orchidluv (orchidluv) wrote in bloodclaim,
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orchidluv
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Nothing the Same, Book 3, Ch. 3/?

Nothing the Same, Book 3
Chapter: 3/?
Pairing: S/X
Rating: PG13 - NC-17 Individual chapters will carry specific warnings.
Feedback & concrit: yes, please
Disclaimer: don't own them, never will, just playing with them
Spoilers: Anything from Season 1 on. 
Summary: sequel to Nothing the Same & Nothing the Same, Book 2
Previous parts here

Chapter Three

“Whoa!”

Standing one step inside the door with a stack of boxes in his arms, Xander stared around him in shock.

“I know, isn’t it great?” Buffy grinned at him and took the boxes, dropping them carelessly onto the floor.

Unencumbered now, Xander turned around slowly, taking it in. “Who’d you have to bribe to get a room like this?”

Buffy’s dorm room was big and light-filled and so far beyond what Xander dimly thought of as a typical dorm room that he couldn’t believe it. “Aren’t dorm rooms supposed to be small and cramped so you can immediately begin thinking about moving off campus and out of the administration’s hair? Seriously, two closets? Who designed this room - Cecil B. DeMille? You could house the entire cast of The Ten Commandments in here.”

Buffy threw a pillow at him. “Exaggerate much?” He caught it and threw it back at her and she tossed it onto the bed. “Still, it’s way better than I thought it was going to be.”

“Any sign of a roomie yet?”

“Nope.” She looked around the room, her brow furrowing. “That means it’s ok if I choose my side of the room, right?”

Xander gave her a pointed look. “You’re asking me? Non-college guy here - I don’t know dorm room etiquette. For what it’s worth - I’d go with first come, first served.”

“The classics, huh? Works for me. You willing to do the fetching up from the truck part of this operation? I don’t want it to be too obvious that I can heft way too many boxes at once.”

“Just as long as that’s not a ‘Slayer’s don’t haul boxes’ thing.”

“What?”

He waved a dismissive hand. “Forget it. I’m happy to be your Sherpa - they’re the ones who haul stuff, right?”

“I think they only do it in the mountains.”

“Do stairs count?” When Buffy mock glared at him, he laughed and made a shooing motion with both hands. “Go, choose a side. I’ll bring your stuff up.”

“Thanks, Xander.”

“Not a problem.”

And it wasn’t. Heading back down the stairs to the pick-up he’d borrowed from one of his customers, Xander was enjoying himself. It had taken an hour or so at Buffy’s house while she fussed with last minute details and he loaded up anything she pointed out to him as going. Mrs. Summers had been there, asking Buffy if she’d remembered to pack this doohickey, or had marked that one for storage and generally been as anxious and excited as Buffy. He’d tactfully gone out and waited by the truck as they said their goodbyes.

Leaning against the truck in the rising heat of the late morning sun, Xander fought back a wave of almost overwhelming envy. He hadn’t seen his own parents since the week after graduation. He’d stopped by their house to see how they were doing and had regretted it almost immediately. His father had looked up from the tv just long enough to warn him against trying to move back in with them, saying that, now that Xander was 18, he’d have to pay rent if he wanted to move back in. His mother had tried to welcome him, sitting down with him at the kitchen table and asking how he was. But there were so many things he couldn’t talk to her about: Spike, being gay, the Mayor, anything of any importance in his life, that he’d found himself answering in vague generalities. The worst part was, she’d accepted them and hadn’t pressed for any details. Her speech had been just slurred enough to tell him that she was well on her way to being drunk and he’d left after fifteen very uncomfortable minutes. Neither of his parents had asked him to stay.

“Xander? Ready to motor?”

Buffy’s voice had brought him out of his dark thoughts and he shook his head to clear it. “Got everything?”

“Don’t you start. Like I just told mom, I’ll come back for anything I missed. That’s why I’m moving today.”

Buffy had decided to move into the dorm room on Saturday, giving her all weekend to settle in and get to know the campus. Despite having explored the campus a couple of times over the summer, she didn’t know where her classes would be held yet or even which ones she’d gotten. Apparently, final registration for classes was on the first day of school.

