***Part Eight***

Spike had tried not to be overly obvious he was anxious for Buffy to leave. The bloody housewarming party that she had wanted was slated for the next night and she was off to the store with a list a mile or two long. He was not looking forward to it at all, but at least her mother was coming to help her with things.

Their neighbors were coming, which Spike could do without, as well as some of her college chums. As long as none of them were college boys interested in Buffy he would deal with them just as he would their neighbors, pleasantly with an edge to it that indicated his tolerance and little more. Humans. He was going to be surrounded by them. Isolation and lack of socialization were two things he rather liked about being a vampire. The only time he had taken to going to human parties was if he and Dru were in need of some fun before their meals.

"Tara," he called, grabbing his duster from the closet as soon as Buffy drove her Jeep away. She had argued vehemently with him about buying a car. She still preferred to walk, but at least she was using the blessed thing. He had spent days scanning the classifieds until he stumbled upon the perfect choice for Buffy. It was not a yuppie's Jeep with all the bells and whistles, hers was the type with the canvas top. A bright yellow Wrangler, the color had gotten his attention. He knew instantly that it would look perfect with her at the wheel driving to the beach, top down, her hair flying in the wind while the sun beat down on her flesh, warming it. Spike would never see it happen, but he could picture it clearly nonetheless. And he would get to see at least part of the scenario play out at night.

"Tara," he called again when the girl had not come downstairs yet. He was pacing in the great room and turned abruptly to face her when she finally came downstairs. "What took you so long," he asked crankily.

"I wa-wa-was just brushing my hair, Spike. I'm re-re-ready now, though," she said, pushing a few strands of hair behind her ear.

Spike turned without another word and went to the stairs leading to the basement and garage where his Desoto was. "Bloody hell, she better appreciate this," he said, checking to ensure there was a blanket in the backseat before sliding into the driver's seat. The mall had covered parking, but one never knew when venturing out in the daylight when a blanket would be necessary. He checked his pocket one last time to ensure he had everything he needed.

"She wi-will, Spike, I know she will."

"I swear this party is going to be the death of me. If I hear one more time not to stand in front of any mirrors or to get all of my blood packets to the refrigerator downstairs I'm going to scream."

Tara smiled with a light laugh and Spike scowled. She was laughing at him, the little witch was. Bloody great. He could not even throw a fit without getting laughed at anymore. "So then why are you doing this, if she's driving you so crazy?"

"Because damn it, she deserves it."

"You know, I don't think she cares."

"I know she doesn't, that's why I want to do it for her today. Before the party, before we have wall-to-wall people in here waiting to pass judgment on what a cretin I am. I care, damn it. Not that I know why."

"You love her."

"Well, yeah. Just like the great poof, I guess I'm not all that different from him after all."

"Y-Y-You are. I mean, I ne-never met him, Angel, but from what Willow says you are."

"Not sure if that's good or bad, but thanks," he said with a shrug.

Soon enough they were at the mall. Once upon a time he would have come here looking for food sources or things to take without paying for them. Today, he was here with his wallet full of money he had actually earned somewhat legitimately. Buffy might not consider it legitimate work, but he was not stealing it or beating people up for it, so it was legitimate as far as Spike was concerned. She certainly did not seem to care where the money came from to buy the house, the Jeep, the furniture and pay for all the blessed food for this party she was going all out with.

His trip to the mall took longer than he had anticipated and by the time he and Tara had returned, Buffy was back and did not look too happy to find the house empty. He guessed the unhappiness stemmed from no one being there to help her haul groceries upstairs more than anything. Luckily, Spike and Tara had stopped by McDonald's on the way home.

"Hey love," he said, sporting the brown McDonald's to-go bag while Tara held the drink holder.

"You got fast food," she asked, regarding the bag.

"Sure. Tara said she was in the mood for a cheeseburger, so we went out. No worries I have driven in the day before." He set the bag on the island and offered her one of his most charming smiles with a wink. He was behind her before she had much of a chance to respond, one advantage of vampire stealth. His arms went around her waist and his mouth sought the side of her neck. He breathed in deeply, the scent of her perfume intoxicating. "I got you a Quarter Pounder, no pickles or onions. Just the way my pet likes them."

