Whatever strings the Council had pulled, Snyder apparently had not been able to countermand his instructions to let Buffy begin her senior year of high school once she’d passed her exams. His glare followed her progress down the halls, but with the hellmouth having a peaceful start to the year, he’d had no reason to discipline her for anything. But hope springs eternal….
“Yes, Sny—Mr. Snyder?”
“I’ve got my eye on you.”
“You and your little gang of miscreants.”
“My—right. Miscreants. Gotta go.”
Buffy bolted to the library where she began muttering about “little weasels” and “spying on me”.
“Is there a problem?” Giles glanced up from the book he’d been reading.
“Snyder. He’s ‘got his eye on me’.”
“With luck, he won’t see anything to get his too-tight knickers in a knot,” Giles muttered, flushing when Buffy grinned at him.
“Whoa, Giles. Tell me how you really feel.”
“You should pretend you didn’t hear that,” he said.
“Fat chance. So what’s up?”
“There are some prophesies I’m studying. Something about an Ascension. That’s all I know at the moment. It doesn’t appear to be imminent, but I will have to keep digging.”
“Meanwhile, I’ll just keep slaying regular old vampires.”
“That would appear to be the best plan. Perhaps it will be a quiet year for you.”
“So much for a quiet year,” Buffy muttered as she listened to Faith’s story of how Kakistos had killed her watcher and she’d run away from him. The knock on the door had them exchanging alarmed looks.
Faith shook her head. “Nobody but you knows where I am.”
The door burst open while the two slayers were edging away toward the back of the small room. They ran out the back, only to find themselves being herded into a trap. However, two slayers working together proved more than even something as old and canny as Kakistos could handle. When Faith ran him through with a piece of lumber, Buffy cheered, and the two very dissimilar slayers left to get something to eat. Buffy tried to ignore Faith’s “slaying makes me hungry and horny” comment, but she couldn’t help thinking about how much she enjoyed having Spike along to patrol with her, and how good he looked to her after. She assured herself that just because she could appreciate Spike’s looks, that didn’t mean she was a slut, as she was beginning to realize Faith might be.
Faith managed to avoid the whole band candy incident, mostly by refusing to attend school. If she noticed the adults running around Sunnydale behaving badly, she didn’t pay much attention to it. She swept through a few cemeteries and retreated to her hotel room. She thought she caught a glimpse of Giles and Buffy’s mother going at it on top of a police car, but didn’t care enough to get closer and make sure. As out of character as it would have been for either one of them, she shrugged it off as a trick of the light.
Buffy told her about the night’s events the next day.
“Damn! That’s what I get for being a good little slayer and going to bed early. Did you say you set fire to a giant snake?”
“I made him go back where he came from. I don’t think he was on fire though. It was an…interesting… night. Sorry you missed it.”
“Yeah. Me too. Damn!” She smirked. “Guess that couple I saw getting it on, on the police car really was your mom and watcher.”
“What? No! No, they…. Oh God. Please tell me they didn’t—”
Faith just grinned at her. “Oh yes, they did.”
Buffy groaned. “Scrubbing my brain now. Thanks for that image.”
“Anytime, B.” Her mood improved, Faith walked off, smiling to herself.
“Hello?” Buffy tried to make her voice sound casual, but it had been well over a month since Spike’s call and she was beginning to worry that he wasn’t going to keep his promise to call her every month.
She breathed out in relief when she recognized his voice, then steeled herself to sound surprised and uninterested. Which might have worked if her initial “hello” hadn’t been quite so out of breath and frantic.
“Oh, Spike. Is that you? Has it been a month already?”
His response was a low chuckle. “If you’re too busy to talk, that’s okay. I can try again next month.”
“Not funny, Spike. And it’s been a whole lot more than a month!”
“It’s been six weeks. And I’m sorry, pet. Had to wait till I was somewhere I could talk privately.”
“Privat—oh. You mean without Dru?”
“Something like that.”
“Oh.” The reality of their situation settled back on Buffy’s shoulders. “Well, that’s… that’s good, I guess. I mean, that you and her… she….”
“It’s not all moonlight and roses, Buffy. I’m trying to make it work, but she knows…. She says you’re floatin’ all around me.”
