Buffy gave the chains wrapped around the furnace another tug. Scurvy sat on the camp cot, its feet swinging. It seemed unbothered by the manacles on each wrist. One hand patted the blankets, the other held a plain pillow to its chest.
Dawn clomped down the stairs and set down a big plastic jug of water and some snacks on the rickety TV tray next to the cot.
“Can you reach?” she asked. Scurvy nodded. She yawned widely. “See you in the morning. Sleep tight.”
“Night, Dawnie.” Buffy watched her sister clomp back up the stairs. “Are you gonna be okay?” she asked Scurvy. “You shouldn't get cold down here next to the furnace. You can lie down and stuff, right?”
It didn't answer. She looked back to see Scurvy staring at the TV tray with wide eyes.
“Is it true? Are those...Mint Milanos?”
Buffy looked at the package of cookies.
“Um, yes? Is that a problem?”
It reached a trembling hand toward the package. “I never dreamed...”
“Okay. Look, I've gotta go get Spike. Have fun.” She winced. She was really going about this hostage situation all wrong. Have fun. Geez. She headed up the stairs.
“Spike didn't call did he?” she asked while she dug through the weapons chest in the living room.
“Nada from Spike,” said Willow.
He'd been gone almost two and a half hours now. Not good.
“You've got the address, right? In case there's a problem?”
“Yep. Oh, weapons! Tara had some ideas about that.”
Buffy looked up from her rummaging.
Tara nodded and joined her by the chest.
“After the fight in the hospital, I did a sort of magical scan of your arsenal. There's some stuff in here with some extra juice. It might be helpful. Like this.” She held up a glowing yellow sphere the size of a grapefruit.
“That's the thingie that poor dead monk left for me when he told me how to find the key. It sure didn't do him much good.”
Tara shrugged. Buffy sighed, loaded up a few choice weapons, and went to find her vampire.
He'd had better nights. In fact, he was attempting to catalog the best ones at the moment. Put them in order. There was that one time he'd talked Angel into... He felt a sharp smack across his cheek.
He blinked at Glory.
“Rude,” she said. “I'm trying to figure you out, and you're not helping, Soul Boy.”
“Thought you bints liked a man to leave a little mystery in the relationship,” said Spike, trying not to slur his words. “Read all about it in Cosmo.”
“We don't have a relationship!” snarled Glory, stamping her foot.
He looked up at the chains from which he dangled.
“Hope you don't think I'd play these sorts of games with just anyone. I'm not that kind of guy.”
She growled at him. He laughed, high and manic. An odd gurgling sound issued from his chest. The gem was healing him, but slower than he'd like and faster than Glory could understand.
She stepped back. He braced himself for another round of literal poke and punch.
Scurvy cradled the unopened package of Mint Milanos to its chest. Not much time had passed since the Slayer's departure, but the house had quieted almost immediately. It looked at the ceiling, then nodded. It held its manacles before it and closed its eyes. Its arms blurred for a moment with an intense vibration, and the manacles fell noiselessly onto the cot.
Scurvy hopped from the cot onto the concrete floor. It found its plastic shopping bag of clothes and lovingly laid the package of Mint Milanos on top of the other items there: clothes, water bottle, playing cards. It grabbed the handles and crept up the basement stairs and out of the house.
Buffy stopped near the top of the fancy apartment building's stairway. A couple of the monkish minions were going in a door down the hall.
“The hell?” she muttered.
She was about to follow when she heard a loud cry from behind another door. It opened, and the sound got louder, before dying away into a groan. Another minion, carrying a tall stack of colorful boxes, came out. It tried to close the door with its foot, but after a couple of fruitless attempts it shrugged and walked away, leaving the door ajar. When the little demon was gone, Buffy approached the door.
She preferred a direct attack, but painful experience had taught her to be cautious when Glory was in the mix.
“You know, I think I'm going about this all wrong,” she heard Glory say. “I have two questions for you. One: why aren't you dusting like a garden variety vampire? Two: where's my key?” She sighed. “I've spent too much time wondering why you're different, when answer to that is simple: who cares?” At that, the awful cry began again.
Buffy felt the blood run from her face. Glory was here. Right here and the bitch had Spike. Was hurting Spike. There wasn't any more time. She unsheathed her blessed sword and resettled her bag across her chest, bandolier style. Tara thought these things might help, and she wasn't going to leave behind anything that might give her an edge.
She burst into the room, sword at the ready. A couple of minions looked up in surprise from the Victoria's Secret bags they were sorting through. Spike was strung up on one side of the room, Glory before him. When Glory turned toward the disturbance there was a squelching sound and she shook her fingers with distaste. Buffy forced herself to ignore Spike, and focused entirely on Glory.
“Oh goody! I was hoping you'd stop by. I'm getting nowhere with the second string over here,” Glory said, pointing over her shoulder at Spike with her thumb. “Best to go straight to the source, right Slayer? Just us girls?” She walked straight at Buffy, paying no attention to the sword.
Buffy swung. The sword bounced off Glory's arm.
“Hey! That stings!”
