From Nothing


by Saber ShadowKitten




Part Seven




Not wanting to have him walk behind her, Buffy took Spike's arm, keeping the silent vampire by her side as they headed for the bookstore. Around her wrist she wore the tie for his hair, which she had left loose and was a perfect contrast to the red, long-sleeved t-shirt he wore, paired with a tan pair of khakis. He was also wearing his shoes for the first time since he'd been in her care.

"It's so nice outside," Buffy commented, breathing in the fresh, fall air. "A good night to be out with your honey. Of course, I don't have a honey. But neither do you. So I guess we should stick together."

Out of the corner of her eye, she kept watch for unwanted intruders on her idyllic walk. The vampire population was slowly, but surely, coming back out of the woodwork. Pretty soon, she'd be back to her normal four or five slays per night.

When they got to the back entrance to the bookstore, Buffy paused outside to look Spike over. "Head up," she instructed, one of the more recent commands she'd figured out. The blond vampire raised his head so he was looking straight ahead, his lifeless eyes not really focusing on anything.

"Now, be on your best behavior. No talking back," she teased, opening the back door using the keycode. She took his arm again and led him through the back room to the basement stairs, maneuvering around boxes of new books and cleaning supplies. As they descended, she could hear the voices of her friends getting ready to go out for the evening.

"Hi guys," Buffy greeted. "Guess who decided he wanted to tag along?" As one, the conversation stopped and they all looked at her and Spike. "Jeez, do I have something on my outfit?"

"Buffy, h-has, er, Spike started communicating?" Giles asked, clearly puzzled by the blond vampire's presence.

"If he has, it hasn't been to me," Buffy replied, leading Spike further into the room. "I just figured it was time to get him out of the house. I doubt he's been outside for any of those six years with Santiago. Maybe being around others will do him some good."

"If he doesn't decide to go Cujo on us," Xander said.

"Well, between the seven of us, we should be able to keep a hold on him," Buffy said. She looked at the others, a frown appearing between her brows. "Willow and Oz not here yet?"

"No," Angel replied. "But I called over there a short while ago, threatening them with that pry- bar." He exchanged a smirk with her.

As conversation struck back up about the Rosenbergs, Cordelia walked a full circle around Spike and Buffy, eyeing him. "Good job, Buffy," she said to the Slayer. "I wasn't sure if you could still mix-and-match. He looks presentable."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "I've been dressing him for a month now, I think I know what he looks good wearing."

Cordelia leaned closer to Buffy to whisper, "And not wearing?"

"Cordy!" Buffy replied with a small giggle as the brunette arched her brow.

"Hi guys!" Willow's cheery voice accompanied the clomping of hers and Oz's footsteps down the stairs. A cacophony of returned greetings met the couple as they joined the group in the basement of the bookstore.

"Oz, I don't think you've ever met Spike," Buffy said, gesturing to the silent vampire. "This be he, although he's normally more..."

"Psychotic?" Xander suggested.

"Lively," Buffy finished with a glare at Xander.

"Hey," Oz said to Spike, as if the vampire was normal. "Willow's told me about you. It's nice to put a name to a face."

Buffy smiled at the werewolf, happy that someone else would treat Spike like she did by speaking directly to him. "So, are we all set to go?" she asked, then held up the gift she quickly dug out of her bag. "Or do we give the birthday boy his presents first?"

"Presents!" Xander yelled. Everyone, save Spike, laughed.

*****

"That's the eighth girl that's tried to hit on Spike tonight," Cordelia pointed out, taking a sip of her drink. Cornerstone's, the adult Bronze-like club, was packed. Being regulars, the group of friends saw many people they knew, several of whom stopped by to wish Xander a happy birthday. Buffy, Xander and Cordelia were sitting at a table, enjoying the music and watching Willow and Oz dancing together. Spike sat next to Buffy, as still as the statue his nickname depicted.

"If he wasn't a bloodsucker, I'd feel sorry for the guy," Xander said. "Some of those girls were hot." Cordelia cleared her throat, giving him a pissed-off look. "But none of them hold a match to my Cordy."

"I'll let that slide, since it's your birthday," Cordelia said. Her husband gave her a goofy grin and she shook her head.

"Where did Angel and Giles go?" Buffy asked, looking around the club for them. "It doesn't take that long to get refills...ut-oh."

