Title: Friendly Enemies
Non-canon season three, fic
AN: A sequel to last round’s “P.S. You Suck” Banner by Double_Dutchess
Beta by all4spike
Season three – a sequel of sorts to my last Seasonal Spuffy, “P.S. You Suck, Spike” that was an AU between season 2 and 3 in which Spike finds Buffy in LA and determines to bring her out of the depression she’s been in since leaving Sunnydale. She’s now been home for several months, the PTB have brought Angel back, and it is nearing Christmas. We have a twist on what is already an AU canon that won’t deal with anything else in Season III except Buffy’s Cruciamentum.
Buffy frowned at the envelope in her hand. An envelope that clearly contained a Christmas card and was addressed to her in vaguely familiar writing….
Joyce jumped and dropped the pan she was holding, staring around the kitchen with wide eyes.
“Spike? Where? He isn’t here, is he?”
“What? Here? No, don’t be…. oh. No, something about this card made me think about him. I guess I thought it out loud. Sorry.”
Buffy gave her mother what she hoped was a reassuring smile as she tucked the envelope into her pocket.
“Will you be wanting to have dinner before you go out… slaying…?” Buffy’s smile faded as she watched her mother struggle with the idea that her daughter was going out into the night to kill things. Evil things! Buffy had assured her many times, but Joyce still had issues with Buffy’s calling. Even though by this time, she’d met Faith, been bespelled into almost killing her own daughter, and had energetic sex on the hood of a police car with Giles. Somehow, it was easier to believe in magic spells or magic candy than it was to believe in vampires and demons, or that her teen-aged daughter was destined to slay them.
Hearing Spike’s name, had obviously brought back memories of the blond vampire’s visits when Buffy was hiding in L.A. and the way he’d made Joyce accept the truth about vampires. She visibly shuddered at the memory of seeing his true face, and Buffy tried not to notice Joyce’s reaction to the reminder.
“Uh, I think I’ll eat first, Mom, if that’s okay. I don’t know what I might run into out there tonight. I’m just gonna go upstairs and get changed, ‘k?”
“All right, honey.”
Buffy sat on the edge of her bed, turning the envelope over in her hands. There was no return address on it, just her name and address and a cheery elf on the stamp. With a sign, she ripped it open and took out the card. It was a very generic winter scene, with space on the back for a handwritten note:
Nice to know you followed through and went home to your mum. Wishing you a Happy Christmas. Ask your watcher-wanker what a Cruciamentum is and no matter what he says, don’t go anywhere with him on your 18th birthday.
PS sorry to see the poof is back in your life. That can’t end well…
Buffy turned the envelope over and over, but there was no return address and no way to know where the card had come from.
“I guess I could send an answer to the P.O. Box in L.A. if I can remember what the number was…. Oh well, it’s just Spike minding somebody else’s business again.”
She dropped the card on her bed and shrugged as she got changed. “What does he mean don’t go anywhere with Giles? And I wonder how he knows Angel’s back? Has he been spying on me again?”
She flounced out of the room, leaving the card behind, and joined her mother for a quick dinner. As she collected her stakes and put on a jacket, she wondered if she should take the card with her, but decided she could remember to ask Giles when she saw him the next day.
Buffy was coming back from patrol, after having had a tougher than normal fight with a couple of obviously non-fledgling vamps that almost got lucky when they ambushed her from behind a large tomb. Thinking she could have used a warning similar to the growl Spike had used to alert her about an attack during the summer, she’d been shocked when she’d dusted the last one and looked up to see Angel watching her.
“Hey!” Buffy greeted him with a smile. “Where’d you come from? Did you just get here?”
“No. I’ve been here for a while. I was just waiting for you to be free to talk to me.”
“You mean you saw those guys jump me?” Her smile faded.
“I did. It looked like it was touch and go for a while there. Good job on surviving that ambush.”
“Not to criticize or anything, but did it occur to you to… I don’t know…warn me they were there? Or, here’s a thought, maybe give me a little help?”
He just blinked at her for a few seconds, then shook his head. “If you wanted help, you should have asked for it.”
“Would you have helped me?” She didn’t bother to mention that she hadn’t known he was there to ask, so it was a stupid excuse.
He looked uncomfortable. “Well, I… I mean the Slayer always fights alone. That’s the way it’s always been.” Glancing at the expression on her face, he quickly added, “But if you’d asked me, yes. Of course I would have helped you.”
Buffy cocked her head at him. “Ya know, if Giles or Xander, or even Willow, was with me, they would’ve helped without being asked. You know that, right? Even S—somebody else would have at least warned me they were there.” Without waiting to hear his reply, she’d waved her hand and walked home by herself, leaving him frowning after her.
Home, where she found Joyce waiting for her, holding the card Buffy had left on the bed.
“Is this from Spike?” When Buffy just stared before snatching it out of her hand, Joyce said almost apologetically, “I was putting your clean clothes on the bed, and I saw it. I was going to put it with the other Christmas cards….”
“So you decided to read it instead?” Buffy sighed, her anger fading as she saw the worried look on her mother’s face. “Yes, it’s from Spike. Apparently, he’s been here again, spying on me.”