Buffy slashed at her neck. Glory threw up a hand, blocking. A puff of her hair flew into the air, and a thin red line appeared on her palm.
“Did you just mess with my hair?” Glory asked, incredulous. “I wanted to do this the nice way, but forget it!”
She rushed forward and grabbed Buffy neck in one hand, while backing her across the room. Buffy's back hit a wall, and the sword was knocked from her grip.
“Where's my key?” Glory hissed into Buffy's face. Buffy kicked out, to no avail.
“She can't answer you if her throat's crushed,” said Spike in a flat tone from where he hung across the room.
“Fine,” said Glory. The pressure reduced marginally.
“Is this it?” croaked Buffy. She felt around in her bag until her fingers closed around the Dagon Sphere. Glory looked down. Buffy thrust the sphere into Glory's chest with all her might. Glory let go of her neck with a cry. The sphere clung to her body. She tried to bat it away, but could not control her body. She began to shake and then fell to the floor, spasming. Buffy bent to pick up the fallen sword.
When she turned back, Glory was gone.
A very disheveled Ben lay on the floor, wearing a kimono. He blinked up at Buffy.
“Oh my god! Are you okay?” asked Buffy. “Did she hurt you?”
He shook his head. Satisfied, Buffy ran to Spike. He was a mess. There were wounds all over his chest, arms, face, and scalp. The ones she could see were scabbing over, but still looked like a whole lot of no fun. A few bones didn't look right, either.
“Oh, baby. When I catch that woman, she's going to be a lot more than sorry,” said Buffy. “I'll get you down from there as soon as I find a chair.”
Even with his swollen face, his brows were extremely mobile. They climbed right up to his bloodied hairline.
“Don't worry about me, pet. Finish the job.”
“I would, but she's gone. I'm so sorry, Spike.” She dragged a bench over and climbed up to get at the chains suspending him.
“Buffy. You saw the hell-bitch turn into the doctor, right?”
“I'm just glad she didn't hurt anybody else. Even Ben seems okay. I wonder how she found him?”
“Buffy,” Spike said, sounding exhausted.
Buffy broke the chains and jumped down to catch Spike before he collapsed.
He was draped heavily over her shoulder. He spoke to her quietly. “Buffy. I'm going to say this one more time. Ben is Glory. They are one and the same. Identical cousins. Do you get it?”
She looked up at him and ghosted her palm down his face, careful not to touch anything that might be sore. “I'll help Ben once I'm sure you're going to be okay.” Spike sighed.
Ben was struggling to sit against the wall. Buffy noticed that there were a lot more minions in the room than there had been. They didn't look friendly. They were starting to crowd around Ben, but they were looking at Spike. Spike attempted to stand on his own, but gave up and sat on the bench. Buffy sat beside him.
From the door, a high voice rang out.
“Friends! Faithful servitors! Observe. I have brought a remarkable gift for the humble attendants of the most glistening one.” Scurvy stood in the doorway, dressed in its new clothes, brandishing its shopping bag. The other minions turned to look.
“My chaining skills are not what I thought,” said Buffy.
“Slayer. Lend me your sword,” said Spike. She passed it to him.
“Behold! I bestow the unimaginable. I freely give to you the Mint Milanos!” Scurvy held the cookie package aloft. The minions made a sound of awe. One of them walked hesitantly up to Scurvy who handed it a half of a cookie. It took the cookie with exquisite care. It looked at Scurvy, who smiled and nodded. Finally, it took the smallest possible bite. Its eyes grew large and a smile spread across its scabby face.
“It is a miracle!” it cried.
The rest of the minions crowded around Scurvy. Buffy thought it was sort of cute. She would have told Spike, but he was no longer beside her. He was all the way across the room, leaning on her sword like a cane. Ben looked up as Spike halted beside him. Spike lifted the sword. Ben began to scramble away. Before Buffy understood what was happening, Spike swung the sword. She vaulted from her seat, but was unable to do anything but watch the scene play out as if in slow motion.
The sword swung true. It went through Ben's neck, completely severing it, stuck in the wall and vibrated there. Ben's head tumbled one way and Spike tumbled the other. The minions fell silent. They looked at the body of the doctor and then at their cookies. Shock and guilt were etched across every spotty face, except for Scurvy's.
Buffy skidded to Ben's side, but it was far too late. Even while she was moving across the room, her understanding of the situation changed.
She turned to Spike, who was huddled and trembling on the floor. She laid a hand on his shoulder. He flinched.
“Ben was Glory,” she said. He nodded.
“You were the only one who could see it,” she said. He shrugged.
“I'm sorry,” she said. He turned tear-filled eyes to her.
“Swore I'd protect them,” he whispered.
“You did,” she said. “Let's get you home.”
It took awhile. Scurvy wanted all the minions to know from where the Mint Milano bounty had come. It insisted that Buffy was more golden, gleaming, and a few other flowery words than anyone else, who remained nameless.
