Story Notes: Set in an imaginary Post-Chosen world where Buffy didn’t let Spike die from the amulet, Anya didn’t die either and she and Xander are happily together, and Buffy and Spike are newly mated and happy. 
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
So many thanks to All4Spike for her amazing beta skills!
Chapter Notes:

A lighthearted bit of fluff based on magnus374's excellent challenge: Every skill you need is just a spell away.


 Spike grumbled as he spun the combination lock on the storage closet in the Summers’ garage. How he managed to draw the short straw on this week’s big bad, he didn’t know, but he was not happy.  

The lock clicked open and Spike unlatched the door. It was a cool, dark space just big enough for the rack of clothing on one side and a shelf of objects at the back with a small area with hooks on the opposite wall for changing.  There was no rhyme or reason to the hodge-podge collection of garments and knick-knacks, but each one faintly crackled with magical energy.  It made his fangs itch. 

He sorted through the clothing rack to find the item he needed.  There was a white sheet with the word “Boo!” stenciled on the front, and a bunch of child-sized werewolf and monster outfits.  He stopped and smiled at an old-fashioned dress.  The lace on one sleeve was torn and there were a few specs of dark red on the bodice of rose-colored silk.  He looked towards the door to make sure he was unobserved and then vamped out and inhaled deeply.  There wasn’t much of her scent left, but he could catch just a hint of the tang of her blood from where he’d managed to just scrape her with his fangs.  What a night that had been!  He shook himself back to his human face and smiled at the memory.    

Then he remembered why he was in this stuffy closet, and he nearly rolled his eyes.  Further down the rack, he found what he was looking for and pulled it out.  He slapped the hanger on one of the hooks and draped his duster over another.  Then he sighed as he contemplated what he had to do next. Fists on his hips, he shook his head in disgust.  He heard a stifled giggle from outside and growled.  

“One word out of you, Slayer, and it’ll be your arse in here getting all switched up!”  He pulled the pendant he’d need to activate the spell out of his pocket and glared at it. He could have sworn the face on one side was laughing at him. The one on the other seemed to sneer at his delay.  

Why they thought he would be the best choice to learn Romanian, he didn’t know. The Watcher knew nearly as many languages as he did. Why didn’t he volunteer to put on the poncy cloak and do the spell? 

Buffy’s voice was muffled by the doors. “Everything okay in there, honey?” 

“No, it bloody well isn’t,” he mumbled to himself.  

“I’m fine. Give a bloke a minute!” he yelled back.  

Better get this over with, he thought. Gritting his teeth, Spike slid the black satin cloak around his shoulders. He settled it with a twitch, snarling at the blood-red lining. Could you get any more clichéd?  Then he picked up the pendant with the faces of Janus on it and slipped it over his head.  

He twisted the pendant, whispering the incantation to activate it, and felt his consciousness fade into the background as if behind an invisible screen. He could see and hear everything, but someone else was in the driver’s seat. And that someone owed him eleven quid.  

*** 

Buffy waited with Willow and Giles, chatting about Dawn’s latest phone call.  She could hear the rustling and grumbling from inside the closet and tried her best not to laugh as she imagined Spike reluctantly sorting through to find Dracula’s cloak.   

Good grief, he only had to wear the thing for a minute or two, just long enough to soak up the language skills they needed.  It wasn’t like they would even be leaving the garage.  As soon as he came out, Willow would hold him, Giles would undo the spell, and they’d lock the stupid cloak away and hopefully never need it again.  There was certainly no need for the dramatic sighs and growls she had been hearing.  Besides, she’d promised special fun times later as a thank you (or was it a bribe?) for taking this on. 

So, when the door to the closet opened, Buffy pressed her lips together to hold back the chuckles she expected to feel.  Instead, she had to suppress a gasp.  Whoa!  Classic vampire Spike was hot!  She licked her lips as she took in the tousled curls that she swore had been gelled back just a few minutes ago, down to the heavily-lidded eyes that had just a touch of his amber demon shining through.  She noted his suddenly super-pale skin, and reached towards his face.  He turned towards her palm and pressed an ardent kiss to it.  Then his mouth turned into a hard smirk, and he faded before her eyes, becoming a cloud of mist that raced towards the garage door. 

“Willow!” Buffy cried.  She heard her friend begin the spell to freeze the vampire in place, but realized it was already too late.  She ran out the door into the sunlight.  They had made sure to do this during the day, presuming that if Dracula truly took over Spike, they’d have him contained for long enough to hold him and reverse the spell.  She’d forgotten to account for those blasted tricks of his. 

