***Part Nine***

One of the drawbacks to being a vampire was the no reflection thing. Spike did not mind the pants Buffy had bought for him to wear to this bloody shindig of hers, black trousers were good. He could still be the Big Bad and wear black dress pants. The shoes were debatable but she had insisted he could not wear his boots.

This shirt she bought was cutting it close to where he would draw the line. At least he did not have to wear a tie and she had bought the shirt in a dark red rather than white. But the band collar, whatever that was, just seemed silly to him. What was the point of wearing a dress shirt if there was no collar to fold down and button or do something with? All he knew was that he could not see himself to know whether or not he looked like a poof.

He let the shirt hang open for the time being as he slipped on the black dress socks she had bought him with gold stripes on the toe. What the bloody hell did men need gold stripes on their socks for? He tried not to complain much, he knew this party meant a lot to her. Unfortunately, he felt like he was on display and it bothered the hell out of him. She wanted bloody William on display not Spike. The socks were followed by the shoes.

He stood then and walked to his dresser, buttoning the shirt as he went. He rolled up his shirt sleeves, he would at least have that bit of comfort. He slipped on his ring, the ring he had given Buffy months ago in place of an engagement ring when Red cast her spell that had gotten them to this point. He opened his dresser drawer and pulled out the other ring he had bought the day before, a wedding band for him and slipped it on his finger. It was a plain gold band much like hers was only wider.

He had stayed out of Buffy and Joyce's way the entire day, holed up in their suite for as long as possible. Buffy had brought him a cup of blood so that he would not be too horribly pale when the guests arrived. He saw her in passing when he left to go to the liquor store for the alcohol for the party. Other than that, he had seen very little of the women of the house. It smelled good and she had not run into the room crying about things coming out burnt or tasting bad so he trusted all in all things were on schedule.

"Slayer," he called out as he opened the door from their suite. "I can't bloody tell if this shirt looks right or not," he said, stopping short when he saw Jessica standing in the great room. His eyes met hers and he thought he saw question there but it was gone quickly. He gave her his most charming smile. "I didn't realize you were here already, Jessica," he said, glancing at the mantel clock behind her. She was here almost thirty minutes early. "Where's Brian," he asked, walking through the great room toward the kitchen only to see it empty. He heard someone in the sun room, but he could not go out there yet.

"He'll be here as soon as the sitter comes. I came to help Buffy not realizing her mom was already here to help."

"Oh right, yeah she has things pretty well under control last I checked. I see you've got a glass of wine. Any idea where Buffy is," he asked, not liking the idea at all of having to entertain one guest let alone any others that would come early. At least he knew Jessica, there would be others he would not know. Buffy had taken the past month or so to get to know more than just Jessica in the neighborhood. He knew that she was worried about not fitting in, so he said nothing about how hard she was working at the whole thing.

"She'll be down in a minute, she's just getting ready," Willow said as she and Tara came downstairs.

"Thanks Red," he said. "She's getting ready upstairs?"

Willow smiled coyly. "She didn't want you getting in her way I guess. You know how we girls are when we're getting ready, nerves and all."

"Right, sure," he said. He could use a beer about now, but the keg was out in the sun room. "I guess that means I can't go up there and ask her if I look like an idiot in this shirt. So you can tell me instead," he said as he smoothed his left hand down along his shirtfront. He caught a glimpse of gold on his left hand and paused to glance at the ring for a moment.

"I think you look great," Willow offered.

"Y-Y-You look fine, Spike," Tara said, offering him a smile which he returned.

"Thanks, pet, I've just never worn a shirt like this," he shrugged and adjusted one of his shirt sleeves so they were both even. "I wanted to be sure it looked the way she thought it would on me." And since he could not see himself in a mirror he had no idea. "Don't you ladies all look good as well? I'm not sure how I got so lucky to have three of the prettiest college co-ed's in Sunnydale living under my roof," he winked.

"Just your luck," Willow said with a light laugh.

"Indeed," he quipped. "So, Jessica," he said, realizing he was excluding the woman from the conversation. "Do you have someone in the neighborhood that baby sits?"

"Yes, Alyssa lives about a block down. She's the one we use most, but I have names of others if you and Buffy ever need one."

Willow coughed lightly and Spike glared at her. "I don't think we will need one for a while, we haven't really talked about that yet. Buffy has school to finish and all. But thanks."

