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April-May 2007 FOTMs

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  • April-May 2007 FOTMs

    Big Bad by tangent

    Title: Big Bad
    Disclamer:I have no rights whatsoever on anything Joss & co came up with first. specially not they're dialogue.
    Setting: in the midst of 'Get It Done'
    Warning: There is a little bad language in this piece but nothing not heard on the show.


    Spike lay on the bedroom floor, sprawled in a sorry heap of throbbing pain.

    He groaned softly as full awareness slowly crept back into his battered consciousness, bringing with it waves of sickening nausea and sharp fresh agonies. Getting thrown through a ceiling hurt like all kinds of holy hell, he reflected ruefully.

    Raising himself slightly from the floor he shook his head trying to rid himself of the buzzing ache that filled it; trying to focus; to will his unsteady limbs into some kind of action.

    Slowly, he crawled round the ragged hole that he had arrived through and over to the neatly made bed dragging himself clumsily on to it, wincing as his bruised body complained with every tiny movement.

    The demon had swatted him aside like he was an insect, just an inconvenient nuisance, almost an irrelevance. Oh, he'd been a big fella alright but he'd faced worse, faced 'em and bested 'em. Once there'd been a time that he would have killed something like that quick and easy, hardly even working up a decent sweat as he went.

    No, the slayer was right; there was something missing, something that had given him that edge, that sharpness; that undying ferocity that had made him one of the most infamous dark warriors ever to spill blood. Well now was the time to stop playing at it, to get back to basics, to what worked.

    Buffy was relying on him, and there was no way on this soddin' earth he was gonna let her down, not now; not ever.

    He made his way to the stairs and staggered down, leaning heavily against the wall as he went. A dull ache in his side told him he probably had a couple of bruised ribs but that didn't matter: he'd had worse. The muffled sound of voices drifted up to him as he descended, voices that were raised not in argument but in discussion, exploring possibilities, working out tactics. That was how these so called Scoobies reacted to trouble, pulling together, becoming more than their parts. It was faintly admirable he supposed; in an annoying kind of way.

    Reaching the last step he turned towards the sound, the words becoming ever more distinct as he closed in on the speakers.

    "Plus, we need an exchange, like you said. I'm thinking a slayer for a demon."

    It was the potential, Kennedy. Spike had to admit to sort of liking the young slayer in waiting. She had guts and wasn't afraid to show it. Oh, she rubbed people up the wrong way from time to time, sure; but as he knew better than most, that's where half the fun lay.

    "Right. If we want Buffy back, then we have to find that demon and send it through".

    That was the new guy, the principal. There was something about him that raised spike's hackles. The guy had issues, some kind of agenda; he could feel it in his gut. Still as long as they were on the same side, fighting the fight he'd leave it be; at least for now.

    "It matter if it's dead or alive?"

    Spike had managed to get to the doorway by now and was leaning on the frame unobserved.

    "I vote dead." He said with as much nonchalance as he could muster, enjoying the surprised glances. "The slayer's counting on you, Willow. Get cracking on that portal, and don't be stingy with the mojo. The demon's mine."

    "Hate to say it, Big Bad" Kennedy said making ironic ?air quote' signs "but you look like you can barely stand. We're trained. And the only thing we know for sure about this demon is it kicked your ass"

    He gave a small wry smile. Yep, guts. She was his kind of gal alright.

    "It did at that"

    He pushed away from the door jamb and made for the kitchen door.

    "Where are you going?"

    "Something I need" He said not turning back to face the questioner. Wood, yeah that was it; Robin Wood.

    Tilting his head to work out some of the stiff pain in his neck, he paused for a second, opened the door and set purposefully out into the waiting night air.


    He walked briskly, eating up the distance with long determined strides, a man in a hurry. His pain relegated to his sense of purpose.

    'Big Bad', that's what the potential had called him. 'Big Bad' and she hadn't needed the air quotes, the irony in her voice had been quite enough to tell him it was a title to which he could no longer lay claim

    It had been too long since the mere mention of his name had struck terror in those with the wit to know of it; too long since his appetite for destruction had made him one of the most renowned killers this world had seen. Even with the chip his name had been known and feared in the demon community, but now even that reputation was fading fast.

    He stopped under a streetlight and lit a cigarette watching the flame catch and flare.

    It was this bloody stupid soul. Yeah that was the problem.

