Hold Onto Me Part Two


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Buffy stirred and sat up, looking around for Spike. A glance at the windows told her that it was late afternoon and she cursed herself for sleeping so late. She had wanted to get up, go talk to Cordy and be back before he awoke so he wouldn’t know. Something about best laid plans…

She shoved the cover back and walked into the living room. He sat on the couch, dressed in leather pants and nothing else, laughing at something on the television. When he saw her he flipped it off and stood. “Hey.”

“Ever the gentleman.” Buffy smiled, surprised yet again that this was SPIKE. “You can sit back down though because I’m going to get a shower and get ready. Hopefully we can get everything taken care of tonight.”

Nodding, he handed her a menu and said, “Room service? I’ll call and order while you’re in the shower.”

“So sweet.” She mumbled, staring at the menu. She decided to stick with something light and chose a salad.

“A salad?” Spike frowned. “You’re a human being. Why would you eat something like that?”

“What?” Buffy grinned. “You’re suddenly a big expert on what humans eat?”

“I know what is and isn’t healthy.” He took the menu and stared at it. “How about a steak?”

“I have a stake.”

“Slayer, you’re eating more than a salad.” He was still staring intently at the menu. “Go on. I’ll get you something.”

“I’m suddenly terrified.” Buffy eyed the menu over his shoulder. “Nothing greasy! I don’t need zits because I have that oral presentation in psychology class next week and nothing really starchy because…”

“Get out!” He pointed toward her bedroom and she muttered several lewd comments under her breath but complied.

Grinning, he watched her shoot him a dirty look and shut the door. He liked making decisions for her. Maybe it was his domineering side but whatever it was felt nice. He wondered why he had such a soft spot for needy women as he flipped through the menu. It was like he needed to be taking care of someone to be whole. He wanted to chalk it up to the fact that he had been driven to be a doctor when Angel changed him…a surgeon perhaps. Which probably explained his fascination with tearing people apart with railroad spikes. He just wanted to see how they worked.

Grinning at the good old days, he picked up the phone and ordered her a medium well stake, baked potato and a vegetable medley. He was going to ask for a special desert but the woman on the phone cut him off. “Rude Bitch.”

Thinking about his past and being angered by the woman left him hoping the night would bring an abundance of violence.

Or maybe Angel could trip and fall into his stake.

A man had nothing if he didn’t have hope.

**

Cordelia zipped her black jeans and stared at her reflection in the mirror. Adjusting her dark blue shirt, she sighed. She had looked positively frumpy next to Buffy the previous day and if Buffy wore another Vera Wang she would offer herself as a sacrifice to get out of the Slayer’s shadow. It was supposed to be the other way around. SHE was supposed to be the one in the spotlight.

Biting back tears, she looked at her half empty closet and the three pair of shoes. Just over a year ago she had enough shoes to make Imelda Marcos jealous and now she had three pair. The tennis shoes wouldn’t do. She had worn the heels yesterday so she settled on the black boots. Cordy was sure that if anyone ever found out she had sold all her clothes, jewelry and lingerie just to get to California where she hadn’t even gotten a callback to her auditions, she would die.

Dressed, she stared at her hair. Hair that once looked so polished and shiny and had every indulgence now relied on Suave to make her look like she had spent a fortune on her hair but actually spent less than five bucks. She lifted her silver handled brush, the only thing she had left to remind her of her previous wealth and closed her eyes, dragging the hard bristles through her hair.

Then she did something that used to terrify her. She dug through her bureau and took out a teasing comb, intent on giving her hair some life no matter how cheap the products were.

**

“Hurry up.” Spike said for the fifteenth time. “The sun’s been down half an hour and the wanker will think I’ve killed you or something.”

“It’s your fault.” Buffy called back, her voice muffled by the bedroom door, which she had closed so she could get dressed. “I can’t get my pants to zip because you made me eat three tons of food!”

“Then wear a dress.” He suggested, staring at the clock again. The night couldn’t end until it started. It was going to be a long night if this was the pace.

“I can’t.” She cried. She was lying on her back, struggling to tug the zipper up of her favorite leather pants. Willow had bought them for her when she went to Baja with Oz so he could perform. There was a motorcycle show there that they went to just to see what it was about and her friend had found these and said they screamed, “Fuck You.” Buffy wore them when she wanted to look unapproachable and bad ass.

“Why can’t you?” Spike stuck his head in the door and narrowed his eyes. She KNEW that those pants drove him insane! “Yes, wear a dress.”

“I’ll probably be slaying tonight, Spike. Sorry if I don’t want to show the world my thong.”

He saw her point. “Let me try.”

“Don’t pinch me.” She told him, but moved her hands away.

As he clasped the zipper, he brushed the smooth skin of her stomach with his fingertips, causing them both to visibly shudder. After several attempts he said. “It’s not going.”

“It has to go.”

“You brought your entire wardrobe so pick something else.” He was tired of seeing her skin so exposed, so ready to be kissed.

“If I wanted to wear something else then I would have picked it out first.” She snapped and began tugging at the zipper again.

“Well, can’t you at least look for something else?”

“It took me thirty minutes to pick this outfit. Do you really want me to go through every single suitcase until I find something else? Because I’m a woman, I know for a fact that I want to wear THIS outfit and nothing else will make me happy.”

“Bloody HELL!” He stalked around the room and finally yanked a coat hanger out of the closet. He tried to fit the hook through the small hole in the zipper pull but it was a little too big. Swearing, he peeled the plastic coating away and tried again, fitting it through and tugging upward.

It gave and so did he. As her pants zipped, he fell on top of her. Buffy gasped and he shot back to his feet, trying not to appear out of sorts. He looked at her and said, “Ready?”

“Shoes. Let me get my shoes.” She got to her feet and quickly grabbed a pair of black boots from her closet.

It was undeniable. She had felt it. There was something between them besides the coat hanger he had stuck through her zipper. When he fell on top of her she had felt HIM…hard as a rock and digging into her pelvic bone. It didn’t matter what she faced that night.

How was she going to get her mind off of THAT!?

**

“I can’t take my mind off of it.” Angel snapped. “This is BUFFY we are talking about here.”

Doyle finished buttoning his shirt and stood, slipping on his loafers. “I know who she is. I know what she is. And she HAS to be our salvation and she can’t do that if you upset her to the point she’s breathing into a sack again.”

The vampire slumped against the wall. Seeing Buffy that way had broken his heart in two. Never in his wildest dreams did he ever think she would be so…weak. Was she even strong enough to do anything about this? “What if she isn’t strong enough?”

“She will be. And she’ll have all of us to help her.” Doyle brushed past him. “And what did you do to your hair?”

“Nothing.” Angel replied, running a hand through his soft gel-free hair. He hadn’t even remembered to fix his hair.

“That’s what I thought.” Grinned Doyle.

“Fuck!” The vampire cringed and stalked toward the door.

Cordelia, with bigger hair than even Angel usually had, stuck her head in. “They just pulled up.”

“Cordy, have you seen my gel?” Asked her boss. “It was almost empty.”

“Uh, yeah.” The brunette patted her hair. “A little bit went a long way.”

He shut his eyes. “You used it all?”

“It was almost empty.” She replied with a small shrug.

Angel pushed past her and went into his bedroom. Cordy watched him go and said, “Great. Now he’ll be mope boy all night.”

“What was his reason before?” Doyle asked, following Cordy to the office.

Cordy immediately frowned at her choice of clothing when she saw Buffy. The girl looked amazing. Her hair was blown straight, hanging down her back almost to her waist and it was parted deep on the side and held back with a metal clip. She was wearing black leather pants with some pattern in them and a red velvet body shirt that looked so luxurious Cordy wanted to ask to touch it. She looked natural and beautiful, whereas Cordelia had spent forty minutes and a can of hair spray making sure she had fake body.

Buffy saw her and smiled, dropping the bag she had brought in. “Hey Cordy!”

