Part one was Here
Part two was Here
Part three was Here
Angel of the Morning
“What the bloody hell do you want, witch?”
That wasn’t exactly the greeting I’d expected. “Hey,” I said. “Is this a bad time? I can come back later if you’re busy.” Not that I could really think of anything that Spike would be busy with and that I would be interrupting. It wasn’t the right time for ‘Passions’ and hey, if he was watching something on TV I could watch it with him. Anyway, the TV wasn’t even switched on. Oops, maybe he was reading like naughty magazines or something? I think I might have blushed.
“Just sod off. You want to come back, suit your bloody self. Not like I can stop you.” No, he wasn’t reading naughty magazines. He was sitting in his battered old armchair, looking at the TV even though it wasn’t switched on, and he had a cigarette in one hand and a bottle in the other.
“Ooh, somebody’s cranky today. What’s up, Spike?” Couldn’t be PMS, ‘cause, one, he’s a guy, and two, he’s a vampire. Well, I don’t think girl vampires get PMS. Not something I ever thought to ask. I could maybe have asked Harmony, she wasn’t so scary that I couldn’t have had a conversation with her as long as I’d had a cross handy in case she got bitey, but it never crossed my mind back then and she’d left Sunnydale last year. Spike would know, I mean he lived with Drusilla for like a century and Harmony for a year or so, but this probably wasn’t a good time to ask. Hey, maybe when you get turned you’re sorta frozen into the point in the cycle that you’re at right then? That would be the suckiest of sucky things. I mean, imagine being PMS-ed for hundreds of years!
I managed to break off from that chain of thought and brought my attention back to Spike. He looked at me with no friendliness in his expression. “Thought I told you to bugger off,” he growled, without answering my question.
His attitude was starting to get to me. “What’s wrong, Spike?” I asked again. “We’re supposed to be fixing a time to take Dawn to see ‘Orange County’. I thought maybe tomorrow, Dawnie’s free then. Is that okay with you?”
“What part of ‘bugger off’ didn’t you understand, witch?” Spike growled again.
By now I was getting upset and annoyed. “Okay, I’ll go,” I told him. “I don’t see why you’re being so mean. I’ll come back tomorrow; maybe you’ll be feeling better then. Cranky vampire.”
“No use doing the thing with the lip, I know you’re faking,” Spike sneered. “Yeah, you sod off. Do us a favor and don’t come back.”
He was right, my lip was trembling, and it was getting worse. “This is so not fair,” I complained. “I’ve just stood up to a full Scooby intervention for you, and I come here and you can’t even be civil. Well, you can just sit here and smoke and drink by yourself, and I hope it chokes you, you – you – man!”
I turned round and stormed out. Well, bumped into the crypt door and had to fumble it open, which kinda spoiled the effect, but it was meant to be storming out. I was pretty near crying, but I didn’t want Spike to see after what he’d said about my ‘thing with the lip’. I just walked away from the crypt as quick as I could.
I was thirty yards away, and there were tears trickling down my cheeks, when I had a sudden thought. I’d faced an intervention, yeah; but had Spike? Buffy hadn’t come to bed at the same time as I had, and she didn’t have a problem with visiting the cemetery in the middle of the night – hello, Slayer – and maybe she’d gone over to Spike’s place and given him the treatment. I stopped, wiped my eyes, turned around and headed back.
This time Spike stood up when I came in. He put down the bottle, dropped the cigarette on the floor and stood on it, and shuffled his feet. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “Didn’t mean to upset you, Red.”
“Spike,” I said, trying not to sniffle, “did Buffy tell you to keep away from me?”
“Sort of,” he said. “What was that about an intervention? That’s what you lot call it when you try to break up a relationship, innit?”
“Yeah,” I confirmed. “Did you get one too?”
“The Slayer came round last night,” Spike revealed, confirming what I’d guessed. “Told me a few things. Said you’d told her I was like a stray dog and you were throwing me a few scraps to keep me on side. Take it that wasn’t true?”