    To know of the things he had done over a hundred years of bloody slaughter; of the levels of cruel depravity he had sunk to; that was one thing. To know and to care; well that was something else entirely.

    He'd felt it even before tonight's little scrap. The need to keep the beast within contained; to keep the demon on a tight leash, unable to set it free in case it ran amok and couldn't be put back in its cage. The risk of adding more guilt and remorse to the black hole of emotion that sucked at his sanity just too much, too big.

    He took a long, last drag from the cigarette and pitched it carelessly into the road before setting off again, head down, face set, all business once more.
    That was the trick; to be strong you had to look strong. You could never show them how scared you felt; never let them see your weaknesses, or that was that; game over.

    Oh he'd tried to play nice with those damn Scoobies; tried to show them how much he?d changed. But not one of them listened, not one of them saw; not even the boy, the one who supposedly saw so bloody much. They were all so wrapped up in themselves that they hardly had time to recognise each others pain, let alone that of someone outside their cosy little club.

    And even if he could somehow get them to understand, could find the right words to explain the maelstrom of new emotions that tore into him every night; what would he get from them? Kind words? Good intentions? Tea and bleedin' sympathy? Well bollocks to that! He wasn't about to start moping about looking for hugs and understanding. It was no use looking for forgiveness when you couldn't forgive yourself.

    Dawn, now she was different. Once she might have listened to him; might have actually understood, but not now; not knowing what he had done.
    No, the only one he could dream of talking to, the only one who even came close to understanding was Buffy. She'd said that she believed in him; she'd seen what he was, seen what he could be. She'd reached out and she had saved him and now she needed him and he would be doubly damned if he would fail her again.

    Turning a corner, his destination reared up before him: Sunnydale's finest educational facility. The place you had to learn fast or die trying.
    Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Hellmouth High.


    Once inside the drab, uniform surroundings of the new school he quickly made his way down to the basement, pausing slightly as he took his bearings.

    He'd heard that it was easy to get turned round down here; that walls shifted and rooms moved, trapping the unwary in an ever changing maze. Such stories didn't matter to Spike though he knew exactly where he was heading.
    It was if it called out to him; spurring him on, bringing him to it.

    He turned to his left and strode forward, gathering momentum as he went. Door after door flung back on their hinges as he marched through the sprawling featureless warren, never veering once from his path.

    Then almost before he could realise it he was there.

    It was a narrow room not unlike any of the others he had passed through except this one was scattered with old filing cabinets and tattered boxes crammed full of forgotten miscellany.

    Spike hesitated, realising that he was about to plunge himself back into a world he had only just escaped. It was in here he knew. Waiting, ready to be rediscovered; ready to be set free once more. The thought sent a cold thrill racing down his spine as fear and excitement and trepidation mingled within him.

    He would risk it all, everything he'd achieved, everything he'd become. He would sacrifice this new man on the altar of the past; awaken the forgotten fury; and all for Her. All for the girl.

    Seizing his courage he strode quickly to the small side room where his goal awaited him. kneeling in front of a tall wooden packing box that, to the casual observer, looked just like any other he started to rummage within, discarding useless scraps of musty paper and small random items around him as he went.
    Then as the space cleared, the faded sheen of worn leather peered up at him from beneath the forgotten debris.

    He seized on it eagerly, lifting the dusty coat to eye level, spreading it wide, examining it like the face of a long absent friend; drinking in the familiar contours of its long sensuous folds. Here was the prize he had sought, the thing that would give him back his edge.

    This was more than a mere leather duster; it represented a lifetime of fighting, of battle without quarter; taking on the fiercest, the strongest, the deadliest foes and always, always, coming out on top. This coat represented the old him. Hell, this coat was the old him.

    That was what he was here to recapture; that Spike, the Spike of old; the man who raised a finger to the world and said ?here I am, take your best bleedin' shot, but if I'm going down I'm going down fighting and I'll take the whole soddin' lot of you with me'.

    He'd tried so hard to become more than that; to be a better person, a better man. He'd given everything he could to become the man that Buffy wanted: now it was time to give her the man she needed.

    Turning on his heels he stormed from the room shrugging the coat on as he went; immediately feeling the return of the old defiant strut. Wearing this coat he felt like a warrior again. As if he were a knight encased in his favourite battle hardened armour. Spike might have only encased his body in thin, battered leather but his fear; his guilt and his remorse were all locked behind thick walls of black, tempered steel.