“Hi.” She said sadly, still eyeing the girl's thin frame. “You look good, Buffy.”

“I dressed for function. These are my lucky pants.” Buffy couldn’t believe it but she’d swear that Cordelia Chase was envious of her clothes. HER clothes and not the other way around. “I like your shirt. It’s a great color.”

Cordy only nodded and stepped aside as Angel walked through the door wearing a base-ball cap. Spike snorted and said, “Aww. Did Pooh run out of the sticky stuff?”

“Shut up, Spike.” He looked at Buffy as he said it, drinking in her appearance and deciding that she had, indeed, changed in the last year. She was still beautiful, but he could see a hardness to her that she never had before.

“He’s out of gel.” Cordy shrugged. “And Angel, you so don’t have a hat head.”

“Did you see There’s Something About Mary, Angel?” Buffy asked innocently.

“No. Is it good?” He was shocked and pleased that she was making casual conversation with him.

The sound of Spike and Cordy’s laughter made Buffy join them and she nodded. “Great grooming tips. Cameron Diaz’s character, Mary, was able to get more lift in the front of her hair than anyone.”

“I’ll have to watch it.” He nodded, weary of what he’d actually see because the laughter was unbearable.

“I’ll HAVE to be there for that.” Cordy winked at Buffy.

“Anyway,” Doyle interrupted. “To address the business at hand…”

“Right.” Buffy stopped giggling and went into full Slayer mode. ”I have a few questions.”

“I have a FEW answers. Not many, I’m afraid.” Doyle offered an apologetic shrug and sat down.

“When is this ritual set to take place?” She asked absently, squatting to look in the side of her bag for a stick of gum.

“Saturday. That gives us three days counting tonight.”

“Is Wesley the lead vampire right now?” Buffy asked, lifting her bag and sitting it on his desk, still rummaging.

“We think so.” Angel answered.

“You THINK so?” Buffy raised an eyebrow and stopped looking for gum. “I need to KNOW so. I mean, he’s dead either way but I need to get my priorities worked out here. I need to know who to go after the hardest. How many vampires do you think are involved?”

“Roughly, I’d say about forty, give or take a few.” Doyle frowned.

“I need you guys to take me to their…lair…I guess. I need to bug the place while you guys cause a distraction."

"Bug?" Asked Cordy, looking confused. "A bug?"

"I'm going to plant a bug inside the building." Buffy finally found a pack of Bubble Yum and shoved a piece into her mouth.

Spike shook his head. "I thought this was a detective agency. She doesn't know what a bug is?"

Angel and Doyle both shrugged, inwardly embarrassed by her lack of knowledge and the fact that they still kept her on the payroll.

Buffy popped a big bubble and said, "With that many vampires involved I don’ t feel comfortable with just barging in and kicking ass. I want to hear what ’s on their pathetic little minds and take them out a few at a time. When I thin out their family, I’ll make my move.”

“Sounds like a good plan.” Spike smiled, proud of her for staying focused.

“No it doesn’t.” Doyle said. “If we cause a distraction then they’re going to know we’re on to them.”

“Not necessarily.” Cordelia smiled, pleased with herself for offering to help. “I’m the queen of distraction.”

“I don’t want to put you at risk, Cordy.” Buffy shook her head. “I guess I can take my chances alone and hope they’re all out hunting.”

“No.” Spike shook his head firmly. “You aren’t going in alone. No one knows that I’ve been working with you because we kill everyone who does. Poof here didn’t even know. I’ll go inside and talk to them, pretend I want in on the action and check out who is behind it. Hopefully, I can get them out for a beer and you can make your move.”

“I don’t know.” Buffy’s stomach churned at the thought of him being in the middle of things. He could hold his own with the best of them but if anything ever happened to him, she’d die too.

“We don’t have a lot of time.” Doyle stated the obvious.

“Okay. Surveillance first. I want to get a feel for the area anyway.” Buffy shrugged.

“We don’t exactly have much in the way of equipment.” Doyle cleared his throat. “Actually, we don’t have much in the way of anything.”

“I do.” Buffy quickly unzipped her bag and pulled out several high tech pieces of equipment.

“How did you get this stuff?” Angel lifted several of the items, amazed at how prepared she was. “Half of this is military.”

“Xander’s a manager at that Army surplus store on Vega Street. He kinda…uh…contributes to the cause.” She pulled out three pair of night vision goggles and five tiny black boxes.

“Xander is a manager somewhere?” Cordelia couldn’t believe it. “He isn’t even twenty yet.”

“They were amazed at his military knowledge. Remember Halloween?” Buffy turned and slid one of the boxes into Spike’s pants pocket and then handed him an ear piece and a microphone. “These are hands free walkie-talkies. We tried the hand held kind for a while and they always got smashed or lost. You can hide the case and microphone pretty easily and the earpiece can’t be seen unless you’re looking for it.”

She slid one into her own pants and handed the others their own. As they all hooked themselves up, she dug through the bag again and pulled out several stakes, passing them around. By the time everyone was jacked in, she had pulled out three small flat disks with wires on either side. “These are the bugs I’ll plant. I doubt I’ll get the chance tonight but I’ll take them just in case. We have a receiver in Spike’s car that let’s us flip between the three and listen to any conversation that goes on within thirty feet. They have a life expectancy of about seventy-two hours and it should be done by then.”

Finally, Buffy slid a black vest on and zipped it over her shirt. There was a flashlight, a rope, several odds and ends and Holy Water strapped to it.

“Whoa!” Cordy smiled. “It’s an Old Navy High Tech tech Vest!”

Buffy laughed and nodded. “I’ll break out in dance any moment now.”

“Let’s get a move on then.” Doyle shoved two stakes into the pockets of his jacket and walked past them. “By the way, we’ll all have to go in your car.”

“We have a van.” Cordy quickly added, already embarrassed by how much they didn't have. “But it’s torn up. Angel can’t drive.”

That gave Spike an idea. He was going to inflict the worst amount of pain possible without touching these people. “Buffy, you drive.”

“Yay!!!” She cried, snatching the keys he offered.

They weren’t going to know what hit them.

**

“Red light!” Doyle screamed. “It’s RED!”

“Red means stop.” Cordy cried, seeing the busy intersection zooming toward them at sixty miles per hour. “Buffy!”

Buffy slammed the brakes and the car skidded to a stop, throwing the occupants in the backseat against the front seat. “Quit bumping my seat. It distracts me.”

“And it hurts me!” Cordelia pried her face off the cool leather and shook her head. “You shouldn’t slam the brakes like that.”

“Did you want me to stop or not?” Buffy looked at the girl in the rearview mirror, wigging a little because she couldn’t see Angel or Spike who sat on either side of her.

Doyle clutched his stomach when the light turned green. “I’ve never been carsick riding in the front seat until now.”

“Good, mate. You can ride here on the way back.” Spike didn’t much like being so close to Angel and he had been hoping he’d get the chance to lean across and whisper stuff into Buffy’s ear just to annoy his freakin’ knob of a sire. But no. Doyle HAD to ride up front because he got carsick.

“I’d probably live longer if I rode back there!” Doyle let out a high pitched screech as Buffy narrowly missed a moving van that shot through one of the alleys and crossed in front of them. Then he swore loudly as she flew through a dip in the road that caused all of them to leave their seats and bump their heads on the roof of the car. “My head!! Am I bleeding?”

“Where is the turn?” Buffy asked. They had said it wasn’t far past the red-light.

“It’s coming up on your left.” Angel hadn’t let go of the passenger headrest since Buffy started the car. “Slow down, Buffy, you’re almost there.”

“What?” she flipped the radio off and turned to look at Angel. “I didn’t hear you.”

“BUFFY LOOK OUT!” Cordelia screamed, pointing at the car that had stopped in front of them.