Buffy heard Giles behind her. 

“Did you see which way he went, Buffy?” he asked. 

“Just a glimpse...north up the street.  Can you do the reversal spell?” 

“He’s too far away, and I’m not sure it will work on him in that form.” 

Bloody buggering fuck!  Buffy thought.  She felt fear rise up and squashed it under her anger.  She’d be damned if she let that self-righteous Transylvanian have her mate.  Now, where would he go? 

“Well, it’s still daylight, so he’s going to need to find somewhere safe.  From what I saw before, he can’t stay mist for very long.”  She turned towards a clearly frustrated Giles and a worried-looking Willow.  “Let’s get researching nearby places a vamp could get into that would suit his campy cape-y-ness.” 

Willow jumped at the opportunity to fix something.  “I’ll get online and find vacant residences.” 

“Great, Wills.” Buffy said.  “Be sure to focus on the high end and/or creepy places.  He managed to create a castle last time he was here, but I’m hoping he has to work with something that already exists since we’re not really dealing with the actual Dracula, just his essence in that stupid cape.” 

Willow ran back to the house.   

Turning to Giles, Buffy asked, “What can we expect from this?  Obviously, the cape gives Spike at least some of Dracula’s abilities, but what limitations might there be?  Is there any way Spike could break free or influence what’s going on?”  Her voice cracked a little on the last. 

Giles reached up to remove his glasses.  He rubbed his face with the back of his hand.  “I’ll need to check some of my resources,” he replied.  “And.” He grimaced. “I’ll call up the American prison base where they are holding Ethan Rayne.  He created this blasted spell; he’d bloody well better be able to help us break it.” 

Giles rested his hand briefly on Buffy’s shoulder.  “We’ll get him back, Buffy.  Never fear.  Spike is nothing if not resourceful, and I’m sure he’s working on this from his end as well.” 

“He’d better be,” Buffy muttered. 

*** 

Xander was putting on his jacket when he saw the spider crawling along the baseboard.  He knew Anya would freak out if she saw it, and their plans to take in a matinee of the latest monster movie would take a hit while he calmed her down.  He ignored the whooshing sound behind him.  Bending down, he picked the spider up by one of its long legs and blithely crunched it down.   

“Oh, my god, Xander!  That’s disgusting!”  Anya finished putting on her earrings with trembling fingers.  “Go, brush your teeth right this instant.  I’m not having our date ruined because you couldn’t be bothered to get the vacuum cleaner out.”  She pushed Xander towards the bathroom saying, “Hurry up!  The movie starts soon and I don’t want to miss the previews.” 

Grabbing her coat and her cell phone, Anya rushed out the door and down the hall.  As soon as she was outside, she sent a text to Buffy. 

Anya: Dracula’s here! OMG  HELP! 

Buffy: Where? 

Anya: our place.  Hurry 

Buffy: OMW 

Anya: U not surprised? 

Buffy: TL:DR—Janus’ closet, Dracula’s cloak, Spike=Drac 

Anya: OMG.  F***.  X is coming.  He eats another bug, I’m gonna barf.  Key under the doormat for 312. 

Buffy: 312?  You mean 314? 

Anya: Why would I put it under our own mat? 

Buffy: Ah!  Got it.  Get X away.  I’ll deal with D...Spike...whoever. 

Anya: THX 

 

Xander gave her a quick kiss, proving he had indeed brushed his teeth, and Anya let out a sigh of relief.  She smiled and hurried him off. 

The vampire in the window watched them go from the shadows of the curtains, smiling at having his thrall again in place. 

*** 

Buffy was hovering over Willow’s shoulder as she pulled up the local real estate listings when the text from Anya came in. She finished typing, pocketed her phone, and grabbed Willow’s shoulder. 

“Forget that, Will. I know where he landed. 

“What?  How?”  Willow said. 

“Evidently Xander is eating bugs again. Anya caught him.” 

“Oh gross!  But good, I guess. Now what?” Willow asked.  

“Now we get Giles and hope he’s got a way to break this without me having to stake anyone, ‘cause I’m NOT gonna do it!”  She whipped out the stake she kept in her waistband and speared it towards the wall. It ended up 6 inches deep and cracked the plaster in a spiderweb around it.  

Willow’s eyes widened at the damage but she refrained from commenting.  She simply closed her laptop and hurried out after the rapidly departing slayer. 

“I’ll drive!” she called.  That way we’ll actually get there, she thought. 

