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Part two of two

Episode Five: Enemy Lines

by cousinjean
Trouble and Yellow by Coldplay

Notes: Willow's barrier spell is taken verbatim from the television episode "Spiral," written by Steven S. DeKnight.

This episode is rated R. This episode is also about twice as long as normal, hence, it's posted in two parts.

A big shout out to georgevna, just 'cause I loves ya. And for many helpful and correct suggestions. And also because I didn't know any brand names for bourbon. Special props to AurelioZen for making a tiny little change in ep. 4 which set up one of my scenes so perfectly, even though she didn't really want to, but she did it anyway, and she didn't even accept my bribe. She's getting a prezzie anyway, 'cause she's such a good sport. Big, big thanks to enkeli for helping me kill my babies. And much love to the rest of my cheering section in the Redemptionista fic thread over at MBTV. Every bit of feedback was helpful.

"What are you doing here?" Buffy asked as Dawn entered the shop. "I thought I told you to stay home."
"When I called and you wouldn't answer the phone. Didn't you hear the machine?"
"I haven't been home, Buffy." She pushed past her towards the back of the store.
"Then, where exactly have you been? The service had to have ended hours ago."
"It did. I've been at the mansion. Drusilla grabbed me out of the bathroom at the coffee shop and took me there."
"Oh my God," Buffy said.
Willow jumped up from the table and came over to them. "Dawnie, are you okay?"
"Oh, my God," Buffy repeated.
"I'm fine," she said, then looked pointedly at Buffy. "Thanks to Spike."
Buffy closed her eyes and sighed. "Did he come with you?"
"He walked me here. He's laying low until sundown. Then he wants you to meet him behind the shop."
Buffy nodded. Then she grabbed Dawn, and started to examine her. "Did they hurt you?"
"No. Drusilla wanted to save me as a present for Spike." She pushed Buffy off of her. "I think they think he's still chipped. Anyway, he convinced them not to bite me on account of me not being totally human. Then he said he was going to trade me to Glory's minions in return for their help. Then he brought me here."
"Wait a minute," Buffy said. "He told them that you were the key?"
"He didn't tell them anything about me, Buffy. Drusilla can see what I am. I mean, she's a total nutbar. She locked me in a room and left her creepy little doll in there with me. She told it to keep an eye on me, but it was wearing this stupid little blindfold... Anyway, Spike just told them he knew some demons that were looking for me. He saved my life. Again."
Buffy nodded, and hugged her. "I'm just glad you're okay."
"You don't still believe Spike had anything to do with the Bronze, do you?"
Before she could answer, Giles and Xander entered the shop.
"Finally," Buffy said. "What did you find out?"
Giles took off his glasses and looked at the floor.
Xander shook his head. "Nothing, Buffy. Sorry."
Her shoulders slumped. "So his alibi didn't check out."
Dawn couldn't believe what she was hearing. "Spike needs an alibi now?"
"He already gave me an alibi," Buffy said.
"And you had to check it out before you believed him?"
"Yes, Dawn, I did. And it didn't check out. Do you know what that means? It means he lied to me." She hugged herself and added, "Again."
Dawn shook her head. "I don't care. Spike was not at the Bronze the other night."
"He wasn't, Buffy. And you know it."
"Then where was he, Dawn?"
"Why don't you ask him when you talk to him? It's getting dark out. He should be out back soon."
"Spike's out back?" Xander asked.
"He will be," Buffy said. "He wants to talk."
"Buffy," Giles said, "I know I won't be able to dissuade you from meeting with him, but under the circumstances, I don't think it would be wise for you to do so alone."
She nodded. "You're probably right. You guys want to come with?"
"Of course."
"Yeah, we got your back, Buff," Xander said.
Dawn rolled her eyes. "I don't believe you guys," she muttered, and headed for the back room.
"Where are you going?" Buffy asked.
"To lie down. I've had kind of a long day. Have fun ganging up on Spike." As she left, she flung the beaded curtain out of her way as hard as she could. It wasn't as good as slamming a door, but she supposed it got her point across.
Spike paced back and forth in the shadows. The sun had gone down enough for him more than five minutes ago. What the hell was she waiting for? He looked at the door again, and considered. Maybe he should just go in.
Finally, the door opened, and Buffy emerged into the alley, followed by the Watchers, both armed. Spike stopped pacing as he saw them. "Uh, I kinda hoped we'd get to talk alone, pet."
"Yeah, well, I kinda hoped your alibi for the other night would check out." She shrugged. "Guess we're both disappointed."
"Checked up on me, did you? Guess I shouldn't be surprised. Did you do it yourself, or did you send Pinky and the Brain here to do it for you?"
"We checked all over town," Xander said. "None of the forgers had so much as a lead on you."
"Oh, well then, Sherlock. If you couldn't find it, then it must not exist."
"Spike," Buffy warned.
Spike hung his head, and sighed. "You know I'm being straight with you, Buffy."
"Do I?"
He took a step towards her. Giles and Xander stepped forward, and raised their weapons. Spike laughed. "You know, I should've expected this from the two of you. You never did trust me, and really, I can't blame you. But you!" He pointed at Buffy. "I would die for you a thousand times over! You're my whole bloody reason for being, you and the nip. You know me, Buffy. Better than anyone. Better than Dru -- hell, you know me even better than I know myself. You're scared, and I understand that. I screwed up. I know it. I should have been up front with you about everything. I shouldn't have tried to handle Dru by myself. But pet, I haven't turned on you, and I'm not going to. I love you. And I know you love me." He took another step towards her. "As for trusting me, I know it's not easy for you. I know I haven't made it easy. You just have to go with your gut. Nothing I can say will convince you."
Buffy took a step forward. "Say what you came here to say."
"Fine," Spike said. "Here's the deal. Darla and Dru are working with Dracula. They're trying to restore the Order of Aurelius, and they plan to mojo the Master back from the great beyond. To do that, they need some scroll that Angel's got--"
"The Scroll of Aberjian?" Giles asked.
