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Chapter 11
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Betaed by: Goblin_Dae, Science, and Subtilior

Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all recognizable characters, locations, and dialogue belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and the various writers. This is written purely for fun.

DUST: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fanfic by KnifeEdge



Buffy opened her eyes.

"There you are," Willow said, smiling.

They sat cross-legged in the middle of a candlelit room, surrounded by a circle of white sand. A red rose lay between them, the bloom heavy and full. "Are you ready?"

"Ready?" Buffy asked.

"We'll start out slow," Willow promised.

"Start out slow doing what?" Buffy asked with a frown.

"Oh! We're going to float the rose. Then we'll use the majicks to plucks the petals off one by one. It's a test of synchronicity." Willow's smile was huge.

"Cinco-what-y?" Buffy asked. "You do remember that I'm not magic girl, right?"

"It'll be fine. Close your eyes."

Dutifully, Buffy closed her eyes.

Nothing happened.

"Uh, Wills, is something supposed to happen?"

She opened her eyes. Instead of Willow, she sat across the circle from the girl she'd seen during her search the night before.

Tara smiled gently. "Guess we've got to begin somewhere. Look."

The rose slowly floated up off the floor. Wind whipped around them, lifting Tara's hair behind her head. "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?" Buffy asked.

"I'm a watch," Tara said.

"Funny," Buffy said.

"Not really." Tara sounded sad.

The rose floated between them, higher and higher, until it hovered just out of reach. Suddenly it shot across the room, zipped back and forth several times before dive-bombing their heads. Both girls shrieked and covered their hair. The rose embedded itself in the floor, with a boom. The petals spattered around it like droplets of blood.

"What the hell?" Buffy looked up at Tara, but the witch was gone.

The whole room, in fact, was gone. Buffy sat in a booth in a dimly lit bar. The rose had somehow turned into a plastic ballpoint pen, stuck tip down in the wood table. She pulled out the pen with a frown. It reminded her of something.

"Now isn't this more fun than kicking my arse?"

Oh, she knew that voice.

"No," she said, looking up. Ethan Rayne smirked at her.

"Oh. Well, it's more fun for me," he said. He lifted a glass of beer and sipped it appreciatively, his eyes twinkling over the edge.

"What is it with you Englishmen?" Buffy asked. "Are you all secretly evil? It's a genetic thing, isn't it?"

"Now, luv, is that the way to talk to an old friend trying to do you a favor?"

"Maybe you missed it, so here's the memo: we're not friends."

"You should know, Slayer, that this pause can't last forever. Something's happening in the dark worlds. It's all rumors and whispers out there, of course. Only thing coming through clear is that something is harming demons, and it's not you," Ethan said.

"What is it?"

"Three-fourteen," he said. "I'm giving you a very valuable warning. It's throwing the worlds out of balance, and that's beyond chaos. We're headed, quite literally, for one hell of a fight."

"What are you talking about?" Buffy asked. But when she blinked, Ethan was gone, and Giles sat in his place. He giggled slightly, then frowned into his glass. "Are you drunk?" she asked.

"We've got to face it. We've changed," Giles said. And then he did change, his features swelling and shifting until she faced a mournful looking Giles-demon with huge horns that curled out of his forehead. He growled something at her, looking sad.

"Giles? What's going on? What's happening? What are you trying to say?"

"He said that you've got to help him, Slayer," Spike said. He sat beside her, glaring.

"How do you know that?"

"He's a Fyarl demon," Spike said. "I happen to speak Fyarl."

"Well, aren't you all kinds of helpful?"

"Could be," Spike said. He lowered his head and leaned close, until all she could see was the incredible deep blue of his eyes. "If you ask real nice." His mouth was so close ...


—and she jerked upright in bed, clutching the blankets to her chest as if to ward off something she hadn't seen coming.


"Wake up." A warm hand roughly shook him.

"Piss off," Spike snarled. He'd been dreaming, and it had been right delicious, too. He'd been just at the good part before—

The hand shook him again. He snagged the wrist it belonged to in a bruising grip and yanked. Warm flesh landed on top of him; he rolled, pinning the body between his and the wall. With a smug grin, Spike snuggled in comfortably, listening to the heartbeat that was pounding frantically against his chest like a frightened little bird.


