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Previous Chapter: Chapter 8
Next Chapter: Chapter 10

The day after her birthday, Buffy went straight to Willow’s once Joyce left with Spike to visit Anne.  Too much had happened in just a couple of days to not check in with her best friend.

“Okay, so what’s going on?” Willow asked, peeling open her carton of ice cream.

“Giles is the reason I was losing my powers.”

“What?!”

“Yeah, some sort of council-sanctioned Slayer test.”

“O-o-okay, but he wasn’t the direct cause, right? I mean, it’s Giles!”

Buffy stared bitterly at the floor.

“So direct he was the one to stick the needle in my arm and drug me.”

“But how?”

“The crystals he had me meditating with. Willow, I nearly died because of it. And the whole thing is just sick to begin with— finally get a slayer with some experience, she turns 18, and wham! You take her powers away and stick her in a room with a vampire to be killed.”

“That’s messed up…”

Buffy leaned back onto Willow’s bed.

“You’re telling me. And on top of all of that, I got back home and found a note that Anne’s back in the hospital.”

“Oh no! Is she alright? How’s Spike taking it?”

“She’ll be fine. Spike’s worried, because of course he is. We managed to get him home last night, but my mom drove him straight back to the hospital this morning.”

“And how are things going with him?” Willow asked, raising her eyebrow.

Buffy took a deep breath and spilled her guts.

“We almost kissed. The day before yesterday.”

“And you trust him?”

“I don’t know what to think. I mean, he’s not killing anymore, and he’s clearly devoted to our moms…”

“But he’s also not helping you slay, Buffy.”

Buffy looked at Willow skeptically. 

“Weren’t you all over this that one time we all played gin together?”

“I mean, yeah, but honestly, Buffy, I expected him to he helping by now. I mean, where was he when Giles was drugging you?”

Willow’s eyes flew open wide as she realized how callous she was being.

Buffy, on the other hand, just shook her head. 

“No, you’re not wrong. But I wouldn’t have killed Kralik without the knife he gave me for my birthday. And he comforted me. I think he would’ve been there to help if he hadn’t been back in the hospital with Anne. I got that vibe, at least.”

“You never did tell me exactly what happened to Anne, either,” Willow reprimanded.

“I guess she wasn’t feeling great and was having bad coughing fits again. When he checked and saw she wasn’t getting enough oxygen he took her back to the hospital. They kept her overnight for observation, but she should be back home today or tomorrow. They’re putting her on even more antibiotics.”

“I suppose I can understand why he didn’t help this time, but what’ll be his excuse next time?”

“I don’t know, Wills. I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.”

“That we will. For what it’s worth, I hope he gets his act together. You both seem happy together.”

“I just feel like everything is happening so fast and my whole world has been turned upside down. I don’t know how to process any of this. Even if he did start helping me, I don’t know if I’m in any place to be in a relationship, ya know?”

“Are you sure it has nothing to do with what you think you SHOULD do?”

“No,” Buffy said, completely honestly. “That’s holding me back just as much as anything else. What would Giles say? God, you saw how Xander reacted to Spike just being there for New Years. Imagine what would happen when I dropped the bomb that ‘Oh, by the way, Spike’s my new vampire boyfriend!’ He’d completely lose it.”

“I mean, yes, but you’d have me and your moms to go to bat for you. I don’t know if Giles would be that upset about it either, honestly. He’s seen how much Spike has changed.”

“Are you sure about that? I mean, after Jenny… I wouldn’t trust me either.”

“Buffy, that wasn’t your fault. We all trusted him. Hell, I told you to date him. You never could have known.”

“Spike said the same thing,” Buffy said, hanging her head down.

“See? You need to talk to him about all of this. You’re spinning in circles, but the only one who has any answers is Spike. I just want you to know that if he gets his crap together, I’ve got your back.”

Buffy laughed and leaned in to hug her Wills. She couldn’t have picked a better best friend if she tried.

~

Since Buffy had returned from Willow’s that day, she’d been in a constant funk. Willow had gotten into her head, and she was swimming in things she didn’t understand in the least, and it was all leading her to distance herself from everyone.

Including Spike.

They’d only played a few hands of gin, nothing like the constant hands they’d played in between Macbeth studies over Christmas break. Anne had recovered quickly after her short stay in the hospital, so he was at loose ends more often than not. And, quite frankly, he missed her.

So he was surprised when she knocked on the basement door after school one day.

“What’s up, Slayer.”

She stared awkwardly at the floor.

“Just wanted to tell you to be careful when you’re out and about at night is all.”

He raised one eyebrow. “And what’s all this about?”

