All About Spike
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Blood Kin
By Nan Dibble

Sequel to Old Blood

SECTION TWO: APPROACHES



Chapter Six: The Boogey Man Credo

Since it was raining, Spike declared it a game night. So they all piled into the SUV, about thirty of them packed like sardines, and spilled out at the Auburn Park soccer field, which had big floodlights at the corners and was the preferred field of combat for Capture the Flag a la Spike.

No use of the hands allowed, except to hold the “flag” itself: a tattered terry washcloth that, wet and muddy, could be balled and thrown and could knock a girl down if she didn’t watch sharp and let it hit her smack in the face.

There were two teams, and the object was to touch the flag to the opposing team’s goal, by any means at all. Pure chaos. Everybody muddy and sliding within minutes. The nearest approximation to mayhem that could be contrived, with no weapons and nobody dying, full-out and frantic. And Spike loved it.

Standing by the SUV under a large red golf umbrella, wearing a bright yellow rainproof poncho, Buffy watched Spike and the SITs getting filthy and having wild fun.

He was beautiful in motion and in his happiness. Wonderful to watch. He’d take a jump, straight up, and it was like watching a skater’s spin: revolving in midair at least 90 degrees, almost infinite hang time, calmly scanning, finding the best receiver faced in his direction and ready, then pitching the wad of cloth hard, overhand or sidearm, before disappearing into the scrum already wheeling and sliding and passing around him, following the flag’s new trajectory and he right at their heels and then overtaking, to trip and deflect and block, opening the way for a run or a further pass. If there was a chance at an interception, he’d somehow find a little more acceleration, another step held in reserve to push off, and bring the rag down one-handed even when it meant coming down hard in the mud with everybody piling on and trying to grab it away.

Running through anybody not quick enough to get out of his way, dumping SITs who would then come up grinning and go right after him again and dump him in turn, if they could. Everybody nearly falling down laughing when somebody took a particularly spectacular spill. Your basic evil monster laughing his head off with a bunch of Potential Slayer girls whose consensus was that he was about the neatest thing since Leo, or whoever teenaged girls considered droolworthy at the moment. And quite a few of them, Buffy noted, very conspicuously not wearing a bra under their soaked upperwear: some because they didn’t need one but most although they did. Rah feminism! didn’t seem an appropriate explanation.

A good part of the time, Spike was in game face. It came and went like simply one of the expressions his face had--like a smile, or a frown. Nobody seemed to notice or care. Any more than they gave any visible notice to the varied and potentially embarrassing wet T-shirt displays of full frontal chestitude. All just intent on the score and the game. Yeah, sure.

When Buffy first set Spike in authority over the SITs, there’d been some vague idea, maybe expressed, maybe only assumed, that as the Slayer, it was beneath her dignity and image as leader to involve herself in the everyday routine of their training. She should stay aloof, distant, and awe-inspiring, what with the dying and the multiple world-saveage and that sort of thing.

Buffy slid the umbrella shut and absurdly tapped water off it before leaning it against the front wheel of the SUV. Then she whipped off her poncho or would have whipped it off if a gust of rainy wind hadn’t tangled it; she wrestled herself free of the poncho, let it fall, and stood revealed in her dangerous lilac sweats with only one knee out , fully bra’d and fortified, and ran onto the field waving her arms, shouting, “New rules! New rules! The short blonde gets to play!”

Everybody looked at her. Well, everybody should have stopped and looked at her but only Spike did and was unfortunate enough to be holding the flag at the moment which meant he got piled on and buried. Getting up, hitching his shoulders irritably, he watched the play proceeding downfield and yelled, :Oi! Here!”

Then everybody stopped and came trotting, trailing, back to find out why he’d called play. It was clear Buffy had left him in sole charge far too long. Anyway, he cheated and yelled simpler things that she did, so of course they noticed. She should have yelled Oi.

The rain had begun to run down her neck and she knew her hair was being plastered flat because everybody’s was except Spike’s, on account of its being quite short and the amount of gel in it.

