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Previous Chapter: Chapter 9
Next Chapter: Chapter 11

“So you’ve been staying with him…?”

“Yeah!”

Buffy giggled, wiggling in place excitedly.  She was in the dorm with Willow, stocked with ice cream and fuzzy pajamas for their girl’s night in.

“Best friend fuzzy watercolor! Now!”

“I stayed after our date- it was incredible. Flowers and amazing food and a walk on the beach. He’d given me his coat, so when we got back to his apartment and I went to freshen up I took off everything but the coat.” “Buffy! You minx!” Willow slapped her friend on the arm, jaw wide open.

“Yeeeeah, not sure at all where that courage came from,” she replied sheepishly.

“Was it good? Was he good?”

“Oh god, Wills, you have no idea. It was incredible, and he’s very much with the large and the skilled and the playing Buffy like an instrument.” “Ahh! Much yay for Violin-Buffy!” Willow squealed.

“So, we wake up in the morning and he goes to make me breakfast while I take a shower. So, to shower I–” “-took off the amulet.” Willow finished for her.

“Yep. He walked into the room a couple minutes later. He said he was just checking on me, but I think he was confirming that I was the reason for the sudden influx of slayer-tinglies. I went out for breakfast and he told me right away and offered to take off the ring if I decided I needed to stake him.” “Wow, that’s intense.”

“Yeah, pretty much. But he could’ve killed me any time and didn’t, and honestly, I was just kind of relieved that I didn’t have to introduce him to vamps and demons and stuff. And oh god, when we patrolled— I don’t think I could’ve dreamed up a better boyfriend. He can fight, and we work really well together. It’s everything I never knew I wanted.” Willow smiled warmly at her best friend.

“I’m so happy for you, Buffy, I really am.”

Buffy returned her smile gratefully, before remembering the rest of what she had to share.

“Oh! I haven’t even told you the best frickin’ part!” “What?!”

“You remember Drusilla and Angelus?”

Willow gave her as close to a dirty look as the sweet witch could.

“How could I forget? The pile of dead fish on my lawn because he could see my tank through the window.” “Well, Drusilla is Spike’s sire and his ex. And he travelled with Angelus for like 20 years when he was first turned.” “Crazy Drusilla landed a guy like SPIKE?!” Willow was incredulous.

“I know, right? I guess he wasn’t very confident as a human, and he felt like she saved him from that or something. He’s been through a lot.

“It makes my heart hurt to think that someone so incredible was treated so horribly.  He completely lost it when he found out that I’d bought some of the books he recommended.  He’s not used to people caring about him.” “Well, he’s got the perfect girlfriend, then. You’re the type to make him feel loved for all of him.  You’re good at making people see the best in themselves.” She couldn’t help the warm smile that spread across her face. “Thanks, Will. That means a lot.” Buffy leaned against her best friend and they finished their ice cream in comfortable quiet before pressing play on the movie of the night.

~

The next morning was the groundbreaking for the new cultural center. Xander had gotten the job with the construction crew, and Anya had insisted the other girls join her in supporting him. When he fell into the ruins of the monastery, they’d all been worried. Once they were sure he was okay, however, they didn’t think much of it.

That was until the professor was reported dead.

Buffy and Willow had gone back to their dorm after collapse, so they were able to get into the cultural center quickly and investigate on their way over to Giles’ place for Thanksgiving prep.

“Sorry I’m late, sorry I’m late!”

Buffy trampled through the door like an elephant, Willow on her heels. She’d made plans to meet Spike here and work on the Thanksgiving meal the day before, and now conveniently she could brief Giles on the situation.

“One of our professors was murdered, we stopped to investigate. It seems like it might be up our alley—she was stabbed, her ear cut off, and the body dumped. There was Chumash ritual knife missing from the case near where she was killed.” As she spoke, she walked over to where Spike sat at the table with her watcher and a bottle of scotch.  He reached up and put an arm around her waist, looking up at her as he squeezed gently.

“Should the Watcher and I jump on the research, then?” Buffy pulled away, looking down indignantly.

“Oh no, you said you would help with the cooking! Willow, why don’t you help Giles.” Willow nodded, and Giles went into Stuffy British Mode in seconds, standing up and moving over to the bookshelf.

“Yes, we should look into the significance of ear-cutting in Chumash rituals.” While the other two sat down with a stack of books, Buffy dragged Spike into the kitchen and began searching for a turkey pan.

“So, what did you birds do during your little pow-wow?” She directed him to grab ingredients from the fridge before responding.

