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Just a Little Spell by slaymesoftly
Chapters 14 - 21
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Chapter Fourteen

William stepped back behind the Watcher, trying to shield Willow, but Riley gestured with his gun for all of them to move ahead of him.

“Let’s go. Professor Walsh wants to meet all of you. You too, William,” he said as Spike tried to slip toward the kitchen. “She said ALL of Buffy’s friends and relatives. That includes cousins from other countries.”

“My goodness,” William said, eyeing the rifles apprehensively. “If this woman wants to meet us, why didn’t she just invite us to tea?”

“Consider this your invitation,” one of the other men said with a grin as he nudged the cowering man with his rifle.

“Oh dear, oh dear,” William kept repeating as they moved toward the door, managing to keep himself between the guns and Willow. Just before they reached the door, Riley stopped them and looked at the surprisingly calm older Brit speculatively.

“Let’s see what you’ve got in those pockets, ‘Uncle Giles’, he said, gesturing for him to come closer. For a second, Giles looked like he was planning to resist, then he shrugged and stepped forward.

Riley set down his rifle, indicating to the other men that they should keep all three of the nervous people covered, and began to pat down Giles’ pockets. When his hand bumped against the gun, he grinned in satisfaction and pulled it out.

“Look at this, boys. Our tweedy librarian seems to have some unusual accessories.”

The soldier was so smug and proud of himself, he didn’t bother to search Giles thoroughly or even to order him to empty out his pockets. Thinking he’d found the only weapon the other man was trying to smuggle in, he tossed it onto the sofa with a laugh and said, “NOW, we’re ready to bring these people in. Although,” he added, turning to look at a nervous William and frightened-looking Willow, “I can’t imagine why Maggie wants to see you two.”

“M—me neither,” Willow said moving closer to William. “Why don’t I just stay here and—“

“Sorry, Willow” Riley said with a disinterested shrug, “Maggie wants all of you, and your other friends too, as soon as we can find them. Let’s go.”

He gestured for Willow to go first and gave William an unnecessary shove as he went by.

“You can be quite sure, Mr. Finn, that the British consulate in Los Angeles is going to hear about this outrage. I am a loyal citizen of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth and as such, not to be trifled with.” He stuck his chin up in the air and shoved his glasses back up his nose as he bravely met Riley’s amused look.

“Do be quiet, William,” Giles said, hiding his smile. “I am sure Agent Finn is not interested in hearing your intention to bring diplomatic pressure upon his organization.”

“Well, he should be,” William blustered. “This is an outrage, that they think they can treat British citizens like…like…animals!”

When Riley raised his rifle as though to bash William in the face, he cringed back immediately and whimpered in fear. The commandos all laughed, missing the amber flashes in his eyes as he ducked his head.

They were put into the back of the SUV, by themselves, but with one soldier facing them at all times. He was instructed to keep his eyes primarily on Giles. Even though the Watcher’s demeanor was that of a middle-aged man caught doing something quite out of character, Riley was suspicious. The fact that the man even had a gun, let alone that he was planning to bring it with him when looking for his niece, told Riley there was more there than what seemed obvious.

Willow and William he dismissed as weak and cowardly, and he paid little or no attention to them until the driver commented, “Hey, Finn, do you think we’ll get to see this one’s goodies like we did the blond?” He jerked his head at Willow who had gasped, then leaped to put her hand over William’s mouth just in time to muffle the snarl. She could feel his fangs just edging out of his gums, and saw his eyes flashing amber as he tried to suppress the demon that wanted to rip the driver’s head off.

“Serenity!” she hissed, projecting as much magic as she could summon without a spell. To the surprise of all three, Spike immediately calmed down and slumped in the seat, looking relaxed and calm.

“Whoa!” Willow whispered. “I should have done that a long time ago!”

“Quite a trick there, Red,” he whispered back. “It’s not easy to push down an angry demon.”

“That was quite impressive, Willow. I must say.”

“What was quite impressive?” the soldier guarding them looked at her suspiciously.

“Nothing!” they chorused together.

He frowned, but could see nothing wrong. All three were still sitting quietly on the back seat, their hands in plain view.

(Buffy? You there, pet?)

(Where the hell else would I be?)
she grumbled at him. (Still tied to a table here – I think I might have loosened one of the restraints, though. I think I’m on a table meant for ordinary humans, not Slayers. Did you know leather stretches when you pull on it?)

(They’re bringin’ us to you, Slayer. Do what you can, but don’t let ‘m know you’re loose until we get there.)

Into the silence he said, (You hear me, Slayer? You wait till the cavalry gets there.)

Her sigh was almost audible and he had to smile, (Well, you’d better hurry. I’m getting bored and….oh, peachy, here comes the goon squad again…later.)

Spike couldn’t get her to talk to him again, but he was able to visualize what was happening through her disjointed thoughts and emotional reactions. He whispered to Willow that she’d better have her calming spell handy as he picked up on what was going on in the room.

The two soldiers approached Buffy, laughing at the way she glared apprehensively at them.

“Not quite so brave, now that you can’t move, are you, ‘Slayer’?” Forrest said “slayer” like it was a dirty word.

“Maybe she’s not comfortable,” Graham put in. “Didn’t she look more relaxed when she was naked?”

“Yeah, now that you mention it, she did. I’ll bet she’d like to be naked again; that right, Buffy?”

While the men were amusing themselves trying to intimidate her, Buffy was flexing her muscles and stretching the leather restraints to the point that she could slip her arms out. She kept her hands under the table so that they would not notice that her upper body was free.

(If they touch you, they’re lunch. You know that, don’t you, Slayer?)

(I appreciate the sentiment, Spike, but – news flash – if they touch me they’re little piles of broken bones long before you get here.)

“Let’s just get her out of those uncomfortable jeans, huh? I don’t know why Maggie made us dress her again. Naked was working for me.” With a nasty chuckle, Forrest reached for the zipper on Buffy’s jeans only to realize that with her legs tied down, he would not be able to remove them or slide them very far down her legs.

“What the hell are you doing?” Graham almost yelped as the other man reached for the restraints holding Buffy’s feet and legs. “You know you can’t let her loose.”

“Relax, I’m not going to. I’m just going to undo one leg at a time so we can get those pants off her. What can she do with only one leg free?”

As soon as Buffy’s left leg was freed, she brought it up to sweep Forrest’s head down onto the table with a painful thump. At the same time, she sat up and grabbed Graham before he could reach for his rifle, slamming his head down against the edge of the table.

While both men were stunned, she quickly undid the remaining restraint and jumped to her feet. Before Graham could rise, she slammed both hands into his back and forced him down across the table, using it to hold him up while she punched his kidneys until he sank to the floor moaning.

Forrest raised his head and saw with bleary eyes what was happening to his friend. He moved toward the weapons they’d left by the door, but immediately found a small, barefoot, and very angry blond standing between him and his gun. Completely ignoring how fast she’d just shown she could move, he charged toward her, only to find himself propelled through space and slamming into the door with his shoulder.

A credit to his training, he did not back off as the tiny predator stalked toward him, but held up his one good arm in a defensive posture and fell into a fighting stance. A stance which did him no good as, with a flurry of punches and kicks, Buffy reduced him to the pile of broken bones she’d promised Spike she would.

While she stood, panting, over his broken body, she cringed slightly as she looked at what she’d done. The whole time she’d been beating on the man, she’d been aware of Spike’s presence in her head, urging her on with his own rage. She paled as the implications hit her.

(Oh my god. My behavior is being influenced by one of the most notorious and deadly master vampires in the world. I was out of control. I almost killed these guys.)

Spike had followed the whole thing – trying to maintain his contact with Buffy while getting out of the car and entering the lower level of the facility. Willow’s calming grip on his arm was the only thing that kept him from vamping out as soon as the commandos starting talking about Buffy, but nothing could prevent the surge of rage that went through him when they actually tried to take her clothes off.

He knew the rage was flowing through the claim, but he didn’t try to stop it. He rejoiced in every punch and kick, his demon cheering at the sight of the man lying unconscious on the floor. When Buffy turned her attention back to Graham, he was ready to offer more suggestions when her regret and shame flowed back to him and he realized what he was doing to her.

He immediately tried to push his demon down, smothering the possessive feelings toward his mate that had inspired the demand for violence. Buffy relaxed slightly as the urge to kill both men faded and she was able to assess the damage she’d done. Graham appeared to be in one piece, with the exception of a large, swelling over his eye where his head had hit the table and the obvious pain he was in from her blows to his lower back.

She tried to feel bad about the way he flinched in fear when she approached him, but decided that both Buffy and the Slayer were just fine with what she’d done to him. Forrest, on the other hand, she couldn’t look at without guilt. Yes, the man definitely deserved to be punished for what he’d been trying to do to her, but she knew that without Spike’s influence she would never have continued to beat him after he was no longer a threat.

She knew Spike was controlling the demon and she sent him grateful acknowledgment, even as she tried to hide the fear and disgust she was feeling at her behavior. Her first terrified thought about being controlled by William the Bloody had come through loud and clear, though and Spike had felt his heart clench in fear at the way she’d reacted.

(We’re here, love. We’re in the building. Let’s work this out later, alright? Know you’re upset, but now’s not the time. Soon’s you’re safely out of here, we’ll talk it out, yeah? We’ll suss out what we can do about it. I promise, love. Jus’ don’t shut me out yet.)

Riley delivered his captives to Maggie Walsh’s office, waiting quietly by the door as she looked them over. The Watcher, who’d already met her once and decided he hated her when he just thought she was an arrogant college professor, stared at her with a cold expression on his face. Maggie was somewhat taken back at the change in demeanor from the self-conscious, stammering man she’d dismissed from her office and the one standing before her. This one was clearly not someone to be taken lightly and she reminded herself that Buffy had admitted he had something to do with her Slaying duties.

She indicated with her eyes that Riley was to stay close to the man, then turned her attention to the nervous-looking redhead and the young man beside her. William was trembling just slightly, but the psychologist in Maggie picked up on it and she smiled at the fear she thought was being evidenced. Willow could have told her that the trembling was from Spike’s struggle to control the demon trying to get across the desk to the white-coated woman, but she kept silent and concentrated on sending soothing magics toward the angry vampire.

“Well, Miss Rosenberg, I must tell you I am quite surprised in your choice of companions. I’ve been quite taken with your intelligence and talents and had actually given some thought to recruiting you. It is quite disappointing to find that you are already involved in demon hunting in some mystical fashion.”

Willow just stared back at her in amazement. She was so shocked at the thought of being recruited by anyone, that she couldn’t even indulge in her usual babbling. Then she remembered that this woman had kidnapped her best friend and, based on what little Spike had shared with them, been torturing her and she drew herself up and did her best to give an icy glare

“You kidnapped my friend,” she said with more confidence than she felt. “Why would I want to work for you?”

