Strangers in the Night

part 1

Not long before dawn he heard the two of them sneaking past the door of his basement cell, whispering and giggling like naughty children and leaving the scent of fresh blood in their wake. He sat there alone with his hunger and his impotent rage; forced to listen to their muffled groans and sighs, the thump of the bed against the wall while the last dregs of night drained away into the day. The sun had reached through the cracks in the boarded up window set high up in the wall by the time the noises finally faded into sated silence.

No bloody danger of him sleeping after that. He sat and watched the shifting play of light and shadow on the wall as the wind moved the leaves of the overhanging trees. It reminded him of those endless days after Prague when if he didn't keep a close watch on Dru she'd try to play with the light, weaving her fingers through the beams, delighted by the swirling motes and the wisps of smoke rising from her skin. It was fucking ironic that he was the one now with nothing better to do but sit and stare at bloody sunbeams. His world had shrunken to this dusty room furnished with a rickety table and a bed he hasn't been able to use since Dru lost interest in lifting him in and out of it; he won't bloody beg for her help…

Not only was he bored out of his fucking skull, he was hungrier than he'd been in years. Hasn't been this famished since the time he and Dru found themselves too far from home after a night's lovely slaughter and took refuge in the inviting darkness of a cargo hold. Gorged and oblivious, they'd slept while the hold was sealed and by the time they woke the ship was well out to sea. They'd screamed and banged at the metal hatch until their hands were bloody, but the sound of the engine and the waves kept anyone from hearing. They were trapped; the two of them together in the dark.

The only light he saw during those long weeks were the fitful glimmers reflected from her white skin. Her voice, singing, coaxing, screaming, was the only sound that mattered. Her touch anchored him, kept him from going mad. He hunted rats for her and when the rats were gone he fed her from his own veins. When the ship finally reached port he'd been weak as a kitten; he'd had a struggle to subdue the sailor that opened the hatch and made a hellish mess of it, like some grave-fresh fledgling. When he'd called Dru out to feed, she'd clapped her hands and happily joined him in draining the dying man. Afterwards they lay side by side on their bellies to lick up every last precious drop from the deck.

Good times.

Spike dozed and dreamed of better days as the light waxed and waned.

Shortly before sunset a minion came skulking in to replace and light the candles. Spike recognized him, the tosser's name was Bob and if Spike remembered correctly he'd turned the bugger himself. He didn't remember why he'd done it, maybe because Bob had mentioned liking the Ramones, or had offered him some good drugs, or maybe he'd just been in a good mood, or drunk; it didn't really matter. What did matter was that not too long ago Bob had been his minion and now the little weasel wouldn't even look him in the face. The king is dead, long live the king! Only he's not bloody dead and once he's out of this wheelchair… Bob jumped at Spike's soft growl, hurriedly finished his task and fled.

The sun had been down nearly an hour before the door finally opened and Dru came in. She danced in time to her private orchestra, twirling so the skirt of her long white dress flared around her. Spike noticed that the dress was new, likewise the jewels glittering at her wrist and throat; more 'prezzies' from the tosser no doubt. Faithless whore, a venomous voice in his head hissed, but it meant nothing against the joy he felt at the sight of his princess. She swayed graceful as a white cobra her lovely eyes bright with the promise of death. No, he could never blame her, his poor love wasn't responsible she was a child, easily influenced and distracted by shiny things and Angelus knew it. "You're looking very posh tonight, Pet."

She smiled, pleased by the compliment. "The sky is full of stars, I can feel them looking down at me with eyes like pins: prick, prick, prick." She bent down to kiss him and for a little while he forgot everything but the heaven of her. Too soon she broke away and straightened up; she stroked his cheek with a cool fingertip. "My Spike wants jam for tea but the jam pot's empty."

"I'll take blood, if it's all the same to you luv." He hoped he didn't sound as desperate as he felt.

She smiled at the hunger spilling from his eyes, and nodded. "My knight thirsts; he shall have only the best." He watched transfixed as she pressed one long fingernail into the upper swell of her chalk white bosom; a dark bead of blood welled up and overflowed into a trickle that meandered lazily into the valley between her breasts. He leaned forward, mouth watering, teeth aching but she moved out of reach, mischief sparking in her dark eyes. "Ask nicely, now."

