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She flipped her pillow over. Turned onto her side. Turned onto the other side. It was no use. Sleep was apparently not happening anytime soon.

Buffy sighed and sat up. At least there’s no one else here to keep awake, she thought wryly. And at least that was her own choice, rather than going to bed with someone and waking up alone. Again.

She hugged her knees to her chest, fighting back tears as she tried to figure out what she’d done wrong. She’d been focused on her mom a lot, but what was she supposed to do? It was her mom, and she’d had cancer. After the surgery, Buffy had done everything she could to set up a special night for Riley. To focus exclusively on him and their relationship. But he’d just… left at some point in the middle of the night. Probably to work out his feelings with a solo patrol, or something.

He’d returned a little after dawn, and she’d pretended that she’d been asleep through it all. Had mumbled sleepily at him as he climbed back into bed, pretending to believe him when he said he’d just been to the bathroom.

Part of her had wanted to yell at him. To sarcastically suggest that maybe he should see a doctor if he needed four hours in the bathroom. But she hadn’t. She’d been too afraid. Afraid that he’d tear into her with all of the things she’d done wrong. All of her failures as a girlfriend. And then it would be over. He’d storm out of the room and leave, glad to finally be free of her….

She flopped back down on her side and wiped at her eyes. At least he wasn’t at that point. Yet. He’d wanted to spend time with her today, but she’d told him to go hang out with his friends or something, so she could have some time with her mom. He’d given her that look – like he’d bitten into the world’s sourest lemon – before flashing her an obviously forced smile and saying he understood.

She and Dawn really had spent some quality time with Mom, but with her still recovering, it hadn’t exactly lasted all night. She could have called him. Invited him over for ice cream and chick flicks. Would he have jumped at the chance? Or would he have given her that sour lemon look along with a long-suffering sigh? And when they went to bed after, would she have woken up just as alone as she was now?

She sighed and turned onto her back, staring up at her ceiling. Ugh. She hated this. Hated feeling like everything was slipping away from her, no matter how hard she tried to hold on. She was the slayer. The Chosen One, and all that. Why couldn’t her power set come along with dreams or something that actually helped in her personal life? And not random stuff about the sun going down if she kissed Riley. She’d kissed him lots of times, now, and she still had no idea what that meant.

I need something clear and concise and…. She blinked and slowly sat up, rummaging through her nightstand drawer until she found what she was looking for. A crystal Willow had made for her not long after the whole Dracula mess. It was supposed to tap into her slayer dreams and give her advice. Hopefully of the non-cryptic variety.

She bit her lip lightly and stared down at the crystal in her hand. She’d forgotten about it, but now that she’d remembered, she should be using it to figure out how to keep her sister safe, not how to fix her love life. Dawn mattered more. Although…. All that stuff about fortune favoring the brave and kisses that made the sun go down had been plopped into a slayer dream about the gentlemen. There was no reason why she couldn’t try for a dream that would help with both her sister and her boyfriend.

Buffy slipped the crystal under her pillow, filled her thoughts with what she wanted to know, and tried to fall asleep.

A stake. Two pentacle necklaces intertwined. A stack of crisp twenties. An old, dusty book, bound in leather. Then the Dagon Sphere and a box full of leftover donuts. All of it was neatly packed into the basket. There was room for something else, but she wasn’t sure what it was supposed to be.

“You must be careful out there, Buffy,” Giles said with a worried frown. “Stay on the path at all times. And always watch carefully for wolves.”

“Yeah, because they’re so hard to spot,” Buffy said dryly as she grabbed a red cloak from the research table. They were in The Magic Box, and it was time to go home. To take her basket of goodies back to Dawn and Mom. “What with the big ears and bushy tails.”

“Those aren’t the wolves you need worry about, my dear. They always show you exactly who they really are, if you’ve the eyes to look.” He took his glasses off, and his eyes were very, very blue as he said, “You must be on your guard against the wolves who wear their fur under the skin.”

