DL 2.1

Aug. 13th, 2005 01:44 am
[identity profile] eee1313.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] dancing_lessons_archive
Episode One: Rematch

by cousinjean
Night In My Veins by The Pretenders | Lyrics

Here we go again. Big love to Abby, who is without Internet access for the summer and as such had to bow out of the sequel. We miss you. Props to our new writers, Adjrun, AurelioZen, Ehann and Nmissi. Welcome aboard. Special thanks to alkibiadhs and Peggin for sticking with us and seeing it through to the hopefully not at all bitter end.

Continuity notes: Takes place three months following the end of Dancing Lessons.

Buffy woke up alone. Again. She reached out to feel the other side of the bed. It felt cool to the touch, you’d never know anybody had been there. With a sigh, she rolled over and pulled her sheet up to her chin, and tried to go back to sleep. This was getting really old. Every night she fell asleep with Spike beside her, but by the time she woke up each morning, he was gone. Some mornings he left romantic little notes in his place, many of which contained his continued attempts at poetry (he was getting better at it). Buffy cherished those, but they were no substitute for the real thing. She wanted him. She wanted him to be the first thing she saw in the morning, the first person she talked to when starting out her day.

She didn’t realize that she could hear the shower running until she heard it shut off. Spike hadn’t left yet. It shouldn’t be too hard to coax him back into bed. Rolling out of the bed and wrapping the sheet around her, Buffy made her way to the bathroom and knocked on the door.

"Be out in a sec’, nibblet," Spike called.

"It’s me," Buffy called back.

After a beat, the door opened and Buffy was greeted with the vision of a towel clad Spike. She caught her breath at the sight of him, and not for the first time wondered how it had taken her so long to see what a beautiful piece of work he was, like a Greco-Roman statue come to life. The way his damp hair curled into unruly ringlets all over his head only added to the endlessly endearing charm that was Spike. Buffy felt herself falling for him all over again.

"Something wrong, love?"

Buffy shook her head and leaned against him, snaking her arms around his midsection. "Not if you come back to bed," she said.

Spike returned her embrace and planted a gentle kiss on top of her head. "Love to, baby, but the sun’ll be up soon, and if I don’t go now, I’ll be stuck here all day. Either that or I’ll have to make a run for the nearest manhole, and I don’t really fancy that."

Buffy pouted. "Would that be so terrible? Having to stay here with me until nightfall, I mean?" She lifted her face and grazed her lips along the underside of his jaw line.

"Have to admit, I can think of more than a few fun and imaginative ways for us to pass the time," he said, "and you’re making it awfully hard to say no."

"That’s the idea," Buffy mumbled into his neck.

"You know, suddenly, having to run for the manhole doesn’t sound so bad." Spike lowered his head and greeted Buffy with an eager kiss.

"Do you guys have to do that here?"

Buffy broke off the kiss and turned an irritated glance at her little sister. "What are you doing up this early?"

"Hello," Dawn said, "school starts today, remember?"

Buffy stared at her.

"You don’t remember? Oh my God."

"I remember," Buffy said. "Of course I remember. It just… slipped my mind for a few minutes, that’s all."

"I remembered," Spike said, followed by, "ow!" as Buffy elbowed him in the ribs.

"Whatever," Dawn said. "So, can I get in the bathroom sometime today?"

"Sure," Buffy said, backing out into the hall and tightening her grip on her sheet.

Spike grabbed his clothes and followed her out. "All yours, little bit."

Without another word, Dawn stormed into the bathroom and slammed the door.

"O… kay," Spike said. "Why’s she such a ray of sunshine this morning? 'S'not like she’s never been to school before."

"Not to high school," Buffy said. "She’s just nervous. I’m betting she didn’t get much sleep last night." She sighed, and headed back into her bedroom. "And I totally forgot school started today."

"You didn’t forget," Spike said, coming in behind her. "You just got distracted."

"That’s no excuse." Buffy sat down hard on the bed. "What kind of parent forgets the first day of high school?"

"You’re not her parent, you’re her sister."

"But I have to be both." Buffy flopped backwards on the bed and stared up at the ceiling. "Maybe that lady from Social Services was right. Maybe I have no business trying to take care of Dawn by myself."

"Rot," Spike said. He pulled on his jeans and then sat next to her on the bed. "First of all, nobody’s better cut out to take care of her than you. And second," he leaned back on his elbow and traced a gentle finger down the side of her face, "you’re not doing it by yourself."

Buffy reached up to caress the back of his neck, and pulled him down into a kiss. "I love you," she said as he pulled away.

Spike smirked at her. "I know."

Playfully, Buffy pushed him off of her and got up to get dressed. "Looks like you missed your escape window," she said as she noticed light appearing behind the curtains. "I guess you’re stuck here for the day."

"Not that I mind, pet," he said as he pulled on his t-shirt, "but what if some of your friends come by? What will you tell them? Or should I just hide out up here until they go away?"

"Don’t be ridiculous," Buffy said. "You wouldn’t have to hide. I’ll just tell them…"

"The truth?"

Buffy sighed as she turned to look at him. She was struck by the hopeful expression on his face.

"I don’t think they’re ready to know."

"It’s been three months, Buffy. They’re as bloody ready as they’re ever going to be."

She shook her head. "You don’t understand. I mean, for one thing, how can I go around flaunting my happiness while Willow’s still in mourning?"

"Willow doesn’t expect you to put your life on hold because her lover died. ‘Sides, she likes me. I think. She’s not the one you’re worried about."

"I guess. She’s not, you’re right. But, Giles and Xander went ballistic when they found out I was seeing Angel after he came back. I so don‘t want to have to deal with that again."

"Understandable," Spike said. "But I’m not Angel."

"But you’re a vampire," Buffy said. "And it doesn’t matter how many great things you do or how much you help out, they’re always going to have trouble seeing past that."

