banner by Always_jbj

 

Title: Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Author: Slaymesoftly

Rating: Eventual strong R or NC17

Word count: 20,000 + or -

Disclaimer:  The characters belong to the man who created them, as does the world in which the story is set; the occasional line of familiar dialogue can be credited to the talented writers of BtVS. Everything else is mine and created for fun and my own amusement, not for profit. Feedback, concrit and/or profuse praise all greatly appreciated. :)

Summary: Continues almost immediately after the events of “The Way a Vamp Loves His Car”, in which Spike had found a morose Buffy drinking at the Bronze.  He brought a very drunk Slayer home and put her to bed in spite of her having accused him of loving his car more than he loves her – a violation of their unspoken agreement to spend comfortable time together without acknowledging the baggage of his feelings for her.  The evening ended with her quiet acknowledgement that she knows he loves her. There was some discussion about Spike’s teaching Buffy to drive – although not in his vehicle.

 

Unlike the prequel, which was a very possible Season Six  BTL fic, this one veers off canon almost immediately and goes to another, slightly less angsty Season Six.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

Her uncharacteristic knock was the first warning that Buffy was outside his crypt.  He threw himself onto the couch, trying to appear relaxed and casual as he called out, “It’s open, Slayer.”

 

Searching for some sign of her mood, he studied her face in the flickering light from the television. He was expecting anger, embarrassment, perhaps even sadness that she had not been able to drown her sorrows as fully as she’d hoped.

 

What he got was something he’d never expected.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

            Her voice was soft, her eyes downcast as she slowly walked toward him. Spike cocked his head and studied her for a full minute before replying.

 

“What are you sorry for, love?” he asked, sitting up and leaning forward.

 

She frowned at him in confusion, then continued, “I’m sorry I threw up on your car, and I’m...I’m sorry I said...” She allowed her voice to die, then, with a determined lift of her chin she brought her eyes up to meet his. “And I’m sorry I acted like I...like I don’t ...I mean, I know you do...but I just... I’m sorry, okay?”

 

With a rush of warmth, he realized that she was apologizing for trying to use his feelings for her, and he sank back against the cushions – momentarily nonplussed.  He recovered himself quickly when it appeared that she was going to leave without saying any more, leaping to his feet and moving to intercept her.

 

“Would you like something to drink, pet?  I could look in the fridge—”

 

Her shudder and the dismayed look on her face brought a rueful smile.

 

“I’m guessing that’s a ‘no’, then?”

 

“A world of ‘no’,” she agreed quickly.

 

She wandered  to a shelf and ran her fingers through the dust there, still uncharacteristically quiet and still. He watched her, indecision keeping him frozen in place while his every instinct was urging him to engage her in some way before she decided to leave.  When she continued to move slowly around the crypt, touching an object here, stroking one there and gradually working her way toward the door, he finally moved.

 

Placing himself as subtly as possible between her and the door to the outside world, he asked softly, “What can I do for you, Buffy?”

 

“What makes you think I want you to do something for me?” she responded with a guilty start and a trace of her usual asperity.  “Maybe I just wanted to...to visit you for a while.”  When he didn’t answer, she asked in a softer voice, “Is...is that okay?  If I just hang out here?”

 

He cocked his head and stared at her just long enough to see the uncertainty on her face begin to change to genuine sorrow, then moved swiftly. He caught her just as she tried to push past him to the door, grabbing her arms and holding her tightly.  She struggled briefly, her face turned away and her lip trembling while he tried to read what was going on in her head.

 

Very slowly, giving her plenty of time to object, he pulled her closer until he could slide his arms around her to form a protective cocoon.  He held her loosely, daring to lower his head to inhale the freshly shampooed scent of her hair and murmuring, “You know you’re always welcome here, love.  You don’t need to ask.”

 

With a soft sigh, she relaxed her tense shoulders and dropped her head onto his chest. She didn’t move her own arms, but made no objection when he pulled her in closer and turned the loose embrace into a genuine hug.  For long minutes they stood there; the now-harmless vampire famed for killing slayers and the slayer who had slain the Master, sent Angelus to hell, defeated a hellgod and come back from the grave.

 

Spike would have stayed there until he fell down from exhaustion, just allowing her physical presence to fill his senses and her willingness to accept his comfort filling his heart; however, with a small sigh, she eventually straightened up, and he immediately released her.  She gave him an embarrassed glance out of the corner of her eye as she moved away from him and back into the interior of the crypt.

 

Without acknowledging what they’d just shared, she walked to his ‘kitchen’ and opened the refrigerator.  When she saw the bottles of water and Diet Coke, she turned to him and raised one eyebrow in a close imitation of his own, patented, knowing look.

 

“Expecting company?” she asked, taking out one of the Diet Cokes and popping it open.

 

“More like hoping,” he responded, almost shyly, reluctant to let her know how hopefully he’d been keeping the drinks in his home since her return from the grave.

 

With a slight flush at his words, she looked away and began wandering around the crypt again, taking the occasional sip from the can as she strolled.  When she approached the open entrance to the lower level, she paused and stared down into the darkened room, remembering the only time she’d been down there. Cursing himself for not having covered the entrance to his bedroom, Spike waited with resignation for the memories of his failed attempt to prove he loved her to remind her of what he was and to send her running from his home. 

 

She surprised them both by turning to him and asking brightly, “So, chained up any other girls lately?”  

 

He gaped at her for a second, then caught the twinkle in her eye. Recovering quickly, he leered and licked his lips.

 

“Vampire, love.  I see one, I chain her up.  It’s what we do. Jus’ haven’t caught one yet tonight.”

 

Her quiet laugh gave him courage and he continued, “’course, if you’re volunteerin’...” His tone was almost wistful and she shot him a hard look, her eyes narrowing dangerously.

 

Fuck!  Can’t believe I spoiled the moment like that.

 

“I’m sorry, pet,” he said hastily, walking toward her and willing her to believe him.  “My mouth isn’t always connected to my brain.  I never should have---“

 

“It’s okay, Spike,” she said, giggling at his clearly visible relief.  “I don’t expect smart things to come out of your mouth.”

 

“Oh,” he breathed.  “That’s good – thank you, lo—”  Her words finally penetrated and he growled in mid-sentence.  “Hey! Take that back, you disrespectful bint!”

 

Continuing to giggle at his indignation, she waved her hand airily and walked away.  He fought to keep the angry expression on his face, while his heart soared to hear her teasing and laughing for the first time since she’d crawled from the earth.  Giving up the fight and allowing what he was feeling to bring out a smile, he threw himself back onto the couch and beamed at her without shame.

 

“What?”  Her giggles broke off at the goofy grin on the vampire’s face; she faced him, hands on hips, trying to glare through her giggles.

 

“Nothin’, love,” he said softly.  “It’s jus’...it’s good to hear you laugh again – even if it is at my expense.”

 

“It’s good to be laughing,” she admitted.  “Who would have thought that giving you a hard time would put me in a good mood?”

 

“Uh...” He struggled to bite his tongue before he could remind her that she’d been the bane of his existence for years.  When she just raised her eyebrows at him, he gave it up, shaking his head and laughing.

 

“If you’d asked me, I could have told you that makin’ me miserable has always been one of your favorite things to do. You remember taunting me while I was chained up at your watcher’s?  Flauntin’ all that warm blood and creamy skin in my face and daring me to try to...” His voice trailed off as he remembered how the sight of her blood pumping through her veins had made him salivate and made other body parts sit up painfully. 

 

“Ah, good times,” Buffy sighed, trying to ignore the suddenly lustful expression on the vampire’s face and her own unexpected reaction to the memory.

 

“You see, Slayer,” he tried to recover, knowing that she had caught his reaction to the trip down memory lane.  “I’ve always known how to make you happy.”

 

“Well, you’ve always been able to make me laugh, anyway,” she agreed, giggling again when he growled.  “Maybe I should put the chains on you and keep you as my own personal court jester....”

 

She flushed bright red when his eyes glazed over at the suggestion and he couldn’t prevent himself from licking his lips.  Looking for a change of subject, she peered into the darkness, asking, “So, is it the same down there?  What does it look like now?  Dawn said you made it almost...homey.”

 

“Dawn told you she’s been in my bedroom?”  His voice rose to a squeak as he envisioned that conversation. “And I’m still standin’?”

 

She gave him a wry smile.  “Yeah, my first reaction was pretty much what you’d expect...but she talked me down before there could be stake-age.” 

 

Buffy tried to control the expressions on her face as she remembered that tearful and loud conversation in which Dawn had explained how Spike was the only one who could calm her when she had nightmares about the tower and about Buffy’s death.  To the point that whenever Tara or Willow couldn’t be with her for some reason, they sent her to Spike, knowing that he would not only keep her safe, but soothe her terror and grief.  Dawn’s constant presence was greatly responsible for the current improved look of the lower floor.  He’d done his best to make it seem less like an underground lair and more like an actual room, even finding a reasonably intact and clean single bed so that she could have her own little corner sleeping nook.

 

“Can...may I see it?” she asked suddenly, not meeting his eyes.

 

“Of...of course, pet.  Jus’ let me get some lights...” To say that he was surprised would be an understatement.  He would have sworn on his non-existent soul that she would never want to set foot in that room, ever again.

 

“I mean...” She stumbled over her words, the awed expression on his face making her uncomfortable.  “You know what my bedroom looks like, so it seems only fair that...” 

 

Okay, Buffy. You are totally digging this hole way deeper.  Just shut up now.

 

Giving her time to collect herself, Spike quickly dropped to the lower level and began lighting candles.  He yanked the linens up in a quick attempt to make the big four-poster bed, and kicked his dirty clothes under it.   When he’d done all he could to make the room look less like the untidy home of a lonely vampire, he called up to the waiting Slayer.

 

“You can come down now, pet.  Watch your step on the ladder.”

 

She started down the ladder, pausing when she got close to the bottom and taking in the very different-looking room.  Almost absently, she nodded at his words, not looking at him but continuing to run her eyes over the furnishings.

 

He stepped closer and offered her his hand to steady her as she came the rest of the way down the narrow steps. She paused at the bottom, her hand still resting lightly on his as she responded with a smile.

 

Removing her hand from where it rested on the now-unnecessary support of his arm, she began to wander around the room, mentally comparing it to the dirt-walled cave that it had been before.  Now, the walls were covered with cloth hangings that concealed the packed earth and rocks behind them.  The rocky floor was covered with soft oriental rugs and the large bed, which she tried very hard to avoid looking at, was covered in plush linens of black and red.

 

“Wow,” she murmured, turning around and trying to take it all in.  “It’s really different.”  She looked at him suddenly, her lips quirking slightly.  “So, where did you hide the chains when Dawn was here?”

 

“Jus’ put ‘em away, Slayer,” he said gruffly.  “I know where they are if I need them.”

 

Buffy’s eyes went involuntarily to the posts to which he had chained her, as well as the one to which he had tied Drusilla.  Then they drifted past that area to the recess in the wall that had contained his shrine to her.  In its place now was an antique dresser, complete with mirror.  On the dresser rested a framed photo of Buffy, Dawn and Joyce – one that she recognized from home.

 

Seeing where her eyes had gone and speaking quickly, he said, “I didn’t steal it.  Dawn had a copy made for me – I...don’t take it, Slayer.  Please?”

 

Without answering him, she walked over and picked it up, staring with blank eyes at the photo of the three Summers women all laughing in the sunshine.  Giving herself a little shake, she set it down carefully and looked at the other photos stuck to the mirror.  A photo machine series of Spike and Dawn – in one of which he was in game face while her sister laughed at him. A couple of small pictures of her that she recognized as also having come from Dawn’s collection, as well as one of her with Willow and Xander that she could remember being taken somewhere when they were in high school.  Tucked high into one corner was a color photo of the whole Scooby gang taken outside the Magic Box.  Just visible in the shadow of the door was a shock of white-blond hair and the glow of a cigarette.  There was just enough definition for her to see that he was staring at her rather than at the camera and it served as a poignant reminder that his feelings hadn’t changed, only the ways in which he chose to express them.

 

That sudden reminder of the way those feelings had changed his life began to make her uncomfortable, and she turned away from the small collection of photographs.  Somehow, this more acceptable method of keeping her in his thoughts affected her more than the shrine he had maintained the year before, and she tried to smother a small pang of sympathy for the vampire. 