"Did you get something for yourself?"

"No, I'll have some blood after you've both eaten your chow. I know none of you particularly care for my drinking while you're eating."

"It-It's okay with me, Spike. I-I-I don't mind."

"Thanks," he said, offering Tara a wink. "What about you, Slayer, do you mind?" He kissed Buffy's neck and stepped away from her.

"Not at all. I have to get these groceries put away first anyway."

"What difference does it make if you put them away? You're just going to take them out in the morning when you start cooking for this shindig of yours."


"Yeah, whatever. It's your party. I'm just here as man of the house or something. Not even sure that I qualify as that." He retrieved a few bags of groceries from the floor and placed them on the counter near her.

"I think you qualify," she said and Spike was surprised she was paying attention to him with the countless grocery bags she had yet to put away.

"We'll see about that tomorrow night I guess," he said with a shrug. Anxious to change the subject he tried to think of something else to talk about other than her friends' opinion of him. "The Jeep's running good for you then?"

"Yeah. I'm still getting used to the clutch and shifting, but I didn't crash it if that's what you're asking."

He laughed lightly. "I think I might have noticed that, love. I am just making sure we didn't get a bum deal and I don't need to vamp out on the guy."

"No vamping out is necessary."


Willow and Tara were gone and would not be back until the morning. Joyce had agreed to put them up for the night. Spike had taken the night off from being the Big Bad of the monster world and patrolled alongside Buffy for the first time in weeks. He was still doing harm to monsters with Buffy, but he was not getting paid for it.

They were out on the deck, drinking cups of hot cocoa with the little marshmallows that Spike liked so well. Tomorrow night the house would be abuzz, full of people most of whom he not only did not know but had no desire to know. But it was making her happy, and Spike could not resist much of anything if the end result was Buffy's happiness. He could not help but believe that she would stop being happy with him one day. Sooner or later a human would come along or she would decide she did want children after all, or he would just flat out do something that she found unforgivable and this would end.

That and his efforts to locate Dracula were nagging at him. Buffy had not said whether or not the bloody Count had come calling on her again. Spike hoped she would tell him if he had. He had checked every mansion he could think of and his searching had netted him nothing so far.

"It's quiet with the girls gone, isn't it," he said with a slight smile, pushing thoughts of Dracula and the party away. He had grown used to having the two witches around. Tara was always willing to lend him a helping hand like she had that morning, particularly if it was to do something nice for Buffy. Usually it was picking up flowers or something for him so that he would not have to go out during the day. Today was by far the most expensive thing she had aided him in picking out and Tara had been noticeably nervous. That made both of them. Spike was still a little nervous.

"Yeah, they were going to a movie and the Bronze."

"Is that where they were off to," he queried with faux surprise. Willow had cooked up that little lie. Of course Buffy would realize in the morning when Willow and Tara came home with Joyce that it was a rouse.

She did not respond and Spike could tell she was lost in thought. "Nervous about the party tomorrow? Or is it something else, pet?"

"A little," she took a sip of the cocoa, clutching the cup with both hands. "Okay a lot. I mean, what if I go through all this effort to make all this food only to have it turn out terrible, or have someone get food poisoning or something? Cooking Thanksgiving dinner once and other smaller meals doesn't mean I can do this."

"Sweet, no one's going to get food poisoning and I've tasted your cooking a time or two, so I don't think anyone disliking it will be a problem. Besides, you're buying the ham and the roast beef. So, nothing really can go wrong. So you burn something, Willow or Tara, or your mom, can go out and get something to replace it."

"I know. It's just," she shrugged. "It's a big deal. I mean, sure we've been living together and Willow, Tara, Xander, Anya, Mom and Giles know about it, but I mean tomorrow night," she trailed off.

