Chapter 1: When We Fight
The music in the Bronze was loud, but Willow yelled over it. “So when’s Riley getting back from Iowa?”
Buffy looked up from the Diet Coke she was sipping. “Um, three weeks?”
“You’re not sure?”
“Well, you know how summer is. Sun, fun, days blending together…”
“Sure!” Willow answered in her sunniest voice. “And it lets us go out for a girls’ night, guilt free!”
“Yep,” Buffy said. She put her glass down on the table and wiped her hands on her long, black skirt. “So when is Tara coming back?”
“Two days, fourteen hours and…” Willow checked her watch. “Three minutes.”
“Oh,” Buffy said. “Hey! Here come Xander and Anya. Hi guys.” She waved the couple down.
“Hey Buff, Will. I didn’t know you two would be here tonight,” Xander said, sitting on the couch next to Willow.
“Xander couldn’t stand the smell of his basement any longer,” Anya said. “So instead we came here—where we can smell sweaty bodies and spilled beer.”
“And actually? A vast improvement,” Xander said.
Anya sat on Xander’s knee. “Sweetie? I’m thirsty,” she said.
Buffy got up. “I’ll get it. Diet Coke with no ice, right? And regular Coke for you, Xan, with extra ice–crushed.” They nodded, looking impressed. She smiled and headed for the bar.
As Buffy waited for the bartender to notice her, she looked around at the crowd. A slow song was playing. The couples on the dance floor barely swayed to the beat. It was times like these that she missed Riley. But what really surprised her was that she didn’t miss him more deeply. He’d already been gone for a week and she was okay. Better than okay, sometimes. Patrolling without worrying about him was actually almost fun.
“JD, mate. Straight up.”
“Hey!” Buffy said to the line skipper. She rolled her eyes when she realized who it was. “Spike. Of course.”
“Oh, did I take your spot in the queue?” Spike asked. When Buffy opened her mouth to answer, he continued, “Because I really don’t care.” He turned his back to her.
“What bug crawled up your butt?” Buffy muttered.
“No bug, Slayer,” Spike said, over his shoulder with his drink already in hand. “Unless you’re a new species.”
“Me?” Buffy said. “What did I do to you?”
“You exist. Isn’t that enough?” Spike brushed past her and entered the crowd. Buffy watched his blond head as he worked his way over to the pool tables.
“Hey! What’s your pleasure?” the bartender finally asked her. She had to think a second before remembering why she was up there.
After Anya and Xander thanked Buffy for the drinks, Xander asked, “What did the walking undead want?”
Buffy sat down. “Who knows with Spike? He’s all prickly tonight.”
“Whereas normally he’s a joy to be around,” Xander said.
“Maybe he’s lonely,” Willow said. “Demons don’t want to be around him because he kills them. Humans don’t want to hang out with him because, well, vampire. And they don’t know he’s all bark and no bite.”
“Yeah. My heart weeps for the guy,” Xander said. “So! Who’s up for dancing?”
“Me!” Anya raised her hand and jumped up. Xander spun her off onto the dance floor.
“Maybe you’re right, Will,” Buffy said. “But it makes me wonder why he’s still in Sunnydale if there’s nothing here for him.”
Willow shrugged. “Maybe there is something here but he hasn’t figured out what that is yet. Anyway, I feel sorry for him.”
“Hmmm,” Buffy said.
“Maybe you should go over and ask him what’s bothering him,” Willow said.
“Me? Why would I ever ask Spike what’s bothering him? He’s a bleached blond pain in my butt. If he’s suffering, I say great.”
“Well, it looks like you’ll get to say it to his face because here he comes,” Willow said.
Buffy turned to follow Willow’s pointing finger and found herself with a face full of black leather.
“Y’know what your problem is, Summers?”
“Oh, this will be fun. I’ll bite, Spike, since you can’t. What would be my problem, all-knowing evil dead guy?”
Spike sat across from her and leaned in. “Your problem is that you’ve got it too damn easy.”
“I what? On what planet do I have anything remotely resembling easy?”
“You’ve got the looks–the body, the face.” Spike waved his hands at her. “The superhero strength, the group of faithful Scoobies trailing in your wake, the world’s most vanilla boytoy… You make your little quips and kill the bad guys. What a bloody simple life you lead.”
Buffy just stared at him, her mouth open a bit.
“While I? I am locked in a cage of someone else’s making. Yeah, I’ve got the look and the attitude and my strength is to be reckoned with, but it means nothing because I can’t choose my own path.”
“And I’m supposed to cry for you because you can no longer eat people?”
“Nobody’s asking for your tears, Slayer.”
Buffy stood up. “Then what is it you want from me, Spike?”
