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Challenge #578 What If I Loved You? Part 1 by slaymesoftly
Chapter Seventeen
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As soon as Spike arrived at Buffy’s, he was greeted by an annoyed and somewhat frightened Dawn Summers.
“Why do I have to meet these dorks?  What if they want to take me away or something? Are you going to be there?”
“Calm down, Niblet. Your sis and I are both going to be there. Right beside you. And the Watcher will be there, and Red here –she can turn them into frogs if she thinks they’re planning something sneaky.”
“I’ve been trying to explain to her that it’ll be fine. They just have to see that she’s a normal, annoying teenage brat and—”
“These are the same people who tried to kill you a few years ago!”Dawn said. “You don’t know what they want with me.”
“Well the quickest way to find out what they want is to get there. Giles called and said they’re already there. Seems the morons forgot that Spike couldn’t show up until after dark.”
“Spike runs around in daylight all the time.”
“Another one of those things they don’t really need to know about him.”Buffy almost shoved everyone out the door, waving a goodbye to Tara and thanking her for staying there. 
They all got into Spike’s car and reached for their seatbelts.
“What? You don’t like my driving? It’s only a couple of miles.”
“I’ve ridden with you before,”Willow said. “That’s all I’m saying.”
“Ungrateful bunch of bints you are,”he muttered as he backed out of the driveway.
While Spike conspicuously held the door open for all three girls, the eyes of everyone in room went to the little group now entering the shop.
“Just trying to show how harmless I am,”Spike whispered to Buffy as she passed under his arm with a roll of her eyes.
Willow moved to the table to sit beside Xander, scanning the room for any signs of danger. Spike, Buffy and Dawn remained standing near the door as if ready to bolt at any second.  Buffy’s eyes also went around the room, ending at the small group of Council members clustered in the back. She looked them all up and down, dismissing most of them as harmless researchers and knowing Spike was listening to heartbeats and assessing the chances anyone was tensing up more than was justified by the situation.
They both noted the larger man in the back, who seemed less than comfortable in his tweed suit.
“Bodyguard,”Spike murmured and Buffy nodded.
“Got him.”She met Willow’s eyes and followed her gaze to one of the more innocuous-looking men.  “Magic at 3 o’clock,”she murmured back.  “Oh, and there’s your groupie.”
The Council members frowned at the obvious communication going on between one of the world’s most notorious vampires and the currently only functional Slayer. Spike touched Buffy’s arm lightly to draw her attention to the man just to Lydia’s right. She nodded that she recognized the posture of someone who was poised to fight if necessary. “The big guy’s a decoy,”she said, louder than she had before. “That’s the one we have to watch.”Spike gave a toothy grin when the man flinched, before narrowing his eyes and meeting Spike’s gaze with his own firm stare.
“If you two are done figuring out which ones you might have to fight, can I just go sit with Willow and Xander? We need to get this over with. I have homework to do.”With that, Dawn flounced across the room and plopped into the chair next to Willow, ignoring Buffy’s hissed, “You’re supposed to stay near us!”
Dawn waved her hand dismissively. “They aren’t going to believe I’m harmless if I’m standing beside you two.”She addressed the group of Watchers, all staring in various stages of confusion. “They’re the ones that like to kill things. I’m just a girl who happens to be related to one of them. I’m harmless…well, maybe not harmless harmless, Spike has taught me a couple of things in case my dates get too handsy…”She paused to glare at him. “Not that I’m likely to ever have any dates with him scaring off every boy I meet.”
Bonafide teenage complainer status settled, she sat back in her chair and stared at the bewildered Watchers.  “Okay, let’s get this show on the road. What do you want to know? And FYI? My crushes and grades are none of your business.”
They gaped at her. Temporarily speechless, they turned their attention to Buffy and Spike. Lydia Chalmers stepped forward with a timid smile, holding out her hand to Spike.
“It’s…very nice to meet you, William,”she managed to get out. “I’ve studied you for so long.”She paid no attention to Buffy, standing rigidly to Spike’s right.
Spike stepped forward, ignoring the gasp from her bodyguard, and took her hand, bringing it to his lips as he smiled at her.
“Haven’t exactly been introduced yet, have we, luv? William the Bloody, at your service. The Watcher –Rupert –has told me a bit about your work on me. We’ll have to chat more so I can clear up any discrepancies in your information.”
