Chapter 6

The shape of the world was strange. He knew it and didn’t know it. He knew the ins and outs of it, but not how he connected to it, those connections lost in the vast darkness that was his memory.

He was like a cat though. He tended to fall on his feet. Roll with the punches. Adapt to whatever was thrown at him. He felt that about himself. Buffy had said that about him and it had felt right. This strange new world was just another thing to adapt to and hopefully turn to his own ends. He was a survivor. He would survive.

Brave new world though? Hardly. He didn’t like much about it. This—it wasn’t really a school, but he didn’t know what else to call it—with its hordes of pampered, powerful children made him uneasy. Not that he didn’t like those kids. He found them charming and they seemed to be willing to like him, which was nice. They were like a bunch of half-grown kittens, just finding their feet (and their claws), but unsure of where they wanted to go, what they wanted to be.

Slayers, of course. But what did that really mean? What was the purpose of an army of Slayers? All that power accumulated in one place under the control of one man. And that man not someone he could trust. Not that Rupert Giles was a bad man. Spike didn’t get that feeling from him. But he didn’t seem...wise. Albus Dumbledore, he wasn’t.

Giles was gathering the newly activated Slayers together because it was safer for them that way, because they needed to be trained in the use and the dangers of their powers, and because they needed to be given a purpose. But Spike didn’t think that even Giles had worked out what that purpose might be.

He kept feeling sorry for these kids though. What had Willow’s spell activating all the potential Slayers been for? It hadn’t really helped at the Hellmouth from what Buffy had told him. It had given those Potentials who were there the extra power that had possibly kept them alive, but from what he could make out, it was the amulet powered by him that had really wiped out all the Turok-Han.

All Willow’s spell had really achieved was to trigger the latent Slayer abilities in eighteen hundred girls worldwide. And under the lure of those abilities and the compulsion of that new, strange Slayer drive they found rising within themselves, these children had left their parents and their loved ones and their homes. He found that sad. He honestly didn’t know whether their new powers and the duties and responsibilities that went with those powers were worth the loss of love and family and home.

Bad enough dumping all of that on one girl. But what was the purpose of having eighteen hundred Slayers around? Depriving them of all they might have had otherwise?

If he had his memory, he’d be out of here right now. He didn’t like collections of people. He liked his independence, liked being able to go where he wanted, do what he wanted. He didn’t need a memory to know that about himself. The odd poker game, the occasional bender with a mate down at the pub, that was fine. That demon fight club, for instance, had satisfied the need for violence in him. He grinned, thinking of it. Buffy had freaked about it, but Spike had enjoyed himself. That was the kind of socializing that was fun.

But surround him with crowds of people all the time, say they were his duty, his responsibility, and he found his skin starting to crawl. Probably a vamp thing. Things were coming back and he was starting to make sense of them. Vamps didn’t give a damn about duties and responsibilities; dump that on them and all you’d get was a messy pile of shredded bodies and those ‘responsibilities’ would no longer exist. Even minions were for use, could be tortured and dusted and discarded at will. But even the thought of having minions made his skin itch.

As a vamp, he really should be tearing them all to shreds. That wanker, Giles, was afraid of that. But Spike found that he didn’t have the urge. Must be this soul he had in him. That was also what probably kept that ponce, Angel, from eating the ones that surrounded him. Spike wasn’t quite sure exactly what the soul did. No one really seemed to know. Sure didn’t stop humans from doing horrific things, as witness the genocides and murders and rapes that happened. Maybe it just made you aware of the difference between good and evil. Vamps didn’t give a damn about good and evil. If they wanted to do something, they just did it. But in the last few days Spike had found that when he knew something was bad, he didn’t care to do it. So that must be what the soul was for.

And having friends was nice. He felt oddly protective of this collection of orphan baby-Slayers that he found himself amidst. They’d been cheated of so much and didn’t even know it. Maybe there was a way to ease that for them.

And those Potentials, full-Slayers, whatever the hell they were called, he had to admit he liked the way they looked at him. Like he was someone they respected and cared about. Yeah, that gave him a good feeling and made him think that it wouldn’t be such a chore to stick around.

But still he could live without all that. What he needed, what felt right, was being with the one person he cared about.

That was it. He’d finally worked it out. That was why he wasn’t leaving right now, memory or no memory. Because of Buffy. She was what he needed.

From what she had told him and what he had read between the lines, there had been a shitload of problems between them. Maybe when he got his memory back, he’d have a correct perspective on things and realize that they had been right to break up.

But something in him rejected the very thought of leaving her. She was where he belonged.

He couldn’t remember any of what they said he had done. But when they said he had done it for her, it felt right, natural. He could see himself doing that. The necessary death, to preserve that which he cared for; another way of fighting.

Everything in him responded to her, homed in on her. He couldn’t conceive of being anywhere else. Even thinking of being away from her brought a twist of furious negation somewhere deep in his gut. There was a rightness to his being with her. She was necessary to him in some profound, mystifying way. He wanted her with a powerful desire. Maybe that was all it was. And from the way she kissed him, touched him, she wanted him too.