He folded his arms, giving her that cheerful runt look he knew perfectly well was infuriating and only worked because he was eight inches taller. “So. Slayer. What’d you have in mind?”

Puffing at wet hair did not blow it off your mouth. Buffy picked up the offending strand and laid it aside with immense dignity. Then she had the misfortune to look up into his face, all angled and rain-wet and new because of the floodlights, a whole different arrangement of shadows and as bright almost as daylight: the kind of light she normally never got to see him in; and the corners of his mouth tucking down to confine the smile and not show quite so many teeth. Simply polite. Altogether gorgeous.

“Slayer. You had a thought to share with us, maybe.”

“Oh! Yeah. Two teams. Two captains. My SITs with me, yours with you. And we win.”

“Don’t want much, do you, love?” he said, looking around as the muddy, almost indistinguishable girls divided a different way, roughly half gathering to Buffy’s right, the rest behind him, and space left between.

“It’s only fair that we win because we’re prettier,” Buffy informed him. “And the other new rule is that the role of the captain is to keep the other captain out of play as much as possible.”

His head tilt consulted his team and then hers. “Well, I s’pose that could be worked out. Try it, anyway. Who’s got the rag?”

A tallish girl, maybe Rona, held it high over her head.

He directed, “All right, midfield. Jump-off. Just the captains. Set yourselves now, children. See what the vertically challenged can show us. Rona, you do the toss, all right?”

Spike and Buffy walked to where Rona had gone to stand and set themselves. Buffy had her strategy all ready. When the toss came and Spike sprang up to grab it, Buffy tackled him straight in the middle and brought him down emptyhanded. And the play rolled over them. Buffy got in a good punch to his ribs before she took off after the flag.

Perhaps two hours later, he got her back fair and square in bed.

**********

“My strategy worked,” Buffy informed him smugly, drawing wandering cubist landscapes on his stomach with an idle finger.

“You lost. Four to three.”

“It wasn’t Vi’s fault she didn’t still have the flag when she got there. A natural mistake. Should have been a tie.”

“Wasn’t, though. Give it up, Slayer. My children are prettier. All of ‘em. Combined. Maybe. Not just now, though.”

It got intense again at that point.

“Strategy,” Spike said later, as though that were one of the milder curse words. Lying on his back, he had his left arm up behind, holding one of the brass spindles. Beautiful arm, the smooth sculptural set of the muscles, how everything flowed down to the lifted shoulder. The green spiral of the encircling tattoo.

“Too obvious?” Buffy responded dimly, curled up mostly against his side and chest, his other arm cradling her there.

“Oh, I don’t think the children are in any serious doubt what we get up to. You recollect it’s your subtlety I love you for. That and your strategy. Or mine. Both pretty pathetic, look at it fair.”

“You don’t get extra points for complications…. What.”

“Something of a Dawn moment there, is all.”

“Oh.”

“Put points to everything, no sense whatever to it. Always came out ahead, of course. Which was natural, considering she was the only one kept score.” Big sigh. Some silence, letting that go.

Buffy didn’t give in to her impulse to reach out and stroke the tat: that would have been too pointed, maybe even painfully intrusive. The memories were his. Buffy’d only earned the right to be explained to and try to understand. The right to wear the chain and the charm that let her keep the glimpses he was willing to share: memories locked, somehow, into the serpentine tattoo, so he needed no commonplace charm to be exempted from the ambient forgetting that continually tried to erase every last trace of the not-quite-sister he missed and mourned. Buffy didn’t have the right to claim or intrude on what wasn’t hers and might never be.

As best she could, Buffy tried not to do dumb stuff to him or with him anymore.

After awhile Spike said, “There’s a thing I been thinking about. Dunno if it’s…. Maybe bring it up at the meeting tonight, if you think there’s anything to it. That’s for you to say….”

“Noun, please.”

