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Stumbling Through Love

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I’m empty inside.

I know I was afraid of that before Glory, before the Tower, before I died. Before Heaven. I was afraid I’d lost the ability to love.

I can see now that the First Slayer was right. There was so much pain in those days, but they still feel so alive when I think back on them now. Was I weary? Yes. Did I have a death wish? God, I hated Spike for knowing that about me. But I had something to fight for back in those days, a purpose, a clarity.

A part of me wishes I had that now. And another part… I remember peace, comfort, love, truth. I lived a lie then and was too blind to see it. I still live a lie, of course, lying to my friends about where I was. And that’s the hardest part about this world: the lies, the façades, the little games we all play with each other. It’s so…wearying, and so I run from it.

I run to him.

Because, really, who else can live with me in a place without deception?

* * *

They know.

I didn’t mean to tell them. Xander tried a truth spell on Anya. It backfired, of course, hit the rest of us, too.

Honestly, hasn’t he learned by now? Haven’t any of them? Sometimes I just feel so much…older than them all. And it’s not just the weight of the world on my shoulders. I suppose it’s because I am older than them now. The endlessness of Heaven still colors my mind, and it seems odd now that I gained experience from that timeless place, but I did.

‘Funny’ magical antics no longer amuse me as a part of daily life. And, in truth, I think the wide-eyed innocence is starting to wear off for the rest of them, too. But they cling to it desperately, the way I used to. It’s infuriating and disappointing, and it just draws me further and further away.

Especially since after I told them, they didn’t seem to hear a thing. They’re still crowding me, trying to shock me back to life with loud noises and celebrations. Don’t they see the quiet peace of just being alone?

A while ago, I would’ve felt guilty for leaving the Bronze party early. Now…

I know where I’ll find the only comfort I’ve known since I came back. And it doesn’t bother me that it’s in a crypt anymore, with a vampire. I was dead, and it’s nothing to fear, nothing to revile. And the vampire in question is so far from death, anyway, it makes all those old fears and insecurities completely moot. Death really gives you perspective in some ways…

* * *

I know I should be shocked, pained, screaming out at the world, begging, asking why, but I’m not. Giles left today. It had been coming for a long time, really. It’s obvious that, no matter how much he cares for us, he wants out. And some strange part of him decided today was the day. Spike has a theory that Giles is deluding himself into thinking it’ll be the best for me. The old feelings of worthlessness stirred back to life. Or maybe he’s just trying to shove me off another cliff into adulthood. Seriously, could he have picked a worse time if he tried?

Damn it. Here’s the pain. Drowning, consuming, leaving me even emptier than before. My grip on Spike’s jacket tightens, and I bury my head closer against the leather as we sway slowly to the beat. I don’t even know why I came to the Bronze. My feet walking of their own volition, I guess. After that forgetting spell and the blissful return to ignorance I was granted for one day, it’s only instinctive that I’d regress to an old haunt.

The vampire I’m clinging to, though, that’s different. It’s only comfort – our bodies pressed together and rocking slowly – and I can tell he knows it’s just comfort. Sanctuary in each other’s arms. I’m pretty sure that spell knocked him for a bit of a loop, too. With everything else stripped away, the Big Bad still helps the Slayer.

It’s not that surprising, though, not really. Because, no matter what world we’re in, one thing seems clear to both of us now. The closeness, the two of us hunting, fighting, comforting each other…

It feels more right than anything else in this world.

* * *

The chip doesn’t work on me.

We’re in the middle of fighting a gang of fledglings outside the museum, and one of them ducks at just the wrong time, and pop! Spike gets me right in the nose. We dust them all before it finally sinks in. He tries pinching me again, just to make sure. No headache. Then, he tries pinching Dawn and complains for the rest of the night about his headache. Wimp.

Tara says it’s just a side effect of my resurrection. I would’ve asked Willow, but she was nowhere to be found. But, according to Tara, it doesn’t mean anything’s changed inside. I clutch Spike’s hand in a death-grip throughout the entire conversation. And I know that, oh yes, something very important has changed inside, indeed.

