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 10 & 11

Chapter 10: Demons Within, Demons Without

"Promise me you aren't going to do anything stupid," Cordelia said.

Angel looked hurt. "What are you talking about?"

Cordy narrowed her eyes. "Drusilla is doing really well right now, but the only reason she's coming over is because Wes is nervous about leaving her alone. So don't upset her."

"How would I upset her?"

"I don't know, Angel," Cordy said, exasperated. "Probably just by being you, because that's all it's taking for me these days."

His hurt expression deepened. "I'm looking for my own place, Cordelia."

She stared at him for a moment and then relented slightly. "I know you're trying, Angel, but-" Cordelia sighed. "Never mind. Just-be careful with her, okay?"

Angel might have made a slightly snippy reply to that-he had planned on being careful with Dru-but Wesley walked in with the girl in question.

Drusilla, for her part, was highly agitated. She pressed herself close to Wesley, bracing for the sight of Angel. While she still felt the memories and the madness threatening, the ex-Watcher's warm hand on her back anchored her.

Dru watched as Angel took a tentative step towards her, and she took a step back, moving even closer to Wesley. "Angel, why don't you get Drusilla something to drink?" Cordelia suggested. "Dru, I don't know if Wesley told you, but I have a ghost. His name is Dennis."

There was a flash, and Drusilla saw in her mind a sweet-faced young man being walled in by his mother. "Hello, Dennis."

She felt a slight breeze by her face and was strangely comforted. Dennis had a nice feel to him. "Uh, Dru? Do you want some tea?"

Drusilla looked at Angel, who was holding out a steaming mug, and for the first time she really saw him. He had changed.

The soul seemed to glow, and she could see the demon it held in check. There was a kindness in Angel's face and eyes that there hadn't been before-when he had been her Sire. This wasn't the same demon who had damned her.

Perhaps she would never be easy in his presence, but it was easier to look at him. "Please."

He handed her the mug and their fingers brushed.

Spike was unable to fend off his attackers because they were human. Men in black, prepared to deal with a vampire, especially one with a chip.

They were going to use him to get to her.

The mug fell and shattered, and Drusilla cried out as she was splashed by the steaming liquid. "Angel!" Cordelia cried.

"What?" the vampire protested. "I didn't do anything!"

Drusilla shook her head. "My poor lamb," she mumbled. "I'm causing him pain even now."

Angel frowned. "What is it, Dru?" Even though he'd never been the best at deciphering her cryptic speeches, there were times when it became clear to him. "What about Spike?"

"They want him," she said. Her eyes bore into Angel's. "You mustn't let them have him. It's important. The lawyers want me again."

Angel's eyes narrowed. "Damn." He didn't like Spike-but that didn't change the fact that Angel couldn't allow Wolfram and Hart to get their greedy little hands on another vampire from his line. He had no idea what the lawyers might want with Spike, but if they had been watching Dru, it was entirely possible that they were planning on going after both Dru and Spike.

Angel had to wonder if they weren't planning on using Spike to turn Drusilla, and if that was the case, how it was they didn't know that Spike had already refused.

~~~~~

"How did this happen?" Holland Manners asked Lindsay. "I gave you the opportunity to correct your mistake, and instead you have one of our best people arrested."

Lindsay frowned. "I didn't have him arrested. Someone called the cops because Drusilla said he was stalking her. She was supposed to be too unnerved to do anything."

"Obviously she wasn't," Holland replied, leaning back in his chair in the conference room. He shook his head. "Lindsay, I realize that you want to succeed on this project. It's imperative that we find a way to influence Angel. I don't think I need to tell you how important Darla was to our overall plans. However, with the return of the wrong vampire, we thought to give you the chance to prove yourself again."

"I can and I will," Lindsay replied. "I just need a little time-"

Holland shook his head. "Time's up, Lindsay. Drusilla has apparently made amends with Angel, and is with him and his friends right now. Now, there is another vampire who might be willing to turn her. It's our belief that it was his plan, and that Angel arrived before he could carry it out. I want you to go down to Sunnydale and retrieve him. I've put Lilah in charge of getting Drusilla back. With any luck, we'll have a way to get to Angel soon. Drusilla was, after all, his greatest obsession."

Lindsay scowled. He didn't like the thought of Lilah intruding on his territory, or having Holland inform him of what he was going to do. There was continually the vague sensation that he was missing something, but he couldn't quite figure out what it was. He'd hoped to have a chance to go back over the records they had on Drusilla, but it looked as though that would have to be postponed. "I'll get him," he promised.

"You'd better," Holland replied. "Otherwise, the Senior Partners are going to be very unhappy."

