Dreams and Desotos by bloodshedbaby
Chapter #2 - 3-5
 
 

      No, the supernatural and Windmont were unmixy things, and that suited Buffy perfectly. Spike, her new friends, bowling, and her job were more than enough for her.

   

    But like all things in Buffy's life, nothing could ever remain calm and quiet for very long. Trouble blew into town the very next week and decided it wanted to stay awhile.

 

    In celebration of Buffy's birthday, a small party had been planned at Larry's bar. Technically it was only her 18th birthday, but her falsified papers listed it as being her 22nd. The few choice friends rowdily celebrating her birthday with her at the bar were such a far cry from her angst-filled birthday of the previous year that it was almost easy to imagine that the drama that had unfolded with Angel had never taken place.

 

    Almost.

 

    Larry's Bar always reminded Buffy of the Bronze. It wasn't just a place to drink, but was also a social focal point. But unlike the Bronze, all age groups were represented since it was one of the only places to go. 

 

    "Come on, Greased Lightening, it's your turn," Rick announced, pointing his pool cue in Spike's direction. The others in their group had pretty much deserted them in favor of the dance floor.  It was oldies night, and the sounds of Buddy Holly were spilling out of the speakers to the delight of many of the mixed aged patrons.

 

    "Greased Lightening, eh?  Bloody fine movie, that one was." Spike bent down to line up his shot. With uncanny precision, he sunk the ball he was aiming for before taking a leisurely sip from his mug of draft beer. He smirked in Rick's direction. "And I believe that makes it... still my turn."

 

    "Shit."

 

    Buffy and Elaine joined them after a trip to the bathroom.  "Oh god, don't tell me you guys are playing for money again?" 

 

    Spike winked and leaned over to capture Buffy's lips in a heated kiss. "Of course we are, luv.  It's more... challenging that way. Right, Rick?"

 

    "Yeah, that's what you keep saying," Rick muttered good-naturedly.

 

    "You do realize that Spike's been playing pool for like, ever, and you have no possible chance of winning?"

 

    "Thanks for the vote of confidence, Buffy," Rick grumbled, knowing the words she spoke were the truth.   

 

    Didn't mean he had to like it though.

 

    "Hey, it's not my bloody fault Rickie boy here keeps accepting my challenge," Spike protested, pausing to light a cigarette in between rounds of his dominance over the pool table. He decided to miss one on purpose to keep Rick on the hook, stepping back to let his friend try to win.    

 

    "How old are you anyway, Spike?" Elaine asked curiously.  Every time the subject had come up, she'd always gotten an evasive answer and that just wasn't acceptable.

 

    "Old," Buffy answered with a private smirk. "Way old."

 

    "Hey, come on! Spill!  It's a woman's prerogative to do the evasive thingie about age, not a guy's! You two are being totally lame, you know that, right" Elaine took pleasure in informing them.

 

    Buffy shrugged nonchalantly, hating to keep lying to her friend.

 

     Grinding out his cigarette in the ashtray, Spike answered, "I'm around thirty, give or take a few years."

 

    Buffy couldn't help the snort that erupted at that answer. Arching an eyebrow in her direction, Spike asked, "Something you want to say, Slayer?"

 

    "See? There you go again with the secretive stuff! So, what's the story behind this "Slayer" pet name?" Elaine asked, again receiving a shuttered look. "Oh come on, you guys!!!  It's not nice to keep secrets from your best friends!"

 

    "I don't care about their secrets," Rick injected, receiving a dirty look from his wife. "What? I don't."

 

    Elaine shook her head in defeat. "Ok, ok! I get it!  You guys are probably in the Witness Protection program or something, aren't you? And I'm like being totally obnoxious asking all kinds of personal questions, aren't I?"

 

    Buffy just looked at her best friend and smiled, wishing she could just share everything with her, but fear kept her silent. She loved this woman, and hated all the secrets they had to keep from her.  But she'd definitely have to remember the witness protection excuse...

 

    Suddenly, the familiar tickle at the back of her neck made her senses go on immediate alert. This was a hit on the radar that she hadn't felt in ages, especially since she had gotten used to Spike's particular brand of tingles. Looking over at Spike, Buffy realized that he was also tense with anticipation, feeling the presence of other vampires in the very near vicinity. This was so not of the good, Buffy bemoaned, wondering why she thought she could ever have a normal birthday.

 

    Rick and Elaine exchanged curious looks when their attempts at conversation were suddenly ignored, realizing that their friends attention was diverted elsewhere. It was a bit on the weird side too, because it seemed they were reacting to something that nobody else could see or hear. 

 

    "Do you two see ghosts are something?" Elaine questioned, studying Buffy's intent face. Her eyes followed the direction that her friend was staring.

 

    What occurred next happened in a sluggish fashion, a muted blur of activity that seemed to slow down time. 

 

    The doors to the bar crashed open, and immediately the crowd in the intimate bar tensed as a group of bikers entered. By all outward appearances, with the leather, chains and grungy hygiene, they could have been a Hells Angels biker gang or something similar. But Spike and Buffy knew they were something more.

 

    The gang spilled in, fanning out around the perimeter of the room, strategically blocking all possible exits. Their cocky manner suggested that they anticipated an easy massacre with little resistance before they rode out of town to wreck havoc on the next town. Buffy did a quick head count, coming up with at least fifteen. Still doable, she'd faced worse. She looked around the bar, noting the lack of panic but the high level of apprehension. Ok, apprehension was of the good. There would be panic soon enough, she knew. 

 

    The respect given to the last man to saunter in by the other members clearly marked him as their leader. He was tall and his human face was not quite as visually unpleasant as others she'd seen.  The fact that they all wore their human faces told her that these were not fledglings - not that Buffy really cared, finding they all dusted the same.

 

    With a sinister nod to one of his men, the door was slammed shut and quickly locked; causing apprehension to give way to rising panic. The plug was pulled on the music in the middle of Tequila , and that act alone had drawn a hint of outrage. Not having realized the gravity of the situation, it was quite clear by the ominous click of the lock that rang out through the silent bar that something bad was about to occur. To most of the patrons, the entire scene had taken on a surreal aspect, as they waited to see what act would unfold next.

 

    With a mocking strut, the leader walked over to the smooth expanse of the bar and slapped his hand down on top of it.  "I'd like some beer for me and my boys," he ordered, his voice low and chilling. Nobody moved and even though the customers far outweighed the gang in number, nobody was willing to find out what they were doing in their small town.

 

    The bartender nodded nervously.  "Uh.. tap?"

 

    The leader vamp shifted into game face and grabbed the terrified bartender by his lapels, hauling him across the bar. "Why thank you, don't mind if I do," he announced with an evil grin, the disco strobe light bouncing off of his gleaming fangs.

