For anyone who hasn't been following it the rest of the story starts here.
Chapter Sixteen: Mirror in the Bathroom.
“She’s twenty-four. Doing a doctorate in Human Sexuality, and she teaches Kegel exercises at the Women’s Health class,” Willow related. She scooped froth from the surface of her latte and licked the spoon, and then looked up into Buffy’s eyes. The look of abject misery she saw there made her regret her teasing. “Hey, kidding,” she said hastily. “She does Particle Physics. No Kegel exercises, although I hear she hang-glides.”
Buffy stared glumly at her own latte. “I really shot myself in the foot, didn’t I? All the things I wished for Spike, making him a perfect boyfriend, never occurred to me I’d be making him perfect for every other girl on campus. Hot British guy with the cool clothes and the Jaguar and the luxury apartment, yeah, not surprising he’s having to beat them off with a club. ‘Cept, maybe he’s not so much with the beating off.”
Willow sought for a diversion from the uncomfortable topic of Spike’s latest girlfriend. “Hey, any luck with finding the Nerd Trio?” she asked.
Buffy shook her head. “Saw Jonathan in the mall a couple of days ago, but I lost him. When it comes to tracking a really short guy through a crowd of normal size people, a Buffy-sized girl is so not the best qualified. Apart from that they’ve pretty much gone to ground.”
“I don’t see how they’re managing to keep hiding,” Willow mused. She took a drink of her latte. “Town the size of Sunnydale, you’d think we’re bump into them now and then. They have to go out sometimes.” She realised that she had given herself a cream moustache and paused to wipe it off. “Unless, maybe they’re still watching us, with the cameras, you know? I mean, if they know where we are, they can make sure they’re somewhere we’re not.”
“Makes sense,” Buffy agreed, “but I can’t find any other cameras. Any progress with the locator spell?”
“Zilch,” Willow confessed. “I think Jonathan’s shielding them.”
“Yeah.” Buffy sipped at her own drink, and acquired a froth moustache of her own. “Well, stick at it, Will, and I’ll keep on looking out for them. We’re bound to catch up with them eventually.” She sighed, and went back to the topic of Spike. “You know, the human thing wasn’t the only wish Halfrek offered me. She suggested she let him stay a vampire but get him a legal ID, find him a job, and, she said, ‘get rid of the prejudice your friends have against him’. I wish I’d taken that option.”
Willow twitched nervously at the use of the ‘W’ word, and looked around for Vengeance Demons. Nothing seemed to have happened and she turned back to Buffy. “Why didn’t you? I mean, things maybe worked out for the best with what you did, although maybe not for you, and not really down on human status personally, kinda like being human myself, but it would have gone down pretty well with William and you’d have got what you wanted. Looks sorta as if you were just being really greedy, which is not like you, but that’s how it looks.”
“I didn’t want her messing with your minds with that ‘get rid of prejudice’ bit,” Buffy explained.
Willow flushed. Her own exploits along those lines were still a sore memory. She could see Buffy’s point, except that Buffy had obviously had no qualms about messing with Spike’s mind. “It wouldn’t have been that big with the messing, you know, Buffy. Pretty much the only problem we had with Spike was thinking that he’d eat us if he got the chip out, and I know now he wouldn’t have done anyway. Clearing that point up was about all Halfrek would have really needed to do.”
“Okay, I know that now, but I didn’t know it then.” Buffy fell silent. She sipped her drink once more, adding to the frothy moustache.
“Maybe you should give up. Try dating someone else,” Willow suggested, without much hope.
“I don’t want anyone else. That guy Danny from the Media Studies class asked me out last Friday and, you know, I just couldn’t. He’s just so, well, not Spike.” Buffy twirled her spoon. “I haven’t even seen Spike since we saw Giles off at the airport. Maybe I should enrol in the Classical Civilisation course. At least I’d see him in class sometimes then.”
Willow shook her head. “That would be a bad move. You might see him, but no way would he go out with you if you were in a class he had any responsibility for. Professional ethics. We were talking the other day, and he was saying if he’d known a couple of years back what he knows now he’d have got Riley thrown out of the College, ‘cause, boinking someone when you’re grading their papers, a big no-no.”
