The Bear (bearfacedcheek) wrote in seasonal_spuffy,
The Bear
bearfacedcheek
seasonal_spuffy

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Fic: Loadstone North

Title: Loadstone North
Author: bearfacedcheek
Summary: Buffy teams up with Spike as gets back to work as teh slayer. Partially unbeta-ed which i will  get fixed as soon as I can get it to April

Part 2:Back to basics, fighting style

"They what?"

"They left." Willow looks a little taken a back by the urgency of Buffy's interrogation. "Just after sunset. To patrol, I guess; there were clubs."

"Clubs?" She pressed her fingertips into her forehead and curses. "Damn it."

"Buffy?" Giles questions as he pulls a spotless handkerchief from the pocket of his faded jeans, and if she wasn't so suddenly worried she'd probably think it amusingly incongruous.

"They've gone after the Brelrogs," she tells them, and runs a hand through her hair in agitation.

"We don't know…"

"Clubs!" And she's supposed to be the dumb one. Come on, it's not that hard to figure. "As in not swords."

"Ah." Giles' understanding comes in perfect sync with Willow's "Oh."

"Yeah." Buffy rolls her eyes impatiently. "Ah-oh. I can't believe they've gone off half-cocked like this. Get me a team, Giles. I better go save their sorry asses. Again!"

The team are ready in an impressive fourteen minutes, armed and hastily briefed. She smiles a friendly welcome to Claire Johnson, who trained with her in Rome for a while, and endures the other introductions impatiently.

"So what's the deal?" Claire asks when they're moving. A prowling pack of sugar-coated killers, Barbie bright and verdant in the darkness. Behind her one of the girls snaps her bubble gum loudly and Buffy has to remind herself that she was once this young and annoying.

"Demons," she tells them distractedly as she scans the night for signs of the rogue and her vampire. "Nasty ones. Don't cut them."

They find them soon enough, tag teaming what she must assume is a Brelrog demon, a good six foot of armour plated muscle garnished with four inch claws and warthog-style tusks. "Tasty," she mutters as she clinically assesses the fight. They're definitely holding their own. And if she's honest—which she doesn't anticipate being on this subject anytime soon—Spike and Faith make an impressive team, especially with Faith's longer-than-long hair swirling around her and glinting like onyx as she springboards off Spike's cupped hands and comes down on the Brelrog's head with a brutal downswing of her club.

The demon roars in a mixture of pain and anger and swings a clawed arm, blindly catching the vampire in the face and sending him sprawling against a nearby dumpster. "Spike!" Buffy's voice is loud enough to turn the demon away from Spike as she charges in with her pubescent troop of killers close behind.

"Watch it, B," Faith gripes when Buffy's club bounces of the demon's leathery hide and almost catches her in the face.

"Why won't the stupid thing just die?" Buffy asks petulantly as she swings again for its less protected throat. At the same instant one of the slayers—a sassy New York Italian named Ginna with short, cropped black hair and a flinty fuck you attitude—lands a perfect back kick hard in its guts and the combined power of their assault is enough to send the demon staggering backwards towards the wall of the alley.

She sees it just as Faith cries out in warning, "Spike," though he's not close enough to do anything about it, either; Glinting in the alley wall, a shorn off piece of god knows what it ever was, but now just a jagged edge of metal protruding from the brickwork. The demon takes a final stumbling step back and lands heavily against the wall with a reverberating grunt.

They step back as one, forming a wide-eyed audience for the spectacle before them. The creature howls in what must be agony and arches away from the wall before it falls to the tarmac, convulsing violently and snarling out its agony as the flesh along its spine is rent apart to form a bloody split.

Then it's all sci-fi special effects, bone and cartilage and blood and muscle forming before their eyes from the pulsing gore. And all the while the floored beasts screams its suffering into the night so loud that the sound bounces back and forth off the walls of the alley and reverberates through their skulls.

Then all is quiet, and the male Brelrog lies twitching on the ground. The other rises above it, still oozing flesh, hardening to armour as they watch, and flexes its talons.

