Buffy looked around the table. “So, that’s the deal. Spike and I will do our regular patrol tonight, then he’ll go away for a while – after we set up his crypt to look like he got dusted by the booby trap. Once Riley sees that we’re all still the same as we were before Spike left, he’ll give up this stupid idea of his and leave us alone.”
“Maybe I should remind him about.... you know.... Drac. Tell him I’ve been thralled and I know what it feels like.” Xander sneered at Spike. “And trust me, this isn’t it.”
“You wish I’d made you my buttboy, Harris,” Spike said with a leer. “Just be grateful I’m not like that poncey gypsy.” Ignoring the normal by-play between them, Giles took over the discussion.
“It won’t work.” He shook his head. “In the first place, I don’t believe Buffy to be that good an actress.” When she bristled, he said, “I’m not insulting you, Buffy. I’m merely suggesting that you are not capable of maintaining that level of dishonesty for a lengthy period of time.” Ignoring her muttered “I fooled my mother for almost two years”, he continued. “And don’t think it wouldn’t have to be a lengthy period of time. If Spike merely disappears for a few days, and then returns, Riley will know you were trying to fool him. He’ll just consider it another demonstration of how much control Spike has over everyone.”
“You’re smushing my excitement, Giles,” Buffy sighed.
While Buffy and the Scoobies got into of a discussion over how to make the idea work, Spike slid over closer to Giles.
“I can make it look real, Watcher,” he said quietly. “If the Slayer doesn’t have to do any actin’, and I stay gone long enough—”
Giles shook his head before Spike could finish. “As loath as I am to admit this, thinking you actually were dust might well have a sufficiently detrimental effect on Buffy as to cause her to lose her focus and perhaps suffer a serious injury during the course of her duties. Or, perhaps worse, cause her to do serious harm to Riley in a grief-fueled fit of temper. I do not want her to endure living with the guilt of having killed a human.”
Spike shrugged. “I’d like to think that’s the truth, Watcher, but we both know she survived running a sword through the love of her life. Doubt I’d be worth much more than a few unhappy nights and maybe a GI Joe arse-kicking.”
Giles studied him briefly before responding. “Buffy ran away from her home, her duties, and Sunnydale for several months after she “killed” Angel – or thought she had. As much as I’d like to think you’re correct about how easily she would recover from losing you, I’m not at all sure that’s the case. Particularly if she feels she was in any way responsible for it.”
“You could tell her...after the hayseed has had enough time to believe I’m gone. Could tell everybody, if you thought it necessary. Or at least Joyce and Dawn. Doubt anyone else would be overly concerned about my demise.”
Giles shook his head and walked toward the table where Buffy was glaring at her friends. “Please do not think about doing that to her,” he said as he walked away, leaving Spike staring after him in bemusement.
“Well, does anybody else have any ideas? Obviously Riley is going to keep trying to kill Spike, and obviously he doesn’t stop to think about killing one of us by accident. I can’t watch Spike 24/7 to make sure Riley isn’t killing him.”
“What’s he got against you, fangface?” Xander asked with seemingly genuine curiosity. While Anya rolled her eyes, Willow and Tara giggled quietly, Buffy turned beet red, and Spike shrugged. “No, I’m serious. I mean other than you’re evil and a bloodsucker and... yeah, okay. Reasons. But you’ve been you forever, how come he’s just lately decided the world would be a better place without you in it?” He glanced around the table just time to see Spike and Buffy exchange questioning looks with Giles.
“What? What don’t I know?” When Anya rolled her eyes again and walked away, he groaned. “Except for that thing I don’t really want to know. If that’s what it is, just kill me now. Let me die ignorant and happy.”
Embarrassed giggles from Buffy and a disgusted snort from Spike made it clear that everyone knew exactly what he meant. Anya’s “See!” only added to his dismay. “How did I not know this?”
“You didn’t want to,” Anya said. “I’ve been trying to tell you and you wouldn’t listen. I should have made you bet with me. I could use some nice jewelry.”
“Fine, fine. You were right. Happy now?”
“I’d be happier with an apology and a nice bracelet,” Anya said, nodding her head.
Spike’s smothered laugh sent Xander glaring in his direction. “This is all your fault!”
“It’s nobody’s ‘fault’, Xan,” Buffy said quietly. “We don’t even know if there is an ‘it’ yet. But Riley thinks there is, and that’s what we have to worry about now.”
Xander subsided, muttering to himself about vampires that don’t know their place.
“So, then what is Plan B?” Willow asked. “If we don’t think we can all pretend that Spike’s dust long enough to make Riley give up the minion idea?”
“We don’t actually have a Plan B yet,” Buffy said, frowning in thought. “I’ll just have to keep Spike close by—” a snort from Anya and another groan from Xander interrupted her musing. “What? I just meant—”
Spike touched her lightly on the shoulder. “Got a better idea, pet. Not as much fun as sticking to you like glue, but probably more useful for getting the big oaf off your back.” When Buffy looked up at him, eyebrows raised, he smiled at her, but the expression in his eyes was sad.
“I’m just going to leave Sunnyhell. For a goodly period of time. Won’t try to make it look like I dusted – might even take some stuff from the crypt with me – or hide it downstairs. No one has to be pretendin’ anything, and no one has to lie to anybody. I’ll just be gone. Let him think he scared me off.” Spike’s expression showed just how distasteful he found that idea.
