Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19 | Part 20 | Part 21 | Part 22 | Part 23 | Part 24 | Part 25 | Part 26 | Part 27

***Part 1***

Present Day - Sunnydale, California

Buffy sat on the headstone, her left foot crossed over her right ankle, her hands clutching the headstone's edge. She had a stake in her right hand, her left hand was empty. Her senses picked up on the fact that she was being watched. She had felt his presence over the past couple of weeks, but her efforts to look for him had netted nothing.

She had gone to his crypt the first time she had sensed his presence only to find it looked just as it had since his absence. Clem had done his part to make sure that no one took over the crypt. When she realized Spike was gone, possibly for good, Buffy had gone there with boxes to gather all of Spike's belongings and bring them back to her house. She would not have it on her conscience if something happened to Clem that resulted in something happening to Spike's things.

She had tried calling out to him, she was beyond being angry with him now. She was still hurt, yes, but his absence the past four months had given her an opportunity to think on things. Lots of things. Five years of things that had led up to the incident in her bathroom. As much as she would love to lay the blame for that night's events entirely at his feet, she could not. And what was more she missed him, his friendship.

She had tried explaining it to Xander and Dawn, but she just couldn't do it. Explaining it to them would mean explaining the whole entire twisted relationship she had shared with Spike. Buffy was not ready to talk about that to anyone, admitting what she had to Tara was hard enough.

"Where are you," she called out. She did not know why she bothered, in a matter of minutes she would no longer sense his presence indicating he had left as soon as she spoke out. She stood as she felt tears form in her eyes and threaten to fall. She would not let him see her cry, again. Sadly, the thing that tore at her heart most was not that their physical relationship had come to an end. No, she missed the friend, the confidante, the understanding person she had gained in Spike. He apparently wanted to remain out of her life other than the ghostlike appearances he continued to make. Not that it surprised her anymore. Men ran from Buffy as if she had some incurable disease. If she had learned one thing over the years it was that she was unable to keep a man around, even her father had left.

Maybe she did have some incurable disease, the inability to give of herself completely. She had tried once, giving Angel her heart, her soul, her trust, her innocence, her love, and even her blood. She would have given her life for him if she had been able to. If her blood could have stopped Acathla she would have gladly given her life for him. She had given him the precious commodity that was a Slayer's blood, had let him drain her to within an inch of her life, and yet he had still left her.

Her night's patrol done, it was time to go home and stop thinking about the blonde vampire who had also left her. She had never known Spike to run away from a problem. Sure, he had played these lurking games a couple of years ago but this was different. She did not feel stalked right now merely watched as if he was just checking up on her. She wished he would stop, it reminded her of Angel coming into town the few times he had behind her back in an effort to protect her.

She did not want to go home. Going home brought with it the dreams. They had been plaguing her nightly, making her will herself to stay awake until exhaustion overtook and she had no choice but to sleep. Dreams of young girls much like herself being brutally killed all looking at her with lifeless eyes as if reaching out to her. Every time she had the dreams she would get the feeling that there was something she was supposed to be doing to help these girls, but she had no idea how, where they were or even who they were. She knew enough by now to know that these dreams meant something. She was not prophecy girl, but her dreams did have a knack for possessing hidden meanings.

Calling Giles was not an option for her as much as she might want to. He was moving on with his life and had told Buffy more than once over the past year that she no longer needed a watcher. So she was stuck dealing with the dreams on her own, keeping them to herself, unable to share the torment and guilt she experienced every time she had one with anyone. Where were these girls? Were they truly dying? She had a sinking feeling in her gut she knew who they were, so she did not bother to think much on trying to identify them.

Spike would understand, Spike would listen to her, and Spike would know something or someone to get information from. Buffy was not research girl. Dawn, while willing to help and certainly more computer literate than Buffy or Xander, was no Willow or Giles.

She took one last glance at the cemetery once she had reached its edge. "Why are you doing this to me," she called out. "You know I know you're here, so why don't you just show yourself and be done with it?" She no longer felt his presence, so she was probably talking to herself but she could not contain it any longer. "I'm not mad at you, okay. I'm hurt I won't deny that but I'm not mad."

She waited a few minutes but as expected nothing happened so she made her way home. The cycle would begin again, another night of little to no sleep, another day tomorrow at work, another night of patrolling. Buffy knew that Dawn and Xander were worried about her. Buffy had not been to the Bronze or anywhere else outside of the house on Revello Drive that did not involve work or patrolling in months. What a lame summer she had had, but she did not mind.

At home, she heated the leftover spaghetti Dawn had left for her, took a bath, and took a seat on the couch with the TV on hoping there would be something good on to delay her slumber as long as possible. Her attention was drawn to a photo album on the table that she did not recognize. Her curiosity peaked, wondering who Dawn had had over that would bring a family photo album, Buffy brought the heavy, thick and dusty photo album to her lap.

She opened the yellowed pages and realized at once what it was and where it had come from. Dawn had been missing Spike and had gone through the boxes of his things in his basement. There were not many photographs in the album, all but two of the pages were empty. Buffy recognized Spike from over one hundred twenty years ago, only he had not been Spike then he had been William.

He had been handsome in a geeky sort of way. Buffy recalled Giles or someone saying that he had been a poet and could not help but look into the eyes of the young man who had died over one hundred twenty years ago and wonder whether he regretted it. The other pictures she assumed were of his family, so he must have cared for them to tote around pictures of them for over a century.

What had happened to them? Had he killed them as Angel had killed his family? No, Buffy thought to herself, she could not see Spike doing that. He was capable of many things and she had no doubt that up until three years ago Spike had managed to stifle and strangle whatever goodness was left inside of him, but Buffy did not see him murdering the man and woman who had given him life.

Her fingertips grazed over the photograph, wondering what his hair would have felt like then. It had probably been soft, no dye in it but hard to run through with the disheveled curls. She could not help but laugh lightly at the sight of him with the longer locks, curls no less. He had probably been an adorable little boy. Did his parents know what happened to him?

She had tried to imagine more than once what life had been like for Spike. She had done it with Angel years ago, too. It was hard not to when you were involved with someone who had been alive before cars and the telephone. In Angel's case there were a lot more things he had been alive before they had come into existence, electricity being one of them.

Understanding these facts was a lot easier than beginning to actually comprehend them. Buffy thought life without a microwave was difficult. Sometimes she wondered what Angel and Spike saw in her, they had to both think she was incredibly spoiled. Willow, on the other hand, would have probably found them both fascinating to talk to just to find out what life had actually been like as compared to textbooks.

Strangely, she was never overly curious about what Angel had been like before he had been turned. She knew he had been someone Buffy probably would not have liked. Spike on the other hand, now that she had gotten to know some things about him, she imagined had been a likeable man.

Buffy drifted off to sleep her fingers tracing lightly over the grainy black and white photograph of William. She wondered what his life might have been like had Angel, Darla and Dru not come upon him that night. She did not know the circumstances surrounding his turning, how, where or when other than he had been at a party Buffy thought he had said once. Would he have gotten married? Had children? Her eyes opened slightly, taking one last look at the picture of William. She could picture this man married, for the right reason, love. He had proven over the years to be loyal to those he cared for, first Drusilla and then to Buffy. But as she thought of him married with children she found it left an unsettled, sour feeling in her stomach.

Buffy was sure there were others who had earned his loyalty and gotten it in earnest, Clem and Dawn among them. "It doesn't undo the years of pain and suffering he caused," she murmured to herself, her words slurred, sleep induced. "Doesn't undo that he's a vampire."

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***Part 2***

1880 - London, England

"It's time to get up, Milady," she heard accompanied by the feel of an on again off again breeze at her face and neck.

"Excuse me?"

"I said it's time to get up," the child said with a smile. Though she was not really a child Buffy realized as she took in her appearance. She was only a little younger than Dawn. Probably one of Dawn's friends, but why is she waking me up? Oh, right I fell asleep in front of the TV. And what was with the fan in her hand?

"You have pretty hair," Buffy said offering the girl a nervous smile. She did not want Dawn's friends thinking she was lazy and could not even make it up to her bed to sleep each night. "What's your name?"

"Lisa, Milady," she said with a frown, the fan she had been waving over Buffy stilling finally.

"Why are you calling me that," Buffy asked.

"Mum," Lisa said, her brows arching up in question.

"What's with the royal speak?"

The girl frowned. "I, um, Milady?" Buffy was as confused as the girl appeared to be.

"Okay, let's start over. You're Lisa. Why are you here?"

"To get you ready for the dinner party, Milady."

"A party," she frowned. Had Xander convinced her to go to a party that she had forgotten about? It sounded like something Xander might do. He and Dawn had been on her case more than usual the past couple of weeks about her self-inflicted life of seclusion. But who was this girl and why was she dressed so strangely? Not even her mother wore such formal clothes.

"Yes, Milady."

"Stop calling me that," Buffy said softly. She closed her eyes willing herself to recall something, anything that would tell her who this girl was and what party she was talking about. "If this is Xander's idea of a joke I'm so not amused."

"I don't know any Xander, Milady. Of course, I have only been here since this morning, but I did not realize you had been here long enough to make any acquaintances."

Buffy noticed the look of confusion on Lisa's face, but the girl did not say anything. "How do you know about the party then," Buffy asked with a frown. She noticed for the first time the girl had an accent similar to Spike's. It would figure that Dawn would befriend someone that sounded like him particularly after his sudden departure.

"You told me about it before you took your respite, Milady."

"My name is Buffy," Buffy said sitting up. It took her a moment to realize that she was not in her living room, that she was in bed. As she looked around the room she realized she was not in her room. In fact, she was not in her house at all. She blinked and shook her head slightly to wake herself up, but the unfamiliar room was still in front of her. She closed her eyes and kept them closed counting to ten in her head. She opened her eyes only to see the same room. It was beautiful to be sure and as big as the entire second floor of her house. "Where am I?"


Buffy stood, her hands running over the soft white cotton chemise she was wearing. She frowned looking at her clothes, glancing at her reflection in the mirror she saw her hair pinned back in a style she had never worn in her life. Dressed in a chemise with her hair styled as it was she felt a little like she was playing dressup but had to admit she looked the part of a girl from years ago. "Who are you? Where am I? And why am I wearing this?"

"You got undressed unattended after your dinner, Milady."

"Why do you keep calling me that?"

"I know not what else to call you, Mum."

"I just told you my name is Buffy."

"Yes, mum, I know. But," she appeared distressed.

"Forget it," Buffy mumbled. "Have I slept all day then that you're waking me now to get ready for this party? And who are you?"

"Well, you need your bath, Milady, and I have already told you who I am. I'm Lisa." She frowned looking distressed. "I was hired to attend you during your stay here in London."


"Yes, Milady."

"What did someone drug me to get me here?"

"I don't understand, mum?"

"That makes two of us. So I'm going to a party. Who is the party for?" If she could find out where she was maybe she could find out who had taken her. Maybe, just maybe she could get to a telephone and call Giles. If as Lisa said she was in London she had to assume whoever had abducted her was not aware that her Watcher was local.

Lisa smiled and seemed relieved. She was probably thinking that Buffy was going to let the subject drop of where she was and who her captor was. "It's at the Taylor's, Milady. I believe, at least you were telling me earlier, that they will announce their daughter's betrothal tonight."

"I told you that?"

"Yes, Milady."

"Please," Buffy held up her hand. "Please call me Buffy."

"I was told you were rather lax when I took this job, Mum, but surely you can't mean to be that informal."

"I can and I will. Who hired you?"

"You did, Mum. Well, your solicitor at any rate."

"My who? My what?"

"I believe in the Americas you call them lawyers."

"Okay," Buffy said hesitantly. This had to be a dream. It had to be. And while Buffy was admittedly confused by this dream, she preferred it to the ones she had been having recently of dying girls whispering to her. "Where do I go for my bath then?"

Lisa looked at her hands, which were clutched in front of her. She was dressed neatly, but her dress was very plain. Buffy had to wonder why she would put someone in such an outfit. She was apparently not going to answer Buffy's question, so she looked around the large room and spotted a large tub.

Buffy walked towards it and ran her fingers along its ledge able to feel the warmth from the water from where she stood. She picked up one of the bottles on the tray and pulled the stopper. She inhaled deeply, taking in the scent of vanilla and something else Buffy could not name. "Wow," she said in amazement. The towels laid out for her were plush and smelled nice. Towels like these would cost a fortune Buffy knew. She had shopped at Penney's once this summer to buy some towels and ones like these were way out of her price bracket.

"Did you want help with your hair then, Milady?"

"I," Buffy said taking in the tub and realizing there was no shower or showerhead. "Is that part of your job," she asked as she picked up a small bar of soap and took in its scent.

"Of course it is. I didn't realize our ways were so different than yours."


"In America."

"Oh, I, well, I don't know. I just feel sort of strange today," Buffy said. That was an understatement. She continued her perusal of the room. There was no hairdryer, no curling iron, no radio, no television. Where was she? And why was someone going to such an effort to keep her secluded. Though they obviously weren't if Buffy was going to a party. None of this made sense. Buffy sat at the edge of the tub and cradled her head in her hands sighing in frustration.

She felt a gentle hand at her head and looked up to see Lisa watching her intently, nervously. "If I am not pleasing, Milady, you can let the service know and they will send a replacement. I don't know that they would be able to get one for you this evening yet."

Buffy looked away from Lisa, embarrassed for some reason that she was making this girl feel as though she was doing something wrong. Buffy's eyes fell to her chest at the foot of her bed causing her to be even more confused. Someone abducted her, stripped her of simple amenities like a stereo yet made sure she had access to all of her weapons. That made no sense.

Okay, it was time to stop trying to figure out everything at one time and let her dream take her wherever it was the dream wanted her to be. She had had dreams before that she felt as though she was truly a part of, but this went beyond even that. She could swear she was really awake and here experiencing this first hand.

"Let's get ready for the party. Am I going alone?"

"Yes, Milady," Lisa said cautiously though she did seem relieved to hear that Buffy was finally willing to get ready.

At least she had bettered her place in life in her dream rather than made herself worse off. Buffy sort of looked forward to climbing into the tub and letting someone else take care of her. It had been years since her mother had given her a bath and washed her hair. Buffy could still remember the way her mother washed her hair, the way her fingers would massage her scalp and work their way through her hair. Buffy had loved getting baths from her mom.

"How old are you?"

"I'm thirteen."

"Really? And you're working already," Buffy asked feeling the need to make conversation for some reason. Whatever point this dream was trying to make it was taking its time in making it.

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***Part 3***

Present Day - Sunnydale, California

"Buffy, you're going to be late for work," Dawn called from the foot of the stairs when she saw Buffy was asleep on the couch. She almost hated to wake her knowing how difficult it had been for her older sister to sleep lately. Ever since Spike left. Well, that was not exactly true. But ever since she had time to fully realize Spike was gone and possibly not coming back Buffy had changed.

Dawn was not quite sure what happened between them that night in the bathroom. She knew, though, that there was more to it than what Xander had said. Buffy was not talking about it and Spike was not here to talk about it, so that left Dawn very in the dark.

Buffy was not answering her so Dawn walked into the living room. "Buffy," she said meeting with no response so she approached the couch. "Buffy," she said shaking her sister.

"Oh my God," she cried out her lip trembling. "Buffy answer me, this isn't funny. This can't be happening," she said tears forming quickly as images of their mother crossed her mind. Placing a finger at Buffy's neck she searched for a pulse. At first she could not find one, but finally she convinced herself to take a deep breath and concentrate.

Placing two fingers against her neck she found her pulse point. She then placed those fingers in the same spot on Buffy's neck. "There," she called out victoriously. "Why aren't you waking up? Buffy, please! I don't know what to do," she called out. "Oh God." She sat against the couch, her hands at her head trying to figure out what to do. The solution should have been obvious. If Willow or Xander were here they would know what to do. "Of course, Xander," she said before standing and going to the telephone.

"Xander," she said once she had gotten a hold of him on his cell phone.

"Hi Dawn, what's up?"

"It's Buffy."

"What about her? Is she late for work and needs a ride or something?"

"No, she won't wake up, Xander. She's on the couch and she's just laying there."



"I'm here, Dawnster. Have you called an ambulance?"

"No, just you. You were the first person I thought of."

There was silence and Dawn knew what question he was trying to decide how to ask. "Is she breathing?"

"Yes, I checked that. She's breathing, she's just not responding to me. Xander, she's not waking up! She's just laying there."

"Okay, Dawnster, get the paramedics there and I'll be there in a few minutes, okay?"


"No need to thank me, Dawn."

"Okay," Dawn said. She pushed the disconnect button on the phone and then took her finger off of it after a few seconds. She heard the dial tone in her ear, knew who she had to call next but still her fingers paused at actually hitting the 9 and the 1 and the 1 a second time.


"What the hell," Spike called out when he heard sirens. If one of Buffy's neighbors had called the cops on him he would tell them all where to go and then send them there chip be damned. He was about to flee the area not wanting Buffy to accuse him of stalking her again when he noticed it was an ambulance not a squad car and decided to stick around. "What do we have here," he said aloud expecting to get good seats to some sort of tragedy. Maybe someone had a heart attack or it was a victim of a domestic squabble.

Though he did not need to breathe he felt his breath catch when he saw the emergency vehicle stop in front of the Summers' home. "What the hell," he whispered under his breath moving so he had a better vantage point. He had just seen the li'l bit go inside the house and she had not been in there long enough to do anything. That left Buffy. "No," he called out. He watched as two paramedics pushed the stretcher into the house and waited, holding breath he did not need in anticipation of seeing Buffy's body being carried out on a stretcher. Had he failed her again?

She was aware of his being back in Sunnydale, but he had decided not to reveal himself to her. He had so much to explain, so much to say, and he was not sure she would listen to him. He was not sure he deserved to be listened to, not by her anyway. She had called out to him the night before, he had been close enough to hear her and had been sorely tempted to turn around and go to her. But he was not ready yet so he had kept walking. Had he waited too long? Had he been biding his time only to never get more time with her? Impossible. This Slayer had years to live yet.

She had thwarted death twice now, four times if one wanted to count Angel bleeding her dry and the punk geek Warren shooting her. He had not been here for either event, but had heard about them. He would have sought Warren out himself chip or no if Red had not seen justice dispensed. Willy had been more than happy for a price to catch Spike up on the goings on in Sunnydale one afternoon when Spike paid him an after-hours visit. Spike was still not welcome at Willy's, but he needed to know what had been going on during his absence and knew of no other way to gain the information.

He watched the paramedics lead Buffy on a stretcher to the ambulance. The sheet was not over her head and Spike released the breath he had been holding. "She's alive," he said aloud. He jerked back out of the way when he saw the whelp pull up in his car and decided it was time to leave. A night at the hospital was in store for Spike it seemed. Xander and Dawn would have to leave eventually due to their having work and school in the morning. Even if he could not spend time with her, he had to know what was wrong.


"A coma," he muttered to himself as he sat by her side. "You're stronger than this, Slayer," he whispered. Xander had taken Dawn home. "What happened to you? I saw you last night and you were as right as could be."

He took hold of her hand, fighting the urge to tear the IV out from the back of it. "You don't belong here like this, Pet," he whispered hoarsely resting his forehead against the top of her hand. He had held dead people before, had held Drusilla, Angelus and Darla when they were sleeping the sleep of the undead. Spike was still unprepared for the stillness that he met in Buffy. Not even her hand flexed under his ministrations.

"Visiting hours are over," a young nurse said as she came in. She did not look to be much older than Buffy.

"I know. I just couldn't leave yet," he said giving her his most charming smile and made sure his accent was good and pronounced as he spoke. It always seemed to work on ladies. "Didn't want to leave her alone, wake up to the dark alone and all."

"She's in good hands, sir."

"I know. I suppose the gift shop downstairs is closed."

"Yes, it closes at eight."

"Thought so. I guess I'll have to get her something tomorrow then. Can I stay for a little longer? I won't hurt anything. Won't even turn a light on or anythin'," he offered feeling like he was begging but now that he was this close to her again he could not just leave.

"I could get in trouble."

"I won't tell a soul you gave me permission. I swear it," he squinted taking in her name tag. "Dawn is it. Her sister's name is Dawn, you know."

"Yes, I did. I knew her vaguely through school. Are you her boyfriend," she asked.

"Just a friend," he said somberly unsure if he could even call himself that anymore. For all he knew she had called out to him the night before wanting to kick his ass once and for all, finishing it off this time with a stake through his heart or a blade to his throat. Spike glanced at the clock on the wall, it was a little after eleven o'clock. "If you went to school with her you should know how special she is then."

She smiled with a slight shrug. "Yeah, she won an award at prom for being the Class Protector."

"I'll bet she appreciated that, though she'd never tell anyone," Spike said somberly. One thing his Slayer did not suffer from was hubris. She saved Sunnydale from destruction more times than any of its citizens probably knew yet she never asked for thanks or recognition.

"No you're right she always did it quietly, helping people," she said growing quiet. She glanced to Buffy and then sighed. "I suppose I can let you stay for a little longer but if anyone comes in here you have to go."

"I understand. I won't stay long, don't want to risk getting you in trouble or anything, Dawn. Thank you."

"You're welcome." She turned and left and Spike returned to his chair at the side of her bed.

"What am I going to do with you here? I can't come during the day when Harris and li'l bit are busy and they're going to shush me out of here as soon as the clock strikes nine each night." He sighed heavily and looked out the window. He had listened as the doctor spoke to Dawn and Xander. One benefit to being a vampire even on the other side of the corridor he could hear all that the doctor had said. Dawn said she knew of nothing that might have happened, she had fallen asleep on the couch like she normally did and that's how Dawn had found her.

Spike had watched her enough since his return to know that Buffy did not sleep well, but he had not realized it was so bad that she had taken to sleeping on the couch. "What's bothering you, pet," he said a hand reaching to push away some hair from her face. "What's got the Slayer so spooked she's got to sleep with infomercials playing in the background?" He placed a kiss along her temple and stood to go. He could not risk a doctor coming in here wondering who he was and why he was there. He did not want to have to deal with Harris or Dawn either.

"I'll see you tomorrow night, Slayer," he whispered against her ear. He kissed her lightly on the mouth, his breath caught and hitched when she did not respond even slightly. He left the room, closing the door behind him his heart - and new soul - heavy. Someone had to patrol for her. No one could know the Slayer was lying in a hospital bed comatose. He did not want to do it, did not know if he was ready to do it for that matter. He doubted that Xander would pick up the slack.

He raked a hand through his newly bleached curls. His hair was longer than last she had seen it, he had not bothered to cut it since his return. Dying it had been his first step. He should have talked to Angelus before going after his soul. He had not anticipated the blessed thing being so soddin painful. Maybe this was one way he could pay back some of his debt. He liked to think he had started paying it back ever since he got the bloody chip in his head, little by little he had started helping the Slayer and her group of Scoobies. He had stumbled and fallen a couple of times, but who walked in a perfectly straight line all the time?

"No one that's who," he murmured to himself once outside heading toward the abandoned building he'd been staying in since his return. One thing about Sunnydale, California he never seemed to have difficulty finding a decent place to live.

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***Part 4***

1880 - London, England

Buffy stared at her reflection in the mirror. There were only candles in her room so she could not see herself as well as she might have liked. Whoever Lisa was and despite her being barely a teenager she had made Buffy beautiful. She was reminded of her stint as an eighteenth century society girl five years ago on Halloween. That had not turned out very well. Hopefully, this night would turn out a little better than that one had.

Her hair was piled high atop her head with some small pearls strung through it. Her gown was a deep blue silk with black accents throughout. The sleeves were off the shoulder, which Buffy did not mind she was used to wearing tank tops and things. The neckline was really low and Buffy wondered if it was inappropriate but Lisa had balked at her question about it. She wore a string of pearls with a tear drop shaped onyx pendant around her neck and a matching pair of earrings. Her dream had outfitted her for this party well, sparing nothing.

She turned to regard her reflection from the side not liking the bustle, but she loved the feel of the silk against her body. Of course she had a chemise and a torture device known as a corset on underneath the dress, but she was able to feel the material against her arms and a little on her legs where they were bare between her garter and the tops of her stockings.

She tilted her chin up wondering if she could pull this off, doubting her abilities even if it was merely a dream. Lisa seemed under the impression that Buffy was a lady of means. At least Buffy gathered that was the reason the girl continued to address her as Milady in a mouselike voice that indicated she was frightened of what Buffy would do if she misaddressed her. She had no idea how to act like an heiress or a woman of means. She had no rings on so she assumed she was an unmarried woman in this place her dream had brought her to. Wherever she was, Buffy recalled enough from history class to know by her dress and the lack of electric lights that unmarried women were blooming flowers to be displayed in the hopes of snatching a suitable husband.

Lisa had said more than once that Buffy was an American not an Englishwoman, so perhaps people at the party would not be quick to judge her. She hoped so and hoped whoever the Taylor's were she would be accepted there. Buffy did not need to feel out of place in her own dream.

Moving in the layers with the corset laced as tightly as it could be proved difficult. "Why on earth did women wear these things," she queried with a mutter as she walked to the door she had seen Lisa use to come and go from Buffy's suite. She took as deep a breath as the corset allowed and opened the door, prepared for pretty much anything.

She was not expecting, however, for her to be in a beautiful and apparently large house. "How in the hell am I affording this," she whispered. "I'm liking this dream, though," she added not wanting the powers that be or whoever was giving her this dream to think she was dissatisfied. It would be fun to pretend for a while to be a rich debutante like girl. Buffy could pull it off without being annoying like Cordelia had been.

A man stepped seemingly out of nowhere and gave her a sincere but hesitant smile. "Miss Summers, I can escort you to your coach if you are ready to depart."

She whimpered softly, this man obviously knew who she was but like with Lisa she had no idea who this man was. She would ask Lisa later. The girl seemed to understand that Buffy did not remember her name for whatever reason. She took the nicely kempt man's offered arm. "Thank you," she said giving him a smile of her own.

"You're welcome, Milady. It is a shame you are attending unescorted this evening."

"You think so? I kind of like it," Buffy said surprised she felt that way. She expected, if as Lisa said this was a party to announce an engagement, there to be lots of couples at this party. Normally, she felt out of place at things where everyone but her was coupled off, but tonight she was not feeling any of that.

"Well, you look so nice who would not wish to have the honor of you walking in on their arm."

"Thank you," she said and felt the heat of a blush on her face, neck and upper chest.

"It is my pleasure, Milady," he said as he led her down the steps. She took in the house as they walked. Whoever she was in this dream she apparently needed a lot of servants, because there were a few keeping themselves busy dusting and doing other household chores. "You'll need a wrap," he said once they had gotten to the foot of the steps, pausing at the front door.

Buffy waited for him to return with a wrap, draping it over her shoulders. "Thank you," she said offering him another smile. It felt so weird to have people doing these things for her. She had been really weirded out by Lisa helping her dress but was slowly getting accustomed to it. She realized she should enjoy it, only in her dreams would she have this much done for her.

"Miss Summers," a second man seated atop the coach offered her with a slight nod of his head. She noticed he had not addressed her as Milady and inclined her head slightly to look at him. He was already readying the coach for its departure so his attention was no longer on Buffy.

The house servant handed her into the coach, the driver atop the coach at the ready. Another servant, she thought to herself. She imagined a driver was necessary, but she could not help but think it was entirely too much for just one person. And why he had addressed her as he had, as if he knew her? "Enjoy your evening," the house servant said as he put up the step and closed the coach's door.

Buffy sat back, making herself comfortable curious when she spotted a smaller version of her weapons chest underneath the seat across from her. Did these people know she was a Slayer? Was there a problem with vampires here at this time? Had something happened to the Slayer of this time but she had not died that Buffy had to be brought here? Was that why she was brought here?

"No, don't be ridiculous," she said through clenched teeth. "You have not been brought anywhere. This is a dream. True, it seems way real, but it is just a dream." She closed her eyes and put her head back. "Let this be a dream."


Buffy stood feeling very much like a piece of meat on display. She realized as the night had progressed that the reason Lisa did not think twice about the cut of her dress was because Buffy was an unmarried women. Apparently, unmarried women in this time were required to flaunt every asset they had, including their cleavage, in order to gain a man's affections. At least the man who was speaking with her now seemed to be more interested in her being from America than in her becoming his wife.

"So tell me, Miss Summers, how did you get invited to this evening's festivities when you have only been in London for a matter of days?"

"I honestly am not sure," Buffy said. "Perhaps my attorney arranged it for me. He arranged everything for me, you know."

"Ah yes, that's right. I remember when I found out the house you are staying in had been rented. I had heard an attractive American woman was coming to stay here in London for a while, but I had no idea she would be as charming as you are."

"Thank you," Buffy said blushing appropriately at the man's kind words. "It is interesting being here."

"I imagine it is different."

"You have no idea," Buffy said softly with a slight roll of her eyes. She was bored. Socializing among the higher stationed people was no fun. Buffy was having no fun.

A bored Buffy made for a curious Buffy and she decided to walk around some. Her ears perked up when she heard a bunch of men talking and laughing and she glanced in their direction. She could not make out what they were saying, but she was curious as to what had them acting so noisily. "Excuse me for a moment."

"By all means, Miss Summers, I don't mean to take up all of your time."

"Of course you don't," Buffy said but he seemed to not get her sarcasm as he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed her wrist politely. She took her hand back without being rude, it was not easy to do as her instinct was to jerk her hand away, and walked in the direction of the voices.

"He's a fool is what he is," she overheard.

"Well, what do you expect from someone who dreams and writes poetry instead of makes any attempt at working for a living?"

"He has his head in the clouds is what he has," said someone else. "He's not even concerned about the disappearances occurring on our very streets. You'd think if nothing else he would be afraid for her," the same voice continued, a stress on her that implied everyone would know who he was speaking of.

So there was something going on that might require a Slayer's attention, but Buffy could not for the life of her figure out what she could do to help. This was only a dream after all, she was useless, not even really here.

"Look at him," one of the men said. Apparently, none of them had noticed Buffy being close because they kept talking about whoever they were talking about. She had no doubt that the men would have instantly stopped if they knew a lady was present.

She slipped into a room next to the one the men were in and made as if she was looking at the paintings on the walls as she worked her way to the doorway on the other side of the room. She was dying to see who they were talking about. No one at the dinner had struck her as being loser-like.

There she was privy to another conversation. A man not just being gently let down but shot down in a heartless way. As the conversation escalated four hauntingly familiar words fell on Buffy's ears. "You are beneath me." Buffy clenched her fists and closed her eyes. "No," she said to herself. "This cannot be possible."

She leaned against the wall, her head back with a hand at her stomach trying to breathe with the corset digging into her. "Spike," she whispered. She had seen what he looked like at her house before falling asleep, but she was admittedly curious to know what the woman looked like. Was she like Buffy? Or was she more like Dru? She sensed that William had left the room and made her way into it, a library, and came to a halt feigning surprise. "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize anyone was in here," she said offering the other woman a smile. She definitely was not like Buffy.

"No, it's quite all right I was about to go anyway. You're Miss Summers, right? From the Americas?"

"Yes, I am. And please, call me Buffy," she said.

"I'm Cecily Addams," she said. There was an uncomfortable silence. Buffy had satisfied her curiosity as to what the woman looked like and now found herself with nothing else to say to her. Buffy had not treated Spike very well but she could not imagine embarrassing him like Cecily had in front of a houseful of people. "I should return to the others."

"Of course, I didn't mean to keep you I just came in here for a bit of quiet, actually," Buffy said. Something about this rang familiar in her mind. Cecily left the room and Buffy closed her eyes again. "Think, Buffy, think," she said.

She made her way through the library and out the French doors to a garden. Hopefully, she would not get in any sort of trouble for going out there. But she had to clear her head. Why was this night so familiar? Was Angel here somewhere? She shook her head realizing that was not right. She had scanned the faces of all of the guests carefully to see if she recognized any. So how had she missed seeing Spike?

She had missed him because he made himself unnoticeable, she realized. He did not want to be noticed because when he was noticed he was ridiculed. Just as the men she had overheard were doing. Oh God she had said the very same words Cecily had said to him. What had she done to him?

Then it occurred to her. Spike had told her about this night, Angel had nothing to do with it. Well, he did but not in the way she was originally thinking. This was the night William was turned. Was she here to stop it? Would Cecily even notice that William was gone? Would she even care that her words led to his death? Buffy doubted it and she could just hear the words of scorn said about him even when he was dead.

She could not go back through the house. She would have to go through endless formalities of saying good night to her host and hostess and their newly betrothed daughter. She had to get out now. If what her memory was telling her was right she had to prevent Drusilla from finding him. She found a gate in the fence and made her exit that way. Where would Spike go? No, she had to remind herself, this was not Spike it was William.

She walked to her coach apparently startling her driver. "Miss Summers, are you done already?"

She nodded her head simply and he seemed to recognize the glimmer of determination in her eyes. "I need my things." The driver said nothing merely held the coach's door open for her. She opened the smaller version of her weapons chest and pulled out some stakes. The driver cleared his throat lightly and turned his back to her as she placed the stakes under her dress. "So much for the silk stockings remaining unharmed," Buffy muttered to herself. Why did she expect that she could keep such a beautiful gown in one piece? She should have known something was going to happen, it never failed when she was dressed nice something always went wrong.

"You have a change of clothes in the trunk, Miss Summers," he said quietly.

"I do," she queried looking in the trunk and sure enough there was a laundry bag with clothes in it. "I do," she said thrilled. She heard a soft chuckle from the driver. "What is your name," she asked as she reached to close the coach door so she could change. At least with the breeches in the bag she could wear her weapons where they were easily reachable. She would need them all if she was going to face Angelus, Drusilla and Darla.

"My name?"

"Yes. I mean, you know about me."

"Of course I do, Buffy Summers. Who I am is not important, however, as this journey is yours not mine," he said through the closed door.

"You can turn around now," she said as she closed the chest. "So what is the meaning of this?"

"That's for you to decipher, Miss Summers."

"Am I supposed to save William?"

"If that's what you think you must do."

"Shouldn't I? If I stop them from turning him, there's no Spike."

"If you think you must."

"Stop with the cryptic talk. What am I doing here?"

"Again I say I cannot answer you. This is your night, Buffy, your time to shine."

"Shine. So you want me to kill three vampires, one of whom I loved more than anyone I've ever loved before."

"That's assuming he's there for you to love in the future."

"What do you mean?"

"Nothing," he said and Buffy could see that he had misspoken. Had he intentionally done so? "I am not to advise you." She pulled the hat she had found on only giving up on the hat after struggling with it for a moment. She did not have the time to pull all of the pins and faux pearls out of her hair so she could wear it. Anyone seeing her would just have to settle for seeing a woman dressed in breeches and deal with it.

"Are you related to Giles?"

Recognition flashed in the man's eyes but he said nothing, merely stared at her his lips narrowed tightly.

"Fine," she said softly. "I'll shine for you. Then I get to go home, right."

"I hope so," the man said softly.

Buffy stared at him briefly. "What aren't you telling me?"


"Fine," she said again. "At least tell me which way to go."

"I can't, Buffy, I'm sorry. I already told you too much. I can't."

"Whatever," she said slamming the coach door shut as she stomped down the steps. "I guess I'm on my own."

Had Spike told her anything about where he had been when Drusilla turned him? He obviously had left the party disheartened, downtrodden. Drusilla probably could have detected that with her insightfulness and preyed on it. She could not recall if he had told her anything specific about this night. She played the conversation over in her head that she had with Spike about the two slayers he had killed. Spike had said a lot of things that night, things she did not want to hear, things about Slayer's having death wishes. He had tried to kiss her that night. She had found him rude and disgusting, put off that their conversation had somehow aroused him. In response, she had said the same words to him Cecily had said to him on this night.

"Stop reveling in the past, Buffy, get on with your search." Alleyways seemed the place to start looking. Did she want to find Drusilla or William? Which would be the best way to prevent her from getting to him? If she did this, there would be no Spike. True, Spike had been a thorn in her side since coming to Sunnydale, but over the past few years he had become her friend, confidante and in an odd sort of way her champion. He had also become her lover and had taken whatever she had been willing to give him no matter how horrible the treatment was. He had disappeared on her as men did, but he came back. She sensed his not seeking her out had more to do with him than her. Life would be so much simpler without him, right? Buffy was not so sure anymore. She had been without him for the past few months and she missed him. She missed Spike the friend, the confidante and the co-worker. She missed his smart assed comments and the way he looked at her as if she was his everything.

He had betrayed her and her friends to Adam, had tried to turn them against one another. Buffy believed that in the end he had purposely let it slip that he had driven a wedge between them. Since then, he had been helpful, even showing her the painful truth about Riley. And she knew now looking back that she had to be told about it. She was better off without Riley and he was better off without her.

What is it that the driver had said about Angel? If he was there in the future for her to love? Would stopping tonight's events spiral into making many things not happen? Spike had told her they had left London because Angelus had been mad at Spike's carelessness. Where would she be without both Angel and Spike? Her thoughts were pulled to a stop when someone noticed her.

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***Part 5***

"I know you," said a voice from an alleyway to her right. She would have kept going, dismissed it as being directed at someone else except her Slayer senses were tingling. Good to know they still worked.

She took a few steps back and turned to face the alley. "I don't think so," she said simply.

"Well, I do think so," said the voice. He was closer but still hidden from view in the alley's shadows. Buffy recognized the voice and took a step forward instinctively wanting to go to him. She always went to him when he was nearby and she needed to talk. Good to know that a trip to the past did not change his effect on her. Her heart pounded and her breathing had become more rapid, both common reactions to hearing Angel's voice after going much too long without hearing it. Why was he here? Was William nearby? Was she already too late? And, why, with that last question did she feel a sense of relief flood through her. She should not be happy that she could not, did not, save William from being turned by Drusilla.

"I'm new to London, so I doubt that you could," she said evenly. She should have continued on her search for William, but she was curious to see what he would look like. Part of it, too, was that she just simply needed to see him because it had been so long since she had. She was curious, too, how or why he recognized her. He had no heart, had no soul so she could not fool herself into believing that part of him recognized that part of her.

"An American," he said matter of factly, without question.

"I am," she answered just as matter of factly. This encounter reminded her a little of their first meetings when she had come to Sunnydale, short and rather cryptic. He was a good guy then, he was not currently a good guy though. Standing mere feet from her was the killer that was Angelus and yet she still loved him, still wanted to go to him. Finally, he stepped out of the shadows and she swallowed hard as she took in his appearance. He was dressed nicely, but his hair was unkempt and wild looking. The look in his eyes she recognized as the blood lusting killer that he was; purely evil, purely dangerous, purely Angelus. There was no sign of Angel here. So how did he know who she was? Where was Darla? Where was Dru? Where was Spike? No, not Spike yet, William. She had to find Drusilla before she found William.

"Drusilla told me you'd be coming, told me I had to come see you."

"I don't know a Drusilla."

"You're lying," he said walking toward her. The predatory look was still there, but there was something else in his eyes that Buffy hoped was curiosity and interest. If she wanted to come out of this meeting alive she had to make sure the curiosity and interest continued to outweigh the predatory instinct in him. This Angelus did not know Buffy Summers, had never loved Buffy Summers, had yet to have the curse of his soul, and would not hesitate to kill her in a heartbeat. She wondered if he would still know her every move as he did in her time, they had trained together and he had taught her so much. "I can smell it," he whispered smoothly. His voice was a weapon in itself, he could make the most vile of comments sound like a lover's caress. Smelling a lie on her should have been offensive but she enjoyed knowing that he was taking in her scent. On the upside she thought when picturing how this encounter would play out, Buffy was familiar with Angelus' moves and that had to be an advantage.

"I think I'd remember knowing someone with a name like Drusilla." He had fed already this night Buffy could tell because his skin was not too pale. She had seen him over the years from well fed to practically starving to know his various stages of appearance from hunger. She swallowed hard and he laughed. "What's so funny?"

"You. You're frightened, but I don't sense that it's me you're frightened of. And you should be," he said a hint of respect in both his voice and in his eyes.

He was right. She was curious to know what this Angelus was like, what difference one hundred years of having a soul had made in how he acted when she had stripped him of his soul. He looked good she could not help but notice. She had never disliked the way he dressed but these clothes looked right on him as if he belonged even though he was already out of his true time by more than a century. "I'm not afraid."

"She did not tell me you were so beautiful," he said as he stepped even closer. If he had breath she would have felt it against her face he was that close. She saw no sign of his being about to strike in his eyes so she forced herself to stay calm. "Why is it you are dressed as a man?"

"I just am. Who didn't tell you I was beautiful?"

"Drusilla," he said and he looked momentarily displeased at having to repeat himself. "Maybe she thought Darla would get jealous and come with to keep a watchful eye on me."

Was there trouble between sire and childe already? She doubted that, from what she had gathered from Angel and Spike Darla had abandoned Angelus because of the soul not for any other reason.

"She distrusts you so much she has to watch you?"

"I don't know that trust has anything to do with it."

"Then what," Buffy asked boldly finding herself leaning towards him. Just a few inches and she could kiss him, taste him. Stop it, she told herself. "She afraid you won't share your kill with her?" His eyes flashed briefly, she saw his facial features shift but nothing happened, his eyes remained the brown she was so familiar with. Oddly as comforting as those eyes could be she found she preferred the warm look that she got from a pair of deep blue eyes without the benefit of a soul. She had no doubt that Angelus loved Darla, but it was not in the same way Angel loved Buffy. Spike was capable of loving in the same way regardless of having no soul.

"You don't know as much as you think you do, little girl."

She rankled at his words and her temper reared its head. She always hated it when he called her a girl. Forgetting for a moment where, when and just who they were currently she spoke. "I'm old enough for you to take to bed." She felt the heat of a blush on her face when she realized she had in fact spoken the words aloud and from the confused look on his face he had obviously heard her.


Angelus stepped back from the petite blonde her words having an odd effect on him. He had never bedded this woman, he knew that for a fact by the simple fact she was alive. Strangely, the idea was not obscene to him that he would have bedded her and let her live. There was something about her that told Angelus this girl deserved to live, not that he paid much attention to his instincts about people.

Darla pleased him without question, but there was something about the girl standing in front of him that suggested she was things Darla was not and never could be. Darla had been a whore before she had been turned by the Master, this girl smelled of innocence. Despite her odd choice in dress he could picture her easily in a fashionable gown having her Season. The fact her hair was up and styled fashionably with pearl accoutrements told him she was no harlot or homeless woman.

He could picture himself the one guiding her across the ballroom floor, leading her in a waltz which was ridiculous. He could vividly see her beneath him, surrounding him, warming him with her flesh and blood and the pictures were not just vivid but oddly comforting. And very real, if he did not know better he would believe her claim that they had shared a bed. It had been years since he had bedded a human without killing her during or after the act.

He regarded her for a long moment, closed the distance between them subtly tempted to reach out and touch her to assure himself she was real and not an apparition. She seemed as if she was waiting for him to touch her which was what gave him pause. He did not touch her; instead he laughed sardonically and moved as if he was going to strike. Better to put her in her place then let her believe she had gotten into his head and gained the upper hand somehow.

"You have me at an advantage it seems, I believe I would remember bedding you." He had no idea why Drusilla had sent him on this errand, but she had been accurate in her description of the girl he was to delay. Drusilla's visions had proved accurate time and time again, but sometimes they were eerily precise. Was this girl something or someone to Angelus? A threat? She did not seem to be, she was too tiny to pose a danger but yet Drusilla had been frightened of her and had been specific that the girl he was to stop would be clad in men's clothes.

"I didn't mean," she stammered and he enjoyed seeing her discomfort. With his preternatural vision he saw the color on her cheeks deepen and was curious what thoughts were running through her mind to make her blush so. Her eyes when she spoke were filled with adoration. He saw her square her shoulders and suddenly she became a different person. Gone was the bumbling socialite of a moment ago and in its place was a woman who meant business. The look of adoration was gone and had been replaced with a look that gave even him pause. This woman had seen a lot and was not someone he should take for granted. He saw the knowledge of death, destruction, pain, heartbreak, love and deception clearly through her hazel orbs before they hardened. Dare he ask how someone so young and human could have seen so much? But then she spoke, breaking his train of thought, breaking the softness that had washed over him inexplicably. "Where is your Drusilla?"

"She's not my Drusilla," he said again with a laugh. "Well," he said cupping her jaw with his hand unable to resist touching her. He had to know if she was real and for certain she was as the feel of her smooth skin proved. She did not have the features of a lady of station, her skin was not the creamy white of those who had it easy and did not have to work for a living. And yet she did not appear to be a pauper either. Her skin was darkened from exposure to the sun, but it was not rough or blemished by sunspots. There would be no need for buttermilk on her skin, it was as smooth as the best of silks already. She stood her ground, her gaze never wavering and she did not pull away from his touch. His gaze dropped to her neck and her pulse point there and he thought he actually saw the blood pump faster through her body. "She is mine in a matter of speaking."

"Yes, I'm aware that you made her. Just tell me where she is."

"How is it you know so much," he asked stepping closer trying to be menacing and unsettling but she did not step away from him nor did she flinch. He saw instead bravado in her eyes that was not false or forced and he felt some respect for this girl. "Who are you," he whispered. He should be baiting her, taunting her, thinking up ways to torture her not admiring her bravery. It dawned on him, too, that she was no longer denying that she knew Drusilla. As far as Angelus knew Drusilla had no friends so he was confused as to how this girl would know his childe.

"My name is Buffy," she said simply.

As if that told him anything, yet she seemed to think it told him everything. A part of him seemed to accept her answer as indeed everything, but the demon in him came forward and he shook off his contentment and softness. "That's a stupid name if I ever heard one."

"Yeah, no stupider than Angelus. You did that on purpose, named yourself Angelus to fool people. No one with a holy name could be a demon."

His hand was instantly at her throat with a growl. He squeezed waiting for the pleas to come, the look and smell of fear to wash over her, but nothing came. She stared evenly at him, perhaps there was some fear there but she did not reek of it as most of his victims did. Nor had she cowered in fear or revulsion when his human disguise fell away revealing his true, demonic face. No pleas for him to spare her life. "I ask again, who are you? And don't tell me Buffy. That tells me nothing, merely your name. How do you know Drusilla?"

"I am merely a girl, you said so yourself. And I don't know Drusilla."

"You have purity and goodness all over you yet you know of my race and are not frightened. I can see that you have led a hard life, have seen much in your miniscule number of years. Too bad that existence comes to an end tonight."

"I don't think so."

He tossed his head back and laughed, releasing her throat as he did. "You are bold I will give you that. Are you challenging me?"

"Afraid of losing?"

"Hardly. You are but a girl, a slip of one at that."

She did not respond to his taunt with words, but instead with her fist connecting with his nose dead on. He had not been expecting the blow and his head flew backwards. A growl escaped his throat as he prepared to fight, but she blocked his first strike with ease.

"You really are a stupid girl. You have no idea who I am, what I am, and yet you dare to challenge me."

His eyes widened as she was able to block yet another thrown punch mindful his face probably gave way to the fact he was surprised, but a shadow of a feeling he could only identify as respect washed over him. This little bit of a girl was not at all what she seemed and he was beginning to understand why Dru had sent him on this errand. She had been on the hunt tonight, searching for someone to turn and this girl would have stood in her way.

"You're pretty good. Or was it luck, Buffy," he taunted her. "Try it again when I'm expecting it. Or perhaps you only do well when surprise is on your side."

She smiled widely, almost as if she were amused or pleased. "Come on then. Let's go," she said simply.

Angelus did not know how long they fought. She was good whoever she was, this American girl named Buffy. She met him blow for blow, took as good as she gave, and seemed even to know his moves better than he himself did. She was strong and had stamina and she seemed to enjoy fighting him as much as he was enjoying fighting her. He looked forward to bleeding this one dry, there would be no sharing her with Darla or Dru he would keep this one all to himself. What was more, he could sense somehow that this was arousing her as it was him. It was not arousal based on attraction, though that was there too, she was attractive to look it. This arousal, though, was far more primal based on adrenaline and surviving the hunt. He had come into this expecting to be a lion with a mouse Dru had gifted him with to toy with.

He was bleeding now, he felt it drip the length of his face. She was bleeding as well and he had to step away from her as a brief picture flashed in his mind of his licking the blood from her face, leaving her very much alive. His legs were sore from blows she had delivered blocking his kicks. Hers would have to be in a similar state. They were evenly matched, neither able to gain the upper hand for very long and Angelus found he enjoyed it.

They were at a stand down, she was catching needed breath while he was just collecting himself and clearing his head of thoughts but beating this girl. They circled one another preparing for more blows when he noticed a look in her eyes that he did not expect to see. Despair. She was enjoying the battle, he knew that but it was taking something from her, she was sacrificing something that she was having a hard time with. Good, he thought. But for some reason she was not weakening, she was not giving in, something was driving her.

