Title: Love Continued

Author: Slaymesoftly

Rating: NC17

Season III

Disclaimer: The characters don’t belong to me any more than they did the first time; but all hail Joss Whedon for inventing them.

Summary: The next in the series that began with the somewhat grim Loves Lost and continued in the angsty Love Awakened.  Spike has returned to Sunnydale for a brief visit during which he was not really planning to let Buffy know he was there.  As usual, his plans don’t work out quite like he expected.

Beta’d by the quick as a bunny and encouraging Always_jbj.

 

 

Love Continued

 

            Joyce frowned when Buffy walked into the living room and threw herself down on the couch with a groan.  One of the side effects of Buffy’s slayer strength and healing was that she rarely, if ever, got tired or sick.  And yet, for the third afternoon this week, she had come home from school and rested on the couch until it was time for her to patrol.

 

“Maybe you should skip patrol tonight, Buffy,” her mother said kindly.  “You really seem to be dragging and I think you should get more rest.”

 

Buffy heaved a sigh and shook her head wearily.

 

“Can’t do that, Mom.  If I don’t patrol tonight, I’ll just have twice as many to slay tomorrow night.  I’ll be all right.  I’m just tired and sort of… weak.”

 

“Weak?  You feel weak?  Well, that’s it then.  You are not going out there like that, young lady. I’ll just call Mr. Giles and tell him—”

 

“Mom! No.  I’ll be fine.  I won’t go out for long, I promise.  Just a quick patrol through the closest cemeteries and I’ll come home.  I promise.”

 

Joyce eyed her daughter dubiously, but in the end she gave in.  Buffy was turning eighteen the next day and could no longer be considered a child, even if she hadn’t had her childhood ripped from her at an earlier age than most.  She tried not to hold the  watcher responsible for what had happened to Buffy the year before, but the fact that her daughter’s torment had occurred at the hands of someone who was trying to get back at the British librarian continued to stick with her, and Joyce’s relationship with the other adult in Buffy’s life was tense at best.

 

Fortunately for Giles, Joyce was in bed and asleep when Buffy got home from her abbreviated patrol.  She didn’t see the fear on her daughter’s face, or the scratches and bruises from the fight Buffy had almost lost against a fledgling vampire. 

 

The following afternoon, during the slow dinnertime period, Joyce went into the back of the gallery to begin unpacking some new items.  She had her head buried in a large wooden carton when the lid fell, temporarily trapping her with her upper body inside the box and her feet barely touching the floor.  While struggling to get a good purchase with her feet so that she could pull herself out of the box without ripping her dress, she heard the back door fly open and just as quickly close with a bang.  There was a startled “Bloody hell?” and then the lid was gone and she was able to clamber out of the box with some embarrassment.

 

As she had feared, holding the lid easily in one hand and grinning at her while she straightened her clothes and tried not to look mortified was the bleached blond vampire with whom Buffy had spent so much time the previous year. Lying beside him on the floor was the smoking blanket he had used to dodge the late afternoon sun while bolting from the manhole to the gallery’s back door.

 

            Her gratitude for being released from the box was diluted by the knowledge that she was sure Spike was not in Sunnydale to see her.  While Buffy had not yet found another man who could spark the same feelings that the Spike had been able to awaken, she had begun casually dating and seemed to once again be enjoying her life as a high school student.  The reappearance of the man whose leaving had so devastated her did not bode well for Buffy’s continued recovery from heartbreak.

 

To Joyce’s surprise, rather than asking where Buffy was, he rather abruptly demanded, “When is Buffy’s birthday?  Is she eighteen yet?”

 

Misunderstanding his question completely, Joyce drew herself up to her full height and glared at the master vampire.

 

“Since when do you care how old she is?” she asked pointedly. 

 

“Don’t,” he said flatly, understanding immediately that she was referring to his short-lived sexual relationship with Buffy.  “But you should.”

 

She glared at him with offended surprise and waited impatiently for an explanation.

 

“An’ you can bet the Watcher does,” he added enigmatically.  “So, answer me, when’s her birthday?”

 

“It’s tomorrow,” Joyce snapped, angry at both his tone and his unexpected arrival.  “Are you planning to make breaking her heart an annual event?  Because, if you are, I can—”

 

He shook his head vigorously, cutting her off before she could finish her threat.

 

“You know you wanted me gone, Joyce. Don’t try to pretend you didn’t.  She’s young, she’ll get over me.”

 

“Not if you keep coming back, she won’t!”  She didn’t bother to deny his accusation.   “You don’t know how long it took her to begin to enjoy life again. Showing up here is just going to—”

 

            “She doesn’t need to know I’m here,” he said, shocking her to silence as she tried to understand why he would come to Sunnydale if not to see Buffy.  “I’m not here for her,” he continued, adding, “Well, I am, but not that she needs to know about.  I’m here to see her Watcher and to make sure she survives the barbaric ritual the Council of Wankers uses to reward slayers who’ve managed to live to adulthood.”

 

“What are you talking about?”  Joyce’s happiness that he wasn’t going to disrupt Buffy’s life at odds with the fear his words engendered.

 

With a sigh, he slumped against a wooden crate and gave her a quick version of what happened to Slayers on their eighteenth birthdays.  Joyce’s face darkened as she realized the reason for Buffy’s sudden weakness and exactly who was responsible for it.

 

“I’m going to kill that son of a bitch,” she muttered, reaching for the crow bar she had used to wrench the lids off the crates.

 

“So, I’m on time then?  It hasn’t happened?” Relief was evident on the vampire’s face.  “I got held up and almost didn’t get here.  I was afraid I was going to be too late.”

 

“Not yet, it hasn’t.  But it must be soon.  Buffy has been tired and weak for days now. We thought she had a touch of the flu and I thought Giles was being a bastard for sending her out to patrol while she was sick.  Now I see he’s even more of a bastard than I thought!  I’m going to kill him,” she repeated, still hefting the heavy metal bar.

 

“Don’t let her go out tonight, Joyce,” he pleaded while mentally applauding her threats against the watcher.  “I don’t care what she says.  Hit her with that bar if you have to, but don’t let her go anywhere near her watcher.  He’s going to be setting her up for the test and just in case I don’t find out where it’s going to be held in time to take care of it, I don’t want her anywhere near him.  Can you do that?”

 

Joyce studied the vampire’s anxious face and her own expression softened.

 

“You do love her, don’t you, Spike,” she said softly, making it more a statement than a question.

 

“I do,” he answered simply. “With everything I am and have.”  He shook himself abruptly.  “An’ that’s why I’m not going to see her while I’m here.  She doesn’t need another vampire in her life.  But I’ll be watchin’ over her – and you,” he added with a smile.  “Not gonna let anything happen to my girls – even if I’m not right here, I won’t be so far away that I can’t get back quickly if you need me.”

 

“How will you know?  If we need you, I mean.”

 

“I’ll know, Joyce.  My name still carries a little weight with the demons in this town. Trust me. I’ll know.”  He stopped talking and looked around the storage room with interest.  “You have some nice pieces here,” he said appreciatively. “You’ve got good taste, Joyce.”

 

“So does my daughter,” she said softly, putting a soft kiss on his cool cheek, then turning away so as to hide the laughter inspired by his obvious embarrassment.

 

“You’d best be getting’ home,” he said gruffly.  “You’ll need to be there to catch her when she gets home from school.  And remember, don’t let her go out with the watcher.”

 

“It would really not be in Giles’ best interest to be anywhere near my home for a while,” she said grimly. 

 

“Jus’ keep her safe, Joyce.  You let me worry about the Watcher and the team from the Council of Wankers.”

 

With a silent nod, she went back out into the main part of the gallery and told her employees she was leaving early.  When she returned to the storeroom, it was empty and there was only a scattering of ashes on the floor where the blanket had been.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

Giles was puttering around the library, killing the minutes until it was time to pick Buffy up for the trip to the Ice Capades that he had promised her for her birthday. Guilt weighed heavily on his soul as he thought about the ordeal awaiting the girl he loved like a daughter.  He muttered in mild irritation about the Council’s refusal to tell him anything about the vampire Buffy would be facing, other than where he needed to deliver her and what time to be there. 

 

The watcher knew very little about the actual procedures for a Cruciamentum – all he’d been told was that he was to administer the drugs that would rob Buffy of her powers and to deliver her to the agreed-upon site of her trial.  He assumed that the Council arranged the trials to favor the slayers, regardless of their not having their powers. His confidence in Buffy’s courage and resourcefulness when faced with an ordinary vampire was the only thing that allowed him to follow the Council’s orders to drug her into a weakened state.  That and his assurance that the Council would never deliberately set her up to fail; that they might not want to keep an experienced slayer alive and on the job, simply had not occurred to him. 

 

He cast an eye at the rapidly darkening sky and turned back to his work area.  He was holding one of the drug bottles up to the light, trying to imagine what might be like for Buffy to be gradually losing the supernatural powers that had been gifted to her so suddenly when she was called, and trying to force down the guilt that threatened to overwhelm him every time he thought about what he was doing.  He had tried arguing with the council, going all the way up to Quinten Travers himself, telling them that Buffy’s torture and subsequent wiping out of half of the Scourge of Europe the previous year should have shown them how gifted and resourceful she was and made the Cruciamentum redundant.

 

However, his bosses had merely told him he was “too involved” with his Slayer and insisted he follow their orders to the letter, which he had reluctantly done; injecting her every day with the drug he was holding in his hand.  He looked at it again, preparing to put it away for return to the Council now that it had served its purpose, when he felt a shiver go up his back.  He turned slowly to find a completely recovered and obviously angry William the Bloody staring at him with hard, amber eyes.

 

“That what you used on her?” Spike growled, approaching the startled man and snatching the bottle away.  He threw it against the wall, smiling in satisfaction as the green liquid trickled down to the floor and into the cracks between the boards.

 

“Wha—what are you talking about?”  Giles tried to edge towards his desk where he had holy water and stakes hidden in a drawer.

 

“Talking about settin’ up your own slayer to be killed,” Spike snarled, backhanding the other man away from the desk.  “That what they teach you in Wanker school?  Make the poor little chits depend on you, then lead ‘em to their deaths when they’re too old?”

 

“What – what are you talking about?  I’m not leading anybody to her death.” Giles covered his shock at being found out with righteous indignation.  “It’s a simple trial – nothing Buffy can’t handle even if she is a bit… even if she is less than optimal.”

 

“Got all the faith in the world in this slayer myself,” Spike said quietly, “but I don’t see her taking on Kralik and winnin’ without a bit of help.”

 

“Who?”

 

“Kralik. As if you didn’t know.  They’re sending her up against a serial killer – a vampire that was pretty much of a demon before he ever lost his soul.  Don’t know quite how the Council got their hands on him, or how they’ve managed to keep him under control, but I do know there isn’t a normal girl in the world who can hope to survive him, slayer or no.   Buffy’s one of the few slayers I’d wager could take him on – IF she had all her powers.  But she doesn’t, does she, you miserable pillock?  Now where are you supposed to be delivering her?”

 

Spike’s tone left no room for negotiation, although the watcher made an attempt to resist him.

 

“I fail to see what business that is of yours.  Unless you’ve come back to avenge yourself against my Slayer for dusting your paramour last year and don’t want another vampire to beat you to it.” 

 

Giles’ haughty tone and the tinge of fear on his face told Spike that he had no idea what kind of relationship his slayer had built with the former Slayer of Slayers and he cocked his head at the other man before answering.

 

“You don’t know your slayer very well, do you, Watcher?  I didn’t come back to hurt her, you bloody idiot.  I’m here to save her.”

 

“Save her? William the Bloody is going to save my slayer?  From what?”

 

Spike’s eyes flared amber again and his face shifted as he snarled at the suspicious man.

 

“From the man she trusts to take care of her and from the tossers he works for.  The cowards who send little girls out to do their work, and then kill them off when they get old enough to start thinkin’ for themselves.  If you think they expect her to walk out of that trap, you haven’t had your eyes open, Watcher.  They don’t expect her to kill Kralik – they expect her to die – painfully.”

 

Giles paled in the face of the vampire’s genuine wrath.

 

“No,” he gasped. “They wouldn’t – I mean, we’ve had our disagreements about Buffy’s methods, but they would never….” His voice trailed off as he remembered how often his superiors had complained about his slayer and her unconventional approach to her calling.  “Oh, dear Lord.”

 

“Don’t think the Lord is going to help her,” Spike said flatly. “Now tell me where she’s supposed to go tonight so that I can get there first.”

 

“Suppose I don’t tell you?” Giles ventured bravely, even though his every instinct was screaming that this vampire could be trusted – at least as far as Buffy’s safety was concerned.

 

“I’ll kill you,” Spike said without flinching. “I’ll kill you and then find a demon to tell me where it’s going to happen. But that will take longer.”

 

“You might kill me anyway.”

 

“Definitely would like to, Watcher,” the vampire said with a feral grin. “But I don’t think the Slayer would be too happy about it. Anyway, there’s a good chance Joyce would beat me to it.”

 

In spite of himself, Giles cringed away from the toothy smile, grateful that, for whatever reason, the deadly vampire facing him was unwilling to do anything to upset Buffy.  He felt his stomach clench as he went over what Spike had told him about the vampire the Council had chosen for Buffy’s Cruciamentum and he was forced to admit that Spike was probably correct in his assessment of the Council’s intentions.

