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Authors Chapter Notes:
The fabulous banner is by the awesomely talented Ben Rostock.
Much as I'd love to own Spike (as who doesn't) you know the drill. Joss, ME and Fox own everything. I'm just playing in their sandbox.


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Chapter 1


The divinations read disaster. Whatever method Doc used. Tarot, crystal, bones, ink bowl—it didn’t matter. The result was always the same: defeat of Glorificus by the Slayer.

Worse, all he could see was that there would be a defeat, not how or where or why. There were so many variables that he couldn’t get a firm glimpse of what needed to be adjusted to change that outcome. Everything was in flux, the future wavering and shifting like smoke. Usually he could get a clear idea of the various forks in the road and what had to be done to steer the future to the path that he wanted. He was good at that. He had power and centuries of knowledge in how to use it. Doc wasn’t the quiet little old man that he appeared at first glance.

But Glorificus was a god. And that interfered with prescience. The actions and paths of a god were unknowable, could not be guessed at. The whims of deities were utterly unpredictable. And Glorificus was particularly volatile. Unlike her pathetic little minions he knew precisely what she was—the Beast, a force of Chaos, destructive beyond measure. He worshiped her for exactly that. She would tear down worlds without number in her rage to become the supreme being, bring chaos crashing down over innumerable dimensions. Doc adored her for that. An infinity of chaos! The way it should have been, had been before light and order had come into existence and poisoned everything.

But the auguries said she would fail. The Slayer would defeat her. That could not be allowed to happen. Somehow the Slayer had to be eliminated.

The tap on the door that he had been expecting finally came. He smiled tightly and pushed away the cards. The vampire was late of course, but Doc had known he would be. The vampire was making a statement: that he wasn’t to be summoned, that he was nobody’s man. But the bait Doc had thrown out had been enough to at least draw him here.

“It’s always open,” Doc called.

No invitation needed for a vampire to enter a demon’s abode. William the Bloody strolled in with his patented swagger, black leather duster flaring, bleached white hair glinting in the dim light. He glanced warily about the room, at the ancient furniture, the untidy mess of books and papers, the little old man sitting in his bathrobe at the table.

“You wanted to see me.”

“I need half an hour of your time.” Doc tossed a thin plaque of gold the dimensions of a credit card onto the table. “Payment as promised.”

The vampire came over and picked it up. He looked it over narrowly, then nodded abruptly and shoved it into his pocket.

“Right then. Wanna tell me why my time’s worth that much to you?”

“Sit down and we’ll have a nice chat. Would you like some cocoa?”

Spike hooked a chair towards him with his foot, then sprawled into it. “No.”

“Don’t trust me?”

“No.”

“I mean you no harm. How about some tea? I’m afraid I’ve got nothing stronger. It clouds the mind.”

Spike gave him a sardonic look. “Don’t need the cover up for me, mate. Nothing clouds your mind.”

“You know about me then.”

“Do now. Bought your rep before. Dim little small-town bloke messing around with the books and the witchy stuff.” He lifted his brows meaningfully at the tomes and cards scattered about the ancient manual typewriter on the table. “Then your message came and I asked around about you. Seems you’ve got more talents than what’s on display.”

“Cautious,” Doc said with an approving nod. “And you knew where to ask too.”

The vampire shrugged. “Have my sources.”

“The Hadraden. Their boss man, Louth, was it?”

The vampire said nothing either to confirm or deny, just watched him with half-lidded eyes.

“I wouldn’t want you to reveal your sources.” But it bothered Doc that the vampire didn’t. That hinted at an unwelcome soft spot. A demon who exhibited tendencies like honor and loyalty and other weaknesses like that couldn’t be trusted. But William the Bloody was the only demon who could get close to the Slayer. “He’s the only one who knows about me. But it’s immaterial. I’m glad you did, young man. It makes this easier.”

“Makes what easier?”

“I want you to tell me about the Slayer.”

The vampire frowned. “The Slayer? What’s to tell? She’s still alive. That shows she’s good at her job. What else is there to know?”

