His Tender Mercies by Enigmaticblue

ReviewsRating: PG-13

Summary: A response to Helga Von Nutwimple's Vamp-in-the-Box Challenge. Wolfram & Hart make a slight error, and bring Drusilla back instead of Darla at the end of Ats S1. Drusilla heads straight to Sunnydale and Spike, and in the process throws a monkey wrench into Buffy's thinking. Oh, and Riley left after "Restless."

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Chapters 6 & 7

Chapter 6: Odd Couples

Buffy flopped down on the couch with a sigh. Wesley had just left with Drusilla in tow, and the Slayer had to admit that she was happy to have the ex-vampire off her hands. Not that the last couple days had been bad, but Drusilla had definitely required more work than Buffy was accustomed to.

At least she'd had Willow and Tara to give her a hand. Drusilla had seemed to form an instantaneous bond with the two witches, especially Tara, and Buffy was immensely grateful for the blonde witch's patience and sweet spirit. Drusilla had done so well, in fact, that they'd ended up having a girls' night. The three of them had introduced the ex-vampire to the joys of Ben and Jerry's, (and Buffy was really hoping that the woman had a high metabolism since her sweet tooth rivaled the Slayer's) and teen movies. Drusilla had liked the teen movies too.

In fact, as Spike had said, Drusilla was very nearly normal. She had asked about Spike only once, wanting to know if Buffy had seen him. When the Slayer said she hadn't, Drusilla had seemed to go off somewhere in her head, muttering something about a "lamb caught in the blackberry patch." Buffy had no idea what she meant, and she didn't bother asking.

That was really the extent of the craziness, however. Once in a while, Drusilla would go off and then she'd be back. Sometimes she would spout nonsense and other times she would just-not be there. The only time Drusilla had really wigged Buffy out was when she'd started talking about how her sister would be the key to the doors of the world.

Hello? Buffy didn't have a sister, as Dru should know, since she'd been living in their house.

Still, as weird as Drusilla could be at times, Buffy was almost sorry to see her leave. At least she'd gone with Wesley quietly enough. The ex-vampire had murmured something about another "brave knight," and had cackled about messing up someone's plans, but that had been it.

The Slayer had given her a brief hug, and when Drusilla asked her to look after Spike, Buffy had promised to do so. More to get her out the door without hysterics than for any other reason.

Wesley had pulled Buffy to the side before they'd left, letting her know that the lawyers didn't seem to know where Drusilla was, nor did they seem intent on finding her again. Which was definitely a relief.

And speaking of Wesley, Buffy wondered when the heck he turned into a real person. The Slayer almost believed that he might be capable of looking after Drusilla until they figured out what to do with her.

Buffy sighed. She supposed she needed to get out there and patrol. She had let things slip the last few nights on account of Dru.

While she was at it, Buffy figured she might as well check on Spike.

At least Giles was happy. He'd gotten enough information from Drusilla to have him researching the spell that brought her back for the rest of the summer. Giles was in Watcher heaven.

Too bad his Slayer wasn't.

Buffy was hurting for some attention of the male kind, truthfully. Not that she'd ever had a boyfriend over the summer months before. Not since before she'd become the Slayer anyway. The summer days seemed to stretch endlessly on, however, leaving Buffy very much at loose ends.

She hated to even think it, but Buffy was dying for a good apocalypse.

Even slaying wasn't that exciting lately. Sunnydale was definitely both vamp and demon-lite ever since they'd stopped Adam and shut down the Initiative. Give it a little time, and Buffy was certain that the undead population would be back up to normal levels, but for right now it was Boring City.

There was only one demon left to bother...

Buffy stopped in front of the crypt's door with the insane urge to knock. It made no sense. Spike was an evil vampire. One did not perform the courtesy of knocking on evil vampires' doors. It was a law or something.

The Slayer finally decided to compromise by not flinging the door open with a resounding crash. There was only the sound of squeaky hinges and a little thump as it hit the wall. "Spike?"

