With Spike and Buffy carrying the big loads, they managed to get all the boxes from the Jeep to Buffy’s bedroom in just a few trips. Buffy had left a path from her door to the bed saying, “I’ll put this stuff away tomorrow.”
Joyce surveyed the piles of boxes from the doorway. “I had no idea you’d moved so many of your clothes to Spike’s house.”
“Not mine, Joyce,” he said from behind her. “If it belongs to anybody, it belongs to the Slayer.”
Buffy gave him a funny look but didn’t point out that many of the memories in that house weren’t all that good, something he’d half-way expected her to as soon as he thought about it.
“Well, considering that’s where I learned all about Macbeth and how good Spike is at acting, I think that house will always remind me of Shakespeare.” She grinned at him. “And it’s where I learned we can’t do homework together for more than a couple of hours before we have to go kill something.”
“Something that isn’t each other,” he agreed, smiling back at her. Neither of them noticed the way Joyce flinched and stared back and forth between them.
She spoke up quickly before there could be more reminiscing. “So, dinner before or after… patrol? Is that what you call it?”
“I’m still full of pizza, Mom. Just leave dinner out for me and I’ll have it when we—I—get back later.”
“Oh. All right then, I’ll just…” She turned to leave, forcing Spike to back up into the hallway. Taking the hint, he turned and preceded her down the stairs.
Buffy peered out the door of her room after them. “I’ll just get some patrolling clothes on and then we can go, Spike.”
“No rush, Slayer. It’s just now full dark. We’ve got plenty of time.” When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he hesitated, not sure which way to go.
“Why don’t you join me in the kitchen, Spike? You can talk to me while I start dinner.”
It was pretty obvious her invitation was more of an order than a suggestion, and he followed her with a mental growl.
“Something you wanted to say to me?” he asked. “Something you don’t want Buffy to hear?”
Joyce avoided looking at him as she went about taking things out of the refrigerator. “I just wanted to ask how long you’re planning to hang around, now that Buffy is home.”
He sat down on a stool. “I reckon some of that’s going to depend on you,” he said. “I told her I’d be here until she was home and we were sure it was working out.”
“Wouldn’t that be something Buffy and I should decide for ourselves?” she asked with some asperity. “I don’t believe it would be your decision to make.”
“Wouldn’t. But I’d never forgive myself if I went blithely off to South America, leaving Buffy to find herself out on the street again.” He gave Joyce a hard look. “Although I guess by now you know enough about Slayers and Watchers to know she’d be perfectly safe from molestation if she was living with Rupert.”
“Safer than she would be with you,” Joyce said, staring him in the eyes and not flinching when he let them flash amber for a second.
“Not true,” he said, calming his demon. “But I get your meaning. I’ll be out of her life as soon as I know she’s gonna be alright with one or the other of you.”
“Will you be out of her life?”
Spike shrugged and met her suspicious gaze with his own pained expression. “That was our agreement when we made the truce. It’s what I planned. Just didn’t know it was gonna take this long before you took her back, or that I’d be so… involved… in keeping the Slayer safe and happy.”
“Are you in love with my daughter?” Joyce’s expression was more sympathetic than he might have expected, but her opinion of his right to be so was more than clear in her voice.
“I might be,” he said calmly. “She doesn’t know that, and she doesn’t need to.”
“She certainly doesn’t!”
“Untwist your knickers there, Slayer’s mum. I’m not planning to—” He hesitated, hearing Buffy’s footsteps as she tripped down the stairs. He smiled sadly as he recognized the new bounce in her step now that she was back in her home. He stood up. “There she is,” he said with a smile as she came into the kitchen.
“Here I is,” she said back with a puzzled smile of her own. “Are we ready to go find evil and slay it?”
“That was the plan,” he said.
“’K. Let’s go then. See you later, Mom. I won’t be very late. We’re just going to clean out a couple of the cemeteries we didn’t get to last night.”
She almost skipped out the kitchen door, waiting impatiently for him on the porch. “Come on. Evil’s waiting for us.” She jumped off the porch and started walking toward the street.
“Evil’s walking right behind you, love,” he said, smiling at her in spite of himself.