"That's the one. They've tried taking it from him, but they haven't had any luck. So they want to capture you, pet, take you alive and trade you for the scroll. They plan to eliminate the rest of you. I'm supposed to get you and the Scoobies to the old high school gym tonight at nine."
"Sounds like a trap," Xander said.
Spike rolled his eyes. "Of course it's a trap, monkey-brain."
"Hey!" Xander said. "Name calling's not going to win you any points with this crowd, pal."
"Xander." Buffy shot him a look, then looked back at Spike. "Why should we show?"
"Because they've got bait. Drac's got a small army of bug-eaters that he wants to use to lure you there. Human hostages."
"My lord," Giles said.
"Why are we listening to him?" Xander asked.
"Because you'd bloody well better listen to me, boy, if you want to survive tonight." He looked at Buffy. "They're overconfident, pet. They're so sure they're going to win that they even told me to tell you all of this."
"Oh, that makes us feel a whole lot better," Xander said.
Spike ignored him. "You can use that to your advantage."
"Okay," Buffy said. "So there's the four of you--"
"The three of them," Spike interjected.
"--and a bunch of humans in Dracula's thrall. Is that it?"
"They've also got about a dozen or so minions. They figure that's enough to outnumber you." He smiled. "They obviously don't understand who it is that they're dealing with."
Buffy nodded. "Guys? Can you leave us alone for a minute?"
"Buffy," Giles said, "I don't think that's wise."
"I'll be fine," she said. When nobody moved, she added, "Please?" She waited as her friends went back into the shop, then asked, "Why should I believe you?"
"Dammit, Buffy!" Spike stopped, and sighed, and made a great effort to calm himself. "Look, pet, we've done this dance. Either you trust me, or you don't. If you don't, then do something about it. You're the Vampire Slayer, do your bloody job."
Buffy looked like she was about to say something, then she stopped. She shook her head, and smiled even as her eyes glazed over with tears. "You were kissing her, Spike."
He swallowed. "I know, baby." Realizing how much that had hurt her felt like a blow to the gut.
"Don't tell me that was just to get information."
"It wasn't. It..." He ran a hand through his hair as he struggled for the words to make her understand. "It was just nostalgia, pet."
"Nostalgia for when you were a brutal killer?"
"No!" He considered a few seconds, then admitted, "Well, yes, maybe. Bloody hell, I don't know, Slayer! That was all I knew for a hundred and twenty years."
"And you miss it."
"No. I don't miss the killing." She eyed him warily. "I don't."
"But you miss her."
Spike sighed. "Buffy, for over a century she was my whole bloody reason for being. She was my first love. You can't expect me to feel nothing for her now. You going to stand there and tell me you don't have any feelings left for Angel?"
Buffy looked at the ground. "No," she said. "But Angel is in my past."
"And Dru is in mine. It was a goodbye kiss, Buffy. Nothing more. Drusilla was a huge part of my life, but that part of my life is over. You are my here and now, love. And I want you to be my future."
She raised her head, and looked him in the eye. "Where were you when the attack at the Bronze went down?"
Spike simply stared at her for a moment. He couldn't believe it kept coming back to this. He shook his head. "I already told you that, pet. Believe me, or don't."
Buffy stood unmoving, unblinking, her expression unreadable. Finally, she crossed her arms, and looked at the ground. When she spoke, her voice was barely audible. "Spike, you know I will kill you if I have to."
Spike didn't say anything. He didn't need to. They both knew it was true.
She looked back up at him, her face full of fear. Not of him, but for him, and for her. Bad memories haunted her eyes.
She licked her lips. "Please don't make me have to," she whispered.
In spite of his frustration, Spike's heart broke for her. He hung his head, and wondered what he could possibly say to ease her fears. He stepped forward until they stood toe to toe, and bent to look her in the eye. "I swear to you, love, I will run a stake through my own heart before I allow you to go through that again."
Buffy shrugged. "My hand or yours, either way, you'll be just as gone. So just make sure it never comes to that."
"It won't, baby. I promise."
Buffy nodded. "All right, then. Go back to Drusilla. Do what you have to do."
Spike reached out for her, but she stepped back.
He sighed. "Buffy, whatever you think is happening between me and Dru, it's not."
"No. It's not that. It's… this is it, Spike." She pointed a finger at the ground. "This is the line in the sand. This is where you decide once and for all which side you're on."
"I'm on your side, pet. Just like always."
"But it hasn't been always."
"I thought we cleaned that slate, love."
"We did. But forgetting's not as easy. Not when you've spent most of the time you've known me trying to kill me and... God, Spike! The other night, you sounded just like you did then. And now I'm just supposed to blindly trust you? If I do, and I'm wrong? I'm dead!"
He couldn't believe this. "What... what do you think the past year has been about? You think I went through everything that I did for you and Dawn just to get inside your knickers? That I'm just bidin' my time until I get tired of shagging you, and then, what? I'm gonna rip out your throat while you sleep?" He shook his head. "God DAMN it, Buffy! At least give me credit for not being a coward. The Slayers I killed, I killed in battle, in fair fights. I didn't murder them. We fought, they lost. If you were going to die by my hand, I can assure you, you would die a warrior."
"Is this supposed to make me feel better about your motives?"
Spike took a breath to calm himself. It didn't keep his voice from trembling when he spoke. "My motives are to help you, Slayer. To keep you and yours alive." He stuffed his hands in his pockets, and stared at the ground. "I changed my whole way of life for you, pet. All for you." He looked back up at her. "Are you telling me that's not good enough for you any more?"
She was crying now. Silently, but he could see the tremble of her lip, the wet sheen on her cheeks. She shook her head. "No, Spike," she said. "That's not good enough this time. I can't let it be. If this -- if we can even hope to work, it has to be about more than just me. You have to show me… you have to show me that these changes in you are real. That they won't go away. That if something happens to me, or if this ends--"
"What? That I won't turn 'round and eat your friends?"
"Something like that. I just need to know that this will last."