 

    "No,... please..." the bartender begged. Delayed panic now flooded the air as everyone in the bar caught a glimpse of the monster that now held one of their own hostage.  Looking around in blind terror, they noticed that all the bikers wore the same evil face. Some part of their brains gasped and screamed that this couldn't be true, that such things did not exist, but they were unable to deny what was right in front of their eyes. With another sweeping glance, the realization that all the exits were completely cut off drew out an hysterical tittering from around the room, as they all began to fear for their lives.

 

    Spike looked on as Gary, who had served him drinks and stimulating conversation ever since he had arrived in town, was seconds away from having his life taken from him. And for the first time, he felt true disgust for what he was. This swoop and kill was nothing less than he'd done hundreds of times before, but now it sickened him.

 

    Well, there would be no killing here if he could help it.

 

    Stepping forward, Spike sounded a warning growl, motioning with one hand for Buffy to stay back.  She obliged, seeing the look on Spike's face and guessing the reason for it.

 

    The vampire spun around, dropping the petrified bartender roughly on top of the wooden slab. Horrified faces watched Spike, the only one in their midst who seemed willing to stand up to god only knew what these men were, and their faces began showing a slight sign of hope.  Silence had taken over with the hope of making themselves invisible, as the majority of the patrons huddled in a small circle on the dance floor where they had previously been enjoying themselves. The others kept themselves still in various locations around the bar. Elaine had grabbed Buffy and Rick's hands, beyond terrified.

 

     Rick looked over at Buffy and wondered about the pissed-off look on her face, thinking it at odds with the situation. He himself was feeling a sense of terror he'd never before experienced, and was not ashamed to admit to it. These men were not normal, and they damned sure weren't wearing costumes. Their deformed faces were far too realistic for that. Rick didn't want to think of the implications of what that meant, the only thought consuming him was to get out of this situation alive. He silently watched his friend Spike approach the ring leader, with apparently no fear, whatsoever.  He had always gotten a sense that something was different about Spike, some dangerous edge that he seemed to always be working to control.  But now, Rick was more than glad that at least one of them was brave enough to face this threat, and felt just a minimal amount of shame at not backing his friend up.

 

    "Well now, what do we have here?"  the vampire asked, with a sinister grin. He'd sensed the presence of another vampire in the midst but had not been overly concerned, feeling security in the sheer number of his group.  A primitive meeting of demons came in to play as they evaluated the other.

 

    "Get back on your bikes, and shove off. This is my town," Spike snarled, his smaller frame appearing larger and more menacing due to his assured body language and the black leather duster he wore so easily.

 

    The vampire laughed, taking the few steps that separated them and invading personal space. He looked down at Spike and smirked, knowing instinctively that this vampire was older than himself, but also knowing he was outnumbered.  "Really?" the biker vamp drawled, making an issue of looking around the bar. "Not seeing any of your own here to back your claim. So I'm thinking I'm taking over your... town."

 

    "Not gonna happen,"  Spike commented unperturbed, reaching into his duster for his pack of smokes. He lit one up nonchalantly and blew smoke into the other vampire's face.

 

    The biker vamp laughed at the audacity, and crossed his arms over his chest, impressed despite himself. There was something familiar here...  "You got a name?"

 

    Spike took another leisurely drag of his cigarette before answering, "Spike."

 

    Recognition dawned on the other vampire's face, and he broke into a delighted grin which appeared grotesque on the distorted face. The lineage was like royalty among the undead. "Ah... the missing 'William the Bloody'. Rumor had it that you went to hell along with the rest of your family."

 

    Another indifferent shrug rolled off of Spike's shoulders. "Well, guess  you heard wrong.  So as I said, you can bloody well hop on your bikes and hit the road. This town already has a bloody master, and that would be... me. This is MY town."

 

     "But I was just starting to like it here," the other vampire mocked.

 

    "Go find yourself another town." Spike said, his voice cruel and menacing.

 

     Elaine looked questioningly at Buffy, the knowledge that these... things knew her husband was just too much to take in, but she found her friend's focus was entirely on the confrontation taking place in the middle of the bar. Elaine could feel Buffy's muscles tense under her hand and had to drop it suddenly with the pressure that was being exerted.

 

    Buffy never even noticed.

 

    The same look of cold determination was set on her face and Elaine wished she had the nerve to voice a question, but fear of drawing attention to herself held her back. So she settled for just watching with bated breath as the next course of events unraveled. But she really wanted to know who William the Bloody was.

 

    The biker vamp let out a petulant sigh.  "Fine, if that's the way you are going to be. Thought you Aurelians were a bit more hospitable."  He grinned at the cold look Spike continued to give him.  "Pity. Oh well. I think I'll just have a snack before I go ."

 

    He sauntered back to the bar and reached over to where the terrified bartender had been huddling behind the bar trying to make himself as inconspicuous as possible - dragging him back over the wooden divider.  The vampire laughed at the immediate scent of fear that permeated the air, taking a deep, appreciative breath.

 

    Elaine gasped with fear when she saw her friend Gary at the hands of this monster once more, almost breaking into tears at the absolutely terrified look on the man's face. Then there was that slight bit of guilt that struck her when the voice in the back of her head whispered, "I'm glad that's not me."  

 

    The events that followed defied description, however. 

 

    With a savage roar, Spike closed the distance and grabbed the other vamp's wrist in a crushing lock, his vampire features having slid instinctively into place in response to his fury. "My town, my people," Spike growled, tightening his grip so the biker vamp was forced to release his hostage with a pained cry, rather than risk his wrist being crushed to powder. Gary scrambled away to safety, where he was immediately engulfed in protective arms.

 

    Two sets of amber eyes were locked on the other, both challenging and focused.  Spike was unaware of the gasps of shock that sounded through the bar as his real identity was revealed, his only focus was eliminating this threat.  "Leave. Now," he ordered.

 

    Even though it was an elder giving him orders - and a famous one at that - the other vampire saw himself as having the advantage and smiled with amusement. "I'm thinking...no. Way I see it, I dust you, I take this town. It must have something going for it, since you're all gung-ho on protecting it. Tell me, what's so special about it?"

 

    Elaine didn't think that anything else could shock her until she saw Buffy take her pool cue and break it over her lifted knee as if it were a twig, then watched as she walked forward defiantly to stand next to her husband.

 

    God, was he REALLY her husband?  Elaine was going to throttle Buffy for keeping this kind of a secret from her, because best friends just didn't do that... Wait! Was Buffy a monster too?  Oh god, she couldn't look. Wait, she had to look. Dammit, she couldn't.

 

    Oh, who was she kidding? Of course she had to look. She became increasingly frustrated, just wanting to get the whole ordeal over with.  