He was impatient for the day to be over, to have the chance to talk to her without all these people around. But she seemed to have a lot of duties and, while she was busy with those, Willow grabbed him.

Red wanted to look into his memory loss, so she pulled him into a workroom and started doing witchy things with spells and whatnot while he watched her uneasily. Spells made him nervous somehow. He didn’t know why. Maybe something in his forgotten past. Or maybe because her abilities had so much potential for misuse. The way Willow had so easily gone into Vi’s mind when Willow was in Giles’ office and Vi was down in the gym bothered him. It didn’t matter that Vi had probably agreed to that. Spike didn’t like the idea that Willow could just casually walk into his mind if she felt like it. A person’s mind should be private, for heaven’s sake, if anything was. The idea of someone nonchalantly reading his thoughts whenever they felt like it was distasteful.

For all her spells, no memory came back today, for which he didn’t know whether he was glad or sorry. But Willow assured him that this was just the beginning. Oh, joy.

Watcher was next. Apparently there was a lot of paperwork to be done before he was an official employee. Buffy joined him for that. Seemed she didn’t trust Giles alone with him. Spike didn’t either, but he didn’t think Giles would make any overt move on him. Nothing so obvious. It would be something sneaky and, because Giles didn’t want Buffy to walk out on him, it would be done by a third party like Angel, with Giles apparently in no way involved. Buffy had mentioned in passing that Giles had done something like that before, staying out of the way while some git named Wood did the actual dirty work, which was why she was so wary about the Watcher now.

Once that was over, he thought they might actually be able to get away, but people kept running up to Buffy with this problem or that.

“Why don’t you go home?” Buffy suggested. “You don’t have to be here. We’ll start you training on Monday, once the weekend’s over. That will give everyone time to settle down and get used to the idea. Vi will give me a lift home.”

“Yeah, okay.”

But when Vi got home, she was alone.

“Willow’s going to bring Buffy back,” she said when he called down the stairs to ask what was up. “Something came up.”

“Is that usual? Something coming up?”

“Oh, yeah,” sighed Vi. “That’s why we rented this house. Self defense. The kids can come up with crises even at two in the morning. Keeping tab on them is a twenty-four hour job. Some of the full-Slayers who aren’t squad leaders don’t mind acting as den mothers and they’re the ones who sleep in-house. Squad leaders like me would end up exhausted if they had to be always available like that. Buffy of course gets the worst of it, being who she is.”

“Bet she had an easier time of it when she was the only Slayer around,” he muttered.

Vi gave him a rueful look. “You may be right. But least now she gets a salary and doesn’t have to flip burgers to keep a roof over their heads for her kid sister and herself, like she did before.”

“Buffy has a sister? Was she one of those SITs back there?”

“No, Dawn’s just a regular girl. She’s in this really nice boarding school that Giles arranged and she loves it there. She comes down here on weekends and holidays. You’ll probably see her around.”

When Willow’s car pulled up in front of the gate a couple of hours later, Willow didn’t just drop Buffy off. She got out too and she was carrying a pizza box, so Spike figured she was going to stay for a while. From what he could overhear as they came up the walk, it sounded like Buffy had just told Willow about Bronwen and the other Wicca that Giles had left out of the loop and Willow was upset about it. As she should be. It was good that Willow didn’t seem to be party to Giles’ machinations, but it looked like Wiccan politics were going to take up the rest of the evening.

A lot of talk about what seemed to him a perfectly simple decision. Did Willow like what was happening? If she did, she just had to tell Buffy so; if she didn’t, she just had to contact Bronwen and set up a pipeline with Willow or some other Council Wicca as the focus. What was there to natter about for hours?

He wondered whether to sneak out the back while they were coming up. It looked like the evening was going to be sodding boring and even exploring a two-bit little town like Caxley looked like it would be a riot in comparison. But the door opened before he could make up his mind and then he was stuck.

Vi had come up with them. Spike grabbed a slice of pizza, then removed himself to the other side of the living room to watch the telly while the three of them talked.

Buffy was aware of the way Spike had taken himself off to one side. This really wasn’t his problem and she was sorry he had to be bored listening to it, but with all the interruptions back at the Hall, she and Willow didn’t have a chance to talk in peace. Buffy had called Vi up to sit in on the discussion because Vi was going to head up the New York branch and Buffy wanted Vi’s take on Giles’ decision to leave out any Wicca who refused to be under his control. Maybe Buffy was overreacting.

But Vi was just as appalled as she was.

“We can’t throw away a resource like that!” she exclaimed. “I don’t understand why Giles is insisting that they can’t join unless they take his orders.”

“Control,” said Willow thoughtfully.

“Megalomania, Spike called it,” Buffy said wryly. “God! What is it about the Council of Watchers that turns them all into Quentin Travers?”