“Spike was criticising Riley’s ethics?” Buffy’s eyebrows shot skywards.
“Well, yeah, Buffy, Riley was way outa line, you’ve got to know that.”
“I guess so,” Buffy muttered. “Wait a minute. You were talking to Spike the other day? How come?”
Willow shuffled uncomfortably in her seat. “Me and Tara had lunch with him. That’s how come I know about his girlfriend. He was asking me to do some beta reading for him. He’s been writing Baldur’s Gate fanfic and, hey, it’s really good. He’s a Viconia redemptionist, which is maybe not surprising.”
“I understand the words, but not the sentences,” Buffy complained, but moved on without waiting for an explanation. “So, everybody’s seeing Spike but me? I know Xander and Richard were out with him night before last, and Dawn goes over to his place a couple of evenings a week, but I don’t get to see him hardly at all. This sucks.”
“Say goodbye to suckage,” Willow announced, smiling, as Spike walked into the Espresso Pump right on cue. “Or maybe not,” she added, her face falling. His new girlfriend appeared right behind him. A tall, curvaceous, brunette, immaculately dressed and made up.
They passed close to the two girls’ table and Spike greeted Willow warmly. He gave Buffy a curt nod. “Buffy.”
His date glanced at them with little interest, ignoring their greetings to Spike, but then her lip curled in a smile of amused contempt as she looked at Buffy. Spike moved on, and she followed.
Buffy glared daggers at the girl’s back. “So what was that look about?” she muttered. “Have I got last year’s nose or something?”
“Uhh, froth, top lip,” Willow explained. “Latte moustache. It looks kinda cute, actually,” she hastened to add, as Buffy flushed, mortified, and wiped it away. “And hey, can’t drink this without getting one.”
“Cute!” Buffy sniffed. “Not the impression I wanted to give. I don’t see Spike for a week, and when I do I look like a complete dork. And that girl he’s dating? Can I just say, Cordelia Lite?”
* * * * * *
Buffy kicked idly at a stone. Another night home alone. Well, apart from patrol, but that was no fun without Spike. Xander and Anya had suggested she go with them to the Bronze, but she couldn’t face it. Seeing them so happy together just made her feel worse; plus, there was the possibility of bumping into Spike and That Woman. Being avoidy Buffy seemed the best option.
She moved across the lawn, working through a kata. One of the Shotokan forms, she thought, or maybe Kyokushinkai. She could never keep straight which one was which. That was Giles’ thing. She wasn’t that bothered as long as it kept her in shape for hitting things. She stood on the stone again, turning her ankle slightly, and kicked out at it angrily. It shot off the lawn and collided with an ugly little garden gnome, cracking the ornament and knocking it onto its side. The gnome’s head fell off and rolled away.
“Bummer,” she muttered to herself, and strode over to inspect the damage. Her brow creased. The gnome didn’t seem to belong. She’d never paid any attention to it before, but it seemed a bit too tacky to have belonged to her mother. Maybe someone had put it there as a joke.
Or maybe not as a joke. Something plastic gleamed amidst the ceramic shards. A tiny LED blinked red. A webcam.
* * * * * *
“I’m in!” Willow announced triumphantly. “Give me a few minutes and I can get you a location.”
“You can actually find out where they are?” Buffy asked. “Just from hacking in?”
“Well, not just from the hacking,” Willow confessed. She glanced at Tara from under lowered brows, received a nod of approval, and turned back to Buffy. “That would get me an IP address, I could find out the ISP, work back from their records, and the phone company, I’d get an address eventually but it would take a while. I can take a short cut with magic. This gives me a good lead for the locator spell. Gets me right through their shielding.”
Buffy smiled and nodded. As far as she was concerned computer hacking was indistinguishable from magic anyway. She stood back and let Willow work her technological and occult sorcery, watching the screen with blank incomprehension, until pictures appeared. “That’s the Magic Box!” she exclaimed.