She giggled and turned to face him. “You’re awful smiley tonight,” she said, walking backwards so she could see his face. “That’s not very evil.”
“I like seeing you happy. And you’ve been chirping like a little bird ever since you and your mum kissed and made up.”
“Oh. Well, I am happy. I mean, I’m not happy that we aren’t… I’m not….” She frowned and shook herself, then faced front again. “But I’m happy to be home in my own bed, with my own bathroom, and my mom’s cooking…”
“I get the picture, Slayer. Let’s go kill things, yeah?” He started jogging down the street, hoping there was going to be something big and nasty waiting for him before the night was over.
He got his wish when they ran into a large group of new vampires clustered around a grave and obviously waiting for someone else they knew to rise.
“Your call, pet, but, as good as you are, that’s a lot of evil for one Slayer. I could take out a few.”
“Help yourself,” she said. “I’m not feeling greedy tonight.”
They faced the confused fledglings, balancing on their toes and smiling as they waited to be attacked. Which they were, as soon as the vamps smelled Buffy and heard her heartbeat. They didn’t even notice that Spike didn’t have a heartbeat, nor that he was now wearing the face of a much older vampire. They moved to surround the two apparently easy meals.
“Sheesh, somebody must have turned an entire football team,” Buffy muttered as she went back to back with Spike, facing the eager fledges.
“Suggest we whittle the numbers down right off,” Spike said. “Then we can play.”
“Got it.” Buffy held up her stake and ran it through the chest of the vampire just reaching for her.
She heard Spike’s fighting roar as he waded into those in front of him, snarling and punching until he was through the line and had thinned it by at least two.
By the time they had each taken out several fledglings, they’d given themselves more room to move around, and the remaining vampires were approaching more slowly and cautiously than they had originally. Having figured out that Spike was also a vampire, they concentrated on Buffy, their food-starved fledgling brains incapable of resisting the lure of her blood, even as they began to realize trying to obtain that blood meant certain death.
Spike dusted the ones he’d incapacitated and began to look for a vamp to fight one on one, hoping he could find one that would give him a good fight. When he thought he’d found the one he wanted, he first checked on Buffy with a quick glance and saw she was methodically working her way through the remaining group members. They were too hungry to run away, and too wary of her stake to attack, so she had to single one out, go after it, stake it, and then pick out another one.
Spike’s vamp didn’t give him as much of a fight as he’d hoped. He dusted it and joined Buffy in her game of catch-and-kill. It wasn’t long before they were facing each other, grinning, as dust drifted away all around them.
“Wow. When I told Mom it wouldn’t take long, I didn't expect to get a whole night’s worth of slaying done in the first half hour.”
“We did make a big dent in the undead population, at that. Are you calling it a good night’s work already, then?” He tried to keep the disappointment from his voice, but the look on her face said he’d failed.
“I wasn’t planning to, but I guess that depends on you. Do we have time to do more, or are you planning to leave tonight?”
He shrugged, smothering the urge to shout no. “Could, I reckon, if we’re done for the night. Wasn’t expectin’ to be finished this early, but—”
“We’re not done,” she said quickly. “I was just asking if you were going to leave if we were done. I mean, if that’s what you want to do…” She bit her lip, looking very much like someone trying to sound unconcerned about the answer.
He groaned under his breath and stepped closer to her. “Slayer… Buffy… It’s not what I want to do. It’s what I need to do. We don’t need our truce anymore, you don’t need a place to live, and when I’m gone you’ll be able to slip right back into your old life with your family and your mates.”
“They’ll get used to you,” she said, her lower lip beginning to poke out. “If you stay here, they’ll get used to you.”
He growled, realizing it was going to take stronger measures to get her to agree he needed to leave.
“I don't want them to get used to me! I’m a vampire, you—” He bit back the insult on the tip of his tongue and continued. “A dangerous vampire. Goddammit, Buffy, I’m William the Bloody! Part of the Scourge of Europe, killer of slayers. You should want me gone. What’s wrong with you?”
He threw his hands up and turned away, but not quickly enough to miss the hurt expression on her face. By the time he turned back to her, the hurt feelings had been replaced with a righteous anger.