Buffy turned back to look at the road and stomped the brake again. She saw the side road and took it when she realized that she wouldn’t stop in time. Unfazed by the near death experience she said, “Oh, this is the right road, isn’t it? There’s the red awning and the blue sign. The warehouse district.”

Doyle looked across the seat at her like she was insane. “We can walk the rest of the way.”

“Are you sure?” Buffy asked, getting ready to hit the brakes if he was.

“God, yes.” The man nodded his head violently.

So the brakes were slammed and Buffy careened in a half circle, fitting the car nicely against the curb next to a meat packing warehouse. “Like a glove.” She mimicked Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. A movie that Spike couldn’t get enough of.

She heard him chuckle behind her and smiled. “How far is it, Doyle?”

“Oh, about a mile.” Angel said when it was apparent that Doyle couldn't form sentences, only grunt.

“A mile!” She reached to start the car again but Doyle snatched the keys.

“I...I’d ...r..r..r..rather walk, if y..y..you don’t m..m..m..mind.” He stammered.

“We’d all rather walk.” Cordy was trying to claw her way out of the backseat.

“Fine.” Buffy threw her hands up, defeated. “But you can be the one who runs like hell to get the getaway car if something goes wrong.”

“Nothing will go wrong.” Spike stated calmly. “It’s just surveillance, right?”

Buffy nodded and stepped out of the car followed by the others. Doyle had turned a sickly shade of green and Cordelia was as pale as Angel. “Let’s go.”

Spike matched his pace to Buffy’s and the others tagged along behind. For Angel’s benefit, he made a great show of pushing her hair back so he could look at her earpiece and then readjusted it, running his thumb over her cheek as he did. He didn’t have to look back to know that three sets of eyes were watching their every move. He also didn’t have to look at Angel to know that the man was seething.

“It’s just up on the left.” Angel said in clipped even tones.

As they cleared a row of buildings, Buffy was able to make out a large factory set far back off the road. “What is it with vamps and factories?”

Spike just shrugged, digesting the smell of human blood that was clinging to the air. He was about to tell Buffy that there was death here when she made a motion with her hand and everyone followed her off the side of the road, into some tall grass.

“There’s a car coming.” She whispered.

Sure enough, a battered limo was pulling away from the factory and several men could be heard shouting farewells. As the car passed, someone tossed something from the window and it landed a few feet away from the group, then disappeared around a bend.

Buffy moved out of their hiding spot first and pulled a flashlight from the vest she was wearing. “Oh, that’s a bad sign.”

“What?” Asked Angel, coming to stand beside her.

“Remember last time there were severed arms?” She pointed at the human arm lying on the side of the road.

“I sure do.” Cordy squeaked. “And I am NOT picking up anymore pieces ever.”

**

Twenty minutes after the severed arm had been thrown from the limo; Buffy and the others had made their way almost to the building, weaving in and out of the few things they had to hide behind.

Buffy stuck her head out from behind a large canister and glanced toward the main entrance. She started to stand and move closer but Spike caught her arm. “No, ducks. There’s a security camera at about two o’clock.”

She squinted and put her night vision goggles on. Sure enough, a camera, which was attached to a large metal pole was panning slowly in a complete circle. “See any others?”

“No.” He shook his head, unsatisfied with the amount of shelter they had and the way Angel kept looking at Buffy. And he had seen her looking back. Damn it all.

“Okay.” Buffy turned and faced the others, pulling her hair on top of her head and securing it with a clip. “I’m going to go disable the camera. Odds are, they’re too stupid to monitor it anyway, but I’m going to shut it off and see if anyone comes out.”

“But…” Angel interjected, leaning toward her. “Wesley knows you, Buffy. If he sees you on tape..."

Without another word, she pulled a ski-mask from her pocket and tugged it over her face. “And the camera adds ten pounds. I’m safe.”

“I’ll come with you.” Spike offered, making a move to follow her and moving in between Buffy and Angel.

“No.” She shook her head and put a hand on his thigh. “I don’t want to ruin your chances of getting on the inside, Spike. It’s a last resort, but it may be our only option. If they see you now…”

Spike nodded, knowing she made perfect sense, and her hand on his thigh making him agree to anything. “Just be careful.”

Buffy patted him on the leg and turned back toward the camera. She watched it until it was facing away and then made her move. She ran at a full sprint to the pole and paused, looking upward at the camera. It made another pass with her directly under it, out of its range. As it panned away, she shimmied up the pole easily, never struggling or slipping.

Once she reached the top, she pulled a wire out of the back of the camera, not wanting to make it obvious that it had been tampered with. The camera made a whirring noise then stopped moving. Satisfied it was disabled, she swung herself from the pole to the low roof of the building, where she ducked down to wait.

“Shit!” Doyle said. “She just made a fifteen feet jump, easy.”

“That’s my girl.” Angel smiled.

Spike glared at him. “Really?”

"What?" asked the dark haired vampire.

"When did she suddenly become 'your girl' again?"

Angel held up a hand. "Don't start with me, Spike. You know damn well that I was just.."

"Just saying stuff to get under my skin!" Spike growled. "She isn't your girl."

"Is she yours?" Angel snapped. "Because I think we both know how bad YOU would be for her."

"You kiss my bloody arse!"

“Guys!” Cordy hissed and pointed at the building. Two men, presumably vampires, had come out and were staring up at the motionless camera, talking.

From his vantage point, Spike could see Buffy lurking at the edge of the building, listening intently to what the men were saying. He heard a beeping in his ear and turned on his mic. “What’s going on?”

“I don’t think anyone else is here. I’m gonna take them out and put the bugs in.” Buffy whispered.

“No.” Spike looked at Angel, who was listening with his earpiece as well. Angel shook his head in agreement. “You can’t be sure no one’s there.”

“I may not get this chance again.” Buffy said quietly.

The men started back toward the door and Spike said, “Just stay out of sight and let them go back in. We’ll go with the other plan.”

“Which plan?” she asked, knowing full well it was the one where Spike pretended to be interested in their evil plot so he could find out what was up.

“The one where I distract them so you can get inside.” He kept his eyes trained on the spot where she was on top of the roof. At least with his plan, he’d be able to do more than he was now. He saw her rise to her knees and said, “Don’t Buffy!”

It was too late. She didn’t like the thought of Spike doing anything so dangerous so she dropped down, blocking the door. “All losers run this way.” She mumbled.

The men rushed her but she stood her ground, quickly disposing of the weaker of the two. The remaining vampire was strong and moved fast. Buffy dropped her stake and struggled to get it and he seized the moment to lift her over his head like a barbell and throw her against the side of the building. Addled, but not about to give up, Buffy rolled back to her feet and swept the man’s legs out from under him, ramming her stake through his chest.

“I’m going in.” She whispered, moving toward the door. Her head ached, bleeding a little from a scrape on her cheek and she could already feel that she would have a huge bruise on her hip and leg but she wanted to get it done.

“Buffy, get your arse back over here, now.” Spike growled, not realizing his face had changed.

“You guys just stay right there. If I need you I’ll call.” She ducked through the door and glanced around. She wanted to do it. Buffy wanted to get the job done and prove that she hadn’t lost her touch, not just to them but to herself as well. Seeing the security area, she peeked inside and pressed one of the bugs into the corner of the desk on bottom, pulling the wires together and twisting them to activate it.

“I just placed the first bug. I’m moving in and to the left, toward an area of what appears to be offices.” She was careful to keep her voice low. All her senses were on edge and she could tell there were other vampires inside the building.

Spike was too angry with her to even reply, so Angel said, “Are you alone?”

“I don’t think so. I think there are more vampires further inside. I’m going to try to drop at least one more bug in a good place and get out of here.” Buffy pressed herself against the wall as a door opened and closed at the back of the building. “No, I’m definitely not alone.”

Doyle heard something to their left and turned to see headlights approaching. He lowered his mouth to the microphone and said, “Buffy, someone’s pulling up out front.”

“Shit.” Was her muffled reply. “I’m gonna hide.”