    On he continued growing stronger with every step; his belief and conviction hardening as he went; certainty burning through him like a righteous fire.
    He had a job to do; a demon to kill and after that, a world to save.
    He ran his tongue over his teeth, his face set in a glare of determined ferocity.

    Now was the time for evil to be afraid ?cos he would fight till the bitter, bloody end, be it death or glory. Yeah, that was right; he was back and there was nothing that could stop him now.

    Big Bad was back.


  • #2
    Questions and Answers: Buffy Season 8 by Dorian's Kitten

    Questions and Answers: Buffy Season 8

    Set up: The following scenes take place during season 8 as set forth by the comics (first two issues anyway).
    Warning: Spoilers if you have not read the comics yet.
    Buffy, Xander and Dawn are with a Squadron of newly empowered slayers, living in a castle in Scotland. An old friend shows up.
    Rating: PG-13

    Questions and Answers

    "Is that all you've got pet? The great Buffy ? taking you down won't even last long enough to be fun."

    The trash talk always got her riled. Seriously, someone should send a warning to the bad guys; start the trash talk and you're going down that much quicker. It always made her fight harder.

    Of course, that was exactly why he was doing it; he wouldn't be satisfied until he beat her at her best, and she was holding back.
    A well-placed punch sent her opponent across the room. He crashed into the wall, but laughed as he stood back up.

    "Afraid to make it real slayer?" He smiled briefly before coming at her full speed. Faster than a human, faster even than a slayer, the vampire had her on the floor in a second. He quickly tried to grasp her hands and pin her to floor beneath him. But a slayer is no ordinary girl. She grabbed his wrist and flipped him over her head. He landed hard on his back, hitting the floor at the same moment she landed on top of him. She placed the stake over his heart.

    "You stopped being scary a long time ago, Spike. You really need to move on." She taunted lightly.

    Spike bucked his hips and leapt to his feet sending her sprawling to the floor.
    "And once again I am going to remind you to save the witty ending remarks until after you dust the vamp."

    "Spike?" Buffy rolled her eyes as she stood up.

    "Buffy, I'm serious. You waste time and you give his buddies a chance at you."

    "Goodie, then I dust extras."

    "Pet, I'm your Watcher now?you best start taking me a bit more serious-like."

    "Spike, you're not a Watcher. You're a training coach so the new girls can get a little experience fighting a vamp", she grinned. "You're basically a punching bag with fangs and pretty hair."

    He grinned and moved towards her like a cat, graceful and ready to pounce. "Pretty huh?"

    She stepped back once and again, "Spike." He continued towards her slowly, eyes intent. She couldn't quite ignore the clenching of her stomach. Yeah, pretty might be an understatement. She took a third step back. "Spike, we've been through this."

    "Ummm?I remember." He ran his eyes slowly, appreciatively, over her body before stopping at her eyes. "Care for a sequel?" he asked, tilting his head to the side and raising an eyebrow.

    He was playing, she knew. He enjoyed getting a rise out of her. But he couldn't quite keep the truth out of his eyes. She saw it there; the real need and vulnerability she wasn't ready to deal with. "Spike, we agreed if you were going to work here? we wouldn't?there couldn't be any?"

    "Yeah I remember; no fun for Spike." He stepped back and looked away for second. When he met her eyes again, he'd masked the emotion she'd seen there a second earlier. She let a quick sigh a relief escape, but she knew that eventually he would need a real answer, that he deserved a real answer.

    "Well now that's not true. We did get you Weetabix to go with your blood."

    "You can't just buy me off with?real or generic?"

    "It's the real card-boardy British kind, one of the girls found it at a grocery shop this morning."

    "Well I was feeling a bit peckish." He'd been off human blood for awhile, but pig's blood still left much to be desired. The Weetabix added a bit of texture.

    "It's in the kitchen, we even wrote your name on it." She didn't mention the smiley with fangs that one of the girls had added. There weren't a lot of men around, and with all these girls?well, Spike had a fan club.

    He nodded and smiled before heading towards the door.

    She trusted him. He still wasn't sure he deserved it, but he basked in it just the same. She trusted him, let him stay here and fight with her, even picked up his cereal like he was one the gang. He couldn't really ask for any more. He was still surprised with this. It was enough; it had to be. He wasn't going to risk it by pushing for more.