Spike stood also. “A little consideration would be nice. Besides that, not a damn thing.”
“Are you drunk?”
“Woah,” Willow said, stepping between the two. “Take a moment here. Breathe—or don’t if you’re Spike and don’t have to. Or do you? It’s something I’ve always wondered because you seem to be breathing, yet I’ve heard tell that vampires don’t need to breathe. And look! I’ve stopped you from fighting!”
“We are not fighting. You have to care what someone thinks to fight with them,” Buffy said, glaring at Spike.
“Another example of insane Buffy logic,” Spike said, glaring back.
“Go to hell, Spike. I’m not doing this with you.” Buffy sat down abruptly.
Spike stared at her for a moment before growling in frustration and storming off.
“You two remind me of an old married couple. A mean old married couple. Without the married or the couple-y parts.”
“Sorry, Will. I’m not in the Bronzing mood anymore,” Buffy said. She pulled her bag out from under her chair and stood. “I think I’ll head home.”
“You’re going? Already?” Willow asked. “But Xander and Anya are still out there dancing.”
“Tell them goodnight for me, would you?” She swung her bag over her shoulder. The stakes inside knocked together softly. “Spike has pooped this party for me.”
“No big. I’m tired anyway.” She leaned down to hug her friend. “See you tomorrow?”
Willow nodded. “You bet. I know I don’t need to tell you this, but be safe.”
“I’m on it.”
Buffy stepped into the warm summer night. Couples were clustered around the entrance to the club, talking, kissing, smoking. She was relieved that no vamps seemed to be around. Well, that one vamp in particular wasn’t around.
As Buffy walked toward home, she thought about how above-average snarky Spike had been lately. She’d bump into him while patrolling, and though he’d help dust the nasties, he’d also be quick with the insults. He’d rag on her technique, her weapons, her clothes, her choice in footwear… Not that Buffy didn’t give it back as good as she got. But there were only so many ways you could make fun of bleached hair, the color black and his undead status.
Buffy shook her head. Whatever was wrong with Spike definitely wasn’t her problem. She decided to do a sweep on her way home. Maybe she’d catch Giles out. He’d offered to patrol for her so she and Willow could have a night off. Some night off, Buffy thought.
She caught sight of Giles pretty quickly. He was trying to be stealthy and failing miserably. “Giles,” Buffy said, coming up behind him.
He jumped like he’d been shot. “Good God, Buffy! Don’t sneak up on me like that. You very nearly gave me a heart attack.”
“Good thing I wasn’t a demon then, huh?”
Giles looked embarrassed. “Yes, well. Quite.”
Buffy patted him on the back. “It’s okay, Giles. I just don’t want you hurt.”
“I thought you and Willow were out on the town this evening.”
Buffy sighed. “We were. Spike showed up and decided he had to piss me off. I need to figure out how to ignore him again. He’s been getting to me lately.”
“Well, he’s most likely bored,” Giles said. They began to walk. “And irritating others seems to be his specialty and a source of amusement.”
Buffy looked at him. “But that’s just it, Giles. He doesn’t seem to enjoy pissing me off. It just makes him madder.”
“Then why does he continue to do it?”
“Maybe you should speak with him about it,” Giles said.
Buffy stopped and stared at him. “Why do you people think I should talk to Spike? Like I give a damn what’s bothering him?”
Giles scratched his head. “Then I’m confused. You don’t care, yet it concerns you?”
Buffy breathed in deeply, letting the night air fill her lungs. “It’s not that I’m concerned. I just want him to stop.”
“Talking about me, Slayer?” Spike asked, stepping out from behind a mausoleum.
“Are you following me now?”
“This happens to be my cemetery. I have every right to be here. You, on the other hand, do not. So are you following me?”
“Buffy,” Giles said as she stepped closer to Spike.
“Okay, Spike. Yes. We were talking about you. About your pathetic unlife and how you feel the need to spend it harassing me!” She shouted the last word into his face.
“Oh, I’m harassing you, am I?” Spike was so close, Buffy was almost cross-eyed trying to focus on him.
“Really, you two,” Giles interrupted. “What is the core issue here?”
“I feel like a bloody marriage therapist,” Giles muttered, looking to the sky.
“Not funny, Giles.”
“Yeah, Watcher. What the hell do you know about it?”
“Obviously I know that you two need to work out some issues before you kill each other.” Giles stopped to think. “Actually, go ahead. It’s not like you can do much physical damage to Buffy, Spike. She, on the other hand, could dust you without a twinge.”
“Ha!” Buffy said to Spike as she settled her hands on her hips.
“Thanks mate,” Spike said to Giles.