"By that ut-oh, I assume either the G-man is beating Deadboy to a pulp," Xander said. "Or you've spotted a member of fangs-r-us."

"I'll take fangs-r-us for two hundred, Alex," Buffy replied, rising from her seat. "Watch Spike."

"I doubt he's going anywhere," Cordelia said.

Buffy double-checked to make sure she had a stake, then quickly made her way through the crowd and out the door. Silently, she rounded the corner behind the club, sticking to the shadows with well-practiced ease. Voices reached her ears, and she realized that the two she had followed were not vampire and victim, but two vampires.

"It's him," the taller one was saying.

"How do you know?" the other vampire replied.

"I fucked him at one of Santiago's parties," he bragged.

"You?" the shorter one scoffed. "If you fucked the living statue, I fucked the Slayer."

Tall vamp shrugged. "Believe what you want, it's still him."

"Man, I wonder who had the balls to take him away from Santiago," short guy said.

"I don't recognize any of those he's sitting with," he said. "They must have got him during or after the raid."

"Can you imagine the power you'd have by having Santiago's prized possession?" short guy asked. "I've heard that many have tried to take the living statue over the years, but none succeeded. Having him would be like...killing a Slayer."

Tall guy smiled evilly. "Yeah."

Buffy decided it was time to put an end to the two vampires, before they tried to kidnap Spike. Stepping out of the shadows, she cleared her throat. Both vamps turned to her and she smiled. "Hi, guys. Is this a private party, or can anyone join in?"

"It's her," tall guy said. "One of the one's who has the statue."

"That'd be me," Buffy replied. "And since I don't want you guys even thinking about taking Spike, I'm just going to have to dust you." Her stake appeared in her hand, and she let it fly with an expert flick of her wrist. The wood embedded into the taller vampire's heart, and he exploded in a cloud of ash.

But before the stake even hit the ground, the shorter vampire took off running away from the Slayer. "Shit," Buffy swore, pausing to scoop up the stake as she went after him. She rounded the corner in time to see him re-enter the club, causing her to swear again. "Double-shit with a cherry on top."

By the time she re-entered the club herself, he had disappeared into the crowd.



*****



"So do you think the other vampires will start coming after Spike?" Willow asked a few minutes later. Everyone was back at the table, the Slayer nervously tapping the table with her fingers as she kept an eye out for the runaway vampire.

"Maybe," Buffy replied. "Neither vamp knew that I was the Slayer, they just thought we were a bunch of vampires."

"That's a good thing, right?" Xander said.

"I don't know," she answered.

"On the one hand, it-it means that your identity has not been compromised," Giles pointed out.

"But on the other, it puts everyone in danger," Angel said. "If what Buffy heard was true, Spike is like the golden fleece to those who've heard of him."

"I'm surprised you haven't heard of the living statue before," Oz said to Angel.

"I have," the dark-haired vampire replied. "But only in passing. A vampire's toys never really concerned me unless they were human."

"Spike's not a toy," Buffy scowled.

"But he was," Willow told her.

"Hey, I just thought of something," Xander said.

"Now, that's a miracle," Cordelia teased him.

He stuck his tongue out at her, then continued. "Buff, you said the vamps were talking about Santiago. Did they say if he was still a dead man walking?"

"Excellent question, Xander," Giles said. "Buffy?"

"Don't know," Buffy shrugged. "The one I dusted talked about the raid, but didn't say if Santiago was a casualty or not." She paused, furrowing her brow as she thought. "Come to think of it, neither used past tense when talking about him."

"So we should assume that Santiago is still alive," Giles said.

"And that Jefe didn't want to run back to his master with the news that Spike is with us," Willow added.

"Probably because he didn't want to become ashtray material," Cordelia said. "His job was to take care of Spike, and that more than likely included protecting him with his life."

"My Cordy had an intelligent thought," Xander said, faking amazement. "I'm so proud."

"I can't believe you've stooped to repeating my slams," Cordelia told him. "Your loser-ness is showing again."

"Maybe you can use Spike as bait," Oz suggested. "Flush this Santiago out."

"No," Buffy said. "I'm not going to put him in danger when he can't even protect himself."

"Wow, over-protective much?" Cordelia said.

Everyone stared at Buffy, who started to fidget. "No, I just don't want him to be some vampire's plaything again. It's degrading."

"But still-" Willow began.

"NO," Buffy stated firmly. "I'll just keep my ear to the ground, maybe pay a visit to Willy."

