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Authors Chapter Notes:
Okay, I tried to be patient. I wanted to wait until I have a bunch of chapters finished before I posted. I was doing so good. Well, that was until that persuasive, tiny voice kept whispering for me to post. I finally broken down! What? I'm only human! Anyway, I haven't written canon for awhile. Hopefully I'm not too rusty. First, let me thank a few people before you read. Big thanks to Sanityfair and Diebirchen for their mad skills. Also, big thanks to two gifted ladies who made two awesome banners, Capella and Edgehead. Edgehead is first. I will be alternating them so you all can enjoy. Well, enough with my ramblings, I hope you all enjoy this!


“The city dump—where smells go to relax and be themselves.”

In spite of Buffy’s usually attentive audience consisting of Giles, Willow, Xander, and Riley, her attempt at humor fell instantly flat. She hoped they’d foregone laughing due to the risk of further plaguing their noses with the overpoweringly foul stench, instead of her losing her touch. She would hate to think she was losing her quipyness.

“People say they're recycling. They're not recycling,” Riley chided as the group continued forward through the center of mountains of rubble. Xander wordlessly commiserated with the larger, gloomy man by patting him on the shoulder.

“I found a spell so you can't smell anything, but it does it by taking your nose off, so ... no,” Willow sighed heavily. She always tried seeing the brighter side of life by using a combination of light-hearted jokes and quick-fix ideas. Thankfully, they all still had their noses.

Buffy discreetly rolled her eyes at Riley’s sanctimonious tone. Even though she agreed with what he was saying, it was more how he sounded— all poster-boy-for-public-service-announcements-like.

All Riley needed now was to be standing before a backdrop of the stars and stripes waving in a non-existent breeze, warm apple pie, some fireworks, and the all-American picture would be complete.

The annoyance with her significant other had been happening more and more frequently lately. This wasn’t the first time she feared her eyes were going to roll right out of her head at the sound of his voice.

The only thing Buffy was grateful for during this little mission was that Riley was the only irritating male present. Things could be worse—much, much worse. There happened to be one un-dead pest who was an even bigger thorn in her side. He was far more infuriating now than when he first swaggered into Sunnydale with a loony vampiress on his arm.

Each year, hell, each day, he topped the previous one in annoying the hell outta her. The problem was, after the Initiative had neutered him and he showed up on Giles’ doorstep all begging and pathetic, she couldn’t stake him. She was the Slayer, not a killer of harmless, flaccid creatures.

But instead of his taking this as a free pass and leaving Sunnydale permanently, he decided to stay and become an ever-present, bigger pain-in-her-ass. Now, instead of biting and sucking the life from people, he used his mouth as another kind of weaponry—spewing forth verbal-diarrhea, slinging insults, and giving color commentary nobody wanted or asked for.

Oh and look, speaking of the bleached devil.

“What are you doing here, Spike?” Riley snapped, trying to be threatening but failing miserably. Only the crossbow he brandished held any weight to his empty attempt at intimidation.

Spike stood to full height, holding up his finds. A small, battered lamp in one hand, and … is that a mannequin’s arm in the other?

I don’t wanna know why he has a plastic arm. Clearly for evil, but otherwise, I’m so not going there.

“Oh, there's a nice lady vampire who set up a charming tea room over the next pile of crap. What do you think I'm doing? I'm scavenging, ain't I?”

“Very pretty,” Willow commented timidly. Spike nodded his thanks before turning and placing the arm in his shopping cart.

“Spike, um ... we're looking for a demon, um ... tall, robed, skin sort of hanging off, deep voice?”

Giles sounded hesitant asking Spike about seeing the new baddie of the week. She really couldn’t blame him. The blond vamp made it very clear time and time again he was “bad” and hated each and every one of them. Add to that his being a soulless demon, and none of them should really trust anything that came out of his mouth.

“You mean a great, tall, robe-y thing like that one?”

Spike excitedly pointed behind the group. In spite of Buffy’s thoughts only moments before, they all turned in sync to where he gestured. Now, standing before them, given Giles’ earlier description, was Toth. All billowy cloak and wielding a stick.

Toth quickly demostrated it wasn’t “just a stick,” when a bright blast shot from the end and headed straight toward them. Luckily, they all ducked in time. The discharge hit a pile of garbage where they once stood, causing it to smolder. Toth bellowed an infuriated snarl after missing his intended target—Buffy.

“Take cover!” Riley yelled the obvious, as everyone scurried in opposite directions. While the scrambling Scoobies briefly distracted Toth, Buffy gave him a perfunctorily look-over for any signs of weaknesses. Besides obviously needing to majorly moisturize, she found nothing.

“Big guy! Kick her ass!” Buffy noticed from the corner of her eye Spike’s arm raised in camaraderie for his fellow demon.

Almost on Spike’s cue, Toth pointed his weapon and fired another magical blast at Buffy. Once again he missed, but this time he did strike someone—Spike. The blast landed in the middle of his chest, launching him backward into a pile of garbage.

