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Cuddling with the Darkness by slaymesoftly
Chapter 5 and 6
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“Are you going to pout all night?” Buffy asked as they walked into her house. “’Cause that’s not going to be very helpful, you know.”
There was an almost inaudible sigh from the cage, then a small squeak that sounded almost apologetic.
“Did you just say ‘sorry’?” There was no answer, but she thought he probably had nodded. “Okay, then. I’m sorry it looks like a cage, but there’s no actual door on it, and I wouldn’t lock it if there was, and you’re a lot safer there than you would be on my shoulder. I think it’s a good idea until you can fly again.”
There was no reply to that either, as Joyce walked out of the kitchen to greet them.
“Is that Spike? Why is he locked in a cage?”
“It is. And he isn’t locked in a cage, he’s just sitting in something that makes it easier to carry him while he can’t fly. It’s for his own protection.” Buffy didn’t need to translate the sounds coming from the cage, but growled back at him. “It is for you. Quit being such a baby about it.”
She set the box down on the coffee table and watched as Spike maneuvered his way out of the opening and onto the table.  He glanced up at Joyce and emitted a string of squeaks that had her asking Buffy, “What is he saying?”
“Um… I’m going to go with ‘hello’,” she said. “Since I can’t patrol for at least another day, we’re going to work on teaching me enough bat language that Spike will be able to communicate with me while we’re patrolling together.”
“Is he going to stay a bat?” Joyce peered closely at the furry little creature that looked nothing like the vampire she thought she knew. Except for the bright blue eyes that met hers with a surprising amount of warmth.
Buffy glanced at Spike and shrugged. “We don’t know. Giles and Willow and Tara are working on a way to break the spell, or lift the curse, or whatever it is that Drac did to him. And Spike’s going to work on trying to control it. Giles thinks maybe he will be able to change when he wants to if he can figure out how to do it.”
“So, he’s stuck like this?” Joyce stared at Spike with sympathy, but showed no inclination to pet him as Buffy was doing.
“Only at night. When the sun comes up, he’s himself again. I guess while we’re both too beat up to fight, we’re going to spend our time teaching me bat – or Spike’s version of bat, anyway. And maybe trying to figure out a way to teach him to control the change.”
By the time they’d had dinner and Joyce had relaxed enough to be comfortable around the little furry creature now sitting on Buffy’s shoulder again, they were all sitting in the living room and listening to Spike’s attempts to communicate. She’d handed Buffy a paper and pen, saying, “Why don’t you write down what you already know? That way, you’ll be able to study when Spike’s not around.”
After some time spent watching them getting steadily more frustrated as Spike tried to teach Buffy more complicated things than just “duck!” and “sorry”,  Joyce put a hand to her head. “I think this is giving me a headache,” she said. “I’m going to go to bed now.  Will you and Spike be staying here tonight?”
Remembering Spike’s lack of attire when changing back, Buffy smothered a laugh and said, “No, I have to take him back to his crypt before he changes back. If it’s not too late, I’ll come home, but if it is, I’ll probably just crash on his couch again. We need to work together tomorrow too, so we can work out a system while we’re both able to talk.”
“Well, he’s welcome to stay here,” Joyce said. “The basement will be nice and dark in the daytime, and then you won’t have to worry about food.”
“Spike’s food is in his crypt, Mom. He drinks blood, remember?” Seeing the expression on her mother’s face, Buffy sighed. “But, okay. I’ll just take him home and come back here. We can work in his crypt tomorrow.”
Wearing a more satisfied expression, Joyce wished them both a good evening studying bat, and took herself upstairs to bed.
“I guess she still doesn’t want me sleeping in your crypt, even when you’re just a cute little bat. I wonder what she’s so worried about? Are you rolling your eyes at me?”
Bat-Spike just nuzzled her neck until she realized how much she was enjoying it and pushed him away gently. “Okay, fine. I get it. She doesn’t want me waking up with a naked vampire in the room. But you’re a bat right now. And bats can’t… I mean you wouldn’t….” She paused, remembering his squeak when she’d put her finger under the lower part of his bandage. “Oh!” She blushed and looked away from him.  “Please tell me I didn’t accidentally touch anything I shouldn’t have!”
Spike gave a series of very different sounding squeaks, which she soon realized was laughter.
“I did? No. I would have noticed. I didn’t touch any…. did I?”