"What d'you want from me, pet? You want some kind of sodding hero? Maybe you should move to Los Angeles, work things out with Angel, or, or maybe you should sit at home, wait for the soldier boy to come back from the jungle, if that's what you want. I'm a vampire! You think it's been easy for me to turn my whole bloody unlife around? I'm doing the best I bloody can!"
"I need to know that you'll keep it up."
Spike shook his head. He hadn't felt this helpless since that hellbitch had gone poking around inside his chest. "I told you, Buffy. You connect me--"
"No, Spike! It can't be just me. Don't you understand? I can't be your conscience! I can't be the only reason you're trying so hard to be good!"
"Why not?! It works, doesn't it?"
Buffy shook her head. "You just don't get it. And I don't know how to make you understand."
"Buffy, I love you."
She sighed. "Spike, the day is going to come when that's not enough." Her lips tightened, and she looked at something off to the side. "It might already be here."
"I can't accept that," Spike said.
"Then don't. Show me, Spike. Show me that I wasn't wrong to love you. And if you can't do that, then…" She closed her eyes, then looked back up at him. "Just have them at the gym tonight. Decide where you stand before you get there, and let me know your decision before it all goes down."
Without waiting for an answer, she turned and walked away. Spike called after her, but she went back inside the shop without turning around. Frustration welled up inside of him, and with a roar he turned and kicked a stack of boxes, uncovering a wino. A bit chagrined, Spike restacked the boxes. "Sorry, mate."
"You got a dollar?" the bum asked.
"How 'bout a cigarette?"
Spike's mouth quirked up in a wry smile, in spite of himself. "That I can do." He pulled a pack from his pocket and offered one to the homeless man before taking one for himself. "You know," he said as he lit them both up, "if she was so wrong about me, I figure I'd be havin' you for a snack right about now. Not like she'd ever find out about it."
"So whatcha gon' do?"
"Nothing," Spike said. "And not just because you look somewhat less than appetizing in your current condition. I just don't want to. I don't exactly know why not, I just don't. You humans aren't on my ruddy menu anymore, is all."
"Tha's good to know, son," the man said, and then passed out.
"Yeah. Nice chattin' with ya, mate."
Spike considered the man for a moment, then nudged him with his foot. He awoke with a snort.
"Um, y'know, it's not really safe for you to be out here like this. Someone could come along who's not as picky about what they eat as I am. Those boxes aren't going to hide you, they'd be able to sniff you out a hundred yards away."
"Got it covered," the wino said. He rooted around inside his shirt, then produced a homemade cross, and waved it at Spike. "Bumpy faced sonsabitches ain't gonna get their teeth in me."
"Right. Suit yourself, mate."
Spike let the man be. As he walked away, he wondered at exactly what point he had started to give a bloody damn about the general populace.
"Buffy," Willow said as she came back inside, "Xander told me about the people in Dracula's thrall. I think I've got a pretty good counter spell to break the thrall, and we've come up with a plan to keep them all safe."
"Great, Will. Thanks." She wiped her eyes.
"You okay?"
Buffy shook her head.
"Did he try anything?" Giles asked.
"No," she said. "We just talked about... stuff."
"So, what d'you think?" Xander asked. "Is it a trap?"
"Yeah, it's a trap," Buffy said. "But is it a trap for us, or for them? Spike says it's for them, if we go in prepared."
"Do you believe him?"
Buffy examined her nails. "I want to."
"Yes, but Buffy," Giles said, "I think it's a bit of an understatement to say that your judgment regarding Spike is clouded."
"Yeah," Buffy said. "More like a heavy fog wrapped up in a blizzard. Zero visibility."
"It doesn't really matter. Either way, we can expect a fight, and we're going to win. The only real question is, which side will Spike be fighting on?" She sighed. "Man, I wish his alibi had checked out okay."
"About that," Giles said, "I've given it some thought, and it occurs to me that for the types of forgeries Spike would need to appear legitimate, he might have gone out of town."
"You couldn't have thought of that before I had to bribe Willy?" Xander asked.
"Or before I grilled Spike about it again?" Buffy added.
"Well… no, actually" Giles said. "I suspected that if Spike were telling the truth, the local forgers would have been good enough for his purposes--that is, I'd assumed his purposes merely extended as far as attempting to impress us. But I've seen some of the work of the locals, and it leaves something to be desired. If Spike was truly serious about establishing non… er, non-person status for himself, he would have had to go out of town to obtain truly convincing forgeries. My best guess would be Los Angeles."
Buffy considered this, then went to the phone and dialed a number she knew by heart.
"Angel Investigations," a clipped British voice answered. "We help the help--"
"Wesley, it's Buffy. Is Angel there?"
"Ah, sorry, Buffy. I'm afraid you just missed him. Would you like to leave a message?"
"Yeah," Buffy said. "Just tell him I called. I need to talk to him as soon as possible."
"Will do. Erm… Buffy, is there perhaps anything I could do for you? That is, if it's not a personal matter…"
"Actually, maybe you can. I need to find out where someone would go in L.A. if they wanted to get some quality forgeries. You know, birth certificate, social security card, green card, that sort of thing."
"I'm certain we have a list of such contacts around here somewhere," Wesley said. "Why don't I find it and give you a call back?"
"That'd be great, Wesley. Thanks."
"Buffy, if you don't mind my asking… does this have anything to do with William the Bloody?"
Buffy's heart skipped. "What about him?"
"Well, he was here the other night."
"Spike was there? Are you sure?"
"Oh yes, quite certain. He came in two nights ago to ask for Angel's assistance in a private matter. Of course, we all warned Angel against helping him, but he only said that the last time the two of them spoke, he'd promised he'd be available if Spike ever needed help in a certain matter. I'm afraid I don't know what it was all about."
"I do," Buffy said. "Thanks, Wesley. Oh, and I won't need that list. Thanks."
She hung up the phone. Nobody spoke at first. Buffy could feel a monstrous weight lifting off of her shoulders, only to be replaced by an equally heavy feeling of guilt.
"So." Anya was the first to break the silence. "I guess humble pie is on the menu for tonight."
