“So who was it?” Spike demanded.

   Buffy started, whirling his direction in a defensive crouch, more demonic and less, well, slayery than he thought right for that sweet body. “Spike,” she said, recognizing him.

   Spike jumped down from the low roof of the college office he’d been perched on to land directly before her. Buffy’s eyes followed his descent, his coat flapping in the night. Okay, so they both knew how to play a look. She was certainly playing hers, her midriff just showing, her pale skin highlighted with black lace at the neckline, that jean jacket making her look just at the edge of tough. He glared at the once-slayer. “Who was it? Who stole my thunder as the Slayer of Slayers?”

   “Does that matter?” She turned to leave.

   Spike grabbed her shoulder and turned her back. “Yes, slayer. It does.  Or... uh....” He stopped. He really couldn’t call her slayer anymore, could he?

   “No, it doesn’t. It’s done. I’m done. Get over it. You don’t get to add another slayer notch to your belt. So sorry.” She pushed him away. “End of chat,” she said, mocking his accent.

   This wasn’t bloody right, this. He’d checked out Buffy’s house, but Joyce was gone, the house was empty, and a great big For Sale sign dominated the front lawn, joining the other hundreds of For Sale signs that always peppered any town heavy in the vamp population. He’d headed right over to Angel’s mansion, but the only scent he caught there was the new ex-slayer fledge; nothing from Angel, so his Old Sire was probably dust. He’d checked out the factory, ‘cause he’d heard rumors about that place, and he found it crawling with vamps, no one worth fighting, (he recognized a handful of them as Angel’s crap-made minions) and reeking of pig blood. He caught a whiff of her scent there under all that pig, but no late-slayer in the demonic flesh.

   He’d finally gone up to the college, rightly thinking that even if Buffy hadn’t enrolled (she should have enrolled! She should still be living and breathing and heading to school, so that he could rip her out of that life and show her the ending she deserved!) she’d probably be hanging out with that little witchy friend of hers. He’d caught the scent of that stupid twat she used to play with, Xander, at the factory, so if she hadn’t killed him for giggles, she’d probably have left the witch, too.

   Which spoke of a really well made fledge, honestly. Most were too heavy with the bloodlust to think clear about who should die and who shouldn’t. Which begged the question lingering so heavy in his mind. Someone had been really keen on making a slaypire, and someone had done it well. Probably someone strong. Who the bloody hell did it?

   He’d caught her scent as he came on campus, and lay in wait to catch her on her way out. He demanded answers, dammit! He hadn’t been able to get a good handle as to who had caught and turned her. No new Big Bad had come to town, no one had boasted about getting lucky, no gang had declared it their kill. It was a conspiracy of silence that was driving him barmy. It was more than curiosity. If this question wasn’t answered it was likely to become a full blown obsession. He hoped Buffy had already killed whoever did it, because if she hadn’t, he’d have a hell of a fight on his hands to take the title away from him. Buffy killer. Slayer killer. No, only Spike had been worthy of that title!

   “I refuse to believe it was any of the pissant nits in this sorry-ass burg,” Spike snapped at her. “I looked, there’s no one here I’d peg as a slayer killer, unless someone had a very good day. Even Sunday’s out of the picture.”

   “Who?”

   “Older vamp here on campus, petty but careful. I checked out all the gangs I knew, Sunday’s pack, the Sewer Gang, even looked in on the suck houses.” He spat to the side to show his contempt for that. Buffy’s apparent plan to make pig blood free and available to all the vamps in Sunnydale was more appealing than cheapening the exquisite sacred bite for money.

   But Spike kept running into roadblocks. Sunday’s pack was strangely missing, the Sewer Gang had gone almost feral, claiming they kept losing members (probably just to Buffy’s “co-op.” God, vampires, admitting they were cooperating. What had the girl done to the poor buggers?) and the suck houses… well, he’d hardly stopped to chat, with those kinds of lowlifes, but they didn’t know sod-all about who had killed the slayer. He’d been getting more and more keyed up over it all night. He was just about at the end of his tether.

   “No one’s taking credit for killing you.” It was an accusation.

   She didn’t bite. On his bait, anyway. “I don’t advertise my private life, Spike. And it’s none of your business. This isn’t your town.” She turned and stalked off across the campus.