He dropped her hand and went to lean against the counter, behind which Anya was staring at him. “I knew you weren‘t really a thug,”she whispered. “Where did you learn to talk like that?”
Spike just laughed without answering her. Lydia remained where she’d been, clutching the hand he’d kissed and staring at him as he and Anya talked in whispers.
Buffy was now left still standing near the door, alternating glares between Dawn and Spike. When she realized everyone in the room was waiting for her to say or do something, she blew out a breath she wasn’t even aware she’d been holding and relaxed her shoulders. 
“Fine,”she said as graciously as she could manage as she went to stand behind Dawn’s chair. “What do you want from us?”
Moving into watcher-mode, they all turned to her, taking out recording devices and notebooks.
“When you first encountered Glorificus, what were the circumstances and what happened?”
“She was torturing some old guy dressed like a monk, and she kicked my ass and threw me through a wall.”Buffy’s response was short and terse.
“What else can you tell us about her?”
“She was a skank? And her dress was too tight and too short?”
Spike snorted, meeting Giles’s gaze and exchanging smirks. The Watchers frowned, not sure if they should make note of those observations or not. Their eyes went to Spike.
“What about you? What did you think about her?”
“Nice body, bit too bitchy…even for my taste,”he said, winking at Lydia, who simpered and blushed.  “Watching her turn into a man was definitely a turn-off….”
“You saw her change?” 
“I’m fairly certain that was in my report,”Giles said, his jaw twitching. “The fact that Spike saw it happen, and was able to have a conversation with her host is what led us to work the spell that cancelled all other spells –including the one that was hiding Dawn’s rather unusual appearance in Sunnydale.”
“Why did you go to Mr. Giles with this information?”one of the bodyguards asked.  Buffy visibly tensed, but everyone was watching Spike with varying degrees of curiosity and suspicion.
Spike shrugged. “I’m right fond of the Bit –Dawn –and her mum. Wouldn’t want them to be hurt in any way. So if the Slayer was going to have to fight this shape-shifting bitch, she needed to have all the information.  Didn’t know then that Dawn was the Key Glory was looking for, just knew that if something happened to the Slayer, she and her mum would be shattered by it.”
“Is that why you also saved Miss Summers’life when she was stabbed with her own stake?”The man asking the question managed to put all the scorn he clearly felt for Buffy into that one short sentence. He blinked and shrank back when Spike stood up and snarled at him, but before he could do any damage to his harmless image, he caught Giles’s eye and visibly forced himself to relax.
“I have a lot of respect for this slayer,”he growled, flickering his eyes to Buffy. “Not going to have some common vamp take her down when I never managed it myself. Killin’that vamp was reflex –getting her to her watcher for help…that was more about saving her life. And not putting her mum and sis through a funeral.”
“So…”the man persisted, “…you and Miss Summers, and her family and friends, are now…what? Co-workers against evil? Friends?”
Spike’s glance went to Xander who was giving him a thumbs-up. “We’re friends, I guess. As much as vamps and humans can be. Working with the Slayer gives me a chance to maim and kill –always a plus, when you’re a demon.  And having…friends…is better than not having them, innit?”
“Are you friends because the chip keeps you from killing them?”
Spike shrugged. “Chip got me here. Wouldn’t say it was the most important thing now, but it definitely played a part.”
“And if you lose it somehow?”
Spike looked at Buffy as he responded. “Wouldn’t expect my feelings to change. Was friends with the Slayer’s mum long before the chip, and Buffy and I worked together before –helped save the world from Acathla, as you well know, I’m sure. Chip had naught to do with anything that happened before I got it.  Might be what kept the rest of the world safe, but most of these…”He swept his hand around the room. “They were already pretty safe from me. Even if I did manage to scare them once or twice.”He shifted his gaze to Xander and grinned. Xander responded with the expected rude gesture, and the apparently good-natured exchange had the desired effect on the Watchers.
Everyone relaxed a little and they began to mingle with the Scoobies, the mage seeking out Willow to discuss her obvious power; those worried about Dawn asked Buffy for permission to speak to the Key. “She has a name!”Buffy said, but moved away slightly so they could pull up chairs closer to Dawn. She noticed that the mage was now dividing his attention between Willow and Dawn.  Lydia had gravitated back to Spike, asking somewhat breathlessly when they could arrange to talk.