“It’s insecurity.” Willow flushed a little. “I was like that. I needed to be sure that everything was under my control. You never really took Giles’ orders, Buffy, and he was always frustrated by that, especially that last year with the First. And the Council never was able to tell Slayers what to do. They could watch and suggest things, and maybe some of the more submissive Slayers like Kendra would allow themselves to be indoctrinated and take Council orders. But that was a very small percentage. The Council never really controlled things. And they must have hated that.”

“Oh, yeah,” muttered Buffy, remembering how Travers and the Council had always tried to control her.

“And now we’ve got all these baby SITs and more coming. Plus all the Wicca. It’s a humongous responsibility. And it’s all on Giles’ shoulders. No wonder he wants to be sure nothing gets screwed up.”

“Well, he could share the load, couldn’t he?” muttered Vi. “We’d all be glad to help. It doesn’t have to be just his way or the highway.”

“I’ll talk to him,” said Willow. She had her resolve face on, Buffy saw with relief.

“And think of what to do if he keeps having issues,” she said. “I want Bronwen and the others like her in the loop, even if it means setting up a secondary conduit somehow.”

Willow nodded. “I’ll look into that.”

“You expecting visitors, pet?” Spike asked suddenly from where he was sprawled in an armchair.

Buffy turned, surprised.

“No.” She went to look out of the window. There was a car parked now in front of the cottage. She recognized it as Xander’s. “Now what?”

She could hear two sets of footsteps coming up the stairs—one set hurried and stumbling, the other slow and reluctant. Behind her, she sensed Spike coming swiftly to his feet.

“It’s all right,” she said quickly to prevent Spike going into fighting mode and doing something rash. “It’s only Xander.”

She went to the front door. When it swung open, she found herself staring at her sister.

“Dawn? What are you doing here?”

Dawn bent to snatch up the key she had dropped when Buffy had opened the door.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she flung at Buffy. “You should have told me!”

“I was going to,” said Buffy weakly and frowned at Xander over Dawn’s shoulder.

“Someone had to tell her,” said Xander defensively, “and it was better face to face than over the phone.”

Well, maybe he was right. But:

“You should have asked me!”

She was getting sick of having tons of silly, unimportant problems constantly dumped on her by everyone while always being left out of any decision that directly concerned her.

Dawn had pushed past her and was standing staring at Spike. He was looking back with curiosity, frowning a little.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” Dawn gulped, barely holding back the tears.

“Sorry, no, pet. Kinda having a lapse of memory here,” he said dryly.

She stumbled forward and put a hand on his chest, wanting to be sure that he was really there, as everyone else had.

“The things I said! And after you...after you did all those things for me when Buffy was gone...I’m so sorry! And now you don’t remember and you don’t even know what I’m talking about when I say I’m sorry. I can’t even apologize properly!”

“Well, I’m sure you didn’t mean whatever it was, Bit,” he said comfortingly, and Dawn gave a great wail and collapsed against him, crying her eyes out.

Buffy tried not to laugh at the wild-eyed look he gave her over the top of Dawn’s head.

“What did I say?” he asked blankly.

“You always used to call her Bit,” Buffy explained, coming forward to rescue him.

“Well, she is only a bit of a thing, so I would, wouldn’t I? Uh, pet,” Spike patted Dawn’s back awkwardly, “could you maybe turn off the waterworks? I’m getting soaked here.”

Dawn gave a little, hiccuping laugh through her tears. Buffy put her arms around her and drew her towards the couch. But Dawn refused to let go her death grip on Spike’s lapel. He gave Buffy a ruefully amused glance and sat down beside Dawn on the couch.

“I thought you tried to r...” Dawn stopped abruptly when Buffy’s hand clenched hard on her forearm. “...Thought you did something really bad. But you didn’t, not really, and I should have known it wasn’t like what I thought, otherwise Buffy wouldn’t have forgiven you...”

“It was both our faults,” said Buffy fiercely when Spike threw a questioning glance at her. “And I don’t want you reminded of it!”

Dawn wiped at the tears on her face. “It wasn’t that anyway. I just convinced myself that it was. It was because you left me, Spike. It had nothing to do with Buffy. It was just easier to blame you for Buffy than to admit I was mad that you left me. So I said all those nasty things and...and...”

“Look, pet,” said Spike gently. “I haven’t got a buggering clue what you’re talking about and it’s all in the past anyway. So just put it behind you and forget it.”

“But it’s not right I should just get away with it like that...”

“Well, you can apologize all over again once I have my memory back, yeah?” He grinned at Willow. “Red here’s working on that.”

“I am. We’ll have Spike’s memory back in no time,” said Willow firmly. “No point in getting upset now, sweetie.”

“Yeah, save it for when I can get mad at you.” Spike grinned as Dawn smiled tremulously through her tears. “So dry off and have some pizza, yeah?”


But Dawn just nibbled at her pizza and kept staring at Spike who had gone back to his armchair. Willow and Xander kept staring at him too, Buffy noticed. She could understand that because it was so weird that he was back, but it was getting Spike edgy and uncomfortable.

Willow was filling Xander in on what they had been discussing.

