“Randy? What’s wrong?” Joan put down the magazine she’d been looking at and jumped to her feet. Randy was standing just inside the door, an expression of shock and anguish on his face. She ran to him, going up on her toes to kiss him hello, surprised when he didn’t respond. “Randy?”
He flinched away from her, tuning his back on her puzzled face. “Sorry, love. Just got some news and I— Get away from me, Joan. I… I don’t think I’m safe to be around.”
“What? Where did that come from? We’ve been living together for weeks. I think I’d have noticed by now if—”
“What if my memory suddenly came back and it turned out I was…. evil?”
Buffy sighed. “Come on, Randy. We’ve talked about this – obviously you must have a soul… That isn’t going to go away if you get your memory back. You’re the one who figured it out first. You’re a good vampire… you have a soul.”
“But I don’t,” he said, dejection in every line of his body. He threw his unneeded hat across the room. “I don’t have a soul. And I’m not good! I’m evil. You should… well not slay me, because that doesn’t really appeal… But you shouldn’t be living with me. It’s not right.”
Joan narrowed her eyes. “Have you met somebody else? Is it that skinny redhead that can’t make up her mind if she likes men or women? I’ll rip her hair right off—”
“Ah no, love. No, it’s nothing like that.” In spite of his vow to stay away from her, he immediately pulled her into his chest and began to murmur in her ear. “Could never… love you so much, Joan. I just don’t want to hurt you, is all.”
“You won’t,” she whispered into his neck, inhaling the scent that she’d come to love. “I trust you.”
“I’m not good enough for you,” he said, fastening his lips on hers. “Not half good enough…”
Joan snuggled into Randy’s side, playing idly with one of his nipples.
“So,” she said, nuzzling his chest and smiling at his happy purr. “What brought on all this worry about how safe I am around you? I feel pretty safe right now.”
He chuckled and pulled her even closer into his side. She threw her leg over his and pressed against him, squirming a little against his thigh. “You keep that up, pet, and I can’t guarantee your safety. Or your virtue.”
“Oh dear! The big bad vampire is going to ravish me! Whatever will I do?” Joan’s deliberately high-pitched voice made him chuckle again and pull her over until she was lying on his body, his newly awake cock pressing between her thighs.
“You could always ravish the big bad vampire – that’d teach him.”
Joan giggled. “You are so full of it.”
“Gonna make you full of it….” He grabbed her hips and positioned her where he wanted her. “After I make you scream for me a few more times.”
“Pfft! Give it your best shot, vampire.” Joan was already moving on him, laughing at the way his eyes rolled back in his head. “We’ll just see who screams this time…”
Finishing their love-making as they often did, with Randy holding himself on his arms and staring down at Joan’s sated expression, he leaned down and rested his forehead against hers. “Do you have any idea how much I love you?” he said. “I feel like I’ve loved you forever…”
She moved her chin up so she could brush her lips across his. “I love you too, Randy. I just wish we knew…” She gave herself a little shake and used her powerful arms and legs to pull him closer. “Sorry. I know we said we wouldn’t wonder about what we were before we lost our memories. It’s just that sometimes if feels so….” She shook her head.
“So…?” He rolled off, sighing when his softened cock slid out of her warmth. For some reason, he was always surprised at the difference in their body temperatures, as though he hadn’t been used to much contact with humans before the amnesia.
“Wrong,” she whispered, burying her face in his neck. “Most of the time it feels so right and then sometimes…” She raised her face. “I’m sorry. That sounds so stupid, doesn’t it? There’s no way we could be this much in love if we hadn’t had some kind of relationship before whatever happened, happened.”
He stilled, then shook his head. “Actually, love. I understand exactly what you mean—not that I don’t still feel like I’ve loved you forever, but it does seem a bit… off… sometimes.”
“Probably just the whole vampire, slayer vibe,” Joan said, her face settling into determined lines. “Now that we know what I am, and what you are, it makes sense that it would feel weird sometimes.”
“I reckon that’s so… but I think I need to tell you what I heard today.”
“Fine. Tell me what you heard that made you come home all weird and wanting to leave me.”
“Don’t want to leave you, Joan. Never, never want to leave you. But if what those vamps were saying is even close to being true… you should get as far away from me as you can.”
“What vamps? And why were you talking to them instead of staking them?”
“One of them said he knew me. Called me… some other name. I let him hang around while I dusted the others.”
“And he said?”
“He said I’m not souled – apparently I have a grandsire that has a soul, but I don’t. He said I’m only hanging out with you because I can’t kill anymore and you feed me.” He put his hand on her cheek. “He said, love, that I used to be famous for… for killing slayers. Said my sire would be rolling over in her grave if she had one, to know that I was living with a slayer. That I could love one.”
“I hope you dusted him,” she growled, curling her lip in an impressive snarl.
“Oh, did. Never doubt it. Put him out of our misery good and proper. But… but then I went to that demon bar—”
“Yeah. That one. Found my mate, Clem, there and asked him if any of what the wanker had said was true.” He turned his head to meet her frown. “He said it’s all true, love. Doesn’t know much about your sister and your mates, but he knows me.”
“Why didn’t he say anything? We’ve being going crazy trying to remember who we are – and he knows? He’s known all this time? I’m going to kill him!” She sat up and went to climb out of bed, stopping when he grabbed her around the waist.
“Don’t do that, love. He’s about the only friend I have in this town.”
“That’s not so! You have Alex, and Willow and Tara and Dawn. And your dad. Did he say anything about your dad?”
“They’re your friends, love. You know that. And it looks like dear old dad is just somebody who oversees what you do.” He grinned slightly. “Can’t say that’s all that disappointing, actually. I’ve always felt there was something off there.”
“You fight like you’re related,” she grumbled. “And he’s always complaining about you.”
“Don’t doubt it. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t think I’m good enough for you. Hey, maybe he’s your old man?”
She shrugged. “Maybe. He does give off a fatherly vibe… although I can’t see myself accepting Anya as a stepmother.” She shuddered. “It’s gross watching them kissing and hugging… and the inappropriate touching!” She shuddered again, poking Randy when he laughed at her.
“You can laugh. Your dad isn’t marrying somebody only a couple years older than you are!”
“Don’t know how old I am, love,” he said. “But I wasn’t made just yesterday. Wish Clem knew more than he does, but he pretty much told me everything he knew. Once he was sure I wanted to know.”
“What’s his explanation for not telling you before?”
“He said… he said he’d never seen me so happy. Neither of us, actually. He said we seemed so happy together that he just didn’t want to do anything that might—”
“Break us up?”
“Something like that. He seems to think that I’ll still love you, but that you won’t… won’t want me anymore.”
“That’s crazy talk!”
“You don’t know that, love. You don’t know anything about what you used to think of me. It’s not like you were all that interested when we first met, is it?”
“Well… well that doesn’t count! I mean we were all with the not knowing who we are, and you were wearing those dorky clothes… I’m sorry,” she said quickly when a hurt expression went across his face. “But you said it yourself – that you looked like a… a… something British and rude.”
He nodded in reluctant agreement. “Actually, love, it turns out I was disguised; trying to avoid a loansha—a bad guy who was after me. Clem told me where to find my old stuff. I just haven’t been there yet. Wanted to come home and tell you to—”
“To tell me to get away from you? Yeah, great decision that was.” She sat up and glared at him, flushing when his gaze went to her breasts, jiggling under the force of her indignant breathing.
“Oh, I dunno. Look where it got us,” he said, reaching up and tweaking a rosy nipple.
“Don’t change the subject,” she said, batting his hand away. “So, you know where you live – lived – now?” She jumped off the bed and starting pulling on her clothes. “Let’s go then.”
Dismay clouded his eyes. “You want to leave here? Leave our apartment? Are you throwing me out?”
“No, you idiot. I’m saying, let’s go see where you used to live, get you some less dorky clothes, and maybe find out more about who we are. Maybe I lived there too, and I can—”
“It’s a crypt, Joan. A nice one, if Clem’s to be believed, but a crypt. I’m pretty sure you don’t live there.”
“Well…” Joan mulled that over, frowning, then her face brightened. “But I’m your girlfriend, right? So there should be stuff there about me. Maybe some… I dunno. Pictures? With my real name on them?”
“Thought you picked Joan cause it felt right?” He gave up the argument and began pulling on his pants. “Can’t say I’ll be sorry to have something else to wear,” he muttered. “If I don’t see another scrap of wool in my life, it’ll be too soon.”
“I do feel like a Joan… But it would be nice to know if that’s really who I am.”
“Alright, pet. Let’s go then. At worst, I’ll find a few things I can use there…”
Pulling the door shut behind them, they walked off hand-in-hand to find the crypt in Restfield Clem had told Randy was where he’d lived before he lost his memory. They took the time to hang out by a new grave, staking both the newly risen vampire and the dirt-covered early risers waiting for him.
“Yuck,” Joan said, brushing the dust and dirt off. “I don’t know if I think it’s nice that his friends came looking for him, or just creepy that they were still going to be friends after they turned evil.”
“Hey, maybe we were together before I was turned, and that’s why I… Oh, never mind.” His shoulders sagged and he didn’t continue. She squeezed his hand in encouragement.
“Never mind, why? That’s a good idea. Probably you were already my boyfriend and you just stayed my boyfriend after you were vamped.”
He squeezed her hand in response and shook his head. “No, love. I just remembered what else Clem said. He doesn’t know a lot about me from before I came to Sunnydale, but he says I’m a lot older than I look. Been a vamp too long to have been anything to you before.”
“Oh.” She dropped his hand and kept walking.
There was silence as Randy walked steadily toward the older part of the cemetery where Clem had assured him he had a very nice home. He kept glancing at Joan from the corners of his eyes as she remained beside him. While Joan had become very comfortable in Sunnydale’s cemeteries, having realized quickly that they the best places to find vampires, he was having a hard time picturing her wanting to live in one.
His father—no, not his dad, her “Watcher”—had long since read enough of the old journals in his apartment to intuit that Joan was probably a “Slayer”, and she had accepted the designation with reasonable grace, adapting her lifestyle to allow her to spend her nights at Randy’s side, fighting and slaying vampires and demons. They’d been disappointed when nothing in Rupert’s huge collection of books had given any clues to who Joan was, only what she probably was. The large safe under the desk had a combination that apparently was only available in Rupert’s still missing memory, so whatever information or materials might have been available there were out of reach. Randy’s suggestion that they use explosives to blow the safe open – a suggestion Alex had eagerly supported – brought nothing but a thunderous “NO!” from the older man. So whatever secrets may have been hidden in the safe, remained safely so for the time being.
“Here we are, love.” Randy stopped in front of a large stone building with sturdy-looking doors shutting out the living world. “Hope it’s not locked.”
“Who locks a crypt?” Joan tugged on the outer door, opening it easily. She glanced at Randy and gestured to the inner door.
He put a hand on it, pushing it ajar then pausing and turning to face her. “Best let me go first, Joan. Don’t know what we’re likely to find.”
“As long as it’s not a wife and three kids, I’m good,” she said, smiling at him and waiting for him to share her humor. He obliged with a quick chuckle, but hesitated in the doorway.
“Don’t expect to find any surprises like that,” he said, “but don’t know what we will find.”
“And we’ll never know if you don’t open that damn door,” she said, trying to push past him. With a resigned sigh, he shoved the door the rest of the way open and stepped through. Quickly going into game face, he cast his eyes around, seeing only some obviously used furniture and a lot of dust. He spotted a row of candles, and walked to the shelf they were on to light several of them. In the flickering glow from the candles, he watched as Joan stared around with open curiosity.
When she’d run her hands along the back of the couch, touched the sarcophagus, explored the small refrigerator (taking out the clearly spoiled blood and tossing it out the door with a loud “Ewwww!”), and peered into the dark space below, she turned to look at him.
“Does it look familiar?”
He shook his head and walked over to join her at the top of the stairs. “Clem says my bedroom’s down there. Maybe there’ll be something more informative there.” He went down the steps, calling out, “Wait till I put some lights on, love.”
As soon as a glow lit up the glorified ladder that passed for stairs to the lower level, Joan went down and looked around. Randy was busy rooting through the drawers of a dresser, pulling out tee shirts and jeans. He began stripping before she’d even had time to realize that he’d found his real clothes. She watched with pride and admiration as he walked around naked, collecting socks from a drawer and a pair of well-worn boots from under the bed.
“You know, you have a really, really nice body. Have I ever mentioned that?”
He beamed and stood up even straighter. “Not so I remember,” he said. Walking up to her, he pulled her against him and purred, “It’s yours you know. Just in case you want to….”
She laughed, giving him a quick grope and then pushing him away. “You’re insatiable. Put your clothes on and let’s keep looking for something else we don’t already know.”
“Something else?” He made a disappointed face at her, but obediently started getting dressed. “What do we know already?”
“That you apparently are either color blind, or you love black,” she said, pulling open the drawers from which he’d pulled the tee shirt and jeans.
“Hey! There’s a red shirt in there somewhere. I saw it.”
She just rolled her eyes at him and continued to dig around in the dresser. Under several pair of socks she found a small bundle of photos and pulled them out to lie on top. She looked up at the mirror and frowned at the small photo she saw tucking into one corner. In it, were Dawn, herself, and an older woman with blond hair.
“Randy? Do you think that’s…?”
“Your mum? Wish I could tell you, love. I’d say probably yes, but…” He flipped it over and shook his head. “Doesn’t say on the back. Can see that it’s you and the bitesize one, but no idea who the other woman is.”