"Tomorrow night, what? You're admitting to the whole world that you share a bed with one of the monsters you go out to kill every night?"

"Something like that. I mean, the neighbors all know me as Buffy Harrison, my friends away from here know me as Buffy Summers, only a handful know me as the Slayer. Jessica was here yesterday afternoon while you were sleeping."

"She was? I didn't know that," Spike said puzzled. He had not noticed the scent of another human in the house at all. Buffy and Jessica had become rather chummy of late and it was not unusual for Jessica to stop by for a bit of R&R from the kids. Perhaps that was why he did not pick up on her scent.


Suddenly this conversation was not going in a very positive direction. He could tell that was the case when her answers shortened. "Okay, love. And what? She put some sort of voodoo on you that you can't cook, be a hostess or what?"

She shrugged again, taking a sip of cocoa. "It's nothing, Spike. No big. Just chalk it up to pre-party jitters."

He rolled his eyes and inclined his head, letting her know he was annoyed. Fine, whatever. He was not going to pry it out of her, particularly if it was something that would make him think she viewed him as ignorant or a bigger poof than Angel was.

"Well then, I have something I hope will cheer you up. Or make you feel less pouty or whatever your deal is this evening."

"I'm not pouty. If you really want to know, she asked to see our wedding pictures. I mean she sees we have friends, right? Willow and Tara live with us and Xander and Anya, Mom and Giles come over from time to time. So it stands to reason we didn't sneak off in the middle of the night under the influence of a spell and get married when we couldn't even stand one another."

And she managed to take the rose right off the bloom. Damn it all. There was a reason he did not like the idea of her becoming chummy with too many people. Sooner or later this type of thing was going to come up. How could he get through to her that their worlds, whether they were together or not, were different than the world humans existed in? Sure, maybe if she had stuck it out with the Boy Scout she would have had a grand wedding with a gown, pictures and all the grandeur that went with it. She deserved it, he did not believe differently.

He set his cup down and stood, closing the short distance to where she sat. He took her cup and set it next to his on the little table that matched their patio set. He felt like a bloody domestic animal sometimes when he looked at all the things he had accumulated over the past few months in an effort to keep her happy. And he had been succeeding, but now here someone had gone and ruined it with one bloody conversation. About pictures, no less. Nothing in this house mattered to him one bit, except her. He had admitted, indirectly, to Tara that morning that he loved Buffy. He had never said so to Buffy, nor had she ever to him or asked him about his feelings for her.

His hands took hers and he brought her to him, his arms going around her waist. He looked at her, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears and he lowered his lips to her face to kiss them away. "It's all right, love. Really, it's all right. So we have no wedding pictures. Surely we're not the only married couple who has no wedding pictures."

"Maybe from your era that's true. But, hello, this is the nineties. The nineteen nineties. People have photographers at their weddings."

"Buffy, has it occurred to you that there could be a very simple explanation for no pictures at our wedding?"

"No," she said, sniffling lightly. He kissed her face again, enjoying the salty taste of her tears. It was probably best not to tell her he enjoyed tasting her like this so he said nothing.

"Well, how about we just decided not to wait. We just went off and got married, to save your mom the expense of a big wedding and to save yourself the headache of having to plan a wedding, distracting you from your studies and all."

"I suppose," she said, wiping her eyes with her shirt sleeve. She was wearing a flannel shirt, lord only knew where she found it. But he imagined to her it was cool enough outside to require something other than just a T-shirt.

He kissed her on the forehead and reached into his shirt pocket. "I bought you something today. Maybe it will stop those tears from falling. I see them there, I know they want to, but it breaks the Big Bad's heart to see his pet fretting over something we can't go back and do over."

"You don't have a heart," she said poutily.

"Yeah, well, I must have something for you to stick around here with me. And for me to care whether you cry or not." He took her left hand and slid the set of rings he had bought earlier onto her ring finger. "I guess I should have waited to give this to you and heard out whether or not I have something that makes you stick around."

