"That thing is a machine," Xander said as Buffy helped him up. Grosh had only whacked them out of the way, but the impact had sent them flying into a painful stack of vegetable crates. "An enormous, unkillable machine."
"A machine on a mission, apparently." She straightened her shirt. "No time for fighty."
"Is that what he said? I thought he said, 'Grosh smash!'"
"Did you get a look at that thing he was holding?"
"I tried, but I was a tad distracted by my own girlish screams." Xander checked his shoulder for dislocation. "What was it?"
"I don't know, but we'd better get back to Giles."
As they hobbled out of the alley, someone turned in from Main Street and halted.
"Oh, bloody hell."
"It's Spike!" Xander exclaimed, pointing. "Spike is back!"
"What, you didn't tell your boy?"
"My...? He's not my--"
"I am not her boy!" he hissyfitted.
Unmoved, Spike turned his attention back to Buffy.
"Frankly, you didn't come up," she breezed. "You're not important enough to talk about. But hey," she whipped a stake out of her back pocket, "if you really want to be put out of your misery..."
"Hey! Hey!" He lifted his arms. "Miles away from your place, aren't I? Keepin' my promise, I am."
"Right, because you're so reliable." She shrugged and lowered her weapon. "Doesn't matter. You've been de-invited."
"Aww, and just when we were gettin' on so well."
"I don't have time for this." Buffy brushed past him. "C'mon, Xander."
"You're not gonna kill him?"
Buffy sighed. "It'll just turn into a big brawl, I'll kick his ass, he'll make some 'Next time, Slayer, I'll really kill you' comment and run away... I've got better things to do."
Spike chuckled. "Like fight Grosh?"
She turned around. "What, pray tell, is so funny?"
"Oh, nothing." Tilting his head to visualize her naked, he said, "Just that there's an old legend about him and slayers. And vampires..."
"You..." Her face flushed, lower lip quivered. "How did you know about that?"
"Been around, pet. Hope Angel's good and ready for the desouling. They say the third time's a ch--"
Cutting him off with a swift knee to the groin, she left him doubled over and coughing in the alley.
"That," Xander remarked, "was possibly more satisfying than watching him turn to dust."
"'Possibly'? That was more satisfying than cookie dough ice cream," Buffy said, shoulders scrunching, "with Cool Whip and strawberries and little yellow bunny sprinkles."
"Quick Ben & Jerry's detour?"
* * *
"Found it," Buffy angled her book towards Giles. "Sparklier in real life, though."
Giles lowered his glasses, squinted, put them back on and took the book. "Oh dear."
Xander pointed with his pink plastic mini-spoon. "I was hopin' he'd say that."
"Crystallus Despero," he breathed, and looked up. "The Crystal of Despair."
Willow worried, "Is that the last ingredient we were s'posed to find before he did?"
"Yes. Yes I believe it was."
Buffy felt a panic rise up her spine.
"Ingredient for what?" Cordelia asked, looking at her nails.
"The total annihilation of the earth," Giles answered.
Cordelia stopped looking at her nails.
* * *
Buffy closed her Watcher's office door behind her and fixed her eyes on the floor. "I want that amulet."
"Remember what I said about having no choice? Well guess what? We're choiceless. If this is all going down in three days I need more juice. If you've got something else for me, Giles..."
"W-w-we're still working on it, and..." His voice dropped to a whisper, "Who, other than Angel, could you possibly find to--?"
Rubbing the cross that hung from her neck, she answered quietly, "I know who."
He frowned, curious.
"Just give me time to secure it, okay? You work on finding that amulet."
Reminding himself of his calling, his duty, his job, he took a seat at his desk and unlocked a drawer. "I've already got it."
* * *
"I wasn't doing anything wrong!" Caught offguard while chugging his sixth beer and shadowing a cute brunette behind the Bronze, Spike pled his case to the blonde whir of pain sitting on top of him. "Just thought to have a nibble, maybe make myself a new girlfriend. What with you not volunteering--"
Nose awrinkle, she backhanded him. "You're disgusting."