~~~~~

Spike had absolutely no idea why he was waiting around for Buffy. He hated her. Whatever slightly less antagonistic feelings he might have had were completely eclipsed by his anger at her for lying to him.

Except that she'd apologized, which made it marginally better.

That and he didn't really hate her. The dream had proven that much.

Spike still had a reputation to maintain, however, so he tried to keep the eagerness off his face when she walked into his crypt. "Slayer."

"You ready?"

Spike raised an eyebrow. "Hello to you too."

Buffy sighed. "Sorry. I've got a lot on my mind." She apologized off-handedly, much as she might have done with one of her friends. "We really do need to get going. I promised Giles we would meet him at his place."

Spike, almost in spite of himself, fell in beside her. "You sure you don't want me to wait for you?"

Buffy gave him a look. "You can survive Giles for a little while."

"Maybe," Spike replied, doubt creeping into his tone. "You never know." They walked along in silence. "Want to tell me why we're visiting your Watcher?"

Buffy was silent for a bit, and Spike was beginning to think she'd never respond. "Angel called."

Spike's face creased in concern. "Is it Dru? She alright?"

"Drusilla's fine, Spike," Buffy replied. "She's still having visions or whatever though, and apparently she thinks something is going to happen to you."

"Okay," Spike said slowly. He wasn't inclined to doubt Dru's visions. She had an uncanny knack for predicting future events. On the other hand, he wasn't sure what the point of going to the Watcher's flat was. "So why are we goin' to see the Watcher?"

Buffy frowned. "Mostly because he wanted to see me, and I don't think it's a good idea for you to be on your own right now. Apparently Drusilla's vision included you getting attacked by humans, and there's not much you can do if that happens."

Spike did not like to be reminded of the limitations that the chip placed on him. It rankled him that he was completely unable to protect himself if he should be attacked by humans. It made him feel weak, and he hated feeling weak. "So what? You goin' to watch my back?"

"Until we have a better idea of what's going on, yes," Buffy replied, still distracted. "According to Angel, it would be really bad to let those lawyers get their hands on you."

Spike grabbed her arm. "There's somethin' you're not tellin' me."

"They want you to turn Drusilla, apparently," Buffy said, not moving away from his touch. They were close to Giles' place now, and the Slayer wanted Spike to be as cooperative as possible. Not that Spike was ever truly cooperative, but he might be a little more willing to play along if he thought it was for Dru. "I don't know, Spike. We don't have a lot of details, but Angel seems to think these guys are pretty bad news."

The vampire pulled back. "I can take care of myself."

"Not this time." It was Buffy's turn to grab his arm. "Look, Spike, you didn't turn Drusilla for a reason. I doubt you want to be forced to do it by a bunch of idiots in suits. If they send humans after you, there's no way you could defend yourself."

He shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his duster. "I hate this."

"I know." The Slayer sounded almost sympathetic. "I know it sucks, Spike, but I think you ought to stick close until we find a way to stop them. I would really rather not have to rescue you."

Spike grimaced. "So how are we goin' to do this, Buffy?"

It was strange to have Spike call her by her first name, rather than one of his pet names or Slayer. Buffy found that hearing him say it did something to her insides it shouldn't have. "First we go see Giles and get the sitch in L.A.," she replied. "Then we patrol and you come back to my place. Mom's already getting the basement ready for you."

Spike stopped cold. "Excuse me?"

Buffy looked at him over her shoulder. "The choices are my place, Giles' apartment, or Xander's basement. I took a wild guess as to which one you'd prefer."

She kept going and Spike hurried to catch up. "You're lettin' me stay with you."

"Technically, Mom is letting you stay. I'm doing my best to save the world."

Spike wasn't sure if he should be warmed by the fact that that Joyce wanted him to stay at her house or if he should be insulted that the Slayer had to look after him. Again.

On the other hand, she was right-as much as it pained him to admit it. If the lawyers came after him, chances were he'd be defenseless, and he would end up their pawn. Spike never wanted to be at anyone's mercy again.

Except perhaps Buffy's. Spike could think of several things he'd let Buffy do to him.

