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Hearts Breaking Even

Chapter Text

banner by Always_jbj

Title: Hearts Breaking Even 10/7/05
Author: Slaymesoftly
Seasons: I, II and III
Rating: NC17
Word count: 65000
Distribution: Please tell me if you take it, unless you already know you can
Disclaimer: I’m sure Joss would have written it this way if it had occurred to him….but he didn’t, so I’m just playing with characters that belong to Joss Wheden, Mutant Enemy and other large corporations.
AN – This fic was written for Always_jbj as a thank you for her hard work moving all my fics from the old BSV to the new one. She also, sweetie that she is, did some of the beta work while she was getting peeks at chapters before anyone else. Final beta was done by the brilliant Amyb who very sweetly does not point out to me that anyone who screws up as often as I do has no business running a community about grammar and punctuation issues.


Hearts Breaking Even

Chapter One

Buffy stared at the glowing portal swirling in space into which the demon she’d been fighting had just disappeared.

“Oh, this can not be good!” she groaned and looked at her Watcher with pleading eyes.

“If you hurry, you can jump through, kill him, and jump back before it closes,” he offered helpfully.

“Jump through? In my new boots? What if I land in a pond or a pile of elephant poop or something? I’m not jumping into something I can’t see.”

Her lip struck out stubbornly and Giles sighed as he wondered why he had been the one to end up with a Slayer with no training and no regard for the importance of blind obedience.

“Buffy, you have to do it. It is your job and as unpleasant as the thought of possibly landing in elephant… manure… might be, you must—”

“Fine, fine, I know. Chosen One. The one in all the world, yada yada. But you are sooo going to owe me new boots if these get ruined.”

“I will be happy to submit your invoice for footwear to the Council if it becomes necessary. In the meanwhile, the demon is getting away.”

“I’m going, I’m going. But what if I have to chase him and the portal closes behind me? Did you think about that, huh? Did you?”

“In the unlikely event that should happen, I will endeavor to reopen it as quickly as I can. You simply need to remain in its vicinity so that you may respond quickly when it reopens. Now, do get on with it, please. I would like to get home at a decent hour tonight.”

“Oh yeah, Cause you’ve got so many exciting things to do waiting for you at your apartment.” With a final glare at her watcher, the teenager bit her lip and jumped through the still swirling opening.

Her landing was nothing like what she expected. She had been braced for some sort of demon dimension full of darkness and slimy secretions that would get on her shoes. Instead, she landed lightly in the middle of an open meadow full of wild flowers and startled sheep. If it weren’t for the bright sunlight and the sheep, she would have thought she was still in Sunnydale.

An illusion which was quickly shattered when the demon rose up to roar at her from his menacing position over an extremely frightened child.

“What? “ she yelled back to distract him from his intended victim. “Did you think I was going to just let you go? You tore my good shirt. You owe me, buster.”

She waited calmly for the demon’s charge, sidestepping agilely at the last second and swinging at his neck with her sword. Unfortunately, the demon was also fairly agile for something so large and it dodged just enough for her blow to slice into its shoulder rather than removing its head as she had intended.

“Damn!” she exclaimed, pivoting just in time to duck under a paw tipped with lethal-looking claws. She ran the sword into the demon’s exposed stomach and yelled triumphantly when it doubled over, screaming in pain. While it was leaning forward, she quickly pulled the sword out and swung it hard at the neck, which was now down at her level.

The force of her blow not only removed the demon’s head from it’s still-toppling body, but spun her around so fast that she lost her balance and fell to the grass-covered ground. She sat there for a second, staring at the demon’s intended victim who was now climbing slowly to his feet. She gradually became aware that she was sitting on something soft and less than fragrant.

“Ewwwwww! Please tell me I am not sitting in sheep poop!” she said to the wide-eyed little boy who was approaching her with awe and not a little trepidation.

His beautiful blue eyes were as big as saucers in his fine-boned face as he stared at the vision in front of him. Although the girl on the ground was obviously much older than his nine years, she was nowhere near as tall as most of the adults in his life. In a world where he was always the youngest or smallest in his group, he found the thought that someone not that much bigger than he could have killed a monster exciting and intriguing.

“Are you a fairy?” he inquired politely, ignoring the fact that she was spinning in circles trying to see the back of her skirt and muttering words he wasn’t sure he understood. He was sure though, that if he went home and repeated the words, his mother would soon be scrubbing his mouth with foul-tasting soap.

“Am I a what?” Buffy stopped trying to see the back of her skirt long enough to acknowledge his presence and the attempt at conversation. “Don’t be silly. Fairies aren’t real. Now, vampires and demons, they’re real. And very hard on the wardrobe,” she added, pulling her skirt around to the front.

“Well, it’s just that you are clearly not human,” he said apologetically. “I mean, you are so beautiful, and you can fight and kill monsters. You must surely be some sort of avenging angel, or warrior elf queen or something like that!”

Buffy studied boy for a minute, taking in his strange clothing, his accent and the worshipful look on his face. She was torn between indignation that he thought she wasn’t human and delight at being referred to as beautiful.

“I think someone’s been reading too many comic books,” she finally said kindly, pushing his unruly curls out of his eyes.

“Comic books?”

“Never mind. I don’t have time to explain. I have to jump back through the portal before it—argh!”

Even as she turned to enter it, the gateway to her home in Sunnydale shrunk in on itself and disappeared with an audible “pop”.

“Great! Now I’m stuck here until Giles figures out how to get me back.”

Giving an exaggerated sigh of disgust, she walked to the edge of the meadow and, after carefully checking for more little sheep turds, sat down with her back against a tree.

“What’s your name?” she asked the boy, gesturing for him to take a seat beside her.

“It’s William,” he said shyly. He gave a small bow and added, “William Carlisle the Third, at your service.”

Buffy was charmed by the show of good manners in a boy his age. Thinking back to when she was in elementary school, or to some of the children she’d babysat for before she was called, she knew that sort of behavior wasn’t typical of young boys. Not the young boys in twentieth-century Southern California anyway.

“Thank you, William,” she replied just as formally. “I am very pleased to meet you. Now, sit down and tell me where, and more importantly, when I am. Since it looks like I might be here awhile, I might as well know where it is.”

“As to where you are, you are at my family’s country house in Kent. England,” he added when she looked at him blankly. “And ,,.and when you are? How can you not know when you are? It is June fourteenth, the year of our lord 1864.”

“Terrific,” she mumbled. “Another country AND another century. I hate portals.”

William stared at her with a worried expression on his face until she shrugged and smiled at him reassuringly.

“Do you require assistance then?” he asked, getting back to his feet. “Shall I fetch the authorities?”

“Oh, God, no! No authorities.” She shook her head and her blonde hair swirled around her shoulders, capturing his attention.

“Your hair is so beautiful,” he said wistfully. “I should love to—” He stopped, aghast at what he’d been about to say. Blushing furiously, he sat back down and studied his boots with great intensity.

Buffy looked around curiously, observing the placid sheep and meadow full of wild flowers. Just behind them she could see what appeared to be a small building.

“It’s really pretty here, William,” she said with a happy sigh. “I wouldn’t mind if I could stay here all day. I could use a nice vacation in the country.”

“I… we would… you are more than welcome to do so,” he replied formally, trying to ignore the bolt of joy that shot through him at the thought of her staying all day. In spite of her protests, he could not stop thinking of her as some sort of mythical creature and he wanted to stay close to her for as long as possible.

“I probably don’t have any choice but to do so,” she said with a wry grin. “Who knows how long it’s going to take Giles to open that thing up again. It could be days.”

“You can’t mean to stay out here by yourself all night!” William’s little Victorian face managed to be shocked and intrigued at the same time.

“I have to stay near the portal so I can hop back through it when it opens again. Anyway,” she said with a small smile, “I’ll be fine. I can take care of myself. Warrior elf queen, remember?” she teased gently.

He blushed again and kicked his toes in the dirt. “You aren’t really an elf queen or a fairy, are you?”

“No, I’m not. I’m just a normal fifteen-year-old girl who happens to have… I’m just a little stronger and faster than most people,” she finished with another smile.

“And you have a sword!” he said enthusiastically.

“Yes, I do. Would you like to see it?”

Eyes wide with wonder, he nodded his head dumbly and held his breath as she picked up the sword and gently placed it in his hand. The sudden weight surprised him and he almost dropped it, but the sound of her laughter made him bite his lip and struggle to hold it up. His arm trembled with the effort it took to keep the heavy sword from dipping toward the ground, but he stubbornly forced himself to lift his arm until he was holding it straight over his head.

“Very good!” Buffy’s laugh was gentle and not mocking as she caught the sword on its inevitable drop toward the grass. “I wouldn’t have been able to lift this sword at all when I was your age. You must be used to sword fighting.”

“No, not really,” he admitted. “I’m rather more of a… a scholar than a fighter, I’m afraid. I prefer books and poetry to fisticuffs and sword fights. Although it would be wonderful to know how to use one the way you do,” he said wistfully.

“I can teach you. If I’m here long enough, I can. There’s no reason why you can’t be a poet AND a warrior is there?”

“I suppose not,” he said dubiously as though the idea was so bizarre he’d never considered it. “But all the other boys say—”

“The other boys? What do they know?” Buffy waved her hand airily. ”Have they ever killed a demon?”

“No. No, I’m quite certain they have not,” he agreed firmly. “Clearly you are much more experienced in that field than they.”

“Well, there you go then. You just bring a wooden sword back with you—you are coming back tomorrow, aren’t you?” she asked anxiously, figuring that the gathering dusk meant he would be expected home very soon.

“Oh yes! I shall be back as soon as Mother finishes my morning piano lesson.”