 

She turned around to see him staring at her intently, his wary expression saying all there was to say about what he thought her reaction might be.  She bit her lip and stepped closer to him, putting one hand lightly against his cheek.

 

“Spike,” she began softly, sighing when he unconsciously leaned into her hand and closed his eyes.  “Spike, I...I can’t be what you want.  I can’t give you what you want from me...I’m not sure right now that I can...can love anybody.  I don’t need a boyfriend. And I don’t want one.”

 

She felt him stiffen and hurried on before he could turn away, sliding her hand down to his chin and forcing him to look at her.  “I want a friend... someone to be there for me, someone I can count on.  The way I’ve come to count on you.  Can you...I know what I’m asking isn’t fair, and if you want to say ‘no’, that’s...that’s okay...but I—“

 

“You’ve got friends, Slayer.”

 

“I don’t like them very much right now,” she said with a trace of a pout. 

 

“You don’t like me either,” he reminded her, with a skeptical eyebrow. 

 

She smiled back at him, then her expression softened.  “I trust you.  I...I need you.  To talk to,” she added hastily.  “And to help me fight and to keep me from getting drunk and making a fool of myself...and...and to teach me to drive!” she finished brightly in an attempt to lighten the mood.  “You promised me you would.”

 

“I guess I did, didn’t I?” he admitted ruefully.  “Well, I never break a promise to a lady, so I guess...I guess you’ve got yourself a friend, Slayer.”

 

She smiled happily, allowing her hand to drop to her side, but not moving away from the also-smiling vampire.  In spite of her speech, she found herself noticing how full his lower lip was, how his lashes brushed his cheeks when he lowered his eyes, and how his face with its chiseled cheek bones and smooth, pale skin could almost be called beautiful.  Something of what she was thinking must have shown on her face, because suddenly Spike was frowning and moving away, an expression of pain on his face.

 

Way to blow hot and cold, Buffy, she chastised herself. That’s all he needs- to think that you could lust after him, while you’re telling him he has to think of you as a friend..

 

“Can we start now?”  He threw his head up at her comment and stared at her.

 

“Can we start what? Being friends? Already there, love.”

 

“No.”  She blushed and shook her head. “I meant could you start teaching me to drive? Tonight?”

 

“Not in my car,” he responded with a suspicious narrowing of his eyes.

 

“Okay, fine!  We’ll use my mom’s car.  I think it works. Xander has been keeping it running for me.”

 

“Sure thing, pet. Jus’ let me get my things, alright?”

 

He bent over and picked up his socks and boots, sitting on the bed to put them on and drawing her eyes to it again.

 

“That...that bed looks really comfortable...” Her voice trailed off when he raised his head and gave her a hard look.  Too late she realized how a remark like that would sound to a vampire who never left an innuendo to suffer alone.

 

To her surprise he just sighed and shook his head. “You’re not going to make this easy for me, are you, Buffy?”

 

“I’m sorry,” she blurted. “I was just trying to make conversation while I waited for you, and the bed was there and you were sitting on it, and....I’m just going to wait upstairs. ‘K?”

 

She almost ran to the ladder, bolting up with all the agility and speed of an embarrassed slayer.  She went directly to the door and opened it, standing impatiently in the safety of the cool evening air and trying not to think about Spike’s bed or his willingness to do whatever she asked of him.  When the vampire appeared beside her, boots and ubiquitous leather duster on, she immediately began walking towards Revello Drive without waiting to see if he was following.

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

With a few long strides, he was beside her, and they moved quietly and swiftly through the night - unafraid to face their new peril. Said lack of fear lasted only as long as it took for Buffy to back out of her driveway, at which time Spike ordered her into the passenger seat until they were “somewhere very open and flat”.

 

“We’re going to practice driving in the desert?” she pouted. 

 

“If we have to,” he muttered, expertly piloting the big SUV in the direction of the remains of Sunnydale High School.  He drove around the parking lot until he was satisfied that there was nothing there that Buffy could hit and that the space was big enough.  Then he stopped the car and put it in park.

 

“Alright, Slayer, now here’s what you need to know – that’s the gas pedal, it makes you go faster.  That’s the brake – it makes the car stop. This lever is what you use to change gears – D means drive, R means reverse and N is neutral.  Got it?”

 

“I already know all this stuff,” she grumbled as she slid over behind the wheel.  “I did take the Drivers Ed course, you know.”  She waited for him to walk around the vehicle and climb into the passenger seat.  “And failed it miserably,” he replied, fastening his seat belt.  Buffy glared at him, then pulled the car into drive and stepped on the gas.  The resultant leap forward brought a muffled sound from the vampire and she stepped on the brakes, bringing the car to a shuddering halt.

 

“Did you just scream?”

 

“Of course not!  I’m a bloody master vampire – I don’t scream.” 

 

“I think you screamed,” she said, her lower lip coming out into another pout.  “You think I’m such a bad driver that you’re afraid.”

 

Taking a deep breath, he blew it out and then unfastened the seat belt so that he could move closer to her.

 

“I’m not afraid for myself, love,” he said gently.  “I’m just a bit worried that you aren’t takin’ this as seriously as you should.  Slayer healing’s all well and good, but a bad accident could kill you just as dead as any other breakable human.”

 

“Oh.”

 

 There was silence for a minute until Spike realized that the car, now that Buffy’s foot was no longer on the brake, was slowly rolling toward the flimsy barriers designed to keep people away from the wrecked school. Moving quickly, he grabbed the steering wheel and pulled it towards himself, turning the big car in a large arc back into the open area of the parking lot.  With a guilty start, Buffy slammed her foot back onto the brake, throwing Spike into the dashboard.  From his position on the floor, the snarling vampire moved the gearshift into park and then pulled himself back up onto the seat.

 

“Oops?”  Buffy’s apologetic smile did nothing to quell the bloodcurdling snarls coming from the chipped vampire and she cringed slightly from his amber-flecked glare.  She could see the bruise forming on the side of his face where it had struck the radio, and she winced sympathetically.  Tentatively reaching toward him, she barely brushed his cheek with her fingers. “I hurt you.”

 

“Not the first time, Slayer.  Prob’ly won’t be the last.”

 

“Well, yeah,” she said indignantly.  “But this time it wasn’t on purpose.  There’s just no sense apologizing to you, is there?”

 

“Didn’t exactly hear an apology there,” he grumbled, even as he wished she would touch his face again.  “You might want to work on that skill a mite.”

 

Instead of snarking back at him, she dropped her head against the back of her seat and sighed, shutting her eyes tightly.

 

“I’m just no good at this,” she said dully.  “Buffy and mechanical things are not mixy.  We might as well give up and go home.  I’m too stupid to learn.”

 

“Hey,” he countered.  “Is this the same woman who took out the Judge with a bazooka? The same girl who foiled my best evil schemes?  You’re not stupid, Slayer; and we’re going to make this happen.  Now put the seat back and move forward,” he growled, waiting for her to follow his instructions before sliding into the seat behind her. 

 

When he was firmly in place with a nervous slayer sitting on his lap and clutching the steering wheel with white knuckles, he said, “Alright, here’s how this is goin’ to work.  We’ll break it down into one skill at a time.  When you can steer without losing track of where you’re goin’, we’ll add the gear shift.  When you’ve got those two working together, we’ll add the pedals; and when I think you’ve got it all, I’ll move your delectable little arse back onto the driver’s seat and we’ll go from there. Alright?”

 

She nodded dumbly, pretending she hadn’t heard him refer to the body part currently perched on his upper thighs as her ‘delectable little arse’. 

 

“Here we go, Slayer.  Nice and slow – all you have to do is to steer wherever you want to go.”

 

He slid the car into drive and applied just enough pressure to begin moving it forward slowly.  Biting her lower lip, Buffy concentrated on making large figure eights, then smaller maneuvers until she eventually worked her way up to driving around the perimeter of the parking lot – perilously close to the gaping hole in the ground and its flimsy barricades.  In spite of keeping his foot ready to hit the brake if needed, Spike kept up an encouraging litany of praise as she mastered each step in steering the large vehicle around.  When she had circled the big parking lot several times, and then, at his instructions, criss-crossed it several more, he stopped the vehicle and put it into “park”.  Buffy looked at him with apprehension, asking, “Was I doing something wrong?”

 

“No, pet.  You did fine.  I just want to make it a bit more interestin’. “ He opened the door and gently slid her forward so that he could slide out from under her.  Smothering a groan at the missing warmth he’d grown accustomed to feeling on his legs, he quickly stepped out of the car and began setting up an obstacle course.

 

When he had positioned trash barrels, yellow sawhorses and whatever other large objects he could find around the lot, he got back into the driver’s seat and pulled Buffy back on to his lap.  He almost sighed aloud when she settled her firm bottom on him again.

 

“Here we go, pet.  You just steer where and when I tell you to, yeah?”

 

“Okay,” she said with just a trace of nervousness.

 

With only one minor mishap with a trash barrel – which Spike assured her was his fault for not telling her to turn in time – he declared her ready to run the makeshift course by herself.  She nodded firmly and he started the car forward, biting his tongue as she maneuvered around the objects several times.  Without warning her that he was going to do it, he gradually increased the car’s speed until Buffy was actually having to look ahead to what was coming next in order to be ready to make her turns.   When he finally slowed the car to a stop, he was grinning and she was almost bouncing on his lap.

 

“I did it!  I did it all by myself.”

 

“That you did, Slayer.”

 

“Don’t think I didn’t notice that you made us go faster, Mr. Sneakypants.”

 

“Mr Sneakypants?”

 

“Don’t change the subject,” she grumbled.  “I might’ve wrecked.”

 

“No you wouldn’t have.  You were doing great – and I was careful. I didn’t give you anything you couldn’t handle.”  Ignoring her “humph!” he said carefully, “Are you ready for the next part?”

 

“Which is?”

 

“Backin’ up.”

 

“Like out of the driveway?” 

 

“Well, I’m goin’ more for learning to do it in a straight line and at a reasonable speed, but, yeah, that’s the idea.” 

 

“Do you think I’m ready for that?”  Buffy bit her lip and scrunched her face up dubiously.

 

“Absolutely, Slayer.  Piece of cake.  Now here’s what I want you to do...”

 

Putting his foot on the brake, he moved the gearshift into reverse and coached, “Okay, before we start movin’, check your mirrors.  Make sure that you can see on both sides and behind you, then, nice and slow, we’re going to start movin’ backwards. All you have to do is remember that you’re going to want to steer in the direction you want the car to go. Alright? Ready?”

 

“Okay...” She dutifully looked into both mirrors, spotting the cones stretching back on either side.  As the large vehicle began to move slowly backwards, she jiggled the steering wheel anxiously, trying to keep it going straight.  When it began to swerve slightly to the left, she completely forgot about Spike’s directions and yanked the wheel to the left, sending the car over the cone and into the wooden barrier behind it.  Her “ohhhh” of disappointment accompanied the car’s halt and she automatically turned around to try to see what she’d run over.

 

Which put her face, mouth still rounded into an “O”, right in front of the vampire’s. “I...I messed up,” she whispered, staring at his mouth and trying not to remember how soft his lips were.  Her tongue came out to lick at her own lips; with her eyes riveted on his mouth, she didn’t notice the expression of sheer anguish in his eyes. 

 

His “Bloody hell, Buffy” was barely whispered as his own eyes dropped to the mouth so tantalizingly close to his.  “This is really not fair, Slayer,” he groaned, unable to summon the willpower to push her away.

 

“I know,” she whispered back. “I’m sorry, I just...” She stopped talking long enough to brush his lips with her own.  “I don’t want to – I really don’t – I just can’t help—“ 

 

The brief touch of her warm mouth on his destroyed Spike’s last vestige of self-control and he devoured it like a man starving.  Carefully keeping his hands away from her body, he moved nothing but his mouth as he poured himself into the kiss that he was sure was going to get him punched any second.  When instead of recoiling, she began to kiss him back, his tongue slid out to trace a path around her lips and then slipped in to caress hers as it tentatively reached out to meet him.

 

The only sounds coming from the still vehicle were Buffy’s gasping breaths and Spike’s soft growls as they remained in their awkward position -- Buffy unwilling to admit how much she wanted to be kissing the vampire and knowing that to turn herself all the way around to face him would make it impossible to deny; and Spike afraid to touch her for fear he would lose all self control completely.