"Look, Slayer-" Spike paused. Showing gratitude went completely against the grain. He was still evil, even if he wasn't on a people-diet any longer. "Thanks."

"I'm not doing this for you, Spike," Buffy replied, the words sounding a little more harsh than she'd meant. At the expression on his face, she rephrased. "Okay, yes, I'm doing it for you. I'm also doing it for Drusilla, though. She doesn't need anybody else messing with her head. There's been enough of that already."

Spike's face changed in that moment, softened slightly. It meant more to him that Buffy would be doing this to help Drusilla than himself. "Thanks, Buffy."

Buffy paused, staring at him. "You're welcome."

The tentative connection that had been building solidified in that moment. They walked the rest of the way to Giles' apartment in companionable silence.

~~~~~

"How much do we know, Giles?" Buffy asked. This was the first time the Scoobies had all been together for a meeting of this nature for a few weeks. They hadn't had an emergency since Adam had been dealt with.

Giles was busy polishing his glasses. "Not much, I'm afraid. Apparently, Drusilla had a vision of operatives from Wolfram and Hart coming after Spike in order to have him turn her." He glanced over at the vampire. "They obviously do not know that Spike has already had an opportunity and chose to do otherwise."

"Don't they know about the chip?" Willow asked.

Giles shrugged. "I have no idea. I'm not sure that anyone knows what Wolfram and Hart is or is not aware of. I would be willing to guess that they are not aware of Drusilla's, er, gifts."

"That could be to our advantage," Buffy pointed out. "Drusilla seems to know a lot about what they're doing. It could be fairly easy to stay one step ahead of them."

Giles nodded. "Exactly my thought. That is why it is imperative that they not get their hands on Spike."

Xander laughed. "So Willy-Wanna-Bite is gonna have to be protected again?"

"Shut up, Xander," Buffy said. All eyes turned to her. "That's not necessary. Spike's staying at my house until we can clear this up."

"Your house?" Xander looked like he was going to have an apoplexy. "Why does it have to be your house?"

"Why? Are you offering to let Spike stay with you?" Buffy asked sweetly.

Spike wasn't sure exactly what was going on. The Slayer was almost-defending him? When the bloody hell had the world ended? He decided that it was about time to say something, however. "'m not stayin' with Harris. Maybe Rupert, but 'm not goin' back to the basement. I'll leave town first."

"You're not leaving town," Buffy stated firmly.

Giles cleared his throat. "Buffy is correct. The Slayer's house is the best choice at this point. Not only will it be unexpected, but there is more room. As long as Mrs. Summers is comfortable with it."

"Spike and Mom have bonded," Buffy said, smiling slyly at Spike. The vampire realized she was thinking about his watching An Affair to Remember with Joyce, which while he wasn't ashamed of it, he wasn't prepared for the rest of the Scoobies to get wind of it. He did have a reputation to maintain, however.

"She keeps the little marshmallows around," Spike exclaimed.

Tara and Willow exchanged looks. "What else do you think we should do, Giles?"

Giles turned to look at the red headed witch. "For now? I think simply keeping a sharp eye out is best. We do not know what Wolfram and Hart's next move might be. They might have to scrap their plans. Hopefully if things change, Drusilla will be made aware of it through her visions."

He turned to look at Buffy apologetically. "I do think it imperative that Spike not go out on his own. I would hate to think what might happen if they were to get their hands on him."

"Oi!" Spike said sharply. "Sittin' right here. An' just because they nab me doesn't mean I'll do what they want. I already decided I wasn't goin' to turn her."

"What if they offer to get the chip out?" Xander asked. "Would you really not turn her then?"

The quiet that fell reminded Xander that he might have spoken out of turn. If Spike hadn't thought of the possibilities that working with Wolfram and Hart might offer, he had some idea now. Not to overlook that Spike had betrayed them to Adam not that long ago.

"I didn't turn her because she didn't want it, Whelp," Spike said very quietly, sounding more dangerous than he had in a long time. "Even if they could take the chip out, I wouldn't help them. Not after what they did to Dru."

Xander looked as though he might argue, but Buffy cut him off. "That's enough, Xander. Giles is right, Spike. It would probably be better if you weren't out on your own, for your own safety. We don't know what they would do to you, or what they could do to you. From what Angel said, they have a lot of resources at their disposal. I'd rather not find out what they're capable of."

Spike nodded grudgingly. "Right then. Rather not have to find out myself."

"Good," Giles said, sounding relieved. "As long as we're agreed. Spike will stick close to Buffy until we can determine what these lawyers are planning."

The meeting broke up about that time, but Willow took a moment to grab Buffy's arm. "So no fluffy feelings for Spike, huh?"

Buffy glared. "Of course not. I'm doing this for Drusilla. I kind of liked her."

"Me too," Willow said with a sly smile. "But I'm thinking you kinda like her ex too."

The witch dashed away before Buffy could argue.