“Yeah. Getting to that…. Well, the thing is, you recall that Michael. He’s put together a sort of a squad. Cousins. Vamps. Claims to be trainin’ ‘em, like we do the children. Or something like. An’ he wants to put together a joint patrol, so to say. Based at the school, work out from there. Take down Biters, the Turok-han. So nobody has to figure out what the target is, no ugly mistakes. Wants to show off what the cousins can do, pretty much. Said I’d speak to you about it. So now I have. You call it however you feel is best.”

Buffy felt him start to shift: to turn away, put his back to her. “Hey,” she said, and made him know she’d noticed, made him stay. When she felt he’d settled again, she butted her head into his jaw and he hugged her closer a moment and then started petting, resuming the easy dialogue of touch and pace and gesture they seldom got wrong or misunderstood. Almost always right in motion.

“Are you not offering an opinion,” she asked eventually, “because you don’t like the idea? Or because you do?”

“Don’t see too many ways it could be bad, by itself. You and I would be there. Numbers don’t have to be even. One of his lot sets a foot wrong and I’ll do them and Michael both. And he knows that. An’ still wants to try it. Don’t see too much harm in givin’ it a try. But Rupert, he’ll go straight up in the air. We both know that. Dunno about Red, how she’d jump. Don’t think Harris will be all enthused…. Expect Anya won’t care much the one way or the other. Truth to tell, dunno what the children would make of it. They been dusting whatever vamps they came across, and except for me, that’s all they know. Might break something there we couldn’t put right after. Rupert, he won’t come around to it no matter what’s said or decided. So there’s more to consider than just the patrol by itself. An’ it’s gonna come down on you, the rest. That could get to be bad and make things harder. So I figure I’ll just leave it to you and abide the result.”

“And what’s the opinion of the Director of Demon Relations?”

“Hell, yes. Any of the cousins gets dusted, well, it’s not none of the children, now is it? They had their run. If they’re dumb enough to go after Biters, let ‘em. Give ‘em fucking party hats and wave them fond goodbyes. Hell, yes.”

There was the diffidence, Buffy thought. The deference he never failed to show the Slayer. And then there was the knife-edged, unapologetic ruthlessness underneath. That was the demon of it. Of him. No matter what face he was wearing at the moment.

“All right, I’ll think about it. Another thing,” she said. “I don’t think you’ll like it, but just put it on a shelf and look at it once in awhile. See if it grows on you.”

“Don’t want none of that now.”

What he did want, he didn’t have much trouble making clear. And Buffy went along with that for awhile. Then she told him, “Go to game face. I want to see it.”

Poised above her on braced arms, all luminous ivory shining in the candlelight, he turned his head completely aside and didn’t answer her any way at all.

“Do it. Let me see it. Don’t you, can’t you trust me to see it and still know it’s you? Do it, Spike.”

His breathing changed: she’d upset him. Quite a lot. “You don’t want that. An’ I don’t want you to want that.”

“Jealous of it?” she challenged.

“Something like. There’s bints get off on doin’ vamps. Don’t think much of that, actually. Don’t like it.”

Buffy put her hands on his shoulders and started kneading, digging deep. Arguing with her fingers and the connections, flesh to flesh. “Because they think vamps are freaks. And monsters. And that’s scary and sick and off-putting, right? But here I am. And I’ve nearly made myself not just believe but feel that vamps are people. Not human people, but people. And that’s part of you, and I want you to show it to me. Show you to me. Maybe it will be better than you think. Dare you.”

“No, love. Not gonna do that. You want that, you go elsewhere.”

She smacked him, because that remark deserved it. “Dare you. You know you’re gonna give in, when haven’t you given in when I knew it was important? So don’t start doing dumb stuff.”

“No,” he said, and pulled away. Even got out of bed and walked away. Collected his cigarettes off the table and lit one from a candle, giving her his back, his slanted shoulders. Balanced like a dancer.

Buffy pushed up on an elbow, wondering in spite of herself if insisting about this was right and necessary as she’d thought. “You show the children.”

