After the first enchantment of her freshman year, Buffy didn’t hate magic. Yet. After all, no real harm done, except to Parker, who totally deserved it. Not that she ever would have damaged him, had she not been bewitched by the beer. But she had, and she did, and she couldn’t really work up a good guilt about it, either. Jerk.
After the second spell, she was starting to be concerned.
“Willow, I know you’re trying to block, but did anything go the way you wanted it to? I’m just asking ‘cos this magic stuff seems sort of, I don’t know, tricky? Like, the way the genie in a story gives 3 wishes, but it’s always a trick? Am I way off base here?”
“Well, I am a little less upset about Oz, but that’s just because I feel so guilty about everything else. The one bad is pushing out the other bad, so it’s still bad, but it’s a less crippling bad. So: maybe? But not really.”
“I think we’re all really lucky that D’Hoffryn guy was so reasonable about letting you go. If he had been a hard-ass about it, Giles would’ve been walking me down the aisle with a white cane right about now. I’m not sure I even want to think about the sort of ceremony Xander would have had!”
“Buffy! Please! I don’t want to have to go buy any more chocolate chips for a while! I’m really, really sorry! It won’t happen again, I double pinky swear!”
“It’s just that there’s something I’m … worried about. You have to promise that this is just between us, okay?”
“Double pinky.” Willow wiggled both digits.
“It’s just that there might be some … lingering effects. You know.”
Willow shook her head. “There shouldn’t be anything. I mean Giles’ eyes are right back where they were, and Xander isn’t being chased by any demons, except Anya, and you and Spike practically aren’t speaking, so …” She noticed Buffy fidgeting and looking at the ceiling. “Ooooooh. Ohmigod. Really? Are you sure?”
Buffy shrugged. “Well, I definitely don’t want to marry the guy, but he’s sort of … distracting. It’s probably nothing.”
“I could do some research, see if there’s a spell that’ll tamp down …”
“No! No, no, no, no, no. No more magic. Nada. I’ll just … tamp all on my own, thanks. I’m sure it’s just a temporary thing. I’ll find something else to distract me. Don’t give it another thought. I mean that literally.”
After the stupid spell by stupid Ethan Rayne, she was no longer concerned. She was angry.
“I mean, a Giles without his sight is bad enough, but a Giles turned into a demon by his old friend Judas and slain by his own Slayer is like some Greek tragedy!” She knew this from her Intro to Western Civ core class. “This is bad, Giles. It was too close.”
“Yes, I quite agree. I was forced to rely on Spike for assistance. It’s a bloody wonder I survived at all.”
“Spike? He helped you?”
“Well, yes, with some financial incentive. I suppose I should be grateful for his hidden talents, even if they do come rather dear.”
“Hidden talents? Spike has hidden talents?” She started to mentally wander off, but then tamped.
“Yes, it was rather surprising. It seems he has a facility for demon languages. Conversational demon language, at any rate. I’m not sure how much help he’d be with written translation,” he mused, picking up a dusty tome with incomprehensible scratchings on the binding. “I suppose a person is bound to pick up a few things after more than a century in the world. Although, I sometimes wonder if there isn’t more to William the Bloody than his wild posturing would indicate.”
“More what? More hot air? Spike seems pretty easy to figure out, to me.”
Giles put down the book and settled at his desk. He took his glasses off, and tapped the earpieces against his teeth, organizing his thoughts.
“When he was staying here, after we let him out of the bath, he always seemed to have the television on, unless I hid the vile thing. However, I think he also did a fair amount of reading, when no one was around to catch him at it. Interesting choices, too. Waltham’s Compendium, The Lives of the Ether Gral, Prophetic Verses from Sanduey, a wide variety really. He was careful to put things back, but I am very aware of the volumes in my collection. I wonder if our Spike has an intellectual streak that he keeps well hidden?”
Buffy snorted. “If so, I want him on my team next time we play Hide-n-Seek.” She blushed pinkly. “I mean, because he must really be good at hiding things.” She blushed redder.
Giles, his glasses still in hand, didn’t notice Buffy’s difficulty. “I believe I will sound him out, as it were. Perhaps give him some encouragement to make himself useful in the fight against the forces of darkness. Perhaps he would welcome some purpose in his life, now that he isn’t able to pursue his former wicked ways.”
