Buffy came home from her shift at the coffee shop and went straight into the shower, telling herself it had nothing to do with seeing Spike later and everything to do with it having been a busy day. Including another run-in with the slayer not-wanna-be who seemed determined to make Buffy’s life miserable. She’d made no more attempts to hurt or kill Buffy, but she appeared in the shop at least once a week, always complaining about the service or Buffy’s clumsiness. Fortunately, she was no better at being subtle than she was at fighting and Buffy’s manager had told her not to worry about “that jealous bitch” and her attempts to get Buffy fired.
She dressed carefully, limiting her cosmetics to deodorant, moisturizer and lip gloss. She wore comfortable pants that looked good but allowed movement, and a long-sleeved red sweater that accentuated the new curves she’d added now that she had some stability in her life. When Spike knocked on the door, she was ready, opening it before the echoes of his knock had faded away.
“Evenin’, Slayer. Ready to go?”
“Mmmm hmmmm. Just let me get a jacket and some stakes.”
“No other weapons?”
“Turns out, if it’s not Sunnydale, they frown on people walking around with swords. Don’t need them all that often, anyway. The upside of it not being Sunnydale is that demons don’t blend very well, so they aren’t real common.”
Buffy put on her jacket, frowning when Spike kept his eyes on the bookcase instead of on the way her sweater stretched across her breasts when she reached back for a sleeve. Okay, that’s not where we are – he’s not likely to forget about the whole Angel/Twilight sexcapades that fast. And I don’t want my life complicated right now, anyway. She glanced at his impassive face as he held the door for her and sighed inwardly. It’s really not like him not to look, though. He looked at me even when he hated me.
They trotted down the four flights of stairs and out into the night without more conversation. It wasn’t until Spike turned his head to follow a beautiful girl’s progress past them that Buffy spoke.
“Was that a vamp?”
“Who, what? Where?” He stared around, clearly extending his senses.
“The girl you’re looking at. Is she a vamp? Is that why you were looking her?”
Spike stopped. “No, she was just really easy on the eyes.” He stared at her with his head cocked to the side. “Is there a reason I shouldn’t be looking at pretty birds when I get a chance?”
Buffy winced, wondering if he’d been deliberately reminding her that he hadn’t looked at her carefully-chosen outfit. “No,” she said quickly. “No, of course not. You’re a man… pretty girls… yeah, silly me.”
She whirled and began walking down the street, hoping her flaming face wasn’t visible in the dark. Spike caught up with her within two strides, catching her arm and pulling her to halt. “If there’s a reason why I shouldn’t, say so now, Slayer.”
Buffy refused to meet his eyes. “I said ‘no’, didn’t I?”
He stood there, his hand on her arm, then fell back into the detached manner she was still trying to get used to. “Alright, then,” he said finally. “Let’s find ourselves something to kill.”
They kept walking, passing Buffy’s coffee shop on their way to finding ‘something to kill’. She waved one hand at it, saying, “That’s where I go every day to be tormented by… oh, look, there she is now.” She pointed at the brown-haired girl who had made annoying Buffy her life’s work. Spike studied the girl, smiling when he saw her hesitate and stare around.
“May not want to be a slayer, but she’s knows when there’s a vamp around,” he whispered to Buffy.
“Do you want to eat her?” Buffy growled, glaring at her nemesis. “I promise I won’t care.”
His rich chuckle echoed in her ear. “You know that’s not true, pet. And I know it’s not true, so I reckon she’s safe… for now. Not making any promises if I catch her trying to hurt you,” he added. Buffy’s smile was quick, but genuine, and they were suddenly comfortable with each other again.
“Where do you s’pose she’s going? It’s getting a bit late for a bird who refuses to do her job to be out and about.”
“Probably going to meet up with her used-to-be-witches friends and come up with new ways to make my life miserable,” Buffy grumbled. “Who cares?”
“Think we’re going to have to, pet. I’m not the only vamp around…” He nodded his head towards three men who had begun following the girl down the street. With a sigh, Buffy nodded her agreement, and they began to trail the little group that was trailing the slayer. Every once in a while, the girl would turn around with a frown and then shrug off the feeling and continue walking. Buffy shook her head.
“I don’t care if she doesn’t want to fight; she ought to at least listen to what her senses are telling her and get someplace safe. Dumbass,” she added, when for the third time the girl shrugged and ignored what her slayer senses were trying to tell her.
“Maybe vamps are just so common now, she’s used to it,” Spike said mildly. “There are still people want to believe we’re just misunderstood.”
“Yeah, I have to save at least one or two people like that a night,” Buffy muttered. “You’d think by now, people would have noticed that vampires bite.”
They sped up when their prey increased speed to get closer to their target, now jogging toward two girls waiting at a bus stop. She greeted the girls and sat down beside them. Spike’s hearing was just able to pick up bits of the conversation.
“Hey, Julie. We’ve been waiting for you.”
“Hey, to you. Sorry I’m late. I kept getting weird vibes on the way here.”
