“Ow! Bloody hell, not the nose.” The bleached blonde vamp growled through his fangs as he crunched the bones back into place. Blood from the break trickled down over his mouth and chin, making him look ghoulish as he snapped and snarled at his captors. One of the soldier boys, big bland looking fellow with a mop of brown hair and a flat midwestern accent, seemed to be directing the others. Spike pushed off the two guards trying to hold him and took a swing at the tosser. The punch didn’t connect as other members of the initiative tackled him. He went down heavy to the floor, still struggling. Midwest walked over, drew back a booted foot, and kicked Spike in the side, hard. Ribs snapped.
“I’m going return that favor one day,” the vampire hissed.
“Don’t think so, Hostile 17,” Midwest said, landing another vicious kick.
“Spike, the name’s Spike. We bloody well have names you know.”
“You don’t now, Hostile 17.” One more kick and Spike’s tormentor tired of the game, he pulled out his taser and shocked the HST back into submission. The other Initiative soldiers dragged the now limp body into a white holding cell.
**** **** ****
Several days, an escape, and one spell gone wrong later . . .
Buffy hadn’t been able to believe her luck. The perfect wedding dress was right in front of her. She’d just walked out of the magic shop, looked up, and there it was. Then Riley just happened to walk by, and now he seemed unable to get her good news through his thick skull. Yesterday had been bad enough, what with the most awkward picnic ever happening like a slow motion train wreck. Today everything about him was irritating her. His dumb hair and his stupid clothes, and the confused pained look in his eye. Couldn’t he just be happy for her, like a normal person? She really needed to get back, there was still so much to plan. She and her fiance; were going to need to write their own vows, that whole 'til death do us part' thing wasn't working at all.
“What’s his name?” Riley asked.
“Who?” Buffy asked, having lost the thread of the conversation. Should she even invite her third cousins? She didn’t know them well, but the more presents the better.
Oops- Riley was still here and talking.
“Spike.” She said.
“That’s a name?” Riley was getting more and more lost as to what the heck was happening. And for some reason “Spike” was ringing a bell. His face clouded over as he realized where he’d heard that name recently. The HST, the one that had escaped. Surely the very normal seeming Buffy Summers couldn’t mean that Spike.
Buffy didn’t want anyone, even Riley, upset when she was so happy. It wasn’t fair. “Don’t be mad,” she pleaded with her friend. Actually, she didn’t really know him that well. Was he her friend?
“I’m not mad,” he said quickly. Too quickly.
“No, you are mad.” Buffy really wished he’d been walking anywhere else instead of bringing his pity party to rain on her parade.
Riley knew he had to be wrong, but this whole situation was getting him flustered. Why had Buffy agreed to the picnic if she’d been getting this close with someone else. “No, I am! I, um . . .I really- -Wow. Um- Who is this guy? Does he go here?”
“Spike?” Buffy laughed thinking of him trying to sit through a UC Sunnydale lecture. “Oh, no. He’s totally old.”
“Old?” Riley wondered if she was one of those girls that just wanted a bank account. ‘Cause if that was the case he was majorly out of the running. Even with the hazard bonus he got from the Initiative, a soldier wasn’t making caviar money.
Buffy sighed. “Well, not as old as my last boyfriend was,” she conceded.
This was crazy, he needed to get out of there, fast. “Okay. It’s late and I’m . . . I’m very tired now. So . . . I’m just gonna go far away. And be- away.” Buffy took a step after him, starting to protest. “No. Stay,” he told her.
In shock at being treated like an errant puppy Buffy did stay put, but she wasn’t happy about it. She even indulged in a little fantasy involving Spike and fangs and a big hole in Riley’s neck. It’d serve him right for making her feel bad on her happy day, especially when she’d just found the most amazing white dress.
**** **** ****
Riley didn’t actually go away, just around the side of the next building.The whole situation was very confusing. He could have sworn the beautiful blonde girl had been interested in him, but now she was engaged? She was his breath of fresh air, the normal to offset the very strange secret life he was living as a recruit in the Initiative. He’d already seen such awful things and terrible monsters during the short time he’d been involved.
And one of those monsters had called itself Spike. Riley knew it was his duty to make sure Buffy wasn’t being preyed upon. He was mostly sure that HST had been a vampire, and couldn’t vampires hypnotize people and make them do things against their will? Like eat bugs? Maybe the escaped vampire was making Buffy marry him and chow down on insects! It was Riley’s job to tail Buffy and find out what was going on. He’d save her if she’d been turned into a fly consuming slave to the undead!
At least following her was proving to be easy as Buffy was completely distracted. The girl was muttering to herself, and occasionally Riley caught a snippet like “guest-list” or “taffeta.” Nothing human or supernatural bothered her as she walked quickly back through town to an apartment complex. In fact Riley was sure he saw some HSTs that actively avoided Buffy. Maybe they knew he was following her and didn’t want to interfere with Initiative business. Smart demons.