*** 

Spike had been observing from behind whatever force kept him contained within the spell. He could tell that traveling in mist form through daylight had greatly weakened the essence of Dracula that currently controlled his body.  He watched as his hands trembled a bit as they stripped silk sheets and downy throw pillows from Anya and Xander’s bed.  He nearly rolled his eyes as he saw them formed into a soft nest in the large master closet.   

I just hope I can get free of this ponce, he thought with a wince, before Anya sees what he did with her shoe collection to make room for his little pseudo-coffin.  

The vampire in the cloak sighed and settled himself on his back, pulling the closet door shut.  He gracefully crossed his arms over his chest.  Spike gagged at how cheesy this all was.  He felt Dracula close his eyes and slide into sleep.  He felt the drag at his own consciousness, but fought to stay awake and aware.  After a few moments, he could feel the slackness of his own muscles, but he was still awake. 

Time to try seeing if I can break out of this on my own, Spike thought.  He was fairly certain that Anya had clued into something being wrong, but who knew how long it might take to gather the gang?  Also, if Xander was in thrall again, he might thwart her efforts to contact the others. 

He started by imagining poking at the barrier that kept him from controlling his body.  Nothing happened.  He was still stuck.  He tried concentrating and attempting to move some part of his body...an arm, a finger, heck even the blink of an eye would give him some hope.  Nothing.  He paced in his imaginary cell, growing more and more agitated.  There had to be something that could be done! 

Spike thought about what he’d like to do to the real Dracula if he got hold of him.  Several choice fantasies involving fire ants and the nearby desert and really thin stakes held off the feelings of hopelessness, and he was working up a good rush of adrenaline when his hand twitched. 

What the heck?  He tried to recreate the movement, but there was still nothing.  He knew he hadn’t imagined the twitch.  Since his body was essentially dead when he slept, that shouldn’t be possible.  It had only happened before during the rare times he had dreamed.  Was Dracula dreaming?  What could have triggered it? 

He ran through possibilities in his mind, but he couldn’t think of anything.  Pissed off all over again, he went back to cursing the Transylvanian and decided that this time hot pokers and holy water were on the menu.  He had managed to work in some torches and acid when he felt his arm twitch again. 

Well, that can’t be coincidence, he thought.  Ramping up his thoughts of the exquisite tortures he’d like to visit on the vampire currently running his body, Spike growled and snarled as he brought everything he remembered from his days with Angelus to the front of his mind.  He imagined the sweet blood and glorious pain.  All at once, his arm lashed out as if fighting off an unseen foe, and Spike laughed.  He had a way in, and he intended to make it work for him. 

*** 

Willow pulled up to Giles’ apartment building.  Buffy didn’t even wait for her to stop fully before she was out the door and sprinting for the front steps.  She skipped knocking, and burst into the living room.  Giles started to his feet at the unexpected appearance of someone in his living room, and then put down the knife he had automatically palmed as he saw who it was. 

“I’ve got his location,” she said.  “What have you got on breaking this?” 

Giles picked up a notebook covered with scrawled writing.  “Not much more than our original plan.  And if you’ve got a location on him, then perhaps that would be best.” 

“That’s if we can manage to catch him before he mists again,” Buffy said.  “Aren’t there any alternatives we can do from the here and now?” she asked. 

“Not that I’ve found, Buffy,” he said.  “I’m still waiting to hear back from Ethan’s wardens as to whether I’ll be allowed to speak to him.” 

Willow entered and shut the door Buffy had left hanging open.   

“So, do we go to Xander and Anya’s and see if we can catch him?” Willow asked. 

Buffy considered this.  “I’m worried about spooking him again and then having no idea where he’s gone.”  She paced in front of Giles’ sofa.  “If only there was some way to communicate with Spike.”  Buffy paused. 

“Willow, when you were a ghost for Halloween, you still stayed you, even though you were all ghostly, right?” 

Willow nodded. 

“And Xander was still Xander, even though he was soldier-Xander.” 

“But he didn’t remember any of us, Buffy!” Willow said. 

“And I was an Elizabeth, which obviously came from my Buffy-ness.” 

Giles broke in, “So, what are you saying, Buffy?” 

“I think the Janus spell must have to latch on to some bits of the person involved, like it can’t make something completely new,” she said. 

“So, like a template or something?” Willow said. 

“Yes, of course!”  Giles rushed to his bookshelves and pulled down one of the leather-bound tomes.  He brought it to the desk and opened it to the index. 