 

With a final whimper, Buffy pulled her mouth away and slumped back against his chest, the hair on the back of her head just tickling his nose.  She remained like that for long minutes, struggling to control her erratic breathing and wondering how she was going to get out of the situation she had just created. 

 

Spike spoke first.

 

“What the hell was that, Slayer?”

 

“I’m sorry,” she sighed. “I seem to be saying that a lot tonight, don’t I?  But I am...sorry that is. I didn’t mean to…”

 

“Let’s be clear here, pet.  Exactly what are you sorry about?  Are you sorry you kissed me, because you didn’t mean it?  Or sorry that you wanted to kiss me and couldn’t resist it?  Or sorry that you gave your ‘I just want to be friends’ speech before you figured out that you wanted to kiss me? Or just sorry that you backed over one of my carefully-placed obstacles?  What are you sorry about, this time?”

 

His words came from between teeth that were tightly clenched as he fought equally strong urges to pull her closer or to push her out the door.  He felt her stiffen at his tone, and he dropped his head back against the head restraint, shut his eyes and sighed.  Buffy remained on his lap, sitting up primly and clutching the steering wheel.

 

“I’m sorry, pet,” he said finally, when she remained silent, only the angry flare of her nostrils indicating her state of mind.  “But I don’t know what you want from me. I’m not made of stone, love.  I’m doin’ my best to keep my promise, but...”

 

“I think I’m ready to try it by myself,” she whispered, carefully avoiding answering any of his questions or turning around to meet his eyes.

 

“Right then, off you go.”  His tone was flat as he opened the door and allowed her to get off his lap.  As soon as she was on the ground, he slid out and held the door while she climbed back into the large vehicle.  Without a word, he closed the door gently and walked around to the passenger side –pausing to right the wooden sawhorse on his way. He got into the passenger seat and leaned over to see if her feet were reaching the pedals.

 

“Pull your seat up a bit, Slayer,” he said quietly, waiting while she followed his instructions.   “Alright,” he said in the same quiet tone, “now put your foot on the brake, shift into drive and then move your foot to the gas and very slowly move the car forward.”

 

Biting her lip, as much from dismay at his disinterested tone as in concentration, she did as he instructed and managed to guide the car back onto the course he had set up.

 

“Alright, that was good,” he said.  “Now drive to the end and try to turn around so that we’re facing back in.”

 

With only a slight hesitation when confronted with the open space between the car and the burned out school, she was able to do as he instructed and get the car back at the beginning of the course.  In the same dispassionate tone, he said, “That’s good, pet.  Now go through it jus’ like you did before, only this time, you’re in charge of how fast we go.  If you feel like it’s too fast, just ease up on the gas or touch the brake pedal.”

 

Buffy followed instructions as well as she could, gaining confidence with each trip across the parking lot, until she was finally weaving her way through and around the obstacles at a reasonable speed and with a growing sense of accomplishment.  When he finally told her to stop, saying, “That’ enough for tonight, Slayer.  Good job.” she was so excited that she temporarily forgot that he was mad at her, and she turned to him with a dazzling smile.

 

“I did it!  I can drive now!”

 

“So it would seem,” he responded in the same even voice he’d been using since the kiss ended.  “Think you’re up for tryin’ to drive it home?”

 

“On the street?”  Her wide eyes and frightened jump in heart rate brought a reluctant smile to his lips.

 

“The street would be my first choice,” he said dryly. “less you’re planning to get there by drivin’ over lawns.”

 

“Not funny, Spike,” she grumbled.  “There are cars on the streets – with people in them!”

 

“It’s the middle of the night, Slayer.  I’ll be surprised if we see more than two or three other cars – and they’ll probably be driven by vamps or demons, so if you run them down, you can just view it as a new way of slaying.”

 

“Do you really think I’m ready?”

 

“Guess we’ll find out, won’t we?” he responded, leaning back in his seat with more confidence than he actually felt.  “Jus’ don’t get going so fast that you can’t stop if you need to.  There isn’t going to be any traffic to worry about tonight.”

 

Nodding dubiously, Buffy guided the big car to the exit from the parking lot, stopping and carefully looking both ways before pulling out into the street and turning towards Revello Drive.  They had gone several blocks in relative safety before Spike said, abruptly, “Turn right at the next corner.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Just do it.”

 

Buffy negotiated the turn, successfully passing a line of parked cars without brushing too close or swerving into the other lane.  He watched closely as her knuckles whitened when head lights approached, but she maintained her speed and remained on her path, resisting the urge to move too close to the parked cars.

 

“Well done, Slayer,” he praised quietly when she exhaled a visible sigh of relief once the car was past them.

 

Following Spike’s quiet directions, Buffy made left turns, stopped at red lights, and pulled into a parking place in an almost empty grocery store parking lot before the vampire nodded and told her to “see if you can get yourself home from here.”

 

Within a very short period of time, she was making the tight turn into her driveway, wincing when she saw what she’d done to the mailbox on her way out earlier in the evening.  She pulled smoothly into the parking area, stopped the car and set the brake before turning it off with a triumphant “Hah!”

 

“Good job, Slayer.  You did it.”

 

She studied his impassive face for a minute, then said softly, “We did it, Spike. You did it.”

 

He shook his head, as much to hide the jolt of pleasure her acknowledgement gave him as to negate what she was saying.  “You did it, Buffy. All you needed was some time to gain your confidence and some practice.”

 

“So, when do you think I’ll be ready to get my license?” she asked brightly. When he just gaped at her, clearly incapable of even answering, her lip began to creep out and her eyes narrowed.  “ You do think I’m going to be able to get my license, don’t you?”

 

Recovering himself quickly, he soothed, “Yes, Slayer. Of course you will. But I don’t think a bit more practice would be out of order before you go in to take the test, yeah?”

 

“I suppose you’re right,” she said, losing some of her enthusiasm as she remembered that there had only been one other moving vehicle on the road with her that evening and that it had frightened her more than the average demon.  “So, same time tomorrow, then?”

 

He nodded silently, opening his door and stepping out onto the paved driveway.

 

“Alright, Slayer,” he agreed.  “I’ll be by after you patrol.” 

 

He turned to leave when her voice called him back.

 

“Spike?” she said softly.

 

He stopped, but didn’t look at her.

 

“I...I’m sor—“

 

“Don’t,” he growled.  “Just don’t.”

 

For the second time in two days, she realized how often and how blatantly she took advantage of the vampire’s feelings for her. As she turned to go into her house, her shoulders slumped in resignation, and she wondered briefly if she would know when she had finally pushed him over his limit; or if he would just disappear from her life one night – leaving her to wonder if she’d driven him away or if he’d dusted.

 

 

Chapter Three

 

 

When she returned from a quieter-than-normal patrol, Buffy ran upstairs and took her hair out of the utilitarian ponytail in which she’d worn it while searching for something to slay.  She brushed it out and applied blush to her cheeks; then reached for her flavored lipgloss.  She froze with her hand almost to her mouth as she realized what she was doing.

 

Oh my god!  I’m getting made up to go out with Spike!  Not that we’re going out – out, but I’m going to see him and here I am primping like it was date. What is wrong with me?

 

She stared at her reflection in the mirror, still holding the tube of gloss and trying to decide what to do with it.  With a shrug, she brought her hand up and ran the slick applicator around her mouth, finishing with a flourish.

 

This has nothing to do with wanting Spike to kiss me again.  I’m just trying to get back into the swing of being pretty Buffy.  It’s time I started taking care of myself and...and..  She lost her ability to deny what she was doing and sighed with surprisingly calm acceptance.   I do want him to kiss me. He’s amazing and I...oh, god, I want to kiss him again.  But I can’t. I won’t.

 

Grabbing a red sweater to put over the black tee shirt she’d worn for slaying, she quickly ran down the stairs, waved at a puzzled Willow and Dawn, and left the house before they could ask her where she was going.  Keys in hand, Spike was waiting beside the car, leaning against it in that loose-limbed way he had that went so well with his bad boy good looks.  She held out her hand, then hesitated.

 

“Are you going to drive us back to the school?”  She eyed the keys that he was tossing up and down and wondered how he had gotten them.  “And, what are you doing with my car keys?”

 

“The ones you left sitting in the ignition, you mean?”

 

“I did no—I did?”

 

“That’s where I found ‘em when I got here.”  He gave her a look she associated more with Giles than with a vampire. “Are you daft, Slayer? You, of all people, should know better than to leave any kind of vehicle unlocked in this town.”

 

“I forgot,” she said meekly.  “It’s not like I’ve ever had to worry about where the keys were before.  Nobody ever asked me to drive them anywhere.”

 

“We’re gonna change that, Slayer,” he said, tossing her the keys and walking around to the other side.

 

She caught the keys deftly and opened the door to climb into the driver’s seat.

 

“Aren’t you going to check the back before you get in?  What if there was a vamp waitin’ back there?”

 

She just looked at him and made a face.

 

“The only vamp in this car is you.  I don’t have to look in the back to know that.”

 

“That so?”

 

“Yes, that’s so. Don’t try to act like it isn’t.  If there was another vampire here, I’d feel him and so would you.  And, anyway, you would have dusted him before I even got outside.” 

 

“You’re bloody sure of yourself, you are,” he muttered rebelliously. “Might just let you find out the hard way, you know.”

 

“No, you wouldn’t,” she said cheerfully, skillfully maneuvering the big vehicle out of the driveway and into the deserted street.  “I did that good, didn’t I?” 

 

“Wasn’t bad,” he admitted grudgingly. “Except for not lookin’ before you pulled out in the bloody street!”

 

“Oops?”

 

“You can’t do ‘oops’ in a car, Buffy.  You’ll get yourself killed.  Why can’t you get that through your head?”

 

“If you’re going to yell at me, you’re going to make me nervous and I’ll mess up!”

 

“If you’re not going to look before you pull out into a street, you’re going to make me nervous!”

 

“It’s not like a car wreck is going to kill you,” she muttered, even as she carefully stopped at the intersection and looked both ways before turning in the direction of the old high school.

 

“Head for Willy’s” Spike instructed before she could build up much speed.

 

“Why? Do we need information?”

 

“No, one of us needs something to drink – and I don’t feel like payin’ Bronze prices.”

 

“How are you going to teach me to drive if you’re drunk?”

 

Spike ground his teeth together and stretched his neck until it gave an audible ‘pop’. “I’m not plannin’ to get drunk.  I just want a drink – now, do as you’re told.”

 

Her lower lip sticking out further than should be humanly possible, Buffy said, “You just said you’d teach me to drive so that you could boss me around and yell at me, didn’t you?”

 

“Yes, Buffy. I just said I’d teach you to drive because I wanted to yell at you.  Unlike the rest of the time when I never yell, even when you’re being a giant pain in my arse!”

 

“You’re yelling again,” she pointed out primly as she pulled into the parking lot of Willy’s bar without actually hitting anything but two large, green demons.  “Ha! Look at that!” she exclaimed triumphantly.

 

“Wonderful, pet. You only hit two people.”

 

“They were demons!  Big demons!  I didn’t hurt them – and even if I did…”

 

“Yeah, they were demons. Got it.”

 

He got out and slammed the door, walking towards the bar as quickly as he could.  Which wasn’t quickly enough, as the two demons, which were still nursing bruises and sore toes, grabbed him and began to toss him back and forth to the accompaniment of snarls and punches.

 

“Oh, for...!” 

 

Buffy jumped out of the car and ran towards the now full-fledged fight.  “Leave him alone, you bullies!  He wasn’t driving, I was!”

 

They turned narrow yellow eyes on the small human woman yelling at them, taking in the large sword in her hand and the angry look on her face.  With disgusted snarls, they threw Spike at her feet and continued into the bar.  Dropping the sword, Buffy knelt down and reached a tentative hand towards the groaning vampire.

 

“Are you okay?”

 

“Do I look okay to you?” 

 

“Um...no. Actually, you look kinda...beat up.”

 

“Get back in the car, Slayer.”

 

“You called me Slayer – does that mean you’re mad at me?”

 

He sighed deeply, wondering which of his evil deeds he was paying for by falling in love with the Slayer.

 

            “I’m not mad at you, Buffy,” he managed to get out between gritted teeth.  “But I can’t very well go in there for my drink now, can I?”

 

            “Oh,” she said in a small voice.  “I guess not. Where do you want to go, then?”