“It does sounds a bit screwy of Giles,” agreed Xander, but didn’t seem that concerned. “But it probably all fits into his master plan.”

“What is his master plan?” asked Spike.

Xander shrugged. “I don’t know, but he must have one.”

“I mean, what’s the point of all this?”

“Well, we can’t leave all these potential Slayers wandering around not knowing what they’re capable of and what their purpose is,” said Buffy. “They could get into trouble that way. We have to get them together and train them properly.”

“Got that. But what for?”


“What are you going to do with them once they’re trained? An army of Slayers, you said. But what for? You told me that Caxley Hall is only temporary, that the Watcher is planning an even larger base somewhere in Scotland. Some place big enough to hold all these Slayers. Eighteen hundred of them.”


“What are you expecting? A demon invasion from another dimension? Or Plan 9 from Outer Space? There isn’t some kind of war going on where you all have to be dedicated soldiers. One Slayer—you—was enough to take care of an apocalypse. Several apocalypses, the way I understand it. What the hell do you need an army for?”

He looked around at all of them and they all stared back at him, totally at a loss.

“You planning to take over the world? Wipe out every nation’s army, navy and air force and handle things yourselves? Eighteen hundred Slayers could probably do it. That’s one way to make world peace happen. Too bad it would be a military dictatorship with the Slayers as the military and Giles as Stalin.”

“You know that’s not what we’re after!” said Buffy in exasperation. “All the potential Slayers have to be trained and, once they’re trained, we can’t let them run loose with no guiding hand at the helm!”

“And the Wicca? They’ve been functioning fine on their own until now. But now you’re shaping them into an army as well and penalizing the ones who won’t fall into line.”

“But...” Buffy put a hand to her head. “But...”

“Look,” said Spike wryly. “I’m not accusing Giles of anything but letting his need for order and control get away from him. But he hasn’t thought things through. And neither have you. There’s got to be a goal, Slayer. Otherwise you’re all floundering around and getting into trouble. Which is what’s starting to happen with the Wicca already, innit?”

“Well, what would you do with eighteen hundred trained Slayers?” Vi asked. “We can’t just leave them sitting around twiddling their thumbs.”

“Put them to work,” said Spike promptly. “The minute a SIT is properly trained, send her out to live in some major city somewhere on the globe and patrol it. Take care of any problems that arise in that area. Oh, not all by herself because Buffy told me how having friends and back up makes things easier. Send them out in twos with a Wicca to help each pair. The three of them would back each other up and always be able to call in to HQ for help if they needed it.”

That way they would have both independence and community. They’d be able to make their own mistakes while still having solid back up when they needed it. Could have their own lives and lovers without having eighteen hundred other girls interfering or a bunch of mother hen squad leaders and an authoritarian father-figure telling them what to do. The Hall reminded Spike all too much of a convent or a girls’ restricted boarding school, and that castle Watcher was planning in some remote fastness of Scotland was worse, isolating them even more. This way these children might have the best of both worlds and possibly some kind of personal life.

“And if a Plan 9 from Outer Space really did turn up, you can always bring them all in to deal with it as a group, couldn’t you?” he finished.

“You know, that actually makes sense,” said Xander blankly.

“A loose confederacy,” muttered Buffy, remembering what Bronwen had said.

“All I’m trying to say, Slayer,” said Spike, “ is that maybe you might want to consider end results rather than just letting things happen. Way to get yourself burned, that is.”

He got to his feet, grinning a little at the stupefied looks on their faces.

“Well, now that I’ve put my ha’penny’s worth in, I gonna go out and take a constitutional. I’m getting antsy and I need to have a recce around the place anyway.”

“Be careful,” said Buffy automatically and he laughed.

“In a half-arsed sleepy little town like Caxley? Yeah, right.”

Spike always liked to check out any territory he was in, not liking surprises. It was only sensible to know the ground and all the ins and outs in case of attack. It wasn’t the kind of action he had hoped he would get tonight, but he got restless just sitting around doing nothing, and being on the move got rid of some of his excess energy.

“Avoid any SITs you see wandering around,” Buffy said quickly.

“Yeah, yeah.” He waved that off with amusement. “Won’t hurt your fledglings, Slayer. Where’s the fun in that? It would be too easy.”

Trouble was, Buffy couldn’t be sure that all the SITs knew that Spike wasn’t to be touched. There had been some that would have been on duty and therefore missing when she told everyone about him in the gym and she couldn’t be certain that the grapevine had advised them. She didn’t want Spike getting staked by some over-enthusiastic SIT. Sure, he could take care of himself, but she knew he would hold back in order not to hurt them and not fighting full out might get him dusted. She would have preferred him to keep his head down until everybody knew who he was, but when was Spike ever not reckless? And she had no rights over him. She watched him a little helplessly as he sauntered out.

Everyone was silent when he had gone and Buffy could see that they were all thinking over what he had said. The meeting broke down into mere repetition and she was relieved when everyone finally began to leave, Willow back to Caxley Hall, Vi to her flat downstairs, and Xander driving a sad Dawn back to her boarding school.

