DISCLAIMER: The Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters are the property of Mutant Enemy, Joss Whedon, and Fox Studios. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2002 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG.
She Slays Vampires, Doesn't She?
It was a dark and stormy night. Well, not so stormy, this being LA and all. But dark. Very dark. Buffy could barely see what she was doing. Unfortunately, the demon that had jumped her seemed to be having no problems in that department.
"Spike, give me a hand here."
"Oh yeah. You want my hand now. Few seconds ago you didn't want any part of me." Spike lit a cigarette and leaned back against a tombstone. "Go away, Spike." His voice was a mocking falsetto. "I can't deal with you tonight. I'm not in the mood." He took a long drag from his cigarette. "Well I hope you're in the mood for fighting, love. I'm a bit busy."
"Not as busy as you wanted to be," she said as she kicked out at the demon. The creature absorbed the blow and laughed. At least she thought it was a laugh. It might have been a belch. Then it snatched the Doublemeat Palace cap from her head and proceeded to chew on it.
Another ruined uniform she'd have to pay to replace. Great. "Spike, are you going to help me or what?"
"Wasn't planning on it." He was definitely sulking.
"You don't need him." A blur flashed in front of her eyes. The demon went flying and didn't get up again. She heard a familiar voice say, "Bet you never thought you'd see me again?"
"Riley?" she gasped, surprised not so much at his presence but at the bright green and red costume he was sporting. Were those tights? She heard Spike chuckle meanly.
"I'm not just Riley anymore, Buffy. I'm Super Guy."
Spike rolled his eyes.
Riley whirled. "I saw that!" He turned back to Buffy. "Ever since that explosion in the lab in Belize, I've been different. Stronger and faster."
"And a much snappier dresser," Spike muttered.
"I've had just about enough of you." Riley rushed Spike.
The vampire stood his ground but was soon sailing across the cemetery. He landed in an open grave. Riley, moving nearly faster than Buffy's eye could track, ran to the hole and began to fill it up with dirt.
"What are you doing?" she asked, a note of worry creeping into her voice. Her sex life had definitely picked up with Spike around. She wasn't sure she was ready for all that to end.
Riley didn't answer, just kept shifting dirt. When the hole was completely filled in, he dusted off his hands and smiled. "That should hold him for a while."
"While we talk. Superhero to superhero. Is that a costume by the way?"
"It's a uniform."
"Oh. Cool." He handed her back her cap.
She made a face as she got a big whiff of demon drool. "Ewww." She dropped the cap.
"Now, now. Mustn't destroy your secret identity, Buffy." He picked it up and handed it back. "No evidence. First rule of being an anonymous superhero."
She looked at his fully exposed face. "But you're not anonymous. I knew it was you right away."
He looked put out for a moment, then his expression lightened. "It's okay. 'Cause now I wear these during my normal life." He put on an ugly pair of glasses. "See how different I look in my civilian persona? No one will ever recognize me now."
He didn't look all that different, although he'd never be a chick magnet wearing those birth-control glasses. She shook her head. "Go back to the initiative, Riley."
"Don't have to. We have a group of our own now. Formed it this year. Superheroes United. Very cool motto. 'We help the helpless.' "
"That's Angel's motto." Both of their faces darkened at the mention of the vampire's name. If they could have seen below the surface, they would have noticed that Spike was scowling too. In fact, all across the world, faces broke into scowls at the sound of Angel's name.
"Crap." Riley recovered quickly. "Well, back to the drawing board. We worked damn hard on that one too."
"I'm sure." She noticed the pile of dirt that had buried Spike was starting to tremble.
"You should join us, Buffy. We offer great benefits and we have a wealthy patron who is willing to pay all our expenses."
"Extremely. You should see our clubhouse."
She shook her head. "I'm not big into joining."
"You'd get a really cool decoder ring and a pager. And we have meetings and stuff. It's fun."
"You're really here to recruit me?"
"Well, yeah. What'd you think? That I wanted to get back together with you or something?"
She raised an eyebrow. "You don't?"
"I've moved on, Buffy. Found my princess charming and we're really happy."
"Where is she anyway? I thought she was right behind me."
Suddenly a blonde in a baby blue lycra outfit and gold lame cape leapt over a shrub. She went down in a tangle as her cape hooked one of her gold high-heeled sandals.