Frantically, she tried several of the doors and finally found an open room deeper inside the factory. She huddled behind several boxes and said, “I’m safe. I’m completely hidden.”

Spike adjusted his binoculars as several people stepped out of the van that had pulled up. He wasn’t surprised to see Lyle Gorch among them, that man was into everything. He also recognized one of his own minions, Nigel, and another man named Leeth. Angel motioned for the binoculars and Spike handed them to him.

“Leeth.” Angel shook his head. “Should have known. Wesley is with them, Buffy.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Buffy said sarcastically, wondering what she had gotten herself into. If she wasn’t out of there come sunrise, they would have to leave her and she would have to rely on Cordelia to save her. “How many are coming in?”

“Seven by my count.” Replied Angel, still looking at the men as they entered the building. “And they’ve got guns.”

Spike yanked the binoculars away and shook his head angrily. Three of the men were carrying rifles. The human killing kind. No tranquilizers in there. A fear that he had never felt before had clenched him in it’s jaw, grinding into his heart. He knew how very close he was to losing her. To losing the only thing he had. The only thing he wanted. “Maybe I should distract them now.”

“No!” Buffy hissed into her microphone. She wouldn’t put him at risk. “Just stay where you are. I’ll get out as soon as I can. Don't blow this, Spike”

The men went inside the building and Angel said, “They’re inside.”

“I hear them.” She whispered. An overhead light suddenly came on and she ducked low. “Shit, now I see them. They’re in here with me.”

“Can they see you?” Spike kept his head, everyone had to give him that. He was shaking and leaning his head against the metal canisters they were hidden behind but he kept his head.

“No. Shh. They’re talking about Saturday.” Buffy adjusted her weight and lifted her head just enough to let her peek over the boxes and see the men.

Wesley? Vampirism had definitely been kind to Wesley. His hair hung around his face, longer than Buffy remembered and he wore no glasses. He was wearing blue jeans, a tight black T-shirt and black boots, something that made her mouth open in shock. He was handsome as a vampire. ~Shit, what is it with me and vampires?~

Wesley ran a hand over several jars on the table, absently stroking the lids. “It’s such a treat really. We should all be so thankful.”

“For what?” Lyle Gorch asked in a heavy Southern accent.

“Why, for me, of course.” Wesley grinned. “Were it not for me, none of this would be a reality. I think that you would all be wise to keep that in mind.”

“Yes sir.” All the men replied.

“Shall I tell you what will become of you if you forget?” Grinned the ex-Watcher, pulling some sort of wooden device from behind the desk.

Buffy cocked an eyebrow. He certainly did have the imposing asshole routine down pat. The fact that he knew her inside and out made her more than a little anxious. She had sparred with him. Many times. He knew her weaknesses, her strengths and her best moves. Not to mention it wigged her out just seeing him in JEANS. What would she do when she saw his fang-face?

All the minions agreed that they didn’t need to know what would happen if they forgot who was boss and Wesley looked dashed. “I was so hoping I could use one of you as an example.” He looked at them again, as if willing one of them to get out of line. “Very well then, allow me to explain the procedure.”

There was a rustling of feet as the men gathered around the table at the front of the room. Buffy, at the back of the room, didn’t dare try to move closer but she did turn her microphone up so everyone on the outside could hear what was being said.

“Inside these jars are the remains of some of the severest vampires who ever walked the face of the earth. Who ever walked among men.” Wesley held up one of the jars.

A man in a business suit, with rings on every finger, shook his head. “Forgive me, sir, but if these are the ‘severest’ vampires to walk to the earth then why do they fit into a jelly jar?”

“Why!?” Wesley snapped. “I will tell you why. Because the blasted Slayer from each of these generations was stronger.” Wesley sat the jar on the table gingerly. “I’ve trained two Slayers. I know all about them. Feisty little creatures, really.”

“There are only four jars. You need five.” Said another man. This one was young, dressed in dark jeans and a leather coat.

“You are Leeth, yes?” Asked Wesley, offering a hand.

“I am.” Leeth nodded and shook the other man’s hand.

“I do need ashes from five strong vampires. The five will be combined and we ’ll use our own blood to make the strongest, most evil being to rule the world.” Wesley opened a drawer and pulled out several envelopes. “These are the names and accomplishments of several vampires here in Los Angeles. Don’t panic if you see your own name. This country is famous for it’s Democracy. We shall all have a fair vote.”

“You mean we’re votin’?” Asked Gorch. “On who the fifth will be?”

“Indeed.” Wesley smirked. “And I don’t know where the notion that Southerners are stupid came from.”

“Uh,” Gorch stared at him, trying to decide if he had been insulted. “Thanks, I reckon.”

“What are in these boxes?” Leeth asked, pointing back toward Buffy’s hiding place.

“Enough explosives to light up this city.” Wesley replied, and moved toward the boxes that Buffy was crouching behind. “Let me show you.”

Spike heard Buffy gasp and started to stand. Doyle shook his head, “You’ll get her and us killed.”

“I can’t just sit here and do nothing.” Spike growled.

“We have too.” Angel shook his head sadly. “I told Giles about this but he wouldn’t begin to know where to find them or how to stop it. If we go in there and get killed, no one else can prevent this. No one else even knows.”

“I don’t care, man.” Spike started to stand again. “That’s Buffy in there and if you..”

“They’re gone.” Came Buffy’s muffled whisper over their walkie-talkies. “I’m going to give them a few seconds, make sure the coast is clear and plant the rest of the bugs.”

“NO!” Spike practically shouted, furious at her, furious at the cowards around him and furious at the fate that made him a vampire and Buffy the Slayer. “We’ve heard everything we need to know. You worry about getting out and to hell with the bugs.”

“But..” She started to protest.

“If you aren’t out here within the next five seconds, I’m coming in.” Spike’ s tone surprised everyone, especially Angel. He couldn’t recall when the last time he had seen Spike so passionate about something. It was unnerving to know he was passionate about HIS Buffy.

“Fine!” Buffy snapped. “But if we miss out on good information…”

“Slayer.” Spike warned.

“Whatever,” She shook her head inside the dark little room, embarrassed by the fact that she had to hide and angry that Spike was acting like her Watcher Figure. She had resigned herself to it being a wasted night when she realized that she was IN the room with the ashes that the vampires needed. She was tempted to bang her head against the wall at how oblivious she was but instead she moved to the table. Yanking out one of the bugs, she activated it under the desk and smiled. ~Score: Two Slayer, Vampires None!~

Very quickly, she grabbed all four jars and opened the door slowly, listening for any sounds. When she heard none, she made her way back toward the entrance, pausing to crane her ears and reach out her senses into the blackness to make sure she was alone. “Is the coast clear out there?”

Everyone glanced around, making sure that it was indeed clear and Spike whispered, “It’s fine. Come on out.”

He was relieved when she darted out the door and made her way toward them, staying close to the building. She crouched at the end, about thirty feet away and then ran to where they waited. Buffy dropped the jars on the ground in front of them and smiled, pulling off her ski mask. “Two bugs planted and their ‘severest vampires’ stolen.”

"Two bugs?" Spike growled. She had apparently planted one after he had told her not too.

Doyle was stunned. “These are the ashes?”

“No, Doyle.” Buffy said sarcastically. “These are sand art displays that I thought would brighten up my room.”

“Buffy, they’re ugly.” Cordy picked one up and stared at it. “Most sand art comes in something besides brownish beige!”

Angel looked disgusted with his co-workers. “It’s the damn ashes, people. Good job, Buffy.”

“Thanks.” She beamed. She had done it. All was good!

“Good job my ass.” Spike sneered, yanking up two of the jars and shoving them at Angel and stuffing the remaining two into his pockets. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Spike?” She put a hand on his arm, not used to his tone, but he pulled away.

“You and I will have a talk later.” He said, glaring at her. Finally, he started back through the tall grass.