“She what?” I drew in a deep breath. “I never said that! I said, I said that you not having a soul didn’t make it right to hit you, same way as it wasn’t right to beat a dog, but I didn’t mean you were a dog or anything. She twisted what I said.” Well more like flat out lied, but I was giving her the benefit of the doubt ‘cause Buffy didn’t tell lies. Kept secrets, yeah, but lying was new for her.
“Should have known better, love,” Spike said. “Sorry. Made you cry, pet. I’m a bad, rude, man.”
“Yeah, you are,” I said, smiling for about the first time since I’d gotten to the crypt. “Naughty, cranky, vampire.” I lifted my hand and hit him on the chest with the heel of my fist. I didn’t worry about hurting him, ‘cause vampire, twenty times as strong as me; only he staggered back and collapsed into his chair and his face twisted up. “Spike!” I put my hand to my mouth. “I’m sorry! What happened?”
“Uugh,” Spike grunted, and then he pulled himself together and sat up straight. “You just caught me wrong, love. Don’t worry about it.” He put his hand to his chest and winced.
Well, I was going to worry about it, ‘cause Spike wasn’t faking, and there is no way I should have been able to hurt him at all without a stake in my hand. “What did I do? Are you hurt? Let me see.” I moved over to him and tried to unbutton his shirt.
He caught my hand and stopped me. “Leave it alone, pet. Nothing to see.”
“I don’t believe you. Show me.”
“All bloody right. Just want to see me without my shirt, don’t you, pet?” The corner of his mouth turned up a little, but he wasn’t really smiling. He let go of my hand and pulled off the shirt and the T-shirt he wore underneath.
“Oh my goddess.” I put my hand to my mouth again. “Buffy? What did she do?” I reached out gently and touched the bruises on his chest and stomach.
“Gave me a bit of a thumping, didn’t she? Bit of a reminder for me to know my place. Broke a couple of ribs, I reckon. Should’ve been healed by now, but I suppose I’m running a bit slow after the last lot. Took a lot outa me, that did.”
“She hit you where it wouldn’t show,” I said slowly. “That’s – that’s bad. Sorta cold and calculating. I mean, the other thing, yeah that was bad, but maybe understandable ‘cause she was all stressed with thinking she’d killed somebody. But this …” I shook my head. “It’s, well, abuse.”
“Slayer’s got issues,” Spike said. “Bloody dog in the manger, that’s what she is. Doesn’t bloody want me herself, looks like, but doesn’t want to share. Spike’s got to keep fawning round her for sodding crumbs. Bloody tired of it, pet, that’s the truth.” He sighed. “Should’ve fallen in love with you, Red. Dunno why I didn’t, fancied you right from when I first saw you. Wouldn’t have been all moonlight and roses but I bet you wouldn’t have sodding messed me around this bloody much.” He pulled his T-shirt on and began to put his arms through the sleeves of his shirt.
I had another attack of the warm fuzzies from Spike saying that he’d always fancied me. “I don’t know if it would have been any better for you, Spike. I mean, I’m kinda gay, there’d still have been Tara.”
Spike tilted his head to one side and looked me up and down, and I could feel my cheeks getting hot. “Not so sure about the gay thing these days, are you?” he teased. “Anyway, I bloody like Tara, don’t I? Not like Captain Cardboard, always hated that twat. Wouldn’t have minded coming second to Glinda the Good Witch.” I was definitely blushing now, and Spike laughed. “Didn’t mean the innuendo there, pet. Anyway, I could have unlived with that. Could have kept happy with the mental visuals, no problem.” He waggled his eyebrows up and down; he definitely meant the innuendo that time.
I was laughing by now, and I would have hit him again, just a play hit, if it hadn’t been for what happened last time. “You’re wicked,” I said. “Not evil, though. Hey, Tara was on my side in the intervention, you know? She spoke up for us.”
“Told you I liked her.” Spike frowned slightly. “There’s an us? Really? As in, more than just friends?”
“Well, that’s kinda up to you as well as me,” I replied. “There could be. I mean, if we’re going to have to face all the heat from the Scoobies anyway. Not that I’m saying ‘hey, take me now’,” I added hastily. “Just, you know, there could be smoochies. If you wanted. And, maybe, other things might not be totally out of the question if things went right.”
