As they walked to Winston’s rental car, he handed Spike the keys, saying, “I appreciate this. I know they mean well, but I really need to be alone just now.”
Spike shrugged. “Self-healing isn’t much of a group project,” he agreed as they got into the small car. He started the engine and peered over at Winston. “You know your heart rate is almost off the charts,” he said, not making it a question.
Winston shot him a surprised glance, then sighed. “Vampire hearing and senses. Stupid of me to forget what you are.”
“Very stupid,” Spike said without explanation, but with a low growl.
Winston gave a weary laugh.
“I can see your soul,” he said. “Not to mention the aura that you and Buffy have when you’re together. I’m not afraid of you.”
“Touché,” Spike snorted. “Nor should you be. At least not while I’m sure you’re on our side.”
Winston was lying back against the seat, eyes shut and head resting against it. “Do you know where I live?” he mumbled.
“Do. We’ll be there shortly.”
True to his word, Spike was soon parking the car in front of the small apartment building where Winston lived. He got out and ran around to the passenger side to offer his hand. To his surprise, Winston took the offered help and allowed Spike to pull him up and out of the vehicle.
“Can you walk?” Spike frowned when Winston swayed on his feet for a second.
“I think so….”
“Don’t be a bloody martyr,” Spiked snorted. “You’ve got super strong help—may as well use it.” He put Winston’s arm over his shoulder and wrapped the other arm around his waist. To an observer, it would appear that he was helping a good friend walk into the building, but in reality, Winston’s feet were not touching the ground as Spike lifted him with one arm and carried him to the door.
“Do I need a key?” Spike asked when he paused at the main entrance.
Winston shook his head and wiggled his fingers at the door, which opened in front of them.
“First flat on the left,” Winston said. “No key needed there either. It will recognize me.”
The door to his apartment did open for them, but Spike came to a halt when he encountered the barrier and could go no farther.
“My apologies,” Winston said as he dangled from Spike’s arm, only his left hand and foot inside the apartment. “Please come in, Spike.”
Entry completed, Spike asked, “Where do you want to go first? The loo, the couch, the kitchen, bedroom?” He stared around the rather plain rooms.
“Bed would be lovely,” Winston said, trying to stand up. “Once I’ve had a few hours to rest, I’ll be able to handle the rest myself.”
“Alright, then.” Spike half-carried him to the bedroom and left him standing by the bed. “You’re sure you’ll be alright if I leave?”
“I will. Thank you very much for your assistance. There is definitely something to be said for having friends with super strength.”
“’Bout as much as could be said for having friends who can save the life of someone you care about,” Spike responded. “All things considered, the Slayer and I owe you big time.”
Winston, who had now fallen face down on the bed, raised one arm, waved it in dismissal, and let it flop back to the bed. “She’s a nice woman and the Slayer’s mother. It was worth it.” He dropped his arm and was still except for the rise and fall of his back as he breathed.
Neither one mentioned the possibility that Joyce’s death this year might be one of those had-to-happen things about which they could do nothing. Spike watched him for a moment, listening to his almost-back-to-normal heartrate and even breathing, then nodded.
“I’ll just let myself out then. I’m guessing it isn’t necessary to lock the doors?”
A muffled snort was the only response from the inert figure on the bed.
“Right then. Enjoy your nap.”
Spike let himself out the door, watching as it shut itself behind him. He heard the lock click, but his tingling senses told him that little piece of metal wasn’t the only thing preventing unwanted visitors from entering. He smiled to himself as he left the building, pulling the ringing phone from his pocket as he did so.
“Hello, love. Yes. I did and he’s going to be fine. Safe as houses, trust me. Where did you decide to go? …. I know where it is. See you shortly.”
With Dawn having been picked up at home, dinner was an interesting mix of normal dinner conversation and less-than-normal discussion about Joyce’s newly tumor-free condition. Although Joyce now understood—or had at least been told, understanding being something she wasn’t willing to admit to yet—about Dawn’s rather unusual origins, they had not yet told Dawn about them.
Which led to some interesting gaps in the conversation.
“So, this Glory thing, why do Mom and I have to be careful? Aren’t you and Spike just going to kick her butt like you always do?”
“We wish,” Buffy muttered, then she mustered a smile. “I’m sure we will, pretty soon, but in the meantime, she’s really focused on learning where her Key is, and she’s not above taking somebody I care about hostage in return for that information.”
“Well, I don’t see why you don’t just give her the Key she wants. Then she can leave and we can all stop worrying about her.”