    She loved him; she could admit it to herself at least. She remembered discovering that he was back, alive still, or again. They still weren't sure which. The mystery of it had been swept aside by a surprising wave of relief and happiness. He hadn't gotten a soul just to die helping her. She hadn't really acknowledged the guilt that she'd been living with until that moment. That was also when she had to acknowledge the love. It had been there the last few days before?well, before he died. She had even said it, there, underground, with Sunnydale falling down around them. She had told him that she loved him. But it wasn't real until he was still alive, standing there in front of her trying to act tough and still looking like a little boy hoping to be told that he had made her proud.

    She knew he thought that the not-actually-dying part would somehow make her think less of what he did. It didn't. She still loved him. But she had loved other men too, still did. She was starting to accept that love was just, well? love, nothing more and nothing less. Love was a gift; she didn't want to belittle it. Love was the reason she kept fighting, but?well, it didn't mean they could be together. He might have a soul, but he was still a vampire and she was still the slayer, well a slayer. She'd been here before. Love wasn't a promise of happy ever after.


    "So he's staying?"

    "Yeah, I guess so?I mean for now anyway." Buffy really didn't feel like discussing this with her sister. She looked up at her. Dawn had been taller then her for a couple of years now, but her recent experience with a thricewise had increased the situation dramatically; her sister was literally a giant now. They were both hoping that Willow would come up with a plan to get her back to people size soon. In the meantime, they were lucky she fit in the castle's basement.

    "Where?" Dawn crossed her arms.

    "Here at the castle, I told you he is going to kind of work as a training coach for the slayers. It will be good for them to fight someone who knows how a vamp thinks."

    "I meant where in the castle. Your room?" Dawn looked at her expectantly, eyebrow raised.

    Buffy widened her eyes, "No!" She said it a little too fast. "I mean no, we can find him his own room."

    "And he's still in love with you?"

    "No," she lied, and Dawn didn't buy it. She tilted her head and raised her other eyebrow. She continued to stare at Buffy, now with a look that dripped disbelief.

    "Maybe...I don't know Dawn?he...I don't know." Buffy sighed and shook her head.

    "So the answer is yes? He's still alive and he's still in love with you and now he's going to live here?" Dawn managed to sound both confused and knowing at the same time.


    "Fine, you know that Xander is pretty much??"

    "Mad enough to go all vengeancey? Yeah I know." Buffy shook her head. "He just can't accept?" Buffy shrugged, Xander was big with the confusing behavior lately.

    "He worries about you."

    "I know, but Spike wouldn't?he's a different man now and we're not?"

    "I know." Dawn grinned. "I think Xander is a little jealous, Rowena came by and said that they were just joking about how hot Spike's hair is and all of a sudden Xander needed to go into town for a hair cut."

    "You're kidding."

    Dawn shook her head and started laughing, "Do you think he'll get it bleached?"

    The image was too much; Buffy cracked up. The laughing felt good, the problems were all still there, but it just felt good to laugh with her sister (even if her sister was a giant).


    "So more of the girls are having the dreams?" Buffy asked, looking up at Xander.

    He did have a new haircut, she thought smiling; it looked good. They spoke in the group's new surveillance and research center, surrounded by blinking lights and monitors. They'd come a long way from hacking into the high school's files using Willow's laptop. Now there were always a couple of girls keeping an eye on the exterior camera's and they had high-tech back up when dealing with baddies.

    "Yeah, and a couple of them weren't even in the group you took in."

    She stopped smiling. "But they're seeing the same symbol?"


    "So it's..."

    "Important" He finished her sentence. They'd been working like that lately, right on the same page. Or at least they had until Spike showed up a couple of days ago.

    "And still no luck on the research side."

    "No, I mean it's a lot like a lot of things but ?"

    "Well I guess we had better start looking at all those things, maybe?"

    "They have something in common. Yeah I thought of that too. But so far they seem to be all over the place: some magic, some non. There's a demon worshiping cult in Japan and a pharmacy in Wisconsin with a similar logo."
    "Is it a demon pharmacy?"

    "Not that we've been able to tell. Do you think demons have pharmacies? Like, my skin is feeling too young and smooth?do you have anything to bring back the green, scaley goodness?"

