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Palpatine
10/18/17 09:43 pm
Granted, and thank you, Pari, for pointing that out to me, so that I could write to the author and address the issue personally. I'm most grateful.
Pari
10/07/17 01:42 am
@Palpatine authors are in charge of the banners they add to their stories, so you will need to contact them personally to let them know their banner pic is not showing.
Pari
10/07/17 01:41 am
@kelticmoon, I added some back but they are not updated, meaning things you find on the default skin may not be on the other skins :)
kelticmoon
10/05/17 10:47 pm
Where are the other skins that use to be here?
Palpatine
10/05/17 03:52 pm
Some of the pictures seem to be having real trouble being looked at, they keep on saying "enable third party hosting", a real problem it seems.
Pari
09/25/17 10:11 pm
Hey nmcil we got this strightened via email, thanks for the donation. Thanks to all who donated as we are now paid up through/to Jan 2019!
nmcil
09/21/17 03:08 am
How can we contribute using PayPal?
nmcil
09/21/17 03:05 am
What happen to the PayPal donation. I USE PayPal.
squawks
05/18/17 09:16 am
pj! I remember wishing one of your stories would be finished seriously about a decade ago. Amazing. I just tried an old password I used to use and amazingly got in too. Memories!
pj
03/20/17 06:20 am
10 yrs later, i finally rem my username and password. Pari, you rock. Hope you are well.

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Authors Chapter Notes:
Many many thanks to my beta megan_peta for all her tireless work, support and patience!

Be warned there are two character deaths in this fic - other than that there is violence, strong language and dusty vamps - hope you enjoys!


italics=thoughts

She was screwed.

All she could feel was the hard grip of fingers on her arms and the cold bite of the chain link fence against her back. They were implacable and unrelenting and there was no way she could escape; they held her pinned like a butterfly on a collector’s board.

She was terrified.

Her kicks had all been blocked by the stronger vampires. She was so dead. All her fighting had been for nothing; they had cornered her and she had misjudged the situation. All she could think of was what her mom was going to think when they found her body in an alley.

Buffy could hear a roaring in her ears, her blood pumping furiously through her as she felt her attacker punch her in to stomach and face. Her lip split and blood gushed down her chin. Weirdly it didn’t hurt and all she could think was she was going to die. Alone in a dirty alley and unnoticed, Buffy the reluctant Vampire Slayer dead as a Dodo, never having had a chance at the life she’d dreamed of. Okay, so the whole marrying Christian Slater thing was sooo not gonna happen, but she’d liked to have graduated school and hey, even met a nice guy and got married. But nope, instead she was going to die in an alleyway at the hands of three of the fugliest vampires she had ever seen.

In the distance she heard someone call out in surprise and pain, and then she felt a fine dust hit her in the face. It tasted like vamp dust, something she knew all too well from patrolling. But it didn’t make sense. She could feel all three of her captors around her, so they weren’t dust. A faint crease appeared between her eyes; the voice had been hoarse and filled with pain, but it had rung a bell. It sounded like someone she knew, but who would’ve been in the alley calling for her? No one, as no one knew where she was.

Buffy’s eyes drifted shut as a pair of hands wrapped around her throat and cut off her oxygen. ‘This was it…it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would…’ As consciousness left her she thought she heard another roar, but it was too late to figure it out as darkness claimed her in oblivion.

Her lax body slumped in the grasp of two of The Three as the other reached for a blade tucked in his waistband.

The Master wanted her head on a silver salver.

A bit messy, but so be it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Balls, the bint’s going to bite it before I get a chance to…” Spike threw away the half smoked cigarette and swung onto the edge of the roof, ready to leap down. He froze a leather-clad shadow on the side of the building as a familiar scent filled the air. It was one he’d not scented since the Boxer Rebellion and he licked his lips unconsciously at the memory of the one and only time he’d tasted the blood of a Slayer.

“Peaches?”

Spike’s jaw dropped as he watched his unlamented grandsire charge around the corner with a bellow of anger. Last he’d heard the old poof had been munching on rats in the alleys of New York. Now he was here in Sunnydale? And he was rushing to help the Slayer? Spike frowned and shifted his weight so that he was crouched on the edge like a gargoyle. He had no idea what was going on but it was going to be interesting.

He was here for the Slayer and a bit of vengeance against the Council. That was the reason he was here on the Hellmouth, lurking on rooftops and following the Slayer around. He’d heard the rumours about this one. She wasn’t one to play by the rules; a bit like him. And that was something he was counting on. He needed a rebel, a Slayer with a chip on her shoulder. Someone who played all the odds and bent the Slayer rules and wasn’t afraid to challenge authority figures dressed in gitty tweed outfits.

In fact, from what he’d heard, she’d never even been given a Slayer Handbook. She had also tried to escape her calling and the Council’s influence, even to the point of initially denying what she was on her arrival to Sunnydale. The rumours had been winging their way back and forth across the pond and he had leapt on the first plane he could find to California. He’d hoped she was as much of a rebel as he’d heard she was. He needed her and somehow he was going to get her onside, even if it meant compromising the Big Bad image. He was desperate and she was his only hope. But now Dru’s daddy was added into the mix and he had no idea what the hell was going on.

“No…”

Spike blinked and his jaw dropped as Angelus disappeared in a cloud of dust.

“Bugger me sideways with a shrimp fork…”

He watched as his grandsire’s dust swirled around the Slayer, as if trying to coat her in protection before settling on the cracked tarmac. Spike’s mouth was still open in shock. He had never thought that this would ever happen; he’d always figured he would get snuffed out before his granddad, what with his predisposal for getting into brawls with things bigger than him. But Peaches was gone. In a blink of an eye a shabby assassin had dusted him, wiping out centuries of existence in a blink of an eye. His stomach clenched and a sense of loss filled him. “Christ on a pogo stick, he’s gone. What the ruddy hell?”



