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Someday

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Tell me what did I do wrong to make you stay away so long

                -The Supremes, “Baby Love”

****

She was ready.

Five stakes, three knives, and her beloved Scythe were all strapped to various parts of her body. It was Buffy’s usual battle arsenal and it made her feel prepared to face the demon hordes that would come with the setting of the sun. Already the war drums of Hell’s Legions were beating. Their constant pulsing a heartbeat of terror. Or they should have been, but she’d forgotten how to be scared, or happy, or anything other than a weapon.

Idly, she checked the bindings of her bracers one last time. 

Twenty years ago, when Angel had unleashed hell on earth in his misguided attempt to break the Circle of the Black Thorn, he had paid for it with his life and those of his friends. Los Angeles had fallen, but after the world’s initial panic, life had continued on, more or less. The uptick in demonic activity all over the globe had been so gradual that no one had noticed until, a dozen years later, even several thousand Slayers hadn’t been enough to stem the tide of evil.

For most of two decades now Buffy and the other Slayers had been fighting a losing battle. There was no rest, no breaks, nothing. The humans who were left were hidden inside walled enclaves, often with little food and even less law.

Buffy didn’t know what she was trying to save anymore.

Hope was a distant memory. There’d been whispered rumors for years of a group of warriors belonging to the light who were supposed to save mankind. Depending on who you talked to It was a legend, or a prophecy, or a stone cold fact. But no magical warriors had appeared, and it didn’t look like they were going to this day, either.

Buffy walked to the window to look out over the dusty plains where humanity was making its last stand. From atop the walls of the Barstow enclave she watched the sun slip towards the horizon. Most likely it was the final time she would ever see its light. The desert scrub seemed to stretch away into infinity.

Not quite willing to pray, she settled for wondering where her sister was and if she was safe. Dawn had disappeared several years ago, leaving with a group of people who had faith that The Powers That Be still gave a shit about the world and what happened to it. They were traveling to some sacred spot to communicate with the divine. Dawn had believed. She’d begged Buffy to go with them, but if Buffy had done that, then San Francisco would have fallen earlier than it had. To her, every single sunrise where humanity wasn’t gone had been a victory. Life was precious and you needed to treasure every moment that you were granted. Well, unless you were her, but she struggled on so that others would have another chance to kiss the ones they loved and hold them tight.

“Hey, Buff.” Xander’s hand fell heavily on her shoulder. “We’re waiting.”

Buffy sighed. Time to be the general. If–more like when–her little rag-tag army of Slayers, witches, and stalwart humans failed tonight, then the last human controlled area in California would be lost. For all she knew it was the last place in the United States, or maybe the world. There was no way to know. The lines of communications had all been severed more than two years ago, leaving them blind.

A telephone call sounded like a tall tale. Imagine picking up a little bit of plastic and wire and being able to talk to someone you couldn’t see. You didn’t even need magic! There’d be kids fighting and dying in the battle tonight who didn’t remember when light switches worked.

“Do you ever miss anything? From before?” she asked Xander. It was a taboo question, no one wanted to remember when the world had been easy.

He rubbed her shoulder. “Sure. Cheetos. I can’t believe I ever took puffy orange cheese for granted.”

She snorted and shook her head. “Not what I meant.”

Xander’s hand fell to his side. “I wish I married Anya,” he said. “I think about it all the time. As if that one action would have saved the world. That if I’d had the guts to do what I wanted to, instead of listening to my fears, then today I could be close to paying off a mortgage on a house that needs new plumbing and playing with my kids, instead of preparing to man a gun-emplacement while the hordes of hell try to tear away the last settlement of humanity. How about you?”

Turning away from the window she looked at her friend’s grizzled face. It was thin and tight and his hair salt-and-pepper, emphasis on the salt. He had half a week’s stubble on his chin and cheeks. The white lines of scars mapped out a road on his skin. The patch over his missing eye was frayed and tattered. It was his battle one. He had a nicer one, for when they weren’t fighting, but she couldn’t remember the last time he’d worn it.

Xander wore his scars and wrinkles well, he always managed to look dashing. She, on the other hand, hadn’t aged at all. Buffy looked the same as she had twenty years ago. She never would look any different. Something had gotten messed up along the way, probably a mix of Willow’s spells from resurrecting her and activating all the potentials. She was essentially immortal, a girl frozen in time. Grievous wounds turned into scars almost overnight and faded to nothing in a month. But she knew there’d be things there was no coming back from, if she burned or was beheaded she would die. It scared her that she found that comforting.

“Oh, Xander.” Buffy shook her head. “I miss them all. Tara, Anya, Cordelia, Angel, Oz, Willow, Giles, Mom, Dawn…” she trailed off, emotion choking her. She hadn’t dared to speak his name out loud for years. It made the pain more real to hear it.

“It’s okay,” Xander soothed. “Today you should say it.”

“Spike,” she whispered and the tears began to fall. After so long she thought there shouldn’t be any more left, but they came anyways. She missed him with a bone deep ache that never went away. Over the years she had tried to do what Spike had wanted her to, and live, but any of the associations she’d had that could only charitably be called relationships had never lasted longer than a few weeks. At the end the guys had all said the same thing: she was unavailable, heartless, cold. At some point she’d simply quit trying and had accepted she was military asset, not a flesh and blood woman.

Of course she was empty inside. She’d died when Sunnydale had collapsed into a crater. Her heart had stopped beating the day she’d learned Spike had returned and not once sought her out. Had he not believed her? Had he not known how much needed him? Spike had lived and died again without so much as mailing her a letter or leaving her a voice mail. It hurt beyond the telling of it.   

Buffy had come to believe she’d deserved the punishment for the hundreds of transgressions she’d made against him. Not that he’d been a saint, but in her memory his sins against her amounted to less than an anthill while hers piled up taller than Mt. Everest.

Awkwardly, Xander put his arm around her for a hug. “Might as well say it all, Buffy, god knows you’ve held it in for so long.” That this was her last chance to do so hung unspoken in the air.

“I love him.” The tears were coming hard and fast, she couldn’t see. “I love him and he didn’t believe me…and…and…if only I could go back and make that better. I wouldn’t be scared of my own heart. And, like you said, it probably wouldn’t fix what’s happened, but it would fix my world.”

Xander hugged her tightly. When he spoke, his voice was hoarse. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry. I can’t even remember what it felt like to think that the worst thing that could happen was that your friend finds happiness with someone you didn’t like much. I think I must have something broken inside me, some darkness I can never shake. Too often I’ve seen someone else’s happiness and been unable to share in it. I’m sorry I failed you. I should have been your cheerleader, not angry because I didn’t understand.” He took a deep breath.

“I forgive you,” Buffy said quietly. “I would have been lost without you as a comrade all these years, but I should have been a better friend to all of you back then, especially Anya. I got so busy riding around on my high horse and believing I was special because of my calling that I forgot how to give someone else a helping hand.” She laughed ruefully.

Xander took a step back and held her at arm’s length. “I forgive you. And, please, listen to me, because I knew the guy far better than I would have liked to, Spike loved you.”

The tears she’d almost dried started again.

“He loved you so much. I don’t know exactly why he didn’t run to you when he came back, and no one made it out of L.A. to be able to tell us, but knowing him, he was probably trying to make a big splash, stop the apocalypse so that when he did come for you it’d be as the proverbial conquering hero. He wanted to deserve you, he probably had no idea you would take him however you could get him.”

“How did everything get so messed up?” Buffy asked. The hell-drums were getting louder. The sun must nearly be below the horizon.

Xander shook his head. “I have no idea. Shall we go pretend we’re going to win?”

Nodding her head, Buffy wiped the tears from her cheeks and squished Spike, along with the rest of the distant past, from her consciousness. Or she tried to.

As she opened the pandora’s box of her mind to put away her thoughts, a memory leaked out.

The last night, the one before the battle with the First.

It was like she was there on the tiny cot in her basement. Spike’s cold arms wrapped around her and his mouth greedily devoured hers. They were both starved for the other. His body was a demanding presence between her thighs, his rigid cock stretching her to the limit and beyond as he thrust eagerly into her slick channel. “I love you,” his deep voice rumbled in her ear. She hardly knew they were separate beings.

Every sensation was so clear that for a moment Buffy forgot where she was. She stumbled over her own feet and cried out, even as her pussy clamped down, fighting to keep him buried inside her.

“Are you okay?” Xander asked, grabbing her elbow to keep her steady.

Reality returned and she slammed the doors of her memory closed and shook off the phantom feel of a man who’d been dust for the better part of a quarter-century. She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “I’m fine. Let’s go.”

Neither she nor Xander said good-bye.

****

The battle was chaos. They were going to lose. No matter how many demons she killed, more just kept coming. Buffy was exhausted, but still she fought on. The booming of the great guns had ceased, either because they were out of ammo or because the emplacements had been overrun.  

She wasn’t going to see Xander again.

Another slobbering hell-beast was sundered by her blade. She spun and caught a vampire that’d been rushing at her back, not sparing the time to watch its dust hit the ground.

She raised her Scythe for another blow and the world stopped. Everything froze except her. Her harsh breathing was loud in the utter silence. No drums, no screams, no moans of the dying.

“You would never have even seen it,” a voice said.

“Seen what?” she said irritably. What was happening?

A man in an ugly suit was picking his way through the carnage to reach her. He had a hat on his head and looked vaguely familiar. “That.” He was pointing to her left.

Buffy turned and her eyes went wide. A crossbow bolt was hanging midair. A split second later and it would have pierced the base of her skull, effectively decapitating her.

It wasn’t a bad way to go. “Why stop it?” she snapped. She would have been at peace, no more worries or pain. She would have been with her loved ones again and her heart stuttered with the hope that their number would include the man she had never stopped loving.

“Buffy?” the guy in a suit asked from behind her.

She was staring at the bolt. “Why did you do this?” Her voice was cold. “Have I not given you everything? Am I to be denied my rest one more time?” Spinning, she fixed the man with a glare. Recognition hit her. “Whistler,” she sputtered.

“Um, well, you could just pick death. Gamble that your fellow would be waiting there for you.”

Buffy winced. Of course he would be. Demon or not, Spike had redeemed himself. He’d be there. Unless he doesn’t want to see you, a little voice in the back of her mind whispered. Unless you hurt him so badly that he didn’t believe you and an eternity with you sounds like hell, not heaven. Old fears raised their ugly heads. Especially the one that the reason Spike hadn’t come looking for her was that he’d fallen in love with someone else in L.A. Her empty stomach lurched. The thought of him making love to someone else, whispering words of praise and love in their ear…

Oh god, she was going to be sick.

She fell to her knees and dry heaved. When the worst of the nausea had passed, she looked back up at Whistler. The little man appeared quite distressed. He had his hat off and was twisting the brim in his hands. “What’s my other option?” she asked.

“Well, your sister and the others have been working on this for some time. It’s not easy to bargain with the Powers. However, the PTB don’t care for Earth turning out like this.” He waved a hand at the battle. “They like balance.”

“Dawn?” Buffy breathed. “She’s still alive?”

Whistler nodded. “She’s quite stubborn.”

Buffy smiled and rose to her feet. “You have no idea. Now what’s the deal?”

“You go back in time to change things, but–“ He held up a hand just as she was about to interrupt. “Hang on, it’s complicated. You only get seven days, more or less one day a year, starting with when you arrive in Sunnydale. So you’ll have to consider your options carefully. What you change will carry forward. Don’t kill a vampire one day and Sunnydale might be his playground when you return. The world will change based on your actions. Every time you start a new day the changes will integrate into your memory, but you’ll still be able to remember the original events if you try hard enough. There’s no do overs.”

“Seven days to change the world?” She knitted her brows together. How could that be enough time?

“You’re lucky to get that much,” Whistler grumbled. He stuck his hands into his pockets. “But it means you better choose wisely, think things through.”

“Duh,” she said absently. Trying to remember what had happened in Sunnydale almost thirty years ago wasn’t going to be easy. A few things stuck out at her. Nice work, luv. But for the most part it was a big blank. “Do I get any help? Human memory isn’t exactly infallible. I don’t want to get stuck going back to a moment when I fell down the stairs in front of a guy I had a crush on, or whatever, because that’s all I can remember.”

Whistler screwed up his face for a moment, like he tasted something sour, then spit out a sigh. “Yeah, you can get some help. Try this.”

A shimmering light appeared in the air. The light expanded and shaped itself into a rough rectangle. When the glow died a glass table, waist high to Buffy, was left behind. Confused, she walked over and touched it. ‘Year One’ appeared in glowing letters at the top. Pictures and short, soundless videos blossomed just under the surface of the clear tabletop.

“How very Mission Impossible of you,” Buffy muttered, not looking up from the images. It was like looking at a museum of her life. She had both remembered and forgotten so much. It was all of her first spring semester at Sunnydale High. 

There was Giles thumping the ‘Vampyr’ book down in front of her. How she’d wanted to run.

Buffy’s eyes shifted to a picture of her in vamp-face from when they’d lived their nightmares. She wondered what Spike would have thought of that. Would he have found her cute?

There were lots of pictures of Xander, Willow, and her at the Bronze. She scrunched up her nose. Had she really worn that shirt with those pants?

She reached out and touched a video of the Master grabbing her, draining her, and letting her fall into a puddle to drown. It centered itself on the desk and played over and over.

“Is that the moment you want to fix?” Whistler asked from beside her.

It was tempting. To never have died that first time. The Master wouldn’t be able to take her by surprise now, she wouldn’t be walking in blind.

“Maybe?” she hedged.

She looked around at her past life and found herself jealous of the girl who could run to the corner drug store to buy vanilla scented shampoo.

How worldly she’d thought herself and how innocent she’d been.

For a second she couldn’t figure out what was missing from the photos and videos, but then it hit her. Dawn. There was no Dawn. This was things as they had really happened, no magical monk-memories need apply. It was more terrifying than she cared to admit.

With an effort, Buffy forced herself to focus back on the images. She had to pick.

There was Willow thinking she had an internet boyfriend when it was really a demon, but Willow had met Oz and then Tara. That incident hadn’t stunted her any.

 Next was Xander thinking he was going to get it on with his sexy biology teacher. Too bad she’d turned out to really be a giant demon-bug. That was probably a good lesson for Xander to learn. Buffy pursed her lips. It had needed a lot of repetition to sink in.

Buffy focused on a photo of her sitting with the demon hunter-turned-puppet. A lot of innocent lives could be saved if she acted quicker in that situation. It went on the maybe pile with The Master.  She touched another video, this one of her disastrous cheerleader tryouts. Amy was worth saving, but Buffy didn’t know if intervening there would put her one step closer to saving the world or not.

It was almost impossible to pick. There was so much she could fix and Whistler hadn’t given her one hint about what to do. She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. He was toeing something gooey on the ground. There was no help coming from that corner, so she returned to looking at the table.

There was a clip of her first kiss with Angel. It made her feel like hurling again. Maybe she could nip her romance with him in the bud and get rid of Angelus that way. Boy, she looked so…ridiculous. Angel just looked constipated.  How had she ever fallen for him? Past-her was kind of dumb.

The picture of another vamp in gameface caught her attention. It took her a moment to place him. Jesse, who’d been Xander and Willow’s friend. If she saved him would that make Xander more open? She frowned at the picture. Something seemed off about it. There’d been so many lost friends over the years. Laying Xander’s anger and rigidness on the loss of a single person didn’t fit. Grief wasn’t the problem.

The pads of Buffy’s fingers ghosted over the glass and hovered over a myriad of photos, but she finally tapped on one of Xander, Willow, and her at the zoo. The hyenas. How could she have forgotten?

I think I must have something broken inside me, some darkness I can never shake.

Xander’s words from earlier blazed through her mind. Why had she never pieced it together before? He’d been possessed by a demon. That was an excellent way of getting broken. The incident had also been the first time–that she knew of–that her Watcher and one of her friends had agreed to lie to her, deciding for her that the falsehood was better than the truth. Seeds had been sown that day, ones that had yielded poisoned fruit. She could make it better.

“This one,” she said quietly, placing the pad of her finger on the picture.

“You sure?” Whistler asked. “No mulligans.”

“I’m sure.”

“Alright, you got it.”

“Uh, so what do I do?”

Whistler flushed. “You need to create a transition point,” he coughed.

“Less with the cryptic?” She wanted to hurry. The next year was when Spike had shown up in Sunnydale. It wouldn’t be her Spike, but the idea of being able to see him at all was making her head spin.

“You need to let the arrow hit you.”

“Goody,” she said dryly.

“When you’re done, after twenty-four hours, you’ll return to this moment and pick the next day.” He plopped his hat back on his head. “I should tell you there’s another choice.”

“Is it one where Spike rides in on a unicorn and whisks me off to happy-land?” Buffy asked, raising her eyebrow. Because in that case, screw the world.

Whistler looked heavenward. “Not quite. You could just sidestep the arrow and keep fighting.”

She looked around. The only members of her small army that she could see were dead. There was a good chance Xander was gone and the entrance to the enclave already breeched. There was nothing left for her to fight for. Even if she ran, all she would be able to do was live like a fugitive in the woods. With her immortality there was no end date on that. She would again be the one girl in all the world. No thank you.

“That sounds too much like option one,” she said. “Just with a delay.”

Whistler shrugged. “Places, then.”

Buffy walked through the blood-soaked dirt to stand in front of the arrow. Slowly, she raised her gaze to stare down the sharp point. She wasn’t going blindly into that good night. Second chances didn’t come along every day and she intended to make the most of the one she’d been given.

The world roared back to life for a brief instant. Then there was nothing.

Chapter Text

I cherish the moments with you

                -Diana Ross, “Upside Down”

****

Buffy stretched, not remembering having fallen asleep. She opened her eyes to a pair of black, unblinking ones.

With a muffled scream, she sat straight up in bed. The black eyes were attached to a pink body. “Mr. Gordo?” she whispered, seizing her old friend and hugging him tight. Some things you just didn’t forget.

Others you did. This was her room, but her mind had played tricks on her. Had the carpet always been this color? Had the window always been that low? Her mind said yes. Part of her knew she was a high-school student with a field trip to the zoo today, how to get to her homeroom class, and what was on the cafeteria lunch menu for the entire week, but the rest was a forty-something year old Slayer that’d witnessed the fall of mankind.

Hardly daring to believe it, she reached over and picked up the phone. There was a dial tone. Jumping out of bed she let out a silent howl of triumph. This was real. She pulled up the blinds and looked out at the street. A car drove by, it headlights still on despite the sun that was just cresting the horizon. Her heart was beating a million times a minute. Somewhere out there was Spike. “He’s very much with the undusty,” she told Mr. Gordo with a grin. For a second she wanted to run out of the house to track down Spike, only she had no clue where he was and twenty-four hours wasn’t going to be long enough to find and get to him.  

Buffy stamped her foot in frustration. She had to wait and she hated waiting. Next time, she promised herself, tucking Mr. Gordo under her elbow and wrapping her arms around her middle. Looking down, she grinned. She was wearing her yummy-sushi pajamas. And she really had to pee.

Placing Mr. Gordo back on the bed, she ran down the hallway and into the bathroom. The luxury almost overwhelmed her. Holding her breath, she twisted the sink’s cold tap. Clear water instantly rushed out. Quickly she turned it off, embarrassed at her waste.

Breathe, she reminded herself. It’s tap water. Lots of that right now. Even more miraculous was the flushing toilet. Opening the lid, she slid her pajama pants down and sat. It took her a minute to be able to go since it felt like she must be doing something wrong, or this was a dream and she was going to wake up having peed the bed. When she was done, Buffy reverently spooled out the toilet paper. It was so white and soft. It’d been years since the last time she’d held anything like it. Buffy rubbed it against her cheek. It was a miracle. Almost reluctantly she cleaned herself and pushed the toilet’s handle. It worked! Xander would be so thrilled. He’d started using ‘flushing the toilet’ to mean the most extravagant thing you could think of years ago.

Buffy stopped in the middle of the hallway on her way back to her room. Xander was probably dead. No! She shook her head. No, he was here. It just wasn’t her Xander. Right now he was 1997 Xander. A Xander who she was going to make sure never held true evil inside him. Willow would be here too. Buffy’s eyes went wide. And Giles, and…

“Buffy! Are you awake?” her mom called.

“Yes,” she yelled back. Her mom was downstairs. Buffy ran into her room and slammed the door shut. How was she supposed to do this? Her knees trembled. This was all too much. Lights that turned on, mothers that weren’t dead, sisters that didn’t exist. Buffy’s gaze landed on her closet. She swallowed.

There were shoes in there: boots, sneakers, pumps, flats, flip-flops, sandals. All purchased shiny and new at the mall. She wanted to pull out every pair she owned and try them on. Not that she had time and she couldn’t afford to spend her day drowning in footwear, but it was tempting. Spike would have understood and patted her on the head about it.

Eagerly, she waded into the vast array of clothes stuffed into her closet. Her hands couldn’t stop touching the different fabrics. The bright colors and prints were intoxicating. The scent of the fabric softener alone was bringing tears to her eyes. It smelled like home.

Buffy couldn’t make a decision on what to wear at first, but there was a niggling in the corner of her brain. Letting herself go on autopilot she found she knew what outfit she was going to wear: a baby-doll dress with a palm-leaf pattern, tan leggings, black boots, and a jungle pattern scarf with matching bag. It was all very safari-themed. She even had a cute new coat in case it was chilly.

She laid the clothes out on the bed and wrinkled her nose. Really? Had sixteen-year old her been having a seizure? Though she had the terrible feeling this was what she’d worn the first time around, too. Why did she even own a golden velvet trench coat? Maybe just jeans and a t-shirt? Hands on hips, she stared at all the impractical garments. They’d all feel so different than anything she’d owned in the last decade. What the hell? She’d wear the outfit.

Grabbing her hairbrush off her nightstand, she paused to turn up the radio on her alarm clock. The DJ was saying something about the nice weather but to watch out for a storm that was supposed to be rolling in that night.

The door squeaked open. “You awake?” Joyce said, sticking her head in. Buffy fumbled her hair brush and it hit the floor. That was her mom, looking alive and well. Had she always been so young? Buffy sucked in a breath and did her best to not do something stupid, like tackle her, which would scare her mom half to death.

“Just g-getting ready,” she said awkwardly.

“What are you listening to?” Her mom’s smile was teasing.

The radio was playing…disco? Around and round you're turning me…

“Good ole’ Diana Ross. Reminds me of when I was your age.” Giggling, Joyce, in her work clothes, dropped her purse on Buffy’s bed and busted out a few ‘70s dance moves.

Buffy’s mouth dropped open. Not to be outdone, she joined in.

Her mom threw her head back and laughed. “You really are my daughter.”

Buffy beamed.

****

Inside of the school it was loud as the voices of teenagers echoed off the lockers and linoleum. Buffy was still reeling from the decadent breakfast she’d had: white-bread toast with peanut putter spread thick on top and a full glass of orange juice. Her mom had offered to make her eggs, but chickens were easy to keep and were commonly found in enclaves. If she never ate another egg or stringy drumstick, she’d be good. So she’d declined her mother’s offer and had a nectarine instead. It’d tasted like lazy summers.

Her mom had driven her to school, still humming the song from the radio, while Buffy had stared out the window and pretended she wasn’t freaking out at moving so fast. At least no one would expect her to drive. She’d kissed her mom good-bye and ran into the building, heading for the library. Seeing Giles was another one of those things that she didn’t know how she’d react to. They’d never really recovered their relationship after…after…he’d conspired with Robin. When civilization fell, Giles had been in London. Once in a while Buffy wondered what’d happened to him and wished they’d been able to say good-bye.

Now that she was about to see him again, the old animosity reared its ugly head and she had to pause outside the library to squish it back down. The Giles she was about to face hadn’t done that. He hadn’t put her through the cruciamentum and she hadn’t disappointed him yet by sleeping with Angel and getting Jenny killed. Sometimes she wondered if there hadn’t been vengeance in Giles’ desire to see Spike dead, to kill her lover as she had unintentionally killed his. Of course, Giles wouldn’t have admitted as much to even himself. He’d hidden behind a self-righteous need to make sure Buffy wasn’t relying too much on someone besides herself. Because why should the Slayer need help? She ground her teeth and once more slammed the lid shut on past hurts.

With a huff, she pushed open the doors and marched inside. The scent hit her first: books, old and new, along with lemon pledge and floor wax. This place had been her life, her home away from home. She knew every detail.

“Buffy? Are you doing alright?” Giles’ soft voice asked.

She nodded, not able to speak around the lump in her throat. She remembered every inch of this place, but had never realized how much she missed it.

“Shouldn’t you be in class?”

“Yes.” She took a deep breath to steady herself and turned her head towards Giles. Like with her mother, the first thought that hit her was how young he looked. He was waiting patiently, his brow slightly furrowed. “But I need your help,” she added.

“Yes, of course.”

“The school trip today, to the zoo?” She paused and he nodded. “I had a dream about it last night.”

“A Slayer dream?”

“Yup.” She bit her lip. Giles had to believe her. “There’s hyenas at the zoo that just arrived from Africa. They’re not normal. If we don’t do something they’ll possess some of the kids from school. It won’t be pretty.”

Giles frowned. “Are they demons?”

“Kind of? You were in my dream, you called it trans-possession.”

“Right, right.” He put down the book he was holding. “I believe I have a volume that might be of some help.”

“Does it have anything about how to prevent it from happening in the first place?”

“Let have a look, shall we?” Giles pulled a heavy book off the shelf and sat at the table. Like she had done a thousand times, Buffy dropped her backpack on the floor and sat next to him. Giles shuffled through the pages until he found the right section, then started skimming.  

“Anything?” she asked after a few minutes. It was hard to believe the man she was looking at was the same Giles that’d left her to flounder on her own after being resurrected. There was something so open about this version of him. He still found being her Watcher exciting.

“I’m afraid not.” He frowned at the book. “If a human dies while possessed, the evil dies with him.”

“I think I knew that,” Buffy said with a sigh.

Giles looked at her, confusion furrowing his brow. “How could you…?”

“The dream? The zookeeper for the hyenas is bad news. In the dream he got possessed, he died, and bingo, problem solved.”

“Ah.”  Giles took his glasses off and tapped one of the earpieces against his lower lip.

“There you are!” a girl’s voice said from behind Buffy.

Buffy found herself gripping the table top with shaky hands. That voice. She hadn’t heard it in a decade but she’d know it anywhere. “Willow,” she whispered and Giles looked at her strangely. He didn’t know that the last time Buffy had heard her friend, it’d been as she wept in pain, holding a magic shield together against an onslaught of demons while mothers, fathers, sister and brothers had fled. She’d bought them time to escape, but had paid with her life.

“You don’t want to miss the fun and excitement that is a trip to the zoo. Where else can you see so many animals look so bored?” Xander sounded the same. It shocked her, as if his voice should have aged along with the rest of him. Slowly she stood and turned.

They were babies. In terrible clothes. “Hi guys! It turns out the trip is work related.”

“There’s vampires at the zoo?” Willow said, frowning.

“Great new exhibit, but you really don’t want to stick around for feeding time.” Xander grinned while everyone else winced.

“Buffy had a Slayer dream last night,” Giles informed Xander and Willow. “Apparently, the hyenas are able to transfer some kind of evil that possesses a person. We’ve yet to find a way to prevent it, so for right now our solution is–“ He looked at Buffy.

“Our solution is to keep students out of the hyena exhibit by whatever means necessarily, and no matter what, don’t go in there yourselves.” She crossed her arms and frowned at her friends.

Both Willow and Xander nodded frantically.

“I’ll meet you there?” Giles asked. 

“Sounds like a plan,” Buffy said.

Xander pointed dramatically towards the library doors. “To the buses!”

****

Buffy found herself overly fascinated with all the edible meat running around at the zoo. She would have given her left eye tooth yesterday to know what a zebra or giraffe steak tasted like. Protein was getting more and more difficult to come by.

She, along with Willow and Xander, wove their way through the exhibits to the blocked off hyena house. It was hard not to cold-cock Xander and keep him from being possessed that way, but it would have been hard to explain later. Instead the three of them stood guard.

At one point, she saw the zookeeper come out and looked contemptuously at the milling students before disappearing again.

The test came when Kyle and his groupies were herding, uh, whatever that kid’s name was, towards the off-limits area. “Where do you think you’re going?” she asked, smacking her gum.

“None of your business, nerd herd,” Kyle said.

“Does your mommy know you talk to the big kids?” one of the girls, the dark haired one, asked.

Buffy raised an eyebrow while Xander and Willow looked like they wanted to run.

“Does your mommy know you’re a bitch?” Buffy replied. It was something sixteen-year-old her would never have said, but damn did it feel good.

The four bullies’ mouths dropped open.

“Ex-x-cuse me?” the girl stammered.

“You heard me,” Buffy said. She glanced over at Xander and then at the nerdy kid, repeating the motion until Xander got the idea.

“Don’t speak to my girl like that!” The blond boy took a menacing step forward.

“I’m sure she hears worse than that from you during sex, though how does she handle it when you cry every single time afterwards?” Buffy smiled sweetly. This was fun.

Willow shot her a ‘what the hey?’ look, but Buffy felt a little shiver of victory go through her as the nerdy kid took off at an almost run, notes in hand, after Xander whispered in his ear.

“I can’t believe you!” Kyle made to brush past her but she easily sidestepped and tripped him, sending him sprawling.

“Oops, my bad.” Buffy faked shock by putting her hand to her lips.

“What seems to be the problem here?” Giles asked as he walked up to the group, a bag slung over his shoulder.

Kyle got to his feet and the four bullies wilted in the presence of a teacher.

“Nothing,” everyone mumbled.

“Quite,” Giles said drily.

The four bullies glared at Buffy one last time before heading off to bother someone else. She let out a relieved breath.  “Willow, Xander, stay here and give us a warning if anyone tries to get in. Giles, you’re with me. Do not stand where the hyenas can see you or you can see them.”

They snuck into the exhibit just as the zookeeper in his creepy face makeup broke a chicken’s neck. Beside her, Giles flinched, but it was something Buffy had seen so frequently in the enclaves that all it made her think of was not very appetizing meals. The act must have been predatory enough because a moment later the zookeeper let out a snarl and spun to face her and Giles.

Almost casually she knocked Giles to the side and met the zookeeper mid rush. He was freaky strong, like she remembered Xander being, but after fighting hordes of demons for so many years she found the zookeeper less than exciting. It was a simple thing to flip him over the railing and down into the hyena pit, where the hungry animals were overjoyed to see him.

Giles face was set and he didn’t speak as he walked with Buffy back out into the sunlight.

****

The Bronze was more disconcerting than the rest of her day put together. There were so many people, doing so many things, and the music was loud in a way she was no longer used to. Her nerves were frayed from straining her Slayer senses to their fullest, but no vampire had even flirted around the edges of the place so far. Buffy also had to keep reminding herself that any such vampire would be Angel or some fledge looking for dinner. No matter how much she wanted it to be, it wouldn’t be Spike somehow mystically drawn to her future self and ready to declare his undying love.

Bummer.

Instead she sipped a diet coke–on real ice!–and listed to Willow babble on about Xander. This she really hadn’t remembered. There’d been that weird forbidden love thing senior year, but Willow being all up in Xander’s business like this? It was kind of icky.

Buffy realized Willow had trailed off.

“You don’t really seem to be listening,” Willow said in a small voice.

“I’m sorry.” Buffy genuinely was, she hadn’t meant to be rude to her friend. It was harder to fit in than she’d thought it would be. So many things felt trivial, even though she knew they’d once been vitally important to her, like what color eyeshadow she should wear or if she had enough cash for a new CD.

