If I Knew Then... by Shade



Prologue: "Gravely Wild at Heart"

"You have endured the required trials."

"Bloody right I have," he groans and slowly rolls to his feet. "So you'll give me what I want. I'll be back to what I was. They'll get what they deserve. Buffy and her bleedin' Scoobies."

"Very well," the demon says with an ominous pause. Spike looks up at him with confusion. The demon smiles. "You'll go back."

Before he can take a breath to speak, a light blinds him and the gruesome grin before him bleeds away into the all-encompassing light. The brightness slowly fades and Spike rubs at his watery eyes. It takes him a few precious seconds to adjust to the darkness again. The cave and demon are gone. Instead, he stands outside in the night. The smells around him, the grass under his feet, and even the cool breeze let him know he's not in Africa anymore.

"What the?" he whispers. A quick movement in the distance catches his attention and then he sees her, Buffy with a vamp hot on her heels. His stomach tightens at the sight of her. There are so many emotions warring within him when he looks at her. Love, hate, remorse, anger... oh yes, there is anger. There's still that reflex inside of him that wants to run to help her, but he pushes it aside. The demon must have granted his wish, time to pay her back in full. He hears her voice drifting over the night air and it stops him short.

"You were thinking, what, a little helpless coed before bed? You know very well, you eat this late," she says staking the poor bastard, "you're going to get heartburn. Get it? Heartburn?"

As the vampire turns to ash, Buffy babbles on at him. Something strikes Spike as being very wrong. Those words, this moment, are all too familiar. It takes him seconds to realize just where and when he's seen this all before. He starts to turn, but it's too late. The sharp burn of electricity boils over him and he falls to the ground screaming.

"Not again!"

Darkness pulls him in and the cycle begins anew.



Chapter 1:"The Initiative"

The antiseptic smell tickles his sensitive nose before he opens his eyes. He doesn't need to look. It's not as if he doesn't already know what he's going to see. The oppressively white room is the same one he's seen in a thousand nightmares. He knows better than to try and lean on the glass this time. Spike sits up slowly and pulls his knees up to his forehead.

"Should have known better. I haven't got the brains god gave a lemming. I could have run and then no chip, but here I am again," he mumbles. "As soon as I'm out of here, I'm going back to Africa and rip that bloody demon apart. Even if he won't know why."

There's a mechanical sound above him and he catches the blood packet that drops without even looking. Spike crosses his legs and drops the foul stuff on the floor in front of him.

"Don't drink it. It's drugged," a voice says off to his left.

He snorts at himself and grumbles, "Yeah, yeah."

"It's true. They're going to kill us, you know."

"Not me, mate."

"It happens to all of us. First, they starve you. When you're ready to bite your own arm, they shoot out one of those packets. You drink, and the next thing, you're gone. And that's when they do the experiments."

Spike wants to howl, wants to scream, but he knows it'll do no bloody good. Instead, he looks at the wall beside him and whispers, "Too late."

Things go just as they had once. He plays possum until the idiot lab techs release him from his cell. He remembers making quips the first time, but now he just goes through the motions with quiet determination. He grabs a key card off one of the unconscious scientists even before the other vampire can ask to be released. Not that he cares about doing everything the way it happened before, but a distraction is a distraction. Spike doesn't feel any remorse, after all he's been dusting morons like the one in front of him for the last three years or there abouts. They rush to the exit and it's only seconds later before he's pushing the vampire into the arms of the soldiers. It doesn't take him much longer to escape.

Spike busts his way out of the ventilation shaft back onto the Sunnydale U campus and pauses. He remembers what he did, but he doesn't necessarily have to do that now. Spike knows the extent of the chip, he knows what he can do to survive, but damned if he isn't in the exact same predicament he was three years ago. He's going to have to go back to them. He's going to have to grovel and get chained up, and any number of things that are already making his blood boil.

"Sod it all!" he yells and punches a nearby tree. Spike pants softly and closes his eyes. The soldiers will be coming soon. Calm, he has to stay calm and think. Not going to deal with Buffy, he can't even bear to look at her. Giles? No, the Watcher would stake him in an instant. Harris? Same. Willow? Well, that's how things went last time. She's the most likely to be sympathetic, though, he knows. She'll probably be even more so if he doesn't try to eat her like last time. His mind made up, Spike heads in the direction of the dorms. Of course nobody bloody answers the door and he goes to sit in the stairwell to wait.

He gets impatient waiting and goes to knock on the door three times before he finally hears Willow's voice inviting him in. He steps inside and sees the shock and horror on her face. For a moment, it does him good. It's been a long time since anyone was genuinely scared of him and it draws him up short.

"Spike! Wh-what do you want? Uh, a spell? I can do that," she babbles as she slowly backs away from him.

"Red, Red, calm down. I'm not here to hurt you. I need your help."

"Another spell?"

"No, not another spell. Those soldier types Buffy ran into before put a microchip in my head. I can't hurt people anymore. I'll explain it all to you, but you have to come with me. We can't stay here. The soldiers are going to come to get me, and you might get hurt."

"What? I'm not going anywhere with you. I'll... I'll scream."

"Willow, I just said I couldnít hurt you, love, please. We're wasting time. You have to take me to the Watcher. I'll be safer there," Spike says trying to sound calm and reasonable.

"No!"

Willow tries to dart past him and he catches her around the waist. She's fighting him something fierce and he tosses her onto the bed. With a deep sigh he switches to game face and lunges toward her throat. The electricity slams across his brain and it feels like his head is going to explode.

"Arrgh! We don't have time for this!" he growls out holding his head. "See? Pain. Please, just please come with me to Giles' house. Grab a cross or a stake or whatever makes you feel better. I won't hurt you. I can't hurt you."

She lies on the bed beneath him and bites her lip. Spike stands up slowly and holds his hand out. A moment passes before she reaches up to take it. She pulls a stake and a cross out of a chest that sits under Buffy's bed. Spike hurries her out of the room and out the back way. They move quickly and he can tell the pace is worrying her.

"They've got patrols all over. We're going to have to avoid them as best we can," he explains.

"How did this happen?"

"It's a really long story. I'd rather wait to tell it to all of you. Though, I doubt anyone will believe me."

She lapses into silence again. It doesn't sit right with him. He's so used to her babbling away like a brook. He remembers how somber she was just after he got chipped the first time. The wolf having left her, he had felt a sort of kinship. He had just lost Dru, so he understood.

"He's not good enough for you, you know."

"What?" Her dark eyes look at him in surprise.

"Wolfboy. I know it's hard right now, Willow, but I know for a fact you're going to be happy again. Happier even."

She looks disturbed that he of all people is giving her a pep talk. He's a little disturbed himself. He went to the demon to get the chip out so that he could destroy Buffy and her friends, but things change. Or at least they will this time around.

They reach the Watcher's safely. Theyíre a couple of feet from the door when it swings open. Buffy stands in the doorway surprised. Spike stops and quickly steps behind Willow.

"Buffy!" she yelps and starts for the door, but Spike grabs her by the shoulder and pulls her back. He has to think quickly or he's going to end up dusted. He hadn't expected her to be here. He was going to try to work on Giles' logic first.

"Spike!" Buffy yells and steps forward stake raised. "Let her go."

"Calm down, Buffy. No one needs to get hurt here." Willow is fighting him a bit and he winces at a warning jolt from the chip. "Settle down, Red. Remember my promise."

Giles and Xander follow up behind Buffy. It doesn't look good. It doesn't look good at all.