"Yeah," Xander said. "With a super-sized side order of crow."
"It certainly does seem we each owe Spike an apology," Giles said, wiping off his glasses as he spoke. He lifted his eyebrows. "Now there's a sentence I never thought I'd say."
"Looks like that disinvite spell is off of tonight's schedule," Willow said.
Buffy went over to the reading area and sunk into a chair. "Wow," she said. "How much do I suck right now?"
"Buffy," Xander said, "we're… God. We're so sorry."
She cast him an irritated glance, but then sighed. "Don't apologize to me," she said. "You guys each have your reasons to doubt Spike. But me…" she shook her head. "Dawn's right. He's proven himself again and again… I have no excuse for doubting him like I did." Tears sprung to her eyes, and she fought them back. "Some of the things I said to him… oh, God. What if, what if I drove him back to the other side? If he thinks he's run out of chances with me…"
"No, Buffy," Willow said. "You're not responsible for Spike's actions."
"But I hurt him so much, Will."
"I think maybe we all did. But, he's been hurt by us before, and he's thought he had no chance with you before, and that didn't keep him from doing the right thing, eventually. Spike kinda strikes me as the type of guy who'll fight for you until his last breath. Or, well, you know what I mean."
Buffy managed a smile. "Yeah, I know. Thanks."
"What's going on?" Dawn asked as she came in the room. "You all look like you just ran over the neighbor's dog. Don't tell me you finally figured out Spike's still one of us."
Buffy nodded, and got up to go hug her sister. "You were right, Dawn."
"Yeah," she said. "I know." As Buffy broke down into a sob, she returned her hug. "Hey. So, you guys had a fight. It happens. You'll work it out."
"What if we don't?"
"You will," Dawn said. "You have to. I mean, you guys love each other too much to let some stupid misunderstanding break you up, right?"
Buffy straightened up and wiped her eyes. "Yeah," she said. "Right." She studied her little sister. "How do you know so much for someone so young?"
"I'm thousands of years old, remember?" She shrugged. "Not that that makes a difference. Mostly, I learned it from watching Passions during study hall."
Buffy tried to look parental. "Dawn..."
"Hey, I got hooked over the summer. Besides, somebody's got to be able to talk about it with Spike, since mom's gone."
Buffy smiled, and kissed the top of her head. "Sorry for acting so crazy the last couple of days."
"Don't tell me," Dawn said. "Tell Spike."
"I will." She looked at the group. "We need to be at the gym in less than an hour. I should get Dawn home first."
"Uh-uh," Dawn said. "Spike told me not to go home. He said I should go someplace where not even he can get to me. You know, just in case they decide to come after me, or something."
"What about my apartment?" Anya asked. "Spike's never been there."
"Um, actually..." Buffy began.
"He was there practically every night while Buffy and I were living there," Dawn finished.
"Oh. You invited your secret vampire boyfriend into my apartment?" Anya forced a smile. "How nice."
"Sorry I didn't mention it before," Buffy said.
"How about my place?" Xander asked. "Spike's never been there, I don't think he even knows where I live."
"Okay," Dawn said.
"All right, then," Buffy said. "Let's get you to Xander's, then we'll head over to the gym. You guys can tell me your plan on the way."
The basketball gym was in surprisingly good shape, compared to the rest of the old high school. It had been spared the brunt of the blast which had taken out the school, and with it, the Mayor. The windows were all blown out and the visitor bleachers were a bit charred, but it was mostly intact. Its run down appearance seemed to be more from neglect than anything else.
Bloody basketball, thought Spike as he made his way to center court. Another American sport that he didn't get, and didn't care to. Still, as he waited he wondered idly if he'd be able to make a basket from there.
The vampires were the first to arrive. Dracula led the procession as Darla, Drusilla and the rest filed in behind him, lining up in rank and file fashion on one side of the court. They certainly looked organized, not to mention intimidating as hell. Leave it to a war lord, thought Spike.
"She is coming?" he asked as he came to stand at the end of the front line nearest Spike.
"She and her buddies'll be here," Spike said.
"You said you would bring reinforcements," Dracula said. "And where are Stan and Kyle?"
"Uh, you mean those blokes you sent to escort me and the little nip? They were supposed to show the crusty fellas how to get here. I'm sure they'll be here any minute. Not that we'll need 'em. I mean, all of us against a Slayer, two Watchers, an ex-demon and a witch? Sounds to me like a victory's all locked up."
Dracula's eyes narrowed, but then he smiled. "Yes. Of course."
Spike turned away and rolled his eyes.
"They're coming," Drusilla said. Just then, the doors on the opposite side of the gym slammed open and Buffy entered, followed by the Scooby Gang. With the exception of Willow, they were each armed. Buffy carried two battleaxes, Giles held one, and Xander and Anya each wielded a crossbow. They lined up on the other side of the court, facing off against the vampires. Buffy came to stand directly opposite Dracula.
"I thought I told you to leave Sunnydale," she told him.
"Yes, but I'm afraid I had other plans," he said.
"Like taking over," Darla said.
Buffy looked at her. "Darla, I promise you. When I kill you? You'll stay dead."
Darla smiled. "Don't be so sure about that, little girl."
"Enough of this," Dracula said. "Attack them."
"Give us a minute," Spike said, stepping between the two factions. "I've got a thing or two to say first."
Dracula sighed. "William, this is hardly the time for a speech."
"Not time for a speech?" He laughed. "Excuse me, Vlad, but have you checked your Supervillain handbook lately? This is the perfect bloody time for a speech. So shut up and listen."
"Spike," Buffy began, but he cut her off.
"That means all of you, pet."
Hands behind his back, he began to pace up and down the center line. "Well, would you look at us? Back together again. I never thought this day would come. We've got my sire," he stopped in front of Dru, and reached out to stroke her cheek. She cooed softly at him, but he moved on, and continued, "our matriarch… and we got Drac there fillin' in for Peaches. It's just like old times, innit?"
"It can be, Spike," Drusilla said.