“I could go for that,” Spike grinned. “Though, got to figure out some way of stopping the Slayer beating the crap out of me, y’know? If you were saying ‘take me now’ I’m not so sure I could. Bloody hurts.”
“Yeah.” I thought hard. “I’ll try talking to her, but it didn’t go so well the last time. I thought I’d made her see she was wrong, but she must have come straight over to your place afterwards and done it again. If only Giles hadn’t gone back to England, he could have made her see sense.”
“Or told her to stake me,” Spike muttered. “Although, the Watcher might not be so bad if he knew I wasn’t after his precious Slayer any more. Was pretty decent to me at one time, before things got all buggered up. He’s gone, though, so no point in thinking about it.”
“I’ll have to tell her I’ll tell Dawn if she does it again,” I decided. “I don’t want to do it, ‘cause not really my place to interfere between sisters, but I might not have a choice.”
I had a brief flash of temptation right about then. A little voice inside me saying ‘You could make Buffy stop, you could make Xander get with the accepting …’ Yeah, right. All I had to do was give in to the magic again. Like that was gonna work. I’d been down that road before. Most probably I’d end up stopping Buffy from being able to hurt any vampires, and Xander would get to be a demon magnet again, and there’d be other badness that I couldn’t even guess at. Switching the little voice off and making it shut up wasn’t really hard at all. Hey, maybe I was finally learning my lesson?
“So, anyway,” I said. “If we’re kinda dating, what’re we gonna do tonight?”
- - - - -
“What’d you reckon, then, love?” Spike asked. “Sounds a bit too good to be true, maybe, but I can’t afford to pass up the dosh. Two thousand bucks just for looking after some eggs for a couple of weeks. Easy money.”
“Too easy,” I cautioned him. I chewed on my lower lip for a moment. “The eggs probably have a mommy who’s real pissed at losing her babies. Or they’ll hatch out any minute into things that’ll eat your face.”
“That’s why I thought I’d check it out with you, pet. Got your head screwed on the right way these days, you can keep me on the straight and narrow.”
“We should research,” I decided. “Let’s find out what the eggs are. It’d be a shame to miss out on two thousand dollars if there’s nothing wrong with being an egg-sitter. Hey, I can take pictures. I’ll check them out on the web. Maybe I’ll phone Giles.”
“Watch out for the time difference, pet,” Spike reminded me.
I ruffled his hair. “Hey, not stupid here. Eight hours ahead of us, I know that. I’ll call him in the morning. I wonder if he’s gotten with the twenty-first century enough to have e-mail?”
“Not convinced Rupert’s joined the twentieth yet, pet,” Spike grinned. “Suppose it’s worth asking him. You thinking of e-mailing him pics?”
“Yeah. Photos of the eggs, that is. Not of me and you hand in hand.”
“Might be a good idea at that, y’know, love. It’d be a good way to get him to come rushing back over here, and Demon Bird and the whelp keep moaning about Giles not being able to come to the wedding. Can’t afford to give them much of a prezzie, unless I get the two grand that is, so luring the Watcher over would be about the best I could do.”
“I don’t think it would work, sweetie,” I said. “He’d either come racing over and stake you, which would be bad, or he’d call me up and give me a talk about how he was disappointed in me but I’m adult enough to make my own decisions. Which I am, and I’ve made them.”
Spike had his head tilted over to one side and was giving me a funny look. “You called me ‘sweetie’,” he said.
“Did I? Well, you are my sweetie.” I gulped. “You don’t mind, do you? Is it too cutesy for the Big Bad? I’ll try not to let it slip out in public, ‘kay?”
Spike frowned and ran his tongue over his lips. “Dunno. Suppose it wouldn’t be good for my crypt cred if any demons heard you call me that, but it’s not that likely. ‘Cept Clem, and I can’t see him running round telling everybody ‘Willow called Spike ‘sweetie’!’. Sorta nice, really, but nobody’s ever called me anything like that before. Not exactly Dru’s style. Sodding Harmony called me things a lot more bloody twee than ‘sweetie’. Mind, you start calling me ‘Blondie Bear’ and I’ll start rethinking this whole boyfriend gig. And don’t sodding call me ‘sweetie’ in front of Harris. Wouldn’t live that down for a long time.”
