Written for liliaeth
Many thanks to cindergal for the rapid-fire beta!
A/N: is anyone else having a hard time getting LJ to behave with cut tags today?
He didn't need to see to know where he was. Spike had to admit that the black hood covering his face was overkill. But maybe it was easier this way. He didn't have to see Dawn's terrified face as the commandos had pulled her out of the van and taken her to god knows where. Her shrieks resonated with panic against the cavernous expanse of the parking garage, begging, pleading for him not to leave her even as her cries faded away. Fear radiated off her, in her sweat, in the invisible pheromones that only he could smell. Reminded him of a cornered animal.
Beneath the hood, he let his demon loose for just a moment. He growled a warning only to have the wind knocked out of him as the butt of a rifle connected between his shoulder blades and he crumpled to his knees. Before he could react, something sharp, most likely wooden, pressed into his chest.
"I would notta do that if I were a you," his captor said. "You would not want anything to a happen to you or your lady friend."
If his hands weren't bound behind his back, he would have offered them in surrender. Too much to lose this time, and for once it had nothing to do with saving his own hide. If it meant Dawn's safe return, then he would push the stake home himself without thinking twice.
They didn't wait for a response, pulling him back to his feet and hauling him toward the waiting elevator. He couldn't tell how many floors up they'd traveled, though his ears popped in transit. But as soon as the elevator door opened, he knew exactly where he was. Italian tobacco, a hint of copy toner, then unmistakable smell of leather, and the subtle undercurrent of demon musk. The Rome office of Wolfram and Hart. He never imagined he'd ever journey into the belly of this beast again.
The elevator only stopped once during the brief journey. An electronic beep signaled the end of the road, and he heard the doors slide open. A shove to the back and they were on the move again.
Another hallway, another set of doors and the hood finally came off. Not much to the room --- a metal chair, a table. And three thugs.
"Where is she?" Spike snarled to his captors.
But they said nothing and closed the door behind them. Immediately he tested the door. Locked, and not just a deadbolt. They were prepared for a vampire's strength. The door wouldn't budge.
"You lay as much as a finger on her, and I'll rip your lungs out!" he blustered to no one. If his hands weren't shackled behind his back, he would have taken a swing at the door. So he settled for a well-placed kick that resounded against the unyielding steel. "I'll play hopscotch with your vertebrae!"
When no one answered that idle threat, he let out a growl and hurtled himself toward the door. A sore shoulder later, he decided to give up the charade and silently worry. If anything happened to Dawn, he'd never forgive himself.
The leather beneath her creaked as Dawn shifted uncomfortably on the couch. It wasn't even nine, and her stupid headache and gone into overdrive. Idiot vampire, she fumed to herself. If he hadn't shown up, none of this would have ever happened. Idiot vampire, he better not be hurt or anything. Then she'd have to worry and maybe feel bad or something. Wasn't done with the mad part yet. She had three years to perfect and hone her anger. Thought he was dead, so she never expected him to show up on their doorstep like a stray cat. But she had a soft spot for stray animals. They were always so cute and adorable when you brought them in. Idiot vampire. They better not harm him or they'd have to deal with her.
She rubbed at her wrists as her guard removed the cuffs. She threw him her best glare of death and tried to look more intimidating than all of seventeen and some change. A clock on the wall buzzed momentarily as another one of the lackeys entered with a coffee service on a serving tray.
And then she entered, whoever the hell she was. Obviously in charge, she was dressed from head to toe in Versace. But not in a way that denoted that understated class Dawn had become accustomed to in Rome. No, it was a gaudy print, tons of cleavage and mile high heels.
"Ah, Signorina Summers," the woman said with thick Italian accent. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ilona Costa Bianchi, chief executive officer for the Roma branch of Wolfram e..."
"Hart, I know," Dawn snapped in return. "What do you want? Where's Spike?"
She wasn't ready to open the my sister is the Slayer can of whoopass just yet, but she was mentally looking for the can opener.