Riley rushed over to help her up. "Baby, are you okay?"
She nodded, then peered at Buffy through the gold mask that had fallen over one eye.
The slayer laughed at her. "Let me guess. You're Wonder Woman?"
The voice was very familiar. "As if. That name is so taken." She struck another pose. "I'm Bloodsucker."
Spike's arm appeared through the dirt. Then his head. "I'd know that voice anywhere, Harm."
She turned and looked at him with disdain. "You're not my little blondie bear anymore, Spike. I'm with Riley now."
"And if that thought doesn't strike terror in the hearts of bad guys everywhere, I don't know what will." Spike pulled his body out of the dirt and stood up. He examined a rip in his leather jacket. "Just soddin' great." He looked over at Buffy. "I'm fine. Thanks for asking."
"Shut up, Spike."
Harmony laughed. "I see nothing's changed, Spikey. You're still in love with her and she still hates you. Do you really think she'll ever let you touch her?"
Spike looked down, but Buffy could tell he was hiding a grin. She found herself blushing.
Riley shifted impatiently. "So you want to join up? I've been saving your name for you. Sandtrap really wanted to be The Slayer, but I wouldn't let him take it."
"That's really special but I think I'll pass."
"If that's your final decision?" When she didn't say anything, he shrugged. "Fine, we'll be off then. There's more than one slayer in the sea. Harmony?"
The two turned as one and jumped into the air. Riley sailed gracefully over the fence. But Harmony's cape got caught on one of the poles as she came down on the other side. She hung there, kicking and squealing, until Riley pulled her down.
Buffy turned away. "I can't watch."
"S'not pretty," Spike said with a smirk. As Riley and Harmony finally moved away, he stepped closer, putting his hand on the small of her back.
She shuddered. "Nothing's going to happen tonight. I so don't need you."
"Or want me?" His eyes bored into hers.
Memories of very good sex still fresh in her mind, Buffy caved. "This doesn't mean we're together. Just because I can't get enough of you."
"Of course not," he said as they ran to his crypt and ripped each other's clothes off.
Many hours later, Buffy wearily climbed the front steps of her house. She had just enough time for a nap before her shift would begin at Doublemeat. A nap. She tried to remember the last time she had really slept through the night. Not counting when she was dead, she thought it was probably 1996.
As she opened the door, waves of very loud music nearly knocked her over. "What the...?"
The house was filled with teenagers. Very drunk and disorderly teenagers. The one nearest her was wearing a lampshade she didn't recognize. She hoped it wasn't the neighbor's. The young man under it leered at her. "Want to get busy?" His breath nearly knocked her over.
"Dawn!" Buffy was moving up the stairs and then she realized her sister was in the living room. On the couch. With a boy. Making out. "Dawn!"
Her sister looked up and giggled. "Oh look. My big bad sister is home."
Everyone checked their watches. "3:45," someone yelled.
The boy with the lampshade held up a piece of paper. "I win!"
Buffy looked at Dawn. "You were betting on when I'd come home?"
"Yeah-huh. I never win though. See, I always believe it will be a reasonable hour. You'd think I'd learn." Dawn turned back to the boy on the couch. "Where were we?"
Buffy reached down and hauled her up. "You upstairs." She pitched the boy into the crowd. "The rest of you, out of here."
They just stared at her.
Dawn called down the stairs. "Might as well go. It's no fun now that she's home anyway."
The other kids started to shuffle out. Buffy saw one of them grab her cap. She didn't stop him. "Hope you get some demon disease from that," she muttered as she hurried up the stairs.
Dawn was standing in her doorway, arms crossed and expression already bored. "You're really disappointed in me. I don't understand how hard this is for you. Do I want to be taken away by the family services people? Does that about cover it or did I forget one?"
"You've got it down. But you don't seem to have taken any of it to heart. A party with booze? What the hell is wrong with you, Dawn?"
"With me? Not a thing, Buffy. What could be wrong with a teenager that has to live with a sister that's never here?"
"Oh sure when you're not working. Or slaying. Or shopping. Or boinking your dead boyfriend."
"He's not my boyfriend. And I'm not boinking him. And I thought you liked Spike?"
Dawn flounced into her room. "I do like him. I just wish you did."