"Shut it, Slayer," he said, burying his face in her warm hair. "Go to sleep."

"I am so not sleeping with you," she said. There was no room for her to head-butt him, and his weight kept her from everything but squirming. Spike pressed against her just a little harder, enjoying her desperate movements. After a moment she seemed to realize that she wasn't going to get anywhere by wiggling and stilled. "Spike, let me up."

"No." He didn't bother opening his eyes. "Mmmm ... warm."

"Spike!" she said, then froze again. "Ohmygodareyounakedunderthere?"

"Yep," he said, and rotated his hips slightly.

"I'm so gonna stake your ass."

"Mmm, kinky." He nuzzled against her. God, she was so bloody warm and delicious. Feeling her like this, smelling her—

"Did you just ... was that a purr?"

He did it again.

"Vampires purr?"

"More of a low growl, really." He cracked open an eye and got an up close and personal view of the Slayer. That made twice in as many days, he thought, amused. She was glaring at him, all spitfire and brimstone. A lovely blush colored her cheeks. Her hair was tousled and loose around her shoulders. "Now, what did you want, Slayer?"

"You to let me up," she said. "What is it with you and pinning me?"

"Dominance thing," he said with a shrug. A glance at the window confirmed that the sun was still up. "You break the spell yet?" he asked hopefully.

"No," she said. "But I might have a clue. I had a dream, and Tara and Ethan were both in it."

"Yeah? Wonderful for you. Wake me up when the bloody sun goes down. I'm knackered from running all over town last night."

"Spike, this is important!"

"I had a dream that had a naked Angelina Jolie in it." He was lying, but she didn't need to know that. "It was important, too. If you don't mind, I'd like to get back to it. Was just about to vamp her."

"Gross," she said.

"Evil," he said.

With a hard shove, Buffy managed to push off from the wall. The whole cot tipped, tumbling them both to the floor in a tangle of sheets and limbs. She sat up, pushing off his chest so she was kneeling above him. Spike realized she was straddling him, her hips aligned with his, and that his erection was pressing against the warm valley between her thighs. He groaned and arched toward her.

"Ew!" She rolled off him, but got caught in the sheet. Despite his best efforts, she managed to untangle herself. Then she yelped when she realized she'd accidentally stolen all of his covers.

Buffy wadded up the sheets and tossed them at him, hitting him in the groin, then spun and faced the wall. Spike propped himself up on his elbows and stared at her. He didn't bother to adjust the sheets. If she was going to drag him out of dreamland in the middle of the day, she could suck it up and deal.

"So what's this bloody clue of yours? It better be good, Slayer."

"Are you decent?" she asked.

"Yes," he lied.

She turned around, squeaked, then faced the wall again. He laughed.

"Ugh. Pants,Spike."

"I never wear pants," Spike said. She half turned, her indignant eyes focusing on his grin. "I wear trousers," he said. "Bloody Americans."

"The difference being?" she asked.

"Pants are underwear." Spike climbed to his feet and sauntered up behind her. He paused only a few inches away and leaned down to murmur in her ear. "Like I said, I don't wear pants. Just trousers."

He felt her spine stiffen as he reached around her and grabbed the pair of jeans he'd tossed over the nearest pile of junk when he'd gone to bed. Her jaw flexed, and she faced the wall while he pulled them on. As soon as he'd pulled up the zipper, she turned around and shoved him, hard. He grinned, but decided not to tempt fate further. She was off balance, which was good. No point in putting her back in staking mood. "So, you dreamed about this Ethan bloke ... what's that got to do with anything?"

"Sometimes my dreams come true," she said. "And ... sometimes they give warnings."

"Great." Spike rolled his eyes. "Don't suppose you saw him breakin' this bloody spell?"

"No," she said. "But ... he gave me a warning. Something about the number three fourteen. Does that mean anything to you?"

"Not a thing," Spike said. "Was that all?"

"No," she said. "Willow was in it, and Tara. We were floating a rose. Then Ethan showed up and warned me, and—oh! And Giles turned into a demon. Then you were there and you said he was a ... crap ... a Fyarl demon? And that you spoke Fyarl, and Giles wanted me to help him."

Spike stared at her. She stared back.

"What?" she asked.

"In your dream I told you I speak Fyarl?"

"Yeah," she said. "Do you?"

