Both groups arrived at the Magic Box at the same time. Giles watched in bemusement as Buffy and Spike tried to check each other for injury without actually seeming to be doing so, while George and Nigel waited to discuss the night’s activities until Lydia had wound down and stopped raving about how Spike had taken on an entire room full of vamps and demons. When Buffy snorted at her hero-worshipping, Lydia whirled on her, sneering.
“He did clean out the whole bar. George helped a little bit, but you have no idea how powerful he is, or how grateful you should be that he helps you all the time.”
While Nigel rolled his eyes, Spike gave Lydia a much less kind and flirtatious response than any he’d given her to this point.
“Buffy could have cleaned out that whole place by herself,”he said curtly, using her name, rather than “the slayer”for the first time in front of Lydia. “Seen her do it.”
While Buffy gave him a smile of thanks, Lydia flinched as if he’d hit her. “But you help her,”she said weakly. “That’s why she’s lived so long, isn’t it? Because she had Angelus and now you?”
Spike turned a furious glare on Giles. “What kind of bollocks have you been feeding these people?”
Surprisingly, it was Nigel who stepped forward and tentatively touched Spike’s rigid arm.
“We all know better,”he said in a low voice. “As I’m sure you have figured out, Ms Chalmers’ideas are heavily influenced by her interest in you. Trust me, there is no one on the Council who is unaware of Ms Summer’s abilities and history. And after tonight, I will have my own observations to add.”
Spike relaxed and gave him a short nod. “Sorry,”he said. “I’m a bit touchy about how the Council has treated her.”
“Understood.”Nigel gave a tight smile. “You appear to be each other’s primary supporters. An interesting relationship for a vampire and a slayer.”
“Not like everybody else, are we?”Spike said, trying to end the conversation before it became necessary to outright lie about Buffy and his feelings for her.
“No. No you are not. And neither is Ms Summers.”
Before the conversation could go any more downhill, Giles stepped in. “If someone who was actually a participant in the night’s adventures would be so kind as to give me a report…”
Buffy gave him a thankful smile and spoke up: “Sorry, Giles. Ours is easy –we came, we saw, we kicked butt and walked the survivors back to civilization. Nigel got…”She cocked an eyebrow at him and he held up five fingers, twice. “He got ten of the little scabby guys, I got a few of them and a bunch of stupid vampires.”
“Well, yeah. The smart ones took off when they saw me. It’s enough to give a girl a complex.” Her grin showed exactly how not bothered she was by the fact the vampires were afraid of her.
“Right. Of course they did.”He almost rolled his eyes at her posturing, but seeing her happy and making jokes after the drama of the past several weeks was too rewarding. He turned his attention to Nigel. “I don’t suppose you have anything more specific than ‘a bunch of vampires’?”
Nigel gave a small smile. “I do, actually, but it can wait.”He gazed at Giles for a few seconds. “May I ask why, given your retired status, you continue to keep records on Ms Summers?”
“Retired. What an amusing way to put it,”Giles said with a grimace. “The habits of a lifetime, I suppose. I observe and record. The fact that I have no official status, and that Buffy is not even technically the current slayer—”
Surprised exclamations from all three watchers had Giles and Buffy exchanging silent messages. When Giles raised his eyebrows in question, she thought for a second, then shrugged. “Why not? It’s not like it’s any kind of secret from their bosses.”
Giles met Nigel’s frown with a small smile. “I suggest we meet tomorrow morning to go over a few things you apparently don’t know about Buffy and Sunnydale.”
That settled for the time being, he turned to Spike. “Based on your appearance, it would appear that you wreaked some havoc upon the establishment in question?”
Spike looked down at his ripped and bloody clothing and grinned. “It was a bit of alright,”he said. “Don’t expect they’ll be opening again anytime soon, right, George?”
The big man tried to hide his grin as he nodded his head. “It was a very successful mission,”he managed to say seriously before the grin widened. “We make a good team.”