“Don’t worry, Giles,” she said, settling the cloak over her shoulders and pulling up the hood. “I’ll be careful.” As she spoke, the scene changed, and she was alone in the woods, on a moonlit path. “I’ve traveled this path before.”

She walked, miles behind her and miles yet to go. Another few steps, and the trees started to thin as the sound of an ax striking wood filled the air. A few more steps, and there he was. Spike, chopping down a tree. The big, furry ears on top of his head twitched as she followed the path towards him, and the tip of his tail – peeking out through the slit in the back of his coat – flicked from side to side. A stack of split logs had already been neatly bound together not far from him.

Buffy’s steps slowed. Stopped. “What are you doing?” she demanded. She’d never pegged Spike as the lumberjack type, which meant he was probably up to something.

“What’s it look like?” He turned towards her, but wouldn’t look her in the eyes. “You got a problem with a bloke cutting a bit of wood in the forest?”

“I do when it’s a wolf doing it right next to the path to my mom’s house. What do you even need wood for, anyway?”

“I… just like having a bit of wood about, is all,” he said unconvincingly, looking down at the ground and kicking at it like a little boy who had been cornered doing something wrong. Then he sighed. “Thought maybe your mum and the little bit could use some firewood. That’s all. You’re a right bitch, but they’re nice enough.”

“Uh-huh.” She took a step towards him, stopping at his sudden growl.

“Not a good idea, Slayer. You should stay on the path.”

“Yeah, right, because I’m so afraid of one little wolf who can’t even bite,” she said sarcastically. But she did stop at the edge of the path. “Nothing in the forest can hurt me.”

“Maybe so, maybe no, but either way, it can distract you. Keep you from realizing the truth.”

“And what exactly is the truth?”

“Me and my kind aren’t what you should be worrying about.” He finally looked directly at her, and his eyes were very, very blue as he said, “I’m exactly what you see, if only you’ve the eyes to really look. It’s the wolves who wear their fur under the skin you have to be wary of.” Then he stepped to the edge of the path and pulled a bouquet of wildflowers out of his coat. “Take this, and hurry on your way. Joyce and the little bit need you.”

“Like they really want your weeds,” she muttered, but she took the flowers and put them into the basket. They filled the empty space perfectly.

He opened his mouth to say something more, then closed it with a scowl as someone called her name. Then he grabbed up his bundle of firewood and loped off into the trees.

“Buffy!” Riley called again, smiling as he made his way towards her on the path. He held up a picnic basket. “Giles told me you were on your way home. I thought maybe we could veer off for a bit and have a picnic in the meadow.”

Buffy shook her head and backed away. “I’m sorry, Riley, but I need to get home. Mom and Dawn need me.”

“What about what you need?” he demanded. “I’m your boyfriend, Buffy. Or at least I thought I was. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

“Of course it does!” she cried out. She wanted to rush to him, but something held her back. Some instinct that told her she couldn’t afford to be distracted. “It’s just….” She glanced behind her along the path, towards her mother’s house. “I’ve been gone so long, and I’ve got so far to go. They need me. I’m sorry, Riley. We’ll do something together once I’ve delivered this basket.”

She turned her back on him and continued walking. It wasn’t long, though, before someone else called her name. It took her a moment, but by the time the man caught up with her, she had recognized him as Ben. The man from the hospital who had been so nice to her while her mom was getting treatment.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

“Just checking to see how you and your family are doing,” he said with a smile.

“We’re all okay,” she assured him, returning the smile. She held up the basket. “I’ve got some goodies packed in here for my mom and sister.”

“That’s good to hear.  Presents and things like that help with recovery a lot more than people realize. In fact….” He broke off with a thoughtful look. “There’s a rosebush just a little off the path. I think getting one from you would do your mom a lot of good. I can take you to it.”

“I’m not supposed to leave the path,” Buffy said dubiously.

A rose did sound like a really good gift for her mother. Definitely better than a bunch of wildflowers. And he’d said it was only a little off the path. It should be safe enough. Shouldn’t it?