She sighed in annoyance that he was making her explain. “Look, a new slayer just showed up in town and she feels like a wild card to me.”

“New slayer?”

“Yeah, ‘cause your ho-bag ex killed Kendra, remember?”

He rolled his eyes. “Vague recollection, yeh. Look, don’t worry about me, pet. Know how to take care of myself.”

“Okay good. Last thing I need is to be dragging your ass out of trouble,” she said, but the lack of fire in her words made her sound almost… sad.

“Slayer.” 

When she didn’t answer, he tried again.

 “Buffy.” 

He waited until she finally she lifted her eyes to his to continue. 

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, it’s nothing.”

He stood up and crossed over to where she stood by the stairs, taking her hands.

“You know you can tell me.”

Buffy sighed and gave in. She needed to get it off her chest somehow.

“She’s just… she’s me 2.0, right? Faith’s been everywhere, done everything— and everyone, it seems like. All my friends love her— she showed up at the Bronze last night and they were practically falling all over themselves to talk to her. Then at school Giles was all interested in everything she had to say ever. Hell, you’d probably be super into the whole bad girl thing too.” She laughed bitterly. “It sucks to still be here when the better model rolls around.”

“Buffy, that’s ridiculous. No one is going to take your place, pet. No one could. Haven’t seen this chit yet, of course, but I guarantee you that she can’t come close to your style.”

“Thanks,” she replied, squeezing his hands gently between her own. 

Somehow, with just a few words, he’d started to snap her out of her bad mood and bring them back to the easy camaraderie that, if she were honest with herself, she cherished.

“I’m going to get a start on my math homework, but I’ll see you at dinner.”

“Course you will, love.”

~

The next day when she returned home from school, she headed directly to the basement. Spike was standing at the punching bag in the corner, so she headed directly to his cot and flopped down on it. She covered her eyes with her hands and sighed heavily.

“So what’s on the slayer’s mind this time, huh?”

“You ever heard of the Sisterhood of Jhe?”

“Can’t say that I have,” he replied, walking over and sitting down on the edge of the cot.

“Apocalypse cult,” she supplied, removing her hands from her eyes to look down at him. “They want to open the hellmouth.”

“And then what? Let me guess, lots of vicious hell-beasties come crawling out to make Earth their playground?”

Buffy let out a low snort. “That’s pretty much the long and short of it. But you weren’t here the night I died to see just how bad Hellmouth demons are.”

“You’ll stop it.”

She tried to smile at him, but she couldn’t make it reach her eyes.

“Thanks.”

Spike screwed up his mouth in thought for a moment, then turned back to look at her determinedly.

“Nothin’s happening tonight, though, right?”

“We’re pretty sure not.”

“Then you need a distraction. I’m on dinner tonight, come help me.”

Buffy’s eyes widened and she scrambled to sit up, putting her hands up in front of her in surrender.

“Oh no, Buffy and cooking go together in the way where they pretty much don’t. You don’t want my help.”

His eyes sparkled as he looked at her.

“Come on, Slayer. Don’t tell me you can take on the hordes of hell but you’ll let a little cooking beat you?”

She crossed her arms over her chest.

“Fine. But when the house winds up on fire the repair money is coming out of your estate when you get it!”

He rolled his eyes, but held his hand out to her to help her off the cot.

Neither were as surprised as they should have been when they continued holding hands on the way up the stairs.

~

“Okay, so what do you have planned for me to do that won’t end in a house fire?”

“Oh no, Slayer. We’re not playing risk avoidance today. I’m actually going to teach you something.”

“Good luck with that,” she said sarcastically.

“You’re gonna start by putting water on to boil to make pasta.” 

She rolled her eyes. “Sir, yes, sir.”

As she bent down to grab a pot from the cupboard, he couldn’t help but focus on her arse. She was wearing the tight jeans she’d worn to school, and they stretched in all the right places when she stuck her bum out like that. 

Once she stood and filled the pot, she moved to put it on the stove. He took that opportunity to stand directly behind her and direct her hands in turning on the burner. 

“Don’t want it all the way up, otherwise it might boil over. Gotta be…” he moved his mouth closer to her ear,  “restrained…”

He felt her body’s shudder as it pressed against his, and his mind caught up with him. They were just barely getting back to how things were, it wasn’t the time to push things.

“Next, we have to start the sauce,” he said, suddenly a much safer distance away. Buffy tried her best not to feel so acutely disappointed with the lack of contact.

He talked Buffy through measuring while he chopped ingredients. Once he’d coached her through adding the ingredients at the right times, she’d also started the pasta.

After a few minutes of silence, just standing close to each other, he pulled away to grab a spoon.

