Mortal Allies Series, Season 3. Postcards From the Edge, Chapter 2: Good Boy, Spike (2/?)

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Story Title: Postcards From the Edge. Season 3 of the Mortal Allies Series

Chapter Title: Good Boy, Spike

Author: Passion4Spike

Banner by: PaganBaby

Rating: PG (for series so far, for language)


Spike took a deep inhalation from his cigarette as he wandered down the nearly-empty street in the small hours before dawn, grumbling to himself the entire time. Dru had been in a snit the whole trip so far, whingeing about leaving the sodding dog in Sunnyhell, about the car smelling like ‘sunshine’, even about his music! She never complained about his bloody music!

Would’ve preferred having the bleeding Slayer in the car, even if she wouldn’t let him smoke. He stopped and considered the fag in his hand. The vampire took another long draw on it and deliberately exhaled a cloud of blue-grey smoke, which hovered around his head in the still air. He jerked his chin and smirked in a ‘So there!’ gesture aimed at the absent Slayer, then continued walking.

He had to admit that the Slayer as a road trip companion did have some benefits. For one, he could prod the silly girl into diverting arguments and amusing hissy fits. Her irreverent wit, cheeky innocence, and that wholly infuriating way she had of turning every little thing into a brilliant row kept things interesting, at least. Could even have a sane conversation with the bird if he was in a serious mood, or he could feed her a line of bullshit a mile wide and watch her try to figure out if he was taking the piss or not.

A smile curved his lips as he thought about the vexatious little blonde, how her green eyes would spark with fire when she was angry, turn hard as polished emeralds with determined stubborn grit, or shimmer with tears if he said something that blasted through her defenses. So bloody easy to read, that one. Could practically see the wheels turning in the depths of her eyes, like an endlessly churning sea, as she processed everything, saw everything, even things he tried to hide from her. Couldn’t decide which look he enjoyed more, which of her many moods—

Spike stopped dead in his tracks and blinked. What the fuck was he thinking?! The Slayer was an annoying, bossy, stubborn, irritating, mulish bint and … and good bloody riddance to her and that sodding furball, too! Nothing but pains in his arse, is what they were. Always wanting food and potty breaks, making up inane rules about ‘air quality’, forcing him to drink that rancid pig’s blood, and stop the car on top of a mountain so she could listen to a bloody-awful song on the radio.

And, on top of everything, he had to save them from that sodding bear. Got himself properly torn up trying to keep their sorry arses outta harm’s way, he did. And the selfish prude wouldn’t even give him a taste o’ her blood for his troubles.

Pffft,” he snorted and started walking again, the empty cage in his hand thumping lightly against his thigh. The Slayer and that mangy mutt weren’t his problem now. He just needed to take care of his dark princess, get her out of this funk and back to her normal, wickedly sinful self. And, above all, make her forget that bloody dog. If there was anything Spike knew, it was how to handle Dru. Get her the morning paper, a few rats, and she’d come ‘round.

Spike stopped at the end of a debris-filled alley, his senses telling him this was a likely spot. He kicked an empty tequila bottle, sending it sailing through the air and shattering with a satisfying smash against the brick wall at the end of the passage. Rats scurried and squeaked, scampering away from the sound.

“Right then,” he muttered, looking at the days-old produce and other rotting detritus overflowing the cans. He took one last drag on his cigarette and flicked it away as he considered the alley. He usually had minions for this part of the job. Or a sodding huge dog with a bark that could send rats fleeing for their lives. He smiled, remembering the rat hunt with Cujo, then started to laugh as the Slayer’s shrieks of panic and indignation replayed in his mind. “Told the stubborn chit to stay in the car,” he chortled, as he thought of her whirling like a dervish and screaming like a wee lass as she slapped at the rats that swarmed over her.

Spike was still laughing as he waded into the alley …

** X-X-X-X-X **

“Well, that was a bloody slap and a tickle,” Spike groused as he retreated from the hunting grounds. He held up the cage and peered at the two rats he’d managed to snag. True, they were big and juicy looking – Dru’d love ‘em – but two rats? Not nearly enough to get her mood to turn.

He looked down at himself. Could’ve been worse – only a few stains here and there. Which is why he only had two rats, unwilling to sacrifice his dignity or wardrobe for the cause. He sighed and started walking again. Maybe there’d be an alley that was a little less rubbish heap and a little more rat-condo that he could raid.