He stopped laughing long enough to shake his head.
“Are you sure I didn’t?”  He stared at her until she giggled and looked away. “Yeah, I guess you’d have noticed, huh?
He gave a very un-bat-like snort of agreement.
“So, what was the problem? Don’t you like it when I pet you? I mean, it seems like you do sometimes, and it calms you down, but then other times….” She exhaled in frustration. “I guess this is one of those conversations we need to have when you can talk, huh?”
He nodded again, moving closer to her neck and face. He began nuzzling her again, licking her earlobe with his tiny tongue, and breathing softly against her skin. Buffy caught herself relaxing into what he was doing, even as she felt it all the way down to body parts she hadn’t expected.  With a start, she realized that the furry little creature at her neck was turning her on, and she gasped. At the sound of her sudden inhalation, Spike stopped what he was doing and moved away from her neck and ear.
Buffy took another deep breath, then looked at him from the corners of her eyes. “Were you trying to tell me why you make me stop sometimes?” He nodded slowly, visibly wary of how she was going to react. He gave a tiny sigh of relief when she didn’t try to hide her embarrassment but expressed no anger.
“Okay. I get it. I’m sorry. It just never occurred to me that a bat might get turned on by being petted….” She thought back to when she’d been nuzzling into his belly before he’d bolted away. She gasped again. “Oh my god! The other night, I was… I didn’t mean to…. Okay. No more petting the cute little furry bat.  I promise.” She could feel the heat from her flushed face as the memory sank in.
Spike made a sound that could only be interpreted as a sad sigh. She thought about how much she enjoyed petting his soft fur, and how much he seemed to enjoy it, almost purring at times.
“Maybe… If I just stick to petting your back, and you stick to just nodding yes or no against my chin, maybe we don’t have to stop the petting completely. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, but I… I kinda like doing it. I’ll miss it if I can’t pet you.”
His nod against her chin and accompanying soft chirps sounded like he was saying he’d miss it too.
“Okay then. That’s the plan. I’ll pet you more carefully, and you’ll let me know if I need to stop.” She sighed. “I think we made a lot of progress on language tonight. Maybe I should get you home. You can work on trying to control the change there, where if it works, you won’t be traumatizing my mother or sister.”
He nodded his agreement and waited for her to put him into the cage. She’d placed some crumpled fabric in it to give his claws something to hang on to, and to give him a softer place to sit. When he was all set, she picked up her sword and walked out into the night, neither of them giving a second thought to her comment about having a sister.
The walk to Restfield didn’t take long, and Buffy was soon pushing open the interior door and closing it behind her. She set Spike’s travel cage down on the top of a sarcophagus and watched as he climbed out and stretched his one good wing.
“I guess I don’t need to be here while you try to figure out how to change back and forth. Do you have any ideas about it?” 
He shook his head, his frustration visible.
“Well, think about how you felt when you knew you were about to be a bat again. Maybe, if you can remember what it felt like, you can make yourself feel like that again?  Like, right now, think about how you felt this morning before you woke up and were a vampire again. What were you doing or thinking about?”
Bat-Spike stared at her, his little blue eyes going wide with what could only be interpreted as panic.
“What? What were you thinking… or maybe dreaming… about?”
He shook his head as vigorously as he could without jostling his broken wing, but made no other attempt to try to explain.
“Fine. You can tell me tomorrow. It might be important, you know. Giles could probably help you figure it out—” 
An explosion of sound from Spike that sounded like a cross between bat laughter and vigorous denials did nothing to clear up the issue for Buffy, and she shrugged.
“Well, okay. If you don’t want me to help, I’ll just go home so mom doesn’t worry that you’re going to seduce me or something.”  As she spoke, Buffy was remembering how easily he’d turned her on by snuggling up to her neck, and she sent him a narrow-eyed glare.  “Just what were you dreaming about, Spike?”
He ignored her question, just going into his new little bed and curling up there. He refused to meet her eyes, doing nothing to dispel her suspicions about what he may have been dreaming when he regained his real body.
“We’re going to discuss this again tomorrow,” she said. The only response she got was a tiny bat-snore from his nest in the cage.
As it turned out, between helping her mom around the house and spending time with Riley, who had the day off, Buffy wasn’t able to get to Spike’s crypt while he was likely to still be able to have a conversation.