 

“They’re at an old hotel called the Sunnydale Arms.  I’m to drop her off at 7:00. It’s already gone six,” he added meekly.

 

Spike nodded and turned to leave.  “Tell me, Watcher,” he asked quietly, “Where does Buffy think she’s going tonight?”

 

The man startled at hearing Spike refer to Buffy by her given name before realizing what he’d asked.

 

“To… to an ice show,” he stammered. “She enjoys ice skating.”

 

“Yeah, I know.”  The vampire’s quiet reply echoed in the large room as he disappeared into the darkness gathering outside.

 

            With a sigh, Giles prepared to go to his Slayer’s home and apologize for what he had almost done to her.  The realization that he would have been sending her to her death was the little push he needed to reject the organization to which he had been attached for so much of his life.  Rebellious instincts that had been dormant for years began to surface and he found himself wanting to follow the angry vampire and make his own contribution to keeping his slayer safe.  Instead, he turned reluctant feet in the direction of Revello Drive and prepared to explain to Buffy and her mother what he had almost done and why he was abandoning the idea.  He left the question of why William the Bloody was so interesting in keeping his slayer alive as something to worry about at a later date.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

Spike slipped quietly through the darkness surrounding the abandoned hotel, his senses on full alert for any sign of council members.  He was confident of his ability to handle himself against humans, but also more than aware that the expertise required for handling a vampire of Kralik’s size and reputation meant that the personnel on this particular visit were probably hardened and experienced demon hunters and not to be under-estimated.   The silence he sensed from the old rickety building was ominous; at this point he should have been able to hear heartbeats from the humans and been able to assess not only how many of them were in the building, but where they were positioned.

 

Using all the stealth he’d learned through the years, he crept into the open building, moving silently from room to room until he had determined that it was empty of any form of life – human or demonic.   He studied the room in the basement, taking in the broken restraints in the closet in which they had obviously been holding the insane vampire.  His stomach clenched in fear as he realized why he couldn’t sense anyone in the building.  A quick search, using his heightened sense of smell, and he found the bodies of the Council workers where Kralik had hidden them in a furnace room. 

 

Whirling, he ran from the building and jumped into his old DeSoto, pulling away from the dark building before the door was even shut.  He drove as quickly as he could towards Buffy’s house, grateful that the time he had spent stalking and studying her the previous year had given him a good understanding of Sunnydale’s streets.  Flinging open the door before the car had quit shuddering to a stop, he ran towards the house, intent on preventing Kralik from carrying out his mission to remove the Slayer.  Completing forgetting that he had never been inside Buffy’s home, he yanked open the front door only to bounce off the mystical barrier designed to keep creatures such as him outside.

 

He snarled with frustration, even as hope blossomed when he realized that Kralik would also have been barred from entering the home uninvited.  He glanced at the driveway, noticing for the first time that the Watcher’s car was parked neatly behind Joyce’s SUV.  He jumped off the porch, circling the house to see if he could find someone to let him in.  Again, he could hear no heartbeats from inside and a cold dread settled in his chest as he worked his way towards the backyard.

 

Relief when he finally picked up several rapid heartbeats turned to fear as he rounded the corner just in time to see Buffy launch herself, stake in hand, at the laughing monster holding her mother by the neck.  With a satisfied growl, the large vampire tossed Joyce’s limp body at the advancing watcher and grabbed Buffy in mid-air.  Her weakened body was no match for the vampire, and the slayer was pulled against his chest immediately, her throat within easy reach of his teeth.

 

Spike’s shout was lost in the roar of the angered creature when his attempt to bite Buffy was thwarted by the mystical barrier surrounding her scarred throat.  With an outraged snarl, Kralik shook the Slayer and demanded, “What kind of a vampire claims a Slayer instead of killing her?”

 

“The kind that is going to remove your head.” 

 

Spike’s voice was calm and deadly, his primary goal being to get Buffy away from the much bigger vampire before he could snap Buffy’s neck with his angry shaking.

 

“William the Bloody.” The surprised vamp looked Spike up and down, clearly recognizing the well-known Slayer of Slayers.

 

“Kralik, the pile o’ dust,” Spike answered grimly, moving closer to the other vampire and his feebly struggling captive.

 

“This is yours?” Kralik held Buffy at arms’ length and looked from her to the advancing master vampire.  Spike was in game face, his eyes almost glowing with anger, his fangs and claws fully exposed. 

 

“She is,” he answered with a snarl.  “It would be in your best interest to put her down… carefully.”

 

“Why?” the insane vampire asked with a sneer.  “If you’re going to try to kill me, I might as well take her with me.  What difference will it make?”

 

“It’ll make the difference between my dustin’ you quickly and findin’ out how well you can handle years of torture,” Spike said mildly. 

 

“You talk big for a demon that wants to save a human instead of eating her,” Kralik replied.  He appeared to be readying himself for Spike’s attack, but then suddenly threw Buffy at the advancing master vampire and whirled to run.

 

Without even looking at the Slayer he caught easily, Spike set her on her feet and leaped after the other vamp, catching him before he reached the end of the yard.  The two vampires went down in a snarling, snapping tangle as the larger one tried to use his size and weight to make up for the difference between himself and the much older, stronger and more experienced fighter.  Although Kralik had been feared for his insanity and cruelty, he much preferred to prey on weak human women and he rarely, if ever, fought with other demons.

 

Spike, on the other hand, had spent his entire unlife searching for opportunities to prove himself against worthy opponents and he had well over one hundred years of experience upon which to draw as he fought with the desperate killer.  Only the fact that the larger vamp kept him on the ground and wrestling, rather than allowing Spike to use his superior agility and speed as he would have if on his feet, prevented Spike from quickly crippling the other demon.  He needed every bit of his greater strength to keep the other vampire from pinning him to the ground and using his meaty fists on him.  

 

A sudden cry from Joyce distracted him for just a scant second, but it was enough to allow the other vampire to push Spike’s face into the grass and grab his hair.  The blond had no time to worry about his vulnerable position, as the other vampire’s hand disappeared from where it had taken hold of his chin, dissolving into dust that drifted past his face. He rolled over to find Buffy standing above him, the stake she had used to kill Kralik still clenched in her fist.

 

With a quiet, “Thank you, love,” he rose easily to his feet and stepped towards her only to be shocked by the angry expression on her face and her flinch away from him.

 

“Why are you here?” she asked angrily, giving no sign that she was glad to see him.

 

Spike gestured helplessly at the dust floating away on a small breeze and at her. 

 

“Should think it would be obvious, Slayer.”  He tried to keep from his voice the anger and pain her apparent rejection was causing. 

 

“So, there was no other reason?”  Behind her cold tone and immobile face he could see the hurt feelings she tried to hide as she braced herself to hear that he hadn’t come back for her. His anger vanished in a rush of understanding.

 

“I’m still a vampire, pet,” he answered softly.  “And you’re still the Slayer – in spite of the best efforts of the bloody Council,” he added with a pointed glare at her watcher.

 

“So, you’re not staying then?  You didn’t come back to… Were you even going to let me know you were here?”  Her voice trembled in spite of herself and she could hear Giles as he demanded to know ”What the bloody hell” was going on.

 

“Shut up, Rupert,” Joyce said firmly.  “And come into the house with me.”

 

The watcher tried to protest, but one look at the angry woman’s face and he surrendered, lending her his arm for support as her limp reminded him that she had just suffered some painful, if minor, injuries from her encounter with Kralik.  The two adults entered the kitchen and closed the door firmly behind them, leaving Spike and Buffy staring at each other from several feet apart.  Identical expressions of heartbreak and yearning chased themselves across both faces and it was several minutes before Buffy’s shoulders slumped and she sat down heavily on the top step of the back porch.

 

Moving slowly and tentatively, the vampire approached the steps and lowered himself to sit beside her, close to, but not touching, the trembling girl.

 

“You weren’t going to let me know you were here, were you?” She wrapped her arms around her body tightly as though trying to hold herself together.  He reached a hand towards her shoulder and then thought better of it when she seemed to flinch again.

 

His heart ached as he shook his head slowly.  “I didn’t want you to see me.  Thought I’d get in and out before you knew I was here.  I got held up and got here later than I’d planned to and didn’t have time to take care of things before your watcher started stealing your strength.  And then that ugly git escaped before I could kill him….”

 

“Why didn’t you want me to see you?” she asked in a dull, subdued voice.  “Didn’t you want to see me?”

 

He touched her cheek, turning her face towards him and willing her to read the feelings he was reluctant to express verbally; needing her to understand that it had nothing to do with his not loving her and everything to do with not wanting to cause her more pain.

 

“I didn’t want to do that to you, love.”  His face softened as he saw the tears gathering in her eyes.  “Didn’t want to make it hard for you.  I know my leavin’ like I did last time hurt you  – I didn’t want to… to start… I didn’t want to do it again.  Your mum said you were getting’ on with your life – getting’ ready to graduate from high school, go to college an’ all.  You didn’t need a monster coming back to muck that up for you.”

 

“And you didn’t think it would hurt me to find out you’d been here and couldn’t be bothered to say ‘Hi’?” she grumbled at him, anger replacing her hurt feelings as she recognized the truth in his words.

 

“It wouldn’t be ‘Hi’ we’d be wantin’ to say to each other, pet.  You know that.  And it would jus’ make the leavin’ that much harder to do.”

 

“Pretty sure of yourself, aren’t you, vampire?” she sniffed with annoyance.  “For all you know, I’ve forgotten all about you and moved on.  I have boyfriends now. Lots of boyfriends.  It’s not like I couldn’t say ‘Hi’ to an old friend and be just fine with it.”

 

She peered sideways at him to see if he believed her brave words; words which were completely contradicted by her previous behavior.  To her surprise, the sad, resigned expression on his face seemed to indicate that he did believe her and she gaped at him as he answered quietly.

 

“That would be my hope, pet.  An’ if that’s really the case, I’m glad to hear it.  Been a long time since I was in my teens; I’ve forgotten how quickly hearts mend at that age.  Guess it would have been just me that would have had trouble with it then.”

 

“If you believe that, then you’re dumber than you look,” she huffed indignantly, getting to her feet.  She ignored his angry growl and stomped towards the kitchen door saying, “Get up and come in the house. You and Giles have some serious ‘splainin’ to do.”

 

“I should be leavin’,” he said quietly, standing up but not moving towards the door.  “I’ve done what I came here to do. The rest is between you and your watcher.”

 

He watched her indignation fade as his words sank in.  The transition from angry slayer to devastated young woman was clearly visible on her face and in her body language; she seemed suddenly smaller and more frail, her shoulders slumping and her face crumbling before him.

 

“Don’t you want to spend any time with me at all?” she whispered.  “Is it that hard to pretend you’re glad to see me?”

 

Spike was on the porch and had his arms around her before Buffy had finished speaking, holding her quaking body against him and murmuring his apologies against her hair.  He could feel the tears in his own eyes as he gave in to the sheer joy of allowing her to once again fill his senses.  For long minutes they remained together, the vampire clutching the Slayer tightly, the girl sobbing with relief as he repeated over and over how glad he was to see her, how much he’d missed being with her every day, what a total “wanker” he was for allowing her to think he didn’t want to see her, to hold her, to kiss her, to taste her… It was when he realized what he had – in his desire to reassure her of his feelings – said, that he stopped murmuring to her and tried to put some distance between them.

 

Distance that Buffy, weakened as she was, was still able to prevent.  Her hands dug into his sides fiercely as she refused to allow him to pull away.  The silent battle ended with the vampire’s sigh of resignation and his complete capitulation as he put his arms around her again.  Not until she felt him give in and cocoon her within his powerful embrace did she relax her grip on the skin over his ribs.  With a gasp of relief, she loosened her hold, cringing slightly as she realized that she had been holding on with her fingernails and had undoubtedly left gouges in the vampire’s flesh.  She slid her arms around his waist and rested her head against his chest, nuzzling into the familiar-smelling tee shirt and reacquainting herself with the scent and feel of him.

 

Finally, raising her head to look at him soberly, she whispered, “Will you come inside with me? Just for a while?  I don’t want you to leave yet.”

 

“Whatever you want, love,” he replied with a mental groan.  “Not really all that crazy about leavin’ you yet, either, truth be told.”  He grabbed her chin and forced her to look at him before she turned away.  “But you DO understand it’s gonna happen, right?  I will be leavin’ again.”

 

“I’m not going to think about that right now,” she said, tossing her head and letting her silky hair brush his face.  “We’re just going to go inside and sit together and hold hands and watch Giles wig out.  I’ll worry about when you’re going to leave later.”  She pulled him with her, remembering at the last second to add, “Come in, Spike,” as she opened the door and crossed the threshold.

 

“After you, Scarlett,” he agreed wryly, following her into the bright kitchen to face her mother and the man who had almost sent her to her death.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four

 

 

They entered the kitchen to find Joyce and Giles sipping mugs of hot tea and glaring at each other from opposite sides of the center island.  Buffy looked back and forth between the angry faces and ventured, “Okaaaay.  Bad guy is dust; I’m alive.  Is there something going on that I missed?”

 

Her watcher looked over her shoulder at the killer who had so casually followed her into the house.  He saw the small smile Joyce sent toward the vampire who had saved her daughter’s life and sighed heavily.