~~~~~

Spike looked around the Slayer's basement with a sense of resignation. Ever since he'd gotten the blasted chip inside his head he hadn't been his own man. His attempt to regain control over his own unlife had nearly ended with his dusty demise-first at Adam's hands then at the Slayer's. He knew he was bloody lucky Buffy hadn't decided to stake him after that fiasco.

Spike should have known better than to trust Mr. Bits 'n Pieces-he could see that now. One of the reasons he'd chosen to go to the Slayer in the first place after he'd gotten the chip was the good guys could generally be trusted to keep their word, even when they should go back on it.

Now it looked as though he was being jerked around again, this time by Wolfram and Hart. Spike couldn't even go after them since they were all human. He didn't have a prayer. It wasn't fair in the least.

"So Mom set up the cot," Buffy pointed out awkwardly for lack of anything better to say. "The basement never gets much direct sunlight, which is why we thought you might be better down here. She also said to tell you that it's okay to smoke as long as you open the window."

They were trying. Spike had to give them credit for that much at least. It wasn't like the Slayer or Joyce had to take him in. They could have just staked him and have been done with it. He'd certainly be out of the lawyer's power then. "Thanks."

"There's blood in the fridge," Buffy continued. "And you know the TV's upstairs."

Spike nodded, not saying anything.

"If you need anything-" Buffy couldn't believe she was even saying it, but she meant it. The expression on Spike's face earlier, when she'd told him she was doing this for Drusilla's sake and not his-it changed things. Whether she wanted it to or not. The fact that Spike still viewed Drusilla as more important than anything-even his own happiness-it softened her towards him.

It was hard to view someone as evil when they were trying to protect someone they loved, especially when that someone was no longer a vampire but an innocent.

"Thanks," Spike repeated. There was a long pause, and Spike met her eyes. "You don't have to do this," he pointed out. "'ve been disappearin' for a long time now, Slayer. Could do it just as easily this time."

Buffy shook her head. "It's too dangerous. And besides, I thought you promised Drusilla you'd stay in Sunnydale."

"Promised to look after your mum, didn't I?" Spike replied softly. That alone would have been enough to keep him in there. He didn't have to say there was more. It was an unspoken truth.

 

Chapter 11: Changing Perspectives

Angel wasn't particularly happy. Drusilla might be reasonably comfortable with him-at least comfortable enough to be in the same room-but she stuck close to either Wesley or Cordelia. It was obvious that she wasn't going to be happy in his presence any time in the near future.

The vampire might have been able to handle that. He might have been able to chalk up her discomfort to trauma and then swallowed the guilt like bitter medicine. It was her continued worry over Spike that was driving him crazy. Not that he wanted Wolfram and Hart to get their hands on the chipped vampire. Angel hated to think what they might be able to do if they were able to convince Spike to go along with whatever they had planned.

Of course, Spike never had been one to play well with others. More likely, if they did get their hands on him, he would refuse to cooperate out of sheer obstinacy.

No, that wasn't what was bothering Angel. It was the fact that Spike seemed higher in Drusilla's affections than he was at the moment. Drusilla had always liked him better. Plus, when he'd spoken to Buffy, she had seemed sincerely concerned about Spike's safety, and not solely out of fear of what the lawyers might do were they to get their hands on him. The Slayer was concerned for the vampire himself. That chafed Angel even more.

Why Spike-who was still evil and didn't have a soul-was getting any consideration at all from anyone bothered Angel immensely. It was, of course, possible that it chafed him that Spike wasn't nearly as evil as Angelus. Angel knew that it would have taken more than a chip to leash the beast inside him. Spike, on the other hand, had put Drusilla's needs before his own, which was something Angel was still having trouble doing, were he to be completely honest with himself.

