagers?"

"Yes, if a girl hasn't been called by the time she's eighteen, she's home free."

"But there's no age limit to how long you can be a Slayer?"

"No, but as a... friend... once said to me, we all come with an expiration date. Very few slayers live into their late teens or twenties."

Buffy saw Riley flinch at her honest answer as to how long she might live and felt momentarily sorry for the Iowa farm boy who was just realizing exactly how different his unusual girl friend might be.

Maggie looked at her speculatively for a minute, then asked, "Is that the arm that was almost severed last night? " She gestured toward Buffy's injured arm, which was wrapped in a clean, much smaller bandage than it had been when Riley saw it in the morning.

"Uh, yeah, yes it is. It's much better now, though."

"Do you always heal that quickly?" the older woman asked. Buffy looked at her sharply to see if there was a reason she might be asking that question, but Maggie was looking back at her blandly, waiting for her answer.

"I heal pretty quickly," Buffy answered noncommittally.

When Maggie followed that with the off-hand observation that their studies showed vampires could apparently close the wounds they made by licking them, Buffy struggled to keep the panic off her face as she felt Riley's furious eyes on her.

There's no way she can know about Spike or what he did. She has to be fishing. I just have to keep my cool and not look at Riley until... Ok, no such luck.

"Buffy! Did you let that... that…. Did he touch you?" Riley was on his feet, fists clenched at his sides, glaring at her. Maggie leaned back in her chair with a small, satisfied smile on her face and watched the two young people.

"Riley," Buffy started calmly, "It's not what—"

"He tasted your blood? That disgusting, bloodsucking creature took advantage of your condition to drink your blood! And you don't want me to take him in? What is wrong with you?"

He stood there looking at her and breathing hard. Unfortunately for him, asking Buffy what was wrong with her probably wasn't his best move. She whirled on him, hands on hips and yelled right back at him.

"That 'disgusting, bloodsucking creature' saved my life last night, you moron! If he hadn't put a tourniquet on my arm, and " she glared at him, daring him to interrupt, "used his mouth and tongue to close the wound, I wouldn't be standing here. Somewhere in the world, another fifteen-year-old would be finding her life had changed forever! Spike helped me get away, stopped the bleeding, got me to Giles, and went back and killed the demon that bit me. So, yeah, I want you to leave him alone."

"No way," he ground out. "He goes back into a cage or I dust him. No way does he get to touch you like that."

"I think that would be my decision, Riley," she said in a much quieter and deadlier voice. "Not yours."

Riley was too angry to notice the change in her demeanor, but Maggie leaned forward to study this suddenly lethal-looking young woman. When Riley opened his mouth to reply, his boss interrupted with, "Agent Finn, I think that's quite enough. I am sure Ms Summers is capable of making her own decisions as to what constitutes proper emergency care for someone of her... background."

Years of following orders prevented the commando from following his inclination, which was to shake Buffy until she agreed with him, but it didn't keep him from silently vowing to himself that Spike was going to disappear soon.

As though she could read his mind, Buffy fixed a cold eye on him and stated firmly, "I'm not going to say this again. Leave. Spike. Alone."

Without even acknowledging Professor Walsh's presence, she strode out of the room, still fuming. The urge to hit or kill something was almost overwhelming and it stayed with her all the way back to her watcher's apartment.

She burst in the door, almost removing what Spike had left of the hinges. The startled Scoobies looked up to see an extremely angry Slayer standing in the room with her fists clenched.

"Hey, Buffster, what's up?" Xander did his best to sound non-threatening and cheery. Everyone else just stayed still, hoping not to be the focus of her wrath. When she kicked a footstool across the room hard enough to put a dent in the wall, Giles recovered himself enough to ask, "I take it your meeting didn't go well?"

"She knows," Buffy looked at Giles. "Somehow she knows and she set me up so that now Riley knows and he wants to kill Spike. For saving my life! "

She walked over to the table and slumped down into a chair.