 

“It would appear that I am the one who is missing information.  Information that I should have had months ago.”  He glared pointedly at Spike’s hand, which was resting on Buffy’s shoulder with a familiarity that made the watcher’s flesh crawl.  “Why didn’t you tell me you had established a… relationship… with another vampire?  Did it not occur to you that, as your watcher, this might be something I needed to know?”

 

Buffy looked at him with eyes that held wisdom well beyond her years and she nodded her head briefly before answering.

 

“What would you have done?” she asked quietly.  “You freaked when you found out I didn’t kill Spike.  What would you have done if you knew I was feeding him?”

 

The man gave the vampire a hard look; confused at the calm acceptance he saw in Spike’s eyes when he responded truthfully, “I would have staked him.”

 

 His statement was flat and cold.  Years of training would not have permitted him to accept the continued existence of a master vampire.  No matter that the vampire in question might have assisted his slayer in her time of need, he was an abomination and not to be tolerated.  That his slayer, who had suffered so harshly at the hands of a formerly-souled vampire would not have learned her lesson about allowing demons into her life made him angrier than he could have imagined.

 

“And you’re wondering why I didn’t tell you?”

 

“When did you find the time to—how did this happen?”

 

Buffy looked at the older man coldly.  “Giles, exactly what did you think I was doing most of last year?  I’m pretty sure I don’t remember telling you all about my fun days in school or the great time I was having partying every night.  I know for a fact that Willow tried to talk to you about how I wasn’t hanging out with them like I used to and you blew her off.  You told her to give me some space. All you cared about was that I reported in with how many vampires and demons I slayed every night.

 

“Well, guess what? I needed somebody to talk to; somebody who knew what I’d been through and understood my life.  Spike was there for me.  He let me rant and cry and worry that I’d never be able to have a boyfriend again.  He let me sit and mope if that’s what I felt like doing, and he made me laugh when I started to feel too sorry for myself.  He’s the reason I’m able to function more or less normally now.  And he did it for me. The Slayer who killed his family, who staked the woman he’d loved for over one hundred years. There was nothing in it for him – he could have paid Willy to send him blood every day. And it would have been human blood, not the pigs’ blood I made him eat.”

 

“From the way he is touching you so familiarly, I would say there apparently WAS something in it for him.” 

 

Giles’ voice was barely under control as he observed the vampire’s gentle stroking of Buffy’s arm and shoulder. When his cruel words caused Spike’s eyes to flash and his fangs to descend, he was suddenly very grateful for the stake he was holding under the countertop.   However, before the vampire could move around the stricken slayer and carry out his clearly lethal intentions, Joyce reached across the island and slapped the watcher across the face hard enough to rock him off the stool.

 

“Never, ever speak to my daughter like that again,” she said with barely-controlled rage.  “She has just told you how much being with Spike helped her recover from the horrific experience that your friend set up. If their friendship went beyond the mutual comfort and emotional healing that was all it was in the beginning, that is their business.  And Spike has done his best to give her a chance to have a normal life.  He broke both their hearts when he left Sunnydale; but he did it anyway. For Buffy.  So that she could have as close to a normal life as possible. He only came back to save her life – from the very people you work for.”

 

The still-furious watcher had the grace to look ashamed and could not help but notice that the outraged vampire had not attacked him, but had, in fact, responded to a whispered “No” from Buffy by relaxing back into his human face.  However, the eyes that continued to bore into the older man’s were chips of blue ice that promised future retribution.

 

 The watcher turned to her mother and said plaintively, “I cannot believe you were okay with this, Joyce.  Wasn’t one disastrous relationship with a vampire enough?”

 

“Buffy’s relationships are her business, not ours.  Another vampire certainly would not have been my first choice; but Spike is not that other… creature. I know he loves her and I trust him.  He would never do anything to hurt her… physically.” 

 

Joyce couldn’t resist adding the final word as she remembered the months of crying that had followed Spike’s departure almost a year ago.  When his eyes squeezed shut briefly, she knew he was not planning to stay this time either and her heart ached for Buffy.

 

To her surprise, it was Buffy who spoke up, saying flatly – even as she clutched Spike’s arm hard enough to whiten her knuckles – “He’s not staying.  We don’t have a… a… relationship.  We’re not stupid.  I’m the Slayer; he’s a vampire.  We know we can’t be together.”

 

The vampire nodded his head in sad agreement, even as he wrapped his arms around Buffy and pulled her against his chest. The watcher could think of nothing to say except “Oh”; the arguments that he’d been preparing completely wiped out by the calm acceptance that the two unhappy lovers were demonstrating.

 

“Well, then, I guess I… I guess there’s no need for… as long as you both see the wisdom of….”

 

When there was no response except an almost imperceptible tightening of Spike’s arms and a matching tensing of Buffy’s hands where she had placed them over his as though seeking to hold herself within his embrace, the watcher’s voice trailed off and there was an uncomfortable silence.  A silence broken only by the sound of the vampire’s low rumbling purr which both Giles and Joyce could see was visibly relaxing Buffy.

 

Eventually, they moved to one stool, Spike sitting with the Slayer standing between his open legs and leaning against his chest.  While Joyce fixed them mugs of hot chocolate – smiling at Spike’s request for “those cute little marshmallows” – they faced Buffy’s watcher and agreed to answer his questions.

 

When Giles asked how they went from mortal enemies whose stated purpose in life was to kill each other, to the close “friends” that they had obviously become, Buffy shrugged and struggled to explain how disconnected to her former life she had felt after the events in the mansion; how isolated from her friends and the other students at Sunnydale high school she was.  She stumbled over her words as she tried to explain how reluctant she had been to have anything to do with boys for such a long time and how supportive Spike had been as he encouraged her to venture back into the school’s social life.

 

“He… he always told me I would be attracted to somebody again someday; that I would learn to… to love again.  We just didn’t know it would be him.”

 

Spike had frozen in place when she talked about learning to love again, telling himself she was speaking metaphorically, or about physical attraction, not that she was saying that she had fallen in love with him. 

 

 She cares, yeah. I’d have to be blind not to see that, but it doesn’t mean she’s in love, love.  She’s just grateful and maybe a little bit… a little bit interested in shaggin’ me again.  But it’s not love.  Not like I mean it.

 

In deference to her mother, Buffy glossed over the physical aspects of their relationship, merely saying that Spike had felt the need to leave shortly after they discovered that their friendship had blossomed into something else.  Joyce was not fooled, remembering the long weeks of Buffy’s sleeping in Spike’s tee shirt and on the sheets from his bed, but she kept her thoughts to herself and nodded as though there was nothing more natural than for two people who had just discovered that they had romantic feelings for each other to agree to separate forever.

 

Still at a loss as to how everything he’d been taught about vampires and their ability to control the bloodlust that emerged with the demon could have permitted Spike to tolerate Buffy’s company long enough to establish a friendship, Giles fixed a hard eye on the vampire and asked coldly, “And what about you?  What would possess a vampire of your… reputation… to continue to peacefully spend time with the girl who destroyed your family?  Once her value to you as a weapon to use against Angelus was gone?” he added as a reminder that he was not fooled about Spike’s original motivation for helping the slayer.

 

“She was kind to me,” he said softly, meeting the watcher’s eyes firmly. “I don’t repay kindness with treachery, Watcher.”

 

“Because vampires are so notoriously honorable,” the other man scoffed, all but rolling his eyes with skepticism.

 

“Tell me, Watcher,” Spike put just the slightest bit of derogatory emphasis on the term, “what is so honorable about a man who would take advantage of a girl’s complete trust in him to send her into a trap without even warning her he was doing it?  A man who would tell her they were going to celebrate her birthday by going to an ice show when he was actually planning on sending her to her death?”

 

“I didn’t know that, goddammit!”  Giles exploded at the vampire who just smirked at him while Buffy and her mother glared.

 

“But you did know you were robbing her of her strength,” Joyce said quietly.  “And that she was going to have to face a vampire without any of her powers.”

 

His shoulders slumped in defeat.  “I did,” he admitted softly.  “I did, and I cannot tell you how much it hurt me, or how much I regret it.  I really had no idea it would be dangerous for her.  Buffy is a very resourceful slayer and I assumed….”  His voice trailed off and he faced the girl he’d come to love like a daughter and said firmly, “I will be handing in my resignation to the Council directly.  I will not work for an organization that would do that to one of its warriors.”

 

“So, you won’t be my watcher anymore?” Buffy’s voice held just a trace of fear and sadness, although her anger at his actions still held the most sway over her emotions.

 

“Surely, you would rather not have me?” he asked with astonishment.

 

“You’re going to leave me?” 

 

The unspoken “like my real father did” lay heavily in the air of the kitchen.  Spike’s wince at the resignation and grief in her voice didn’t escape anyone’s notice and Buffy tilted her head back to look up him reassuringly.  Ignoring the watcher’s barely suppressed cough and her mother’s gasp, she said clearly, “As long as I know you love me, as long as I know you will come back when I need you, you haven’t really left me.  You’re just… not here. I can live with that.”

 

“ ‘S no way for a girl to live, sweetheart.”  His calm answer was belied by the hope and anguish on his face.  “Waitin’ for me to breeze into town for a bit and then away again.  ‘S not what I want for you, love.”

 

“It’s what I want for me,” she said stubbornly.  “I want to know that you’ll come if—when—I need you.  For anything,” she added so softly only he could hear her.

 

Joyce interrupted them abruptly, standing up and wincing as she tried to put weight on her bruised hip.

 

“This sounds to me like a private argument; one that neither Mr. Giles nor I need to hear.  What needs to be settled right now is what you will do for a watcher if Giles resigns.”

 

Buffy turned her bruised eyes back on the man she had trusted to take care of her and asked quietly, “What will you do if – when you leave?”

 

“I was not thinking about leaving the Hellmouth, Buffy,” he said gently, putting all his affection for her in his voice.  “I would not leave you alone if you are willing to still have me in your life.  I am simply going to resign from the Council.”

 

“No loss there,” Spike snorted. “What have they ever done for you lot except try to kill Buffy?”

 

“It’s quite true that my employers have had some… issues… with Buffy’s independence, not to mention her predilection for falling in love with the very creatures she is meant to destroy,” he added wryly.  “However, she has been an excellent slayer and guardian of the Hellmouth and I daresay she is quite capable of continuing to do so with or without their assistance.”

 

“So,” Buffy asked dubiously, “you think they’re going to just leave us alone?”

 

“Oh, I suspect there is a new slayer already on her way here.  No doubt she will appear with her own watcher in tow.  However, I cannot see why they would object to having the Hellmouth guarded by two slayers.  Surely, between the two of you, you will be able to handle anything that comes up.  Without assistance from any outside sources,” he added with a quick glance at the vampire still hovering protectively over his slayer.

 

“Well, that’s all good then,” Spike responded through tightly clenched teeth.  “You won’t be needing me for backup if you have another slayer around, will you, pet?”

 

“What if that’s not what I need you for?” Buffy asked softly, leaning into his chest and rubbing her face against his shirt.

 

“And here we are again!” Joyce interrupted brightly.  “Not a conversation we all need to participate in.” She began to limp towards the hallway, saying conversationally, “I, for one, am going to have a long soak in the tub before I go to bed; hopefully it will turn out that some trace of Buffy’s fast healing has been shared with her mother.  Mr. Giles, I am sure you can see yourself out?”

 

“Please, Joyce,” his voice was rough with emotion, “call me Rupert.  I know you are angry – and you have every right to be so – but I love your daughter as though she were my own.  I promise you, I will never again do anything to knowingly put her into danger.”

 

“Gonna take up patrolling for her, then, are you?” Spike asked mildly.

 

With a glare, the man growled, “Anything not a part of her everyday duties as the Chosen One.  I cannot change what she is; I can only guide her and support her decisions in whatever manner is necessary.”

 

Before there could be more harsh words exchanged, Buffy moved away from Spike and said forcefully, “Okay, that’s enough for the night.  Mom is going to soak her sore hip and go to bed; Giles is going to go home and call the Council and tell them what they can do with their Crucia – whatever; and I am going to spend some time with my vampire before he disappears again.  We can go back to yelling at each other tomorrow.”

 

Surprisingly, there was no argument from either Joyce or Giles as they said “good night” quietly.  When the kitchen was quiet and empty except for them, Buffy moved back into Spike’s open arms, sliding her hands around his waist and looking up at him wistfully.

 

“So,” she said as casually as she could, “about that ‘hi ‘….”

 

With a groan he tightened his grip on her, whispering softly, “You know this is a really bad idea, don’t you, pet?  It’s just going to make it harder… on both of us.”

 

“There you go again,” she said with the trace of a giggle in her voice, “thinking you’re all that and that I can’t resist you.”

 

Rather than answer her verbally, he nuzzled her neck until she was tilting her head back to let him suck lightly on his mark, then trailed kisses up to her waiting mouth.  When their lips met for the first time in a year, it took only a fraction of a second for the warmth between them to explode into an inferno that

had Buffy molded to his body while he tried to pull her even closer.

 

Spike’s accidental tipping over of the stool upon which he’d been sitting reminded them that they were in her mother’s kitchen and they reluctantly broke apart, breathing harshly.