Buffy was the last to follow the vampire’s lead. The happiness she had about not getting killed and actually doing something productive left her quickly. All wasn’t good. The way he had looked at her had made her go cold inside. He looked like he despised her.

Cordy waited at the top a small embankment for her. “He was just worried.”

“I know.” Buffy stared at Spike’s back as he stalked down the road, hands in pockets, kicking several rocks.

“But I still wouldn’t want to be in your shoes later.”

Buffy stared at the girl in shock. “Was that supposed to be comforting?”

“Yeah.” Cordelia nodded, then patted her friend sadly.

“Gee, thanks so much.” The Slayer shook her head, realizing that she didn’t want to be in her shoes later either. He was madder than she had ever seen him. And it was anger towards her.

“Glad to help.” Cordelia trotted forward and moved between Doyle and Angel and began talking about the bonus she expected for almost getting killed again and working so late.

Every step forward made Buffy realize that she was closer and closer to hearing exactly what was on Spike’s mind.

And that terrified her.

**

Angel did what he could to convince Buffy and Spike to come in and stay for a while. For starters, he wanted Spike to have a chance to cool off and second, he wanted to make sure Buffy was really okay. Her cheek was scraped and he noticed she walked with a limp. All his offers were adamantly refused by both and presently, he stood watching their tail lights fade, hoping with all his heart that whatever was going on between Spike and Buffy wouldn’t hurt them both.

As much as it hurt him.

**

Buffy fidgeted and glanced across the car seat at Spike. He had his jaw clenched tightly, making his profile look hard and mean. She swallowed the lump in her throat and said, “So, what did you want to talk to me about?”

He looked at her then, like she was absolutely insane. “What do I want to talk to you about? You don’t know?”

“I’m sorry if I did something to upset you, Spike. “ Buffy turned to face him but he looked away. “But that, back there, at the factory. It wasn’t a big deal. I mean...it had to be done.”

He turned into the hotel’s driveway and shut off the engine, waiting for a valet. She started to speak again and he held up a hand. He could not believe that she was trying to act like she hadn’t almost gotten herself killed. “I don’t want to hear it.”

“I said I was sorry.” Buffy said in a quiet voice, feeling totally lost and miserable.

“And I still don’t want to hear it.” He stepped out and handed the keys to a young man, then headed toward the glass doors that led into the lobby.

There was nothing she could do except follow him into the elevator and she wasn’t about to make him any more upset by doing anything else. Or maybe he didn’t want her there. She decided to go straight into her room when he unlocked the door.

Spike watched her as she trudged into her bedroom and shut the door quietly behind her. Shaking his head, he stalked to his own room and slammed the door. As he moved toward the bed he noticed that the message light was blinking on the phone and lifted the receiver. Joyce had called to talk to Buffy and to say she loved and missed her. Then the woman then added that she loved and missed Spike too and for him to take good care of her baby.

It made him feel a tug somewhere in his chest to hear his name associated with love. Joyce had been like a mother to him the last year, making him feel more human than he had when he actually was a human. He thought he loved Dru, once upon a time, but he was absolutely one hundred percent convinced that what he felt for Buffy and even for Joyce was a million times greater. The thought of anything happening to either of them terrified him. The thought of not being in Buffy’s life scared him more than bathing in Holy Water. He loved Joyce, but he was IN love with Buffy.

Scowling, Spike yanked his door open and started toward Buffy’s room. He jumped a little when she walked out of the kitchen wearing nothing but a T-shirt and carrying an ice pack. “Your mother called.”

Buffy nodded and started back into her room. “Thanks.”

“You’re hurt?” He pointed at the ice-pack and started to move toward her. If she was hurt, he supposed he could help her now and be angry later. Only because Joyce said to take care of her though, not because he wanted to. ~Who am I kidding?~

“You don’t want to hear about it.” She glared at him for a few seconds and shut the door. Once she was safely inside she allowed the tears to fall freely. Angry at herself and angry at Spike, she walked onto the balcony and leaned against the railing, placing the ice pack on her outer thigh. The noises of the city below her didn’t distract her from her thoughts and she was aware of how much it ached in her soul to have him upset with her. She didn’t think he had ever been this mad. Sure, they had argued and yelled at one another but that was the problem. He was never just quiet.

Spike stepped quietly through his own glass doors, which led to the same balcony Buffy was on. He paused when he saw her, wind blowing through her hair, salty tears dripping off her cheeks and a large ice pack on her leg and he knew he was a goner. The only thing worse that seeing her in pain was the knowledge that he caused it.

He moved toward her and when she saw him, she drew a hand across her face, trying not to let him see her cry. “Buffy, I want to talk to you now.”

She didn’t know why he thought that she should just let him decide when they talked and when they didn’t. “What about what I want?”

“What do you want?”

She sighed, “I want to know what’s going on with us.”

“Then talk to me.”

Saying nothing, she stared at the ground, forcing herself not to sob. She wanted so much to walk into his arms and tell him that she loved him and needed him and wanted him. Instead she stood there, looking and feeling miserable.

“Sit down.” Spike motioned at a lounge chair and she complied. When she was settled into it, he moved the ice pack and made a face when he saw the bruise. “That’s pretty bad.”

“I don’t want to talk about my leg.” She snatched the ice pack away from him and put it on the edge of the hot tub. “What is wrong with you?”

“Buffy, I was scared tonight. I don’t like being scared.” He lifted the ice pack and held it against her himself, kneeling in front of her. “You did every single thing I asked you not to do and you didn’t care.”

“I said I was sorry for that.” She cried. “You think I wasn’t scared? I was, Spike! But I had to do it.”

“We had other options! You didn’t have to do that. It was foolish!” He shouted. “You did it because you wanted to!”

“Yes, I did want to!” Buffy’s voice was louder than his had been and she didn’t really care who heard them.

“I KNEW IT!” Spike yelled, satisfied that she had confessed something and therefore warranted his anger again. “I should have known when you couldn’t get your pants to zip you were too big for your britches! Your attitude almost got you KILLED!”

“I DID IT SO YOU WOULDN’T HAVE TO! I wanted to keep you safe and out of harm's way. I would have died in there to keep one hair on your infuriating head from getting hurt!” Buffy stood up, trying to push past him and when she did, he toppled backwards into the hot tub. She moved fast and knelt beside the bubbling water. “Oh, Spike!”

He surfaced and wiped the water off his face, still trying to digest what she had just said, “You did what you did so I wouldn’t be put in any danger?” He couldn’t take his eyes off her perfect mouth. How had he been so wrong about her motives? “Why?”

She shrugged and offered him her hand, to help him out. He took it and moved to the side of the hot tub, staring up at her. “Why, Buffy?” ~What am I doing? What do I think she’ll say?~

This was it. Her chance to tell him and she didn’t care what happened afterwards. She wanted him to know the truth. Nothing he said could make her feel worse than she already did. “Because I am hopelessly and completely in love with you is why.”

His mouth dropped open. Was he imagining that she said what he had longed to hear her say for months or did she say it? All the words died in his throat and he stared at her, trying to think of what to do.

Buffy only thought she couldn’t feel worse. Now she felt miserable. In her mind’s eye, the many times she had played out this confession, it always ended with him saying it back and kissing her passionately. Of course, when she imagined how and when she would tell him it was never after she had knocked him into a hot tub in anger. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t.” Shaking his head, he realized he had hurt her feelings with his silence and got to his knees, still clinging to her hand. “Don’t apologize, baby.”

Her chin began to quiver and she started to move away. “I…I shouldn’t have…”

“Buffy!” He grabbed her by the shoulders and stared at her intently. “I should have told you a long time ago how I felt.”

She closed her eyes against the tears, convinced he was about to tell her that he should have made it clear that he wasn’t interested in her that way. “No. Please.”

“Look at me, pet.”