"Stop! I come in peace."

"Well, you're leaving in pieces, dusty ones. Let Willow go," Buffy barks at him.

"I want a truce, like before."

"After what you did?"

It takes him a moment before he remembers the Gem of Amara fiasco. "That wasn't me. Well, it was, but... Please, just listen, okay! Willow, tell them what happened in the dorm."

"He said the soldiers put a chip in him so he can't hurt people. He tried to eat me but then he yelled and grabbed his head. He's being all...nice. I think he's up to something."

"Oi!"

"Let Wills go!" Harris yells from behind Buffy.

"Alright, listen. Here's how this is going to work. I'm going to let Willow go. Then I'm going to go over there and sit on the fountain. I'll stay over here and you all stay over there. I'll explain everything. Giles?"

The others look to the Watcher and Spike prays the man is curious enough to know what's going on. Giles nods and Spike takes his hand off of Willow. She scampers over to Harris and they all stare at him. He sighs and goes to sit on the fountain. A quick search of the duster pockets comes up with a pack of cigarettes. He lights one and begins his story.

"I've already done this before. Three years ago, my time, I got a microchip implanted in my brain thanks to the bloody Initiative. That's the name of the soldiers running around your school, ducks. Oh, by the way, your little boytoy Riley is one of the higher ups."

"Boytoy? I hardly know Riley!"

"For now. Anyway, I can't hurt humans. I can kill demons though. I started out helping you lot doing the white hat bit for some dosh and blood. Excitement, excitement, apocalypse, apocalypse, three years goes by. I'm not exactly one of the gang, but I help you out often enough. Then... something bad happened. So, I went to Africa to see this demon. He's supposed to grant you a wish if you pass his trials. I passed them. I wanted him to get the chip out, but instead he sends me back in time. Next thing I know, I get caught by the Initiative again and it starts all over. So here I am three years the wiser." He pauses to blow smoke over his shoulder before continuing. "I know every trial you guys are going to face for the next three years. I can help you nip every bad guy in the bud. All you got to do is keep me from falling back into Riley and his buddies' hands."

Giles pulls off his glasses. "You expect us to believe any of this?"

"Believe what you want. It's the truth. I suppose if you guys don't believe me, I can go down to LA and see the poof. Or, no, considering what the me that was here before I got sent back just did to him. Bloody hell! If you don't help me those Initiative bastards are going to experiment on me some more. They're probably already making an uber demon soldier called Adam. He's going to be your next big time apocalypse baddie. But your next problem is... Thanksgiving is next week?"

"That's right," Willow says quickly.

"Right. Joyce is going out of town and Buffy is going to make Thanksgiving dinner here. Only this Chumash Indian spirit busts in and tries to kill her. Xander gets syphilis from him or something."

"Syphilis!"

Spike smiles at Harris. "Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy."

"How does the spirit get released?" Giles asks.

"Giles! You aren't seriously believing him, are you?"

"Buffy, until we can prove what he's saying isn't true, we have to take these threats seriously. I'm sure there is something that Spike is getting out of this, but if the threats are real it's your duty to stop them no matter how we got the information. Spike, answer the question."

"I don't know! I was tied to a chair and had arrows shot at me. Ask Harris!"

"I don't know what he's talking about!" Xander squawks.

"Listen, we can sit out here debating this all bleeding night and letting the whole neighborhood know, or we can go in, sit down, and talk about this like adults. I promise I'm not going to hurt anyone."

"What good is the promise of a soulless demon?" Buffy asks with a glare.

Spike refuses to look at her and says softly, "Better than yours."

He looks Giles in the eye and waits. Finally, the Watcher nods and the others file back inside. Spike puts out his cigarette and walks to the door. He places his hand on the barrier and waits.

"Come in, Spike," Giles says formally.

Spike steps in and tries not to let the defeat show on his face, but he knows his shoulders are slumped a bit. They say hell is repeating your mistakes. That might be true, but he's certainly going to try to keep that from happening. After all, this time he knows better.



Chapter 2:"Pangs"

"Are you actually reading?"

Spike shoots Giles a look and goes back to his book. "I can read, you know. I learned how before your grandfather did, so shut it."

"Have you found anything?"

"No, other than information about the Chumash being in this area, not much. Maybe we could ask the demon bird, she's one with the vengeance after all."

"I must say your helpfulness this past week has been surprising, if not vaguely disturbing."

"Imagine how I feel."

"I'd still be inclined to think you were up to something if Buffy's mother hadn't suddenly announced that she had to go stay with her sister."

"What you think I'm legit now?"

"Not hardly, but it does help your story. You're sure this demon is coming for Buffy?"

He had hoped that he could get around being chained in the bathtub again, but Giles had been cautious. It had taken him half the week to convince them that he really couldn't hurt them. Trying to be on his best behavior all the time about drove him right round the bend. Spike sighs and tosses the book onto Giles' coffee table with a bang and stands to rub his back before replying.

"For the hundredth time, all I know is I came to you lot for help on Thanksgiving. Buffy was cooking. Somebody had died, no I don't remember whom, and the gang went rushing off. It was just you, me, and the Slayer when suddenly it was like a John Wayne flick, arrows flying everywhere. The Indian turned into a bear and apparently he can only be killed by his own weapon."

"What sort of weapon was it? Perhaps we can start looking there."

"A stone knife."

The door swinging open interrupts them. Buffy struggles in trying not to drop the three grocery bags she's holding. Out of reflex, Spike relieves her of two of the bags before he knows what he's doing.

"Thanks GilóSpike?" she says staring at him.

He rolls his eyes and carries the bags into the kitchen. Buffy follows behind telling Giles about a murder and the Chumash connection. Then she goes off on the number of shoppers at the grocery store. Spike tunes her out and goes back to the couch. He can hear them chatting away.

"At some point you are going to get back to the murder?"

"Oh, right. The only thing taken was some old knife."

"A stone knife?"

"I don't know. All the card said was 'Early 1800 Chumash knife.' There was a picture, but I couldn't tell if it was stone in it or not."

"Spike said that the spirit had a stone knife and that when you stabbed him with it you defeated him."

"Well, why doesn't Spike just save the day then, since he knows everything?"

The sigh Giles gives makes Spike suspect that he's probably cleaning his glasses. Maybe he should be the one to take out Squanto that might at least shut her up.

"Buffy," Giles says in that older wiser tone, "you have to admit that if Spike's story is true then his knowledge would be extremely helpful to you."

"Giles, I get that you're trying to be all helpful and Watchery, but Spike is a vampire. I'm never going to trust him. Do you even own a turkey pan?"

"Tell me again why we're not doing this at your house?"

"Giles, if you would like to get by in American society, then you are going to have to follow our traditions. You're the patriarch. You have to host the festivities, or it's all meaningless."

The weary tone again almost makes Spike smirk. Giles says, "And this is in no way an elaborate scheme to stick me with the cleanup?"

"Make Spike do it. He can be all homey vamp and earn his keep."

"Buffy, Spike is not a pet."

"Too bloody right!" he yells.

Buffy bustles out of the kitchen and ignores him. "I still need to pick up a few things, so I'll check in. And you and Billy Idol keep your hands off the food."

Spike sneers while Giles replies, "Oh, I'll try and restrain myself from eating uncooked potatoes and cranberries." As soon as she's out the door, Giles sits and says, "So, what do you think?"

Spike begins to open his mouth to give a long list of what he thinks but then realizes that Giles wasn't talking to him at all. Angel moves out from the back of the apartment. All of Spike's hackles rise. The two vampires stare at each other.

