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The Slayer's Vampire Tryst

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She was the Slayer, right? She understood about sacrifice. She’d sacrificed herself to death, and that was only round one. The SAT’s said she was pretty smart, it turned out, but she’d given up her grades for what? Slaying. Her latest boyfriend? Scared off, due to slaying -- well, and a fully-armed horde of psychological issues that he’d somehow never seen fit to bother her with until the ambush and the ultimatum.

So, yeah, she understood what it was to give and give, to lose and lose. She got it, all right?

But Giles wanted too much this time. This total surrender of herself, her very being, practically. And for what? Oh, yeah, to stop the itsy-bitsy, we-forgot-to-mention-it, kill-us-all-dead apocalypse.

Here was Restfield -- funny, considering how unrestful the dead were around here -- and her delicately-heeled boot-clad feet were marching towards her particular least favorite crypt. Here they were, standing her in front of that gothic iron door, waiting for the signal to kick it in.

Because Spike had something she needed. If he’d give it to her. But he’d do anything for money, right?

Tomorrow it would all be over. Breathe, Buffy.

She took a Slayer-sized breath of fortitude, bounced on her toes, and just barely missed bashing Spike’s ribs in as he pulled the door open. She stumbled a bit, catching herself.

“Come to torment the poor helpless vampire again, have we?” he said.

She fished Giles’s money from her jacket pocket and flashed the money in Spike’s face.

He eyed it thoughtfully. “Every man has his price--”

“And what does that have to do with you, Spike?”

A muscle ticked in his jaw. “As I was saying, Slayer, every man has his price, but I’m not so sure mine’s money anymore.”

“Then what--” She caught that lustful glint, the lecherous arch in his eyebrow, and his mouth curving open to say something she absolutely definitely didn’t want to hear. “Harmony!”

“What?” He whipped around to look behind him.

“I’m looking for Harmony.”

“She’s not here,” he said, which Buffy wouldn’t have thought needed to saying, but something in the inflection paused her next comment.

“Wait, she’s not here?” Buffy repeated. “As in, not right now? As in, she’s living with you?”

“No,” he said, with that wide-eyed, just-passing-through look of panic.

Buffy crossed her arms. “Where is she?”

“What’s it to me?” Buffy waved her floppy pile of bills at him. “Oh. Right. Well, not that I’d mind you staking her because she’s a bloody nuisance -- although she has got a nice pair of knockers, can’t fault those--”

“Spike.”

“--but she’s gone off to the mighty metropolis. Shoes, I think she said.” He held a hand out.

“I’m not giving you money to tell me she’s not here!”

“It’s what you came for, isn’t it? Information. Now give.” He wiggled his fingers.

She’d known it. She’d known she wouldn’t be able to find Harmony, because that’d just be too easy. All she had left was Spike, and if she could think of a person in this world she’d less like to do this with than Spike...

Angel. It’d be worse with Angel.

She shook the thought away. “It’ll have to be you, then.”

“What’ll have to be me?” He looked affronted now.

“I need you to help me save the world,” she said. “Again. It’s a vampire/Slayer... thing. You know, the moon’s in the second house, and Jupiter something something...”

“That’s the Fifth Dimension, love.”

“Whatever. You, me, in a cave, with a ritual and this shiny rock.” She pulled the crystal out of her jacket pocket. It was actually pretty dark and dull at the moment, but Giles promised it’d glow with all sorts of colors of imminent doom later.

“Is this one of those shag or die things, then?” His tongue slid over his teeth and oh that grin made her feel dirty just to look at.

“No. No! Why does everyone think it’s about sex?”

“It’s not about sex?” He looked positively crestfallen, which just, ew.

“The Slayer and a vampire have to sit in some cave all night -- or stand, I guess, or lie down, or whatever--”

“Yeah, and?”

“--and tell each other the truth,.”

He gave a fly-in-his-ear headshake. “And do what now?”

She lifted the crystal. “It’s a truth battery or something. You tell the truth and it glows yellow, you lie and it glows red, you don’t talk at all and it goes dark.”

He peered at it and reached out a hand, and she snatched it back. “And you’re clearly feeding me a bunch of bollocks,” he said, “because it’s not glowing now.”

