AN: For all those concerned that Spike is pulling a season 4 Angel act, that hadn’t even occurred to me. Such a different relationship so far in this one. But I can see what it would appear so. Two things: one is that Spike does indulge in stalking behavior in canon (season 5 anyone?), so it’s hardly OOC for him; and the other is that he needs to make it appear that Buffy is doing this alone if at all possible. He doesn’t want anyone to know he’s there except Joyce and Giles. For him to coming riding to the rescue (not that he won’t if he needs to) wouldn’t do much for Buffy’s confidence and probably wouldn’t count as a successful Cruciamentum to the Council. So at this point, he is planning to stay out of sight. Whether he is planning to slip out of town again, ala Angel, is not clear. He’d expected Buffy to forget about him, but she hasn’t, so he is rethinking his plan….
His first instinct was to kick down the watcher’s door, but he wasn’t sure that his one-time invitation to the apartment hadn’t been revoked, so he knocked hard enough to get the man’s attention if he was sleeping.
Giles opened the door and began, “Buffy? Why aren’t you—” His voice turned colder. “Spike.”
“Watcher,” Spike replied. “We need to talk.”
Spike waited to see if he was going to be asked in. He was standing close enough to the opening to have surreptitiously tested for a barrier with his toe, so he was ready to move if Giles tried to close the door on him. However, after a minute of obvious uncertainty, Giles nodded and stood back to allow Spike room to come in.
“Thank you,” Spike said as entered.
“Somehow I suspect I didn’t really have a choice,” Giles muttered. “Don’t think I didn’t see you test to see if I’d done a disinvite.”
Spike snorted a short laugh. “You’re smarter than you look, Watcher.” He walked into the middle of the room and looked around. “I’m surprised you haven’t done one by now.”
Giles glared at him. “I’d hoped it would never be necessary. I should have known you wouldn’t keep your word to leave and never return.”
Spike frowned. “The only people I gave my word to were the Slayer and her mother. And I never told either of them I would never return. Quite the contrary in Buffy’s case…. But I had hoped not to have to.”
He sank into an overstuffed chair and stared at Giles. “I reckon you can guess why I had to now, Watcher.”
“I’ve no idea why you’ve chosen to come back now, but perhaps if Buffy hasn’t seen you yet, you can leave without disrupting her life again,” Giles blustered. But when Spike just continued to stare at him, his eyes flashing between blue and amber, he sighed, sat down opposite the vampire, and dropped his head.
“I’ve stopped it, you know,” he said. “The drugs. I haven’t given her anything since two days ago. I’m hoping they will be out of her system before—”
“Before the Council of Wankers tries to kill her so they can replace her with something younger and less free-thinking?”
“Indeed. I have contacts within the Council who have advised me that seems to be the plan. I have tried repeatedly to get them to understand that Buffy’s… independent… and creative thinking is what has made her such a good slayer, but the bastards can’t see past their noses.”
“So what’s the plan?”
“I’m to pretend to be taking her out for the evening, then drop her at the appointed place where she will face a very violent and powerful vampire.”
“What if she won’t go? I warned her about this abomination of a test months ago before I had any idea how—” He cleared his throat and continued, “And I reminded her of it more recently. She may be less willing to go with you than you expect.”
“If I don’t take her there, they will just come after her another way. The best I could do was to stop incapacitating her and hope she has all her powers back before she has to meet Kralik.”
Spike frowned and growled. “I’ve met him. Ugly bastard, but tough as nails and almost evil enough to put Angelus to shame. How the hell did the Council get him?”
“No idea. And I’ve no idea how they are controlling him until they are ready for him to attack Buffy. I’m quite sure they are all here in Sunnydale and setting things up for her test. I just pray the drugs have left her system.”
“I saw Buffy almost get killed tonight by a fledgling vamp she should have dusted without even tryin’.”
“Dear lord! You saved her?”
Spike shook his head. “Didn’t need to, but it was too bloody close for comfort. I don’t want her taking on something like Kralik until I know she’s completely recovered her powers.” He looked thoughtful. “Although, if I dust their hired killer, maybe they’d like to substitute William the Bloody for him. They know I kill slayers, I should—”
Giles cut him off.
“No. That won’t work. I was very cautious about what I told them of the time after Angelus, but I did tell them about the truce you made with Buffy. And I know I’m not their only source of information in Sunnydale. It is entirely too likely they already know you and Buffy have a… friendship of sorts.” He sighed. “No. She will have to meet Kralik and defeat him. That’s the only way to force them to allow her to continue.”
“So, when is the magic day, then? All I know is it’s this month, but it must be soon if she’s already weak.”
Giles frowned. “Her actual birthday is tomorrow. I’d expected the drugs to have worn off by now.” He stared at Spike, his frown deepening. “Are you sure she’s still weak?”
“I’m sure. I know Buffy. I know how she fights, what she can do… there’s no way that just-turned nitwit should have been able to give her a hard time. She was weak and she was slow. Just barely managed to get the stake into position for him to fall on it.”