As he walked, restaurants, apothecaries, bodegas, and boutiques began opening along the street. All were getting ready for the tourists or work-bound locals to stop in for a meal, a quick cuppa, or pick up some last-minute item they’d need for the day. Lights flicked on, steel security gates were lifted, and racks and tables full of various and sundry goods were pulled out onto the wide sidewalk.

Spike stopped at a street vendor who was selling traditional tamales and breakfast gorditas – tortilla ‘pockets’ stuffed with your choice of scrambled eggs, cheese, chorizo sausage, onion, and chili peppers. ‘Buffy’d get everything but the peppers … and extra on the queso,’ he thought, knowingly. ‘Let me have her peppers, I’d wager … Get the mutt a tamale … pffft! Three tamales for that bottomless pit.’

Spike laughed to himself, thinking how annoyed the Slayer was with him for feeding Cujo. Buying the furball burgers and fries and feeding him from the table. Silly girl didn’t know he’d won the big dog’s favor with bits of beef jerky and chunks of cheese from her own sodding pantry. Accused him of ruining her dog. He shook his head, still laughing lightly. Was the bloody point, wasn’t it? Tame the bleedin’ demon-hunting hound to keep from becoming dog chow himself?

“Señor?” the vendor questioned, looking at Spike and motioning to the hot food on offer.

Spike set the cage down on the pavement and dug into his pocket, coming out with enough to cover a light breakfast. “Gimme a gordita … the works … and extra cheese,” he requested, not bothering with Spanish in this town, so close to the border, he was sure the vendor understood him.

As he handed the man the money and accepted the paper-wrapped, over-stuffed tortilla, Spike was still smiling. He took a bite and nodded in appreciation to the vendor – everything was ‘perfecto’. The tortilla was done just right – not too doughy or too brittle. Inside, the eggs were fluffy, the sausage had a zesty tang which the sweet onions balanced, the peppers were perfect points of spicy heat, and the cheese … The cheese was heavenly. Sharply robust and perfectly melted, spread over the whole of the stuffing in equal measure, a small taste of rapture in each bite.

“Missing out, you are, Slayer,” Spike muttered to himself as he picked the cage back up and started walking again. “Sell your soul for this, I reckon,” he continued, taking another bite. “Or at least give me a bloody adorable pout.”

Spike ran his tongue over his lips, wondering if the Slayer’s bottom lip was as delicious as it looked. He suddenly froze, the gordita halfway back to his mouth, and gave his head a little shake. “Annoying pout!” he corrected hastily. “Damn woman was nothing but annoying … including that sodding pouty lip!”

** X-X-X-X-X **

Tossing the empty paper wrapper from the gordita in the general direction of a garbage can, Spike stopped in front of a newsstand. He looked up at the sky, the tingling down his spine telling him that the sun would be up soon. Needed a paper for Dru – she did love reading the obituaries – they always sent her pixies into paroxysms of joy. But he also needed to get on tracking down those rat-condos – and maybe something else for her, something that would really lift her mood.

He stood on the sidewalk, looking over the selections of the little open-air shop, trying to think what else to bring his dark princess. His eyes landed on a vase of fresh, red roses. Dru loved roses, especially blood-red ones. Always delighted in pulling the petals off, she did. Said they screamed so nicely, all lyrical, like a funeral dirge.

Right then, a paper and a rose and then he’d be off to track down a few more tasty rat-treats. He began to grab the items for Dru when a stand of colorful postcards caught his eye. Spike wandered over to the bright, cheerful cards and absently set the cage down at his feet. He began twirling the postcard display, pulling out different ones that caught his eye and looking them over. There was one of a stylized sun goddess which reminded him of the ‘Golden Goblin’ of Sunnydale, and another showing a street scene with food vendors, like the one with the heavenly gorditas, front and center, one that was a kind of cartoon map of Mexico with all the major landmarks drawn in, and on and on.

Spike mentally composed messages for each one, alternatively smiling, smirking, and curling his tongue behind his teeth as he did. Were there any postcards about cheese? Silly bint loved her cheese! Bloody hell! There was! It was a cartoon of a fat, over-stuffed rat in a sombrero leaning back against a huge block of cheese that had a good bit eaten from it. Below it was the caption, ‘¡Viva la queso!’

Spike laughed. “Bloody brilliant,” he muttered, checking the eastern horizon over his shoulder again as he absently spun the display stand to the last side.