“Do you know what he’s talking about? What is a Cruciamentum? And what does your eighteenth birthday have to do with Rupert?”
“I don’t know. I’m going to ask Giles tomorrow at school.”
“And what does he mean about someone being back in your life? Are you seeing that other vampire again?”
Joyce’s voice rose almost to a shriek. Even though Buffy had told her mother that Angel was back from whatever hell dimension she’d sent him to, she had allowed Joyce to assume that she wouldn’t have wanted anything to do with him after his actions the year before. Joyce’s dismay was more than obvious to Buffy, who was mentally sharpening the stake for Spike’s chest.
She signed and rolled her eyes. “Yes, Mom, Angel and I are still friends… or friends again, I guess. He’s got his soul back, so he’s safe to be around. And neither one of us has any intention of—” She broke off, remembering that she hadn’t actually told Joyce what caused Angel’s moment of happiness.
Her mother, though, wasn’t stupid. She narrowed her eyes and clenched her jaw.
“If even another vampire knows seeing him is a bad idea, what could you possibly have been thinking?”
“I’m pretty sure Spike and Angel don’t like each other very much,” Buffy said, avoiding the actual question. “And it’s none of his business, anyway.” Buffy set her mouth into a stubborn line as she went on to answer her mother’s real question. “I was thinking that I still love Angel. And I won ‘t cut him out of my life just because you and some dumb vampire who thinks he has a right to tell me what to do, don’t want me to see him anymore.”
“Well, when you ask Rupert about becoming eighteen, and that other thing tomorrow, why not ask him what he thinks of having that horrible vampire back in your life?”
“I already know what he thinks,” Buffy muttered. “I have homework to do.” Without saying anything else, Buffy turned around and went to her room. She threw the card on the bed and glared at it.
“It’s a good thing I don’t know how to find you,” she muttered at it. If there was the slightest bit of warmth to her memory of how Spike had gone out of his way to save her life and then get her to come home, as opposed to the way Angel just seemed to accept that she was going to die one day and be resigning himself to being sad about it, she smothered the thought in favor of being mad at Spike for her mother’s new knowledge.
The conversation with Giles didn’t go well.
“I told you not to keep seeing Angel,” he snapped. “He had no business telling you about the Cruciamentum!”
“Why not? Is it some big secret thing? And, by the way, he didn’t tell me anything about it. But now that I know you think he should be able to, I’m going to fix that.”
“It wasn’t him? Then who could possibly—? Well, no matter, I guess. The question is, what were you told?”
“Nothing. I was told to ask you about it… and to stay away from you when my birthday comes around. So, spill. What’s the big deal?”
Giles gave a relieved sigh. “It’s nothing, really. You’ll do fine. It’s just a little test the Council provides when slayers reach adulthood, or their eighteenth birthdays, anyway. I’m not at all sure that’s as mature an age as it may have seemed generations ago, but it is what it is.”
“A little test?”
“They’ll provide a vampire for you to slay. You’ll slay it, and that will be it.”
Buffy frowned her confusion. “How is that any different from what I do every night?”
“I sincerely hope it will be no different at all. They tend to pick fledglings that should be easy slays… unless they… but no. You’ve been an excellent slayer and have stopped two apocalypses so far.” He didn’t look at Buffy as he mumbled his response and she narrowed her eyes at him.
“Unless nothing. It will be fine, I’m sure. There’s plenty of time between now and your birthday. Put it out of your mind.”
“Uh huh. Okay, so what’s up for tonight? Regular patrol?”
“I would think so. Unless you are aware of anything unusual?”
“Nope. Nada. I’ll just hit a few cemeteries then and head home. See ya, Giles.”
Buffy couldn’t see the frown on his face as he watched her leave the library.
The conversation with Angel didn’t go any better.
“How the hell did you find out about that?”
“So, you do know what it is?”
“Of course I do,” he said, turning away from her. “But you aren’t supposed to know anything about it until it’s over. I’m surprised Giles told you about it.”
“Giles didn’t tell me about it. Not until I asked him. He thought you must have told me. The question is, why haven’t you? Isn’t this the kind of thing I should know?”
“That’s not how it’s done, Buffy.” He wore his normal you-aren’t-behaving-the-way-you’re-supposed-to expression of mild disappointment. “If I didn’t tell you, and Giles didn’t tell you, how did you find out about it?”
“A little bird told me,” she said, quite sure that Angel shouldn’t know she’d heard from Spike.
She’d told Angel a bare minimum about her experiences while he was in hell, and didn’t go into any kind of detail about how Spike got her to come home from L.A. She allowed Angel to assume she’d run into Spike, fought with him, and then realized she needed to come back to protect the hellmouth. When he’d tried to complain about Spike assisting her when she prevented Angelus from opening Acathla, she responded with a shocked, “You don’t think he should have helped me to save the world? What’s wrong with you?” He’d immediately dropped the subject, just muttering that Spike was not a very good vampire and never had been.
She stared at his puzzled and hurt expression, then said with a small smile, “Well, it’s not going to be a big deal anyway. Giles said I just have to stake a vampire they pick out for me, and that’s it’s usually an easy slay. I don’t know why they think they need to do that on my birthday. I stake vamps every night. Seems like they could give me that night off to have a good time, instead of making me have to work harder. But it’s no biggie. I’ll see it, I’ll slay it, and then we’ll all go to the Bronze and celebrate Buffy’s birthday. Right?”