“No, just at the cave. With the ritual. All night. We have to keep it glowing yellow all night or else the dimension goes kaboom. You know.”

She watched all his thoughts flit one by one across his face: incredulity, grudging belief, greed as he glanced at the bills clutched in her other hand, and then a speculative glint that boded much worse.

“You’re sure it’s not about sex?” he said.

“Spike, do you ever think with anything but your dick?”

“Not always.” There was that dirty-making grin again, with the tongue pressed against the teeth and the head-tilt. “Sometimes, I think with my fangs. Or,” he added, slumping a little, “I did.”

Okay, one thing Buffy did not need right now was nostalgia-vamp. “It’s not about sex,” she said.

“Just my luck,” he muttered. “All right, so what if I ask you a question?”

“I can’t lie,” though just how much truth was necessary, Giles hadn’t been sure. “And neither can you.”

He hesitated over that, and she wondered with fleeting curiosity what he could possibly want to hide. She was pretty sure any trouble he’d gotten into he’d be more than thrilled to boast to her about.

“So,” he said finally, “you and I are thoroughly, miserably honest with each other, as indicated by the mood rock there, and the planet carries on with the spinning and the not collapsing into a grain of sand, is that it?”

She dropped the crystal back in her pocket. “Pretty much.”

“And I get the handful of dirty rotten cash you’re holding.”

She wanted to say no and just threaten him with the end of the world, but the light shining through the crypt window was dimming, and anyway she was going to spend all night talking to him; she wasn’t going to haggle now any more than she had to. “Yeah. We have to get to the cave by full dark and we can’t leave until the moon sets.”

“Right. Give me a minute.”

She opened her mouth to complain, but he strode around the crypt with actual purposefulness, slipping into his coat and sliding a few bags of blood and a bottle of whiskey into the pockets. “All that talking, I’ll need something to wet my throat.”

On her way out Buffy snagged her bundle o’ supplies that she’d left by the door: water canteen, sandwich, fishy crackers, sleeping bag, electric lantern.

The walk to the prescribed cave was quiet; apparently Spike, too, was conserving his words. He seemed to be mulling something over, judging from the continual changes of expression. Arguing with himself about something, maybe. What did vampires argue with themselves about?

Well, she was about to find out, wasn’t she? Oh, for Harmony and fourteen brainless hours talking about shoes.

~*~*~

The cave was pretty much a cave: walls of rough volcanic rock, water glinting down the walls in a couple of places and pooling in dips in the floor. Buffy set the electric lantern on the floor, next to the sacred X scratched into the floor, which she so wasn’t done teasing Giles about.

“Cheery,” Spike said.

“As opposed to, say, your crypt?”

He shrugged. Apparently he was, for once, not just this side of a sarcastic fit, which Buffy supposed was probably just as well. If she staked him, the world would end; better if she weren’t tempted.

“How we doing for time?” Spike said.

Buffy glanced at the watch Giles had lent her; no way to tell moonrise inside a cave. “We’ve got a few minutes.”

“Right. Let’s get some things straight,” he said. Before she could protest him dictating terms, he continued, “What gets said here stays here, right? Unless the person gives the okay. No blackmailing or what-not. No spouting of embarrassing incidents to one’s friends and relations. And no staking if I tell you you look bloody stupid in those trousers.”

She glanced down at her exclusive Paris-brand-on-sale giraffe-print slacks. “I like these pants!”

“More’s the pity.” As she stalked forward, he stepped back, one palm over his nose. “So no staking, right? Not even after.”

Like she’d thought he wouldn’t throw everything in her face that he could think of. If her pants were the worst of it, then she’d have to get Spike checked for possession afterwards. She huffed. “No staking.”

“And the other.”

He looked so earnest. Like he was the one with all the embarrassing secrets? Which she was totally going to ask him about. But if it meant he didn’t tell the whole demon community what she wrote about Angel in her diary, or whatever stupid thing he asked her... “Fine.”

He nodded. “Right.” He glanced around the cave. “So, we sit?”

“I guess.”

They sat, Buffy near the X with the crystal in hand, Spike across from her, cross-legged. They waited, silent, while Buffy eyed the watch. Finally, she said, “Now,” and placed the crystal at the center of the X. From Giles’ paper she read the weird old Latin he’d made her repeat over and over until she got it right, ending with, “Veritas, veritas, veritas.” On the last syllable, the crystal lit from within with a brilliant orange glow.