He looked at the curious humans staring back at him with various expressions of dismay, indifference or delight. “The Slayer will know where I am and she can call me back if or when she needs the extra muscle.”
Buffy leaped to her feet and took his hand, dragging him into the training room and slamming the door behind them.
“Why are you doing this?”
He put his hand out and cupped her chin, wincing when she batted it away.
“Don’t touch me! Answer my question. Why?”
Letting his irritation show, he growled back at her. “Because, you stubborn bint, it’s the easiest way to fix things. It’s me he wants to kill. If I’m not here, he’s got no reason to be spying on people and setting traps that could get somebody else killed.”
“But you won’t be here,” she said, a pout replacing her anger. “I want you to be here.”
“Ah, Buffy, love, and I want to be here.” He stepped closer and pressed his forehead against hers. “You can’t even guess how much I want to be here... with you. But it’s for the best. I won’t go far, and I’ll call you as soon as I have a way for you to reach me. Don’t want you taking on anything too big without help.”
“I have help,” she muttered, “and I take on something big every spring... and I kick its butt. That’s not what I’m mad about.”
“And I don’t even want you to know how good that makes me feel, sweetheart. I’ll be back. I promise. When you need me or when you think it’s safe... for everyone. And I’ll call you every night.”
“You’re really going to go?” she asked in a much smaller voice as she moved even closer to him
He groaned and put his arms around her pliant body, groaning again as she melted in to him. “Not going to make this easy, are you, pet?” He nuzzled the side of her face, taking deep breaths as he pulled her even closer.
“Are you sniffing me?” Buffy asked, her voice muffled by his chest.
“Just sucking you in while I can,” he said with a smile in his voice. “I’m gonna miss the hell out of you, Slayer.”
Buffy pulled back and raised her head. “I’m going to miss you too.” She frowned at him. “I think that should bother me more than it does. Maybe Riley’s right about that thrall thing....”
He chuckled and brushed his lips across hers. “Trust me, Buffy, if I had something like that to use on you, you’d have kicked that hayseed out of bed a long time ago.” He smothered her giggle with a real kiss that deepened as she stopped laughing and kissed him back.
They clung together, the kiss saying what neither one wanted to put into words, until there was a knock on the door. Breaking apart with great reluctance, they gave matching sighs and turned toward the exit. Spike stopped Buffy with a touch on her arm.
“Think it’s best if I just go now, love. I’ll swing by the crypt and get what I need to take with me – set it up to look like I left in a hurry. If you’ll just check on it from time to time for me – keep the riff-raff out... Just watch out for the trap.” He frowned. “In fact, there’s no need to go in if the doors are closed. I think I’ll leave it up so he’ll know I didn’t dust. Just in case he tries to check on it. Don’t want him to have that much satisfaction.” He growled deep in his chest. “If you need to know how much I love you, all you need to do is think about how much I hate lettin’ that wanker think he scared me away.”
Buffy squared her shoulders and smothered the protest she knew she shouldn’t make. She left his “I love you” to mull over later.
“Okay. But be careful until you get out of Sunnydale. You know Riley will be watching for you.”
“Always, love. Got too much to live for... now.” With a last caress of her hair, he walked to the little-used back door and let himself out into the alley. “See you, Slayer.”
“See you, Spike,” she echoed before turning to rejoin her friends.
Giles raised his eyebrows when Buffy came back into the room without Spike.
“He’s gone,” she said shortly, ignoring the sympathy on the faces of the women in the room. “So, sorry for calling the meeting, guys. Guess we don’t need a plan now. We’ll just let Riley think he scared Spike off. Just watch out for him – Riley – I mean. Who knows how weird he’s going to be even when he knows Spike’s gone?”
“Do you think he’d hurt one of us? On purpose, I mean.” Tara’s eyes were wide as she voiced what they were all thinking.
“We don’t know that he won’t. He wanted to... to drag me off to a psychiatrist to be de-programmed or something. He might try something like that with somebody who can’t fight back as easily.”
“We’ll turn him into a toad!” Willow said.
“Can you do that?” Xander’s curiosity was echoed by the less happy expression on Giles’s face as they waited for her answer.
“Well...” Willow glanced at Tara who was frowning. “We don’t know that we can’t.”
“I suggest you all endeavor to avoid those situations where transformations might be the only option,” Giles said with a grimace. “With a bit of luck, if Spike is no longer here to aggravate Agent Finn, he will calm down and realize how foolish he is being. If he thinks he scared Spike off, all the better.”
“Uh, G-man?” Giles glared at the hated nickname, but nodded to Xander. “If Spike’s not here, do you think you could try talking in American? You know, less with the big words and more with the casual stuff?”
“I understood him,” Willow said.
“Of course you understood him, Wills. But you’re all genius-y and smart. Some of us need translations.”
“Are you saying Spike is a genius?” Buffy asked, her lips twitching in a small smile.
“What? No! No, I’m just saying he and Giles have all these conversations that make no sense because they’re speaking British.”
Buffy shrugged. “I usually understand Giles... and Spike. Unless he’s swearing in British, then I miss a lot of words, but I’m guessing that’s probably a good thing.” She smiled again at Giles’s “excellent guess” and walked to the door. “So, I’m going to do a patrol, anybody want to come with?”
There was silence until Xander sighed and raised his hand. “Anya’s going to work late tonight. I can come with you and pick her up when we’re finished.”
“Great! Let’s go.”
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