“It’s not that easy, Bit.” Spike spoke up before Buffy could loudly remind Dawn that Glory’s leaving through a portal to a hell dimension wasn’t in anybody’s best interest. “I know you were listening when we explained to everybody, including you, why we can’t let her open that portal.”
“Yeah, yeah, demons and dragons and stuff. I remember. I just don’t see why this is my problem. This is Slayer and vampire stuff.”
The adults at the table exchanged looks. Looks not lost on Dawn.
“Okay. What don’t I know? And don’t tell me I don’t need to know it, or it’s not important, or I’m not old enough or some crap like that!”
“Dawn! Language!” Joyce said into the silence.
Buffy bit her lip. “Since Mom isn’t going into the hospital, maybe she’ll never meet Ben, or the crazy mind-sucked knights….”
“What’s a Ben? And why won’t I meet him? That’s a dorky name, so he can’t be some cool guy you don’t want me to date.”
“What do you think, Mom? Giles? Is it too early to tell her? I mean we might be able to make the whole thing go away before there’s really anything to worry about—”
Dawn narrowed her eyes. “This is all about future stuff, isn’t it? Why can’t I know what happened in your time? It’s not like it’s going to happen again…. Is it?”
“No!” Spike said, simultaneously with Joyce. “But that doesn’t mean things couldn’t go spectacularly wrong before we can get it sorted out.”
“Tell me,” Dawn said, her gaze darting back and forth between her mother and her sister.
“Not here, Bit,” Spike said. “We can talk about it more when you get home. Maybe tomorrow….”
“Maybe tonight!’ Dawn said, glaring at him.
“Slayer and I have patrolling to do tonight. We’ve already missed two nights in a row.”
“Mom, you can tell me, can’t you?”
Joyce shook her head. “I’m sorry, honey, but this needs to come from Buffy or Spike. They understand it better than I do.”
Buffy stood up. “Spike’s right. We need to patrol tonight. We’ll explain it to you tomorrow. After school. I’ll come by the house and we’ll sit down and I’ll explain it to you.”
“I’ll see that they get home safely,” Giles said, standing up to watch them leave. He blinked in surprise when Spike handed him two twenty-dollar bills.
“We can pay our way,” he said with a smirk. “That gem wasn’t the only thing in that treasure trove.”
“Ah, that’s right. I’d forgotten you are now a vampire of means.”
“Does that mean we’re rich?” Buffy was asking as they waved their good-byes and began walking out.
“Means I’m rich, Slayer.” He leered at her. “You’ll have to earn your share.”
“Really? Earn it how?” She batted her eyes at him. “Surely you don’t mean to take advantage of me?”
“Every bloody chance I get,” he growled. “Let’s go find us some things to kill to get us in the mood.”
“You’re always in the mood,” she laughed as she began jogging toward the closest cemetery.
“It’s a gift,” he replied, catching up easily.
“That does it! I think we’ve more than made up for missing the last couple of nights!” Buffy surveyed the dust lying all over the newly mown grass. “How many was that?”
“Ten in this group of wannabe big bads, and another ten scattered around less busy graveyards. A good night’s work, Slayer.”
Buffy giggled as they walked toward the entrance gate. By unspoken mutual agreement, they turned toward their home as soon as they were through it.
“What’s so funny?”
“Oh, I’m just remembering from last time around. Maggie Walsh got all snotty about my ‘pointy sticks’ and then I asked Riley how many vamps his squad had done in. He was so proud of the five they had to show for the week. She wasn’t too happy when I said I’d been getting that many a night since I was fifteen. You should’ve seen her face.”
“I still see her face in my nightmares,” he snorted. “But I wouldn’t have minded being a fly on the wall for that conversation.”
“I should have known from the way she reacted that she wasn’t going to take it well that I was hanging around. Sneaky bitch.”
“She’s gone, Glory isn’t.” Spike said, pointing down the street where a couple of Glory’s minions were staring at them.
“Do you think they know who I am?”
He shrugged. “Dunno. Depends on if she had time to fill them in. They weren’t running around this early in our time, were they?”
“Not that I saw. But I was so worried about Mom and Dawn, I don’t think I would have noticed if they weren’t trying to attack one of us. Glory kind of disappeared for a little while after the semi hit her, and when she came back the little creeps were running all over the place. But we won’t be hanging around the hospital this time, so maybe that won’t happen and she’ll get started looking for her key sooner.”
By this time, Buffy and Spike were close enough to exchange looks with the strange little “men” in monk’s robes. Buffy gave them her best “suspicious slayer” glare, and they all cringed, beginning to edge away.
“Slayer!” one of them hissed. “Glorificus said to stay away, that she might try to slay us.”
“What did he say?” Buffy demanded of Spike, who had been able to hear the words.