"Pretty please, luv," he growled. Drusilla shivered at the lovely contrast between pretty words and the need and anger underneath them. Crooning she leaned down, putting her hand at the back of his head to guide him. The perfume of her blood filled his head; the thought of it, cool and sweet as blackberries made his dead heart ache. It had been ages since she'd let him feed from her and he needed it.

"There you are Dru! Ready to go?"

Oh, fuck no! Not now! Spike cursed silently as Drusilla turned away, her gaze caught by Angelus who strutted across the room, all black leather and hair gel. Spike thought sourly that he looked to be in a good mood despite having had his arse very recently kicked by the Slayer. Again. The bastard kissed Drusilla on the cheek and she giggled and flittered off, leaving him smirking down at Spike. "Hiya Spike, how's tricks?"

"Bit dull," Spike said. Truth was he'd give his left ball for a telly. Or for just one of the books he'd lost when the Slayer burned the factory down. Goddamn Angelus and his idiot mind games, why couldn't he just kill the bitch?

Angelus nodded. "Yeah, I hear ya buddy, it must really suck to have to sit here like a lump on a log 24/7 huh?" Spike didn't bother to answer and Angelus let sincere malevolence leak into his voice. "Anyway, me and Dru are going out." He turned and captured Drusilla's wandering hand in his. "You ready baby?"

She nodded. "There's going to be a party, wine and crackers and lovely young people for us to eat…" She cocked her head at Spike. "Want to come, Pet?"

Angelus cleared his throat. "Nice thought, but no can do, Dru. I'm sure he'd be hell on wheels - but we've gotta travel light." He grabbed the armrests and leaned down close; his words little puffs of stale air against Spike's face. "Sorry. Try to have fun without us."

Never mind the telly; his kingdom for a blowtorch to burn the grin off grandpa's face. "Don't worry; I'm sure Dru will remember to bring something back for you." Dru nodded cheerfully, took his arm, and they left.


"Goodnight Rosalie. I'll have everything delivered by Tuesday." Joyce kept smiling as she shut the door and flipped the sign over to "Sorry We Missed You!" Only after she'd closed the blinds did she finally let the smile she'd been wearing for the past forever slide off her face. God she was tired.

She'd been about to close up when Mrs. Guardino walked in and announced that she was redoing the guest cottage and needed simply *everything*. No choice really; Joyce took a deep breath and did her little dance. To be fair Mrs. Guardino wasn't really that bad. O.K. the 'joisey' accent made her tricky to understand sometimes and she dressed like Vinnie Barbarino was her fashion consultant. Also, she none too subtly made it clear that she considered Joyce to be slightly pitiable for having to work instead of snagging a husband who could keep her in gold spandex. On the other hand, unlike some of her other high-maintenance customers Mrs. Guardino (call me Rosalie, please) was basically friendly and she went along with most of Joyce's suggestions. Joyce fingered the check in her pocket that Mrs. Guardino had handed over for $5,000 of Mr. Guardino's money and a genuine smile flickered over her face. She switched off the lights and headed to the office; she needed to call Buffy and tell her she'd be late.

"Hello, you have reached the Summers' residence, I'm sorry…" Joyce hung up on herself, and didn't bother to leave a message for Buffy. Let her worry about where she was for once. Her daughter kept lecturing her about how unsafe it was for her to be out at night (and when exactly did they switch roles?) although apparently it was alright for Buffy to stay out till all hours. Her new friends seemed nice, she had kept up her grades, and she never came home smelling of weed or even cigarette smoke -- but would it kill her to stay home one night a week? Joyce sighed and went to finish closing up so she could hurry home to her empty house.

Lights out, paperwork filed, check in the safe ready for deposit tomorrow a.m. Now for her least favorite part of the day. Last month the city had installed parking meters all over downtown as part of Mayor Wilkins "downtown beautification plan" which meant that Joyce had to start parking in the badly lit lot in back of the gallery. She turned out the office light and peered out through the peephole in the back door. When she didn't see anything or anyone she opened the door and stepped outside. The door clicked shut behind her and she got a little boost of adrenaline as she flashed on every stupid, high-heel clacking victim in every thriller she'd ever seen. She hurried to her car, the spring night cold against her back. A quick glance to make sure the back seat was empty and a moment later she was in, doors locked, safe. Her heart pounded in her ears as she started the engine.