No answer. Buffy frowned. Her vamp-sense was tingling, so she knew he was somewhere nearby. "Spike? Come on, I know you're here."

"Go away." Spike's voice had a definite snarly quality.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Geez, Spike. Bad moody much?"

"Yeah, well, you watch the love of your life ride off into the sunset and see how much you like it," he replied, not sounding at all sorry.

As he came into the dim light of the candles, Buffy could see a new bruise on his cheek. "What happened to you?" she demanded, before she could remind herself that she didn't care.

"Got jumped by a pack of vamps, if you must know," Spike replied snidely. "They're dust now."

Buffy wrinkled her nose, not pleased. "You couldn't have saved them for someone whose job it is to kill them?"

"Not when they were tryin' to off me first, no," Spike returned sharply. His words were slightly slurred, and Buffy sniffed the air.

"You've been drinking," she accused.

"So what?" Spike replied. "Not like anybody needs me for anythin'."

Now the vampire was just feeling sorry for himself, causing Buffy to roll her eyes expressively. "You could have stopped by to see her before she left for L.A., you know."

"She didn't want to see me," Spike replied glumly. "Besides, I thought I wasn't welcome."

They had moved rapidly back to the snide part of the conversation, and Buffy snapped back, "Mom said you could both stay, Spike. Don't be going all broody on me."

"I do not brood!" Spike was yelling now, and it felt good. After the events of the last few days fighting with the Slayer put him back on even ground. "Your precious Angel is the one who broods."

"He's not mine!" Buffy shot back hotly. "Why do you have to do that?"

"Do what?"

"Be such a jerk when I was just trying to be nice?"

"Since when are you nice?"

"Since your girlfriend asked me to look after you!"

Silence fell over the crypt. The old enemies regarded each other warily for a moment, each not quite willing to admit that their relationship had changed at a fundamental level. Of course, that didn't change the fact that it had. "Well, thanks for stopping by," Spike said grudgingly, sounding almost polite.

Buffy shifted her weight, wondering what "looking after Spike" entailed. Wondering why she even cared. If Xander or the others found out about her promise, she'd never hear the end of it. With uncharacteristic abandonment, Buffy suddenly decided that she didn't care what her friends thought. They were all wrapped up in their respective significant others. If she wanted to spend her time haunting cemeteries with an undead bleached menace that was her problem.

"Do you want to finish patrol with me?"

Spike's eyebrow went up. He wasn't actually that drunk, although he had been drinking. Which was odd, since he could have sworn that Buffy had just asked him to go out on patrol with her. "Are you serious?"

She shrugged. "I'm bored."

Spike frowned, remembering his promise to Dru. He'd sworn to look after the Slayer's mum-and the sister that she didn't have. "Yeah, why not?" he replied. "Let's go."

~~~~~

Wesley allowed Drusilla to precede him into his apartment. "I, uh, thought you might want to take the bed," he began awkwardly. "I can sleep on the couch until-well, until we get things settled."

Drusilla looked around the apartment, feeling lost. She was lost without Spike, which meant it was true penance. It wasn't real penance unless it hurt. The priests had always been very clear about that.

"Would you like some tea?"

Wesley's tentative question broke her train of thought, and Drusilla glanced over at him, a smile playing at the corners of her lips. The ex-Watcher looked nervous, uncomfortable. "I don't bite."

It was the sly tone as much as the words that caused him to smile, almost unwillingly. "No, I don't suppose you do," Wesley replied, relaxing slightly. "Drusilla-" He stopped, unsure of how to say what he wanted. "I realize that this is probably uncomfortable for you, and I am sorry for that."

She looked away again, her eyes unfocused. "It can't be helped."

"No," Wesley agreed. "Would you? Like some tea, I mean."

She smiled at him then, and Wesley found himself reflecting on her beauty, in spite of his best intentions. "That would be lovely."

~~~~~

"Did they make it in okay?" Angel asked Cordelia anxiously when she put down the phone.