“I won’t. Xander’s kinda still sticking his head in the sand about us. He thinks if he just ignores it then it’ll go away.”
“Okay, I take that back. Go right ahead and call me ‘sweetie’ in front of him. Probably make him go purple, get a good laugh out of it, and he can’t pull my leg about it if he’s playing ostrich.”
I laughed, but it made me think. It had just slipped out. I was kinda comfortable and relaxed around Spike these days. He was good for my ego, ‘cause he always treated me like a lady, and there had been some serious smoochies although nothing under the clothes yet. But we hadn’t really been a couple in front of the others much. We’d sat in the movies with his arm around me when we went with Dawn, and we’d danced in front of Xander and Anya by now, but nobody had seen us getting with the smoochies and I was still a bit nervous about how Tara would react. Even more about Buffy; ‘cause Tara might get upset, and I didn’t want that, but Buffy might get back to playing ‘kick the Spike’. We were going to have to face up to it some time. We were out of the closet but still playing it pretty cool, and if we were gonna make a go of it we’d have to stop tiptoeing around everybody. Anyway, not like there was anyone around right now.
“Is round the bed really a good place for them?” I queried. “I mean, if they are things that eat your face, maybe giving them an easy target isn’t such a good idea.”
“Good thinking, pet. Said you were the smart one. There’s no room upstairs, and the geezer said they had to be kept cool. This was the first place I thought of. Can stick them along the tunnel a bit, I guess. There’s a bit of an alcove I can block off. Cheating a bit, said I’d keep my eyes on them and I won’t be, but unless the bloke comes poking around he won’t know that. Cooler there than near the bed, too. Suppose it’ll be okay.”
“Yeah, And, Spike, I don’t know if you’re going to get me into that bed, I’m not saying yes, I’m not saying no, but no way would you be getting me in with those demon eggs all around. Hey, I’ve seen ‘Alien’.”
Spike looked kinda alarmed. “Bloody hell! The buggers do look a bit like that. Get on home and get your camera, love. Sooner we get them identified the sooner I can concentrate on,” the alarmed look disappeared and was replaced by him looking me up and down and licking his lips, “other things. More pleasant things.”
- - - - -
“You know, when I was little, I used to spend hours imagining what my wedding to Xander would be like,” I told Spike and Dawn, “and now I look at them and I just think ‘Nee-hee-hee!’” We were all out at the Bronze, well ‘cept for Buffy ‘cause she was working, but Xander and Anya weren’t out on the dance floor shaking their things. They were sitting at a table for two and bickering about seating arrangements, and about Xander snacking too much, and about all the relatives that they couldn’t stand but had invited anyway; and they hadn’t even gotten started on the demons on Anya’s side who were coming.
“You’re awfully chipper tonight,” Dawn said, giggling a little.
“Can’t hide it,” I agreed. “I guess I’m glad to be out of it. And hey, I’m here with Spike, holding hands even, and Xander hasn’t said a word.”
“Probably hasn’t noticed, love,” Spike said. “Don’t envy the poor sod. Anya’s a tasty piece but she’s a bugger for having things organized right and proper. Bet he’s not getting any these days.”
“You gonna be okay about Tara being at the wedding?” Dawn asked.
“Yeah, I think so,” I said. “It still hurts sometimes, but, you know, not so much any more.” I gave Spike’s hand a little squeeze.
“Same here, pet,” Spike said. He turned to Dawn. “Not that I’ve stopped loving your sis, Nibblet, but got to say I wouldn’t go running off to her if she snapped her fingers these days. Got a good thing going with Red, wouldn’t want to give it up easy.”
“I never thought you’d give up on Buffy,” Dawn remarked. “You were so totally into her.”
“She made it pretty clear she’d never be my girl,” Spike replied. “I’m not a complete idiot. Give me long enough and I can get the message.”
‘Especially if the message is delivered with fists to the face,’ I thought, but I didn’t say anything.
“Anyway, I fancied Red long before I fell for your sister. Should have just fallen in love with her in the first place, saved a lot of time and trouble, right?”