He dipped it in the sauce and blew on it softly before holding it to her lips.

As her lips wrapped around it, she couldn’t help but moan.

Only because it was delicious.

Not because this was one of the most sensual moments she’d ever experienced, and they’d literally not even touched each other since she’d put the water on.

Oh no.

But then he set the spoon down and wrapped one arm around her waist. His other hand came up and this thumb swiped across her lower lip, making her shudder again.

“You had sauce,” he whispered, sucking his finger into his mouth for a moment.

Once again they found themselves locked in each other’s stares, slowly moving closer and closer to each other.

Their lips almost met…

Until the sound of the door banging open had them both jumping away from each other, startled.

“William! Buffy! Are you children home?” Anne’s voice called out from the front of the house.

“We’re in the kitchen, mother! Buffy was assisting me in preparing dinner.”

“Oh, that’s lovely,” Anne said with a huge smile as she walked into the kitchen.  

“I’m pleased to see you two getting along,” she said with a pointed look at Buffy, who was unfortunately taking a drink of water at that very moment.

She choked on the drink a little, and Spike rushed over to her as she coughed.

“You okay, pet?”

She nodded, then croaked a soft, “I’m fine. Wrong pipe.”

After a minute, Anne spoke up again. 

“I believe I shall beg your pardon to go crochet while we await Joyce and dinner time.”

“Alright, Anne, we’ll be here if you need us.”

“Of course, my dear. I should expect nothing less from you.”

When she left, they continued the cooking, with Spike reminding her when to stir the food to prevent it from becoming another Buffy Flambe special. It seemed Anne had put a damper on the mood. They stood much further away from each other and the sexual tension had drained from the room. 

That didn’t mean, however, that they weren’t still standing closer together than most platonic friends would.

~

Joyce had arrived home a minute or so before the final timer went off on the food, and their mealtime was as typical as could be.

It was strange, Buffy thought, that the end of the world was looming over her head, her relationship with her mortal enemy was changing big time, and somehow she could sit down to a normal meal with her family. Her family, including said mortal enemy.

Then, after dinner, she sat in the living room with Anne and did her homework, both of them listening to the classical records Joyce had fished out of storage.  Spike and Joyce had found something to do to amuse themselves, and the evening was quiet.

Buffy couldn’t help but fear it was the calm before the storm.

~

The next day she didn’t see Spike until she ran into him as she was leaving Willy’s.

“Bar’s closed, ambulance is on its way, might not want to stick around,” she said brusquely, brushing past him.

“Slayer, what’s going on?”

She sighed and turned to him. “You know that apocalypse I told you about? It’s bad.”

Immediately he spun and went for the trunk of his car, grabbing from it a couple of axes and some stakes.

“What are you doing?” She asked. He couldn’t be…

“What does it look like? If it’s as bad as you say you’re gonna need all the help you can get. Didn’t think you’d turn your nose up at an extra fighter.”

She sputtered, a little shell shocked. “I– what… you… You’re going to help?”

“S’ what I just said, innit?”

She shook her head, trying to clear the myriad of thoughts spinning around. She had to focus, there was an apocalypse coming. She couldn’t be using all her brain power trying to figure out what the hell was happening between them, or freaking out because her ‘if he really cared, he would be helping’ logic had just been turned around on her.

He was helping.

Did that mean he cared?

She shook her head and got into the passenger seat of Spike’s car, forcing herself to focus on directing him to the library.

He was smart enough not to point out the fact that he already knew how to get there.

~

At the school they’d had to tranquilize Oz, and Spike took care of locking him back up. Afterwards, Buffy pulled him into the hallway.

“You should go home and watch out for our moms, Spike.”

He almost laughed. Did she actually think he would leave her to fight this on her own?

“Not happening, Slayer. We’re the only ones strong enough to fight whatever comes out of the Hellmouth. We’re going to do it together.”

She wanted to argue, but she knew it wasn’t the time for it. She couldn’t be distracted any more than she already was about what this might mean for their relationship.

So, instead, she nodded once and walked back into the library, leaving him to follow.

~

Xander had spent the previous night on the floor in Faith’s motel, eager to avoid his likely very drunk parents in the wee hours of the morning.  She’d come on to him, but when he closed his eyes the image of Cordelia flashed in his mind. He’d already made this mistake with Willow, and luckily being kidnapped had been just the wakeup call they needed to stop whatever the hell that had been. He wasn’t about to do it again. 

When he left in the morning and saw the dead guys with their bomb things, he made a split second decision. He had no idea where Buffy might be, but a quick pass by her house had yielded nothing.