“There’s nothing to worry about.” His eyes were blue, but they were not very, very blue as he said, “You’ll be safe with me. I promise.”

She followed him into the woods. They walked for longer than she liked – going farther than what she considered “just a little off the path” – but it wasn’t so far that she couldn’t see the path when they stopped.

And there it was, a rosebush. Nestled in a thick overgrowth of thorns were two perfect blooms, one blood red and the other a gleaming, emerald green.

Ben smiled at her again. “See? Aren’t they perfect?”

“Yeah, but that’s a lot of thorns.” She eyeballed it, wondering how she’d be able to get them without getting hurt.

“Don’t worry about it. I can get the red one,” he offered. “And then once you’ve seen how it’s done, you can get the green one for me. For your sister, I mean. It’s just right for her, don’t you think?”

Buffy hesitated a moment. Something felt… wrong. But he was right. The green rose was perfect for Dawn. “I… I guess that seems like a good idea.”

He smiled once more, and the feeling of wrongness increased. Had his teeth always been that big? Then he was reaching into the thorns to grasp the red rose. As he pulled his hand back, a thorn split the skin along the side of his wrist. Instead of blood, fur showed through the gash.

Be wary of wolves who wear their fur under the skin….

She bolted, running for the path as fast as her legs would take her.

“You’ll never get there in time, Buffy!” Ben called behind her. “Your sister is already as good as mine!”

She hit the path, but didn’t stop running. Not until the house was right there in front of her. The door was open, and a bundle of firewood had been left in front of it. Spike. Spike was there. But he wouldn’t be able to hurt her mother or sister. It was the wolf with his fur under the skin that she had to worry about.

“Buffy!” Riley called out with a smile as she slowly walked into the house. “I guess my shortcut really was faster.”

“What… what are you doing here?”

The smile fell into a pouting frown. “I ran all the way here to spend time with you, and that’s all you can say?”

He crossed his arms over his chest, drawing her attention to the clean white bandage wrapped around his elbow.

“I’m sorry, Riley. I just need to–”

Dawn’s terrified scream from upstairs cut her off. She turned to run up the steps, but Riley grabbed her arm.

“Damn it, Buffy,” he growled. She turned to look at him. His eyes were blue, but they were not very, very blue as he said, “Dawn is fine. You know how she is. Loud and a drama queen. You haven’t even given me a kiss, yet. She can wait at least that long, can’t she?”

“No,” Buffy snapped. “She can’t.”

She yanked her arm free, and as she did, the bandage around his elbow came loose, revealing a bite at the crook of his arm. There was no blood. The tips of fur poked up from the punctures. From under the skin. She just stared for a moment, then kicked him away from her before running up the stairs.

Spike stood in the doorway to her mother’s room, his ax at his side. He was bruised and bloody, but he refused to move as Ben beat at him.

“Slayer!” Spike called out.

He lifted the ax and tossed it towards her. As it flew through the air, it changed, becoming a giant hammer by the time she was able to grab it. She swung, slamming the head into Ben and knocking him away from her family.

“That’s my girl,” Spike gasped out, his legs finally giving out and dropping him to the floor. He looked up at her, and his eyes were very, very blue as he said, “Knew you’d come for us.”


Before she could finish the question, Dawn and Mom came out from under the bed in Mom’s room, joining Spike in the doorway.

Dawn looked down at him, then at Buffy. Her eyes were very, very blue as she said, “We’re okay. Spike kept us safe until you could get here. You can trust him.”

“Oh god,” Buffy said, feeling weak now that everyone was safe. “If he hadn’t been here…. I never would have thought Ben or Riley….” Her eyes widened. “Riley. He’s still downstairs. I have to–”

“S’alright, love,” Spike said, getting to his feet. And his eyes were very, very blue as he said, “Wolves hiding their fur under the skin, the both of them, but they aren’t working together. And they aren’t after the same thing. All you have to do right now is…. Wake up.”

“…wake up.”