 

    The biker vamp looked Buffy over lustily as she came to stand beside Spike, an amused smile curling across his face. "A human? Really, Spike, I expected a lot more from someone with your... reputation."

 

    Buffy looked over at Spike and asked, "Was that supposed to be an insult? Should I be insulted?"

 

    Spike smirked in her direction. "I think so, luv."

 

    "Sorry, it's been awhile." Buffy told the other vampire.  "I'm a little rusty at this, so if you could just identify your comment as an insult, I'd really appreciate it."

 

    A laugh escaped the distorted face. "I like this girl. I can almost see the attraction."  He gave a nod to one of his men, who promptly rushed forward and seized Buffy from behind, causing her to drop her makeshift weapon.

 

    "Ugh. The least you could have done is take a shower before you rolled into town. You may not need to breathe, but hello, the rest of us do," Buffy announced, her nose scrunching up in disgust.  

 

    Elaine was outraged by the blasé attitude that Spike possessed about Buffy being in the hands of these monsters, merely smoking a cigarette like her friend wasn't in mortal danger. What the hell was wrong with him?  Unless he really WAS evil or something.  But wait, Buffy was with him and she was human, or at least that is what these monsters kept harping on...

 

    Gah! She was so confused and god, she SO needed this to be over to get the total scoop. This had all the makings for a full night of gossip. Elaine impatiently began tapping her foot, causing her husband Rick to gape at her with a look of disbelieving outrage on his face at her seeming audacity.  Curbing her impatience, she watched to see what would unfold next.

 

    The vampire who held Buffy wrenched her arms cruelly behind her back, secure in the knowledge that a mere mortal was no match for his superior strength.  Spike blew out a leisurely stream of smoke and commented, "Wouldn't do that if I were you, mate."

 

    "Does it disturb you? Seeing your little woman helpless and knowing there isn't a thing that you can do about it?" The lead vamp mocked, walking over to where Buffy was restrained, nuzzling her neck before drawing back with a wide smile. "Why... William the Bloody has claimed a human. How sweet."

 

    "Yeah, well, she can be a right bitch when she wants to be," Spike replied.

 

    "Hey!" Buffy yelled indignantly.

 

    "It's true, luv."

 

    "You still don't have to go announcing it everywhere," she muttered under her breath, shooting Spike an icy glare.

 

    Spike shrugged with indifference, biding his time until this group let down their guard just enough for them to strike.

 

    "Well then, you probably won't mind if I do this, will you?" the lead vampire asked, trailing his finger along the side of Buffy's breast while keeping an eye on Spike's reaction. He knew full well he was playing with fire, touching the property of an elder vamp, but the deck was weighed in his favor and he was determined to milk this for all he could. 

 

    "As I said, I wouldn't do that if I were you," Spike commented, his voice deceptively calm voice, but inside his rage was close to the boiling point.

 

    "Why? Think you can take us? All by yourself?"  Laughter poured from the vampire at the absurdity of one against fifteen, regardless of the ancestry.

 

    "No, not just me," Spike drawled.

 

    A small hint of uncertainty colored the other vampire's face as he let his senses take another sweep around the bar to make sure that there were no minions tucked away. Assured that the only demons were present and accounted for, he opened his mouth to speak when all hell broke loose.

 

    In an unexpected flurry of movement, Buffy broke her captor's lax hold and grabbed the fractured pool cue off the ground. With lethal accuracy, she spun around and thrust the tip into the chest of the vampire that had held her before he could even move, and watched as he promptly sprinkled to the ground in a rain of dust.  

 

    "He told you not to do that, but you just didn't listen, did you?" Buffy asked the raised pile of vampire ash on the floor, rising herself up into a graceful warrior's pose, breaking the cue in half once more and throwing one end in Spike's direction. Weapons were always of the good. "Did you?"

 

 

    "Don't think he can hear you now, luv," Spike informed her.

 

    The biker vamp threw his head back and laughed. "Oh Spike, I've always heard wild stories about you, but this one takes the cake. Alright, you win. Didn't expect to find the slayer here, so we'll tuck our tails between our legs and leave town."

 

    Elaine let out a sigh of relief, glad that the danger seemed to have passed. The monsters had said they were leaving, and the sense of relief practically flooded the bar.  But then Buffy did something that shocked the hell out of Elaine, who had already been shocked way past her limit for one evening, thank you very much. She calmly stepped up to the monster who had done all the talking and told him that that option was no longer available.

 

    Was she insane?

 

    Elaine couldn't wait to get the complete story on this one because well, this went beyond every piece of gossip she'd ever picked up. Her new best friend just killed something right in front of them. Her husband apparently had fangs, and Buffy seemed to be cool with that. Elaine needed to know the hows and whys, dammit. 

 

    When Buffy made the first move and got the fight started, Elaine‘s eyes practically bugged from her head as she exchanged bewildered looks with her husband. What the... Holy crap, this was her best friend??
.

 

tbc...

 

 

 

Thank you SpikesKat for the beta'ing!!

chapter 4       

 

    Elaine could barely believe the sight before her. If someone had told her that her eyes were literally popping out of her head, it would come as no surprise.  She managed to spare her husband a miniscule exchange of glances - that screamed of mutual incredulity - before her attention was once again riveted back to the scene unfolding before her.

 

    The group of monsters converged on the blonde pair in a circular fashion, finally having figured out the most effective way to attack. The only sound was the repetitive bragging about who would be the one to kill the Slayer. Apparently, this was supposed to upset them, yet Buffy and Spike did not look troubled by it, if their facial expressions were any indication. This thoroughly confused Elaine, who was severely bothered by the fact that Spike's pet name for Buffy was a well-known moniker among these... things, and she had yet to learn the meaning behind it.

 

    But most disturbing of all, were the looks that kept drifting over both Spike and Buffy's faces, while they stood back to back, waiting in eager anticipation.  Elaine couldn't understand the lack of fear present on Buffy's face. Jeez, if that were her out there, she'd be a spastic puddle on the floor by now. But her friend just kept throwing out little jibes and witty comments, practically bouncing with anticipation. 

 

    When the vampires attacked, Elaine watched as the number of vampires dwindled from the daunting number of fourteen to a mere handful. The smile on Buffy's face was almost unnerving; not only was she extremely competent, she seemed to be totally enjoying herself.  Several of the men tried to suck up their fear and step in to offer assistance, but Buffy just called out that they had it under control.  And, oh, did they ever.

 

    Elaine was forced to seek shelter from the flying debris, irritated that her view of the action was partially obstructed.  There was a feeling of horrified anticipation shared by the patrons scattered around the bar, but as more of the monsters turned to dust, that feeling quickly gave way to relief.

 

    Never mind the disturbing knowledge that creatures existed that did crumble to dust with a Hollywood stereotype of being staked through the heart.  

