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Challenge #578 What If I Loved You? Part 1 by slaymesoftly
Chapter Twenty
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 AN - 10/9/5  I hope to have this completely posted by Sunday night, so there will be at least one chapter a day for the next several days. 
While Buffy put the dishes in the dishwasher, and Joyce put the leftovers away, Spike and Dawn took over the dining room table to work on her Latin homework.

Buffy leaned in the doorway of the kitchen and watched them as they joked and bantered their way through the lesson.
She felt Joyce come up behind her and looked back over her shoulder. “He really does like Dawn, doesn’t he? I don’t think it would matter if I was around or not, Spike would still be taking care of you and Dawn.”
“If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather he did it while you are around,”Joyce said as she stroked Buffy’s hair. “But yes, I have a feeling he would. He’s not your average vampire, is he?”
“Not even close,”Buffy agreed. “Not even close.”She knew Spike had heard them by the small smile on his face as he showed Dawn where to find the word she was looking for.
Having agreed to meet Nigel and George at the Magic Box, Buffy and Spike strolled in that direction, shoulders brushing as they ambled through town.
“How long do you think they’re going to stay?”Buffy said, her tone more casual than it usually was when she mentioned Lydia.
He shrugged. “I don’t know. There really isn’t much of my history I haven’t told her; only the things I don’t want her to know.  Could keep telling stories about Angelus and the tart for a bit longer, I guess. And some things about me and Dru back in the day….”He shrugged again. “The more I tell her stories of the evil I’ve done, the more it seems like she wants to hear.”
“I told you. She’s a groupie. Like some star-struck teenager who doesn’t care what kind of a jerk her idol is, as long as she can be around him.”
“I reckon…. hey! Did you just call me a jerk?”
“Jerk, evil bloodsucker, kinda the same thing aren’t they?”
He barely smothered his growl in time to follow her through the door to the Magic Box.  Buffy was still giggling as the entered, but stopped when she saw Lydia had accompanied Nigel and George.  But the pleasant afterglow from their earlier lovemaking was enough to shake her automatic reaction and she just waved to all three watchers.
“What’s up, Giles? Anything special we should know about?”
Looking surprisingly nervous, Giles said, “Actually, yes. Two things. Separate things. In opposite parts of Sunnydale.”
She wrinkled her brow. “Okay, so we’ve got some ground to cover. What’s the big deal?”
She was surprised when Nigel answered for him. “Due to the geographical spread of the areas of concern, as well as our interest in watching you when you are on your own, we were thinking about splitting up.”When she didn’t respond, except to raise her eyebrows at Giles, Nigel continued. “George…and possibly Lydia….”His expression made it pretty obvious what he thought of that idea, but it was clear he’d lost whatever argument preceded their plans.  “They will go with Mr. Bloody, and I will accompany you.  We leave it up to you to decide which of you should handle which situation…although we will be happy to provide—”
“You’ll leave it to me to decide? That’s big of you.”Biting back what she really wanted to say, she turned to Giles. “So, what am I deciding between?”
“There is a new club down by the docks that appears to be one that welcomes both humans and demons. The humans, however, do not always emerge in the same condition they went in.”
“I take you don’t mean they go in sober and come out drunk?”
He shook his head. “No. They come out with no memory of what went on, and with multiple wounds and bruises.”
“And the other one?”She exchanged looks with Spike, but he shook his head that he’d never heard of the place.
“The other seems to be a left-over from Glory’s presence. There is a small group of her minions camping out in the woods at the foot of the hills. They have been attacking hikers and stealing their food.”
Buffy frowned. “That sounds like something I could take care of during the day. Why send me out there tonight?”
“They are now keeping the people they rob, and are selling them to the highest bidder –which they expect to be hungry vampires. The auction is tonight, according to my sources.”
Buffy and Spike exchanged looks again. “I’ll take the club, Slayer. I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on.”
“Okay.”She looked at Nigel. “Can you handle a sword?”  He gave a short nod.