"Yeah," he said. "It could, couldn't it? I mean, those were the days. I'd almost forgotten what it was like, being the Big Bad, riding a wave of terror and power, leaving a wake of death and destruction." He smiled nostalgically. "God, I used to love that."
"Used to?" Drusilla asked.
Spike stopped in front of her and turned to face her. "Yeah, princess. Used to. I admit, those were some great times. Things were so much simpler then. All of the blood an' violence with none of the consequences. At least, none that mattered to us, right? It was fun."
"Oh, yes, Spike," Drusilla said. "We had some great fun, we did."
"We sure did, poodle. But even great fun gets old after a while. All that murder 'n' mayhem -- 's just not my thing any more."
"Because of her," Drusilla said. "My Spike. The Slayer's ruined you, she has." She hissed at Buffy.
Darla rolled her eyes. "She tends to do that."
"Yeah, well," Spike shrugged. "What can I say?" He glanced at Buffy. "She's the sort of girl you make changes for." He resumed pacing. "And it's not like she forced 'em on me. But it's not all her fault. I mean, don't get me wrong. I'd never have made it this far without her. Hell, I wouldn't have even bothered to try."
"But it's not too late for you, Spike," Darla said. "You can be what you were. You're well on your way there, just by bringing them to us. All is forgiven. After tonight, we'll get that nasty little chip out and you'll be back in all of your Big Bad glory. Maybe you'll even get to have a third Slayer kill under your belt."
"That's right thoughtful of you, Darla," Spike said. "But it all sounds--" he stopped in front of Buffy and looked at her, "--well, actually, it's not tempting in the least." He resumed pacing. "'Sides, I got that chip out months ago."
"You..." Darla laughed, and took a step towards him. "Oh, Spike. Spike -- my child… my brother, think about how it will be, when we rule. A world dominated by vampires, no longer to be hunted, no longer to have to sneak around in the shadows."
Spike studied a chipped fingernail. "Y'know, I was never really too big on world domination, m'self."
"Come on, Spike. You‘re not stupid. There's no way for them to win tonight. Even if you don't give a damn about the power any more, I know you care about your own survival. Believe me, you want to be on the winning team."
"Oh, no worries, granny," he said. "I will be."
Darla's eyes narrowed. "You can't turn your back on your family, William."
Spike looked up at Buffy, whose expression remained unreadable, and nodded. "You're right," he said to Darla, then turned back to face her. "You're right, I can't."
Darla smiled triumphantly.
Spike looked down, and realized he was standing on the half-line. He had to laugh. "Well, what d'you know," he said. "How's this for bleedin' symbolism?" With that, he took two steps backward, until he stood next to Buffy, alongside the rest of the Scoobies.
Darla's smile faded. "What are you doing?"
"What's it look like, sis? I'm getting ready to fight for my family." As he spoke, Buffy's hand found its way into his, and gave it a gentle squeeze.
Darla glared at the couple. "Chalk another one up for the cheerleader," she said.
"Oh, don't be so bitter, Darla," Buffy said with a toss of her hair. "I'm sure if they'd had such a thing as cheerleading squads back when you were my age, you'd have made the team." She looked her up and down. "Well, you'd at least have made alternate."
The remark made Spike smirk. His Slayer was back in top form, and as far as he was concerned, she was the coolest damned thing on the planet.
"Buffy wasn't a cheerleader!" an indignant voice called from the back of the ranks. "Not really -- she didn't even get to cheer at any games!"
Darla, Spike, and Buffy all at once said, "Shut up, Harmony!"
"You're hardly in a position to be so smug, little girl," Darla said to Buffy. "And you." She turned her glare on Spike. "What the hell are you trying to be? Some kind of hero?"
"Uh, well, I think I really fit more into the dashing anti-hero archetype, actually."
"Enough!" Dracula said. "I grow bored with this exchange. Attack them. Now."
Without a word, Buffy handed Spike her spare axe as the team was rushed from all sides by both minions and Dracula's human pawns. "Try not to hurt the humans!" she shouted. "Willow?"
"I need a couple of minutes," she said.
"Keep them off of her," Buffy told Spike. She swung her axe and beheaded a minion, but then another one grabbed her from behind as Darla disarmed her. Spike hesitated to leave her side, but as she flipped the minion over her head and into Darla and retrieved her axe, he decided she had things under control.
On her knees, eyes closed, Willow began to chant: "Praesentia presentia," barely audible, murmured over and over.
Beside her, Spike stood his ground as three minions rushed him. A fourth jumped on his back, but he managed to flip it over his head and into two of the others. The remaining one lunged at him, but Spike beheaded him without much effort. The other three were on their feet again in no time. Spike spun around, landing a powerhouse kick to the stomach of one while punching another in the face, stunning both. He swung his axe, taking them both out before they had a chance to recover. The remaining vamp was much bigger than him, and strong, but Spike had speed and maneuverability on his side. The big vampire feinted left. Spike fell for it. The vamp got the axe out of his hand and plunged it into his back. Spike screamed out in pain, and dropped to the floor beside Willow.
Her eyes flew open, and she gaped at him. "Spike!"
His teeth bared, the vampire lunged at her neck from behind. Spike kicked him in the face, and he reeled back.
"Don't worry about me, Will," he said, getting to his feet. "You just keep doing your chanty thing."
With a nod, she closed her eyes, and resumed the spell.
As Spike reached around and pulled the axe out of his back, his opponent grinned, and wiped away the blood that ran from his nose.
"Right, then," Spike said, breaking the axe handle in two and putting on his game face. "Let's dance."
The two of them circled each other. Finally, the big vampire took a swing. Spike blocked it with his stake hand and swung the axe up, planting it in the vamp's gut. He yanked it out, and the vampire staggered backwards, holding in his insides. Spike spun around and plunged the broken handle into his heart.
As the vampire turned to dust, it was picked up by a wind that began to swirl around Spike. He turned to see that it was coming from Willow. Suddenly her eyelids flew open to reveal fully dilated pupils. The wind increased, whipping her hair and clothes about her as she rose to her feet. "Claro!" she shouted as she brought her hands together in a thunderous clap.