“That’s different. Doesn’t signify. They need to see both the faces. Get accustomed.”

“I need to get--“

“No. Leave off about it. You dunno what’s…operating here. It’s a whole thing, can’t just split off the part you’d like to play with an’ all the rest ain’t there too. Doesn’t work that way. ‘Tisn’t me doin’ the dumb stuff here. Take my word or not, ‘s’all the same. Some things, you nag all you want, ‘s’not gonna happen. Won’t be that to you. So you’d best let it be, find some other game to play.” Then he wheeled around and he had gone vamp-faced: angry, golden-eyed, deeply frowning. Startling and beautiful as the long, supple lines, contained muscular strength, and alien stare of a leopard. “You say to me once that you love me, I might consider it. Not otherwise. No.”

And Buffy leaned back on the pillows and conceded this round. Not that he’d won, but that they’d both lost. Another stalemate.

Spike would mostly compromise but his demon, never. And that’s what she needed to come to terms with. What she needed both of them to be reconciled to. But she accepted that until something changed, that wasn’t going to happen. He wouldn’t risk it, or trust her, partly because he didn’t trust himself. And partly because, with all the changes and despite the fact that there was no one more important in her life, despite all the range of feelings she had for him and how much she needed him in all ways, he knew it wasn’t love and wouldn’t finally be content with anything less or anything else.

She couldn’t sing that tune. Her voice somehow didn’t go up that high. Pretty good on the alto stretches, she thought, but didn’t have that true, clear soprano you couldn’t mistake, once you’d heard it.

He’d turned away again, not waiting for any response or answer, knowing none was coming. He didn’t bring it up often--in fact, hardly ever. But she thought her silence in this one respect was something he was always aware of under and through all lesser silences, and mostly accepted, silent in turn unless forced to put words to it.

“All right, Spike,” she said so quietly nobody but a vampire could have heard her. “All right. Come back to bed now.”

“Not just now, pet. Presently.”

**********

At that evening’s Scooby+Giles and also Anya meeting, after they’d finished the agenda items and most of the snacks, Buffy knocked loudly on the side of the bucket she was sitting on because yelling Oi didn’t seem appropriate. When everybody looked at her, she said, “There’s something else I want to take up. Reconvene in the yard. Don’t want to check the hallway every five minutes for ‘little pitchers.’”

Hand in the chips bowl, Xander looked around the front room. “Sal Maglie’s here? And we’re keeping secrets from him because…?”

“The variety with ears, Xander,” said Giles, in his pedantic Giles-y way, balancing his drink while he got up from the couch. From his own flask, since proper Watchers didn’t do half-strength tepid red Kool-Aid.

“All right,” Xander responded argumentatively, carrying the chips bowl possessively against his chest, “what kind of pitchers don’t have ears?”

“Van Gough pitchers at the Louvre?” Willow proposed, trotting along behind with the dip bowl and the paper plate of radishes.

Xander said, “Score one for Willow punnage.”

At the same time Anya, who’d latched onto Xander’s left arm, said, “I met a client at the Louvre once, right by the statue of Fame. Naked, naturally--the statue, not the client. Perched on one foot and looked like a naked woman with some grey disease, maybe leprosy though that’s more silver, trying to write on a high chalkboard. But the chalk-looking things are actually trumpets. Not everybody knows that, but there’s a plaque. Well, this client….”

Anya’s brisk prattle diminished as the procession followed Giles into the kitchen and then presumably out, by the squeak-smack of the door.

Buffy and Spike traded a look. She noticed he already had his cigarettes in his hand. He was politely waiting for her to go so he could follow. Rearguard to the dangerous business of getting from the front room to the back yard. If she sat back down now he would too, except he wouldn’t smoke.

At times like this, Buffy realized all anew how profoundly weird her friends and associates were.