“Okay, orange isn’t good,” Buffy said, glancing again at Giles’ cheat sheet. “Yellow is what we want. Yellow is truth and world-saveage. Red is—”

“Blood,” he said flatly. “Death, obliteration, triumph of evil. Have I got it?”

“Pretty much. And hey, look! Now we’re a few shades closer to a brighter tomorrow.” She pointed to the crystal, which had been brightening to amber as they spoke.

“All right, so let’s get it straight how this thing works,” Spike said. “I’m a vampire.” The light brightened a little more. “She’s a vampire.”

Instantly, the space flooded red, deepening with every second.

“I’m a girl!” Buffy yelled, telling herself that wasn’t an earthquaked rumbling deep beneath her feet. “And Spike’s an idiot! And if he tries that again I’m going to rip his head from his neck.”

“Slayer, come on! We have to figure out the angles now, before we talk about anything important.”

“How important are we planning to talk?” Buffy’d been expecting another chapter in the ‘always been bad’ Spikeian saga, ohyay.

But Spike was still intent on the crystal. “Here, look. Charlemagne’s favorite color was chartreuse.” It stayed the same blood-stained orange.

“What? Charlie who?” He sounded vaguely familiar. From a study session? “Is he in one of Giles’ old books?”

Spike rolled his eyes. “Probably, seeing as he was the biggest cheese in Europe since the Roman emperors and founded a few monarchies to boot.”

“So how do you know you his favorite color?”

“I don’t. That’s my point. Here.” He addressed the crystal. “Charlemagne’s favorite color was periwinkle.” Again, the crystal stayed the same. “See? It’s not gonna tell me what the truth is if I don’t know it. But now, see, I’m a devilishly handsome bloke.”

The crystal remained unchanged. Spike frowned.

“Let’s try this,” Buffy said. “Spike thinks he’s something to look at.” The cavern brightened. “See, now it’s turning more yellow. Facts, not opinions, right?”

“That was a fact,” Spike grumbled.

With some more trial and error and another plunge towards rumbling crimson disaster – Buffy’s, this time, when she apparently pushed the crystal’s interpretation of sarcasm past the breaking point – they had the basics figured out. Commands, opinions, kinky-sounding British cusswords, and statements the speaker didn’t know the truth of didn’t have any effect at all. A question asked gave the answer an increased effect, one way or the other. And if they didn’t talk at all it gradually darkened and reddened all on its own.

“So, are we clear?” Buffy said finally.

Spike nodded. “Think that’s about done it.”

“Great.” Buffy rubbed at her eyes. Three hours’ patrol would have been better than the last forty five minutes. She was already tired of talking to, with, at, or about Spike, even though he’d mostly been pretty businesslike, although the why-he-cared of it was still beyond her. She didn’t even want to think about how long this night was going to be. “So, I was thinking we could talk about Glory. Maybe if we had a big hash-out, something would make sense?” As long as she didn’t say anything about Dawn...

“I’m sorry,” Spike said.

“Sorry about what?” A half-dozen blood-soaked scenarios leapt to mind: Glory, Harmony, random vamps, some demon Buffy’d never heard of. Buffy sat straight up. “What did you do, Spike?” Her hands closed in fists all by themselves. “If you did something and I can’t get out of here and fix it, I will—”

“Not like that!” He was scowling at her. “Wasn’t what I meant. I didn’t do anything. I mean, I’m sorry about that whole cock-up with your boy toy.”

It took her a moment, riding the adrenaline rush, to follow the change in subject. “What about it?”

“You see the rock?” he said, pointing. It was yellow. “I’m sorry, all right? I didn’t mean... Bloody hell.” He slid a hand over his very shiny head. “I didn’t do it to hurt you.”

And he’d been almost bearable, for almost an hour. “I don’t want to talk about that,” Buffy ground out.

“Well, I bloody do. Look, you see it’s getting brighter.” He pointed again. True, it was a bit brighter than when he’d pointed before. “I was trying to help.”

