“I reckon we should do a patrol before we call it a night,” Spike said as they walked down the street. “Not really that late yet.”
“In vampire hours, maybe,” Buffy tried to grumble, but her twitching lips gave her away, and Spike laughed as he bumped her shoulder.
“Nice try, love, but you’ve been keeping vampire hours most of your life now. Even your mum and the Bit were just going to bed when we left.”
Buffy sighed. “Poor Mom. She’ll be awake all night trying to plan a wedding that she didn’t see coming.”
“Don’t see why she didn’t,” he said, a pout in his voice. “In our own time, she’d already figured out I was fallin’ in love with you by now. And this time around, she’s seen us living together for over a year. I’m surprised she hasn’t threatened to take an axe to me for not makin’ an honest woman of you.”
“’Honest woman’? Is that some kind of Victorian code for not-a-ho?”
Buffy sniffed, then turned into the gates of the closest cemetery. “Let’s see if I can find something to stake here. I’ll pretend it’s you.”
“Seriously, love? This particular graveyard is only a few blocks from your mum’s house. No self-respecting vampire is going to be hanging around this close to—” He broke off as Buffy ran ahead and waded into a small group of vampires clustered around a new grave.
“Self-respect and vampires? Not really all that mixy,” she grunted, running a stake through the first one she came to. She spun into another vampire, taking him to the ground with a leg sweep while she punched the next one.
“So it seems. Let me know if you want me to—” He leapt forward in time to intercept one of Glory’s minions that was inching toward Buffy with what looked like a net in his scabby little hands.
Using the short sword he’d hung down his back earlier, he removed the minion’s head, then whirled, going into game face and using his heightened senses to search for any other dangers.
In the meantime, after seeing Spike spring into action from the corner of her eye, Buffy dispensed with quipping and dispatched the other two vampires in time to join him in searching for any other signs of trouble.
When the graveyard remained still and quiet, they relaxed a bit, Spike dropping back into his normal human mien.
“I wonder what that was about?”
“If I had to guess, I’d say it was about trying to capture you for her godlyl sluttiness,” Spike growled, as he picked up the net and tested the fibers. Buffy saw him relax even more when he was easily able to rip through the mesh. “Don’t guess it would have held you very long, but….
“But it would be nice to know if he was following orders, or just showing a bloody unnecessary amount of initiative—pardon my language,” he growled.
Buffy snorted at his comment. “When the minions captured you, was that on Glory’s orders?”
Spike thought for a moment, then said, “Don’t think so. She was happy to see me when they told her I was the Key, but she didn’t look like she’d been expecting it. If she’d sent them after me, she prob’ly would’ve already known I was a vamp and it would have been just for information. But she didn’t know. Was right brassed off about their stupidity, if I recall.”
He put his arm around her and glared around the seemingly empty cemetery. “Doesn’t mean she didn’t send him after you, though. She knows what you are. Might be she’s planning to torture the Key’s location out of you instead of me, this go ‘round.”
“Well there’s a cheerful thought…. although….”
“Although what? Don’t be thinkin’ about offering yourself up….”
Buffy shrugged off his arm with a “Don’t tell me what to do,” that was softened by her warm tone and a smile. “Let’s go home. I’ve got some thinking to do….”
Buffy picked her head up from his thigh and smiled at him.
“How was that?”
“Bloody amazing, just like always. But if you think a spectacular blowjob is going to make me forget whatever hair-brained and dangerous idea you’ve got churning around in that pretty little head….”
“Phooey!” she said, sitting up and glaring at him. “I take it back then.”
“Too late.” He stretched and gave her a smirk. “You already got me off. Rather brilliantly, I might add,” he said as he pulled her up beside him and wrapped his arms around her.
“Now, tell me what you’re thinking, love. I can’t tell what it is, but I can feel your excitement.”
“Well, that’s kind of part of it. I want us to try to find each other using just the claim.”
“Well, no, not right now,” she said, snuggling into his side. “But tomorrow. Tomorrow we’re going to work on it before I tell you or anybody else about my idea.”
“I’m not ‘anybody else’,” he growled, his body stiffening against her.