"Then sod ‘em," Spike said. "It’s your bloody life we’re talking about here, and your decision. We don’t need their approval."

Buffy picked absentmindedly through her closet. "No, but it would be nice to have their blessing. I mean, they’re not just my friends. They’re family."

"And I’m not."

Buffy looked at Spike, who appeared to be overfocussed on lacing up his boots. "That’s not what I meant."

"Sure it’s not," he grumped.

"It’s not." She went to him and lowered herself into his lap. "Spike, you’re every bit as much a part of this family as they are."

"Right," he said, "just not as far as they’re concerned. Do you know those wankers still think I’m helping out because you pay me?"

He was right, and Buffy knew it. She considered this as she combed her fingers through his hair. "All right," she said, "we’ll tell them."

Spike crooked an eyebrow at her. "We will?"

She nodded, and stood up. "Tonight, before patrol. You’re right. There’s no good reason to keep hiding our relationship, like we’re doing something wrong. I’m not a high school girl anymore, and if they can’t accept the choices I make, they can just…"

"Sod off?"

"Yeah," Buffy said. "Only, something less rude and off putting."

"Ooh, tough girl," Spike said. "That’s telling ‘em."

"I will tell them," she said, abandoning her closet in favor of sweats and a t-shirt from her chest-of-drawers. "I promise. So, do you want to hang out here while I run Dawn to school, or do you want to ride with? The windows are tinted, if you sit in the back it should be safe."

"Yeah, okay," Spike said. "Wait--isn’t today the day you were going to go pick out new furniture for the living room?"

"Is it? Damn. I forgot about that, too. And I made a date with Will to help me pick it out, so I can’t put it off."

"It would be nice to have a place to sit downstairs."

"Yeah," Buffy said. "Except, it feels weird, putting new furniture in that room. We’ve had that set since I was fifteen. Damn knights. It’s like they tried to burn mom out of the house."

"I don’t know," Spike said, "I think your mum’d appreciate the change. It shows you’re moving on. She’d be proud of that."

"You think?"

He nodded, and stood up. "So. You can drop me off at my crypt after we drop the nibblet at school, then you and Willow can go have a grand time spending that big insurance check. I’ll meet you at the shop after sundown for our little chat with the Scoobies." He pulled Buffy into his arms. "Sound like a plan?"

Buffy nodded, and picked a piece of lint off of his chest. "I better go make breakfast. What do you think’s a good first-day-of-high-school breakfast? Pancakes, or bacon and eggs?"

Spike raised his eyebrows at her. "You’re asking me what a human teenage girl would want for breakfast on one of the most nerve wracking days of her short little life?"

"Good point. I’ll go ask her."

"Good idea."

Buffy gave Spike a quick kiss, then set off to take care of her sister.


Buffy’s shoulders slumped as she followed Willow out of the furniture showroom, and she let out a whine. "I’m never gonna find anything at this rate," she said.

"You’ll find something," Willow told her. "Just hang in there."

"I don’t know, Will. We’ve been to three stores, and so far everything is either über-hip, or it looks like grandma. But you’re right. There’s bound to be something I can live with, if we keep looking. Where to next?"

"Actually, that was it. Turns out there are only three furniture stores in Sunnydale."

"Damn," Buffy said. "Well, who needs nice furniture, anyway? I suppose I could always just follow Spike’s lead and just toss in a couple of comfy chairs and a TV set."

"I really don’t think Spike’s crypt is the best place to look for decorating inspiration," Willow said.

"I don’t know," Buffy said. "For a crypt, his place is actually kind of homey."

"Okay, somebody’s obviously been spending too much time hanging out in the cemeteries. Hey, how ‘bout we go get some coffee and hang out with some real live people for a change? I don‘t know about you, but I‘m in the mood for a mocha."

"Sure," Buffy said.

"It’s too bad we don’t have Tara to help us," Willow said. "She had a really good eye for this sort of thing."

Buffy smiled. "Yeah, so did my mom. Hey, do you suppose they’re hanging out together in Heaven or wherever, decorating and giving style consultations to the other souls?"

Willow laughed. Buffy hadn’t heard her do that in a long time, and she was glad.

"Whatever they’re doing," Willow said, "I’m sure they’re totally hanging together. Tara’s mom’s probably there, too. They’re up there just havin’ a party."

"I hope so," Buffy said. "They deserve a party."

"Anyway," Willow said, "maybe later you can come over and we can look at furniture on the Internet."

"They sell furniture on the Internet?"

"Yeah," Willow said, "they sell everything on the Internet. One time, I saw somebody selling a human kidney on E-bay, but I think that might have been a practical joke."

"Let’s hope so," Buffy said. "Anyway, I can’t. Not today, at least. I have to go pick Dawn up from school before too much longer, and we need to have a Scooby meeting tonight."

"Really? Is something up? I thought you said business has been pretty slow in the Slayage department."

"I did, and it has been. This isn’t a work meeting, really. There’s just something I’ve been meaning to tell you guys, and I don’t want to put it off any longer."

"Really," Willow said. "Something secret, that you haven’t even told me? We’re not going to find out somebody’s another key, are we?"

"No," Buffy said, "nothing like that. I promise. It’s not that big a deal." They reached the coffee shop, and Buffy followed her friend inside. As they sat down, Buffy wondered if it might not be a bad idea to have a practice run with Willow. "Will, um, you… you like Spike, don’t you? I mean, I know you have plenty of reason not to, but even so, you’ve always been pretty sympathetic to him."

"I guess," Willow said. "I mean, he did try to tear my throat out that one time, and then there was that whole kidnapping thing with the love spell."

Buffy looked down at her menu. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

"But I’ve been through scarier stuff with Oz when he was wolfed out, so I guess Spike never really fazed me that much. And I just felt sorry for him after he got chipped."

"Yeah," Buffy said, "that adjustment wasn’t easy for anybody."

"And then, he had that crush on you, and there was no chance of that leading to anything."