“Hey, if you hadn’t fallen for Buffy you wouldn’t have helped us out against Glory,” Dawn pointed out.
“Bloody would have done,” Spike contradicted her. “Liked you for yourself, didn’t I? Nothing to do with the Slayer. And Will was all mixed up in it anyway. Would have helped out, sure. Not that I did that much. Got my arse kicked by Glory without dropping you in it, Nibs, that’s about all, and nicked the camper van. Messed up when it mattered most.”
“It wasn’t your fault,” Dawn reassured him. “If I hadn’t yelled out when I saw you coming you might have caught the creepy old man by surprise.” We were getting into areas that really weren’t happy memories, and Dawn obviously thought so too. She changed the subject slightly. “Hey, if you had fallen for Willow back then, would you have made a Willow bot?”
“Dunno.” Spike shook his head. “Not exactly my finest hour there, Bit. Spur of the moment idea after I’d been kicked to the curb. Dunno how things would have worked out if it had been Red.”
We were still in areas that weren’t all that pleasant for Spike but I was too intrigued by some aspects of the idea to move on immediately. “I wonder what a Willow bot would have been like if you had made one? It’s not like it would have been a Slayer. A robot couldn’t really be a witch.”
“Lot more to you than being a witch, love. You haven’t done anything magic for bloody weeks, have you, pet?”
“Nope,” I confirmed cheerily. “I’ve even stopped counting the days. It’s a lot easier dealing when I’m with you. It was hard when I was around Tara, ‘cause she had her own magic, and it was pretty hard when I was by myself, but having you to keep me grounded is definitely of the good.”
Spike squeezed my hand. “Glad to hear it, love. Got to say you’re bloody marvelous at keeping me on the straight and narrow, too.”
“That reminds me,” I said. “I’ve called Giles, and he does have e-mail, and I’ve sent him the pics.”
“You tell him about us, love?” Spike asked.
“Yeah, and he said ‘Dear Lord’,” I told him.
“He bloody would,” Spike smirked. “Bet he took off his glasses, too.”
“And cleaned the lenses,” Dawn contributed.
“He probably did, but he didn’t say so,” I went on. “Hey, after the first shock, he was okay with it, you know? Maybe not quite ‘go Spike and Willow, yay!’ but he didn’t really try to put me off, just said ‘I do hope you know what you are doing’, and then talked about the thing I’d called him about. And when we said ‘goodbye’ he said for me to say ‘hello’ to you for him.”
“Big of him,” Spike said with a frown, but then grinned and added ‘Well, suppose it’s a damn sight better than ‘there is no way to Willow’ would’ve been, so I’m ahead of the game there. Okay, love, fancy a dance? Now with that Watcher seal of approval.”
“Absence of disapproval, maybe,” I conceded. “Sure thing, Spike. Let’s dance.”
- - - - -
I hit ‘print’ and leaned back in my chair. This was bad stuff. Suvolte demon eggs. Nasty things. The e-mail from Giles said that they would hatch out into things sorta like crabs that would eat anything in sight, several times their own body weight, and then they’d pupate and change into bipeds that were just as mean and greedy but a lot bigger and just smart enough to be really dangerous. Pretty much both my worst-case scenarios in one. The babies would eat your face, and there might well be a really pissed mommy Suvolte looking for her eggs. Guess it explained why somebody had been willing to pay Spike two thousand dollars to watch over them, ‘cause there was plenty of risk. As for what the guy wanted the eggs for, well, it wasn’t going to be anything good.
The printer finished whirring and I scooped up the paper. I was just folding it up and tucking it in my pocket when the door opened and Xander came in.
“Hi, Will,” he greeted me. “Heard the news?” He was all with the big beaming smile on his face and rubbing his hands together.
“News?” It had to be something good. “You’ve won the lottery? Your uncles can’t come to the wedding? You’ve worked out a seating plan that suits everybody?”
“Riley’s back in town,” Xander said.
“Oh,” I said. I wasn’t sure why this was cause for celebration, but then Xander had always liked Riley, even with what happened at the end there. I kinda had beating Riley to death with a shovel in mind myself, but, hey, I guess it was a guy thing. “He’s back for Buffy?”