 

            He waved his hand around randomly.  “Doesn’t much matter. Go wherever you want, jus’ try to stay away from places that might have a lot of traffic.”  He leaned back against his seat and closed his eyes, not moving even when he felt the car begin to move again.

 

            Buffy pulled out onto the street, turning right for no other reason than that it was much easier than making a left turn into traffic.  At the next corner, she turned right again, and then again, until they were soon back in front of Willy’s.

 

            “What are you doing?”  Spike’s eyes were still closed, but his nostrils and his sense of direction told him where they were.

 

            “I’m practicing,” she said quietly.  “I’m just practicing the easy stuff because you have your eyes closed and can’t tell me what to do next.”

 

            With a sigh, he straightened up and opened his eyes – or the one that wasn’t swollen shut, anyway.

 

            “Fine. I’m watching. Do something else besides circling the bloody block, will you?”

 

            “Maybe we should just go home, if you’re going to be all bad moody,” she muttered. “I won’t be able to drive if you make me nervous.”

 

            He stared at her incredulously.  “For three years, I tried to kill you every time I had a chance, without so much as a shiver from you; now you tell me all I had to do to make you nervous was put you behind the wheel of a car and yell at you?”

 

            “You sound like you’re mad at me,” she pouted.

 

            “I am mad at you!  You’re driving me bloody insane.”

 

            “I haven’t done anything!” Buffy’s voice was quickly taking on the same frustrated and angry tone as the vampire’s.  “I’m just trying to learn to drive.  You promised you could teach me and all you’re doing is sitting there all pissed off because you didn’t get a drink.”

 

            Spike was uncharacteristically quiet for several minutes, turning his head to look out the window at the slowly passing streets of Sunnydale.  When he realized that Buffy was actually heading for Revello Drive, he sighed.

 

            “I’m sorry, pet.  Don’t go home yet.  You need to get more practice driving in traffic and maybe work on some parking.  You were right; I promised to teach you to drive and all I’ve done is be a self-centered git.”

 

            Buffy turned at the next intersection and started slowly back towards the only part of town likely to have traffic this late at night.  She was silent until she realized Spike wasn’t going to say anything else, then said, “I’m sorry, too. I shouldn’t have gotten mad at you when you’re trying to help me.”

 

            “Who are you, and what have you done with the Slayer?” he snarked, earning a glare that was quickly followed by a small grin.

 

            “Very funny,” she growled. “I was nice to you last year when you started helping me.  You said so.  You said I treated you like a man.”

 

            “I did, love. And you were – nice to me.  Guess I just don’t know how to handle it when you forget and treat me like a real person.  Like someone you could...”

 

            He stopped, reluctant to say that her flirty behavior was confusing him; said confusion contributing mightily to his shorter-than-normal temper. 

 

            Dozy bint has her hair down, got those lips all glossy like she wants them to be noticed...How the bloody hell is a vamp supposed to know what to think or do?

 

            With a loud sigh, he pushed any thoughts of Buffy’s unusual behavior to the back of his mind and tried to concentrate on teaching her to drive safely in traffic.  He had her practice using turn signals, pulling in and out of alleys and parking lots - with the occasional pause for her to jump out and slay something lurking in one of the alleys - and driving on streets that had a moderate amount of traffic for a late night in Sunnydale.  Although her knuckles occasional whitened, and he wasn’t sure that he didn’t once see the steering wheel bend just a little, she managed to do everything he asked without hitting anything.

 

            Finally, with a pleased smile, he told her she had earned a reward and he asked her to drive to a strip mall near the Sunnydale University campus.  She successfully maneuvered the big car into the parking lot and drove headfirst into a parking spot some distance from the stores.

 

            “What are we doing here?”

 

            “Told you, you deserve a reward for workin’ so hard tonight.  I’ll be right back.”

 

            He stepped from the car and walked towards the all-night deli that was operated by a half-demon friend of his.  Buffy watched his cocky strut across the parking lot, marveling at how someone who knew he would be completely helpless against any of the humans watching him could appear so disdainful and unafraid. 

 

            It seems to be working for him. That cocky,’ don’t mess with me’ attitude has all those fraternity boys thinking he’s too dangerous to bother. You can tell they want to – they want to—oops. Looks like they worked up their courage while he was in the deli; that one must have said something...

 

            She watched anxiously as Spike paused and turned to stare at the boy who had spoken to him.  The boy swaggered away from his friends, continuing to talk to Spike as he approached.  The vampire remained perfectly still, his gaze fixed on the human who was clearly hoping for a fight.  He made a response that Buffy couldn’t hear, followed by an unmistakably rude British gesture, then continued to walk towards Buffy.  He handed her the ice cream cone he’d got for her, and shook his head when she started to get out of the car.

 

            “I’ve got it, pet,” he growled.  Buffy’s eyes widened as she saw the belligerent boy rushing towards them.

 

            “Spike! Behind you, he’s…”

 

            “I hear him comin’.”  He winked at her and shifted into game face, whirling just in time to raise his arm and block the punch aimed at his head.  The blood-curdling snarl that accompanied his change in demeanor sent the boy stumbling backwards so fast that he lost his balance and fell to the ground, scrambling to get away from the monster now stalking him.

 

The boy’s friends had started towards him when he fell, but one look at what was threatening their friend and they waited to see what would happen rather than rushing the frightening creature standing over him.  Spike stood over the still scrabbling man long enough to be sure he wasn’t going to forget how his attempt to bully someone smaller had backfired, then turned away, his contempt plain to see.  He shifted back into his human face and calmly opened the door on the passenger side, sliding in with a satisfied smile.

 

Buffy silently handed him her cone while she pulled forward and drove carefully, but with increasing confidence, out of the parking lot and onto the street.  She drove to the other side of the campus, then parked again in a deserted faculty lot and held out her hand for her ice cream.

 

She watched as Spike ran his tongue around the melting ice cream, catching the drips and bringing them into his mouth with exaggerated motions of his lips and tongue.  In spite of herself, she couldn’t take her eyes off his mouth as he swallowed and then licked his lips. She absently took the offered cone, still staring at his moistened lips.  Only when he pointed at the once-again dripping ice cream, did she tear her eyes away and begin her own frantic licking.

 

When she had rescued her clothes from any danger of melting ice cream stains, she stopped licking again to study the vampire now lounging against the door with his hand out the window.

 

“Why did you do that, back there?” she asked with genuine curiosity.  “You couldn’t know for sure that those guys weren’t going to jump you.  They might have been ex-Initiative or something.”

 

“Don’t like bullies,” he responded quietly.

 

When he didn’t elaborate, Buffy went back to eating her ice cream, mulling over the enigma that was William the Bloody.  She had almost eaten the whole cone when she impulsively held it out and asked Spike if he wanted to finish it.  He smiled and took it from her, their fingers touching briefly as he did so.

 

“Thank you, love. Can’t think of anything I’d like more than to be putting my tongue where yours just was.”  He gave her a modified version of his trademark leer and she gave him the expected, “Ewww, Spike.”  They smiled at each other, comfortable in their roles as macho pig and the disgusted object of his affections.

 

He finished the ice cream with much smacking of lips and flourishing of tongue, continuing to run his tongue around his lips and watching Buffy’s eyes darken as she followed the path his tongue was taking.  He moved towards her, his own eyes now focused on her lips, which she licked nervously.  When his face was right in front of hers, only inches separating them, he raised his eyes to hers and murmured, “Yes or no, Buffy. What do you say?  Don’t want to overstep any bounds, but you’re killin’ me here.”

 

“Y...yes,” she whispered, closing her eyes and leaning closer. “I say ‘yes’.”

 

With a heartfelt groan, he closed the distance between them and fastened his lips on hers, exerting a gentle pressure until she sighed into his mouth and opened hers to his still cool and ice cream-flavored tongue. 

 

The kiss went on for long minutes, neither of them willing to break it, and each afraid to move to another level.  Buffy was grateful that the big vehicle had bucket seats in the front, making it difficult for them to be touching anywhere but their mouths and the hand that Spike was resting lightly on her shoulder.

 

Difficult, but not impossible, she realized when she found herself pulled across the opening and onto Spike’s lap. Unlike the times she had sat on his lap while he worked the pedals of the car, this time she was draped across him, his right arm behind her back and his left wrapped around her waist, holding her against his chest.

 

            The kisses went on, Buffy the aggressor as often as the vampire, and it wasn’t long before Spike’s hands were moving along her back and sides in long strokes. He ran his hand from her shoulder blade down her back, over her hip and down her thigh; then up again. Over and over, his hand traveled the same path.  The motion was soothing and exciting at the same time, giving Buffy nothing to object to and yet becoming more sensual with every stroke.

 

            She whimpered into Spike’s mouth when his hand slid around to caress her rib cage. As he ran it back up her body, over her ribs again, he stopped just beneath her breast and hesitated there. His thumb was just touching the bottom of her breast and she felt it begin to rub lightly against her sweater.  Emboldened by her lack of resistance, he cupped her breast in his hand, moving his still-stroking thumb to the nipple that hardened beneath his attentions.

 

            Buffy’s breathing was loud and ragged as she surrendered to the sensations he was creating. She barely noticed when his hand slipped under her shirt and his fingers began stroking her bare skin, knowing only that the sensations had increased in intensity to the point that she completely forgot that they were in a semi-public place.

 

            Her hands were around his neck and her body turned awkwardly towards his, seeking more contact even as her brain was screaming that she had to make him stop.  When he released her mouth to run his lips down her neck, murmuring things she didn’t want to hear as he pushed her shirt up higher, she came back to herself enough to gasp, “We...you...stop...there are people...”

 

            “Nobody close enough to see us, love,” he crooned, kneading her breast with one hand while the other held her closer.  “It’s dark, they can’t see us anyway.”

 

            Buffy could feel his erection pushing against her bottom.  As much as she tried to ignore it, the way his hips were subtly tipping against her made it impossible.  I’ve got to make him stop.  Now, before we...before he thinks that I want...Now, while he isn’t kissing me and turning my mind to mush...

 

            As if he could read her mind, he fastened his mouth back on hers, letting his lips and tongue tell her everything that he wasn’t permitted to say aloud.  His vampire senses made him more than aware of the effect his kisses were having on her, but his own unbelieving awe at having her in his arms, kissing him willingly with passion and what he couldn’t prevent his poet’s heart from feeling was affectionNot love, maybe. Not yet.  But surely she couldn’t be reactin’ to me like this if she didn’t care...at least a little bit., prevented him from taking advantage of it. All he wanted to do was to continue to kiss her and have her warm body in his arms for as long as she was willing to stay there.  Completely lost in the scent and feel of the woman he loved and never expected to have, he didn’t hear the approaching footfalls.

 

            When the car door was yanked open, he almost fell out, only his lightning reflexes and Buffy’s own adrenaline-fueled response keeping them from tumbling out onto the asphalt.

 

            “Don’t worry, miss.  We’ll save you from this monster.”

 

            Rough hands dragged Spike from the car, flinging him to the ground.  Buffy watched in horror as the formerly cowed group of boys leaned over the helpless vampire, make-shift stakes in their hands.  Before they could make good on their obvious intention to overwhelm the vampire with numbers and dust him, Buffy was out the door and throwing them back from Spike’s snarling form.

 

            “I don’t need saving, you morons!” She glared at them, fury shaking her body.  Her fists were clenched behind her back in an attempt to keep herself from punching one of the would-be rescuers.

 

            “You don’t understand; he’s a vampire.  He was biting you.”

 

            “He was kissing me, you oaf.   And I know he’s a vampire.  Do I look stupid to you?”

 

            “Hey, maybe she’s one too,” a boy Buffy recognized as the one Spike had frightened so badly outside the ice cream shop said, peering at her suspiciously.  “Did you see how easy she pushed Bobby away?  That’s not normal.”

 

            Spike had taken advantage of their distraction to kip to his feet and now stood glaring from safety -- over Buffy’s shoulder.  His position behind the small woman wasn’t lost on his attackers.

 

            “Guess that guy was telling the truth. The one that said this vampire couldn’t bite... No wonder she wasn’t worried about him killing her.  He has to hide behind her skirts.”

 

            Grinning unpleasantly, the original attacker began to stalk towards the vampire, saying, “Hold her, will you guys?  This won’t take long.”