“So they’ve got other cameras. No big surprise.” Willow watched for a moment as Anya went through the shop’s closing routine. “The big display cabinet, I think.”
“The one with the horrible skull? Yeah, I think you’re right,” Tara confirmed.
“I’ll smash it later. Anywhere else?” Buffy clenched her fists.
“The Bronze. The main entrance to the College. Ah, what have we here?”
“Xander and Anya’s apartment.” Buffy’s fists clenched tighter. There were two views of the apartment; one of the entrance hall in black and white, and a colour view into the apartment from some external vantage point. Probably a camera mounted in a tree or on a street light. “That’s Xander’s construction site,” she added, as a new scene appeared. “No wonder they can keep out of our way, they know pretty much where we are all the time.” Another black and white scene appeared. “The lobby of Spike’s apartment block. The nerds must have hacked into the CCTV. Hey, there’s Spike.” She fell silent as she saw the figure who accompanied her former lover.
“And Cordelia Lite,” Willow completed the identification for her. “He must have invited her back for a meal.” She grinned wickedly. “Should we call him over? I mean, this could be important, not like we’d be doing it just to spoil his date, even if we were.”
Tara frowned. She didn’t think that was very fair on Spike.
“Hi, guys, whatcha doing?” Dawn greeted, walking in and making a beeline for the laptop that was the focus of everyone’s attention. “Hey, why are you watching crappy video of Spike? Is that his new girlfriend?”
Buffy stared stonily at the image of the elevator doors closing on the couple. “Yeah,” she told her sister. “Smart, classy dresser, and, most importantly, not me. Having dinner with Spike.” She sucked in a deep breath. “No, leave them to it,” she told Willow. “I’ve messed up Spike too much already. We’ll sort the nerd trio out ourselves. Not that I’ve any clue what to do with them, but I’ll work something out. Probably involving large amounts of pain.”
* * * * * *
“I had kinda planned on the large amounts of pain happening to the nerds, not me,” Buffy moaned, clutching her arm.
“Hey, it’s hardly broken the skin,” Willow scolded her. “A torn jacket and a graze, not so much on the ‘large amounts of pain’ scale.”
“True, but not so funny,” Buffy admitted, grinning. “Gotta give these guys credit for ingenuity. A buzzsaw trap. Not so big with the efficiency, but so not complaining about that.”
“It could have been pretty bad if you hadn’t got those Slayer reflexes,” Willow reminded her soberly. “Or if I’d been closer behind you, I couldn’t have dodged like that. Not really a laughing matter.” The nerds’ lair had again proved to be abandoned, but this time they’d booby-trapped it ready for the arrival of the Scoobies. Giant buzz-saws had sliced their way across the room, and Buffy had had to take frantic evasive action to avoid being sawn in two.
“Yeah, I know,” Buffy agreed, losing her smile. “Still, this time I think we’ve come out ahead. They’ve left stuff behind. Let’s check it out. Might be something to show where they’ve gone, or give us a lead on what they’re up to.”
* * * * * *
“I – have – the – Power!” Warren boomed, striking a dramatic pose. “Fortune and glory, Short Round, that’s what we’re getting. Fortune and glory.” He climbed aboard the van chuckling to himself.
Jonathan and Andrew followed him. Andrew was grinning happily, but Jonathan’s expression was gloomy. He’d taken all the risks in the expedition to retrieve the Orbs of Nezzla’khan, but it was Warren who was getting to use the artefacts, and it didn’t seem as if he was willing to share. All the promises he’d made in the past couple of weeks didn’t seem to count for anything now the Orbs were actually in his possession. Would the same apply to the loot?
Andrew looked at one of the van’s control consoles and his grin disappeared. “Uh, dudes, we’ve got a problem. Base isn’t secure any longer.”
“The Slayer?” Warren asked, but then shrugged. “Not that it matters. We thought it might happen. Everything important is already out. It just means we can’t go back there between now and the heist, so we’ll be a bit less comfortable. Still, only a few hours.”