“So you drag me out of bed in the middle of the night to watch my boyfriend get sucked on, why, out of the goodness of your heart?”

“Yes. No!” Spike said, as the crystal’s color flickered. “I mean, I’m evil, right? No goodness.” He eyed it warily, but it didn’t get any farther. “But it wasn’t right, what he was doing. And bloody dangerous! Suppose he got turned. And it wasn’t fair to you.”

“Like you care,” Buffy said, crossing her arms. “Any more reasons?”

Spike took in a deep breath, opened his mouth, and glanced at her.

“Yeah?”

He sighed. “Well, I never did like the wanker, did I? Him or any of his playmates. Wanted him out.”

“And you didn’t think that would hurt me?”

Spike wouldn’t meet her eyes. “Just didn’t think, I guess. But I was trying to help! And I’m sorry, all right?”

Buffy sighed. “Fine, you’re sorry. Great. Can we talk about something less depressing and O-drama-that-is-my-life? You know, blood, death, murder?”

Spike opened his mouth again to say something pretty big, it looked like, but then he sagged. “Yeah. Fine.”

~*~*~

“Your best lay.”

“Spike, do you think this is a slumber party? I’m not answering that question.”

“Way I figure it, you’ve got Angel, you’ve got that one mealy-eyed git with his hair in his eyes—”

“Parker,” Buffy muttered.

“And you’ve got the ever-popular GI Jack. Not a really likely lot—”

“Riley,” Buffy said. “Riley by a mile.” God, I can’t believe I’m having this conversation. “I mean, Angel, I...” She flushed.

“What?” Spike propped himself on his elbow. “What about Angel?” And wow, that was some serious voyeuristic kink he had, the way he was staring at her.

“It stays here, right?”

Spike shrugged the question aside. “Right. We said that.”

This was incredibly stupid. “I didn’t know what I was doing, with Angel. I mean, I wanted it, but I didn’t... really know what I wanted, exactly.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “And I wasn’t very good.”

She startled upright at the sound a rock hitting the wall to her left. Spike was just turning back to her, his glare slightly terrifying in its intensity. “Never mind,” he said, a little guttural. “On with it.”

She shrugged and settled down again, scraping her bare shoulder against a rock in the process. Next time? Definitely bringing an air mattress. “Parker was just the one night. And I liked it fine, but it was mostly because I thought we were, you know, together. It turns out getting my dimpled knees pried apart, as I think someone said once—” Spike winced. “—isn’t all that entertaining when it means getting dumped the next day.”

“And Riley? Some disappointment that must have been.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “We had enough time to figure out what I liked and what he liked, and we cared enough to actually make sure that we each got what we wanted. Hence the best-in-show.”

“One trick pony, though, wasn’t he?”

Buffy reflected back on a particular role-playing idea Riley’d had, and said, “Really not.”

And now Spike looked disappointed, which didn’t really track with the voyeurism thing. Weird vampire. Just weird.

~*~*~

“You’re gross.”

“I am not!”

She counted off on her fingers. “You live in a moldy, musty old crypt which has no running water--”

“It does so.”

“--and probably rats.”

“Does not,” he muttered.

“You smoke, which, can I just say, yuck with a side of cancerous yucktacular.”

“It’s an accepted and historic practice the world over.”

“Except sometimes you’re so drunk that the booze smell kind of overwhelms the smoke smell.”

“You’ve just never figured out how to have fun when you’re properly soused.”

“Not to mention you’re dead.”

“Didn’t figure that’d bother you much, seeing as--” He choked on the last few words, mostly because she’d wrapped both hands around his neck and squeezed.

Don’t finish that sentence,” she said. He glared, but eventually he gave a tiny nod. She loosened her grip and sat back.

He rubbed at his neck. A little raspy, he said, “Serve you right if I couldn’t talk at all, after that.”

She ignored him. “Ooh, and here’s the biggie, the reason why no sane living woman would want to go out with Spike.” She waved her thumb in front of him. “Because Spike kills people.”

“Well, I don’t anymore, do I,” he said sullenly.

She rolled her eyes. “So you have a chip. You’re still a killer.”

“I can’t be a killer if I can’t kill!”

“Are you arguing semantics with me? You have killed, therefore you are a killer. Notice the pretty tenses.”