As she opened her eyes, several fresh tears rolled from their hazel depths and he knew that it would be okay to love her. There was no way he could stop himself even if he tried. “I love you. I do, Buffy. I’ve wanted to tell you for so long and even now….”

“You love me?” Buffy interrupted , needing to hear another affirmation, wanting to hear it a million times.

“I love you more than I know how to say.” Spike felt so relieved to be able to say it and feel nothing but her love in return. No guilt, no unease, nothing but her love. “I could never tell you…”

“Don’t tell me. Show me.” She ran her hand along his smooth, cool cheek, trailing her thumb lazily over his lips. She wanted him, needed him to make things right. “Make love to me, Spike.”

Spike caught her hand as it roamed over his lips and kissed her palm. Part of him wanted to just jump up and take her right then, but another part forced him to ask, “Are you sure?”

She nodded and he stood, pulling himself from the tub. His pants felt like they were going to rip him in two, partly because they were leather and he had spent ten minutes sitting in hot water but mostly because his need for her was overwhelming. Buffy stood as well and looked up at him.

Spike put his hands on either side of her face and brushed his lips across hers softly, wanting their first kiss to be so much. He gently massaged her mouth with his own and she sagged against him when their tongues met for the first time.

It was more than she had been prepared for. How could one kiss make her turn to a pile of mush so quickly? If he hadn’t been holding her up she had no doubt that she would have sunk to the floor. She was still trying to get her bearings when he broke the kiss, lifted her into his arms and walked into her bedroom.

Spike laid her back on the bed, cursing himself for being nervous. Why was he suddenly terrified? ~Because I want to make love not shag.~

Buffy shivered under his gaze and wondered what he was thinking. He almost looked scared of her. It occurred to her that he probably wasn’t completely sure it was alright so she got to her knees and began unbuttoning his shirt. Her eyes never left his until his chest was exposed, and then she began spraying kisses along his neck and collarbone.

He sighed when she moved lower and tugged at his nipple with her teeth, then he groaned and pulled her mouth back to his. She shoved his shirt over his arms and dug her fingers through his short blond hair as the kiss intensified. Forgetting everything, his hands roamed down her back and over her ass, squeezing her against him. It was her turn to sigh and she pulled away from his kiss. “I want you so much.”

Spike smiled at her and moved his hands under the bottom of her shirt, lifting it slowly over her head. He tossed it over his shoulder and looked down at her. She wasn’t wearing a bra and now he could see that her breasts were just as perfect as he had imagined. “Bloody hell, baby! You’re beautiful.”

Cold chills dotted her flesh as he ran his fingertips through the hollow between her breasts and ducked his head to her neck. His tight pants be damned, he was going to explore her body with his mouth no matter how uncomfortable he was. Spike pushed her onto her back and quickly covered her body with his, kissing her again. She put her legs around his and urged her hips upward, pressing into his erection and he hissed against her mouth. “Oh, Buffy.”

Moving away, he trailed a pattern of wet kisses straight down her stomach, only pausing to hook his fingers into her thin strapped panties and slide them over her hips. As soon as they cleared her feet, he began kissing her ankles, slowly, deliberately working his way back to her dark curls.

By the time he made it to her knees she had started whimpering, arching her back at the slightest touch and begging him to take her. Ignoring her completely, he slowly licked his way up her inner thigh and sucked at the tender spot where he leg met her pubic area. Her hips surged upward and he seized the moment to meet her swollen core with his eager mouth.

Buffy almost screamed but she was already having trouble breathing. As he stroked her with his tongue and…oh god…now his fingers, she felt faint, euphoric and everything else she could think of that felt really good. Then she couldn’t think at all as he sucked her clit into his mouth, raking it with his teeth and she exploded against him, finally able to scream his name.

Pleased with himself, and pleased with how vocal she was, he stood up and unfastened his pants. He tried to tug them down and rolled his eyes skyward. This was not happening, he was not stuck in his pants. Another yank told him he definitely was and he swore loudly. “Son of a bitch!”

Buffy sat up and looked at him struggling with his shrunken leather pants and giggled. He glared at her. “What’s so funny.”

“Isn’t it ironic that you said *I* was too big for my britches.” Then she laughed out loud at the look on his face and moved to help him.

She kneeled in front of him and together, after several tugs and the definite sound of leather ripping, the pants were tossed into a heap in the corner. He started to pull her to her feet but she shook her head. To his surprise and intense pleasure, she began to stroke him, then pulled him into her warm mouth. The smirk she had given him made it pretty clear that she was about to pay him back for teasing her.

She took him as far into her mouth as she could and slid him slowly back out. He literally had to stop himself from grasping her head and slamming into her, but he decided to endure it and let her have her fun. He was strong, he was able to control it. She slid her tongue along the underside of his shaft and scraped him with her teeth. He was a manly man, he was going to make it. Then she took him deep again and released him, blowing cool air over him as she did. He was okay, it was fine. Spike felt her slide her hands up and squeeze his ass as she continued to wreak havoc with his frontal region. Yes, he was still okay.

No.

He was dying.

Buffy gasped as he yanked her to her feet and smashed his mouth to hers. The kiss was hard, deep and hungry and she felt a new heat start between her legs. She pulled away, weak kneed and shaky and moved to the bed. Spike followed and positioned himself between her open legs. Looking beneath him, at the woman he loved more than anything, and so afraid of losing her to her sacred duty, he whispered, “Hold on to me, baby.”

“I’ll never let go.” She replied.

He eased himself into her slowly, for both their sakes. Buffy cried out against his shoulder and tightened her grip on him. He barely rocked his hips for several minutes, relishing the feel of being inside of her and seeking no release other than the release of his emotions that had been bottled far too long.

Buffy began to wiggle underneath him, moaning his name, and he started thrusting his hips. She met him with the same intensity and he reached between them, stroking her back and forth until she came. Her cries of pleasure and the tightening of her vaginal walls drove him over the brink. Moments after she came, he followed and collapsed on top of her.

They lay that way, spent, for several minutes. Finally, Buffy whispered, “I couldn’t live without you.”

“You’ll never have to.” He eased himself onto his elbows and stared down at her, playing with her hair. “I love you.”

“I love you so much.” Buffy hoped he picked up the devilish twinkle in her eye. “I could never begin to TELL you how much.”

Chuckling, Spike replied. “Don’t tell me. Show me.”

“If you insist.”

~

The phone rang and Spike growled, pulling himself out from under Buffy’s arm and leg to get it. “What the hell is it?”

“SPIKE!” Joyce said, using a tone that only she possessed. “What kind a way is that to answer the phone.”

“Apologies, Joyce. I just woke up.” He laughed. “And I thought you were that bloody wanker Angel.”

“Angel? He’s there?”

The distaste in the woman’s voice made him happy. “Yep. He’s in Los Angeles, brooding and being a ‘git. Basically having the same life he had in Sunnydale.”

“Only without Buffy, thank God!” Joyce sipped her coffee and added. “Is she taking it okay?”

“Not at first. But I’m positive she’s over him. Completely.”

"Oh? How can you be so sure?"

"Just trust me on this one."

“I called last night. I was worried when I didn’t hear back from you.” Her tone was motherly again, bordering on reprimanding. “You know how I worry about the two of you. I am the mom, here. I worry.”

“We thought it would be too late to return the call last night.” Spike’s eyes widened as Buffy moaned his name loudly in her sleep.

“Was that Buffy?” Joyce cocked her head to one side as she clearly heard her daughter sleepily calling Spike’s named again.

“What…uh…er…no. It was the TV. I was watching TV.” He stared in Buffy’s direction, willing her not to make any more noise.

“I thought you were asleep.”

“What? Right. I..uhm..”

“Spike?”

“Ma’am?”

“It took you two long enough.”

**

Buffy awoke to find a even paler Spike than imaginable leaning awkwardly against the headboard. One of his hands rested on the phone, which sat on the night stand and the other was lying limply in his lap. Her first thought was that he was ill. Then she realized that he had probably gotten a phone call. “Spike?”