"Bloody hell," Spike murmurs at her side, and she has to agree because the demon is huge. Eight feet at least and every inch of its massive bulk is barbed and thick with armour. Then it announces its birth with a massive roar and the fight is on.

"Replica!" Buffy cries as she ducks under the swing of its massive arm. "Giles said replica."

"Nah." Spike strikes twice hard at its knees to no discernable effect, then leaps back out of reach. "Whole new beastie and this one’s a lady."

"Figures," she shrugs as Faith flies backwards between them and hits the wall with an oof. "Retreat?"

"Thought you'd never ask, pet."

So she calls it and they flee, dragging their wounded with them, which she hadn't realised included Spike until she caught site of his maimed thigh in the street light, and make a break for home where Willow and Giles are waiting with a small medical team.

"My God, Buffy," her erstwhile watcher says as she limps in with Spike leaning heavily against her. "What happened?"

Spike snorts, then chokes and coughs and waves off her concern. "It got cut," she tells Giles as she helps Spike into a nearby chair and frowns worriedly at him. "It was an accident."
 
"An accident," Spike grumbles as he shifts. "Only accident was you and your little gang of teeny boppers charging in like—"

"Are you saying this is my fault?" She looks at him incredulously; she really had forgotten what an arsehole he can be.

"Well, I don't know. Who got the bloody thing cut? " He peels a torn section of denim away from his mangled thigh and peers speculatively at the wound as he grumbles, "Typical bloody slayers; all brute force and sodding ignorance."

He's actually blaming her for this. She stares at him in disbelief while behind her she hears Angel's voice asking what happened. "This so was not my fault. If you hadn't gone off all lone ranger, I would never have had to come rescue you."

"Rescue me?" he snarls as he forces himself to his feet and spreads his arms. "Do I look like a sodding damsel in distress to you, goldilocks? Me and Faith had it covered."

"Oh yeah, you're quite the team." Her voice sounds bitter and she's vaguely aware of Faith snorting with laughter behind her and Angel saying her name questioningly. "But then you always did need a slayer's skirts to hide behind."

"We had the male isolated." Spike's blazing eyes bore into hers and she grits her teeth against the rising tide of rage she can feel building in her gut. "Not gonna get a chance like that again. Not to mention the unattached female wandering around. Next thing we know this hole of a town'll have more sodding pilgrims than Mecca."

"It is true, Buffy," her watcher tells her, but she doesn't tear her angry gaze from Spike's as he speaks. "Female Brelrogs are incredibly rare. An eligible female will no doubt attract tens—if not hundreds—of males vying for the opportunity to mate with her. This is a very bad situation indeed."

"Hear that slayer? Very bloody bad." Spike talks over Angels comforting "it's not your fault, Buffy," and she glares at him.

"I get that," she tells him defensively. "But quit blaming me. We were doing our best."

"Well, looks like your best isn't what it was, eh, slayer?" He takes a step towards her and tilts his head. "Perhaps you're past it, luv. Gone a bit…" he runs his eyes over the new fullness of her hips and leers, "soft in your old age."

Faith laughs again over her outraged exclamation and comes to Spike's side just as his injured leg causes him to hiss with pain and sway slightly. "Come on, honey." Her voice is uncharacteristically gentle as she slips an arm around his waist. "Lets get you fixed up."

……………………………………………………………………

"Urgh." She rips off her coat and throws it on the bed. "Did you hear him?"

Angel lingers by the door and watches her tugging roughly at her shoes without sparing him a glance. "I can't believe his nerve," she continues almost to herself. "I could so kick his scrawny undead ass right now."

"Buffy." He moves towards her but she's stomping around the room again before he can reach her, sorting unnecessarily through her clothes with harsh, unfocused movements.

"You know, I'd almost forgotten what a total jackass he is."

"I hadn't." Angel crosses his arms and leans against the chest of drawers with a low disgruntled sigh.