His gaze flickered to Buffy as he answered. “Don’t have any plans tonight, luv. But I’m thinking you’d be more comfortable with the Slayer present than being…alone…with me.”
Lydia blinked. “Oh,”she said, pointing to the obvious bodyguard and the less imposing-looking, but probably more dangerous one, “I won’t be alone.”
Spike cocked his head and laughed as he looked at her supposed protection. “No, I see that.”
Keeping a wary eye on Spike, the bodyguards moved closer to Buffy.  “Given your initial encounter with Glorificus and its outcome, we would like to evaluate your fighting style to decide if you need more training. Is there somewhere we could go to do that?”
Barely containing her anger, Buffy pointed at the door to the training room.  While she and Giles seethed, Spike watched with great interest as the two men walked to the door and opened it.
“This will do,”the smaller one, who’d introduced himself as Nigel, nodded. “Ms Summers, you don’t mind sparring with George here, do you?”
Buffy stared at George. Although big and obviously fit, he was no bigger than Riley or any of his squad members.  “He’s human,”she said. “What will that show you?”
"We will be able to assess your fighting style and offer suggestions where—”
Buffy shoved them both into the room, paying no attention to the fact that they both stumbled and fell against each other. Temporarily ignoring Lydia, Spike wandered to the door, as had Giles, who was making no attempt to hide his anger.
“Seriously?”she seethed. “Youre going to tell me how to fight?”
In an obvious attempt to catch her off guard, the smaller man swept his leg at hers, blinking in surprise when she didn’t even change her expression or glance at him as she jumped over it. He leapt toward her, a flurry of punches indicating he might well be the more dangerous of the two men, but again, Buffy ducked easily and spinning behind him, kicked him on his ass, knocking him to the ground.
Spike smothered a grin as he entered the room.
“Maybe they should watch us spar, pet? You don’t want to be sending them home with broken bones.”
“Are you sure I don’t?”she muttered even as she nodded in agreement.  “You two go stand over there,”she said to the embarrassed Nigel, pointing to where Giles and Lydia were standing just inside the door. “You can watch me spar with a real vampire.”
“But…he can’t hurt you. How can you—”
“The chip knows the difference,”Spike said smoothly. “It’ll know if I’m seriously trying to hurt or kill her. Who knows? If she makes me mad enough, you might get to see the chip in action too.” 
Buffy began to take off her shoes and Spike toed out of his boots as he dropped his coat to the floor.
“What are you doing?”George frowned at them.
“Don’t really want to hurt each other, do we? This reduces the risk of an accident.”
“Giles taught me to do that,”Buffy said with her most innocent expression. “Don’t you take your boots off when you spar so you don’t really hurt anybody? Isn’t that like Training 101 or something?”
She turned around to hide her laugh, just in time to catch Spike’s eye. “Nicely done, Slayer,”he whispered.
“You too,”she whispered back. “Sometimes you lie and I can’t tell. I wonder if that should bother me…”
“I have hidden depths,”he replied in a normal tone of voice.  “Ready, pet?”
“To quote a friend, ‘I was born ready’,”she said with a grin as she straightened. “Best two out of three?”
“You’re on.”They faced each other for a few seconds, then came together in a flurry of fists, few of which managed to land any serious punches. They broke apart and began to fight in earnest, moving fluidly around the room, first one attacking, then the other. The speed with which they moved and counter-moved had the audience by the door watching with wide eyes.  There was a gasp when Spike threw Buffy to the floor and pounced upon her, fangs bared, followed by another gasp when she smashed her forehead into his face. He snarled as he held his bleeding nose and backhanded her away. Immediately, he was lying on the floor, holding his head and howling.
As Buffy reached for him, Lydia ran past her to hover and pat his shoulder, holding out a large linen handkerchief.  “Oh my, oh my, are you all right?”She turned a glare on Buffy.
“What did you do to him?”
Buffy shrugged. “I made him mad and he hit me.”
“Well don’t you feel bad about this?”Lydia said, stroking the top of Spike’s head as he held her handkerchief to his nose. The large piece of linen successfully hid his grin from everyone but Buffy, who glared at him and kicked his foot as she stood up.
“No. Why would I? His fangs were at my throat, so I did what I had to do to get away. Just like I would have if we were fighting for real.”
“But you hurt him!”