Riley hid in a hedge, watching Buffy as she stopped to do a quick check of her hair, clothes, and make-up. Finally she seemed satisfied with her appearance and continued on. Every bit of his training came in handy as he crept cautiously behind her. He saw the outline of a man leaning against one of the doors, smoking a cigarette. A fraction of a second later she did too. There was a squeal from Buffy as she rushed into his arms. The man caught her easily, pulling her lith figure up against him.
“I missed you so much.” Buffy said inbetween kisses.
“You were gone forever, luv. I was about to come hunt you down.” The man growled in a thick English accent.
“That sounds like it could be fun.” She giggled, giving the man another lingering kiss that made Riley’s stomach clench with jealousy. When Buffy finally pulled back it was only to gaze dreamily up at the man’s face. “I saw the most amazing dress.” She said. “It’s perfect. Can I tell you about it?”
“Of course, pet. But then we have to talk about the cake, and I have something to show you. This way.” The man tugged at Buffy’s hand, stepping into the white porch light. Riley felt his jaw go slack. It was Hostile 17. What the hell was going on? He couldn’t get his head around how a perky freshman co-ed went from being cute and awkward with her TA one day to making wedding plans with an HST the next. Must be hypnosis. At least he hadn’t greeted her with both his tongue and a spider down her throat.
Suddenly realizing the couple had turned a corner, he moved as quickly as he dared along behind them. He was going to need to call for backup.
**** **** ****
Buffy was so incredibly happy. Slayers were notoriously short lived, so she’d never let herself dream of actually being a bride. Well, at least once she’d been called she hadn’t. It was too normal a thing for The Chosen One. But now look at her! True, nothing about the wedding would be normal (what wine did you pair with otter blood?), but it was hers.
Looking at Spike out of the corner of her eye she marveled again that he really didn’t hate her. Had she ever entirely hated him? She’d barely even admitted to herself that he wasn’t too bad to look at, when he’d gone and made things all topsy-turvy with the marriage proposal. Every protective dam and levee she’d placed around her mind and heart had broken open at that moment and she’d gladly said yes. A bright white spark of love had made itself known, and started to grow.
“Penny for your thoughts Slayer,” Spike said, squeezing her fingers with his own.
“I’m just thinking about how lucky I am.” Buffy’s smile was infectious, and he grinned back at her. She enjoyed seeing him really smile, with no self protecting snark or leer.
“Now, aren’t you going to tell me about this fairy tale dress of yours?”
They were walking around the apartment complex’s pool, which was covered over for winter.
“Of course!” She sighed, “Really, it's perfect. White, of course, with a ball gown silhouette with a sweetheart neckline. . ."
Spike leaned in close, his hand wrapped about his intended's. He didn't want to miss one happy, gushing word.
**** **** ****
Several minutes and much babbling later . . .
They’d been standing in front of the French doors leading into the little used rec center for a few minutes while Buffy finished telling Spike all the details. When she trailed off he kissed her again, tangling his cool tongue around hers. It was unfair how easy it was for him to get her motor going.
“Now let me show you my surprise,” his voice was a little bashful.
“Okay.” What did her vampire have planned?
Spike clicked the doors open just a crack, then stepped behind her and put his hands over her eyes. Using gentle movements he guided Buffy inside the rec center.
“Ready?” he breathed in her ear, and she nodded. His hands fell away, showing her a room flickering with candle light. Dozens of white tapers, votives, and tea lights had been lit around the periphery, giving everything a cheery glow. All the chairs were pulled back, leaving the carpeted floor bare. A CD player was sitting on the edge of a ping-pong table that had only partially been put up. Next to it was a bottle of champagne and two glasses.
“Spike,” she said in wonder, “Is this for me.”
“Nope, it was for Giles. But it turns out he isn’t available so I guess you’ll have to do,” Spike teased.
“I can wear tweed if you’d like.”
“God, no. Now come here.” He uncorked the champagne in one smooth move. Bubbles fizzed and popped as he filled the glasses. He handed her one, then raised his own glass. “To the most amazing woman in the world.” Buffy blushed, trying to take a drink to cover her embarrassment. “Wait,” Spike stopped her. “Let’s practice. Don’t want to bugger it up on the big day.” He slipped his arm around hers and they managed to drink from their respective flutes without a hitch and only a little laughter.
“We’re pretty good at that,” Buffy said, as her fiance; took the half finished glass from her hand and set it back on the table.
“Not bad at all. Now, pet, I knew you had your heart set on The Wind Beneath My Wings for the first dance, but would you try this one on for size? Please?” Spike smiled at her again when she nodded. Grabbing her hand he led her to the middle of the floor. He positioned her with one hand out in the air and the other up. “Now close your eyes and imagine you’re wearing that pretty white dress you were telling me about.”
Buffy slid her eyelids shut, doing as he asked. The heavy white folds of the gown settled around her in her imagination, and since it was her vision she dressed Spike in a tux. Maybe by the actual day she could convince him to wear one, for her.
Slayer senses let her track him as he moved across the room, then quickly back to her. He brought his shoulder under her upright hand, cool fingers cupping the other. A guitar riff poured from the CD player. Buffy recognized it immediately, it’d been all over the radio a couple of years ago.