She ignores the comment and continues muttering to herself. "You'd think a soul would stop him being such a pig, but—"

"Buffy." His voice is sharp and she comes up short and stares at him with startled eyes. "Do you think we could not talk about Spike for five minutes?" Even as he knows he should let it go, Angel feels his temper prickle and he continues with snide bite in his voice. "If you could get your mind off captain peroxide for half a second, I'd kinda like to get some sleep tonight."

 She blinks twice at him and he holds her gaze with incredulous eyes. "Are you jealous?"

He doesn't speak and the silence is confirmation enough. "Unbelievable" she shakes her head in vexed disbelief. "For gods sake, Angel, we were at each other's throats in there. What? You're jealous because I was fighting with him? That's just—"

"You couldn't even see me, Buffy," he hits back sharply. "All you saw was him."

"God. So I was kinda involved in my smackdown with Spike." She throws up her hands in the universal gesture of disbelief. "Why are you making a big deal out of this? You know how crazy he makes me."

"I think I'm starting to."

She stands stock still at that and glares at him in outrage. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing," he growls out as he turns away.

"Oh, I don't think so." She catches Angel's arm and hauls him round to face her. "And don't tell me all this is because Spike and I had a fight, 'cos trust me, Angel, it's not our first, and I know it won’t be our last."

"It's this, Buffy," he tells her, and his frustration is like a thunderhead on the horizon of his eyes. "Last year you made him a taboo; you wouldn't let anyone say a word about him. Now every second sentence has his name in it. Don't you see—"

"So I talk about the Spike issue," she cuts in, "and it bothers you. I don't talk about the Spike issue, it bothers you." She gives a rueful shake of her head. "Looks like I'm lose-lose Buffy again."

"No, Buffy." He's looking at her like he never has before, like his faith's been shaken, and he doesn't know anymore if he's really looking at an angel. "What bothers me is that there is a Spike issue." And with that he's gone, and all she can do is watch the space where he'd been standing and wonder what the hell just happened.

……………………………………

Rationally speaking, he's probably not the best choice of company in the wake of Angel's strange outburst, but she'd been storming through the garden and there he'd been sitting on the high wall, smoking and swinging his legs like a child, and she hadn't been able to resist the charm of the scene. Besides, a rebellious part of her that just won't stand for being told what to do rather likes the idea of pissing Angel off right now.

"Hey," she greets as she lets him haul her up to sit beside him.

"Hello, Buffy." he looks a little sheepish and his eyes are full of apology. "Look, pet, I'm sorry about earlier. Didn't mean to lash out at you, luv. Just my leg was hurting like a bitch and what with the…"

"It's ok," she interrupts with a soft smile. She's never found forgiving him particularly hard, and he is adorable when he knows he's in the wrong. "Although I totally owe you an ass-kicking for calling me fat and getting me in trouble with Angel."

He tilts his head at that and regards her with a long speculative look that makes her fidgit. "Didn't mean to earn you any bother, pet," he says at last, and she believes him, too. "Much as I enjoy pissing the old git off."

"It's not your fault." She frowns and purses her lips as a bit of that anger-that seemed to have dissipated sitting next to him in the balmy night air-re-emerges. "It's not my fault, either. Angel has sole title on the house of faultage."

He snorts out a laugh and takes a long drag on his smoke as he stares out into the night.

"What?" she demands.

"Well just feel a bit sorry for the old bugger is all." His eyes sparkle and the affection in them tells her he's teasing. "Wouldn't wish you in a tizzy on me worst enemy," he shudders dramatically. "Make a Rhilmaker demon look reasonable, you do."

She gasps in outrage and indigence and pokes him in the ribs. "I am not unreasonable. I am both rational and understanding."

"Course you are, pet." He makes a show of placating her, complete with patronising look and 'calm down' hands, but his eyes speak of mischief and she finds herself smiling and shaking her head.

She's made a private hobby since his death of reliving their lowest moments and shining triumphs, and in two years has somehow distilled all her memories of him into a heady melodramatic cocktail, but in all of the time since they last just sat together she's forgotten one very important fact: she likes Spike.

