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Previous Chapter: Chapter 8: Goodbye Darkness

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The Ring Talks

Part 1: Taking Initiative

Chapter 9: Whose Girl?

Spike’s been making some progress toward getting the crypt back in shape. I guess one of us has had a less than disastrous couple of weeks. It’s starting to look good in here again. By crypt standards, anyway. I don’t know where he is, but with the reputation he’s earning in the local demon population, someone at Willy’s probably does.

When I get to the bar, every eye in the place turns toward me. They’re looking to see if I’m going to start any trouble. I like the feeling of power that gives me. There are upsides to being the slayer, once in a while.

One of the sets of eyes watching me is a very distinctive dark blue. I guess he figured out when it was safe to visit his favorite watering hole. I should’ve known he wouldn’t give it up completely, even if going back at all was risky. Typical Spike.

I lean against the bar, a few stools down from where he’s sitting, but I avoid eye contact. “Hey, Willy. I was wondering if you’ve heard anything new.”

Willy shakes his head as he pours a drink. “All I know is, half my regular clientele’s either missing or gone into hiding. Whatever it is, it’s not gonna be pretty when it goes down. Meantime, I’m losing money every night of the week. You’re gonna have to do something about this, Slayer. ”

I run my left hand through my hair. Slowly, and in full view of Spike, who I’m sure is watching me at least as closely as the other demons. “Yeah, I know. Thanks, anyway.”

I turn and walk out of the bar, retracing my steps to Restfield cemetery, to Spike’s crypt.

He shows up about ten minutes after I do. He hops up to sit beside me on the sarcophagus, and reaches out to touch the ring. “Been a while.”

“I know. I’ve been… dealing with some stuff.”

“Yeah, I figured something was up.”

I fill him in on the Faith fiasco, finishing with, “And then I find out she slept with Riley… and he didn’t even know it wasn’t me.” I’m fighting back tears, and I’m very close to losing.

“Makes sense now,” Spike mutters. “Guess who made a pass at me at the Bronze?”

The urge to cry is buried under a fresh wave of irritation. “What?! She did that in my body, too?”

“Didn’t get anywhere, so no. Knew something wasn’t right about it.”

“At least somebody noticed.”

“Now you gotta decide, Slayer. Which is worse? Hitting on me or shagging Captain Cardboard?”

“Captain Unobservant, you mean.”

“Yeah. There’s that.”

We sit in silence for a minute before I whisper, “Him. Much, much worse.” I take a deep, shuddering breath. “I’m not sure I can shake that off.”

“So don’t.”

Spike’s answer sounds so clean and painless. I wish it felt as simple as he makes it out to be.

“Even not counting the personal stuff… Spike, Riley’s our way into the Initiative. I have to keep him close. He knows way more than anyone else about that place. You know, anyone who will talk to us.”

“You lot decide to crash the mad scientist party, save a surgeon for me.”

“We probably should be looking at what comes after that next step, you know. Even if–” I gulp. “Even if you leave, if I help you get that thing out of your head, I’ll be partially responsible for every body you leave behind from then until the day somebody dusts your sorry ass.”

“Figured that would be you.”

“If you stay in town, it will be. …So is that the plan? You’re going to stay?”

“Take me into that hellhole with you. I’ll fetch a doctor, myself. No fault of yours what happens after.”

“That’s really not much better than straight up getting the doctor for you.”

“I gotta get rid of it, Buffy.”

I fidget with the ring, sliding it from one finger to the next. “I know. It’s not natural, and it isn’t right.”

I’m hoping to see on his face that he’s considering the third option, the one we both know, but neither of us has said out loud, because the Angel comparisons would be all over it: butcher’s blood by choice. I really, really want him to consider it. It’s the only way helping him won’t be screwing myself over. But I can’t be sure what he’s thinking. All I see on his face right now is determination. He’s probably not thinking any further ahead than getting that chip out.

Maybe I can nudge him into thinking about the next step. “I can’t not come after you if you’re hunting in Sunnydale again.”