“Okay, then. I’ll see you tomorrow. I think you’d better be getting home before your mother starts to worry about you.”

“Mother is quite accustomed to my wandering all over the farm by myself every summer. You are quite correct, however, to think she would worry about me if it was after sunset.” He held up a sketchbook and small journal to indicate what he did to amuse himself.

He turned to leave, then looked back over his shoulder and raised one eyebrow. “Are you sure you are going to be alright?”

“I’ll be fine. I’ll just get in that little house there if it rains or something. You go on home.”

Buffy watched as his slight figure disappeared into the rapidly-gathering gloom. She could see him stop occasionally and throw worried looks back, and she waved cheerfully every time he did until she knew he couldn’t see her anymore.

Resigning herself to the fact that she might be stuck here for a while, she walked over to the small building and peered inside. It appeared to be used for storing various feed tubs and buckets and of course had nothing resembling a bed or food for humans.

Oh well, it’s not like I haven’t been cold and hungry before… wait! I haven’t been cold and hungry – okay, hungry maybe; but not I-haven’t-eaten-in- two-days kind of hungry.


With a sigh, she resigned herself to an uncomfortable night, and settled against a tree where she could quickly reach the portal if it opened before morning. She spent the night alternately bored and frightened as the complete darkness settled around her. She could hear the sheep make occasional “baas” and snuffling noises as they moved around the meadow before quieting down to sleep.

She amused herself for a while by staring at the stars overhead and marveling at how well she could see them. Only way out in the desert, far away from the reflected lights of towns and cities, could they be seen so clearly back in California and the complete lack of any glow on the horizon brought home to her exactly how far away she was from her home.

As the night wore on and the portal failed to appear, Buffy’s head began to droop and she slid down the tree to pillow it on the soft grass. She told herself she was just resting her head while she kept her eyes open, but it wasn’t long before sleep overtook her fifteen-year-old body.

She awoke with a start, blinking her eyes in the bright sunlight, taking just a second to remember where she was. As soon as she realized what had awakened her, she had no trouble remembering the previous afternoon and evening. Her sudden twitch as she awoke startled the young lamb that had been sniffing her face, but he only backed up a few steps before curiosity overcame his fear and he stretched his head out toward the immobile girl again.

The lamb’s warm breath on her face, smelling of milk and clover, was a revelation to the city-born Slayer; she lay perfectly still while the young sheep allowed his nose to roam over her face and body. When he began to nibble on a blonde curl, Buffy sat up suddenly and sent him racing back to the safety of his mother’s side while she laughed.

“Sorry, little guy, but I don’t think you really want to eat my hair.”

Mentioning eating reminding her that she hadn’t been able to since lunch the day before, and she grimaced as her stomach growled in protest. She was afraid to get too far from the portal area, but the pangs in her belly sent her prowling around the edges of the field looking for berries or nuts of some sort.

“I hope William doesn’t forget I’m out here,” she murmured as her search turned up nothing but a few blackberries which were much too far from being ripe to be edible. Making a face at the sour taste, she sadly dropped the handful she’d picked with such hope and wandered into the meadow to watch the lambs frolicking with each other.

When William arrived several hours later, laboriously towing a rather large child’s wagon behind him, he found his “warrior queen” hiding behind her tree and yelling at a snorting ram that shook his head threateningly.

“William!” she shouted in relief and fear. “Be careful! That big sheep has gone crazy. He tried to attack me. For no reason! I was just playing with the babies and he—” She stopped talking as the ram took advantage of her distraction to sneak around the tree and butt her hard enough to knock her down.

Smothering a smile, the boy rushed to her rescue, delighted that he was able to return the favor for the girl who had saved his life. Picking up a broken branch, he approached the snorting sheep and tapped it on the nose, saying firmly, “Back off, Sebastian. Miss Buffy is not going to hurt your children. You are being very rude. Now back off!” He waved his makeshift shepherd’s crook at the large ram and firmly urged him back to his herd.

With a final glare at Buffy and a shake of his head, the protective flock leader moved back out into the meadow and resumed grazing with his ewes and their lambs.

Keeping a wary eye on the now placid sheep, Buffy moved out away from the tree and gave William a grateful hug.

“Thank you, William, I’m sure you saved my life,” she said with a smile as she walked over to the wagon. She completely missed the rush of color to the boy’s adoring face and the absolute astonishment on it. No one except his mother had ever hugged William. No one, let alone a beautiful girl from another world. He remained frozen in place until her voice finally penetrated the delighted fog he was in and he hastened to answer her questions.

“Is this for me? William? William? Can you hear me? Is this for me?”

He shook himself out of his stupor and, forgetting how strong she was, quickly moved to help her with the picnic basket she was holding.

“Yes, I thought you might be hungry and I didn’t know how long you might be here so I brought you as much food as I could sneak out of the kitchen without alerting Cook to.…”He stopped as she tore the top off the basket and began stuffing a slice of bread in her mouth.

Something about his shocked expression reached through the hungry daze Buffy was in and she stopped chewing abruptly, swallowing the mouthful she already had and blushing all over.

“I’m sorry, William,” she said apologetically. “My manners are terrible. It’s just that I haven’t eaten since yesterday’s lunch and it looks so good—”

“It’s quite alright, Miss Buffy,” he said politely. “I should have been quite ravenous myself if I had not eaten for such a long period of time. Please, continue. Help yourself to whatever you want. There is jam for the bread, and some meat from last night’s supper. And some fruit….”

For a second she looked like she was going to hug him again, and he waited with bated breath, both terrified and eager, until she turned away and began unpacking the rest of the food. With a resigned sigh, he relaxed and moved to help her sort out the rather large quantity of supplies he had brought with him.

In addition to the large picnic basket, which he assured her she could keep with her until she no longer needed it, he pulled out several blankets and a pillow, blushing as he suggested she might need to make herself a bed if she was still there by nightfall. He also brought out his sketch book and a pencil, laying them carefully to one side for use later.

Chapter Two

In the bottom of the wagon was a wooden sword – clearly a child’s toy, and just as clearly one not having seen much use. She smiled and pulled it out, placing it beside her on the ground. The large metal battle sword she had brought through the portal with her dwarfed his wooden offering and William tried to take it back to hide away. His embarrassment at having brought it was palpable.

“I’m sorry,” he said, blushing furiously. “I know it is just a toy. It was all I could find, but….”

“It’s fine, William,” Buffy said kindly. “We can work on some moves, how to hold it, when to strike. Things like that. It’ll work. You’ll see.”

William looked at her dubiously, but set the toy sword back on the ground and waited for her to finish eating. In a time period when women did their best to appear fragile and feminine, which included picking at their food – at least in public – he found the way Buffy indulged her more than hearty appetite both amazing and interesting.

“Do you always eat like that?” he asked hesitantly as she polished off her second apple. “Not that I mind,” he hastened to assure her when she appeared embarrassed. “It’s just that I’ve never seen a girl consume quite that much food at one time.”

Buffy colored slightly and said, “Well, I was really hungry. And I have a really high metabolism. I burn those calories like crazy – what with slaying, and school and—” She stopped short at the uncomprehending look on his face.

“You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?” she asked him, with a smile.

He shook his head and smiled back at her. “I am not familiar with some of the terms you use. I’m sorry. No doubt it is my own ignorance showing...”

“No, it’s not you. It’s me forgetting when I am and how old you are. You seem so mature for a… a… ten year old?” she hazarded.

“Actually, I’m only nine,” he said proudly. “I won’t be ten for another two months. But I’ve been told I’m very mature for my age – intellectually, if not physically.”

“Well, go me, with the knowing more big words than a brain,” Buffy laughed.

After Buffy had eaten her fill and stashed the remaining food, blankets and the pillow in the shed, she tossed the wooden sword to William and said, “Let’s go learn to swordfight, Willie.”

Leaving her own heavy sword for the time being, she picked up the branch William had used to intimidate the ram and broke it in half, using one piece as her own version of a wooden sword. After showing him how to properly grip the sword’s handle, and watching him make several awkward sweeps with it, she picked up her stick and said, “Okay, now come at me like you want to take my head off.”

His shocked face and immediate release of his sword told her that was not going to work and she sighed heavily.

“You aren’t going to hurt me,” she encouraged. “I won’t let you. Don’t worry about me. Just try to get through my defenses.”

“Very well,” he said dubiously, advancing on her and waving his sword around purposefully. “I shall endeavor to attack you. But you must promise to tell me if I am too rough.”

Biting back a grin, Buffy agreed to tell him if he was becoming too aggressive for her and they began a timid sword fight with her stick and his toy. After several minutes in which it was clear that Buffy was in no danger of being struck by his wooden weapon, William became braver and began to actually try to break through her defense, not sure what he would do if he was successful, but desiring to show her that he was learning something.

When he faked a stab at her stomach and she lowered her stick to block it, he swung his sword at her exposed neck and hit her on the shoulder. With a muffled scream, he dropped his sword and fell to his knees in front of her begging forgiveness with tears in his eyes.

Buffy quickly dropped her stick and knelt beside him, pulling him into a hug and murmuring that it was okay, she wasn’t hurt, that he did just right. She insisted she was proud of him and that he had done just the right thing.

“But I struck you!” His lower lip came out in a pout when she refused to stop smiling at him and praising his technique.

“Yes,” she said proudly, “You did. It was wonderful! What made you think to try a fake like that?”

“That’s what you did to the monster,” he muttered, refusing to look at her happy face. “You struck him in the stomach and then cut off his head. I thought you might think I was doing the same thing and then I – but I didn’t mean to hurt you!” His eyes teared up again.

“I’m not hurt, William. I promise you. See? Not even a mark. It was brilliant. I am so proud of you!”