“Everything important already out?” Jonathan protested. “I’ve left all my Star Wars figures behind. And some computer stuff.” ‘And the draft schedule for the heists’, he added silently. He knew he should warn Warren, that would be the sensible thing to do, but he’d get shouted at and he couldn’t face that. Anyway, there wasn’t anything in the draft to give away what it was about; just places and times, and notes in Klingon. The Slayer shouldn’t be able to make any sense of it, not in time to do any good.
“Don’t worry about it,” Warren dismissed his protest airily. “With what we’ll be picking up you can buy all the action figures E-bay has to offer. Any amount of computer stuff too.”
“So where are we going to go now?” Andrew asked. “Can we find a hot spot so I can get on the net? I’d just started reading this totally awesome new story on fanfic dot net, and you made me break off in the middle of a chapter.”
“There’s nothing any good on there,” Jonathan claimed. “Even if it looks good to start with it’ll turn totally lame.”
“No, it’s really cool,” Andrew insisted. “Baldur’s Gate SOA, the Bhaalspawn’s this hot chick from Kara-tur, and I think the writer’s got the lesbian romance hack and it’s going to be her and Viconia. He’s got Minsc down totally right, really funny, and the fight scenes are fantastic.” He sighed dreamily. “The guy’s called William the Bloody. That’s Spike’s real name, right? Wouldn’t it be cool if it was him?”
“No way!” Jonathan scoffed. “Spike writing fanfic? As if. Although, it does sound pretty good. Is there plenty of ‘go for the eyes, Boo, go for the eyes!’ action?”
Warren rolled his eyes. “I think we can do better than sit in the van reading fanfic for hours. Let’s hit the Bronze.”
“Is that safe? Suppose the Slayer is there?”
“You’re forgetting the Orbs, Frodo. We don’t have to back down from anyone now. We set out to rule Sunnydale; well, now we do. She can be the one to back down, otherwise she’ll get hurt. Come on, let’s go.”
* * * * * *
Xander didn’t like Spike’s new girlfriend. He exchanged a look with Anya. Yeah, the new Mrs Harris didn’t like Spike’s new girlfriend either. She was doing her best to hide it, but he could tell.
He was doing his best to hide it too. Showing disapproval of a friend’s relationship, he had learned recently, only led to badness. He was at least as responsible for Buffy’s present unhappiness as anyone else, and he didn’t want to repeat the mistake with Spike.
Although, kind of hard to resist. Andrea ‘call me Andy, yes, like Andy McDowell,’ was a Grade A bitch. Sugar and sweetness on the outside, but it was there in her eyes, in the way she looked down her nose at him and Anya, so obvious that she was thinking ‘Why is William bothering with an ignorant blue-collar worker and a salesgirl?’ Well, screw you, sister. If Andy was so damn bright why wasn’t she at CalTech or Santa Cruz rather than Sunnydale? How was she to know on first meeting that he didn’t write computer programs or play Chess to Grand Master standard? Okay, so really he had trouble remembering how to move the ones shaped like horses, but she wasn’t to know that.
He could see what Spike saw in her. She was really, really, good-looking. Well dressed. And she hadn’t punched him in the nose once, and that had to make a nice change from Buffy. They looked good together. That was probably what she saw in Spike; she’d look good getting out of the Jaguar, and he was about as good looking for a guy as she was for a girl. Spike had cooked a meal for her before they’d come out to the Bronze, so not much chance of her deciding he wasn’t good enough for her and dumping him, not now she’d tasted the goodness, and – so not going there.
It was still fairly early in the evening, not a lot of people in yet, and most of the crowd were sitting down rather than dancing. There was still plenty of time for Willow and Tara to arrive; and maybe Buffy, and wouldn’t that be fun? Not.
Xander made a trip to the restroom. On his return he spotted some new arrivals who were likely to be even more not fun. Warren, Jonathan, and the other one; Tucker’s brother. They had some nerve showing up here; or maybe they were just being even more stupid than usual. Xander contemplated phoning Buffy but decided against it. If they spotted him with the phone they’d just run off, and the Slayer wasn’t really needed; he and Anya could probably take those three on by themselves, and Spike’s presence made it definitely like shooting fish in a barrel. The only problem was how they could take action against the nerds without laying themselves open to getting arrested for assault. Maybe it would be a case of following the Trio when they left, calling for Buffy, taking action somewhere else. Spike hadn’t seen them yet, as he was fully occupied with the two girls. Xander delayed his return to the table, trying to work out a way of catching Spike’s attention without being seen by the nerds, but before he could come up with any plan Warren took matters out of his hands.