While five pairs of eyes intently watched Spike, nobody noticed Toth escaping. It wasn’t until Buffy turned toward where he—it—used to be, in preparation for another strike. It was then she noticed Toth was gone.

Completely annoyed, Buffy shook her head and kicked an aluminum can in her path, launching it into the air. The thin metal made a faint clanking sound when it finally landed on a mountain of garbage in the distance.

“Can I just say, I really hate it when they attack all willy-nilly and leave. They don’t even have the common courtesy to stick around and get their butts handed to them like a demons threatening to kill the Slayer should!”

“Well, I’m glad nobody got hurt,” Riley stated, wrapping his arm around Buffy’s shoulders and placing a chaste kiss to the top of her head.

Without a response, Buffy moved away and clearly missed Riley’s passing look of hurt from her brush-off, as she approached the rest of the group.

“Yes, I agree with you, Riley. May I say, this was certainly a time when we should be grateful a foe had limited resources when he attacked. As we originally theorized, his staff, indeed, holds all his power. I believe in order for Buffy to defeat Toth, we should do more research about his weapon.”

After addressing the group, Giles turned and proceeded toward the exit, Xander, Buffy, and Riley following behind. After several steps, Buffy became aware that not everyone was leaving. She stopped, turned, and witnessed Willow staring down at Spike’s motionless body. Xander, Giles, and Riley soon followed suit.

“Hey, Wills, you going to join us for some research goodness?”

Willow’s gaze moved from Spike to Buffy. She instantly recognized the look of regret filling Willow’s features and cringed knowing what her friend was about to say.

“Willow, please don’t say what I think your going—“

“Buffy, we can’t just leave him here,” Willow urged compassionately.

“—to say. Willow, he’ll be fine. Spike will be annoying the populous in no time. I bet you anything he’s pretending to be hurt, just to laugh later that he tricked you into being all concerned about him. Since he’s bitey-no-bite, aggravating us to no end is the only way he can reach his evil quota for the week.”

Appearing unaffected by Buffy’s words, Willow stayed put. The longer Spike stayed motionless, the more Willow’s expression of concern grew.

“Buffy, you of all people know how impatient Spike is. He wouldn’t be able to lie still this long. Even if he was planning to do “evil.” Willow used her fingers to emphasized “evil” with air quotes. “Plus, he didn’t come here to bother us. He was only here to gather things for his new place. Spike getting struck by Toth’s blast of badness was kinda our fault.”

Unable to ignore her best friend’s imploring gaze, Buffy sighed heavily while stomping back toward Willow and Spike, whining to Giles along the way.

“Giles, please tell Willow that saving vampires is not in the Slayer’s handbook.”

“Buffy, I assure you, despite my feelings or lack thereof for Spike, he does seem to warrant our assistance. Willow is correct in saying he was injured due to our drawing Toth to the part of the facility where Spike was rummaging for um, supplies.”

“Have the toxic fumes in this place made all of you lose touch with reality? Giles, I would’ve never thought in a million years that you, of all people, would care what happens to a vampire, especially Spike!” Buffy pointed at the still motionless vamp, her incredulous gaze landing on her Watcher.

“Buffy, I completely agree with you. Spike should’ve been dusted a long time ago,” Riley stated firmly.

“Thanks, Riley. At least your mind isn’t affected by the funk. So Xander, you’ve been awfully quiet over there. What’s your take on this?” Buffy turned to her unusually silent friend. Typically, numerous opinions would have already been heard from him in regard to Spike, yet he hadn’t said a word.

“I hate to admit it, Buff, but Willow’s right. The poor guy was just here looking for some stuff and got blasted for his troubles. Now, don’t mistake what I’m saying. Seeing Spike getting knocked on his butt into a big pile of trash is too funny. Like I wish I had a video camera to win some money type of funny. It’s just, if he doesn’t wake up before the sun comes, he’ll end up fitting into a dustpan all because we brought Mr. Fruit-roll-up-face here. If that happens, well, it’s kinda not right.” Buffy’s and Xander’s mutual gaze remained locked, until he sheepishly looked away following his last sentence.

“Fine, fine, it’s three against two. I guess I have to help Spike.”

With disdain unmistakably lacing her voice, Buffy handed Xander her battle labrys before approaching Spike. Buffy looked at the vamp in question as she stood over him. Really looked at him.

His face was slack, not a hint of his classic smirk in sight. His trademark leather was curled around his legs, but flared open at his chest, where Buffy noticed a large charred mark in the dead center. Strangely, his chest was rising and falling in slow measured movements.

Huh, he looks like a real person. All breathing and stuff.

Unexpectedly, Buffy realized she was staring a lot longer than she should. Even more surprisingly, she noticed how truly attractive he was. She never realized this before. Well, that’s not true. There was one time, but she chalked that up to Willow’s My Will to Be Done spell.

While sitting on Spike’s lap as they made wedding plans, he held her possessively, yet tenderly. It was then Buffy found out firsthand he had a lithe and muscular body under all that black and leather. She always knew he was a well-honed weapon by the way he’d fought, and all that closeness totally confirmed it.

