When Buffy’d made her call, explained her plan to Graham, and arranged to meet him and a squad of men with rocket launchers shortly after noon the next day, she returned to the lobby and called the slayers together to explain the plan. Graham had agreed that hitting the hellmouth in early afternoon, while all the Turok-hans should be inside, would be the best use of the the big weapons, and he said he intended to bring flame throwers also. She explained to the slayers that, with luck, the soldiers would take out the majority of the ubervamps blocking the way to the hellmouth while the slayers protected them from attacks from the side or rear. When the way had been mostly cleared of uber-vamps, she could fight her way in to blow it up with the easily-carried explosives Graham would provide.
She heard Spike’s growl when she didn’t say “Spike and I….”, flashing him a smile and adding, “I’ll have Spike with me, so one of us will be sure to get through.”
“So, what do we do tonight? Are we going to patrol anyway?”
“I’d suggest get a good rest, make sure your weapons are in good condition, maybe do a little sparring if you can do it without hurting each other. Maybe a couple of short patrols – but big squads – I don’t want to take any chances of losing anyone. Just enough action to keep them busy and give them no reason to think we’re planning anything unusual for tomorrow. I don’t know if these things do much thinking, but if the First is running things, it might get suspicious.” Buffy frowned at her own words. “Let’s hope we can get in there close enough for the flame throwers to do some major damage before they wake up and figure out it’s an attack.”
“I doubt if any of them can recognize individual slayers – except maybe Buffy if the First is helping – so we could probably get away with sending out different groups at different times. Enough to keep them busy and to think we’re running our regular patrols, but with everybody getting plenty of chances to rest up for tomorrow. Meanwhile, the girls who aren’t patrolling can be resting and getting some sleep.”
Willow looked at Buffy and Spike to see if they approved. She beamed when Spike said, “Good thinking there, Red. You’d make a good general.”
“That is a good idea,” Buffy agreed, smiling at Willow. “The more we can rest and sleep, without giving away that we have big plans for tomorrow, the better.”
Plan made, the girls were divided up into larger than normal squads and the order of patrol was worked out so there would always be one group on the streets at all times, while those not out would be resting for the next day’s attack. Buffy and Rachel huddled together and came up with squads that contained a mix of both experienced Cleveland slayers and the no-less-experienced at fighting, but less familiar with the city, newer arrivals.
“How’s your arm?” Willow frowned at Buffy. “Are you going to be able to do this?”
Buffy held out her arm, which was no longer bandaged, and showed Willow the scar. She flexed it, and lifted a nearby chair. “It’s good. And by tomorrow afternoon, it’ll be better. I’ll stock up on liquids and protein tonight before I go to sleep, and by the morning I’ll be ready-to-fight Buffy.”
“And what about Spike?”
Buffy sighed. “I’m not really sure. It’s not like he got enough of my blood to turn him into super-vamp. I’m sure it all went into healing him faster than he would have on whatever he had here…. But….”
“But there’s no way he’s letting you go in there on your own.” Willow shook her head. “If I don’t like what I see in the morning, I may have to give him a little magical boost. I hate to do that to him, but you need him at 100% and he’s never going to admit it if he’s not there yet.”
Buffy nodded her agreement. “Yeah. He can be really stubborn…” She ignored Willow’s snicker. “Why do you hate to do it? Is it bad for him?”
“No. Not really. It won’t hurt him. And he’s probably well enough not to do any serious damage by over-exerting. As long as he doesn’t think it means he’s superman, he should be fine, just a little stronger than he might be without it. But when it wears off… he’s going to crash pretty hard.”
“Oh. Well, as long as he’s safe somewhere when that happens….”
“Yep. We just have to make sure he’s in a safe place where nothing can get at him while he’s weak.”
“Well, he’ll be with us so….”
“Are you sure about that? You don’t think he might–” Willow chewed her lip, obviously fighting the urge to remind Buffy he might be planning to leave.
Buffy sighed and nodded her understanding. “I’m not going to let him out of my sight. If he tries to ditch me after the fight, he’s going to find out how hard I can be to get rid of.”
“Okay then. Why don’t you get some sleep? I’ll stay up for a while and make sure the girls are all safely in before I go to bed.”
“Okay. Come and get me if you need me.”
Willow glanced to where Spike was still chatting up the slayers. “And where will you be?”
“Where he doesn’t want me unless he thinks I’m dying,” Buffy said as she began walking toward his little group.
Spike glanced up at her approach. “What’s up, Slayer?”
“All of us,” she said. “The idea is to rest up tonight and tomorrow morning.”
He stood up. “That, ladies, I believe is our less than subtle hint that you should all be tucked into your little beds. Off you go.”
Buffy ignored the glares from what she insisted on referring to as his “groupies” and waited until they had all wandered in the general direction of their hallway.