Later, when Spike and I are alone, I tell him my concerns. He looks nervous, embarrassed almost, even…shy? He keeps looking down at his boots and finally manages to talk:

“The way I figure it, luv, from where you’ve been…” He actually blushes. It’s kind of adorable. “Well, maybe a bitta Heaven’s still rubbed off on you is all. Got a bit more angel in you and a bit less bitch.”

The Master of the Foot-in-Mouth Compliments strikes again. But I know what he means, and I smile and thank him. And, surprisingly, that little theory does make me feel better about the whole thing…

* * *

Willow’s in trouble. I suppose I should have seen it before now, but I wasn’t looking, really. Some would call that selfish. But I’m alive again, and this time I’m taking all the time I need for myself. Does that mean friendships fall apart? Absolutely. But when it’s gotten to the point where I’m still half dead, living in a dazed world that’s half in this existence and half not, and Willow’s gotten herself addicted to power in the form of black magic… Well, personal changes dissolve friendships, too. And change can never be stopped.

I was terrified to learn that Dawn was in trouble, though. And the urge to stick by her was so strong… It took everything I had to leave her in Spike’s more than capable hands and usher Willow off. Apparently blood ties defy even this new…state I’m in.

It was a relief when I finally got Willow to bed a four am, complete with endless promises to go cold turkey. She doesn’t seem to realize I’m not the one she has to reassure.

I heard Spike and Dawn return from the hospital a few hours earlier. I expect to find Dawn in bed. Instead, her room is empty. A quick trip downstairs reveals what’s happened. Curled up on the couch are my sister and my…

I frown. I’m not exactly sure what Spike is. A friend, yes, my only friend these days. But somehow that term seems unfitting. I watch him sleep, sprawled across the couch, Dawn’s head tucked under his chin, and something… Something’s eluding me. Something I can’t put my finger on.

I approach them, stroke Dawn’s hair lightly. She doesn’t wake, of course. Nothing short of a herd of stampeding elephants can wake her.

And that’s when it strikes me. This feeling I can’t put a name to. It’s the same thing I’m feeling whether I look at Dawn or Spike. A sense of sameness, belonging…

Family.

My own personal, warped little family. I sleep on the couch opposite them.

* * *

I want to live.

Or, at least, I don’t want to die again.

You wouldn’t think it would take some stupid invisibility spell for me to realize it.

I look to where Spike’s sitting beside me, curious as to his reaction to my revelation.

He just smiles.

Oh yes, I definitely have things in this life worth living for…

* * *

I scrunch up my nose in disgust.

“C’mon, Slayer,” Spike complains, on his hands and knees amidst sticky green goo and demon parts. “You want your share, you hafta do your half of the work.”

“You mean like beating the thing to a bloody pulp and killing it while you got knocked on your face and passed out like a little girl?”

He glares at me good-naturedly. “This any worse than that burger joint you tried workin’ at?”

I glance down at the remains of our latest foe. Nothing I haven’t seen a million times before. Now, the grease traps of the Doublemeat Palace? Those were enough even to traumatize the Slayer. As usual, Spike’s right. With a sigh, I crouch down beside him and help him gather the ‘ingredients’ Anya will pay us for. Funny how ‘claw of Shnerik Demon’ looks so pleasant and innocent on the shelves. I guess it’d be cruel and unusual to show beginning witches this step of the process…

Grinning from the fight and his thorough enjoyment of sticking sharp pointy things into the demon’s body, Spike looks over at me. “Who says we never do anything fun together?”

* * *

It’s a good thing Spike has the chip right now, or Warren would be dead.

“’S a good thing you’ve got me to keep you on the straight and narrow, or those wankers would be dead.”

I look at him in disbelief, halting my furious pacing in front of the police station as I reveal to him the meaning of what we just heard inside. It’s…It’s so incredibly absurd, and I can’t help it. I can’t stop myself from laughing. Me, who only five minutes ago was hell-bent on turning myself in for murder. And then I’m laughing even harder at the absurdity of me laughing, and he’s laughing too and…

He gets these little creases beside his mouth when he smiles. Not exactly dimples because dimples are just sharp, pinpoint indentations. And suddenly I’m mesmerized because there should be a word to describe the lines of Spike’s smile, but I can’t think of one, and…

I let him walk me back home.

