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Enemy, Mine

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Spike breathed in the homey smell of the dirt and old bones, enjoying finally having a space of his own to putter around in. No tweedy Watcher glaring at him, practically up his arse with every step he took. Afraid he’d get his vampire cooties on his precious books. Or the couch. Or Satan forbid Spike should touch his bloody Laphroaig 32-year-old Islay single malt Scotch.

Admittedly, the crypt was a bit of a fixer-upper… but he had nothing else to occupy his time, right? And a snoop around the dump would probably yield enough furniture to make the place habitable. It was a disposable economy, after all – people always chasing the newest and latest thing – and Spike wasn’t above scooping up society’s castoffs.

He was ticked off, however, at being tossed about from one babysitter to another like an unwanted puppy who couldn’t be trusted on his own. He’d been defanged (thanks to the American military borrowing freely from long-buried Nazi research), couldn’t harm a fly, and yet his former prey had decided he needed monitoring day and night!

And the less said about spending time in the Slayer’s boy’s basement, the better. Spike shuddered at the humiliation. Even as a vampire, he was repulsed by the mold and bleach combination that overwhelmed the darkened space. That the git was stuck there – paying rent – said a lot about his parents… none of it complimentary.

As Spike paced around the sarcophagi, he got more and more pissed off. So the Watcher had wanted him gone, wanted to get laid. Same with the sniveling whelp. Everyone was gettin’ some except for him, thanks to Dru hooking up with every slime-covered demon with antlers she could find, the bloody bitch.

Even the uptight, stick-up-her-arse Slayer was getting hot and heavy with her soldier-boy.

And wasn’t that something? Fleeing the commandos, Spike’d gone to the Slayer out of desperation, only to find the stupid bint was in bed with one of the bastards! What’s more, Spike was pretty sure the starched-up git had been front and center to some of the more “uncomfortable” procedures he’d been forced to endure during his captivity.

Then, just as Spike was working up a good head of disgruntled steam, the crypt door slammed open and the self-same Slayer he’d been mentally railing about stumbled into his new abode.

The scent of her blood – tangy and potent – grabbed Spike’s attention and he moved in for a closer look.

“Now is this really fair,” he mocked as he reached the girl. “I came to you for help and had to parboil in the sun before you let me in. And you come to me – invade my new home, smelling like a tasty snack – without a hint of civility. No invitation, no barrier – just barging in without my say-so.”

When no snarky comment was forthcoming, Spike moved closer still. Buffy was wild-eyed, panting like a horse run too hard and too long. Her skin was littered with bloody scratches and dirt. Her clothing was askew and ripped. Something was very, very wrong.

“Slayer… what happened?”

“I don’t know!” Buffy cried out in distress. “I-I… the last time I felt like this was just before my Chrysanthemum.”

“What the bloody hell do flowers have to do with anything?” Spike asked, puzzled.

“Not flowers,” Buffy spat back. “That thing where Giles stripped my powers and I had to fight a lunatic vampire.”

“Your Watcher put you through that archaic ritual?” Spike fumed, angry on her behalf. No warrior should be diminished intentionally. “A bleedin’ Cruciamentum? What the hell was he thinking?”

“That’s what I said,” Buffy whimpered, shivering like mad in her wet clothes.

Spike shook his head and took a deep, unnecessary breath. “You might as well come all the way in before you catch your death,” he said, rummaging about in the box that contained his belongings. Handing her a towel and a ruby-red satin button-down shirt, he continued, “Get out of your dripping rags and dry off.”

Meek as a lamb, she went off into a corner and changed. When she appeared in front of him next, he almost lost his non-existent breath. The Slayer was a vision: her hair tousled, wearing nothing but his button-down, which came to her mid thighs and left her legs bare.

He wasn’t exactly known for his self-control, but he had it in spades – when he needed it. It was put to the test however at the sight of the young woman in front of him. There wasn’t a man alive or dead who could resist his woman wearing his kit.

Wait a minute. The Slayer wasn’t his. Well, except to kill!

“Go sit down,” he said gruffly, trying to appear unaffected. “Sorry I don’t have anything to offer you – not even heat.”

“But you’ll let me stay for a bit?” Buffy asked, looking up at him with unshed tears glittering in her eyes.

“Tit-for-tat,” Spike said, shrugging his shoulders as nonchalantly as he could. “And I won’t even chain you to a bathtub like when I came seeking asylum.”

Buffy had the good grace to blush, little hot spots of pink high on her cheeks obvious in her pale face. “Thanks, Spike,” she said softly, still shivering slightly. “I-I just didn’t know where else to go.”

“And why’s that?” He scanned her torn flesh. “What the bloody hell happened to you, Slayer?”