Balls! How long had he been mucking around here? He looked down at his handful of postcards – ten or twelve at least – that he’d saved out, messages mentally composed for each and every one. “Bugger me,” he growled, scowling. What the fuck was he doing? Still had rats to get for Dru and he was screwing around with postcards for the bleeding Slayer! He needed to get going! As it was, he’d be lucky to get back to Dru with just the two rats without getting sizzled.

He angrily shoved all the postcards back into one slot on the stand. Wasn’t sending the sodding bitch more postcards, for fuck’s sake! What the hell was he thinking? Clearly, he wasn’t!

He hurriedly bent to pick up the cage at his feet when another one caught his eye. A mischievous grin curled his lips as he pulled it out. “Gotta get that one…” he decided, an evil glint sparkling in his blue eyes. “Be bloody perfect, that will.”

Spike looked around for the vendor, who was helping another customer. He slipped the card into his pocket, quickly plucked one of the red roses from the vase, and snagged a paper from a stack on the ground. With vampire speed and grace, he snatched up the cage of rats and was nothing but a blur of black and platinum as he darted away from the stand. His jubilant laughter trailed behind him as he wove through the other foot traffic and street vendors, the message for the card already floating through his mind, his fingers itching for a pen.

“Wonder if it’ll make her pout,” he mused to himself, a vision of that adorable … errr… annoying bottom lip dancing through his mind as he turned the corner and disappeared from view.

** X-X-X-X-X **

A few days later, Sunnydale…

Buffy wondered who this Von Hauptman guy was and how the Glove of Myhnegon had gotten into his crypt in the first place. Giles hadn’t been his normal over-sharing self with the details. Probably because of ‘Gwendolyn Post, Mrs.’, Faith’s new Watcher and overall Council tattletale, showing up and shattering his stiff upper lip.

Oh well, it didn’t matter, really. Come to crypt. Wait for demon. Kill demon. Get glove. Make Giles happy.

Another Tuesday night in Sunnydale.

Faith had been MIA for a while, apparently breaking in the charming Mrs. Post. Buffy gave even odds on who would be breaking who – Faith with her authority figure issues, or Mrs. Post with her overbearing, stick-up-the-ass authority. Either way, it left Lagos for Buffy to deal with. So, she and her coppery shadow, Spike, waited, crouched behind a marble angel near the Von Hauptman crypt, hoping it would show soon. There could be Bronzing later.

They were not kept waiting long.

Spike spotted Lagos first, his low, rumbling growl vibrating up Buffy’s arm from where she’d been petting him. The Slayer peeked out from their hiding spot, but it hardly seemed necessary, as the demon was paying them no mind at all. Lagos wasn’t that impressive as far as demons went – not too big, mostly human-shaped with just a few extra bits on its face that were more decorative than dangerous.

“You go low, I’ll go high, and we’ll meet in the middle,” Buffy whispered to the dog, who gave a soft chuffing sound of agreement as the demon approached.

Buffy and Spike had just begun their charge when a fourth dark figure leaped down from the top of the crypt they’d been guarding, and landed atop Lagos. Buffy and Spike ended up crashing into each other instead of their target as the demon and its attacker rolled away across the open lawn, then smashed into a headstone.

Luckily, Spike had been going low, so Buffy landed on top and didn’t get crushed under his considerable bulk. Unluckily, their limbs tangled, and they ended up sprawled on the grass for several moments before they could regain their feet. When she turned to the continuing scuffle a few feet away, Lagos had gained the upper hand. He slammed his attacker against a crypt wall with exceptional strength. The impact filled the cemetery with the sound of cracking bones and crumbling cement. It was then that she realized who it was – Angel!

Buffy’s focus slipped as she took an instinctive step toward the downed vampire, who lay moaning and bleeding, crumpled like a rag doll. In that moment she didn’t notice Lagos’ axe being drawn back as he rushed toward her, intent on decapitating the only thing now standing between him and his prize.

Spike took exception to that plan. He let out an ear-splitting bark of warning as the axe swung toward Buffy’s neck in a wide arc, the blade a blur in the air. Buffy’s head whipped back around at the sound, in time to see the blade coming right at her, too late to block.

The Slayer jerked back just as the weapon sliced through the empty air where her neck had been a split-second before. Or, almost empty air. A searing, sharp sting cut across the front of her neck, making her cry out. She fell like a stone, landing on her back with a thud, the literal wind knocked out of her with the abrupt impact. Her hands darted up to find a thick line of blood dribbling from her throat, as she fought to draw air back into her lungs.