“Really?” The hopeful expression on his face was irresistible and she nodded eagerly.

“Really. You are a very quick learner. I’ll make a master swordsman out of you in no time.”

Convinced that he had not injured her, and that she really wanted him to keep trying, William went back to his lessons with a willingness that surprised them both. When Buffy felt he had mastered the art of attack, she switched from strictly defensive tactics to a more aggressive approach and watched with admiration as he quickly adapted to the moves necessary to block her tentative strikes.

After an hour of this, Buffy laughingly called a halt and went to get a drink from the bottle of water he had brought for her. While she drank and rested against her tree, William bounced around her waving his sword and smiting imaginary enemies. She watched him with interest as he kept up a non-stop monologue while he leapt around the meadow.

“You have a lot of energy, William,” she called out as he ran through the unimpressed sheep, shouting a battle cry. “You remind me of me when I was your age. My parents thought there was something wrong with me that I had so much energy. Of course, that was before we knew I was a sl— before I had learned to use swords and other weapons.”

They passed the rest of the afternoon alternating between sword fighting and talking about William’s life when he wasn’t spending his summers in the country. She listened with interest as he explained about the British school system and how boys from his station always went off to boarding school at a young age.

“Don’t you miss your parents?” The idea of being away from her family for most of the year was appalling to Buffy, and she looked at him with sympathy.

He shrugged and tried to look unconcerned. “You get used to it,” he said quietly. “Everyone does it. Only a… a… momma’s boy would stay at home.”

Something in his voice told her he didn’t want to discuss that particular aspect of his life any more and she switched the subject to the farm and the kinds of crops raised there.

When evening approached again, William reluctantly picked up the handle of his wagon and turned it toward home. He frowned at the small stash of food Buffy had set aside to eat later.

“I’ll try to bring you some more bread and meat tomorrow,” he promised. “Are you sure you’re going to be alright here again?”

“I’ll be fine,” she assured him with a smile. “I’ll be waiting for you. Unless the portal opens,” she hastily added. “Then I’ll have to leave.”

“This… portal… it will take you back to your own world?”

Buffy nodded. She had been careful to tell him as little as possible about where she was from, allowing him to believe she actually came from some other world, if not the land of faery, then something else unrelated to the one he knew. When she wouldn’t answer his specific questions about her life, he went back to referring to her as his “warrior elf queen” and insisting that she came from a magical realm.

“I should miss you,” he mumbled, turning bright red. “If you weren’t here tomorrow, I should miss you terribly.”

“That’s very sweet, William,” she said softly, very aware of the effort it had cost him to say that to her. “I will miss you too, and the meadow,” she waved her hand in the general direction of the sheep, ”even mean old Sebastian, there. But I have to go back. There are more monsters there waiting for me to fight them.”

“You are a warrior queen!” he exclaimed. “A warrior queen who fights monsters. I knew it!”

“Close enough,” Buffy smiled. “I get called a lot of things, but I think I like ‘warrior queen’ the best.”

With a final “good night” the boy reluctantly turned his steps toward home, casting looks back over his shoulder until he could not longer see her bright hair in the waning light.

Buffy spent a much more comfortable night, making herself a small bed in the cabin and snacking on what was left of the food William had brought before falling into a peaceful sleep. When an inquisitive lamb awoke her the following morning, she didn’t jump this time, but just smiled and gently stroked it’s soft nose and wooly head.

She finished off the food left from the day before and set the now-empty basket out by her tree for William to take back with him. She frowned when her stomach growled and she realized that it was getting late in the day and William still hadn’t come. Telling herself it was nothing to worry about, she nevertheless spent the rest of the day worrying about the little boy she’d only known for two days.

When darkness fell with no sign of William, she was surprised at the disappointment she felt. She assuaged her hunger with the few remaining apples and some leftover cheese, but it did nothing to calm her nerves. Although she had only known him a day or two, she somehow knew that William was not one to lightly break a promise and only the fact that he was a child and therefore dependent on his parents for permission to leave the home kept her from going off to search for him.

She spent a restless night, waking frequently to check for the portal and to listen for any sign of William. So it was that she was awake to hear the voices approaching her shed, to hear the rough laughter and quiet crying that made her heart clench in fear. She rose on her knees to peer out the window, grateful for the coming dawn, which was just close enough to offer some light.

The sight that met her eyes was chilling, even as she felt anger that threatened to overwhelm her. Coming toward her on the faint trail that William followed to and from the meadow, was a small group of teenage boys that were dragging with them a struggling William. While one of the boys pulled the wagon, two others dragged the bloody and bruised boy, ignoring his repeated pleas to take him somewhere else. Anywhere but to the shed ahead of them.

With a pang, Buffy realized he was trying his best to keep them away from her and her hiding place. She slipped out the back window and crouched behind the shed while she pondered the best way to deal with what was clearly an ugly situation.

The boys pulled the wagon up in front of the shed and one of them peered inside. His shout of discovery when he found the blankets and pillow, along with the basket and water bottle brought them all running. They turned to the defiant boy glaring at them and demanded he tell them who was staying in the shed.

He clamped his lips together stubbornly and shook his head and then, pulling suddenly free from the inattentive boy left holding him, he took off running in the direction of his home. He had not gotten very far when the much taller and faster boys caught him and pinned him to the ground cursing and punching him in retaliation.

When Buffy saw them yank down William’s trousers and realized what their intentions were, she no longer wondered how best to handle the situation. She stepped quietly from behind the shed and walked toward the boys, growling softly under her breath.

“We’ll teach you to keep secrets from us,” the one holding William said, unbuttoning his own pants. “Last chance to tell us who is staying there and where he is…”

William shut his eyes and bit his lip, refusing to reply and bracing himself for what he knew was to come. He groaned aloud when he heard Buffy’s voice say cheerfully, “She’s right here, guys. Something I can do for you?”

The boys whirled and gaped at the pretty blonde girl in the, by Victorian standards, indecently short skirt and boots. Forgetting immediately about the now sobbing boy on the ground, they began to surround the Slayer licking their lips in anticipation.

“No wonder William didn’t want us to follow him out here,” one said, walking slowly around Buffy and looking her up and down. “Although what a little wanker like that would do with a fine figure of a woman like you I can’t fathom.”

Just as the leader of the little gang reached toward Buffy’s head to grab a piece of her hair, a small figure threw itself in front of her and held up little fists screaming, “Don’t touch her! Don’t you touch her!”

Laughing, the older boy backhanded William across the face, knocking him to the ground and deliberately stepping on him as he moved closer to Buffy. Instead of shrinking away from him as he expected, the girl’s eyes narrowed and she hissed, “You really shouldn’t have done that.”

He laughed again, looking around at his friends for appreciation as he asked with a smirk, “And why would that be, missy? The little gentleman” – he snarled the word – “needs a lesson in minding his betters. And when we finish with you, we’ll be just the men to give it to him.”

He nodded to his friends and they all rushed Buffy at the same time, using tactics that they had obviously practiced on other unsuspecting girls. Unfortunately for them, this time they were rushing a girl who spent her night in violent confrontations with beings much larger, stronger and faster than they.

Ducking under the reaching arms and twisting slightly, Buffy sidestepped the intended group grope and grabbed the leader by his throat. While she wasn’t quite tall enough to lift him off the ground, she was more than able to squeeze his throat shut, effectively cutting off both his oxygen and his ability to speak. It took his friends several precious seconds to realize that he was not pretending to be choking, but was actually being throttled by the petite girl in front of him. With a shout, one of them grabbed Buffy’s arm, intending to pull her away. He frowned in surprise when he found himself not only unable to budge her arm, but the recipient of a scornful sneer as she dropped the almost unconscious boy to the ground.

She turned her eyes on his gang members, the joy of battle lighting up her face as she faced the angry boys. Victorian England didn’t produce many women who would willingly face one angry man, let alone four at a time, and they were nonplussed for a moment before the security found in numbers gave back their courage and they charged.

Compared to the supernaturally fast and strong beings she fought every night, Buffy found fighting the human boys to be like moving in slow motion. She spun and kicked and punched and tossed the boys around until she was tired of playing with them, at which time she landed one good blow on each chin rendering them unconscious for several hours.

The leader of the little gang was lying on the ground, still clutching his throat and breathing hard as he watched the small girl wipe out his little gang of rough farm boys. When she turned her glittering eyes on him, he cringed involuntarily, shrinking back and whimpering. Buffy stalked over to him and yanked him to his feet, shaking him like a rag doll for emphasis as she growled, “I will be watching you boys from now on. If I see one attempt by any one of you to hurt anyone, boy or girl, I will rip off your balls and feed them to you. Is that perfectly clear?”

She cocked her head and waited for his answer. Instead of answering her immediately, he croaked, “What are you?”

With a wink at a still sniffling William, she said with as much authority as she could summon, “I am a warrior elf queen and this farm is part of my realm. I will not have its tranquility disturbed by ruffians. Do you understand me?”

While the boy nodded his head, promising to be a model citizen for the rest of his life, Buffy congratulated herself on channeling her inner Giles. She picked up the unconscious boys, piling them roughly in the wagon and handing the handle to the only one able to move.

“Drag your scuzzy friends out of here and take them home. Then take William’s wagon back to his house for him.”

Nodding and bowing as best he could while he backed away, the boy struggled to haul his immobile friends down the dirt track and back to the road to town. Casting the occasional glance over his shoulder at the tiny girl with her hands on her hips, he dragged the heavy wagon behind him putting as much distance as he could between the angry self-confessed elf queen and himself.

Once he was out of sight, Buffy dropped her angry queen pose and fell to her knees beside William, pushing the curls off his face and wiping the tears from his eyes. At her touch he began sobbing again, babbling apologies for not being able to prevent them from following him.