"What?" His brows pinch together in an annoyed question at her silent contemplation of his face, and she smiles slightly at his lack of patience.

"Just thinking."

"'Bout what?"

"You." Her candid reply takes him ever so slightly aback, but he covers well.

"That I'm a damn fine looking fellow and you could do much worse?" He tilts his head and pantomimes deep thought. "Come to think of it, you have done—"

"That you can be good company when you're not being an egotistical ass," she cuts him off with a mock scowl.

He's pleased. His face lights up despite his best attempts to cover it, and it warms her that her good opinion still means so much to him. They hold each other's gaze until she fears the intimacy of it will become awkward. "Remember a time when you couldn't get enough of my egotistical ass," he says, deftly playing the letch and freeing them both.

"Come on." He hops off the wall and raises his hands to help her down, a gentlemanly courtesy that's far from required. Still, it makes her feel girly and delicate as his hands catch her waist and he brings her effortlessly to the ground.

"Surprised I didn't break your back, now that I've gotten so fat." She knows she's fishing. But then girls sometimes do and he owes her a complement or two for that "soft" jibe.

"Hardly, pet. Bloody gorgeous and you know it. Although…" He rolls his shoulders and gives an experimental twist of his spine. "Think you'll be owing me a back rub after that. Even vamp strength has its limits, you know."

"Ah!" She gives an insulted yelp and smacks his arm. "Not likely, mister."

Then he walks her back and she tells him that Dawn'll be arriving tomorrow afternoon and he asks what odds her sister'll kick him in the balls and she laughs and says goodnight at her door. And somehow all her anger's gone, so that when Angel makes awkward conversation about tomorrow night's company dinner, she plays along and thinks she'll just go to bed and let the whole thing drop.
…………………………….

She wonders if it's ironic that one of the simplest relationship in her sister's life is with the person who always made her own life so complicated. She's uncertain, has always been a little unsure on the exact definition of irony, although she usually knows it when its slaps her in the face.

She'd had a strange morning even before hurricane Dawn blew in. She and Angel had taken the time to go into town for breakfast together before he'd headed to work and the whole experience had been a little unsettling. Oh it had been nice enough, they'd talked amiably over pancakes and she'd kissed him goodbye as he'd left for work. She'd thought to herself after with an uneasy satisfaction that it was important to make the effort in a relationship and tried not to linger on the fact they never before required such endeavour.

Then there had been her run in with Faith. She'd have thought after their truce at the end of the Sunnydale story that they'd have left behind their petty rivalries. But then she supposes old habits die harder than tough old slayers like the two of them and maybe they'll never be able to just get along.

"Hey B" Faith had been lounging against the porch wall smoking in the morning sunshine when Buffy'd returned from breakfast, wearing short shorts that finished barely lower than the loose black cotton t-shirt that it hardly took a genius to deduce belonged to Spike.

"Faith" she'd forced a moderately friendly greeting and they'd stood awkwardly in silence for a few moments.

"Got a location on where these Brelrogs might be gonna get their nasty on" Faith had blown smoke at an angle away from the other slayer's face as she'd spoken and Buffy's attention had been caught by how full and red her lips had looked even without makeup as if perhaps she'd recently been kissed hard.

"That's lucky"

"Dude, luck's for amateurs" Faith's eyes had held a sort of challenge then. "And your ex is pretty thorough with the rough and tumble, thought you'd remember" and isn't it just like faith to make shop talk sound filthy.

"Spike found them? Last night?" she hadn't thought of what Spike would be doing while she'd been lying stiffly beside Angel and trying to ignore the elephant that seemed to have got into bed with them.

"Sure, we did a sweep just before dawn." Faith had rolled her shoulders as if she was working out some aches and pains. "I swear the guy never sleeps"

"Yeah he's a real energiser bunny" Buffy'd known her voice had come out snide and a little bitter and Faith hadn't missed the slight show of weakness.