“One of the better bar fights I’ve been in recently,”Spike agreed. “You don’t hog all the action like the Slayer does.”
“’s true, pet. You know it is. Does the word ‘mine!’ring a bell?”
“Yes, it does, Pot.”
That settled, they started to sit down together before remembering who else was in the room. With a sigh, Spike went to the back of the room to lean against the shelves of books. Lydia immediately walked back to join him while Nigel and George sat down at the table with Buffy and Giles.
“If this was a Scooby meeting, we’d be ordering pizza about now,”Buffy said.
“Yeah, you know, Scooby Doo, big dog, blond girl, smart redhead, goofy regular guy…Never mind. You had to be there. I just meant if my friends were all here, we’d be eating by now.”
“Oh. Well…I could eat.”George glanced at Nigel who shook his head.
“We should get back to the hotel and do our own write ups of tonight’s events. I’m hoping Ms Chalmers –Lydia – can wrap up her interviews with Spike tomorrow and we can return to our normal activities soon.”
Buffy looked back to where Spike had gone back to flirting with Lydia, apparently trying to make up for snapping at her about Buffy. She rolled her eyes, but managed not to say what she was thinking about Lydia’s IQ.
“I should get home,”she said. “My mother is still recovering and I don’t like to be gone all day and all night.”
“Of course you should,”Nigel said. “And we should return to our hotel.” He glanced at Giles who was smothering a yawn. “Do you always wait up here for your—Ms Summers to return from her evening patrols?”
Giles shook his head. “No, she normally only reports in when something unusual has happened. And she comes to my home, not here. But tonight was a bit different with having two missions to accomplish and two different sets of…accomplishers.”
“So the vampire doesn’t usually report to you?”
“Spike doesn’t report to anyone,”Giles snorted. “But he does often accompany Buffy on patrol, and comes with her if she feels it necessary or if he has any insights to offer. Any visits to my home on his own generally involve helping himself to my scotch, not providing information.” Spike sent a rude British gesture at Giles without even pausing in his flirting with Lydia.
“And yet, he came to you with information about Glorificus and her host.”
“He did. It was important information to have and very useful to us.”
“One has to wonder why he has been so helpful….”
“I believe he answered that for you the first night you were here,”Giles said curtly. “If you want more detail, why not ask him again?”
Buffy made a fist on the table. “Is there something you’re trying to say, Nigel?”
Nigel met her glare and shook his head. “No. Not at all. I’m just trying to be clear on why this vampire—harmless to humans and fond of her family or not—is risking his own life to help a slayer.”
Buffy looked at Spike who shook his head and said something to Lydia, then pushed away from the shelves and joined them at the table, taking the vacant chair next to Buffy. Visibly pouting, Lydia sat herself onto the only remaining empty chair and crossed her arms over her chest.
Spike met Nigel’s curious gaze and said simply, “Buffy’s family, including her, is important to me. Her mum has always been kind to me…well, except for the axe incident, but she had bloody good reason for that….”He shook himself back to the present. “Joyce has always treated me as a person, even when she probably shouldn’t have. And the Bit reminds me of my own…. Never mind. Point is, I don’t want anything to happen to any of them if I can do something to prevent it.”
Buffy, Giles, and Spike sat on their side of the table and stared at the people on the other side. Neither group spoke until Nigel stood up. “Well, as we’ve already said, it’s late, and we should all go to our respective homes for the night. We can continue this discussion tomorrow while Mr. Bl-Spike is sleeping.”
Lydia stood up also, smiling at Spike as she said. “Yes. We all need our sleep. I’ll see you again tomorrow, William.”
He winked at her, but made no comment as they said their goodnights and filed out.
“Should we walk them back?”Buffy didn’t sound very inclined to do it, but asked Giles anyway.
“I think not. It seems both Nigel and George acquit themselves competently tonight. I’m sure they will be able to make their way back to their hotel safely.”
“They’ll be fine,”Spike said. “Don’t know about Nigel, but I’d let George watch my back anytime.”