Before he knew what he was doing, Spike launched himself off the roof with a roar. No one dusted his family, no one but him! It wasn’t like he was fond of the giant moper but something rankled at the very presumptuousness of the act. Despite everything that had passed between him and Angelus, there was a point of familial honour; they were going to pay in kind for having the nerve of dusting Peaches.

Spike landed in a semi crouch, one hand bracing himself as the other reached for a stake tucked into his waistband. A feral snarl parted his lips, his face in the shadows with only the top his bright head visible as he looked down at the pile of dust. All that remained of one of the scions of Aurelius. The same dust that was being scattered by the feet of the gits who’d dusted him. A deep rumble erupted from his chest that built into a bone-shaking roar of anger.

Spike lunged upwards with a shout.

“Oi, stinky! Over here,” he growled and deftly staked the git who’d reached for a knife.

“One down, two to go.” A manic grin curled his lips as he vamped out. Spike spun around, his duster flaring around him like a matador’s cloak. One powerful leg lashed out as he kicked the hairier of the Slayer’s two remaining captors firmly in the groin. “Bet that hurt, didn’t it?” Spike smirked. “But then again, not too much seeing as there wasn’t much there to kick in the first place, eh?” He tossed the stake from one had to the other. ‘Come on, you prat, take the bait. Nice big vamp here to have a tussle with.’ He needed to get them away from the Slayer, otherwise they could still kill her and he didn’t have time to wait for another to be called. Also, there was no guarantee the new one would be a rebel or even if she would be easily persuaded to join forces with William the Bloody.

Spike’s head snapped to the left as one of the Slayer’s captors punched him; the skin on his cheekbone split under the pressure of the blow and blood gushed down his cheek. An unholy glee lit his ochre eyes and Spike threw back his head and laughed. He laughed for what seemed like the first time in months. The first time since she was taken from him.

“Tha’s more like it!” He growled with a happy smiled and launched himself at his attacker with a roar. The two vampires seemed to be evenly matched, exchanging a flurry of supernaturally fast blows as the other one hefted Buffy’s limp form into his arms and tried to escape.

“None of that now!” Spike roared and without even a second to take aim, he threw his stake at the back of the retreating vampire. There was a thunk as the casually thrown stake unerringly found its mark and then there was a faint noise as the second of the assassins dusted. The Slayer’s slim unconscious form hit the dirty tarmac with a thud. Spike mentally winced; ‘bet that hurt the bint.’

“Why are you doing this? You know what she is?” the final member of The Three gasped out as he ducked a punch thrown by his opponent. “She’s the damned Slayer, killer of our kind.”

“Yeah, wot of it?” Spike grunted as he took a punch to the gut. He doubled over and took an unnecessary wheezing breath. His questing fingers searching for the cool metal of the dagger that the first of his victims had dropped.

“She’s our enemy, not someone to save, you idiot!”

Spike grinned up at the vampire. “What can I say? I’ve always been a rebel.” With that he lunged upwards and sliced off the vampire’s head.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Wakey, wakey little one.” A deep voice rumbled next to her ear, pulling her from the darkness she’d succumbed to. Buffy groaned and shifted slightly; her tongue slipped out and she licked her dry lips tiredly. The taste of bitter copper filled her mouth and she winced as her tongue skimmed over the split on her lower lip.

“Here, this might help.”


Buffy tried to open her eyes but they were swollen shut. She groaned and raised a shaking hand to her face. Her entire body was screaming in agony, her stomach ached from the punches and her face was so swollen she was worried her head would burst like an overfilled balloon.

“Don’t, you’ll only hurt yourself.” A gentle hand took hold of her wrist and eased her arm back onto the mattress. “Just let me help.”

Buffy nodded slightly and winced at the kaleidoscope of flashing lights that her small movement had set off in her head. ‘Gahh…and ow!’ She swallowed hard, trying to fight the nausea.

“Just keep still, pet.”

The deep voice was soothing. Buffy slumped slightly, relaxing. She could hear the sound of water in a bowl on the nightstand near her head, then the sensation of cool flannel running over her face and skimming her lips—it felt like heaven.

“I know it hurts, but I don’t think your nose is badly broken.” He wrung out the flannel over her mouth letting a few drops land on her dry lips, soothing them.

“What?” she squeaked in horror. Buffy clamoured against the pillows and tried to sit up.

“Hold on.” A cool arm insinuated itself behind her shoulders and eased her into a sitting position. “There, that’s better, yeah?” Spike chuckled at the look of petulance on the Slayer’s swollen face. The damage was done when she had been dropped on her face—after he’d dusted her captor. But there was no way he was going to admit to that, he liked his bits where they were.

“My nose! It can’t be broken. She pouted as best she could around a split lip. It was bad enough her mom hadn’t let her get the lumpy bit removed but now it was broken there was no way she’d get it fixed. Mom would say it was her own fault for getting into a fight and that she would have to live with it.

“Now pet, none of that. I clicked it in while you were out of it. There won’t even be a bump, I promise.” Spike mentally frowned at himself; since when did he worry about the looks of Slayers? Then again, this one was a bit of all right…

“Ick, you clicked it? Gross!”

Spike ran his finger down her nose and gently tapped it on the end. “See? All nice and straight, no worries, yeah?”

“Who are you?”

“William.” Spike winced at his evasion.

“Where am I?” Buffy gingerly prodded her ribs and found nothing broken there. Just her stomach and face. God, her face! What was she going to do? She couldn’t go home let alone to school. The questions and the looks would be too much. She was sooo not going to be able to show her face until slayer healing kicked in.

“My hotel room. Been here for about twenty four hours; had me a bit worried.” Spike winced and waited for her yelps of anger.

“No way. I can’t be in a strange guy’s bed! Oh my god, my mom will kill me! I’ve been here for how long?” Buffy cracked her eyes open and then squeaked again. She wanted to die. Here she was all gross and icky Mutant Buffy and there was a cutie being so nice to her. With a whimper she tugged the sheets over her head and held her breath. It was an old trick of hers, but she didn’t think everything would go away— not when the cute British guy was chuckling at her.