“My pleasure,” Giles said. “Please do work it out. Bickering gives me dreadful headaches. In fact, I feel one coming on right now.”
Buffy went to his side. “You can go on home, Giles. I’ll finish up patrol.”
Spike moved closer too. “Need help getting there?”
“I only have a headache, you git. I’m not feeble.”
“What the bleeding hell’s your problem? Just trying to help!”
“Since when do you help?” Buffy asked.
“Since—well, since never. But that doesn’t mean I can’t start now, does it?”
“No, Spike,” Giles said. “It doesn’t. So although I do not require your help at this point in time, I appreciate the offer.”
“Fuck this,” Spike said, walking away.
“What? I was being sincere!” Giles called after him. He turned to Buffy. “I think I will go home now. See if you can’t smooth things over with Spike, will you? He could be a rather significant fighting asset if he thinks he’s doing so on his terms.”
“As long as he only thinks that.” Buffy held her Watcher’s look. “Oh all right already! I’ll go make nice with the growly, PMSing vampire. Happy?”
Giles smiled. “Well, I’ve felt worse.” He squeezed her shoulder. “Goodnight, Buffy. And good luck.”
Buffy gave a decidedly non-feminine snort and started off in the direction Spike had gone.
It wasn’t long before she ran into him. Or literally tripped over him. She landed flat on her back, staring up at the black sky and into Spike’s smug face.
“Shut up, Spike. Help me up.”
“Why should I?” he said even as he offered a hand to her. Once Buffy was back on her feet, he started picking grass and leaves out of her hair.
“What were you doing down on the ground anyway?” she asked as she batted his hands away.
“Thought I caught a scent. Sporiv demon, smells like. Nasty bastards. They have disgusting acidy bodily fluids. Ate right through a pair of my good boots once.”
“And you think they’re close?” Buffy asked, looking around.
“Scent’s relatively fresh. I’d say they were by here maybe an hour or two ago.”
“Which way did they go? And how do we kill them?”
Spike straightened up. He crossed his arms and glared at Buffy. “How do ‘we’ kill them? So you’re wanting my help now?”
“Don’t make me hurt you, Spike.”
“No. I’m serious here.” He came closer. “Why the hell should I help you, Slayer?”
“Because you have nothing better to do?” Buffy crossed her own arms and stared him down.
“You’re a right bitch, you know that?”
“And you disgust me.”
Spike raised an eyebrow. “Do I now? That’s not what you were saying a few months ago when you were all set to marry my disgusting self.”
“Need I remind you that was a spell?” Buffy turned away and started walking. “So the S’more demon went this way maybe?”
Spike jumped in front of her. “Yeah, wanting to marry me was part of the bird’s spell. But wanting to snog my face off was not.”
Buffy pushed past him. “Oh please. You were as grossed out as I was when Willow lifted the spell.”
“Yeah,” Spike said softly as he fell into step with her.
They walked through the cemetery in silence for a while before Buffy looked over at him. “So why all the anger tonight? Not that I care or anything.”
“’Course not. Why the hell would you care?”
“Well, I think we just established that I don’t. Still. What’s going on with you?”
Spike swiped his fingers over a headstone and brought them to his nose. “Demon’s been here. We’re on track.” He sighed. “Not sure. I just saw you standing there, looking all perky and pretty and untouchable, and it pissed me off.”
“What? You think I’m pretty? Uh. I mean… It’s not my fault you were chipped, Spike.”
Spike rolled his eyes. “I know that, Buffy. Still, not being able to fight you—or any human—properly wears on a fellow, you know?”
Buffy stepped over a dead floral arrangement. “But you can still fight demons. Doesn’t that help?”
“Some,” he said. He pointed off to the right. “That way.” They switched directions. After a few moments, he continued. “But it’s not enough. I’m nobody’s white hat. I’m in it for the violence only. But I miss the talking.” He jumped in front of her again. “Like you and I used to do. You were all ‘Do we really need weapons?’ and I got to make the sexual innuendos. It was fun.”
“Wait. Fighting me was fun?” Buffy shook her head, confused.
“Oh come on. Admit it. It was fun for you too.”
“Whatever, Spike. Let’s find this demon, okay? I’m tired.”
Spike stepped back. “I think he might be in that crypt over there.”
“So what do we do to kill it? The usual?” Buffy dug through her bag for a couple stakes.
“Beheading is usually the best way to go. Though staking it probably won’t hurt. It won’t go all ‘poof’ though. And it might ooze a bit. Watch your shoes.”
“Check,” Buffy said, throwing him a stake.
Very quietly they moved to the crypt. Buffy mouthed “one, two, three” and they kicked the door open. The Sporiv demon was apparently asleep on top of a sarcophagus.