"All in good time, dear," Ilona replied as she slid next to her in the couch. "Where are my manners? Would you like an espresso? Perhaps some sparkling water, no?"
"I'm not thirsty," Dawn, her lips drawing into a tight line. She smoothed her skirt over her lap and tried her best not to look scared. Wasn't the first time she was kidnapped. She was a pro!
"What do you Americans say: have it your way?" Ilona replied as she reached for the silver case on the end table and opened it. "Cigarette?" she added to her offer.
"I don't smoke." Not exactly the truth, but neither Ilona nor Buffy ever needed to know otherwise.
Ilona pulled a cigarette from the case and inserted it into her jet black holder. Retrieving a lighter, she lit the end and asked, "Mind if I do?"
Dawn folded her arms and answered, "Whatever."
Her host took a long drag from her cigarette before releasing a puff of smoke over her head before saying, "I was a-wondering if you have given our offer anymore thought."
Okay, this is why they had kidnapped her? That stupid job offer? Now she was annoyed. "What part of no didn't you understand the first three times?"
"But a Key, it opens many things," Ilona said. "We could help you find those locks that need opening."
"Not interested," Dawn said. "I'm out of the door-opening business. Didn't work out well last time."
Now that was the understatement of the century.
"Ah, but Keys do not only open hell dimensions," Costa Bianchi added. "They open opportunities for power and wealth. Think of us as your guide."
"I said no. How do you say, 'Back off Skanky Ho' in Italian?"
Ilona took another puff from her cigarette. It smelled expensive, not one of those cheap clove ones Dawn was known to sneak. She smoothed her hair. "I have another meeting," she explained, obviously ignoring the insult. "So why don't you have a cup of coffee, maybe a pastry, no? We'll talk later."
She headed toward the door leaving Dawn alone on the couch. "Just remember, child, that keys also set things free. Your actions impact others more than you realize. I would hate to think your rash decisions would hurt any of those close to you."
"You leave Spike alone!" Dawn said rising to her feet.
"Like I said, I'll be back later," Ilona said. "Ciao, darling."
Buffy poured herself another cup of coffee as she gazed at the clock on her bookshelf for the umpteenth time. Three o'clock, and still no word from Spike or Dawn. No, don't panic, she told herself. But they had be AWOL going on six hours now. Perhaps it was time to panic. Anything could have happened. Demons with a grudge, that stupid law firm that Spike mentioned, the mafia. Did she mention that stupid law firm?
She headed to the closet to pull out her scythe. Hopefully it wouldn't raise too much of a ruckus if she had to truck it with her on the impending search and rescue mission. Sure, it had sliced and diced the demons at the train depot nicely last month, but it was nothing short of a miracle that she hadn't been brandished a terrorist for carrying it into the terminal. Let's face it, there was nothing discrete about seven pounds of steel no matter how you tried to disguise it.
"Stupid vampire," she muttered to herself as she tossed a pair of boots into the hallway as she excavated her way to the scythe. "Stupid sister," she added.
She was half-way to China when the phone rang. Hopefully it was either Spike or Dawn. At this point, she didn't care who called, as long as she knew they were safe. She'd have plenty of time to ream them out later for scaring her to death.
"Hello," she said as she picked up the receiver.
"Buon giorno, Buffster," a voice said over the line.
"Hey, Xander!" she answered. "What's up? How's Mwivano?"
"Back in Africa," he replied.
"Oh my god," she interrupted, "I was supposed to meet you at the airport today, wasn’t I?"
"That was the plan," he said obviously annoyed. They'd had the visit planned since Christmas. How could she be so boneheaded?
"I'm so sorry, Xander," she tried to explain as she tucked the cordless between her chin and shoulder and pulled the scythe from the closet with a grunt. "Things got a little crazy this morning. I completely forgot about your flight."
"No problemo," he said. Thank god he was as laidback as ever. "Want me to take a cab to your place?"