“Mmm?” He swallowed but didn’t move otherwise.

“What’s the matter with you? Was someone on the phone?” She sat up and pulled the cover around her, bracing herself for bad news from back home.

“Yeah.” Spike ran his hand through his hair and looked at her, she looked terrified. “Oh, hell. I’m sorry, baby. It’s nothing bad. Well, unless you’re me.”

“What?” She took the hand in his lap and clung to it.

“Your mother.”

“WHAT!?” Buffy cried.

“She knows.” He gulped again and stared at the phone. “She knows about us, Buffy!”

“How? That’s impossible.” Buffy’s gulp followed his. “You told her?”

“Bloody hell, do I look like an idiot?” He shook his head back and forth. “You told her!”

Buffy’s mouth fell open. “I told her? I did not.”

“She was on the phone and you started moaning and groaning my name right here beside me. I almost swallowed my own damn tongue!”

“Oh god. What did she say?” Sure, her mother liked Spike but how would she, how would any of the gang, react to this?

He scratched his head and stared at the ceiling. “She said ‘it took you two long enough’.”

“Come again.”

“It took you two long enough.” Spike repeated the words and squeezed her hand. “That either means she’s happy for us…or she’s happy that I didn’t stay the hell away from her daughter and she can use her ax again.”

“Well, what did she say after that?” Buffy moved close to him and put her arms around him, unconsciously nuzzling her face into his neck, hating his worry.

“I couldn’t tell you. I was gripped by terror and couldn’t hear.” Spike kissed the side of her head and massaged up and down her back, seeking comfort in her warmth. “Maybe you should call her.”

“No way!” She'd deal with it when she got home. Buffy slowly slid her leg over him until she was straddling him and sat up to face him. His arms around her made her want him like nothing else in the world. She smirked down at him, “Well…if she’s gonna try to kill you...we should probably make the most of every single moment until we get home.”

He grinned at her then and pulled the cover away from her breasts, stroking over her rosy nipples until they hardened completely. “You’re not worried about my well being?”

“You’re a big boy.” She ground her hips against him in a slow circle and winked. “And growing bigger by the second.”

“Teasing a vampire, especially one who already feels drawn and quartered, can be very bad.” He moved all the cover out from between them and ran his fingers through her dark lower curls before trying to position himself at her opening. She continued to gyrate against him but wouldn’t let him enter her. “Slayer…”

Grinning, she leaned forward and tugged at one of his nipples, keeping herself at an angle that wouldn’t allow him access. He growled as she licked her way up to his mouth and kissed him deeply. “I bet right now, you’re not too worried about my mother.”

“Baby, you’re playing with fire.”

“So burn me.” A second later she yelped out as he gripped her hips and slammed her onto his erection.

Spike had to close his eyes for a moment because being inside of her, feeling how tight and inviting she was made him dizzy. He opened them when she moaned his name and began sliding him in and out of her. She probably didn’t realize how beautiful she was, how perfect she fit him or how much he really did love her.

A glance at the window told him the sun wasn’t down.

He had a while to show her.

~~

To the casual observer, he wasn’t an imposing figure, wearing torn jeans and a Queen T-shirt, but to the minions who had seen what he was capable of earlier that day, he was the most terrifying thing they had seen. His savagery was unthinkable and not one of the assembled men dared move for fear that his wraith would fall upon them. Dust of their fallen brethren tainted the already volatile situation and the only sound in the room was the shuffle of their master’s feet.

Wesley moved up and down the line of what few remaining vampires he had left in his wake. He was absolutely livid. They had stripped the room, taken every single box and crate from it and still, the ashes were missing. He stopped walking and stared back and forth, pausing at each face. “I should think that by now one of you, at least, shall be wise enough to provide the answers.”

He was met with silence and he smiled. “Come, come now. The torture will continue until morale improves.”

“May…maybe someone misplaced it.” One of the minions said. “People make mistakes.”

“We are not a people. To err is human.” Wesley stalked to stand before the man. “Do you have information on the ‘misplaced’ ashes of your forefathers?”

“No, sir.” The vampire was a young one, wearing nothing but his boxers since he had been awakened so roughly. “I don’t know anything.”

“Then your lack of knowledge shall not be missed.” Wesley’s hand flew up, faster than the man could have anticipated and a stake was embedded in his chest. As he plumed, Wesley looked at the man beside him. “Was I too hasty?”

“No sir.” The stunned vampire shook his head.

“Then you won’t hold this against me?” With the same move, Wesley’s stake was jammed into that man’s chest as well. An exaggerated sigh followed, and Wes turned, absently drying fake tears. “It pains me so. We are supposed to be a superior being and I’ve somehow managed to get a herd of cattle. But one of you…one of you thought you were smart. I intend to find out who that was.”

His gaze roamed and landed on Lyle Gorch. “You. Redneck. Come here.”

An audible gulp came from the vampire that had been trying his best to hide behind his cowboy hat. He peeked out from under the brim and his eyes widened. “Me?”

“Do you see any other rednecks?” Wesley looked bored.

“No sir.”

“Even in the darkest situation we always have something to be thankful for.” Wesley beckoned and Lyle walked slowly to stand before him. “Do you have anything to say?”

“I can’t say that I do. I’d just as soon keep my mouth shut and stay out of it because I don’t know nothing.” He had taken his hat off as a show of respect and now worried it in his palms, wringing it.

“I like you, Mr. Gorch.” Wesley patted the man. “You prove that people with a room temperature IQ can lead productive lives. However, if you insist on keeping your mouth shut, I’m afraid I must insist on making it painful. It won’t kill you though.”

“Please…please…I don’t know nothing.”

Wesley shook his head and leaned back against his desk. The only remaining item in the room. “On your knees and open your mouth.”

Whimpering, Lyle complied. Wesley held up a container for everyone to see. Inside was a stack of Eucharistic wafers and he gingerly turned the lid and pulled one out with a pair of tweezers. “Open up.”

Lyle clamped his mouth shut and shook his head. “Uh uh.”

“It’s this or a glass of Holy Water. If you don’t swallow this it won’t kill you. Holy Water will.” Wesley held it to the vampire’s mouth, patting his head affectionately. “I’m offering you a chance to live.”

Still whimpering, Gorch opened his mouth and immediately began to screech and moan when Wesley slid the wafer onto his tongue. Wesley bared his fangs and shouted, in his best Dracula voice, “The children of the night, what beautiful music they make! Listen to him, people. Listen closely for oh…an hour. Then we’ll try to talk again.”

Wesley took a seat at the desk and began shuffling through papers. The ashes had been right here. Right in this very spot. As he lifted a large pile of bills, a thin bracelet fell from with a small clank to the floor. The dead watcher picked it up and smiled when he saw the inscription. “Mr. Gorch, do be quiet.”

Gorch continued to moan so Wesley stood up, slapped him on the back of the head and the man spit out the wafer. “The pain! You ought not have done that if you didn’t want me to whoop and holler.”

“Shut up!” Wesley held the delicate piece of gold from his fingertips. “Gentleman, we have a Slayer.”

~~

“Oh fuck!” Doyle sat beside Angel in the office. They had been up all night, listening to the activities inside the warehouse thanks to the receiver that Buffy had left them. The bug she had planted in the warehouse provided quite a disturbing insight into Wesley’s psyche. “Oh, fuck- fuck-fuck.”

“Please!” Cordelia moaned, flopping onto the leather sofa and trying to pick a nail polish color from a basket of polishes. “I am a woman you know. All this swearing is rude! Damn it. I should be getting manicures and pedicures. Not giving my own.”

“He knows she was there.” Angel shook his head, ignoring Cordelia and not believing that Buffy had been careless enough to leave something behind. “I wonder what he found.”

“I don’t know. I don’t care.” Doyle stood, pacing restlessly through the dimly lit room. “We have to do something. Even if he can’t perform this ritual, he still has far too much knowledge because of who he was.”