"Willow, isn't there a spell that could, like, remove all the testosterone in the world? I mean, wouldn't that be like, a public service or something?"

The two Wiccas smiled at each other as Anya spoke up. "I don't want Xander to lose his testosterone. It makes him want to give me orgasms. That would be a bad spell, Willow. Don't do it."

Giles tried to sooth Buffy's nerves by offering, "Spike has been taking care of himself for a very long time, Buffy. I'm sure, even with the chip, that he can handle this. All he has to do is keep out of their way. If he stays in and keeps a low profile..."

Xander snorted and Buffy raised an eyebrow. "This is Spike, Giles," she said quietly.

"Yes, quite. Well, I suppose we could just try to see that he is always with someone when he goes out. Surely Riley wouldn't try anything if one of us is with him."

"I hope you're right, Giles. I really hope you're right." Buffy perked up a little and asked Xander, "Will you tell him, Xan? When you get home, tell him not to go out unless one of us is with him. Preferably, me."

"Sure, Buff. I'll be happy to tell the bleached wonder that the Big Bad can't go out without a bodyguard. It'll be my pleasure."

Chapter Six

As Xander and Spike were walking back from an evening trip to the butcher's, scuffling sounds came from a narrow alley. The unmistakable sounds of a struggle were coming from behind a large dumpster and they exchanged looks. Spike raised his eyebrow questioningly and Xander nodded.

"Ok, if it's demon, you've got it. If it's human, I hope it's smaller than me!"

Carefully setting down his bag of pig's blood, Spike went into game face and used his enhanced vision to look into the alley. A muffled "help" was all it took to send both of them rushing to the rescue without waiting to see what they were stepping into.

As soon as they were well into the dark alley, they were surrounded by large men dressed in black. "Get him! Now" came from a familiar-looking figure as the men attacked the vampire with clubs and tazers.

Xander's startled, "Hey!" was met with a strong shove that sent him careening into the wall hard enough to stun him for a moment. In that length of time, Spike had attempted to retaliate against the men closest to him and was now on the ground, holding his head and moaning. As Spike huddled there in the dirt of the alley, the commandos began beating him with their clubs. Slowly and methodically, they began at his head, worked their way down his body and back up again.

The young Scoobie flung himself off the wall and attempted to grab the arm of the man nearest to him. The stronger-than-normal human commando turned around and with one punch, sent Xander back into the wall where he slumped to the ground, unconscious.

As his eyesight faded, he could see the men kicking at Spike's now immobile body as he lay on the floor of the alley. So much for using me as a bodyguard he thought wryly as he lost consciousness.

When Xander came to, it took him several seconds to remember where he was and what had happened. When he finally remembered and opened his eyes, he almost wished he hadn't. Right in front of him, the commandos were still beating on Spike's apparently life-less body. The alley was splattered with blood from the vampire's head and face.

Before he could stagger to his feet and attempt to sneak away for help, he noticed that the men had stopped for a second. The next thing he saw were commando bodies flying through the air and one extremely pissed off slayer wading into the group of humans surrounding Spike. Buffy wasted no time with sparring or feeling out her opponents. She backhanded the first man away from Spike hard enough to send him into the wall next to Xander. A well-placed kick to the chest of another sent him into the other wall to slide down it clutching his broken ribs and moaning.

By that point, the others had recovered from their surprise and were moving toward the small blonde girl, clubs raised and tazers in front of them. A strangled, "No!" from Riley, did nothing to slow them down as they approached the woman who had injured two of their comrades.

Buffy leaped into the air over their heads, flipping as she did so to land facing their backs into which she planted two stylishly clad, booted feet. She wrenched the club from one of the men as she flipped past him and used it to break the arm of the man holding the tazer.

Xander had recovered his senses enough to pick up the club from the man lying next to him, who clearly wouldn't be using it for a while, and he used it to crack the head of another commando trying to get to Buffy from behind.