“I think it must be my mom. Randy! I have a mom! Somewhere there’s a mom wondering where I am! Where Dawn is. We have to find her!”
“And we will, sweetheart. I promise you. Although I don’t know why she wouldn’t have been in the house where Dawn lives.”
“Maybe she’s just… away… or something.”
Randy gave her a reassuring, “That’s probably it, pet. When she gets back she’ll help us sort this all out.” But his eyes were troubled and wary. If Joan’s mother was away, she’d been gone a very long time. He didn’t bother to mention that the house did not look or smell like anyone besides Dawn, Joan, and the two witches had ever lived there.
He took the packet of photos she’d found and began to skim through them. As Joan watched, he became very still, his face shutting down. He sat down on the bed, eyes fixed on his hands. Joan sat beside him.
“What’s wrong? What do you see?”
He silently handed her the first few photos – all faded with age and showing a dark-haired woman and a man in Victorian dress posing in various ways. In one of the photos, they were joined by a taller, dark-haired man and a lovely, but hard-eyed, blonde woman. While Joan tried to absorb what she was seeing, he placed other photos on the bed, spreading them out so that she could see. The same couple appeared in almost every picture, their clothing changing to reflect different eras from the past hundred years or more. The final photos showed the woman in a white dress that looked like something a hippie would have worn, while the man, now blond and easily recognizable as Randy, was wearing jeans, a leather vest held together with safety pins, and boots that looked much like the ones at Randy’s feet.
“Who is she?” Joan’s voice was calm and controlled, but he could hear the pain in it as she picked up the last photo and stared at Randy, in vamp face and holding a long leather coat triumphantly aloft. Behind him, the woman was now also wearing fangs that dripped blood. “Never mind. I guess that answers that question. Is this your sire?”
He shrugged. “Honestly, love. I’ve got no idea. Probably? Based on what that wanker I dusted said about her rolling over in her grave over me falling in love with a Slayer.”
“Do you think I slayed her?” Joan’s expression made it very clear that if she hadn’t, it was now at the top of her to do list.
Pushing the pictures to the floor, he put his arms around her tense body and rolled backwards on the bed. He held on tightly as he made her look him in the eyes.
“Don’t know. Don’t care. There’s only one woman in my life now and she’s all I ever want to have in it. Whoever that woman is, she’s just a vamp to me. If she’s the one responsible for me living long enough to meet you, then I’ll be grateful to her, but she could walk in that door right now and I’d still only have eyes for my Joan.”
“You don’t know that,” she said, nuzzling against his arm as she said it. “You don’t know what she is to you, until you know who you are.”
“My name is Spike – according to Clem. AKA William the Bloody. That’s who I am.”
“Oh.” Joan’s voice was very small. “But you don’t remember who you are. You don’t remember being Spike.”
“No, I don’t. But if Clem is telling the truth, Spike was every bit as much in love with you as Randy is.” He gave her a sad smile. “He wasn’t quite as sure about your feelings, though. Said he’d never really got to know you, and only saw us out on a date the one time.”
“Well, if you loved me, of course I loved you back! How could I not?”
“I hope you’re right, love. I really hope you’re right. Don’t think I could bear it if you—to have had this and then lose it when you’re yourself again.” He shuddered and held her so tightly she eventually had to nudge him and remind him that she was not a vampire and therefore needed to breathe once in a while.
“Sorry, pet. Got a little carried away thinking about what my life would be like if I had to go back to living here by myself while you—” He sighed and released her. “Getting maudlin and worryin’ about something that may never happen, yeah?”
“Speaking of that…” She stood up and smiled down at him. “Let’s see if we can find anything here that tells us who Joan is.”
They poked around some more, but there wasn’t much furniture other than the bed and dresser and a small, very full bookcase.
“Not down here there isn’t. Guess we should look around the upstairs a bit more.”
“How can I not have been down here? The bed is here.”
“We don’t always make the bed, do we, pet?” He leered at her, laughing when she blushed and nodded.
“Good point. Okay, upstairs we go.”
Randy lit more candles in the upper level, and with the new lighting they were able to see that the fridge contained Diet Cokes and water, two things he was sure he didn’t drink. When Joan found a sweater in her size, and a scarf in her favorite color, she exhaled a breath she hadn’t even realized she’d been holding.
“Look! I’ll bet these are my clothes,” she said, waving them triumphantly. He took them from her hands, sniffed and grinned.
“That they are, love. Smell just as delicious as you do.”
“Uh… thanks? And ewwww.”
“I guess we’d better check in with your—with Mr. Giles—and tell him what you found out.”
“I suppose so. It’s just one more unexplained thing, though. Just like Dawn living in that house all by herself, and….” Buffy made a face. “And Willow cheating on poor Alex with Tara. I mean what’s up with that? She’s got this good-looking, nice boyfriend, and she wants to be gay?”
“Boyfriend’s thick as a plank if he doesn’t know what’s going on between the two wannabe witches. Even if he can’t smell them on each other like I can.”
“There’s that whole ewwww thing again,” she said, tugging him toward the door. “Let’s go. You can come back and get your stuff later.”
“Get my stuff?”
Joan stopped, her hand on the door. In a small voice, without turning to look at him, she said, “Well, yeah. Don’t you want to have your stuff in the apartment?” Aren’t you going to live there anymore?”
“Hadn’t thought that far, pet. I mean, there has to be a reason why I wasn’t living with you before.”
“This isn’t before,” she said, turned to glare at him. “It’s now, and we live together. We love each other and I don’t care what your friend said about us before – if we’re happy now, we can be happy again.”
“So,” Joan said, still holding Randy’s hand. “That’s what Randy’s friend Clem told him. That he was some bad-ass vamp, but he can’t hurt humans anymore and he… he loves me.” She smiled up at Randy. “Isn’t that great, Mr. Giles?” She ignored his rolled eyes and added, “And he’s not your son, cause he’s all old and stuff – not that you aren’t old, but you’re not as old as…” She trialed off as Giles glared at her and Randy cleared his throat.
Giles transferred his glare to Randy. “So, you are not ‘Randy Giles’ then. You were just wearing his clothes. I wonder why?”
Randy/Spike looked slightly ashamed as he admitted, “Seems like I may have something of a gambling problem – or I did, anyway. And for some reason I owed another demon a lot of… kittens?” He shrugged. “I guess if you’re a demon, that makes sense. Anyway, it seems I was probably trying to hide from the loan shark’s boys when I dressed like a ponce and ran to the Slayer.” He glanced down at Joan. “Not really clear on what you had to do with the situation, love. Something about a poker game and you setting the pot free.”
“Well, if you were gambling for cute little kittens, I probably did set them free! That’s terrible. I’m very disappointed in you, Randy.” She glared until he looked appropriately apologetic, then softened. “But that’s not who you are now, is it?”
“No! Not at all. Must have been a holdover from my evil days, that’s all.”
“Speaking of which,” Giles said, moving towards the shelves that held the old Watcher’s records. “What did you say your real name is?”
“His name is Randy,” Buffy said, her expression firm. “That’s who he is now. It doesn’t matter who he used to be.”
“Perhaps not,” Giles said diplomatically, “but it would still be useful to know more about him.” As he pulled out a few books at random, he said, “And this ‘Clem’ person said that I am your watcher? Is that correct?”
“’S what he said. Joan is the Slayer and you tell her what to do.”
Giles looked at Joan’s darkening expression and sighed. “I’m fairly certain I do not tell her what to do… not with any success, anyway.”
“Damn right,” Joan muttered.
Giles handed each of them a book, saying, “Shall we see if the Watcher Histories mention a ‘Spike’ or a ‘William the Bloody’?”
It was only a short time before Buffy raised her head, her devastated eyes fixed on Randy. “I think I found you,” she said in a very small voice, holding out the book for him to see. Randy’s face paled even more as he read about himself and his vampire family. On the following page was a photograph very similar to the ones he’d found in his crypt. Joan and Giles watched with curiosity as his eyes scanned the pages, then went back and read again more carefully. When he’d finished reading for the second time, he silently shoved the book toward Giles before standing up and moving away to stare out the window.
There was a movement behind him, and then Joan’s hand was on his back. When he didn’t respond, she slid both arms around him and rested her face against his leather-clad back. “That’s not you,” she whispered. “That’s not the Randy I know.”
“You don’t know me,” he said, misery in every line of his body and in his voice. “Hell, I don’t know me, Joan. I’m a complete fraud.”
“I know you love me.”
“I do,” he said, turning around and tipping her chin up to face him. “And I do even when I’m myself, it seems. But that’s not going to be enough, is it?”
Her face twisted in anguish. “I… I don’t know. That’s so not you… not the Rand—Spike I know. I don’t know what to think.”
“I think you should step away from him immediately,” Giles said, staring at Randy with hard eyes. “He is clearly a very dangerous vampire.”
Joan stamped her foot. “Don’t tell me what to do! We know he can’t hurt people for some reason, so even if he didn’t love me before he lost his memories—”
“Which I did,” he put in quickly, glaring at the man holding the book. “Clem said so. Said I’d been in love with her for a year or more. And I’ve got some sort of government chip in my brain makes it impossible for me to harm humans. It’s why I can’t hit that wanker Alex when he’s being an arse about us.”
Joan smiled at him, reaching for his hand before turning back to face her watcher. “So even if he didn’t love me, he still isn’t dangerous to me. This is my decision to make.”
The standoff was interrupted by the arrival of Alex, Willow and Tara. The odd trio burst into the room, Willow already speaking before they stopped. “We found stuff! Tara and I were helping Dawn go through the house and we found a bunch of papers, and some pictures.” She turned to smile at Joan. “We think we know who you are. For some reason, all this stuff was boxed up in that extra bedroom where we’ve been storing things.”
Joan frowned. “And…?”
“And,” Alex said, with a dismissive glance at the vampire holding her hand. “It looks like you lived there. That’s your bedroom.” He frowned. “We can’t quite figure out why so much of your stuff was packed up, but the pictures are definitely of you, and we found a Sunnydale High yearbook.” He grinned at Giles. “You were the school librarian,” he said. “Imagine that – Rupert Giles surrounded by books.” They all snorted and snickered at the older man’s expense before he interrupted them to ask, “And what did you find out about Joan?”
“Her name is Buffy,” Willow blurted. “Buffy Summers. And she owns the house. She inherited—” Willow stopped when Tara laid a warning hand on her arm.
“Inherited? Inherited from who?” Buffy’s face was falling before Tara could offer her gentle explanation.
“It looks like your mother died sometime last year,” Tara said, sympathy and concern in both her voice and her face. “You and Dawn live in the house, and we apparently live there too. I guess we’re all trying to save money by living together…”
“And Rand–Spike? Does he live there?”
“We already know where I live, love,” he said, squeezing her hand. “If you live with three other women, that explains why we don’t live together. We may not even be dating…”
“We don’t know that!”
“I think we can make a pretty good guess,” Alex said with a sneer. “Buffy looks like the kind of girl who wouldn’t give you the time of day.”
“Speak for yourself, arsehole,” Randy/Spike growled, flashing some fang to add emphasis.
“Stop it,” Joan said, her voice so soft they almost didn’t hear her. “Stop fighting. We have to… to stick together until we get our memories back.”
“What if we never do?” Tara said what they’d all been thinking. “We’ve been getting away with pretending so far, but sooner or later we’re going to get caught out. We need jobs, we might have families….”
“If we never get them back, then we’ll just….” Joan’s voice trailed off. “I don’t know. We’ll just have to start new lives.”
Giles interrupted the babble of talk that followed Joan’s suggestion. “I believe it is our best interests to learn as much about our lives before the… incident… that caused the memory loss as we can. The more we know, the more easily we can slip back into our lives. We already know that Joan and Dawn are sisters, that Joan is a Slayer and I am her Watcher. Randy now knows more about what he is and where he lives—”
“Lived!” Joan interrupted. “He lives with me now, in our apartment.”
“Actually…” Willow began carefully, “I think you live in the house with the rest of us. I don’t know why so much of the stuff in that room was packed up, but it looks like you were living there… just…” She shrugged. “I dunno. Maybe you just moved back home from somewhere else?”
“Maybe you moved out of my crypt,” Randy said quietly, dropping her hand and moving away from her. “That’s why we didn’t find much of your stuff there – you weren’t living there any more.”
“Maybe I was getting ready to move into an apartment,” Joan argued. “Maybe we were getting ready to live together there – just like we are now, only some other apartment. I’ll bet that’s it. I was packing my stuff up to move out….” She trailed off as everyone stared at her. “It could have happened,” she muttered, turning away.
“I suggest you go to the home you apparently shared with your sister and housemates and begin going through your belongings. Perhaps you will learn more about your life before.”
“Fine,” she agreed with little enthusiasm. “Let’s go, Randy.”
“Shouldn’t we use his real name, now that we know it?” Willow looked at Randy expectantly. “And yours?”
“I’m Joan, he’s Randy.” Buffy’s expression allowed no room for argument, although Randy, who hated his name, did attempt it.
“Actually, love, ‘Spike’ suits me a bit mo—” One look from her had him swallowing the rest of his thought. “Right. Joan and Randy. That’s who we are until we remember different. You lot need to remember that,” he added, pointing around the room.
“Wow. What a lot of stuff.” Joan gestured to the dressing table. “I guess that’s the makeup and things that I was using every day.” She peered into the closet. “I wonder why my clothes were all packed up? You’d think I would have wanted to get at them.”
“I don’t think you were gonna need them…” Dawn’s shaking voice preceded her through the door. She had a small book in her hand, which was also shaking. Joan ran to her immediately. “Dawn? What’s wrong?”
