Chapter Notes:
Also, I think hollydb wrote something very similar to something I have Anya say in this chapter.  It was an inadvertent similarity, of which she is aware, and we both think it just too Anya-like not to keep it in the text.

Upon seeing Xander standing awkwardly next to his obviously-excited girlfriend, Spike immediately felt the urge to rush by – bumping the whelp off-balance as he did so – but managed to bite down on it when he felt Buffy beginning to approach from behind him. And, oddly enough, when she walked back out the door not seconds later, Spike found himself still standing in front of the whelp and his brightly-smiling girlfriend, waiting for one or the other to break the silence.

It was, of course, the ever-forward Anya, who kicked at her boyfriend’s foot and announced, “Xander has something important to tell you.”

Sparing a scowl at the ex-demon, Xander clenched the fingers of his right hand and said, “I don’t like you.”

Spike raised an eyebrow at the statement, and replied, “Never really thought you did. That what you lot had to say?”

Spurred on by Anya’s glare, Xander sighed. “However,” he spat, before continuing through gritted teeth, “it was…good…what you did back then.” Regaining some of his own, Xander unclenched his jaw and added, “Guess all that stalking you did of Buffy really paid off in the end. You got to play hero.”

Spike’s other eyebrow rose at the statement, as Anya’s foot connected firmly with Xander’s shin. Wincing, the boy looked at his lover in time to catch her glare magnifying in intensity, flinched, and sighed, turning back to the vampire before him.

“What I mean is…thanks,” he managed before looking back at his smiling-once-again girlfriend, searching for validation of her pleased approval.

Spike placed an uncertain hand on the boy’s shoulder and replied, “Know that was hard for you, mate. But I don’ want to be best friends and do the manly bondin’ an’ all that. I’m right flattered you think of me like that, though.” His lips tugged into a smirk. “Always had my suspicions ‘bout you.”

Xander’s eyes were rapidly approaching the point of flaming in anger, while Anya, obviously excited to provide information, decided to take lead of the conversation. “I told Xander that I would withhold all orgasms in the foreseeable future if he continued to refuse to speak to you,” she said, nodding emphatically. “And furthermore tried to solicit his cooperation by offering the incentive of orgasms by means of oral copulation.” Anya’s smile widened with her obvious delight. “It seems to have worked well. I shall have to remember this technique for future negotiations.”

Biting back his chuckle, Spike awkwardly patted Xander’s shoulder. “You’ve got yourself a live one there,” he said, his senses jumping to attention as he felt Buffy approaching the front door of the Magic Box – where had she gone? – and added, “You an’ me, ‘s…well, there’s no love lost, yeah, but it’s good to know you’re not gonna stake me.”

Xander’s body slowly began to unclench. “Never say never, Evil Dead.”

Spike removed his hand, watching in quiet amazement as the boy shifted into something he’d never been around the vampire before. For the first time in the history of knowing him, Xander Harris was at ease around William the Bloody. And all it took was for Lazarus to play an encore performance combined with the ever-intimidating threat of blue balls.

They had something new. An understanding. A fragile truce. Which was leagues away from what they’d had before Spike had jumped.

Of course, it simply wouldn’t do for word to get out that the Big Bad was forming the first tentative bonds of friendship with a boy who was in effect a glorified bricklayer. And somehow, Spike knew that the boy’s thoughts ran in a similar vein.

“Regardless,” Spike replied, “I don’ think it’s gonna happen. At leas’, as demon-girl there says, in the foreseeable future.”

Anya tugged impatiently on Xander’s sleeve, pulling him towards the back exit of the shop. “That means the orgasm embargo has been lifted,” she informed him excitedly. “Which means that we need to return home as soon as possible, and now that Buffy is back, we can go home now, right?”

Spike turned to acknowledge Buffy walking up to stand by his side. “I couldn’t find the van,” she informed him.

Xander’s ears perked even as he fought a losing battle to stay in the shop. “Van?” he asked loudly. “What van?” At his voice, Willow and Tara ceased their chatter in the corner to focus their attention on the slayer, and Anya, sighing, begrudgingly listened as well.

“Spike saw a van parked outside of the shop,” Buffy explained, her eyes darting around the room to make sure everyone present was listening. “One of those vans you always see used for super-secret surveillance in every cop movie.” At this, Xander nodded in perfect understanding. The rest, however, needed further description. “It was black, with this…thing. On the side. Like a big silver circle.”

At her side, Spike murmured something under his breath, his eyes trained on the ground and his toe kicking at some invisible object he spotted.

Placing her hand lightly on his arm, Buffy turned towards the vampire. “What was that?”

“It was the sodding Death Star,” he repeated, his gaze suddenly darting to meet hers, defying her to poke fun at him.

She did not. Her lips simply parted, expelled an, “Oh,” and she continued with their impromptu meeting, her hand slipping off of his arm. His bereft skin complained loudly at her absence.

“Okay,” Buffy continued, “so we have a black van with a giant Death Star painted on the side. Spike thinks it’s important enough to keep an eye on, and I agree with him. So everyone just…keep a look out for it, okay?”