Buffy looked back down at the menu while Willow continued.

"I guess there’s only so much humiliation and torment you can watch even a vampire go through before you just start to feel bad for the poor guy, you know? Anyway, I’m kind of impressed by how he’s stuck around, helping out even after you rejected him. Even if it is ‘cause you’re paying him."

"Actually," Buffy began, but Willow kept going.

"Tara liked Spike, you know."

"She did?"

"Yeah. Well, she didn’t really know him, but she was so intuitive, and she could sense that he was becoming less evil. Well, really, she thought maybe he wasn’t at all anymore. Evil, I mean."


"Yeah. But, you know, she also kind of thought that you might have some, um, you know, feelings. For Spike, I mean." She laughed nervously. "Back when everything was going on with Glory, and things were so intense, I was afraid she might be right about that. But then you came to your senses, and I felt silly for getting all worried over nothing. I think it’s cool that you and Spike are sort of like friends now, though."

Buffy couldn’t take this anymore. "Willow, there’s something you should--"

"Ladies," a familiar British accent cut her off.

"Giles," Buffy said. "Hi. What are you doing here?"

"Well, I was out running some errands, and popped in for some tea." He pulled a chair up to their table. "How goes the furniture shopping?"

"It’s not going," Buffy said. "Sunnydale furniture retailers, three, Buffy, zero. Next stop? The Internet."

"Ah, yes," Giles said. "I’ve gotten some rather nice pieces off of E-bay."

Buffy and Willow exchanged glances. "Giles, when you say ‘pieces,’" Willow began.

"You mean furniture, right?" Buffy finished.

"Yes, of course. What else would I mean?"

"Nothing," Buffy said. "Never mind."

A waitress came to take their orders. Willow got her mocha, and Buffy ordered an iced cappuccino. When the waitress turned to take Giles’s order, she tossed her long hair over her shoulder, and Buffy was taken aback by the sight of a fresh bite mark on her neck.

"Did you guys see that?" she asked after the girl left.

"See what?" Willow asked.

"The bite on her neck. It looked like Dracula’s. The son of a bitch is back in town, and he’s working his Dark Prince mojo on the local girls."

"That’s quite a conclusion to leap to, Buffy, don’t you think?" Giles asked.

"Yeah," Willow said. "I mean, first of all, how can you tell a bite was made by Dracula?"

"Most vamps leave a whole set of teeth marks," Buffy said. "Dracula’s the only one I’ve seen that just leaves those two neat little puncture wounds."

"Oh. Okay," Willow said, "but are you sure that those were puncture wounds and not just, you know, zits or something?"

"I know the difference between acne and bitage, Will. Seen it up close and personal, remember?"

"Yes, but, Buffy," Giles said, "you can’t just assume that the Count is in town based on that little amount of evidence."

"Fine," Buffy said, and started to get up. "I’ll just go ask her."

"Buffy, no!" Willow said, plainly shocked. "You can’t just go up to her and ask her if Count Dracula’s been noshing on her neck. Do you know how crazy that sounds? To people who aren’t us, I mean."

Buffy sighed. "I guess." She looked around, and saw a newspaper left lying on the next table over. She picked it up and scanned the front page. "Ah ha! Three delivery men were found dead in the back of their truck three nights ago. They were completely exsanguinated, and the only evidence was two small puncture wounds on each of their necks." Buffy put down the paper. "Tell me that’s not Dracula."

"I must admit," Giles said, "that certainly does sound like his MO."

"Great," Buffy said. "Just what we need." She glanced at her watch. "Damn. I really have to leave to go pick up Dawn. I’m going to go tell them my coffee’s to go. Can you guys do me a favor and round up the gang, tell everybody to meet at the shop after sundown?"

"Anya’s already there," Giles said.

"Yeah, and I think Xander’s working on that new apartment complex outside of town."

"We can make sure he gets there," Giles said.

"Great," Buffy said. "And Spike’s already planning to be there. Okay, I really gotta go. I’ll see you guys at the shop later."

She forgot all about her coffee as she headed out of the café and towards her car.


Spike walked into the shop and right into the middle of an argument between his girls. It was something they did often, and, he supposed, something that sisters were wont to do. As such, he generally tried not to get involved. Usually, they let him stay out of it, but on occasion, they managed to drag him in. This looked to be one such occasion.

"Spike," Dawn said as soon as she noticed his arrival, "will you tell Buffy that I’m old enough to learn how to drive?"

"Uh," Spike faltered, looking back and forth between the loves of his life, really not wanting to take sides. "Well, you know, pet," he said to Buffy, "back when they invented the car, they didn’t have a legal driving age."

"No," Buffy said, "but back then, cars topped out around forty miles per hour."

"Good point," Spike said. "So, is, uh, is Giles around? Got any books that need going through? Any weird demons to research?"

"He’s not here," Anya said as she passed by on her way to a customer.

"Buffy," Dawn said, "it’s just Driver’s Ed. It’s not like I’m actually getting my license yet."

"No, but in Driver’s Ed, if I recall, you drive. A real car. On the real highway."

"That’s kind of part of the process of learning how to drive," Dawn said. "I don’t see why you’re so freaked out about it. Next semester I’ll be old enough to take it without your permission."

"Then you can wait until next semester to take it," Buffy told her.

Dawn looked pleadingly at Spike, and he sighed. "What’s this all about, then?"

"My guidance counselor told me that since I’m practically an orphan, I’m eligible to get my driver’s license early, and the school will let me take Driver’s Ed now instead of having to wait until I’m fifteen and a half. But only if Buffy signs my permission slip."

"Right," Spike said. "And she won’t sign it because…" He looked questioningly at Buffy.

"Because now that I’m a licensed driver there isn’t any reason for her to be. At least, not this soon."

"You’re just jealous because I’m not waiting until I’m twenty to get mine."

"I am not jealous! Driving is more complicated than it looks, and it’s dangerous, and besides, we only have the one car, and I’m just not ready for you to start driving yet!"