 

“Where…?”  Was all the vampire could gasp out, but the question was clear.

 

“The mansion,” she answered quickly. 

 

Whirling as one, they were out the door and into his car, moving almost too quickly for the human eye to follow. 

 

 

 

Chapter Five

 

The drive to the mansion took only a few minutes, the old DeSoto roaring through the dark and deserted streets.  When Spike ventured to suggest that the mansion might be too neglected for comfort, or inhabited by a vamp nest, Buffy assured him that she visited it regularly and kept it not only cleaned out but cleaned up.

 

 He cocked his head at her, asking with forced casualness, “So, made it your own little hideaway, have you?  Place to take your friends to party?  Someplace to find some privacy if you and one of those many boyfriends need it?”

 

Buffy snorted in amusement. “If that’s your less-than-subtle way of asking if I’ve had any guys here, the answer is ‘No’.  I wouldn’t do that.  Do you think I would do that?” Her voice changed as she worried that he would think she had been bringing other men to what she thought of as his house.  “Do you?”

 

“Would be your right,” he said gruffly, trying to hide how happy he was at her denial.  “ ‘S what I told you to do, innit?  Go on and find yourself a nice bloke—“

 

“I’m not very good at doing what I’m told,” she said softly. 

 

He peered at her out of the corner of his eye.  “No, guess you aren’t.  Prob’ly why those Council wankers wanted to kill you.  Replace you with a slayer who’ll follow orders.”

 

“Well, good luck to them with that,” she muttered.

 

“So,” he asked, still striving for casual, as he opened the door for her in front of the old mansion, “Nobody, then?”

 

“Not the way you mean it. No.”  She waited for the relieved sigh he couldn’t hide and then asked quietly, “You?”

 

He shook his head, taking her hand and leading her into the dark building. He shifted into vamp face to help him see, the moonless night not providing enough light for Buffy to navigate the big room by herself.  As he unerringly led her towards his old bedroom, he spoke softly.

 

“I’m a one woman man – er, vamp – Buffy. Always have been. Always will be.  I thought about it once or twice, won’t deny it.  When I was feelin’ sorry for myself and picturing you going to dances and havin’ fun with your friends; but then I’d remember what it was like with you and I knew that any other woman would pale in comparison.  Rather spend my time thinkin’ about you and wankin’ off than pretendin’ with some other bint.”

 

“Ewwww! Spike!  TMI!”

 

His rich chuckle sounded in her ear as he opened the door to the sheltered bedroom.  Leaving her momentarily, he lit a candle and looked around appreciatively.  The room was spotless, the bed made neatly and the candles trimmed and ready.

 

“Is it okay?” she asked anxiously.  “I took the good sheets home with me so I could… but I put new ones on it so the bed would be ready if you wanted to come back…”

 

“It looks wonderful, pet.  You didn’t have to do this, you know.  It’s not like it’s my house or anything. “

 

“It was our place,” she said softly, moving towards him. “I wanted it to be here when I needed to remember….”

 

“Time for new memories, love,” he said hoarsely, pulling her close and sliding his hands under her shirt.  Working quickly and smoothly, he removed her clothing, one item at a time, murmuring his appreciation and running his mouth over her exposed skin as he did so.  When she was standing before him, naked and trembling, but proudly upright, he paused to run his eyes over her from head to toe.

 

“You’re as beautiful as I remember you, love.  Pure perfection in one small package.”

 

“Feeling kind of underdressed here, Spike,” she said with a quaver in her voice.  The adoration on the vampire’s face was so intense it almost frightened her.  While he shed his signature duster, Buffy began tugging at his tight tee shirt, pulling it up to his shoulders, letting go when she felt him grab the hem to pull it off.  While she fumbled with his belt buckle and zipper, she rained little kisses all over his bare chest, pausing to lick at an upright nipple from time to time and dropping her head to follow the soft curls that were exposed by the open zipper.

 

With a growl of frustration, he broke away from her warm mouth long enough to fall backwards onto the bed and pull off his boots and pants.  He reached for her, his hands wrapping around her bare hips and pulling them towards his face as he sat on the low bed.  He buried his nose in the brown curls in front of him, inhaling the scent of her arousal and dipping his tongue into the moisture already coating them.  Buffy’s whimper as she grabbed his head for support was music to his ears and he pulled her onto the bed with him, lying back and holding her suspended above his face until she had her balance, then reverently lowering her hips until his tongue was touching her outer lips.

 

“I missed this so much,” he murmured between licks.  “Dreamed of you, of the way you taste, the way you feel, the sounds you make… wanted you so bad, love.”

 

“I was right here,” she gasped, falling forward to support herself with her hands as the vampire’s attentions began to build to the inevitable conclusion.  “Right here… missing you… wishing you were….”

 

Her voice trailed off as his tongue and lips quickly brought her to her first orgasm and she collapsed onto him with a muffled shriek, her body breaking out in goosebumps as she shivered uncontrollably.   Giving her only a few seconds to regain her senses, he rolled her onto her back, covering her with his own body and nudging her thighs further apart.

 

“Can’t wait any longer, love,” he growled.  “Got to be inside you now, got to feel you around me…”

 

Her response was to bring her legs up and wrap them around his waist, using her feet to pull him against her tightly.  Had there been anyone else in the room, they would have heard matching moans of relief as he slid into her waiting warmth and buried himself as far as he could go.  For a time, they remained still, the Slayer struggling not to cry joyful tears as she felt him filling her, connecting them physically and emotionally, the vampire wondering if it was possible to spontaneously combust from sheer happiness.

 

Their hips began moving together in a smooth rhythm, as though they had been making love together every night for years.  Murmured endearments and gasped responses erupted whenever their mouths were not locked together in deep, frantic kisses.

 

“Missed you, Buffy.  You feel so good to me, love.  My beautiful slayer, my golden girl.  Want to stay here forever. Never leave you, sweetheart.  You make me feel alive again, come for me, my love.  Let yourself go.  Let me love you…l ove you… I love you!”

 

The Slayer’s less eloquent, but equally heartfelt murmurs provided a soft counterpoint to the vampire’s steady stream of affectionate names and unintentional declarations of love.  As she clenched around him, shaking again with the force of her release, she repeated his shouted “I love you” with her own softer “I love you too, Spike.”

 

When their tremors finally trailed off to occasional shudders of remembered sensation, he rolled to the side, pulling her against his body and tugging the bedspread up to cover them both.  For long minutes there was close to silence while Buffy recovered the ability to breathe normally and Spike mentally repeated her last words to him until they were etched in his brain, to be summoned up whenever he felt the need.

 

 When she was once again inhaling and exhaling without gasping or sighing, Buffy lifted one hand and began making lazy circles on his smooth chest. A slight tightening of his arms was the only sign that he was aware of her fingers tracing their random patterns on his skin.  When she got tired of writing her name around his nipples, she dropped her hand to rest it against his unmoving rib cage while she nuzzled into his shoulder.  She smiled when she felt the vibration in her hand as the vampire set up a gentle purring.

 

“Spike?” she ventured, not really wanting to disturb him, but anxious to have her question answered.

 

“Yes, love?” he responded immediately, pulling back to look down at her face.

 

“What that creep said – about my belonging to you?  Was that the claim? Is that why he didn’t bite me?”

 

“Yeah,” he answered, trying to keep the pride out of his voice.  “The ugly bugger knew you’d been marked and even as crazy as he was, his demon knew to back off.  Wasn’t going to stop him trying to kill you, I’d wager, but it did what I hoped it would. It slowed him down long enough….”

 

“So,” she said quietly, resuming her random drawing on his chest, “does that mean I’m still yours?”

 

“I bloody well hope so,” he mumbled, burying his face in her neck.

 

“But you’re not mine,” she teased, with a hint of a pout in her voice.  “You own me, but I don’t own you.”

 

Instead of responding to her teasing, he sat up and gazed down at her, saying as solemnly as he could, “In the first place, Slayer, I don’t own you.  Told you that when I did it.  It just marks you as something I care about.  Won’t mean a thing to anyone but another vampire.  And in the second place,” his voice softened and he smiled at her sadly, “I am more yours than you will ever know.  Don’t need a bloody mark on me to remind me.  I live with it every day.”

 

“Will you always be mine?” she asked softly.  “After you leave again? Will you still be mine when you haven’t seen me for a long time?  When I’m old and ugly?”

 

He groaned and flopped back down beside her, pulling her over onto his body and growling into her neck.

 

“You’ll know when I’m not yours anymore, Buffy.”

 

“I will?”  Doubt and disappointment colored her voice at his angry-sounding statement.  “How will I know?”

 

“Someone will tell you they saw me dust,” he said flatly.

 

“Well, that’s just—” Her indignant reply choked off as his words sank in and she realized what he meant. “Oh,” she whispered. “Oh.”

 

“Yeah, Slayer, oh.  I’m hooked good and proper, pet. Not saying if you’ve… you’ve….” He couldn’t bring himself to say what they both knew was her probably fate.

 

“Died?” she offered softly.

 

“Yeah. That.  If that happens, I’m not saying I wouldn’t move on eventually.  I don’t think I know how to be alone,” he admitted sheepishly.  “But I would still be yours, love.  Be assured of that.  I expect to carry that to hell with me.”

 

The morbid talk about their eventual deaths had them clinging together tightly, leading quickly to the inevitable lovemaking.  This time, their coupling was fierce and frantic as each tried to push the thoughts of a world without the other as far away as possible.  Buffy arched her body and flipped them over, riding the vampire hard until she could tell he was fighting to control his demon.  With a triumphant shout, she fell onto his neck and grabbed the skin there with her teeth, uttering a guttural “Mine!” as she bit through the soft skin and drew the borrowed blood into her mouth.

 

Immediately, Spike’s fangs were in her throat and he was drawing deep draughts of her blood into his mouth and swallowing hard, only releasing her when he felt her begin to weaken.  “Mine!” he roared, the rich blood flooding his system and sending his demon into a frenzy. 

 

“Yours,” she responded weakly, as she rolled off his body and began to shiver.

 

As quickly as it had emerged, the demon was gone as Spike remembered with horror his attempt to drain her only a scant year before.  With a groan, he quickly licked the small wounds, muttering to himself as much as to her.

 

“Told you I was yours, you daft bint. What’d you go and do something like that for?   Now look what you’ve made me do.  Almost killed you, I did. You see why I have to leave?  I’m no good for you, sweetheart.” His eyes filled with tears and his voice broke as he beseeched,  “Buffy?  Talk me to, love. Tell me you’re alright.”

 

In spite of his frantic words, he could hear her firm, steady heartbeat and knew she was in no real danger of dying.  He was already calming down when she opened her eyes and said with a sigh,  “I’m fine, you big baby.  Stop blubbering. Slayer here, you know.  You couldn’t kill me before and you’re not going to do it now.  I’ll be fine.” He quickly relaxed and tried to hide how frightened he’d been.

 

“That was a bloody stupid thing to do,” he grumbled, embarrassed by his tears and still angry at how close he had come to seriously hurting her. 

 

“You didn’t want to be claimed?” she asked with a small frown.  “I thought you’d like it.  I marked you, too.  Now any vamp hos that try to hit on you will know you belong to a Slayer.  That oughtta cool their jets.”

 

 She spoke firmly and Spike laughed at the prim satisfaction in her voice.

 

“Don’t doubt but it will, pet.  Not that I plan to let any other bints get that close to me, but….”

 

Changing the subject abruptly, Buffy asked, “How long are you going to stay?”

 

“Probably leave tomorrow night, love.”  When he felt her stiffen beside him, he sighed and sat up, letting the bedding drop to his hips as he frowned down at her.  “It’s for the best, pet.  The longer I stay, the harder it will be and the greater the chance the council will find out about us.”

 

“When will I see you again?” Her eyes demanded he tell her the truth and he turned his head away as he mumbled, “I kind of have a plan.”

 

“Which is?”

 

“I’ll come back as often as I think is safe – no more than once a year, probably. Unless you need me for something,” he added quickly.  “If that’s the case, I’ll be back as soon as I can get here.”

 

“How will you know if I need you?” Her curiosity overcame her pain at the thought of losing him again so soon and she sat up to show him it was a serious question.

 

“I’ll be keepin’ my ear to the ground, love. Don’t think that just because ‘m not here, ‘m not keeping up with your life.  But if I miss something, if you really need me in a hurry for somethin’, jus’ tell Willy. “

 

“Willy?  Willy the sleazy bartender?”

 

“He remembers who the master of Sunnydale was.  You just tell him you need to see Spike and he’ll tell the right demon.”

 

“Great – every girl’s romantic fantasy – Willy the bartender as a go-between.”  She rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically, earning a growl and a playful snap from the vampire.

 

“Jus’ do what you’re told, missy.”

 

“In your dreams, fangface,” she sniffed, lifting her chin defiantly.  “If I did what I was told all the time, the Council wouldn’t be trying to kill me.  And you would have burned to a crisp along with….” She waved her hand in the direction of the open part of the house.

 

“You can be right annoying, Slayer. You know that, right?” His attempt to appear genuinely angry rather than amused at her, failed completely when she caught the twinkle in his eye and she stuck her tongue out at him in response.

 

“Is that an invitation, love?” he purred, his eyes quickly darkening with desire.