 

    Finally, it was over and Spike and Buffy stood facing each other among the wreckage of what used to be an immaculate bar. Now, it was riddled with broken tables and chairs, shattered glasses and bottles and piles of vampire dust. Buffy's chest heaved with the unaccustomed exertion of slaying and neither could help but smile with a wide, satisfied look on their faces.  

 

    "I see you still got it in ya, Slayer," Spike commented with a smirk.

 

    Buffy drew herself up and crossed her arms over her chest. "You weren't so bad yourself. Although I'm not sure which I enjoy more; kicking your ass or having you at my back."  

 

    Spike took a step in her direction to assure himself that she had come through unscathed when he became aware of Gary approaching him hesitantly. Fear continued to pour off the man and Spike realized his demonic features were most likely responsible. With a slight shake of his head, he allowed his features to relax into the human mask that the town had grown accustomed to.

 

    "You ok?" Spike asked gruffly, more self-conscious than he would have liked.

 

    Gary nodded, although 'ok' was pushing it; his near-death experience still fresh in his mind. "So... uh... just want to know something. What the hell are you?"

 

     Spike sighed heavily, realizing he wasn't looking forward to this part. "Vampire."

 

    "Oh." Gary studied Spike closely and then nodded, as if he had found the answer to a private question he sought. "Want a beer?"

 

    Spike couldn't help the sudden sappy smile that plastered itself across his face, knowing he had sunk to yet another level of un-evil when the acceptance of this mortal meant something, but couldn't quite bring himself to care. "Fuck yeah, I do."

 

    Gary nodded and turned towards the bar, which had surprisingly come through unscathed.  The patrons of the bar had yet to make a move, still bewildered by what had just occurred. They merely watched in stunned silence as Spike followed the bartender and stood by the bar.

 

    Feeling the post-slayage adrenaline fleeing her system and leaving her parched, Buffy moved to join her husband but found herself unexpectedly jerked around.

 

    "Oh, no you don't, little missy," Elaine announced, her face intent. "I have something I need to do first."

 

    Buffy regarded her warily, but when her friend suddenly threw her arms around her and engulfed her in a tight hug, she relaxed.

 

     "Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!" Elaine cried. "I'm mad as hell at you for not telling me before that you're some kind of super-freak, but hey, thank you for saving us tonight."

 

    Buffy decided Elaine must have a bit of super human-strength herself, suddenly finding her ability to take in oxygen severely compromised by the iron bands Elaine called arms wrapped tightly around her middle. As quickly as she had been grabbed, Buffy found herself released and watched as Elaine turned on Spike.

 

    "And YOU!" Elaine yelled, pointing her finger in the vampire's direction. "I am totally pissed off at you. Sunlight allergy, my ass! I can't believe you didn't tell us!"

 

    Rick came up behind his wife, wondering once again if Elaine's mouth was going to get her into trouble. Or in this case, eaten. He looked warily at what he hoped was still his friend.

 

  "Bloody hell, Rickie boy, I'm not going to eat your wife," Spike announced dryly, rolling his eyes.

 

    "Damn," Rick muttered instinctively, responding to Spike as he normally did.

 

    Elaine whirled on her husband, gasping with indignation. "I so cannot believe you just said that!" She swatted her husband's arm furiously.

 

    Rick spun away, trying to avoid his wife's wrath. "Ow! I was just kidding! Geez!"

 

    Elaine glared at him, then turned her attention back to more important matters. "So... Let's just get a few things straight here." Her heavily made-up eyes whipped back and forth between Buffy and Spike. "You're a vampire," she said, pointing a manicured finger at Spike. "And you're... what?" she asked Buffy.

 

    "I'm just Buffy," she tried to answer, but crumbled under her friend's weighty glare. "Ok, fine, I'm the Vampire Slayer."

 

    Elaine nodded in consideration, still eyeing the two. "So, Spike. Do you eat people?"

 

    "Just Buffy."

 

    This time it was Buffy's turn to round on her spouse, her face filled with embarrassed indignation as she swatted Spike's arm. "Oh my god, I so cannot believe you just said that!" she hissed.

 

    Spike didn't run from his wife's wrath like Rick had done, merely laughed and gathered her in his arms. "Someone here has a dirty mind because I was referring to your blood, princess."

 

    "Oh," Buffy mumbled. "I knew that."

 

    "Right," Spike mocked, pressing small, slow, kisses down Buffy's neck.

 

    They were once more interrupted by Elaine's loud voice sounding out through the silent club. "What is wrong with you people?? Hello!  Why are you all just standing there? There are some heroes that need to be thanked here!"

 

    That blunt reminder served to break the spell that held the townspeople transfixed and the heroes in question soon found themselves surrounded by the people they had come to call friends. There was a certain level of wariness among the crowd as they slowly approached Spike, but much to the vampire's surprise, it didn't last long.  The easy acceptance that came his way shocked him, filling him with yet another sensation of completion that Spike didn't even know he'd been yearning for. 

 

    It humbled him.

   

    Word immediately made its way through the small town, and the bar was soon overflowing with townspeople  intent on seeing for themselves if the strange tale being whispered about was really true. Children joined their parents in the bar as they flocked to pay homage. Spike lost track of how many times he'd had to switch in and out of game face to satisfy morbid curiosity, and how many times his face had been poked and prodded. Rather than causing irritation, it calmed him, knowing that his friends trusted him that much. 

 

    When the occupancy level was maxed out at the bar, Buffy decided to move matters along and address everybody at once. She hopped up on the bar and tried to call for everyone's attention, but the noise level was so intense her voice was unable to penetrate through their conversations.

 

    Elaine, seeing what Buffy was attempting, joined her friend and used her loud voice to lend assistance. "Hey people!" she yelled. "Buffy is trying to say a few words, so everyone shut your yaps for a few, got it?"

 

    Elaine's ear piercing decibels served to do the trick, and Buffy soon found the focus on her. As she looked around, she could swear that practically the whole town had assembled in under a half an hour. She hopped up on the bar's well-polished wooden slab, bringing her legs up under her so she sat Indian-style.

 

    Smiling hesitantly and feeling more than a little self-conscious now that their secret was out, Buffy cleared her throat. "Um... I just wanted to clear a few things up so you could motor if you need to." Feeling much like a professor addressing a lecture hall, she caught Spike's eye and gestured for him to join her.

 

    When he leapt with easy grace to settle by her side, she felt more comfortable. Taking a quick settling breath, she began, "Ok, don't really know how to go about this so I'll just start with the obvious. Vampires are real. I know there is a lot of wiggage that goes along with that, but it's not like I can deny their existence at this point.  Second," she looked over at Spike and grabbed his hand for moral support, "Spike is a vampire. Third, I'm the Vampire Slayer-"

 

    "What is that, exactly?" Elaine couldn't help but interrupt to ask, her curiosity still fully aroused. She'd prefer to be the only one privy to that info - being the best friend and all - but at this point, she'd take what she could get.