* * *

My birthday party’s always a disaster. This year is surprisingly incident-free, however. Or, at least, supernatural incident-free…

Xander felt the need to bring some friend from work. Subtle hints about how I should be dating around like high!school!Buffy don’t put me in a better mood. Anya’s comments about how Spike probably has a bigger penis than Richard, anyway, do.

There’s nothing wrong with the guy, really. He just seems so…normal. Weird. Once I wanted nothing more than to be a normal girl, and now… Now I don’t delude myself anymore, and it’s sort of made me realize that being an abnormal girl isn’t so bad.

Especially when I get to curl up on the couch and watch movies with a vampire-shaped pillow. I don’t even care that Xander and Willow are staring at me like I’ve just sprouted a second head. Spike laps are comfy and cuddly.

Sorry, Richard. It just wasn’t meant to be…

* * *

I realize, belatedly, that everything that happened in my life before… It almost feels like it all happened to another person. Like an old favorite movie I watched again and again until it was as familiar as my own life, but it was still just a fantasy.

Which was why I just stand there gaping in disbelief when Riley suddenly pops up in the middle of patrol. Sort of the way you would just sit stunned if Jet Lee suddenly ran across the street in front of you chasing a bunch of ninjas.

He wants me to help him kill something. Fair enough, but it feels…weird to fight beside him again. We don’t fit right, somehow, don’t work together effectively. And, hey, it would’ve been nice to know before the appearance of his new wife that I wasn’t supposed to kill the stupid demon.

Dawn’s sure pissed to see him. A sure sign he’s out and for good. She seems pissed at me, too, until my first reaction is to go to Spike for help. I wonder not for the first time if she thinks there’s something more between us than there really is. Of course, there could be something more between us that even I realize.

But my hunch pays off. Riley insists on searching Spike’s place for the eggs; he always did have a problem with Spike, now that I think about it. And something in Spike just looks so hurt at the whole situation. My ex plus the whole organization that did horrific experiments on his brain. That would phase anyone. While Riley’s fumbling around downstairs, I gently brush the back of Spike’s knuckles with mine. He looks at me in surprise, and I give him an apologetic little look.

“Bloke down at Dave’s tried to bum some eggs off on me last week,” he comments as soon as Riley returns from the lower level in defeat. “Offered a pretty penny.”

“And you refused?” God, was Riley always this condescending?

Spike shrugs. “Make enough working with the Slayer to pay up my debts.”

Of course, he didn’t think to snatch up the eggs so they wouldn’t cause problems later. But, hey, he’s Spike, not Superman. I’m not deluding myself about who and what he is. I bet he’d look appropriately contrite if I pointed out to him what he could have done, however. But now so isn’t the time.

Thankfully, Spike knows where the guy’s hiding. A big explosion, and my ex flies out of my life on yet another helicopter. Leaving me with… OK, so maybe the Riley part wasn’t the confusing relationship in this whole mess…

* * *

Somehow or other, despite the merciless logic of the universe itself, Spike ends up being my date at the wedding. Actually, it was kind of the logical, default option. Because other than going with Spike, I could 1) Be single, or 2) Dress up like a crack-whore and pick up some horny jock from the Bronze. Why anyone would feel compelled to pick either of those options when Spike’s right there is beyond me, but I can distantly remember that once, long ago, I wouldn’t have picked Spike out of those choices.

Of course, by ‘date’, I mean that we arrived at the same time, we both got assigned to keeping Xander’s relatives away from the liquor, and we both slayed the spoilsport demon who tried to trash everything for Anya. Not that Xander kinda didn’t do that on his own.

Should I feel jealousy, I wonder, as I watch Spike comfort Anya in the aftermath. Two former demons clinging together through shared knowledge of rejection. I’m not jealous, though. Does that mean Spike and I aren’t…? Or maybe it just means that I’m comfortable enough with him that I don’t have to worry.

‘Worry about what?’ is starting to seem like a more pertinent question every day.