She'd laughed a private husky laugh as she'd got up to leave and stretched so that her braless chest had pressed through the thin cotton of Spike's shirt. "Yo girl ain't that the truth"

So she'd already been wading through a mire of  feelings on her way to Faith's show and tell in the library when Dawn had barrelled into her from the side almost taking them both down with the force of her hug. "Buffy"

And if there was one good cure for mixed up feelings it was Dawn's unconditional affection. "You look craptastic," her less than refreshing honesty. She waved vaguely at Buffy's face. "Not getting your eight hours?"

"Thanks Dawnie my ego needed that" she'd deadpanned dryly

"Ha ha" then Dawn had flipped her mood through another one-eighty. "How are you?" she'd asked with knowing concern. "I mean with everything"

"Everything as in Spike?"

"Well yeah, must be weird seeing him"

"No actually" it wasn't exactly a lie. Seeing Spike again was confusing and complicated, it was making her jealous and angsty and it was getting her into trouble but it wasn't weird because when had things with Spike ever been anything but one massive head fuck after another? "It's good." And that wasn't a lie either because seeing him might turn her head upside down but it also shook her heart up like a bottle of pop and sent little bubbles of excited joy racing upward through her soul. "Don't be too hard on him ok, he's really worried that you're mad at him"

"I am mad at him" then after a moment of defiantly staring her sister down she acquiesced. "Ok whatever"

"Guess I deserved that" Spike's sheepish voice drags her mind back to the present and she watches him rub his cheek.

"You really did" Dawn tells him still with a hint of the anger that had seconds before had greeted his tentative "Hia Niblet" and brought her fist smashing down on his face. Then she frowns and looks at her hand. "Ouch. Why do I get the feeling that hurt me more then it hurt you" she grouses. "Stupid undead super powers"

"Sorry bit" he apologises insincerely. "Did my face hurt your fist? Bloody inconsiderate of me"

"Jerk" she retorts but then her voice drops and she looks vulnerable and wounded. "You shoulda called us"

"I know sweet bit. 'M sorry" he sighs and moves as if to touch her hair. "Had my reasons" he tells her and lets his hand fall before it reaches the glossy strands. "Bloody daft reasons but still"

"I know" Dawn's bolder than he is and reaches out to take his hand in hers and link their fingers. "Just promise not to do it again ok?"

"Promise sweetheart" he sighs and she swallows hard and Buffy watches and wonders how much she ever really knew about their closeness.

"So" Dawn gives him a bright grin and drags him by the hand into the room. "Wanna hang out later and play cards? I so need a challenge, Buffy's a complete poker retard"

"Hey" Buffy protests weakly though she can't help smiling at their matching eyebrow quirks. She's got more tells than story time and she knows it and frankly she's sick of Dawn cleaning her out.

And that's how she found them earlier that evening just as she was leaving for Angel's company dinner, sitting cross legged on top of the polished hardwood of the library's huge table with Dawn studying his face and trying to determine whether he’s bluffing or if her pair of Queens was worth another bet.

When Dawn spots her she wolf-whistles and laughs. "Buffy you look amazing"

"Thanks" she does a little twirl and strikes a pose her eyes finding Spike expectantly.

"Stunning pet" her affirms politely.

"Why thank you kind sir" she lifts them hem of her satin gown in a little mock curtsy.  

"Must be a real posh do" he remarks, casually slipping off the table top and coming to stand beside her.

"Yeah. Big old gala dinner for all the big wigs in Angel's firm" she slips her arm through his and turns them for the door thinking it would be nice to have him walk her to the car. "Very posh and very boring, long speeches"

"Want me to come along?" he suggests as they walk. "Could lurk in the shadows and take out the stuffy old gits before they make it to the podium"

She makes a show of considering it then sighs dramatically. "Better not, Angel might get the sack if you kill his boss"

"Never know pet he might get promoted" he stops them just short of the doors that lead out to where Angel is waiting with the car. "Have fun pet"

She shrugs and steps away. "I'll try but I'm not promising anything"

"Pet" his voice stops he with her hand already on the door handle. She looks back over her shoulder to meet his intense gaze. "You look beautiful"

She ducks her head and slips out without a word. Outside it's getting dark and she's glad the halflight hides the fire of her blush.