The scythe clunked against her dinette table. Buffy switched the phone to her other ear as she pulled a boot onto her right foot.
"Wait," she added before she could change her mind again, "If you aren't too jet-lagged, could you meet me at the Wolfram and Hart offices on Via Parigi?"
Xander cleared his throat. "What's going on, Buffy?"
"Let's just say it's Tuesday," she answered as she pulled the other boot on.
A chuckle from the other end of the line. "Let me guess, Dawn's gone walkabout again?"
"Got it in one," she said. "Got in a fight with Spike this morning and they both vanished."
"Whoa, wait a second!" he said. "Did you say Spike?"
"Yeah, he showed up last night a little unexpectedly."
"A little unexpected? He supposed to be dead!"
"I guess it didn't stick," she answered. "Why he's here isn't important."
"Maybe so, but it definitely complicates things."
Buffy tucked a stake into the waistband of her jeans. Might as well prepare for anything. "Did I mention he has a price on his head?"
Static crackled across the phone line. "Let me guess, that law firm he and Angel blew up in Los Angeles?"
Xander sighed. So much for an uncomplicated visit. "Well it seems like a good place to start as any. You're lucky I didn't check any luggage," he joked. "Need to get a few euros for the cab, but that shouldn't take too long."
"You’re the greatest, Xander!"
"Anything for my girls," he responded. "Now Spike, on the other hand, he owes me big time."
Spike was growing impatient. It had to be noon or later. Buffy was probably worried sick by now. Hi, Love, I'm home. Mind if I vanish with your kid sis post haste? It made him sick knowing Dawn was somewhere in the building alone and scared. How would he ever explain it to Buffy if something happened to Dawn? He was going to find a way out and get her home safe and sound, or he was going to die trying. And if he made it out alive, he'd slip back into the night. They didn't need him around to cause problems like this. They'd been fine without him for the past three years.
His shoulder throbbed from his previous outburst. After a while, he settled into the metal chair in the center of the room. Might as well be comfortable.
The door opened and immediately he was on his feet. "Where is she?" he demanded before anyone could enter the room.
"Hello, Spike," Ilona said as she entered the cell. "It's been a long time, darling."
"Sorry if pass on the grazie, prego, kiss kiss," Spike explained, "but I don't fancy getting jumped on the street and locked up. I get even testier when you do it to my friends."
"You did a bad thing, Spike," she scolded. "Did you and Angel think you could get away with what you did? You should be grateful the Senior Partners didn't want you dead."
"You'da already be ash."
Spike sighed. "I'll save you the speech, sweetcheeks." Adding a high-pitched exaggerated Italian accent, he continued, "You can run, but you no can hide. The game is a up, or whatever bloody awful clichés you want to use."
"This isn't a laughing matter, Spike," she interrupted. "You are in a lot of trouble."
"Kind of figured as such when I got the Surrender Dorothy speech from your goons and they threw us in a van. So let's just get this over. I'm screwed six ways to Sunday. Do whatever you plan to do with me, but let her go. This isn't about her."
"What we want with Signorina Summers is none of your business."
Spike rushed at Ilona, but barely made it half-way across the room before the guards shoved him into the table.
"I swear," he spat, "if you hurt her..."
"You'll what? Irritate us to death with your incessant talking?" she said. "Don't worry, we have no intentions of harming her. She is far too important to us. You, on the other hand," She paused to spit dramatically on the ground, "are not so important."
Turning to her goons, she switched into Italian and said, "Let Lucius know that he can have this disgusting animal whenever he is ready."
Staring her right in the eyes, Spike answered in nearly-perfect Italian, "Forse sono un animale ripugnante, ma cognosco una mucca stupida quando la vedo." (Maybe I am filthy animal, but I know a stupid cow when I see one.)
She stared at him incredulously as the insult flowed off his tongue with ease.
"Takes one to know one, love," he added with a smirk. "Come now, Ilona, you don't think I missed the fact that you're a Corleone demon. I've gotta say, you look nearly human. My compliments to your plastic surgeon. Tell me, how much did you pay to have your other two tits removed?"
