“So, good deed done for the night?”
Buffy nodded as she walked beside Spike, leaving the girl they’d rescued with two officers in the police car they’d flagged down. Fortunately, one of them had seemed to recognize Buffy, and there were no awkward questions when she directed them to the alley and said they should find most, if not all, of the girl’s attackers there.
“How come the copper I rescued you from not that long ago wanted to shoot you, and this one just nods his head and trots off to do your bidding?”
“Sometimes, in the course of doing my job, I have to… rescue… a cop or two. And some of Sunnydale’s finest know more than others about what really goes on here after dark. The guy you clocked was just doing his job, trying to arrest a murder suspect. He didn’t know me. This guy does—or at least he knows that I exist.”
“Your life might be a lot easier if people did know, wouldn’t it?”
“Maybe. Or maybe everybody in town would be hysterical all the time and I’d be worn out answering false alarms. Giles says it’s really important to limit how many people know about vamps and demons…. And me.”
“Maybe….” Spike said, obviously thinking of something from his past. “But in places where they still know about demons and vampires, slayers aren’t a secret and their parents, if they have them, are proud of them.”
“If they have them?”
“I think a lot of girls who get called, or are potential slayers, are orphans. Just makes it easier to explain why they’re living with and being raised by someone other than their parents, I reckon. It’s probably a little harder to get away with that in this country where people like your mum would think the worst of a man raising a young girl he wasn’t related to.”
“You really know a lot about us, don’t you?” Buffy frowned at him.
“Know your enemy, love,” he said. “You study us, I study you.”
“Humph! I’m not sure how I feel about that.” She glared at him. “Is that what you’re doing now? Studying me?”
“What I’m doing now, is taking you home so you can study an over-ambitious Scottish lord.”
“That’s changing the subject.”
“That it is.” He strode off, not waiting to see if she was going to keep up with him.
“Stay with me, Slayer. This is the last act.”
Buffy turned glazed eyes on him. “I need to move around. I’m falling asleep.” At his disappointed expression, she hastened to add, “It’s not you! If you weren’t reading this to me and acting out the parts, I’d have been face down in the book again a long time ago. But I just can’t sit still this long.”
“Okay, luv. Fair enough. What say we go out in the courtyard and spar a little?”
“Well, I’m not thinking ‘to the death’, but yeah. Let’s see how we do now that we know each other so much better.”
“Okay!” Buffy jumped up and ran to the door.
“Shoes off, pet,” Spike said as he followed her out and toed off his own boots. “Don’t want to hurt you.”
Buffy paused. “Who are you and what have you done with Spike?”
He grinned. “Well, don’t want to hurt so bad you can’t take the bloody exam tomorrow, or mess up your pretty face.”
“So, my face and the fingers on my writing hand are the only things off limits?” She grinned right back at him. “What about you? Any body parts you want me to leave untouched?” She blinked innocently, but the grin gave her away.
“You can touch any body parts you want, luv. I’ll even offer suggestions if you think you missed anything.” He leered at her, laughing when she couldn’t control her blush, even though she tried to ignore it as she responded.
“You do that,” she said, proud that her steady voice didn’t match her flaming face. “You let me know if I miss anything important.”
Taking advantage of the way his eyes glazed over for a moment, Buffy swept his legs out from under him and pounced on him before he’d even hit the floor. However, she never completed her staking motion as he was already rolling before they hit the ground. She found herself beneath him, his mouth on her throat and his body weight briefly pinning her down. She had a second or two of surprise at how good his lips felt against her skin, and she almost relaxed under his muscular body. Then she felt the unmistakable bulge pressing against her stomach and reacted without thinking.
Spurred on by more than just the fear of a vampire’s mouth on her throat, Buffy bucked and struggled until she’d thrown him off and they were lying side-by-side in almost the same position they’d been in when they closed Acathla. She struggled to regain control of her breathing, knowing she’d completely over-reacted to what was probably, on his part, an involuntary reaction to their bantering.
They spoke simultaneously, then gave identical sighs.
“I know what I’m sorry for, Slayer, but don’t know what you’re apologizing for. A vampire had his mouth on your throat and you got out of it. Good on you, I say.”
Buffy didn’t speak for a moment. “I wasn’t worried you were going to bite me,” she whispered, feeling her face flush again.
He growled. “That wasn’t about…. Maybe I should have warned you what happens when we fight or when I watch you fight. I did have a stiffy, still have it, truth be told. But I wasn’t going to…. I would never…. It’s just something that happens to me when I fight. You didn’t need to be afraid of it. Of me.” The pain in his voice was almost palpable.
She rolled her head to the side to meet his gaze. “I know that. I don’t know what happened to me. It’s not like I’m some little virgin who—”
“You’re the next thing to it, Buffy. I don’t expect you to be a woman of the world, even if you do try to act like it. But I thought by now you might trust me enough to—”
“I do trust you, Spike.” She reached her hand toward his face, dropping it before actually touching him. “That’s why I apologized. I over-reacted to something I should have been able to shrug off. You surprised me, that’s all, and I freaked out.”
