After their little talk in his crypt when he had admitted, if only by his silence, that he had lied to her about what their night together had meant to him, Buffy thought she knew what Spike’s feelings for her were. If she had any doubts left, the look of blind anger on his face when Riley entered the apartment would have been enough to dissipate them. Anger, she was sure, caused by the revelation that the Initiative had tried to get her killed.
She raised a hand toward Spike, fingers spread in a ‘don’t do anything stupid’ gesture, and only after catching his gaze did she finally turn back to Riley. A few questions later, she was certain that he hadn’t known about Walsh’s plan to get rid of her. His distress seemed genuine enough; but he still insisted it had to be a misunderstanding.
Then he saw Spike.
“That’s Hostile 17,” he said, the surprise widening his eyes comically.
Spike stared back, not even bothering to pretend Riley was mistaken.
“His name is Spike,” Buffy replied flatly, and placed herself right between the two men. “And there’s nothing ‘hostile’ about him.”
“We've been looking all over the place for him,” Riley shot back irritably, “but you've known where he was all along.”
“Damn right she knew,” Spike smirked. “I’ve been around far longer than…”
Turning to him, Buffy glared long enough to make him fall quiet before glaring in turn at Riley.
“He’s a good guy,” Willow piped in. “He’s been helping us.”
“But he’s still a demon,” Anya felt necessary to add, earning Xander’s elbow in her ribs.
Riley blinked bewilderedly several times as he looked in turn at the members of the gang. “A good demon? You think I’m going to believe…”
Walking closer to him, Buffy cut him off as gently as she could. Yelling at him would do no good. “Believe what you want about Spike, it doesn’t change the fact that he’s part of the gang. And why would it be so incredible that a demon can be good, when a human had no problem ordering me killed?”
The soldier’s eyes and attention refocused, away from Spike, back on Buffy and her near brush with death.
“This isn't like Professor Walsh to do something like this,” he protested. “There must be something making her act this way. Something… I don't know, controlling her.”
Giles stepped closer to stand by Buffy’s side, glasses in his hand, slight frown on his brow.
“We think Buffy may have been becoming too inquisitive,” he said softly. “That she was getting close to something that Professor Walsh was trying to hide. Do you have any idea what that might be?”
Riley simply shook his head.
“What about 314?” Buffy pressed. “Maybe that's it.”
“Maybe she was trying to test you,” he countered. “What if it was only a drill?’
“Then why did she tell you I was dead? Riley, it wasn't a test.”
If she had had any doubt that Riley might be dangerous to her or her friends – save Spike, of course, she realized that it’d take more than a few words for the soldier to see past the ‘hostile’ heading – Buffy wouldn’t have insisted so much. But the time she had spent with him had taught her at least one thing, and that was that he believed in what he did, in saving human lives. She was sure he’d never condone any harm done to her. Especially since he seemed to have a crush on her.
Again, Giles came to her help, pushing at Riley’s defenses with quiet words that had to be shattering for him.
“See, I've heard rumors that the Initiative isn't all that we've been told. That, hem… secretly they're working toward some darker purpose, something that might harm us all.”
The soldier took a step back, as if by putting distance between himself and them he might be better able to refute their words.
“No! That's… that's not what happens there.”
His gaze erred around the room before finally returning to Buffy and, past her, to Spike.
“I can't be here. I need to sort it out.”
She let him go without trying to convince him any further. It was already a good thing that he was thinking about it all; he would need to take the next steps by himself. As soon as he had closed the door behind him though, she turned to the rest of the gang.
“We need to get out of here. Fast.”
There were murmurs of complaints, mostly from Giles and Anya who, for different reasons, didn’t enjoy the prospect of Xander’s basement being their hideout for however long would be needed. Spike, also, categorically refused to come along, claiming he’d be fine in his crypt. Unwilling to make a scene in front of the others, Buffy let him go, but not without promising herself to check on him at the first occasion.
It had been even harder to leave her with her friends after that, when he feared she wasn’t totally safe. But hiding with them in an overcrowded basement wouldn’t have made her any safer, and it might have caused some uncomfortable questions from the others instead. At least, if he was out, he could keep searching for information about that ‘314’, whatever it was. That was what he had done the night before, after leaving the Slayer and her gang, and what he would do that night again as soon as the sun set.
His day had been a little too eventful, however. In the afternoon, he had been watching the telly when noises outside had prompted him to hide. A couple of Initiative wankers, one of them the idiot from the day before, had searched his crypt and destroyed his television before moving on. That had been too close for comfort.