She raised an eyebrow. "No, actually that was Wesley calling from the hospital. They were in a five car pile-up on the interstate." At the look on the vampire's face, Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Yes, Angel, they're fine. So can you stop brooding now?"

"Maybe I should go see her," he suggested, ignoring her suggestion. "I could help her settle in."

Cordelia stared at him as though he'd grown another head. "Or you could set her off again, and with no Spike to calm her down, Wesley would probably end up staking you. Forget it, Angel."

Angel sat on her couch, his shoulders slumped, the very picture of dejection. "I don't understand," he said plaintively. "Surely Dru's over her fear of me by now."

"It's been three days since the last time you saw her," Cordelia replied. "I don't think that's long enough. Besides, Angel, Wesley's got everything under control. What you need to concentrate on is finding a new place so you're not living in my apartment any longer. Wes is only going to put up with a house guest for so long, and then it's going to be my turn."

While Cordelia didn't look terribly happy about having Drusilla as a guest, she did like the idea of Angel getting out of her apartment. Hopefully once that happened, they could convince Drusilla that Angel was harmless, and then foist her off on the vampire.

If he wanted to take responsibility for her so badly, then they would let him.

"I've been looking," Angel protested. "I just haven't found the right place yet."

Cordelia stifled a sigh, since that was the whole reason they had been using her apartment in the first place. Angel was the pickiest vampire she'd ever met. "Fine, Angel, but you'd better find something quick, because otherwise you're going to have a mutiny on your hands."

~~~~~

"We have to get her back." Now Lilah Morgan didn't usually make obscenely obvious comments like that, but she could be excused in this instance. After all, the Senior Partners breathing down one's neck did have a tendency to induce nervous twitching.

Lindsay gave her a dirty look. "No shit, Lilah," he muttered. "Look, we know she's back in L.A."

Lilah was feeling distinctly panicky. "What good does that do us, Lindsay, when Angel has her?"

The lawyer frowned. "Maybe we can work this to our advantage," he said, trying to placate her enough so that he could actually think. "If she's around Angel, it might-"

"What?" Lilah argued. "Drusilla might do what? We were trying to raise Darla for a reason. This is your fault."

"My fault?" Lindsay didn't like being blamed for things any more than anyone else did. "How is this my fault?"

"You're the one that finished the ritual," Lilah pointed out. "It has to be your fault."

Lindsay glared at her. "If I hadn't finished the ritual, nothing would have happened."

"Which also would have been your fault," Lilah replied smugly. "Trust me, Lindsay, it's always going to be your fault."

He gave her a patently fake smile. "Trust me, Lilah, if I go down for this, I'm going to make sure you come with me." Lindsay was trying to figure out how they could make good on this mess. Getting the wrong woman back was bad enough, but having lost her was even worse. Of course, the guard who had fallen asleep had been disciplined for dereliction of duty, but that didn't do much for retrieving Drusilla.

They knew that she'd gone to Sunnydale, which was troubling. The last thing they needed was to get the Slayer involved. Drusilla was back in Los Angeles now, and she wasn't staying with Angel, which was interesting. Lindsay wasn't sure what that meant exactly, and he didn't know if it boded well or ill for them.

"We have to get her back," Lilah repeated.

A smile blossomed on Lindsay's face. "Maybe," he said, thinking about their options. "Then again, maybe not."

~~~~~

Unfortunately, even using Spike for bait wasn't bringing out the evil. "I am so bored."

"Why aren't you home or with your mates?" Spike asked.

Buffy sighed. "For your information, my 'mates' are probably doing the couple thing tonight."

"An' you don't have Captain Cardboard to act as second part of a couple."

Buffy shot him a dirty look. "Why do you always have to do that?"

"Do what?"

"Be rude."

"I'm evil."

"You aren't rude to Drusilla," Buffy pointed out reasonably.

Spike frowned. "I love her."

There wasn't an argument Buffy could make to that. They walked along in silence for a while, and it was very nearly comfortable. In a strange way. "Slayer?"