"I like him."
"What's his favorite color?"
Dawn scowled. "Funny. What's his favorite song? What movie does he hate?"
"It's not like we spend a lot of time talking about those kind of things, Dawn."
"I bet you don't spend a lot of time talking about anything. Not to him. Not to me. Not to anyone. I bet you talked more when you were dead than you do now."
"Dawn!" A new voice interrupted them. Willow staggered up the stairs. Her outfit was sort of half off. "I heard that...what you said about her...and it's just not nice."
"So says the recovering magicaholic. Hey, Willow, why are your eyes black?" With that Dawn slammed the door of her room in their faces.
Buffy turned to look at Willow. "Why are your eyes black?"
"Uh no reason." She turned to go.
"You've been doing magic again?"
"No. Totally not. I'm so over that." Willow walked unsteadily to her room. "I went to the eye doctor and he umm dialated my eyes."
"At 3 in the morning?"
"He's got really flexible hours." Her door slammed too.
"Great." Buffy walked into her own room and closed and locked the door. A noise outside made her freeze. Was something on the roof? She listened and heard nothing. Sighing, she fell into bed fully clothed. "Just let me sleep."
"I'll let you sleep, Slayer. I'll let you sleep, forever." Warren moved up the roof, carefully holding the new ray gun. One shot and the slayer would be going for the big sleep. Warren chuckled at the thought of the other two down in the yard still thinking that he was just going to steal her slayer strength. "I've got a surprise for you two morons."
Bright red and light blue legs appeared in front of him. "Is that any way to talk to Super Guy and Bloodsucker?"
Warren looked up and gulped. "Super Guy?"
The hot blonde in the blue pushed in front and nearly slid off the roof. Recovering, she glared at Warren. "And Bloodsucker." She looked at the guy. "They always forget me. Do you think the name's not scary enough?"
Warren began to laugh.
The woman glared through her mask. "What?"
"Oh yeah, like you are sooo scary. Oooh, big bad Bloodsucker gonna get you." He pretended to grab for her. "Gonna get you. Ooooo-ooooh."
The superhero just shook his head. "Oh, now you're going to make her mad."
Warren just laughed. "And?"
The woman's face transformed. She was on him before he could scream. As the life drained out of him, he could have sworn he heard Super Guy say, "Do me next, baby?"
The covers smelled like French fries when Buffy woke up. She wasn't sure when she had last done laundry. It wasn't like she spent a lot of time in her bed anymore. It was a scary thought that Spike probably washed his sheets more than she did hers. And he didn't even have running water in the crypt. Or a bathroom. She stretched, then quickly put her arms down. Man, did she reek. Couldn't he have found a crypt with a bathroom? It was bad enough having to pee in the tunnels, but not being able to shower was getting old.
Maybe it was time to take the garlic down and let him into her room. She thought of her friends. What they would say. She knew that Anya and Xander had no problem with self-expression these days.
She looked over at the clock and realized she was going to be late if she didn't hurry. She rushed through her shower and ran out of the house without stopping to eat. She'd grab something at work. Now that she knew the food was mostly vegetarian it hardly bothered her at all to eat it. Especially when she cooked it herself. She had seen too many times what Phillip did to burgers for people he didn't like. Each time just got grosser. And she still wasn't completely sure he liked her.
"Buffy," Lorraine's voice was relieved. She was really trying to be easy-going and Buffy didn't want to take advantage of her.
"Hi. I need to get a new cap. Mine got wrecked last night."
Lorraine shook her head. "I don't know what you do in these uniforms, Buffy. I'm sure I wouldn't believe it if you told me."
"You really wouldn't."
"No. Of course not."
For a minute her tone sounded so much like Joyce that Buffy felt like crying. Then she shook herself and went to clock in.
"You ok?" Carla the new girl was waiting for her at the grill.
"Me? Oh yeah." Buffy handed her the spatula. "Ok, we put the meat down, then hit the timer. Then we wait."
They waited. The buzzer went off.
"This is your big moment. Go ahead and flip those suckers."
Carla gingerly turned one over.
Buffy took the spatula. "Do it like that and the rest are going to get overdone." She flipped the burgers expertly. "Now hit the timer."