“Good luck with that,” muttered Buffy, trying not to think about his wicked ways. “I’m still worried about all this magic flying around, Giles!”
“Right. I’ve done an analysis of the more troublesome magicks that we’ve faced, and I find that with the capture of Ethan, we’ve defeated or contained virtually all current major magical threats. I don’t think we need to worry ourselves unduly.”
Buffy violently disliked magic. With a fiery passion, matched only by her violent dislike of one Faith Lehane.
She did a handspring over a headstone, which was rougher than it looked on top and bit briefly into the heel of her hand. She landed behind the fleeing fledge, and poked her stake smoothly between the 4th and 5th ribs. She stepped back from the dust and inspected the scrape. Not even enough damage to bother with a bandage. She felt his approach before she heard it, not that he was trying to be stealthy. Her evening was complete. Not.
“Did Dudley help you out with your little problem?” Spike asked, stopping just a little too close.
“Who? What are you talking about?” she replied, fighting the urge to back up.
“Seemed pretty pent up at the Bronze last night. Had to take a guess, I’d say you were deeply dissatisfied.” He fished around in his pockets while he spoke. “Must be hard for a passionate thing like you, being stuck with a bumbling farm hand like that.” He produced his cigarettes and lighter.
“Spike. I wasn’t at the Bronze last night …” He thought she was passionate?
“No?” He leaned in closer, his voice dropping. “Didn’t give me a little speech about the wonders of those Slayer muscles of yours, then?”
Buffy choked, “What! I’m gonna kill her . . ." but Spike was on a roll and didn’t stop.
“Well, missy, how about vamp muscles? Vamp stamina, vamp experience, vamp willingness to make the wrong just right? How about that, then, you little cock-tease?” He lit his cigarette with an air of triumph. Oh god. She couldn’t afford to think about any of what he was saying.
“SPIKE! It wasn’t me at the Bronze last night. It was the other Slayer! And I’m gonna kill her!”
He cocked an eyebrow. “Looked like you. Smelled like you.” He smiled with his tongue tucked behind his teeth, flicking his eyes over her appreciatively.
“Yeah, well, it was an amazing simulation, because she stole my body! While she was slutting it up all over town, I got to fight off a bunch of Council goons who thought I was her.”
His smirk faded a little.
“Yeah! She had a great night! Threatened my mom! Slept with my boyfriend, slimed all over my . . . vampire! I wonder who else she . . . touched? Now I’m gonna have to go get tested!”
“Yeah, it’s hilarious! If those Council guys had got me, you’d be crying about losing out on that 3rd notch in your Slayer belt. Bet you’d be all humiliated that they did your job for you.”
He laughed mirthlessly. “Slayer, I am an amateur compared to those wankers. Killed two Slayers over the course of a century. Have any idea how many the Council got? During that same time, just say? At least a dozen, that I know of. Between that test they do, and plain ol’ run of the mill assassination? Hardly left any for an enterprising young vamp trying to make a name for himself. It’s a scandal.” He took a drag and watched her carefully.
Buffy realized that he was speaking the truth, but she didn’t want to face the magnitude of such a horrific threat. She chose to focus on the immediate non-threat, instead.
“You’re disgusting, Spike. It figures all you’d care about is the hit to your body count. I can’t believe I’m still talking to you.” She turned to leave.
She halted when she heard her name. He’d rarely called her that since Willow’s spell. She stood still, but she didn’t turn around.
“Just saying, the Council isn’t your friend, Slayer. Rupert’s alright, he’s his own man, much as it pains me to say it. They come around again, you’ll be in more danger than you ever were with me.”
“What do you care, Spike?” she bit out. He was silent for a moment.
“Didn’t say I did. Maybe it’s your little body-buddy that’s got me all concerned. Seemed like a goer.”
Buffy spun around, and sure enough, he was bouncing on the balls of his feet and doing that thing with his tongue.
She nodded, once, and continued out of the cemetery. She was hurt. Faith had hurt her, Riley had hurt her, and now even Spike had hurt her, though she wasn’t sure how, exactly. Pushing down her feelings, she tried to work through what he had said.