Spike almost winced as he felt Dawn’s eyes on him, pleading him for assistance. As much as he wanted to stay out of it, he found it next to impossible to deny the little girl anything. Who’d have thought he’d turn out to be the push-over parent in this odd little familial triptych of theirs? So much for the Big Bad.

"You know, Buffy," he said, "I could take her out, give her some lessons, make sure she knows how to handle herself on the road before she ever gets behind the wheel of the student car."

Dawn grinned. "Yeah, Buffy, Spike can teach me. You said he’s a good teacher. He taught you."

Buffy gave Spike a look that clearly said he should have stayed out of it. "Dawn…"


Buffy sighed. "I’ll think about it."

"But I--"

"I said, I’ll think about it. That’s all you’re getting from me tonight. Now I’m gonna go in the back and work out. Let me know when everybody gets here."

As Buffy disappeared behind the beaded curtain, Spike took a seat next to Dawn. "So, why’s this driving thing so important to you, sweet bit?"

Dawn shrugged. "I just think it would be kinda cool."

"Uh huh," Spike said.

Dawn cast him a wary glance. "What?"

"You tell me," he said. "Somehow, I don’t think you’d be putting up such a fight if there wasn’t more to this than it’s being ‘kinda cool.’"

Dawn looked down at her book, and didn’t say anything.

"High school not turning out to be quite all you’d hoped for?"

"What do you know about it?"

"Well," Spike said, "even I didn’t get out of enduring that particular brand of hell. It’s been a while, but sometimes I still have nightmares. I suspect the dynamics haven’t really changed much over the last hundred and thirty years or so."

"Please," Dawn said. "I’m so sure you were anything less than popular. I’ll just bet you got picked on all the time."

"Actually," Spike looked around the room to make sure no one of consequence was within ear shot, "you tell anybody about this, nibblet, and I’ll deny it. But my high school persona made Xander look like James bloody Dean."

Dawn looked up at him. "Really?"

"Oh, yeah. I was real quiet, and bookish. I was like a fifteen year old Giles. I was awkward and shy, had absolutely no idea how to talk to girls, and what’s worse, I fancied myself a poet. Didn’t have any talent, but I didn’t let that stop me."

Dawn giggled. "Oh, my God, you were a total dork."

"Yep, I was. So don’t tell me I don’t know what it’s like to have a tough time at school. I seem to remember getting my arse kicked on a pretty regular basis. So what gives? Nobody‘s kicking your arse, are they? I‘ll brave the daylight and come down there if they are."

"It’s not that," Dawn said. "It’s just, to the teachers and the older kids, I’m nobody. I’m not even Buffy’s sister, since it’s a different school and nobody there knew her."

"Pretty tough being ignored, eh?"

"Actually, that’s preferable. I thought I’d be able to start out with a clean slate, you know? But to the kids in my grade, I’m still the freak girl who went psycho and cut herself and then lost her mom. They’re still talking about me. Even the people who I thought were my friends decided at some point over the summer that they’re too good to associate with me."

"Hey, nibblet, let’s get something straight. You’re the one’s too good for them, got it?"

"Yeah. Sure." Dawn shrugged. "Can’t blame them, really. I mean, maybe, somehow, they can sense that I’m not really one of them. Not really human, I mean."

"You’re human enough," Spike said. "’Sides, you ask me, being human’s overrated. So, what’s all this got to do with you learning to drive?"

"I just figured, it’d be a chance to hang with some of the older kids, make an impression on them before they hear the gossip about me. Plus, you know, getting my license early would get me a lot of coolness points."

"Makes sense," Spike said. "Have you told Buffy any of this?"

"Buffy wouldn’t understand. She doesn’t know what it’s like not to have any friends her own age."

Just then, the bell over the entrance rang, and Xander came in, followed by Willow and Giles.

"Look, I’ll talk to Buffy, get her to sign that form, a’ right?"

Dawn nodded. "Thanks, Spike."

"No problem. Now, be a dear and go let your sister know the gang’s all here?"

Dawn closed her books and got up to go get Buffy. Before she went, she bent down to peck Spike on the cheek. "You know, they’re never gonna convince me that you don’t have a soul."

"Yeah, yeah," Spike said, still slightly uncomfortable with the girl’s displays of affection. "Just go get your sis."


"Good," Buffy said as everyone gathered at the table, "everybody’s here. We need to have a talk."

"About bloody time, too," Spike said.

Buffy looked at him. "Not that talk."

"But, you said--"

"Not what talk?" Xander asked.

"Dracula’s back in town," Buffy said, cutting to the chase.

"Ah, bugger," Spike said.

"Dammit!" Xander said. "I hate that guy!"

"Yeah, me too," Spike said.

"Really?" Xander asked. "Why do you hate him?"

"Too many reasons to go into right now. What about you?"

"Uh… no reason."

Anya took her seat beside Xander. "Last time he was here he made Xander his bitch," she said.

A grin broke across Spike’s face as he looked at Xander. "Of course he did."

"Thank you, honey," Xander told Anya. "I’m so glad Spike knows about that."

"Oh, come on," Anya said. "It wasn’t your fault. Dracula is very charismatic. Nobody blames you for not being able to resist him."

"Ah," Xander began, looking at Spike, "when she says ‘bitch,’ what she means is--"

Spike held up a hand to cut him off. "Really, Harris, you can spare me the word picture."

"So," Buffy said, trying to regain focus, "we’re all in agreement that Dracula’s being here is a bad. So let’s do something about it."

"Agreed," Giles said. "What do you suggest?"

"Well, we know he likes swanky places. Last time he was pretty easy to find. Let’s hope he didn’t learn his lesson. Giles, Willow, you both come with me to that castle. Anya, do you mind staying here with Dawn?"

Anya sighed. "I suppose not. But this is like the second time I have to stay behind and not meet Dracula."

