When Buffy returned, she found Spike in the kitchen with her books and Willow’s notes spread out on the counter. He was frowning at the colored labels on Willow’s notebooks.
He glanced up as she walked in. “Really?”
“You have no idea,” Buffy said, laughing at him. “You should see her real notes. These are just her make-it-easy-for-Buffy ones.”
“I don’t even want to know,” he muttered as he pushed notebooks and papers around. “Ah, here we go!” He waved a paper at her. “So, looks like you don’t need to worry about Macbeth until the day after tomorrow, so that gives you time to read the play and—” He stopped at the pained look on Buffy’s face. “What?” When she just continued to look pained, he blew out an explosive breath. “Fine. That gives me time to summarize it for you and tell you what’s likely to be on an exam.”
Her pained expression turned into a big smile. “I told Willow you probably know all about Shakespeare.” When he raised an eyebrow at her, she said, “On account of you’re British and stuff. Not that I think you were some kind of… nanny-boy? who studied a lot, but just—”
“Nancy boy,” he corrected. “And if I had been, I wouldn’t admit it to you.”
“Why not?” She cocked her head at me, genuinely surprised. “I mean it’s not like I’d believe you anyway, but what’s so bad about not being… bad?”
“I am bad, Slayer. Have you forgotten that?” He wouldn’t meet her eyes as he insisted on his own evilness. “Do you need a reminder?” he added with a snarl, that didn’t seem exactly directed at her, but sounded real anyway.
She was silent for a few seconds, then said, “Right. Silly me. Big bad master vampire that only isn’t killing me because he wants me to pass my exams.” She waited, staring at him until he raised his head and groaned.
“I am going to kill you,” he said. “But not until you pass your classes and your mum takes you in. Then our truce is over. Now pay attention. Tomorrow you have to take a maths test and one in Spanish. Do you need help with either one of those?”
Buffy shrugged. “Both of them, probably. But what do you know about math and Spanish?”
“I’m old. I know stuff. Here—” He shoved a worksheet at her. “Do this and let’s see if you know enough to pass.”
Buffy took the math worksheet and, biting her lip occasionally, managed to finish it before Spike had finished fixing and drinking his second mug of blood. She handed it to him silently and got up from the counter. “I’m hungry,” she said as she went to the fridge, trying to hide the fact that she was watching him go over the paper. She pulled out some cheese and sliced off a few pieces to eat with the apple she also brought out.
Spike frowned and growled as he went over the worksheet, occasionally grabbing the pencil and scribbling out a problem in the margin. By the time she finished eating, he was tapping the pencil on his chin and frowning at the worksheet.
He sighed. “There were two problems I can’t remember how to do, but I think you did well enough on the others to pass. That’s all you need, right? To get a passing grade?”
“Yep. Nobody expects straight As from me. That’s Willow’s thing. And Oz’s, I guess…”
“Think you’ll be okay there, then,” he said. “If you have time, you can look over the ones I redid for you. How are you at Spanish?”
“How are you at it?” she demanded.
“I speak it fluently. Lived in South America off and on for years. I also speak Portuguese, French, and several demon tongues. Now answer my question.”
“Oh.” Buffy stared at him with newly aware eyes. “I’m… I kinda suck at it, but it’s only Spanish II, so we won’t have to do anything real complicated. And if I don’t pass it, I can just take it again next year. It’s an elective.”
Spike rustled around until he located the sheet that said what was going to be on the Spanish exam and the practice exam sheet with it. “Here. Give this a shot.”
“Isn’t it dark now? Shouldn’t I patrol or… or something?”
His only response was a growl as he shoved the paper closer to her.
“Sheesh! Who died and made you boss?” she grumbled as she stared at the fill-in-the-blanks questions. Spike held up another page with a list of words.
“See how you do on your own, then you can have this to correct your mistakes.”
“I don’t think I like you very much,” she said as she started writing. “I might have to stake you when I’m finished with these exams.”
“Lookin’ forward to that attempt, Slayer. In the meantime—”
An hour later, Spike agreed that they should probably go out and patrol before they ended up killing each other.
“But when we come back, I’m going to go through the first two acts of Macbeth so we can finish it tomorrow night.”
“I think I hate you again,” Buffy said as she filled her pockets with stakes and debated taking a sword.
“Mutual” he said. “I’ve never seen anybody so determined to pretend she’s dumber than she looks. Take the sword,” he added when she hesitated. Glaring at him in defiance, she stomped out the door, leaving him to follow, muttering about how not everything she might have to face could be staked.
By the time they had cleared out two cemeteries including breaking up some sort of demon ritual, and Buffy had reluctantly thanked Spike for bringing the sword along, they had stopped snapping at each other. They rested atop a big crypt and looked up at the sky. Even with the light pollution from Sunnydale, the stars were very visible and bright if they looked in the direction of the desert and not toward downtown. Buffy flopped down on her back to gaze at them without making her neck ache, and Spike lowered himself to sit beside her.
“I’ll bet you know all about them too, don’t you?” she asked, waving her hand at the sky and without the edge in her voice she’d had earlier.
“A fair amount,” he admitted, smirking at her answering huff of annoyance.
“I knew you would, smartass.”
“In all fairness to you, luv, back in my day there wasn’t as much to do and know. No telly, no radio or phones, no movies…. People had to make their own entertainment. Readin’, studying the stars, things like that were easier to do without distractions.”
“Huh. And you weren’t a slayer, so you had lots of time to yourself to do things.”
“That I did, pet. That I did.” Something in his voice brought a sharp sideways glance from her, but he was staring at the horizon and didn’t notice her look.