"I think you're wasting your time with Spike," Angel says in a low voice.

"I meant about the murder," Giles says staring both men down. Spike has never understood how a mere human like Rupert can do that. He's not sure if it's Watcher's training or a bit of the Ripper still inside.

"This spirit you told me about fits the description of the danger."

"What the bloody hell is he doing here?" Spike demands.

"What you didn't see this coming in your crystal ball?" Angel shoots back.

"Gentlemen," Giles admonishes. "We all want to help Buffy. Don't you think it's odd that Spike came with a warning at the same time your friend had a vision? Perhaps this all means something."

"Perhaps the vision means Spike is the danger."

"Oh, don't I wish."

Giles once again has to be the voice of reason. "Enough. Can we focus on the task at hand? We need to know more about this spirit and why it's after Buffy."

Angel turns away from him and looks at Giles. Spike is aching for Peaches to start something, but he knows that he won't. Not on the Watcher's turf anyway.

"Do you know Father Gabriel? He knows the history of this place pretty well. His family dates back to mission times. He might be able to fill in some blanks."

Giles replies, "Ok. Well, I'll see about contacting him. Where are you going?"

"To watch her."

Spike watches Angel sweep out of the apartment. He's gritting his teeth so much they hurt. A quick look at Giles shows the other man lost in thought.

"It's funny. Here I am handing you everything on a bloody silver platter, and I still get treated like a monster. He sweeps in here and you're old buddies. I recall him messing up your hands something awful, Rupert. I bet they still tend to ache a bit when it's cold."

"That piece of metal and plastic in your head, if it truly is there, in no way compares to Angel's soul, Spike. Don't try to pretend that it does."

"Yeah," he mutters and stomps into the kitchen to have a bit of blood to take the edge off.

He sulks in the bathroom a while and paints his nails. Mostly because he knows it drives the Watcher barmy to wonder what a vampire could possibly be doing in a bathroom for hours on end. When he comes back out, Buffy has returned and Willow is there too. They're all nattering on about political correctness or some such. He thinks about the big speech he gave them before and wonders if he's going to have to deliver it again.

As Buffy goes back into the kitchen, Giles and Willow exchange whispers about Angel. Spike is still a bit pissed off, so he lies on the couch and tries to ignore all of them. Another knock on the door and Anya carts in a sickly looking Xander. It's just as entertaining as it was the first time. The former demon kicks him off the couch and lays Harris out. Spike sits on the coffee table and smirks at the boy.

"How's the syphilis?"

"Buffy! Some stake action please!" Xander whines.

"Don't be such a baby. Buffy'll slay the nasty Indian and you'll be right as rain."

"It's Native American. We don't say Indian," Buffy pipes up.

He and Giles exchange a look. Xander is still complaining on the couch.

"I don't see why he's going around killing people, but me I get syphilis!"

Willow whines, "He's just doing what was done to him."

"I didn't give him syphilis."

"No, but you freed his spirit, and after a century of unrest, he saw you as one of his oppressors," Giles supplies helpfully.

"What, so he rises up and infects the first guy he sees? That's no fair."

Willow mutters, "Like you've never woken up cranky?"

Spike gives Red a good smirk at that and pokes Xander just for fun. Anya bats his hand away and shoots him a look. He rolls his eyes and lets her minister to the boy, not that it'll help one bit. The group goes on about slaying the spirit and whether it's a good idea. Thankfully, he doesnít have to say much because Giles keeps pointing out that he's already told them that Buffy's done it before. Her blondeness shows through as Spike watches her try to wrap her head around that one. Harris gets a little paler and Spike smirks even more. He's even more amused when Xander makes a comment about vengeance demons that sets Anya off.

"Good one, mate," he says after she marches into the kitchen to get away.

"Shut up, Spike."

"You know!" he yells loudly. "I think this is about where I came in. You couldn't get your heads out of your arses then either."

All eyes are focused on him, and none of them are happy. He soaks it up for a moment and tries to remember the speech he gave before. He then discards that thought and decides to wing it.

"Listen up kiddies. It's not about the bloody Indians, all right? This is about a nasty spirit that's killing people. Regardless of how you feel you've got a job to do. In a little less than an hour Geronimo and his mates are going to show up here and likely make you all really dead. Now there's nothing you can do about the plight of the 'Native Americans.' But you can stay alive and help other people. So what's it going to be?"

"Maybe it's the syphilis talking, but... some of that made sense."

Giles sighs and says in a tired voice, "I made these points earlier, but fine, no one listens to me."

They set about getting the place ready for a siege. Spike points out where all the bad guys are likely to be shooting from. Buffy continues to focus on cooking dinner with Anya's help.

It starts quickly. Spike is standing over Xander wondering aloud if the syphilis and other diseases will make him taste funny when there is the sound of breaking glass and an arrow lodges in the middle of his chest.

"Oi!" Spike yelps as the rest of the gang take cover. Harris rolls off the couch onto the floor as the opposite window breaks and another arrow goes sailing by. Spike drops to a crouch. He grunts as he pulls out the arrow. He distinctly ignores the snicker beside him.

"Ranged weapons everyone!" Giles yells.

"It won't do any good, Watcher! We need to get the big guy in here." Right as he finishes speaking, the spirit crashes onto the stairs and the others barge their way inside. He hears Willow scream as Buffy pulls her out of the way. Spike vaults over the couch and barrels into one of the other spirits knocking them both into the wall by the door. Buffy has already started in on the main Chumash trying to make him drop his weapon. He can hear Xander and Giles fighting off another in the hall while Anya screams. The Indian he's fighting manages to knock him back to the floor in time for him to see demon girl reach over Giles to wack another one of the invaders on the head with a frying pan. The door bursts open behind his attacker to reveal Angel.

"Here, take this!" Spike yells and kicks his combatant into Angel and then shuts the door to the courtyard. He takes a second to look over the battle like a general. Xander and Giles are holding their own, and Anya and Willow seem to be doing okay, but not for much longer. Spike moves over to Buffy and does a sidekick into the Chief's back. He and the Slayer double-team the spirit until she manages to spin kick the knife out of his hand. Spike lunges for it and immediately becomes the center of the spirit's attention. As Spike jumps back, the Indian morphs into a bear. Spike smirks.

"Not impressed, mate. Seen it before," he says and tosses the knife over the bear's head. Buffy catches the knife in midair and as the bear turns to look she brings the weapon home. The spirit dissolves into a sickly green fog before disappearing all together. The other spirits quickly follow suit. Spike looks around at the aftermath and claps once loudly. "So, what's for dinner?"



Chapter 3: "Something Blue"

Spike watches Willow flip through a magic book through half lidded eyes. Buffy and Giles are grumbling back in forth in the kitchen about something or other. It gets so that a vamp can't get any rest at all. Donít they realize that he supposed to sleep during the day? Willow gives a pathetic sigh and Spike tries to not rip the couch cushions up in a rage.

"All right, I'm up. You. Here," he says pointing to the redhead then pointing to the spot on the couch beside him.

The witch gives a little dazed look and he repeats the gesture more forcibly. Finally, she gets up and sits down beside him with a wary look on her face. Spike reaches out and takes her hand and holds it. She looks even more worried. It does his dead heart good.

"Spill."

"I don't..." she begins to protest.

"Ah-ah-ah! I don't want to hear it. You've been giving the teenaged 'my life is shite' sigh every five minutes for the past hour. Now spill." Even as he finishes saying it he realizes he's treating her like the Bit. Oh well, if she's going to act like it...