“Well, let’s get our weapons then.”Buffy led the way to the training room and pointed to the swords on the wall.  “Take your pick. You’ll need to cut off their heads to kill the scabby little creatures, but you can slow them down by cutting off body parts.” 
He almost smiled as he chose three swords –one long, and two short. Buffy raised her eyebrows, but he calmly picked out a double scabbard belt and fastened it around his waist, putting one short sword in each holder.  Buffy began putting stakes in various hidden holsters around her body before choosing a sword of her own.
George and Spike stood in the door watching them. “What do we need?”George asked.
“If it’s what I think it is, you won’t be allowed in with a visible weapon.  And I already have mine,”Spike said, flashing his fangs.
“What about me?”They both turned to stare at Lydia. Spike glanced up at George, whose face was a study in frustration and anger.  The big man shrugged, muttering, “She’s the boss.”
Spike rolled his eyes, but asked her, “Do you have a gun?”  When she nodded, he said, “Bring it,”and turned back to Buffy.
“We’re all set, Slayer.”He smiled at her. “Like old times, pet. You’ll be fighting evil somewhere, and I’ll be kicking ass in a demon bar.”
“Or you’ll be getting your ass kicked,”she said, smiling back.
“Or that. But I’ve got George here to back me up.” 
Buffy met George’s steady gaze for a second, then, satisfied with what she saw there, she nodded. She ran her eyes over Lydia, but said nothing except, “Don’t get one of them hurt trying to rescue you.”
Lydia raised her chin and glared. “I am a trained watcher, you know.”
Buffy shrugged. “So is Giles, but he spends a lot of time unconscious.”
Spike’s snicker didn’t go unnoticed by the embarrassed watcher, and his glare promised eventual retribution for both Spike and Buffy.
“All right, then. Let’s go. Meet back here?”
As they approached the bar, Spike touched George on the arm. “Let them have your gun, keep your knife and stake if they don’t search you. And don’t drink what they give you. We’ll switch glasses.”
“How do you know I have a knife?”  Spike just grinned at him and George shook his head, trying to hide his smile.
“You know what’s going on here, don’t you?”Lydia said in her usual hero-worshipping tones.
“Think so. Clubs like this are pretty common in big cities.  George is going to be invited or more likely be pushed to fight one of the demons, and the spectators will bet on it.  Might be a few vamps there too, but they’ll probably be gamblin’not participating.”
They went to the door and entered, only to be met by a slender blue demon that clearly knew who Spike was.
“Spike! Didn’t expect to see you here. You can’t fight, you know. It’s all demon vs human, and you—”
“And I can’t fight the humans and I can’t fight the demons ‘cause I am one. True. But I brought a friend who wants to check out the action. We won’t get in the way.”
The other demon looked George up and down, and up again. “Whoa. There’s gonna be a lot of money on this one.”He smiled at George apologetically. “Sorry, big guy, but you need to hand over your weapons.”
George shrugged and took a gun out a shoulder holster, handing it over without more than a “Want that back.”
“Absolutely. You have Bugsy’s word. I’ll make it my own personal—”
“Quit talking and find us a place to sit,”Spike said, touching Lydia’s elbow to steer her toward and empty booth. “Or better yet, get us something to drink.”
As they sat down and waited for Bugsy to bring them drinks, the murmur of conversation that had quieted when they walked it, started back up with enthusiasm.
“Now what?”
“Now we wait until somebody volunteers to challenge you, and the betting is done. Then you have to fight him –probably there in the middle where there aren’t any tables.”
George frowned. “Seems pretty simple.”
“Could be. Could be you’ll be up against something you’ll wish you had your gun for. Don’t be afraid to use the knife. Demons don’t fight fair either.”
“And what will you be doing?”
“Cheering you on,”Spike said with a grin. “Until either you start to lose, or he cheats. That’s my excuse to join the fight.”
“I don't understand.”Lydia frowned, but scooted closer to Spike. “How is that going to shut the club down?”
Spike shrugged. “Probably won’t. But they’ll know they aren’t flying under the radar anymore and if the owner’s smart, he’ll clear out.”