"Honey," Xander said, "they’re going to stake his pasty Romanian butt, not to get his autograph."

"I know. But I’d still like to see if he remembers me. He’s just so cool."

"He’s a poncey, over hyped attention whore, is what he is," Spike said. "So, pet, what about us?" He pointed to himself and Xander.

"You guys go check out Angel’s old mansion," Buffy said. "And Spike, keep an eye on Xander, make sure he doesn’t go all bug-eater again."

"Me?" Xander said. "What about you? I wasn’t the only one who was under the thrall of the Dark Prince, if I recall."

"I was not," Buffy said.

"Oh. Sure. That’s why you fought so hard to keep him from biting you."

Oh, shit, Buffy thought as Spike snapped his head in her direction.

"He bit you?"

"Only a little," she said.

"Well," Spike said. "That’s just…" Shaking his head, he stood up and headed for the exit.

"Hey, where’re you going?" Xander called after him.

"For some air," he said without looking back.

"But you don’t breathe!"

Spike held up a cigarette. "Didn’t say fresh air," he said as he went out the door.

Buffy glared at Xander. "Thanks," she said.

"What?" He looked at Willow. "What’d I do?"

"I don’t know," Willow said, looking bewildered.

Buffy sighed. "Nothing," she said. "You didn’t do anything. Can you guys excuse me a minute?"

She followed Spike outside, where he paced back and forth, puffing furiously on his cigarette. "Is there a problem?"

He blew out a puff of smoke as he glanced at her. "No, no problem," he said. "Unless you consider it a problem that your neck is a bloody vampire pin cushion."

Buffy folded her arms across her chest. "I’d hardly put it in those terms."

"No? Name one vampire you’ve had extended contact with besides me who hasn’t bitten you."

"Okay. How about, Drusilla. Not that you can say the same."

Spike stopped pacing. "That’s different."

"Damn right, it’s different. You let Drusilla bite you. What Dracula did to me was not consensual."

"You telling me there was nothing consensual about Angel drinking from you?"

"No. I practically had to force Angel to drink, and I did it to save his life. It was nothing I wouldn’t also do for you." She shook her head. "I don’t believe this. You’re actually jealous that I’ve been bitten?"

"I’m not jealous," he said, and took a drag. "Not exactly. It’s just that--"

"Oh, my God. Fine, Spike. You want to join the ‘I bit Buffy’ club? Here." She tilted her head to the side and pulled down her collar. "I’ll even print you up a t-shirt."

Spike stared at her exposed throat, and for a fleeting moment his eyes flashed with longing, a brief but vivid reminder of his demonic nature. Buffy didn’t back down. She realized at that moment that she wouldn’t hold it against him if he gave in.

Spike swallowed, hard, then reached out to put her collar back in place. "Here, stop that," he said. "You don’t get it."

"No, I don’t get it."

Spike sighed. "Thing is, pet, Dracula, Angel, the Master… you’re a part of each of them now. It’s a part of you that I’ll never have."

"You can have it right now, Spike, if it’ll get you to cut out this macho vampire crap."

"Don’t," Spike said, tossing his spent fag on the sidewalk. "Just, don’t. I told you you didn’t get it."

"Then explain it to me."

He regarded her for a moment, then reached out to run his index finger along the scar on her neck. "When they drank from you, your blood bonded you to them in a way, well, in a way you’re not bonded to me. It’s not that I’m jealous," he paused and seemed to consider this, then continued, "well, yeah, I guess I am jealous. So sue me. I can’t help it."

"Well, find a way to help it, and get over it," Buffy said, "because we’ve got work to do." She started to turn and go back inside, but then turned back to him, and sighed. "I love you, Spike. Do you really need more than that from me?"

"No," Spike said. "No, baby, I don’t." He pulled her to him. "I’m sorry," he said, and kissed her forehead.

"It’s okay," Buffy said, "I can see why you’d be a little wigged. Come on, let’s go back in." She started, then stopped. "Uh, we probably shouldn’t go back in together."

"So, the plan now is to take care of Dracula, and then tell them about us, is it?"

Buffy gave him her most apologetic look. "They really don’t need to be distracted with that news right now. I need them to focus, okay?"

"Sure. Fine. You’re right, now’s not a good time."

Buffy nodded. "I promise, as soon as this crisis is over, we’ll tell them."

"Not a problem, pet. Really. Go on in, I’ll be there in a few." He fished another cigarette out of his pocket, and lit up as Buffy went inside.


The medieval castle loomed over the town, possessing as much arrogance and quiet grace as its owner. This structure should be out of place anywhere in America, but somehow in Sunnydale it managed to blend into the scenery. Lights burned in all of the windows. Whoever was in there, they certainly weren’t concerned about laying low.

"I can’t believe he moved right back into the same place," Willow said. "He’s not even trying to hide. That’s a lot of gall."

"Yeah," Buffy said. "He must think he doesn’t have anything to hide from. What if he’s gotten stronger since last time?"

"So what if he has?" Giles said. "Reputation notwithstanding, he’s still just a vampire. He’s nothing compared to what you girls have faced in recent months."

"Right," Willow said. "We’ve taken on hell gods, we can kick this guy’s undead royal butt."

"Right," Buffy said. "Okay, so, what’ve we got? Will, have you worked out that ball of sunshine spell yet?"

"No, I kind of laid that one aside to work on all those barrier and teleportation spells."

"A barrier spell might come in handy, if Dracula’s protected. We might have to fight our way to him. Okay. You guys ready?"

"As ready as we ever are," Giles said.

"Then let’s do it." Buffy led them inside the castle.

"Should we split up?" Giles asked once they were inside.

Buffy looked around at the passages extending off of the foyer, then something upstairs caught her attention. "No," she said as she started for the grand staircase. "He’s up here."

"How do you know?" Willow asked.

"I can hear him."