“No, you’re not. And I’ll tell you all about it first. I promise. But I don’t want to get all excited about it until I know more about our claim perks.”
They heard Buffy’s phone ringing in the living room where she’d left it, and gave matching groans.
“I’ll wager that’s granddad calling to make sure you’re still his girl,” Spike said. “Are you going to answer it?”
Buffy sighed. “I guess I should. I really don’t want to bother with this right now, but maybe I can take care of it without a lot of drama.”
She got up to go get her phone, snorting at Spike’s barely muttered, “Good luck with that.”
“Hello?” Buffy saw no reason to admit she’d recognized the number that came up.
“Buffy? Is that you?” She rolled her eyes.
“It’s my phone. How did you get this number?”
“Willow gave it to me, she—”
“She shouldn’t have done that,” Buffy said shortly. “You could have called the Magic Box and asked for me to call you if I wasn’t there.” She settled onto the bed, holding the phone to her ear. “So what’s so important you had to call me in the middle of night?”
“It’s not that late. You’re a slayer. You should be up at night.”
She tried not to sound as cranky as she felt. “My current problem doesn’t much care if it’s day or night,” she said, then softened her tone and reminded herself that this Angel had no idea what she was dealing with. “I’m sorry. So what did you want? Is there some problem in LA I should know about?”
“No. No. Nothing like that. Just wanted to talk to you and see if you’re still my girl….”
Buffy waited for a moment, glaring at Spike whose eyes were flashing amber, then responded. “I thought we’d kind of settled that last year when you were here. I’m with Spike now.”
“You’re still living with him?”
“Uh, yeah? What part of ‘we’re together’ made you think I wouldn’t be?”
“I’m sorry, Buffy. I didn’t mean to imply you couldn’t have a new boyfriend. Of course you can. But… you are still my forever girl, aren’t you?”
Buffy rolled her eyes at Spike, who was now nibbling on his mark. She pushed him away gently, and spoke into the phone. “Angel. I am not still your girl. And I can assure you, if I didn’t have a hellgod to get rid of, we would be having a conversation about that.” She paused, then said with steel in her voice, “Trust me, you wouldn’t enjoy that conversation.”
Ignoring her tone and her words, he said, “We do need to talk. Face to face. Should I come there, or will you be coming down here?”
Buffy held the phone away from her head and stared at it in astonishment. While she was struggling to put into words her feelings about having her warning ignored, Spike took the phone from her hand.
“You need to think about what the Slayer just said to you, Angelus. Think long and hard before you decide to show up on our doorstep again. We’ve got a busy day tomorrow, so we’re going to sleep now. Don’t call back.”
He ended the call, turned the phone off, and handed it to Buffy.
“That’ll either be the end of it, or he’ll be pounding on the door by tomorrow night,” he said. “Either way, we’ve been as reasonable about it as we could be.”
“We have, haven’t we? We were very understanding and non-confrontational. I’m proud of us!” She dropped the phone to the floor and let him pull her back down. “Do you think he’ll get it and stay away?”
“Oh, hell no. But we gave him every chance, so if he shows up here….”
“I get first crack at him,” Buffy said as she relaxed and closed her eyes. “Then you, then Giles….”
They spent a good part of the next day working on sensing each other’s whereabouts without Spike using his vampire senses or Buffy using her slayer tingles. When it appeared that they had no trouble finding each other quickly in and around the apartment building, they moved to more difficult situations.
“Gotcha!” Buffy crowed when she was able to find Spike in a crowded mall. The more they practiced, the better they got at letting the claim connect them rather than using their normal tracking senses.
Experimenting, Buffy thought really hard at him. “Spike?”
“Yes, love,” he said absently, frowning when she didn’t respond. He glanced at her, noting her dancing eyes and the happiness he could feel radiating from her.
“Did you just do what I think you did?”
“Yep. This is totally cool!” She frowned. “Unless you’re going to start reading all my thoughts, because then I—”
He shook his head. “I can barely understand your thought processes when you try to put them into words, no worries that I’ll overhear anything I shouldn’t.” He grinned at her glare.
“Picking that up loud and clear,” he tried to project in her direction, not really sure if she got it, or if she was just reacting to his grin and the way he moved out of reach.
