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The Other Woman

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The Other Woman

Buffy walked into the Bronze, alone. She hoped the loud music (she vaguely noticed the band tonight was terrible) and the crowd would be a distraction.

She had made the right decision; she knew that. Spike had been a mistake. It had helped, for a time. Having someone devoted to her. Being able to lose herself in the sex. Connecting with something, anything. But he wasn't human. He was a vampire. Even with the chip, he was dangerous.

She couldn't be with her friends. They didn't know. Wouldn't understand. Besides, everyone was so obsessed with the wedding. She was happy for Xander and Anya. Truly happy. But tonight swatches and seating arrangements and menus were beyond annoying.

So she went to the bar and ordered a drink. Sat at a table at the side of the room. Listened to the off-key chords and screeching non-harmonies.

He was on the dance floor, black leather and white hair. The only ones slow-dancing, he was draped all over her. Long, dark hair and pale skin. Rose lips.

Stunning.

What the hell?

“She's beautiful, isn't she?”

Buffy turned to see Tara, shouting in her ear. “Yeah,” she replied, shouting back.

“What?”

Buffy stood up and took Tara's hand. “Bathroom.” She dragged her friend behind her.

The lady's room was a little quieter, though the young women crowding around the mirrors supplied their own cacophony. “Who is she?” Buffy asked.

“I don't know,” Tara replied. “They came in a half hour ago, and he's been all over her ever since. I'm sorry.”

“Why?” Buffy said. “Oh.” She shrugged. “Spike and I are over.”

“Sure you are. I can see it in your face. Very over.” She squeezed Buffy's shoulder with affection. “Hey. Why don't we go to the Expresso Pump? We can talk.”

As they were leaving, Buffy couldn't see them on the dance floor. Then she looked up. They were on the balcony. She knew from experience what they were doing.

Her jaw set with anger as her eyes blinked back tears.

***

“It's okay to be jealous.”

Buffy clutched her cup of latte. “I'm not jealous.”

“Right.”

“No, really. I told him to move on. But did he have to do it so...”

“Publicly?”

“Quickly.” She frowned. “One minute he's devastated that I've left him...”

“Devastated. Really.”

She realized how it sounded. “Well, really upset. And the next minute he's all over some bimbo right in my face.” She thought a moment. “I bet he's trying to make me jealous.”

Tara sighed. “B, it would be hard to make you jealous if he didn't know you were there, and A, I wouldn't call her a bimbo. She seemed pretty classy to me. That outfit was very expensive, I think, and tasteful considering she was wearing it to a club.” She took Buffy's hand. “Sweetie, the way he was looking at her...”

“What way?”

“I think he's in love.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “That just doesn't make sense. How could he love me one day and someone else the next? Unless... unless he never really loved me at all.”

“Is that possible?” Tara asked.

Buffy's eyes narrowed. “No. Something else is going on, and I'm going to find out what.”

“Buffy. Sweetie.” Tara squeezed her hand. “Let him go.”

***

They sat around Xander's kitchen table, sampling different cakes.

“Buffy, when your heart isn't in the chocolate, I know something's wrong,” Xander said.

“Hm? What?”

“Oh, leave her alone. She's obviously still feeling disconnected from reality because of the months she spent in a coffin.” Anya took a bite of the lemon chiffon. “Ah, that's it. This would taste so much better with maggots.”

Xander spit out the mocha swirl. “I think not.”

Willow looked at the piece in her hand. “Suddenly, not so interested in the cake tasting.”

“Fine.” Anya looked at the list the bakery had provided. “We'll go with the plain vanilla. It's the cheapest.”

“Okay by me.” Xander swept the crumbs back into the sample box. “Oh, hey. On the way back from the bakery, we ran into Spike. With a girl. What a hottie.”

Anya smacked him. “Yes. She was quite a hottie.”

“Then why did you hit me?”

“For noticing.” Anya smiled. “I'm happy for him. I think they had just been enjoying sexual relations.”

“Hey, Buff,” Xander said. “That should make you happy. Stalker boy will be off your case.”