At that moment, all of the humans under Dracula's thrall stopped fighting. They looked around, blinking at each other in their shared confusion.
"All right, folks," Xander called out to them, "everybody onto the bleachers!"
He and Giles fought off the remaining vampire minions as Anya herded the humans up to safety. "Willow!" she called. "Barrier!"
Willow took a step towards them, but stumbled. Spike caught her. "Hang in there, Red," he told her as he helped her over to the bleachers, "you're not done just yet." He set her gently on the bottom row of benches. He and the others stood back.
"Enemies, fly and fall," she mumbled, "circling arms, raise a wall…"
As a protective barrier sprung up around the bleachers, Willow passed out inside.
Spike surveyed the gym. Without the bug-eaters and minus the minions that had been taken out so far, they were more or less evenly matched.
Something hit Xander from behind, and he fell to the floor, unconscious. The rest of them spun around to see Harmony standing there in vamp face.
"Anya," she said. "Just look at you. You used to be so cool, now you're hanging around with these losers? And dating Xander Harris? You didn't learn from Cordelia's mistakes?"
Anya looked every bit the patron saint of scorned women as she trained her crossbow on Harmony. "You want to say that again, bitch?"
Harmony laughed sheepishly. "Hey, I was just kidding. Um..." She reverted to her human facade and started to back away. "I mean, you were really cool. You had such great fashion sense... hey, remember how I showed you around when you first came to Sunnydale?"
Anya shook her head, and pulled the trigger. "Damn it!" she cried. "It's jammed!"
"Here," Giles said, handing her his axe. "Try this."
Anya wielded the axe at Harmony. "Xander is not a loser!" she shouted as she swung. Harmony ducked out of the way, then turned and ran screaming from the gym.
Spike turned away from the cat fight to see another one in progress as Buffy seemed to be barely holding her own against Darla and two minions. He ran to help, but before he could reach her he was tackled from the side. He threw down his attacker and raised his stake, but stopped when he realized it was Drusilla. Stake her, part of his brain shouted, but he just couldn't do it. He lowered his stake, and stood over her. "Get out of town, Dru," he said, "and stay out. This is the last time I'm telling you. If I see you again, I swear I'll bloody well do it."
Drusilla whimpered as she struggled to her feet. As Buffy finished off the two minions, Drusilla grabbed Darla by the hand, and the two of them fled the gym.
Spike went to stand by her, and they both looked around.
"Is that it?" Buffy asked.
"Looks like," he said. "Wait a minute... where's Dracula?"
A white mist coalesced beside them, and began to take shape. Buffy and Spike exchanged unimpressed glances as Dracula appeared, and together they each landed a punch to his face, Buffy with her right and Spike with his left. Dracula reeled back, but as they both raised their weapons, he turned into a bat and flew out one of the broken windows.
Buffy watched him fly away. As she turned back to Spike, he caught her mouth with his. He wrapped both arms around her waist and lifted her off the ground. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer, welcoming his kiss and returning it in full.
After the third time her Watcher cleared his throat, they broke apart and turned to look at him.
"This had better be good," Spike said.
"Yes, so sorry to interrupt," Giles said, "but we've got a little problem."
As Anya helped a newly conscious Xander to his feet, Giles pointed to the bleachers, where Willow was still passed out. She and the former bug-eaters were still trapped inside the barrier. As they watched, a greenish-black smoke emanated from Willow and began to fill the space inside the barrier. The people inside began to choke.
Buffy ran at the barrier with her axe, but it only bounced off, knocking her on her rear. As Spike helped her to her feet, Xander and Giles pleaded with the people to stay calm.
"Willow," Buffy called, but got no response. "What do we do?"
"There's nothing much we can do," Giles said. "Try again."
"Willow!" Buffy shouted. The young witch twitched, and opened her eyes. Immediately the green smoke seeped back into her.
"What did I miss?" Willow asked as she sat up.
"The barrier," Buffy said. "Get it down."
Willow nodded sleepily, and chanted the incantation. Giles and Anya ran up into the bleachers to check on everybody as Xander came to stand beside Buffy. "You okay, Will?"
"I'm fine," she said. "I guess breaking through Dracula's thrall took more out of me than I thought it would."
"Yeah, but what the hell was that?" Spike asked.
"What was what?"
"There was some kind of green smoke filling up the barrier," Buffy said. "The people inside were choking on it."
Willow shook her head. "I don't know. I... I must have said the spell wrong, or something."
"Well, the important thing is everybody's okay," Xander said. He looked up at Giles. "Everybody is okay, right?"
Giles nodded, and he and Anya began herding the bewildered people out of the gym.
"Don't worry about it then, Will," Buffy said. "We couldn't have won tonight without you."
"Didn't I tell you you'd win?" Spike said.
"We won," Buffy said, taking his hand. "We couldn't have done it without you, either."
"I don't mean to put a damper on all the back patting," Xander said, "but, well, we killed a bunch of vampires and rescued enough people to fill the home team's bleachers from Dracula's thrall, and that ain't bad."
"But?" Willow prompted.
"But the bad guys still got away," Buffy said.
"Yeah," Xander said.
"Well," Spike said, "at least now they know you're not such an easy mark. Maybe they'll give up on bringing back the Master and leave town."
"Do you really think so?" Buffy asked.
“Not a chance.”
Giles and Anya came back over to join the group.
"What did you tell them all?" Buffy asked.
"Nothing," Giles said. "It seems they'd already sufficiently explained away tonight's events for themselves."
"Jeez," Xander said. "You'd think that after living here long enough people would eventually start to get that there are vampires on the hellmouth. And that there's a hellmouth."
"Yes, Xander, but the human mind has a way--"
"--of rationalizing away things that are too terrible to comprehend. Yeah, I got that."
"And see?" Willow said. "You're gettin' good at the Watcher-speak."
Xander grinned, and Anya rubbed his arm. "See? You're not a loser," she said, laying her head on his shoulder.
"Uh, thanks, sweetie."
