And we move on…
Xander walked in just as Spike was showing Willow and Buffy where to find the quote they needed in the second act of Hamlet. He shrugged at the now-familiar sight of the chipped vampire. Although Spike didn’t live with Giles anymore, he seemed to be there most evenings – even more often than the Scoobies.
Xander watched as all three bent over the large textbook, looking down to where Spike was pointing at the line they needed. When Willow raised her head, thanking Spike with a shy smile, and Buffy added her own casual thanks, Xander shook his head as if to clear it. Somehow, since Willow’s spell, Spike had wormed his way into their happy little family. A family which now included not just the Slayer, a witch, a former demon, and a reformed demon worshipper, but a vampire who had been their mortal enemy what seemed like only a short time ago.
“Yeah, thanks, Spike. Giles always thinks it’s cheating when he helps me with my homework.” Buffy gave Giles a triumphant grin and slammed the book closed.
“Watcher probably just didn’t know where to find that line,” Spike said, adding his own smirk at the disgruntled-looking man. “Needed a bit of help from a fellow countryman who went to better schools.”
“Schools? Spike went to schools?” Xander was still trying to figure out what he’d missed. “Spike knows Shakespeare?”
Buffy shrugged. “Well, he was probably alive then, wasn’t he? For all we know, he ate Shakespeare.”
Identical appalled stares from the two Brits and Willow brought a frown to her face.
“What?” she muttered. “It’s not like he isn’t older than dirt…” When they continued to stare at her, she stage whispered to Willow, “When was Shakespeare around?”
“Um… about four hundred years ago?”
“Bloody Colonials,” Spike said, sharing a short bonding moment with Giles that didn’t go unnoticed by Willow.
“Hey! I knew the right answer!”
“Quite right. Willow is an exceptional student who actually learned things during her time at Sunnydale High School.”
“The Slayer apparently didn’t.” Spike’s smirk was too much for Buffy.
“The Slayer was too busy running around cemeteries all night, chasing bad guys and saving the world!”
She glared back and forth between Giles and Spike, breathing hard, her fists clenched at her sides. Giles immediately looked ashamed, dropping his head and muttering, “Right you are, Buffy. I certainly didn’t mean to imply—”
“Yes you did. You said Willow learned things, implying that I didn’t.” She turned her glare on Spike, who had lost his smirk and seemed almost as ashamed as Giles. “And you! One of the bad guys I have… had to spend my time chasing… You just had to jump right on it and say it out loud, didn’t you?”
“You do remember I’m evil, Slayer?” he blustered, trying to hide his chagrin.
“Maybe you should remember you can’t fight back anymore. You know, when you’re feeling the urge to be evil? Just in case I decide to make you dusty for it.”
“You wouldn’t do that… would you?” He looked momentarily worried, then smiled. “No. You wouldn’t do it. Too much of a white hat for your own good, you are. As long as I’m harmless, I’m safe from you.”
Xander waved his hand. “I don’t think I’m too much of a white hat. Want me to stake him for you, Buffy?” Spike’s snarl did nothing to change Xander’s demeanor, only causing him to narrow his eyes and pick up one of Buffy’s stakes. “Can I, Buffy? Huh, can I?”
“Oh, leave him alone, Xander. He’s right. We’re the good guys. We don’t slay innocent—okay, not innocent, but currently harmless, creatures.”
Spike cocked his head at Buffy. “Do you ever wonder how many harmless creatures you’ve slayed, Summers?”
“What? I—no, of course not. I don’t— Do I, Giles?” A worried frown creased Buffy’s brow, and Giles glared at the grinning vampire.
“I’m quite sure you do not. And it is certainly not in your best interest to begin wondering if every vampire and demon you meet while on patrol might be harmless. There is no such thing.”
Spike laughed incredulously, then shook his head. “I’m disappointed in you, Watcher. Thought you’d got past all that Council of Wankers bollocks.”
“Spike…” Giles tone was low and dangerous, reminding Spike of the man who had taken on Angelus with nothing but a torch and a stake. “I will not have Buffy hesitating at the wrong time because some bloody idiot has put the idea into her head that her opponent could be harmless.” He cringed realizing that he was giving a vampire valuable information that could be used against Buffy, but to his relief, Spike was immediately contrite. He shrugged at Buffy in apology.
“He’s right, pet. Wasn’t thinkin’, was I? You can’t afford to be worrying about—” He turned back to Giles. “Best way for her not to worry about it, is to know how to identify the harmless demons. Anything else would be fair game. Which ones have you taught her?”
There was an uncomfortable silence for a full minute before Buffy let out an explosive breath.
“I don’t like research and studying, okay? Giles tried to teach me about different kinds of demons, but I… I didn’t pay much attention,” she finished in a barely audible mumble.
“Ah. Well, let’s go then.” Spike walked over and held the door open.
“Yeah. Go. We’re going to hit all the demon bars in town until I’m sure you know which ones are and aren’t dangerous.”
“Do I get to slay the ones that are?”
“Maybe. If I think we can take ‘em. Not gonna let you start a bar fight if I don’t think we can win it.”