Funny, she thought as she pulled out of the alley onto Main Street, she didn't remember being this scared in Los Angeles. L.A. was supposed to be scary, Sunnydale was supposed to be a haven from all the scary urban stuff. A small but prosperous town with surprisingly affordable housing, good schools, low unemployment and a stable economy. No gangs, no slums, no panhandlers hanging on the street corner. A nice place to live, except for the inexplicable dread she felt every evening when the sun went down.

It was after 6 p.m. so downtown Sunnydale was pretty much deserted; post-apocalypse deserted. She saw three people in Starbucks to prove that the world hadn't ended while she'd been busy stroking Mrs. Guardino. Another small flaw in her new hometown was that there wasn't much happening after dark. Except for the mall and that Bronze place Buffy had mentioned a few times, there was pretty much no night life. L.A. was a three and a half hour drive away and Santa Barbara was 2 hours in the other direction. Sunnydale was a tough town for a newly single gal who wasn't ready to enter the nunnery just yet. She'd made a few friends, but she hadn't been out on a single date since they'd moved. Maybe she should tag along with Buffy one night. She smiled imagining the look on her daughters face if she did. The problems she had dealing with the idea of her daughter having sex were nothing compared to Buffy's block on the idea of parent sex.

The idea of cooking this late didn't appeal so when she came to Colson Avenue she took a left instead of a right and headed for the new In-N-Out out on Reyas. She loved their shakes and she could get a cheeseburger and shake for Buffy, in case she made it home by a reasonable hour. She turned up the radio for company. This part of Colson was dark and semi-rural, lined with empty lots and cemeteries: Restful Acres, Roseland, Pleasant Valley… there was definitely no shortage of cemeteries in this town. The darkness closed in around the road and it was easy to imagine --- things. The Sunnydale Crier ran a full page of obituaries every day and at least two on the weekend. Sunnydale residents seemed freak accident-prone; maybe it was something in the water. Unconsciously her fingers rubbed the faint scars on her neck.

She wondered where Buffy was tonight. Probably out with her new friends Willow, and Oz and Xander and Cordelia. She's glad that Buffy has made friends so quickly. She was determined not to wrap herself around her daughter like ivy and turn into one of those sad single moms who end up being lectured by Dr. Phil on Oprah. It was a good thing that Buffy has a life of her own; that was how it was supposed to be.

Paul Simon had started smarming away about 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. That reminded her; she needed to have Buffy call her father. Hank wanted Buffy to come visit him over the Easter break but Buffy was dragging her feet for some reason. Joyce ground her teeth when she remembered Hank accusing her of trying to keep Buffy away from him as if she'd ever do anything like that. Praying nightly that he'll catch a dose from his bimbo secretary, seriously consider dropping a dime on him with the IRS if he screwed up the child support payment one more time, sure, but she'd never try to keep him away from his daughter. She didn't have a clue why Buffy didn't want to go; it was like she couldn't tear herself away from Sunnydale.

Please, please, please, let it not be about Angel. She still didn't understand what the hell her daughter had been thinking. If he was an undergraduate she was Gwyneth Paltrow; he had to be at least five years older than Buffy. Yes he was good-looking, and the first time she'd met him he'd seemed nice enough. So much for first impressions.

Nothing nice about him the night he'd come to the house. More like scary and menacing, as he babbled on about how much he loved Buffy and how could she treat him this way especially after they'd slept together. She'd sensed a violent malice simmering under his words and if Buffy and her friends hadn't been waiting inside the house she wasn't sure what he might have done. There was something very wrong with that young man, but she could imagine the conversation if she called the police about it. "Did he threaten you Mrs. Summers?" "Well, he said he die without Buffy and she'd die without him…" "Well, ma'am, I imagine he was upset about the breakup. Did he *do* anything?" "He scared me." "Could you be more specific Mrs. Summers?" "He has eyes like a shark." "He has what, ma'am?" "Never mind."