Given the traffic in the hallways of the dorm, a lot of kids had evidently made the same decision. The dorm rooms were furnished with all the basics, so mostly Xander was moving boxes, although he did take particular care with Buffy’s weapons’ trunk. Dropping it and scattering stakes, axes, crossbows, and bottles of holy water down the stairs was sure to bring unwanted attention. There was a lot of checking each other out going on as people passed each other on multiple trips up and down and Xander cheerfully did his fair share of it. Stevenson Hall was co-ed and there was a lot of eye candy of both sexes going past him with suitcases, trunks, and armloads of boxes. He was amused that he was being checked out by the students as much as he was checking them out himself. Apparently nothing about him screamed ‘Townie’.

He had all of Buffy’s stuff upstairs in no time and spent the next hour sitting on the bed that Buffy had decided was going to be her roommate’s, watching Buffy put things away and offering unsolicited and usually ignored advice about where they should go.

When the room was pretty much in order and the boxes broken down and carried back down to the truck, seeing the somewhat lost look on her face, Xander took Buffy out for a late lunch. They walked to the edge of campus and found a predictable row of sandwich and burger type restaurants. Choosing one at random, they snagged an empty table in the crowd of students and parents lingering over lunch and sat down with their submarine sandwiches.

“Clearly, you’re not going to starve if the dorm food is inedible,” Xander volunteered after a bite into one of the enormous sandwiches this place served. “This is good.”

Buffy picked at hers half-heartedly and didn’t answer. After a minute, Xander said: “It’s really not that bad. I’m just a phone call away. So’s your mom and Giles. Willow’s on line any time you need her.”

Buffy gave him a quick smile. “I know, and I appreciate it. I’m being silly. I don’t know why it feels like I’m being abandoned.” She picked up her sandwich and took a bite, chewing slowly. Xander suspected a deliberate stall, so he waited her out.

“It’s ridiculous, I’m the one who wanted to go to college. God knows I argued with Wesley about it enough times. I wasn’t even really disappointed that I’m going to Sunnydale U. It’s a good school. I guess I just didn’t expect I would be all alone here. Plus, I have to be secret identity gal all over again, which is weird. It’s been kind of nice this summer, having a bunch of people I can talk to about slaying.”

“That’s why you’re off duty this week,” Xander reminded her. “So you can get used to the college thing without worrying about making up excuses for sneaking out at night and missing all the good parties.”

It wasn’t the reason actually, it was just a side benefit, but he figured Buffy really didn’t need to know that. Something Spike had said earlier had gotten him to thinking. After overhearing one of Buffy’s anxious phone calls, Spike had remarked in passing that, if Buffy didn’t pull it together, she wasn’t going to live to mid-terms. Xander had thought hard about everything Spike had said during their training sessions about how confidence affected performance. The end result of his musings was that he’d gone to Giles and Sgt. Morgan and Mr. Olsen and asked them to take Buffy off patrol entirely the first week of school. They’d agreed with him and Giles had been particularly grateful. Xander suspected that Giles second guessing himself coddling his Slayer was the reason he’d not asked the volunteers himself. Xander was just glad he was free to be a friend and not responsible for deciding what was best for the Slayer.

They’d presented the idea to Buffy as a gift and a done deal. She’d protested at first but it was pretty clear her protest was for form’s sake and that she’d been grateful that she wouldn’t have to deal with patrolling during her first week of classes.

“Because you’ll undoubtedly have a great deal of homework, as well as needing to spend time getting to know your roommate,” Giles had said glibly and mostly truthfully. “We’ll make similar arrangements during your mid-term and final examinations.”

Reminded of her vacation, Buffy took another bite of her sandwich. “I suppose everyone else is feeling just as disoriented as I am,” she said, like she was trying to convince herself.

“Exactly,” Xander said encouragingly. “It’s not like when you moved here and you were the only new kid in school. Every freshman is new, you’ve got lots of company.”