Not a moment later, the Guardian dog’s eyes flashed with blue-white fire, fangs bared, jaws snapping as he threw himself against the demon’s flank.

The demon hit the ground with Spike coming down atop it, forcing an ‘oof’ of expelled breath from the axe-wielding humanoid. The demon and the dog rolled, each clawing for an advantage on the damp grass. The demon hit Spike with the haft of the axe, drawing a whine of pain from the big dog and giving the demon time get a new, deadly grip on his weapon.

Buffy fought back panic as blood flowed through her fingers, hot and slick, though it wasn’t pulsing or shooting – the blade had missed her jugular and carotid. The fact that she was still conscious and able to even realize that was also a huge clue that no super-important bits had been severed. Calling on all her slayer experience and the adrenaline surging through her, Buffy scrambled back to her feet, keeping one hand pressed to her throat. Just before the demon’s axe came down in deadly earnest on Spike’s back, she grabbed the handle of the weapon at its midpoint, blocking it from striking, stopping it mid-swing.

They all struggled for several long, tense moments – demon, dog, and Slayer. Spike’s jaws flashed, ripping and rending flesh while Buffy and the demon fought for control of the axe. Finally, red, demonic blood flew as Spike’s powerful jaws closed over the demon’s throat, teeth sinking in like daggers through Swiss cheese.

Spike growled with fury and satisfaction as demonic bones crunched and splintered in his violent defense of his hooman, transforming him from cuddly puppy to powerful Guardian of the Twilight. Buffy yanked the axe from the demon’s waning grip, stumbling back a step as it came free. Spike whipped his head back and forth in the ancient and honored tradition of predators the world over, only stopping when his prey went limp and lifeless in his mouth.

The command to, “Release!” whispered through the otherwise still cemetery, Buffy’s voice shrill with adrenaline but rough with pain.

Spike’s growl never lessened, his lips remained drawn back from deadly fangs, but he released his hold on the crunchy rabbit, taking a single step back. The axe came down on the demon’s neck the next moment, separating Lagos’ head from his body. Spike huffed out an overtly pleased breath, the blue-white fire in his eyes fading along with his growl.

Buffy dropped to the ground, the axe falling from her grip as she brought both hands up to her throat again, trying to assess the damage and slow the bleeding. Spike was there the next moment, a soft whine burbling in his throat as he gently pressed her hands away from the wound with his nose. His tongue was warm and rough against her skin as he gently tended to the nasty gash. Buffy let her head fall back on the grass, her eyes closing in relief as the wound began to slowly heal beneath the mystical dog’s attentions.

By the time Spike finished a few minutes later, the bleeding had completely stopped and all that remained of the wound was an angry red line across the Slayer’s flesh. She pushed herself to sitting and wrapped an arm around her companion. “Thanks, buddy,” she murmured, running her blood-stained fingers over her throat, checking it. It was only the second time Spike had done that for her, and this was by far and away the worst of the two. “Remind me to send a fruit basket to Uriah for letting you stay with me.”

Spike made a happy chuffing sound and gave her cheek an affectionate nuzzle, before turning his attention to the downed demon. As Buffy pushed herself back to her feet and tried to catch her breath, the dog sniffed at the head, then the body of Lagos, before raising a leg and dousing the corpse in a victory shower.

Buffy rolled her eyes at the gesture, but said, “Good boy, Spike,” as she reached out and patted his gore-stained head.

Spike’s massive mouth dropped open in a doggie grin. His tongue lolled goofily as long globules of bloody saliva dripped, streaking his chest and legs all the way down to his paws, with gore. He looked up at her with gruesome affection only a Slayer could appreciate.

“That doesn’t mean you can shake on me,” she warned, wagging a finger at him. “Remember, ten feet away before you shake.”

“Whoof!” Spike replied, loud enough to dislodge a shower of leaves from a nearby ivy vine – and free some of the red, sticky spittle that had been dangling from his lips.

A painful moan from a few feet away reminded them of the other demon in the cemetery. Buffy picked up the axe before both she and Spike headed over to where Angel lay, woozy but awake. Spike’s growl returned as they neared the vampire who had managed to push up to a seated position, his back against the cracked wall of the crypt.