“He took care of me like a big brother that time you were dead,” Dawn said to Buffy under her breath while the others were getting their things together. “Spike, I mean. We had something special, the two of us. I should have known there was more behind his...Sure, he shouldn’t have tried he was hurting and...”

“I know.” Buffy put an arm around Dawn’s shoulders. “He didn’t mean to do it, Dawnie. He was just confused and so was I. The whole thing just blew up in our faces.”

“I shouldn’t have believed the worst of him. I mean, I knew him better than that. Or I should have. And now...”

“If Willow manages to bring his memory back, he’ll forgive you, Dawn. He always forgave both of us, didn’t he? He loved us.” She hugged Dawn as Dawn’s tears spilled over. “And if he doesn’t remember, well, we’ll just have to build a new relationship, that’s all. He’s willing.”

“Yes, but it’ll never be the way it was.”

“No, it won’t. But at least it won’t hurt him. That’s all I care about right now. That he be happy.”

“Oh, yes. Oh, you’re right, Buffy. I was thinking only of myself again. He’s the one who matters.”

It was past eleven and Spike still wasn’t back. But this wasn’t L.A. with its millions of people sprawled over hundreds of square miles. This was Caxley where one could drive from one end of the town to the other in five minutes. She could go out looking for him with a fair expectation of finding him. She didn’t care if he didn’t like it; she just wanted to be sure he was safe.

She headed out on foot rather than taking the Viper, since it would be easier to pick up his vamp signature that way. After a while she sensed it, then frowned when it seemed to be coming from under the ground. A moment later, a manhole cover in the road shifted, then was pushed sideways and Spike levered himself out.

“You’ve got K’lar,” he said in the same tone that he would have used to say, ‘You’ve got rats.’

“What the heck are K’Lar?”

He shoved the manhole cover back in place. “Vermin. Kinda like three-foot giant spiders, all legs, eyes and fangs. Found a nest of them down in the sewers. Their bite is poisonous, so I wiped them out. But I’d tell your baby Slayers to keep an eye out for more, just in case. A metal rod through the midsection kills ’em, but tell the kids to try not to get bitten.”

“I will. What were you doing down in the sewers?”

“Best way for a vamp to get anywhere during the day. I always memorize the sewer pathways and accesses.” He grinned at her. “Y’know, I really don’t need babysitting, Slayer.”

Buffy blushed. “I was just taking a stroll before bed.”

“Sure you...” He broke off suddenly, his head jerking around. “What was that?”

A flicker of blue-white light had stabbed the night, then had disappeared just as quickly. It was like a bolt of lightning, except that there was not a single cloud in the starry sky.

A creek wandered down the eastern side of Caxley and the town fathers had chosen to preserve it and build a park around it. In the middle of the park, something moved. A huge, lumbering shape.

Buffy and Spike exchanged glances, then moved towards it.

“Chiriwan,” said Buffy when she got a clear look at the thing. “Darn, there’s more than one.”

“Ugly buggers, aren’t they?” remarked Spike, considering the massive, hulking forms. The Chiriwan were eight feet tall and looked like a bunch of boulders thrown together inside gray, warty skin that looked mildewy in the moonlight. There was no sentience in their reddish-orange eyes, only the irrational, unpredictable belligerence of an irritated bison.

“Powerful too,” Buffy murmured, keeping her voice down. “And their talons are poisonous to humans.”

“You go up against things like that all the time?”

“Oh, yeah. Been doing it for years. I’ve got to get rid of them.” She frowned. “Another portal must have opened in the park. Remember Giles saying that one opened in the Lake District and let out Chiriwan? I’ll need a weapon.”

“Yeah, a stake wouldn’t be more than a pinprick to that hide. What do you have in your arms chest, Slayer?”

“A couple of axes that should do. I’d better go get one. Keep an eye on them, Spike.”

“I’ll go.”

With his vamp speed, he was back in minutes.

“There’s four of them,” said Buffy who had been studying the Chiriwan in his absence.

“We can take them.”

“This is my business, not yours, Spike,” said Buffy quickly, seeing that he had brought not one axe but two.

“You said their talons are poisonous to humans,” said Spike flatly. “Slayers are humans. That means they’re poisonous to you. Think I’m gonna stand around doing bugger all while you put yourself at risk? Sod that!”

It looked like that protective instinct was hardwired into him as well. Buffy sighed.

Spike however was grinning with anticipation. “What say I take the one on the left there, Slayer, and you go right?”

“They’re faster than they look,” Buffy warned as the two of them ran forward. “And watch that reach of theirs.”

The Chiriwan had long arms like orangutans, tipped with four-inch talons that looked black in the moonlight. They did move fast, but Buffy’s Slayer and Spike’s vamp speed kept the two of them ahead, and unlike wolves the Chiriwan didn’t band together against a foe. They were normally solitary predators. It was unusual to see more than one of them at a time.