“Shhhh, It’s okay,” she soothed, pulling him into her lap and rocking him like the child he was. “You were very brave to try to fight them. They were much bigger than you and there were five of them. There was nothing you could do.”

He looked up at her with suddenly old eyes and said with solemn promise, ”When I am grown up I will never be picked on like that. Ever. If someone tries to hurt me, I will… I will kill them if I have to!”

“I’m sure you won’t have to,” she said, hiding her smile at his conviction. “You’ll be a good man and bad things won’t happen to you. But just in case they do,” she added, standing up and pulling him to his feet. “Let me show you a few things that might be helpful.”


Chapter Three

They spent the rest of the morning with Buffy teaching William some martial arts moves that would be useful for someone who didn’t have super strength or speed. Along with the judo and karate moves, she threw in some dirty tricks that Giles had shown her when he’d had a little more scotch than usual.
When William protested that using such tactics would be “cheating” she took his chin and looked at him seriously.

“When someone is trying to kill you, nothing is cheating. You do what you need to do to save yourself. Do you hear me, William? You do what you need to do to stay alive.”

He nodded solemnly, promising to remember what she said, then went for a leg sweep that left her sprawled on the ground and laughing with delight.

When they stopped to rest and eat the rest of bread from the day before, she smiled at how seriously he had taken the training.

“Now don’t go starting fights just because you think you can win them,” she cautioned. “With great ability comes great responsibility…and oh my god, I’m turning into Giles!”

“Who is this Giles?” he asked with what sounded suspiciously like jealousy.

“He’s my… nevermind. He’s somebody I work with. He helps me train.”

“So you can beat the monsters.”

“Yes, so I can beat the monsters. Now, shouldn’t you be getting home and into a bathtub and some clean clothes?” She eyed his ripped clothing and bloody face and hands.

“Yes, I suppose so,” he sighed. “Mother is going to be so disappointed in me.”

“Well, just tell her it wasn’t your fault!”

“Right. Because that always goes so well,” he muttered, giving her a glimpse of the little boy behind the good manners and intellectual pursuits.

She smiled and ruffled his hair. “Well, tell her an elf queen needed your assistance and your clothes got torn in the course of coming to her rescue.”

“I think I shall write a poem about you tonight,” he announced as he stood up and straightened his clothes as much as possible. “I could bring it with me tomorrow… that is, if you think you would like to see it?” he finished much less confidently.

“I know I would want to see it, William. I would be honored. No one has ever written a poem about me before.”

“Then I shall be the first.” He smiled and marched off in the direction of his home.


Although Buffy was quite sure the local riff-raff wouldn’t be back anytime soon, she slept much less soundly and with her sword under her hand until the sun woke her up. She stretched, then jumped to her feet when she heard the sound of running footsteps. Peering out the door, she saw William running toward her, a cloth bag dangling from his hand.

Gasping for breath, he said quickly, “I brought you some breakfast… and luncheon and supper… but I can’t stay. I have to go into town with mother today and I won’t be back until this evening. I hope it’s enough food, the poem is in the bag, I’ll return tomorrow, good-bye.” He waved his hand, giving her an apologetic look and ran back the way he had come.

Buffy stood smiling at him until he was out of sight, then dug into the bag to see what he had brought for her. She ate the warm, freshly baked bread with some of the butter and jam he’d managed to sneak out for her and sat back with a bottle of water to read the poem he’d written.

She glows when she smiles
She is the most beautiful girl for miles
She slays the monsters and saves the child
Isn’t afraid no matter how wild
The enemy may have been
She is my warrior elf queen.

Buffy’s desire to roll on the ground laughing at what she was sure was the worst poem she had ever seen warred with the warmth she felt that William had written it just for her.

“It’s not like I could write a poem,” she muttered. “Even a bad one. And he’s only nine years old. I didn’t even know what a poem was when I was nine.”

Just as she started to set the poem down, she caught movement from the corner of her eye and whirled to see the portal opening. Frantically, she looked around for something on which to leave a message for William, finally tearing off the bottom of the beautiful paper on which he had written her poem. She snatched up the pencil that had fallen out of his sketch book earlier and quickly wrote, “I had to go. I’ll miss you. Don’t forget to cheat if you need to. Your elf queen, Buffy.” She hastily shoved the paper back in the bag and grabbing her sword, ran for the now full sized portal and jumped through. Her last view of Nineteenth Century England was Sebastian staring at her suspiciously as she winked out of sight.



“Ah, there you are!” Giles’ voice rang out with false heartiness as Buffy stepped out of the portal and glared at him.

“No problem? You’ll be right back? I’ll just open it up again if it closes. Stop me when I get to something that sounds remotely like something that might have actually happened.”

“Yes, well, it was a bit more… complicated than I anticipated. But we’ve covered for you very well!” He beamed at her with pride. “Your mother thinks you’ve been staying at Willow’s to do some intensive studying, and the school has accepted my word for it that you had a family emergency that called you away.”

“Oh, well, that makes it all okay then. It doesn’t matter that I sat in sheep poop, slept in a hut with no food for a whole day, got knocked on my butt by a big sheep, had to beat up a bunch of old-fashioned thugs and the only company I had was a nine-year old boy!”

Without further conversation, Buffy stomped off in the direction of her home on Revello Drive, throwing over her shoulder, “And, oh yeah, the demon is dead!”

Her watcher rolled his eyes and followed behind her until it was time for him to turn toward his own home. He went home muttering to himself about disrespectful American children and Slayers who didn’t want to do their jobs properly.


Chapter Four - almost a year later

Buffy was enjoying her night off – dancing with her friends in the Bronze, flirting with the boys, laughing with the girls and pretending she was a normal high school junior for one night. Just for a second, she thought she felt the tingling on her neck that signaled the presence of a vampire, but it faded and she quickly dismissed it, returning to her dancing and pretending for one night that vampires didn’t exist.

“Buffy, have you seen that blond guy in the leather coat? He is totally checking you out!”

Buffy tried to be casual as she danced around to face the way Willow was looking. She flushed from head to toe at the predatory look the obviously-not-natural-blond man was giving her. She could feel his eyes running over her body as she moved to the music and she unconsciously added a little more body movement to her dancing. She looked around the room idly, as though she might be searching for someone, allowing her eyes to slide across him briefly only to find herself caught in his gaze. The most brilliant blue eyes she’d ever seen fastened on hers and she felt her heart rate increase at the heat she saw there.

She faltered and lost the beat for a second as those eyes bored into hers, pinning her to the spot like a blonde butterfly on a pin. When he broke into a smirking grin, she brought her chin up and glared, breaking the eye contact and tossing her hair as she turned away from him. She could still feel his eyes on her and she tried to control the blush that threatened to turn her entire body bright red even as she continued to move sensuously around the floor.

She could tell the minute he stopped watching her and tried to smother the disappointment, telling herself he was obviously too old for her and anyway, she had a boyfriend. Well, sort of. In a we-hardly-ever-see-each-other-unless-there’s-a-problem kind of way. When she overheard a boy frantically calling for help because someone was being attacked in the alley, she sighed, knowing her night off was at an end.

Buffy ran out the back door, yanking the vampire off the girl on which he’d been about to feed and sending the intended victim back inside to rethink her willingness to go for walks with strange men.

I guess this is why I thought I felt a vamp in there. Stupid vampire. Ruining my night off.

The vampire was actually a pretty good fighter. He was obviously not a fledgling and she was beginning to regret not having grabbed her stake before she came outside. As soon as Xander called her name and tossed it to her, she dusted the vamp and turned to rejoin her friends. She was facing away when she heard slow clapping and turned back to find the blond man Vamp! He’s a vamp! walking out of the shadows, his mocking applause ringing in her ears.

Just my luck. I find a hottie and he’s a frickin’ vampire.

He was in the middle of a threat to kill her Saturday night when Xander called her name again, asking if she needed help. She watched curiously as the vampire froze, frowning when Xander called her “Buffy.” He stared at her again, his frown deepening, then whirled in a swirl of leather and ran out of the alley.

Hmmm. Just my name is enough to scare them off now. That’s pretty cool.

She joined her friends, grimacing when Willow supportively commiserated with her on the man’s undead status.

“So, the hottie is a vamp, huh? That totally sucks.”

“Yeah it does, I’m completely onboard with the suckage. I’m suckable girl – no wait – he’s suckable –no, that’s not it either…” She shook her head and sighed heavily. “Oh well, one older man in my life is enough - even if he is a vampire and… Oh my god, Willow! You don’t think I attract vampires, do you? I mean do you think I put out some kind of vampire pher… fren… fomoho-“

“Pheromone?” her brainy friend asked with a smile.

“Yeah, that thing. I don’t, do I?” Her eyes were wide in horror as she anticipated having to fight hordes of lustful vampires every night.

“I’m sure you don’t, Buffy,” Xander put in quickly. “No more than your average beautiful girl, any way. I mean, I know if I was a vamp, I’d rather bite a pretty girl than an ugly one. Even if she was the Slayer. And I’m shutting up now….”

With both girls giving him a look of disgust, he trailed off mumbling and doing his best not to appear to be ogling Buffy the way the vampire clearly had been.


The following evening, when Giles had found a picture of William the Bloody that everyone tentatively identified as the vampire they’d seen in the alley, he shook his head and said seriously, “You must be carefully, Buffy. William the Bloody has already killed two Slayers.”

“But, Giles, I’m really not sure that’s who we saw. The other vamp called him—“

“Spike,” came Angel’s flat voice as he entered the library and the discussion.

“You know of him?” Giles gave the old vampire an appraising stare.