Maggie waved her hand dismissively and looked at Willow with open speculation. “I wonder what your place is in this little gang of demon-hunters? I wonder what we don’t know about you that we can discover in our labs?”

Calling on reserves of courage she didn’t know she had, Willow stared back at her teacher and said calmly, “You might find out more than you care to, Professor Walsh.”

Maggie blinked in surprise; then, tired of being threatened by what she insisted on thinking of as little girls, she turned toward the young man who appeared so meek and yet according to Riley was so strong.

“And you, William, is it? How do you fit in here? Are you really just a visitor from out of the country? If you are truly related to the Slayer, I wonder if we will find that her strength is inherited? I’m curious as to how such a slender man could have such a strong grip. Perhaps we will have a chance to find out how strong you actually are also.”

“Oh, I think you can pretty much count on it,” Spike answered, making no attempt to sound like William.

When Riley whipped his head around in surprise, Giles leaped for him and twisted the rifle away, bringing the stock up and hitting the man in the chin. He whirled and held the gun on the woman who was reaching for her phone saying coldly, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

She froze, her hand just inches away from the intercom on her desk.

“You’ll never get out of here alive, you know,” she said, relaxing back into her chair.

“We’ll see,” was the only answer. “Now, where’s my Slayer?”

Maggie smiled. “She’s under control, and entertaining some of my men. Men who are not terribly fond of her, I might add. Perhaps if you answer some of my questions first, I will see that she is brought here. Or, better yet, I will take you to her.”

Giles looked at Spike and the vampire made a face and shook his head.

“Hate to spoil your plan there, you ugly bint, but the Slayer is not under control, the men who were with her will be needing medical assistance, and she is on her way to this office. She’s quite brassed off, by the way,” he added, as Maggie paled.

“There is no way you could know that,” she growled. She saw Riley edging toward Giles and as the big man reached for his rifle, she tried to hit the intercom. Only to be stopped by a very fast, cool, and strong hand on her wrist.

“Wouldn’t do that, if I were you,” William drawled. “The Slayer didn’t leave much for me of those wankers that were trying to rape her, but I can have you dead and drained before she gets through that door.”

He took off his glasses and vamped out at her, smiling when she cringed back in her chair with a small cry. Recovering herself, she glared back at him and said, “Hostile 17, I should have known. You won’t be killing anyone. The harder you try, the more that chip in your head will fire. You’re more helpless than Ms. Rosenberg.”

“Well, since Red here is turnin’ into a right powerful little witch, I don’t believe that should be givin’ you a lot of hope.” As he spoke, he was squeezing her wrist, smiling as her eyes widened in pain.

“Your chip…I put that in myself…” she tried to speak through the pain in her hand. She stared in fascination as the vampire seemed to be listening to something, then watched as he reluctantly eased his grip on her hand.

“Keep it off that intercom, or I’ll break it off,” he snarled as he let go.

(If you made me let go of that bitch jus’ so you could have a go at her, I’m goin’ be really brassed off at you, Slayer.)

Riley and Giles were wrestling for the gun, but as the larger man gained the advantage, the door burst open and Buffy stormed into the room. Riley had been so involved in his struggle with Giles that he had not seen the byplay between Spike and Maggie. He assumed he was still holding two helpless people and an older man hostage. He turned the rifle he’d finally regained possession of toward Buffy and said, “I’m pretty sure you aren’t bulletproof, Buffy. So, just go stand over there near your friends while I figure out what to do here.”

Looks were exchanged quickly and Giles nodded toward Maggie as he and Willow moved as inconspicuously as possible to be close to her chair. As they did, William shoved Buffy behind him. When Giles grabbed Maggie in a choke hold, holding her in front of him like a shield, Riley fired at William. He smiled in satisfaction as he saw the Englishman’s body jerk and blood appear on his blue shirt.

Chapter Fifteen

“Spike!” Buffy’s cry was part anguish and part anger.

(What the hell did you think you were doing?)

(Puttin’ the already dead bloke in front of the bullet, you ungrateful bint.)

(I didn’t ask you to take a bullet for me)
she growled, fear fueling her anger.

(Didn’t have to. No way was I gonna watch you get taken out by somethin’ we both know couldn’t hurt me.)

Aloud, he said, “Relax, Slayer. You know a bullet can’t kill me.” He examined the hole in his shirt and peered inside to see the hole pouring borrowed blood down his chest. “Hurts like a bugger, though,” he said, just before he slid toward the floor, grabbing at the desk for support.

Buffy immediately wrapped her arms around his waist and lowered him gently the rest of the way down. She looked up at her watcher and best friend, ignoring for the moment the furious woman Giles was gleefully holding immobile.

“I need something to cut a bullet out,” she demanded.

“Check my ankle, pet. There’s a knife there.” Spike’s voice was hoarse with the strain of both the pain he was feeling and his attempts to keep it from bleeding over into his mate. Buffy glared at Maggie as though the older woman had pulled the trigger herself. Riley, of course, had bolted out the door as soon as he shot William, using the confusion to put some distance between himself and the angry Slayer.

Buffy reached down and found the slender knife attached to Spike’s lower leg and pulled it out. She ripped his shirt off, exposing both his muscular chest and the still-bleeding hole in it.

“Damn! I liked that shirt,” she muttered as she tried to see through the blood and gauge how deep the bullet was.

(I can buy another one just like it, if you like it that much, pet. But I refuse to wear it where anybody but you can see me.)

Ignoring his attempt to distract her, she used the shirt to blot up the blood so that she could locate the bullet.

(I’m sorry) Buffy sent him quickly, as she probed the wound with her finger. He nodded at her to continue and went back into vamp face as the pain brought his demon to the fore. Her searching finger found that the bullet had lodged in the back of one of his ribs as it went through his body.

“I found it!” she said triumphantly, then sobered. “But I’m not sure how I’m going to get it out without doing more damage. And you’re losing a lot of blood.”

Buffy looked at Giles for help and he shrugged, shoving Maggie down in her chair not at all gently. He pulled the garrote from his unsearched pocket and placed it around her throat, anchoring it tightly to the back of her chair. He had Willow get another one from Spike’s pocket and used that to tie her hands securely.

Looking her directly in the eye, he said in his best Ripper voice, “If you try to move, you’ll strangle. Is that clear?”

An answering glare was her only response, and he nodded, turning to Willow.

“If she so much as breathes funny, turn her into a toad,” he instructed.

Willow made a face and cringed. “Ewww, Giles, you know I hate frogs and toads! Can’t I make her a kitten or something?”

Maggie listened to the perfectly serious exchange between the out-of-work librarian and the unassuming, but brilliant, girl with a combination of fear, shock and an overwhelming urge to learn more about these people. Wlillow folded her arms across her chest and fixed the woman with her best resolve-face glare, daring her to think about moving.

Giles knelt down on the floor near Buffy and looked into the wound.

“I suggest we go in from the back to get that out. With vampire healing being what it is, it needs to come out before the bone begins to grow around it.”

Using his ruined shirt as a cushion, Spike lay down on his stomach and clenched his fists as the Watcher picked up the knife and began to make an incision in the vampire’s back. Heedless of who else was watching, Buffy pulled one of Spike’s hands into her lap and began to stroke it gently as her Watcher cut into Spike’s back and dug the bullet out of the bone.

(I’m sorry, I know we’re hurting you, but it’s for your own good.)

(Bet you say that to all the demons your Watcher carves up for you)
he snarked, fighting the urge to scream as the knife began digging into the bone around the bullet.

As the bullet was pried loose and popped out onto the floor, Spike’s control slipped and Buffy gasped when a stab of pain went through her back.

(Sorry, pet. Slipped there for a minute) Buffy could feel the weakness from the blood loss slipping up on the vampire and she rubbed his hand vigorously, ignoring her Watcher’s frown.

“Come on, Spike. Don’t leave us now. We still have to get out of here,” Buffy pleaded with the almost unconscious vampire.

“He needs blood, Buffy. Human blood.”

Slayer and Watcher turned as one and looked at the suddenly pale woman sitting behind the desk. They gave her several minutes to contemplate the obvious answer before Buffy said with a sigh, “The Slayer doesn’t kill humans, Giles. That’s the first thing Merrick ever taught me.”

The relief on Maggie’s face was visible – and short-lived. While Buffy turned back to the semi-conscious vampire and gently stroked his light brown curls, Giles leaned in to the wary woman and whispered, “My Slayer doesn’t kill humans. Neither I nor the vampire are encumbered with those issues.”

He had to smother a grin at the fear he could feel rolling off the arrogant professor as she understood his implied threat.

Keeping her back turned to the rest of the people in the room, Buffy reached a quick decision and used the sharp knife to slash her wrist. She held the bleeding wrist to Spike’s mouth and whispered, “Drink, Spike. It’s freely given. Slayer blood, come on, you know you want it.”

Spike’s demon took no time fastening his mouth on the bleeding wrist and the elixir coming from it. As he swallowed healing draughts of Buffy’s blood, the demon receded and Spike became conscious of what he was doing. He groaned as the powerful Slayer blood flowed down his throat and began the healing process. In spite of his wound, Buffy’s nearness, enhanced by her blood, had the same effect on him it always did and he shifted uncomfortably against the rapidly growing bulge in his jeans.

(I could make this a lot more fun, love, if we were just…)

(This is medicinal, Spike! Just drink and get better.)

Buffy was very grateful that no one could hear their thoughts as she blushed, remembering what happened that last time he drank from her. She closed her eyes briefly and let the incredibly sensual feeling wash over her. As his swallowing slowed and came to a halt, Spike ran his tongue over her wrist until the bleeding had stopped and the edges began to close. He finished with a light kiss to the wound, then moved Buffy’s hand back to her lap.

(Not that I don’t appreciate it, love, but what was that all about?)

Spike was allowing the feelings engendered by her gift to flow freely between them and Buffy found herself blushing again as his gratitude and undisguised lust filled her.

“We’ve got to get out of here,” she replied, trying to ignore his heated gaze. “And nobody wants to carry your lazy ass.”

The sound of Buffy’s voice brought everyone’s attention back to the pair on the floor and one look at Spike’s sparkling eyes and almost healed body had Giles grabbing his Slayer’s arms and turning them over. When he spotted the newly healed cut on her wrist, he dropped her hand with a growl that would have done credit to a vampire.

“What the bloody hell are you doing?” He shouted at her. “Letting William the Bloody drink from you? He might have killed you!”

“No, he wouldn’t,” she answered with a surety that paused the man in mid-rant. The Slayer and the man who’d been fired from the Council for being too fond of her stared at each other for a long minute. Spike rose to his feet and stood behind Buffy, resting his hands lightly on her shoulders.