Shoving the book at Joan, Dawn said, “This is my diary. I just found it under the mattress. I think you need to read it.”
“You want me to read your diary?”
“I don’t want you to read it. No. But I think you need to.” Dawn’s eyes went to Randy’s. “You might not want to be here….” He was moving toward the door before she had finished speaking, but Joan stopped him.
“No. We’ll read it together. And we’ll deal.”
“Buf–Joan, I don’t think—” Joan stopped her with a flick of her hand.
“Whatever it says, Randy and I will find out together.”
Dawn gave Randy a sympathetic look, then said, “Okay, but just so you know, I’m completely over it.” She flounced out of the room, glancing back over her shoulder to add, “And, Joan? You have diaries too. Somewhere in these boxes.”
Joan patted the floor beside her where she had settled down to read while leaning against the bed. She waited until Randy slid down beside her, putting an arm around her shoulder and looking down at the book in her lap. They began reading, Joan flipping quickly past the entries about mean girls in Dawn’s classes, boys she thought were cute, and the bands she was listening to that week. Every time she saw her own name, she paused and read the entry. Even allowing for exaggeration and misunderstanding on Dawn’s part, the course of the last couple of years was sounding pretty horrific.
She heard Randy’s hiss of indrawn breath when Spike’s name first appeared as Dawn tried to figure out what a Gem of Amara was and why Buffy had to fight Spike for it. He breathed a sigh of relief when he disappeared, only to tighten his arm on her when he reappeared with the chip in his head. His steady snarls as Dawn waxed enthusiastic about Buffy’s new boyfriend didn’t end until she put the book down, holding her finger on the page that ended that school year.
“Well,” Joan said. “I guess we weren’t together then. Although didn’t it say something about us being engaged?”
“It said it was a spell, love. Only lasted a day or so…”
“Well, yeah. But….”
“Buf–Joan, I was a stone cold killer until they put that chip in my head. Don’t try to sugarcoat it. Don’t know why you let me live, but—”
She flipped the book open again and began scanning – the first few pages were typical middle-school stuff, then she found something about coming home beaten to a pulp by some other woman. Spike’s name began showing up more and more often. It was obvious that Dawn was spending time in his crypt, although why her mother would have thought that was okay, and even gone there with her once or twice, wasn’t clear. When Joan got to where she’d accused Dawn of having a crush on the blond vampire, Randy snorted. “Jealous, were you?”
“As if!” She kept reading, her triumphant “Aha!” when she came to the entry that was Dawn bemoaning the fact that all Spike cared about was learning more about Buffy. “He is soooo in love with her!” Dawn had written in purple ink. In much larger, block letters, she’d added, “It’s not fair!”
“So, was already in love with you way back then, was I? Told you so.”
“But I had a boyfriend then… Although he doesn’t sound like he’s much fun….”
“Maybe you weren’t lookin’ for fun, pet. Sounds like the year wasn’t going well for you. Safe might have been what you wanted.”
“Oh my God….” Buffy silently showed him the pages where Dawn learned and began to deal with having been a ball of energy until the monks hid her inside a fully human girl. “How did they…”
“Pretty powerful mojo those monks had if this is true. Inventing a whole person and then altering the memories of anybody who might come in contact with her.”
“Do you suppose they had anything to do us with losing our memories?”
“I’m sure they could’ve done it if they wanted to… but why would they? If they sent her to you for protection, taking away your memory of why she needed it makes no sense. “
“Well none of this makes any sense,” Buffy said as she began turning pages again. Another “aha!” followed her finding the information that Willow was a lesbian and she and Tara were a couple and had been for some time. “I knew she and Alex weren’t dating….” Her eyes grew big. “Ohmygod! What if she’s been sleeping with him? What if they—”
“They haven’t,” he said shortly. “The only shagging going on there is with the other witch. This just confirms what my nose has been telling me right along.”
Buffy continued skimming. “Uh oh….”
“Never a good sign… now what?”
“It kind of sounds like Anya is Alex’s girlfriend. Mr. Giles is just her boss at the Magic Shop. What are we going to do about that? There’s definitely been ‘shagging’ there!”
“Don’t know about you, but I’m going to pretend you never saw that. If and when it comes out, it’s going to get messy, and I’d just as soon not be involved.”
“Guilty. Come on, pet. Do you want to be the one to tell Alex both his girls are shagging other people? Or to tell the other happy couple that they aren’t a couple? Think how we feel, now that we know we probably weren’t together….”
“How do we feel?” she asked, staring down at the book instead of at him. “It’s not like we just found out we were in love with other people. All we know right now is that we weren’t living together….”
“Alright, I’ll give you that. I was in love with you, so that part’s still good – just haven’t heard anything yet to indicate you loved me back.”
Buffy put her head down to keep reading. “We’ll find it,” she said, her face setting into stubborn lines. “It probably just took me a while to get over whats-his-name leaving me.”
As she got further and further into the events of the previous year, she began to frown and huddle into his side. “OMG. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can see why Dawn and I might have wanted to lose our memories. A god? A Hellgod? That’s what I was fighting? And my boyfriend was getting suck jobs from vamp whores?” She smiled at Randy’s snarl. “It’s okay, seems like you found out and showed me…. Oh, then he left me. Awesome. No wonder I fell in love with you.”
“Nothing here that indicates you were in love with me, pet. Sounds like you were tolerating me for the extra muscle, that’s all.”
Joan didn’t answer, her attention back on the pages in front of her. She flinched when she came to the part where Dawn described how Buffy’d shown up at her school to tell her their mother was dead. And how Dawn had tried to work a spell to bring her back. Spike’s name continued to show up now and then, Dawn had apparently used his feelings for Buffy to get him to do things for her – including getting the ingredients she needed for the spell. Joan’s glare and slight movement away from his side had him apologizing for something he had no memory of doing.
She quickly scanned the rest of the book, keeping it where Randy could read it along with her. A choked gasp accompanied the entry about the Buffy-bot.
“A robot? Seriously?” She stared at him, horrified and curious. “How could you?”
He wouldn’t meet her gaze, just stared at his hands as they clenched into fists. “If I’m understanding what’s between the lines here, I’m guessing I thought that was as close as I was going to get to the real thing. Haven’t seen a thing yet to indicate you were anything but disgusted at my feelings for you. You used me for backup muscle, nothing else. Even took away my invite to the house.”
The revelation about the Bot was closely followed by an entry about the torture Spike had endured at Glory’s hands, and Buffy’s ruse that, rather than giving her a reason to stake him, had been a turning point in their relationship.
Dawn’s terror at being discovered, the arrival of the homicidal knights, and the subsequent flight from Sunnydale was covered in sketchy detail. The next to last entry just said that they were leaving Sunnydale. There were no more entries until the final page, dated several days later.
“Buffy’s dead,” was all it said.
They gasped simultaneously.
“What the bloody—”
“Well, obviously that’s wrong… I mean, I’m here and I…” She looked at her boxed up belongings with newly aware eyes, then jumped to her feet and began to dig frantically through the boxes. “Dawn said I have diaries too. They must be in here somewhere…”
She stopped digging when Randy put his arms around her and held her tightly. “Calm down, love. We know it’s not true, don’t we? Can’t be true. You’re here, living, breathing, all heartbeat having, warm and….”
He was just nibbling on her neck to distract her, hoping to remind her just how alive she was, when Dawn stuck her head back in the doorway.
“Stop that!” She put her hands over her eyes. “I’m young and impressionable, you know!”
“Probably why I moved out,” Joan grumbled, reluctantly pushing Randy away. “As long as you’re here – what the hell does this mean?” She pointed at words on the otherwise blank page.
Dawn shook her head. “I don’t really know,” she admitted. “All I’ve got after that is one that says… I don’t know. It just starts out ‘Buffy’s back’ and goes on from there. There’s a bunch of pages torn out, but I don’t know where they are or what they said.”
“Well what do the ones you do have say? What do you mean, it goes on from there?”
Dawn looked uncomfortable. “It’s mostly…. look, it’s private stuff, okay? I’ll just write out the important things that apply to you.” Before Joan could object, Dawn grabbed a piece of blank paper from the journal Randy was still holding and began to scribble on it. “At first I’m like, really, really happy. But then, you started being all… weird… about being back. Like you weren’t happy to be here. And you started hanging out with Spike a lot…” She flashed Randy a look. “And I was kinda unhappy that he wasn’t paying as much attention to me as he did before you got back…”
“Back from where? Where did I go?”
Dawn took a deep breath. “I think you were… really dead. There’s some stuff about… about finding you, and washing dirt out from under your fingernails, and demons, and Willow… and I…” She looked from Joan to Randy. “I think Willow somehow brought you back.”
“Is that why almost all my stuff is in boxes in the closet?”
Dawn shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s not like I write stuff like that in my diary. ‘Dear Diary, Today we packed up all Buffy’s stuff that she doesn’t need on account of she’s dead and—”
“Why do you think Willow did… it? I mean not why why, cause I’m sure if she’s my friend, she missed me, but why do you think it was her?”
“She said something about it. About finding a spell … Willow and Tara had a big fight about it. Tara said she was crazy to even think about messing with that kind of magic. That’s all I wrote about it. They didn’t tell me anything and they stopped yelling when they saw me listening.”
“Tara got that right,” Randy said. “Don’t need my memory to know that would take some serious mojo… and have some serious consequences.”
“Do you think this is one of the consequences? That none of us can remember anything?” Joan looked at Randy like he should know all he answers to mystical questions, but he just shrugged.
“I don’t think so,” Dawn said quietly “I think it happened a while ago. Not real long ago, maybe, but more than just the few weeks that we’ve been like this. And—”
“And?” Joan prompted when Dawn just stared at the paper in her hand.
“And… there’s something about singing, and a singing demon that wanted to—okay, never mind about that—but you sang that…that…” She raised her eyes to Joan’s. “That you’d been in Heaven. That they dragged you out of Heaven and that’s why you were acting so weird. You didn’t want to be here anymore.”
“I sang?” Joan focused on the easy part of the information. “I don’t sing. I don’t think I sing. Do I sing?” She looked at Randy anxiously.
“Haven’t heard you do it, love, but doesn’t mean you – real you – can’t or doesn’t.”
Dawn waved her hand. “I think everybody was singing. It was a whole… singing thing. But then the demon went back to Hell and we could all stop singing.”
“I was in Heaven.” Joan sat down hard, almost bouncing off the edge of the bed. “I was dead and in Heaven, and Willow pulled me out? Why would she do that to me?”
“When we get our memories back, you can ask her.”
Joan just sat on the bed, her arms wrapped around her body and rocking back and forth. “Dead. I was dead. I was in Heaven. I was dead….”
Randy sat down beside her and wrapped his own arms around her trembling body. “It’ll be alright, love. You’re here now. I’ve got you. Not letting you go.”
“About that…” Dawn began, halting in mid sentence when Randy turned a murderous glare on her. “Right. You’ve got Randy, and he loves you, and you love him and it’s all… good.”
Dawn fidgeted in the doorway while Randy soothed Joan with murmured reassurances and gentle caresses. When they were finally able to look at her, though obviously still shaken by the information, she said, “I haven’t told anybody else. I just found the books this morning and I thought I’d wait and see how you wanted to handle it.”
“Bloody hell…” Randy shook his head. “Who’d believe us?”
“Giles,” Buffy said softly. “He has to be told. And Willow….” Without her memories of the past several years of friendship, Joan wasn’t inclined to be gentle with her housemate. “I don’t think I can look at her. If she did that to me….”
“What she did was mess with some very powerful and dark forces,” Randy said. “Don’t have my memories of magic to go by, but it had to take some major mojo to pull off something like that.” He looked at Joan with sudden fear. “I don’t want you living here. Don’t want you that close to someone that powerful and reckless.”
“But it’s okay if I live here?” Dawn sounded more bitter than they might have expected and they both stared at her in confusion.
“Something else you’d like to share, little sis?”
Her shoulders slumped. “Nothing you care about now, I guess.” She turned away and went back to her room, leaving them to frown at each other.
“What do you think she—”
Randy shook his head. “No idea. Unless….” He grabbed the diary in her hand, flipping to the last page and growling. “Doesn’t say what happened after you…. died. Doesn’t say what I did or who took care of Dawn. Maybe I…” He kissed her forehead. “Be right back, love.”
He crossed the hall to Dawn’s room and entered without knocking to find her holding some crumpled papers and poring over them with tears streaming down her face. He knelt in front of her and gently took the papers from her hands. “I’m guessin’ if I looked through here, I’d find out that we spent some time together while your sis was … gone. Did some shared grieving, maybe?”
Dawn nodded without speaking, sniffling until she had her voice under control. “You were my protector. My babysitter when nobody else wanted to stay with me. You helped me with my homework, and….” She raised teary eyes to his. “And now you don’t even remember or care about me.”
“Ah, Dawn. None of us remember anybody, do we? Witches don’t remember that they’re a couple, even though it’s obvious. The watcher doesn’t remember that was his job—”
“You’re still in love with Joan—Buffy,” she said, her sniffles turning into more of a pout.
“I expect that’s probably hard-wired into my soul, pet,” he said. “Or it would be if I actually had one.” He stood up. “I’m sorry. Dawn. Now that I know how important I was—am—to you, I’ll make sure to spend more time with you. Maybe we’ll even get a bigger apartment and you can move in—”
“You do remember this is our house, don’t you?” She gave him the patented “adults are so stupid” look that all teenagers seemed to have. “They can move out. Or Willow can, anyway. I’m not sure how much I like her, now that I know what she did.”