"Come on Buffy " Angel hurries her into the car. "We're going to be late"

…………………………………………

"Come on, come on, come on" the vampire before her claps his hands together with gleeful anticipation and bounces a little on the balls of his feet. "Grab yourself a weapon slayer wouldn't wanna be late for the party now would we?"

She gives him a small doubtful frown but chooses a heavy metal bar from the pile of blunt instruments that have been assembled on the library floor. He grins at her choice and selects a baseball-bat that he swirls expertly a few times before laying over his shoulder. "Set?" he asks and she can see his impatient to follow Faith and the others out into the night.

"Ready" she confirms with a serious nod. There's work to be done tonight with reports of the first wave of males arriving, drawn by the Brelrog female they accidentally created the night before it's important to get to them before they get to her because if Giles is right, and isn't Giles always?, once a female chooses a mate she'll protect him rather viscously. Best to make the would-be suitors dead before any of them manage to join forces with the resident family.

She'd been glad then that she'd decided not to drink during dinner-despite that she'd thought once or twice that being a little drunk might have made Angel's colleagues seem a bit less dull-when they'd returned home to find slayer central buzzing with activity.

"What's going on?" She'd asked Dawn who been distributing blunt weapons to nervous looking slayers.

"Horny hunters spotted heading into town, tens of 'em" Spike had answered for her as he'd arrived, throwing a few more improvised weapons on to the pile. "Figure we'll intercept them 'fore they get to the wooing"

"What's the plan?"

"Pairs" Dawn seemed to have slipped seamlessly back into her role of watcher junior and she can't help wondering if Dawn's missed this as much as she has while they've been in LA. "Spread a net over the north side of town cut them off before they reach populated areas"

"Sounds good" her eyes had found Spike's and she'd felt herself grinning. "Wanna be my buddy?" she'd asked before suddenly realising that of course he'd be with Faith.

"Sure thing pet" he'd answered with a matching grin before she'd had a chance to apologise for the presumption. "Best if you slip into something more suited to blood and mayhem though, don't wanna get blamed for ruining your pretty frock"

So she'd quickly retrieved a greatly inebriated Angel from the foyer and bustled him in to their room. Hurriedly she'd discarded her dress in favour of a pair of dirty jeans from the laundry basket and a blank roll neck sweater and been infinitely grateful to see that Angel had passed out cold on top of the covers still in his suit and shoes.

Spike pushes open the door for her and she can't help match his smirk as she brushes past him and out into the night.

They get lucky, if you can call stumbling on three squabbling Brelrog demons lucky. The creatures are distracted by their rivalry and it's easy for the slayer and vampire to launch a surprise attack, armed with their improvised weapons and the knowledge – thanks to Giles' tireless research – that repeated blows to the base of the skull will eventually kill the things.

"Slayer" Spike throws her fallen bar as she back-flips over a demon's head so that when she lands behind it her weapon is already falling into her hand. Half a dozen heavy swings of her arm later and the odds are evened to two on two.

She's positively giddy with adrenaline and vicious enthusiasm as they fall into step together. She'd almost forgotten the exhilaration of fighting with him, the contagious excitement of his energy. He gives a gleeful whoop as he lands the killing blow on the second demon and she can't help but laugh out loud as they turn in perfect sync to face their last opponent.

"Ladies first" he offers with a chivalrous bow and she takes her cue to lead the attack. The final Brelrog's disinclined to die easily but her bloods up so high that she hears rather than feels the cartilage of her right shoulder tearing when grips her arm and tosses her violently into the air.

By the time she's on her feet again Spike's already floored the demon and she simply swaps her weapon to her left hand so that they can land hard alternating blows that make it convulse with pain.

"Now that was fun" he drawls when the skull finally caves in and the demon goes still. She gives him a pointed look as she snaps her dislocated shoulder back into place. "Aww" he smirks and steps towards her. "Don't tell me that wasn't fun"

The re-enactment of that old scene doesn't quite hold true as his hand runs gently over her damaged joint fingers gently checking that all is well and his eyes hold concern as well as teasing.