“Her weaknesses.”

The scarred eyebrow lifted. The vampire’s eyes were very blue and cold, unfathomable. Doc could see that he was thinking, but not what his thoughts were.

“Professionally, none. She’s fast, she’s deadly and she’s bloody good.”

“Better than you?”

Spike smiled tightly. “No.”

“Then why is she still alive? You’ve had plenty of opportunities to take her out.”

Spike’s lips compressed into a thin, hard line. “Stinking, rotten luck is why. And now I got this buggering chip up my head. Can’t lay a finger on her. So if that’s why you called me here for, you’re shit out of luck.”

“Mm.” Doc chewed that over. “What about private weaknesses?”

The vampire sneered. “Privately, she’s pathetic. Got bleeding tragic taste in men. Her third just choppered out of here a while back.” He tilted a scornful brow at Doc. “But you won’t get at her that way.”

“What happened?”

“With the third one? Didn’t have enough monster in him, so couldn’t keep up with her. Tried to get his balls back by getting suck jobs from vampire trulls. She found out.”

“Oh, now there was a missed opportunity, wasn’t there? One of them could have turned him.” Doc sighed. “Pity. She would never have expected him to be a vampire and he might have taken her out.”

“Nah. He’d have just got dusted. No brains in Captain Cardboard. Just gonads and not much of those either.”

Doc gave him a shrewd look. “You’re the one who told her about him, aren’t you?” He saw the betraying flicker in the vampire’s eyes. “You must have enjoyed that. Only way you could cut her up, with that chip in your head. Nice move.”

Spike glanced down at the lighter he was turning around and around in his fingers. A diagonal muscle jumped in his cheek. “Yeah.”

“It’s a shame I didn’t know about that sooner. We could have coordinated that. She’d have been vulnerable at some point there and I’d have gotten her even if you couldn’t.”

“Don’t fool yourself. She’s hard to kill. Why are you after the Slayer? Aside from the usual dark vs light bit?”

“Do you know about Glorificus?”

“Latest Big Bad. Hellgod. Got a bunch of bottom-feeders all worked up worshiping her. Yeah, I know about Glory.”

Doc gave him a cold look. “Not all her worshipers are bottom-feeders, young man.”

“You one of them then? Should have known. Me Mum always told me not to bring up politics or religion, but I keep forgetting. Didn’t mean to step on a corn there, but, hey,” Spike grinned nastily, “that’s what I do. So. The Slayer causing Her Godliness some problems?”

“The divinations say that the Slayer will defeat her.”

Spike laughed. “Yeah, little Miss Tiny does have a habit of bollixing up the plans of every would-be unstoppable badass who sets foot in this town.”

“I need her taken out of the equation.”

“So would everybody. But that’s not easy. Heard about what went down last year with Mr. Bits? He ended up interestingly dead. So has everyone else who’s run up against her so far.”

“Except you. You can get close to her. She doesn’t think you’re a threat anymore because of that chip in your head. She wouldn’t be expecting it.”

“And because of that chip, I wouldn’t be able to do it. Stalemate.”

“What if I made it possible for you to kill her?”

The vampire was watching him intently. The blue eyes were guarded and unreadable, but there was a yellow flicker deep within them that told Doc that he was not as unmoved as he pretended to be.

“What’s in it for me?”

“I thought you’d want to kill her.”

“Out of the evilness of my heart? You having a geriatric moment, Doc? Demon here. Don’t do things for anybody else’s benefit.”

Doc chuckled approvingly. “Have to respect that. I’d like her dead, but I can understand that such an achievement could be difficult. All I want is to have her out of the picture for a while until Glorificus is successful. If you can do even that, you’d be rewarded. What would you like? I could remove that chip. How about that?”

There was a ringing silence. Then Spike laughed scornfully.

“Yeah, right. Like I haven’t been there before. Mr. Bits put the same proposition to me last year and guess what? I got screwed over. Not gonna fall for that again.”