And I'd give up forever to touch you
'Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You're the closest to heaven that I'll ever be
And I don't want to go home right now
Spike tugged her against him, and started moving. The only dancing she’d ever done had been at The Bronze, which mostly involved just shuffling feet and moving vaguely to the beat. It was immediately obvious that Spike actually knew what he was doing. Relaxing into his hands and letting him lead felt natural. He guided her around the room, the music carrying them. In her mind’s eye her wedding gown swirled and swished around her legs.
And I don't want the world to see me
'Cause I don't think that they'd understand
When everything's meant to be broken
I just want you to know who I am
Spike twisted and twirled Buffy through a waltz, her innate grace letting her keep pace with him even though she obviously didn’t know the steps. When the instrumental solo started about halfway through the song he pushed her a little, making the steps a little tricker. She never faltered, trusting him to guide her through them.
Buffy was soaring. She could see the white skirt of the dress bell out as she hit the end of a turn, then wrap tight around her legs as Spike brought her back against him. Her heart was full. As the end of the song neared he brought both of her hands to his shoulders in order to grab her around the waist and pick her up. Slowly he spun her around and around. As the music faded she opened her eyes, locking gazes with him, letting him see the love there. Her body slid down along his until her feet were back on the floor.
“I love you,” she whispered, finding the words inadequate to express everything inside. Years of feelings, both good and bad, were immured in that statement.
“I love you too,” he said back, cupping her cheek in his hand. “From the first moment I saw you. It’s all been so wrapped up, confused with anger, hate, fear, respect, awe, lust. But none of that matters anymore, just you, just now.”
“Exactly, that’s exactly how I feel.” A tear escaped from the corner of her eye, and he bent forward to lick it off. Then his lips met hers again, as they poured the raw passions inside into a bruising kiss.
Suddenly the door to the rec center slammed open. The click of a gun cocking was loud in the silence. “Get away from her,” a voice demanded.
Buffy and Spike glanced at each other, then shifted into a side by side battle stance to face the interloper.
“Midwest?” Spike demanded.
“Riley?” Buffy gasped.
“Wait, you know him?” they asked each other at the same time.
“Hey!” Riley said, but they ignored him.
“He’s one of the tin soldier boys that put the soddin’ spell on me.” Spike shot a rude gesture in Riley’s direction.
“No way,” breathed Buffy. “He goes to my school. I thought he was just a TA and a frat boy, not one of the commandos. You sure?” she asked.
“I remember his mug real well. The wanker broke a couple of my ribs.” Spike could feel the Slayer bristling beside him, it made him proud.
“Hey!” Riley tried again, louder.
“What?” They both asked.
“Buffy. I know this is going to sound crazy, and I don’t know what he’s told you, but you need to move away from that guy now. He’s not human, he’s a vampire.” Riley gestured to the side with his gun.
“Well, duh.” Buffy said.
“You know?” Riley was suddenly confused.
Spike rolled his eyes, “Of course she bloody knows, she’s the Slayer, init she?”
“The Slayer?” Riley said, looking dumbfounded now.
“Is there an echo in here?” Buffy asked, “Y’know, The Slayer. Chosen to fight the vampires, the demons, all the powers of darkness, blah, blah, blah.”
“That’s a bedtime story demons tell each other.” Riley replied. This really wasn’t going how he’d planned. First off, backup was a long ways away, forcing him to confront Hostile 17 alone. Secondly, the girl was supposed to freak out upon hearing her dearly beloved was a blood sucking fiend. Thirdly she was supposed rush to Riley to gratefully thank him, in the manner of his choosing, for saving her life. Instead Buffy was standing alongside the vampire, saying she wasn’t much better than a demon herself.
“Your sources suck,” Buffy informed Riley. “Pun mostly not intended.”
“Spell or no spell you try to grab her for one of your Doctor Moreau inspired experiments and you’ll be dead.” Spike couldn’t help slipping into gameface. Midwest did not belong anywhere near his bride to be.
Riley swung the gun wildly between the two.
The vampire and Slayer shared a look for a moment, then nodded. Spike sprang towards the soldier, growling. Riley trained his gun on incoming threat, circling as the vamp did in order to keep the pistol aimed at him. It was a piece of cake for Buffy, once Riley had his back towards her. She simply walked forward and administered a quick stun blow to his wrist so he’d drop the gun. Only she must of miscalculated, because his wrist snapped like a twig under her hand, making him scream. Thudding to the ground he cradled the broken extremity to his chest. The pistol clattered to the floor beside him.
“Sorry!” She gasped, “I was kind of angry, and I didn’t mean to. I forget how fragile regular humans can be.”
Spike chuckled, the demon-face receding. “Doing my job for me now, luv?” he asked.
Buffy threw up her hands in exasperation. “Ugh. Well. we’re fresh out of railroad spikes so I did what I could.”
Riley whimpered as he looked at the vampire.
“Wot,” Spike asked, “You think I got called “Spike” ‘cause of my sunny personality?”
“Quit it.” Buffy said.