It was during these thoughts, his brief moment of confusion that she gained the upper hand. She dropped him to the ground with a sweep of her foot and straddled him, a stake at his heart her other hand at his throat. He was stunned because it had happened so fast but impressed as hell that she had done it so smoothly and swiftly. Whatever was bothering her she was not going to let him beat her because of it.

She could not stake him and he saw it in her eyes as clear as day. He watched her face, watched the look of victory in her eyes give way to empathy and revulsion. He watched her chest heave as she struggled to breathe during this small respite. Her skin was flushed, her hair was mussed from their struggle and he reached despite the stake at his heart and the hand at his throat to push the strands of hair that had pulled out of her updo.

"Who are you," he asked hoarsely, more a growl than anything. The desire to kill her was momentarily sated, pushed aside by curiousness and an odd sense of familiarity about her. He knew this girl. He knew he did and yet he knew that he had never seen her before. She looked at him with love, affection, kindness and pain with knowledge that suggested she knew him. There was no pity there, no fear, but he saw conflict and the despair from earlier. Somewhere there in her eyes he saw that killing him would be killing a part of herself and inexplicably he felt it, too.

She shook her head as if conflicted about answering his question. Shaking her head only served to cause his hand to brush against her cheek and she inhaled deeply at the contact. Her hazel eyes were wide and he was quite sure the confusion he saw in her eyes was reflected in his own.

Both had the opportunity to finish off the other one but neither made a move to do it. Her hand held the stake at his heart never wavering while her hand at his throat held tight. His hand was now near her throat because she had allowed him to touch her face.

"I can't do this," she said her voice choked. A pained expression crossed her face and she climbed off of him, dropping her stake on the ground next to him. She fled in the direction she had come leaving Angelus gasping for breath he did not need to take.

"What the hell," he asked himself, running his hands along his body. He was beaten and bloody, a couple of ribs might be broken but he was in one piece and he would heal. She had broken his nose. She was not much better off than he was though he did not get to assess her injuries. "You little bitch," he hissed telling himself he was upset about the fact he had come close to getting beaten in a fight by a girl not by the fact she had left before they were finished.

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***Part 6***

Buffy sat huddled in an alleyway not too far from where she had left Angel. She clutched a stake over her knees afraid Angelus would come to finish their fight. For the briefest of moments she had forgotten he was not Angel, had never been Angel, and had allowed herself to get caught in that moment. For a moment she was tempted to lean in and give herself to him, and she had sensed that he would have taken what she gave without killing her. She realized at that moment if she staked him, if she dusted him she would lose him for good.

"You little bitch," she heard him hiss. "Who the hell do you think you are?" She clutched her knees to her chest and rocked her petite body. She was vaguely aware of the wooden stake being held painfully against her upper calf but she paid no attention to it.

"I'm sorry," she muttered not sure who she was talking to. "If you sent me back here to kill him I can't do it. I can't," she said. Knowing the years he had left to hurt people, knowing that she would end up sending him to a hell dimension in a future time and place where he would suffer immensely with his soul intact she still could not do it.

There were things at work that Buffy could not change, could not take away with one swift poke of her stake. Taking Angelus out of the picture would change everything. There would be no Angel to help her when she first came to Sunnydale, no Angel for her to fall in love with, no Angel to teach her that perhaps everything was not as right and wrong or black and white as the Council would like their slayers to believe. And without Angel she would never trust Spike, would never believe a vampire had the ability to be good.

"Buffy," she heard him call out, taunting her. He could smell her if he really wanted to, her scent was all over him now. What disturbed her was even though she was nothing to him and he had no idea who she was she still loved him. It had been that love that had stopped her from driving the stake home. She had no conscious thought about wanting him to be there for her years from now, it was simply love that had stopped her.

"No," she murmured under her breath still rocking.

"You're a slayer, aren't you? That's why Dru sent me to stop you. Slayer," he taunted further. "Come out and finish what you started. Come out here and try to stake me."

She just sat and rocked, he was not coming any closer which made Buffy wonder if he did not really want to find her.

"I've never known a slayer to not see a job through. So come out come out where ever you are, Slayer, and let's finish this once and for all."

Buffy needed to get to Drusilla and stop her from finding and turning William. She needed to save William. Yet as she sat there still visibly shaken from her encounter with Angelus almost one hundred years before she had even been born she was not so sure that saving William was what she was here to do.

Perhaps this trip through time, however it was being done, was for her benefit not William's at all. Had she staked Angelus a few minutes ago everything would have been different. The world she would have gone back to would have been skewed and there was no telling how drastically. Dru still would have turned William, but who knew if they would have ever left England without Angelus. Who knew if without Angelus being cursed with his soul Darla would have sought out the Master leaving Drusilla and Spike on their own, which led them to Prague and then to Sunnydale seeking out a cure for Drusilla.

Buffy knew for a fact her life without Angel would be drastically different, but it was not merely her life. It would affect everything she knew, everything she was, everything around her. There would be no Spike, no one to watch over Dawn while she was gone. There would have been no one for Buffy to talk to the past year. She and Angel had grown apart enough since he left Sunnydale and after Riley to make it difficult for her to confide in him anymore. She doubted he would understand her relationship with Spike.

She noticed the stake and brought it up to look at it, touching the tip with her index finger affectionately. This piece of pointed wood was what she knew, it was what she did and who she was. She was the Slayer. She had an unfair advantage over Angelus in that she had the knowledge of his strengths and weaknesses where he knew nothing of hers. It would be somewhat easy to finish the job, stake him, turn him to dust, she had gained the upper hand moments ago.

"Giles," she whispered. "What am I supposed to do?" She knew Giles would tell her to kill Angelus. With Angelus gone Jenny Calendar would be alive. Or would she? She might be alive but might never have come to Sunnydale. She had come to keep Buffy and Angel apart. Without a souled Angel for her to keep a watchful eye on she would never have come and Giles would never have met and fallen in love with Jenny.

She had never stopped to think how intricately her life was intertwined with the lives of her friends. Who was she to deprive Giles of love even if it was cut short by the vampire out in the street calling to her now? She knew what the Council would want her to do, they would want her to dust Darla, Angelus and Dru but she just could not do it knowing what she knew about her life, about the future. She suspected it was not the Council responsible for this glitch in time she was experiencing.

She had no doubt now this was not a dream. Somehow she was here and had been brought back to the night Drusilla had made William Spike. She had been brought here for a reason and she did not think that slaying was the reason. She had been brought back to see things she had not been able to see in her own time because she refused to think about them. She liked to deny she cared for Spike, it was easy to say she did not need him in her life or care if he was there. So she had been given a chance to alter the outcome of this night. She could not do it, and it was not just because of Angel. She would miss Spike if he weren't there and had no idea what her life would be like if he wasn't in it. Not to mention that without Spike she would not have been able to get to Angelus in time to stop him from bringing Acathla forth.

Angel had a place in her life, back when she was sixteen and seventeen. Spike had a place in her life now and she had been stupid to try and claim his lack of a soul was her reason for pushing him away. Spike had helped her with Acathla and Angelus pre-chip, he had his reasons and agenda for helping her but he had still come to her. He had made sure her Watcher had not been killed.

She wished she had paid more attention at the dinner to catch a glimpse of who William was, but perhaps she was not supposed to know what he was like. She knew that he had loved someone who had thrown that love back in his face, very much the same way Drusilla and Buffy had done in his unlife. She realized, too, that she and Spike were not all that different. Both wanted someone to love. The only problem was that Buffy buried her heart because of past hurts where Spike kept pressing on. Maybe it was because he lacked a soul to care about getting hurt. Why else would he have let her treat him the way she had?

"Because he loves you you idiot," she muttered to herself. "And knew that you loved him too even if you denied it and fought it tooth and nail."

"Slayer," she heard Angelus calling to her, his voice maniacal and menacing. If she let him find her now it would be a fight to the death. She knew that tone in his voice well enough, he would be out for blood this time, looking for the kill. "I'm going to enjoy draining you and feeding off your marrow long after you're gone. Tell me who your watcher is and I'll send him a present."

"I don't want to change it. I don't want to change the way anything is or was. I'm not God," she whispered. Just as she said those words her coach came to a stop right in front of the alleyway she was hiding in.

"You can't fight this, Slayer. You felt it just like I did. You want to see this out. You want to know if you can do it, drive that stake home. And I want to watch your eyes while you do it."

"Get in," her driver said quickly, without any hint of formality or propriety in his voice.

"Slayer," Angelus called again. "I know you're here. I know you're waiting for me. Come to me, Slayer, and maybe just maybe I'll go easy on you."

Buffy did not need to be told twice, she scurried into the coach slamming the door closed. The driver barely waited until the door was closed to leave the area. Buffy took a deep sigh feeling safe from Angelus' wrath. She laid her head back against the coach's wall knowing she should change into her gown but was too exhausted and excited from the evening to.

"I'm sorry," she said again. "I can't do it. If this was some sort of test again I failed. I know I just allowed hundreds of people to die in the future, but Angel will still be there, Spike will still be there, Angel will have his son. I can't take that away from him, I can't take them away from me."

"I want to go home," she murmured as Angelus' last "Slayer" was bellowed in the distance. She wished she was home in her bed with Dawn in the next room and Mr. Gordo keeping her company. She wished she could talk to Spike. Would he believe her if she told him about this? Would he be angry with her for not being able to stop Dru? Somehow she did not think so, but she would like to know. She needed to know.

"I'm sorry, but please let me go home now," she said her eyes closed. "I can't do it. I won't be able to do it tomorrow night or the next night. I just can't. I love them both too much to remove them from my life."

She was lulled to sleep by the rattling of the coach along the rough London streets. "He looked dopey," she said sleepily with a slight smile of the old photograph of William. She remembered the picture she had fallen asleep to back in Sunnydale in her time. A lone tear fell along her cheek as sleep drew near with the realization that she would never see William. "I can't do it," she murmured.

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***Part 7***

Present Day - Sunnydale, California

"Still no change," Spike asked the nurse from the night before as he approached her. He could not help but chuckle lightly as she jumped.

"I'm afraid not. The doctor can't find anything wrong either. They've run every test they can think of. You can talk to her nurse if you'd like."

"She's not hurt," Spike said adamantly. It did not console him, in fact it made Spike even more frightened of the possibility that some unknown disease riddled his Slayer's body.

"Is there anything I can get for you," she asked offering him a smile.

"No, luv, thanks. I'll just head to her room. The others have gone for the night? Her sister and the friend?"

"Yes, they are gone. They don't know you have been here."

"Thanks, I appreciate it. It's a long story, but it's better for Buffy if they don't know I'm here. Some differences better left until she gets better."

"I understand. She's lucky to have you. I could tell a difference in her after you'd left last night."

"Really," he asked the nurse having grabbed his attention with that sentence. "Hopefully not a bad difference."

"No," she said quickly. "Not at all. In fact, she seemed to rest better, her vitals were more steady and consistent. She seemed to know you were nearby at any rate."

He smiled slightly at that. It was probably her Slayer senses and he took momentary comfort even a little pride that she took comfort in his nearness. If this nurse had any idea what he had done to her this past spring she would no doubt find it strange for Buffy to gain comfort from him. "I'm sure it's just that I talked to her."

"Maybe," the nurse said with a slight smile. "I'll see you in a little bit then."

"Right. Thanks," he said walking toward Buffy's room and a long night of sitting by her bed.

He drew the chair over to the side of the bed and took her hand in his. He was not sure why he chose to sit on the same side as the hand with the IV in it. Perhaps on some level he recognized the IV with its medicines dripping down, pumping into her body represented evidence that she was alive.

"Well, your nurse Dawn seems to think my visiting is helping. Not sure why that would be exactly. But I'm here, can't bear to leave you alone. You might wake up only to see the strange faces of nurses and doctors." He sighed and grew quiet not sure why he bothered talking to her. Why was he even bothering coming there? As soon as she came to she was going to tell him to leave. Not that he didn't deserve it, and more.

"I've got so much to tell you, pet," he said softly bringing his lips to the back of her hand. "So much. I'd tell you now but I have a feeling while it would be easier it would not be right. You won't remember it and then I'd be stuck having to tell you all over again."

"I can tell you, though, that I'm sorry. The man that I became, that night in your bathroom, well he wasn't me. I mean he was, but well I think you know what I mean, at least I hope you do. I was at my wit's end trying to figure out how to get you to admit your feelings for me. And now," he said softly. "Well, now, I'd just be happy to know you might one day find it in your heart to forgive me. I'd give anything to have your friendship like I had before, your trust. I've missed that more than anything. Most of my victims, most of the voices in my head and the faces I see when I close my eyes I can't ask forgiveness from because they're dead. I've left very few alive in my wake during the past century and a quarter. Not that I'm proud of that. At least not anymore, once upon a time I strutted like a peacock about it."

"Like when I met you. Though things changed even then. Drusilla tells me I never wanted to kill you. I don't know that I believe that, but I've learned not to question her on most things. I remember seeing you for the first time. Do you remember, pet," he asked. He actually paused as if expecting her to reply.

"I'm sure you do. You were dancing with your friends, Red and the whelp, and I sent one of my underlings out in search of a snack. I sent him to his death, knowing you would kill him. Wasn't very nice of me now was it. I suppose you'd let that one go, though, since he was already a vamp and all," he muttered not quite sure he was supposed to differentiate his bad deeds between those that were against humans and those that were not.

"I lied to you, you know. I told you recently that you belonged in the dark, but you don't. Not entirely. I think you need a bit of darkness in you. I believe that and won't lie to you about that. I think that's why Angelus and I do it for you, whatever it is. And why Captain Cardboard didn't, couldn't, do it for you. God it pained me to see you with him, coming to the Scoobie meetings smelling like him. But you don't belong there, not like I do, you don't deserve to drown in it like I do. I noticed it even that first night, you are the light. Maybe it's the Slayery goodness in you, I don't know. The two I met prior to you I did not spend time with beyond our fight to the death, no time to get to know them and no time to reflect whether they themselves were Ra's inspiration."

His enhanced hearing picked up on the footsteps outside the door and he stopped talking and just stroked her hand with his fingertips.

"You are still here," Dawn said as she pushed through the door.

"I'll be here until you kick me out."

"You're so quiet and you don't have any lights on. You could turn the television on if you want to. You don't have to sit in the dark."

"That's all right I don't mind. I'm just talking to her, reminiscing a bit. Hoping to draw her out by talking her ear off about the past five years," he added not willing to say that he had wondered if he was in part to blame for her condition. He was aware she had sensed his presence and yet he had continued to follow her and not present himself to her.

"You've known her a while then," she said as she took Buffy's temperature and performed whatever other nursing tasks she had to perform.

"Yeah, about five years give or take. I wasn't always around and we didn't always get along."

"You're not the guy that she went to Prom with." It was a statement with a hint of question as if she was trying to reassure herself she was remembering correctly.

"No, I was not lucky enough to be the one to take her to Prom. That would have been her ex I wager, Angel. Tall, dark, broody."

"I think so, I only saw him, never met him. Buffy and I weren't friends really. I never got to know her."

"She's hard to get to know," Spike said sincerely, somberly but pleased that he was one of a select few who had the privilege of knowing her. "It's just the way she is, nothing personal."

"Oh I got that. I mean she always seemed nice, just kept to herself."

"How is it you are a nurse?"

"I'm just an assistant. I'm going to school to become one, though. So I get to do the jobs no one wants," she said with a light laugh. "And work the hours most people dread."

"You'll make a good nurse I wager. Good bedside personality and all that," he said with a slight smirk.

"Thanks. I hope so. I was sorry that Buffy had to leave school. It must be hard for her having to take care of her sister and all. I can't even imagine it."

Spike instinctively squeezed Buffy's hand at the mention of Dawn and the indirect reference to Joyce's death. "Yeah, she's had a rough couple of years. She'll get back to school, though, I'm sure of it. Just a slight detour is all," Spike said. If he had to steal from Fort Knox to get her back to school he would do it.

"It happens to a lot of people, I hope she does go back. Some people never do, you know? My sister dropped out and once she started working and doing other things she just never got back."

"Me, too," Spike said simply. "Does she have a brush here?"

"Sure, Xander brought some of her things over this morning, they're in the drawer there."

"Great, maybe I'll tend to her hair then for a while. She would hate to know we let her hair become a mess."

Dawn smiled. "Well, I'm going on my break once I'm done in here so hopefully you won't be bothered until I have to come in again in a few hours."

"Right, so I'll have Nurse Ratched to contend with if I'm caught is what you're saying."

She laughed lightly. "Well, you're just not supposed to be in here, so I'd get in trouble."

"I'll tell ‘er I hid in the loo if asked."

"Thanks," she said with a smile. "Well, I'm done here." She collected the few gadgets she had brought in with her. One was a thermometer that went into Buffy's ear and looked like no thermometer he had seen before. Gone were the days he guessed of glass bulb thermometers with mercury. He had been tempted to ask about it but refrained he could settle his curiosities some other time.

Spike was trying to figure out how Buffy rated a private room. Perhaps since they did not know what was wrong with her they were keeping her away from other patients. It was the only logical reason Spike could come up with. This was going to be a costly doctor's visit for Buffy, one she could not afford. She was still paying hospital bills from her mother's death. It was just what she needed, more debt to make her have to work longer hours and prohibit her from returning to school.

He paced the length of floor at the side of her bed, pausing on occasion to look out the window at the night.

"Come on, Slayer," he murmured. "You're stronger than this. I wonder if the li'l bit or the whelp has been in contact with your Watcher. Have him check his books for demons that might have infected you somehow. I'd do it myself, but have no idea how to get in touch with him."

He felt his human visage fall away as his frustration at the situation mounted. "Slayer," he called out hoarsely. "Come back to me, damn it. I'm here for you. I'm here now. Wake up and yell at me or something, just so I know you're all right and then I'll leave." His blackened nails dug into his palms stopping him from lashing out at something in the room.

"Come on, Slayer. I need you. Li'l bit needs you and I reckon even the whelp needs you. I'll take the three of you out for a soddin' steak and lobster dinner if you just come back to me."

He returned to her side, sitting once again in the chair and took her hand resting his forehead against it. He kissed the back of her hand grazing her knuckles with a fang. "I can't stand seeing you like this, Slayer. I can't. Those one hundred forty-seven days without you were bad, but seeing you lying here helpless is worse. I hear that little machine beeping, so I know you're in there somewhere. Come back to me, Slayer," he whispered rubbing his cheek against her hand. Even comatose she was warm, he could hear her blood coursing through her body. "Slayer. Please," he said hoarsely, his voice catching his human disguise falling back in place.

"I know it was hard for you to call out to me the other night. I should have shown myself, I shouldn't have watched you like I did, but I didn't think you'd want to talk to me. I didn't think you'd want to hear from me. I don't deserve you wanting to talk to me."

"I can hope though. A man has to have hope or he'll die, and I can still die even if I'm the undead. You do it every day, Slayer, kill my kind. I know you have it in you to think of me as a man not just a monster. That day, the day you invited me back into your home, meant more to me than you can know. It meant you trusted me, something you as not just human but the Slayer have no business doing. I realize I must have done something over the course of the months preceding that moment to earn it and I realize too that I tossed it all to hell in a hand basket with what happened last spring."

He paused stroking the back of her hand along the edges of the medical tape with a fingertip. "Slayer," he said simply unable to say more afraid it would all come spilling out. It was hard enough to have to tell her once he did not want to have to repeat the story a second time to anyone not even Buffy.

"I did this all for you, everything I've done the past few months has been for you. I'll go the hell away and stay away for good this time if you want me to, but just come back to me, Slayer."

"Come back to the light, Slayer. You don't belong in the darkness, not completely. The world needs you, Sunnydale needs you, Dawn and the whelp need you, I need you," he said softly. "Can you see the light, Slayer?"

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***Part 8***

"I can't do it."

Spike raised his head incredulously. Without benefit of preternatural hearing he would have missed the murmured statement. "Buffy," he said hopefully, brushing a few tears from his cheeks. No sense looking like a big poof when she wakes up from a coma, he thought to himself. Her head moved on the pillow, it was slight but he saw it. "Slayer," he called out.

"I can't do it."

"Yes, Slayer, you can do it. You don't belong in the dark. You belong here with your li'l sis and Xander. Going to the beach, wearing white and all those other sunshiny things. Come on now, Slayer."

"I'm sorry."

"I know you're not apologizing to me, Slayer, but you have nothing to be sorry for."


"Yes, Slayer, you'll be able to go home if you wake up."

His words were met with no response. Her voice had remained quiet, only with his enhanced hearing was he able to discern what she had said. He should go get the aid or nurse, but if she did not speak again or come to soon he would look like a fool.

"Slayer," he said his voice hoarse. "I need your help. I know you probably won't believe me when I tell you all that I have to tell you. You will wonder why if I need you I stayed away, but just knowing you were there helped me." He squeezed her hand. He really was not looking for her help through this. His memories and the guilt that plagued him as a result of them was his problem. He just knew if she was on the verge of coming to she might respond to a plea for help given her Slayer instincts.

Her hand moved and he jerked his away unsure if the movement was her own or his doing. "Slayer," he said his eyes now focused on her face. He stood and placed a hand against her forehead, brushing back the hair from her face. He saw movement under her eyelids and he took an unnecessary breath. She made another sound. "Come on, Slayer, let me see those beautiful eyes of yours."

"Spike," she said breathlessly.

He took hold of her hand, his thumb grazing the back of her hand mindful of the IV. "I'm here, luv. Open your eyes for me, pet."

"I can't do it. I'm sorry."

"You have nothing to be sorry for, luv. The sooner you open those eyes the sooner we can get you home."

He saw the fluttering of lashes, the rapid opening and closing of eyes that went with someone who was not sure if they were really awake. "That's it, pet," he said squeezing her hand.

More fluttering and then her eyes were open and staring at the wall in front of her. "Spike," she asked without looking at him. She just stared at the wall seemingly unseeing or confused.

"Buffy?" She turned her head to look at him and he thought he saw relief in her eyes. At seeing him? Surely not, it was the soul making him hopeful. He did not deserve to have this go so easily.

She moved her hand from underneath his and he released it though he was displeased by the break in contact between them. "You're here. You're you," she said softly lifting her hand to touch his face. "I couldn't do it. I'm so sorry."

He kissed the palm of her hand as her fingers touched his cheek. "What are you going on about, pet? You have nothing to be sorry for. I'm the one," he said but she placed her thumb over his mouth.

"Shh," she said softly with a gentle shake of her head. "Where am I," she asked looking at the room.

"At the hospital, pet, you were in a coma, reasons unknown. Li'l bit found you, I just happened to be by the house when I saw the ambulance pull up."

"Oh God, Dawn. She must be so frightened. Have you seen her?"

"No, pet, I haven't seen anyone. You are the only one who knows I'm back, though if it weren't for your Slayer senses you wouldn't know either. I imagine the whelp is staying with her." She looked out the window behind him, her hand still at his face as if reassuring herself he was there. "I'm not going anywhere, pet, unless you tell me to leave."

"No, I want you to stay. Don't go."

"Alright I won't go anywhere. You sure about that, though?"

"We have a lot to talk about and I don't know what will happen, but I don't want you to go."

"Then I won't. I should let your nurse know you woke up."

"No. Just stay with me. Please. Don't go," she repeated.

"Right," he said unsure why she was so adamant about his staying. "Do you remember what happened to you? I was going to hunt your Watcher down myself if I had to and have him research what you might have come up against to put you in a coma."

"I don't think anything happened to me. I had the weirdest experience, but I'm not ready to talk about it yet. Just sit and talk with me. Tell me where you've been, why you were avoiding me."

"I was not avoiding you," he said adamantly. "I didn't think I deserved to be able to talk to you."

"I hated knowing you were here but not where you were. Willy wouldn't tell me anything."

"Willy didn't know where to find me. Only Clem."

"I haven't seen him since he told me you left."

"Yeah, he said you have my things. I appreciate you did that, certainly don't deserve it."

"I didn't want anything to happen to your things. It was my fault you left."

"No, Buffy, it was my fault. Things got out of hand."

"But we both did it, Spike. It wasn't just you or just me, it was both of us."

"Yeah, well, that night in your bathroom was me not you."

"No, it was both of us. Everything we had done and said, not done and not said, led up to it."

"I know."

"Can you get me some water?"

"Sure, pet," he said taking the cup by her bed and filled it with water in the bathroom. "You've got no roommate. Lucky you or I wouldn't have come." He helped her adjust the bed so she could sit up comfortably.

"Why not?"

"Might have wondered why I have no reflection in the window and all."

"Ah." She took the cup from him. "Thanks."

"Let me get your nurse, maybe they won't throw me out for being here now that you've woken up."

"What time is it?"

"Late, after one."

"Wow. And you're here with me?"

"Where else would I be?"

"I don't know," she said with a slight shrug sipping the water. "Willy's? Gambling for kittens with Clem?"

Spike sensed there was an option left unsaid but he was not going to press. "Nah. You needed me. I didn't want you waking up to an empty and dark room with only a nurse around every so often."

"I'm glad. The thing that happened to me. I would not have been able to stand not knowing if you were okay."

"I'm fine, Slayer. I'm fine."

"I know you are," she said adjusting in the bed.

"Well, someone's awake," said the nurse's aid as she entered the room.

"Hi," Buffy said.

"How are you feeling?"

"I feel alright, actually. I haven't tried to get up or anything."

"Well, I'll let the nurse know you're awake and see what she wants to do with you. Do you remember me?"

Buffy glanced at Spike then back to the nurse. "You look familiar."

"That's okay. I told Spike earlier that we sort of traveled in different circles, but I went to Sunnydale High with you. My name is Dawn Andrews. We had chemistry together."

"I'm sorry, I don't remember. I've pretty much blocked out anything that had to do with studying."

"I don't blame you." She glanced at Spike. "You'll have to go now."

"Can't he stay," Buffy asked and Spike's chest puffed out slightly with pride that she wanted him around. "I hate hospitals and would rather he stay."

"We're not supposed to."

"But he's already here. No one's in the room with me."

"It's not up to me. I let him stay last night and tonight but I'll get in trouble if he's still here."

"I'll go," he said. "I'll be back tomorrow, pet."

She whimpered softly and Spike placed a kiss against her forehead pleased that she did not withdraw or look upset that he had kissed her. "I'm sure Dawn here will come to check on you if you ask real nice."

"Sure I can. It's pretty slow tonight on the floor anyway."

"Okay. I feel like such a baby."

"You are one," he said with a wink. "Get some sleep. We're not done yet."

"I know," she said and he saw her blush.


"Oh," she said and lowered her gaze.

He chuckled lightly and turned to the nurse. "Is it all right if I just go then?"

"Yeah. Good night. And thanks for understanding."

"No problem, just glad she's awake. See you tomorrow, Slayer."

"Good night, Spike. And thanks for staying."

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***Part 9***

Buffy was lying on the couch at home bored out of her mind. Dawn and Xander had picked up pizza and some movies to watch for the night. Her sister and her friend were treating her as if she was going to break. Buffy just wanted to scream at them to treat her as they normally would.

"Great movie, huh, Buff?"

"Yeah, sure," Buffy said mindlessly. "Gotta love Tom Cruise. He's a hottie." It was what made Mission Impossible bearable.

"Yeah," Dawn agreed.

"Great. Remind me next time to get action flicks that star homely guys."

"Why bother?"

"What? I don't want you two girls drooling over a guy on the TV when you've got me right here."

Buffy laughed lightly but stopped when she noticed Dawn blush. Dawn had a crush on Xander when they first moved to Sunnydale and had it not been for Anya probably still would. Maybe she still did. Buffy really had not bothered to ask Dawn about Xander or much of anything since she'd come back. She had not bothered to ask anyone much about their lives at all. Had she really become that closed off and uncaring? She had thought Spike was the only one to suffer from hurtful Buffy, but apparently he was just the only one who she had physically lashed out at. She was reaching out to him in some demented way, but just had not known it until it was too late and he was gone.

A knock at the front door brought her from her thoughts. She did not like thinking about the way she had acted the past year and hoped she could make amends to everyone, including Spike. "I'll get it," she said suspecting it was Spike. He would have gone to the hospital at sundown only to find she had been discharged.

"No, Buff, I'll get it," Xander said as he stood from his spot on the floor. "You stay put."

Dawn paused the movie and stood. "Do you want more popcorn, Buffy?"

"No, thanks. I'm good," she said standing from the couch.

"What are you doing, Buffy," Dawn said.

"Spike, what in the hell are you doing here," Buffy heard Xander ask from the hallway.

"Trying to stop World War 3," Buffy murmured.

"You knew he was back," Dawn asked. Buffy heard her but was more interested in what Xander would say.

"I'm here to see the Slayer, whelp," he said tersely.

"Yeah, he was at the hospital last night when I came out of the coma."

"And you didn't tell me?"

"You're not welcome here, Spike. You've done more than enough damage. We've been just fine without you."

"Not now, Dawnie," Buffy said with a shake of her head.

"Ask the Slayer whether I'm welcome," he said. "I still am I see," he added and Buffy knew he had come inside. "Think she would have taken the time over the last few months to disinvite me if she shared your opinion, don't you, Harris?"

"Maybe she just forgot or hoped you'd gone and gotten yourself a suntan without any SPF 10,000."

"Real funny, mate," Spike said his eyes fell on Buffy when she walked to the doorway leading to the foyer. "Slayer," he said softly.

"I'm home."

"I gathered that when I went by the hospital and they said you had checked out." He held out the flowers he had been holding at his side. "These are for you. Figured no need to waste them you could use them here. Put them on your table or by your bed or whatever."

"I don't think you need to think about what's by her bed, Spike."

"Harris, get over it already."

"Buffy, are you going to let him just come here with flowers acting like he didn't try to rape you?"

"Xander," Buffy shouted and wished she could do something to ease the pain she saw in Spike's eyes and wipe the smug look off Xander's face. Xander looked away, Spike looked towards the stairs and then looked at his feet. "Come in, Spike," she said taking the flowers and handing them to Xander. "Why don't you take these into the kitchen, find a vase for them and help Dawn with the popcorn."

"Buffy," Dawn said exasperated.

"Kitchen. Both of you. Now. Flowers. Vase. Popcorn. Drinks."

"I thought you didn't want popcorn," Dawn said.

"But you do, so go make it."

"I can't believe you want to be alone with him, Buffy."

"My choice, Xander, I made it. Deal with it. Now go, both of you." Buffy saw the look Xander gave her and emphasized her point by placing a hand on Spike's forearm. She felt him tense at the contact then relax when he realized she was not going to hurt him. "I'll be fine."

"I'll go, but I don't like it."

"You don't have to like it, you don't live here."

"I don't like it either, Buffy," Dawn said.

Buffy released Spike's arm and missed the contact almost immediately. She had forgotten what he felt like to touch. "Well, when you're older than me and the one paying the bills around here I'll start taking your opinions on my social life into consideration."

"Buffy, he tried to hurt you. I don't know why you're just welcoming him back. But then you did the same thing with Angel, so I don't know why I should be surprised," Dawn said flippantly.

"It's not up to you to wonder why. He never did anything to hurt you so just let me worry about it. If I say I trust him then I trust him. So please go to the kitchen."

Xander turned to leave and Dawn followed after a moment's pause. "You didn't need to get into it on my account, Slayer."

"I know. But I couldn't stand here and let them treat you that way."

"I deserve it and then some."

"No, Spike, you don't," she said softly.

"I just wanted to make sure you were really all right and they didn't kick you out due to lack of insurance or anything."

"I'm fine. Slayer healing goodness. Add onto that there was nothing wrong with me to begin with. No reason to keep Buffy any longer than necessary."

"Nothing wrong with you? Slayer, you were in a coma."

"I know. I don't want to talk about it now, okay? Not in front of Dawn and Xander."

"That bad, huh?"

"No badness, just weirdness. Slayer weirdness."

"Is there any other kind?"

She chuckled lightly. "I'm not sure anymore, it doesn't seem that way. I don't know that I can even remember what I considered weird before I was the Slayer."

"It hasn't been that long."

"Long enough. A lot has happened. Good and bad."

"I suppose so." He looked uncomfortable and Buffy felt for him. "I suppose I should go, let you get back to your videos and popcorn."

"You could stay," she said quickly. "Xander picked out the movies. So it's Mission Impossible, The Matrix and The Mummy."

"Sounds like he got stuck in the M section."

"I guess so. At least two of the movies have hot guys in them."

He scowled. "You think so?"

"Well, yeah. Tom Cruise and the bald guy who plays the mummy. And the Ninja guy was, too."

"Figures," he said with a wicked grin.


"The second one, he's sort of an undead big bad type of bloke. Though I kinda thought you liked your men with hair."

"Short, blonde, spiked and gelled you mean?"

"Well, yeah."

"Um, Spike, maybe I shouldn't point this out, but Angel, Scott, Riley and Parker. All dark hair."

"Yeah, well, they don't count. They're pansies and couldn't make you nearly as happy as you deserve to be."

"And you can?"

"I did my best," he trailed off, his gaze moving to the stairwell once again. "Well, up until then."

"Spike, listen, it's in the past. Months ago. So over and done."

"Not to me it isn't. I close my eyes and I see that look on your face, hear your words. I don't blame you for not loving me. I wouldn't love me either."

She closed the distance between them and kissed him lightly. He did not respond at first, in fact he stiffened much like he had done when she touched his arm a few minutes ago. She drew back, breaking the kiss and brought her hand to his face resting it against his cheek. "Over and done," she whispered her eyes never leaving his.

She got so captivated in his eyes sometimes she wondered if he had thrall capabilities like Drusilla and Dracula had. If he did he did not seem to ever use the ability on her. They were so blue and so damned sexy he did not need thrall to ensnare someone.

"No, it's not that simple, Buffy. I hurt you. It's one thing to do unspeakable things to people at random, but not to someone I care for."

"And I hurt you. Do we really need to talk about this right now? Can't you just watch some movies with us? I'll make you some hot chocolate," she said pouting.

He smiled, the smile he could charm a basket of ornery snakes with. "Well, since you offered."

She smiled and offered him her hand. "I think we even have marshmallows somewhere, too." The scarred eyebrow arched upward at her offered hand. She held her breath afraid he would reject it, but after a moment's pause he took it.

"You sure you want them to see us like this?"

"I know we have to talk, but if nothing else you're my friend. That weird Slayer experience taught me that much. And I want them to treat you that way."

"I don't deserve it, Slayer."

"Well, see, that's the neat thing. I think you do and this is Buffy's house. So what Buffy says goes."

"Yeah, I've heard that tune sung before."

"Well, this is a different tune. This is Buffy's done being mopey."

"Oh really. And you decided this when?"

"Well," she said almost ashamed to admit the truth. "It started after you left," she admitted. "But last night during my experience and seeing you were not just back but showed yourself to me."

"Was going to say, pet, I've had my eye on you for a month or so now and I haven't noticed any lack of moping."

"Well, if I was mopey girl, it was your fault. You were gone. I didn't know where to find you."

"Sounds like you might have been worried."

"I was," she admitted.

"Haven't you learned by now I can look after myself?"

"Well, sure, but I missed you."

He stepped toward her, the big bad predator like and on the prowl. And she was the prey. This was the Spike she knew and loved, confident, sure of himself, not letting something like the past stop him from pursuing what he wanted. Buffy's breath caught at the intensity she saw in his eyes and she saw a pained look on his face. Realizing he thought she was scared of him she relaxed.

"Say that again," he murmured hovering over her.

"That I missed you?"

"Yeah, that," he said sounding quite victorious and proud of himself. "Never thought I'd hear those words come from your mouth, Slayer. To what do I owe the honor?"

"Nothing, I just did. Ask Xander and Dawn, I've done nothing since you left. Well, there was the stuff with Warren, Jonathan and Andrew and Willow, but after that."

"I know. I've heard enough to know you've been reclusive."

"And you didn't think it might have something to do with you?"

"Well, I did, but bad things not good things. I heard what happened with Red," his voice caught slightly before he continued. "And you. I felt bad for that, that I wasn't here for you then, but I wouldn't have been of any use to you. Not the shape I was in."

"I know. I was mad, but not for that reason, just," she shrugged. "You left like everyone else. You left."

He inched closer to her, backing her into the wall with her palms flush against it. Buffy was not sure if he was going to lash out at her or kiss her. Both of his hands met with the wall on either side of her head and he pressed the length of his body against hers. "I'm not Angelus, I'm not Riley, I'm not your old man and I'm not your Watcher, Slayer. I left because I did not want to hurt you, I left because I love you, I left to try and become the man you deserve."

Briefly she was aware of Xander and Dawn still in the kitchen. They would probably begin to wonder what was taking so long, but she did not really care just then. "What makes you think I deserve you," she asked softly.


"I know you heard me, vampire hearing and all."

"I heard you, but don't know what you're implying. How could you not deserve me? You're too good for me if anything."

"A good person would have saved you when she could have."

"Saved me?"

"Yeah, saved you. I had a chance to save you, Spike, to stop Drusilla from turning you."

"I think we should ask the doctor if you have a head injury, Slayer."

"Do you care if we don't watch movies?"

"No, not really. Not really looking forward to Xander and the li'l bit scowling at me all night."

"Okay, then let's go talk," she said pushing him off of her but taking his hand in hers. She led him to the stairs until he stopped following her. "What," she asked turning to look at him.

"I can't go up there, Buffy. I can't. Not yet."

"Spike, I've had to look at it every day for months, you're here, we're talking, you can't avoid it forever."

"Where are you going," Xander said from the living room.

"We're going to talk."

"Upstairs? Are you crazy, Buffy?"

"Yes, I'm crazy, I want to talk to Spike alone about things."

"Then go outside and talk to him."

Buffy glared at him. "Hello? Just got home from the hospital."

"Oh, right. The kitchen?"

"So you and Dawn can hear everything we say? I don't think so."

"This would be a bad thing, us being around when he's here because?"

"Because he's not going to hurt me, Xander. I know you don't understand, but please get over it, okay."

"No, I'm not going to get over his trying to rape you and for taking advantage of my fiancée."

"She was your ex, Xander. I don't think any advantage taking was involved. I had told Spike no more, so he was my ex too. No blaming. It's not like they're still having sex." She gave Spike a questioning glance. She had tried not to think of seeing the two of them at the Magic Box. Had he come back and gone to Anya? She had not really thought of him doing that until now. That was just, ew, no, he wouldn't do that. Would he?

"No pet," he said softly as if reading her mind. Her eyes widened in surprise. "Not that hard to read your thoughts on that one. Didn't work anyway. Obviously," he said dryly glancing at his feet.

"You guys watch the movies. I'll be fine. It's up to me who I invite into my room."

Buffy did not miss the grin Spike directed at Xander. "Come on before you have him attacking you."

"I suppose now is not the time to tell you that I always wondered what it would take to get you to invite me to your room."

"Probably not."

Return to Top

***Part 10***

Spike was quiet for a few minutes after Buffy had finished telling him her story. It was hard to believe. Had she been anyone but the Slayer or had he not been around when she and her band of Scoobies had experienced some of their whacky moments he would be tempted to discount her story entirely. "So you actually believe this," Spike asked seated in a wooden chair, his arms resting on the chair's back. "I mean, it seems pretty far fetched to me."

"Then explain it to me. Explain to me how as soon as I realized I couldn't do it. That I couldn't kill Angel or stop Dru from turning you I woke up at the hospital."

"I can't. I wish I could, but I can't. Maybe Red," he said with a shake of his head. She was in England, too far away really to pull off something quite like this.

"No, it wasn't Willow. It was real, Spike. The clothes, the hair, the servants, and the driver who knew not just who I was but what I was. I don't think he wanted me to do it either."

"Well that wasn't very Watcherly of him, was it?"

"Probably not, but he made a comment that got me thinking. If I had stopped Drusilla, who is to say events would have happened the way they did originally. I might not have had Angel here."

"And that would be bad because?"

"Stop. I loved him alright? I still love him."

"Listen, I don't need to hear about it. If you want to go off to LA and hook back up with Peaches, I have nothing to stop you with. I guess you got all the shagging you might be in need of out of your system last year and everything," he said as evenly as he could. He hated himself for the crude words. He hated that he would in fact let her go without challenge if she told him here and now that she wanted to go back to Angel. How she could live like that he had no idea, but it was not his place to question someone choosing a life of celibacy. He had gotten the impression, though, from her behavior downstairs that maybe, just maybe there was hope for him. For them. Foolish of him to get hopeful about such a thing.

"No, Spike, that's not it. I do still love him, but it's not the same." She stood from the bed, her mom's bed he wagered and walked to him. She knelt on the floor in front of him, her hands grasping the rungs of the chair's back. "But that also meant you and Drusilla might not have been in Prague."

"Yeah, well, I could have done without that experience," he said without thinking about the implication behind those words. He realized too late his mistake when he saw the pained look in her eyes. "I'm sorry, luv, didn't mean it like that."

"I know. But it's all connected. Don't you see? Had I killed Angelus who is to say you'd have come here. I think that's what he meant. He did not say much. Was cryptic with the talk, but that was clear enough. If Angel was there in the future for me to love."

"So what is it you are driving at, Slayer? You'll forgive me if I don't care to sit here listening to you profess your feelings for your one and only true love."

"Are you mad at me?"

"No, not mad, but I know how you feel about him already, don't need to be caught up on the details."

"No, I'm not talking about Angel. I meant that I didn't do it, couldn't do it? Are you mad that I was selfish and wanted you both here for me?"

He stood from the chair, his hands at the chair's back supporting his weight as he did. He walked to the window, guilt washing through him when he realized this had to be the window Glinda had been shot through. Not that his presence here on that day would have changed the outcome. He could have lost Buffy that day for a second time. Just how many more times did she, or he for that matter, think she could cheat death? She had already done it twice; getting shot by Warren had brought it nearer to a third. He raked his hand through his hair not liking where his thoughts were taking him.

Would he want to have lived William's life out? No, but he was not sure he could explain it to her. He saw vividly in his mind now the murdering, raping and pillaging he had been doing since eighteen hundred eighty and while he regretted it, the new soul made him feel regret, he would not want that other life back. He would not want to miss out on knowing Buffy.

"No, I'm not mad at you. But I'm curious about something."


"What if you could have killed Angel, not saved me and still had me here with you now, would you have done it?"

"I don't know. I don't think so. He was an important part of my life. Helping me to deal with my calling. Spike," she said walking toward him. She placed a hand on his chest where his heart would beat if it needed to. "Would you take back the hundred twenty years with Drusilla? Would you take back the poems you wrote for that witch Cecily? Are you going to get jealous of Angel and the past? Angel was only a couple years of my life you know."

He was surprised to hear her talk like this. "No, it made me who I am. I was pathetic, I've done things and seen things that I can't say I'm sorry about." That was true to a point. There were lots of things over the years he could honestly say he was not sorry to have been there for. He placed a hand over hers, basking in the warmth and the scent that was Buffy. He kissed the back of her hand and placed it against his chest once again.

"You weren't pathetic. I didn't see you, but I heard you. You just seemed like a man who wanted true love. Not love that could be bought by the highest bidder."

"I wish I could have seen you kick Angelus' ass. I'll bet he was shocked as hell. A human woman, a tiny one at that."

"Well, I had an advantage."

He scoffed slightly. "What was that, luv? Tits and a nice ass to distract him with?"

She began to draw away from him but he stopped her, his hand at her wrist. "Hello? Slayer, was still the Slayer. I don't need those things to kick demon ass."

"I know, pet, tell me about your advantage."

"I knew how he fights."

"I wish I knew if that really happened, if you really did alter something somehow. But, well, Drusilla killed me that night and all, so I wasn't privy to their conversations. I could ask her."

"You know where she is," she said and Spike wondered if she was jealous. First, her uncertainty about him and Anya and now a comment about Dru.

"Well, she's in Brazil or Peru or somewhere down there. Not sure exactly. I haven't seen her since I left here if that's what you're driving at. If I didn't know better I'd think you were jealous, pet. Kind of strange considering I'm your ex and all. Do I even rate that classification?"

"Yes, you do," she said softly. He relaxed his hold on her wrist sensing she was not going anywhere. "I realized something about you."

"Oh," he queried as a knock at the door came. He released Buffy's hand, tempted to muss his hair and unfasten his jeans just to be an ass but refrained. He knew it was Xander on the other side of the door, no sense antagonizing the whelp so soon. And there was no sense getting her angry with him, especially since things seemed to be pointing in a good direction. If he did not need to go on his little journey he was going to be a little pissed off. He had not had a good night's sleep in months, the voices and pictures in his head were almost intolerable sometimes. He had imbibed in a good deal of Jack to aid him in sleeping, but now maybe he would have her to help him through this. He could hope.

"What do you want, Xander?"

"Just making sure you're alright."

"I'm fine," she said. "Bye," she said closing the door. She leaned her back against it and rolled her eyes. "It's going to take them a while to trust you again. Or me for that matter."

He nodded his head slightly in understanding. "You were saying."

"I was?"

"You realized something," he coached her helpfully.

"Oh right. That. I just realized that I was wrong about you. About you not being able to care or love or feel. I'm sorry I doubted you."

He shrugged. "It goes against what you were taught and told. Is that it then?" he queried disappointed. He was not sure what he had hoped for, but that had not been it.

"What do you mean?"

"Slayer, I told you a few years ago I can't go from being your lover to being your friend. We were never really friends to begin with, cordial adversaries perhaps. But we went from that to my fulfilling some sort of need you had last year, after," he trailed off not being able to give those one hundred forty seven days voice. "Well, just after. I won't do that again. I can't go back to that, I might be a monster but I deserve to be treated better than what you gave me. That's why I stayed away. I was afraid to come near you."

"You were afraid of me?"

"Well, yeah. Buffy, what we did, what we were doing, while it wasn't wrong it wasn't right either. I loved you and you took that love and used it against me. You used me. No man deserves that. I gave and gave and gave, all I wanted was some security. Some sense that I rated somewhere above a monster to you. I never got it. That night here I guess I proved I didn't deserve it, but I still wanted it. Still want it. That's why I left. To see if I couldn't fix it. Fix me. To give you what you need, what you deserve, because I obviously wasn't giving it to you."

He chanced looking into her eyes afraid he had revealed too much. His new soul rebelled against him when he saw tears in her eyes. What had he said wrong? He had not meant to upset her, but he could not go back to being someone she used when she needed help or information from the demon world.

He winced when she touched his cheek, the gesture unexpected. He was unsure what he expected from her after that little soliloquy, a rebuff, teasing, mockery but not sensitivity or understanding. "I know," she whispered. He would have missed it if not for his enhanced hearing.

"You what?"

"I know. I was unfair to you. I realized something else, too. You were right."

"About what?"

"Change for me," she said caressing his face with her hand.

"What," he asked confused wondering where the request had come from. What did his dropping his human visage have to do with his being right about anything?

"Change for me. I want to see your demon, your true self."

"Buffy, I can't."

"You can. Please. I need to see it."


"Just do it for me. Then I'll tell you."

He lowered his gaze, drawing away from her hand but she only reached out to maintain contact. He felt his demon come out, the shifting of his facial features. What a poof he was. Hadn't he just got done saying he was through being her lap dog? And here he was doing what she asked merely because she was touching him. The fact she smelled good might have had something to do with it.

"Look at me," she said as she stepped toward him. He lifted his eyes to meet hers curious as to her point. Her body pressed against his, he could feel her heat, feel her curves. His eyes fluttered closed briefly as the intimate pictures of what those curves felt like came to his mind. A soft growl escaped his throat, but he opened his eyes again.

Her other hand joined its mate in its gentle and curious caress. It was as if she was touching him to memorize what his demon felt like. Her thumb grazed the scar above his left eye. Her fingertips touched his eyelids and lashes and he knew she was going to tell him good bye. He felt it in his gut, felt the sinking sensation in his soul that recognized she belonged with him, to him, yet he was going to be unable to claim her in his new state. She was to his mouth now, her thumbs skimming his lips.

"Open," she whispered and he opened his mouth without question. She did not touch his teeth or fangs, merely looked. He noticed she licked her lips and another low growl escaped his throat. She was aroused, he could smell it and knew she had to know he could.

"What is this, Slayer?"

"I realized that I'd never done that before, touched you like this."

"Yeah, so?"

"Well, when you love someone you should know every aspect of them, don't you think?"

He swallowed hard. Had he heard right? Surely his ears were playing tricks on him. "What?"

She shook her head slightly almost as if she could not believe she had said it either. "Where did you go," she asked her hands still touching his face. Her hands felt oddly soothing against him. A pad of a thumb grazed against a fang and he had to push back his demon to stop from biting down, drawing her blood and tasting her. Her question brought him out of his inner conflict.

Here goes. "Africa, to do some soul searching."

She laughed lightly. "Cute little play on words."

"Yeah, well," he said with a shrug. "Strange what some will do for love."

"When did you get back?"

"A couple months ago."

"I've sensed you for a while."

"I know. I worried about you. You're not sleeping well."


"What kind of dreams," he asked wondering if the experience she believed she had was really just an intense, realistic dream she had had.