"You can spread the rumor that you're willing to make a deal with Santiago," Angel suggested. "Since the vamps don't seem to know that you're the Slayer."

"That may work," Giles said. "It should, at least, confirm whether or-or not Santiago is alive."

"As long as it doesn't put Spike in danger, I'm game," Buffy replied. She glanced at the silent vampire sitting next to her. His head was down, his long hair hiding his face. She reached out and brushed the soft locks behind his shoulder so she could see him. He was, as usual, staring down at nothing. She didn't notice her friends watching her actions with varying degrees of interest. "I think it's time to be getting home. I still have another patrol to do."

"I'll drive you," Angel volunteered, allowing the others the option of staying at the club.

"Thanks," Buffy replied. Since the former couple had been with their friends the entire night, they were once again comfortable around each other. "See you guys tomorrow."



*****



"I'll keep an ear out for word on Santiago, in case he's left Sunnydale," Angel said as he pulled up outside of Buffy's house.

"If you hear anything, call," Buffy said.

"I will," he told her. "Be careful, alright? And I don't mean just with Santiago."

Buffy nodded, impulsively reaching over to squeeze his arm. "You keep safe, too."

Angel smiled. "Goodnight, Buffy."

"‘Night," she replied, getting out of the car. She opened the back door and got Spike out, then stood there with him until Angel pulled away. With a sigh, she turned and punched the gate code in. "I can never decide if it was good to see him or not," she commented to the blond vampire. "I mean...follow...it still kinda hurts, ya know?"

She opened the front door, leading Spike inside. "Oh well, Angel's going back to LA until another crisis comes up, so it doesn't matter. Come on, let's get you to bed. I gotta go out and introduce a few more vampires to Mr. Pointy."




Part Eight




Ooh now you'll never see,
Ooh now you'll never know,
All the things I had planned for you,
Things for you and me.

I held your hand so tightly
That I couldn't let it go.
Now how can life ever be the same?

The rumor of Spike still being alive spread like wildfire. It was almost as if there was a large billboard somewhere declaring a billion dollars was up for grabs, that was how big the living statue was in the vampire community. However, Santiago had yet to make an appearance to reclaim his toy.

Buffy was glad that the vampires she did overhear didn't seem to know exactly who had Spike, which kept him safe. Not even Willy knew he was living with her, despite her going to him for information concerning the peroxide-blond. The smaller vampire who had escaped at the club hadn't gotten a good look at her, nor had he seen the rest of her friends, leaving their identities a secret. The Slayer did not want to endanger any of them in protecting Spike, nor did she wish to put his life in danger, either. Especially not since the silent vampire had wormed his way under her defenses, causing her to care more for him than she should.

"Alright, Spike," Buffy said late one afternoon, a few weeks after Xander's birthday. The vampire was sitting with her in the room she dubbed as her ‘workshop,' where she had the materials to create new figurines. For the past few days, she'd been working in there in response to the number of requests she'd gotten to create a third pair of Drusilla and Spike figurines. "I want you to be brutal, since you knew her the best."

Giving a final wipe to the six-inch, hand-painted Drusilla prototype, she studied it with a critical eye. Based on information that Angel had given her, the female vampiress figurine was dressed in a long, off-white, Victorian gown. Her arms were up in the air, her head was thrown back with her hair fanning behind her, and she was on her toes. "I call it ‘Dancing Under the Stars,'" she told Spike, satisfied with her work.

"Head up," she said, as she turned towards him. After his head raised, she held up the figurine in front of him. "Well? Give me your honest opinion, don't hold anything back."

She waited a moment, as always, hoping he would answer. When he didn't, she began to lower her arm. "Yeah, I figured...." She blinked and frowned when she thought she saw his arm move. "...you'd..." Her eyes grew round as his left hand slowly raised on its own. "...say..." His hand reached out and closed his fingers around the figurine in her hand. "...that..." Her gaze shot up to his face and saw that he was staring at the object now in his hand.

"Spike?" Buffy said in a trembling voice. "Spike, can you hear me?"

Her heart stopped beating when he raised his eyes and looked at her.

His eyes dropped back down to the figurine in his hand, then back up at her, and she watched in shock as one lone tear traveled down his cheek. As his focus started to go blank again, she snapped out of her stupor and grabbed his shoulders, shaking him roughly. "Spike, don't you dare go away again!" she shouted. "Don't you fucking dare!"