“Come on, I’ll drive you home before I go to work,” Riley said.
“That’s okay. I have to go by Restfield to check on Spike, so I’ll just walk home from there.”
“What’s to check? This whole business of becoming a bat every night is pretty shaky if you ask me. I mean, okay, Dracula is a real vampire. I believe that because I saw it with my own eyes, but the idea that he can change into a bat, never mind that he could curse Spike into becoming one is pretty hard to swallow. I think it’s just some kind of scheme on Spike’s part. Not sure what his game is exactly, or how he got a tame bat to pretend to be him, but I don’t believe it’s possible.”
“You don’t believe me?” Buffy stared at him, mouth open. “I saw it, Riley. Twice now. And Giles saw it last night. One minute, it’s Spike, and then, poof! Nothing but a pile of Spike clothes and a teeny little bat.”
Riley looked up at the sinking sun. “Fine. I’ll just go with you to watch this amazing transformation. I’m sure I’ll notice something you’ve missed. Some kind of sleight-of-hand on his part that makes it look like he turned into a bat when he really just hid somewhere.”
Buffy shook her head, but gave up, muttering, “You’ve seen what Willow can do, you’ve been in Sunnydale for over a year, you know what my life is like… I don’t know why you’re so confused about this.” She didn’t speak again as Riley drove them to Restfield. When he pulled up near Spike’s crypt, she said, “Wait here,” and jumped out without explanation.
She was grateful she had, as upon opening the door, she found a naked vampire staring at her in surprise. Buffy threw a glance over her shoulder to see that the sun wasn’t quite down yet, and that Riley had disobeyed and was striding toward them.
“Bat! Now!” she said frantically. She was happily surprised to find that, by the time Riley pushed into the crypt, there was no sign of Spike, and a small bat was on the floor. She gave a sigh of relief, and knelt to scoop up the bat and place him near his cage. She could feel the rumbling growls coming from his little body and whispered, “I’m sorry. I tried to keep him out.” Bat-Spike didn’t reply, but stopped growling and curled up in his nest. She was happy to see that the broken wing seemed much better, although obviously not strong enough for Spike to fly.
“Where is he?” Riley demanded, ignoring the small mammal glaring at him and searching the room for Spike the vampire.
“He’s right here, Riley. He changed just as you came in the door. See, there are his clothes.”
She gestured toward Spike’s jeans, which were some distance away from where he’d actually been standing when she came in, but Riley wouldn’t be able to know that. Especially since he refused to believe that Bat-Spike was actually Spike.
“That’s a bat, Buffy,” Riley explained as if to a child. “It’s cute, I suppose, and if you want to keep it, I won’t object to it.”
There was high-pitched sputtering from the cage, which almost drowned out Buffy’s own fairly high-pitched, “You won’t what it?”
“I won’t object to your keeping it as a pet. Although, I think you should take it home with you if your mother doesn’t mind. There’s no reason for you to keep coming here every night to pick it up. I’m sure it would be fine in your basement while you’re gone during the day.”
He looked around again, frowning when he could see no sign of Spike.
“Does Spike have a back door?” he asked, peering all around the crypt. Buffy deliberately kept her eyes away from the rumpled rug covering the trap door to the downstairs. “He must have a way to disappear when he knows you’re coming here to get the bat.”
“I’m sure he does,” Buffy said. “It’s called changing into a bat!” She walked to the door and held it open. “I think you should go now, Riley. Spike and I are going to meet with Giles and Willow and Tara to see if they’ve come up with a way to break the curse.  But since you don’t believe there is one, you obviously won’t want to waste your time there with us.”
He frowned at her curt dismissal, but shrugged and walked out. “I have to work tonight anyway,” he said. “I’ll see you tomorrow and we’ll talk about this.”
“Not if I see you first,” she muttered as she slammed the interior door. She could hear bat laughter sounds from Spike and turned to glare at him, then shook her head.  “I don’t know how you did it, but I’m really glad you were able to change before he saw I was walking in on you naked.”
Spike emerged from his box and shook himself. He squeaked at her and held out his wings, displaying his fur-covered body.  She frowned at him, then understanding dawned and she rolled her eyes.
“Yeah, yeah, you’re still naked. But now you have fur, and you’re tiny and cute. Riley wouldn’t have thought there was anything cute about a naked grown man—er, vampire—that I was willing to walk in on.” She looked at him more carefully. “Hey, you almost can hold the broken wing up. Is it all healed?”