Buffy managed to flash around to the back of hers. She hamstrung it and it toppled with a roar and a huge thud, bringing it down to where she could slam her axe through its neck, cutting off its head. It dusted the same way that vamps dusted and out of the corner of her eye she saw Spike throw himself into a diving roll that flung him between and past the legs of the Chiriwan he was facing. The next second, he was up on its back, his axe chopping through its neck. That Chiriwan dusted as well and Spike landed neatly on his feet beside her.

“Two down, two to go,” he said with relish. “This really is fun, Slayer!”

The other two were now wary and Buffy and Spike had to chase them through the park. At the same time, they needed both their axes and their speed to keep the Chiriwan at bay as the creatures roared and slashed at them.

“Switch!” gasped Buffy, ducking the talons that raked the air barely an inch above her head. She grabbed the huge forearm swinging past and used its momentum to catapult herself at the one Spike was facing.

Spike did a sideways cartwheel that allowed her to sail over him and slam her heels into the chest of his opponent, knocking it to the ground. Spike landed facing the back of her Chiriwan and swung his axe into the base of its spine. It howled, bending backwards in agony, and Spike’s axe swept through its neck at the same moment that Buffy’s hammered down into the heart of the one on the ground.

Dust exploded.

“You get to do this all the time?” Spike asked, grabbing at her for balance as they both staggered. He was laughing and so was she. “Sweet!”

She grinned at him. “You would think so.”

His eyes were alight as he looked down at her. “Come on, Slayer. Don’t tell me you don’t enjoy it too.”

“Well, yeah, I do.”

“It’s kinda funny two portals should open so soon upon each other. Or are portals a common occurrence?”

“No, they’re not. Something weird’s going on.”

“I’d put out a red alert or something. Those things could have done a lot of damage if we hadn’t been out here and noticed them.”

“I’ll do that right away.” Buffy thought that a warning should have been sent out the minute the first one appeared. But they were still working out glitches in the system and it must have been overlooked.

She called Willow the minute they got home. Luckily Willow hadn’t gone to bed yet.

“I’ll call the Wicca on duty at the Hall and have her put out that alert,” said Willow. “We’ll have people on the watch for portals everywhere.”

“Call Bronwen too, Will, and have her put out the word among the unaffiliated covens as well. We don’t know where one will turn up.”

“I’ll do that.”

“Bathroom’s free,” called Spike as she put down the phone. He had taken a shower while she talked to Willow.

She took her own shower and had just finished blowdrying her hair when Willow called back.

“Faith says another portal opened up near Cleveland yesterday,” Willow reported.

“More Chiriwan?”

“Yup. Faith took care of them. It’s odd. Three in just a few days.”

“It needs looking into.”

“I’ll do some research,” agreed Willow. “And I’ll contact Wes and get him on it as well. Maybe there’s some kind of prophecy involved and he has access to a lot of Wolfram and Hart books and material that we don’t.”

“Good idea.”

She put down her cell phone and turned to leave her bedroom and tidy up the flat before bed time, then almost ran into Spike as he turned up in the doorway. He gave her a quizzical look.

“Duty finally done? Or can we expect more interruptions all through the night?”

Buffy laughed wryly. “There used to be, until we got a system of house-mothers set up. No, we can count on a little sleep tonight.”

“Is that what you want to do, Slayer? Sleep?”

She looked up at him in surprise, unsure of what he was getting at. “It’s way past midnight...”

“You’ve got no imagination, pet.” That purring, provocative note was back in his voice. “Snap.”

Buffy stared at him. “What?”

He grinned, long creases slashing down his cheeks, and flicked the lapel of the white terry bathrobe that he too was wearing. “We match. It’s a kid’s card game here in the UK. Guess you don’t know it.”

“Uh, guess not.”

His head was tilted a little and he was watching her intently, his eyes very blue. He had simply towel-dried his own hair and strands were falling over his forehead. It made him look very young. He looked good. Delicious. She could have eaten him up. Her hands closed into tight fists, nails digging into her palms.

He reached out and sieved his fingers through her hair, taking her by surprise.

“Spun gold. I do like your hair, Slayer.”

“You’ve mentioned that before,” she mumbled.

“Not surprised.”

He was suddenly too close and that light was in his eyes, that intensity and heat.

“Wanna finish what we started earlier in the gym?”


He took the lapels of her bathrobe delicately between finger and thumb and drew her towards him. She was intensely aware of the cave of his open mouth a millimeter away from hers, his breath on her lips.

“It’s been lying there between us every second since I came out of that amulet, Slayer. The heat.”

The heat had always been between them from the very beginning all those years ago, even when she tried to deny it. But it wasn’t right. She couldn’t imprint herself on him, bind him to her when he finally had a chance at freedom.

“You don’t have your memory back.”


“I’ve done a lot of things. I’ve hurt you really badly. You might not want me when you have your memory back.”

His brows rose in amusement. “What does that have to do with anything? Maybe I’ll be mad at you when my memory comes back. Maybe I’ll even hate you. But that’s not gonna make me regret a really good fuck.”