“See?” Spike whispered into Buffy’s ear, raising goosebumps on her neck. “Where’s the challenge?”
“You hold him down while I stake him,” Buffy whispered back.
“Right,” he said and Buffy could smell beer and something like cloves on his breath. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a bad smell.
Spike thought she was pretty?
Buffy shook the thought off and moved to the other side of the demon. She raised her stake and aimed before nodding to Spike. He reached down and pinned the demon to the stone. Buffy paused.
“Is it wrong that I feel a little guilty for killing this guy in his sleep?” she asked Spike. “I mean, shouldn’t it be a fair fight?”
“Bloody hell, Slayer! Just do it!”
“Yeah. Why am I asking you about a fair fight?”
Spike let go of the demon’s shoulders. “Hey, I fight fair.”
“Fair by whose standards?”
While Buffy and Spike argued over him, the demon woke up. His club-like hand reached up and fastened itself around Buffy’s neck. She ‘urk’ed in surprise and stared wide-eyed at Spike. Without hesitating, Spike grabbed the stake from Buffy’s hand and shoved it and his own into the demon’s chest. He jumped back to avoid the demon’s acid blood.
Buffy felt the Sporiv’s grip loosen and she broke free, gasping for air. “Shit! My skirt!” she yelled, swiping at the demon goop eating its way through the fabric.
Spike dove around the sarcophagus and tore the skirt off of her. “You stupid bint! It’s acid. Don’t touch it!”
Spike threw her skirt into a corner of the crypt. Buffy stared at him in shock. She also felt faint relief that she’d worn her new panties. Then she realized she was standing there in just her sleeveless top and said panties while the remains of the demon dripped onto the floor and Spike frankly appraised her legs.
“No burns,” he said.
Buffy tugged at the hem of her shirt. “Well, yeah. And thanks, I guess. But what the hell am I supposed to do now?”
Spike smiled very slowly. “I’ve never seen a Slayer in just her knickers before. It’s a sight I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.”
“Shut up, Spike, and give me your coat.”
“Your coat! Give it to me.”
“Hell no. Why should I give you my coat? I’m enjoying the view.”
Buffy stepped right up to him. “You’ll give me your coat or I’ll yank it off you myself. Right before I dust you.”
“Idle threats, Slayer.”
Her body was practically pressed to his. She felt like her nerve endings were exploding. Was it because Riley had been gone a week? Or was it because it was Spike? It was like her body remembered his somehow. Remembered the feelings Willow’s spell had created. Remembered how his mouth felt on hers…
Buffy stepped back quickly. Spike’s eyes had gone dark. He pulled her back to him and captured her mouth with his. Buffy’s heart sped up and her stomach fluttered as she felt herself melt into him. His lips were so soft; his mouth, greedy. She felt his fingers slip under the edges of her panties to caress her bottom and she ground herself against him.
Fortunately—unfortunately?—sanity returned like a slap to her face. Buffy pulled away suddenly and covered her mouth with her hands. “Oh God,” she whispered.
Spike shrugged his coat off his shoulders and held it out to her. When she just stared at him, he shook it and said, “Take it. Put it on.”
She finally took the coat and wrapped it around herself. “Thanks,” she said.
“Yeah,” he said uncomfortably.
“That didn’t just happen.”
Buffy backed away toward the crypt’s entrance. “No one will know about this.”
“Hell no! Wouldn’t want anyone knowing anyway. Ruin what’s left of my reputation.”
“Just so we understand each other.” She glanced over her shoulder as she moved up the steps, praying she didn’t trip. “I’ll get your coat back to you soon.”
Spike nodded. “No worries, Buffy. Uh, Slayer.”
“Thanks for your help tonight, but maybe patrolling together isn’t such a great idea.”
“Good. So I’ll kill my demons and you’ll kill yours.”
“Yep.” Spike gestured at her. “Toss me my fags before you leave, won’t you?”
Buffy froze. “Your what?”
“Oh!” Buffy dug through the coat’s pockets until she located his pack of cigarettes and his lighter. She threw them to him.
Spike lit up. “Thanks. So I’ll be seeing you. Or not.”
“Uh, yeah. I’ve got to just… I’m going now.” She turned away and practically ran out the door.
When Buffy got home, she folded Spike’s duster and put it on the chair next to her bed. She’d drop it off at his crypt in the morning before her mom woke up. No need to run the risk of bumping into him or having to explain things to Joyce.
Before she slipped into bed, she checked her calendar. Riley would be back in two weeks and four days. Two weeks and four days. Not that long. She’d be fine until then. She would.
She fell asleep, Spike’s taste still on her lips.