“Right. Of course,” Angel said, his own smile obviously forced. “You‘ll be fine.”
“And if I’m not, I have this amazingly strong boyfriend who could help out, so not a chance anything will happen to me, right?” She watched his eyes shift away again as his smile faded into a frown.
“Buffy, it’s your Cruciamentum. I can’t interfere! You shouldn’t even know about it.”
“Right. I forgot. It’s my problem. Silly me.” She turned around to leave, only to find him in front of her, his brown eyes soft and pleading.
“Are you leaving. already? You just got here. I thought maybe we’d practice some Tai Chi or—”
“I don’t think we should do that, Angel.”
She stepped around him, not sure she hadn’t heard a soft growl, but when she whirled on him, he was just looking at her sadly, and she decided she’d imagined the sound.
“I’ll see you tomorrow night, I guess. You know, if we run into each other somewhere….”
Buffy went home, yelled her “good-night, Mom” at Joyce and sat in the kitchen with a glass of milk and a cookie, thinking about how complicated her life was.
“This should be easy,” she muttered. “See vampire, slay vampire. What could go wrong?”
A month later, she was finding out. When a fledgling vampire that she’d never even sensed approaching almost over-powered her, she ran most of the way home. After staking him, of course, but even so…. She wasn’t sure she didn’t feel distant vampire tingles just before she decided to be done for the night, but after such a close call, she didn’t really feel like searching for the source.
She entered the house, still not sure if she was going to tell her mother about how lousy she’d felt all week, and wondering if she could do that without letting on what a close call she’d just had, to find Joyce holding the phone out to her.
The expression on her face didn’t hold as much disapproval as Buffy would have expected as Joyce said, “It’s Spike. He needs to talk to you.”
Buffy frowned, both at her mother’s insistence that she take the phone, and at the idea of who was on the other end.
“What do you want, Spike?” she greeted him, frowning at Joyce who was standing close enough to hear both sides of the conversation.
“Missed you too, Slayer,” he said with a soft chuckle. “Your mum tells me you’ve got a birthday comin’ up.”
“And that’s your business because….”
There was a heavy sigh. “Did you read the card I sent you?”
“I did. And I asked Giles and he said it’s no big deal. I just have to slay a vamp that the Council picks out. He said I’ll do fine.”
There was no mistaking the snarl she heard this time. After the snarl and some creative swearing, including she was sure, the words “lyin’ wanker”, Spike took a deep breath and exhaled loudly. “Said that, did he? And did he mention the little handicap you’ll have?”
Buffy frowned, unconsciously squeezing her stake that should have splintered under her hand. Instead, her fingers began to hurt, and she stopped squeezing.
“No. He didn’t say anything about a handicap. And neither did Angel.”
A muffled growl was the only reply to that.
“Let’s see if you’ve got one, yeah? I can be in your backyard in half hour.”
“What? And no. What do you mean test it? How?”
“I want you to fight me. If you do okay, I’ll butt out and you can make your slay. If you don’t….
“What if I stake you?” she said, ignoring her mother’s gasp.
“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t.” He gave another of those warm chuckles. “But if you do, then I’ll know I don’t have to worry about you, won’t I?”
“Were you born this full of yourself?” Buffy said, her indignation at his easy assumption that he could beat her overcoming her reluctance to fight any more that night.
“Wasn’t. But I am now. Are you going to fight me?”
“Uh, okay,” Buffy said, remembering how tired she was. “But can we do it tomorrow night? I mean, I have homework and I already slayed tonight and—”
“And you almost made that git’s day for him tonight,” Spike snarled.
“Were you watching me again?”
“Was. And from a bit too far away to be sure of stopping him before you got bit. Doubt he would have had time to kill you before I ripped his head off, but it was a bit too close for my liking.”
“Why are you watching me?” Buffy tried to ignore the implication that he would have stepped in to save her in favor of being angry at him for being there.
“Needed to know if your watcher was as big a wanker as they all are. And it seems he is.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, “Giles is—”
“How do you feel, luv? And don’t lie to me.”
“I’m fine. I’m just a little tired, and maybe I have a touch of the flu or something….” She ignored Joyce’s gasp.
“Or maybe your wanker of a watcher has been feeding you drugs all week so you won’t have your powers when you go to face your Cruciamentum vamp.”
Joyce snatched the phone out of Buffy’s hand.
“Spike, if you have more information Buffy needs to have, just get your ass over here and talk to us like a normal person!”
There was silence while Buffy stared at her mother with her mouth wide open. Instead of the growling or swearing she expected to hear, Spike’s reply was a soft, “Right you are, Joyce. I’ll be there straight away. Don’t let her go out again.”
Joyce hung up the phone and turned to a still speechless Buffy. “Get yourself a snack while we wait for Spike.”
Spike’s arrival was quicker than Buffy’d expected, and she realized he must have been right behind her all the way home. She opened the door and glared at him, but before she could say anything, Joyce stepped up beside her and held the door all the way open.