"About girls dying. Over and over. It's basically the same. The chase isn't always the same and it's a different girl each time. But the outcome is the same. Girl dies. The last one talked to me."

"She what?"

"She mouthed something to me, but I couldn't hear her," Buffy said simply.

"Yeah, there's something coming I know that, anyone who's anyone in the demon world knows it."

"Any ideas as to what it is?"

"Are you using me for information, Slayer?"

"No," she said with a pout. He wanted to kiss her then and there but refrained. She had not invited him to and he was not going to take without permission. Not this soon anyway. "You're the one who mentioned I wasn't sleeping well."

"Right," he said giving her that.

"How did you know that anyway?"

"You never did the spell," he said simply as if that explained it all. Of course it did, he was still welcome to come into her home and he had many evenings over the past couple of months. "I have watched you patrol, too. I've seen you come out more than once a night. You've been hunting."

"Maybe there was a big bad in town."

"There was, pet, you're looking at him," he said with a wink finally giving into the temptation and nipping a finger with his blunter center teeth. Her breath caught and her eyes met his, running her finger along his teeth before pushing the tip further into his mouth. He pursed his lips around her finger and sucked, his eyes closing at the taste of her.

"Yes, I can see that. All threatening like and everything. Should I be scared?"

A low rumble started in his chest and was stifled only because his mouth remained closed, his lips pursed around her finger. She started to pull her finger out and his lips parted, the growl becoming louder. She was teasing him, taunting him and despite knowing it was in fun he could not stop his demon from wanting to lash out at her insubordination. He was not human after all and could only hold himself in check through so much.

"I guess so," she said removing her finger entirely from his mouth. He made a sound that was a mixture of disappointed whelp and possessive growl. "But I'm not."

He was surprised at the relief that washed through him at those words. She placed the finger she had just withdrawn from his mouth into her own mouth and suckled it. "You're killing me, Slayer," he said.

She shook her head, a faux innocence about her as she withdrew her finger from her mouth. She trailed it along her lips. He watched raptly as a trail of moisture from both of their mouths combined was visible on her lips now. "Can't. Already dead, remember?"

"If anyone could make me forget such a detail it would be you, luv."

"Really?" she said coquettishly and he was sorely tempted to kiss the smug little grin off her mouth that was echoed by the look in her eyes.


"Anyone else?"

"You already know the answer to that."

"Do I?"

"Yes," he said changing back to his human form.

"You're pale," she said.

"I haven't fed recently."

"Why not?"

"I was with you last night, remember."

"Wait a minute. Did you say feed?"

"Yeah," he said cautiously.

"Feeding as in feeding or feeding as in drinking pig's blood?"

"Haven't had money to go to a butcher and get blood, but I've not been feeding on humans if that's what you're worrying about."

He heard her exhale, saw the relief wash over her. Apparently it did not cross her mind what that implied he had been feeding on for the past few months. "I thought maybe you found a way to get the chip out."

"And what if I had? Would that change the way you feel about me?"

"I don't know, I guess as long as you weren't hurting humans, no. And so long as you didn't go stalker boy."

"I'm not Angelus, luv, what you see is what you get, chip or no chip. I may be the big bad, but I know when to be good. You know that," he drawled, waggling his eyebrows suggestively.

"Yeah, I do," she said accompanied by a blush. He could barely believe she had admitted that. Today was a day for firsts. If he did not know better due to its being impossible he might believe he'd died and gone to heaven.

"So now what, pet? You know your sis and the whelp are downstairs waiting for us to come down."

"We can go downstairs now. I needed to tell you. To make sure you didn't hate me or anything. For everything. Can I tell you now I'm sorry?"

"No need to apologize, I told you I'm not mad. You did what you thought was the best thing."

"I just hope it was the right thing."

"Do you think it was?"

"Yeah," she said after a moment's hesitation.

He cupped her jaw, his fingertips grazing her earlobe. "Then you did the right thing, Slayer. You can't doubt yourself, you'll drive yourself crazy if you do that. You can't change it, there's nothing saying you would anyway. You might have gotten past Angelus only to not have found me in time. Drusilla could have killed you," he said with a grimace.

"You think so?"

"Yeah, I think so. I'm not saying it would have been a definite or anything, but the chance would have been there sure. She bagged a slayer on her own, remember?"

"Yeah, I remember," she said and closed her eyes.

"Sorry, pet, didn't mean to bring up memories better left in the past."

"No, it's all right. I need to remember these things, too. I just wish," she shrugged. "I wish I knew for sure."

"What that you did the right thing? Or that you're better off with things the way they are, Angel Angelusing out on you and all?"

"The right thing. I know I'm better off." She looked at him curiously, a pained look on her face. "Why didn't you ever tell me I said the same thing to you she did?"

"She who?"


"Because I knew the circumstances were different. I probably was truly beneath her and had very little chance of redeeming myself in her eyes. You, on the other hand," he shrugged. "I thought it was just a matter of time before you realized it wasn't true."

"Mm," she said with a little pout. "Did I take too long then?"

"I don't know," he admitted. "I get the feeling this is different, waters we have not chartered before."

"You're different."

He laughed. "That's an understatement, Slayer. You have no idea how different. Do you want to find out," he asked lowering his mouth towards hers.

"Yes." He felt the warm caress of the lone word whispered against his lips and a growl started deep in his chest again. He was having a difficult time keeping his demon in check for the first time in months. Having a soul seemed to make it easier to quell it from rearing its head, but it wanted to come out with Buffy for some reason. Needing her light perhaps. His darkness needing to mate with her light, needing to claim her once and for all as his.

He kissed her, hesitant at first. It was a kiss unlike any they had shared before that moment. There was no urgency, no violence, no conflict there was simply the two of them and need. Slowly, he deepened the kiss taking his cue from her response. His hands encircled her waist as hers went around his neck. If he was dreaming he was going to regret ever waking up. He had dreamt of her kissing him like this, out of pure love and desire for him. Her lips tasted like vanilla and pears, matching the scent of her body. Some bath lotion he imagined and he broke the kiss lapping at her lips with his tongue the need to taste strong.

"We need to stop," he said his voice ragged from pushing his desire to take her then and there down.

"Why," she gasped her breath warm against his neck.

"Because I don't want sex from you, pet. If we're doing this, if you want to get to know me, then we're going to do it right. Can you handle that?"

"You mean, like start all over?"

"Yes," he said the 's' sounding very much like a hiss. It was not easy for him to say this, she was willing and she had said she loved him. It would be easy to bed her and be done with it, but he wanted more than that. He needed to know that she loved him, not just an idea or a memory of him. He had come back, something Angel, her father, and Riley had not done other than for closure. Giles, well, Spike suspected this time the Watcher was indeed gone for good.

She nodded and he chuckled as her hair tickled his neck. His hand clasped her head and he stroked her hair, letting the silky strands move through his fingertips. "Okay," she said simply. She drew away from him, his arms still around her. "I'm sorry I hurt you, didn't mean to. I just couldn't see it, wouldn't admit it."

"I know, pet, no worries. I shouldn't have been so persistent. Who knows where things would have led if I had been more patient, but patience has never been my strong point. And when I realized Drusilla was right that I loved you, had loved you almost from the beginning I couldn't just sit back."

"Where are you staying?"

"An abandoned building," he said with a shrug. "It was empty and in better shape than the factory was after the fire, so no real danger."

"Do you want to stay here?"

"Better ask the li'l bit if she approves of that."

"No, I don't need to ask her, Spike. You can stay in the basement if she has a real problem with it. We can look at finding you some place that isn't abandoned. You deserve better than that. It's too bad the crypt isn't really livable anymore."

"Don't want to live there anymore anyway," he said with a shake of his head. The crypt was part of the old him, too many memories there, good and bad. He wanted to make a new start, make new memories, and if Buffy wanted to be a part of them all the better.

"Well, see, then this will work. You can be here with Dawn when I have to work," she said and then shook her head. "No, I'll stop. If you stay there will be no expectation for you to help beyond cleaning up after yourself."

"I don't mind looking after her so long as she doesn't mind, pet. Why did you tell her?"

"Xander did, I didn't. I found out you had left when I brought her to you because I trusted you to keep her safe. Despite it all, despite that night, I still trusted you with her. That's how I knew that you weren't completely at fault."

He kissed the top of her head, glad to hear her say that but it did not mean he was not torn up inside over that night. "Everything I did after I left was for you, Slayer, I hope you know that."

"I hope not entirely for me, hopefully you did it for yourself, too." She frowned then and he smiled slightly at the creases around her eyes at the gesture. "What exactly is it you did?"

"Not ready to talk about it, pet. I want to enjoy tonight for tonight. Okay?"

"Sure," she said but he could tell she was puzzled and curious. "Movies then?"

"I guess," he said with a huff.

"Hey, this was your idea."

"Don't remind me."

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure, pet, anything."

"When was the last time you had a girlfriend?"

"Uh," he said avoiding her gaze. "Why do you want to know that?"

"I'm just curious where I stand, you know. Number twenty, forty," she frowned then. "Forget I asked. I don't want to know."

"I've never had a girlfriend," he said quickly hating to see her think like that, that she was or could be one of several.


"No. Cecily was as close to one I got and you apparently witnessed how that turned out."

"You mean you never had a girlfriend before Drusilla turned you?"

"Well, back then we didn't change girlfriends like people change underwear now."

"No fair, you don't wear any."

"Yeah, well, you do, so you know what I mean."

"So, none. What was Harmony?"

"A nightmare," he said his voice laced with question. "She certainly wasn't a girlfriend," he barked out at the look she gave him at his first response.

"So I'm the first?"

"I guess so. I could ask you the same question, but I don't think I want to know. Any girl I might have courted when I was human has been dead for a very very long time. An ex you have is still around somewhere. Peaches and Captain Cardboard two prime examples."

"Um, Angel out of the picture for three years now. Riley, married. Anyone else?"

His eyes narrowed. "Oh, I suspect there are more that I don't know. I wasn't here for your senior year when you and Angel were doing the just friends bit and there's before I came to town. Something tells me you weren't headed toward the nunnery or anything."

She laughed lightly. "No."

"Why don't you consider Drusilla," Spike queried intrigued at her reasoning.

"Um, well, over a hundred years with her? I think categorizes her as more than merely a girlfriend."

"You're more than a girlfriend and I'll never get one hundred years with you," he said observantly.

"Am I?"

"You know you are. I don't know that I like it, though."


"Girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever. Why do we need a name?" She cocked her head at his question. "What? Why do we? I love you, what does it matter what I am to you?"

"Do you want me to go to the Bronze and tell other guys who ask me to dance that you're just the guy who loves me?"

His human face fell away in an instant at the thought. "No," he growled. She placed her hand against his chest and smiled, he was not sure what she found amusing.

"Do that again," she said. "Growl," she added in response to his eyebrows shooting up in an unasked question. He did without questioning her request. "I love when you do that."

"You do," he said his tongue grazing his fangs. "Why?"

"I don't know. It's just cool. It's like you're an animal. All predatory like. About me. It's cool."

"Let's go downstairs before I get more predatory like." She tilted her head to one side, her hair falling away exposing the right side of her neck where three bite mark scars existed. She ran her finger along the scars, his growl growing louder. "Stop teasing me, Slayer." She had no idea how much the demon in him wanted to put his own mark on her, claim her once and for all as his, be the top layer of scar tissue over the Master's, Angelus' and Dracula's. His demon needed that, Spike needed it too in a primal way that was probably influence of the demon inside of him.

"But it's so fun."

"No fun," he said shaking his head, his human mask back in place with a bit of effort. "No fun is to be had."

She pouted and tapped her foot against the hardwood floor beneath them. "No fun at all?"

"We will have fun, downstairs with the whelp and your li'l sis."

"Oh right, watching movies. I wish I could do something else."

"Just got home from the hospital, coma like thing, nothing else for you to do, out of body experience being the cause or not."


This was getting him nowhere and if she kept pouting like that, her lower lip extended and trembling he would be sorely tempted to forget his resolve. "After you, Slayer. Ladies first and all that."

A brow arched at that. "Since when are you treating me like a lady?"

Her words made him flinch. "Always wanted to, pet, you weren't open to it until now. So now I get to be the gentleman you have yet to be privy to."

"That's cool, I guess. I kinda like it, being treated like that."

"Figured you would. I saw how Angelus treated you, and your commando guy, proper like. It's what you deserve, Slayery darkness in you or not."

"But I still get the unladylike stuff, too," she asked and he shook his head at the hope he detected in her voice.

"In time, pet, we'll get to that I wager." His hands went to either shoulder, rotating so he cupped them. "Maybe we'll discover you don't like all that unladylike stuff so much after all. That was then, this is now. Different Spike. Different Buffy. Different."

"I know," she murmured.

A hand slid from her shoulder and slid along her jaw, under her chin. He tilted her head so she could look at him. "Sweetheart, don't sound so downtrodden. You make it sound like it's a horrible fate. If that's all you want me for, I'll just be heading out now, because I'm not here for that anymore. Through being love's bitch."

"No, that's not what I want you for. I just," she shrugged.

"Do you think I don't want you," he asked. The idea was blasphemous, but maybe she did not understand.

"I don't know what to think. This is all so new to me. Me wanting, you saying no. Me admitting I want, that I love you. Letting you in when it goes against everything I believe in."

He took her hand and slid it to the front of his jeans, letting her feel he was hard, ready for her, wanted her. She looked at him confused, but her eyes darkened in a look of arousal he knew well by now. "If vampires have saints I deserve to be one, Buffy. It's not a matter of wanting, it's a matter of doing this the right way. You need to learn you can trust me, that I'm not going to leave, that you're right in believing I can actually feel. I need to learn that you might actually want me for me, the entire me, not just this part of me," he said squeezing her hand over the bulge in his jeans for emphasis. "We have things to prove to one another, to your friends. No more hiding, I'm not going to be your dirty little secret anymore."

"Okay," she said after a deep intake of breath. He drew her hand away and kissed her forehead. "I'm ready to go downstairs I guess. Staying up here just gives me bad ideas."

"All right, pet," he said with a low chuckle. "Go on down without me, I'll be down in a minute."

"Are you okay?"

"Uh, yeah," he said gesturing to the front of his jeans. "Just don't care to go down there like this and give your sis or Xander any reason to jump to conclusions."

"Oh," she said and blushed deeply. He smiled that after all they had done together, done to each other he could still make her blush like an innocent. "Well then, I'll see you downstairs in a few minutes," she said and left the room like a bat out of hell.

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***Part 11***

Buffy was downstairs waiting for Spike to come down. She did not want to think about what he might be doing in her room to rectify his predicament. She felt the heat of a blush on her face again even worse than in her room when Spike had told her why he would be a few minutes behind her.

"Guys," Buffy said softly. Neither Xander nor Dawn heard her apparently. "Guys," she said again louder.

"Yeah, Buff," Xander said. "Where's Spike? Did you dust him," he asked and Buffy laughed lightly at the hopeful tone in his voice.

"No, no Spike staking tonight. Listen, I need to tell you guys something and I need you to listen. Just listen, okay? Can you do that?"

"Sure okay," Dawn said reaching for the remote control to turn off The Mummy.

Buffy glanced back at the stairs not sure if she wanted Spike to hear this or not. She took a deep breath and then figured she had to start somewhere.

"I know you're both mad at Spike, think that he hurt me and that he's an evil bad man because of it."

"Well, yeah, Buff, he tried to," Xander said but Buffy cut him off by holding up her hand.

"Just listen, remember?"

"Sorry," he mumbled.

"But there's more to it than that. More to what happened between us. Before that night, leading up to that night. I was sadly kind of hoping Spike would never come back so that I would not have to admit them. Think about them anymore. Buffy was abuse girl after Sweet left, and Spike was on the receiving end of Slayer abuse again and again."

"Buffy," Dawn said but was silenced by the look Buffy gave her.

"This is hard enough for me to say. So please just let me say it and be done. I'm not going to talk about it again. I'm not going to answer your questions, because what happened, what happens, between Spike and me is between us and it's none of your concern."

She traced a pattern on the knee of her sweatpants and sighed. "I'm not saying Spike was justified in doing what he did here in the bathroom. No one has the right to rape anyone. But our relationship was based on violence. It always has been. We fight and we get turned on by it. I don't get turned on fighting any other vamps. Only Spike. Well and Angel, but not anymore."

"Buffy," Xander exclaimed.

"Sorry. Too much information. Anyway. That's what we'd do. The chip stopped working after I came back. He could hurt me. So we'd patrol together, we'd fight and then we'd end up having sex. I kept telling him no, kept telling him each time was the last time. I knew he loved me and I used that to gain power. I had power over him and I loved it. And I used it."

"The day Riley came back I went to him. I needed to hear that he loved me, wanted me. I was hurt that Riley had gone off and found someone else so soon. Yet I was stuck here, stagnant. The only time I felt alive, felt complete was with Spike."

"I'm not going to go into details because it's not important really. But I discovered that I love Spike, that I was using his being a vampire against him. Was using it as a way to shield myself from admitting my feelings for him. Vampires can't feel, can't love, can't be kind creatures. He has no soul so he can't possibly amount to anything but being the blood sucking fiend that he is who would go back to being the scourge of Europe if he lost his chip."

She shrugged again and looked away from them. "But I'm through denying it. I understand if you can't like him, I even understand if you can't forgive him like I can for what he did. But if you can't forgive him then you can't forgive me either. I led up to that night. My actions led to that. Led to him believing he could convince me that I loved him by doing what he always did, give me good sex."

She met Dawn's eyes, saw the pain and confusion there. "I'm sorry, Dawn. So sorry. You loved him until Xander told you, so nothing's changed. He's still the same Spike. And he's going to live here with us until we can find him a place to stay."

"He what," Xander said standing, a fist clenched. "He's just using you. He's using thrall or something to get you to do this stuff for him, say this stuff."

"No, Xander. He's not. It was my idea. It's time for Buffy to face up to things. To face up to what I was doing last year. You know I realized before Spike came here tonight that I don't even know anything about you two anymore. I have no idea what you do with your lives. Xander, I don't know if you and Anya are together or not. Dawn, I have no idea if you have friends or what you did with your summer."

"That's just because you were sulking."

"I was sulking because Spike was gone. A part of me was gone," she admitted. "Don't you see? He did the one thing I expected he would do. He left just like Dad, Angel, Riley and Giles. But he came back. He's here. I can't let him go again. I'm so tired of being alone. Of being scared. Of not giving into my heart. I want to do that again."

"But can't you pick someone normal? I liked Riley."

"I liked Riley, too, Xander. But that was the problem. I liked him. I never loved him. I don't think if I truly loved him Dracula could have had the power over me he had. If I was truly happy, I wouldn't have been as susceptible. Dracula knew, Spike knows, I need that darkness. It's in me. I'm the Slayer, there's no doubt about that. But I need their darkness. They balance me somehow."

"There's nothing evil about you, Buffy."

Buffy smiled at Xander and bowed her head slightly. "I didn't say evil. I said dark, there's a difference. I'm a huntress, Xander. I hunt demons and vampires, that's what I do. You don't do that without having something inside of you that is dark and probably is the border between good and evil. I saw things when I fed off Dracula, I'm good. It's my true nature to use that darkness to do good."

"But we've helped you," Xander said.

"You have helped me and you patrolled for me when I have been gone. But you can walk away from it. I can't. I can't stop. It's what I am. Who I am."

"Well, this is just too much to digest," Xander said. "Have you forgotten about him and Anya?"

"No, I haven't forgotten, but as I said you had broken up with her and I had broken up with him. I can't hold against him what he did before me or after me."

"Yeah, like the killing of hundreds."

"He hasn't done that in years, Xander."

"Without the chip he would have kept on doing it."

"It doesn't matter the why, it matters that he doesn't. And hello? Master, evil vampire. You think he would have let a thing like a chip stop him from accumulating a little army like the Master did to do his dirty work?"

"I never thought of that," Xander said looking very downtrodden.

"Dawn," Buffy asked. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah. I just wish you'd told me all this before instead of letting me think he'd tried to hurt you. I mean, the chip not working. That changes everything."

"Well, I wasn't forthcoming girl with myself so I couldn't be with you either."

Spike cleared his throat from the hallway. "Sorry to interrupt the heart to heart. I'm going out to have a smoke."

"Thanks," Buffy said offering him a smile. She knew Spike would have stayed if she had asked him to, but this was her battle.

"So he comes back says he's sorry and you're going to take him back," Xander said once the back door had closed.

"I said I was sorry, too, and I'm lucky he's willing to take me back. It works both ways."

"Buffy, he's a soulless vampire, you have nothing to be sorry for."

"That's not for you to decide or judge, Xander."

"I don't have to like it."

"No, you don't. But if you're going to be rude to him, or to me, then I don't want you around either."

"Excuse me? You're going to choose him over me?"

"Well, yes and no. We're not in high school anymore, Xander. You have a life, a job away from me and Dawn. I like having you here, but let's face facts you're not going to be here forever."

"All you'd have to do is tell me you want me here forever, Buff, you know that."

She lowered her gaze. "I don't love you like that, Xander. I love you as a friend. That's all."

"I know. I can't compete against the likes of Angel or Dracula or Spike. If Dracula had turned me I wonder if you'd feel differently about me."


Neither noticed Dawn stand and leave the room. Of course she was used to that, going unnoticed. If Spike being back would mean Buffy would pay attention to her again Dawn was all for it. She felt like a ghost sometimes. She went out the backdoor and found Spike sitting on the back steps his back to her. He looked over his shoulder, a look of apprehension in his eyes when he saw who had come out after him.

"Hi," she said pushing some hair behind her ear nervously.

"Hey, niblet."

"Can I sit?"

"Your house, don't need to ask me, but be my guest." He was quiet and she was not quite sure why she had come out here. "They still in there fighting?"

"Yeah. He's always loved her you know. I used to hate her for it."

"Really," he asked turning the cigarette around, staring at the glowing end.

"I had a crush on him and hated that he would never see anyone but Buffy."

"Thought he dated the stuck up one for a while?"


"Yeah, the beauty queen." He took a drag on the cigarette and exhaled, blowing the smoke away from Dawn.

"Yeah, that would be Cordelia," Dawn said scornfully and frowned.

"Didn't care for her much either, eh?"

"No, she went after Angel for a while."

"Had a crush on him, too, bit?"

"No," she said with a light laugh. "I just hated seeing Buffy so unsure of herself, thinking that Angel would go for Cordelia instead of her."

"As if," Spike said with a soft grunt.


"I missed you, Dawn," he said simply, his voice barely a whisper. "Sorry I left like that, sudden and all, wasn't there when you all needed me."

"It's okay. Why didn't you ever tell me?"

"Tell you what? What I tried to do to your sister? That I loved her so much I was willing to be her punching bag if it meant getting a crumb of affection from her? I hated it. Kept hoping she'd see that she loved me and it would change, get better. Besides, wasn't my place to tarnish her spotless reputation."

"I might have been able to help you."

"I doubt that, li'l bit, but the sentiment is nice and appreciated. I'm just glad you're talking to me." He flicked the cigarette out into the grass after extinguishing the cherry between his thumb and forefinger. "You going to be okay with my living here? If you're not, I won't no matter what big sis says."

"You're not going to hurt her, are you?"

"No, bit, I'm not. I've changed since I left; I'll leave before I hurt her again, even though that would hurt her too. I still love her, so hopefully no more hurting will be in the picture."

"Yeah, I think that was what she was mad at you about most honestly, that you left. I didn't really understand it, but I knew."

"Dawn," Buffy said from the back door. Dawn turned to look at her, saw the worry on Buffy's face. "I thought something happened to you. You just left."

"You and Xander were getting into it I didn't want to stick around for it."

"Yeah, sorry. He left. You can both come in now if you want."

"Actually," Spike said as he stood. Dawn saw the pained look in Buffy's eyes and knew she thought he was going to leave. "I guess I'd better get my things if I'm going to be squatting here. Don't want anyone to steal what I have."

"You've got stuff here," Dawn said.

"I know, bit, thanks. Don't know that any of that stuff suits me any longer but I'll look through it another time." He looked at his boot that was toeing the wooden step he stood on. "Care to go for a drive, pet?"

"I shouldn't," Buffy said.

"I know you shouldn't. I'm not going to let you patrol, just go for a drive with me. You can't tell me you aren't going stir crazy."

She smiled at that and stepped outside. "Dawn," she said in protest.

"I'm fine, Buffy, go ahead."

"You sure?"

"I'm sure. Go."

Spike held his hand out to Buffy, offering her a charming smile that always melted Dawn's heart. How Buffy had resisted him this long was beyond Dawn. Dawn could not remember evil Spike. She remembered seeing him once or twice at the house, but Dawn's memories of Spike were all of him with the chip. It was scary to realize that his trying to rape Buffy was not the worst thing Spike had ever done. That was part of the reason Dawn had been so mad at him, she had wanted to believe he was good and on their team now. Dawn let out the breath she had been holding when Buffy took his offered hand and descended the steps with him.

"Don't wait up," Buffy called back over her shoulder.

"I won't," Dawn said with a sly smile creeping to her mouth. She had to call Janis and tell her about this. Janis and Dawn both had a crush on Spike. Who wouldn't with his hair and his accent? He was a hottie. Dawn was a little envious that Buffy always got the hot guys, but she knew that she would get her own one day. And he would be human.

Dawn sat at the computer desk in her room. She had waited downstairs long enough to hear the engine of Spike's Desoto fire up. She booted up the computer and signed online. It was too late to call England now, well too early there to call anyway. So she settled instead for sending Giles an email to tell him of Buffy coming out of her coma, Spike's return, and Buffy seeming to come out of her four month long funk because of it. Giles would not be thrilled that Spike had returned, but if it made Buffy happier and therefore a better Slayer he would accept it. He was no longer Buffy's Watcher so there was little he could say about it anyway. But Dawn knew that Giles would want to know.

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***Part 12***

"Put the box down, Slayer," Spike said, admonishing her for even thinking to pick it up.

"What? I feel fine," she said, pulling away from the trunk to look at him.

"Yeah, that's right and I intend to do my part to keep it that way. It's not as if I need your Slayer strength to carry in a whole two boxes of stuff."

"Fine," she said, crossing her arms over her chest and extending her lower lip in her infamous pout.

He took one of the boxes out. "After you, pet," he said waiting for her to walk to the house not trusting her not to pick up the second box after he went inside.

"Fine," she scowled.

He watched with rapt attention, head tilted as she spun around on a heel and strutted to the house. "Christ," he muttered under his breath. He had no doubt she was swaying her hips so seductively on purpose. He was not sure if it was his new soul making him take this celibate, one step at a time, fresh start route but it was moments like this that he wished he had kept his mouth shut in her bedroom earlier.

"What was that?"

"Nothing," he muttered with a scowl as he strode to the house. He paused once inside waiting for her to tell him just where in the house he was supposed to put his things. She had mentioned the basement, but that had been if Dawn had a problem with his staying there. He was not going to be presumptuous that he was going to be sharing her room or occupying her old room.

"Come on," she said from the head of the stairs. He saw her foot tapping impatiently and ascended the stairs following her command and her scent.

She was standing in her room, the room she used now and he paused in the doorway. "In here," he asked hoping he had not just put his foot in his mouth.

"Yeah, where else would you stay?"

"Your old room down the hall."

"Well, if you want to. I still have most of my stuff in there, I haven't really gotten the heart to move my stuff into Mom's room even if I sleep in here."

"It doesn't seem right that I put you back in your old room, pet."

"I," she frowned. He hated when she did that, it meant he had said or done something wrong and it wrenched his gut something fierce. "I don't mind," she said finally and Spike sensed that was not at all what she had been about to say a moment ago.

"Talk to me, pet."

"Nothing. It just makes sense. I still get dressed in my room. So it's no big," she shrugged. "We can even put something over the window if you want to cover it up. Something more sun proof than curtains."

"No sense going to any trouble for me, pet. The curtains should be sufficient." He had to remember this was a temporary arrangement. She had said herself they would find him somewhere else to live. She was being nice, nothing more. Admitting she loved him was a big enough step, he could not expect her to want to jump in with both feet.

She laughed. "It's no trouble and it's sort of necessary."

"Whatever. I can take care of that tomorrow. No worries," he said setting the box on the floor. "I'll go get the other box. Pathetic, isn't it?"


"That this is all I've collected over the past four months."

"I don't think so. It's not like you need a whole assortment of things. You're not mixing and matching guy."

"The scourge of Europe doesn't need more than black and, well, black."

"So I've been told."

"I'll be right back then. If you change your mind about the room arrangement, just let me know. Don't move the damned box on your own. Please," he added in an attempt to be somewhat polite.

He returned a few minutes later to find her sitting on the bed, Mr. Gordo clutched to her. He smiled slightly. She had changed into some cotton pajamas that still looked pretty sexy on her. "Good to know some things never change. Have you been sleeping with him?"

"When I can sleep."

"Has it been that bad?"

"Worse," she admitted. He had his own share of sleeping problems, but he was not going to admit that to her. With that admission would come explanation of the soul and he was not prepared to talk about it yet.

"I'm sorry, pet. You know you can sleep in here if you want to. With me. I've been sleeping during the day recently, so I could keep watch over you if it made you feel better."

"Thanks," she smiled shyly her hand stroking the stuffed pig's snout. "You don't mind?"

"Not at all. I always wanted to sleep with you I never hid that from you."

"Well, yeah, but that was with sex involved, but you don't want to have sex right now. Do you even have pajamas?"

"I actually own some boxer shorts; I could wear those I guess. You can trust me, Buffy."

"I don't trust our bodies," she said with a wry smile.

"Right," he said softly. In truth he was curious to find out what sex would be like with a soul. He had never experienced it as a human and was curious if having a soul would heighten his enjoyment. Maybe a soul had nothing to do with that, but he imagined it would. He was not ready to find out, though. Still too many voices and pictures in his head causing him to feel guilty. He did not deserve to be happy, not in that way. Hearing that Buffy loved him was bordering on even being too good for him right now. That she forgave him for that night months ago was over the top. "Well, if I stay awake we should be all right. I'll just sleep during the day while you're doing human things."

"I've got a job." He had opened one of the boxes intending on putting the few things he had away, but was stopped short by that revelation. It better not be another greasy job flipping burgers, she deserved so much better than that.

"Yeah? Doing what?" She lowered her eyes and he saw that blush again. "Oh come on, it can't be that bad."

"For the school board."

"The what?"

"The school board. They hired me to handle problems on school campuses. All of them."

"Are you saying you're actually cashing in on being the Slayer?"

"Yeah. Giles said he didn't see why I couldn't since they apparently know."

"Well, that's good then. Been much action so far?"

"Some. Dawn hates it though because my office is at the high school."

"Oh I just bet. That'd be like having your mom right there."

"Well, they built the new school where the old one was. All Hell Mouthy. So they want me where they expect most of the trouble to be."

"I'd think your Watcher would come back then."

"I'm a Watcherless Slayer," she shrugged.

He knew that was a source of pain for her and proceeded with caution. He sat next to her on the bed and placed a hand over the pig's head, stroking its ear with his thumb. "You've got me to help you if I can. I'm sure the whelp will help where he can, too. We've got all of Giles' books, right?"

"Yeah, he copied them all to discs or something. Dawn's the computer guru not me."

"Well, there you have it. You have research girl in Dawn, so she won't come in harm's way. You've got me to help you with my knowledge and my muscle. And Harris, don't know where he can assist but I'm sure he can. I'm sure Anya would help too where she can with her demon world knowledge."

"Thank you." She laid her head against his shoulder and Spike breathed in deeply taking in her scent. His hand moved from the pig's head to her head and stroked her hair lightly.

"You're just rewriting the Slayer history books left and right aren't you." He kissed the top of her head enjoying the feel of her snuggling against him. Yeah, he could get used to this, a kinder gentler Slayer.


"Oh, overcoming death, twice. Falling in love with a vampire, twice. Getting fed off by a vampire, twice, once to save his life. Getting paid to be the Slayer. Outing yourself as the Slayer."

"I guess I have done all of those things. But I think it's just the head of the school board who knows my identity. And Robin."

"Just be careful," he whispered. "Who's Robin?" There was a name he did not know. "A new member of the Scoobies?"

"No." She laughed lightly. "He's the new principal at the high school."

"And you call him Robin?" A low growl started in his chest and his demon visage showed itself.

"What?" She did not sound very frightened and it irritated him that he did not scare her. She should be scared since he could hurt her even with the chip after all.

"You see him outside of school?"

"Well, a few times with Mr. Cerny. Planning, negotiating and stuff."

"So why do you call him by his given name and the other by his surname?"


"Why do you call him Robin and the other one Mister?"

"Oh. Maybe because he realizes it's his ass I'm going to be saving not the head of the school board's."

"Have you gone out with him?"

"Spike. No. What is wrong with you?"

"Just curious. I want to meet him."

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me. I want to meet him."

"I think you're overreacting. Are you jealous?"

"Well, yeah, but that's not why I want to meet him. I want to know who you spend your days with. I want to know who's got your back when I'm unavailable."

She turned onto her side, laying on the bed peering up at him as he hovered over her. "Why are you jealous? He's nobody, nothing. Spike, I've admitted you're right. I need what you give me."

"Well, yeah, but he still gets to spend time with you that I can't. When I can't. And he's going to see you in action at some point, all Slayer like, Slayer strength and he's going to fall for you."

"Don't be ridiculous."

"Who hasn't fallen for you who has seen you in action, Slayer?"

"I, well, none of Riley's friends."

"That's because they were jealous, pet. Once they got over their jealousy they would have been under your spell, too."

She reached with her hand to touch his face. "Who cares if he falls for me? I don't want him, Spike."

"You sure?"

Her hand skimmed around his neck drawing him to her. Her back arched into him as she drew him closer still. He groaned when her lips met his. If she noticed his vampire features were in place she apparently did not care. She was tentative with her kiss, but as soon as his hand dropped to her hip the tentativeness left. He wanted to touch more of her, all of her, but if he started he would never stop. And he had to stop.

"Does that seem like I'm not sure," she asked breaking the kiss. She ran the tip of her tongue over his fangs. "Whoops," she said with mock innocence when she drew blood. He groaned and she ran her tongue over his lips.

"Slayer," he hissed trying to keep his demon in check.

She was offering he was not taking, but still it was wrong. She was a human, a Slayer, the woman he loved. She licked his lower lip again and he was lost. He brought her tongue into his mouth and sucked. He was aroused, she was aroused and their arousal increased as he tasted her. She moaned against him, arched herself into him further. He could feel the swell of her breast against his arm, her peak harden as it brushed against him. He drew away and with the aid of his heightened speed was off the bed in mere seconds. He gripped the vanity, holding onto it for dear life, looking into the mirror on the table seeing nothing but the wall behind him. His eyes he knew would be a deep amber due to his hunger and arousal, both of which had only been tapped and nowhere near satisfied.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing, pet. You just tasted so good, not just your blood either. I'd forgotten what it was like to kiss you."

"I don't think we've ever really kissed."

"Not like that."

She stood from the bed. "I'll go to my room. I don't want to make you do something you don't want to do, Spike."

"It's not that I don't want to, Slayer. I just need time to adjust to so many things. I wasn't expecting this. Your forgiveness came far too easily and I'm still trying to figure out how I got that."

"Because it was not entirely your fault. We talked about this already."

"I know, that doesn't mean I'm going to accept it so easily. I just need time. We need time. And I don't want to get used to being here with you, having sex with you when this is temporary." He heard her gasp causing him to turn to face her and saw the look of pure anger in her eyes and took a step back instinctively. "What's wrong?"

"What do you mean temporary? If you're going to leave again just go. I don't want to take things slow only to lose you."

"No, pet, I meant my living here with you and the li'l bit. I just don't want to get used to it, having you here with me in a bed every night only to lose it." He walked toward her and cupped her cheek, caressing it with his thumb. "I'm not going anywhere again."

"Oh well, I only meant we could find you some place else if Dawn doesn't like it. If she doesn't mind, which she doesn't seem to, you can stay here. I don't mind. I kind of like the idea honestly, knowing you're safe."

He scoffed. "Like you need to worry about that."

"I do."

He lowered his head, his mouth closing over hers and kissed her lightly. "I like that you worry, pet, but it's probably best if we don't share living space."

"Why? How is that best? I finally admit that I love you not just to you but to myself, to my friends and now you're getting all pulling away like on me. What's the deal with that? Was it a game to you? Get the Slayer to fall in love with the big bad vampire and then screw with her head some?"

"No," he said forcefully. His other hand went to her other cheek and he forced her to look at him. "Damn it, Slayer, no. But you've got Social Services and stuff on your case about the li'l bit, I know that. You've got a job working for the bloody school board which is like a government entity. I doubt very highly they'd think too well of you shacking up with someone."

"Now that I have a respectable job and have been keeping current with my bills Social Services is off my case. I still have catch-up payments for the months I missed on the mortgage but I'm keeping current on those too. But it's up to you."

"The school board's paying you that much?"

"Well, no, Giles gave me some money to give me a bit of a cushion. I've got it in a bank account earning interest and I'm just paying the extra every month that I have to pay."

A stab of jealousy went through Spike at the idea of her Watcher helping her out when he could have been here helping her, should have been here helping her. Instead she had to go to another man for that help, a man who was not her father. "What about your old man?"

"His idea of helping me is to sell the house and Dawn and me living with him."

"Oh," he said cautiously not sure why that would be a bad thing. Other than the fact that he doubted her father would approve of someone like Spike hanging out with his daughters. But that was rather selfish of Spike so he felt keeping that opinion to himself was best.

"And I can't do that. Slayer duties here at the Hell Mouth."

"Right, sure. He's still in LA then?" He definitely did not like that idea now that he thought about it. LA would put her closer to Angelus.


"Have you seen him lately," he asked casually.

"I saw him a couple of times this summer, sure. But you know my dad, I haven't heard from him since August when he bought Dawnie her back to school wardrobe."

He watched with rapt attention as she licked her lips. "Let's go get you all tucked into bed then, Slayer. I'll make a deal with you. I'm going to stay awake, if you need me you come on downstairs. The couch should be pretty neutral for us since it's not a bed. As much as I might want you I don't want to make love to you for the first time on a couch in your living room."

She smirked but let him lead her to her room where he did in fact tuck her in, complete with a gentle kiss against her forehead. He placed Mr. Gordo next to her. "I'll be right downstairs if you need me. Do you have any blood I can heat up?"

"Yeah, freezer in the basement."

"Thanks, pet," he said turning off her bedside lamp. "Sleep well. I'll see you in the morning."

"Yeah. Night," she said softly and Spike knew she was already pretty well gone.

Return to Top

***Part 13***

Buffy came in through the back door carrying bags of groceries glad the day was almost over. She set the bags down followed by the car keys and fixed her hair as best as she could without a mirror.

"Hello," she called out. Dawn was spending the night at her friend Janice's but should have come home after school. Dawn rode to school with Buffy each morning, but Buffy's office hours went until five o'clock so Dawn went home by herself.

She took a pan out from a cupboard and filled it with marinade before setting a pair of steaks in the pan to steep until she cooked them in a couple of hours. She washed her hands and then walked to the living room, curious why neither Spike nor Dawn had responded to her.

She sighed softly when she saw Spike on the couch. He did not appear to be sleeping, but it was difficult to tell with vampires. No breathing and all. "Spike," she said softly not wanting to wake him if he was sleeping.

"I'm awake, pet. Did you have a good day?"

"Yeah. Nothing happened. So that is a good day in my book."

"Good," he said looking at her. "You look nice."

"Thanks." She smoothed her hands along her dress and smiled, glad he liked it. It was nothing fancy, just a simple green linen tank dress that fell about mid-thigh. She had a scarf tied in her hair that was the same shade green as the dress. She hated having to try and look grown up sometimes, but students did come to her office. She was in the high school as a make shift guidance counselor. Really, she was a big sister is what she was. Students came and talked, Buffy listened and occasionally offered advice. It was how the school board could justify her somewhat outrageous salary given she was a college dropout. She glanced at the TV when she heard singing and whistling. "What are you watching," she frowned. It looked old.

I whistle a happy tune
And ev'ry single time
The happiness in the tune
Convinces me that I'm not afraid

Make believe you're brave
And the trick will take you far
You may be as brave
As you make believe you are

"Hmm," he asked when the song had finished.

"What movie is this?"

"Oh," he said and looked almost embarrassed. "The King and I."


"Not much else on, pet. You didn't tell me you had your cable shut off."

"Well, it was either that or the computer. Dawn uses the Internet, so I gave her the choice."

"Well, I'm going to go to the cable company once the sun is down and pay your bill, get your box back."

"Spike you don't have to."

"If I'm going to stay here I'm going to contribute something."

"You don't have a job."

"I have been living for one hundred twenty two years, pet, I've accumulated some savings over the years."

"Oh, I didn't think. Then why did you live in the crypt?"

"Because I wanted to," he shrugged. "It seemed appropriate, needed to remind myself chip or no I was still a vampire, a creature of the night, the undead. I refused to become like Angelus and live among the masses in a right proper apartment with right proper furnishings."

"I'll pay you back."

"Don't even start. If I'm staying here then it's only right. I'm not going to freeload off you and give your friends anymore reason to disapprove of me with you." He stared at her for a moment, wide eyed. "And I can't believe I'm prattling on like a poof, but still. I'm doing it. No more arguments. You show me the bills and I'll give you half as long as I stay here. And I'll pay the cable bill. I'm the one up at night, I need cable."

She laughed at that. "All right. Did Dawn come home?"

"Yeah and left already. So I guess it's just you and me."

"I knew that it was going to be. I bought us steaks for dinner."

"You are cooking me dinner?"

"Yeah, I've improved since you left."

"Oh really?"

"Really. Over four months of not leaving the house other than patrolling I was left with time on my hands. I taught myself to cook."

"Good for you," he said.

Buffy searched his words for any flippancy or sarcasm but detected none. "Thanks," she said with a sense of pride. "In fact I've thought if I ever get back to college of going into that. It's something I could do and still be the Slayer. Be a cook or a chef."

"Sure," he said with a bob of his head that was a semblance of a nod. She followed his gaze and saw he was watching the movie and sat on the floor by the foot of the couch. "You could have told me to move, pet. No need to sit on the floor."

"It's okay. So you actually like this movie," she asked taking in the grand costumes of the English school teacher, her son and the court people of whoever the king was.

"I saw him perform the role in person."


"Sure. It's a bit of flavor from my time. I was born about the time this was going on."

"So this is true?"

"Well, it's a fictional account of the truth, but the general events happened. There's some debate about how much influence she truly had and even who she really was, but overall it's a good movie."

Buffy watched as Anna stormed up to the king without having been given time to meet with him. Apparently that was a no-no. The king being gifted with a woman was distasteful. And Spike was born when stuff like this actually happened? "Where is this?"

"Siam. Now Thailand."

"Does she ever get her house?"

"You'll have to watch and see."

"You're going to make me watch this instead of telling me the answer?"

He smirked then, his blue eyes glancing from the television to her and nodded his head. "Yes."

"And what's with all the groveling passed off as bowing?"

"Just watch, Slayer."

She pouted, something that generally worked for her when she wanted her way. He just shook his head, his eyes on the television but he had apparently seen her from the corner of his eye. "Won't work, Slayer. Do you have better plans then?"

"No," she muttered.

"What was that," he queried, his scarred eyebrow arched up in accent.

"You heard me," she grumbled and he laughed lightly. "How many wives does he need," she quipped.

"A man after my own heart," Spike shot back.

"Oh really?"

"I'm kidding, Slayer. I'm a one woman man, that should be fairly evident."

"Oh, adorable children," she said as the princes and princesses walked in to greet the teacher who had not yet decided to stay for certain.

"Yeah, they are kind of cute aren't they," Spike remarked with a slight nod of his head.

"But how does he have time to rule the country? My god, to make that many children, he can't hardly do much of anything but have sex."

Spike chuckled lightly. "Slayer?"


"Shut up and watch the movie already. You're going to drive me bleedin' crazy with the commentary."

"But you've already seen it!"

"And I want you to see it. So just be quiet and watch."

"Oh all right," she mumbled forcing herself to concentrate on the TV.

Every day month after week there's something about house, said the king in response to the children singing a song about home.

Buffy could not help but laugh at the school teacher's persistence. Though the scene from father to son, king to prince that followed was touching and tugged at Buffy's heartstrings. A father, a king, having to admit to his son that he does not in fact know everything.

"Does she ever leave?"

"What," he asked.

"I can't imagine teaching those kids and then leaving them."

"I'm sure you couldn't. You'd get attached to them. You even slay different than other slayers."

"How so," she asked as Anna and the children sang about Getting To Know You.

"You feel," he said turning onto his side to look at her. Finally, she had his attention over the TV. "You were willing to make a deal with me to help defeat Angelus. No other Slayer would have contemplated it. You care. You care about those you are saving, whether it be an evil vampire who has been harnessed and neutered or a total stranger who a vamp is trying to feed off."

"Thanks," she said softly and smiled at him returning her attention to the movie without his having to say anything about it.

"They're going to get caught," she said to herself when Tuptim met with her lover in the garden. Spike chuckled. "What?"

"Nothin'," he said quietly. He patted the edge of the couch and she slid toward him but remained seated on the floor. His hand found her hair and he started to run his fingers through it.

"Feels nice," she murmured. "Oh, she does get the house," Buffy exclaimed. "Too bad she had to help save his ass in order to get it." Spike was obviously amused because he laughed again. "What?"

"Nothin'," he repeated as he had earlier his hand still running through her hair.

They watched the rest of the movie in silence. Buffy could not help but cry at the end and felt a gentle hand against her cheek brushing the tears away. "Never knew you cried at movies, Slayer," he said his voice hoarse.

"I," she said softly and shook her head. "I have dinner to fix."

"Oh come on, Slayer, you're not embarrassed are you?"

"No," she demanded. She most certainly was not embarrassed about having a heart.

"That's good because there's nothing wrong with it." She felt his eyes on her as she stood and stretched a little from having sat on the floor for close to two hours. "Need any help?"

"No, but you could keep me company if you want. I was planning on cooking your steak rare, but I have blood if you want that now."

"I'll just watch you work, Slayer. I've never witnessed you cooking a full blown meal before."

"Oh hush," she grimaced as she entered the kitchen. She poured herself a glass of water and set it on the island. "If you hadn't had Dru would you have been the type to have a different woman for every day of the week?"

"Oh yeah, pet, you saw just what I was like when Drusilla left me. I went and chained myself to that ditz Harmony. And then you."


"Not what I meant."

"I know," she said with a light laugh. "So you wouldn't have? I mean one hundred twenty years ago had she turned you and just left you."

"No, I don't think I have that in me. I just don't. Guess some of the poof is left in me after all."

"I like it. I don't think I ever would have gotten involved with you if you had been that way."

"Don't like the idea of being one of many notches, eh?"

"No," she admitted. "But neither do you, so don't tease me about it."

"You looked beautiful, you know."


"That Halloween years ago, dressed as a lady. I remember it and you looked beautiful like that."

"Angel never said anything. He just asked me why I did it."

"Why did you do it?"

She smiled wryly. "Well, Willow and I snuck a Watcher's diary out of the library about Angel and it had a drawing of one of the women he had been known to associate with or something. I just thought he'd like it, a woman from his time."

"Drusilla likes to wear period dresses. Sometimes she would drive my nuts with her insistence on it. Like we don't stand out enough never going out during the day and all. Let's dress up like the Victorian version of American Gothic."

Buffy frowned at his choice in words, using the present tense when he spoke of Drusilla. "If she came back would you go back to her," she asked surprised at the pain that ripped through her at the thought of it. She actually felt weak in the knees as she envisioned his dark princess coming back for him and Buffy being left with nothing but memories of how poorly she had treated him.


"You talked about her as if you were still with her. Like you don't stand out, not didn't."

"I meant all vampires in general standing out and those who do things that draw attention to us, pet. But to answer your question, no. I lived in darkness for far too long, I like the light. Remember I was willing to kill her for you a while ago?"

"Good and I remember," she said softly, her eyes met his. "It's hard for me sometimes. With Angel, Darla had left him so long ago I never really worried about it."

"I know, pet. It's hard for me, too. Not so much Captain Cardboard, being that he's got a wife and all now. Though if he had half a brain he'd dump her and come back to you and apologize profusely. But Angelus," he shrugged taking a sip of water from her glass. "I worried every day that he would come back for you asking for help with the kid or whatever while I was away. And because of what happened you would go back to him, subject yourself to a life of forced celibacy because of me."

"I would have done it, you know," she said softly. "Years ago. I wouldn't do it anymore."


"No. And it's not even because of the sex, or lack of it. And it's not what Angel left for either."

"Left for," Spike asked.

"He left so I could have a normal life. Live and love amongst the humans, get married and have children, grow old with my grandchildren by my side, go to the beach and have picnics in the sunlight with my husband, and so that he would not have to watch me die."

