A Ghost Of A Chance


by Saber ShadowKitten



Prologue


Translated from Pawnee


"...Bind the beast to the ghost of Nia Mirobi, if she wishes it, and grant her spirit the powers to make his suffering complete. We ask that the penalty for his murderous ways not go unpunished and place upon him this curse to follow her dictates until she believes justice has been served. Then and only then shall the beast be released from the ghost by death of her choosing..."



Part One







"Be glad this placed is closed on Tuesdays," Spike said, working on his laces. "Or in no way would I be allowing this."


"Oh come on, Billy, I just want to have some fun before we reach Sunnydale."


"Fun?" Spike said, turning to glare at the young woman next to him on the bench. "I listened to that crap you call music for over a thousand bleedin' miles, Nia, all to entertain you. If I heard that Loco song one more time, you'd have no one to annoy, because I'd stake myself." He looked down at his foot, then back at her. "And stop calling me Billy."


Nia's dark eyes twinkled with laughter. She pulled her single, black braid over her shoulder, lifted her head slightly and looked down her aquiline, Native American nose. "Stodgy old man."


"Who's putting these things on his feet for you?" Spike scowled.


"Thank you, Billy," Nia sang.


Spike sighed and stood. His ankles turned out immediately and he ended up standing on the sides of his feet. Nia laughed. "Sod off," he growled, removing his duster. He put it on the bench, then walked shakily to the divide in the wall. Once there, he turned and looked at the mid-twenty year old beside him. "Try not to hurt me."


"I know how to ice skate," Nia told him.


"Yeah, but I don't," he replied. When she smiled at him, he groaned. "Why me?"


"Next time, do your homework before you kill someone," she said, then stepped inside his body.


Spike hated when his ghostly companion used his body. It felt as though he walked through thick mud as she entered, then he was sitting on a couch in his mind, watching the world through his own eyes, but unable to do a single thing. Nia stepped onto the ice and began to skate and he tried not to consciously watch how fast she was going.


Invisible to everyone but him, Nia was a ghost of a young woman he'd had for dinner one night. Like Angelus a century before, the Native American's tribe took offense at what he had done and cursed him, not with a soul, but with a ghost who had the power to keep him on the straight and narrow. He'd felt first hand her powers and still had a burn mark on his side that hadn't fully healed.


Spike had spent the first week of their being together in a motel room, ignoring her. By the end of the week of her constant chatter and testing out her powers, including moving in and out of his body, he decided it was better for him if he treated her like an annoying companion. After many months of his testing the limits -- and many painful recoveries because of it - Nia had suggested that since he had to be good, he should be helpful.


They had argued for several hours over that until he had finally given in, more to get her to shut up than because he agreed with her. Then she had asked him who he wanted to help and the first person that came to mind was the Slayer. Nia had plucked the image out of his head, much to his annoyance, and they were now in an ice skating rink outside of Sunnydale.


He didn't even know if Buffy was still alive or not -- it had been over a year since he'd last been to the Hellmouth. The possibility that she wasn't always brought a strange pain to his stomach, as if he had drank old blood. He knew that he'd miss her if she was gone, like one worthy adversary to another, but that didn't explain the sadness that came over him when he thought of a world without the petite, blond Slayer.


However, he'd know soon enough if she was still kicking vampire and demon butt. If Nia didn't kill him first by going at ridiculous speeds around the skating rink in his body.


"Oh crap," Nia said in the deep timber of Spike's voice.


Spike felt the pull of the ghost leaving him and his eyes widened under his own power. She had left him in the middle of the rink, heading full-speed towards the wall. His arms flailed out as he tried to stop, causing him to lose what little balance he'd retained from Nia. He fell backwards onto the ice, cracking his head on the cold surface. He slid close to ten feet before he stopped and found Nia looking down at him.


"Oops, sorry," she said.


"Right," Spike muttered, glaring at her, his head pounding. "You could have put me on solid ground first."


"Shh," Nia said. "We have company."


"That's just bloody great," he grumbled, sitting up and putting a hand on the back of his head. It came away red. "Nia, you split my friggin' skull open."


"I said I was sorry," she replied.


He went to glare at her again when he saw the woman skating across the ice towards him. With a groan, he laid back down on the cold ice and spread his arms out to the sides. "Somebody stake me, please," he whimpered. The loud scrap of blades against the ice heralded the arrival of the person he'd come to Sunnydale to find. On one hand, he was ridiculously happy she wasn't dead, on the other, she was witness to his graceful flop on the ice.


"Why is it bad guys insist on bleeding on my ice?" Buffy asked, coming to a stop beside the prone vampire. "And why is it you can't leave and stay gone?"