"Yeah, as it happens, I do. How would you know that?"

Her face lit with excitement. "I don't! I mean, I didn't! I don't even know what a Fyarl demon is. What's a Fyarl demon?"

"Big scaly bruisers, no intelligence, spit mucus that turns into cement."

"Ew. Okay. Yuck. Whatever. But don't you get it? It must mean something. Maybe we're on the right track looking for Ethan."

Spike leaned back against the dryer and watched her pace. She was so worked up about this that he was almost starting to buy into her conviction. He still thought her reasoning was daft, but there was a chance she was right, too. What the hell did he know?

Fact was, Spike was stuck. He had no brilliant ideas of his own other than hammering it with reversal spells. Which wasn't even an idea he liked.Spike had learned over the last century that while magic had its uses, it also had consequences. Meddling with it was best left to the professionals, and dabblers like him had no business trying to do more than the basics. Much as he hated to admit it, he preferred the Slayer's method to problem solving: beat on it til it died.

So even though deep down he knew that if they did find this Ethan Rayne it wouldn't do them a lick of good, he was willing to go along with it. It was better than trying to remember how to read Latin. He hadn't lied, exactly; he could read it. It was just that he was a little rusty, and it gave him a headache. And the Watcher's books had to have been written in the dullest, thickest, most pedantic Latin ever committed to paper.

"All right, Slayer," he said. "Where do we look first?"


Several hours after sundown, Spike watched, amazed, as Buffy did it again.

He wasn't sure how she managed it. Normally people broke after disappointment upon disappointment, but not the Slayer. Instead, her shoulders got straighter, her spine stiffer, her jawline firmer. Fuck, even her tits looked perkier, as if every single dead end they'd reached had done nothing but reaffirm her convictions.

And they'd hit more than a few dead ends.

At first it'd been almost funny, the way they'd gone from hotel to B&B to motel to homeless shelter, searching through registration books and check-in sheets whenever they were available and finally, simply breaking into the rooms of the lowest dives where privacy came cheap, and for ready cash. At every stop they came up with big bloody zeros. There were no Ethans, no Raynes, no sorcerers or magicians holed up in cheap rooms, asleep amidst the evidence. Certainly no answers.

Yet Buffy continued, undaunted, and Spike followed—because he didn't have anything else to do. He smoked, and watched her, and idly thought about killing everything they came across. Oh, not really seriously—Spike was, when it came down to it, fairly practical for a vampire—but all those sleeping people sometimes made his mouth water. Still, there was the truce and the possibility that drinking the blood of any of the affected might affect him. As it turned out, Spike had lines he wouldn't cross—much to his private, and rather self-mocking, amusement.

He really was, he thought, a wanker. Hell, Sunnydale was a feast fit for a vampire—but deep down he still remembered the old stories his mother used to tell him. Stories about a tree and a fruit, or a banquet in a seemingly abandoned castle, or the garden just over the witch's wall—all it took was a taste, and you were doomed. Spike believed firmly in living dangerously, but if he was going down it would be with fists flying and blood on his fangs, not caught out by an unspoken rule and temptingly juicy bait.

Speaking of tempting and juicy—the Slayer stalked a few feet ahead of him, arms swinging and heels pounding on the pavement as if she could will Ethan Rayne out of thin air. She wasn't used to being thwarted, he thought, the corner of his mouth twisting up. Spike knew all about being thwarted. He lived in a state of perpetual thwart, after all. Or at least he had ever since he'd first slammed into Sunnydale two years before. Maybe this was her secret. Maybe she always won because she was just so bloody determined.

Determination, after all, was what the heroes had in the stories. It tipped the scales, won the hero the prize: the magic bird, the golden egg, the beautiful princess. Prince. Whatever.

Well, Spike didn't believe in fairytales, really. Oh, once he had. There was a time when he'd eaten up all that rot about the triumph of true love and good over evil. But that was before he'd become the monster in the story and found out the truth: there were no happy endings for monsters or heroes. The good guy didn't always win the heart of the fair maiden; more often than not the monsters ate the good guy, and heroes ... well, he'd done in his fair share of those as well. So this Slayer had a better track record than most; that only meant that her end would be more glorious than most, and Spike was making reservations for a ringside seat to the event.