“You want it,” Doc said swiftly as the vampire stood up.

“‘Course I do. But I ain’t gonna get it, am I? Thought you had some kind of a plan, that’s why I stuck around to listen. But you’ve got nothing. You’re dumping it all on me. Take her out of the picture? How? Kidnap her or something? Me with this chip in my head, I’m gonna do that? Yeah, right. Hire some other demons to jump her? C’mon. If no one’s been able to kill her in all these years—and, believe me, some of the best have tried, including me—how are they gonna be able to snatch her? And then to keep her chained up for a couple of months? The Slayer? Don’t make me laugh. Nothing holds that one for long.”

“You’re right, young man,” said Doc musingly. “I hadn’t thought things through. I’m glad we’ve had this talk. You’ve clarified a lot for me. Brute force won’t work. There has to be another way.”

“There isn’t.” The vampire’s eyes were narrowing oddly, their pupils turning into pinpoints. It was a predatory, killer’s look that made Doc wary. “Why don’t you get your own hands dirty? You’ve got the mojo. You’re capable of death spells. How come you don’t just use one?”

“Death spells have a high price,” Doc said simply. It was the truth. “Death of a Slayer is the most expensive of all. It would cost me my powers. I too am a demon and I do not sacrifice myself for any one else’s benefit, even that of Glorificus. No, no. There must be a better way. Let me think about it. Want in if I come up with something?”

“Always willing to listen. Won’t promise more,” said Spike curtly and walked out.

***

That had been a break, Spike thought. The bar of gold would keep him in blood and smokes for a month, but even more valuable was knowing that Doc was out to get the Slayer. Slayer didn’t know about Doc and any move from him would have come out of left field, totally unsuspected. Now they knew to watch out for him.

Might know even more if Doc called him back. It was a good thing that the demon world wasn’t aware of the way Spike felt about the Slayer. Demons knew that he helped her kill his own kind every now and then, but they thought he was just straddling the fence, keeping on her good side because the chip made him vulnerable to being staked. They didn’t like it and they’d made him an outcast this last year because of it, but they all knew that they would have done the same thing in his place if it were necessary to survive. He’d be welcome back in the fold if he only went back to the dark side. They knew he was still evil, thought he was just waiting his chance to jump back when the opportunity presented itself. Which was why Doc had called him in.

No one knew that he was in love with the Slayer. Hell, he’d only realized it himself not that long ago. The only person who had guessed so far had been Captain Cardboard. No surprise Finn knew when someone else was planning to move in on his territory. One did. And Captain America was particularly sensitive about that, knowing he didn’t have what it takes where the Slayer was concerned, bristling in all directions like the chia pet he was. But that wanker was gone now.

Spike stopped in front of 1630 Revello Drive and looked up at the Slayer’s window. He had to tell her about Doc, had to find out whether she was fully aware of what Glory was. She might not know, though it was common knowledge in the demon community. That black and white view of the world that the Slayer and the Watchers’ Council shared kept them from using peaceful demons as a resource, though many of those would have been happy to help the Slayer on a quid pro quo basis.

But the demonic lack of a soul meant that the Slayer refused to talk to any demon. That was an enormous blind spot, shared not only the Slayer and her Watcher, but also by that bunch of losers who surrounded her. They were all blind that way, to the extent that the Scoobies even ignored the invaluable resource that Anya Jenkins was, ex-vengeance demon with a thousand years of experience with the demon world. But Anya hadn’t had a soul for those thousand years, so of course they wouldn’t listen to anything she had to say. He wondered why Anya put up with it.

Same reason as he, of course. Love. Anya loved Xander Harris, God alone knew why, the way the sod treated her. And God alone knew why he loved the Slayer, the way she treated him. It was the worst thing that could have happened to either him or Anya—this curse called love.

It was long past midnight. He leaned against the oak tree, aware of the Slayer smugly asleep in her bed upstairs. He couldn’t disturb her now; he’d tell her about Doc tomorrow, at the Magic Box.