Whether it was her shaking, her swearing, or it was just the right moment in time, she would never know. But none of that mattered as the vampire, who'd been nothing but a living statue for six years, began to cry.

Buffy's response was immediate. She sat next to him on the small couch in the workroom and wrapped her arms around him. One of her legs was tucked under her so she could sit sideways on the couch, enabling her to get closer to him as she held his head to her shoulder and let him cry. "That's it, Spike, go ahead and cry. I'm here, I've got you," she murmured comfortingly, her mind racing.

**Drusilla. Drusilla was the key,** she thought, running her hand lightly over his soft hair. **How could I have been so stupid?! Why didn't anyone think to check the database earlier than six years ago, instead of just concentrating on Santiago?!**

The sounds of his sniffles brought her out of her thoughts, and Spike slowly pulled away from her. He raised his head again, and she was so very happy to see him looking at her, a huge smile crossed her face. "Hi," she said softly, her hand reaching out to brush his hair behind his shoulder.

Spike didn't answer her, but his gaze didn't go blank, either. Buffy tilted her head to one side, studying him. "Do you know who I am?" she asked. He didn't move, but she saw the glimmer of recognition in his eyes. "That's right, it's Buffy. I haven't changed that much since high school."

She gestured with her hand. "You're in my house in Sunnydale," she told him. "You've been here around two months, ever since I rescued you from Santiago's place. Do you know who Santiago is?"

Spike looked down at the figurine clutched in his hand. He opened his fist and used his fingers to trace over Drusilla's child-like face. Those fingers were trembling, along with his lower lip, as silent tears began to fall again.

"Spike? Do you understand me?" Buffy asked him, lowering her head to see his face. "Can you nod yes or no?"

When he ever-so-slightly nodded his head yes, tears filled her own eyes. Unheeded, she let them run down her cheeks. She laid a hand on his thigh and squeezed gently. "Welcome back, Spike," she said. "Welcome back."



*****



"Thank you for calling Book-"

"Drusilla," Buffy said, interrupting Willow. She and Spike had moved to the kitchen, and the blond vampire was at the table, a kiddie cup of blood sitting in front of him. He hadn't touched it, instead he alternated between looking at the Slayer and looking at the figurine still in his hand. "Drusilla is the key. Find out everything you can about what happened between the time Spike left here and when he appeared with Santiago. Do it now."

"Buffy, what is it?" Willow asked, hearing something more than just what Buffy requested. "Did something happen with Spike?"

"Willow, he's back," she replied, feeling her eyes fill with tears once again. "He's back. He's looking at me right now. I mean, really looking at me."

"Oh goddess," Willow breathed. "Oh goddess! Oh goddess, thank you! I'll get right to work. You can count on me. I'll let you know as soon as I find something. Bye!"

"Bye," Buffy said. She hung up the phone, then took a seat next to Spike. "Hey, you're not eating," she said, pushing the bright green cup closer to him. "It's supper-time. Time to feed."

She had said the command word, wondering if he'd obey it. Slowly his hand came up and he took the cup, his head raising to look at her. "Go ahead, it's fresh," she encouraged. She didn't realize she was holding her breath until she let it go when he lifted the cup to his lips and began to drink the blood through the safety-lid. She had purchased the children's cups the weekend after Angel had left, and had found they cut down on the mess of feeding him tremendously.

Spike was watching her warily as he drank, and she tried to give him a reassuring smile. "This is probably really wiggy for you," she said. He nodded. "I guess I should ask you first if you remember anything."

His eyes dropped down to the figurine in his hand as he lowered the now-empty cup to the table. She saw his lower lip start to tremble again, and she quickly reached out and put a reassuring hand on his wrist. His gaze shot up to hers, his eyes reflecting confusion and pain, and she held fast to her emotions which were threatening to overflow again. "Hey, I'm not going to hurt you. Especially not since I've spent the past two months taking care of you," she told him. "Do you remember me taking care of you?"

He tilted his head slightly, as if thinking for a moment, then he nodded. "Do you remember someone else taking care of you before me?" Buffy asked him. He nodded again. "Do you remember Santiago?"

This time he shook his head no, so she clarified the question. "Do you remember being used as a toy by other vampires?" His gaze dropped back down to the figurine in his hand. When he didn't answer after a few moments, she took it as a yes. "It's ok, Spike. I don't think any less of you because of what you've been through."