 

    Spike fielded the question before Buffy could reply. "Bit like a super-hero, really. One chosen bird who gets super powers to take out my kind. That Chosen bird is Buffy."

 

    "Well, actually there are two now. Since I died and everything, I kinda messed things up," Buffy imparted.

 

    "You died ??!!!" Elaine shrieked, eyes bulging.

 

    "Ok, long story. Like one so totally for later."

 

    The librarian for the elementary school spoke up, not feeling entirely comfortable with the new developments. "So, if you're this...Slayer, and you are supposed to... kill vampires, why this? Why haven't you killed him?"

 

    That question was met with silence, nobody wanting to admit they were waiting to see if any ill will would befall Mrs. Prisk. When it looked like she would come through the inquiry unscathed, heads nodded in agreement as they awaited the answer.

 

  "Well, I tried. Lots," Buffy replied defensively,

 

    Spike snorted derisively. "Yeah, same here. I can't tell you how many times I tried to off her, but never could manage it. And I've been responsible for taking out two of her kind in my day."

 

    Horrified silence followed that statement as it was processed just what Spike had revealed, and Buffy turned to smack Spike again. "Geez! Talk about giving away a bit too much information!"

 

    "Hey! Better stop smacking me around, Slayer," Spike growled, causing Buffy to roll her eyes in his direction.

 

    Seeing the need for damage control, Buffy hurried to say, "So, obviously we're not trying to kill each other anymore.  And Spike is not like those vamps that you saw, he's totally different."

 

    "How?" Mrs. Prisk asked.

 

    With a smirk, Buffy replied, "Because I tamed him."

 

    She started giggling at the outraged snort that sounded beside her and turned her head to witness the dark scowl that covered his face. "You're lucky I love you, Slayer. Otherwise I'd kill you for that little remark," Spike snarled, glaring at her.

 

    Buffy tried to draw her face into a mask of seriousness, but failed miserably. "Likewise, baby."

 

    Spike retaliated by snaking his hand out to cup the back of her head and hauling her closer so that he could crush his lips against hers in a manner that was anything but gentle, effectively reminding her that he was far from tamed. Buffy's giggles turned into a whimper and she promptly forgot they had an audience that consisted of practically the whole town as they melted into the other.

 

    "Hey..., hey..., HEY!!!!" Elaine yelled, clapping her hands to regain their attention. "You guys can do that once you get home! Because right now, I need some answers and like NOW."

 

    They drew apart reluctantly, Spike smirking at the dazed look on Buffy's face, feeling her properly punished for daring to call him tamed.

 

    "Ok, shoot,"  Buffy told Elaine.

 

    Elaine huffed incredulously at the girl she called 'best friend'. "Hello, do I even need to say it? I want to know how you guys wound up together and what the hell you're doing here !"

 

    Twenty minutes later, the entire town had a newfound respect for the pair, regarding them with something akin to awe.  Elaine threw her arms around Spike and Buffy, hugging them tight. "Oh my god, that was the most romantic thing I have ever heard!!!!"  She released them and dabbed at her tears. Pinning a stern look on Buffy, Elaine announced heatedly, "And you and I are going to be doing a little bit more talking...in private !! I ought to flog you, little missy!! You know that?  But you know what? I just love you to pieces." She threw her arms around Buffy once more.

 

    Rick and Spike exchanged identical looks of pained suffering, shaking their heads. "Dude, I am never playing you for money again," Rick informed him, earning a smirk from Spike. He would never admit to feeling relieved by Rick's obvious acceptance of him but the truth was, Spike had been worried; not wanting to give up the easy friendship he had shared with the other man.

 

    Buffy was right. He had been tamed.

 

    And that was just a bit of alright.

 

    Someone plugged the music back in, and "Oldies Night" continued, almost as if there hadn't been an interruption of life-altering proportions. Buffy's 22nd birthday was celebrated with a bit more gusto than it had begun, and near-tragedy aside, Buffy felt as if a weight had been lifted.

 

     The town was aware that people were looking for them and had banded together to keep their secret safe, in a true testament of friendship.

 

    Life went on as usual. 
 

    Until the next thing popped up.

 

tbc...

Dreams and Desotos

  Chapter 5

a/n many thanks to Spikeskat for the great beta job she did on this chapter, she REALLY helped me out! Thank you to Chicklet for the beta'ing on the revised version!

 

    Life, surprisingly, did not change much for Spike and Buffy once their secrets had been revealed. Spike came to appreciate not having to hide from mirrors anymore and having to explain his sunlight intolerance away. He no longer had to be nagged by Buffy to remember to dress according to the weather, another thing that suited him just fine. He would think nothing of walking out in the middle of a snowstorm wearing nothing but jeans and a t-shirt, only to be ordered back inside to put a jacket on.

 

     And his duster wasn't good enough either, usually being forced into wearing a multi-colored North Face parka more appropriate for the cold weather, that had cost a bloody fortune.

 

    But now? Things were all nice and tidy, just the way he liked them.

 

   There was also little need to check their superhuman strength, which became beyond the liberating. The town actually took advantage of it, often asking for their assistance when mere mortal strength wasn't quite enough.

 

     Animal blood was much easier to obtain, now that the local butcher kept it in stock especially Spike. All in all, the town was very accommodating for their two supernatural heroes, not wanting to give them any reason to move on. Several parents of young children voiced concerns but were easily won over.

 

    It was more than Spike or Buffy ever expected. 

 

    They still bowled every Thursday night, and their savage competitiveness was better explained now. As a result, the bowling alley suffered an even greater number of equipment fatalities. But everyone still agreed, the two were incredible to watch.

 

    The first Thursday after the bar incident, bowling night started off slightly awkward for the blonde duo. As they entered the bowling alley that night, a larger crowd than normal was present. Neither paid much attention to the people loitering around the bar or standing against the wall, talking in small clusters. They quickly made their way to Elaine and Rick, who were waving them over from their regular lane. 
    

    Buffy gave Elaine a quick hug while Spike shook Rick’s hand, their usual smirks firmly in place. Buffy glanced back nervously at the crowd of people congregating near the bar.
 

    “What’s with all the people? Is there like a party or something?” Buffy asked.
 

    “Yeah, and you're the guest of honor, sweets," Elaine commented wryly.

    "Huh?"

    "Oh, don’t pay them any mind. They’re just here to gawk at our town’s new superheroes,” Elaine said with a wink. She glanced over at Spike slyly, letting her eyes roam appreciatively over the fine specimen that was his body as he stood talking with her husband. "Well, there may be more than gawking from some of us," she added teasingly.