Spike sipped the doctored drink he’d managed to switch with his Jack Daniels and made a face.
“Nothing. It can’t hurt me, but I can taste the drug they use to make humans forget what they saw or did. Nasty stuff.”  He watched as a muscular demon that could have almost passed for human except for his color and his tail stood up and walked to their booth.  “Show time.”
“I don’t like your looks,”the deomon said to George, who eyed him up and down.
“Not crazy about yours either, Kermit.”The demon’s expression said it wasn’t the first time he’d been compared to a frog. He reached in to grab George by the shirt, only to find his arm held in a tight grip.  “I know you weren’t going to touch me without permission,”George growled as he stood up. He was easily as tall as the demon, and almost as broad.
Afraid the fight would begin right at the table, Spike shielded an excited Lydia with his body.  George, however, was very aware that Lydia was too close for her own safety, and he shoved his opponent away from the booth, following him into the middle of the room.
Spike watched with great interest as George began to demonstrate that not only was he familiar with bar fights, but he was also a skilled boxer.
“Your boy has hidden depths,”he said to Lydia with admiration. He ignored her insistence that George was not her anything, but noticed she was watching with interest as he more than held his own against the steadily angrier demon.
The crowd was shouting now, bets and money flying back and forth as the two large foes did their best to pummel each other into submission.  When a smaller green demon began to work his way around behind George, Spike stood up.
“Time to go to work,”he said, pushing Lydia into the corner. “Stay here and keep that gun handy.”
He waited until the other demon had actually tried to trip George before grabbing it by its tail and throwing it across the bar to shatter the mirror. Immediately, someone with money on the demon, leapt at Spike and the real fight was on. 
As Spike had expected, the few humans in the place ran out as soon as the free-for-all began, as did many of the less violence-prone smaller demons. The vampires also began edging toward the exits, pausing when they saw Lydia sitting by herself. A wooden chair thrown by Spike with great accuracy and his snarled warning was enough to send them on their way. Lydia lowered her cross and went back to watching the fight.
While Spike was holding his own, the numbers were beginning to tell on him and he shouted to George, who was still pounding on his former opponent, “Little help?”
George responded by knocking his opponent unconscious and then moving to pull another off Spike’s back. Between the two of them, they had soon driven off or incapacitated everyone in the place.  Except the extremely angry owner standing behind the bar with a shotgun.
“Take your minions and get the hell out of here, Spike,”he said. “And don’t come back.”
Gesturing for Lydia and George to go to the door, Spike said, “Might have known you’d be behind this. If and when I come back, I’ll have the Slayer with me.”
“She’s not bulletproof,”the man said, as he lowered his shotgun. “Do her a favour and keep her away.”
“Got a better idea,”Spike said as he almost flew across the space between them, his speed unexpected by anyone used to mostly fledglings. He grabbed the man by the throat and began to shake him.  As he found himself holding on to something not even remotely human, Spike breathed a sigh of relief that George and Lydia hadn’t just seen him attack a human being. He began banging what he hoped was the creature’s head on the bar, waiting until the body stopped writhing before he let go. A bleary orange eye stared up at him balefully as he snarled, “Don’t ever threaten to harm the Slayer.”
Confident the badly injured demon wasn’t going to get up soon, he joined a wide-eyed Lydia and George, pausing to retrieve George’s gun from behind the bar.
“Let’s go see how the Slayer and Nigel did.”
As Buffy and Nigel approached the area where the auction was to take place, they could hear the murmur of the crowd, including the high-pitched voices of Glory’s former minions.
“What are these creatures?”Nigel asked.
Buffy shrugged. “We don’t know exactly. Not human, but not really like anything else we’ve seen before. Ugly, annoying, whiney, but in large numbers they can be hard to fight. You really need a sword or something to take their scabby little heads off.”
“Does Mr Bloody use a sword?”
“Spike? He uses whatever he needs. It’s what makes him such a good fighter. He’d rather go fists and fangs, but he’s a pretty decent hand with weapons too.”
“He is not a normal vampire, is he?”