"What about me and school," Buffy said as she entered the room.

Spike's relief at hearing her voice was quickly pushed aside when he saw her and was replaced with awe. She looked amazing, if he had breath he would be holding it now. She was dressed in a form fitting, black lace dress that fell mid-thigh, a generous assessment of the dress hem's length. He loved it, but hated it at the same time. Every bloody man in the house was going to see her in that dress. The top was somewhat conservative, in that at least the tank like sleeves covered most of her shoulders. He smiled a little wickedly at that thought. If he had bit her last night on the neck instead of the shoulder or just a little to the right instead of where he had she would not have been able to wear the dress.

He groaned softly when he noticed her stockings were the kind with seams along the back of the leg. And her shoes, he had never seen her wear heels so high. He finished looking at her legs and feet, his eyes scanning up the length of her again to her face and hair. Her makeup was perfect, her hair was worn up, a few loose tendrils framing her face. A collar was around her neck the same material as her dress. Never without her cross it was around her neck, her only jewelry besides the rings he had given her the night before. He glanced to the three other women in the room and realized they were all looking at him. Great, on the spot. What the hell was he supposed to say? She looked amazing, but even that simple of an assessment was wrong.

"Well, Goldilocks," he said, finally finding his voice. "You put me to shame. I guess I don't need to worry about whether I look like a bleeding idiot in this shirt, because I'll look like one next to you anyway."

"You act like you've never seen me wear a dress before."

"Not like that I haven't," he said, clearing his throat lightly. "Were you two responsible for this," he said looking at Willow and Tara.

"Guilty," Willow said, holding up her hand.

"I should be thanking you I think if I can hold my jealous streak in check throughout the night that is."

"You look wonderful, Buffy," Jessica said from where she stood by the mantel.

"Thanks, Jessica. Sorry I made you wait, but I had a hard time getting the seams straight," she said, flexing a leg.

"Bloody hell," Spike whispered softly. Buffy might have been able to hear his utterance, but none of the others in the room would have.

"It's all right. Is there anything I can do to help?"

"No, my mom is finishing up the last of it. Otherwise, you have a glass of wine, the best you can do is just relax." She walked to where Spike stood near the kitchen and kissed him. "You don't like my surprise?"

"Slayer," he whispered. "You know I like it. You look beautiful. And you smell great, too," he said, running his finger along her jaw. "Go talk to your friend. I'll go help your mom or something useful."

"You're not going to stay in the kitchen and drink beer all night, are you?"

"No," he said, though the thought had crossed his mind. "I might stand right here and drink beer all night," he quipped. "Just kidding, pet. I won't do anything to piss you off."

"Thanks," she said as the doorbell rang.

"And the fun begins," he said under his breath. He placed his hand at the small of her back as he walked with her to the door. "Is anyone coming that I know and actually like?"

"Xander, Giles, Anya?"

"They'll do I suppose. Can we sit upstairs and watch the tele?"

"No, you cannot. Talk to my mother."

"All right," he mumbled as she opened the door.


Xander had never been fond of Spike and the feeling was mutual, but Spike was grateful he and Anya were there this night. Spike remembered enough from his human days of what would be expected of him as host of a party, but that did not mean he had to stand there and talk beyond introductions and the immediate conversations resulting from introductions.

Spike had just finished talking to a guy in Buffy's Psychology class who seemed like a nice enough bloke. And overall their neighbors were decent people. They minded their own business for the most part while looking out for the neighborhood. It was a good balance, one Spike did not find too intrusive.

He had just refilled his beer and stopped in the kitchen to grab one of the stuffed mushrooms Buffy had made. As it turned out, Buffy was a damned good cook, everything had turned out good. Spike had not eaten too much, given he did not need to eat, but he sampled things and eavesdropped with his keen hearing abilities to comments about the food.

"So, you're Spike," he heard and turned to face the voice.

"Guilty as charged," he said, regarding the guy in front of him. The empty plastic cup he held indicated he was probably on his way to the sunroom and the keg. "And you are?"

"I'm Tom. I'm in Buffy's Accounting class. We're trying to hold our heads above water together. She actually does better than she thinks."