"And yet you can't keep away. What's the matter, Slayer? Decide I'm the better thing to do after all?"
"Actually?" Buffy eased the pressure of her fingers on his neck. "Yeah."
Features reverting to their human state, he scrutinized her. "What are you playing at?"
"I'm not playing, Spike. You need to help me."
"I see. Watch the knackers, will you? They're still bloody sore."
"What's a...? Oh." She slid backward on his thighs. "Ew."
"I should start charging a fee." At her fluster, he rose up on one elbow and explained, "You need me again."
"No," she held up a stake to prove him wrong, "you need me to not slay you."
"Yeah, alright. Got your point." He hit the stake out of her hand and flung her off.
As she hit the opposite wall, he jumped up and swayed on his feet. "Think I'm your dog, Slayer? Gonna do whatever you say? You can kiss my lily-white--"
"You have to have sex with me."
Mouth frozen open mid-insult, he stared at her for several seconds.
Then the laughter started, little bubbles graduating into a guffaw that echoed off the alley walls. "Oh, this is rich! To save humanity, you'd be willing to suffer a slap and tickle with me. Real selfless of you, pet. I'm impressed."
Watching him warily, she stood up.
"Impressed," he swiveled his jaw, "but not interested. Even if you hadn't nearly castrated me earlier, last thing I'd ever do is--"
"It will be the last thing you ever do," she said with conviction. "A few months ago, you wanted to save the world. You told me you liked it just the way it was. With the sports, and the-- people with their little legs..."
"Happy Meals, pet."
"Right." She exhaled and got to the point. "Look, we're all gonna die if we don't stop him. People, demons -- he's taking everyone down."
"Yeah, well I lost my reason to give a toss."
Buffy rolled her eyes. "God, what is it with Drusilla? She can't possibly be all that."
"Watch your mouth."
"Spike," she turned her head toward the stars with a sigh and looked back at him. "This is bigger than both of us. If we don't do this, the entire planet will disappear."
"Oh, boo bloody hoo! I'm all choked up over your sunny little world ending!" He spun to leave. "Find some other sucker."
Arms dropping to her sides, she said quietly, shakily, on the verge of exhausted tears, "You're the only sucker I got."
Spike stopped, touched by... well, it must be the desperation in her voice. He turned, lifted his chin and mashed his lips upward. "Beg me for it."
She gaped at him for a moment. "Oh, screw you." She'd find someone else... anyone, she resolved as she strode out into the street.
And then she heard behind her, "I'll do it."
Buffy halted, took a breath, thought, Why am I relieved about this? and faced him.
"Yeah, you heard me." He approached her. "On one condition, of course."
"Lifetime slayage immunity."
"Just yours." He smiled devilishly. "No fun if I can't fight the others."
Bastard. Well, on the bright side, Faith could always do the honors while she was still alive. "Done. But if you dare breathe a word of this to anyone--"
"You're assuming I'd be proud." That shut her up. "You got the trinket?"
An earlier suspicion was rekindled. "You seem to know a whole lot about Grosh."
He shrugged. "Campfire stories, love. That one's always been good for a laugh." He noticed she was still frowning. "Well, can you blame us?"
"And that's all you know?"
"That's it." He held up his hands. "I swear it! Cross my heart."
Keeping a careful eye on him, she dug into her pocket, lifted the amber amulet far enough for him to see and quickly tucked it away. "The night after tomorrow. We meet and get this done."
"So business-like. Why not now?" He opened his mouth slightly, slid his tongue to the roof of his mouth.
"Do you want to be kicked again?"
"Oh, unwind, Slayer. I'm joking. Sign me up, alright?" Hands on his belt, he added ironically and with much amusement, "It's a date."
"It's a transaction." She could barely contain her impulse to hit him.
"Name it what you want, pet." I still get my rocks off on a slayer.