Finally, she set them the task of cleaning up the apartment and disposing of the body. They were weirdly unsurprised at that last request. She promised she'd be back at some undefined “later” to figure out the next moves. Scurvy and one of its pals helped to get Spike to Joyce's Jeep. They pulled up to Spike's place a little before sunrise. She got him settled, supplied with blood, and finally he drifted off to sleep.
She left a note and promised to be back soon, after she'd taken care of things with her mom.
The day went by in a unreal haze. Partly it was sleep deprivation, partly it was the sudden lack of threats to her family. She hardly knew how to act. She and Dawn visited Joyce, who did seem to be doing quite well. The hospital wanted to keep her for another day or two, though, so other than bringing her magazines and hanging out making fun of daytime TV, there wasn't much that needed doing. While she was there, Buffy checked in with Rhonda, who agreed that she definitely shouldn't do another bloodmobile shift until her mom was home.
She didn't get around to telling anyone that the Glory threat was over. She still needed to get used to the idea. It was going to be hard to explain to people that her boyfriend had saved the day, through, well, she supposed the kindest word was assassination.
She asked Willow and Tara if they could pull Dawn duty one more night, with bonus Chinese takeout. They were happy to oblige and at last Buffy was free to go tend to her fella.
He was a wreck. Not so much physically. The Gem of Amara had done its work and he'd mostly healed up. But he could barely look at her. He sat and stared at the big family painting hanging over his mantle. She poured him a whiskey the way he liked it. He thanked her but it went untouched.
Finally she crawled into his lap and held his head so that he couldn't look away.
“I'm worried about you.”
He scoffed. “Needn't worry. I'm a tough old thing. Don't trouble yourself.”
“It's not trouble. It's...I'm proud of you. I know it hurt, but you did it to save us — us Summers' — from something truly terrible.”
“Yeah?” his eyes searched hers. She guessed he was looking for any sign that she didn't really mean it.
“Yeah. And there's something else. I love you.”
He looked at her with shining eyes. She could see that he wanted to believe her.
“You're my man. Full stop. Buffy's guy. Accept no substitutes.”
He almost smiled and shook his head. “Don't deserve you, pet.”
“It's not about deserving, silly. It's about being good together. It's about how you make me feel.”
He tightened his arms around her waist. “How's that then?”
“Now you're just fishing.” She tried to look stern.
His smile grew more genuine. “Might be.” He sobered. “Didn't think I could ever be this lucky, after the things I've done. You're ... nobody could begin to match you, Buffy.”
She nodded solemnly. “You are correct. One more thing. Ready?”
“I think we've taken it slow long enough. Don't you?”
He blinked. She smiled, slow and sweet as she could.
“Bloody hell,” he breathed. She leaned down to press her lips to his. He kissed her back, desperately. She rolled her hips against his.
He abruptly stood, cradling her in his arms, and carried her to his bedroom, never breaking the kiss.
“Wow,” said Buffy.
“Wow doesn't begin to cover it, love,” said Spike.
“Double wow?” she tried.
“Think we'd need to go an order of magnitude greater than that.” Spike gathered her close and stroked her hair, a rumbling coming from his chest that was more comforting and contented sounding than a growl. She'd heard him growl, and not that long ago, either. This wasn't that.
“You even sound happy,” she said.
“Am. Don't remember when I felt this free. Got my girl here with me, and I don't need a damn thing more.”
“Hmmmm,” said Buffy, snuggling deeper into his arms. “Not until breakfast, anyway.”
“Even then. Having you for breakfast, sweetheart. If I can wait that long. You'd make a glorious midnight snack.”
Buffy giggled. Something was pinging at the back of her mind, but she felt so taffy-like that it was hard to zero in on anything specific. She let her mind drift and it finally ran aground on the word “glorious”.
She didn't want to say anything. He'd been distraught and they'd finally managed to chase away his horror at what he'd had to do. But that was just temporary. He'd have to face it once the afterglow wore off, and he should know he wasn't alone in this. She sat up and took his hand in hers.
“Spike, I'm sorry to bring this up, but you can talk to me about stuff. I know it must be awful to live with doing ... what you did. But you had good reasons, and you saved Dawn, so I'll never be anything but grateful.”
The rumbling stopped.
“You mean offing the good doctor? Had to happen, sweetheart. It won't trouble me none.”
“Okay. But you were so upset, before.”
“That was before. Can't think now why it should've bothered me in the least. Meanwhile, I've got a hot li'l Slayer in my bed that needs a proper seeing-to.”
He dove under the covers, planting sloppy kisses everywhere he could reach, while Buffy wriggled and gasped with laughter. She took hold of his hair and hauled him up to face her, smiling widely.
“You already saw to me, you beast!”
“Just beginning, sweet. God! I should have known that nothing would be better than bedding the Slayer.”
Buffy stopped laughing. “The Slayer?”
“You, Buffy. You.” He took her face in his hands. “You're the best thing that's ever happened to me. Can't get enough of you.” He kissed her softly, until she relaxed.
“Never get enough,” he reiterated. The kiss became ardent.
As Buffy sank into the sensation, she couldn't help but think that everything had changed.
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