“Thanks, Coach.” Despite the light tone, Buffy’s eyes were grateful as she applied herself to finishing her sandwich.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Harris! You’ve got company.”

Xander stepped out of the nearly completed building in response to the yell and to his surprise saw Buffy waiting for him. Buffy was obviously half-flattered and half-irritated by the attention she was receiving, topped off by a loud wolf-whistle from Greg, who took the code of the construction worker a bit too much to heart.

“Can see why you’ve been keeping this at home, Harris,” one of the guys called down from the roof.

“Sorry, she’s just a friend. But thank you for playing,” he called back, steering Buffy off to one side of the construction site where there wasn’t any work going on.

“What was that about?” she asked curiously, glancing back at the guys who were still eyeing her halter top and short skirt appreciatively.

“They thought you were my girlfriend.”

“Your girlfriend?”

He shrugged at her surprised look. “Don’t look at me. They all know I’m dating someone, just not who. Construction workers aren’t necessarily known for their tolerance of alternate lifestyles so I haven’t actually mentioned that I’m dating a guy.”

“Not to mention a demon,” Buffy pointed out with an amused look.

So not going there either,” Xander admitted. “What’s up? Not that it’s not good to see you but shouldn’t you be doing the class thing about now?” Classes had started on Monday and it was only Wednesday. What on earth was Buffy doing here?

“I don’t have any classes this afternoon and I haven’t ever visited you at work and Giles is freaking me out and mom filled my room with boxes and…”

“…and stop. Slow down and back up one. Why is Giles freaking you out?”

“I stopped by his apartment and…” Buffy looked embarrassed and mildly disgusted, like she’d walked in on Giles naked or… oh. He grinned suddenly.

“You met Olivia, didn’t you?”

“She was wearing his shirt!”

“So?”

“She was wearing only his shirt!”

Xander started laughing, he couldn’t help himself. Buffy smacked him. “You can’t tell me you don’t find that creepy,” she insisted. “He’s old, he’s not supposed to be answering the door in the middle of the day having just gotten out of bed with his hottie.”

“Come on, Buffy. Cut him some slack. She’s gorgeous.”

Buffy glared at him. Ok, that probably hadn’t been the right thing to say. “It’s not like he’s cradle robbing or sleeping around or anything. They’ve known each other for like 20 years.”

“How do you know that?” she asked suspiciously.

“I talked to her. She’s really nice.”

Buffy made a face. “Maybe, but I bet you wouldn’t have sat down for tea and cookies if you’d walked in on them naked,” she said grumpily.

“No, that might have been a bit much,” he acknowledged. Not that the Olivia half of that wasn’t a nice picture… Clearing his throat, he shut down that thought before it took him places he didn’t want to go. Looking at Buffy more closely, he asked: “Buffy, what’s the what here?”

“I’m killing time until my roommate goes to her afternoon class,” she admitted sheepishly after a minute.

Xander just looked at her, eyebrows raised, and she sighed. “I know, so very lame.”

“I’m sorry she’s getting on your nerves so much but, much as I hate to say this…”

“You need to get back to work,” Buffy finished for him. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have come to your job.”

“Always good seeing you, but maybe after hours next time?” He felt bad that he couldn’t spend time with her but she really did need to figure out that he was a working person now. “Maybe you could go visit your friend Eddie or study in the library or something until she’s gone.” And when did he turn into a grownup?

“Right. This is me, putting on a better attitude.”

“It looks good on you,” he said loyally.

Buffy was still floundering a little in college, severely disappointed in her relentlessly perky roommate, overwhelmed by the size of the campus and the classes with 100+ students in them, but she’d made a friend or two and it was only her third day. She’d be fine. And he really didn’t want to be fired. “Call me tonight,” he said, wishing there was something he could do for her but not knowing what.

“Will do. Now, don’t you have a job waiting for you?” Buffy smiled up at him and left, picking her way across the dusty ground in her very non-sensible shoes and ignoring the whistles and cat-calls that broke out again.

“Harris!”