When Buffy went out the back door, Spike turned and pointedly shut both doors, inner door and storm door, in Andrew’s hopeful face. Then Spike went down the steps and folded crosslegged on the grass off by the lilac bush. Willow had collected a plastic tray-table for the assorted snacks and everybody but Anya, still recounting her tale of her Louvre Vengeance client, were opening and positioning lawn chairs. When she found everybody seated but her, Anya set her beady-eyed stare on Xander, who dutifully surrendered his chair to her and went off to get another for himself.

Buffy sat down on the top step of the porch--nearly always the unofficial podium. Except when Spike held court: he always preferred to be at ground level and a little to the side and the back. Lurking and watching even at gatherings he himself had called.

Buffy rubbed her hands on the knees of her jeans. Not that her hands were sweaty or anything. She just felt like doing it.

“OK,” she said, “here’s the what. Next item of business is the Boogey Man Credo. According to the late and highly unlamented--by me--Council of Watchers, vampirism is a loathsome affliction, a form of demonic possession in which the soul is ejected. These soulless monsters are all evil from the get-go and enemies of humanity. They should be put out of our misery as quick as possible and by any means necessary. Any dispute or discussion on this?” She was looking straight at Giles.

“No,” Giles said. “Ignoring the sarcasm, that’s fundamentally correct.”

“That’s fundamentally bullshit, Giles. And I hope you know it, because I certainly do. And I have for quite a while but not nearly long enough. For centuries, Slayers were children, and that definition is intended to frighten children. And no Slayer ever had the chance to grow up or question it. I have, and I do. Maybe the Watchers knew better. I hope they did. Because I’d rather have them hypocritical than utterly, irredeemably stupid.”

“There is,” Willow commented, frowning thoughtfully, “a pronounced resemblance to ‘The only good (hostile minority of choice) is a dead (hostile minority of choice).’ I know if I heard that now for the first time, it would probably set off my bullshit detector. Very non-PC.”

Buffy said, “We now have in our custody most if not all of the Potential Slayers in the world. Young and gullible and scared, just like I was when I first became the Slayer and swallowed it all whole and spit it back on request. I am not gonna repeat that crap to them. And I’m gonna insist that nobody else does, either. But there needs to be something in its place and I don’t have anything like that. So I want us all to put our heads together and come up with a new definition that sets out the true relation between humanity in general, and the Slayer in particular, to the cousins.” Deliberately, she choose Spike’s word, and Willow and Xander traded blank glances.

“Vampires,” said Anya. “Slang.”

“More than slang,” Buffy said. “Because every single vampire there is started out as human. I accept that they’re not anymore. But they were, and most of ‘em remember. These aren’t bug-eyed Martians from Andromeda--”

Spike couldn’t resist drawling, “Didn’t know the Martians had colonized Andromeda, pet.”

Buffy rolled on, after a quelling, pointed glance, “They have pretty much the same wretched senses of humor as the rest of us. They tell stories and sing songs. Maybe the stories are a little on the gruesome side, but some kids seem to like that.” Buffy was thinking of Dawn, what Spike had told her, but didn’t want to get off track explaining that and therefore didn’t say so. She was pretty certain he’d caught it, though. “They have homes, and friends. They can love and do, some more faithfully than others. There are smart ones and stupid ones, brave vamps and cowards. Some of them love music, especially if it’s loud. Some may get off on string quintets, for all I know. Despite the lack of a human soul, which I think we all will agree on except for certain special cases, they can and do give their word and then keep it, come hell or high water. Can’t do that without some kind of sense of honor. They’re much more like us than they are different, so I have no problem calling them cousins because that’s pretty much what they are. A different branch of the family; but if they’re monsters, they’re our monsters. And whatever we say about them should be true to that. True to what we actually know about vampires. We don’t have to settle this all tonight, but I thought we could make a start and then everybody get together a draft and we’ll talk about it again next time. Who wants to start?”

“I will,” said Spike, and everybody looked at him as if vaguely uneasy about what he might say. “Red, you got a notebook?”

