Spike hadn’t made it all the way to Willy’s when he glanced down an alley and saw a girl fighting two vampires that appeared to be a bit older and more experienced than the usual run-of-the-mill fledglings. He stopped to watch, willing to help if necessary, but knowing better than to get between a slayer and her prey. Instead, he leaned against the wall and lit a cigarette, noting how she moved and her speed. He nodded in appreciation when she incapacitated one vamp and turned her lethal attention on the other.
He frowned when, instead of quickly putting that one away, she put the stake in her waistband and began to pummel him. Even when he was down on the ground and clearly unable to defend himself, she didn’t pull out the stake, but sat on the vamp’s chest and punched and punched until his face was a bloody, pulpy mess. Only then did she stop, shake the blood off her hands, and pull out the stake. When she’d turned the vampire to dust, she stood up slowly and turned to face Spike, who’d flipped his cigarette down the alley to sputter out in a puddle of blood.
“Did he do something to offend you, Slayer?”
“He was a vampire, I’m a vampire slayer. Just doing my job… William the Bloody.”
“Know me, do you?”
“I know who you are. Buffy’s latest undead honey that gets to be special and walk around undusted because she’s got the hots for him.”
Keeping her eyes on him, she walked to the vamp she’d crippled and kicked him in the head. She drove her stake through his heart without every taking her gaze off Spike, and without turning her back.
“I’ve been told you’re off limits,” she said, still holding the stake and clearly evaluating him.
He cocked his head at her and nodded. “Probably should take that to heart, pet. And not just because the real Slayer would be brassed off at you.” He saw her stiffen and knew he was pushing his luck.
“I’m just as real as she is… anytime you want to find that out the hard way, you just let me know.” She glared at him. “And what do you mean, I should take it to heart? Just ‘cause B thinks you’re all that doesn’t me I can’t turn you into a memory.”
Spike stood up and poised on the balls of his feet, just in case she turned her words into actions. “You’re not bad, luv. I’ll give you that. American girls make the best slayers—at least that’s been my experience. But you’re not as good as Buffy, and you’re not up to taking me on. I expect you’d give me a good scrap, but you’re not quite there yet.”
“You arrogant son of a bitch!” Faith threw her stake at Spike’s chest, but he caught it easily and smiled at her.
“And you haven’t yet learned not to let your opponent get to you with words. Rookie mistake.”
“So is thinking that was my only stake,” Faith snarled as she jumped toward him, another stake out and one leg already coming around to kick him in the head.
More easily than he might have expected, Spike was able to grab her foot and pull her up and around, forcing her off balance and stumbling to her knees. Even as she tried to tackle him from the ground, he was vaulting over and behind her, throwing his body on her back and forcing her face down into the dirt and debris in the alley. He pinned her there, using his own powerful arms and legs to keep her from pushing herself up or him off, holding her down while she sputtered threats and obscenities. He waited until she’d stopped to pant for air, before he leaned down and growled in her ear.
“When the vamp who has fought slayers his whole unlife and is still walkin’ around, tells you, you aren’t ready for him, you need to listen. I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if I have to. Much rather have you all healthy and able to help Buffy out, but I don’t want to have to spend all my time watchin’ my back, so tell me now. Are we going to be alright when I let you up, or do I have to knock you out so as to get out of this alley without a fight?”
“We already had a fight,” she snarled, flexing under him as she tried to take him by surprise. He just shoved her down harder, knowing her face was being scraped on the rough pavement.
“No, luv. We’ve just had a little getting-to-know-you dust up. If you’re going to try to kill me when I let you up, that will be a fight, and I don’t want to have it. And neither should you. Won’t try to kill you, but I can’t promise I won’t if I have to.”
“Buffy won’t let you kill me,” Faith said, with just a trace of doubt in her voice.
“She won’t want me to. But she knows better than to expect me to roll over and bare my chest to you. Already told you to leave me alone, didn’t she?”
“She doesn’t get to tell me what to do!”
“No, I suppose not,” he said with a sigh. “Nor should she. You’re a slayer in your own right and need to make your own decisions. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that about Buffy being the ‘real slayer’. Was just seeing how easy it would be to rile you up.”
“Did you just apologize to me?” Faith relaxed under him, but Spike had been around too long to fall for that and instead of loosening his hold on her, he tightened it. “It’s hard to take that seriously with my face in the dirt.”
“I’m apologizing for suggesting you weren’t a real slayer. Not for defending myself. And as long as I think I’ll need to defend myself, your face is going to stay in the dirt. Bit of an impasse, innit?”