“Riley?” Buffy mumbled groggily, not sure if she was awake or still dreaming. It was still the middle of the night in her bedroom. Usually, it would be Riley slipping in. Maybe that was why his name was the first to pop out of her mouth, despite the voice being all wrong. And despite the dream she’d just had. God, that dream….

“No,” Spike said quietly. “It’s me. Come on. Up and at ‘em, Slayer.”

“Every time you show up like this, you risk all of your parts, you know that?” she grumbled, sitting up and holding the sheet against her chest.

She squinted, just barely able to make out the vampire standing in her room. She couldn’t be sure, but he looked almost… nervous.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have a good reason. As usual, I’m here to help you, and I – are you naked under there?”

She felt her cheeks heat. Great. Just great. One of the few non-sexytime nights that she went to bed without her jammies, and of course Spike ended up in her room. She rolled her eyes at him. “Get out.”

“No, I’m serious. I mean, not about the naked part, I mean….” He fumbled and tripped over his words, and it was oddly adorable.

No, she told herself. Spike was not adorable. Especially not while he was tilting his head to the side and sort of leaning forward, like he was trying to see around the sheet. Seriously creepy. But she couldn’t help thinking about the dream. Of Spike with big furry ears and a tail, like some sort of puppy. A puppy who had let himself get beaten to protect her family.

“Get out, or I will drop you out head first.” The words came out without really thinking about them. The familiar, comforting banter they usually exchanged. He was here for a reason. She wasn’t going to punt him out the window, but she needed a minute to gather her thoughts. To try to figure out everything she’d just dreamed about. “Look, this really isn’t the best–”

“I wanna show you something.”

She blinked. Something about his voice…. She’d rarely heard him like this. Quiet. Deadly serious. When he sounded like that, it was important to pay attention. “What?”

“You need to see this. But we need to move if we wanna get there in time.”

“Okay,” she said, waiting for him to turn around so she could get dressed.

Sudden nerves twisted in her gut. She didn’t want to deal with whatever this was. She wanted to tell him to leave. To just hide under the covers and try to analyze her dream. Or just not think about anything at all.

Spike wasn’t turning around. He was just standing there, looking impatient. Oh, good grief. She sighed and looked down at herself, then at him, raising an eyebrow. He just stared blankly for a moment, then practically tripped over his own feet as he turned around.

“Oh, please,” he muttered. “Like I give a bloody damn.”

She rolled her eyes before quickly getting out of bed and dressed. Then she was following Spike out of the house and out into the Sunnydale streets.

Part of her wanted to go back, but there was a strange weight to the night. She was awake, but it felt like she was still walking a path through the woods. And that no matter what she found at the end, leaving the path would be infinitely worse. She tried to tell herself that she was going to find out more about Ben, but she knew. Even before she followed Spike into the warehouse and up the stairs. Knew before he led her to the open doorway of a room.


His lips were parted as he softly panted. His eyes heavy-lidded. His voice breathy with need as he ordered the female vampire to bite him harder.

“Oh, god,” she whispered.

Riley’s eyes widened, emotions chasing each other across his face as he stared at her. Shock. Horror. A little bit of guilt. The beginnings of petulant anger that blossomed into full blown rage as he glanced towards the vampire at her side.

His mouth opened to say something, to maybe try to come up with some kind of defense for what she was seeing. Buffy refused to listen. She turned and ran. Down through the warehouse, blind to what was going on around her. Deaf to any shouts.

She burst out through the door and into the street, still running. But she couldn’t outrun what she’d seen. Couldn’t outrun the dream she’d had. Riley, lost in more pleasure than he’d shown during their most recent night together. Pouting and angry in her dream because he wasn’t the center of her attention at all times. The fur hidden under his skin. The look of rage as he’d realized Spike had been the one to reveal his dirty secret….

Damn it.

She slowed and then stopped, leaning forward with her hands on her thighs as she just focused on breathing for a moment. Spike wouldn’t be able to protect himself if Riley decided to go after him for this. She wanted to not care. To feel like Spike deserved it. But her head was full of the image from her dream. Spike bruised and bloody from protecting her sister. How blue Dawn’s eyes had been when she’d said he had kept her and Mom safe.