“Last night we just talked and watched movies. This morning Anya decided that we needed to come with her to watch Xander at the groundbreaking for the new cultural center that Willow mentioned the other night at the Bronze. Turns out the site was on top of some sort of ‘lost mission’ and they wound up breaking through into it.” “Harris alright?”

“Yeah, he’s fine. He got lucky; the ceiling wasn’t very tall.” “You think the murder might have something to do with the mission?” “It’s possible.” She paused, pursing her lips, “Come to think of it, the knife had a plaque saying it was from the early 1800s, and the mission was lost in 1811.” Buffy turned to move, but Spike held her there.

“You stay here and keep peeling those potatoes, love, I’ll let Giles know to start looking into the connection.” He left her alone in the kitchen for a moment, but quickly returned to help with the food. Once they were all finished peeling, Buffy hit a snag.  Giles didn’t have any heavy cream, which they needed for the mashed potato recipe.

And that’s how Buffy found herself here, cornered (somehow) in the middle of the sidewalk by none other than Riley Finn.

“Hey, Buffy!”

She shifted uncomfortably, readjusting her grip on Spike’s arm.

“Hey, Riley. We were just on the way to the grocery store. Thanksgiving dinner potatoes aren’t the same without the cream!” Her quip was strained. She really didn’t want to be here. Riley had tried so hard to get her attention back at the beginning of the year, and he didn’t seem capable of taking a hint and backing off.

“I’m catching a last-minute flight to Iowa. My folks are there, and we do Thanksgiving at my grandparent’s house. A little farm outside Huxley. After dinner we go for walks down by the river with the dog. What are your plans?” “My mom’s out of town, so we’re using a family friend’s kitchen to make dinner for people.” Finally, Riley looked at Spike.

“Who is this, then? Cousin from out of town?”

Buffy pursed her lips together to keep from laughing, looking up at Spike to prod him into answering.

“I’m her boyfriend, mate. Helping her cook dinner.” Riley couldn’t hide an annoyed expression.

“You guys been together long? You didn’t tell me you had a boyfriend, Buffy.” She shifted awkwardly. “Uh, yeah, we’ve been together…. a while. Um, Riley, this is Spike.” “Spike.”

He said the name like it physically pained him to do so.  Buffy could feel Spike’s chest vibrating lightly. He was growling just out of the range of normal human hearing.

“Don’t wear it out. If you don’t mind, Buffy and I need to be going now.” “Uh, sure, I’ll see you around, Buffy,” he called, but they were already halfway down the street. When they turned the corner, Buffy deflated.

“Thank you,” she said wearily. “He’s been trying to flirt with me since the beginning of the semester and he really won’t get a hint. I mean, he’s my TA.” “Let me know if the wanker keeps it up, love. Can rough ‘im up a little for you.” Buffy smiled up at him and laughed.

“I can fight my own battles, sweetie, but I appreciate it.” “Know you can, don’t I? Did I tell you what an incredible fighter you are? Never seen a slayer with your style.” Buffy turned bright red and squeezed his arm again.

“You’re not half bad yourself. And we make a good team.” It was Spike’s turn to smile warmly down at her.

“That we do, Slayer, that we do.”

~

No sooner had they made it back to Giles when they were sent out with a lead. Apparently a ‘Father Gabriel’ had been listed as a source on much of the Sunnydale histories and Giles had managed to arrange an appointment with him for that afternoon.

They arrived just in time to see a man in traditional Chumash dress kill the priest. When they tried to intervene, the man had attacked them, screaming something about vengeance before turning into bats and flying off.

“God, who does he think he is? Dracula?” She paused for a minute, chewing on her lip thoughtfully. “Does Dracula really turn into bats? Why does he get the special power and not, like, Joe down the street who gets vamped?” She was thoroughly surprised to get an answer from the man checking her over for injuries.

“Drac’s got lots of gypsy tricks up his sleeve, the poncy bugger. Only thing special about him is his ego.” “Wait, wait, wait. You’re telling me Dracula is REAL?!” Spike looked serious, but his tone was amused. “Where d’you think the stories came from, sweets? Got lucky, Slayer, he didn’t get you with that knife.” “I’m guessing it’s what was stolen from the cultural center. And what did he call himself? Hus? We need to go tell Giles.” ~

They’d just finished explaining the situation when Willow came running into the apartment.

“I found something! It turns out the missionaries were incredibly cruel to the Chumash when they came.” Giles took off his glasses and began cleaning them.