Spike suppressed a shudder as he walked through the garden and into the living room, where Xander was just coming down the stairs. "Find anything?"

"I got nothin’," Xander said.

"Right. Didn’t expect to find him here. It’s a tetch too modern for Drac’s tastes. Come on, let’s get back to the shop, see if Buffy’s had better luck." He headed for the front door, but Xander hung back, looking around. "You coming?"

"Yeah," Xander said. "It’s just, this place is pretty nice, even if it has been neglected over the last couple of years."

"I think it’s out of your price range," Spike said.

"Well, yeah… actually, I think Angel still holds the deed. But I wasn’t talking about me. I mean, of all the places in town you could decide to squat, why not here?"

"Because Angel still holds the deed," Spike said. "’Sides, this place doesn’t exactly hold happy memories for me. Which is why I’d like to get the hell out of here, if you don’t mind."

"Yeah," Xander said, "I guess I can see how this wouldn’t exactly be your happy place. Okay, let’s go." He headed towards the door.

As Spike turned to follow, his eyes fell on the spot where he’d left Buffy to die by Angelus’s hand. "No," he muttered, "not a happy place at all."


At the top of the stairs, Buffy led her team down a passage to a spacious dining hall. Their quarry stood in the middle of the room, and seemed to be waiting for them. He smiled as they approached.

"Welcome back, Buffy Summers," he said, and took in Giles and Willow. "And associates," he added.

"Dracula," Buffy said. "You’ve got a lot of nerve coming back here."

He seemed to consider this, then went to the table, where he’d poured four glasses of wine. He picked up two of the goblets and approached Buffy. "What makes you so certain I ever left?" he asked as he handed one to her.

Buffy accepted the goblet, and poured it’s contents onto the floor. "You won’t be making that mistake again."

"Come now, Slayer. Let’s be civilized. I was hoping to persuade you and your guests to join me for dinner."

"That’s nice of you," Willow said, "but we already ate."

"Buffy," Dracula said seductively, "you will join me for dinner."

"No, I won’t. Don’t waste your time trying to get me in your thrall, Vlad. Didn’t you learn your lesson last time?"

Dracula simply stared into her eyes, and despite her bravado, Buffy could feel her body begin to hum, and she felt herself drawn to him. "Willow. Barrier."

After a brief incantation, a force field sprung up between them and the Count.

"How interesting," he said. "Your friend has become a practitioner of the dark arts."

"No," Willow said, "there wasn’t anything dark about that spell."

"I didn’t mean that spell," Dracula said. His form dissipated into mist, and then reformed inside the barrier, directly in front of Willow. "Sister," he said, cupping her chin and tilting her face up to look into his eyes. "Your pain is exquisite. It will be a shame to dine on you. Perhaps the Slayer will spare your life."

"Get away from her," Buffy said.

Dracula released Willow, who stood entranced.

"Willow!" Buffy called, but she didn’t respond. "Great. Giles, get her out of here."

"I have need of a manservant," Dracula said as Giles moved towards Willow, and the Watcher stopped in his tracks.

"Yes, well, good help is so hard to find," Giles said.

Dracula looked at Buffy, but spoke to Giles. "You will bring to me all of those who the Slayer holds dear."

"I most certainly will not," Giles said.

"Bring them here, to this room. Your reward for serving me will be eternal."

"Don’t listen to him, Giles."

"Don’t worry, Buffy. I’m trained to resist this sort of--"

"Go now," Dracula commanded.

"Yes, Master," Giles said, and turned to leave.

"Giles!" Buffy called, but he kept going. "Damn it! Fine, Dracula. What’s your big plan? Piss me off by messing with my friends so I’ll just make sure it hurts like hell when I kick your ass?"

"No," Dracula said. "I will feast on your friends, one by one, as you serve them to me. And then, when it is finished," he leaned down to whisper in her ear, "you will belong to me."

Buffy shoved him back and withdrew a stake from her waistband. "That’s it," she said. "Let’s go."

Dracula walked over to the table and pulled out a chair. "Have a seat," he said.

"Okay," Buffy said, and did as she was told.


Dawn rummaged through the boxes of new merchandise that Anya had given her to put away, and pulled out a jar. "Where do the… ew!"

"What is it?" Anya asked.

"Freeze dried puppy tails!"

"Ah, yes," Anya said as she came over to look at the jar. "A popular component in fertility spells, especially when trying to conceive a boy."

Dawn stared at Anya. "But, I thought that was just a nursery rhyme."

Anya laughed. "That’s a common misconception among you modern humans. You’d probably have nightmares if I told you just how many nursery rhymes were really just mnemonic devices for remembering the ingredients of a spell."

"I think I’m already gonna have nightmares," Dawn said. "Poor little puppies!"

"Anyway," Anya said, "those are a new item, we don’t have a place for them yet. Just stack those boxes in the back for now."

Dawn picked up as many boxes as she could carry, and lugged them to the back room. She heard Giles come into the store behind her.

"Anya," he said, "thank goodness. Hurry, we must close down the shop and get to Dracula’s castle. Buffy needs our help."

"I get to see some Dracula action?" Anya asked. "Well it’s about damn time."

"Yes, I’m sure he’ll be delighted to see you again," Giles said.

Dawn set her boxes down and went to peek through the beaded curtain at Giles. Something seemed off. Why would Buffy ask specifically for Anya’s help? As she watched, a cockroach crawled across the counter. Giles glanced down at it, then back at Anya. "Why don’t you go see if you can get rid of that customer," he told her. As soon as Anya’s back was turned, Giles picked up the roach and popped it in his mouth.

Dawn felt like she might gag. So, Giles was Dracula’s new man-bitch? This couldn’t be good. She had to figure out how to warn Anya.

"Where is Dawn?" Giles asked. "It’s urgent that she come with us."

"She’s in the back," Anya told him.

Oh, crap, Dawn thought. Maybe she should just go for help. As Giles approached the back room, Dawn turned around and bolted for the back door. Before she reached the end of the alley, she heard the door open behind her.