"I can't seem to stay away from your sparkling wit and personality, luv," Spike replied sarcastically. "It draws me like a spider does a fly."


"So you're metaphor man now," Buffy said. "Wonderful. Now stop bleeding and go away. I don't want dust all over the ice, too."


"She's cute," Nia commented from the other side of him. "In a wholesome, white-bread kinda way. Are you sure she's the Slayer? She doesn't look strong enough to paint her own nails."


Spike turned his eyes to the ghost and glared, then sat up again. He looked at the distance between himself and the exit to the rink. "Bloody hell," he muttered, crawling up onto his knees. He put one unsteady foot on the ice and pushed upwards. That foot shot forward on the blade, sending him into an impromptu split and he hissed when certain muscles were pulled in ways they weren't meant to be pulled.


Nia burst out laughing as he fell onto his hip, then sat down. He heard Buffy chuckle, too, and he knew he should have walked out into the sunlight when he'd had the chance. "You could help me," he growled.


"This is too much fun," Nia replied.


"But you were skating just fine a few minutes ago," Buffy pointed out.


"Oh, bugger off," Spike said, speaking to both of them, even though the Slayer only thought he was talking to her. He slowly and unsteadily climbed to his feet, then stood leaning forward, his arms splayed to the sides for balance. When he didn't immediately fall he was relieved, but that relief was short lived when he realized he didn't know how to move. "Er, can I get a push in the right direction?"


"Is this just a ploy to get me close enough so you can kill me?" Buffy asked. "If so, it's pretty lame."


"I'm not going to bloody kill you," Spike growled. "I just want to get off this friggin' ice."


Buffy skated behind him and put her hands on his waist. She lightly pushed him towards the side. They arrived at the divide and Spike grasped the walls and stepped onto solid ground. He let out a sigh of relief and made his way to the nearby bench to take the skates off his feet. He shot a hateful glare to the ghost, who sat down next to him, and she smiled in return.


"So, Spike, what brings you back to Sunnydale?" Buffy asked, standing across from him with her arms crossed over her chest. "A death wish?"


"If it were that simple," Spike mumbled, unlacing the skates.


"What?" Buffy said.


"I came to offer you my services, pet," he said.


"As what, a Vampires On Ice skater?"


"Oh, that's a good one!" Nia laughed.


"I thought perhaps as your lover," Spike said, ignoring Nia. "But that would be sacrificing too much for the cause."


"Thanks so much," Buffy said sarcastically. "Like I would really want you anyway. You're dead and you have lousy taste in clothes."


"I'll say," Nia agreed.


"Didn't stop you from letting Angel give you the old leg up," he said, turning his head to shoot Nia a glare.


Her eyes narrowed. "Leave Angel out of this."


"Why? I'm not afraid of the old ponce," he told her. "Where is the soulful wuss anyway? I thought you dragged him around by his cock-"


The punch sent him tumbling off the back of the bench and onto the padded floor. He heard Nia laughing at him as he gave the Slayer a thoughtful look. "Problems in sappyville, ducks?"


"That's none of your business," Buffy ground out.


"Someone's a bit testy," Spike commented as he righted himself.


"Spike, what do you want?" she sighed.


"Billy-boy, trouble," Nia said, pointing.


Spike looked past Buffy and saw some sort of white creature had almost crept up behind her while he was on the floor. He grabbed one of his discarded skates and stood. "Slayer, duck."


Buffy's eyes widened, but she dropped into a crouch as Spike brought his arm back and let loose with the skate. It flew end over end before embedding itself in the creature's chest. It let out a high-pitched scream, then fell to the ice behind the wall. The vampire walked forward and looked over the divide. "'He's dead, Jim.'"


"'Good shot, Jensen,'" Nia said, playing the quote game with him. She leaned over the wall beside him. "Your first official good deed for the Slayer."


"Second," Spike said absently, watching the blue blood spread from the wound down to the ice.


Buffy stood and looked over the wall. "Oh wow," she said.


"He's bleeding on your ice," Spike joked, his lips turning up in a wry smile.


"Did you...you just..."


"Helped you?" he finished. "Guess I did."


"But why?" Buffy asked.


"I don't even get a 'thank you'?"


"Thank you, now why?" she repeated.


"I told you I was here to offer my services," Spike replied. He sat back down and began to put his shoes back on.


Buffy suddenly put her hand on his forehead. "You don't feel like you have a fever."


"I'm a bit too dead to have one of those, pet," he said.


"Your humor is a bit dead, too," Nia told him. Spike gave her the old 'scratch the side of the head while flicking someone off' gesture. "Childish enough?"


"Who are you and what have you done with my Spike?" Buffy asked, a frown on her face.