“We?” Buffy said as she ducked under his arm and went out the door. “When did we get to be a ‘we’?”
“When your boytoy’s friends turned me into something that can’t fight anything but other demons. You don’t want me going crackers with boredom, do you?”
“Are you just going to let them go?” Xander’s eyes were bulging as he stared between the closing door and Giles.
Giles shrugged. “I don’t recall either one of them asking my permission. In any event, if Spike can teach her to recognize a few different types of demons, more power to him. It is information the slayer should have, it has just never been Buffy’s forte.”
“But… this isn’t patrol. She’s going to bars. With Spike! The vampire she thought she was going to marry a couple of months ago. You know, the one that wants to kill us?”
“I’m aware of what Spike is, Xander,” Giles said, allowing a trace of irritation to creep into his voice. “What is your point, exactly?”
“My point, is that going bar-hopping sounds way too datey to suit me. She should be staking him, not going out drinking with him!”
“I believe the purpose of the expedition is for Buffy to learn the difference between demons likely to be a danger to her or anyone else, and those with which she need not trouble herself. This is good information for her to have, and Spike should be an excellent guide. He is, after all, quite an old vampire and one with an excellent education.”
“Excellent education? Spike thinks Weetabix is a food group! He still dresses like it was 1970 – not that I remember anything about 1970, but—”
“Neither his disgusting food preferences, nor his sense of fashion have anything to do with the education I am fairly certain he received when he was human. In fact, I have every intention of delving more deeply into the Council’s records and into…” Giles shuddered theatrically and turned to look at Willow. “And asking Willow to look into internet records of that time for more information about Spike as a human. In spite of what I have gleaned over the past several weeks, I suspect there is a good deal we still don’t know about him.”
“We know he’s an evil, soulless demon who only hasn’t killed us because he can’t. Why am I suddenly the only one who remembers that?”
Giles shrugged. “We don’t know if there may not be another purpose at work here. The Powers may have chosen to have Spike chipped as a way to permit him to earn his redemption. Somewhat like they did with Angel. They cursed Angel with a soul he didn’t want; they may have cursed Spike with an electronic chip that prevents him from killing.”
“The Powers need to mind their own damn business,” Xander muttered, settling down on the couch. “Or at least, if they’re going to keep inflicting harmless vampires on us, why can’t they pick a good looking female vampire?”
“Instead of two good-looking men?” Willow asked, blinking her eyes with mock innocence. Xander’s incoherent sputtering brought a smile even to Giles’s face.
“Spike and Angel are good-looking vampires! And I cannot believe I just said that…” He subsided into embarrassed muttering while Giles and Willow laughed openly.
“Nice to know you agree with me,” Willow said, still giggling. “That they’re good-looking, I mean.”
“I’m not agreeing about anything,” Xander said. “In fact I’m not talking at all until Anya gets here… and maybe not even then.”
“So, where are we going? Willy’s?”
Spike shook his head. “No, want you to learn which demons to leave alone – that means we have to go to nicer places. The only harmless demon you’re likely to find at Willy’s is Clem – and even you should be able to figure out he’s alright. ”
“Clem?” Buffy decided, in light of her admission that she didn’t know much about demon types, she wouldn’t punch Spike for his “even you” remark.
“Nice guy. Not the brightest, but friendly. Can’t miss him – he looks like he’s wearing the skin of somebody three times his size. And ears he borrowed from a basset hound.”
“Sounds like my kind of guy,” she snorted. “Can’t wait to meet him.”
“He’s a nice person, Slayer. Don’t be so judgmental.”
“I’m not judgmental! And when did you start using big words?”
His only reply to her first statement was a raised eyebrow, but he grinned as he said, “Just trying to help you along with that college education.” He winced but laughed when she hit him on the arm, saying, “I’ll have you know my SAT scores were high enough to make Giles look impressed. At least, he was impressed until he heard what Willow’s were… but that doesn’t count. Willow’s like… inhumanly smart.”
“Okay, maybe not the best choice of words for somebody who was born and raised in Sunnydale, but you know what I mean. Stop acting like you don’t!”
“Just winding you up, Slayer,” he said mildly. “Sometimes you just make it too easy for me.”
“Note to self, stop making it easy for Spike to be an ass. Oh wait – too late!”
“Ha, bloody, ha, luv. Here we are.”
“Where we are?” Buffy stared at the nondescript-looking building in front of them.
“One of Sunnydale’s nicer demon bars,” he replied, gesturing toward the door. “Let’s go in.”
“There are ‘nice’ demon bars?” Buffy hadn’t moved, and he growled under his breath.
“There’s a whole ‘nother world of Sunnydale than what you know, Slayer. Made up of demons that are harmless but like living on a hellmouth. Lot of ‘em look human enough to pass. You probably deal with demons everyday and don’t know it because they don’t do anything evil. There are even a few vamps that are pretty harmless. Too afraid or lazy to hunt. They find… other ways… to get what they need.”
“Harmless vamps? Other than you?”