What the hell is the chit doing? He dropped the flannel into the bowl and sank back on his heels and tilted his head to one side.

Within a flurry of sheets and arms, a tousled head reappeared. “My mom! I have to go home!” She swung her legs over the edge of the bed, an arm wrapped around her waist, supporting herself. “Please, I have to get home. My mom will kill me for being out so late.”

“You have a mum?”

Buffy squinted through her swollen eyes and tried to glare at the cute idiot. “Yeah, what did you think? I was spawned in a pond or something?”

Spike snorted. “Well, no – but I’ve not heard of a slayer staying with her family once she was called.” That was one bit of info he’d not found out, and it intrigued him even more. How had she managed to stay with her family? Usually the stuffy gits separated them from their loved ones and trained all humanity out of their sacrifices on the alter of humanity.

“What? Slayer? How did you…” Buffy managed to finally open her left eye wide, the other crusted half shut with dried blood.

Spike ducked his head and rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. Now he’d done it, shot himself in the foot with his big gob. So much for building up her trust and then explaining he was in fact a vampire—yes, one quarter of the Scourge of Europe, but no, he wasn’t there to drain her blood. No, he wanted her help getting even with the Council of Wankers. Spike remained kneeling but kept his hands in sight and tried to appear as unthreatening as he could. Which was a bit of a non-starter seeing that he was dressed in black and looking like a rebel without a clue.

“How do you…wait a minute—” Buffy looked around the Spartan room she could see the curtains were shut and the sun was just setting. Suspicion tickled around the edges of her mind. She was unarmed in a small room with a vampire. Crap. Giles would be so ashamed of her. “You’re a vampire.”

“Well yeah, what of it? It’s not like I’ve been gnawing on your neck and sucking the marrow from your bones, is it?” Spike looked up through his lashes, every muscle in his body screaming to move, but he had to be as unassuming as he could be. Otherwise, ‘oh bollocks…’

“What is this? Some sick game?” Buffy hissed through her teeth as she wrapped her hand around his throat, her other hand reaching for the bedside table leg and snapped it off. She ignored the crash as it leant against the rumpled bed. Instead she focused on tightening her knees against his ribs and ignored the huge… ‘Oh my god, it’s huge!’ She shifted forward slightly as she gave a tomato a run for its money in redness and raised her hand menacingly. “Spill.”

“What, my blood?” Spike eyed the improvised stake she was clutching warily. “I think not, pet. Rather like it on the inside of me.” He lay as limp as he could with a hard on that could’ve hammered nails into concrete. She smelled of blood and sunlight and it was starting to make his senses swim. Plus he was sporting an erection for the first time since they’d taken Dru from him.

“If I could I would be rolling my eyes right now, but it hurts too much so imagine I am. Now tell me what your game is,” Buffy hissed. She could feel her strength wavering and was tempted to just stake and stagger away. Until a little spark of guilt worked its way into her more forgiving persona. He’d nursed her and if he was telling the truth he’d been in a room for a day and a night with slayer blood oozing all over the sheets and not taken a nibble.

“No game. I need your help.” Spike shifted slightly and tried not to moan at the warm heat of her core pressing against his very perky cock. Now wasn’t the time for sex, no matter how pretty a bundle of slayer fun was rubbing on him. Now was the time to talk fast and make deals and hope he survived undusted.

“Help? A slayer helping a vampire? As if –” Buffy frowned and then whimpered as her bruises tightened with the movement of her face. “Why?”

“Look, as much as this is an interesting angle to be in—” He punctuated his words with a twist of his hips; “maybe we could get a bit more comfy and have a natter?”

Buffy eyed him mutinously and then let go of his throat, standing up only to pass out. Spike grunted as she fell on him and cautiously clasped her in his arms and stood. Mentally congratulating himself on not letting her face hit the ground this time.