He watched from Cordelia's couch as Wesley and Drusilla spoke in soft voices, the sound of occasional laughter coming from one or the other. They were talking about a movie that Wesley had rented for the both of them to watch the night before, and Angel found that he was jealous over their burgeoning relationship. It was obvious that Wesley was becoming besotted with Dru while she seemed to be blooming in the face of his attraction.

The crazy thing was that Angel could have seen this happening more than a hundred years ago, before he turned her. Wesley would have been just the sort of man Drusilla would have been attracted to, and vice versa. The ex-Watcher's gentility was a sharp contrast to the obsession that Angelus had borne for the woman. Wesley could be trusted to be a gentleman, and Dru obviously loved the attention.

And while Angel really was trying to be happy for her, it still rankled.

"Blood?" Cordelia asked, handing Angel a mug.

"You didn't put cinnamon in it again, did you?"

Cordy rolled her eyes. "You said you didn't like it."

"You didn't put anything else in here?"

"No, it's straight blood, just like you wanted." Cordelia glanced over to Wesley and Drusilla. "You're not brooding again are you?"

"Of course not," he replied sulkily.

"You'd better not be," she warned him. "Because it's about time you snapped out of it. Just be happy that the very sight of you isn't driving Drusilla crazy any longer."

Angel sighed. "She looks happy doesn't she? With Wes?"

Cordelia gave the pair a thoughtful look. "Huh. I hadn't thought about it, but you're right. Looks like Wesley has a crush on her."

"You don't find that at all odd?" Angel asked.

She thought about it. "No, not really. I mean, not that Wes isn't a big dweeb, but Drusilla would probably like a dweeb, you know."

Angel frowned. He hadn't thought about it quite that way. "You think?"

"Well, sure," Cordelia replied. "I mean, it's not like Wesley is going to get fresh. Wes might drive me up the wall on occasion, but he's definitely a gentleman."

That had pretty much been Angel's assessment of matters, although he hadn't thought of Wes as a "wuss" for a long time. In fact, Angel had been fairly impressed by the ex-Watcher as of late. The man had come a long way from the failure he'd been with the Watcher's Council.

"You're probably right," Angel replied. "I don't know why I'm worried."

"You're worried because we have no idea what Wolfram and Hart want with Drusilla. Not to mention if they get their hands on Spike we could have a real problem on our hands," Cordelia pointed out practically. "It always manages to get messy with those guys involved."

She had hit the nail on the head once again. "I think we might want to do something about that."

"You aren't going to do something stupid, like try to sneak into their offices, are you?" Cordelia asked, a note of panic in her voice. "You know that's not going to do any good."

"No, not that," Angel said quietly. "But I think we do need to find some answers."

~~~~~

Lindsay wasn't very happy himself, which Angel probably wouldn't have minded hearing. The lawyer had found himself stumped at every turn. When Lilah had sent her team to the Watcher's apartment to collect Drusilla, both of them were gone. Apparently the ex-vampire had gotten over her fear enough to be around Angel.

Lindsay wasn't quite ready to bring Angel into things. Right now all he wanted to do was to salvage his career. They would have to figure out how to use her to disturb Angel's delicate equilibrium after they had Drusilla and Spike in custody.

Turning her shouldn't have been a problem. Spike was rumored to have been her consort for over a hundred years. Their records indicated that William the Bloody had been captured by the Initiative and fitted with a behavior modification chip, which seemed more a boon than anything else. If they could guarantee Spike that they would remove the chip, Wolfram and Hart would then be possessed of both a pet vampire and a superior piece of technology.

Of course, that only worked if they could get their hands on both Drusilla and Spike. Drusilla seemed to be beyond their grasp for the moment, which left Spike.

And Spike seemed to be under the protection of the Slayer.

Lindsay had dealt with a Slayer before, and he couldn't say that he'd relished the experience. Faith might have been a renegade, but hiring her had come back to bite them in the ass. This Buffy, on the other hand, was as straight as they came. There was no point in trying to buy her. Lindsay had no doubt that Angel had probably forewarned her about the law firm, which meant they had no chance of getting her to play their game.

It was probably why Spike was under her protection in the first place.

Lindsay sighed, leaning back in his chair and considering the information. There was something they were missing here. It seemed that Angel and his gang of do-gooders, along with Drusilla, were consistently one step ahead of them. It just wasn't possible that it was by luck alone, which left only one option.

Somehow Angel was aware of Wolfram and Hart's next moves before they made it. Lindsay didn't believe that there was a mole within the firm. The occasional sweeps with the mind-readers were too thorough for that.

That left only one other option.

Lindsay decided it was time to take matters into his own hands. He needed all the information Wolfram and Hart had on Drusilla, because he had a feeling that she was more special than they had realized.