“What she did, as bad as I’m sure it made Joan—Buffy—feel, was bring her back to us. Don’t forget that, Dawn. We have her now because of what Willow did; and as sorry as I am that Joan had Heaven wrenched away from her, I can’t be sorry that she’s here.”
“No, me neither.” Dawn sighed. “But how could Willow think it was okay to do something like that without telling me? Or you? Or Giles?”
“Three very good questions, luv. And we’ll ask ‘em as soon as we know that she’s able to answer. Trust me. But for now, we’re all in the same leaky boat, yeah? Just bailing for all we’re worth and hoping to drift in to shore before we sink ourselves.”
Dawn just stared at him. “That was so lame.” She tossed her head and took her diary pages back from him, shoving them under her mattress. “Don’t think you’re going to get to look at that. I’m moving everything as soon as you aren’t watching.”
“Wouldn’t dream of violating your privacy like that, pet,” he said, grinning as he went out the door. “I’ll just steal it outright if I decide there’s anything I need to see.”
“Randy?” Something in her tone of voice made him turn around. “Don’t… I mean, Buffy didn’t… I wouldn’t….” She blew out her breath. “Enjoy her while you’ve got her, ‘k?”
He nodded his understanding and went back to the room where Joan was going through her clothes and picking out the ones she wanted to take with her. He sat on the bed and watched as she held things up, then either threw them on the bed or put them back in the boxes. When she had a fairly high stack, she stopped and came to stand in front of him.
“I wish we had a car,” she said with a sigh. “I don’t know how we’re going to get all this stuff home.”
“You’re not stayin’ here?” Randy tried to keep the joy out of his voice, but the way his eyes lit up gave it away.
“No, dummy. I’m not staying here. I live with you, remember? It’s nice to know I have a house if I want one, but right now it has too many people in it to suit me. For some reason, I really prefer our quiet apartment. Even your crypt has a certain shabby appeal….”
“Probably cause you were dead, love. The world’s just a bit too loud and bright for somebody who spent a peaceful four or five months in Heaven.” He didn’t mention that Dawn’s diary had an entry about Buffy’s dislike of bright lights and loud noises.
“Well, anyway, we’re just going to have to carry all this stuff I guess. Maybe we can get Alex—er, Xander— to drive us, now that he’s found his car.”
The clothes were piled on the arm of the couch when Willow and Tara came home and stared at them curiously. “Why are there clothes all over the couch?” Willow asked, her brow wrinkling as she looked at the three sets of shifty eyes. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” Joan said. “I’m just picking out some stuff to take to the apartment, that’s all.”
“You aren’t going to live here? This is where you live!”
“Well, it doesn’t look like I’ve been living here very long… and Randy wouldn’t be very comfortable here… unless we fixed him a place in the basement….” Buffy and Dawn exchanged speculative looks as Randy shook his head.
“Let’s worry about that later, yeah? We’ve got the apartment through the end of the month, so we may as well use it.” He began to rummage around in the drawer of the small phone table, giving an “ah!” of satisfaction when he found what he was searching for. He held up a set of car keys and smiled. “I’m bettin’ these go to that gas guzzler in the driveway. Looks like you got your wish, pet. We can drive your stuff home.”
“You can drive?” Dawn stared at him dubiously.
Randy frowned and tossed the keys up and down. “Yeah, I think so. Feels like something I should be able to do. Guess we’ll find out.” He scooped up the big pile of clothes and started out the door. “You bring the shoes, love. You’re stronger than I am.”
“Very funny,” Joan snorted, hefting the box full of shoes and boots she’d determined she couldn’t be without. She paused to exchange looks with Dawn. “I think we’ll drop this stuff off and then go find Giles,” she said. “Might give you a call later, or in the morning,” she added as she realized how late it was getting to be.
Without saying anything to Willow or Tara, Dawn went back upstairs to collect the old diary from the floor of Joan’s room and hide it under the mattress again.
“What do you think that was all about?” Tara stared from the still-open front door to the stairway. She frowned as the big SUV pulled out and moved down the street. “I guess Randy can drive,” she said as she watched the vehicle disappear into traffic.
“I don’t understand why Buffy doesn’t want to stay here with us,” Willow said, trying to keep the whine from her voice but not succeeding. “Why does she want to go back to that cramped apartment?”
“Because Randy is there,” Tara said softly. “And he obviously doesn’t live here.”
“He doesn’t live there either. You heard what Mr. Giles said – he’s an old vampire named Spike and he lives in a crypt. For all we know, this is all his doing. Some kind of magic spell to make Buffy fall in love with him.”
“I don’t think it’s Spike doing all the bad magic,” Dawn said as she came back downstairs. “I think it’s somebody who has messed with some really heavy stuff and maybe can’t control it.” There was nothing subtle about the look she gave Willow, who frowned and looked hurt.
“Dawnie, you can’t possibly think it was me? I would never do that – take everyone’s memories away. Why would I want to?”
“I don’t know,” Dawn said with a shrug. “Maybe because you’d done something really awful and didn’t want anybody to remember it? I’m just offering suggestions,” she added when Willow and Tara looked at her with equal parts shock and suspicion. She went into the kitchen and began rummaging around for something to snack on, leaving the two witches to share worried looks.
When Willow went upstairs, Tara took a deep breath and followed Dawn into the kitchen.
“Is there something we should know?”
“Probably. But I’m not going to tell you. Maybe Joan—Buffy will after she talks to Mr. Giles.” Dawn stood up and took the bag of chips with her. “I’ll be in my room. I’ve got more reading to catch up on.”
Tara watched her walk away, frowning slightly. With a sigh, she turned out the lights, checked the back door, and went upstairs.
Randy sprawled on the bed, watching Joan’s graceful movements as she arranged her shoes and put away her clothes. She finally noticed his gaze and stopped, holding a pile of T-shirts and underwear.
“Nothin’, love. Just enjoy watching you move around. Poetry in motion you are. Not quite as exciting as watching you fighting, but still…” He was wearing the same sadly wistful expression he’d had since coming out of Dawn’s room. Joan put the clothing into the first drawer she opened, then joined him on the bed, settling between his spread legs and resting her chin on his chest while she looked up at his face.
He reached out and stroked her cheek, pushing a stray lock of hair away from her eyes. “Nothing’s wrong. I love you, you love me, and we live happily in our own little love nest. What could be wrong about that?”
“Nothing that I can think of, but you’ve been acting weird since we found out… all that stuff we found out. Are you wigged about living with a formerly dead girl?”
He snorted. “Don’t have much room to be fussy about that, now, do I?” he said, dropping his hand and going immobile. He waited just long enough to make his point, then took her hand and kissed it. “’S got nothing to do with you, love. I’m just borrowin’ trouble, worrying about what might happen when we find out more about what things were like before.”
She cocked her head at him. “Do you think I’m going to forget everything we’ve done and been, just because I know it didn’t used to be like that? I know you better now than I probably ever did before and—”
“You know Randy, love. Joan knows Randy. Buffy knows Spike. She’s got a history with him… a not very pretty history from what we saw in Dawn’s earlier writings.”
“We also know that he suffered torture from a Hellgod to protect her – for me. And that he tried to save her, and he helped me fight for her… And, I think Dawn got so upset with you because she…. you and her… I think you maybe… have a relationship that doesn’t include me. I don’t know what went on while I was… gone… but you stayed here and—”
“Not as dumb as you look, are you, sweetheart?” He smiled and tugged her up to lie beside him. “Yeah, seems like your sis and I did some bonding over that summer you weren’t around. May have started out jus’ keeping a promise to you, but she seems to think it was more. Shared grief and all that.” He pulled her a little tighter as he contemplated a world in which she was dead and gone. “Point is, she’s reading in between all the stuff about which boys are hot and which ones are ‘undateable’ and she sort of indicated…” He held her even more tightly as he swallowed hard and tried to continue. “She as much as said that I should enjoy what I’ve got while I’ve got it. Doesn’t seem to think you’ll be as happy about having me in your life… in your bed…. when you remember who we are.”
“Randy…” Joan sighed and sat up, shaking off his protest. “I promise you, no matter what happens when we know who we were, I will never forget what we are now.”
“All I can ask for, I guess,” he said, sitting up and kissing the top of her head. “Are ready to head back to the watcher’s yet?”
She shook her head. “It’s almost morning. Let’s get some sleep, and I’ll go over to the Magic Box later on and tell him what we know. Maybe we’ll call a meeting for tonight and bring everybody up to speed.” She got up and moved to the bathroom. By the time she came out, wearing the long T-shirt that they both knew wasn’t going to stay on very long, but that she always insisted on wearing to bed, Randy was already naked and under the covers.
“I wonder if Spike slept naked, or if that’s just something you do,” she murmured as she snuggled into his side and threw one bare leg over his thigh.
“Don’t know. Could be he didn’t have as good a reason as I do to be naked,” he said, pulling her over on top of him. He slid his hands down to cup her butt cheeks and pull her more tightly against his cock. When she gave an appreciative moan and rubbed against him, he grabbed the hem of her shirt and pulled up until it was covering her face. “Arms up, love,” he instructed. They both gasped when she sat up, straddling him and forcing their pelvic areas even closer together. The shirt disappeared and his hands came back down to hold her hips. His biceps bulged as he lifted her up and brought her to his face, where he smiled at her little sigh of anticipation.
“Know what you like, don’t I?” he growled, lowering her to his eager mouth. “Know what my girl likes….”
Buffy’s nonverbal response consisted of small whimpers and yelps as he teased her until she was almost crying, then brought her to orgasm with a few seconds of well-placed nips to her clit. Before she had even recovered her breath, he had lowered her to lie upon him again and rolled them over so that she was beneath him, opening her legs and wrapping them around his hips as she pulled him into her body.
“Not giving you up, Joan. Not ever going to give you up. You hear me, Slayer? Never.”
“That would be mildly scary if I wasn’t already right here with you…” she gasped as he began to move. “Giving this up is so not on my radar right now.”
“Never,” he repeated.
“Never,” she agreed as she met him thrust for thrust.
Joan slept until well after 9 a.m.; then quietly dressed and, after leaving a light kiss on Randy’s sleepy face, she left the apartment and headed for the Magic Box. She paused on the way there to buy herself a frothy cup of caffeine, biting her lip as she calculated how low their funds were getting. Randy had found several hundred dollars in his pockets, and since they’d had no idea where it had come from, they decided to assume he’d just cashed a paycheck. That neither of them had any idea what sort of job a vampire might be holding down, nor whether Joan had a job (from which she’d no doubt been fired by now) she occasionally worried about whose money they were spending. But she didn’t worry enough to not spend it. Memory or no memory, a girl had to eat – and have more than one outfit to wear.
Pushing open the door of the magic shop, she glanced around it for some sign that important events had happened there, but nothing seemed any more familiar than it had when she’d first woken up on the floor. She shrugged and called out for the older man they had all come to depend upon for guidance.
“Giles? Are you here?”
His voice drifted down from the book loft. “I’m here, Joan… er… Buffy. I’ll be right down.” He descended the ladder and looked at her curiously. “You’re out and about earlier than normal; is everything all right?”
“You’d better fix yourself a cup of tea and have a seat,” Joan said with wry grin. “I think ‘all right’ kinda left the building with our memories.”
He raised his eyebrows, but followed her advice, pouring himself a nice mug of strong tea from the ever-present teapot and then settling into a chair across the table from where she sat, toying with her coffee.
“Okay, here’s the sitch….” In as much detail as she could remember, she filled him in on what they’d learned from Dawn’s diaries. His face paled visibly as she told him what they’d learned about the previous couple of years – and the past few months of this one. Other than the occasional “Dear Lord” and getting up to pour himself a glass of something much stronger than tea, he didn’t interrupt until she paused and sank back in her chair.
“So, that’s what we know. Maybe Willow is a much stronger witch than she knows right now; Randy—Spike has been helping us for a long time and took care of Dawn while I was….” She raised her eyes to his; the haunted expression in them caused him to reach across the table and cover her hand with his. “Dead. I was dead, Giles. They brought me back from being dead. From Heaven! Who does that to a friend?”
“Someone very powerful, and very inexperienced in—” He shook himself. “You… we are all very fortunate that you seem to have come back … intact.”
Joan looked down at herself and frowned. “Intact? You expected parts of me to be missing?”
“I meant,” he said gently, “that you seem to have come back complete with your soul. That’s why you remember… remembered being… wherever you were. Your soul came back with you. I suspect that does not always occur in resurrection situations…” He got up and went back up into the loft, returning quickly with two books and a frown. “I found these two books on resurrection spells and their consequences. There was an empty spot next to them.” He frowned. “I wonder if….”
“If Willow has the missing book?” Joan’s expression indicated she would be happy to shake the witch until her teeth rattled or the book fell out, whichever he wanted.
“How have Dawn and… Randy… taken this news?”
“Better than I did,” she said with a sigh. “Randy said he doesn’t need his memories to know that it took some serious dark magic to do something like that, and Dawn’s just pissed off that she wasn’t allowed in on it.”
“So, neither of them was involved? Are you sure?”
“Not according to Dawn’s diary. You’ll have to ask her for more details, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention past ‘you were dead, and then four months later you weren’t dead anymore’.” She took a deep breath. “It sounds like I wasn’t very happy about being back. She didn’t tell me any details, but she said I was acting all weird and spending a lot of time with Spi—Randy. She was mad that he wasn’t taking care of her anymore after I came back.”
“Randy took care of Dawn?”
Joan shrugged. “I guess so. They didn’t tell me much about it.”