“Coming, Chief,” he called, trotting across the site to where he was supposed to be.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Xander’s cell phone rang and he pulled it out and glanced at the caller ID. It was Buffy. He grimaced and thought about ignoring it but sighed and answered it before it went to voice mail.

“Hey, Buff, what’s up?”

Actually, he didn’t really need to ask. Buffy had begun calling him two and three times a day to complain about her roommate, Kathy. Xander hadn’t met Kathy yet and he was getting really curious about her. No one could be as bad as Buffy made out. Until he met Kathy for himself, he was reserving judgment on whether she really was the most annoying person on earth or if Buffy was seriously losing it. He was kind of leaning towards the Buffy losing it theory himself. The things she was complaining about were incredibly petty: the way Kathy sharpened her pencils and the way she flossed her teeth and the way she borrowed Buffy’s clothes. Granted, Buffy was an only child but so was Xander, it didn’t seem like a good enough excuse for going nuts over trivial stuff. Especially after only five days. Maybe it was a guy thing, but he didn’t remember having problems adjusting to living with Spike. Of course, he admitted with an inward grin, letting Buffy ramble on without really listening, the mind-blowing sex probably had helped ease the transition.

Giles was also becoming worried about the way Buffy was acting. Buffy had reported being attacked by a demon on campus earlier this week. She hadn’t even been patrolling, just out walking to get away from her roommate. The demon had gotten away, thanks to Kathy following Buffy - which really ought to teach Buffy to come up with better excuses than going out for coffee - didn’t students live on caffeine? - but fortunately Kathy apparently hadn’t seen anything that made her question Buffy’s hastily concocted story of a mugger after her purse. Giles hadn’t recognized the species from Buffy’s description and was looking into what kind of demon it had been, concerned because Buffy had told him she was having strange dreams involving blood and scorpions and some other seriously creepy imagery. Giles thought the dreams might be related to the demon since they began that same night.

Buffy had run into the demon Wednesday night and by Friday, her complaints about Kathy were escalating to scary new levels. Willow had emailed him from England - Giles was still hopeless about checking his email - reporting that Buffy’s messages had turned into rants about Kathy and she was beginning to be afraid that Buffy might actually hurt Kathy. Xander had emailed her back, letting her know that he and Giles were working on whatever was going on, but neither of them were sure what to do. Xander had suggested Buffy go home for the weekend, but apparently Joyce had filled Buffy’s bedroom with overflow storage from the art gallery and, in any case, Buffy was stubbornly refusing to give up the room to Kathy. Which pretty much meant Xander was talking to her on the phone several times a day and trying to talk her down from the ledge.

Fortunately, he didn’t need to contribute much to the conversations, just making sympathetic noises and saying “uh huh” a lot as Buffy went on and on about Kathy’s latest evil doings. He was tempted to just tell her to get over it and deal already but he was afraid that if she didn’t have someone to vent to she might do something that she’d regret later. Assuming Giles’ theory that she may be possessed wasn’t true. Sighing, knowing Spike was going to be upset, he said: “Buffy, you really need to get out of the dorm for a night. Why don’t Spike and I meet you at the Bronze tomorrow?”

Hanging up, he wondered how he was going to explain this to Spike. Maybe he and Spike could be good cop-bad cop. Spike could tell Buffy to shut up and Xander could be sympathetic.

Might work.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The fucking Bronze again. The Slayer was seriously beginning to annoy him. She’d spent the first week of school angsting over her classes and her roommate and how overwhelmed she was feeling. Xander had gone above and beyond: comforting her, encouraging her, listening to her as she alternately rhapsodized and complained about college life. She was bloody lucky that the demons had volunteered to take patrol for her for the entire first week of school to let her get adjusted. As off her game as she’d been, a fledge would’ve gotten lucky and taken her out the first night.

Now, when she’d finally made a friend or two and stopped freaking out over how different everything was, Xander had to go and invite her to meet them at the Bronze.

“Where the hell is she?” he groused. “Rude to leave us sitting here.”

Xander laughed at him. “Like you’re Mr. Punctuality.”

“I’m worth waiting for,” Spike reminded him loftily.