"Oh," Spike said simply taking another sip of water. "And you don't think those were all good reasons?"

"Not really, no. Those choices, with the exception of the last one, should have been mine to make. If he wanted to leave me because he didn't want to watch me die then that's fine, but otherwise those should have been my decisions or at least made jointly."

"True. So, why wouldn't you do it anymore?"

"Because you taught me that it's not really a soul that makes a man who and what he is. I don't want Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

"He was that, wasn't he?"

"Yeah. Why haven't we ever talked like this before now? I mean, what were we doing since you've had your chip that we couldn't just talk about things like this?"

"I don't know. But we are talking like this now, no sense worrying about the past, luv, it's over and done with. Look to the future not to the past." He stood from the stool he had been sitting on and walked behind her. He kissed the back of her head lightly. "I'm going to go shower and change. Since you're cooking us a nice dinner and all I should come to the table in something I haven't slept in."

"You can sleep upstairs when we're not here you know."

"I know I like having the tele on."

"Right, don't want to miss Passions."

"Something like that," he called as he left the room leaving Buffy to tend to dinner.


Dinner had gone well. Spike could tell that Buffy felt a little strange being just the two of them sitting at the table. It had a very couple feel to it and he hoped it did not cause her to pull away and rethink things. He needed her right now, even if she did not know he did. He had helped her wash the dishes and she had heated up a cup of blood for him once the cleanup had been finished.

He was sitting on the couch watching some gibberish on the TV thanks to the recently turned on cable. He was relieved not to have to spend another night watching network television. He looked up, surprised to see her dressed for going out rather than for bed. "Where in the hell do you think you're going?"

"Patrolling," she said pulling her hair out from her collar looking at him as if he had grown a second head.

"Slayer, you just got home from the hospital. You were in a coma!" He still was not sure if he believed her story, but even if the coma had not been injury induced he did not want her going out patrolling.

"And I'm fine. Slayer healing and everything even though I keep telling you there was nothing wrong with me." She pouted then and had he not been so worried about losing her it might have worked.

"Come on now, we have the house to ourselves, spend the evening with me here on the couch. I went out and got the cable turned back on and everything."

"I've been living without it for months, Spike."

"Well, exactly, that's why you should stay here and celebrate having it back."

"Spike, I'm the Slayer, I have to go patrol."

"I'm coming with you then."

"I was hoping you would," she said surprising Spike.


"Yeah. I like when you patrol with me. We fight well together and when we have nothing to fight I'm not alone."

"Oh," he said dejectedly hoping there had been more to it than that.

"What's with the frowny face?"

"Nothing," he said as he stood and shrugged into the coat he now wore in place of the old leather duster he used to wear before. Before. Just before.

"I like when it's you I'm not alone with. Is that better?"

"Yeah," he said feeling like the biggest pansy around but he could not stop the smile from crawling to his lips.

"Okay then. Listen Spike," she said pausing at the front door. "I'm sorry if some of the things I say sound like a convenience thing, but I don't hope that Xander or Willow or Giles are going to join me patrolling. Just you. I even hated when Riley came with me."

"I know," he said noticing Angel was not included in her list of those she did not hope to join her. That was in the past. Over three years in the past he tried to remind himself. It did not mean he liked it though.

"And Angel was different," she said as if reading his mind. His head snapped up to look at her and he saw knowing and empathy in her eyes.

"I know," he said with a slight nod. "I know, pet. It just bothers me is all. He was your first everything, hard to compete with that."

She let go of the door handle and touched his face, bestowing him with a gentle kiss. Had his eyes been closed the gesture could have been mistaken for a brush of a feather instead of her lips. "And you are my last. I haven't been with anyone since you, Spike, and don't plan to."

"Alright," he whispered.

"Then that's settled. Let Angel be jealous of us not the other way around. You are a good man, you don't need a soul to guide you. You don't need a soul to stop you from slaughtering people."

"The chip," he said with a shrug.

"And if you could get the chip out tomorrow, what would you do?"

He closed his eyes and shook his head. God, he wished soul or not he could say that he would go right back to being what he had been three years ago, the Big Bad, worthy of the name Spike. "Keep going on being the complete poof that I am. I'd follow you to hell and back, slay demons to keep you safe, protect niblet from heartbreak, love you."

"Maybe the Powers That Be saw something in you and just gave you the shove you needed to get to this point."

"Maybe," he said with a slight nod liking the sound of that. "Well, shit, wish we could have had this heart to heart before I went off to Africa and suffered those trials to get my bloody soul back." He realized what he just said and stepped away. "Fuck," he muttered.

Return to Top

***Part 14***

"You what what? You what where huh?"

"Uh, nothing," he said lifting both hands in a shrug. This was not how he had imagined telling her. He had pictured something a little more relaxed and comfortable when things had been going well between them for a while. Of course, he realized had he held out too long she might have gotten pissed off at him for not telling her to begin with.

"No, not nothing. You did where and what and how?"

"I told you I did a little soul searching."

"I thought you were joking, making with the puns."

"I wasn't."

She touched him then as if she had never before which was why he had not told her. He didn't want her pity, didn't want her with him out of some sense of obligation. Her hand skimmed over his heart as if it was connected to his soul. Interesting since he had thought of trying to cut his heart out several times in an attempt to get the visions and voices to stop. "You have your soul?"

"Yeah," he said somberly.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"Well, I was going to. It's not as easy as you think walking up to the woman you love who happens to be the last of your victims. That's why I hadn't sought you out since I came back. I waited for the right time and way to tell you and all. But it never came. I was going to beg your forgiveness, tell you what I went through for you, that I got my soul back for you so that I could be a man and not a monster. But I couldn't do it. Couldn't tell you. I didn't want to beg. Funny thing this soul it made me realize that I shouldn't have to beg you to get you to realize you love me."

"And the last couple of days?"

"Listen, I was going to tell you, don't get me wrong. But do you realize how wonderful it was to have you say you loved me, that you were willing to give me, us, another chance even without a soul?"

"No," she said but was lying or just answered without thinking. She wanted to be loved merely for whom and what she was without having to change anything about herself. That was why things did not work out with Captain Cardboard, he wanted a needy woman, a weak woman, a dependent woman. Things Spike's Slayer could never be.

"I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. I have all these voices, all these pictures in my head, Buffy." He closed his eyes, his chin dropping slightly. "All of the people I've hurt, killed, fed off are here," he pointed at a temple with his index finger and tapped against it. "They're giving a non-stop party in my head and it's not of the good variety more like the massive hangover inducing variety. Most of them are dead or I have no idea where to find them, so I can't go begging them for forgiveness. Not to mention, well, I'm rather fond of my unlife and don't want it to come to an end. But you," he said looking at her, his eyes bearing into hers. "You forgave me. Without a soul. You loved me. Without a soul. You wanted me. Without a soul. And you made me realize it might be okay. I was thinking of calling Angel, but knowing you're here for me, that you're willing to love me seemed like it might be enough. I'd have done anything to hear you say those words, Buffy. I'd go to Africa and do it all over again."

"You got tortured for me?"

"Yeah," he admitted.

"You went to get your soul for me?"

"Yeah," he said again.

"So this starting over thing. The you want me but we shouldn't. Is it because of the happiness thing?"

"Would that bother you if it was?"

"No," she said softly. Her hand was still stroking his chest through his shirt and he could feel the heat of her hand and fingertips as she touched him. The heat of her touch seared into him like fire and he ached to feel her touch and her heat against his naked form again. "Well, okay, a little. But I wouldn't leave you. Like I said about Angel, it wasn't about sex."

Relief flooded over him and he exhaled the unnecessary breath he had been holding. "There is no condition. It's mine I earned it I wasn't cursed with it. I sought it out passed the tests and it was granted to me."

"What kinds of tests?"

"You don't want to know."

"That bad?"

"That bad."

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't realize all of this sooner. Save you the pain and the effort."

"It's all right. Like you said maybe the Powers That Be saw something and gave me a shove. I don't know how else I would rate a second chance with you. I don't know how I rated a first chance with you. I had contented myself back when you were with White Bread that I would love you quietly and mourn by myself while being ridiculed by your Scoobies whenever you were gone."

"Did they do that when I was gone?"

"Red was all right and Tara, Dawn of course, too. Harris was not concerned, no. Anya," he shrugged. "She was Anya."

"I take it you don't want anyone to know about the soul?"

"It doesn't really matter I guess, but I don't want it broadcast no. I'd rather be the one to tell people."

"Right, of course. I just meant well, you know, Xander would have to stop complaining about you if he knew."

"I'd sort of like them to realize I've changed without crediting the soul, pet. I have changed. It was just what you seemed to need to be able to accept the fact I felt like any other man. All the soul has done is make me feel remorse and a flood of guilt."

"I can't even imagine. Angel never talked much about it to me so I have no idea. But I'm sure he'd help you or at least let me know how to help you."

"You can help by not telling me to leave."

"I'm not going to tell you to leave, Spike."

"I mean your house. I'd like to stay here. I don't want to be alone. Sometimes I'm fine and sometimes I'm not, why I don't sleep some days and needed the cable. I'll get a job, I'll help with Dawn and I'll help you with the house payments and bills. Maybe you can even go back to school like you were talking about earlier."

"Let's see how it goes, okay? I'm not saying no," she added quickly much to Spike's relief. "I'm going to say okay for now and let's see what happens. I don't think we'll ever get to the point where we hate each other; we've been through too much together to have that happen. So I guess you can stay as long as you like, but I'm not going to hold you to anything."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you know, if you start feeling better about things and decide you do want to be alone again."

"Then I'll go to the basement or to Willy's or take a drive, Slayer. I am not leaving again. I don't know how many times I have to say it to get it through your thick skull."

She smirked. "I almost believe you."

"You should believe me. I left for you I told you that. I did not leave to escape you. I had every intention of coming back."

"This is amazing. Spike?" she said her voice lifting with the hint of a question.

"Yes, pet," he replied willing to give her anything she asked for about then. The way she looked at him, her hazel eyes full of love was making him feel a little overwhelmed. She loved him.

"You need to tell Giles. I know he'll keep your secret from the others, but you need to tell him. The Council needs to know about this, that you did this."


"I imagine it might make them re-evaluate some of their opinions, Spike. You willingly went in search of your soul, suffered in order to get it back, you wanted to rehabilitate yourself."

"Only because I love you."

"So what? Why does that discount what you did?"

"I guess it doesn't, but not all vampires are going to fall in love with a human. And no other is going to fall in love with the Slayer. This Slayer anyway." Her smile told him she liked his talking like this. He was possessive, but she seemed to like it. Otherwise she would not have stayed with Angel as long as she had. Spike, like Angel, let Buffy do her thing, his possessiveness was far more primitive and primal than wanting to stop her from patrolling or doing her Slayer duties. Unlike Riley Finn, the stupid bloke had no idea what he had given up. His loss was Spike's gain so he was not one to complain about it. She was his now it was as simple and base as that. She could and would not belong to anyone but him. She knew and accepted it knowing he accepted and wanted her as she was.

"But still, it shows they're capable of it. It shows that they're capable of a conscience."

"I'll tell him, pet, but I'm not going to be their guinea pig or case study. I won't do it. I didn't do this to be poked and prodded and whatever else they would do to me. I'll do it so your Watcher can jot down an entry in his diary no other reason. I'd prefer he not name me just talk about it in general."

"I'm sure he'll do whatever you want. He's not like that, you know that. I just know the Council needs to know this."

"Listen to you," he said with a wink.

"Hey, I may not work for them anymore. I may not like them. I may think they're all pompous asses, their test when I turned eighteen convinced me of that. But they're big on the research. And they need to know. But," she said her hands going over his shoulders as she pressed against him. Her breath was warm as she leaned closer to him. God, she was going to kiss him and he was actually trembling at the thought of it. "I'm not letting them get their hands on my man."

"Is that right?"

"That's right," she said and pouted. He could not resist and kissed her, tracing his tongue along the extended lower lip. "What? You don't think the same way?"

"Of course I do, pet. I just love hearing you say it, surprising but I love it. That's one of the reasons I think we work so well together, we are not afraid to claim our mates, both of us, and hold onto them."

"I'm not possessive," she said with a frown.

"Right," he said flippantly.

"I am not."

"Right, what do you call your reaction to my having a date for Xander's unwedding?"

"Well, yeah, but that wasn't possessiveness," she said shaking her head. She was smiling though so she was not mad at him for pointing this out. There was that pout again. "And it was different," she said pleading her case further. He arched an eyebrow in question and she continued. "I didn't want you."

"But no one else could want me?"

"Well, of course not. Not until I decided what I wanted to do with you." She winced with the last few words; her voice trailing off like it did when she realized what she was saying did not make much sense. "Well, what I meant to say was."

"I know what you meant. ‘sides there's nothing wrong with it you know. It's all right not to want to share with others. I even hate the thought of sharing you with your comrades."

"Okay, now, I'm not that bad."

"You'll have your extremes and your limits, too, pet."

"I need to sit down," she said softly.

"I'll patrol for you then."



"Have you killed since?"

"What do you mean?"

"Since the soul, have you killed anything? I don't want you patrolling without me."

"They're demons, Buffy, evil."

"Well, yeah, know that. I realize that and if you'd had more than a few months to adjust I wouldn't question it. I'll go, just give me a minute, okay."

"Oh all right," he said with a heavy sigh. He imagined she might be right.

Her arms went around his waist and she kissed him for a moment before drawing back. "Well, with all of the people in your head I'm just afraid you'll get yourself hurt. I just got you back, don't want to lose you again."

"I'm going with you, no arguments on that. Better find out now what I can do. That way we know whether or not I can patrol for you some nights."

"I really don't need you to."

"I know you don't need me to, but you've got an office job now and you should get rest and all that so you can fight those nasties at the schools. If nothing else, I can relieve you of the late night rounds." She pouted again and looked disappointed. "What?"

"If you're doing late night rounds that means you won't be here."

"Get over it, Goldilocks, you've gone this long without me you can survive a few hours at night. You'll be separated from me during the day."

"Well yeah, that's different I work during the day. There are no beds and no sleeping is allowed at work."

He kissed her slow and gentle and his hands traveled almost of their own accord along her curves equally as slow and gentle. He felt her body's heat underneath his cold undead hands and wondered if it might burn him. He knew her body, knew every inch of it but the old Spike that had obtained that knowledge. The new Spike wanted to rediscover every inch of her, wanted to make her body hum and her voice go hoarse from her sounds of pleasure. He felt her heartbeat pick up, heard the flow of her blood pump faster through her body, and smelled her arousal. He drew away, resting his forehead against hers before he lost his head. "I think with more of that to look forward to you would realize I won't dally."

Buffy tugged on the front of his jacket, preventing him from pulling away too far. "Maybe patrolling would be of the good."

"You might be right."

"Staying here after that would be too tempting."

"And temptation is bad."

"Yeah. It's of the bad."

"Not dreadfully bad."

She smoothed her hands along the spans of his chest and sighed. "This is your idea. I do think you're right. We need some Buffy and Spike out of bed time."

He smirked. "Well, what better way of spending that time but to kill things?"

"Exactly. You're a man after my own heart."

"I've been trying to tell you that for a couple of years, pet. You were quite stubborn about understanding that, though."

"Well, I can be a little slow."

"And stubborn."

"You've been talking to Giles, haven't you?"

"I don't need to talk to your Watcher to know that, pet," he winked. "Let's gather some weapons and go hunting. The sooner we're done the sooner we get back here and can do some more of that without having evil on the brain."

"But I always have evil on the brain. Especially when I'm with you," she quipped. He winced at her words but took a deep breath telling himself that she was probably teasing.

"Right. I haven't frightened you in years, pet."

"Well, that doesn't mean you weren't on my mind."

"Oh right," he said with a shake of his head. He was going to have to get used to this flirtatious Buffy. He had seen Buffy flirt before just not with him. To be on the receiving end of it was pretty amazing. He followed her into the living room and her weapons chest to get the basic weapons they would need for a night of patrolling.

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***Part 15***

Xander entered the Magic Box and saw it was currently devoid of customers. Anya was in the loft apparently dusting or taking inventory of the things up there. He almost turned around and left without saying anything, but the bell on the door announced a potential customer and Anya was quick to turn around.

"What are you doing here," she asked her voice about as welcoming as the sound a rattler makes when he's about to strike.

"Looking for Buffy."

"She's in the back," Anya said gruffly. Xander rolled his eyes at her coldness, not that he did not deserve it but still. At least the venomous tone to her voice from a second ago was gone.

"Thanks. Is she almost done?"

"How should I know?"

"An, you know how long she trains."

"I don't remember what time she went back there. I work here, you know, I'm not Buffy's keeper."

"I know you're not, I just thought you might know is all."

"Well, I don't."

"I get that," he said under his breath. She turned her back to him and Xander knew he had been dismissed and walked toward the training room. He mentally brushed himself off after another dismal encounter with Anya and prepared himself to try and talk some sense into Buffy about Spike. It was one thing to forgive Evil Dead, not that Xander ever would, but it was another thing to invite the enemy to live with you.

"No, Slayer, you just left yourself open on your right side," Xander heard Spike's commentary and for the second time since entering the store was tempted to turn around and leave. He would not give Anya the satisfaction of leaving with his tail between his legs. She had to know Spike was there and left that piece of information out intentionally. "Right here," Spike said and Xander saw Spike strike Buffy on her right side. Buffy tried to defend herself but was just a beat too slow and wound up on the mat with Spike moving to join her, straddling her, his hands on the mat at either side of her head.

"Do you have to hit her," Xander asked. He could do without the visualization of seeing Spike on top of Buffy but at least they both had clothes on. "I mean you gave her the tip why do you have to demonstrate?"

"Xander," Buffy said annoyed and pushed Spike off of her.

Spike stood and offered Buffy a hand which she took, surprising Xander. "Because, Harris, she needs to know. You don't learn to fight and defend yourself by reading or being told about it, you learn by doing."

"Xander, I need to train, Spike does too."

"I just don't like that he can hurt you."

"Well, he has been for over a year now so deal," Buffy said wiping her brow with the back of her hand. "So what brings you by?"

"Nothing. Just came to see what you were up to tonight."

"Going home after training, dinner, patrolling, bed. What's up?"

Xander shifted uncomfortably when he noticed the evil glare Spike was giving him. Chipped or not the look still scared the shit out of Xander. All Spike had to do was go to the demon bar in town and pay someone to hurt Xander and it would be done. "Nothing. Just thought I could take you to dinner. And Dawnie," he added quickly noticing the whites of Spike's eyes start to yellow.

"And Spike?"

"I don't really want him to come along, no, but if it's the only way you'll say yes then I suppose."

"Well, it is."

"You mean to say that Dawn is okay with him being back, shacking up in your house? She was mad at him."

"Was being the operative word, Harris," Spike said evenly.

"Just stay out of this. Everything was fine until you came back."

"Was it really?"


"So, Buffy didn't sit at home other than to patrol? She was happy as can be, right? Went out Bronzing every night, dates and partying galore?"

"Well, no, but we were fine."

"You were fine, Xander. I wasn't."

"But you never told me what was wrong, why you weren't fine."

"Because I knew you wouldn't understand. And there was nothing you could do about it anyway. You didn't know where Spike had gone. No one did."

"So you've been moping around for months because of this guy? The guy who tried to rape you?"

"Again with the operative word. I told you the other night I am not going to talk to you about this. You either accept my decision and hang with us or you don't and stay away."

"I'm not footing the bill for him."

"I will. Besides, he's getting a job soon."

"Right. I'll believe that when I see it."

"I guess you will. Try not to be so unhappy that I'm not going to lose my house, Xander."

"Of course I don't want you to lose your house."

"We'll go to dinner with you, but if you're going to be all frowny I'll just stay home. And you need to promise me this is the last discussion about this. I mean it Xander I've got enough to deal with."

Xander was going to protest but saw the look of determination in Buffy's eyes and stopped. "I'll meet you at your house then. We can get pizza and beer, Coke for Dawnie."

"Sounds good."

"Yeah, sounds wonderful," Spike said snidely.

"Well, you don't have to come, Evil Dead, believe me it wouldn't traumatize me."

"Of course Spike will come," Buffy interjected though Xander saw a glimmer of disagreement in Spike's eyes.

"I'll meet you at your house in a little while then; I have to go home and shower."

"Yeah, us too."

"There's one picture I don't even want to entertain," Xander said holding up a hand as if he could ward off the images that way.

"Not together you idiot," Spike said. "She has two bathrooms you know."

"Oh right."


"I'm not going," Spike said as he walked into Buffy's bedroom toweling off his hair.

"What do you mean you're not going," she asked her back toward him as she shimmied into a hot pink leather skirt to go with the silver halter like top that left her entire back exposed. What was the purpose of a top like that he had to wonder? Not that he minded or she looked terrible in it, but still. And what was she getting all dressed like this for to have dinner with Harris?

"I know you heard me and I know you understood what I said, Buffy."

"But why?"

"I'm going to do a few things around the house, all right?"

"Spike, there's nothing that needs doing. The house is clean, the dishes are washed, and the laundry is done." She slid a pair of dangly hoop earrings into ears. Spike was not sure he could handle much more of her primping. And what was disconcerting about the whole thing was that Spike did not believe Buffy knew how sexy she was sometimes.

"Personal things, all right, pet."

"Oh," she said and turned to face him now that she was dressed. "Why didn't you just say so? I mean, why with the mystery?"

"Because I'd like to keep some things private, Slayer. Is that all right with you?"

"Hey," she said holding up her hands in surrender. "No need to get all angry at me. You could have just said from the beginning that you had something you wanted to do. No problem. I don't need to know everything you do. What's your problem anyway? You've been all crabby since we left the Magic Box."

"Nothing. I'm entitled to be moody now and again."

"Well, sure, but did something set it off?"

"Harris. We were having a good afternoon, training and all. I haven't had the opportunity to fight in months and he bloody ruined it for me."



"Us. He ruined it for us. I've always liked fighting with you. Though I have to admit it was nice today to know it was just sparring and not an actual fight to the death."

"Or a beating de jour."

"Yeah," she said lowering her gaze and fiddling with some hair at her neck. "Or that. That's done with I thought I told you that."

"You did. Sorry. It was just a flippant comment." He saw her eyes scan the length of his torso and wished he had put a shirt on after the shower. He had not really thought about it at the time, both Summers girls had seen him without a shirt on numerous times over the years. Buffy obviously for very different reasons than Dawn but nevertheless he had to remember that for future reference. Bring both shirt and jeans to the loo with you. Of course if she kept looking at him like she currently was, he might just lose the shirt so long as Dawn was not around. It was rather flattering to know just the sight of his naked chest could arouse her.

She must have realized he could tell she was aroused because she blushed and raised her eyes to meet his. Spike smiled widely and if possible she blushed deeper. "I deserve it, so okay with the flippant comments. Just not too many of them, all right? I'd rather not be guilt ridden Buffy more than I have to."

"Listen, Slayer, maybe this isn't going to work. I mean, part of your charm was that you could take my banter and jibes for what they were. If you're going to take offense to things I say now, maybe we should just bag this before it gets out of control."

"No, it's fine. I just. With the privacy comment." She shrugged. "Just let's not make with the too true to heart comments, okay? At least for now." She looked to him for some acceptance and he nodded his head slightly. "I want to be out of control," she said her voice barely a whisper.


"Because it's about time. I haven't let myself do that, haven't jumped forward with both feet in five years."

"With good reason, pet. The last time you did it didn't go too well."

"Well, I'm an adult now I think I can handle it. At least I hope so."

"Yeah, well, we're both doing with the new. So I imagine the losing control will be a slow going experience."

She smiled. "Thanks."

"Don't sweat it, pet. You have fun with your sis and the whelp. I'll be here ready to patrol with you later."

"Do you want me to bring you back any pizza?"

"No, I'll rustle up something downstairs if I'm in the mood for food."

Both heard the knock at the front door. "Well, I guess that's me." She brushed past him and then took a few steps back kissing him lightly.

"Thanks, pet," he said softly to her retreating back.

Return to Top

***Part 16***

Spike waited until he heard the front door close and Xander's car engine come to life before picking up the telephone by his bed. He retrieved the business card from his wallet and dialed the number embossed on the card. God but this was a hard telephone call to make, but he had to do it if he wanted to retain his sanity.

"Angel Investigations," he heard a much too cheery female voice say.

"Angel please."

"Who's calling?"

"Listen you little git, just put him on the phone or tell me he's not there."

"Hey, back off, Mister. You called us, remember?"

"Yeah I do. I just want to talk to Angel." He heard the distinct sound of a second extension joining the call and waited hoping it was on Angel's end not his. He wanted to be alone when he made this call. Had Dawn stayed home? No, she would have come up to pester Spike about something. Not that he minded, but she would not have left him up here alone for this long if they were in the house together. "I know there's someone else on the line. Could one of you just put Angel on?"

"Spike," Angel's voice came through the line.

"Yes, Angelus. Tell the bint to hang up the telephone." Spike heard the click and breathed a little easier. "Thanks."

"What's this about, Spike?"

"You get right to the point, don't you? Maybe I was just calling to reminisce," Spike said, wondering if his grandsire knew of the events since Buffy's resurrection and those surrounding Spike's departure.

"Right. Given our last meeting was not exactly a happy reunion you'll forgive my suspicious nature."

"Are you alone?"

"If you called to talk dirty, I don't do that anymore."

"Oh, sod off. I need your help you bloody fool. But before I spill my heart to you I want to make sure you're alone."

Spike heard a sound like that of a door being closed through the phone. "I am now," Angel said with less impatience in his tone. "Is this about Buffy?"

"Why would I call you about Buffy?"

"Well, I don't know. Why else would you call me? Is she all right?"

"Yeah, she's fine," Spike replied cautiously. "Why wouldn't she be?"

"Well, Dawn has called here a couple times worried."

"Oh," Spike said simply, dully, waiting for the chastisement of his grandsire though it never came. Surely Angel would rip Spike's unbeating heart out of his chest if he knew what he had done that night. "Well, she's fine."

"Good," he said and Spike could almost sense the tension ease out of Angel's body with that. The Poof still loved her, Spike realized. "So, Spike, to what do I owe the honor then if it's not about Buffy? I don't see how we have anything else in common."

"Well, hello? Our family."

"We haven't been a family since the turn of the century, Spike and you know that. The last century," he added for clarification as if Spike did not realize when Angelus had left them for good. Darla had left them soon after and returned to The Master, the vampire who had sired her. That left Spike with Drusilla, not that he minded but Spike had been left holding the shell of the woman that had been Angelus' biggest challenge.

"I need help," he admitted somberly, hating that he had no one to go to but Angel. He waited for the ridicule and the sarcasm but encountered only silence on Angel's part.

"Okay," Angel said clearly waiting for Spike to embellish.

"Well, I'm not sure how much you know about what went on since Buffy came back."

"I know enough," Angel said and Spike could hear the low rumbling in Angel's throat. Okay, so he knew more than Spike wanted him to know.

"Li'l Bit had a busy summer it seems."

"She wanted me to know in case Buffy came to me for help."

"Did she?"

"No," Angel said and Spike could swear he heard disappointment in the older vampire's voice. "Get on with it, Spike. I do have work to do."

Spike related to Angel the events that had led up to that night in Buffy's bathroom and the quest Spike embarked upon because of that night. "So to make a long story short, it would seem there are two vampires with souls now."

"You got your soul?"


"Let me get this straight. You left Sunnydale after trying and failing to rape Buffy, went to Africa and went through horrible trials to get your soul back?"

"That about sums it up, yeah," Spike said and then heard the phone on the other end drop and Angel's laughter.

"What is it," he heard a female voice say on the other end. Sounded like the same nosey bitch that prodded him with the twenty questions a few minutes ago.

"Nothing," Angel said retrieving the phone. "Close the door, Fred. Okay, now."

"Fred? You have a woman named Fred working for you?"

"Winifred, she goes by Fred for short."


"So what is it you want me to do for you, Spike? I'm shocked, so you'll forgive me if I'm a little on the slow side right now."

"Why should now be any different?"

"Play nice, Spikey or I'll hang up."

"Oh all right," he said exasperated into the phone. "How did you do it?"

"How did I do what? You know how I got the soul."

"How did you live with yourself? How did you survive? How did you get the images and voices to stop?"


"That was not the answer I was looking for."

"Are you in Sunnydale?"

"Yes," Spike replied cautiously.

"Back with Buffy," he continued on.

"Yeah," he said his voice low.

"She took you back?"

"So it would seem."

"Christ, I knew she was crazy, but that's just insane. Though I guess the soul made it easier."

"Actually, she didn't know about the soul right away."

"What the hell was she thinking then?"

Spike told her of Buffy's coma and her alleged out of body experience only to be met with silence when the retelling was finished. "What?"

"It happened."

"This is no time for games, Angel."

"No games, it happened. I wouldn't have remembered it if you hadn't said anything it was just a night like any other. I never connected the girl from that night with Buffy. She was dressed so differently, obviously given the time. I just always assumed she was the Slayer of that time."

"So you're telling me that she actually did this? She actually went back in time, fought you, saw my little tête-à-tête with Cecily?"

"So it would seem, Spike, so it would seem." There was silence on the phone as Spike took in this information, Angel probably was too. "She said something that startled me."

"What's that?"

"She got offended when I called her a girl and claimed that she was woman enough for me to sleep with. I, at the time, had no idea what she was talking about, of course."

"Yeah, she does hate that."

"I know she does," Angel said wryly. "I guess that explains why she seemed to know my every move and why I got so turned on fighting her."

"Uh, Angelus," Spike warned.

"Hey, I did. It was hot as hell to have her match me blow for blow. I expected to die that night, she had me, the stake at my heart but for some reason, I remember it now, the resolve left her."

"She couldn't kill you she said." More silence by both vampires.

"So she woke up from her coma and realized she wants to be with you."

"That's about the whole of it, yeah."

"But she knows about the soul?"

"Yeah, she knows now. No one else knows and I would like to keep it that way. I don't need everyone thinking I went out to become like you. She wants me to tell her Watcher."

Angel chuckled lightly. "Are you going to do it?"


More laughter, louder this time, from Angel. "And you called me whipped."

"Yeah," Spike agreed, a corner of his mouth lifting in a half smile. "She seems to have that power over her men."

"Well, Spike, my boy, it seems you're one up on me. Two actually. You went out to get this done. You had to know there would be consequences, that you wouldn't get your soul and all would be good."

"I just didn't realize."

"Yeah," Angel cut him off and Spike knew his grandsire understood completely. "But you've got Buffy."

"What does Buffy have to do with this?"

"Let her help you. She will you know. Look at what she went through and risked for me, and I tormented her and killed her friends for months. Yet she stood by me and helped me when I came back. She'll do the same for you. She's strong, Spike, don't ever think she won't be able to handle what you have to unburden yourself with. She's heard pretty bad stuff from me."


"And yet she didn't leave me. Just remember that." Angel probably meant those words to be soothing, but they were not. They only served to piss Spike off. He did not need to be reminded that it was Angel who had left Buffy not the other way around. He did not want to think of the fact that she would have stayed with him, stood by him had Angel chosen to be selfish and keep her as his.

"I know."

"She's not going to leave you either, Spike. I may not like it, I may have nightmares about it but she won't. There's one thing about Buffy you should know as well as I do, once she's set her heart on something she doesn't quit."

"So I'm supposed to lean on her? I finally get her to admit she loves me and I'm going to depend on her to keep me sane? I don't see how that's going to keep our relationship moving in a positive direction."

"Talk to Giles."


"Talk to Giles. You said you were going to tell him about your soul."

"Only because she wants her council of watchers to know that a vampire can go on such a quest."

"Well, then give him some more fodder for his journal. Talk to him. He's not there anymore, right?"

"No, he's in England."

"Then have at it. From the things Dawn has said, he's got e-mail, so you could communicate with him that way."

"I suppose I could do that."

"But don't leave Buffy out in the cold, Spike. She'll get pissed off if she thinks you're hiding something or trying to protect her. She's not one of Dru's dolls you know."

Spike bristled at Angel's words and replied gruffly. "I'm aware she's not going to shatter and break, Angelus."

"All I was saying is if you have a problem go to her. Even if you don't admit there's something wrong but merely ask her to sit with you. I don't expect you to fill her head with one hundred twenty years of acts; I don't think you'd do that. But go to her when you need to have someone by you."

"Yeah," he murmured pinching the bridge of his nose. "I just hate the idea of having to do it particularly when she's got problems of her own."

"What problems," he asked sounding concerned.

Spike was tempted to tell him it was none of his business, but if Buffy was in danger Angel deserved to know especially if it came to him or the Scoobies calling him for help. He told her about the dreams Buffy had been having.

"Huh," Angel said.

"She seems to think they mean something."

"Well, her dreams typically do, though there are some that haven't."

"Right. So anyway, I've promised her I'd be on watch during the night to make sure she sleeps all right, which means I'm relegated to sleeping during the day. Which is fine, vampire, should be sleeping during the day. But then I'm alone. I can't bother her at work."

"She's working?"

"Christ, for someone who knows the bad you sure don't keep in the loop about the good."

"Well, Dawn hasn't emailed me for a while. I assumed she was busy with school and all."

Spike chuckled lightly. "Well, you're not going to believe this."

"She's not still working at that fast food restaurant is she?"

"No, she's getting paid to be the Slayer."


"You heard me, Peaches. She's getting paid to be the Slayer. I don't understand it myself exactly. But the school board has her on their payroll as a liaison to the students, someone their age they can talk to, relate to."

"And how is that getting paid to be the Slayer?"

"Well, that's just a cover to justify her being at the high school every day and on their payroll. The school board president hired her to take care of preternatural problems on the school campuses. They rebuilt the high school over the old one, you know."

"That is rich," he chuckled lightly. "I wonder if there are vampires out there who keep journals like Slayer watchers do. Someone's got to be out there taking notes about Buffy."

"I hope not."

"Me neither, Spike, it was rhetorical."

"Well, I'm not sure you gave me the information I was looking for, but thanks for talking to me."



"If it gets real bad, if talking to Giles over the phone and in e-mail and just knowing that Buffy is there forgiving and accepting you doesn't help, you can always come up for a while."

Spike closed his eyes and nodded his head, appreciative of the invitation. "Thanks, I'll keep that in mind. I'm surprised you didn't come back here while I was gone."

"Why would I?"

Spike scoffed. "Well, it seems rather obvious she does not want a human or the normal life you were trying to enable her to lead by leaving. I figured you'd come back for her once you realized that."

"It's too risky and we're beyond that, Spike. You have nothing to worry about from me if that's your concern. Other than I'll tear your head off if you hurt her again. It's not my place to judge you or Buffy or your relationship, but you've done a good thing, Spike. Don't fuck it up."

"I'm not planning on it. Hey, one more thing," Spike said feeling like a starving child begging for scraps.


"Any ideas of a job I can get?" Angel laughed again. "Glad I can provide you some comic relief."

"You just have to realize how it sounds. I'm still adjusting to the first revelation and now you're telling me you want to join society."

"Well, yeah. I want to help Buffy with the bills and stuff. She wants to go back to school and I want to help her get there."

"You've got money."

"I know I do, but I want to earn it. What am I supposed to do with all of my time now? I patrol with her, but then what?"

"You're right. Well, there's always my line of work."

"Right, just what I want to be, like you."

"Hey, you called me, remember? Don't insult me. As you so poignantly said, I'm all you've got who can relate to and understand what you're going through. I'm willing to bury the past, Spike, though I have to admit I'm a little envious of you."

"Envious of me?"

"You don't have to do this on your own. You have sources to help you through this. I didn't have that."

"Oh right, hadn't thought of it that way."

"So don't screw it up. Buffy and Giles can help you, but they haven't been through it."

"Right. So aside from going all out to help people in need, any ideas," Spike queried rolling his eyes. He just could not picture himself fighting the good fight. At least not yet.

"None that I can come up with, but I'll think on it. Where can I get a hold of you?"

"I'm staying at Buffy's."

"You're living there?"

"It was her idea. I'll have you know I'm acting like a gentleman."

"It's about time," he heard Angel mutter.

"Hey now."

"Just don't hurt her, all right."

"Right-o, Peaches," he said and after saying their form of good byes hung up the phone.

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***Part 17***

After a bit of discussion on the matter Spike agreed to share the master bedroom with her. Since they would not actually be sleeping at the same time Buffy reasoned nothing could happen between them. Buffy suspected he accepted because of her sleeping problems and while it bothered her she had to convince him she was glad he finally agreed.

Her clothes would remain in her old room and she would dress in there. She had rolled her eyes at that stipulation, but had agreed. It was probably best they not see one another naked if they wanted to remain pure for the time being. She wanted to ask him how long this sabbatical was going to be for but did not want to put any pressure on him. Or get severely depressed that he might have months in mind rather than a couple of weeks. She had to bear in mind that he had embarked on a journey no other vampire had ever gone on before. Pressure from Buffy was the last thing he needed.

Buffy was looking forward to having someone sleep beside her. It had been a while and she could not remember what it was like. In truth, she had never gotten used to sleeping with Riley. She had always felt dwarfed by him, like he might smother her or that he was trying to keep her at bay. And it was not as if she and Spike did not kiss. Lots of make out sessions were not of the bad though it left her severely frustrated some nights. Him, too, she knew so she did not take offense to it or take it to mean he did not want her.

Spike was sitting on the queen sized bed, his right ankle crossed over his left as he paged through the latest issue of Rolling Stone. Buffy watched him as she took down and brushed out her hair. She had done everything else to ready herself for bed in the bathroom or her bedroom.



"Is everything okay?"

"Sure, why wouldn't it be?"

"You've just been quiet since I got back from having dinner with Xander and Dawn. You're not mad I went are you?"


"Did something happen while I was gone?"

"No, pet," Spike said and Buffy could sense that he was getting frustrated with her interrogation.

She set her brush down on the vanity and walked the short distance to the bed. She sat on the edge facing him. "I mean because you'd tell me, right? You'd tell me if something was wrong or if you were having a real bad day?"

"I'd tell you if something was wrong that you could help with, yes."

"Okay," she said moving to the other side of the bed to get under the covers. "I guess that's something." Her first night of actually sleeping with Spike and she was a little nervous about it. What if she finally gave him what he wanted, for her to welcome him into her bed for sleeping not just sex and he decided to leave? Did he know how big of a risk she felt she was taking by doing this?

"I've been trying to think of a way to apologize to you."

"To what? Why? We're not going to go through this every day. Are we?"

"No, not about that," he said glumly. "I called Angel while you were gone."

"You did? Was he there?"

"Yes. Why shouldn't he have been? I guess he could have been out helping people and all that stuff."

"I suppose you didn't hear."

"Hear what?"

"Well, I only heard it second hand, so I don't have all the details. But Connor was abducted and taken to a hell dimension. He came back as a teenager and apparently thought Angel was evil, responsible for things. I don't quite get what. Anyway, last spring Angel disappeared. No one knew what happened to him, though Wesley suspected. He's the one who called me and told me."

"You're kidding me?"

"No, I'm not. I hadn't heard he was back," she said with a frown wondering why Wesley had not told her.

"Well, he's obviously back and he seemed fine. No worries, pet."

"Okay. Well, that's good. I should call and tell him I'm glad he's all right. Tomorrow," she said softly getting comfortable under the covers. "So what do you have to apologize for?"

"You're just loving this aren't you?"

"Well, a little," she smirked. "But I'll try not to be so obvious about it."

"I should have believed you. By now I should know that if you say something happened it did. If anything bizarre can happen, it would to you."

"Come again?"

"I called to tell him about the soul. Like you said he might be of help or at least be able to impart some wisdom on me as far as dealing with the guilt goes. How to get it to stop," he trailed off.

"And," she prompted not wanting him to dwell on the guilt more than he had to. She really should talk to Angel if she was going to help Spike through this. She needed to find out what she should do and say. When he had come back from hell he had had his soul in that dimension for one hundred years or so, so Buffy had never had to help Angel through this.

"I told him about your coma, about the experience you claimed to have had while in it."

"Oh great. Does he think I'm crazy too?"

"I never said you were crazy. And no he did not think you were," Spike said in a tone that made Buffy look up at him. "He said it happened."

"He did?"

"He did. He said he remembered the night. Remembered how fighting you made him feel. Said you could have killed him, had the upper hand and didn't do it."

"Glad I'm not the only one."

"Listen, I can really do without knowing you two get off on fighting each other."

"Oh Spike," she said placing a hand at his shoulder drawing her body up to his. "Like you don't get that way when it's us? I could tell in the training room at the Magic Box you do. Besides, I get that way with you now."

"Maybe it's not me, but my kind."

"You don't really believe that."

"No," he grumbled.

She slid her hand from his shoulder to his neck. Drawing his head down lower she kissed him, her lips parting their tongues meeting. He rolled on top of her, the bed's quilt serving as a protective barrier between their bodies. "I've slain countless vampires, Spike, it's not your kind." Her hand moved through his dyed curls, her eyes focused on his. "I love your hair like this."

"Do you?"

"I do. I like it longer. The curls." He rolled his eyes and she laughed shifting underneath him. "They're cute."

"Just what I want to be, cute."

"I can cut it for you if you want. I like it, but I like you the other way just as well."

"I was thinking about that. Dying it I could do without help, just needed to buy the stuff to do it. Getting it cut would have required me dealing with people and I wasn't ready to do that yet."

"Sure, we can do it tomorrow when I get home from work."


"Don't mention it." She drew his mouth towards hers once again. "Enough with the talking."

Buffy glanced at the clock when Spike drew away and slid beside her on the bed. "I've never in my life kissed someone for over an hour."

"Excuse me, pet, and not to sound entirely conceited but I don't recall my performance being of the quick variety. I realize it's been a while and all."

"I said kissing, just kissing." She was still slightly out of breath, her lips tender. Her body was thrumming from Spike's gentle ministrations. He did not touch her anywhere suggestive and what he did touch was through the quilt. She ached for him, places in and on her body alive like never before. She did not get how he could just move beside her as if they had spent the last hour discussing algebra instead of exploring each other's mouths and necks so thoroughly. The fact he did not breath, his heart did not beat, was frustrating at times like this. Her heart was going a mile a minute and her breathing was slow in returning to a normal, non-aroused state.

"Can't say I have either." He turned his head to look at her. "Could get used to it I think though. With you."

"Yeah," she said giving him a smile. "With you." She wanted to reach over and touch him but was afraid to, afraid it would be her undoing and she would beg him to do more than kiss her. She could do this. She loved him, it was not about the sex. It was just that the sex with Spike was always of the good variety and after months of lacking goodness she wanted to feel good. She groaned softly. No, no, no this was exactly the mindset that got her into this mess to begin with. No more sex just to feel good.


"Nothing, just don't like where my mind was going is all. I liked it."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure. That's definitely a nice way to be put to bed every night."

He rolled onto his side and tucked some hair behind her ear. "Good. No more bad ways of going to bed, pet. I won't hear of it." He traced a finger along the side of her neck down to her throat. "Did you say good night to niblet and get all the bedtime primping and rituals done?"

"Yeah," she said her eyes wide watching him intently as he touched her. His finger despite being cold was making her burn. Her eyes fluttered closed and she let out a low moan when his finger traced along her pulse point not once but twice.

"Then get some sleep."

"Aren't you going to get under the covers?"

"I think it's best if I don't. I don't need them anyway."

"I know, I just," she shrugged trying not to be too demanding about all of this. "It's fine." She kissed him and smiled at the fact her lips were still sensitive. He had made parts of her body ache before, but never her lips.

"Night, pet."

"What are you going to do while I sleep?"

"Read, watch some television, call Giles when it gets to a time there that's respectable."

"Wow. Calling Angel and Giles."

"Calling Angel was for me and my peace of mind. Calling Giles is for you. You asked me to, and I'll tell you Peaches found it amusing I was willing to do it."

"Well, you can't blame him after all the crap you gave him about me."

"I don't want to be like him, Buffy. I didn't do this to be compared to him."

"I know that, Spike," she said softly snuggling against him. His arm went around her waist as she positioned her head against his chest. "Tell him I say hi and that I miss him."

He kissed the top of her head. "I will," he whispered.

Soon Buffy was asleep. Spike remained beside her. She had turned so her back was against his chest and his arm went around her possessively as he stared at the wall. A light knock at the door brought him out of his mind's wandering. He had not been thinking of anything in particular, just zoning enjoying having Buffy near.

He stood from the bed as careful as he could not wanting to jar Buffy and disrupt her sleep. He opened the door and stepped outside, holding a finger to his mouth so Dawn would not talk too loudly. "What's up, Dawn? Buffy said you were in bed."

"Well, she said good night, but I was online for a while talking to Janice."

"You can do that? I mean talk to each other on the computer."

Dawn smirked. "Yeah. I thought you were more hip than that. I'll show you sometime if you want me to."

"And just who would I have to talk to on a computer? I barely have anyone to talk to on the telephone."

"Oh right, you have a point. But I'll still show you. You never know when you might need to use it."

"Thanks, I might just take you up on it. I suppose if I'm going to try and get some sort of a job I should know about things like computers. But I'm sure that's not why you came knocking on the door. Did you and your friend have a squabble or something?"

"What? Oh no. She asked me to go away with her and her parents this weekend."

"Buffy's sleeping; I'm not going to wake her up for that. Can't you ask her in the morning? You go to school together."

"I was just hoping I could give her an answer tonight."

"And you thought I would give you the okay?"

"Well, you can. I mean, when Buffy was gone you gave me permission to do stuff."

"Well, this is different. Buffy is here and I've been gone for a while. If I'd been here all along I would do it, but I know your sister will want to talk to Janice's parents and all that. Which she couldn't do tonight anyway."

"Please, Spike."

"Do you want Buffy mad at me?"


"Then don't ask me to do this, niblet. If it were up to me I'd say yes but I'd want to talk to her parents, too. I'm not going to call them at this hour. I may stay up all night, but most people don't."

"Will you talk to her about it tomorrow morning first?"

"Is there something you're not telling me? You haven't been running off without permission again?"

"No. It was just the one time like a year ago. Why can't you two get over it?"

"Because you of all people, being who your sister is, should know better."

"Then to what? Go out with a boy who actually seemed to like me? I didn't invite him into the house or anything like that."

"You parked with him. Not to mention lying to your sis."

"Yeah, God forbid I actually wanted to get kissed at some point."

"By a vampire, Dawn."

"Hello? Didn't know he was a vampire until later. And besides it's good enough for Buffy."

Spike felt his temper rising, not at Dawn necessarily but just that she still seemed so naïve at times. He raked a hand through his hair, shook his head and took a deep but unnecessary calming breath. "Buffy can defend herself and Buffy knew what Angel and I were before getting involved with either of us. Neither of us wanted to use her as food."

She let out a frustrated groan and stomped her foot on the floor. "You are so unbelievable. I screwed up. Once. It's bad enough Buffy works at the school I go to so she can watch me there."

"She's not there to watch you and you know it. Would you rather she be flipping burgers and doling out milkshakes?"


"I'll bring it up to her in the morning, but what she says goes. I'm not going to have you playing me against her or playing me because I have a tendency to be softer than she is. She's in charge."

"But you're living here, too. You're older than she is."

"I just got here a few days ago, Dawn. And I'm older than her in unlife terms, but it's not quite the same. You're clutching for straws, niblet. And it makes me wonder just why you're so anxious to get an answer tonight."

"Well, you're like my dad now."

"I appreciate the sentiment, Dawn, but you've already got a dad."

"But he's never here. You are."

"And I'm glad to be here, but that's not what I'm here for and you know it. If Buffy's not here then I don't mind you coming to me. But you going away for a weekend is her decision to make not mine."

"Fine," she said raising her voice.

"And I won't have you raising your voice waking up Big Sis either. Go to bed now, Dawn."

"You're no fun anymore! All you do is sit around here and mope."

"I'm not moping," he protested. "I just want things to go right for me and for Buffy. I'm not going to do something I know will set her off, Dawn. Now go to bed. Another argument out of you and I won't mention it to her first in the morning."

She folded her arms over her chest in a gesture that Spike assumed was to represent defiance. She looked so very much like Buffy just then, despite the difference in hair color. "Fine. I'll see you in the morning."

"You will at that, niblet. Bright and early."

"Yeah yeah. Night," she said not moving from her spot just yet. Spike held his ground as well, afraid she might sneak out of the house. It would not be difficult for her to do, Buffy's bedroom was right across from Dawn's and obviously Buffy had managed to escape her mother's notice for quite some time. Finally, seeming to realize that Spike was not going to move she turned to go back to her room.

"Remember, niblet, I hear better than humans."

"Like I could forget that."

"Just a friendly reminder."

He watched as she closed her bedroom door and sighed softly. He did not want to be a dad, did not want to be in the position to be a dad-like figure, especially not to a sixteen year old girl. He had his own life to put on track, but he could not stand the thought of hurting Dawn in any way. Maybe it would be good for him, knowing someone besides Buffy needed him around, wanted him around, and that someone else knew of his past, knew what he had done to Buffy. She seemed to have forgiven him, too. Spike could not detect any fear or apprehension in her when she was near him.