She stood in silence, looking from her hand to his face to her hand to his face repeatedly. "All right, Slayer, say something. Have I grown horns or did I screw up royally or what? It fits you, it has to. I brought one of your rings with me to make sure I got the right size and everything."

"It's," she paused and Spike saw the tears that had been threatening to spill over earlier falling aplenty now. Good grief, he had not meant to make her cry.

"If it's that hideous looking, well it's Tara's fault. She helped me pick it out. That will teach me for listening to a bloody lesbian about wedding rings."

"That is where you two were today?"

He nodded his head and rolled his eyes. "Caught me. Yeah. Like I'd venture out in the daytime for a bloody McDonald's cheeseburger."

"I sort of wondered about that," she said absently.

"Slayer," he said, using his hand to tilt her face up so he could look her in the eye. "Do you like it? I mean, if you don't, if you'd prefer something else we can go back and pick something out. But I agree with Tara, it suits you. I mean, you're the Slayer, you can't have some big huge diamond on your hand catching on things. Or for the baddies to be able to get a hold of and rip your finger off. I like my wife with all ten of her digits, thank you," he whispered, the thought of her losing any appendage offensive to him. He brought her hand to his lips and kissed her fingertips.

"It's beautiful, Spike. Really. I don't know what to say. I mean, I wasn't expecting it. You've done so much already. The house, the Jeep, now this." She cocked her head slightly, extending her hand slightly. Spike chuckled as he saw her regarding the ring in the moonlight. "It's perfect," she said.

"This comes off, by the way," he said as he wiggled the diamond solitaire portion off. He had to admit he liked the diamond himself. It was big enough without being gaudy, and for some reason the round cut appealed to him over the other cuts available. "So," he continued. "For patrolling or whatever, you could take it off and just wear the band here," he said, his thumb tracing along the plain gold wedding band remaining there. "That is if you want to. Up to you entirely, of course. Just letting you know they're not joined together."

"Shut up, Spike," she said before kissing him. The kiss and her momentum pushing herself against him forced him back against the deck's railing. He groaned softly, startled more than hurt by his back's sudden encounter with the wood.

Her kissing was desperate, animal like and her hands were busy ridding him of his button up shirt. None of these things did he mind in the least. He had not been sure what type of reaction to expect to the ring, particularly with her mood tonight. This scenario had never really entered his mind. In truth, his mind had come up with mostly negative scenarios. That ring on her finger meant they were well and truly doing this marriage thing, making a go of it. While a comment she had made while basically asleep inspired him to buy the piece of jewelry he liked the idea of it, a permanent mark unless she took it off. He had not been overly certain she would like it, though.

Her hands pulled his T-shirt from his jeans and he felt her fingers aptly work the belt buckle. His own hands were busy reaching underneath her T-shirt, mindful to leave the flannel shirt she wore in place. No sense in distracting her by getting her cold. His hands found her breasts, cupping, stroking and caressing them the way she liked. He loved it when she got urgent and needy about wanting him, it always led to some of their most exciting trysts.

Her hand was inside of his jeans now, stroking him to further attention. She reached lower, cupping him before sliding up along his length once again and circling his tip. "Christ, Buffy," he murmured, biting her lip as he did. He moaned followed almost immediately by a moan of her own when he licked the blood droplets away.

"Switch with me," she said and pulled on his shirt front with one hand. He got the idea and switched so her back was now against the deck's railing. He broke the kiss, his mouth drifting lower to her jaw, her neck and throat and lower still. Instinctively, her back arched as he lifted the soft cotton T-shirt she wore exposing her breasts to him and the cool night air. Her peaks puckered and Spike smiled wickedly, more then up to the challenge of warming them, bringing them to a hardened state of arousal.

Her hand was still busy working him to a heightened state of arousal while her other hand worked the fastening on her jeans. "Now, sweet, here," he queried. They had not had sex outside since that night at her house months ago. For some reason here at their own home they had just never gotten around to it.

"Yes," she gasped moving a hand to his head, clutching him back to her breast. Her Slayer agility came in handy as she worked her legs around his waist and without much more effort his length inside of her. His hands went to her bottom to support her.