“You know better than that, Watcher,” he said calmly. “You know I’d never hurt her.”

“Angel was in love with her, and he almost killed her when she let him have her blood.”

Spike’s face darkened and his grip tightened on Buffy’s shoulders. When she winced, he apologized silently and rubbed them gently.

“I told you, I am NOT the bloody great poof. My demon doesn’t rule me the way his does. I don’t hurt the people I…care about.”

“What’s done is done,” Buffy interrupted. “Now that he’s healthy again, we need to concentrate on getting out of here.”

She turned to look coldly at Maggie Walsh.

“I’m assuming her…employees…will not want to lose her, so she’s going to be our ticket out. I’ll handle any fighting we have to do, and Spike will –“ she turned to look at the vampire.

“Spike will do what needs to be done,” he said enigmatically, stepping around to stand beside her.

‘Well, don’t get shot again, please.”

(I don’t know, pet. Considerin’ the cure, it might be worth it…Maybe you could use me as a non-human shield.) His silent laughter told her she didn’t even need to mention that he was a pig.

“Your blood healed him.” Maggie’s flat, no-nonsense voice brought everyone’s attention back to her. She was staring at Buffy with undisguised fascination, and Spike stepped forward growling.

Buffy put a hand on his arm and he stopped, but he never took his icy blue eyes off the white-coated woman. She temporarily ignored him while she studied Buffy intently.

“How is it possible that your blood heals? What is the mechanism for it?”

Spike waved his hand at her face, “Vampire here, ‘case you’ve forgotten. Lives off blood? Quick healing? Can’t be killed ‘cept for certain methods? Stop me when I get to somethin’ you don’t already know from your little party games.”

Maggie turned her attention to him briefly. “You didn’t heal that quickly when you were fed blood before. When we—“

“When you what?” Buffy’s voice was deadly as she stepped closer to the woman who seemed so anxious to learn more about her. “What did you do to him while he was in here?”

Maggie was suddenly reminded of what Buffy had said about hurting her friends or family and she wondered exactly how strong the Slayer’s inhibition against killing humans was.

It was Spike’s turn to take her arm and distract her from thoughts of mayhem.

“She’s our ticket out of here, pet. Let it go.”

With a final glare at the nervous looking woman, Buffy relaxed and turned around.

“All right, here’s the plan. We use Cruella here as our hostage/bargaining chip/shield, whatever it takes to get us out of this place.” She looked at Spike, “Do you remember how you got out the first time?”

He shook his head, saying, “No, but I was on this level and I know I went out past the cages. There was an opening into some tunnels which led to the caves outside of town.”

“Let’s go then,” Buffy said, yanking Maggie to her feet

Chapter Sixteen

Riley had quickly picked up the two men who’d helped him capture Giles and the others, taking them with him as he raced toward the labs. He found Graham crawling painfully toward the emergency phone and signaled the others to help him. One glance at the broken body that was his second-in-command and he knew that Maggie might have bitten off more than she could chew this time

After getting the injured men to the infirmary, he called up his remaining squad members and sent them to guard the exits. He took two men for himself and headed for the area from which he knew Hostile 17 had escaped before. He reached the end of the long hall leading up to the tunnel entrance and pushed the heavy door closed. He gestured to the other men to take up positions on either side of the hall, while he placed himself in front of the door, gun at the ready.

Using his radio, he found that the small group of intruders was working its way from Maggie’s office toward his position. It was clear they were using Maggie as a hostage, and threatening to decapitate her if anyone got in the way. Riley knew the technicians they were passing were not going to interfere in any way that might get Maggie killed and his remaining men were too scattered around the facility to be of much help. He looked toward the open door at the far end of the hall and prepared himself for what was about to happen.

He was surprised when the first person to look out the door at him was Willow, and even more surprised when she waved her hand and their guns suddenly became so hot none of them could hold on to them.

He was shaking his burned hand and cursing when he saw William come out the door and begin walking toward him. A frown creased the big man’s brow. He was completely thrown that the first two people he saw were the ones he deemed the least dangerous. He looked back down at his blistered hand and wondered who else he might have underestimated.

He watched William remove his glasses and carefully place them in the pocket of what was clearly not his own shirt. Aside from having changed out of his bloody clothing, there was no sign that the man had just been shot at close range. Riley frowned again as the unassuming man continued to walk toward him. There was no sign of blood or any residual effects from the bullet that had ripped into his body just a short time ago.

“Your sudden courage is admirable, William, but I don’t care how strong you think you are, there’s no way you can fight the three of us. You’d best let your cousin handle this herself. If she can,” he added with a smirk.

There was no reply from the other man, just a gradual change in his demeanor as he strode down the hallway. From the clumsy, insecure wimpiness they were all used to, he slowly gained a grinning confidence that sent a chill through the three soldiers. He began rolling up the sleeves of his shirt as he moved down the hall, his stride becoming a predatory swagger. The closer he got, the less he resembled the bumbling William. With only a third of the way to go, there were gasps from the men on either side as they recognized Hostile 17. As he watched the now vamped-out Spike stalking toward him, Riley laughed and got ready for hand-to-hand combat with the chipped vampire.

“I guess now we know why William was so reluctant to fight for himself,” Riley said confidently. “Are you sure you don’t want to re-think this, Hostile 17?” he continued as the vampire approached. “You know how it’s going to end, don’t you?”

“Oh yeah, I know how it’s goin’ to end,” Spike agreed with a feral grin. “ ‘S goin’ to end with your blood in my throat and your balls in my hands.”

“Not likely,” the commando growled, rushing the vampire and throwing a hard right. Spike gave a shout of joy as his head snapped back and he immediately began to pepper the bigger man with short jabs, backing him up all the way to the heavy metal door. As the vampire continued to throw punches, seemingly enjoying the fight more than he was trying to end it quickly, Riley frowned and gasped out, “But you, you can’t…why…the chip…”

“Oh,” Spike paused and cocked his head. “Were you looking for this?” He reached in his pocket and took out a small silicone chip, holding it up so that the other man could see it. He heard the gasps from behind when Buffy and Giles realized what he was holding, but he never took his eyes off the man in front of him.

When Riley realized he was facing a fully functional vampire, a vampire that had every reason to be carrying a very large grudge, he shrank against the wall. He felt something warm going down his leg as his bladder accepted what his brain hadn’t yet. He was going to die. And if the look on the vampire’s face was any clue, it wasn’t going to be quick or easy.

Buffy had followed Spike into the hall, handing Maggie off to Giles to control with the thin line still around the woman’s throat. She watched with interest as he seemed to grow taller and more powerful with each step he took toward the soldiers that had tormented him.

She winced when she saw Spike’s head snap back with Riley’s first punch and moved forward to take up the slack when he collapsed in pain. She saw the flurry of retaliatory punches and frowned slightly when he didn’t seem to be feeling anything. When she saw his hand reach into his pocket and take out the chip, her blood ran cold.

She heard matching gasps from the three people behind her as the grinning vampire dropped the chip back into his pocket. Before she could think about what, if anything, she wanted to do about it, she saw the other two commandos sliding toward where Spike had gone back to fighting with Riley. They were each holding wooden stakes as they tried to get around behind the vampire, and without thinking Buffy leapt the last few remaining feet between herself and the combatants.

She turned to face the two soldiers, shaking her head and saying, “Ah, ah. This looks like a fair fight to me, boys. I don’t think you’re invited.”

She could feel Spike fighting behind her and had a brief flash of what an unbeatable team they would make if they were working together. Then she concentrated on proving to the still advancing men that she was serious about keeping them out of the fight.

It hadn’t occurred to either of the men that the broken comrades they had found on the floor of the lab were last seen heading for this very same small blond who was bound to a table and unconscious at the time. They’d watched, along with everyone else who wasn’t busy, as Maggie tested her for resistance to heat and cold, but everyone had lost interest when the testing moved on to the much less interesting, and fully clothed, truth serum questioning.

With that being all the testing completed at that point, except for the scuffle in the training room, they really had no idea who or what a Slayer was and what she could do. Moving confidently, they each approached her, stakes held at the ready if they needed them for weapons. Buffy let them get within arm’s reach before she jumped up and kicked them both in the face at the same time.

Even with bare feet, the heel of a Slayer’s foot was a pretty potent weapon, and they both dropped to the floor, stunned and in pain. Buffy casually picked up the stakes and put them in the waistband of her jeans as she turned to watch Spike and Riley.

There was no way to call what was happening a fight. Even with his enhancements, the big commando was no match for a fully vamped out, vengeful master vampire. Without ever touching the man with his fangs or claws, Spike had reduced him to a bleeding, crying specimen of humanity. He held the larger man up with one hand while he stood, head cocked to one side, contemplating his next move. Buffy spoke silently and sarcastically as she watched him ponder what kind of pain to inflict next.

(As much as I hate to interrupt your good time, we ARE actually trying to get out of this place. Do what you need to do and lets get going.)

(Do what I need to do? Does that mean I have permission to eat the stupid git?)
His disbelief was obvious.

Buffy’s sigh was audible to everyone, even those who had no idea there was a conversation going on.

(I’d really rather you didn’t. Not while Giles and Willow are watching. I’m going to have enough trouble with them knowing that you CAN kill, without dealing with them seeing that you will.)

(Good point, love.)

Spike’s relief that Buffy did not seem bothered by the news that he could once again kill humans made him feel magnanimous and he dropped the mewling soldier on the floor.

“Ok, Scoobies, let’s go. Through here,” he said as he wrenched the heavy steel door open and held it for them.

Buffy went through first, quickly followed by Willow, Giles and a very reluctant Maggie Walsh.

“You’ve made your point,” she said as she tried to plant her feet. “I give you my word that I won’t send anyone after you right away if you leave me here. That’ll give you plenty of time to get out of our complex and away from the base.”

“And, you, of course, will just forget you ever saw us…”Giles scoffed, “as well as the fact that Buffy and Spike have incapacitated your entire squad of demon hunters…”

He shoved the woman through the door and into the dark tunnel. Behind him, Spike let the door begin to swing shut. Just before it closed completely, he reached around the edge and slashed a claw across Riley’s throat. His demon growled at the waste of good blood as it spurted onto the tile floor, but he just stepped away and let the door slam behind him.

“Alright, Slayer, let’s get out of this place.”

The tunnels were dimly lit with small bulbs every hundred feet or so and they were able to move quickly in the direction Spike indicated. The vampire soon moved up beside Buffy and they walked in the front of the group, shoulders brushing occasionally as the uneven ground threw them together.

(When were you going to tell me?)

Spike didn’t pretend not to know what she was talking about.

(When I needed to) he replied honestly.

(How long has it been out?) Suspicion and hurt were evident in her thoughts.

(A while.)

(Why didn’t you tell me? Don’t you trust me?)

