full 3/4 1/2   skin light dark       
Completely forgot to post this in non-LJ places, sorry! It's a month off, so new spoilers are discounted completely.


Her eyes say too much and not enough all at once, the terror in them even greater than the terror in his own, and for a moment he can feel the demon being tugged away, his soul growing stronger and something that could almost be humanity rising to find it. It’s been a long time since he’s felt this helpless, this unable to battle impending death, and he can only stare blankly at her face, her drained, sorrowful expression, as he fades away.

Later, he remembers the way she’d left him, the soft brush of her palm along the side of his face, the gentle hands guiding him to his feet before she collapses herself. He remembers staring blankly at her while Dowling gave him a friendly clap on the back and bent down to help Buffy out of the building. He remembers Koh lurking just behind him, remembers watching Buffy thank Dowling and leave with Willow. 

But mostly, he remembers her eyes, those fathomless depths filled with nothing but fear for him, even as the strength that makes her her is seeping away. 

He decides that it’s part of her unhealthy fascination with normalcy (the one she craves still, not the one she deserves from him- and yes, he’s aware of the bloody double standard and he doesn’t give a damn) that had made her ignore her own plight and then he’s angry at her for giving up, for willingly throwing her slayerhood away.

When he tells her so, she stares at him, her eyes hard and angry. “That’s why you think that I was…god, Spike, you’re such an idiot.” 

She storms off and he has to chase her down later to introduce her to Koh, who’s grave and formal and Buffy’s utterly charmed by it. “So…you’re going to work with me and Spike?” she asks, smiling that bright smile that she used to direct to Clem at the demon. He’s wondered at that in the past, at the easy way she trusts some demons with no guarantee of their harmlessness but his word.

“I am forever in your debt,” he says solemnly. His eyes shift to where Spike stands behind them both, fag in mouth and posture relaxed. “And if you extend that to your vampire…”

“I do,” she assures Koh, and she moves to meet Spike’s gaze, the anger from earlier all but faded. “Extend it to my vampire, I mean.” She flushes a little and looks away, and a thrill runs through him at her easy claim of him. “You don’t eat people, do you?”

“I pursue other demons,” Koh says, and then they’re walking together, Koh and Buffy, and Spike trails behind them by habit, rather than necessity. He can hear Buffy discussing Severin and what threat he might pose to them still, Koh’s quick response (“Then he must be destroyed.”) Buffy’s heavy sigh (“It’s not that simple.”). He doesn’t join in, though, still feeling oddly removed from the present.

”God, Spike, you’re such an idiot.”

He wonders if she’d come to him if he’d pursue her, if she loves him enough as a friend for it to be as heady as he’d always imagined they’d be. It’s becoming more and more of a struggle to remind himself that there’s nothing there. If she wanted something more, she would have said something-

“-Before we run out of time?” Buffy’s saying, and he realizes that she’s turned around and is addressing him expectantly. “Who knows what he’s planning now? And I have Dowling’s number, so I think he’s expecting me to call him.”

“You should call him,” Spike tells her immediately, and something in him twists at the way she pulls out her phone without argument. “Work this out. Can’t let some wanker trawling around leaving dead bodies in his wake.” He remembers Buffy grinning up at Dowling, the easy camaraderie there, and repeats his self-made vow.

Normal. Dowling seems decent, if a bit dull (if you ask him) (which she hasn’t). A trained fighter, battling evil as readily as Buffy does. A dead ringer for Angel, so someone Buffy would find attractive. And normal. Exactly what Buffy deserves, and he’s already planning how he’ll stay out of their way and leave Koh to back Buffy up for a while when unquestioning green eyes turn to him and she asks, “You’re coming with me, right?”

Damn it all. “Yeah.”

It’s Koh who moves to walk beside him, somber and knowing.


Somehow, answering questions with Dowling has translated to finding an outdoor table at a Starbucks with him. There are four chairs at the table, but Koh instead lurks in the shadows behind it and Spike joins him readily. 

It’d be easier to stay out of the way of what he’s expecting (dreading?) might be the start of a new relationship if Dowling didn’t keep motioning to him to ask questions. “So…you’re some kind of vampire vampire slayer?”

“Just vampire,” he corrects. “No fancy title for it. I help Buffy.”

“But she’s a slayer.” Dowling shakes his head. “One of the bad guys.”

“Hey!” Buffy protests. “Look, I don’t know what you’ve been watching lately- and really, you’re taking Harmony’s words over mine?- but slayers are very much not the bad guys of this story.”