“But I’ve changed,” he said plaintively.

She looked at him, hard. It was the line right before the punchline, when he’d snicker at her for thinking he could possibly be sincere.

But he didn’t look he was joking, and he wasn’t really all that good at poker faces. There was a certain lost-puppyishness in the earnest way he was peering at her that didn’t make sense.

“You’re a vampire. You don’t change.”

“But I have!”

“Yeah? Who was the last person you wanted to kill?”

“You,” he muttered. “Right about now.”

“Before me. Who was the last person you weren’t mad at, that you’d have eaten?” She glanced pointedly at the rock.

He darted a glance to the crystal and back at her. He opened his mouth and closed it again, the frustration on his face mutating to a vague, trapped sort of panic. Which was entertaining enough, all by itself -- since when did Spike mind telling her how evil he was?

“Yesterday,” he ground out finally. “Shopkeeper of that bookstore on Main. Was on her monthly -- she smelled like a sodding banquet.”

“I think,” Buffy said faintly, “that my brain is squashed flat with the ick of that statement.”

“Not like that’d be very hard,” he said, scowling at the ground. “But I wouldn’t have done it.” He saw her skepticism and snarled, “I wouldn’t! And anyway, vampire here.”

“That’s what I said. No changey.”

“Well, I like you now, don’t I?”

A beat of total silence. Even the stalactite’s drip paused.

“You what?” Her thoughts were having trouble lining up into any kind of order, but she managed to notice that Spike’s wide-eyed, gap-mouth stare was now a total and very specific panic. “You do not like me. Like, like like me?” Her own panic was rising to match. “Oh, God.”

“Hey, no need for that.” He looked... It couldn’t be possible, but he looked hurt. “It’s flattery, a bloke having feelings for a lady.”

Feelings?” Okay, didn’t know her voice still hit that register.

“It’s not unreasonable, is it?” He swept her up and down with a gesture. “You looking all sunny with your California tan and your Hollywood hair—”

“You said my hair was stupid,” Buffy said.

His shoulders hunched. “Well, I lied.”

A hysterical giggle snuck up Buffy’s throat. She swallowed it, because this was, oh God, this was not funny. Reasonable, Buffy. Go for reasonable. “Spike, you want to kill me. You can’t have feelings for me.”

He looked affronted. “What, you think the two are mutually exclusive?” Before she could answer that, he turned away and muttered, “Anyway, I don’t anymore.”

“Oh.” Buffy blinked. “Well, that was fast. Uh, glad we sorted that out. I kind of thought it’d take longer.”

Suddenly Spike was on his feet and looming over her. “I mean, Slayer, that I don’t want to kill you anymore!”

“No?” Buffy stared up at him and calculated a sweep to the ankles. “Because you’re doing a pretty good impression.”

He growled – the really, seriously pissed-off vampire growl – stalked straight to the nearest rock wall, and slammed his fist into it. Buffy winced.

“I don’t want to kill you,” he ground out.

“So, what? What do you want, Spike?” Sex, violence, kind of a package deal to vampires, right? “Is this all about prying apart the dimpled knees?”

“No! Yes. Some. They’re bloody distracting knees, all right?”

That was worth another blink. He fantasized about her knees?

“Yes, okay, I want to shag you. Man, here.” Spike was pacing now, circling her with a prowl that was less predator than it was, oh, distraught accountant? “You’re always stalking around my graveyard in your little fluttery skirts and your ridiculous boots. You slam me into walls and then walk away like it doesn’t mean a thing. You break my nose, and you know, in some parts that’d be called teasing unless you kissed it better, not that you’d ever do that, because what you are, Slayer, is a bloody sadist, getting a vamp all worked up and then just leaving him there in a lather, and—”

Spike.” He paused his prowl and turned to meet her eyes. “Thing one, what I said about you being gross? Double that.”

He took a deep breath preparatory to she didn’t want to know what.

“And thing two, I wasn’t trying to turn you on. You get that, right? That was not me flirting. That was me beating you up for information.”

Frowning, he said, “Ingrained habits. Pavlov’s vampire, and all that.” He dropped to a crouch and peered into her face almost desperately. He must not have found what he was looking for, or maybe he saw what’d he’d been afraid he’d see, because he slumped onto the cave floor. “So, you won’t go out with me, then?”