“I’m gonna say this once – slowly – so even you can understand,” Buffy said, pointing her shaky finger at his chest. “I was patrolling tonight, as I always do. Came across a trio of totally dirty-behind-the-ears vampires. ‘Easy peasy,’ I thought. The first one rushed me, fangs bared… nothing special, right? Well, not so right. I panicked! Spike, I totally just lost my nerve and couldn’t even think of how to defend myself.”

“And you think someone shot you up with the anti-slayer juice again?” Spike asked, unable to comprehend how else a simple fledge could flummox the Slayer.

“I-I don’t know!” she stammered, fear still evident in both voice and posture. “All I know is: I was afraid. The vamp barreled into me, and I went flying into some spiny bushes. I pulled myself out, tearing both my skin and clothing, which got the other two fledges drooling and chasing me. I ran like a coward. A freaking coward!”

Spike shook his head in disgust… no, sympathy. No… disgust! “Slayer I know wouldn’t turn tail and run,” he muttered.

“I know that,” Buffy retorted. “It’s not like I expected you to be sympathetic, but I hoped you’d at least understand. I couldn’t go back to Giles; in case he was responsible again. I couldn’t go home, either, looking like this; Mom would have a cow.”

“And you came to the Big Bad instead of your Scooby pals because…?”

“I don’t exactly know, alright? I just thought… I hoped…” Buffy threw up her hands in exasperation. “Look, I don’t know what I thought, exactly. Obviously, I made a mistake coming here, thinking that maybe you’d –”

“Maybe I’d help you find out what’s happened to you?” Spike asked incredulously.

“Um, yeah?”

It really clicked then, for him. The helplessness, the feeling of despair. It’d happened to him when he’d been electronically de-fanged by the bloody Initiative. It was enough to make one forget everything… all sense of survival stripped away, leaving behind unfamiliar vulnerability.

The idea of helping the Slayer was antithetical to his entire vampiric existence, but looking at her, shivering and expectant, he heard himself say, “Fine, let’s see what we can suss out.”

Her expression turned faintly hopeful. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” he confirmed. Not quite meeting her eye, he added, “Know what it feels like to lose all power and purpose in one fell swoop. No one deserves that.”

He looked up then, watching the slayer with new eyes. For the first time since she arrived at his crypt, Buffy stopped shaking and smiled.

And Spike felt the oddest sensation of impending doom.

Chapter Text

Why was he doing this? He’d allowed himself to be bearded in his own den by his mortal enemy. And here people thought that Dru was the insane one.

Not that his nemesis looked like much at the moment; sitting demurely on a sarcophagus with her legs tucked under her bum. Soft tendrils of hair, free from its usual ties, floated around her face and neck. His borrowed shirt molded closely against her soft curves. Her hazel eyes…

Sod it all, this had to stop, and stop now! Any minute now he’d be writing sonnets about her perky tits – comparing the little ripe mounds with pillows or fruits. Or, possibly he’d start rhapsodizing about her little peach of an arse…

Spike growled his displeasure, loud enough to startle Buffy.

“What’s with the animal noises?” she asked, innocently tossing her hair and pulling her (his) shirt closer to her body.

“Nothing,” Spike growled, albeit softer this time. Needing to change the subject sharpish, he added, “So what’s the plan, Slayer?”

“Well, I need to know what happened to me, and soon,” she restated. “Last time I felt this helpless, I nearly died. And so did my Mom.”

Spike’s gut roiled. Not only had his Slayer been disadvantaged, but her mum – a good woman in his books – had nearly bought it as well. Swallowing down the anger, he asked, “Okay, so how do you wanna start?”

“We have to figure out what I’ve lost,” Buffy said, “before we can figure out how to get it back.”

Spike cocked his head, staring at her closely. “You want me to test you? Spar a bit and see what you have and don’t have?”

She nodded decisively. “It’s better than sitting here like a Fraidy-Buffy.”

“Sure you wanna do this in naught but my shirt, little girl?” he asked, the taunt loud and clear.

“Are you sure you can keep your eyes on the fight?” she taunted right back, scrambling off the stone bier with a saucy cock to her hip.

In answer to her question, Spike threw a powerful left at her head. Uncharacteristically, Buffy put up her arms to block his punch, instead of moving to avoid it.

“Tsk, tsk, Slayer,” Spike sneered, rubbing his temples at the slight warning his chip had issued. “One would think you’ve never come up against an opponent before. C’mon, then – come at me and let’s see what you’ve got. Free shot – I won’t move.”

Buffy took a deep breath, pulled back, and caught his chin with an uppercut, sending him halfway across the crypt.

“Oh, god, I’m so sorry,” she called out as she ran over and helped him up.

“So, you’ve not lost your strength,” Spike muttered, moving his jaw from side-to-side. “You still hit like a lorry.”

“That’s wonderful news!” she cried. “I still have my powers, so why can’t I fight back if I’m attacked?”