She reached out to change the station to something less irritating. There was a loud thump and the car suddenly lurched to the right. The idiot following her honked angrily as she fought the wheel for control, she just managed to swerve onto the shoulder and skid to a dusty grating halt a few inches short of the ditch. She turned off the engine and leaned her head against the steering wheel shaking, while cars blew past oblivious.

Once her heartbeat had slowed down to nearly normal she got out of the car to have a look. The car listed to one side where the right front tire had blown out. Shit. Second time in the last two months. She'd been meaning to get the spare fixed for weeks but there never seemed to be enough time.

Joyce looked back along the road the way she'd come but she didn't remember seeing any emergency phones. She looked in the other direction and saw the brightly illuminated Texaco station on Alameda glimmering in the distance. It was open 24 hours and there was bound to be a phone there that she could use to call the AAA. It couldn't be more than half a mile away. She shivered as the spring breeze bit at her through her sweater and blew chilly air up her skirt. Or she could just stay with the car and hope that Sunnydale's finest came by and rescued her, but that could take hours. She went and got her purse out of the car, locked it up and started walking.

She trudged along the narrow shoulder over the broken glass and gravel in her not meant for serious walking shoes and couldn't help thinking that she was in yet another bad-movie scenario: Walking Alone at Night Past the Cemetery. She was pretty sure the grassy darkness to her left was Greenhill Vales, she remembered coming here for Principal Flutie's funeral. Wild dogs; huh. Maybe Cleveland wouldn't have been so bad after all.

They'd been all set to move to Ohio to live with her mother when the job in Sunnydale suddenly opened up, and she'd been so damned grateful. It seemed like the perfect opportunity: the chance to manage a gallery on her own, plus with L.A. only a few hours away Buffy would have a better chance of being able to visit her friends and her father. Now, she's not so sure she made the right choice. She's beginning to suspect that there's something nasty hidden under Sunnydale's shiny surface and she also wondered if maybe Buffy might have been more willing to open up to her Nanna about the things she won't talk to her mother about. Then again, maybe she might have found even more opportunities for acting out in a big city. Well, she'll never know now, nobody ever knows how things might have been different.

The station was farther away than it looked and Joyce was footsore and chilled to the bone by the time she stepped out of the night to be dazzled by the buzzing fluorescent lights. The place seemed deserted, there were no cars at the pumps; the only car in sight was a shiny black 60's behemoth parked by the restrooms. The sign in the window of the cashier's booth said Open but she couldn't see anyone inside and the door to the convenience store was locked. Crap. The attendant must be on a break. The phone booth glowed in its own little halo of light by the air and water on the far end of the lot.

She picked up the receiver and stared in dismay at the multicolored wires spilling out of the cut end. Great. Things just kept getting better and better. Now she'd have to go back to the booth and wait for the invisible man's break to be over so she could ask him/her very nicely to call AAA for her. She turned and froze.

Angel. He stood there blocking her way, too damned close for comfort as he loomed at her with a half smile on his pasty face. The lighting really didn't do anything for his complexion, she thought inanely, the contrast between his pale skin and dark eyes made his face look a little cartoonish, not quite human. "Hey, Joyce, what a surprise meeting you here," he looked genuinely pleased to see her. She smelled alcohol on him; not good. She looked past him, hoping to see someone, anyone else. "We never got a chance to finish our conversation, did we?"

She looked him straight in his dark, cold, eyes. "We don't have anything to talk about Angel," she said using her best Mom voice. "I don't want you coming near Buffy. Stay away from her and me, I meant it about the police. Now, excuse me," she took a step forward and for a bad moment was afraid he wouldn't get out of her way, but he stepped aside gracefully with another little smirk. Did the jerk own another expression? She walked quickly back to the booth aware of him at her back. Where the hell was everyone?