It was still too early in the night to call Giles and now that Spike had gotten out of bed he did not want to return there just yet. He went downstairs, found his pack of smokes, grabbed a bottle of beer from the refrigerator and went out to the back porch. Just one cigarette and one beer and he would go back to bed. He was tempted to go to Willy's and see what information he could find out that might pertain to Buffy's dreams, but there was so little to go on.

Buffy had given vague descriptions of the girls in her dreams, but nothing helpful. She could not even tell where the girls were. Of course the fact that she had never been out of the Southern California area might limit her abilities to recognize other places. He had a sinking suspicion that Buffy's comatose experience had nothing to do with the Watcher's Council and had in fact been brought on by him. Someone, or something, wanted both him and Angelus gone, out of the way, and had gone to great lengths to try and get the Slayer to do it. But why? And perhaps more importantly at least for now who?

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***Part 18***

The doorbell rang just as Spike finished a cup of blood. "I got it," he called up the stairs knowing it was Xander at the door. Spike had finished getting dressed more than an hour ago. He did not understand what took Buffy so long to get ready. Then again when his wardrobe consisted of black jeans it was not that difficult to choose what to wear. Choosing his shirt was the most difficult task for Spike. Tonight he wore a white T-shirt underneath a royal blue button up shirt.

"Harris," he said as he opened the door.

"Spike," Xander replied evenly.

"She'll be down soon. At least I hope so. She's been up there getting ready forever. You'd think she's never been to the club before in her life."

"I imagine you have something to do with it."

"Me," Spike said surprised the whelp would say such a thing. "No, she's just cleaning up after having to take care of three vamps in the high school's basement today."

"But this is like your first date, isn't it?"

"I guess, though I'm not sure why if it's a date you're tagging along."

"Good point," Xander said and shrugged. "I don't know. She asked me to come so I said yes. I haven't seen her much this week."

"Not my fault. I don't keep her chained up or anything."

"I wasn't accusing you, Spike."

"Just making that clear. She's free to come and go as she pleases."

"That's assuming she wants to come and go," Buffy said from the doorway. Both men turned to look at her. She had come home from her day at school with a gash on her face and her body sore from taking on three vampires simultaneously. The cut was still visible, but she looked so stunning that Spike wagered no one would notice the flaw.

Her hair was pulled back and put up; her bangs were crimped and teased. Her makeup while subtle accentuated her cheekbones, eyes and lips perfectly. Her lips looked deliciously kissable and Spike had to stifle a groan at that thought. The dress she wore he had seen before but had never paid much attention to it. Paying attention to her clothes up until now could prove deadly to a man who craved and loved her. She dressed to tease and arouse and it very rarely failed to have the desired affect. At least on Spike, though he doubted humans were any more immune to her than he was even those she did not date. Tonight it was a brown mini-dress with a halter-like bodice that tied around her neck. It left her back bare and the front was extremely low cut, leaving far too much of her cleavage exposed. She looked amazing.

"Wow, Buffy, you look hot," Xander said as Spike gave the other man a low and threatening growl. He still had problems controlling his demon at times and it seemed Buffy was his weak point; jealousy was where he had the least amount of control. "Sorry Spike, but wow."

The silver chain she wore was long enough that the cross she wore nestled between her breasts. No matter what she did with it men were going to look, and not at the cross she wore. She wore a pair of silver earrings with crosses dangling from them. "Apparently you do not want to get kissed tonight."

"As if that's a bad thing," Xander interjected. "I for one could do without you two kissing all night. Especially since I'm without a kissing partner."

Buffy wrapped her arms around Spike's neck and his arms went around her waist holding her against him. He was careful not to bring her too close, did not need a burn mark through his new shirt. It was nice and white and he preferred to keep it free of cross shaped stains. "You don't like my outfit, honey," she asked in a voice laced with seductiveness. She kissed him, her lips barely touching his. "And see I can kiss you without burning you."

"Right of course you can," he said drawing her closer. "And I do like the outfit. You're going to raise my body temperature is what you're going to do."

"That's the plan," she said tracing a finger along his ear.

"Okay you two let's go before one of you forgets I'm in the room."

"Oh hi Xander," Buffy said turning in Spike's arms so her back pressed against his chest. His hands clasped together at her abdomen to hold her warm body against his for as long as she wanted to stay there.

"Hey Buffy. You look nice."

"Yeah, I got that. Thanks. You both ready to go? Why am I the only one dressed up? Well, Spike doesn't need to answer that because Spike is Spike and he dresses the same way no matter what."

"Hey now, pet," he objected. She ground her bottom against him and slid an arm up and around his neck, placing her head in the indentation where his collarbone met his shoulder. "Play fair," he growled warningly in her ear. "I'd get dressed up if I had reason to, but it's just the Bronze."

"Let's go. There's much fun to be had. Dancing, music, friends. No responsibilities."

"Hey, Buff, you know Dawnie can stay with me anytime you need her to."

"I know, Xander. It's not that. I just like not having to worry about her for a couple of nights. Call me selfish, but it's nice to let my hair down and worry about Buffy. And Spike."

"I like the sound of that," he whispered in her ear and drew back quickly his demon visage taking over briefly. "Holy mother of god, did you have to wear crosses on your ears?"

She giggled. She actually giggled. "Sorry."

"Yeah, you're sorry all right. I'll just have a burn shaped like a cross on my cheek all bloody night."

She turned to face him and scowled evidently seeing no burn. His human mask fell back in place as she touched the side of his face where his flesh had come in contact with the earring. Spike knew he had not been in contact with the cross to produce much of a burn. "You don't have a burn mark."

"Don't sound too disappointed, pet."

"I thought I'd really hurt you."

"It'd take a lot more than that to hurt me, pet. You should know that by now."

She blushed deeply and Spike chuckled. "Yo, guys, let's go before the Bronze closes."

"Yeah yeah," Spike said offering Buffy a hand as he led her outside. "We'll take Buffy's car."

"What," Xander said. "What's wrong with my car?"

"Nothing, other than it looks like a car that a construction worker takes to work every day."

"And Buffy's looks like a mom's car."

"Hey," Buffy countered. "Need I point out that it was my mom's car?"

"Sorry, Buff."

"It's okay, but it really doesn't matter whose car we take we're only going to the Bronze and back. Xander, are you drinking tonight?"

"I might have a beer or two, yeah."

"Then why don't we take my car. Spike can drive there and if you both drink I can drive home. I wouldn't want to drive your car, Xander."

"Fair enough," Xander said with a nod opening the rear passenger side door of Buffy's Jeep.

The Bronze was busy when they arrived but not packed. The band playing, The Heducces, was a new band so it was fair to assume that all but the die hard Bronzers were staying away or would come later when the band had time to really get into their groove.

Spike paid the cover for all three of them causing Xander to fall to the ground feigning shock. "Get off it, Harris or next time I won't be inclined to be generous."

"But, Spike, you paid for something. I mean you actually paid. I saw you put money into the bouncer's hand. If you weren't incapable of getting viruses I'd be inclined to think you were sick."

"I'm warning you, Harris."

"You're warning me what? That'd be a lot more menacing if you could actually hurt me."

"Oh I see a table, guys, over there," Buffy said as she led the way.

Spike stopped and placed a hand on Xander's shoulder and Xander tensed at the vampire's touch. "I've been gone for a few months, Harris. How do you know where I was or what I was doing? Do you really want to piss me off and test your hypothesis that the chip is still there and functioning?"

Xander's eyes widened as Spike's words sunk in. "But you're here and you're not killing people. So it can't be malfunctioning."

"Right. And Buffy would let me live with her if I was out draining humans dry left and right."

"Uh, Spike?"

"Yes, Harris?"

"If the chip is no longer working and the only thing keeping you good is Buffy, let me say right now I'm scared. Very scared. No offense, but Buffy does not have a track record for her relationships working."

"You should be scared, Harris," he said calmly, too calmly, removed his hand from Xander's shoulder and walked in Buffy's direction to join her, leaving a shocked Xander in his wake.

Spike stood with an arm around Buffy waiting for Xander to join them. It would take Xander a few minutes to digest what Spike had told him. It went against what Spike was trying to do with his unlife right now to torment the lad like that, but he could not find it in him to let Harris get under his skin or get the last word in. Let the whelp fear him, he was still a vampire after all it was all right to use that to his advantage. It had to be.

"So, pet, what are you drinking tonight?"

"Just Coke. You and Xander can have whatever you want."

He smirked. "Is that permission you're giving me?"

"No," she said her tone cautious. "I was just saying drink away if you want to. Buffy will drive home."

"That in itself is a scary enough idea to drive me to being a teetotaler for the night."

"Hey, I've been driving since school started. I'm getting better. No accidents. What's a teetotaler," she asked flustered. Spike chuckled lightly and was about to respond when he noticed her attention was no longer on him. "Oh good, he came."

"He who?" The last Spike had looked Harris was still getting chummy with a girl.

"Robin. Principal Wood."

"You invited him here?"

"Well, yeah," she said standing from the stool waving in the principal's direction. "You said you wanted to meet him."

"I was thinking more one on one. Like I was going to pay him a visit one day."

"Yeah, I know what you meant. And hello? Jealous vampire boyfriend does not play well with Buffy's boss. So I decided to save you from embarrassing me and invited him here tonight. It'll be fun."

"Right," Spike whispered sardonically.

"Miss Summers," said the clean cut black man as he approached their table. Spike assessed him discreetly, easy enough to do given the dim light in the club. He was dressed in a suit. Great another Giles. He seemed about as uptight as Buffy's Watcher, too. No wonder she liked him. Though he had an earring.

"Hi. Glad you made it. It's a new band tonight so I can't promise their musical goodness." She leaned in toward Spike. "Where's Xander," she queried her eyes darting around the dimly lit club.

It was not exactly the innuendo he had hoped to hear whispered in his ear and he sighed softly. "He's talking to some girl."

"Oh really," she asked following Spike's gaze. "Good for him. Go Xander."

"Indeed," Spike said with a roll of his eyes not at all caring if Xander ever got laid again. He allowed Buffy a few minutes to realize she had not introduced the men to one another. When she apparently did not realize it he pushed forward despite his instinct telling him to flee before his mouth got him into trouble with Buffy. "You must be the principal Buffy has told me so much about. I'm William," he said offering the man his hand in an attempt to be polite. "But most people call me Spike."

"Nice to meet you. And yes, I'm the lucky one to have gotten the job as Sunnydale High's principal."

"Lucky or damned," Spike said with a slight smile.

"It's not so bad yet. I've got Buffy to thank for some of it I suppose. You know, I was told this job would be a challenge, but I had no idea what they meant until I actually got to the school."

"Most don't want to believe in monsters that go bump in the night."

"Spike," Buffy whispered in a warning tone.

He glanced at her not sure why exactly he was being reprimanded. "I guess I'll go and get your Coke then, Slayer." He eyed the principal. "Do you want anything," he asked hoping the man would say he would get his own. He was not exactly jealous of the principal, but Spike could not help but be a little alarmed. Things did not go well with Riley in part because of Riley's youth and inexperience. True, he had military experience, but from what Buffy had said about the twit he was one who did not ask questions. This man was older and aware of who and what Buffy was. Spike believed Buffy needed whatever it was within him and Angel, but he would not put it past Buffy to give another, older, human a try if the opportunity presented itself.

"Just a Coke, thanks," the principal said reaching into his pocket to pull out his wallet. He handed Spike enough money to cover all of their drinks. Spike looked at the money and then at the man. "I don't know how long I'll stay, so let me get the first round."

"Right, mate, thanks," Spike said and walked toward the bar.

"So, you come here often then?"

Buffy inclined her head to aid her in hearing him as the band started warming up and nodded. "Not so much anymore, but in high school we came here all the time. Most everybody in my group of friends is gone now, so it's not quite as fun anymore."

"I see. Is Spike one of those friends?"

"Oh sure I've known Spike for years. I don't know that he's part of that group exactly," she said with a light laugh. "Do you ever dress down, Robin?"

"Sometimes," he said offering her a smile. "Hey, I've got an earring, that's got to tell you I can let my hair down." Buffy laughed considering he had no hair. "So to speak," he added as if he knew why she laughed.

"I just assumed it was leftover from your youth."

"And just how old do you think I am?"

"Oh I don't know. Older than me. So that would mean you're more removed from your youth."

"Very astute observation," he said and Buffy was not sure if he was mocking her. It was hard to tell with Robin. He was so serious all the time, even when he was making jokes. "I'm just not sure how well received it would be if we were seen socially together."

"Why not? Coworkers go out after work often."

"Sure, but I'm not your coworker, Buffy, I'm your boss and I'm asked enough questions about you and your qualifications to be where you're at as it is."

"Oh," she said downtrodden. "I'm doing all right with the kids, aren't I?"

"You're doing fine, Buffy. Relax."

"Okay good, because I really don't want to have to go back to the Doublemeat Palace."

He laughed loudly. "Is that what you were doing," he asked.

"Yeah," Buffy admitted. "Not much I can do with a high school diploma when I need evenings off. Not to mention the flexibility of being able to come and go when things are prowling in the daylight."

"I suppose that would be problematic. Well, if nothing else whenever your time with the school board is up you'll have an endorsement from us. It can't hurt your future career path."

"I suppose not," she said not bothering to tell him she really was not planning on much of a future. Anything from last year forward Buffy considered borrowed time.

"Hey, Buff, where'd Spike go," Xander asked when he approached the table. The band had started playing by now. They weren't bad at least so far.

"To get drinks, if you want something you'll have to get your own."

"No problem. Who's this?"

"My boss. Principal Wood. This is Xander Harris. He helped build the high school."

The two men shook hands. It was far more relaxed than the exchange of hand shakes between Spike and Robin had been. "Hey, good to meet you. Buffy's told me a lot about you, but I'm at a different sight now since the school opened so I haven't gotten over there."

"No problem, that's good. That means nothing's wrong with the school."

"Right," Xander said with a nod of agreement.

"Here you are, pet," Spike said setting three plastic red cups on the tabletop. He handed Buffy her Coke first, placing her boss' in front of him second and keeping the cup of beer for himself. "Didn't get you anything Harris, thought you might not be with us after all."

"I can get my own."

"Thanks Spike," Buffy and Robin said in unison.

"Right," Spike said and took a seat across from Buffy in between Harris and the principal. Spike did not miss the look Buffy gave Xander and was glad to know he was not the only one who would have preferred sitting nearer to Buffy.

"So, Harris, what happened to the girl you were putting the moves on?"

"She's dancing."

"And why aren't you dancing with her," Buffy asked.

"I don't dance."

"You've danced with me," Buffy said taking a sip of her Coke.

"She's right, Harris, I've seen you at least once."

"Come on, guys," Xander protested.

"What if Spike and I go with you?"

"Hey now, Slayer, I never said I'd dance."

"Fine then," she said as she stood and took Xander's hand, leading him to the dance floor too quickly for Spike to protest.

"What are you doing, Buff? Spike," he said glancing back toward their table. "Are you trying to get me killed," Xander asked on the dance floor.

"I'm not trying to do anything. Spike doesn't want to dance and you want to hook up with the girl. Buffy does want to dance and obviously so does the girl. So here I am, Buffy to the rescue." Xander was searching for the girl he had been talking to. He was not much of a dancer. The few times they had danced, whether just the two of them or as a group, he had more or less just stood there while she or she, Willow and Tara had danced near him. Tonight was no different. But the band was pretty good and Buffy wanted to dance. She did glance at the table to make sure that Spike and Robin were getting along or at least not involved in some testosterone thing. "What's her name anyway?"

"Amanda," he said into Buffy's ear. Buffy had her back to him as she danced staying close but not too close. No sense in giving the girl the impression Buffy was with Xander. That would defeat the purpose of getting him out on the dance floor.

The band segued into a cover of "Young At Heart". "Go ask her to dance, Xander. She's here dancing with other girls," Buffy said as soon as the song started. She stepped away from her friend. "Go," she said and made her way back to the table.

"Hi," Buffy said taking a seat next to Spike. "Are we having fun yet?" Neither man looked like they were having a great time. They did not appear as if they were about to lash out at one another so hopefully they were not fighting.

"Harris got the stones to ask her, huh," Spike said.

"Yeah, I kind of made him. Left the dance floor and he would have looked like an idiot just standing there."

"Well, it seems to have worked because they're dancing."

"At least somebody gets to dance tonight."

"Hey you did dance."

"Not slow dancing."

"Did you want to dance then, Buffy?"

"Not to this song. It's pretty lame. I mean, this is one of those old guys right? If I request a song will you dance with me, baby?"

"I guess I can grant you one dance."

"Thanks," she stood and put her arms around him and kissed him. She remembered the cross earrings at the last minute and drew back making the kiss much shorter than she meant to. "I'll be right back."

Spike and Robin both watched Buffy retreat and work her way through the club crowd. "I take it Buffy's your girlfriend," the principal said bringing Spike out of his thoughts.

"Yeah," Spike said with a nod of his head his eyes on Buffy who was at the stage platform now.

"She doesn't talk much about her personal life. In fact, she barely talks about her non-student interacting activities."

"Come again."

"She's not very forthcoming about what she does. She doesn't report to me about the activity at the various schools, I was just told it was in my best interest to have her on my campus."

"That's an understatement," Spike said. "Have you actually researched what happened to the previous principals? Let alone how the high school got destroyed to begin with?"

"Well, I've been told what I need to know, which probably isn't much."

"Gotta love bureaucratic red tape."

"Don't I know it," Robin said taking a sip of his Coke. "I'm glad to have her on my campus though. She was hurt when she left today, but she wouldn't hear of a stop at the nurse's station."

"Yeah. She wouldn't unless she was," Spike shrugged searching for a time when Buffy would actually ask for help.

"In a coma?"

"Yeah, that would stop her from protesting I'm sure," Spike said with a chuckle.

"You know, she never mentioned a boyfriend."

"Well, I was out of town for a while and you said yourself she's not very forthcoming. Is that a problem for you?"

"Not at all. A girl like that, though," Spike followed the principal's gaze as he watched Buffy walk toward the table cutting their conversation short. Spike was curious just what the man was going to say about Buffy. What kind of girl did he see her as? Perhaps it was better he not know.

"They're going to play it soon they said."

"That means they know the song you wanted?"

"Yeah, surprisingly. I wasn't sure, but it's something I think you might like," she said offering Spike a smile.

"I'd like it better if I could just sit here and not have to dance."

"I'd love to stay, but I think I'm going to call it a night," Robin said finishing off his Coke. He set the empty cup on the table and stood offering his hand to Spike. "Have a good time, both of you. I'll see you on Tuesday, Buffy. Have a good long weekend. I hope your sister enjoys her mini-vacation."

"Thanks," she said smiling brightly. "I'm sorry you didn't stay longer."

"It's alright I'm just a little old for this scene. But thanks for the invite."

"You're welcome. Good night."

"He doesn't seem too bad."

"I told you he's not. I think he's a little lonely."

"That's what happens to people who move to new towns, pet. He'll get over it soon enough."

"I guess. It was hard enough moving here in high school. I couldn't imagine doing it as an adult. Knowing you probably won't live more than a few months to a year at your job."

"Well, he seems to think you will add some years to his life expectancy."

"I hope I do," she said simply. "I don't like the thought of anyone dying on my watch. Principal or not."

"I know, pet."

"Oh, good, here's the song," she said as the lead singer announced the song they would be playing next. She stood from the stool and held her hand out to Spike. "Oh come on, you promised."

"Well, I didn't exactly promise," Spike contradicted. "But all right. This better not be some pansy song about only having eyes for you or some such nonsense."

"Oh come on, Spikey, where's that poet that I know lurks inside of you?"

"Pardon me, pet?"

"You heard me," she said with a wink.

"Oh great, you're making me dance to some whelp song. Slayer, I thought you knew me better than that." The sound of drumsticks striking cymbals albeit mutely did not have the sound of some sappy love song which made Spike realize that maybe he had underestimated his Slayer. As the guitar and bass joined the drummer Spike realized this might not be so bad. He did not really have to move anyway, did he? Buffy could dance around the Statue of Liberty itself and not notice her partner did not move.

On the dance floor her arms went around his neck as she began to grind against him in time to the music. Had there been no music it might have been obscene, but it fit with the music perfectly. He chuckled when he heard the hard rocker's voice sing his raspy version of a ballad.

It's another lonely evening
And another lonely town
But I ain't too young to worry
And I ain't too old to cry
When a woman gets me down
Got another empty bottle
And another empty bed
Ain't too young to admit it
And I'm not too old to lie
I'm just another empty head

"They're still dancing," Buffy said as she turned so her back was against Spike, an arm draped around his neck as she used his body like a stripper might use a fire pole on stage.

"Who," he asked gruffly. Was he supposed to be watching anyone but her? If she expected him to do that she had a screw loose. From where he stood and the way she was moving against and along the length of his body he had a perfect view down the top of her dress that just earlier in the evening he had mentally complained about revealing too much. His hands went to her hips. It was easy to forget for the moment that he was trying to be a gentleman and touch and caress her like there was no tomorrow. She was here, in front of him, dancing with him, rubbing against him, looking incredibly hot and sexy for him and he wanted to touch her.

That's why I'm lonely
I'm so lonely
But I know what I'm gonna do -
I'm gonna ride on
Ride on
Ride on, standing on the edge of the road
Ride on, thumb in the air
Ride on, one of these days I'm gonna
Ride on, change my evil ways
Till then I'll just keep dragging on

"Xander and Amanda," she said breathlessly turning in his arms to face him as one of his hands made its way to the small of her back and lower to her bottom.

"Oh, is that the git he was sniffing after?" He had to imagine this was exactly what the Young brothers and Scott had in mind when they made this song. It certainly was not a romantic song, but the beat was slow and seductive very appropriate to grinding and rubbing against your partner.

"Spike, don't be crude."

"Well, isn't that what he's doing?"

"I suppose so and yes, that's her."

"We don't have to stay and talk to them, do we?"

"Spike, we drove remember?"


"I take it that's a no. It was your idea to take our car instead of his."

"Me and my big mouth."

Broke another promise
And I broke another heart
But I ain't too young to realize
That I ain't too old to try
Try to get back to the start
And it's another red light nightmare
Another red light street
And I ain't too old to hurry
Cause I ain't too old to die
But I sure am hard to beat

"I kind of like your mouth, when you use it for the right things," she whispered before nuzzling against his ear. Her lips parted and her blunt teeth closed around his earlobe tugging on it gently swirling the end of it with her tongue before releasing it. She found the side of his neck then and nuzzled against it before licking and nipping as she had done to his earlobe. One earring had evidently stayed in contact with his neck for a bit too long because her tongue met with a tiny but fresh burn mark right under his ear.

But I'm lonely
Lord I'm lonely
What am I gonna do -
Ride on
Ride on, got myself a one-way ticket
Ride on
Ride on, going the wrong way
Ride on, gonna change my evil ways
Ride on, one of these days
One of these days

"Slayer, you're killing me."

"What? You don't like my choice in songs? Is it not sappy enough for you?"

"I'll never think of Bon Scott in the same light again. I'll forever have a picture of you against me in my head."

"Good," she whispered placing several feather light kisses against his neck and throat. "That was the point."

Ride on
Ride on
I'm gonna ride on
Ride on, looking for a truck
Ride on
Ride on, keep on riding
Riding on and on and on

"That was the last song of our first set, but we'll be back in about twenty minutes," the lead singer said before turning off his microphone. The members put their instruments away for the break and left the stage in pursuit of beer and a cigarette break more than likely.

"Well, they got my song in just in time," she said kissing him.

"I guess so."

"Thanks for the dance."

"Well, you're welcome though I didn't do anything but stand here."

"But you felt good."

"That's my goal in life, pet, to feel good for you."

"You could make me feel better still," she whispered pressing against him, purposely rubbing her breasts against his hardened chest. Her eyes fluttered closed, her lips parted as a soft, subtle gasp escaped her throat at the contact against her already painfully aroused breasts.

"I can, can I?"

She nodded in affirmation. "But not here on the dance floor," she added running a finger along the length of his jaw. She followed the path of her fingertip with her mouth, stopping at his chin and kissing him.

"Do we have to wait for Xander or can we just give him the keys and tell him to practice safe sex in addition to driving your car home safely?"

"Eww," she said drawing away from him.

"I didn't mean in the car."

"Oh good, because eww, that was my mom's car."


"Well, what," she said kissing along the other side of his jaw that she had missed when detouring to his mouth.

"Can we give him the keys and just walk home? It's not like we haven't walked before."

"Yeah," she said quickly not wanting to give him a chance to change his mind. Granted, they would be home faster with the car, but if Xander was not ready to leave yet she really did not want to announce to him she wanted to go home for sex with Spike.

Spike fished in his pocket for the keys. "Be right back then, pet," he said his eyes searching and finding Xander as he walked away. "Here, mate, the keys to the Jeep. Just have it back by Tuesday morning."

"What? You guys are leaving?"


Buffy caught Xander's glance in her direction and merely glanced away. She always hated it when Anya spoke so freely about their relationship, and while she knew she had no reason to be embarrassed she hated that he would know why they were leaving. "Okay, well, here are my keys in case you need a car."

"Thanks, Harris. Have a good night."

"You too."

"Oh I plan on it."

"More than I needed to know," Xander called to Spike's retreating back.

"All set," Buffy asked.

"Yeah, Xander gave me the keys to his car. Maybe he's hoping to have a long night."

Buffy smiled. "I hope he does. He deserves it. But so do we. So let's go."

Return to Top

***Part 19*** (NC17)

"Well," Buffy said leaning against the bedroom door.

"Well what, Buffy," he asked as he drew the shades and curtains closed in preparation for the morning.

"I don't know," she said with a shrug. "It was nice to walk home and not come up against any vamps or demons or hell hounds."

"Me excluded," he said with a light chuckle. "But, yes, I couldn't agree with you more. Nothing like demon goo to sort of put a damper on moods and things," he said regarding her as he leaned against the shade he had just drawn closed.

"What," she asked her voice throaty, amazed she had been able to get the word out. He was standing casually, leaning against the wall, right hand grasping his left wrist resting at the front of his jeans, left foot crossed over his right ankle. He looked relaxed, but the look in his eyes was far from casual or relaxed. He seemed to enjoy her blatant perusal of him as her eyes traveled the length of his body.

"What, what?"

"You're looking at me," she said her voice still throaty. Sex had never involved foreplay or cognizant thought for them. At least for her it had not. It had been more along the lines of search and destroy, seize and conquer, and it had never been planned. The one time she sought him out had been a moment of weakness, a mistake that she regretted more than the other times. She had used him to get over the hurt of seeing Riley had moved on so easily.

"Well, Miss Summers, pardon me but you're looking at me as well. That point aside, should I avert my gaze," he taunted. If it was possible his eyes darkened and became more predatory though no evidence of his demon was visible. She was frightened, but in an exhilarating, heart pounding, exciting sort of way. She was his prey, but it was not a bad thing to be this creature's prey.

She shook her head as he pushed away from the window. He walked toward her his movements smooth, fluid and graceful as if they did this dance every day. He looked so confident, so sure of himself, she hoped that he was feeling some of the nervousness she was. She had doubts about pleasing him this way, making love to him. What if she was inadequate? Surely he had to have some doubts, too.

"You enjoyed dancing with me tonight, didn't you," he asked not quite in front of her yet.


"It was tempting to suggest something lewd like a stop in the bathroom, the alley, or even the back of the Jeep. Would you have gone along with it if I had?"

She paused for a second thinking. Her body screamed yes, she had wanted him for days. If she wanted to be honest with herself she had wanted him once she realized he was back in Sunnydale. She probably never truly stopped wanting him, merely buried the desire because she assumed he was gone for good. This whole celibacy thing had been his idea. She had been ready for him the moment his eyes fell on her after she had come downstairs dressed for the night. He had looked at her as if he wanted to devour her which had made parts of her tingle in anticipation. She had been uncertain just how he might want to devour but found she did not mind whichever way he wanted to do it. But she knew that if they were going to do this right that they could not start back up the way things had been between them. "No," she whispered willing him to close the distance between them. She wanted to feel his body against hers.

"No," he repeated his voice rose in question. Did he not believe her?

"No. Not tonight. I don't want sex."

"You don't? Are you sure about that?"

"Yes and you know what I mean," she murmured as he finally closed the distance between them. She rested her head against his chest her hands gripping his upper arms. God he was magnificent she thought when she felt the muscles of his chest, arms, abdomen and neck flex as his arms moved to embrace her. How had it escaped her notice before?

"I do know, pet," he said kissing the top of her head. They stood like that with him holding her close, Buffy's head at his chest devoid of the sound of a heartbeat and Spike's head resting against the top of hers. Buffy was getting used to this, these embraces that went nowhere but kisses. She felt cherished and loved and liked the feeling. Spike did not tower over her or make her feel dwarfed. She could rest against him and feel like she fit and yet was safe. For the first time in a long time Buffy felt at peace.

Her hands slid under the button up shirt until they rested at his shoulders, only the T-shirt a barrier to touching his flesh. Her head remained against his chest just enjoying the feel of him as she worked her hands along his shoulders. Her thumbs found each collarbone and skimmed along the length of bone on either side of his neck.

One hand slid to the back of his neck, her fingers ran through his curls before coming to rest at the nape of his neck. Her other hand slid down the length of his arm tracing her fingertip along the back of his hand before returning to his shoulder. She was tempted to bury her hand under the material of the outer shirt again but instead lowered her hand to his chest and torso. She drew her head and body away causing Spike to groan in apparent protest until she started working the few buttons he had fastened on his outer shirt.

Her eyes met his, in awe of the fact that he did seem to be unsure of himself too. She slid her hands around his waist, her eyes never leaving his face as she removed the shirt from his jeans. The shirt finally unbuttoned she placed both hands at his sternum and slid them out to either side causing the shirt to part.

"Off," he said. He groaned in frustration when she shook her head and reached up to kiss him. Her hands explored his chest and abdomen through the T-shirt before working the buttons at either sleeve of the long sleeved shirt. Placing both hands at his shoulders once again she braced herself before sliding the shirt the rest of the way off of him.

"It's off now," she whispered as she placed kisses along his jaw from ear to ear. Her hands worked the T-shirt out from his jeans. He hissed lightly and his abdomen muscles tightened when she slid her hands under the T-shirt to touch his skin. She jerked her hands away, startled by his reaction and expected him to tell her to stop. When no protest came she put her hands against him again.

His hands were at her hair, she had no idea when he had put them there but he was removing the few pins she had used to hold her hair in place for the evening. She became aware of it as she heard the tiny clink of metal hitting the hardwood floor at her feet as he dropped them to the floor. "You've done this before," she whispered somewhat amused and a little jealous that Drusilla probably got this sort of treatment as often as she liked. Buffy could have too, she realized, it was her own fault that she had not before now.

"A time or two," he said amused. "Lots of hairpins back in my day."

"I remember," she murmured grazing his neck with her teeth.

"I suppose you would." The last of the hairpins removed he ran his fingers through her hair, fanning it out. She groaned softly, her head fell forward and her eyes closed. He was so gentle, it was hard to believe this was the same man she had violent sex with several times in the past year. "You like that?"

"Yes," she said quickly with more enthusiasm than she had meant to.

"Come on then, I'll brush it out for you."


"Been dreaming about it for years. Did it for you at the hospital, but wasn't quite the same."

"I suppose not since I wasn't awake."

He walked to the vanity and retrieved the brush as Buffy walked to the bed and sat. He took off his boots before getting on the bed, propping the pillows behind him. "Well, it wasn't even that you weren't awake," he said getting comfortable before she moved to sit in between his legs, her back to him.

"What then," she said softly. He set the brush on the bed next to his right thigh. He was apparently making sure he did not miss any pins before starting to brush it because he ran his hands along it once again.

"You wouldn't have been able to relax and enjoy it in that tiny bed," he said pulling her hair away from her neck and kissed the back of her neck lightly. She shivered under his kiss in part because it was unexpected. His hands went to either shoulder. Cool flesh on warm flesh caused her to shiver again. "Are you cold, pet?"

"No," she whispered.

"Just the evil undead thing making you shiver like that," he murmured before taking a lobe in his mouth. He morphed into his game face and ran his elongated fang along her piercings. She felt him smile as she shivered again. He knew full well this shiver was not because she was cold.

"You're not a thing," she retorted quickly hating that he said that even as a joke. "And you are a little cold."

"Just a little?"

"Nothing I don't think I could fix."

"I only wish that were true, pet," he said drawing away from her neck and ear.

She groaned softly at the loss of contact with his mouth. The intense make out sessions had left her a bundle full of aroused nerves more often than not. This time was no different, but she was surprised at just how easily he was able to get her excited. True, it had been a while since they had had sex, but it was still hard for her to believe he had that much power over her body. "Well, not all the time, but sometimes," she said cut short by a stroke of the brush through her hair.

"It's probably better that way anyway."


"Don't deserve it, to feel warmth all of the time."

"Why don't you deserve it?"

"I don't want to get into this tonight, Buffy. I don't want to ruin this. I just can't help but think I'm throwing the balances off kilter here, getting a soul, you forgiving me, you loving me."

"Well," she said with a frown though he could not see it. "Giles or Angel would probably know better as I'm no research expert. It would seem to me that if getting a soul would throw something off that you wouldn't have been able to get it."

"You might have a point," he replied and Buffy could hear the hesitation in his voice.

She tilted her head back in time with a down stroke of the brush and kissed his chin. "Of course I have a point," she said turning in his arms. She knelt above him, his legs still at either side of her.

He smirked. "Well, pet," he started to say but stopped when Buffy began to remove his T-shirt.

"Are you going to help me out here a little?"

"Sure," he said and sat up from the pillows allowing her to get the shirt off. She felt his muscles flex with the movement and could not help but stare at him once the shirt was removed and discarded. "Better?"

"Much," she whispered before kissing him. She did not stay at his mouth long, though. She had other places in mind that needed her attention more than his mouth did. She worked her way slowly from his mouth to his chest, alternating between feather light kisses and deep intense kisses that came close to marking his body. She was tempted to leave a trail of Buffy marks from neck to thigh, but some other time. Tonight was about lovemaking not about marking.

She heard him hiss and exhale as her tongue came into contact with a nipple, already erect from being exposed to the room's air. She guided him with her hands so he was flat on the bed, one hand exploring his body while the other teased his nipple while her mouth was attentive to the other.

"Slayer," he groaned when she cupped the bulge in his jeans and gave a gentle squeeze. She was not surprised at how aroused he was already, but it was still a little humbling that she caused the reaction.

Her mouth moved lower from his chest to his abdomen, her hands at either side of her head caressing him. She laughed lightly when she kissed his belly button causing his muscles to tense. She could feel the movement with her hands and it felt weird.

He slid a hand to the front of his jeans and began to work the fly, but she placed a hand at his wrist to stop him. She lifted her head, her eyes meeting his as she drew his hand to her mouth and kissed each fingertip. She drew each finger into her mouth, closing her eyes only once he had closed his. She heard low growls coming from his chest that sounded more like a very content cat than an angry demon. Granted, it would have to be a very big cat but that was the best comparison she could think of just then.

He slid the hand she was not busy with to her face touching her almost as if he was in awe of her. Or like he was making sure she was real. Had he dreamt about her? Dreamt of her forgiving him and being here with him like this only to believe it would never come true? Had he woken up from those dreams only to find himself alone and not yet forgiven? God, she hoped not as much as she would be pleased by the idea he dreamt about her. She did not want to be a source of torment for him these past months. She reached up and kissed his chest right over where his heart was as she worked his belt and the fly of his jeans loose. One last kiss to his chest and she slinked along the length of his body pushing and tugging his jeans off as she went.


Spike could not help but stare at Buffy as she slid his jeans off his legs, over his feet and dropped them to the floor beside the bed. He was afraid if he closed his eyes again she would disappear, that he would wake up to find this was another of his traitorous dreams. The glimmer of hope that he might feel her again was what had gotten him through the past few months. Time and time again, though, he had woken up from the most vivid and realistic dreams about her, about them, only to discover he was very much alone and left to take care of matters with his own hand or not at all.

Her going down on him was not exactly the way he had pictured their first time together. He had assumed that it would be him doing the seducing, making all of the first moves. She was apparently getting impatient with him. As her mouth sheathed over his painfully aroused length the cat like growl she had been enjoying moments ago came out of his mouth in full force. He was overwhelmed by her gentleness. The growl dissipated slightly as she stroked him up and down using her mouth. One hand clutched at the bedding beneath him to stop from doing something stupid, like forcing himself into her mouth too hard and too deep. The other hand brushed her hair from her face so he could watch.

He had to watch, it was a compulsion he could not resist to watch her. The growl became louder once again when she slid his length out of her mouth. "Slayer," he growled not caring at that point if he was begging or not. He had all night to make love to her, he wanted release now.

"Impatient," she murmured before sliding her mouth to his inner thigh. No prodding on her part was necessary to get him to spread his legs further apart. He felt her blunt teeth against his skin and he wanted more. A hand reached for his erection and enveloped it, stroking his smooth length. He did close his eyes for this and let himself enjoy the feel of her sucking, licking, kissing and biting knowing she was marking him. He had been surprised at her restraint earlier, but she had stopped the love bites short of leaving any actual marks on his neck, chest or abdomen.

Apparently satisfied with her handiwork, she returned her attentions to his erection. He opened his eyes again in time to watch as she licked her index finger and thumb clean of his pre-cum and groaned softly at the erotic picture she made. Talk about the look of the cat that ate the canary, she looked like she had eaten the biggest canary of all and she had not even finished him off yet. As if reading his mind, she took his erection into the warm and moist cavern that was her mouth.

"Buffy," he growled, his voice low, throaty, desperate. She did not stop what she was doing. She merely lifted her eyes to meet his and grazed the spot on his inner thigh she had marked him with a fingertip lightly sending shivers along his body. He vamped out which did not seem to startle or frighten her. "I'm sorry, pet, I'm not going to last long. Been too long," he whispered arching into her, forcing his length deeper into her mouth. He was too close, too far gone to let her have complete control just then. "Feels too good," he gritted out trying to hold off longer to no avail.

She drank his essence, took it all and kept her mouth around him. She placed gentle, catlike licks along his length as if trying to coax more of his seed out of him. He placed an arm behind his head and watched her still fully dressed as she pulled away from his no longer erect member. Not that she could not bring it right back into working form with very little effort. She placed kisses along his body, working a path up towards his mouth. She did not hesitate to kiss him even though he was still in vampire form.

"Too long. Felt too good," he whispered. "Too fast."

"It's okay. We have all weekend, remember?"

"Oh, right, forgot the li'l bit is gone til Tuesday. But don't think I have any intention of ending the night there."

"I hope not," she teased reaching behind her to unfasten the fabric at the back of her neck that held the bodice of the dress in place. He watched expectantly as she drew her hands away, each holding an end waiting for her breasts to be presented to him. "But if you wanted to," she said averting her gaze.

"I think it's a little late for not wanting to," he said with a low chuckle taking hold of the strips of cloth that had until a minute ago been holding the top of her dress in place. He released them, causing the top to fall. He met her eyes, saw no doubt or uncertainty there, but he had to make sure. "Are you sure, Buffy?"

Her answer was to cradle his head in her hands and bring him to her breast. He went willingly, not much coaching on her part was necessary. He shifted into his human visage before actually taking one of her peaks into his mouth. She jerked away with a gasp and he lifted his mouth from her breast. "Don't you dare," she said softly as she arched into him.

His light chuckle was muffled because of the swell of her breast against his mouth, but she must have felt the reverberations of it and arched further into him. Realizing that she liked it he called upon his beast so that he could growl, let her feel the rumbling in his chest and throat against her stomach. This was not as urgent as their prior couplings had been. Normally, clothes were shed in record time and tossed any which way, if they were removed at all.

He nuzzled each breast before taking each in turn into his mouth, taunting each peak into hardened buds. She made small mewling sounds that grew in volume and in intensity the longer he continued. Had he not already experienced a release he would have there and then because of her reaction to him.

His blunt teeth grazed the underside of a breast and nipped the flesh there causing her to cry out and grasp tightly onto his shoulders. Her fingernails bore into his skin making eight crescent shaped marks no doubt not that he minded. This time was different, it was not about hurting or using one another.

"So sweet, so beautiful," he murmured as he slid his mouth from one breast to the other, his tongue grazing along her skin the entire way. She tasted of vanilla and lavender, her skin was hot to the touch reminding him of an inferno. His inferno. "So hot," he murmured giving voice to his thoughts and she whimpered her agreement. He knew for a fact Riley Finn never made her burn like this. He suspected Angelus rearing his head after her one time with Angel tempered any heat she might have felt from her time with him.

His hands skimmed along her sides to her hips where he met with the barrier of the bottom half of her dress. He skimmed her taut abdomen with the pads of his thumbs as his mouth traveled lower from her breasts. Her hands at his shoulders eased their pressure, eventually drawing away from him completely. He placed a kiss under her last rib and glanced at her wondering if she suddenly changed her mind.

"What," he queried afraid to ask the question but he had to. That night in her bathroom was still too fresh in his mind to push her.

"Don't you want me to take it off?" He shook his head, grazing her stomach with his chin as he did. She pouted and he had to look away to stave off laughing. "Why not," she asked cautiously.

"Cuz I want to take it off, pet."

"Oh," she said smiling then. His arms encircled her waist then and he moved them so he was on top of her. "You feel good," she whispered, her eyes fluttering closed.

"I'm supposed to, pet. It's nothing to be ashamed of," he said brushing his lips over each eye and then placing kisses to the rest of her face. He saved her mouth for last, lingering there as a man dying of thirst would linger at an oasis. His hands found the delicate zipper at the back of her skirt and she arched herself off the bed as he unzipped it. He broke the kiss to work the dress off her body. "No under garments at all, Miss Summers," he said more than a little surprised to find she wore nothing under the dress. He certainly was not offended, but had he known she was wearing nothing but that damned slip of a dress all night he might have been more tempted to make his lewd suggestion of a detour in the Bronze's bathroom.

She shook her head on the pillow and smiled up at him. "No, none at all. Is that a problem, William?"

"No, no problem," he said not bothering with niceties or formalities. He wanted to taste her and wasted no time in doing so once the dress was out of the way. He returned her earlier favor by marking her in the spot on her thigh just as she had done to him earlier. She healed fast and he took that into account knowing no one else would see it anyway. His demon fought to come to the surface as he sucked on her inner thigh near her pulse point.

She placed a hand at his head and seemed to want his mouth at the juncture between her legs, but Spike was not ready yet. He shook his head underneath her hand while at the same time moved a hand from her hip along the crevice where thigh and hip met and slid it between her legs. Inadvertently the pad of his thumb grazed her nub and she cried out, squeezing her legs together. Had he been human he might have been rendered unconscious, but he was not and she eased up after a moment seemingly realizing the strength her legs could pack.

He entered her with one finger then a second. She jerked violently against his hand, her hand at his head moving to clutch his wrist as if she thought he was toying with her and would pull out of her at any minute. He morphed into game face as she cried out, "don't stop." As if he had any plans on stopping. He was not going to argue with her if she wanted to think he was strong enough to get up and walk away knowing, smelling, feeling how aroused she was. Hell, she apparently thought he was a better man than he was.

He pierced her skin with his fangs and drew back using every amount of willpower he had to stifle the demon inside of him. It was pulling on the leash Spike was trying to keep it on tonight. She was bleeding, he did not need to look to know as the scent of her blood now mingled with her arousal. He was not sure he could chance licking the two puncture wounds, she really did not need the coagulant from his saliva anyway given her healing abilities.

"Oh God, please," she said her hand pushing on his head. Taking her plea to mean she wanted his mouth on her nub and his tongue inside of her, he gladly answered her plea grateful for the distraction. Surely his demon would be quelled somewhat by tasting her this way, even if it was not her blood. The essence of the Slayer was just as powerful as far as Spike was concerned.

"No," she cried out as his tongue teased her hardened nub. He drew his head back, looking at her questioningly. What the fuck did she want then? "Finish what you started," she whispered as she ground herself against the fingers inside of her. He hesitated of the mind to argue with her, it had been too long since he had fed off of a human and his demon wanted payback for his soul searching trip, he was afraid he would bleed her dry. Kill her. "I trust you, William," she said huskily as if reading his mind.

The growl that had for a little while been more like a housecat's purr grew louder at her trust in him. He had to trust her, too. She had to realize how long it had been since he had tasted the real deal, human blood fresh and warm from the human whose blood it was. He ran his tongue along the two puncture wounds and she spread her legs even further, draping one leg around his back. Trust, he told himself and timed his sinking into her inner thigh with his thumb finding her nub and stroking it. Apparently she liked the dual sensations because she just about launched herself off the bed in reaction.

He could feel the demon coiling through him begging for control but for the moment Spike was stronger. While Spike felt as though he had died and gone to heaven the demon inside of him was livid. He fed from her slow, trying to make it more erotic than anything. He was not going to lie and deny he could very well get off just on tasting her blood like this, but he wanted her to enjoy it, too. If she enjoyed it she might let him do it again. "Love you," she whispered arching into him, simultaneously drawing his fangs and his fingers deeper.

Those two whispered words made him retract his fangs and graze the puncture wounds with his tongue before moving on top of her. "Say that again," he asked shaking off his demon visage as he slid inside of her.

"I love you," they said in unison once he was inside of her completely. Buffy's legs went around his calves, her hands under his arms clutching his back as if he was not close enough for her liking. Their mouths met, lips parted and their tongues searched and found the other for an intimate dance that mirrored the one lower parts of their bodies were engaged in.

He felt her eyes on him, watching him and broke the kiss drawing away though he did not stop thrusting into her. He had never been so gentle with her and she had never been so receptive to him. "What," he asked a bit nervously. What if she did not like it this way? What if she discovered making love to him was not what she had believed it would be and she needed the other things he was willing to give her but not all of the time?

"Oh god, what, he asks me," she said with a light laugh clenching herself around his shaft. "You feel good. Is that okay?"

"Yeah," he said shyly and buried his head against her neck. The low growling started again and she inclined her head, bearing more of her neck to him.

"Go ahead," she whispered. It was the left side. No marks there. A side of her neck that had been untouched by anyone and she was offering it to him. He had no chance to hold the demon in check with such an offer, she was lucky he had been in control at all. Before her words of approval had completely left her mouth he was already in game face.

She reached her climax as soon as he pierced her neck. He had not realized she was so close to the edge and they had never before toyed with his biting her so he had no idea it would bring her over the edge. She clenched around him, her body producing small contractions as her release went through her and his own climax followed hers closely.

Neither moved, Spike remained on top of her, the only sound, the only movement was of him feeding at her neck. "Spike," she whispered hoarsely. No doubt she would be hoarse, and it was a damned good thing Dawn had not been around. Not that the li'l bit did not know they had sex, but still. "Spike," she repeated and used her Slayer strength to draw him away.

"Let me close them," he whispered meeting her gaze. For a moment he thought she was not going to allow him to do it, but she nodded her head simply and released his head. He grazed each puncture with his tongue and moved to lie next to her. "That was not part of my make love to Buffy plan," he said kissing her shoulder.

She laughed and turned onto her side facing him. "I know, but that's why I was okay with it."

"What's that?"

She shrugged. "I don't know, it seemed right. I wanted it. I don't know how else to explain it. You wanted to do it and I wanted you to do it. I needed you to do it. It's no fair you know," she said offering him a pout.

"What's that, pet?"

"I'm going to have these bite marks and my mark on you is already gone."

He shrugged. "Don't know what to tell you, luv. Unless you're going to draw blood, it's just the way it is. It's the thought that counts, though," he said his arm going around her drawing her against him.

"Covers," she said with a shake of her head.


"I need covers," she repeated.

"Oh," he said understanding. He released her and she stood from the bed, drawing the bedding back. He joined her under the covers, not that he needed them but it made her feel better when he was under them with her. "Better then, pet?"

"Yes," she said nuzzling her face against his shoulder, getting comfortable.

"Going to sleep on me already, pet? Whatever happened to Slayer stamina?"

"Lots harder with love and blood loss involved," she said kissing him. "I'll be ready for more in the morning though. Promise."

"It's fine, pet. No promises necessary. Was it good? I mean," he turned his face on the pillow to look at her. "Well, was it what you expected? Being love was involved?"

"Better," she murmured cozying up against him. He felt the heat of her body pressing up against the side of his and he groaned softly. "Down boy," she said with a low laugh. "How about for you?"

"How about for me what?"

"Was it what you expected?"

He was not sure how to answer that, because he was not sure what he had expected. There was no earth shattering epiphany that made this time with the soul different than the others without the soul. "No," he admitted. "It was better. Though I had hoped with the soul I'd have more control." The difference this time had been in her, her response, her ability to let go and accept him. Violent or not, their relationship last year would have been okay had she accepted her love for him and his for her. He sensed even without the soul, he would have enjoyed it immensely had she let go as she had tonight.