“Way I reckon it, seems like you’ve just forgotten how to fight: all the stuff you’ve learned over your tenure as slayer.” He paused, scratching the back of his neck, thinking hard. “Seems like it could be a spell. Made you forget what you know.”

“A spell? Who would… Willow!!” she exclaimed.

“Red!” Spike spat out at the same time. “she’s got form for botching up spells, Slayer,” he added. “Our ridiculous engagement, if you recall.”

“Ugh! Lips of Spike – how can I forget?”

“But why on earth would she risk workin’ another spell on you without your knowledge? Thought she’d learned her lesson after being propositioned by D’Hoffryn.”

“Oh, god!” Buffy cried out, sinking to the floor. “The forgetting spell! She mentioned it when she saw how upset we both were about being engaged. More on my behalf than yours,” Buffy admitted. “But I told her not to do it; I’d manage with the memories.”

“Couldn’t get me off your mind, pet?”

Buffy snorted – actually snorted like a little piglet. “I wanted to forget,” she said, “but I was willing to let time do the dirty work. There was no need for magic after the initial fiasco.”

“And there’s no way the little witch would go against your wishes? Do things her way, instead?”

“She does get stubborn when she thinks she’s right,” Buffy admitted. “But she’s my best friend. I trust her with my life.”

“Then maybe that’s on you, Slayer. Nobody with that kind of power should be trusted. They do as they see fit, and everyone else be damned. They talk themselves into thinking it’s the right thing to do, that they’re only ‘helping’.”

“If it’s her,” Buffy said slowly, “she really didn’t mean to hurt me. She just wants me to be happy.”

“She might as well have wanted you dead,” Spike spat vehemently. “You’re the Slayer, for hell’s sake. You come up against oogy-boogies every single night. Not only did she take away your white-hat ability to help those in trouble, she took away your ability to defend yourself. She woulda been to blame if one of those fledges had gotten the better of you tonight, and your mum had woken up to find herself childless!”

Spike watched her expression as the truth sunk in. Holding back tears, she insisted, “We have to go to Giles. He can make with the revealing spell and find out what’s been done to me. And then we can confront Willow, if it’s her.”

“If it’s her, she says,” Spike snorted. “Unlikely to be anyone else.”

“I can’t go out like this,” Buffy said, waving her hands over her scantily-clad body.

Spike rolled his eyes, and removed his duster. “Just a loan, mind,” he said, rolling up the sleeves so her hands weren’t swathed in leather.

As she pulled on her damp shoes and headed towards the door, Spike had an idea. He crept up silently behind her and took hold of her left shoulder.

Buffy immediately responded by reaching over her shoulder, grabbing onto his arm and tossing him once more through the crypt.

“I knew it!” Spike crowed from the floor. “Your body knows who you are and what you can do. It’s only your noggin that’s been emptied. Just need to find a way to retrieve the memories and you’ll be right as rain in no time.”

Buffy walked over and held out her hand to give him a lift. “That felt kinda good,” she said, through a broad smile. “Let’s go get my fight back.”

*****

Willow stared at her reflection in the mirror. A look of self-satisfaction lit her face and she felt as if she’d just outshone the whole class and gained Professor Walsh’s approval, the horrid old harridan.

Buffy’s bed was still empty; patrol must be rife with creatures of the night. She’ll come back exhausted, but at least her mind would be worry-free… thanks to her own intervention. The memory spell had actually been a breeze; a few smelly herbs, some beeswax candles and one of Buffy’s shirts were all that were needed. A simple chant – in English, for a change – and voila! All Buffy’s memories of her engagement to Spike were a thing of the past.

The possibility that she ought to have told Buffy she was gonna do the spell nagged at the corner of Willow’s conscience but she quickly batted it away. Buffy would be grateful in the long run and she wouldn’t have to cringe with discomfort every time she saw the pesky vampire and remembered having been all snuggly and wedding-planny with him.

Much better, Willow concluded, that she had cast the spell in secret, and could now just bask in the happiness that is peace-of-mind Buffy.

Happily humming to herself, Willow swept up the herbs, put away the candles, and placed Buffy’s shirt back in her drawer. Turning on her bedside light, the very-pleased-with-herself witchlet settled into bed with her English Lit book, and waited for Buffy to come home.

Chapter Text

Rupert Giles opened his door to the sight of his slayer standing next to a vampire he’d hoped to never see again.

Taking a moment to gather not only his words, but also his wits, Giles surveyed the pair before him. Buffy was nearly swallowed up in Spike’s duster; the rolled-up sleeves and dragging hemline looked ridiculous on her small frame.

Spike was, for lack of a better word, supporting Buffy, with a hand at the small of her back.

“What on earth is going on here?” he asked, noting the scratches on Buffy’s face and her disheveled hair (a look she’d usually be loath to sport in public).