"Um, it's just... you know..."

"Dogboy? Willow... I don't know if it's right of me to tell you what I know is going to happen, because, well, with me being here who knows how everything will go, but I can assure you that it does get better."

"Do you have any idea how ooky it is that you're being all nice and giving me love life advice?"

"Who'd be better? I've got years of experience, me. Plus, I lost Dru after a hundred years. If I can move on from that, you can sodding move on from Dogboy."

Her pale face flushes and her hazel eyes flash with anger. Not for the first time he thinks what a wonderful vampire she would have made.

"But I don't want to move on! Everyone keeps saying that!"

"He left you, Red. Which just goes to show he's not got a bit of brains in his fuzzy head. I mean, look at you!"

Now she looks really disturbed and it's all he can do to keep from kicking her off the couch and going back to sleep. But he of all people knows what that will lead to, that stupid 'will be done' spell, and damned if he's going to be proposing to Buffy again. He can't... he won't let the Slayer rip his unbeating heart out again and trod all over it. Spike knows now that she'll never love him, and even the pale imitation of love induced by a spell would hurt him too much.

Giles comes in then and distracts her and he watches her move away quickly. A little bit of conversation and she's off like a shot with nary a look back at him. Giles stares after her and says, "She seems to be coping better with Oz's departure, don't you think?"

"She still has a way to go, but yeah ó I think she's dealing," Buffy replies stepping out from the kitchen and munching on a muffin.

"See if you think so when you're blind as a bat, mate," Spike grumbles and rolls over on the couch to get some shuteye before nightfall. He's going to have his work cut for him.

That night, Spike heads to the Bronze. Giles almost refused to let him go, but he laid on some story about checking out a lead for something that's going to happen. The Watcher gave him a skeptical look, but didn't call him on the lie. The git probably needed some time alone. Spike knows that he himself is about to go nuts trapped in that cramped little condo all the time.

The Bronze is the same as it always is. He stakes out a seat near the bar and watches the crowd. He's had two shots of bourbon and three cigarettes before she shows. She comes in alone which sets off all his warning bells. He tries to be unobtrusive and his jaw literally drops when she asks an older boy if he'll buy her a beer. She drinks it slowly with her cute little nose turned up in an 'ew' face. Spike can't take much more and he marches over, yanking the bottle out of her hand.

"Just what the buggering hell do you think you're doing, missy?"

Willow blinks at him in shock. He's not sure if it's because she didn't expect him, or because of the pissed off dad voice he's suddenly using.

"Hey give that back! It's mine. I bought it!"

"No, you had some random bloke buy it, you mean. Of all the bloody stupid... do you even know that guy? He could have put anything in this bottle! Haven't you ever heard of ruffies? Date rape?" And now his vocal chords are working completely independently from his brain. It's like a sled going downhill. There are no such things as brakes. Spike silently curses all the time he's spent watching over Dawn. It's obviously affected him more than he's realized.

Willow too seems locked into their strange tableau. For a moment he wonders if she's already done the sodding spell. "You can't tell me what to do, Spike! You're not my dad!"

"No, I actually give a shite!"

They stand there panting at each other as the anger starts to fade. He's glad that vampires don't actually blush because that has to be one of the most embarrassing exchanges of his unlife. He glances around quickly and hopes none of the college kids staring at them are actually vampires that can report this to anyone.

"I'm not a little kid," she says softly.

"No, you're not. But the last thing I need is to have you drunk casting spells about willy-nilly. I will not be sucking face with Buffy!" he yells the last a bit too loud. She stares at him in confusion. Spike grabs her arm and starts heading for the door. "Okay, that's it, come on."

"Where are we going?"

"To get some ice cream and then back to your dorm. You can pig out and we'll watch crap girly movies or whatever it takes, but you'd better believe I'm not taking my eyes off of you!" Spike is hoping that whatever works for the Nibblet will work with Willow. It's not like he's got any other ideas.

He makes it through Pretty Woman with nary a grumble mostly due to the double-double fudge ice cream distraction. His running commentary of My Best Friend's Wedding earns him plenty of shushing and finally a pillow upside the head. About half way through Steel Magnolias he falls asleep. There's only so much a proper vampire can take, and even the hopeful glimmer of Julia Roberts dying finally after three movies isn't enough to keep his eyes open. It's Buffy's entrance from an evening of Bronzing and slaying that wakes him up. She's none too happy to find him camped out on her floor. There are enough bad memories that he's not exactly happy about it himself. It takes a whole minute of arguing before he realizes that Willow is gone.

"No!" he yells and belts down the corridor. He takes the bathroom door hard with his shoulder. It slams into the wall way too loudly for this time of night, but Spike doesn't really care. Willow yelps. She's on her knees on the floor cleaning up what looks like candles. "No! You didn't!"

She's practically in tears. He crouches down next to her, whether to comfort or to strangle he hasn't decided yet. When she latches onto his chest and he feels his T-shirt start to dampen, he lands on comfort.

"It didnít work. I suck," is mumbled against him and he lets go a deep sigh of relief.

"There... there, Red."

They leave the candles and things where they lay and he walks her back into the hall. Buffy is standing there, hands on hips, ready to cut him down with her sharp tongue, but the sight of Willow brings her up short. The two of them help the witch back into their room and Spike tucks her in. He can feel Buffy's eyes on him, but he refuses to look at her. A quick check of the blinds and he curls up on the floor between their beds with his duster as a blanket.

It's late the next morning when a kick to the head wakes him. Willow almost trips over him and apologizes several times before going to answer the door. Giles is on the other side looking worried.

"Giles, what are you doing here?" she asks letting him in.

"I'm a bit concerned. Have you seen Spike?"

He sits up and waves at Giles before explaining. "I got caught out. Willow was nice enough to put me up."

Giles looks upset. "Yes, um... Willow... I know that you're going through a very difficult time... But I hardly think it's prudent for you to be in such proximity to Spike."

"Ta, very much, Watcher. I'm sitting right here."

"Don't talk about him like that! He's being all nice and the rest of you treat him like dirt."

"Yeah!"

"Do shut up, Spike. Willow, we still don't know if this is all some grand scheme of his. I just don't like the idea of any of you children spending time with him unsupervised."

"So because you don't trust him, I get punished?"

"It's not punishment," Giles says exasperatedly. "I'm only saying this because I--"

And Willow goes off on a full snit. "Oh, you care. Yeah. Everybody cares. Nobody wants to be inconvenienced. As long as you don't have to hear about it anymore..."

"No, that's not fair."

"Isn't it, Giles? ĎCause I'm doing the best I can and it doesn't seem to be enough for you guys."

"And I see how you could feel that way, I doó"

"No, you don't. You say that you do, but you don't see anything," she says grumpily and that seems to be the end of the discussion.

Giles looks away and removes his glasses. He rubs his eyes a bit, and Spike suspects that he's getting a headache. Who wouldn't get a headache with all the melodrama? Spike shakes his head.

"Let's talk about this later. Spike?"

"The bloody sun's out!"

"There's a blanket in my car. Up!"

Later that night, he's having a bit of blood out of Giles' novelty mug when he catches the Watcher flinging down his glasses in frustration. The other man is squinting at the book and rubbing his eyes regularly. Something cold clutches at Spike's stomach and the blood in his hand becomes even less appetizing.

"Giles?" he says softly.

"What do you want, Spike?" the Watcher snaps.

"You having trouble with your eyes?"