Buffy sighed and straightened. She was going to have to go back. Grab Spike and hide him away somewhere until after–

The sound of footsteps behind her. Riley. He must have…. She whirled around, heart pounding at the thought of confronting her boyfriend so soon after what she’d seen. Except it wasn’t Riley behind her.

“Whoa there, Slayer,” Spike said, putting his hands up in a stopping gesture. “Thought you deserved to know what the tin soldier was up to. No need to shoot the messenger over it.”

He looked like he expected her to punch him in the nose. She considered it, her hand clenching into a fist at her side. Then she sighed and let it go.

“It’s not your fault. All you did was show me….” She frowned, eyes narrowing. “How exactly did you know he was going to be there? And what is that place, anyway?”

“A suck house,” he said with a look of utter disgust. “They only take a few ounces a night from any one person, making sure they can keep coming back for more all regular like. As for how I knew Captain Cardboard would be there….” He shrugged and looked away. “I happened to be in the neighborhood of… your neighborhood the other night and happened to see him sneaking off out your window. I’ve always been a curious fellow, and as I’d nothing better to do at the time, I decided to see what he was up to all on his lonesome.”

The other night…. The special, romantic night she’d set up for Riley, so they could spend time together, just the two of them. And he’d left. Not on a patrol like she’d assumed, but to cheat on her. With vampire hos.

“I knew you wouldn’t believe me if I went back and just told you about it,” Spike continued quietly. “So I waited, seeing how long he’d be there. Then when I saw him heading that way tonight, I went to get you. We may be enemies, but that doesn’t mean I’d just let you stay in the dark about something like that.”

She opened her mouth, about to say something about how he must just be loving rubbing her face in it. Then he looked at her, and the expression in his eyes…. Compassion. Sympathy. Why would he…?

A memory surfaced from a couple of years back. Spike in her house, drinking cocoa with Dawn and Mom while blubbering over Drusilla. They’d been enemies and allies, and whatever they were now that he was harmless. And now they were both people who had been cheated on. God. She’d made fun of him so much for crying over Drusilla. Now, though….

Now, she wished she could have hot cocoa and cry on her mother’s shoulder over Riley. But Mom was still recovering and needed her rest, and Dawn had school in the morning. She could call Willow, but she really didn’t want to tell her friends about it yet. Would they be on her side? Or insist that Riley was a good guy, and she must have done something to push him away? And they’d be right. She had to have done something. He was a good guy. He was….

A wolf who wore his fur under the skin.

In the dream, he’d tried to distract her. To keep her from following the path. He hadn’t tried to attack her family, but he had tried to keep her from helping them. And in real life….

She thought back to his “joke” about doing experiments on the two Xanders after he’d been split in two. That’s what she’d thought it was at the time. Just a bad joke. What if it hadn’t been? Riley had been okay with experiments on demons that looked completely human. He’d even been fine with what The Initiative had planned for Oz, only helping at her insistence. And what, exactly, had happened to Ethan Raine after they took him away?

What would happen to Dawn if Riley ever found out the truth about her?

“Not your fault, you know,” Spike said suddenly, breaking into her thoughts. “That Finn cheated.”

“What if he only did it because I wasn’t giving him what he needed?”

God. All the thoughts she’d just been having, and that was what automatically came out of her mouth? Riley’s less-than-stellar character traits were all becoming painfully clear, but she couldn’t help thinking it was still somehow her fault.

Spike snorted and rolled his eyes. “He’s what, twenty-six? Twenty-seven?”


She watched as Spike pulled out a cigarette and his lighter, the flame reminding her of firewood chopped to make sure her mom and sister would be warm enough. Of the vampire bruised and bloody from protecting them.