He shook his head, allowing the damaged wing to droop again. Buffy held out her hand and he stepped onto it so she could bring him to her shoulder. He immediately cuddled up next to her neck and began to make little contented sounds.
She stroked his back with a finger, saying, “It’s probably a good thing he hasn’t seen this either. I don’t think he’d get that it’s okay for me to cuddle a bat that he thinks I think is you. Definitely wouldn’t think that was acceptable behavior on my part. Jackass!” she added, under her breath.
She felt him huff a tiny snort of laughter. “You weren’t supposed to hear that!” she said, then laughed at herself. “Which, was pretty stupid, considering the bat ears are right here.” He nodded against her chin, something she was finding herself looking forward to.
“So, did you change because I screamed at you, or did it just happen because it was so close to sunset?”
He didn’t answer her except to nudge the side of her neck, and she sighed. “Right, yes or no questions. Sorry! Did you change on your own?”
He nodded.
“You did? OMG. You can control it now?” She almost knocked him off in her excitement.
He shook his head ‘no’, growling his frustration at not being able to explain.
“Have you been trying?” A quick nod was his only response.
“Could you try again now?  I mean, not while you’re sitting on my shoulder, because… yeah naked full grown man on my shoulder just wouldn’t be a good look for me. But, if I put you down, can you try again?” 
He nudged her again, and pointed to the door with his good wing. Buffy frowned and stared at the door, then remembered that it should be dark out there by now.
“Oh yeah. It’s nighttime, so you have to be a bat. Well that sucks. I thought you’d learned how to be a bat and could learn how to go back to yourself.  I still think that would be pretty cool—you know, if you could be a bat when you come with me, and then if I need help, poof! there’s a big mean vampire backing me up.”
He nuzzled her neck and nodded his agreement, making the little squeak that she now knew meant ‘sorry’. But he sighed and shook his head ‘no’ when she plucked him off and set him on the table, asking him to try it. He pantomimed falling asleep, doing it several times before she figured it out he was saying he was too tired.
“Oh. Okay. I guess it must be hard work trying to change back and forth. I’m just glad it worked tonight. If Riley had actually seen that, he’d probably try to swat you.” She stroked his back and said softly, “I don’t think I’d like that. I’d miss you.” He purred and snuggled into her hand. “I guess you’re too tired to come with me tonight? I was planning to leave some of your clothes—at least a pair of jeans—any place you might end up waking up naked.” She peered around, seeing that there were some jeans and tee shirts beside a bag on the couch.
“Are those the extras?” She didn’t even wait for his nod, just scooped them into the bag and picked it up. “Okay, I’ll take these with me and—” She was interrupted by irate squeaking and chirping. “What? I thought you were too tired to come with me tonight.” Frantic headshaking and increased squeaking indicated his lack of interest in being left in his crypt and she sighed.
“Fine. You can come. But I can’t promise I’ll bring you home. You might end up having to stay with me… I mean at my mom’s! In the basement!” She picked him up and glanced at the cage she’d used yesterday. “Can you hang on well enough now to ride on me? On my shoulder!” Her face flushed with having to correct herself twice, she glared at his obvious enjoyment of her accidental double entendres. “Shut up!”
Still giving little chirpy chuckles, he pulled himself up her sleeve and settled into his place near her neck.
“Bats shouldn’t have such dirty minds,” she muttered as she walked out, swinging the bag of clothes. She shut both doors behind her. 
By a few weeks later, they had settled into a routine, one that sometimes required Spike to use the clothes Buffy had left for him at her house.
Usually, she picked him up for patrol, dusted any vamps that crossed her path, then took him back to his crypt or somewhere he had clothes stashed, before she went anywhere he wouldn’t be welcomed. Which often turned out to be on a date with Riley….
“You’re not planning to bring that damn bat with you again, are you?” Riley grumbled as the Scooby meeting was breaking up. “I want to go someplace decent for a meal.”
“Um… I hadn’t really thought about it. I didn’t know we were going out tonight, or I’d have left him with Mom and Dawn.”
“He can stay with me,” Giles said. “I have some translating to do tomorrow, and Spike’s help will be quite useful.”
Riley gaped at him. “Don’t tell me you think this is Spike, too?  Or do bats have some hidden talents I don’t know about?”