 

            Spike’s low growls were born as much of frustration as anger or fear.  He fell into a fighting stance, hoping that his willingness to fight the larger man might be taken as evidence that they’d been lied to.  Buffy’s face was a study in contradiction, her mission to avoid harming humans at odds with her desire to keep Spike safe.  When two of the boys grabbed her arms and pulled her away from Spike, she gave up worrying and simply pulled her arms out of their grip.  While they were still staring at their suddenly empty hands, she stepped in front of Spike and said calmly, “If you want to dust him, you have to go through me first.”

 

            With a nasty laugh, the boy backhanded her across the face, blinking a bit with surprise when she didn’t fall down, but rather allowed a grin to spread across her face.

 

            “I want to thank you for that,” she said cheerfully as she punched him in the jaw, knocking him to the ground.  “For a minute there I was feeling bad about having to hit you.”  She whirled to meet the other boys, now recovered from their surprise and expecting to overwhelm her with numbers.  Although they were big and fairly strong, for humans, they had taken on a warrior who fought supernaturally fast and strong creatures every night.  A much happier Spike perched on the hood of the car - the better to cheer her on.

 

            “Good one, Slayer!  Take that, you wanker!  Watch your shoulder, pet, you’re telegraphing your punches a bit.  Oh, nice bit of work!  Good job.  Behind you, love – ah, that got it...Good girl.”

 

            Buffy quickly ran out of opponents, leaving all four boys lying on the ground, groaning and barely conscious.  She dusted her hands with satisfaction and walked back to the car where Spike tried to pull her between his knees so that he could kiss her again.  With a shake of her head, Buffy gently but firmly removed his hands from her shoulders and walked around to the driver’s side door.

 

            “Come on, Spike,” she said as she opened the door.  “It’s late. I need to get home.”

 

 

Chapter Four

 

            Spike glared at the moaning humans that had interrupted the happiest night of his life and decided to risk a headache by jumping off the car and landing on the outstretched arm of the nearest boy.

 

            “Was worth it,” he mumbled, holding his head and getting into the car.

 

            “What was?”

 

            “Nothin’, pet.  Was fun to watch you in action.  It’s been awhile since I was just an observer.”

 

            “That’s because you usually jump into the middle of my fights when I’m slaying,” she pointed out with a small smile.  “If you’d mind your own business and let me take care of mine, you could watch all the time.”

 

            “I’ll remember that the next time a Fyral demon has you pinned against a wall,” he grinned, reminding her of a narrow escape several nights previously.

 

            “I was handling that!”

 

            His snort of disbelief ended the brief conversation and she drove in silence until Spike asked in a subdued voice, “Why’d you do that, Buffy?  Get in the way like that?”

 

            “I don’t like bullies either.” She let that sit there, then glanced at his impassive face.  “Did you really think I was going to stand there and let them dust you? What kind of friend would I be?”

 

            “So, you saved me because we’re friends – like I was any other Scooby?”

 

            “Exactly. It’s what friends do.”

 

            “Don’t know about you, pet, but I think that ‘just friends’ ship sailed about the time I got my hand under your shirt...”

 

            “That was just a...a...”

 

            “If you’re going to say ‘mistake, just stop the car now and let me out.”  His immobile face and cold voice told her that he wasn’t kidding, and she quickly swallowed the rest of her words.

 

            She drove in silence until she reached her own driveway, then stopped the car.

 

            “I was going to say it was a heat-of-the-moment kind of thing,” she offered softly.

 

            “An’ you think that heat’s jus’ going to go away because you’re having second thoughts?”

 

            “I’m not having second thoughts!”  She sighed, her head dropping onto her chest. “I don’t know what kind of thoughts I’m having.  I...I wasn’t expecting...”

 

            “You weren’t expecting what?  That wearin’ my favorite colors, leaving your hair down the way you know I love it and puttin’ on raspberry lip gloss wasn’t gonna have the effect you meant for them to have?” 

 

            Cursing the vampire’s refusal to let her wallow in denial, she fumbled for a response.

 

            “I wasn’t expecting...I just wanted you to kiss me again.  That’s all.”

 

            “Worked, didn’t it?  I think I kissed the bloody hell out of you.”   He smirked proudly.

 

            Buffy rolled her eyes and glared at him, then her gaze softened.  “You did,” she agreed with a small smile.  “Hence the heat-of-the-momentness of it.”

 

            When she didn’t say anything else, he sighed and risked moving closer to her to that he could run his knuckles down her cheek. Her eyes closed briefly, and he was sure that he felt her just barely lean into his hand.

 

            “Buffy...would never push you for more than you want to give me.  Never asked for naught but a crumb, did I?  If I never got to do any more than kiss you senseless every night, I’d be a happy vampire.”  When she raised her eyebrows dubiously, he shrugged and continued.  “But I am a man, love. Not gonna lie to you - having you in my arms, kissin’ you...I can’t do anything about what that does to me.  Want you so bad, it hurts. Can’t help it and not gonna pretend I can.  All I can do is promise not to push you.  You want me to back off, just say the word.”

 

            “So, if I say ‘stop’, we stop – no matter what...” 

 

            “That’s the magic word.”

 

            “Just like that?”  Her tone indicated a complete lack of belief.  “You’re a vampire and you’re going to stop going after something you want just because somebody says ‘no’?”

 

            “Because you say ‘no’, pet.  Look, Buffy, I’ve been a vampire for a long time.  I know how to control my demon; and thanks to the soldiers, I’ve had a lot more practice controlling it these last few years. Not sayin’ I wouldn’t accept more, if you’re offerin’, but I wouldn’t try to take it.  That’s not my way.”

 

            “So, I don’t have to give up kissing you?  You’re not gonna turn it into a big thing?”

 

            “Bloody hell, woman!” The mercurial vampire exploded again. “I’m in love with you! Have been for longer than I care to admit.  Never thought to have a chance to...” He stopped and took a deep, calming breath. “It is a big thing, Buffy.  Maybe not to you, but to me it is.  Touchin’ you, kissing you, knowing you trust me enough to...” He stopped, and reached for her face again, sighing when she flinched away.  “It is a big thing.  But I can pretend it isn’t, if that’s what it takes to keep you close enough for...this...” 

 

He brushed his lips over hers, so lightly that she almost missed it and was just beginning to respond when he drew away with a small smile.

 

“You decide what you want from me, love. I’m your willin’ slave, but I’m not gonna beg.  Jus’ don’t leave me wondering, yeah? Tell me what you want.”

 

He ran his knuckles down her cheek again, hoping that he wasn’t feeling that soft skin for the last time, and then opened the door.  As he slid out and away from a bewildered Buffy, he said, “See you tomorrow, love.  Sleep well.”  Closing the door gently, he forced himself to turn and walk away.

 

I hope I didn’t jus’ blow my only chance with her.  Stupid git! Should have just kissed her again and kept it up until she couldn’t think...No. No, this is better.  Let her come to me. That way I can be sure...What am I thinking? This is Buffy.  There’s no way to be sure of anything. 

 

Buffy was left sitting in the car, keys in hand, stunned expression on her face.

 

Did he just walk away from me?  He didn’t want to kiss me again? What the hell is wrong with him?  He’s got to be able to tell what he’s doing to me.  Stupid vampire!  If he thinks I’m going to come to him...

 

She got out of the car, slamming the door with unnecessary vehemence, and stomped into the house without regard for the other occupants now sleeping. When a bewildered Willow opened her door to ask what was wrong, Buffy growled, “Nothing!  Nothing’s wrong. Spike is teaching me to drive.  That’s all!”

 

“Okaaaay,” Willow crooned as she began to close the door.  “Learning to drive is good. You can tell me all about it in the morning...” She closed the door on Buffy’s still-angry, but apologetic face and went back to bed, frowning at the thought of Spike’s having been the one who had kept Buffy out so late. She made a mental note to talk to Xander and Giles about the amount of time Buffy seemed to be spending with Spike lately, then shut her eyes and willed herself back to sleep.

 

In her own room, Buffy threw herself on the bed and went over the events of the evening.  

 

Got better at driving a car -  a good thing; had ice cream – more goodness; got lots of yummy kisses – goodness squared; beat up some bullies – all good;  got Spike to promise he wouldn’t take advantage of the way his kissing turns me into hot-to-trot Buffy – definitely a good thing; good night kiss and promise of more kisses  – no – complete lack of goodness. Stupid vampire. If he thinks he can wait until I come to him, he’s got another think coming.  I can hold out longer than he can... I think...

 

With a sigh, she stood up and took off her clothes, dropping them on the floor as she bent down to pick up her pajamas.  She quickly ran through her nightly ritual in the bathroom, pausing as she realized that for the first time since her resurrection, she was actually worrying about how she looked.  She examined her clean face in the mirror, frowning at what appeared to be a baby pimple; then quickly raising her eyebrows to eliminate the frown lines.

 

I am NOT worried about looking pretty for a stupid vampire who loves me anyway.  I’m not.  And I’m not going to ask him to kiss me, either.  We’ll just see how long he can stay away from me. Stupid vampire.

 

Putting on her best imitation of Willow’s Resolve Face, she stomped back to her room, just barely remembering not to slam the door behind her. Sleep, once it came, was full of erotic dreams in which a certain blond vampire was prominently featured, leaving her almost more tired in the morning than she was when she went to bed.