"What?"

"Dru told me somethin'. Made me promise to look after your mum." Spike glanced over at Buffy, trying to determine how she was taking his comment.

For her part, Buffy wasn't too surprised. "Yeah, what did she tell you?"

"She said your mum was ill."

"She's not sick, Spike. Mom's fine." There wasn't any room in Buffy's tone for argument, so Spike decided to let it go with a sigh. It wasn't like he hadn't tried anyway. Then, a moment later, Buffy asked, "How often is she right about this kind of thing?"

"More often than chance would indicate," Spike replied. "Why'd you promise her to check in on me?"

"To get her to leave with Wes without making a huge fuss," Buffy admitted. "But-"

"But what?" The Slayer shook her head, unwilling to say it. "But what, Slayer?" Spike pressed.

"You were nice," she finally said. "I wanted to know if it was a fluke."

"Dru's nice to me," he pointed out reasonably. "Only makes sense I'd be nice back, even if I wasn't in love with her."

"She dumped you," Buffy replied.

Spike frowned, kicking at a stone on the ground. "Well, yeah."

There was another long silence. Buffy decided that while she didn't like Spike, it was nice to have company for patrol. And she had promised to look after him. "You wanna come with me tomorrow night?"

Spike thought of all the ways he could wind the Slayer up, which was always fun, and a lot more interesting than spending night after night alone in his crypt or dodging demons that wanted to kill him. "Alright."

Both of them squashed the next thought that entered their heads. It was definitely not a date.

 

 

Chapter 7: Eye of the Beholder

"So what do we know?" Lindsay demanded of the man they'd set to watch Drusilla.

The man known only as Jones shrugged. "Not much. That vampire isn't going anywhere near her, and she's staying mostly with the English guy."

Lilah frowned. She had no idea what Lindsay was planning for either Drusilla or Angel, and he was refusing to tell her. It was really pissing her off. "I don't see how that's supposed to let us get to Angel, Lindsay. We wanted him dark. Drusilla staying elsewhere isn't helping."

Lindsay shook his head. "Haven't you been listening, Lilah? Drusilla doesn't want anything to do with Angel, and she was his greatest obsession. It's going to drive him crazy that he can't get to her."

Lilah rolled her eyes. "He's a hero, Lindsay. It might drive him crazy, but he's not going to do anything about it."

"Maybe not, but we can," Lindsay replied. "What do you think Angel would do if someone went after her? Or if we drove her crazy again? He'd insist on protecting her, and that's only going to get him into trouble." The young lawyer looked back at Jones. "Keep watching her," he ordered. "But make sure she knows she's being watched. That should unsettle things."

Of course, the funny thing about dealing with the paranormal on a daily basis is that you often forget to take it into account. No one at Wolfram & Hart seemed to remember that Drusilla had her visions long before Angelus had come along. If they had, Lindsay and Lilah would have had very different plans for the woman.