“Yeah, because Harmony’s so evil,” Dowling says skeptically.

“She tried to kill my best friend! She kidnapped my sister once! She dated Spike!” 

“Oi! What’s that got to do with it?” But they both ignore him.

“You’re a slayer. Doesn’t that make you natural enemies? Weren’t you trying to stake her?”

Buffy’s eyes narrow. “Okay, first of all, you have no idea what a slayer does.”

“I know you were once wanted by the police for killing some girl. Not a vampire, a normal human- and that was when you were just a kid. You burned down your school gym- and, if these records are at all accurate, headed a gang that set off a bomb at your graduation? You’ve got a rap sheet longer than most people we have locked up.” Dowling’s eyes are wary. “And every charge, mysteriously dropped. So this time you were a target, but don’t tell me that slayers are some force for good.”

Buffy looks puzzled, so Spike interjects, “Actually, that was my sire who killed the girl. Vampire.”

“Kendra,” Buffy breathes, and her hand darts out to loosely rest around Spike’s wrist. “Look, I’ve been fighting vampires since I was fifteen. I know what they’re capable of. All you know is that some ditzy vampire celebrity happens to seem harmless because she’s got a nice dye job.”

“I’ve seen better,” Dowling comments, his eyes wandering to Buffy’s sheen of golden hair just as Spike does the same. Their gazes meet, and Spike looks away. 

“Hey!” But Dowling’s smiling a little, and Buffy tosses him a playful smirk, and the tension is fading away.

Buffy’s serious now. “Vampires kill people. They suck their blood, they leave them to die, and sometimes, they turn them into new killing machines. There’s nothing good there, regardless of how Harmony might seem.”

Dowling raises an eyebrow. “And Spike?”

Her grip tightens on his wrist. “Spike’s…different.”

“That’s a lot to take on good faith,” Dowling says finally, standing. “But I’m inclined to believe you.”

Buffy grins winningly. “Because of my charming personality?”

Dowling’s face gentles. “Because I saw some guy nearly kill you with something that looked a lot like magic. And because I think I can trust you.” There’s a long look between the two of them, and Spike tenses, his hand stiff where Buffy’s still encircles it. 

It’s Koh who saves him from doing something stupid, speaking for the first time since they sat down. “What will become of the Siphon?”

“The power-sucking wanker,” Spike clarifies, and a dull shiver runs through him at the memory of a hand pressed to his forehead, pulling his demon’s power from him even as his soul takes full reign over his body.

“Severin?” And Dowling is shaking his head now. “That’s why I wanted to talk to you outside of the precinct. He’s gone.”

“Gone as in dead?” Spike demands.

“Gone as in missing. He was hauled into an ambulance, brought to the hospital under guard, and disappeared in the middle of the night. The cops on duty were called away by someone at the precinct, someone we haven’t been able to find yet, and now…” He shrugs helplessly. “He’s on the loose.”

Spike smells blood, and only after a moment of searching does he realize that Buffy’s chewing her lip open. “Spike…” 

“We won’t let him close this time,” Spike murmurs. 

“Right.” The worry from his counterpart is nearly palpable.

“If you see him- if there’s any sign at all- call me, all right?” Dowling looks worried. “We have people on patrol 24-7, but I don’t know how equipped they are to deal with someone like him. And you two are his only known targets.”

“I’ll call you,” Buffy agrees, letting Spike’s hand go as she rises. “Really!” she protests at his doubtful look, and Spike can’t help but smirk.

“He’s got your number, all right.”

She tosses a mock glare at both of them and turns on her heel in an exaggerated huff. “C’mon, Koh, we don’t need these two.”

“You’ll call me?” Dowling repeats, and this time it’s directed at Spike.

He watches Buffy as she walks off, not one glance back at him, confident that he’ll follow. “Yeah.”


They plan to meet at Buffy’s place at sundown the next day, after her shift at work is over. Her roommates are less than happy about what she does in her free time, and she’s decided that Spike and Koh are going to win them over instead. So Spike makes small talk with Tumble and Anaheed circles Koh dubiously, and they wait for Buffy to come home.

He’s tense when she’s ten minutes late. He’s worried when another five pass. He’s texting Willow and Dawn frantically when it’s been twenty minutes and she hasn’t shown up, and he calls Dowling and leaves to her workplace after thirty.

His heart hammering in his rib cage, he picks the lock and slips inside the shop, Dowling right behind him. “You think she’s still in here?” the other man asks.