“I’m sorry?” Nothing about Buffy’s voice indicating she was even remotely sorry, and he laughed at her.
“You are not sorry, you minx.”
“No. I guess I’m not. I’m sorry I’m not sorry.”
He laughed again. “I miss you, Slayer. Dru’s not as nearly as much fun as you are.”
“I miss you too. I’m not having any fun here.”
“So, things are quiet then?”
“Oh, no things are popping. They just aren’t fun. And hey, turns out when Dru killed Kendra, another slayer was called. I’m out of the pipeline… I think.”
“Does that mean you aren’t the Slayer anymore?”
“Well, no. It just means there are two of us. And Faith is kinda…. She’s different from me. Like, really different.”
“Good different, or bad different?”
“I’m not sure yet, but I’m leaning toward bad-different. And not just because she’s slutty and won’t go to school. I’ve tried being nice to her, but….”
“Say the world, love, and she’s my third slayer.”
“I’m going to pretend you’re kidding about that…”
“If anything she does hurts you—”
“I’m the Slayer, Spike. I can take care of myself.”
“Speaking of taking care of yourself. When’s your birthday?”
“Not until after Christmas. It’s in January.”
“And you’ll be eighteen then?”
Buffy’s voice got breathier. “Yes. I’ll be eighteen. Does that mean you want to come back to see if I still want to kiss you again?”
He gave a soft laugh. “Wasn’t where I was goin’ with it, no, but thanks for the reminder that I’ve still got a good reason to come back someday.”
“Oh.” Buffy tried to hide her disappointment. “Well where were you going with it then?”
“I can hear that pout, love. Just put it away. I’m not sayin’ I don’t think about you all the time. I do. Every soddin’ day. But what I’m worried about right now is how much of a wanker your watcher’s going to be about that bloody test he’s expected to put you through on your birthday.”
“Oh, the crucial-something you told me about? I don’t think Giles will do that to me. I mean, I might have to fight some vampire the Council sends, but he’s not going to—”
“If you start to feel weak or tired or sick or… I don’t even know what it is they do exactly, but if you feel like you might be losing your powers, you stay home. You hear me? Don’t patrol, don’t go anywhere with your watcher, and don’t go outside at night unless the house is on fire.” When she didn’t respond, he continued, “Buffy? Are you listening to me?”
“I heard you. But it’s silly. Giles wouldn’t do that to me. I’m sure he wouldn’t. Faith’s last watcher was evil, but Giles isn’t… he’s more like a father to me than my own father is.”
“Repeat what you just said.”
“What? He’s more like—”
“Before that. About the other slayer’s watcher.”
“Oh. She was evil, it turns out. She’d been fired, but she was after some glove that would make her into something—I’m not sure what, but she thought it would give her a lot of power and Faith believed her when she told her she needed to get the glove because we were evil. I had to fight Faith while Willow and Xander tried to set up the stuff we needed to destroy the glove. And then the bitch—not Faith, her watcher—got the glove and put it on and started trying to kill us.”
“Didn’t manage it, I take it?”
“Um, no. But I had to cut off her arm and she got zapped by the glove. And then we destroyed it and it was all good. Except maybe for Faith… I mean she feels bad that she almost got us all killed and could’ve turned loose evil on the world, but it just made her act like she’s even madder at me.”
Spike was quiet for a moment until Buffy said, “Spike? Are you still there?”
“I’m here, love. Just thinking. I’m gonna let you go now. You have yourself a happy Christmas. Try to give a thought to an old vampire while you’re having fun there.”
“Aren’t you going to call me again? Why are you wishing me Merry Christmas already?”
“You’ll hear from me, sweetheart. You can count on it. Jus’ not sure when exactly. But you’ll hear from me. I promise. Take care of yourself, love. Stay safe.”
“You too, Spike. Don’t get dusty.”
Buffy sighed as she hung up the phone, not sure what he’d meant by ‘you’ll hear from me” and afraid to let herself believe he meant he was coming back. Thinking she’d better warn Faith about not trying to stake any blond vampires with British accents, she fixed herself a sandwich before getting ready to patrol. They rarely patrolled together anymore, but Buffy thought maybe she’d better see if Faith wanted to. To give them a chance to talk if nothing else.
It didn’t go as well as she might have hoped.