"It's just a bit of strain. I've been reading too long."

"That lying bitch!" Spike snarls and slams the mug down on the table. Giles jerks back to watch him grab his duster off the back of the couch.

"What are you doing?"

"Willow. She said it didn't work. Her 'will be done' spell!"

"What? When did this happen? She shouldn't be meddling with such strong magics!"

Spike strides towards the door. "I have to stop her."

"Wait, I'm coming with you." The Watcher gets up from his chair and almost knocks it over.

"You're going to be completely blind in an hour or two. Stay here. I'll bring her back so we can reverse it. Call Buffy." He storms out of the house and puts on speed toward the Sunnydale U campus.

He's not but a hundred yards from the dorms when he sees Buffy standing in the glow of a street lamp. He calls to her, and when she turns to look at him, Spike knows there is something wrong. Her movements are slow and precise like a predator.

"Buffy? Where's Willow?" he asks from a distance.

"Vampire," she hisses in return.

"Uh, yeah, for a while now. Are you okay? You don't feel like jumping into my arms and confessing your undying love, do you?" Apparently not, because she gives a low growl and comes forward quickly with a stake raised. "My mistake."

He wheels about and runs off campus with a pissed Slayer at his heels. They fly past at a blur, superhuman speed pushed to its limits. Spike isn't sure where to go at first because Willow's already been and gone. He takes a quick left behind the Science building and aims toward Xander's house. It's the only other place she could be. His sudden change in direction doesn't throw Buffy off at all because he can still hear her little boots pounding the turf a couple of yards behind him. He goes in a straight line ignoring sidewalks. The backyards of Sunnydale get quite the disturbance as he vaults over fences, dodges snarling dogs and scares a few cats. Barreling through one hedge almost takes him to his knees, but he stumbles forward knowing that he can't afford to lose any ground to the angry woman behind him. He can hear Buffy having more trouble with the obstacles, and Spike ends up gaining a bit of ground. He pours on a last burst of speed making it to Harris' street. Anya is coming down the sidewalk in the opposite direction as he nears the house.

"Oi! Have you seen Willow?" he yells without stopping.

"No, what are you running from?"

"Buffy! Come on!" he grabs her arm as he runs past and pulls her along in his wake. They head around the side of the house. Willow and Xander are just coming out of the side door to the basement. Spike slides in the wet grass and finally comes to a stop.

"Spike! What are you doing here?" she asks innocently and only a warning jolt from the chip keeps his hands from going around her thin neck.

"What did you say about Buffy?" he snaps.

"What?"

"The 'will be done' spell is working fine. Giles is right now in his place going blind. I went to the dorms to stop you and Buffy's gone primal!"

"My spell worked?" Willow asks sounding genuinely pleased.

"Oh, you're lucky I have this chip, girl! What did you say?"

Xander looks worried and answers for her, "She said that Buffy only cares about slaying... and oh my god you said I was a demon magnet! Will!"

Red looks flustered, and before she can even begin to apologize, a grunt echoes from behind them. Buffy stalks down the side of the house with her stake ready.

"Vampire!" she hisses again. Before she can attack a Serparvo demon comes out of nowhere, knocks her away, and advances toward Xander. Buffy lunges at it and a snap kick behind its leg sends it kneeling. The two battle it out for a bit and Spike ignores them.

"See what you've done, you silly girl! Now fix it!"

Willow's eyes are already brimming with tears as she says, "I didn't mean for this to happen! Now you're all yelling again. Why did you... stop being so nice?"

He barely registers the flash in her eyes before a searing pain tears through his head. Spike bends over in anguish and clutches at his hair. Then everything bleeds to red and he loses all control. He can feel the demon completely untethered looking out through his eyes. The others keep talking as if nothing has changed.

"Great Willow! Now he's gone all grr... and why is he staring at me like that?" Xander asks.

Anya answers helpfully, "If you're a demon magnet... he is a demon."

Spike shoves Willow out of the way and grabs Xander viciously by the throat. The boy lets out a squeak before he tightens his grip. There's absolutely no response from the chip. Part of him realizes that with the magic that Red has been throwing around, it probably isn't even in his head anymore. He gives a slow grin. Suddenly, he's kicked away and the Slayer stands over him, stake raised.

"Demon!" Xander yells and Buffy turns. Spike knocks her feet out from under her and stands. The new demon has two big horns and beady red eyes. It grabs Harris and tosses him towards the backyard. Spike growls.

He catches the monster's arm and flings it into a tree before kicking it a few times. The girls run to Xander's side. He's still sprawled out on the grass in a daze. Buffy is fighting off yet another demon. As Spike draws near the boy, Willow vanishes in a blue ring of flame.

"Don't you dare run away from this Willow Rosenberg!" Harris yells, but Anya soothes him.

"I don't think that was her. I think it was D'Hoffryn."

"Da who?"

"My old boss. He made me a vengeance demon."

"This day's just getting better and better!"

Anya pats Xander's shoulder reassuringly and Spike howls. He grabs her and flings her away growling, "Mine!"

"Spike? Spike? Can't we talk about this?"

The words are meaningless. Spike pounces on the prone man. Xander lets out a 'woof' of air at the sudden weight and starts to struggle. He grabs the boy's wrists and pushes them into the grass above their heads. Xander's scent is driving him wild.

"You really are nummy. Let's see if you're moist and delicious as well," he growls.

Xander is frozen in shock as Spike licks up the straining neck. He snuffles under the boy's ear and grinds his crotch against the one beneath him.

"Oh god! Buffy! Somebody! Help!"

Spike can hear the blood gushing just under the surface and it's been so long. He runs a fang up the jugular leaving a red mark, but not breaking the skin. The boy is panting under him and that makes Spike grind his hips harder. The moment comes and Spike rests his fangs on the vein ready to drink.

"Let the healing power begin. Let my will be safe again. As these words of peace are spoken, let this harmful spell be broken."

Willow's words go almost unheard in the bloodlust, but when his frontal lobe goes off like a bug zapper, Spike pulls away and screams in pain.

"Oh, bloody hell!"

He rocks back and forth on the grass next to Xander who is still gasping for breath. Spike clutches his head and digs his heels into the sod. He can hear Buffy and Anya blathering and Willow apologizing a mile a minute. He looks over at Xander who quickly jumps to his feet and moves away. Despite the pain, he's glad that it wasn't Buffy this time. Plus, more than likely he'll be getting plenty of guilt cookies for the next week or two from the witch. All and all, it was better than the first go around.



Chapter 4: "Hush"

When the phone rings, Spike is closer than Giles so he answers. Not because he's a house vamp, no matter what Buffy says, but because he's bored.

"Giles' House of Debauchery. Spank you for calling."

"Give me that!" the Watcher says and snatches away the receiver. "Buffy? No, that wasn't funny and you can stop laughing. No. Yes... wait, let me write this down. 'Can't even shout; Can't even cry; The gentlemen are coming by.' You sure it's nothing you heard when you were a child? Oh all right. Nothing else? Um hm, well it could be. I'll run it by Spike.... No, there won't be any spanking involved! Goodbye, Buffy!" Giles all but slams the phone down in resentment. He looks over and asks, "Does that make any sense to you?"

"Oh, like you don't know anything about spanking."

Giles gives a tight sigh before responding, "The rhyme, Spike."

"Yeah, bunch of demons show up and take every ones' voices away. No big deal. Buffy takes care of it."

"Innocents could be harmed. You don't seem very worried."

