***Part Fifteen***

Xander entered the Magic Box and saw it was currently devoid of customers. Anya was in the loft apparently, dusting or taking inventory of the things up there. He almost turned around and left without saying anything, but the bell on the door announced a potential customer and Anya was quick to turn around.

"What are you doing here," she asked her voice about as welcoming as the sound a rattler makes when he's about to strike.

"Looking for Buffy."

"She's in the back," Anya said gruffly. Xander rolled his eyes at her coldness, not that he did not deserve it but still. At least the venomous tone to her voice from a second ago was gone.

"Thanks. Is she almost done?"

"How should I know?"

"An, you know how long she trains."

"I don't remember what time she went back there. I work here you know I'm not Buffy's keeper."

"I know you're not, I just thought you might know is all."

"Well, I don't."

"I get that," he said under his breath. She turned her back to him and Xander knew he had been dismissed and walked toward the training room. He mentally brushed himself off after another dismal encounter with Anya and walked to the training room prepared to talk some sense into Buffy about Spike. It was one thing to forgive Evil Dead, not that Xander ever would, but it was another thing to invite the enemy to live with you.

"No, Slayer, you just left yourself open on your right side," Xander heard Spike's commentary and for the second time since entering the store was tempted to turn around and leave. He would not give Anya the satisfaction of leaving with his tail between his legs. She had to know Spike was there and left that piece of information out intentionally. "Right here," Spike said and Xander saw Spike strike Buffy on her right side. Buffy tried to defend herself but was just a beat too slow and wound up on the mat with Spike moving to join her, straddling her, his hands on the mat at either side of her head.

"Do you have to hit her," Xander asked. He could do without the visualization of seeing Spike on top of Buffy but at least they both had clothes on. "I mean you gave her the tip why do you have to demonstrate?"

"Xander," Buffy said annoyed and pushed Spike off of her.

Spike stood, offering Buffy a hand which she took surprising Xander. "Because, Harris, she needs to know. You don't learn to fight and defend yourself by reading or being told about it, you learn by doing."

"Xander, I need to train, Spike does too."

"I just don't like that he can hurt you."

"Well, he has been for over a year now so deal," Buffy said, wiping her brow with the back of her hand. "So what brings you by?"

"Nothing. Just came to see what you were up to tonight."

"Going home after training, dinner, patrolling, bed. What's up?"

Xander shifted uncomfortably when he noticed the evil glare Spike was giving him. Chipped or not the look still scared the shit out of Xander. All Spike had to do was go to the demon bar in town and pay someone to hurt Xander and it would be done. "Nothing. Just thought I could take you to dinner. And Dawnie," he added quickly, noticing the whites of Spike's eyes start to yellow.

"And Spike?"

"I don't really want him to come along, no, but if it's the only way you'll say yes then I suppose."

"Well, it is."

"You mean to say that Dawn is okay with him being back, shacking up in your house? She was mad at him."

"Was being the operative word, Harris," Spike said evenly.

"Just stay out of this. Everything was fine until you came back."

"Was it really?"


"So, Buffy didn't sit at home other than to patrol? She was happy as can be, right? Went out Bronzing every night, dates and partying galore?"

"Well, no, but we were fine."

"You were fine, Xander. I wasn't."

"But you never told me what was wrong, why you weren't fine."

"Because I knew you wouldn't understand. And there was nothing you could do about it anyway. You didn't know where Spike had gone. No one did."

"So you've been moping around for months because of this guy? The guy who tried to rape you."

"Again with the operative word. I told you the other night I am not going to talk to you about this. You either accept my decision and hang with us or you don't and stay away."

"I'm not footing the bill for him."

"I will. Besides, he's getting a job soon."

"Right. I'll believe that when I see it."

"I guess you will. Try not to be so unhappy that I'm not going to lose my house, Xander."

"Of course I don't want you to lose your house."

"We'll go to dinner with you, but if you're going to be all frowny I'll just stay home. And you need to promise me this is the last discussion about this. I mean it Xander, I've got enough to deal with."

Xander was going to protest but saw the look of determination in Buffy's eyes and stopped. "I'll meet you at your house then. We can get pizza and beer, Coke for Dawnie."

"Sounds good."