"Yeah, I've tried to get that through to her myself." He was beginning to wonder if Buffy had any female friends in her classes. Willow and Tara were college chums, but they did not count. And why were all of these college men here at the party the clean cut, all-American mama's boy types?

"So where did you get a name like Spike?"

"Oh," Spike shrugged and took a sip of his beer. "It's just a nickname I picked up along the way and it's stuck. I don't much care for William, no one calls me that."

"I have to admit I thought Buffy was talking about a pet when she talked about you at first. It's a good thing I figured it out before I made an ass of myself."

Spike laughed, though inwardly he was looking for a way out of this conversation. "So what's your major then, Tom," he said, letting his name hang for a moment.

"Business. Finance."

"Sounds good." He caught sight of Buffy in the great room talking to Xander, Anya and a couple of guys he had met earlier but could not remember their names. He would forget this bloke's name more than likely. He did not see the point in remembering the names when he would never see these people again.

"She sure does like to talk, doesn't she?"

"She's a college girl, of course she does," Spike said automatically. "If you'll excuse me, mate, but I haven't had more than two words with her all evening and now that the throng around her has thinned I'm going to join in."

"You bet, man, great party, by the way."

"Right, thanks," Spike said under his breath as he left the kitchen and walked towards Buffy and at least two other familiar faces.

"There you are."


"I was looking for you."

Spike regarded her for a minute. "Well, I haven't gone from the house all night if that's what you're suggesting. I've been bloody here the whole time."

"No, Spike," she said, putting her hand through his arm. "I just wanted you to meet Owen and Scott. We went to high school together."

"Great," he said. That explained why Xander was in among the conversation. Xander felt almost as uncomfortable as Spike did at this party full of college students. "Nice to meet you."

"They didn't believe I was married, so I wanted them to meet you."

"I get that a lot," he said a little dryly.

She frowned at him and Spike thought he was about to be on the receiving end of a Slayer tongue lashing, but she froze instead her hand at his arm tightening its grip. "Pet," he whispered in an attempt to get her to loosen her grip just a bit. Her point was made if she thought he was being rude. Then his eyes followed hers and he realized when he saw him that it was not Spike that was the problem.

"What the hell is he doing here," she whispered. "How did he get in?"

"I don't know, love," he whispered. "Let's go find out, shall we?" He cast a glance at Xander and Anya as well as the other two blokes. "Excuse us," he said, managing to remove Buffy's hand from its vice-like grip on his arm. He placed his hand at the small of her back, felt her tremble slightly and he grew more than a little concerned. Not much frightened Buffy, very little frightened Buffy to the point of a physical reaction.

Spike liked his presence here even less than Buffy did. He would have the head of Willow or Tara, one of them had to have let him in. It had to be someone who lived here to actually grant him entry. Spike saw him for what he truly was, saw how he was truly dressed, he had no idea what form of magick or mind control he might be using on others. He was dressed classically, a Victorian style dark gray suit, with an ivory waistcoat and gray cravat. His shirt was crisp white and if Spike knew anything about the man standing in his great room he knew the shirt cuffs were fastened with cufflinks not buttons. His hair was longer than Spike remembered it being, but it was still raven black, his face was chiseled yet perfect. No mind control would be necessary to make people see him as attractive. Spike felt slovenly when compared to him.

"Miss Summers, a wonderful party," he said, his voice thickly accented.

"You weren't on the guest list. How did you get in here?"

"A young girl, a friend of yours I presume, let me in." He smiled, more like a leer Spike thought. "Very kind of her to do so."

"I'm glad you think so. I don't. What are you doing here?"

"I came to see your home, of course. I heard tell that one of my kind had taken the Slayer as a lifemate and I had to see with my own eyes that one of my kind was truly living with and as a human."

"You live in houses, go out amongst them as well," Spike said defensively.

"I merely came out of curiosity, I mean you no harm. Had I wanted to harm you, it would be done already. You really ought to tell your friends to be more careful about whom they let into your home, though. Next time, it might not be one who comes in peace."

"Right," Buffy said sarcastically. Spike noticed she was avoiding looking him directly in the eye and wanted to yell out ‘good girl' but refrained. "So you came, you saw, we're here, we're together, we're happy, so you can go now, right?"

"William," Dracula said softly. "You let her talk this way to a guest in your home?"