“Nigel’s no slouch. I let him take the short swords with him, so between George’s stakes and those, Lydia should be perfectly safe.”
“Speaking of safe…”Spike cocked his head at Giles. “Need an escort Rupert?”
“Only to my car,”he replied. “It’s parked in the alley.”
“Right then. Let’s go.”Spike stood up and offered Buffy his hand. Without looking to see Giles’s reaction, she took it and let him pull her up. They waited while Giles locked up and turned out the lights, standing together at the rear of the store. As soon as he joined them, they stepped into the alley and used their senses to check it for possible danger.
“Something’s here,”Buffy said, making no attempt to be quiet. “I can feel vamp vibes and they aren’t from you.”She pulled out a stake and moved away from the doorway. As she did, a shadow broke away from another store’s loading dock and bolted down the alley, disappearing into the deeper shadows until even Spike could no longer hear the footsteps.
“Well, that was disappointing,”Spike said. “What a wanker.”
“Why does everybody run away from me?”Buffy asked with mock sincerity.
“Because they don’t know you like I do, love,”Spike said, putting an arm around her.
“I’m not sure how to take that.” She poked him and watched as Giles unlocked his car and got in –after carefully checking the back seat. They stood, side-by-side, as he pulled away after wishing them a good evening.
“Kinda past evening, isn’t it?”
Spike nodded. “More like almost tomorrow,”he agreed. “Come on, I’ll walk you home.”
Buffy hesitated. “When I said I had to go home…I kinda lied. Mom isn’t really expecting me till the morning.”
“Is that so?”He pulled her close and began to nibble on her neck. “Whatever will you do with the rest of the night?”
“I was hoping you might have some idea where I could…sleep.”
“Can’t promise how much sleep you’ll get, but I do know where there’s a comfy bed….”
As Spike dropped the bar across the door, he said, “I’m not sure we’re fooling anybody any more. George knows for sure, and Nigel isn’t stupid.”
“No,”she sighed. “I don’t think anybody’s out of the loop –except your damn groupie. She doesn’t get it.”
Spike smiled at her. “I think she’s trying to pretend it isn’t true. As long as nobody says it out loud, she can tell herself she’s got a chance.”
“She’s got a chance she’ll be punched out,”Buffy said, but she was smiling as she said it.
“That’s all she’s got a chance for,”he said, pulling her into an embrace. “That’s all she’ll ever have a chance for. Got my girl and I’m not interested in any other bints.”
“Ummm,”she murmured, running her hands under his shirt. “Good thing. I think your girl’s kind of the jealous type.”
“Got that message,”he agreed, shrugging off his tee-shirt and pulling her sweater over her head. “This is pretty…. let’s take it off,”he said, sucking on one lace-covered nipple. Buffy giggled and slipped out of the bra that he’d already unhooked.
They fell onto the couch, kissing and touching as though they hadn’t been alone in days, rather than only several hours. Spike worked his way down Buffy’s body, pushing her jeans down as he followed them with his mouth and tongue. When he couldn’t move any farther, he paused and shifted to kneel on the floor. Buffy opened her eyes and raised her head. “You stopped.”
“Just for a second, love. I promise. I’m thinking we should take it downstairs.”
“Later,”she said firmly, wriggling her hips. “You were just getting to the interesting part.”
He pulled her around so that her legs were on either side of his shoulders. “They’re all interesting parts, pet, but I’m guessin’you were talking about this one…right…here.”
Buffy’s shrieked agreement and the way she began moving her hips were the answers he was looking for and he smiled as he went to work, using his hand to hold her still. It didn’t take long for her to whimper her way to boneless satisfaction, and he lowered her gently to the couch before leaning back to take off his boots.
“You still have your pants on,”she said, gesturing weakly. “Why is that?”She peered over the edge of the couch. “Lie down and let me fix that for you.”
She rolled off, landing on his outstretched arm and reaching for his zipper. “Let’s see if I can remember where we left off the other night….”
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