She handed the trainee some rolls. "Open it, so it's ready for the meat. When the buzzer goes off, load em up."
Carla looked a little depressed. Buffy smiled encouragingly. "Look, if I can get it, anyone can."
"It's not that. It's the smell. How do you stand it?"
Buffy thought of her sheets. "You get used to it when you're here. And even after you leave you won't smell it till like the next morning. It takes a while for your nose to adjust. But believe me your friends will all know."
"And your boyfriend." The girl made a face.
"Not if he doesn't have to breathe."
"Nothing. Ok, time to wrap." Buffy made short work of taking the food off the grill and assembling the sandwiches. Then she showed Carla how to fold the paper around them and where to take the burgers. When they were back at the grill, she handed Carla the spatula again. "Ok, this time, you're on your own."
Carla looked panicked.
"Don't worry. I've got your back."
"Funny, I used to say that to you, I think."
Buffy whirled. Her hands were already settling into fighting position.
Faith laughed. "Relax, B. I'm not here to fight."
"Nope." Faith stretched slowly. In her black tank and leather pants she looked slinky. And grease-free. Buffy felt very orange. "And hey, Buffy, nice threads."
"What do you want?"
The other slayer looked up at the menu. "I'll have one of those double medley things. And a coke." She looked at the guy at the counter. "Go ahead, ring it up. It's on Buffy, by the way."
"It is so not on me."
Faith frowned. "Come on, B. I'm a little short." She made a mockingly pleading face. "I'm so hungry."
"Fine. Just get it and go."
Faith took the tray from the cashier. "No can do. I'm waiting for your boy toy."
Buffy felt a surge of jealousy. "Spike's meeting you?"
Faith's eyebrows disappeared into her hair. "Not the guy I was talking about. But interesting. Things have changed, haven't they? First you come back from—"
Buffy looked at Lorraine who was listening a little too intently. "Cleveland. I came back from Cleveland."
"Yeah, Cleveland. And then I get out of—"
"The army. No more khaki for you." Buffy turned to Lorraine. "Can I take a break? To talk to my friend? Who is back from the army."
Lorraine frowned. "It's a little early, Buffy. You just got here."
"Please. We have a lot of catching up to do." Faith put her arm around Buffy and cuddled up against her. "We're very, very good friends."
Buffy pulled away. "We're actually not."
"Why doesn't your...friend eat outside?" Lorraine said.
"Outside. Good idea." Buffy pushed Faith ahead of her.
"So you and Spike are really doing it?" Faith asked as soon as they were seated.
"No. We're not. Ick."
"You said he was your boy toy."
"Well. He is. In a sort of puppy dog way. Not in a sexual way. No. That would be wrong."
Faith rolled her eyes. "You suck at lying."
Buffy tried to change the subject. "Who did you mean?"
"Duh. Riley." Faith leaned in. "Or should I say, Super Guy?"
"You know about that?"
"Sure, about him and his little super club." She took a massive bite of burger. "I'm joining up. He said that I could be the Slayer."
"He told me that!"
Faith shrugged. "Must have been just before he and Bloodsucker flew to LA."
"Blood...Harmony can fly?"
Faith thought about that. "She mostly tripped. He flew and sort of carried her. He's wicked strong now."
"Yeah, yeah, lab accident blah blah blah."
"So he asked you to join first?" Faith was getting that old 'I'm so tired of always being second' tone.
"Well I am the more experienced slayer."
"Also the deader one. You've died twice. I'm still kicking with the original parts."
"My parts are original." Buffy remembered how Spike could hit her. She just didn't know what kind of original. "Besides you were in prison."
"What do you call this?" Faith nodded at the restaurant.
"Making a living," Buffy muttered just as Riley walked up in street clothes. He looked like a big doofus in the black plastic glasses. "Hey, look, Faith. It's Clark Kent."
Faith looked around. "Where's Bloodsucker?"
Buffy snorted. "Duh. Sunlight."
"Bloodsucker's a...oh." It was clear Faith realized how stupid she sounded.
Buffy saw a bandage on Riley's arm. "Still up to your old tricks, Riley?"
He looked down. "Had to give blood."
"Well that's one way to look at it." Buffy got up. "I'll leave you superheroes alone. Don't loiter, ok?"
Faith got up. "Thanks for lunch."