Spike gives the man his best 'you must be joking' look.

"Spike, I don't think I like the fact that you seem unconcerned about some things and withhold information on others. That whole fiasco with Willow's 'will be done' spell could have been averted if you'd just told me about it in the first place."

"Well, you didn't do so hot the first time 'round. I just needed to take care of that one myself is all."

"And you did such a spectacular job," the Watcher says wryly.

Spike waves the annoying man away and goes back to looking through old books for naked pictures. It's not long before the door opens and Xander and Anya enter in the middle of an argument.

"Well I think we should talk about it now," Anya says obviously aggravated.

Giles mumbles to himself, "Thank you for knocking."

"If you don't know how I feel about you..." Xander wheedles.

Spike stands between them and watches the sparks fly. He'd forgotten how entertaining this was. At the time his mind had disregarded it when Giles had announced that he was going to stay with Harris.

"I don't. This isn't a relationship. You don't need me, all you care about is lots of orgasms," Anya announces loudly.

Spike pats Xander on the back and says, "That a boy."

Xander shakes off his arm and steps away. He's still skittish after the 'will be done' induced attack. Spike rolls his eyes and looks over at Anya.

"You should dump him, love. You can do better."

"Hey! Butt out of my personal life, Fangless!"

"Perhaps you shouldn't bring your personal life into the middle of my living room," Giles observes. "Why are you here, anyway?"

"Mom said you wanted me to swing by."

"Yes, I meant after sunset. I need you to take Spike for a few days."

"What!" the boy barks.

"What?" Anya doesn't look anymore pleased.

"Oh calm down," Spike says. "Giles' lady friend is coming for a visit. If anyone deserves a good shag it's him after putting up with you lot."

Giles shoots him a death ray glance. Spike, being already dead, just shrugs.

"He's not roaming around. He stays with me, he's gonna get tied up again."

Spike shoots the boy his own withering glance. "You are not tying me to that bloody chair again, you little sod. It was the spell! I'm not going to hurt you. That dank basement is punishment enough--believe me--without you adding bondage to your bag of tricks."

Xander flushes and grabs his bird pulling her back out the door. Spike chuckles and looks over at the Watcher. He receives a disapproving look for his trouble. For the rest of the afternoon Giles quizzes him on The Gentlemen. Spike admits he didn't have much to do with them, so he doesn't know a lot. He does tell the man about the three suicidal demons that threaten the Hellmouth right after. Giles takes down the information to research later. At dusk, the boy shows up looking very unhappy. Spike gets his duster and they're off.

As he's lighting up a cigarette, Harris says, "There are going to be rules."

"All right."

"You're just saying that because you plan on breaking all of them, aren't you?"

"It depends on the rules. Listen, kid, I'm going to be staying with you a bit. Neither of us are really happy about it, but there you are. Why don't we get everything out on the table now and save ourselves some grief?"

They walk a bit more before Xander stops and yells, "You tried to... eat me!"

"Which time?"

This brings the boy up short. "What?"

"Which time are you referring to?" He counts them off on his fingers. "Let's see, there was that time with Angel at the school when I first showed up. Um, Halloween, but I was more after Buffy then. I know I definitely promised Red I'd kill you when I came back after Dru left me and wanted her to do that spell. I'm sure there are a couple of other times I'm forgetting. Or are you talking about last week when Willow put the whammy on both of us and I had no choice?"

Xander gapes at him and crosses his arms. "If you're making a case for me tying you up, you're doing a great job."

"I'm just making a point. I'm a vampire. I've done nasty things, but you notice that the last time it took a spell on both of us before I'd bother. Listen, Harris, you and I are never going to be best pals, but we can get on if we both try. I'm offering, mostly because I'm probably out of my sodding mind, but there you go. It's up to you."

Spike turns and starts heading for Xander's house and leaves him on the sidewalk wondering. It's a few minutes before he catches up and Spike looks at him. He can hear the boy's gears grinding away trying to figure things out. Harris doesn't say a word until they reach the house.

"Come in, Spike."

The basement is as pathetic as he remembers. For the first time, he looks at it, and looks at Harris standing in it, and feels sorry for the boy. He remembers the crap jobs the kid slaved over just so he could pay his worthless parents for the privilege of living in such squalor. Even his crypt had been more appealing. At least it had atmosphere. Spike stops his thoughts there. The last thing he needs is to start getting soft on the Scoobies. His girl bonding with Willow was bad enough last week. He doesn't need to play mentor to the boy too.

Harris flits around cleaning up as if he had a real houseguest. Half way through he realizes what he's doing and just tosses the comic books in his hand back on the cheap little coffee table. Spike still hasn't stepped in further than the doorway. Xander stands in the middle of the room rubbing a hand through his hair. They both glance up at the same time and their eyes meet.

With a sigh, Harris says, "I can handle you trying to eat me. I've lived on the Hellmouth a while now, I'm kind of used to it. It was the other things you were doing that really freaked me out."

Spike tilts his head and ponders this news. He's trying to remember just what he did that got the boy so worked up. "What now?" he asks.

"You beat up that demon and then Anya all possessive like," he says not looking at Spike anymore. "Then you were all over me and... It was just weird, okay. And now you're being reasonable which is giving me the wiggins even more. I guess... I guess I just had you in a certain box in my mind, and now since you've shown up knowing the future or whatever and acting semi-decent you just don't fit into that box anymore."

"People change."

"You told Angel that night in the school that demons didn't."

"Yeah, well I'm evil. I have the tendency to lie a lot."

"Why are you helping us? Don't say it's the chip and you have to, because you really don't. Iím not stupid. I know that piece of hardware doesn't stop you from getting rid of us."

Spike finally makes his way over to the couch and sits down. He rolls his lighter between his fingers and thinks. Why is he helping them? He's survived three years of humiliation and pain. He could be using his knowledge to make sure the white hats don't win, and yet here he is in Xander's depressing basement like there isn't anywhere else he could be. The answer's simple enough. It's the girl. It's always the girl. He told Buffy and Angel once that he was love's bitch and it is truer now than it was then. He looks up at Harris who is still waiting for an answer.

"Like I said before, people change. Now, are we done with the Hallmark moments? I'd like to watch some telly, if you don't mind."

The boy doesn't look satisfied, but that's the best he's going to get any time soon. He flops down on the couch next to Spike and flips on the TV. They watch some crap made for TV action flick and he tries not to let Xander's questions eat away at him. They spend the rest of the evening like vegetables until it's time for Xander to go to bed. Spike moves over to the ugly orange barcalounger while the boy unfolds the couch.

He watches Harris glance at a coil of rope that sits on top of the workbench on the other side of the room. The boy looks back at him before frowning and undressing for bed leaving the rope untouched. Spike smiles and then grimaces at the sight of Xander's boxer shorts.

"It's a wonder the demon girl shags you at all with pants like that."

Xander glances down at his underwear and looks back at Spike with a grin. "It's not the shorts, it's what's in them that counts."

"Oh please," he says rolling his eyes. "By the way, when you wake up in the morning and can't talk, it's not my fault."

"What?"

"Demon thing. They're going to take everyone's voices. So if you have anything you desperately want to confess to me, do it now."

"Do we get them back?" Xander asks worriedly.

"Yes, git. Slayer does her thing and it's over in a day."

"Oh. Go Buffy!"

"Rah, rah," Spike says in a flat tone. He watches Harris reach over and turn off the lamp plunging the room into darkness. His eyes adjust quickly and he watches the boy squirm around on the bed and get comfortable. The room is quiet, filled only with the sounds of human breathing. After a while Xander breaks the silence.