With nods of agreement and a quick glance at the clock, the Scoobies parted ways for the night.

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“For God’s sake, Andrew,” Warren huffed as the three boys walked the few blocks back to the van, “if you couldn’t keep hold of him, you shouldn’t have brought him.”

Andrew clutched the small action figure to his chest, stroking a finger across the plastic helmet. “But Boba Fett is…like…a sort of figurehead,” he breathed reverently. “He’s a model of success for what we’re trying to do.”

Warren sighed and held up a hand in exasperation, not even bothering to stop to face the two lackeys behind him. “Get your facts straight, dorkwad,” he replied. “It is clearly Han Solo who is the better choice for figurehead. Boba Fett just did it for the money. Solo…he did it for the glory.”

“Han Solo did it for the money, too,” Jonathan piped up from his position next to Andrew. “In the original Star Wars, he explicitly stated to Princess Leia that--”

“I know what he said,” Warren interrupted, “but he ended up doing it for the glory.”

“But he took the money,” Andrew insisted. “When he met Luke Skywalker just before the Rebel assault on the Death Star--”

“Yeah!” Jonathan added. “He had to pay off Jabba the Hutt!” He added in a low and reverent voice, “Lord Jabba Desilijic Tiure.” His lips pulled into a small grin, clearly pleased at his knowledge of all things Star Wars.

Warren stopped walking just long enough to turn on his heel and snatch the action figure away from Andrew. “The point,” he said through gritted teeth, “is that Andrew here picked the wrong guy. Han Solo eventually did it for the glory. Which is what we’re doing.” He began walking towards the van again. “End of discussion.”

The silence lasted for all of five seconds before Andrew offered, “Do you think that Alec Guinness or Ewan McGregor made the better Obi-Wan?”

“Oh my God,” Warren hissed, rolling his eyes, “we are not having this discussion again! Look,” he continued, pointing, “there’s the van. Let’s just get back in and continue our surveillance of the Slayer. Okay?”

The Trio climbed into the back of the van; almost immediately, the tiny space was filled with the sound of Warren’s palm hitting the wall, and his subsequent shout of frustration.

“Jonathan! I thought I told you to record what we were missing!”

“I did!” the small boy replied nervously. Then, quieter, “I thought I did.”

“Well,” he replied, “you didn’t. There is clearly a reason why you are not the leader of this group.”

Jonathan pouted before opening his mouth to defend himself, but Warren’s whisper forced him into silence.

“The Slayer keeps looking at the window,” he said, fishing a pair of car keys out of his pocket and climbing into the driver’s seat. “I think she’s gonna come outside.” His words were, however, ignored by his two subordinates, who had gleefully picked up the abandoned Obi-Wan debate. And so with a quick flick of his wrist and pressure to the gas pedal, Warren Mears started the engine and navigated the dark surveillance van away from the vicinity of the Magic Box and into the camouflage of night.

------------------

Her dreams were filled with static images and muffled sounds and emotions she did not fully comprehend.

Darkness, and fear, and the desperate scratching of something against something. Buffy, downtrodden, an empty vessel of the woman she once was. The acrid smell of whiskey, or tequila, and the pungent aroma of sweat and demons packed into an unventilated bar. The choking presence of plaster dust filling her lungs while her body was filled with a heat – and chill – that she had never known. Anger and confusion and rage, and remorseless blood covering her hands in a darkened alleyway. The scent of familiar shampoo and body-wash and the cold tile of the bathroom, and an expression of terror that she had never before displayed.

Her world shifted around her and she was assaulted once more with a perplexing miasma of sensatory information.

Depression, and an overwhelming feeling of worthlessness before being overtaken by awe and psalms of praise to a God long since abandoned. Uncertainty, and Spike slowly approaching the Summers’ porch. The smell of cigarette smoke and the texture of cards between his fingers; the burn of alcohol flowing down his throat. A warmth surrounding his body – a warmth he was somehow desperate to acknowledge as valid, and an underlying knowledge of its falsity. Pain, the taste of his own blood on his tongue and the swelling of a black eye throbbing on his face. Desperation and rage and a sick determination before being washed over completely with a horror he had never known.

Green eyes flew open as Willow shot up in bed, gasping for air as she clutched a trembling hand to her chest. Looking frantically around the dark room, Willow’s gaze finally fell upon her stirring lover, still blissfully unaware of the tumultuous thoughts buzzing around her girlfriend’s mind.

“Willow?”

Her breath hitched as she attempted to calm herself before answering. “Y-yeah, baby?”

Tara’s brow furrowed in concern, and she pushed herself up onto her elbow, scooting closer to the other witch. “Are you okay?” she whispered.

Willow paused. Was she? The dreams had seemed so real, had felt so real, that Willow risked a glance down at her hands to see if the blood was still there. When she was presented with nothing more than her own familiar skin, she allowed her shoulders to relax, and sighed out a deep breath.

“Yeah, baby,” she said, folding Tara into her arms and lying back in bed. “Just a bad dream.”

Unnoticed in its resting place under Willow’s desk, the jar continued to glow.




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