“The subject’s responses to external stimuli are most intriguing. There appears to be little or no reaction to heat or silver, as is the case for most subterrestrials. However, recent tests have indicated an aversion to substances made of – ”

Walsh hit the pause button on the recorder as someone entered her office. Dictating her notes on Hostile 42 would have to wait. It seemed that Agent Finn found it fit to interrupt her studies.

“Finn, explain yourself,” Walsh ordered, coolly assessing her most valuable, and most unstable, agent. He had planted himself directly in front of her desk, eyes forward and body taut. “You better have a good reason for disturbing me.”

“We spoke earlier about recapturing Hostile 17 and possibly the Slayer, ma’am. At the time I informed you it was against our interests to take her. I have since reconsidered.” Riley paused, then added, sharply, “ma’am.”

Walsh leaned back in her chair, the leather creaking slightly from the movement. So he had changed his mind regarding the Slayer. If the rumors were true, she knew why, but it would be interesting to hear his spin on this. “You told me the Slayer was on our side, Agent. What’s changed?”

Riley grew even more rigid. “I realized she was no better than the HSTs she claimed to fight. It is our duty to stop her.” In an outburst of passion, he added, “She sleeps with a vampire. A vampire! What kind of human would do that?” Pause. “Ma’am.”

Walsh had wondered when he would reach that conclusion. It had only really been a matter of time. The rogue Slayer’s actions (yes, she had heard of the other one’s appearance) were just what were needed to push him to the breaking point. A bit of manipulation here, a touch there, and Finn finally realizes the difference between his beloved Slayer and the rest of humanity. Namely, that the Slayer wasn’t. That was the delightful aspect of these black-and-white world soldiers. Introduce them to a hint of gray and they fall back on their basis for existence. It was so perfect, Walsh wished she had planned it herself. Unfortunately, she had been unable to contact this Faith during her tenure in Sunnydale. A pity. Faith the Vampire Slayer sounded so much more amenable to the sort of things Walsh would like to have a Slayer for.

Oh well. Best not to mourn lost opportunities. Instead, focus on the present ones.

“Agent Finn, what do you propose we do with this problem?”

He answered unhesitatingly. “Capture and kill the hostile. Capture the Slayer and ensure she does not continue to endanger the human population.”

A good start. Now to test the depths of his convictions.

“An excellent plan. I’ll add only one thing. Be sure to capture the hostile alive. Its relationship with the Slayer, whose future designation will be,” Walsh checked her notes, “Hostile 95, is what currently makes it more valuable than the other HSTs we have like it. I want to perform tests on both Hostiles 17 and 95. So they must be taken intact and with little damage.”

Walsh waited to see how Finn reacted to this. If he still harbored any weak feelings to Hostile 95, he would balk at it undergoing any tests. He had overseen enough of them to realize what they entailed for the subject.

“I understand, ma’am.”

He hadn’t even blinked. Walsh was pleased. How far her boy had come!

“Good. Now have a seat, Agent, as we prepare to take down these two dangerous threats.”

Finn complied. Walsh leaned forward as she began to dictate exactly how she wanted this mission carried out.


An hour before sunrise, Spike headed home with a satisfied smile on his face. Buffy and he had spent the night together. Not in the way he would have preferred, per se, but enjoyable nonetheless. They had simply cuddled together, talking. And arguing. Then arguing some more. Mostly about little things, like the merits of Monty Python (Spike was shocked to hear Buffy call it ‘stupid’) or the best way to make hot chocolate (Buffy thought Spike was being snobbish about refusing to drink instant).

Suppressing the desire to whistle like some fool in a golden age musical about rain, he walked into his crypt, ready to get a good day’s sleep.

“Finally! Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for you?”

At the sudden, shrill noise, Spike vamped out and spun around, searching for the source.

And found it in Anya.

She was perched on the edge of the sarcophagus, an expectant expression on her face. “I’ve been waiting for six hours. It’s very boring. Xander refused to come so I could pass the time by having sex in a graveyard. Cosmo says that sex in unusual locations heightens the pleasure. All I’ve had to entertain myself is watching your TV. You should buy a new one. The reception is very bad. All I can get is an infomercial on hair care products.”