"I always thought you were our coolest bad guy."

"What?" he asks and he can't keep the surprise out of his voice.

"That's my confession, and I'll deny I ever said it to my grave. Goodnight."

Spike sits silently in the darkness and listens to Harris slowly fall asleep. For some reason, he can't seem to keep the smile off his face.



Chapter 5: Doomed

"Bloody apocalyptic earthquakes. Now my chair's all wet," Spike grumbles pulling the orange barcalounger out from under a leak.

Xander hands him a pan to catch the water. "The quake just knocked a couple of pipes loose. The last time we had an earthquake, Buffy died. Should I be worried?"

"One can only hope."

"Spike," Xander warns. "There is a wrench hanging up over there by the workbench. Try tightening the coupling."

He sighs remembering the argument from last time. Spike is just too tired to bother. "All right, but if I fall and break my head...."

"It won't kill you so quit bitching. Here, I'll steady you. Just hurry up."

Xander hands him the wrench and stands there waiting. Spike isn't sure why the boy doesn't just do it himself. Maybe he's just amused by a vampire fixing things. With a sigh, Spike climbs up on the chair and starts tightening. He doesnít even realize that he's leaning over a bit too far until he feels a big, warm hand plastered on his stomach.

"Vamp reflexes don't necessarily mean vamp balance, huh?"

Spike glances down at the dark eyes looking up at him and grunts, "You want to do this, mate?"

A couple of more twists and the leak drips off into nothing. Spike drops his arms and looks back down at the boy. Xander is staring up at the pipe and it takes two throat clearings before he realizes that his hand is still on Spike's stomach. He jerks the hand away as if it was on fire, which only causes Spike to smirk.

"There now. Any more jobs you need done around here? I could get my bloody tool belt, but we'd have to wait for the cheesy porno music to start."

He grins at the flustered look on Xander's face, but the boy quickly recovers with, "Don't flatter yourself, Fangless."

"What am I supposed to do while you're gone? I'm bored. At least Giles had books to look at." Spike complains, hopping down and tossing the wrench onto workbench too hard.

Xander grabs his keys and heads for the door. "So clean, do laundry."

"I'm not your sodding mum!" he yells to the retreating back. He looks around the room with another sigh.

***

A noise jerks him awake and he looks over to see a pizza box lying on the bed beside him. Xander stands over him with his arms crossed. Spike glances at the alarm clock on the side table. He's only been asleep for a couple of hours.

"You're in my bed!"

"My chair is still wet. When will you people realize that vampires sleep during the day?" he asks and rolls over to scratch his chest.

"Oh god, please tell me you have something on under that blanket."

Spike kicks his leg out to show the gray sweats he's wearing. He grabs the pizza box and starts rooting around inside. Xander sits on the edge of the bed and plucks at the pants leg.

"You're in my bed AND wearing my clothes?"

"My stuff is in the dryer. I'm hoping it doesn't shrink this time. Oh, and I cleaned and did your nasty laundry. You're welcome, you wanker."

Xander looks surprised and glances around the room for the first time. He looks at Spike, looks at the room, and then looks at Spike again. His mouth is moving but fortunately there's no sound coming out. Spike rolls his eyes and flips two fingers at the boy.

"When I told you to clean I didn't expect you to actually do it!"

"It's not like I had anything else to do. Plus, I'm a Master Vampire. I refuse to live in filth."

"You lived in that musty old factory."

"Shut up."

Xander reaches across him and snags a piece of pizza. "I called Giles from work. He's doing research on those demons that are going to try and open the Hellmouth or whatever you told him. He says the earthquake was probably a good sign. We have to head over there in a little while."

"Right, so we round up the posse and kick some demon ass," he says with glee. He hasn't gotten much action since Thanksgiving. The Scoobies weren't comfortable enough yet to let him patrol.

"Yeah, maybe you should get dressed first."

A change of clothes later and they head to the Watcher's. As they come in the door, Willow is babbling with Buffy standing over her protectively. Xander rushes over to the redhead.

"Will, what's wrong?"

"Oh, Xander it was awful. There was this dead guy all carved up and...and Percy called me a nerd!"

Spike tries not to snicker. Xander shoots a confused look at Buffy who just shakes her head. Willow misses all the byplay and keeps talking.

"It just made me feel like I was right back in high school."

Spike watches Xander comfort the girl by getting all indignant. "Stupid jock. If it wasn't for you he still would be."

"If I could, love, I'd eat him for you," Spike says flopping down on the stairs.

"Oh, thanks, Spike... I think. I mean, I know the... Percy thing isnít really important, itís the... dead guy on the bed."

Buffy looks to Giles. "Willow said that some symbol was carved into the guy and his blood had been drained. I recognize it I think."

Willow unfolds a napkin and shows it to the others. Spike hops up to take a look. They pass the piece around and the boy makes a rather lame joke, which he completely ignores.

Buffy says, "Iím telling you Iíve seen this somewhere before, I just canít remember where! I mean... Itís like...Ē

ďItís the end of the world,Ē Giles finishes.

"Again?" the three kids say in unison.

"Told you so," Spike grumbles. They all glance at him. "What?"

"From the description Spike gave me several days ago and that symbol I'm pretty sure we're dealing with Vahrall demons. They doing a ceremony called the 'sacrifice of three.' They need the blood of a man--which they have--the bones of a child, and the Word of Valios."

"Bones," Buffy murmurs. "I think I know where I've seen that symbol before."

"Good. Take Spike and try to stop them."

"Do I have to?" she whines at the same time as he says, "Nothing doing, Watcher."

"We're wasting time."

"No, Giles," he says, "I'm staying here with you. Let Buffy take care of the bones."

"Spike, this is no time to..."

"No, you git. You have the Word of Valios. They're going to come here."

Willow stands up from her chair. "What?"

"The first go around, Buffy let the demon get away," Spike says ignoring the displeased 'Hey!' from the Slayer. "That's when you thought there was only one of them, not three. You didn't know what the Word of Valios was. You sent Willow and Xander to look in the museum. I went with them. When we got back here after finding nothing the demons had already come, knocked you 'round, and taken the thing."

"So it's an object. Show me what it looks like," Giles says sliding over a pad of paper.

He doodles a rough picture of the talisman, and the Watcher hurries away and starts going through his things looking for it. Buffy starts tapping her foot impatiently.

"So what's the plan?"

"Hmm?" Giles asks distractedly as he pulls out a jewelry box and paws through it.

"Giles! Plan!"

"Oh! Um, you should go try to stop the demon from getting the bones. Spike and the others can stay here with me to guard the Word until you get back."

"I don't trust you with him."

Spike growls, "Like I want the world to end? Go do your duty, Slayer. They'll be as safe as houses."

He watches her flounce off in a huff. When she grabs a crossbow by the door, he unconsciously steps behind the witch just in case she gets any ideas. Instead, the door is flung open and Buffy disappears out into the night. He sighs and tries not to think about when he used to have her back, always watching over her. Not that she needed it. Watching her fight used to be one of his greatest thrills. Spike shakes his head with a regretful smile. A hand on his arm makes him look up. Willow is giving him her worried look. He tries to think if he's ever seen her turn that look in his direction before.

"Are you okay, Spike?"

"Yeah, ducks. Just remembering is all. You know if it wasn't for you and Xander, I would have dusted myself on this night."

"What?" the boy asks joining them.