Everyone looked at Buffy, eyes wide as they realized that Riley really didn’t know it was Spike hanging from a bookshelf and glaring at him.  Buffy’s subtle head shake was enough to prevent any arguments or testaments to having seen the change from anyone still there, and she breathed a sigh of relief. By this time, Riley was so used to seeing her with the bat, even petting it from time to time, that she’d gone from being angry that he didn’t believe her, to hoping he never found out.
Giles finessed the answer surprisingly well, saying with a shrug, “I simply meant that I would be seeing Spike tomorrow, and as he is the bat’s other guardian when Buffy isn’t available, he can pick it up from me and take it home.”
Buffy didn’t bother to mention that ‘home’ for Bat-Spike had sometimes become her mother’s house. In spite of having had some issues with Dawn’s reaction to him as a bat. After Buffy noticed how uncomfortable Bat-Spike was when Dawn tried to cuddle him the way Buffy did, and Joyce caught her trying to open the basement door after she’d been told in no uncertain terms not to go down there when Spike might be sleeping, he had stopped spending the night there as often unless both Buffy and Joyce were going to be there. 
 He now had not only extra clothing and blood there, but an old extra pair of boots for use if he needed to take himself back to his crypt before he was a bat again. Both he and Buffy had long-since recovered from their injuries, so he was able to fly home after dark if he needed or wanted to.
“That sounds like a plan,” Buffy agreed quickly. She ignored the high-pitched muttering coming from the bat now hanging onto the back of the couch. “Let’s go, Riley. Giles will take care of Spike for me.”
While she no longer worried about Bat-Spike’s safety, she found she was just as willing as he was to pretend that there were good reasons for him to accompany her on patrol. Which proved true the night Buffy was jumped by several demons when, contrary to Giles’s advice, she was armed only with her stake. Spike had tried to warn her of a hidden danger, but the demons struck before she could see what it was or get away, and she was hard put to defend herself. When a swipe of a large paw knocked her to the ground, the bat’s high-pitched snarl suddenly became the more guttural and dangerous sounding snarl of a master vampire. The demons found themselves facing, not just an angry slayer, but a furious naked vampire clearly bent on destroying them. He’d already ripped the head off one demon before they’d even realized the fight dynamics had changed.
With only one demon left to face, Buffy put her stake in her waistband and used her fists and feet to show him what a bad idea it had been to ambush her. She left his body on the ground and turned to watch Spike take his time beating up the remaining demon. She could hear bits and pieces of the things he was snarling, but decided she was better off not hearing most of it. Things like “Try to kill my girl… no one touches the slayer when I’m around…” and other, more disturbing and at the same time, oddly warming, things.
When Spike finally realized he was beating a very dead demon, he stopped and shuddered all over before dropping to the ground with an angry squeal. Buffy rushed to pick him up, holding him carefully as he continued to tremble.
“Are you all right? How did you do that?”
He lay in her hands, breathing heavily and shivering, before rolling over and lifting his head. He nodded that he was okay, but gave a recognizable shrug when she repeated her question. After a few moments of rest, he shook himself and flew back to her shoulder, sitting there as if nothing had happened.
“That was amazing. And thank you,” she added. She assumed his chirp and nudge were bat for “you’re welcome”. “Wait till we tell Giles you’re learning to control it. He’ll be so excited!”
He twitched against her neck and made a small squeak of inquiry. Pleased with how well she was beginning to read him, Buffy responded to what she thought he’d said.
“Okay, yes. Telling him you were naked probably shouldn’t be included.” She sighed. “I don’t know why everybody is making such a big deal out of this. It’s not like I’ve never seen a naked man before—” There was a tiny growl then, and she sighed in exasperation. “Well, I have, Spike. As you know perfectly well. So, yes, as Anya might say, you are nice to look at, but it’s not like you have anything I haven’t seen before.” He gave another small growl and she rolled her eyes. “Oh my god, you do know I try not to be looking there, don’t you? I’m not playing any whose-is-bigger games for you, so just stop it.”
Ignoring the high-pitched muttering coming from her shoulder, she left the area they’d been patrolling and headed for Giles’s apartment complex. Her own muttering about testosterone poisoning and male animals just barely drowned out his complaints.
She frowned when they got to Giles’s apartment complex and there was a black SUV parked near the apartment.