“Well, the freaking out allowed you to throw me off like a leaf, so maybe you should add that to your little arsenal of slayer tricks.”
Buffy sat up and laughed softly. “I’ll think about it. Don’t think I’ll share it with Giles though.”
“And my unstaked heart thanks you for that,” he said, smiling at her as he sat up. “Are we alright then?”
“I think so. Are we?”
“I am. But I think we’d best get back to Scotland and leave the sparring for another time.”
“I guess so.”
They didn’t look at each other as they picked up their shoes and padded back to the kitchen in their socks.
“So what do you think, Slayer? Are you going to be able to remember enough to pass the exam?”
Buffy stretched and rubbed her eyes. “I think so. I’m glad I had you here to explain it to me, though. Otherwise….”
“Glad to be of service,” he said as he stood up. “You should probably try to get some sleep. Morning’s going to be here before you know it.”
She sighed. “I know. And I’ve still got to go over Willow’s Government notes while I eat lunch so I don’t mess up that exam.” She shook her head. “I don’t know who I’m kidding. One more year of school to go, and I’ll probably miss most of that spring semester too.” She laughed. “And Mom thinks I’m going to college. What a dream that is.”
“There’s a university right here in Sunnydale, isn’t there?”
“Yeah. UC Sunnydale. It’s a branch of the University of California.”
“You could go there and still be the slayer.”
“You’re assuming I’m going to live that long, Spike. And that my mom will still be willing to support me.”
“Your mum’ll come around,” he said, leaving the other part of her comment alone.
“We’ll see. Anyway, I need to finish 11th grade first, so I’m off to bed.”
“Goodnight, luv. And good luck if I don’t see you in the morning.”
“Night, Spike. And thank you.”
Two days later, Buffy burst into the house shouting Spike’s name. He ran out of his room barefoot, pants barely on, no shirt, and with his hair sticking up all over his head.
“What? What’s wrong?” He stared around, looking for the source of her distress, only to find her leaping into the arms he reflexively put around her.
“Nothing! Nothing is wrong. I just passed all my exams. And I got an A on the English Lit. She was impressed with my ‘deep understanding’ of the play! We did it!”
She wrapped him in a full body hug, remembering too late that he wasn’t really dressed. Before she could let go, he returned the hug, picking her up and spinning her around.
“Good job, Slayer! You did it!”
“We did it, Spike. You did it.”
Buffy could feel her color rising as she felt his bare skin against her arms and remembered she was being held by an almost naked man. She loosened her grip, and he immediately let go and allowed her to drop to the floor. They each turned away, equally uncomfortable with their demonstration.
“I’m sorry,” Buffy said, her face once again red. “I didn’t mean to molest you like that. I was just happy and grateful.”
“You don’t seriously think you need to apologize for that, do you?” he said gruffly. “I’m happy to hear it went well. And I’d never turn down a chance to…. Nevermind.”
“Yeah, well, I was just so excited and…. There’s nothing wrong with it anyway. We’re friends. Sort of. And friends hug each other when they’re happy.” She glared at him as if daring him to contradict her.
“That they do, pet,” he said, as he picked up a shirt. “Never thought otherwise.” He pulled the shirt over his head, fastened the top button on his jeans, and ran his fingers through his hair.
“Oh. Okay. Well good.” Telling herself she was not, definitely not sorry that he’d put a shirt on, Buffy said, “I think we should celebrate, don’t you?”
“What did you have in mind, luv?” Spike took a bag of blood from the fridge and began to fix his breakfast.
“Uh, I don’t know. I guess I didn’t get that far. The gang is going to the Bronze, and I don’t know if you’d want.…”
“Doubt I’d be welcome in that crowd, pet. Why don’t you just meet your friends, and we’ll tell ourselves ‘job well done’ and let it go at that.”
“You’re my friend too,” she said, her lower lip coming out in a pout. “You’re smushing my excitement.”
“Just trying to be realistic, Buffy. Your friends don’t know me, and they won’t be happy to be sharing a drink with me, or to see you with me, for that matter. You deserve a proper celebration with your classmates.”
“I told them you were my tutor. They know you’re why I passed all those tests. Even Giles said I should thank you.”
He sighed and sat down with his mug of blood. “Tell you what, luv. You go on to the Bronze and meet your friends and I’ll come by a little later. If they don’t pull out the torches and pitchforks right away, we’ll see how it goes. If it gets too uncomfortable for everybody, I’ll just take myself off to Willy’s and celebrate with my own kind.”
Buffy snorted. “I’m sure everybody there will be real excited to hear I’m going to be a senior next year.”
“They will be if they know what’s good for them,” he growled, coughing when she stared at him. “I mean, far as I know, with Angelus gone, I’m back to being the master of Sunnydale. If I’m celebratin’, everybody should be celebrating.”
“I never thought about that. Are you the master of Sunnydale? Like the Master was the master?”