“I don’t just know of him. I know him. And if he says he’s going to do something, he won’t quit until he does it. The only way to stop him is to dust him.”

Buffy felt a small jolt of fear go through her before anger took over and she glared at her sometime boyfriend.

“Then I guess he’s going to be dusty sooner than he expected,” she huffed, not a little offended that Giles and Angel seemed so willing to assume she was in danger from the new vamp in town.

“He’s a very good fighter, Buffy,” Angel began somewhat pompously. “He’s very… innovative and unpredictable.”

I’m a very good fighter,” she growled angrily. “And I’m unpredictable and… whatever that other thing was. I’m that too.”

Her lower lip came out to add emphasis to the stubbornness in her voice. Her watcher fought the urge to roll his eyes in imitation of the teenagers he spent so much time with and he tried to soothe her ruffled feathers.

“Quite so, Buffy. No one doubts your abilities. We are simply saying that you need to exercise some caution until you have had a chance to evaluate your opponent as he was clearly doing with you last night.”

“Well,” she said, somewhat mollified, “he said he was going to kill me Saturday night, so I guess I’m safe till then. Now I’ve got to go work on Back to School Night stuff.”


When Back to School Night had gone from bad – Snyder and her mom indulging in quality Buffy bashing -- to worse with the arrival of Spike and his minions, Buffy’s first instinct was to take out her frustration on the vampire’s body before she staked him. When it turned out to be harder than she expected to beat him, she got even angrier and his snarky, “Did I spoil your doilies?” did nothing to calm her down.

And when she used one of her tried and true moves and found him anticipating and meeting it with one of his own, she began to feel the first prickles of concern. Suddenly the fight that she had to admit she’d been enjoying up to that point took on a whole new meaning. Where before she had been happy to have found a vamp that could give her a good workout before she dusted him, it now occurred to her that there was very real possibility that this one might be able to make good on his threat to kill her.

When she was pinned to the floor with the vampire’s lean muscular body pressing against hers, that possibility became frighteningly more real. Buffy struggled vigorously against both the vulnerable position in which she found herself and the wildly inappropriate reaction she found her body having to that position. The hard length she could feel pressing against her thigh made it clear that she was not the only one to be turned on by the preceding battle and she smiled to herself as an escape plan was born.

Staring into the lust-filled amber eyes of the demon, she shifted her hips subtly, allowing his erection to slip between her legs and press into her suddenly damp center. The sensations that move caused almost made her forget her intention, until his involuntary groan reminded her that she had a plan. She quickly head-butted the distracted vamp, breaking his nose with a satisfying crunch and throwing him over her head.

She kipped to her feet and turned to face the blond demon, sure she would be looking at the face of an outraged monster. Instead, the vampire’s handsome human face was back and even as he held his bleeding nose and cursed, his eyes glinted with admiration and joy.

“Nice move, luv,” he drawled. “Got to say I didn’t see that one comin’.”

“Not gonna see the next one either,” she grunted, ripping a broken two by four out of the shattered wall and holding it in front of her. She had the broken end pointed at his chest, ready to turn him to dust.

“You don’t really want to kill me yet. Do you, Buffy?” His sudden change in demeanor and tone startled her enough that she paused and blinked in surprise. The vampire was speaking almost as though he knew her. The moment’s hesitation was all he needed. With a leap, he kicked the board out of her hands and pinned her against the wall, once again putting his mouth much too close to her neck for comfort.

Surprisingly, he was still in his human face and the teeth he ran down her throat were small and blunt. Buffy shivered when his cool tongue slid up the side of her neck and she felt his lips twitch into a smile. He gave a little nip to the skin over her pounding pulse, then pulled back to look into her confused eyes.

“Not ready to kill you, pet,” he murmured. “I want to make this last. You’re the best I’ve ever come up against. But then, I should have expected that,” he added enigmatically, leaning in to sniff her and letting blood drip from his nose onto her collar.

“You’re getting blood on my good shirt,” she managed to gasp out, completely at a loss as to why she wasn’t already dead, but willing to go with his plan to put it off for awhile.

“Well, you’re the bitch who broke my nose.” he responded indignantly, ”And you cheated to do it!”

“It’s not cheating when someone’s trying to kill you!” she snapped back at him.

“The hell it isn--” The vampire’s entire demeanor suddenly changed. “Bloody hell,” he breathed softly. “It is you.”

Buffy frowned at the look on Spike’s face and answered with some asperity, “Of course, I’m me. Who else would I be?”

Ignoring her question, he raked his eyes over her again then raised a shaking hand to her cheek.

“I cut you,” he said as though to himself, running his thumb lightly along her jaw line. He leaned into her and quickly ran his tongue over the small cut, stimulating it to stop bleeding and sending another shiver through her body.

Buffy did her best to appear disgusted as she flinched away and muttered, “Well, duh! You were trying to kill me.”

She did her best to get the conversation back to something she could understand and realized with a start that the vampire had completely relaxed his grip on her. He appeared to be so distracted that she might easily escape if she tried. Instead, she remained where she was, inches away from the most deadly vamp she’d every faced and feeling, quite suddenly, perfectly safe.

“No, I wasn’t. Not really. Not yet.” He spoke absently, his eyes continuing to search her face, almost as though he was trying to memorize her features.

“Well maybe if you’d let me in on that plan, your nose might not be broken,” she replied, angry that he wasn’t explaining himself or his bizarre behavior.

Her lower lip came out in a small pout even as a voice screamed internally that Slayers did not apologize to vampires for trying to escape with their lives.

“Why weren’t you trying to kill me?” she asked, almost angrily, trying to bring the conversation back to something remotely not weird and confusing.

“Was having too much fun,” he answered with a smirk.

“Fun? We weren’t having fun; we were fighting. To the death.”

“Admit it, luv. You were enjoying that just as much as I was. And it was having the same effect on you it did on me,” he added with a leer. “You just took advantage of it while I was… distracted.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she sniffed haughtily. “I was just trying to rid the world of another worthless, bloodsucking demon. That’s my job, you know.”

“Yeah,” he said softly, “I know. You slay the monsters.”

Something in the way he said it and his tone of voice sent a chill down Buffy’s spine and she tried frantically to place where she’d heard those words before. Before she could remember anything at all helpful, he threw his head up as though listening, then shocked her into complete silence when he brushed his lips over hers and whispered, “Got to go, luv. We’ll continue this later.”

With another dramatic swirl of his leather coat, he whirled and was gone just before Angel, Giles and Xander came rushing up the hallway. They paused when they got to Buffy, seeing the blood on her shirt from Spike’s nose and misunderstanding her bemused expression.

“Did he hurt you?” Angel was in full game face, snarling as he scented his grandchilde all over her. He quickly assessed the blood as belonging to Spike rather than Buffy and relaxed back into his usual unemotional human face.

“Buffy? Are you quite all right?” Giles added his own concerned questions to Angel’s.

“I’m fine,” she answered without looking at either of them.

“Did you dust him?” Xander asked eagerly. “Did you slay William the Bloody?”

She shook her head slightly and tried to focus on the men in front of her.

“Uh, no. He… he got away. But I’ll get him next time.”

“So, you had no trouble with him then,” her watcher said with relief.

“Oh. Oh yeah, he was trouble.” Buffy’s quick response brought a frown to both Giles’ and Angel’s faces. “He’s really very good. Better than me, maybe. It was almost like he knew me….” Her attention wandered off again as she replayed the fight in her mind.

“If he’s so good, then how did you get away?”

“Hmmmm? Oh, I cheated.” Buffy’s absent-minded answer left her watcher, her vampire boy friend and her friend staring at each other as she wandered off to find her mother.


Chapter Five

Buffy’s stubborn refusal to talk to either one of them about what had taken place during her fight with William the Bloody had both Giles and Angel
fuming. They took turns badgering her about exactly what the strange vamp had said and done to make her so sure he wasn’t trying to kill her, and her own inability to understand herself why she felt she could trust Spike’s word leant a defensive edge to her voice.

“Look, I’ve told you what I know. He acted almost like he knew me from somewhere. He said he didn’t want to kill me yet, and then he….” Common sense left no doubt that telling either of the angry listeners that Spike had sort of
Sort of! It was just almost a kiss! kissed her before fleeing was something to be avoided at all costs and she stopped her recitation of the conversation at the point where the vamp had said she was the one who slayed the monsters.

“He called himself a monster?” Angel’s voice dripped with disbelief. “That doesn’t sound like Spike. That’s not how he sees himself.”

“He didn’t call himself a monster; he said that I slay the monsters. He said it as though it would mean something to me….”

“Does it?” Giles’ cold voice reminded her that both he and Angel were staring at her suspiciously.

“I… I don’t know. It sounds sort of familiar, but I don’t—” Buffy’s voice broke off and her face went whiter than Angel’s.

The vampire couldn’t miss the sudden increase in her heart rate, replacing the paleness of her face with a flush of bright red, but his repeated requests for her to finish her remark and/or tell him what she remembered went unanswered. With a mumbled, “I have to go now,” she fled the room, leaving Angel and an angry Giles staring after her.

She ran out of the library, out the first exit she came to and toward her home. As her feet pounded onto the pavement, she was repeating over and over, “No. No. Please no. Not him. No.” Tears stood in her eyes and the wind from her passage flicked the moisture out every few seconds as she tried to outrun her fear.

She reached her home and flew up the tree leading to her roof, barely touching the branches in her haste to reach the comfort and safety of her bedroom. She dove through the open window and sank down onto the floor, shivering all over. When her breathing was once again under control, she crawled to her bed and pulled a locked box out from under it. She stared at it in fear for a few seconds before pulling a small key on a chain out from inside her shirt and putting it in the lock.