Warren was pressing his attentions on a decidedly uninterested girl, Jonathan and Andrew hanging back and looking on unhappily. The girl’s boyfriend, a six foot four jock who was an old enemy of Warren from High School days, returned from the bar and took offence. Warren reacted by taunting him, pushing for a fight. Xander relaxed. It looked as if Warren was going to suffer some retribution without any need for action by himself or Spike, and following the nerds afterwards shouldn’t be too hard if the hospital was going to be their first port of call.
Or perhaps not. Frank, the jock, shoved Warren aggressively; except that Warren didn’t move. He stood laughing, ignoring Frank’s increasingly desperate attempts to push him away, and then retaliated with a thrust to the chest that sent Frank flying across the Bronze. He collided with some dancers and crashed heavily to the floor.
“Oh, not of the good,” Xander muttered. Some sort of strength spell, he guessed. Probably Jonathan’s work. He changed his strategy and began to work round towards the two other members of the Trio. He’d leave dealing with Warren to Spike, who had reacted to the disturbance and had now noticed the leader of the nerds.
Another jock charged towards Warren, a friend of Frank seeking revenge, and threw a hard punch. Warren caught the arm, broke his assailant’s wrist, and tossed him aside. Another young man picked up a chair and swung it at Warren’s back with all his strength. The chair shattered. Warren didn’t even sway under the impact, just turned around and backhanded the other man across the face hard enough to send him flying over the bar. Warren strode casually to the cash register and slammed his hand down on it, burst open the cash drawer, and scooped out a handful of bills as the bartender cowered away. “Let’s party,” he announced gleefully.
“I don’t think so,” a cold English voice broke in. Spike advanced menacingly, moving across the floor like a panther, making Jonathan and Andrew cringe and hide their faces. “You and me, wanker. Let’s get it on.”
* * * * * *
Spike fidgeted uncomfortably in his chair. The two girls were not getting on well. Well, that was one way of putting it, rather like saying that the USA and the USSR hadn’t got on well between the end of the Second World War and the fall of the Berlin Wall. They weren’t openly fighting, and that was the best that could be said.
It didn’t bode well for the relationship. He had to face it, Andy was an intellectual snob. She was absolutely gorgeous, witty, charming, and she had a fantastic pair of knockers, but he didn’t think it was going to work out. If she wasn’t willing to make the effort to accept Xander and Anya how on Earth was she going to cope with meeting Clem? So far all he was getting out of this was an insight into Buffy’s point of view when she had refused to make their relationship public because of her fears that her friends wouldn’t accept him. He could feel his resentment diminishing slightly now that he had a sight of things from her side of the fence. He wasn’t going to give up his friends for Andy, no matter how delectable her arse or how good her tits would look around his cock. Oh well, maybe she’d lighten up. When Xander came back from the toilets perhaps she’d realise how funny he could be and change her mind.
A commotion on the dance floor broke his chain of thought and he looked around. There was a fight going on. A rather one-sided fight. That tosser Warren was taking some bloke apart. A big bloke. There was something mystical going on; no way could he be doing that without some magical assistance. He needed to be taken down and quickly. Spike rose to his feet.
“Don’t get involved,” Andy urged.
“Sorry, love, can’t let this pass, it goes with the black belt,” he told her, “Can’t let him get away with this. Anya, call Buffy. Then maybe grab Jonathan or the other bloke if you get a chance, Warren might back off if we have one of his mates.”
“Stay out of it. Leave it to the cops, you fool,” Andy snapped.
“No can do. I’m going to stop him.” He put Andy out of his mind and stalked off towards Warren, poised for action.
“Let’s party,” the leader of the Trio called out, waving a handful of cash stolen from the bar.