 

~~~~~~~~

 

Back in his crypt, the vampire was having no more success finding a restful sleep than was the slayer.  His mood alternated between elation that she had willingly kissed him and allowed him to touch her warm body, and fear that he would never get to do either one again if he insisted that she initiate any future physical contact.

 

            This is the Slayer, you git.  Got enough pride for ten ordinary girls.  Not to mention the way all the men in her life have treated her.  It’s no wonder the poor chit is afraid to let down those defenses. 

 

            She’s above me. Said it herself, didn’t she?  Wouldn’t even be sharing the same air with me if she wasn’t feelin’ so not like herself.  Can’t wish she wasn’t here again – but never wanted to see her as down as she’s been since Red decided to play God. If I thought that anything I could do would make her feel better...would turn myself inside out if I could take that broken look off her face.

 

            He went over the events of the past two nights, remembering how she had laughed with genuine glee when teasing him, and how elated she’d been at her success in steering the big vehicle around Sunnydale.

 

            I can do this.  I can keep my bloody dick in my pants if that’s what needs to happen to stay around her.  I make her laugh, make her forget for few minutes how unhappy she is.  She doesn’t deserve to have that mucked up because I can’t keep my hands off her.  I did the right thing.  Let her come to me. Don’t push her.

 

            Telling himself that leaving Buffy to decide how much, if any, physical attention she wanted from him was the right thing to do, he took himself downstairs and threw his now-naked body across his bed.  He did his best to pretend his left hand was Buffy’s warmth as he sought relief for his aching cock.

 

 

Chapter Five

 

            As sundown approached, Spike began to pace restlessly around his crypt.

 

            Told her I’d see her tonight, but was too stupid to say when.  What if she’s expectin’ me to patrol with her? But if I show up and she wasn’t planning to see me until later...Fuck!

 

            Unable to bear hanging around his crypt on the outside chance that she would come there first, he pulled on his duster and swept out the door, pausing to sniff the night air before heading towards Revello Dr.  He was still a block away when he saw Buffy walking towards him, her head down and her gaze on the sidewalk.  He could tell the instant she felt his presence – her head snapped up and a stake appeared from nowhere as she scanned the street.

 

            Before her eyes even landed upon him, she relaxed and smiled with recognition.  She had picked up on his unique signature almost as quickly as she realized that there was a vampire in the area.  He couldn’t prevent the little burst of warmth that went through him at the thought that she could recognize his signature so quickly – and that it made her smile.  He waited patiently until she reached him, then turned and fell into step at her side.

 

            “What’s the plan, love?  Patrol first, driving lessons last – or do you want to try it the other way around tonight?”

 

            “You mean drive now?”  She gestured around them at the still-busy streets, her eyes wide and panicky.

 

            “Well, since now is when there are other cars on the road, I was thinking that would be your best shot at learning to drive in traffic...” He elbowed her playfully, earning himself a glare that didn’t actually carry to the rest of her face.

 

            “Yeah, traffic.  Kinda the point I was making,” she said, elbowing him back. “I thought you didn’t want me to get in a wreck and get killed.”

 

            “Alright, love,” he laughed.  “But you’ve got to do it sooner or later.”

 

            “Later.  I’m voting for later,” she said firmly.  “Slay now – drive later.

 

            They continued to walk in companionable silence, strolling into and out of the first four cemeteries on Buffy’s usual rounds before finding anything to slay.  When Spike’s hearing told him there was a fledgling rising, they walked to the new grave, sitting on a flat tombstone and waiting for the new vampire to emerge far enough for Buffy to reach his heart.  The fledgling struggled from the dirt surrounding him, pausing to blink in surprise when he spotted the two blond people waiting for him.

 

            Too new to recognize that the one with no audible heartbeat and no warm scent was another vampire, he focused on Buffy, his fangs dripping saliva as he renewed his efforts to get out of the grave.  His eyes lit up with joy when the meal he was anticipating walked up to him.  She waited until he tried to grab her, then plunged her stake into his chest, turning back to Spike before his bewildered dust had fallen back to earth.

 

            “He wasn’t very smart, was he?” she asked seriously. “Nothing that stupid should be allowed to live.”

 

            “I’m sure that’s what the vamp that turned him was thinking, pet.” Spike agreed with a grin. “Doin’ the world a favor there, you were.”

 

            “Yep.  That’s me. Buffy, the stupid vampire slayer...er...the slayer of stupid vampires.”  She glared at him, anticipating his quick response to her slip.

 

            “Not sayin’ a word, pet,” he said, dodging the half-serious punch she threw at his laughing face.

 

            “You better not,” she pouted.  “It was just a slip of the tongue.”

 

            “You want to be slippin’ your tongue on things, you just come right over here and do it, Slayer,” he said, curling his own tongue up behind his teeth.

 

            “Very funny, Spike.”  She rolled her eyes at his blatant leer.

 

            With a sudden change of demeanor, he said softly, “Wasn’t bein’ funny.”  When she whispered, “You weren’t?” and licked her lips, he reached for her hand and tugged her towards where he was still sitting on the big stone.  “Was just offering a suggestion for what else you could do with that tongue.”  As he finished speaking, he pulled her non-resisting body onto his lap and brushed his lips across hers, increasing the pressure until her rigid body softened and melted into him. Once again, they lost themselves in kisses that were rapidly becoming less experimental and more familiar. 

 

            Already, they were becoming adept at reading each other’s desires and preferences; probing and teasing, nipping and licking as though they had been kissing for years.  When Buffy grabbed Spike’s lower lip in her teeth and bit down gently, he growled, tightening his grip on her hips.  The vibrations from the growl ran through Buffy’s body, pulling an involuntary whimper from her throat.

 

            Her whimper brought another growl, followed by a groan as she ran her hands up his chest, scratching lightly on his tee shirt.

 

            “Jesus Christ, Buffy.”  His heartfelt gasp made her smile against his mouth, and she flicked one fingernail across the nipple poking up through the soft fabric.  So wrapped up was she in the effect her actions were having that she didn’t notice what his own hands were doing until his hand was cupping her bare breast and his thumb was stroking her nipple. 

 

            With her sweater pushed up to her neck, the vampire had complete access to her upper body and he took full advantage, unfastening her bra with one hand while the other continued to knead and stoke first one breast and then the other.  When he dropped his head to fasten his mouth on one rosy nipple, she gave a small cry and arched into his mouth, sending them both toppling backwards off the narrow piece of granite.

 

            “Ooof!”

 

            “And oww,” Buffy responded, rubbing her breast where he’d accidentally bitten her with his flat, human teeth.

 

            “Sorry, love.”  He smiled up at her, not happy to no longer have his mouth on her pert little breast, but enjoying the way she was lying on top of him and making no attempt to get up.   “Wasn’t on purpose, you know.”

 

            “If I thought it was on purpose...” she started, her voice trailing off as she realized that she was lying on the fully aroused vampire with her bra dangling from the straps and her sweater pushed up past her armpits.  The moon provided enough light for her to see the look on his face as he focused his eyes on her bare chest and licked his lips.

 

            “What are you doing?” 

 

What was intended to be an indignant and rhetorical question came out in a breathy whisper that ended with Spike’s lips on hers.  The kiss lasted long enough for her to forget her question, falling instead into a lust-induced fog in which nothing crossed her mind except  good kisses, hard body, hard...body part, hard body feels good, must feel more hard body...

 

            With Spike’s hands roving freely over her bare back and dipping into the waistband of her pants to cup the globes of her ass, and his mouth and tongue keeping her brain on kissing overload, Buffy had completely forgotten where they were.  The newly-risen fledgling that had come looking for his friend had pulled her off Spike and was reaching for her throat before it registered that she was no longer kissing her vampire, but was now pressed against a much less attractive and definitely dead-smelling body.

 

            “Ewwwww!” She elbowed him in his ribs, hearing with great satisfaction a loud ‘crack’ as she did so.  He involuntarily let go, only to refocus on her neck and throw himself at her again.  He never made it.  By now Spike was on his feet and had the inexperienced vamp by the neck.  Even without having had any instruction in vampire hierarchies or etiquette, one look at the enraged master vampire facing him told the newbie that he’d just made a fatal mistake.

 

            Spike’s furious throw against the wall of crypt that was a good twenty feet away left the unfortunate vampire crumpled on the ground in an inert heap. Not waiting to see what might happen next, Spike covered the distance to the unmoving body in three strides, picked the unconscious vamp up and twisted its head completely off.  He watched with great satisfaction as the head turned to dust in his hands and joined the equally dusty body on the ground.

 

            He whirled, hearing sounds behind him, to find Buffy trying to pull her sweater back into place while she fought with another, older vampire that had followed the sounds of Spike’s roars.

 

            “Were you trying to look at my boobs?” she snarled as she yanked the sweater down.  “Who the hell do you think you are?”

 

            “Well, I figured if it was okay for Spike—” The rest of his sentence was cut off as Buffy’s stake found its way into his chest.  He disintegrated, his face still wearing the leer that had accompanied his words.

 

            There was silence in the graveyard for several minutes as Buffy kept her eyes firmly focused on the ground.  She reached under her sweater, trying to tug her bra back into position so that she could fasten it.  As she struggled to re-do the clasp in the back, Spike stepped towards her saying quietly, “Here, love. Let me do it.”

 

            “Don’t touch me!”  She jumped away from the offered assistance, catching a glimpse of his shocked face before resolutely turning her back on him.  She quickly changed her mind about trying to fasten the bra, instead squirming around inside her sweater until she had pulled it off.  It dangled from her hand, the small quivering of the lace the only sign of how the hand was shaking.

 

            “Buffy...don’t...Look at me, love. Please?”

 

            “Leave me alone, Spike,” she muttered.

 

            “No,” he growled, moving until he was in front of her. “Not until you tell me what just happened here.”

 

            “What ‘just happened here’ is that we were all over each other in a public place.  That my clothes were half off and...”  She stopped and raised stricken eyes to his.  “What if that vamp hadn’t attacked me? What if he just went to Willy’s and told everybody that I...that you...What if it hadn’t been a vamp?  Suppose it was Xander?  Or Dawn?  What if somebody else had seen us?”

 

            “Which part of that has your knickers in a twist?  That somebody might have seen you half-naked, or that they might have seen you with me?”  His face had long since dropped back into its human features, but it was as cold and still as the corpse that he was.

 

            “Wha..?”

 

            “You heard me, Slayer. Is it that you’re worried people might think you’re starting to have a life again – or is it that I might be the one in it with you?”

 

            “Spike, don’t...don’t do this...” Her voice dropped to a whisper.  “Don’t make me...choose.”

 

            Blinking back unaccustomed tears, and fighting the urge to yell at her to stand up for herself, he took a deep breath and then nodded silently.  He stepped closer, giving her time to back away before touching her cheek.

 

            “I’m sorry, love.  Not my place to be tellin’ you what to do, is it? Got no right to...”

 

            She raised her eyes to his and in moment of complete honesty she blurted, “You do have a right.  I know that.  I’m just asking you not to...not to insist on it. I can’t deal right now with any more drama in the house.”

 

            “And you think knowin’ that you an’ me are more than friends might cause more drama?”

 

            She just raised an eyebrow at him, evoking a sad laugh and a sigh.

 

            “Yeah.  Guess it would, at that.”

 

            “I’m not trying to blow you off,” she insisted.  “And I know that I started that...that...” At a loss for what to call what they had been doing, she waved the hand holding her bra helplessly, then realized what she was doing and dropped it to her side, blushing all over.

 

            “Guess the mood’s gone now, eh?”

 

            “Ya think?”  They chuckled together and, without conversation, turned and began walking towards Revello Drive. 

 

            The short walk to Buffy’s house was quiet, but not uncomfortably so.  Their shoulders and arms brushed frequently and he was encouraged when Buffy didn’t seem to flinch away from the regular contact.  However, when he tried to link the fingers on the hands that were touching so often, she gave him an apologetic smile and shook her head. 

 

            He bit back his growl, grateful that he had, when a few seconds later a car pulled up beside them and Xander leaned out the window to say, “Hey, Buffster. I heard you wanted to learn to drive.  Came by to see if you want to have a lesson tonight.”

 

            Panic flew across the slayer’s face, before she felt Spike stepping away from her.  Without thinking, she grabbed the sleeve of his duster, holding him in place while she replied.

 

            “Spike’s been teaching me, Xan.  I appreciate the offer, but he’s doing a pretty good job.  I can already parallel park and drive around Sunnydale without hitting anything. Except demons,” she added when Spike snorted.

 

            “Yeah, that’s what I heard.  Hence the offer of lessons from someone a little less...dead.”

 

            His eyes went pointedly to where her hand was clutching the sleeve of Spike’s coat.  The vampire was impassive, waiting for Buffy to decide what she wanted to do.  The longer they stood there, Xander’s car blocking the deserted street, the vampire and the slayer standing just far enough apart that there would be no reason for anyone to think they were any more than casual friends, the more awkward the silence became.

 

            Finally, Spike took Buffy’s hand and gently removed it from his coat sleeve. He gave her fingers a little squeeze, saying smoothly, “You go on, pet. Might as well let the whelp do something useful for a change. I’ve got demons to see tonight, anyway.”

 