Her hands wandered blindly, wildly along his chest. She was not using her nails, but if she had been he probably would have been shred to pieces just then. He loved when she got like this, wild and out of control with want and need for him. No Angel or bloody Boy Scout could make her lose control this way. Thoughts of Angel brought out the possessiveness in him and he grew noticeably rougher, more animal like himself.

All this because of a bloody ring he couldn't help but wonder to himself. It had to be more than that, something Spike just did not understand. Whatever it was, it never failed to bring the demon in him close to the surface. Always when their couplings were like this he had to fight to squelch it, keep it at bay. Tonight though he did not want to. He wanted this joining to be complete, body, mind, soul, and blood.

As if reading his mind or just knowing when his game face appeared, Buffy dropped her head back even further bearing her neck to him. "Drink Spike," she whispered. He led them so they were lying on the deck and did as she asked, but not at her neck. Instead, he did something he had never done in all of his years, something he had only seen amongst animals, he bit her shoulder. In packs, it was a sign of dominance, a way for the alpha male to stake his claim on the female of his choosing. She cried out as his fangs sunk into her flesh there, his arousal fed by the show of dominance and her seeming acceptance of it.

Her left hand moved and he thought she was going to push him away, get pissed off at him and throw him across the deck. She would have every right to, even still caught in the moment he was aware of this. As much as he would love to be, he was not dominant to her. It was probably one of the reasons things did work between them, neither of them was weak. Instead of pushing him away her hand found his right hand and she joined their hands. The feeling of those pieces of metal on her finger, metal he had placed there in another, symbolic, effort to claim her, helped push the demon down.

His mouth remained at her shoulder when his face returned to human form, licking the droplets of blood as he thrust into her. They clutched one another's hand, her breathing grew shallow and her back arched toward him as both fell over the edge together.

Once she had caught her breath and he had attempted unsuccessfully to come to some understanding about what he had just done he moved to kiss her. He expected full well for her to reject him, but she kissed him affectionately, welcoming him with parted lips and a seeking tongue.

"Did I hurt you, pet," he asked, forgetting for the moment she was the Slayer and it was sort of a silly question to ask her.

"Mm, only in a good way," she murmured against his mouth kissing him again.

He pulled back, lifting his chest off of hers and looked into her eyes. "So was that my reward for my little gift? If so, I need to file that away for future reference. Buy Buffy more jewelry."

"Sort of. It was just so sudden, a surprise. I never expected one." She frowned then and Spike could almost see her mind working.

"What is it that's got you fretting, pet?"

"Nothing. Nothing at all. It's beautiful. And tomorrow's going to be great. You're right, we don't need wedding pictures or anything else. It doesn't matter."

"I hope you believe that. Pictures are just that, pictures. What really matters are the pictures, the memories, we're storing in your heart, Buffy."

"I guess. It's just," she shrugged and shifted underneath him. He moved beside her, realizing he was getting heavy. "As a girl you dream about your wedding you know? I mean, there are a lot of things I've dreamt about that because I'm the Slayer won't happen. I realize that, but it's just still sort of a bummer."

"Oh, pet, don't let those women get you down. No offense, but women can be pretty catty about things like that. What was your dress like? How much did it cost? Where did you have the reception? Who was your photographer? Who did the cake? Christ, you'd think it was the second coming instead of a wedding. Most of them end up in divorce anyway, so what's the point?"

"And you wouldn't grant me one, so what does that say about us?"

"That we're stuck with one another?"

"Until I die you mean," she said somberly.

"All right, Slayer, let's not put a damper on this night with talk about that. Please. You've got a big day ahead of you tomorrow, surely there are more positive things you can think about. Picture me wearing those goofy clothes you insisted I wear or something."

"All right. I don't want to get all depressing Buffy on you anyway."

"Good, love. I'd like the after effects to remain with us for a while after that go around."

"It was pretty intense, wasn't it?"