“What’s wrong with me, you…you…jerk, is that I like you and I’ll miss you and I didn’t want you to go away yet.” She walked up to him and began punching him on his arms and chest. “But now I don’t care! Go on. Go away. Who cares? Go somewhere you can go back to being evil and killing people if that’s what you want. Go!”
He’d caught most of her intended blows on his arms, but enough had made it past his blocks that he was forced to grab her hands to keep himself from being badly bruised. Her strength was equal to his, and they were soon in a serious contest of wills and power. They strained against each other for long minutes, neither able to gain the upper hand until Buffy relaxed just enough to cause him to stumble toward her. She collapsed backwards, pulling him down and propelling him over her head with her feet.
They jumped up at the same time, pivoted, and stood, breathing hard and glaring at each other.
“Why do you ‘need to’ leave so soon? Why, Spike? And don’t say you have to find Drusilla. I already figured out you know where she is.”
He rolled his eyes before responding. “Fine! I do. Always have known where she’d run to. She’s in South America somewhere, probably Argentina. She loves to tango, my Dru does.”
“So, you don’t need to leave already, then. You just want to.”
Spike sighed and sank to the ground, leaning against a tombstone and gesturing for her to join him. Still wearing an expression that wavered between angry and disappointed, Buffy dropped down beside him, not quite close enough for their shoulders to brush. She waited with poorly disguised impatience while he chose his words.
“Slayer. Buffy… I’m not all souled up like Angelus was when you met him. I am what I am. The longer I’m here, the more likely we are to come to serious blows over something I do. Do you have any idea at all how hard it’s been on me to be getting my blood from a bag rather than the tap?”
“Rhetorical question, love,” he said quickly. “I know you don’t. But it is hard. Too bloody hard sometimes. I’ve been able to do it because I had a good reason and an end in sight. But I can’t do it forever. Not even to make you happy.” He sighed and risked a light touch to her cheek. “I’ll never again want to kill you, Buffy, but I can’t change who and what I am. We’re both going to be better off when I leave. It doesn’t have to be tonight, but it has to be soon.”
She stared at him and he tried to force himself to meet her gaze without faltering, but he couldn’t. As soon as he shifted his eyes away from hers, she pounced.
“You’re lying! That’s not the reason you want to leave.”
He growled and thunked his head back against the marker for one Elizabeth Reynolds, wife and mother.
“It’s a good bit of the reason, Slayer. I’m not lying about it. You’ve got no idea what it’s like to— I already told you, I don’t ‘want’ to leave, I have to.”
“I have never met such a stubborn—” he snarled. “Because it’s not the only reason. And that’s all you need to know.”
“I don’t understand,” she said, another pout on her face. “I thought we were friends. I thought you liked me. Why do you want to—”
Spike grabbed her cheeks with both hands and held her face still while he stared into her bewildered eyes. “Because I do like you, Buffy Summers. More than is good for either one of us.” Instead of letting go, he dipped his head and fastened his mouth on hers, holding the kiss until she began to respond enthusiastically and the urge to deepen it was becoming overwhelming. He pulled away, letting his feelings for her shine from his gaze long enough to see understanding dawning in hers.
“I have to go, love,” he whispered, resting his forehead against hers briefly. “I have to go.”
He got to his feet and extended a hand to pull her up from where she was staring up at him, one hand on the lips he was already regretting having left so soon.
“You… we… you… me?”
“’Fraid so, pet. Now do you understand why I have to go?”
She nodded slowly, her eyes brimming with tears. “We can’t…. I won’t… Not another vampire….” She met his sorrowful gaze with her own look of confused anguish. “But I don’t want you to leave,” she said with a catch in her voice. She shook her head. “I don’t know what I’ll do.”
“You’ll do what you do, sweetheart.” He paused to savor the warm feeling he got at being able to use one of the endearments he’d been swallowing for so long. “You’ll go to the beach, and have fun with your friends, and you’ll go back to school in the fall, and you’ll slay evil when you find it.”
“But you won’t be here to help me.”
“You don’t need my help, Slayer. If I thought you did, I wouldn’t leave. But you don’t. You’re one hell of a slayer. You won’t need help from me. Got your watcher, your friend the witch, your other friend the useless blood sack—” He grinned when she glared at him, then continued, “You’ll be fine.”
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