Buffy leaned forward. Maybe she could at least point Willow in a better direction than extreme Xander crushing. “Willow, not to be rude and please don’t mad, but maybe Xander and you are meant to be really awesome friends instead of boyfriend and girlfriend. I don’t like seeing you get hurt. Thinking he’s going to suddenly want to be your boyfriend is wasting time that could be better spent on a guy that would adore you.”

Willow’s face fell. “Just friends, huh?”

“But it’d be the bestest of friends.”

“I’m guessing you don’t want to be ‘best friends’ with that Angel guy,” Willow pouted.

Buffy laughed. “Me and him would make terrible friends.” Her laughter died into a tired sigh. “Angel and me? There something inevitable there and I think in the end I’m not going to like it.”

Willow looked taken aback and Buffy took a long sip of her soda. There was a crash of thunder loud enough to hear over the music. The promised storm had shown up. Buffy was grateful for the unusual weather because it meant she’d gotten a pass to skip patrol. Giles was still a little weirded out over the whole zoo incident, but he hadn’t wanted to risk his Slayer getting fried by lightening.

Xander showed up and collapsed into the chair next to her. “What’s with all the long faces?”

Willow sighed and gave Buffy a pleading look.

“Not a lot,” Buffy said. “We were just talking about Angel.”

Xander scowled. “More cryptic, mumble-warnings about possible doom?”

Buffy dropped her head into her hands. Oh yay, jealousy. That’d existed, hyenas or no. “Xander,” she said, resigned. “I already read Willow the riot act, so why not you too?” She lifted her gaze to his. “I don’t like you like that. I’m not going to. You’re more than my friend, but I’m not going to marry you and make little Xanders.”

He sat there, soda halfway to his mouth, stunned.

Something deep down inside her shifted and cracked. “I’m never going to be anyone’s mom,” she said, grief constricting her heart. Where the heck had this come from? Was it an old desire, the girl who’d once thought she’d marry some doctor or lawyer and spend her days shopping and having babies? Or maybe the broken reality of the future, in which no one was going to see their kids grow up?

Tears spilled down her cheeks.

“Don’t say that, Buffy.” Willow put an arm around her shoulders. “You don’t know that, and I think you’d be a fantastic mom.”

Xander set his drink down and awkwardly patted her back. “I get it,” he said quietly. “I do. And I agree with Willow, you’d be great at being a mom. I hope you find the right guy. And I will totally baby-sit, uh, once they’re able to go potty on their own.”

Buffy studied Xander’s face. He was giving her a lopsided smile and his eyes were warm. She’d done it. She’d actually done it.  That hard, brittle part of him was gone, or more accurately it’d never existed at all.  

“Thanks for your guys’ help today,” Buffy said lamely, wiping the tears off her face.

Willow tucked her long hair behind her ears. “No problem, but, whoa, you were bad-ass.”

“I seem to have been channeling my inner-bitch all day.” Buffy rubbed her temples. The music was really starting to get to her, which probably meant she was old.

Xander looked up as thunder boomed loudly. “What about we make like some trees and leave? Maybe there’s a movie on basic cable we’ve only seen two dozen times.”

Buffy stood and sighed with relief. “My place?” she asked.

“Sure!” Willow chirped. She grabbed her bag and looked wistfully at Xander for a moment before putting the strap over her shoulder. Xander was busy drinking the last of his soda. When Willow’s eyes narrowed and she nodded to herself before turning towards the door, Buffy couldn’t help but smile. Maybe her words had had some impact, even if they’d been kind of rude. It was really hard to be tactful after having watched so many people she’d known torn to pieces. You said what you needed to say when you had the chance.

Pain wrapped around her heart. You didn’t wait for someone to die to tell them you loved them. The palm of her hand burned with a fleeting fire. Next time, she reminded herself, with a mental shake.

As she and her friends exited they were confronted with the four bullies from school who were entering the Bronze.

“If it isn’t Buffy and her entourage of lame,” Kyle said with a sneer.

Buffy rolled her eyes. Seriously, she’d saved this guy from a lifetime of terrible mental trauma? She tilted her head to the side and fixed Kyle with a hard stare. “Look, I don’t have time for games. I’m cranky and tired. Do you want to piss me off right now?”

It was impossible to know what Kyle had seen in her eyes, but she’d bet it wasn’t pretty. He stumbled back a step and the four idiots shuffled into the club without another word.

Sighing, she let herself fall back on the sixteen-year-old Buffy memories that were swirling under the surface and chatted about school and friends with Willow and Xander. She hoped this wouldn’t turn out to be a lovely dream.

At home, she hugged her mom and settled with her friends and a bowl of popcorn in her room to watch TV and listen to the rolling thunder.

It’d been a good day.

****

Buffy flinched as one of the enclave’s guns boomed loudly. Her twenty-four hours must be up. She was standing back on the battlefield amid the screaming and bloodshed. There was another loud roar of artillery fire. Hadn’t the guns been silent a moment ago? She felt muddled and hazy.

There was the pounding of hooves behind her and she tightened her grip on her Scythe, preparing to swing.

The world went silent.

“Well, bravo,” Whistler said from beside her. He tugged on her arm, leading her towards the table with the photos. It was blank now. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

“Whatever,” Buffy mumbled. She reached out and brushed her fingers over the glass.

‘Year Two’ appeared along with an overwhelming number of pictures and videos.

Her eyes went wide. How was she supposed to choose? “Think, Buffy,” she said to herself.

The first video that caught her eye was Oz transforming into a werewolf. It looked painful. She could… what? Warn him and keep him from being bitten? Who would believe that, even coming from her?

Her eyes left that one and landed on…Buffy bit her lip so hard she could taste blood. It was Spike, in the alley behind the Bronze. Her eyes skittered sideways, only to land on one of him bending her over a crate on Halloween. Everywhere she looked she saw him, his slicked back hair and blue eyes exactly how she remembered them. Time had taken a lot from her, but not that.

There’d been no pictures of him. She’d had nothing after Sunnydale had cratered except her memories, but she hadn’t forgotten a thing. Her fingernails scratched against the top of the table. She wanted to gather all the pictures of him up and find dark corner to hide in so she could just stare at them.

“You okay there?” Whistler asked.

“Peachy,” she snapped.

He leaned over the table and brought a photo to the center. It was her and Angel locked in a passionate embrace on the bed in Angel’s apartment. “How about this one?” Whistler said. “A little less hanky-panky and a lot less Angelus.”

Buffy snorted. “Yeah, because if we don’t get it on that night it means we absolutely won’t the next night, or the one after that.”

Whistler frowned.

There were so many tragedies: the swim team, Kendra, the nice lady from across the way that’d been killed by the Order of Taraka assassin, Eyghon, Ford, Miss Calendar.

Buffy’s mind tripped over that one. If Jenny never died…

“What about just dusting Angel? That’d solve a whole lot of problems.” Whistler was leaning one hip against the table and examining his nails.

“Sure, my problems.” It was sort of fun to imagine walking up to Angel and shoving a stake in his heart. Take that for unleashing hell on earth and for not calling her to say Spike was there. Buffy sighed. “But what about all the people Angel saved in L.A.? I don’t have a replacement to send if I take him out.”

Whistler didn’t have an answer for that one.

She reached out and dragged a picture to the middle of the table of a forlorn Spike sitting in a wheelchair. He looked so lost. It was a nice thought to imagine going back and not bringing the organ down on him, but, again, not so much with the world saveage. She ran a finger over his face.  

There was so much she couldn’t change. Twenty-four hours out of thousands wasn’t much. It hurt, all the things she would have to leave unchanged.

“Hey,” she said, looking at the array of photos. “Where’s Snyder?” The little troll that’d made her life hell was nowhere to be seen.

“Hmm?” Whistler looked up. “Not in Sunnydale.” He picked out a photo and sent it over to her. It was Buffy talking to Principal Flutie with a banner that read ‘Parent-Teacher Night’ in the background. “Since those kids weren’t possessed he wasn’t killed. Guy was a lot nicer to you than Snyder ever was, though he still gets eaten by the snake-Mayor next year.”

Buffy quirked her lips. Poor guy couldn’t catch a break. “Will I know what the changes are when I’m in my younger body after I arrive on the day I pick?”

“Yeah, it’ll all come together for you.”

Buffy nodded absently. She pulled up a video of Angelus ranting and pacing in front of Acathla. What was with Angel and bringing hell to earth?

Hell. She’d sent Angel to hell for a hundred years.

Buffy gasped. Of course. Why had she never seen it? Something was driving Angel, or Angelus, towards hell so that one day he could return the favor.

She had to stop him from going, but how?

A smile curved her lips. Spike and the truce. She was no overwhelmed kid anymore and could bargain a much better plan for world saving with him. Sorting through the pictures she brought up one of her and Spike walking next to each other, both of them having eyes for little else. She laughed. Wow, obvious much?

“This one,” she said, pointing to the picture.

“Are you sure?” Whistler frowned. “Wouldn’t it be easier just to keep Angelus from ever showing up? Maybe you could just let him get on that ship with the Judge’s arm and sail off into the sunset.”

“Nope, still stuck with who does the world saving in L.A. problem.”

Whistler looked towards the sky. “I tried,” he grumbled.

Buffy’s gaze traveled over the battlefield. “Where’s the crossbow bolt?”

“You changed things in the past, so the present isn’t exactly the same.” Whistler gestured towards the demon who’d been charging towards her on a skeletal nightmare of a horse. “Use that guy.” The rider was swinging a sword at just the right angle to hit her where her neck met her shoulders.

“Yay,” she deadpanned, but inside she was so excited she could barely contain herself. Spike was on the other side of that sword swing. She positioned herself and nodded.

The artillery boomed again and the sword flashed sharp and bright in the glare of an explosion. Buffy never even felt the blow.

Chapter Text

But how many heartaches must I stand

            -The Supremes, “You Can’t Hurry Love”

****

She woke up mid-stride and nearly fell over her own feet. Buffy took a deep breath, then another. With the third, a blinding pain lanced through her skull. So many things were different, but she knew them all in a split second. Her original memories were shoved aside, still there, but pale compared to the new stuff.

Principal Flutie in place of Snyder. He’d listened to her on the night Spike had attacked the school and there’d been one less dead body. Though he’d still ‘volunteered’ her for the Halloween safe trick-or-treat program, it’d been because he saw her as someone that could make a positive difference instead of a troublemaker needing punishment.

Buffy raised an eyebrow as her headache faded. Her school grades had been remarkably better.

There’d been no love spell from Xander on Valentine’s Day, in fact, he’d never started dating Cordelia in the first place. She’d still ended up hanging out with the scoobies, but Xander had never made that jump. Buffy scrunched up her brow. Ah, it was because he’d been more comfortable with who he was and not in some weird jealousy state over Buffy. Xander had dated a few girls, but they’d never lasted very long, just typical high school stuff. He’d tried out for the swim team earlier than before and had been able to stop the whole creepy doping scam before it really got started. More lives saved. He’d still fallen for the mummy-girl, though. Poor guy.

Most of the other big things, from Oz getting with Willow and becoming a werewolf to the fun and exciting events of Buffy’s birthday, had ended up being the same. Spike had rolled into town on schedule and those events seemed unchanged.

Which should mean she would be seeing him very shortly.

Her heart skipped a beat and then started racing. She looked down at herself. What the hell was she wearing? She took off the giant windbreaker and tossed it on a bench along with the beanie. Why had she though wearing a knit hat in Southern California in May was going to make her look inconspicuous? Her tight black shirt and tan pants were going to have to do. She finger-combed her hair, which didn’t feel too dreadful after being under a hat, and found a tube of lip gloss in her pocket which she applied liberally. Hopefully her mascara was holding up okay.

She didn’t feel ready.

Turning the corner, she walked into the park and almost on cue a police cruiser flicked its lights on and blocked her path.

Oh god, she couldn’t look.

She turned her back on the cop as he shouted at her. She couldn’t hear him over the roar of the blood in her ears anyway. There were the muffled sounds of a fight and…

“Hello, cutie.”

Buffy didn’t know how she was staying upright. It was him. The vampire tinglies were screaming Spike at her, pushing her already strained nerves nearly to the breaking point. Struggling not to sob or throw herself into his arms, she slowly turned around.

Her eyes landed on his booted feet then worked their way upwards.

She trembled.

Tight jeans over strong thighs, black belt, his t-shirt was baggy, which was too bad, but his leather duster hung on his shoulders exactly as she remembered. The column of his throat was pale above his collar, but it was her that had to swallow before she could work her way to his face. His chin, pink lips with the bottom one fuller than the top, straight nose, strong cheekbones, blond hair slicked back, dark eyebrows with a scar cutting through the left…

Finally, she let herself meet his gaze. She’d forgotten the exact shade of blue his eyes were. They were beautiful.

It was Spike.

Her head swam and Buffy’s last thought as the ground rushed up meet her was that she was never going to be able to explain why the Slayer swooned.

****

She couldn’t have been out very long. Her eyelids fluttered and she took a deep breath, Spike’s scent flooding her nose. She sat up abruptly, realizing that her head had been pillowed on his knee. He smirked at her and took a drag off a half-finished cigarette.

“Catching up on a little beauty sleep?” he asked. They were sitting on the grass beside the police car. Its door was open and she could hear the radio. Was that the Supremes? Oh you can’t hurry love, you just have to wait…

She shook her head to try and clear it. “Spike, what are you doing here?” she croaked. It seemed lame when what she wanted to blurt out was that she loved and missed him so much and that it was insanely wonderful to see him.

“I want to save the world!” he exclaimed and proceeded to launch into the speech he’d made the first time around about the world being a great place. She knew him well enough to know it was at least partially true, but that mostly he wanted Drusilla back. It was just how Spike ticked, heart first and screw everything else. It made her seething jealous that it wasn’t her he cared about like that right now, but she’d known that before she’d picked this moment. However, the green-eyed monster didn’t understand time travel.

Buffy couldn’t take her gaze off his animated face. He was so…him. No soul. No mission. No downtrodden vamp desperately wishing for just one more moment with her. She’d always believed he’d been better for loving her, but the stark truth was that he hadn’t been happier. The idea that she could keep him from all that was about to happen ate at her mind. If only this time he really would stay away from Sunnydale.

She stood while he was ranting and dusted off her behind. Spike gracefully rose to lean against the side of the police car. The idea of giving him up made her nauseous, but she knew she could find the strength to do it. Anyway, right now she didn’t even have him, he was Drusilla’s. And who knew? Maybe with her changing things he’d never love her at all. Maybe it was better for everyone if he never did.

“What do you think, Slayer?” he said at the end of his speech. With a smile, she punched him. “Ow, bloody hell, you stupid bint, what was that for?” He poked at his cheek.

“Liar,” she said, unable to hide the fondness in her voice.

“Am not.”

“Are too, you just want Angelus out of the way so you can get your ho of a girlfriend back.”

Spike’s eyes narrowed.

“And I’m willing to help, but let’s figure this out inside.” She turned her back on him and started walking.

The trip to her house was as awkward as she remembered, with no words and just a lot of staring. Though with no jacket and a scoop neck shirt on she did notice his eyes dart down to her chest a time or two. It made her nipples stand up to attention and she helpfully crossed her arms under her breasts to subtly push them up. She wasn’t sure Spike was looking until he walked into a mailbox.

Suddenly the whole day was worth it, even if it ended in heartache.

Her mom showed up again just as she and Spike were walking towards her front door. Ugh, Buffy really didn’t have time for this.

“Buffy what’s going on? And who is this man?”

“Mom, this is Spike. Spike, Mom. You could call him a work colleague.”

“What?” Her mom looked so confused, which morphed into terror as a vampire rushed her from the side.

Buffy rolled her eyes, grabbed it, and sent it careening into Spike. He distracted the vamp with a few good punches, which gave her time to unsheathe her stake. With a brutal kick, he sent the vamp towards her so she could dust it. Even not knowing each other, there was some things Spike and she just did well together.

“I’m a Vampire Slayer,” she told her stunned mother, then listened to her verbally try to make sense of it. Eventually Buffy had to cut her off. “I know you don’t understand and I’m sorry. I’ll explain it all later, but right now all you need to know is that I didn’t kill that girl and if I don’t hurry up and make a plan with Spike here, the world will end. Literally.” Buffy had a hard time keeping her eyes on her mom as she spoke, they kept wandering back to Spike, who was watching her.

Her mom, looking upset and befuddled, kept glancing back and forth between them.

“C’mon.” She led Spike upstairs to her room. This negotiation was going to be trickier than the first time and she didn’t want to be interrupted while they were talking. As soon as her door clicked closed she realized she’d made a mistake. Spike was meandering around her room and poking at her things. Finding Mr. Gordo on her bed, he smiled at the pig, then lay down with his shoulders propped against her headboard. He set the stuffed animal on his chest while he looked at her with raised eyebrows.

Her poor brain was having fits. It was too much. Spike on her bed.

“Here’s the deal,” he said. “I keep your Watcher alive and distract Angelus for a while, long enough for you to take over, then I take Dru and I’m gone.”

“Not good enough.”

“It’s all you’re getting, pet.”

She closed her eyes as her insides went all melty. She had to be strong. “No, it’s not.”

“Pardon?”

“Giles alive means Drusilla alive.”

“We’re agreed on that part then.”

“Yup, it’s the next part that’s different: You help me keep Angelus restrained and away from Acathla until my friends can resoul him.”

“Are you daft?”

“Probably.”

“I’m not–“

“You will because then I give you a free pass out of here with the knowledge that Angelus is bye-bye and Dru won’t want to come running back looking for her daddy.”

Spike took a sharp breath. He didn’t appear too happy.

“Last part,” she continued. “Before you leave I want a word with you.” Buffy hardened her gaze as much as possible. “Help restrain Angelus and two seconds for me to speak with you afterwards, then you and goth-Carrie can head for the ends of the Earth.”

Where he should stay. The future wavered into view before her in crystal clarity. Right now, Spike was the creature he’d made himself to be: the big bad, Slayer of Slayers, Drusilla’s black prince. It’d been astonishing he’d given it all up for the barest crumb from her. Idiotic vampire.

It didn’t have to be like that.

She could spare him the pain, the heartache, the fiery death. She loved him, treasured him. She could break her heart and give him a life without her. What he’d done, gotten his soul and sacrificed himself for her and everyone had been spectacular. Only…Buffy was hoping she could prevent her death and resurrection, meaning there would never be a First Evil and no call for a champion. If worst came to worst, she would wear the stupid amulet in his place.

“And once you leave, you never come back, not for anything.” She dropped her voice low. “If you do…it’s not you I’ll dust. Got it?”

“This seems like a terrible lot you’re asking of me,” he grumbled, petting Mr. Gordo.

“Not unless you want your girlfriend to spend eternity inside a vacuum cleaner.”

His face was pained. “Fine, Slayer. You win. Are you sodding happy?”

“Very. Now out the window. I’ll be at the mansion a little before dawn.”

Spike nodded and disappeared over the sill. Her heart twisted as she looked out and saw him pause under the tree, looking up at her window while he lit a cigarette.  He took a drag then was gone in a swirl of leather and smoke.

****

Buffy didn’t know how she was supposed to handle one more thing. It was all too much.

When Xander had met her out in front of the Crawford mansion, he hadn’t lied to her. He’d told her to hang on, that Willow was trying to resoul Angel. To see proof that what she’d done had made a difference was threatening to overwhelm her.

Now if she could just keep Angel from going to hell and Spike from returning to Sunnydale.

No pressure.

Everything went as she remembered.  Spike surprised Angelus with the fire poker and Drusilla freaked out. Spike subdued her and tossed her over his shoulder, disappearing as Buffy grappled with Angelus. It took every trick she’d learning in decades of Slaying to keep him away from Acathla and the sword.

Her hope faded. Angelus was too strong. History was going to repeat itself.

Angelus gut-punched her, which sent her careening backwards and fighting for breath. He grinned gleefully, then staggered as Spike caught him with a surprise right cross. Angelus crumpled to the floor with a loud thump. Buffy thought she might cry.

“That felt bloody good,” Spike crowed. Between the two of them they dragged Angel to the living room and chained him to the wall. He awoke quickly, snarling and surging against his bonds. Buffy was worn out from holding him back, even with Spike’s help, by the time Angelus’ eyes glowed orange. He sagged in his chains.

“It’s done,” Buffy whispered. No Angel in hell. She thought she’d feel elated, but instead she was empty. Only time would tell if keeping him from a century of torment had made any difference.

With a disgusted snort, Spike walked off.

“Buffy?” Angel asked, confused.

“I’m here.” She undid the restraints. A look of intense pain crossed his face and he went to his knees.

“No, I…did I…?”

Buffy shook her head. “You didn’t. Acathla’s still there with the sword in him.”

“I’m sorry,” Angel moaned.

“I know.”

****

Buffy leaned against the wall of the hallway and exhaled sharply.

 There was filtered sunlight at one end that let her see everything from a crack in the tile to dancing dust-motes clearly. When Spike’s boots entered her line of vision, she was surprised. She’d really expected him to take off without a backwards glance. Once more her eyes trailed up his body until they reached his face.

“Have your word and I’m gone,” he said. The cold tone hurt.

“I didn’t think you’d wait around.”

Spike shrugged a shoulder. “Said I would. I’m a might bit curious as to what you wanted to say.”

He was distant, but that was okay, it was what needed to happen, even if her heart didn’t understand. She took a deep breath. “I wanted to make sure there was no doubt. Don’t come back. Ever. Take Drusilla and go. No matter what happens, never return to this town. I want you to give me your word.”

Spike’s eyes narrowed.

Unable to help herself, she reached up and carefully smoothed out the lapels of his duster while she studied his face.

“Right. Whatever you want Slayer. Me and Dru will never return to this miserable shithole of a town.”

Buffy felt her shoulders slump. Whether it was in relief or grief she didn’t know. “Thank you,” she whispered. He’d never know what she was giving up to keep him safe. Would she forget his face now? His hands? His mouth? If she saved the world would future-her even remember him as anything more than a big bad she’d fought but never bested? Her heart was shattering, but she’d give anything to keep him alive.

Selfishly, she did want one memory to treasure during the difficult times ahead.

Before she could change her mind, she stood on her tiptoes and pressed her lips to his.

They were as cool and soft as she remembered.

Spike went deathly still under her hands. With a sad sound, she dropped back on her heels and started to turn away. His hand caught her and in the next second she was slammed up against the wall with his mouth covering hers. She should push him away, make him leave…she should…she…

Oh god, he tasted like heaven. Her arms were around his neck and his tongue was between her lips. She sucked greedily, making him groan, before opening up and letting him all the way in. Their teeth clicked together as his mouth mauled hers. His hands descended to grab and knead her ass. With a moan, she found herself wrapping her legs around his waist. Spike’s hips surged forward as he ground his erection against her.

She loved him. Now. Then. Forever. Whenever.

Time didn’t matter. It ceased to exist. In this moment, he was hers again.

Buffy couldn’t get close enough. She frantically rolled her hips as she desperately rubbed her aching clit against the hardness of his cock.

Damn their clothes, why hadn’t she worn a skirt? Her hand went to his hair, clutching it as she mewled into his mouth.

Her body was on fire, every inch of her feeling every inch of him. The lace of her bra scraped the sensitive peaks of her nipples as her breasts slid against Spike’s chest. The inferno grew, she was melting, burning. She stopped breathing, her thighs trembled, and she erupted, coming hard. Gasping, she let her head fall against the wall with a thud. This wasn’t part of the plan.

Spike’s uncoordinated grinding turned into rhythmic pushes. She opened her eyes to gaze at his face. He was watching her with an awed look. It was one she knew well. It killed and revived her in the same instant. 

“Buffy,” he whispered uncertainly.

She crashed her mouth back into his, worried that if she didn’t, words of love would spill out. Words he wouldn’t understand. This must have been how he felt during their months together, loving her but so afraid of it leaking out and frightening her. He hadn’t always succeeded in keeping that light under a bushel. At the time, it’d made her angry, but in the cold and lonely years afterwards she’d treasured every gasped declaration of love and murmured promise of a forever that hadn’t existed.

Under her hands, Spike was grunting, his head dropped to her neck and his blunt teeth nipped her skin. Maybe he’d bury his fangs in her, a sweet, bright pain…

Buffy came again, fireworks exploding behind her eyelids. She was complete and empty all at once as her pussy pulsed and fluttered around nothing. She panted, hanging onto Spike as if he was keeping her from drowning.

Spike pushed her harder against the wall and his hips churned violently. Opening her eyes, she watched his face as he threw his head back. His eyes closed, his lips parted, his brows drew together, and with a load groan he came. It was beautiful. She’d never thought she’d see him like that again.

Panting, he dropped his forehead against hers. His hands were tender as they softly petted her.

Her heart was still broken. She was still losing him, but at least now she wouldn’t forget him. Her knees shook as she unwound her legs from around him and put her feet back on the ground. With firm hands, she pushed him away.

“Buffy?” he said again. He looked so confused. It’d be so easy to enfold him in her arms and never let him go, tell him she loved him and that everything was okay.

She did the impossible instead.

“Leave,” she whispered. Spike took a step back as if he’d been slapped. “Go!” She shoved him. Anger rose behind his eyes. She’d made him vulnerable and he’d hate her for it. Good. He turned and stomped down the hall, pulling his duster tight around him as he went. “Never fucking return!” she yelled after him. His shoulders hunched, but he didn’t look back. She lost sight of him as he went through a door. A few seconds later there was the sound of the DeSoto’s tires squealing and a loud crash as the car burst out of the mansion’s garage.

Buffy sank to her knees. That was it, then. Spike was out of her life.

The pain was worth it if he didn’t burn. She could handle ten-thousand broken hearts if it meant he was still out there, somewhere, being Spike.

“What the hell was that?”

Buffy whipped her head around. Angel was standing at the end of the hallway. She’d entirely forgotten about him. “Voyeurism much?” she muttered as she climbed to her feet.

“Is that why he helped you? Have you two been…involved?” Angel spat out the last word.

“It’s really none of your business, but no, nothing like that has ever happened before.” It sickened her to think Angel had been watching her with Spike. Through his eyes their moment of passion became a sordid dry-hump against a dirty wall.

Angel walked towards her. “I thought…I love you.” His eyes wouldn’t meet hers.

“Sure you do,” she said. This was exhausting.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He was frowning.

“If you loved me it’d still be there, soul or no.”

His brow furrowed. “Buffy, I’ve told you, without a soul a demon can’t love.”

“That is bullshit and you know it.” She was so done with the lies and half-truths. “You want to love me Angel, you’ve even fooled yourself in to thinking that you do, but it’s not love. It’s obsession, same as it ever was with the girls you chose. And yes, I did love you, in all the stupid ways that a teenaged girl can, but that was before you killed Jenny and tried to send the world to hell. Keep it up, practice makes perfect, maybe one day you’ll succeed was that last part.”

Angel stood, dumbfounded, in the middle of the hallway. “That’s not what I want–“

“Yeah, right.” Her voice was bitter. “Go get some rest, when it’s dark head home. I’ll deal with you later.” She left him standing there. It felt amazing to be the one walking away, even though part of her still did love him. She understood now that she was never going to be able to get rid of it. He was her first everything and she’d chosen for it to stay that way, knowing that her teenaged self would be scarred. She wanted to punch Whistler. It was all his fault that Angel had ever crossed her path and believed her to be his destiny.

“You want Spike? Is that it?” Angel’s voice was like a whip as he yelled after her.

Buffy spun around. “No.” Not quite a lie. She wanted her Spike, the one that loved her beyond all reason. “And jealousy is a poor look on you. I’m not your prize at the end of the redemption rainbow. I’m the Slayer and a girl, and if you can’t deal with both…” She took a shuddering breath. “Then, Angel, you’re beneath me.”

****

Despite telling herself she wasn’t going to, she cried most of the way home. She didn’t even know exactly why. Because she’d sent Spike packing and excised him from her future? Because he’d burned to death believing she didn’t love him? Because he hadn’t wanted her in his life anymore when he came back from the dead?

The last one stung as if it’d happened yesterday and not twenty years ago.

Spike would still have had feelings for her, he wasn’t the kind to just get over someone, but he must have figured out he was better off without her. So today...she’d respected his wishes. He could now go on his merry evil way and never be the wiser about things like the Initiative, or Glory, or amulets. Or how it felt to love her.

As Buffy climbed the porch steps to her house, her mom opened the door.

“Buffy? Are you alright? Have you been crying? Is it about that guy you were with earlier? Isn’t he too old for you?” Joyce frowned. “You have feelings for him.”

It wasn’t a question. Drat, she must have been more transparent that she’d thought.

“It doesn’t matter, Spike’s gone, we saved the world. Yay!”

Her mom held out her arms and Buffy found herself collapsing against her. “I’m sure you did the right thing, honey, but are you sure you’re this Slayer? It sounds dangerous.”

Buffy groaned. “I’m sure, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Can you drive me to the hospital? I want to see Willow.”

Her mom’s eyes went wide. “Willow’s in the hospital?”

“It’s a long story, we’ll meet Giles there and we can talk about this. You not knowing about the Slayer gig is not a good thing.”

****

There was the ring of steel on steel.

Damn it! The battle was still going on. It froze and Buffy marched over to Whistler and the table.

“I should have fixed this!” she snapped. It’d been a long day of explaining and reexplaining things to her mom, and then holding her when it’d all sunk in and she’d started sobbing.  Giles had gone and picked up a contrite Angel, who’d sat in the corner of the room and said little except to apologize. Buffy had simply been too tired to deal with him anymore, but judging from the furtive little glances he was giving her, he wasn’t about to pack his bags for L.A. Fabulous, she’d still have to deal with his crap senior year.

Whistler sighed. “There’s more than one way to skin a cat. You did fix Angel, he doesn’t bring about the end of mankind, this time it’s his son.”

Buffy put a hand to her forehead. That whole thing still blew her mind, especially the part where Angel hadn’t bothered telling her. “Can I stop that? Or will someone else simply take his place?”

“Conner was born as a back-up plan by the PTB, only it failed. Spectacularly. But they still want him around if Plan A doesn’t happen.”

“What was he a back-up plan for?”

Whistler waved a hand. “The warriors of light,” he said dismissively.

“Ah, too bad they never showed.”

“They were never born.” Whistler’s eyes narrowed and Buffy felt that somehow it was her fault. Maybe she hadn’t saved their mom or something, but the guy didn’t offer any more information.

With a resigned sigh, she touched the glass table, making ‘Year Three’ appear.

There was Faith, Mr. Trick, the Mayor, the Mayor as giant snake, her mom and Giles kissing on the hood of a police car (ew), Jonathan in the tower with a gun, Anya in her demon face.

Nothing stood out to her.

She tapped her fingers on the table, finally reaching out and bringing to the center a video of Giles injecting her with the serum that took away her powers. Maybe she should…

A flash of blond hair caught her eye. There was a picture the video had been hiding. Buffy immediately brought it to the center of the table. It was of her, Angel, and Spike together.

“What is this?” she said, her voice tight. “What the hell is this? I told him to leave. He wasn’t supposed to come back. He promised!”

Whistler put his hands up. “Slayer, that isn’t my fault. I’m not the one who dry humped him into paradise. He was already freakily interested in you, then you went and did that. Ever since, Dru won’t give him the time of day and he’s been rubbing himself blind thinking about you. Of course he came back. And he didn’t break his word, since he only promised he wouldn’t return with Dru.” Whistler tugged at his suit jacket. “What did you think was going to happen?”