“I don’t think so,” Spike replied, closing in. “You and me, wanker. Let’s get it on.”
“Hey, Spike,” Warren grinned. “So you think you can take me? You cost me a lot of money. I’m going to take it out of your hide.”
“Oh, yeah?” Spike took off in a flying kick straight at Warren’s face. The kick landed before Warren could react.
Spike bounced off and landed awkwardly. It had been like kicking a brick wall. No effect on Warren whatsoever. This wasn’t good. A kick like that would have put any normal human down instantly, a heavyweight boxer would have been knocked from his feet, and even Buffy would have been shaken. Warren threw a punch in reply and Spike twisted desperately to avoid it. He didn’t think letting one land would be a good idea at all.
Spike kicked Warren in the kneecap. It was a disabling move, an instant fight-stopper when delivered with the kind of force that Spike had put behind it, but Warren merely grinned and swung another clumsy roundhouse punch. The former vampire ducked it with ease, slipped inside Warren’s guard, and delivered a vicious combination of blows. A punch to the stomach, a knee to the groin, and an elbow to the throat. He caught Warren by the ears and pulled him into a head-butt full on the nose. The cumulative effect would have had Angelus down and out. Maybe Buffy could have withstood it, but she’d have been badly hurt. Even Glory would have at least noticed the blows.
Not Warren. He drove his fist into Spike’s stomach and doubled him up in agony. A knee followed, smashing into Spike’s face and throwing him backwards across the room. Warren threw back his head and laughed. “Pussy,” he sneered. “The big bad vampire’s not so tough now, is he?”
Spike rolled, came to his feet, and wiped away a trickle of blood from his nose. “Just getting started, mate,” he panted. Time for a revised plan. Hitting Warren didn’t seem to be having any effect, other than hurting Spike’s hands, so he was going to change tactics. He glided forwards smoothly. This time when Warren threw a punch Spike caught the arm, ducked under it, and threw Warren over his shoulder to smack down hard on the ground. Spike released the hold quickly, made for the pool table, and seized a cue. He swung it as Warren scrambled to his feet and caught him across the face. The cue snapped in two. Spike had anticipated this and instantly thrust hard at Warren’s face with the broken end. Warren flinched away, alarmed, but the jagged wood merely glanced off his skin.
Spike tossed the remains of the cue aside. He was running out of ideas. This was beginning to remind him of his brief fight with Adam; nothing he did had any effect. Whatever the spell was that was enhancing Warren’s physical abilities, it was obviously extremely powerful. Not just increased strength, but invulnerability.
Warren seized a chair and swung it viciously. Spike threw himself backwards, reached the pool table, and rolled over it to place it between himself and his opponent. Warren pulled an unexpected move; he dropped the chair and shoved the table, driving its massive weight into Spike, knocking him from his feet and winding him. Warren rushed around the table and was on Spike before he could regain his feet, kicking him in the stomach, dropping down on him with both knees and then punching him again and again. Spike struggled to free himself, but to no avail. He could taste blood in his mouth, feel his ribs cracking.
“Warren, stop!” Xander yelled. “Get off him or we put your little friends in the hospital!”
Warren looked around and then got to his feet, dragging Spike up with him. Xander was holding an unhappy-looking Jonathan in an arm-lock. Anya had hold of Andrew by the hair and was wrenching his head back painfully. Warren glared. “Let them go or I kill Spike,” he commanded, punching Spike in the stomach once more for emphasis.
“No! You mustn’t kill Spike,” Andrew protested feebly.
Xander shook his head. “No deal, Warren.” He lifted Jonathan into the air by the trapped arm, bringing a squeal of pain from the short young man. “If we let them go we lose our lever. I’m not that stupid. Let Spike go first and then we can talk.”
Warren glared at him. “All right,” he said reluctantly. He threw Spike aside. “Now let them go.” He advanced towards the two Scoobies. Xander lowered Jonathan to the ground and released the arm-lock. Anya let go of Andrew’s hair, and the Harrises moved away quickly as the invulnerable leader of the Trio approached.
“Why did you have to let yourselves get caught, you dopes?” Warren scolded his associates. “Losers.”