“Well, no,” Xander said, and the smile faded away a bit. “That’s the bit that’s not so good, I guess. He’s sorta married.”
“Sorta married? What, the ceremony was done by a witch doctor in the rain forest of, where was it, Belize? He’s married a headhunter?”
“No, a girl called Sam, American I think,” Xander said. “Maybe not such good news for the Buffster, okay. Still, he wants our help on a mission. Cool, huh? Gonna be just like old times.”
Yeah, ‘cause they were so great. Huh. Like the time Buffy was with her mom in the hospital and we were covering patrol, and Riley goofed off to get a suck job from some sleazy vamp ho, and the rest of us nearly got killed. Buffy was working, and so if Riley was looking for help it was us Scoobies without the super powers who were going to get roped in. Unless I asked Spike, which might not be a good idea ‘cause Spike and Riley, not big with the friendship, more big with the burning hatred.
Oh. Maybe that was why Xander was so pleased. Low profile time for Spike, I decided. “Yeah, I guess,” I said to Xander, as noncommittally as I could manage.
“He’ll be here any minute,” Xander said.
“Who’ll be here any minute?” Dawn asked, coming into the room.
“Riley,” Xander told her. “The man is back.”
“Oh,” Dawn said. “There’s coffee in the pot if anyone wants some. What’s on TV?”
Xander and I were in the kitchen getting coffee when Riley arrived. Buffy was with him, which was of the bad ‘cause she was supposed to be at work, and I guessed she hadn’t asked for time off. There was another woman with them, so, Riley’s wife. Dawn was talking to them when we came out of the kitchen.
“Hey, there's the man!” Xander greeted, and he went and shook Riley’s hand. “Life taker, heartbreaker. You know, figuratively speaking.”
“Xander, Sam,” Riley introduced his wife. “Willow …”
“Hi,” Sam said, and waved. She was taller than me, dark haired, kinda pretty and with a nice smile.
“Hi,” Riley said to me, and grabbed me in a big hug. I let him do it, not like I could stop him.
“We got your call,” I said, and waited until he let go.
“We’re here to help, just like old times,” Xander said, still with that big smile. “Except, with you being all big with the married life.”
” Hear you're getting hitched yourself,” Riley said. “Believe me, you're gonna love it.”
“Congratulations, really, both of you,” I said.
Everybody headed off into the living room, but Buffy kinda hung back, and so I went over to her. “Just so you know,” I told her, “I’m prepared to hate this woman any way you want.” Things had been a little awkward between me and Buffy lately, what with the Spike thing, but she was my best friend and I wanted to try to make things better.
“Thanks, but no,” Buffy said. “I don’t wanna seem all petty.”
”Well, that's the beauty! You can't, but I can. Please, let me carry the hate for the both of us,” I offered.
“Go nuts,” Buffy told me, and we went into the living room together.
Dawnie was standing with her arms crossed, sticking her lip out, and giving Riley the death glare. “So. What brings you back to town after you left suddenly with no word?” Nobody had mentioned the vamp suck jobs to Dawn, I guess, which was kinda understandable.
“Sam and I have been tracking a Suvolte demon through Central America,” Riley revealed. “Killing machine. Nearly mature.”
”Yeah, three months old and growing fast,” Sam added.
They explained how they had been tracking this demon to try to find its nest and its eggs before they hatched. There were a couple of things in the story that didn’t quite gel, maybe stuff that was kinda classified, but overall it made sense. Mixed in with the tale Sam managed to sort out a problem that Xander was having about the wedding place settings, which was pretty cool. I kept quiet about the eggs in Spike’s crypt for the time being, waiting for them to finish their story, and they went on to say that they thought the eggs were in the hands of a dealer called ‘The Doctor’, who was going to sell them on the black market to bad guys who wanted to set the Suvolte demons on their enemies. That would be the demon who was paying Spike to look after the eggs. Setting him up as a fall guy, I guessed, as well as letting him take the risks of the eggs hatching out and getting busy with the eating of everything in sight, or Momma Suvolte tracking down the eggs and getting medieval on his ass.