“That explains the vengeance motive, I suppose. It seems obvious we’re dealing with a spirit of some sort.” “We need to figure out how to put it to rest right quick before more people get hurt. Mind if I use your phone, Watcher?” “It’s in the hall, there.”

While Spike headed for the phone and Giles and Willow collected books on spirits, Buffy returned to the kitchen. From where she stood, she could hear Spike’s side of the phone conversation.

“Gotta cancel, mate. Something’s come up… ‘Course we can reschedule, can’t let ourselves get behind… Yeah, just as soon as I get things sorted here. I’ll give you a call soon.” Buffy turned to him when she heard his footsteps in the doorway.

“What was that about?”

“Had plans with my mate Clem tonight. He’s a loose-skinned demon, and he likes Passions too. I record the episodes every day and we meet up every few days and watch ‘em.” Buffy set the bowl and hand mixer back on the counter, walking over and putting her hands on his hips.

“Why’d you cancel, then?”

He gave her a look like she’d just dribbled spit down her shirt.

“Have to be here to lend a hand, don’t I? No telling when this spirit might decide you’re the next priority enemy and come after you.” She froze for a second, and he worried he’d messed up. But then she’d launched herself into his arms, hanging on to his neck for dear life.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“What for, pet?”

She pulled back so she could look in his eyes.

“Being here for me with this. I’m so used to being the only fighter and having to look out for everyone. And you canceled plans with your friends just to look after me. I don’t need it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make me happy.” He pulled her back against his chest, his words rumbling through her skin as he spoke.

“Always going to protect you, love. Jus’ found you, won’t be lettin’ you go that easy.” Buffy leaned up and gave him a soft kiss.

“I’ll protect you too.”

They stood there together for a moment, before a ‘ding’ sounded from the stove.

“Oh, the oven is ready!”

~

The next morning, Spike stood back as she flitted around the kitchen.  He watched as she moved from dish to dish, prepping and plating everything. For someone who claimed to have no kitchen skills, she was a bit of alright on the organization front.

She was beautiful in her determination to give her friends a nice meal. She’d mentioned the last night she’d stayed with him that she also included him in that group. He’d reminded her that as a Brit he didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but she just gave him a look.

“You’ve been alone for too long, Spike. We’re going to have a good holiday together, alright?” She had said, leaving no room for refusal.

Though he’d likely have trouble admitting it out loud, she was right. He’d pretended to be part of a happy family with Dru, but she scorned holidays, whereas there was still a part of him that craved them.

Here he was, in Sunnydale, and wrapped around the finger of the most beautiful woman he’d ever met. Who happened to be a slayer.

If he could tell his younger self, he’d never believe it. But somehow, this was his life.

He’d spent most of the last night here with her, in her watcher’s apartment, helping her cut vegetables and make pumpkin pies.

Afterwards, they’d gone back to his apartment.  The sex was fantastic, the best he’d ever had, but it paled in comparison to the soft moments when they were falling asleep and he just got to hold her. Feel her close to him, sense her heartbeat, and relish in what life had become.

She was incredible. And somehow, she was his.

He continued to watch her for a while, taking in her beauty and determination. Eventually, she realized he wasn’t helping.

“Hey! Quit standing around! Why don’t you work on the stuffing.” She walked over and pushed him towards the stovetop, and that was that.

~

Willow arrived at Giles’ apartment an hour or so before they’d scheduled dinner, bearing frozen peas.  Buffy had thanked her and tossed them to Spike, who caught them gracefully even without warning.

Xander and Anya’s contribution to the holiday was ‘only maybe contagious’ syphilis. Buffy was so over this spirit ruining her holiday.

“I mean, we aren’t even the ones that hurt them. Those people have been dead for more than a hundred years.” “Well, in many cultures rights of vengeance can be performed on the descendants of both parties,” Anya chimed in.

Buffy sighed and sat down hard in a chair.

“Well that’s stupid.”

Spike came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders, rubbing them gently.

“It’s alright, sweetheart, we’ll get it taken care of. Won’t let it ruin our holiday, promise.” She leaned back into him, a small smile on her face.

“You know just what to say,” she paused briefly before continuing. “Why don’t we finish getting all the food put out, it’s almost time to eat.” No sooner had she gotten up before an arrow came whizzing in the window and stuck into the chair where she’d sat.

“Buffy, get down!”

Spike was already on his way to the window, pulling the attackers through and snapping their necks in quick succession.

Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to phase either of them. Instead, they shifted immediately into hand to hand combat, fighting competently with Spike.