Willow asked, “Was she human? Or a vampire? I mean, he couldn't hurt a human with the chip, I guess but he could cause trouble with another vampire. Couldn't he?”

“That's a good point,” Buffy said. “I wonder if that thrall thing works on other vampires.”

“You think he's thralling her?” Willow asked.

“Or more likely vice versa.”

“I got a good look at her,” Xander said. “She didn't need any thrall.” He waited for Anya to hit him, but she just gave him a look. So he slapped himself.

***

“There they are.” Dawn and Buffy were coming out of the grocery store and could see Spike and the woman walking further down the street . “You want to know if she's a vampire? Hand me your compact.”

“I don't have a compact.”

Dawn stared at her sister. “Your mirror, then.”

“Oh. Right.” Buffy pulled a folding mirror out of her bag. Dawn took it and pretended to check her hair, while positioning the mirror so that she could see the couple. “Spike no, hosebag yes. Human.” She handed the mirror back. I could follow them. Find out more about her.”

“I don't need you Harriet the Spying her. If Spike has a girlfriend, fine. Nothing to me.”

“Sure.” Dawn said. “It's just that, you guys were such good friends, and I was thinking maybe you would make a really cool couple.”

“Dawn. He's a vampire. So, no way.”

“Angel was a vampire.”

Buffy shot her a nasty look.

“Shutting up, now.”

***

She hadn't meant to get so close to his crypt. She was just patrolling. Vampires were afoot.

Yep, that's what she'd tell him when she ran into him. If. If she ran into him.

He wasn't around. She considered kicking in his crypt door for old times sake, but it was open. The crypt was empty. Besides a few cigarette butts crushed in the corner, there was no sign that he'd ever been there.

He'd moved out.

***

She ran into them coming out of the nicest condo in town. He was holding the door for her as she was stepping into the passenger side of a Benz. The door hung over the edge of the sidewalk and there was no way for Buffy to pass without being noticed. He looked at her without embarrassment or guilt. “Buffy,” he said. “Hi. Been a while.”

“Not that long,” she answered.

“No, I suppose not.” He helped the woman back on to the sidewalk, his arm wrapped protectively around her shoulder. “Buffy, I want you to meet someone. This is Bianca.”

The woman extended her hand. “William has told me so much about you. You're even prettier than he described.”

“Really?” she asked. “He hasn't said a thing about you.” Bianca was more stunning up close than she had seemed in the Bronze. She was older than Buffy, but just how much wasn't clear. She spoke with a faint Eastern European accent. Or maybe it was French. Buffy suddenly felt very young, and very ordinary. “How did you meet Spike?”

“Spike? Oh, yes. He told me he uses that name. But I much prefer William, don't you?”

“So William it is,” Spike said, bringing the woman's hand to his lips. “I'd love to chat, Slayer, but we have tickets to the symphony.”

For the first time, Buffy realized that Spike wasn't wearing his customary duster. His coat was black, but it was a topcoat over a suit. Cashmere, maybe. Expensive, anyway.

Would Spike sell out for money? She thought about the demon eggs hatching in his crypt. Would a fish swim?

But still. There was something in his eyes. Something when he looked at Bianca that she used to see when he looked at her.

***

Two nights later she saw him sitting alone in the park. “Mind if I join you?” She sat beside him when he didn't complain.”Where's your girlfriend?”

“She had a late spa appointment.”

When he turned to look at her, Buffy was surprised. Perhaps it was the lighting in the park. No, there were definitely lines around his eyes that hadn't been there before. And he looked... tired. “Are you okay?”

“I'm fine.” He looked at his watch. “Well, nice touching base, Slayer, but I have to go meet Bianca.”

“Spike, is that a Rolex?”

“Yeah. Pretty thing, isn't it?”

“She gives you lots of pretty things, doesn't she?”

“What are you implying?”

“You've moved in with her too, haven't you? Nice condo?”