It turned out that they’d been following Momma Suvolte, thinking she’d lead them to the eggs, only Buffy had kinda spoiled that plan by breaking Momma’s neck and so now they needed a backup plan. “Willow, you think you can help with a little locating spell?” Sam asked me.
“I’ve given up on the magics,” I told her.
“Oh? Riley says you’re coming on as one major league Wicca.”
“Yeah, well, I got addicted. The way addicts do,” I said. “I get kinda crazy when I start with the magic. Best I just stay away from it.” She looked sad for me, and maybe disappointed. “It’s no biggy,” I went on. “I know where the eggs are.”
“You do?” Sam and Riley and Buffy all said together.
“Yeah, they’re in Spike’s crypt,” I told them.
“Spike. Of course,” Riley said. “Where else? Evil, deadly, amoral, opportunistic. The Doctor.”
“Hey!” I protested. “That’s my boyfriend you’re talking about, buster. You take that back.”
Riley couldn’t have looked more surprised if I’d turned into a thirty-foot talking porcupine with pink quills. “Your what?” he spluttered. “B-but you – you’re gay!”
“Things change, Riley,” I pointed out. “You met my last boyfriend, remember?” I refrained from mentioning that he’d handed my last boyfriend over to mad scientists, to be locked in a cage and experimented upon, as he’d redeemed himself by helping get Oz out of there. As had Spike, for that matter. “Look, Riley, Spike isn’t this Doctor guy. Somebody offered him two thousand dollars to look after some eggs for a couple of weeks. That would be your Doctor, I guess. Anyway, he thought it sounded a bit too good to be true, so he asked me what I thought. I’ve consulted with Giles, e-mailed him photos of the eggs and asked him to research them, and I’ve just checked my e-mail and gotten his reply.” I pulled out the printed version and unfolded it. “I was just going to head on over and get with the egg-smashing when Xander came in and said you were on your way, so I hung on for you.”
“Oh.” Riley looked, well, I guess nonplussed is pretty much the best way of putting it. Or maybe crestfallen.
“That’s great,” Sam smiled. “We can finish up here in half the time we’d reckoned. Thanks, Willow.”
“That’s okay. We going, then?”
“My orders say no civilians are to be present at the site of the egg disposal,” Riley said, with that sort of macho bullshit tone that Xander thought was cool but that just made me cranky.
“What about me?” Buffy put in. “Hey, I walked out on my job for this. You just going to make me sit at home after that?”
“No, the Slayer doesn’t count as a civilian,” Riley conceded. “No point in waiting around, let’s go.”
I gave Buffy a look, trying to say ‘No hurting of Spike’ with my eyes. I think she got my meaning, and she nodded back at me. If Riley did do anything to Spike I was definitely going to get very cranky.
Sam hung back a little and had a word with me in the kitchen before they left. “Hey Willow,” she said. “I'm sorry, I think I really stepped in it in there. You know, back in the jungle, we had not one, but two hard-core shamans working for us. They were working the dark magics, and... got addicted. And now they're gone. Gone, as in, there's nothing left. I've never met anyone with enough strength to quit before.”
“It was kinda hard for a while,” I said. “It was hooking up with Spike that really got me through it. He got injured, and I looked after him for a while, and I didn’t think about the magics that whole time. Then afterwards, when we started dating, it was a help too. ‘Cause, he has things he needs help with, you know? I gotta be good, set him a good example, and hey, it’s working pretty well.”
She did have a nice smile. “So, your boyfriend is going to be out two thousand dollars? Maybe we can do something about that.”
“Hey, that’d be cool,” I smiled back at her. “’Cause, not easy for him to get money, and we could sure use it. Not like he can get a normal job. He did get some up front, but most of it’s still to come. Only now it won’t.”
“Sam!” Riley called, sounding a bit impatient and maybe irritated.
“Coming!” Sam replied. “I’ll see what I can do,” she said, and departed.