~~~~~

Buffy was feeling edgy. She'd seen the same black SUV drive slowly down her street more than once. She found it disturbing to know that the lawyers-or their people-were watching her house. It made it even more imperative that Spike shouldn't be let out of her sight.

Of course, the vampire was down in the basement sleeping, so it wasn't like she needed to have her eye on him constantly. The Slayer had to admit to being baffled as to how things had changed so quickly. A week or two ago she'd been quite comfortable with hating Spike. He'd been a nuisance-an annoying pest who would occasionally turn up while she patrolled, at which point they would engage in verbal sparring until she punched him in the nose.

Well, some things hadn't changed.

What had changed was that Buffy no longer hated him. She wasn't quite ready to confess that she liked him, but seeing him with Drusilla and her mom had changed her feelings towards him just slightly. Spike could apparently be nice when he wanted to be.

And when Spike was nice, it became a lot more difficult for Buffy to ignore what a hottie he was.

Buffy made a face in the silence of her house. If anyone found out that she was having even slightly lusty thoughts for Spike they'd probably lock her away in the nuthouse.

A sound from behind cause Buffy to turn, just in time to see Spike emerge from the basement, blinking sleepily in the afternoon sun. "You're up early," she commented.

He shrugged. "Don't sleep too well these days. You said there was blood."

"In the fridge." Buffy watched as he meandered over to the fridge, pulling out the plastic tub full of the viscous red liquid.

"You got a mug, or should I drink it cold?"

The Slayer pulled a mug down from the cupboard silently, handing it to him. Spike gave her a wary look before starting to prepare his breakfast. Buffy just kept staring.

The vampire wasn't wearing a shirt.

Pair Spike's undressed state and stunning physique with Buffy's marginally friendlier feelings and you ended up with a raging case of desire. Or maybe it was need. At this point, the Slayer honestly wasn't sure. Even her silent self-admonition that he was still an evil vampire-even if a sexy evil vampire-wasn't helping. Let's just say that ever since Riley left, the Slayer really wasn't getting any satisfaction.

There were definitely lusty thoughts involved.

"You got a problem, Slayer?" Spike finally demanded.

"No problem," Buffy replied. "You could put a shirt on though."

Spike sneered at her. "Am I offending your virgin eyes, Slayer?" Then his eyes narrowed as he realized exactly what the expression on her face was all about. "Or are you just too attracted to me for your own good?"

That question seemed to snap Buffy out of her lust-induced haze. "What? There is no attraction here. Me, Slayer. You, evil vampire. Why on earth would I be attracted to you?"

Buffy didn't quite mean it to sound as harsh as it did. The statement was, after all, said more to convince herself than the evil vampire in question. Spike's eyes darkened in anger. "You know, I wish you'd stop that."

"Stop what?"

"Stop makin' me out to be worse than I am," Spike snapped, suddenly feeling that his reputation could be damned. The Slayer calling him evil wouldn't have irritated him quite so much if it wasn't for the tone of voice she used while saying it. Her calling him an evil vampire was basically her way of calling him worthless. Spike was getting just a little tired of it.

Buffy glared. "I thought you were the one who was so proud of being evil in the first place."

"Well, sure," Spike said. "I'm a demon, pet, but that doesn't mean I don't have feelings, and it doesn't mean you have the right to stomp all over me just because you're a little horny. Far as I can tell, that's your problem."

Her mouth fell open. "This has nothing to do with my love life."

"Or lack thereof?" Spike suggested snidely.

"I'll have you know that I'm perfectly happy with where I am," Buffy protested. "I'm fine alone."

"Say it like you mean it," he replied. "And until then, you can just stop bein' so-"

"Don't even say it," Buffy warned. "Not unless you want to find yourself outside on such a nice, sunny day."

With his chosen insult barred from use, Spike was reduced to glaring at her. "Fine. Think I'll go watch some telly for a bit."