"Right." Buffy watched them leave. She saw Faith put a hand on Riley's butt. From behind the tinted windows of the van they were walking towards, she heard a shrill voice yelling, "Get your grubby mitts off him. I'm not sharing another boyfriend with a slayer!"
Buffy gave it a week.
She saw Faith open the door, heard her say, "I've got some for you too, sweet cheeks."
Harmony's voice trailed off and then she started to make some other sounds.
Or maybe longer. Once the van was out of sight, she adjusted her cap, squared her shoulders, and walked back inside.
The phone was ringing when she got home. "Hello?"
"Buffy? What's wrong? You don't sound right."
"Hi, Giles. I'm fine."
"I've called several times. There's never any answer."
Buffy looked around for Dawn. Someone had cleaned up the living room and Buffy couldn't imagine Willow doing that in the state she'd been in. "Hold on a sec," she said into the phone. Covering the mouthpiece, she yelled up the stairs, "Dawn?"
Her sister came out of her room. "Loud much?"
"I didn't know where you were."
"Imagine that." The teenager turned away.
Buffy sighed and put the receiver back to her ear. "Sorry, Giles."
"Nothing I can't handle."
"You sound depressed."
"I guess. Maybe a little. I mean, it's just one kid right. I should be able to handle that. And people change, what they want, what they need. That changes too. You can't blame them." She heard him sigh. "What?"
"I'm just relieved that you know. Ever since I spoke with Wesley, I've been trying to come up with a clever way to ascertain if you were aware of what was going on in LA."
Buffy didn't have a clue what he meant. But she knew him well enough not to let on. "Yeah. I'm aware." She paused. "So...what do you think of it?"
"Well it's all a mystery of course. How a vampire could sire a child in the first place. It's possible his soul had something to do with it. And all the prophecies. Angel does appear to be rather central to them."
Angel had a child? She felt her stomach heave. "What about the mother? Maybe it was about her not him."
"It must have been. Partly anyway. For Darla to conceive, well it is perplexing. Then to give her life for the child. It's not something I would have expected."
"No. Me neither." Darla was the mother? Buffy thought back to the time she'd spent with Angel after the house had flooded. She had known then that he'd been keeping things from her. But she'd never suspected this. Darla?
"And of course, the thought of Cordelia with any maternal feelings at all..." Giles chuckled.
"Cordy playing mom." Buffy desperately tried to keep her voice neutral. "Angel and Cordelia."
"Well that's not certain. At this point, Wesley just has his suspicions."
What was left of Buffy's heart sank. "You think that he's wrong?"
"I don't really know." Giles voice was a bit sad. "I know this is hard for you, despite your bravado. To watch someone moving on is never easy."
She thought of Riley. Of how little she'd cared about that. This was different. This was her soulmate. He was supposed to love her forever. No matter what. She'd carved a part of her heart out for him and kept it safe. For what? For this? Her voice was wooden when she asked, "Was there anything else, Giles?"
"Just...how are you getting on?"
"Got a job. Slinging burgers."
"Oh. Well, that's good. A steady income."
"Yeah, steady. I'm a lifer."
Her laugh sounded brittle. "Just a saying we have at Doublemeat. It doesn't matter."
"You're sure you're all right?"
"Just peachy, Giles. Gotta go. Loads to do."
"Yes, well, all right then..."
She hung up the phone before she could hear whatever it was he was going to say. Numbly she walked to the sofa and sank down on it. She wanted to cry, but she couldn't. Wouldn't.
Willow came up from the basement. Her eyes were still black. And she reeked of sage. "Oh, hi Buffy. I didn't hear you come in."
"What? No. No spell. Spells are bad."
"Cut the crap, Will. You want to do spells, do spells, just quit lying about it."
"Ok. That's a new twist on the pep talk."
"I just mean, if you're supposed to do magic, then do magic. But try showing some restraint maybe."
"Not liking this much, Buffy."
"But it's obvious, isn't it? I mean, what's the use of sneaking around? You think it's bad for you and maybe it is. But that doesn't make the cravings any easier, does it? You know you want to do it, but you think you shouldn't. Yeah, sure it can be bad. But it can be good too. It's saved your life even. All of our lives."
Willow's eyes narrowed in confusion. "This is about magic?"