"The first time around. Dru had left me. Didn't know I could fight demons at the time thought I was completely defenseless. I had to live with, Harris."

"Hey! Remember who pays for the plasma around here, pal."

"Anyway, it was my lowest point. I was in the middle of ending it all when you two walked in and stopped me. Then when we were fighting the Vahralls I realized I could hurt demons. Cheered me up a bit."

"Aw, that's sweet," Willow says and pats his arm reassuringly then realizes what she's doing. Her face twists up. "In a violent, scary sort of way."

Xander munches on a scone and says, "And that's different from every other night of our lives how exactly?"

Willow gives a little 'true' nod. Spike shakes his head at them. Hellmouth kids definitely were a different breed. Half an hour later, Buffy comes back in with no bones. Spike gives her his smarmiest grin.

"Stupid demons! Riley even saw it get away. His team's on alert too."

Giles looks up from his reading with surprise. "So he is one of the commandos like Spike said?"

"Oh, um yeah. Did I not mention that? I thought I'd mentioned that."

"No, you most certainly didn't."

"Oops. Well, he helped me out fighting off the Gentlemen! I don't think he's all bad like Spike says. I mean, anyone that puts the whammy on him can't be all bad, right?"

"You just keep thinking that Buffy, and when you become a threat and they try to kill you and come after your mates here, I'll try not to say I told you so," he says trying to hold back his rage.

"Shut up, Spike. You're just pissed because they chipped you like a cookie!"

"Enough!" Giles yells loudly while Willow mouths 'chip you like a cookie?' at Xander who looks just as confused.

"Either way it's good that Buffy is friends with this Riley. We'll get more information that way. Right now we have a more pressing threat."

"Right, so we just sit around and wait for them to come? Have you noticed we've been doing that a lot lately?" Xander asks in a worried voice.

"He's right," Buffy quickly agrees and stalks toward Spike with a stake. "Maybe that's all apart of your plan, huh Spikey?"

He leans back with arms open. "Go on then. Stake me. See how far you get fighting those three uglies without my help. Let the world go to hell including your friends and Joyce and Dawn."

Buffy pauses and asks, "Who's Dawn?"

He realizes they're all staring at him. How the hell does he explain Dawn without them thinking he's cracked? Fortunately, the Vahralls take that moment to kick in the door.

"Good timing, boys!" Spike says with a snarl and barrels into the first Vahrall knocking him and his buddy back outside. He hears Xander and Willow screaming and realizes that the third one had been sneaky enough to come in the back door. Buffy brushes past him and starts in on the second one.

They fight side-by-side, spirit and strength. She isn't doing her usual quips, and he knows her mind is on the fight inside the house. She's trying to dispatch her enemy quickly so that she can help the others.

"Go! I'll hold these two off." Buffy's eyes flash at him and he yells again. "Go!"

She pulls back and races inside. Spike backs up and takes a defensive position by the door, wishing he'd grabbed a weapon in his haste. Almost by magic, and who can really tell in Sunnydale, he hears Xander yell his name and a double bladed axe skids out the door between his legs.

Spike grabs it up and starts swinging with a roar. It does nicely keeping the two demons back. One gets a little too bold and ends up with a big gash in his arm for the trouble. Suddenly, just as quickly as they appeared, the Vahralls turn and run. Before he can fully mock them, he hears a thump and Buffy yelling behind him. Spike spins around and runs inside. The Slayer is sprawled out on the floor with her Watcher on top of her looking a bit worse for wear. Xander runs in from the back with a frightened look on his face. Spike realizes what's missing.

"Where's Willow?"

Xander turns to look at him. "He took her."

"The Word?" he asks helping Giles to his feet. The older man opens his hand where the talisman still lies.

"Why do they want Willow?" Buffy asks also getting up.

"It's obvious," the Watcher answers. "We have something they want, and now they have something we want."

"They really think we're going to just hand over the key to the apocalypse?" she asks.

"They're willingly throwing themselves into the Hellmouth, pet. Nobody said they were smart."

Xander says determinedly, "We have to get Willow back."

"Don't worry," Spike replies holding the axe up with a nod to the boy. "We know where they're going."

Spike takes the lead as they walk to the old burnt out high school. He's not straggling behind feeling sorry for himself like the first time, and it feels good. He knows that a change is slowly happening. For once the Scoobies are looking to him. It reminds him of the summer... the summer Buffy had died. That was the summer that he had become part of the team more or less. Of course, once they had gotten their precious Slayer back he was tossed out with the garbage, not even given a second glance. Spike wonders if part of that feeling had bled into his relationship with Buffy. It would explain the ending perhaps, but no, that was all him and Buffy's doing.

He watches her move past him as soon as they step into the school. The boy brushes up against his shoulder and Spike looks at him.

"Buffy's going to go after Willow. She feels bad because she couldnít stop that thing from taking her."

"Yeah."

"So I guess the apocalypse stopping is up to you and me."

"As long as we keep the Word in my pocket where it is, we're fine." He pauses and looks closer. "You look worried."

"I love Will. I don't want her getting hurt, but..."

"Right now keeping the world from going to hell is more important," Spike finishes for him.

Xander gives a small "yeah" and stares at his shoes. Spike ignores the urge to clasp the boy on the shoulder.

"I hate this," Xander whispers and goes after Buffy.

The demons are down near the hole, much like they were before. This time, though, one of them is holding Willow dangerously close to the edge. He waves Buffy around to the other side before putting his fingers to his lips and giving a loud whistle. Three sets of jet black eyes and one set of scared hazel ones turn to him. Spike pulls out the Word of Valios and waves it around a bit.

"So which of you tossers has the guts to come take this from me?"

The Vahrall holding Willow tightens his grip on the girl causing her to yelp. The other two move towards him menacingly. He tries to keep the smile off his face. It couldn't have worked better if he told them what to do. As soon as the two are clear, Buffy jumps from the side and goes for Willow and the third. The redhead is tossed onto her hands and knees. Buffy takes out her rage on the third demon with a yell. The other two turn at the noise leaving their backs exposed. Spike goes after one, while the boy comes out from behind a pillar swinging his axe at the other. The rest is rather anticlimactic. Spike breaks the neck of his demon and then helps Xander dispatch the second. Only Buffy is left fighting. She keeps punching and kicking furiously. Finally, Spike's had enough for the evening and pulls the Slayer away to break the last one's neck himself.

"I wasn't done!" she yells.

"Look after, Red," he says quietly and picks up the blood and bones.

The blood he slips into a duster pocket quickly. The bones he slings over his shoulder. When he turns, he sees Willow still on the floor clutched to a kneeling Xander. Buffy joins them and crouches down to run her hand over the fall of red hair. Spike pulls the talisman back out of his pocket and looks at it a bit. With a shrug, he tosses it down the hole. The Hellmouth gives a slight rumble causing the others to look at him.

"Won't have to worry about that again. Let's get out of here." He bends down and picks up Xander's discarded axe. The others shuffle out ahead of him. They're not fifty feet down the hall before they bump into Riley in his uniform.

There are some accusations and some bad lying on cornfed's part. Spike just brushes past them all, not wanting to even deal with the commando. He waits outside not sure if he should just go or what. It only takes a few moments before Xander comes out. There's a big smudge of dirt across his cheek, and Spike smirks but doesn't mention it.

"Let's go home," the boy says with a sigh.

Spike knows he's still thinking about having to make the choice between Willow and the world. It's weighing heavily across the lad's shoulders. Spike decides not to give the boy any grief tonight. "Right."


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