Moving as quietly as they had when entering, they left the crypt and hurried back toward the hidden entrance to the tunnels. Only Spike’s vampire hearing kept them from running into a small squad of commandoes, clearly searching for any sign of Riley or the “gang” that had kidnapped him.
When the soldiers had passed them by, never noticing the heat signature plastered against a crumbling crypt and being shielded by the vampire and his leather coat, Spike signaled silently and they hastened to drop down into the tunnel. Spike went first, holding his arms up for Buffy who, with complete trust, dropped into the inky space and the strong arms waiting to catch her.
Spike found the torch and, once they’d move away from the entrance, used his lighter to reignite it so that Buffy could see where they were going. It took only a few minutes to work their way back to where they could see a dim illumination in the distance.
“Home again, home again…”
Buffy yawned and said, “As unhomey as that cave is, I think I’m going to be glad to see it.”
“Give me a couple of weeks, Slayer. Then tell me if it’s homey or not.”
“Won’t matter by then, will it?”
“I’m planning to make it my bedroom,” he whispered in her ear, pulling her back against his chest. “And since I’m hoping you’ll be spending a lot of time there… yeah, it matters.”
“Oh. Okay then.” She looked around at the tunnel and its occasional smaller branches that led further under Sunnydale. “Kinda open to the general population, though, isn’t it? I mean to the underground population, anyway.”
“I can fix that,” he said without explanation. “Don’t worry. By the time its ready for you to spend much time in, it’ll be safe as houses. And no worries about anyone hearing us,” he added with a smirk. “You won’t have to bite me to keep from screaming. Unless you want to, of course….”
Buffy blushed and moved more quickly in the direction of the light. “Come on, bragger,” she said.
They entered the underground room just in time to see Giles succumbing to exhaustion and slumping against the wall. He straightened up when he heard them, blinking the sleep from his eyes.
“Have you made the world safe for earthworms and moles?” he asked, refusing to meet their eyes.
“Pretty much. We didn’t see anything ooky, did we, Spike?”
“Huh? Oh, no. Nothing suspicious out there. Nope.”
“Not even the dust of the vampire I shot some time ago?” Giles asked, the edge in his voice countered by the fact that he still wouldn’t look at them.
“Vampire? We didn’t see any….”
“Perhaps you were looking in the wrong places,” Giles interrupted her, pointing over his head. “I’m fairly certain there was at least one vampire up there.”
Buffy’s blush went unnoticed as she whirled on Spike. “I thought we were quiet!”
“We were, luv. Watcher just has a vivid imagination, isn’t that right, old man?”
“The watcher is not so old that he cannot hear the sound of….” Giles seemed to be struggling for the proper euphemism. “… heavy breathing… when it is taking place only a few yards above his head.”
There was silence as Buffy hid her face and Spike smirked at the man now glaring at him. Finally, with a deep sigh, Giles said, “The timing could have been better, but I suppose this was inevitable.”
“Actually, Watcher, I needed to get to my stash of cold pig blood before anyone in this room started looking good enough to eat. That was my reason for going there. Anything else that happened is between the Slayer and me, and none of anyone else’s business… including yours.”
“Buffy was my charge, and she is still very much like a daughter to me. Her choices in life are my business, as is her safety.”
“Buffy is a grown woman and makes her own choices. And I’ll wager she’s safer with me that she is with the man who was willing to cripple her for the sake of a worthless test.”
“Buffy is standing right here!” she said, stepping between the two glaring men and putting her hands on her hips. “You,” she said, pointing to Giles. “Don’t get to tell me what to do or who I can do it with. And you,” she whirled on Spike who was just beginning to smirk. “You need to stop baiting Giles. I’ve already told you that incident is over.” She continued glaring back and forth until both men muttered apologies.
“What did you mean by ‘worthless test’?” she asked, refocusing on what Spike had said. “Most slayers would have been killed by Kralik. I think it was a pretty ‘worthy’ test!”
“Exactly what I meant. Every vamp worth his salt knows that’s how the Council of Wankers rids themselves of troublesome slayers. If they’ve got one who’s easily pushed around, she gets a raw fledgling with the IQ of a gnat, as many weapons as she might need, and a playing field heavily weighted in her favor. She’s expected to win. If the Council wants to replace a slayer with a more tractable one, that slayer faces something older, stronger, smarter and intent on killing her to earn its freedom. And she’s thrown in without warning, weapons or much chance of surviving. It’s murder by vamp.”
“Giles? Did you know that when you took my powers away? Did you know they were trying to kill me?”
“No, Buffy! Of course not! Not until I found out what they’d put you up against. It was too late then. All I could do was try to help….”