“Bitch!” Andrew spat at Anya, gesturing at her with a raised finger.
“Let’s get out of here,” Jonathan suggested. He rotated his arm, winced, and massaged his shoulder. “Someone’s bound to have called the cops.”
“I’m not scared of the cops,” Warren sniffed.
“Maybe not, but I am,” Jonathan replied. “And if we get caught up in anything we’re not going to be on time for the thing.”
“Thing?” Warren frowned.
“The thing, the big thing that we’re going to do.” Jonathan rolled his eyes, annoyed at Warren’s obtuseness. He wasn’t going to say ‘security truck heist’ out loud in the middle of the Bronze.
Warren looked reluctantly at where Xander and Anya were tending to the fallen Spike and then turned away. Short Round had a point. “Okay, let’s go. We’ll kill the rest of the time reading fanfic.”
“Yay!” Andrew said happily. “We should have done that in the first place.” He followed Warren and Jonathan out of the club. “Sorry about this, Spike,” he called over his shoulder. “I still think you’re cool, even if you did threaten the Fett.” Warren shoved a bouncer aside and they departed.
* * * * * *
“Didn’t know they did bank cash deliveries at nights,” Spike remarked. “Seems a funny time for it.”
“It’s a collection, not a delivery,” Buffy explained. “The amusement park opened for the season today. The place doesn’t close until ten, makes sense the takings get picked up after that.”
“Yeah, suppose that explains it.” Spike shifted uncomfortably on his armchair. “Don’t know if I’ll be much help. He did quite a number on me. I’m stiff and sore and covered in bruises, and if it hadn’t been for Xander and Anya I’d be in an even worse state. Maybe dead. Think you wasted your time coming over, pet.”
The casual use of the endearment sent a warm glow through Buffy. “I’m not here after your help, William. I want to see if you’re all right. I brought some first aid stuff over, didn’t know if you’d have any, ‘cause, not like you needed it before.”
“I used to keep some to hand for you to use, remember? Giles helped me stock up, anyway. It was a nice thought, though.”
“That’s me, full of the nice thoughts,” Buffy said with forced perkiness. “Maybe I could help you, you know, put ointment on the bits you can’t reach? Your back, that is.” She saw Spike frown uncertainly. “You used to do it for me. I know I never did it for you, but I should have. That time when you were all messed up from Glory, and I just left you in your crypt, I should have done more. I regretted it afterwards. I should have stayed and tended your wounds.”
“My sexy wounds,” Spike quoted from Buffy’s impersonation of the BuffyBot. “Never expected you to stay. That kiss, and what you said about it being real and you not forgetting it, that was all the care I needed. Did me the world of good.”
“I still should have done more. Maybe I can make up for it a little now?” She held up a tube of ointment. “This is supposed to be really good for bruises. Take your shirt off and I’ll put some on.”
Spike obeyed, somewhat hesitantly. Buffy sucked in her breath as she saw his torso. It was covered with ugly mottled bruising and abrasions seeping blood. “I think we need to get you cleaned up,” she suggested. “We’d best go to the bathroom. Unless, maybe, hospital?”
“Never thought of the hospital,” Spike replied, sounding surprised. “Suppose I’ve still got a few human reactions to learn yet. Don’t really think I’m hurt enough to need it.” He looked at the shirt. “Wonder if the blood’ll come out?” He led the way to the apartment’s main bathroom.
“I’m surprised that girl you’re seeing isn’t there to do this,” Buffy commented as she soaked a flannel.
“Andy? Not her thing. I don’t know where she went after the Bronze, and, frankly, I don’t care. Won’t be going out with her again.”
Buffy found it hard to suppress a smile. “That’s a nasty one,” she remarked, dabbing gently at one of the bruises.
“It’s where he hit me with a pool table.” Spike winced at her touch. “You be careful if you take him on, love. He’s strong as all hell; I couldn’t do any damage at all to him whatever I hit him with. Still got the troll hammer?”