So here he was again, taking up his vigil outside her house, just wanting to be near her, keep her safe. At least she was alone in that bed tonight. He didn’t have to listen to Captain Cardboard making love to her, didn’t have to know that that wanker was getting what he would never ever have. He’d gotten his taste of hell listening to that. The only thing that had made it even the least bit bearable was knowing that the sod never managed to get her off and didn’t even know it. No human would ever be able to get a Slayer off proper.

Which didn’t help him out any, since the Slayer didn’t know that and sure as hell wasn’t going to let him show her different. Should have dusted himself the minute the horrifying realization hit him that he was in love with her. That would have been better than standing around like a pathetic git, taking all the shit she dished out.

And she dished out a lot. Dead petty about it, she was. At the best of times, he never got even the barest courtesy a human stranger on the street would have had from her. But ever since he told her about Captain Cardboard sneaking out on her to go see vamp trulls, things had escalated into pure hatred and venom.

And he had been trying to do her a favor! It would have been a serious danger if Finn had been turned. Which could have happened so easily. Not a danger to her perhaps, but to her Mum or her precious Scoobies, who would all have let Finn get to them since they wouldn’t have known he’d been turned.

All right, it had been payback on Captain Cardboard as well and he had enjoyed that. Wanted her to know what a weak, moronic fool the man was. He had expected her to be angry with Finn. He hadn’t expected her to be hurt. Showed the mistakes not having a soul led to. But Doc didn’t have a soul and even he had seen what Spike hadn’t. ‘You must have enjoyed that. Only way you could cut her up...Nice move.’

Only he hadn’t meant to cut her up. Had only meant to cut Cardboard out. But that look of hurt and betrayal in her eyes had cut him instead, right to the heart.

Not that that look had been meant for him, of course. She hadn’t been thinking of him, only of Finn. But still Spike was the cause of her finding out and she was never going to forgive him for that. Oh, she’d forgiven Finn right away. That asshole, Harris, had made sure of that, making out that it was all her fault, for God’s sake, sending her running after Finn to apologize. As if she had anything to apologize for! Thank God the chopper had lifted before she could get there, taking Useless away to Belize or wherever, some place the sod could fuck up somebody else’s life.

Best intentions...

He sighed, leaning back against the oak. He was so screwed.

The bunch of them were all in the Magic Box when he barreled in the next day, a blanket over his head to protect himself from the late afternoon sunlight. Five hostile faces turned his way as he stomped out the smouldering edges of the blanket. Only Giles was missing, in the back, Spike guessed; and Dawn wasn’t there, probably home with her Mum.

“Slayer. Have to talk to you.”

“She doesn’t want to talk to you, Evil Dead,” Harris snapped.

Spike gave him a disgusted look. He truly despised Harris, who was a wimp version of Riley as far as he was concerned, and Riley had been a serious nothing himself.

“She can’t speak for herself?”

“I can speak for myself,” Buffy said. Her eyes were icy cold and hating. It hurt, but he didn’t let it get to him. “I don’t want to talk to you.”

“Got some info you need.”

“And we don’t have the cash. Out.”

“Not selling, okay? This one’s on the house.”

“Which means you’re setting us up for a big fall.” She shoved him with both hands, sending him staggering back towards the shop door. “Get out.”

“No, listen, Slayer. There’s this guy called Doc...”

“We don’t want to know.”

“Slayer...”

She hit him. By now, he was used to her swinging at him, saw the fist coming just in time to turn his head enough that she missed his nose and got him solidly across his right cheekbone instead. Pain exploded behind his right eye from the blow, but it was better than being hit on the nose, which was agony and why she always aimed for it.

“Ow,” she said and shook her hand where the knuckles must be stinging from having impacted against his cheekbone.

“Do it again!” said Xander gleefully. “I never get tired of seeing you do that to the gelded vamp! Or I could stake him!”