Smothering her disappointment, Buffy said, “But what good would it have done them to kill me? Faith is in a coma, and she’s gone all evil on them anyway. They still wouldn’t have gotten a new slayer out of it.”
“I doubt Faith would have survived much longer, had they succeeded in removing you. I’m sure she would have passed quietly away in her sleep shortly thereafter.”
“What’s a Faith?” Spike was frowning as he tried to follow the conversation. “Is there another slayer again?”
“Faith is what we got after your ex killed Kendra,” Buffy said shortly. “Turns out she wasn’t what they were looking for either. She turned evil and began killing for the Mayor. Long story. Don’t want to talk about it.”
Ignoring Buffy’s words, he asked, “What put the bint into a coma?”
Buffy turned her back on his astonished face and sank down next to the wall, shutting her eyes and evening out her breathing, making it clear she was through talking about it.
In front of Giles’s amazed eyes, Spike took off his coat, laid it on the ground, and gently lowered Buffy onto it. He wrapped it around her, sat down next to Giles and pulled Buffy’s head onto his lap. She murmured her appreciation, curling one hand on his thigh and going to sleep.
“Go back to sleep, Watcher. I’ll take the next shift.”
Too tired to argue, Giles mumbled something that almost sounded like “thanks” and stretched out on the hard ground. He was asleep almost before his eyes were shut completely. Spike leaned against the dirt wall and began mentally planning his bedroom while Buffy slumbered on his lap.
The sounds of “God Save the Queen” coming from the pocket of Giles’s coat took several seconds to penetrate everyone’s drowsy brains. It wasn’t until Spike kicked the sleeping man and said, “Oi! Watcher. Wake up. Mother England is calling,” that Giles woke up and fumbled for the phone. He answered, listened intently, nodding from time to time and giving short responses when asked questions. At one point, he glanced over to a now-awake and angry-looking Riley, speaking quietly enough that only Buffy and Spike could make out the words.
“Yes, we do have him. He is fine; or as fine as can be expected of someone who tried to kill a slayer—” He broke off, turning his gaze to Spike. “Yes. That is correct. It is William the Bloody.” He listened for another minute before responding. “It seems so… Yes… No, I’ve seen no sign of that… Yes. I believe we must assume that is what has happened… Yes, I will.” He paused and surprised both Spike and Buffy with a thumbs up sign.
“And his organization?” Clearly the conversation had gone back to Riley. “I’ve given him first aid. He could, of course, use more skilled medical attention, but I think he’ll be fine until we— Yes. If you’re certain it is safe, we will… Yes. I’ll call you as soon as I’m home.”
He snapped the phone shut and looked around at all the curious eyes waiting for him to speak. “It appears that the Initiative has had its leadership changed and the Army will take charge of Agent Finn here. There are teams arriving to deal with the laboratory and with Dr. Walsh, although she has been placed under close supervision and house arrest until they can go through her files and decide if national security has been threatened by her work.”
He stood up and stretched. “I am assured that we can safely return to our normal abodes, if we will drop our… visitor… off at the ER where there will be a team of Army medics waiting for him.” He turned his gaze on Riley. “There are apparently some potentially dangerous enhancements to your physique of which you are unaware. You will be… I believe ‘briefed’ is the term, when you have been patched up.”
“Let’s roll,” Xander said, stretching his stiff body.
Spike held up a hand to stop the general movement towards the overhead entrance. “Blindfold soldier boy, first,” he instructed. “No need for him to learn all our secrets, even if he is going to be out of business.”
“Agreed,” Giles said, handing the blindfold to Willow.
As soon as Riley’s eyes had been covered, his complaints ignored, Xander brought the ladder back from its place in the tunnel and Spike went up to slide the plywood off the opening. Getting Riley up was not as complicated as getting him down had been, and it took only Spike behind him to keep him from falling and Willow instructing him which foot to raise. Buffy was waiting at the top and easily pulled him out and onto the floor.
They walked back to the hidden vehicles, deciding that Oz and Willow could go back to the dorms while Xander and Giles used his car to deposit Riley at the Sunnydale Hospital ER. There was an awkward silence, during which Spike and Buffy made no motions toward getting into either vehicle.
“You guys go on,” she said finally. “I never patrolled last night. I think I’d better hit a few cemeteries before the sun comes up. I’ll see you tomorrow… uh, later today, Willow.”
When they’d all driven away, Spike leaned against his car and pulled Buffy between his open legs. She rested her head on his chest, sighing contentedly as he held her and rubbed her back with one hand. When she felt herself almost drifting to sleep while standing up, she groaned and pushed herself away from her comfortable pillow.