    Spike walked in unnoticed and stood off to the side, watching. They were laughing. She did that here, laugh. It looked good, she looked good. There was trouble brewing, but it wasn't too bad yet and she had a lot of help. He had always liked watching her with her friends. The glow was back. She touched the boy. Spike felt the inevitable surge of jealousy, clenched his jaw and swallowed. He fought it back down. Pointless to get upset really; she certainly wasn't his. But her boy's reaction, now that was interesting. Spike stepped out of the room.


    Buffy passed some of the girls training in the yard as she headed out. A lot of them had started taking their training pretty seriously after Amy's attack of the living dead. It was probably for the best but she was sorry they had to have such an abrupt reality check.

    "Lookin' good Mia, but don't forget to use your environment. If you had jumped up and grabbed hold of that tree, Satsu wouldn't have been able to trap you."

    Mia nodded from her position under Satsu's knee. Satsu chuckled.

    Buffy headed out towards the moor. She loved her sister and her friends and she was enjoying her new role with the slayers, but sometimes she just needed to be alone.


    "I don't trust him."

    "Xander, I thought we were going to watch the movie." Dawn looked down at him. "You said you could use a break from research mode."

    "Yeah, but?I don't trust him."

    "Buffy does."

    "He's a vampire."

    "I seem to recall you thought he was good enough to be my babysitter." She glared at him. She wasn't really upset, but it was fun to watch him squirm and this always worked.

    Xander looked away and started fiddling with the DVD. "I can't believe that you've never seen Godzilla, I mean it's a classic."



    It had gotten dark and she was probably being indulgent staying out this long. But there were so many slayers now; couldn't she just take a break now and then? Maybe even a vacation? She smiled at the thought. Who was she fooling? Always with the if-only-I-were-normal, she wouldn't even know what to do with herself after the first couple of days. She was a slayer; being one of many made it less odd, but it didn't really change who she was. She was a fighter, it was in her blood.

    She froze, mid-thought, and focused on a faint sound behind her. Not wanting to give away that she had heard, she continued walking slowly, careful not to make any more noise than necessary. There it was again, a crunching of leaves?not the wind. There was something behind her, moving closer. Not human. Too quiet.


    "The movie that I just had to see is Godzilla?" Dawn looked at him incredulously. "What now that I'm a freak, I need to learn about crushing villages under my feet?"

    "Dawnie?" Xander moved back as he said it; angry Dawn was never fun. Big, angry Dawn brought the whole situation to new proportions.

    "I don't need the lesson. I'm sure it will come quite naturally."

    This was not going as planned. "Dawnie, I just thought it would be fun, you know? lighten your mood a bit, try to see the humor in the situation. I'm sure Willow?"

    "Nothing about me is light." She started sobbing.

    Xander's shoulders slumped. "Dawnie?" He walked over to her. "We'll get you back to normal soon. Don't cry. It really is a good movie?"

    She glared.

    "?which we will never watch or speak of again." Xander said it solemnly; this was definitely not going according to plan. Of course nothing seemed to be lately.

    Suddenly, a blink of the eye, Dawn was back to normal and then, just as quickly, giant again.

    Xander's eyes widened. "Whoa?what just happened?"

    "I was me again right? Normal, Berkeley-size me?"

    "Yeah, I think so. It was so fast. Did you feel anything?" He moved forward and touched her arm. Yep, still here.

    Dawn shook her head. "No, it was more like you were itty-bitty and then big and then itty-bitty again."

    "You think of me as itty-bitty?"

    "Do you think it means the spell or whatever is wearing off?"

    Dawn looked hopeful. He didn't want to take that from her, but it seemed to him that nothing with magic was ever that easy. "Maybe."

    "Yay! I am so going shopping for little me-sized clothes."

    "I think I should go tell Buffy and try to get in touch with Willow." It was hard to contact Willow when she visited the coven. He didn't know what exactly she did there and suspected he didn't want to know. Dawn didn't answer him or even notice the look of concern on his face before he walked out.


    Buffy turned and launched herself toward her stalker. Realizing who it was just before she knocked him to the ground, she let out a groan of frustration as she landed on top of him. "Spike!"

    He grinned. "Serious luv, if you wanted me on my back all you had to do was ask."

    "Spike, why are you following me?" She stood up and brushed off her clothes. Great, more grass stains-this guy was just way too rough on her clothes.