 

“It would be if somebody hadn’t been sucking on my neck longer than he should have,” she grumbled, half seriously.  “I’m going to be missing valuable Spike-loving time here because I’m so tired.”

 

The lust in his eyes was gone as quickly as it had arisen; replaced by regret and concern.

 

“I can’t tell you how sorry I am about that, love.  Never should have touched you again. My demon just got out of my control when you bit me.  I didn’t mean to do that to you, pet. You have to believe me.”  The panic in his voice would have been funny if he hadn’t been so serious and she hastened to reassure him.

 

“I know it was my fault, Spike. I wasn’t yelling at you – not really.  I just wanted to explain why I’m not all about the slayer stamina just now.”

 

“Don’t need stamina, pet,” he purred. “You just lie there and get your strength back and let Spike take care of you.”

 

Buffy obediently shut her eyes and relaxed into the soft pillows, letting the sound of Spike’s voice wash over her as he began to kiss his way around her body, commenting on the taste, scent and feel of her skin as he did so.  Every time his lips wandered back to the marks on her neck, he ran his tongue over them, smiling when she gave an involuntary shiver with each swipe of his tongue.

 

“That’s my beautiful girl.  No other vampire can touch that spot. Only me; only the one who loves you with everything he is.”

 

“Mmmmmm” was the sleepy reply as she squirmed on the bed, becoming aroused again in spite of her lassitude.  Spike was instantly aware of her changing body, but waited until she was whimpering softly with need before he slipped carefully onto her relaxed body and nudged his way into her.  Buffy’s happy sigh and the gentle flexing of her walls told him he had guessed right and he stretched himself out over her, basking in the warm skin beneath his.

 

Unlike the previous coupling, this time was slow, sweet and all about enjoying the connection between them.  Vampire and slayer moved slowly in tandem, their hips gently rocking until the sensations building up wouldn’t be denied any longer.  When Buffy began pushing back against him harder than before, seeking the pressure that her body was demanding, he gradually increased his own thrusts until his hips were meeting hers in equal measure and they brought each other to shuddering conclusion.

 

Their last words before Buffy drifted off to sleep under the blankets he’d pulled up around their still-connected bodies were murmured “I love you”s” and they both rested with small smiles on their relaxed faces.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Six

 

Fortunately for Buffy, the next day was a Saturday and she did not have to get up to go to school.  The light filtering in from the end of the dark hallway awoke her gradually, giving her plenty of time to notice that Spike was not where she expected to find him.  She sat up abruptly, looking around the room and listening for sounds of his presence. 

 

 He’s gone!

 

Buffy allowed a moan of fear to escape her lips as she slid out of the bed and wrapped the sheet around her trembling body.  Fear, grief and the righteous anger of an abandoned woman fought for dominance as she stalked towards the hallway, vowing to stake him the minute he set foot back in Sunnydale if it turned out he’d left again without telling her “good-bye”.  A loud yell, followed by a lengthy string of curses, most of which made no sense to her at all what is a bloody buggering bastard? had her laughing with relief as she reached the end of the hall and saw Spike carefully picking his way around the edges of the room.

 

His ability to dodge the sun’s early morning rays was impeded by the two large grocery bags he was carrying, as well as the cooler he was pushing ahead of him with one foot, and Buffy quickly ran to help him, forgetting she was only wearing a sheet.  The sheet caught on a broken chair, pulling away and falling to the floor, leaving Buffy standing naked in a ray of early morning sunlight.

 

The vampire froze, his eyes riveted on the golden vision before him. With her blond hair gleaming, her eyes sparkling and her lightly tanned skin glowing, Buffy appeared almost ethereal.  She stood there for a minute, basking in the look on his face before grabbing the sheet and wrapping it around her torso more securely.

 

“Stop ogling and give me some of that stuff,” she demanded.  “Where have you been anyway?”

 

“Went out to get you some nourishment, you ungrateful bint,” he growled at her back as she picked up the cooler and went back towards the bedroom. “I just underestimated how long it was going to take to load it all up and barely beat the sun back.”

 

“So what’d you get me?” she asked brightly, changing the subject just enough to avoid being caught laughing at his disgruntled expression.

 

“Juice, milk, water, trail mix, bananas, cereal – sorry, pet, but they just don’t make T-bones to go or I would have brought you more protein. Think there’s some cheese in there that should hold you till we can go out for dinner tonight.”

 

“You’re taking me out to dinner?  Like on a date?”  The pleased surprise in her voice hit one of his Victorian nerves and he glared at her again.

 

“I know how to treat a woman, Slayer.  Wasn’t brought up by trolls, you know.  What kind of a useless git would I be if I just stayed in and shagged you the whole time I was here?”

 

“I’m not sure what a ‘useless git’ is, but if you did, you’d be one tired vampire, I can tell you that!” She stuck her tongue out at him and began rooting through the bags for something to eat and drink.

 

“If you’re so sure I’d be tired, Slayer, what would that make you?” He curled his tongue behind his teeth and gave her one of his best leers.

 

“Um… really, really happy?” she offered with a sly grin, squealing and dodging around the bed as he reached for her.  “Hey!  Hungry slayer, here, let me go,” she gasped, giggling when he pulled her onto the bed and growled fiercely into her neck.   A few minutes of laughter and wrestling for a dominant position and Spike stopped his assault on her neck, allowing her to pin him to the bed and sit on his chest triumphantly.

 

“Hah! Never get between a hungry slayer and her food,” she said happily, bouncing lightly on his chest to emphasize her superior position.

 

“Okay, love.  You win.  For the moment. Get yourself something to start building those red blood cells back up.  Got a whole year’s worth of lovin’ to make up for today and I don’t want to waste a minute of it.”

 

Blushing at the leer he was giving her naked body, Buffy quickly got off his chest and grabbed a tee shirt to pull over her exposed torso.  The short shirt, ending just below her butt cheeks did nothing to cool the ardor shining in the vampire’s eyes, but he settled against the back of the bed, content to watch her eat and drink her fill.

 

“You know,” she mumbled around a mouthful of banana, “I’m going to have to check in with Mom sometime today.  I mean, I’m sure she knows I’m with you, but she’ll be worried anyway—”

 

“I know she will, love.  We’ll drop into the Gallery later and she can scold me for corrupting her daughter.”

 

Buffy grabbed some more food from the bag and opened the carton of orange juice as she mused aloud, “I wonder why she hasn’t wigged more about this… this thing we have?  I mean I couldn’t get much closer to the cliché of a fatherless girl and an older man than falling in love with a 150-year-old vampire.”  She was so lost in her own thoughts that she completely missed the awed gratitude in the vampire’s eyes at her casual mention of being in love with him.

 

He remained speechless as she finished swallowing the juice and cocked her head at him.  “Spike?  Are you listening to me?”

 

“Oh, yeah, love. I’m listening.  Say it again, sweetheart.”

 

Her brow wrinkled with confusion. “Say what? That my mom should think you’re too old for me?”

 

“No,” he said gruffly.  “The other part – the part where you said you….” He was unable to finish the sentence, allowing his voice to trail off as her puzzled face cleared and she smiled at him shyly.

 

“Where I said I’m in love with you?” she asked softly. 

 

She moved closer to him as he nodded without speaking, his eyes begging her to repeat her words. She straddled his legs, resting her arms atop his shoulders and pressing her forehead to his so as to look him directly in the eye. Slowly and distinctly, she repeated, “I am in love with you, William the Bloody.  I don’t know how you can doubt it.”

 

“I doubt it ‘cause I know I’m beneath you, Buffy.  You deserve the sunshine, the company of a man who can take you on picnics and give you children, someone who can share your whole life.  Not a monster that has to lurk in the shadows, waiting for darkness so that he can come to you.”

 

With a sigh, she settled back on his legs and stared into his earnest and resigned face.

 

“Spike, who am I?”

 

“Buffy Summers,” he responded briskly.

 

What am I?”

 

“You are beautiful, sexy, kind, smart—“ His litany of her attributes was interrupted by something that sounded suspiciously like a growl.

 

“Are you being deliberately dense?” She glared fiercely, daring him to pretend he didn’t know what she was talking about.

 

He shook his head and responded with a sigh, “No, pet. I know what you’re sayin’.  You’re the Slayer. Heaven’s Chosen One.  She who spends her evenings in graveyards making dead things even deader.  I get that, love. You know I do.  I just would prefer not to think about what it means.  I’d rather believe that you will have a long, semi-normal life; that you will get to enjoy all the things that go along with being a human woman.”

 

“I think that ship pretty much sailed when I was a freshman in high school,” she murmured sadly, leaning into him and resting her head on his chest.  “I just want to be happy for as long as I have to live.” She raised her face to meet his eyes again.  “And you make me happy, Spike.  You make me want to live a long time.”

 

The vampire had no reply, except to pull her closer and fasten his mouth on hers.  The kiss ran the gamut from sweet and tender to deeper and more passionate and back again, neither one of them willing to break the physical connection that expressed their roiling emotions.  Finally, reluctantly breaking the contact with Buffy’s lips, he held her against his chest and whispered into the hair tickling his face, “ I want you to live a long time too, love.  That’s why I’m going to do what I can to be available when – if – you ever need me for help with somethin’.  Not that I think you can’t handle just about anything that comes along,” he hastened to add as he felt her body stiffen in indignation,” but it never hurts to have someone strong watchin’ your back, does it?”

 

“I suppose not,” she grumbled.  “Just so we’re clear that I am the Slayer and not some little girl for you to run around protecting and… and making decisions for,” she added, remembering his original plan to swoop in, kill Kralik and swoop out without ever telling her he was in Sunnydale.

 

Spike understood her instantly and shook his head in apology.

 

“We’re clear, pet.  You are absolutely right – it was bloody arrogant of me to think I was ridin’ to the rescue of a little girl rather than to offer assistance to a strong, independent woman – er, slayer.  Never again. I promise.  If – when I come back to Sunnydale, it will be with your complete knowledge and at your request.”

 

“You know what my request is,” she answered quietly. “It hasn’t changed since the last time you were here.”

 

“It’s not time for me, love,” he responded, knowing instinctively what she meant.  “Someday, maybe,” he added enigmatically. “I’m working on it.”

 

When she looked at him questioningly he just shook his head, refusing to explain his cryptic remark and distracting her by running a hand under the tee shirt to stroke her soft flanks.

 

“I think we’ve got some time to kill before your mum will be at work, don’t you?” he murmured, sliding the shirt up her body until he could lift it over her head.  “What do you think we should do with it, hmmmm?” 

 

There was no response as the Slayer pulled on his own shirt, until he released her in order to pull it off.  While his hands were busy, she quickly undid his jeans and slid down his legs to pull them off, dropping them on the floor as she crawled back up his body until they were face to face again. His erection was just brushing her stomach as she poised over him on all fours and licked her lips.

 

“I’m sure we’ll think of something…”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Seven

 

When the two temporarily sated lovers were dressed and ready to go their separate ways to get to Joyce’s gallery, they kissed good-bye and parted – Spike to drop down a manhole and take his normal daytime route, Buffy to walk back into the occupied part of town.   When Spike asked her if she had her license yet and wanted to drive his car, she gaped at him for several seconds before responding weakly, “um… uh… no… I don’t…. exactly…I mean, you know, I’m all busy with the slaying and the… the other stuff and I just never had time to.…”

 

He cocked his head at her in amusement.  “Failed the test, did you, Slayer?” he teased gently.

 

“Maybe,” she mumbled.  “But it was a stupid test, anyway.  And I didn’t… nevermind.  I like to walk,” she finished firmly, her expression saying clearly that it would not be in his best interest to pursue the issue.

 

“Alright, pet,” he agreed readily.  “I’ll meet you at the Gallery, yeah?”

 

“Okay, see you in a little while.”  She smiled briefly and walked off, her hair gleaming in the bright sunshine.

 

Shaking his head ruefully, Spike pulled the blanket up to cover him completely.  “You’d think they could have put the soddin’ Hellmouth somewhere where the bloody sun isn’t shining 363 days out of the year,” he grumbled as he dashed for the manhole.

 

When he emerged at the rear of the gallery and bolted through the open door, he was still muttering about the Hellmouth’s southern California location.

 

“Bloody inconsiderate of the vamps, is what it is,” he growled, shedding his smoking blanket and looking around for Joyce and Buffy.

 

“What is inconsiderate?” came Joyce’s amused voice as she emerged from behind a large screen carrying a newly framed painting.

 

“Putting the soddin’ Hellmouth in a place like this,” he growled.  “England, now there’s a the proper spot for a Hellmouth.  Lots of rainy and overcast days when a vamp can go about his business without having to worry about bursting into flames.”

 

“You don’t seem to worry about it too much,” she laughed at his grumbling. “You’re always popping up in the daytime. I think, if you asked Buffy, she’d probably tell you it’s against the rules for vampires to be running around while the sun’s still up.”

 

“Don’ believe in rules,” he muttered, looking around the room again.  “Where’s the Slayer?”

 

“She stopped to see Giles and find out if he really did resign from the Council, and what that will mean for her.  She said to tell you just wait here and make yourself useful.”

 

Spike stared at her, his eyes wide.  “Useful?  She wants me to be useful? What does she think I am, some kind of lap dog?  I’m a bloody master vampire, I am.  I don’t do useful, I do evil… things.”

