Buffy’s plan to get to know Riley better didn’t go as well as she’d hoped. While he gave her his usual friendly smile when she entered the large lecture hall, he made no attempt to speak to her. She and Willow dawdled as long as they could without seeming to be doing it deliberately, but they finally had to give up and get out before the next class came in.
“Well, so much for liking me,” Buffy sniffed, when Riley followed Doctor Walsh out of the hall.
“In all fairness to Riley,” Willow said, watching them go, “She’s pretty scary. He probably doesn’t want to make her mad.”
“Hey, I’m pretty scary too.”
“Yeah. But he doesn’t know that yet. And I thought we didn’t want him to know that much about you.”
“I don’t,” Buffy sighed. “But I really wanted to—look!”
Willow turned around and followed Buffy’s gaze. Another grad student, one they recognized from the party at Lowell House, had just saluted Riley and Dr. Walsh, who was now clearly chastising him for doing so. Head down, the other man was obviously apologizing, and having a hard time doing so without standing at attention and saluting.
“Guess we were right about those guys at Lowell House,” Willow whispered, trying to smother her giggle.
“I guess so. The question now is, are they going to have another party, and will we be invited to it?”
“Um… yeah? I mean, Oz would cool with it, wouldn’t he? It’s all about the research and stuff.”
As if having heard their conversation, Riley began striding in their direction, smiling at Buffy as he did so. He gave Willow a friendly nod, but never took his eyes off Buffy.
“Hey! I’m glad I found you.”
Buffy looked at Willow. “Were we lost?”
“I would have sworn we were in class all morning, but hey, maybe I was dreaming.”
Both girls turned their best “we’re ditzy” smiles on the frowning man and giggled.
“Sorry, Riley,” Buffy finally said. “We’re a little giddy today. What did you need us for?”
“Um, well, I just… of course, you’re included, Willow… I just wanted to invite you to the frat house tomorrow night to… um… to meet my friends.”
Buffy’s eyes narrowed, but his open, honest face seemed so earnest that she relaxed. “That sounds like fun. Is it another party already?”
“Well, yes, sort of, I guess. Maybe not as big as the last one, but… it’ll be fun.”
“Okay. Sure. See you tomorrow night, then.”
The girls waved and walked away, carefully not speaking until they were well away from both Riley and the campus. By mutual agreement, they went to Giles’s apartment and tried the door. Which was locked. Buffy glared at the doorknob is if it had personally offended her, then sighed and sat on the nearby wall.
“So, what do you think? Did he hear us?”
“Only if he was using some kind of listening device. He was too far away for normal human ears.”
“Great. So while we’re checking them out, they’re going to be checking us out.”
“I don’t think it’s ‘us’ he’s interested in,” Willow said. “He was looking at you the whole time. What do you think he saw the other night?”
“Me, with a stake in my hand, Spike, and a lot of dust where they obviously expected to find vamps.”
“So, he didn’t actually see you slaying?”
“No, but since there was only one vampire standing, I don’t think it would take a genius to figure out what I was doing there. And then, there’s Spike. Somehow they knew what he was… or figured it out after we left.”
Buffy repeated her explanation later that evening when all the Scoobies were together again.
“Sounds to me like they must have lots of cool toys,” Xander said, somewhat wistfully. “All that commando gear, ninja suits….”
“Maybe they should be recruiting you” Buffy said with a sigh. “You’d know how to appreciate all their… stuff.”
“Is that what you think they want to do? Recruit you?”
“Well, yeah. What else would they want with me? If they’re after vampires and demons, wouldn’t they want the Slayer on their side?”
“Assuming they have any idea that there is such a person,” Giles said with a wry smile. “And that they don’t just think you’re some new kind of demon that hunts vampires.”
“Huh! You and Spike must belong to the same club of suspicious people,” Buffy muttered.
“And what does William the Bloody think of this plan to go into the lion’s den, so to speak?”