Still, he had to admire her—on a strictly inimical level, of course. The girl had a real "can-do" attitude. She'd never go down without a fight.

"This is the place," she announced, staring up at the flickering Sunnydale Motor Inn sign.

"What makes you so certain?"

"Because it's just oozing sleaze," Buffy said. "Definitely Ethan's kind of place."

"It's oozing something," Spike agreed, deciding he didn't really need to breathe while they were inside.

The office door opened on squeaky hinges to reveal a tiny lobby. The check-in desk was surrounded by bulletproof glass, with a slot barely big enough to slide some cash through. Buffy kicked down the flimsy door in the back, while Spike lurked in the front. Unlike some of the other places, the Sunnydale Motor Inn's lobby had no chairs or little coffee tables, just peeling wallpaper and grubby linoleum. A nearly empty rack of brochures advertising the town's most popular tourist locations—if you wanted to call the mall and Sun Cinema "tourist locations"—hid in one corner beneath a bulletin board advertising local events. Apparently the big draw at the mo' was some band called Shythat'd be playing at the Bronze for the next couple of weeks.

Los Angeles it was not.

He leaned on the countertop and watched through the glass while the Slayer pulled out the registrar and ran a finger down the most recent entries. Spike could just make out the sleeping desk clerk beyond her, slumped on the floor.

"I didn't know so many people were named John Smith," Buffy said dryly. "They could have a convention."

"Doesn't really look like the sort of place where they care much about names," Spike said. "We goin' door to door, then?"

She sighed. "Guess so. There's only thirty rooms and according to this, only ten of them are occupied. Shouldn't take too long. Let me just write down the room numbers."

"Don't bother." The less time spent in this dump, the better. "Come on."

She frowned but came back out from around the counter. "We still need to check the rooms."

"Yeah, I know. We're just gonna speed things up a bit."


"Watch and learn, Slayer," he said, and led her back out to the sidewalk that ran the length of the building.

He didn't even really have to use his nose. The walls and windows were so thin and flimsy he could pick out the heartbeats of the occupants without much trouble at all. Which ended up being lucky for them, as it turned out that the desk registrar hadn't been entirely accurate as to how many and which rooms were occupied.

When they reached the end of the last row of rooms, Spike paused beside the door. He frowned.

There was a maid's cart parked outside of the room, and he could clearly hear a heartbeat inside. Probably she'd fallen asleep while doing her nightly rounds, but something felt off to him. He inhaled.



"So, anyone in there?" The Slayer had caught up with him, and now she was moving toward the door.

Spike caught her wrist.

"Back off." Her scowl reminded him who she was and what it was she did—whatever lay in wait on the other side of the grimy motel room door wouldn't be anything she hadn't seen before. He released her, wondering where the impulse to stop her had come from in the first place. It wasn't as if he cared what she saw.

He nodded to answer her question, not trusting himself to speak. Now that he was aware of it, the scent of blood hung thick and strong. He flexed his jaw, willing his face not to shift into his demonic visage. Last thing he needed right now was for the Slayer to use him as a scapegoat for whatever grisly scene she was about to discover. Spike watched her hand turn the knob hard, breaking the lock. The deadbolt had been fastened as well so she kicked down through the flimsy wood. And behind door number five hundred and three—

Bloody hell.

Spike stopped breathing.

"Oh, god, what's that smell?" Buffy covered her nose with her hand.

Spike reached inside and flicked on the lights. He half expected her to scream. She didn't. After all, she was the Slayer. This was her bread and butter.

Spike took in the scene at a glance. It wasn't altogether unusual, really. He'd seen its like before. Hell, he'd done it's like before.

The maid was tied spread-eagle to the bed. Her uniform had been split down the middle and hung on either side of her like torn gift-wrap. Her underwear and bra had been flung away like ribbons to drape over the lamp. There was blood—not the crimson soaked room of his dreams but an amateurs' attempt at it—painting the walls and soaking into the threadbare carpet and dingy sheets.

A male vampire sprawled beside the girl, his trousers round his knees. What he'd done to her was clear. Just as clear were that, first, she hadn't been willing, and second, he hadn't much cared. Her entire body was covered in partially healed bite marks. Yet in the midst of a waking nightmare, the girl was sleeping peacefully.