After another spate of obscenities that had Spike grinning in admiration, Faith growled, “Fine, asshole. We’ll settle this some other time. Let me up and I won’t try to stake you.”
He cocked his head at her and gave it some thought, then nodded and jumped off her body and to his feet in one motion. Faith remained where she was, only rolling over and sitting up to glare at him. “This isn’t over yet.”
Spike shrugged. “If you say so. From what I hear, there’s an apocalypse looming. Seems to me that having me on your side might be a good thing.”
“I don’t need help from a bloodsucker!” She popped to her feet, but remained a safe distance away from him.
“Don’t know that yet, do you? Watcher thinks there might be a problem. In the meantime, the hellmouth is attracting more older vamps like these two, and demons too. Nights are going to be more… interesting. Two slayers might be safer than one on her own.”
“I didn’t have any trouble with those two,” she said.
“No, didn’t seem like you did. Was a good slay—except for wasting all that time beating the stuffin’ out of that last one. Pounding him to a pulp might have felt good, but it left you wide open for something to come up behind you with a weapon and make you wish you’d done a quick staking.”
“Are you giving me advice?”
“Just sharing my observations. Don’t give a rat’s ass what you do with the information as long as it doesn’t put Buffy in danger.” He walked to the entrance to the alley, then turned and tossed Faith’s stake to her. “Might need this later,” he said with smirk, having caught her looking around the alley for it. As soon as he was around the corner, he used his speed to disappear, so that by the time she got to the sidewalk, he was out of sight.
Keeping one eye over his shoulder, just in case he ran into Faith again, Spike decided against Willy’s and stopped at the all night butcher’s to stock up on blood. He set up a tab, left a substantial deposit against what he’d decided would be an every-other-day pickup, and headed back to the house on Crawford street. As he put his blood away, he wondered if he’d done the right thing by treating Faith the way he had. He didn’t want to make an enemy of her if Buffy was going to need the help, but he didn’t have a good feeling about the girl’s reliability.
While one of the blood packs was warming, he looked through the few books he’d left on the shelves in his room, picking one he’d started but not finished. He settled himself onto his bed with a glass of reasonable fresh pig blood on the table and the book in his hand. He made a mental note to look for a comfortable reading chair and a TV, things he hadn’t bothered to worry about when both he and Buffy were sure they were only going to be in house for a short period of time.
He read until he felt the dawn creeping in the east-facing windows, then got up and put the book down next to the blood-caked glass. He stared at it for a second, then sighed and took it to the kitchen, putting it in the sink to soak. Growling at himself for allowing his time with Buffy to domesticate him to the point he was worried about dirty dishes, he shed his clothes and went to bed for the day.
He was up and drinking blood in the kitchen when Buffy came in after school. She looked almost disappointed to see him sitting at the counter.
“What’s the matter, love? Were you hopin’ to catch me naked and in bed? Or in the shower, maybe, like your mum and watcher did?”
Buffy blushed and stammered. “No! I didn’t think you’d be nake—Wait, what? When did my mom see you naked?”
“The other day. She and the watcher paid me a visit I wasn’t expecting and caught me walking from the shower to my bedroom, wearing nothing but a few drops of water.”
“Oh my God. My mother saw you naked. Giles saw you naked!” Buffy looked like she was about to hyperventilate.
“No harm done. They averted their eyes and I got dressed.” He leered at her and wiggled his eyebrows. “Anyway, now they won’t be askin you what you see in me, will they?”
“What I—? Ohmygod. You are so full of yourself!” Still blushing furiously, Buffy said, “Now they know more about what I see—might see—in you than I do”
“We can change that anytime, love. Just say the word.” Spike stood up and began to peel off his shirt.
“Stop that! Anyway, I’ve seen you without a shirt before. I used to live here, remember?”
“Oh. Right. So it’s the pants you want me to take off then?” He reached for the top button on his jeans, making no attempt to hide his grin.
Buffy walked to him and slapped his hand away. “Stop being such a smartass. I have important things to talk to you about.”
He laughed and held her hand, bringing it to his lips before letting her take it back.
“Alright, Slayer. What’s so important that you’d rather talk about it than see me naked?”
“I don’t… didn’t… I want… Argh! Were you always this annoying?”
Buffy shook her head to hide a smile and sat down on the other stool. “Finish your breakfast,” she said, pointing to his mug. “I want you to come to the Scooby meeting tonight at Giles’s. I want everybody to see you and know that you’re here to help us when we figure out which demon is trying to ascend—whatever the hell that means. Demons don’t go to heaven, they go to hell.”