"Yeah, sounds wonderful," Spike said snidely.

"Well, you don't have to come, Evil Dead, believe me it wouldn't traumatize me."

"Of course Spike will come," Buffy interjected though Xander saw a glimmer of disagreement in Spike's eyes.

"I'll meet you at your house in a little while then, I have to go home and shower."

"Yeah, us too."

"There's one picture I don't even want to entertain," Xander said, holding up a hand as if he could ward off the images that way.

"Not together you idiot," Spike said. "She has two bathrooms you know."

"Oh right."


"I'm not going," Spike said as he walked into Buffy's bedroom toweling off his hair.

"What do you mean you're not going," she asked her back toward him as she shimmied into a hot pink leather skirt and a silver halter like top that left her entire back exposed. What was the purpose of a top like that he had to wonder? Not that he minded or she looked terrible in it but still. And what was she getting all dressed like this for to have dinner with Harris?

"I know you heard me and I know you understood what I said, Buffy."

"But why?"

"I'm going to do a few things around the house, all right?"

"Spike, there's nothing that needs doing. The house is clean, the dishes are washed, and the laundry is done." She slid a pair of dangly hoop earrings into ears. Spike was not sure he could handle much more of her primping. And what was disconcerting about the whole thing was that Spike did not believe Buffy knew how sexy she was sometimes.

"Personal things, all right, pet."

"Oh," she said and turned to face him now that she was dressed. "Why didn't you just say so? I mean, why with the mystery?"

"Because I'd like to keep some things private, Slayer. Is that all right with you?"

"Hey," she said, holding up her hands in surrender. "No need to get all angry at me. You could have just said from the beginning that you had something you wanted to do. No problem. I don't need to know everything you do. What's your problem anyway? You've been all crabby since we left the Magic Box."

"Nothing. I'm entitled to be moody now and again."

"Well, sure, but did something set it off?"

"Harris. We were having a good afternoon, training and all. I haven't had the opportunity to fight in months and he bloody ruined it for me."



"Us. He ruined it for us. I've always liked fighting with you. Though I have to admit it was nice today to know it was just sparring and not an actual fight to the death."

"Or a beating de jour."

"Yeah," she said, lowering her gaze and fiddling with some hair at her neck. "Or that. That's done with I thought I told you that."

"You did. Sorry. It was just a flippant comment." He saw her eyes scan the length of his torso and wished he had put a shirt on after the shower. He had not really thought about it at the time, both Summers girls had seen him without a shirt on numerous times over the years. Buffy obviously for very different reasons than Dawn but nevertheless he had to remember that for future reference. Bring both shirt and jeans to the loo with you. Of course if she kept looking at him like she currently was, he might just lose the shirt so long as Dawn was not around. It was rather flattering to know just the sight of his naked chest could arouse her.

She must have realized he could tell she was aroused because she blushed and raised her eyes to meet his. Spike smiled widely and if possible she blushed deeper. "I deserve it, so okay with the flippant comments. Just not too many of them, all right. I'd rather not be guilt ridden Buffy more than I have to."

"Listen, Slayer, maybe this isn't going to work. I mean, part of your charm was that you could take my banter and jibes for what they were. If you're going to take offense to things I say now, maybe we should just bag this before it gets out of control."

"No, it's fine. I just. With the privacy comment." She shrugged. "Just let's not make with the too true to heart comments, okay? At least for now." She looked to him for some acceptance and he nodded his head slightly. "I want to be out of control," she said her voice barely a whisper.


"Because it's about time. I haven't let myself do that, haven't jumped forward with both feet in five years."

"With good reason, pet. The last time you did it didn't go too well."

"Well, I'm an adult now I think I can handle it. At least I hope so."

"Yeah, well, we're both doing with the new. So I imagine the losing control will be a slow going experience."

She smiled. "Thanks."

"Don't sweat it, pet. You have fun with your sis and the whelp. I'll be here ready to patrol with you later."

"Do you want me to bring you back any pizza?"

"No, I'll rustle up something downstairs if I'm in the mood for food."

Both heard the knock at the front door. "Well, I guess that's me." She brushed past him and then took a few steps back kissing him lightly.

"Thanks, pet," he said softly to her retreating back.

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