 

Ignoring his protestations, Joyce handed him a crowbar and pointed towards a stack of large crates.

 

“How about you go do something evil to those boxes over there, and then help me carry the contents out to the shelves?” 

 

Without waiting to hear his answer, she swept out of the room to go clear space for the new arrivals.  Muttering to himself about bossy bints and their mothers, he began pulling the lids off the crates and lifting out the stone artifacts they contained. When he had them stacked neatly on a table, he went to the curtain separating the storage area from the selling floor and stuck his head out to look for Joyce.

 

By the time Buffy walked in the front door of the gallery, Spike and Joyce had placed almost all of the sculptures on the only shelves sturdy enough to hold them and they were standing back to admire their work. 

 

“They look wonderful, Spike,” Joyce said softly.  “You have a good eye for artistic arrangements.”

 

“I know how to appreciate beauty, Joyce,” he responded with a wink, including her in his visual sweep of the room that ended with a smile at the petite girl approaching them.

 

“Are you flirting with my mother?” she growled in mock anger, going up on her toes to share a chaste peck on the lips. 

 

“Don’t be ridiculous, Buffy,” Joyce colored at the implication, as much because she knew she had been enjoying the vampire’s admiration and company as because she felt like defending him.  “I’m old enough to be his mother!”

 

While Spike chuckled, Buffy rolled her eyes and shook her head.  “Mom, you do know that he’s like a… gazillion years old, don’t you?”

 

Joyce looked embarrassed and flustered as she replied, “Well, no, actually. I mean… I know you told me Angel was over 200 years old, but I didn’t think— I guess that was pretty stupid, wasn’t it?”

 

Buffy was immediately sorry for giving her mother a hard time, but before she could say anything, Spike broke into the conversation, saying cockily, “Easy mistake, Joyce.  I know it’s hard to believe somebody this good looking and athletic isn’t a young man.  What with my hard little body and pretty face…”

 

“And the fact that you act like you’re twelve, most of the time,” Buffy snarked at him.

 

“Hey!  I do no such thing!” he huffed, immediately proving her right by sticking his tongue out at her.

 

“I rest my case,” she responded smugly, following her mother into the storeroom and ignoring the growling vampire trailing behind her.

 

“So,” Joyce said, skipping any preliminaries.  “What is the plan?”

 

“Giles called the Council and told them their tame vampire had killed their whole team – at least as far as he knew, since he didn’t actually know how many of them were here – and that I dusted Kralik and that he was quitting because they obviously had expected me to die.”

 

“How’d they take the news that you weren’t dead?” Spike asked with more fear than curiosity.  “I’ll bet that made their day.”

 

“Um… well, I don’t know exactly.  I guess Giles was pretty mad when he called them – yelling in British like you do when you’re pis—er—mad. And he said they spent a lot of time saying things like ‘Oh my’ and ‘Surely you don’t think we would—‘  and ‘Let’s not be hasty, Rupert.’  So he’s not sure how they feel about it – except that he said Mr. Travers assured him that I would remain the Slayer for as long as I wanted to and that they would send me a new watcher if he was really quitting.”

 

“Oh. Well, that’s not so bad then, is it?” Joyce asked hopefully.

 

Spike made a disgusted noise, walking over and kicking one of the empty boxes before explaining to a puzzled slayer and her mother, “You don’t really believe they’re giving up that easily, do you?”  He shook his head.  “I’ll lay you odds the Watcher then send will be crooked or incompetent – and what about the other slayer?”

 

“Other slayer?”

 

“Didn’t you tell me old Batface killed you for a few seconds a couple of years ago?”

 

Joyce was staring back and forth between her glaring daughter and the puzzled vampire, her breathing becoming faster and harder as she tried to process what he’d just said.

 

“Killed?  As in dead?  You were dead?”

 

“Relax, Mom. it was only for a few minutes – Xander did CPR and I was fine.  Caught up with the Master and made him really sorry he did it.  I promise you. It was no big deal – Spike shouldn’t have mentioned it,” she added, glaring again at the unrepentant vampire.

 

“Point is, pet.  There was another slayer called. I heard about her but didn’t have time to go looking for her before she died too.  So, that means there’s another one out there somewhere.”

 

“I’m not the only one?”  Buffy’s lip unconsciously crept out into a pout as she considered the implications of not being the only slayer in the world.

 

“You are the only one, love.  Trust me when I tell you there is nobody else like you in the world.”  Spike’s words, whispered in her ear as he wrapped his arms around her in reassurance, mollified her enough that she stopped pouting and snuggled into his chest for a minute.  Her mother’s throat-clearing “ahem” reminded them that they weren’t alone and with matching embarrassed smiles they separated just enough to prevent Joyce from seeing anything she really didn’t want to.

 

“I’m just sayin’, pet.  You need to be prepared for whatever they send here. Could be another slayer, could be a watcher that’s a bigger prat than the one you’ve got—”

 

“Could be another ugly vampire to kill me?”

 

Spike’s immediately snarled response sent Joyce retreating rapidly, her face showing how completely unprepared she was for the reminder that the well-mannered Englishman she was just becoming used to was in reality one of the very creatures her daughter was meant to destroy.  She clutched at her throat with one hand, willing her heart to slow down while she watched Buffy follow the glare she sent Spike with a thump on the side of his head.

 

“Now look what you’ve done!” she complained.  “You scared my mom and she won’t want to let you in the house anymore.”

 

“It’s… .it’s okay, Buffy,” Joyce managed to get out.  “I just forget sometimes what he is.”

 

 Her eyes never left the clearly repentant vampire’s handsome human face and she saw the flinch and brief flash of pain that went across it at her words.  She opened her mouth to apologize, but the vampire held up a hand to stop her and shook his head.

 

“No, Joyce. Don’t apologize.  You never should forget what I am. And never trust it.  I hope that someday…” His voice trailed off as his mind went somewhere else for a few seconds before he continued, “But that day isn’t here yet; and until it is, you should remain cautious and aware.”

 

He didn’t offer any explanation for his rambling “I hope someday...” and Buffy tucked it away as something to ask about when they were alone.  In an effort to relieve the tension in the room, she quickly began to discuss their plans for the evening.

 

“Spike’s leaving tonight, Mom, but he’s taking me out to dinner first, so I have to go buy a dress to wear out to a nice restaurant.”

 

“So, I shouldn’t expect you home tonight either?” her mother asked dryly, smothering the accusatory tone that kept trying to creep into her voice every time she thought about what her still-teen-aged daughter and the vampire were doing when they were alone.

 

Buffy blushed, but before she could answer, Spike put his arm around her and faced Joyce, his voice soft, but firm.

 

“Joyce, I know this situation can’t be makin’ you happy.  I understand that better than you might think.  This isn’t somethin’ either the Slayer or I would have imagined two years ago.  Don’t fancy myself the kind of wanker who chases after young girls – unlike my late, unlamented grandsire – and I know the Slayer isn’t one for ignoring the good upbringing she had.  But the damage was done – her innocence was already gone when I started fallin’ in love with her.  All I wanted to do was replace some of those ugly memories with some more… pleasant ones.”

 

“Apparently you did that,” Joyce blustered through her embarrassment. Only the fact that Buffy was obviously even more embarrassed by the conversation than she was allowed Joyce to keep going.  “Since it appears that she is as much in love with you as you are with her.”  Buffy’s nodding head and blushing face almost took the attention away from the vampire’s whispered “Not possible”, and Joyce blew out her breath in a resigned sigh.  “If my eighteen-year-old daughter must find herself involved in a physical relationship with an older man, I guess I should be grateful that it is someone who loves her so well and someone who is physically able to keep her safe and protected.  When he’s here,” she added with a sidelong look that told him what she thought of his stated intention to leave again so quickly.

 

“Mom!” Buffy’s anguished wail of embarrassment ended the conversation for the moment, but the look on Joyce’s face said she was not yet finished with Spike, and he nodded in silent acknowledgement.  Giving Buffy a small push in the direction of the door, he suggested lightly, “Why don’t you go on an’ spend some of my hard-earned money on something pretty to wear tonight, pet?”

 

He pulled a roll of bills from his pocket before Joyce’s cold voice cut in.

 

“I can clothe my own daughter, Spike. Thank you anyway.”

 

Sheepishly, he put the money away, realizing he had just dug himself an even bigger hole than he’d already been in.  His instinct to provide for and protect his mate had taken precedence over his long-unused knowledge of what was right and proper between a courting couple and he mentally cursed himself for his actions.

 

“I didn’t mean that the way it seemed, Joyce,” he said apologetically.

 

Joyce refused to answer him, rummaged instead in her purse for her VISA card and handing it to Buffy with a quiet, “Here, you can use this, but don’t buy anything you don’t really need.”

 

Buffy looked back and forth between her mother and Spike, knowing she was missing something in the byplay, but not sure what it was.

 

“Mom,” she began hesitantly, “you know Spike wasn’t implying that you couldn’t afford—“

 

“I know that isn’t what he was implying, Buffy.”  Her mother’s voice indicated the discussion was over; Buffy shrugged in resignation and took the card.

 

“Okay, I’m going to back to Giles’ for a while and then I’ll get something to wear and go home to get ready. What time are you planning to pick me up?” she asked, turning to Spike who seemed disinclined to go back outside yet.

 

“I’ll pick you up about 5:30, love. I know that’s a bit early, but if I’m to leave while I still have time to actually get somewhere before daylight…”

 

“Right,” Her voice was suddenly tight at the reminder.  “You’ll need to get on the road.”

 

He nodded and she whirled without speaking again, running out into the sunlit alley in the back of the gallery and allowing the door to slam shut behind her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

 

There was silence for a few minutes after Buffy left, the vampire trying to smother the urge to run after her and promise to stay forever and her mother biting back tears at the life in which her daughter was trapped. Finally Spike spoke up.

 

“Joyce, I know how that must have looked – me wanting to give her money for clothes.  I just didn’t think— ”

 

“You sure as hell didn’t!” she snapped at him, her vehemence setting him back on his heels.  “You do NOT get to treat my daughter as some little toy for you to buy pretty dresses and presents for.  She doesn’t need a sugar daddy in her life, and I won’t have you treating her like that’s what you are to her.”

 

“I’m sorry.” Spike did his best to grovel in the face of her righteous anger, while trying to do so in a manly fashion.  “I really am.  I just didn’t think before I spoke.  It’s been a long time since the morals and customs of humans have been something I needed to worry about and all I was thinking was my… the woman I love needed something and I wanted to give it to her.  I didn’t realize how it would look until you spoke up and it hit me what I had done. That’s not what she is to me, Joyce, I swear to you.  I just don’t always think before I act.”

 

The genuine regret and embarrassment on his face, as well as his words that pleaded for understanding, softened her anger and she shrugged as she responded.

 

“If you’re going to be seeing Buffy, you will have to work on some of those things you haven’t worried about while you were... dating… other vampires.  You’re going to have to think about what you’re doing.”

 

“Thinkin’ before I do or say something is one of those things I’m still workin’ on,” he offered with a wry smile.

 

Her mouth twitched at the corner.  “Is that right?  How long have you been working on it?”

 

The smile turned into a sheepish grin as he admitted, “A hundred years or so – give or take.”

 

“And how’s that going for you?”  She tried to hide her smile, wanting to hang on to her outrage so as to avoid the rest of the conversation.

 

“It’s a work-in-progress,” he mumbled. “Not like I had much reason to worry about it until recently.”

 

Joyce sighed and sat down on a crate indicating that he should do the same.

 

“Do you really think this is going to work, Spike?  Your popping up once a year, taking my daughter to bed for a couple of days and then running off again?  Is that fair to her?”

 

“Bloody hell! No, it’s not fair.  But she’s a right stubborn bint, your daughter, and she won’t see my leavin’ her alone as anything but a coward’s way of telling her I don’t want her.  I don’t ever want her to feel not wanted.  Or not loved.”

 

“So, I repeat my earlier question, what’s the plan?”

 

He blew out an unnecessary breath before he tried to answer her as truthfully as he could.

 

“I’m tryin’… I’ve been working on… on not killin’.  Not as much, anyway. Been stickin’ to findin’ criminals and such lot who deserve some retribution for their crimes.  An’ unless I catch them in the act of something unspeakable, I usually leave them alive.”

 

“And this means?”

 

“Doesn’t mean anything yet,” he answered gruffly. “It’s me tryin’ to change my ways after over 125 years of takin’ whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it.  It’s not like I can jus’ go from a lifetime of killin’ and eatin’ to bagging it all the time.  Could do that when I was hurt, cause I didn’t have much choice, but I am a vampire, Joyce.  Couldn’t change that if I wanted to.”

 

“And you don’t want to.” Her voice was flat and he couldn’t tell what she was thinking.

 

“No,” he admitted freely, “I don’t. My life changed completely when I was turned and I wouldn’t take back a day of it.   I’ve got no interest in bein’ anything else but a vampire; but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn to change some of my ways. It’s jus’ going to take some time.  And I don’t want Buffy to know about it.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“Don’t want to hurt her if it turns out I can’t do it.  If I can’t control the demon the way I want to, I don’t want to disappoint her.”

 

Joyce nodded in agreement, then stood up, brushing off her skirt.  “Well then, I guess the sooner you leave, the sooner you’ll be back.”

 

“That’s my hope.”