“I’d better go,” she said. “I was serious about patrolling.”
“It’s going to be daylight soon, love. You’re not going to find anything out there. Let’s just get you back to your room and see if you can catch some sleep today, yeah?”
“If I see any nasties out and about on my way back, I’ll take care of ‘em for you, alright?”
“You’re not staying here?”
“And leave you to walk yourself home?” He was so genuinely affronted that Buffy tamped down the urge to snap at him that she’d been walking herself home in the wee hours of the morning long before she ever met him. Instead, she just nodded and took his hand.
“Let’s go then, William. I might get in two or three hours of sleep before I have a class to go to.”
They walked through the deserted streets, their powerful legs carrying them at a speed that belied the casual strolling it appeared to be. Buffy held onto Spike’s hand, enjoying the pleasure of having a boyfriend she could walk around with in the middle of the night without worrying about his safety.
“You know, I could get used to this,” she said, nudging him with her arm.
“Kinda the plan, wasn’t it? To get used to each other?”
“I just thought… I expected it to take longer… and be harder.”
He laughed and squeezed her hand. “Much as I’d like to believe that one good shag has changed everything, we both know that we’re going to be snappin’ and snarlin’ at each other about something before long. I’d lay odds on it.”
Buffy nodded and leaned into his shoulder. “I suppose that’s right. Speaking of which, about this drinking habit of yours….”
“And there she goes. Tryin’ to turn me into the great poof.”
“You drink. Are you denying it?”
“Nope. One of the joys of life.”
“Need money, don’t I?”
He pulled out a cigarette and made a big show of lighting it and blowing smoke at her. “You complain a lot.”
Buffy waved the smoke away. “You kill.”
“I kill bad things. Your pot is much blacker than my kettle is!”
“That’s pretty thin, Slayer. Really not holdin’ up your end of this argument very well.”
“We’re not arguing. I’m just pointing out all the perfectly good reasons why this shouldn’t work.”
Before Spike could respond, two very hungry and inexperienced vamps jumped out from behind a black van.
Before Spike could respond, two very hungry and inexperienced vamps jumped out from behind a black van, snarling and waiting for their intended victims to scream and run. Without discussion, Buffy took the one on the right; Spike stepped toward the one on her left. Wasting no time on quipping, Buffy pulled her stake and drove it through the chest of her chosen opponent. As the dust settled, she put her stake into Spike’s outstretched hand, and he disposed of the one he’d incapacitated with one punch.
He stood up, handed Buffy’s stake back with a, “Nicely done, kettle,” and continued as if there’d been no interruption. “Ah, Slayer. But there are so many reasons it should work…”
He pulled her close and lowered his mouth to hers. “Here’s one…”
By the time Spike got to five, Buffy was caught between laughter and lust, finally pushing him away and trying to catch her breath.
“Okay. Point made. Our bodies don’t care how wrong this is. But—”
“But it keeps us from killing each other while we sort out the rest of it.” He started walking again. “Not saying we aren’t going to have our problems, Buffy. But as long as I’d rather kiss you than kill you… And as long as kissing you keeps you from killing me….”
“You really think we can make this work?” She sighed and moved under the arm he’d thrown around her shoulders, enjoying the way she just fit there. “I hope you’re right.” She slid her own arm around his waist, smiling as he adjusted his long strides to accommodate her shorter legs.
“I can be a very hard worker when I need to be,” he said. “And I know how stubborn you are….” He laughed when she pinched him in the side. “Ah, now, pet. You know what pinching me led to last time.”
She snorted. “I think everything leads there with you.”
“Just doing my share to make things work, love. That’s all I’m doing. It’s not like I actually want to—”
“You’d better be lying….” She started to pull away, but his arm tightened.
“Through my teeth, Slayer.”
“I knew that.”
“I knew you knew it.”
“Are we arguing again?”
“Do you want to be?”
Buffy frowned, then snuggled in closer. “Not right now. I just want my boyfriend to walk me to my dorm and kiss me goodnight…” She glanced up at the sky. “So he can get home before he goes up in flames.”
Spike stopped and gestured towards her building. “See? Ask and you shall receive.” He brushed his lips across hers. “See you tonight, love.”
“Hurry home, Spike,” she said as he walked away. “I don’t want to have to go looking for your ashes.”
He waved a hand as he broke into a jog. His voice drifted back to here. “We’re going to make it work, Buffy. I promise.”
She watched until he was out of sight. “I hope you’re right, Spike,” she whispered into the night before going into the building. “I really hope you’re right.”
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