 

    Buffy’s jaw dropped in astonishment. “You’re kidding, right?”

   
    “Nope. I mean, really. Can you blame us? Just look at him." Elaine sighed dramatically to emphasize her point, still staring.

 

    Buffy rolled her eyes derisively, well acquainted with Elaine's quite verbal appreciation of her husband's physical attributes. Of course, her eyes had to follow Elaine's and she got caught up in her own world of drool. Dammit, Elaine always did that to her. If she didn't know that Elaine and Rick were completely nuts about each other, she might have some major issues with Elaine's continuous lustful comments about her guy. But, for the most part, she just found it amusing and it was always a challenge to keep her mind out of the gutter when she was around her friend. Valiantly pushing thoughts away of Spike and sex, Buffy focused. "No, the people, Elaine. I'm talking about the people."

 

    Elaine giggled. "I always get you. You're so easy, you know that?" She ignored the dirty look Buffy threw her way, waving her hand dramatically. "They’re hanging out so they can thank you both, silly.”
 

    “Thank us?” Buffy turned to Spike, confused. “They want to thank us,” she mouthed, pointing at the people.

 

    Spike just shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “Got me, pet.”
 

    “Come on, Buffy. Let’s go say hello to your adoring public. Now, don't forget to smile, and tell everyone I'm your BEST friend, got it?” Elaine instructed, looping an arm through hers and dragging her away from the guys.

   

    Vaguely, Buffy heard Spike say that he and Rick were going to get some beer. She just nodded as she was lead away by her friend.
 
    

     Buffy found her new celebrity status slightly uncomfortable, but she soon realized that this was what had been missing from her time as the Slayer.

 

    Appreciation. 

 

     The town had gathered merely to show their gratitude, and Buffy just wasn't used it. Still, it was... nice.  Spike didn't seem to have a problem with it, Buffy realized as she glanced over to where he was standing by the bar with Rick, accepting the gratitude of the people around him. If he seemed embarrassed by the easy acceptance of the townspeople, he never let on, taking their thanks in stride as if it were no big deal. Buffy realized that it was probably the first time his demon had been fully accepted.
 

    For a man who was already well-liked by the townsfolk, this new, dangerous, supernatural edge just added to Spike's appeal. Especially by the romantics in the bunch. And the women like Elaine.   

 

    The non-bowling crowd only remained for little over an hour, just long enough to express their support for the vampire and slayer in their midst. Buffy felt like she was getting to know practically everyone in town, having spoken with people tonight that she had only seen from afar.

 

    It was kinda... neat.

 

    Soon, it was just their regular tight knit group, and things were well on their way to being another entertaining league night.

 

    Spike and Rick had returned from their second bar run of the evening, setting the pitchers down on the table.  Buffy and Elaine looked up as they approached, and Elaine allowed the conversation to trail off since she had been pumping Buffy for juicy gossip about her sex life. Sex with a vampire... it was like something out of a torrid romance or something. And Elaine intended on finding out about every little detail.

 

    Spike handed Buffy her requisite diet coke, and she smiled her thanks as he settled next to her. Elaine kept a direct stare pinned on Spike, watching him tip his beer back and drain the mug. She found herself watching Spike a lot these days, finding his vampire status intriguing

   

    "Rickie Boy, could ya tell your wife to lay off the bloody eyeballing," Spike announced, refilling his beer.

 

    Rick looked over and saw his wife staring unabashedly in Spike's direction. "Elaine... " Rick said in a pained voice. Buffy had to hide the grin that had erupted on her face, especially when her friend completely ignored her husband and got to the heart of the matter.

 

    "So," Elaine stated finally. "You're like... dead."

 

    "Undead," Spike corrected.

 

    "What?" Elaine asked perplexed, her eyebrows making a valiant effort to furrow, but were restrained by the Botox injections she routinely received from the plastic surgeon in the next town.

 

    "He said he's undead, Elaine," Rick repeated patronizingly.

 

    Elaine gave a quick shake of the head.  "That just makes no sense."

 

    "What are you going on about?" Spike asked.

 

    "I know! It totally doesn't!" Buffy injected, wholeheartedly agreeing with her friend.

 

    "What are you bints blathering about?"

 

    "You being undead. It makes no sense.  It would be like being "un" pregnant. Either you are, or you aren't. And if you're not dead, you're alive," Elaine explained.

 

    "See... I know! That's what I've always thought! Doesn't anyone own a dictionary or anything?" Buffy commented dryly.

 

    "I don't know. It should be more 'half dead.'  Or 'sorta dead.'"

 

    "Yeah! Or... 'semi dead'. Or... partially dead!'"

 

    "You two are off your nut," Spike informed them disgustedly, not wanting to admit they had a point.  He and Rick exchanged glances, both rolling their eyes when their wives got up and went to the snack bar, still fully engrossed in discussing the virtues of proper labeling.

 

    "Hey, are you guys really married?" Rick suddenly asked.

 

    Spike was silent for just a moment before answering. "We have the rings on our fingers. We have the paperwork saying we are legally wed, but have we actually gone through a ceremony and exchanged vows? No."

 

    "Lucky bastard," Rick muttered.

 

    Spike let out a short bark of laughter at Rick's lighthearted comment.  "Yeah, well, don't really need a ceremony. Buffy belongs to me."

 

    Rick looked impressed. "Wow, she really lets you get away with saying that?"

 

    "Hell yeah, she does."

 

    "Elaine would kick my ass if I said she belonged to me," Rick replied dryly.

 

    Spike threw a smirk his way. "Things would be a little different if you were a vampire, Rickie, my boy." 

 

    Understanding dawned on Rick's face.  "Ah, I get it.  Pretty cool."

 

    "Yep."

+++++++++++++++

    The next few weeks passed by quickly. Things had settled down for both Spike and Buffy, which came as a relief. It still made Buffy slightly uncomfortable being stopped and given heartfelt thanks for doing what she had been chosen to do, but she found she enjoyed getting to know people better. As a result, she felt like her roots were now further imbedded in this town, spreading and growing stronger with each person met. 

 

    Buffy's job at the ER hadn't suffered from the town's newfound revelations. It was business as usual; except now Buffy was occasionally called when extra security was needed. The town itself didn't generate a large need, but sometimes they would get patients from neighboring communities that didn't have the small town mentality and things would get out of hand. 

 

    Three weeks after the bar incident, Buffy came to work on a dark, dreary afternoon to the sound of ambulance sirens and utter chaos. A multiple vehicle accident on the highway just outside town was responsible and since they were the nearest receiving facility, several critical patients were brought in at once. 