“Never had this effect on slayers before…”

~~~~~~~~

“I’m hungry.”

Spike snorted and rolled over away from the whining voice in his ear. He grumbled under his breath and swatted at the unrelenting finger poking him in the back.

“Seriously, listen to my stomach.”

Spike grunted as he was flipped over easily and his face pressed into a very warm soft belly that gurgled at him. His hands curled around a nice soft perky backside and he buried his face into the Slayer’s belly. ‘Oh, for the love of all things unholy. I’m snuggling up to my supposed mortal enemy, does the chit have no clue as to what a vampire does to her kind?’

Reluctantly he levered himself away from the warmth and eyed the Slayer guardedly. A genuine smile spread over his face. “Well don’t you look better.” And she did, her face was still swollen and bruised from her face plant into the pavement. Her eyes were still blackened but the cuts and grazes were all healed up and she was able to open her eyes fully. “Hello pretty eyes.” He curled his tongue against the back of his teeth and watched as she ducked her head and her cheeks pinkened.

Before she could say anything her stomach roared at him.

“Right, grub it is.” Spike stood and offered a hand to the now puce Slayer who was staring at her stomach as if it had betrayed her somehow. “Something healthy or something guaranteed to have a shelf life of a hundred years?”

Buffy glanced up and stared at his hand in surprise. ‘A polite vampire?’ She reached up and took his proffered hand, deciding that if she tried to reason out everything her head might explode. Maybe if they got something to eat he’d make with the explainy as to why he’d saved her from being killed, nursed her and was now smiling at her. “Have you got a soul as well?”

Spike reeled back at the horrific insult she’d directed at his demon. “No I sodding well do not. Take it back, Little Miss Potty Mouth.” He then mentally slapped himself for the asinine comment and decided that his Big Bad persona was dead and buried with no hope of a resurrection. Especially since the chit was now giggling at him. Him! A tiny blonde slayer who was taking his hand and standing up slowly and holding her stomach gingerly with her free hand was laughing at the Slayer of Slayers.

“Sorry, but I just thought you maybe had one cos of the saveage and being all fuzzy,” Buffy gasped around more giggles.


“Right, first off, NO SOUL. Secondly, STOP LAUGHING AT ME. Thirdly, FUZZY?” Spike stared down at her affronted at the description, his free hand shooting up to his hair and trying to smooth the riot of white blond curls on it. “And fourthly, if you don’t stop with the giggling I WILL not feed you!” He managed not to stomp his foot, desperate to cling onto some cool points.

“Ow, sorry, will shut up now.” She motioned zipping her lips and then winced as her bruised stomach sent twinges through her body.

“Go have a wash and brush and then we’ll see what we can do about that.” He gestured at her stomach and then pointed at the bathroom.

“‘Kay.” She trotted off suppressing a snicker. Buffy clicked the door shut and braced herself to look in the mirror. And nearly screamed her head off at the battered sight of her face. There were heavy dark bruises under her eyes, the swelling now down enough so she could open them and see that the red lids were only slightly puffy. Her lip was almost done healing; the split now only a thin red line, but her chin and throat were coated in crusty dried blood. ‘God, I look like road kill.’

Buffy reached for the taps and spun them, glancing over her shoulder at the closed door. She couldn’t believe that William hadn’t been tempted to at least lick her, what with the blood and all. Reaching down she noticed her knuckles were slightly reddened and swollen but not too damaged from her fight. Bracing herself she bent over, ignoring the twinges of pain from her stomach as she cupped some water in her hands and sluiced it over her face.

Spike sat at the small table and stared accusingly at the First Aid kit he’d pulled out from the Desoto. Part of him still railed against the idea of a vampire, master vampire of the House of Aurelius, getting ready to tend the Slayer’s hurts.

“Do you have a clean shirt I can borrow?” Her soft voice cut across his contemplation of a crepe bandage. He frowned, ‘now she wants the shirt of my back?’

“Yeah, sit on the table first let me wrap your belly up.” He looked over his shoulder and his eyes widened appreciatively. She cleaned up nicely, her face bruised and her eyes pain filled, but she still looked a sight for tired eyes.

“Thanks.” Buffy levered herself up and then reached for the hem of her shirt. Before she could raise it Spike forestalled her.

“Shirt’s dead, right?”

She nodded and then squeaked when he tore it off her and Buffy’s hands shot up to cover her lace covered breasts. “Oh my god!” she wailed in embarrassment and shock. “You coulda warned me you were going psycho on my shirt! What, did the colour offend your vampy fashion sense?” she babbled nervously. This was the most skin she’d shown any guy in private, bikinis and beaches notwithstanding.

Spike ignored her and began to carefully wrap the support around her waist and belly, his eyes intent on the angry bruises that littered her torso. His face was impassive despite stealing several looks at her plump breasts as she desperately tried to cover them from his admiring eyes. He even managed to refrain on commenting on the perky rose-coloured nipple that peeked out from between the fingers of her left hand. He wasn’t that much of a git to deny himself the pleasure; she maybe young but her body was small, luscious and a serious temptation for a sinner such as he.

“There.” He tied off the ends in a neat bow and then shrugged off his red over shirt and offered it to her. Buffy’s luminous eyes stared at the silk shirt and then at her breasts. Taking a breath, she let go and reached for the proffered clothing.

“Thanks.” She slipped it on and then quickly buttoned it up.

“Looks good on you, pet.” Spike shrugged into his duster and to his immense surprise, offered his arm to the flustered girl.

The motel room door swung shut behind them as the two blonds stepped out into the dusk and headed off down the quiet street. Both were unaware of how in the space of twenty four hours they had intrinsically changed their destines. Spun several prophecies on their proverbial heads and confounded the Powers beyond their ken. All by simply being in each other’s presence and not killing each other.

Everything was different.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“They knew about Lothos being after me in LA and never helped!” Buffy tried not to shriek at Spike. The diner was empty but the waitress who’d served them was in the back. Instead of leaping over the Formica table and throttling him, she reached for her bottle of Coke and sipped at it, trying to calm herself. “So you’re also saying they knew that Merrick would die? And they did nothing? Sent no one to help us!” Buffy hissed around her straw and then took a long drink of her soda and swallowed her anger. “Why should I believe you?” The implied words were all too obvious to them both. She wrung her hands, her knuckles whitening under the strain of the pressure she applied so as to keep herself form losing it.

“Why believe an unsouled demon? Dunno – what about reading these?” He handed over copies of letters he’d managed to liberate from the desks of several senior watchers. Well not him exactly, but the secretary he’d seduced and offered the universe to if she helped him get some proof of the Council’s duplicity had come through in buckets. Spike wondered if the new fledge had survived her rising and was still in London.

Buffy took the sheaf of letters and memos and began to read, her face darkening with anger with each one. “I can’t believe this, they knew…they let me get expelled. Merrick! God, Merrick died and they said nothing. And then the asylum and they didn’t go to Mom and Dad and back me up. They left me there…” Her eyes filled with angry tears and trickled down her cheeks; Buffy dashed them off impatiently and then blinked the last of the tears away.

Spike’s ears caught the final whispered words and he cocked his head. “Your parents stuck you in a loony bin? What for?” He was stunned she seemed the picture of mental health, but then again who was he to know? He’d spent over a century with Dru and even on the most generous of days he couldn’t have described her as partially sane.

“Cos I told them vamps were real.” She stared fixedly at the final memo and refused to meet his eyes. She’d never told anyone that before, so why had she told him?

“Wot? Your parents really did that?” His eyes softened slightly and he gazed at her with a hint of compassion. Spike lit a cigarette and puffed at it for about a second before noticing Buffy’s pointed glare and stubbed it out with barely a token grumble.

“Yeah.” She shuffled the sheets together, her index finger running over the raised emblem on the top of the letter. The same one she’d seen a couple of times on Giles’s desk. It was real, all of these were true and the Council were bigger assholes than she’d ever imagined. But what she couldn’t figure out was why William was so intent on letting her know all of this— especially since he was a vampire. “Why are you showing me all this?” Her voice was tinged with more than a little suspicion. “In fact, why did you save me? What is going on?”

He exhaled deeply. “You need to know something else before we get to why I am being an undead version of Hermes.”

“Huh?”

“God, what the bloody hell are they teaching here in California? Hermes was a messenger for the gods of Olympus.” Spike illustrated each word with a jab of his finger.

“Yeah, right, as if! A vampire a messenger of the gods. Pull the other one, its got stakes on it.” Buffy rolled her eyes at the now fuming vampire. She noticed his fangs starting to drop as his eye changed to a deep gold. “Hey, less with the grumbly bumpies and more with the explainy or I am going home.”

“Silly ninny – I said undead. As if I were something God sent. That’s just bloody stupid. The very idea of it.”

“Ohh, now you sound all Gilesy.” Buffy nearly giggled and then remembered that he was one of the Tweed Mafia idiots who’d let Merrick and a load of her friends from high school die and left her in a padded cell. Buffy frowned and wondered what the hell she was going to do about him. And how much he knew about what his buddies in Merry Olde had done to her in the past.

“Here, read this.” Spike pulled out a battered leather bound book and it fell open on a page. He laid it on the table and slid it over to her. Buffy’s fingers shook as she reached for the ancient tome. From what she’d read so far tonight she didn’t think this was going to be a recipe for apple pie or something. His eyes never wavered from her face. This was it, the lynch pin for his argument to get her to join him. It’d had taken paying an inter-dimensional traveller a load of dosh for the git to find it in another dimension, The Pergamon Codex had always been whispered about as the be all in Slayer prophecies and whatnot, but he’d not been able to track down a copy anywhere in the world. So he’d had to search outside the box, and boy had he. Now after reading all of the scribbles he wondered if maybe the Council had burned all the versions in this dimension so as not to allow it falling into Slayer’s paws and leading to hysteria and rebelling.

“Just read it pet, you need to know what’s in there,” if she didn’t go for it then he was screwed. Planning was not his favourite thing and he was surprised he’d managed to stick to the thing so far. It helped that the Slayer wasn’t a moose and had a personality not dissimilar to his own.

As she read, all Buffy could hear was her heart pounding its way out of her chest. There was a folded note in the book which she looked at first. It seemed that Travers and his cronies had known that she was going to die this year! Hatred curled inside her, they knew and never let her know. Sweat beaded on her upper lip as a red mist clouded her eyes and rage against her fate filled her.

“Those goddamned bastards,” she muttered under her breath and continued to read.

The internal memo said that she was not easily controlled despite a stay in an asylum, which he’d hoped would’ve broken her spirit. Giles had reported that the Slayer had denied her calling initially and had been irresponsible and inclined toward dramatics. Added to that, it was only when one of her friends had been endangered that she had gotten involved and to his immense surprise had taken several teens into her confidence about her Calling. Part of Buffy died as she read that Giles had been sneaking on her to his bosses and not protecting her. Travers had surmised that rather than intervene, they would allow her to be killed by Nest as prophesized. The most painful bit to read for the embattled girl was that they had found the young woman who was to succeed her. The Council’s seers had pegged her replacement, some kid in Jamaica called Kendra, who was easily controlled and already well indoctrinated. Buffy dropped the note and ran to the bathroom, bile filling her throat and battling its way past her lips.

“Balls.” Spike grabbed the letters and the Pergamen Codex and stuffed it into his duster pocket; he threw some bills onto the table to cover the meal and ran after her.

Spike kicked the locked door open and searched the bathroom for her. “Slayer, where the hell are you?” He pushed open the final cubicle and found her huddled over the toilet puking her guts up. “That meal lasted all of what, two minutes?” Spike reached down and pulled her hair over her shoulder and tucked it into the back of his purloined shirt.

“Sorry…” Her shoulders heaved as she dry retched. She looked over her shoulder and licked her lips, her face a picture of misery and fear. Buffy felt stupid appearing so weak to a vampire-- even if it was William. But it’d been a hell of a night so far; everything was going from bad to worse with each turn of a page.

“Hang on.” He disappeared out of the bathroom and returned with a bottle of water. “Sip it slowly and then we’ll talk somewhere less fragrant maybe?” He managed to refrain from gagging along with her and reached down to help her up and support her shaking form as she sipped from the Evian bottle. “Let’s get back to the motor.”