"My Spike?" he drawled.


"Oh, shut up," she growled. "The Spike I know wouldn't help me."


"I beg to differ, Slayer," Spike said. "I seem to recall a little incident where I helped you save the world."


"You helped her save the world?" Nia asked. "That's what you meant by second?" Spike glanced over at the ghost and nodded. "Wowsers. And here I thought you were just a despicable vampire who enjoyed killing innocent, young women by luring them to your bed and draining them while in the throes of passion." She paused and cocked her head. "Oh wait, that was just me."


"That's not what happened and you know it," Spike said under his non-existent breath.


"Ok, skip the innocent part," Nia said. Spike glared at her again.


"Um, Spike?" Buffy said. He turned his attention back to the blond. "Are you for real?"


"I'm not Memorex," he teased. "Why don't you go call your Watcher about this..." He gestured to the creature. "Thing. There may be more and I'd like to be prepared."


"Ok," she replied, walking away. She stopped and looked back over her shoulder at him, then shook her head and continued out of the rink.


"Bugger," Spike sighed. "I'm going to be another Angel. This bloody bites."


"It's your teeth that got you into this to begin with," Nia pointed out.


"Nia, shut your yap for awhile, will you?" he said.


"Boy, someone's testy,"she said. "You'd think that you were a evil vampire forced to do good deeds or something."


Spike didn't dignify that with a comeback.


*****


"Giles, it is so wiggy," Buffy said into the phone. "He helped me. Ok, granted, it's not the first time he's done it, but still..."


"And you are certain this is Spike?" Giles asked over the line.


"I thought Invasion of the Body Snatchers right away, too," she replied. "But he doesn't look like Donald Sutherland."


"Do you think his offer of assistance is sincere?"


"Don't know," she said. "He could just be setting up some big, hokey trap."


"Well, until we, er, ascertain his intentions, we shall need to keep an eye on him," Giles said.


"Do that friends close, enemies closer thing," Buffy agreed. "Got it."


"In the meantime, dispose of the body and then meet me back here," he instructed. "I shall research on what type of-of creature you have described."


"Will do, Giles," Buffy said. "See you soonly."


She hung up the phone and headed back for the rink, curious as to if Spike would still be there or not. When she had arrived at the rink earlier, an activity she normally did on Tuesdays, courtesy of prompting from Angel not to stop, she had been surprised to find someone else at the closed establishment. Her surprise had grown tenfold when she had recognized Spike skating in circles around the rink, sometimes forwards, sometimes backwards.


Then he had fallen suddenly and smacked his head on the ice hard enough that it echoed in the rink. She had winced and skated over to him to see if he was alright, then mentally hit herself for being worried about Spike of all people. When her hands were around his waist as she guided him back to the edge of the rink, she had tried not to ogle his butt. It hadn't helped that his black jeans fit snugly to his body, or that they were slightly wet from landing on the ice. At the turn of her thoughts to Spike's rear, she decided she really needed to date more.


Walking back to the rink, she paused in the entryway and frowned. Spike looked like he was talking to himself. Then she amended her assessment -- he looked like he was talking to someone, but no one was there. Wondering if Drusilla had rubbed off on him, she continued into the rink and picked up a snippet of one-sided conversation.


"...I guess we could bother the tosser at the mansion. There's enough rooms in that bloody place to house the Vienna Boys Choir."


Buffy watched as he stopped speaking, as if he were listening to a reply, then he continued.


"I did too see them. Dru wanted to keep one as a pet to sing for her."


Buffy thought perhaps his head connecting with the ice had jarred something loose. "So, Spike, who're you talking to?" she asked, calling attention to her presence.


Spike turned quickly, a surprised look on his face which quickly melted into aloofness. "What did your Watcher say?" he asked instead of replying.


She arched her brow, but dropped her inquiry. "He said to lose the body," she replied. "And since you've self-appointed yourself helpful-boy, you can have that job."


"Why thank you, Slayer, you're too kind," he said, picking up his duster and sliding it on before moving carefully out onto the ice.


Buffy giggled as she watched him struggle and trying not to fall. After his fifth attempt to pull the body across the ice, she took pity on him and skated onto the rink. Grabbing the creatures arms, she skated backwards and dragged it and a blue line of blood to the hard floor. "You can take it from here, Spike. I'm going to get my shoes on and jet."


Spike turned his head to the area next to her and glared, then asked, "Do you need a ride, pet?"


Buffy looked to where he was looking, but saw nothing glare-worthy. She glanced behind her with the same results. "Um, no, that's ok," she replied, growing steadily more uncertain of his mental stability. "I'll walk."


"You're not afraid of me, are you, Slayer?" Spike said, a mocking grin on his face.