“The spell itself is not creating the person, it is using whoever wears the garments combined with the garments themselves as the framework on which to build the persona, flipping them inside out—with the garments in a way wearing the person instead of the other way round.” 

He had flipped through several pages in the book and now turned it so it faced Buffy and Willow.  “See here.  This one is very similar, though based in a cursed armband.  Once it was willingly worn, the spell remained in place, causing the person to believe themselves to be someone else.  If you could get them to willingly remove the item, the spell would be broken.” 

Buffy said, “So, if we can get Dracula to willingly take off his cloak, then Spike will be back in control?” 

“I do believe so,” Giles said. 

Willow frowned.  “But, Giles, when I was a ghost, I left my ghost costume behind, but I was still a ghost.” 

“Did you take the costume off, Willow?” he asked. 

Willow thought, and then smiled.  “No, I didn’t!  I just kind of floated up out of it as my ghostly self.”   

She turned to Buffy.  “Dracula kind of had a “thing” for you when he was here, didn’t he, Buffy?  And he wasn’t looking too scared of you in the garage.  More, kind of like he was into you, right?  Maybe we could use that.” 

Buffy scrunched her nose up.  “Ew!  Ick!  Besides, last time he was here, I tried to kill him, like, lots of times.” 

Giles broke in.  “But that was the real Dracula, Buffy.  This one is a simulacrum based in the cloak, and in Spike.  I doubt there is a memory of his previous visit in this construct.” 

“Well, then, “Buffy said, rolling her eyes, “Looks like I’m gonna have to try to get my mate to take off his clothes.”   

She addressed both Giles and Willow.    “Bring what you need for the freezing and reversal spells, just in case.  Let’s go” 

Buffy turned to lead the way back out to the car thinking, if Spike’s really in there, he’s either gonna love this or be really pissed. 

*** 

In the movie theater, Anya snuck out, telling Xander she had to pee.  He continued munching popcorn, and Anya just hoped there were no bugs in it.  In the hallway, she opened her phone and texted Buffy. 

Anya: Is it safe yet? 

Buffy: Not yet.  Keep X away if u can 

Anya: Only 1 more hr on the movie. Hurry!!! 

Buffy: doing our best. let me know if you head home. willow can help cntrl if D still thralling X 

Anya: OK 

Buffy: Thx. U are doing great! 

Anya sighed as she put her phone away.  She had no idea how to keep Xander away from their apartment if he was still enthralled.  Hopefully Dracula had told him to keep her away.   

She went and bought some more popcorn.  There was no trusting what Xander might have put in the other tub from the icky floor while she was gone.  God, I hate this bug-eating thing, she thought as she returned to her seat.   

Of course, if Xander wants to keep me away from the apartment, maybe I can talk him into going into that new sex toy shop downtown!  Much happier at that thought, Anya snuggled up next to Xander and tried to catch up on what was happening in the movie. 

*** 

Giles eased the car into the spot Xander and Anya had vacated in the parking lot.  The sun was about halfway to the horizon, and Buffy wanted to have this done before Drac-Spike could move about more freely.  Who knows what kind of trouble he’d get into after dark? 

Willow started to get out, but Buffy hissed at her, “Hold on.” 

Buffy looked out the rear window, counting up three floors and then over seven rooms to where she was pretty sure Xander and Anya’s apartment was.  She knew it overlooked this side of the complex. 

Pointing up at the windows in question, she asked, “Can either of you see any movement?” 

Giles craned his head over the front console as he twisted to try and look out the back.  Willow peered out the side window.  For a minute there was no sound except the cars passing by on the road and the rasp of the eucalyptus leaves on the trees around the building. 

“I don’t see anything,” Willow said. 

“OK,” Buffy said.  “We’ll go in, and you two will stay in the hallway while I check out the apartment.” 

Giles started to pull weapons from a bag near Willows feet, but Buffy clamped a hand on his arm.  “No, no weapons.” He paused and she put just a bit of her slayer strength behind her grip.  “Nothing that could hurt him, Giles.  I’m not doing that.”  He stared at her for a moment and then nodded.  She released his arm and he put the stakes he had grabbed back in the bag. 

“Just bring anything you need for the spell,” Buffy said, and then she was off and moving with a speed just shy of sprinting to the front door. 

Buffy made sure Giles and Willow were safely in the building, then practically levitated up the stairs, taking them two and three at a time.  She gently disengaged the latch on the fire door and poked her head into the third-floor hallway.  She crept forward to the cheery welcome mat in front of apartment 312, and lifted the edge.  The key was right where Anya had said it would be, and she snatched it up and dropped the mat back into place. 