 

“Mine too, Spike,” she said calmly.  “Have a safe trip.”

 

“Thank you, Joyce,” he said softly as he went back into the main part of the gallery.  Picking up his blanket, he prepared to go back to the mansion until it was time to pick Buffy up for their “date”.

 

```````````

 

Buffy burst into her ex-Watcher’s house to find him sitting morosely at a table, an open bottle of scotch in front of him, and the newspaper open to the classified ads.

 

“What’s up, Giles?” she asked brightly.  “I thought you might be taking a nap, not reading the paper.”

 

“Which would explain why you felt it was acceptable for you to come through my door without so much as knocking?”

 

Abashed, Buffy shrugged apologetically.  “I just came by to tell you Spike is leaving tonight and he’s taking me out to dinner first, so I don’t know if I’ll get to patrol for very long.”

 

“He’s leaving already?  I must say, I didn’t really believe him when he said he wouldn’t be staying long, but that would be all to the good.”

 

“It is NOT ‘all to the good’, Giles.  There is nothing good about it, but we don’t really have much choice. It’s not like I can let him stay here and feed on the local population.”

 

“And yet,” Giles said gently, “you feel it is all right to send him away to feed on some other city’s populace.”

 

Buffy’s face paled and she gasped in sudden realization.  To her watcher’s surprise, she burst into huge gulping sobs, her words indistinguishable as she cried in a way she hadn’t since the morning after her rescue from Angelus.  When Giles moved closer and patted her back tentatively, she transferred her sobbing from her own hands to his chest and he found himself somewhat uncomfortably holding a heartbroken slayer.  As Buffy’s sobs tapered off to sniffles and shuddering breaths, he sat her down on a chair and took her hands in his.

 

“I’m sorry, Buffy.  I didn’t mean to cause you to—what brought that on?”

 

She raised red-rimmed eyes to his and said clearly, “I can’t do it again, Giles.  I can’t kill another man I love.  Especially one who has never done anything to hurt me.  Don’t ask me to do that.”

 

“I wasn’t asking you to kill Spike, Buffy.  I would never – well, at one time I probably would have insisted that it was your duty.  However, I think it has become painfully obvious that much of what I was taught by the Watchers Council is not as black and white as it first appeared and I am willing to allow this one vampire to walk away.  If for no other reason, than the good he has done on behalf of someone I care about very much,” he finished, remembering that until Spike showed up, Buffy had been in serious danger of dying at the hands of the Council-sent insane vampire.

 

“So,” she sniffled, pulling away from him and giving him a watery smile, “you’re okay with this then?”

 

He sighed and shook his head, taking off his glasses and beginning to polish them vigorously.

 

“I cannot say I am happy that you are once again in a relationship with a vampire.  I would be lying if I told you that it makes me happy.  However, I also recognize that as a slayer you are not likely to have a normal life with normal relationships.  I must accept that –as your mother apparently has. At least this one is not operating under the influence of an unstable curse that could fail and leave you vulnerable to danger.”

 

“Spike would never hurt me,” she stated firmly. “He doesn’t need a soul. All he needs is… me.”

 

“I sincerely hope you are correct, Buffy.  For all our sakes.”

 

“I know I’m right,” she said stubbornly.

 

There was an uncomfortable silence until she asked him why he was reading the want ads and he turned weary eyes to her.

 

“With my no longer being your watcher, it seems that my position at Sunnydale High School could be terminated at any time, and along with it, my visa.  I thought it would be wise to try to line up other employment in the event that I find myself without such.”

 

“They would do that? Get you fired?”

 

“I doubt they would need to have me dismissed – I am hardly Principal Snyder’s favorite staff member.  All the council would need to do is to remove whatever pressure they have been exerting to maintain my place and I am sure he would find a reason to fire me forthwith.  Hence, the necessity of lining up other gainful employment.”

 

“If they do that, you tell them that I’ll… I’ll quit!  I won’t be the Slayer anymore.  They can just stop their own apocalypses and… stuff.”

 

“I appreciate the support, Buffy,” he said wryly, “but, as Spike so rightly pointed out, there is undoubtedly another slayer already in place, so I don’t know that your threatened resignation would carry as much weight as we might hope.”

 

“Oh.”  Her face fell momentarily, then lit up again.  “Well, that means I don’t HAVE to be The Slayer!  I can be a slayer – and just… retire.  Spike wouldn’t have to stay away because who I’m dating wouldn’t be any of their business anymore.” 

 

Giles shook his head at her naivety. “You will always be the Slayer, Buffy.  It’s a part of you. You could no more ignore a pending apocalypse or a nest of vampires than I could dance to the unpleasant sounds that pass for music nowadays.  You could try to quit the Council, but you can never quit being a slayer; it’s who and what you are.”

 

“Well, that just sucks.”

 

“Indeed.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

Still fuming after her unsatisfying conversation with Giles, Buffy hurried home to get ready for her first real date with Spike.  She had no illusions about their lives allowing them to have many occasions like this and she intended to make the most of it.  She worried briefly that they wouldn’t be allowed into a really nice restaurant with Spike in his signature leather coat, jeans and Docs, but then she remembered how nice he had looked in his dress pants and shirt before he left town the last time and knew she was worrying needlessly.

 

If she had learned nothing else during the long months of late-night conversations with Spike, she had learned that there were depths to him that she was sure no one – with the possible exception of her perceptive mother – had ever suspected. Buffy herself knew only that the bad boy persona that he was so fond of flaunting was not really the man he had been before he was turned. She didn’t really know who or what that man was, but she was quite sure that the poetry-reading, sensitive lover that she’d come to know was much closer to William than was the punk thug that was all he usually allowed the world to see.

 

            By the time Buffy had laid out the sophisticated but simple dress that she hoped would make her look older than her just-turned eighteen years, she heard her mother come in.  Quickly ducking into the bathroom, Buffy turned on the shower and got under the water before Joyce could come upstairs and begin questioning her about the advisability of continuing her relationship with Spike.

 

          It’s not like I’ve got a chance at a normal life. You’d think she would have figured that out by now – cute little grandbabies are just not in her future. Not unless she finds herself a boyfriend real fast and produces another girl who won’t grow up to be a slayer.

 

            By the time Buffy got out of the shower and began drying her hair, Joyce was upstairs and there was no avoiding the conversation her mother obviously intended to have with her. With a sigh, she answered, “Come in, Mom,” when Joyce knocked firmly on her bedroom door.

 

            Buffy kept her robe tied securely around her, not wanting to rub her mother’s face in her very adult relationship with Spike by letting Joyce see the expensive lingerie that she had purchased to go with the new dress.  She worked on her make-up while Joyce sat quietly on the bed and watched the young woman in front of her prepare for a date with a man born over a century and a half in the past.

 

            When she took a deep breath and prepared to speak, Buffy steeled herself for the anticipated lecture, almost falling off her stool when Joyce began by saying, “Buffy, I think, if I had time to get to know him better, I could become very fond of Spike.”

 

            “Okay, who are you and what have you done with my mother?”  Buffy softened her words by smiling into the mirror so that Joyce could see that she wasn’t trying to be as impudent as her words might seem.

 

            Joyce shook her head and smiled back at Buffy’s reflection before she answered quietly, “I have had to watch you grow up tremendously in the past year.  As much as I might want to think of you as a typical high school senior going out for her first grown-up date, I can’t lie to myself. The things you do every night, the dangers you’ve been facing since you were fifteen years old, the things that you endured last year… you’ve lived through more difficult things than most adults in their thirties.”  She gave a shaky laugh.  “Here I was thinking I’d had a hard life because my husband left me, and meanwhile my teen-age daughter’s first boyfriend was trying to kill her.  I’m not going to pretend that there isn’t a middle class mother inside me screaming silently that Spike is too old for you, too experienced in the ways of the world, too….”

 

            “Evil?” Buffy filled in with a wry twist of her mouth.

 

            “Actually,” Joyce smiled softly, “I don’t think he’s nearly as evil as he would like to think he is.  But yes, I can’t be thrilled that you seem to have fallen in love with a… a creature of the night.  I mean, if I’m being honest with myself, the fact that he lives on human blood should be much more important to me than the fact that he’s a bit older than you are.  And yet, I cannot imagine a circumstance in which Spike would hurt you.  Not physically, anyway.”

 

            “So, what are you worried about, Mom?”  Buffy’s voice was gentle.  She knew this conversation was not an easy one for Joyce to have.

 

            “I guess my worry is that you will permit him to continue to drop in and out of your life whenever it suits him, and as a result, you will pass up any chances you might have at a normal relationship with a… someone less.…” Joyce waved her hand around, at a loss as to what to call a non-vampire.

 

            “Mom,” Buffy turned to face her mother.  “I’m never going to have a normal life.  If I lost my powers tomorrow and never had to slay another vampire or demon, I would still know everything I know about them.  I would still have all those memories of fighting and slaying; I would still have been raped and tortured by the… vampire who I thought loved me.  And,” she took a deep breath, “I would still have been responsible for the death of the man who put me into that situation.” 

 

She shook herself lightly and continued,   “I am not a normal girl.  Never have been; we just didn’t know it until I was called.  As Giles pointed out to me earlier today, even if I say I’m quitting the Council, I will still be a slayer.”

 

Buffy blushed slightly and said, “At the risk of giving you more information that you might want to have, I want to remind you that I am very, very strong. Not just strong-for-a-small-woman- strong, but stronger than the strongest man.  I’m not sure that in some… situations… I wouldn’t hurt a normal man.  Spike is as strong as I am.  I can’t accidentally hurt him the way I might a human man.”

 

“Oh my god! Are you saying you’re with him because you don’t think you can have a physical relationship with anyone except a vampire?”  The horror on Joyce’s face was unfeigned, and Buffy hastened to reassure her.

 

“No, no, Mom.  I’m with Spike because I love him.  I love everything about him – the man and the demon.  I’m only saying that it’s probably a good thing that he is a vampire because I don’t know if I could be… content… with a human.”

 

By the time Buffy finished speaking, both mother and daughter had flaming cheeks and Joyce rose to her feet quickly.

 

“Well, then.  I think I’ll just let you finish getting dressed.”

 

Without meeting Buffy’s downcast eyes, she quickly left the room, pausing outside the closed door to take a few deep breaths.  When she had calmed herself, she went back down to the kitchen, muttering to herself, “Well, I think that went well; all things considered.”

 

 

 

Spike’s arrival, only a half an hour later, served as its own reminder of how different this relationship was going to be from one with a human boy.  He burst into the house through the door Joyce had thoughtfully opened for him, blanket smoking and shoes smoldering.   He smiled his thanks at her and shrugged ruefully when she stared pointedly at the still-warm blanket he had dropped on the rug.  Quickly picking it up, he draped it over his arm and apologized.

 

“I’m sorry, Joyce.  It’s a bit too early in the evening for me to be running around outside without protection.”

 

“And yet, you continue to do it,” she responded, shaking her head at him.

 

“Told the Slayer I’d pick her up at 5:30, didn’t I? I’m a man of my word.” The vampire sounded almost offended that she would expect him to wait until it was safe for him to go out in the waning sunlight.

 

“I know you are,” she soothed, hiding her smile.  “I guess I should just be grateful that it’s winter time and the sun will be gone soon.  I would hate for Buffy’s first grown-up date to end with her escort going up in flames.”

 

Spike’s answer, if he had one, never made it out of his mouth as Buffy came tentatively down the stairs towards him.  Joyce took one look at the deceptively simple little black dress her daughter was wearing and knew that her credit card bill at the end of the month was going to be a whopper. In the place of the high school senior who had been in her shop earlier, there was a beautiful young woman who looked every bit as adult as the good-looking blond man waiting for her at the foot of the stairs.  His eyes remained riveted on Buffy as she slowly descended the steps, stopping when she was standing in front of him and smiling uncertainly.

 

The shy smile was a bit put on, as one look at the expression on Spike’s face when he first saw her told Buffy all she needed to know about how she looked; but she pretended to be worried about his reaction. She ignored the way her mother rolled her eyes when Buffy asked shyly, “Do I look okay?”, but she couldn’t contain her giggle at the vampire’s deep growl.

 

“So, that’s a ‘yes’?”

 

Reminding himself that her mother was standing only a few feet away, Spike refrained from showing her exactly how very much a “yes” it was, saying only, “You look lovely, pet.  We should get going if we’re going to make our reservation at 6:00.”

 

With a quick peck on her mother’s cheek, Buffy allowed Spike to open the door for her, then tugged on his blanket until he draped it over his head again. Joyce watched silently from the door as they had a brief argument over whether Spike was going to risk immolation by holding the car door open for Buffy, then settled into the old car with its darkened glass and pulled slowly out of the driveway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Ten

 

“You look good too,” she said softly as the car moved down the street.  Spike took a second to glance away from the small opening through which he was peering at the road to smile briefly at her.  She couldn’t read his eyes through the large sunglasses on his face, but she could tell he was pleased.  The coat and tie he’d added to his dress pants and the blue dress shirt that matched his eyes made him look very different from the tee-shirted punk she was used to seeing.

 