~~~~~~~~~~

“Why are you showing me all this and not killing me?” Buffy was huddled against the door of his Desoto with her knees tucked under her chin. She wondered if it would’ve been better if he had; humans had plotted to have her die. Humans that should have been protecting her and ensuring her existence was extended for as long as possible. Mortals, not demons had left her in a padded cell to teach her a lesson. Not a single demon amongst them. She felt sick at the thought of it. God, she hoped she wasn’t gonna spew all over his leather upholstery. She didn’t think William would appreciate the redecoration.

Spike clenched his jaw, drawing his cheekbones into high relief; he pulled over and killed the engine. “I need you to help me take them on.” The harsh headlights from the passing traffic flashing over his handsome features, briefly illuminating them and then plunging him into darkness.

Light, dark – light, dark over and over.

Buffy could only stare at him, shock occupying her. He’d managed to totally rob her of her voice.

“They took her and tortured her until she couldn’t live with herself anymore,” he whispered, carrying on the talking in some weird need to fill the silence in the car. Staring off into the distance, his face was void of emotion and yet his eyes were filled with despair and grief. It was so overwhelming that Buffy gasped and reached over to touch the back of his nearest hand in brief sympathy. Before she could move it away, Spike released the tight grip he had on the steering wheel and grasped her hand, seeking the support she silently offered. “I searched everywhere. Took me about a month before the rumours started filtering down through the demonic grape vine.” He took a deep breath and released it with a humourless barking laugh. “It was already too late; she was wracked with guilt and self hatred.”

“What do you mean?” Buffy squeezed his hand gently, trying to coax the normally verbose vampire into talking, but he was miles away.

“I felt it through our bond. They’d tortured her to the point of pure insanity. She was already a bit off, but nothing I couldn’t cope with.” He swallowed hard. “But what those council bastards did to her was sicker than anything an enraged Grogalax demoness in heat in the middle of a dockside brothel in Shanghai could do!”