“Even so,” he said before taking a long drag of his cigarette. “He’s a bloody adult, isn’t he? He could damn well act like it. If he wasn’t getting his needs met, first step would have been to talk to you about it. Not sneaking off to get his jollies at a bloody suck house.” He shook his head in disgust. “Those places police themselves, but that doesn’t mean a fox isn’t gonna slip into the hen house and turn someone. Your little sis, she let Harmony into your house, and she bloody well knew she was a vampire. She’d invite a turned Riley in without even thinking about it.”

She hadn’t even thought of that. She felt sick. Riley hadn’t just cheated on her. He’d put himself and everyone she cared about in danger.

It’s over, she thought, feeling numb as she stared down at her feet. She didn’t care if he showed up with flowers and the world’s most sincere apology. It was over. She couldn’t trust him, and she couldn’t have someone she didn’t trust in her life.

She glanced up at Spike, frozen for a moment as she stared into his eyes. Had they always been so vividly blue? Almost as blue as Dawn’s had been in the dream when she’d said that the vampire could be trusted. Almost as blue as his when both he and Giles had said that what he was was plain to see if she had the eyes to really look.

“Come on,” she said quietly, grabbing Spike’s arm and shoving him out in front of her. She wasn’t ready to look. Not yet. But she wasn’t going to leave him where Riley could get at him if he decided he wanted revenge.


“I am seriously in need of a night of chick flicks and ice cream, and I don’t want to do it alone. You’re the one who showed me what Riley was up to, so you have to binge with me.”

He grumbled a bit, but walked with her towards her house with no real complaints. “Fine, but you’re sharing the bloody ice cream.”

It was a little bit after noon when Riley showed up. Buffy answered the door, putting her hand on his chest and gently pushing him back when he tried to go in. Then she stepped out and closed the door behind her. He looked at the door, then at her, his expression unreadable.

“Spike skipped town,” were the first words out of his mouth. Not any kind of apology. Just confirmation that he’d gone after Spike. With a slight bulge in his jacket pocket.

Ugh. She’d brought the vampire home with her just in case Riley decided to retaliate, but she’d really been hoping it was an overreaction on her part. Looked like it hadn’t been.

“So you went out to hunt for Spike? With one of these,” she pulled the stake out of his pocket, “on you during the day?”

He flushed, anger replacing the neutral look on his face. “After what he did? You’re damn right, I did.”

“After what he did?” she repeated. She’d been feeling mostly tired and sad before she’d opened the door. Now she could feel her own anger building. “And what, exactly, did he do? Drag you kicking and screaming to that place? That’s pretty impressive for a vampire who can’t even hurt anyone. I guess that’s why you needed this.” She waved the stake at him. “What if the nasty, mean vampire had forced you to cheat on me again? Had to be able to protect yourself, right?”

“That’s not…. Damn it!” Riley made a frustrated noise and ran a hand through his hair. “Look, it’s not even real, okay? Just plastic made up to look like wood.”

Buffy almost dropped it, utterly revolted. A real stake was one thing. Something he’d grabbed in the heat of the moment. But a fake? Why would he even have something like that? What had he planned to do with it? Terrorize Spike for letting her know what was going on?

She could easily imagine the Initiative having a stockpile of the things, the soldiers using them to stake captured vampires over and over again as they practiced their technique. She shuddered at the thought. She killed vampires. Vampire Slayer, The. But she didn’t torture them.

“I know I messed up,” Riley continued. “What I did was stupid and wrong. I do know that. But you aren’t entirely blameless here.”

She stared at him incredulously. Seriously? He was going to try to blame her for what he’d decided to do? Maybe it would have worked in other circumstances, but not with Spike’s words from last night running through her mind. Riley could have talked to her about any problems. He hadn’t even tried.

“What, now I’m the one who dragged you kicking and screaming to a warehouse full of vampire whores?”

“Damn it, Buffy!” He took a deep breath and slowly let it out, visibly trying to control himself. “Those vampires needed me. And you… don’t. You keep me at a distance. You didn’t even call when your mom went into the hospital.”

“Oh, gee, I’m so sorry I couldn’t take care of you when I thought my mother was dying.”

It was just like in the dream. He’d been sulking all this time because he didn’t feel like she’d paid enough attention to him while her mother had been sick. It was disgusting.