The question was so bizarre and Spike so forlorn that her initial Hell, no stuck in her throat. She swallowed and tried again. “Okay, first, there’s the you not having a soul part. Do you have any idea what I and my friends and a bunch of innocent, oblivious people went through the last time I cared about someone without a soul?” Spike opened his mouth, but Buffy continued, “Second, there’s the you being a vampire part. Vampires are kind of what I’m supposed to kill, and jury says it works best when I pretty much just stick to that.”

“But—”

“Also there’s the you being a guy part. And I suck at guys. Don’t say it,” because she could see his mouth opening again. “I make guy lose their souls. I bore them until they dump me the night of the homecoming dance. I’m such a miserable girlfriend that guys pay vampires to feed on them to make up for what I can’t give.”

Buffy shut her eyes. Suddenly, after hours of forgetful bickering, Riley was only three weeks gone and it felt like the hole he left in her chest would suck her in whole.

Think about the next thing, Buffy.

She swallowed. “And finally, I’ve got a hellbitch who will tear apart this earth to lay her hands on my little sister—”

“Dawn?”

Crap. Crap crap crap.

Spike was peering at her, head tilted in that way that meant he was puzzling something out. “What about Dawn?”

She’d have to kill him. Not right now, because there was still the world-saving mission. At first light, though, she’d have to do it, because there was no chance in hell he wouldn’t use this. She’d have to thrust Mr. Pointy through his heart and watch as all the Spike-motes howled into oblivion.

And here he’d been almost friendly, in between the sniping and the declarations of lust. Now she had to kill him, when she was going to be sorry about it. Figured.

“Buffy?” Spike inched forward. He reached towards her and she shied back, already lifting the stake. “Can’t hit you,” he said, eyeing it. Slowly she lowered it, and then he reached and patted her arm, sort of stiff, awkward, like that one night on the porch. Like he was really long out of practice. Like she wasn’t going to kill him in the morning.

“I won’t tell,” he said solemnly. “Whatever it is about Dawn, I won’t tell.”

Buffy laughed shakily. “Like I can believe you.”

“I swear it, I won’t.” He looked around the room. His eyes lit as they fell on the glowy rock of doom. He pointed to it. “I’m not gonna tell.”

Buffy closed her eyes. “Spike, we already know the crystal doesn’t know the truth if we don’t. You don’t know the future.”

He huffed. “Fine. I don’t want to tell... whatever it is that I know, which isn’t anything, really, except something about the Summers kidlet. I can’t think of any reason I’d change my mind. Not for money or, or to get my chip out. Are you looking at this, Buffy?”

She opened her eyes. The crystal glowed a retina-burning yellow. “Yes,” she whispered.

“Not for a really brilliant shag, or blood straight from the vein—”

Spike.”

“Right, not that that’d matter, because I don’t do that anymore.” He peered at her. “Whatever’s got you wound so tight, I’m not gonna tell. I promise.”

“Why?”

His brow dropped. “Because... you know why, Slayer.”

“I do?” She wasn’t sure she knew anything at all; adrenaline was still ricocheting through her brain.

Now he wouldn’t look at her. “Because I can’t stop thinking about you. I’ve tried and I’ve tried, because this, this” -- he gestured back and forth between them – “is unnatural and, and wrong. I can’t get free of it, or of you. But you hurting – and whatever it is you’re worried I’ll say, it’s got you bloody terrified – that’d be even worse than whatever the hell’s wrong with me now.”

“Oh,” Buffy said. There ought to be more to say, she thought. Her brain should have cooled off by now, but what Spike said wasn’t making a lot more sense than before.

“You gonna laugh at me?” Spike said, still not quite looking at her. “Tell me again how I’m beneath you? Because you know, Ms. High and Mighty—”

“No,” Buffy said. That was a good word. A firm, strong word. “No, I wasn’t going to say that. Just now.”

“Oh.” After a pause, he said, “Does that mean if I, say, invited you—”

No.”

“Ah.” He nodded.

“All the reasons still stand. You soulless vampire, me sucky girlfriend, my life in crisis. Also: gross.”

“What if I quit smoking, then?”