Spike snarled. “I’m this way because the biggest evil in this town is that lab hiding underground where they think it’s alright to indulge in vivisection as long as they’re only using vamps and demons. The vampires I’m talking about have chosen not to kill. Not on purpose, anyway…”
“How does a vampire kill ‘accidentally’? Give me a break, Spike. You’re just full of it.” She tossed her head, but moved to the door Spike was now holding open for her.
“I’ll explain about that later. Right now, I need for you to smile and look like you wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
“What if it’s an evil fly?” she asked, ducking under his arm and entering the room. It was hard to miss the crashing silence that greeted her arrival. Everyone in the room – from the normal and not-so-normal looking couples having dinner to the bartender and the maître d’ – was staring at Buffy with wide, frightened eyes.
Spike leaned down and growled into her ear. “Don’t care if it’s the bloody devil disguised as a fly, if you see it here, let it go. And smile!”
Following his own advice, he smiled at the glaring headwaiter and gestured to an empty table. “Nobody’s looking for trouble here,” he said, resting his hand on Buffy’s shoulder. “We’re just going to have a drink or two and be on our way.”
The maître d’ nodded stiffly and led them to a booth. Buffy tried to observe him without being so obvious she might make him nervous, but didn’t see anything unusual about him until she noticed the tail hanging below his jacket. She gave him her best “I’m not planning to kill you” smile and slid into the booth. Spike sat down across from her and ordered a beer for himself and when Buffy shook her head at his questioning eyebrow, he ordered a Diet Coke for her.
“No alcohol while you’re working?” he said with a smile.
“Alcohol and Buffy – not mixy things. Trust me.” She made a face and shuddered, giving him a half-hearted glare when he laughed aloud.
“I’ll remember that,” he said. “Not a good idea to ply the Slayer with alcohol.”
“Is that what you were planning to do? Ply me with alcohol?”
“Maybe. Thought about it.” He shrugged. “Why not?”
“Because we hate each other?”
“Well… yeah. There’s that. Guess I missed my chance. Should have done my plyin’ when you thought you were in love with me, not after we remembered we hate each other.”
“That’s right,” she said, smiling at the waitress who shoved their drinks at them and quickly retreated to the safety of the bar. “We hate each other… “ She frowned as she picked up her glass. “I think… Don’t we?”
“Are you askin’ me or tellin’ me, pet?”
She gave herself a little shake. “Of course we do. You’re evil and annoying and…”
“And you’re a self-righteous little bitch with a mean right cross.” He tipped his bottle toward her. “Here’s to us.”
Buffy snorted her agreement and lightly touched his bottle with her glass. She took another deep swallow, then set the glass down and looked around the room at the other customers, most of which had gone back to their meals – although not without casting frequent glances at the out of place couple chatting in the booth.
“Alright, Slayer. Don’t stare at them, just listen. The ones that look human are all either humans, part human, or from demon breeds that can hide their features. Chances are, they’re all harmless, unless they’re regular evil, criminal types.”
“Vamps can hide their demon features,” she said, pointing at his own face. “They’re not harmless.”
“True, but your slayer senses should tell you when the good-looking bloke winking at you has a nasty secret,” he said, following his words with the action.
Buffy flushed, annoyed at the warmth flooding her face. “I’m getting better at that than I used to be.” She glanced up at him. “I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I didn’t know what Angel was until the first time he kissed me. He vamped out and I screamed. Then he jumped out the window and fell off the roof.” She shook her head with a sad smile. “Should have taken that embarrassing beginning as an omen, shouldn’t I?”
He choked on his beer and laughed loud enough to draw stares from around the room. When Buffy glared at him, he reached across the table and rested his hand on top of hers. “Could probably have saved yourself a lot of pain,” he said. “But if you can joke about it you must be getting better.”
Buffy frowned. “I kinda did make it sound funny, didn’t I? Huh! Go me. I’m getting over him.” She gave him a sideways glance. “I’m not quite as over him as I was when I thought I was in love and getting married, but I’m better than I was a few months ago when I thought I was going to die of misery. And, hey, I’ve even got a nice, normal… or semi-normal….” She frowned, remembering Riley’s no-longer-secret status as a demon-hunting commando. “Anyway, I’ve got a new boyfriend – so take that, Angel.”
Spike snatched his hand back, draining his beer and beckoning for another. “Right, I forgot. You’ve got a new boytoy to help you forget the poof.”
“Yep. Buffy has a new boyfriend. Things are looking up.” There was an uncomfortable silence as Buffy realized Spike didn’t look particularly happy about the mention of Riley. She sighed. “Look, Spike, I know you think you’ve got good reasons to hate Riley – and maybe you do from a vampire’s viewpoint – but the way I see it, the Initiative made you safe to be around without making you… you know, dusty.”
“Bully for them. And I should be excited about that because…?”
She frowned. “Well… I don’t know. I thought maybe we… never mind. Forgot there for a minute. We hate each other. Of course you’re not happy that you can hang out with me—us. I don’t know what I was thinking…”
“You were thinking it’s handy to have somebody besides the watcher who can talk to you about demons and help you with your homework. Got it, pet. Let’s get on with the lesson, yeah? Now see that couple in the corner? The ones with the pale green skin? They’re…”
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.dreamwidth.org/325707.html