“Yeah, you are.” Xander’s answer came in a husky purr and Spike slid a hand into his hair and pulled him close, kissing him urgently.

“Let’s leave the bloody Slayer and get out of here,” he murmured huskily against Xander’s lips.

“Can’t, sorry.” Xander did look regretful but before Spike could try to convince him, Buffy’s voice sounded from behind them.

“Sorry I’m late, guys, my roommate decided she wanted to tag along.”

Spike looked around curiously, hearing the open hostility in the Slayer’s voice. He felt Xander’s alert attention as he looked over at the slender, dark-haired woman smiling tentatively at them from beside the Slayer.

“Hi, Kathy, right?” Xander was on his feet, hand outstretched, smiling warmly at the woman who smiled back at him.

“Right. And you are?” Oh bloody hell, perky didn’t even begin to cover this one.

“I’m Xander and this is Spike.”

Spike just cocked his head to one side without saying anything, studying her warily.

“Hi, Spike!” she said brightly. “This is just the greatest place. I’m so glad I came along. I don’t know many of the places in town yet. I’m still just trying to find my way around campus.” She giggled and Spike lifted an eyebrow.

“Like the Bronze, do you?” he asked contemptuously.

“So, can I get you two ladies something to drink?” Xander offered hurriedly.

“I’m not old enough to drink,” Kathy giggled again and Spike rolled his eyes in disgust.

“Neither am I,” Xander answered cheerfully. “And sadly, they card here. I was pretty much just offering to get you something of the non-alcoholic variety.”

“Oh, sorry. Silly of me. A coke would be super.”

“One coke coming up. Buff? Anything for you?”

“Just a mocha, thanks, Xander.”

“So, how’s school working out for you?”

Buffy opened her mouth to answer but Spike continued gazing steadily at the roommate, making it clear the question was aimed at her.

“Everything’s just super neat. I can’t get over how friendly almost everyone is.”

Spike was intrigued by the sly glance she shot at Buffy, obviously wanting him to draw the conclusion that Buffy was the exception to her statement.

“Yeah, town’s funny that way. You think everything’s just small town friendly, then someone just ups and stabs you through the heart.”

Buffy gave him an “are you kidding me” look and said hastily: “He means stabs metaphorically, of course.”

He smirked at her but didn’t answer as Xander returned with their drinks and an apologetic glance at Spike. Bloody idiotic bartender wouldn’t even let Xander fetch his well-over-age partner a beer. “So, Kathy, tell us about yourself.”

“There’s not much to tell. I’m from Nebraska originally, and this is the furthest I’ve ever been from home. I’ve dreamed of going to college for so long.”

Spike was beginning to understand the hostility the Slayer was broadcasting. Her roommate’s incessant cheeriness was bloody annoying. If she giggled one more time, Spike was going to kill her. Course, it was kind of fun to see the Slayer so riled up.

Xander tried, but even he was having a hard time talking to the Chatty Kathy doll. He was reduced to listening intently to the band and making small talk about the music between numbers. Spike didn’t bother helping him out, having settled down to enjoy the Slayer’s barely contained irritation.

It took a while but it finally seemed to sink in to Kathy that she wasn’t making friends. She finished her drink and stood up. “I should really be getting back to the dorm,” she announced. “Thanks so much for the drink.”

Xander stood with obvious reluctance. “I’ll walk you back.”

Spike lost any lingering sense of amusement at the situation and shot out a staying hand. “No!” Bloody fucking chivalrous instincts were going to get Xander killed one day, he thought wrathfully, not for the first time.

“Spike?” Xander looked confused. “Do you want to come with? I thought you and Buffy might want to… stay and blow of a little steam together,” he hinted.

“That’s actually a really good idea. Are you up for it, Spike? I could really use a good… game of pool,” Buffy finished somewhat lamely for Kathy’s benefit.

“All well and good for you to be doing the ‘let’s all get along thing’, Slayer” Spike said sharply. “But I’m not trusting her with my boy.”