"Your control was fine. You wouldn't have let him come through if you thought I'd get mad or if you knew I didn't want him to join us."

"I suppose you're right, pet, but still. Otherwise, though, making love to Buffy was far better than anything we've done before now."

"Good. Me, too," she said and he could tell by her voice that while she was talking she was drifting off to sleep.

"Good night, pet," he whispered kissing the top of her head. She snuggled against him, one leg draping over his leg nearest to her and working its way in between his legs.

"Night," she murmured.

Return to Top

***Part 20***

Spike was woken by a shrill tone next to his ear unsure until he was fully awake just what it was making the offensive noise. The phone. Did she have the thing set to ring to wake up the entire house? He glanced at the alarm clock at Buffy's side of the bed and wondered who in the hell was calling at bloody five thirty in the morning as he searched in the dark for the receiver. He could have just vamped out and seen the damned thing, but he was not coherent enough to think that way.

"This better be good," he said his voice hoarse from lack of use. He just hoped it was not Janice's mum or dad calling to say something was wrong.


"Yeah," he said cautiously.

"It's Rupert."

"Rupert? What the hell are you doing calling at this hour?"

"Just be quiet and listen to me. This is important."

"What are you at a pay phone or something? What is all the noise in the background?"

"I'm at a pay phone yes. Now shut up and listen to me. You have to get out of Buffy's house immediately. It's not safe for either of you."

"What are you prattling on about, Watcher?"

"The Council, Spike. The Council had my phone tapped. I did not know this, of course, but," he trailed off. Spike did not need him to complete the sentence.

"They heard our conversation."

"Exactly. And I'm afraid they were not at all pleased at what you've done, Spike. Luckily, I have a contact on the inside who informed me of this. Also luckily, they had not bothered to listen to the tapes of my telephone conversations for almost a month given Buffy's infrequent calls to me. So, they only left sometime early this morning for LA."

"So what? I just got back, just got Buffy back and you want me to leave?"

"Both of you. Get out. Just go somewhere. Take this number down," he said relaying a telephone number to Spike. "It's a friend's cellular telephone number. My friend Olivia, you've met her."

"Yeah, the fuck buddy of yours."

"Well, yes, precisely," Giles said after a moment's hesitation. "Spike, I'm not sure how much of a head start they have on this call. You must get out of there. They'll kill you both. Do you understand? You're both a threat to them now. With Buffy out of the picture and with Faith murdered in prison."

"Christ, they have control over the Slayer."

"Precisely, and I fear they're going to keep going, killing until they find one that's easy to manipulate. But if Buffy's still there with a vampire boyfriend who sought out his soul for her, well, I'm afraid they cannot very well carry on as if nothing out of the ordinary happened. Not to mention that Buffy is rather famous among the Slayers, given her age and that she's overcome death on more than one occasion."

"It's your Watcher," Spike said to a now awake Buffy. "All right, Rupert. I'll fill her in. I've got the number with me and we'll call you when we get to wherever we're going. I don't know how far we're going to get, though, it's nearly sunrise now."

"We can cover you with a blanket in the backseat," Buffy offered. Spike held up his hand to stop her from talking as he listened to Giles.

"See if you can't get Angel to help you. They do not know where Angel is that I know of, I've made no entries about him in my journals since he left Sunnydale. There was no reason to once he was out of Buffy's life."

"But he's fighting the good fight for good and all that; wouldn't you think they'd heard of him?"

"Perhaps, perhaps not. There are demon hunters in the world, Spike."

"Is the Slayer's phone tapped?"

"Not that I know of, no. Why?"

"Because I not only called you but I called him as well."

"I'll talk with Willow; see if we can't take care of that."

"Right, the computer whiz," Spike said with a smile. "Gotta run, Watcher. We'll be in touch," he said hanging up the phone. He stood from the bed and dressed quickly, slipping the paper with the cell phone number on it into his pocket as he filled Buffy in on the conversation with Giles.

"We can go to my dad's," she said dressing. They packed enough clothes to get them through a couple of days and were gone in a matter of minutes. It was one thing Spike loved about Buffy; if she needed to she could be ready in no time flat.

"Your dad's? Are you sure that's wise?"

"The Council doesn't have any idea who he is."

"Hank Summers?"

Buffy smiled. "Where he is. The house isn't under his name, he's living with his secretary now," she said jumping into the driver's seat of her Jeep. Spike crawled into the back and readied himself for a trip underneath a blanket.

"I don't believe it. You go and do something amazing, maybe even heroic and they want you dead!?"

"Slayer, this is your Watcher Council we're talking about. This isn't your Watcher we're talking about."

"I know nothing should surprise me about them anymore." She glanced at her own cell phone, checking to make sure it was fully charged. "We have to remember to call and make sure that Janice's parents can keep Dawn until it's safe for us to come back. We need to call Xander too."

"Yeah," Spike agreed simply. "Giles said he was going to see if Willow couldn't tap into our phone records. I think to get rid of my call to Angel."

"Giles said that?"

"Well, not in so many words. But that was the implication, yeah. When I mentioned my call to Angel he said he would talk to Willow."

"I hope she can. I don't want Angel in danger because of us."

"Me," Spike said wryly.

"Us," she corrected. "There is no me or you, Spike. There's us."

"Thanks, pet," he said growing quiet then not overly convinced there would be both parts to the us left if the Council had their way.

"Willow can do just about anything on a computer, so I'm sure she will do whatever she can, Spike."

"I know she will, pet. Red has never ceased to amaze me."

"We should probably warn Angel just in case," Buffy said softly.

"Pet, you don't have to sound so uncertain about it. I can deal with the fact that you still talk to him. I may not like it, but he's not just your ex and I realize that. Besides, our conversation was actually almost cordial."

"You're kidding?"

"Well, once we got past the bickering, name calling and snide comments, yeah."

"He probably realized if you were calling him it was important."

"Probably, not that I've ever given Peaches credit for being that observant."

"Well, I hate to tell you, but if you want someone who understands what you're going through, he's all you've got. So it might be wise to play nice with your granddaddy."

"Yes, Slayer, I'm aware of that. And he's not my grandfather."

"Overserious much? I was teasing. Geez."

"Just pay attention to the road, please, I'd rather arrive at your old man's with both of us in one piece."

"I'll have you know," she said and then stopped as she nearly ran a red light and collided with another car. "Okay, shutting up now," she said while Spike chuckled in the backseat.

Spike stayed crouched down in the backseat. At least the blanket she had grabbed for him covered him better than that holey wool one he had been using before he left town. He was warm in places, but no parts were burning so he would take that. "You do know where your old man lives, don't you pet?"

"Of course I do."

"Just making sure that we weren't going to be driving around LA all day searching for his house."

"No, I've been there. He had Dawn for a couple of weeks after," she said and grew quiet. Spike waited patiently for her to continue. "Well, just after everything. She was really upset with Willow you know to begin with after that night Willow took her to Rack's. Then going all dark magic on us didn't help any. She was going to turn Dawn back into the ball of energy The Key was."

"What," Spike said coming out from under the blanket at that. "Bloody hell," he howled as the sun hit him in the face. "We need to get your windows tinted, Slayer."

"I'll get right on that, Spike."

He covered himself with the blanket once more and shifted so he could peer at her through an opening in the blanket. "Red did what to Dawn? And you still talk to her?"

"It wasn't Willow, Spike. I mean it was, but it would be like me holding you accountable for everything you did before you got your soul. Or for that matter before you actually started helping us. She was not in control, the magic was. She's with Giles getting help."

"Yeah, he mentioned that she was doing better and all, but I didn't realize that she'd tried to hurt Dawn."

"Are you doing okay back there?"

"Oh yes, living in the lap of luxury I am, pet. What the hell kind of question is that?"

"Well, Mr. Crabby, I meant do we need to stop before actually getting to Dad's to get you blood or anything?"

"Oh," he said chagrined that he had jumped on her when she was thinking about his welfare. "No, pet, I'm fine. I've got the blood of a Slayer coursing through my veins. I'll be fine until nightfall maybe even longer. Hey," he said and then thought better of giving voice to his thoughts. He would have to call Xander if she did not think about it to get him to patrol for her. A few days would not make that big of a difference, but someone should at least check the obituaries and take care of anyone who might rise.




"Was just going to say thanks for being concerned. Not used to it," he adlibbed hoping he was successful in convincing her that was in fact his original thought.

"You're welcome," she said and grew quiet once again focusing on the road. They had gotten to Los Angeles so Spike preferred a quiet Buffy, concentrating on the road and the traffic around them than a talkative Buffy who might get distracted and get into an accident.

Spike apparently had drifted off to sleep because he came awake suddenly as the car lurched to a stop. "Bloody hell, woman, where in the world did you get a driver's license?"

"Hey, a dog ran in front of the Jeep. But it doesn't matter anyway, because we're here," she said.

"We're at your old man's house," Spike said peeking through the blanket. "Does he know about me? I mean, does he know what I am and all that? Not sure his finding out by my entering his home simmering and all is a good idea."

"He doesn't even know I'm the Slayer, Spike. So, no. I guess I'll have to tell him."

"Great, I get to be privy to another conversation with one of your parents telling them about your calling. At least your Mum liked me. I'm not sure your old man is going to and I honestly can't say that I like him."


"I won't even get into it with you, Slayer, beyond the fact he's never there for you or Dawn."

"Well," she said. "Let's go. Better get this over with. Then we can visit Angel."

"Looking forward to that almost as much as this. You're not going to tell him that we're, you know?"

"Listen to you, suddenly coy and embarrassed."

"I am not embarrassed, but I'm a man and while I am not and never had the chance to be a father I know how I'd react to meeting a man who was ravishing my daughter. I imagine I'll react much the same way when Dawn starts dating."

"Which will never happen so we're fine there."

"Right, Slayer, and your mom stopped you from locking lips with Angel night after night real well."


"Good argument that, Slayer," he said sitting up on the backseat. "Let's go then. I'd just rather not get my face pounded in while imposing on dear ol' dad." He regarded the house in front of them. It was a decent sized, single story white with beige trim house typical of middle class suburbia. Spike did not know what Buffy's dad did for a living and he did not care to know given the idiot chose someone over Buffy's mom. The house was nice, but Buffy's house in Sunnydale was nicer. No wonder Buffy and Dawn did not care whether they spent time here.

"I won't say anything to make him want to hurt you."

"Right," he said with a roll of his eyes and reached for the door handle drawing the blanket over him.

"Give me your hand, Spike," she said reaching underneath the blanket to take hold of his hand. They hurried to the small covered porch at the front door. Spike still clutched to the blanket, but he was able to pull it away from his face.

"Thanks, pet."

"Welcome. Don't want your face all blistery."

"Wouldn't want that," he said as she raised and lowered the gold-plated door knocker which had the name Peterson engraved on it.

"Peterson, eh? Is that the bint's name your dad is shacking up with?"

"Shh, Spike, or you'll get your face pounded in through no fault of mine or anything I say."

"Fine, fine. Don't know why he would want anyone but your Mum anyway."

"Me neither. Who knows?"

A woman not much older than Buffy answered the door. Spike scowled, glad that his face was hidden from view by Buffy. Had Buffy said something about the bint being her old man's secretary? Figures. She looked the type, too. She had long brown hair and breasts out to there, a barely existent waist that managed to taper into perfectly round hips. Her skin was blemish free, flawless, not even a freckle that Spike could see. If Barbie could come to life, Spike imagined this would be her human form. Her long brown hair was wavy, just enough to give the impression of wash and go though it was obvious she was not the type to wash and go anywhere. What really drove the point home was that her makeup was flawless from that foundation crap women put on their faces to her lipstick. Her nails looked as if she just returned from the salon.

Maybe she had, Hank Summers certainly did not contribute much to his minor daughter's care so he had to have plenty to go around to spend on this two-bit harlot. She was dressed in a white baby doll Tee that barely covered her ample breasts. Her entire midriff was left bare and her stonewashed low-rider jeans made it apparent that she was not a cotton brief wearing girl, but something silk with tiny slips of material at either hip. As if Buffy sensed the negative tone his thoughts were taking, she backed against him. Just the brief contact brought him out of his thoughts, which he imagined was the point.

"May I help you? Oh Buffy, I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were coming up today."

"Sort of an unplanned visit. Is Dad home," Buffy asked.

"Sure he's out in the back yard."

"Is it okay for my friend Spike and me to come in? We didn't stop on the way up, so a trip to the bathroom would be nice." Smooth, Slayer, Spike thought to himself. That was one way to get him an invite into the house without having to belabor the point as to why Spike needed an invite.

"Sure," Wanda said stepping away from the door. "Come on in. You know where the bathroom is, Buffy. I'll get your dad. Can I get you a beer or anything?" Spike folded up the blanket, hoping the woman was not observant enough to notice he had been wearing it only a moment ago. She did not seem the type to be observant of more than anything but herself, and maybe Buffy's dad's pocketbook.

"Uh no," Buffy said scrunching her face in distaste.

"No thanks," Spike added his own refusal wondering if this woman knew Buffy at all offering her beer.

"Okay, well, I'll get your dad. Make yourselves at home, you know where the living room is, Buffy. Just," she said glancing distastefully at Spike's boots. "Take your shoes off, please. The carpet's new."

"Just how old is she," Spike whispered into Buffy's ear.

"Like twenty-eight or something," Buffy said even softer than Spike's question to her had been. He had no problem hearing her, and she knew that would be the case.

"She looks like a," but Buffy cut him off by placing her hand over his mouth.

"Don't. We need him right now, so let's not piss off his woman. Okay? And need I remind you, there is an age difference between us despite appearances."

"All right," he acquiesced once she removed her hand from his mouth.

"Thank you. Behave or we'll be screwed. There's nowhere else I can think of going where they won't be able to find us."

"Right," he said realizing she was in fact right. "I won't say anything stupid. I can behave like a gentleman when I need to."

"Good," she said. "Now I don't know about you but I do need to use the bathroom. So I'll be right back. The living room is right there," she said. "Just remember to take off your boots. You are wearing clean socks right," she teased.

"Yes, Mother, I do know how to dress myself."

"Yes, but do you know how to do laundry?"


She kissed him and drew away. "Good, I like you this way, not so serious and upset about things. Just relax. No worries. If I can stomach this situation, so can you."

"Sure," he said realizing this probably was not easy for her, seeing a woman half her father's age playing house with him. Knowing that this woman was in part responsible for his lack of attentiveness for the past couple of years. He took his boots off by the front door, bunching up the blanket and setting it behind them before making his way to the living room and taking a seat on the love seat. The carpet was obviously new, and a bright white. No kiddies or pets here at this house, Spike wagered.

"You must be the Riley I've heard so much about," said the man Spike presumed to be Hank Summers as he walked toward Spike, hand extended.

"Uh no, I'm not Riley," Spike said standing from the love seat and took the man's offered hand. Did this man even have a clue what was going on in either daughter's life? Riley had been gone for more than a year not counting his one brief return visit to Sunnydale with wife in toe.

"Hi Dad," Buffy came back from the bathroom looking more refreshed than when she entered. She walked up to her dad and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "I see you met Spike."

"Well, sort of," he said regarding Spike. "What kind of a name is Spike exactly?"

"It's just a nickname," Spike offered evenly. "My real name is William, but hardly anyone calls me that."

"Oh well, nice to meet you. What brings you by here, sweetheart?"

"Uh, well, I was hoping we could stay here for a little while, Dad. We won't get in the way or anything. But before you say yes there are some things I need to explain to you."

"I don't see why not. We'd have to make up the spare bedrooms, but it shouldn't be any trouble. Is there something wrong," Hank asked looking at Buffy. "You're not in trouble are you," he added with what Spike interpreted as a glare in Spike's direction.

"As if," Spike muttered under his breath. He also noticed the concerned father had yet to inquire after his youngest daughter and her absence.

"Why don't you sit down, Dad," she said. "Where's Wanda?"

"She went to the store. She assumed you'd be here at least for the day so wanted to buy some steaks and other things for dinner tonight."

"Good," Buffy said under her breath. Spike knew the praise was not because of the promised food but instead because Wanda was away from the house.

"You're starting to scare me now, Buffy. You look fine, though," he asked and his scrutiny did not escape Spike's notice. He wanted to scream aloud that she was not bloody pregnant, not unless it was some miracle child. Spike did not even want to begin to think on what a child of the Slayer and a vampire would be like, the anti-Christ?

"I think I'm going to use the bathroom," Spike said and stood leaving father and daughter to their little chat. "I'll be right back," he said more for Buffy's sake than her dad's. She would inevitably need proof just as Joyce did that vampires were not Buffy's imagination and Spike would be that proof. And probably get told to leave his house and stay away from his daughter in the process, but if it kept her safe from the Council and its goons he would leave her here.

He found the loo with little difficulty, washed up and delayed returning to the living room for as long as he could. He lurked in the hallway listening to their conversation. It was mostly a one-sided conversation of Buffy talking and her father interjecting various forms of "that's impossible" or "I don't believe it".

"I had hoped that Mom would have told you so I wouldn't have to."

"Your mother knew," Hank asked incredulously as Spike entered the room.

"Yeah," Buffy admitted quietly. It was still difficult for her to talk about her mom, talking about her to the man who had left her for his much younger, perkier secretary probably had to be ten times more difficult.

"I don't understand why she didn't tell me."

"I think she felt a little guilty when she found out and realized that the time you had me committed was for no reason."

"Christ," Hank whispered. "What is it you need me to do exactly? Why are you here? You're not putting me or Wanda in danger are you?"

"I don't know, Dad." She sighed softly and stood walking toward Spike who had taken to an armchair when he returned to the room instead of sitting beside her on the love seat. Her hand rested against the back of the chair. "There's more to it, Dad," she said and told him about Spike and his quest for his soul and the fact that the Watcher's Council apparently did not like that he had gone on such a quest.

"So you are putting us in danger."

"Well, they don't know you're here, Dad. This house is in Wanda's name, so I think you're relatively safe. Would you rather me stay at the house and wait for them to come take me away?"

"No, of course not, but I still don't like it."

"Well, maybe Angel can help us and we'll be out of your way tonight. But we needed somewhere safe to spend the day. I couldn't think of anywhere else. Speaking of which," she said pulling her cell phone out of her bag. "I need to call Janice's parents and tell them to keep Dawn."

"Oh dear lord, I hadn't even thought of Dawn. Is she okay?"

"Yes, Dad, she's fine. She went away for the weekend with her friend Janice and her parents."

"Good," Hank said and Spike thought the man's relief seemed genuine. It took him long enough to think about Dawn, though, which peeved Spike to no end.

Buffy went into the kitchen to make the call she needed to make, leaving Spike alone with her father. Spike wondered if she got some thrill from leaving him alone with her parents when she had just gotten done telling them about vampires.

"Sorry about the Riley confusion earlier," Hank said his hands joined together. He was uncomfortable and Spike was tempted to feel sorry for him.

"It's all right," Spike said simply. He was sort of used to living in the shadow of Buffy's ex, usually it was Angelus though.

"You're from England then?"

"Yeah, just north of London," Spike said. More silence. "Nice house," Spike offered.

"Thanks. It's Wanda's, so the credit is hers."

"Right," Spike said dryly.

"All taken care of," Buffy said returning to the living room. "Janice's folks will keep her until they hear from me. If they have a real problem, they'll call Xander and then Anya. Anya is my absolute last choice, but she would take care of Dawn in a real pinch."

"She would," Spike agreed realizing it might be in his best interest not to stand up for the vengeance demon too enthusiastically.

"So, Dad, is it okay if Spike and I go lay down for a while? He usually sleeps during the day and with Giles waking us up at five this morning I'm a little tired myself."


"Well, yeah, I'm an adult and you and Wanda aren't married. And, ew, we're just going to sleep, Dad." Spike wanted to tell her to speak for herself. He personally would love to shag Buffy under her dad's nose, but that was probably the demon in him wanting that and better left unsaid.

"I don't know, Buffy."

"Well, think of it this way, if something does happen, it's better that he and I are in the same room together to react to it simultaneously. I wouldn't want to put you or Wanda in unnecessary danger."

"Just keep the door open," Hank conceded.

"Thanks Daddy," Buffy said walking to him and gracing him with another kiss to the cheek. Spike noticed that her father seemed to actually relish in the brief attention his daughter paid him. Interesting. "I'm going to go get our bags. Be right back," she called out far too cheerily which did not escape either man's notice.

"Does she always get her way," Hank asked causing Spike to snort in amusement. "I'll take it that's a yes."

"She can be rather convincing when she wants to be." He shifted slightly on the chair knowing what he wanted to say and that he might not have another chance to do it with Buffy out of the room. "Mr. Summers, if I may risk being presumptuous and ruining everything I've established with Buffy you need to help your daughters."

"What are you talking about?"

"Do you even realize that Buffy is supporting Dawn? There was very little insurance money from Joyce's death and Buffy is still working to pay off hospital bills. She just had a two night visit in the hospital herself. I see you here with a house that's not even yours living with a woman who's not your wife, and I have to wonder why you aren't helping your girls. Don't you want Buffy to go to college?"

"Of course I do."

"Then why not offer her some assistance. Start paying the mortgage on the house or pay it off entirely if you can. I'm going to try and work off the medical bills, but they're not my children, I don't think I should have to do it all."

"Just who in the hell do you think you are?"

"I think, Mr. Summers, the more appropriate question is just who in the hell do you think you are. You're leaving Buffy in charge of Dawn, Buffy's not a mother, she's barely old enough to have a child of her own let alone a sixteen your old child. Step in and help. Make it a little easier for Buffy. She loves you, you know. They both do."

"Well, of course they do."

"What do you mean, of course they do?"

"I'm their father."

"A sperm donor is a father, Mr. Summers. Your girls deserve your support. Your girlfriend can obviously take care of herself if she afforded this place without you. Your daughters cannot take care of themselves. Not completely at any rate, not if you want Buffy and Dawn to amount to anything in their lives beyond life as hamburger servers or cocktail waitresses."

"Buffy's got a good job."

"Sure she does, she lucked into it because the head of the school board figured out who and what she was and hired her to keep trouble off the campuses. If she wasn't the Slayer she would have no job and she'd still be flipping hamburgers bathing in grease at the Doublemeat."

"I didn't realize."

"Well, of course you didn't, when was the last time you were even there or even thought to ask, really ask? A simple phone call to the mortgage company ought to provide you the information you need."

"I shouldn't have to ask."

"And Summers women are normally free with the asking for help or confiding?"

"I see your point, but are things really that bad?"

"Bad enough, certainly worse than they should be given their father is alive and well and able to help them. At least Dawn, she's still a minor for two more years."

"I'll talk to Buffy before she leaves. If things are as bad as they say they are."

"You know Buffy won't tell you things are bad. I've seen the stack of bills, third and fourth notices some of them. She turned off the cable so that Dawn could have Internet for her computer. Does that suggest to you they're living it up?"

"I wish she'd told me."

"Well, I'm telling you."

"What are you telling him," Buffy asked from the foyer.

"Oh nothing, honey," Hank said and Spike was grateful it was her father lying to her and not him. "Spike and I were just talking about the Angels and their chances at winning the World Series."

"The World Series," Buffy said with a frown. "That's baseball, right?"

"Yes, honey," Hank said with a light laugh. Spike was not altogether sure that Buffy was buying what Hank was shoveling, but he was not going to argue at the moment. "The Angels are in the World Series for the first time."

"Oh," she said. "Well, go Angels then. They should win with a name like that."

Spike scoffed and Buffy offered him a smile. "Come on, Spike, let's get you some rest before we go visit Angel. I don't need a cranky Spike when meeting with Angel."

"I'll get you some sheets," Hank offered as he stood from the couch. "I assume you can make the bed yourselves."

"Yes, Dad," Buffy said rolling her eyes. Spike took the bags Buffy had carried into the house and followed her and her dad toward the appropriated bedroom.

Spike palmed her cell phone and realized he had not yet called Giles. Buffy started making the bed with a set of sheets that were pink and had flowers on them. "Oh come on, honey, they are so us," Buffy said with a laugh.

"I'm going to call your Watcher while you're doing that."

"Okay," Buffy said as Spike pulled the piece of paper he had written Rupert's sex buddy's number on.

"Rupert, please," he said casually.

"Just a minute," came the English voice that Spike recognized as being the black woman he had seen at Rupert's house in the past.

"This is Rupert," came the Watcher's voice.

"We've made it to safety, for now."

"Good. It's best you don't tell me any of your plans, but do keep in touch. The call in question has been taken care of. Please do be careful. Both of you. And again, I cannot apologize enough. This number is secure, as secure as a cell phone can be, but discretion is still best."

"Yes, Rupert."

"Thank you, and tell Buffy I love her."

"Will do. Have a good," Spike paused and glanced at the bedside clock tacking on eight hours for the time difference, "night."

"You too," Giles said disconnecting the call.

"How's Giles handling this?"

"As well as can be expected I suppose. He feels as if he betrayed your confidence in a round about way, but he'll get over it. Willow took care of the phone call to Angel, so Angel should be safe."

"Good, that means we shouldn't have to stay with my dad anymore than necessary. I get the wiggins being here with him and her. I mean, she's like barely even older than the difference between me and Dawn."

"I know, pet," he said sincerely. Mindful that they were told to keep the door open, he figured it was best they get onto another topic of conversation. "We'll have dinner with them like they want us to and go see Angel. Do you want to call Harris and see about him patrolling for you?"

"I hadn't even thought of that."

"I figured it might have slipped your mind. I can take care of it if you want me to, but I figured he's your friend and all you might want to tell him yourself and make sure he will know why Janice's parents call him to come get Dawn if they do."

"Oh right, hadn't thought of that either," Buffy said with a pout.

"Hey, pet, it's understandable some things slipped your mind today. No worries," he set the cell phone on the table by the bed and took her into his arms. "The door's still open," he said with a light chuckle as he kissed her. "We'll figure out what the Council is up to and take care of it. I promise."

"But what can we do, Spike? They're humans, I can't hurt them and you can't because of the chip."

"I don't think the chip works anymore," he said softly.


"I think some of the tests I was put through disabled it. I haven't tested the theory completely, but I get the feeling it was those Powers That Be giving me total control over the path I take. No chip plus soul but the demon is still inside of me wanting control, I have to decide which side I want to play on. So, I guess the question is if I can hurt them do you want me to?"

"I don't know," she said resting her head against his shoulder. "I don't know."

"Well, you need to decide, pet, because we can't keep running forever. Slayers don't run, and you'd never see Dawn and you don't want her living here."

"No," she said and Spike could feel the resolve returning to her, her strength flowing back into her. "No, I don't. I just, it's not my place."

"But if it's our lives or theirs?"


"Good enough for me, pet."

"Will you be okay with this? This isn't killing demons."

"I'll do what I have to, Buffy, to keep you safe and here with me. I'm not going to lose you again, gone through it twice already and I don't particularly want to go through it again."

She sighed seemingly in relief and kissed him, her hands holding him to her as if he wanted to pull away from her. Finally, she had to break the kiss in order to take a much needed breath. "Thank you."

"Is it time to rest then, pet? I'm surprised your dad gave in so easily, don't know if I would have."

"And you don't think he'll be walking by here every so often?"

"Probably," Spike said with a chuckle.

"Besides, I think the fact I've basically been living on my own for the past three years had something to do with it."

"Probably," Spike said again and removed his outer shirt hanging it over the footboard's post. "Thanks for making the bed."

"Welcome," she said. "I'm going to go to the bathroom, talk to my dad for a bit and stuff until Wanda gets back, then I'll be in to join you."

"No worries, pet," he said as he slid under the covers. She kissed him again once he had gotten settled in the bed. "Sleep well."

"Can't do anything but with you nearby," he said and she smiled, a truly happy smile which would have made his heart take wings if his heart beat to do that sort of thing.

Return to Top

***Part 21***

Buffy handed the Jeep's keys to Spike without question when they were ready to leave. The uncomfortable dinner with Buffy's father and his late twenties live-in went by without incident. Buffy's dad scored points for acting like nothing was wrong or out of the ordinary about Buffy showing up there unexpectedly. They were taking their bags with them on the chance that Angel would offer them a room at the Hyperion. The less time Buffy had to spend with Wanda was for the good as far as Buffy was concerned.

Sadly, Buffy came to realize through dinner that Wanda was not evil and actually seemed to love her dad. Buffy did not understand how Wanda could not think that she might be replaced with the next secretary. In Buffy's eyes once a cheater always a cheater, her dad or not that's how she viewed it. If you break a vow once you'll do it again. Maybe that was why the couple was not married. Buffy did not really care to think on that, her dad living with a woman young enough to be Buffy's sister was bad enough.

She loved her father, but it had taken her a long time to stop blaming herself for her parent's getting a divorce. Her mom had not been dead for that long, they had two children together, and yet he acted like all was right in the world. Did he even miss her? Did he ever regret leaving her?

"It was nice to see you again, Buffy and good to meet you Spike," Wanda said offering Buffy and Spike a flawless smile. Even her teeth were perfectly white and straight. Buffy had never spent a night with her dad and Wanda, so she had no idea if the woman ever had a bad day. Dawn would know Buffy would have to remember to ask Dawn what Wanda looked like when she woke up in the morning. Hopefully, no better than the Wicked Witch of the West looked.

"Thanks, we might be back later tonight I told Dad I'd call him before coming back," Buffy said trying to be polite. This was Wanda's house after all she did not want to burn the bridge and not be able to come back. And Buffy realized, sort of sadly, that in a Cordelia sort of way she could have been friends with Wanda if they had met under different circumstances.

"I'm going to take the bags out to the Jeep, pet," Spike said.

"And I'm going to go do the dishes."

"Thanks, Spike," Buffy said overlapped with Hank's, "I'll be in to help you in a minute."

"Are you going to be okay," Hank asked once Spike and Wanda had left them alone.

"Yeah," she said with a shrug. "I can handle the Council. I didn't mean to put you in danger, Dad."

"No, honey, it's okay. I had some time to think about it all when you were resting and I probably didn't react the right way. Typical for me I suppose, so I'm sure you're not surprised. I just wish your mother had told me. I had no idea."

"It's no big, Dad. I'm sure she just didn't want you to worry about things or think she was doing something wrong with me. You won't tell Wanda, right?"

"No, I don't think she'd believe me anyway."

"Good. It's better she not know."

He cleared his throat lightly and got that uncomfortable look on his face as if he was about to confess something, or apologize for not being there for her or Dawn for years. She hated that look, because nothing ever changed no matter how often the apologies came. He always stayed away. Buffy had contented herself a while ago that it was just her and Dawn, no one else.

"Honey," he started and stopped.

"Yeah, Dad?"

"How's the job going?"

"It's going good. It beats coming home smelling like grease covered in milkshake stains every day."

"I," he said pulling out his wallet. "Here," he said handing her a check.

"Dad," she asked taking in the check. It was made out to the mortgage company, and it had lots of zeros in the number.

"The house will be yours, sweetheart, once you send that check in. Free and clear. Just do me a favor."

"What? Anything," Buffy said still unbelieving. She held the check in her hand after she folded it in half afraid that it would disappear.

"If you need money, if you fall onto hard times, come to me for help, don't take out a mortgage on the house. If I can't help you, I'll find a way to help you. You're a twenty-two year old woman who owns a nice house, maybe you can't appreciate that now, but one day you will."

"No, Dad, I do. This is," she said still not believing. "It's unbelievable. I don't understand."

"There's nothing to understand," he said kissing her forehead. "Tell Dawn I love her."

"I will, Daddy, thank you," Buffy said still dazed. "Did Spike do this?"

"Well, no, Spike didn't do anything. He did mention some things to me, yes."

"I'm going to kill him."

"No, sweetheart. He told me nothing I shouldn't have already known and seen on my own. I thought you were fine. I had no idea things were that bad, that your mother left you in that state. I didn't know. You never told me, never came to me for help. And here I've just been buying Dawn clothes now and then."

"It's okay, Daddy, I didn't know how to ask for help."

"Well, now you do. I'm going to start sending you money every month for Dawn, too. I'll have to figure out how much after that check, but if nothing else you'll have a little extra coming in." She threw her arms around him and hugged him tight. "Uh, sweetie," Hank said and Buffy drew away.

"Sorry. Thanks again."

"You're welcome. Once things are settled, we'll talk about college for the two of you, too. Spike mentioned you wanted to go back and Dawn's going to want to go too."

"Yeah. This will help, having no mortgage I mean."

"I know it will. I'm glad you came, honey. You're welcome here anytime. I don't know about that Spike, though. Is he safe?"

Buffy smiled. "As safe as any man is, Dad."

"Do you love him?"

"Yeah," she said simply not quite able to look him in the eye. Not that she was embarrassed, but it was just strange talking about this to her dad.

"Just be careful, I don't want to see you hurt again."

"Me neither. He's real good with Dawn, so I don't think he'd hurt me just to avoid hurting her."

"Well, that's something. You know, if you don't want to come back here before you go back home, we could have lunch before you leave."

"Won't Wanda know anyway?"

"There's nothing wrong with my having lunch with my daughter alone."

"Okay, I'll think about it. Thanks for dinner and for everything."

"You're welcome. And for what it's worth, I'm sorry it took someone else telling me to do this."

"No, it's all right. It hurt, I admit, but I was so busy last year," she trailed off realizing her dad did not even know she had died. She had not told him that part of her Slayer history. "I just never got around to seeking out help."

"You must get that stubborn streak from me," Hank observed as they walked toward the Jeep.

"I think you and Mom were both stubborn, so Dawn and I are doomed."

"Just my luck," Spike quipped standing by the driver's side door smoking a cigarette. Spike was surprised to see tears in Buffy's eyes and was about to tear her father's head off for upsetting Buffy when she was already upset when Buffy hugged him.

"I'll call you soon."

"You do that, or you," Hank said addressing Spike. He handed Spike a business card. "You seem to be the collector of the numbers. There are all of mine if you need them. If I'm not here or at the office Wanda can tell you where I am. She knows where I am better than I do I think."

"Thanks," Spike said glad to see some concern in Hank Summers, even if it was only temporary. He slid the card into the pocket with the cell phone number Giles had given him. "You ready then, Slayer?"

"Yeah. Bye Dad."

"Stay safe, Buffy."

"Always," she said getting in the Jeep as Spike got in on his side. "Well," she said in the car as she waved to her dad. Spike reversed the Jeep and headed back toward downtown LA.

"That wasn't so bad, though, I don't like his girlfriend."


"She's too," he paused looking for the right word. "Chummy."

"Was she flirting with you," Buffy asked somewhat teasing but somewhat put off by the idea.

"Well, no, not exactly, but she was more attentive to me than your mum ever was if you get my drift."

"Yeah," Buffy said and fell silent. "I'm surprised he's stayed with her for this long. I sort of expected it not to last. I always figured he and Mom would get back together. Once I was gone from the house and no longer there to cause arguments."

"Well, I think your father now realizes that your actions were not what they appeared to be. I never understood why your Watcher did not let you tell them. Giles always seemed more conscientious than that."

"Well, Giles wasn't my only watcher and I don't know. I guess I just took the whole secrecy thing to heart. And plus," she said with a shrug. "I did try to tell them and they had me committed. What was I supposed to do then?"

"I see your point. Then again, I guess you wouldn't have ended up in Sunnydale if they had known."

"I guess not. Not that I couldn't have done my Slayer duties in LA."

"Of course, but the Hell Mouth seems a more appropriate place for the Slayer to be."

"Can we stop somewhere before we go to the hotel?"

"Sure, pet," Spike said simply accepting her request without question.

"Thanks," she said and told him where to go.

Spike got out of the Jeep but remained there seeming to sense she wanted, needed, to do this alone. She knew without looking back that he had slipped into game face in order to see her clearly in the dark. She had nothing to leave on the plot that was eerily devoid of any decoration. Even his tombstone was simple and straightforward, merely giving his year of death along with his name, Merrick Jamison-Smythe.

For some reason, seeing his name reminded her of when she first met Wesley. She had not treated Wesley very nice, but she had been comfortable with Giles by then. She had come to like Giles, love him even, and had not wanted another Watcher. Merrick had died before she had gotten a chance to accept her calling.

"I wish we had more time," she whispered. "I think you would have liked Giles. He never mentioned knowing you, so I don't know if he did or not. I think he suspected I didn't want to talk about you at first, and then life just sort of went on and we never talked about my time as the Slayer before Sunnydale."

She remained there for a few minutes and felt a bit of a catharsis at having come there and talking to him. She returned to the Jeep in silence, offering Spike an appreciative smile that he got into the Jeep without asking the mundane question, "Are you all right?" Obviously, she was not and the question did not need to be asked.

He placed a hand on her knee once the car was in gear, remaining silent. The touch was welcome, calming, keeping her in the present rather than falling into the temptation of dwelling on the past. "Thanks for stopping," she said when they were nearly to the Hyperion.

"No need to thank me, Buffy. It's not as if we're on a tight schedule or anything. Even if we were," he shrugged simply, downshifting as they approached a red light. Even while shifting he did not stop touching her completely, his pinky finger touching her until he could put his hand back on her knee.

"You nervous?"

"A little. I'm not sure if Peaches is going to bash my face in or not."

"He has no reason to."

"He knows I hurt you, Buffy."

"It's not his place to bash your face in, he learned that with Riley. Not unless I ask him to anyway." They pulled into the alleyway that ran alongside the Hyperion and parked the Jeep. She slid her arms around his neck and stood on her tiptoes to kiss him once outside the Jeep. "Don't worry so much. We'll be fine."

They walked through the doors that led to the hotel lobby, now operation central for Angel Investigations. She recognized Cordelia, but did not know the other two who walked out with barely an acknowledgement of their presence. Had it been that long since she had visited Angel in LA? They had met once after she had been resurrected, but otherwise, she realized it had been that long. They were both living their own lives, sometimes they would share information but it was via telephone. Dawn emailed him sometimes, but Buffy just was not computer friendly enough to tackle the email generation.

"Buffy," Cordelia said in a surprisingly enthusiastic tone of voice.

"Hi Cordelia," Buffy said simply. She felt Spike stiffen at her side and offered his hand what she hoped was a reassuring squeeze. "Is Angel here?"

"Nope, he went out a little while ago but will be back soon. We were expecting you, so he knows you're coming."

"You were?"

"Well, I had a vision," she explained.

"So, no one came by looking for us or anything."

"No," Cordelia said as if she thought Buffy might be crazy to ask the question.

"Okay, good. So, are we supposed to wait for him then?"

"Yeah, he just went to meet with a prospective client. It's been pretty quiet lately. Fred and Gunn just left on assignment."

"Oh," Buffy said simply still not quite used to Cordelia being in LA with Angel, working for Angel. It was just too bizarre. "You remember Spike?"

"Oh sure, hi," Cordelia said with a casual wave of her hand. "Give me a minute and I'll take you guys to a room. It will have a refrigerator, but no stove or anything. So, cooking you'll have to do in the kitchen down here if you do any. There's blood in there, too," she said seeming to pay attention to Spike for the first time.

"Right, thanks," Spike said. "I guess I'll go out and get the bags then." He released Buffy's hand and was gone in a flash. "Damned vampire stealth," Buffy muttered. But she sensed Spike just wanted to get out of here for a little longer if he could. Buffy did not blame him, being left alone with Cordelia was not exactly her idea of a prime way to spend the evening either.

"So, how are things going? You said they're slow."

"Yeah. Not much going on for the most part. Your average, run of the mill stuff, but nothing tripping the radar or anything."

"Good," Buffy said walking toward Cordelia.

"It's pretty brave of you to bring your new to see the ex."

"Angel can always tell us to leave if he doesn't want us here."

"He wouldn't do that. To you. He'd do it to Spike I think in a heartbeat, but not to you."

"So you're Buffy," said a younger male voice. Buffy turned in the direction of the voice, her senses at attention though she could not detect anything about the teenager exactly.

"I am Buffy," she said simply. She remembered now why she hated coming here. She felt like she was under a microscope when she met anyone that knew Angel and knew of Buffy and Buffy's role in Angel becoming Angelus a few years ago. It was one thing to be famous as the Slayer, but another to be famous as Angel's ex, Buffy.

"I've heard a lot about you, almost started to believe you weren't real. Just a figment of everybody's imaginations."

"Nope," Buffy said sarcastically. "I'm the real deal." She thought she heard Cordelia say something, but she was too quiet. "Who are you?"

"I'm Connor."

"You're Connor?"

"Yeah," he said, stiffening defensively.

"Wow, okay, I mean, I had heard about the whole taken to a hell dimension thing, but just never really believed you weren't a baby anymore. It seems like just yesterday I heard you were born. That was unbelievable in and of itself."

"I suppose so. You're shorter than I pictured you."

"I get that a lot," she said crossing her arms over her chest.

Buffy and Connor stared at one another neither saying anything else. Was he worried she had come back to hurt his father? She hoped not, she would rather die than hurt Angel surely everyone knew that, ex or not. Sure she had sent him to a hell dimension once, but that was beyond her control. It was either that or the end of the world and she had to act as the Slayer not Angel's lover in that moment.

"Got the bags, luv," Spike said from across the lobby.

"Connor," Cordelia said still sorting through papers. "Would you show Buffy and Spike to their room?"

"Sure," he said softening visibly at Cordelia's voice. "The bedding and towels are clean. There's cable and a telephone in the room. There's even a T1 connection if you need it. If you make any long distance calls, leave money for them. Otherwise, make yourself at home."

"Thanks," Buffy said having no idea what a T1 connection was. "Just a bed is good."

"Speak for yourself, Slayer. I hope we get premium cable channels."

"Spike," Buffy said with a roll of her eyes.

"No movie channels," Cordelia said without lifting her head from the desk.

"Damn," Spike said.

"Hush, honey," Buffy said flippantly as Connor started walking up the stairs. Buffy guessed they were supposed to follow him. He certainly was not a man of many words. "I wonder where he gets that from," she muttered.

"What was that, pet?"

"Nothing," Buffy said simply. "Just rambling."

Connor opened the door to their room, which was rather large. It was not big enough to be a suite, and the sitting area portion of the room was not separated by a wall or anything but it was big. "Wow," Buffy said admiringly. "Are all the rooms like this," Buffy asked.

"No," Connor said simply.

"Okay," Buffy said hoping the boy would talk a little more.

"Fred and Gunn's room is furnished. So is Cordelia's, Angel's, and mine. But Cordelia and I don't stay here right now."

"Oh," Buffy said not sure what the deal was and not sure it was her place to ask.

"But he does have a few rooms, this being one of them, that he fixed up for the occasional visitor. I think his goal is to one day fix it up, restore it to how it was years ago or something. I don't really know."

"Oh cool," Buffy said noticing for the first time that the wallpaper on the walls was definitely antiquated looking, as was the furniture and everything.

"No one told me Angel came back."

"I don't know about that. He came back a few weeks ago," Connor said simply not meeting Buffy's eyes. Spike placed a hand on her shoulder and tightened his grasp almost painfully. "If you want to come back down, I'll show you where the kitchen is. And the blood," he said glancing at Spike. It was the first time Connor had really looked at Spike and Buffy was not sure what she saw in the boy's eyes. Contempt? Hatred? Both came to mind.

"Sure thing, Connor, we'll be done in a bit. Thanks for showing us to the room and everything."

"Spike," Buffy admonished as he closed and threw the lock almost without giving Connor time to leave the room entirely.

"Slayer," he said warningly. "I got woken up at the ass crack of down by your Watcher telling me that you and I are now on the Watcher's Council Top Two Most Wanted list. I shared you with your dad all damned day, had to sleep in a bed with the door open and worry that if I laid a bleedin' hand on you your old man would cut it off. I'm here with you at your ex's, surrounded by people who know him and lord knows what they know about me through him. Not to mention that kid scares the shit out of me."

"Why," she asked curiously. She had felt her Slayer senses tingle when Connor was near, but they did not get all full blown tingly like they did when evil was around.

He gripped her shoulders almost as tight as he had a moment ago to caution her about her conversation with Connor. She understood now that was what he was doing. He drew her to him, the look in his eyes was wild, his demon unchecked despite her looking into the blue eyes that belonged to William. "Hello? Child of two vampires. It should scare the shit out of you, Slayer. Vampires are not supposed to be able to add to the population. Not to mention I didn't like how he was looking at you, the vibe I was getting off of him when you brought up Angelus' return. But creepy child of Angelus and Darla aside, I just wanted some alone time with you outside of a car. Am I not entitled," he said.

"Yes," she said on edge from the look in his eyes.

He released his hold on her shoulders. "I don't mean to frighten you, Slayer, and whatever Angelus' spawn might be I'm not here to get involved with their issues. We're here to lay low, collect ourselves, come up with a game plan, and deal with the Council so that we can get back to Sunnydale and on with our lives."

Buffy sat on the bed, glancing at the phone. She should call Giles, but not from a landline. He might have put his own life in danger warning them. "Cordelia might be able to help, with her visions. I hadn't thought of her before."

"There's a thought," Spike agreed sifting through one of his bags. "You up for a shower, pet?"

"Is that your way of telling me I'm a pungent Slayer?"

"No, it's my way of telling you that I want one and am inviting you to join me. We didn't take one before we left Sunnydale and I just figured after driving and all you might want one. It'll help you relax some."

"Well, since you put it like that."

"Oh? I need to give you an incentive besides my company to get you to join me in the shower?"

"You betcha," she said taking the check her dad had given her out of her pocket. "Hey, we need to go out tonight."

"Okay," Spike said in the process of getting undressed. "What for?"

"I need to stop at a mailbox. Before the shit hits the fan I want to get this check in the mail so it doesn't get lost or anything."

"What check?"

"Oh, my dad gave me a check to pay off the house."

"Really, pet?"

"Yeah. He said a little birdie whispered some words in his ear."

"I did no such thing. Not really," he said turning his back to her as he shed his jeans. She had an unobstructed view of his back, butt and the backs of his legs. Michelangelo's David did not come close to matching Spike's perfection at least as far as Buffy was concerned. Not that she had ever seen David up close and personal or anything. It still felt new seeing him nude through the eyes of a lover rather than whatever blinders she had on last year. "I just made him realize you were too stubborn to come begging for help and that he still had an obligation to Dawn if nothing else until she was eighteen."

Unbidden, she walked to him, he had to hear her with his enhanced hearing and all but he did not flinch or turn toward her. He remained standing there naked in the middle of the room and she touched him, shyly at first. His muscles flinched under her light touch but otherwise he remained motionless. She traced a path with both hands starting at his shoulders, her mouth following the same pattern until she reached the small of his back. She caressed his butt with her hands, sliding a hand to either hip around to his front.

Her breath caught and she bit her tongue when her hand met with the evidence he was ready for her. "Are you sure it's a shower you want," she asked huskily against his ear.

"I," he said and stopped his head falling back slightly as she wrapped her hand around his length. "I was sort of thinking of combining the two, luv."

She smiled as she kissed his shoulder and then his other one. "Lucky me. I hope they have a great big water heater."

"Do you now?"

"Yeah," she said and stepped away from him. He groaned softly and she laughed. "I'm right here, but I have to get undressed too if I'm going to shower with you."

"I know I just hate that moment."

"What moment?"

"When you step away and the warmth is gone," he admitted his back still to her. She froze midway taking off her pants at his admission. "I live for that, crave it sometimes."

"Well, I'm not going anywhere, so you can give into your craving all you want."

He nodded his head simply and walked toward the bathroom sleek, regal and graceful like a proud lion walking on two feet instead of all fours. She had talked him into holding off cutting his hair for a little while, wanting him to make sure it was truly what he wanted. She liked it longer and at this moment with the fresh bleaching it added an almost unearthly look.

She heard the water running, the shower was turned on as she entered the bathroom. He stood waiting for her not hiding the fact he was aroused, that he wanted her. "Were you waiting for me?"

"Yeah," he said almost shyly, contrasting his confident exterior. "Ladies first and all that."

"You just wanted to make sure you got the temperature right."

"Well, that too, but it sounded better that I was trying to be polite."

She laughed with a shake of her head and pulled the shower curtain back to step into the huge tub. "Oh my god, Spike, we could swim in this thing."

"Yeah, I noticed that too," he said clearly amused. Whether he was amused by her reaction to the tub or to the size of the tub itself she did not know. "I was thinking we might be able to spend a while in there, but then the others might think we got lost or something and come searching for us."

"Let them search then," Buffy said. "Get in here, Spike," she bid.

He entered a minute later bearing soap, shampoo and washcloths for them both. "I'm going to smell like a bleedin' woman," he said as he sniffed her shampoo.

"You're going to smell like me anyway, so what's a little floral shampoo added to the mix?"

Spike smirked with a slight pout no doubt trying to get to her and it worked. Buffy sensed there was a bit of a testosterone thing going on with him but she was willing to let it slide tonight. She would not particularly care to be thrown into sharing space with Drusilla, and admittedly would do whatever it took to let Drusilla know Spike was hers now.