"Not," she said. "You're about as scary as my stuffed pig, only he doesn't cry."


"I don't cry," he scowled.


"Then you must've had something really big in your eyes last time you were here," she said sweetly. She turned and headed back out of the rink. "Bye Spike."


As she left, she heard him growl, "Bloody woman. And you, shut your hole before I make you walk."


"What a strange, strange vampire," Buffy said to herself. "Now why didn't I stake him when I had the chance?"



Part Two







"Honey, I'm home!" Spike yelled as he and Nia entered the mansion. When he didn't get an answer, he frowned. "Snookums?"


"Doesn't look like anyone's home," Nia said, walking further into the main room. She turned on the lights. "Wow, this place is huge."


"I know," Spike replied, heading for the master bedroom.


"I'm going to go explore," she called to him.


"No wonder the Slayer hit me," he commented upon finding no clothing in the bedroom. He chuckled, his mood improving with the fact that his sire was AWOL. "Sayonara, Angel."


Returning to the main room, Spike wrinkled his nose at the dust covering everything. He may be dead and far from a neat vampire, but some things bothered him. "Nia! Wave your bleedin' magic wand or whatever and get rid of this dust!"


Nia came around the corner from the hall to the other bedrooms. "I'm not your maid. Clean it yourself."


He turned puppy dog eyes on her. "Please?"


"Oh brother," she said, rolling her eyes. "I think you got this whole punishment thing wrong." She made a gesture with her hand and the dust vanished throughout the mansion. "I'm suppose to make you do things, not the other way around."


"I like my way better," he joked, then flopped down on the now-clean couch.


"So, what's your plan, oh sultan of the undead?" Nia asked, perching on the arm beside him.


"Feed, sleep, shag...," he trailed off when Nia glared at him and gave her a shameless grin. "I figured we'd find the Slayer after we stop by the butcher's and stock up. Peaches has to have a fridge around here somewhere."


"My guess would be the kitchen," she said.


Spike shook his head and stood. "Electricity is still on, so my bet is the water is, too. Try to get lost while I clean up. I won't miss you."


"You are just too funny, Billy," Nia told him.


"My room's the third on the left, you can have any of the others," Spike said as he left the room. He paused and scowled over his shoulder at her. "And stop calling me Billy."


"Whatever you say...Billy!"


Spike sighed and headed back to the bathroom. He didn't have to worry about the ghost popping upon him unexpectedly, unless he tried to do something stupid, like escape through a window. He figured she had some sort of magical radar on him that let her know where he was at all times. They had an unwritten agreement that she would not bother him when he was either in the bathroom or in his own bedroom, which was why when they changed motels, he'd gotten a suite. He could only spend so much time with her before he wanted to claw his eyes out in frustration.


It wasn't that Nia was a bad companion. In fact, Spike understood pretty quickly that he had gotten off light when he was cursed to be haunted by her for however long she decided. Of course, he'd be dust when she decided justice had been served, so he wanted her to haunt him for a very long time, because he liked unlife, even if he had to be good. He could still be bad while being good, it just took creativity. A high threshold for pain helped, too.


The one problem that he had with Nia, other than the fact that she kept calling him Billy, was that she very much enjoyed putting him in a position where he would make a fool of himself, like at the skating rink when she suddenly left his body. It was too bad the demon inside him didn't seem to notice when the ghost was inhabiting him, because he'd love for it to rough her up a bit so she'd stay out of him. Luckily, she now asked before she invaded, so he was prepared for it.


After a quick shower, he went to the dust-free bedroom that had been his those few months he'd lived here. The bedroom he'd found refuge in while Drusilla cavorted like a bitch in heat with her daddy. The bedroom where he worked his ass off to finish building back the strength in his legs. The bedroom where he planned his sire's downfall.


Throwing himself on the bed, Spike stared up at the stippled ceiling and reined in his anger over events in the past. The past was the past and there was no changing it, so there was no use getting upset over it. He growled and flipped over onto his stomach, then pulled the pillow over his head. A short while later, he fell into a deep sleep.

*****

Buffy was unaware of the ghost watching her as she crept into the mansion around mid-morning. The Slayer hadn't been to the hulking residence since Angel had left and was surprised at its cleanliness. She would have figured that a thick layer of dust would have been over everything.


Moving silently, she prowled around the main rooms, then down the hallway, searching for Spike. Her stake was drawn and ready to be used like it should have been the previous night. She could hardly believe that she hadn't even attempted to fight him, let alone end his unlife. Instead, she had conversed like he wasn't a member of the evil bloodsucker sect.