“That’s just Spike’s nickname for Buffy,” Xander said hurriedly to Kathy, whose eyes were sliding back and forth between Buffy and Spike with avid curiosity. “She’s a killer at pool.”

“What are you talking about, Spike?” Buffy’s voice overlapped Xander’s, glaring at Spike for calling her ‘Slayer’ in front of her roommate.

“She’s not human,” Spike said flatly. “Don’t know what she is, but you’re not going off alone with her, Xander.”

“She’s not?” Xander looked at Kathy in surprise, but not alarm. Typical.

“I KNEW IT!” Buffy exclaimed triumphantly. “I knew there was something off about you.” Vindicated, she glared at Kathy. “What are you and why are you pretending to be human?”

“What are you talking about? You…you’re all crazy.” Kathy started backing away and the Slayer pounced, grabbing her and yanking her to a stop.

“Buffy,” Xander said warningly, “lots of people around.”

“What are you going to do, Buffy?” Kathy hissed, jerking her arm free to the Slayer’s obvious surprise. “Attack me in front of this many witnesses? Prove to everyone that you’re as crazy as I’ve been saying.”

“Guys, how about we take this outside before we scare the natives,” Xander said nervously, looking around at the people who were beginning to watch the furious exchange.

“Let ‘em go, Xander. Could be fun. And if they destroy the place, well - bonus,” Spike put in. Although he spoke lightly, he pulled Xander back from the two women, not wanting him to be in the middle if they got into it.

“Outside works for me. Let’s go, Kathy. It’s share time.” The Slayer sounded gleefully homicidal in a way Spike hadn’t heard her talk before. She grabbed her roommate’s arm and began pulling her towards the door. Spike’s eyes narrowed as he watched the rapid calculation in the woman’s dark eyes, saw the nearly instantaneous decision not to resist.

“Spike, come on.”

“Not our business, Xander.” Even as he said it, he knew it was useless.

“Of course it is. Something’s up with Buffy, she’s not acting like herself.” Xander gave him one of his ‘this is non-negotiable’ looks and Spike sighed.

“Right. But, pet, you’re not getting in the middle of this. We don’t know anythin’ about the roommate.”

“So, let’s ask.”

Xander strode rapidly for the door and Spike followed. The two women weren’t hard to find, the sound of raised voices led them to the alley behind the club. Listening to them, Spike was dumbfounded to hear them arguing about gum chewing and flossing. What the hell was flossing?

He pulled Xander to a stop and signaled for him to be quiet. They weren’t fighting yet and people sometimes let things slip in the heat of anger. Xander gave him a dubious look but followed his lead. They eased forward quietly until they could see the women and waited, listening to the escalating argument as the two roommates continued bitching about each other’s annoying personal habits. After a moment, Xander’s tenseness faded and his shoulders began shaking with silent laughter.

Warm breath tickled Spike’s ear as Xander leaned in to breathe almost silently: “You’ll let me know if my ‘obsessive-compulsive pencil fetish’ ever starts to bother you, right?”

“As long as my ‘psychotic only-child inability to share’ doesn’t get your dander up, luv,” he whispered back, equally amused.

Fortunately, the name-calling became something a bit more productive about the time the confrontation turned physical. The roommate backhanded the Slayer across the face and Spike forcibly stopped Xander from intervening as the two women began grappling with each other, the demon screaming something about people looking for her and needing to finish her ritual. Xander stopped struggling against Spike’s hold when he heard that and began listening again. His boy really needed to remember that the Slayer couldn’t be hurt easily. She could take a few blows without Xander playing the knight in shining armor to save her.

“Tonight, when they come looking for me, they'll take you instead of me,” the demon was saying triumphantly when she suddenly screamed in pain and there was a noise that sounded like fabric tearing.

The Slayer staggered backwards, clutching something in both hands, which she stood staring at in shocked surprise. Xander gasped and Spike saw that the Slayer had torn off the demon’s face - literally. She had a human disguise on and it had been ripped off to reveal pitted orange skin and glowing blue eyes and a nice set of sharp teeth that Spike almost envied.

