"Well, this is interesting," Spike said, watching a young blond in a white poets shirt and dark pants run out into the middle of the street. He was sitting in his car on the side of the road, having just arrived back in Sunnydale, trying to decide where to go next. A car was heading straight towards her and she suddenly turned around and waved her hands in the air to get the car to stop, its headlights lighting her up in the darkness. "Buffy?"
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw someone run around a corner heading straight for her. She started to run again. "Oh, bugger," he swore, putting the car in gear and shooting down the street. As he came parallel to her he leaned over and opened the car door. "Get in!"
Buffy jumped into the car just at the man chasing her caught up. He tried to grab her, but between her kicking and the car's movement, he couldn't hold on. She closed the door with a slam. "Thank you so much. I didn't think anyone was going to-," she said, turning to the driver. Her eyes widened. "-stop."
"Hello, cutie," Spike said, giving her a quick smile.
"In the flesh," he replied.
"Great, out of the frying pan into the fire," she muttered, scooting as close to the door as she could get. *Maybe he won't notice that I don't have my strength,* she thought, mustering her courage. "What are you doing back in Sunnydale? I thought I made it clear the last time to not let the door hit you on the way out?"
"Just uh...passing through, Slayer," he lied. Actually, he had no idea why he'd come back, only that something was drawing him like fresh blood. "Besides, if I hadn't come back, who would have rescued you?"
"I don't need rescuing." Now it was her turn to lie. He gave her a look. "Oh, fine, so maybe I could have used the help. Happy?"
Spike chuckled. "Where to, pet?"
"Home," Buffy replied, rubbing her hands on her pants.
A few minutes later, Spike pulled his DeSoto into the driveway of the Summers' residence. "Well, this is where I get off," Buffy said, already opening the door before the car stopped.
"Can I watch?" he asked, giving her a wicked smile.
"Ha, ha," she replied, climbing out of the car. As she went to close the door, she bent down to look at him over the seat. "Spike, as much as I hate to say this - thank you. Now, go away." She punctuated her sentence with the slam of the car door.
Spike laughed as he watched her walk up to the house. In fact, he usually laughed at the things she said, at the thinly veiled sarcasm she used. He put the car in reverse and was about to pull out of the driveway when he heard her yell his name, running back towards the car. He unrolled the window.
"He has my mom!" Buffy exclaimed, waving a Polaroid picture.
She thrust the picture at him. "Spike, I know I'm going to regret this later, but I need your help."
Spike studied the Slayer, then the picture, then returned his gaze to her. *Oh, bugger,* he thought. "What do you want me to do?" Confusion addled his brain at the relieved look she gave him.
"Just give me a few to change clothes and get some supplies," Buffy replied. She turned and sprinted back to the house.
"You know, I liked that other outfit much better," Spike commented as they headed for the Sunnydale Arms as addressed on the back of the picture under the ominous threat: come. "This one makes you look like a little girl."
"Fashion tips from a guy who's probably worn the same outfit for thirty years?" Buffy questioned, raising an eyebrow at him.
"Ha, bloody, ha, Slayer," he replied as he stopped the car at the curb. They both climbed out and cautiously approached the old inn. "Do you have a plan?"
"Go in, get my mom, leave," she stated, nervously holding a crossbow. It was a lot heavier than she'd ever imagined. She put her hand on the door and took a deep, shaky breath. "Ready?"
"Luv, I'm always ready," he quipped, giving her a cocky smile. She gave him a small one in return that didn't reach her eyes, which confused him even more. *The Slayer looks...scared,* he thought as they went inside.
Buffy bent and put a thick rod between the door and the frame, then looked warily around the entryway. "Let's split up," she said. "The minute we find my mom, we leave."
"Right," Spike replied, heading for the stairs as Buffy crept cautiously into the study. When he got to the top, he started forcing locked doors open, searching for Joyce. Suddenly, he heard a yell from downstairs and the sounds of a fight. He stared at the door in front of him, his mind whirling. *Slayer's mom or fight? Slayer's mom or fight?* he thought. A loud crash sounded, making the decision for him.
Sprinting down the stairs, he saw Buffy holding a hand to her head, a fallen bookcase by her feet with a trapped vampire under it. "Are you ok?"
"I thought I told you to find my mom," she snapped. But there was very little strength in her voice. She removed her hand and winced when she saw the blood on it.
"That looks nasty," Spike commented, bringing his hand up to push her hair away from the wound. He frowned at his own action. "Come on," he said brusquely. "Let's find your mum."
"This is pleasant," Buffy said as they saw the mutilated body in one of the rooms.