“They know what you are, but not anything else. The bitch told them to avoid you.”
“Good idea,” she muttered. Raising her voice to carry to the rapidly leaving creatures, she said, “Stay the hell away from me, you little creeps!”
By the time she finished, they were all out of sight, and she and Spike continued walking.
“Got to say, pet, I’m a little surprised you didn’t slay a few of them anyway.”
Buffy shrugged. “Well, A, I don’t have a sword with me, and that’s really the best way to kill one, and, B, there’s no sense pissing her off by killing her minions if she’s trying to stay away from me. The less time she’s around me and my friends, the less likely she is to learn about the Key.”
“True enough. But sooner or later….”
“Yeah, I know. Sooner or later we have to face her. Or him. I’m just kind of hoping he/she comes to us. The idea of stalking a human, even one that’s hiding a hellgod just isn’t—”
“Not your style, love. I know that. But it is mine.” When she glanced up at him, he went into his vampire mien and held it until she closed her eyes and sighed.
“I know. But sending you out to stalk Ben isn’t exactly my style either.”
“Got a feeling if either one of us doesn’t do it, it’s going to happen anyway. Not as sure about your watcher, yet, ‘cause he hasn’t experienced any of those things we have memories of. Obviously, by the time you had to take your dive, he was more than willing to do what had to be done, but that’s a little too late to be useful.”
“But you think Winston would?”
“I do. I think that’s got as much to do with him being here as does helping us out. He’s our backup muscle, and if we aren’t getting the job done, he’s prepared to do it.” He snorted. “Maybe not tonight. But when he’s back on his feet.”
Buffy frowned. “Isn’t he all right? Did curing my mom break him?”
“Nah. He’s not broken. He’s made of tougher stuff than that. But he’s bloody weak physically right now, so got to figure his magic has gone walkabout for a bit. Didn’t he say if he had to do healing all the time, he’d be worthless for months after more than two or three times? I expect it’s going to be a week or more before he’s going to be up to fighting off a hellgod.”
“Well let’s just hope we don’t have to do it before he’s feeling better. Which reminds me, Willow’s been feeling a little out of the loop lately, so I think we need to have another Scooby meeting pretty soon and tell everybody that Glory’s here and looking for her key.”
“Not going to tell them about the Bit, are you?”
“Not unless we need to. If they don’t know, they can’t let it slip out accidentally. And if we can take care of Glory soon enough, they won’t ever need to.”
“Not sure that’s a secret you’re gonna be able to keep long-term, love, but agreed, there’s no sense mentioning it until we have to.”
Buffy nodded and waited from him to unlock the apartment door. Once they were safely inside and she’d dropped her stakes, she raised her arms and stretched. She could feel Spike watching her to see if she winced and she was careful to hide any sign that she might still be sore. To no avail, it seemed.
“Could sense that flinch you tried to hide, love. Where does it still hurt?”
“Stupid vampire senses,” she muttered. “And nowhere, really. My back is just still a little bit stiff, that’s all.”
“Maybe you could use a nice backrub?” he said, putting his hands on her shoulders.
“Maybe so,” she responded, leaning back into him. “Know any good massagers?”
“I think I could find one. He’s a bit picky, though—only works on naked women…”
She spun around to face him, giving a mock glare. “I know you meant to say one naked woman.”
“Did. Abso-bloody-lutely I did.”
“’K, then. Rub my back…. Please.”
“Let’s get you naked first, yeah?” He led her into their bedroom and began helping her out of her clothes, dropping kisses on the bare skin he uncovered.
“Aren’t you afraid you’ll get distracted?” she murmured, helping him slide her jeans off. “Or that I will?” she added with a little squeal when he knelt in front of her to pull off her panties with his teeth. He quickly added more kisses to the newly exposed flesh.
“Bloody well hope so,” he growled, before lifting her onto the bed without removing his mouth from where it was now attached.
Surrendering to the inevitable postponement of her backrub, Buffy spread her legs and gave in to the sensations he was creating. Only when she was quivering in the boneless aftermath of a quick orgasm, did he lift his mouth and shed his own clothes. As he poised himself over her, he paused to meet her sated gaze.
“Would you rather have the back rub first?” he asked, running his cock up her well-lubricated labia, thereby contradicting his solicitous question.
Her response was to throw her legs around his hips and pull him down, until he could slide inside.
“Mmmmm,” he purred, beginning to move his hips gently. “I’m going to take that as a no.”
Raising her own hips to meet his gentle thrusts, Buffy smiled. “You’re still gonna owe me that backrub,” she said as they settled into a familiar, but still pleasingly erotic pattern.
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