“Come in, Spike. And tell Buffy what you told me.”
Spike sidled past a still-glaring Buffy to take a chair in the living room. Buffy stood rooted to the spot by the now-closed door while she watched her mother offer Spike a drink, pour something Buffy wasn’t allowed to touch into a glass for him, and then seat herself on the couch.
“Buffy, come in and sit down please.” Not waiting to see if Buffy was going to obey, Joyce looked at Spike. “Now, tell me—us—what’s going on. And what Rupert Giles has to do with it.”
Spike cocked his head at Buffy and said evenly, “Long story short, her watcher has somehow been drugging her this week so that she’s losin’ her powers. By her birthday , day after tomorrow?” He glanced at Joyce for confirmation. “… she’ll be just a normal girl.”
He grinned at Buffy’s expression. “Well, not just a normal girl. Know that, don’t I? But she isn’t going to have any of those powers that help her do her job against creatures bigger, faster, and stronger than she is. The watcher is right that, under normal circumstances, a slayer in good standing would be set against a weak vamp. And she’d probably have weapons to use as well as her brain. So, if she’s a good slayer, and the vamp is new or weak, she should get her slay, and that’s that.”
“And how often does that happen?” Joyce asked shrewdly.
“Not very,” was his terse reply.” He shook his head and continued. “First place, not all that many slayers make it into their late teens. Not unless they weren’t called until they were older than most. And of those who do, not all of ‘em have what it takes to face down a vampire if they’ve lost their powers, even with the odds on their side.”
He inhaled and exhaled again, speaking directly to Buffy this time. “And if the slayer is inclined to be a little too independent for their taste—say she has family, friends, and even gets mixed up with a souled vampire that she has to slay to save the world, and then quits her job and goes off to mope somewhere…. Well, then chances are her Cruciamentum won’t be all that easy.”
There was silence as Buffy and Joyce absorbed what he was really saying. That the Council didn’t want or expect her to survive her test.
“I’m going to kill that son-of-a-bitch,” Joyce said quietly. She whirled on Buffy. “Don’t you go anywhere near him tomorrow!”
Buffy looked back and forth between them, tears just trembling in her eyes. “Giles? Giles did this to me? He made me weak? So the Council can kill me?”
“He’s going to die first,” Joyce repeated. “After he tells me how he did it and how to make it go away.” She didn’t notice Spike’s admiring expression, although Buffy did, even while she was thinking hard. It didn’t take long.
“He’s been putting me into a trance every day,” she said dully, holding out her arm. “See this?” She pointed to a tiny hole on the inside of her elbow. “He must be putting the drugs into me while I’m in the trance.” She swallowed a sniff. “He said the trance would help me concentrate on my slayer powers.”
Spike’s snarl was louder than Joyce’s furious gasp.
“You shouldn’t kill him, Joyce. You’ll go to jail. Let me do it.”
Buffy snapped out of her momentary sadness and glared at both of them.
“I’m the injured party here! If anybody’s going to kill Giles, it’s me. After I beat him to a pulp.”
“So, how do we fix this?” Joyce shook herself back to reality where her daughter was the one who could kill things. “We’ve only got two days for her to regain her strength.”
Spike shook his head. “I don’t really know much about that part of things. I’m guessing the drugs wear off or he wouldn’t have had to keep giving them to her all week. If she can skip tomorrow’s—”
“No problem,” Buffy growled. “It won’t be in his best interest to get near me tomorrow. Or the next day. Maybe they’ll wear off.”
“And if they don’t?” Joyce was in complete mother bear mode. “You’re not going out to fight something by yourself if you’re not one hundred percent!”
“She won’t be by herself, Joyce,” Spike said, raising an eyebrow at Buffy to see if she was okay with it.
She stared at him for a few seconds, then nodded. “It’ll be okay, Mom. Spike will be lurking somewhere and he’ll help me out. If I need it!” she added quickly with a glare in his direction.
He grinned at her and said, “That’s my girl!”
“Not your girl,” she muttered, unsure of how to respond to that, but happy to know he had confidence in her.
“So, what’s the plan?” Joyce looked back and forth between them.
“Well, I stay away from Giles, so he can’t drug me, and Spike will follow us Friday night in case I need help with the vamp—”
“Got a better idea, Slayer,” he said. “I know where the Council wankers are staying, and where they’re keeping their vamp. I know him. He’s not all that if you’re another vampire, but you’re not, and you’re not even a fully functional slayer right now. Kralik was a serial killer before he was turned, and he’s been around a while… definitely more than a fledge. If you were a hundred percent, you’d probably be fine. But you aren’t, and we don’t know when you will be, so I’m going to make them an offer they can’t refuse.” He grinned, baring all his teeth.
Joyce and Buffy gave identical “huh?” expressions.
“If they really want to get rid of you, what could be better for them than knowing William the Bloody, who has already slayed two slayers, is here and wants to get some payback on the slayer who dropped an organ on him?”
Buffy’s eyes narrowed, and even Joyce looked momentarily suspicious.
“Why would you do that? Is that what you’re trying to do? Get me when I can’t fight back?”
The expression on Spike’s face, which flickered between anger and pain, made Buffy shake her head and give an apologetic shrug.