Buffy watched him go, trying to convince herself that he didn't have a point. In truth, this whole situation was confusing the hell out of her. She didn't like Spike-except that she sort of did. He was kind of fun to take along on patrol, and he was the only one who could be relied upon to keep up-both physically and with her verbal quips. She found herself almost looking forward to their fights, except when he made comments like that.

Because she was horny and Spike was attractive. Just because he was evil didn't mean he wasn't physically gorgeous.

Buffy went upstairs to her room for a while, trying to ignore the silence that had fallen over the house, except for the sound of the television. She put on a CD, read a magazine, painted her toenails, all the while keenly aware that Spike was somewhere downstairs with his feelings hurt. Again. "Stupid sensitive vampire," she muttered.

Of course, if she let him stew like that for too much longer, her mom would come home and immediately sense that something was wrong. At which point Joyce would remind Buffy that she had promised to be nice, and then Buffy would have to watch Spike get the stupid smirk on his face like he did every time Joyce defended him.

It was therefore merely self-defense that had her going downstairs and attempting to make peace, Buffy decided. It would save her the guilt trip her mom was sure to send her on if Spike was still sulking when Joyce got back from the gallery.

Spike had finally put on a shirt, and he was lounging in front of the TV, staring at the screen when she came into the living room. "What are you watching?"

He shrugged. "Somethin' on lions. 's kind of interestin'. There's really nothin' else on."

"What about Passions ?" Buffy asked, remembering that he'd watched that every day at Giles, and had whined when he didn't get to.

"'s over," Spike replied. "You missed it."

"Oh." Buffy sat down in the chair and watched as a lion pulled down a wildebeest, thinking that Spike probably was wishing he could switch places with the big cat. "You know, about earlier-"

"Forget it."

"Would you let me speak?"

Spike looked over at her, and Buffy could see an appalling lack of concern on his face. "Fine, Slayer. What do you want?"

"I just-" Buffy sighed. Who was she kidding? She and Spike were never going to have a real conversation, not one that was meaningful anyway. It wasn't like she was actually going to admit that he was right. "It's not you."

Spike raised an eyebrow. "Oh, we're doin' the 'it's not you, it's me' speech, huh? Spare me."

If it wasn't for the carefully disguised hurt in his voice, Buffy would have gotten up and left right then. She was beginning to learn how to read his moods, though, and she thought she understood. Not that she wanted to put herself in Spike's shoes-because she didn't-but if she were to do so, Buffy could understand why the last couple weeks might have been hard on him. Having Drusilla come back as human, only to run away to L.A. with Angel and his crew, then having his unlife threatened by a bunch of lawyers he couldn't defend himself against-it would have put her in a crappy mood too.

"I meant that if you weren't an evil vampire, I might find you attractive," Buffy said grudgingly. "But you are a vampire, and you don't have a soul, and if you do get that chip out of your head-"

"'s not goin' to happen," Spike said glumly.

Buffy frowned. "What are you talking about?"

"Look, Slayer, the only people who could probably get the chip out are the government-and they won't-and these lawyers, an' I'm not havin' anything to do with a bunch of people who screwed around with Dru so much. So let's face it. Unless it breaks, it's not comin' out."

"But it could break," Buffy pointed out, cursing herself for actually sounding hopeful there for a minute. She didn't want the chip to break of course, but Spike sounded so glum.

Spike laughed shortly. "Yeah, right. 'm goin' to be stuck like this for the rest of my unlife. Can't defend myself, can't feed, can't do anything."

"Well, I'm not going to say that the whole no feeding thing is bad, but I'm sorry you can't defend yourself, Spike," Buffy said, sounding sincere. It probably helped that she was sincere. When Spike looked over at her in surprise, Buffy laughed it off. "If you could defend yourself, you wouldn't be staying here," she pointed out.

"Oh, right," he replied, his eyes going back to the TV screen.

In spite of herself, Buffy really did feel bad for the guy. It wasn't his fault that Riley had left, or that she was feeling a little pissy, or that lawyers were after him. She did know what it was like to feel like you weren't in control of your own destiny.

For some crazy reason, the Slayer suddenly found herself developing a certain unwelcome empathy for the vampire. "Spike-"

Her tone caught his attention, and Spike turned to look at her again, and he saw her sympathy for what it was, and not as pity. "Forget it, Slayer," Spike replied, although this time there was no animosity in his tone. "'s just the way the chips fell, yeah?"

Buffy nodded slowly. Indeed, it was just the way the chips had fallen for both of them.

 

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