After a moment an awkward silence filled the gym.
"So, Spike," Willow said at last, "what's your favorite kind of cookie?"
Spike smiled. "How 'bout peanut butter, Red?"
"About how many of those do you think it'll take to say I'm sorry?"
Spiked mulled it over. "How's two dozen, and another batch of oatmeal chocolate chip for pint sized?"
Buffy looked at him, and he shrugged. "Nip was real brave today. She deserves to get cookies."
"Done," Willow said. "And, by the way, you were really amazing tonight."
"Yeah, man," Xander said. "Thanks for sticking with the home team." He paused, but Spike said nothing. "Anyway, look, Spike. I just wanted to say--"
"Save it, Harris."
"Hey, I'm just trying to apologize," he said.
Spike looked at him. "Harris, what's the worse thing I've ever done to you?"
Xander shrugged. "You really want to go there?"
"Exactly," Spike said. "Don't apologize to me. 'Sides, I can hardly hold it against you for watching Buffy's back."
"Maybe, but... you're letting Willow bake cookies."
"It'll make her feel better," Spike said.
"It really will," Willow agreed.
"Can't argue with that logic," Xander said. He looked at Buffy. "Anyway, Dawn's probably asleep by now. She might as well stay at our place tonight so you two can, you know..."
"Have raucous makeup sex," Anya said.
"Talk," Xander finished. "I was going to say talk. I SO did not want to go there."
"Now you know how it feels," Buffy said.
"And I like Anya's idea better," Spike said, wrapping his arms around Buffy's middle. He kissed her neck, then spoke in her ear. "What do you say we get out of here?"
"I say let's go," she said.
"Spike," Giles said as they filed out of the gym, "one thing."
"Not you too, Rupert."
"Don't worry," he said, "I won't insult you with an apology. It's just..."
Spike raised an eyebrow. "Just what, mate?"
"Well... I'll most certainly think this was a bad idea in the morning, but..."
"Spit it out, man."
"Yes. Sorry. To the point, then. Buffy tells us that you're attempting to legalize yourself, so that you may get a job."
"That's right. What of it?"
"I thought it may interest you to know that I've been considering expanding store hours."
Anya let go of Xander's arm and came back to join them. "You have?"
"Er, yes, Anya, I have."
"Why wasn't I told about this?"
"Because it's not your decision to make. Anyway, Spike... the point is, I could use someone to work nights."
"But, I could work nights," Anya said.
"You already work full time, Anya."
"That's okay. I don't mind. I like my job. I love my job. And I love my paycheck. I love it the size it is right now."
Giles sighed. "You would not have to take a paycut, Anya. There is room in the budget for two employees. In fact, you would probably be promoted to assistant manager, which would entail a raise."
"I'd get more money?"
"And I'd be Spike's boss?"
Giles sighed. "Should he accept the position, yes."
"Oh. Okay, then." She smiled at Spike. "Welcome to the staff. If you steal from us, I'll fire you."
"Yeah, thanks," Spike said. "Um, why don't you let me think it over?"
Giles nodded. "Take all the time you need."
"Great," Spike muttered as he and Buffy fell behind the group. "Now I'm considering working for the bloody in-laws. Next thing you know I'll be trading in the DeSoto for a sodding minivan and carting your sis and her chums around to band practice."
"Nah, we have the SUV for that," Buffy said. "Besides, you said I was the sort of girl you make changes for."
He nodded. "That I did, love."
Buffy stopped, and pulled him back. "Spike, you don't have to change for me. Not more than you already have. It's enough. It's... more than enough."
"Sorry, pet. It's gained too much momentum. I don't think I could stop it now."
Buffy smiled, and looked down at the ground.
"Everybody's certainly agreeable tonight," he said.
"They... we kind of figured out that we overreacted," Buffy said. "That deep down we knew you were on our side."
"Uh huh. You finally called Angel, didn't you?"
Buffy stared at her feet. "How come you didn't just tell me to do that in the first place?"
"I knew you'd get around to it eventually. Besides... I was kinda hoping you wouldn't need to."
"Spike, I…" She put a hand over her eyes as her face crumpled.
Spike reached out for her. "Hey, shh," he said as he put his arms around her. "None of that, love."
She leaned against him, and buried her face against his neck. "I'm so sorry!"
"Buffy, look at me." He placed a finger under her chin and gently lifted her face up to look into her eyes. "You don't ever need to apologize to me, pet. I…" He shook his head at her in disbelief. "I should be down on my knees thanking you for even giving me a chance to love you. After the things I've done--"
"But I should've--"
"Shh." He put a finger over her lips to shush her, as his own eyes welled up with tears. "Listen. I'm sorry, Buffy. I don't deserve you. I'll never deserve you. I know that. I'm painfully aware of it, every day. That you can possibly love something like me is nothing short of a bloody miracle. I am so grateful to you. So don't you ever apologize to me."
"But I hurt you so much."
He cupped her cheek and wiped a tear away with his thumb. "Nothing I couldn't handle. And not near as much as I hurt you, I don't think."
Buffy closed her eyes and leaned into him. "I'll never doubt you again," she said as he kissed her forehead.
"Take it from me, baby," he said, "never's a long time. Now come on." He took her hand and started to walk. "Let's go home."
After they walked for a while, Buffy said, "They'll probably be gunning for you, you know."
"Yeah. They'll be after us both, I expect."
"I don't think your crypt's very safe."
"No more than usual."
"I'm serious. Drusilla knows her way around it. You can't hide from them there, and there's no way to keep them out. And you can't guarantee that you can fight them all off if they come for you."
"No, I s'pose not."
Buffy looked up at him. "Move in with me," she said.
Spike's eyebrows shot up. "Seriously?"
"I can't think of any reason why not."
Spike pondered this. It didn't sound like a half bad idea, actually, and for a fraction of a second, he thought he might say yes. But then he shook his head. "I thought of one."
"She wouldn't mind. She thinks of you as family."
"Yeah, but I don't think the busy-bodies down at the welfare department would be too keen on the idea of you shackin' up with a vampire. Or with anyone, for that matter."