   He followed after, like a sodding puppy, dammit, but he wasn’t leaving without an answer. “Well, it bloody well could be, with the slayer out of the way,” Spike said. “Why don’t you answer my question, eh? ‘Else I could just head back to the factory and bash a few heads. Take Angel’s boys over, they know I’m bigger and badder ‘n them. Offer them real blood instead of this pig swill you keep ‘em on, beat up a couple of the stronger ones, they’d toe the line in naught but a tick, I set myself up against you.”

   Buffy growled, vamping up. “You just try it!” She smacked him, and he gasped. Oh, yeah, that felt right. She could still fight like a slayer, even if there was that demonic undercurrent to the whole thing. He hit her back, and then she hit him, and the dance was on.

   “Come on, slayer,” Spike said, circling. “Lay it on me!”

   She did. Like a sodding lorry she did, and Spike grunted with it. “The boys wouldn’t follow you, Spike,” Buffy taunted. “All they know about you is Angel’s wheelchair bound fluffy poodle. They all think you’re weak, and pathetic, and, oh, hey, newsflash, they’re right.”

  “I could teach ‘em all different,” Spike said. “And you bloody know I could, slayer.” He’d expected it to be a taunt. He expected it to rattle her. But nothing. No sign of disturbance in her yellow eyes. She just kept fighting.

   Okay. Another tack, then. She hit him, and he let her, so she’d think she was winning (and damn, but she could still fight. She might well be winning if he wasn’t careful) and then he danced and forced her arm to the side, pinned and useless. “Tell me who did it,” he demanded in her ear.

   “None of your business,” Buffy snapped through her fangs. She forced her arm back, and elbowed him in the ribs. He grunted and went back.

   “Some great master come into town?” Spike asked. He thought of what great masters he’d heard of that were still active in the last decade. “Lothos? Kakistos? Hell, Dracula make an appearance?”

   Buffy looked surprised. “Dracula’s real?” She shook it off and hit him. “I killed off the other two, years ago.”

   “You what?”

   “You heard me!” Buffy did a roundhouse kick that threw him against a brick wall. Damn. She was strong as a little slaypire! He laughed and jumped himself back into the fray.

   “Well, it had to be some big bad,” Spike said. “I refuse to believe it was some lucky day for one of the sods around here.”

   “Why not?” Buffy asked. “A vamp is a vamp is a vamp, right?”

   “Wrong!” Spike snarled, bashing her in the face. “And you know it’s wrong, or you wouldn’t be keeping it from me! Some nasty thing got a taste of you, and I wanna know who, dammit! Between you and your Buffywhipped souled-up champion, it must have taken a real beast to take you out, slayer! Not as if Angel the great-and-wonderful would sire you his bleeding self.”

   “Shut up!” Buffy growled, vampire snarls in her throat. She hit him so hard he saw stars. She followed and threw him to the ground. “You – don’t know a thing – about it!” she said, hitting him over and over and over.

   He’d only been twitting her about her ex. What the hell was this attack about? This wasn’t just annoyance. This was something else. Something personal.

   “Bloody hell,” he said in sudden realization. Buffy stopped hitting him with a gasp, as if she’d only just noticed what she was doing, and didn’t like it. He grunted as he made himself lift his head to look at her. “Angel did this? Angel?

   “Shut up,” she said again, but this time her voice was weary. Her vampire face faded, and she looked like a sad, tired little girl. Or, no, young woman, because those were not little girl curves. But her face looked so world weary, and those eyes… god, those eyes.

   She didn’t seem to like him staring into them. She turned her back on him and started trudging away.

   “Oh, no, you don’t,” he said. He had to hear this story. Most of the vamps Angel made were minions, turned on a bloody drop; the once-slayer was clearly a high-end job. That made her someone real, it made her… family. Drusilla’s sister, really, in that way that vampires were related by blood. No, he couldn’t let this go that easy.

   “So, how’d it happen?” Spike asked. He knew Angel had a thing against turning people when was all soul-having, so something must have happened to the soul. “You two get all horizontal again, flip out his precious golden soul?”