When night finally came, he practically jumped out of his crypt, too full of contained energy to even attempt to contain himself. He itched to drop by Xander’s house and check to see if the humans were alright, but he had a plan and was sticking to it. Giving the Slayer some information she needed was certainly a great way to stay in her good graces.
With his duster billowing behind him and all the Big Bad swagger he could muster, he entered Willy’s place and stopped past the threshold for a second, lighting a cigarette as he surveyed the room. Few demons yet, but it would change during the night.
Approaching the bar, he noticed that Willy appeared to have had a close encounter with a couple of fists; but that wasn’t out of the ordinary in this place, so he paid it little attention.
“A bottle of bourbon and a pint of blood,” he requested, throwing the bills on the counter. “Fresh blood, mind you.”
Or as fresh as it could be coming from a blood bank. Spike didn’t indulge very often, for the simple reason that it was hard to go back to the animal variety after getting a taste of the real thing, but human blood would be good for his still healing shoulder, as well as for appearances.
Willy’s eyes widening ever so slightly as they shifted past Spike’s shoulder was the only warning he received before a large clawed hand closed on his shoulder. He turned to the demon – the three of them, as it turned out – and barely saw the fist coming that took him out. When he regained consciousness in the back alley, the same demons threw accusations and warnings at him before finally returning inside the bar, leaving him on the ground.
Stroking his sore jaw, Spike stood and gave a hard look to the bar. The demons in town had been more on edge than usual, lately, with rumors about the Initiative and ‘314’ going around. But this, he had never seen coming. More than a year of working with the Slayer, and only now was he being labeled a traitor? He’d have to find another way to get information. And another way to get money for his blood and cigarettes.
With the threat posed by Walsh gone, Buffy had sent everybody home, freeing Xander’s basement much to Anya’s delight. She was now walking Willow back to their dorm, distractedly listening as her friend described that spell of her that hadn’t worked.
Frowning in confusion, she glanced at Willow, noticing that she wore her resolve face.
“Huh?” she quite eloquently replied.
“What is bothering you so much?” Willow questioned. “Or rather who? A bleached blonde formerly evil vampire, maybe?”
“What? Spike? Why would you think… I’m just thinking about Adam, that’s all, he’s really strong and we’re going to have to come up with a plan to get rid of him.”
Willow made a small skeptical noise. “And that’s because you’re so worried about Adam that you’re going to check up on Spike, is that it?”
Cursing herself for having told her plans to her friend, Buffy tried to find a good excuse, but before she could Willow added:
“It’s not like there’s anything wrong with it, you know. I mean, sometimes people develop feelings for other people, and they’re not the kind of people you’d have expected the people to like, but they’re still good people so that’s all that should matter, right?”
They had arrived at the dorm and Buffy stopped, observing her friend, puzzled. There seemed to be a message hidden behind all that babbling, and it sounded like the positive, supportive kind, so she chose not to deepen the question.
“Right. I’ll be back in an hour or two, don’t wait for me, OK?”
A flicker of disappointment passed over Willow’s face, and then she hurried inside while Buffy left the campus. She felt bad about not telling everything to Willow, but she wasn’t sure what exactly she could have told her. Spike had feelings for her, that probably wasn’t entirely new. She didn’t know what her own feelings were, that was old news too. She wished it had been easier, as easy as when they had been under the love spell. She hadn’t worried, then, that he was a vampire and any relationship she developed with him was bound to end tragically. She had just taken what he was offering, and that was simply himself, without questions, only gratefulness. She had been happy, for a few precious hours. Careless. Free.
She missed that feeling.
“Just wanted to make sure you were OK,” she explained. “Anything could happen to you and we’d never know…”
She paused when she noticed my broken telly. She turned to me, her face asking the question she wasn’t voicing; and now, she was close enough to see the bruise on my jaw.
The barest trace of worry in her voice. That was nice. I took a deep breath, wanting to take her scent in, and got a nasty surprise instead. Had I been entirely sober, I might not have said anything. But my beginnings of drunkenness made me blunt.
“His scent is all over you.”
She blinked, frowned, and shook her head. “What are you talking about?”
“That soldier. You smell like him. What did you do, snog him in exchange for more information?”
Her expression closed. Don’t I just know how to sweet-talk a woman?
“I did not… do whatever you say,” she glowered. “He was sick, I half carried him for a while. And it’s not like you have anything to say about what I…”
I had had enough. I reached out to her, pulled her to me, kissed her hard, like a drowning man coming up for air. That was just about how much I needed her.
She didn’t return the kiss. She didn’t break it. Too surprised, maybe, to do either. When I let go of her, her fingers came up to touch her lips.
“I have to go,” was all she said before leaving. I stared at the door for a long time after it had closed on her.