Hearing a squeak from the fire door, Buffy hot-footed it back to where Giles was peeking out.  She gestured him back into the stairwell.  Whispering, she quickly laid out her plan. 

“I’ll go in and hopefully he’ll either be asleep or be willing to let me talk.  There’s a little niche next to their door where the fire extinguisher is.  It looks big enough for you two to hide in.  I’ll block the door open with a shoe or something.  When you hear me talking to him, come in, spells-a-blazing, okay?” 

“Got it,” Willow said. 

“We’ll be ready, Buffy,” Giles added. 

*** 

Spike felt her before he heard anything and something in his chest eased that he didn’t realize he’d been holding taut.  The claim was still a pretty new thing between them and they hadn’t explored the extent of the connection, mostly noticing it when one of them was feeling particularly strongly and was nearby.   

He recalled the week prior with wry amusement.  Coming back from picking up a fresh carton of smokes from the corner shop, he had just turned onto Revello Drive when he felt Buffy cry out in pain.  He’d bolted back to the house and into the kitchen where Buffy was cleaning up a nasty cut on her thumb.  He’d been a little embarrassed when he realized he’d been in full game-face since Buffy had only been slicing an apple when the knife slipped.  Xander had had to reset the door on new hinges, and was still giving him grief.   

He sensed her anxiety and determination and smiled to himself.  That was his Slayer!  He checked in on his unconscious host to see if the poncy bastard had noticed anything.  He continued to lie as still as the corpse he was, so Spike turned his senses to his mate.  He could feel her coming closer.  When the latch on the fire stairwell door clicked open, Spike felt a minute shift in the body that held him.  Blast!  He focused all his attention on trying to keep the vampire asleep, or at least from hearing Buffy.  How could he keep him sedated?  What would keep the bugger asleep?  Spike suddenly recalled the memory of his human mother lulling him to sleep.  It was worth a shot. 

“Early one morning, just as the sun was rising...,” Spike hummed in his mind, trying his best to waft soothing thoughts towards the sleeping vampire.  In the back of his mind, he heard Buffy creeping down the hall and some sort of shuffling before she headed back to the stairwell.  She must have reinforcements, he thought.  He kept up the vague humming in his head while waiting until he heard her stealthy footsteps approaching the apartment door. 

Glad that the tune was so familiar to him that he could hum it while thinking other things, Spike reached out through his link to Buffy.  They hadn’t managed actual words, though Giles seemed to think that would eventually be possible.  Instead he tried to send his love and confidence in her through.  He felt her react and the relief that washed through him was palpable.  Concentrating, he tried sending an image of the closet and the nest of pillows.  After a moment, he caught a hint of a picture coming back his way.  It was the same picture he’d sent with the feeling of a baffled question attached to it.  He resent the image and included his own non-verbal snide commentary.  He felt her giggle and sent the thought of him pulling her close.  He could nearly feel the Slayer-strength return squeeze around his waist. 

When she started sending him images of Giles and Willow doing witchy things, he quickly sent back a strong note of caution.  There was no way he’d be able to keep the Count asleep if there were humans fumbling around in the hall.  He urgently sent her a question, “Plan B?” 

*** 

Buffy slipped back down the hallway to the stairwell.  Once she’d eased the door closed, she whispered Spike’s warning to Giles and Willow.  They were loath to leave her on her own, but she put on a good facsimile of Willow’s resolve face.  She waited until she heard them exit the building before turning back to the door and mentally preparing herself for the next “conversation” she needed to have with Spike. 

Now that she knew what to feel for, Buffy found it easier to contact Spike.  Still not sure how to do this in words, she fed him a series of quick images: 

Buffy sneaking into the apartment 

Buffy doing a little shimmy 

Dracula waking up 

Dracula and Buffy dancing 

Dracula taking off his cloak 

Before she could get any further, she felt a roar in the negative from her mate.  She desperately tried to break through, but all she was getting was a wash of red... blood, guts, anger, jealousy, with such a background of sadness and loss that she nearly cried. 

Along with the pain she felt from Spike, she worried that the emotional storm he was experiencing would wake up the Dracula thing that had hold of him.   

She took a deep breath to tamp down the automatic anger response at how he had misunderstood her.  Time to practice those active listening skills her professor had talked about.  Buffy worked to block out her own feelings and instead repeated back some of what she was getting from Spike along with a phrase she hoped would get through.  I hear you, she thought at him.  I love you and I hear you.   