Buffy laughed. “That’s kinda what my mom said earlier tonight while he was helping Dawn with her Latin.”
“It’s quite difficult to fathom William the Bloody, part of the Scourge of Europe, childe of Drusilla the Insane, grandchilde of Angelus….”He shook his head. “Helping a human child with her studies –and Latin, at that.”
“Giles says he thinks Spike had a pretty good education when he was human. Even if he does like to pretend he’s always been such a bad boy.”
“I believe that to be true, although he has apparently been quite cagey about what he shares with Lydia. Sticking mostly to correcting his history with Angelus and company.”
“He’s not going to tell her anything he doesn’t want her to know,”Buffy said as she pulled her sword from its scabbard on her back.  “We’re here. If you find a place to protect your back, I think you’ll be okay with the little uglies.  I’ll take care of their fangy customers.”
They peered through the foliage for a minute, noting where the humans were being held, as well as the location of any weapons.  When a vamp on the edge of the group of bidders raised his head and sniffed, turning in their direction, Buffy muttered a curse. “Damn vamp senses,”she said. “Let’s go.”
Without waiting to see what Nigel was going to do, Buffy burst out of the shrubs and began to remove heads, making no distinction between minions and vampires. Nigel followed her out and went after the minions guarding the prisoners. He quickly removed heads on three of them before being beset by two others who’d suddenly realized they were being attacked. He had no trouble disposing of them before their companions could come to the rescue, and he appeared quite calm and confident as he met their charge.
Seeing that Nigel had the minions under control, Buffy had narrowed her focus to the vampires, talking to them as she slashed her way into the small crowd. “What’s wrong with you? Too lazy to hunt for your food? What kind of vampires are you anyway?” 
It was soon obvious that many of them were the kind of vampires who chose not confront an armed slayer, and they faded back into the woods to try their luck closer to civilization. The others surrounded Buffy, but found that allowed her to spin and whirl and keep them guessing as to which one was going to suffer damage next.
In a short space of time, Buffy was alone in the middle of the clearing, only dust around her. She walked over to the prisoners, keeping one eye on Nigel who was down to a single minion and seemed to be doing fine.  She noted that he hadn’t even had to pull his two smaller swords out of their scabbards. As she slashed through the captives’bonds, she said, “Just hang tight for a minute and we’ll walk you back out.”
One man pointed to their left. “I don’t know how you got here, but there’s a road only a few hundred yards in that direction.”
“Good to know. But just in case those vamps that ran off didn’t go far, you wait for us, ‘k?”
Nigel whacked the head off his remaining opponent and joined Buffy. The expression on his face was the closest to being pleased that Buffy had yet to see. In the light of the torches around the clearing, his eyes almost gleamed. She narrowed her eyes at him.
“I’ve seen that look on Spike. You were having fun, weren’t you?”
He coughed, then shrugged. “A little,”he admitted. “One does sometimes tire of desk work.”
“Wouldn’t know,”Buffy said, suddenly serious. “Slayers don’t get to retire to desk work.”Without waiting for a response, she pointed to the man who’d said he knew where the road was. “You, get us out of here.”
Nigel stared after her as they marched off through the woods, his expression thoughtful.
“Catch up, Nigel,”she called back to him. “Some of those vamps are probably hanging around hoping for leftovers.”
No sooner had she spoken, then two vampires stepped out of the darkness and between him and the rest of the party. Cursing himself for having put his long sword away, he pulled a cross from his pocket and managed to hit one in the face with it.  The other vampire burst into a cloud of dust as Buffy lowered her throwing arm.
“Damn, that was one of my favorite stakes,”she said, stalking toward the now retreating vampire holding his burned face. “That really pisses me off.”As she caught up to the fleeing vampire, she grabbed him by the arm and began to pound on him. “That. Was. My. Favorite. Stake.”She pulled one of her other stakes out and plunged it into his chest. She watched his dust float away with a satisfied smile.
“Let’s go,”she said as if nothing had happened. “Those might not be the only two we have to take care of.”
Nigel took out one of his short swords out and followed her as she jogged to catch up to the people they’d saved.
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