Her eyes flashed with anger as his words hit home. He barely had time to react before her fist connected with his jaw. For a demon, her punch lacked strength, but it didn't stop a bruise from blossoming in its wake. His lip split open, and his mouth tasted like a handful of old pennies.
Spike chuckled, but he was the only one laughing. "Why does everyone always assume I don't speak Italian?"
Spike tested his bonds and thrashed against the chains that held his hands over his head. For as much noise as he'd made, nothing budged. Why did they always have to chain you to the ceiling for a good and proper interrogation? His legs felt a little rubbery, and he wanted a cigarette like they were going out of style. It had been a day and a half-not counting the time change-since he'd last had blood. But he wasn't going to tell his captors that. They didn't need one more bit of ammunition to get under his skin.
The room was much like he'd expected. Sterile, utilitarian. No blinding lights. Just clean and nearly empty. A drain dotted the middle of the floor. An abattoir of sorts. Make you bleed, make you sing. Isn't that how all good interrogations worked? At least that's how he'd remembered running them in his more dubious years.
He wasn't sure how much time had passed since he'd last seen one of his captors. An hour, maybe three. Time had no meaning when all the walls were bare and the only thing marking time was the whirl of the ventilation system. Finally the door opened and ended his wait.
"Good afternoon, William," the man said as he took of his hat and overcoat and placed them neatly in one of the waiting chairs. Native Italian, if his accent didn't lie. Dressed in black from head to toe, the man was fit for his age. Perhaps in his early fifties, his hair peppered with gray. "My apologies for keeping you waiting."
He moved closer, and only then did Spike notice the man's neckline was rimmed by a starched ecclesiastical collar.
"Say, isn't it against the rules for you to be working for Evil Incorporated?" Spike asked.
"Allow me to introduce myself." Great, a torturer with manners. "You may call me Lucius. I am the Holy See's liaison to Wolfram e Hart. We very much interested in the ongoing war against demons such as yourself and are a part of the battle to keep your type held back."
Spike shifted his weight to his other foot. "Hate to break it to you, mate, but those blokes outside the door? You're hip deep in demons here, and I'm the least of your problems."
The priest ignored him as he smiled, his chest puffing with pride. "Ours is an age old battle." He turned his back on Spike for a moment to survey the implements on the table. Grabbing the barbed poker that resembled something Spike had seen beside the Summers' fireplace too many times to count, Lucius continued, "After all, heretics must be dealt with. Those who have turned their back on the All Mighty must be punished accordingly."
"I wouldn't say I've turned my back on the old bloke," Spike explained. "It's more like I've developed a really bad allergy."
The conviction in the old man's eye was enough to make him more than a little nervous. This was going to hurt. A lot. Wolfram and Hart never did anything half-assed. If he were lucky, he'd only pay with a pound of flesh.
"Ah, that's right," Lucius said. "You have a soul like the other one. It must be a heavy burden that you carry. It must be quite painful at times."
Oh he didn't like where this was going, not one bit. "It stings from time to time," Spike explained as nonchalantly as he could.
"A mentor told me many years ago that suffering often leads to enlightenment and forgiveness," the priest said peering over his glasses and studying the point of the poker. "Tell me, William, have you suffered enough to deserve forgiveness?"
Actually, no, he hadn't, and he knew it. Too much blood on his hands, too many faces of the dead to count. They'd called to him in the dead of night, when nothing stirred but insomniac vampires, reminding him of every transgression of his life. Rape, murder, torture. You name it, he'd done it with a smile on his face. He'd craved the rush, the crunch of mayhem for decades. He'd gotten off easy. Hallucinations for a few weeks in a basement was pocket change compared to the debt he owed for his many crimes.
"I'll take that as a no," the priest said. He moved closer to Spike, the poker still firmly in his hand. Without hesitation, he plunged it into Spike's belly and twisted it home as the vampire screamed.