And that’s all it would be to him now—a really good fuck. There was no love in the blaze of those eyes looking down at her, no softness and cherishing as there had been once and she had rejected so adamantly. Just heat and desire. But he was being straight with her—no lies, no pretense, no pretty words. Always said things wrong, did Spike, she thought with painful amusement; but always said the truth.

She leaned helplessly against him, so aware of his body even through both cross-wrapped thicknesses of heavy terry bathrobes that her knees were weak and her bones were liquid. Aware of the texture of his skin and the scent of him, knowing how he would feel against her, in her, remembering...

“Maybe I’m a lousy lay,” she mocked. Her heart was hurting her. She didn’t know what was right anymore. She just wanted him.

“Oh, I don’t think so, Slayer. Not when I sodding well spontaneously combust every time we even touch.”

Well, maybe he did know the right things to say.

“You catch fire too, Slayer.” His open mouth brushed hers. “You want it.”

She did want it. She couldn’t see anything but him. That beautiful face filled her vision, strained with passion, all that clear bone-structure sharply visible, eyelids heavy over an intense darkness of widening, enlarged pupil, his irises now only thin rings of burning blue. She lost herself in that blackness, that smolder of heat and desire.

“I want...” he began, then stopped, frowning. “Something. I don’t know what. Something more. I want...”

She saw the movement of bewilderment and uncertainty in his eyes.

“It was my fault we broke up, wasn’t it?”

“Spike, no. It wasn’t!”

“I did something. Dawn said...”

“She was wrong. It wasn’t you. It was all my issues.”

“I feel...sadness. A weight. Here.” His hand spread over the center of his chest. “My heart hurts. Guilt?”

“No!” she said fiercely. “No guilt! There’s nothing to feel guilty about! If anyone should feel guilty, it should be me.”

He was struggling, searching for something. “Was I a monster?”

Of all the things she had flung at him, she didn’t want him remembering that! Why did that have to be the thing that came through?

“No! I was.”

“Never you.” Absolute conviction, a flash out of the darkness of his memory, something he totally believed.

“Spike, stop thinking!”

“I have to think. Don’t you see? I must.”

“Wait for it. Don’t force it. If you get it in little bits and pieces, you’ll get it all wrong! It was such a mess, so complicated, you’ll need the whole of it to understand.”

“Then I was at fault.”

“We were both at fault. Isn’t that the way it is? It’s never just one person’s fault. Wait for the whole of it before making judgments, Spike, either about you or about me. Because I’m guilty of a lot more than you are.”

“I don’t feel that.”

She could feel the tension in him, saw the shadow in his eyes, the pain beginning to come back when all had been clear before.

“Feelings can be wrong, Spike,” she said urgently. “You took too much of the blame on your shoulders. And that’s what you’re feeling now. It’s wrong. It’s not the truth. And I was happy to dump it all on you, refused to admit then that I was mostly to blame. I know it now and I won’t let you do that.”

She didn’t want him taking up that load of guilt again, didn’t want him suffering all that pain. He had to be distracted from it. And, oh, wasn’t it also what she wanted? She reached up and laid her palm against his face.

“In the meantime,” she whispered, “we could make new memories, couldn’t we?”

He looked down at her, that hesitancy still in his eyes. She wanted to take that away, bring him back to that bright laughter that had been in him at the gym, that unshadowed enjoyment.

“Don’t think. Just feel. Can we do that, Spike? Just enjoy? No worrying about past or future. Just being in the now. Just savoring the moment.”

He smiled suddenly. He had always been able to do that, focus on the one shining moment, everything else thrust aside. She was the one who could never let things just be, who insisted on bringing in all the darkness.

He bent and kissed her. Her mouth opened to him without a thought; her arms wrapped tight around his neck, holding him fiercely close. Her whole awareness suddenly telescoped down to nothing but the feel of him—the taste of his mouth and the scent of his skin and the solid reality of him against her as his arms gathered her up against his hard body.

He kissed her slowly and with deep enjoyment. She had never allowed that before; it had always been raw urgency and greed, pushing feverishly to that hurried climax when she could tear herself away and flee. This was so different and she found herself drowning in it, losing herself in him and in sensation and the sheer, exquisite delight of it.

His hands were stroking her face, sliding through her hair, exploring her in delicate, lingering caresses. She was all new to him, unknown. And he was new and unknown to her too, even though she knew every inch of him so intimately. She had never let him be more to her than a cock thrusting her to climax.

But this! She clung to him, aware of nothing but him and his tongue thrusting and sliding against hers. They kissed and kissed again, the languorous sensuality turning more urgent with the rise of passion. His smile was gone now and his eyes were heavy-lidded and rapidly darkening into a black smolder of heat.

He pushed her head back and his mouth worked its way down her throat, sucking and drawing upon her flesh. She shivered and melted helplessly against him, her bones turned to water and her whole body thrilling with painful joy. Not just because of the sensation, intense as it was, but because it was him giving it to her. His lips and his hands and his eyes looking at her with passion and hunger. Because it was Spike, whom she had thought lost to her forever.