“Got that one too, love.”
She rubbed her forehead. “This is giving me a headache. But I guess it could come in handy if we can do it from far away.”
“It is a bit of work,” he admitted. “But we should probably practice it as often as we can without getting tired. Just so we’ll have it when we need it.”
“I guess. But not now. My head hurts. Where’s the aspirin in this place?”
“Go find it, then I’ll try to find which shop you’re in.”
“Uh, Spike, I’ll be in the one that says ‘Drug Store’ under the pain reliever sign.”
“Oh, right. Never mind then. Get your aspirin and lets go home. You can rest until it’s time for tonight’s meeting.”
“So, that’s the sitch, guys.” Buffy gazed around the apartment building’s all-purpose room. “It looks like the minion wanted to capture me, but we don’t know if she told him to or if he thought of it himself. But if it was Glory who wants me….” She paused and gazed around. “She’s going to get me.”
There was a babble around the table which Buffy allowed to die down. Winston spoke first as the others quieted.
“I’m assuming you have a plan?”
“I do. I need to get Glory away from regular people, but somewhere you can all be there too, right? So, if she takes me somewhere she can torture me, but Spike can tell where I am, you can all show up and do your magic thing.”
“You do understand that the ‘magic thing’ is for us to try to hold her in human form long enough for Spike to kill him.” Winston was not asking a question, but stating what he obviously hoped was a fact.
Buffy sighed and nodded.
“I know. If what we’ve learned about Ben is right, he isn’t going to survive no matter what, so we aren’t killing someone who was going to have a life. It’s just like last year when Willow’s spell made Adam blow up and kill Professor Walsh. I was okay with it, because I knew he was going to kill her soon anyway. I don’t want to be the one to do it, but Spike owes her.” She shot Giles a look. “And it means no one else will have to do it.”
Spike grinned as Giles gasped.
“You can thank me later, Watcher,” he said with a smirk.
Anya had been looking back and forth between them, unable to see the bite marks on Spike because his coat collar hid them, and Buffy again had a color coordinated scarf around her neck and shoulders.
“You did it, didn’t you?” she asked, not waiting for an answer before announcing, “They did it. They’re ma—”
Buffy interrupted her. “Married. Yes, we got married. And Mom is mad that she wasn’t there, so there’s going to be a real wedding as soon as we get rid of Glory.” Buffy’s hard stare into Anya’s eyes dared her to argue.
Anya returned the stare, but nodded. “Right. Married. I knew that. Everyone knows that married people can tell where the other one is all the time.”
Willow, Tara, and Xander all frowned in confusion as the somewhat hard to understand conversation took place. Anya and Buffy held each other’s gaze, until Anya finally dropped hers to the table.
“All right. Xander’s going to be upset enough that you’re… married… There’s no sense in aggravating the situation.”
“Exactly,” Buffy said, glancing at Xander who was obviously still dwelling on the news of the marriage and having trouble putting his thoughts into words. “And nothing else is going to be done about it until after we’ve taken care of Glory, so let’s move on, huh?”
“Any repercussions about the other thing yet?” Giles’s question brought more frowns around the room from the Scoobies.
“Oh goody,” Willow said snidely. “Something else nobody knows about except Giles and these other two guys.” She waved her hand at Max and Winston. Tara winced and sent a quick apologetic shrug at Buffy, who smiled at her before turning to talk to Willow, smile now noticeably absent.
“I thought you might have guessed this one, Willow. Since you’re the one who gave Angel my cell phone number so he could call me in the middle of the night.”
Willow looked momentarily abashed, then recovered. “It was Angel. I was surprised he didn’t have the number. Since when don’t you want to talk to him?”
Buffy exchanged looks with Spike, and then with Giles and Winston. She shrugged and said, “Since we figured out that he put a partial claim on me when he bit me two years ago…. well, actually five or six years ago, if we count my time…. And that he never told me about it, but kept renewing it by asking me if I was still his girl every time we talked.”
Just in case they’d missed the implications, she added, “And of course I always said ‘yes’ because I thought I was in love with him. Which just renewed the claim enough to keep me thinking he was the love of my life.”