“Evil,” Spike replied.
“Attempting to tease the prisoner with a broken arm isn’t evil. It’s just annoying.” She glanced over at Spike, who returned her glare with an easy nonchalance. “Well, come on Riley, let’s get you to Giles so you can spill your guts about the commandos.” She reached for him, but he twisted onto his side, worming away from her.
“Really?” Buffy said, frowning in annoyance.
“Allow me,” Spike said. Buffy had the feeling she wasn’t going to entirely like his solution, but since Riley had so rudely interrupted them and pointed a gun at her, she didn’t say anything. Looking at the ceiling with an exasperated sigh, she just swept her hand towards Riley in invitation.
The vampire walked over to the prone form. “Told you I’d repay you.” he growled, then kicked once, short and sharp, into the soldier’s side. A rib or two audibly cracked, and then Spike hit the floor, clutching his temples as debilitating pain smashed into him. Buffy sat down next him, drawing his head into her lap. She petted and cooed at the vampire as the headache started to recede. Once it was completely gone he stayed there a little longer anyway, since it was nice to have the Slayer fussing over him.
The physical discomfort Riley was in was nothing compared to the stabbing horror inside him. Buffy had broken his wrist easily, without even trying. The sunny normal girl of his imagination didn’t exist. The reality was over there comforting a monster, and was probably one herself. All his Mayberry, white picket dreams popped one after the other like so many soap bubbles.
After curling over to give her fiance; one more lingering kiss, Buffy helped him climb to his feet. Then she walked back to Riley. The soldier flinched, but didn’t try to move away this time as she reached down, snared a handful of his shirt, and hauled him to his feet.
“Come on,” she huffed, dragging him outside.
“I’ll be right there, luv.” Spike called behind her, “Just going to make sure we don’t burn the sodden’ place to the ground.”
**** **** ****
Back at Giles’ apartment Buffy shouldered open the door, practically tossing Riley inside.
“I was starting to wonder when you two were going to return,” Giles said from the kitchen. Buffy spied his glasses resting on the coffee table. Her poor watcher must still be blind.
“ ‘S not me she’s hauling around,” Spike said, catching the door before it closed. “Slayer’s brought you a little present.”
“Sit.” Buffy said to Riley, indicating the wooden chair with ropes hanging off it.
Gingerly he sat down “Do I even want to know why you keep a chair with restraints in your living room?”
“Girl’s got a bit of kink,” Spike leered.
“Pig,” Buffy said, but without the usual venom behind it.
Spike caught her looking at him from under her lashes while she continued securing the rope around the soldier boy. Got her mind working, he had. He gave her a wink to let her know, that he knew, what she was thinking. Buffy blushed and looked away. Guess his little comment might not have been too far off the mark. He was doing things the proper way, marrying the bird first, but she better be ready for what was going to happen after that honeymoon suite door closed . . .
Giles came out of the kitchen, felt the way to his chair, and sat down with a sigh. “So what have you brought me?” he asked.
“One of those little tin soldier boys. He followed Buffy home.” Spike said.
“Oooh! Can I keep him” Buffy asked with a teasing smile.
“Doubt he’s housebroken, luv.” Spike sat on the couch, pulling Buffy onto his lap. With a little sigh of contentment she curled up against him.
“Also, I may of, kind of, accidently broken his wrist earlier. In my defense he did have a gun. Sorry Riley.” She sent what she hoped was a sympathetic look his way. “He’s going to have to go to the hospital sooner or later. Hey, what happened to the gun?”
Spike patted his pocket “Right here luv, and I tossed his walkie-talkie gizmo into the pool. Figured that might buy us some more time ‘fore the other rodents get here.”
“Smart, honey,” Buffy said, leaning in for another kiss from her betrothed.
Riley stared at the ceiling, then at the wall, then at Giles. Finally he cleared he throat “Do they, uh, do that a lot?” Buffy’s arms were now wrapped around the vampire’s neck, and his hands were tangled in her hair.
“Just lately,” Giles sighed. “So, uh, Riley, is it.”
“Yes,” the young man confirmed.
“My name is Rupert Giles. While I do apologize for the unusual circumstances you find yourself in, I would very much like to know about the organization that you belong to.”
The soldier’s face hardened. He’d been trained not to give away secrets, even under pain of death. “Finn, Riley, ID number-”
“Oh, don’t bother with all that.” Giles waved his hand. “I’m not some foreign enemy power, well, at least not from my perspective. Spike-” he waited a beat till the sounds from the couch stopped. “If you’d be so good would you please pour a scotch for myself and our guest.”
“Watcher, I’m not your bleedin’ lap dog,” the vampire grumbled.
“True, but this temporary blindness has put me at a real risk of spilling the good stuff. Of course you can help yourself to several fingers as well if you wish.”
“All bloody right then-” Buffy moved to the side to let him up. Spike made sure Riley was watching so the sod could see him ‘adjust’ things before he stood. The boy turned a rewarding whiter shade of pale and quickly looked away.