“That he would be free of me,” she whispered.

“No luck there, toots, that guy’s harder to get rid of than a case of the French pox.”

Buffy slapped her hand down over the picture. “This night. Twenty-four hours, starting this night. Understood?”

“Come on, you haven’t even thought this through.”

“My choice.”

Whistler ground his teeth together. “The entire human race–“

“This night.”

“Fine!” he shouted. “But don’t come crawling to me when you still end up with a shit-ton of demons using human bones for fashion accessories.”

“How do I make my transition point?”

“Grenade about to hit and go off over there.” He jabbed his finger to the left.

Trembling, Buffy walked towards where she could now see that the grenade was about to land. It was already starting to explode. She’d screwed it up. Giving Spike his life back was supposed to be her final gift to him. This time she’d make sure he got it: no coming back to Sunnydale.

The grenade thumped to the sand between her feet and the world went white.

Chapter Text

No matter what you do or say I am gonna love you anyway

                -The Supremes, “Come See About Me”

****

Buffy blinked. She was in the library with a jump rope in her hands. It smacked into her ankles. Xander was asleep at the table, his head tilted back, and Willow was busy with homework. The light in Giles’ office was on. For a second her mind floundered before the blinding headache hit and left her with memories of how different things had been.

Buffy had stayed in Sunnydale that summer, except for a two-week trip to LA to see her dad, which had resulted in her breaking up the ring of demon slavers. She sighed in relief. Thank goodness she didn’t have to somehow make that happen. A Slayer dream might have been pushing it on that one.

Oh, and of course Willow and Xander where chilling with her. They’d never started in on the weird smoochy thing with each other, so there was no reason for them to attempt a delust spell. Xander still didn’t have a steady girlfriend, but Willow and Oz were going strong. The latter had an out of town gig tonight which was why Willow was hanging in the library.

At least Angel wasn’t there. It appeared her so-called relationship with Angel was a big mess. Getting all kissy-faced with Spike had confused her younger-self to no end, because while that version of her remembered exactly how intense it’d felt and how turned on she’d been, she had zero idea why she’d done it. Getting off while dry-humping your enemy also wasn’t something you could talk to your friends about, so it’d been regulated to fueling her late-night fantasies. Of which there were a lot. Buffy’s eyebrows shot up. She’d bought a dildo. That was a first, she’d never…

Buffy bit her lip, but Xander was still out and Willow was focused on schoolwork. There was no one to see her blush. It seemed younger-Buffy was much more interested in reliving the grope fest with Spike than having much to do with Angel. Though Angel didn’t seem to have gotten the memo. There was a lot of whining and puppy dog eyes on his part while he trailed around after her until he was sent home and Buffy snuggled down under her comforter to replay the scene with Spike, only with a lot less clothes. Buffy was weirdly proud of herself for both being immune to Angel’s mooning and for not being in complete denial about what she liked.

Shaking her head, Buffy went to put the jump rope away. She glanced down and squeaked. What the hell was she wearing? She looked like a fugitive from a Jane Fonda workout video. Were those leg warmers? Buffy dropped the jump rope, making Willow look up, and grabbed her bag and hurried to the girls’ bathroom. She stripped the spandex off and rooted through her bag. Thankfully, there was a skirt and a tank top in there.

She shimmied on the skirt and hesitated only for a second before pulling her undies off and sticking them in the bag. She was shameless. There was no way she should be planning for Spike to have his hands under her skirt, but if he did, well, she wanted to surprise him. Her sport bra went as well and she left the tank top untucked.

Looking in the mirror, she slid her brush through her hair. There was a jumble of other memories trying to align themselves. Scott hadn’t even been a blip on her radar this time around. Faith had arrived on schedule and that had, so far, all gone mostly the same as the first time around. Slayerfest had still happened, neither Cordy nor she had been Homecoming queen, and there’d still been the bespelled chocolate bars.

Buffy put her hair up into a high ponytail and told herself that she wasn’t doing it because it left her neck bare. She pulled her makeup out and popped open the tube of lipstick. She stopped with it halfway to her lips.

When was the last time anyone she knew had worn lipstick? When had there last been any lipstick, eyeshadow, or blush for anyone to wear? Whistler’s words about her not really having thought things through echoed in her mind. Had a couple days of indoor plumbing and electric lights made her forget what she was trying to prevent? Whistler had made it sound like it was entirely her fault there hadn’t been any mythological warriors to prevent the unleashing of hell on earth. Their mother could very well be a student she didn’t prevent the snake-Mayor from killing, and here Buffy was, primping to see a boy instead of doing anything to prevent that from happening.

Though she didn’t have the foggiest how you stopped an ascension that had been a century in the works.

Tomorrow she could write some notes to Giles, which he may or may not pay attention to, and maybe head off the crucimentum. But that was later. She had a vampire to see first. There was no changing her mind and she’d come here for Spike. Well, supposedly to tell him to go away, but a rather large part of her had already decided she was going to be doing more with him than talk sternly about staying out of Sunnydale.

It was selfish, but she didn’t care. She’d spent her entire life giving to others, doing what they needed and wanted. Couldn’t one freaking night be about her?

There was always the chance Spike was just here to try and kill her and would want nothing but a fight. Her heartrate kicked up. That’d be fine too, but…rubbing himself blind. Buffy was almost sure he’d be looking for something besides a kill, even if that’s what he’d been telling himself.

Satisfied with her appearance, she returned to the library.

“Everything okay?” Willow asked.

Buffy sat down on the steps leading up to the stacks. “Mostly.” Her somewhat muddled brain couldn’t come up with what homework she had due, though she did remember that back…in the future? Ugh. Inevitably poor phrasing. Anyway, she’d promised a woman two days ago that she’d bring her more ashes for soap making. That was a promise she wouldn’t be keeping no matter how things went. Feeling guilty, she pulled a bottle of Jergen’s lotion out of bag and popped the top, inhaling the scent before slathering it on her hands and arms. It made her nostalgic for things that at this point of time hadn’t even happened yet.

Things like the fact that knowing she liked it, Spike had kept a bottle for her in his crypt. She remembered his eyes running over her as she’d sat nude on the side of the bed, smoothing her hands up and down her legs…

Okay, enough. Hands shaking, she dumped the lotion back in her bag and pulled out a copy of King Lear, opened it to the bookmark, and began to read. Luckily, she’d only gone through a couple of pages when her Slayer senses came to life.

He was in the library.

Buffy inhaled sharply and looked up. Everyone else was in the same place as before. The tinglies washed over her, setting every nerve she had on edge. At last they coalesced into a single point. Hardly breathing, she turned her head and her eyes met his. He was standing between two bookshelves, looking entirely too cocky. His gaze swept over her and heat exploded across her skin in its wake. Using the middle two fingers of his left hand he beckoned to her. The gesture would have been lost on high school senior Buffy, but not on the her who was currently in charge. She’d had those two fingers doing the exact same thing up inside her too often not to get it, though his audacity surprised her.

“Um, I need to grab some books, for, uh, that class,” she said.

“Okay,” Willow replied, not even looking up.

Buffy stood and walked to Spike like she was under a spell. He grinned and slipped a few rows further back, disappearing from view. Alarmed, Buffy quickened her pace. She let out a squeak when a strong hand grabbed her and pinned her against a shelf. Spike’s other hand covered her mouth.

“None of that,” he whispered.

She went still, trying to slow her racing heart. Slowly, Spike molded his body to hers. His head dropped to the side so that his nose was buried against her neck.  His hand fell away from her mouth to skim down her side. “What are you doing here, Spike?” she asked, trying to sound upset with him. Only her voice was a breathless purr, which made her sound less that intimidating. “You weren’t supposed to come back.”

His hand settled over her mouth again. “Quiet, little bird, don’t want your friends to hear,” he muttered against her neck. “And I’m here because you did something to me. You’re all I think about, dream about. I’ve got to get you out of my system.”

Well, that sort of sucked. Maybe? Well, if it meant he went on his merry way again, fine. Something in the back of her mind was laughing at her. Buffy winced. Had she thought he was going to tell her how much he loved her? Couldn’t live without her? He just wanted to bag his third Slayer and be on his way. Which was fine, she reminded herself, if he gets over you now that’s great. No Spike flambé later. 

Spike had straightened up and was studying her face. “Don’t look like that, luv, I promise I’ll make it good for you.”

She needed to talk to him, but his hand wasn’t budging. With a huff, she bit his palm hard. Spike groaned and his eyes rolled up. “Oh god, Slayer, that’s right.” His whole body shook as he ground his hard-on against her hip. Ugh, duh, of course biting was foreplay. She forgot what she’d been planning on saying.

His free hand caressed her ass, then dropped down and began to hike her skirt up. At last, cold fingers brushed against her bare thigh. He panted as his forehead rested against hers. Goosebumps followed behind his touch as he swept his hand upwards.

“Christ!” he barked when his questing finger met nothing but bare skin.

“Buffy?” Willow’s concerned voice came from the direction of the table.

Spike lifted his hand from her mouth. “Sorry! I dropped something on my foot,” she called.

“Oh, alright.”

“You don’t have knickers on,” Spike said, eyes wide.

Buffy smiled. “I had a dream you were coming.”

“Was I?” he rumbled, his fingers petting her folds. Buffy couldn’t answer, only gasp as he pushed a finger up into her channel. She trembled. He was inside her. It’d been a lifetime. Tears threatened.

When he started to pull back she gasped and clamped her inner muscles, unwilling to let him go. “Shh, shh, pet, Spike’s got you.” His lips hovered over hers as he added a second finger. His thumb swept over her clit and she moaned. “Responsive little thing, aren’t you?”

She couldn’t reply, just feel. Spike’s mouth was oddly tender as he gradually melded his lips to hers. It was barely more than a minute later that he drank in her cry of pleasure as she came around his fingers. She’d missed him so much. He pulled his hand away and stuck his fingers in his mouth with a look of rapture.

His started to undo his belt, but she put her hands over his. “Not here.” She took the sting out her words by dropping her palm down to squeeze his erection through his pants.

“Christ, kitten,” he growled. “Where then?”

Her mom was home, she didn’t have money for a hotel, and she wanted more than a quickie up against a hard surface. “Maybe your car?” Old cars had big backseats that would be perfect for getting busy on. She tamped down the jealousy over who he’d probably already gotten it on with in that backseat. Now was so not the time.

Spike didn’t answer and was breathing raggedly. She realized she was squeezing his dick kind of hard and let go. He whimpered, then seized her by the wrist and tugged.

She shook her head. “Meet me outside. If I just disappear the others will come looking for me.”

He gave a frustrated snort, but let her go.  “Five minutes or I haul you off over my shoulder.”

Buffy squeezed her thighs together as a wave of lust made the walls of her vagina flutter. “Five minutes,” she agreed.

Grabbing several random books, she hurried out of the stacks and dropped them on the counter, causing Willow to jump and Xander to wake up. Giles even stuck his head out of his office. “Everything alright?” he asked. Buffy hoped she didn’t look as flustered as she felt.

“Yeah, all good. Super good here. I just remembered there’s a thing I have to do at home, with my mom. You know, mom type stuff. I’ll see you all tomorrow.” Ignoring the confused looks she got, she rushed off. It wasn’t until she left the library that she realized she’d forgotten her bag, but she didn’t want to go back for it. She could get it from Willow later.

She charged out the front door of the school and collided with a very relieved looking vampire.

Spike stuck his hands in his duster pockets they headed towards the city center. His non-ability to stay quiet meant that after about thirty seconds he launched into a story about trying to buy gas from a station in Mexico. The owner had known he was a vampire, but since he had dollars and not pesos they’d tried to work out a deal. It got crazier from there and involved garlic, Spike threatening to blow up the place with his lighter, and a mangy dog that’d peed on the car’s tire. Buffy couldn’t help but laugh, even after she was certain he’d left the truth far behind, especially because he kept trying to peer down her shirt every time her giggles made her breasts shake.

They walked behind The Magic Shoppe just as several police cars drove away from the front. The rear entrance was marked off with yellow police tape.

Spike stopped in his tracks and tilted his head to the side. “I killed the owner tonight,” he said. It sounded like a challenge. Buffy barely prevented herself from rolling her eyes. It was such a Spike move. Just when things felt free and easy, he’d get the need to remind her he was the big bad.

“I know,” she said and crossed her arms.

He stepped closer to her, almost touching, but not quite. He bent so his lips were right beside her ear. “And you’re still going to let me inside you? Let me push my big, hard cock into your cunt? Let me fuck you until you’re hoarse from screaming my name?”

Oh, god. “Yes,” she whispered. It’d been so long since she’d heard that deep voice of his muttering filthy things to her. She’d told herself she hated it back then, that he was crude and had no right to speak to her like that, but now, as then, it turned her on. Her nipples tightened, making even the thin fabric of her tank top chafe, and desire pooled between her legs.

Spike’s nostrils flared and he chuckled. “Who’d have thought? The Slayer likes a little dirty talk.” He lazily dragged the back of two fingers down her face and was leaning in like he was going to kiss her when a very familiar set of vampire tinglies made her shudder. Buffy panicked. She grabbed the sleeve of Spike’s duster and pulled him into the magic shop and over to where jars of herbs sat on a shelf. Grabbing the one marked ‘sandlewood’, she sent it crashing to the floor. Spike was looking at her like she’d lost her marbles until Angel strode through the back door.

Angel’s face scrunched up. “It stinks in here.”

“Uh, yeah, my bad,” Buffy said, plastering a smile on her face. Angel’s eyes narrowed as they landed on her and then went murderous as they found Spike.

“What are you doing here?” Angel hissed.

Buffy cleared her throat. “I came to investigate, probably like what you’re doing, and I saw him breaking in, so I followed to make sure he didn’t steal anything.” Buffy turned towards Spike, who was rocking back on his heels and looking far too smug for his own good.

“I didn’t ask you,” Angel snapped.

Buffy sputtered.

“Trouble in paradise?” Spike asked with a raised eyebrow. “I was just passing through. Thought I’d take a gander at good ole Sunnyhell and an empty magic shop was too good an opportunity not to pop in and see what was on five-finger discount.”

“The relationship between Buffy and me is none of your business.” Angel took a step forward, but Spike didn’t give an inch.

“Is there one?” he asked, bringing the fingers he’d had inside her a short time ago to his mouth while shooting her a wicked glance.

“You need to leave,” Angel said. “And you know nothing about me and Buffy. We love each other–“

Buffy made an inarticulate squeaky noise that she didn’t think Angel heard, but Spike sure did. His tongue curled up behind his teeth and Buffy hoped that the single jar of spilt sandalwood was going to be enough to cover the scent of her arousal.

“We have love and friendship and a whole bunch of things a soulless creature like yourself will never understand,” Angel spat.

Spike’s face darkened and he put his fists on his hips, but as he started into a tirade about love and friendship that sounded vaguely familiar, Buffy found herself remembering someone that’d given her a very different speech.

**

Rodrigo was the first and as it turned out, the last guy she’d tried to sleep with after Spike. She’d been reluctant to get close to anyone for most of a decade, but had decided she just needed to get back on that horse and stop moping. Spike wouldn’t have wanted that for her.

She’d been in San Diego, in a camp with a cadre of Slayers fighting incursions of demons from the north. Rodrigo, with his dark eyes and thick black hair, had been the polar opposite of Spike in looks, a check in the good column as far as Buffy was concerned. He also had a reputation among the other Slayers as quite the lover and he wasn’t the sort to want a long-term relationship. It’d all sounded great right up until she’d gotten into bed with him and he’d pushed inside her. Buffy had freaked. He wasn’t the right person. She’d roughly kicked him off, telling him to leave or she’d kill him. He’d nodded and grabbed his clothes, departing without a word. Buffy had dry heaved for an hour and then spent the rest of the night staring at the ceiling and wondering what was wrong with her.

The next day Rodrigo had found her. “Are you okay?” he’d asked. “Was it me? Did I do something to upset you?”

Buffy had shaken her head. “No, I just love someone else.”

“And why, cariña, are you not with this person?”

“He’s dead.”

Rodrigo had grabbed her chin. “Ah, I understand. But your heart, it does not. Nuestros corazones,” he’d gestured from her chest to his, “they are stupid. They love with no reason to time or place. It wants only what it wants.” His thumb had caressed her cheek. “Yours wants desperately this man. I pray that he is waiting for you when your work is done. God willing, you will see him again one day.” Buffy had closed her eyes, not wishing to explain that Spike had returned from the dead and not wanted her. “He must have been a very great man to have earned such love from so amazing a woman.”

Buffy had cried for an hour on Rodrigo’s shoulder.

He had died three days later with a spear through his chest.

**

Watching Spike verbally take down Angel, all she could think was that Rodrigo had been right. Her heart was terribly stupid. It really didn’t care that Spike was unsouled and unchipped. She hadn’t been kidding when she said she’d known he’d killed the owner of the magic shop and that she wasn’t going to do a thing about it, though it did make her feel a teensy bit bad that it hadn’t occurred to her to try and warn the lady.

‘Sorry,’ she mouthed at the blood splotch on the floor.

Buffy quirked her lips to the side as she realized that someone had left the store’s radio on. The Supremes again? Really? No peace shall I find until you come back and be mine…

There was a crash from the front of the store.

Goody, that must be the Mayor’s boys. She pulled out her stake. “Can you two can it for a minute? It’s time for a little ass-kicking.” Buffy ran to the front of the store and out into the street, Spike hot on her heels. Gleefully, she launched herself into the fight. Spike didn’t hesitate, fists flying as he crashed into the nearest vamp. She caught sight of a confused Angel, standing on the sidewalk and looking unsure about what to do next. She rolled her eyes and kicked one of her assailants towards Spike, who caught him by the shoulder and rammed a stake through the idiot’s back.

Buffy was having more fun then she had any right to. She and Spike just did the whole ‘fight together’ thing really well. That vamp at her mom’s house hadn’t been a one off. Eventually, Angel joined in, glowering the whole time. She ignored him and had a ball. Spike was obviously having a blast as well, even managing to work in a pinch on her bottom when they were forced back to back at one point. Everything inside her was singing. For two decades she’d felt like no one had matched her or been able to keep up. Her left hand had been missing.

It was almost scary how easily Spike slipped back into that empty hole in her life.

When the last minions had fled or were dusted, Angel’s form loomed over her. Spike immediately stepped closer to her side. “It’s time for you to go,” he said to Spike. “There’s nothing for you here.”

“Right, sure. Whatever you bloody well say, grandpa.” Spike’s eyes twinkled as they briefly met hers. “I’ll get my car and be off.”

“And Drusilla?” Angel asked.

“She sat this trip out,” Spike called over his shoulder as he walked away.

Angel put his hand on Buffy’s shoulder. “You should be at home in bed,” he said, probably not realizing what a pretentious ass he sounded like.

Buffy sighed. “I’m going now.”

“I’ll walk you.”

“No, I’m good. Really. I think we scared off all the baddies for right now. You can go home or check out the shop more, or whatever.” Buffy pulled herself out of his grip and strode away without looking back. At least the jerk didn’t try to follow her.

Her heart was in her throat, because surely Spike hadn’t really left. She nearly screamed when the DeSoto screeched its tires beside her. Spike turned the behemoth right in front of her and parked in an alley. He was out of the car in a second and pulling open the door to the backseat. She didn’t hesitate, eagerly scooting in and laying down on her back. The heavy door thumped closed and Spike was on top of her, his weight pinning her against the leather seat.

His mouth claimed hers and he kissed her like he was starving for it. “Not enough,” she panted against his lips. Spike growled and reached between their bodies. The sound of his belt unbuckling and zipper opening were loud in the otherwise silent car. He surged forward and impaled her with the entirety of his cock in a single thrust.

He froze. His mouth was open like he was going to say something but no words came out. Buffy couldn’t do anything but gape as well. She was complete. The decades of loneliness fell away into dust. She was where she belonged.  

At last she was whole.

Chapter Text

I'm gonna keep sighin' baby for you

                -The Supremes, “Come See About Me”

****

Buffy was afraid to move in case this was dream and she’d wake back up to endless days of bad food, dust, fighting and loneliness.

Spike shifted and groaned. He buried his face against her neck and began to rock his hips. She wrapped her arms around him, under his coat, clinging to him. Her body rose to meet his and every time he slid out she grasped at him with her inner muscles, not wanting him to go.

It was so overwhelming just being with him that she wasn’t sure she’d even been able to get off. He felt wonderful–perfect–inside her, but emotionally she was such a mess from twenty very long years of doing without that she could barely focus on anything besides the absolute thrill of Spike being in her arms.

Abruptly, he pushed himself up to he could gaze down at her. His eyes were intense. Quicker than she would have thought possible he wiggled out of his duster and button down and tossed them into the front seat. His shirt followed once she pulled at the hem.

Her memory hadn’t done him justice. Panting, she ran her hands over him and marveled as his muscles rippled under her fingertips. Like a cat, he arched into her touch, obviously enjoying her hands on his body. He quickened the pace of his thrusts and Buffy gasped. Spike’s eyes dropped to her breasts and he gave a frustrated growl. She started to take off her tank top, but yelped as Spike’s hand closed around her wrist. He positioned her hands over her head before roughly pinching one of her nipples through the fabric of her top.

Her pussy clamped down hard and she moaned. Okay, maybe she totally could get off…

Spike growled again and there was a ripping noise as he shredded her shirt from her body. Her skirt went the same way. Eyes hooded, he watched her breasts sway as he screwed her. His fingers lightly circled one nipple then the other. They were already pebbled when he bent and laved one with his tongue, making her cry out. Her hands flew to his shoulders and her nails dug in. He growled deep in his chest. “My Slayer,” he rumbled against her breast.

Buffy opened mouth, almost protesting. First it was out of reflex, but then because she still needed him to leave. Only she couldn’t make herself do it. The words died on her tongue. Instead she said what her stupid heart wanted her to as her hand caressed his face. “My vampire.”

Spike’s hips stilled and he let go of her nipple as he looked up at her in seeming shock. She cupped his cheek with her hand. He nuzzled into it and his features slowly changed to those of the demon. She was surprised. Not once had Spike ever done so while they’d…

Guilt clawed at her chest. Of course he wouldn’t have. She would have kicked him in the head and run a mile.

And, oh wow, she’d been missing out. Her Slayer senses crackled with white hot lightening at having such a powerful vampire inside her. He pulled his hips back and plunged his cock into her hard, making her buck and moan.

“You like that, Slayer?” he lisped around his fangs.

Oh, god. “Yes!”

He did it again and she let her head fall back, exposing her throat to him. Accepting the invitation, he leaned over and ran his tongue over her pulse point while he fucked her hard and fast. She dug her heels into his ass as she mewled and gasped. Her belly was clenching and it was getting hard to breathe.

“Say it,” he muttered against her skin.

“Bite me.”

He didn’t and she whined when, instead, he raised his head to study her face. It was getting difficult for her to keep her eyes open as a tidal wave of pleasure loomed just over the horizon.

Without warning, Spike snarled and lunged forward, but his fangs sank into the top of her breast instead of her neck. There was pain for an instant before a deep rush of bliss blazed its way from the bite straight through her body to her clit. The world exploded. She was pretty sure she screamed as she came. Her body went rigid and seemed to levitate off the car’s seat. The rolling thunder of her first climax had hardly left her before a second one hit.

Then a third.

Spike was grunting as he furiously rutted between her thighs. There was blood on his lips as his mouth crashed back into hers. His fangs were gone and she readily drank down his moans of pleasure when his peak hit. Inside her his cock jerked and flooded her with his semen. The cool rush was at once alien and achingly familiar.

She cradled him against her as he gently lapped at the wound on her chest. She knew they weren’t near done.

“You let me bite you,” he said in wonder.

“I did,” she whispered, running a hand through his hair. His cock was already stiff inside her again. With a grunt, he rolled them over so she was riding him. “And I’m just getting started.”

****

They did everything as Spike took her over and over. He spent a long time worshiping her pussy with his tongue and she returned the favor, surprising him by knowing exactly how he liked it. There were some things you just didn’t forget.

Spike had her legs on his shoulders and was frantically pounding into her, his arms braced on either side of her while she rubbed her clit and played with her breasts. He was in gameface again, growling slightly as he neared his climax. She’d already come three times this round and decided she didn’t need a fourth. Instead she ran her fingers lightly over the bumps and ridges of his vampiric features. He really liked that, she’d found, and was both amazed that there were still things she could learn about his body and ashamed that she hadn’t been willing to do this with him all those years ago.

Her chest was dotted with vampire bites since she’d begged him to sink his fangs in again and again. He’d been more than happy to indulge her.

With a gasp that might have been her name, he came again, slamming himself impossibly deep inside her. When he was done he lowered her legs so they were more comfortably wrapped around his waist and then collapsed forward so his head was resting on her breasts. His human mask slipped back into place.

“Could stay like this forever,” he whispered.

Her heart clenched. “But you can’t. You have to leave.”

“Bloody hell, Slayer, I’m still inside you and you’re already kicking me to the curb.” He started to push away from her but she clamped her arms and legs around him until he sagged against her again.

“For tonight, and just for tonight, I could ignore that you came into my town and killed someone, but how long do you truly believe I could turn a blind eye?”

He didn’t say anything but his hands trembled as they petted her.

“After tonight, no free pass. I can’t. I’m still the Slayer and you’re still the big bad.” She squeezed her eyes closed. “What we’ve been doing…doesn’t change that.”

“I know,” he said hoarsely.

“And I’m not…you can’t just show up whenever you feel like and expect a Slayer booty call.”

He chuckled but there was no mirth to it. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“Depending on the day I might kill you as soon as look at you.”

“Now, Slayer–“

“Stay away, Spike. Promise me you’ll stay away.”

He was silent for long minutes.

“No, I won’t swear to it.”

“You have to.”

“You don’t need to protect me from you.”

“Yes, I do. I really, really do.”

Spike pushed up and studied her face for what felt like forever. At last he seemed to come to a decision. “Right, know when I’m not wanted. I’ll take you home and be on my merry way then, but no sodding promises. If I feel like coming back here, then I’m coming back.”

He kissed her once more and, for the first time in hours, pulled his cock from her body. The loss was almost more than she could stand. She bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from begging him to stay.

“Just stay away,” she said one more time as Spike pulled his jeans on. He didn’t reply. She sat up and winced at the rush of stickiness from inside her. Sighing, he handed her a wad of napkins pulled from the floorboard, and when she held up her ruined clothes he handed her his red shirt.

“Keep it,” he said, his voice a hoarse rumble, as she put it on and did up the buttons.

****

Spike turned the car’s radio off and drove her home in silence. He didn’t look at her, but she sat curled up against him the whole time and he kept his arm locked tight around her, steering with his knee when he needed to shift.

He parked outside her house and it was few minutes before either of them could bear to move. At last she scooted over and he got out and walked around to open the door for her. When she stood, he slung his duster over her shoulders. His thoughtfulness touched her more than she could say.

Thinking she was being sneaky, she led them to the rear of the house to enter through the kitchen door. Only her mother, wearing her bathrobe over her pajamas, was standing at the stove, stirring something in a pan. Joyce jumped in surprise, but then her eyes narrowed as they darted between Buffy and Spike. There was no hiding what they’d been doing.

“Hi,” Buffy said weakly. “Spike will be leaving in just a minute.” She had his hand clutched in hers and the front of the duster was hanging open. Her mom gave a resigned sigh when she caught sight of her daughter wearing nothing under it but Spike’s shirt.

Wanting a little privacy, Buffy led Spike to the foot of the stairs. She shrugged off his duster and handed it to him. Immediately he pulled it on.

“Buffy–“ he began.

She put her finger to his lips.

She wanted to tell him she loved him so badly the words felt like physical things that were trying to crawl up and out of her throat. With a herculean effort, she swallowed them back down. “I can’t,” she croaked out instead. “Good-bye, Spike.”

He shuddered as he tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. With a kiss to her forehead, he left her standing there. Buffy started up the stairs, but halted when she heard her mother’s voice: “Spike, a word with you.”

“Ah, yes?” He sounded nervous. Not that she blamed him, her mom could be scary.

“Where are my daughter’s clothes?”

“Er…they…um…they…oh, sodding hell, they got ripped.”

“Language.”

“Sorry.”

Buffy smiled, he did sound contrite.

“And by what, exactly, did they get ripped?”

She could imagine Spike’s look of sheer panic. “Well, see there was this–“

“The truth, please.”

“Are you going to kill me?”

“I left my ax in my other bathrobe.”

“Right, fine! I ripped them.”

“I see.” Her mom didn’t exactly sound out for blood. “And can I ask what your intentions with my daughter are?”

Spike made a sad, small sound. “I’m going to do what she asked and leave. I don’t know where I’m headed yet. Just away. Thought of trying things again with my ex, but now…no, I can’t. I’ll just see what’s out there, I guess.”

“Oh, I-I see. Wait, hang on just a minute.”

“Joyce?”

“Here, take this with you, I hope you don’t mind that it’s just cocoa.”

“Not at all, uh…do you have any of those little marshmallows?” Spike asked, more sadness in his voice than Buffy could stand. She almost ran down the stairs and stopped him. She could tackle him, hold him close, tell him they’d figure something out. Her fingers twitched, but then the screen door banged shut and a minute later there was the sound of a car driving away.

Her heart was screaming. Her stupid heart that didn’t understand why she wasn’t still wrapped up in his arms and didn’t care that he was a monster.

Buffy trudged upstairs, unsure of how she felt. He was gone. At least it didn’t sound like he was heading back to Dru, but then there was a whole sea of girls out there who would be less complicated for him to fall in love with instead of her.

That’s what she wanted for him, right? Her stomach twisted and she fought the intense desire to claw the non-existent girl’s eyes out. 

There was so much she still had to do that night, but she needed a shower and a good cry before she could focus on writing Giles a letter about Glory.

She’d been so absorbed in her thoughts that it wasn’t until she’d stepped into her room that she realized she wasn’t alone. With a muffled cry, she grabbed the first thing at hand, poor Mr. Gordo, and launched him at the intruder. The stuffed pig hit Angel square in the face before falling to the floor. “What the hell are you doing in my room?” she hissed.

“I wanted to make sure you’d gotten home okay,” he muttered, gaze narrowing and eyes hardening as he looked her up and down. His nose twitched and a disgusted look passed over his face before he schooled his features back into their usual bland arrangement. “I see I shouldn’t have bothered.”

“No, you really shouldn’t have.” Buffy ran over her new memories, trying to see if there was one reason Angel should be lurking in her bedroom in the middle of the night. There wasn’t. He had an invite to the house because there were occasional scoobie meetings there, but anything romantic between them had withered on the vine.

Angel sat down hard on her bed. “What the hell is going on? How could you do…that, with Spike?” Angel gave her a tortured look.

Something way down deep in her subconscious squirmed at his censure, but in the next moment it turned to anger. “Because I wanted to? Like, duh.”

“He’s a soulless demon. Evil. He could have bitten you.”

“Like this?” she spat, pulling aside the front of the red button down just enough for a few of the fang marks on her upper chest to be revealed. Angel’s eyes went wide. “I’ve got plenty more, but not in places you’re going to see.”

He sputtered.

She tugged the shirt straight. “I’m not a little girl, Angel. And I’m most certainly not your girl. I’m sorry that you were made to believe I was some kind of special prize you’d get if you were a good boy, but it’s not going to work like that.”

“You let him?” Angel asked in a weak voice. “I can’t…you let him do that to you?”

“What? Are you listening to me? And let him? I begged him to.” She rolled her eyes. “News flash, I like getting off.”