“What the hell was that?” Buffy demanded, her voice raspy, but feeling stronger by the minute.

“Trying … to … help,” Angel gasped out, wrapping an arm around his torso, cradling his ribs as if they were broken.

“Help? Help?!” Buffy demanded, incredulously. “You just about got us both killed! What the hell, Angel!? Are you even serious right now?”

He looked up at her, brown eyes slightly glazed. “I saw the demon … thought…”

“No, you didn’t think!” the Slayer growled in a good approximation of the dog at her side. “What are you even doing here? Were you following me?”

“Not following, was just out … saw you … saw the demon … thought…” he stammered, trying to push up to his feet.

Buffy grasped his upper arm and yanked him up, drawing a gasp of pain from the brunette. “You thought, you’d what? Do me a favor? Build up points to offset the giant hole you dug yourself by going to Giles and blabbing?”

“It’s not like that,” he defended.

“Good! Because that would just be childish, kinda like tattling,” she fumed.

“I just want to help,” he replied sheepishly, half bent over and still clutching his ribs.

Buffy sighed and rolled her eyes, her anger suddenly morphing into a plan in her mind. “You really want to help?” she asked.

“You know I do.”

“Giles gave me an assignment … punishment for going off with Spike without telling him. Will you help me with it?” she wondered.

“Sure,” Angel agreed immediately. “What is it?”

“A comprehensive report on the life and times of the master vampire Angelus,” Buffy informed him, waiting to see how he’d try to wriggle out of this. “It would be tons faster if I could just get it from the vampire’s mouth instead of trying to piece things together from old Watcher diaries and musty codices.”

Angel gawped a bit, his mouth opening and closing like a landed guppy before saying, “Uh, I guess … but … why?”

“It’s something the Council wants for … I don’t know, old Councily things. You know how they are with documenting completely meaningless ancient history,” she lied, shrugging.

“Oh.” Angel’s brows furrowed, a sure sign he was thinking furiously, despite his calm outward demeanor.

“It’s fine if you don’t,” Buffy offered with a shrug. “I doubt I’ll have any time for much socializing until I get done. Faith may even have to take over patrols, so, you know, don’t expect to see me for a while.”

Angel’s face fell. “Oh,” he repeated, clearly getting the hint – no help, no seeing of Buffy. “Well, okay then, yeah … sure.”

Her brows went up in surprise. Could it really be that easy to get him to talk? Just threaten to hide away for a while? “Great! I’ll have my people call your people,” she quipped.

Angel looked confused.

Buffy rolled her eyes. “How about I just come by one night and we can get started?”

“Sure. You know where I am,” he agreed, pushing off the crypt wall.

‘When you aren’t out being a big buttinsky and almost getting us killed,’ she thought, turning away. “I have to get something out of this crypt, then I’ll help you get home,” she said aloud, turning away from him.

She’d gone about ten feet when Angel’s voice rang out in warning, “Spike!”

The single word, combined with Angel’s tone, evoked a vivid image of the leather-clad vampire in Buffy’s mind. She imagined the next sound would be a snarky reply, some rude insult combined with an expletive hurled at Angel. Or maybe he’d just address her in that cocky way that is so uniquely Spike as he sauntered into view, ‘Slayer’.

Buffy spun around, eyes searching the graveyard, her heart leaping, breath caught painfully in her throat. A small bubble of disappointment burst in her chest when she realized Angel was talking to her dog – something he rarely did, choosing to ignore him most of the time. Angel hadn’t been issuing a ‘vampire alert’ or castigating his grandchilde; the annoying blond hadn’t magically materialized in Sunnydale.

Of course, he hadn’t,’ she chided herself with an eye roll. ‘He’s in some warm, sunny country with the love of his unlife … which was just stupid. Why would vampires go to the sunny south for winter? Shouldn’t they go north where the days are shorter and thus, less chance of sun poisoning?’

“Spike!” Angel repeated, pulling Buffy from her musings as he backed away from the dog. “Don’t you dare! I mean it!”

But it was too late. Spike’s whole body had begun rotating, nose to tail, in a massive, cleansing shake. His shiny hair seemed to be Scotchgarded, any grossness simply sliding off the long stands in a fine spray of blood, saliva, and small bits of Lagos, which covered Angel from head to foot.

Buffy stifled a laugh and began walking again, her hand rubbing at her healed throat. ‘Good boy, Spike. Good boy.’