When he raised his head, she saw slight anger in his eyes. "Are you mad at me? Or those vamps that hurt you?" Buffy said. She watched as he opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out. Frowning, she asked, "Spike, are you trying to talk?"

Spike closed his mouth and nodded, the anger in his blue eyes changing back into confusion. She realized at that moment that his facial expression never altered. It was like looking at a mask, with only his eyes being alive. "Oh my god, you've forgotten," she gasped. "You haven't talked or moved or done anything other than obeying the command words in so long, you forgot how!"



*****



Spike was confused. He remembered everything that happened over the past years, including Buffy taking care of him, but it was as though he'd been watching his life on television, rather than it really happening. Now it suddenly felt like he'd been given a pair of Three-D glasses, allowing him to interact once again. The trouble was, he didn't know how.

Sitting across the table from Buffy was equally as strange. Why would someone who hated him take the time to care for him? He wanted to ask her that, but when he opened his mouth to say something, nothing came out. He couldn't figure out why.

Then she told him that he had not talked in so long, he'd forgotten how, and he realized she was correct. Speaking was something that had been as natural to him as walking, but when he tried to remember how he did it, he couldn't.

Frustrated, his eyes dropped down to the figurine in his hand. It was Drusilla, his Princess, so perfect it was as if he were looking at her instead of an object only six-inches tall. She was dancing, and he could almost hear her laughter, see her in his mind waving her arms in the air, the moonlight playing over her pale skin. The tears came again, and he let them flow, not caring that he was crying in front of his supposed mortal enemy.

Then he felt Buffy's arms encircle around him, holding his head against her breast, and instead of revulsion, he wanted to sink into her embrace. He wanted her to comfort him.



*****



When the tears dried up, Buffy slowly released Spike, brushing his hair behind his shoulders. "Why don't we go splash some cold water on your face," she suggested. "It'll make you feel better."

Spike nodded and rose, and she led him, without giving the command word, back to the master bathroom. She saw him glance at the large tub. "Would you like to take a bath instead? It's the normal time I'd give you one."

He shook his head no so quickly, she laughed. "Spike, you don't have to be embarrassed. I didn't look," she told him. "Well, not much."

If vampire's could blush, he would have been bright red. As it was, he shifted back and forth on his feet, looking anywhere but at her or the tub. With a final giggle, she said, "If you want to take a bath, I can leave you alone. Only if you promise not to drown."

After a moment, he nodded. "Ok, I'll turn on the tap," she said, moving to do so. "All you have to do to turn it off is push the knob in. To unplug the drain, lift up on this lever, got it?" He nodded again, still not looking at her.

"Soap and shampoo are right here," she pointed out. "Yours is the green towel. Your toothbrush is the black one, toothpaste is in the top right drawer. Do you need anything else?" He shook his head no. "Then I'll leave you alone."

As she went to pass by him, he stepped in front of her. She looked up at him curiously. "Yeah, Spike?"

Spike met her eyes at the same time she felt him take and press the figurine into her hand. "Do you want me to go put this in your room?" she asked. He shook his head no. "Ok. I'll put it with the others then."

Buffy left the bathroom and pulled the door shut behind her, then looked down at the figurine. "Wherever you are, Drusilla, thank you. Thank you for bringing him back."




Part Nine




"After Spike left Sunnydale, he returned to Brazil and got back together with Drusilla," Willow told Buffy over the phone half-an-hour later. Spike was still in the tub, and Buffy had made herself a quick dinner while she waited for him. "It doesn't say how, only that they were really, really close again."

"Well, he did say he was going to torture her until she loved him again," Buffy said. "That's probably what he did. So what happened next?"

"They went around South America, living the vampire high life," the hacker replied. "Then one day, they just disappeared while in Cuba."

"How does this info compare to the living statue info?" Buffy asked.

"Hold on a sec," Willow said. "Um, the first reports of Santiago's la estatua vivo started...uh...it looks like about six months after Spike and Drusilla disappeared."

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" the Slayer said sadly.

"Yeah," Willow replied. "Drusilla died and Spike was devastated."

"Santiago used that to his advantage, and made Spike his plaything," she completed. "If I find that bastard, I'm going to rip his nuts off and make him eat them."

"Um, ouch," Willow said over the line. "But, Santiago deserves it, so not ouch."