Carefully removing her diary and setting it aside, she dug through the souvenirs of her limited social life until she found a folded piece of soft paper with a torn edge. With shaking hands, she unfolded the page and read the words so carefully written there.

She glows when she smiles
She is the most beautiful girl for miles
She slays the monsters and saves the child
Isn’t afraid no matter how wild
The enemy may have been
She is my warrior elf queen.

She squeezed her eyes shut, trying blot out the picture of a fine-boned face and beautiful blue eyes looking into hers with admiration and adoration. When the child’s face morphed into that of grown man with chiseled cheek bones and the same brilliant blue eyes, she felt physically sick and doubled over clutching her stomach.

She huddled on her floor for minutes that seemed like hours, rocking back and forth and mourning the gentle, brilliant child who’d called her his warrior queen and written a poem about her. Too wrapped in her unhappiness to notice the vampire tingles on the back of her neck or the scent of cigarette smoke drifting through her window, she never noticed the equally anguished eyes watching her from behind the impenetrable barrier of her window sill.

Eventually, the physical need for sleep as well as the exhaustion brought on by the emotions roiling through her had Buffy carefully placing the folded paper back in the box. She carefully repacked all her treasures before locking the box and sliding it back under her bed.


Buffy ignored all attempts by Giles to find out what had changed her from a bouncy sixteen-year-old high school student to a quiet, sad, all-business slayer. She went out on patrol every night, returning to Giles’ apartment or the library to report on her evening’s slaying in a dull, flat voice. When he asked if she’d seen any sign of William the Bloody, she shook her head “no” without elaborating. She saw no reason to tell him that she was sure she occasionally felt the signature of a powerful vampire; usually when she was fighting more than one vamp or demon at a time.

Although she knew Angel often watched over her from a distance, she was sure the signature was not his. She was curious about the similarity between Angel’s signature and what she knew was probably Spike’s, but put it down to their both being old, powerful vamps rather than young fledglings like most of the ones she encountered in her nightly patrols.

She went about her slaying with deadly precision and an absence of her usual quips and tricks. As weeks went by and she didn’t see Spike again, she began to relax and ease back into her usual routine, allowing Xander or Giles to accompany her once in a while as well as agreeing to meet Angel after patrol once or twice a week. As things went back to normal, her usual sunny disposition emerged and she was soon punning and teasing with the vampires she fought and killed every night.

She had just determined that the bleached blond vampire had probably left Sunnydale, whether because he thought he couldn’t kill her or because he just didn’t want to, when they received information that there was now a new Master of Sunnydale and that he had an insane and injured consort. There was apparently much speculation in the demon community that the new Master would soon take care of the Slayer, leaving the town at the mercy of its more evil denizens.

Buffy’s hopes that the Master in question was someone completely new were dashed when young girls began disappearing in record numbers and those vamps who would talk before being dusted indicated they were being provided to the ill consort of the new Master. The Watcher’s Council informed them of the near-dusting of Spike’s sire, Drusilla, in Prague and the possibility that he had brought her to the Hellmouth for healing.

This time there was no brushing off Buffy’s obvious depression as ordinary teenage moodiness. She sleepwalked through the school day, barely speaking to her friends, and went out alone every night to slay vampires with cold precision. Even Cordelia noticed and commented on the Slayer’s obvious unhappiness.

Finally, Giles could stand it no more and he politely asked her if she would mind coming to the library in the early evening to talk to him and Angel. He deliberately left out her school friends, wisely assuming that they had no more idea what was wrong than he did and hoping she would be more open with just the two older men listening.

When she was sitting at the long table in the center of the room, drinking a Coke in a desultory fashion and showing a complete lack of interest in their agenda, Giles spoke in a soft, understanding voice.

“Buffy, it is rather obvious to us – to everyone, actually – that something is bothering you. This… melancholy… that has consumed you for the past several weeks has us all very concerned. Perhaps if you would share with us—”

“Is it Spike?” Angel broke in. “Has he been threatening you again?”

Buffy blinked in surprise and sat up straighter.

“What? No. No, I haven’t seen him. I thought maybe he’d left Sunnydale.…”

Even as she said the words, she knew they weren’t true. She had learned to recognize the distinctive vampire signature that mean that the killer of slayers was somewhere nearby, even though she had not seen him or heard from him since Back-to-School Night. And the Council’s information clearly pointed to his presence in Sunnydale.

“He’s still here,” Angel said grimly.

“How do you know?”

Buffy’s puzzled look was turned on the vampire and she missed her Watcher’s unconscious wince. The Watcher history books in which they’d found Spike’s picture were close enough to accurate for Giles to know that William the Bloody was somehow related to Angelus.

Angel took a deep breath and admitted, “I can feel him. He’s here.”

Feel him?”

“Buffy…” He gave Giles a pleading look, but the man’s face was closed and gave no hint of this thoughts. “Buffy, I can feel him because he’s family. I’m his—”

“You TURNED him? YOU turned William?”

Buffy’s voice was high and shrill as befitted a young girl who thought she had just learned something terribly disturbing about her sometime boyfriend, but the look she gave Angel made him step back quickly in fear. Buffy was pure Slayer as she stalked the rapidly retreating vampire across the large room; and he hastened to answer her, holding his hands up in front of himself in a placating manner.

“No, Buffy. No. I didn’t turn him. But… Drusilla did, and I am her sire. Spike is my grandchilde. He is… was… a close part of my vampire family. I can feel his presence just as I could feel Darla’s. I know he’s still here, I just can’t find him.”

“Are you trying to? Find him, I mean.”

She stopped her predatory stalk toward the puzzled vamp, but kept the hard look on her face.

“Yes,” he answered simply. “I know him. If he has determined to kill you, he won’t stop until one of you is gone. I thought if I got to him first….”

“You’d kill your own grandchilde?”

“I killed my sire to save you, Buffy.” The sadness in his voice was its own reproach.

Shamefaced, Buffy nodded at the recollection of how much he cared for her and her fight against evil. When she had sent him a non-verbal twisted smile of apology, he continued, “Trust me when I tell you that getting rid of Spike wouldn’t bother me in the least. The boy’s a pain in my ass and has been since he crawled out of his grave.”

Is that the problem, Buffy?” Giles asked gently. “Are you worried about Spike?”

She shuddered and turned away, not answering him except to shake her head.

“I just want to get it over with,” she said softly, almost to herself.

“Buffy, why don’t you let me handle—”

She cut Angel off with a hard flick of her hand.

“NO! No,” she continued more softly, “I’m the Slayer. It’s my job to slay the monsters. He knows that. It should be me.”

“But, if you are afraid of him.…” Her watcher’s voice was calm and reasonable; truth be told, he found the idea of Angel taking on the legendary slayer of slayers very appealing.

“I’m not afraid of him,” she whispered softly, walking toward the exit. Before either man could register what she’d said about Spike knowing she should be the one to slay him, she whirled on Angel and said fiercely, “It should be me. Do you understand? Stay away from him!”

With that final order, she left the building and headed out on her nightly rounds, leaving two very puzzled men behind her to mull over her words.


Chapter Six

She walked aimlessly through the first two cemeteries, absently staking one vamp as it tried to crawl from its grave and wondering why he was the only one she saw. Moving into the next, more remote, graveyard, her attention was drawn to sounds of chanting and the smell of smoke. She followed her nose and ears to a secluded glade in the woods backing up to the graveyard and found a small group of J’kack demons apparently beginning some sort of ritual.

With a trace of her normal good humor, she sighed, “Why can’t it ever just be a bunch of kids smoking weed?” as she went into action.

Springing into the center of the circle the demons had marked out, she quickly released the intended sacrifices, shoving them through the smoke and hissing, “Run!” Then she turned to meet the charge of the outraged demons - wishing briefly that she’d thought to bring a sword with her, but falling into the rhythm of the fight anyway.

She was able to use her speed and agility to remain out of reach of the swords the demons had, with more forethought than she had demonstrated, brought to the ritual, but she was unable to penetrate the barrier made by the flashing blades well enough to strike any killing blows. As she tired, the demons were able to surround her; suddenly dodging their sword strikes became much more difficult and the first tendrils of fear crept into her mind.

When she received a cut on her shoulder from the demon to her left as she ducked the one on her right, she began to think she might really be in trouble. The wound was not serious, but it hurt and it was bleeding enough to distract her. Suddenly, she felt Spike’s signature and she found herself sharply disappointed at the thought that he would take advantage of her wound and weakness to attack now. However, the expected attack from the vampire never came; instead she realized with relief that there was no longer an opponent behind her. Without looking to see where the demon had gone, she understood that she was free to concentrate on the ones in front and to the sides.

Although still weaponless except for her stake, renewed hope flowed through her body and she pressed the attack once again. A quiet, “Catch, Slayer,” and she found herself grabbing a sword out of the air over her head.

Now armed with something suitable, she moved quickly to rid herself of the remaining demons, angrily cutting off the arm of the one that had wounded her and the heads of the other two. When there was nothing left but the green blood from the one-armed J’kack running rapidly into the woods and the disintegrating bodies of his fellow demons, Buffy lowered her sword cautiously and turned around to face the vampire.

She stared at his smiling face, wondering why he seemed so relaxed when he was facing a tired and wounded but basically functional slayer and one who was now holding a sword. When she didn’t say anything, merely continued to search his face, he finally spoke again, cocking his head to one side.

“Don’t I get a ‘thank you’, pet?”

“Why’d you do it, Spike? Are you that focused on killing me yourself?”

Her voice showed her weariness, but she dropped into a fighting stance, raising the sword and looking into his eyes with resigned determination. She almost faltered when she saw what could only be hurt flash across his face before his eyes hardened and he snarled back at her.