The booth was still deserted. Guess she'd wait. Joyce sighed and rested her elbows on the counter. She could see the pumps and the glaring lights and the payphone reflected in the booth window but oddly Angel was nowhere in sight. Where the hell had he gotten to? The black car must be his. Letting her gaze drift to the side she noticed that the door on the side of the booth was ajar. Strange. She stood up and walked around the corner into the open bay ignoring the 'Customers Not Allowed in Garage' sign. "Hello?" Her voice echoed off the concrete. She reached out for the door handle, and her foot slipped. She looked down at the puddle of dark liquid that had oozed under the door and onto the polished concrete. Must be oil or transmission fluid she thought as she pulled the door open.

Oh God.

The boy lay crumpled on the floor his dead eyes staring at her, his mouth open above the ragged red mess something had made of his throat, like he was trying to tell her something important. Oh God, oh God. Joyce stumbled back retching and fled into the open air, and suddenly Angel was there. She had no time to wonder where he'd come from before his face twisted into something impossible and inhuman. Before she could scream he grabbed her throat with a hand that felt like frozen steel.

"C'mon Joyce, let's go somewhere we can really talk." His eyes were yellow now; more crocodile than shark. She clawed desperately at the fingers cutting off her air as the world faded away.


The demon shrieked as the sword bit into its neck and grabbed uselessly at the retreating blade as Buffy danced out of range. It dropped onto all fours groaning as the poison raced through its body and it started to swell. Buffy turned to run an instant before the demon exploded. She wasn't quite quick enough.

Buffy looked down sadly at her ichor-stained shoes. Darn, she'd just bought them and they were really cute. Maybe they could be cleaned, but previous experiences with demonic fluids didn't give her much hope. And, eww, her top.

Giles came up, only a little out of breath and studied the scene. "Mission accomplished then?"

Buffy nodded. "Demon go kablooie. Willow's thornapple jelly worked as advertised."

"Good. Home then?"

"Yep." They headed back through the once-again peaceful cemetery. Actually, Giles thought, aside from the out-of-towner Threspedal demon they'd just destroyed it had been remarkably quiet. The local demons had been keeping a low profile since apparently the word was out that the Slayer was not in a good mood. Even Angelus seemed to be lying low after the possession incident.

Buffy sighed loudly. "Giles. I'm the Vampire Slayer, right?"

"Yes Buffy, that is your calling." Giles had a foreboding that he knew where this was going.

"Uh-huh, but Giles that was not a vampire that I just killed. Vampires aren't 15 feet tall and when you kill them they go 'poof' and the dust comes out with only a little extra prewash, vampires don't spray green yuck all over you which won't come out of your clothes, ever. I'm telling you Giles, I want more vamps and fewer demons or I'm gonna file a complaint with the Watchers council."

Giles sighed again. "I'm sorry Buffy, but your calling is, if I may quote 'to slay the 'Demons and other dark things' I don't believe there's a set ratio of demons to undead."

"Well how about a clothing allowance?" She glanced over at Giles but saw no hope there. Darn. "Seriously Giles, my mom's going to start noticing if my clothes keep disappearing. This is the second outfit this week. If this keeps up I'm going to end up slaying in a barrel."

"Perhaps if you wore slightly more, er, practical outfits."

"I refuse to let my evil-fighting interfere with my sense of fashion."

"How reassuring to know that you're keeping your priorities in order." When they reached the street and the Citroen Buffy flashed a smile at Giles. "Giles, do you mind dropping me off at the Bronze? I'm meeting up with Willow."

Giles frowned. "Buffy - do you think that's wise? It's been barely a week since Angelus tried to kill you at the school, and he knows that the Bronze is favorite haunt of yours."

Buffy's voice grew a little thinner and sharper. "I know he's out there Giles, - but I need a break. We all do." Her expression hardened to match her voice. "Besides, I don't think he'll show his face. He knows I'm not playing around any more: if I see him, I'll kill him."


"Do you love me?" His ripe wicked plum asked. As though there could ever be any doubt.

"Forever love." He kissed her dainty hand, savoring the taste of rosewater and blood.

"Do you love my insides? The parts you can't see?" Her other hand encircled him in a cool, unbreakable grip. "Eyeballs to entrails, my sweet."

The door slammed open and Spike woke to see Angelus come in with a woman, gagged, hooded, and trussed up neat as a Sunday joint, slung over his shoulder. The mighty hunter strode across the room and dumped her onto Spike's bed, flashing him a satisfied smirk.