** X-X-X-X-X **

Buffy sighed in relief when she and Spike finally made it home. It had been a productive night overall, if exhausting. She’d gotten Angel to agree to be interviewed about the life and times of Angelus. They’d managed to destroy the Glove of Myhnegon. And they’d gotten rid of one fake Watcher, ‘Gwendolyn Post, Mrs.’

And neither she nor Spike had died – no thanks to Angel and his clumsy attempt at … chivalry? Or, more likely, his attempt to get back in her good graces. Buffy was still conflicted about Angel. Everything that Spike-the-vampire had told her about him warred with the ‘first love’ affection that, despite everything, still held a place in her heart.

In the end, there had been two casualties sustained. The first was Giles’ hard head, which had been cracked open by the evil ex-Watcher. The second was Angel’s house, where the final battle had ended up after said evil ex-Watcher followed Buffy, Spike, Angel, and the glove back to Crawford Street. The wicked bitch had even convinced Faith to fight on her side … at least for a while.

Buffy supposed there’d actually been a third casualty: Faith. Buffy had tried to talk to her after the fight was over, but the dark Slayer had pulled away – literally and figuratively – muttering about how stupid it was to think she could trust anyone but herself, then slinging an, ‘It’s cool, B. I’m five-by-five’. Buffy sighed, unsure what she could do about that. She was positive Faith wasn’t feeling five-by-five at all. More like, a two-by-four… to her chest… How did you help someone who didn’t want to be helped, or befriend someone who didn’t want any friends?

She turned her attention back to the present and the big dog who most certainly was her friend. “You had a pretty good night, didn’t ya, boy?” Buffy asked, pulling stakes out from places never designed to hold them and dropping them into a basket by the door. “Saved me, killed Legos…”

Spike let out a little “Woof,” as his tail began wagging in earnest and he leaned heavily against Buffy’s legs.

“Okay, we killed him, but I probably wouldn’t have been nearly as helpful without my head,” she agreed, scratching his ears with one hand as she picked up the stack of mail from the table with the other. “Then we got Mrs. Post – I think you got about seventy percent of the credit on her, since you ripped her arm off while Faith and I drew her fire,” she continued, scanning the mail absently.

“Whooof!” Spike agreed as his tail began wagging so hard his entire body was swaying back and forth.

“Holy shit,” Buffy breathed, her brows furrowing even as her heart began doing ecstatic cartwheels in her chest. “He sent another one.”

Spike made an interrogative sniffling sound as he lifted his nose up to check what she had. As soon as the scent hit him, he began wagging his tail again, slamming it against the table leg with teeth-rattling force. “Whoof!” he exclaimed in excitement as he started squirming and twisting his whole body in a happy doggie dance.

Buffy laughed at his antics, letting the dog’s joy merge with her own, which was bubbling like liquid sunshine in her chest. Spike sent another postcard! One was … well, unexpected, though she figured even Spike could stick with a plan for two days. But it had been over a week now, and he’d sent another one? He was still thinking about her! Still hating her just as much as she was hating him.

This one was from Chihuahua, Mexico and it, predictably, pictured a cute, female Chihuahua on the front. The long-haired little dog was all dressed up in bright colors, clearly ready for a night on the town … for a fiesta, Buffy corrected herself mentally. Buffy ran her hand over the glossy surface, musing, ‘Spike’s hand had been right here. His strong fingers had held it, curled around it.’

She remembered those fingers, comforting and capable, curling around her hip, offering her support when her friends had confronted her, hurling accusations and innuendos, upon their return from rescuing Dru. A little shiver ran through her with the memory, the cool weight of his fingers a tingling phantom on her skin. ‘Of all the postcards, he picked this one out just for me. He was thinking of me the whole time.’ The thought of it all gave her a thrill, making goosebumps prickle her skin.

Buffy was still smiling, her heart fluttering and light, when she turned it over to read the message – the message he’d written just for her.

Her brows furrowed. Her smile fell. Her heart sagged. The goosebumps stopped tingling her skin. A stab of disappointment squirmed around inside her, a pout ready to form on her lips as she announced deadpanned to the dog, “It’s for you.”

Spike stopped dancing and looked at her, his expression curious.

“It’s addressed just to you,” Buffy reiterated flatly, pushing back the little green-eyed monster that had awakened inside. The blond creep was thinking about her dog, not her. Composing messages to her dog! Picking out postcards for her dog! Stupid vampire.