 

    Being a hospital in a small town, trauma wasn't something that was seen on a daily basis and especially, not all at the same time. Buffy knew that there were two ambulances that were always on duty, and who typically had more than enough free time to kill during their long 24 hours shifts. But today, both units had been dispatched along with two units responding from the nearest town.  

 

 

     From the moment she walked in, Buffy immediately went to work trying to call the appropriate doctors while multi-tasking at the same time. The ward clerk who usually took care of ordering tests and making phone calls had called in sick, shoving the emergency department into further pandemonium.

 

    One of the nurses stuck her head out of the trauma room and yelled for her to call a 'code blue', and Buffy immediately called the hospital operator, even though she knew all the available hospital personnel were already helping and not many more people would be showing up to assist the CPR.

 

    Working quickly, she stamped up the appropriate labwork, adding a blood alcohol level since she had already been informed that the person who was crashing had been the responsible party for the motor vehicle accident. Buffy had smelled the alcohol when she had passed by the room. 

 

    She had just hung up with the surgeon on-call when she realized something was setting off her vamp radar.

 

    So not what she needed, Buffy thought as she ignored the incoming phone calls.

 

     Those who were in the immediate vicinity watched as she went from competent-but frazzled-ER tech to something they couldn't quite describe in the blink of an eye, as she blatantly began disregarding their verbal orders and began looking around with a cold, calculating look.

 

    Buffy allowed her senses to try to pinpoint where the vampire was, but with the amount of people scurrying about, she was unable to pick it up. Reaching down to lift up one cuff of her scrub pants, Buffy plucked the stake out of the spot where she usually hid it.

 

    "What is it?" Jen, the nursing supervisor, asked worriedly after trying to get Buffy's attention and then seeing the look of cold predatory determination on her face.

 

    "There's a vampire in here," she stated simply, walking out from behind the desk and turning around in a slow circle, her eyes searching for the one who didn't belong.

 

    "Oh my god! What should we do?" Jen asked fearfully.

 

    "Nothing," Buffy answered distractedly.

 

    She felt it then, that familiar pull from the vicinity of the trauma room.

 

    Breaking into a run, she sprinted in that direction, whipping back the curtains, stake in a raised and ready position. Her eyes found the heart monitor, noting a semblance of a rhythm before inspecting the man, lying bloody and still, on the gurney. The smell of second-hand alcohol was thick and heavy from the well-dressed, twenty-something patient. 

 

    "Stop CPR," Buffy ordered.

 

    The doctor, who was covering Windmont's ER from another city and already infuriated by actually having to work on what was supposed to be an easy shift, was poised at the patient's head in preparation for intubation. He did not take kindly to a lowly hospital employee telling him to wait on the breathing tube.  "Excuse me, I don't know who the hell you think you are, but I'm the doctor here," he stated coldly.

 

    Buffy ignored him. "Stop doing compressions and back away," she told the respiratory therapist, who did not hesitate to comply. Judy, the RN who had already tried multiple times to start an IV, also complied without question once she saw the presence of the stake in Buffy's hands. They knew who Buffy was and weren't about to question her, especially once they saw the look on her face.

 

    The doctor's face mottled red with rage. "Oh, get the hell out of here! I'm the doctor, which means I run the code, got it? Respiratory, get back in there and start those compressions back up. And for Christ sake, keep bagging him. What the hell is the matter with you people?"

 

    Buffy crossed her arms over her chest, irritated by the high-handed attitude. "Nothing is wrong with them. Check your patient out. He's all twitchy guy." She gestured to the jerking limbs of the man lying on the gurney.

 

    The doctor looked down at the man, then at the monitor, which showed a serious lack of activity. "Oh, for God sakes, why did I agree to work in this Podunk town. I must have been insane," he muttered angrily, walking around to check the leads that went to the cardiac monitor on the crash cart, not trusting any of the staff to do it correctly. They were all obviously incompetent. 

 

    "I totally wouldn't do that if were you,"  Buffy warned.

 

    Just as Buffy was about to get further backlash from the irate ER doctor, the eyes of his patient suddenly sprang open, quickly shifting to amber with teeth that sharpened to a fine point.

   

    Now conscious, drunk, and thoroughly evil, the vampire reached up and grabbed the stethoscope looped around the physician's neck and attempted to pull him down to meet his waiting fangs.

 

    Buffy exchanged looks with Judy and the rest of the staff that were watching from beyond the glass doors, barely suppressing the urge to roll her eyes at the shocked look on the doctor's face, who had not won many popularity points even before this mass-casualty incident. Stepping forward, Buffy clamped her hand around the vampire's wrist, breaking his tenuous hold on the stethoscope.

 

    Now freed, the ER doctor scurried away, knocking over several IV poles in the process, which clattered noisily to the ground.

 

    Enraged that his easy meal had been disrupted, the vampire threw himself off the gurney, looking macabre and evil with the caliber of injuries sustained in the car crash, in addition to his natural demon countenance. "Well, lookee here.  A real do-gooder."

 

    "Boy, did you ever pick the wrong town to crash in," Buffy informed him, tense and prepared for an assault. The wait was not long, a sloppy attack due to the continued inebriated state of the vampire. Buffy sent him flying over the gurney, where he crashed into the wall with heavy force.

 

    "Who are you?" the vampire growled, attempting to regain his footing.

 

    "Sorry, where are my manners. Buffy, vampire Slayer. And you're... dust." It gave her a great feeling of satisfaction to hurl her stake across the room and through the chest that had been so carefully worked over to bring this shell of a man back to the life that had already been taken some time ago. Buffy watched impassively as the vampire crumbled into dust before looking at the crowd that had gathered in the hallway outside the trauma room doors.

 

    "Ok, mental note.  From now on, make sure CPR's actually need to be resuscitated," Buffy announced before turning her attention to the Emergency Department manager. "I'm thinking mirrors on the crash carts might not be such a bad idea."

 

    Her suggestion was given serious consideration, the entire ER shaken up at what could have just occurred if Buffy hadn't been on duty. Looking around, she saw the ER doc still huddled on the floor, looking completely shell-shocked. She walked over to him and helped him to his feet. 

 

    "What was that?" he asked shakily, trying to come up with a scientific explanation for what he had just witnessed.

 

    Buffy rolled her eyes, and walked away. "Long story." she called over her shoulder to the bewildered man. "And I'm terribly busy."

++++++++++

    Buffy had been concerned that the presence of another vampire in their town was a sign of things to come, but it seemed to be an isolated incident.  Another uneventful two weeks passed by. In Sunnydale, that would have been an ominous sign. One that would have had the Scoobies scurrying to their research books to try to get ahead of whatever apocalypse or big evil was sure to follow.