Very different plans indeed.

~~~~~

Wesley had not lived with another person since he'd shared a room at the Watcher's Academy, and that had been a very long time ago. In fact, he hadn't shared a room at all his last year, since the Head Boy had a private room. He could therefore be excused for forgetting that he had a guest, especially a female one, when coming out of the bathroom fresh from the shower, with only a towel around his waist.

Wesley had been thinking quite intently about the rather knotty problem of exactly what one did with former vampires, and it slipped his mind that said ex-vampire was currently sharing quarters with him. He nearly jumped out of his skin when Drusilla called out to him.

One hand over his heart, one hand desperately clutching the towel, Wesley stared at her. Drusilla looked as scared as he probably did. "I'm sorry," he managed to gasp. "I-well, you startled me."

"I'm sorry," Drusilla said, watching him warily, as though he might strike out. Then her eyes started traveling downwards and Wesley's hand gripped the towel even more tightly. "I just-where's the tea, please?"

Wesley blinked. "I'll show you. Just a minute. I just need-" He gestured helplessly at his half-clothed state with his free hand and darted off to the bedroom. Drusilla watched him leave and then giggled. It had been nice to see someone other than herself flustered for once.

Thinking of his bare chest brought another sort of pleasure that Drusilla didn't linger over too long. Dru might be a good girl, but she wasn't blind. Nor was she dead-at least not anymore.

Drusilla frowned. There was someone watching them. She drifted over to the window and flicked the curtain aside. The man was standing down on the street, and she could see him clearly. In more ways than one.

The smile that graced her face was not guileless, nor was it kind. Spike would have recognized it for what it was-the smile of a ruthless woman.

"Drusilla? Is something the matter?" Wesley called from behind her.

She turned to look at him. He was fully dressed now in jeans and a short sleeved shirt, watching her with a mixture of puzzlement and concern. "We're being watched," Drusilla replied, then giggled at her own pun. "Watchers are watching the Watcher."

Wesley came to stand beside her at the window, immediately seeing who she was talking about. A light entered his eyes that the Slayer would not have recognized, but that Drusilla welcomed. "Perhaps I should go down and have a little chat with him."

Drusilla shook her head. "It's not necessary. There's no harm, not yet. They will try to hurt me."

There was no fear in her voice, a fact Wesley found quite remarkable. "I won't let them."

She met his eyes, then smiled. "No, you won't."

~~~~~

Spike stood on the Summers' front porch, wondering what the hell he was doing there. He and Buffy had patrolled together three nights in a row, and it was-and he couldn't believe he was even thinking this-fun.

It was one thing to kill his own kind; Spike realized that made him a traitor. At the same time, it wasn't as though he was actually on the Slayer's side. If she kicked it tomorrow, he'd dance on her grave with the rest of them. No, Spike hunted demons because he needed a spot of violence before bedtime the way an alcoholic needed liquor. It was an aching thirst that was never completely slaked.

It was something completely different when you accompanied the Slayer while she killed vampires and demons, and enjoyed it. That was the real kicker. Spike was enjoying Buffy's company. It was ridiculous-a vampire even thinking about a Slayer in a friendly manner.

Spike had made a promise to Drusilla to look after the Slayer's mother, however, and that was a promise he didn't mind keeping. That's what he told himself. By helping the Slayer, he was actually helping her mother, since Joyce would be devastated if something happened to Buffy.

Yeah, Spike didn't buy it either.

"Spike?" Joyce smiled at him when she opened the door. "Come on in. Would you like something to drink?"

That's what Spike appreciated about Joyce. She was always warm, always welcoming, and always had a cuppa for him. "Hot chocolate would be great," he replied hopefully.

"Or blood?" Joyce offered.

Spike blinked. This was the first time he'd been offered blood. "Uh, sure. With little marshmallows?"

Joyce didn't even bat an eyelash. "Of course."

Spike followed her back into the kitchen, grabbing a seat at the kitchen island. "So, uh, is your daughter anywhere 'round here?"

"She's out with Willow tonight," Joyce replied. "I don't know when she's going to be back. Was there something you needed?"

Spike wanted to ask if Buffy had said anything about patrolling with him, but he didn't want to press his luck. Instead, he asked the other question that had been bothering him. "You heard from Dru at all?"

Joyce gave him a compassionate look. "I believe Wesley called yesterday to let us know that things were going well, but nothing more than that. Did you want to call her, Spike? If you wanted to use our phone-"

Spike cut her off with a shake of his head. "No, I was-just wonderin' if she was alright, 's all. Don't want to bother her."

"I doubt you'd be 'bothering' her, Spike," Joyce said gently. "Maybe she'd enjoy hearing from you. I'm sure she'd appreciate knowing you're still thinking about her."

Spike was afraid that if he even heard her voice, he'd be too tempted to take off and head to L.A., no matter what kind of promises he'd made. "Better to let her get settled in," he replied. "Don't want to disturb her or anythin'."