The tableau on the bed was the room's showpiece, but hardly the only horror on display. A female vampire slumped at the foot of the bed near the corpse of another young woman. The remains of the human's clothing showed that they'd likely picked her up while out partying. The maid, it seemed, had been dessert. Like the garbage and the food in town, the corpse hadn't decayed—she'd probably only died a few hours before the spell had kicked in.

Dispassionately Spike took in the heavy blackout blinds that had been nailed down, the stuff in the corners of the room. This pair had started to nest here. Prime hunting grounds, really. It was close to the highway, so it was easy enough to pick up prey, easy to tap that steady stream of room service—it had more than a few risks, but not a bad set up, all in all. He'd never much cared for this way of hunting, though. Angelus had used something similar during those first few weeks after Spike had been turned, so he'd practically been raised on it. Of course, it'd been a much nicer hotel back then, though all the fancy décor of the old days paled in comparison to cable and pay-per-view porn.

"God," Buffy breathed.

Spike glanced at her, then gave her his full attention. Her eyes were hugely wide, horror-struck, but her face was impassive. As he watched, he could almost see the girl slipping away to be replaced by the Slayer. When her jaw clenched, Spike took a step back; no sense putting himself in her path. There was a stake in her hand; Spike had no earthly idea where she'd been keeping it, but he disliked the implications behind its appearance.

She moved toward the bed, her knuckles white on the stake.

Abruptly he realized that he was in a dangerous situation. This could have been him. Had he come back to Sunnydale a little earlier and been caught in the spell and had the Slayer woken up on her own accord—it could have been him sleeping the sleep of the conscience-free while she played Judge, Jury, Executioner on his undead ass. These vamps wouldn't run; they wouldn't fight. They'd never even know what hit them. In a few moments they'd be nothing but dust.

But it wasn't like the Slayer was going to give them a pass simply because they were asleep. She'd never suffer them to continue existing, not with the evidence of their monstrosity spread out so graphically before her, and clearly she didn't have any moral qualms about taking them out when they were down. Righteous fury practically radiated off her, and Spike knew that if he even thought about getting in her way, she'd take him down, too. And she'd have good reason. Hell, he'd done worse than this more times than he could count over the past hundred and some years.

So, while Spike the vampire had the willies watching her prepare to stake these vamps, Spike the survivor took over. There was a wood-handled broom on the cleaning cart, and it only took him a minute to snap off the shaft into a long makeshift stake. When he went back inside, the Slayer had already taken care of the vamp on the bed and was now undoing the bonds on the girl's wrists and ankles. Which left the other two to him.

He staked the female vamp, then examined the corpse. There were bite marks on the neck, wrists and thighs of the girl. Spike tended to be more of an eat-and-run kinda guy, but he'd been with Drusilla for long enough to know what this pattern meant. These two vamps had liked to play with their food. And there was a good chance, like Dru, they liked to turn them after they were done playing. The corpse was too fresh to tell if it had been turned, but the lack of lividity and the way she'd been laid out made him think it had. He pried open the mouth. There were smears of blood on the teeth. He wiped a bit off and sniffed at it.

"What the hell are you doing?" Buffy said.

"They turned her," he explained. Her face twisted with some emotion he couldn't name, but she raised her stake. "Can't stake her," he said. "Not yet. Process isn't complete so you'll just make a hole in the body that'll patch right back up when it's done."

"So ... we just leave her here? I don't think so."

"No," Spike said. He went over to the window and started pulling at the blackout shades. They tore down the middle, and he ripped the remains off. Then he shoved the curtains wide. Buffy continued to frown at him as he went back over to the corpse and picked it up. He laid it down on the floor where the sunlight would hit it when the sun rose again, then he grabbed his broom handle stake and shoved it through the corpse's heart and into the floor beneath. As he'd told Buffy, nothing happened. "Leave it like that," he said. "When we break the spell and it finishes the transformation, it'll dust. On the off chance I missed, the sun will take care of it."

"You've done this before?" Buffy said. He glanced at her.

"Couple of times," Spike admitted. He had no intention of telling her that the reason he had experience was because Dru developed a habit of turning her meals when she'd gotten sick, and the last thing Spike wanted was a long line of minions trailing after them through Europe like bloodthirsty baby ducks.