“You bitch!” the demon spat, as the Slayer dropped the flap of skin with a convulsive shudder. The two started towards each other again when a sudden piercing whistle sliced through the air and both women turned to stare in their direction.

Xander pulled his fingers out of his mouth and ordered: “Both of you, step back and shut up.”

“Stay out of this, Xander,” the Slayer warned. “She’s evil.”

“What makes you think she’s evil?” Xander asked, exasperated. She opened her mouth to answer and Xander held up an imperative hand, interrupting her before she could start. “And don’t start with the pencils. That’s weird, not evil.”

“Look at her!”

“News flash, Buffy, she’s a demon. She’s not supposed to look human. It doesn’t automatically make her evil.”

“Doesn’t automatically make her trustworthy either, luv.”

“See? Even Spike agrees,” the Slayer declared triumphantly.

“Not about good and evil, Slayer,” Spike shot back. “It’s about what’s dangerous to you and yours and what’s not.”

“You would see it that way, Spike. It’s simpler for me: she’s evil. I’m an evil fighter. Therefore, I have to kill her.” Despite the simplistic logic the Slayer was spouting, her eyes were gleaming with a rapacious desire to kill. It looked good on her, even if it did make him wary.

“Call me crazy, but why don’t we ask a few questions before making with the homicide.” Xander glared at both of them impartially. Spike was keeping a wary eye on the roommate, it was hard to read those electric blue eyes but they were darting back and forth between the three of them, clearly weighing her options.

“What ritual are you doing?” Xander asked.

“I just wanted to go to college,” the demon began pitifully. “I’ve wanted to go ever since I can remember. I didn’t ask to be put in a room with Miss Psycho Bitch from Hell. I asked for a stable, non-smoker and she’s what I got.” Her eyes shot daggers at Buffy. “She obviously lied on her application.”

“Oh, yeah? I didn’t see you putting ‘demon’ on your application,” Buffy spat.

Xander really should leave these two to their own devices. The resulting cat-fight would probably be worth selling tickets to.

“The ritual?” Xander prompted.

“I ran away from home and they’re looking for me. I was just trying to hide from them.” Her voice quavered pathetically and the slender shoulders drooped.

“We can understand that,” Xander said soothingly, even as the Slayer made scoffing noises. “How does the ritual help hide you?”

Xander looked like he was going to be putting an arm around her and patting her back any moment. He’d completely dropped his guard. Spike really was going to kill him when this was over. Falling for a helpless little girl routine, that was just about the oldest trick in the book. He and Xander were going to have a long talk later.

“I borrowed part of Buffy’s soul. My people don’t have souls so when they come looking for me, they wouldn’t realize it was me.” She made big pathetic eyes at Xander.

“Borrowed it without asking,” the Slayer muttered.

Spike had had just about enough of this. “Just borrowed part of her soul, right? So the ritual you have to finish would be - what? Takin’ the rest.”

“Not like she’s using it,” the roommate said spitefully, forgetting her poor-little-me act.

“Give it back,” the Slayer demanded.

“I can’t. The transfer is permanent.”

Spike didn’t buy that for a second. Very few magic rituals couldn’t be reversed one way or another. “Killing you might do the trick,” he suggested with a smirk.

“Good idea, Spike,” the Slayer agreed enthusiastically. “I’ll bet if she’s dead my soul reverts to me.”

“And what if you’re wrong?” Xander asked, obviously stunned by her cavalier attitude. “That’s a hell of a chance to take. We should take her to Giles.”

“It’s my soul, I should have the final say,” the Slayer said mutinously.

“No offense, Buffy but, according to Kathy, you’re operating on only about half of a soul right now. And I gotta say, with the way you’ve been acting, you’re about as attractive without a soul as Angelus is. So I’m overruling you. No killing until we find out all the options.”

“And just how are you planning on stopping me?”

“Well, I figure reasoning with you is probably out, so me, Spike and Kathy will just have to kick your ass and then work out something.”

What!”