“They don’t seem to be dying, pet. Be careful.” While Spike had the warriors distracted, Buffy maneuvered her way over to the weapon’s chest.  She barked quick instructions to Willow, Xander, Anya, and Giles to stay down before making her way over to the stairs where Hus had stationed himself.

She tried to stab him, but it didn’t work. He knocked the sword out of her hand and continued attacking. Finally she managed to shove him down the stairs and the knife he held flew across the room.  She raced to grab it.  Hus recovered quickly, and she managed to slice his arm as she dove out of the way of his attack.

“The knife hurts him!” She exclaimed.

As she stood, she realized no one looked quite as excited as her. In fact, the whole group by the couch was staring over her shoulder.

She turned around and her excitement quickly fell to the wayside.

“Oh good, now he’s a bear.”

Buffy backed up slowly, trying to keep out of reach of the deadly claws. She didn’t notice Xander standing up, not until he chucked a book at the bear’s head.

“That’s for the funny syphilis!”

She took advantage of the distraction and stabbed the bear in the back with the knife. The warriors disappeared, and Buffy dropped to the floor.

Spike was on her in an instant, checking her over for injuries.

“I’m okay, I’m okay. Just a couple bruises.”

“Next time maybe don’t make a bear, Slayer?” Spike teased.

“I’m pretty sure the bear made itself, Vampire,” she snarked, before turning to look at the kitchen. “You think we can manage to salvage Thanksgiving?” “Don’ rightly think they got at the kitchen. As long as there are more dishes than the broken ones on the table we should be alright.” He kissed Buffy on the head before standing up and moving over towards the group of Scoobies.

“You lot alright over here?”

There were nods and affirmatives from the whole group.

“Let’s get this show on the road, then. Don’t want the food to go cold just because of unexpected visitors.” Before anyone could respond, Spike had moved back into the kitchen where Buffy was looking through the cupboards for dishes. He pulled her back into his arms, grabbing plates from the shelf she’d been having trouble reaching.

As Giles watched, all he could do was murmur under his breath.

“That’s one strange vampire.”

~

They were halfway through dinner when the call came.

“Who the hell is calling on Thanksgiving?” Giles groused as he got up and answered it before taking it into the hallway.  From the tilt of Spike’s head, Buffy could tell he was listening in.

“What’s going on?”

“Think it’s something about those soldier boys we ran into.” “Oh god, hopefully the council has good news for us. Patrolling again would be very much of the good.” Spike snickered. “Someday you should rewrite Austen in that monstrosity you pretend is the English language.” “Hey!” She slapped his arm. “Just because you were born in 1854 doesn’t mean you have to act like a stuffy English professor.” A soft look had taken over his face, and he gave her favorite head tilt and looked her in the eyes.

“You remember the year?”

“Yeah, of course,” she stared at him in confusion.

“Xander, do you know my birth year?” Anya demanded.

Not even Willow could hold back a laugh at the expression of sheer horror that fell onto Xander’s face.

“I- pft- psht- Ahn! Have you ever even told me your birthday?” Anya’s expression was another masterpiece.

“Well… maybe not…” Her voice turned haughty again. “But you’ve never asked, either!” She humphed and pouted before addressing the table.

“It’s the Fourth of July, by the way. Presents and cash are both acceptable.” “On that note, we have word from the council,” Giles cut in. “It seems there was a top-secret military operation called the Initiative being run out of Sunnydale. Someone very high up authorized it wrongfully, so the whole thing is being dismantled. Many of the officials are being court martialed for overstepping- apparently the labs were rather horrific. They should be out of town within the week.” “What about the demons they had kidnapped?” Buffy asked.

“The council made an agreement with the government on the treatment of sentient species during the second world war. They’re exerting their influence to get them to let them go.” Her eyes widened. “Really? I thought Council was all ‘demons bad, only humans good?’” “In theory, yes, at least these days, but there are enough people who respect me left to do as I asked.” “Good on you, Rupes. I hope you don’t mind, I should go tell my mates the news. A lot of ‘em have family missing.” Buffy grabbed his hand and squeezed. “I’ll go too. I’d like to start getting to know some people, building a network.” Spike smiled over at her, and they both stood from the table.

“Goodnight everyone, sorry for bailing early!” she called as she grabbed her coat and headed out the door, leaving no room for Scooby ojections, Spike following close behind.

There was silence in the room for a long minute, before Giles spoke up.

“So much for not sticking me with the clean-up.”


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Next Chapter: Chapter 11

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