His insides burned, and he coughed up a mouthful of blood. His vision blurred as the priest turned to his back to him once again and retrieved a hook from attaché.
"So, William, let us discuss your soul a bit more."
"Have you seen enough?" Ilona said lighting up another cigarette.
Dawn was stunned into silence, horrified at the image she saw on the closed-circuit screen. There was no sound, but she knew he was in pain. Tears coursed down her cheeks as she watched a priest make Spike scream again. "Turn it off," she whispered.
"The fate of someone else in the palm of your hand," Ilona said. "Have you ever experienced power like this? Just say the word, and all of this can stop."
Dawn angrily swiped at her cheeks with the back of one hand. She'd seen him beat up numerous times, but unlike the past, this time she could make a difference. All she had to do was say yes and hopefully they would hold up their end of the deal. Spike tried in vain to twist away from his tormentor. His struggles were weakening by the moment.
Unable to watch any further, Dawn closed her eyes and repeated her plea, "Turn it off."
With a hefty tip in hand, the cabbie managed to ignore the large scythe she carried and drove away with a smile. Buffy propped it over one shoulder as she and a Xander marched through the Rome offices of Wolfram and Hart. Security approached her but didn't intervene. Soft jazz filtered from the overhead sound system, more hip than any elevator or lobby would ever offer back in the states. The main reception desk was on the other side of the room, and she didn't break her stride until she reached it.
"Posso aiutarlo? May I help you?" the receptionist asked in both languages.
Buffy smiled, and the receptionist flinched as she swung the scythe down to rest the business end at her feet. "Hello," she said cheerfully. "I'm here about a vampire."
And that's when security finally took notice. Handguns drawn, they rushed the desk from all directions. Guess they didn't like little blonde women brandishing forged weaponry in their lobby.
"Hands in the air," one of the security guards ordered, his gun aimed squarely at the slayer.
"Simamisha," Xandered chanted and everything in the room went still. The guards froze in mid-attack, a blast of pepper spray hovered in midair, its miasma halted.
Buffy turned to him and nodded with satisfaction. "When did you start to bring the mojo?" she asked.
"What?" he shrugged in return, "I can't learn anything from Mwivano? No donuts to get in Africa for Scoobie meetings. Figured it was time that I learned a few tricks."
"What else do you have up your sleeve?" she asked.
"Oh, the usual," he answered. "Levitating small objects. Multiplying monkeys. And I can order a beer in Swahili."
"Real useful, Xander."
"Hey, I can also reverse magical syphilis."
Buffy rolled her eyes. "You caught it again?"
"No, but it doesn't hurt to be prepared."
Buffy walked around the desk and pushed the motionless receptionist out of the way. Didn't take much more than a shove and the wheeled chair rolled out of the way. Rifling through an appointment book for clues, she asked, "How 'bout something helpful."
"Oooh!" Xander snapped his finger. "I know a locator spell. All I need is cheetah rib."
"Silly me," Buffy quipped. "I forgot mine at home. For a shaman or whatever you are, your skills kind of suck, Xan. So this freezy-don't-move spell, how, much time do we have?"
Xander shrugged. "Ten, maybe fifteen minutes."
"Well we better get crackin'," Buffy said. "This build is pretty big. I'll find Spike. You go play the Sims with anyone who gets in your way and find Dawn. We'll meet back here and blow this Popsicle stand before your spell wears off."
"Sounds like a plan."
He wasn't sure how long the priest had been gone, but Spike knew the man would eventually return and bring more agony. It was always worse when they didn't want you dead. There were thousands of ways to make you scream without killing you, and he was certain the priest was well-versed in many of them. His wrists were raw beneath the manacles. He didn't have the strength to support his own weight. A thin stream of blood trailed from his swollen lip to his chest. Exhausted beyond belief, all he wanted to do was sleep as he finally let his head loll forward.
He felt the darkness calling to him, but as he felt himself slipping into unconsciousness, the door flung open.