Angel almost fell off her bed. “Buffy?” He was looking at her like she’d started speaking Swahili.

“Angel–“ She put the heel of her palm against her forehead. “Look, I know you try to do your best with the world savage, but I really don’t think you need to be doing it here in Sunnydale. Truthfully, are you ever going to trust me again after this?” Angel looked down at the floor. Buffy walked to where Mr. Gordo had tumbled and rescued him from the rug, hugging him close. “People out there need a champion. Go to LA. That slaver’s ring I found was just the tip of the iceberg, that place needs someone to help, uh, those that can’t help themselves. I’ve had the name Doyle dancing around in my head during some of my more recent Slayer dreams. I think he’s part demon. Go look him up. He might be reluctant, but in the end he can help you.”

Angel’s lips twisted. “Why should I listen–“

“Oh, please,” she interrupted. “Just because I boinked someone you don’t like doesn’t mean I turned in my Slayer card. I’m still the chosen one over here–“

“You sure?” Angel thundered, jumping to his feet. “Are you sure when you let him stick his dick in you that it didn’t leave more behind than just his jizz? A little evil, perhaps?

Buffy put her hands up. “Wow. I’m going with no and holy that was a lot of stuff I never wanted to hear you say. It’s not like I forced you to show up in my bedroom so you could get a good sniff of post-sex Buffy, you were the one who invaded my privacy. If you don’t like what you found, that’s just too damn bad.” She put her hand on her hips. “Let me make this super clear: go away. From my room, my life, and Sunnydale. I don’t need or want you.” He flinched. “And that should be obvious, but, honestly, you’re kind of dense. And part of me is sorry we aren’t star-crossed lovers that’ll get a perfect shining happily ever after…” She took a deep breath. “You know what, I’m done.” She pointed to the window. “Leave tonight, or tomorrow at the latest. It’s not going to be pretty if I see you after that.”

“Want me out of the way of you and your lover?” Angel spat. At least he moved towards the window.

Sadness settled over her like a mantle. “Spike’s already left to I don’t know where.” She shrugged. “I don’t really want either of you here.” Though it was for very different reasons. “Please go. Good-bye, Angel.”

He held his hand out towards her for a second, but she crossed her arms over her stomach and looked away. With a sigh, Angel climbed through the window and left. She slammed the sash closed. That had to be some kind of record, getting two vampires you’d slept with to leave town in the same night. Go her.

Buffy closed the curtains and carefully unbuttoned Spike’s shirt. Ruefully, she looked down at her bare front. It was a map of bruises and bite marks. She traced her fingers over the injuries, recalling how each one had ended up where it had. Most of them anyway, a few she had no idea about. Slipping the shirt from her shoulders she wadded it up and stuck it under her pillow. It’d smell like him for a while.

She showered, slightly alarmed at how sore between the legs she was, and dressed in her favorite PJs before sitting cross-legged on her bed with her school notebook. She’d managed to write: ‘Dear Giles’ before her mother knocked on her door and came in. She sat next Buffy on the bed.

“I just wanted to make sure you were doing okay,” her mom said.

Buffy slumped. “Sorry.” She dropped her pen and reached out to cover her mom’s hand with her own where it rested on the bed. “I really didn’t mean for you to see that.”

Her mom shook her head and smiled wryly. “That I don’t doubt.” She paused and blushed.

“What?” Buffy said, giggling.

“Did he…um…?”

Buffy raised her eyebrows. This should be good.

Her mom dropped her voice low. “Did he really rip your clothes off?”

“Yeah.” Buffy squeezed her eyes shut. This was the most embarrassing thing, ever. She hoped her mom didn’t want any more show and tell details.

Joyce patted her leg. “Well I hope you had a good time.” She said it in the same tone she used when Buffy came home from a mall trip with Willow. “Try to get some sleep.”

Buffy cracked an eye open. “Uh, thanks.” She paused. “And thank you for being understanding, and, Mom, I love you.”

“I love you too, dear, but let’s not stretch to understanding just yet. Understanding is currently living at the bottom of a wine bottle.”

“Ah.” Buffy nodded. “Don’t let me come between you and understanding then.”

Joyce sighed, shook her head, and closed Buffy’s door.

Once the latch clicked, Buffy reached under her pillow and tugged the sleeve of Spike’s shirt out. She draped it over her knee before returning to work on her letter to Giles.

****

Her Watcher wasn’t in his office, but her missing backpack was. Buffy picked it up and slung it over her shoulder, though she didn’t think she’d be going to class that day. Principal Flutie might want to have another one of his ‘talks’ with her about that if she couldn’t come up with a decent excuse.

Buffy shuffled through the envelopes in her hand. She’d started with the one about Glory and it had just snowballed from there. It was insurance in case she messed things up more than she may have already.

As she stood fidgeting in the doorway of the office, a hint of green on a shelf caught her attention. Frowning, Buffy pushed a stack of books out of the way and, after putting the envelopes down on Giles’ desk, pulled down a horribly familiar green crystal. She was tempted to smash it, but her Watcher could probably just get another one, and quartz was really difficult to break anyway.

The sheer amount of anger roiling through her as she gazed at its surface–and no deeper–took her breath away. The betrayal was a hot, angry itch across her skin. Sure, he’d been sorry, and sorry for abandoning her, and for trying to take Spike away from her, and for not seeing how alone she was. That’d been their last conversation: a terse phone call in which they both said little. Easy international communication had been one of the first things to be lost.

“Buffy?” Giles voice was soft behind her. She turned, the crystal still in her hands. For a moment he appeared faintly alarmed, but then his face closed off. “Wherever did you find that?”

“Don’t start,” she said. “I know what it is and why you have it.”

Giles’ face fell. “How could you possibly have any idea?”

“I do. Let’s leave it at that.” She set the crystal down on the desk and moved so that she wasn’t blocking the door. “We need to talk. Right now, I have a window on some future stuff that might happen, but it’s going to close soon and tomorrow I’m going to be one confused Slayer.” She wondered what her younger-self was going to make of the Spike sexathon. She had the feeling it might not be a problem.

“Yes, we do need to talk.” Giles shut the door to his office. “I had an irate Angel banging down my door in the wee hours of the morning saying that he was leaving town and that I needed to get a handle on my Slayer since, and I quote, ‘she is a harlot of the first degree, rutting like a wild animal with filth.’ The rest of what he said made even less sense.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. Typical.

“I assured him that you would perform your duties with the same alacrity as always, and then I showed him the door.” Giles looked over the top of his glasses at her. “Do I in any way need to know what he was referring to?”

“Big no.”

“I thought as much. May I request reassurance that your slaying will not be impacted?”

“The guy’s no longer in town, and he shouldn’t return.”

“I see.” Giles sat in his chair with a weary sigh. His eyes fell on the envelopes. Brow furrowed, he picked them up. “For When Dawn Shows Up, For When You Need to Know About the Initiative…” He trailed off and looked at her. “The Gem of Amara? That’s a vampire fairy tale.”

“Not so much,” Buffy said with a sigh. She’d put as much as she could remember about the location and asked him to destroy it if he ever got his hands on it instead of sending it to Angel, because while Angel had smashed it the first time, there was no guarantee he’d do so again. “The one marked Willow you should read immediately, the others you should put away until the things I mention on the front happen. Who knows? I could be all kinds of wrong.”

Giles’ face went pale. “If I Die,” he murmured. Buffy’s mouth went dry. In that letter she begged Giles not to let her be resurrected if the unthinkable should happen again. She was going to try and stop herself from dying, but right now nothing at all seemed certain. She’d had to rip up and throw away her first version because she’d gotten teary eyed thinking that at least she’d slept with Spike before she’d died this time and had ended up with water splotches on the page.

Buffy picked up the crystal again. “Can we just…not do this?” She asked.

Giles removed his glasses with a sigh and deposited them on his desk. “It’s not so simple.”

“Yes, it is. Tell the council you’re still running the test then don’t inject me. Simple.” She closed her eyes briefly. “Please, Giles, don’t do this to me. Please.”

“Oh, my dear girl.” He stumbled to his feet and hugged her. It startled her enough that it took a second for her to hug him back. “I promise, never.” He sounded relieved, as if a huge burden had been lifted from him.

“Thank you,” she whispered as he let her go.

“I probably also don’t need to know how you have foreknowledge of the crucimentum or these events, do I?” He looked almost sad.

Buffy shook her head. “Also with the big no. I’m just hoping you trust me enough to believe me.”

Giles put a hand on her shoulder. “I do.”

She took a deep breath. Bits and pieces of her heart were mending, some parts she hadn’t even known were broken. She’d missed her Watcher. Not the broken man that’d never been right again after she’d dove off Glory’s tour, but this one, who still saw hope in her. Buffy settled her hand over his. “I need…do you think you could come up with an excuse so I can go spend the day with my mom at the gallery? I don’t think I’m going to be able to concentrate much on classes today.”

The calculating look he gave her made her doubt herself for a moment, but then it softened. “Yes, run along. I’ll call the office and your mum to let her know you’re on the way.”

“Thanks, again.”

Giles nodded and Buffy grabbed her bag and left, walking fast through the streets of Sunnydale. They were both alien relics of her past and the normal everyday of her present. By the time she reached the gallery she felt all out of sorts. The feeling wasn’t helped by the fact her mom was waiting to pounce the instant she entered.

“Giles called, he said you weren’t feeling well.” Joyce put her hands on her hips and looked Buffy up and down. “You’re pregnant aren’t you? I just knew it–“

“Whoa,” Buffy interrupted. “Mom, that was literally last night. Not pregnant. Plus, vampire, so not really with the possibility on that one.”

Her mom’s worried frown disappeared. “Sorry, just…I’m still processing my baby growing up.”

Buffy smiled sadly. “That’s okay.” She shrugged. “For the record as a Slayer I’m probably never going to…” she trailed off as her chest tightened with emotion. Never was such a very long time.

“Oh, Buffy,” her mother sighed. “I had no idea that was something you even worried over. You’re so young.”

“Doesn’t feel like it today,” Buffy said ruefully.

Her mother raised an eyebrow. “And whose fault is that?”

Buffy giggled and her mom joined in.

“What are you doing here?” Joyce asked after the laughter petered out.

“I wanted to spend a day with my mom, talking about everything and nothing.”

Her mom lit up. “Well, in that case, follow me, we can unpack and discuss art, history…maybe universities?”

Buffy groaned. “As long it’s not babies and boys.”

“Deal.”

****

Buffy rolled her eyes. Still with the end-of-times battle.

A radio on her hip that hadn’t been there before crackled to life. “Buf-“ a voice she thought she recognized said before being cut off as the world froze.

Whistler was standing by the table and glaring at her.

“What?” she said, striding over and slapping her hand down on the table so the words ‘Year Four’ appeared.

“Toots, you need to rethink your priorities.”

“Whatever.”

“Don’t whatever me, you might have changed quite a bit that last trip, but you messed up something big.”

“Oh no, did Bennifer not get together?” She put her hands on her hips and glared at the pictures. They were kind of confusing because things were starting to deviate enough from what she remembered that some things she expected to see weren’t there at all. “Where’s Riley?” she asked.

“That’s the thing you messed up.”

“Huh?” She looked up at Whistler, who was standing with his arms crossed and, boy, did he look pissed. “I messed up Riley?”

Whistler sighed. “The relationship, you messed up the relationship.”

“I did?”

“You banged your vampire into the ground and completely confused the version of you that doesn’t understand why she did that. She was so messed up that Riley didn’t even register as a possibility.”

Not a big loss.

“Spike came back?” Her voice was ridiculously breathless to her own ears.

“On schedule, got chipped, showed up on Giles’ doorstep and you demanded he be let in immediately. You were so happy to see him your Watcher thought Spike had learned to thrall.”

“Did he get the Gem?”

Whistler looked cagy. “It wasn’t there and he didn’t try to make a meal of a kid at a frat party, so you hadn’t seen him up to that point.” With a flick of his wrist, Whistler sent a picture to the middle of the table. It was Thanksgiving dinner as she remembered it, with Spike tied to the chair, only he had a plate of food in front of him and she had a bandage around her wrist. She was oddly impressed with herself for having fed him, though, geeze, obvious much? They were both sort of listing towards each other in their chairs.

“Did Angel show?”

“Nah, Doyle never had that vision.”

“Mmm,” she hemmed, glad to mark yet one more betrayal of her trust off the list. 

With a smile, she snagged another photo. It showed her passionately kissing Spike as he lay chained in Giles’ tub. She couldn’t wait to remember that.

“At least you’re not doing him,” Whistler sniffed.

“No?” Her opinion of her younger self dropped a few points.

“It’s just all so confusing for you and being you…you’re trying to work it out in your own head before jumping him again. Did make the incident with the Gentlemen a lot easier since he was fighting by your side.” Whistler seemed to be offering that tid-bit as an olive branch.  She found a video of her and Spike fighting the creepy minions of the Gentlemen in the clock tower. How cool was that?

“Okay, um, what about Faith? Does the body swap still happen?”

Whistler shuffled his feet. “Well, no.”

“Can we not play games? I’m trying to do what you want me to here instead of insisting I go back to when the chained-up making out happens and turn it into chained up boinking.”

“You really are a bitch, you know that?”

“Bite me.”

“God no, I know what else has been doing that.” He shuddered and Buffy barely restrained herself from strangling him. “Faith and you are still pals. No poisoned Angel you needed to save, and you were a lot more sympathetic over her accidently stabbing that guy.”

“I was?”

“You had wild sex with the undead after admitting you knew he killed someone, and you offed that zookeeper guy without a backwards glance. The new you you’re creating doesn’t get down with moral black and whites.”

Buffy elevated her younger self to star status. “So where’d Faith end up?”

“After helping you whack the demon-Mayor at graduation she ended up In Cleveland with some lamebrain Watcher she runs roughshod over.”

“Cool, good for her.”

“I guess.” Whistler took his hat off and tapped it against his leg. “Look, sweetheart, you can unscrew this pooch. Go back and fix things up with Riley.”

“Why would I want to do that?” She was sorting through the photos and videos, looking for anything that stuck out at her.

“Because you do!” His indignant tone made Buffy look up sharply at the little man. Something about the guy got on her nerves.

“No, I really don’t.” Suddenly a tingle ran up her arm, distracting her. She had her finger on a picture of Jonathan crooning into the microphone during the Superstar spell. Whistler was still talking, but she tuned him out as she stared at the picture. Jonathan, who’d been sweet but always felt ignored. He’d given her the ‘thank you’ parasol on prom night, but then he’d become her enemy and finally his blood had been instrumental to the First… “We did something wrong!” she blurted.

“What?”

“With the spell, the one Jonathan did.” She tapped the picture to make it bigger. “Can I stop him from casting it in the first place?”

Whistler rubbed his forehead. “You weren’t listening to me at all, were you? And no, you probably can’t. Do you have any ideas as to where he is that day?”

“Not a one, but there has to be a way to fix this. He became important to the release of evil into the world and...I think I’m responsible.”

Reluctantly, Whistler nodded. Sounding like he rather be stabbing himself in the eyeball, he quickly outlined a way to end the spell that would leave Jonathan free of any residual effects. It sounded easy enough, except for the exactly at dawn part. Dumb magic.

“Does Spike still live in his crypt?” she asked.

“Terrific, you planning another tryst?”

“Um, not really? I just think I’ll need his help.”

“Yeah, he does, but you probably won’t have to go looking for him.”

“Thanks.”

“If you see Riley, you should–“

“Thanks,” she reiterated more forcefully. If Whistler was so into Riley, he should go mack on the guy, geeze.

Looking around, the only sure death she saw was a demon with a huge axe and a face that resembled a burn victim’s. The hulking demon had the blade raised two handed over his head for a downward swing.

Pouting, Buffy positioned herself so she’d be split like so much kindling.

There was a burst of static from the radio as the world started up again. “–fy? Where are–“ She had just enough time to think it sounded like her Watcher before the axe blade fell. Ow, fuck, that hurt, hurt, hur…

Chapter Text

 

I told you, you could always count on me darling

                -Diana Ross, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

 

****

Buffy blinked and found herself sitting in the Bronze at a table. Xander and Anya were chatting together on the other side, and Tara and Willow were dancing. She took a deep breath and braced herself as the memories hit. Seriously? Did it have to hurt quite so much?

The pain left her and she found herself gripping the edge of the table with white knuckles.

Anya was frowning. “Are you okay?”

“I think so?” Buffy said.

“Good, because Jonathan’s supposed to be here tonight and I would be really upset if we had to miss him because you needed to go to the hospital.”

Buffy smiled weakly. “No, no, all good.” Xander was still eyeing her so she gave him a thumbs-up and he visibly relaxed.

Buffy sorted through the new memories. Taking down the Mayor had been essentially the same and poor Principal Flutie had indeed been eaten. Drat. The summer had been boring as usual, especially because Willow had spent a month in England studying with the Devon coven. She’d come back terribly excited and with a much firmer grasp on magical boundaries. Starting university had been overwhelming, but this time Willow had been her dorm mate from the start. They were much closer friends than the first time around and Buffy was surprised about how right it felt and how much of a difference it made in her life to have someone she could share things with. Willow hadn’t even hesitated to tell her about Tara.

Buffy’s own love life had improved, in her opinion. She hid her smile behind a sip of her drink as she replayed the new memory of her telling Parker he was a loser that could stick it where the sun didn’t shine. As if she’d sleep with that waste of space after having been with Spike.

She had still dropped books on Riley but there’s been nothing after that. Whistler had been right, none of the boys in school even made so much as a ping on her radar. And boy, had she spent a lot of time missing Spike. Buffy had been angry at herself over it, because what exactly was she missing? He was a murdering demon guy that murdered, she’d tell herself while frantically working her dildo between her thighs.

When she’d opened the door on Thanksgiving to find him, it’d felt like a miracle. And whoa, the tub smootching had been hot. Especially because it’d been behind her Watcher’s back.

There’d been no ‘My Will Be Done’ spell, just lots of ice cream and talking between her and Willow. That’d been when she’d admitted to Willow that she’d had sex with Spike, which had really gotten her friend’s mind of Oz for a while. Willow had spent the next week giving Spike side-eye, but then had ceased to worry about it. She’d even told Buffy what she did with who didn’t matter, so long as there were exclusive best friend details in the offering.

Spike hadn’t been quite the jerk she remembered him being, either. He was around a whole lot more than old her remembered and he helped a lot, especially with fighting. They’d figured out the fact that he could hit demons a lot sooner and he’d been gleefully accompanying her on patrols. It was nice to have him there, even if she felt confused at the same time.

And boy howdy, was she confused. The inside of her head was the brain equivalent of a Jackson Pollock painting–thanks art history class–and she never knew what to do around Spike, which meant sometimes she was nice and sometimes she wasn’t and the sum total was that she hadn’t slept with him again, though not for a lack of wanting to.

Buffy was surprised she hadn’t combusted yet. Having a roommate meant she couldn’t masturbate to take the edge off, which further meant there were nights she spent drooling over Spike like he was cheesecake and she was on a crash diet.

The confusion hadn’t abated over time, exactly, but as Spike proved himself an asset again and again, and a fun to be around if frequently annoying asset, as well as an asset with a nice ass…

Buffy shook her head to clear it. She had a job to do. Luckily, while she found herself excited to see Jonathan perform, she found that she could completely remember the events of the first superstar spell, and to a degree that seemed to mute the effects of the current one. Sitting and having coffee with him earlier in the day had sure been different. He’d mostly lectured her about being too close to a vampire, and even without her twenty-years-of-hell memories and under the effects of the spell, she’d still taken everything Jonathan said with a grain of salt. Spike was no one’s business but hers.

Also it was crazy that there was no Riley that’d slept with Faith in Buffy’s body. The old hurts felt distant, as if they’d happened to someone else. Here and now Riley was nobody and Faith was her sister-Slayer she talked to at least once a week. Cleveland was pretty boring.

Excusing herself from the table, Buffy moved through the crowd until she could tap Willow on the shoulder. “We need to talk,” she said, indicating herself, Willow, and Tara. Sharing worried glances, they followed Buffy to the far corner of the upper level, where it was possible to talk without being overheard.

“What’s wrong?” Willow asked. “I think Jonathan’s going to be here soon.” She craned her neck towards the stage.

“Actually, that’s the problem,” Buffy said with a sigh.

Both Willow and Tara scrunched up their noses.

“We’re all under a spell and it’s making this monster thing appear that attacks people.” Buffy was incredibly anxious about explaining things because of the strength of the superstar spell. Plus, seeing Tara live and in person was making it hard to concentrate. She wanted to hug her friend and cry on her shoulder, but that’d probably lead to Tara figuring out the truth. She always was smart about things like that, but now so wasn’t the time to have a time travel explanation sesh.

“That’s not good,” Tara said. Her head was swiveling towards the stage as well.

Buffy struggled to remain calm. “The problem is, Jonathan is involved.”

Both Willow and Tara gasped.

“Is he in danger?” Willow asked. “We have to tell him, he’ll be able to fix it, like with the vamp nest.”

Here went nothing. “We can’t tell him,” Buffy whispered. “Because he’s the one that cast the spell.” The witches immediately looked incredibly uncomfortable. “Don’t try to figure it out,” Buffy said. “You’re just going to have to trust me. I know.” She swallowed past a lump in her throat. The spell was tugging hard on her mind. “I know that usually we’d go to him with this kind of thing, but we can’t. This time we have to save him.”

Tara and Willow mulled that over.

“What do we have to do?” Tara asked after a moment. Buffy counted her blessings that her friends hadn’t flat out refused her.

Buffy grabbed a napkin from a nearby empty table and wrote out a list of ingredients. “Can you guys get this stuff? Giles should have it. Don’t tell him what it’s for. The fewer people who know the safer it is. Then we need to meet a little before dawn near his house.”

“I know just the spot,” Willow said, giving Buffy directions.

“What are you going to do?” Tara asked.

“Recruit some muscle,” Buffy replied.

“Spike,” Willow and Tara said in unison.

“Yeah, alright, Spike,” she conceded. Jonathan came on stage and Buffy gave into the spell. “After Jonathan sings, of course.” Feeling giddy, she rushed with her friends back to the main floor to watch her hero croon his way through his first number.

***

Buffy slipped out of the propped open back door of the Bronze. She walked down the steps and stopped to gather her thoughts and clear her mind now that Jonathan was taking a break from the stage. The night air was humid, but it still felt cool after the sweltering heat of the Bronze. Buffy wiped her brow before settling her hands on her hips and arching her back in a cat-like stretch.

“Hello, luv,” rumbled a voice.

Buffy yelped and spun. She hadn’t even felt him, or rather she had but somehow dismissed it? Good ol’ comfortable Spike. He was leaning against the brick wall of the alley, a lit cigarette dangling from his lips, smirking at her discomfort. Emotions welled up, some from her old memories and some from the new ones, all of them just too much. She wasn’t prepared to see him and it was making her head woozy. Her feet stumbled and the next thing she knew strong hands were supporting her.

“You doing alright there, Slayer?” he asked as her heart rate sky rocketed from his close proximity.

“Maybe? It was kind of hot in there.” She forced out a laugh.

Spike’s hands slowly left her and she looked up into his face. He tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear. The old memories faltered as those of the new Buffy surged. The confused knot of feelings in her chest tugged at her sanity. She was happy he was there, but as always never knew exactly what to do or say. Spike looked just as hesitant and unsure as her. Which wasn’t surprising. He never knew where he stood with her, if she was going to push him away and tell him he needed to get a life and stay away from her because he was what she was supposed to kill, or if he’d be included in plans to stop whatever the latest hellmouthy problem was, or if she’d leap into his arms and make-out with him until they both could barely form a sentence.

He was walking on eggshells around her because she didn’t have her head on straight and it’d kept them from having sex. Though to be honest, even her younger self was starting to admit that it was inevitable. Willow said she should be sure first because otherwise it wasn’t fair to either her or Spike. Faith didn’t see a problem with them being together at all when Buffy talked with her on the phone, but Jonathan wasn’t so convinced that a Slayer should be with a…

Buffy shook her head. Damn spell.

Spike cupped her cheek. “Buffy?”

A new song came rolling out of the Bronze. Buffy settled her arms so her hands were clasped behind Spike’s neck. The memory of dancing with someone else this night was hounding her. She’d listened to what other people told her and that had turned out so wonderfully well, with Riley visiting the suck-house and her with yet another broken heart. Maybe it was time she listened to herself. “Dance with me?” she whispered.

Spike’s arms settled around her and pulled her close. “I suppose. Though I prefer the Marvin Gaye version of this song to Diana Ross, but beggars can’t be choosers.”

Buffy rolled her eyes, but still laid her head against her vampire’s chest as he nuzzled his cheek against her.

I’ll be there when you want me…

Holding tight to him they swayed together, not remotely on beat with the music. When the song ended she reluctantly started to pull away. Spike, whose eyes were scrunched closed, didn’t let go. “One more?” he asked, and just like that she knew. Despite how she was treating him and all her hot and cold behavior, he was in love with her. It was almost impossible to not sink back against him, or slam him against the wall and rip open his fly, but there really was stuff, Jonathan-helping world save-age stuff, that she should be concentrating on.

“Actually, um…I need your help.”

With a dejected sounding sigh, Spike let her go and walked off a few feet. His hands were shaking as he fumbled a smoke out of his duster pocket and lit it. “Sure you do. What’s going on?”

Buffy crossed her arms. No, not…ugh. Dumb Spike and his complete inability to deal with rejection. Which wasn’t even rejection. Her stomach growled and it gave her an idea about what to do until it was near sunrise. Spike always had snacks and drinks for her at his crypt. “How about we go back to your place and I can tell you there? Whatever’s growing in that dumpster is one lightning strike away being sentient.”

Spike immediately perked up. “Lead the way then, kitten. Though last time I checked the slime in there had moved past sentient and was setting up a space program.”

She giggled as she walked out of the alley and towards Restfield. Spike was a shadow at her side, rambling on about some giraffe show he’d watched on Animal Planet. It felt…easy, being with him. Though she had to laugh when he started telling her, very earnestly, about a part at the end of the show that’d described how Jonathan was single handedly stopping poached in Africa.

In Spike’s crypt she hopped up to sit on one of the stone sarcophagi. It was as uncomfortable as she remembered it being, but she was thrilled beyond measure to be sitting there again. Still talking, now about some action movie that was about to come out, in which Jonathan played the lead, of course, Spike handed her a diet pepsi, a ham sandwich, and a bag of dill pickle chips.   

He heated up a mug of blood and leaned against the end of the sarcophagus as he sipped on it. “So, what’s the to-do you need a pitiful vamp to help out with?”

Buffy took a bite of her sandwich. It was from the local 7-11, but it wasn’t bad. “Here’s the thing,” she said slowly after she swallowed her bite. “We’re all under a spell and it needs to end, but you’re probably not going to like what I have to say.”

“And this is different from usual how?” He raised his eyebrows at her over the rim of his mug.

She glared him but he didn’t look intimidated in the least. “I’m going to need you to trust me on this.”

Spike set his mug down and moved so he was standing directly in front of her. “You know I do,” he said, his voice soft.

Buffy put down her sandwich and picked up his hand, holding it between hers. “Thank you.” She took a deep breath. “Tomorrow morning we–as in me, Tara, and Willow–are going to undo the spell that Jonathan is using that makes him the center of, well, everything.”

“What?” Spike’s brows drew together and he looked adorably befuddled.

“We need your help because I entirely expect this crazy monster thing to show up and try to kill us. It’s sort of a bi-product of the spell. If the spell is ended correctly, then everything should just go back to normal, but if we don’t do it right, then part of that monster is going to end up infecting Jonathan and it’ll make him a path through which further evil can appear in the world.”

Spike pursed his lips. “I…I’m not sure…” She could see he was mentally fighting the spell. He grimaced, but then the worry lines smoothed out. “I trust you, Buffy. I’ll do whatever I can to help. And it sounds like this helps Jonathan too, if it keeps him from being hurt by this creature.” Spike smiled. “Can play the hero for him, right?” Buffy kept herself from laughing. Whatever worked with the spell, though she was going to remind Spike of his words later, after the enchantment had been broken.

“Thank you,” she said.

“Of course!” He gave her a considering look. “Though what’re you doing here if there’s such a big thing to worry about in the morning? Shouldn’t you be resting up?”

Buffy felt her cheeks heat up. “I thought maybe I could do that here?”

“Yeah?” Spike blinked, obviously unsure what to say.

“I’m not here for any hanky-panky,” Buffy clarified. “But, I just thought, perhaps…could you, maybe, hold me?” She picked up her soda but only held the can loosely in her hand instead of taking a drink.

Spike looked dumbfounded. “I…anything, luv. I’d…please.”

She grinned at him. “Are you going to finish your blood before it gets all gross and clotty?”

Smiling like he’d just won the lottery, Spike rescued his mug of blood and gulped down the end of his dinner. She filled him in on what tomorrow would entail and made sure he set an alarm to wake them up in plenty of time to get where they needed to be.

Spike layered the other sarcophagus with blankets and Buffy couldn’t help but think about the last time they’d laid together there, after Riley had shown back up to blow her world apart. That time together had been an ending, even if she hadn’t known it. It’d been a year after that before she’d welcomed him into her body again and the next day he’d been dust. And then he hadn’t wanted her.

Her fingers clenched into fists as she forced the old hurt away. Things weren’t going to be the same. They couldn’t be. The Buffy she was creating, while muddled in her mind about Spike, had already lost a part of her heart to him. The new Buffy already saw him as more than a demon.

Having finished making up the bed, Spike looked down at himself. He’d already draped his duster over his chair but seemed unsure about the rest. He glanced quickly at her and bent down to undo the laces on his boots before toeing them off. His hands fiddled with the hem of his shirt for a moment before he stripped it off. Buffy hoped she wasn’t being too obvious in her ogling, but dang. After another brief hesitation he took his belt off and undid the top button in his jeans before hoping onto the makeshift bed and pulling the covers up. He patted the space next to him. “C’mon, pet, I promise not to bite.”

Buffy took a couple of deep breaths and made sure she wasn’t about to jump him before taking off her shoes and crawling into bed next to him. He lay down on his back and she snuggled against his side with her head resting on his chest. His arm wrapped firmly around her.

“There’s a lower level to this place. I’m getting it fixed up, it’s going to have a bed and everything.” He was watching her, his eyes half closed.

“Sounds cool. Like a secret lair.”

Spike chuckled. “You’ll be welcome anytime.”

“Thanks. Sometimes it’s nice to have a place to hide.”

He hummed his agreement and closed his eyes. His eyelashes fanned out on his cheeks and she couldn’t help herself, she reached up and brushed her fingers across the ones closest to her.

Spike cracked one eye open. “That felt a might bit odd.”

“I wanted to see if they were soft.”

He huffed, but his arm tightened around her. Buffy bit her lip. She’d really put him through the wringer this last year, but she could feel her love for him flowing through her. Not the old, remembered, damaged emotion that Spike had tossed back in her face. This feeling was part of her here and now. It was warm and happy. It liked hanging out with Spike and how he always tried to make her laugh, how he was willing to patrol with her, and how, no matter how weird and confused she was, he always supported her. It appreciated that even though their groping could get awfully hot, he didn’t try (very hard) to push things any further.

The part of Buffy that remembered the world ending knew that he didn’t push because Spike was terrified of driving her away. He’d rather go home and wank than risk losing her…tolerance? Had it slid into official friendship?