“Wow…” Willow was otherwise speechless. Tara gave Buffy a sympathetic look, then glanced at Spike’s stony expression and edged closer to Willow. Xander seemed to have forgotten all about the “marriage” in his haste to assure everyone that he’d always known “deadboy” was “a creep and a sneak and up to no good.” Anya looked at Spike’s face, saying shrewdly, “I’m guessing it’s gone now.”
“So it seems,” Buffy said, without explanation. “We’d like to talk to you about that… later,” she added when Xander and Willow looked suddenly interested. Anya shrugged and nodded.
“Sure. Whenever it’s good for you.”
“If I may,” Giles said. “Are there going to be problems now?”
Spike repeated his words from the night before. “Told the Slayer, we either won’t hear from him again, or he’ll be pounding on our door tonight.”
“He won’t be able to do that now, you know,” Max said mildly. “He may do so metaphorically, but he won’t be able to reach your door.”
“Good to know,” Spike said with a nod. “He can just stand out in the street, yellin’, until he gets bored and goes home.”
Giles frowned. “You may be willing to let this go, but I am not.”
Buffy smiled at Giles. “Relax, Giles. Like I told Spike last night, I get first crack at him, then he gets his, and then you.”
“If there’s anything left of him,” Spike growled, his eyes flashing. “I’m every bit as unhappy about it as you are, Rupert, but Buffy’s the offended party here, and it’s up to her what she wants to do about it. If he comes after me…. then we’ve got a problem. Don’t expect to lose a fight to him, but he might get lucky, and I don’t want to not be 100 percent when Buffy needs me.”
“You’re showing surprising self-control for the somewhat impulsive vampire I know you to be.”
“Had a few more hard-knock years since we first met in our time, Watcher. Learned to keep my priorities straight.”
“Fair enough,” Giles murmured. “I suppose we’ll have to wait and see what happens from that quarter. In the meantime….” He glanced at Winston and Max.
Max nodded his head. “I like Buffy’s plan. I believe our time is best spent working on our spell and coordinating our efforts so we will be prepared when we’re needed.” He smiled at Buffy and Spike. “If the two of you are able to know each other’s locations, the plan should work.” He frowned. “It isn’t going to be easy,” he said. “The hellgod is undoubtedly very powerful when in her chosen form. It may well take all five of us working together to—”
“All five?” Willow turned to Tara and patted her hand. “I’m sorry, baby, I didn’t mean that to sound quite so….”
“Arrogant,” Spike coughed, turning his back and flinching when Buffy punched him.
Max responded as if Willow had asked a legitimate question.
“Indeed, Willow. Those of us who are more powerful and adept will need someone to keep us grounded. That would be the lovely Miss Maclay, who is so strongly connected to the earth through her own gentle magic that having her with us will be an important component of our spell.”
“What about Giles? What can he do?” Willow waved her hand in his direction, refusing to take the easy way out she’d been given.
Instead of Max, it was Winston who responded. “May I speak with you for a moment, Willow? Outside?”
Willow frowned, but nodded and followed Winston into the hall. There was an uncomfortable silence in the room while they all wondered what was being said, and if it was going to result in an even more angry Willow.
Tara hid her face behind her hair in way she hadn’t for some time. “She doesn’t mean to be rude,” she said softly.
“Perhaps not,” Giles said, “but her attitude could put us all at risk if she goes into this angry with any of us.”
“I suspect Winston is making that very clear to her just now,” Max said with a small smile. “He may be taking her down a peg or two, magically speaking.”
Buffy thought back to the previous year when Max had frozen an angry Willow with a wave of his hand. “I wonder if we should have told her how much stronger than her he is?” she mused aloud.
“If she hasn’t figured that out by now, she hasn’t been paying attention,” Giles muttered. “They’ve been working together for some time.”
“I believe Winston has been very forgiving of much of what she does and says because they are so close in his time.” Max sighed and shook his head. “It may be time for him to stop thinking of her as a younger version of his close friend, and to remember her ability to do great damage.”
Buffy nodded. “One of these days, he’s going to have to fill us in on what changes there were in his timeline from ours. There are multiple slayers, so she must have done that spell there.”
“Well, someone did,” Giles muttered.
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