"What a night!" he gloated. "Open house at the Beta Phi Kappa frat house, all you can eat. You wouldn't believe how drunk those boys were, gave me quite a buzz. And then on my way home, there she was all alone and undefended like she was waiting for me."

Spike had no clue what he was on about, not that he gave a toss. There was only one thing he wanted to know. "Where's Dru?"

Angelus shrugged. "She went off on her own at the party. I'm sure she'll be along soon."

Spike grimaced, he knew that Angelus was probably right, Dru was back to her full strength after all but he still didn't like the idea of her out on her own with the Slayer at large.

"Somebody down there loves me," Angelus said getting back to the self-love.

Spike tuned him out and had a look at the groceries. The woman was unconscious but reasonably undamaged; he could hear her heart working away pushing all that tasty blood through her untapped veins. She was a bit older than he liked his food but he was willing to make an exception in this instance… Yeah, right mate. Spike returned to reality with a thump. She wasn't here for him; Angelus was as likely to bring him dinner as he was to win the all-American tanning trophy. Deliberately he backed the chair up and put a safe distance between him and temptation before risking a glance at Angelus who was looking at him expectantly.

"So, Spike, gonna say hi, or what?"

"What the hell are you on about?" Hunger made him snappish. "Why so bloody chuffed about bagging some housewife?"

Angelus hauled his catch up into a sitting position and yanked the hood off. Spike knew there was something vaguely familiar about the blondish thirtyish woman sitting there with a dazed expression on her face but it took a moment for the penny to drop; he'd only met her the once, and they'd never been properly introduced. "Bloody hell Angelus!" Spike groaned. "Tell me that's not the Slayer's mum."

Angelus grinned as if he'd done something clever. "What's the problem roller-boy? Afraid she'll use the sharp side on you this time?" He sat on the bed beside her and started playing idly with a strand of her hair. "Let's see, where were we?" She stared at him, eyes wide above the gag. "Oh, sorry, forgot." He pulled a knife out, slashed through the gag and cut the tape on her wrists and ankles for good measure. "Better?"

Spike watched as she took a deep breath and nodded. She was scared, but not nearly as scared as she ought to be.

Angelus played idly with the knife. "So, tell me the truth Joyce, Buffy and me: do you think we have a chance?"

"What do you want?" The woman snapped, not even trying to disguise her hatred. Spike admired both the sentiment and her courage, pity all it would do was get her killed slower.

Angelus' eyes glittered. "I just wanted a chance to talk. And then I'll send you home to Buffy." She jerked as the blade nicked her cheek and the smell of fear and blood blossomed in the air. "…one piece at a time." She watched in disbelief as Angelus licked her blood off the blade.

"'Ere, Angelus…" He stopped talking when the scent of blood hit his starved senses, wiping his brain clear of everything he'd meant to say about why brassing off the Slayer more than she already was might possibly be a bad idea. The woman shuddered as Angelus ran his tongue slowly up the side of her face to capture the slow ooze of blood. He leaned back and smacked his lips. "Delicious. Ooof!"

Spike's jaw dropped when she elbowed Angelus in the gut and bolted. Bloody hell, they didn't make housewives like they used to. She was surprisingly fast; she almost made it to the door before Angelus popped up in front of her like Mr. Punch, gleefully murderous. She tried her best to dodge round him but he reached out lazily and grabbed hold of her arm. The back of her head made a dull thunk when he swung her into the wall and Spike's stomach rumbled at the scent of yet more fresh blood. She groaned and struggled to keep her feet as Angelus loomed over her.

"We're not done yet Joyce," Angelus purred just before he buried his fist in her belly. She doubled over retching and Angelus jerked her up by her hair. "We've barely gotten started." He frog-marched her back to the bed and sat down next to her, draping his arm over her shoulders all friendly-like. "You see, Joyce, what me and Buff had was *special*". She winced as he dug his fingers into her shoulder. "One of those once-in-a-lifetime soulmates forever kinda deal. I haven't been able to show Buffy how much it meant to me - but I figure your desecrated corpse will do for a start." The cut on her cheek was still bleeding and Angelus leaned in for another taste.