Buffy found herself having trouble focusing on anything besides her fiance;. While the new emotions were warm and sparkly, it was really the wedding plans that keep interrupting her train of thought. Tilting her head she watched Spike as he splashed scotch into three glasses. “So you sure that red and white are going to work?” she asked.
“It’ll be perfect,” Spike assured her.
“For what?” Riley asked, looking confused.
“The wedding, of course.” Buffy glanced at the soldier long enough to roll her eyes at him. “Because I really do think I want my bouquet to be red roses and white lilies.”
“The symbolism is really great on that, yeah, it’ll be lovely,” Spike agreed. “Lilies for sweetness and red roses for love.”
“I thought Lilies were for dead people,” Riley said, remembering arrangements he’d seen a funerals.
“Still works out then,” Spike sighed, putting a glass in Giles hand. “But really, cyprus is for death, and I don’t fancy that being in a bouquet. What do they bloody teach in schools now-a days”
The vampire sat back down next to Buffy and handed her one of the glasses. When she raised her eyebrows at him he indicated Riley, “I’m not about to be the one to pour it down his gullet, pet.”
Buffy was going to protest, then realized with a glance at Giles that she really was the only option.
“Here Riley, it’ll help with the pain. I really didn’t mean to.” Buffy held the drink out to him, and after giving her a sour look the soldier opened his mouth. She tipped the glass so the contents went down in one long swallow. The burn made him cough a few times involuntarily, and Spike chuckled at him.
“Now back to the initiative,” Giles said, once the sound of springs let him know Buffy had returned to sitting on the couch.
Riley closed his eyes. “Look,” he said, “ I really can’t tell you anything. Just that we’re the good guys, protecting the residents of this town from HSTs.”
“HSTs, could you please define that term for me?” Giles steepled his fingers together, he wishing he could take notes.
The older man’s tone was so much like that of his professors that Riley found himself answering without really thinking about it. “It means Hostile Sub-Terrestrials, in other words demons.”
“Bit of the pot calling the kettle black, seeing as you lot work out of a basement,” Spike shook his head at the amazing ability of humans to delude themselves.
Riley opened his eyes to glare at the vampire for referring to the Initiative facility as a “basement,” then immediately wished he hadn’t. Buffy had moved so she was essentially straddling Spike on the couch, with her upper body cuddled against his chest as he leaned back.
“God, you people are so weird,” Riley groaned.
“There's something going on” Giles said defensively. “I’m blind, which is not my normal, and they’re doing, whatever it is they’re doing.” He waved vaguely towards the couch.
“We're normal, I feel normal," Buffy said vehemently. Spike had her hand in his, and was pressing little kisses to the pad of each finger. It was distracting. Buffy watched the muscles of his lips and jaw move as he slowly worked his way from digit to digit. “So do you think sit down dinner or buffet?” She asked him.
He sucked on the tip of her pinky for a moment, thinking. “Probably buffet, gets rid of the thorny seating arrangement issue.”
Riley slumped in the chair as much as the ropes would let him “Maybe you can just kill me now,” he muttered.
“Here, here,” Giles raised his glass in direction of the soldier’s voice.
Buffy turned her head on Spike's shoulder so she was looking at Riley. "So what kind of spell did you do to my honey that he can't make with the fangy and the bitey anymore?"
"Spell?" The soldier asked, looking perplexed. "As in magic?"
"Yeah, as in bloody magic. It's putting a pretty big crimp in my style at the moment. I'm relying on this lot to stay fed." Anger made Spike's voice cold and hard. Buffy looked up at him, her lower lip sneaking out into a pout. He dropped his voice and spoke into her ear " 'S not all bad, wouldn't of got you otherwise." She melted against him, reassured, and he caught her lip with blunt teeth, tugging at it and growling before drawing her mouth into another kiss.
Riley felt like he might be sick. The girl of his dreams was making out with the undead right in front of him. Not really how he'd imagined things going with her after the very special and normal picnic they'd shared. When Buffy started squirming in the monster's lap, Riley closed his eyes again. Maybe this was all some horrible fever dream and he'd wake up. Wait- go back- there'd been something about magic.
"You guys believe in magic?" He asked casually.
"Belief is not entirely a part of it," Giles said.
Riley laughed "Do you believe in Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny too?"
"Us aside, it seems you do not. So that leaves the question of what is happening to Spike." Giles reached up to pull his glasses off to clean them, and nearly poked himself in the eye before remembering he wasn’t wearing any.
The soldier agitatedly tapped his toes against the floor. Nothing would be changed if he explained to them what had happened to the vampire, with the added benefit that it might make the smacking sounds coming from the couch stop.
“Okay, Okay, I’ll tell you.” He waiting a second, then risked popping one eyelid open. Buffy had moved so she was sitting next to Spike, both of them looking expectantly at him. Riley sighed in relief. “I’ll tell you, but only if you’ll promise me that afterwards you’ll return me to the Initiative, in one piece.”
Spike growled “No bloody way. You’ll bring that lot right down on our heads.”
“I promise, I won’t-”
“Oh, sod off, you wanker, I’m not risking - -”
The front door banged open, and Xander and Anya tumbled in.