* * *

I don’t know what’s real as I take the cup from his hands, and he sees my hesitation.

“If this were all some fantasy,” he begins softly, head cocked to one side as he sits on the edge of my bed, “I severely doubt yours truly would be here.” He means it as a joke, but there’s an underlying sadness there. Something I haven’t seen in him before. He’s been so good to me all these months, and it must’ve been so hard for him to be this close but not be closer…

And he’s wrong. It’s not something one can say about Spike often, but I know then in one perfect moment of clarity that he’s completely and utterly wrong. If Sunnydale, the Hellmouth, Slayers and Demons were all figments of my mind, the one thing I would include would be the man sitting beside me. The others? Not so much these days. Of course, with Xander run off – far away from Anya’s new Vengeance-Demonly ways, he hopes – and Willow still struggling with the addiction, it’s no wonder I wouldn’t include them.

In fact, when I think about it, my fantasy would be pretty much this moment right now. Except, y’know, without the demon venom and the cup and the terrifying hallucinations. And maybe with a little mood music and a bit more touching.

I drink the antidote he’s given me. Probably not for the right reasons.

* * *

The images on the screen before me are horrifying. Anya in Spike’s arms, sobbing, clinging to him in the middle of the Magic Box. That’s something I’ve seen plenty of times before, and the only disturbing thing is that those nerds have been spying on us all this time.

But then the scene changes, and Xander has an axe, and I know that Spike’s defenseless against him…

I don’t think I’ve even run so fast in all my life. I’d forgotten about Spike’s supernatural speed, of course, and Anya’s powers of persuasion. Or humiliation, as the case may be. Certain comments about the hypocrisy of trying to decapitate the guy who did stay to try to comfort her strike particularly close to home.

Xander looks pissed. Even more so that I’ve rushed to Spike’s rescue. He makes a few not-so-nice comments about Spike being Angel-Lite. I hear Spike growl behind me, but standing between him and Xander means I can also keep him from doing something supremely stupid and giving himself one hell of a headache.

Xander leaves. I find out from Willow later that he’s taking a construction contract in San Francisco. I can almost hear Spike biting his tongue to prevent himself from making several scathing comments about Xander’s sexuality.

Anya’s traumatized by the whole thing, of course. She’s selling the Magic Box. She says she makes enough online that she doesn’t really need a store, just a storage area. She plans to keep a warehouse in Sunnydale. Which, she points out to me even though I’m still kind of stunned by how fast things are unraveling, means that I’ll still get paid. Trust Anya to think of practical matters.

I can tell Spike doesn’t particularly care that they’re gone. He liked Anya well enough, but Xander turned nasty on him one too many times. He thinks I care, though, and is on his best behavior as we patrol that night.

But I don’t care, not really. I’ve seen this coming for a long time now. It was inevitable. Anya was the only thing, really, that was holding Xander to Sunnydale. The magic shop was the only place holding us all together. No big.

So why am I collapsed in the middle of a cemetery yard, wrapped up in a vampire’s arms, and crying my heart out?

* * *

There’s nothing like finally beating Warren at his own game to cheer you up. And Jonathan and Tucker’s brother in prison? Just an extra bonus. Although I’d feel better about that if Warren was in the cell with them.

But, in that hour before the sun fully rises, sitting in my backyard with my partner by my side, I think that things don’t get much better than this. Almost of its own volition, my hand reaches over to cover Spike’s. He’s surprised, and I am too. Because this time our touch isn’t about comfort. It’s about…whatever this thing is that’s been building between us for so long…

We both stare at our linked hands, transfixed. He has nice hands, really. Pale, with long fingers that look both strong and elegant. So much larger than my hand, too. He can wrap around me so easily, hold me so tight…

Our eyes meet. Some sort of gravitational force seems to increase between us. We lean in, and I can see his eyes darken, hope lit up in their midnight blue depths. I breathe in his scent, part my lips, and…

The gunshots come from nowhere and everywhere.

* * *

Tara’s gone.

Just like that. Pointless, wasteful, stupid.

I was almost gone, too. Even though Spike got me to the hospital in record time, I still might not have made it if Willow hadn’t intervened.