His heart gave a leap at the direction of the conversation. He’d expected immediate anger and threats of staking.

(Didn’t think YOU’d trust ME, pet. Wanted to wait ‘til I’d had time to prove m’self to you. To show you I could control the demon when I needed to. That we didn’t have to go back to bein’ enemies jus’ cause I could feed again.)

(If you start feeding again, we WILL go back to being enemies, Spike. I can’t let you go running around eating people!)

(Not even bad people, Slayer? I could stick to murderers, rapists, wankers like that that nobody’d miss. Or, how about if I don’t drain them? Maybe just take a little taste every once in a while…you know, jus’ to get the taste of pig’s blood out of my mouth.)

(You could do that without going after strangers)

He was puzzled for a few seconds until her barely visible blush and accelerated heartbeat made her meaning clear. Ignoring the startled people walking behind them, he stopped abruptly and turned her to face him.

(Are you sayin’ what I think you’re sayin’, Slayer?)

(My name’s Buffy. Why can’t you call me Buffy?)

(Don’ change the subject, love. I need to know what you’re sayin’)

(I’m not changing the subject. I need to know that I’m more to you than another Slayer to conquer. That you aren’t using this…whatever it is between us…just to get close enough to bite me whenever you want.)

(You’ve been inside me more than once, Buffy. Don’t tell me you don’t know what you mean to me.)

Oblivious to the staring people around them, who’d all been forced to stop when the two blond super beings stopped to carry on their obviously very private conversation, Buffy and Spike faced each other, his intense blue eyes boring into her suspicious green ones. The Slayer was the one to look away first, letting her eyes slid away and turning to go.

The vampire growled and grabbed her by the shoulders, forcing her to meet his gaze again.

(I love you, Buffy Anne Summers. God help me, I love you with everything I have and am. If that’s not good enough for you…)

She looked back at him, feeling the truth of what he was saying flowing into her. She was suffused with such overwhelming gratitude for the adoration, lust and protectiveness that she felt from the vampire that she had to blink back tears.

(It’s good enough)

(Alright, then)


Their mutual grinning at each other was interrupted by the sound of Giles loudly clearing his throat as he pointed out the obvious.

“Whatever you to find so important that you must stop our escape to discuss it - quite rudely, I might add – it is going to have to wait. We need to get out of here and decide what we are going to do about this harridan I am forced to walk with.”

The laughter from the Slayer and her vampire echoed off the walls as they turned and led the way toward safety. Shaking his head at them, Giles roughly shoved the woman in front of him and set off after the still laughing pair.

Chapter Seventeen

As they moved quickly toward where the tunnels opened into the caves surrounding Sunnydale, Buffy and Spike continued to walk side by side. When their arms brushed against each other again, Spike reached for Buffy’s hand and entwined their fingers. She hesitated for just a second, then squeezed lightly and moved a little closer to him.

The vampire hadn’t been sure how she would react to the PDA in front of her Watcher and best friend, and he let out an unnecessarily held breath when she didn’t pull away. He allowed his thumb to gently stroke hers as they walked along together. Behind him, he heard the Watcher’s pulse rate increase when he saw them, and waited for the reprimand that never came.

Instead, Willow said in a whisper, “Awwww, Giles, Do you see that?”

“Yes, Willow, I do,” he growled back, making no attempt to lower his voice. His tone promised there would be conversation about what he was seeing as soon as they were safely back in the world.

Spike glanced at Buffy to see if she’d heard any of it, but she remained focused on the dim tunnel in front of them and didn’t react at all. He wanted to bring her hand to his lips and kiss it in appreciation of her willingness to acknowledge their new relationship, but decided that might push the watcher past his limits. Buffy’s quick sideways glance and the small smile on her lips told him she’d sensed the unspoken thought. She squeezed his fingers lightly and mentally blew him a kiss.

Before Spike could follow up with any more stimulating mental images, they reached the end of the lighted tunnels and he turned unerringly into the darkened corridor opening on the left.

“This is the way,” he said confidently, pulling her into the darker passageway. He quickly vamped out as the dim lights of the tunnels faded into the solid blackness of the caves. When Willow tripped over somethingf, they stopped and the vampire looked down, finding a cache of equipment obviously left by the commandos. Included were several flashlights, some rope, and a couple of their ubiquitous tasers.

Scooping up the tasers and the flashlights, Willow and Buffy turned to go on when Giles cleared his throat.

“Have you given any thought to what are we going to do with this unpleasant woman when we get out of here?” he inquired, jerking his head toward Maggie. “I believe kidnapping, contrary to what she obviously believes, is still illegal. No matter how deserving the victim,” he added, glaring at the equally angry woman.

“Exactly!” she said firmly. “You have no choice but to let me go. Things will go much better for you if you do,” she added in her best “I’m the only one capable of making a good decision here” tone of voice.

Her apparent confidence and implied threat rubbed Buffy the wrong way.

“Do you remember what I told you would happen if you did anything to hurt my friends or family?” she asked coldly. “I believe you told me I was not in a position to make threats at the time. It seems to me our positions have changed, Professor Walsh.”

“I heard you say yourself, you do not kill humans. If you can’t kill me, you have to let me go. My men will turn this town upside until they find me.” She spoke confidently, having now figured out that in crisis situations the Slayer was in charge and she could ignore the growling vampire and the man holding her arm.

Buffy looked from Giles’ expressionless face to Spike’s icy stare and shrugged her shoulders.

“No,” she said calmly, “I don’t.”

She tugged on Willow’s sleeve and began to walk away, not looking back when the older woman began to sputter and argue.

“You cannot leave me with these two conscienceless creatures! That’s the same thing as killing me yourself!”

“No, it isn’t,” Buffy threw over her shoulder. “It’s Spike’s decision what to do with you. Giles will stay to make sure there is no torture involved and that he doesn’t eat you. Anything else is between them.”

The two Brits watched as the flashlights disappeared around a corner, then looked back at the nervous woman. Spike’s eyes were flashing back and forth between blue and amber as his demon demanded vengeance for the acts inflicted on both him and his mate by the human now quaking in front of him.

The Watcher observed him curiously. If he’d been asked a month ago whether a vampire could control his blood lust, could be around humans that trusted they were safe with him and not kill them, he would have responded with a resounding “no”. And if he’d been asked if a demon could love, he would have laughed bitterly, remembering how Angelus had gone out of his way to torment Buffy and how he’d killed Jenny.

But he also remembered seeing the pain on Spike’s face as he sat in his wheelchair and watched Drusilla hanging all over her Sire. And the flash of compassion and admiration when Giles resisted Angelus’ torture. He knew Spike had not wanted Angel to free Acathla, and yet he had suggested letting Dru use her thrall to get the information they needed from Giles rather than let Angelus continue to torture it from the helpless Watcher.

So, rather than speak, he waited patiently to see which would win the battle clearly taking place inside the vampire. Would the demon triumph and snap the woman’s neck in retaliation of what she’d done to him? Or would the gentle Victorian man Giles now knew resided inside the vampire demonstrate mercy toward her?

With a loud growl, Spike shook the demon off, and reached for the ropes left by her soldiers. Without speaking, he trussed her up so that she could not move, and left her sitting against the wall near the pile of supplies. He put a lit flashlight at her feet and stood back to stare into her curious eyes.

“Much as I’d like to rip out your entrails and strangle you with ‘em,” he growled, “I have to answer to that little girl you were so anxious to know more about, and I know she wouldn’t like it. So, I’m leavin’ it in God’ hands. If what’s left of your toy soldiers finds you first, I guess you get away with your kidnappin’ and torturin’. If one of the nasties that come through these caves finds you first, you get what you deserve and I don’t have to grovel for forgiveness tonight.”

Scientific curiosity won out over fear, and she couldn’t resist asking, “You are clearly a very powerful vampire – the most powerful we’ve ever tested in here.” She flinched when Spike vamped out at the word “tested”, but when he remained still, she went on, “Why would a...creature…like yourself be afraid of a little girl? I know she’s quite strong,” Maggie rushed on before he could say anything, “and that she kills vampires, but surely one such as you has nothing to fear from her? Why would you ‘grovel’ to her?”

The vampire stared at her then said flatly, “Killed two Slayers before this, and fought a couple more.” He felt Giles start beside him and grinned to himself at the Watcher’s surprise. “Fell in love with this one.” He turned away to leave, then paused and looked back at the astonished woman, “And, she can kick my arse nine times out of ten. Best remember that when you’re callin’ her a ‘little girl’.”

Laughing at the woman’s insistence that he come back and tell her more about these other Slayers and about vampires and their relationships, he strode after Buffy and Willow.

Giles looked at the still-objecting woman and said quietly, “Who would have thought that William the Bloody would be more compassionate than I would? You should be very grateful Buffy left the decision in his hands. Mine would have been less gentle.” He turned away and hurried through the dark corridor after the vampire.

He caught up with him much quicker than he expected, as it turned out Buffy and Willow hadn’t gone very far and were waiting around a sharp bend in the cave tunnel.

“Well?” Buffy was demanding, hands on hips.

Spike explained what he’d done and waited to hear her reaction. To his surprise, she just nodded and turned away muttering, “You should have killed that bitch. She’s never going to leave us alone.”

He rolled his eyes and hastened to catch up and take her hand again. “Feelin’ bloodthirsty, are you, Slayer?”

She sighed and leaned toward him briefly. “No, I’m glad you didn’t kill her. I’m just afraid she’s going to make more trouble.”

“She has to survive until someone from that place finds her, first, pet. At worst, she’ll have plenty of time to think about whether or not she really wants to come after us.”

“And at best?”

“She won’t have time to do much of anythin’,” he said softly.

Buffy nodded and they continued working their way toward the fresh air Spike could smell ahead of them. Suddenly, he froze and gestured to them to stop. He cocked his head listening, then went into vamp face and moved forward cautiously. Buffy fell into step behind him, pulling one of the confiscated stakes from her waistband.

The small group rounded another corner only to find themselves facing a vampire stalking angrily toward them.

He stopped when he saw Spike, then looked intently at the stake-wielding blond behind him.

“Does she have you, or do you have her?” he inquired, looking from Spike to the small girl beside him.

“Y’might say we have each other,” Spike drawled, dropping his vamp face. “This isn’t a real good place for a lone vamp,” he offered. “Lot’s of nasty humans further back that way.” He jerked his head toward the way they had come. “Bloke could get staked, or worse.”

“They took my mate,” the other vamp snarled. “Worse has already happened.”

As the humans stared in complete amazement, the other vampire dropped his game face and they saw tears on his cheeks.

“I know she’s gone. I just thought I’d try to take a few of them with me before I join her.”

“Don’ know how many we left standin’, mate, but you’re welcome to what’s left.”