"We've really gotta quit meeting like this," a voice quipped.
"I've gotta keep getting myself in these pickles," he coughed. Fresh blood bubbled on his lips.
There she was, his hero once again, hair pulled back for business and that wicked-sharp scythe in her hand. Must've been a sight to see on the streets of Rome.
"Gotta find Dawn," he managed to add, "I can wait."
"Xander's already on it," Buffy answered as she drew back her scythe to break the chains binding him. Wait, when did he arrive? Throw in Willow, and it would be a bloody family reunion.
Spike shook his head. "Legs are Jello," he said. "Get this damned thing out of me first or I'll fall on it."
"You sure?" she asked. It was that obvious he was screwed six ways to Sunday.
"It's not going to take itself out."
Buffy wrapped her hands around the handle and planted her feet ready to yank the poker out. He felt the barb tug on his innards, and suddenly he had second thoughts. Nothing like cold feet at the last minute.
"Wait!" he pleaded. "You pull that out, and half of my insides will be on the outside."
"What do you want me to do?"
He thought for a moment. It was going to hurt no matter how she removed the thing. A lot. Hopefully he wouldn't go all Nancy boy and pass out in the process.
"Gotta run it all the way through," he finally admitted.
"Spike," she hesitated.
He shook his head. No arguments. "Just do it," he said. There was no other way, and he certainly didn't fancy leaving half of himself in this abattoir.
"Are you sure?"
A nod. "There's no other way," he whispered.
Her palm was hot against his cheek. "Let me know when you're ready," she said as if she was going to rip off a bandage. Only this was a thousand times worse. She had to realize it. He could tell from the tone of her voice.
Another nod. Spike coughed with a wheeze and then said, "Now."
Buffy gripped the handle once again and without warning shoved the poker home. Spike tried his best but failed at stifling a scream that echoed against the bare walls. A sickening crunch, and the barb broke through his back, a river of blood flowed in its wake. He gasped a few times as she rounded him and grabbed the blood-covered barb with one hand and anchored the other against his back.
"Almost there," she said weakly with a smile. He screwed his eyes shut as she added, "Ready?"
He wasn't, but he lied with a nod. With a single yank, the poker slid all the way through his body. One last scream -it had to have come from him-- and she stumbled back as it finally broke free and clanged against the tile floor. Spike could feel the blood soaking the back of his jeans.
He didn't look up as the scythe made contact with the chains holding his arms aloft. His knees buckled under him as there was nothing left keeping him upright. But she was there to catch him, and he collapsed into her waiting arms. The blood didn't seem to bother her. Instead, she draped his arm over her shoulder and let him lean all of his weight into her.
"C'mon," she said. There would be times for explanations later. "Let's find Dawn and get the two of you out of here."
It was dark when he finally awoke. The past day - or was it two - was a complete blur. Fleeting images, that's all he had. A first aid kit, the running water from a bath, a mug of warm blood.
The rain splattered outside, tapping a constant rhythm against the open window. Somehow he had made it back to her home and bed. He glanced over at the alarm clock on the bedside table. Three-thirty in the morning.
Buffy slept beside him. Still dressed in those bloodstained jeans, she dozed on top of the covers as though she has been keeping watch while he healed. Spike winced as he rolled to his side and pulled himself from the warm recesses of the bed. He could feel the wound edges pull against each other as he moved.
Without saying a word, he folded the duvet over her as she turned over in her sleep.
It was a bit of a struggle, but he managed to pull himself to a stand. Somewhere along the line he'd traded his clothes for a pair of pajama bottoms. He didn't want to know who they belonged to, but the fit well enough. Slowly, he made his way to the open window. The curtains were damp from the rain. He reached through the curtain and pulled the window shut. His fingered tingled as he breached some unseen barrier and he smelled the tang of ozone as the air crackled with magick. Some had been crafty and put up a shield to keep the baddies out.