She saw bare feet first when she opened the third door on the left. They were face down on a dark bedspread, which was on large bed she could see from the doorway. Slowly, she opened the door further and was treated to more bare skin coming into view. Muscular calves, the pale backs to knees, thighs...


Buffy froze with the door blocking her view of anything higher. Her mind was telling her that seeing her enemy sans clothing was not something she should do. Her hormones and everything else that made her a red-blooded woman were screaming at her, telling her to get her butt in that bedroom and check out the obviously fine specimen of male. After a brief debate, the woman won over rationality, and she entered the bedroom.


"Oh my," she breathed. Spike was completely nude, lying face down on the bed, arms around the pillow his head laid on. Arms in which the biceps and triceps were well-defined, his forearms muscular and powerful. She let her eyes travel over his shoulders and down the strong line of his back to the firm buttocks and back to those thighs she'd stopped at moments before.


Tearing her eyes from his sexy backside, she studied his face. Part of it was blocked by his strong arm holding the pillow, but what she could see was relaxed in sleep. His lashes were long and dark, creating shadows beneath his eyes. His cheekbones were sculpted and the part of his nose she could see straight and fitting for his face. The scar splitting his brow was the only thing stopping him from being too perfect, giving him a bad boy edge.


She wondered what he would feel like when she ran her hands over him, then violently shoved the naughty thought away. She did not want to touch him. She did not want too see if his butt was a firm as it looked. She did not want to feel those thighs pressed against hers. She did not want to feel those thighs in between hers. She did not want him to turn over so she could see the rest of him.


She was lying to herself.


"Damn," she said under her breath, tucking the stake up her sleeve. She couldn't kill him. Not while he was so scrumptiously naked and asleep in bed. A bed that was big and dark and looked like it was created specifically for passionate nights of skin touching skin. Touching his skin. Feeling his skin against hers. Feeling him inside of...


Buffy turned and fled.


The ghost that had been watching and listening to the Slayer's thoughts laughed delightedly. "This is going to be such fun."

*****

"It always amazes me how bloody oblivious people in this burg are," Spike commented, white plastic bag hanging from his fingers. "Isn't anyone suspicious of a request for four quarts of animal blood at eight-thirty at night?"


"Maybe they're used to it," Nia suggested, walking beside him, her steps silent on the street. "Didn't you say that Angel bought from there?"


"He'd had to have," he replied. "Unless he was copping from the infirmary."


"I don't think his soul would let him do that," she said.


Spike shrugged. "Probably not. Now me on the other hand..."


"Don't even think it, Billy goat," Nia warned.


"It's not like they use it a-aaarrhh." Spike clamped a hand over his right side as he bent double in pain. "Nia."


Nia dropped her hand. "I said not to even think it."


"I was joking, woman," he growled, untucking his shirt to look at the damage the ghost had caused. She'd hit the same spot he had the healing scar, only now the area was blackened and had the odor of charred flesh. "Bloody hell, Nia. I'm never going to heal if you keep that up."


"Then don't push my buttons," Nia told him. She resumed walking, her hands in the pockets of her never-changing, loose, cotton dress she'd been buried in. It was an off-white color, fitted with dark brown piping along the simple, scooped collar, the cuffs of the puffed sleeves and along the ankle length skirt. Her black braid swung behind her as she walked, brushing the middle of her back.


Spike grumbled under his non-existent breath and caught up with her, leaving his shirt half-untucked. "After I get this stuff back to the mansion, we'll set about finding the Slayer," he said, changing the subject.


"Won't be too hard," Nia said. "Seeing as she's right there."


The blond vampire raised his head sharply and saw the object of his non-affection walking up the street towards them. "Damn," he swore, shifting the plastic bag behind his back. "You could have warned me sooner."


"And ruin my fun?" she said with a smile. "No chance, Billy Bob."


"Stop calling me Billy," he growled at her, then put on a sardonic grin for Buffy. "Hello, Slayer. Fancy meeting you out and about."


"Nighttime, sacred duty, ring any bells in that empty head of yours?" Buffy said. She crossed her arms over her chest and tapped her foot. "So, who have you been eating? Anyone I know?"


"Why, pet, I'm hurt," he said dramatically. "What makes you think I'd do something like that?"


"Cut the crap, bleach-head," she snapped. "I don't know why you're really here or what stupid scheme your pea brain thought up, but you have five minutes to get out of my town or I will give you a wooden enema."


"I'd like to see that," Nia said, grinning ridiculously.


Buffy stormed passed him, then stopped and turned around rapidly. "What do you have behind your back?"


"Er, nothing," Spike lied, shifting the bag behind his back. She would have to notice. He also wondered what her outburst was about. He had been on his best behavior and everything.


"Spike." The Slayer's eyes narrowed dangerously. "What. Is. Behind. Your. Back."


