Buffy stood under a stream of hot water, banging her head against the cold tile with each expletive. "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck."
What the hell is Riley doing back now? How could I ever explain this to him?
She exhaled and said out loud, "What's to explain. It's pretty obvious."
I'm a monster lover.
Frustrated, she hit the wall with an open palm.
Who do you think you are, a goddamn psychic? Always think you know everything about me -- you don't know me! I know me!
...I do. Most of the time.
"He's right," she said. "As usual."
Whatever. I'm so not apologizing first.
Buffy stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around herself on her way back to her room.
As she stared at her disheveled bed, she was surprised by her sister's voice.
"Dawn? When did you get home?"
"Uh, I've kinda been here a while. Since... Riley."
"Oh." Buffy nodded and looked away. "Yeah. Riley."
"I'm so sorry, I really tried to stop him."
"It's, it's okay." She rummaged through a drawer, not knowing what she was looking for. "It's not your fault."
"I wouldn't have even been here if Giles didn't need that stupid book so badly."
"Oh, god. I totally forgot about Giles!"
"It's okay, he came by to pick it up."
Buffy's eyes widened.
"While you were in the shower," Dawn clarified. "I told him that Riley came back and you were a little freaked. He understood."
She smiled. "Thanks."
"Are you... okay?"
Buffy answered honestly. "Not really."
"Are you gonna go after him?"
"He's... not gonna be in the mood to talk for a long while," she said, referring to Riley with a bitter smile. "That I know for a fact."
"Are you kidding?" Dawn asked, amazed that her sister had no idea just how whipped Spike really was. "He'll be back tonight with flowers or candy or something."
"It's a little more complicated than that. The reason Riley ran out of here was... complicated." She steeled herself. "There's... something you should know."
"What's to know?" Dawn said with a shrug. "You and Spike are doing it."
Buffy looked horrified. "Did you see something?"
Dawn rolled her eyes. "I didn't have to."
"You heard something?"
"Buffy," she said. "I've known for like, weeks now. It doesn't take a genius. Spike's been weirdly giddy and you... Well, you're always making up some lame excuse to be with him. Plus there's the whole, 'stay over at Willow's', 'stay over at Xander's' thing."
"That wasn't to get you out of the house -- I was really concerned about those demons!" Buffy caved at her sister's expression. "At first."
Dawn folded her arms and smirked.
"So you're... okay with this?"
"For some weird reason, yeah." Feeling compelled to work in a little sibling rivalry, Dawn added with a tilt of her chin, "Even though I liked him first."
Buffy pursed her lips and lifted an eyebrow.
"So over it, by the way. He's way too old for me."
"Plus it'd never work with him all ga-ga over my sister."
"He is kinda ga-ga isn't he?"
"Kinda? It's sickening how ga-ga he is. He's all," faking a British cockney accent, Dawn quoted, "'Only if big sis thinks its alroight!' 'Whot does big sis loike fah breakfast?'" She added a little jig for accompaniment. "'Patrollin' with big sis tonoite!' Ugh! Hurl-worthy."
"Him or your accent?" Buffy teased.
Dawn smiled and asked, "So... What are you gonna do?"
"I don't know. I screwed up. I told him to leave." Buffy sighed and sat on her bed. "And I'm guessing he left?"
"A few minutes after Riley."
"God!" Buffy threw her hands in the air. "Who does he think he is, leaving when I tell him to? And walking out in daylight, no less!" She stomped to her dresser and grabbed some clothing. "Doesn't he realize he's a vampire?"
* * *
Spike's crypt was empty.
"Where else would you be?" Buffy asked the dank air.
She felt a bolt of fear. What if he lost the blanket and...
No, she told herself. He's not stupid. He can take care of himself. That's why I like him.
A crazy thought crossed her mind: But what if I hurt him so much he didn't want to live anymore?
Spike did have a flair for the melodrama. And he was outrageously stubborn. But it had to take more than a slap and a couple of harsh words to drive him to suicide... Right?
Now if I can just find him I'll kick his ass for making me worry.
* * *
"Oh no, not you again."
Buffy scanned the bar. "This isn't business, Willy."
"Oh? You want a drink? I'd have to see some I.D. though--"
"Has Spike been here today?"
"Spike? Vampire Spike?"
"Nah. Demons don't like him hangin' around here. He came a few weeks ago, askin' questions--"
Buffy turned to leave.
"Same thing I told your soldier; I don't know why you people never believe me."
She paused. "My soldier? Riley was here?"
"Yeah, uh, yey tall, brown hair, baby face? He left here about a, a half hour ago."
Buffy walked out. "Thanks."
* * *
"I've never seen you here before," the girl in Spike's lap cooed.
"Play your cards right, you might see me again."
"Mmm... I like your accent," she said, gyrating harder.
"And I like your... hips," he said, moving to caress them.
"Hey! Buddy! No touching!" the big burly guy standing three feet away said. "Fish Tank policy."
"I could let you touch me," she whispered in his ear. "If you come downstairs with me."
"I bet that'll cost me," he said.
"A little. But it'll be fun." She ran her fingers through his tousled hair. "Anything goes."
"Maybe later, sweet bit," he murmured seductively into her neck.
"Ooh. That accent!"
"Time's up," the big burly guy said.
The girl kissed his cheek. "I'll be back for you, sexy."
He winked at her before she walked away, and took a swig of his eighth or ninth beer.
When he opened his eyes again, Riley was standing in front of him, trembling. Every muscle in his body seemed to be tightly wound.
"So this is how you treat her?"
"Relax, boy. Have a seat. Talk about old ti--"
In a flash, Riley dove down to grab Spike's shirt collar. Nose to nose, his sweat dripped onto the vampire's face. "I am not your boy."
At Spike's amused expression, Riley picked him up and threw him against the stage. A half-naked girl hopped backwards.
"Alright, you two, take it outside!"
"There's an idea," Riley growled to Spike. "Why don't we take it outside."
It was still light out.
"Hey," Spike said to the bouncer, arms up. "I got no trouble here. I'm a payin' customer. On my way downstairs."
"Alright. You. Out," the bouncer said to Riley.
Spike smiled, victorious.
"She doesn't love you," Riley said before he turned and left.
The victorious smile slowly faded.
Once, while escaping from a sinking ship, Spike encountered a school of Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish. Their constricting tentacles injected enough poison into his body to kill ten men, and he was certain that he'd felt the most painful sting of his life.
He was wrong.
Swinging around, Spike stopped a girl with a tray. "Oi. Jack, straight up."