Within a very few seconds, all that was left standing in the alley were Xander, Buffy and a thoroughly confused Riley. Every military instinct he had honed over the last several years told him to retaliate against the person who had just single-handedly wiped out his squad. But the Iowa farm boy who had thought he was falling in love with the beautiful little blonde in front of him was struggling to see Buffy as a powerful foe rather than a helpless woman.

His indecision probably saved his life, as Buffy's attention went to the almost unrecognizable mass of flesh and bone at her feet. When Xander followed her gaze to the ground, he had to turn away and fight the urge to empty his stomach. With the exception of one small patch of bright blond hair, Spike's entire head was covered with blood. Both eyes were swollen shut, his nose was broken, his lips were split completely open, and there were two teeth lying beside his bleeding mouth.

The rest of his body was not in any better shape, although the duster he wore hid much of the bruising and bleeding, there was no disguising the awkward angles of the broken bones in his arms and legs. There was no sign of life or movement, although Buffy reminded herself over and over that no dust meant he was still as alive as someone undead could be.

With the adrenaline from the fight leaving her body, the Slayer turned back into a young woman and she slid to her knees beside Spike's body. Totally oblivious to the dirt and blood staining her pants, she reached out a tentative hand toward his battered head; then drew it back when she couldn't find an uninjured place to touch. She raised tearful green eyes to Xander's sympathetic gaze and waited for her friend to do what he did best.

"We need to get him out of here, Buffy. Get him someplace we can clean him up and get some blood into him. If you wait here, I'll run get Giles' car so we can move him. I'd better get some more pig's blood too. I don't suppose the stuff we bought is still –"

"It's fine," Buffy said dully as she continued to hover over the vampire. "That's how I found you. I saw the bag from the butcher's sitting at the end of the alley. Then I heard the sounds of..." She stopped talking to Xander and fixed her gaze on Riley again. Although the big commando had not taken his mask off, there was no doubt in her mind who was behind the black cloth.

"Buff? Don't forget, he's human," her friend reminded her gently as he left to get help.

"Really?" she asked calmly as she stood up to face her former boyfriend. "Is that true, Riley? Because I've got to tell you, I'm having a real hard time believing a human could do something like this. A really hard time."

"He's a vampire, Buffy! You know, those things you're supposed to 'slay'?"

"He's my vampire and I told you to leave him alone. I won't tell you again." She held his eyes until he dropped them and looked away.

"I need to get my men out of here," he mumbled as he reached for his communicator.

"Not until Spike's safe," she said flatly as she slapped the device out of his hand. When he reflexively tried to grab her arm, she whirled and threw him the length of the alley. He leaped to his feet and went into a fighting stance. For a full minute, the former lovers glared at each other from several feet apart.

"Do you really want to do this, Riley?" she asked him. "Cause I've got to tell you, I want so much to hurt you right now..." Her voice quivered as a sob tried to work its way out of her throat. "How could you?" she got out as she relaxed from her stance. "How could you do something like this to someone who saved my life?"

"Something, Buffy. He's a thing."

She was saved from answering him by the arrival of Giles and Xander. Giles' had apparently been warned about Spike's condition and he had brought some wooden slats with him and Ace bandages to use for make-shift splints. While they worked to protect Spike's visible broken bones, Buffy tried to force some pig's blood into his battered mouth. He made no attempt to swallow and the blood ran back out.

While they were trying to make Spike comfortable enough to travel, the commandos lying around the alley began stirring and waking up. Xander quickly collected all the weapons he could find and piled them near the bag of pig's blood. One glare from the Slayer discouraged any movement from the one or two men capable of thinking about retaliation. Riley fumed silently from a distance as his former girl friend worked to repair some of the damage he and his men had inflicted on the vampire.

As soon as Giles thought it was safe to move him, Buffy and Xander picked Spike up and carried him to the car waiting at the alley entrance. The ex-watcher picked up the weapons and the bag of blood, and as he turned to leave he said in Ripper's quiet, but unmistakably threatening voice, "You will be wanting to stay away from Buffy in the future, Agent Finn. Very far away." He turned his back on the soldiers and went to join Buffy and Xander in his car.