"I like her," Nia commented. Spike saw the ghost lift her hand and then heard the bag rustling behind him.


"I have to go, luv," Spike said quickly, gritting his teeth together so as not to look at Nia. "I'll meet up with you later."


"Now, Spike," Buffy growled at him.


Spike did what any man, vampire or mortal, did when faced with an angry woman. He turned tail and practically ran. "Bye, Slayer!"


Of course, most men didn't have a ghost haunting them like Spike did, who's greatest source of amusement was embarrassing him. The bag handles suddenly broke, sending the bag thudding to the ground, miraculously -- or not, considering the source of the break - landing without falling onto its side. Then Spike tripped over air, falling face first towards the pavement just past the bag. He landed with a hard smack of his hands and his knees cracking painfully on the ground.


"Nia," he hissed, listening to the ghost's laughter.


He heard Buffy's footsteps towards him. "Clutzy much?" she asked.


Pushing himself up, Spike got to his feet the same time the Slayer got to his bag. "Oh, bugger," he sighed as she pulled out one of containers. He looked beyond her to Nia and muttered, "Thanks a lot."


"My pleasure," Nia said, curtseying.


"This is blood from the butcher's shop," Buffy gasped. "Angel used to go..." She looked up at him. "Why do you have this?"


"I thought I'd take up finger painting," Spike replied sarcastically. Buffy studied him silently and he shifted on his feet, uncomfortable by her scrutiny. He glared again at Nia and hoped that she was reading murderous thoughts about her.


"Were you serious about helping me?" Buffy finally asked.


Spike dropped his gaze to the Slayer and met her eyes squarely. "Yes."


"And I take it by this..." She put the container back into the bag. "You don't feed from humans anymore."


"Either that or I found a new method of draining them," Spike said with a smirk.


Buffy stood and wiped her hands on her pants. "One hour. Outside the old high school," she said, then turned and walked away.


Spike watched her retreating form until she turned the corner down a side street, then he sighed again. Why wasn't unlife ever simple? He picked up his broken bag and, with a glowering glance at Nia, turned and headed in the opposite direction.


Nia grinned and called out innocently, "What did I do, Billy?"


"Stop calling me Billy!"


Part Three





Buffy looked over the rubble that was the old Sunnydale High School. They had gotten lucky. Only twelve had been killed during the Mayor's ascension; but to Buffy, that was twelve too many. Nothing had been built on the site, even though over six months had passed, and she doubted anything ever would. Too many bad vibes from the Hellmouth located directly below what remained of the library.


She sighed and looked around for the familiar peroxide-blond head of Spike. She couldn't believe what she had seen earlier. Spike -- naked...


The containers of blood were confounding, too.


But, Spike -- naked...


Shaking her head, she tried to get rid of the picture firmly embedded in her mind of the vampire laying front down on his bed, his strong, lean body begging for her touch. Begging for her to taste his skin by running her tongue up his spine and watch him shiver because of it. Begging her to find out if she could make him...


"Stop, stop, stop," Buffy told herself firmly. "You are not that hard up for a guy that you should be drooling over an obnoxious vampire who can't even follow the simplest of instructions! So what if he's sexy? There are all sorts of sexy guys on campus. And they have a pulse, too!"


Her stern lecture to herself did nothing to dispel her lustful thoughts about Spike. With another sigh, she forced herself to look around once more for the vampire in question. She wondered what was up with him. Not feeding from humans, wanting to help her, tripping over air and falling flat on his face...


The last one puzzled her. If she hadn't been standing right there, she would have sworn he really did trip over an object in the road, or perhaps been pushed. He was normally quite graceful, moving from place to place with a predator's confidence, fighting with a fluidity that she envied at times. And he looked so very yummy naked.


"Enough with the naked already!" Buffy growled to herself. She shoved her hands violently in the pockets of her jacket and glared down the street. It was good timing, for she saw Spike heading towards her in the distance.


The shadows of the destroyed school kept her hidden from view, giving her a chance to observe him without his noticing. His step was sure and full of cocky confidence, daring anyone to challenge him from walking down the street. She noticed the way he kept scanning the area around him, searching for other predators of the night, as a good fighter did.


Then she saw him stop, face right and start arguing with the air. He raised his hand and shook a finger at the non-existent person he was talking to and then glare at the empty space as if receiving a reply.


"Ok, this is way wig-worthy," Buffy said quietly to herself. She watched as Spike threw his hands in the air in a mimic of defeat, then continue his way towards her. When he did nothing out-of- sorts again, she made her presence known by stepping into the street where he would be able to see her.

*****

"There she is," Spike said under his non-existent breath. "Now, will you please try not to destroy what little dignity I have left?"