“That’s not what this is about. It’s about me taking care of you. It’s about you letting me in. So you don’t have to be on top of things all the time.”

Buffy’s eyes narrowed, her arms crossing over her chest as she leaned against the door. “So, basically, you want to be all strong and manly, and got pissy that I won’t be a damsel for you.”

“What? No! That’s not….” He hissed out a breath between his teeth. “They want me back.”

“The vampires? Yeah, I bet. Money and blood. It’s a good deal for them.”

“I’m not talking about the damn vampires!” He shouted. Then he just breathed for a moment before continuing. “The military. They want me for a deep undercover mission. No contact with civilians. The transport’s leaving tonight. Unless you give me a reason to stay, I’m–”

“I think that’s for the best,” Buffy interrupted quietly. If he was gone, then she wouldn’t have to worry about what would happen if he got himself turned. Wouldn’t have to worry about what he’d do to Dawn if he found out what she was. Wouldn’t have to worry that her friends would encourage her to just forgive and forget what he’d done and give him another chance.

“You…. What?”

“Think it’s for the best,” she repeated, pushing off from the door. “This thing between us? It’s done. Over. A clean break is a good idea, so you go off and make yourself feel better by being a big, strong soldier.”

“Damn it, Buffy, you’re not being fair!”

“No, I’m not,” she agreed quietly. “But I was just about to sit down to lunch with Mom when you showed up, so I really don’t have the time to yell at you like you deserve.” She turned and opened the door. “Goodbye, Riley.”

She went inside and shut the door, leaning against it for a moment. Then she locked it before heading into the dining room, where Mom was waiting. Spike swept in from the kitchen right after, balancing three plates of curry.

“Kept everything warm while you and Soldier Boy had your little chat,” he said, setting the plates on the table.

He’d made breakfast that morning, too. It was kind of weird. Who would have thought someone who didn’t need to eat human food would be so good at cooking it?

“How did it go?” Mom asked gently.

“Not great, but it could have been worse.” Buffy sighed and put Riley’s fake stake on the end of the table before sitting down. “He apparently spent the morning looking for Spike so he could torture him with a plastic stake. And now he’s planning to pack up tonight and head out to who-knows-where with the military.”

Spike snorted in disgust as he sat down across from Mom. “Lovely sort, isn’t he? Good riddance.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Mom agreed. Then she dug into her lunch. “Mmm. This is fantastic. If you keep cooking, you can definitely stay until we know for sure Riley’s really gone.”

“I can ask Giles to keep an eye on him,” Buffy said before taking a bite. Damn. That really was good. “I don’t think I’ll let Xander or Willow know about what happened until Riley’s confirmed out of Sunnydale. They’d probably try to convince him to stay and work things out.”

Or maybe Willow would actually follow through on her shovel threat. She let that fantasy play out for a moment, then shook it away. Better to just let Riley go without any issues.

She took another bite, then looked over at Spike, words he had spoken in her dream drifting through her mind. I’m exactly what you see, if only you’ve the eyes to really look. She still wasn’t ready to look.

But she wasn’t going to forget that, in the dream, he had gone out of his way to keep her family safe.

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Reviews ( 4 )

March 29, 2022 12:04

Okay, so maybe this still wouldn't have fixed her Ben is Glory problem, nor would it have saved her mom, or even herself, but damn if it wouldn't have been a much better way to make a clean break from Riley, and maybe, just maybe, be more open to the idea that Spike is more than a villain unable to do evil for the moment.

Billy drake
February 11, 2022 13:19

Great story.

December 28, 2021 06:54

Oh this is gorgeous! I love introspective Buffy! I do wish she had acknowledged that Riley had been the bad guy in that situation in the show!

January 9, 2021 13:53

Oh, I loved this little fic! Reveals so much to Buffy and speaks to the true character of each of the men. It could so be expanded! I am always up for Spuffy goodness and yours is the best!

And thanks for mentioning west of the storm. I'd never have found it with out the reference.