"I feel like we should be singing a round of Ding Dong the Bitch is Dead," Xander opened, breaking the post-battle silence.
"I'll start," Willow offered wearily.
"Yep," continued Xander. "Good riddance to bad bodysnatching hellbeasts, I always say."
"When she turned into Ben?" Willow mustered some excitement. "Oh my god, how creepy was that?"
"That was hugely creepy," Tara concurred. "Even more than that Michael Jackson video."
"Which one?" Willow asked.
"I think she means all of them," Xander returned.
"No, no -- the one with the people morphing!" Tara said with a giggle. "Remember?"
"I don't," Anya chimed in. "But I'll agree that it was creepy."
"Ben's probably glad to be himself again though, sans evil twin." Xander lifted his index finger. "And I speak from experience."
"At least yours wasn't wearing a red dress," Anya pointed out.
"True. I'm more of a taupe, heather gray kind of guy."
"I don't know," Buffy finally spoke, still holding onto her troll hammer. "It almost seemed too easy."
"Easy for you maybe, but not for us," Willow grumped, referring to herself and Tara. "Separating the two entities, encasing her 'til you could finish her off? That took a lot out of me. And Tara almost got her brain sucked."
"That wasn't so much fun," Tara said.
"I know," Buffy said. "I didn't mean that. It's just... it seemed like she'd be this huge deal. The great Big Bad bitch-slapping us into oblivion. You know -- in May, like usual. But instead it's only February, and she's just... poof." She flicked her fingers to illustrate.
"You're disappointed that she didn't kill us all?" Xander asked. "Gotta commend your optimism there, soldier."
"No. It was just... anticlimactic, I guess. I didn't even break a sweat."
"Glory was greatly weakened," Giles attested, slightly out of breath from keeping in stride with the bunch. "...Somehow."
"That's all the intel you got, huh?" Buffy jibed affectionately.
"Well, that, and the suspicion that someone reversed her ability to harness human brain power. Willow did say that she felt other magicks present."
"It coulda been just plain old Glory magicks, though," Willow guessed.
"Who else would put a mojo on her?" Buffy wondered. "Who else could?"
"I've no idea."
She smirked at her Watcher.
Giles justified defensively, "This is all rather new to me, you know. It's not every day that you get to face off against a god."
"Please don't say that again," Buffy requested melodiously. "Someone might hear and send us another one. Like the God-a-Month Club: Defeat one, get two free."
"Right," Giles said, breathing in the fresh night air. "Well, all's well that ends well, I suppose. Back to the daily grind."
"A big yay to that," Xander said, relieved.
"Yeah," Buffy rang in unenthusiastically, eyes on the ground. "Yay."
* * *
Traipsing quietly through the cemetery, Buffy pulled her coat around her to combat the chill.
She heard a distant skirmish, and with it a growl that could only belong to one man.
Following the noise, she crept closer and peered through a line of tall bushes to get a better look... At Spike, beating the tar out of a fresh-from-the-grave fledgling; flinging the younger vampire into tombstones with debilitating punches while talking conversationally.
"And then she says, 'There's your thanks, mate, we're even now!'"
Buffy gasped and shrunk back.
"Can you believe that bitch? Like that's all I've been wanting, a stupid -- bloody -- thanks!" At Spike's last hit, the fledgling went sailing again. "Oh yeah, Buffy, off you go, been nice! You had me off and I can die happy now!"
Flattened against a tree, the young vampire's eyes widened as Spike yanked a stake out of his coat pocket. He swerved. Spike collared him by the tuxedo lapel.
"I mean, not that it wasn't great. She's got the most incredible little hands... But I'm not made o' stone, you know! I got feelings too!" An uppercut to the stomach made the fledgling double over, and Spike effortlessly kneed him in the face as he continued to rant. "Problem is, she doesn't see what's in front of her bloody face!" His target took to the air and landed on his back.
Spike strode over to step on the vampire's chest, impeding any further movement. "Not like I want to be her prancing puppydog, right? It's just that she's... she's Buffy, you know?"
The fledgling nodded nervously.
His arms flew up. "And there I go like a bleedin' idiot, tryin' to help her with that whole Glory business. I break my hide gettin' the ingredients, I pay good money to get the baddest black-eyed warlock in town to put that hellbitch's head in a spin, and what's in it for me?"
"Um," the fledgling squeaked, "Nothing?"
"That's right! Nothing!" He took on a plaintive tone. "It's all for her, you know? She loves her little sis. Needs her. Anything happened to her, and..."
Buffy stood there, shocked beyond comprehension.
"And I didn't ask to be in love with her. This isn't bloody fun for me." His voice wavered as he went on. "I just... I know there's something there that she doesn't want to admit. She wants me, that's for sure, but she's got somethin' else for me. Something more. I can feel it! What's it gonna take for her to get it through her foggy head?" He stared down at the quivering vampire.
"I -- I don't know," the fledgling stammered.
"No. You never do, do you?" And he lunged a stake through the vampire's heart.
Spike stared down at the dust pile at his feet, then began to stomp on it repeatedly.
Buffy appeared at his side. "Um. I think he's dead."
He swung around in surprise.
"Or I could help you kill it some more," she offered.
He opened his mouth, and closed it again.
"Or we could go find other still-walking dead if you're game."
"You... You're asking me to patrol with you?"
"Well, my head is pretty foggy right now, but I think that's what I meant."
Chagrined, he looked at the ground. "So, you heard..."
She crossed her arms, leisurely tapping her fingers against her coat sleeves. "And I thought I had problems."
"Right." Go on, make fun...
"A vampire in love with a slayer? Now that's rough."
"O'course, this slayer," Buffy conceded. "She's got this big problem too."
Thrown, Spike regarded her skeptically. "Yeah? And what's that?"
She looked him in the eye. "She's got this knot."
He stepped closer, maintaining eye contact. "You don't say."
"Mmhm," she nodded. "Some of the best have tried to work it out... with no luck."
"Yeah?" Spike tilted his head. "And where is it?"
She took his hand, and placed it over her heart. "Right here."
He let out a breath. "Yeah. I think I can feel it."
"Think you can help?"
Smoldering, he said, "I know I can."
She smiled. "Thought so."