“Were you afraid I was going to take you out in my jeans and boots?” he teased gently, reaching for her hand and pulling her closer to him.  The broad, couch-like seat was so different from the normal independent front seats that Buffy was used to in cars, that she hadn’t realized at first that she could move closer to him; could, in fact, sit right beside him with her leg resting against his.  She could feel the hard muscle in his thigh flexing as his foot moved up and down on the gas pedal and back and forth between gas and brake.  She rested her hand lightly on his leg, absently stroking his thigh with her thumb as she looked around the interior of the car.

 

“Looking for something, pet?” he asked with amusement.

 

“No, not really.  I’m just trying to learn more about what you’re like when I’m not around.  And, it’s not like I can see anything outside,” she complained, gesturing at the covered windows.

 

“Not sure I want you to know what I’m like when you’re not around,” he said with a quiet laugh, “but I think I can safely do something about the outside now that the soddin’ sun has disappeared.”

 

He pushed the buttons that allowed the front windows to slide down, then, as they sat at a stoplight, he reached up and peeled the plastic covering off the windshield.  He folded it carefully and reached across Buffy to place it in the glovebox. 

 

“That better, love?” he asked, shedding the no-longer necessary sunglasses.

 

“Much!  Thank you.”

 

“No problem, pet. Won’t need it till tomorrow anyway – and I hope to be tucked away someplace dark and quiet by the time the sun comes up.”

 

The reminder that this evening was going to end much sooner than she would have liked, spoiled Buffy’s happy mood and he cursed himself as he watched her face fall.

 

Stupid git!  Good job reminding the girl that you’re leaving her again.

 

“I’m sorry, love,” he said softly, squeezing her hand gently. “You know it has to happen, Slayer.”

 

“I know,” she responded with a sigh and a return squeeze,  “I just hate it. It sucks!”

 

“Not too thrilled about it myself, love,” he agreed ruefully, putting his hands back on the wheel as he sped towards the restaurant at which he’d reserved a table in the name of William Blood.  Buffy’s hand closed down on his thigh again and she unconsciously began to stroke the familiar muscle under her hand.  Spike enjoyed the feeling as long as he could, then, with a regretful smile he grabbed her hand again, stopping the rhythmic motions.

 

“As good as that feels, pet, if you keep it up much longer, I’m either gonna wreck the car or park it in the middle of the bloody highway!”

 

   To emphasize his point, he briefly moved her hand to the newly hard bulge lying alongside the thigh she’d been stroking so absentmindedly.  With an unapologetic “oops?” she gave him a gentle squeeze before moving her hand and her body a few inches away.

 

His heartfelt groan, followed by a growl when he could no longer feel her next to him, made her giggle like the girl she was and he smiled as he felt her good mood returning.

 

“Like torturing the old vamp, do you, pet?”

 

“I think it’s in my job description or something – ‘torture all vamps at any and all opportunities’.”

 

“I suppose it is at that.” He smiled back as he pulled into the parking lot and found a space for the large car towards the back of the lot.  He killed the engine, then pulled her over for a chaste kiss before opening his door. Running around quickly before Buffy could open her own door, he was pleased to see that the normally self-sufficient slayer had waited meekly for him to do the gentlemanly thing.

 

“You know,” she mused as she exited the car, flashing him a bit of tan thigh as she did so, “if any of your demon buddies see you like this, your reputation will be ruined.”

 

“Why do you think we’re goin’ all the way out here into the desert to have dinner?” he laughed back at her.  “Doubt very much I’m going to run into anyone I know at a fancy human restaurant out here.  An’,” he added with a twitch of his eyebrow, “if I do, they’ll have to be dressed and behavin’ just like I am, so they’ll be just as interested in keepin’ it quiet.”

 

Dinner passed much too quickly to suit either one of them, as, in spite of the flirting and teasing they managed for most of the meal, Spike’s impending departure began to cast a pall over the evening and it wasn’t long after dessert that Spike was signaling for the check.  He paid in silence, standing up and pulling Buffy’s chair out to lead her out of the restaurant, his hand resting lightly on her elbow.  He could feel the quivering beneath his fingers and the way her heartbeat increased as they approached the car; it was all he could do to keep himself from pushing her against the closest vehicle and renewing his claim right there in the well-lit parking lot.

 

He closed Buffy’s door behind her and walked around to the other side, only to be met at his own open door by her anxious face. 

 

“Do we have time to go back to the mansion before you leave?” she asked hesitantly; her own senses not having given her any clue that the vampire was as unhappy as she about the inevitable separation.

 

“Why do you think I made reservations so early in the evening?” he responded huskily, sliding into his seat and pulling her into a hungry kiss.  “You didn’t really think I would leave without lovin’ you again, did you?”

 

“Well, no, not really,” she mumbled.  “But I don’t know how far you have to go and I—“

 

“You don’t know, and you won’t,” he chided, tapping her on the chin.  As he started the car and pulled back out onto the highway, he added, “I don’t want you to know where I am, pet.  It’s just… it’s better if you don’t.  All you need to know is that you can get a message to me if you need me.”

 

“Humph!” was her only reply as her lip crept out in a small pout. 

 

She glared at the amused expression on his face, knowing he had caught her less-than-subtle attempt to learn where he was going, but her anger faded as they approached the outskirts of Sunnydale and the street full of old decrepit buildings there.  When the DeSoto came to a stop in the familiar driveway, she didn’t wait for him to open the door, but threw it open and ran into the open building, calling back to him, “Last one naked has to—”

 

The rest of her challenge was interrupted by strong arms banded around her body and blunt teeth grazing the side of her neck.  Her surprised “eep!” quickly turned to a moan as his hands ran down her sides and up under the hem of her dress.

 

“Oh, you’re going to be the first one naked, love. You can count on it,” he purred, pulling the dress up as he raised his arms again.

 

“Note to self,” she gasped, “vampires can move very fast.”

 

“Only when we want to, pet,” he grinned, pulling the dress off and gently pushing her into the bedroom.  “If I need to, I can be very slow… very, very slow…”

 

He trailed wet kisses down her neck and across her shoulder, sliding the bra strap off with his teeth as he did so.  Buffy gave herself over to the sensations he was creating, barely noticing when he moved her to the bed and unhooked the lacy bra.  All she was aware of was his mouth and the way it seemed to be everywhere on her body at once.  When it reached the now pantyless area that was aching for it, her hips rose off the bed in an effort to hurry him along.

 

She could feel him smiling against her flesh as he ran his tongue around her folds, spreading the moisture he found there and teasing her into a frenzy.  Her head thrashed back and forth and she was near tears when she grabbed his hair and held his face where she wanted it.  With a soft laugh, he gave in, sucking her into his mouth and pulling hard on her clit until she gave a strangled cry and relaxed her grip on his head.

 

Buffy raised barely-open eyes to meet his, smiling in spite of herself at the pleased expression on his face. 

 

“You are an evil man,” she grumbled, lolling, legs apart, with no shame as she watched him stand up and begin to unbutton his shirt.

 

“That I am, love.”  He grinned unrepentantly, quickly shedding his clothes to join her on the bed.  “And don’t you forget it.”

 

“Like that’s gonna happen,” she huffed, pulling him down on top of her and wrapping her legs around his.  “Like I’m going to forget anything about you,” she continued in a softer voice. “Like I could forget you.”

 

“Right back atcha, Slayer,” he whispered, sliding into her waiting warmth.  As their hips set up the gentle rhythm that they both knew would quickly build to something much more vigorous, his accent slipped back into that of his youth and he began to murmur his devotion into her willing ears. 

 

When they were both whimpering and gasping with the approach of their release, he pulled his head back to look into her eyes and ask in a strained voice, “One more time, my love?  Allow me one more taste?”

 

She nodded dumbly, pulling his head down to her exposed throat and whimpering in need.  His fangs slid into the mark already there and as she shuddered around him, he pulled just enough of her blood into his throat to be sure he would still be tasting it after he was gone.  As he spurted his own release into her, he whispered a soft, “Mine”; tears stung his eyes at her equally soft, but very clear response.  “Yours, William. Yours forever.”

 

Too soon, the vampire began to stir, fighting back the tears again when supernaturally strong arms and legs clenched around him in an attempt to put off the inevitable separation.  With a shuddering breath, he clutched her back, his heart already aching with loss.  For long minutes, there was no sound except the Slayer’s ragged breathing as they held on to the physical connection as long as they could.

 

Eventually, with a regretful sigh, Buffy loosened her arms and allowed him to roll off to the side.  Biting her lip, she determined that when he left her this time there would be no tears and no recriminations or threats.  She’d meant what she’d told him in front of her mother and Giles; that as long as she knew he loved her, she was all right with his not being around.  

 

Okay, maybe all right is a little strong, but I’m accepting it. It’s just another fun part of being The Slayer – boyfriend missage.  I can deal.

 

They dressed quietly, pausing occasionally to nuzzle a favorite body part or to kiss an exposed bit of skin that was soon to be covered.  When they had run out of clothing to put on and reasons to remain, he took her hand to lead her out of the darkened building.  Shaking her head, Buffy went back to the bed and gathered up the sheets.  At the vampire’s curious look, she blushed and mumbled, “They smell like us.  I want to keep them for a while.”

 

Spike nodded, swallowing past the lump in his throat before simply taking the bedding from her and tucking it under his arm as he used the other to guide her through the building.  They didn’t speak until they were on their way back to Revello Drive when Buffy silently moved closer to him and rested her head on his shoulder.

 

“I’ll be back, love.  I promise you.”

 

“I know,” she whispered into his shirt.  “I know you will; it’s just… I’m going to miss you, you know?  I mean, I’d kinda got used to you not being here, and then you were here and I was all ‘yipee!’, but now you’re leaving again and I’m trying not to cry this time and it’s hard and I don’t want to cry because I want to look pretty when you see me for the last time and—”

 

Spike stopped the car without even pulling over to the curb and tipped her chin up to face him, letting her see the tears glistening in his own eyes before saying, “You could never look anything but beautiful to me, Buffy.  Whatever you’re doing when I last see you, it will be a beautiful memory to take with me. Something to dream to when I’m sleeping by myself and wishing you were with me.”

 

“I’m not gonna cry,” she said stubbornly, the tears sliding down her cheeks putting the lie to her words. 

 

“Good,” he whispered, licking the tears off her face before kissing her gently.  “I don’t want to make you unhappy.  Love you too much.”

 

“I love you, too,” she sniffled. “But I don’t think that guy in the car behind us likes you very much.”

 

Spike glanced in his mirror to see a man in a red Kia waiting impatiently for him to move the much large DeSoto out of the way.  Giving him the universal signal for “up yours”, Spike put the car in gear and drove the rest of the way to Revello Drive at fifteen miles per hour.

 

When they turned the corner and the little red car had sped off, its driver screaming obscenities, Buffy shook her head in despair.

 

“You really ARE evil, aren’t you?”

 

“Hey! The bloody pillock interrupted me while I was kissin’ my girl.  He had it comin’.”

 

When they pulled into the Summers’ driveway, they were both laughing softly and it seemed they had put the drama and angst behind them.  Spike slowly walked her to the door, holding her hand and letting her decide when to stop.  To an outside observer, they appeared to be any young couple holding hands as they returned from an evening out; only a close look and the knowledge of what they were would permit one to see that their hands were clenched in grips that would have broken bones in any ordinary human hand.

 

Inevitably, they reached the door and had to admit that their time was up.  Spike’s senses told him there were only a few hours of darkness left and he knew that if he was to be safely in Los Angeles by the morning, he had to get going.

 

“I’ve got to leave now, love.”  He rested his forehead against hers, as though they could communicate without words if they just remained in physical contact.

 

“I know.”  Her voice was flat and uninflected, but he could smell the tears that she was blinking back. 

 

She reached for him blindly, fastening her mouth on his and shutting out the world while she tried to memorize the taste, scent and feel of his lips under hers.  Too soon, he was tearing himself free, gasping for unneeded air as he fought his own overwhelming urge to tell her he would give up anything to stay by her side.  Instead, he cupped her cheek with a callused palm and whispered, “I love you.  Don’t ever forget that.  I love you and I WILL be back.”

 

Buffy nodded dumbly, pressing her cheek into his hand and closing her eyes on the tears that she was determined would not be his last vision of her.   Taking a deep breath, she summoned every ounce of her slayer strength and opened her eyes to meet his.

 

“I’ll be waiting for you,” she said evenly, proud of the way she kept her voice from trembling.  “No matter how long it is, I’ll be waiting.”

 

With a final hug that threatened to turn into something that would have embarrassed them both, Spike left the Slayer standing on her front porch and ran to his car.  He started the engine and put the car in reverse before he allowed himself to look at the small blond woman waving at him from the now-open door.  He flashed his lights, backed out of the driveway, threw the car into drive and roared into the night without a backward glance.

 

Holding herself bravely erect, Buffy entered the house and carefully closed the door before allowing her shoulders to slump briefly. As she walked up the stairs towards her room, she realized she had left the bedding she’d wanted to keep in the back of Spike’s car.  With a moan, she gave in to grief that seemed to be such a big part of her relationship with the vampire who was convinced he couldn’t be with her.   Joyce came out of her own room when she heard Buffy’s sobs and she sat on the stairs with her arms around her daughter, offering the only comfort she could, fully aware that none of the appropriate platitudes mothers traditionally gave their heartbroken daughters were suitable for her own super-powered, evil-fighting child and the vampire she loved.

 

the end

 

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