“You gonna make us stand in the doorway whilst we unburden ourselves, Rupes?” the vampire asked cheekily.

“Come in, Spike,” he said, making a point of merely standing aside and holding the door open for his slayer.

“I’m still me, Giles,” she said, rolling her eyes as she crossed the threshold. “Well, mostly.”

“And just what is ‘mostly’ supposed to mean?”

“The chit needs you to find out if she’s been bespelled,” Spike said testily. “We think that little Red’s been a naughty witch, throwin’ out spells without regard to their consequences.”

“Now listen here...” Giles began angrily. Spike casting aspersions on one of his children put Giles immediately on the defensive. “What makes you think –”

“We both think it’s Willow,” Buffy said, looking from Watcher to vampire. “I wish there was another suspect, but she already suggested casting a spell on me earlier this evening, and I poo-poo’d her offer.”

Still reluctant to believe Willow was culpable, Giles changed tack and said, “Let’s wait a minute, shall we, before apportioning blame willy-nilly. Why do you think you’ve been enspelled?”

“Because I’ve lost my fighting ability,” Buffy blurted out, staring down at the floor. “And I didn’t come here, first,” she added quietly, “because I thought you might have poisoned me again.”

Giles was aghast. “Buffy, I would never! Well, at least, never again,” he insisted. “I would never put you in any danger intentionally. Nor would I destroy the trust we’ve been rebuilding.”

Buffy sighed in relief and finally looked Giles in the eyes. “I went to Spike, because I thought he would understand what losing my power would do to me.”

“Funny thing is, Slayer’s not really lost her powers,” Spike supplied. “just the ability to use them at will. I tried a sneak attack from behind –”

Giles felt his outrage flair. “You dared to attack Buffy?”

“I can’t hurt her, you git, you know that. I had a hunch, is all,” Spike explained. “I came at her from behind, put a hand on her shoulder, and she sent me tumbling arse-over-teakettle across the crypt.”

“I really did, Giles,” Buffy admitted happily. “I made Spike fly. It was a relief to know I was still full of slayery goodness.”

“Fine,” Giles conceded. “It sounds as if you were right, Spike, as much as it pains me to say. I think we need to have a word or three with our resident witch.

*****

The doorbell rang, and Buffy opened the door, allowing her flustered friend entry.

“I’m so glad you’re here, Buffy,” Willow said, hugging Buffy tightly. She pouted when Buffy shied from her touch, retreating to her previous position on the couch. “I was so worried when you didn’t arrive back at the dorm. Was patrol really busy?”

“Sit down, Willow.” Giles voice was cold as ice. The wounded look on the little redhead’s face nearly broke his resolve, but he soldiered on.

“Is there a particular reason you were worried for Buffy’s safety?” he asked, watching her closely. “Late night patrol is certainly not unusual.”

“N-no, no special reason,” Willow insisted somewhat shakily. “Just the usual fear-for-a-friend-who-fights-monsters fears.”

“I nearly died tonight,” Buffy said softly, refusing to meet Willow’s eyes. “And it wasn’t at the hands of a Big Bad – it was just a bunch of stupid fledglings.”

Spike’s soft, sub-vocal growl permeated the air and Willow’s body tensed.

“What do you mean?” she asked, eyes wide with worry.

“What she means, Red, is that somehow the Slayer found herself unable to defend herself against a bunch of nuisance newbies.”

“Nobody asked you, Spike!” Willow snapped, but went silent as nobody else in the room jumped up in support.

“So now I need permission to speak, Your Majesty?” Spike snarked back, little hints of amber coloring his blue irises. “An’ if I don’t mind my p’s and q’s, what are you gonna do about it? Bring a little sunshine indoors to shut me up but good?”

“What is this?” Willow cried, looking around wildly. She sat down heavily on a chair and rested her head in hands.

Buffy got up from the sofa and walked stiffly over to Willow. Her friend raised her head to meet her gaze.

“We spoke about it, Wills,” she began, calm patience in her tone. “You mentioned a forgetting spell after the bizarreness of being engaged to Spike. Do you remember me telling you to go ahead and do it?”

Willow’s shoulders stiffened. She had obviously been caught out, but she wasn’t going to go down easy.

“You didn’t say so… specifically,” Willow admitted. “But I knew you were feeling disgusted and the memories of it were haunting you.”

“So you decided to take the initiative, and do the spell anyway?” Giles asked, frowning with disappointment. “How could you do such a thing, Willow? Without consent, it boils down to… to… well, as distasteful as it sounds – it’s assault, plain and simple.”

“Assault?” the little redhead squeaked, horrified. “I would never… could never…!”

“And yet you did,” Buffy insisted, sticking up for herself. “Except you didn’t get the results you wanted. I remember every single moment of being engaged to Spike,” she said, looking at said vampire and gathering courage. “You took something else from me, instead.”