Repeating this over and over again, she waited until the rush of images slowed and then added the last bit Spike hadn't let her get to before...an image of Dracula changing into Spike and then Buffy and Spike in a passionate embrace. 

Then nothing.  She could still feel that Spike was there, but the claim was silent.  She was starting to freak out, but then there was what seemed like a small voice as from far away.   

Buffy?  Love, are you there? 

Buffy felt relief pour into her and closed her eyes.  As she concentrated, the words started coming through more and more clearly...God...such an idiot...forgive me...love you...trust you...  She smiled as she swayed on her feet and grabbed the railing in the stairwell to keep her balance as Spike’s love and remorse flowed through the link, somehow more powerful for being in his voice than even the vibrant images had been. 

At last, he seemed to realize that unless he let up a bit, she wouldn’t be able to get a word in edgewise.  Buffy?  Can you hear me? 

Yes, she said.  Love you, too, you idiot.  But she added an image of her caressing his dear face so he’d know how she meant it.  Now, did you get the whole plan? 

Got it.  Don’t like it, but I got it. 

Not even the last bit? she sent back coyly, re-sending the final image of them embracing and adding a bit of hip thrust to the end. 

Well, that’s a bit of all right.  Just don’t fancy Mr. Dark and Misty thinking he’s got his mitts on you. 

Then let’s get this done quickly while he’s still half-asleep, Buffy replied.  Remember, the important thing is he has to take the cloak off himself, willingly.  Anything you can do to hurry that along from where you are? 

I’ll do my best, pet.  I’ve managed a few hand twitches so far, but nothing coordinated. 

Well, maybe you could egg him on a bit? Buffy suggested. 

Spike growled. 

OK, OK, just let’s get on with it, so I can get you home and Xander can stop eating creepy crawlies. 

Buffy felt Spike’s amusement at his friend’s expense and took that to mean they were ready. 

She stepped into the hall and made her way back into the door she’d left propped open. 

Through the claim she swore she heard Spike start to hum something soft and sweet.  Oh well, she thought and shrugged.  I guess he’s doing something to keep Drac occupied. 

Grateful that her mate was helping, Buffy edged into the bedroom.  The place was a mess, with clothes and shoes thrown everywhere.  Anya was going to be pissed.  Looking down at her t-shirt and shorts, Buffy realized she might need a bit of help if she were going to quickly seduce Dracula out of his cape.  She looked around and snatched up a slinky red halter dress and a pair of red stilettos from the piles on the floor.  Backing out into the main room, she quickly changed.  “Showtime,” she thought and sent the word to Spike as well. 

*** 

Spike caught Buffy’s final comment and let his internal humming come to an end.  He wasn’t happy about this plan, but knew it was their best shot.  He nudged the sleeping Dracula as he heard the Slayer enter the bedroom.  Might as well get this part over with, he grumped. 

Spike sensed when Dracula awoke and watched through his eyes as he sat up halfway and pulled the closet door open.  He leered inside when he saw his Slayer dolled up in Anya's clothes, then didn’t know whether to be pissed off when old Drac leered as well.  This being stuck inside a mind that wasn’t his but a body that was, was a sodding pain in the arse.  Oh well, he knew Buffy could take care of herself and the sooner they got Drac to give up the cloak, the sooner the proper snogging could begin. 

With that thought in mind, Spike tried picking up on what Dracula was thinking and giving it a nudge in the right direction.  He heard the vampire’s thoughts about this being a trap and pushed forward the notion that even if it was, he could always thrall the Slayer. 

He felt the vampire’s confidence rise.  Oh shit, Spike thought.  I hope I didn’t just bugger things up. 

But Buffy was doing okay.  She was leaning against the doorway, twirling a lock of hair in her fingers, and glancing at Dracula from under her lashes. He followed as the vampire’s eyes traveled over Buffy’s body, appreciating the way the dress skimmed her curves, and he definitely intended to buy her some of those shoes for her next birthday. 

Spike could sense that Dracula, while intrigued, continued to be wary.  He rose from the nest of pillows and moved out of the closet. 

“Such a beautiful and deadly creature you are, my dear.  But you must know you cannot kill me.  My magic protects me from your wooden stakes and holy water.” 

Buffy gave a little twirl, lifting her hair to show off the bare back exposed by the dress. 

“No stakes here,” she said, looking over her shoulder, but Spike noticed she was still being smart and not meeting his eyes directly.  “And no bottles of holy water, though we might be in luck with finding something cold and bubbly in the fridge.” 