"Kinda" she closes her lips against the smile that just doesn't seem to want to leave her face tonight but her eyes are still dancing brightly in the darkness.

"You wanna head back?" he asks not stepping away, not removing his hand from where the pressure of his fingertips has lessened to the barest caress of her shoulder through her cotton blouse.

It takes her a moment to focus on the question then she just shrugs her good shoulder lightly. "If you want" but she hopes he doesn't because the night still feels young and she doesn't want it to end just yet. "Or we could stay out a while"

"You're arm up to it?" his voice is low, almost a whisper and she realises his tone reflects her own.

"Yeah" her attempt to make her voice stronger just makes the word come out breathy and she swallows a sudden lump of nervousness in her throat. "We should probably check in with the others"

"Yeah" he hasn't moved and inch since he laid his hand on her shoulder but he seems closer than ever and she's hyper aware of the riotous banging of her heart. "Right" he steps back and shakes himself slightly. "Lead the way then luv"

…………………………………………………………….

Angels grumpily stirring Alkeseltsa into a glass of water when she returns just after dawn. And she almost laughs at how awful he looks-a portrait of self induced misery-and she's in a great mood, still mildly buzzed from the nights slaying.

After touching base with Faith and the rest of the Slayers she and Spike had volunteered to do a final sweep of the town just to be sure no demons got past them and the others had been more than happy to let them go it alone.

"All yours" Faith had spoken for the rest of the bruised slayers. "I want my bed man. Long night"

Faith's sentiment had been echoed in mumbled excuses throughout the tired ranks and no one had offered to help them. Not that she minded. The streets had been clear of Brelrogs and the conversation had been easy as she and Spike had bickered over the best routes to take through a town neither of them knows and talked of nothing that mattered beyond their own pleasure in talking.

They'd caught a handful of fledgling vamps out taking chances with the dawn and they'd quipped and bantered their way through an all too easy fight. "Pathetic" Spike had grumbled as the last of their opponents had crumbled into dust as it fled his flying stake. "Bloody disgrace this lot. I tell you slayer vamps had a bit more bloody pride in my day"

"Ooh I think someone's getting old" she'd teased and danced away from him as he'd swiped half-heartedly a her with the back of his hand.

"You're back late. I heard the others get in hours ago" Angels hoarse voice drags her attention back to the present and she tries to force the half smile from her lips as she turns to busy herself with gathering up a fresh towel and cloths from her case.

"I did an extra sweep," she tells him as she rummages around for some clean underwear. "Just to be sure"

"Alone?"

She stiffens at the question, asked far too casually to be an innocent inquiry, and her own voice is carefully negligent as she answers without looking up. "No I had back up"

"One of the girls?"

She swallows hard and wonders why the hell her heart is hammering so guiltily fast when she's got absolutely nothing to reproach herself for. "No, Spike"

"Spike" all the false mildness is gone from his tone and there's winter in his voice. "Shoulda guessed"

She can't just let that go, so she turns to him and glares. "Is there a problem with that?"

"Not at all" but the words are clipped and harsh and his darkened eyes are full of jealousy.

"Angel, it's bad out there " she forces herself to at least appear calm despite the angry butterflies in her gut. "I need someone I can trust to watch my back."

"And Spike tops the list?" his anger manifests in a bitter sort of derision that strikes her as unjust to the vampire.

"He's been doing it way longer than anyone else" she snaps back and they both know that the other is thinking of all those years in Sunnydale when Angel had chosen to leave and Spike had chosen to stay. His wounded look fuels her anger; how dare he look at her now as if she's struck him when it's only the truth and he's the one picking a fight.

"He's the best fighter I know" she continues in a voice kept low to keep control of it. "And he's the fighter I know best. If you want me safe Angel, then you want me with Spike"

She gathers up her things and heads to the bathroom without looking back while he sits on the bed and downs his hangover cure in one angry gulp
Tags: creator: bearfacedcheek, era: post-series, form: fic, rating: other
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