“Huh? Is that Riley’s? I wonder what he’s doing here. I didn’t think he and Giles liked each other that much.” She thought hard for a few seconds, then sighed. “Just in case… why don’t you hang out in a tree or something until I find out what’s going on? If it’s safe to come in, I’ll come out and get you.”
The indignant reply didn’t require knowing how to speak bat, but Buffy interrupted him anyway. “Look, I know you’re all big and bad, but you’re also chipped when you’re a vamp, and you’re tiny and fragile now. I don’t want you to get hurt, okay?  Just do this for me… please?”
He continued grumbling, but snuggled up to her neck, nodding his head and nuzzling her. Buffy reached up and stroked his soft fur until he stopped muttering and was purring softly against her skin, licking her delicately with his tiny tongue.  
“I just want you to be safe, okay?”
With a teeny sigh, he nodded once more, then, leaving what felt like a bat-size kiss on her neck, he took off and disappeared into a leafy tree.  Buffy made note of which tree it was, then knocked on the apartment door before opening it and entering. She gave Riley a questioning look before turning to Giles. “I have something cool to tell you, but I guess it can wait.” Turning back to Riley, she was already asking “What’s up, Riley? Do you need me for something?”
As she finished speaking, she noticed the net he was trying to hide behind his back and she gaped at him before asking Giles, “Is that what I think it is?” He gave a nod, his expression and eyes telling her to be careful what she said.
“Riley? Is that a net? What were you planning to catch with it?” She glared at him, foot tapping, looking much more like an angry slayer than a college co-ed.
“There’s been an outbreak of rabies in Sunnydale,” he blustered. “And bats are known carriers, so I’m just being proactive and taking one out of the picture. I know he’s your pet, but you can’t risk public health by protecting him.”
“Spike is never anywhere he could encounter rabies,” she said through gritted teeth. “He’s either with me, or one of my friends, or in his crypt with the doors closed.” She wasn’t even sure that a bat that was really a vampire could even get a disease of warm-blooded mammals.
“I’m sure that crypt isn’t safe, and Spike—the real Spike—isn’t likely to worry about exposing the bat to rabies, so you really don’t know if he’s safe or not. And if the bat isn’t there, you don’t have any reason to be going there every night.”
“So, the real reason is, you’re what? Jealous of a small furry animal?” She bit off saying he was jealous of Spike, knowing that might lead to badness. “If you don’t like my pet, then just let me know when you’ll be around, and I’ll make sure to leave him with somebody who will keep him safe for me.”
“Buffy, you need to be reasonable about this. I think I’ve been more than tolerant of the amount of time and attention that bat gets. I told you I wouldn’t object to you keeping him, but I’ve changed my mind. Since he’s tame, maybe the animal shelter or the zoo would take him. Either way, you need to get rid of him. I’m tired of sharing you with…”
He waved his arms around. “With just about everything, if I’m honest,” he said finally. “Your mom, your sister, your friends, your ‘slaying’.” He made air quotes around slaying, and Buffy wasn’t sure she hadn’t heard Giles growl. “And now, this stupid pet bat that you named after the vampire you refuse to slay. Everything else in the world is more important to you than I am.” He finished, standing firmly with his arms crossed while Buffy blinked in shocked comprehension.
“You think you should come before my family” she asked in a register that almost rivaled Spike’s better squeaks. She took a deep breath and went on in a lower tone, “And, just as a reminder, a slayer’s job description includes saving the world from time to time. The whole world, not just the parts you approve of. And I do it when I have to, not when it’s convenient for you to do without me.”
She sighed and added, her voice much more gentle, “Riley, I don’t think we’re working out as well as we hoped we would. Being in a slayer’s life in any way, as a boyfriend or a friend, or even a relative, just isn’t the same as it is for most people. And it’s not something everybody can do. Hence my very small circle of real friends.”
“Buffy, I gave you a simple choice—me or the bat—how does that turn into a make or break situation?” Riley seemed genuinely confused. “I didn’t say you had to give up your friends and family, just the bat that you, for some reason, share with the vampire you’d be ‘dating if you wanted someone with super powers’.”
“It sounded pretty much like an ‘or else’ message to me,” Buffy said, refusing to acknowledge his reference to her own words. “It sounded like an ultimatum.” Looking very slayerly for a moment, she narrowed her eyes and said, “I don’t like ultimatums.”