            Buffy gave him a grateful smile, asking too softly for Xander to hear, “Are you okay with this?”

 

            “Your decision, Slayer,” he said back.  “Looked like you were havin’ a hard time with it, so I thought I’d help you out.” He leaned in, and in spite of Xander’s stuttering “What are you doing?” he whispered, “Might want to hide that pretty bit of lace in your hand, though.”

 

            With a small “eep!” Buffy realized that she was still holding her bra.  Fortunately, it was now wadded up in her hand rather than dangling from it, and she swiftly pushed it into the pocket of Spike’s duster using her body to block Xander’s view as she did so.  She gave Spike another small smile, then turned to her frowning friend.

 

            “Sounds like a plan, Xander.  I’ll meet you at my house, okay?  Be there in a few minutes.”

 

            “I could give you a ride there,” he said, glaring at Spike who was staring back at him impassively.

 

            “Thanks, but I need to talk to Spike about something. Something...slayery. I’ll be right there. You go on.”

 

            Shaking his head and muttering about evil undead creatures, he finally drove off leaving the two blonds facing each other on the dark street.

 

            “Thank you.”

 

            “You’re welcome, love.”  He took a quick look up and down the street; extending his senses but hearing and smelling nothing but the small blonde in front of him. He brushed his lips over hers and with a quick, “Good-night, Slayer” he walked back the way they had come, pausing after a bit to turn around and pull the crumpled bra from his pocket.  “But if you want this back, you’re going to have to come and get it.” 

 

            She sputtered indignantly; his laughter drifted back to her as he continued on his way. She finally shook her head at herself and jogged towards her home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Six

 

            Xander was waiting for her in the living room, jumping up with a guilty start as she entered.  Buffy looked back and forth between him and Willow, taking in their uncomfortable demeanors and frowning.

 

            “What’s wrong, guys?”

 

            They exchanged looks, then Willow took a deep breath and said, “We were just talking about how much time you’re spending with Spike lately and we were wondering...”

 

            “Wondering?”

 

            “Why?” Xander said bluntly.  “Why would someone who had been in hell for months want to spend even more time with a demon?  Is there something wrong with you?”

 

            Willow’s angry “Xander!” was too late to prevent a gasp from the slayer and a narrowing of her eyes.

 

            “You think something’s wrong with me?” Buffy asked in a dangerously calm voice. 

 

            “Well,” he gulped, then plunged ahead.  “You hardly talk to us – your friends.  You mope around like you’re sorry to be here.  And you spend way too much time with a vampire that’s obsessed with you.”

 

            “Do you want me to do a spell?” Willow asked eagerly.  “I could take away whatever’s wrong.”

 

            Buffy met Willow’s gaze coolly. “No, Wills.  I don’t want you to do any more spells.  And just so you know?  You can’t fix what’s wrong with me.  But Spike helps me forget about it for a while.  That’s why I’m spending time with him.  He wasn’t part of---” She stopped and took a calming breath, still not ready to share with her friends that they had yanked her out of Heaven.  “You know what?  I don’t have to explain myself to you two.  Or to anybody.  I’m a grown woman, I’ve saved the world a bunch of times, I’ve got a crap job so that I can pay for the house you live in, I’m trying to raise a teenage hormone bomb and my ‘friends’ think they have the right to tell me who I can see in my off time.”

 

            While Willow stared in shocked silence, Xander muttered, “You’re ‘seeing’ Spike?”

 

            Buffy stared back at them; then nodded her head as if coming to a decision.

 

            “I might be.  We’re...we’re working on it.  I’m sorry if that doesn’t match your plans for me, but I’m not all that interested in what either one of you thinks I should or shouldn’t do.  I’ll do what I think is best for me, and if that means spending a lot of my time with Spike...well...I guess you’d better get used to it.”

 

            Ignoring their dumbfounded expressions, she walked to the door and opened it.  “Don’t wait up,” she said tersely.

 

            “Wait!  Where are you going?”

 

            “I have to see a demon about a bra,” she said, slamming the door shut behind her.

 

            “She has to see a who about a what?”  Xander wasn’t sure he’d actually heard what Buffy said as she left, but he was pretty sure he knew where she was going.

 

            “A demon about a bra,” Willow said flatly.  “We need to do something. This has obviously gone further than we thought.”

 

            “Um, Buffy sounded pretty...slayerly...when she was telling us to butt out.” Xander’s innate distrust of Spike warred with his understandable respect for Buffy’s temper and strength.

 

            “We’re her friends!” Willow protested.  “If we’d ‘butted out’ when she was dead, she’d still be...be...wherever she was.”

 

            Awakened by the noise, Dawn had come down the stairs and listened to the loud conversation.

 

            “I wonder where that was exactly?” she said quietly, startling the two young people who were sitting in her house and arguing over what to do about her sister.

 

            “What do you mean, ‘you wonder where she was?’  She was probably in a hell dimension!”

 

            “Probably?  Or maybe?  Maybe she wasn’t in a hell dimension.  Maybe she was somewhere...nicer.”

 

            “What? No!  No, don’t be silly Dawn.  If she’d been somewhere...else, she wouldn’t want to be...here...back in Sunnydale...with us...the people who brought...Oh. My. God.”

 

            Dawn watched impassively as Willow’s face crumpled and she sank into the couch with a soft moan.  Xander frowned, his eyes darting back and forth between Dawn and Willow as he tried to follow their conversation.

 

            “What do you mean ‘somewhere nicer’?  What kind of a dimension would be a nicer one?  I mean, you’ve got your hell dimensions and then you’ve got your...your not so much with the hell dimension...”

 

            “AKA – Heaven,” Dawn said flatly.  “Gee, do you think being yanked out of Heaven and back to slaying, and back to being poor and having to take care of your little sister, and not having a mom anymore, and not having a man in your life and—”

 

            Willow held up a pleading hand.  “I get it, Dawnie.  We get it.”

 

            “You think those things might make a person seem a tad ungrateful?” Dawn was relentless. “That she might rather spend her time with one of the two people in her life who didn’t participate in her resurrection?”

 

            “Dawn, stop it!” Xander had sat down next to Willow and was doing his best to comfort the now-sobbing witch.

 

            “I’m just saying – what if that’s where she was?” 

 

Without another word, Dawn went back up to her room and slammed the door behind her.  She stood on the other side, trembling all over.  It hadn’t really occurred to her until she started speaking that what was wrong with Buffy could be as simple as the fact that she had been yanked out of Heaven.  Now that it had, she was convinced that it was the real reason for Buffy’s unusual behavior.  As she climbed back into her bed and snuggled down to sleep, she determined to confront her sister at the first opportunity.

 

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

 

            Spike was lying on his bed, a bottle of JD on the floor within easy reach. However, rather than the deliberate attempt to drink himself into oblivion in which he would normally have indulged, he was sipping at it occasionally while holding Buffy’s bra to his face and inhaling her scent.  Not sure what to make of her tentative gestures of closeness in front of what was probably the least understanding of the Scoobies, he tried not to read too much into her actions.

 

Got a kind heart, my slayer does.  Doesn’t let me see it all that often, but I know it’s there.  She wouldn’t hurt a friend – not on purpose, anyway.

 

His musings were interrupted by the sound of soft rapping on the door of his crypt, and he sat up, extending his vampire senses.  When he recognized Buffy’s pounding heartbeat and her soft footsteps, he smiled and sank back onto the bed, his game face fading into the achingly beautiful human one that he preferred to show her.

 

“Spike?  Are you here?”

 

“Down here, pet.  What’s wrong?  Wasn’t expectin’ to see you again tonight.  Take it the lessons didn’t go well?”  He rose to his feet and was waiting for her at the bottom of the steep steps when she stepped on the last one.

 

“We didn’t get that far,” she said with a tight-lipped terseness that told him not to pursue it.

 

“Ah. Alright then.”  He waited patiently for her to explain why she’d come back to him.  With her standing on the bottom step, they were the same height, and only his uncertainty about her reasons for being there kept him from kissing the angry face that was only inches away.

 

He was too surprised to react at first when she threw her arms around his neck and fastened her mouth on his, kissing him frantically and taking out her anger on his willing lips and tongue.  Recovering quickly, he stepped closer and pulled her body against his, growling softly at the violence of her kiss.

 

He met her fierce kisses with an equal intensity; his demon was quivering with suppressed passion in the face of the controlled violence of Buffy’s attack upon his mouth.  When she bit his tongue, drawing blood and another growl, he reluctantly pulled away from her, holding her by the arms and trying to catch her darting eyes.

 

“Buffy? Not that I’m complainin’, love, but...”

 

“Shut up, Spike,” she growled, reaching for his mouth again.

 

“No.”  He couldn’t have said which of them was more surprised by his refusal to continue what would have undoubtedly led to more. He moved back another step and was about to release her arms when her face crumpled and angry tears took the place of her single-minded determination to throw herself at him.

 

Immediately, he was holding her again while she sobbed out her despair, grief and immense sense of loss.  In between gulping sobs, he could catch a phrase here and there.

 

“What gives them the right...?  Haven’t they ruined my life enough?  You make me happy...can’t they see that?  I don’t want to be here!  It’s their fault, and now they want me to give up the only thing that makes me forget for...”

 

Without releasing her, he walked to the bed and settled himself against the headboard, Buffy across his lap, her head buried in his shoulder while she ranted and cried until she was exhausted.  Forgoing the temptation to mumble meaningless reassurances, he held her tightly and let her cry out the anger and grief that she’d been trying to suppress since she crawled out of her grave and realized where she was.

 

When her sobs had trailed off to hiccups and sniffles, he relaxed his arms just enough that she could distance herself if she wanted to.  Instead of moving away, she snuggled closer, putting her own arms awkwardly around his torso and squirming until she was stretched out beside him.  With a contented sigh, she closed her eyes and let exhaustion take her.

 

When Buffy hadn’t move for another two hours, Spike was very grateful that his blood didn’t circulate and that he didn’t need to move around.  As wonderful as it felt to have the woman he loved sleeping trustfully in his arms, even his body was beginning to cramp up from remaining in the same position for so long. Moving as carefully as possible, he rolled onto his back, pulling her with him so that her head was resting on his chest.  He couldn’t hold back his smile when she threw a possessive leg over his thigh and wrapped her free arm around his stomach.

 

In spite of his vow to remain awake and enjoy every second of the unaccustomed closeness between them, his own eyes finally drifted shut and he dozed off feeling more at ease than at any time since he’d been chipped.

 

  He awoke gradually, becoming aware first of the warmth all along his right side and the soft, contented sounds coming from the face nuzzling his neck.  The events of the previous evening came back to him, and while he waited to see if Buffy was awake or just dreaming, he extended his senses.

 

Which told him immediately that there were human intruders in his crypt. Three heartbeats were going like snare drums, while a whispered argument was taking place upstairs.

 

“No, you can’t go down there! You could be scarred for life!”

 

“I have a right! She’s my sister, and if she’s boinking my friend, I have a right to know.” 

 

Dawn’s stubbornness was so apparent in her voice that Spike could picture her narrowed eyes and pouting lower lip. He lowered his head and whispered in Buffy’s ear.

 

“Time to wakey, love.  I think we’ve got company.”

 

“Donwanna...” she muttered, squirming closer and tightening the leg now wrapped around his thigh.  When he tried to extricate himself, she gave a credible growl and pulled him down. 

 

“Buffy, love of my life, sweetness...you know I would never ask you to move from this position if there wasn’t a really good reason for it, but...”

 

He hadn’t finished his argument before Dawn tumbled down the steep staircase, landing in a sheepish heap at the bottom.  Buffy raised her head and opened one eye.

 

“It’s just Dawn,” she murmured.  “‘s okay.”

 

“It’s not just Dawn, Slayer,” he growled, giving the teenager a glare for good measure. He raised his eyes to include Xander and Willow in the glare as they came down and stood beside Dawn.

 

“I tried to stop them,” she said.  “I really did.  I told them it was none of their business what you guys were doing, but they wouldn’t listen.”

 

“So, you were planning to stop them by being the first one to break into my crypt without knocking?  And to fall into my bedroom?”

 

            A now awake Buffy raised her head and added her glare to the vampire’s.

 

            “What are you doing here?” she demanded, the evidence of her crying jag still visible on her face.

 

            The three humans took in the scene – the fully-clothed and obviously just-awakened people glaring at them, the complete lack of embarrassment on Buffy’s still tear-stained face, the protective growls coming from the vampire with his arms around her.

 

            “I...we thought...we were afraid...”

 

            “We were afraid that the evil undead here might be using your...your emotional state right now, to take advantage of you,” Xander admitted, not meeting her eyes.

 

            “Do I look like I”m being taken advantage of?”

 

            “Well, no, not in the way I...but you’re all with the horizontalness and the arms around each other...”

 

            “In what way is holding my fully-clothed body while I’m having a breakdown and getting snot all over his shirt taking advantage of me?”  Buffy gave Spike a comforting squeeze and sat up, crossing her arms in front of her chest and fixing all three of them with her best “pissed off slayer” look.  The vampire sat up also, leaning back against the headboard with his arms crossed behind his head and grinning at the discomfited faces in front of him.  His grin faded as Xander continued to press the issue.

 

            “Look at yourself, Buffy,” he pleaded.  “You’re letting your...whatever is making you unhappy...affect your judgment.  Going to a vampire for comfort? How wrong is that?”

 

            “This vampire loves me,” she stated quietly.  “And he had nothing to do with bringing me back into this world.”

 