"Looks like something Angelus would do," Spike said offhandedly as he opened a door behind the body.
Buffy paled. "Um...could you not remind me of that?"
He looked over at her and smirked. "A bit squeamish about your boyfriend's hobbies?" She glared at him, then turned on her heel and stomped out of the room. *Oh, bugger,* he thought, going after her. "Slayer, wait-"
Spike's call was cut off when he saw her fighting...and losing...against the vampire from the picture. In fact, her blows were having absolutely no effect on the bigger vamp. He saw her start to run upstairs, then fall hard as the vamp broke through the stair rail and grab her leg. Rage exploded in him, for some unknown reason, and he leapt at the other vampire.
Buffy watched as Spike pounded on her assailant, almost wincing at the savagery of his blows. Suddenly, he turned and grabbed a broken rail and slammed it into the vamp's chest. Walking through the dust, he shoved the fallen bookcase off her first attacker and plunged the make-shift stake home.
Spike dropped the piece of wood and faced her. "You ok?"
Buffy nodded as he walked up towards her on the stairs and extended his hand. She tentatively accepted his assistance, letting him pull her to her feet. The stair she stood on put her eye level with the peroxide blond, and she liked her lips before opening her mouth to say something.
Spike saw her pink tongue slip out and moisten her lips and he silently groaned. *Oh, bugger,* he swore to himself as he leaned forward, quickly capturing her mouth in a kiss.
*He's kissing me, he's kissing me, he's kissing me,* Buffy thought over and over. However, she didn't break it off as his lips moved expertly over hers.
*I'm kissing her, I'm kissing her, I'm kissing her,* Spike's brain repeated. The only thing touching was their lips. Either one could break off at any time, but neither did as he coaxed her mouth open to deepen the kiss. Both inhaled sharply as their tongues met, dancing together, sending shivers down their spines.
When they finally pulled apart, they both swallowed visibly, wide, startled, blue eyes meeting equally wide, startled, hazel ones. Buffy was the first to look away. Silently, she turned and ascended the stairs.
"He was definitely a few bricks shy of a full load," Spike commented as they entered a room filled with tacked up Polaroidís of her mother, breaking the silence that hung between them.
"And you're not?" Buffy retorted sarcastically.
"I have my moments," he said dryly as he tried a door in the corner of the room. "More stairs."
At his words, both froze and stared at each other. This time it was Spike that turned away first, motioning her to go ahead of him through the door.
"Mom!" Buffy exclaimed, running to her tied-up mother's side after she'd come down the stairs. She quickly released the gag, then crouched next to the ropes, trying to untie them.
"Buffy! Hurry, that vampire could be back at any second," Joyce said.
"Not unless Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again," Buffy said, struggling.
"Honey, can't you just rip them apart?" Joyce asked.
"No," she replied. "My birthday present this year is that I have no more Slayer powers." She stood and went towards some metal shelves. "Maybe there'll be some shears."
"I'll do it, pet," Spike said, coming fully down the stairs into the room. He had stayed back to give himself time to cool off so he wouldn't grab the Slayer and kiss her senseless. He walked over to Joyce and ripped the ropes away, then turned to Buffy. "Now, what's this about you having no powers?"
"Did I say that?" Buffy asked with a nervous titter. "I meant that I didn't want to hurt my mom by tearing the ropes."
Spike arched a dark brow. Moving quickly, he grabbed her arm in a pushishing grip. She gasped and began to hit his chest with her free fist. He'd had victims that hit harder than she was. "It's true," he stated.
Buffy's gaze turned fearful, then she dropped her arm in defeat and nodded. "Will you please let my mom go?" she asked, her head bowed.
It felt as though someone had punched him in the gut. His best adversary had lost her strength and he didn't like it. "What happened?"
"How the hell should I know?" Buffy snapped, her head coming up to glare at him. "Maybe fate couldn't decide what to give me this year. I mean, it's hard to top the Judge's arm nearly strangling me, not to mention Angel losing his soul for my seventeenth birthday."
Joyce gasped at her daughter's tirade. "That's why you were so sad on your birthday last year," she said. "Oh, baby, I'm sorry. Now this and the ice capades."
Spike let go of Buffy's arm as she looked over at her mom. "Thanks for reminding me," she said, returning her gaze to the vampire. "If you're not going to kill me, can you take us home?"
He was still frowning at her, but nodded and stepped back to let her pass.
Spike didn't know why he accepted Joyce's invitation for a cup of hot chocolate. He tried to put it down to the bribe of marshmallows, but that rang hollow in his mind. It was really due to the blond giving him dirty looks as they entered the kitchen.