"I just think it's time to quit worrying about what other people say. You know. You've got to be true to yourself. So it's a little dangerous. Nobody said life was safe and easy." Buffy took Willow by the shoulders. Shook her a little, then pulled her into a tight hug. "I'm so glad we had this talk."
"Uh, me too. But what are we talking about?"
Buffy pushed away from her. "People just have to accept. They have to understand that there's an old you and a new you, and the new you doesn't play it safe. You take risks. You stand tall and say, 'My life. No one else's!' You live, Will. Live while there's still time."
Willow just nodded. Sometime during Buffy's rant her eyes had returned to their normal green. "If it's all the same to you, Buff. I'm going to sleep while there's still time."
"That's a valid choice. And you know why?"
"Because it's mine?"
Buffy nodded enthusiastically. "That's right. Because it's yours."
They stared at each other for a moment. Buffy thought about the last few weeks. She stood a little straighter. "You know what? There's going to be some changes around here."
She marched up the stairs, banged loudly on Dawn's door.
There was a muffled, "Go away."
"I'm not going away, Dawn. Open up."
The door opened slowly, Dawn's stared back at her with a sulky look. "What now?"
"After school tomorrow, I expect to see you at the Doublemeat Palace."
"If that's your lame way of saying you're sorry..." Dawn started to close the door.
Buffy forced it back open. "It's really not."
Dawn stepped back. "Then what?"
"You're right is what."
"We really don't spend enough quality time together. But that's going to change starting tomorrow. When you apply at Doublemeat."
Buffy smiled. "Oh. Way." She pushed Dawn back until she was sitting on her bed. "I've been much too easy on you. And we're done with that."
Dawn looked up uneasily. "We are?"
"We really are. You're going to start shaping up. There will be no more parties, no more skipping class, and no more sitting on your butt while I'm killing myself trying to make ends meet. You'll work after school for a few hours to help out and then you'll go to the magic box and do your homework."
"Yes, you will." She walked to Dawn's closet, pulled out her leather coat and tossed it to her. "Come on."
"Something else is going to change. We're going to go get my boyfriend"—she almost didn't stumble over the word—"and invite him back here to watch videos. We'll pick them up on the way. I assume you know what he likes?"
A smile threatened to break the sullen look on Dawn's face. "I might."
"Good. You can teach me. Now let's go."
They walked downstairs together. A funny smell was coming from the basement. Dawn stopped, her face clouding. "Is Willow doing magic?"
"Probably. So much for her beauty sleep."
"And we don't care?"
"Well we do. But she needs to get a handle on this. Any fool can see that what she's doing now isn't working."
The house shook on its foundations.
Buffy frowned. "But maybe we should encourage her to get a handle on it somewhere that's less nearby?"
Dawn nodded. "Good idea."
Buffy called down the stairs, "Willow we're going out for a while. Do you need anything at the Magic Box?"
The witch appeared in the door. Her hair was singed, her face covered with soot, and a noxious mist curled around her. But her smile was the first genuine one she'd worn in a long, long time. "Maybe just a few things."
The closed sign was hanging on the Magic Box door. Buffy handed the bag of videos to Dawn and dug in her pocket for her keys. She opened the door and peered inside the shop. "Xander? Anya?"
There was no answer. But a curious scuffling noise erupted from the loft and a few moments later both of their heads popped over the edge.
"Buffy. And Dawnster. At the door. What do ya know?"
"Is there a crisis?" Anya was the first down the stairs. "Is the shop in danger?"
Buffy stared at Anya's hair. Was it a different color again? She forced herself to focus. "No. We just came for some supplies for Willow." Buffy ignored Dawn's skeptical look and handed Anya a list.
The demon took one look and began to protest.
"I don't want to hear it. Willow can control this if you just leave her alone. She's learned a lesson and I think it's important that she keep using magic to help us. She's a witch. It's up to her to choose not to be an evil one."
"What if she doesn't choose that?" Xander leaned up against the table. "She was really getting off on all that stuff she was doing."
"Yeah. She was. And that's not a bad thing. So she likes what she does. It's the letting it control you, letting it become everything that's wrong." She looked over at Anya. "It's when you can't tell your friends about it that it's wrong."
"This ought to be good," Dawn muttered as she joined Xander at the table.