“It sounded like that to me also,” Giles put in. The look on his face said it was against his better judgement to step in to what was essentially a lovers’ quarrel, but Buffy smiled. She knew he’d never been a fan of Riley and his insistence on having a scientific answer for everything. Riley’d never ceased referring to Spike as a “hostile” and to demons as “subterrestrials”, and his presence at Scooby meetings had often put a damper on what they could discuss with him there without getting into arguments.
Riley stood up even straighter, as if his height and military bearing would give his words more weight. “I’m your boyfriend, Buffy. Asking you to choose between me and a pet is hardly an ultimatum.”
“What would you call it? What if I choose my pet, Riley? Do you have a plan B for that, or were you just sure I’d choose you over anything else?”
“I assumed you would want me more than a flea-infested, flying rodent, but clearly I was wrong,” he said stiffly. He marched toward the door, net in hand. “You can’t keep him safe forever,” he said. “Bats don’t live very long. You’ll be sorry.” He slammed the door behind him.
“Did that sound like a threat?”
Giles shrugged. “I believe Spike needs to be very careful for a while. At least while he’s in bat form. Perhaps you should find him and tell him so, since he isn’t with you tonight.”
“Oh, he’s here. I told him to wait in a tree. I’m sure he heard every word with those bat ears. I just hope he has enough sense to stay in the tree until Riley leaves.” She went to the window, a worried look on her face, and watched as Riley’s big vehicle peeled out of the parking lot. As soon as it was out of sight, she opened the door and looked at the tree she’d told Spike to stay in.
“Come on in, Spike,” she called, frowning when he didn’t immediately appear. Just as she was becoming concerned, he flapped his way down to her shoulder where he chirped at her for quite a while.
“I don’t know what all that means, but let’s get inside in case Riley comes back.” She stepped in and closed the door.  “Did you hear him?” she asked. He nodded against her chin, then left her shoulder to hang on the curtain rod.
“I suspect you have an enemy, Spike,” Giles said. “And not just because he thinks you should have been staked last year. I think you’ll need to be quite cautious for some time. Particularly when you’re in bat form.”
“Why was Riley here, Giles? He knew I was going to be patrolling tonight, and he shouldn’t have expected to find me here.”
“I’m sure he wasn’t expecting it. He was hoping to enlist my assistance in ‘curing’ you of your affection for… erm… for Spike in bat form. It seemed wisest, given his current state of anger at him, not to belabor the truth of the matter. I suspect he would be even less understanding of any relationship you may have with Spike in his true form.”
“You have no idea,” Buffy said with a sigh. “Just because when I was trying to convince him to get that chip out of his heart before it killed him, I said something stupid about dating Spike if I wanted somebody with superpowers, he thinks that means I want to date Spike. He even offered to have an Army psychiatrist talk to me about my ‘thing for vampires’.”
Giles flicked his glance to Spike, but he was just hanging on the curtain rod, and then back to Buffy. He studied her face for a moment, but clearly decided not to comment upon the idea that she might have considered dating Spike. Instead, he tackled the subject at hand.
“So Spike may be in danger now even in his normal form. Assuming, of course, that all this bouncing back and forth between chipped vampire and unchipped bat hasn’t had any effect on his vulnerability. Perhaps we should check that out tomorrow.”
“Yeah, okay. I guess so. I’ll tell Spike to hit me or something and we’ll see if the chip’s still working.” Buffy frowned at the thought and glanced up to the curtain rod where Spike was being uncharacteristically quiet.
“And then you will have a very different, and perhaps even more difficult decision to make,” Giles said gently, sending an apologetic look at Spike.
“I’ll worry about that tomorrow.” Buffy’s tight lipped smile made it very clear the subject was closed.
“Quite. Well then, why did you two come here so early in the evening? Is something wrong?”
“Oh, no!” Buffy regained her animation. “We wanted to tell you—well, I wanted to tell you ‘cause Spike still can’t talk—that he’s making progress on controlling the change.” She told Giles about Spike almost being caught naked by Riley weeks ago, but being able to change when she shouted at him, and then she described the demon attack that she’d survived partly because when she was knocked down, Spike had been able to change into his fighting form and kill two of the demons.