“But I did everything right!” Willow insisted. “I followed the spell to the letter, I swear! The only thing you should have lost –”

“She lost her knowledge of the fight, you stupid, arrogant child,” Giles bellowed. “Thanks to your meddling, she couldn’t fulfill her sacred duty and she couldn’t defend herself against attack.”

Willow’s lip wibbled, tears forming in her eyes. “I only wanted to help,” she insisted.

“And the bint’s still not gettin’ it,” Spike growled. If looks could kill, Buffy was fairly certain Willow would be dead where she sat. “Where do you get off decidin’ what Buffy remembers? What gives you the bloody right?”

“I’m sorry,” Willow wailed, hiding her face in her hands. “I’m not a bad person. I’m not! I only wanted to help my best friend feel better,” she insisted once more.

“Then you should’ve performed the ritual for which teenaged girls the world over are famous,” Giles informed her. “Ice cream and girl-talk… not magic spells to alter perception.”

“I promise that’s what I’ll do in the future.” Willow looked up, contrite. “No more mind spells from this girl, ever.”

“If only I could believe you, Willow,” Buffy sighed. “But this isn’t the first time. It comes right on the heels of your ‘will be done’ spell, which made Giles blind.” She met Willow’s eyes and added, “And almost got Xander killed.”

“You need to remember something else, Willow,” Giles continued. “Just because you can do a thing, it doesn’t mean you should.”

“Okay, okay.” Willow’s exasperation shone through. “I get it: don’t do anymore spells without permission.” Added in a half-whisper, “No matter how much I think they would help.”

Giles shook his head, his own frustration clearly reaching its limit. “You must remember you are not the center of the universe, Willow. You might very well be an integral part, but your wishes are no more important than… than… Spike’s, for example.”

“Oi!”

“Be quiet for once, damn it,” Giles hissed. Turning once again to Willow, he continued, “If we were all to simply follow our desires, then Spike would currently be ridding himself free of the chip that curtails his bloodlust and would be free to murder at will once more.”

“Bloodlust isn’t curtailed, Rupert,” Spike muttered. “I know a little witch who’s very lucky I’m still muzzled.”

“That’s enough, Spike,” Buffy chastised. “You don’t have to threaten Willow. I’m sure she’s seen the light and won’t put her needs above ours or anyone else’s from now on.”

Spike clearly wasn’t mollified, but at least he kept quiet for the moment.

Willow broke the ensuing uncomfortable silence, asking quietly, “Can I go?”

Giles simply nodded and escorted Willow to the door. He waited for her to exit and then turned to Spike.

“Time for you to go about your business too, I believe. I’ve got a nice scotch waiting for me, and I’d like to indulge – alone.”

“Like I want to linger,” Spike said belligerently as he swaggered towards the door. “Let me know when you’ve got the Slayer all sorted, mind-wise.”

“Of course,” Giles murmured sarcastically. “you’re the first person I’ll call.”

“That’s enough, you two,” Buffy soothed. “Giles, thanks for your help with Willow tonight. We can start the researchy thing tomorrow.” She turned towards the vampire she’d come to trust… mostly. “Thanks again for your help, Spike.” Then she added softly, “I’ll see you tomorrow and keep you in the loop about everything.”

“Ta, love,” was Spike’s simple reply as he headed out the door.

“Goodnight, Giles. I’m overdue for a nice, hot bath and a soft, cool mattress.” Buffy wrapped Spike’s coat around herself a little tighter. “Time for this one to go home.”

“Are you sure you would want me to drive you home?” Giles asked. “It’s no bother.”

“No thanks,” she murmured. “I’ll be fine. Now that I know what’s wrong with me, I’ll be uber careful.”

“Goodnight then, Buffy.” Giles saw her out the door, and headed for his liquor cabinet.

Chapter Text

Buffy arrived at Giles’ home bright and early the next morning after a rather miserable night’s sleep. Anxious to get her fight back, she hadn’t been able to settle down until just before dawn. Forgoing a greeting, she simple asked, “We got a plan?”

Giles was bustling about his living room, pouring sacred sand in a circle and settling candles in a specific order. “Good morning, Buffy,” he said, looking up from his task. “I believe so. I’d like to begin by confirming that Willow’s spell is the only thing in play here. I take it you’re ready to start?”

“Yes, please,” she said, nodding enthusiastically.

“Then have a seat, my dear.”

All in all, the first step wasn’t particularly taxing – a little chanting, some waving of burning sage, and a flash of green indicating a spell had indeed been cast – and the original spellcaster was revealed.

“So?” Buffy asked, when the silence had gone on too long. “What’s the what, Watcher-mine?”

“It’s as we feared, I’m afraid,” Giles admitted. “It looks like Willow was indeed the sole culprit here.”