“Think it means to change form, love. To ascend to a higher level of being.”
“A higher level of demon-hood?”
“Doubt the goal is to get into heaven, so, yeah, something like that.”
“Wonderful…. Anyway, I want you there. I want everybody to get used to you and not be… afraid.”
“Why wouldn’t I want them to be afraid of me?” He stared at her with genuine confusion. “I’m a bloody vampire!”
Buffy stared back. “But if everybody is afraid of you… I want them to see how important it could be to have you here. So they won’t think I… I mean….”
Spike remembered what the other slayer had said about being Buffy’s new undead “honey” and realized what she was trying to say.
“You’re afraid they won’t believe I should be here if it’s just because I’m your… friend.”
“Is that what you are? Just my friend?”
“Would it make it any better if you introduced me as your boyfriend? Or your lover?” When she flinched at that, he sighed and reached out to touch her cheek. “I can tell you right now the other slayer is already assuming that.”
Buffy frowned. “The other—Faith? You met Faith already?”
“I did. Watched her slay a couple of vamps last night and then we had a little conversation.” He glanced at Buffy’s worried face. “Didn’t go as well as it might have,” he admitted. “I don’t think we’re going to be the best of friends.”
“I don’t think I want you to be any kind of friends with that slutty—with her,” Buffy said. “But you need to get along. We’re all on the same side.” She glared at him, aware that he wasn’t meeting her eyes. “Explain how it didn’t go well. Did you fight her?”
“Well, not fight her so much as just… show her she wasn’t quite the slayer she thinks she is. I’m not sure she isn’t going to make another try once she convinces herself it was just a fluke.”
“What was just a fluke?”
“She tried to stake me and I didn’t let her.” Buffy’s narrowed eyes told him that wasn’t good enough. “In all fairness to her, I was goading her a bit.” Buffy’s eyes narrowed even more and she stood up from her stool. “But in all fairness to me, she did try to stake me!” he said quickly. “Had a right to defend myself, didn’t I?”
“So, let’s recap,” Buffy said in a dangerously quiet voice. “You watched her fight, then you antagonized her, probably by telling her she wasn’t very good, and then when you defended yourself, you humiliated her even more. Have I got that about right?”
“When you say it that way, it sounds so….”
“Immature? Not helpful? A good way to make an enemy?”
“Bloody hell, Slayer! The chit has more attitude than two of me. I apologized to her for what I said that set her off, but I’m not going to apologize for defending myself. I could have killed her easily, but I stopped her without really hurting anything but her pride. Had to make her promise not to start a real fight if I let her up. I don’t think she’s going to want me on her side.”
Buffy sighed and looked away. “This is going to be hard, isn’t it?”
He didn’t pretend not to understand her. “If it’s too hard, I’ll leave again, sweetheart. Don’t want to come between you and your friends or family.”
“Don’t you see that’s what I’m trying to do? Keep that from happening? Faith is… she’s already kinda… different. Her first watcher got killed, and Faith ran from the old vamp that killed him. She did kill Kakistos after he followed her here and we had to fight him together, and that made her feel better for a while. Then that fired watcher came to town, and Faith believed her when she said we were all trying to keep the glove for ourselves or something, and she almost got us all killed. So then she felt really bad, I guess. I don’t know. I think sometimes she really plays up the bad girl stuff just to make herself sound special.”
“She’s a bloody slayer. She’s already special. Stupid bint can’t see that?”
Buffy shook her head. “The point is, according to Giles, and my mom and Willow, she probably has really low self-esteem. So we’ve been trying to make her feel important and competent, and you just showed her she isn’t as good as she thinks she is. Or as we want her to think she is.”
“So I’ve only been here two days and I’ve already mucked it up. Is that what you’re sayin?”
“I don’t know what I'm saying! I’m just… I want you here, but I don’t want to be arguing with my friends all the time. And I have to work with Faith… I just think if you come to the meeting with me, and if they see you with me a lot, they’ll get used to you and… and it’ll be okay that I… we… maybe… someday….”
She met his eyes with her own, blinking back tears. “It’s different now. It was so easy when we were just sharing the house, and we weren’t… you didn’t…. and I didn’t want to kiss you all the time but now I do, and—”
Spike stopped her with a finger on her lips. “And I want to be kissin’ you all the time. Everything else is just… details.” He tipped her chin up and nibbled on her lower lip. “All the bloody time. Every day. Every night.” He punctuated each short statement with light but warm kiss. “All the time,” he finished, holding her face between his hands and fastening his mouth on hers. “Starting now.”
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