She wanted to give him pleasure too, wanted to give him everything she had denied him before. He might not realize and value it the way he would have valued it before, when it would have meant everything to him and when he had desperately needed it. But she could give it to him now with overflowing hands, and he could take what he wanted of it and it wouldn’t matter if he discarded the rest, because she deserved that for having robbed him of it before.

Her hands caressed him, sliding beneath the bathrobe to find that alabaster satin skin, rediscover the beautiful lines of his body, the deep resilience of the ripped muscles of his chest and abs, the solid planes of clean, fine bone, all that gorgeous landscape of his body that she used but never appreciated before.

She felt him shudder against her. His eyes had been half-closed, heavy with passion. Their lids lifted now and his eyes were all blue light and burning darkness, their pupils hugely enlarged. Something moved within them, intense and painful.

“The way you touch me,” he whispered. “As if it...mattered. As if I...”

Some profound internal emotion was racking through him, deep and seismic.

“I don’t think anyone ever...”

“I love you,” she whispered.


For a moment, it was Spike looking at her with those incredulous, astonished eyes. Spike with all his memory.

Then he caught her up against him, just about eating her alive, and the moment vanished in the flare of passion for both of them.

He scooped her up. The next moment she was being dropped on the bed and his weight was settling down upon her. His hands untied the belt of her robe, then the robe was pushed open, exposing her breast, and his head was coming down. She cried out in delight as his mouth closed upon her nipple, suckling and drawing on it. Her back arched without volition, thrusting her breast into his mouth; her hands dug into his thick hair to hold his head to her.

So different, such an intensity of sweetness, because now it meant so much. His hands moving over her, kneading and caressing. His mouth tracing inflaming, unbearably erotic patterns over breast and belly and thighs. Even the mothwing flicker of his lashes against her skin.

That vamp vibration that she always felt whenever he was near suddenly intensified. The tongue sliding over her turned rough and sandpapery like a cat’s. It rasped over her nipples and she nearly screamed with the sheer pleasure of it, her nipples pebbling into points so diamond-hard it was painful. He had never done that before, knowing that to remind her of his vamp side would be to disgust her, that she would have immediately thrust him away and run. Now he didn’t know and the sensation was unbelievable, taking her to a whole new plane she had never experienced.

Fangs joined that raspy tongue, another shock and another excruciating pleasure, small sharp pinpricks that were hopelessly erotic. Her brain fried, sparks scorching through her every nerve; her whole body writhed and arched to him, flaming into white heat; she was biting him back, her nails clawing at him.

“Yes,” he purred. “Just like that.”

That slight sting of pain was only another incitement for both of them, adding another, even more ruthlessly arousing dimension of pleasure.

“Oh, love...”

She was mumbling helpless endearments into his flesh, felt him shudder and surge against her as he heard them, his eyes widening, softening as helplessly into tenderness. Those eyes were all gold now; he was all gold in the lamplight, his shoulders blocking out the world, his face filling her vision. Nothing existed but him. She wasn’t even aware of the bed beneath her or the breath in her own body.

“Want you in me, Spike!”


He took her in one strong thrust, going all the way in and then just that little bit further. She cried out with the sheer ecstasy of it. To have him in her again, filling her again. She had never really valued that before, only the sensation he had brought her. Now it was the height of joy just to have him within her, stretching her the way he always did, just that little bit too big, her Slayer muscles just that little bit too tight. She clenched upon him involuntarily as he began to withdraw for the next stroke, wanting to hold him where he was.

He gasped with shock and pleasure, his forehead falling against hers, his breath a harsh pant against her face. He had forgotten what Slayer muscles could do.

“God, Buffy!”

He’d been in control of himself until now, focused as always on giving her pleasure, that intent care that made him such a fabulous lover. Now he lost control, powering into her, his eyes going blind with pleasure. She wanted him that way, wanted to give him pleasure, met his every thrust as fiercely, as violently, the two of them driving each other into that maelstrom of exquisite, ecstatic sensation.

His head dropped, their cheekbones pressing hard together. She felt his mouth against her neck, the prick of his fangs on the skin above the vein. It was unthinking, the drive of that vampiric instinct that he now didn’t remember was forbidden. She would never have allowed it before. Now she didn’t care, wanted him to have anything he desired.

“Take it,” she whispered and pulled his mouth down upon her neck.

His fangs slid in painlessly, as smooth as silk, and the draw started. And instantly she was rewarded for her impulse. Pure ecstasy. Pure fire blazing through her every vein. Her eyes shot wide in shock and rapture. Nothing like the other times she had been bitten, by the Master, by Angel. Those bites hadn’t happened during lovemaking and she hadn’t known, hadn’t even dreamed what it could be like.

An exaltation, that double penetration of his cock and his fangs, driving her higher and higher until mind and body could bear no more and her brain blanked right out in the most shattering climax she had ever experienced. She felt him jolt and pulse within her.

They fell over the edge together.


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