“I’m sorry. I know that’s not you.” She smiled at him. “You do know, I’d have to stake you to pass the test, right?”
He frowned. “Bloody hell. I didn’t think about that.”
“Not that I won’t do it if I need to, but….” Buffy grinned at his disgruntled expression.
“Ha bloody ha,” he said, his lips twitching in an effort not to smile back. He leaned back in the chair, frowning in thought. “Alright, let me think on this a bit. We can work something out. We’ve got another two days, yeah? I can make this work.”
He stood up and walked to the door. “I take back what I said about not going anywhere with your watcher on your birthday. Go ahead and do whatever he asks you to. I’ll either be waiting for you there, or I’ll be watching to see where you go. Dependin’….”
Buffy walked to the door with him, stepping outside onto the porch.
“I don’t understand why you’re doing this, but thank you.”
“Not sure I understand it either, to be honest, luv. An’ I suspect the less I allow myself to think about it, the happier I’ll be.” He lifted his hand and ran his knuckles down her cheek. “Don’t patrol anymore until we get this fixed. I’ll thin the herd a little for you tonight.”
Buffy remained where she was, neither shrinking from his light caress nor leaning into it. She stared into his eyes, idly noticing how pretty they were, while trying to absorb what he seemed to be saying. She shook herself mentally, sure that he hadn’t meant what she thought he did.
“Okay. Good-night, Spike. Be careful around the Council guys. They’re tricky.”
“I’ll be careful. Good-night, Slayer.”
Buffy avoided Giles the next day by simply not going to school. With Joyce’s full cooperation, she stayed home, pleading illness. As it was her mother who called her in sick, rather than Buffy herself, the school had no choice but to accept the excuse. When Giles called the house later in the morning, after learning Buffy wasn’t coming in, Joyce quickly shut down his request to come by the house.
“That’s really not in your best interest, Rupert,” she said, making no attempt to hide her anger. “You’ll remain in much better health if you stay away from Buffy.”
“Uh… um… Do you think she’s contagious? I’m fairly certain she can’t be ill with anything catching.”
“That isn’t what I meant by your health,” Joyce said. “And I’m quite sure it’s not contagious. Good-bye.”
“Well that was subtle,” Buffy said from her perch on a nearby kitchen stool.
“It wasn’t meant to be subtle. I don’t care if he knows we’re on to him. As long as he doesn’t know about Spike, it shouldn’t make any difference. Other than maybe you’ll be a little bit stronger than you would be if we let him keep drugging you.”
“I wasn’t planning to let him do it anymore, Mom,” Buffy said with a small growl in her voice. “But I’ll take the day off from school anyway. So, what’s on TV?”
A phone call even later in the day from Angel did nothing to improve Joyce’s attitude. She sniffed her disapproval when Buffy said Angel’s name.
“What do you mean Giles called you? What for? What do you care if I don’t go to school today? Un huh. He did? Is that so? Yeah, it’s tomorrow. No, I don’t think that’s necessary, Angel. You know Mom doesn’t like you, so I don’t think you should come over here. It’s not like I’m going to die or something. I’ll see you around… after my birthday.”
She hung up and glared at the phone, then at her mother.
“Can you believe that? Giles called him to ask him to find out why I wasn’t in school today. And then he had the nerve to want to come by to see me before the test. Like he doesn’t think I’m going to survive it or something. Jerk!”
The next day, Buffy managed to avoid being drugged again by simply staring at Giles until he turned away from her accusing glare. She curtly agreed to meet him after dark for a birthday dinner before patrol, started to walk away, then whirled back on him.
“Can we just not pretend any more, Giles? I know what you’ve been doing to me. I know you’re not taking me to dinner. I know the Council has set up a powerful vamp for me, and I know they want it to kill me, and that they think it’s going to do that for them. I also know they are very, very wrong about how this is going to go, and once I’ve slayed their tame vampire, I’ll be quitting. Pick me up at 6:30.”
She stomped away, leaving a horrified Giles staring after her. He ran into his office and picked up the phone, dialing quickly.
While waiting for some sign that the plan hadn’t changed, Buffy was pacing across the living room, muttering more to herself than Joyce, “I should have told Spike to call me so I’ll know what to expect. Why didn’t he think of that? He writes or calls me when it isn’t important….” She refused to acknowledge that she was putting her faith in her survival into the hands of a vampire famous for killing slayers.
“Buffy, could you please stop for a while? You’re making me dizzy, and I’m afraid you’re going to wear yourself out. How do you feel?” Joyce spoke from her favorite chair, where she was sipping on her favorite scotch.
“Sorry, Mom. I’m not getting tired, just edgy. And I feel a lot better. Not exactly back to me, yet—” She demonstrated by lifting one end of the couch with obvious difficulty, then let it drop to the floor with a bang and a curse. “But better.”
There was a knock on the door, and Buffy ran to open it, expecting to see Spike, only to find Giles raising his hand to knock again.
“Oh, thank God, you’re still here,” he gasped.
“You’re not supposed to be here for another hour. Why wouldn’t I still be here?” She quite pointedly didn’t open the door any farther or invite him in.