 

    But here in Windmont, peace and quiet was just par for the course. Spring was being anxiously awaited, the cold and snow becoming old and tiresome.

 

    It was another cold, bitter day that found Buffy baking cookies in her kitchen. Before Windmont, any attempts of the culinary persuasion always turned into disasters. But with perseverance-and a lot of time to kill-Buffy had managed to nail baking down. Chocolate chip cookies were her specialty, and Spike ate them by the dozens.

 

    She had just pulled a pan out of the oven and put it on top of the cooling rack, sticking another pan in the oven, when the doorbell rang. Yanking off her oven mitts, she hurried to the front door to open it before the bell was rung again. Spike was still sleeping, and she had come to learn that a sleepy Spike was a grumpy Spike.

 

    Not bothering to check to see who was at the other side of the door, Buffy threw it open, and found her face frozen in shock.

 

    Her mother and Giles were standing on her freshly shoveled porch.

 

    "Buffy! Oh my god, it's really you," her mother cried, throwing her arms around Buffy and clutching her tightly. "My baby!"

 

    The dazed look did not leave her face and Buffy stood stiffly in the embrace of her mother. Joyce didn't seem to notice as she pulled back, tears streaming down decidedly aged features. 

 

    "Buffy," her Watcher uttered quietly, his eyes glued on her. The relief was easily read on the Englishman's face, as he took in every detail of his missing Slayer. She had been gone for almost a year, and they had exhausted many resources in an attempt to locate her.

 

    "Come in," Buffy finally said, stepping to the side of the threshold so they could enter her home.

 

    Her sanctuary.

 

    "Is this your house?" her mom asked, trying to contain her tears and overloaded emotions. She looked around the small foyer, taking note of the cheery warmth, with just a slight amount of added clutter. It was so unlike the daughter she knew, it was startling.

 

    Buffy nodded curtly. "Yes, it is. But I'm assuming you already knew that, since you rang my doorbell." The hostility was just barely veiled.

 

    "Yes, well, I'm afraid that is all we had," Giles explained, as Buffy led them into the kitchen where she'd left her cookies. Giles watched as Buffy efficiently transferred them from the cookie sheet to the cooling rack, before taking the cookie sheet over to the sink and running water over it.

 

    Buffy's lips were tightly compressed as she worked to rein in her screaming emotions. 'NO!' she wanted to scream. 'Not here, not now! Go away!!' "What are you doing here?" she couldn't help the icy edge to her voice when she voiced her question.

 

    Her mother looked agonized, a new crop of tears flowing down her cheeks. "Oh, Buffy, I am so sorry. So sorry for whatever I did to make you think you had to leave like you did."

 

    Buffy just nodded; accepting her mother's words, but unable to give her the forgiveness she was looking for. 

 

    Giles sighed heavily, his haggard face falling even more. "Buffy, I realize something occurred that must have upset you tremendously, but I do not believe you know the lengths we have gone through to pinpoint your whereabouts. Our locator spells remained inconclusive, and it was just this most recent one that gave us a location. You have been missed, Buffy. Terribly."

 

    "You mean the Hellmouth has missed me."

 

    "Good lord, Buffy. You are more than just my Slayer..." Giles allowed the words to drop off, but Buffy couldn't deny the acute pain she witnessed in his eyes.

 

    "When I think of how difficult things must have been for you, how scared you probably were. Traveling alone... You have no idea how many nights it's kept me up," Joyce revealed, pain coming off of her in waves.

 

    Buffy sighed, wanting to keep up the indifference, but finding herself not up to the task. She had to swallow the lump that was forming in her throat. "I... wasn't alone."

 

    Joyce exchanged looks with Giles, then pasted on a bright smile. "Oh, well, that is wonderful. You met someone."  Buffy's mother looked around, and finally noticed the hints of a masculine influence; the cigarettes on the counter, the ashtray, empty bottles of beer in the recycling bin, a pair of black boots haphazardly shoved under one of the kitchen chairs, obviously too big for Buffy. The signs were there. Buffy was not alone.

 

    Unexpectedly, a voice drawled, "Well now, didn't know we were expectin' company."

 

    Giles spun around in his seat, his brain rapidly attempting to come to terms with just who was leaning so casually against the door jam that led into Buffy's kitchen.  Although he'd never seen the bleached blonde hair in such curly disarray, nor had he ever seen him without the black leather duster he wore like a death shroud, yet there was no denying just who this was. Clad only in a pair of jeans, the skin that was on display was too pale, too marble-esque to be human.  

 

    "Spike," Giles ground out, easing out of his chair to put himself between the vampire and Joyce.

 

    "Watcher," Spike replied, his lips curled up in a smirk. "Joyce," he added, tipping his head in her direction.

   

    Buffy's mother looked with startled confusion at the bare-chested man in her daughter's kitchen, recognition dawning slowly. Yes, she knew him. This was a vampire. The vampire from her living room that fateful last night that she had seen her daughter. Joyce looked over at Buffy and found her only child smiling fondly in the demon's direction.

 

    The tension in the room was thick, almost pulsing with life. Spike could easily have killed to protect his newfound happiness with Buffy, yet knew that wasn't possible. With practiced nonchalance, he sauntered over to snatch a cookie off the cooling rack, studiously ignoring the unwanted presence of Buffy's watcher and her mum.

 

    "Hey!" Buffy yelled, overreacting by slapping at the thieving hand with the plastic spatula she grabbed off the counter. "Back off! Those are for tonight."

 

    Spike jerked his hand back, nursing it against his chest before taking a bite of the cookie he had pilfered.  "Bloody hell, watch the violence."

 

    She arched an eyebrow at his outlandish statement, than gave him a soft smile.  Now that he was there at her side, she could feel her tension fleeing. She could so do this. They could do this. Buffy leaned into Spike's side, taking comfort in his close proximity.  

 

    Giles ripped his glasses off in a fit of agitation. He exchanged glances with Joyce, whose look of uncertainty rivaled his own. The urge to lash out at his young charge was overwhelming for her flagrant lack of common sense, but Giles knew he had to tread lightly here.

 

    "So... Buffy," Giles began, placing his glasses back on his face. "You're here with... Spike?"

 

    Giles saw Buffy's chin come up, her face tightening with resolve, while she exchanged looks with the vampire.

 

    "Yes, Giles. I am here with Spike."

 

    Giles watched as Spike's lip curled contemptuously, and once again wished he'd had the foresight to bring a stake.  "Yes, well..."

 

    "Why did you come?" Buffy asked her Watcher, interrupting the forthcoming tirade.

 

    Surprise snuck up on the older man's face. "Why, to bring you home, of course."

 

    Spike and Buffy exchanged amused looks.  "Giles, I am home."  Buffy sent her mom an apologetic look when hurt settled on her face.