“Board up the windows! Barricade the door!” Xander yelled. Buffy and Spike sprang to their feet.
“What’s going on?” Giles asked.
“Demons. They keep coming and coming.” Anya replied. The two panted, trying to catch their breath.
“I think we lost them,” Xander said. “But I couldn’t see.” Just then he noticed Spike standing in the living room next to Buffy, and a tied up Riley who was twisting his neck around to look at the newcomers. “Spike! He’s all untied, which you probably noticed since you replaced him some other guy. Did we switch sides when I wasn’t looking?”
Buffy gestured towards the commando “This is Riley my TA, turns out he’s one of the soldiers in the initiative. And, he was just about to tell us what’s wrong with my honey.”
Anya looked from her to Spike and back, screwing up her face “Why are you holding hands?”
The vampire and Slayer exchanged glances. “They have to hear sooner or later,” Spike said gently. Buffy nodded and they turned to her friends.
“Spike and I are getting married!” She squealed.
Xander and Anya both gave them dumbfounded looks. “How? What? How?” stammered Xander.
“That’s what I’d like to know,” grumbled Riley.
“Giles is blind.” Buffy said, pointing to her Watcher. The scrutiny was annoying, her friends really should have more respect for her choices.
“Blind? As in not seeing anything?” Xander asked. Giles nodded. “Oh- wait! Willow!” Xander bounced on his toes excitedly, “She told me I was a demon magnet, and that Spike and Buffy should get married!”
Giles felt the lightbulb go off. “And she said that I couldn’t see anything. It’s a spell. She did a spell to have her will done. I guess it worked after all.”
Buffy clenched Spike’s hand. She didn’t want this to be a spell. For once she was happy, and in love with someone who was serious about sticking around.
" 'S not a spell," Spike said, "least not us two."
"Of course it's not a spell, because magic isn't real!" Riley yelled at them.
Anya looked at the soldier with disdain "He's a special kind of stupid, isn't he?"
Giles rubbed his aching head. "You need to find Willow and break the spell. Most likely she doesn't know what she's doing."
"Every demon in a three state area is after me," Xander reminded the group "how are we supposed to get by them?"
Buffy found herself pulled into a tight embrace by Spike. "Slayer, I know you're strong- but it's killing me that I can't help or protect you. All these demons, and I- I can't even-"
She kissed him softly. "We'll figure it out. Trust me, I want my husband patrolling by my side."
Spike gave her a relieved smile, then he let the demon out and spun to face Riley. The vampire snarled and pounced at the soldier, landing with hands braced on the arms of the chair and his fangs inches from Riley's throat.
The room got very quiet.
"What the in the bleedin' hell did you lot do to me?"
Riley was trembling. He knew the implant was working, but his hind brain was screaming Danger! and Predator! He threw his body back trying to get away. The chair rocked up on two legs, tipping backwards. With a growl Spike slammed it down.
"I wonder" Spike hissed, "exactly how much damage I can do before this thing takes me out."
It was hard for Riley to talk around his chattering teeth. "Y-y-o-u can't-t-t h-h-hurt me!" He yelped as cold steel pressed against his neck.
"Maybe Spike can't, but I can" Buffy said. She started to press the edge of the blade into the commando's skin. "Feel like a nice, warm meal honey?" The vampire grinned, licking his fangs.
"Wait!" Riley gulped. "It's a chip. In his head. Makes it so he can't hurt anyone."
"A what?" Buffy and Spike chorused. She put up the knife, and he shook off the demon face. Everyone else started breathing again.
"A chip, like what's in a computer, only this one modifies your behavior."
"Noticed that, yeah." Spike held his arm out and Buffy snuggled into his side.
"So how do we fix it?" She asked. “I want it out before the wedding!”
Riley took a deep breath and blew it out through his nose. “A doctor, a surgeon can-”
A loud thump from the door startled everyone.
"I don't suppose you guys ordered a pizza?" Xander asked.
"Okay, new deal," Buffy looked at Riley, "we get you back to the Initiative and you get the other commandos to keep the demons busy until we can find Willow."
"How'll we know when you find her?" Riley asked.
"The demons will quit coming." Anya replied.
"I say we just throw him out all tied up, that'll keep the beasties busy for a while." Spike smirked at the soldier, even as Buffy elbowed him. "Still evil," he reminded her, "also I don't trust Captain Cardboard there not to betray us."
The door rattled on its hinges again.
Buffy sighed, "Look, we're out of time. Riley you promise not to bother us, we promise not to bother you. Sound good?" The commando nodded enthusiastically. "If you want I'll even send you a wedding invitation, because no hard feelings." Beside her Spike groaned and rolled his eyes.
"Uh, yeah, thanks.” Riley grimaced, “But I'm probably busy that weekend, and every weekend, forever."
"Xander," Buffy called,"please untie our guest. I’ve got a demon to kill."