   The thought of it disgusted him. The way Angel had bragged about his conquest of her, as if it was hard getting a seventeen year old girl to want to shag. As if that made her a slut, as if it made him some god of seduction even with the soul choking his motives. He couldn’t imagine she’d have wanted that sort of thing, but hell, Angel had his seductive tricks. That was how he’d lost the sodding thing before, no doubt it had happened again.

   “I can see you being brassed off, pet. Angelus wasn’t worthy of a slayer. He went playing the mind games, didn’t know how to relish a battle. Let me guess, before he turned you, he got you drunk?”

   “Stop it,” Buffy said, her voice ice.

   “Hold your mum hostage if you didn’t bend your throat?”

   “I said quit it!” She shoved him aside and tried to keep walking.

   “I’m sure the fight was epic, right? Or at least the play a clever one? How’d you take him out when it was over, slayer?”

   “What makes you think I killed him?”

   “Well, it was love everlasting, right? That or the sweet, sweet hunt. There’s no way you two were ever gonna get indifferent enough to just turn around and walk off. Hate each other, yes. Move on?” She should be so lucky. “Kill the love, and all that’s left is hate, right? Thin line between them two. Always thought Dru should have ripped his head off, the way he turned her. You finally give him a taste of his own medic–”

   Buffy hit him, and hit him, and hit him, and bloody hell, he half thought she might kill him, the way she was punching. If she took his head clean off with a single blow, he wouldn’t have time to tell her what a glorious strike that was. He changed tactics, going for more evasion in the fight, because trading blow for blow wasn’t going to cut it for this one. They’d used to be fairly evenly matched. She was a bit stronger now, though... he tried an unpredictable move, and no, she didn’t catch it at first. Okay, then. Her instincts were different. He could surprise her more easily, but he couldn’t fight strength for strength anymore. He could work with that.

   “Your ex isn’t here, pet, I could smell it. You set up shop in his old lair, so I know you had to have taken him out. He kill Joyce? Was that the game?”

   “Shut up! Mom’s fine!” Buffy insisted.

   Well, that was a bit of all right. He’d always had a bit of a soft spot for old Mrs. Summers, with her hot cocoa and her fire axes. “Then the fight must have been a real picnic,” he said. “Always thought dragging in the women and children was just wasting everyone’s time. That why you left your mates alive? Something to play with? Snack when they’re not looking? You got your own suck-mates, wandering ‘round town, while you keep the boys sloshing with free pig?”

   “You don’t know anything about it!”

   “Hey, I’m all for you dusting your sire, pet!” he said. He danced behind her and kicked her literally in her trim, perfect arse. “He never knew what to do with you, soul or no.”

   “I didn’t kill him,” Buffy growled.

   Spike rolled his eyes. “He turned on you, turned you, and you still left him alive? Bloody hell, turning stole the heart of you, slayer! Vengeance is best served hot and steaming, don’t you get that?”

   “He didn’t turn on me!” Buffy yelled. “It was an accident!”

   That stopped Spike short. An accident? The slayer wasn’t hunted and killed and murdered in glorious battle. It was a god damned accident? That was even more wrong than it being someone other than Spike who had taken her out.

   He was so stunned by her words he didn’t even realize she’d punched him until he hit the pavement. “Bloody hell, slayer,” Spike said. “You deserved better than–”

   His words were cut off by complete bewilderment as a group of camouflaged commando type soldiers flanked Buffy from both sides. Blue sparks glowed out of the darkness, and her body went rigid. What? Was this an attack? What was that, some kind of stun gun? Spike had been vaguely aware there were people around them, but the fight had been taking most of his attention (no doubt Buffy’s, too) and he’d assumed they were just college kids, interested in a student fight in the quad. But these were not college kids, and those were not textbooks they were wielding.

   For a second Buffy tried to fight the attack, but no dice. As Spike scrambled to his feet, still woozy from her blow, she fell backwards as if she’d been strapped to a board.

   He vamped out, ready for another fight, this time a flat brawl with a nice soldierful mob, but the buggers had another set of commandos coming up behind. Before he could even get a hit in, he was in the same straits as the late-slayer, and he found himself on the ground, fallen across her legs, his face in her belly, and he was annoyed to realize her slightly midriff revealing shirt had ridden up even more, and he was splayed across her skin. Which meant every zap from the soldier-boys was zapping her, too.

   That was just cheating.

   But he was unconscious before he could bitch about it.  

   





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