“I think that Buffy could be anywhere by now,” he mutters. “She’s been known to go off on her own before. But this is as good a start as-“ He stops short, catching her scent, strong as always and somewhere behind the counter. “Buffy?” he calls.

“Spike.” Dowling jumps the counter in a single movement, his sharp intake of breath enough for the vampire to follow.

Buffy’s unconscious, dumped on the floor under the coffee grounds and curled in a ball on the floor. He slaps her instinctively, jerking her back to wakefulness even as her skin bruises lightly.

Her eyes flutter open, and he knows.


She’s shivering. He isn’t sure if it’s a side effect of her newfound normalcy or not, but she’s freezing cold to the touch and even when he wraps his coat around her, she’s still shaking. 

They escort her back home before anyone speaks, Dowling on one side, Spike on the other, all tense and uncertain. There’s nothing to say, really, not beyond asking where Severin is now, and Buffy tells Dowling that as soon as they reach her apartment building. “He came…there was a girl with him. Dressed in uniform. She’s your leak. Her name’s Simone, and she’s a slayer.” She swallows hoarsely. “Um…she has a gun. I don’t remember anything else before I was knocked out.”

“We’ll find him.” Dowling squeezes Buffy’s hand in reassurance, and Spike can’t even bring himself to wince over that.

The detective gets back into his car, and Spike can hear with enhanced hearing as he radios the precinct about tracking Simone. “He’s going to-“ he starts, but Buffy quiets him with a hand on his arm.

“Can we not talk?” she whispers. “Can we just sit?”

“Yeah.” He takes a seat on the grimy stairs, expecting Buffy to sit beside him, arms wrapped around herself in unspoken loneliness. Instead, she scoots over next to him, laying her head on his shoulder, her eyes staring out into the busy street in front of them.

He doesn’t say anything, and it’s only half because she asked him to and half because he has no way of making it better. And they sit in silence, his arm tight around her waist, her cheek pressed to his side, trapped by pervasive thoughts of impending doom.

“You think I wanted this,” Buffy murmurs at last. “That I wanted to be normal.”

“I didn’t-“

She cuts him off. “I think I might’ve, just a little. I’ve been getting closer and closer to normal all this time- a decent job that isn’t over the Hellmouth, roommates who aren’t demons…I thought about it, about quitting slaying and living a normal life.”

He half-smiles. “But you’d probably miss me.” He echoes her words from just a few days before, words that had sent a dancing warmth through him and forced him to remind himself that Buffy deserves better.

She toys with his fingers. “Yeah. And I thought…I don’t know, you were the only thing keeping me slaying. You and stupid guilt and the knowledge that Gi- that Giles would-“ She takes in a shaky breath. “-that Giles would want me to keep fighting. Dammit, he’d know what to do here!” And she’s crying now, muffling her sobs in his shirt, so tight against him that she’s practically in his lap, and he presses his lips to her hair and murmurs comforting words into it as she shakes.

She cries until her eyes are dried out, until his shirt is damp, until Koh comes downstairs and waits patiently for them both, until Willow has texted him to find out if he’s found Buffy, until he’s been holding her for so long that he’s memorized the feel of her against him all over again. She cries until she can’t cry anymore, and then she’s silent for just long enough that he lets a worried “Pet?” escape from his lips.

She sits up, splotchy face grim with determination. “I was stupid. We’re finding Severin and a way to get my powers back.”

He chooses his words carefully. “If you wanted to try, pet…before you make any decisions…no one would begrudge you retirement.”

She shakes her head, steely certainty in her eyes. “I’m not giving up on my powers. I won’t live in a world where people get hurt and I can’t do anything to protect them. I can’t.” She smiles then, teasing even through the darkness in her eyes. “Besides, didn’t you tell me I’d be no fun if I were normal?”

“I never said that!” he says stubbornly, motioning to Koh to join them. “Now, how are we going to find the Siphon wanker?”


It’s strange, hunting for the scent of slayer and finding it so distant, even while Buffy walks alongside him. He’s wondered in the past how much of what he feels is Buffy and how much of it is Slayer, and it’s gratifying to know that it’s only the tingle at the back of his neck and the scent of her blood that’s lacking now. He’s still on edge around her in the best of ways, impossibly attracted, always aware that she’s present.

Buffy’s exhausted. He can smell the sweat on her from all the walking they’re doing, can see the weariness in her every step. But she’s adamant in her mission. “We’re going to find Severin tonight if Koh has to carry me to him.”

“If you so desire,” Koh says agreeably.