Spike tried to amp up the intrigued part while tamping down on the concerns.  He had some of his own ideas of what he’d like to be doing with his Slayer out there.  As he felt the reaction in his body, he growled at himself. 

Oh, this is beyond ridiculous, he thought.   

Buffy, meanwhile had sauntered closer and Spike watched helplessly, both fuming and turned on, as Dracula circled behind the Slayer.  But when the vampire lifted his hand to brush it down the Slayer’s arm, Spike’s anger erupted and instead of a soft caress, Dracula’s hand jerked to the side. 

Spike? Buffy thought at him.  Is everything okay in there? 

No!  It bloody well isn’t!  He tried to touch you! 

Ah!  Buffy said.  But that’s great! 

What?!? Spike couldn’t believe what he was hearing. 

You moved his hand! 

Oh.  That.  Yeah.  A bit.  Seems connected with strong emotions.  Spike thought for a moment as the vampire circled back around to Buffy’s front.  The spell didn’t seem able to block their claim.  There had to be a way to make that work for them. 

Dracula had managed to take Buffy’s hand while Spike was pondering this, and had led her over to a small sofa on the other side of the room. 

Maybe with more emotions I could rip this stupid cloak off myself, he thought.  He fed Buffy the idea in-between the coy flirting she was doing with Drac. 

What kind of emotion? she answered. 

I’ve been thinking how much I’d like to torture this sodding bastard, Spike said. 

Kind of hard to radiate hate when I’m looking at your gorgeous self, she sent, but I’ll give it a try. 

Spike caught Buffy’s intense feelings of anger and fear at what had happened and fed them together with his own rage into trying to break through and make Dracula’s arm move in a more coordinated way.  All they managed, however, was a brief bit of flailing. 

*** 

OK, this isn’t working, Buffy thought.  Dracula was spouting off some nonsense about how beautiful and powerful she was, and did he say something about a wife? 

Spike!  she called through the bond.  She could feel his gruff response. 

Spike!  We’ve got to work together on this.  Strong emotion works, but it’s not doing what we need.  It’s too different from what Drac is aiming for, and we need him to get that cloak off willingly. 

She felt Spike turn from ticked off to curious.   

What’s the plan? 

You’re not gonna like it. 

Out with it, already! 

You’re really not going to like it, she hedged. 

Just get on with it, you stubborn bint, or I’ll let Drac here get on with what he wants. 

Well....that’s what I need you to do. 

Buffy held her breath while trying to keep smiling at the vampire in front of her who both was and wasn’t her mate as she waited for the explosion she knew was coming...three, two, one... 

YOU’VE GOT TO BE BLOODY KIDDING ME!!! 

The shout echoed through the claim bond, and Buffy winced. 

“Is something wrong, my dear?” Dracula asked. 

“No, no!  Everything is fine.  Do go on.”  Buffy batted her eyelashes but kept her eyes from meeting his directly. 

Everything is bloody well NOT fine, Spike groused.  But Buffy could hear the pout. 

Let me explain.  She sent all the calm and love and trust she could through the link. 

Our claim is what’s going to break this.  We’re going to kind of by-pass the whole Dracula simulation thingy. 

She could almost feel the gears turning as Spike turned this over and over in his mind.   

You mean link up even deeper and let our bodies and minds work together? 

Yes!  Exactly! 

Could be unexpected consequences, pet.  I mean this telepathy thing is right fancy, but we’ve brought it on awful quick-like and in strained circumstances.  From what little we know, it usually develops slowly over years.  Pushing it like we have in the course of a day...no telling what that might mean.  And you’re talking about something even beyond that.  Don’t want anything bad to happen to you, luv.  Couldn't stand it if I was responsible for hurting you. 

I don’t think anything about the claim could hurt us, Buffy replied.  If we can’t get Giles and Willow close enough for a freeze and undo, then we’ve got to get blood-breath here to take off his cape.  And since he’s using your gorgeous bod at the moment, we need to get YOU to take off the cape.  Anger hasn’t been strong enough.  I’m counting on love to do the trick. 

Gorgeous, am I? 

Buffy could practically hear the leer. 

You couldn’t have focused on the love part?  She teased him with the impression of a pout. 

Oh, luv, you know it means the world to me.  Always cherish that you chose me.  She felt a ghostly touch as if he had run his hand through her hair. 

Then just love me, you stubborn vampire.  Focus in on our link and let’s make Dracula go poof. 