            There was a loud silence as she came very close to admitting that she wasn’t happy about being back.  Dawn studied her sister’s face and then nodded to herself.

 

            “I was right,” she whispered.  “I was, wasn’t I?  You weren’t in a hell dimension.”

 

            “Why would she be, you gits?”  Spike sat up, indignation radiating from him.  He stopped Buffy with a curt chop of his hand when she tried to shush him.  “Which part of ‘Heaven’s Chosen One’ is too bloody complicated for you to understand?”

 

            “Spike...” Buffy’s voice held a warning that he ignored. 

 

            “Keep out of this, deadboy,” Xander snarled.  He tried not to see how Buffy leaned into the vampire when he put an apologetic arm around her.

 

            “No, I bloody well will not keep out of it.  All you two have done since she got back is complain about how she isn’t fallin’ all over you with gratitude.  You expected her to climb out of the grave - that you left her in, let me remind you - and go right back to her life like nothing happened?  Even if you hadn’t ripped her out of—“

 

            Buffy’s hand on his mouth interrupted his tirade.  “Enough!” she said.  “I think they get it.”

 

            “‘bout bloody time,” he muttered, subsiding to low growls and keeping his arm around her protectively.

 

            Willow’s face lit up, even as apologetic tears filled her eyes.

 

            “I can fix it, Buffy!” she said eagerly.  “I can do a spell to—”

 

            “No!”

 

            “No!”

 

            Buffy and Spike spoke at the same time.  “No more spells, Willow.  You can’t fix this.  All you can do is get off my back and let me have some time to learn to live again.  Is that too much to ask?”

 

            Willow shook her head, promising, “Okay. If you don’t want—but...Spike? Where does he fit in?”

 

            Xander couldn’t control himself.

 

            “You don’t need to do this, Buffy.  Now that we know, we can help you. You don’t need to run to the undead for...”

 

            “He loves me,” she said simply.  “And he doesn’t ask anything from me in return. Can you say as much?”

 

            “You know what he wants in return.” Xander refused to give up.  “He’s got no soul.”

 

            “And yet he loves me anyway,” Buffy replied more calmly than she felt. “Even without a soul, he loves me. Pretty amazing, huh?”  She beamed at an astonished Spike, and cupped his face with one hand.  “Pretty amazing,” she repeated softly.

 

            Unable to speak, he placed a kiss on her palm, then pressed it back to his cheek.

 

            She smiled at him, and then turned back to the three humans gaping at them.

 

            “Face it, guys. I’m not like you.  I’m not like Spike – but I’m not like normal people either.  This feels right.  And I’m going to enjoy it while I’ve got it. He’s bringing me back into the world and helping me learn to enjoy it again. How can that be bad?”

 

            “It’s bad because he’s evil, unsouled, and only wants...”

 

            “Rhetorical question, Xander.”  Buffy’s voice was hard and suddenly much colder.  “Look it up.”

 

            Having recovered from hearing Buffy call him amazing in front of her friends, Spike stood up and walked towards the three humans.  He gave Dawn a gentle smile, then his face hardened.

 

            “If we’re done here, I’d appreciate it if you closed the door tightly on your way out.”

 

            He stared into Xander’s angry eyes, his own blue flickering with amber sparks.

 

            Willow broke the standoff by taking her oldest friend’s arm and tugging him to the stairs.

 

            “Come on, Xander.  We found out what we wanted to know.  It’s time to go home.”

 

            She pulled the reluctant boy up the stairs, sending Buffy a final heartbroken and apologetic smile before disappearing into the upper level of the crypt.  Dawn glared at her sister, saying, “You could have told me, you know!”

 

            “I’m sorry, Dawn,” Buffy replied quietly.  “But you were so happy that I was back...I just couldn’t...I’m sorry,” she repeated.

 

            Dawn transferred her glare to the vampire.  “Well, you could have told me! You’re supposed to be my friend...my big brother.  You could have told me.”

 

            Spike stepped back to Buffy’s side and put a possessive arm around her.

 

            “Wasn’t my secret to tell,” he said softly.  “Love you to pieces, Bit. You know that.  And it’s got nothin’ to do with your big sis having asked me to take care of you – would have done it anyway.” He tightened his arm around Buffy.  “But don’t ever ask me to choose between you.”

 

            Dawn nodded, not really mollified but knowing when it was time to walk away. Telling herself that she could lay a guilt trip on him later when Buffy wasn’t around, she mumbled her ‘good-night’ and followed the two Scoobies up the stairs and out of the crypt.

 

 

 

            Chapter Seven

 

            Spike slid his other arm around Buffy and let her turn to face him.  Holding her loosely, he asked, “Are you alright?”

 

            She nodded, giving a little sigh.  “Yeah, I am, actually,” she said with a note of surprise in her voice. “I guess I’ve been saving that up for awhile.”

 

            “They had it comin’,” he said, pulling her closer.

 

            She put her own arms around his waist and rested her head on his chest. He dropped a kiss on the top of her head, then rested his cheek on it.  Her hair tickled his nose, but he refused to move until she gave some sign that she wanted out of his embrace.

 

            Instead of pulling away, as he’d expected, she raised her head and brushed her lips across his.

 

            “Where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?”

 

            “In dreamland, if I remember right.  The both of us, I’m ashamed to say.”

 

            “Not exactly what I meant by ‘where?’ – and what do you mean you’re ashamed?”

 

            “Wanted to stay awake and enjoy every second of havin’ you sleeping in my arms,” he admitted, resting his forehead against hers.  “Can’t believe I let myself sleep through it.”

 

            “Well, yeah,” she said with a mock pout.  “How insulting is that?  Shouldn’t you have been all...I don’t know...frustrated and horny?  I was plastered against you like some...plastered thing.”  Her smile indicated that she was just teasing him, but he chose to answer her seriously.

 

            “We’ve already had this convo, Slayer.  I want you – don’t know how you could doubt it, considerin’...  But, I’m not some teenaged schoolboy.  I can control myself. I don’t just want to shag you, I want to take care of you, to be there for you, go to sleep next to you and wake up with you still there.  I want to love you.  All of you.  Even your tears and the snot you got all over my shirt,” he finished with a smile.  “Which I’m taking off right now, if it’s alright with you...”

 

            He stepped away from her and raised an inquiring eyebrow.  Buffy nodded, blushing with embarrassment at the sight of the wet, rumpled shirt.  She flushed again when he skinned it over his head and threw it in a corner, her eyes drawn to his smooth, bare chest and the taut stomach below it.  His jeans were riding low on his hips and she couldn’t stop herself from staring hungrily.

 

            Not noticing her glazed eyes or their focus on his body, Spike opened a drawer and pulled out an identical tee shirt.

 

            “No!  No, don’t...don’t put it on,” she whispered, blushing but meeting his eyes firmly.

 

            “No? And why would that be, pet?” His voice was suddenly pure silk as he picked up on her accelerated heart beat and increased body temperature.  He glided towards her, shirt dangling from one hand and eyes never leaving hers.  “If I’m gonna walk you home, I’ll need to be dressed, won’t I?”

 

            “I...I wasn’t planning on going home...” She gulped, swallowing hard as that muscular chest presented itself right in front of her.

 

            “Gonna stay then, are you?”  He struggled to keep his voice low and sexy, shoving away the hope and excitement and waiting for her to tell him what she meant.

 

            “If you want me to,” she responded, dropping her suddenly shy eyes and ducking her head.

 

            “If I want you to?  You can’t seriously be wondering about that.” He dropped his seductive voice, unable to contain his disbelief in her ability to be oblivious.  He tipped her chin up and placed a lingering kiss on her mouth, holding it until her hands were skating up the planes of his chest, leaving warm trails behind, even as they made him shiver.

 

            Buffy couldn’t seem to stop her hands as they traveled over his bare torso.  She ran them down his sides, running her knuckles lightly across the skin just above the waistband of his jeans before bringing them up to his shoulders. Tearing her mouth away from his, she ran her lips down his neck and chest, stopping to lick an erect nipple.  She was rewarded with a heartfelt groan of suppressed desire, and she smiled around the nipple.

 

            “Playing with fire here again, Slayer,” he growled, running his own hands under her shirt.  With her bra still lying on the bed where he’d dropped it when she came in, there was no barrier between his fingers and the smooth skin of her breasts.  He pushed her sweater up until she had to break away from her gentle assault on his torso so that he could pull it off over her head.

 

            Before she could go back to her exploration of his upper body, he had dropped his head and fastened his own mouth around one nipple, while kneading her other breast with one hand.  He wrapped the other arm around her and lifted her far enough off the floor that he could walk clumsily to the bed and fall back onto the mattress with her.

 

            Desperate for more contact, but afraid to overstep whatever Buffy had decided their new bounds were, all Spike could do was continue to kiss her and let her feel what she was doing to him as she writhed against his body.  “Oh, god, Buffy...” he moaned when she ground her pelvis against his.  “Need you...want you so much...”

 

            When her hand crept down to his waist and popped the top button on his jeans, he had to bite off his joyful “yes!” before it could escape.  The sound of his zipper seemed to echo in the cavernous room, followed quickly by his whimper as she freed him into her hand.  His immediate happiness rapidly gave way to dismay when her steady pumping had him exerting every ounce of self control that he’d learned in his over one hundred years as a vampire. He grabbed her hand tightly, pulling it away from his suddenly bereft cock .

 

            “What’s wrong?”  Her surprised response to the unexpected interruption, and the uncertainty in her eyes had him babbling in reassurance.

 

            “Nothin’s wrong, love.  A bit too alright, is all.  If you keep that up much longer, I won’t...I can’t...Bloody hell, Buffy!  I’m trying to preserve some dignity.  Don’t want to go spurting off in your hand like a teenager being touched for the first time.”

 

            She giggled, trying to grab him again while he did his best to fend her off.

 

            “I am touching you for the first time,” she said with a wicked gleam in her eye.  “Where’s that vampire stamina and control I’ve heard so much about, huh?”

 

            With a growl, he flipped them over so that she was underneath him, his unconfined cock free to slide between her thighs, effectively wiping the grin off her face as it bumped against the damp crotch of her jeans.  She ground against him, small whimpers emanating from her throat as he buried his face in her neck and sucked on the pulse there.

 

            “I’ll show you stamina, you little tease,” he muttered.  “We’ll just see who has the control...”

 

            Paying no attention to his challenge, Buffy wrapped her legs around his waist and held him in place while she rubbed herself against his cock.  Her breath came faster and faster as she felt sensation building up until she gasped and clutched him in a grip that would have injured a human man. 

 

            While she recovered from her first Spike-induced orgasm, his hands were busy unzipping her jeans and pushing them down her legs as far as he could get them.  She shoved him off, causing a brief expression of panic to cross his face, before he realized what she was doing.  As she sat up to kick her pants the rest of the way off, he leapt from the bed and dropped his own jeans on the floor, hopping back in before she could change her mind.

 

            This time, when her hand reached for him, he lay back and allowed her to stroke his already hard cock until the precum was covering the head.  She found that his panting groans and encouraging whispers were almost as arousing as the sight of his perfect body tensing and flexing beside her.  When she couldn’t wait any longer, she threw her leg over him and held herself above the smooth, pale column pointing at her so eagerly.  Keeping eye contact with his awestruck face, she slowly lowered herself onto him, working her way inch by inch until his eyes rolled back in his head and he cried her name.

 

            Filled in a way that she had never been before, she stilled, lost in the sensation and afraid to move and break the spell.  Spike, however, had no such worry – his every wish having been fulfilled the instant she sank down onto him, and he began to move his hips slowly.  His hands went to her hips, holding her in place as he raised and lowered himself under her.

 

            Buffy’s little “oh, oh, oh” as she began to ride him in earnest, soon had them moving faster and faster.  Her “oh”s became louder, turning into cries of surprise and pleasure, while his own mouth poured out a stream of encouragement and gratitude.  Reaching between them, he pinched her clit, sending her spiraling into another unexpected orgasm that left her collapsed on his chest.

 

            He quickly rolled them over, his hips still churning as he kissed her slack lips and urged her to come again.  As the steady motion began to create new urgency, she began to move with renewed enthusiasm, once again wrapping her arms and legs around him and clinging tightly as they rode out their mutual release.  His whispered, “I love you,” was soft enough that Buffy felt she could pretend she hadn’t heard it as he collapsed against her.

 

            After several minutes of recovery time, she was breathing almost normally, and Spike had stopped panting with her and was back to his normal habit of breathing when he needed air to speak.  He raised himself on his elbows and stared down at her flushed face. 

 

            “Wow,” she said, blushing lightly.

 

            “I’ll see your ‘wow’ and raise you a ‘bloody hell’,” he said with a smile.  He leaned down and kissed her with an aching sweetness that almost brought tears to her eyes; then he rolled off, pulling her with him so that she was snuggled into his side.

 

            “Are you warm enough, love?” he asked, stroking her arm.  Without waiting for an answer, he reached down and pulled the quilt up to cover them.

 

            “Thank you,” she said, nuzzling his chest and smothering a yawn.  “It is a little chilly in here – now that we’re not all...”

 

            “Give us a sec, and I’ll warm you right back up,” he said with an exaggerated leer.

 

            “Bragger,” she responded, yawning again.  “I’m still sleepy.”

 

            “Then go back to sleep.  I’m not going anywhere.”

 

            “Better not,” she mumbled, already closing her eyes.

 

            He wrapped both arms around her warm body and closed his own eyes, praying that he would not wake up to find that he had dreamed the events of the past few hours.  As he drifted off to sleep with Buffy curled into his side, he whispered, “Not a bloody chance of it.”

 

The end