Willow lifted and displayed it, nodding.

“Don’t necessarily need to write this down,” Spike said, finally lighting the cigarette he’d been holding. “But might be somebody will say something worth it. Doubt it, but it’s possible. An’ that occasion should be memorialized….Overall, vamps are a lot more independent than humans. Don’t need much and don’t depend on one another for it like you have to. Get a good lair to rest, then hunt maybe every couple, three days. Find some poor idiot and eat ‘em, drain ‘em. Do something else, the rest of the time. Play poker, maybe. Follow sports, maybe. Gossip. Vamps are terrible gossips. But that’s not important enough to write down…. Let’s see, what else. We live on blood, that’s common knowledge. Can eat other things for the fun of it and can make do for awhile with animals, but that don’t satisfy and it tastes really putrid from a carcass or preserved. It’s not the blood itself that signifies--it’s the life in the blood. We feed on life, and blood is only how the life is carried. Most people don’t seem to understand that, including those who should. And the closer that life is to us, the more we get out of it. So there’s not much life to be had, for a vamp, in a cat. Or a rat. Or a pig. Soon or late, it has to be human blood, and the person alive while the vamp feeds. So vamps are always gonna prey on people, on humans.

“However, to feed, there’s no requirement to kill. Can get by quite nice, for quite a long time, doin’ just little sips now and again. We don’t specially like killing, except some of us, just mean that way. Not all of us. Not all the time. When that happens, that’s about the power, not about the blood. In Europe, Middle Ages and maybe before for all I know, there were vampire knights, basically appointed assassins, lived at the courts and got on there quite well--never killed anybody local, just whoever they got aimed at. Met one once in Bavaria or Lichtenstein, I forget, and he told me, and I got no reason to doubt it. A good arrangement, and it worked in that instance for a couple centuries, each new ruler inherited him and his services, all regular an’ everybody satisfied. Name of Geoffrey, with a ‘G,’ I think it was. Think maybe that got written down some places. Likely you could find it, Rupert, if you cared to.

“So vamps and humans are always gonna be at odds. But it’s not necessarily a kill or die situation for you lot. There are negotiations possible. There have been arrangements in the past, and now, even, that I know about. Knew one chap in New York lived with a lady all of fifty years. Drank from her only a little, and only when she said: just how they did, that pleased them. Then she died, of course, and he started killing everything in sight, mostly laired in Central Park, and finally got dusted by the Slayer was there at the time. But that’s a different story.

“Ain’t sayin’ anything except that it’s not so absolute as Watchers would have you believe. It depends. That’s about what I have to say. Haven’t said anything except what’s true. Somebody else can take a try now based on bugger-all and I’ll try not to laugh too hard.”

Xander hurriedly finished chewing chips, gesturing. “Write this down, Will: Vamps are scary and annoying and talk too much.”

Willow dutifully added that to her summary.

Xander said, “And how about the demon?”

Eyes on her notebook and writing as she spoke, Willow said, “Demon is the wrong word. Animus, animating spirit, would be closer. Essentially, it seems to be a kind of symbiont capable of being propagated into a new host from an existing one under conditions of near-complete exsanguination.” She used her pen top to scratch the side of her nose. “In the Middle Ages, when the first descriptions of vampires we have were written down, demonic possession was probably the only way people could think about it. But that’s the wrong paradigm. Neither a demon nor possession is really involved. Anyone can be possessed at any time whereas the conditions for transmitting an animus are very limited and specific. It’s an inhabiting, animating spirit, and it’s there to stay. You can’t exorcise a vampire and get the human back, for instance, but that can work with possession. An actual permanent and predictable physical change results. Possession isn’t like that. The religious vocabulary is outdated, inefficient, inaccurate, misleading, and mostly wrong. More Boogey Man Credo. Does that sound OK, Spike?”

Spike shrugged. “Demon’s always been good enough for me. Have to get the pup, that Andrew, if you want to get into the Star Trek Trill routine.”