- - - - -
The way Riley and Sam left Sunnydale was just so over the top it was kinda stupid. I mean, there were places the chopper could have landed, no problem, not like they had to get winched up on a cable for anything but dramatic effect. They had this refrigerated box for the eggs and that went up first. I had a bit of a bad feeling about that; I wasn’t sure I trusted the US Government with them any more than I’d trust some random dictator making with the black market purchase, and I knew they wouldn’t be used for anything good. Still, not like it was any skin off my nose if Osama Bin Laden found himself sharing a cave with a hungry Suvolte, and there wasn’t much I could do to stop the Government doing whatever it liked anyway.
And hey, I had a check for ten thousand dollars in my pocket, yay! I’d have to work out with Spike how we were gonna divide it up. My idea was to split it three ways between him and me and Buffy. It was maybe my fault she’d had to take the DoubleMeat job, ‘cause when Tara walked out on me Buffy lost that half of the rent money, and Tara leaving was definitely my fault. So this might be a way to make it up to her; plus, if she’d lost her job ‘cause of walking out on it when Riley arrived, it’d give her a little breathing space to find something else. Maybe she oughta do that anyway, ‘cause she hated that job, and she could do so much better. I mean, she even had experience waiting tables, and that might not be the best job in the world but it’d get her away from that burger smell.
“Sorry, Buff,” I said to her as we watched Riley and Sam going up on the cable to the helicopter and flying off. “I can’t really hate Sam that much. She’s kinda nice.”
“I know,” Buffy said. She was standing with her shoulders kinda hunched, looking even smaller than usual, and when she’d been smiling at Riley it had looked a lot like she was trying to hide a big hurt. She gave a big sigh as the chopper went out of sight and Xander and Dawn walked away. “Come upstairs, Will, there’s something I want to tell you.” She seemed to sag like she was really weary, and her eyes started to get big and a bit teary, and her lip was trembling, and I got kinda worried for her.
She took me up to her bedroom, and sat down on the bed, and looked at me with those big eyes. “He wouldn’t take me back,” she told me.
Well, I was sad for her, but I thought she was being a bit dumb. “Well, duh, Buffy, he’s married,” I said. “That’s a pretty big reason not to.”
“Not Riley,” she said. “Spike.”
“Take you back?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“I was sleeping with him right from when we found out he could hit me,” she went on. “When I was out all night it was ‘cause I was over at his crypt. Three or four times a week. Right up until the night I thought I’d killed Katrina.”
The night she’d beaten Spike to a pulp, that was. “But – but – you never said. He never said.”
“I told him to keep quiet. I couldn’t face you guys knowing.”
“But why? We’d have dealt. I mean, when me and Spike first started out, part of the idea was for us to make you and Tara jealous, only it didn’t seem to work out too well, and then we kinda got involved for real.” Tara’s attitude back at the party, and at the beginning of the intervention, suddenly started to make sense to me. “You told Tara, didn’t you?”
“Yeah,” she admitted.
“Why not me?”
“I thought, I thought, you and Xander would do an intervention, and you’d be so disappointed in me, and I couldn’t face it.” She sniffled. “I was hurting so much, and everything was so hard, and it was the only thing that was any pleasure. And now it’s gone.”
Oh. Guess that explained the intervention, and the second time she’d beaten Spike up, ‘cause hey, woman scorned. Buffy had been jealous after all.
“I didn’t know, Buffy. If I had known I’d have kept things with Spike just friends. Hey, we could all have gone out together. Why didn’t you just say something, Buff? Why?”
“I thought you’d all hate me. Sleeping with a vampire again. And he was all with the ‘you belong in the dark with me’. How come with you he’s all nice?”
“Maybe ‘cause I didn’t make him into a dirty little secret,” I said, and then regretted it ‘cause Buffy winced and her lip started quivering. “Look, I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you, and I’m sure Spike never meant to hurt you either. He thought all he was to you was this evil soulless thing. I mean, you hurt him, Buff, maybe it’s no big surprise that he won’t risk it again.”
“He still loves me. He said so. I stayed with him while Riley was taking the eggs away, and I asked him to tell me he loved me, and he said that he’ll always love me,” Buffy wailed. “But he said that he’s happy with you and you make him feel like a man. It used to be me that made him feel that way.” Tears began to run down her cheeks. “He was all I had. My only pleasure and you took him from me. How could you do that to me, Will? You’re my best friend. How could 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.