He was so sick of this. Buffy hitting him like that every time she saw him, Xander making with the death threats and the nasty comments, Riley shoving a plastic stake into his heart...If it wasn’t for the chip in his head, he’d have ripped them to shreds the minute they laid a hand on him, strewn the pieces right across the country and up the Eastern Seaboard. But that chip in his head let them lay hands on him with impunity and he had no way of fighting back.

The injustice of it suddenly hit him and the anger that he had suppressed for over a year came boiling up.

“Fuck you all,” he said with an intensity that silenced them in surprise, then spun on his heel and stalked out, yanking the blanket over his head as he stepped into the sunlight.

Halfway to the sewer entrance, the world slid out from under him.

***

He wasn’t standing on a sidewalk in Sunnydale anymore. He was standing on a beach beside a vast ocean and the westering sun was right in his face. He yelped involuntarily and spun so that the blanket was between him and the sun’s rays.

Then he realized that he hadn’t felt even the faintest burning feeling when the sunlight had struck his face. He should at least have felt a faint sting, a vamp’s early warning. He caught his breath in surprise, then put a hand cautiously out into the sunlight. Nothing happened.

“What the fuck?”

‘Another dimension,’ a tiny voice said, an insect buzz in his ear. Doc’s voice. ‘How about that for getting the Slayer out of the picture? You were right when you said that brute force wouldn’t work. But I’d rather she were dead. And you are going to do that for me.’

“How the bloody hell can I...?”

‘Little pre-recorded message. I can’t hear you and after this you won’t hear me again, but you’re probably asking how you can kill her with that chip in your head.’ Doc’s dry voice was smug. ‘Chip’s gone. I’m giving you your payment right up front. But if you ever want to come back to this world, you’ll kill her. I’ll know when she’s dead and I’ll bring you back then . And only then. If you don’t, you’ll stay in that dimension forever. Goodbye, vampire. Make me proud.’

Well, well, well.

Spike dropped the blanket and turned around to grin nastily at the sun that couldn’t hurt him now. Another dimension meant a different sun.

And no chip! Well, all right! Richard was himself again. He had his rocks back. Thank you, Doc. But don’t go counting your chickens yet. Spike wasn’t gonna let himself be played. He’d check things out before deciding what to do—and whatever that was, it was going to be for his benefit, no one else’s.

“You!” said Buffy furiously behind him. “You did this!”

He turned and saw them all standing behind him—Buffy, Willow, Tara, Anya and Harris. Only Giles was missing. Doc’s spell must have focused on the Magic Box and him. He could feel a huge grin forming on his face. He knew his way around strange places and roughing it. He’d traveled the world. But this bunch of cosseted, SoCal, city pussies? They wouldn’t have a clue. Oh, this was going to be fun!

“Nah, a guy called Doc did. The one I was trying to tell you about. Maybe you should have listened.”

Buffy swung at him.

He had been expecting that. Her usual response to uncertainty: hit out, and for choice hit Spike. He struck the blow aside. Hard. Their forearms clashed painfully and she staggered back, gasping in shock.

“Chip doesn’t work here,” he said with dangerous softness. He wasn’t going to tell her it was gone. She would try to dust him. He’d wait till he was back in their own dimension before he made that public. “Can fight back now. Not gonna be your punching bag anymore, Slayer.”

She flashed towards him, furious, but he hit her solidly the minute she came within reach, sending her flying ten feet backwards to fall on her arse in the sand.

“No more playing kick-the-Spike whenever you’re in a bad mood, Slayer.”

He spun suddenly and caught Xander by the throat as the git threw himself at Spike’s back

“I was hoping you’d make a move,” Spike grinned. He struck away the stake Xander was waving and hoisted him off his feet by his throat. Xander kicked and struggled, strangling. “God, this feels good! I’ve been wanting to do this for more than a year.”

“Let him go!” Buffy snarled, scrambling to her feet.

“Not yet. Don’t try anything, Slayer. My hand’s on his throat and I can rip that out faster than you can get to me. And that goes for you too, Red. Try any of your mojo and ooh! He doesn’t have a head anymore.”