Spike knew his had been one of the voices in that exclamation. Both the Slayer and her roommate were staring at his boy in stunned surprise and Spike lost it. He started laughing. “Bloody hell, pet. You’re crazier than both of them.”

“Hey, it’s a workable plan,” Xander objected, looking hurt.

A sudden blinding flash of light prevented Spike from answering and he threw up an arm instinctively, shielding his eyes, even as he grabbed Xander with his other arm and pulled him close to his side.

The light faded and in its place was a whirlpool of displaced air, seeming to spiral endlessly even though it appeared only painted on the fabric of the air. Shit! A dimensional portal just like the one Acathla had formed. Spike scrambled back away from it, pulling Xander with him unceremoniously.

The Slayer was staring, frozen in place and the roommate was cowering against the wall, her face pressed to the bricks.

A tall figure in a dark cloak took form within the portal, growing more solid by the second until it was suddenly there, feet planted solidly on the dirt-encrusted cement of the alleyway, towering above them all. It said something in a language Spike didn’t recognize and the Slayer’s roommate reluctantly turned to face it, responding in the same language, her tone half defiant, half pleading. Another exchange and the new demon lifted a hand, not to strike out but making a purposeful gesture.

“Excuse me? Mr. Really-scary-looking-demon that I so don’t want to piss off?”

To Spike’s disbelief, it was Xander, taking a step towards the demon and raising a tentative hand for attention like he was still back in class in high school.

“Xander…” he growled warningly, pulling his Claimed sharply back to his side.

 

Typically, Xander ignored his own danger as the 7-foot tall demon turned and growled at him. “She has something that doesn’t belong to her. Not that I’m accusing her of theft or anything,” he added hastily “but you probably noticed she has part of someone else’s soul. I’m sure you don’t want to take that back with you. I mean, if you drag her back with a soul, the neighbors will talk. Plus, it probably smells bad to you or something, right?”

His Claimed was never leaving the lair again for this one.

Spike tightened his grip on Xander’s wrist, pulling Xander fully behind him, ignoring his startled yelp at the sudden movement, as the demon growled something at him. “Back off, he’s mine,” he snarled warningly.

“Spike, I’m negotiating here.”

“Getting yourself killed, more like, luv.”

The demon had turned back to the Slayer’s roommate and there was another heated exchange. To Spike’s disbelief, the roommate said sulkily, in English, “Fine, she can have her stupid soul back. Not like I wanted it anyway.”

She bit into the skin on her finger, tearing it off like a human tugging a glove finger off with their teeth, revealing a long black talon under the human skin. Drawing the claw-like nail down her arm, she dug through the fake human skin and drew blood, using the blood to trace two symbols on her body. As she did, she spoke several incomprehensible phrases, then stepped over to the Slayer, who appeared too astonished to move, and grabbed her head with both hands, using her thumbs to force the Slayer’s mouth open and opening her own mouth wide. A curl of something that looked like white smoke flowed from her mouth into the Slayer’s.

It only took a moment and it was done. The two women staggered apart, the Slayer falling onto her butt in the alley and blinking in shock. The taller demon growled something and lifted his hand again. A vortex formed and the two demons vanished inside it.

“Thanks.”

“Bit late, pet.” Spike relaxed as the portal vanished and indulged himself, fishing in his pockets until he found a cigarette and lit up, taking a deep, steadying drag. He’d earned it. Fucking dimensional portals should be outlawed, he thought, as he drew the soothing warmth of the narcotic smoke into his lungs.

“You all right, Buffy?”

“I guess.” She got shakily to her feet and Spike noticed she seemed calmer than she’d been all evening. She gave an all-over body shiver. “At least getting it back was better than the way she took it,” she commented after a moment.

As they left the ally together, the Slayer described the nightmares she’d been having for the last couple of nights: blood poured down an unwilling throat, symbols traced in blood on skin, a scorpion, something being pulled from inside her.

“Sounds like a party Dru and me went to once,” Spike commented, quite factually.

~~~~~~~

*A/N - Bits of dialogue borrowed from the episodes ‘The Freshman’ and ‘Living Conditions’

TBC

 

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