Return to Top

***Part 22***

About an hour and a half later sated, mostly at any rate, and showered Spike and Buffy were getting dressed. At some point during their shower Spike had heard someone knock on the room's outer door. He had no idea how long ago the knock had come, but it was long enough that Spike could gloat just a bit when they got downstairs.

"Ready then, pet," he asked as he slipped his boots on and laced them up. Spike donned his typical black jeans and a crimson T-shirt, no outer shirt worn over it. He slid his arms into his new leather jacket, it was short nothing resembling the duster and he had done that intentionally. Buffy had the duster no doubt, but Spike had not asked for it back and Buffy had not offered it to him. Both seemed to understand it had no place in his current unlife.

"Yup," she said cheerily and Spike had to wonder if it was a façade. "Let's go see if we can figure out what to do about Quentin Travers and the Council. And then maybe Angel will let us tag along and kill some things."

"Feeling up for a spot of violence tonight then, sweetheart," he asked as they left the room. He paused in the hallway taking in the grandeur of the hotel Angel had chosen as his domicile and his base of operation. He certainly had a flair for doing things in a grand way. It was not like this place stood out or anything and if what the spawn said was true, that his father was planning on fixing the place up it would stand out even more. It would be nice, though, Angel would not settle for a poorly done restoration job.

"Yeah I am. A day with my dad, dinner with his girlfriend, meeting my ex's teenaged son who shouldn't even be walking. I'm looking for a good slay."

"We could spar."

"We'll see," she said softly and Spike felt a gnawing in the pit of his stomach that he hated. Hated feeling it, hated that he loved her so much she could make him feel it.

"So, we got to the house and it was fuckin' cockroaches," a man said. "Hundreds of them." Spike did not recognize his voice, one of the human minions employed by Angel Spike reckoned.

"You're kidding me," the voice Spike recognized as Connor's said.

"I told her to look in the phone book under exterminators." A woman's voice, not the Cordelia bint. "I'm going to have nightmares about it tonight."

"So it was nothing then," Angel asked.

"It was nothing," the unknown man said. As Spike and Buffy got to the foot of the stairs he saw the man in question was in fact human and black. He had his arm around a twig of a white human who looked like she would fall over if breathed on.

"Buffy," Angel said far too happily for Spike's liking.

"I hope we're not interrupting," Buffy said. She was taking in the unidentified couple as well. They certainly were not two people Spike would have pictured being together, but he was not one to judge.

"Not at all. Gunn and Fred were just telling me about their crawling wall nuisance that turned out to be cockroaches. I almost didn't believe Cordy's vision that you were coming."

"This is your lucky day I guess because it seems her vision was right."

"This is Fred and Charles Gunn. We call him Gunn. You met Connor I heard."

"Yeah, he showed us to our room. Nice to meet you," Buffy said. Spike might not have even been there for all the attention they were paying him. Buffy, Buffy, Buffy, he should have known this was a bad bad idea. He noticed, though, that Angel managed to restrain himself and remained seated on the couch. He wanted to get up; Spike was familiar enough with Angel to recognize the slight movement he had made only to change his mind.

"This is Spike," Buffy said finally when no one said anything to her.

"I'm going to find Cordelia and go home," Connor said standing and seemed all too anxious to leave. Spike could not help but notice that all did not appear to be well between father and spawn. Good. Spike hoped Angel got nominated for horrendous father of the year.

"Good night, Connor," Angel said in his broody voice and Spike could not help but snicker.

"Thanks again, Connor," Buffy said offering him a smile. Whether she could detect the intensity in the air between father and spawn Spike did not know.

"Sure," Connor said and the lad actually blushed.

"Tell me what's going on, Buffy," Angel said as he finally stood from the couch once Connor had left the room.

"Well," she glanced at Spike an unspoken question asked with her eyes. He said he wanted to be the one to tell others about his soul. She wanted his permission before blurting it out in front of Angel's cohorts. He nodded his head slightly. "You know about Spike's soul quest."

"Yes, he told me about it."

"And you and I both recommended he call Giles. I wanted him to call Giles merely to, you know, so Giles could jot it down in his journals."

"Wait a minute," Gunn interjected. He was met with the infamous Slayer glare for interrupting.


"Spike here has his soul?"

"Yes," Buffy said simply.

"And he did this intentionally?"

"Yes," Buffy and Spike both answered at the same time. "Can I go on now?" Buffy asked.

"Yeah, sorry," Gunn said and both Angel and Spike chuckled. Angel had been on the receiving end of her admonishing just as often as Spike had. It was good to see someone else getting the annoyed Buffy treatment.

"Well, Giles woke us up this morning at an unholy hour telling us that the Council had his phones tapped."

"Oh shit," Angel said.

"Yeah," Buffy said simply. "It seems the Watcher's Council is now after both of us. Spike because they don't like that a vampire went off and did something that might put a crimp in their research. And the reasons behind why he did it especially. And me," she shrugged. "I think I'm just a thorn in their side and this is a convenient way to get rid of me."

"Well," Spike interjected. "Sorry, pet, but I might have some insight as to why they're after you."

"She's died twice and she's loved two vampires, I'd say that's reason enough for them to want to get rid of her," Angel offered.

"That about sums it up, mate," Spike agreed. "They don't want any future Slayers to come to Sunnydale in search of the infamous Buffy and come to learn that maybe the tried and true rules the Council has implemented aren't always right."


"And I guess with Faith dead they want total control over the Slayer."

"Faith's dead," Buffy said. "You didn't tell me that part."

"I just assumed you knew, luv, honestly. Gone for four months, I figured it was old news."

"Did you know Faith was dead," Buffy turned on Angel.

"Yeah," he said somberly.

"Why the hell was I kept in the dark?"

"Buffy," Angel said.

"No, don't Buffy me and hear me out. I've been sitting here for months worrying that you were staked or something and no one bothers to call me to tell me you are even back. I had to learn it from Spike after he called you. And now Faith is dead and you don't bother to pick up the telephone and let me know that? What the hell is wrong with you? I mean it's not bad enough that I had you and Spike to worry about? What? Are your friends here all part of a let's keep Buffy in the dark group?"

Fred was staring at her feet while Gunn was looking away from Buffy and Angel. Smart move, both of them. Spike wished he could get away from the line of fire, too, but it would be too obvious if he tried to slink away. This little spat had nothing to do with Spike or the Watcher's Council coming to town and while it drove Spike insane to hear her get so emotional about Angel he had to let them argue it out.

"No, Buffy, that wasn't it at all. I got back and things have been hectic with Connor. Cordelia was missing," he shrugged. "I didn't even know you knew I was gone. Who told you?" Fred and Gunn both shook their heads.

"Wesley. Wesley called me, wanting me to know. He wanted me to know that he would never give up looking for you. But God, when days turned into weeks turned into months I thought you were gone."

"I thought I was, too," Angel admitted. He stepped toward her and Spike's demon broke free, a low, threatening growl rumbled in his chest as his game face dropped into place.

"Back off, Angelus," he hissed. Angel looked as though he was going to push it but stopped, his own game face making an appearance.

"Who's going to stop me, William? You?"

Buffy stepped between them, a hand at either chest. "Stop it, both of you. Spike," she said evenly. "Would you rather I talk to him in private," she asked Spike

"No," he demanded.

"Then back off. I'm not going to do anything with him." Angel backed off first, human face coming back followed by Spike. Both looked like they were about ready to pounce, the only thing stopping them was the fact they knew Buffy would not let them. "So your employees didn't think I deserved to know you were back?"

"Buffy, you're not my girlfriend anymore."

"I thought I was your friend."

"You are."

"Then I deserve to know, Angel. I don't expect to know about every day events, but I certainly deserve to know when you go missing and months later show up again. Did my friends come tell you when I died?"

"Yes," he said softly and Spike knew exactly what Angel felt. No, he did not because Angel had not been there, had not seen Buffy dive off that tower, had not been the one in charge of stopping Doc and failed. Angel had not been the one unable to save Buffy, Spike had. Spike had to sit there for those one hundred forty-seven days, looking after Dawn and pretending as if his very reason for living had not jumped off that tower to save the world.

"Listen, I'm sorry, all right. I honestly thought you heard about Faith. It happened back in August so like Spike here I assumed you knew. Maybe Giles just didn't tell you not wanting to add on to your load with Spike and me gone. But no offense," he said stepping closer to her. He glanced at Spike whether he heard the low growl or not Spike would never know. He seemed to be asking permission before he reached to touch her neck. "I don't know where you get off coming here marked by another, reeking of another and getting all pissed off that I don't include you in everything. I'm always here for you, you know that, but don't go all high and mighty on the people who work for me who don't even know you for not calling you to tell you they found me. I can't make excuses for Wesley other than to tell you he's in a different place now than he was this past spring."

Buffy pushed his hand away from her neck. "I called and Dawn emailed, they knew we wanted to know about you."

"Is this true," Angel turned to ask Fred and Gunn who both merely nodded.

"I'll have a word with them later on that. They have been instructed to tell you should anything happen to me. I even instructed them to call you should I lose my soul again."


"Because I know you'll stake me or die trying. And no one but you knows me well enough to do it."

"Oh," she said somberly.

"I'll help," Spike could not help but volunteer.

Angel just shook his head. "Thanks, my boy," Angel said using the dig he loved to use to piss Spike off.

"Do you think we can get back to the matter at hand now," Spike said and Fred and Gunn both seemed to readily agree with his change in subject. "I personally would like to get back to Sunnydale as quick as possible. And, pet, you have Dawn to think about. And your job."

"I know," Buffy said softly and took a seat on a love seat.

"Oh yeah, you have to tell me about your job," Angel said and Spike glared at him. "Not now," Angel said with a grimace. "But I'd like to hear about it. It sounds like a good move for you, Buffy."

"Thanks. My dad gave me some money today, too, so I think Dawn and I will be all right."

"Good," Angel said simply. Spike took a seat next to Buffy. Gunn and Fred did not seem as uncomfortable about being there as they had a moment ago. He knew Buffy was tired and wished he could take her upstairs and put her to bed. She had been up since half past five that morning. She had come into the bedroom with him at some point in the afternoon, but she had not slept. The shower they took probably exhausted her further.

He was startled when she placed her hand in his, lacing her fingers through his. "We were told to leave. I don't know what they want, how many there will be. The three that came for Faith last year," she said with a shudder.

"What," Angel pressed.

"Did Faith tell you what she did?"

"What do you mean what she did? She's done a lot of things, Buffy, you'll have to be more specific."

"She had this thing, some magic brass knuckles, we switched bodies."

"What?" Spike and Angel said at the same time.

"Yeah," Buffy said and relayed the tale to them of the brief stint Buffy had at being Faith and Faith had at being Buffy. "In the end, she did the right thing, she was getting set to leave Sunnydale and didn't to save those people at the church. But the three men the Council sent to capture her." She shuddered as she recalled that night being chained up in the armored car. "They settle their affairs before going out on a mission, they don't expect to go back home."

"Mercenaries," Angel said.

"Yeah," Buffy said somberly. Spike placed an arm around her, offering her his other hand if she still wanted it to hold onto and drew her close.

"I'm sorry, pet," he said softly. "I didn't know."

"It's not your fault."

"Well, Giles made it sound like the man in charge was coming."

"Oh, I'm sure Quentin is coming himself but he won't be coming alone."

"I can come to Sunnydale with you. Between Spike and I we can keep things in order while you're sleeping and while you're at work. Take shifts."

"I can't ask you to do that, Angel. Connor."

"Connor and I are not exactly on speaking terms right now, Buffy. He's not even living here. He was just here tonight to get Cordelia. He," Angel sighed.


"He's the one who put me in the ocean."

"He what?"

"He locked me in a cage and dropped me in the ocean."

"No way," Buffy said and Spike could feel her anger rise. It was amazing how he could sense her emotions by her bodily reactions.

"Yes way," Fred said. It was the first time the girl had said anything. "He acted all summer like he was all concerned, all wanting to help us look for Angel and all along he knew."

"I don't see how going to Sunnydale is going to help things, though," Buffy said regarding Angel.

"Well, it probably won't, but you need my help. I mean, that's why you came here, right?"

"I guess. Giles told us to hide, I thought of my dad but I really don't want to stay with him and his girlfriend if I don't have to."

"Does Giles know you're here?"

"No, we didn't tell him where we were going. He assured me he has not referenced you since you left Sunnydale in his journals," Spike said.

"Well, then you are safe here but Dawn is up there still. And obviously you're needed there, Buffy."

"Well, yeah."

"Where is Dawn?"

"With a friend away for the weekend. No school on Monday."

"So you can stay the night and head back to Sunnydale tomorrow, with or without me."

"Yeah," Buffy agreed.

"Okay. Give me tonight to think on it. They're human," Angel said and met Spike's eyes. Spike nodded.

"I already asked her if it's us or them, she said us."

"Are you up for this, Spike?"

"As up as I'm going to be, Peaches."

"I'm serious, Spike. It took me years, lots of them, to function on a daily basis let alone go up against a human being."

"I'm doing it for Buffy."

"Fair enough."

"You got your soul for Buffy," Gunn said.

"Yeah," Spike said simply.

Gunn glanced from Spike to Angel; Fred seemed to follow his gaze.

"What?" Angel asked.

"Nothing," Gunn said.

"Just say it."

"It's just sort of funny is all. I've never a met a vampire who would do such a thing. Didn't think it was possible." He seemed to be speaking carefully and Spike suspected what he was driving at. Angel did, too, more than likely. Angel had been fine, but as Angelus he had killed someone who had found a way to restore his soul to avoid getting it restored a second time. Angel loved Buffy; Angelus more than likely loved Buffy too, but not enough to get his soul for her.

"Any patrolling to do," Buffy asked apparently sensing this was a subject best not dwelled on.

"What," Angel asked incredulously.

"You heard me. I'm in the mood to patrol. You know fight evil, kill demons, stake vampires. The bad, soulless ones," she added pouting when all eyes fell on her at the stake vampires part.

"Well, this isn't exactly like Sunnydale, Buffy."

"Angel, I lived in LA until I was sixteen, I got called here. There are cemeteries here, there are vampires here, and there are demons here."

"Sure why not," Angel said. "Fred, Gunn, you in?"

"Sure, then I get to say I hung with the Slayer," Gunn said. Fred did not look too pleased about that comment, but Gunn apparently missed it.

"It's not that big of a deal," Buffy said apparently having picked up on Fred's look.

"Oh, right, it's nice to know you're at least a little humble," Gunn said. "But I've seen Angel in action and if he thinks you can beat him, I want to see you in action. I was beginning to think you didn't really exist."

"Who me or the Slayer?"

"Both," he said simply.

"Well, let's go then." Buffy stood from the love seat, her hand still holding Spike's. He did not like this. The last thing he wanted was for her to get hurt, she was tired and had too much on her mind.

He used their joined hands to draw her to him, his eyes meeting hers evenly. "Are you sure about this, Slayer?"

"Yeah, more than sure. Let's go," she said simply. "You've got weapons I assume."

"Yeah," Angel said. "Fred, you coming?"

"No, I'll just stay here. It's late and after those cockroaches," she shivered. "I need a bath."

"Okay then," Buffy said. "Let's go."

"Isn't she going to change," Gunn asked.

"Change into what," Buffy asked.

"She patrols in street clothes, Gunn," Angel said.

"Oh," Gunn said as Buffy glanced at her outfit. Spike thought it was rather conservative for Buffy. She wore a pair of jeans and a black tank top with the wider type sleeves. It was made of that ribbed cotton material though and it clung to her every curve.

"Let's weapon up then," Angel said. "Spike, what's your poison?"

Spike walked to the weapons. "Are we hunting for anything in particular?"

"Ask your girlfriend."

"Well, you know what's in these parts, she doesn't."

"No, I haven't any knowledge of anything special."

"Well then," Spike said pocketing a couple of stakes and taking out a crossbow. "This will do."

"That's my boy," Angel said and Spike could swear that time the words were not said with sarcasm.

"I appreciate you offering to come back."

"I'm doing it for her, Spike, and Dawn. Not for you."

"I know, but I can still thank you for it. I don't think she should go out tonight."

"Me neither, but which of us is going to get her pissed at him?"

"You could do it," Spike said.

"Right, I don't feel like getting my ass kicked for suggesting she might not be of the mind to patrol."

"Me neither," Spike agreed.

"Do you need some blood before we go?"

"No, I'm fine," Spike said and found himself with his back against the wall and Angel vamped out with his hand at Spike's throat. "What the bloody hell, Peaches?"

"You're feeding off her."

"I am bloody well not feeding off her."

"I saw her neck."

"Yeah, what of it? She's a big girl. You don't think she'd kick my ass if I did something she didn't want me to do?"

"In three years I never fed off her."

"Yeah, you did once and apparently it gave her a taste because she likes it."

"She's not a food source, Spike."

"Bugger off, Angel. She's not yours anymore. You left her, remember, after you just about bled her dry from what I've heard. Not from her mind you, she'd never say a bloody bad word about you." Spike shoved Angel off of him. "You have a problem with it, talk to her, tell her not to ask me to do it anymore."

"If I find out you're hurting her."

"Do you think she'd have worn her hair that way if she didn't want you to see it? I did not feed off of her. Ask her. Go ask her, Angel."

"Ask me what? Can I not leave you two alone without getting in each other's faces? Can you two call a truce for my sake if for no other reason? You're the only two souled vampires in existence, I love you both, and I'm never going to cut either of you out of my life."

"He says you let him do that to you."

"I did," she said with a shrug.

"How long have you been doing that? Isn't that exactly what Riley was doing that got you all pissed off at him?"

"No, it's not like what Riley was doing. I am not paying Spike to feed off me. And it's none of your business how long I've been doing anything with Spike." She grabbed a crossbow and some stakes from the cabinet. "Now can we get off this and go patrolling before I kick both your asses instead of the bad guys asses? I'm ready. You guys coming," she said walking back toward Gunn. Spike and Angel both just stood there and watched her walk.

"She's stronger, you know," Spike said his eyes still on her retreating body.


"Yeah. She's getting more and more amazing every day. I watched her for a few weeks before that coma thing I told you about and she's bloody amazing. Strong, fast, one would think," Spike glanced at Angel. "She was one of us with her speed and agility."

"Well, let's go so the show gets started then, don't want to disappoint Gunn and have him think we cheated him out of seeing the Slayer in action."

"Right," Spike said and strode into the main room. "Let's go, pet."

"You have a spot picked out," she looked to Angel.

Angel and Gunn's eyes met. "Yeah, there's a spot that with four of us, two being vampires and one the Slayer we can do some heavy damage at."

"Let's go," Buffy said simply letting Angel and Gunn lead the way.

Return to Top

***Part 23***

Gunn was exhausted to the point Angel thought he might have to carry him. Angel had been ready to call it a night after their first stop. Spike had kept quiet about his preference in the matter, whether he wanted to continue on Angel was not sure though Spike did seem to enjoy it as much as Buffy did. And the Slayer, and she was the Slayer tonight not Buffy, had only agreed to stop when Angel pointed out that Gunn's exhaustion on top of his wounds was going to get him killed.

Angel had never seen Buffy like this, had not taken Spike's earlier words of her increased strength and speed to heart. It had been over three years since he had seen her fight and she was perfect. She made slaying look like an art with death and destruction her canvas, a crossbow and stakes her paintbrush. Spike had equated her abilities to being one of them, vampire. Angel on the other hand likened her to a goddess, unstoppable, glorious, and beautiful in a demon ass kicking way. He was unfortunately aware of how mortal she was.

Angel was beat up, Spike was too. Buffy had been on the receiving end of a few good licks, too, but nothing seemed to slow her down and she got out of the Jeep as if she had not just spent the last four hours fighting. Gunn refused Angel's offer of a helpful arm out of the Jeep and Angel realized that Buffy had ensnared another into the Slayer web. Men hated appearing weak around her, particularly after the display she had put on tonight. She had been in a zone, absolutely primal as if someone else controlled her body while she fought. She had told him about her experiences with the first Slayer and Angel could picture that Neanderthal-like woman Buffy described clearly now after having seen her tonight.

Their first stop had been a nest in the sewers on the west end of town. Angel had known about it for months, but they just were not strong enough to take them on. He had tried going there on his own to winnow out the gang as best as he could, but he never made a difference. He figured the four of them would put a dent in the nest, but they had done more than that. Buffy had been a non-stop killing machine and while the three men helped the nest now being empty was to her credit.

He remembered now the night Angelus met this Buffy over a century ago. The night William was turned. She had been virtually flawless that night. The largest reason he had not associated the girl from that night with Buffy was that Angel had never seen this Buffy in action. Gone was the uncertain Slayer, the Slayer who needed Angel to teach her anything. No wonder Giles did not believe he made a mistake by leaving Sunnydale, she no longer needed him. Just as she no longer needed Angel. She would always need both men but not for the same reasons.

"That is so gross," Angel heard Buffy say and turned to look. He saw Spike licking his fingers clean of some blood.

"Pet, I don't know how many times I have to explain this to you, I'm a vampire. I eat blood, it does not matter whose or whether it comes from a freshly pierced vein or a fresh cut."

"It's still gross," she said but she laughed. She was obviously not too grossed out about it because her hands searched for anywhere he might be hurt. There was a time it would have been him she was fawning over and Angel had to suppress the feeling of loss that rolled through him at the touching site between the two lovers.

"You know, you two sound like you went for a stroll in the park rather than having spent the last four hours fighting."

Buffy merely shrugged. "Hey, I didn't want to stop, but you insisted. I'm the Energizer Slayer, what can I say?"

God, he was tempted to leave Gunn at the Hyperion and take Buffy and Spike back out on more sweeps. She still had energy to burn and Angel would rather she exhaust it as the Slayer then in bed with Spike. Things had been bad picturing her with her military boyfriend, but picturing her with Spike was worse.

He had heard them earlier when he stopped by their room to let them know he had come back. He had knocked honestly hoping that Spike would hear it and end their coupling to answer the door. It had not happened and Angel believed Spike had heard his knock. Seeing the fresh bite marks on her neck had made him want to dust Spike right there and then. But then he blamed himself. Had his knocking on the door inspired Spike to do it? He found it difficult to believe Buffy would have asked him to do it. He refused to believe it, it went against everything Buffy was. The Slayer letting a vampire feed off of her. She had made Angel in order to save his life, there had been no claiming involved.

It was times like that that Angel conveniently forgot he had left Buffy not the other way around. He had no right to get jealous or make threats, but it was difficult to control himself where Buffy was concerned. The blonde vampire had gone and got his soul for the woman that was the only thing that stopped Angel from dusting him while he slept. Dawn had told Angel what Spike had done to Buffy only days before Connor had tossed him to his watery ungrave. So Angel had had months to dwell on whether Spike was going to come back and finish the job. It was one of the reasons he had a difficult time grasping Spike with a soul, but if anyone could drive a vampire to do the unthinkable it was Buffy.

"I think we've done enough damage for the night, Buffy. That nest should have been enough."

"I suppose," she said with a shrug. "Is Gunn going to be all right?"

"Yeah, we should all probably take a first aid kit stop."

"I'll be fine," Buffy maintained. "Really."

"Ease my mind then, Buffy. You fought more than the three of us did."

"You guys were just dispensing with the death too slow. That's all."

"You're amazing. Spike tried to tell me earlier what you've become but I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes."

"Thanks," she said simply her eyes wide watching him, the sincerity of her appreciation not lost on Angel. She was looking for his praise?

"You're welcome."

"And then she did this thing where she flipped through the air, staking one vamp as she passed over him, landed, did a roll, jumped to her feet and pow, stake through the chest of the second vamp," Gunn was recounting some of the night's events to Fred who had brought out the first aid kit.

"It was nothing," Buffy maintained.

"Nothing my ass," Gunn said. "I've never seen anything like it. I mean, I always thought Angel was untouchable, but and no offense, boss, you've got nothing on her."

Angel chuckled and Spike hung back from the small group not looking pleased at yet another man laying praise on his woman. "That would be why she's the Slayer, Gunn, and I'm not," Angel said simply.

"Angel is a finessey type," Buffy agreed.

"It's too bad you can't talk her into moving up here."

"I couldn't afford her," Angel said with a low laugh.

Buffy grimaced at that comment. "Well, I'd love to stay and chat, but well, I really don't want to tonight. I'm off to bed. Spike, you coming?"


"I'm going up, are you coming with me or are you going to stay down here?"

"I'll stay until they're done with the first aid kit then bring it up for you."

"Sounds good," she said walking up to him. Angel tried not to watch or eavesdrop, but it was just far too tempting and he gave in. "That will give me a chance to shower, get all the vamp dust and demon blood and nasties off me so you can see the damage. Maybe kiss any that need to feel better." The last was said softly, clearly intended only for Spike's ears.

"Sure pet, I'll kiss anything you want me to, whether it needs to feel better or not."

Angel turned away then and went to sit near Gunn. "You going to be all right?"

"He's got a bruised rib or two," Fred answered indicating the bruising to Angel on Gunn's body.

"I'll be fine; nothing a couple of days of paperwork won't cure."

"You realize if I go down to Sunnydale you'll be in charge."

"Sure I do, but I'm not going to go out in search of things to kill like you and your ex-honey did tonight."

"Well, you wanted to see her in action."

"Shit yeah, I just didn't realize she came with rechargeable batteries."

Angel glanced at Buffy as she headed up the stairs. "That's Buffy," he said simply.

"Yeah, we all know she's Buffy," Fred said causing all three men to look at her. "What? You're acting like she's the second coming or something."

Angel sensed this was a discussion meant for the couple to have and he would just be in the way so he took the first aid kit and walked toward Spike. "I've got supplies in my room, so I'll doctor myself up there."

"Good, mate, and thanks." Spike regarded his bloodied and dirtied hands as he took the first aid kit from Angel. Angel's hands were not in any better shape. "I might come down in a bit for some blood."

"Right," Angel said with a nod. "You know where it is?"

"Well, I was told in the kitchen, but not shown where."

Angel inclined his head and started walking, Spike followed. "I'll take a couple of packets out to thaw, so we'll both have plenty. Does Buffy still have the freezer in the basement stocked with it?"


"Good, I hated having to go to Willy's."

"That swill he gets away with serving should be outlawed. Pig's blood my ass."

"No kidding, but most probably don't know the difference, Spike. You and I are about the only two who would notice the difference aside from just knowing it was not human."

"I suppose so. I never had much reason to drink blood out of a bag until the government put that chip in my head."

"Is she always like this?"



"Ever since that connection to the first Slayer bit they did. It's gradually increased, but I swear the difference since I left is phenomenal, astounding. I mean I was only gone for a couple of months."

"She's going to get herself killed if she keeps going off half-cocked with no game plan."

"You don't think I know that? You don't think every evening she goes out patrolling alone I don't think it might very well be the last time I see her alive. Again. I've been through it once already, but who am I to try to stop her? I can't stop her from doing her job."

"No, you're right you can't," Angel said taking out some blood packets from a freezer then some from the refrigerator and then moving to heat those up for both of them. "It's just, there's nothing left of the Buffy that I first saw. She's gone. She's," Angel paused searching for the right word.

"Grown up," Spike offered appropriately.


"Well, she's not sixteen anymore, Peaches. She is grown up, a woman, and I imagine that might be another reason the Council wants her gone. I'd wager those eighteenth birthday tests are designed to kill the Slayer at eighteen. I'd love to ask her Watcher just how many have actually survived it. I know the two I fought weren't eighteen. Keep them young, uncertain, weak, separated from society and kill them before they have a chance to understand any of it."

"They were never able to break her, separate her."

"No, they weren't, and it's what keeps her going. Hell, even her witch friends couldn't let her go, had to bring her back. I think she's stronger, better and knows it. I thought for a while she had a death wish, but I think it just took her a while to get used to being back."

"Yeah, digging your way out of a coffin and layers of dirt, bugs and weeds will alter your perspective on things."

"I wish I could have saved her from it. They never told me they were doing it, what they were trying. I swear I would have sat until the sun came up the next morning to see if their spell worked."

"I'd love to say something scathingly insulting about now, but I'll refrain."

"Something about me being as big a poofter as you?"

"It crossed my mind."

"Yeah, well, I think I might be a bigger one, getting the soddin' soul for her."

"How's it going?"

Spike shrugged as Angel handed him a cup of blood. "Good days and bad, good minutes and bad. Buffy helps. I guess having this little adventure helps. Meeting her old man didn't help."

Angel grimaced. "I've staked out his house a few times; just curious to know who the bastard is who has left Buffy high and dry for the past seven years. He would stand her up for her birthday and everything."

"He wasn't so bad, gave Buffy a check to pay off the mortgage. I sort of mentioned it to him, that he should be helping more. I was expecting to get thrown out on my ear, but he was surprisingly calm. And he apparently listened. So the house his hers, that should help."


"Is that all then, Peaches? Am I free to go up? I know she's more hurt than she let on."

"Yeah, I smelled blood but she was too busy putting up a front for Gunn to admit she was hurting."

"I think she was just too hyped up to realize it." Spike drained the rest of the blood from the cup and rinsed it out before setting it on the counter. He turned to regard Angel. "Are we all done with the former and current chat?"

"If you are. You've got to learn to keep your demon in check, Spike."

"It's not so easy with the soul."

"Of course not, it's fighting for dominance. You have to dominate it. We could kill, both of us, could go on living just as every other vampire, the soul doesn't stop us from doing that. We stop ourselves, Spike."

"I'm aware of that. The chip doesn't work anymore either, so it's all me making the decisions. And it's just with her I have the control problem. For four months I was fine, unless I saw some man putting the moves on her."

"I thought she was done playing those games."

"No games, she never took them up on it, didn't stop them from asking though."

"And they always will, Spike. Christ, I hated that. One would realize they couldn't make time with her and there would be another right in his wake trying again."

"Nothing I can do about it," Spike said solemnly.

"Just work on keeping the demon in check. Whether she let you bite her or not, Spike, if you get into the habit of doing it and don't curb the demon, you'll kill her." Spike nodded, Angel hoped he understood it was just a warning. If Spike killed her Angel would go after Spike no questions asked, no room for discussion. He saw a look of anger flash through Spike's eyes and decided it was probably time to back off. "Don't forget the first aid kit."

"Right. Night then. Thanks for the blood."

"Not a problem. Good work tonight. It's been a while since we fought together instead of against one another."

"It was nothing, just following the leader," he said and Angel knew he was talking about Buffy.

"You know, Spike."


"I'm not offering to help you because of Buffy. I want to help you because it's what I do. If you're looking for a job, a way to earn some money until you can figure out your own way to do it I wouldn't mind having you work for me once this mess with the Council is done."

"I don't want to live in LA, don't want to live away from Buffy and she won't move Dawn. But thanks for the offer."

"Well, there are always assignments I might need an extra hand with last minute, or something far enough south that it would be just as easy for you to get there as it would be one of us. Not to mention, I could always add Sunnydale to my area of coverage."

"Right, well, it's something to think about. I'm not sure I want your handouts right now. Good night, Peaches. Pleasant dreams."

"Right," Angel said bitterly and Angel thought he saw a smirk on Spike's end before he turned to leave the kitchen. Goading him. Nightmares were more what Angel would have knowing that they were upstairs together in bed or in the shower. He finished his own cup of blood and threw the cup against the wall, watching as it shattered, shards splattering on the floor, splatters of blood on the wall. "Maybe going to Sunnydale would not be a good idea," he said as he moved to clean up the mess.

"What's that," Fred asked apparently coming to investigate the reason behind the shattering sound.

"Nothing," Angel said wiping down the wall. The kitchen was still a hotel's institutional kitchen, so cleanup was always pretty easy. Not that he oftentimes had reason to clean blood splatters off the walls in this room. "Why don't you get Gunn to bed or into a bath with some of those Epsom salts you humans use?"

"We were on our way up, actually, when I heard," she said indicating to the pieces of the mug on the floor. "I saw Spike come out and I heard things breaking so I wanted to make sure you're all right."

"I'm fine, Fred. I dropped a mug, accidents do happen, even to vampires."

"Okay, if you're sure."

"I'm sure, Winifred. Thanks. Good night."

"Good night. And Angel?"

"Yeah, Fred."

"I'm sorry about not telling Buffy you were back. It was my fault. I knew she knew."

"It's not your fault, had I known Wesley had told her I had gone missing I would have called her myself. Dawn's emails," Angel asked her.

"I checked your email so I deleted them. Sorry," she said her gaze lowered.

"Without answering her?"

"I didn't know. You don't talk about Buffy much, nobody does, so I just sort of thought you wouldn't want me to bother. I mean the kid sister of your ex," she shrugged. "I was wrong."

"You were. There are things about Dawn you don't understand. Don't ever do that again, Fred. Good night."

"Again I'm sorry. Night," she said and left the room as Angel swept the pieces of the mug into a dustpan dumping it into the garbage can.

Return to Top

***Part 24***

Buffy stepped out of the shower not sure she was ready to return to Sunnydale yet. But as Spike and Angel had pointed out she had no choice unless she and Dawn wanted to hide for the rest of their lives. That was not an option for Buffy so returning was the plan. They would be back in Sunnydale early Monday morning and hopefully would have this problem solved before Dawn got back.

Buffy, Spike and Angel had spent over two hours that afternoon sparring after she had a late breakfast with her dad. It had been strange sparring with both of them. Angel was finesse and grace where Spike was more of a street brawler. It was good for her to take on two opponents at one time and it was something she rarely got to do. Fred and Gunn had wandered in every once in a while to watch, but otherwise stayed out of the trio's way. It was probably strange to the couple, because none of them held anything back. True, it was sparring, but none of them believed in going easy on one another. Buffy would never have gotten better any other way.

Buffy did not think Fred liked her, which was okay because it was not Buffy's job to be friendly with Angel's employees. Gunn on the other hand wanted Buffy to come back to spar with him when his ribs weren't bruised. Angel maintained he was strong and capable and Buffy had seen enough last night to believe it.

Spike had taken their bags down to the Jeep and was now lying on the bed with his hands behind his head which was propped up on a pillow. His deep blue eyes were watching her every move as she examined the clothes he had left out for her to wear. "What," she finally asked wondering if he was angry about something. She had been careful not to make it seem she preferred sparring with Angel. She did prefer it, but only because she was used to Angel even with their three year hiatus from sparring together. She and Spike only had a few days of sparring together, so it was only natural for her to be more familiar with Angel. She just hoped he saw it that way.

"Nothing can't a man watch his woman get dressed?"

"Well, I suppose since the man put it that way. Are you sure you're okay with Angel coming back with us?"

"I don't have much choice. He's right. I can't keep watch twenty-four hours a day. So, this way he and I can take shifts and we'll both be around to protect niblet. I don't suppose your boss would let one of us act as your shadow at work?"

"I don't think that would go over too well, no," she said buttoning her jeans.

"I just wonder if they'll strike when you're weakest, at work."


"A bunch of innocent people around that you would do your best to save and so forth."

"Oh right, hadn't thought of that. I," she shrugged. "I have to go to work. I can't blow this off, Spike." She slid her feet into her boots and laced them. It was kind of nice staying here in this big old hotel. A little majorly weird sleeping in the same room as Spike, having sex with Spike, while Angel was in the same building. She had tried to be affectionate with Spike without rubbing it in Angel's face. She hoped she succeeded in not alienating or pissing off either of them.

"I was just making the suggestion."

"I can call and ask him."

"You have his phone number?"

"Well, yeah, his cell phone number. He gave it to me in case of an emergency."

"Right, an emergency of the booty call type."

"Excuse me," she said.

"Nothing," Spike said with a scoff.

"Spike. We're not going to play this jealousy game over every man I encounter, are we? Because I'm telling you here and now it'll get old real quick." She stood from the chair and walked toward him. Kneeling on the bed she cupped his face in both hands and kissed him. "Besides, you'd smell them on me anyway. That vampire sense of smell and all."

"Right," Spike said and Buffy sensed he was actually agreeing with her and not just being an ass.

She kissed him again. "Let's go then, honey."

"Can't Angel take his own car?"

"Oh come on, it's only a couple of hours. At this time of night probably not even that. And you two were getting along today. When you both tone down that vampire possessive thing, you're likeable guys. You might even be able to get along, to god forbid after one hundred or so years be something like friends."

Spike ran his fingers along the puncture marks on her neck. They were pretty well gone by now, both times he had closed them. She imagined that was why the scars from Angel were so prevalent, he had not. She sometimes wondered if he had done it on purpose, so she would always have the scars. Did he know she would end up one day with another vampire? "He didn't like this."

"I bet he didn't."

"I don't like it either."

Buffy regarded him sharply, she had sort of drifted off as his finger grazed the side of her neck. "What?"

"I shouldn't do it anymore, not until I've learned to control the demon better. Your blood is different than a regular human's, Buffy. It's intoxicating, addicting, and I wouldn't want to hurt you."

"Do you really think you could? I mean, it's not something I'd want you to do every day or anything."

"I know, pet. And I don't think I'd hurt you, but sometime I may not be in charge." He drew her toward him and kissed the spot on her neck. "Let's go before I decide to keep you here for another night."

"Is it going to be weird for you?"

"What? Sleeping with you with Angel in the next room? So long as you don't take to sleeping in flannel jammies or invite him to join us it won't bother me none. I figure I owe him some payback for Dru. At least you and him are three years past with the ending bit."

"But you said it wasn't entirely Angel's fault with Dru."

"Well, no, she claimed that she did it because she kept seeing you in my head, but still I never shagged you when I was with her. I never even thought about it."

She pouted slightly. "Never?"

"Well, no, maybe after Red's little spell, but not before then. Dru saw things I sure as hell never thought about. But she's like that with her visions. And listen to you. Are you telling me you had naughty thoughts about me, Slayer?"

"Well, you were pretty hot for someone who wanted to kill me even before they laid eyes on me."

"Hot was I?"

"Well, yeah. It's the hair, you know," she said running her fingers through his bleached curls. "And the accent," she said kissing his lips. "The eyes," she said kissing each eyelid. "And this scar here," she said darting her tongue along the scar.

"Anything else you find hot on me, Slayer?"

"Something not on your face you mean?"

"Well, yeah."

"Something," she said working his belt and the fly of his jeans. "A little further south you mean?"

"Yeah," he moaned as her hand searched for and found what it was looking for.

"Might ruin my lipstick."

"I'll buy you a whole bleedin' tube," he ground out.

She slid his jeans down a bit to give her easier access. She loved the look in his eyes, pure desire. For her. It was empowering that she could cause him to look like that. There was no time for all out sex, but he would undoubtedly make it up to her later. And that was something she could and would look forward to.


A little later than originally planned the three were on their way to Sunnydale. Angel was driving and Spike sat next to a sleeping Buffy in the backseat. Her head was resting against Spike's thigh with a blanket covering her. He pulled Buffy's cell phone out of her bag and dialed the number her Watcher had given him. It was midnight California time, making it eight London time. Rupert was not always an early riser, but Spike wagered the Watcher would make an exception this once. Spike stroked Buffy's hair with his free hand while he waited for an answer on the other end of the phone.

"Hello," a woman answered.

"Rupert please."


"Yes, ma'am," he said trying to be polite bearing in mind this woman was giving them a somewhat secure line.

"He's on his way there. He should be there tonight."

"Tonight," Spike said glancing at his watch. If he was getting in tonight there was no sense in them driving all the way to Sunnydale, they could just stay and pick him up at the airport.

"Sorry, tonight my time, tomorrow morning your time I wasn't thinking of the time difference."

"Well, we're on our way back to the house."

"He plans on renting a car and he's not alone."

Spike frowned. "No?"

"No, he's bringing your friend back with him."

My friend? Spike was puzzled and then realized that Rupert had brought Willow to England with him to help her with her magic. "Right, of course. Good to know," Spike said and it was indeed good to know. Perhaps Willow could be of some use to them. "Anything else then?"

"No, I don't think so. I'll let him know you called if he calls."

"Thanks then. Night."

"Bye," she said and disconnected the call.

"The Watcher's on his way to town with Red in toe."


"Oh sorry, the witch, Willow."

"Oh right, forgot she was in London. Magic detox or something, right?"

"Yeah, I guess, I wasn't around for it any more than you were. A witch might be good to have around, though," Spike said as he looked down at a sleeping Buffy.

Spike told Angel about his trip to Africa, paying attention to Buffy's breathing the entire time for any indication she woke up. Angel told Spike about his extended ocean view vacation and again Spike made sure Buffy did not wake up. She did not need to hear the two of them talking about such tribulations.

"So he offered you his arm then?"

"He did," Angel said simply with regard to Wesley offering Angel his blood after pulling him out of the ocean.

"Well, we sure had our share of interesting years last year in our little blood line, wonder what Dru's up to."

"I don't know," Angel said somberly. "I haven't heard from her in a while."

"Me neither," Spike said and that was the end of the conversation en route to Sunnydale.

Spike woke Buffy once they were almost to the city limits. "Wake up, Slayer. It's time to be on guard."

"Don't wanna," she protested.

"Yeah, I know you don't, but you've got to. Don't want to have to be waking you up in your driveway staring down the barrels of some guns."

"So, what's the plan," she said obviously awake but she had not moved yet. Not that Spike minded she could keep her head on his leg for as long as she wanted to.

"We'll park the Jeep the block behind your house and cut through a back yard."

"Let's just hope they don't have the back door staked out."

"It's two in the morning, Slayer. Angel and I will put our game faces on so we'll have the night vision going for us. And if we can't see them, we'll smell them if anyone's nearby."

"Okay," she said though she did not sound overly convinced. Not that Spike blamed her. This was a different ballgame, these were humans after her. She was not supposed to hurt humans, but self-defense was self-defense. As far as Spike knew Buffy had never officially returned to the Watcher's Council, which meant to Spike they had no right to try and intervene in her life. Spike's life he could understand and suspected they wanted to kill Buffy and take Spike with them. If Buffy was dead and Giles led to believe Spike was killed with her they would have a vampire to prod and probe all they wanted.

Game face in place, Spike regarded Angel in the dark. He had to admire his grandsire in a way. He had left Buffy knowing she did not want him to and yet knowing what he was giving up he had continued to press on and do what was right. He was helping people. Some people Spike reckoned were not aware of Angel's assistance, and Angel preferred it that way. Others, though, probably were more than aware of what Angel had done for them. He helped give Spike hope. If Angel could get through the soul restoration thing twice, neither time wanting the blessed thing, certainly Spike could do it when it was what he wanted.

Angel shut off the Jeep's lights as he pulled into Buffy's neighborhood. "You know," Angel suggested pulling the Jeep to the side of the road. "There's always the mansion."

"No, Angel," Buffy said quietly. "I'm not going to let them keep me out of my house."

"It was just a thought. If Giles and Willow are coming back and Spike and I are here, too. Where in the hell is everyone going to stay?"

"Willow wouldn't mind sharing with Dawn and you and Giles will just have to take turns in my bed."


"My old bed. You'll just have to sleep when Giles isn't. So I guess that means you'll be sleeping day shift. Or you two can flip for it and see who gets the bed and who gets the couch."

"I guess that will work."

He drove a little further and turned onto the street that ran parallel behind Buffy's street and cut the engine. "I'll get the bags," Spike said and opened the door once all three of them were ready to get out. He would have preferred being the one to cover Buffy's back, but when it came down to it Spike did not know if he could strike a human first. If Buffy and Angel got into it with the Council's goons Spike was sure he could join the fray. One moment of hesitation on his part and he could lose her again.

"They've been here," Angel said indicating a slip of paper in the doorjamb.

"Great," Buffy said. "We can go in through the window upstairs."

"I thought you came back here to avoid hiding, Buffy."

"Well, yeah, but do we want them to know that we're back at two in the morning?"

"They've probably got less obvious things than this at other entrances and exits, Buffy. They're not stupid."

"Too bad," she said wryly. "Okay, let's go. We can camp out in the living room until morning when Giles gets here."

"Well, kiddies," Spike said. "Let's get on with it then. No need standing on the back porch making obvious targets of ourselves."

"Last chance to bunk out at the mansion."

"No. Let's do it. I mean, even if they're waiting inside for us, they're only human."

Angel unlocked the door since he had Buffy's keys. Buffy walked in first, Spike wagered Angel did not want her to go in first any more than Spike did but Buffy was Buffy so neither offered up a protest.

"Leave the lights off," Angel said as he stepped over the threshold after her followed by Spike.

"Wasn't planning on turning them on. You boys have your enhanced vision and I know the house by heart."

"I'll check the basement," Angel volunteered.

"I'll drop the bags off upstairs and do a walk through while I'm at it," Spike offered.

"I guess that leaves me with here."

"No," both vampires said.

"Just stay here. Spike and I will check out the first floor when we're done with the basement and upstairs."

Buffy was standing in the kitchen, her back against the refrigerator when Spike returned from upstairs. "All clear up there. If they've been inside they were neat about it. No searching through your things or anything."

"Good," she said relieved. She stepped into his arms when he walked toward her. "I hate this. Why won't they just leave me alone? What you did was an amazing thing, I don't know why they just can't leave it be."

"I don't know, sweet." He smoothed down her hair and kissed the top of her head. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm just glad Dawn won't be home until late tomorrow."

"And if they haven't shown themselves by then her friend's folks will keep her, pet. You know they will."

"I know. I just hate imposing and it's not like I can tell them why exactly."

Spike chuckled lightly. "I know, pet. niblet knows you're not just pawning her off."

Spike heard Angel approach the kitchen from the dining room and stepped away from Buffy. She grabbed his hand and squeezed with Slayer strength. "Easy there, Slayer," he said softly. "I'm not going anywhere, Peaches is here is all."


"All clear downstairs and up here. One of the basement windows has a crack in it, but it wasn't broken. A bird might have flown into it or something."

"Good, thanks," Buffy said and Spike felt some of the tension ease from her body.

"Well then," Spike said. "Shall we gather ‘round the tele or something? I reckon none of us is going to sleep tonight."


"I'm going to get a Coke. Do you want something?" Spike had drifted off to sleep while Buffy and Angel were both still wide awake. There was nothing on TV, but thanks to Spike they had HBO in the house. Bad movies were better than the late night crap the networks played. Buffy knew this first hand from months of sleeping on the couch to the TV.

"What," Angel asked. Buffy could tell he was not paying attention to the television, so he must have just been lost in thought somewhere.

"Do you want something to drink?"

"Uh sure, let me go with you."

"Angel, the kitchen is right there."

"Yeah, and there is a door and windows in that kitchen that is right there."

"All right," she said with a pout but could not argue with his logic. She hated that sometimes. She dislodged herself from Spike's arm draped around her waist and slid off the couch. "He hasn't slept since we left my dad's," she whispered as she followed Angel into the kitchen.

"We don't need sleep like humans do, Buffy, don't feel bad."

"I know, but I can't help but realize he's going through so much already. I shouldn't be piling my stuff on him, too."

"Buffy," Angel said getting her a Coke from the refrigerator. Buffy liked knowing he still knew his way around her kitchen. Not that her kitchen was that big, but still.

"Thanks," she said twisting off the cap.

"You know," Angel said leaning against the counter. "I think he wants your stuff."

"Is he," she paused and took a sip.

"Is he what?"

"Is he going to be okay?"

"I don't know," Angel said his gaze looking past her into the living room where Spike lay sleeping on the couch. "It's hard to say, our circumstances were different as you know. I think he's doing remarkably well considering."

"Am I helping or hurting?"

"I think, as much as it pains me to say it, you're helping. But if you don't plan on staying with him you need to tell him."

"What the hell does that mean?"

"It means he did this for you and I think you can help him, but if you're just staying with him out of guilt or something."

"No, I'm not."

"I can't tell you anything to assure you, Buffy, I wish I could. I was cursed, he sought it out. I didn't want it either time, despite you," he said softly, a hint of remorse in his voice. "Truthfully, I don't want to assure you."


"I leave you to give you a chance for a normal life and you end up with him?"

"Didn't plan it that way. I tried the normal route, it didn't work."

"I never liked Finn anyway."

"Yeah, you told me that once I think," she said offering him a wry smile. "So what do I do? I mean, do I give him space? Do I keep him busy? Do I do nothing? What?"

"Well," he said grazing a finger along the leg of his black jeans. "You'll probably have to do all of those things at different times, Buffy. Just be there for him, you'll have to gauge day to day, minute to minute even, what he needs. Just remember he's not that person anymore, don't sit in judgment on him."

"I wouldn't, I couldn't. Angel, how can you say that?"

"You asked the question, Buffy. If you didn't want to hear the answer you shouldn't have asked."

"No, I just meant how can you think I'd do that? I forgave you."

"That was different," he said avoiding meeting her eyes.

"No, it wasn't."

"Buffy, we fell in love before I lost my soul. You knew Angel before you knew Angelus. It's in your nature to forgive someone you love."

"You don't think I love him?"

"I wish I didn't," he said softly.