“Huh?”

Spike laughed and then looked over at her for the first time since the traumatic memories had risen to haunt him, forcing him back on track with his self-imposed mission. The emotions warring in his pale azure eyes made her gulp and try to pull her hand free.

“Don’t…” she choked out.

He focused on her as if seeing her for the first time. “Don’t what?”

“Hurt…” She gulped and then realised he wasn’t going to do anything to her, “Nothing…”

Spike smiled, shook his head and carried on talking. “They hurt her. Made her relive every kill she’d ever made, took her beyond anything her effing sire could have ever done to her and then worked her gift until it broke her.” Spike swallowed hard.

“Who is she? And her gift?”

“Was she,” he corrected absently. “My sire, my lover – the woman I loved, Dru. My dark plum, she’s gone now…Dusted herself. Walked out into the sun and let herself burn rather than carry on.” He added bitterly, “she left me alone. She burned and I couldn’t save her. I watched her turn to ashes…her gift, a curse more like, bit like the soul they cursed her with. She had the sight. Visions and all.”

“God, a soul? Like Angel? Really?”

“You knew the Poof?” He had suspected it; why else had the old git been there fighting to save her. They must’ve meant something to each other, but Spike wasn’t sure what as there wasn’t a whiff of him on her aside for the fine dust that had coated her earlier as Peaches had gone to hell on the point of a stake.

“Knew? What do yah mean knew? What happened to Angel?” Her voice rose to a high pitch as her nails broke his skin as she clung to his hand. Her head was aching over all the revelations – she didn’t think her brain could take anymore shocks.

“Dusted before I could stop those three ponces. M’sorry.” Spike looked over at her face and blinked in shock at the tears in her eyes. “Christ you were soft on him? That was why he was there trying to save you, wasn’t it?”

“I want to go home now, please.” Buffy tried to pull her hand free but instead Spike yanked her against his side and tucked her head under his chin. “Please,” she added again in a tiny voice.

Spike was silent, not sure what he could say, also he was in shock, he was cuddling a slayer. The shock and grief from his news was emanating off her in waves as he started the engine and drove off, his mortal enemy cuddled against his side as she cried for lost opportunities with Angel and cried for the innocence he’d robbed of her by showing her the Council’s duplicity.

“M’sorry, pet.” He didn’t add for what, but she knew it was for everything that had happened. Angel and then the Council. Doubt filled her about Giles and his motives. She was tired of being played by them and finding out that they were happy to let her die was the final straw.

“Her gift, what did you mean by gift?” she whispered sadly against his leather-clad shoulder.

“She could see the future. That Travers wanker and his cronies caught her and cursed her with a soul and forced her to see things for them. They didn’t care about her so left her to get sicker and sicker until dementia set in and she killed herself to escape the guilt of her sins.”

“Poor thing, I’m so sorry.” And to her surprise, she meant it. Buffy Anne Summers the vampire slayer was feeling sorry for a dead vampiress and also for her grieving childe.

“Thanks.” He squeezed her hand as he turned into her street. “1630 right?”

“How did you--?”

“Know? I’ve been watching you, waiting to get a chance to talk.” Spike pulled into the drive and switched off the motor. “Been a bit of a stalker for the last week or so –sorry about that,” he added sheepishly.

“Weird, I never sensed you.” She looked over at the house and smiled. The lights were on, her mom was home. “You want to come in?”

Spike blinked. “You invite all the vamps you meet in?”

She wrinkled her nose at him and giggled. “Nope, only the ones I trust.”

“Angel been in?” Spike mentally groaned. He had to ask, despite knowing the pain it would cause her. And to his surprise she shook her head emphatically.

“No, I only met him a few weeks ago, and he was more of an ‘end is nigh’ kinda guy and then fading into the shadows. He was sweet –but…but we’d not got that far. I liked him, he was cute, but we hadn’t even kissed or stuff.” She had a lost look in her eyes as she remembered all the times he’d appeared to warn her of impending danger. Her fingers crept up to her neck and toyed with the cross he’d given her that first night. “What do you want from me?”

Spike grunted, this was it... Time to lay his balls on the line and go for it. “I need your help going up against Travers and his mob. I want to take ‘em down for what they did to Dru.” He waited for a sharp stake to the heart.

“Let me sleep on it.” On that final promise, she slipped out of his arms and the car and padded to the backdoor. She wanted her mom hugs and then to go to bed and have a good cry. Cry for Angel and herself and for all the crap that the Council of Watchers had thrown at her. It was too much for her to reason through: being beaten to a pulp by vamp assassins, Angel dusting, William saving her, the letters and then the prophecy. She was amazed her head hadn’t exploded; she wanted her mom and comfort food.

“Bugger this.” Spike leapt out of the car. For some unknown reason he was worried about her and that didn’t sit well with him. He was supposed to eat her and not want to cuddle her! The silent vampire trailed after the slender form of the slayer and waited for her to climb the stairs up to onto the back porch.

He watched as she stumbled over her feet and clung to the doorframe for support, “Mommy?”

“Slayer, what’s happened?” Spike leapt over the rail and ran towards her. He could sense the fear in her voice and the scent of blood filled the air. A sense of dread stopped him cold.

“What are you doing to my mom?” her voice sounded so small and frail, it sent a chill down his spine.