"I'll try," Nia replied. "It won't be easy, though. You're are so entertaining."


"Watch the telly," he muttered.


"No cable," she said.


Spike bit back his sigh and plastered a cocky grin on his face. "Slayer," he said pleasantly, reaching the petite blond. He surveyed the ruins of the high school. "Your work?"


"Well, I burned down the gym at my first high school," Buffy replied with a small shrug. "I figured I had to top that."


"I'd say you did a right good job at that," he commented. He took a cigarette out of his pocket and lit it, more out of a need to occupy his hands than because of the nicotine. "So, pet..." He let the sentence dangle, expecting her to finish it.


"You want to help," Buffy stated. He nodded. "Are we talking slaying vampires or just watching my back or what?"


"Whatever you wish, luv," he answered.


"Are you sure that you're Spike?" she asked, tilting her head to one side.


Spike sucked in an unneeded breath as her hair fell away from her neck, baring it in an enticing manner. A bolt of longing shot through him, longing to mark her as his, to nuzzle that bit of flesh as she lay under him, her naked body pressed against his. Never before had he had this instantaneous of a reaction to anyone, mortal or otherwise.


Yes, he had lusted after the Slayer in the past. Who wouldn't? She was a sexy bundle of muscle and softness -- petite and powerful. Everything one would look for in a lover and that was before seeing her fight. Once seeing her strong, sure movements, there was no choice in thinking about what she would be like in bed.


But to want to mark her? To possess her as his own? The Slayer? Perhaps Nia had messed with his mind a little too often.


"Hello? Spike?" Buffy waved her hand in front of his face. "Anyone home?"


"Do what?" Spike said, snapping back from his thoughts.


"You zoned," Nia told him. "Naughty, naughty, Billy. Thinking about her like that."


"Sorry, Slayer," Spike said, wondering why he wasn't in pain since Nia had read his thoughts. Necks and his fangs were off limits as far as the ghost was concerned, even in thought. "And yes, I'm certain I'm the Spike you know and love to hate."


"Right," Buffy drawled out. She pulled a extra stake out of the back waistband of her pants. "Well, if you want to help, there are some things you want to know."


Spike looked at the stake warily. "Such as?"


"First of all, they pay is lousy," she said, then grinned. "And the job has a tendency to suck the social life out of you."


"Mine's been pretty dead lately, so no worries," Spike joked back.


Buffy groaned and held out the stake. "Second, this is a stake. The stake is your friend. Anything that has fangs and goes 'grr', use it on them."


"She's...what do you call it? Cheeky?" Nia commented.


"I think I know what a stake is, pet," Spike said, taking the whittled wood from Buffy.


"Third," Buffy continued, holding up three fingers. "If I look like I could use a hand, don't hesitate to give it. Same goes for any of the others."


"Others?" Nia asked.


Spike turned to answer Nia, then caught himself and returned his attention to Buffy. "Help your chums, right. Anything else?"


"Yeah, this is strange to the extreme," Buffy said. "I can't believe that you want to do this."


"You've already inferred that five bloody times, Slayer," Spike said. "You're starting to sound like a broken recording."


"Isn't it suppose to be 'a broken record'?" Nia asked.


"Isn't it suppose to be 'a broken record'?" Buffy said.


Spike lowered his head and rubbed his eyes as Nia chuckled. "Swell," he muttered. "Worse than bleedin' parrots."


"What was that, Spike?" Buffy asked.


"Nothing, pet," Spike replied. He pushed up his sleeve and looked at the watch-face on his inner wrist. A watch Nia had made him get in order to be on time to the pictures. Ones that she chose, of course. He'd had to sit through Never Been Kissed six times with her in his body so she could taste popcorn and other fang-rotting treats.


"It's ten now," he said. "Prime hunting time."


"And you would know," Buffy said. He shrugged, a half-grin tugging his lips. "Well, come on then. Let's go see if you're trying to sell me some ocean-front property in Arizona."


As she started to walk away, his eyes dropped to her backside. He smiled wolfishly.


Being good was going to have some benefits.

*****

"Slayer, straight up!"


Buffy crouched and jumped straight up into the air, catching the tree branch and swinging up onto it at Spike's yell. The three vampires that had been about to charge her crashed into each other, falling to the ground in a heap. She grabbed her stake and threw it at one of them. It embedded in the vampire's heart, sending him to a dusty death.


Spike grabbed the vampire he was fighting and threw him against the tree Buffy was in. He ducked as another one took a swing at him from behind. He lashed out with his leg in a back kick, catching the vamp mid-chest and sending him staggering back. The one against the tree punched him as he straightened. He blocked the second strike with his forearm and plunged his stake into the vampire's chest.