Buffy coughed. “I haven’t actually… mentioned it yet. And I might not mention it. He’s just going to be unreasonable about it. I’m pretty sure…”
“Yeah. He was all stupid and mad about it last night. But I think he was mostly just jealous that I might be dating Riley—even though I told him it would just be for information.”
“So, you’re going to begin your—and you have no idea how much I detest using this word—relationship with Spike by lying to him about what you’re doing.”
Buffy’s lip came out in one of her stubborn expressions. “It sounds so… wrong… when you say it like that.”
“He has a right to know.” The quiet interjection from normally tacturn Oz silenced the whole room for several seconds while everyone stared at him.
“But he’s going to be all grrrrr, argh about it,” she protested with less vehemence than she’d intended. “And then we’ll end up having a fight instead of… ” Her voice trailed off as everyone looked at her with varying degrees of curiosity, concern and disgust. “Instead of anything else,” she finished weakly.
“I’m just saying.” Oz subsided onto the couch and put his arm around Willow.
Buffy looked around the room at the unsupportive expressions and sighed. “Fine. I’ll tell him. But if I end up staking him instead of having smoochies, it’s all your faults!”
“I can live with that,” Xander said so quickly she gave him a glare that promised retribution if it actually happened.
Buffy stood up and walked to the door. “Okay. I’m off to let Spike know I’m okay. He said if I don’t check in every night he’s… well, I don’t know what he’s planning to do, but it’s getting late, so I’d better get there before he comes looking for me.” She waved at Willow. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Will, and we’ll figure out what we want to wear to the party.”
Wanting to avoid the confrontation with Spike as long as possible, Buffy decided to make a pass through a couple of cemeteries first. The first one was empty, the second one had only one confused-looking fledgling standing around looking helpless.
“What happened to me?” he said. “What am I?” He stared at Buffy, his fangs beginning to come down as his demon recognized the scent of food.
“You’re dead,” she said helpfully. “But you need to be deader.” Without further quipping, she ran her stake into his chest and watched the dust fall away. She turned to walk away, flinching as she felt something hit her back. She whirled, stake at the ready, but there was nothing visible and nothing making her demon radar go off. She shrugged off the tiny pinch and headed for Restfield.
Finding Spike’s crypt wasn’t difficult. He was standing in front of it, game face on and yelling as soon as she came into sight.
“Where the bloody hell have you been, Slayer?” he roared, rushing up to her, clearly conflicted about whether to hug her or hit her. “I’ve been worried sick.”
Buffy felt a warm flush go through her at his genuine concern. She put one hand to his cheek, smiling when he faded back to his human face. “I’m sorry, Spike. We had a Scooby meeting first, and then I did a quick patrol on the way here. I didn’t mean to make you worry.”
“Well I did,” he muttered, his anger fading when she stroked her hand down his cheek, still smiling at him. His expression softened even more. “Don’t want to get in your business, Slayer. And I know you can handle any vamp or demon that comes here looking’ for trouble, but—” He sighed. “Sound like a right ponce, don’t I?”
“I’m sorry,” she repeated. She looked around. “Do you want to sit down somewhere and talk? I have some stuff to tell you.”
“Sure, pet. Just—”
He raised his head, holding up one hand to silence her. She watched in fascination as he went back into gameface. Angel had rarely let her see his demon persona – except when he was Angelus, and even then he’d preferred wearing his handsome human face, knowing it would keep Buffy off balance much better than seeing what he really was. So she was intrigued, watching Spike use all his senses to check their surroundings. He sniffed the air, cocked his head if listening, then gestured for her to go in the open door of the crypt. When they were safely inside, Spike closed the exterior metal door, wincing when it screeched just a little. He then closed a heavy oak interior door and dropped a bar across it. He pointed at a small candle guttering on a shelf, and Buffy immediately ran to blow it out, leaving them in inky darkness.
She felt, rather than heard his approach as he walked up behind her and put his arms around her to whisper in her ear.