"Dawn!" Giles called. "Dawn, come back here! You’ve got to go help Buffy!"

Sure I do, Dawn thought, and kept running. Out on the main street, she stopped just long enough to catch her breath, and to try and remember how to get to Angel’s mansion, before running again. She only had to go a couple of blocks before literally running into Spike and Xander.

"Nibblet!" Spike said. "Where do you think you’re going?"

Between frantic breaths, Dawn told him, "Giles, he’s working for Dracula. He came to get me and Anya and take us to him, but I ran."

"How do you know he was there to take you to Drac?" Xander asked.

"I saw him eat a cockroach," she said. "It was so gross!"

"All right," Spike said, "let’s get you home."

"Spike, I think Buffy’s in trouble."

"Don’t worry about your sis, we’ll take care of her. Did Giles say where they were?"

"He said she needed us at the castle."

"Right, then. Let’s go."


"So, this is Dracula’s digs, eh?"

"That’s them," Xander said.

"Isn’t that just like him? Prat thinks he’s too high and mighty for a proper vampire lair."

"Yeah," Xander said, "but, I mean, at least he’s comfortable. You really think that crypt of yours is preferable to a cushy place like this?"

Spike shrugged. "Never thought about it, really. The crypt’s got a good location, though. Sits on top of tunnels, take me anyplace I need to go, just about."

"Well," Xander said, "you know what they say about prime real estate."

"Yeah. So, you think we should split up?"

"We’ll cover more ground that way."

"You’ll be all right if we do? You don’t have any weird cravings, do you? Cockroaches sound appetizing?"

"God, no," Xander said, looking thoroughly disgusted. "I’m good. I’m nobody’s butt-monkey this time."

"Of course not," Spike said, clapping him on the shoulder. "You’re your own butt-monkey."

"Damn straight," Xander said. "Hey, wait a minute!"

Spike was already moving down the hall. "You take the upstairs. I’ll check around the cellars, and we’ll meet up somewhere in the middle."

"I am not a butt-monkey," Xander muttered as he started up the stairs.

Spike rolled his eyes as he turned down a passageway. A heavy wooden door at the end of the hall couldn’t conceal the sound of whimpering within. Spike tried the door, and found it unlocked. He opened it and peered inside, but couldn’t see anything but bare walls. "Buffy?" he called, and stepped over the threshold. Instead of flooring, his foot hit air, and he fell hard onto a sunken floor, about six feet below the door.

"Bloody hell," he muttered as he stood up and brushed himself off. The shadows began to move around him, and from them emerged three elaborately costumed and bejeweled vampiresses, dancing around him. At the sight of them, Spike couldn’t help but laugh. "You have got to be kidding me."

Still obscured in shadow, one of Dracula’s brides stopped dancing. "Spike?"

Spike squinted at her. Why was he not surprised? "Harmony?"

A disgusted sound erupted from the blonde. "Cool it, girls," she told her companions. "This one’s already a vampire."

Sounds of disappointment came from the other two as they stopped dancing.

"Harm," Spike asked, "what in the bleeding hell are you doing here?"

"What does it look like?"

"Well, it looks like you’re stuck in a basement waiting for hapless victims to stumble in."

"Well, yeah, that’s pretty much it. But it’s not a bad gig. And, you know, Spikey, you could learn a thing or two from Vlad about how to treat a lady."

"Right. Locking them in basements, making them wait for scraps that they have to share when someone finally takes the bait, dressing them like high-dollar whores--"

"I look like a princess!" Harmony said.

"Yeah. Sure you do. Look, pet, I know we’ve had our differences, but maybe you can help me out."

Harmony crossed her arms. "And why would I want to help you, you abusive, three-timing piece of--"

Before she could finish, Spike produced a stake from his coat and eliminated the vampire to his right. As he did, the other hissed and lunged at him. He ducked, and before she could recover, he spun around and drove the stake into her back.

"Because," he told Harmony, "if you tell me what I want to know, I won’t turn you into dust, and you can go on pretending to be a pretty princess here in your cozy little basement hideaway."

Harmony swallowed, then smiled. "Sure, Blondie-bear, just tell me what you want to know."


With as much stealth as he could muster, Spike approached the dining hall in the castle’s west wing, and surveyed the scene inside. They were all there, just as Harmony said they would be. Even Harris, who apparently hadn’t bothered with stealth, or at least not enough to prevent being caught. He was being tied to a chair by the Watcher, who was babbling about blood and immortality. The girls both sat across the dining table from him. They weren’t tied, but were obviously under some sort of spell. Buffy sat in a similarly enthralled state at the end of the table, and opposite her, at the table’s head, sat Dracula.

Spike decided to abandon stealth in favor of something he was even better at: the grand entrance.

"What’s the big idea, coming into town and not even bothering to look up old acquaintances?" he asked as he strolled into the dining hall.

"William!" Dracula said with a smile as he rose from the table. "It’s been ages."

"Spike!" Xander said. "Thank God! Giles is a bug-eater, and Buffy’s--"

"Silence!" Dracula commanded.

"Yes, master." Xander winced. "No, dammit, I mean--" Before he could continue, Giles stuffed a napkin into his mouth.

"You know this boy?" Dracula asked.

Spike shrugged. "I’m acquainted with the whole lot. I’ve helped the Slayer out on occasion. Quid pro quo, you know. I give her info, she stays off my back."

"This surprises me. You’ve built quite a reputation for killing Slayers."

"Yeah, well, this one’s pretty formidable."

"So I’ve seen."

"Excuse me, Master," Giles said as he approached Spike. "You shouldn’t trust this one. He’s--"

Spike landed a punch to the Watcher’s face, knocking him unconscious. "Sorry," Spike said, "habit. Was this one working for you?"

Dracula waved a dismissive hand. "He has served his purpose. Come. Join us."