Buffy’s fists clenched. “You kill him and there goes your hostage. You’re dust the very next second.”

“Oh, I know. We’ve got a standoff. Just wanted to make a point here. You’ve spent the last year and a half kicking me around, the lot of you. Never hurt you. Couldn’t. Didn’t even try. But you could hurt me, you fucking brave white hats. So you did. And you enjoyed doing it. Shove me around, ram plastic stakes into my heart...”

“We never...!”

“Finn did.” He looked around at all of them. Buffy was furious, but Tara had flushed red and even Willow was looking uncomfortable. Anya, who as an ex-demon knew what he had had to put up with, was staring down at the sand. “If I’d done that, you’d have called it torture and dusted me for it.”

“You’re a demon!” Xander snarled, then gasped as Spike’s hand tightened on his throat.

“And you act worse than one. What does that say about the lot of you?”

“We’re sorry,” Tara whispered. “We didn’t think.”

“You’re not listening to him!” Buffy exclaimed. “He’s just twisting things around!”

“Y-you do keep beating up on him for n-nothing, Buffy.”

“Tara!” Buffy had flushed bright red. She looked around at all of them and saw that they were all avoiding her eyes, except for Xander who was too busy strangling. She bit her lip. “All right. What do you want, Spike?”

“Nothing. Not one bloody thing. I know you, Slayer. A truce between us is not possible. At some point, this asshole here will convince you that the only right thing to do is to stake me. So I’m giving you fair warning. Gonna be on guard. Gonna be watching for you to try. And if you do, I won’t bother fighting you, Slayer. I’ll rip the throat out of one of your pets here. You won’t be able to protect them all.”

“I’ll dust you first!”

“You’d better. You’d better be sure if you make a move on me. You miss and one of them dies.”

They stared at each other with cold and angry eyes, both furious.

“All right,” she said tightly. “You’ve made your point. Now let him go.”

Spike looked up at Xander strangling in his grip. “Love to rip your lungs out, wanker. But you’re not worth the hassle.”

He flung Xander deliberately far out over the waves. Xander flopped into five feet of cold salt water, went under, then struggled up, gasping and clutching at his bruised throat. Spike flashed warily sideways with his vampire speed twenty feet along the beach, then checked to see where Buffy was. She hadn’t moved. He nodded curtly.

“Finally getting some sense, are you? Good.”

She looked at him grimly. “Where are we and why are we here?”

Spike shrugged and hooked a hip on a boulder. “Where? Another dimension. That’s all I know. Why? Because that guy called Doc I tried to tell you about is on the side of your latest Big Bad.”

“Glory?”

He nodded. “Seems she’s a hellgod and he worships her. Looked in a crystal ball or something and found you’d defeat her, so wants you out of her way.”

“Great. We’ve got to get back to Sunnydale!”

“Ya think?”

Buffy looked at Willow and Tara. “The two of you are all into the witchy. Could you find a way to get us back?”

“I don’t know.” Willow was looking helpless. “We don’t have our spell books or any ingredients. Nothing at all...”

“I’ve got some stuff.” Tara started digging around in the huge bag she had over her shoulder. “I have this notebook with some spells I’ve jotted down that I found interesting and wanted to remember. M-maybe we can cook something up out of them.”

“Do that tomorrow,” said Spike. “We’re gonna be here a while. Might be better to find food and shelter before getting into complicated magics.”

“It must have been a portal,” Willow objected. “If it is, then it opens right here where we are. If we can just find a way to open it again, we won’t have to stay here.”

“That Doc. Word is he’s a pro. Not gonna be easy,” said Spike. “Not much of the day left and it’s clouding over. Looks like rain. Suggest you sods re-examine your priorities.”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake, Spike!” Buffy exclaimed. “You’re not helping!”

“Maybe that’s what he’s here for,” Xander said suddenly. He had clawed his way out of the surf and was now on his hands and knees on the wet sand, glaring at Spike. “To not help. I mean, what’s he doing here? I can see why this Doc guy sent us here, but what about him? He’s no threat to Glory.”