Right now, with her body pressed against his, it was difficult not to pull him into a kiss, but she owed it to herself not to. When she and Spike came together again, it should be free of the quiet desperation that haunted her at the moment. It should be a union of joy, not an attempt to recapture something lost. So she kept her hands to herself.  Barely.

The Buffy who was nineteen and in college wanted Spike to be her real boyfriend. There was a notebook tucked under her dorm room mattress in which she’d drawn their names together and put hearts around them. Laughing at herself, she’d even written out ‘Buffy the Bloody’ in looping script, as well as made more serious attempts to sign as ‘Buffy Pratt’.

Wait, how’d she known that? Spike hadn’t told her his real last name yet. Her breathing hitched. Something had to remain, some facts or impressions from her future self, during the intervals between the days she’s chosen to return to.  

Did that mean her younger-self’s feeling towards Spike were just an echo of…but no, her love for him was a lot more simple and pure than that. It stemmed from how she liked being around him. Well, that and because he was a hottie that got her motor running.

Right now, Buffy could easily see she belonged with him, and she could do what the her without the end-of-the-world memories was having trouble with: say she wanted to be with him officially. Though hopefully Spike would never know she could have warned him about the Initiative and the chip. While she’d hoped it’d be a non-issue because he was supposed to stay away, she’d known the damn thing was important to the other scoobies being willing to accept Spike. The chip was her insurance policy against them staking Spike as well as…she could admit it…his way to stay with her. It made him seek her out and then it made it possible for him to remain in Sunnydale. Hopefully they’d find a way to get the stupid thing out sooner rather than later this time.

“You’re thinking terribly hard over there, luv. Something I can help with?” His hand petted her back.

“I’m sorry,” she blurted.

“For thinking? It happens to the best of us from time to time.”

She snorted. “No…” She couldn’t say anything about the chip, that’d make her look totally crazy. “For being so weird since you came back to town.”

“No worries. I might have no idea how the inside of that noggin of your works, but I enjoy trying to suss it out.”

“You’re so flattering.”

“You’re pretty.”

She lightly slapped his chest. “Nice try. But seriously…Spike…I’ve been so confused inside my own head I don’t know how you’ve been able to put up with me at all. The sex wasn’t that good.”

“Good? It was brilliant, but that’s not the only reason I’m hanging around. If I wanted nothing but a quick shag I would have been hightailing it out of here a long time ago, yeah?”

“I guess so?”

“Slayer–“ He took a couple of quick breaths, like he was trying to get control of himself. “You’re amazing. You’re so much more than any girl who’s held that title before. Your light blinds me…and I can’t help myself, I want to bask in it even though I’m nothing, a monster so far beneath you that I don’t deserve to even be in the same room as you. I’m the dust on your shoe.”

Now she was having a hard time breathing. Did he really think so little of himself?

“Christ, you’re magnificent, how you fight, both on and off the battlefield. I don’t understand…how is it some white knight hasn’t snapped you up? Shouldn’t there be blokes lined up around the block trying to get with you?”

She blew out a breath in an almost laugh. “Yeah, because so many guys want a bossy girlfriend that can break them in half. Also…” She lightly scratched her nails over the middle of his chest. “Who says I want them anyway? What if I already found someone?”

Spike looked confused and his hand fell away from her back.

“Oh. Does this guy…he go to your school?”

Her eyes rolled so hard she was surprised Spike couldn’t hear them.

Spike was babbling on. “Would I recognize him? Does he go to the Bronze much–“

“No, he doesn’t go to my school,” she interrupted. “I think you’d recognize him and he does occasionally have a drink at the Bronze.”

Spike was staring at her, fear in his eyes. “Go on.”

“Oh my god, you dummy, it’s you. I like you. I want you to be my boyfriend.” Her younger-self had better appreciate this, because it was hard not to get grumpy with how dense he was being.

Spike’s face went from despair to surprise to awe. He pulled her on top of him and buried his face against her neck. She thought he might be crying. “I’ll be good to you, I promise, Buffy. Take care of you. I’ll keep this sodding chip forever so you never have to worry…I…I…”

“Shh,” she soothed him. She ran a hand over his hair and kissed the side of his head. Gently she scooted back down beside him to lie cradled against him once more. “Big to-do tomorrow, then we can work it all out.”

“Right, sure.”

There was a pause. Buffy had been hoping she’d go right to sleep, but her mind was still busy playing connect the dots with all its craziness. “Spike,” she asked, sure he was still awake.

“Yes?”

“Why’d you come back to Sunnydale?”

“You know that one, I was looking for the Gem of Amara. Too bad the bloody thing wasn’t there, just some cobwebs and looted over treasure.”

“That the only reason?” she said in a tiny voice.

Spike took a deep breath and let it out very slowly. “You know it wasn’t.”

It still felt good to hear him say it. She traced a finger over the swells and dips of the muscles on his chest.

“When you got here…what about Harmony?” Buffy hadn’t seen any stray unicorns lying around the crypt, but that didn’t mean the girl herself was never there.

“Harmony?” Spike looked puzzled.

“Y’know: blonde, stupid, big boobs.”

“How in the sodding hell do you know about Harmony?” One of Spike’s eyebrows had gone sky high. Buffy just shrugged. Spike ran his free hand over his face. “Yeah, I remember her. Right when I got here I picked her up in a bar.” Buffy’s stomach dropped. “I made it as far as putting her in the passenger side of the DeSoto. The dozy bint would not shut up.” Spike’s hand caught Buffy’s and his thumb rubbed over her palm. “And she was really not you. Felt like I was desecrating the damn car, so I staked her. Took me a week and two rolls of quarters to get the dust out.”

Buffy giggled, she couldn’t help herself. She rolled so her face was hidden against his side.

“Where did you know her from?” Spike asked.

“I went to school with her.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Not as sorry as I am.”

Spike chuckled. “You’re downright tickled that I dusted her, aren’t you?” Buffy nodded. “I’ve been your boyfriend for less than fifteen minutes and you’re already a jealous harpy.”

“Deal with it,” Buffy said, pressing a kiss against his ribs. She felt his knee jiggling. “Ask it.” It was obvious to her what he wanted to know.

“Any boyfriends while I was gone?”

Bingo. “Not a one. How could I want some dorky high school guy after I’d had you?”

All the tension left Spike. “That right?”

“You better believe it. I didn’t even have a date for prom. There was this excruciatingly embarrassing dance with Giles.” The other prom, the one were Angel danced with her before tearing her heart out, was fading into so much nothingness.

Spike chuckled as he continued stroking her hair. After a stretch of quiet, Spike took a ragged breath. “Buffy,” his voice sounded strained and she braced herself to hear him apologize for not being able to say the same thing. “God, I can’t believe I’m going to tell you this.” He frowned.

Spike didn’t immediately elaborate and as the silence stretched on, she started to get antsy. Scenario after scenario was running through her mind about how he’d fallen in love with some chick, or a whole string of them, or two at the same time, like sister wives. “Just say it!” she cried, poking his chest.  

“You can’t laugh,” he said.

“Um, okay, I won’t.” Like she was going to be laughing over his Malibu beach orgies with scores of playboy bunnies.

His hand ghosted up and down her spine. “I wasn’t with anyone else at all, either. Mostly I wanked off in the back of the DeSoto because I could still smell you for weeks after. Every girl I saw committed the horrible sin of not being you. Christ, I hated them. But…I only killed three people and those were accidents where I took too much blood.”

“What?” Buffy couldn’t get his words to make sense.

“I was trying to do catch and release. You’d said–“ His eyes skittered to the other side of the room. “You said I couldn’t be in town because I was killing people. So, I was trying to learn how not to do that because I wanted to see you again. Animal blood made me feel funny, though I’m used to it now, so no complaints.” He shifted under her hand. “But this chip…Buffy, I hate the damn thing, but I’m thankful for it too. It gave me you and beyond that, nothing else matters.”

Buffy couldn’t help it, tears welled up and spilled over. “Spike,” she sobbed as her arm banded around him. She wished she could tell him of the twenty years she’d spent wishing for him, the long days and nights with only his memory for company, but that was more explaining that she had the brain power for. Instead she clung to him and cried out those years while Spike murmured endearments to her and held her tight.  At last her tears turned into a yawn.

“Did you get it all out, kitten?”

“I-I think so. Sorry, didn’t mean to turn into waterworks girl.”

“It’s okay, I’m your boyfriend, it’s what I’m here for.” He tilted his head forward and kissed the top of her head while she settled more comfortably against him. She wondered if he was going to sleep at all, because knowing him he’d be too excited to rest. She was surprised she was going to be able to get any shut eye herself, but it was creeping up on her fast.

 “Hold me,” she whispered against his skin.

“I never stopped.”

His scent and touch filled her senses. Even the silence of where a heartbeat should be was comforting. This was right. He was her Spike now and she was his Buffy. Phooey on everything else.

Chapter Text

If you need me call me no matter where you are

                -Diana Ross, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

****

The alarm clock had gone off way too freaking early. Spike had laughed as she’d grumped through getting up. She’d wanted to tease him, something about being a morning person, but her brain was too fuzzy to come up with anything funny.

She’d had to settle for glowering until they’d stopped at a convenience store for coffee. It’d been ambrosia. Burnt, bitter, and thick as motor oil. She’d loved every drop of it. It’d been so long since she’d tasted coffee she couldn’t even remember the last cup she’d had. It was one of those things you took for granted until–poof!–it was gone.

She looked over at Spike, who was trying not to be giddy while tightly clasping her hand. She planned on never being oblivious again to life’s little pleasures.

As they approached the rendezvous point Buffy tossed her empty cup in the trash and Spike relaxed his death grip on her hand, but when he started to slide his fingers out from between hers she tightened her hold.

“Buffy?” he whispered.

“I didn’t mean: be my boyfriend in secret where no one knows or can see us.” She’d done that and it hadn’t turned out very well. “I meant being together lots. Like dancing inside at the Bronze, sharing a popcorn at the movies, and watching TV in my dorm room.”

He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to study her face. “You really mean that?”

“Yeah. I think it’s silly that when we go to with everyone to a flick we sit next to each other but get two separate popcorn bags. It’d be cheaper just to get a larger one and share it.”

His smile could have powered half of New York.

“C’mon.” She tugged at his hand. “We need to go be spell deviants and save the world and stuff.”

Tara and Willow were waiting for them at the agreed-on spot.

“Hey guys!” Buffy said, and paused, expecting Willow to say something about her holding hands with Spike. Willow didn’t even blink. “Um, before we continue on there’s something I need to tell you.” Spike squeezed her hand.

“Okay.” Willow crossed her arms.

Buffy planted her feet firmly on the ground, drew her shoulders back, and lifted her chin. “Spike’s my boyfriend now.”

Willow’s brows drew together. “I thought he already was?”

“Yeah,” Tara echoed. “Ever since I’ve met the two of you, your energy has been swirled together. It seemed really obvious you were a couple.”

Bewildered, Buffy looked up at Spike, who shrugged and kissed her forehead.  “Anyway,” Buffy said. “I’m glad you guys are here. Are you ready for spell breakage?”

Willow glanced at Tara and nodded. “At first we weren’t sure. I mean, it’s Jonathan…and it’s…he’s usually not wrong.” Willow was worrying the cuffs of her shirt between her fingers. “But after you left the club last night to go spend time with Spike–“

Buffy glanced at Spike, who shrugged again. Apparently, they were a lot more transparent than they thought.  

“This girl ran into the club.” Tara picked up the narrative. “She was beat up and crying. Since you weren’t there we went with Jonathan to his place and he reassured us and the cops that everything was fine and the monster wasn’t putting any of us in danger, but then…”

Willow took back over as Tara shuddered. “Then we got back to the dorms and it attacked us. It was scary and ugly and mean.” Willow frowned.

“It w-w-was a good thing we were together, or we could have been seriously hurt,” Tara stammered. “And we figured out you were telling the truth.” She took a deep breath. “We trust you Buffy, but doing this is hard. It’s Jonathan.”

“Did Buffy explain to you that the creature’s evil might infect Jonathan if we don’t break the spell correctly?” Spike said solemnly.

“We have to protect him,” Willow whispered, grabbing Tara’s hand, who nodded in agreement.

Buffy smiled weakly.  “Did you get the stuff from Giles?”

“Yes, no problem.” Tara turned so a small bag slung over her shoulder was visible. “We told him it was for warding Jonathan’s property against evil. Giles was so excited he even helped us pack.”

“Cool, let’s get set up.”

Sneaking onto the property was no big deal. Buffy knew it wouldn’t a problem since Jonathan didn’t need much security when everyone basically worshiped him.

The witches set up a magic circle and created sacred space. They chanted over a small knife until it glowed briefly as it filled with power. Buffy stuck it into her pocket and glanced worriedly towards the eastern horizon.

“I’ll be fine, luv.” Spike laid a hand on her arm. “There’s bushes and trees aplenty right up to the closest sewer entrance.”

Buffy swallowed past a lump in her throat.  “Don’t get hurt, okay?”

Spike snorted and pulled her into a hug. “Hey, still the big bad here. No lack-wit monster’s going to bloody well do me in.” His voice dropped to a low rumble. “Not less than twenty-four hours after the most remarkable woman in the universe said she wanted me to be a part of her life.” She turned into his touch as Spike’s hand cupped her cheek. He tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear and glided his fingers down her throat. Unable to stand it, she tilted her face up so their lips met.

The kiss went from gentle to fierce in the space of a heartbeat. His tongue possessed her mouth while she dug her fingertips into his hair. When she finally broke away, panting for breath, Spike whimpered and buried his face against her neck. He nipped with blunt teeth at her skin, sending white-hot sparks shooting through her body. Gasping, she arched against him, wanting an indefinable more.

“Time to get this show on the road!” Willow called cheerily.

Spike straightened up and Buffy groaned. “To be continued later, kitten.” He sucked in a breath and his eyes narrowed as they looked over her shoulder. “The bestie’s getting close.” Buffy’s Slayer senses started to light up. Ick. She’d forgotten how nightmarish the pink ugly had felt.

“I’ll be back with Jonathan in a second,” she said, pressing one more kiss to her boyfriend’s lips, almost forgetting she was in a hurry, and then peeling herself off Spike and running towards Jonathan’s immaculate mansion.

She banged loudly on the huge oak doors and was immensely relieved when the man himself opened them.

“Buffy, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“Jonathan, thank god you’re here. Come quick! There’s a girl being attacked and I didn’t know what else to do!” She tried to put a note of breathy desperation into her voice, even though it made her want to throw up a little. She knew Jonathan didn’t really see her as weak or in need of a rescuer and instead wanted to be a valid help to the Slayer, only the augmentation spell had its own ideas.

“I’m here for you, Buffy, lead the way.” Jonathan cinched the sash of the silk bathrobe he was wearing over his incredibly stylish pajama set (she just knew they were from the clothing line he designed himself). Boy, he looked so strong and dreamy, too bad she was taken. Buffy spun on her heel, wincing at her own thoughts. Dumb spell. She ran her hands over her leopard print jacket to get rid of the nervous sweat. Jonathan was right on her heels as she jogged around the side of his house. He gasped as he saw the tableau before him. Tara and Willow were on the ground, the monster lurching at them. Jonathan sprinted across the grass and positioned himself between the two girls and the monster just as Spike grabbed the thing’s arm and sent it careening into a tree.

Jonathan looked stunned, then confused as Buffy’s hand landed on his shoulder and she pulled him to the center of the prepared circle. Tara and Willow were on their feet and chanting. The morning breeze faded away as the witches sealed her and Jonathan inside the circle.

“Sorry,” Buffy said. And she was, kind of. At least this was better than last time. The first time around killing the monster had ended the spell, but Jonathan had been linked to the monster. The creature’s evil had rebounded as if it’d been on the end of a broken rubber band and lodged itself inside Jonathan. There, it had festered until what had once been a gentle soul had become a vessel for hate and resentment until he met his ultimate end as a tool of The First.

Now Buffy knew better. Jonathan and the monster he’d created had to be magically separated. That way the negative energy of the monster would dissipate harmlessly back into the earth. The actual disassociation was a little more unpleasant than she would have liked.

“W-w-what are you doing?” Jonathan stammered as Buffy grabbed him and wrestled the bathrobe off his shoulders. From the corner of her eye she was keeping a watch on Spike as he battled the nightmare monster. So far Spike seemed to be doing well enough, and if the look on his face was anything to go by, he was even enjoying himself.

Jonathan struggled in her grip, but he must have forgotten that the augmentation spell should let him overpower her, or maybe because she was partially immune to its effects he couldn’t because she didn’t believe he could. Huh.

With a grunt, she pushed him to the ground and put a knee on his back to hold him there while she tore open his overly expensive pajamas to reveal the mark on his back. “Jonathan,” she said softly. “Did you meet with the Initiative yesterday?”

“Uh…yeah. Is that what this is about? I know you guys don’t get along, but Buffy, you really could help each other.”

Buffy frowned. “Going with a big honking no on that one.”

“Just because they chipped your boyfriend doesn’t mean you have to treat them like the enemy.”

“Wait, you think Spike’s my boyfriend too? I mean, he is, but we didn’t decide that until last night.”

“It’s sort of obvious.”

“Oh.” Buffy flipped her hair over her shoulder.

“I’m still not convinced he’s what’s best for you.”

Buffy put more weight on her knee and Jonathan yelped. “I didn’t ask you about that, but I did ask about the Initiative. They know anything about Adam?”

“No,” Jonathan squeaked out. “They’re still looking for him.”

Buffy sighed. “Figures.” She’d been hoping that maybe in this reality the Initiative would take care of its own garbage, but no such luck. She looked up one more time at Spike, who was continuing to occupy the monster. There was a cut on Spike’s cheek but otherwise he looked unharmed. She shifted her eyes to the eastern horizon. Just as the sun rose above it she took the enchanted knife and shallowly cut along the lines of the mark on Jonathan’s back.

He howled as the lines glowed, then disappeared, leaving nothing but smooth skin behind. His cry faded and Buffy let him stumble to his feet. Tara and Willow dropped the magical barrier and stood panting in the early morning sunlight.  Spike was in the shade of a tree, staring at the body of the nightmare monster. The thing was smoking and sinking into itself.

She picked her way around the mess until she was standing beside her boyfriend.

“It’s like really stinky taffy,” she said, wrinkling her nose. Spike grimaced and put a hand under her jacket to stroke her back.

The monster became a puddle, and then even that fizzled away to nothing.

“So, will I be seeing you later?” Spike asked hesitantly, his attention now on her.

“Of course! Scoobie trip to the movies, remember?” she said. “It’s Xander’s turn to pick so probably something with lots of explosions.”

Spike looked down. “I could maybe meet you there–“

She wasn’t going to strangle him. Mostly because he was a vampire and it wouldn’t do any good, and also because it was a little bit her fault he was so insecure.

“Pick me up at my dorm at 7:30, okay? And don’t be late. “And–“ She shook a finger at him. “Don’t even think about doing something like putting a hole in the bottom of the popcorn and sticking your dick in, or I swear I won’t touch it after the movie either.”

Spike’s eyebrows shot up. “But after the movie…”

“How ‘bout your place?”

Spike opened his mouth like he was going to say something, but appeared to think better of it. Instead he kissed her senseless before disappearing into the trees. Buffy grinned because she was sure she could hear him singing.

****

Buffy helped Willow and Tara clean up the remains of the magic circle and escorted the two exhausted girls to Tara’s dorm so they could nap. With her friends cared for, Buffy showered and changed, then spent the rest of the day drifting around campus, enjoying the warm spring weather and drinking as many iced coffees as she could stand. Feeling much older than she looked, she stood on the edge of the central quad and watched carefree kids run after frisbees and argue over homework assignments. If she didn’t get this right, in twenty years they’d all be so much rotting meat.

But she was helping, wasn’t she? It sure felt like she was doing the right thing. All the good feelings inside her couldn’t just be from snuggling with Spike. Though that was nice. The Powers That Be had to know she’d choose to be with him, no matter what Whistler said. She had twenty years of regret fueling that desire. Well, that and her current rather intense attraction to the vampire. God, how had she put up with six feet of Mr. Boring the first time around?

Almost as if on cue, Riley walked by. He glanced briefly at her, but no recognition crossed his face.

Buffy’s eyes went wide as an idea hit her. It probably wasn’t a great idea, as far as ideas went, but it could keep Riley from being a thorn in her side later or from ending up dead. She trailed after him until he took a shortcut between two buildings and they were hidden from the view of other students or faculty.

“Hey, Riley,” she called, and he turned towards her. Buffy paused, but there were almost zero feelings on her part towards him. She didn’t remember him being quite so tall, and the hair curtains really weren’t a cute as she’d thought they were.

“Hi! Do I know you? You seem familiar.”

Buffy had to bite her lip so she didn’t grin. “I’m Buffy.”

His eyes narrowed, but then he nodded. “I remember! Willow’s friend.”

“Yup, that’s me. I was totally the awkward girl that dropped books on your head. I’m also in the psych class you TA for.”

“That’s right. B- on your last essay.”

“Don’t remind me. Do you think Dr. Walsh will return soon? She was harsh but I learned more from her than the new prof.”

Riley uneasily shifted his weight from foot to foot and she had to fight to keep from laughing. “I don’t really know, but probably not this semester.” He brushed his hair out of his eyes. “Is there something you needed help with in class? It’s almost my office hours, we can walk that way together.”

“Actually, Mr. Initiative, there’s something you can help me with.”

Riley’s jaw fell open right before her fist connected with his face. He tried to fight back, he really did, but even enhanced he was nowhere near fast enough or strong enough to keep up with her. It made her sad for the version of herself that’d believed Riley was the one.

He landed a solid punch to her upper arm that would probably bruise, but then she swept his legs out from under him. Once he was sputtering and lying winded on his back, Buffy pounced. One punch to the temple rendered him unconscious and she turned her attention to his chest. She broke a few ribs and hopefully dislodged the hardware that Walsh had put there. The bones cracking gave her pause. She’d come near to being in love with this man once and here she was, trying to break him for his own good. She closed her eyes for a second. Her body had known his.

The recalled image of making love with Riley had barely formed in her mind when unexpected nausea hit her. She scrambled off his still form as bile tried to claw its way up her throat. She felt dirty.  For one panicked moment she almost took off at a dead run for Spike’s crypt, desperate to feel his skin against hers so her heart and mind would be reassured that she knew where she belonged.

Riley groaned softly and it reminded her that she couldn’t just leave him there, but she needed to be done with him. Now. In the ER, the doctors would x-ray his chest and see the thing that’d allowed Adam to control him, and they’d take it out.

Grimacing, she pulled him out from between the buildings, careful not to touch him more than she had to in order to prevent the return of the sick feeling, and started screaming that a student had been assaulted. Kids and teachers came running, including a security guard that was rapidly talking into radio. When an ambulance and a news crew showed up Buffy slipped away, knowing that the police would be next and she didn’t want to spend the little time she had left that day talking to the cops.

Walking quickly, she headed back to her dorm room.  She sat on her bed and picked up Mr. Gordo, petting him absently. She looked at her phone, but had no idea who to call. Spike didn’t have a line, Willow and Tara were sleeping, her mom and Xander were at work, and Giles would think she was possessed if she called to chat. The only person at home that she knew was…

She picked up the phone and found the number she needed scribbled in a book on her night table. The phone rang twice before it was picked up. “Hello, this is Anya, I do not want to buy anything.”

“Hi Anya, it’s Buffy.”

“Buffy? Is Xander okay? What’s wrong?”

Buffy felt a little funny. Anya should consider her more of a friend than the kind that calls only when there’s an emergency. “There’s nothing wrong, well, except I beat up a guy for his own good and now I need to hide in my dorm room until that blows over. Anyway, do you want to come and hang out until we leave for the movie tonight?”

“Is your regular friend Willow unavailable?”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “She’s not here, if that’s what you mean. But I think it’d be cool if you and me hung out.”

There was a pause. “Do you need sex advice about your vampire boyfriend?” Anya asked.

“Ahh…” Buffy winced and put the heel of her hand to her forehead. Were she and Spike the last people in Sunnydale to figure out they were a couple? “I was thinking we could talk about all kinds of things, but I guess I wouldn’t turn it down.”

“Really?” There was a lot of skepticism smushed into that one word.

“Really, really. Plus, I could use some help with my hair and nails before going out tonight.”

“Oh, you’d look so good with a metallic polish. I’ll bring mine. I’ll see you shortly.”

The line went dead. Buffy closed her eyes and banished any bad memory involving Anya, including the one painted green, from her mind. That wasn’t this Anya, and if Buffy had her way, there’d never be a reason for any of that ugliness to happen. She wanted to have a fun afternoon chatting with a friend, not thinking about old ugliness.

Buffy held out her hand and considered her nails. Metallic pink, or maybe silver, really would look nifty with her tan.

****

It was a shock to go from Spike’s arms, which she’d just stepped into at the bottom of the dorm’s stairs, to the loud thunder of the battlefield. Buffy had learned more about Anya that afternoon than she had in her entire previous time of knowing the ex-vengeance demon. It’d been humbling to find out that her own prejudice against Anya’s former demon status had kept Buffy from having a good friend all those years ago. They’d mostly talked about guys, and Buffy had felt proud when even Anya seemed impressed over the bitey parts of her getting it on with Spike in the DeSoto. Buffy was hoping she’d laid the groundwork for her and Anya to continue to be buddies, even when her past self couldn’t remember the end times.

Buffy looked around. Was it her imagination or were there far fewer demons than before? “Buffy, we need you over–“ Giles’ voice, she was sure of it this time, crackled out of her radio. Magic, red and green, blossomed in the air to her left.

The world froze and Whistler and the table appeared, but Buffy was too busy staring at the obvious spell work. “Willow and Tara?” she managed to gasp out.

“You got it, toots. They both learned quite a bit that day, plus Jonathan and Andrew didn’t end up as part of Warren’s plans and were able to warn you about him, so no dead Tara.” Whistler shrugged. “Badda-bing, you still have two very powerful witches helping you out.”

“But Willow…the shield wall?”

“With Tara there to help there was slightly less of a case of death.”

Buffy closed her eyes for a moment. Thank god. She was no longer so alone. Xander was still manning the guns, they hadn’t been overrun. Giles was coordinating things, Tara and Willow were fighting. She took a step towards the table, eager to make more changes. Her armor flowed seamlessly with her.

Armor?

She looked down and gasped. “What the heck am I wearing?” The armor covered her ankles to neck in pitch black, tiny, interlocking rings, almost like chainmail. There was a faint hint of electric blue over the sides.

“That’s a Jonathan and Andrew special. Looks like something out of Tron if you ask me.”

It was lightweight and flowed like water with her movements. “Wow, this is badass. Totally worth saving Jonathan’s hide.”

“Whatever, princess. Glad you like the ball gown,” Whistler muttered.

“Don’t be such a sourpuss.” Buffy walked to the table and dragged her finger across the surface. ‘Year Five’ appeared at the top. “I took care of Riley, right? He got that hardware out of his chest? And I even did it without being his girlfriend.”

Whistler yanked his hat off his head and flung it onto the ground. “Not the point, you presumptuous brat!”

Buffy crossed her arms. “Enlighten me.”

“You were the PTB’s first choice to be the mother of the warriors who could stop this mess!”

“The Warriors of Light?” Buffy was taken aback. The Powers were nuts. “So not me. A) I’m a Slayer, therefore unlikely to ever be a mom, and B) I wouldn’t let my kids call themselves something that dumb.”

Whistler flapped his arms. “Doesn’t matter now! You wanted your undead honey so badly you shot that whole plan to shit.” He dragged his hand down his face.

“Is that why you were harping about Riley? I was supposed to pop out his kids?” A tiny part of her liked the idea of holding babies of her own, but being shackled to Riley forever seemed a terrible trade off. “What about the Power’s second choice? Who was next on the list? Should I call up Faith and tell her to start cranking out ankle biters?”

Whistler was turning a bright shade of red. “I don’t know! I’ll work on it while you’re busy sucking vampire dick.” He slumped to the ground and pressed the heel of his hand against his brow.

Buffy raised an eyebrow. With a sigh, she retrieved his hat and held it out towards him. He snatched it from her hands without looking at her. Shrugging, she went to stand at the table.

“Everything go alright with the Adam takedown?” she asked quietly.

“Yeah,” Whistler mumbled. “The conjoining spell went fine and Spike never betrayed you, he was a big help, actually. The scoobies were a much more cohesive group and there was never any infighting. You did indeed help Riley, more or less. The doctors pulled the control module out of his chest and once he recovered he was shipped off to an army base in Greenland.”

“Good for him.” Buffy was kind of thrilled not to see a single picture of Riley on the table. She hadn’t been good for him, or he for her. She’d had feelings for him and she wished him the best…snow, or whatever, in Greenland, but more than twenty years later the whole relationship felt like an obvious mistake. She’d been grasping at normal rather than a real person.

What was a relief was that Dawn was in the pictures, looking very young. Buffy smiled and brought to the center of the table a short video of her, Dawn, and her mom laughing together over something.

“I can’t save Mom, can I?” she asked Whistler, who was still sitting in the dirt.

“I’m afraid not. Some things are meant to be.”

She nodded, not surprised.

“Does Drusilla return to Sunnydale?”

“No, Spike’s far too wrapped around your finger for that to be anything other than deadly for her.”

“Good to know she’s just crazy, not dumb.”

Her hand floated over the pictures and videos. There was the troll, and the April bot Warren made, though Buffy didn’t see a Buffybot anywhere. Not a big surprise. Spike wasn’t alone and wouldn’t need a fake Buffy when he was getting the real thing. She gave herself a mental shake because, correction, he didn’t need to have a thing that pretended to care about him when she was treating him like the real, thinking, feeling person that he was.

There was a video of Spike punching Tara in the nose and dramatically grabbing his head.

In fact, there was a lot of Spike, and he was always by her side. There were ones of them eating dinner with Joyce and Dawn, ones of them sitting around researching with the rest of the scoobies, ones of them hanging out or dancing at the Bronze. Buffy smiled, because they both appeared relaxed and happy. She enlarged a photo of her and Spike walking side by side, looking into each other’s eyes. It was so obvious that they were each other’s solace and joy.

There were also a lot of photos of Spike holding her and comforting her in the hospital as well as after her mom’s funeral. She wondered if Angel had even bothered to show. She hoped not.

Buffy lingered over a picture of her and Spike making out in what she thought was the training room of The Magic Box. Giles would so not be impressed, but that pommel horse would be the right height to…

Giggling, she moved it aside. The one under it caught her eye. In the photo, Buffy was blindfolded and there were several other people. It took her a minute to remember that they were Council members who’d shown up to run roughshod over her.

Her eyes went wide.

The council with its networks and contacts would have been so useful as the demons began to rise. In fact, they might have noticed the problem much, much sooner.

Buffy tapped her fingers on the glass. She needed them both on her side and alive.

Okay, she could do that.

“This day,” she said, pointing to the photo.

“Sure, have a blast.” Whistler waved a hand at her in dismissal.

Buffy heaved out a breath and looked around. There was a demon with an appendage reminiscent of a Polgara’s, but with a barb on the end. It was in the middle of deploying said appendage. Just in case the awesome armor would deflect the blow, Buffy pulled off the top, letting it hang around her waist and leaving her in nothing but an almost see-through undershirt.

Buffy positioned herself. She grabbed the demon’s arm and adjusted it slightly so it was aimed for the very center of her chest. “I’m ready!” she called.  Things got loud. The sharp pain through her sternum made her scream. The demon looked incredibly surprised to find Buffy on the end of its barb. It tried to shake her off and Buffy screamed again. Blood was gushing down her chest and back. The demon retracted the barb and Buffy’s eyes fixated on the end where the remains of her heart hung.