Spike shakes his head. “I don’t know if that’s possible. I once followed your scent across town,” he remembers, “But you were nearly the only one left in town. This isn’t a walk in the park, finding your slayer.”

“It had to be nearby,” Buffy says. “The cops are searching Severin’s apartment, I’m sure, but Simone…I’d bet money that she’s local. She’d want to be as close to me as possible. Slayers- even slayers with guns- like to do our slaying by foot.”

Spike considers. “There’s a motel on the next block.” He doesn’t explain how he knows that, how he once (maybe, just possibly) went inside and inquired about a room there so he’d be closer to her work when the sun set. And the fact that he might actually have taken the room in a new level of pathetic slayer-stalking? She doesn’t need to know that.

She rolls her eyes. “Yes, I know, you live there. What, do you think I’m that dumb?” she smirks at the look on his face. “I know where to find you, just like you know where to find me. I can’t believe you didn’t realize that there was a slayer living there.”

“Right then, so she doesn’t…” His voice trails off at the flashing lights of multiple police cars, visible even from down the block. “Oh.”

“Yeah.” Buffy blinks. “Wanna go find the bastard?”

Koh frowns. “But Dowling may already be apprehending him.“

“Yeah, well, who’s to say that this is still Dowling’s case?” Spike points out. 

“And how do we know that we’ll get close enough to get my powers back?” Buffy frowns thoughtfully at the building. “How do I get my powers back?”

“Is this just occurring to you now? Of course it is,” Spike answers himself. “You know, Slayer, it wouldn’t kill you to think things through for a change.”

“Love you, too,” she says dryly, spinning around to consider the building before charging toward it with all her remaining strength. He’s momentarily stunned, frozen in place by her flippant remark, a rush of adrenaline shooting through him that has nothing to do with their mission and everything to do with her.

She’s stopped immediately by the closest cop, and it’s almost jaw-droppingly impressive how quickly she downs him with one high kick, clumsily performed but still effective. But this is still Buffy, right? Deadly and dangerous and trained to be both of those things, slayer abilities or not.

The next police officer pulls a gun, and Spike sees the calculation in Buffy’s eyes and hurries to join her. “We’re just looking for Detective Dowling,” he says hastily, before Buffy can try to outfight a gun. “He knows who we are.”

“Does he now?” the cop retorts, unfriendly, and she’s radioing him over before Koh can even catch up to them.

Dowling emerges from the building a few minutes later, shaking his head at the trio. “Do you have no faith in me?”

“Not really, no,” Spike says agreeably, ducking away before Buffy can elbow him. She gets him anyway, and it hurts even without super strength behind it.

“We got Severin and Officer Martin- who you say is actually named Simone?”

“Yeah.” Buffy chews on her lip for a moment. “Andrew Wells…um, a friend of mine…he can help you ID her better.”

“We’ll call him in.” Dowling’s eyes are friendly, and Spike watches resignedly the way that Buffy surreptitiously eyes him as he turns to leave. “Oh, and Buffy?” He calls out, without turning. “If you need to arrange visitation with him while we’re holding him to, uh, work things out, I can help you with that.”

“Thanks.” She sighs. “Maybe I’ll go talk to Willow about it, see if she has any ideas. Is that insensitive?”

“She’s your best friend,” Spike says frankly. “If she won’t help you regardless, she isn’t much of a friend, is she?”

“I wouldn’t blame her for it.” Buffy looks troubled for a moment. “She’s stuck with normal. And I’m already ready to give it up, after wanting it for so long.”

Koh rises behind them, swathed in a dark disguise. “You have too much to offer to the world to let it be stolen from you, Slayer. To surrender it yourself is your choice. Not the Siphon’s.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Buffy agrees, something hardening in her eyes. “Or anyone else’s, for that matter.” 

She turns to glare at Spike, and all he can let out is a startled “Eh?”

Her gaze doesn’t waver. “Have we established that I’m over the normal thing yet?”

He glances suspiciously at Koh. “What did you say to her?”

Koh gives him an odd mouth-quirk that looks suspiciously like a smirk. Buffy raises her eyebrows at him. “I’ve been waiting for a really, really long time for you to make a move. Some tiny sign that you’d still want to…”

She turns away, just slowly enough that he can see the smile in her eyes. “You should really figure out what you want soon, or I might just lose patience and move on. Hey, Detective Dowling!” The last of that is delivered in a loud voice, enough so that Dowling looks up. 

She heads off in his direction without a second glance, and Spike growls irritably and races to stop her.