The house was quiet, finally. All it had taken, to get the quiet, was staying up until three AM. Buffy sat alone on the couch. The lights were on around her. They'd found rooms for everyone – Willow, Xander, Giles, the girls, even Spike – so she wasn't keeping anyone up. Plus she didn't like the dark so much anymore.
When Spike walked in, she turned her head away but then turned it back, staring forward and not at him. She knew she wasn't being fair but the way he'd looked at her, in the basement, after they'd saved Xander … She wasn't being fair. Spike had told her he loved her, but she hadn't believed it until that night, the way he'd looked at her, the way he'd reached out to her before she'd startled away. And she saw how he'd looked after, that hurt look, the same one he was giving her now.
“Did anybody tell you about what happened around here tonight?” he asked.
“Willow did,” she replied. “The First is back in the mix.”
“It, uh, it talked to the little boy. Said it wasn't time for me yet.” He turned to look as if seeking her approval. “I should move out. Leave town before it is time for me.”
Her life would be so much easier if he left. “No, you have to stay.”
“You've got another demon fighter now.”
Another? Oh, he meant Wood. She couldn't talk about his feelings, not now. “This is going to be bad, worse than anyone else knows. I need all my fighters.”
“Some of us are lovers, not fighters, pet. Well, no, I'm definitely a fighter.”
“Best one I've got.” He looked pleased at that.
“But, luv.” He took her hand in his.
She pulled her hand away. “I don't want you, Spike. I don't love you. With what the First is doing to you, I'm not sure I can even trust you. But I do need you.”
“Because I can fight?”
“And nothing more?”
“Nothing more,” she whispered. “If you can't deal with that, then go.”
“Right.” He stood. Oh shit, he was leaving. Maybe that was for the best. Maybe he'd survive after the First had destroyed them all. “Night then.”
She waited until the basement door closed behind him. “Night.” It would have been easier if he'd left, but she needed all her fighters. It was good that he'd stayed. Maybe if she kept telling herself that, she'd believe it.
* ~ * ~ * ~ *
Buffy'd had that preacher under control. There'd been no need for Angel to step in. Honestly, what the bloody hell did he think he was doing? And the kiss … well, there'd been no need for that. Spike could have yelled out a warning before the preacher smashed a statue into Angel's head. He didn't. The git deserved it for showing up at the last minute when he wasn't wanted. 'Course Angel did miss the whole fight. That was almost worth the price of admission.
“OK, now I'm pissed. Where is he?”
Buffy looked at the two halves of the preacher and giggled. “He had to split.”
The First, posing as Buffy, whispered in Spike's ear. “Yeah, she needs you real bad.”
“As a matter of fact, I believe she does.” Spike stepped out from the shadows and lit a cigarette. “Slayer.” He blew the smoke in Angel's face. “Ponce.”
“Spike, what are you doing here?” And damn but that brooder could whine.
Spike nodded toward Buffy. “Watching her back. What about you Mr. Johnny-come-after-the-nick-of-time?”
“I have info.” Angel nodded toward the manila envelope. “And this.” He pulled out an amulet, a 2-inch diameter round crystal pendant in a silver starburst setting hung from a coarse silver chain. Gods but it was gaudy.
“Nice. Very tasteful.”
“Spike.” Buffy's voice had a snap to it. “Play nice.”
“Yeah, Spike,” Angel smirked. “Play nice.”
“What is it?” Buffy asked Angel. Of course she didn't bother to admonish him.
“I don't know everything. It's very powerful and probably very dangerous. It has a purifying power, a cleansing power, possibly scrubbing bubbles. The translation is, uh—anyway, it bestows strength to the right person who wears it.”
“And the right person is?”
“Someone ensouled, but stronger than human. A champion. As in me.”
“Or me,” Buffy replied.
“Or me,” Spike added. Buffy and Angel both turned and stared. “What?”
Spike could see the doubt in Angel's eyes. He wanted to impress the girl, yeah, but the amulet was dangerous – who knew what it'd do – and Angel wanted to be around after he'd impressed the girl. “Buffy, give us a minute pet.”
“Give you a minute?”
“We don't need a minute,” Angel said. “I'm wearing it and that's that.”
“Be a good girl,” Spike added. “Run along.”
Buffy's knuckles whitened on the Scythe. “Right. I'll be at home because I have an apocalypse to prevent. If you two kill each other I'll kick your asses from here to eternity.”
“Buffy,” Angel called out.
She turned at the door. “You two talk. Work out this … whatever.” And then she was gone.
“What was that?” Angel asked.
“She doesn't want you to wear it,” Spike told him.
“What? Buffy? Yes she does.” Angel did not look amused.
“The amulet, you said it's dangerous.”
“Yeah, and I'm her champion.”
“She doesn't want a dead champion.”
Angel's eyes shifted at that. “There's nothing to say I'll end up dead.”
“Five'll get you ten the person wearing that ends up dead, well, deader.”
“You want her. That's what this is, isn't it? Well she kissed me.”
“Yeah, yeah, saw the tongues.”
“You think you can wear the amulet, be the champion, and get the girl.” Damn but Angel had a one track mind.
Spike dropped his cigarette to the floor. “You don't get it. This isn't about you or me. This is about Buffy, about what she needs. And after this is all over? She's gonna need you as in you're not a pile of ashes swirling in the wind.” Spike plucked the amulet from Angel's hand. “I'm seeing she gets what she needs.”
* ~ * ~ * ~ *
Stumbling backwards, Spike felt a warmth on his chest, just a bit above his heart. He grabbed the amulet but dropped it again. His hand was burned where he'd touched the pendant. “Buffy!”
He froze as a blue light shot out from the amulet, punching a hole through the stone, through the high-school, and up to the sky. Orange light shot back down, into the amulet, and then out into the cavern, dusting Turok-Han. The ground started shaking as Buffy ran up.
“I can feel it, Buffy.”
“My soul. It's really there. Kind of stings.”
She wasn't moving. The cavern was crashing in around them and she wasn't moving. “Go on, then.”
“No. No, you've done enough. You could still …”
“No, you've beat them back. It's for me to do the cleanup.”
Angel called out from the stairway. “Buffy, come on!”
Buffy looked up to Angel and then back to Spike. “I …”
Buffy ran, almost on Angel's heels as they raced up the stairs.
The heat was getting worse. Spike wasn't sure how much longer he could stand it. He'd always been wild, reckless, practically a kamikaze about some things. Never thought he'd last this long. Never thought he'd go out on the side of the white hats, but he'd always been love's bitch, always doing stupid … Shit that hurt. Wouldn't be long now. Wouldn't be long …