"Right on, girl," Buffy told her.

Willow giggled. "You know, maybe Spike would want to be the one who...you know. Chops his dick off and shoves it up his own ass."

"Willow!"



*****



"Spike?" Buffy said, knocking on the bathroom door. "Are you alright?" When she didn't hear any splashing or other noise, she opened the door a crack. "I'm coming in."

She opened the door and found Spike sitting on the edge of the tub, towel around his waist, looking at his wet hair. "Hey, I brought you some clothes," she said, setting the pants and blue shirt down. He looked up at her and she smiled. "Get dressed. I'll meet you back in your room, ok?"

Spike nodded, and she left. A few minutes later, he appeared in the bedroom doorway, and another smile crossed her face, this time because he remembered where his room was located. "Have a seat," she said, patting the bed in front of her. He walked over to her and sat on the edge of the bed. Buffy took the comb that had been on her lap and began to brush his hair.

He pulled away from her at first, giving her a startled look. "Relax, Spike. I like doing this," she told him. "If you don't want me too..." She left the sentence dangling. After a moment, he gestured to the comb, then turned his back to her, allowing her to continue.

"I talked to Willow," Buffy began, running the comb over his peroxide-locks. "We both agree that you probably want to go and kick Santiago's butt. And I'm sorry about Drusilla. I hope you two were happy while she was still alive."

Spike nodded his head slightly, barely perceptible as she brushed his hair. "Anyway, there's a problem with you just running out to exact revenge on the prick," she continued. "We don't know where Santiago is. There's also a whole hell of a lot of vampires itching to get their hands on the living statue. Although I guess you can't be called that anymore."

She shifted on the bed to get more comfortable. "You probably have a ton of questions for me," Buffy said. "Do you think maybe you could write them down?"

Spike shook his head no and she frowned. "Why not?" He turned to face her, and he shook his head again as he glared at her. "Jeez, sorry. No need to get mad at me."

He shook his head again, and pointed to himself. "Um, you," Buffy deciphered. He nodded, then made a writing motion with his hand. "Write?" He then shook his head no. "You don't write?"

He nodded sharply. "But you already said you didn't want to wri-...oh," she said. "You don't know how to write." He made a gesture of affirmation with his hand while nodding again. "Wait, how come you don't know how to write?"

Spike rolled his eyes and Buffy started to giggle. "Sorry, it's not like you can just explain it to me," she cleared her throat. "Ok, lemme guess. Turn around so I can continue brushing your hair, or you'll get knots."

She waited until he did so, then began questioning him as she combed. "You don't know how to write." Nod. "Do you know how to read?" Nod. "Were you ever taught to write?" Shake. "Is this going to get annoying really fast?" Nod.

Buffy rolled her eyes this time, as she pulled back his hair and wrapped the tie around it. "There you go," she said. "All done."

Spike turned to face her and he reached his hand back to pull the hair over his shoulder. He held it up, looking at her with a question in his eyes. "I like it," she told him, a smile playing over her lips. "Makes you look dashing." His head dropped slightly, and he looked at her skeptically.

"Ok, you look more like a guy off the cover of one of those bodice rippers." He tilted his head slightly in confusion. "A trashy romance novel," Buffy explained, a blush staining her cheeks.

When she met his eyes, they were dancing and she knew he was grinning on the inside, even though his mouth didn't turn up into a smile. "Sure, go ahead, laugh at me," she told him. "See if I care."

In response, he reached over and took her hand, squeezing it gently. His eyes were now unfathomable, and she wondered what he wanted to say. But instead of asking, she simply squeezed his hand back. "Come on, lets get your shoes on and we'll head over to HQ. If we're going to get you talking again, we're going to have to do...blech...research."



*****



Spike walked next to Buffy, looking curiously at her every once in awhile as they headed down the streets of Sunnydale. He had enjoyed having her comb his hair, thought it was funny that she thought he resembled someone off the cover of a book, and wanted to tell her that he was glad that she cared about him. None of these were normal thoughts in relation to the Slayer.

But for some reason, it truly didn't matter to him that the blond by his side was the Slayer. She certainly hadn't acted like one, witness him still alive, and he didn't feel any desire to kill her. He didn't even feel the normal bloodlust that came with being beside a human. He wondered if it was because he'd been having animal blood, or if it was Buffy herself. It was probably the first, but he was actually hoping it was the latter.