Only then did he realize how quiet the apartment had become. In the distance he heard Xander's gentle snores likely coming from the living room. Dawn's heartbeat was a counterpoint to Buffy's. No doubt she was safely in her bed.
He hated this stage of healing. The itching was unbearable. It wasn't the first time he'd been through the process. Absently, he dug beneath the stretchy ACE wrap and the gauze beneath to scratch at the wound. In another day or two, the ordeal would be over with nothing more than a faint pucker on his abdomen. After that, there would be nothing at all. He wanted to tear the dressing off but knew better. It would only prolong the misery.
A floorboard squeaked beneath his feet as he retrieved the mug from the nightstand. Without saying a word, he padded his way out of the bedroom and headed toward the kitchen. The apartment was cast in darkness, and sure enough, Xander was snoring as predicted on the weathered couch, one arm dangling toward the floor below.
The kitchen was how he remembered it. The same dishes from that morning littered the sink including the remnant of the demitasse he had dropped. Spike turned the tap on and rinsed out the dirty mug before adding it to the other dirty cups. He picked up a shard from the coffee cup and rolled it between his fingers. Everything he touched lately seemed to break. Yesterday it was an espresso cup. Today it could have been Dawn.
He should not have come. That he was certain.
Figuring he'd save Buffy the work, he started to scoop up the broken pieces from the sink where she'd hastily thrown them. It didn't take long to locate her trash --- beneath the sink where she always kept it --- and he deposited the shards with the rest of the garbage.
"You should be resting," she admonished. He hadn't heard her enter the room.
He closed the door below the sink as she added, "Dawn was worried about you last night."
His nibblet. How he hated to drag him into any of his messes. "How is she?" he asked.
"A little shaken up," she answered. "She feels bad about yesterday morning."
A nod. He'd already known she was no longer mad at him. But it didn't make up for the danger he'd put her in and would continue to put her in if he dared to stay.
"I need to leave." There, he said it. Someone had to bring up the six hundred pound gorilla in the room.
"What?" Buffy answered.
"Staying here puts you and the kid sis in danger."
"So does me being a Slayer," she tried to explain, "but it hasn't stopped either of us from living our lives, Spike."
There she was, making excuses for everything again. "I mean it Buffy," he warned. "You don't want me around. Wolfram and Hart are rather persistent. You don't want to be on their bad side."
And then those hands were on her hips again. "Got a newsflash for you, Spike," she said. "Dawn and I are already on their bad side. The weren't after you. They were after her. I guess you were the second bird they were trying to get with one stone."
His jaw dropped and he stood in silence as she continued.
"They offered her internships, a free college education, and a job all so she would join them. I guess the Key would be a powerful weapon for the Black Thorn. Seems someone figured her key could open something they had locked so they gave her an offer that she couldn't refuse --- you.. Even offered your freedom if she would finally take them up on their offer. And you know what, Spike? She almost did. She saw what they were doing to you."
"All the more reason to get the hell out of Dodge," he interrupted.
Buffy held up a finger to silence him. "For once just shut up and hear me out, Spike," she said. "There are lot of bargaining tools they could use against her. Me, Willow, Giles, or you. It doesn't matter. Until they back off, there will always be some sort of bargaining chip they can try to use to pull her to their side. And no matter where you or any of us hide, it won't make a difference. There will always be something else they will try to use. But this taught us both something. There's always going to be danger out there. We can't stop it..."
"Buffy," he tried to interrupt.
There was that finger again. "But what we can do is keep our family safe. If we stick together, it will be harder to bring any of us down. It worked in Sunnydale, and it will work here. So what I'm trying to say, Spike, is I'm not ready to give you up. I just got you back, and I want you to be safe, too. Here. With us."
She crossed the kitchen to join him at the sink. Her arms where warm, and the embrace was more than inviting. If that wasn't enough of a motivator, her gentle kiss sealed the deal.
Against his better judgment he answered, "Okay," he whispered. When did a little danger get in his way?. "I'll stay," he said as he pulled her closer and kissed the crown of her head.