“You think I'm with her for her money.” His face twisted with anger. “She offers me these things and I take them. Not to would be an insult. But I love her, Buffy. She treats me with respect.” He got up from the bench and she stood beside him.

“She doesn't know what you are.”

“Of course she does. And she doesn't care.”

She watched him as he hurried off. He was limping.

***

“I get it. You're jealous,” Xander said, flipping through another book from the pile.

“What?” Buffy jumped. “No. Of course not. Why would I be jealous?”

“Because he's been sniffing after you so long that you've gotten used to it, that's why.”

“You're being ridiculous. I tell you, there's something off about that woman. And a little research never hurt anyone.”

“Riiiight.”

“Buffy,” Willow said, laying her hand on her friend's. “I think Xander is right, sort of. Remember your roommate that you thought was a demon?”

“She WAS a demon.”

“Oh.” Willow buried her nose in her book. “Bad example.”

Anya leaned over Xander's shoulder. “Isn't that Bianca?”

“Where?” Buffy asked, looking towards the shop.

“There,” Anya pointed. “In Xander's book.”

There was a woodcut. A portrait of a young woman who looked exactly like Spike's girlfriend. And another illustration, of what looked like the same woman, holding the wizened shell of a body. “What does this say?” Buffy asked.

“I'm not sure,” Willow answered. “But I think you're right. I think Spike is in trouble.”

Buffy ran out the door without another word.

***

Buffy cursed herself for never asking Bianca's last name as she read the list of names on the electronic register. “Bianca Duvall. That must be it.” She waited until someone was exiting the condo and walked inside like she belonged. The occupant even held the door for her. Luckily the security guard must have taken a bathroom break. “So much for a gated community,” she thought to herself. “Come on,” she said, as she held down the elevator button. She was considering the stairs when the door opened and she hit the seven button.

She ran from the elevator to the woman's door. She raised her hand to knock, then gave it a hard kick instead. The door fell off the hinges.

Bianca was on the couch. Spike was in her arms. His skin looked like tree bark and his pale skin was now snow white.

“Drop him,” Buffy demanded.

“Oh, Slayer,” Bianca said. “You're too late.” She dropped Spike's body to the ground as she stood. “He was so delicious. I shall miss dear William.”

“No!” Buffy looked down at Spike. He wasn't breathing, of course, but his eyelids fluttered, just a bit. “You've killed him,” she said to the demon. “Why? How?”

“Not killed,” Bianca said. “You can't kill the dead. Utilized until nothing was left.”

“It couldn't be his life force. What were you feeding on?” She saw his foot move from the corner of her eye.

“His love. He is so deliciously full of love.”

“I can't believe he loves you,” Buffy said with disgust.

“Oh, not me child. You. I just... redirected it.” She smiled at Buffy. “And now I think I'll start on you, well-buried as your love is. I'm sure I could get something from it. A little snack.”

“I don't think so.” Buffy spun and kicked Bianca in the chest, but the demon caught her leg in her hands and flipped her. Buffy landed easily on her feet. “I'm going to guess, “ she said, picking a marble ashtray from the coffee table, “That you're a lover,” she heaved the heavy object at Bianca's head with all the Slayer strength she could muster. “Not a fighter.” The ashtray hit Bianca in the forehead, the pointed edge imbedding itself deep. Her head split and a maroon coloured gas, not blood nor grey matter, oozed forth.

She fell, her body starting to crumble. As it dissipated, Spike's did the opposite, inflating like a black clad balloon. His eyes opened wide. “Buffy?” He looked up at her from the floor. “What....?”

She helped him up, his body now restored. “You really should be more careful. The dating scene is murder.”

***

“You care. Admit it.” Spike said, sitting on the edge of a headstone. “You came rushing in to rescue poor defenseless little me.”

“I don't want you getting any ideas. I just couldn't have that creature killing guys. You know she would have gone after Xander next.” She looked away from his eyes. “There's nothing between you and me.”

Spike tilted his head and smiled as she walked away. “Of course not.” Louder, he called, “See you at the wedding.”

“Whatever.” Back turned against him, she smiled too.