“Well, duh!” Buffy’s laugh was small and brittle. “She admitted it to us yesterday, so why the extra-long face?”

“Because, in the revelatory flash, there were indications that the spell wasn’t quite as benign as young Willow led us to believe.”

“Huh?”

“Succinctly put, there were traces of black within the green, meaning that, perhaps unwittingly, darker magicks were called into play.” Giles rubbed his forehead, setting his glasses askew. “It was a mind-bending spell, Buffy, and it was performed against your wishes. I’m afraid our witch is headed down a very scary path.”

“So, what can we do about it?” Buffy asked, worry for her best friend trumping her lingering anger towards her.

“I suppose I can attempt to school her in the principles of responsible magicks,” Giles mused. Removing his glasses, he began to scrub the lenses with his handkerchief. “I-I don’t know if she’ll be receptive to any wisdom I have to share, but I can try.”

“Thanks, Giles. Willow’s always thought of you as a mentor, so –”

The sound of a door opening and slamming shut interrupted whatever else Buffy was about to say.

“Dear Lord!” Giles exclaimed, as a smoking blanket-covered vampire appeared in the living room. Spike tossed the blanket to the floor, stomping on the smoldering parts and swatting at his hair and skin to eliminate embers.

“Spike! What the hell are you doing here in broad daylight?” Buffy asked, finding herself oddly less annoyed than she sounded. “You remember you’re a vampire, right? You know: sunshine equals crispy critter?”

Spike ran his fingers through his hair, trying and failing to smooth it back into its gelled configuration. “I go where I want, and I do what I please,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “Besides, was hopin’ to hear the good news in person.”

“So far, we’ve only gotten to the bad news portion of our show,” Buffy replied. “Yes, it was definitely a Willow spell. You were right,” she acknowledged begrudgingly, “but don’t expect me to make a habit of admitting that kind of thing to you in the future.”

Spike preened momentarily over his vindication but a frown quickly overtook his features. “So how are we going to remove the bloody spell?”

“We?” Giles harrumphed. “Since when is there a ‘we’ here? And how do you benefit from Buffy regaining her abilities?”

“In for a penny, in for a pound, I’d say.” Spike shrugged his shoulders as if he didn’t have a care in the world. “Was there for the discovery portion of our program… might as well see it through to the end.”

“It’s fine, Giles,” Buffy said quietly. “Spike did me a solid last night when I needed of a safe place to hole up. If he wants to watch me power up, I’m fine with it.”

“Thanks ever so, Slayer,” Spike snarked, sketching a deep bow. Then he howled with laughter when Buffy took advantage of his position, scooted behind him, and booted him in the ass with her foot.

“That’s quite enough, you two.” Giles’ tone brooked no arguments. “It’s time to remove the bloody spell and get things back to normal.”

“Do I need to do anything?” Buffy asked, twisting a lock of hair around her pointer finger. “Hop on one foot and cluck like a chicken, maybe?”

“Yes, yes, very funny,” Giles countered. “Just sit in the center of the circle, making sure you don’t actually touch it. As for you, Spike,” he said, staring at the fidgety vampire, “you just stay out of the way and keep quiet. Complete silence would be a blessing.”

Buffy watched as Giles threw little bits of this and that into a stone bowl, then ground it all together with a pestle. He traversed the circle on the floor in a counter-clockwise direction, muttering something in an indecipherable-to-her language, before blowing the contents of the bowl in her face.

Of course, she sneezed, but she managed to remain still and not break the circle of sand.

“Just a few more moments,” Giles said, reaching for a slip of paper. “I need to perform a revealing spell known as Tirer la couverture. It will check to see if all aspects of the spell have been lifted.”

A little more chanting, and Giles announced that the spell had officially been removed.

“Are you sure, Rupes?” Spike pushed doggedly. “Sure there’s no need for Buffy to cluck like a chicken?”

Shooting a look of annoyance in Spike’s direction, Giles turned back to Buffy. “So, how do you want to test this?” he asked. “Would you like me to run you through a few training exercises?”

“She’ll likely fall asleep from boredom, Watcher,” Spike stuck in his two cents. “What she needs is a real challenge.”

“And you’re proposing what, exactly?” Giles sneered, a glimpse of ‘Ripper’ beneath his librarian façade. “To lick her to death? Are you forgetting the chip?”

“Lick me to death?” Buffy’s eyes glazed over a bit as the words rolled around in her brain. “No, no – there will be no licking of me at all,” she hastily countered. “But Spike has a point. I need a real workout, something to get my Slayer mojo up and running. Sorry, Giles… I’d probably kill you.”

She could almost feel Giles’ deep sigh of relief, and had to hold back a chuckle at his expense.

“I think we can work around the chip, Slayer, if you’re willin’ to give it a go. Since the chip works on intent, if we both spar (with no intent on actually maiming each other) it should remain inactive.”