“Us too,” she said. “We both need all the down time we can get.” She reached her hand up to touch the side of his head – one of the few times she’d touched him since finding out about the absent soul. “I’m trusting you that this little dent here is all that’s left of what was probably a major concussion if not a coma.”
“Vampires don’t get concussions,” he growled.
“Then what do you call it when you’re unconscious for three days?”
“Huh. Well, resting is what you need to do tonight too. Maybe with a blood nightcap.”
“Not volunteering that, are you?” He gave her a half-hearted leer that didn’t hide how unlikely he was to accept such an offer.
“I probably would if I didn’t know you’d be stupid about it. And if I didn’t know I don’t have it to spare tonight,” she admitted before he could say it. “That’s why we need to get to get some more nourishment and then get to bed. Tomorrow could get rough.”
He followed her to the kitchen, watching as she pulled out a bag of frozen blood for him before finding food and drink for herself. He thawed and warmed the blood while Buffy wavered between another roast beef sandwich and a bowl of fruit.
“Take the meat, love. You’re still building blood cells. You can worry about fiber and vitamin C later.”
Buffy made a face, but obediently pulled out the slab of beef and sliced off several pieces. She set them on plate and put it back, adding a small amount of fruit to the plate.
“Should I find it scary that you know so much about human nutrition?”
He snorted. “Something you may not know about me, Slayer. I like to read. Everything. Anything. If I'm bored enough, I’ll even read information about foods I’ll never need or want.”
She cocked her head at him. “You’re right. I knew you had a lot of books – for a guy who lived in a crypt – but I didn’t know that about you. How come I didn’t know that?”
“Doesn’t exactly scream ‘Big Bad here’ does it? And when you were visiting me, I was never that bored.” He gave her small smile that, in spite of his words, was more affectionate than leering.
“I guess not,” she said, smiling back at him.
They sat in comfortable silence while Buffy ate her meat and fruit, washing it down with more milk, and Spike drank his warmed blood. When they’d both finished and cleaned up, the comfortable silence was replaced by a much less comfortable one as they began to walk toward the rooms.
Several sets of hostile eyes followed their progress across the lobby and to the hall leading to Spike’s room.
“She looks fine to me. I don’t see why he’s still taking care of her.”
“She should leave him alone. He needs to rest.”
“Rachel said they had a… a thing. A long time ago.”
“Well yeah. But he’s over it, right? I mean they haven’t been together… and he and Faith—”
Spike had been listening as he walked and whirled to glare at them.
“I think you bints need a reminder about vampire hearing,” he snarled. “And that the affairs of your elders are none of your business.”
Faces pale, the offending girls whirled and ran out of the lobby to their own rooms in the other wing.
“What was that all about?” Buffy frowned after the girls, wondering what he’d heard to cause him to show so much anger toward them.
“That was about a bunch of bloody nosey little girls thinkin’ they have some kind of right to worry about where you’re spendin’ the night.”
“Didn’t think your room was the right choice, huh?”
He sighed. “No.” He looked at her sideways. “But isn’t that the very subject we were so busy trying not to talk about? They aren’t wrong that you shouldn’t be spending the night in my bed again – they’re just wrong about the why.”
“We might not be as strong as we will be by tomorrow, but we’re not… not too weak for…”
“For…. seriously?” She stopped and put her hands on her hips. “I haven’t even had a chance to kick your ass for hiding from me all this time. Not to mention you keep trying to push me out of your room. If you think there’s a chance in hell I’m going to try to—”
“I want you, Buffy.” His quiet statement made her temporarily mute. When the silence dragged on, he continued. “Not saying I’d try to force myself on you… Don’t need a soul to keep from ever—” He shuddered. “But I can’t say sleeping beside you… I wouldn’t be getting much sleep, is all I’m saying.” He raised his glance from the floor he’d been studying so intently. “If you want me rested and ready to go tomorrow, I think you need to put your tempting little body somewhere else.”
She stared at him, trying to read his expression and body language. Nothing he’d said or done since she got there had given her any reason to expect a comment like that. She narrowed her eyes at him.
“Will you still be here when I get up?”
He frowned. “Of course I will. Where else would I be with a big fight coming up?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Someplace I’m not?”
“I’ll be here Buffy. Got your back tomorrow. Soon’s the way is clear enough, we’ll make our way into the hellmouth and throw in things that make big noises.”
“Let’s just get through this battle, yeah?”
“I’m not going to let you go without a fight. Not again.” Before he could respond, she brushed her hand against his and walked down the hall to the room she’d spent so little time in she had to think for a moment to remember which one it was. “Good night, Spike. See you tomorrow.”
“See you tomorrow, love,” he murmured as her door closed. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
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