Something was very wrong.

~~~~~~~~~

“There you are. I’ve been snacking on Mommy Dearest for a while, waiting for you.”

The hairs on the back of Spike’s neck stood on end at the sound of the familiar repulsive saccharine voice.

“Awww, is the Slayer gonna cry? Make my night, cry for me,” Darla taunted as she bent her head to Joyce’s neck and took a long and final drink from the ashen woman’s neck. It was littered with bites as the older Summers slumped into the small vampire’s arms. “She tasted good.” Darla licked her lips and casually dumped the older woman’s body on the floor and faced Buffy, her vampiric features distorting the usually pretty face and her eyes filled with malicious glee. “What took you so long? Do you know how hard it is to drink slowly enough to keep her fresh for your arrival?”

“Mom?” Buffy ignored Darla, falling to her knees and revealing Spike behind her.

“Spike? What the hell are you doing here?” Darla’s face shifted in her surprise and she once again looked like the beautiful and innocent human woman that lured many to their deaths.

“His name is William,” Buffy whispered absently as she crawled over to her mother and pulled her into her arms. “Mommy, please wake up now.”

“William?” Darla roared with laughter. “Man, you are as dumb as she was. She thought I was student, a friend of yours and invited me in for a bite.”

“Stop it.” Buffy’s voice was soft and eerie and full of tears as she patted her mother’s cheeks, trying to wake her. Spike grimaced at the scent of death that hung over the room.

“Shut it, you hag,” Spike snarled and leapt over Buffy and her mum and stood protectively in front of them.

“What’s this? William the Bloody, protecting her?” Darla circled to one side, trying to get to Buffy as she cackled in disbelief at the sight of the Slayer of Slayer’s placing himself between her and her prey. “Do you know what she is? She’s the reason my darling boy is gone.”

“Oh come on, grandma. It’s not like you two were still shagging or anything.” Spike glared over at the short woman who was currently licking her fingers and boring holes with her eyes into Buffy’s bowed head. The girl was oblivious to everything but her mother, the weakened woman clinging to enough of her lingering life to whisper disjointedly at her, muttering words of love and guilt for leaving her little girl alone with no one to look after her. Buffy sobbed and shook her head in denial as Joyce told her to be brave.

“He was my creation; he was everything, my childe and she took him from me. If he’d not had that dirty soul of his then he would still be with me,” Darla screamed angrily as hate turned her face into a mask of evil.

“Yeah prolly, but the git never had any taste, even without a soul,” Spike taunted and then sighed slightly as he heard the Slayer’s mum whisper goodbye and fall limp in her daughter’s arms. A part of him was saddened by the loss of one of his own, but he’d dusted the arse that had staked Angelus. Vengeance had been meted out there, and Darla doing the dirty on the Slayer’s mum didn’t sit right with him, she’d not done a thing and yet the woman was dying for some pathetic need of Darla’s to make others suffer and hurt. He glared at the bint; here was more at stake than the nit, the bastards that killed Dru for one. But for some reason the little scrap of a Slayer sobbing over her mother’s cooling corpse was starting to be even more important.

“No, don’t go,” Buffy whimpered.

“Awww, mommy gone bye bye…uhhh…” Darla grunted and looked down at the sight of Spike’s hand punching into her chest and she squeaked as she felt his fingers wrap around her heart. “No, don’t do it, please.” She wasn’t ready to die; Darla wanted to be around when the Master rose from his prison and turned to world into Hell. She tried to grasp Spike’s wrist and yank it out, but he was stronger and angry. Regret filled her; she wanted to kill and main for all eternity, not turn to ash.

“Why not?” Spike sneered and yanked out her heart in one move. “It’s not like you’ve ever used it, you old slapper.”

“Spike—” she screamed, crumbling to dust as he flung her disintegrating heart into her shocked face with a sneer. He was glad to see the back of the smug bitch, her cupie pie voice had always grated on his last nerve, but what she’d done to the Slayer’s mum had rankled him. She deserved to dust for that, on top of her tragic fashion sense. Catholic girl? He guessed it was one up on the pseudo Geisha look she’d sported the last time he’d seen her.

“Good lord.”

“Who the bloody hell are you lot? Is this Grand Central Station of something?” Spike wiped his hands on the front of his shirt and looked up at the older man and the two teens that had managed to get into the house whilst he was fighting Darla. He was starting to wonder if old age was creeping up on him, how the hell had this lot gotten into the place without him hearing?

“William?” Buffy called for him, ignoring the sight of her so-called Watcher and Willow and Xander crammed into the doorway of the kitchen. “Can you help her?” Her voice was singsong soft and filled with a desperate hope.

Spike ignored the three mortals and squatted down next to the grieving Slayer; he reached over and smoothed a lock of hair off Buffy’s face. “No, pet, she’s gone. I can’t do anything.” Something in her eyes made him cup his hand against her tearstained cheek and rub his thumb against her soft heated flesh soothingly. “I’m sorry, I wish I had got you home faster –” He stared down at the slack features of the dead woman cradled in the Slayer’s arms. For the first time since he was a freshly turned vampire, he felt sad for the death of a mortal. Another mother he’d failed, and for once it made him ache, the first time since his own mother had died by his own hands. “I really wish I could help –” He trailed off and ran his hands through his hair distractedly.

“But you did. You killed that skank for me.” She reached over and took his other hand--the same one that had sunk into the vampire’s craven chest and ended her demonic rule over the clan--and kissed the bruised knuckles. “Thank you.” Spike stared down at his hand that she cradled in hers, the same one that she’d brushed with a kiss. He was filled with surprise and awe over her gentleness and gratitude. If his demon hadn’t already claimed her as one of his own, then he just had.

“Buffy, what on earth is going on?” Giles stepped forward, his eyes focused on the tragic tableau playing out in front of him.

“Buffy?” Willow came around and knelt down next to her new friend and awkwardly curled an arm around the blonde’s shoulder. “Oh Buffy, I’m so sorry. Oh god, your mom.” Willow’s lower lip trembled and she gave away to tears of sorrow. Xander turned and left the house without looking back. He couldn’t face anymore death-- not after Jesse and the other kids that lug Luke had chewed up trying to free his Master. He wasn’t cut out for this; he wanted a normal life and from what he could tell, that wouldn’t be with Buffy. So he walked out alone into the night, never looking back. In his haste to escape he forgot about Willow and what her reaction would be to his abandonment of Buffy, but he was scared and wanted to be away from all the things that went bump in the night. He wished she’d never come to Sunnydale, never opened his eyes to the supernatural world. Maybe if he went home and hide under the covers it’d all go away.

Giles stared down at the huddled form of his charge as she cradled her mother and cried. He had no idea what to say or do or who the peroxided man sitting next to her was. “Buffy, you need to explain this to me.”

Buffy took a breath and gently passed her mom to Spike, stood up and faced her Watcher, her eyes dead and her face impassive. “My mom is dead, what else is there to explain?” She tilted her chin and glared over at the Watcher who had replaced Merrick. “Anything you maybe want to explain?”

“Whatever do you mean?” Giles frowned in confusion.

“Here, pet.” Spike reached into his pocket and pulled out the purloined letters and the Codex and handed them to Willow. “Give this lot to the Slayer.” Willow took the rumpled papers and automatically smoothed them; she read a few and paled at the information recorded blatantly in them. Standing she glared at Giles, feeling a betrayal so deep that it shook her to the core. Mutely she handed them to Buffy and to Spike’s relief took a position next to the blonde and folded her arms.

“Explain all this!” She threw the damning memo at his head. “Tell me how your bosses left Merrick and me to face Lothos, how your employers left me in an asylum to soften me up and make me easier to control,” she spat angrily. “Don’t try to pretend you don’t know what I am talking about!” she exclaimed. Giles stood there and stared at her in shock as she threw page after page at him, damning evidence that he had no idea how she’d found. He’d been briefed about it all and had been disgusted, but he’d hoped maybe to be able to protect her but so far their relationship was too tentative for him to broach these subjects. “Or what about this one, how they’re already grooming my replacement so that I can be fed to some wrinkly old vampire?”

“What?” Giles was aghast. He had no idea what she was talking about.

“Some prophecy, you mean they kept you in the dark over that one?” Buffy’s voice was coloured with contempt and disbelief.

“I have no idea what you are referring to!” Giles snapped and stepped forward reaching for her. “Please, Buffy, you must believe me.”

She thrust the battered old book into his hands and shook her head sadly at him, betrayal in every line of her body. “How can I? You knew the rest and never said a word.” She shook her head and turned to look at Spike and her mom, her mouth a firm white line in her face as she suppressed the shrieks of grief that welled in her.

Spike picked up Joyce’s body, cradling her gently against his chest and carried her into the front room, brushing past the chastened Watcher without a word or a look directed at the Brit. Buffy and Willow followed, leaving Giles to read the damning evidence in full.

“Slayer, you’ll need to call the coppers.” Spike carefully laid his burden on the couch and gently arranged her skirt so it was straight and turned with a sigh to face the two teens.

“I’ll do it.” Willow picked up the phone and then hesitated, “what do I say? I can’t say a vampire bite! They’ll never believe me,” she babbled as her nerves finally failed her. “Who are you by the way?”

“William.” He smiled gently at the redhead. He wasn’t giving the Watcher anymore info than he needed and his name was more than a clue for the older man. He wasn’t going to trust one of the bastards who took Dru and destroyed her for their own gain.

“Hi, Willow. I mean, I’m Willow.” She blushed bright red embarrassed over the babbling mess that was she and stared down at the phone she was clinging on to.

“Nice to meet you – may I?” He took the phone from her lax fingers and dialled 911, speaking briefly to the operator.

He turned to look at Buffy who was crouched next to her mum, stroking her hair over and over.

“They’re on their way.”