“Wait. Miss Goody-two-shoes is telling me she’s had not one, but two vampire honeys, and I’m to give this one a pass?”
“Okay, you knew about Angel—Angelus and that I sent him to hell. And you knew that Spike helped me by taking Drusilla out of the picture and distracting Angelus for me. And you knew my mom kicked me out for a while. The only thing I didn’t mention was that Spike came back to help me and we ended up saving each other’s lives. Which pissed off Drusilla, so she left him.” Buffy stopped and took a deep breath. “And he’s not my ‘honey’. But I do… care… about him… and I don’t want you to have to fight each other.”
“You mean you don’t want me to kill him.” Faith narrowed her eyes at Buffy, who winced.
“Or vice-versa,” she whispered.
“You don’t think I can take him?” Faith’s growl would have done credit to a vampire.
“He’s very good,” Buffy said tactfully. “He’s already killed two slayers. I’m just saying I don’t want you two trying to kill each other.”
“You don’t think I can do it,” Faith said flatly.
“I don’t want you to try.” Buffy tried to keep her voice even, but the look on her face was a grim reminder that Faith hadn’t exactly come out ahead in their only fight. It had been fairly even, but in spite of everything Faith had tried, it was Buffy who’d still been on her feet to take out the evil ex-watcher.
“Can’t always get what you want, princess,” Faith sneered as she veered off to do her own patrol, leaving Buffy biting her lip in frustration.
Christmas came and went with no sign of Spike and no phone call, but with enough excitement between the snow flurry on Christmas and the temporary insanity that made all the mothers want to burn Willow and Buffy at the stake, to keep her from dwelling on his absence.
Until just before her birthday when she almost lost a fight to a fledgling vampire that she should have been able to handle with one arm. She got up from the ground and went directly home, shaking her head when Joyce asked what was wrong.
“Nothing. I’m just a little tired. I’m going to bed.”
Joyce frowned, but nodded. She went back to the kitchen and was fixing herself a cup of tea when she heard a light tap on the door. Her eyes grew wide when she spotted Spike holding a finger to his lips. Against her better judgment, she opened the door and hissed at him, “What are you doing here? And why are we whispering?”
“Don’t want the Slayer to know I’m back yet,” he whispered to her. “Just need to tell you not to let her patrol anymore unless the other slayer is with her, or you know I’m around. Gonna do my best to keep an eye on her, but I almost would have been too late tonight. Don’t want to take any chances.”
“What are you talking about?” Joyce’s voice rose, then dropped again when Spike rolled his eyes.
“I’m talking about whatever her wanker of a watcher is doing to her that’s making her weak. He’s setting her up for a test on her birthday. She shouldn’t go anywhere near him that night. Or even leave the house.”
Joyce blanched. “He’s taking her to an ice show for her birthday.”
“No. He isn’t. Not unless I can convince him he should tell the Council of Wankers what they can do with their Cruciamentum.” He stood up from where he’d been leaning in doorway, having remained outside the door even though he could tell his invitation was still good. “I’m going to try to fix this without letting Buffy know I’m here… but if I can’t, I’ll have to stick close to her.”
“How can you fix it?”
He flashed his fangs at her.
“Gonna have a chat with her watcher about where his loyalties lie and see if he’s willing to be reasonable. Probably can’t stop the test, but I can keep him from making her any weaker than he already has.”
“I’m coming with you,” Joyce slammed her mug down on the counter.
Spike studied her face and nodded. “I appreciate the thought, luv, but I’d rather you stayed here with Buffy. I don’t think she’ll go back out after the scare she had tonight, but we can’t be sure of it. I’m going to reason with her watcher—and I’m not planning to be nice about it. Probably not something you should see.”
“I wasn’t planning to be nice, either,” Joyce muttered, but she returned to her kitchen stool. “But I guess I should stay with my daughter.”
Spike grinned at her. “I’d lay odds you were a potential slayer that just aged out of the window before you were called.” He turned to go, then looked back over his shoulder. “Do you want me to come back and tell you how it went if it isn’t too late?”
“Yes, please,” she said. “If it doesn’t go well, he’ll have to deal with me tomorrow.”
“If he’s smart, he’ll listen to me rather than have to face a brassed off mother.”
He laughed and waved as he jumped off the porch.
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