"Just tell me, is he going to be okay?"

"I think he stands a better chance with some support, so yeah. He's not living off rats and other unmentionables." He stepped toward her, his fingertips grazing the bite mark on her neck. "Just be careful, Buffy. Trusting him is one thing, the demon is another."

"I know," she said biting her lower lip. There was a time not too long ago that her stomach would have flipped and her knees would have threatened to give out at being on the receiving end of an Angel caress. Now, yeah it felt nice but it was no longer the same. Was having seen Angelus in action part of the reason? All she knew was whatever she had felt for him three years ago was different now. "I'll be careful," she whispered.

"That's all I wanted to hear."

"It's just," she looked down. "I'm scared. What if he went through all of this and decides I'm really not worth it?"

Angel scoffed, his hand sliding from her neck to her chin. He tilted her head back his brown eyes meeting hers with compassion and concern there. She saw love there, too, though she suspected he did not want her to see that. "Don't ever think that, Buffy. Maybe had my demon not been forced down for one hundred years I would have willingly been resouled I don't know. Do you think he would have come back here after everything he went through if he no longer thought you were worth it?"

"Well, no," she acquiesced after some thought. "Okay, and what if after he's had more time to think about the whole Buffy went back in time and could have stopped Drusilla thing he decides he hates me?"

Angel shook his head and dropped his hand. "I don't think it would happen, Buffy. You made your choice, just as I made mine and Spike made his and so on and so forth. You can't think for everyone and besides, how could he get upset when he would never have met you?"

"I don't know," she said confused. "It's just."

"Buffy, why didn't you kill me that night?"

"I couldn't. I told you that. Despite the things Angelus did. I needed you to be here for me when I first came to Sunnydale. I just couldn't do it. It was not a decision I made consciously, I just couldn't."

"And by not staking me you allowed Dru to turn William. So you made two decisions at once."

"I guess," she said with a slight shrug of her shoulders.

"We're both here for a reason, Buffy. I don't think it's a coincidence Spike ended up here. Hell Mouth aside there are plenty of places in the world after Prague he could have gone. Despite knowing what Drusilla said about the two of you he still came here a second time."

"So you think it was supposed to happen this way?"

"I can't argue with The Powers That Be, Buffy. A vampire seems to be what you need and it can't be me. William was a good man, certainly a better man than Liam was. I was thinking of getting Darla into my bed, William just wanted to escape. I imagine that might play a part in all of it, too."

"So, I just sit here and do nothing unless he asks or tells me to do something?"

"Pretty much, yeah. Don't treat him like he's going to break. Let him patrol with you; let him feel like he's contributing. I told him I'd be willing to extend the coverage of Angel Investigations down here if he wanted to earn some money. He has to do something, Buffy. If he's not kept busy he could go crazy."

"Like crazy crazy?"

"Buffy, you have no idea what it's like. Do you remember what you felt when Faith killed the mayor's assistant?"

"Repulsed and dirty."

"And you didn't even do it. Multiply that by images of over one hundred twenty years of victims, men and women, some of them children even."

"Right, I get it," she said her shoulders slumping slightly. "He went through this for me. I so don't deserve it."

"You can call me anytime if you need to. It's not easy seeing you with him. It hurts like hell I won't deny it, but all I've ever wanted is for you to be happy. That's why I left; I knew I couldn't give it to you. But I'm here for you anytime. I've told Spike the same thing."

"You've changed," she whispered.

"Yeah, well, getting tossed into the ocean in a cage tends to give you a bit of perspective on things. If I ever find Dru," he said and then stopped.


"I'm going to do what I should have done a long time ago, but with Spike with her," he shrugged and Buffy recognized the look of self-flagellation on his face.

"And he did, Angel," she said placing both hands around his forearms. "Spike took care of her. You know that."

"I know, but I should have done it even before we encountered William in London."

"As you said, Angel, The Powers That Be obviously had other plans."

"Yeah," he whispered.

"Is Connor going to be all right?"

"He'll figure out the truth for himself soon enough. I think having you and Spike around or at least in the picture will help."


"Well, Spike's one of mine, Dru made him but I taught him and I made her. So, knowing that Spike and I can at least get along and finally meeting you."


Angel scoffed. "Buffy, you're sort of a legend around the office. Everyone knows why I'm in LA and not here. I don't think Connor believed you really existed. And by not believing you existed I don't think he believed I was capable of love."

"Where have I heard that before," Buffy said softly. God, had she really believed that vampire meant inability to feel? "So you're not mad at me either? For, you know, not staking you back then?"

"No, I'm not mad. You did what you had to do. I didn't have much time to dwell on it though truth be told."

"Why not?"

"Dru really should not have been turning anyone. She was not strong enough to finish it. So I had to do most of the work. So my encounter with you was forgotten rather quickly. Sorry."

She smiled and kissed him on the cheek. "No reason to be sorry."

"Go to bed, Buffy," he said after a long moment of silence. Should she not have kissed him? "I'll keep watch."

"Thanks," she said putting the cap back on the plastic Coke bottle. "You know where everything is?"


"Okay. Make yourself at home."


She walked to the archway and then paused and turned around again. "Thanks, Angel. For coming, for taking us in, for everything. I know this can't be easy for you."

"Nothing where you're concerned is ever easy for me, Buffy, but I'm used to that by now. And you're welcome. Thanks for coming to me. It means a lot."

"I wish someone would have called me. Months in the ocean, you had to have been weak."

"I was in pretty bad shape, yeah."

"I would have done it again, you know? Given you my blood."

"I know. I don't think Wesley thought of that, and I wasn't in a state to right away."

"Well, hopefully there won't be a next time."

"Let's hope not," Angel said offering her a smile.

"Yeah, let's," she said with a slight nod of her head before turning around again and returning to the couch. She slid back on it in front of Spike. He had removed the back cushions so they both sort of fit on the couch. It was not real comfortable, but for tonight when they all needed to be in the same room together it would do.

"Did you have a nice talk, pet?"

"Yeah," she whispered as his hand went around her, drawing her to him.

"Good. Get some shut eye now."

"I plan on it," she said burrowing into her pillow. "Love you."

"Love you, too, pet."

Return to Top

***Part 25***

Buffy woke with a start. Spike was still behind her on the couch, his arm around her, holding her to him. The television was off and the room was dark. She could not tell if Spike was asleep. She moved her head looking for Angel, seeing his outline in the armchair. "Angel?"

"I'm awake."

"I just thought of something."


"They've been here, right?"

"It would look that way, yes, unless someone else was planting pieces of paper in the doorjamb."

"Well, let's go to them."


"You heard me. It's," she said glancing at the LCD display on the VCR, "a quarter to four. They're more than likely camped out at the Motor Lodge. So, let's go to them."

"And do what?"

"Tell them to leave me the hell alone."

"I don't think that's going to be overly convincing."

"Okay, so we'll beat the shit out of them some. I can do that, no problem. If it means Dawn and I can safely stay here, I'll beat on a human or two."

Spike stirred on the couch behind her. "Buffy," he murmured.

"I'm here, Spike," she said placing her hand over his at her abdomen.

"Are you sure about this, Buffy?"

"Yeah, they won't be expecting it."

"What are you planning now, pet," he murmured against her ear, kissing the lobe lightly.

"Going to the Motor Lodge and paying a before dawn visit to the Council."

"I'm game," Spike said with no evidence of sleep in his voice.

"If it's what you want to do, Buffy, I'm game too. Let's go." They weaponed up and walked to the Jeep. The three rode in silence to the Motor Lodge.

The desk clerk was male, so it was Buffy who went in and sweet talked the information out of him. Luckily, for the trio there were only three of them and their consecutive rooms were not facing the street. The last time they had come to town it had been like an army swarmed on Sunnydale. Crossbows at the ready the door to each room was kicked in in unison. Angel and Spike each brought their person into the room where Buffy was with Quentin Travers. Both were bound, Buffy had not bothered to bind Quentin. He knew full well she could kick his ass in a heartbeat. That thought might very well give him a heart attack, so Buffy was not too concerned about his trying to get past her.

"Sorry for the sudden wake-up call, Mr. Travers, but I didn't feel like sitting in wait for you."

"Miss Summers," said the older Englishman clearly surprised. He deigned to look at Angel and Spike but did not address either of them. "What are you doing here?"

"No, the question is what are you doing here? I told you a while ago you weren't welcome here anymore, that I wasn't here to cater to the Council's whimsies anymore."

"We came to talk to you, Miss Summers, nothing more."

"Right," she said holding the crossbow evenly. "You don't like the idea of a vampire seeking a soul, do you? You like it even less that your Slayer is the reason for it."

"No, Miss Summers, that's not it at all. You don't understand," he said wide-eyed as his eyes shifted from Buffy to the arrow pointed at him. Her hand did not waiver one bit. She would not be able to stand there holding the crossbow at the ready for hours, but she was fine for now.

"Make me understand then. Quickly, before my trigger finger starts to twitch."

"There was this prophecy, you see. Rupert was not entirely honest with us about many things, he withheld information from us. Your relationship with Spike for instance."

"And this brought you here in a snit now because?"

"Miss Summers, this is not how I had pictured telling you this. It's a bit on the unbelievable side."

"Try me, Mr. Travers. I tend to believe in the unbelievable after what I've seen and done."

"William fulfilled a prophecy."

Buffy cast a sidelong glance at Spike. "What are you talking about?"

"There is a prophecy about a vampire whose love for a Slayer causes him to go to the ends of the earth and suffer great physical pain to obtain his soul."

"Okay, I already know this part."

"No, Miss Summers, you don't. We had assumed when Angelus lost his soul a few years ago but did not seek it out, did not willingly have it restored, that it was as close as we were going to get to it occurring. We assumed that the prophecy had been interpreted wrong somehow."

Buffy nodded. "Okay, and?"

"Spike, William, has fulfilled that prophecy and the magic that returned his soul also has affected you because of his unselfish act."

"Oh god no," Spike whispered. "I didn't mean to, Buffy. I'm sorry."

Quentin actually smiled then. "Well, it's nothing bad exactly, though whether she likes it I do not know. Believe me, Miss Summers, I'm not thrilled about telling you this. You of all slayers don't deserve such an honor as far as I'm concerned. But perhaps that should tell me something."

"Just tell me already."

He paused as if it was a common occurrence for someone to burst into his room at four in the morning and point a loaded crossbow at him. Did he not believe she would use it? Probably not, and she knew she would not either. "You're immortal, Buffy."

"Say that again?"

"You can die, but only if Spike dies."

"I'm what? Because of what he did? I'm confused."

"Well, as I said, we never believed it was possible. The very idea that a Slayer would be resurrected was never entertained. Slayers almost always die of natural causes so there has never been the possibility of resurrection. The possibility a vampire would seek out his soul seemed even more farfetched to us. And Angelus we thought was proof that a vampire would never willingly seek out his or her soul, even one who had been with one for a century."

"This is some sort of joke, right? I mean, that's impossible." A memory flashed into her mind. "I flat-lined at the hospital a few months ago."

"Spike's soul had yet to be restored. He was still going through the trials if I'm correct in the timing of everything. And if nothing else, what your friend did could be interpreted as a resurrection. She used magic a second time to upset the balances. And that was a condition of the prophecy; the Slayer in question had to be resurrected."

"So what was with the sneaking into town then?"

"We didn't think this was something you would want to be told via telephone, Miss Summers."

"So you don't want me dead?"

"Hardly. As independent as you are, the idea of a Slayer being around for eternity while others continue to get called is rather exciting."

"How's that?"

"The line no longer lies with you, Buffy, you know that. It rested with Faith and with her death a new one has been called."

"So you're not going to dust Spike?"

"No, we would then lose you so Spike earned not only his soul but it would seem sanctuary from the Watcher's Council as well. Haven't you noticed you heal faster than normal? Your reflexes are better? Your speed? Your strength?"

"Well, yeah, but I just assumed I was getting better since I've been focusing on nothing but slaying the past few months. So you're saying I'm harder to kill and I get even more enhanced goodies? All because Spike got his soul? But if he dies, I die?"


"I don't get it," Spike said softly.

"I don't know how to explain it, but it seems you two represent the literal definition of soul mates. Your abilities will continue to increase for a short while, Miss Summers, as will yours, William. For how long I cannot say, but one day they will stop peaking and that's where you will be. I imagine it's so you can protect him," he said and then looked at Spike, "and yourself, better," Quentin said.

"I find it hard to believe you came here to tell me this, Mr. Travers. You'll forgive me, but you've never been very forthcoming with information in the past without making me jump through hoops."

"Seeming as how your life is now tied to another I could not have it on my conscious that you did not know. Some of our tests may seem archaic and cruel to you, Miss Summers, but they have been in place for centuries and there are reasons behind everything we do. And," he said and then stopped.


"I would like you to train future slayers. The Slayer and her Watcher would be sent here to Sunnydale and you would train her."

"Never mind about that. What if I don't want to live forever? Can I have children? Do I age? Will I have to move every so often so people don't wonder why I don't look any older than I did twenty years ago?"

"Uh, Buffy," Spike said softly.

"What Spike?" she asked not really meaning to sound annoyed, but she was.


"Okay, so I was just asking a bunch of questions. Answer me, Quentin."

"I don't think you have much choice about the living part, unless you and Spike work out some sort of an arrangement to end your existences together. I don't know about the bearing of children, but would imagine you could for a period of time. I imagine those sort of functions would disappear eventually as your body itself will grow older just not by physical appearances. So you will not appear to age, no. And the moving or remaining sedentary would be up to you."

"Why did you need to bring two people with you to tell me this?" she asked regarding his companions. One female, one male. Buffy recognized the woman from a couple of years ago. She had been prim and proper, stuffy with a severe hairdo and conservative eyeglasses and clothes. Her name was Lydia something or other.

"I just wanted to come along," the woman spoke up. "I did my thesis on Spike and I remembered interviewing him. I was curious to see the difference in him, then to now."

"Oh yeah," Spike said. "I remember you," he said with a tilt of his head. She smiled at Spike, but he did not return it. Buffy's mind was on overload, so she was not really registering reactions or cognizant of whom was thinking and doing what.

"And you," she asked the man.


"Confirmation of what?"

"That the prophecy has come true."

"What are you here to try and kill me and see if I die? Or stake Spike and see if I die?"

"Neither, Miss Summers."

"So, we're free to go? I can let my sister come home tonight and not have to worry about anyone coming into the house to try and kill me or Spike or her?"

"Yes, Miss Summers."

"And I have your assurance that you won't be coming back to Sunnydale again, unannounced at least?"

"Hopefully, we will have no reason to return."

"One can hope," she said dryly. "If I show up dead I'm going to have them press charges against you, Mr. Travers."

"Good lord, Miss Summers. I don't know what opinion of me you've formed, but I am not a murderer. And as I told you a moment ago, the idea of having a Slayer always around is appealing. I have nothing to gain by killing you."

"Fine," she said. She turned to Spike and Angel. "Untie them. I'm going home. I'll meet you there," she said setting the crossbow on the table.

"Buffy wait," Spike said.

"Spike, just let me go," she said evenly. She was not mad and tried to convey that to him, but she was not altogether pleased either. It figured something like this would happen, that was just the way her life worked. "I'll see you at home."

"Miss Summers," Quentin called to her before she left.

"Yes, Quentin?" she asked turning to face him at the doorway.

"Will you think about the training? Your methods are unconventional, but I've come to realize that convention may be going by the wayside. I'd be interested in knowing what the life expectancy of a Slayer might be when they get proper training from an actual Slayer."

"Yeah, because training with a Watcher when he's wearing pads and what not is just not the same. I'll think about it and get back to you."

She left the Motor Lodge and walked in the direction of Revello Drive. She did not go inside, but instead sat in the yard with her back against a tree. She held her hands out in front of her, turning them palm up and palm down expecting somehow to see something different. But there was nothing. She was tempted to put Quentin's prophecy talk to the test, but she was in no mood to die if he was lying to her. She brought her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them and clutching them to her with that thought.

What did he have to gain by lying? But why was Giles on his way here if what Quentin said was true? That made no sense. She did not know what time his flight would get into LAX that morning and it would be sometime after that anyway before he would get to Sunnydale with customs and renting a car. This was just too crazy. Too bizarre. Giles had never mentioned such a prophecy to her. Maybe he had not known about it. It was hard for Buffy to remember sometimes that Giles did not know everything.

"Buffy?" It was Angel and she looked up at the sound of his voice, not realizing she had been crying. How long had she been sitting there? Was she even real anymore? What was she? A person? A thing? Was she to spend the rest of her life being the Slayer? God, she had sort of been hoping to be able to stop and lead a somewhat normal life one day. She would never be able to leave the slaying behind, unless her Slayer powers left. But she had dreamt, hoped of being able to sort of retire from it all. Get out of Sunnydale and take Dawn somewhere besides the Hell Mouth.

"What am I?"

"Buffy," he said softly and reached for her.

"Don't touch me. Don't come near me. You don't even know what I am. I don't know what I am. This is insane. Where do people get off prophecying stuff like that?"

"Listen, you've got Spike standing on the front porch wondering if you want him to dust himself."

"Well, stop him. I just need time, Angel. This is a little more intense than finding out I was destined to die. I'm not going to die. I mean, what the hell does that make me?"

"It doesn't change what you are, Buffy. You're still you, you're no different. It sort of makes sense," he said sitting next to her. The sun was close to rising, so he would not be out here for long. That was part of the reason she had chosen to sit out in the yard, she wanted to be left alone.

"How on earth can you say that this makes sense? Please explain to me where the logic is in any of this. I did not ask him to do this. I did not tell him to go get his soul."

"Like Quentin said, you'll be here to train future slayers. There will always be a Slayer. It makes sense to have the Slayer have eternal life since those the Slayer kills have eternal life. Just think of the ramifications of not being able to die, Buffy. Think of how much good you can do, of how many times you will save the world."

"But, Angel, I've already done it so many times. I don't want to live forever to keep doing the same thing. It gets kind of old."

"You might not think that way anymore." She placed her head against his shoulder and he slid an arm around her. Again with no reaction from Buffy to his touching her beyond the simple comfort he was trying to offer her. When had that left? That spark between them? It had been since her mother died, she realized. That was when things had been different. He had come out of love, true, but it had been different. He had comforted her, loved her, but there had been no romance there. "He's watching us, Buffy," he said softly.

"I don't know what to tell him. What to say to him. God, Angel, this is crazy." She lifted her head from Angel's shoulder and looked at Spike on the front porch. "You know, I wonder," she shook violently as the thought took form in her head. "Would I have died if I had stopped Drusilla from turning him?"

Angel was quiet for a long moment. Whether he was actually thinking of a response or merely did not want to answer her question she did not know. "I imagine you would have, assuming the prophecy is in fact right. I've seen you fight, Buffy and you're unstoppable. Spike says he noticed a difference since he's been back. Buffy you weren't even tired last night when we got back from almost four hours of non-stop demon fighting."

"I just want to be alone for a while. Both of you can go do your sleeping during the day thing and I'll just take the day to have some Buffy alone time. I'm not mad at him, but I just," she shrugged. "It's so overwhelming. I didn't ask for any of this. There have been slayers since there have been vampires. Why me?"

"I don't know how to answer that."

"Don't let him leave, okay? I don't want him to leave, but he took months to deal with his soul before confronting me I think I'm allowed a day to deal with this."

"Maybe you should tell him this yourself."

"Yeah, okay," she said wiping her face with her hand. She stood and walked to the front porch, Angel by her side. She stopped where Spike stood smoking a cigarette while Angel went inside. "Hi," she said softly, peering at him through lowered lashes, not quite looking him in the eye.

"Hi," he said softly. "Listen."

"No, Spike, please just go inside and take the day to get your rest. I'm going to take the day and just, I don't know."

"Buffy, I just wanted to say I'm sorry."

She smiled meekly. "I know. I just want some time. Okay? Please?"

"Right, sure, just wanted to make sure you still want me around."

"I do," she said looking at him fully now, her eyes meeting his. "Don't think that. I'm going to go now, okay? I'll be back before dinner. Giles should be here by then and Dawn will be back tonight."

"Where are you going?"

"I don't know, Spike. Just for a walk."

"Be careful, Buffy."

She scoffed lightly. "I don't think I'm the one who needs to be careful, but thanks."

Return to Top

***Part 26***

Buffy had ended up going to the high school. She had keys to the building, so it was not as if she broke into the building or anything. She spent hours there, patrolling the basement and just sitting at her desk playing solitaire on her computer. She had stopped at the diner a block from the high school for breakfast and had gone there again for lunch. Eating out was not something she allowed herself to do, she even brought her own lunch to work every day, but now with the mortgage paid off she decided she could splurge on two meals out on the day she was informed she was immortal.

She was on her way back to the house now. It was after six o'clock, over twelve hours after she had left the house. Hopefully, Spike would still be there. He apparently had not dusted himself because she was still here. Everyone Buffy had ever met who had been immortal had been on the side of evil, vampires, Glory, the Mayor. It was with that realization that she decided Angel might have had a point about the good side needing someone who would always be there. She just wished for once these prophecies having to do with her would not be so life altering.

She picked up her pace when she spotted a car parked on the driveway. If Travers had lied to her only to come back and stake Spike she would be furious. She broke out into a jog, bounding up the front steps at the thought of something happening to Spike.

"Spike?" she called out as she opened the front door almost tearing the heavy wooden door off its hinges.

"Buffy," Giles said as he stood from the couch. "We were getting worried about you."

"Where's Spike?"

"He's upstairs, Buffy, what's this about?"

She ran up the stairs and burst into their room, reminiscent of the times she would enter his crypt without a knock. "What the hell?" he called out as he turned to face her buttoning his jeans. "Buffy, what's wrong?" She threw her arms around him and clung to him. "Buffy?" he called out his hands running along the length of her spine. "What is it, pet?"

"I thought something had happened to you."

"What? Why?" She drew away from him and kissed him, apparently surprising him because he drew away with barely a brotherly peck. "Talk to me, pet. You're scaring me."

"I saw the car parked in the driveway and I thought they'd lied to me."

"You knew your Watcher was coming back today."

"I know," she said rubbing her cheek against his chest. His shirt front was slightly damp from her tears. "I just, I wasn't thinking. I saw the strange car and my first thought was that it had been a trick."

"Shh, pet," he said smoothing his hand down along her back and her hair. "It's okay. No tricks. Rupert's been here, going stir crazy, since about one o'clock. I had no idea where you would go during the day."

"I went to the school," she admitted with a sniffle collecting herself. "I didn't mean to scare you. I'm glad you're okay," she said drawing away to look him in the eye.

"Yeah," he said simply.

"You don't believe me?"

"I want to, pet. I just, Christ, has anything gone right for you since you've known me?"

"Of course it has," she said simply. Her breathing returned to normal and he drew away, her hands clutching his forearms. They both stood there, quiet, neither saying anything for several minutes. "I should go talk to Giles I guess. He flies all the way here from London and I run into the house searching for you. I didn't even say hello to him."

Spike chuckled and kissed her lightly. "I'm sure he understands." He slid an arm around her and reached for the bedroom door with his other hand, opening it. "After you," he said letting her pass through first.

She descended the steps, Spike following close behind and stopped almost sheepishly at the foot of the stairs. "Let's try this again," she said as she walked toward the living room. "Hi Giles," she said.

He stood from the couch again, ever the gentleman Buffy couldn't help but think. "Buffy. Is everything? Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I just saw your car and freaked. No big. But with Mr. Travers here and all."

"Right," he said. "I have some good news for you."

"You mean that Mr. Travers isn't here to kill us?"

"I, well, yes, that and I'll be returning here to Sunnydale."

"You what? Giles, that's amazing, but," she frowned. "I thought you didn't think I needed you anymore."

"Well, the Watcher's Council seems to think I need to be here, journaling your events."

"So you know?"

"Yes, I found out after you and Spike had already left. I flew here because I knew if you weren't at Angel's he'd know where to find you and would only tell me where you were."

"So it's true," Buffy whispered.

"Yes, Buffy, it is. My contact phoned me again later to tell me, but you had already left and Spike had already called me to let me know you were out of the house and somewhere safe. I had no idea when you would call back, so I caught a flight here."

She went up to him and hugged him. "I'm so glad you're here, Giles."

"I'm glad to be back, Buffy," he said kissing the top of her head. "So glad. I've missed you so much."

"I've missed you, too," she said through tears. "God, I feel like I've done nothing but cry all day," she said drawing away, brushing her tears away. She kissed Giles on the cheek. "I'm sorry you had to come back, though. I know you were looking forward to a life back in London."

"Oh, Buffy, it was nothing like that. I would have stayed if I thought you needed me and I was not holding you back. But you have Spike to spar with you now, and I think the Council is hoping you will allow me to train you in the correct way."

"You mean using the Japanese words and everything?"

"Yes, exactly."

"Do I have to? I don't want to, Giles."

He laughed. "Yes, well, it seems we have plenty of time to deal with that."

"Where's Angel?"

"He's at the train station, I took him there a while ago. On his way back to LA."

"Oh," she said frowning at the thought of his not saying good bye.

"He realized you were safe, Buffy, and recognized his place is not here. Nothing more."

"I know, it's just," she shrugged. "He could have said good bye at least."

"He's only a couple of hours away, pet," Spike volunteered and Buffy spun around to look at him. She had not forgotten he was there, but it was so strange to hear him talk about Angel so calmly. "It's not like you won't see him again."

"I know," she said softly, offering Spike a bit of a smile. "He's got stuff to deal with at home anyway."

"Yes, I understand things have gotten even more complicated with his son."

"I guess so," Buffy said in agreement. "It was strange seeing an eighteen your old young man standing in front of me instead of a toddler barely old enough to walk."

"I imagine it would be. It's rather a good thing you were gone all day, it gave Angel and I and Spike and I a chance to talk."

"And lord knows you wouldn't want me around for that," she said somewhat teasingly. She knew that both vampires probably had much to tell Giles and it was more than likely best said out of Buffy's presence, but she still hated knowing that Giles knew things that she did not.

"Buffy, you know that's not the case," Giles said.

"I know, Giles, I do. I was teasing. I've had a lot to digest recently, I feel a little overwhelmed and I don't know what to tell Dawn."

"Just tell her when you're ready to tell her, Buffy, no one expects you to grasp this concept in one day. I'm surprised you did not go out today and try and get yourself killed to test it out."

"I thought about it, but it would have taken a lot to kill me to begin with and I really wasn't up for that kind of punishment today."

"I brought Willow back with me," Giles said and Buffy recognized the caution in his tone. He was rewarded with silence on Buffy's part. If he expected her to be overjoyed, he was mistaken. Not that she hated Willow or anything, but still it was a little frightening what Willow almost accomplished only a few months ago. "She's at her mother's house, if you would like to phone her."

"Maybe tomorrow. Dawn's due back any minute and I'm not sure she'll be too thrilled about seeing Willow unannounced."

"Still upset with her?"

"Yeah," Buffy said softly.

"Very well," Giles said looking past Buffy. "I suppose I should leave you two alone then."

"But you just got here, Giles."

"Yes, but after a twelve hour flight and customs and driving here. I'm ready to have a spot of dinner and call it a night."

"Okay, Giles. I'm glad you're back, but I'm sorry it's so sudden." She hugged him again.

"I'm used to it by now with you, Buffy," he said with a low chuckle. He lowered his voice then. "Spike tells me your father provided you with a check?"

"Yeah, he did," Buffy said just as softly, though it was really pointless, Spike would hear them anyway if he wanted to eavesdrop. "The house is mine," she said simply.

"Good. I'm so glad for you, Buffy."

"Thanks, me, too."

"And you're all right?"

"Well, I'm a little overwhelmed, but I'll deal like I always do. There's not much else I can do, is there? I can't give it back, can I?"


"I didn't think so. So I'll be fine."

"You're sure?"

"Yeah. Thanks. We can talk more tomorrow after you've gotten some sleep."

"So you get your Watcher back," Spike said from the room's entryway.

"I guess so," she said taking a seat on the couch, her arms folded over her chest.

"Buffy, if you want me to go, for a while or for good."

"No," she said quickly looking at him. "Why would you say that?"

"I don't know. I realize you didn't ask for this."

"Well, I'm a little shocked, astounded really, but I don't want you to go. Spike, if you left what would I do?"

"Well, that's a handy reason to have me around."

She laughed and moved her hands so they rested in her lap. "That's not what I meant. I mean, I always sort of felt bad for Angel and for you. If he had used the not wanting to watch me die excuse I would have bought it without question. I don't blame him. I lost my mom and it can't possibly be the same as watching someone you gave your heart to. But in all honesty, I would have been selfish and wanted you to stay with me until I was gone."

"I would have done it, pet. Without a doubt, without hesitation, and without you having to ask."

"I know, that's one of the things I love about you. Angel ran away from it, you were willing to live through it."

"I had to, Buffy. You're too much a part of me to give up on you."

"So you're not going to go disappearing on me, right? I mean, if I've got this eternity gig going on and it's connected to you."

He chuckled and seemed to sense it was safe for him to come near her, so he took a seat next to her on the couch. A hand slid to her knee. "I'm not going anywhere, no. I'm sorry. I honestly had no idea."

"Well, maybe those Powers That Be are telling us both something. I guess it serves us right, something amazing had to happen as a result of your doing such an amazing thing, Spike."

"Are you sure you think it's amazing, Buffy?"

"Well, it's a bit of a shock, but who wouldn't think it's amazing. I mean, so long as I don't have to drink blood and I still get to go to the beach and stuff," she shrugged. "I was never that bookish in school, so I guess I'll have plenty of time on my hands now to learn all of those things Giles thought I should learn."

"And there's nothing that says you have to stay in Sunnydale forever, you know. I mean, I've traveled a lot, but it would be different to travel without worrying about being chased out of town by angry mobs of people."

"Oh yeah, you know me, I'd be causing trouble wherever I go." She frowned and shook her head. "You might want to rethink that philosophy there, baby."


"I'm destructo girl, you know?"

He chuckled. "Well, I don't think we'll have the good citizens chasing us out, Slayer."

"You'll really bring me places?"

"I'd love to, pet. I'd love to show you anywhere you want to go."

"And you don't feel obligated?"

"Obligated? What kind of nonsense are you thinking up now?"

"Oh, you know, that you caused this so now you have to stay with me?"

"Buffy," he said sliding his hand from her knee to her hands still clutched together in her lap. He squeezed lightly. "I did cause this, but if I didn't want to stay it would have scared the hell out of me into leaving already. You're stuck with me, Slayer, so just deal with it and quit trying to get rid of me." He reached with his other hand and slid his fingertips along the left side of her neck. "Besides, I've marked you, claimed you as mine. You're my mate, Buffy."

She lifted one hand to touch the right side of her neck, where other scars were. "What about these?"

"They were different. The Master wanted to kill you, Angelus was feeding, and Dracula," he said a low growl rumbling in his chest. "He did not claim you. He could not claim you."

"I don't think I understand any of that."

"Well, you did not recognize him. Your soul answers me and my demon recognizes you. Dru knew it almost from the beginning."

"What does that mean, exactly?"

"I don't know. I could write a poem about it, but it wouldn't be very good and it probably wouldn't explain it any better. All I know is that when I'm near you I feel as though by sheer proximity to you my heart might start beating and if it did it would be in perfect time with yours. And now that I have this soul," he said growing quiet.


"Christ, Buffy, I feel everything so much more intensely and it all feels so new."

"Is that why you always touch me?"

"Does it bother you?"

"No, I just noticed if you can you do. Even if it's just a finger while you're driving, it's there against my leg."

"I don't know if that's why, but I need it."

"I don't know what to do. What do I tell Dawn? I have to tell her something. And the rest of them. I mean, they're going to notice I don't get any older, don't you think?" He chuckled lightly, lacing his fingers through hers as he sat back against the couch. He was more comfortable, which was good, but Buffy was still overwhelmed and not overly comfortable yet with all of this.

"I would suspect so, yeah. Lots of people are going to notice, Buffy. What you tell them is up to you. I don't know what to tell you there. Your dad gave you a nice gift, this house here, so it seems stupid to pick up and move all of the time."

"But we could always just move around, keep this house but move around, right?"

"We could if you want to, sure. You're much too calm about this," he said softly.


"I don't know, I was more than half-expecting a fight."

She drew her hand away quickly. "I told you I wasn't going to do that anymore, Spike."

"I know, pet, I wouldn't have blamed you if something like this sent you over the top a bit."

"Is that what you think of me? Do you think I like what I did to you? Do you think I like looking back at the past year and see that I beat the shit repeatedly out of the one person who even cared to try and understand what I might be going through?"

"No, Buffy, I don't. But you tend to take out your frustrations violently. Whether it be on me or on a punching bag is irrelevant."

She stood then and paced the room. "No, it's not irrelevant. I'm not going to beat on you, Spike. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I'm thrilled about this. I just needed to know you're not going to leave me."

"I'm not, Buffy. I don't know what else I can do or say to convince you I'm not."

"I don't either. At least I guess I should thank you."

"Thank me?"

"Well, you got Giles back for me. I'm no longer the only Slayer in history without a Watcher."

He snickered. "Yeah, I guess I did at that. The look on that Council big wig's face was priceless. I don't think he could have lied if he'd wanted to."

"Yeah, it was, wasn't it? I always feel like I need a bath in holy water after I've threatened a human."

"Just be sure and let me know if you ever do that, pet. I'll forego joining you in one of those baths."

She smiled and shook her head. She did not know how Spike was doing it, getting through this. He had bad moments, she knew. There were times he would just sit or lay with her and she would know by the way he held her that he was having a bad moment. Sometimes he would wake up like he had done earlier that morning on the couch, calling out her name. Angel probably thought it was an affectionate or claiming thing, but Buffy knew it was just assurance Spike was seeking. Assurance that he was not dreaming, that he was really here with her and she had not only forgiven him but accepted him into her home and admitted she loved him.

"There's so much to tell Dawn, and with Willow coming back, too. I don't know where to start."

"Why not just start with Red's return, luv, and let her digest that before telling her the rest. I mean, it's not like you have to tell her tomorrow."

"I know." Spike stood from the couch and walked to her, placing his hands at her shoulders. She leaned into him, fitting against him so nicely. His arms went around her, holding her close when he seemed to realize that she was not going to pull away.

"You're mine, Buffy," he whispered against her ear.

"What?" she asked softly not moving from his embrace. In fact, if anything, his words made her cling to him even more. Her body started tingling, and it was not the normal sexual tingling feelings. She had felt magic at work before, remembered vividly the empowerment she felt when she and the others had connected with the First Slayer. This was not quite like that, but it was the only thing she could compare it to.

"I said you're mine. I would never have made such a claim on you, would not have wanted to shackle you to me in such a way. But now," he said softly.

"Now what?" she asked feeling oddly at peace despite everything that had happened today.

"I have no qualms about doing it." He slid his hands up along her back, moving them to cup her face and look into her eyes.

"What does that mean, exactly?"

He lowered his mouth, grazing her lips briefly before lowering his mouth to the left side of her neck. He grazed his tongue over the bite marks there. She whimpered softly, arching into him as she pulled his mouth closer to her neck. He had not answered her question, but he was making her feel so alive, the earlier tingling sensation was now intensified by the tingling sensation of arousal. He worried the marks, was reopening them and she should stop him. He and Angel had both said she should be careful about letting him bite her. But, "oh god," she said aloud, she did not want him to stop.

"It means," he said licking the marks again to close them and brought her mouth to his neck.

Without question or thought her blunt teeth worked at his neck until she had broken the skin. She groaned as she tasted him, his blood on her tongue, her teeth, and her lips. She should be repulsed, revolted, disgusted but for that moment, then and there, she felt nothing but an overwhelming sense of rightness that seemed partnered with the tingling sensations. Visions flashed before her eyes, pictures of her and Spike fighting side by side, unstoppable, amazingly fast and strong. She knew it was visions of the future, their future. She felt him grow hard, was aware of his hands dropping to and cupping her backside, drawing her against him.

She drew away from him, uttering a soft "mine," and it was as if the curtain had been lifted from in front of her eyes. She had no magic healing abilities in her saliva so there was nothing she could do to the ragged bite mark on his neck. It would have to close on its own. She stared at it and then looked at him, not expecting the look of sheer pleasure in his eyes. Had she pleased him just by biting him? "Finish telling me."

"It means that I'm in you, you're in me. Your blood is in me, mine is in you, and we're connected through that, a bond. No one can break that bond; it's what Dracula was trying to get you to do."

"I tasted him," she said softly.

"You did?"

"Yeah, but it didn't work. At least, I don't think it did what he wanted it to do."


"Because I saw me, he was trying to tell me that my power was centered in darkness. And I saw that he was right, I mean, you were sort of right that I don't belong in the light with Xander and Dawn."

"Slayer, I shouldn't have said anything like that."

"No, it's okay. I mean, like I said, he was right. You both were. There is a darkness to my art, and I think maybe that's part of why I didn't think anything was up with my getting better. With you gone, I was giving into that darkness. Anyway," she said shaking her head realizing she was getting off track. "I saw visions when I drank from him, but they were Slayer visions, they drove home the point that I am not evil. The darkness in me does not make me evil."

"Of course you're not evil."

"I know that," she said with a wry smile. "But just now," she said lifting her eyes to meet his evenly. He was afraid of what she was about to say. She would love to torment him, if today had not been so outrageously weird and he would be up for such a joke she might be tempted to. "I saw us, together. It was the future, I don't know how I know that but I do. We were fighting, together not against one another. And we were both amazing, it was like we were of one mind."

"You saw that?"

"Yeah," she said quietly.

"Well, with time and practice we very well could be of one mind. With the exchange of blood comes some telepathic like powers. It's not telepathy, but we can communicate with our minds. Maybe that's what you saw."

"You're scaring me now, Spike."

"Your Council leader told you our abilities and so forth would continue to increase."

"Well, yeah, but talking to one another in our minds?"

"Do you know what I'm thinking without my telling you?"

"Well, yeah, sometimes."

"And do I answer your questions before you ask them or respond to you before you say something?"


"So why is it so farfetched for you to believe that we can meld our minds together even more when it's crucial, like a fight?"

"I don't know. Willow and Tara did it sometimes, but I always thought it was like a spell."

"I think if two people are together, truly and totally together, they just get that way, pet. I've heard Willow say Tara was her soul mate, and it would seem that in some otherworldly way we are too, our souls know and want one another."

"I get that," she admitted. "I do."

"If your life is in my hands I'm not going to complain about having some connection to you, Buffy. I don't want to be responsible for my getting staked and ending your life."

"I'd want to go anyway."


"What's the point of living forever if I have to live forever alone? I wouldn't want to do it."

He reached with a hesitant hand and touched her face, pushing her hair back from her eyes, stroking the corners of her eyes with his thumbs. "Can't say as I blame you there. I've done it, lived without you and it sucked."

She placed a hand over his and squeezed. "I know. I'm sorry. Just try not to get yourself staked for a while yet. Like years and years. I'd like to keep rewriting those Slayer history books."

"I'll do my best, pet," he said with a lift his lips, his head tilting. "What time is Niblet expected home anyway?"

"I don't know. Why? What did you have in mind?"

"A walk."

"A walk," she repeated not expecting that at all. She had assumed he had something devilish in mind.

"Yeah, you know, two people doing the thing that bipedals do, maybe with a little hand holding thrown into the mix."

"Sure," she said offering him a curious glance.


"I don't know."

"I told you I wanted to treat you right, Buffy. The making love thing happened a bit sooner than I had planned, but I still have every intention of treating you like you deserve to be treated. I'd love to shag you senseless twenty-four hours a day, but if we're going to spend the rest of our lives together I think we might want to start looking at other ways to keep us occupied."

She smiled almost shyly, touched by his thoughtfulness yet amused at the same time. "Not that I'm arguing, but why?"

"Well, because we simply cannot do it all the time," he said exasperated and Buffy laughed. "I don't know. One day we might find that we have to do something else, so it's best we figure out what else we can do together."

"Well, since you put it like that. Practicing the art of bipedalism sounds pretty good to me."


"Yeah, let's go. I have a question though," she said as she wrote a note for Dawn in case she came home before she got back.

"What's that, pet?"

"Do you even watch baseball?"

"Do I what?"

"Watch baseball? I'm curious to know just how gullible I was to fall for the lie my dad told that you were talking about the World Series."

"Oh, well, I've watched a few games, sure, but I'm dead set against any team with Angel in the name winning anything. So go Giants."

She snorted and put the note on the front door after she led Spike outside and closed the door. "So, I can basically know from now on if you and my dad say you're talking about sports that you're conspiring?"

"Well, yeah. Maybe. I don't know. Maybe if he turns out to be a likeable enough bloke I would watch a game with him or something. He is like my father in-law," he said with a shrug. "It's what men do after all."

"How do you figure?"

"I don't know. Go to any bar, pet, and that's what men are doing, sitting around together, drinking beer, watching some sporting event, getting all hyped about men playing a game they're getting paid outrageous salaries to play. I can't explain it."

"No, silly, I meant my dad. You said he's like your father in-law."

"Isn't he," he asked with a concerned frown.

"I suppose he would be, yeah. It's weird to say that, though."


"Because we just really started doing this couple thing, it just sounds so permanent."

"I hate to tell you this, babe, but you can't get much more permanent than this."

"Don't gloat, or I'll think you did all of this intentionally."

He scoffed. "As if."

"It's a pretty neat trick, though, if you wanted to go bad and all."

"Why's that?"

"Because I couldn't stake you, unless I have a death wish."

"Well, there you figured out my plan, to go and get this soul, turn evil just so that I could finally take down my third Slayer."

"Well, it's about the only way you'd be able to take me."

"Pfft, right, Slayer."

"You know," she said quietly as they walked in the direction of town.

"What's that?"

"Well, when you first told me Willow was on her way back I was all concerned about it, but you know in the grand scheme of things it just doesn't seem so important anymore."


"No, if the images I saw are true, come true, Willow's not going to be turning evil anytime soon and making good on her threat to destroy the world. Which I take to mean she's going to be okay, Giles wouldn't bring her back here if she wasn't."


"So, I'm going to take that to mean things are going to be all right. Dawn forgave you pretty easily, so maybe she'll come around easily enough with Willow, too."

"We can hope."

"And maybe you and Willow," she said glancing sidelong at him as he dropped her hand and placed his arm around her waist, drawing her against him.

"Me and Red what?"

"Well, maybe you two can talk, too. If you have bad days, help one another."

"Maybe," he said seeming to agree.

"I realize it might not be on the same level as you, but you know, it might do her some good. And you too, you know, you might feel like you're helping someone. Help ease some of your guilt."

He nodded and stopped walking briefly to kiss her cheek. "You know, you can be kind of smart when you want to be, Slayer."

"There's an insult in there somewhere, but I'm going to ignore it and simply say thank you."

"That's probably best," he said with a low chuckle.

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***Part 27***

Sometime in the Future - Sunnydale, California

"Tired, luv," Spike asked from where he sat at the computer desk when Buffy came out of the bathroom. She was clearly ready for the sleeping part of going to bed. He could always tell when she came out of the bathroom wearing pajamas that actually covered her body that it was sleep and not love she wanted out of their bed.

"Yes," she said softly. "You'd think with this immortal gig I wouldn't ever get tired." She sat on the bed and proceeded with her before bed ritual of putting lotion on her hands and arms. The last thing she did each night was slide the rings back on her fingers. She wore two now. The silver skeleton ring he had given her years ago under Red's spell was on her left middle finger and an anniversary band set in silver was on her left ring finger he had bought a few years ago.

He chuckled as he saved the additions he had made to his document and shut off the monitor. He would return to the computer once she had fallen asleep. "Well, pet, even immortals need their rest it would seem. You know, it's a tough life you have, having to protect the Big Bad and all."

"Yeah, and to think I once upon a time regretted saving you from Drusilla's clutches."

"Ouch," he said with a throaty laugh as he joined her on the bed. She was lying on her stomach and he moved above her, his hands going to her back to work at relieving the tension from his Slayer's muscles.

"This one is terrible, Spike. She's awful, and she's one of the ones I dreamt about. So, I don't get it because in my dream she wasn't this bad. I don't remember being this terrible and I had no idea what my calling was until Merrick came and got me. I was spoiled with the first two I worked with."

"I'm sorry, sweetheart," he whispered, knowing she just wanted to vent.

"I swear it makes more work for me. I not only have to slay the big bads."

"Hey, there are no big bads left for you to slay. You put the one and only under your spell instead of slayed him, remember?"

She laughed lightly timed with an expelled breath, so the laugh sounded odd and forced. "Okay, so I not only have to slay the big bad want to be's, but I have to watch someone else's back. It's just so not fair."

"I could come with you, pet."

"No, Spike, not yet. It's too soon."

"I don't like it."

"Spike, knowing you're a vampire and seeing you in game face on the battlefield is not the same thing. Please believe me on this."

"I do, pet," he said softly. "I just can't help but think you're protecting me."

"I'm not," she said turning around, her arms going around his neck. He nuzzled the side of her neck, kissing the scar there that he had made. It was the only scar on this side of her neck. "The Big Bad doesn't need my protection," she said as if she knew exactly what would drive him off the deep end. Of course, she usually did.

"I'm glad to hear you say that, sweetheart."

"Maybe we can go patrolling ourselves one night, give her a night off. I know I used to think I might actually kill for a night off once in a while."

"I like the sound of that. I don't like when the new slayer comes to town, no more kicking demon ass for Spike."

"Well, I can't stop you from going out on your own, you know."

"I know, but I don't want you bloody ticked off at me, Slayer. But I might have to take up a hobby, like knitting or something to keep me occupied while you're gone. It's supposed to be the man that's gone and the woman who sits at home waiting."

"Poor baby," she said arching into him. He never grew tired of feeling her body against his. He still found it difficult to believe she was immortal because she was so very warm, very alive, and very humanlike. To him eternity had always been associated with cold and other undeadlike characteristics. "Do I get a reward if I let you come with us tomorrow?"

"A reward," he said with a chuckle kissing her collarbones. "I think something could be worked out in trade, yes." He kissed her as he slid her pajama bottoms out of his way. "You know you did save me, pet," he said softly returning to her earlier comment about saving him from Drusilla.

"I didn't," she said using her legs with the help of his feet to get her pajama bottoms out of the way. He thought she had learned by now not to bother with them, they always ended up off for one reason or another. She had gotten into the habit of wearing them though when Dawn's little ones started coming over for over nights once a week. This also meant that Spike had pajamas to wear when Niblet's little bits were in the house, but he never bloody wore them when they weren't in the house.

"Sure you did, pet. You saved me from a fate that would have included never knowing you. You helped make me the man I am."

"Oh well, in that case," she said softly thrusting her body against his. She was so bloody amazing, and she was his all his. It never ceased to amaze him. "Why don't you let me show you the meaning of the words truly happy and true salvation, baby?"

"Are you sure you're not too tired, pet? Dawn and the little ones are coming by in the morning. You want to be a refreshed Auntie Buffy, don't you?" She loved Dawn's children. Spike found it rather ironic that Dawn, the Summers' child that really was not was the one to have the children. If Buffy wanted them, Spike honestly did not know. The one and only time he had heard her purposely make mention of children was when she found out about the prophecy he had fulfilled. Never again had the topic come up. Whether it was because she truly did not care or did not wish to burden him with something that he could not alter Spike did not know, but he liked to hope it was that she did not want them.

"I'm sure," she murmured finding his ear and teasing it with her mouth and tongue.

It did not take Spike long to divest them both of their remaining clothing. She kept her promise, showing him as she did every day the meaning of the words truly happy, and he tried to return the favor tenfold. She had taken her home, her mom's home, and worked with him to make it into their home. She had given him everything and accepted not just his soul but the curse she fell under because of it, and yes he considered it a curse because it was not something she had wished for, asked for or even wanted. It was a risk he had taken, but as he fell over the edge and emptied himself inside of her he believed it had been a good risk, the right risk.

"Love you, William," she said as she shifted in the bed.

"Love you, too, Buffy," he whispered in return.

He felt loved, accepted, completed. He had a family, a real one, not one that was based on vampire lore and its hierarchy, but a Niblet of a sister who loved him, four nieces and nephews who ran to Uncle Spike first thing when they entered the house each time they came for a visit, a brother in-law who was not just a nice enough bloke but was appropriately frightened of Spike for Spike to know Dawn was safe and a father who in the end turned out to be a good man. He had paid for both Buffy and Dawn to attend college.

Buffy had her culinary arts degree just as she had thought she might do years ago. And Dawn worked as a social worker. The experience of what she and Buffy went through after their mom's death had caused her to want to go into a line of work and hope to make a difference. And she did.

He had told Buffy once that his soul and his demon recognized her light. His soul welcomed it, his demon rebelled against it not wanting anything light to get its hands on William. His demon was no longer difficult to control and no longer rebelled against him. Spike was in control and it was so bloody amazing to him to be a vampire and be in control and to be complete.

*The End*

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