They all stared at Spike. Spike pulled out his smokes, counted them carefully, then put them back into his pocket.

“Better start rationing those,” he remarked to himself.

“You’ve got a way back, haven’t you?” Buffy said slowly.

“No.”

“You’re lying!” Xander snarled, staggering to his feet threateningly.

Spike flicked him a scornful glance. “Want another lesson, wanker?”

“Xander’s right.” Buffy looked around for the stake Xander had dropped, then snatched it up from where it lay on the sand where Spike had struck it. “You’re no danger to Glory, but you are a danger to us, especially when your chip doesn’t work in this dimension. That’s it, isn’t it? You’re here to make sure we don’t get back! You’re here to take us out!”

Spike said nothing for a moment. Then he shook his head ruefully. “Always think the worst, don’t you, Slayer?”

“Because it makes sense!”

“Nobody’s puppet here. Maybe that’s what he wanted, but I’m not gonna do it.”

“Sure you’re not!”

“I’m not. Want me to swear? I swear I won’t hurt you.”

There was a small silence.

“I believe him,” Tara said suddenly.

“I don’t!” yelled Xander.

“Except for Harris.” Spike gave him a cold smile. “I’ll hurt him any time. With pleasure.”

“I think,” said Buffy slowly, “ we don’t need you around, Spike. You’re too much of a danger. But I won’t stake you unless you make a move on us. How about you just go your way and we go ours?”

“Not going anywhere. I’m stuck here just like you, Slayer. Need the witches to get back home.”

Buffy raised the stake meaningfully. “I suggest you reconsider that, Spike.”

In a flash of vampire speed, he was right in front of her, his hand gripping her wrist. The stake vibrated under the pressure of the two opposing forces, Buffy angrily wanting to strike, Spike holding her back. They were both equally strong and the stake didn’t go anywhere.

“Shall we dance, Slayer? We’re on an even footing again and it’ll be fun. Stay where you are!” he said sharply as the others jerked forward. “This is between us.”

“God!” Buffy gritted. “I’d like to...”

“Yeah, yeah.”

He stepped forward suddenly and her eyes widened as his body came hard against hers. She shoved at him with her free hand and he caught that wrist too, holding her where she was.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing!”

“Been here before, haven’t we, Slayer?” he said too low for the others to hear. “You even said the same words. Think you know the answer.”

“And mine’s still the same as before!” she said furiously.

“But not so easy to enforce without the chip.”

She opened her mouth to snarl something and he took it with his. Should have done that the last time, but she had hurt him, got under his guard. The whole thing had come out of left field the last time and he had been open and vulnerable to her. She had cut him up because he hadn’t been expecting it. This time he was braced for it, knew she detested him, didn’t care.

She was so shocked that she didn’t fight it. He kissed her the way he’d been wanting to ever since the first time he saw her, eating her alive, his mouth devouring hers. Back there behind the Bronze, he had wanted to kiss her out of love and desire, and had hoped for one bitterly self-deluding moment that she might feel the same. This time he knew that was not possible between them. This time it was out of challenge and mockery and anger, taking it because he wanted her to know that he could, with the chip gone, because he wanted to infuriate her, because—damn fool that he was—he just wanted and couldn’t stop wanting.

He felt her body shudder and strain against his. Felt with triumph her involuntary response. Oh, yeah, humans had never done it for her, but the Slayer in her responded to an equal. Their mouths twisted against each other. Tongues slid and thrust and battled.

He knew the moment she came back to herself and realized what was happening. Her whole body tensed to shove him away, but he let her go in that instant and flashed back fifteen feet, laughing.

“You’ve got a sweet mouth, Slayer.”

“You...!”

“I’ll go, Slayer. But I’m not gonna go far. Not when the witches are my only way outta here. You’ll need me, Slayer. Call me when you do.”

“We’ll never need you!”

“That’s what you think,” he said, laughing, and flashed away.


TBC




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