"So we'll just have to make sure we give Willow all the support we can. That we don't judge her just because we don't understand the choice she is making."
"You are unusually passionate for something that doesn't revolve around you," Anya said as she packed up the bag.
Buffy bit back her snotty retort. "Well, I guess it isn't just Willow that will be making an unpopular choice."
"Oh yeah? Who else is?" Xander began to rummage through the video box. He looked up, vague disgust written on his features. "Did you guys get the wrong bag? Sense and Sensibility and Some Kind of Wonderful?" The truth dawned. "No. For the love of God, Buffy, no."
Dawn looked over at him. "It's true. We're having video night with Spike."
"Just you and him, right Dawn? Buffy will be somewhere else, very far away?"
"No she'll be there. And Willow if she ever comes up from the basement. And then when the movies are done, Buffy and Spike will go off patrolling and I bet they end up at his crypt." Dawn smirked at her sister.
Xander turned to Buffy aghast, "The push ups! That was you?" He got up and wandered over to Anya. "This is too much. Bring back that veiny friend of yours and let her kill me because this is just too much."
"It is unexpected." Anya rubbed his back. "But we can look on the bright side. This means that Buffy will have a date to our wedding, which will make seating her so much easier. It also means that Cordelia can come with Angel."
Xander glared at his fiancée. "Remember that thing I told you about secrets, An."
"I know about what's happened in LA, Xander." Buffy shrugged. "And it hurt. But I'm ok with it. And hey. Bonus that I won't screw up your reception." Buffy picked up the bag of herbs. "Come on, Dawn. We've got a vampire to pick up."
Xander just shook his head in dismay. "Buffy the Vampire L—"
"Don't." Buffy's voice was very controlled. "Just. Don't."
Dawn took her arm. "Let's go. They'll get used to it."
"Or not," Xander called after them.
"Or not," Dawn echoed as they walked toward the cemetery. They were quiet for a few minutes, then Dawn whispered, "I listened in to your phone conversation with Giles."
"I thought it was the family services people. I didn't want them to take me away. I didn't mean to listen but then it was too late and I was afraid to hang up in case you heard me. Plus I miss his voice."
"Yeah. Me too."
Dawn thought for a moment. "An Angel baby. That's pretty weird."
Buffy didn't answer.
"Do you think he's a broody baby?"
Buffy tried to ignore her.
"With poofy hair?"
"You've been listening to Spike."
Dawn went on undaunted. "A good-looking kid but intense. Doesn't say much. Maybe an occasional 'hey' if you're lucky."
Buffy smiled. "Okay, okay, I get the drift. You don't like Angel."
Dawn skipped a few steps ahead, then turned around, walking backwards as she talked. "I did like him. But I didn't really know him. He was yours, you know."
Buffy nodded sadly. "He was mine."
"Yeah and he was nice enough I guess, well until he got all evil. Like he was okay when he wasn't, you know, torturing people and killing innocent fish and leaving dead teachers in Giles' bed. But he was never really around." Her face scrunched up for a minute. "I mean, I never watched a movie with him. Or played cards. Or cried on his shoulder. Even Riley was more there than he ever was."
"But the things you remember of Angel are just constructed memories. You weren't really there." Buffy tried to say it gently. She didn't want to hurt the girl.
"I know. But I still remember. I know you loved him. I saw that. But you were always so sad. You cried a lot when he left." She turned once Spike's crypt was just ahead. "You know, Spike makes you stop crying. Ever think of that?"
"Don't make more of this than it is, Dawn."
"I'm just saying."
The door opened and Spike sauntered out, pulling on his coat as if just going out for the evening. Buffy wasn't fooled. "Hi."
"Slayer." He nodded to her, then gave a genuine smile to Dawn.
She felt unaccountably jealous.
He looked back at her. "You two out for a stroll?"
"Came to see you," Dawn said as he walked off.
They fell into step beside him.
"Well you can see me in the convenience store. I'm out of smokes."
"Ok, we can pick up pop."
Buffy nodded. "And maybe wheatabix."
His look was full of suspicion. "Didn't realize you liked that?"
"She doesn't," Dawn said as they followed him into the store.
Buffy grabbed a box of the crackers and sent Dawn to get the drinks.