“I guess we did enough tonight. Do you think we should go to Giles’ and see what he said to my mom?”
“It’s up to you, Slayer. I need to pick up some blood, and some cash, so I’ll be swinging by Willy’s. Be happy to walk with you to the watcher’s first, though.”
“You’re not coming home with me? I mean, back to the mansion, not like home home.”
“Knew what you meant,” he said gruffly. And it is your home now. All vamp-proofed and whatnot. You won’t need the guard dog all night anymore. I can go amuse myself with adult activities.”
“Adult activities? What the hell is an adult activity?”
“Drinkin’, gamblin’, if I’m lucky, maybe a little—never mind. Just stuff you wouldn’t enjoy watching me do.”
Buffy sat up and put her arms around herself. “I didn’t realize I’ve been cramping your style,” she said stiffly. “I’ll take myself to Giles’ and you can just go do… whatever adult things you think you need to.”
He shook his head. “I don’t need to do any of it,” he said. “Forget about it. We’ve got two acts of Macbeth to go over yet tonight. Almost forgot. I’ll just pick up my blood and meet you back at the house.”
“Don’t do me any favors,” she snapped, standing up and then jumping gracefully to the ground. “I’ll just read the damn play myself.” She marched off toward the mansion rather than Giles’s apartment, leaving Spike snarling on the roof, glaring, but fighting the urge to chase after her.
When he got home, hours later and after having won enough money to keep himself in the human blood he would hide from Buffy, he stopped when he got to the hallway. Buffy’s door was open and she was sound asleep, her face on her literature book. He shook his head and went to put away his blood, returning to see that she hadn’t moved. Sighing quietly, he entered the room with the silence of a born predator and carefully pulled the heavy book out from under her head. Glancing down, he saw that it was open to the beginning of the second act. He set the book on the floor and studied her for a second before he gently lifted her head and slid the pillow under it. He pulled up the covers and stroked her hair with a light touch before standing up and moving away.
He was just closing the door behind him when her voice drifted out.
“It’s me, luv. Go back to sleep.”
“I read some of it,” she mumbled.
“Know that. We’ll get the rest of it later. You need to sleep now so you can ace those tests tomorrow.”
“’K. Night, Spike.”
“Goodnight, Buffy.” He closed the door and stood outside wondering when he’d gone from wanting to kill her to wanting to keep her safe forever. “This can’t end well,” he whispered to himself as he went to his own room.
Spike was sound asleep when Buffy got up in the morning and had a shower and breakfast. She took a quick look at the math worksheet and the Spanish vocabulary list, then tucked them both inside Willow’s notebooks on those subjects and began the walk to Sunnydale High School.
When she arrived, she gave Willow’s notebooks back, smiled and nodded at her “Good luck, Buffy” and went into the library where Giles was just setting up chairs for her and the few other students who had missed one or the other of the two exams being given that day.
“Hi, Giles. Sorry I didn’t come by last night, but I had to study. How did it go with my mom yesterday?”
“Good morning, Buffy. I think I made some progress. At a minimum, she no longer believes us to be delusional. I’m not sure exactly what made her change her mind so abruptly, but—”
“Come on, Giles. You know as well as I do that Spike flashed some fang at her. I told him not to do that, but he doesn’t listen very well.”
“I’ve no doubt that’s true,” Giles said with a wry twist to his mouth. “But in this case, it may have been the proof your mother needed to be willing to listen. We had quite a lengthy discussion about slayers, watchers, the Council, and so on. I believe it went as well as we could hope for at this point. I sent her home with some literature about vampires, other slayers through the years, as well as the information she would have received had you been identified as a potential at a younger age.”
“Well, we’ll see I guess. She’ll either let me come home or she won’t.”
“You seem remarkably unperturbed about it,” he commented quietly.
Buffy sighed. “I’ve had all this time to get used to being on my own and I’m doing okay—” She stopped herself and flashed him a smile. “Well, I’m doing okay because you and Spike are keeping me in food, but you know—”
“Spike is feeding you?”
Buffy shrugged. “He gives me money to buy his blood and cigarettes, and whatever’s left is mine to use for grocery shopping. It works out okay. It was a little ooky at first. I mean, I feel weird enough asking you for money, without having some guy I hardly know buying me dinner and stuff, but I got used to it.”
“I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with the idea of a vampire supporting you.”
“It’s fine, Giles. He has lots of money and he’s not… I mean, he hasn’t…. He wouldn’t—it’s all cool. Kinda like having an older brother or something.”
“It would be the ‘or something’ that concerns me. And that would give your mother nightmares,” he added. “Given that she is already aware that Angel, who was far older than Spike—”
“Spike is nothing like Angel!” Buffy surprised them both by her vehement defense of her housemate. “Nothing like him,” she continued in a quieter tone. “He’s… he’s not like that.”
“Buffy….” Giles looked pained, but clearly was fumbling to find the words he needed.
“Relax, Giles. I’m not a naïve child. I know what you mean. And I know Spike isn’t some… whatever you call those guys who can’t…. He’s a man. I get that. I remember when he acted like a pig around me most of the time. And I’m not sure the fight we had last night wasn’t because he wanted some time to go look for—”
She shook her head. “But who or whatever he was before he was turned, he wasn’t the thug my mother thinks he is. And he treats me with respect.” She flashed a grin. “Of course, that might be because he knows I could kill him if he tried anything.”
“No doubt that figures into his good manners,” Giles sighed. “Ah, here are your fellow exam takers. Everyone take a seat, please.”
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