The vampire turned to face the small blond still clutching a stake, but looking at him with sudden understanding.

“I know I can’t beat you, Slayer, so I’m just asking. Will you let me go by? Let me meet my end at the hands of the people who took my reason for living away from me?”

Buffy slowly lowered her hand and nodded her head, unable to speak for the lump in her throat. The grief the other vampire was carrying was palpable and she had no doubt he had no intention of ever coming out of the tunnels. Behind her she could almost feel Giles’ eagerness to get back to his apartment and add the things he had learned about vampires tonight to his watcher’s diary.

The other vamp gave a grateful nod and started down the tunnel the way they had come. Only to be stopped by the older man accompanying the Slayer and her unusual assortment of friends.

“The woman who runs the place is tied up about a half-mile back. If you get there before her men find her…” He didn’t finish his sentence, just stepped back away from the astonished creature and wondered how the Council would react to one of their former Watchers’ giving directions to a vengeance seeking vampire. Deciding he didn’t care, he responded to the other’s nod of thanks and followed his Slayer and her vampire out of the caves.
Chapter Eighteen

Dawn was threatening to break over the horizon when the small group finally reached the Watcher’s apartment. Giles and Willow staggered toward the couch, groaning and insisting they were never going to walk anywhere ever again. Only slightly less tired, Spike threw himself into the easy chair and automatically opened his arms so that Buffy could sit on his lap and fold herself into them. For a long time the only sounds to be heard were the soft snores of the Watcher and the occasional sleepy snort from Willow.

Buffy snuggled into Spike’s chest, enjoying the safe feeling she always got when his arms were around her. She idly wondered how someone who set her whole body tingling, could at the same time make it feel so secure and comfortable.

( ‘S cause you know I’ll never hurt you, love. Even the Slayer in you knows you’re safe with me, no matter how much your “spidey senses” tell you you’re cuddlin’ a vampire.)

(Not just any vampire. MY vampire.)

She felt his inward smile.

(Your vampire) he agreed, kissing the top of her head. They soon joined Giles and Willow in some much-needed restorative sleep.

Which only lasted until Xander and Anya came crashing through the front door, shouting for Giles or Buffy. They stopped abruptly when the four drowsy people all raised their heads and blinked at them.

“Xander,” Giles said in his most patient voice, “Is it at all possible for you to speak in a normal tone of voice? We’ve had quite a long and eventful night and I feel sure I speak for all of us when I say…what the bloody hell do you want?”

“We…that is…I…Joyce was worried…and you…no answer on phone…and couldn’t find Willow…and…Willow, why is Buffy back on the evil undead’s lap?”

“Uh…I guess…cause Giles and I were taking up the whole couch?” Willow tried bravely.

Xander looked back and forth from between his two closest female friends, noticing for the first time that Buff was gently stroking the arm that lightly encircled her body.

“Buffy? You know William is really Spike, right?” His question was really a plea for denial of what he was seeing.

She sat up with an exaggerated sigh and said, “Xander, Spike and I are…we’re… together and I need for you to try to be okay with it. Can you do that for me?”

“What? No! No, I won’t do that for you. You’re my friend and I won’t have you being taken advantage of by a soulless demon. Without that chip, he’d have killed us all by now. He’s just trying to get close to you in case he gets his vampire rocks back and then he’s going to kill you!”

The young man was waving his hands about hysterically as he ranted at the unfazed girl still curled up on the vampire’s lap. Spike gave him his best evil leer over Buffy’s head, then doubled over when she drove her elbow into his stomach.

“Ow, pet! What was that for?” he laughed, rubbing his sore mid section.

“You know very well what it was for,” she grumbled. “I’m trying to calm him down and you’re making stupid faces behind me.”

(He’s not gonna calm down, love. He’s jealous. I could be wearin’ wings and a halo and he’d still be mad.)

She rolled her eyes and tried again.

“Xander, I know this is a surprise to you…although I’m not really sure why…but I’m asking you to understand and to try to accept Spike the way you would any other boy friend of mine.”

“That is not a boyfriend. That is a mistake. A carry-over from the spell. An Angel substitute—“

His rant was interrupted by a furious snarl from the vampire, and only Buffy’s grip on his arms kept him in the chair as he went to leap at the rapidly retreating boy.

“Stop it! Just stop it, both of you!” Buffy’s voice was wavering between anger and tears.

“You,” she pointed to Xander, “need to get over yourself. This is my life and I will have in it whoever I choose. I’m not giving you a hard time for dating an ex-demon who has killed and maimed thousands of men before we trapped her here by breaking her talisman.”

“And you,” she turned on the smirking vampire, “you need to stop going all fangy every time somebody says something you don’t like. You’re going to hear Angel’s name from time to time. Get used to it.”

Giles sat up with a groan and glared at Xander who was standing in open-mouthed shock as Buffy’s words sank in.

“I suppose, since we are all here and awake, NOW,” another glare at the fuming young boy emphasized how angry he was at being awakened so abruptly, “we may as well get this out of the way.”

He turned to the two powerful blonds occupying his biggest chair and said in his best Watcher voice, “I presume I’m going to hear that the chip was removed some time ago and we only learned of it today due to the circumstances?”

He fixed Buffy with a hard look and added, “And I am assuming from your reaction today that you did not know about this situation, not that you decided to keep it from me for some unfathomable reason?”

Spike gave an audible sigh and sat up straighter, still holding Buffy lightly as though she might slip away if he didn’t maintain contact.

“Got the chip taken out in LA while I was away. It’s been gone for weeks. Needed to give the Slayer time to find out I could control m’self so she wouldn’t try to put me down like a rabid dog when she found out. So, no, she didn’t know about it.”

“Interesting that you could hide that kind of information from someone who can read your mind,” Giles said. His tone was mild, but his look was sharp as he watched their reaction for some indication that they were lying, but all he saw was a guilty shrug from Buffy.

“I…we…it doesn’t work that…I mean, I have to…he has to…” She gave up trying to explain and just waited for her Watcher to give her some idea how much he had figured out. He didn’t disappoint.

“Exactly when did you claim my Slayer, Spike?” he asked through gritted teeth.

Buffy’s guilty start told him his guess was correct and he groaned inwardly, even as he maintained his steady gaze at the girl he thought of as a daughter and the vampire he had actually begun to trust. Only the fact that the vampire so far hadn’t seemed to use the claim in any way except to help them get Buffy out of the lab, kept him from leaping for the nearest stake.

“It was during the spell, Giles,” Buffy spoke up before Spike could say anything. She heard Willow’s guilty gasp, and she sent her friend a reassuring smile before she continued. “And, it wasn’t just him. I claimed him back.”

The Watcher’s groan this time was audible. “When were you planning to tell me that you had…bound…” he couldn’t bring himself to say “mated”, “yourself to a master vampire? Did it not occur to you that this was information I needed to have?”

Buffy flushed and ducked her head.

“I…we…were going to tell you, but we weren’t sure at first if it would last. I mean, we haven’t…I mean, we did, but that was the spell and since then we…”she trailed off and looked at Spike for help.

“Oh, dear Lord.” Gile’s verbal dismay was followed by Xander’s “What? They what the what?”

Giles turned to glare at Xander and Anya. “You two couldn’t keep your pants on long enough to keep my Slayer from being claimed by a vampire? Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”

Anya shrugged and muttered, “We didn’t do anything but give Buffy and Spike a chance to work out all that sexual tension that’s always there when they’re in the same room. And, how can it hurt her to be mated to a master vampire? It seems to me he’s perfect for a slayer – with the super strength and violent temper and all. They’re made for each other.”

Xander’s face had paled, even though he didn’t really understand what a claim was. But he had no trouble reading between the lines of Buffy’s babbling to understand that while he and Anya had been out of the room, Buffy and Spike had had sex. That much he got.

He was heading toward the chair containing Buffy and the vampire he was determined to rid the world of, when something of the earlier part of the conversation percolated to the front of his brain and he slowed, lowering the stake in his hand.

“There’s no chip? Spike can kill?” There was an edge to his voice that bordered on hysteria.

One look at the vampire’s cold stare answered his question, and he retreated behind the Watcher.

“Well, that settles it. She has to kill him now. Giles, why isn’t she killing him?”

The other people in the room ignored his whining and continued to stare at the vampire and the increasingly distressed slayer. Spike’s hand was rhythmically stroking her arm in an attempt to calm his mate. When no one had anything else to say or ask, Spike addressed Giles directly.

“You know how I feel about her, Watcher. I would never hurt her, or anyone she cares about,” he added with a significant glare at Xander. “If she doesn’t want the claim, all she has to do is send me away. I think it will fade with time if I’m not here and we don’t… if we don’t do anything to renew it. But it’s Buffy’s choice; not yours and certainly not their’s,” he finished, waving his hand at the Scoobies, all now standing behind the Watcher.

“Well, that’s that then!” Xander refused to by shushed by Anya as he self-righteously indicated what Buffy’s clear duty was. “Tell him to get lost, Buffy.”

Spike waited confidently for Buffy to tell Xander to shut up, but when she did nothing but cringe against him, her eyes darting back and forth between her Watcher and her friends, his hand stilled and he dropped his arms.

(So, that’s it, love?) He couldn’t keep the disappointment and anger from her and didn’t really want to try.

(No! Yes…maybe…I don’t know!) Her voice was a wail in his head as she looked from her disapproving Watcher and friends to the crushed vampire on whose lap she was still sitting.

(Well, when you suss it out, you let me know, yeah?) He stood up and gently deposited her back on the chair.

“What are you doing?” her voice contained a note of panic as he strode toward the closet where they’d put his clothes and pulled out his leather coat.

“Spike,” the Watcher’s voice came quietly. “Please wait. I need…I want to explain something to you.”

The vampire stood by the door, stubbornly refusing to look at Buffy who was staring at him with eyes from which she refused to let the tears fall. He tried to put a mental wall between them, but he could feel her despair and knew she could feel his grief just as strongly.

Giles looked back and forth between Spike and Buffy, sensing their unhappiness, even as he cursed the day Willow had first played with magic. He took off his glasses and polished them vigorously.

“Buffy is not the first Slayer to be claimed by a vampire.” He ignored the startled gasps that greeted his announcement. “It happens. Sometimes it’s because the vampire wants to control the Slayer, sometimes it’s because he thinks….well, I don’t know what they’re thinking sometimes.” He gave a sigh, “And sometimes it’s because they are in love.” He refused to meet anyone’s eyes as he went on, although he didn’t miss Buffy’s surprised intake of breath. “The Council considers it a very dangerous situation. If they had any idea that William the Bloody had claimed a Slayer, they would send a wet team in to kill her. Immediately.”

There were gasps around the room as the true danger Buffy could be in became clear. Spike involuntarily stepped closer to her at the conclusion of the Watcher’s speech.