Where had those wet works guys gone when they’d left town? She hadn’t thought about it, once she’d got her body back, but they didn’t seem the types to just say, “Ah well, that didn’t work out, might as well head back to Merry Ol’.”
What she hated most about this? Now she was worried about Faith!
Magic was out to get her. It was getting completely ridiculous.
This time she had been reduced to a mewling proto-Slayer, dependent on Jonathan (Jonathan!) to do her job. It was almost worse than the Cruciamentum, because this time it was her mind that had been messed with. Of course, the betrayal aspect of the Cruciamentum was blessedly missing, but thinking about that just lead to thinking about Riley’s betrayal during the last stupid, goddamned spell! She had let Jonathan (Jonathan!) talk her out of her completely righteous, um, discomfort about that, but it was back, baby, with a vengeance. It was a good thing Anya was retired. God! Things had been going so well with Riley until the jailbait/jailbird/jail-something had stirred up the crap. Now things were “all better” between them and she felt even worse!
At least she’d gotten her slaying together in time to defeat Jonathan’s (Jonathan’s!) monster. Admittedly, with Spike’s help, sort of. He had given her a location, after all. After she’d threatened him. That had been sweet. He’d been all in her space, with the innuendo and the dirty promises. She was sure she remembered some dirty promises. Anyway, something had clicked while she was processing his . . . well . . . his blatant disrespect, and then: bam! She had a little bit of the Slayer back. She got right into his space, had him up against the wall, even, and laid it out for him. She felt a little tingly, remembering it. Oh crap. Time to tamp.
Damn it all to hell! Buffy (finally, irrevocably, absolutely) hated magic!
The whole year had been one long “how can we mess around with Buffy’s mind, body, and/or soul” magic spell. She was tired beyond the telling of being the puppet of every Merlin, Glinda, or Harry to come through Sunnydale. The latest one was a perfect example of how her free will was being compromised with every wave of a sage smudge. Well, okay, it had been poltergeists this time around, but the end result was just the same as always: Buffy got screwed. Literally, this time.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like Riley. She did. She just wasn’t sure how much, and being locked in his, um, embrace by a bunch of horny ghosts wasn’t making things any clearer.
She stood outside her mother’s house, weighing her options. It was pretty late, and she didn’t want to scare her mom. But she didn’t want to deal with Willow’s “understanding” face, either. Especially since Willow really didn’t understand. Buffy did not want to explain it to her, either. She wasn’t sure she could explain it. Staying at Riley’s was completely out. She had spent way too much time in his bed, already.
She shuddered and sniffed, catching a whiff of something familiar. She charged around the side of the house, and sure enough, there he sat, smoking, as if he had every right to exist!
“Spike! What the hell are you doing here?” she whispered, loudly.
He looked at her calmly. “Having a fag.”
“Why are you doing it on my mom’s porch?!”
“Being a good guest. Don’t wanna smoke in the house, do I?”
“Guest! Since when?”
“Oh. Hello Buffy. I didn’t expect you tonight,” said Joyce, peeking out of the kitchen door with a smile. “I thought you were at a party. Spike was just telling me about the interesting music they play at those things. It sounded like fun.”
“Yeah,” Buffy grumbled. “It was a laugh riot.”
“Why don’t you come in and have some hot chocolate with us, Buffy? It’s almost ready. Or, would you rather have some popcorn?”
Buffy was completely lost. Had she wandered into the Twilight Zone? She hurried into the kitchen, closing the door on Spike, still smoking on the back porch.
“What’s going on here, Mom? You do know that’s Spike, right? Evil?”
“Yes, Buffy, I know that’s Spike. He comes by on Saturdays for a nightcap, sometimes. And yes, he’s hugely evil. Or so he keeps saying. Right before he thanks me for my hospitality.” Joyce stirred the chocolate on the stove.
“Mom, do not be fooled by the Eddie Haskell manners. You can’t trust Spike!”
“I know that, Buffy. I’m not trusting him, I’m visiting with him. It’s not the same thing. Now, I know you didn’t come over here to lecture me. So, are you going to tell me what’s the matter?”