"Georgie porgie pudding and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry…" Drusilla danced into the room. She looked radiant despite the fact that her pretty white dress had been spoilt by a scattering of red dots. Angelus smirked at Spike. "Here's our girl. Told you not to worry."

Spike ignored him. "Where've you been luv?"

"I met some lovely big boys at the party; they wanted to play trains with me. Chugga-chugga choo-choo." She licked her lips. "My tummy's all full now."

"Sounds like fun."

"I brought you a prezzie." Dru brought her hands out from behind her back to show him a floppy-eared puppy. "His name is Algy, he's a mascot. I asked him if he wanted to meet you, and he said yes please. Say hello Spike." "Pleased to meet you Algy," Spike said dutifully. Dru beamed as the pup wriggled in her hands. Angelus sniggered. "Now, open wide," Dru crooned holding the wiggling pup up to him. "Yes mum." Spike shifted into his true face with a sigh. Dog again, for the third time this week, but what can you do?

"Dru, come see what Daddy's brought home," Angelus coaxed. Dru left Spike to his meal and drifted over to cock her head at the human. Angelus had hold of her by the back of her neck and was teasing her with the flat of the blade. Her breath came in short terrified gasps as the cold metal slid down her throat, up her cheek, flirted with her eyes and almost but not quite nicked her ear.

"Who is this?" Dru said seriously. "She has such pretty eyes, all full of love and caring. She reminds me of my mummy."

"Lovely woman." Angelus slid the blade under Joyce's blouse and along her collarbone. "Tart, but an excellent finish."

Done with his takeaway Spike tossed the empty into a corner and saw that Dru was now nose to nose with the terrified woman who stared back at her, mesmerized by the sharp nails that hovered dangerously close to her eyes. Angelus had stopped his game for the moment, more interested in seeing what his black-hearted daughter would do. "I can feel the blackness inside her, under the skin…" Drusilla mused.

"Why don't we peel it off and see?" Angelus suggested amiably, instead of agreeing she frowned and recoiled from the human as if she'd been burnt.

"Bitch!" she hissed. Joyce cringed and shut her eyes, trying to make it all go away.

"Dru? What's the matter?" Angelus frowned, confused by the sudden change in her mood.

Drusilla screeched like a scalded cat. "Fire!" She patted frantically at her clothes, swatting at invisible flames. Spike hid a smile, it sounded like she was working herself up for a big one. "She'll burn us all, pretty flames, dancing on our skins…" "Dru, darlin', what the hell are you talking about?" Angelus snapped. "Ashes, ashes, we all fall down…no, no, no. Like this: fire and flame a pillar of ashes, ashes, and run and catch she's caught in the brambles, not a lamb but the Dam - she dies, and we'll burn on her pyre fuel the fire…"

Keeping a straight face, Spike watched as Drusilla babbled on and Angelus' expression went from dark to inside a coal miner's canary. Dru's prophecies were usually more than a touch obscure, but not this one. Last time she'd been this clear there'd been Gypsies involved; no bloody danger of Angelus forgetting that little incident.

Angelus had had enough. With an angry snarl he shoved the woman away from him and threw the knife at Spike before storming out dragging a still hysterical Dru with him. Spike yanked the knife out of the backrest with a grin; now that's what he called entertainment.

The woman lay there with one hand holding her wounded face; her eyes fixed on the door. It looked suspiciously like she was working up the nerve to make another break for it. Their eyes met as she scrambled up into a sitting position and he deliberately rolled his chair to block her path. "None of that then," he warned her. Her eyes narrowed, he could almost hear her thinking. "Yeah, you're right there's not much I could do to stop you, but there are minions out there who'd love a taste of you." None of them would touch a drop without Angelus' permission, but she didn't need to know that.

"Oh," she said. She was staring at him; he thought he saw a flicker of recognition in her eyes. He wheeled over and put out his hand and after a moment she took it.