“They would kill their own Slayer? What kind of people do you work for, Watcher?”

“Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it? I do not ‘work for’ them anymore and therefore, fortunately, am not obligated to report to them everything that Buffy does. However, it would be ingenuous of me to presume that they do not have their own sources of information in Sunnydale and it is only a question of time before the change in your…relationship…comes to their attention.”

“So, if I’m not here, there’s no problem, right? No reason for them to concern themselves with the Slayer guardin’ the Hellmouth for them.”

Spike’s voice was controlled and quiet. Only his eyes gave away what it cost him to suggest what Buffy could sense was coming.

(No, Spike. Don’t…)

Ignoring everyone else in the room, he turned to her and said softly, “Not gonna put you in danger, pet.”

“I’m in danger every night of my life,” she said, standing up and moving closer to him. “They tried to kill me once already. Didn’t work then and it won’t work now.”

(Don’t leave me.) The Slayer’s silent plea was all the more powerful for being brief and to the point.

(You think I WANT to go? That I’m not gonna go crazy wondering how you are, what you’re doin’, if you need me?)

While they carried on their internal exchange, the two would-be lovers moved closer together until she was wrapped in his arms, the leather coat half hiding her from the room. Her own arms were around his back. It would be hard to say who was clutching harder, but there was no question that normal humans would have been crushed by the forces. Buffy’s head was buried in his chest as she continued her silent argument. Spikes face was resting on her head and he inhaled the scent of her hair and skin as he argued back.

(You need some time to figure out what you want to do about us anyway, love. Give the claim some time and space to calm down and see if you still want me without that pullin’ on you.)

(Don’t try to tell me what I need. I need you. Here. With me.)

He dropped a kiss on the top of her head, then lifted his own and tilted her chin up.

“Buffy, the Watcher’s right. If the Council of Wankers knew you were doin’ anything with William the Bloody except staking his—“

Willow had been watching her best friend and the vampire she was coming to view as a friend, until she couldn’t stand it any longer.

“That’s it!”

Chapter Nineteen

“That’s it!”

Five pairs of eyes turned to look at the excited witch, now bouncing up and down on the couch as the solution came to her.

“William!” she shouted, gleefully.

“I think that ship has sailed, Red,” Spike growled. “Don’t need to keep using that name anymore. Whatever’s left of those gits, they more than know who and what I am.”

“No, no, not them,” she hastened to explain. “You can be William – Somebody Giles knows from before he came to Sunnydale, or a distant relative, or…I don’t know…think something up. You’re evil – you’ll think of a good lie. No offense,” she said quickly when Spike quirked an eyebrow at her.

“None taken, pet,” he responded, waiting for the rest of her explanation.

“See, here’s the thing. Only those lab people know William as Buffy’s cousin. To anybody else in Sunnydale you’re just another Englishman who came to live here for awhile and…and…you met Buffy, and you started dating…and, do you see where I’m going with this?”

“You want me to STAY William? Pretend I’m some kind of poncy nancy-boy for the rest of my unlife?” Spike’s horror and dismay were so evident that even Xander had to laugh.

“No, no – you don’t have to be JUST like William. That was to fool Riley and his men. But you can be William…Smith…or whoever. Buffy’s boyfriend who helps her out with Slaying. It’ll be like a secret identity!” Willow was so pleased and excited with her idea she was practically glowing.

“Don’t you see? It’s perfect! ‘William’ has already been here long enough for people to remember seeing him around, but no one knows we were saying he was Buffy’s cousin, or that Giles was her uncle. It’ll just be like he decided to stay here because he and Buffy started dating. The Council won’t have any reason to know he’s really a vampire. They don’t care if slayers have boy friends, do they?”

Giles looked up at Willow’s eager expression and then at Buffy’s hopeful face. He took a quick look at Spike and saw that the vampire recognized the real issue.

“Actually, they do care about that, but I think they have long since given up trying to control this particular Slayer’s love life.”

He took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“The issue is the claim. While the telepathic connection between Spike and Buffy was extremely useful in this particular instance, it does give one of the world’s most dangerous” He glared as Spike visibly puffed up with pride at hearing himself referred to as “most dangerous” and quickly added, “and most arrogant vampires to have an unhealthy amount of control over the woman chosen to eliminate his kind.”

He looked at the two blonds, still standing close enough to be touching, although no longer wrapped around each other and he sighed audibly.

“While another vampire would never have been my choice as my Slayer’s next…boy friend…if I learned nothing from her relationship with Angel, it is the futility of trying to control her heart. I will put up no objection to the relationship, but I’m afraid I must insist that you,” he looked pointedly at Spike, “do whatever is necessary to remove this thing.”

“You want me to dust m’self?”

The Watcher glared at him briefly, before muttering, “Don’t tempt me.”

A glare from Buffy stopped Xander’s automatically raised hand before he could finish volunteering for the job.

When she started to object, Giles waved his hand in the air dismissively, “Obviously not an acceptable option for my Slayer, so we must discuss the next best thing.” He looked at the two of them, allowing a small measure of sympathy to soften his face as he saw their tightly clenched hands.

“Do you think that time and distance can make this unintended claim go away?”

“Don’t really know, Watcher. “S not like I make a habit of going around claiming slayers. I jus’ know between vampires the claim will fade if the two are separated for long periods of time. It has to be renewed occasionally to stay active.”

“Can I be the first to say, I REALLY don’t want to know what you do to renew it?” Xander held up his hand again, making a disgusted face.

“I can tell you, Xander-“ began Anya in a chirpy voice. “ They have to—mmph!” Her boyfriend’s hand placed firmly over her mouth prevented him from having to picture the renewal.

“Ahn, which part of ‘I really DON’T want to know’ wasn’t clear to you?”

“And,” the Watcher ignored them and removed his glasses again, polishing them vigorously, “ if I understand Buffy correctly, you have not done that as yet?”

“No,” the vampire answered shortly. “We haven’t.”

“Then I believe a long trip is in order for William,” Giles said firmly. “Perhaps a trip back to the mother country to make arrangements for moving to Sunnydale.”

Buffy’s face wore a resigned pout, matching the equally unhappy, but equally resigned expression on the vampire.

“How long to do you think it will take?” she asked meekly.

“Dunno, love. I guess when we can’t feel each other any more, we’ll know it’s gone.”

“Where will you go? You aren’t really going to go back to England are you?” she asked anxiously.

“Nah, I’ll run down to LA and annoy Peaches for a while. Maybe try to earn some dosh to keep William in style until he gets a job.” The expression on Spike’s face made it obvious how thrilled he was with the prospect of working.

“That’s settled then. Spike…er…William will take a trip and when he returns he and Buffy can begin seeing each other. That will explain his presence with her every night as she goes about her slaying duties, in case anyone is watching and reporting back to the Council.”

He looked at his surrogate daughter and said softly, “This really is the best thing to do, Buffy. If the council should somehow find out that William is indeed, Spike, they may not respond with the same vigor as they would if they knew he had claimed you. And,” he added with a hard look at the vampire, “I think it is important that they continue to assume you are harmless to humans.”

“Yeah, yeah. I got it. The Big Bad is history – as far as the Council of Wankers is concerned.”

The pained expression on his face made Buffy giggle in spite of herself.

(Don’t you dare laugh at me, Slayer. If you ever needed proof of how much I love you,…)

(I don’t need proof, Spike. Not as long as we can still feel each other.)

(Speaking of feeling…)
He moved closer to her and pulled her back against his chest, facing the other humans in the room.

“If that’s settled, then, the Slayer and I have some ‘good-byes’ to say before I leave tonight.”

He stared defiantly at the two men glaring back at him until the older one sighed and nodded.

“Just be careful, please. Do not do…anything…that might make the claim stronger.”

“ ‘M not stupid, Watcher,” Spike growled as Buffy blushed and nodded her head. He didn’t deign to notice the dark-haired young man and his hate-filled eyes, although he felt Buffy flinch when she saw the anger there.

(I’m telling you, pet, he’s jealous. I could be a bloody Boy Scout and he’d still be hating’ me.)

(I know. But, he’s my friend. I want him to be happy for me, and all he’s ever done is tell me how bad my choices are.)

(Well, gotta say, pet. He’s been right up till now.)

The shared laughter as they walked toward the door, as well as the light punch to Spike’s arm told the onlookers that another private conversation had taken place. They watched as Spike put his coat over his head and prepared to dash to the nearest manhole. He pecked Buffy on the lips and said, “I’ll beat you home,” as he went out the door and ran for shelter.

With a wave over her shoulder, Buffy took off in the other direction, sprinting toward Revello Drive in the sunshine.

There was silence within the room for several seconds until Xander exploded in barely suppressed rage.

“How can you condone this? Spike has tried to kill us all – multiple times! He gave me a concussion. He put a bottle in your face!” he turned to Willow. “Don’t tell me you weren’t terrified.”

“I was. But the more I think about it, he was really only trying to get his girl friend back. I don’t think he would have hurt me. And he could have killed you, and he didn’t. He carried you back to the factory and put you on a bed.”

“As a HOSTAGE! G-man, help me out here. Think about when Angelus was torturing you. Spike was right in the thick of it, wasn’t he?”

“Actually, Xander, he was in a wheel chair. And he did what he could to help me, in spite of being at Angelus’ mercy.”

“He’s a vampire,” Xander ground out. “He has no soul, he can’t love and he can’t be trusted.”

“Actually, vampires can love quite well,” Anya spoke up. “I am surprised that Spike is willing to let the claim lapse. It is meant to be an eternal bond. He must really love Buffy if he’s willing to let it go just to keep her safe. It’s quite unselfish of him, really.”

The Watcher turned and looked at Xander’s girl friend as though seeing her for the first time.

“You KNEW vampires could love without their souls?”

“Of course, I did. Ex-vengeance demon here. I’ve cursed plenty of unfaithful vampires for their lovers. That’s all Council propaganda that being soulless means they can’t love, or be trusted. All you ever see here are fledglings – or that nasty Master who was probably certifiable after all those years underground.”

“But, but…”

“They ARE violent, and let’s face it, they need our blood to live, so really not something you’d want to welcome to the neighborhood; but they’re all different. Just like people. Some are actually quite…well, ok, maybe ‘sweet’ isn’t the right word, but…tolerable. Very, very tolerable!”

Anya beamed at the humans staring at her, quite pleased with herself and her grasp of vocabulary.

“Anya,” Giles began hesitantly, “What else can you tell me about vampires and demons?”

“Lots of things – you learn a lot in a thousand years.” She smiled at him brightly.

“And why have you never told us these things?” He struggled to sound patient and kinds.

“No one ever asked me,” she responded immediately. “You all act like you think I’m stupid.”

Giles and Willow both looked down, ashamed to admit how right the ex-demon was.