“It’s come to my attention that it’s possible…. I mean I didn’t believe they would, but then they said—”
“So, you just figured out that your bosses want me to die? I thought I was pretty clear about it.”
“Indeed,” he said, his shoulders slumping. “It appears you were quite wise to refuse to see me again.” He shook his head and raised pleading eyes to hers. “I presume that means you know I was using the trance sessions to dilute your powers? Although how you know all this is beyond me, unless Angel is lying about….”
“I have friends you don’t know about, Giles. And Angel isn’t one of them.”
“So it would seem. Please, Buffy—Joyce,” he added, as she appeared over Buffy’s shoulder, “may I come in so that we can brainstorm the situation and come up with a plan?”
“I have a plan,” Buffy said, hesitating just a bit. “At least, I think so.”
She backed up and allowed Giles to enter the foyer where he slid past her angry mother with a soft “I can’t tell you how sorry I am, Joyce. I had no idea—”
“You had no idea you were drugging my daughter so that she wouldn’t be able to fight a vampire safely? Really? Then who was it wearing your face and body?”
“I had no idea they were setting her up to fail. The normal procedure is to capture a fledgling vampire, confine it so it can’t run away, and then arm the slayer so that she can dispatch it fairly easily. Only girls too weak or frightened to keep their wits about them would be likely to lose that fight. Obviously, that would not be Buffy, so I really did think she would sail through the test and be partying with her friends for the rest of the evening.”
He turned his attention to Buffy. “If you don’t mind, I should like to know which of your friends provided you with all this information. Surely it isn’t one of those I know well?”
“No. It isn’t somebody you know well. But he is someone you’ve met before.”
Giles frowned, shaking his head as he tried to imagine who the friend might be.
“I can’t imagine….”
“I’m sure you can’t,” Buffy said tersely. “And that’s all I’m going to say about it.”
Giles sank onto the sofa, eyeing Joyce’s drink wistfully, but seeming fully aware that she had no intention of offering him hospitality.
“Did you say you have a plan?” He glanced at his watch. “We’ll need to leave here at 6:30 as instructed. I’m to deliver you to an old apartment complex at the other side of town where they will lock you in with their choice of vampire. What is your plan?”
“No offense meant, Giles,” Buffy said, smiling at her mother’s muttered, “I mean to be offensive,” “but I’m finding it a little hard to trust you right now. So I think ‘I have a plan’ is about all you need to know.”
“Perhaps you don’t understand about the vampire they’re using. He was a—”
“Serial killer before he was turned? Yeah, so I heard. But I’m not quite as helpless as he expects me to be, and I plan to be armed to the teeth. Or something less vampy-sounding,” she added with a frown. “And if all else fails, I’ll have help.”
“But, you’re meant to meet your Cruciamentum vamp by yourself,” Giles began, sounding almost as pompous as Angel had when he told her the rules.
“And I will,” she snapped at him. “For as long as I can. Probably I’m going to slay him. But if that isn’t going well, then my help will step up. Since the Council is trying to kill me, I don’t think I need to abide by their stupid rules. And I won’t. I’ll do what I need to do to survive.”
“Fair enough,” Giles said with a sigh. “I can’t argue with that logic, although I suspect your lack of appreciation for rules and tradition may be one of the traits they don’t look for in slayers.”
“Tough. I was Chosen, not them. I’m here. And I’ll do whatever I think I need to do to stay alive and slaying.”
“Are you going to tell me who your ‘help’ is? I’m assuming it is the same person who told you about the Cruciamentum in the first place?”
“Assume away. I haven’t decided if you can be trusted to know who it is.”
Leaving him to continue to gaze longingly as Joyce poured herself another drink, Buffy busied herself gathering weapons to take with her. In addition to the assortment of stakes hidden around her body, she put a water pistol full of holy water in one pocket, and a hunting knife in another. She stared at the sword she’d brought down stairs, then shrugged and put it in a harness she could hang over her back. Catching a glimpse of herself in the hall mirror, she giggled.
“I feel like Mad Max, or Rambo, or somebody like that.”
“You do look prepared for anything,” Giles admitted. “Perhaps this will go better than I expect it to.”
Buffy frowned at him, but before she could say anything about his lack of faith in her, the phone rang and she ran to get it.
“’Lo, luv. We’re all set. Had to show them I was the better choice, but I think they’re convinced that meeting William the Bloody again will take care of you. See you in a bit. Bring your weapons. Got to go.”
Buffy stared at the unresponsive receiver, then set it carefully back in the cradle. She looked up to meet Joyce’s gaze, and nodded her head.
Turning to Giles she said, “I’m ready any time you are.”
After assuring Joyce that she would come straight home after the test to show her she’d survived it, Buffy followed a silent Giles out to his car. She got in without speaking. He started the engine and as he backed out of the driveway, he sighed heavily.
“I presume the phone call was from your ‘help’?”
“And you’re confident that you will be able to slay the old and dangerous vampire that the Council has waiting for you?”
Buffy allowed herself a small smile, thinking how well Spike fit that description.
“I’m confident I’m going to survive the night.”
She didn’t offer any more information and he sighed again. There was no more conversation until Giles pulled up in front of a dilapidated old apartment building.