Spike watched her from the counter. "This is different, love. Feeling domestic, are you? Out for a little shopping with your fella? Did that encounter with Captain America leave you wanting the safer things in life?"
She blurted out, "We have videos." Oh, good segue way, Summers.
"That's nice." He frowned at something then walked over to where Dawn stood in front of the candy.
Buffy followed him.
"Put it back, Niblet."
"Put what back?"
"The sweets you just nicked. I don't like that."
Dawn made a face and started to walk away. Spike put one hand on her shoulder to stop her, the other in her coat pocket. He dug out two chocolate bars and threw them back into the box. "If you want something, you ask me. I buy it. I see you stealing again, I break your wrist. You got that?"
She nodded sullenly and pushed past them. Dropping the sodas on the counter, she went outside and waited by the doors with her back to them. The picture of disagreeable youth.
Buffy frowned. "She was stealing?"
"Looks like. I've had my suspicions ever since she ended up with that dancing demon's necklace. But I haven't been around her enough to really watch." He gave Buffy a look. "Haven't felt welcome."
"I'm sorry for that. I know you spent a lot of time with her when I was...dead."
"I did, pet. I was happy to." He took the wheatabix from her and walked to the counter to pay for it all.
She felt momentarily guilty then realized she wasn't sure where he was getting the funds. As they walked toward the door she asked, "How do you earn money?"
"Some protection money, some contract extermination work, a little bit of larceny."
"And you lectured Dawn?"
"Well I'm a vampire. I'm supposed to be bad. But I'll not have that kind of behavior from her."
Double standard much? But still she chuckled,. "I'm making her work with me."
"At Burger hell? Good for you. Teach her some discipline."
"Yeah, that's what I thought."
They joined Dawn and he handed Buffy the bag of groceries, then dug out his cigarettes and put them in his coat pocket. "Ok then, enjoy your films."
"Maybe you could watch them with us?" Buffy said softly.
"Doubt that I'd like your choices. You know me. I like gore and mayhem."
Buffy nodded. "Yeah, I told Dawn that when she suggested we get these two. I mean Jane Austen, come on."
"Austen hmm? Which one?" he asked as if he couldn't care less.
"The one with Kate Winslet," Dawn said, apparently getting over her snit.
"Oh. I like her."
Buffy raised her eyebrow. "And some old Pretty in Pink kind of thing."
He looked at Dawn. She pulled out the box.
He smiled. "I saw that in New York. With a bunch of teenagers. Warmed the cockles of my heart. Or maybe that was the concession stand worker I ate later? No matter. I remember the movie. Love it."
Dawn shot Buffy a triumphant 'I told you so' look.
"So, you coming?" Buffy asked.
"I don't know..."
She rolled her eyes. "Hard-to-get isn't really your color, Spike. Come on."
He was at her side instantly. He reached for her but then dropped his hand uncertainly.
She took his hand and squeezed it for a second before letting go.
Dawn was smiling when she said, "She told Xander and Anya."
He didn't seem to understand.
"That she's going out with you. Or whatever you call what you two do. She told them. It was pretty cool."
Spike didn't say anything.
Buffy did her best nonchalant. "I just thought they should know. I mean, it's not like we have anything to hide, right?"
He seemed to be in shock.
"Are you ever going to say anything? Because if I'd known this was the way to shut you up, I'd have done it a lot sooner."
His smile was brilliant. "Then we're sweethearts?"
She glared at him.
He smirked. "We're sweethearts." He looked over at Dawn who was nodding happily. He looked back at Buffy who was still trying to look somewhat disapproving. "You'll get into the spirit of this at some point, right?"
She sighed and walked ahead. As they approached the house, she could hear him say to Dawn, "It's just like the movie, little bit. You think you're never going to get that person you love because they're in love with someone else. Then bam, something happens, you're not really sure what, and suddenly it's a dream come true. Just like the movie."
"If you say so," Dawn said, only slightly humoring him.
Just like the movie? A vampire in love, a slayer that had died twice and was now some sort of supernatural thing herself, a teenager that didn't exist until a year ago, a recovering—or was that rediscovering—witch, a stalwart prince of a guy in love with an ex-vengeance demon, and a beloved if somewhat distant father figure. Yeah, just like the movies.
Who would ever want to watch that?