“If I wanted to kill you, Slayer, you’d have been dead weeks ago. Let’s just say I was returning a favor.” His tone changed, and again she thought she saw pain behind his eyes. “Don’t pretend you don’t remember, Slayer,” he said, almost pleading. “I know you do.”

She dropped the sword point again, wondering if she should pretend not to understand him. She could think of no way for him to know that she’d already connected him with the little boy she’d known so briefly over a year ago. She was even more surprised that he could remember something so far in his own past and she frowned before responding.

“So, we’re even now?” she answered noncommittally.

“I suppose we are,” he said slowly.

“Then I suggest you leave Sunnydale. And take your… whatever she is with you.”

“Brought her here to make her well,” he said flatly. “Not leavin’ till I’ve done it.”

They faced each other stubbornly until his face softened.

“Would you really dust me, Buffy?” His voice was as soft as his expression and for just a second she caught a glimpse of the little boy who’d worshipped her. Then the master vampire was back and she tried to shake off the inappropriate feelings he’d inspired so briefly. “If you could?” he added with a confident smirk.

“It’s what I do, William,” she whispered softly, then bristled. “And of course I could! You’re not all that, you know.”

“Yeah, luv, I kinda am,” he said; the words held no sign of braggadocio, but were spoken as if he was stating a fact. “You’re very good, Slayer, but you’re not ready for me. Maybe in a couple more years, if you live that long, but not yet. I’ve had a lot longer to get good at this than you have. And next time, I’ll be ready for you to cheat. Might even be looking forward to it,” he added with a grin.

Changing the subject, she ignored his leering grin and asked, “So you’ll just keep feeding her Sunnydale’s teenage girls until she’s well? I won’t let that happen, Spike. I can’t.”

“Didn’t expect you to, pet. That’s not what we came for. Minions just got a little carried away about bringing her food; but it won’t happen again. What she needs she can’t get from humans.”

Buffy gaped at him. “Are you saying you aren’t going to be hunting?” she asked incredulously.

“I’m saying I don’t plan to give you a reason to come looking for me,” he answered evasively. “Unless you want to of course. I wouldn’t mind fightin’ you again; was bloody good fun the first time. But I won’t give you a reason to stake me.”

“You exist, Spike.” Buffy felt her eyes prickle with unexpected tears. “I’m the Slayer. I don’t need any other reason.”

He tilted his head to one side and studied her conflicted face.

“You know, pet, you’re the only reason I even lived long enough to be turned. The things you taught me, the encouragement you gave me. The example you set – well, except for runnin’ from that harmless sheep….”

“Hey! He knocked me down!” she replied indignantly before noticing the twinkle in his eye.

With her sword now being held loosely and pointed toward the ground, he felt confident enough to step closer. He ghosted his hand over her hair, pushing a stray piece off her face and saying softly, “The point is, luv, I don’t think I could kill you if I wanted to. Not saying I won’t fight you if I have to. Not saying I wouldn’t hurt you. But knowing that you’re real… that you’re alive, and not some figment of a child’s imagination….”

He shuddered and stepped away quickly before she could respond.

“I’ll try to keep the minions in line a little better, but I won’t have any hard feelings if you have to dust them. And I’ll try to stay out of your way. As much as I can, anyway,’ he finished in a mumble.

Buffy remembered all the times she thought she’d felt him in the past months.

“Have you been following me?”

“Not as such, no. No, of course not! Why would I follow you? You’re the bloody Slayer. Want to stay as far away from you as….” He stopped when he saw her crossed arms, tapping foot and the disbelieving look on her face.

“How did you happen to be here tonight? Just when I needed… when I wouldn’t have minded a helping hand?”

“Jus’ passing by and heard the noise. Can’t pass up a good fight, you know. Keeps the old reflexes sharp and—”

“You didn’t fight.”

“Well, I could’ve if I wanted to. Just got sidetracked a bit watching you. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you in action. Poetry in motion, you are.”

“Speaking of poetry….”

A look of sheer terror passed over the vampire’s face.

“There will be no speaking of poetry, Slayer. One word and my promise not to kill you is bloody well forgotten! I mean it,” he growled as she started to laugh.

“What’s the matter, Spike?” she teased. “Writing poetry doesn’t fit your Big Bad image? What would your minions say if they knew you’d written a poem for a Slayer?”

“They wouldn’t say a bloody word if they knew what was good for them, “ he snarled. “And neither will you!”

He grabbed her arms, effectively pinning the sword to her side while he slipped into vamp face and lunged at her throat. Buffy’s heart rate went up, but she held her ground in the face of the apparent attack, neither fighting him nor attempting to get away. When his lips just brushed her neck before he shook off his wrinkles and fangs, she knew he hadn’t lied about not being able to kill her.

“I don’t remember you being such an irritating bint,” he grumbled, pulling back from her far enough to see the smile she was trying to hide.

He was very conscious of the warmth flowing from her body and his own body responded to the nearness in unmistakable fashion. Buffy’s eyes grew wide as she felt him growing hard against her stomach. Although her experience with men since she’d been called at the age of fifteen had been pretty much limited to a few unsuccessful dates with fumbling boys her own age and even fewer yearning late night kisses with Angel, she knew exactly what she was feeling pressing against her again. She flashed back to Back to School Night and the way she’d allowed that rigid shaft to slide between her thighs.

Her mouth went dry and she tried to speak, managing only to croak out, “Is that going to happen every time you get near me?”

“Looks like,” he answered, lowering his face to her neck again and running his lips over her now pounding pulse. “Can’t help it, Slayer. Question is, what are we going to do about it?”

Buffy was unconsciously leaning into the hard body that fit her own so much better than Angel’s bulk did. If she stood on her toes just a bit, her mouth was almost even with his as he dipped his head down to brush his lips over hers, just as he had weeks ago. He continued to move them gently across her mouth until her own lips softened and responded to the light pressure. When he tentatively ran his tongue over her lower lip, causing her to gasp and open her mouth, she gave up any pretense that they weren’t actually kissing.

With a groan, the vampire pulled her willing body against his, slanting his head at the same time to deepen the kiss. Their tongues met, uncertainly at first, but gaining boldness as they stood together with nothing moving but their mouths. Buffy kept her hands at her sides, letting Spike’s strong arms hold her to him while their kiss continued to deepen. As the vampire’s passions became more ardent, his hands began to move over her body, stroking and kneading her flesh through her clothing; when his cool fingers slid up under her shirt to stroke the bottom of her breast, she began to understand that Spike was not likely to be content with the heavy petting and dry-humping that boys her own age might.

While her body responded to everything the vampire did with an enthusiasm that surprised and frightened her, her mind was screaming that she needed to stop him before she found herself losing her virginity while standing up in a graveyard. With a tremendous effort of will, and no small amount of reluctance, she brought her hands up against his chest and tore her mouth away long enough to protest, “Sp-William, we need to stop.”

“Don’t want to,” he mumbled, burying his face in her neck again and planting wet kisses as far down into her shirt as he could reach without unbuttoning it. He felt her tremble and smiled to himself, reaching for the buttons with one hand before he smelled the tears and realized she was trembling more from fear than desire.

“P-please, William.” Her barely spoken plea and the tears rolling down her face shocked him out of his lust-driven haze, and he pulled back immediately.

One look at the conflict in her eyes as well as the fear she couldn’t hide and the Victorian gentleman that he hadn’t been for well over a hundred years took over. He knew instinctively that the fear he could read in her face had nothing to do with his being a vampire and everything to do with his being a man.

“I’m sorry, pet, so sorry. Never meant to… I forgot how young you are….”

“I can’t… I don’t… I’m not ready for….” Buffy stumbled for a way to say what she was feeling; that although her body seemed more than ready to take what he wanted to give her, her sixteen-year-old psyche was not. As soon as he mentioned her youth, she was reminded of his own age and she nodded in agreement.

“I’m only sixteen, Spike. And you’re… you’re… Oh my God!”

The instant in which, in her eyes, he went from being a slightly older man to a 124-year-old master vampire was readily apparent. Eyes wide with shock and dismay, she retreated from his embrace, shaking her head as she backed away. He reached a desperate hand towards her as she continued to move away from him, her hand pressed to the mouth he’d been lost in just a few seconds ago.

“Wrong,” she half-sobbed. “This is so wrong.”



She whirled and ran, dropping the sword so that it wouldn’t slow her down. She had no idea if Spike was chasing her or not, and she didn’t care as she continued running as hard as she could back to the refuge of her home and her chaste little girl’s bedroom. Once again she dove through her window and huddled on the floor, rocking back and forth and crying – over what, she wasn’t quite sure.


Chapter Seven


The following evening, without going into details about their conversation, Buffy did her best to bring Giles and the Scoobies up-to-date on Spike. Back against the wall of the library, Angel brooded in silence, frowning every time she mentioned his grandchilde’s name.

“So, Buffy,” Giles tried to keep his tone impartial and smooth, although he wanted to shout at her for her stupidity in pausing to talk to William the Bloody rather than slaying him. “You are saying that Spike helped you defeat the J’kack demons and then told you he wasn’t hunting?”

“Well, he didn’t so much help me as he evened the odds a little – I guess he killed one of them and threw me the sword. Then he just watched me fight the rest of them.”

“So, once again, he was using this as an opportunity to study your moves.”

“No, he just likes to—yes! I mean, yes, he was watching me fight them because he wanted to… study me.”

“He’s up to something.” Angel’s voice was a low growl and Buffy shot him an irritated look.

“Or maybe he just wants to cure whatshername and get out of here,” she snapped, surprising everyone with the vehemence of her reply.

Giles gave the vampire a glare, then continued, “And did you say he apologized for the missing girls?” The disbelief was obvious.