“Sheesh! Creepy much?” Buffy started to get out of the car.
“Buffy…. Please be careful. I understand that I will be groveling for your forgiveness for months, but believe me when I tell you, I sincerely hope to have that opportunity.”
She paused and looked back at him. “We’ll talk later. Don’t wait for me. I think I probably have a ride home.”
The front door to the building opened and two Council employees hurried out. They glanced at Buffy and her visible weapon, but shrugged and held the door for her to go in. Once she had, brushing past them with nothing more than a snarled, “Get out of my way”, they pulled the door closed and sealed it with a padlock.
They swaggered over to Giles, who had ignored Buffy’s comment about not staying and was now standing beside his car.
“This is most irregular, but then that’s been your charge’s way of doing things since she was called, hasn’t it?” one of them sneered. His superior demeanor was somewhat diminished by his obvious haste to get out of the building, and Giles sneered back.
“No doubt the reason she has lived long enough for her success to rankle those who would prefer to remain safely behind a desk,” Giles said, glaring at the man who looked vaguely familiar. “Thomas, is it?”
The man flinched at having been identified, but continued, “Where you will no doubt find yourself once she has failed the test. Your services will no longer be required in the field,” Thomas said with a haughty sniff.
“My services will not be available to the Council in any capacity,” Giles growled. “I’m no longer interested in working for an organization that treats its slayers so poorly.”
“In that case, I’ll need you to you remove yourself from the property. This is Council business. We will remove the body and see that her family learns of her demise. I strongly suggest you leave immediately.” Thomas dismissed Giles with a wave of his hand.
“I suggest you think long and hard about which of you would like to enforce that order.”
Giles moved away from the car, took off his glasses, and visibly readied himself for a physical confrontation. The two men, both much less comfortable about being out in the field than they should have been, and having already lost their Council-provided bodyguard, stared at the field-hardened watcher who was facing them with an expression of combined anger and determination.
“Fine,” Thomas said. “Have it your way. It’s no wonder you couldn’t control your slayer, when you clearly cannot control your own emotions.” They moved away to a safer distance and leaned against their rental van, from which the shorter one had retrieved several crosses and a stake. “It might be a long night.”
Buffy strode through the door, ignoring the way it slammed shut behind her. She could hear them doing something to it and assumed she’d just been locked in.
“I hope Spike’s right and he’s got this under control,” she muttered, as she slowed her steps and tried to see and hear. She went farther into the big room, which appeared to be a lobby or dining room of some sort, still not seeing or hearing anything although she did feel just a trace of her normal vampire tingles. She flinched slightly when a man appeared at the other end of the room, his bloody clothes and the ragged gash on his throat indicating his new status.
“What the hell? Are you my vamp?” She slid a stake from her sleeve and readied herself for the attack.
“I am now, little girl,” he growled, going into his vampire mien. The sound of a British accent made her pause and look at him more carefully.
“You’re with the Council guys!” she said, noticing his size and the way he held his position as if used to fighting. “You must be—or were, I guess—their muscle. What happened? Did you get too close to the vamp I was supposed to meet?”
He snarled and came farther into the room. “Think you’re smart, don’t you? Doesn’t matter. You’re small and weak, and I can kill you just as easily as that useless git could have.”
Buffy moved so as to be on the opposite side of a long table in the center of the room. She kept it between them as she tried to keep him talking. She put her hand behind her shoulder on the hilt of the sword.
“So, your pet vampire didn’t make it? Don’t tell me you took him out?” Buffy put as much scorn as she could into her voice.
“Nah. The bastard got the jump on me. The other one dusted him, but he left me alone. I guess he decided to let me do the honors.” He gave her a feral grin.
“Is that right, Spike?”
As Buffy spoke, she pulled her sword and met the attacking vampire as he dove across the table at her. Although she didn’t have her slayer speed back, her training allowed her to slip to the side and bring her sword down across his neck. “Remind me to thank Giles for making me take such good care of my weapons,” she muttered, grateful that the sword was so sharp it sliced through the vamps’ neck in spite of her not having been able to apply the amount of force she’d hoped. She kicked the dust away and glanced toward the hallway where Spike was leaning against the entrance to the room and applauding.
Continuing as if she hadn’t paused to slay the former Council employee, she said, “Did you decide to leave me for him?”
“More like I decided to leave him for you. Now you can say you got your slay, passed their abomination of a test, and can go home to your mum.”
Buffy nodded. “That was a good plan. Did you kill their other vamp?” As they spoke, Spike was coming into the room, and Buffy was moving toward him.
“Did. Got here a little late to save this wanker—” he gestured to the dust in front of Buffy— “but had myself a nice tussle with their first choice, then offered to take his place after I dusted him.”
Looking more closely, Buffy could see that he was getting a black eye and that one sleeve of his coat was ripped. She reached one hand tentatively toward his face, stopping just short of touching his bruised cheek. He closed his eyes briefly, opening them again when she dropped her hand without actually touching him.
“And they said that was okay?”
He grinned at her. “Like I told you, I made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. Told them to leave their incompetent muscle for you to try to slay, but if you got lucky, William the Bloody would be the backup.”
“Okay, well, let’s hope they believe me that I killed both of you,” she said with a sigh.