“Did something happen at the party?” Joyce asked shrewdly.
“Just the same old, Buffy’s under a spell and not in control of her own actions, thing. Sometimes I hate this town.”
Joyce gave her a hug and went back to stirring. “I won’t say I told you so,” she teased.
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Thanks. Really, Mom, it’s getting beyond ridiculous, the number of spells and things that get to me lately. It’s almost like being…” She hesitated. “...raped,” she finally said.
Joyce dropped the whisk. “Buffy! Oh my god! That’s terrible! Does Mr. Giles know?”
“Oh yeah. He knows. It’s not much better for him. He’s had his fair share of the badness. Funny thing, even Spike has. Tonight, though, it was just too much. I was not able to stop doing what I was doing, and it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing.”
“Was it a dancing spell? I remember some stories about those.”
“I wish. I can’t really talk to you about the details. But there’s this guy I’ve sort of been seeing, okay? I’m not really sure about him, though. I don’t know if I want to get too involved, even though he’s nice and everything. But the spell tonight? It sort of took the decision away from me. Of course, now that the spell is over, I’ve still got to decide how I feel, but I doubt he’ll see it that way. I’m sure he thinks it’s all hunky-dory in Buffyland.”
“Buffy. I know you don’t need me to tell you this, but you have to follow your heart. There is nothing worse than making a romantic decision based on other people’s expectations.”
She was interrupted by the hissing sounds of the chocolate boiling over. “Oh, shoot! Buffy, can you tell Spike there’s been a delay? I’ve got to start over now,” she huffed to herself.
Buffy went outside. Spike had moved to the back fence, where he was flicking his butt into the alley. She didn’t want to wake the neighbors, so she walked over to talk to him, instead of yelling across the yard.
“Mom says to tell you it’s going to take a little while. Why are you all the way back here?” she wondered.
Spike didn’t look at her. “Was giving you and your mum some privacy, yeah?”
“You were? That’s … decent.”
He looked affronted. “Oh, right. Now it’s insults! Fine! Know what? You smell like a cathouse, Slayer.”
“Almost had me fooled. Didn’t think you had it in you. Playing like you were too pure and good for a bit of rough. Guess I know what kind of a girl you are after all.”
She didn’t even know she’d done it. But there was Spike, struggling to get to his feet, holding his nose, blood trickling down his lip. He gave her a look of pure hatred.
“My regards to Cardboard,” he sneered. “Guess he has bigger knackers than I gave him credit for, putting it to such a sket.” He stormed off down the alley.
“What’s a sket?” murmured Buffy, not really caring. She walked in a daze back to the house. Joyce was still mopping up.
“Spike had to take off, Mom. Is it okay if I stay here tonight?”
“Of course, honey. Can I get you anything?”
“No thanks. I think I’m going to take a bath and just turn in. It’s been an epically long night.”
This sucked. Riley was missing, Spike was Benedict Arnold, the Initiative was about to go nuclear, and all they had for her was magic: the bane of her whole year.
“Are you guys sure about this? Can’t we just steal a couple more rocket launchers?” she complained.
“Buffy, this is our best chance,” said Giles. “Adam has formidable defenses, and with the sheer number of demon targets and humans in close quarters, it just isn’t practical to rely on armaments.”
“I know. I’m just not happy. Magic has totally kicked my butt this year, and this could be the cherry on top,” she grumbled.
“The cherry on top of your kicked butt?” grinned Xander. “That’s magic of a whole other kind, Buff.”
“Whatever. Let’s just do this thing.”
She couldn’t believe it! They had done the enjoining spell, combined all of their essences, and it had worked! Like a charm! A charm that worked! She had been Buffy-plus-3, not Buffy-puppet. She didn’t have anything to apologize for, be embarrassed about, or regret. She’d felt woozy for a sec, afterward, but that was a small price for total victory!
Adam was a “hunk-a-junk”, as Xander kept chanting as they made their way back to her house. They’d got the survivors evacuated, and made sure Graham had the situation under control, before deciding that a celebratory movie night was in order. Riley gamely offered to walk them to Buffy’s mom’s house, but it was clear that he was running on fumes, so they dropped him back at Lowell House. He hadn’t slept in his own bed for over a week, so he didn’t put up much of a protest.