Grabbing an axe the Slayer tossed the door wide open while Xander hastily undid the ropes keeping Riley tied to the chair. Two white faced Lei-ach demons stormed into the room. Buffy decapitated one quickly, and sent the other reeling back with a roundhouse kick to the chest. It started towards her again, snapping and snarling, only to stop with a crossbow bolt stuck in it’s eye socket.
Anya lowered the bow, “Nobody messes with my man,” she yelled at the now dead demon
“Good shot!” Xander said, giving her a one arm hug. “Now lets vamoose before we get a second helping of demony badness.”
Riley was standing, stretching out sore muscles while keeping the broken wrist tucked against his chest. He was surprised when Spike reached into his coat and handed him his gun back.
“Help her out, ‘cause I can’t, and don’t make me regret this,” the vampire grumbled. The stunned commando quickly nodded his agreement.
“Will you be ok?” Buffy asked Giles, worried about leaving him alone.
“I’ll be fine, with Xander gone no more demons will show up here. Now go, hurry, before someone gets really hurt.”
They left swiftly, Riley leading the way. When it became apparent that no other demons were in the immediate vicinity, Spike and Buffy fell back a few paces, hand in hand, to discuss table centerpieces and whether or not to have an open bar.
“Psst, Xander,” Anya said, turning to watch the blonde couple. “Aren’t they cute together? I like being in love. It makes me want everybody to feel like I do.”
“You’re sweet An, but they’re not in love, it’s just a spell.” Xander did not want to think about Buffy, Spike, and what marriage would lead to. Or the packs of demons currently hunting him down. Nope, all kinds of things that were better left unthought of.
“You of all people should know better,” Anya was miffed now, “Love spells don’t create love, just obsession. They’ve got that full force when it comes to the wedding planning. If I hear one more thing about place settings I might barf. But that spark between them? A spell couldn't make that. I think the magic just shoved aside other feelings getting in the way so it’d be easier to make them think marriage.”
“Nope, still going with option a, it’s less icky.”
Anya took a deep breath, ready to argue, when Buffy called out to her.
“Hey Anya, you’ll be one of my bridesmaids, right?” The Slayer jogged up next to the ex-demon, who beamed with pleasure at being asked.
“Of course!” She answered. “Especially if it includes planning a party that involves too much alcohol and looking at well muscled men that aren’t ours.” Anya said the last a little louder, so that both Xander and Spike narrowed their eyes at her.
Buffy giggled, “I totally leave that up to you and Willow, just don’t invite my Mom! But what I really wanted to ask you about is dresses. I was thinking maybe something with an empire waist -”
“No bows!” Anya broke in, “I knew a vengeance demon that specialized in retaliation against brides that made their wedding party wear horrible things. Giant bows on butts are an especially fertile ground for feelings of ill will.”
“No bows then,” Buffy agreed.
They chatted amicably about satin vs. silk vs. burlap together while walking through the parks and neighborhoods of Sunnydale enroute to campus. Spike couldn’t help himself and had moved up to put in his two cents. The girls had agreed with him that gloves in a coordinating color would really be a nice touch.
Xander had given up on that conversation immediately and was walking next to Riley. The commando cleared his throat a couple time before working up the courage to ask about what was worrying him. “So, uh, you haven’t noticed Buffy doing anything strange lately, have you?”
“Besides yet again getting physical with the undead? No, not so much,” Xander snorted.
“Long story.” Xander found himself suddenly wary of the soldier. If Buffy hadn’t told him about Angel, Xander wasn’t about to start.
Riley tried again “So you haven’t seen her, like, eating bugs, or something?”
“Riley,” Xander said, shaking his head, “You’re weirder than I thought. And, no, there’s been no insect consumage. Why would anyone ever do that?"
The commando just sighed.
The group finally arrived at one of the hidden Initiative entrances. Buffy could sense several different demons gaining on them, but they hadn’t been attacked yet.
Riley stood in front of the door, but motioned the others back. “Camera,” he mouthed. He pushed a button and spoke into a microphone. “This is Agent Riley Finn. I’ve been injured and am being tracked by numerous demons. I need medical attention and several squads for back up.” A crash in the bushes behind them underscored his point.
He turned and caught Buffy’s eye, nodding solemnly to her. As a soldier Riley prided himself on being an honest man. Even though he didn't understand the Slayer or her choice in friends, they had done as promised and delivered him safely back to the Initiative- putting themselves at risk. Riley would keep his word and not betray them. Buffy nodded back, then her vampire caught her about the waist, pulling her off into the night.
Riley took his gun from it’s holster, clicking off the safety. The wedding stuff had been super strange, but he’d seen the looks passing between Hostile 17 and the girl Riley'd been hoping would be his. There’d been a lot of white hot heat there. Buffy was definitely lost to Riley now, that ship had sailed.
The commando brought the pistol up, shooting the first demon to show itself right between the eyes. He was going to need to kill a lot more of them before he started feeling better. The door behind him banged open and other soldiers poured out, guns blazing. A medic tried to get his attention, but Riley ignored him and instead drew a bead on a another snarling monster.
**** **** ****
A day, a broken spell, and many cookies later . . .