"They're all intense with you, Buffy. I can count on one hand how many times have not been intense. That's just the way it is between us, heat and intensity, sweat and noise."

"How romantic."

"Yeah, that's me."

"I can see why your poetry didn't go over too well."

"Hey, play fair now."

"I see the North Star," she said, pointing up into the sky. Sure enough there it was, the Big Dipper with the North Star as bright as could be.

He brought her left hand to his lips and kissed it. "I am glad you like the rings."

"Oh, I would have been more than happy with just the band, Spike. I don't need a diamond."

"I know you don't and I know you would have been fine with the band, that's why I got both. I realize I've gypped you out of some of the stuff you dreamt of. I just wanted you to have your party tomorrow and feel like you weren't putting on an act for anyone. Or have some insensitive chit ask about your bare finger. Women get off on that stuff for some reason. Who's got the biggest diamond. You'd think you all have a complex about size issues or something."

"No complex about size issues coming from the Slayer," she said with a laugh and Spike could not help but smile. "Can we go inside now? I'm getting cold."

"You're always getting cold," he teased.

"You should talk, Mr. Undead. No fair that you are a one temperature Spike."

"Tell me about it," he said as he stood, pulling up his jeans and fixing his shirt before offering her a hand up.

"How about joining me for a bath before we go to bed?"

"Sounds great, love. Work any sore spots right out of you."

"That's assuming I'm sore." He kissed her shoulder where he had bitten her earlier. "That's a different type of sore and one I don't mind living with." She turned her head slightly to look at him. "It was different though."

"Yeah," he said solemnly, expecting a scolding.


"Yeah," he said in agreement, waiting for the tongue lashing. Instead she merely took his hand, laced her fingers through his and walked inside with him.

"I can't say I understand it. I'm not open to it all the time. Sometimes I like it. Need it. It's like your demon calls to whatever is inside of me," she said frowning. "Does that make sense? I mean, I can feel it. Like a force. Both times I've let you I could tell you were close to being over the edge."

"It's the Slayer part of you, love, that's all. You've got your own force inside of you, and it responds to my demon. That's good, at least we know we won't kill one another because of it."

"Well, I don't know about that. One bite in the wrong place or the wrong way and Buffy will be gone."

"Never happen, pet. You don't think after one hundred twenty years I don't know the difference between killing my prey and loving my partner?"

"Yeah, I know. I was just saying."

"Yeah, I know, love. Just wanted to assure you that you are safe."

"I never questioned that, Spike."

"Good, pet, let's get inside to that bath. Did I mention our tenants won't be coming home tonight? Shacking up for the night in your old bedroom, guests of your mom."

"No, you left out that little detail, scheming husband."

He snickered snidely. "Just wanted some time alone with you before you're a crazy woman tomorrow."

"Are you going to stay up all night tonight so you sleep during the day tomorrow?"

"Been thinking about it, yeah. Can go on that computer of yours and do some reading or something. There's a Passions mailing list I'm on that is always full of gossip about the show."

"Oh God. I had no idea that's what you used the computer for."

"Not entirely, no. But sometimes, you know, I can't always be seeking knowledge and what not. A boy has to have some fun, too. All work and no play, you know what that makes."

"Yes, I saw that movie too."

He kissed her on the temple before moving to start the filling of the tub. "Tore your shirt, pet. Sorry," he said seeing that the shoulder of her T-shirt was ripped to shreds.

"It's all right, it was old anyway."

"You sure? I don't need to run out and get you a new one."

"No, I don't want you running out anywhere. You are housebound Spike until after the party ends."

He wagged a finger in front of her. "Got to make the liquor run, Slayer. Lest you forget you're not old enough."

"I feel ancient, and yes I forgot about that part. But that still lets me have you until the morning, right?"

"Yes, until you decide to leave my side to be Betty Crocker or Julia Childs or whoever you liken yourself after."

"Just Buffy."

"Good, I love just Buffy."

"Me, too," she said softly as she shed her clothes to get into the tub.

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