“I must apologize for having given you that impression, Anya,” the Watcher said sincerely. “And, when you have the time, I would be most appreciative of any information you could give me to add to what I’ve learned in the past few days.”

“Sure, Giles!” Anya’s face lit up at the attention the attractive older man was giving her. “Any time. It’s not like either one of us has a job or anything like that.”

He winced at the reminder of his currently unemployed status, but smiled tightly and agreed, “Well, good then. We will plan to get together soon then.”

Willow was standing by herself, chewing thoughtfully on her lip.

“I wonder what it’s going to be like for them?” she said, half to herself.

“You wonder what what will be like for who?”

“Buffy and Spike. For weeks they’ve been able to communicate whenever they wanted to just by thinking at each other. Been able to have private conversations if they needed to – can you imagine how helpful that would be in a fight? To be able to talk to each other without…and to be able to share…” She blushed bright red and stopped quickly.

“It just seems to me that there would be a level of… of …intimacy,” she ignored the strangled sound Xander made, “that could be hard to give up. I know I wouldn’t want to lose something like that.”

Giles sighed and removed his glasses again. “I am sure you are quite correct, Willow. Unfortunately for Buffy and Spike, she is the Slayer and must make some sacrifices in the pursuit of her duty.”

Chapter Twenty

Buffy arrived, somewhat breathlessly, at her front door just as her mother was leaving for the gallery.

“Buffy! Where have you been? I was worried sick. And when Xander said he couldn’t find Giles or Willow…”

“I’m okay, Mom. It was a long night, but we’re all okay. Spike was shot, but we fixed him an-“

“Shot! Who shot him?” Her mother’s eyes narrowed. “Was it that supercilious soldier?”

Buffy gaped at her mother’s possessive anger.

“Uh, yeah, actually, it was – but it’s okay!” she hurried to add as her mother looked like she was planning to head for the Sunnydale University campus with her axe in hand. “Spike took care of it himself.”

“Oh. Well, OK, then.”

Buffy had to laugh at the almost disappointed look on her mother’s face. Not for the first time, she wondered if her mother was a potential slayer who just hadn’t been called before she aged out of the window.

“Go to work, Mom. We’re all fine, just really, really tired.”

“Then you should probably spend the day in bed,” her mother said; quickly amending her statement when she noticed Buffy’s blush. “Sleeping! You should spend the day sleeping!”

“That’s the plan,” Buffy said, trying to look as innocent as possible. “Lots of good, restful sleep. I’ll fill you in on what happened when you get home tonight.”

Her mother rolled her eyes in an excellent imitation of her daughter and walked toward her car.

“I’m counting on that, young lady. I want to know every detail.”

Already mentally adding up the details she planned to skip, Buffy entered the house and went immediately toward the kitchen. Just as she reached the entrance, Spike burst through kitchen door, smoldering under his coat. Buffy quickly grabbed a towel and ran water on it. She patted him down with the soaking towel until she was sure he wasn’t going to combust on her, then laughed at the wet curls all over his head.

“Something funny about me almost burning up, Slayer?” he growled, reaching for the wet towel with one hand.

Buffy laughed and danced out of reach. He grabbed for her, catching the edge of her shirt and pulling her back toward him. He used the other hand to flick the wet towel into the sink as he pulled her into his body. Buffy’s hands slid up around his neck and she lifted her face to his.

“I just thought you looked cute with your hair all curly and wet. Very William.”

“William is going to haunt me for the rest of my un-life, isn’t he?” he said with a sigh, leaning down to graze her lips with his.

“I hope so,” she whispered, catching his lower lip in her teeth and pulling on it gently. Her warm breath floated over his face and he groaned as he fastened his lips on hers. Standing in her mother’s kitchen, Buffy felt the fear that had tormented him while she was gone as it gradually left his body. Their lips and tongues slowly gave physical expression to the emotions flowing from one to the other, and Buffy began to sense the true measure of what she was going to be losing when the claim no longer existed.

With a moan, she melted into his body, as though she could maintain the feelings by becoming a part of him. Strong arms crushed her into his hard chest as he tried to pull her even closer, his hands clutching at her back and hips hard enough to leave bruises.

Her hands came down from his neck and slid up his back under his tee shirt, stroking the cool skin she found there and kneading the muscles under it. The heat from her hands caused the vampire to hiss with barely restrained passion as he picked her up and rested the damp warmth he could feel through two layers of denim against his aching length. She gave a soft moan as she felt him pressing against her and she pushed back, seeking more contact.

With a sudden gasp, he pushed her away, setting her on the counter in front of him and moving out of her reach.

“Spike? Wha—what’s wrong?” Her voice trembled and he could feel the insecurity behind her question radiating through the claim. He shook with the need to reassure her of his desire.

“Nothing’s wrong, love. It’s jus’ I can’t be close without wanting to touch you and I promised the Watcher we wouldn’t do anything to reinforce the claim.”

“Don’t you have to bite me to renew it?” Her voice was a whine, and she knew it but couldn’t control it. “Can’t we just make love without the biting?”

Fear darkened her eyes as she asked quickly, “You CAN have sex without biting, can’t you? Please tell me you can.”

“Of course I can, pet. Would never bite you without permission. But I don’t know exactly what it takes to renew a claim. Who knew that a claim made by two people who were under a spell and really didn’t mean it would take? Would have thought it would vanish with the spell.”

“You didn’t mean it?” Her voice was very small and the insecurity came flooding back.

(Bloody hell! How can such a desirable woman be so fuckin’ insecure about it? That asshole Angelus should be castrated!)

“I meant it at the time – but if you’ll recall, we weren’t exactly in our right minds jus’ then. You jumped off my lap like...like a Slayer who found herself kissing her mortal enemy. I just figured the spell made me do it…and I know that’s bloody well what made you do it back. Don’t try to deny it.”

“So you’re sorry you did it then?” If anything, her voice became even smaller. “You’re glad it’s going to go away?”

“I’m not sorry,” he said gruffly. “Without it who knows what would have happened to you in that place before we got there. But I’m not…” he blew out an unnecessary breath. “Damn it all, Slayer, I told you I love you. And I do. Got nothin’ to do with that miserable spell. Why do you think I came to you for help when I got chipped? Figured if anybody was gonna take me out, it was gonna be you – not some over-grown Boy Scout. Wanted your face to be the last thing I saw.”

She peered up at from behind the hair that had fallen in her face when she put her head down to hide the tears brimming behind her lashes. She searched his face for any sign of deception, then realized how foolish that was when she could feel his sincerity in every breath she took.

“Then why…?”

He moved toward her again and gently took both hands in his.

“YOU were under a spell, pet. Wouldn’t matter how much I meant it, YOU did it under the influence of the spell. And since then you’ve been under the influence of the claim.”

He stepped between her open legs and pulled her close again, planting light, butterfly kisses on her face and neck as he said softly, “I want you to love me back more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life – or my 126 years of unlife. But I want to know that you’re doing it of your own free will, not because somethin’ magic is making you feel things you really don’t.

“I want you to want ME, Buffy. Me. Spike. Not some vampire that got lucky and got mated to you because a novice witch mucked up a spell. And not some non-existent human that I’m pretending to be so that other humans don’t separate us by killing one or the other of us. Tell me you understand what I’m trying to say, love. Please,” he finished, burying his head in the hair flowing down the side of her neck.

“You’re saying you don’t believe I love you.” There was an angry edge to her voice that was echoed by the feeling flowing through the claim.

He sighed audibly and mentally. “I’m SAYING, you stubborn bint, that I want you to love me of your own free will. Because I’m me, not because there’s anything else influencing you.”

“What…what if I don’t?” she said slowly. “What if it IS the claim making me feel this way?”

She looked up into his shocked eyes and repeated, “What then, Spike? What do we do then?”

He stroked her hair gently and tried to smother the gut-wrenching fear her words generated before she could feel it.

“Is that what you think is gonna happen, love? Do you think you won’t want me anymore?”

He felt his heart crack down the middle as she hesitated and tried to put her feelings into words. The longer it took her to answer, the more sure he was that he knew what she was going to say and he dropped his arms, stepping back from the counter.

His face closed down and he walled off his feelings as he waited for her to find her voice. Suddenly, the wall was knocked down as a wave of absolute panic and despair rolled over him. Buffy’s face was crumpling even as she fought to contain the tears threatening to fall from her fear-stricken eyes.

Without warning, he swept her off the counter and carried her now-sobbing form into the living room. Grateful that someone had pulled the drapes so that he didn’t need to worry about the sun, he settled them onto the couch and rocked back and forth with her, sending her reassurances as he did so.

(Won’t matter, love. I’ll be here no matter what you decide. Couldn’t stay away from you. If you don’t want me as a lover, I’ll be your friend, your bodyguard, your willing slave. Just tell me what you want, and I’m it. I’m yours, Slayer. Whether you’re still mine or not, I’ll still be yours. Forever. You’ll have to dust me to get rid of me.)

(Don’t wanna dust you. I just don’t want to go back to the way we were Maybe the claim is making YOU love ME. Did you ever think about that? What if you hate me when it wears off?)

(Never happen, pet. I told you before. My feelings were already there. Might have taken the spell to bring them out, but they were there. ‘S why the demon was so quick to claim you. Been wanting you for so long…had to take the chance while I had it.)

“I’m afraid, Spike,” she said aloud, never moving her head from where it rested on his chest. “This has been the most…” he felt her internal struggle to put what she was feeling into words. “I’m terrified that when the claim is gone, one or both of us isn’t going to…” She raised her head and her wet eyes bored into his. “If we lose this, I’m afraid I’ll never feel like this again. And I don’t think I could stand it. Knowing how it can be, but never having it ag--”

He stopped her with cool, soft lips that moved gently over hers, caressing and urging, but never demanding. He put everything he was feeling into the kiss; using his lips and tongue to convey the emotions he would have been sending through the claim. He felt her responding, her breathing quickened and her pulse increasing as she moved in his lap to be facing him.

He deliberately kept the barriers up as he used purely physical means to express the effect she had on him. His hands slid under her shirt and, cool as they were, left heated trails everywhere they touched. When he moved one hand to edge between them and run his thumb against the bottom of her breast, her breath caught with a small gasp and she fell sideways to allow him more access.

With freedom to move his hands around, he quickly pushed up her shirt and fastened his mouth on the lace covered nipples in front of him. The arm that wasn’t supporting the Slayer’s upper body moved down to the waistband of her jeans, unsnapping them and slipping in to slide down the silken skin on her stomach. He kept his hand in her pants, gently teasing her as he stroked through the soft curls covering her mound and ran his fingers down the incredibly smooth skin when her thighs met her abdomen.