“You said that already.”
“And no doubt will do so again.” He sighed and patted her hand again. “My dear, I can only imagine how you must have been feeling. It’s no wonder you took up with a vampire.”
Joan chose to ignore his assumption that she wouldn’t have been dating Randy if she hadn’t died, and focused on the first part of his remarks.
“Do you think…” She wrinkled her brow and bit her lip. “Did I do this? Was I so unhappy about being back that I tried to lose my memory so I’d be happier?”
He shook his head. “I quite doubt it. Although without knowing more about you, I have no idea if you have any latent magic talents. I suspect it would be more likely to be Randy or Dawn in an attempt to make you happier by causing you to forget where you’d been. Clearly, whatever the original intent, it has gone very wrong for all of us.”
Saying that he needed to spend the day researching all he could about resurrections and memory spells, he shooed her out the door with instructions to bring everyone back that evening. Joan didn’t argue, just nodded and walked out the door, turning toward her “home” on Revello Drive rather than back to the apartment.
By the time they had all arrived that evening, Giles had a small stack of books beside his place at the table, all with bookmarks protruding from the passages he might want to consult. He watched with narrowed eyes as Willow gave a small start at seeing which books were on the top of the stack. Tara looked at the titles with curiosity, but gave no sign that she recognized them. Alex, wearing the letter jacket that Willow had long since returned to him with a stammered explanation that she was sure she’d only been wearing it to stay warm, stood around uncomfortably while everyone sorted out where to sit.
Joan, Randy and Dawn pulled up three chairs and sat by themselves a small distance from everyone else, the vampire between the two girls. Willow and Tara sat together across from Giles, who had a vacant seat near him. Anya leaned down to kiss the top of his head, saying, “I’ll be at the cash register. Just let me know when it’s time to sit down.”
He gave her a tight smile and nodded, still not sure how he was going to tell her that not only were they not engaged to be married, but she was, apparently, involved with the man she blithely referred to as “that boy that hangs around Willow.”
When everyone had settled in, and Giles had gently removed Anya’s hand from his thigh, he said without preamble, “Dawn has found her journals covering the past several years. In the interest of preserving her privacy, we will not be passing them around; we will, however, be quoting from them quite liberally as needed. There are some important things that we need to know, both about our own relationships….” He cast an eye to his side where Anya’s pout over his having moved her hand was turning to narrowed eyes and a suspicious glare. “…and about Joan’s… situation.”
He turned to the small group huddled away from the table saying, “Which of you would care to go first?” Dawn leaned against Randy’s shoulder, ignoring the looks on the faces of the rest of the group. She glanced over at Joan, who was leaning on the other shoulder and staring around the table with eyes that contained no warmth.
“Okay. Guess it’s me,” she said, sitting up straighter and taking a deep breath. “I didn’t exist—as me—until just over a year ago.” She hurried on past the “What?” “How?” questions. “I was something called “the Key”, a kind of ancient energy that could open dimensions—”
She paused to glare when Willow sat up with sudden interest. Tara’s gentle hand on Willow’s arm stopped her from asking more about Dawn’s ability to open dimensions, and she subsided with poorly disguised impatience.
“As I was saying,” Dawn continued, “I was this Key thing and I was put into this body, which has something to do with being made from Buffy—I dunno— and sent to the Slayer to be protected from a Hellgod who wanted to use me to open the gate to her home dimension. Don’t ask me how the monks did that, or how they put me into everybody’s memories, they just did.”
“So, you’re not… not real?” Alex looked as confused as everyone else. Randy’s snarl as he put an arm around Dawn’s shoulders, and Joan’s icy glare made it very clear he should not follow that line of thought.
Dawn seemed unsure how to respond, so Joan cleared her throat and stood up. “Okay. Long story short: Dawn is my sister, doesn’t matter how she got here, she’s mine to love and take care of. Hence, fighting a Hellgod to keep her safe. Randy–Spike helped me do it because he....” She visibly stumbled for some way to say why the vampire had chosen to join their fight.
“Because I apparently have a soft spot for the Summers women, and I fell in love with one of them.”
“Yeah, that. For an evil, unsoulled vamp, it turns out he’s pretty much a pussycat.”
She ignored the growl from Randy and Dawn’s whispered, “She’s right, you know. You should see my diary from when I first met you.”
“Anyway, there was this whole Hellgod, alter ego doctor, medieval knights trying to kill Dawn, apocalypsy kinda thing and…” She stared around the room, clutching the supporting hand Randy extended to her. “And I died. We don’t know how or why—”
“Savin’ the bloody world,” Randy growled. “Is there any doubt?”
Joan waited for the babble to subside, then held up her hand for silence. “That’s not really the biggie. Slayers die. I’ve read enough of Giles’ books about them to know that. I was probably past my expiration date anyway. Here’s the big stuff….” She waited again while they murmured about how impossible it was that she was dead and so on.
“Got to say, Joan–Buffy, you look pretty healthy to me. And you’re a lot prettier than the other corpse in this room.”
“Yeah. About that… I’m not dead anymore. It seems like someone…” Her eyes involuntarily shifted to Willow, who shrank into her chair and away from Tara who gasped. “Someone, brought me back to life. Pulled me right out of Heaven, according to what I sang.”
Joan waved her hand dismissively. “Not important. The point is, I’d been in Heaven – or my soul was, anyway. My body was in a grave and I had to dig my way out when my soul got yanked back into my body. So,” she said, gazing around the table, “I was really, really unhappy about being back in my crappy life, and we don’t know if that has anything to do with losing our memories or not.” She frowned. “I don’t think I’d have known how to do a forgetting spell, but maybe I did.”
“Maybe the evil undead thing that had the hots for you brought you back from the grave and then did a spell to make you forget he’d done it so you would go out with him.” Alex looked more than satisfied with his explanation, especially when Willow chimed in with, “I’ll bet that’s what happened! It’s all Randy’s fault!”
Joan’s glare brought the speculation to an abrupt halt. “We already know that isn’t true. Dawn’s diaries are pretty clear on what Ran—Spike did while I was… gone. He kept a promise he’d made to me to keep Dawn safe, and he stayed with her the whole time. He helped you guys patrol, and he and Dawn were the only ones… well, and Giles, but he was in England… Anyway, he and Dawn were the only ones who didn’t seem to know anything about the plan to resurrect me. And he was the only one I wanted to be around when I came back. He didn’t need to make me forget about anything. I wanted to be with him.”
Giles let the full import of Joan’s revelations sink in for a few minutes, then broke into the shocked silence, and tapped the pile of books at his side. “There seems to be a volume missing from this series on resurrections. I don’t suppose any of you might have seen it around…?”
Willow shrank back even more, while Tara said softly, “We have it on a shelf in our room. I wondered where it came from.”
“I should like it returned to me, if you don’t mind,” Giles said stiffly. “I intend to do some deep research in order to help Joan–Buffy adjust if and when she gets her memory back, and to understand how it was done in case that had any impact on our memory losses. It’s possible the answer to this dilemma lies within that book and the side effects of using that sort of dark magic.”
“I’m sure there’s no connection,” Willow said meekly. “But I’ll get it back to you right away. Let’s go, Tara. We’ll run home and grab the book and be right back. Alex, can you drive us?”
“Sure,” he agreed, standing up and swinging his jacket around to put it on. There was a slight thump as something fell from the pocket and rolled across the floor. “Oops! I forgot that thing was in there.” He picked it up and held it out to Willow. “I guess it’s yours. I found it in there when you gave the coat back. Looks like witchy stuff to me.”
They all stared at the crystal in his outstretched hand. Anya was the first to find her voice. “We have those here in the shop. They’re often used in memory spells…”
“It’s not mine,” Willow said in a small voice. “I don’t remember it.”
Dawn’s “Duh!” was acknowledged with snorts of agreement from almost everyone. Only Tara tried to stand up for Willow.
“I know Willow would never do anything like that. She would never use the kind of magics it takes to bring a dead person back to life, or mess with our minds by making us forget who we are. She just wouldn’t. It has to be someone else. Someone evil…”
All eyes turned to Randy, who snarled back even as Dawn and Joan moved closer to him. Giles had been thumbing through the diaries Dawn had brought with her, pausing at the pages she’d dog-eared for him. He shook his head as he closed them and handed them back to her.
“I disagree. It is quite plain, even allowing for a certain amount of hero-worshipping on Dawn’s part, that Spike had nothing to do with either bringing Buffy back, or with causing her to lose her memory. If anything, I would have expected him to want her to remain grateful for his company and to remember his assistance before she died.” He looked around the table and took a deep breath.
“There was more,” he said. “We seem to have misinterpreted some of the other relationships that existed before.” His eyes shifted to Anya and from her to Alex.
“You,” he said, pointing to the boy who was still holding the crystal, “are actually known as Xander, and you apparently are in a relationship with… “ He gazed wistfully at Anya, who was already shaking her head no. “…with Anya. I am apparently her employer, not her fiancé.” He waited, his head bowed and his expression sad for those words to sink in. There were gasps all around the room as they understood what he was saying. Anya ran back into the stock room and slammed the door, leaving Giles with his eyes squeezed shut and Xander in confused anger.
“You’ve been… with my girl?”
Dawn spoke to Willow. “You and Tara were together, but you fight sometimes about magic and how much you use it.”
“And Joan and Randy?” Willow’s voice was bitter, although she clutched Tara’s hand tightly.
They all shrugged almost in unison, before Dawn spoke. “He’s been in love with her for a long time, and she was already spending a lot of time with him before the spell, so I think they’re a couple. It’s probably why they fell in love so fast – they were already in love, they just didn’t remember that they were.” Dawn beamed, proud of her assessment of the situation.
Behind them, Xander, who had not received a satisfactory answer from Giles, other than a soft, “I’m sorry. I thought we were engaged. That we were in love.” stood up and glared.
“She was in love with me!” Whirling around, Xander threw the crystal he was still holding against the wall, where it hit a granite sconce and shattered into hundreds of small pieces, each one catching the light and sparkling on its way to the floor.
Giles was the first to recover both his senses and his voice. “Oh, Dear Lord,” he breathed, staring around the room at the shocked faces. Before anyone else could speak, Anya burst out of the back room and stomped up to Willow. “You are an idiot!” she yelled. “If I ever get my powers back…” She turned around and ran back to the stockroom. Xander made a slight movement in her direction, then saw Giles staring at him with regret and pity on his face. Without speaking to anyone, he left the shop, letting the door slam shut behind him.
“Oops?” Dawn appeared more entertained than concerned as she watched the adults in the room coping with the events of the past few weeks, as well as absorbing all the memories of what had come before. Then she glanced at Buffy and Spike and her face fell.
Spike had moved away from them and was standing against the wall, his hands shoved down into his pockets, his shoulders hunched.
Buffy was staring at the table, afraid to look anyone in the eye. Only Tara, who had also stood up and moved away from Willow, bothered to send a sympathetic smile to Buffy.
But Tara’s attention was soon back on her girlfriend who was trying to explain without actually admitting that she’d done the spell. “I just wanted you to forget that you were mad at me,” she protested, looking around the room for support that was not forthcoming. Going on the attack, she glared at Spike.
“You took advantage of Buffy! She should stake you now.”
“Shut up, Willow,” Buffy said, still staring at the table. “He didn’t know either. I’m not staking anybody.”
Spike stared at her bowed head for long minutes, then sighed and turned away. He walked to the door and left the building, never noticing the quick glance she sent after him, or the way she started to get out of her seat, only to sit back, drop her head against the back of the chair, and shut her eyes. Dawn moved closer to her and whispered in her ear, getting nothing but a headshake in reply.
There was silence in the room for several minutes, Tara staring at Willow with a combination of determination and grief. “I’ll just get my things,” she said, holding up a hand when Willow tried to protest. “No, don’t even try. This is so much worse than what you did before.”
“I didn’t mean to—”
Giles interrupted her. “You didn’t mean to rob us all of our memories,” he said flatly. “Just the woman you claim to love. We understand that, Willow. Unfortunately, we all now have to live with the consequences of your very selfish action. You’ll forgive me if I can’t be properly sympathetic.”
He stood up and turned to Buffy, his mouth open but no words coming out. “We’ll talk later,” he finally said.
“Are you still leaving?” Buffy’s voice was flat and expressionless, as was her face. All the animation and contentment that had been part of Joan’s persona had vanished.
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I will have to think about this in some depth. Clearly things are not as under control here as I had thought they were.” No one asked which things he thought were not under control.
Buffy accepted Giles’s offer to drive Dawn home while she patrolled. No one mentioned that Anya had remained in the store when they all left. Nor that she had expressed no interest in where Xander had gone. Buffy waved goodnight and turned toward the outskirts of town where most of the newer cemeteries were located. The older ones had long since been surrounded by residential areas, but she walked through a couple of them just in case. There were still some family plots in which there was the occasional new grave.
She avoided Restfield and any chance of meeting it’s most mobile resident, concentrating on those graveyards the farthest away from anywhere she was likely to run into Spike. Although, common sense and her knowledge of his habits told her he had probably gone to directly to Willy’s and was well on his way to being thoroughly drunk.
She went about her patrol in a businesslike fashion, no quips, no toying with her prey, just staking them and moving on. She tried very hard not to notice the empty space on her left – a space that she’d become unused to even before the spell that had made Randy her constant companion. When she felt she’d done enough slaying for one night, she turned her feet toward home, stopping herself when she noticed that she’d automatically headed for the apartment, not the house on Revello. She gave an involuntary whimper before turning around and setting off in the right direction.