“Yeah, you know, like you feel when you know somebody’s watching you or something?”
“I used to be able to feel things,” a tall, slender girl said bitterly. “Before that bitch took my magic away.” She looked around, not seeing the vamps that had melted back into the shadows of a building, nor Spike and Buffy, who were standing with their backs turned, as though planning to get in the car parked in front of them.
The other girl stood up and stretched. “Well, what are we going to do tonight? There’s a new club over on Fifth, we could check it out.”
As the girls began to move away, Julie narrowed her eyes when she looked toward Buffy, frowning as if trying to make out her face in the dim light. Buffy immediately grabbed Spike’s lapels and pulled him down. “Kiss me,” she hissed. Spike put his arms around her, hiding her with his coat. He hesitated only briefly, then applied his lips to hers in a chaste imitation of a kiss. The girls strolled past, giggling to each other at the seemingly oblivious couple now so engrossed in their kissing that they paid no attention to passers-by. So busy were they, talking and laughing about the couple making out on a parked car, that they never noticed when the vampires emerged from the shadows and began following them again.
As they walked past Spike and Buffy, one of the young vampires hesitated and looked in their direction. “Hey, guys, do we want to have a snack first?” he said, pointing at the still seemingly-engrossed couple. When Spike raised his head and flashed his true face at them, his snarl saying as much about his age and power as did his vampire features, they quickly moved on, muttering apologies for disturbing him.
“Sorry, Slayer,” Spike said once they were alone again. “Didn’t figure you wanted to give it away yet by dusting those gits in front of the bitch.”
Buffy shook her head no, stepping back from his embrace with forced casualness. “Good… good call,” she said. “I think we fooled them.”
“Expect we did, luv. It’s not like we’re amateurs at….”
“No, we aren’t, are we? Fooled the hell out of them.” Suddenly uncomfortable again at his proximity, she added, “I guess we’d better catch up before we lose them.”
“I’m on it, pet,” he said, tapping his nose. “But yeah, doubt those vamps are going to stalk them all night. Soon’s they get somewhere dark or secluded…”
They began to jog, moving swiftly and silently down the sidewalk, dodging the occasional late-night pedestrian, until they were close enough for Spike to smell both vamps and girls. As the girls entered an area where the overhead freeway provided an unintentionally dark area, the vamps suddenly moved close enough to be seen and sped towards the girls. Her slayer senses provided just enough warning for Julie to whirl around with a “What the—” before the vamps were upon them.
There were muffled screams from her two companions as Julie shoved her own attacker off with a strength that caught the young vampire by surprise.
“Hey! Are you one of those slayer-bitches? Dudes! We got us a slayer here.”
The other two vampires dropped their intended victims to the ground and spun around to stare at Julie.
“No shit? Man, I wonder what she’s going to taste like? I hear it’s awesome…” Licking their lips, all three advanced on Julie who was shrinking against the wall in fear. Her eyes darted around, seeking a weapon of some sort, but there was nothing to be found on the dirty sidewalk.
Suddenly, there was a small blonde woman between Julie and the slobbering vampires. They hesitated only briefly, then advanced on Buffy. “Are you one of those slayer-bitches too? Man, this is our lucky night.”
Buffy gave a smile that made them all hesitate and take a step back. “Wrong, morons. I’m not a slayer-bitch; I’m the Slayer Bitch. Capital letters. And it is definitely not your lucky night.”
Before they could decide whether they were going to fight or flee, Buffy had kicked one of them in the knee, dropping him to the ground howling in pain. Without looking down at him, she leapt over his body and sank her stake directly into the chest of another one. The third had already made his decision and was turning to flee when he ran into Spike’s left fist. He fell to the ground beside the still-moaning vampire trying to crawl away from Buffy and toward Julie.
Buffy looked at Spike and asked cheerily, “What do you think? Leave them or put them out of our misery?” She glanced at Julie. “Think you can get your friends out of here before they get mobile again?”
“You’re going to let them go????” Julie’s eyes were wide and she began to hyperventilate. “They’re monsters!”
Buffy raised an eyebrow. “What? Monsters? Not misunderstood differently-abled people? Are you sure?”
Spike chuckled. “That sounds more like it. Knew there had to be a slayer in there somewhere.”
Julie gave him a glare, then turned back to Buffy. Staring at the one that had invited his friends to feast on her, she held out her hand saying, “I’ll do it.”
Buffy shrugged, handing her a stake. “Knock yourself out. But make it a clean kill. You’ll have to get close to him to do it, and I don’t think he’s real happy right now.”
Julie hesitated, then stepped closer, muffling a scream when the vamp grabbed her by the ankle. She used her other foot to kick him in the face, then drove the stake, with more enthusiasm than expertise, into his heart. He dusted immediately and she stood up straight, smiling in satisfaction. “Hah!”
Buffy pulled out one of her other stakes and dusted the remaining vampire before he could regain consciousness. She smiled at Spike in approval. “That was quite a punch.”