He glanced over at the victim on the bed. Buffy had untied her and somehow wrapped her in a robe likely taken from the female vamp's wardrobe. She'd wake up disoriented and probably in pain, and undoubtedly with some horrific memories, but Spike supposed it was possible that she'd dismiss the whole thing as a nightmare. At least until she took a gander at the room she was in.

Buffy went to her and stroked her blood-matted hair back from her face. Then she bent and lifted the woman in her arms.

"What are you gonna do with her? Take her on honeymoon?" Spike asked.

"Take her to the hospital," Buffy said. "She'll need help when she wakes up, and I'm not leaving her here."

Spike shrugged. No skin off his teeth if she wanted to haul the woman across town; at least her arms would be too occupied for her to try to stake him.

He stayed slightly behind her for the first few blocks, watching with concealed amusement as the Slayer had to stop every so often to hitch the woman up in her arms again. The problem wasn't weight, it was size: the Slayer was just a petite thing and the woman she carried was taller. It made the whole process awkward, and he could see that Buffy was rapidly tiring.

A gentleman would offer to carry her burden for her. Luckily, Spike was no gentleman.

He was, however, pragmatic. So he let her lug the body a couple of extra blocks, then caught up and stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. "Hand over," he said.

Buffy's eyebrows shot up. "You think I'm just going to hand you a wounded and defenseless human? Wow, you really are dumber than you look—which is kind of impressive, cause you don't exactly look like Brainiac." She moved to step around him. He got in her way again.

"Fun as this isn't," Spike said, "you're gonna drop her. So give over, Slayer, unless you really want to see what human brains look like when you crack open their melons on the sidewalk?"

"Oh, there's a convincing argument from the serial killer," she said, glaring. "Dream on, Spike."

God, she was a stubborn bitch. What? Did she think he was going to scoop up the baggage and feed right in front of her? "We have a truce, remember? No tasting the townies. I promised, and I mean to keep it," he said.

"Like you kept it about not stealing, Mr. Spare Change?"

"We really gonna go round on something you can't prove, pet? Cause there's an iced caramel mocha and a few sandwich wrappers that say you've lost your moral high ground."

Really, he shouldn't bait her after what she'd just been through. He knew it. But it was just so fun. Her back stiffened further, and she deliberately stepped around him. This time he let her. He didn't really want to carry the woman anyway.


Her arms and back ached by the time she set the woman down in an empty hospital bed. Super strength was great and all, but it wasn't inexhaustible. Still, she wasn't going to leave the poor woman in that hotel room of horrors, not when she'd clearly been through more than enough. It was probably a good thing she didn't have to worry about the woman waking up—all that jostling Buffy'd done had inadvertently reopened some of the bite marks. Blood seeped through the robe in a couple of places.

Buffy swallowed. There were some things you got used to, being the Slayer: the constant danger, the inevitable personal injuries, the secrets and lies ... but she'd never gotten used to the human casualties. She was the rescuer, and it killed her when she couldn't get there in time. If it hadn't been for this spell, in fact, this woman would be dead or worse. Buffy might have met her some night in a graveyard and staked her, never knowing the gruesome way she'd met her fate.

And this was beyond gruesome. The things they'd done to this woman ... probably to other victims as well. There'd been more blood in that hotel room than two victims alone could have shed. This wasn't just a quick dine and ditch in a dark alley. Those vamps had played with their food in the most sickening ways.

Gently, she brushed the woman's hair back from her forehead. It was matted with blood and ... Buffy really didn't want to think of what else. She should clean her up a little, before she left. At least put something on the worst of the bites.

When she turned around, Spike was hovering in the doorway, a strange look on his face. Looking at him pissed her off all over again. She should stake him, spell be damned. He was just as much a monster as the two they'd dusted back there. Maybe even more. What he'd said the other night about how often he usually fed came back to her.

"How old are you?" she asked, suddenly, realizing she had no clue. She knew he wasn't as old as Angel ... but Angel hadn't eaten anyone for a hundred years. Spike was probably older than that.

He shifted, the weird look on his face turning into wariness.

"Old enough."

"How old, Spike? When were you ...?"

He rolled his head back and flexed his jaw, but he looked like he was thinking. "Eighteen eighty, I think."

"You think?"