Contrary to what Buffy had pictured, Spike stayed at Willy’s only long enough to get into a fight with three of the loan shark’s newest minions. After dusting them all, he grabbed two bottles of whiskey off the bar and, ignoring Willy’s outraged shouts, walked out. He went directly to his crypt, gulping from the open bottle as he walked. One look at his face was enough to send the few other vamps or demons he encountered hastening away. He didn’t bother to try to chase them, just snarled and kept drinking.
Not bothering with candles, Spike entered his home and slammed the door shut behind him. The first bottle was already empty, and he threw it against the wall, taking some small satisfaction from the destruction. He dropped into the bedroom and fell backwards onto the bed, already tilting the second bottle up to his mouth. The bed cover still smelled faintly of Buffy’s presence, and he inhaled deeply until he couldn’t distinguish her scent from his own anymore.
By the time he’d emptied the second bottle of whiskey, the pain had dulled enough that he could think about the past few weeks without wanting to kill Willow. Rather than dwelling on how much he’d like to chain the witch up for several days of creative torture, he tried to be grateful for the time he’d had with Joan and the memories of how much they’d loved each other.
He fell asleep murmuring to himself about the scent of Buffy’s hair and remembering the feel of her skin sliding over his as they made love over and over again in their rented bed.
The house on Revello Drive was not a happy place to be living in the aftermath of the spell. Dawn wasn’t sure who she was most angry at – Willow, for doing the spell or Buffy for refusing to admit what it had shown her about Spike and how much they belonged together. In spite of Dawn’s pleas to give him a chance, Buffy continued to maintain that she and Spike had “too much baggage” to just pick up where Joan and Randy left off.
“You just don’t get it, Dawn,” she said, trying to control her irritation at Dawn’s refusal to drop the subject.
“You’re right! I don’t get it. You know he loves you just as much as ‘Randy’ did – maybe more. And don’t even try to tell me you don’t love him. You’ve been a complete bitch to everybody since the spell broke. You’re taking it out on us because you won’t let yourself be happy.”
“He’s soulless, Dawn! He’s only safe because of that chip.”
“Which he didn’t have when he used to come here to cry on Mom’s shoulder and make faces at me. Or when he made a truce with you to save the world. Admit it, Buffy, Spike is not an average vampire. Maybe Angel needs a soul to behave like a decent person, but Spike doesn’t. And he never has. You’re just being stupid.”
Dawn flounced off to her room, leaving Buffy with nothing to take out her anger on but a sink full of dirty dishes. Deciding it would be in the dishes’ best interest for her not to do them just then, she grabbed her jacket and some stakes and went off to find vampires that knew how they were supposed to behave without souls.
She brushed past Willow on her way out, exchanging monosyllabic greetings that neither of them listened to. If pressed, she might have admitted that she was sorry it was Tara who had moved out and not the woman responsible for her latest unhappiness.
Because, in spite of her denials to Dawn, she was unhappy. She missed Spike – not just Randy, but Spike, the vampire she’d first told about having been in Heaven. The one who’d sung to her about how much his heart was breaking, the one she’d kissed so desperately in the alley behind the Bronze, and then run away from for the second time in one night. He had become a fixture in her miserable life long before she found herself living with him. She missed him, but she refused to admit that it was her worldview that was keeping them apart, not Spike’s inherent soullessness.
Maintaining her viewpoint that Spike’s soulless condition rendered him unsuitable for a slayer’s boyfriend became harder once Buffy had run into Tara at the coffeeshop.
“Hey,” Tara said, her uncertainty obvious. “It’s good to see you, Buffy.”
“You too. I—we miss you around the house. Dawn especially.” Buffy shrugged and looked mildly ashamed. “I think you’re closer to her idea of a mother figure than I am,” she admitted. “You left a pretty big hole when you left – and not just because none of the rest of us can cook actual, you know, edible food.”
Tara gave a soft laugh and smiled her appreciation, then sobered. “I miss you guys, too,” she said. “But I just can’t…” She shook her head. “My problem, I guess. Tell Dawn I’ll call her and we’ll make a date to have lunch and movie.”
“She’ll like that.” Buffy smiled and sighed. “I guess you’re still mad at Willow, huh?”
Tara squeezed her eyes shut for a second and shuddered. “I was mad, at first. Now I’m just so… so disappointed and torn. I tried to talk to her once, but she just refused to understand how wrong it was of her to do that to me. After Glory and… She just doesn’t get it. It was all about how unhappy she was that I was mad at her… I hope she’s going to let Giles help her. I can’t do it.”
“She really loves you,” Buffy said. In spite of her own anger at Willow, loyalty to her old friend forced her to speak in Willow’s defense.
“I know she does. And I still love her. I just don’t think I can be with anyone I can’t trust.”
Buffy nodded. “Trust is really important. I was just trying to explain that to Dawn. That I can’t be with—Never mind. I get that. You have to be able to trust your…. whatever.”
“He loves you too, you know.” Tara made no attempt to pretend she didn’t know whose name Buffy wasn’t saying. “Just as much as Randy did. And I think you can trust him, Buffy. He would never do anything to hurt you… or Dawn.”
Buffy sighed. “You’re probably right. He wouldn’t hurt us. Or you, or… But you know what? I’m the Slayer. It’s the rest of the world I have to worry about. I have to be able to trust him not to hurt anybody. And I don’t think—”
“Do you think Spike doesn’t know that?” Tara said, her eyes sympathetic, but her expression disapproving. “I think he does.”
Buffy gave Tara a sharp glance. “Have you seen him?”
“Just for a few minutes last week.”
“How… how was he?” Buffy tried to keep her voice casual and her expression one of mild curiosity.
Buffy snorted. “That’s my vampire.” She rolled her eyes and smiled, then realized what she’d said. “Not that he’s… not my vampire, of course. I just…”
Tara ignored her and shook her head. “Give him a chance, Buffy. If Joan could love him as much as she did, I think Buffy could learn to love him. I’ve got to go,” she added, glancing at the time. “Tell Dawn I’ll call her tonight to set up something for this weekend.”
Buffy waved her hand and picked up her latte. “It was good to see you, Tara.” She buried her mouth in the foamy goodness in front of her and tried not to think about Spike and/or what he might be doing without her.
“Seriously?” Buffy put her hands on her hips and glared at the demon hiding behind several newly turned thuggish-looking vampires blocking her way home. She waved her hands around. “Spike’s not here. Your kittens are long gone. Give it up. I’m not giving them back, and I’m not going to let you kill him, so just get over it.”
“I want you to stop him from killing my employees,” the demon said. “If he stops killing them every time he sees one, I’ll forget about the kittens he owes me.”
“Your employees are vampires. You know, those things I slay every night? Why would I ask Spike to leave them alone?” Her glare was sufficient to keep said vampires from coming any closer to the girl arguing with their boss.
“Because it’s in his best interest to do it. My quarrel isn’t with you, Slayer. It’s your boyfriend. You keep him under control or I will.”
“Excuse me?” Buffy was so astonished at the threat that she forgot to insist that Spike wasn’t her boyfriend. “Didn’t I just say I wasn’t going to let you kill him? Weren’t you listening?”
“You won’t always be around, Slayer. In fact, I hear that he’s by himself quite a bit now that you’ve moved back into your house. Just give him my message,” Teeth finished, signaling his men to leave with him. Rather than respond, Buffy quickly staked two of his henchmen and beheaded a third. She turned toward Teeth, sword hanging loosely in her hand.
“How about I give you a message?” she said as he retreated. “I have a problem with demons that make threats about people I… know. I suggest you leave Spike alone.” As Teeth hastened away as quickly as something his size and shape could, Buffy called after him, “I have one word for you… sushi.”
She kicked at the dust left by his minions and grumbled to herself. “Stupid fish demon. Stupid gambling vampire. Maybe I should warn Spike….” She shook her head and set off for home. “No, he’ll be fine. If he thinks I’m worried about him he’ll just… Nope. No warnings. He’s a big boy. He can take care of himself.”
The tense atmosphere in the small house lasted until the afternoon that Buffy woke up to the sound of muffled sobbing coming from what used to be her mother’s bedroom. It was the fourth day in a row that Willow had been unable to hide her pain, and as Buffy’s anger had faded, her innate ability to forgive was kicking in. With a deep sigh, she got up and padded barefoot down the hall to knock on Willow’s door. The crying stopped, and after a few seconds she heard a tentative “come in?”
Willow raised swollen eyes to Buffy, frowning when she saw more warmth looking back at her than she had since before Buffy died. “Bu…Buffy?”
“Hey, Will.” There was an uncomfortable silence, and then Buffy came in and sat cross-legged on the bed, facing her oldest friend. They exchanged stares for a few seconds before simultaneously reaching across the space in an awkward hug. Laughing and crying at the same time, Willow sat back and blew her nose.
“I really screwed up this time, didn’t I?” She looked as if she hoped or expected Buffy to contradict her, but Buffy only nodded and sighed.
“You kind of did. I know you weren’t planning to hurt anybody, but….”
“Everybody hates me.”
“Nobody hates you, Will. They’re just all really, really mad and trying to figure out what to do next.”
“Tara hates me,” Willow said, her voice breaking. “Xander hates me. Giles hates me.” She gave Buffy a mournful look. “You and Spike must really hate me.”
“I don’t hate you, Will. I’m not happy that it happened, but you know, I had three weeks of being part of a very happy, almost normal, couple – and how many times in my life can I say that happened, huh?”
“But it was just a spell. Just like last time, when you and Spike thought you were getting married. It wasn’t real.”
Buffy shook her head. “The spell is what made us not remember who we are. It had nothing to do with us being in love. We did that by ourselves. It’s just like you and Tara – without her memory that she was mad at you for using magic on her, she went right back to being with you. Even though you thought you were dating Xander, the real relationship stuff came out.” Buffy frowned for a moment. “I’m not sure what that theory says about Giles and Anya… or poor Xander.”
“Are you saying you really are in love with Spike?” Willow’s voice climbed an octave as she contemplated that thought, but she tried to look properly non-judgmental. She relaxed when Buffy shook her head.
“I’m sure Spike really is – I mean, I already knew that last year. I don’t know why I…” She shrugged. “I don’t know what I feel. The way Joan felt about Randy is all mixed up with all the history between me and Spike. I really was spending a lot of time with him after I came… back. He’s easy to be with, he doesn’t push me to pretend I’m happy…” She saw Willow wince at the reminder, but continued, “I’m… comfortable around him. I kinda miss him when he isn’t around. Which he hasn’t been. I haven’t seen him since the spell ended. Not that I’ve been looking,” she added quickly. “I know it’s going to be awkward for awhile, and I’d just as soon put it off as long as I can.”
“Buffy, it’s Spike. No soul, only safe because he’s chipped, steals from us Spike.”
Buffy shrugged. “I’m not saying I want to go back to living with him. I’m just saying…” She stopped talking and sat up straighter. “I don’t know what I’m saying. Of course, it’s just Spike. It would be wrong. I know that. I’m not crazy.”
Willow looked at Buffy as if she wasn’t sure about that, but offered, “If he makes you happy… happier about… then maybe…?”
“Randy made Joan happy,” Buffy said firmly. “Spike and Buffy is a very different thing. Not that it’s a thing! It’s not a thing! It’s a different… okay, relationship wouldn’t be a good choice either…” She sighed and threw up her hands. “Maybe if he’d talk to me, I’d know what to call it.” Neither Buffy nor Willow acknowledged that Buffy had just said she didn’t want to talk to him yet.
“He won’t talk to you?” Willow was appropriately indignant on Buffy’s behalf.
“I haven’t even seen him to find out if he’s talking to me. Or felt him. Usually I know if he’s skulking around watching me, but I don’t think he is. I don’t know where he is. It’s weird.”
“So, you’ve tried to find him and you can’t?” Willow frowned. “Where have you looked? It’s not like he doesn’t stand out in a crowd…” Her face paled. “You don’t suppose—” She hastened to change her question when Buffy gave a terrified gasp and put her hand to her mouth. “…that he went away for awhile,” Willow continued. “That’s all I was going to say. Maybe he took a little trip to clear his head. That’s all. I didn’t mean that he—”
“But what if he did? What if Teeth wasn’t….”
“Big ugly demon, head like a shark. Spike owes him money – or kittens, or something. Anyway, he said he’d….”
Ignoring Willow’s attempt to apologize for the thought now firmly lodged in Buffy’s head, she jumped up. “I’ve got to go. We can talk some more when I get home. ‘k? Bye!” Buffy dashed back to her own room, threw on some clothes and ran out the door. She ran all the way to Restfield, only slowing as she neared Spike’s crypt. That something might have happened to him hadn’t really occurred to her until Willow almost said it. It hadn’t really bothered her that he wasn’t around – except in the sense of missing his presence in her life – because she didn’t know what she wanted to say to him anyway, and avoiding him had seemed like the best way to not deal with it.
Now, as she stood outside the slightly ajar doors, she let sink in the full impact of what it would mean to her if he’d dusted while she was busy waiting to be ready to see him. With a little moan of apprehension, she pushed the door open and let herself in, standing just inside and trying to adjust to the dim interior. There were no lights anywhere and except for some broken glass and a slight scent of booze, no sign that anyone had been there since the night she and Randy had explored the crypt.
She leaned over the dark entrance to the lower level, calling softly, “Spike? Are you here?” but receiving no answer. Cursing silently that she hadn’t thought to bring a flashlight or matches, Buffy gave up trying to see anything. She checked the fridge, but found nothing but the Diet Cokes and waters that had been sitting there since long before the memory-loss spell. No new containers of blood on the shelves, and no sign that Spike had been there recently.