“I try,” he said with uncharacteristic modesty. “He walked right into it – stupid git.”
“Who are you?” Julie stared at Spike, then looked into the shadows of the underpass. “Why do I still feel those weird vibes? Are there more of them?”
“Not that you need to worry about,” Buffy said without more explanation. “Get your friends out of here and try to stay in places with people and lights. You can keep the stake,” she added as she began to walk away with Spike. “But you probably ought to learn how to use it.” They walked away without waiting to see if the girls were going to follow their advice.
They walked in silence for several blocks before Spike said, “Do we have a destination, Slayer?”
“We do, sort of. There’s a nest I’ve been wanting to take out, but they’re using humans as guards and I haven’t quite figured out how to get around them without really hurting anybody.” She glanced up at him. “Not that I’m as fussy about that as I was before… before….” Her voice trailed off as memories of the past several years clearly overwhelmed her.
“If you’re about to go all boo hoo, bad, bad Buffy on me again, can you just hold that thought for a bit?” Spike was speaking to her, but staring into an alley from which emerged several vampires, clad in identical black uniforms.
“Spike,” the over-weight leader said from his position behind his minions in the alley.
“Dust,” he replied.
“You wish.” The vamp turned his attention to Buffy. “Is this your dinner?”
Spike’s delighted laughter caused them all to frown at him. “You wish,” he said, grinning as Buffy stepped up beside him.
“Hi guys,” she said with her best cheerleader smile. “Have we met? I’m Buffy. The Vampire Slayer?”
“She’s dead,” the vamp snarled.
“Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not. You just never know with me.” She glanced at Spike. “Are these the minions?”
“Some of ‘em,” he said. “Which ones do you want, Slayer?”
“Um… all of them?”
“Uh-uh, pet. I owe big, wide and ugly here. Tell you what, you keep them off my back while Jake and I sort out our differences, and then we’ll share.”
While they’d been talking, some of the vamps had been moving to the sides in an attempt to encircle Spike and Buffy. With no more communication than a “Let’s do it” they split apart and flipped over the approaching attackers, staking two of them as they landed. With a whoop of joy, Spike swung into action, punching, kicking and staking his way through the minions to the object of his ire. Buffy was content to take out those foolish enough to think she was the lesser of two evils, pausing occasionally to admire the way Spike was working his way toward the pudgy leader, now beginning to look a bit worried.
When all the minions were either dust, or temporarily immobilized bodies moaning on the ground, Spike stood in front of Jake, the light of battle blazing in his eyes.
“You were sayin’…?”
“Wait. We can work this out. We can share the—” He stopped with a gurgle as Spike grabbed his neck and lifted his much larger and heavier body into the air.
“I don’t share,” Spike said in a deceptively mild tone of voice. “Specially not with wankers that have been braggin’ how they’re going to make me dust.” He looked over his shoulder at Buffy. “Are we in a hurry, pet?”
She made a face. “Really not in the mood for torture, Spike.”
He sighed and looked back at his captive. “Your lucky night, Jake. ‘s what happens when you hang out with white hats – they feel sorry even for things like you.” He brought his other hand up and buried his stake in Jake’s chest before he’d even realized what was going to happen. “Let’s finish them off, Slayer.”
With deadly efficiency they dusted all but one of the remaining injured vampires. Spike paused over a girl whose yellow eyes held nothing but terror. “Let this one go, pet. She’s too dumb not to get herself dusted soon anyway, and she can spread the word that I’m here and looking for any minions stupid enough to still think they can take me.”
Buffy shrugged. “Okay. But if I catch her trying to bite anybody…”
“Understood.” He yanked the quivering girl to her feet. “You hear that? Get yourself out of here and don’t bite anybody. Ever.”
As soon as he let go, the girl took off, running with a speed that made her almost invisible to the few humans remaining on the streets so late. She was soon out of sight and Buffy and Spike were left standing, surrounded by dust gradually wafting away to become part of the landscape. He stared at it, hands in his pockets, then spoke, almost to himself. “Hard to believe that’s all we leave behind, isn’t it?”
“Not you!” Buffy’s response was immediate and shrill. He frowned at her in surprise. “It’s what I am, love. Won’t be leaving that good-looking corpse that we all want if we die young.”
“You have your soul. It has to go somewhere.”
“Think we all know where that’s to be, don’t we?” He put his arm around her shoulders and led her away, back to the sidewalk and away from the reminders of what he was. “The great poof may believe in redemption, but I know there’s no way to make up for the first century or so of my unlife.”
Just as he was letting go, Buffy shocked them both by putting her arms around him in fierce hug that brought a grimace to his face. She released him as quickly as she’d grabbed, saying, “I guess I’ll just have to keep you alive then, won’t I?”
She walked off without looking at his face. If she had, she would have seen more emotions flying across it than she had seen from him yet. Shaking himself, Spike schooled it back into a mildly interested expression and walked after her.
“Sounds good to me, Slayer.”
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