He shook his head. “Don’t really want to be officially ‘dead’ yet, pet. Not that if I have to go out on a slayer’s stake, I wouldn’t want it to be yours, but you don’t want them thinkin’ you lied about it if someone sees me later. I’m just goin’ to tell those sorry bastards waiting outside that you did a good job, got your slay, and I plan to wait until you’re even older and better before I add you to my list of slayers.” When he noticed her narrowed eyes, he smiled, adding, “Not to mention I’d want you to be at your best before I fight you again.”
“So, we’re still enemies, right?”
“If you say so, pet.”
“Well… aren’t we? Just like with benefits maybe?” She frowned. “I guess the benefits have been all mine, come to think of it. I don’t know what you’re getting out of popping up to help me when I need—Not that I did! Need it, I mean. I could’ve handled their serial killer. Probably. Maybe.” She glanced up at him. “But I’m glad you were here. I just can’t get used to the thanking you part.”
“Let’s hope you don’t have to work at getting used to it,” he said gruffly. “It’s not like I don’t have an unlife to live… somewhere… else.” He took her shoulders and gently turned her around to face the door. “What say we get out of here, luv, and give the Council of Wankers the bad news.”
Buffy found herself leaning into the hand now resting on the small of her back as he steered her toward the front door. When she realized what she was doing, she straightened up and pulled away. “Sorry”, she muttered. “I didn’t mean to lean on you. I’m not that weak.”
“Wasn’t complainin’, love,” he responded. “But I may want both hands free when we step outside.”
The both stared at the closed door, then Buffy glanced over her shoulder at him apologetically. “I don’t think I can….”
“Got it, Slayer.” He stepped up beside her and planted the heel of one sturdy boot to the doors, splintering the wood and popping them open to leave the padlock and chain dangling from one side.
“Let me go first,” she said, grabbing his arm. “Just in case anybody is feeling stakey.”
He growled, but settled for stepping out right behind her, his hand once again on her back. They faced the three astonished men staring at them. Giles’s face went pale when he saw who was standing behind her, but something about the unafraid look on her face made him hold his tongue. Buffy saw the sudden light dawn in his eyes as he understood who her source of information and help had been.
Thomas, and his Council cohort, glared at Spike.
“Is this your idea of being backup?”
“As a matter of fact, it is,” he said with a toothy grin at them. “Never said who I was backing up, did I? Slayer did for your vamped muscle without even breaking a sweat, so she didn’t need me.”
“That doesn’t count!” Thomas said indignantly, clearly forgetting. who he was talking to. “You were supposed to kill her if the vamp didn’t get her.”
“He didn’t get her. You locked her in with not one, but two vamps—only one of which was likely to give her any trouble, powers or no powers—and she took care of the one that attacked her in her usual competent fashion. Sounds like a proper Cruciamentum kill to me.”
“You didn’t do what you were supposed to do!” Still angry to see Buffy standing there and grinning at the argument, he stepped toward Spike holding a cross and a stake.
Moving so fast only Buffy was aware of it, Spike batted the cross and stake out of Thomas’s hands and lifted him by the neck to snarl at him from up close.
“I’m not one of your council flunkies,” he said, with chilling calm. “I did what I came here to do, which was to keep you from killing off one of the best slayers you’ve ever had. Turns out she probably would have been alright without me, but it doesn’t hurt that I was able to even the odds a bit.” His amber eyes glared into Thomas’s now-terrified ones, and he smirked as he smelled the urine running down the man’s leg. “Go back and tell your wanker of a boss that he can thank me later. Next time she stops an apocalypse and saves the world.”
Giles was watching the entire thing with newly aware eyes, relaxing against his car as he realized Buffy really hadn’t been in much danger. From the corner of his eye, he was able to see Thomas’s co-worker pull a cross bow from the van and bring it up to point at Spike’s chest. The stake Giles threw with surprising force and accuracy, knocked the weapon out of the man’s bleeding hand.
Spike nodded his thanks and watched as Buffy crossed the space and brought her fist up to connect with the man’s chin, dropping him to the ground unconscious. Spike dropped his captive and smiled as she walked back to him, shaking her hand.
“Didn’t hurt yourself, did you, pet?” he asked, taking the hand and brushing his lips over her sore knuckles.
“I’ll be fine,” she said, blushing and putting the hand behind her back. “I just didn’t expect it to hurt that much.”
“You should be back to normal by tomorrow,” Giles said. “At least that’s what I was told when given the drug. And since you didn’t complete the regimen, I’d expect it to wear off even sooner.”
He turned his gaze on the two council employees, one just recovering from Buffy’s punch, the other sidling away from Spike and clearly hoping no one knew about his loss of bladder control. “You know you’re going to be fired,” Thomas blustered. Giles shrugged.
“You can’t fire me, I’ve quit. I suggest you two get yourselves back to Travers as soon as possible with the happy news that Buffy has passed her Cruciamentum. I will call him myself in the morning to render my official resignation.”
Standing between Giles and Spike, Buffy watched with them as the two remaining Council employees got into their van and drove away.
The whole fic won’t fit on one post, so below is a link to Part 3.
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/686959.html