Buffy rolled her eyes and appealed to George and his buddy, who was studying her intently. They nodded and, Nigel, the less-intimidating appearing but obviously more experienced of the two said, “That’s quite enough. We’ve seen what we need to see.”
Leaving Spike to Lydia’s fussing, and vowing to make him pay for it later, Buffy accompanied the men back into the main room of the shop.
Lydia’s bodyguards kept glancing through the open door of the training room, as she remained behind to comfort Spike.  Buffy managed to limit her reaction to the scene to breaking the slats on the chair back she was clutching. Giving Giles an apologetic shrug, she sat down.
“So now what? You’ve met Dawn, you’ve met Spike, you’ve watched me fight –are you going home now?”  She made no attempt to hide her delight in that idea.
“Some of us are.”The mage, who appeared to be somewhat in charge, glanced in Lydia’s direction. “I’d like to run some magical assesments of the—Dawn. Just to see if there is some residual power there. And Miss Chalmers would like to remain for a while and continue her studies of…the vampire.”
Buffy’s expression darkened, but she just said, “Oh. Will she be staying by herself, or with her babysitters?”
“I believe George will be remaining here. We’ll be discussing whether or not Nigel should also.”
Buffy looked at the two men who’d just watched her spar on an equal basis with an old vampire, and appear to almost lose to him before breaking free.  “You think they’ll make better bodyguards than I will?”
“I’m assuming your other duties, including those to your ill mother, will keep you from being present at all times. George is quite skilled at hand-to-hand contact and is always armed.”He gave her a small smile that challenged her to suggest otherwise.
“Fine,”she gritted out. “If he’s going to be there all the time….”
“I will.”The deep voice came as a surprise as no one had yet heard George speak.
Buffy nodded and repeated “fine”as she stood up. “Spike and I need to get Dawn home so we can patrol.”She started toward the training room where Spike and Lydia were deep in conversation.
“If you don’t mind, we’d like to have George and Nigel accompany you as you patrol. They will be sure to remain out of your way.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Just be sure they stay unmunched on while I’m busy with, you know, real demons and unchipped vampires?”She leaned on the door of the training room and called in her sweetest tones, “Oh Spike? Would you mind wrapping this up so we can patrol? Lydia’s friends want to come with us.”
“Of course,”he said with equally exaggerated politeness. “Miss Chalmers? Do you mind? We can continue our fascinating conversation tomorrow.”
She simpered and nodded. “Please, call me Lydia.”Then quickly added, “I’d love to come along tonight. To see you in action, so to speak.”
That necessitated a whispered conversation among the remaining Council members that involved much arm waving and grumbling from George. Buffy watched him for a few seconds, suspicion growing as his gaze followed Lydia’s progress around the room.
“I think your groupie has an admirer,”Buffy said softly as she and Spike watched the arguing.
“Guess I’d better watch my back then,”he replied as he listened to the discussion. “You’d think they’d remember that I have vampire hearing.”He shook his head in disgust.
“Just as well they don’t. We might need to know what they’re planning at some point.  How’s your nose?”she asked, abruptly changing the subject and turning her back on the other room.
“It’s fine, love.”He gave her one of his softer smiles. “It was the right thing to do, even if you did know I wasn’t going to really bite you. Killed two birds with one stone, so to speak. They think I’m still chipped, and they can see that you aren’t easily defeated. Win, win, I’d say.”
“Well, I’m sorry, anyway. Force of habit.”
“Those habits keep you alive,”he said, risking a small squeeze to her hand. “You’ll never hear me complain about them. Anyway, owe you an apology for that slap, don’t I?”
“Nope. You were hurt and you reacted.”The warmth left her eyes. “Just don’t ever do it again. It hurt!”
“I’ll kiss it better when we—ah, ready to go, are we?”He abruptly turned away from her to talk to Lydia and her shadows.
“Yes,”George said tersely. “I will keep Miss Chalmers safe while Nigel observes the action. We can leave immediately. Mr Giles will see that Dawn gets home soon.”
“Guess we’d best go find some action then,”Spike said. “Ready, Slayer?”
“I’m coming,”she said as she finished retying her shoes and stood up. “Let’s go kill something.”
“My kind of woman,”Spike said, not noticing Lydia’s flinch or Nigel’s frown.
“Your kind of woman is pale, cold, and certifiable,”Buffy said, tossing  her head.
All three watchers stared in bewilderment at the exchange that left both slayer and vampire laughing as they went out the door.
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