Tara’s death drove her off the deep-end, of course. It feels like it’s all happening so fast now; it’s all so out of control. Another person gone, Willow soon to be gone, too…

And then we’re too late, and Willow’s done it. And even Spike looks disturbed by what she’s done to Warren. The old life I thought I knew is completely gone with that one final brutal act. Everything’s changed now; everything’s turned on its head.

Spike and I…

We have to stop Willow.

* * *

I can’t believe she used to be my best friend. To hear her now and know it’s been building all this time, that she’d actually want to hurt me like this…

She wants me to trade him for Jonathan and the other one. She dangles Spike’s limp body in midair with the power of her magic, and I can see a fiery glow tingeing his skin pink, burning him. Oh god, she’s burning him.

“Since you seem to forget who your real friends are,” she retorts snidely, her eyes dark and devoid of humanity.

And I just don’t get it. I don’t get how she can hurt Spike like this when he’s the world to me. When he’s my life.

Thankfully, Anya’s there working on dissembling the shop, and she has her own brand of magic, too. Enough to save Spike, at any rate.

I tear into Willow, furious beyond reason, betrayed and frightened and desperate. Not the best way to fight. I would’ve lost if Giles hadn’t stepped in…

* * *

The end of the world really makes you think.

I was trapped in that hole, fighting back to back with my sister, and I thought the world was going to end in any minute, and the only thing I regretted was that Spike wasn’t there to fight beside us. It would’ve been fitting, the three of us going out in a blaze of glory together.

Luckily the world didn’t end and I didn’t have to go out without seeing that irascible smirk one last time. Giles pulled a little magical trick on Willow. And he thinks we don’t need him…

I’m not sad when he leaves this time. I love him but, yeah, I’ve got this strange, confusing life now, and having him around would just complicate things more. Nor am I sad that he takes Willow with them. She needs help, a chance to start over. And, in a way, I’m grateful now that she brought me back, that she gave me a new life to start from scratch.

Dawn and I return home and go up to the bedroom that Willow and Tara had once shared. The cleaning people in Sunnydale are scarily good at removing blood. I try not to think of all that was lost in this room, just what was saved. Anya did us the favor before she poofed back in whatever demon dimension of transporting Spike here. Why she could do this but not poof Jonathan and Andrew out of that cell is, apparently, a very complicated demonic and magical equation that I tuned out halfway through her explanation.

The important thing is that the three of us are here. And, yeah, Spike’s still unconscious, but we’re all on this bed, and we’re all safe now, and I think I’ve finally figured everything out…

Maybe.

* * *

This is new. This is very, very new. And very, very, very strange and confusing.

I’m gaping like a fish, and I can’t stop myself. It’s like my brain has gone off to some sort of happy place, and my body’s gone all Cave!Buffy on me.

“Next time, you might wanna try knockin’.” Spike leans against the shower door, still completely naked and wet. And naked. And really naked. “Unless, ‘f course, you like the view. In which case, all you ever had to do was ask, luv.”

Did I mention that Spike’s naked? And that he’s really really hot? And gorgeous? And, god, I am such a perv for staring at his…y’know like this, but: Yum.

Did I mention the naked? And the hot? And the big?

I did? Well, they’re worth mentioning some more…

* * *

He’s spectacular when he fights. And I’m not just saying that because I saw him naked, and that pretty much permanently fried my brain, causing this strange drooling habit every time I’m in Spike’s general vicinity.

It’s hot, summer now, so I tend to sit back a bit more and watch him fight. Slayers get very hot and sweaty fighting in the summer heat; vampires don’t. At least, that’s the theory. I seem to be getting hot and sweaty just watching Spike fight, though. And it’s not just because of how yummy his butt looks in those tight jeans.

There’s this power about him, this feral glee. He’s so graceful and lithe, beautiful in his brutality. And it does look like a dance when he fights. Almost enough to make me jealous of the Drina Demon he’s slaughtering.

He finishes the fight off with a savage snap of his opponent’s neck. I sigh wistfully. His lust for violence makes me look like a fluffy bunny in comparison. Or…er, bad example. And can I just say now that Anya was sooo right about the bunnies? I shudder and try not to think of the incident last Wednesday.