"It's her house, too, her party, she wrote up the guest list, not me. And trust me when I tell you, I don't believe you would have been on it even had I been the one to draw it up. We don't travel in the same circles, Count. Never have. You know it, I know it. So that leads me to side with the Slayer here, that you want something."

"Nonsense. My curiosity got the better of me, it's as simple as that. I was planning a trip to the New World anyway. Sunnydale seemed like an interesting place to stop, having its own Hell Mouth and all. That coupled with a Slayer married to a vampire, her second vampire lover no less. What demon could resist paying homage to such a thing?"

"Obviously not you. And hello? New World? We've been a country for like four hundred years; I don't think we qualify as new any longer."

He smiled and Spike wished the vampire would bloody well stop that. Spike knew first hand from both Dru and Darla how charming that smile could be. "For what reason are you rude to me, Miss Summers? I have not harmed you, I have been kind to you, I have not embarrassed you in the least."

She glanced past him, looking around the room wondering why no one else was noticing Dracula standing there right out of an antique photograph. "Because I did not invite you here, I did not invite you into my home, and it's rude in our society to crash a party."


"Yeah, Vlad, you know, come without the invite on that ivory parchment you're so fond of. Uninvited guest."

"Ah, I see. None of your guests interest me in the least, Miss Summers, so you have nothing to fear from me. I have already fed this evening, and fed very well I might add. I don't suppose you remember what that is like, William. A fresh feed, warm and intoxicating."

"Actually," she started to say, but Spike stopped her from saying more with an increase of pressure at her back.

"Actually, you're right I don't remember what it's like. I won't say I'm happy about it, but it's the hand I've been dealt. No one's died from my current diet. Angelus has survived on it for a hundred years."

"Yes, but his is by choice. Angelus could feed, he chooses not to. Yours was forced upon you by others tampering with the laws of nature," he said evenly.

Spike honestly had not given much thought to getting the chip taken out lately. He was actually, well, happy where he was at the moment. Now here comes the Count himself implying perhaps he could reverse Spike's plight. Was that why he was here? Here Spike had been worried Dracula was there for Buffy, and perhaps he was.

If he was counting on Spike wanting to get the chip removed and reverting to his old sadistic, Spike earning nickname ways Buffy obviously would not stay with him. That would free her up for Dracula to swoop in and mend her broken heart. What Dracula did not realize was that the Slayer was not exclusive to vampires. There was Riley and he had seen her over the years on dates with other humans, too. Chances were if Spike turned back into the Big Bad, Buffy would be done with the vampire race. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me was how he believed the saying went.

"I'm sorry, and maybe I'm being rude, but you've come, seen us and our home, has your curiosity been satisfied yet? I'd like to get back to my invited guests."

Dracula took her hand and kissed it in the old worldly way long since gone, above her wrist, his lips stopping just before actually touching the skin. "Of course, Miss Summers, you will forgive my morbid curiosity getting the better of me causing me obviously what you perceive to be rude."

"It's Misses," she corrected. "Summers is fine, but," she continued and Spike thought he saw a flexing of her ring finger as emphasis and he smiled to himself at that, "at least get the Misses part right."

"A simple faux pas," he said smoothly. "Pardonnez moi."

"It's all right." She glanced at Spike and he tried to figure out what she was thinking. She was not happy, he knew that much. "So you're going to go now, right? I don't have to worry about working wearing this dress or one of my guests ending up dead from blood loss on my front lawn in the morning."

He glanced at Spike. "She does speak her mind, doesn't she?"

Spike smiled widely with a casual shrug. "I suppose she does, yeah. I find it endearing where I imagine you'd be rather intolerant of it."

He actually seemed to ponder this, which really was not Spike's intent. He did not want him dwelling on Buffy anymore than necessary. "It could be overlooked, I imagine."

Spike laughed heartily. "You don't know this Slayer if you think that's an aspect of her personality that could be overlooked. Just ask her Watcher over there," he said, gesturing across the room to Giles. "He could tell you stories I'm sure, more than you'd care to hear about her disobedience."

"My what? What am I a puppy dog?"

"No, pet, you're no such thing," Spike said evenly, mindful after he had said it of the endearment he had used. It was just so automatic to call her pet that he never thought on it. Dracula obviously noticed too by the smirk on the elder vampire's face. "Was just making a point is all."