He'd also met her cat when she went to retrieve a few weapons from a hidden closet near her front door. He'd been astounded when the cat began to wind around his legs, rubbing against him and purring. He also couldn't believe that, not only did the ball of fuzz like him, the feline was named after him, too.

"We're here," Buffy said, gesturing at the front of a closed bookstore. "This is Bookends. Giles and Willow own it and Ethan sells his painting out of the second floor."

Spike nodded, letting her know he understood. He followed her around to the back of the store and watched as she entered a series of numbers on a keypad. The door clicked and she pulled it open, allowing him to step inside first. There was a single light on in the back room, and he looked around curiously. He remembered coming through here once before, but nothing had really registered.

"Come on, everyone's downstairs," she told him, taking his arm and leading him towards the stairwell.

He glanced down at her small hand against the material of his blue shirt and decided he liked it there. He had to turn his attention back to where they were going as they walked down the stairs. He didn't want to trip for the first time, now that he was under his own power.

"Hey guys, guess what's shakin'?" Buffy greeted the others in the room.

Spike looked from person to person, recognizing the Watcher, Willow and Xander. There was another older man there and a brunette sitting next to Xander. Suddenly, he heard a yip and saw yet another ball of fuzz run at him. He latched onto Buffy's hand on his arm and stumbled back a few steps as the long-haired fluff-ball started jumping on his leg.

"Angel, down," Willow ordered, rising from her seat to collect the dog.

The blond vampire looked at Buffy, who grinned at him. "Yes, the dog's named Angel, just like the cat's named Spike," she said.

"Hi, Spike," Willow said, smiling at him easily because of her caring nature. "Welcome to HQ."

Spike's grip on Buffy's hand tightened and he realized he was feeling fear, but he didn't know why. He looked down at the Slayer again and she removed his hand, only to entwine her fingers with his other one, and give him a reassuring squeeze.

"Spike's had a lot happen today, so try not to pester him too much," Buffy told the others. She glanced up at the vampire. "Um, I don't know if you know everyone. This is Willow. Over at the table is Xander and Cordelia. I know you know Giles and the tall, annoying fellow is Ethan."

"Very amusing, Buffy," Ethan said drolly.

"Well, he's dressed ok," Cordelia said, looking the vampire over. "So things can't be that bad."

"I take it now that you're back, you're going to try and kill us," Xander said to Spike. "I want to put my two cents in and say that I won't like that. I happen to like my being alive."

"What about me?" Cordelia asked.

"He can have you if it saves me," Xander teased in reply. She smacked him.

"He won't try to kill us," Buffy stated confidently. "Because if he does, he'd have the best vampire slayers in the world pissed at him, and I doubt that he wants that."

Spike shook his head no, heartily agreeing with her. In no way, shape, or form did he want to go up against those in this room, not after hearing all the stories over the two months he'd been with her on their victories. It felt rather odd that he remembered those stories clearly, but almost like he'd been listening to a radio rather than her telling him in person.

"I-I take it there is a reason for your coming, not just for reintroducing Spike," Giles said.

"Yep, research," Buffy replied.

Willow snorted, then covered her face. "Sorry, Buff."

"Hey, I research, too!" Buffy protested.

"About as often as you do tear-downs," Giles said. The Slayer scowled at him.

"He is right, Buffy," Xander said. "You are on the less academic side of the team."

Ethan snickered and Buffy turned her glare on him. "Do you have something to add, Ethan?"

"Of course not, my dear," Ethan replied, giving her a smile.

"If you guys are done making fun of me, I'd like to get some work done before I go on patrol," Buffy said.

"Ok, we're done," Xander said. Then added, "For now."

"So, what's on the agenda?" Willow asked, taking a seat behind the PC once again, dog in her arms.

"How to get Spike talking again," Buffy answered. She led the blond vampire over to the table and gestured for him to take a seat next to her. "Did you tell them about that, Wills?"

"Yeah," Willow replied, looking at Spike. "Kinda sucks, huh?"

Spike nodded. That was an understatement.

"Can you write?" Giles asked.

Buffy started to chuckle and Spike glared at her. "Sorry. Um, we've had this conversation earlier, with lots of charades. The answer is a definite not."

"Well, I suppose that would put a damper on communication," Giles said.

"That's why we're here, Giles," Buffy said. "That and the fact that there wasn't anything good on tv."




NC-17 Version

PG-13 Version 1