So, picking a better analogy, his lust for violence makes me look like a kitten. But, then, his capacity for love makes me look like Scrooge. It kind of all works out. He’s just more intense than me in general, and that’s something I enjoy watching in him. And, in doing so, he makes me feel a bit of that fire in return…

* * *

Dawn’s actually cooked dinner for us. The world’s coming to an end.

Actually, Dawn has really gotten her act together. She’s taking summer classes, trying to jump ahead a grade so that she can graduate from high school a year early. And, really, who knew that Spike could be such a good tutor? I pass her door often to see them discussing history or English or even math. Who would’ve thought Spike knew math? Well, I guess it’s not so much of a mystery. If Dawn has to pick one of us to help with her math homework, pretty much any option is better than me. It’s sweet to watch them, though. He treats her like his own sister, and she just seems to glow with his attentions. I can’t show her love the way Spike does; it’s just not in the way I’m wired. So his presence balances mine out nicely for her. Our little warped family is quite happy in its way.

But I still didn’t expect Dawn to cook us dinner. It’s not bad, either. Indian curry. Heaven only knows how she learned to make it. She even made a separate dish for Spike with, like, ten times the amount of spices any human being could ever handle. He proclaims it the best thing ever. Dawn and I know his taste buds are officially insane.

And then Dawn winks at me and says she’s going out with her friends. She’s developed quite the social life lately. And not with the Janice crowd, either. There’s a whole group of the best and brightest of Sunnydale, and they all take the same summer classes she’s taking. Good kids, all, so that when she says they’re going to the movies, I believe her. And I wouldn’t even mind if she was dating that Neal guy behind my back. Cute, smart, nice, and responsible: I was afraid she’d go after psychopaths after the vampire incident last Halloween. Good to know I was wrong…

Of course, I still have my bad boy, creature-of-the-night fetish, and I doubt it’s ever going to go away. I look at Spike as he blissfully burns away any taste buds he might have left and sigh. He lives here now; the house feels so empty with just me and Dawn. He patrols by my side every night. I know every little quirk of his the way you only can know someone after living with them. He makes me smile, and I make him smile. And, most important, when everything else in my life changed in a way that pushed me away, he changed in a way that drew me closer.

He catches me looking at him and raises one scarred eyebrow. Sexy vampire.

Without even needing to think, I round the table, push his chair back just enough that I can sit in his lap.

“Buffy, what—?” He looks shocked, and I silence him with a fingertip to his lips.

I watch him gulp, see his Adam’s apple bob up and down, see the dark fire light up in his eyes. No enemy to interrupt us now…

I lean in and brush my lips against his. And, oh, he tastes even better than I’d imagined. Although a bit too much like curry…

* * *

“That little tramp set us up, you know.” My fingers trail down his chest in wonder. He’s even more beautiful to touch than he is to look at. Who ever would’ve thought that I could be completely naked and bare before Spike, yet not feel insecure in the slightest? It’s just so amazing, wonderful…

“Oh?” His lips are nibbling at my collarbone, but he takes one breath against my skin to speak.

“Dawn,” I clarify. “With the dinner and the candles… She set us up.” I finally do what I’ve been waiting to do for months now and slip my hands around him to feel that sexy vampire butt. Ever sexier when naked.

“If you listened to Dawn,” he retorts, pushing me further back onto the mattress of my bed, his mouth headed for my breast with wicked determination, “we’d’ve shagged years ago.”

I moan when his mouth finally encloses over me. I clutch at his hair, so silky and soft and white, and urge him on. “I’m not here because of Dawn,” I manage to gasp out.

“You’re here ‘cause of you, right?” he pauses to ask that vital question.

I bite my lip. “No, I’m here because of you,” I insist. And tackle him back onto the bed with kisses. Did I say the passion was gone from me? Oops, silly me…

* * *

He’s not like I imagined he would be at all. The first time, yes, it was violent and wild. The tension had been building between us for too long for it to have been anything but. We bit and clawed at each other, desperate to leave our marks on the other’s body. Mine, written in faint pink scratches all up his back and chest.