She gestured at the television, quietly blaring the charms of Insta-Hair. Apparently, for only 19.95 (paid in monthly installments), you could have luxurious locks like the model.

Spike blinked. Still in vamp face, he demanded, “Anya, why are you here?”

Anya stared at him as if the answer was obvious. “To discuss the current state of your relationship with Buffy. Xander told me that Willow told him that Buffy had switched bodies with the evil Slayer Faith and then they switched back. How do you feel about that? The self-help books Xander makes me read on humanity say you should be very aware of your feelings.”

Spike edged away slowly. He was too tired to deal with Anya. “I feel fine. Go home.”

Anya jumped off the sarcophagus but didn’t otherwise move. “I’ve sat in an unpleasantly cold and somewhat damp tomb for six hours. I *will* be compensated with information.”

“Sorry. No can do. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” Spike jumped onto the thankfully Anya-free sarcophagus and lay down, closing his eyes.

Anya remained standing there. “You still haven’t replaced your door. You should. It creates very uncomfortable drafts.”

Spike pretended he didn’t hear her and tried to sleep.

“Are you avoiding me because you do not want to confront your issues? That is what the self-help books say. And they should be correct. Otherwise I have lost a great deal of money on an item of unequal value.”

Self help books should be outlawed, Spike decided.

“Where were you? Were you in a bar getting drunk? Xander has informed me that you drink when you are feeling depressed. I think he’s right because I often see you drinking when you are mooning over Buffy.”

Spike shot up. “I do not moon over Buffy!”

“Of course you don’t,” Anya soothed patronizingly, “you simply imbibe large amounts of alcohol while brooding about your relationship with Buffy.”

“I don’t brood either!” he insisted.

“As long as you believe that. So,” Anya reseated herself next to him, “if you were not growing inebriated in a bar, what were you doing?”

Spike sighed, realizing Anya was not budging until he satisfied her curiosity. Bloody annoying bint. “I was with Buffy.”

She waited patiently for more, her eyes watching him intently. “Were you sharing orgasms?”

Spike devoted a moment marveling the intensity of Anya’s focus. Next to her, he sometimes felt positively celibate. No, wait. As long he was taking things slow with Buffy, he was celibate. “No.”

There was a pause as Anya processed the idea of not having sex. For a vampire to do that was impressive, she decided. “So what did you do?”

He shrugged. “Talked. Argued. Discussed ways to kill that bitch Faith. Tried to convince her to apply same to Riley.”


A growl. “Faith fooled ‘round with Captain Cardboard while on the Buffy Express.”

“So there is something bothering you!” she accused.

“I’m not upset or anything,” he protested. “Well, not with Buffy. Not her fault or anything, y’know? Sort of thing I might of cheered on, back in the day. It’s just that Buffy talked about explaining this to Riley. Doesn’t sound like he took it too well. I think there might be trouble.”

“Does Buffy agree?”

Spike gave her a Look. “We’re talking about a *perfectly upstanding* human here.”

Anya nodded sympathetically. “Buffy does favor humans over demons, doesn’t she? But I thought she was in the vengeance stage of her relationship with Riley.”

“Not really. She says it’s just over and that’s that. Trick is, I think he’s not as civilized about it.”

She thought a moment. “Males do have strong vengeance tendencies. They’re not as creative in my experience, but I have seen some work out a good vengeance.”

“I’m going to take that as a you agreeing with me.” Spike leaned back with a sigh. “Only good thing out of this is that she’s wearing my ring now.”

“That is an encouraging sign, though highly backwards. Woman should not be made to be seen as property of men.”

“And the patron of scorned women live,” he muttered as Anya continued talking.

“Though I’m not sure that would be for the best. Public admittance of a new relationship often increases the level of vengeance.” “Thanks for the thought.”

“You’re welcome,” Anya said perkily.

“Will you leave now?”

Anya considered it. “No.”

Spike wished he had a pillow to pull over his face. Maybe he should invest in a bed. Hey, that’s a good idea. Give him a place to bring Buffy. Lost in thoughts of Buffy + Bed, he easily zoned out the rest of Anya’s cheerful babblings