    "I wasn't." Spike looked insulted. "Or, I wasn't at first." He got up. "I just needed to get out, ya know, away from the chatter and the hair-braiding." He paused and gave her a long-suffering look. "The little one-with the pink hair, asked if I would take of my shirt so she could draw me." He shook his head in disbelief and frustration.

    Buffy tried unsuccessfully to stifle a giggle.

    "Don't they know who I am? I've ?"

    "That's who you were, they know you now. Now you're?now you're a good man." She shrugged and smiled at him.

    "Couldn't they be just a little bit scared of me?"

    "I'll get right on it." She tired for a serious expression and once again failed.
    Seeing her smile, Spike couldn't help but join her. It was nice to be the one that made her laugh.

    "I missed that."


    "You. Smiling. I never got to see it much, but?I missed it." He reached his hand towards her face and then stopped himself before touching her.
    Buffy looked down.

    Spike took a step to the side, allowing a bit more space between them. "So that's my excuse, why are you out wondering in the dark and not back there baking cookies with the others?"

    Cookies, cookie dough! She looked up at him startled for a moment. "You used to tell me that I belonged in the dark." She tried to say it lightly.

    He stopped and turned his body in front of hers. "I was wrong. I see that now, Buffy. You are ?you are so full of light it's almost blinding." Occasional the poet inside escaped.

    She touched him then, her hand moving of its own accord to rest on his cheek. But the look she gave him, though tender, was sad.

    And in an instant he knew: she loved him and she wasn't going to be his. She couldn't, darkness couldn't handle that much light. He touched her hand on his cheek and nodded. "I know." He said it quietly.

    Her eyes looked startled through her unshed tears. She looked down and stepped away. She wasn't ready to have this conversation yet. She started walking again, "I guess I'm just still used to being alone." She looked up, "not in a bad ?poor lonely me' way, more like ?Yay! Me time.' I just needed to get away a little."

    He nodded and followed. "There are a lot of girls there, all looking to you for answers."

    "It's not even the girls. Dawn is? and Xander is really not?he is not happy with you being here." She looked at him apologetically.

    "It's not a secret, pet."

    "I don't know why he can't..."

    "He loves you." He couldn't believe he was going to do this.

    "Well yeah, I love him too, but?"

    Spike stopped her with his hand on her shoulder. "No, Buffy, he loves you."

    She looked at him, startled, "Xander doesn't? we've been friends for?why do think??"

    "I do know what it looks like, loving you." He tilted his head and raised his eyebrows, reminding her who she was talking to.

    Her eyes widened and she looked away. "What do I ..?" She looked back up and met his eyes.

    "Well pet, I suppose that all depends on how you feel, doesn't it?"

    She considered for just a second that this might all just be a weird dream; she had definitely had a few of those lately. "How I feel??"

    Spike shrugged. This was hard, damn hard. "He's a good guy, I mean he's a wanker but?"

    Buffy sniffled and smiled.

    "He'd be good to you." He could give you things that I never can. He said it carefully and succinctly, his eyes never leaving hers. No, he really couldn't believe he was doing this. He looked away, pretended to study the landscape. It was the right thing; she could be happy.

    "You're good to me...that's not why I?"

    "I know. It just ...isn't?" he looked up and gave her a sad smile "?going to work. I do get it."

    "It doesn't mean I don't?" She looked away.

    "I know that too." He chuckled. "Looks like gettin' a soul made me wise after all."

    They walked together, silently, for a few minutes. Two quiet figures moving across the lonely moor.

    Spike turned to her. "Looks like you have some thinking to do."

    "About Xander?"

    "Yeah, about the boy."

    "And my feelings." Did she have feelings for Xander? She realized that she didn't actually know the answer. She loved him certainly, but was there something else there?

    "Guess I'd best take off then."

    "What? You don't have to..."

    "Well I'm not gonna stick around and watch am I? I'm not that honorable. I mean despite the popular opinion, I don't really choose to torture myself." He shook his head.

    "Right." She didn't really want him to go; she liked having him there. But he was right.

    "I mean you don't really need me, all these slayers, you got plenty of muscle."

    "That's not why I ? you weren't just muscle."

    "I'll be ?If I can be of use you can always call."

    She nodded, as they turned and started back towards the castle. She stopped and looked at him. "I love you."

    "I know. But thanks for saying it."