Xander split off to go get the videos. Giles and Willow were chattering excitedly about the nuances of the spell. Buffy was enjoying the lack of magical backlash when she noticed that Spike was shadowing them. She dropped back, slowing, and he soon fell into step beside her.
“Thanks,” she said.
He looked momentarily shocked. “Yeah? I didn’t think … Know I was a git to believe that great monstrosity would help me with my little problem.”
“Look, Spike, I know that your motives are always gonna be suspect, at best. But you came through when it counted. We needed everybody tonight.”
“Fair enough. You’re welcome, then.” He looked entirely too pleased with himself.
“I’m still pissed at you, though. You’ve been a monumental asshole. You really got to us.”
“Sweet of you to say it, Slayer.”
“I’m not kidding. This stops now. I don’t want to threaten you to stay in line, but you’ve got to know what’s going to happen if this…” she gestured vaguely, “…keeps happening.”
“So, what? Spike plays the good dog? Don’t think so, Slayer. Make my life a living hell, it would. Fellow’s got a reputation to consider.”
“I’m not asking you to wear a collar, for god’s sake! It’s not a good look on you.”
“Oh, you might be surprised, Slayer,” he purred.
“Come on, Spike! This is part of what I’m talking about. You start with the flirty, then move right to the incomprehensible British putdowns. It’s confusing, and I still don’t know what a sket is.”
He looked abashed. “Didn’t mean it. Was too much to take, just then.”
She thought back to the night she’d been trapped in Riley’s room. “It was a spell, you know.” She didn’t apologize, wouldn’t apologize. It wasn’t like it had anything to do with him.
“Figured it out later, yeah. Still, isn’t for me to tell you what you ought not do, Slayer.”
“You’re right. It isn’t. I’ve got plenty of Buffy telling me that already.”
They walked on in silence for a while.
“Not gonna be a good dog,” he repeated stubbornly.
“Are you talking to me, or to yourself?” asked Buffy.
“Bloody hell! Don’t know, do I?”
“Tell you what. Stop trying to tear us down, and I’ll make sure you get all the demons you can kill.”
“Oooooh. Again with the sweet nothings, Slayer. Get a bloke all starry-eyed, if you’re not careful.”
“I’m feeling carefree, at the moment,” she said breezily. “We beat the bad guy. Movies await. For once, magic didn’t make me its bitch. Anything is possible.”
She socked him on the arm, playfully, and skipped up the walk to open the door for Giles and Willow. Joyce ushered them into the house.
Buffy stayed on the porch. She looked at Spike assessingly, as he rubbed the place where she’d tapped him. Wasn’t there a saying about keeping your enemies closer than your friends? She came to a decision.
“Want to come patrol with me tomorrow night?”
He considered this. “Could do. Tonight was a bit of alright. All the demons I can kill, eh?”
“Yep. If you behave. Pick me up at 8.”
He raised one eyebrow, turned with a swirl of black leather, and stalked off. He was such a drama queen. She hoped she wasn’t making a huge mistake.
Of course, the enjoining spell did come with strings attached. Surprise, surprise. After they’d beaten back the nightmares, though, she felt even more convinced that she’d done the right thing. With the spell, and with the team. She was a Slayer for the modern age, not the stone age. Her strength was in her allies, however unlikely they might be.
She watched Spike finish off the Krevlach demon, thankful that her new blouse might live to see another day.
“Having fun?” she asked.
He sluiced off the goo from his hands, grinning madly.
“Oh, yeah, Slayer! Sure know how to show a fellow a good time.”
She barely blushed. “I try.”
“Know you do. It’s what makes you one of the great ones. Too bad about your tragic taste in men.”
“Hey! I’m still working through some pretty serious issues here with men and magic. Give a gal a break!”
He rocked back on his heels and did that leering head-tilt thing for a moment, then suddenly straightened up.
“Break’s over, Slayer.”
“I count five over by the North Gate. Shall we dance?”
As they sped over to the oblivious vamps, Buffy thought, for the first time in a while, that life was good.
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