"Oh yeah," Buffy said. "Forgot about that for a while."
"Besides," Spike said, "I like my crypt. It's got all the comforts of home--"
"Except for plumbing. Or a comfortable bed. Or a kitchen. Not to mention heat and air…"
"It's got all the comforts of a vampire home," Spike qualified. "Plus, it's a good, central location. I can access just about any passage under Sunnydale from there. Keeps me from being stuck at home during the day."
"I guess that is important."
"Damn right it is."
"But it's not safe," Buffy said. "And it's…"
"Well, it's a crypt. My boyfriend lives in a crypt. That's just… creepy."
Buffy looked at him. "Because it's a place for dead people," she said, as though it should have been obvious.
"I am dead!"
"Yeah, but…" Buffy sighed. "You know what? Never mind. You're right, it's perfect for you. I just wish I knew you'd be safe there. Like, if there was a way to keep all vampires but you from being able to enter, or something."
"Don't worry about it, pet. I'll think of something."
"Like what?"
Spike shrugged. "Booby traps, maybe? Might be a good idea if you don't come in there without knocking first."
Buffy sighed. "All right, I guess." As they reached her house, she said, "Are you sure you don't want to just come live here?"
"Wanting's not the issue, pet."
"Right. So, you can't live here. What about spending the night? Is that off-limits too?"
Spike smiled mischievously. He grabbed Buffy by the waist and pulled her against him, and kissed her with all of the pent-up passion of the last two days. "What do you think?" he asked as she caught her breath.
"I think… that we have to go inside right now."
She turned and ran inside the house. Spike chased after her, but he slowed down as he approached the threshold. He was relieved to see that there was no need for her to invite him in. She waited for him on the stairs as he closed the door and shed his coat. He didn't bother to hang it up.
As he approached Buffy, she began backing up the stairs, one step at a time, keeping herself just out of his reach. Just when he thought it would drive him mad, she leapt into his arms. She wrapped her legs around his waist and nibbled on his ear as she worked his shirt out of his waistband. She ran her hands underneath it up his back, and he inhaled sharply as her fingernails grazed the scab that was already forming there.
Buffy pulled his shirt up above the wound and looked at it over his shoulder. "What happened here?"
"Bugger got me with my own axe," he said. "It'll heal."
He kissed her again, and then she went to work on his neck. Her tongue grazed the sensitive spot just behind his ear, and Spike thought he might have to take her right there at the top of the stairs. By some miracle he managed to carry her all the way to the bedroom. He sat down on the bed so that she was in his lap, and pulled off his shirt, then set about undressing her. Soon they were lying across the bed. He stretched out on top of her, and basked in her warmth. He buried his face between her breasts and inhaled deeply.
"God, I missed your scent," he said, and ran his tongue up to her throat. "And the taste of you." He nuzzled her neck. "I missed you," he whispered.
"I missed you too," she said. She wrapped herself around him and they each held on for dear life as they moved together, achieving a passionate rhythm they'd perfected during their few months together. At last, he collapsed on top of her, and she stroked his hair and gently traced the wound on his back. "I love you so much," she whispered.
After they'd lain there for a while, she said, "Let's don't ever fight again."
Spike raised his head to look at her. "That could get boring after a while, don't you think?"
"You know what I mean," she said. "The little stupid arguments, those are fine." She smiled. "Those are fun, actually. But the big stupid arguments... I don't ever want to have one of those again."
"Then let's don't have any more of those," he said, and laid his head back against her breast.
She sighed.
"What is it?" Spike asked.
"Nothing," she said. "Just, it's kinda like I just had a moment of clarity. About you and me. This… this is it, isn't it? This is the long haul. We're really gonna be okay, aren't we?"
"Yeah, love." He rolled over, pulling her with him, and cupped her face in his hand. "If I have anything to say about it, we are."
For a long moment, they just stared into each other's eyes, and Spike had his own moment of clarity. He felt a part of something, not just of a couple, but of something much bigger than the both of them. Something terribly profound, something greater than immortality, greater even than the pull of blood. He felt like part of the world again, for the first time in over a century, and he felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility to earn his place. He wasn't sure if he liked it, but even so, he didn't want to lose it. Losing it would mean losing her, yes, but it would also mean losing a part of himself again, the part he'd struggled so hard to regain.
"Pet," he said, "what you said before, in the alley. I think… I think I get it now. Or maybe I'm just on the verge of getting it."
"Yeah. I mean, this thing that's happening to me. It's more than just me being a non-practicing vampire, you know. It's…" He sighed in frustration. "Well it's wrong, is what it is. I mean, no offense, love, but people are supposed to be my food supply. I'm not supposed to go 'round caring what happens to everybody."
"But you do," Buffy said.
Spike stared at her for a minute, then nodded. "Yeah," he said. "Bloody hell! When did I go and grow a conscience?"
Buffy smiled. "Most of us consider that a good thing to have."
"Yeah, well, most of your lot haven't spent the last century believing you were evil to your very core and that there was nothing to be done about it."
"No," Buffy said, "just Anya."
"Anyway. I'm not sure that I like it. But I don't think I hate it. I think I can get used to it."
Buffy kissed him then, long, slow, and deep. Her hands stroked the sides of his face and slid up to tangle in his hair. His arms slid around her small body, one hand caressing the small of her back and holding her to him, the other sliding up and wrapping itself in her hair.
When at last she was forced to stop for air, Spike pushed her hair out of her face and looked into her eyes. "Whatever happens, baby, happens to both of us, from here on out. Whatever it takes, you can be sure that I'll be there with you, until the very end. I'll never give up on us."
Buffy's eyes started to well up. "Even when it looks like we don't have a choice?"
"Even when it looks to be bloody impossible."
Even as a tear slipped down her cheek, she smiled. "You almost make me believe anything's possible." She put her head down on his chest, and he wrapped his arms around her. "Don't ever let me go, Spike."
"Never, baby." He kissed the top of her head. "Never."


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