He thought about trying to track her down elsewhere, but when he started listing the possible options in his head, there were too many. No, he was just going to have to try to figure this out himself.

When he saw a flash of dark hair across the street, he amended his statement.

He was going to have to figure this out with a little bit of help from a slayer.

~

Inside the library, Buffy, Spike, Giles, and Willow were fighting the gigantic demon spilling forth from the Hellmouth. 

While Giles and Willow were somewhat sloppy, they were still holding their own. Buffy and Spike, however, were excelling. They worked together perfectly, him on her left and her on his right. They communicated with ease and, between their combined efforts, managed to keep the beast at bay.

After a few minutes, Faith came barreling into the room, all thoughts of Xander forgotten as she got an eyeful of the nasty beast. She was so excited by the idea of a fight that she threw herself in headfirst, barely avoiding Giles in her zest for battle.

The fighting felt like it took forever to Buffy and Spike, for whom time had slowed while they worked in tandem. In reality, though, Xander had stopped the dead people fairly quickly.

When he ran through the library doors, he was blathering on about whatever had happened to him, but Buffy and Spike were too busy looking at each other to listen very well.

~

When they got home, the first thing she did was make a beeline for the back porch, hopeful he would follow her.

He did, and they sat down together on the step.

“Why did you help?”

“Wanted a good fight, Slayer, why else?”

“Don’t lie to me, Spike.”

He sighed. “Almost lost you enough times in recent memory, wasn’t about to let you run off and have it happen again when maybe I could stop it.”

“Why do you care?” She asked, her voice hard. A look into her eyes, though, showed fear, not malice.

“Would hurt our mums, wouldn’t it? An’ I have to admit you’re not half bad when you’re not being a self-righteous bitch.”

She slapped his arm, hard.

“What the hell?”

“What?!”

“That was almost a compliment. Why couldn’t you leave well enough alone? Couldn’t just be nice. Noo, have to go ruin it calling me names.”

He smirked. “Sorry, Slayer. Call it how I see it.”

She fumed and stood up to storm inside. He caught her hand.

“Buffy.”

She looked down at him.

“’M sorry, pet, but you can’t deny that you’ve been known to be bitchy, especially lately.”

Her anger turned into a pout.

“Doesn’t mean I like to be called it.”

“I’m sorry, I’ll remember for next time.”

She rolled her eyes and sighed.

“Oh well, it gives me room to say that you’re not half bad when you’re not being an overconfident, commandeering asshole.”

He smirked at her.

“Oh really?”

“Yes, really.”

He tugged on her hand. “Sit yourself back down. Follow the time-honored tradition of letting a bloke spend time with a beautiful lady after battle.”

She blushed, but sat back down. 

She probably shouldn’t have, but she couldn’t help herself. Everything about her relationship with Spike was confusing as hell. When they weren’t snarking at each other, they were almost flirting. And when they weren’t doing either of those things, they had this strange connection that went beyond anything she’d ever felt with Angel. 

“What’s been going on thats eating at you?”

“Give me a chance to finish first before you get all pissy?”

“Yes, Slayer, just tell me what’s going on.”

“I saw Angel a few days ago.”

When Spike opened his mouth to interrupt she clapped a hand over it.

“You said you would let me finish!”

When he nodded again, she let go of him. 

“He doesn’t seem to understand how things have changed. He kept telling me he loved me and I realized I don’t think I love him anymore. I knew I was falling out of love with him, but to have it just be gone is so strange. And not being in love with him, every single thing he does just grates on my nerves. He takes overbearing to a new level for someone who can never give me a straight answer about what he knows.”

Spike laughed. “Well, that’s the Poof for ya, always thinking he knows best.”

“He really, really does. And he has all these expectations of me, and I’m just so sick of it. I told him once that when I kissed him I want to die. Is it too much to ask to love someone who makes me actually happy?”

“I know what you mean, pet.”

When she looked at him skeptically, he sighed and continued. 

“As much as I hated to admit it, Dru and I were never really happy. We had some good times, but I knew there was somewhere she would rather be. And we were never equals. I took care of her, but she wasn’t there for me. She couldn’t be.”

Buffy looked at him curiously.

“Weren’t you married when you were human? Didn’t you come from a time when people got married at 13 or whatever?”

“You don’t think Mum would’ve mentioned if I had a wife? Besides, it was mostly girls who would marry young, secure a dowry for their family.”

“I’m sorry. You deserve something good.”

“So do you.”

Neither had any idea how long they sat there, just enjoying the nearness of the other. It wasn’t until Buffy’s yawns became nearly constant that they finally said goodnight and headed off to bed.


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Next Chapter: Chapter 10

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