Joyce couldn't resist. She put an arm around his shoulders and squeezed. "It's going to be just fine, Spike. I'm sure you'll work things out."

Spike glanced up at her, blue eyes vulnerable. There was no one else in the world he'd allow to see him like this, but Spike had always told his mother the truth. He treated Joyce no differently. With her, he was all boy-uncouth, perhaps, but a boy again nonetheless. "Not with Dru," he admitted, the first time he'd said it out loud. "'s never gonna be like it was."

"It never is," Joyce said, thinking about her own failed marriage. "Sometimes you just grow apart, Spike. It's not really anybody's fault, but it happens."

When she had suggested as much the first time he'd cried in his hot chocolate over Dru, Spike had denied even the possibility. Being immortal also meant that they were unchangeable. They were supposed to have had an eternal love, and it had somehow ended. They had-as Joyce suggested-grown apart.

"We weren't supposed to change," he said. "We were supposed to be forever."

"I know," Joyce replied gently. "Been there, done that."

Spike looked at her, and a brightly mischievous glint entered his eyes. "He was a bloody wanker-if you'll excuse the expression."

"I couldn't agree more," Joyce replied. "Do you want to watch a movie?"

~~~~~

Buffy hated to admit it, but she'd been disappointed to find Spike gone when she got to his crypt. It was wrong-sick and wrong. The vampire Slayer should not even be friendly with an evil, unsouled bloodsucker, and yet she found herself having to create a new label for Spike. Or, well, do away with labels altogether.

She was beginning to think that Spike didn't have a box.

It was an uncomfortable feeling, indeed. If she had to rethink Spike's position in relation to the universe, did that mean she had to rethink vampires in general?

Well, Buffy wasn't the queen of denial for nothing. The Slayer simply told herself that Spike was the only vampire in the history of the world to have gotten a chip in his head, and that made all the difference. After all, if he hadn't had the chip, Spike would have turned Drusilla immediately, rather than waiting.

Yeah, Buffy didn't really buy it either.

She felt that Spike's treatment of Drusilla had unseated her world from its axis. She preferred her world to be completely stable. Buffy preferred stability. It would be easier if she just avoided Spike, and all associated thoughts of the chipped menace, from now on.

Of course, that would mean losing her Slaying partner. She didn't particularly want to lose the one bright spot in an otherwise dull summer.

However her opinion of Spike might have changed over the last week or so, Buffy was still just a little shocked to arrive home and find her mom and Spike ensconced on the couch watching some old black and white flick. "Mom?"

"Oh, hello, sweetheart," Joyce said absently, her eyes glued to the screen where Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant were involved in an intense conversation. "You want to watch the movie with Spike and me? We've got popcorn."

The world had definitely become topsy-turvy.

~~~~~

Angel was moping, and Cordelia was rapidly getting fed up. There were still visions, still racing off to the rescue, but she was going nuts, where before things had felt almost normal. Now, Wesley stayed at his apartment a good bit of the time with Drusilla, leaving Cordy to handle Angel all by herself.

He was driving her insane.

"Are you sure she doesn't want to see me?"

It was the fifth time Angel had asked that question. He was beginning to remind her of a five-year-old on a long car trip. "Angel, for the last time, give Drusilla a little space. She'll come around when she's ready and not before."

"I just-I feel like I should be doing more, helping her through this," Angel protested. "She's alone in the world because of me. I'm the one that turned her, and Wolfram and Hart brought her back because of me."

Cordy sighed. She did understand Angel's guilt. She also wanted him to snap out of it. "Angel, there is nothing you can do. Accept it and move on." Cordelia paused. "Although, if I was Drusilla, I could think of something you could do."

Angel was ready to do anything to assuage his guilt. "What's that?"

"Shopping. New clothes always help."

"You think?" Angel looked thoughtful. "Dru always did like a new dress."

"Absolutely," Cordy said. "I'd be happy to take her tomorrow. I'm sure Wesley could use a break anyway."