“So, it’s kinda like what I said last week, except I was sort of kidding then about how cool it would be to have a secret weapon; but tonight he was a bat on my shoulder, and then when I needed him to not be a bat, he was Spike for long enough to kick demon butt. Then he was a bat again, but still, points for being able to do it in an emergency.”
“Indeed,” Giles said, sending Spike a speculative look. “And what sort of clothing was he wearing as he did all this demon-butt kicking?”
“Umm… well none, on account of bats don’t wear clothes. But there was nobody there to worry about it except the demons, and I don’t think they cared that the vampire that was beating them up wasn’t wearing clothes.”
“You were there also, were you not?”
Buffy blushed. “Well, yeah, but you know, I was kinda busy fighting, and he didn’t stay naked Spike very long.” She took a deep breath. “It was okay, Giles. I’m a big girl and Spike doesn’t seem to care if I see him naked, so we’re good. I’d rather have him naked and helping me, than get my butt kicked by big, stinky demons while he runs home for pants.”
Still silent, Spike glided down to sit on her shoulder, settling into his normal place next to her neck and nudging it gently.
“Excellent point,” Giles conceded, staring at Spike for any trace of a smirk, but the bat just blinked little blue eyes at him. “So, as of yet, he has only been able to hasten his change into a bat by a few moments, and change into his normal form at night only if he needs to fight. Do I have that correct?”
“Yep, pretty much that’s it. Both times it was an emergency of some sort. I asked him if he was able to do it when he’s by himself, but we haven’t had a chance to talk about it, so I don’t know.”
“I wonder if the common denominator is the urgency of the situation, or your presence there?” Giles gave Spike a speculative look, but only received another bland eye blink.
Buffy tried to smother her memory of the things she’d heard Spike saying while he beat on the demons and said, “Well, I mean me being there is what made them emergencies, isn’t it? Riley walking in on him naked wouldn’t have been that big a deal if I wasn’t with him. And it was me the demons were after tonight. I don’t think they would have paid any attention to a bat by itself.”
“So, if your safety is threatened, he can make the change. But he can’t do it on his own.”
“I don’t know that, Giles. I can’t talk to him yet. It could be just coincidence.” Mentally hoping she was right, she added, “I mean he’s always with me at night, most of the time. And in the daytime, I don’t even know if he could be a bat if he wanted to. I mean, yeah, he did it a few seconds before the sun went down, but maybe it wouldn’t have worked if it was noon. But then, at noon, he’d probably have his clothes on because he wouldn’t be expecting to be a bat in a few minutes, so he wouldn’t have taken his clothes off and it would have been okay if I walked in ‘cause Riley wouldn’t have any reason to be mad  that I was seeing Spike naked, and….” She ran out of air and stopped. “And I’m just going to stop babbling now.” She sighed, and absently stroked Spike who was snuggled into her neck in what had become his normal position when they were together at night.
“You are babbling. What might be making you so nervous, if it isn’t seeing Spike naked on a regular basis? Or that I now know it happens fairly often?” He shot Spike another piercing look, but again, met only calm blue eyes blinking slowly.
“It’s not on a regular basis! Sheesh, Giles. So, it’s happened a couple of times, and this time it was at night, in a cemetery. So what? If it doesn’t bother Spike, it shouldn’t bother anybody else… except maybe my mom. I don’t think she was very happy to know Dawn was living in a house where there might be a naked man in the basement. I already warned them not to go downstairs without telling him they were coming if he’s staying at our house for some reason, but Dawn doesn’t always listen to me.”
“What are your plans for the rest of the evening then?”
Buffy frowned. “Well, we didn’t really get very far with the patrol. We came straight here after the demon fight. I guess I’ll hit a few more cemeteries, and then take Spike home. Or maybe home with me,” she added. “Just in case Riley’s going to do something really stupid.”
“Something you may need to be prepared for,” Giles said, more sympathetically than she would have expected. “Hiding him at your mother’s house is, at best, a temporary solution. I feel sure Spike isn’t going to be willing to give up his normal activities to hide indefinitely.”
Spike’s answering squeals confirmed Giles’s thoughts, and they both laughed at his indignant reaction of the idea of hiding from Riley.
“Well, right now, his normal activities are being a bat and patrolling with me every night, so he’ll just have to suck it up for a while. He’s got a TV in his crypt, and my mom lets him use her TV if he tapes Passions for her, so he’s got things to do in the daytime if he has to stay there.”
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