But now… Oh, I never knew it could be so tender, so gentle. He’s on top of me, inside me so deeply, just rocking. Letting me savor every moment of being completely and utterly filled.

I feel almost giddy from the intensity of it all, and my mind comes up with a solution to the age-old riddle: Why does the Buffy feel empty inside? Because she doesn’t have a Spike within her.

He asks me why I’m smiling, and I tell him, and then he’s smiling too, and we’re laughing and making love, and it’s almost too much. I turn my head to the side, away from the endless pools that are his eyes, and I see our hands clasped on the pillow beside my head. So innocent and pure, and something about all of this is so pure I almost laugh again. Spike and pure aren’t words I would normally associate, but when it comes to love… It’s not so crazy. In a way, he’s the purest of them all.

“Look at me, luv,” he begs, his lips on my throat where he bit me earlier. Not with fangs, although I told him he could use them as long as he was careful. He insisted he couldn’t trust himself to be careful until we’d taken a bit more of the edge off.

I look at him, and his eyes are filled with a love so great it’s almost overwhelming.

“Don’t turn away,” he encourages me. “Just let it happen.”

I let it wash over me, let him consume me from within, and I come looking into his eyes, surrounded by love and peace and perfection and…

It looks like I’ve finally found my little slice of Heaven on earth.

* * *

I’m so used to waking up alone. Even when I’ve had lovers, I’ve rarely woken to a man in my bed. Riley was the only one who wasn’t gone instantly the morning after, but he was gone soon enough. And when he was finally ready to stay with me, I was the one who ran away in the middle of the night.

But this morning I wake up to the scent of Spike and sex, the feel of his body spooned against mine, the soft sounds of his unnecessary breath against my hair, and it’s the most wonderful thing in the world. I turn in his arms, resting my cheek against the crook of his shoulder, savoring just being close in every way. I know what he is to me now: friend, partner, confidante, lover… My other half. My…boyfriend.

I giggle at the word. Somehow, it feels too juvenile to describe him, even if that’s what he is. What he’s sort of been for months now, although I was too stupid to enjoy the fun naked benefits until last night.

He wakes up, blinks at me confusedly for a minute, and then smiles. I kiss him softly. Huh. Even vampires get morning-breath. Morning-curry-breath to be exact. But I don’t mind because he’s Spike, and he may be imperfect, but he’s mine.

“No regrets, then?” He sounds almost scared to ask.

“Maybe that we waited so long.” Oh dear. I’m playing coy and flirting with him. Aren’t my thighs sore enough this morning that I can lay off just for a little bit?

He chuckles. “More than happy to make it up to you, luv.”

I kiss him again. It’s all I seem to be able to do now that I can finally do so. It seems like there’s nothing else in the world right now except the two of us. The apocalypse couldn’t drag me out of this bed. Or, er…that is, I really hope it doesn’t try. Because that would suck big time.

“Can I ask you a question?” He’s been watching his fingers play against my shoulder while my mind’s wandered all over the place, but he looks into my eyes when he speaks.

This is going to be big. I know it now. But it doesn’t really matter. After all, this is Spike; I’ve told him everything since I came back. There’s nothing he can ask that I won’t trust him with.

I nod, and my knuckles caress his collarbone in that way that I learned last night makes him do that little gasping, purring thing I love so much. He doesn’t disappoint this time, either. His whole chest vibrates when he purrs. He doesn’t have a heartbeat, but this is almost as good. Not less than human, just…different.

“Why last night?” he whispers against my hair, sounding for all the world like he’s just orgasmed from nothing more than a caress.

I sigh. “Because last night I finally knew,” I answer simply.

“Mmm.” He rests his head on the pillow beside mine, and we just lie like that, looking at each other. “Knew what?”

And I look at him, and I see the blue eyes and the sharp cheekbones and the sexy white hair and the perfect body, but I also see beyond that, see the love and companionship and friendship he’s given me, see the sweetness buried within this hard exterior, and suddenly I can’t believe that I didn’t see it all before. So I tell him:

“That I love you, too.”