She frowned and whether intentional or not ran her hand over her shoulder. The sleeve moved aside slightly, enough to expose the bite marks from the night before. As if seeking them, her fingers ran over the two holes and then her hand dropped back to her side. "Whatever. You two stand here and talk if you want. I'm going back to Owen and Scott. I haven't seen them since graduation." She spun around on a heel and then stopped. She placed her hand on Spike's forearm and kissed him. "I want him gone. I don't want any problems at this party. Just once I'd like something to go off without a hitch," she whispered before drawing away.

"She's trouble for you that one is, William. Look at her, blonde and tan, bright and cheery, so very obviously of the light you and I do not hail from. Look at the smile she gives to other men. Men who are not her husband."

"Yeah, what of it? We're not living in the fourteen hundreds anymore. You do realize that? I trust her. No reason not to."

"She's been with him."

"Who Angelus? I know that."

"No, recently."

"She has not, you bloody troublemaker."

"Not since you were married, no. But recently, nonetheless."

"I don't believe you. He didn't lose his soul again. Can't be possible."

"There were extenuating circumstances, William. He was mortal, a human, with a beating heart, all things you cannot possibly give her."

"She would have told me if he was human."

"You are right, she would have. He gave it up for her, and with it took away her memories of their time together."

"Then how do you know about it?" Dracula glanced at him condescendingly. "All right, I don't bloody need to know. But even still, it was before we were married and she doesn't remember it, what they hell are you telling me for?"

"Oh, I don't know, most men would want to know that shortly before they wed a woman she had willingly, completely and lovingly lain with another man."

"Makes me no difference," Spike said simply.

"No? I find that hard to believe, William the Bloody. I know what you were like in your previous life, I know of your quest for love and your attempt at finding it in silly poems. I know the object of your affections laughed at you. And I have seen the way you have looked at this girl. I have seen the way you seek to protect her despite her not needing your protection. I can feel the love you have for her, it's a poison to your system and makes you forget who and what you are. Makes you forget about your quest to get that device removed from your body. Makes you turn against your own kind, kill your brethren. I have seen what you do when you are away from her at night. Something I imagine she would find of interest, yes?"

"I'm not doing anything wrong, so piss off if you think you're going to get to her that way."

He laughed, a fully hearty laugh. "What makes you think I want anything to do with her?"

"And you don't? Your coming to Sunnydale was just a coincidence, right? It just so happens that you graced a town with your presence where the Slayer lives and breathes, one who happens to have a reputation for being up for a shag from our kind."

"Is that what it is to you? I underestimated you then, William. Here I thought it was love that drove you. If it is merely her bed and her body, I cannot blame you for such things. She would be worth the sacrifice for a short while I imagine. You will break her heart when you leave, though. You do realize that, don't you?"

"Don't have any plans on leaving just yet."

"No, but you will, William. One day, you will. I don't claim to know the where, why or how, but you cannot run forever from what you are. You cannot bury your head in the sand and claim that you are not the blood sucking fiend you are. You and your grandsire were among the most ruthless I had seen in quite sometime. I would have been proud to have been able to lay claim to either of you. Instead, that insolent Master is whose bloodline you stem from."

"I'm aware of my heritage, Count."

"Well then," he said simply and moved in a graceful movement to adjust his cravat. "I believe I have taken up too much of your time and I do have a prior engagement to get to. You will say good bye to your charming wife for me, won't you, William? I look forward to talking with her again sometime. It might be a very enlightening conversation."

"Right," Spike said calmly, careful not to reveal any hint of emotion to the senior vampire. "Good night then. You'd do well not to break your word to the Slayer. Any of her party guests come up dead or undead she'll be after you. She has not wanted to come after you, you being an unliving legend and all, but don't think for a minute she would hesitate if you gave her reason to come after you."

"I appreciate the warning, William. I beseech thee to have a pleasant evening then. Oh," he said with his smile widening. "You might want to be careful when you make love outdoors, you never know who might be watching. It's a good thing she's a Slayer, isn't it, William? In truth, I had to see for myself this evening that she was able to walk. Just how long do you think it will be before the demon gets loose and stays loose?"

"It can't. It won't. I can control it."

"Oh yes, I saw last night how well you are able to control it. Fare thee well, William," he beckoned one last time before departing as suddenly as he came.

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