He snorted. “Nothin’ like old Batface. And don’t want to be, to be honest. Don’t need the responsibility. But I’m the oldest vamp in the city and I’d already done in his wannabe replacements when I first got here, so I’m kind of Master by default.”
Buffy laughed. “If you tell them you’ve been helping the slayer with her schoolwork and saving human girls from gangs, you might have a revolt on your hands.”
He laughed with her. “Might at that,” he agreed. “But that’d give me an excuse to get a workout. It’s been a while since I was in a good fight.”
Buffy turned away, trying not to look like she was remembering what happened to him when they sparred. She could feel Spike’s eyes on her, but when she didn’t look in his direction, he sighed and went back to his blood.
“Just go on, Slayer. I’ll meet you there after the sun’s gone down.”
“Okay. I’m just gonna go get ready and then I’ll leave.”
He didn’t respond, just took his mug and went back to his room, leaving her to stare after him.
“Hey, Buffster, who do you keep looking around for?” Xander asked.
Buffy took a deep breath and looked at her two best friends and Cordelia. “Guys… I guess I should tell you before he gets here….” She smiled nervously. “I asked Spike to come. He’s the reason I did so well on those tests, and he deserves to be part of the celebration.”
“Spike? Tried to kill you several times, Spike?”
“Xander, you know I’ve been living with him since we stopped Acatha. I mean, not living with living with, but you know, sharing a house. He’s… we’re sort of… friends.”
“A truce does not make you friends, Buffy. I think you need to check your dictionary.”
“A truce is why we had a chance to become friends,” Buffy said. She sighed, then continued, “I’m not asking you to be best buddies with him, just let him join us for a while and help me celebrate.”
“I think it’ll be okay,” Willow said loyally. “He was… nice… when I went over to do the disinvite.”
“Nice. A nice vampire. A nice vampire that kills slayers.” Xander glared at her. “Tell me, Buffy, how many people has this ‘nice’ vampire killed since you made a truce with him?”
“Haven’t killed anybody yet, wanker, but I’m willing to make an exception of you.” Spike’s threat was all the more deadly-sounding for the quiet tone in which he said it. He stood behind Xander’s chair and raised his eyebrows at Buffy.
Xander squealed and moved closer to Buffy, leaving Cordy to gaze at Spike speculatively. “You see!”
“I see that you’re not giving him a chance,” Buffy said. She sighed. “Please, Xan? Just try….”
He didn’t answer her, only picked up his drink and moved away, grabbing Cordelia’s arm as he did so. “We’re moving,” he said. “I don’t socialize with bloodsuckers.” Cordy gave Spike a glance, sniffing haughtily when he looked her up and down and licked his lips. She followed Xander to another table where they sat by themselves, glaring at Buffy and Willow.
Spike pulled out a chair and sat down, adding his beer to the soft drinks already on the table. “Well, that went well,” he said. “Thanks for not leaving, Red.”
Willow flushed and nodded even as she tried to make excuses for Xander’s behavior. “Xander lost his best friend—other than me—to vampires last year. Jesse got turned and Xander had to stake him. He’s still pretty bummed about it, and then Angel went all evil on us, and….”
“’S alright, luv. I expect my grandsire left a bad taste in a lot of mouths. Don’t expect anyone to take me to their bosom and start trusting me. Don’t want it, to tell the truth. As long as the Slayer trusts me, that’s all I need.”
Willow nodded and raised her Coke. “So, here’s to Buffy who managed to pass all her exams even though she missed almost a month of school this year.”
Spike raised his beer and lightly touched Willow’s glass. “Slayer?”
Buffy stopped glaring at Xander long enough to raise her own glass and tap it against theirs. “Yay me,” she said. “And yay Spike, who helped me.”
They all took big drinks, then Buffy and Willow placed their glasses down again. Spike kept his tipped up, and Buffy and Willow watched in fascination as Spike’s Adam’s apple bobbed up and down as he swallowed. When the glass was empty, he set it down and saw how they were staring at him.
“What? That’s how it’s done if it’s a proper toast.”
“If you say so.” Willow looked dubious.
Buffy narrowed her eyes at him, saying, “You just made that up.”
“Maybe. Maybe not.” He grinned at her, then sobered. “But we’ve celebrated, and it’s goin’ about as well as I’d expected, so I’m just going to move on to a bar where I might be welcome. And if I’m not, I can beat something up.”
Buffy sighed and sent another glare in Xander’s direction. “Okay. Well, thanks for coming. I guess I’ll see you when I get home. I’m going to patrol in Restfield on the way back to the house… in case you get bored at Willy’s.”
“Duly noted, Slayer.” He stood up and nodded to Willow. “Thanks for the welcome, Red. You’re a good friend to the Slayer.”
Without any more conversation with Buffy, he turned and walked toward the exit, pausing at Xander’s table to growl, “Stop being a wanker and go support your friend who saves your life every other day. You too, cheerleader,” he added, then winked at Cordelia. “You could do better than this loser. You let me know if you want to move up the food chain.” Leaving Xander sputtering, he laughed and walked out the door.
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