With a growl that made him smile, Buffy unzipped her own jeans and pushed them down as far as she could without actually leaving his lap. He grabbed her hands and pushed them back up, as he slid down so that they were lying side by side on the couch.

“Ah, ah, Slayer. Let me do this, love. Let me show you it can still be good for you. I can make it good.”

As he spoke, his hand was running over her exposed skin, slowly working its way toward the source of the arousal he could smell permeating the air. He dipped into the moisture between her legs, then slowly ran his finger up to her clit, spreading it as he went. He felt her shiver beneath him and arch up toward his hand, but he pushed her back down with a “Tsk, tsk, Slayer. Don’t be so impatient.”

He leaned in and captured her lips again, his tongue sliding around her mouth, in and out, touching hers then withdrawing, then touching it again before he drew it into his own mouth and sucked on it gently. Between the bone-melting kisses and the cool fingers playing against her soaked quim, she was sure she was going to pass out from pleasure and denied release.

Spike’s fingers played over her pelvic area, never staying with one place or one rhythm long enough for her to find that release and she was soon whimpering in need as she continued to try to thrust her hips against his elusive fingers. When he dipped his fingers inside her again, she clamped her muscles down on them, growling and making the vampire laugh with joy as, instead of trying to pull them out, he thrust harder and curled his fingers up to find the spongy bundle of nerves that sent her hips flying off the couch while she shrieked in surprise.

He continued to massage the spot with his fingers as his thumb found its way to her clit and began to rub it in circles, pushing against the pressure from the inside. He fastened his mouth back on hers, swallowing the little moans and cries that were leaving her throat without let up. The dual pressure on her most sensitive spots soon sent her screaming over the edge and she arched into his hand, her whole body trembling with the force of her orgasm.

When he felt her come, Spike dropped the barriers between them and allowed everything she was feeling to flow through him and straight to his cock. As Buffy’s orgasm spasmed around his hand, he felt his cock swell and throb with the sensations flooding his body through the claim. And when she shuddered to her final release on his lap, he felt himself explode onto the heat of her hip into which his erection had been pressing the whole time.

For minutes neither one moved, except for Buffy’s gasping breaths and his equally desperate, though unneeded, gulps of air. The Slayer lay sprawled beside him, her legs open as far as her partially removed jeans would allow, her eyes unfocused and her lips swollen from kissing. He thought he’d never seen anything so wanton and beautiful in his life and he made no attempt to hide his thoughts from her. He felt his cock stirring back to life as he gazed down at her golden body, so relaxed and open to him.

The eye she opened to look at him and the eyebrow she cocked disbelievingly told him the claim was still open. He grinned at her and nudged her hip with his once again rock hard erection.

(If and when I can move, I might do something about that) her thought was clear, but she made no attempt to move from her relaxed and boneless position.

(‘S alright, pet. I jus’ wanted you to see that we didn’t need the claim to have fun. Wasn’t about me.)

(But you opened it up. I felt it.)
She blushed, remembering the additional thrill that had gone through her when he reached his own climax against her leg.

(Yeah, well, I cheated a little bit at the end there. Wanted to feel you come one more time. Didn’t know it was gonna bring me off too.)

Buffy yawned and stretched, laughing at his expression when she arched her back up and unintentionally pushed her breasts toward his face. Reluctantly, she tugged her jeans back up and fastened them before sitting up and pulling her shirt down.

“I don’t know how you did that – it was like being naked without being naked. Kinda…”

“Sexy?” he asked hopefully.

“I was gonna say ‘kinky’, but okay, your word works too,” she admitted with a blush. He ran a hand lightly up the side of her cheek, stroking the smooth skin and memorizing the shape of her jaw.

“Nothing that happens between us can be anything but sexy and wonderful – not as long as we love each other.”

Before either one of them could spoil the mood by remembering out loud that they might not still love each other the next time they met, he stood up and took off his coat. When he started to walk away, Buffy grabbed his pocket and said anxiously, “Where are you going?”

“Jus going to clean up a bit, pet,” he said, leaning over to drop a kiss on her forehead. “Don’t fancy driving to LA in wet, sticky jeans. I’ll be right back.”

He disappeared into the kitchen and she heard him going down the basement stairs as she allowed herself to stretch back out on the couch. The lack of sleep and turmoil of the past day and night caught up with her, and when Spike came back upstairs dressed in his signature black jeans and tee shirt, she was sound asleep, her head resting on one arm while the other stretched out toward the edge of the couch as though reaching for something.

After staring at the sleeping girl until his eyes began to water, he kicked off his boots and gently settled himself beside her, picking up her arm and putting it across his chest. Immediately, without waking, she curled her hand around his side and snuggled closer to him. She threw one leg over his and sighed contentedly.

Bringing his hand up to rest on her arm, he closed his eyes and allowed the sun he could feel outside to put him to sleep. When Joyce got home from work, they were still there, chastely curled up against each other on her living room couch.

Chapter Twenty-one

Joyce cleared her throat loudly as she walked into the kitchen and deposited the bags she’d brought in. She made a point of rattling completely unnecessary pans until a yawning Buffy appeared in the doorway, followed shortly by an equally sleepy looking Spike.

She smiled at them briefly before suggesting that Buffy go wash her face while she fixed dinner.

“I stopped at the butcher’s, Spike,” she said with a glance at the vampire. “I was afraid we were out of blood and I didn’t want you to go hungry.”

Once again, Joyce’s habit of not treating him like the monster everyone else assumed he was, had him at a loss for words. The best he could come up with, as he stared at her with worshipful eyes was a mumbled, “Thank you, Joyce. ‘Preciate it.”

After a quick shower and change of clothes, Buffy joined them in the kitchen and she filled Joyce in on the highlights of the previous day while they ate. Although Buffy did her best to keep the events as vague as she could, she could tell from her mother’s tight face that the older woman was reading between the lines and knew that Buffy had been in some considerable danger.

Before she could act on her stated intention to march to the home of the Sunnydale University president and order him to investigate Maggie Walsh and her “teaching assistants”, there was a knock on the door and Willow, Xander, Anya, and an apologetic Giles filed into the house.

“I’m sorry for interrupting your dinner, Joyce,” the Watcher began, “but Willow has some interesting information for us.”

Excited that she was the source of new information, Willow was almost bouncing up and down as she told them what she had learned on campus that day.

“Rumors are flying everywhere about Professor Walsh and the Lowell House fraternity. All her classes have been cancelled until further notice and the house has been boarded up. There are all sorts of mysterious people in trench coats running around campus, and a bunch of Army guys camped out just outside of town, near where we got out of the caves.”

“So, is anyone looking for us?” Buffy asked hesitantly.

“I don’t think so. Although some guy did come by the dorm asking for you, but he went away when I told him you went home to visit your mom. He just said to tell you he doesn’t know what happened and doesn’t want to know, but that you don’t need to worry.”

“Yeah, right!” Spike snorted. “Like that doesn’t come with the job!”

“Aren’t you supposed to be gone by now?” His attention having been drawn to the vampire, Xander couldn’t resist commenting on his presence.

“Had to wait till dark, didn’t I?” Spike rolled his eyes in disgust.

Xander walked quickly to the window and peered outside before announcing with great finality, “It’s dark now.” He crossed his arms over his chest and glared triumphantly at the frowning vampire.

“Gone?” Joyce looked at Spike in surprise. “Why would you be going anywhere?”

“It’s jus’ temporary,” he said, snarling at the still-glowering boy. “I’ll be back soon.”

Joyce looked at her daughter and Buffy just sighed and said, “I’ll explain it later, Mom. When it’s just the two of us,” she added with a pointed look at her friends.

Willow quickly took the hint and began herding Xander and Anya toward the door, promising to catch up with Buffy tomorrow and bring her up to speed on classwork. Giles waited until they were safely out the door, then turned to the vampire and said slowly, “I know this will not sound sincere, coming from someone of my…background…but I AM sorry, Spike. I just am not willing to risk Buffy’s life for…”

“Got it, Watcher. I don’t want those wankers coming after her either. Trust me, if I didn’t know it was needed to keep her safe, I wouldn’t be getting more than a couple feet away from her for the next long while.”

Joyce looked back and forth between the two in bewilderment, then back again at her daughter who looked suspiciously as though she was about to cry.

“Is someone going to tell me what’s going on here?”

“I’ll explain it later, Mom. I promise.” Buffy’s voice was resigned and quiet. “Just let me tell Spike ‘good-bye’ in private, please.”

With a last look at the vampire, Giles and Joyce moved into the living room, leaving the two lovers facing each other from several feet apart.

“Guess it’s time for me to go, love,” he said, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Give me time to get to LA and find a place to hunker down until we get this sorted out.”

“Ho—how long do you think it will take?” Buffy could feel her chin trembling and she willed herself to be strong for him, knowing that any sign of distress on her part and he would refuse to leave.

“Don’t really know, pet. ‘S like I told the Watcher, I never claimed anybody before – human or vampire. I’ll just think about you every night, and when I can’t feel you anymore, I’ll know it’s time to come home.”

He turned toward the door, but stopped when she put her hand on his arm.

“You aren’t going to kiss me good-bye?” Disbelief and sorrow battled to come through the controlled voice she tried to use.

“’M afraid if I touch you, I’ll never let go,” he said honestly. “Thought it’d be easier this way.”

“And is it? Easier?”

“Bloody hell, no!” he exploded, whirling and picking her up to crush against his chest as he fastened his lips on hers.

When they had been kissing so long that Buffy was turning blue from lack of air, he reluctantly let go of her mouth and buried his face in her neck. She gradually slid down until her feet were on the floor, then pushed him gently away.

“Well, that’s more like it,” she gasped, still recovering. “Now I really do believe you’ll miss me.”

Giving her his trademark smirk, he said, “Oh, you’re gonna know how much I’m missing you, pet. Every night while I’m gone – gonna make that little episode on the watcher’s couch seem like a day dream, I am.”

Rolling her eyes, she smacked his arm and ordered, “Just get out of here before I have to do some proactive staking so that I don’t get embarrassed in front of my roommate!”

Laughing, he went out the kitchen door and slipped off into the darkening night. Just before she lost sight of his pale face, he turned back toward the house. Buffy was framed in the kitchen doorway, silhouetted by the light streaming out from behind her.

(I love you)

(Come back to me.)

When she could no longer see him or feel that special tingle on the back of her neck, she sighed and closed the door. She squared her shoulders and prepared herself for the questions she knew her mother was going to have about the claim.

(Hey, it could be worse! I could be dating a human and have got myself pregnant or something like that. All I did was bind myself to a vampire for the rest of my life. And this time she actually likes the vampire I’m dating. So, go me!)

Satisfied that she could put a spin on the situation that would keep her mother from wigging out too badly, she put a smile on her face and went to join the older couple waiting in the living room.

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