Before Buffy could say a word, Giles interrupted, “If you’re going to attempt faux-fisticuffs, might I’d suggest doing it somewhere other than my apartment? No offense, but I’d like to keep my belongings intact.”

Buffy smiled, gave Giles a quick bear hug, and headed towards the door before realizing that it was still full daylight outside. She paused; there was no way Spike could manage several hours of outdoors fisticuff fun.

With a pout, she asked, “Giles, do you mind if we hang out here until the sun goes down?” She nodded her head in Spike’s direction with a look that said ‘I’m sorry.’ “I promise we’ll be out of your hair as soon as it’s dark enough.”

Giles sighed. “I guess he’s of no use to you as an opponent if he immolates in the first minute.”

Buffy smirked “True, maybe Mr. Adventure here will think twice next time about playing around with Mr. Sunshine.”

“Mad dogs and Englishmen, Slayer,” Spike muttered sotto voce.

This time it was Giles trying to suppress a laugh.

Chapter Text

Despite the orange/pink glow of the setting sun still lingering in the sky, Spike was already pushing the door to Giles’ apartment open.

“Can’t say it’s been fun, Watcher,” he called over his shoulder as he exited, “’cause it hasn’t.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Did you really expect better from Mr. Manners?” she asked, giving Giles an apologetic shrug. “Thanks for putting up with us.”

“The pleasure of your company is always welcome, Buffy. As for your companion… suffice to say, thank god for the setting sun.”

Offering a symbolic salute, Buffy made her own exit and found Spike in the courtyard breathing in the warm evening air.

“About time, Slayer,” Spike muttered. “Thought I was gonna go completely carrot top if I had to stay there one more second.”

“Good things come to those who wait,” Buffy intoned, waggling her finger at him. “So, how do you wanna do this?”

“Let’s get your juices pumping first,” Spike purred, the innuendo loud and proud. “What say we start with a game of chase the vampire?”

Buffy’s felt a little flare of adrenaline; it had been a while since she actively set out on a hunt. “Sounds good to me. I’ll even give you a minute’s head start.”

Without taking time to comment, Spike bolted, sing-songing as he passed, “Catch me if you can!”

“All right, Spikey,” she said with a grin, “let’s see what we’re made of.” She counted to fifty, took a deep breath, and charged off down the path Spike had blazed before her.

She ran full out, holding nothing back and feeling gloriously free. It wasn’t often that she got the chance to sprint; usually her prey attacked her while she walked sedately.

By the time she broke out of the suburban area, her stride was long and easy, loping quickly after her quarry. Spike remained out of sight but, she felt a twinge of awareness now and again. Buffy wouldn’t put it past the pesky vampire to slow down long enough for her to sense him before taking off once again.

But she wasn’t about to let him mess with her head and beat her, even if this was all in fun (and the pursuit of knowledge). She accelerated past the industrial area of town and into a stretch of woods, still going strong. Leaping over obstacles with ease, her pace never slowing as she emerged from the trees.

Restfield was in sight. There was no sign of Spike as she pulled open the gates surrounding the cemetery, but when she rounded the corner, there he was: sitting on the Maguire crypt – his feet dangling off the roof – swinging back and forth, looking like a teenager waiting for his best buds to show up with the beer and the weed.

He was grinning like a loon.

“About time you got here, Slayer,” he crowed, jumping down from the roof and landing gracefully on his feet like a cat. “You feelin’ okay? Was about to send out a search party in case you’d forgotten how to run.”

Buffy rolled her eyes and snorted inelegantly. “Like a rock star, Spike, I’m fashionably late… how do you think I feel?”

He sized her up with a long, languid look, tongue curling over his teeth. “You look happy,” he mused, continuing his perusal. “Look like you’re ready to take on the world.”

“So one scrawny little vampire shouldn’t be a problem, right?”

“Come closer, pet, and I’ll show you just how scrawny I’m not!” he challenged, beckoning ‘come hither’ with a sneer.

“Ready to have that smirk pounded right off your face?” Buffy retorted, circling him where he stood.

“Uh, uh, uh… that’s not on the agenda, is it?” Spike chortled, with a deep, infectious belly laugh. “No contact, just academic experimentation.”

“That I remember, vampire,” Buffy snapped back, a hint of hostility tingeing her words. “So who’s gonna make the first move in our little ‘experiment’?”

Spike swept out his foot, snagging Buffy’s left leg and landing her on her ass.

“Guess that’s gonna be you,” she muttered, swiping the dirt off her pants before rolling her shoulders. “The next move,” she said, throwing out a roundhouse punch, “is mine!”

Clearly anticipating the swing, Spike evaded the impact, answering her attack with an uppercut to her chin.

“Oh, come now, pet. Tame moves won’t prove anything to either of us. Time to dance, petal,” he said, holding out his left hand.