Angel started digging for his wallet. If he couldn't do anything for Drusilla himself, he'd let Cordelia do it for him. "Okay," he said, handing her the credit card. "Get her whatever she needs."

The seer's eyes lit up at the sight of the plastic. "Perfect."

"And go ahead and get something for yourself," Angel suggested. "For putting up with me still being here."

Cordelia smiled at him. "Will do. And while we're shopping, Wesley is going to help you find a new place."

~~~~~

" An Affair to Remember ?" Buffy asked, her voice squeaking slightly. They were sitting out on the back porch so Spike could have his smoke. "But why?"

Spike shrugged. He'd originally seen the film with Drusilla when it had first come out, and so he refused to be ashamed of it. "Your mum wanted to watch it."

It was a perfectly reasonable response. It even made sense, in a weird sort of way. But seeing Spike lounging on the couch with her mother, eating popcorn and watching one of the sappiest romances ever made-

Buffy could swear that Spike got misty-eyed at the end of the movie too.

"Spike, that's probably one of the most sentimental movies ever made. Why on earth would the Big Bad be watching it?"

"Your mum wanted to watch it," he repeated patiently, as though speaking to a very small, very slow child. "Besides, there's nothin' unmanly 'bout wishin' for lasting love. Everybody wants that."

Vampires weren't supposed to care about lasting love, but Spike's actions with Drusilla had already made Buffy a trifle suspicious of that theory. The Slayer finally plopped down on the step next to Spike, watching him warily as he smoked his cigarette. Spike, for his part, was trying not to get too nervous about the way she was watching him.

"What?" Spike demanded, unable to take it any longer.

"You really do like my mom."

"Said I did, didn't I?" Spike sighed. "She's nice."

"She hit you over the head with an ax."

Spike's eyes went dreamy. "Yeah, she did. Your mum's got stones."

Buffy made a disgusted face. "You like my mother?"

"What?" Spike stared at her in horror. "No! Bloody hell, what made you think that?"

"You! You were talking about her like-like-ew!"

"Was not!" Spike glared at her. "Yeah, I like your mum. She's nice. Maybe in another situation I'd be interested, but as it is, I just think she's a decent person. You don't meet too many of those."

Buffy had to admit that much was true at least, and the real dismay on his face caused her to relax a trifle. "I don't get you."

"Well, same goes here," Spike replied sullenly. "Slayers aren't supposed to have friends and family, an' you've got a whole gang of 'em."

"Well, vampires aren't supposed to be able to love."

"Who told you that?" Spike scoffed. "We can love. Get it a bit twisted sometimes, I s'pose, but we love just fine."

"Angel-"

An emphatic eye-roll cut her off. "Slayer, Angelus was a bastard before and durin' being a vampire. Don't see how the soul has improved him all that much either."

Buffy decided she didn't want to go there. "Well, vampires aren't supposed to be able to change anyway," she stated, determined to win at least one argument with Spike.

"You might think that," Spike replied. "But if you don't change, you die, Slayer. You don't adapt, you end up dust on the end of a stake."

Their eyes met, enemy to enemy. Ally to ally. Friend to-friend? "Dru told me to look after your sister too," Spike said after a long silence.

"I don't have a sister," Buffy said automatically. Then she sighed. "Drusilla said something about having a sister to me too. Something like she'd be the key to the whole thing, whatever that means."

Spike was quiet, then said in a low voice. "She made me promise to stay here, you know. Said there'd be more blood shed if I didn't. I was goin' to leave town."

"I know," Buffy replied. "At least, I figured on the whole leaving town part. Why didn't you go?"

"Because she was right." Spike glanced over at her. "Don't know what's comin', but I don't think I'm supposed to be with her anymore."

"Are you offering your services?"

Spike leered at her, although Buffy could detect the spark of mischief in his eyes that suggested he was trying to push her buttons. "You askin' for 'em?"

Buffy smiled sweetly. "I could always use more muscle, Spike. There shouldn't be any trouble finding work for you."

"Oh?"

"You can always take out the garbage."

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