~~~~~~~~~

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“What about your mate and the old man?”

“Willow said she was going to get her parents to send her to school in London as soon as she gets the scholarship application through. Apparently the lure of a private education in merry old England was an easy sell to the Rosenberg’s. “Buffy pushed another suitcase into the trunk of the Desoto and applied her slayer strength into getting it to fit.

“Loyal girl, isn’t she?” Spike nodded his approval as Buffy smiled in agreement. There was something appealing about the shy redhead and her determination to stand by Buffy had made her rise even higher in his estimation. The pathetic boy had been a lost cause in his book and not missed. They’d had two uncomfortable meetings on patrol over the last few days and as far as the vampire was concerned, the whelp was a moving target waiting to happen.

Spike leant against the side his precious car and watched as she now tried to fit in a makeup case while simultaneously juggling a matching pair of swords in her free hand. “God, we’re never gonna fit all this in your trunk!”

“You think?” he asked wryly and then plucked the swords from her hand and tossed them into the foot well of the backseat. “What about the Watcher?” he asked again. As far as he was initially concerned the bastard was one of them and deserved to be staked out over an anthill with honey on his balls. But once he’d read the codex he’d become more supportive to the Slayer. He’d helped her bury her mother and arranged for the property to be transferred to Buffy through his guardianship. He’d pulled more strings than Vivaldi and had impressed the vampire, but he was still glad that Buffy had not shared their plans. He doubted that Rupes would let them go without a struggle or even sending a warning to his fellow Watchers. No, he, the Slayer and the redhead had plotted together without including him; it was safer that way.

“He thinks you’re taking me to see my Dad.” Buffy looked over her shoulder at the dark house. “I’m not going to miss this place one bit.”

“Come on, let’s go.” Spike opened the passenger door and helped Buffy in, a gentle hand slid easily into the small of her back and he leant over to ghost a kiss over the crown of her head. Buffy slid into the car, unaware of the pang of burgeoning adoration that had started to bloom in the blond vampire’s eyes.

An attraction neither of them had expected nor hoped for.


An attraction that with time would bud and grow into a love that would rival all the classic lovers of history and literature.

The Powers would never know what would hit them.

~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy watched over her shoulder as the Welcome to Sunnydale sign clattered to the ground and sighed with relief. She had no idea what would happen in the future, but she was glad to see the back of the Hellmouth and was ready to face the world. Even if it where with a notorious master vampire who was intent on revenge. Revenge she wanted in on, but she was scared about how much of herself would be lost in the fight that was to come. Only time would tell, and she suspected that Spike may even try to protect her soul from too much damnation. She could feel something growing between them – something glowing and tender and soooo not what she ever expected. But for now it had to be shelved.

Now it was time for some payback for the both of them.

A/N - hope everyone enjoyed it?Comments would be lovely *g*




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