“Buffy will…”

“Buffy will what, Angel?” The man stopped pacing and glared at the vampire. “Have another panic attack? Risk our lives? Hers? No offense man, I have no doubt that she used to be a good Slayer…but now…”

“She stopped this ritual, didn’t she?” Angel’s need to defend her surprised both of them.

“You said what she did was stupid!” Doyle said.

“I said it was risky.” Angel corrected.

Cordy, unfazed by what she had heard on the receiver, put the lid back on her nail polish and began fanning her toenails. “I’m the one who said it was stupid.”

“She’s too..” The bell that indicated that someone had opened the door into the office sounded. Doyle stopped mid-sentence and looked at Cordelia.

“Toes!” She cried.

“No pay.” Doyle replied. “Go get it. Earn your keep.”

“I hate my life.” Cordelia grumbled the entire way into the other room.

Angel looked back at Doyle. “Buffy has never let me down once.”

“And I don’t want the first time to be at our expense.”

Cordelia cleared her throat as she stepped back into their living room from the office area. “We have company. And Doyle, you probably shouldn’t insult Buffy around them.”

Rupert Giles and Joyce Summers stepped around her and looked at the two men. “Hello, Angel.” Giles said.

Angel stood slowly, nervously and offered his hand to Joyce in greeting but she only glared. Giles took it limply and nodded at Doyle as Angel made the introductions. An uncomfortable silence followed and finally, Angel said, “Cordelia, why don’t you make some coffee.”

Cordelia’s mouth gaped open, her eyes widened, her hands went to her hips, but Doyle grabbed her arm and dragged her into the kitchen before she could refuse, leaving Angel alone with his past.

Giles cleared his throat and looked around the large building/apartment. A glance at the outside had left him cold but here, inside, past the offices, the atmosphere was homey. There were bookcases lining three of the four walls and several nice touches here and there. Leather furnishings, framed oil paintings and an entertainment center sat off to one side. “Your home is quite nice, Angel.”

“Thank you.” Angel looked around, trying to see where the tattered, meager furnishings could be called nice. “It’s not the mansion but it serves it’s purpose. Sit down.”

They all sat, staring anywhere but at one another. Joyce sighed and said, “Giles decided to come because it’s Wesley who is involved. He was afraid that it would be hard for Buffy to do what had to be done. And I came because I wanted to.”

“She never liked Wesley.” Angel offered. “And she didn’t seem too upset about it when we told her that he was the one involved.”

“That’s probably because she was too devastated over the fact that she was tricked into coming here.” Joyce snapped.

Giles looked at her and took her hand, willing her to control her anger. After listening to her rant nonstop for the two hour road trip he was very convinced that she could make good on everything she said she would like to do to Angel. “I’m sure, Joyce, if they had known that Buffy’s situation was…erm…strained…at best, they wouldn’t have used pretense to summon her here.”

“Strained?” Angel looked at Giles intently, trying to read his expressions.

“As I told you on the phone, this past year has been quite trying for Buffy. College life is a huge adjustment period for anyone and it’s especially hard on a young girl. Buffy’s always been unique and strong and able to shuffle the burden of her responsibilities…but…” Giles paused, trying to collect his thoughts.

Joyce spoke for him, not wanting Angel to know that his departure almost killed her. “But it was hard. She had a lot of guilt about what she did to Faith and then she had to deal with the deaths of people, friends, who died on Graduation Day. She has a big heart, she felt like it was all her fault.”

“And to add to the stress of schooling, one of her professors that she admired turned out to be evil and she was forced to kill him.” Giles shook his head, recalling how devastated she had been and how he and Spike had taken turns holding onto her for hours. “She was just starting to really get it all together when Cordelia called her here.”

“I’m sorry.” Angel meant it. “We just didn’t know another way.”

“You should have called me. I may no longer be her watcher but I am her friend.” Giles realized he was still holding Joyce’s hand and reddened, letting it go.

“Thank God Spike was here with her.” Joyce reddened too, remembering her conversation with Spike. Then she smiled, more for herself than anyone else, happy for Buffy.

“Indeed.” Giles agreed.

“This is the part where I have to ask if you’re all crazy.” Angel said it casually. “I mean…this is Spike.”

“We know who he is.” Giles looked at the pale vampire sitting across from him. “And if it weren’t for him, Buffy would be dead. He’s been her saving grace”

Cordy, still complaining and walking funny to keep her toes from getting messed up, sat a tray of coffee on the table and looked at Angel. “Is there anything else you desire, oh cheap master?”

“Call Buffy. Tell her to get here as soon as she can.” Angel wasn’t itching to spend any more time with them than he had to. How had so much changed in a year?

~~

One night, one night of passion had changed everything. Sure, so many things had changed for the better. Like waking up in each other’s arms and making love before either said a word. And the fact that hearing her say she loved him meant more than anything in the world. But none of that was going to sway him. “I am not buying this, Buffy.”

“Your pants got ripped up. Besides there are colors besides black and red.” She held up the dark blue jeans and batted her eyelashes at him. They were in a small store just a few blocks away from Angel's detective agency. It had taken them forever to find the motivation to get out of the bed but they finally did.

“I have these pants.” He pointed to the wrinkled pants he was wearing that had been stuffed into his bag. He knew they looked haggard but they were BLACK. “And I like black and red.”

“Those pants are horrible. I think I’d like you in these and this blue shirt.” Buffy held up a dark blue shirt and smiled. “It matches your eyes.”

He took the shirt an examined it. It was actually a nice color. He had forgotten what his eyes looked like. “Against my better judgment, I’ll buy this shirt ONLY if I can get black pants.”

“Spike?” Buffy leaned toward him and shook her head. “If you get black pants, you’ll be staying in them.”

“That is such a wrong way to handle this.” He snatched the blue jeans and shoved them under his arm while he followed Buffy through the store. “Why do you suddenly have to change me? What is it with women? You think that once you get a man into the sack you get to call the shots and WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?”

“It’s a green shirt.” She said, holding it up so she could look at it, then she turned and held it up to his chest, eyeing him closely. “It looks nice too.”

“Get it away from me.” Spike pushed her arm away. “I am not wearing green. I am not wearing purple, yellow or orange and I am not wearing BLUE pants.”

“You are cranky!” Buffy put the green shirt back on the table and crossed her arms.

“I don’t like the thought of looking like a freak.”

“Really?” She opened her arms, indicating her own clothes: a multicolored shirt that bared her tan stomach and dark purple pants that hung low on her hips. “And I look like a freak?”

“You look beautiful, baby.” Spike realized how close he was to falling off the line he was toeing. “Every color is great for you.”

“And we have almost the same exact coloring so that means,” She handed him the green shirt and smiled. “Every color is great for you.”

“Great. Just call me Rainbow Brite.” Spike snatched it and added it to the bundle under his arm.

Buffy checked her watch. “You need to try this stuff on. It’s late.”

Swearing that she couldn’t force him to wear it even if he bought it, he let her shove him into the dressing room. She leaned against the wall, facing the doorway, waiting for him to try the first one on. “Does it fit?”

“Would you believe me if I said no?” Came his reply.

She was about to answer when he opened the door but she couldn’t speak at all. Dressed in the dark blue jeans and the blue shirt, he looked amazing. The shirt was exactly the color of his eyes, making them stand out so much more than usual. And the jeans were tight enough to show how toned he was but loose enough to make you want to touch and feel what was under there. Finally she muttered, “Oh…wow..Spike.”

“You hate it. Say you hate it.” He stared down at his legs. “It’s so...blue”

Before he could finish she was in the room with him, pressing him against the wall and kissing him hungrily. When they emerged a while later they were both disheveled and mussed. Buffy exited first and Spike quickly followed, only pausing to grab two more pairs of blue pants and two blue shirts and toss them on the checkout counter.

LAST PART!