Also, with this closeness, she had a chance to study and memorize all his striking features: his bluer-than-blue eyes framed by impossibly long lashes, model-enviable cheekbones, and a regal nose. And let’s not forget those full-kissable lips… But before Buffy’s treacherous thoughts could continue down that road, Willow’s voice brought her back to the here and now.

“Um, Buffy, how are you planning on waking him up?”

Willow was taken back by Buffy staring at Spike. At first, she thought Buffy was debating as to how she could deal with Spike without actually touching him.

However, in addition to the length of time she continued to stare, what really caught Willow’s attention was the way Buffy’s gaze roamed over his body. It was more of a, “Hey, nice bum. Where ya from?” kinda of way, and less than the look of disgust Buffy tried to currently express.

“Uh? Oh, yeah, I was just thinking of a way of waking him with minimal touching. Yup, no touching of Spike is of the good.”

Despite Buffy’s words, her tone didn’t support them. With Riley standing only a few feet away, Willow didn’t question her friend’s actions, but filed her inquires away for later.

Stepping closer, Buffy stuck out her leg and nudged Spike with the tip of her boot. “Spike…hey Spike…get up.” Buffy prodded him again and held up her hands in defeat.

“Wills, he’s really ok. I don’t think he—“ When Buffy looked up and noticed Willow’s firm, set features silently indicating she hadn’t tried hard enough, so Buffy finally relented.

With a huff, Buffy squatted down and after a few false starts, poked his leather-clad shoulder with her index finger. After two more finger-stabs and calling his name, she pulled her hand away and rubbed said finger rapidly across her pant leg.

Ignoring her best friend’s childish behavior, Willow became increasingly worried about Spike. “Buffy, I don’t think he’s going to wake up. Maybe we should bring him somewhere. You know, a place where the sun won’t be.”

Willow decided to take matters into her own hands, and squatted on the other side of Spike. She could tell Buffy clearly wanted to argue with the “Saving Spike” plan, but remarkably she kept her opinions to a low grumbling under her breath.

With a final murmur, Buffy grimaced as she leaned forward and wrapped her hand around Spike’s wrist and pulled. With a harsh tug, Buffy abruptly raised only her side of Spike’s body, causing his head to snap back in Willow’s direction.

Willow let out a gasp and quickly leaned over to help Buffy, by wrapping a protective arm around Spike’s back. She felt slightly nervous with a vampire, albeit an unconscious neutered one, this close to her neck. Especially, since this was Spike’s third time there, and despite what they say, three times are not necessarily a charm!

In a joint effort—well, Buffy’s more than Willow’s due to her supernatural strength—they managed to get Spike into a sitting position. Willow watched Buffy eyeing Riley. Finally, he seemed to recognize Buffy’s if-looks-could-kill expression and came over to replace Willow on the opposite side of Spike.

Together, Buffy and Riley maneuvered Spike into a fully up-right position. They draped Spike’s arms around each of their shoulders and held his wrists while their other arms were wrapped around Spike’s back to further anchor him in between them.

Once they secured the unconscious vamp, they started forward. While they walked slowly, Spike’s head slumped forward, with his chin resting on his chest while his feet dragged behind them. The pair wasn’t able to make it very far before Buffy stopped, causing Riley to do the same.

“Riley, I’m having a hard time keeping up. Every two or three of my steps, equals one of yours.”

Willow watched anger flash across Riley’s features before it quickly disappeared. Clearly Riley was not happy about them, especially Buffy, helping Spike. Willow believed since Buffy hadn’t commented, she apparently missed Riley’s fleeting reaction.

Despite the mask of impassiveness he now wore, Willow knew Riley hadn’t calmed down. This was clear when she witnessed Riley roughly tightening his grip around Spike’s wrist. Although Riley was only human and he couldn’t exactly hurt Spike, Willow felt the need to intercede before anything bad, such as Riley dusting Spike, happened.

“Xander, why don’t you help Buffy? You’re closer in height and—“

“Wills, say no more. The Xan-man is here to save the day.”

Xander handed Giles Buffy’s labrys, before stepping forward and taking Riley’s place. When Riley finally relinquished his hold, Xander noticeably sank under Spike’s weight.

“Gah! Talk about dead weight! I didn’t know bleach and Billy Idol’s leftovers weighed so much!” Xander gasped before Buffy shifted and took more of Spike’s weight on her side.

As the group slowly made their way toward the exit, none of them was aware of a pair of feral, golden eyes hungrily watching their departure.







Author’s Notes:

Some of the dialog comes from the episode, “The Replacements,” written by Jane Espenson. The rest is solely from my twisted mind.

“The labrys is a double-headed axe that was used by ancient women as either a sacred ceremonial object, formidable weapon, or agricultural tool. It represents female strength, rebirth, and fertility. Only women carried the labrys.” If you want to read more, go here: http://www.reocities.com/westhollywood/6851/LAB.html.


Chapter End Notes:
*covering eyes* How was it? Please take a moment to let me know.




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