Halfway to an eyeroll she stopped, because the aftereffects of total panic were setting in, and if he said one wrong thing she was pretty sure she was going to cry. “Spike, can we not right now? Please?”

After a moment, he nodded again. “All right.”

There was a long pause while Buffy breathed out-in, out-in, until the rest of the panic was gone. She rolled her shoulders, but some of that tension was in to stay, she thought. Water continued to trickle down the cave wall.

Finally Spike, eyeing the crystal, said, “So, uh, what do you want to talk about?”

He wouldn’t say anything about Dawn. She trusted him not to say anything about Dawn – a news flash in its own right. He... liked her? Was in love with her? Something like that. And it had been a really, really long night.

“I’m really tired of my life,” Buffy said. “Can you talk about your life for a while? I don’t mean the mass murder part, I mean the part before. Which, I guess also murder, but less of it?”

“Not so much, actually,” he said. He was doing the not-looking thing again, though his glance kept flicking down to the cheery yellow rock between them.

“Pick-pocket, gang, ruled the streets?”

“Yeah, well, I lied about that, too. You know what I said before about embarrassing incidents?”

“Yeah...”

He shrugged. “That was my life as a human. Mostly one long embarrassing incident.”

“Oh.” She could ask about that, if she wanted. Maybe he’d tell; he could be pretty certain she wouldn’t share. She didn’t really want to ask, though. “Just tell me what it was like then. Like, did people speak English yet?”

“Oi! How old do you think I am, Slayer?”

“So tell me.” Buffy grinned a satisfied grin and wriggled into her sleeping bag. “Did you ride horses? What did you eat for dinner?”

“You really want to know?” His skepticism showed on his face.

“We have to talk about something,” Buffy said. “And I wasn’t ever very good at history.”

“Well.” He seemed to come to a decision. “All right, then. I grew up in a house on the—”

“Did you have servants?”

“No interrupting,” he said, waggling his finger at her, and then he began again. “I grew up in a house on the shabby genteel side of London...”

Buffy let the words wash against her, a tide against the shore. Some of it was kind of interesting, although it was still history, and probably she still wouldn’t remember it later. Spike liked telling it, though; without the smirk he looked sort of nice, almost, his face all lit with the memory of some stupid boy escapade.

~*~*~

“So this is it, then?” Spike said, staring out at the lightening sky. Convenient for him that it was moonset they needed, not sunrise. He’d probably just have time to get home.

“This is it. Oh!” Buffy slid her backback around until she could reach in and pull out Giles’ money. Good thing for the world he was willing to fund its occasional salvation. She handed the bundle to Spike.

“Thanks.” Instead of pocketing the bills he flipped through them, first in one direction and then the other.

“If you don’t want it...” Buffy said, holding out a hand.

“No, you don’t,” Spike said, stuffing the whole roll into his coat pocket. Then he turned and faced her straight-on. “I won’t tell about Dawn. I promise.”

Here she was, Buffy Summers, taking the word of a vampire and a mystical rock. More fool she, maybe, but she was doing it. “Okay,” she said, and rubbed at her eyes. She was due a really, really long sleep. Buffy Van Winkle, that’d be her. “Ugh. I think it might have been easier if we’d just had to have sex.”

His eyes lit. “You know, we could still—”

“Don’t even say it.”

“Right.” After a sort of foot-shuffle, he said, “I’m not going to stop asking, you know.”

“For sex?” Maybe she’d kill him after all.

“No! I mean, if you like.” He danced away from her threatened swing. “I mean, you and me, out on patrol, maybe a picnic basket and some candles for the romantic atmosphere – it’s gonna happen.”

“It’s not going to happen. Spike, the answer will always be no.”

He smiled a thin-lipped, secretative sort of smile. “See about that, won’t we?” Before she managed to even move, he snuck in and pressed a quick, cool kiss on her lips.

Spike!”

He was already sprinting away. “Got to go,” he called over his shoulder. “Gotta beat the sun.”

Her first thought, watching him run, was what Angel’d said long ago: Once he starts something he doesn't stop until everything in his path is dead. And she thought that, as long as everything in his path was a demon, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, him finishing what he started.

Her second, saner thought was, Crap. I can’t ever beat him up again.

Finis