Buffy made a quick survey of the fight. Between the two of them, they'd already dusted five vampires. There were four left, two of the three that charged her and two going after Spike. With a predator's grace, she dropped down from the tree on top of one of the vampire's shoulders as he stood. They both fell to the ground and she went into a forward roll, rolling up to her feet.


She spun and kicked the second one across the jaw, as she let another stake drop out of her sleeve to her hand. She reached out and grabbed the first attacker's hair as he was getting to his feet. She slammed his face down as she thrust her knee up, cracking him in the face. She sensed rather than saw the second one coming up behind her, and she kicked straight back and up.


Spike punched, blocked and punched again, keeping one eye on the Slayer, as he fought the remaining two vampires attacking him. With a vicious jab, he clipped the vampire in the throat, then shoved the stake into his heart. Without pause, he leapt forward at another foe, his duster billowing out behind him at his quick movements.


Buffy staked the vampire behind her with a quick, sharp twist of her body before he knew she even did it. As he exploded into dust, she returned her attention back to the one on his knees in front of her. She backhanded him with her left hand, following immediately with a punch by her right, the stake still clutched in that hand. Her foot shot forward in a dirty move, kicking him between the legs. He let out a strangled cry, bending forward to cup himself, and Buffy jammed the stake through his back.


She turned in a circle, checking for more opponents, and saw Spike stake the last one of their attackers. She relaxed and brushed her hair back from her face. "Looks like that's all of them."


"Is this normal, Slayer?" Spike asked, dropping the stake into the pocket of his duster. He glanced over at Nia, who was sitting on top of a headstone, and she showed her approval by a polite round of clapping.


"Sometimes," Buffy replied. "If there's more than four or five, I usually take the cowards way out and run like hell."


"No cowardice in knowing when to fold," Spike told her.


"Did you get that out of a fortune cookie, Billy?" Nia asked.


Spike scowled at the ghost, then walked over to Buffy. "Now what, pet?"


"Now Buffy goes back to the dorm, changes clothes, then does that late night study/snack session," Buffy replied. "I have a history test tomorrow at ten."


"Do you need a ride?" he asked, falling into step beside her as they left the cemetery.


"Normally, I'd say no because I don't accept rides from strangers and no one gets any stranger than you."


"She has you there," Nia commented.


"But...," Spike prompted, ignoring the ghost.


"But I really don't want to walk all that way after our Lost Boys fight," Buffy finished. "Plus, I think you've proven you do want to help. At least, for now."


"My motor's at the mansion," he said. "That's where I'm staying, in case you need to find me."


"She knows," Nia said with a giggle. Spike looked questioningly at the ghost, who was walking on the other side of him. She grinned and giggled again.


"I was surprised not to find the hair-miester in residence," he said, shaking his head slightly at Nia's laughter.


"Angel's in LA," Buffy informed him.


At the resignation in her voice, he asked, "I take it that's a permanent arrangement?"


"Like a stake in the heart," Buffy replied sullenly.


"I'm sorry," Spike told her, truthfully. He knew first hand about love lost. Drusilla was in Europe, living the vampire high-unlife with everyone that wasn't him. When she'd gone, first he had raged, then he had cried, then he had let her go.


"'S-ok," she said with a shrug. "It was inevitable. I said yes, the curse said no, so off he went." She blew out a breath of air. "Curses suck.


" "You're telling me," Spike muttered.


"I think I'm the one that got cursed, not you, Billy-boy," Nia said.


Spike ignored Nia and the three lapsed into silence until they reached the mansion. "Give me a second, pet," he told Buffy before walking into the hulking monstrosity. The moment the outer door closed, he turned to Nia. "Let me drive her without you."


"Fat chance," Nia snorted.


"Nothing's gonna bloody happen," Spike said. "I just want to drive her without having you hanging over my shoulder."


"Uh, hello, reality check," Nia said, waving her hand. "You don't get a choice."


"It's just a fucking ride in the car!"


"And I said fat fucking chance!"


"Uh, Spike?"


"What?!" Spike whirled to the door and saw Buffy standing their with a startled look on her face.


"Nothing," Buffy replied. "I think I'll, um, walk."


"No," he said quickly. Then he took a purposeful breath and let it out slowly. "That's ok. I'm ready to go."


She gave him an unfathomable look, then nodded. He gestured to the open door and waited until she went out it before glaring at Nia. "Thank a lot, bitch."


Nia lifted her hand. "You're welcome, jackass."


Spike growled in pain and grabbed his hand. When she dropped hers, he looked at the back of his burned hand, then flicked her off with it. Then he stormed out the door and slammed it behind him.


Continues

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