Buffy grabbed her vampire’s hand and sent him airborne over a headstone. For the next couple of hours, they waltzed over tombstones, through mausoleums, and around statuary. They vaulted over rooftops and banged into trees. Spike had never been more accurate in his unlife; they truly danced.

Buffy felt exhilarated! It was all back – the hard-earned knowledge of her partner’s moves and her corresponding steps. The only thing missing was the satisfying thunk of flesh-on-flesh contact.

She wasn’t a masochist by any means but when Spike used to land a punch, she’d felt energized. The slayer part of her had thrilled in anticipation of his next hit or kick. It had made her eager to give it her all and answer each point of contact with a blow of her own.

And after each fight, she surveyed her abrasions and bruises, counting each one as a victory; proud that none were a killing blow. Buffy imagined that Spike felt the same. Or used to. It was a pity their ‘duel’ was hampered by his chip.

She couldn’t believe that the idea of a chipless Spike suddenly moved her so. The idea that he was physically restrained by his little Initiative toy must be killing him inside. No wonder he resorted to so much mouthing off. It was the only weapon he had left.

Buffy was so tied up in her empathy for Spike that she stumbled just the teensiest bit… which was more than enough of an opening for Spike, who managed to grab her from behind, pull her up against his chest and place an open-mouthed bite against her neck with his blunt, human teeth.

“And the killing blow is mine,” Spike said with a lick to Buffy’s neck.

Buffy noted that he didn’t crow his victory; didn’t brag. Just a simple statement, and it almost brought her to her knees.

“I don’t know how you do it, Spike,” she said, breaking his gentle hold. “I really never gave it much thought before… but this has brought it home in a way nothing else would.”

“What’re you yammering on about, Slayer?” Spike asked, perplexed.

“You! With the chip!”

“Yeah, and…?”

“I don’t understand how you manage to get up every da – night, knowing that you can’t be yourself. That you’re unable to use the powers you’re supernaturally endowed with.”

“Since when did you get all philosophical?” Spike asked, cocking his head and giving her the once-over.

“Since I was reminded, yet again, of what it feels like to be powerless and helpless. I might not have actually asked to be the Slayer, but since I was chosen… I’ve become kinda good at it.”

“Best I’ve seen,” Spike agreed, “and I’ve seen plenty in my unlifetime.”

“And killed a couple, as you’re always so proud to call to everyone’s attention.”

Spike just preened, saying nothing.

“I feel sor-”

“Don’t you bloody dare, Slayer,” Spike fumed. “If it’s the last thing I ever do, I’ll end you.”

“All I meant was-”

“I don’t give a fuck what you meant. I don’t need or want your pity.”

“Fine! Apologies for trying to be empathetic.”

“Just don’t let it happen again,” Spike muttered with less rancor, looking down and kicking clods of dirt from the ground.

Slightly mollified, Buffy just nodded her agreement.

“So,” Spike said, obviously changing tack, “I’d say this little outing has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’re back to your spectacular self.” Then added critically, “Still droppin’ your left shoulder a mite, however. Should work on it, Slayer.”

“Giles is always harping on the same thing,” Buffy admitted. “I try, but it’s a bad habit that he can’t seem to get me to break.”

“The bloke’s alright for bookish stuff, but for a trainin’ partner, you need someone who can keep up with you.”

“Are you offering your services, Spike?” Buffy asked, incredulously. “I mean, yeah, you helped me out of a difficult sitch here, but actually helping me train? Didn’t think you had it in you.”

“I don’t come cheap, pet. There’d be conditions.”

“And just what would they be?” Buffy rolled her eyes, half-expecting something ridiculous and totally unworkable to come out of his mouth.

Spike laughed. “I’ll make it easy on ya. First off, I’d like a weekly supply of blood, preferably human. Obviously not straight from the tap, but even with the preservatives hospitals stick in their supply, it’s still better than that pig swill I’m being forced to subsist on.”

“And just where do you expect me to come up with this magical supply, Spike? Hospital blood is for humans, not vampires.”

“Talk it over with your Watcher and see what he can do. I’m sure hospitals have blood that’s expired, or near to it. Again, still better than Porky.”

“Okay,” Buffy huffed. “Say this is doable. What’s your second request?”

“That none of your little Scoobies decides to go stake-happy on yours truly. You want me dust in the wind, you’ll have to do the honors yourself.”

“Sounds reasonable. I can make the request, but you know Xander, and even Giles. They hate vampires, but I’ll see if I can get them to give you a pass, as long as you behave.”

“Yeah, that’s me,” Spike snorted. “Spike the good little white hat.”

Buffy giggled in response to the image. “You will be if you want your blood and non-stake status.”

Spike’s response was nothing but a smile as they headed back to report that all was right in Buffyland for the moment.