She sank down to the dusty floor, leaning against a stone sarcophagus with her head in her hands. She was fighting the urge to cry when a noise at the door brought her to her feet.
“No, Slayer. It’s me. Clem. You remember me? We met before when you let all our kittens loose.”
“Where’s Spike?” she demanded, completely uninterested in making polite small talk with a demon.
“I guess he’s at the apartment,” Clem said, his surprise obvious. “Isn’t that where you guys live? We were talking about going out tonight, but I have a date. I just stopped by here in case he was hanging out, waiting for me.”
“Apartment. Right. We have an apartment. Where we live. I knew that.” Buffy brushed past Clem, barely acknowledging his “Will you tell him I can’t make it tonight?” as she took off running again.
Her progress was delayed several times as the rapidly developing dusk meant having to stake all the eager-beaver vamps she ran into while dashing past cemeteries on her way to where she’d been so happy for such a short period of time. There was a light on in the window of their apartment, and Buffy stopped to sigh with relief and catch her breath. When she felt she had her breathing under control, if not her pounding heart, she entered the building and ran up the familiar stairs.
The apartment door was slightly ajar, making it irrelevant that she hadn’t brought the key with her. She approached silently, shaking her head at herself as she remembered that Spike would be able to hear or smell her long before a human would have known she was there. She pushed the door open and entered, pretending to be surprised when she found Spike stuffing tee shirts into a bag.
“Whatcha doing?” she said, striving for casual, but knowing her face and pounding heart were giving her away. He looked up at her, his warm gaze going over her hungrily before he caught himself and made his own attempt at being casual.
“Lease is up in a couple of days. Figured I’d best get my things out of here before they get put out on the street.” He straightened and looked around the room. “S’pose that’s why you’re here?” he asked in as offhand a manner as he could manage. “To start bringing your stuff home?”
“Uh… yeah. Sure. That’s just what I was thinking… Get my stuff, and you’ll get your stuff, and we’ll just… just take our stuff…”
“Right then. Well, I’d best get out of your way. I’ll come back tomorrow night to get the books and what-not.”
Buffy gazed around the little home they’d made, remembering the night they’d cracked the coffee table, noting the curtains she’d insisted he had to help her pick out. She glanced at the coordinating bedspread and the unmade bed. She looked from the bed to Spike, understanding dawning even as she avoided his eyes. When she didn’t speak to him, he picked up his bag and threw it over his shoulder.
“See you around, Slayer.”
“You weren’t at your crypt,” she said to his back. He stopped moving, turning to stare at her.
“You weren’t there. I haven’t seen you. I thought maybe… I couldn’t find you. You weren’t there,” she repeated, as if that explained everything.
“Did you need me for something?” His face was a mask of simple curiosity. “Is there a Big Bad needs arse-kicking?”
“I…” She stared at him helplessly. I need you.
“Buffy? What’s wrong, love?” He set the duffle bag down and waited.
“Have you been staying here? Is that why I couldn’t find you?” She looked around, now noticing the beer bottle on the sink, the blood container in the kitchen trash. Her eyes went back to the wrinkled bed. Spike followed her gaze to the bed and sighed.
“It smells like you,” he said with a shrug. “Smells like us.” He waited for her to speak, to say something that would destroy the illusion he’d been living, but she just continued to stare at the bed.
“Slayer?” When she didn’t answer, he sighed again and picked up his bag of clothes. “I’ll just get out of your way then.” He started toward the door, pausing when he heard a very faint, “Randy?”
He froze, one hand on the doorknob. Turning his head slowly, he met her eyes and swallowed hard. “Don’t,” he said. “Not unless you mean it.”
“J…Joan means it,” she said, her voice barely audible. “Buffy is… Buffy is confused.” Her voice got stronger. “But tonight, when I thought something might have happened to you…” She glared at him. “Don’t ever to that to me again! Don’t you ever stay away from me like that!”
He set his bag down and walked toward her slowly. “Why not? Not like you were worried, is it?”
“Yes… no!... yes… Don’t you ever hide from me again! I needed to… and you weren’t there, and I didn’t—”Her voice broke and she dropped her head to stare at the floor. In a much softer tone she said, “That’s not really what I’m trying to say. I didn’t mean to yell at you. I was just so afraid…”
He cupped her cheek, raising her face to meet his gaze. “It’s alright, Slayer. I think I got it the message.” He smiled into her eyes. “I love you too.”
With a sigh of resignation, she slumped against him, letting his arms hold her up as she sniffled into his shoulder. “That’s what I meant to say. I just couldn’t get it out.”
“You can work on it,” he said, “I’ve got time.”
She put her arms around him, squeezing until he winced. “I missed you.”
“Missed you too, love. More than I’d like to admit.” He straightened up and smiled down at her. “So, what brought on this sudden concern for my well-being?”
“Oh, I was telling Willow about not knowing where you were, and she said maybe you… and then she tried to say that’s not what she meant, but then I remembered that Teeth said… and I—” She looked up at him. “I need to go fillet a fish. Just to be safe.”
He laughed and picked her up, swinging her around and around until they were both dizzy. “If he’s what brought you back to me, I’m going buy him all the fresh seal meat he can eat.”
“Ewwww! And no you aren’t.” She glanced out the window and said, “I guess I should go… Do you want to come with me? To The Magic Box? I need to talk to Giles about Willow.”
“Right behind you, pet.” He kicked his duffle bag out of the way. “I’ll come back for that later.”
“I think you should keep staying here,” she said. “Teeth’s minions can’t get in here, so it ‘s safer than your crypt.”
“We’ll talk about it later, love. Let’s go get the witch sorted out.”
Locking the door behind him, Spike took her arm and guided her to the stairs. They wore matching smiles as, for the first time in weeks, they strode through Sunnydale together as its lethal guardians.
“So that’s what she said,” Buffy concluded. “I know she hates to be wrong, or to admit she was wrong, but she’s so unhappy and she thinks we all hate her….”
Giles sighed, mainly at what Buffy had told him about Tara’s assessment of Willow’s state. He glanced over at the vampire occupying the chair next to Buffy. “Based on what I’m seeing now, it would appear that neither of you have much reason to be angry with her.”
Buffy exchanged a look with Spike and took a deep breath. “Well. Yeah. I guess she kinda did us a favor. But—”
“But she has caused immeasurable harm to several others. People she professes to care about. Until she is willing to admit to both the harm she has done and that it was an unconscionable act in the first place, I’m not sure how ready she is listen to me.”
“I’m not saying I don’t wish to help her, Buffy. Even if I did not care about Willow, I would be shirking my responsibility if I allowed an untrained witch with so much raw power to continue to stumble along on her own. However, Willow and I have something of a history of disagreeing over her use of magic. I suspect I am not the best person to assist her.”
Spike spoke up for the first time. “Can’t imagine the Council of Wankers doesn’t have somebody they can spare to tame an out-of-control witch.”
Giles nodded. “I have been discussing that with them,” he said. “We’ve determined that I will return to England—”Buffy stiffened and Spike, growling, reached for her hand. “Only to give a full report and to meet with members of the coven. I am hoping to find someone willing to return with me to mentor Willow. Someone she will not resent quite as much as she does me.” He smiled at Buffy reassuringly. “I won’t be gone long, and I will return. I promise.”
As Buffy squeezed Spike’s hand and moved closer to his side, Giles added, “And I am not leaving you alone.” He turned hard eyes on Spike. “If you are serious about your feelings for Buffy, I suggest you begin acting your age and providing her with the support she needs – both in her slaying and with any financial assistance needed.”
“Stubborn bint won’t take money from me,” Spike said, with a sideways glance at Buffy. “I’ve already tried to help her out. She punched me in the nose. And she doesn’t listen to me any better than she does you.”
Buffy gave an apologetic shrug. “Well that was before we were living together. I thought you were just trying to… and anyway, you don’t have any money. You play cards for kittens!”
Spike and Giles exchanged long meaningful looks that resulted in Spike sighing his resignation. “Right then. No secrets.” He turned to look into Buffy’s puzzled eyes. “I have money, love. You don’t live for as many years as I have without putting a little something away for your old age. You’d be surprised how the interest mounts up over a hundred years and more. I never meant to give you money I came by dishonestly. Knew you wouldn’t want that. Was either going to earn it playing honest poker, or working as a bouncer somewhere if you wouldn’t take it from my stash.”
“You have a stash?”
“Figure of speech, Slayer. Point is – I have money to access if and when you—we need it. Or I can make an honest living. Whatever gets your knickers in less of a twist.”
She glared at him, then began to smile. “Huh. You’re rich. Who knew? I see a lot of new shoes in my future.”
“I see new pipes in the basement,” he countered. “And maybe some new furniture.”
She narrowed her eyes at him and looked back and forth between Spike and Giles, who was trying to hide a smile. “You’re not going to be fun any more, are you?”
“Watcher said to act my age,” he smirked, “but…” He leaned forward and whispered in her ear, causing her to turn bright pink and roll her eyes. Satisfied that he’d indicated just how much fun he could be, he leaned back and smiled at Giles.
“Got to admit, Watcher. I wasn’t expectin’ you to be happy about this.” He gestured with the hand that was still holding Buffy’s.
“I believe ‘happy’ would be wildly overstating things,” Giles said. “However, as the vampires in Buffy’s life go, you are a vast improvement over the last one. It remains to be seen how the Council responds to the news.”
“You’re going to tell them?” Buffy managed to sound hurt and indignant at the same time.
Giles shook his head. “No. But you must understand that they will probably already know about it long before I get there. The Council has a long reach, and I am only a small portion of it. They tolerated Angel because of the soul, but William the Bloody, a vampire that has killed two Slayers in his time, is another thing entirely.”
“Tell ‘em about the chip,” Spike said quickly. “That they’ll believe. Nobody’s going to believe that I’m harmless because I’m in love with Buffy. Not after Angelus.”
“Quite,” Giles said, his slight grimace reminding them both of what he had lost to Buffy’s last vampire lover.
“Spike would never—”
Giles exchanged a look with Spike, then nodded. “No, I suppose he wouldn’t. However, I doubt the Council will see it that way. Another reason why it is so important that I make this trip. I’ll be taking my journals with me so that they can get a sense of how our inexplicable and somewhat shaky trust of William the Bloody has evolved over the past several years.”
“Don’t forget to tell them how he helped me take down Angelus,” Buffy said. “That was a long time ago. It shows how different he is from most vamps.”
“Actually… “ Giles paused, then continued. “I believe the Council itself has negotiated with other master vampires from time to time when the world was at stake or there was some other threat of equal danger to both races. Of course, it’s very rare, and they were much older than Spike is, and they were dealing with the highest levels of the Council, but….”
“Those lying, holier-than-thou….”
“That too.” Buffy glared at Giles. “These are the people who tried to tell me I couldn’t date Angel because he was a vampire and couldn’t be trusted? This is who you think has to be convinced that Spike is….” She threw her hands in the air. “Can you spell ‘hypocrite’?”
“The point is, Buffy, that the records will support both your truce with Spike several years ago, as well as your current trust in him. It is not as unheard of as one might think.”
They all looked up, startled, as Anya burst into the shop, halting when she saw Spike and Buffy. She kept her eyes on them, noting their closeness and the fact that Spike was still holding Buffy’s hand; she visibly relaxed.
“Oh, so you’re back together. Good. Maybe we can stop hiding now.”
“You old dog, Rupert,” Spike said, understanding more quickly than Buffy the meaning behind Anya’s relief.
“Hiding?” Buffy stared from Anya to Giles’ embarrassed face. “Who are you hiding fro…. Oh.”
Spike looked at Giles. “Boy’s not going to take this well,” he said, his voice and face grim.
Anya walked over to stand behind Giles. “He is a boy,” she said. “And I’m really over a thousand years old. I do like Xander, but I’m much too old for him.”
“Oooooh. Poor Xander.” Buffy’s genuine concern made them all pause. “What’s he going to do now?”
Anya shrugged, but Giles shook his head. “I’m hoping that by the time I come back from England, Anya will have been able to let him down gently – and without bringing my name into it. With luck, by the time I return, he will have accepted his newly single status and will not connect it with Willow’s spell.”
“Yeah, good luck with that.” Buffy rolled her eyes.
“It’s the best we can do. I’m sure it will be difficult for him; however, Anya should not have to remain bound to a man she has determined is not right for her. Surely he will understand that.”
Anya shook her head as she and Buffy exchanged looks of disbelief at Giles’ lack of common sense. “I’ve tried to tell him,” Anya said with a sigh. “Xander never got over his crush on you, and knowing you’re with another vampire is not going to make him happy. Willow is… well, as much as he and Willow care about each other, he’s not her type anymore and I think he has accepted that. And now, I’m leaving him for a man who—”
“Who Xander thinks is too old to even date women his own age,” Buffy said, shaking her head. “Oh, this is not going to end well.”
Spike groaned and shut his eyes. “Do you think we could just take a long trip somewhere for a while? Maybe take the Bit with us and not come back until all of this has blown over?”
“Spike! These are my friends. I have to be here to support them in their time of need.”
“Right,” he growled. “’Cause they’ve always done that for you.”
Giles flinched at the reminder that there had been times, some quite recently, in which he had failed Buffy rather spectacularly.
“We’ll talk about this later,” she said, her face set into an expression that both men recognized only too well.
“Lookin’ forward to it,” Spike sighed, leaning back in his seat. He raised one eyebrow at Giles. “So, that’s your plan? Scamper off back to Merrie Olde and leave Anyanka to explain to her ex that she’s over it?”