Eww.

And shouldn’t she be dead? Pissed off, Buffy grabbed the long knife off her hip and lunged for the demon, neatly removing its head. The body fell at her feet. Boy, she could go on for a long time without a heart. Like twenty years, her mind helpfully chipped in. She turned, looking for something else to kill, but her head wouldn’t stop spinning and her vision swam.

It was about freaking time.

The world went black before she hit the ground.

Chapter Text

Being happy loving whom I please

                -The Supremes, “Back in My Arms Again”

****

Buffy was mid-laugh with her head thrown back and stake loosely held in her hand. Spike was grinning at her, obviously pleased with himself. They were in one of Sunnydale’s ubiquitous cemeteries, patrolling, but she felt light and easy. Her duty was less of a duty and more of a way to spend time with her boyfriend. The violence was sort of an added bonus. The fact that she enjoyed the fight and the slay were not shameful secrets, Spike understood and felt the same way. She could be herself with him.

She loved him so much she ached with it.

It seemed impossible to the part of her that remembered the hideous feeling of being alone as her world had slowly crumbled that year, but she was happy.

A second later the expected pain lanced through her skull as the full glut of memories assaulted her. The defeat of Adam had gone smoothly and her dream from the First Slayer sure included a lot more Spike this time. There’d been no “death is your gift” crap either. It was still cryptic, but her words had been: “You will deliver peace.” What the hell was that supposed to mean? Giles hadn’t had a clue and Spike had muttered something about Christmas cards.

Buffy went to her knees with a little cry. This time the headache was extra migraine-y. Spike was sitting beside her in a flash and pulling her into his lap. She clung to him while her mind derailed itself to encompass all the changes.

Dracula had still shown, but he’d been a frustrated mess that Spike had laughed at and there’d certainly been no thralling or blood drinking. Even Xander hadn’t wound up under his sway. Humiliated, Drac had packed up and left.

Dawn had arrived on schedule–and wow, confusing much?–memories tumbled around in her brain and rearranged themselves to include Dawn, since her younger-self now remembered everything that way.

Xander had still been split and she now clearly remembered a rather wistful conversation with Anya afterwards about how much fun two Xanders would have been and Buffy had speculated on having two Spikes. Buffy was generally hanging out a lot more with Anya, especially as Willow and Tara grew closer. Before, Willow’s strong relationship with her girlfriend had made Buffy jealous, because it’d felt like she was losing her best friend and it’d irked her that her romance with Riley hadn’t been half so wonderful. Now she was thrilled about Willow finding a kindred spirit, had Anya to chat with about girl stuff, and had a boyfriend that fell all over himself in his efforts to be what she needed. Even though he already was, the dork.  

Her mom had still gotten sick, which was terrible, but Spike has been a very sympathetic shoulder and had helped out tirelessly, from taking care of Dawn to making sure her mother ate. He’d never made a big deal out of it, nor had he even seemed put out when she’d just been too tired or frustrated to deal with anything, even him, and asked for time to straighten out her thoughts. He’d simply kissed her forehead and said he’d see her tomorrow. Which he had, bringing her flowers for the kitchen and not pouting or demanding to know anything about her night. It been nice, but really, she’d been so lonely that her processing time had turned into annoyed, worried time and she’d never asked him to keep away again.

Clamoring for attention was a memory of an operating theater…oh, right. This was when he and Harmony had tried to force the doctor to take out Spike’s chip. Only there was no Harmony…and oh my god. Buffy’s couldn’t catch her breath. Spike had no chip. She’d been the one to hear of the doctor and had pretended she was all mean so he’d…Spike had no chip. Buffy wrinkled up her nose. Why on earth would she do something like that?

Oh.

He’d tried to bite her during sex and the chip had fired. So it had to go. She didn’t know whether to be horrified with herself or impressed. Spike had changed exactly zero percent after the chip had been removed, just as her younger-self had known he wouldn’t. Well, except she had a lot more fang marks all over her body after that. They hadn’t told anyone, either. The feeling was that it was something private and just between them.

Which meant when he’d punched Tara and grabbed his head it’d all been play acting.  He’d hammed it up enough that Buffy had grouched later, but he’d kissed her and she’d forgotten all about Tara, or anything else for that matter.

“You okay, pet?” Spike murmured against her ear.

“Yeah, sorry. Headache. I don’t think I’ve been drinking enough water lately.”

He frowned. “I’ll make sure to have more at my crypt. Do you want store brand or that fancy kind in the square bottle?”

Wow, that was Spike all over. “Store brand is fine, thank you. Or one of those pitchers with the filter thingies.”

Spike helped her to stand. “Shall we call it a night?”

“Probably…” She trailed off as what wasn’t in her younger-self’s memories finally registered. No Glory. There was Dawn, but no Dagon Sphere, or snake monster, or badly coifed hellgod.

What the heck?

She pressed a hand to her forehead. “I need to see Giles,” she mumbled. Why hadn’t she seen it before? On the table with Whistler? There hadn’t been a single picture of Glory, her minions, or the knights of wherever that started with a ‘B’.

“This hour the bloke might still be at the Magic Box.” Spike helped her to her feet and, with a concerned look on his face, looped his arm around her as they headed towards the store.

Buffy couldn’t wrap her head around it: no Glory.

****

The door to Giles’ office was open. He was sitting there with books scattered about and a pencil in his hand. There was a radio on a shelf, the volume low. And each time we make romance, I’ll be thankful for a second chance. Really? More Supremes?

 She knocked on the door.

Giles turned with a smile. “Buffy.” His eyes focused past her for a second before returning to her face. “Where’s your shadow?”

She almost asked what he meant, but then it clicked. “Spike’s in the training room.”

Giles nodded and something in his face relaxed, as if the world had just righted itself. There was a rush  as the full impact hit her of an existence where Spike’s presence beside her was a normal, accepted, and expected thing. Her knees felt funny. “Are you okay?” Giles asked with a frown. “I think we’ll make it through tomorrow’s Council visit with little problem. Not that I’m looking forward to it.”

Buffy waved a hand. “That’s not actually what I want to talk about.”

Giles looked over his glasses at her.

“Um…I needed to ask about Glory.”

Giles sucked in a sharp breath. “May I then assume you are currently in possession of whatever knowledge you had when you wrote me those letters two years ago?”

“Yes.”

“And this knowledge is?” he prompted.

She didn’t want to tell him, but it seemed to be the asking price for him answering her question. “Memories of the world being different and the future that follows.”

“That makes a great deal of sense. Do you know why you sometimes are aware of this other…let’s say reality? ”

Buffy shook her head. If she’d try to explain she’d be there all night. “It comes and goes. Mostly goes. But right now I need to know…where’s Glory? As things are I have no memories of her at all. Dawn showed up on time, but there’s no hellgod.”

Giles shifted and the wooden chair he was sitting on creaked.

“I am hesitant to tell you this.”

“I can remember dying after flinging myself off the top of a tower to stop her. I’m not asking out of boredom.”

Giles pulled his glasses off and dropped them on his desk. He rubbed a hand over his face. “I read your letters,” he said. “And it was clear to me that, if it was in my power, I could not let you die.” He sighed heavily. “I did a spell to block Glory’s mental tricks and sought out the medical intern you mentioned in your letter and followed him home. I watched him transform into Glory.” Giles’ hands closed into fists. “I went back the next day with a crossbow and…” Giles stood, but his eyes remained fixed on the floor. “You won’t have to worry about dying again, not like that.” Her Watcher’s fingers twitched. “Spike helped me hide the body. He didn’t ask any questions after I told him I’d done it to keep you alive.”  

“Giles,” she whispered and wrapped her arms around him as tears flowed freely down her cheeks. She was safe. Dawn and she never had to face… her thoughts failed her and she hugged her Watcher and sobbed.

Spike barged in from the training room. “What the bloody hell’s going on?” Buffy let go of Giles and threw herself into Spike’s arms instead, desperate to feel the anchor of his solid body against hers. For a panic-stricken instant she was thrown back to the time after her resurrection, but no…this wasn’t then. Spike was her boyfriend, everyone knew, she wasn’t hurting him. Her fingers trembled as she clutched him. “What’d you say to her, Watcher?” Spike said, his voice low and ominous.

“Oh, get that look off your face. She was asking about Glory and I’m under the impression these are tears of relief.” A heavy sigh punctuated Giles’ words.

Spike tensed. “I didn’t say anything about all that.”

“I’m aware, thank you, she came by her knowledge through different means. While I may never be your biggest fan, Spike, I do believe you always have Buffy’s best interests at heart.”

Buffy tried to drum up some anger over both her boyfriend and Watcher keeping a secret from her, but she was too stupidly happy over the not dying part to care.

“Thank you guys,” she said, her voice muffled against Spike’s shoulder. She wondered if Giles was really okay with what he’d done, but in a weird way it bound the three of them together. The Buffy-can’t-die club. She wondered if the letter about not bringing her back if she did die had helped ease his mind. She’d hinted a great deal at the unintentional destruction that had flowed from that moment forward. 

No dead and returned Buffy meant no First Evil, no thousands of active Slayers, no change in the balance that made it easy for the legions of hell to swarm forth…

She’d done it. She’d fixed the worst of it, with two days still to go. Though she supposed she hadn’t guaranteed a stop to Armageddon, just made it more difficult. Which probably meant she still had to deal with the Council tomorrow instead of telling all of them to go soak their heads.

“You’re an okay bloke,” Spike finally said to Giles. “But I’m going to take my girl home now, she needs her beauty sleep.”

Buffy could hear Giles muttering as he shut his office door: “So that’s what the kids are calling it now-a-days.”

****

Giles hadn’t been wrong.

Buffy hadn’t ended up at her house at all. Which was fine. Dawn and her mother had been settling in for a movie marathon when she’d left with Spike to patrol and they hadn’t seemed to expect her back that night. She sort of stayed over at Spike’s a lot. And if she didn’t, he climbed up to her room and stayed with her in what was probably the worst kept secret of all time. Especially because he didn’t always leave before the sun was up. He would spend the day crashed in her bed snuggling with Mr. Gordo, and he occasionally snored— loudly. Stupid vamp with his stupid, unnecessary breathing reflex and tendency to sleep with his face smashed in her pillow. Unless her mother thought Buffy was overly fond of recordings of power saws, she had to know what was going on, but she never said anything.

In the crypt, Spike made himself a mug of blood while Buffy wolfed down a packet of pretzels. Guh, salty food out of a crinkly package, how she missed it.

As she sat munching she ran back over the many nights she (well, technically her younger-self) and Spike had spent together. A lot of it was so loving it nearly broke her heart. Before, she’d always been so demanding, so rough with him, afraid of what she’d feel if she allowed them too many tender moments. She set the bag of pretzels down, unable to eat another bite. At least now that ugly past was slowly being pushed away, replaced by this present in which they could be crazy together or soft and sweet, depending on their mood.

Buffy’s lips curled up. Her younger-self had a few things left to learn and she bet she could surprise her boyfriend. Jumping up, she gave Spike what she hoped was a sultry gaze over her shoulder before descending to the lower section of the crypt.

Ah-ha! The chains and manacles were right where she remembered them being, though they were currently pushed out of the way. In the reality in which she’d died and been brought back, Spike had removed the chains at some point, probably hoping to not remind her of his less than great decision to string her up. Buffy had a much better idea for a way to change how she felt about them, even though her younger-self had so far not needed to think about them at all.

Hopping, she grabbed them and pulled them from the hook they been secured on, letting them hang free.

“Buffy?” Spike said, voice quavering. He’d followed her down the ladder like she’d known he would. She caught his eye, smiled, and stood on tiptoes to clasp one manacle around her wrist and then the other. The chains were just the right length for her to be able to hang with her toes touching the floor. Spike was across the room in an instant and slamming his lips against hers as his arm went around her to hold her steady. She mewed under the assault, eagerly sucking at his tongue when he thrust it into her mouth. His free hand undid her jeans and he grasped her waistband, kneeling as he stripped them, her panties, shoes and socks, off her.

Buffy let her head fall back as Spike stood up, his hands trailing along her bare legs. His lips were cool on her throat and his fingers cold as they dug into her hips. He yanked her lower half forward to grind against his jean-covered cock, making her gasp. “Shirt’s going to have to go, luv.” She didn’t have time to respond before he’d shredded her blouse off her.

Spike let her go so she swung loose for a moment, then turned her so the chains were twisted and he could pull her back against his still fully clothed front. He held her tight with one arm around her middle and the other hand cupping her breasts while he thrust his hard-on against her ass. His tongue traced the outline of her ear.

“Thought of you being here like this, kitten, so many times.”

Buffy moaned as his clever fingers rolled and plucked one of her nipples.

“I couldn’t imagine you letting me truss you up, you’re such a good girl. I was thinking I’d have to beg. Never could have guessed you be the one doing it all on your own.” He stepped back and the chains unwound, leaving her facing him again. Spike took another step backwards and pulled his duster off, tossing it onto a chair. He yanked his shirt off and toed off his boots. Her eyes drifted over his chest, then followed his hands as he slid his palms over his abdomen to his belt. It jangled as he undid the buckle and pushed his jeans to the floor.

She sucked in a breath as he straightened back up and the chains clinked as she swayed towards him. He smirked and threw himself backwards onto the bed, one long leg stretched out and the other dangling off the mattress. He tucked a hand behind his head and wrapped the other around his erection.

Buffy bit her lip.

He lazily stroked his shaft while his eyes roamed over her. “Right wet dream you are.”

She whimpered. He wasn’t so bad himself.

Spike’s hand sped up and his eyes glazed over. That wasn’t fair. She rubbed her thighs together but that wasn’t anywhere near cutting it. In frustration, she yanked on the chains, but they didn’t budge. The need to get to him, straddle him, and impale herself on his cock was clawing at her. Her pussy was pulsing with desire and her clit was demanding attention.

Spike’s hips subtlety jerking upward as he fucked his fist was more than she could take. With a groan, she closed her eyes and tilted her head back as she bent her knee and brought her heel up to grind against her needy sex.

Buffy had barely circled her pelvis once when cold hands seized her hips and lifted her up. She wrapped her legs around Spike’s waist and he let go of her, dropping her onto his cock. The sudden deep intrusion made her cry out in pleasure. Yes! This was what she’d needed. Her entire body trembled in relief.

She opened her eyes. Spike had vamped out and she found herself looking at the fangs and yellow eyes of the demon. A primal wave of lust swept through her and her inner muscles clamped down tight around his shaft, making him growl faintly. His fingers trailed up from her thighs to her breasts. “When you’re like this, luv, all your pleasure belongs to me.”

Uh, whatever. That was a debate for a later time, when her brain was working.

He nuzzled against her neck. “Christ you’re wet, were you getting all hot and bothered watching me toss off?” She moaned something that might have been a response. “Your honey’s dripping down my prick and soaking my balls. It smells bloody amazing.”

Unable to wait, she rolled her hips, but she didn’t have the leverage…

Her fingers wrapped around the chains and she pulled herself up only to quickly drop back down again.

Oh, god, that was it.

She did it again and again, finding a rapid rhythm that had Spike growling and snarling as he thrust up into her. Beneath her calves his ass was clenching with each stroke. The slap of their bodies against each other was a loud underscore to the animalistic noises they were both making.

What a picture they must make, a Slayer hanging from chains and being wildly fucked by a vampire wearing his demon face. Her friends and Watcher knew they were together, saw them touching, holding hands, sometimes kissing, but none of them were in any way prepared for something like this.

Spike stopped moving and he dug his claws in to halt her. “Are you…laughing?” he asked, brow furrowed.

“N-not at you.” Buffy turned her head and smothered her giggles against her arm. “I was imagining the looks on everyone’s faces if they walked in and saw us like this.”

Spike rolled his eyes. “Your Watcher would have a coronary and the poor witches would faint dead away.” Now he was chuckling too.

“Anya would get popcorn!”

“Xander wouldn’t be able to talk in coherent sentences for a month.” Spike buried his face against her chest as laughter made them both shake, but then Spike snapped upright with a frown on his face. “If you’re thinking of that lot I’m not doing something right.” His hands slid down her legs and pulled at her knees so she unwound them from around his torso. With a grunt, he pushed her legs wide apart and held them there.

He paused and his gaze met hers. Anticipation curled low in her belly. “Spike,” she whispered. His hips rocked and his cock slid easily in and out of her slick channel. She gasped in a breath, and in the next instant he was thrusting hard and fast into her.

It was overwhelming and all she could do was twist her fingers around the chains and hold on. Spike’s lips curled back from his fangs and he struck like a snake, plunging his teeth into her chest. Fireworks exploded in front of her eyes as she came with a startled howl. Her pussy was spasming hard around his pounding cock as he lapped at the faint trickle of blood from his bite.

Spike groaned and straightened up, throwing his head back as the muscles of his stomach bunched and quivered. His cock swelled further and he lost his rhythm, his hips a flurry of ragged motion as he peaked. He roared her name and his claws dug into her skin. His dick was jerking and pumping her full of come. Buffy cried out as another orgasm caught her. It was warm as it rolled out to her fingertips and toes, only to come echoing back in blissful waves.

Spike’s hands shook as he undid the manacles and carried her to the bed. He collapsed onto it with her, pulling her close and snuggling his entire body against her as his demon receded.    

She turned so they were plastered together from forehead to feet. All the emotions inside her seemed too big to handle, and the most pressing one spilled out of her mouth. “I love you.”

Spike’s eyes went wide. “Buffy?” he said tentatively, his hand coming to rest on her cheek.

It took her a second to realize it was something that so far, in this reality, she hadn’t told him. She nearly panicked, thinking she’d somehow put words into her younger-self’s mouth that shouldn’t have been there…but frankly she’d forgotten about having a different history than the one they’d shared this last year. She’d just been Buffy, and Buffy loved Spike. Then, now, forever. She’d been terrified to tell him because she’d been worried he wouldn’t believe her.

Which seemed really silly…

Oh.

Wow. That moment, under the school…somehow that fear had stayed behind, in a place it didn’t belong.

“Buffy?” Spike asked again, his voice laced with uncertainty.

Her eyes were watery as she met his gaze. “I love you,” she said calmly and firmly.

“Oh, god.” He bowled her over so he was squishing her against the mattress. “My girl, my Buffy, I love you. I love you so bloody much.” His lips met hers, but only briefly as his feelings kept leaking out and he whispered words of love to her over and over.

The old hurt of Spike telling her she didn’t love him died an unmourned death. For a moment she felt dizzy. In the world she was creating there’d been none of the painful obstacles for them overcome. No torture by Glory, no reason for him to risk everything for a soul…

But hadn’t he been here, day after day, for her? Through anything and everything? So what if they hadn’t walked through some kind of valley of the shadow of whatever. Their relationship didn’t need to be ten kinds of messed up to be real. Being there for someone with no questions asked and caring and supporting them, that was just as important as big gestures and violent clashes. Maybe more so.

Spike was still draped over her. He was purring with a dopy grin on his face. She could still mostly breathe and had no desire to push him off. “I really don’t want to go home.”

“Then don’t,” he rumbled. She could feel the vibration of his voice in her chest and it made her toes curl.

“The Council’s going to be doing its Slayer check-up tomorrow. I should probably be at home when they go looking for me instead of naked in your bed.”

Spike made a grumpy, unhappy-vampire noise.

“And you have to play nice. I’d like to have funding and backing from the council.”

“But they’re making you get out of bed,” he whined.  When she tried to roll him off her he only hung on tighter. “My Buffy.”

His words made her entire being want to burst into song. “Yes, yours,” she whispered back and a shudder went through his body.

After long moments, he raised himself up enough to kiss her lips before rolling off to the side. It was difficult not to climb right back on him. She located clean clothes to pull on and headed up the ladder. Spike, with jeans on and nothing else, followed her.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said, pressing her lips to the center of his chest. “I love you.”

He rubbed the spot she’d kissed with reverence. “I love you, too.”

Her heart was soaring.

****

The Council’s visit, a more routine check-up this time as Giles had never been fired since they had successfully faked her Crucimentum, had gone far, far better than the one in her memory.  

Who would have guessed nearly two decades of fighting ceaseless demon incursions would prove to be useful for something? Buffy flew through the council’s physical tests. Buffy had learned the Japanese names of moves from a Slayer she’d fought beside–the girl had died when San Francisco had fallen–and Buffy found herself put out by Travers suggestions. Obviously, the idiot had never fought blindfolded. She called back her own choices and had disarmed and subdued her opponent in less than three minutes.

It was too bad that Lydia woman, with her stupid stopwatch and thesis on Spike, didn’t want a turn. Buffy wanted to scratch her eyes out. The jealousy was ridiculously bad, considering Buffy knew Spike wasn’t about to run away with Lydia, but Buffy couldn’t seem to get a handle on it and it was making her snappish. She wished she could have been there to see what Spike said when the Council had interviewed him, though it must not have been: “I’m shagging the Slayer” since none of the Council members were giving her the hairy eyeball. She wondered if Spike had scented candles though, because the whole place had to reek of sex after the night they’d spent together.

When the end of the day came and Buffy stood in front of Travers, ostensibly to be grilled, while Giles and her friends looked on, she couldn’t help but wish her boyfriend was there.

Speak of the devil.

The shiver that washed down her spine as Spike slipped into the Magic Box and stood hidden in the shadows was delicious. She stood just a little bit taller knowing he’d come to support her.

“Shall we begin?” Travers asked.

Buffy cocked her head to the side. “No.”

“Excuse me?” Travers looked like he’d been punched and Giles’ eyebrows had shot sky high.

“I said no. I’m not going to even attempt to answer a bunch of questions that are designed to make me fail. Maybe you want to know how I do under stress, or maybe you want to see me fail, but whatever your game is, I’m not playing.”

The entire room had gone silent. Y’know, this whole thing was a lot easier when you didn’t have a hellgod breathing down your neck.

Buffy ran a hand through her hair and slid off her white faux fur jacket. “You say you’re here to test me, but what if I didn’t pass? What would you do then? Kill me? I’d like to see you try.” From the corner of her eye she saw Spike clench his fists. No one else moved. “No, you’re here because you have nothing better to do. I define your existence. Only my life isn’t measured out in charts, tables, and neatly spaced paragraphs. It’s blood and guts and death, every night since I was fifteen. And I’ve done my duty to keep the world going. With no reward.”

“Service is its own–“ one of the Council members started, but quickly shut his mouth when Buffy fixed him with a glare.

“It doesn’t put food in my mouth or a roof over my head. I’m not a slave. I want a salary, to be negotiated through my Watcher, so I’m never left balancing Slaying and providing for my family. Bonus for prevented apocalypses. Or I guess I can just take a few year’s worth of vacation instead? I’m sure nothing bad will happen.”

The council members glanced at each other and shifted uncomfortably.

“But that’s not the most important part,” she continued.

“Do tell,” Travers said dryly.

Buffy tapped a finger against her temple. “I have dreams. Some show me the past, others the future. One in particular showed me just how vulnerable the Council is.” She turned away from Travers and met the gazes of the other Council members. “I’ve seen you all die.”

There were gasps.

“I’ve done what I can on my end to prevent it, but you need to decentralize and stop concentrating yourselves in one easy to blow-up building.” Anger rolled over her. These people were supposed to be her support, but mostly what they’d done was fossilize themselves into rigid power structures that’d taken any hope of them helping away from her. “Embrace the new technologies, digitize books–uh, well, be careful with that one–build up regional offices and monitor demon activity worldwide instead of sitting on your asses and congratulating each other about how amazing you are. Because you aren’t, and it’s not going to kill just you, it’s going to kill everyone.” She paused, breathing hard.

“Buffy?” Spike’s voice was soft and low.

“I’m okay,” she replied, then returned her attention to the council. “Dump the people and the old ways that would leave you helpless. You need me to fight the impossible battles, but I need you too, to support me with money or information. We’re in this together. You can either save the world with me, or the world will declare you obsolete and you’ll cease to exist. I hope you choose to side with me.”

She’d let them decide. Without a backwards glance, she marched past Spike to the training room. He followed behind her, rubbing his hands over her shoulders as she shook. “Wankers aren’t worth the effort,” he murmured.

Buffy sighed. “I wish they weren’t.” She turned and snuggled against his chest. He kissed her and the world seemed to disappear.

Then it really did. Her twenty-four hours were up.

****

The battlefield was mostly as she’d left it, though once more she had a gut feeling that the number of demons had decreased. A tank lumbered into view and Buffy stared, open mouthed, as it fired into a knot of demons. The world froze as the explosion from the tank’s shell was blossoming. It was almost pretty.

Buffy pulled herself away from the sight and turned to find Whistler next to the table. The little man looked subdued. “You doing okay?” she asked as she touched the table and the words ‘Year Six’ appeared. There were a lot of pictures of moments she didn’t remember yet. They vastly outnumbered the ones that seemed familiar. Even more striking were the things that were absent.

“No Double Meat Palace?” she asked with a smile.

Whistler’s gloomy expression lightened a fraction of a degree. “Nah, you got your pay, princess. None of that crap for you.”

No just-been-crawled-out-of grave, no Riley, no Angel, no black-haired Willow. It was like a fairy tale. “How did so much go wrong before?” she whispered.

Whistler shrugged. “It’s a good question. I asked it myself, but didn’t get a clear answer. I guess something didn’t happen that was supposed to? Something that broke a lot of stuff both directions in time. I don’t know. Wish I did so I could tell you what it was that was so important.”

“Yeah,” Buffy said absently. Her eyes had fixed on a picture of herself and Willow in the hideous bridesmaid gowns Anya had picked. Xander’s words, which he’d said only that morning, though for her it was closer to a week ago, came floating back. He’d said not marrying Anya was his biggest regret. Maybe those words had been a clue, a little hint from the Powers. “This day, early in the morning to start.” Her friends were worth having to wear that…interesting color one more time.

Whistler didn’t even argue. “Sure, no problem. I got bupkiss from the higher ups, so your guess is as good as mine.”

“Transition point?”

“Over there, charming gentleman with the mace.”

Buffy winced. The demon in question was dripping with some kind of slime and wielding a mace the size of a baseball bat. “Whistler, does my dying do anything besides send me back?”

“Hm? That’s not what it does it all.”

“It doesn’t?” Whoops, she hadn’t meant to yell quite that loud. 

Whistler took a step back. “I never said it did, just that you needed to create the point.”

“Crap,” she muttered. He was right. “So what does it do?”

“Your blood, that of an immortal Slayer, willingly sacrificed, cements in place the changes you’re about to make. Your deaths are the glue holding this thing together.”

“There really wasn’t anyone else besides me the Powers could have sent back, was there?”

Whistler shook his head. “Nope. And while at first I thought it was to stop the battle, now I’m thinking they just mean for humanity to win. There’s pockets of connected resistance planet wide.” He gestured to the turmoil surrounding them. “This is now just a battle, not the battle.”

Buffy let out a sigh of relief. She might have already saved the Earth simply by not dying. It felt weird that the fate of humanity had rested on her writing a note to her Watcher and him believing that note. “Cool. That’s a lot less pressure. Maybe I can make it even better?”

“I hope so, kiddo.” Awkwardly, he moved to her side and patted her shoulder. “And I’m sorry I got fixated on the Warriors before. The Powers told me to shut up about it when I asked.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “I guess they figured out I’m not mom of the year material.”

“You would have done fine.”

Her brows shot upward. She couldn’t have been more surprised if Whistler had done a striptease to the theme song from Happy Days. “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it. Now go have fun and get your friends married.”

Buffy was smiling when the world started up again and the mace-of-unusual-size smashed into her skull.

Chapter Text

I'm lost in a world made for you and me

                -The Supremes, “I Hear a Symphony”

****

Buffy came to in her favorite place, snuggled beside Spike. They were naked and under the sheets of his bed in the crypt. He was on his back, arms and legs spread out with his face turned towards her. She had been curled up in a ball, tucked against his side.

The sheet slid down to pool around her waist as she sat up and scrubbed her hands over her face. She smelled of Spike. A shower was definitely in order before the wedding.

The expected headache came and Buffy closed her eyes against the pain.

Her mom’s death, that single, unpreventable thing, still hurt. Spike had been her anchor, and Dawn’s, during that time. Never asking anything of her, he’d helped with funeral arrangements and held her whenever she’d needed a shoulder to cry on. One night he’d even haltingly told her of his own mother’s death, and it’d been her turn to soothe him. She’d whispered in his ear that she was sure his mom understood and forgave him, because he hadn’t been trying to hurt her. It’d made Buffy wish she’d known the naive young man he’d been, who’d thought bringing his mother along on an immortal trip through Europe had been a great idea. Even though Spike was ashamed of his past self, Buffy had a suspicion that William had been adorable, and was much more a part of Spike than the vampire liked to admit.

Angel had never shown after her mom’s funeral, thank goodness. She hadn’t seen him in years. Not even so much as a phone call at Christmas. He wasn’t missed.

Once the initial grieving had been over, the rest of the spring and summer had frankly been kind of boring. No apocalypse. The scoobies had done some research and experimentation with techniques and methods while patrolling, but for the most part things had been dully normal.

 It’d been wonderful.

There’d been date nights with Spike, cooking lessons from Tara, chats with Anya that went on and on, and time spent with Willow and Xander just hanging out like they had in high school. Giles had gone to England for a few months and come back refreshed.

Buffy had taken a not-so-secret trip with Anya to L.A. and they’d come back loaded down with goodies for the bedroom. Peach-flavored warming, edible lube had been Buffy’s favorite, and Spike had been endlessly delighted with a set of red silk stockings she’d gotten on a whim. He liked putting them on her, taking them off, running his hands over her ankles when she was wearing them, and screwing her like crazy while she had her stocking clad legs wrapped tight around him. She chalked up to some latent Victorian kink and it sure wasn’t any hardship to indulge him.

The biker demons had shown up and been run out of town with little fanfare. Warren had been turned in for theft by Andrew and Jonathan, who’d been working as double agents for Buffy. Dawn had still almost managed to get herself munched on by a vampire on Halloween and Spike had lectured her afterwards for hours, then spent more hours giving her self-defense lessons, which Buffy had eventually been dragged into assisting with.

There’d been the stupid singing, though this time around it’d been Andrew who’d accidently summoned Sweet. Like before, the songs had all been over the top, but the secrets that’d come out hadn’t been nearly so terrible. Spike had sung to her about being worried he wasn’t good enough for her, Buffy had sung about being worried he’d leave her–jeez, her younger self had really absorbed that deep-seated fear–though Spike had been asleep when she’d sung the simple tune. Giles had worried that he was obsolete and Dawn that she’d never be seen as a grown up. No earth-shattering revelations this time, but she had still kissed Spike at the end.

Willow hadn’t fallen prey to dark magic and she and Tara had worked together to bring down Rack and stop him preying on the magically inclined young people of Sunnydale.

Buffy’s birthday had ended in near disaster, predictably, as Dawn, who’d been figuring out that neither time nor money were things available in endless quantities, had wished that everyone got the one thing they really wanted right at that minute. Buffy and Spike had proceeded to spend the entire day locked in her bedroom because apparently what they’d both desired was time alone with the other in bed. A very red-faced Buffy had then been tasked with finding the home for the pony Dawn had wanted. The girls had sorted through Willow’s dream wardrobe–how many fuzzy sweaters did one person need?–and divvied up the clothes. Anya had complained about needing a do-over because all she’d gotten was a rice cooker. Tara had received a phone call from her family saying that while they didn’t understand her, they’d forgiven her. Xander had ended up with a new, cherry-red Mustang, and Giles with a bottle of very expensive scotch that Spike complained her Watcher wasn’t keeping in any of his usual hiding spots.   