“Someone’s out there,” he said, his breath causing her hair to move and tickle her neck, his body solid and strong behind her. “Follow me, but be very quiet.” He released her and walked away, leaving her to follow as best she could. Which wasn’t very well; she immediately banged her knee on a large stone sarcophagus that she would have sworn had moved in front of her. “Ow!”
Spike growled under his breath. “That isn’t quiet!”
“I can’t see anything,” she hissed. “You’re the creature of the night, moron!”
Suddenly she was scooped up and carried across the large stone room and deposited in front of a filthy glass and metal window. Filing away until later what the point was of having windows in a crypt, she rubbed a tiny hole in the grime coating the inside of the window and peered out through the still-dirty glass. She strained her eye, trying to sort out the shadows around the crypt, until one of them moved and she was able to recognize a vaguely human shape. She flinched back before realizing the man outside could not see her through the dirt between them.
Spike had rubbed his own peephole above hers and pressed up against her as he stared out, his vampire vision giving him a much better view of the men now emerging from the woods. Buffy leaned into the muscular body against her back, enjoying the way Spike’s unnecessary breathing increased when he felt her moving against him. Without warning, he stopped breathing and yanked her away from the window and down to the floor against the wall under it. They remained there, huddled against the wall while they listened to someone moving around just on the other side of the thick stone wall.
Spike cocked his head, listening hard to the murmuring voices, then began running his hands over her hair and body.
“Not the time or place,” Buffy said, her voice barely more than a soft breath as she stiffened under his wandering hands.
“Shut up,” he hissed back, still feeling around until he found what he was looking for. There was another pinch on her back before he exhaled in satisfaction, taking her hand and letting her feel the small button he’d located between her shoulder blades. “Stay here,” he breathed, disappearing into the gloom. When he came back several minutes later, he immediately went to the window and peered out again. Buffy rose to her feet and joined him, squeezing in front of him to stare out herself.
The shadowed figures were now grouped together, waving their arms and clearly arguing. One of them finally began pointing in one direction and jogging that way, soon followed by all the others. When they’d been out of sight for several minutes, she heard Spike exhale and felt his body relax against hers.
“I think they’re gone, luv,” he said in a soft, but more normal voice. Buffy turned around to face him, struggling to see his face in the pitch black room, then giving up.
“What the hell was that thing? And what did you do with it?”
“It was some kind of tracer. I threw it into the sewers. It’s on its way to the ocean now. Or maybe to the water treatment plant. Either way, they’re going to be following an imaginary slayer for a while.”
“So, now they know where you live?”
“I don’t think so, luv. Wasn’t me they were looking for, and they didn’t seem to think you would have entered a crypt by yourself. That’s what the argument was about. They were trying to figure out where you’d got to when you stopped moving, and they thought maybe it’d stopped working. As soon as it moved again, they went after it.”
“Could you hear what they were saying?”
“Most of it. Something to do with catching you in action, and wondering what kind of demon kills vampires.”
“They think I’m a demon?”
“Great. Just great.” She rested her head on his chest and inhaled the scent she was rapidly coming to recognize meant ‘Spike’ to her. “Now what do I do?”
“Stay as far away from those wankers as you can get?”
“Yeah, that’d be a good plan except….”
She felt him stiffen. “Except what?”
Buffy weighed her options. Oz’s “He has a right to know” against the blow-up she knew would happen if she told Spike what she was planning.
“It’s possible… I might be getting a chance to get into their… I dunno… headquarters maybe?”
His arms dropped from where they’d been loosely circling he back and he stepped away, becoming completely invisible as soon as he did. She reached out her hand, but he’d already moved too far away for her to reassure him with a touch.
“It’s going to be okay, Spike. Willow will be with me, and there will be lots of people around… I’m just going to ask Riley what the hell is going on, and then we’ll leave. In and out. Quick as a wink. And I’ll come straight here after we leave. I promise. By… nine-thirty, ten o’clock, at the latest.”
There was no response but a steadily increasing snarl from across the room.
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