“She hasn’t been living with him since the spell ended. If he hasn’t figured it out by now, he is even denser than he seems.”
Spike glanced at Buffy. “Did you know that? That she hadn’t gone back to him?”
“Well, yeah, kinda, but I didn’t know she was…” Her voice trailed off as she gestured back and forth between Giles and Anya. “I guess that was kind of dumb of me, huh?”
“Fortunately for us, all of you have been too worried about your own issues to notice what anyone else was doing.”
Buffy shot Anya a hard look, trying to decide if she had just been called self-centered, but Anya just blinked innocently and rested her hand on Giles’ shoulder.
Continuing as if the glare hadn’t happened, she said, “And Xander has been very busy at work. Once he explained what had happened to us – leaving out the magic part – and apologized, they hired him back and gave him a lot to do. I really haven’t seen him very much, and he hasn’t even asked if I’m coming…” The word “home” hung in the air until she came up with, “…back to the apartment. I think maybe he’s still mad about the orgasms Giles gave me while we thought we were engaged.” She patted Giles on the head and beamed. “He’s quite skilled you know. Probably not as capable as a vampire, but—”
All three spoke at once: “TMI! Anya!” “Scrubbing my brain – now!” “Go on, luv. Tell us more about—ow!” Spike’s remark was cut off when Buffy elbowed him in the diaphragm. “Right. More than we need to know. Absolutely.”
“On that note….” Buffy stood up and waited for Spike to get the message. When he was standing beside her, she continued, “We’re going to patrol and… stuff. When are you leaving?”
“In a few days. The sooner I go, the sooner I can get back with help for Willow. I am charging you with keeping her under control while I’m gone.”
“Trust me, Giles, she’s so unhappy and disappointed in herself, I don’t think she’ll do any magic for a long time.” Buffy didn’t miss the looks of disbelief exchanged among the other people in the room. “She is sorry. She wants us to not be mad at her anymore. So no more magic. You’ll see. Come on, Spike.”
Spike exchanged looks with Giles, shrugging helplessly before following Buffy out the door.
They strolled through several cemeteries, finding only a couple of fledglings and one cute, furry demon that Spike assured Buffy was perfectly capable of taking her hand off if she tried to pet it.
“Is it evil then? Should I slay it?” She looked unhappy at the thought of slaying the round little ball of fur that was cocking its head at her.
“Nah. Not evil, love. Just better able to take care of itself than it might seem. You leave him alone, he’ll leave you alone.” When she hesitated, he added, “And he doesn’t eat people or kittens.”
“Okay,” she agreed, waving the unperturbed creature away. After watching him waddle off, she hopped up onto a substantial tombstone. “I’m bored. There’s nothing out here worth killing…”
“Can’t offer up something to slay, but I think I can handle that little boredom issue,” he purred, coming up behind her and kissing her neck. She leaned back, tilting her head to give him better access and murmured her approval. His hands slid around to cup her breasts, his thumbs running over her nipples which were quickly visible under her shirt. “Bloody hell, Buffy,” he said, pressing himself into her back and worrying her neck with his blunt teeth. “It’s been too long. Want you so bad—”
Buffy’s “eep!” was more from surprise than excitement as she spotted Xander walking through the gate of the cemetery.
“Fuckin’ idiot,” Spike snarled, standing up straight and removing his hands from Buffy’s chest. “What’s he doing comin’ in here by himself?”
Xander got close enough to really see them at the same time, halting when he realized who the couple was that he’d seen necking on a tombstone. He put the stake he’d been carrying back in his pocket as he waited for them to approach.
“Xander? What were you doing?”
He shrugged. “Thought I saw a vamp biting somebody. I have a stake with me, so…” He frowned at them. “I guess I did see a vamp trying to bite somebody, didn’t I?”
“Wasn’t biting her, you git,” Spike growled, shoving his hands in his pockets and searching for his cigarettes. “But if I had been, you’d be dead now.”
“I don’t know if what you were going to do is really brave, or really dumb.” Buffy smiled at Xander to take the sting from her words.
“Oh, I’m pretty sure it was dumb. That’s pretty much my MO, isn’t it? Doing dumb stuff? Like falling in love with an ex-vengeance demon and thinking she’d marry me? How dumb is that?”
Spike and Buffy exchanged looks.
“What are those looks about? Have you seen her? I’m right, aren’t I? She doesn’t want to marry me any more.”
“We did see her tonight,” Buffy began, ignoring a warning nudge from Spike. “She… uh… she said she thought you might be still mad at her for… you know, spell stuff.”
He sighed and turned to follow them as they began to walk out of the graveyard. “I was for awhile. It’s probably a good thing she didn’t come home right away. I don’t know what I would have said to her.”
“I think we were all left not knowing what to say to anybody,” Buffy said, resting a sympathetic hand on his arm. “Spike and I avoided each other like the plague… until tonight.”
“She took some of her clothes,” Xander said, ignoring Buffy’s attempt to smooth things over. “And her makeup out of the bathroom. She comes during the day, when I’m at work, so I don’t have to see her doing it. I don’t think she’s coming back,” he finished, shoulders slumping.
“Not a good enough reason to be trying to do the Slayer’s job for her,” Spike said, his voice gruff, but sympathetic. “Had your own doubts, didn’t you? Back when you had us all singing and dancin’. Wasn’t that all about wondering if it was going to work out?”
Xander gave Spike a look of disbelief. “Are you trying to make me feel better?”
“What? No, ‘course not.” He snorted. “Like I give rat’s ass how you feel. But if you go out and get yourself killed or turned, it’s going to hurt Buffy – and that I do care about.”
“Okay. You had me worried there for a minutes. I thought… Yeah. Good to know some things haven’t changed.”
“Some things have, Xander,” Buffy said quietly, taking Spike’s hand and moving closer to him. “The spell made some changes in everybody’s life.”
“Why do I get the feeling you don’t just mean you and fangface getting all smoochy there?”
“Well, that’s a biggie – for me, anyway. But, yeah, there are lots of changes going on. Giles is going to see the Council about getting an experienced witch here to try to mentor Willow. So he’s leaving in a couple of days….”
“Tara’s staying away, huh?”
“Un huh. When I talked to her, she was pretty adamant that Willow needed to understand why what she did was so wrong and be sorry she did it, not just sorry it backfired. I don’t think she’s coming back anytime soon.”
“I guess I should come by and see Willow,” he said with a sigh. “I haven’t been a very good friend to my best friend.”
“Yeah, Anya said— Crap. Sorry.”
“It’s okay. Anya said what?”
“She said we’ve all been so busy with our own personal issues after the spell, that nobody has noticed anything about anybody else’s problems. I guess we’ve all been lousy friends.”
“I’ll come by tomorrow after work and talk to Willow,” Xander said, stopping by his car. “I think I’ll go on home now. Watch some TV, drink some beer….”
Buffy and Spike exchanged looks, then Spike jerked his head for her to start walking. She gave Xander a hug and started up the street, leaving Spike with a very curious Xander.
“What?” he finally said.
“Look… If it wasn’t that me and Buffy hadn’t even talked to each other until just a few hours ago, I’d send her home and come drink your beer and help you watch your fancy telly. But, she’s… and I… and we… We have some catching up to do, you know?”
“Got the picture. I’ll poke my eyes out when I get home. You go on. You kids have fun.” He opened the driver’s side door, checked the back seat, earning an approving nod from Spike, and started to get in. He paused and turned his head. “Spike?” The vampire glanced back at him. “Thanks.”
With a wave, Spike strode after Buffy, catching up to her and taking her hand.
“That was really nice of you,” she said, squeezing his hand.
“Tell anybody about it and I’ll rip your throat out.”
She just laughed and put her arm around his waist. “Bring it on, vampire. Bring it on.”
After two more cemeteries, they agreed that they’d done all they could to patrol for the night. They joined hands again, squeezing tightly as they walked toward the apartment together for the first time in weeks. Their speed increased the closer they got until, by the time they reached the outside stairs, they were almost running. Spike’s key was already out when they hit their floor and the door slammed open almost immediately. He kicked it shut behind him and slammed the deadbolt home without looking.
Suddenly shy, they just stood still, staring at each other with wonder and no small amount of trepidation.
“So, we’re going to do this, huh? No more Randy and Joan – just Spike and Buffy. Out there for everybody to see.”
“I was thinkin’ more about in here where nobody can see us, but yeah. I’m game if you are. You know that, Buffy. This might be new to you, but I’ve been wishing for this for a long, long time. I love you, Slayer. The spell didn’t make that happen, and it didn’t make it go away. The rest is up to you. You either want me in your life or you don’t.”
“If I didn’t… if I didn’t think I wanted you, we wouldn’t be standing here. I just… you might have to be patient with me. I don’t think I’m where you are and I…”
“Got enough patience for the both of us, Buffy. I can wait. All I ever asked for was a crumb, some sign that maybe, someday…” He shook his head and began walking toward her. “This is more than I ever dreamed of, and if I have to spend one more second talking about it instead of just kissing you senseless…”
“Kissing would be good—”
Spike’s lips were on hers before she could finish speaking. When neither of them wanted to remain standing, he scooped her up and crossed the room. Rather than ripping her clothes off as she’d half-expected him to, he just laid her down and joined her on the bed. Face-to-face, they stared into each other’s eyes, his soft and warm, Buffy’s hesitant but firmly fixed on his.
“I’ve missed you so much,” he whispered, stroking her hair and face. “Thought I’d never get to do this again.”
“I missed you too,” she admitted. “I’m so used to having you around… not just as Randy,” she explained quickly. “I was used to having Spike around, and then you weren’t there anymore and I didn’t know where you went and—” He stopped her with a kiss that deepened and went on for some time.
“Could have stopped at you missed me, love. That’s good enough for me. Don’t give a bloody fig if it’s Randy or Spike, as long as you want one of us, I’m happy.”
“Can I have both of you?” She smiled as she ran her hand over his chest and watched his eyes darken. “You know, Spike when I need backup on patrol, and Randy when…” She paused and took a deep breath. “… when we get home?”
His response was to pin her to the bed and begin kissing her as if they’d been apart for years rather than weeks. As he began the expected ripping off of her clothes, she was comforted to know she had others waiting in the dresser drawers – a thought that came and went very quickly as he shed his own jeans and tee-shirt and pulled her against his body, growling his need.
It turned out Spike was a bit rougher than the more gentlemanly Randy, but this Slayer was more than a match for him and they quickly reached a mutually satisfying conclusion that left them both bruised and panting. As she relaxed into his side, Buffy gave a contented hum and surveyed the damage they’d done to the bed.
“As much as I like it here, I think maybe your crypt where all the horizontal surfaces are made of stone might be a better place to live.” She felt his chest shake as he chuckled.
“Can live wherever you like, love. But I really don’t think my crypt is a good choice. Maybe we can find a nice basement apartment and buy some new, sturdier, furniture.”
“My house has a basement,” she said, trailing one finger down his chest and watching with interest as his nipples perked up. She waited, unconsciously holding her breath, for him to reply. When he was silent, she sat up and stared down at him.
“What’s wrong? Why should we pay rent if I own a house? Are you too macho to live in my house?”
He laughed and pulled her over on top of him. “Know my place is under you, love. I’ve never doubted it. I just don’t want to cause any more of an uproar than we already have. Don’t want you to lose all your friends over this.”
“Pfft! My friends survived Angel and Angelus; and they didn’t even like him. They won’t mind you at all….”
“You can’t even get that lie out with a straight face,” he said with a smile. “I might be more charming and fun than the great broody one, but I’m pretty sure you’re the only one who’s noticed it.”
“That’s not true. Dawn loves you. And Tara has been on your side since you proved to her family that she wasn’t a demon. Of course, you’ve never tried to kill her…” She shook herself. “Nevermind. Xander might freak, but he’ll get over it because you’re his only guy friend. Willow… Willow’s got too much apologizing to do to be throwing stones at anybody else.”
“And the watcher has given us his reluctant blessing,” he said with a nod. “So, the question is, can William the Bloody be happy living in the Slayer’s basement and sharing the house with two or three other women?” His expression indicated that he wasn’t at all sure that was going to be the case.
Buffy sighed. “Are we going to start fighting over this? Joan and Randy never—”
He just raised an eyebrow at her and she bit off the rest of the lie. “Okay. But they didn’t fight very much, and they never stayed mad…”
“You know why they never stayed mad? “ he purred, leaning up to run his lips down her neck and nibbling a path across her chest, pausing at each nipple to suckle it briefly. Buffy gasped and squirmed, rolling off him so that he could have better access to her body. He followed eagerly, kissing his way down her torso and smiling at the way she was involuntarily arching her hips off the bed.
“W… why?” she managed to get out between needy whimpers.
He buried his face between her open thighs and began licking up the moisture he found there. Buffy’s fingers were tangled in the sheets and she was making small gasping sounds as he worked. As soon as she’d given a small scream and ridden out her orgasm with his head clenched between her thighs, he pulled it free and beamed at her. “Because, of the wonderful make-up sex.”
“Oh, yeah, that.” She wriggled under him, tugging on his shoulders until he moved up and slid into her. They gave matching contented sighs. “We should probably fight more often.”
As he began to move his hips, he snorted a laugh. “Really don’t think it’s going to be a problem, love.”
“Probably not.” She clenched hard enough to make him groan in appreciation. “Cause you’re always going to be doing something to make me mad.”
Eyes rolling back at the sensation, he managed to say, “Gonna give it my best shot, Slayer. You’ve got my promise.”