Mostly they’d all looked at each other and felt embarrassed that no one had been walking around wishing for world peace or for the hellmouth to be closed. It’d all been such normal, unexciting things. As Buffy sat there, remembering a world in which all those boring things had ceased to exist, she thought they were wonderful things to have desired.

Then wedding plans had completely taken over.

Buffy tilted her head as the last of the headache left her. Her younger-self had been shaken by what she’d sung under Sweet’s spell and had started sneaking books out of Giles’ library to research. Back what felt like a million years ago now, Giles had threatened to stake Angel if he ever even brought up the word claim to Buffy.  At the time, she’d learned that it was some kind of magic demon-marriage thing, but with Spike she’d needed to know more. What she’d discovered had floored her. Everything from the fact that the magic radiated out from the claiming into the past as well as the future (possibly even into other dimensions) to the knowledge that not just anyone could do it. If the couple was meant to be claim-bound, the magic would take over and help them complete it, binding the two beings together in a way that would last past the gates of death. Younger-her was certain this was the way to slay that demon in her mind that kept rearing its ugly head and making her think Spike would fall out of love with her.

Younger-her was right, but it was also so much more than that. It was everything. The only question was why Buffy hadn’t brought claiming up with Spike yet.  Turning it over in her mind, Buffy realized her younger-self needed a nudge. Just like with taking the plunge to be with Spike, or saying she loved him, her younger-self was waiting on something. It was her, or more accurately, she’d been waiting for the time when she remembered the other past and future, giving her the courage to act.  Buffy felt a calm settle around her. This was the moment she’d been anticipating.

Beside her Spike stirred and tugged her down so she was lying on her side, facing him. “Do you have to leave already?” he asked, his voice rough with sleep. Spike cupped her face in his hands and rained kisses across her cheeks, eyelids and nose. “Love you so much, Buffy. It hurts when you can’t be here, even though I’ll know I’ll see you in just a few hours all dolled up at the wedding.”

“Uh, you haven’t seen the dress I have to wear yet.”

Spike paused. “Anya didn’t go with the traditional burlap and worms, did she? Not that you wouldn’t look fabulous in anything, but…”

“No, it’s not that bad.” She raked a hand through his curly hair. “And I know what you mean about it hurting when we’re apart. And…and…” she faltered. If he said no, she was going to be crushed. “I think we should get married too.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Did you catch wedding fever from Anya?” A smile slowly spread across his face. “Though I rather like the idea of asking everyone to celebrate our love with you in a pretty white dress.” His eyes went dreamy and Buffy groaned.

“We can do that too, but that’s not what I meant.”

His forehead furrowed. “It’s not?”

“I meant right here, right now, and demon-married.”

Spike sat up with a shocked expression stamped on his face. “Do you mean a c-c-laim? With me?”

“No, the other vampire I’m spending all my time with and screwing like crazy.” Buffy pushed the covers off her and stretched her arms over her head.

Spike rolled on top of her, pinning her wrists. His eyes were fierce. “Buffy, do you know what you’re asking?”

“Yes,” she said. “William, I want to be mated to you, from now until forever, together long after this life is over. I love you.”

A deep shudder passed through his entire body. “Oh, god, Buffy…I want…so bad. Everything…” He squeezed his eyes closed. “But you’d be giving up too much, luv. There’s no white picket fence with me, no 2.5 kids. You’ll never be a mum. I can’t even spend the day at the beach with you.”

“My heart’s already yours. There’s no giving up anything, there’s only what we build, day by day.” Her voice was steadier than she’d expected it to be, because inside she was a wreck as she waited for him to agree. Surely he loved her more than enough to want to be joined with her? Dark dread whispered in the corners of her mind: that she wasn’t worth it, that he’d abandoned her before when he’d returned from the amulet in L.A., that he was just wasting time with her until someone better came along.   

Spike had pushed himself up on one hand and was studying her face. “You look afraid,” he said, his voice sad.

“I am.”

Spike flinched.

“I’m afraid that…what if I have this wrong? I don’t want a world without you in it…but maybe for you I’m not the one? I know you love me and I’m okay if all you want is whatever time I’m given. Just tell me and we’ll pretend I didn’t ask this and go sit through Anya and Xander’s ceremony so we can eat the expensive catering.” She cupped Spike’s face and ran her thumb over his prominent cheekbone.

It felt like the entire universe was holding its breath.

A bone deep cry escaped Spike’s throat. He collapsed back on top of her and pressed his face tightly against her neck. It was a while before he managed to be able to form coherent words. “I love you, Buffy. Need you. My girl. Forever, longer. Oh god.” At last he regained enough control to say: “Buffy Summers, I want to be mated to you, from now until forever, together long after this life is over. I love you.”

Spike lifted his head and gently pressed his lips to hers. Red hot lust erupted inside her and consumed her in a flood. She couldn’t get close enough to him. Her nails dug into his back while her mouth devoured his. His hands slid under her, pulling her tight against him. Her sex was aching with need and she could feel wetness leaking from her opening down over her butt and onto the sheets. She spread her thighs wide apart in welcome.

Spike flexed his hips and the head of his cock slid over her folds. He pushed hard against her, growling in frustration when he didn’t hit the right spot. She couldn’t seem to move her hands to help him, and he appeared just as unable. He pulled his hips back again and surged forward, the hard prod of his cock nearly painful until it slipped down and inside her channel, stretching her, filling her, completing her.  

The rest of the world faded from her conscious. There was only Spike and his rough, raw grunts as he frantically thrust into her. Buffy pressed her nose against his throat, glorying in his scent.

Her stomach muscles tightened, but she fought her orgasm because she never wanted this to end. Never wanted to be separate from him. He was pounding her into the mattress, his jaw clenched and neck tendons standing out in relief. His eyes were open and fixed on her, the look tender and full of awe. Slowly, his face shifted to that of the demon. She gasped and her body wound itself tighter. Her pussy clamped down hard around his cock and she hung suspended over an infinite abyss. Spike bowed his head and his tongue lapped against her throat.

She fell.

Keening out her bliss as her body arched up off the bed, she was unprepared when Spike’s fangs slid into her neck. Her pleasure doubled, then doubled again. Her vision was gone. There was only the slide of his impossibly hard cock in and out of her quaking channel and the sweet pain of his fangs in her throat.

He let go of her neck and hoarsely whispered things in a guttural language she didn’t know, but that some part of her understood. She was his, for all time. Death could not part them. She was his bound and chosen mate. They were one. At the end he harshly cried, “Mine!”

“Yours,” she replied in kind. The word was inadequate for how much of herself she was giving him.  

Spike continued to thrust furiously. She licked her lips and brought her face to his throat. This part had worried her, but now that it was happening, there was a rush through her as her Slayer demon rose to the call. Her canines sharpened. They weren’t a full set of fangs, but they’d get the job done. Instinct took over and she bit into his neck, the taste of his blood, coppery and sweet, exploded across her tongue.

Buffy moaned. She wanted to take him in. His blood, his body, his very being. She wrenched herself away from his throat as he came. The same words, in the same unknown language, poured from deep inside her. He was hers, beyond the reach of time or death. He was her bound and chosen mate. They were one. “Mine,” she yelled to all of creation.

“Yours,” he said fiercely as his cock finally stopped spasming.

The strands of magic weaving them together felt thick and strong. Spike rolled off and lay on his back, panting in time with her.

It was done and…

Her eyes flew open. She could feel him in her mind. The connection was clear and strong. His love for her came rushing through the claim. It was an ocean, vast, deep, rich. You heard someone say ‘I love you’ and you had no idea of the sheer enormity of the emotion that lay behind it. She saw herself through his eyes, and she was amazing.

There was a nervous anticipation that threaded itself through the connection. Buffy smiled at the ceiling. She gathered her love for the man beside her, the feeling that existed in a broken woman who’d missed him for twenty years and that of the woman she was now, who’d barely known a life without him as her rock, and sent the entirety of it flooding through the claim.

Spike sucked in a started breath, then he grabbed Buffy and dragged her on top of him, clinging tightly to her as he broke down. Sobs wracked his body. She rubbed her cheek against his and tenderly stroked his hair as he cried. Part of her wanted to slap him for hearing her say ‘I love you’ so many times and never ever beginning to fathom how deep her love ran, but she understood. He’d always been the one to give, never to receive.

Buffy tried to show him how she saw him, the sexy, funny, tender guy that she could depend on no matter what.

“I’m not sure that’s me,” he rasped through the tears.

“That’s who you are to me.”

“I don’t deserve you.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Well, too damn bad, mister. We just got married, so now you’re stuck. Permanently. I’m going to spend all of eternity making sure you pick up your wet towels and massage my feet.”

His arms wrapped tightly around her. “I love your feet,” he choked out.

She needed better ammunition. Luckily, she was pressed against her mate’s–her mind did a sideways stumble over the word because it felt so right– her mate’s body that never failed to turn her on. She wiggled and started slowly trickling her lust through the claim. Spike frowned a little, but the worst of his tears seemed to be over. She opened the valve on the connection a little further and he groaned. Smiling at her success, Buffy sat upright and ran her hands over his chest. A flash of pink caught her eye and she fished Mr. Gordo out from between the pillows. Spike kept him here for nights they couldn’t be together since he smelled so strongly of Buffy. She set him on the nightstand and patted his head. He made a good witness to their joining.

Spike bucked his hips under her and she rubbed her core against his growing hard-on. His hands grasped her hips. She raised herself and positioned his cock at her entrance before sliding down to sheath his shaft entirely. Her nipples were begging to be touched and instantly his fingers were there, rolling and pinching them. Buffy tilted her head back and brought a hand behind her to caress his balls just like he wanted her to…

Her head snapped forwards and her eyes locked with his. They both blew the claim wide open and their lust for and pleasure in the other surged together, creating a seamless tide. When Buffy and Spike started moving again it was impossible to tell where she ended and he began.  They were one.

The universe seemed satisfied.

****

Buffy let herself in the back door, hoping it was still too early for anyone else to be up.

“Hi Sis!” Dawn chirped from her perch on a stool as she ate a bowl of cereal.

Drat.

“How’s Spike?”

Buffy felt her face flush as she quickly covered the claim mark on her neck. Just hearing his name had her mind focusing on the new connection. Spike was standing shirtless in front of his microwave while his breakfast heated up. He felt her and gave her the mental equivalent of a bear hug, which made her melt and him giddy. She returned the feeling and he grinned goofily. Buffy knew she was too. This was better than wonderful.

Disengaging a little from the claim–that was going to take some work to get the proper balance– Buffy found Dawn was staring at her like she’d grown a second head. “What?” Buffy asked.

Dawn’s spoon clattered to the countertop and she was off her stool and standing in front of Buffy in a flash. Eyes narrowed, Dawn grabbed her sister’s hand and after a tense moment, Buffy allowed Dawn to pull it away from her neck. “He bit you?” Dawn gasped.

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Seriously? I’m with a vampire, he bites me all the time.”

“Buffy!” Dawn looked scandalized, then confused. “I’ve never seen any before.”

“Do you think I wear all these shirts that hide my cleavage because I’m really modest?” Buffy yanked the collar of her blouse down and to the side, showing off a few of the overlapping fang marks that dotted her chest. Dawn’s eyes looked like they were going to roll right out of her skull.  Letting go of her shirt, Buffy’s hand returned to her neck. “But you’re right, this one is special.”

“It is?”

“Uh…yes.” Buffy took a deep breath. “It’s a claim mark.”

Dawn’s expression went from surprised to furious. “Wait? Claim? Like vampire ooky forever marriage don’t-you-dare-do-that-with-Angel claim?”

Buffy winced. “Can we not mention Angel right now?”

“I can’t believe you Buffy!” Dawn stamped her foot. “You got married to Spike? Without any of us there?”

Buffy couldn’t get anything but a garbled noise out. Spike was chuckling at Dawn’s outburst. “Yeah, pet, why didn’t you invite all your friends to watch?”

“You’re so mean! Don’t you think I’d want to be there when my sister got married? Don’t you think I love you?” Dawn dissolved into tears.

“Oh, Dawnie.” Buffy wrapped her arms around Dawn. “We weren’t trying to make you feel bad. First off, it wasn’t a planned thing. It just sort of happened. There’s the wedding today and I…I couldn’t imagine…I’ve been worried, what if he left me? I’d –“

“You’re mental,” Dawn said with a snort. “Spike’s so about to fall out of love with you, leave you in the lurch, and run away with someone else…not.”

Buffy smiled weakly. The other reality, the one that’d had been slowly fading to a pale ghost of itself, returned in vivid technicolor. The pain hit her chest. Spike hadn’t wanted her, hadn’t believed her last desperate words to him. The old insecurities rushed back: that in L.A. he’d found someone else and had been glad to be rid of Buffy, had fallen in love with that person and spent day after day loving them with his body until he’d dusted again in a dirty alley.

How many endless nights had Buffy lain awake, agony burning her chest while she imagined Spike making love to some nameless, faceless woman, one who told him how wonderful he was, how loved? In her nightmares, he’d laughed at her, taunting her with his new girl and telling her she was a fool and that he was glad she hurt, that she deserved every second of the pain.

“Buffy?” Dawn sounded like she was very far away. In the crypt, Spike’s mug hit the floor and shattered. He frantically threw open the hatch to the lower level and jumped down before launching himself onto the bed where, only a few hours ago, he and Buffy had been wrapped around each other, binding themselves together forever. Belatedly, Buffy realized that Spike, while unable to read her thoughts, had picked up the warning siren of her emotions and that it had something to do with them being apart, and her panic had become his.

Spike had his face pressed against the middle of the mattress and was inhaling deep lungfuls of their combined scent while blasting his love through the claim. The smell thing should have been icky, but through the filter of his mind she sensed what he did, which turned the combination into a symphony of him and her together. It calmed her. After a few heartbeats, she gathered her wits enough to send her love back, and the tension drained from Spike’s body.

“Sorry,” she told him. “And thank you.”

“I’m here, I’m with you. I love you,” he soothed, not probing at her blind fear.

“I love you too.” She pushed away the past. That world would never exist, she would never give him a reason to forsake her.

“Buffy? Are you okay? Buffy?” Dawn was shaking her. Buffy found that she’d somehow ended up sitting on the floor.

“Sorry, Dawn.” Buffy gathered her sister into a hug. “I wigged out again about him not wanting me, even though I know that wouldn’t happen, and I scared you and him. He was making me feel better, because he’s awesome about taking care of me like that.”

“Well, duh.” Dawn paused. “Wait, you guys can, like, telepathically hear each other?”

“Tell Dawn good morning.

“Spike says good morning,” Buffy said with a small smile.

“Hi Spike!” Dawn chirped, then frowned. “Hey, you’re distracting me. I’m still mad you guys would get married and not invite at least a couple people to be there.”

With a laugh, Buffy pushed herself back her feet and helped Dawn stand. “Dawn, you’re my favorite sister in the whole wide world, and I love you bunches, but claiming involves the kind of stuff you do without clothes on, and I don’t know about Spike, but I really wouldn’t have wanted an audience.”

“Oh, eww!” Dawn sat back down on her stool. “Why didn’t you say that in the first place?”

Buffy leaned on the counter next to her sister. “Because, like always, you weren’t letting me get a word in edgewise. And don’t worry. Later, when it’s not someone else’s big day, we’ll have a ceremony and there’s no one else I want to have be my maid of honor more than you.”

Dawn pursed her lips. “Even though technically you’ve known Willow–“

“No one,” Buffy interrupted. She ran her fingers through Dawn’s long hair. Buffy had hated when Dawn had cut off to nearly nothing, because post demon-apocalypse it was hard to find time to wash it, let alone comb and style it. “Now I better get ready. Horrible bridesmaid’s dresses wait for nobody.”

“I’ve got a white scarf Tara gave me that’d look good on you, if you don’t want to tell anyone else about–“ Dawn broke off and gestured at Buffy’s neck.

“Thanks! Yeah…” Buffy quirked her lips to the side. It was probably best to wait on the big Buffy and Spike are mates announcement. She really didn’t want to rain on Anya’s parade. “You’re the best.”

Dawn beamed and went back to munching her breakfast as Buffy hurried up the stairs.

“You’re going to take a shower?” Spike asked, sounding innocent, though the feelings seeping through the claim were anything but. Buffy giggled. Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life…

****

The wedding was as chaotic as she remembered. Both she and Spike were irritated by everything in general about thirty seconds after arriving. Though he looked good enough to eat in his suit. The claim meant Spike couldn’t hide his dismayed reaction to her very colorful dress, and he kept sending her interesting mental pictures of ways he could get her out of her it.

Somehow, through it all, she managed to keep tabs on Xander. She knew when the demon took him aside, and she was ready when it left.

Xander, looking shaken, stood in the middle of the room.

Buffy had already narrowed the claim down, telling Spike she needed to concentrate on her friend for a minute. He hadn’t argued, easily accepting her explanation. She adjusted the neckline of her dress, much higher than she remembered, and made sure Dawn’s scarf was in place. “And where do you think you’re going?” she asked Xander, blocking his path when he tried to exit.

“Buffy, I…tell Anya I’m sorry.”

“No.”

Xander’s brows drew together. “No?” he echoed.

“She loves you, you love her. You two are great together.” Which was much more true this time around than the last. Xander had never developed that annoying tendency to shut down what his girlfriend was saying, well, unless her sexual filter came off and then everybody still let her know it wasn’t the time or place. Some things never changed.

“But in the future…”

Buffy scoffed. “So some lame-brain demon appears, shows you a bunch of maybes, and you think that’s the only way things can happen? That there’s no way to make a better future?”

Xander found a chair to collapse into and Buffy leaned against the wall. He was staring at his clasped hands. “I don’t want to be my father,” he said quietly.

“So don’t be. Start now: by going out there and marrying the woman you love. Be the guy she thinks you are.”

“It’s not that easy.”

Buffy crossed her arms and sighed. “No, it’s not.”

“You’re not going to argue with me?” Xander looked surprised.

Buffy shook her head. “No, because loving and being with someone isn’t easy. It can even be scary. But not being with them? That’s worse. What if Anya died tomorrow, or a year from now? If she was gone? Would you want to look back and be glad you play it safe? That you didn’t risk a future together because something bad might happen? Or would you want to know that you tried to make a better one?”

Xander was looking at her now. “It different,” he said, voice hoarse, “when you’re making a commitment like this.”

“I know.” She put her hand over the mark on her neck, vaguely aware that Spike mirrored her action. The one she had given him was hidden beneath his shirt collar and tie.

“You do?” Xander asked, brow furrowed.

“Yup. I…Spike…we claimed each other.” Buffy’s face grew warm. “That’s a lot of forever.”

Xander blinked owlishly at her.

“It was just this morning and we didn’t want to tell anyone because it’s you and Anya’s big day, but yeah, the moment you’re standing there about to jump into the void is scary, because you’re tying your fate to someone else’s and you know you’re not perfect and that things might not go smoothly all the time, but once you leap…then you wonder what you were worried about.”

“Not everyone is you and Spike,” Xander muttered.

Buffy smiled. “I should hope not. Do you know how many times I’ve had to play swooning Slayer seduced by the big bad vampire? I really hope you and Anya don’t do that one, because that’d be weird. Though I know someone who gets awfully into the pizza delivery boy role…”

Xander groaned, but then he laughed. “If I walked out of here, no more delivery boy, huh?”

Buffy shook her head. She could see in his eyes that he’d figured out there was a lot he wouldn’t be if he gave up now.

“I’m not sure I can live with that.”

“Then don’t. Make the future what you want it to be. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.”

Xander stood and smoothed down the jacket of his tux. “Thanks Buffy, I’d love to stay and chat, but I have a woman to marry.”

****

Xander had only been a little late, and the ceremony had been beautiful, even if the guests–on both sides–were less than mannered.

Anya was glowing.

The reception was the traditional kind, with a dinner that cost more than Buffy wanted to think about. Spike was delighted that his steak came nearly mooing it was so rare and Buffy ate more shrimp than was probably healthy. The wine was delicious. There were toasts and tears and, finally, the tables were moved to the side while the DJ set up his gear.

Buffy perched on Spike’s lap as he sprawled in a chair and loosely put an arm around her. Across the room she could see Xander urgently whispering to Anya. She frowned, said something back, then stomped her foot and started marching across the dancefloor with Xander trailing behind her.

“If the bride and groom could take their places for the first dance,” the DJ said.

“Just a minute!” Anya bellowed. Buffy’s stomach dropped when Anya halted right in front of her and Spike. Hands on hips, Anya glared at them. “Did you two plan to keep this a secret?” She pointed at Buffy’s neck.

“No,” Spike said. “But this day is for you and Xander, we weren’t planning on getting in the way.”

Anya huffed. “Well, I think it’s great. Plus, Buffy helped Xander not to be an idiot. So you two should come share the first dance with us, since it’s your wedding day too.”

“But–“ Buffy started.

“No buts, you’re one of my best friends, Buffy. And Spike’s nice too. And it’s my day so you have to do what I want, which is to share my dance.”

Buffy looked at Spike, who shrugged. “Can’t say I don’t want to let the world know, luv.”

A smile stretched her lips. “Me too. Thank you, Anya.” Buffy stood and Spike followed, when she went to step onto the dance floor, Anya put her hand up to stop her.

“You can’t go out there and not show off,” Anya said. She plucked the white scarf off Buffy’s neck and gestured for Spike to remove his tie, which he immediately did, leaving it on the table as he undid the buttons on his collar. Spike took Buffy’s hand and led her onto the floor, she could feel his nervousness through the claim. “Hey, everyone,” Anya yelled. “Turns out we weren’t the only ones to get married today, so Buffy and Spike are going to share our dance.”

One of Spike’s hands clasped Buffy’s and the other settled on her lower back, his fingers tenderly stroking her. “I love you, kitten,” he rumbled.

“I love you, too.” The music started and Buffy’s eyebrows went up. Had The Supremes’ “I Hear a Symphony” always been Anya’s first dance choice? She honestly couldn’t remember. Spike was grinning and she followed his lead as he led her around the floor, spinning her out and drawing her back in close, his hand never leaving hers. Keep standing close to me, Oh so close to me, baby, baby…

Buffy was in a daze by the time the song ended. To her surprise, Spike stepped back and sketched a bow before Giles took his place. A very uncomfortable looking Giles, who was staring at her neck.

Her Watcher swallowed. “Don’t you think you should have, perhaps, talked to me first before–“

“Giles, I love you, but no. This was between me and Spike.”

To her surprise, Giles nodded. “I suppose you are right. Though don’t come crying to me in a decade when you want to hang him up by the ears.”

“Well, I already want to do that on a regular basis, but I love him, so as of yet I haven’t actually done it.” Buffy poked the claim just enough to figure out that her mate was dancing with Dawn, who was lecturing him a mile a minute about how he better never hurt Buffy or she would set him on fire and Willow would hit him with shovel.

Giles sighed. “Sometimes I really hate how much the two of you belong together.” He frowned at her neck. “Buffy, how did he bite you?”

“Uh, with his fangs?” She suddenly found the stitching of Giles’ lapel very interesting.

“But even if the intent wasn’t to hurt you, the chip…”

“Um, well, Spike’s had his chip out for almost a year and a half,” she said in a rush, raising her gaze to her Watcher’s face, expecting to see disappointment.

There was only puzzlement. “Ah.”

“I knew he wouldn’t hurt anyone,” she said quietly. “But we didn’t want you or anyone else to feel uncomfortable around him.”

Giles gave her a rueful smile. “I see.” There was silence for a few beats.

“You’re not mad?” Buffy asked at last.

“Not very, I trust you. And I might even trust Spike, but let us not push things too far on that front.” Giles steered her through a turn. “Now this,” he squeezed her hand, “is nice. Make me think of your senior prom.”

Buffy winced. “Don’t remind me.”

“Come now, it wasn’t that bad.”

“I didn’t have a date and the librarian took pity on me and asked me to dance.”

“Fair point,” Giles conceded, but he was smiling at her. The song ended and Spike was immediately at her side.

“Just going to steal my mate back, Watcher,” Spike said, and Buffy had to choke back her laugh at the way Spike tilted his head, obviously showing off the mark on his throat.

Giles, looking unimpressed, settled his hand on Spike’s shoulder. “Of course. I know you’ll take good care of her.” Buffy stared at her Watcher’s back as he headed for the bar. Spike’s arms slipped around her waist and she leaned against him.

Anya’s loud laughter made Buffy glance towards her friend. D’Hoffryn was patting her on the back and Xander was wearing an expression that was somewhere between amused and scared to death. Buffy caught his eye, but he smiled and gave her a thumbs up, so she turned around to look into her mate’s handsome face.

“Fancy a quickie in the coat closet, luv?”

****

It’d been the never-ending wedding reception, but Buffy still hadn’t wanted to leave when her twenty-four hours were up.

Not to come back to the same stupid battle yet again. She was done.

She stood, alone in the desert scrub, her fists clenched.

“Buffy! Behind you!” Spike’s voice rang out in her head.

Her jaw dropped. He was there. She could feel him through the claim. She spun, looking for him, but had to hurl herself backwards as a huge green dragon landed, dust billowing up from the sweep of its wings. The creature’s eyes landed on her.

“Buffy, where are you?” Giles’ voice crackled over the radio.

“Dragon,” Anya replied. The Dragon’s chest expanded.

“What vect-“ Xander was cut off as the world stopped.

Buffy scrambled back to her feet and ran towards Whistler. “One more day, right?” she asked.

“Well, yes. Can’t wait for you to look at the table–“

She grabbed his collar. “I can’t…I want the last day, when Sunnydale became a crater.”

“What?” He put a hand on his hat to keep her from shaking it off.

“Let me see how it ends. Then I’ll come back and finish this stupid battle, okay?”

“I really think you should look at the table.”

She shook her head. “I can’t do this anymore. I need to know how that day goes. I don’t care if it’s completely boring and all I do it make dinner and play Sorry! with Dawn and Spike. I can call Willow, we’ll chat about the weather. Just let me see that it’s all okay.”

Whistler opened his mouth like he was going to argue, then snapped it closed. “Fine. Don’t blame me.”

“Transition Point?”

“It’s green and scaly.”

“Of course it is,” Buffy grumbled as she let go of Whistler. She glanced at the table, but walked past it. It’d just be a jumble of things she didn’t understand since she’d changed so many events. Better to get the firsthand knowledge zapped into her brain when she got there.

Buffy returned to stand in front of the dragon. She cut off the claim link. There was no need for Spike to feel this. He’d burned for her, she could burn for him, but that wasn’t the image she held in her mind. She thought of them lying together on the old cot in her basement, the closest she’d come in that lifetime to the joy the new-her knew almost every night.

She looked up at the beast. “Here goes.”

The battle resumed and the dragon breathed out a great glut of flames. There was pain everywhere, consuming her, and it didn’t stop.

Chapter Text

In my arms why don't you stay?

                -The Supremes, “Baby Love”

****

Buffy bit back a scream. The pain wrapped around her middle and stabbed deep into her back. She couldn’t make sense of what was happening. Opening her eyes to bright lights and beeping only increased her panic. She was almost entirely naked, lying slightly propped up on a bed with her legs up in holders. There was a man she didn’t recognize standing between them, his face partially obscured by a surgical mask.

It was a nightmare.

The pain started the ebb and Buffy’s eyes focused on her belly. Her very rounded belly. She weakly raised a hand to touch it. She was exhausted, like she’d been battling demons for hours.

Desperately she reached for the claim, relieved to find it was still there, but tamped down to nearly nothing. Why? Where was Spike?

The strange man pulled his mask down and smiled. “There he is, Dad, looks like he’s got curly hair.”

Spike peered around the other man, mouth hanging open and eyes wide. “Oh, luv, that’s him. That’s our Henry.”

“One more push,” the other man–her doctor?–said. “And he should be here.”

The pain in her belly was increasing again. A contraction. She was…having a baby?

The vice of her abdomen was sidelined as agony blared through her skull. Her eyes helplessly found her mate’s and he rushed to her side. “Head’s hurting her, doc,” Spike said, fear crashing into him.

“It’s okay,” the doctor said smoothly. “Don’t push, just ride this contraction out and we’ll deliver on the next one. Baby’s vitals look fine.”

The memories of her new life shattered apart the old. No First Evil, or potentials, no crazy Spike in the school basement or her with a job as a counselor. No Caleb, no Xander losing an eye.

No Robin, no Giles trying to kill Spike.

It’d been a peaceful summer until she’d starting throwing up every morning. Spike had been scared and Giles, along with Willow and Tara, had cracked open the books, looking for what might cause a Slayer to become so ill.

It’d been Anya who’d shoved the pregnancy test into Buffy’s hands with a curt: “Pee on it.”

Buffy had and there’d been two blue lines. Bewildered, she’d walked out of the downstairs bathroom of her house, looked around the living room, said: “I’m pregnant,” and proceeded to have the worst evening of her life. She’d been greeted by stunned looks, except for Spike, who’d bolted to his feet, cut off his side of the claim and stormed out of the house, slamming the door hard enough behind him that something had fallen off the mantle and shattered on the floor.

Buffy remembered making it upstairs–she’d been trying to get to her room–but the sobbing had sent her into another round of puking and she’d ended up on the floor of the upstairs bathroom, emptying her stomach into the tub. The next few hours were a blur she barely had any recall of. Spike had later shown her his side as part of his apology.

**

The beer tasted like ash and the whisky, dust. It was like he was already dead. Spike couldn’t figure it out. Buffy…pregnant. She’d cheated on him. Lain with someone else. His mind kept sticking on that. His girl, his mate, had fucked someone else. Spike reached for the shot that was sitting on the scarred table of one of the booths at Willie’s, but his hand was shaking too badly to pick it up.

His Buffy with some ponce rutting between her legs. Had she done that little hitch in her breathing when the wanker had entered her? That tiny noise Spike loved so much and that he’d believed had belonged only to him?

She’d sworn to him she’d be his forever, but forever hadn’t lasted very long.

When morning broke over Sunnydale, Spike would walk right out of the bar and into its embrace. Then Buffy could do as she pleased with whoever she pleased and have as many kids as she pleased. Though joke was on her, because she’d pledged her afterlife to him and there was no getting out of that one. He desperately hoped that whatever their forever looked like, they’d be together without this hurt.

Or maybe he’d be dragging her to hell with him. Serve her right.

Oh god. He was already there.

The worst was that everything inside him–the claim, his demon, even his own heart–wanted to run to her. She was supposed to be his refuge, not his pain.

Spike tried to get his fingers to cooperate again, to wrap around the shot glass, even though he knew there was no numbing the feeling of losing her, but his hands wouldn’t behave. He flattened his palms on the table to stop the trembling.

Buffy moaning someone else’s name, some git touching her, his mouth on her breasts. Did he know how to angle his prick just right to make her scream when she came?

Bugger, Spike was going to cry.

His misery was interrupted when someone plopped themselves down across from him. “Go away,” Spike said without looking up.

“That’s a big ‘N’ ‘O’. Why are you sitting here?”

Confused, Spike raised his eyes to Xander’s face. The boy was pale and clutching a glass of ice water.

“Why am I sitting here?” Spike asked. Hysterical laughter started to seep out. “Why am I sitting here? Because I’m waiting for morning so I can kill myself. Because my girl, my god damned mate–“ He slammed his fist down onto the table, making Xander jump and spilling the sour-smelling whiskey. “She slept with someone else and she’s pregnant.” The black hole of pain he was falling into was bottomless. He didn’t know if he could wait for the sun, maybe he could use his lighter, dunk himself in booze and set himself ablaze. Would she even care if he was gone?