*** 

Easier said than bloody done.  Spike tried again to immerse himself in his link with Buffy, but then cape-boy would put the moves on her.  He’d break his concentration and use his anger to shift the wanker’s hand just enough so that he’d catch her waist instead of the swell of her breast he’d been aiming for. 

He knew Buffy was getting frustrated too.  He watched as she continued to evade Dracula’s attempts to kiss her.  She went over to Xander’s stereo and seemed intent on finding just the right song to torment him with.  Had she said something to Dracula about slow dancing?  What?!? 

He felt a jolt in his link and then the sense of Buffy whapping him on the back of his head. 

Focus, Bleach Brain! 

Hey!  He tuned back into his mate, ruefully.  Sorry, luv. Just makes me so mad! 

I know, but we’re not going to get rid of him until you dance with me. 

Spike paused, remembering all the different ways they’d danced in their past.  From their first flirtatious encounter in a dark alley, to the fight in the school, and all the beautiful, deadly dances they’d partnered for over the years as they went from fierce enemies to reluctant allies to tormented lovers and finally to the love that brought them such joy every day. 

Yeah, pet.  Let’s dance. 

He felt Buffy smile and draw him deeper into their link.  He closed his eyes and felt her take his hands.  Then he heard the next song begin on the stereo and gave himself up fully to the feel of her in his arms, no longer caring whether it was a cape-clad baddie who thought he was doing the holding.  He knew that the only arms Buffy felt were his, and the only ones she ever wanted were his. 

He sank deeper and deeper, feeling Buffy’s love reaching into all the crevices of his heart and soul.  He sent his reaching out to her, enfolding her and pulling her closer and closer. 

Her head was tucked under his chin and she was nuzzling into his neck as they swayed to the music.  When she mouthed over his claim mark, he felt like a burst of fire ran through him.  Then their mouths were pressed together, and he clutched her to him with all his strength. 

Oh, God, Spike! He could feel her heart rate accelerating.  He needed her, always needed her, had to be closer. Stupid cape was in the way.  He ripped it off and threw it to the sofa. 

And then she was really there and he was really there and he slowed his desperate kisses.  He lifted his head, and, oh thank God, it was his head again, and it was his hands on her skin and it was his voice crying her name.  And she was smiling and drawing him back into her arms and kissing him (really him), and his relief and love flooded through their claim.  And Buffy sent hers back just as strongly. 

Then he felt her chuckle. We keep on like this and I’m going to owe Anya a new dress. 

Spike chuckled against her lips and then threw back his head, laughing uncontrollably.  He swung Buffy around and around in his arms and heard her join in the uproar.  Falling to the floor, and pulling her on top of him, he said, “I love you!” 

“I love you, too, you big doof.  Now, let’s get this place cleaned up before Anya sees what Drac did to her shoe collection.  Somehow I don’t think she’s going to care if you were being controlled by mystical forces or not.” 

*** 

Anya honked the horn when she saw Willow in Buffy’s car parked in their spot.   

Xander hurriedly put the things he and Anya had bought away in the plain brown paper bag.  He didn’t really remember why he and Anya had decided to go to the local sex toy shop, but who was he to complain?   

Willow and Giles came over and Anya said, “What are you all still doing here?” 

“We’re waiting for Buffy.  She’s trying to get Spike free from Dracula’s cape,” Willow said. 

“Well, I know that,” Anya replied.  “But the spell broke over half an hour ago.” 

“What?  How do you know?” 

“That’s when Xander stopped trying to eat the ants on the sidewalk.” 

Willow and Giles looked over at Xander.  Xander just shrugged. 

“Oh, dear, we haven't heard from them and they haven't come out yet either.  We’d better go check and be sure there weren’t any negative repercussions from the spell,” Giles said, turning to head back into the building. 

“They’re probably just having make-up sex,” Anya interjected.   

Giles froze with one foot on the curb.   

“It’s what I’m planning on doing with Xander.  It’s been terribly traumatic having him under a spell, and I’m very relieved he’s back.  I’m sure Buffy and Spike feel the same.” 

“Oh!” Willow said.  And everyone looked at each other.   

Giles put his foot back down on the pavement. 

“So,” Xander said.  “Pizza?  I hear Harry’s House of Pizza is open late tonight. And they have a pool table.” 

The four of them drove off together. 

*** 

“Well, we did a good job cleaning up,” Buffy said. 

“And an even better one getting it messy again,” Spike commented with a leer. He nuzzled Buffy’s bare shoulder from their place on the floor, next to an overturned lamp. 

“At least we missed the bed.” 



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