Giles sighed and took his glasses off to clean them. “Well, let us sincerely hope that she is back to herself by tomorrow. If not….” He peered at Spike. “Shall I assume she will have whatever backup she needs?”
“She will. I’m hoping she won’t need it. But I’m not going to stand around with my thumb up my arse while she gets killed.”
“Does she know you’re here?” Giles abruptly changed the subject.
Spike shook his head. “No. Joyce does, but I don’t want Buffy to know until after… and maybe not then.”
Giles stared at him, then got up and walked to his cabinet. He took out a bottle of scotch and two glasses, carrying them back into the living room with him. When he had poured them both a substantial amount, he handed one glass to Spike and sat again.
“Joyce and I have had several conversations in the past few months,” he said, sipping his drink. “She seems to think your interest in helping Buffy extends much beyond a simple truce and the resulting friendship.”
Spike just stared at him over the rim of his glass, waiting for the actual question.
“Are you in love with my slayer?”
“She’s already been badly hurt by one vampire that thought he was in love with her. He betrayed her. She’s very young to have suffered that kind of pain in her life.”
“Know that, don’t I? Why do you think I walked away?”
Spike growled and took a long drink from his glass before he continued.
“But, let’s be clear about this—I’m not Angelus. Souled or unsouled, he was a bastard. Hell, Liam was a cherry-busting wanker when he was human. I’ve got no soul to lose. And I’m not some little-girl raping monster. I know much of what Buffy thinks she feels for me—”
He snorted as Giles’s eyes got wide and he gasped, “You think Buffy has—for you?”
“Yeah. I wouldn’t call it love, but she’s… interested. I figured it was a combination of proximity, loneliness, gratitude, and maybe a bit of hero-worship, and if I just left and stayed away, she’d fall right back into being a teenager who worries about proms and where she’s going to go to university more than she does about the whereabouts of an old vampire.”
“I presume you think that’s not the case,” Giles said with a glare. “From time to time, Joyce has mentioned Buffy’s seeming lack of interest in high school life, but it seemed to be improving, and we’ve assumed she would eventually return to her previously normal self.”
“Because being the Slayer is all about being a normal schoolgirl,” Spike snorted.
“Point taken. But Buffy has always done her best to be as normal as possible. She and Cordelia even competed against each other for Homecoming Queen….” Giles frowned. “Although the need to fight together against a group of vampires in something called ‘Slayerfest’ seems to have mended what had become something of a rift. Neither of them ended up Homecoming Queen, and the need to depend upon each other for survival seems to have made peace between them.”
“What was the cheerleader doing in a Slayer fight?”
“I’m not sure. It had something to do with a limo that was meant to contain Buffy and Faith— About whom I suppose I should tell you….”
“Newbie slayer, bit of a loose cannon, not sure which side she’s on and jealous of Buffy?”
When Giles gaped at him, Spike grinned and shook his head.
“I said I was trying to stay away. Didn’t say the Slayer was gonna let me disappear from her life without a fight. I’ve spoken to her on the phone twice. She told me a bit about the other Slayer, but she never mentioned anything about being targeted in a coordinated effort. What lowlife was responsible for that?”
“We’re not clear on that. All we know at this point is that there is a local demon planning an Ascension. No doubt the influx of demons and older vampires is related to that in some way. Buffy and Faith will have their hands full every night until we can identify the main threat and eliminate it.”
“Sounds like maybe I need to hang around.”
“As much as it pains me to admit it, it’s possible that may be a good idea. I’m not sure how Faith will adjust to working with the notorious William the Bloody, but I presume she will accept it if I make it clear you can be trusted.”
“You saying you trust me?” Spike’s expression wavered between offended and pleased.
Giles finished his drink. “I’m saying Buffy does, and until we get this bloody test over with, I’m willing to believe you will not let anything happen to her.”
“Good enough.” Spike drained his own glass and stood up. “I’m off to find a safe place to spend the day.” He scribbled something on piece of paper from the desk and handed it to Giles. “Call this number if there’s anything I need to know. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll assume all is going according to plan and I’ll just shadow Buffy and try to judge how close I think I need to be.”
“I don’t imagine they will want to delay, but I haven’t exactly been taken into their confidence.”
“I expect Kralik might be a bit for even experienced watchers to handle. Think I’ll swing by that hotel and check it out.”
“Just because they aren’t slayers, doesn’t mean they are not quite skilled at killing vampires,” Giles said, not hiding his reluctance at expressing concern for Spike’s safety.
“Aw, worried about me, are you?” Spike’s grin faded. “Don’t worry, Watcher. Got too much ridin’ on being around if I’m needed to get myself dusted. But I appreciate the warning.”
Giles nodded. “If I see Faith, I will endeavor to convince her you are to be left alone.” He sighed. “She is not, however, inclined to listen to me.”
“Kinda like Buffy then, isn’t she?” Spike snorted at Giles’s disgruntled expression and pulled the door shut behind him.