Spike shifted miserably in the chair he was tied to, bored out of his mind. Giles had left earlier muttering something about coffee and needing a breather. Great, but now Spike was stuck in the dark without even the telly on for company. And really, even though he didn’t have any circulation to cut off it wasn’t like the bloody chair was comfortable. He slumped down, tilting his head back to look at the ceiling. I wonder what Buffy’s doing, he thought. Probably taking her 43rd shower to wash the Spike off of her. A loud sigh escaped his lips, great, now he was thinking about her in the shower.
Since his hands were tied and he couldn’t do anything with that line of thought, he forced himself to think of more PG scenes. Lazily his eyes slide shut. He imagined Buffy wearing the white dress she’d told him about, just like he’d asked her to do last night. Humming the song to himself Spike relived every step of the dance from yesterday. The Slayer had been magnificent, so alive and warm in his hands She’d tasted of sunshine. The chair rattled as Spike struggled against the restraints again, giving vent to the anger he felt at losing her. And I’d give up forever to touch you . . . Wonderful, now he had the sodden’ song stuck in his head.
It was a spell, it had been broken. He shouldn’t still be feeling this. A growl of frustration escaped him. Buffy’d been quick enough to jump up and freak out, and he’d played along. No need to let her highness know how much that little show had hurt. Still hurt. Would always hurt.
Spike’s head shot up as Giles’ front door creaked open. What now? Couldn’t a bloke even brood in peace? His eyes widened as Buffy silently crept inside, closing the door behind her. Moonlight glittered on a wicking looked curved knife she was brandishing.
“Stake's quicker.” Spike said and Buffy jumped at the loud sound of his voice in the dark apartment.
“Is Giles gone?” she asked, tightening her grip on the knife’s handle.
“Watcher’s been out for an hour or so,” Spike said levelly. What was the bint up to, going to behead him to quell her shame? Damn it, he probably wouldn’t even try to stop her.
Buffy walked up to him, then just stood there, considering. Spike looked at the floor, her presence was overwhelming. He didn’t want her to know how close he was to losing it and babbling out all these bloody feelings that were swirling around inside him. Finally she moved around behind him.
“Felt any urge to comparison shop for ice sculptures or had thoughts on whether or not we should register for a toaster oven?” she asked.
“Nope,” he said, leaned forward to give her better access to his neck. Couldn’t she just get it over with?
“Yeah, me either.” Buffy grabbed the back of the chair, then brought the knife down to cleanly cut through the ropes, she followed up that strike with two more to release Spike’s hands. He sat there, too stunned to move.
Buffy kept talking. “So what Willow said was that we should get married, nothing about how we should feel. So I’m sort of thinking that that part was, kind of, maybe, sort of, us-” she trailed off.
Spike exploded out of the chair, sweeping Buffy into his arms, crushing her to him. Her hands came up, pulling his mouth to hers for a heated kiss.
It was a few minutes before Buffy came up for air. Panting she whispered “Where do we go from here?” against his lips.
“Don’t know, luv. Right now don’t care. Just want to be here, with you.”
“Yes!” she squeaked as Spike grabbed her hand and spun her around a few times, like when they’d been dancing the day before. She ended up back against him, her hungry mouth immediately finding his.
**** **** ****
Willow let Giles hold the door of his apartment open for her. She had enough guilt left so that she humored him rather than lecture about antiqued patriarchal social norms. The aroma of chocolate chip cookies still filled the living room, and Willow hoped there was some left to fuel the research session they had planned.
Walking towards the bookcase Willow found herself pitched forward as she tripped on a chair that was lying tipped over on it's side.
"Giles," she hissed, and he froze with his finger on the light switch. Cautiously he walked over to where Willow was sprawled on the floor.
Silently he took her hand and pulled her up. They looked at the chair in horror, the ropes hanging haphazardly from it.
"I guess Spike got out again. Should we call Buffy?" Willow finally asked in a hushed voice.
Giles grabbed one of the ropes and held the ends up. "I don't think he just escaped, these look cut."
"Maybe Riley didn't keep his word and the initiative came and got him."
They both knew there was little chance of ever seeing Spike again if that was the case.
"Well," Giles dropped the rope and shook his head, "Buffy's supposed to stop by after patrol, actually I had thought she might already be here, and we'll see if she's got wind of anything out there tonight or wants to go looking for him. I suppose-" he stopped talking as a noise filtered down from the loft. It sounded like a soft whimper, or cry.
Motioning Willow back Giles grabbed a short sword from it's hiding place behind a bookcase. Holding it before him he hurried up the steps as softly as he could. Reaching the top of the stairs, The Watcher stopped short. The second most awful thing he'd ever seen in his bed was writhing in front of him. Luckily the two blondes were far too tangled up in each other and his new white sheets to notice Giles as he quickly back peddled out of the room and down the stairs.
He propped the sword against his liquor cabinet and grabbed his scotch decanter. Tipping it up he took a swig without bothering with a glass. "Willow, you haven't cast any more spells in the last day, have you?" He asked. Willow shook her head, confused. The Watcher took another big drink. "Well, in that case, I may need you to make me blind again."