“Way of the world. Promised myself you’d be my third.” He shrugs, but there’s something off about his suddenly casual attitude. “Never thought it’d take this long, but that was the idea.”

“If I didn’t know better, Spike, I’d think you were reluctant.”

“It’ll be hard to have late night chats with you when you’re dead, that’s all.”

“Please! You know I’d win.” I roll my eyes. “Cocky, much? Besides, if you like these talks so much, why haven’t we had one in two weeks?”

“I wasn’t the one carrying the excuse, Slayer.”

My gaze drifts to his ring, which I’m still fidgeting with, shifting from finger to finger while we talk. It’s worked its way to my right hand, and is right next to my high school class ring. I move the skull ring back to my left hand and pull off the class ring. “Try this on.”

It fits his pinky. “Good enough, but won’t your mates say something about it being missing?”

“They’ll never notice.”

“And the soldier boy?”

I raise an eyebrow. “We’re talking about a guy who didn’t notice he was screwing the wrong slayer.”

“You know, I can’t figure out if you want to get violent or weepy over that. You’re all over the place.”

“Um, both? And I really can’t do anything about it. We need him on the team right now.”

“So downgrade the berk from boyfriend to Scooby. He’s a big boy. He can take it.”

“Are you sure? …And oh god, I’m trying to get advice from you. Dammit. I promised myself…”

Spike chuckles. “The way I figure it, that’s the whole reason you came looking for me. You need an outsider’s opinion. I can accept it if you can.”

“How much of an outsider are you if you knew something wasn’t right just from flirting and he didn’t from… a hell of a lot more?”

“Still no bleedin’ Scooby. Not gonna tell you to keep him just ’cause he’s not Angel.”

“I see I’m not the only one reading the ‘pro-Riley’ subtext that’s going around.”

“Been going ’round for months. They aren’t as subtle as they think they are.”

We stare across the darkened crypt together for a few minutes, letting our thoughts wander. I don’t know what Spike is thinking about, but me? I’m all tangled up in Riley stuff. Boyfriend? Ex-boyfriend? Scooby? I don’t know what to do with him, and -with all this Adam and Initiative stuff going on- I’m not sure what my motivation will be if I keep seeing him.

“I don’t know, Spike. I know I can ‘downgrade’ him to a Scooby if I have to, ’cause he’s a guy who will stick with a mission. But ending the relationship… I mean, he’s a decent guy, and it’s kinda going well.”

The silence resumes. I glance over, and Spike looks like he’s trying to decide on something. “Love, does he ever laugh at your jokes?”

“Um, not often. He still doesn’t really get my humor, you know?”

“He ever try to dance with you in the living room? Or make you want to?”

No. He doesn’t. My relationship with Riley is very serious. It isn’t Angel-level serious, but there isn’t a whole lot of fun and silly there, either. Honestly, I think I spend more time laughing and goofing off with Spike than I do Riley, and Spike and I aren’t exactly hanging out every day.

I jump off the sarcophagus and head for the door. “Thanks, Spike. Don’t lose my ring.”

“Replaced the telly,” he says. “Old, but it does the job.”

“I saw that.” I turn around at the door. “Nick at Nite, sometime soon? It’s been a while.”

“I’ll have Cokes waiting in the fridge.”

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Table of Contents
Previous Chapter: Chapter 8: Goodbye Darkness

Reviews ( 2 )

March 1, 2022 01:32

Love this. 🌈

Zab Jade
February 28, 2022 20:28

I love this chapter. I hated it in canon, how Buffy was encouraged from her justified anger and told to just forgive Riley. He had to know something was off with Buffy. Faith had never met Riley before and had no idea how Buffy interacted with him. They flirt and have sex in completely different ways. Even if he didn't immediately think that she'd been body swapped, he should have thought drugs or some kind of demon mind control or something.

Spike is the only one currently treating her with respect. He doesn't treat her like a child or a pet. She's Buffy.