“Oh!” said Xander. “The Trill! Except no: no spots. And Jadzia Dax is a whole lot prettier.”

“Give it a rest, Harris.”

Buffy looked over at Spike. “Spike, if you can, give me a yes, no, or maybe on this. Are vampires automatically allied with evil? Should I assume any vamp, if given a chance, is gonna do what the First wants him to?”

“Damn well not. We like bein’ our own dogs, don’t take well to orders from anybody, ever. I told that Michael, organizing vamps to do damn near anything is about like herding cats.”

“Make up your mind,” put in Xander. “Dogs or cats?”

“Oh, an’ I s’pose you never tried to jam two metaphors together, Mr. I-never-went-to-college-because-they-didn’t-offer-scholarships-for-bein’-a-git?”

Willow put up a tentative hand. Across Xander and Spike’s bickering, she asked, “Michael?”

“All right,” said Buffy briskly, “that’s enough of that discussion for now. I want some sort of statement, no more than three or four sentences, from each of you by the next meeting. If you can, run off copies and circulate them in advance.”

“That’s homework!” Xander protested.

“Tough. Do it anyway, Xander. Which brings us to the last point. Michael is a vamp. A cousin. Spike knows him but doesn’t vouch for him in any way, shape, or form. Just a guy. Right, Spike?”

“About that, yeah.”

“And he’s made us a proposition. He’s recruited, or chosen, or whatever he’s done, some vamps willing, nay eager, to wipe out some Turok-han, that they call ‘Biters,’ which is certainly appropriate. Biters, it seems, have been disrupting Sunnydale’s vampire population nearly as much as they have the daylight taxpayers we all know and love and try to protect. And Mike wants to fight. He’s proposed a mixed patrol of SITs and his own…people?… And I’ve decided to try it, with all appropriate safeguards anybody wants to propose. Xander.”

“First proposal: stay home.”

“Thanks, Xander, I knew I could count on you. Next?”

Willow said, “I’d want to read them. Nothing personal, just general intentions. They gonna go for that, Spike?”

“Maybe. Specially if you don’t go walkin’ around in their heads in your great heavy boots like you do. Don’t see why we’d even need to tell ‘em, except if that’s your requirement.”

“Yeah.” Willow smiled at her notebook a bit wryly. “Consent’s important. I try to cross all the I’s and dot all the T’s, all regular and proper.”

“Probably could be worked out. If they won’t do what Michael tells ‘em on a thing like that, he should probably go ahead and dust ‘em anyway, they’re not gonna be no use. So, yeah, that can be managed.”

Calmly and deliberately, Giles set his glass on the table, rose, and walked out to the street to his car. Got in and drove away.

Spike remarked, “Well, there’s that county heard from.”

Buffy sighed. “About what I expected. But he has a right to have his say, even if that means I have to pry it out of him. So not looking forward to that.”

“When,” Spike asked.

“I’ll need a few days. For Giles. And to think out the best way to tell the SITs. I figure that’s yours, Spike: you know them best. And it would be best coming from you. But I’ll sit in, whatever you want. We can figure that out later. Say Saturday. That’s a busy night, lots of people out. Good hunting, I imagine. We’ll do it Saturday.”

“Good enough,” said Spike, and rose. “I’ll tell Michael, then. Mark is the school, toward Willy’s. Just past sundown, to give Red time an’ time for anything else anybody figures is called for.”

“All right.”

Spike too headed for the street, swung a leg over his bike, and a second later was off, the raw noise of the unmuffled engine slowly fading.

“Well,” said Willow, looking for a final unbroken chip in Xander’s bowl. “That will certainly be interesting. I assume I’m invited?”

Buffy nodded. She thought they’d probably end up with more spectators than patrol, but maybe that would be for the best. Whatever happened, everybody would see it. And that would probably eliminate most, if not all, the possible ways things might develop from there. Then, they’d know.


Continued in Chapter Seven: The Productions of Time

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