“Nope,” she replied. “I might try a battle-axe. Willow’s going to come along, maybe she can break whatever spell he’s using.” She fell silent for a while as she worked on his injuries. “Remember when you cleaned up my hands, the night I came back?” she said eventually. “This sorta reminds me of that.”
“Mixed memories there for me, pet.”
“And for me. But you were so good to me that night. So gentle, so caring. I think that was when I really started to fall in love with you.”
Spike flinched away from her touch. “You never loved me as a vampire,” he said angrily. “Don’t try to pretend you did. ‘You’re just convenient’, remember?”
“Yeah, well, what about ‘the only thing better than killing a Slayer is fucking one’?” Buffy retorted.
“That was just me making a total pig’s ear of paying you a compliment,” Spike replied, with a hint of a smile. The smile faded. “Anyway, you started it with that remark about it being a ‘freak show’.”
Buffy’s momentary flash of anger disappeared. “I’m sorry,” she told him gently. “Sorry for everything. I lied to myself. If I’d just admitted to both of us that I loved you things could have been so much better.”
“If you loved me then you had a funny way of showing it. You never loved me. Not then and not now. Just drop it. We settled on being friends. Just let that be enough.”
“What do you want me to do? Should I have chained up Angel while he was here and offered to stake him?”
“Yeah, ‘cos that worked out so well for me.” A wry grin crept across Spike’s face. “So who would have come up and shot you in the back with a crossbow the way Harmony did to me?” Buffy blushed. Spike stared at her, one eyebrow climbing, and the grin grew wider. “Harm?” Buffy’s blush grew a brighter crimson. “What, you and Harmony? Really?” Spike laughed, a twinkle in his eyes.
“It was just the one time. We were both really drunk,” Buffy admitted, unable to look Spike in the face.
“Thought your goodbye to her was a bit affectionate,” Spike grinned.
“Shut up, Spike!” Buffy commanded, but then giggled. “Yeah, dumb Buffy does dumb things, okay? But hey, it turns you on, admit it.”
“Got to say I wouldn’t have turned down a window seat for that one,” he confessed. His grin grew wider.
“You still fancy me, don’t you?” Buffy asked. Her eyes were sparkling.
“Well, I have to admit you’re not exactly repulsive,” he told her warily. The grin faded.
Buffy missed his change of mood.
“You still have feelings for me, I know it,” she claimed.
“Friendship only,” he insisted.
“Oh, crap! Enough already.” She crowded close to him, backing him up against the bath. “You’re lying to yourself. I hurt you by lying to both of us, but now you’re doing the same. You do have feelings for me. Stop denying it.”
“Buffy, cool down,” he warned.
“You can’t keep on pushing me away,” Buffy went on, ignoring his response. “It’s just hurting both of us. Let yourself feel it again.” She ran her hands over his naked chest, carefully avoiding the bruises, and planted a kiss on his nipple. “Let me love you. Remember how it was.”
“Buffy,” Spike protested again, “Stop it.”
Her hands went to his jeans and pulled down his zip. “I know how you felt when you were inside me. Come on, Spike, let me show you what you’ve been missing. We belong together, you know it.” She slipped her hand inside his boxer shorts.
“For Christ’s sake get off!” Spike snapped, a note of alarm entering his voice. He tried to back away, the edge of the bath caught him behind the knees, and he fell backwards into the bath with Buffy on top of him. His head struck the tap and he saw stars.
“You’re not hard,” Buffy exclaimed in a disappointed tone.
“Are you fucking surprised, you mad bitch?” Spike yelled, pushing her away hard enough to throw her out of the bath. “Get your fucking hands off me!” He sat up and put a hand to the back of his head, bringing it away with a smear of blood on his fingers. “God. What the fuck are you playing at?” He hastily tucked himself back inside his jeans and pulled up his zip.
Buffy had landed off balance on the bathroom floor, slipped on the bathmat, and sat down hard. She climbed to her feet and looked at him in horror. “Spike,” she said in a shaky voice. “I’m sorry. I thought …”
“No, you didn’t think, you never do.” He glared at her. “Ask me again why I got over you.”
* * * * * *
The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox.
Only two chapters to go after this one.