"You live to be a hundred and twenty or so and try telling me what year you became the Slayer," he said, his eyes sharp. "Gets a bit blurry after awhile. But that's not what you really wanted to know, is it?" He tilted his head to the side and studied her. Then his gaze swept over the woman in the bed. "You want to know if I've ever done something like that. Yeah. I have. Spent the first few weeks of my unlife holed up in a hotel with Dru and Darla and Angel. We'd lure prey back, play with them a bit, feed. Pick the right place, and you could set up shop for a couple of months before anyone caught on—if you were careful about getting rid of the bodies. Angel taught me that."

Buffy's fists ached from clenching them tightly, and she turned away from Spike's mocking gaze. She didn't want to know this, did she? Didn't want to know what he'd learned from Angelus. It wasn't fair of him to bring Angel into this ... and at the same time there was no denying that Angel had been part of Spike's life far longer than he'd been part of Buffy's. But when someone had changed as profoundly as Angel, it didn't seem right to bring up their past transgressions. He wasn't the same person anymore.

When she looked up to tell Spike that, though, he was gone.

Frowning, Buffy moved toward the door. There was no Spike in the hallway, and when she moved back toward the admittance area, no Spike there, either. Her vamp sense had picked a nice moment to not work, as well, so she wasn't sure which way he'd gone. If he was raiding the blood supply, she was really going to stake him this time. Whirling, Buffy turned back down the hall, ready to head for the blood lab, and ran face first into Spike's chest.

"Ow," she said. He caught her upper arm in one hand and steadied her.

"What's the rush?" he asked, puzzled.

"Where'd you go?"

"Thought you'd want these," he said, and held up a bottle of antiseptic and some bandages.

"You're ... being helpful?" Buffy asked, weirded beyond words.

Spike gave her one of those looks that plainly told her he thought she was stupid.

"Yeah, just don't tell the other vamps. Ruin my street cred and all that." His voice dripped sarcasm. He handed her the medical supplies, then sauntered down the hall toward the waiting room. "I'll just be watching the telly. Hurry it up, Slayer. Haven't got all night."


When she finished cleaning and bandaging the worst of the bites as best as she could, Buffy straightened and stretched. Working on the woman had increased her annoyance level with Spike, and she wasn't looking forward to going back out there and dealing with him and his mood shifts. After checking to be sure the woman looked comfortable, Buffy headed deeper into the hospital.

Her feet led her up a couple of flights and down a familiar hallway. She came here, sometimes, when she needed to think, or adjust, or ... remind herself. Tonight had unbalanced her in so many ways. The door to the room was open, the lights low. Only the beeping of machines beside the bed indicated that the still figure in it was alive. While Buffy still didn't know who'd cast the spell on Sunnydale, she knew exactly who had put Faith into her unnatural sleep.

She had.

Buffy sank down in the chair beside the bed and regarded the pale face of her former friend and enemy. Her eyelids were purple with bruises instead of dark makeup, and her lips drained of color. Faith would have been horrified to be caught without her usual oil slick of lipstick. Someone had brushed out her hair so it lay neatly against the pillow. She'd been here now for more than six months.

Who knew if she'd ever wake up?

"Who's this, then?"

Startled, Buffy turned around to see Spike in the doorway. He came in and stood beside her, looking down at the sleeping figure.

"A ... friend," Buffy said. No way was she telling Spike that Faith was another Slayer.

Then she frowned. If Spike had been able to wake her because he was a vampire and she was the Slayer, did that mean that he might be able to wake Faith, too?

"Coma?" he asked.

"Yeah," she said, turning the idea around in her head. She was desperate for help, any kind of help, really. But the last time she'd spoken to Faith they'd been fighting to the death. Faith had tried to kill Angel, and Buffy had been determined to use Faith's blood to cure him. She'd stabbed Faith …

It wasn't exactly the best basis for a working relationship. There was every chance that the minute she woke up, she'd want to pick up the fight right where it had left off. Faith was unstable, unreliable, unpredictable, uncontrollable, and untrustworthy. Too many 'un's.

So, she could have Spike try to wake up Faith or ...

"We should go," she said, standing. "There's still a couple of places on our list to hit before sunrise."

Spike looked like he wanted to ask her another question, but instead he shut his mouth and nodded. She let him leave first, then turned back once more to look at Faith.

"Sweet dreams," she said softly, and shut the door behind her.

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