"Name's Spike. We've met, but I don't think we've been introduced." After a moment's hesitation she shook his hand. "Joyce Summers." Still obviously trying to work out where she knew him from. "'Lo, Joyce." He locked his fingers around hers and let his true face surface. She shrieked and tried to pull free as he leaned forward, the better to savor the sweet fear pouring off her, and let himself pretend that this was the appetizer preceding the feast. Then he made himself pretty again and whispered into her ear. "Sssh," he said. "You don't want him comin' back do you?"

Smart lady - she shut it. He let go of her and she scrambled backwards until her back hit the wall. She huddled there, scared, her heart pounding madly, but she didn't scream again. Spike took a good long look at her. Not a bad looker, for her age. Couldn't say he'd pick her out of a crowd as being related to the Slayer, but if you squinted there was a slight resemblance.

"Wh-what are you?" Her voice was low and ragged. "Your face - it was just like his, he came out of nowhere and he looked like the devil…"

"We're demons. Vampires." "Vampires?" If she was having him on she deserved a bloody Oscar. "Yeah, vampires. The undead. Live on blood, don't tan well? What the Slayer's meant to slay?"

"Sorry, the who?"

"The Slayer. Buffy. Your daughter?" She stared at him blankly. "The one girl in all the world chosen to fight the demons etc. etc.?"

"Buffy? My Buffy?" Well, well, seemed like the Slayer had managed to keep her identity secret from at least one person in this bloody town. He leaned back in his chair and smiled; this was gonna be fun. "Get comfortable luv, Uncle Spike's gonna tell you a story."


Willow waved as Buffy came in. It was Friday night and the Bronze was packed but Willow had managed to hold the table against the envious hordes. "Hey, Willow. Where's everybody?" Buffy asked as she slid in beside Willow.

"Well, The Dingoes have a gig in L.A. tonight. Oz won't be back until tomorrow. Xander cancelled; he's got his Uncle Rory's car for the weekend and he said something about checking out the view from lookout point with Cordelia."

"And what did Cordelia say?"

"She hit him - but she's not here so I'm guessing she decided to check out the view after all."

Buffy shuddered. "I don't even want to think about it… those two are just so wrong."

"Cats and dogs living together, I'm right there with you." They shared a smile.

"So, it's just us tonight. Cool."


Buffy stood. "You continue holding the fort and I'll get us drinks. What do you want?"

Drinks gotten, Willow and Buffy sat and watched the familiar chaos of Friday night at the Bronze: the cliques and singles hanging out, checking each other out, advances made/accepted/rebuffed. After everything that's happened Buffy kinda doubts she'll ever date again. Dancing would be nice, her and Willow could dance just for fun, no entanglement but there's no band tonight, just canned music. She remembered that this whole going out to the Bronze used to be fun, but it's just not doing it for her tonight. Maybe she'll pull out her fake ID and get herself a Breezer. One wouldn't do any harm. Two, even.

Willow took a big swallow of her diet Sprite. "So, how's your mom? You've been out late a lot lately. Big on the patrolling. Has she said anything?"

"Nope. She's still all see-hear-speak no evil."

"I thought you were going to talk to her."

Buffy shook her head. "Yeah, well, changed my mind. Anyway, Giles would have a cow. He's serious about the secret identity thing."

"Yeah, well being serious is kinda his thing. I mean, he's your Watcher and a good guy and everything but face it Buffy, part of him would be happier if you were a lot more like Kendra: family and personality free. You're not her and you don't want to be her. You've got a mom who loves you and you've got to talk to her, she needs to know what's going on with you."

Buffy twisted her straw in half. "Why? She never figured it out back in LA when I was out fighting Lothos every night for weeks, she didn't notice anything wrong till they threatened to charge me with arson. She thinks Angelus is just my slightly disturbed older ex-boyfriend. So I'm thinking, her finding out: probably not a problem. Anyway, she's safer not knowing."

"Uh, how? Angelus was at the house, he nearly got her. If you don't tell her how is she supposed to defend herself?"

"She couldn't defend herself even if she did know. That's my job." Please Willow, let it drop. "When I'm ready, I'll tell her."

Willow gave up. "O.K. Denial Girl, I just hope it doesn't blow up in your face." Buffy gave her best friend a big fake smile. "Thank you for your support."

part 2

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