"Don’t mind if I do," Spike said, pulling up a chair next to Buffy and propping his feet on the table. "Didn’t mean to crash your party."

"Don’t be ridiculous," Dracula said. "I was just about to dine. I think this meal would be better shared."

"Great!" Spike said. "I am starting to feel a bit peckish. So, which one’s first?"

"I was going to let the Slayer decide as she served me my meal."

Spike looked at Buffy, and grinned. "Really? You’ve got her that much under your control? Cor, you must really have it in for the bint, to make her serve up her friends to you like this."

"Let’s just say, she and I have met before, and I have a point to prove."

"Tell you what," Spike said as he got to his feet, "before we eat, let me have a little fun with her. You can bet I’ve got more points piled up against her than you could possibly have. I’ve been in Sunny Hell on and off for the better part of four years, and she’s done her best to make me miserable ever since I got here. She’s even responsible for breaking up me and Dru."

"I don’t know," Dracula said.

"Come on, Vlad," Spike said, "you owe me one. You owe me eleven pounds, actually, and do you know what that comes to with compounded interest? Give me a few minutes with her in that state, and I’ll call it even."

Dracula sighed. "Very well. But make it quick. I grow hungry."

"So? Eat, then." He pointed at Xander. "The whelp there ought to make a good appetizer."

Xander glared at Spike as he struggled against his bonds.

"Better if she serves him to me," Dracula said. "Go on, have your fun, then we can eat."

"Right, then," Spike said, and walked behind Buffy. "So, she’s completely in your thrall, right? I can pretty much have my way with her, and she won’t snap out of it and tear my head off?"

"Correct," Dracula said. "The Slayer is completely under my power."

"We’ll see about that," Spike said, and leaned down to kiss Buffy. He could hear Xander complaining even through his gag, but he ignored him as he took her face in his hands, tilting her up to him to deepen the kiss. After a moment, Buffy responded, and he pulled away. "Hello, cutie," he said.

Buffy blinked at him. "Spike, what…?" She looked around the room, and her eyes narrowed at the sight of the Dark Prince. "Dracula."

Spike pressed a stake into her hand. "Go get ‘im, pet."

Buffy leapt up onto the table. "Get them out of here," she told Spike.

"Already on it, love," he said as he worked to untie Xander.

The boy mumbled something through his gag. Spike reached up and pulled it out of his mouth. "You kissed Buffy!" he said.

"Yeah," Spike said, "what of it?"

"No, but, you kissed Buffy. And she kissed you back!"

Spike finished untying him. "Try and focus here, Harris. Go take care of the Watcher." He pointed at Giles, still unconscious on the floor. As Xander went to retrieve him, Spike moved down the table to Willow. "Will," he said, shaking her. "Come on, red. Snap out of it."

"Release them," Buffy told Dracula. The vampire sighed, and relented. Willow and Anya both began to blink, and look around the room. "You guys get out of here," Buffy told them. "I’ll be out in a few."

Willow ran to help Xander support Giles. "Spike kissed Buffy," Xander told her.

"Yeah, I know," she said. "What‘s that all about?" They followed Anya out into the hall. "Spike," Willow said, "aren’t you coming?"

"You go on without me," he said, "I think I’ll stick around and watch."

"Don’t you mean help?" Dracula asked.

Spike sat back down and propped his feet back on the table. "Buffy doesn’t need my help against you, mate. At least, not now that it’s a fair fight. You don’t mind if I hang around and watch you work, do you, baby?"

"Not at all," Buffy said, and launched into a series of handsprings down the length of the table, culminating in landing a boot square in Dracula‘s face. "Just don’t get in my way."

"Wouldn’t dream of it." A goblet of wine sat to the side of the place setting in front of Spike, and he helped himself to it.

"I’m surprised at you, William," Dracula said, circling the table and wiping his own blood from his mouth. "You used to be such a force for evil. Now you are the Slayer’s errand boy?"

"Yeah, well, things change."

"Not us," Dracula said. "Not demons."

"This demon did," Buffy said.

Dracula looked at her. "Are you certain?"

"It turns out," Spike said, "that wearing the white hat has its own set of perks. See, I still get to fight and be violent and all that good stuff, and I’m not hurtin’ people. Which, as it turns out, has lost its thrill, since I went and started identifying with ‘em." He downed the wine and set the goblet back on the table. "Plus, at the end of the night, the Slayer goes home with me, and I don’t have to use any fancy Jedi mind tricks to get her there."

Dracula looked up at Buffy, and she shrugged. "It’s all that English charm," she said. With that, she spun and landed a roundhouse kick to his head. She readied her stake, but then seemed to reconsider, and lowered it. "Look, Dracula. We both know I don’t know how to kill you. At least, not permanently. We also both know that I can kick your ass and cause you pain. So how ‘bout we call it even, and you get out of Sunnydale and don’t come back?"

"That is reasonable," Dracula said. "But I assure you, Buffy Summers, you have not seen the last of me."

"Oh, I hope not," she said, "because eventually, I will figure out how to make sure that you stay dead. And I gotta say, the opportunity to practice on you is a big help."

Without another word, Dracula evaporated into mist, and disappeared.

"Well," Spike said. "That was pretty neat."

"Yeah," Buffy said. "I wonder how he does that?"

"Not him, love. I meant you."

Buffy looked down at him and smiled. "Yeah?"

Spike tilted his head to the side and grinned. "Oh, yeah."

Buffy slid off of the table and into his lap. "Thanks for coming to my rescue," she said.

"Any time, baby," he said as she leaned in for a lingering kiss. "You know," he said when she finally pulled away, "your friends are waiting outside, and Dawn’s home alone. We should get going."

Buffy sighed as she stood up. "They saw us kiss, didn’t they?"

"Yeah, they did."

She nodded, and held her hand out to him. "I guess now’s as good a time as any to have that talk."

Hand in hand, Spike and Buffy went outside to face the music.


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