“See?” she said to Spike. “Cujo Summers, the bloody big furball.’”

“RRRawrf!” Spike prompted, tilting his head to the side.

“Okay, okay! It says, ‘Don’t forget your promise – big bad to big bad – keep the girl safe. No one kills the Slayer but me.’”

“Whoof!” Spike barked happily, the full-body wag and happy dance commencing again.

Buffy couldn’t help but smile at the dog, her jealousy and disappointment over Spike sending him a card waning slightly, though the damn vampire could’ve at least put his little coded message, HYYF –S, to her on there with it. Not like there wasn’t enough room.

“Big, dumb jerk,” she muttered with a pout.

Buffy’s eyes drifted over the message again, the full force of the words hitting her square in the belly, stealing her breath. A band tightened around her chest. The fear that had been masked by the adrenaline of the fight with Lagos squeezed around her, making it hard to draw in air. Her free hand went back to her throat as she turned to look into the mirror beside the door. If she’d been a millisecond slower, or if Spike’s warning had come just that much later, she’d be dead now. It could’ve easily been her blood soaking the cemetery grass, her head separated neatly from her shoulders.

Would Spike have peed on her like he did Lagos? No, she decided, he’d have been devastated. Just like she would be if anything happened to him.

Her legs wobbled a little and she dropped down, kneeling on the foyer floor, throwing her arms around the big dog. Buffy buried her face into the long, lion-like mane around his neck, clutching him to her tightly. He could’ve died tonight too – died protecting her. That thought felt like a scorching brand pressing against Buffy’s heart. Spike had become so much more than a family pet. He was even more than just the best slaying buddy ever. He was her friend, her confidant, her co-conspirator, her source of comfort and provider of warm-fuzzies. Strange as it was to say, he understood her like no one else did … well, no one except maybe his namesake, who seemed to have an uncanny talent for reading her moods and thoughts, even all the way from Mexico.

“I love you, Spike,” she murmured into his rich fur, hugging him even tighter. “Thank you for keeping your promise.”

Spike whined softly, his wild tail wagging slowing to a sedate ‘whooshing’, as he nuzzled against her neck. Buffy squeaked, her shoulders rising to block the cold-nose attack, which only made Spike up the ante and begin delivering wet, enthusiastic doggie kisses to her skin.

“Argh! Spike kisses! Kisses of Spike!” she yipped, ducking away. Spike’s joy returned as he felt Buffy’s mood lighten, and he doubled down on the kisses. In the end, Buffy was laughing, her arms raised over her head in surrender and defense. “Get me some mouthwash! Get me some bleach!”

“Whooof!” Spike replied, sitting down in front of her, panting happily, his eyes bright with delight.

“You’re such a goof,” Buffy taunted lightly, scratching his ears playfully. “What would I do without you?”

“Wooof!” he replied, shaking his head vigorously, rattling his tags, before settling his warm gaze back on her.

“Well, I guess that means we’re stuck with each other,” she interpreted, standing back up, before remembering the postcard in her hand. She looked down at it thoughtfully, the weight lifted from her heart – it was her Spike’s specialty. It seemed like the evil vampire Spike wasn’t too bad at it either.

“So, guess the picture is for you too – she’s a hottie,” Buffy observed, showing Spike the picture of the little dog.

“WHOOOF!” the big dog agreed enthusiastically, his tongue lolling out and mouth hanging open, reminding Buffy of a cartoon character – eyes bursting with hearts, and tongue rolling out all the way to the floor.

She laughed again and ruffled his fur vigorously, which just made Spike wriggle and waggle more. “C’mon,” she encouraged, trying to get past him to the stairs. “We’ll hang it up over your bed … like a pinup girl.”

“RrrrrraaaaaaRRRRFFFF!” the big dog concurred, nearly knocking Buffy down as he bounded up the stairs ahead of her.

“Even from another country, you’re totally ruining my dog,” Buffy complained to the postcard, but she couldn’t stop smiling. “Good boy, Spike.”

** X-X-X-X-X **

End Note: As I noted in the first chapter, I’ll post this story in its entirety on EF/AO3/FF sometime in the (hopefully near) future. There will be more postcards! There will be more glimpses into both of their lives as they go about trying to live like they are ‘supposed to’ … we’ll see how that works out for them.

Thank you so much for reading! I would love your thoughts and comments!

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