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Strange Times by Zoya
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"Blondie Bear!" Harmony squealed as a weary Spike entered the crypt. "You're home!" The ditzy vampiress flounced up to him, throwing her arms around his neck. Spike rolled his eyes and pushed her off.

"Not now, Harm." Spike said tiredly.

Noticing for the first time the bruises on Spike's face, Harmony bristled. "Oh, Spikey, what happened? Did the nasty Slayer beat you up again?" Not waiting for an answer, she went on. "That's it. I've had it with that bitch!" Harmony grabbed one of Spike's axes from the corner. "I'll show her not to lay a hand on my boyfriend!"

Roaring, Spike grabbed her arm. "Don't you dare! Don't you dare go near her, you daft bint! You bloody well better not lay a hand on her!" growled Spike, his eyes flashing amber.

"Spi-ike!" whined Harmony, squirming in his grasp.

Pulling her close to his face, Spike's low voice was filled with rage. "You need to leave, Harm. You need to leave town, now. If you don't, or if you try anything against the Slayer I will stake you myself." Flinging her to the ground, he turned and walked away. Grabbing a bottle of whiskey off a shelf, he drank deeply.

"But, but Spikey," whimpered Harmony, "you're my Blondie Bear, my sweet Boo Boo!"

"I am nothing of the bleedin' sort," replied Spike angrily. "I was only shaggin' you because there was fuck-all else to do! Now, I suggest you get your things and BUGGER OFF!"

Spike descended the ladder to the lower part of the crypt, bottle in hand, leaving a weeping Harmony to pack her bags.


"So then, I found him, in front of Willie's, fighting these four huge Fyarl Demons. I thought I'd be nice Buffy and you know, help out. And do you believe he had the nerve to get mad at me? I mean really! Stupid Vampire! Said I only helped him to, quote, 'keep my whipping boy safe!' What the hell does that mean?"

Willow and Tara shared a look as Buffy ranted. The witches had been listening patiently to their Slayer friend's tirade about the peroxided vampire as they walked from the UC Sunnydale campus to the Magic Box.

"Well, you do kinda beat him up a lot, Buffy," observed Willow when her friend stopped to take a breath.

"Yeah, well, he deserves it! He's evil!" snapped Buffy. "You know, he just went off on me, then left me there! He told me 'sod off, Slayer!' then walked away! How dare he? How dare he walk away from me after I saved his bleached butt?!"

"M-maybe you shouldn't be so mean to him," piped up Tara. "I mean, Willow's right. You do beat him up a lot."

"But he's evil," the Slayer whined. "How else am I supposed to keep him in line?"

"Oh, come on, Buffy. You know he can't hurt anyone with that chip in his head. How else does he need to be kept in line?" reasoned Willow. "What actual evil has he been up to recently?"

"Lots!" insisted Buffy. "He steals! All the time! And, and..." she trailed off, trying to think of something else.

"So what, are you going to start beating up every thief in Sunnydale to keep them in line? Really, Buffy, I don't think Spike's as bad as he used to be," said the redhead. "In fact," she continued, "he's been kinda helpful of late. And with Glory around, I hate to say it but you may need his help against her."

"I will *never* need his help!" pouted the blonde as the three girls approached the door to the shop.

Turning, Willow gave Tara a telling look, then said "Hon, we'll meet you inside, okay?"

After fondly watching the blonde witch enter the shop, Willow turned back to her friend. "Buffy, I thought you were going to give Spike a little more credit. You know, vampire brownie points or something. Are you sure you're not overreacting a teensy bit? I mean, yesterday you were all with the sexy Spike dream and today you're hating him pretty righteously."

"I am not overreacting!" grumbled Buffy.

Willow raised an eyebrow. "Best friend, here, Buff. I'm telling you, you are. In fact, I think he's getting under your skin because you're," the redhead lowered her voice to a whisper, "starting to like him."

"Willow!" Buffy cried. "Ew! I so do NOT like him."

"Oh come on. You're having sexy dreams about him, and the way you two bicker you might as well be married." Willow pointed out.

"No way, Will. You're wrong. I don't like him, not at all. He's evil!" insisted the Slayer petulantly.

Rolling her eyes, the witch turned to open the door to the Magic Box. "Okay, if you don't like him, why did you save him last night?" With that, Willow went in, leaving Buffy standing on the sidewalk, speechless.


Try as she might, Buffy couldn't answer that question. So, she took out her frustration on the punching bag in the back room of the shop. So intent on pounding some sense into her situation, she didn't notice Giles standing in the corner, watching her.

"Is something wrong, Buffy?" inquired the watcher with concerned tone, startling her.

"What? Oh, hey Giles." Grabbing a towel, she turned to face him. "What's up?"

"How are you doing, Buffy?" Giles tried again.

Buffy shrugged. "I'm okay, I guess. Why?"

"You just seem to be bothered. Or, terribly angry with the punching bag, one of the two." Giles gave her a knowing look. "What's on your mind?"

Buffy wiped her face with the towel, using the second to decide what to say. She couldn't tell her watcher about Spike, no, couldn't do that. "Just, just Glory and stuff," she finally answered. "Not knowing what she is, or why she wants Dawn. Waiting for the Council to call us back with info. I guess it's just getting to me is all." She looked up at Giles, hoping he bought it. It wasn't a lie, per say, just a slight omission.

"Yes, I can see how that would be getting to you, I daresay it's starting to get to me too. I hope the Council gets back to us soon. In the meanwhile, though, there's something I wanted to talk to you about." Giles took off his glasses, and began the dreaded polishing.

"Come on, Giles. Spill," prodded Buffy.

"Well, I've been thinking about how to best protect Dawn from Glory. You, unfortunately, cannot always be with her. Between your duties as the Slayer, and your commitments to university, she's left unprotected quite a bit."

"Yeah," agreed Buffy quietly. "But I don't see what we can do about that, Giles. There's only one of me. I can't be everywhere at once, you know."

"Yes, Buffy, I'm aware of that. What we need is someone who can help you with your duties, and help keep Dawn safe when you're not with her."

"Sure, well, Dawnie could stay with Xander and Anya, or Willow and Tara when I'm not around, or you, even. I don't see what the big problem with that is," the blonde replied.

Giles cleared his throat. "The problem is that none of us are capable of protecting Dawn, not like you are. We don't have the strength to stand up to Glory, even for a second." He paused, hoping that his next words wouldn't send his Slayer into a rage.

"I think we should ask Spike for his help, Buffy."
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