“Well, not in so many words.” She squirmed uncomfortably. “He just said that he hadn’t meant for that to happen and that humans weren’t what he needs to cure his.…” She found herself struggling to find something to call the woman Spike had come to Sunnydale to save. “…His sire,” she finally got out.

“She’s more than his sire,” Angel said quietly. “She’s his… everything. They’ve been together for over a hundred years; he won’t leave until he makes her well.”

“Well, if it isn’t blood she needs,” Buffy tried to smother the jealousy that hearing Drusilla referred to as Spike’s “everything’ sent stabbing through her, “then what is it?”

“Sire’s blood,” he replied, pushing himself off the wall. “She needs Sire’s blood to heal. That’s why he’s here; he’s here for me.”

The entire group of humans gaped at the souled vampire until he bristled.

“What? Giles, surely you know how important Sire’s blood is to vampires. It’s what feeds us when we first crawl out of our graves, and it can cure us if we’re hurt or sick. The only thing close to it would be—” He broke off abruptly, but the guilty look he shot at Buffy left no doubt about what he’d been about to say.

“Slayer blood,” she said flatly. “He could use my blood to heal her too.”

“He could, but he won’t,” Angel’s snarl and flashing amber eyes were a sudden reminder that he was an even older vampire than Spike or Drusilla.

“Hey, no problem, then.” Xander spoke up for the first time all night. “We’ll just feed Deadboy here to the crazy vampire.”

“We’re not feeding anybody to Spike’s… to Drusilla.” Buffy spoke with conviction, glaring around the room and daring anyone to contradict her. “We—I’ll find a way to make them leave.”

“Or you could just slay them.” Her watcher’s voice was cold and harsh. “You have an opportunity to take out two of the remaining three members of the Scourge of Europe, Buffy. I fail to understand why you don’t consider that your first option.”

“Yeah, Buff, why aren’t you all about the slaying of the slayer of slayers? And do not try saying that at home!” Xander added as they all stared at him.

Because all I see when I look at him is a brave little boy who took care of me for a few days last year? Oh yeah, that’ll go over well, almost as well as “because he kissed me and rocked my world.” Gah!”

“Yes, Buffy,” Angel’s voice was almost as hard as her Watcher’s. “Why is it that neither of you is dead yet?”

Tired of the pretense, of lying to the people who cared about her, and too preoccupied to watch what she was saying, Buffy snapped back in a tone just as hard as theirs, “Because neither of us wants the other dead.”

“Can you explain why?”

She could hear the struggle to control his temper in his voice, and she sent Giles a warning glare before giving up and allowing her shoulders to slump with submission.

“I could, but I really don’t feel like it. Can’t you just take my word for it that he isn’t going to kill me?”

Angel stood up, his impatience clear.

“I’ve had enough. I’m going to get to the bottom of this and I’m going to do it now.”

He started out of the room, stopping when Buffy sprinted to the door to block his way.

“Where are you going?”

“To find Spike and Dru and get him to tell me what kind of game he’s playing. You may not want to dust him, but I have no problem with it.”

“Are you going to dust Drusilla too?” Buffy had spent some time recently poring over Giles’ books on vampire families and had a better understanding of the ties between sire and childe.

The vampire shrugged uncomfortably, avoiding eye contact with the girl glaring at him and waiting for an answer. When he saw that she wasn’t going to give it up and that Giles was looking at him coldly, he sighed in resignation.

“I would rather not,” he admitted softly. “I’m completely responsible for Drusilla’s… condition… and I feel I owe her—”

“So then, you are going to take over care of the insane vampiress after you dust her mate?” The Watcher’s voice was even and gave no sign as to what he was thinking.

“They aren’t mated!” Angel snarled, startling the humans in the room into silence. Buffy’s eyes were wide with shock at the vehemence with which the normally placid vampire responded to Giles’ question.

“But all the Council’s books say—”

“The books are wrong.” Angel’s voice was quieter, but no less sure. “Dru has never allowed Spike to claim her. He is just a toy and a… caretaker.”

Buffy bristled on Spike’s behalf at the tone of contempt in Angel’s voice.

“He’s been a ‘toy’ for over a hundred years? This vampire that you keep telling me is too dangerous for me to take on by myself?” Buffy’s disbelief was obvious, though her quickly-smothered joy at hearing that Spike and Drusilla were not mated was not so apparent to anyone but herself.

“Tell me, Angel,” Giles refused to let the subject go. “Who will become Drusilla’s caretaker if you dust William the Bloody?”

Angel’s nostrils flared in irritation. “It’s not my problem,” he muttered. “She’ll turn herself another… companion.”

“And I’m supposed to let that happen? She gets a free pass to kill somebody just because you don’t like Spike?”

“Fine!” Angel’s impatient snarl gave them a quick glance at what he might have been like without his soul. “I won’t dust the bleached menace. Satisfied?” He stalked towards the door, growling under his breath, “Unless he does something to piss me off.”

“Do. Not. Dust. Spike.” Buffy’s voice was pure Slayer and there was no mistaking the threat underlying her order.

Angel didn’t answer, just continued out the doors leaving them swinging back and forth behind him.

“Hey, here’s an idea, Buff.” Xander spoke up eagerly. “Why not dust all three of them? Poof! No more Scourge of Europe.”

“I HEARD that!” Angel’s outraged roar floated back to them.

“You were meant to!” Xander responded, but much more quietly. As much as he disliked the vampire, he never forgot that the only thing standing between Angel and Angelus was a non-visible soul. Nor did he forget that the vampire disliked him in equal measure.

After once again refusing to tell Giles why she was so confident that Spike wasn’t going to kill her, Buffy left the library and walked Willow home. They strolled in silence for several blocks before Willow ventured, “Buffy? William the Bloody – does he have anything to do with… I mean obviously he’s a grown man, but he had to be a little boy sometime and it’s about the right time frame and….” She stopped rambling for a breath of air and found Buffy staring at her in amazement.


Willow blushed and admitted, “I loved your story about little William and how brave he was and how he took care of you and wrote you a poem. And I remembered that you said that he was blond and had beautiful blue eyes, so I did some research… It is him, isn’t it? It’s William, all grown up?”

Buffy sighed, releasing the tension she’d been carrying around for weeks and grateful to have someone to talk to about Spike.

“Yes,” she said softly. “It’s him. All grown up.”

“And a vampire,” Willow felt constrained to point out.

“And a vampire,” Buffy agreed with a groan. “Not just any vampire, but Angel’s grandchilde and one that has killed two slayers.”

“And he remembers you?” Willow’s voice carried more than a touch of awe. “After all this time? I mean, I know it’s only been a year for you – but for him it’s been….” She looked at her best friend with renewed respect. “Wow. I meet guys and they can’t remember my name the next day. And you… and he…. Wowie.”

“Yeah, well, things would be a lot easier if we didn’t remember each other. Then he’d be dust and Giles wouldn’t be cleaning his glasses and grumbling all the time, and Angel wouldn’t be such a sourpuss.”

“Uh, Buffy?”

Her friend cocked her head in inquiry.

“Giles is always cleaning his glasses about something. And Angel? Pretty much a sourpuss most of the time. I don’t think it’s fair to blame it on Spike… er… William.”

“Bloody brilliant observation there, Red.” The rich, warm voice came out of the shadows just before Spike stepped out where they could see him.

While Willow gaped at the smiling vamp, wondering if his promise not to kill Buffy would extend to her friends, Buffy glared at him and demanded, “Are you following me again?”

“Jus’ happened to be walking this way, pet; don’t get your knickers in a twist. You should have known I was here, anyway. What’s the matter with your vamp radar?”

The tone of concern in his voice wasn’t lost on either of the girls and Willow shot Buffy a speculative look before stammering, “We… she was busy talking to me and it’s Sunnydale so you know, vampires everywhere… and—” She stopped and looked at Buffy again. “Why didn’t you feel him, Buffy? Didn’t you tell me you can always tell when Angel’s around?”

“I’m not Angel!”

“He’s not Angel!”

There was silence for a few seconds, both somewhat abashed by their immediate identical responses. Then Buffy shrugged and admitted, “I knew he was around. I just didn’t know he was eavesdropping on us,” she added with another glare.

Completely unfazed by her scowl, Spike smirked and said, “Knew you knew it was me. Bloody bint -– pretendin’ you didn’t know I was here. Shame on you, Slayer.”

He grinned at her, obviously pleased with himself at catching her out.

“So, why are you here, Spike? And don’t try to tell me you were just out for a walk, either.” A look of fear crossed her face. “Were you hunting? Did you just kill somebody?”

Her heart was pounding as she reached for the stake in her waistband. To Willow’s complete amazement, instead of moving away in fear, the vampire stepped closer to the Slayer and put a gentle hand on hers pushing the stake back into its resting place.

“Easy, luv. I wasn’t hunting. I’d just left you a gift and was on my way back from your house. Heard you two chattering and thought I’d catch up and introduce myself to your pretty little friend here.”

Willow blushed all over at the appreciative wink from the vampire she’d identified the first time she’d seen him as a “hottie”. She ducked her head and peered at him through her hair, whispering a tentative, “Hi?”

Buffy smothered another pang of jealousy as Spike let go of her to take Willow’s hand in his and gently shake it. He held it just long enough to make the novice witch blush again as he purred, “I feel a lot of power flowing through this little hand, Red. Into the magic, are you then?”

“Willow’s going to be a very powerful witch,” Buffy put in quickly, pulling her friend back from the smiling vampire. “She’s my right-hand…witch,” she finished lamely.

Spike’s attention was back on Buffy as Willow began edging toward her front walk. She could see that neither of them was interested in talking to her anymore that night, and quickly mumbled a “good night” as she ran toward her front door.