Spike went by the old boarding house where Giles had told him the Council team was holding Kralik. He got just close enough to hear the vampire bellowing for his drugs, and to note how many human heartbeats he could hear, then continued on his way to Restfield cemetery and the older areas where there were many above ground tombs. Before he could find one that suited him, he remembered that he had access to a perfectly good, if a bit musty, vamp-proof old house, and he headed for Crawford Street.
He was pleased to find the old mansion almost as he’d left it, with just a lingering scent to tell him that Buffy still visited it sometimes. When he smelled her on the sheets of his bed, he fell onto it, burying his face in her scent and trying not to read too much into the fact that she’d obviously spent some time there by herself. He drifted off to sleep with a smile, picturing Buffy clutching the pillow he was holding to his nose.
When Spike woke up around noon, he took another sniff of his pillow, then stretched. He suddenly remembered about Joyce. He growled to himself as he tried to remember the name of her gallery so he could call, but gave it up and just began planning his apology.
Which, when he got out of the shower, he found he was going to need immediately. He was wearing only the water drops he hadn’t brushed off when he started down the hall to his room and found Joyce and Giles staring at him. They quickly averted their eyes, Giles saying, “For God’s sake, man, put some clothes on!”
“Sorry,” Spike said, with no sincerity whatsoever. “Thought it would be safe to walk around without my kit in my own house…. So to speak,” he added, remembering he’d told Joyce the house belonged to Buffy if anyone. He ducking into his room, pulled on his jeans and a tee-shirt, and came out to wave them to the kitchen.
“To what do I owe this surprise visit? A bit early for tea, if that’s what you dropped by for.”
“I’m here because you said you were coming back to tell me what you found out from Rupert,” Joyce said.
“I said if it wasn’t too late. It was gone midnight and I thought my time would be better spent getting the lay of the land for this barbaric ritual Rupert has set Buffy up for.”
“And it didn’t occur to you to warn me that Joyce would be on my doorstep if you hadn’t told her not to?” Giles’s look promised, if not imminent staking, at least that Spike had tasted the last of his good scotch that Spike was ever going to get.
Spike just grinned at him as he turned to check the freezer, where he was pleasantly surprised to find relatively fresh frozen blood. He set it in the microwave and as it thawed, he sat down.
“So, as of last night, Kralik was apparently confined somehow and not happy about it. I counted three heartbeats, so those would be the vampire minders. Looks like they’ve been boarding and bricking up most the doors and windows, so they must be planning to lock Buffy in with the monster.”
Joyce went pale. “Monster?”
“Big, nasty, ugly version of me, Joyce. He was a serial—” Giles’s cough stopped him but not before Joyce realized what he’d started to say.
“Oh my God. My baby!”
“It’s okay,” Spike soothed. “I’m going to be there the whole time. If Buffy’s enough back to herself that I think she can take him, I’ll just watch. If I think she’s in trouble….” His eyes flashed amber and his fangs came down. “That monster will learn what a real vampire is like,” he said with a guttural snarl.
“You do realize we aren’t finding that at all reassuring,” Giles said dryly. “That Buffy will still be locked in that building with a dangerous vampire.”
“Buffy’s not afraid of me,” Spike said with a shrug. “So neither should you be. You just do your part and get her there.”
Joyce nodded her head. “Spike isn’t going to hurt Buffy, Rupert. Don’t be stupid.”
Ignoring the disgruntled watcher, Spike asked Joyce. “Could you tell how Buffy feels this morning?”
She shook her head. “Not really. I rarely have any reason to see her using her powers, so I wouldn’t know if she was better or not.”
Spike sighed. “All right. I’ll just shadow her again tonight and hope she’s back to herself. I’ll try not to let her know I’m there.” His face when he said that had Joyce laying a sympathetic hand on his.
“I know this is hard for you, Spike. And I appreciate what you’re doing for my daughter.”
He shrugged and squeezed her hand as he removed it. “I’m a big boy.” He poured his blood into a mug and began drinking. “Just let me know if anything changes. I’m guessing neither Kralik nor the Council of Wankers is locked into it being the exact date of her birth. Don’t want to be caught by surprise.” He glanced at Giles. “You don’t know if they trust you or not,” he said. “They may just think they can do this with without you.”
Giles frowned. “I hadn’t thought of that—but I certainly wouldn’t put it past that bastard.”
“Bastard?” Joyce asked.
“Quentin Travers. Head of the Council. He’s had it in for Buffy since she disobeyed his orders to stop seeing Angel. He’s mentioned coming here in person for her Cruciamentum.”
Spike’s eyes flared. “So, it’s alright if I eat him?”
“It’s a tempting thought,” Giles said. “But Buffy would never forgive you for killing someone for her.”
“Spike sighed. “She wouldn’t. Even if it was a wanker that was trying to kill her.”
“So. We’re agreed then? You’ll watch Buffy tonight and be there if they start without me?
Spike nodded and drained his mug. He licked the blood off his lips and grinned at their expressions, still smiling as they turned to leave, trying not to seem to be hurrying. His smile faded as he thought about how much danger Buffy was in, and how important it was that he remain out of sight.
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