"Mom, I gotta call Giles, let him know what happened," Buffy said. She went to push her hair out of her eyes, then hissed as she hit the gash on her forehead.
"Joyce, do you have a first aid kit?" Spike asked, grabbing the Slayer by the arm and forcefully plunking her down on a stool.
"Hey! Watch it!" Buffy exclaimed.
"Hold still," he instructed, his eyes brooking no argument. She glared at him as he accepted the medical kit from her mom.
"I'm going to get cleaned up," Joyce said before leaving them alone in the kitchen.
Spike ripped off a strip of gauze, liberally dousing it with antiseptic, then began dabbing at the cut on her head. She hissed again and grabbed his arm as he continued to work. Tossing the bloodied wad on the counter, he took a clean strip and taped it over the wound. He then did something completely off-kilter by leaning forward and lightly kissing her forehead above the bandage. "All better," he said quietly, like he had done hundreds of times before with Drusilla.
"Um...thanks," Buffy replied, staring up at him in confusion at his actions. She would have sworn he would kill her while she was powerless, yet here he was, bandaging her forehead with the gentleness of a lover. At the thought, her eyes drifted to his lips, remembering their soft but firm feel, then shot back up to his.
"Oh, bugger," Spike sighed as he brought his hand around the back of her head and lowered his lips to hers. This kiss was more possessive, more demanding than the first one, but just as sweet as their tongues dueled. The sound of footsteps coming down the stairs was what broke them apart, and the vampire stepped quickly away and stared down at the counter, his thoughts a mass of confusion.
"How about that hot chocolate?" Joyce said, entering the kitchen. She poured three mugs of water and put them in the microwave. "Honey, are you sure you don't want me to take you to the ice capades?" she asked as she noticed the time on the clock. "We'd still be able to make it by 9:00."
"No, mom, that's ok," Buffy said with a sigh, puzzled by the kiss. She fingered the two tickets still lying on the counter.
"I'll take you," Spike offered, then frowned in surprise at his words.
"You?" Buffy said.
He lifted his gaze to meet hers and shrugged. "Why the bloody hell not? It'll be a riot."
She looked at him, then over at her mom who was smiling broadly. "Well...ok."
Spike nodded. "Good. Why don't you go put on that outfit you were wearing earlier and we'll take off," he said.
Her face still a mask of confusion, she slid off the stool and left the kitchen. When she got to her room, she started to strip off her clothes, noting the many bruises on her skin, then changed back into the white poet's shirt and dark pants. As she moved to the mirror to brush her hair, her eyes landed on the white bandage garnishing her forehead. She put her fingers on it and a small smile played across her lips.
The phone rang, breaking her out of her reverie, and she scooped up the receiver. "Hello?"
"Buffy? It's Giles."
"Giles! I was going to call you," Buffy said into the phone. "You won't believe what happened."
"Buffy, I need to-"
"Spike rescued me from some big vamp, then helped me to rescue my mom, who had been kidnapped by said vamp," Buffy went on, not hearing her Watcher. "That ugly was way wiggin, Giles. You should have seen what he did to a body we found. Eeuygh!"
"You went to the Sunnydale Arms?" Giles asked.
"Didn't I just say that?" Buffy said. "Anyways, the big dude and his buddy both got dusted, mom was rescued and now I'm going to the ice capades with Spike."
"Did you s-say...er, Spike?"
"I know, wiggy. I was helpless, Giles," she said. "And Spike was very...helpful."
"Slayer, get your arse down here! We have to go!" Buffy heard Spike yell up the stairs.
"Oops, gotta go, Giles," she told her Watcher. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"But, Buf-" Giles heard the dial tone in his ear, then slowly set the receiver down. "What do you want?" he said without turning.
"She passed the test, Rupert," Quentin said from the doorway of the office. "With no help. You, on the other hand, almost failed, but since you technically did not inform the Slayer about the test, the Council will allow you to continue to be her Watcher."
"You mean, this was a test for me?" Giles asked, anger in his voice.
"There have been rumors that you have become to attached to your ward, hindering your duties as a Watcher," Quentin replied. "We needed to test you to see if that were true."
"So, you put Buffy's life at risk because of my feelings?" Giles said murderously. "Get out. And tell the Council that if it tries anything like this again, I will personally slit each and everyone of their throats and bathe in their blood." Quentin's eyes widened, and he turned to quickly leave.
When he had gone, Giles sat heavily in his desk chair and removed his glasses, sinking his head in his hands. Suddenly, he began to chuckled as he thought of what the other man had said. "She did have help, you wanker, just from where you least expected it," he said to himself. "I don't know how you do it, Buffy, but you always end up on top."