Xander stood and Spike gasped as the git dumped his glass of water over Spike’s head. “You’re an idiot,” Xander said, sitting back down.

Spike sputtered and used his shirt to wipe his face.

“In fact, I think you might be the biggest idiot I ever met, and I went to high school in this town.”

Spike stared at Xander.

“Seriously?” the boy continued when Spike didn’t say anything. “Buffy loves you a stupid amount, you two are claimed for crying out loud. To cheat on you she would have had to close off the link. Has she ever done that? Even once? And I’d like to know when she had time to sleep around on you. She’s either actively slaying something or in the process of, about to, or just has, humped you. Giles swears it’s a side effect of the claiming process and eventually you two will do something besides suck face, but I’m starting to wonder if eventually is even going to be in my lifetime.” Xander stopped to breathe. Something besides empty desolation wedged itself into Spike brain, because Xander had a point. Spike was never out of contact with Buffy, not until this evening.

“But I’m a vamp,” Spike said. “I can’t…”

Xander rolled his eyes. “Duh. Which is why we switched from researching things that can make a Slayer ill, since obviously she’s just got morning sickness, to looking for prophecies about a Slayer and a vampire having a baby.” Xander frowned. “Or we would be, if we weren’t trying to keep Buffy out of hysterics. All she knows is that she’s mystically pregnant by her bound vampire mate and when she announced that, her stupid-head mate ran away and cut off her connection to him. She’s sobbing inconsolably and the crying keeps making her toss cookies and all we can get her to say is: ‘He doesn’t want us’ over and over again.”

Horror washed over Spike. He’d hurt his mate. He had to get to her.

It took him a few minutes to figure out that his body had known what to do before the rest of him. He’d already left the bar and was running full tilt towards Revello Drive. He burst through the front door and ran up the stairs to where he could hear his mate crying. The people around her huddled form parted as he approached and, to his relief, she held her arms out to him. He picked her up, carried her to her room, and laid her on the bed, crawling in next to her. But then he hesitated, and stood back up to strip before helping her do the same. Lying skin to skin with her, pressed together from forehead to toes, he reopened the claim connection, promising to never cut it off again. He let his love flow through and his sorrow and remorse for having hurt her. In response, he got love and forgiveness. He knew it was more than he deserved, but then she always was.

**

The rest of Buffy’s pregnancy had been less dramatic, thank goodness.

Reluctantly, she’d given up her Slayer duties, though she still trained religiously. She’d taken vitamins and attended childbirth classes (with a very nervous Spike), read every book she could on having a baby, and rejoiced with her mate as each pregnancy milestone was met.

They’d both cried when they’d seen their baby for the first time with the ultrasound. A little boy. It’d taken them five minutes of hushed discussion to name him Henry.

Giles had gone soft and a little weepy himself when they’d shown her Watcher the printouts from the ultrasound. It’d been around that same time that he’d finally located a prophecy. Something very difficult to translate–it was as obscure mish-mash of several different demon and ancient human languages–about children born to strength and death, meant to stop the earth from being overrun with demons. At the time, Buffy had thought it sounded familiar.

Now she knew it did.

Whistler had been right, she was the mother to the Warriors of Light, he’d just had their father wrong. And, pish, she so wasn’t calling them that.

The contraction let her go and Spike’s cool fingers brushed over her forehead. “You doing alright?”

“Yeah, the headache’s gone now. I’m ready.”

Spike smiled at her. He laced their fingers together and raised their conjoined hands so he could kiss her knuckles. She breathed deeply, focusing on the in and out of her breath. A nurse laid a clean blanket across Buffy’s chest and stomach.

The next contraction gripped her. “Okay, now push,” the nurse said. Buffy did as she was told. The pain between her legs was indescribable, but in the next instant it was forgotten completely as the loud cry of a new voice filled the room. The doctor placed her son on her chest, and her hands clasped his tiny body for the first time.

She couldn’t stop crying. Vaguely, she was aware the doctor was still working, and there was discomfort as the afterbirth was delivered, but it all seemed very far away as she greeted the new life in her arms. Looking over at her mate she found him weeping openly, as overcome as she was. Grabbing Spike’s wrist, she carefully set his hand on the baby’s back. Henry had stopped crying quite so loudly, though he still looked very put out at having been born.  She gazed down at his perfect face and damp curls and fell in love. She could feel Spike doing the same.

The nurse eventually intruded. “I’m going to take Henry for just a few minutes to get him cleaned up, weighed, and measured.”

Spike made an alarmed noise.

The nurse chuckled. “It’s okay, he’ll stay right here in the room. You can come along, Dad. Let’s let Mom get cleaned up.” Reluctantly, Buffy handed her son to the nurse. “What a handsome fellow,” she said. “And a big, healthy one. I bet you’re going to cause no end of trouble for your parents.”

Buffy collapsed back against the bed and Spike gave her a quick kiss before trotting after the nurse, his eyes never leaving Henry.

Her middle felt empty, but her heart was overflowing.

****

The lights in the hospital room were dim. Buffy was supposed to be resting, but she just couldn’t, it was impossible for her to tear her eyes away from her son. He was sleeping peacefully in the clear plastic-sided hospital bassinet. He had a blue knit cap on his head and was swaddled in a white blanket. Mr. Gordo was tucked into one corner of the bassinet, watching over the baby. As a gift, Willow and Tara had come up with a spell to make the plush pig as good as new, and he was once more a cheery bright pink.

Buffy still wasn’t sure how she had managed to give birth to the robust little boy with adorable round cheeks and a mop of sandy brown curls. All the nurses had fussed over how much hair he’d been born with, which had pleased Spike to no end. Buffy could barely believe how much both she and Spike loved Henry already. Before he’d arrived she’d of course cared for the boy and loved him, but it was so different to see him lying there or to hold him in her arms. It felt like she’d grown another heart that belonged only to her son.

Spike shifted behind her on the bed and his fingers brushed over her now empty belly, but through the claim she could tell he was asleep. She rubbed her fingers over his, glad for his closeness. He’d been in the bed, spooned up behind her, since the nurse had left the room. He’d muttered words of love and praise for both Buffy and Henry, then slipped into a deep slumber, as if the baby finally making his way into the world meant that a finish line had been crossed and he could relax.

As if.

To Buffy, it felt like things were just beginning. She closed her eyes and tried to force herself to sleep, but snapped them open a minute later when she felt a new presence enter the room. Someone was leaning over the bassinet. Spike growled, the sound promising death.

“Whoa now.” The figure stepped back and put up its hands. “Nobody needs to get hurt.”

“Whistler?” Buffy said, sitting up on the edge of the bed. “What are you doing here?”

“You know this berk?” Spike asked.

“He’s an agent for the Powers That Be.”

“Not reassuring me, luv.” Spike, vamping out, slid around her and stood. His muscles were bunched, his fangs bared.

“I come in peace,” Whistler hastily added. “I just wanted to see the little guy since both you and Buffy have been through an awful lot to get him here, and I needed to have a talk with Buffy.”

She sighed. “It couldn’t have waited until I got back?”

“Back? Back where?” Spike sounded confused and alarmed.

“There’s no battle to go back to,” Whistler said, sweeping his hat off his head.

“What?” Buffy didn’t know if she was elated or petrified that her future was now unwritten.

“Can somebody explain what the bloody hell is going on?” Spike’s voice was thick with barely contained fury.

“Your girl there hasn’t told you any of this?” Whistler said, his expression unreadable.

Spike looked down at her expectantly. His face was hard, but it relaxed as he felt her distress and worry through their connection. “It’s okay, luv, you can tell me anything.”

“I lived through another lifetime. One that didn’t go so well. The PTB let me have a chance to make it better. So for one day a year, for the last seven years, I can remember that different life and twenty years past this exact date. Part of me, the part that remembers, goes back to an end-of-the-world battle in between days and picks the next time and place to go to.”

Spike frowned. “That’s how you knew to tell Giles about Ben and Glory.”

She nodded, then blushed. “And why I, uh, kissed you, way back after we kept Angelus from destroying the world. I missed you.”

“I wasn’t there? In this future?”

She took his hand and he sat on the side of the bed, his demon face melting away. “I’d lost you. And before that, I hadn’t ever been that nice to you. I only said: ‘I love you’ once, and I don’t think you believed me.”

“But the claim…”

“There was no claim.”

Spike’s shock was like a slap through their connection.

“No claim…and no Henry. I came back to this day because, before, it was the last day I ever saw you, not our son’s birthday.”

“N-n-o Henry? I can’t…No!” Spike barked. “There can’t be a reality without him in it.”

“There was,” Whistler said.

“No,” Spike snarled, his hand trembling in hers. He let go and walked to the bassinet, scooping the sleeping baby up and cradling him against his shoulder. “I’d give anything…”

“You did,” Whistler said, crossing his arms and leaning against the wall.

Buffy glanced at him sharply.

“I didn’t know the whole story before, so no need for that look.” Whistler tapped his hat against his elbow. “Tell your mate what he did for you in the other timeline.”

She took a deep breath. Spike’s emotions and mind were jumbled, the only clear things being his love for her and Henry. She latched onto that. Spike would not leave her again.

“You got your soul. I couldn’t let myself love you and we were a mess…and you went and got your soul so you’d be someone I deserved.” She twisted her hands together.

Spike looked confused and felt hurt. “Buffy,” his voice was low and tight. “Do you expect me to do that again someday? Are you waiting around–“

“No!” She clutched the mattress on either side of her. “I learned my lesson. All it did was make you dead and gift me with twenty years of pain. And now I obviously believe you love me and our son without it.”

“Well, that’s good,” Whistler broke in. “Because Daddy here can’t go get it again, no matter how much he might want to. It doesn’t exist anymore.”

“What?” Spike asked at the same time as Buffy.

“Remember, Spike, about five seconds ago, when you said you’d give anything to get Henry here? You did. You gave your soul. It’s what fueled this little time travel endeavor.”

Buffy’s fists clenched. “But then why did I have to keep dying?”

Whistler looked heavenward. “To cement the changes. I told you that.”

“Dying?” Dismay flooded from Spike across the claim.

“Seven times for seven days,” she said and glanced at Spike, who was staring dumbfounded at her. She waved her hand. “Not a big thing. Not when I’m standing here with you and Henry.”  She returned her attention to Whistler. “When did Spike give up the soul?”

“After he died for the second time.” Whistler shrugged a shoulder. “You came back, Spike, from the first death only to die a year later.”

“This other reality had a terrible lot of dying happening in it,” Spike muttered.

He wasn’t wrong.

Buffy’s heart was pounding. “Whistler, how did Spike find out about Henry? Was it in L.A.? Or something he was told after he died again?”

The little man’s expression became soft. “I suppose it really doesn’t matter if you know now. Spike, when you first returned you were a ghost, unable to leave Wolfram and Hart. There wasn’t a whole lot for you to do besides annoy Angel, but eventually you learned to do some minor things, such as nudge glasses off a table like a cat. And you could turn pages in a book. Wesley left a volume out on his desk and you took advantage. What you didn’t know was that it was one of the tomes Wolfram and Hart has that can call up any text in their archive. When you touched it, it showed you what the Powers wanted you to see.”

“Henry,” Spike breathed. The little boy’s head was resting in the crook of his father’s neck. The baby was still slumbering blissfully.

Whistler gave a brusque nod. “Your kids with the Slayer. You found a way to confront an emissary of the Powers and demanded answers. You were offered the deal: your soul for the lives of your unborn children.”

Spike raked a hand through his hair. “There wouldn’t have been a question.”

“You didn’t hesitate. Buffy, this is the part you need to hear.” Whistler looked her right in the eye. “The Powers forbade Spike from contacting you in any way, shape, or form. He didn’t hate you and there was no one else. No matter how much he missed and longed for you, he wouldn’t break the pact. Henry and your other sons and daughters lives hung in the balance.”

“Oh god.” Buffy’s stomach lurched. “I…for twenty years I thought Spike didn’t want me.”

“Uh,” Whistler’s face was flushed. “The Powers might not have told Spike about that part. Or that there would need to be a claim involved.”

She couldn’t quite catch her breath. “Did he believe me?” she asked in a tiny voice.

Whistler gave her a half smile. “Yeah, toots, he believed you. Enough that he was sure that you, given a second chance, wouldn’t stop at anything to be with him. He gambled Henry’s fate as well as that of every last person on this planet on the fact that you truly loved him. And, thank the Powers, it paid out in spades.”

She was crying, hard enough that she could barely see. Spike hadn’t given up on her, she’d just had to take the long way around to get back to him.

“And to be fair,” Whistler continued. “The Powers were right, Buffy. You needed a twenty year long kick in the head to figure things out.”

“Yeah, sounds like me,” she said, but all she could think was: he loved me and knew I loved him. The bed beside her dipped as Spike sat down. He handed Henry to her, and she cuddled her sleeping son and kissed the top of his sweet-smelling head.

Spike rubbed her back. “It’s over now. We made it.”

“You did.” Whistler sighed. “And the PTB have ordered me to offer you a last choice: you can continue to remember the other reality and the end of the world, or you can forget it, and this conversation–Spike would too–and live with only the memories of the much happier reality you created. And in case you haven’t figured it out, you and your past self are not really separate. So it’s not like there’s a her and a you, there was only ever one Buffy.”

She leaned against Spike with Henry curled against her chest. It was tempting. Happiness like she’d never conceived of. No faintly remembered lost heaven. She’d never have to know how badly she could hurt someone she loved. Twenty years of death and devastation gone in an instant. She wiped the last tears from her eyes and looked up at Spike. “What do you think? Because it’s not just me in this boat. You’d forget stuff too.”

He tucked a strand of hair behind her year. “It’s up to you, luv. I’m not sure I’d want to remember that much bad, but I don’t mind knowing what I gave up for my mate and family.”

She hesitated only a heartbeat longer.

“Then I want to remember.”

Whistler scoffed.

“I do,” Buffy said firmly. “I never want to take a single instant of this second chance for granted.” Spike put his arm around her and squeezed. Spike, with no soul for the afterlife. Her heart did a flip flop.

“Well, in that case I guess–“ Whistler started.

“No, wait. Spike, if he doesn’t have a soul, what about when we, uh, die? Is he going to just cease to be?”

“Henry,” Spike whispered in her ear as he soothed her through the claim. He was okay with being nothing as long as his children were born. She wasn’t so fine with it.

Whistler set his hat back on his head. “You can get your panties out of a knot, princess. The Powers wouldn’t have their Slayer go anywhere but to the good place, and since he’s your bound mate it wouldn’t be heaven for you if he wasn’t there. So rest assured you’ll be together in everlasting peace, someday. And Buffy, while I know you weren’t worried about it, with the claim there’s some behind the scenes metaphysics going on that are way above my paygrade that mean you’re sharing a piece of your soul with him, so over time it’ll get easier for him to make moral choices without having to think about it.  And with that, I bid you farewell. I hope you two kids have a nice life.”

With a pop, Whistler was gone.

“Do you think we can sleep now?” Spike asked with a yawn. “Or do you have any other life-changing skeletons in the closet I should know about?”

Buffy settle back against the raised head of the hospital bed, but avoided her mate’s gaze. “Nope, I think we covered it all.”

Henry burbled in his sleep.

Spike settled down beside her and caught her chin with his hand, bringing her eyes to meet his. “I love you, Buffy.” The claim was thick with the emotion. “And Henry, and all our children yet to come.”

She let her love intertwine with his through the connection. “I love you too, Spike.”

****

Bringing Henry home to the house on Revello Drive was an event. Everyone was there. Buffy was nervous at first that it’d be too much for the baby, but Henry seemed to enjoy being the center of attention. He didn’t cry once as he was passed from loving set of arms to loving set of arms.

Tara had packed the fridge with a week’s worth of dinners for Buffy and blood for Spike, and promised to come with more when it was gone. She glowed when she held Henry.

Willow had sewn him a blanket with a satin edge that had a spell on it so it faintly glowed in the dark. When she had him in her arms she also promised to teach him all about computers as soon as he was big enough to hold a mouse.

Xander held the baby like he might break and quickly passed him to Anya, then looked like he instantly regretted it as she cooed and giggled at Henry while making eyes at Xander. Buffy wondered how long it would be before Henry had a playmate.

Dawn held Henry for a long time, touching his hands and feet. She’d recently moved out of the house and in with Willow and Tara to give the new family room and time to themselves. Buffy had fretted horribly about it, but Spike had assured her that Dawn was more than capable and that it was good for her to learn to be independent. Plus, a crying baby wouldn’t help her study. Reluctantly, Buffy had agreed. Dawn had been ecstatic.

When it was Giles’ turn to hold the baby, he spent a good while gazing down at the little boy. “He’s beautiful, Buffy,” her Watcher finally said.

Buffy smiled. “He looks just like his dad.”

“Well, er, you should be proud of the little fellow.” Giles sighed and took off his glasses. “You might find this interesting: I received a call from the Council.”

Buffy raised a brow.

“Apparently, the demonic activity worldwide dropped rather noticeably yesterday, and here in Sunnydale the hellmouth’s signature all but disappeared.” The Council had turned its not inconsiderable resources towards monitoring and tracking demons and their actions. There’d been quite a few new tools developed that measured things like how awake a hellmouth was. Giles smirked. “I told them that I had no idea what could have happened.”

Sooner or later the Council would have to be informed of who and what Henry was, but Buffy had opted for later. Much later. She wanted Henry and any siblings he might have to grow up as normal as possible. “Thank you, Grandpa,” she said.

“Yes, um, I suppose I am now, aren’t I?”

Henry was looking sleepy, tucked in the crook of her Watcher’s tweed-covered elbow as he sat on the couch.

Spike walked up behind Buffy and put a hand on her shoulder. “Xander made some modification to the crib he wants to show us. Thinks since he built it he can tweak it whenever he bloody wants to.” Spike eyed Giles. “You okay holding the little fellow while he naps?”

“Of course.” Giles lightly ran his finger over Henry’s curls.

Spike took her hand and tugged her towards the stairs. She looked back at the living room, full of happy people celebrating the birth of her and Spike’s son.

She’d done it. Seven days and she’d gone from death to life.

The world was a better place, for her, for Spike, for everyone.

“Hey,” Dawn said, threading her way through the crowd. “Phone’s for you.” She handed Buffy the cordless handset.

“Hello?” she said, not sure who could possibly be calling.  

“Hi, Buffy?”

“Angel?”

There was a flash of irritation through the claim.

“Yes, um, I hear congratulations are in order?”

“They are,” she said cautiously.

“You doing okay? And is it a boy or a girl?” His voice was pleasant, no ring of jealousy or judgment.

“We’re all good. It’s a little boy, Henry.”

“Wow, Buffy. I…I mean it. Congratulations. Who does he look like?”

“Mostly like his dad.” She hadn’t heard from Angel in so long that it was strange listening to his voice. “Um, how are you guys doing in L.A.? How’s Conner?”

“Who’s Conner?” Angel sounded confused. Buffy relaxed. With plan A underway, the Powers must have scratched plan B.

“I mean Wesley,” she quickly covered.

“He’s doing good, busy researching. It seems like half the demons in L.A. left yesterday so he’s happily working on trying to figure that one out. Everyone else is doing well also. It’s mostly the same old, same old here. Cordelia’s out getting her nails done…hey, can I talk to Spike for a moment?”

“I guess.”

“Thanks. It’s been nice speaking with you. Congratulations again on the baby. I’ll send him something for Christmas.”

“It was…nice, talking to you too.” She handed the phone to Spike.

Initially he looked angry, then surprised, then pleased. “Yeah mate, not what I expected either, but you know me, I always like having someone to watch over….Thank you, he’s a handsome little bloke if I do say so myself…yeah, good talking with you too. You lot keep up the good fight there and we’ll do the same here.” He hung up. “That was bloody odd.”

Buffy shrugged. It was like the last piece of the puzzle fell into place. “I think things were a lot worse the first time around for Angel as well. Making out with you right in front of him was apparently the best thing I ever did for him.”

Spike chuckled. “Well, far be it for me to contradict a lady.”

****

The house was at last quiet and still. The only light in the darkness was the nightlight burning in Henry’s room. He’d been worn out after being fussed over by so many people, but had still needed a feeding, burp, and diaper change before being put down to sleep.

 Buffy stood in her nightgown beside the crib, watching over her miracle.

She was a mother. The dream she wasn’t supposed to have had come true.

Spike hugged her loosely from behind. “I can’t figure out how we got here either.”

She laughed softly and turned in his embrace to rest her head against his chest, her arms going around his waist. The radio downstairs must still be on; she could faintly hear The Supremes’ Baby Love playing. Baby love, my baby love, I need you oh how I need you…

Spike gently swayed with her.

“I know you don’t remember the other life,” Buffy said. “But I wanted to say I’m sorry anyway. I messed things up so badly even the PTB wanted a do-over.”

Spike’s hands rubbed her back. “I think things happened how they needed to. There’s nothing to forgive. I doubt I was a saint, and I know I hurt you unbearably by not going to you. I’m sorry, luv.”

“It’s okay,” she whispered. “I had a lesson to learn and I guess it took me twenty years to figure it out.”

He cupped the back of her head. “In the end though…it was all bloody worth it, eh kitten?” He glanced over at the sleeping form of their son. “To have you and Henry here–“ He briefly closed his eyes. “I would have paid any price ten times over.”

“More than worth it.” She meant every syllable, and she was glad he’d be able to feel her conviction through the claim.

“Are you happy?” he asked, his lips brushing her ear.

She’d never known joy like this. “Yes.” She said simply. “And you?”

“Enough that it should probably be illegal.”

Spike stopped moving and brought his lips to hers. Through the kiss and the claim she could feel his love and the peace and happiness he had being with her and Henry. She eagerly returned every last bit of it.

In his crib, Henry started to fuss and Buffy broke the kiss. “It’s like he knows.” Spike smiled ruefully.

“That’s not how you get brothers and sisters,” he told Henry as he lifted him from the crib and settled the baby in Buffy’s arms. She sat in the nursery’s rocking chair and pulled down one side of her nightgown. Henry eagerly latched onto her nipple. Spike sank to his knees beside her and laid his head in her lap. She stroked his face and hair. Her heart ached with love and happiness.

If there was a moment of time, just one, that she could choose to live in, she would pick this one and stay in it forever.

Chapter Text

Giles rapped smartly on the back door before letting himself in.

“ ’Ello, Rupes,” Spike said cheerfully from by the kitchen sink.

“Grandpa!” Henry shouted, immediately jumping down from his chair and, running as fast as his five-year-old legs could carry him, crashing into Giles. Three-year-old Joyce waved from where she was sitting, and Giles waved back. She was much more reserved than her brother. The baby, Joan, who was just over a year, even bounced and babbled happily in her high chair when she saw Giles.

He grinned. He hadn’t expected to like being Grandpa so much.

Henry was talking a mile a minute: “I have a new train I want to show you it’s in my room and can we watch the show about the dog and you’ll play the song about the submarine and marching band, right?”

Giles tousled the boy’s sandy curls. “We’ll see.” Though the Wallace and Gromit video and Beatles CD tucked in his bag were good indications he’d give in right after Spike and Buffy left the house for patrol. With the hellmouth being all but completely dead, there was far less activity for Buffy to take care of, so she and Spike only went out twice a week. Giles had the sneaking suspicion that even that was overkill, but he cherished his time with the little ones too much to complain.

“All you little rotters better calm down and finish your dinner before mum gets home.” Spike had a towel thrown over his shoulder and was deftly helping Joan get spaghetti into her mouth. Joyce studiously worked on her plate and Henry trudged over to his place. “Don’t even think about tickling your sister,” Spike said without turning around. Henry heaved a giant sigh, but climbed back into his seat at the kitchen island and speared a meatball.

Giles shook his head. He really had seen everything. William the Bloody, who was once a violent monster and part of the Scourge of Europe, had taken to being a parent like a duck to water. Though the whole story on that was somewhat hard to believe. When Henry had been tiny, Giles, in what he now realized had been a completely misguided attempt to help, had suggested that perhaps they needed to update the curse that’d given Angel his soul and apply it to Spike.

Spike had nearly punched him in the nose, thinking Giles was implying he’d kill and eat his own son without it and, after Buffy had prevented Spike from having a complete meltdown, the vampire had gone storming off. Buffy had then taken Giles into the kitchen, sat him down, and explained that Spike couldn’t be resouled, as he’d already won it once and then given it up to power the temporal changes that’d led to his children being born. Giles had settled on the whole thing being beyond his ability to understand and accepted Buffy’s word that the world had turned out far better than the first time.

Giles wandered into the living room and put his bag and jacket on the couch. Toys littered the floor, predominantly train related things, as most of Joyce’s dollies and ponies, along with Mr. Gordo, were neatly corralled together to one side. There were a lot of tiny, sticky finger prints on the coffee table, which Joan liked to use as a handhold while she practiced walking.

All signs of a happy and very full life. Giles put his hands in his trouser pocket and ran his fingers over the cool metal object he’d tucked into it before leaving his flat. He hoped he wasn’t making a mistake.

“Mum’s nearly home, are all good children finished eating?” Spike asked in the kitchen.

“Yes, daddy,” two little voices chorused.

“Then you better go wash up.”

There was the thunder of children’s feet–that pitter-patter thing was utter nonsense–as Joyce and Henry rushed for the downstairs bathroom. Spike walked into the living room, Joan in his arms, just as Buffy breezed in. She’d spent the day with Tara, Willow, and Anya at the mall, shopping and doing other mysterious girl things. She looked wonderful: happy and relaxed. Motherhood agreed with her.

“There’s my girl!” Buffy cooed, nuzzling and kissing Joan’s cheek. She kissed Spike as well and he leaned his forehead against hers. It was a ritual Giles had seen many times, a moment when they just luxuriated in each other after being apart. If, under great duress, Giles was ever asked for a definition of love, he’d submit a picture of the way his Slayer and her vampire mate looked during those moments of reunion.

“Mommy!” Henry yelled, getting in between her and Spike, who both smiled ruefully. The little boy hugging her enthusiastically before running for the stairs, probably to get his newest toy. Buffy knelt and gave Joyce a hug as well.

Buffy straightened up and her nose twitched. “Spike, how much garlic did you use in the spaghetti sauce?”

“The usual amount? Why?”

Turning green, Buffy darted in the direction of the bathroom. Giles peered after her and a second later the sound of retching could be heard.

“Ah, sweetheart,” Spike said to the little girl in his arms as he bounced her gently. “It looks like we won’t be able to call you Joan-the-Baby for very much longer.” He handed Joan off to Giles with an apologetic look. “I’ll just go see about Buffy. If I don’t keep her company, I’ll catch it later and have to weather the storm of her yammering about how it’s solely my fault she has morning sickness…well, evening sickness. It tends to not discriminate as to time of day.”

Giles nodded and managed not to roll his eyes as Spike disappeared into the loo with Buffy. She was pregnant again? When did they find the time with three kids? Didn’t they ever think about birth control? He should–

Well, no. Having a very awkward conversation with Spike about condom use was not high on his list of desires, and Giles had the vague idea that a Slayer and vampire performing…the marital act would not in any way allow for a condom’s survival. Giles made a face. It was a good thing he adored his grandchildren so much or he would have died of embarrassment around their parents a long time ago.

There was also the fact that they were mystical children meant to fight evil, or some such rot, and would most likely be conceived and born regardless of any attempts to prevent it.  But that whole fighting for good thing could happen much, much later, when they didn’t have to take afternoon naps and weren’t teething. Giles disengaged Joan from where she was gnawing at his shoulder and scooped a set of plastic keys off the couch for her to chew on instead. Joyce was calmly setting up her ponies in a neat row and there was a crash from overhead as Henry undoubtedly jumped on his bed instead of remembering that he was supposed to be getting his toy.

If Giles recalled correctly, Buffy had said there was supposed to be seven warriors altogether. If she was pregnant, that meant they were about halfway done. Where were they going to stick them all? Henry had one room and the girls shared Dawn’s old room. Perhaps it was time to finish the basement? That sounded like an excellent weekend project for Xander. Dawn could fly home from her swank place in New York and help decorate it. She was majoring in creative writing, but had quite the eye for interior design.

There was a second crash from upstairs.

Spike opened the bathroom door. “Henry! Do we jump on our beds?”

“No?” replied Henry, sounding subtly chastised.

“Then let’s not.” Spike dragged a hand over his hair and walked back into the living room, Buffy, looking better and with her face washed, followed him.

“Rupert,” Spike said softly as Buffy took Joan from Giles’ arms. “Would you be so good as to open the windows and get the air flowing in here? I’d do it, but the sun’s not down for another thirty minutes.”

“Well, about that.” Giles shifted nervously. He took a deep breath and pulled the ring from his pocket and held it out to Spike. “Why don’t you do it yourself? I’m not your maid.”

Spike stared dumbly at the ring on Giles’ palm.

Buffy gasped. “The Gem of Amara? Giles…thank you.” He’d though she might berate him about not handing it over sooner, but her face was sympathetic. It’d been a big deal, offering even a vampire he trusted nearly unlimited power, but Henry was about to start kindergarten and there’d be parent-teacher conferences, school plays, and a host of other events. Giles didn’t want Henry having to explain why his da could never come to anything.

Hand shaking, Spike picked up the ring and slid it on. His eyes met Giles’, who realized the vampire was too overcome to speak.  Turning, Spike walked to the front door and opened it. Henry came downstairs at the sound of the door and Joyce abandoned her toys to follow her father outside onto the porch. Bright sunlight still filled the yard. Buffy came last, shutting the door and cuddling her infant daughter.

“Daddy?” Henry asked, looking fearfully towards the sun-bathed grass. The kids didn’t know Spike was a vampire, just that he couldn’t be in sunlight because he was allergic to it.

“It’s okay,” Buffy said. “Grandpa gave Daddy something that made him all better.”

Joyce put her little hand in Giles’ and squeezed.

Spike descended the porch stairs, stopping just shy of entering the light. Hesitantly, he stuck his hand across the line and into the sun. Nothing happened. Spike stared at his hand for a moment and then he let out a loud whoop of glee and ran into the sunshine. After a lap of the yard, he skidded to a stop and threw his head back, laughing. Henry ran to him and Spike scooped the boy up and spun him around before hugging him. Buffy, smiling widely, walked down the steps and into the light. Spike’s hand briefly flattened against her belly before curving around her waist to pull her close.

Joyce tugged Giles’ hand. “Thank you for making my daddy better,” she said before letting go to run and put her arms around Spike’s leg.

“Can you go to the zoo with us now?” Henry asked loudly. “I want to show you the zebras and monkeys and elephants and giraffes…”

“No hyenas,” Buffy said sternly from where she stood with her head on Spike’s shoulder. Giles chuckled before turning to go inside to give the growing family a little privacy in which to celebrate. All his trepidation at handing over the ring fell away. He hadn’t given a vampire unlimited power, but a man a few more ways to spend time with the family who loved him and who he loved. Giles couldn’t think of a better use for the ring.

Someday he’d have to tell Buffy about the money from the rest of the Amara treasure, some of which was already in trust funds for Henry, Joyce, and Joan. He supposed he’d soon need to call and set up a fourth one. Giles rather hoped it’d be a boy this time, and would it be terrible to call the little fellow after his grandfather? Rupert wasn’t such a bad name.

As Giles stepped back into the house he found himself singing softly under his breath: “Someday, some sweet day, we’ll be together…”

 

~FIN~